saga/title/fandom: Love and Mischief Saga: Seeking Balance chapter 5 (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 5: Transfer
"Ya mean it nevah occurred ta ya that it was pretty fuckin co- inkidental fah there ta always be a puddle, horse trough, or pile of manure around whenevah ya knocked Gabrielle ovah?"
"Zeus, Strife, I never thought much about it. And since she raps me on the head with her staff every time it happens, I'm surprised I could remember half the time. I should have brain damage by now. Of course, Gabby SAYS..."
"Ya gotta quit listenin ta those jerks who bad mouth ya, Joxie."
"I will, if you will."
"Ow! Shit." Strife had been cleaning his nails with a knife point. At Joxer's quiet response, he'd flinched minutely, and nicked his pinkie. He sucked the finger briefly, eyeing Joxer, his expression unreadable. Finally he said, "I don't bad mouth ya, Jox. Not fah a long time now, anyways."
"You know what I mean."
"Nah, I don't." There was a stubborn tinge to Strife's tone.
Joxer sighed. "Strife, I'm aching right now, so let's not argue about it, okay? I know a little about this. I'm not as oblivious about myself as some people think. When most of the known universe constantly tells you that you're crazy, stupid, worthless, etcetera, etcetera, you react one of three ways. You totally shut yourself off from the world, closing up like a clam to the point where it's a miracle if you say a dozen words a week. You tell everyone how marvelous you are, and how wrong THEY are, even if you don't believe it yourself. That's me. Or you speak the party line. That's you."
Strife stared at Joxer. He said slowly, "I ain't sayin yer right. Ya got that, Jox? What ain't I sayin?"
"You're not saying I'm right," said Joxer dutifully.
"Remembah that. I WILL say that ya undahstand more about tha mind than that bitch Psyche evah did."
"Thank you." Joxer shifted. "Could you please call one of the attendants?"
"Because I feel silly just hollering. I keep picturing them rolling their eyes and saying, 'oh, no, it's HIM again. I'm going to set his chamber pot in a tub of snow before I bring it to him.'"
"Okay, I'm rememberin that one, but I meant why do ya want me to call them? Ya need somethin?"
"I need to use the jug."
"I can take care of that." Strife picked up the water jug and started to pour out a mug full.
"Not that jug, Strife."
"Nah?" He looked puzzled. Joxer cleared his throat, then tipped his chin toward the curve-necked pot Ares had helped him use before.
Strife picked it up and peered at it. "Whathafuck?" Then his expression cleared. "Oh, I remembah this from that time Mom got pissed an' tried ta remove my kidneys. Okay, I can do this."
"You don't have to, Strife. You can just call one of the attendants."
"Jox, have ya stopped ta think that Apollo might hear, an' decide ta see what was tha mattah, then offah ta *ahem* lend ya a helpin hand?"
Joxer quickly flipped down the sheet. "No cold hands, please." Strife made a show of blowing on his hand before he leaned over Joxer and began to help him with his elimination.
"WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?"
Strife jumped, and Joxer yelped. "Makin a fuckin mess, an' givin Joxer more aches when he really don't need 'em! Geez, Unc, are ya TRYIN ta make me turn tha poor guy inta a eunuch?"
Ares paused, quickly taking in the scene before him. All he'd seen when he'd transported into the room was Strife bending over Joxer, who had the sheet down around his knees again, and an embarrassed look on his face. His first thought had been, *Son of a bitch, not him, too!* As was not uncommon in his life, he'd spoken before he'd thought. Strife was just lucky that he hadn't reacted even more in character and acted before he spoke. Apollo would have given him Tartarus about the mess he'd have left on the walls, and Strife would have been spending some time here himself.
A second after the angry question had left his lips, he'd seen the pee jug in Strife's hand. Now he noticed that there were splashes of fragrant liquid bathing Joxer's thighs, and beginning to soak into the mattress. Ares knew that at Strife was waiting for some sort of explanation. *He isn't getting one. Since when do I have to explain myself to anyone?* Instead, Ares said, "We can't risk urine getting on that wound." He got a cloth from the table, poured water into the basin, and began to wipe Joxer clean.
