saga/title/fandom: Love and Mischief Saga: Seeking Balance chapter 6 (Hercules/Xena)

author: Scribe

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 6: Recovery

*Mmm. I must've really lucked onto a soft piece of ground last night.* Joxer shifted. *And the blanket feels extra smooth, too. Must've been that pounding it on a rock the last time I washed it.* He shifted again. *Oo, it's nice and warm. Is the sun already up? I hope Xena and Gabby haven't gone off an left me again. I mean, it's considerate of them to want to let me sleep, but...* Shift. *Something smells nice.*

"Will you be still? I'd like to sleep a little longer."

The only thing about Joxer that moved were his eyes. They popped open and cut quickly to the side. Ares was lying next to him, face down, *and that weight across my belly would be... let me check," his eyes darted down, then returned to the ceiling, *his arm. Okay, Joxer, don't panic. Sure, you're currently helpless and pinned down by a being with near infinite powers, who is likely to zap you into pieces that would easily fit through the mouth of a wine bottle should he realize that you're getting warm tingles. But look on the bright side--maybe Hades will let you relive these few seconds for the rest of eternity. Aside from the terror, it's pretty nice.*

"You're babbling mentally, aren't you?" Ares' face was turned away, but his voice was darkly amused.

"No, I was just... Uh, I was wondering, did Chronos REALLY swallow his children whole?"

Ares turned on his side, facing Joxer. The dark sheets were down around his waist, and he casually scratched at the hair on his chest. "Yes. And if Rhea had just allowed him to go ahead and swallow Zeus, a lot of crap would have been avoided, because I'm sure dear old Dad would have given him a massive case of indigestion, and he'd have vomited up everyone anyway."

"What must your family reunions be like?"

"Pray that you never know." He studied Joxer. "You seem to be feeling much better."

"I am, thank you. I don't ache at all." He sounded surprised.

Ares grunted, then sat up, running his hands through his hair. "I have to go oversee negotiations between a couple of warlords. I'd leave it to Strife, but sometimes he gets carried away, and I don't want to end up with a couple of battalions decimated because one side thinks the other has insulted their mothers. If I don't want all-out warfare, he's better as a back-up. If I set you up before I go, will you be all right till lunch time?"

"Yes, I'll be fine."

Ares had gotten out of bed. Joxer didn't have to worry about where to look for long, because he dressed in the divine fashion--with a thought. "Think you can eat some toast and eggs without re-using them as decorations for my sheets?"

"I think I can manage a few slices of toast, and maybe a couple of softly scrambled eggs." Ares nodded, and held out his hands, palms up, preparatory to materializing the food. "Or three eggs. No more than four, anyway. With a little cheese, and some of those nice, skinny green onions." Ares cocked an eyebrow. "That's all." He lifted his hands again. "Unless it would be too much trouble to whip up a few sausages to go along with that, or some bacon. I'm not sure which would be, um, more digestible, so it might be better to have both." Ares tipped his head. "Thank you. That should do it." He lifted his hands. "But if you happen to have some fruit, or a few honey cakes just laying around, I could force them down." Ares stared. "Really, I don't want to be any bother."

"Is that all?"

"Yes."

"All right..."

"That bread and milk yesterday was pretty good."

Ares growled. A table suddenly appeared--one that straddled the bed completely, and was spread with an assortment of food stuff that could have comfortably fed a troupe of bandits. "Eat what you want, and it will vanish when you're done. The jug is within reach. Don't wiggle around too much, and if you have to throw up, do it over the side of the bed."

*Flash*

The opposing sides wondered why Ares was laughing so hard when he appeared, but decided to take it as a good omen.

Joxer had eaten a hearty breakfast--heartier than he was used to. Xena always shared whatever she had, but rabbit and fish was a pretty sparse diet, even in the best of times. Joxer had seldom actually been able to eat as much as he wanted at one sitting, and when he finally lay back from the table, he was burping contentedly, and replete. True to Ares' promise, the table vanished, but not before he managed to grab a last apple--in case he needed a snack.

