“Well, that was a load of crap,” Hades said, using the remote to flick off
the television.

“I can’t believe you made me miss the season finale of ‘Earth: Final Conflict’ to watch this,” Hephaestus said to Ares, shooting the god of war a dirty look. “Not to mention taking me away from all the things I have to do in the forge. ”

“And I missed the Tournament of Champions on ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’,” Hades said. “As god of wealth, it’s my job to make sure no one wins a million, you know.”

“I thought you were letting them win,” Strife said, flicking an unpopped kernel of popcorn at Cupid. “God knows the questions are easy enough.”

“I ought to sue someone!” Aphrodite yelled. “Who did the hair of the actress playing me? I have NEVER looked that grody in my life!”

“At least the guy playing Ares looked good,” Cupid said, flicking another unpopped kernel back at Strife.

“Yeah, utterly lickable,” Deimos said, grabbing the remote from Hades and turning on the television, then hitting ‘rewind’. “There he is!” He hit ‘pause’ as a good closeup of Kevin Smith came on, and ran over to the flat screen TV. “Oh, Ares! Take me now you, you big studmuffin of War!” He caressed the TV screen, and made lascivious motions with his tongue.

“Deimos, you really want a fireball up your ass right now, don’t you? Ares growled.

“Oh, come off it!” Athena said, reaching for another Triscuit. “You came off pretty good in this piece of dreck. You got to be all noble and crap and sacrifice yourself to save Xena’s kid and the little bard. Me, I looked like a big old doofus instead the goddess of Wisdom!”

“Hey, at least you didn’t get your head hacked off in the first fifteen minutes,” Discord said, conjuring up another plate of nachos with extra jalapenos.

“Or get hit with your own axe,” Hephaestus said, shifting his bad leg on the ottoman. “Talk about an insult.”

“Oh please,” Hades said, “A least you didn’t get spit on with a fireball by Xena.”

“Duck, Hades!” Deimos giggled, as he rewound the tape to play the scene again.

“You really do want a fireball up the ass, kiddo,” Hades said, pulling Persephone up on his lap. “At least my hair didn’t look like cotton candy.”

“Hey, how come I wasn’t in this episode?” Cupid asked. “What happened to the guy playing me?”

“He got killed off last season. He played Caesar, remember?” Strife said.

“So? They couldn’t have brought him back?”

“Xena might have whacked Cupid if he looked her little girl the wrong way,” Strife said, fiddling with a Cheeto. “Especially if he laid that, ‘What’s your name, little girl?’ line on her.”

“Thank God there was no Augustus this time,” Ares said, picking at the remains of his slice of ‘extra olives, extra anchovies’ pizza. “As if Caesar would leave the empire to a wimp like that.”

“Not even a cute wimp,” Discord added, snagging another slice of pizza for herself. “At least they brought Joxer back for a cameo. He’s a cutie.”

The telephone rang. Ares reached over and picked it up on the second ring.

“Yeah? Yeah, Dad, we saw it too...Yeah, I’d love to fry Tapert’s ass right now, but I think your baby boy Herc... I mean, Kevin Sorbo, would have something to say about it...Uh huh...Uh huh... Okay, bye.” Ares hung up.

“What was that all about?” Hades said, snuggling up to Persephone, who fed him a piece of cream cheese brownie.

“Dad says the fucking “No killing Hercules” order is still in effect, although I think after this episode and ‘God Fearing Child’, Zeus is mighty pissed at baby brother,” Ares said, settling back into his leather Eames chair.

Hephaestus, who had been chewing thoughtfully on his thumb, finally said to no one in particular, “Okay, my question is, why did they bring back the good Hephaestus just to kill him off?”

“Yeah, the cute one,” Deimos moaned.

“Yeah, the one with the really cute ass,” Aphrodite said.

“Dite!” Hephaestus blushed.

“Oh Heph! Just because I’m married doesn’t mean I don’t look!”

“Well, I bet Uncle Jerkules is persona non grata at the next family reunion,” Strife said, dodging a peanut Cupid flicked at him.

“Yeah, Grandma is still ticked about them killing off Hera,” Cupid said, flicking another peanut at Strife. “She said, ‘ I can’t believe I let that moron Hercules marry my daughter. And this is how he treats me!”

“Yeah, she really liked that gal with the scary eyes who played her,” Deimos said, eating the dregs of the potato chips. He chugged down the last of his Pepsi.

