When Ares proposed, Joxer was overwhelmed. He couldn't believe that the beautiful war god loved him enough to want to spend the rest of their lives together, which said a lot, as Ares had gifted him with godhood and immortality on their wedding day. Joxer had been so happy he'd cried...but he'd quickly hid his tears from the assembled guests.
Aside from his tears, Joxer's memories of the ceremony were a lovely blur; the only thing he could remember with any clarity was how proud and handsome Ares had looked when they'd spoken their vows. He'd worn new black leathers he'd whipped up for the occasion, and had dressed Joxer in a matching brown set. With the confidence of his new godhood, Joxer had stood tall and straight at Ares' side, proud to become the consort of War.
In a pink and pearl dawn under Olympus, even little Bliss was still abed, hours from awakening everyone by buzzing through the corridors looking for playmates.
A month after the wedding, Joxer was happier than he ever thought he'd be. He snuggled into Ares' large, warm body, seeking maximum contact with his husband. Joxer's body ached with pleasant reminders of last night's anniversary celebration, and he smiled, thinking of all the positions he'd discovered existed. He stretched, then grimaced, stretching carefully to ease a sudden spasm in his lower back; maybe things had been a little too strenuous the night before. He shifted again, trying to find a comfortable position. Ares murmured something, softly, when Joxer jostled him. Joxer burrowed his head between Ares' shoulder blades and closed his eyes. He drifted in and out of sleep, dimly aware that he was becoming more and more uncomfortable.
"Ow!" Joxer sat up. That wasn't discomfort, that was *pain.* Beside him, Ares grunted sleepily and opened his eyes.
"What's wrong?" Ares rubbed Joxer's arm, and his eyes widened when Joxer flinched.
"Ahhh!" Joxer twitched and moved away, an apologetic look on his face. "I hurt, and my skin is really sensitive. I didn't think this kinda stuff happened! This is weird, Ares; even when I was a mortal, I always felt pretty good. I mean, I looked kinda sickly, but I wasn't ." Joxer pulled the blankets up to his chin and shivered. "I've felt great since you made me a god.'til today, that is." Joxer wondered at the whiny tone of his own voice, and was further surprised to find that his lower lip was trembling. His eyes were wet, and his vision blurry - he had *tears* in his eyes? "What's going on?" he wailed, yielding to the comfort of Ares' muscular arms.
"Shhhh, it's OK, sweetheart. You're growing, changing. It's a very special time in a young god's life." Ares pressed his lips very gently against Joxer's forehead. "You're getting your first period."
A sob stuck in his throat and Joxer blinked. "What!?" He was shocked, and with the full force of the hormones surging through his system, he angrily pushed Ares away. " I'm not stupid, Ares, that's *girl* stuff where I come from!"
Stifling a laugh and swinging his legs over the side of the bed, Ares ran a hand over his hair, neatly arranging his newly shorn locks with one pass. "It's *god* stuff where I come from, Jox." He leaned over the bed and kissed Joxer on the nose. "And I don't think you're stupid; you know better than that. Your hormones have got you all mixed-up and moody. It passes after a few days."
"I know that," Joxer snapped. "I've seen Xena and Gabrielle and Meg going through this, I know how long it lasts. And it's awful, just awful." He looked sullen, turning away when Ares tried to humor him by giving his hips a seductive wiggle.
"We all go through it, Jox. And there *are* advantages."
When Joxer turned to glare at his husband, he found Ares dressed and looking at him thoughtfully.
"All of us? You too?" The godling closed his eyes against a fresh wave of pain. "Make this pain go away, would ya? And give me *one* advantage to this, just one."
A small sigh escaped Ares' lips before he knelt on the bed. After a preliminary struggle, he took Joxer's hands in his. Showing more patience than anyone would ever credit him, the war god leaned close to nuzzle Joxer's neck. "It means, my love, that you can have babies."
"B-babies?" Joxer blinked, and jerked away. "Are you serious?"
"As a heart attack for some unfortunate mortal, yes." Ares' neck-nuzzling now included small licks, and a few gentle nibbles.