After a while he found that he was tossing the apple up and catching it, pretending that he was juggling. He'd once watched a member of a troupe Jayce was traveling with juggle two daggers, a hatchet, and a goose egg. Joxer had tried to recreate the feat after the show and had literally ended up with egg on his face. That hadn't bothered him as much as the lump on his head and the gash in his big toe. Jayce had scolded him as he bound up his wounds, saying, "You try to be a little bit of everything, Yoxie. If you try to be everything, how are you ever gonna know WHAT you are?"

While he was distracted by the memories, the apple landed square between his eyes, and bounced away. "Ow!" When he could see straight again, he felt around in the sheets for the apple. It wasn't anywhere within reach. Then he spotted it--lying on the floor, several feet from the bed. "Tartarus!" Joxer stretched his arm out toward the fruit. *Oh, right. I'd have to have arms like one of those orange-tang-tang beasts from Sumatra.* He stretched again. *Or maybe an octopus.* He lay back down with a sigh. *I guess I'll just have to wait till someone comes and gives it to me.* He stared up at the ceiling. *I don't really want it right now.* *pause* *It's not even ripe--it would have squished instead of bonked if it was.* *stare* *Maybe if I hang onto the sheets...*

He wrapped one fist in the top sheet, stretched his arm toward the apple, then carefully leaned out...

...and found out that Ares didn't tuck his top sheet under the mattress.

"Ow." *Dammit, he's a god, why doesn't he have rugs, so the floor wouldn't be so cold the first thing you get out of bed? Of course, he probably doesn't usually get out of bed by falling on his ass, but still. Shit, I bet I've done it now. I've probably torn the wound open, and now I'll bleed to death before Ares comes home, and he'll find me all pale and tragic looking in a pool of gore, and he'll think that it's a shame that such a loyal worshipper had to die so young and why aren't I screaming in pain right now?*

Joxer sat up, moving cautiously, ready to freeze at the first stab of agony. It didn't come. There was the usual aches he got when he took a header out of bed (one advantage to sleeping on the ground, he often told himself), but nothing at all like what he'd been expecting. For the moment he ignored the cold slate against his bare bottom (it was warming up as the stone leeched away his body heat, anyway). Instead, he concentrated on his bandaged thigh. He bent down and stared intently at the bland white bandages, waiting for the blood to blossom. After a few minutes he sat back up, puzzled.

The next order of business was getting back into bed. He briefly considered just laying there, but decided that he didn't want to worry anyone. *But I'll stop if it hurts too bad, or if I can see blood,* he decided. He grabbed the edge of the bed, gritted his teeth, squeezed his eyes shut, and got ready to strain. He came up smoothly and easily, which would have been strange enough even on his best day. He found himself standing, with not a twinge. "Ooooh-kay, this is weird." He was reluctant to open his eyes, so he bent down and felt around for the apple. Bonking his head on the bedside table convinced him that wasn't the best idea. He sighed, rubbing his head as he picked up the apple. "This is more normal."

He sat gingerly on the edge of the bed. Again, no pain. Joxer poked the bandage experimentally. Nothing. *Am I crazy, or didn't I have a big, fucking hole in my leg yesterday? I mean, like, bleeding buckets, makin' a mess, headed for Hades gouge. Let's see... Does this come under looking a gift horse in the mouth? But if the people of Troy had looked that big horse in the mouth, wouldn't they have figured out it was full of Trojans, and saved themselves a lot of pain?* He poked the bandage again--harder. Hard enough to thump. He winced. "Oh, now I feel better." *Maybe I should just sit here and wait for Ares to get back. He said he'd be back by lunchtime. I wonder how long it is till lunchtime? I could eat the apple.*

He started to take a bite, but stopped when his fingers squished through the peel. *Bleh. And I thought it wasn't ripe.* He set it on the table, and held his hand out, away from his body. *Great--now I'm dripping. I need to wash this off before it gets all in the sheets. He left a basin and jug over there on the other table. If I can stand up, maybe I can walk.*

