saga/title/fandom: Love and Mischief Saga: Seeking Balance chapter 4 (Hercules/Xena)
rating/genre:(NC-17) - Comedy/Romance/Drama
warnings: slash, sexual content, language, male pregnancy
summary: This story begins before the events of Cupid's Little Helper. An offshoot of the Love and Mischief Series. (Ares/Joxer)
comments/disclaimers: I did not create the characters here, I don't own them. I derive no profit from this effort. I mean nothing but respect for the creators, owners, and the actors and actresses who portray them. Archive? Yes, but tell me where.Notes: I love writing Cupid/Strife. I do a lot of it. I've only done Ares/Joxer as peripheral to the Love and Mischief Series, and one song fic. I feel like I'm neglecting the boys, and thought that since I had made it clear in Cupid's Little Helper and Tha Birds, an' Tha Bees, an' All That Othah Good Shit that Ares and Joxer were a couple, and had a child, that it would be only logical to tell THEIR story, too. So here goes. This story begins before the events of Cupid's Little Helper, and will most likely cover some of that ground from a different perspective. F'rinstance, what was it like when Cupid gave Ares a glimpse of the agony that Strife had gone through? We'll see. Ares and Joxer are together in my Love and Mischief series, and a few readers expressed curiosity in their back-story, so here it is. I'm not up on the finer points of hydras, so here's my personal take on them. They are large creatures, usually larger than an elephant when fully grown, and they resemble a legless, three-headed dragon. Their body scales are incredibly thick and tough, thinning and becoming a little more fragile up the necks. If one head is cut off, two will grow in its place. The only way to kill them is by destroying the brains, WITHOUT cutting off the heads. Also the blood is like poisonous acid. http://www.angelfire.com/grrl/scribescribbles and http://www.angelfire.com/grrl/foxluver
Chapter 4: More Visitors
Ares was silent for a moment, then he sat in the chair beside the bed. "Yes, you do, and some of them are a little odd. Take those lash marks on the back of your calves. How did you come by those?"
Joxer didn't look around. "How do you usually get lash marks?"
Ares regarded him in surprise. "Did you realize that smart remarks to me can be hazardous to your health?"
"Strife does it all the time."
"Strife is a god--he can take an occasional fireball without too much damage. Tell me about the lashes."
"Joxer..." Joxer turned his face even farther toward the wall, shoulders tensing, and Ares realized that he was waiting to be, if not killed, then hurt. Ares was faced with the unfamiliar task of making an effort to reassure someone. He tried again, keeping his voice level (but hopefully not in a scary way--Strife had told him he was at his most scary when he was too quiet). "Joxer, look at me." The young man rolled his head on the pillow, looking at Ares. *Zeus, I never noticed how huge his eyes are. It must be the short hair.* "You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to, but don't DO that."
"Start to shut yourself off. I've seen too much of that with Strife. It isn't good, Joxer. It makes you crazy." He grimmaced. "Or in Strife's case, craziER."
There was a distant sound something like a heavy wind-chime caught in a hurricane, and they heard a female voice shrieking, "Where is he? Where's my Joxie? You show me RIGHT NOW or you'll have the love life of a ninety-year old syphilitic SLUG!"
"Of course, sometimes you don't have to cut yourself off from others to be a little cracked," drawled Ares.
There was the sound of rapidly approaching footsteps, and a man's voice babbling. "Rightthiswayhe'sfinewe'retakinggoodcareofhim..."
One of the priest's appeared in the doorway. A dainty, carefully manicured hand shot out and shoved him out of the way. "One side, Solar Sycophant." Aphrodite flounced into the room, as only she could flounce. Semi-opaque pink chiffon drifted around her, and a few stray rose petals (left over from her transport) drifted to the floor. Tears sprang into her blue eyes, and she rushed toward the bed, arms outstretched. "Oh, my poor Joxie!"
Joxer cringed. "Wound, Dite! Wound!"