Strife watched, eyebrows slowly climbing toward his hairline, as the God of War washed pee off the man who was generally held to be his sorriest follower. *His sincerest, maybe, but since when has that evah ground any mustard seeds with Ares?*
"Shit," Ares muttered. "Some of it got on the bandage. That'll have to be changed."
"Ya want me ta call...?"
"No!" Ares was curt. He looked at Joxer. "Are you up to traveling?"
"Well, I can't walk, and horseback riding is out. I might be able to manage in a cart, as long as it wasn't too bumpy. Maybe if it had those shock-absorber things Salmoneous has talked about..."
"Is it possible for you to answer a simple question WITHOUT making an epic out of it? I meant transporting."
"You mean," he waved his hand, "Brrrzapt, sparkle, sparkle, where'd he go?"
Strife giggled, and Ares shot him a glare. "Yes."
"No, don't think I'm up to that. I have this little fear of being hurled through space. Call me silly, but..."
"Help me pick him up, Strife. I don't want his leg to move any more than is necessary."
"Wait a second!" Joxer protested. "Don't I have any say in this?"
"No." To Ares' surprise and Strife's vocal delight, Joxer got a mulish expression on his face and grabbed on to the bed frame on either side. "Oh, for... Would you rather stay here and wait for Apollo to declare you 'fit for exercise'?" Joxer's eyes got round, and he held out his arms. Ares felt a peculiar twinge. When was the last time anyone had reached for him with such quick trust? *Cupid. It would have to be Cupid when he was little, and he'd scraped his knee, or had a bad dream. But this is different, somehow.* "I'll support his upper body. Strife, you take care of his legs--and be CAREFUL."
"Like ya need ta tell me. Where we goin? We sure don't want fah you to end up in Athens an' me end up in Corinth. I got no idea what would happen ta Joxer, but I have a feelin it would be messy an' not too pleasant."
"My room. On the count of three. One, two, three."
Ares grimaced. "Crap."
Strife wrinkled his nose, though he was lookin distinctly green himself. "Nah, I've seen some funky crap, but that's DEFINITELY upchuck."
Ares rolled his eyes at his nephew. "Now it isn't just his leg I need to clean."
Joxer was even paler than he had been. "Well, I'm sorry, but I haven't felt anything like that since the time I tried to ride Argo, and a wasp lit on her rump just about the time she decided to throw me." He looked down at himself. "I haven't had anything but broth and thin porridge since this happened. Where the Tartarus did all that come from?"
Ares looked at Strife, who glared back at him. "Don't look at me. I dint even hurl, an' I'm gonna hafta burn these leathahs."
Ares grunted, then looked at his bed. A sheet of linen appeared over the black sheets. "Let's get him situated." They carefully settled Joxer on the bed. "Strife, I have an errand for you to run while I get him cleaned up."
"He really wishes you'd stop talking about him like he was a chair," said Joxer.
Ares had been heading for the door, with Strife in tow. He stopped and looked back at Joxer. His tone irritated, he said, "What?"
Joxer looked surprised at himself, but said, "I'm not an inanimate object. Even Gabrielle doesn't talk around me like I'm part of the furniture." There was a pause. "Not much."
"Fine. Joxer, I will be going to get what I need to clean you up. I will be back shortly. Is that all right with you?" Ares said sardonically.
He felt that strange twinge again as Joxer gave him a shy smile. "Thank you. I don't enjoy wearing vomit. It's happened a time or two when I had too much ale, and believe me, if you let it dry you'd better not plan on sneaking up on anyone for at least a month, because your infamy precedes you, if you know what I mean." Ares was staring at him. "Right. Epic. Sorry. Hurry back." He winced. "I wasn't trying to order you around. It's a generic farewell that indicates that you're looking forward to seeing someone again in the near future, and..." Ares was still staring. "Is it me, or is it chilly in here?"
"I suppose it could be because you're naked," drawled Ares. He flicked his finger, and a thick fur throw cover Joxer, neck to toes. He nodded at Strife, and they went into the hall.
