Bright, Shiny and New
By Shamenka

The opening scene ...

Hercules, Iolaus, Xena and Gabrielle walked over to where King Iphicles was standing, not one of them looked back. The prone body behind them did not move, did not stir, did not appear to even breath. Iphicles looked over his half brother's shoulder to the figure he was leaving behind.

"Are you just going to leave him there, like that?" He asked the normally caring hero.

"Damn right I am, he'd leave any one of us if the positions were reversed." Hercules didn't even look back at that point.

Xena and Iphicles mounted their horses and the others walked along in silence as the little party of mortals with added Demi-God left the area. And the unconscious body they were all ignoring.

"No doubt some one will tidy up the mess, some body almost always does! Especially where Gods are concerned." Hercules pushed any further consideration from his mind and concentrated on enjoying the trip back to Iphicles' castle.

Behind them the body moved, rolled over to one side slightly and still an observer couldn't say who it was, the face was covered in so much blood as to be almost unrecognisable.

A blue flash of light heralded the arrival of a God, a God that took one look at the prone figure and cried out. Loud enough to be heard by , oh, say, a small group of travellers not too far away.

"Baby!" The voice was that of a mature man, it was evident that his 'baby' was injured. Well, that much they all knew anyway. What did surprise them was the degree of worry and fright in that voice.

Thunder and lightening erupted all around them as that blue flash grew so very much bigger and finally vanished from their sight.. They continued their journey back to Iphicles' castle. Just a little less sure of themselves than when they had set out.

One month later ....

Hercules felt slightly worried, for some unacknowledged reason he had been unable to go very far from his brother's kingdom before circumstances threw him back towards Iphicles' main seat of power once more. Not only had he been thus cursed but Xena and Gabrielle were having the same trouble.

Not that it should really surprised him. He did suspect he knew who the culprit was. It was just damn annoying, and until Ares decided to come out of the shadows and gloat, it seemed that no one was going any where, at all. What he didn't expect was the sight of his father standing in the centre of Iphicles' council chamber.

It was just the five of them and Zeus. A Zeus who was still as angry with them as the day he found his injured son lying broken and forgotten in the forest where these noble heroes and heroines left him. Well it was their Tartarus they made it, they could live in it.

"You know Hercules the only thing that has kept you alive is that silly protection rule I extended to cover you. The only thing keeping you other four alive is my baby says it would be too messy making to kill you. And there I quote directly you understand. And that brings me on to why I'm here. You left your brother for dead, actively hoping he was dead. He almost was. No thanks to you, you almost destroyed the known world, you idiot!" It was the strongest reprimand Zeus had ever given his Demi-God son; and it showed, Hercules actually pouted in annoyance.

"My fault?" Hercules squeaked, incredulous at his father's accusation.

"Yes, your fault. You kill War the world falls apart, even an idiot could figure that one out. Actually an idiot did. Your friend Joxer figured out a couple of weeks back that something had happened to Ares, he's been with him
ever since. But enough of that. Why I'm here, well it's simple, and judging from your past examples of wisdom, it has to be. You left Ares so badly damaged that he's operating on his back up personality." Zeus never took kindly to being interrupted, not least now.

"What do you mean a back up personality?" Hercules had a big itch in the back of his head at that! But failed to notice his father's anger.

"All Gods have to strings to their lyre as it were. Our main 'gig' as Dite would say, and our secondary one. The back up for emergencies such as the one you left Ares in." Zeus glared at the five friends and they all knew fear.  "So you made this mess, you clean it up." Zeus turned his back on the famous five and called out.

"Ares, baby, come to daddy." And he waited.

Finally a bright blue and silver light heralded the arrival of Ares. Five breaths were duly held as they too waited.

"Hiya, daddy!" Ares bounced out of his light halo and hugged his daddy before he looked around himself. "Oh, my!" He said as he took in the shabby hall and the shabby famous five and their shabby guilty faces. "I don't want to be here, daddy. Can I go home now?"

"No , baby, Hercules and his friends want you to stay for a visit for a while.

"But it's so messy!" Ares pouted, and stamped his foot.

"Then they need you to help them sort it out, don't they?" Zeus pointed out patiently.

"Hmmm!" Ares considered. "Greens, I see it in shades of green with maybe a geometric pattern picked out in terracotta. I can do this yes!" Ares wandered around the shabby little hall, filling the five with a sense of cold fear and dread.

"Good. I'll see you soon, be good, be polite and keep busy, okay?" Zeus hugged his youngest Godly son and left.

"Greens, yes." And Ares walked away from the stunned Hercules and friends. "And windows!" Ares pointed at several places in the wall and windows did appear. Big windows.

Then the walls turned green, the ceiling turned green and the floor turned green. All different shades of green.

"No, I don't think greens!" Ares slumped down with his weight on one hip, a hand on one hip and the other hand waggling around at the now green walls and floor and ceiling. "Blues!" He squealed, once more delighted with his project.

And the room turned blue.

It was about then that Ares first noticed the smell.

"What is that smell?" He shouted out, squeakily. He turned and looked at his brother and the others. "Oh, do you never wash?" His voice rose on the word wash. "Oh Gods but do I smell fish! Bad fish!" And all five heroes, heroines and the King too were stark naked and standing in the middle of a massive bath of hot water.

"No blue is too cold. Don't worry I'll get it eventually!" Ares reached out and produced five big bars of soap. "Don't forget to peel back the foreskin and wash behind the flanges. As for you ladies, use you imagination." Ares turned away and looked at his new windows and Iphicles' old windows.

"Clash, clash, clash." And the old windows were replaced with big, new windows. "I'm going to look around. I need to get a feel for this place, get its vibes and feel its karma, you know?" And Ares actually walked to the door and looked at it. "Oh, Iphy, pine not oak!" And the door was now pine, not oak. Then Ares was through the new, pine door and gone.

Hercules looked at his companions, for some reason the other four were actually washing.

"What are you doing?" He demanded.

"Washing!" Iphicles pointed out. "You want Ares to come back and wash you himself?" He looked at his little brother and shook his wet copper locks at him.

"He wouldn't dare. I don't want to wash!" And Ares did come back, naked and in the bath, and did wash Hercules.

"You might not want to wash, but you really do pong, poo!" Ares' voice was higher pitched than any of them had ever heard it, even Xena or Gabrielle when they had dealt with the mortal Ares.

Hercules didn't know where to look when Ares sniffed him, making sure he no long stank.

"You'll do!" He sing songed. And Ares was gone, out of the bath and looking somewhere else at the decor of Iphicles' castle.

Behind him he left five admittedly clean, but butt naked people, standing in a huge bath, trying not to 'look' at each other! Or the blue walls.

"I think he's right, blue is rather cold looking." Iphicles said, to no one in particular.

Part 2

Somewhere ... round about a half hour later ...

Just as Iolaus had reached the 'damn it all, I'm gonna run for it' stage, Joxer arrived. With him he had five large blankets. Five large, rough blankets.

"I did say to your dad that Ary would probably have left you all soaking in a bath. Zeus, I said,  they do tend not to bathe. I have noticed the smell myself in the past, I said. Joxer, he said, I can believe you. If he has no feelings for his brother then feelings for the noses of strangers might well be foreign to him too." Joxer crossed to the bath and handed a blanket to each occupant of said large bath. Ending with Hercules. "I did ask if he wasn't being just a bit too harsh there, but then, see, he reminded me that you did actually break your brothers neck, as well as rip all the skin from his face. So where is baby any way?" On receipt of their blankets four out of the five left the confines of the bath and wrapped themselves up. The fifth just stood there. Hercules said nothing, he just stood there, limply holding his rough blanket and staring fixedly at Joxer.

"Baby?" Iphicles asked.

"Ares, answers to baby. His back up personality is somewhere between five and thirty, depends on circumstances. Baby!?" Joxer shouted loudly. "Baby!?"

The four of the five who were out the bath, wrapped in their blankets, looked around them, looking for the tell tale flash of light that indicated the arrival of a God. All the while Hercules remained standing, still holding his blanket and still staring at Joxer.

"What's wrong with him?" Joxer pointed at the statuesque hero. All eyes tracked to Hercules. Xena looked back at her sometimes travelling companion and then at Hercules again.

"Hercules?" She called out, and when that didn't work she walked over and prodded him. That got his attention. "You were staring at Joxer for some reason, come on, you got a blanket, get out the bath."  As if on automatic pilot the hero duly got out the bath. He had still said nothing, but his eyes were forever drawn to Joxer. Joxer, who was now over at the door Ares had earlier turned into pine and was bellowing out of it up the corridor.

"Baby?" He called, not shouting in anger, just shouting to attract a certain wandering attention. He achieved his goal when a light flashed behind him and Ares turned up, tiptoed towards him and leapt on him, screaming "Boo!" As he did so.

"Argh!" Joxer screamed in fright. He turned to face his charge. "Ares, baby, you left them in the bath, with no clothes or towels or anything." He indicated the famous five behind the God of War, the excessively Tidy God of War.

"I did?" He asked.

"You did." He was told.

"Oops." Ares turned towards his now clean hosts and smiled, he almost ran the length of the assembly hall and returned to look at them and the bath. "That water is disgusting." And the bath and it's awful water vanished. Looking around the room he appeared to be thinking. "Hmm, sunshine yellow!" Then he 'hmmed' again. "Still not right, but I'll get it. Gotta be a nice warm but clean colour."

"Where have you been?" Joxer asked, pleasantly.

"Looking at this place. Did you know it's filthy. I set some mortals to washing it, outside and inside. Once it's clean we can really see what we're dealing with." Ares looked at Joxer, a questioning look on his face. "How did yesterdays War go?"

"Erm, neatly!" Joxer answered. Not to be put off Ares questioned him some more.

"How neatly."