Joxer ducked his chin and pushed Ares away. "Don't even think about it, mister." He matched Ares' scowl with a snarl of his own. "Are you serious about, about.babies?" His snarl softened to a smile. "That might be kinda nice." His expression slowly turned dreamy. "That might be really nice," he said.
"It would be wonderful; you, giving life to our children." Ares' full lips were once again at work against Joxer's neck. "You'll be beautiful pregnant," he whispered.
Visions of lovely black-curled, brown-eyed babies bounced behind Joxer's closed lids as he yielded to Ares' greater strength. "Oh, Ares, I love youuuuuuuOwowowowowow!" Joxer doubled over with the force of the cramp, crushing Ares' hand in his, which elicited a high-pitched scream from the war god. Between clenched teeth, Joxer seethed, "If you don't do something about this pain I'm getting a divorce!"
The other Olympians had already gathered for breakfast by the time Ares put in an appearance. He was greeted with smiles all around - the newlywed's celebratory cries of passion had rung through every room of the huge cloud-top palace.
"How's our newest godling this morning?" Hera asked, lightly slapping Bliss' hand as the impish cherub made a quick grab at her plate. The queen of the gods wagged her finger in her great-grandson's face, and the youngster looked contrite.
"Yeah, where is he? It's nice to have another young god around," Cupid said. "Uhhh," he quickly amended, "Not that you oldsters aren't a laugh riot." He tried to hide behind a goblet of nectar.
"I'm surprised there's room for that goblet, what with your sandals in your mouth and all," Ares chided gently. He shook out a snowy white napkin and spread it across his lap.
The winged love god made a face at his father. Ares saw the look but Hera was closer; with plenty of maternal admonishment to spare, she took the opportunity to rap Cupid's knuckles. Bliss covered his mouth with his hands and giggled and as he did, the tips of his tiny wings fluttered.
Ignoring the minor ruckus, Ares went forward with his news. "Our newest godling is experiencing growing pains. His first moon." He had braced himself for the onslaught of pleased surprise, and took the back-slapping with good humor. The goddesses began talking immediately of babies. Ares let them talk, keeping his senses alert for Joxer's approach. A tiny warning tingle gave him enough time to caution his family against enthusiastic displays.
"He's coming! Now, don't make too much of this, *please* - he's having a hard time getting his mind around it since it's a woman-thing for mortals. And lay easy on the jokes," he pointed his fork at Cupid, who raised his hands in an innocent 'Who me?' gesture. "Joxer's having a lot of pain, and couldn't appreciate that his first time has to be uncomfortable. I told him to stay in bed, but you all know how stubborn he is." Ares glanced to the doors as they opened, and tried not to look guilty.
The room was too quiet. Joxer stood a moment, looking around the long table, his face slowly going crimson. Ares knew he'd catch Tartarus as soon as they were alone, because it was obvious - even if Aphrodite hadn't been grinning like she'd been in the ceremonial nectar - that they'd been talking about him. The look Joxer turned his way was decidedly icy, and Ares sighed. Oh yeah. He was going to pay.
Murmuring and blushing furiously, Joxer nodded his good mornings to the other gods, and sat beside Ares as quickly as he could. The war god smiled and spooned a small helping of ambrosia scramble onto his husband's plate.
"More please," Joxer said.
"I hardly eat at all on the first day of my moon," Psyche offered helpfully. She continued, unaware of her blunder. "I feel better if I'm not full."
The sound of Ares' hand against his own forehead echoed in the large dining room.
"They know!?" Joxer whispered. His eyes were very round, and shiny with tears. "Thanks a lot!" He pushed back his chair, apparently before remembering his new powers. He looked confused and even more embarrassed, then disappeared in a shower of light blue sparkles.
No one said a word, but everyone turned to face Psyche. Ares growled; she shrugged. When Hera's quick hand connected with the back of Psyche's head, the young goddess yelped.