She halted scant inches from grabbing him. "Oh, right! I'm sorry, sweetie, but I was SO worried. Hearing it from Strife, I expected to find you in three or four pieces." She started to sit on the side of the bed, saw Joxer tense again, and instead perched on Ares' knee.
"Uh, Dite?" Ares said.
"Don't start with me, Ar. Besides," she reached back without looking and tugged at his beard. "it isn't as if I haven't done it before. Joxie, hon, are you okay?"
"Well, I have a big hole in my leg and it hurts like Tartarus, and I'm on Olympus, and I'm half convinced that everyone up here is crazy, but other than that..." He looked sheepish. "No insult meant."
Aphrodite waved her hand dismissively. "Don't sweat it. It isn't as if most of the Pantheon hasn't had their sanity called into question on a regular basis. Are they treating you good?"
"Oh, yes, they're being very considerate."
"Do you need anything? Want me to arrange for someone to come in and give you oral sex?"
*It's a good thing Joxer wasn't eating or drinking,* Ares thought, *Or 'Pol would be in here trying to save him from choking. As it is, I think it was a near miss that he didn't swallow his tongue. I wonder how he's going to answer that?*
"Nuh-no thank you."
"I'm a little sore right now, Dite."
She looked worried. "Nothing, um, IMPORTANT got damaged, did it?"
"I think it missed all the major arteries and internal organs, so... Oh, you mean EXTERNAL organs. No, just the thigh, and this." The touched the welt on his cheek.
Aphrodite made a face. "Oh, my poor pookie bear. Don't worry, doll. I think that when it heals it'll make you look sorta dashing."
Joxer gave her a goofy smile, and Ares thought, *He's buying that? How desperate is he for approval?* Ares recalled one spying session when he'd seen Joxer offer Gabrielle a handful of field flowers, and been rewarded with a bonk on the head. *I guess that answers my own question--pretty fucking desperate if he'll spend about a year trying to win that harpy's heart. Here's a clue, Joxer--they have to have one for you to win it.*
Aphrodite had leaned over and was cooing to Joxer, stroking the soft, short bristles of his hair. Joxer was looking up at her with gratitude and affection shining in his big, brown eyes. Ares suddenly unbent his knees, sliding his heels straight out, and Dite tumbled with a squeal. She landed butt first on the floor and glared up at Ares through a tangle of blonde curls. "Oops."
"Oops? Cerebus crap, Ar! You did that on purpose."
He gave her an innocent look. "Why would I do that?" She glared at him suspicously, then got a thoughtful look on her face. She smiled slowly. *Uh-oh. I have to remember--I can't DO innocent. STRIFE can do innocent better than I can.* "Dite? Don't do anything rash."
Aphrodite smiled sweetly, and rose gracefully to her feet. "Me? Rash? Ares, I'm surprised at you." Joxer was looking apprehensive, and she smiled at him reassuringly. "Sweetie, I can't stay long right now. I have some research, and some thinking to do. But first..." She pointed at the table, and a large glass bowl of sweet scented pink roses appeared. "And..." She pointed at Joxer, and he suddenly found himself holding a stuffed centaur toy. "I'd leave sweetmeats, but I know how picky Apollo is about nutrition during healing. Maybe later." She bent down and kissed him on his unmarked cheek, lingering for a few seconds more than was strictly necessary. When she stood back up, Ares was glowering darkly. Dite giggled. "Is it okay if I tell Cupid he can visit?"
"Oh, uh, sure, I guess. If he wants to?" The last statement had a questioning lift at the end.
"Cool." She wiggled her fingers. "Toodles." She disappeared in a shower of gold and pink sparks, and rose petals.
Ares grumbled, "Flighty woman. Why she can't just use sparks like a normal person..."
Joxer picked a rose petal off his chin. "I think it's pretty."
"Well, of COURSE it's pretty," Ares snapped. "She's the Goddess of Love, she can't HELP but do pretty things. Is 'pretty' THAT important?"