Joxer waited till they were gone, then thumped his head back into the soft pillow several times, muttering, "Babble, babble, babble." *Now he not only thinks I'm klutzy, I've added brainless. When I recover he'll bring me back to earth, hopefully not by just kicking me off the side of Olympus, and tell me not to clutter up his temples again. What am I going to do if that happens? Worshipping him is pretty much the only constant thing I've ever had in my life. Well, that and being treated by most of the world like I'm as welcome as a case of hives, and I like worshipping him a lot better than that. Though I guess I haven't been all that much of a worshipper, either. I mean, look at the offerings I've been able to bring--a pretty rock, some food, wine--and THAT from the second pressing...* Joxer didn't remember that he'd often gone hungry to offer the food, and that the wine was cheap because it had cost his last dinar.
He sighed, closing his eyes. *I wish there was something special I could give him. Something worthy.*
Out in the hall, Ares told Strife. "Go back to Apollo's temple and get all the bandages and cleansing cream that you can."
"What--ya think they'll just hand it ovah ta me?"
"Are you kidding? They'll hand you their nuts, Strife. They're scared shitless of you."
Strife laughed. "Ya, but it's more fun ta steal it."
"I don't care how you do it. Leave him a little, in case someone else needs it, but don't skimp. He can mix more of the cream up easily enough, and he can always shred his dress robes for bandages. Oh, and you know that potion that speeds healing?"
"I oughta. Ya got any idea how many jugs of that stuff I've had ta swill down?"
"Bring some of that, too."
"That may be more difficult. He hordes that shit closer than Midas did before he got tha goldfingah."
"If you don't think you can get it..."
"Please do not insult me. Of COURSE I can get it." He rubbed his palms together gleefully. "I love a good challenge." He flashed away.
Ares got water, soap, and cloths from the bathing chamber. *I wonder when that wound will be healed up enough for him to bathe? Of course when he CAN bathe, I don't see how I can let him do it alone. He wouldn't be able to get in and out of a small tub, and he'd likely drown in the bathing pool. I wonder which one would be best? I can probably lift him in and out of the tub, but then, I could carry him in and out of the pool.* He paused, a dreadful though occurring to him. *But what if I slipped? He could be hurt even more badly, and he'd think I was some sort of clumsy oaf. Maybe the tub would be best.*
As he re-entered his room, it didn't occur to Ares that he was just assuming that this Joxer was going to be in his household until he was completely healed--or just how long that might be for a mortal. Ares materialized a table beside his bed, setting the basin down. Joxer had his eyes closed. "Joxer, are you asleep?" *Oh, INTELLIGENT. He won't be if he answers, will he?*
Joxer opened his eyes. "Just thinking." *I kept the answer to only two words! I can do this.* "I do that a lot. Gabby says that letting my mind wander shows a lack of focus, and I'll never get anywhere if I don't..." *Maybe I can't do this.*
"Joxer, has it occurred to you yet that Gabrielle is not an authority on anything, most especially character?"
"She says that she's very careful about character development in her stories, but I told her that... Well, take how she represents you. She makes you out to be a violent, arrogant, selfish, devious, power mad near lunatic. And I told her, 'Gabby, you're not being fair. Sure, he's a little rough around the edges, but look at his JOB. He couldn't be all sensitive and 'let's hold hands and sing and pet bunnies', because if he did all sorts of things could happen that might be just as bad as war.' And she goes, 'What could possibly be worse than war?', and I said, 'Oh, famine is pretty bad. And it would be bad if some of the rulers who thought it was fun to kill off all their subject were never deposed, and... and...'" He trailed off.
Ares was looking at him in near astonishment. "And?"
"I don't know. That's when she knocked me out."
"I'm going to have a talk with Strife about her. I need to get you cleaned up and change your bandage now." He pushed down the spread and wet the cloth.
Joxer said, "I think I can do that without it hurting too much."
'I think I can do it without it hurting at all. Just lay still." Ares began washing Joxer, and this time his movements were not quite as brisk as they had been before. When he was done he dried Joxer with a soft cloth. He noticed a dozen small scars scattered over Joxer's chest, most of them scattered around his nipples. He touched one. "How did you get these? They don't look like any battle wound I'm familiar with."
"They aren't from a battle."
"An accident, then?"
Joxer's voice was bleak. "No, it was deliberate, all right."
Ares was opening his mouth to ask about that when Strife reappeared, his arms loaded down. "Where ya want it, Unc?"
"Drop it on the table over there for the time being." Strife obeyed, and Ares said, "Did you get the potion?"