Artemis popped open a can of Diet Coke. “Well, at least Meg Foster looked good playing Hera. Where the hell did they dredge up that wig the chick playing me was wearing? And that freaking headband? She looked like a lost reject from ‘Wonder Woman’!”

Deimos laughed and snorted Pepsi through his nose.

The doorbell rang. Ares let out a sigh and got up and opened it.

“Oh, look who finally shows up! Hey, Huntress, it’s your wayward  brother!”

Apollo walked in, wearing a baggy khakis and an tie-dye Ocean Pacific tee shirt. He rolled his eyes at Ares.

“So I had a date. Sue me,” Apollo said.

“At least somebody has a life,” Hades said, finishing his can of Foster’s.

“Oh, this decade sucks!” Discord exclaimed. “Boy-toy has a date, and I don’t?”

“Not much of a date,” Ares snickered as he sat back down. “It’s only nine o’clock.”

“She had to get up early for a meeting tomorrow,” Apollo said, plopping down next to his sister on a beanbag chair. He waved his hand and conjured up a stack of Powerbars. “Some of us do have jobs, you know.”

“I don’t call running a surf shop a job,” Ares said. “And I DO have a job, bimbo. It’s called being the God of War. Kosovo, Chechnya... Have you even heard of these places?”

“Oh, bite me,” Apollo said. “I get CNN, like the rest of us.” He took a bite of his apple Powerbar and muttered, “Overachieving prick.”

“What was that?” Ares asked. “Because I know you just didn’t give me attitude in my own house.”

Apollo said nothing.

“Boys, please,” Hades said. “If you two are going to fight, then I’m going home. I’ve got a shitload of dead people to process... Apparently some neo-pagans ate some bad mushrooms on a retreat...”

“Lucky you,” Cupid said. “All I get these days are teenaged girls wanting to meet some guy named Justin Timberlake.”

“Teenaged girls are fun,” Discord said. “Did you hear about those girls who held up those grocery stores? Cool!”

Artemis yawned. “I’ve got to get ready for my ‘Women and Wilderness’ seminar.”

Athena said, “Yeah, and I’ve gotta get ready for the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange. I wonder how they’re gonna react now that Greenspan raised the interest rate?”

Hephaestus stretched gingerly and slung his bad leg off the ottoman. “I’ve gotta get back to to forge and dismantle this love bug virus that Discord set loose...Thanks, Discord,” Hephaestus said sarcastically.

Discord blew her brother a kiss.

“Well, this episode was a complete bummer. I can’t believe that skank Xena, like, wasted all the gods in this episode,” Aphrodite said.

“What are you talking about?” Athena asked. “Your character lives!”

“Please! You call that living, being doomed to wear those hideous see through black gloves? Can we say, TACKY? And what about my hair?” She went over to Hephaestus and helped him up. “Come on, sweetie, I’ll massage your leg before you get back to the forge.”

“Aww, come on,” Ares said. “It’s early, you guys can’t be tired.”

“Sorry, bro, but Apollo is right,” Athena said. “Some of us do have jobs, and we need to get going.”

“Thanks for the night out,” Hades said. “Peri and I don’t get out as much as we used to.”

“Can I keep the tape?” Deimos asked.

Strife and Cupid giggled as they disappeared from the room.

One by one, or in pairs, the gods and goddesses left. Ares was left standing alone amid the ruins of the party.

“Great, just great,” Ares muttered. “Please, yes, leave me with all the cleaning... I don’t mind.”

There was a knock on the door.

“Apollo, if you left one of those stinking energy bars, you can kiss my butt,” Ares growled.

Three more knocks was his reply.

Ares stormed over to the door and opened it.

“You’ve got a lot of nerve showing up here,” Ares said. “And don’t you know how to use the doorbell?”

Hercules smiled sheepishly.

“Can I come in?”

“Now why would I want to do that?”

“To hear me grovel and say I’m sorry?”

“Good answer,” Ares said, pushing open the door and letting Hercules in.

He closed the door and watched as Hercules take in the remains of the party.

“You’re lucky. Five minutes earlier and there would have been a Herc-a-que,” Ares said.

“I take it everyone was pissed at the episode,” Hercules said.

