saga/title/fandom: Love and Mischief Saga: Seeking Balance chapter 14 (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 14: The Next Day
Cupid watched his son yawning and rubbing his eyes. "Why are you yawning, Bliss? Didn't you sleep well last night?"
"Nuh-uh. Talkin' gave me dweams."
Cupid frowned. "But we didn't have any guests over last night."
"Not guests. Other talkin'."
"What other talking?"
Bliss' blue eyes shifted. "Hadda funny dweam. Joxie hadda big tummy 'gin." He laughed. "Youse could see the baby kickin' from the inside. Poor Joxie."
"Oh, yeah, I bet that WOULD be uncomfortable. Did you make your bed again today?"
Bliss nodded. He wondered if he ought to move the talking stone somewhere else, just in case Daddy decided that he ought to put fresh sheets on the bed. He couldn't be absolutely sure that the stone wouldn't vanish with the sheets. Maybe he should put it in his belt pouch--the one he kept his shed feathers in.
A week later
"Gan'ma, I hadda dweam las' night."
Aphrodite sat and pulled Bliss up onto her lap. "Did you, punkin? Was it a scary dream, or a funny dream?"
He giggled. "Funny. I hadda same dweam before."
Cupid smiled indulgently at his son, sitting beside his mother. "Was it the one where you were swimming in custard?" Bliss shook his head. "Or the one where Uncle Hades was singing and dancing?"
Aphrodite laughed. "Oh, I'd pay to have a scrying mirror of that!"
Bliss was shaking his head, and Cupid said, "Then was it the dream about Joxer?"
Bliss nodded vigorously, and curved his hands in front of his own plump belly. "Him hadda tummy like THIS!"
Aphrodite giggled. "I suppose being able to think up food whenever you liked WOULD be a temptation for a former mortal."
Cupid chuckled. "That's not why he had the big belly. Tell her, son."
"Him gonna have a baby!"
Cupid laughed. "Isn't that the silliest thing you ever heard? Mom, why aren't you laughing?"
"Bliss, honey, are you sure this is the same dream? Exactly?"
Bliss frowned in concentration, but nodded again, holding up three fingers. "Had it this many timeses now."
"What is it, Mom?" Cupid asked.
"Well, dear, you know that sometimes repeated dreams are prophetic, especially when they come in threes."
"I'll admit that it isn't by any means a sure thing, but it's POSSIBLE."
Cupid regarded his son, puzzled. "But he never has before. I haven't, and you haven't. I don't think Dad has. He's never mentioned it if he did."
"Yes, but there's your Uncle Apollo to consider. It may well have skipped a generation. Or it could just be something specifically related to what's going on. You have to admit it's been pretty weird, and I see no reason why it couldn't generate a lot of energy that would have to be funneled out SOMEHOW."
"I'm pretty sure that if Dad was going to have another kid, everyone on Olympus would know about it."
Aphrodite sighed. "This is a special case, remember? There's a limited number of people who even realize that he's in a situation where children are likely."
"Mom, they're hardly LIKELY now."
"All right then, Mister Semantics--POSSIBLE." Aphrodite sighed. "Oh, it would be nice if it were true. I'd love to have a baby around again." She giggled. "Especially since I wouldn't be the one changing diapers or breast feeding."
Bliss poked Aphrodite in the bosom. "Gan'ma, how do bwests feed a baby?" He tried to peer down her cleavage. "You gots food in there? What kind?"
She handed him to Cupid. "It's time to have a talk with your son." She was gone in a flash of pink sparks.
"Right," said Cupid. "It's 'my grandson' this and 'my grandchild' that till he asks the BIG questions, then it's 'here's your son'." He sighed. "Okay, Bliss--you know about cows, right?"
Bliss gave his Daddy a 'duh' look.
Aphrodite appeared in the Cave of the Fates. They looked up from their work. "Hail, Love," said Atropos.
"To what do we owe this visit?" asked Lachesis.
Aphrodite pointed at Clotho. "I want to know if a new thread has been spun out from the God of War's life." The Fates exchanged looks. "And I'm going to take that as a yes!" She clapped her hands and bounced over to the tapestry. "Show me, show me!" Smiling, Lachesis carefully pulled the shimmering silver-blue thread to the forefront. Aphrodite cooed. "Oh, how sweet! Does the blue shade mean it's a boy?" The Fates shrugged. "Don't give me that. You know, don't you? I need to know NOW, so I can start helping with the nursery things."
