saga/title/fandom: Love and Mischief Saga: Seeking Balance chapter 7 (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 7

"I don't get it," said Apollo. "I mean, this rate of healing is unprecidented, even on Olympus. Strife is the quickest healer we have, due to having SO MUCH of it to do, in my humble opinion..."

Strife cackled. *sniff* "Sorry, 'Pol, it's just you usin tha adjective humble ta apply ta anything about yerself. But yer right. It woulda taken me at least a week ta get ta this stage."

Apollo nodded. "And that would have been with the healing potion." Ares and Strife looked at each other. "You didn't." They shrugged. "You COULDN'T have! I had it cleverly hidden."

"Nice portrait," said Strife.

"STRIFE!"

Apollo reached for him. Strife ducked, but he didn't really need to. Ares intercepted his brother. "For once it's not his fault. I TOLD him to bring it."

Apollo threw up his hands, rolling his eyes skyward. Joxer, happy that they seemed to have forgotten about him for the moment, thought, *I know that when I do that, I'm sort of mentally appealing to the gods on Olympus to witness the crap that I'm going through. Why is he doing it? Is there someone we don't know about on a higher level? I'd better not think about that. My head already hurts from trying to keep track of what's going on.*

Apollo was thinking again. "Ares, I've never tried that on a mortal! There's no telling what sort of effect it will have on him."

"From what I can see it's only been a positive effect, so what are you worried about?" said Ares dismissively.

"Uh-huh. And what kind of effect do you think it's going to have on things when Zeus finds out Joxer is now immortal?"

"WHAT?" Strife fell down behind the couch. He could be heard giggling breathlessly. "Shut up, Strife. Apollo, how could this happen."

Again the eye rolling. This time Joxer studied the ceiling warily. "How do you think the healing potion works?"

"How should I know? That's your department. I don't ask Dite how her concoctions make people go all goopy, and I damn sure don't ask Hecate how HER'S do what they do."

Apollo looked at Joxer. "Joxer, how did that last dose of medicine taste?"

Joxer smacked his lips thoughtfully. "Surprisingly nice, actually. Sort of like a mixed fruit punch."

Apollo spread his hands in a 'you see?' gesture. When Ares didn't respond, he shouted. "Apples! Damn, this HAS to be willful ignorance, because you CAN'T be that stupid. Golden apples, Ares. Not a lot, but enough to do the trick for a mortal. Joxer, next time you see Uncle Hades, all you have to worry about is the proper form of address. He'll just be sending you back topside."

Ares sighed. "I can't believe..."

Joxer scrambled to his feet, face flushed. He yelled at Ares, "Why do you hate me so much? What did I ever do to you? All I ever did was worship you, and... and..." He dashed out of the room, sheet flapping.

There was silence. Ares started after Joxer, but Apollo grabbed his arm (a pretty brave thing, when you think about it). "Hang on, Ar. He's upset right now. Give him a few minutes to himself."

"Are you sure he'll be all right?"

Apollo shrugged. "He's immortal, remember? Did you do something to him before Strife brought him back?"

"I left him eating breakfast, and he was gone when I got back. He seemed happy enough. How did we get from there to here?"

"It's strange. I've never heard of a mortal being upset when he found out he was gifted with immortality."

Strife climbed into view. "Maybe cause some mortals might view it as a curse instead of a gift. Ya evah think of that?"

Apparently Apollo hadn't. "He must not realize that eternal youth is included. I can see being upset if you'd have to go on and on, getting all wrinkly and decrepit."

"Not it eithah, Bright Boy. Eithah one of you two thought about what mosta Joxer's life has been like?"

Ares said, "Sure, a warrior's life is hard, but he chose it."

Strife shook his head. "Yer only partly right. It was chosen fah him. His dad dedicated him an' his brothahs to ya when they were still snot noses, remembah? Joxer DID decide ta continue once he grew up, cause it was all he knew, an' by then, well, you were his GOD, Unc. Joxer don't desert people he cares about, no mattah how much he's ignored, or kicked. Ya musta noticed that, right? How long has he been taggin along with Zeen an' Gabs, with nothin ta show fah his loyalty but thumps, condescention, contempt that they don't bothah ta hide, an' tha occasional fish dinnah or pat on tha head, when Zeen is feelin generous?"