"Beautiful is good, too," said Joxer shyly.
Ares felt cold. "Right." He stood up abruptly. "I'll check on you tomorrow." He waved his hand briskly, and was gone in a fountain of red sparks.
They continued to rain down for several seconds. Even though Joxer knew they weren't dangerous, he found himself jerking the sheet over his face. The motion was too strong, and something pulled. The pain flared, and he moaned. *Everybody goes away. What did I say this time?*
Ares appeared in his own bedroom, and was pacing before the sparks settled. *Beautiful. Of course, beautiful is good. Here I was thinking that maybe there was someone who wasn't blinded by physical beauty, since he was so wrapped up in Xena's bard bitch, then... Oh, all right. I suppose some people might find Gabrielle beautiful-- until they were around her for more than five minutes, or had to listen to her voice for more than a few seconds at a time. It would make more sense if he was in love with Xena. Xena IS beautiful, personal prejudice about my own blood aside. She's buff, and she can kick ass--THAT'S beautiful.*
He paused in the middle of his room, head down, and thought, *Of course, the same could be said about me, and I'M not beautiful. Devastatingly sexy, maybe, but not beautiful.* He made a sound of disgust. *Why am I losing sleep over... Exactly what the hell AM I losing sleep over? Nothing. Joxer is fine. I wouldn't be losing sleep even if he WASN'T fine. I mean, he's just a mortal--not even a particularly IMPORTANT mortal, either. It isn't as if he's a strategically important person, like Iphecles, or a high-level warlord. He's just a not-very-good... okay, hopeless. He's a hopeless warrior-type, who nearly got himself killed...* Ares flashed away his clothes, falling back into his bed, *saving me...* he extinguished the torches with a thought, *when he didn't have to.* As he drifted off to sleep, the thought that followed him down into his dreams was, *I never noticed before. He has brown eyes.*
After Ares left so suddenly, Joxer called one of the priests in, and was granted some more of the pain killing draft. The agony that had been building in his leg faded back to a managable ache. The priest gave the toy that Joxer was hugging a curious look, but he didn't say anything. He'd been on Olympus long enough to know that it was better just to take minor oddities in stride. He made sure the patient was as comfortable as possible, then extinguished the lights in the room. When he exited, he left the door to the hall open, to provide a little light, and to make certain he would be able to hear Joxer if he needed anything during the night.
Joxer cuddled the toy that Aphrodite had given him. He was alone now, and he didn't have to worry about feeling silly. The truth was, he hated to sleep by himself. The only times in his life he'd felt the least bit secure was when, as a child, he snuggled down between his two big brothers at night, and felt their warmth on either side. Sometimes Jett would hug him, often half squashing Joxer as he slept, but that was all right. And sometimes Jayce would let Joxer hug him, smiling tolerantly as the other boy burrowed against his side. But since they'd both left home, there'b been no one. Well, not really. There was the occasionaly tavern wench, but they usually wanted to be paid. Also they were willing to have sex, but they often weren't interesting in snuggling afterward. If he had a dinar for every time he had heard, "What?! You don't think you're going to SLEEP here?" If he didn't have a real, breathing person to cuddle, a toy helped a little.
*Of course, I can now kiss any iota of respect Ares might have had for me good-bye. Who's going to take a warrior with a stuffed centaur seriously? I know, I'll tell him that I was humoring Dite. EVERYONE humors Dite. Yeah, that'll work. I wonder why Dite isn't with Ares? I mean, I know that she isn't REALLY his sister, since Zeus did that 'scattering his seed on the sea foam' bit. But that makes her his HALF-sister, and that's still... still sorta icky. But they're not together now, and from what I hear Hephastus is a pretty nice guy, but she left ARES. How could anyone walk away from him? And I'm not talking about the increased chanced of being incinerated or torn limb from limb, either. He's so BEAUTIFUL. And I think that's probably inside as well as outside. Okay, maybe I haven't had too much proof of that inside part, but the OUTSIDE part is beyond dispute. And as for the inside... well, I just feel it, that's all. Maybe I ought to try to get well and get back to earth real fast. I like that feeling, and I'd kinda hate to have it spoiled if I pissed him off and he killed my ass.*
Joxer settled down to sleep, thinking. *I sure do wish I could turn over. I wonder if Ares' beard is as soft as it looks?*
"Say what, Mom?"