"All signs point to a boy," agreed Clotho. "But... um..."
"Well," said Lachesis, "this is an odd situation. We, uh, are having difficulty identifying the mother. Perhaps you have an idea?"
Aphrodite stared at each Fate in turn. Her lips started twitching, then she started giggling. Finally she had to materialize a chair and sit down. "Oooh, this is rich! You don't know the baby's mother. That's why you haven't made an official pronouncement, isn't it? There's several good inches on that thread, so the baby must be at least a couple of months along..."
"About three-and-a-half," said Clotho.
"And you still don't know. No wonder you didn't want to say anything. You don't want to admit that you don't know everything."
"We know ALMOST everything," protested Lachesis. "And I HAVE had some indication, but..."
"What?" snapped Atropos. "Sister, you learned this, and you didn't TELL us?"
"It can't be right," Lachesis insisted. "There has to be a mistake. Two similar threads have to have gotten wound together so tightly that I can't tell..."
"It's a man's thread, isn't it?" asked Aphrodite.
Clotho and Atropos looked at Lachesis. The middle sister blushed. "It, uh, it looks like."
"Why didn't you trace it?" said Atropos, obviously annoyed. "We should have broken the new long ago."
"It's just so... odd that I figured I had to be reading it wrong. I mean, I haven't seen so many bumps and kinks in a long time. There's one place not to long ago where it's almost nipped through, then mended. And then... There's no other way to say it--it starts mortal, then becomes divine, and I knew that Zeus hadn't created any new gods lately. Quite frankly, I didn't feel like dealing with the fall out from being the one to tell him."
Clotho was shaking her head. "This is a fine thing. Keeping secrets from your own sisters. Lachesis, it's all well and good for us to befuddle the rest of the world, but if we can't trust each other..."
"Enough of that for now. Who is the mother?" asked Atropos. "Er, I mean the other father."
"Oh, I know that," said Aphrodite cheerfully. "It's Joxer, the Mighty." She preened. "My grandson is prophetic. But really, ladies, you might have waited till he was a little older to send..." she trailed off. "Wait a minute. You didn't know, so you COULDN'T have sent the dreams, could you?" They all shook their heads. "Then who the Tartarus DID?"
"That can be discovered later," said Atropos. "We need to summon Hermes now, and notify Zeus officially of the newest god... Uh, I guess that's one new god, and one soon-to-be god."
"Oh, no you don't! He's not going to know even before Ares does," protested Aphrodite.
"Protocol can be damned to Asphodel and buried by Cerberus for all I care!" She narrowed her eyes. "If you try to tell Zeus before Ares knows, the manure fly like a flock of geese have gotten into a patch of unripe berries. I'll make damn sure that EVERYONE knows that a toddler godling figured it out before you did."
"Well, there's no need to get nasty about it," huffed Lachesis.
Atropos cleared her throat. "I think that, perhaps, this could be one of the times that it is, uh, necessary for things to remain totally obscure until they are revealed by circumstances."
Aphrodite primped her hair, "And it will give you time to go sort through all the obscure predictions you've made in the past and find one vague enough to pass off as relating to this. That will be just dandy. Now, if you'll excuse me, I think it's time that we had a little family conference."
She appeared in Ares' main chamber. It was a lot more crowded than she'd hoped for. Ares and Strife were sitting at the table, picking over the remains of breakfast. Bliss was sitting on the bed with Joxer, playing a stick tossing game. That was one reason why Bliss loved Joxer--he always had time for a game. *I just hope that doesn't change,* thought Aphrodite, *cause he's gonna be way busy in a few months.* She studied him. *Does he even know?* Joxer was watching Bliss as the little boy tried to carefully extricate a red stick from the jumbled pile before him without moving any others. His expression was tender as he watched the child, and his hand stole down unconsciously, curving over his belly. *Oh, he knows, even if he doesn't know that he knows.*
She received nods from the men, and went to sit beside Bliss. "Baby, what are you doing here?"
"Daddy hadda work fast," Bliss explained.