Joxer got up and carefully shuffled forward a few steps. He tripped, and stumbled the rest of the way to the table. *Yep, everything normal here.* He washed his hands, and then just stood there a moment, bouncing on his heels, looking around the room. *I have a unique opportunity here. I'm alone in the House of War. I could probably find out all sorts of secret things, if I wanted to. If I wasn't worried about getting summarily executed.* He sat back down. A few minutes later he stood back up. *Or I could die of boredom. Maybe I'll just take a LITTLE peek out into the hall.* He opened the door, and a chilly breeze wafted against him. His balls immediately lodged a protest by trying to crawl back where they came from.

*Or I could die of cold. I wonder what happened to my clothes? I can't even think about borrowing some of Ares' clothes, even considering I wasn't worried about being flash fried when he found out, because I don't see anything around here that looks like a closet. Does he even NEED a closet? I mean, he did the whisk thing with his clothes this morning. Wait a minute...* He searched the floor. *Where did they go? I didn't see him pick them up.* *snort* *There's a concept--the God of War picking up after himself. Do they just melt away, like dew, and he replaces them each morning? This is fascinating, but if I don't get something between me and the breeze soon, I'm gonna look like one of those blue painted Picts from Brittannia.*

Even though Joxer was pretty sure that Ares wouldn't appreciate his sheets being used for anything but sleeping, he didn't know what else to do. He pulled off the top sheet and draped himself in it, doing a surprisingly artful job. He paused for a moment, lifted a swatch to his face, and sniffed. The scent was musky, spicy. *Ares. That's Ares I'm smelling.* He looked down in surprise at his crotch. "Don't YOU start! We're sick, remember?" He hastily tucked the tail end of cloth securely away and eased out into the hall.

The hall was long, with a couple of other doors along the sides, and a turning at each end. Joxer padded slowly in one direction, then the other, not sure of where he should go--if he should go at all. He opened one room and peered into a bathing chamber, with a central pool of steaming water. The next one interested him more. It led outside, and Joxer got his first real look at Olympus.

He wasn't impressed.

It was obviously supposed to be a garden, but it was neglected almost to the point of wildness. Joxer took a few steps out, blinking up at the bright sunshine. The sun was almost over head, so it should be lunchtime soon, but he wasn't really thinking about food. *Except,* he walked past a rosebush that was growing ragged, fragrant pink petals drifting down to the lush grass that rose high up on his calves, *that this would be a nice place for a picnic, if it was tended a little better.* There was a tiny pond that would have been pretty if some of the choking lily pads were cleaned out, and it was overhung by a willow that trailed lacy green fronds into the water. *Yes, this place could really bloom, with a little care. I wonder why it's so neglected?*

"JOXER!"

Joxer flinched, instinctively diving behind an azalea bush. *WhatdidIdonow?* There was a boom, and a flash emanated from the door he'd left open. *Oh, DAMN, he must be mad if I can see it all the way out here! I wonder if it would kill me to just dive over the side of Olympus?*

He stayed crouching for a few moments more, then he heard a voice calling, "Joxer! Joxer, if yer here, say somethin! C'mon, Joxer, this ain't no place ta play hide an' seek."

Joxer reluctantly got out from behind the bush, went, and peeked into the building. Strife was standing at the end of the hall. When he saw Joxer he hurried to him. "Quick! Ya gotta come with me!"

"Where?"

"Ta Apollo."

Joxer pulled back from Strife's grasp. "Don't wanna."

"Damn it, Jox, c'mere!" Strife grabbed him. "Unc thinks Apollo nabbed ya, an' there's gonna be war on Olympus if I don't get ya there ta show him it ain't so, so shut up an' hang on tight."

*Flash*

"DUCK!"