"You heard me, Cupie."
"Yeah, I heard you--I just can't believe you actually said it." Aphrodite scowled. "Oh, c'mon, Mom. Joxer and Dad? I mean, I know that opposites attract, but PLEASE!" Aphrodite stared at her son, and a small, secret smile crept across her lips. It made Cupid nervous when she smiled like that. "What?"
"Just thinking about opposites, sweetie. Look, you go over and visit Joxie tomorrow and see what I mean."
"If you insist, but it will hardly do any good unless Dad is there, too."
"Oh, I think he'll show up, if you wait around a little while," she said smugly. "Just observe, and you'll see what I mean. Oh, and keep your arrows in your quiver, big fella. If this doesn't happen naturally, I'm a sea cow," she patted her curls, "and we all know THAT'S a damn lie." Cupid rolled his eyes, but grinned. Typical Mom.
Aphrodite eyed her big, blond son as he sprawled in front of the table. She indicated a brightly smeared parchment. "Is that Bliss' latest masterpiece?"
"No, Mom--I've taken up fingerpainting." He smiled fondly. "He says it's Aurora. I don't think she favors purple quite that much, but I wasn't about to tell him."
"Is he visiting his mother?"
The smile faded. "Yeah," he said shortly.
"You know that I think that you're doing a terrific job raising him, hon, but really--a child needs TWO parents."
"Don't start on me, okay? After Psyche, it's going to be at least a century before I'm interested in having another wife."
Aphrodite patted her son's shoulder consolingly, while thinking, *And who said anything about a WIFE?*
"Wake up, sleeping beauty."
Joxer blinked awake. "Who?"
"Oh, and he's coy, too." Apollo was standing beside the bed, smiling down at him. "Time to change the dressing again. I have a salve to speed healing that I should be able to apply today." As he pulled down the sheet he explained, "The wound was too fresh yesterday." Again the shears appeared. This time Joxer didn't flinch. Apollo began snipping through the bandages. "How did you sleep last night?"
"Okay. I woke up a couple of times."
"Hm. Well, I could give you something to help you sleep, if you want." Apollo was unfolding the opened bandages with his right hand. He rested his left hand lightly just above Joxer's hipbone, and his fingers started tracing a circle.
*Oh, Zeus! I don't think I WANT to be drugged too much while I'm in this place.* "Oh, it was just because I had to call someone to bring the chamber pot."
"Yes, that antidote I gave you DOES have a diuretic effect?"
Apollo peeled up the pad, peering first at the wound, then at it. "It makes you pee, sweetcheeks--a lot. I'm going to have them put a pitcher of water and a mug within reach, and I want you to empty it as often as you can. This looks very good. The wound is beginning to scab over, and there's scarcely any leakage on the pad."
*I'm misinterpretting again.*
Apollo completed the bandaging quickly, then smiled at Joxer and ran a finger up the inside of his thigh. "You'll be ready to climb back in the saddle in no time, dude." His eyes twinkled, and he brushed Joxer's scrotum. "Or do you prefer playing saddle?"
*No, I'm not.*
"Geez, 'Pol, you're SUCH a horndog! The guy just missed visitng Uncle Hades--at least give him some time to rest up before you start hitting on him."
Apollo drew the sheet back up, patting Joxer on the chest. "Careful, Cupid. You're going to get a reputation as a prude, talking like that. You have a point, though." He tapped Joxer on the nose, making him blink. "You're going to need at least another couple of days of bed rest before you use a bed for anything but resting. We'll see then, all right?"