"Just as you said you wanted it, okay?" Hoping Ares would change his topic of conversation before he had to tell the world all about the previous days Weird War.

"Come what may, you are always the God of War!" Hercules whispered, finally not string at Joxer, now he was staring at his big brother.

"I am the God of War!" Ares threw his arms wide and pirouetted. "Whee!" He added for good measure. Then stopped, quite abruptly. "There are cobwebs on the ceiling!" He announced and swept the ceiling with a bright flash of power and cleaned them away.

"Thank you Ares." Iphicles said, hoping he sounded sincere rather than terrified.

"That's okay." Ares turned back to Joxer. "So just how neatly did it all go?"

"As per your instructions, okay?" Joxer pulled at his charge's arm and continued talking. "I'm hungry, have you checked out the kitchens? Are they clean enough." Success at last, he side tracked the God of neat and tidy Wars away from the previous days war and onto cleaning again.

"Oh, no. I can't let you eat here until I know it's hygienic enough. Come on!" And Ares grabbed Joxer and Iphicles by an arm each and dragged them bodily from the room. Once they were gone Iolaus turned away from the closed door and back to his lifetime friend and companion.

"Herc, what's wrong with you?" He did not beat about the bush, not with Hercules, the hero sometimes wouldn't see the blasted bush let alone the hidden message.

"Wrong, with me?!" He asked somewhat incredulously. "Did you hear what Joxer said? Huh? I wanted to stop Ares, make him think. I broke his neck. If he had been mortal..." Hercules trailed off to a standstill again.

"He'd be dead by now!" A voice from nowhere finished the sentence Hercules had left hanging. Apollo appeared, looked around himself and then looked around again, this time with a far away look on his face. "Good, he's still okay. Hyper as always, but otherwise fine. I did say to dad, Dad, I said, it's too soon. I don't think he can take the strain of seeing them again. But dad, oh yeah, dad. No, he says, Apollo, I want him to face them. I want them to face him. Does anyone ever listen to me? Gabrielle?" Apollo looked at the peace loving Bard and she stepped forwards, rather reluctantly at that.

"Yes?" She whispered.

"I think he'll react least hostilely to you. After all you hit him least of all. Well, here's his medication." Apollo handed over several small pouches, each of a different colour. "The blue he gets at night, it'll keep the dreams away, let him sleep soundly. The green he gets four times a day, he's still to get that another twice, it's helping the ripped nerves to heal. The red he gets if he's in extreme pain, you'll recognise that when you see it. Not pretty. And the yellow he gets twice a day, he's had that once today already. It helps with the panic attacks." He smiled, not at all reassuringly at her, and then looked around again. "Where is he exactly?"

"Inspecting the kitchens." Gabrielle replied. "What happened with his War yesterday?" She asked curiously.

"Ah, the War. Not good, not at all good." Apollo shook his head, slowly, sadly. "What did Joxer tell him, do you know?"

"All he said was it was 'neat' that's all." Gabrielle shrugged helplessly and jiggled the medication pouches slightly. Holding Apollo over an emotional barrel, if he wanted her to watch Ares' medication he would first off have to tell them what happened.

"It was neat all right. Asclepius and me were running round in circles following Ary's orders. No one was allowed to bleed. Ary said the blood would clash with the grass. And then he said no one was to be allowed to die, because the dead bodies would make the battlefield look messy. And as for any we missed, Hades was there, clearing away the souls of the dead so they wouldn't clutter up the place haunting the living. And he had some of the lesser Gods with him burying them in neat mounds with Persephone covering the graves with  - I quote - 'Seph, cover them with lovely flowers and scented herbs, let them have a neat, tidy grave - unquote. Which didn't bother Hades one little bit, he was working with Seph and hasn't seen her for almost three months. No, he didn't argue Ary's plans did he? Then dad gets told to put a stop to the two Warlords trying to hack lumps out of each other while Ary gets taken away for a nap by his mom. And dad's not to use lightening bolts in case they scorch the ground and leave ugly marks. Dad is a great King of the Gods but he's no diplomat. But he did it in the end, and went to check up on Ary, Hera had sent word that Ary wasn't settling. He's my patient damn it, my baby bro,  but I wasn't allowed to leave the battlefield and go to him, oh no, dad went though. So there we were, left to finish off the neatest, tidiest, oddest war I have ever witnessed in my entire life - like ever! And as hardly anyone actually died, we're going to have to do it all over again to lose the required amount of surplus population, shit but I miss the old way!" Apollo sighed ever so deeply.

"What old way?" Iolaus asked, for clarification purposes.

"We left it all to him and he left it all to the mortals, so long as they fought where, when and who he wanted them to. Messy, I grant you but a damn sight easier for all of us, well except Ary of course, but he was Ary, he could cope with all the hate and stuff. Now, shit, now! He didn't even let them use their weapons until he had made sure they were clean, neat, tidy, no ugly nicks and scratches. Several of them were sent home to make repairs or clean their weapons properly before the war even started! So it all started hours late anyway!" Apollo shrugged, turned to Hercules and yelled. "And it's all your fault!" He snarled and vanished.

"Well, it does sound neat, doesn't it?" Xena pointed out, almost unable to stop the giggle that so desperately wanted release.

"It's not all my fault, is it?" Hercules asked. Fully not seeing what he was being blamed for. That Ares' other family members were having to do some work for once, that the war cost hardly any lives or that Ares was fixated by neatness and colour schemes?

"Well, you were the one who wanted to ambush Ares. You were the one who actually hit him. You were the one that insisted we leave him there unattended. Kinda looks like it was your fault. I tried to tell you the way of peace was better, but..." Gabrielle was interrupted.

"All right, you've made your point. Okay, it was all my fault. Shit but I didn't know I'd snapped his neck! How was I to know?" Hercules and his blanket marched up and down before the fire place that adorned one wall of the hall.

"You could have checked, big guy. You could have looked at him." Iolaus put a hand on his friends arm to stop the pacing. "Why didn't you look at him?"

"I didn't want to." Hercules announced, somewhat childish to his ears, and stopped as the noise of the door opening heralded someone's return.

"I like that chef, he's very good." Ares announced and skipped the hall crying 'whee' as he went, and as he went the colour scheme changed yet again. The Hall was now a rolling meadow with a clear sunny sky, with just the odd tiny little cloud balancing the picture of the bright sun. The walls were low rolling hills covered in flowers, as was the floor. Real flowers hung in baskets from the walls too, filling the room with their heady perfume, all blending in with each other. And a giant stag was painted behind Iphicles' throne, as if it would be looking over his shoulder when the King sat down. The King who wasn't with Ares and Joxer.

"Where's Iphicles?" Hercules asked, somewhat sullenly, not at all comfortable with the sight of his enthusiastically childlike brother redecorating his mortal brother's throne room.

"Gone to get dressed, I'm surprised you didn't go get dressed either. You do have rooms, you all have permanent rooms assigned to you as I recall." Joxer looked at them, briefly, before turning his indulgent gaze on his charge.

"Ares took our clothes!" Iolaus indicated the blanket he still wore. "And I for one, don't have any more with me."

Joxer sighed, deeply.

"Ares, where did you send their clothes? They don't have anymore clothes to change in to." Joxer watched Ares process the information and reach a decision that might or might not have any bearing in reality.

Hercules and Iolaus now wore black leather pants and vests, rather reminiscent of Ares' own normal garb, while Xena and Gabrielle now looked like they were dressed in Aphrodite's cast offs.

"There you go, clean, dry, nice clothes. I disposed of the leathers and raggedy cloth things. They smelled of fish!" Ares wrinkled his nose and showed the word his opinion of people and things that smelled of fish.

"Fish! You said that earlier, why fish, what's so special about the smell of fish?" Iolaus asked, only to almost immediately wish he hadn't.

"Fish, fish is okay for fish. But when people and their clothes smell of fish it's because they're dirty, unwashed people. Mortals that don't wash their privates at all often smell of fish. An' Gods can smell it right off!" Ares' grin faltered slightly. "I smelled you all, all fishy unwashed, dirty smelly, all of you. Then the pain. I remember the pain!" Which he did, he arched his back, throwing his head back and screamed at the remembered pain. Ares clutched his head as his face and hands turned bright red with black lines streaking across the red.

Gabrielle fumbled with the red pouch and finally got a small red tablet on her hand. She rushed to him and urged the pain wracked god to take the little red pill. Joxer ran up beside her with a goblet of water no one had seen him pour.

"Here, Ares, for the pain, Apollo said you were to take this for the pain." Gabrielle looked at Joxer who took the pill from her nerveless hand.

"Pill time baby." He said quietly. To Gabrielle's surprise Ares calmed right down, took the pill and the drink and asked if he could go to bed for a while.

"I don't know. Iphicles never said if we had rooms or where they might be." Joxer stroked Ares' forehead, calming him down.

"Iphy always has a special suite of rooms ready for honoured guests. And a God and his - friend surely count as honoured guests." Joxer noticed Iolaus' hesitation before he said the word friend but for now let it slide.

"Could you show us where and let the King know?" Joxer tried to help Ares to his feet,  but the God was almost a dead weight. It was Hercules that finally solved that problem. He effortlessly swung his brother into his arms and spoke to Iolaus.

"Lead the way and open the doors Iolaus." Hercules nodded for Joxer to follow them, and being nosy more than concerned for Ares' welfare Xena and Gabrielle brought up the rear, with his medication.

Part 3

Upstairs a little later ......

Joxer sat the bed as 'baby' slept soundly. He was reading a scroll that had arrived from nowhere, glad too that Hercules had finally been dragged away from Ares' sleeping form and he had peace to look at Zeus' scroll at last.

Ares groaned in his sleep, rolled over and began to whimper.

Joxer stroked his back as he read the latest report from Zeus. Idly comforting the damaged God.

