AresJoxerCupidStrife - Qzeebrella


part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Title: Joxer's Scrolls
Author: Qzeebrella
Author's e-mail: Qzeebrella@gmail.com
Author's URL: none
Archive: Joxerotica and AJCS
Fandom: Xena the Warrior Princess, Hercules the Legendary Journeys
Category: slash
Rating: G for now
Pairing: Ares/Joxer implied, possible Cupid/Strife
Summary: a peek at one of the scrolls Joxer has written, one that contains a bit of introspection on his life and a look into one of his adventures.
Warnings:
Beta:
Spoilers:
Disclaimer: The show and its characters belong to Ren Pics and possibly others. No profit is being made from this story and no infringement is intended.
Author's notes: part one of this story, at least one other part to follow.

***

I was born last and as the runt of the litter, I had to make do with whatever was left over after my brothers were through with taking all they wanted. So, I learned to survive on crumbs of affection, scraps of love, and just enough food to grow on, but never enough to be full. I survived by being as annoying as possible, as that was the only way I could get attention and a swat on the rear, or a cuff to my head would do to satisfy the craving I had in me for attention. I survived by being persistent, by getting up every time I fell and never taking no for an answer. But no matter what my parents, my brothers, or others threw at me, I survived.

***

Father took my oldest brother Jett under his wing, to train him up as his heir and turn him into a ruthless killing machine. My mother took Jace under her wing and coddled him, kept him close, and praised him whenever he imitated her feminine characteristics. No one took me under their wing, so I had to do the best I could at raising myself, at teaching myself.

I did this mostly through observation, which is likely why I have a different way of looking at things than most. One of the things I learned was that no matter what else is taken from you, no one can take your faith and no one can steal whatever it is that makes you, you. I learned this as my brothers took away anything I saw as special. A rock the colour of Ares' eyes, a flower that grew in the exact spot Ares was said to have had his first victory, a sharp twig that I found which reminded me of Ares' sword and other things. But no matter what they took away from me, no matter what my parents took from me to give to their favourite child, and no matter what the neighbourhood kids took from me, I still had the most important things to me inside me. I still had my faith in Ares and I managed to keep all of whatever it is that makes me, me.

***

Eventually, I learned to just get things no one else in their right minds would want as physical possessions. Which is why my armour and my helmet are the way they are.

Eventually, I learned to hide the things I value the most and never show them to others. Which is why no one I travel with occasionally has seen my lyre or heard me tell my best stories. Nor have they seen my portable shrine to Ares or the drawing I made of me and my brothers together.

It is also why they have never seen the real me. For when I'm with them, I never act the way I normally do when alone. When I'm with them, I put on a façade. I pretend to be a fool and then do my best to irritate and distract them, at which I'm pretty good.

In fact, I can count on two hands the people I've allowed to see the true me and all I truly value. These are: Ares, Strife, Cupid, Aphrodite, Hephaestus, Bliss and Meg. These are the privileged few. Those I trust enough to reveal myself to, share myself with, and see those few possessions I truly cherish. Only these few and no others, for no one else has proven themselves trustworthy to me. Not even Hercules.

***

Now you might think Xena or Gabby had the best chance of gaining my trust, seeing as I spend more time with them than anyone else, but you're wrong. They actually have the least chance of securing my trust among all the people I know, including my enemies, and this because they have betrayed my trust too many times to count.

Gabby betrayed my trust by twisting my nose, hitting me with her staff and ridiculing me with every chance she gets, while preaching that we all must follow the "way" of non-violence and inner peace. Xena betrayed my trust by letting Gabby get away with what she does and then telling me the "bard" only does it out of friendship and love. If that's Xena's idea of how a friend should be allowed to treat me, give me an enemy any day. At least I can fight an enemy whereas I can't fight a supposed friend.

As for Hercules, I don't trust him but I could learn to. Especially if he keeps following Iolaus' lead by treating me with that sort of frustrated tolerance that helps him deal with all the irritating things I do around him and thus not cave into the desire to hit me.

As for Iolaus, I have never been able to get to truly know him as he sticks to Hercules like a shadow, but if I ever come to truly trust the demigod then his "shadow" will likely follow. But only if they could both promise me that they would never hurt or presume to judge any of my true friends - the other people who have gained my trust.

***

Now, as I have hinted before, I'm very good at playing the fool, which will come in handy now that I have a new mission. See, I have to sneak into the underworld and help Strife escape. He could do it alone if it wasn't for the fact that he promised his great uncle Hades to never initiate an escape plan from Tartarus. True, he made that promise back when he was alive and the God of Mischief, but he feels honoured bound to keep it even though he's dead. Add to that the fact that he truly respects Hades and is likely having a lot of fun creating mischief down there means that he likely hasn't even been tempted to break his promise and escape. He did make me promise to help him escape if he ever ended up down there though, so, that's what I'm going to do.