"Don't you *dare* roll your eyes at me, goddess," Hera warned. Cupid and Bliss fell to the floor, howling with laughter. Hera gave them the business end of her gold slippers, and told them to get up if they valued their wings. She stood, motioning to the goddesses in attendance. "Come, ladies; unless I miss my guess - which is rare - there'll be a little one on the way soon. We've got planning to do." She gave Bliss and Cupid one last kick each before she left the room.
"All gods in Ares' suite, now," Zeus said, pointing in the direction of Ares' rooms. "We've got First Blood to see to."
'First Blood.' Could they have called it anything more embarrassing? Joxer was trying not to be rude to his guests, though he wanted to scream at them to get the heck out, already. He felt silly surrounded by the male members of the Olympian clan, hearing, but trying not to hear, their advice and stories on moon pain. He pulled the blankets up to his chin.
"I soak my feet in warm water," Cupid offered. "It feels *great*. And Psyche's right about eating light. If I really chow down, it make the cramps worse. Then there's the nausea."
The others nodded agreement, and someone, Joxer couldn't tell who, conjured a fat pot of tea.
"Have some, it's Zeus' blend," Hermes offered. "I could tell you stories about trying to deliver messages while I'm cramping. Oh, this one time - "
"I don't want to hear this stuff!" Joxer interrupted, and held his hands over his ears. "I've got to go through this every month for the rest of my life? And I'm a god now!? I'll be in pain forever! *Really* forever!" Tears threatened to break through once more.
"This helps," Ares offered, and created a glowing ball of warmth to tuck under the blankets. "Better?"
"Oh!" Joxer was surprised at how quickly the soothing heat relaxed his muscles. "Ahhhh." Now *this* was more like it. His trademark wide-mouthed smile brought grins from the gods in the room.
"This is *incredible,* Haephestus offered, and created a second ball to slip behind Joxer's back. "The heat from front and back is really nice," the shy god said.
"Ooooooooooh." Joxer snuggled deeper into the bed. "*Very* nice. Thank you." He settled further into the warmth of the glowing balls, feeling the painful knots loosening.
"It's my moon, too, so I sympathize completely, though I'm not in as much pain as you are," the forge god replied. "And I think Cupe's on the same cycle."
"I only had ambrosia tea at breakfast," Cupid nodded looking wise. "I take it easy."
"Yeah, when you're not dodging Hera's Feet of Death, that is," Apollo laughed.
"I think she wears pointed-toe slippers so they'll hurt more." Cupid rubbed a spot on his arm and grinned.
The more the men talked, the more charitable Joxer felt towards his new family, and this new situation. The easy camaraderie was comforting, and he glanced around at each of them as they spoke, laughing when they did. He looked up to find Ares leaning against the wall, arms crossed over his chest. He'd been watching Joxer and looked so much in love that Joxer's heart skipped a beat.
He was struck speechless, once again, by his incredible luck. He never would have guessed that Ares would even give him a second glance, and not only had he looked, he'd liked what he'd seen. While Joxer wasn't crazy about the idea of having - he blushed just thinking the word - moontime, he was curious about how he could carry a baby. A baby. *Their* baby. When he looked at Ares again, his husband smiled, and Joxer was finally overwhelmed. He couldn't help the tears that brimmed over his lashes and spilled down his cheeks; he cried even more when the men of Olympus gathered him in a warm embrace.
As the god of hopeful dreamers, Joxer's days were full of activity.
It had been hard at first to face various versions of his mortal self, to see so many painful reminders of the clumsy, bumbling oaf he'd been. He'd been reminded, time and again, why Gabrielle and Xena had never wanted him around. Why Gabrielle, in particular, had thought of him as nothing more than a friend.
Unlike Gabrielle, however, he saw the wistful potential, nurtured the good hearts, trod carefully over sensitive feelings. He knew what it was like to want to give your best, but fail time and again. When he helped someone he understood the glow of pride that lit them from within, and he glowed as well, knowing he'd found his niche. He was proud to have been thought worthy of the pantheon, and worked hard so the other gods wouldn't regret the decision. For the first time in his life, he was absolutely happy. Happy, except for the cramp in his back. And what felt like a wave of nausea....