"There, there, baby. I'm here!" He rolled out the next bit of scroll one handedly, knowing well enough that he would shock his 'companions' if they ever saw that degree of dexterity. Sure too that they would be amazed that he could read with out having to use a finger to track the words. Ares quietened at his soft touch and gentle words.

Joxer needed to get access to Iphicles' library archive. Jason had, while having been an adventurer and King, deposited a lot of 'borrowed' texts in the castle strong room, now affectionately known as the library. But first he needed a baby sitter.

"I need a baby sitter!" he announced, quietly, then sat back to await the next arrival from Olympus.

"Hello Joxy, you called for a sitter?" The new arrival was one of the most beautiful women anyone would ever see, not human, well, not mortal. The large pair of wings on her back a dead give away. "Sel the sitter, at your service!" She laughed softly as she bowed low before Joxer. The sometimes companion of Hercules and Xena laughed right back.

"Hello Sel." Joxer got off the bed and gave the Goddess before him a chaste kiss on the cheek. "Thanks for coming over so fast."

"No problem, anything for baby!" She sat in Joxer's recently vacated spot and she too stroked Ares' back. "How has he been?"

"Hyper, having bad dreams, he's had one of those red pills Apollo made for him, and is sleeping it off now." Joxer rolled up the scroll and tied it off. "I'll not be long, so leave him to sleep himself out okay?" With that he was out the door before Sel could ask any further questions.

Sel, as her friends and family called her, watched her young cousin sleep. She  had always thought him a pretty child, never more so than as he slept. Looking out at the darkening evening sky she hoped Joxer wouldn't be too long, she had her own duties to perform. And the moon should be full that night. She would be busy.

It was not so long after Joxer's departure when salvation arrived for her in the shape of Iolaus. It transpired that Hercules was only persuaded to stay away from Ares' room by Iolaus promising to come and find out how the damaged God was doing.

A cautious tapping on the outside of Ares' bedroom door caught Sel's attention.

"Do come in!" She called out, politely. She was only a little surprised to see Hercules' emissary rather than the hero himself. "Hello, what can I do for you?" She asked, being a polite Goddess.

"Ah, hi, I'm Iolaus, a friend of Hercules, and he asked me to pop along and see how Ares is doing, if he needs something? Anything?" Iolaus could not take his eyes off the woman before him's wings.

"Oh, and I'm Sel, I'm sitting in for Joxer.  He's off doing something old bossy britches asked him to do." Sel grinned in a quite friendly manner at Iolaus and enjoyed the flush that spread across his face as he finally caught himself staring at a Goddess.

"Hi, Sel. May I call you Sel? So Ares, he's fine? Sleeping comfortably? So I can tell Herc everything's fine?" Iolaus shut his mouth with an audible snap and  looked around himself. For either a means of escape or a distraction to break his rambling thoughts.

Sel's face darkened at the repeated mentioning of her other cousin's name. She was scowling at the poor unfortunate hunter.

"You can tell Herc that Ares' is a wallaby for all I care, just so long as he stays away!" Sel was obviously yet another deity that blamed Hercules for their current over worked situation. Which was all well and good for them, thought Iolaus, but if Ares hadn't been about to start a war in Corinth none of it would have happened.

"Ares shouldn't have been about to start a war, here in Corinth!" He snapped at the beautiful Goddess then regretted it almost at once as he suddenly feared for his life.

"Point one, Ares was doing nothing of the kind. Point two, Ares is a God and therefore above the judgement of an over judgmental mortal. Point three, Ares has never inflicted that kind of harm on Hercules even though he is capable of smearing him a fraction of an inch thick, all over your precious Corinth!" Sel paused to think and get her breath before she even tried to conjure up a point four.

"What's a wallaby?" Iolaus asked, more lost and confused than he had ever been in his entire life.

"Why, here, let me show you?" Sel pointed at Iolaus and the hunter vanished in a tower of sparkles, just as she herself did. It was only later that she realised she had let Joxer down and left Ares unattended.

As if aware that he was alone, baby woke up. He sat bolt upright in his new bedroom, lost, alone and confused and screamed.

"JOXY!" He let loose a scream so powerful that it rocked the rafters two floors above him.

Hercules had been pacing up and down his room, just a few doors along when he heard the terrified scream from his brother. Without thought, or rather, in keeping with his nature, depending on your point of view, the hero ran to his brother's rescue. Which being him, wasn't a bright move.

As Hercules burst into the room, Ares saw the fierce look on his face and screamed again. This time with even quicker results.

"DADDY!" And daddy answered, at once!

"Baby?" Zeus arrived just as Joxer slid into the room, out of breath.

"Baby?" Joxer gasped out too. Then he looked around and noticed no Sel. "Where's Sel? She was sitting with Ares for me!"

"SEL!" Zeus boomed, vocally and mentally.

Sel returned with a wide eyed and shocked looking Iolaus.

"Oh shit!" The sedate Moon Goddess swore as she tried to inch past a furious Zeus and calm down Ares herself.

"You, Olympus, now!" He commanded. "Joxer, did you find what I asked you to look for?" He held out his hand for the scroll Joxer placed into it. "And what's wrong with Iolaus?" He asked, touching the shivering hunter's face with one finger. "Oh, damn, Sel and her wallabies. What is it with that woman and that place?" Zeus looked at Joxer, which amazed Hercules, because he looked at Joxer as if he expected a reply. A reply that he duly received.

"Dunno, I never minded her showing me the wallabies it was those hideous little brown birds that got me, their big long beaks, and even longer tongues, Wiki's was it?"

"Kiwis." Zeus corrected automatically. "No, I gotta disagree with you son, it was those orange apes that got me, the ones with the folded over faces!" Zeus shuddered at the memory.

"Why does she do it to us?" Joxer asked as he shushed his charge off to sleep once more.

"She claims it's cultural, it educational. I think she's trying to get us to lose our cookies personally. I suppose seeing the whole world every day will do that to a Goddess, or a mortal for that matter. Make the world seem small and what not. Is baby asleep now?"

Their boring conversation had indeed bored the War God into a new, deeper sleep than before.

"Yup, sleeping like a baby!" Joxer sat back down on his side of the bed and stroked the sleeping God once more.

"Why are you looking after my brother?" Hercules finally found a voice and it was accusatory. "And why do you know my dad, and my cousin Sel and what is a wallaby?"

"Don't you start, it's bad enough with him in that state." Zeus touched Iolaus once more and the hunter returned to the land of the awake. "Hercules want's to know about wallabies." Zeus told him, only to laugh as Iolaus gasped quite audibly and ran from the room the word 'NO' echoing behind him.

Joxer looked at the king of the Gods and then at Hercules, knowing full well Zeus would answer all Hercules' questions, only the hero would probably not like the answers he got.

"Joxer is looking after Ares because it's his rightful task. He knows me because I'm the one that wed him to Ares, oh, must be almost four years ago now. And since he's as much a God as the rest of us, he gets to come and go as he pleases from Olympus, happy now? And this is a wallaby!" A wallaby, a very lost and frightened wallaby stood before the hero who looked from it, to his father to Joxer.

"Joxer's a wallaby?" He asked, just as he passed out!

"That wasn't very nice." Joxer informed his father in law.

"No, but it was fun!" Zeus looked over at his sleeping son and his awake son in law. "Sorry, blew your cover there, I suppose I should send for Apollo have him and Clepi muddle Hercules' brains a little." Zeus sighed. "Oh well, my own fault. Though why you don't just stop all this prancing around with Xena and Gabrielle and don't settle down is beyond me. It took you two weeks to get to us when this all happened, where were you any way?"

"We were on our way back from Chin. Xena wanted to go there, settle her personal demons yet again. That woman has more issues churning in her mind than Hermes has plots in his!" Joxer grinned. "I'm still not very good at the bouncing in from outside Greece bit, hey, you've all been at it so very much longer than me, give me a couple of hundred years." He grinned and Zeus grinned.

"Sorry I called you an idiot earlier. But, I do wish you'd chosen a different persona. Joxer, my pet, you are so much more than who you used to be." Zeus sat on the bed the other side from his baby and his son in law.

Zeus looked vague, soft focused almost. Joxer knew he was talking to Apollo and Clepi about dealing with Hercules.

"It'll all come out eventually!" Apollo pointed out as he knelt beside his fallen half brother. "You might as well as leave the knowledge in there."

"Do it Pol. You know you really want to scramble his mind a little anyway. Look upon it as just payment for yesterday. Hey, I wasn't even allowed home to see Ares!" Joxer grinned at the God of Healing, who smiled right back and got down to the happy task of scrambling the hero's memories.

"What about the wallaby?" Apollo pointed out.

"Scramble it's brains if you wish, but it's usually safe to just dump them back." Zeus mumbled, he too was dropping off to sleep.

Apollo scratched the dumb beast's ears, giving it his blessing. Little wonder that in centuries to come it's descendants would be flamboyantly fond of careers in television. But that is definitely another story all together. Apollo and the wallaby vanished. Leaving Joxer to get Hercules to his own room and calm down Iolaus as well.

Life with the Gods was never easy!

Part 4

Checking to see that his precious Ares was still sleeping soundly Joxer risked the few minutes it took to go along the corridor to get Iolaus to help him with Hercules' bulk. At least Zeus was there if Ares woke up alone again. Though he did doubt that the King of the Gods would wake up if all of Tartarus was dancing at the foot of the bed.

Tapping on the door Joxer remembered to be diffident. Schooling his features to show only Joxer the Mighty fool to the world. He was so tempted to just barge in there and demand the silly little mortal removed his irritating lover from his bedroom floor before he removed him from the mortal plain of existence. Joxer could just imagine what he would say under those circumstances, ' Mortal, remove that bulk before I fry it!' he would stand there, fireball in his hand, manic gleam in his eyes. Caution, as always, won out. And he put away the idea of a fire ball for another day.