“Oh, pissed doesn’t even begin to describe it. Don’t expect any presents on your birthday this year... Well, don’t expect the non-exploding kind.”

“I figured as much,” Hercules said. The demigod stuck his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket.

“Look, Ares, I’m really sorry. I had no idea they’d come up with this half-baked ‘Twilight of the Gods’ arc. I mean, I know they wanted to write Lucy Lawless’ pregnancy into the script, but I had no idea they’d use this as an excuse to kill off all the gods.”

“Well, you didn’t have to do the ‘God Fearing Child’ episode,” Ares said.

Hercules smiled. “You saw that?”

“Well, yeah... Don’t get a swelled head; I just wanted to see how bad you were gonna make me look. I mean, in ‘Full Circle’ you made me cry! You’re lucky I didn’t fry your ass after that, protection order or not.”

Hercules held his hands up. “Okay, guilty as charged. But really, I had no idea they were gonna take things as far as they did this year.”

“And did you have to give Tapert the idea for the show about Xena in the first place? I know you were pissed at me, but damn it, she was my daughter! She was a lot of things, but she wasn’t this Saint Xena they’re trying to make on the show! Protector of the Faith, my ass!”

“Ares, when I told them about the idea for Xena, I wanted to show someone who had been reformed from evil, yet had to struggle with those feelings and her previous actions all her life.”

“Yeah, but you made it so that you were the one who reformed her,” Ares said softly.

Hercules sighed. “Okay, I wanted to get back at you. We’ve been over this before, Ares.”

“Restrain also the keen fury of my heart,which provokes me to tread the ways of blood-curdling strife...” Ares said. “Isn’t that how that prayer goes?”

“...Give you me boldness to abide within the harmless laws of peace, avoiding strife and hatred and the violent fiends of death,” Hercules finished.

“Yeah,” Ares said. “Thanks for making me the bad guy, Herc.”


“Well, I suppose I deserve that. I did let them die, didn’t I?”

“You can’t blame yourself for that. Xena and Gabrielle chose their own path...”

“It’s over two thousand years later, and I still blame myself for that,” Ares said. “I could have saved them, and I didn’t.” The god of war’s brown eyes focused on Hercules. “And what about Eve? She was just a baby, and I let her die!”

“She would have meant your death. All of your deaths,” Hercules said. “And more than that....The world would been thrown into chaos had all of you died.”

“It WAS thrown into chaos. For almost a thousand years. Killing Eve didn’t prevent that. Letting Xena and Gabrielle die didn’t prevent that. Look around you, the chaos is still here. We didn’t prevent any of it.”

“Ares,” Hercules said, putting a hand on his brother’s shoulder. “You and the others kept it from being worse than it could have been. I didn’t understand that then, when I trapped you with the Eye of Hephaestus. I was angry because my friends were dead. I swore to avenge them at any cost. And it took me a while, but I trapped you. I thought it would solve everything. Instead all hell broke loose, the sacks of Rome, the Dark Ages... And I managed to blame you for that as well....”

“So what does any of that have to do with this crapfest we just watched?” Ares asked. “You let me out, Hercules, even getting Xena’s chakrum to do it...”

“I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. Being married to Hebe has changed my mind about a lot of things. The things she tells me about growing up with you...With all of you. And now we have the twins, and after making that episode where I killed Zeus... That scene, I just felt... I’m still angry with him for a lot of things, but... He’s my father. I love him... I love him and I want to kick him in the ass sometimes, but I love him.”

“Join the club,” Ares snorted.

“But most of all... I don’t hate you anymore, Ares.”

Ares looked at Hercules.

Hercules shuffled his feet.

They were silent for a few moments, then Hercules looked up at Ares.

Ares took a step back.

“Hercules, I swear, if you hug me, I’m gonna throw you through that wall,” Ares growled. “And the one after that.”

They were silent for a few more moments, then Ares cocked his head at Hercules.

“You only want to kick Zeus in the ass SOMETIMES?” Ares asked.

Hercules grinned.

“Okay, most of the time.”

A sly smile crossed Ares face.

“So what do we do about this? Right now, I’d like nothing better than to storm into the Renaissance Pictures office and fry Rob Tapert’s ass for the crap they’ve been spewing this season,” Ares said.

Hercules looked thoughtful. He frowned for a moment, then a smile broke across his face.

“Ah, what the hell... Go ahead and fry him,” Hercules said.