"Hearing you put it like that, it makes me want to smash them myself," said Apollo.

Ares sounded doubtful. "It hasn't been THAT bad a life for him, has it?"

Strife shrugged. "Oh, he's been happier in tha last coupla years than he was before. His early life was really pissy, though. I don't know alla it, an' I had wunna his Dad's war horses kick tha old asshole in that nuts, then crush botha his kneecaps." Strife grinned. "I gotta special agreement with Gaia that his neighborhood has more cold, damp weathah than tha climate would usually support."

Strife clambered over the back of the sofa and sat on it. "Since Jox has been nekkid as a jay bird lately, I s'pose ya noticed tha numbah of scars?"

Ares nodded. "I asked, but he didn't want to talk about them. Do you have any idea how he got those lash marks on his calves?"

Strife's expression tightened. "Lessee... those were from tha time Jonas was beatin Joxer's mothah, an' Joxer tried ta stop 'im. Jayce an' Jett had already left home by then. I dunno what the woman had did ta piss Jonas off, but he prob'ly woulda killed tha sad bitch that time, if Joxer hadn't distracted him. First Jonas beat Joxer unconscious. Then he strung him up by his wrists an' spent tha next three days whippin him whenevah he had tha inclination, or energy. He also used anythin that was just layin around handy. Jonas finally let her cut Joxie down, an' she kept him alive, an' nursed him back. Joxer nevah was all that sturdy, ya know, an' he's been a little fragile evah since." Strife looked down at his lap, fingers working restlessly at the leather covering his thighs. "He begged her ta let him die. Said he hoped he could get inta tha fields, but he figured Tartarus couldn't be much worse than what he already had. She guilted him inta wantin ta stay alive."

Ares and Apollo were both regarding Strife with bemusement. This was the longest coherent speech either could remember their nephew making. Ares finally shook his head, as if clearing it. "I'd better go find him." He left the room.

Apollo sat next to Strife. "Since when have you been all sympathetic for a mortal's troubles."

Strife elbowed him. "Look, all children are mine, up to what some people laughinly call tha age of reason. When they start bringin grief down on their heads through their own powah, I lose mosta my interest in 'em. Joxer nevah reached that stage. Tha poor goofus has been a freakin' victim ALL his life, but he's nevah ceased ta believe that things'll get bettah if he just tries hard enough. Now, from most people, that attitude would make me wanna spit, but from Joxer--it's kinda... I dunno... Endearin, I guess. An' if ya tell anyone I said that..."

"I know, I know. Muses with PMS, snapped harp strings, dive bombing birds, loose wheels on my chariot..."

"Ta name only a few of tha delights I'll visit on ya. Deal?"

They shook hands. "Deal. And if YOU tell anyone about THIS..."

"Yer so cute when ya try ta be threatenin."

Ares searched in a systematic manner. Finally he heard the soft murmur of female voices. *That'll be the Muses. Well, they aren't screaming, but maybe they've seen him. It's worth a shot.* Ares followed the voices. The scene he walked in on was... unexpected, to say the least.

Joxer hiding behind furniture while shrieking Muses threw pottery was believable. Joxer knocked out cold and trussed up would have been even more believable. Joxer, surrounded by petting, cooing Muses, who seemed to be attempting to kill him with kindness, was not believable at all, but there it was. He was ensconced on a comfortable sofa, with his head in the lap of Melpomene, who was stroking his short hair, her usually grave expression sadly tender. Urania was holding his feet, massaging them, carefully wiggling each toe. Euterpe was playing her flute and Clio was playing her lyre as Terpsichore danced before Joxer. Erato and Polyhemia were taking turns feeding the totally baffled new immortal grapes.

Calliope, the senior Muse, and Thalia, the youngest, spotted Ares, and hurried over, shoving him back out of the room before anyone else noticed. Out in the hall, Calliope hissed, "What have you been doing to that poor, sweet little man?"

Ares blinked. "I thought I was going to have to rescue him from you girls."

Thalia snorted. "Huh. It's not us he needs rescuing from. That poor baby. He comes flying into our room, and Mel asks him, very calmly, what he's doing in there, and he just wails, 'Why can't beautiful people ever be HAPPY to see me?'" She smacked Ares with her shepherdess crook.