Iolaus answered the door, almost swinging the poor thing off its hinges in his haste to get the door open. He had finally calmed down a little, he was at least not mumbling about wallabies any more.

"Oh, Joxer, it's you!" Iolaus had a talent for spotting hidden clues, not! Joxer just smiled, somewhat strained, as if he knew he was disturbing the hunter. Showing his usual demeanour in the hunters presence. But it was beginning to make his skin itch!

"Yeah, it's me." Joxer confirmed, just in case there was any doubt. "I was wondering if you might possibly, erm, get Hercules off my bedroom floor before he wakes up and disturbs Ares or Zeus?" Joxer realty enjoyed the tortured look that meandered across Iolaus' face. Iolaus didn't like dealing with either Ares or Zeus. Imagine his shock if he learned Joxer was a God ...Joxer was surely tempted.

"Zeus!" Iolaus repeated the last word of the speech before his, it was quite possibly his worst habit ever, and one of Joxer's best spells ever. Especially as it only happened when Iolaus was really stressed. Joxer could no longer remember why he did that to Iolaus in the first place.

"Yes Zeus, he's sleeping in bed with Ares. Herc caused chaos, almost caused Ares to have a relapse. And all the wallabies have gone." The ex- would be warrior really savoured the look on Iolaus' face at the mere mention of the word wallaby. He determined that he would work it into conversation as often as he could just to see that look again.

"The wallabies have gone. Good! Okay, I'll help." Iolaus left the door open, all the easier to get Hercules back through it on their return. His steps faltered though, as if he expected to be ambushed by a weapon waving wallaby at any second. Joxer couldn't help it, he tsk, tsk, tsked right behind the hunter and saw him almost flew out his skin.

Back in Joxer and Ares' room the hunter saw that Ares and Zeus were in fact asleep and Herc was passed out on the bedroom floor. Not that he doubted Joxer's veracity, no never that. Joxer gave him a tight smile and helped Iolaus to lift the fallen hero, well, fallen asleep hero at least. Once fairly upright Iolaus got Herc underway and they staggered out to their own room.

"See you later Joxer!" Iolaus shouted over Herc's shoulder. Guiding his beloved friend back to their room.

"Yeah, later!" Joxer turned back to his bed and sighed, extending his powers he increased the beds size and climbed in on the other side of Ares from Zeus. Not that he had any chance to rest. No, that would be too easy, just as he lay down Hera turned up and spotted her two special men folk, Joxer just sighed his grateful sigh that Iolaus had gotten Herc out of there before his mother in law showed up.

"How is he sweetheart?" She asked as she perched on the very edge of the bed.

"Ares or Zeus?" Joxer asked sharply, still not pleased his mother in law wouldn't let him leave the battle filed the previous day and be by Ares' side.

"Ares. I can hear Zeus snore from here." Hera might be a twisted sick Goddess driven by jealousies and rages beyond the understanding by mere mortal man, but she was also a working mother with her own areas of expertise, which included looking after her baby. Not that she was stupid enough to call Ares that when he was in his right mind! "I heard what Sel did, and well, I wandered what punishment you wanted dishing out on her?"

"I'd let Cupid give her his patented four hour lecture on winning the trust and love of young children. And let him give her the test at the end. So she'll actually have to pay strict attention or repeat it until she does." Joxer smiled, and no one, man or God would say it was pleasant. Even Hera shuddered.

"Oh, wicked boy! No wonder Ares loves you." She defocused her eyes and suddenly Cupid was by the bedside too. Not that Joxer minded too much, no, not too much, with the Gods Joxer had learned to not care too much at their sometimes lack of privacy.

"Hey, an orgy and no one invited me!" He giggled. "Hi step pops, how's dada doing?" He inclined his head to the sleeping form of his damaged father.

"Sleeping, recovering from one of Pol's red pills." Joxer replied.

"Red, ooh, not good. What can I do for you grandma' dearest? Help get grandpa' home?" He looked at his father's mother and father and grinned. Zeus hated waking up in a different place to the one he fell asleep in. It was one of the favourite games the younger Gods played on their king. He and Strife had often played that game. But those games were over now. Cupid's face fell. Joxer and Hera both shared a concerned, saddened look. One day soon they'd have to do something. Maybe when Hades was not looking?

"Well, if it'll cheer you up, then why not. But I want you to give that interesting lecture on wining a child's love and trust to Sel. With the test afterwards." Hera patted her grandson's hand and smiled so sweetly even Cupid knew she was up to something.

"What did she do?" He asked, quite suspiciously, wondering if her crime fit the punishment.

"She left your dad unattended and took Iolaus off to look at wallabies." It was Joxer that replied.

"She what!" Cupid looked at his sleeping dad, his step dad and finally his grandmother. "You want the standard lecture or the new revised and longer version?"

"Longer version, I feel she has a lot to learn about child care." Hera tutted as she shook her head, "Virgin Goddesses can be such a pain in the ass when asked to look after kids. No appreciation for the time and care that babies require. Especially ones like Ares."

"Fair enough. Shall we get grandpa' home then? Let Joxie sleep?" Cupid reached over and stroked his fathers face gently and ruffled his step father's hair.

"Please do!" Joxer begged. Hera looked at Joxer, then at Cupid and finally at her sleeping husband.

"Well, since Dite's out dealing with that War up north with Eris and Hades today, I think Hephy might be up for a giggle. Let's put him in Hephy's bed."

"Grandma' you are sicker than me!" Cupid grinned and they got Zeus off of the bed and out of there. Before they vanished Joxer smiled at Cupid and let him know he knew how his step son was feeling. Once alone again, Joxer smiled and snuggled into the Quixotic powerhouse that was his husband.

Sleep finally took him and he grabbed an hours much needed rest.

After his hour was up, he awoke to find Ares sitting in the middle of their bed surrounded by little strips of cloth in so many colours that they made Joxer dizzy just looking at the muddle of bright fabrics.

"What ya' doing?" Joxer asked.

"This is a real dull room, I thought maybe pastels, what do you think?" Ares waved at the walls and they were duly pale shades of blue and pink.

"Pink?" Joxer asked, somewhat doubtfully. "A bit 'Dite-ish isn't it?" He remarked.

"So, what you got against 'Dite?" Ares quizzed the God he knew he loved above all others, if only he could remember HOW he loved him.

"Oh, nothing, well, nothing except that you loved her way before you loved me." Joxer mumbled, thinking he was blessed with luck when he realised Ares had been distracted by something and hadn't actually listened to him.

A rumble erupted outside their room and grew progressively louder. Suddenly their room door flew open and Ares and Joxer looked up into the crazed eyes of Hercules.

"What do you want?" Joxer finally asked. Rising to defend his husband if need be, but then he realised that Hercules was not really looking at him he was grinning rather strangely at Ares. Hands on hips, doing the full big hero monty Hercules just looked at his brother.

"Tapestries!" The great hero shouted, instantly capturing Ares' attention and confusing Joxer. Ares knelt up on the bed and looked closer at his baby brother, and his wonderful insight.

"Pardon!" Joxer asked, Ares just knelt there looking at his brother, looking hopeful and still waiting for clarification.

"Tapestries .. the main hall, big bright tapestries!" The hero replied. Looking only at Ares.

"Tapestries!" Ares squealed and he and his brother ran out the room only to be replaced by Iolaus and a confused expression.

"Has Herc been here?" The hunter asked.

"Just gone out with Ares muttering about tapestries. Why?" Joxer was getting anxious for more information.

"Gods alone know, he just woke up and screamed about Tapestries and ran off!" Iolaus looked at his sometimes friend and both of them shot to the door as they heard a scream, so strange that they couldn't tell if it was man, woman  or beast!

"That sounded like it came from the great hall!" Iolaus looked at Joxer and saw his own panic reflected there.

"Dare we go look?" Joxer asked, rather forgetting his diffident persona he should be showing to the world.

"HERCULES  WHY?" That did sound like Iphicles.

"Come on!" Iolaus was running out the door with Joxer God of  Childhood, Protector of Innocence hot on his heels!

Part 5

As they slid into the great hall they saw an elderly woman in a dead faint, being supported by an entire platoon of over stressed guards, it was one thing to fight the enemy quite another to lift a fat old woman! Especially one who smelled of fish! That was the other thing they noticed, she was soaking wet, as if....

They looked around and saw the bath was back, and water was spilled everywhere. Luckily Xena and Gabrielle weren't about to add to the mayhem but Hercules and Ares were doing well without any outside help what so ever!

"Baby?" Joxer let his tone of voice form the question to his beloved.

"Joxy!" Ares answered quite brightly. "See, Herky's idea is working. Tapestries, ain't they just so neat?" He grinned at Joxer then looked back at the walls of the hall. The tapestries were indeed the biggest he'd ever seen but something was way off about them.

Then he looked at the subject matter. The proportions were all wrong.

"Ar, you still can't draw a decent rabbit, ya know!" Joxer looked again at the subject matter and realised that the rabbits were moving, ever so slowly. "They're moving!" He observed, somewhat surprised.

The fat, smelly old woman woke up just as he pointed out the rabbits were moving upon which piece of information she promptly fainted again. This time her guards left her where she lay.

"Who is she?" Iolaus asked, staring at the wet beached whale before him.

"Wife of a wealthy landowner. No one I care two figs about offending actually. And she deserved it, she touched Ares and pushed him out her way when she barged in here. Needless to say Ares wasn't too pleased." Iphicles looked over his shoulder towards the God and their brother. "What's with Herc now?"

"He's on a tapestry kick with Ares."  Joxer answered rather distracted by the sight of those awful rabbits attacking a centaur. "Ar?" His voice dropped and rose in a questioning tone "Why are the rabbits biting that centaur?"

"They're the Rabbits of War is why!" Ares said, as if that explained everything. Joxer sighed, shrugged and put it to the back of his mind to be looked into later.