One minute he was on top of the world and the next, Joxer was hanging over the edge of the bed, his head in a hastily conjured pail. After the third bout of sickness, he waited, pale and trembling, until he was sure the episode was over. He waved away the bucket and its contents, and grimaced. Great, looked like he had another miserable moon to look forward to. Well, if that's what he was in store for, he was going to spend it cuddled in bed. He sat up, got as comfortable as he could, and conjured a cup of Zeus' specially blended tea.
The brew was hot and fragrant, and the first sip brought a smile to his face. Creating two glowing balls of warmth, he snuggled back into the pillows and glanced briefly at Ares' sleeping form. He could sleep through one of Zeus' tirades, Joxer had discovered. Looking at Ares he became aroused, and suddenly wanted something in his mouth that was a little more substantial than tea. A sharp twinge and a bubble of nausea convinced him that staying put might be the best option for the moment. He sipped his tea.
Odd, the last couple of moons had been so painless that he didn't even remember them. It had to have been when.... He frowned. No, not then. But maybe when...? Again he came up blank. He could only think of the first time, and that had been.... He calculated on his fingers. Three. He'd missed three moons. He blinked and sat straight up in the bed. No. Oh, nonononono. He couldn't be. He counted again, and tried to remember every scrap of womantalk he'd ever overheard. No, he shook his head, smiling at how silly it sounded. He wasn't pregnant. He *wasn't* pregnant, he repeated to himself. Was he? Couldn't be. Could he?
Even as he tried to convince himself that he wasn't, Joxer knew without a doubt that he was carrying a baby. It would have their coloring, he was sure, a beautiful dark-haired baby with deep brown eyes. A girl? A boy? He wondered...Feeling a guilty thrill, he bit his lip and slid a hand under the blankets to rest on his abdomen. He concentrated, and his eyes widened as fuzzy thoughts whirled around his own. A daughter. As quickly as he'd felt her, the connection was gone.
Three moons into her life, he'd touched her soul. Exhilarated and terrified, he didn't know whether to laugh or cry. This was immortality, he thought. He bent his head, blinking rapidly as tears filled his eyes.
Gods, what happened now? A gentle snuffle drew his attention to Ares, still sleeping peacefully, unaware that he was a father-to-be. The sound grounded him, and brought him back from the edge of elated hysteria. He took a deep breath to calm himself, wiping a trembling hand across his eyes.
A gentle knock at the bedroom door drew him completely out of his reverie. Hera appeared in a blue green shimmer.
Joxer was surprised - Hera usually respected their privacy, and *never* arrived without warning. He was relieved that his very naked husband was tucked under the covers.
Noting that Ares was still sleeping, Hera put a finger to her lips and motioned to Joxer's tea. Puzzled, he offered it to her. As he did, she pointed at the brew, and a little shower of energy enveloped his hand and the cup.
"*My* special blend," she whispered. "You do know that I'm goddess of childbirth?" She winked, and disappeared as quietly as she'd arrived.
Before he could stop himself, he laughed, a deep, relieved, joyous laugh that brought further tears to his eyes, and sloshed the tea in his cup. Ares might be able to sleep through one of Zeus' tirades, but Joxer's chuckles roused him.
"What in the world are you laughing about at this time of morning?" Ares short hair stuck up in soft spikes, and his lips were slightly puffy.
"Your family. I'm just really, really happy to be in this family." He couldn't stop laughing, and he wiped his eyes again.
Ares gave him the once over and noted the teacup. "Moontime?"
"No, it's something special that we can talk about later. Go back to sleep." Ares nodded, and settled back in the bed, and he was snoring before his head hit the pillow. Joxer was swept with a fresh wave of giggles, but bit his lip to hold them back. He bent to kiss Ares' gleaming golden shoulder.
Men didn't have babies where Joxer came from, but that was ok. He was somewhere new, surrounded by gods who loved him, and they'd help any way that they could. He'd get through this. As long as he had Ares by his side, he knew that he'd be fine.