"Ow! Why are you hitting me?"

"Well, he'd just come from being with you, silly, so you must've been the one he was talking about."

Ares shook his head. "He must've meant Apollo, but that doesn't make sense, either." He scowled. "Apollo would be just TOO damn happy to see Joxer." The two Muses exchanged looks, then started whispering together. Ares couldn't be sure, but he thought he caught the words 'Dite', 'cute', and 'clueless'. "What?"

They smiled at him. "Nothing," said Calliope. "We'd love to keep him, but Apollo draws the line at two footed pets. You'll have to take him home with you."

Ares looked into the room. Urania was trying to convince Joxer to let her paint stars on his toenails. "I don't know. He's immortal now, so there isn't much on earth that would be a threat to him, but up here... Zeus won't like it when he finds out."

"He'll be safe at your place," said Calliope confidently.

"I wish I could be sure."

"With all nine of us, Apollo, Dite, Strife, and Cupid distracting Zeus, he will. We might even get Persephone to kick in, since the fewer times Joxer Hades has to send Jox back, the more time he has to spend with Seph."

Ares eyed the two Muses suspiciously. "Why is everyone suddenly so co-operative?"

He didn't like the way Thalia was giggling. Too much like Strife when he was up to something. "Just keep him at your Olympic temple for a few months, letting him get adjusted to his new state, before you toss him out." She glared. "He's had enough of that in his life."

"I suppose I can do that. He's already proved he can keep himself amused." Ares walked into the room. "Joxer."

Joxer swallowed a grape the wrong way and started coughing. The seven Muses around him were immediately thumping him on the back and shoulders (or, in anxiety, anyplace they could reach). Consequently he was getting pretty lustily thumped. As she whacked him, gentle Euterpe was trying to reassure him. "Don't be scared, Joxer. Remember, you can't die now. Choking feels rotten, sure, but it can't kill you."

"Really, ladies, I'm okay," he said hoarsely. He caught whatever flying hands he could. "PLEASE don't distress yourselves over me."

"Are you ready to go now?" asked Ares. His voice was more subdued than usual. Calliope and Thalia went around, whispering in the ears of their sisters. Soon all of them were looking at Ares with small, secret smiles. "I'd really like to get home. I feel like I'm about to be overwhelmed by estrogen." Joxer gave him a questioning look. "I don't know. It's something female, like testosterone is something male. Strife is continually bringing back unearthly concepts from the future. It just sounded right in this instance." Joxer stared at him doubtfully. Ares held out his hand. "Joxer?"

Joxer had never heard his name said like that. It was as if there was a whole string of thoughts and feelings, a whole epic poem of a story, in those two syllables, Ares said it in just that tone. *I think I might be able to figure it out if I just sat with him for a long, long time, and listened to him say it over and over again. That won't happen. But maybe if I go with him I can hear it one more time--if I'm lucky.* He gently disengaged himself from the Muses and stood up, going to stand beside Ares. He bowed to the women. "Ladies, I'm sorry I intruded, and I thank you for your kindness."

"It's all right, Joxer," said Melpmene softly. "You come back and see us sometime--some time when you're feeling better."

Ares took Joxer's hand. Joxer looked down at them, then up at Ares. "I have to transport us." *Why am I explaining this to him? * "I know it makes you sick, but we can't go walking around outside right now."

"It's okay."

*Flash*

The Muses started chattering happily. Erato said, "So, which one of them do you think will snap to it first?"

Melpone said, "Joxer. He already knows he loves Ares. He just doesn't know he's IN LOVE with him."

"Is it just going to be a fling, or are they going to STAY together for a few decades?" asked Polyhymia. "I already like the little guy, and I don't want to get too attached if he's going to be sent away in just thirty or forty years."

Calliope said, "I'd say it's going to last, and it's going to be HOT. After all, Aphrodite AND Cupid are involved. Now, lets come up with suggestions as to what to do to that snot bard who's been so mean to him."

"Oo, oo! I know!" Thalia waved her hand. "Every comic writer in Greece is suddenly going to start naming all their most haggish female characters Gabrielle!"