"Somethin about some young buck's hormones had just kicked in, an' if they weren't directed right, he'd end up in a spear point weddin that would screw up tha dynamics of a certain village's love-lines for a coupla generations," offered Strife.
"Drat. Strife, do you suppose that you could take Bliss out into the garden for a little while? There's something we need to discuss that he doesn't need to hear."
Bliss looked up at her. "I din't tell."
"Daddy said not to talk 'bout the dream, an' I din't." He looked at Joxer, then reached out to pat his tummy, very gently. "Joxie, how do the baby go potty in your belly?"
Joxer keeled over. Ares was across the room so quickly that he might as well have transported. "Joxer!" He stretched his lover out on the bed and materialized a damp cloth, wiping his face.
Bliss looked at Aphrodite. "Joxer sleepy?"
"Strife!" called Aphrodite.
"Gotcha." Strife hopped up and went to take Bliss by the hand. "C'mon, kiddo. We'll go feed tha fish in Joxer's pond."
As they started out, Aphrodite called, "And why don't you look surprised?" Strife just giggled, and shrugged.
Ares lifted his head and bellowed, "Ace!" He patted Joxer's cheek lightly. "Wake up, Joxer. Shit, what's wrong?"
"It... uh... it isn't all that uncommon for someone to fate under these sort of circumstances," said Aphrodite.
"What sort of circumstances? Fainting is never..."
Ace stood beside the bed. He took in the situation and immediately bent over Joxer. "Any idea what brought this on? Has he been over-exerting himself? Got over heated?" He was running his hands through the air over Joxer's body, concentrating as he scanned him.
"No, nothing like that." Ace suddenly started. He frowned, then did the scan again. "What is it?"
"Well," there was a hint of amusement in the Healing God's voice, "I'd say that him getting overheated in one way or another definitely had something to do with this."
"Well, that's good, because... What?"
"You heard me."
Joxer had opened his eyes and was just sitting up. Ares said, "Joxer, you're knocked up?" Joxer fainted again.
"Way to be tactful, Ares," said Aphrodite.
Ares sat on the bed heavily. "That's... impossible."
"No, it isn't." Aphrodite arched an eyebrow, spreading a hand on her bosom. "Not considering all the energy you two have been feeding me lately."
"But... but... I.... he... He's MALE."
Aphrodite and Ace exchanged looks. "He's a DIVINE male," said Ace patiently. "You WERE warned about these possibilities, weren't you? Dad is supposed to have that 'talk' with every god."
"Well, yeah, he did, a long time ago. But I never thought... It... It's fucking RARE, isn't it?"
"Try 'unique'--so far. In fact, this is going to be the first non-spontaneous one on record. You and Joxer are really going down in the scrolls for this one." He materialized a tiny bottle, opened it, and waved it under Joxer's nose. "There's nothing to worry about. He's very healthy, and so is the baby. It's just that sometimes pregnant people faint, especially during moments of emotional stress." Joxer's eyes fluttered open. "Hi, Joxer. Don't be afraid."
Joxer's hands crept down to his stomach. "The baby?"
"The baby is fine. But you're going to have to start taking it easy, okay?" Joxer nodded. "You should rest now. I'll come by tomorrow and have a talk with you about what to expect, and what you should do. I'm warning you--you're going to need to be very dedicated to staying healthy. You haven't been a god for long, and this can be a strain on your constitution, but if you're careful, there shouldn't be any problem. Ares..."
Ace smiled. "Keep him in bed for a few hours--RESTING, nothing else, you dog. I'm going to want him to start taking a nap in the afternoons. I'll be by tomorrow." He shook his uncle's hand. "Congratulations."
Ares looked at Aphrodite. "Do you mean to tell me that Bliss knew about this before I did?"
"He's been having dreams."
"I need to find out about this." Ares stalked out.
Aphrodite looked over to find Joxer with his head in his hands. She sat beside him quickly, putting her arm around him, "Are you all right?"
"He didn't even speak to me once he knew," Joxer said faintly.
"Oh, sweetie!" Aphrodite hugged him. "He's just surprised--that's all."
"He doesn't want the baby." Joxer sniffed. "He doesn't want ME."