"But they're still rotten rabbits." Joxer pointed out.

"So they're out of proportion, I think the fact that they're moving is of greater discomfort." Iphicles informed Ares' minder.

"I wonder if Arte can draw better rabbits?" Ares threw his head back and bellowed, very loudly. "Arte!"

Almost at once Artemis appeared. She looked at the moving tapestry and squinted her eyes half shut.

"Those are terrible rabbits." She observed.

"I never could draw rabbits, not like you Arte, you always drew the best rabbits on all of Olympus!" Ares bounced around his big sister and hugged her, instinctively she hugged right back.

"So you want me to redraw your rabbits for you?" Arte asked, grinning, the fact that the rabbits and centaur and others featured in the tapestry were moving didn't seem to bother her at all.

"Oh, yes please Arte!" The War God turned to his little brother who was enraptured by the story unfolding before him. "Herc, Arte is going to redraw the rabbits for us, isn't that neat?"

"Yeah! So what are we going to do for the other walls, any more Rabbits of War stories you wanna put in Tapestries?" The bronze hero finally noticed his big sister too. "Hiya Arte!" Then he kissed her.

"Hi yourself!" She kissed him back. Looking at the tapestry she redrew the rabbits in the proper proportions. That seemed to have a dramatic effect on the tapestry, it seemed to run much faster!

"Arte are you gonna be here with Ar for a while?" Joxer asked.

"Can do if you want me to. Why?" Arte asked, lifting her head from the discussion she had been having with Herc and Ares.

"Got to talk with Zeus if he's awake, an' wanna get something to eat, I'm hungry," Joxer replied. That he mentioned Zeus' name so casually and even contemplated disturbing the King of the God's sleep did not go unnoticed!

"You're gonna disturb Zeus? You got a death wish or something? How come you get to look after Ares anyway?" Iolaus asked. He was trying to get his friend to come away from Ares and the tapestries.

"Iolaus, leave me alone!" Hercules pushed his friend away, sending him sailing through the air and through the closed doors too.

"Damn, stay with them, and sit on Herc if need be!" Joxer was off and running for the door.

"Right ho!" Arte turned to the 'boys' and their pretty pictures and distracted them from following Joxer.

Iphicles, however, was off, hot on Joxer's tail, wondering how he would repair the doors to his main hall. Passing the fat woman on the floor he pointed to the broken doors.

"Get her out of here and keep her out and your mouths shut, clear?" The fat woman's guards nodded mutely, only too eager to get away from the strange goings on with all these Gods and things! That and they really relished the idea of dragging her home by her feet.

Once outside the doors Iphicles almost fell over Joxer and Iolaus, the hunter was lying in a heap on the floor with Joxer bent over him. The would be hero was mumbling under his breath and occasionally stopping, as if listening to instructions from some one who simply wasn't there. Somehow none of it seemed to bother Iphicles. Years of living under Hercules' overbearing shadow had inured him to discovering strange new Gods in unlikely places.

"So, Joxer, you're a God then?" He asked quite conversationally. "That's not how Hercules and co describe you. Not at all! And that leads me to the conclusion that they don't know that you're a God do they?" The King of Corinth was just that, the King in all his glory. Reaching his own solutions with out the need for an interfering busybody brother holding his hand every step of the way.

"Err, well, since you figured it out for yourself, well, yeah, I'm a God. Just don't tell the others, it's way too much fun this way round!" Joxer grinned in the general direction of the main hall and turned back to his patient.. Once satisfied by his handiwork he awoke Iolaus.

"Was he dead?" Iphicles whispered, very quietly.

"Not quite, shh, least said and all that." Joxer smiled and helped the stunned and groggy hunter to his feet.

"What happened?" Iolaus asked, very quietly, he had the mother and father of all headaches and didn't wish in magnified.

"Hercules threw you through the new door Ares put in place earlier. You touched Herc, an he threw you off .. way off!" Iphicles felt a strange, warm, tingly feeling in the pit of his stomach, and finally realised what it was. Revenge, and indeed it did taste so sweet. "You were thrown over in favour of a Godly brother who can do just so much more than you ever will! Shity isn't it?" And the King turned on his heals and walked back into the hall, slamming the door, aggravating Iolaus' headache, leaned back through the hole and finished speaking on the subject. " Oh, and I do hope you and Jercules will repair this bloody great hole before you leave! After all you made it, seems unfair to leave it to the Gods, now doesn't it?" So saying he marched with a swagger back up to his Godly guests and his irritating little brother.

"Isn't he a hunk when he's angry?" Iolaus whispered, unable to take his eyes off  the sight of Iphicles' retreating back as seen through the hole in the door.

"If you like that kind of thing." Joxer replied, demurely while wondering why an angry Iphicles should look so much like his own beloved husband.

"Doesn't he remind you of someone?" Iolaus asked, still looking, still dazed.

"Yeah, a thoroughly pissed off King." Joxer muttered and moved away a little. "If you're okay then I got things to do. See ya around Iolaus." And he walked away.

"Oh, yeah, bye." Came Iolaus' distracted response. "Iphicles..." He mumbled, as if trying it out for seduction value. Judging by his smile, it seemed to pass muster.

Once out of sight Joxer relocated himself back to Olympus and Zeus' study. Only, once he got there, he discovered that Zeus was still asleep, and still in Hephaestus' bed! Oh, and Hera was still holding the fort as it were.

"Joxer, sweetheart, how is baby doing?" She asked, enthusiastically.

"Ares is doing fine, Hercules has gone a bit funny though. That wasn't any of you doing, was it?" She shook her head at his question, hardly able to contain her mirth. "Good, just so long as we're clear on that!"

"What brings you home with out Ares?" She finally managed to ask between bouts of laughter.

"I had an idea about finding a cure for Ares. Remember Hades telling us about that dead Roman Seeress he couldn't get to go home to Pluto and Properpina. I never did understand how a dead Roman could visit Tartarus and for a holiday of all things? Never mind, anyway, the point is, she had a lot of insight into the workings of the God powers, for a dead mortal that is. So maybe she'll know of some answer to our Ares problem?"

Hera thought Joxer's statement through then nodded.

"What was her name dear, I forgot." Hera asked, every inch the sweet mother who could do no wrong, every inch poised to turn on a hairs width if Zeus should transgress yet again.

"Tanaquil!" Joxer replied.

"Hmm, Tanaquil." Hera repeated the name, fixing it in her memory. "You get back to Ares and I'll go see Hades. I'll be in touch my sweet, might even come down for a visit, see my son and, why, I could even see my step son too. How fortunate is that?" She purred, quite dangerously.

"If he lives long enough. King Iphicles has discovered some thing growing up his back. Seems to be causing all manners of chaos." Joxer grinned at his mother in law's expression of confusion and consternation.

"What has he discovered? A tumour?" Curious despite herself.

"No, his spine! He gave Iolaus a dressing down and was on his way to have 'words' with Hercules when I last saw him!"

"Well, good for him!" Hera patted Joxer's cheek and bid him farewell right before she popped out, no doubt on her way to Tartarus and her brother Hades. Sighing, Joxer 'popped' back to Corinth and the mayhem it housed.

As he arrived back he heard the distinct sounds of Xena in full lecture mode, having a go at Iphicles for letting the Gods exist and in his castle too, how could he? Something finally snapped in Joxer, the very last vestige of patience for that woman and her blessedly peaceful companion Gabri -fucking-elle! Joxer was now angry!

He shoved the door open hard, banging it against the wall and attracting every eye in the room towards him. Deep in his memory Ares realised some one was in trouble, because his Joxy was cross, real cross. Artemis just stood there and grinned, she knew this moment had been a long time in coming and she wasn't going to miss a moment of it, and to make sure every morsel of goodness was gained from it she called in several others as witnesses. Apollo, Cupid and Dite lined the hall walls, out of sight from the mortals, watching Joxer's every nostril flare, every twitch. This was going to be so good.

"And just what the fuck do you think Iphicles, a mortal no less, could do against the Gods. Oh, but I forget, just because Ares might be your father and so gives you the full benefit of the don't kill Gods or Demi-Gods rule you think Iphicles can go about killing Gods? Hmm, is that it? What you don't support or believe in can't be allowed to exist. Ares is evil, he's wicked, he's beyond redemption. Fuckin' shit woman, has it never occurred to you that Ares is a product of all mortal hatred, like everywhere for always? No? Well, of course not, that would require thought and you're Xena Warrior no more a Princess than I am? In order to be a Warrior King or indeed a Princess you need a fucking army. So where's yours Princess? Huh? A Broken down nag an' a horse? No army I ever heard of was that pitiful. And guess what? Yep, I know all about being pitiful, don't I? I'm Joxer the idiot who has to put up with the little scraps of affection you and she throw my way now and again. I'm pitiful, pathetic, useless. A failure as a killer ergo a failure as a human in your eyes. Well let's all thank fuck, you don't rule the bloody universe, shall we? What? You didn't know the universe didn't revolve around you? Tough shit girlie, get used to it!" As Joxer stood there glaring at Xena, Gabrielle was standing by her lover and making ready to fight Joxer, to defend her soulmate from the truth.

Xena yipped and jumped and flew at Joxer, he simply stood to one side and she flew straight into the wall, face first and slid down in an ungainly heap. Unconscious!

Part 6

A sole hand clap echoed through the utter silence in the great hall, every eye tracked to the source of the sound and finally Cupid took form. His hands sped up, and as he pushed the speed of his applause more Gods and Goddesses 'popped in' and their applause joined his.

Finally Ares rushed up and bounced around Joxer.

"You tell her Joxy!" He chanted as he danced, skipping neatly over the prone body every time he passed over it. Then Ares caught sight of his son and ran over to him.