Joxer hit the floor, dragged down behind a sofa by Strife, just in time to miss the fireball that whizzed over them. Strife patted him on the back. "Ya gonna hafta learn ta be faster'n that if yer gonna hang around here."

"Can't I just go somewhere safe, like a battlefield? Maybe the Underworld? I hear things can be peaceful in Asphodel."

"Propaganda, kid."

Joxer realized that he heard very loud, very angry voices nearby.

"I cannot BELIEVE that you would just KIDNAP one of my patients! What if the wound reopens?"

"I'm taking care of him. I heard how you were groping him, 'Pol, and I won't have it. The poor nit needs to recuperate in peace."

"You aren't fooling me for a second, Ares. It's not my fault if you can't take care of your pets, and I have to patch them up. What are you going to do if he gets gangrene? He could lose that leg."

"I'm not exactly unfamiliar with wound treatment, and you're not fooling me, either. You only want him because..."

Strife popped up from behind the couch and bellowed, "Company!" He grabbed Joxer's shoulder and pulled him up, too. "Found 'im wanderin around yer backyard, Unc. See? All in one piece--still as pure as when ya left him." He looked at Joxer. "Ya are, aren't ya?"

"Why would you want to know...?"

"Just NOD," Strife hissed. Joxer nodded. "Now quit buildin up that power charge, Unc. Ya know Zeus will be pissed if ya do anythin nasty ta Golden Boy."

Ares flicked his fingers, and the red charge that had been building up on his palm dissipated. He stalked over to Joxer, leaned over the sofa (causing Joxer to lean back, and bump his head), and snapped, "DON'T DO THAT TO ME!"

"I... what... Okay."

"And lie down before you kill yourself."

Joxer started around the sofa, only to find himself swept up into Ares' arms. "I can walk! I can walk!"

"Shut up. I thought I told you not to wiggle around, Joxer."

"I wasn't wiggling. I only walk that way when my pants are too tight."

"I... I'm not going to discuss that right now." He lowered Joxer onto the sofa. "'Pol, get over here and examine him."

Apollo crossed his arms. "Oh, NOW you want my help."

Strife said, "'Pol, hello? Dedication ta tha well-bein of othahs? Remembah that?"

"Piss! All right, stand out of the way, Ares." Apollo went to the sofa. "Damn, Joxer, what's with the black? As pale as you are, you look like a Bacchae in that."

Strife rested his chin on the back of the sofa. "I like it. I think I'll call it 'goth'."

Ares peered around Apollo. "Is that one of my sheets?"

Joxer's voice was small. "I was cold."

Apollo started to raise the hem of the impromptu toga. It was moving toward the groin area when Ares reached out and caught Apollo's wrist. "That's high enough. Everything that you need to look at is uncovered."

"You're a pain in the glutes sometimes, bro. Let go so I can get on with this." Ares did. The shears appeared, and Apollo carefully cut away the dressing. "Judging from the outside of the bandage, I don't THINK there will be a major problem, but stand by to run for supplies." He spread the linen aside, leaning down to run a critical eye over the wound.

He blinked, and leaned closer. Ares tried to look, too, but his view was blocked. He didn't like the silence, though. "What? What's wrong?"

"Um... nothing, actually. That's what's puzzling me."

"Why should you be confused that he's healing?"

"Well, bro, to start with, healing is never a sure thing, not even with gods, dig? I've had things I thought should have cleared up in a couple of days linger for weeks, and vice-versa."

"And?"

"This has me stumped." He took a half step back, indicating that Ares should look.

Ares moved closer and looked. He stared. "I'll be damned."

"Probably," said Apollo dryly.

Where yesterday there had been ragged, gaping, still moistly red flesh, there was now an irregular, shiny, dark pink patch of skin. It was slightly textured, like plaster that had been carelessly smoothed, but it could undoubtedly no longer be classified as a wound. It was now a scar. "What the fuck happened?"

Apollo shrugged. "Search me. I'm good," he traced a finger around the perimeter of the scar. "But I'm not THAT good."


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