"Super. Have to go. Demeter has a drought scheduled to the east, and I'm going to be busy." He left.
Joxer looked up at Cupid. "Help?"
Cupid shrugged. "Don't worry about it too much, Joxer. If you just turn him down firmly, you won't have a problem."
"Cupid, I don't have a lot of what you'd call resistance. Ask me sometimes about the 'Scroll a Month' club Salmoneus talked me into joining once."
The corners of Cupid's mouth twitched. "So, how's it going? You need anything?"
"A bodyguard would be nice."
"Look, Apollo can be an egotistical prick, but you have to admit that he's way ahead of the pack in the looks department. What's the problem, Jox?"
"He's... he's..." Joxer was obviously searching for a reason. "He's... really, really blond."
"Yeah, he's that," Cupid agreed, amused. "But I thought you LIKED blond?"
"Why would you think that?" Cupid pretended to write something. "Oh, Gabby!" Joxer sounded surprised. "Yeah, sure, but she's a WOMAN."
"I could find you people who would debate that with you, but what's the difference?"
Joxer stared at him, perplexed. "Cupid, she's a GIRL--I'm a guy. I mean, you HAVE noticed, haven't you?" Cupid nodded, fighting down another smile. "And Apollo's another guy."
"What's that got to do with the price of baklava?"
"I'm in LOVE with Gabby. I can't be in love with another man."
"Why not?" Joxer gaped. "Oh, Tartarus, Joxer! You mortals and you're prejudices. I'll be glad when you people finally learn that gender isn't really important unless you're interest in procreating. It doesn't matter a flip when it comes to passion and love."
"But... but... but... Love?"
"Of COURSE, love! Do I have to draw you a picture?"
"No, thank you. I'm not up to looking at gay erotica right now."
Now Cupid DID smile. "You mean you might be 'up' for it later?" Joxer opened and closed his mouth a couple more times, eyes the size of saucers. Cupid finally took pity on him. "I mean offer an example to illustrate my point, not show you dirty pictures."
Strife was lounging in the doorway. "Why not? Lookin at dirty pictures is a worthwhile occupation." Cupid glanced at him, and rolled his eyes. Behind Cupid's back, Strife stuck his tongue out at him.
Joxer, aghast, shook his head. Not looking around, Cupid said, "He made a face at me, didn't he?"
"Never mind--I'm used to it. Okay, example--Hercules and Iolaus."
"But Iolaus can get the panties off any barmaid in Greece, and Hercules was married."
"So? Iolaus can also charm the pants off most of the barkeeps in Greece."
Joxer was starting to sound desperate. "Hercules had CHILDREN!"
Strife cackled. "What? Ya think that takin it up tha tailpipe means ya can't sire kids?"
Joxer's eyes were approaching dinner plate size now. "HERCULES?"
Strife's laughter was progressing toward uncontrolable. "Ya gotta PROMISE me yer gonna ask him about that tha next time ya see him."
"Quit teasing him, Strife. Joxer, yes Hercules was married, and he loved both of his wives very much. But think about it for a moment-- who has he gone back to after he lost each one? He's been with Iolaus longer than both his marriages combined. How often do you see one of them without the other? Don't they almost seem to share a secret language? Sometimes they even complete each other's sentances, and if THAT doesn't say 'old married couple', I don't know what does."
"When you put it that way, it makes sense," admitted Joxer. "Uh, what were we talking about before? I sort of lost track."
"The fact that Apollo is sniffing around you, and you aren't interested."
"Ya ain't?" Strife asked, curious. "Howcome? Ol' Shiny Britches has a pretty good record where lovahs are concerned. I mean, nobody could possibly be as good as he thinks he is himself, but..." Cupid was arching an eyebrow at him. "What? Oh. Nobody but Cupid could possibly be as good as..."
"Are you speaking from personal experience, Strife?" Cupid asked calmly.