"Cupid, hiya, c'mere." Ares dragged the younger Love God over to Joxer's side. "Do you know how much I love Joxy?" Cupid looked at his damaged father's open face, the warm gentle smile it was wearing.

"Well, yeah, I do know, ya' told me so, remember?" It was the wrong thing to say.

Ares screamed.

"No I don't remember!" Ares hit Cupid, square in the chest, but with little power and no intention to hurt.

"Dad, it's gonna be all right. You'll see." Cupid hugged his father close to him and looked over his shoulder at his step father. "Jox, I kinda left Sel on the fly, I gotta get back. You gonna be okay with dad like this?"

"No problem. Leave him to me." Joxer took the dysfunctional War God from the busy Love God's arms and pointed him at Hercules. "Ary, weren't you and Herc trying to decide what images you wanted Arte to draw on your next tapestries?"

The Hero looked at his damaged brother and recovered his own wits. This was his fault, finally he could look at the fall out of his actions and for once could admit he was not proud of himself.

"Come on Ares, you were half way through a new story, you going to finish it?" Hercules tried to smile a welcoming smile to his damaged brother what he didn't count on was a face full of irritated brother.

"So Mister Wonderful is once more back with the programme. Well listen to me little brother, I've got something I wanna say to you, an' for once you are gonna' shut your trap and listen!" Iphicles paused for breath, there would be no stopping him now, he was on a roll! "Actually I've got a LOT I wanna' say. One, don't you EVER dare come to me and try and tell me how to run my Kingdom, you're crap at it! Two, don't you ever come to me and try and tell me how to run my sex life. Guess what, I've heard that you're crap at that too! Three, next time you try to break your own precious Olympian laws, don't bother coming to be for back up, because this whole experience with you constantly under my roof has got my back up as far as it can go. An' I'm sick of it and you! You don't know shit about being a normal mortal and you have the temerity to come here preaching how I'm not doing enough to bring down the reign of the Gods. Well, pardon me for being a mortal but I rather LIKE having the Gods there to turn too and to blame if need be. Ya' know, that is why they are there. That's what Gods do! And when we out grow them they'll go where ever it is old Gods go! Retire to the damn seaside for all I care. It'll be long after my time that's for bloody sure! As for you? You can fuckin' well go there, where ever it is, with them. Just don't come snivelling around my after life complaining you don't like the food and the bed's too lumpy. Ya' wanna' guess again? I don't give a damn. You an' your stupid grudges have cost me enough grief in my life. Enough grief in Joxer's life and more than enough in Ares' life. Zeus alone knows what your life has done to him, but it's more than hurt Hera. Right now, I rather side with her than you! And you're gonna fix the bloody great hole you knocked in Ares' new door when you threw Iolaus through it, you got that mister?"

Hercules looked at his brother, he thought his poor brother was having a reaction to all those Gods who were standing around witnessing Iphy's aberration. So like his brother to act up in front of the Gods like that.

"Calm down Iphicles, they can't control you, you have free will!"

"Free will this, you idiot!" Iphicles roundly slapped Hercules' face. As each of the deities present realised what the King of Corinth intended to do they lent him just a little of their strength.

Hercules sailed through the air and crashed down against the wall directly opposite the still crumpled Xena.

"My hero!" A new voice commented, and Hera took form in the middle of Iphicles' great hall. "Now boys, stop this at once!" She looked at the other Gods who all found important prayers to answer elsewhere. "Right, now, Joxy my sweet, I found Hades and spoke to him about that Roman woman, Tanaquil. They'll be right along once they've found what ever it was Hades said they'd lost. But what ever it was, seems it's in the Styx!" She looked at her son who was still talking nineteen to the dozen with his big sister, who in turn was drawing stags as fast as he could describe what they were doing. "Children, could you stop your wonderful drawing, just for a second or two?" She asked, ever so politely.

"Mamma!" Ares squealed and ran to his mamma for a cuddle.

"Baby!" Hera squealed back and gave him his sought after cuddle.

"See, Iphy, slapped Herc an' Herc fell down!" Ares pointed to the heap that was his little brother. "Can I have Iphy as a brother instead of him then?" Ares asked, in what he thought was a polite, reasonable way.

"Iphicles, King of Corinth, last surviving member of your paternal line, I, Hera, Queen of the Gods do hereby adopt you. In the stead of your now dead mortal parents you will call on me as your mother in any and all capacities that might require a mother's touch. Now, why did you hit your brother?" She folded her arms and looked at him, a firm look, exactly like those his own mortal mother would give him.

"He broke my hall door when he hurt Iolaus by throwing him trough it. Ma'am!" He added hastily.

"Oh, I meant this brother!" Hera pointed at Ares.

"I didn't, I was left to hold the horses, because I dared to ask Hercules if it was a wise choice of actions to hit Ares and leave him there." Iphicles wondered if his last days of life had been spent with the lunacy that was his brother's friends threatening to drown him.

"Hercules, come here!" Hera looked at her husbands son and then back at that son's brother. Hercules groggily got to his feet and swaggered over to Hera, showing supreme disrespect. "You will be punished for your crimes. Hitting your brother, breaking his neck, leaving him for dead, bullying your brother Iphicles, striking your friend Iolaus, to the reckless endangerment of his life. I didn't struggle over their births for you to throw their lives away. Oh no, my lad, don't think I'm going to give out some arbitrary sentence either. This is Corinth, the crimes happened in Corinth, and Iphicles is King of Corinth. Not you! And it's high time you remembered that!" She waggled a finger at him for good measure. Then to everyone's surprise, Hercules slumped, rounded his shoulders and presented the world with a look of abject defeat. "Iphicles will devise your punishment. And there will be NO appeals to Zeus for rescinding this sentence, no way on THIS earth!" Hera glared at Hercules, then smiled at her new son. "You think up whatever you think appropriate my sweetheart and it'll be visited on him. If you need Godly assistance in whatever you decide it will be provided."

"Yes, em, mamma.." Iphicles tried the familiar term and survived. Hera beamed at him.

"Mamma, I 'm not the youngest anymore!" Ares pouted.

"Well no, you're Iphicles' new big brother." Hera pointed out firmly.

"HE has to dance with Hebe at family parties, yeah!" Ares found a good reason to not be the baby of the family anymore and was happy again.

"Hebe?" Iphicles asked.

"His big sister. Ares really is the baby of the Gods, drives the poor lamb batty at times since none of his brothers and sisters take him at all seriously. They're all considerably older, don't you know!"

At that point Xena picked herself up off the floor, shook her head to clear it, looked around and faced Hera, face to face.

"Who are you?" Xena asked, rather rudely.

"Your grandmother." Her grandmother pointed out.

Xena looked at her father, her uncle, who nodded at her, then back at her grandmother. Once she was satisfied this woman was her father's mother, she fainted!

"My, that was fun!" Hera said, to no one in particular.

Part 7

Cupid reappeared beside his grandmother, nudged her and whispered in her ear.  He stepped back a pace and grinned at her. For her part Hera laughed quietly,  her eyes dancing with glee. She turned to Joxer and beckoned him over to her.

"Gotta go, the old goats about to wake up!" She winked at him, and smiled even more, if that was possible.

"You did, didn't you?" Joxer asked. "You went and put him in Heph's bed, didn't you?" He looked from mother-in-law to stepson and back, both of whom had the grace to blush and nod their heads.

"Put who, where?" Ares asked, head tilted over to one side.

"Your dad in Heph's bed!" Joxer told him. Ares laughed, his more accustomed laugh and looked at his mother and son.

"This I gotta see! Shall we?" He indicated the heavens with a wave of one arm and all three deities vanished. Now curious as to where the family had gone Artemis wandered over.

"Where did they go to in such a rush?" She asked.

"Hera and Cupid put Zeus in Heph's bed when he was asleep here. Seems he's about to wake up an..." He stopped talking just as soon as he realised she had gone to watch the fun too.

"So, now what? You thought up a suitable punishment yet?" Joxer asked his host. Iphicles looked at Joxer and remembered what he knew about this man, this God that the others didn't. He smiled.

"No but I will, would you do me the honour of joining me for some late lunch in my private study?" He waited for Joxer's reply.

"It would be my pleasure, your majesty!" Joxer grinned. And the King was awe-struck, he looked like a klutzy mortal, behaved like a klutzy mortal but was an actual God and Hercules didn't even suspect that he'd been travelling with one of the enemy for so long.

"This way then!" And he gestured the appropriate direction before he followed Joxer out the room.

Iolaus stooped to assist Xena back onto her feet one more time.

"Upsy daisy!" He encouraged the disorientated woman.

"What did happen?" She asked, as she regained her balance.

"Well, you upset Joxer, he yelled at you, you flew at him, he stepped out the way and you hit the wall. You remember that much?" Xena nodded at him to continue. "Then Hera turned up, just after Iphicles had a go at Herc about involving him in anti God things. You got up, asked Hera who she was and when she said she was your grandmother you fainted."

"I what?" She snarled at her friend.

"You fainted!" Iolaus repeated. "Right in front of Hera and Ares and everybody. But the most of the Gods had gone by then. Oh, and Hera adopted Iphicles and said he was to devise Hercules' punishment for breaking Ares' neck." The small, blond man stepped away from the too quiet Xena.

Xena was about to have a go at Iolaus for letting it all happen when the thought occurred that what could mortals do to Gods anyway?

"Oh!" She said instead. Iolaus though, was worried, she had missed a perfect opportunity for a pointless lecture, simply not seen it or ignored it. Either idea was disturbing, he had never pegged her for a woman that could learn from her mistakes, not where Gods were concerned anyway.

"So, how come Hera's your grandmother?" He pressed his luck, and as mostly happened, his luck held. Xena didn't try and kill him, she confessed.

"Ares is my father!" She said, passionately.

"Then that makes you..." Hercules started to speak only to be interrupted by Xena.