"Look, I know Autolycus claims ta be tha King of Thieves, but I can claim at least Prince." He reached into his shirt and pulled out a vial of lavender liquid. "He had it in a vault behind a portrait of himself. Shock, shock."
Ares helped Joxer sit up and offered him the vial. Joxer drank, then smacked his lips. "Boy, that's better than the others. Tastes fruity."
Ares pulled a knife from his belt and bent, making ready to slip the blade under the bandage. He paused, glancing up at Joxer. "Don't worry--I won't hurt you."
Joxer gazed back at him. "I know." *HOW do I know? I was ready to jump out of my skin when Apollo was cutting off the bandages, and he's probably as skilled with sharp objects as Ares--in a different way. But I just know.*
Ares undid the bandage, and scowled. "Damn it! You're bleeding again."
Strife came over. "Not too much. Blot 'im down good an' smear on plenty of tha salve," advised Strife. "It's styptic if that bleedin ain't too bad."
Ares blotted away the rivulets of blood, then peered at the wound. "It stopped." He quickly dressed the wound, slathering the ointment on in the hopes of preventing the pad from sticking again, and rewrapped it. "Are you hungry?"
"You know, I haven't really had much of an appetite since the hydra, but all of a sudden I'm STARVED. I could eat an oxen."
"Not unless it's boiled to rags and put through a grinder--twice."
Joxer made a face. "C'mon. I'm ready for a loaf of bread, a big chunk of cheese, and about half a suckling pig."
Strife started giggling, and Ares said ominously, "One remark about 'suckling' and you'll be asking Artemis for a ride home, because I will put you on the moon."
"Yer crampin my style, Unc."
"Someone has to." Ares held out his hands, and a steaming bowl of bread and milk appeared. He sat beside Joxer, prepared to feed him.
"Can't I at least have pudding, or something?" Joxer asked plaintively.
"If you do well in the next day or two, we'll see."
Strife said loudly, "I'm gonna go crash, unless ya need me, Unc."
"No, go on."
"Check." Ares had lifted the first spoonful and held it toward Joxer. Strife twiddled his fingers behind Ares' back, pointing at the bowl, then he mouth, 'G'wan.'
Joxer squinched his eyes, and accepted the first spoonful. His eyes flew wide open. *Honey. Lots of it.* Strife grinned, and nodded as he left the room.
Ares sounded satisfied. "Not so bad, is it?"
Joxer smiled at him. "Nope. Not bad at all." He ate the entire bowl with relish.
When it was finished, Ares disposed of the utensils. "Brace yourself."
"Why? What's going to...? Whoops! Damn, that felt funny! What was it?"
"I just got rid of the clean-up sheet. Couldn't very well leave it there." Ares started to strip.
"Yes?" His vest hit the floor.
"Ares, I..." He was pulling off his boots. "I think..." Ares tossed them casually aside. "I mean..." He had unbuckled his belt and was sliding it from it's loops. "Do... did Dite ever complain about you leaving your clothes laying around?"
"Her things were usually mingled with them. We were too preoccupied to worry about neatness if it had reached the shedding clothes stage."
"Why are you taking off your clothes?"
"Do you wear all your clothes when you sleep at home?"
"I haven't had a home since I was fifteen."
Ares paused in unfastening his pants. "You ran away from home at fifteen?"
"My brothers did it when they were fourteen, and I didn't run away. My father threw me out."
Ares gritted his teeth. "We're going to have to have a long talk soon. Anyway, I sleep in the nude, so the clothes come off."
"You--you're going to sleep here?"
"It's MY bed." Joxer was staring at him. "Oh, Tartarus! Look, I'm not going to rape you. Despite what Gabrielle may have told you, I DO NOT rape. For one thing, I don't have to. For another, it's a damn sight better if my partner enjoys himself."
Joxer's eyes were huge. "Himself?"
Ares blinked, then shrugged. "Himself, herself, themselves."
"Oh, for... Joxer, that bed is big enough so that I might as well be in the next room unless I -choose- to be close. Don't worry about it, okay?" He shoved down his pants.
The torches went out, plunging the room into darkness. The bed was so wide that Joxer didn't feel it dip. He didn't realize that Ares had gotten into bed till he heard Ares say, "You're so tense I can almost feel you vibrating. Relax, and go to sleep."
*Ha. Easy for you to say.*
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