I need a few things before I make the attempt to help him though. Let's see, I need one of Cupid's feathers, then one of those things Strife calls a safety pin, some olive oil - the slipperier the better, a flask full of urine from a female dog in heat, one whoopee cushion and one flask of ambrosia - do not, under any circumstance, confuse this with the urine as Greece does not need a three headed dog as a god. Besides, India kinda has the trademark on multi-limbed and multi-headed gods.

***

I was able to attain all of my supplies with the help of Bliss. I had to have "tea" with him and play with him awhile, but I got apple slices coated with honey and cinnamon out of it. Now I just have to make my way to Tartarus. I'm pretty sure I have to hang a left at Athens to get to the cave that leads to the entrance.

***

Well, I've run into Hercules and Iolaus and they knew something was up since I wasn't wearing my armour. I decided to take a risk and told them what I was planning to do and why. Of how all the children of Greece were lost without their god.

They actually listened and though they couldn't see their way to joining me on my quest, they also did not stop me for they had seen what losing their god had done to the children. In fact, Hercules pointed me in the right direction and gave me some tips. Then Iolaus hugged me and gave me advice on how to handle Charon. He even gave me some money so I could pay my fair and get across the river Styx, to where I would need to be.

I think I've just added them to the list of people that I trust.


Part 2

Well, I've found the cave. It looks disturbingly like an open mouth with sharp fangs, which must discourage casual visitors. I'm reasonably sure I won't be eaten though, so, I'm going in.

***

It took me awhile to make my way to the river Styx as the hill leading down to it was steep and covered with sharp rocks. I guess I'll just have to hope that the bruises and scrapes I got on my way down heal quickly.

It isn't as bleak here as I thought it would be. I kind of expected a desolate expanse with a few bare, skeleton like trees and a river of fire. Instead, it's actually sort of nice, a bit like the farmland near Corinth, even with all the people lining the bank, waiting to get across. Not that I'm tempted to move here or anything as that'd just be creepy. Especially with all the warriors hanging around, searching for their missing bits and pieces.

I hope Charon comes soon as I'm starting to get odd looks from the recent dead. I guess they can tell that I'm still alive. It's a good thing that the all seem to have a short attention span and thus only notice me for a seconds at a time before a geyser on the river or a new arrival or a fight breaking out amongst the warriors distracts them again.

Waiting here with the recent dead has been interesting, as I keep getting glimpses of what they must have been like when alive. The gossips have all grouped together, as have the warriors. The farmers and merchants are scattered about. There are those who keep harping on what happened to them and who they are and how they really should be the one who is seen first. Then there are the complainers, who have found fault with everything. The bards are trading stories and the lawyers are working on presenting their case for automatic inclusion in the Elysian fields.

And so many more. Almost too many to count. There are even a few shining souls whose kindness and inner joy seem to bring comfort to those lucky enough to be near them. They are the ones I look at after a child or baby appears, for it breaks my heart to see someone so young here, even though they don't stay long. For as soon as they appear, they are wrapped in golden light and whisked away. If the legends are right, they enter a state of bliss and are kept there until it is time for them to be born again or for them to move on.

A few more warriors have just arrived, one of them carrying his own head and accompanied by one of Ares' dogs of war. Right on time too because here comes Charon's boat. It's huge and the glow surrounding it in nearly blinding. I put my coin under my tongue and get into line behind an old man with a staff. The line moves forward slowly but surely and soon I'm at the head of the line. Charon gives me a funny look, but takes my coin and lets me on. I grin and wave at him tell him Iolaus sends his love and he blushes. After a bit of a wait, the boat is full and we head out. We're given a little tour of the nine circles of the underworld, I sure hope I'm not sent to one of the lower levels when my time comes.

***

I managed to pour the `dog in heat' urine all over Ares' dog, Lady, as the boat docked, creating the distraction I needed. I made a run for it as Cerberus went wild trying to reach Lady, scattering dead souls everywhere. I made my way out of the judgement hall without being detected and stepped on the path that leads to all nine different levels of the underworld. I took a moment to sort through the rest of my supplies and pulled out the safety pin. I attached a string to it and tied the string to my wrist.

***

Now, as the emblem of Strife's godhood - in much the same way the sword is of Ares' - that safety pin has a permanent "connection" to Strife. Knowing this, I thought it would lead me to my friend by pointing towards wherever he was.

I kind of underestimated the pull it had towards the dead god though. The pin yanked on the string so hard that I lost my footing and fell. But that didn't slow it down any as it just started dragging me down one path, up another, over some rocky crags, across a few fire pits and through some slime puddles. As I was dragged here, there and everywhere, I got a close look at some of the denizens of Hades' domain. A look I didn't particularly like getting.

After an hour of being dragged around, the safety pin finally slowed down enough that I was able to gain my footing. I even took a few steps when it yanked hard and I fell face first into some mud. Right in front of Strife, who was doubled over in laughter and standing just ten feet away from where the safety pin and I started.

***

Years from now, I'll likely see it as funny. Maybe. If I ever forget how many bruises and scrapes I got. And forget that Strife likely watched it all happen while standing RIGHT THERE, just feet away from where I started searching for him.