"Yes, I know, it makes me a Demi-God too.." She in turn was interrupted by Hercules, finishing his earlier thought.

"Makes you my niece, oh Gods I've had sex with my niece!" The moral implications hit both of them at the same time and Iolaus, recalling that time when Xena and Hercules were a very hot item, and his own bruised and damaged feelings as regards their affair, spoke what was in his heart.

"Serves you both right!" And he stormed out of the door Hercules had thrown him through. He noticed the thickness of the wood and wondered how he hadn't died in the attack. At a loss as to what to do next he followed the sounds of voices and just saw Iphicles hold the door of his private sanctum open and Joxer step through. "Iph!" He called out, attracting the attention of the King of Corinth. "Can I join you two?" The hunter asked, slightly embarrassed to be reduced to begging for sanctuary.

"Why? Shouldn't you be with Hercules?" The King asked.

"Not just now, I don't think I could take it. See, he an' Xena just discovered she's his niece and they've had sex being uncle and niece an' that. Rubbing my nose in it. I just wanted away from them!" Iolaus shrugged, rather eloquently Iphicles thought.

The King relented and gestured him into the cosy, quiet study with Joxer and himself. If anything, Iolaus was in a creative mood to help devise a punishment that would fit Hercules' crime.

"Do please join us." He said, and saw the warmth in the heart of Iolaus' grateful smile.

It was just as they were about to settle down to eat that the next wave of Godly visitors arrived. Hades and a rather pale looking woman turned up out of the blue, literally. So there in Iphicles' small office sat two mortals, two Gods and a dead Roman woman. The whole idea of such a gathering struck Iphicles as supremely funny. He just couldn't help it, he started to laugh and couldn't stop.

"What's with him?" Hades asked, looking at Joxer as he spoke.

"God overload I think. So Tanaquil, you got any ideas how we sort out Ares' behaviour problem?" He smiled at his Uncle in Law and looked at the dishevelled Roman woman behind the, now that he thought about it, rumpled Hades.

Tanaquil knew what he was looking at, what had caused it, and blushed, deep red to the roots of her hair.

"Well, I do have an idea. Do you think I could discuss it in private?" She blushed again and this time looked quite hungrily at Iphicles. Iolaus saw her look, correctly interpreted it and recalling his thought about how sexy the King looked when angry he moved to stake his claim. If Iphy would ever do that sort of thing.

"Iph, shall we leave them alone for a little while? Go check on the children, or just take some food and chat elsewhere?" He smiled, his most seductive smile and waited.

"You grab the bread and wine, I'll bring the meat and cheese. Where shall we eat then?" Iphicles was aware that Iolaus wanted him, and as stage one punishment for his little brother it suited his frustrated, 'eager to get some' too long unused balls just fine.

"This is your castle, you lead, I'll follow!" Iolaus sounded so hopeful, so trusting, so in desperate need to hit out at Hercules.

"This way then." Iphicles lead the way out the room, up the stairs, along the corridor and into his bedroom. Iphicles was never too sure just how Iolaus spilled the wine all over the both of them, but they were cold, wet and needed to get naked to get warm and dry. Certainly there was nothing like brisk friction to warm up damp chilled skin.

Lunch was forgotten.

In the study Tanaquil took Joxer to one side and cleared her throat. She was still blushing, and was getting annoyed with herself and the world due to that annoying habit.

"Excuse me, I'm just not comfortable!" And two sets of eyes turned to watch Hades remove his clothes and redress himself. Joxer's face registered amazement, Tanaquil's showed a familiar lust. Like this was not new territory to her!

"You were about to say something?" Joxer asked the dead woman. Dead, and having sex with Hades, wasn't there a word for that. Necro something... no, that was bodies. He settled for 'lucky' and turned his attention to what she had to say.

"See Joxer, I think it's really you that's holding him back. Your Godhood is to look after children and innocents and since Ares is your husband he is being what your Godhood requires him to be, to be worthy of your love. Do you see what I mean. You have to see him as a mature, adult God again, some one that you don't need to protect. Rather some one you want to, well, fuck!" She blushed again and retreated back to Hades' side.

Hades put an arm around her, looked at his nephew's husband and saw that old familiar light starting to burn there. He was obviously thinking of his husband, what they had together, what he was missing having to deal with Ares' back up personality. And the sex. Oh, couldn't forget the sex. He had spied on that pair more than once. Hot just didn't do what they had together any justice at all. Incendiary, was closer, slightly.

"Where is Ares?" Hades asked, no matter what the subject matter he somehow managed to make every statement sound like he was saying 'I want to have sex with you' it was little wonder, to Joxer's mind, that Tanaquil gave up the Roman Underworld to be with Hades. And only the thought of his own, sexy husband that stopped the younger God from assuming the doggy position and begging for some!

"He's with Hera and Cupid and maybe Artemis. Seems Zeus is waking up, not where he went to sleep again, and they were all going to watch. So either Zeus' study getting a dressing down, Hera's sitting room, getting fussed and lunch or Heph's forge getting drunk!" He grinned. "If you see him, send him my way!" He sat eagerly thinking of what his immediate future would hold.

Future, that reminded him, something he had heard from the Fates, recently too!

"Tanaquil, where do Emperor's go when they die?" He asked, well, it had bugged him at the time and he thought she might know.

"What as in Roman Emperors? They're supposed to become Gods, not that they do. No, that's just so much..." She suddenly stopped talking looked at Joxer and swallowed. "You mean as in Julius Caesar?"

"Yeah, I just wondered where he'd go when he croaks in, what was it they said? I think it was two months.. about three weeks ago, or was it three weeks, two months ago?" He thought hard for a moment. "No I do think he's still alive..." He shook his head, distractedly bid them a good day and heard Tanaquil announce that she was going home, real soon! After all some one had to be there to greet the soon to be dead Emperor, it was only polite.

Somehow the overheard comment from Hades of one for the road stopped Joxer dead in his tracks from following them any further with his mind. Instead he turned to those closer at hand.

Joxer sat down, ate lunch, let his mind wander again and encountered the power of two healthy men enjoying robust sex. Giving the King his privacy, Joxer looked elsewhere for his amusement.

Checking with Xena and Hercules in the hall he discovered them trying to figure out how to fix the door Hercules had thrown Iolaus through.

"... Still can't see how he never died, again. It's a solid door!" Xena said.

"Me neither, maybe Ares was about and did something nice for once." Hercules looked at his niece and blushed. " Erm, Xena, before you found out, about you and Ares and ... well, did you and he ever, you know?" He looked at her, remembered what it had been like to come deep with in her and blushed, paled and blushed again.

Joxer sighed, turned his mind to Ares and set about tracking his own studmuffin down. He found Hera easily enough, all he had to do was follow the loudest laughter on Olympus. So he sent word to her.

"I think I know how to sort Ares, where is he?" He asked, mentally.

"I thought he was back with you?" Hera stopped laughing and sounded worried. Joxer became aware of power surrounding him and found himself standing with Hera in Zeus' study. "Zeus, Ares is missing, he never returned to Joxer!" she informed her husband.

"Missing?" Zeus forgot his annoyance and went straight onto panic, his baby boy was missing!

As soon as his thoughts could travel the study filled with the rest of the twelve senior Gods, each now aware of the dilemma before them. Where was Ares? Each taking first their own domain they looked for the missing Ares, each genuinely worried for his well being and safety.

"I can't find him in the forests!" Artemis reported.

"He's not with any healers or bards." Her twin brother reported.

"Nor in any temple I can check." Hera added.

"Not on any battle field." Athena pointed out, worry for the senior War God etched in her beautiful face.

"Not in the Sea." Poseidon chipped in.

"Not helping out with the famine I mentioned to him before this all started." Demeter said.

"Not in any orgy I've got running." Dite pointed out.

"Nor is he playing with any weapons!" Hephaestus said.

"Nothing missing with his touch, no messages left for us." Hermes commented.

"He's in the Underworld!" Hades said.

"You don't mean.." Zeus, only just awake stopped and took in his brother's amused expression. "What's he doing there then?" He finally asked.

"Talking to Strife, of course." Hades showed Joxer exactly where his husband was and left the younger God to make his own mind up. The God of the Dead stood there and watched Joxer reach his decision.

"When you get back, do send him to Corinth." Joxer looked longingly into the distance as he took a last look at Ares giggling hysterically with his dead son. On a thought and a sigh he was once more in Iphicles' study. Still wondering what to do with his suddenly free time he wandered into the main hall to see what Xena and Hercules were doing.

Part 8: Conclusion

What they were doing was sitting quietly, staring at each other with Gabrielle running between them, trying so hard to get them to talk to each other or at least to her. She was not being too successful, at all! Joxer decided that he should be Joxer the Mighty, and bounce like the over eager puppy he was often compared to. The thought of all that deliberately inflicted innocence cheered him and took his thoughts away from his missing husband.

"Hi all, so have Iphicles and Iolaus turned up yet?" He asked totally guileless and wide eyed.

"I thought they were with you, or at least Iphicles was. Bored him already?" Xena was less than polite and Hercules looked at him with such a suspicious gaze that Joxer thought he knew who and what he was. Then he realised this was just Hercules' natural expression freed of the fake concern his face normally wore.

"Well, he was but Hades wanted a word so they left to eat elsewhere and leave Me., Hades and Tanaquil to talk." Joxer smiled, a wide, closed lipped smile that made him look like a man with the IQ of a retarded gnat! His best Joxer the Mighty expression. And due to type the others all groaned and tried to ignore him. Joxer, however, was determined to fill in his spare time in as fun a way as he could.

While contemplating his next move Iphicles and a sexually replete Iolaus came in and just oozed sex at the others.

"Iolaus!" Hercules finally noticed something other than his own guilt over his niece. He noticed his lover and brother getting together. "Iphicles?" He challenged.