"No!" Aphrodite shook him gently. "That is SO not true. Joxer, listen to me. This is my JOB, right? It's what I am. Ares LOVES you. Maybe he hasn't said it yet, but it's harder for some people than it is for others. Ares has always been a shower instead of a sayer. He's like that with EVERYONE."
"I've been thinking," Joxer said softly. "Ever since I sorta knew? I thought, 'If he sends me away now, I'll still have a part of him with me forever, and that will be enough'." He lifted dark, pain filled eyes to Aphrodite. "But you know what? It wouldn't be. I realize that. It will be wonderful to have his child, but if I can't have him... if WE can't have him... I... I don't know what I'll do."
Aphrodite watched the despondent man. *I wish I could believe it was just the hormones, but the poor guy has been rejected so many times in his life that once more might break him. Ares, I know you love him. Damn you, if you mess this up, you're gonna think the Furies are a bunch of parakeets once I get through with your ass.*
Strife was helping Bliss sail leaf boats on the pond. He looked up as Ares came into the garden, and (even though he knew that he risked getting tossed through the wall) couldn't resist. "Howzit goin, Dad?"
Ares clenched his fists and ground out, "Does EVERYONE except me know about this?"
"Do ya honestly think that yer Pop would know about somethin like this an' not take tha opportunity ta rake ya ovah tha coals?"
"No, you're right about that." Ares squatted down beside Bliss. "Bliss, how did you know that Joxer is going to have a baby?"
"Like I told. I'se dweamed it..." He held up three fingers. "This many."
"Yeah, free. An' my friend tol' me."
"What friend?" asked Ares alertly. "Apollo?"
Bliss giggled, shaking his head. "'pol notta frien'. 'pol a nuncle. No, my..." His hand had been drifting to his belt, and he stopped, biting his lip. "Jus' my friend."
"Bliss, let me see what you have in your pouch." The boy hesitated. "Bliss."
Bliss sighed, opened up the pouch, and pulled out a sliver of stone. Ares held out his hand, and Bliss clutched the rock close to his chest. "I found it."
"Bliss!" Bliss handed it over.
Strife craned his neck to get a look at the rock, while Ares studied it. The Mischief God's eyes suddenly widened, and he sat back quickly, dragging Bliss with him. "Uh oh!"
"Uh oh, what?" asked Ares. "It's a stone."
"It's a freakin force of nature," insisted Strife, "an' it's dangerous as Tartarus."
Ares eyebrows climbed. "The Chaos Stone?" It glowed faint green for an instant. Strife stood up, taking Bliss with him, and dodged behind a tree. "Bliss, you said you found this. It belongs to Gaia."
"Uh huh," said the godling. "Thas' where I foun' it." He noted the sharp looks, and protested. "But it SAID to take it home wif me!"
Strife giggled nervously. "Any othah time I'd know tha kid was just makin excuses, but with that think, it damn sure COULDA done that."
"I suppose it could," said Ares thoughtfully. "It certainly has had it's own agenda in the past. But Gaia is usually very careful of it. I wonder why she hasn't been turning Olympus upside down looking for it?" He shook his head. "I can find out about that later. The thing now is..."
"Gan'pa, Joxie anna baby not sick, huh?" Bliss' face was scrunched up in concern.
"No, no. Ace says they're doing well."
"I go see?"
"He needs to rest right now, Bliss."
"I see 'morrow? Wanna feel the baby tickle."
"Maybe. Strife, take Bliss back to his house, or to visit Hestia, or something. I need a little privacy around here."
"Check." Strife hefted Bliss up onto his hip, but hesitated. "Unc? Yer happy, aren't ya?"
That seemed to surprise Ares. "Of course I am."
"Ya might wanna tell Joxer that."
Ares went back inside. Aphrodite was sitting with Joxer, and she shot him a glare when he entered. Joxer looked up also, and there was such worry and unsureness in his eyes that it was almost physically painful to Ares. "Aphrodite, I'd like to be alone with Joxer." Aphrodite gave him a hard stare. Ares looked back at her levelly. After a moment, her expression softened, and she nodded. She kissed Joxer on the cheek, and disappeared.
Joxer dropped his gaze to fix on his hands, which were nervously stroking his own stomach. Ares watched the movement, this time.
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