Joxer was watching the two gods closely. *I thought Cupid had hazel eyes. They sure do look green now.*
"I don't fuck an' tell, cuz." He tittered. "Well, not aside from some graffiti now an' then. Anyways, MY sex life ain't in question here--Joxie's is. Or rathah what MIGHT be his sex life, unless somebody lays a chastity belt on 'im."
"Hm. Well, I can't have him over at my place. He'd never get a moment's peace with Bliss running around." Cupid tapped his chin. "I have an idea. If it works, I'll know whether or not I owe Mom an apology, and it will settle this problem. If it doesn't work..." He shrugged. "I'll see Hephastus about that chastity belt. Where's Dad, Strife?"
"A group of rebels is about ta lace inta wunna his warlords, an' he's busy watchin an' bein majorly pissed," Strife answered. "He's too fuckin stubborn ta just appear an' kick ass. He's determined ta let tha warlord learn a lesson, but he doesn't wanna risk losin him eithah, an' tha conflict of interest is about ready ta pop his skull. I was with him, but he's so ticked I decided it might be more prudent ta put some space between us till that particulah fiasco is ovah."
"Stay with Joxer, then. If Apollo tries anything, drop a few spiders down his toga." Cupid transported.
Strife sighed happily, dropping down into the bedside chair. "I love my job. So," he said brightly, "aside from tha horny, grabby, Sultan of Sunburn, how are things?"
A small group of rebels crouched hidden among some rocks on a hill overlooking the warlord's camp in the valley nearby. Ares was stalking back and forth behind the rebels, cursing. Since he'd stayed invisible, and blocked the mortals from hearing him, it wasn't having any noticable effect. When Cupid appeared beside him he growled, "Not now, son. I'm trying to decide the best way to handle this shit."
"Dad, do you WANT those two groups to fight?"
"No, not now, anyway."
"Point out the leaders of each side." Ares flicked a finger at one ragged man who was muttering fiercely to another, eyes full of hate fixed on the second man Ares indicated--the general who was haranging his troops, waving toward the hillside. "Just a second." Cupid hitched his quiver around so that he could look into it. He muttered to himself, sorting through the arrows, then removed two identical ones, banded with blue and silver. He swiftly notched and let them fly, one after the other. One thudded into the back of the rebel leader. The other soared, and caught the warlord square in the chest. Both disappeared with a poof that was neither seen, nor heard by the mortals.
Suddenly the hatred faded from the rebel leader's expression. He gazed at the warlord with great, mooning eyes. The warlord's hand dropped limply to his side for a moment, then pressed over his heart as he gazed up at the hillside, a goofy smile breaking across his face. Ares looked from one to the other. "Tartarus, Cupid, what did you DO? I said I don't want them to fight NOW--I didn't say NEVER."
"Chill, Dad. It's just a little puppylove hoo-doo. It'll wear off in a couple of days, but till then, neither one of them is going to let their followers attack the other. Now that's taken care of, can I have a moment of your time?"
"Sure. What's the problem?"
Cupid carefully kept his tone casual. "Oh, it's nothing urgent. It's just that you know what a pet Joxer is to Mom, and I'd rather not see a major feud break out between her and Uncle Apollo over him."
Ares scowled. "Why should there be a feud over Joxer? I thought Apollo was taking good care of him." His voice dropped ominously. "Nothing's happened to him?" He cleared his throat. "I wouldn't want Dite to be upset."
"No, Joxer is okay, he's just a little freaked out."
"Well, that's understandable. Recovering from a major injury..."
"That's not it." Cupid shrugged. "It's just that Apollo has taken a fancy to Joxer, and..."
"Has he done anything to him?"
Cupid looked at his father in surprise. *Whoa, Dad. That tone had more steel in it than your armory.* "Oh, just a little friendly groping, but Joxer isn't interested, and you know how Apollo is. I figure it would be best to put temptation out of his reach, but I can't have Joxer at my place, and..."
Ares was gone. Cupid smiled a little. "And I guess I DO owe Mom an apology."
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