"Hercules!" Iphicles ignored his brother's need to know.

"Uh, hi!" Iolaus smiled.

"So Iphicles have you chosen Hercules' punishment for him yet?" Joxer asked.

"No, not yet, but trust me, I will and it will be just. His punishment will fit his crime., fear not on that. And you, Joxer, did your meeting go well? With Hades and that Roman woman?" Iphicles moved Hercules off of his throne and moved the seat Xena had been sitting on to his throne's side. Gesturing to Iolaus to side by his side while they waited for whatever would happen next.

Iphicles had never felt so empowered, so alive as the King of Corinth. All along he had known that he was the second place choice after Hercules had refused to take the throne. Though now he was King, he was the chosen son of Hera, he was acknowledge by the Gods as in charge of his lands and dominions. He was the King.

Joxer saw Iphicles' feeling of empowerment in his role in life. He was glad for the King, that he had finally grown into his new task. That he was now comfortable with who and what he was.

"My meeting went well, very well." He met Iphicles' eyes and grinned at the King, for his part Iphicles caught on almost immediately and laughed. The mental image of his stuffy moralistic brother's reaction to the images dancing before his mind's eye just too, too funny!

"Good, that is good." Everyone else looked at the highly amused King which only served to have the King laugh all the harder. It didn't take long before Joxer gave in and laughed too.

Overcome by his fit of laughter, Joxer sat, at Iphicles' feet, the God of Childhood and Innocence perched himself before a mortal King.. Iphicles was amazed at the gesture and immediately made one of his own.

"If you want a seat, take mine!" And the King stood before the seated God.

"No no, your Majesty, I'm fine where I am. People might start to talk if they saw me in your seat." Joxer grinned his goofy grin and set the poor man off again into great gales of laughter.

Iolaus sat and watched the man who had become his newest lover and his friend and travelling companion as they talked around in circles. He knew it couldn't have been about anything they had discussed earlier. They simply didn't have the time before he joined them then he and Iphicles had left Hades the dead woman and Joxer alone. They looked like they had had God business to discuss.. God business? Iolaus sat quiet through his personal Epiphany. Joxer had God business with Hades, with Hera, with Zeus even, JOXER was a GOD? JOXER? Then he looked at the door he had gone through. He should have died, but didn't have a scratch on him. Why? Joxer had been there, he had helped him to his feet. Joxer the God of? God of helping people out of
deep shit situations? God of keeping hero type sidekicks outta Hades' reach?

He looked at Joxer and Iphicles, touched his lover's wrist and leaned in to whisper his question.

"God of what?" He asked, so quiet he knew Hercules and Xena wouldn't hear him, not over Joxer's laughter. "Joxer, God of..." He prompted.

Joxer had heard and was delighted that Iolaus chose to keep his questions so quiet. His voice whispered into Iphicles' mind as well as Iolaus'.

"Childhood and Innocence." He saw the look of delighted mischief cross Iolaus' face then heard Iolaus' prayer of thanks for his life.

Joxer reached up and patted Iolaus' knees. That simple gesture that he might have done many times in the past, suddenly took on a much greater meaning than ever before.

"What's with you three?" Hercules asked, he had the distinct feeling that he was being left out of something and true to his nature was annoyed by it. All his life his mother had deferred to him, he was the centre of her life, she had told him so so often. Almost every time he went off to the academy she had told him her world revolved around him. Likewise he tended to think that the rest of creation should  follow suit. Little surprise that his great dislike of the Gods was mostly due to their tendency to laugh at him!

"Nothing, and I would remind you to remember your civility when taking to a King." Iphicles stood up, met Hercules' eyes and stared him down. For the first time in his life his position was truly before that of Hercules. "All your life you have been put before me, you wants, your desires, your opinions, you, you, you! And I am heartily sick of it, oh, and sick of you!" Iphicles stepped forward one pace to the edge of the dais his throne sat upon. "So I think it's high time you learned just what life is really like for normal, non Demi-God mortals." That inspired the King of Corinth. He had his punishment now. All there remained to do was have his decree enacted. For that he would need a God .. or a Goddess. Hmm, what Hercules needed was a mother's touch.

Iphicles didn't laugh, he just smiled, quietly, slightly. Somehow, that more than anything else terrified Hercules.

"Oh, Mother, I need the help of my mother." Iphicles tried his best to fit his entire idea into one quick prayer to Hera.

"Do you really think Hera will keep her word, will back up whatever you have in mind as a punishment for me? That Zeus will let either of you do anything to me?"

There it was, all of Hercules' hidden arrogance. Even Xena stepped to one side of him, distancing herself from that self important attitude.

"And why shouldn't we support our chosen son?" Hera's voice drifted over the group from directly behind Hercules. This caused Hercules to actually jump in surprise which caused Iphicles to smile at his brother's discomfiture.

"Hmm, indeed, Hercules, if Hera tells me we must support young Iphicles as a son, then we shall. Zeus' voice brought such a look of horror to Hercules' face that Gabrielle felt sorry for him, but looking around she saw that Xena showed a little sympathy for Hercules but no one else showed any fellow feeling at all.

"You have chosen, my son?" Hera asked.

"Yes, I have." Iphicles announced, no longer bothered by the sight of Gods and Goddesses popping in and out at random.

"Ares should be here." Joxer's voice was soft, gentle, but filled with love if you really listened for it. Iphicles and Iolaus listened and smiled at the young God.

"Ares, attend!" Zeus summonsed Ares from the Underworld. Once he appeared Joxer's eyes took on a whole new look. One that spoke of desire, of love, of raw sex.

"I'm here daddy." Ares' back up personality was still in place.

"Iphicles has decided on a punishment for Hercules. You must witness his decision." Hera drew her injured son to her side as every eye turned to face the King of Corinth.

"Hercules you have been guilty of many things in your life, but by far the worst of your crimes has to be your complete arrogance. We poor week mortal men cannot be allowed to form our own opinions about our Gods. No, we have to follow your opinion, your prejudices. Then, if you wish to be free of the Gods, then be free of the Gods. I decree that your punishment will be to have your God given powers removed. You want a life without Gods, then do without their gifts too." Iphicles looked at the senior Gods and waited for their answer.

Hera turned to Zeus.

"It's nothing to do with me. His choice." She smiled at her adopted son. Letting him know she supported his choice.

"True." Zeus sighed. "And quite right too. So be it." Then Hercules' father touched Hercules, bathing him in a brilliant blue light and when it faded so had his powers.

"Ares, come here please?" Joxer walked to meet his love half way. Took him in his arms, as he hadn't dared for weeks, and kissed him. Passionately, then softly, then with a hunger. His hands stroked and teased and cajoled a reaction from his husband.

"I want you, Joxy!" Ares gasped out in his own deep voice, it broke into the high pitched tone only at the very end. "Kiss me again."

So Joxer did. Then Joxer stroked his hands down Ares' back to settle on his partners butt. Stroking lightly and clenching hard through that skin tight black leather. Then noticing the leather he stepped backwards and looked at Ares' face.

His husband was back.

"You know what I want?" Joxer asked a very sex hungry Ares.

"Yeah, the same as me!" Ares laughed, a rich full bellied laugh. "Oh damn it, love, take me to bed!" He picked up Joxer and kissed him as they spun around.

"What's going on here?" Gabrielle asked, confusion showing clearly on her face.

"What does it look like?" Ares asked. "I'm gonna take my husband home and fuck him. Then, if I'm real lucky, he'll fuck me right back!"

"Of course I will." Joxer extended his powers and left Ares standing in nothing but skin tight black leather pants. All he wore was a big erection and a broad smile. "Now take me home before I burst, damn it!" He growled, his voice heavier, darker, deeper than any of the mortals had heard ever before.

"You're trying to say you're a God? And you're involved with Ares?" Gabrielle looked at Joxer as if she had a fowl smell beneath her nose. She did, her own prejudice.

"Yes and yes and since long before I ever met you and Xena." Joxer enjoyed the look of confusion on Gabrielle's face. "What, you didn't want to know how long I've been with Ares or a God? Nor why I pretended to be in love with you? No? Well, I'll tell you anyway. Because it amused me. That's all. "He looked back at Ares. "Will you take me home and fuck me now!" He asked, a little exasperated. Those who truly knew him knew he was joking with his husband.

Ares growled disappeared and when he reappeared he threw his now naked husband down, stripped the last item of his own clothing and followed Joxer onto their own bed.

"I'm gonna fuck you senseless!" He promised.

"Damn right you are!" Joxer snarled out just before he shut that full, pouty mouth with his.

Back in Corinth Hercules sat on the edge of his bed, trying to come to terms with things. That morning he had had his powers, his lover, a good relationship growing with his childlike brother and a full head of guilt. Now he had nothing but the guilt left.

In Iphicles' room the King and Iolaus were emulating there chosen Gods... Ares and Joxer! Namely fucking like rabbits.

In there room, Gabrielle was trying to help her lover to come to terms with the fact that Joxer the Mighty always was Mightier than her. And her step father! She wasn't sure which fact was bothering Xena more!

On Olympus Hera was celebrating her triumph with Zeus, while Zeus worked on her to moderate it. Trying to get her to give Hercules his powers back.

"Not now, leave him for now." She whispered in his ear, then blew gently in the same ear. She knew every thing that got Zeus hot to trot, she used them all.

Zeus gave in while thought was still possible.

"But the boys.." He tried for the last time.

"We'll, give Strife back to Ares, Hercules will get his powers back eventually. But for your sake, leave the boys to fuck in peace. Surely we can find something to do in the mean time?" Hera lay back, naked and in Zeus' bed.

"Fuck them, if they can't take a joke!" Zeus muttered and settled into a fun time with his wife, mother of at least some of his children.

"Oh, Zeus, I love it when you're forceful..." Hera's soft voice whispered.

The End