*Flash*

They had appeared in Ares study. "Sit down." Joxer took one of the chairs before Ares' desk. He was a little surprised when the War God didn't go behind the desk, but instead too the chair beside him. Ares materialized a cup of wine and offered it to Joxer. "Here. You probably need this." Joxer took the wine and gulped it down. "That's some of Dionyses' best, Joxer. Do that again, and you'll probably slide right out of that chair." He tapped the side of the cup again, and it refilled. "I mingled that one with some water. Sip it."

Ares slumped more comfortably in his chair, stretching out his legs and crossing them at the ankles. "I'm still not entirely sure how you got it into your head that I purposefully did something to hurt you."

Joxer flushed. "I'm sorry. I was sort of freaked out."

"Learning you're never going to die can do that to you, I suppose. Joxer, I was trying to make you live, I wasn't trying to make you live forever. Immortality isn't something to be handed out willie- nillie. As a matter of fact, Zeus sees it as his own personal perogative. Any god or goddess who wants to bestow immortality on a particularly worthy mortal has to go through an approval process that you wouldn't BELIEVE! Lots of times the mortal in question just goes ahead and dies of old age before a decision is reached." He cocked his head. "Eventhough it was a mistake on everyone's part, you sort of slipped in under the wire, and Zeus would NOT appreciate that. I'm sure you can understand why it would be better to keep this information from him for as long as possible."

"You get no arguements from me there."

"Good. Then you see that it's essential that you stay here."

"Wouldn't I be better off farther away from him, on earth?"

"Think, Joxer. You're in all sorts of dangerous situations on Earth. It's a miracle that Hades hasn't already sorted you. If you keep dying, then reappearing, don't you think that rumor will get back to Zeus?"

"There is that. Gabrielle alone would spread it over Greece, because she wouldn't be able to resist writing a few ballads about it."

"So you'll stay here till things are sorted out."

"Okay. And I was wondering... You know that garden?"

Ares frowned. "I had that for Aphrodite when she was expecting Cupid. I haven't been out there in ages."

"I was wondering. I'm going to have a lot of time on my hands. Do you suppose I could sort of work with it?"

"Why?" Joxer's expression, which had been brightening, drooped. "I'm not saying no, I'm just curious. If you really want a good garden, I could ask Demeter or Gaia if they'd whip it into shape for you."

"Oh, no, please!" Joxer said quickly. "I'm not ungrateful for the offer, it's just that... Well, I was allowed to tend the vegetable gardens when I was a kid..."

*Allowed? I bet you were strapped to within an inch of your life if Jonas thought you weren't being busy enough.*

"...but I was never allowed to do anything with, like, ornamental plants. Since I left home, I've never been in any one place long enough. Since I'm going to be here for awhile, I thought it would just be nice to grow something, and know that -I- was the one who was tending it, helping it along."

"I don't see any reason why not. Just let me or Strife know what you need, and we'll get it for you." Joxer beamed, and Ares blinked. *It's like Apollo driving his chariout out from behind a cloud when he does that.* "Anything else?"

Joxer nodded, then said hesitantly, "If it isn't too much trouble." Ares shrugged. "If I'm going to be staying, and I'm not going to be bedridden, can I please have some more clothes? I'd like some pants. This sheet is very smooth, but it's also kinda drafty."

Ares tilted his head, studying Joxer. "Are you positive that your wound isn't giving you ANY discomfort?"

"Not a twinge." Joxer shivered as a crackle of red static ran over him, from head to toe.

"I can't do anything about the hair--that'll just have to grow back by itself, though why the healing potion didn't regenerate it, I'll never know."

Joxer looked down at himself. He was wearing a simple white linen shirt, and brown leather pants and boots. "Wow! I haven't had anything this nice since my last set of 'go to temple' clothes when I was a kid!" He hopped up to try out the boots, walking slowly across the room. "And these boots are... are better than SEX! Um, well, maybe not THAT good, but BOY, are they comfortable! Can I go out and look at the garden again? I want to start planning what I'm going to do with it."

"Just stay out of the audience room."

"Will do!"

Joxer walked out slowly, again keeping his eyes admiringly on his new footwear. He didn't notice how closely Ares was watching him. When he was gone, Ares muttered, "I'll be damned. He DOES wiggle in tight pants."


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