I'd also have to forget the stink that hovered around me from the slime, mud and other things I'd rather not think about that coated me as I lay at his feet. And forget that it took a long, long time for Strife to stop laughing. And forget how he'd let loose with laughter again every time he looked at me while I was still covered with gunk.

But then, I'd also have to forget that he was the one to tell me to used the safety pin method to find him in the first place. And forget that his laughter was so catchy, I couldn't help but join in. And forget how a few dozen wandering spirits also joined in.

If I ever forget all that, I'll likely find it funny too. But it won't be any time soon.

***

Anyway. As soon as I was able, I stood up and searched through my bag for Cupid's feather. I found it and reached towards Strife with it and it pulled out of my hand. It literally danced about in the air and swirled in a joyful way around the dead god and then it stroked his left cheek. That's when my friend's laughter stopped. Coming to an end on a happy, wistful sigh.

He held the feather against his cheek and smiled. I knew that meant he was ready now for the next part so I pulled out the flask full of ambrosia and handed it to him. He grinned at me then pulled at the cork so hard that it shot out of the bottle and flew at a wall. It began ricocheting from wall to wall, bouncing off of the floor and pinging between stalagmites and stalactites until it was out of sight. Even then, we could hear it just crashing against things for a long while. Stife giggled until we could no longer hear the cork and then he downed the ambrosia. Light surrounded him for a moment and then he snapped his fingers. The safety pin yanked me off of my feet again and into his arms. He gave me a bruising hug and a wedgie, then took the safety pin away from me. He pinned it to his official … um … outfit and declared himself ready to "blow this joint."

So I limped up the path leading the way until we reached the opening to the main judging area. I cautiously looked around the corner to see whether or not the coast was clear.

***

Cerberus was snuggled next to Lady and I knew I'd have to make sure to have a few new puppy presents to leave on Ares' altar in a few weeks. Half of the dead I had travelled with were still there, in orderly groupings, being judged and sent off to the appropriate place. Charon's boat was preparing to leave, likely to go pick up more passengers, so it was now or never.

I turned and looked at Strife standing behind me and he grinned. I smiled and took the whoopee cushion out of my bag and the flask of olive oil. I threw the flask as hard as I could toward the area just behind Hades and the flask shattered. A burst of light let me know that Strife had done his part. Well, that and seeing a geyser of oil shoot everywhere, splashing the floor, the walls, the ceiling and everyone still there, coating every surface with the slick stuff.

Cerberus and Lady jumped up and started barking and running around, scattering spirits every where. I tossed the whoopee cushion onto Hades throne and then ran out into the judging area, hoping to reach Charon's boat before it left dock.

Unfortunately, my foot hit a slick of oil and I started to slide. I flailed around, trying to gain my feed and could only hope that Strife was having an easier time navigating the course. I slammed into a spirit and we both went flying. Skidding along the floor as two huge dogs ran past. The spirit went careening one way, me the other and I desperately tried to aim myself toward Charon's boat, but was headed off course. That is, I was until I bounced off of a rock which made me go sliding toward the boat, on my back, and head first. Which is how I ended up being able to watch as Hades slid toward his throne, before falling upon it. The sound of the whoopee cushion echoed through the judging area, followed by insane laughter - identifiable as strives, and coming from the boat. I could see as the spirits tried to hold back their laughter, but failed and soon laughter filled the cavern.

I slid into a rock that catapulted me into the air and I landed onto a wooden deck just as Charon's boat started to pull out. I bounced a few times and came to a stop at Strife's feet. He was laughing so hard, I worried for a moment that he'd die again. Then I noticed that he didn't look as if he had just slid through oil and I just KNEW he had flashed himself from the entrance we were in to the boat. I tried to stand, but I was covered in oil now and my legs kept slipping out from under me.

This resulted in even more laughter from Strife and in him beginning to look healthier. So I kept trying to stand, even when Charon came over and started to yell at me. Going on and on about how there's no such thing as a free ride and how his boat is always empty on the way back from the underworld and how he should charge me double for this and how he'll likely have to face Hades' wroth now and, well, you get the idea. So I gave him a few dinars to shut him up and as soon as we docked at the pick up point, got out of there.

***

We managed to get to the cave entrance where Cupid and Bliss were waiting. Bliss kind of glommed onto Strife and then Cupid pulled them both into a hug. They looked so much like a reunited family that I couldn't help but ask about Psyche. Cupid told me that after the arrows wore off she was more comfortable with Asclepius, seeing as he was a formal mortal too. (I had forgotten this and had started thinking of him as having been born a god.)

Anyway, shortly after the marriage was annulled, Ace married Psyche and Cupe got together with Strife, Strife died. Psyche gave custody of Bliss to Cupid, but kept "visitation" rights and Strife and Cupid will be marrying soon, now that Strife's alive again. I'm invited to the wedding. Which leads me to my new problem. Just what do you give two gods for a wedding gift?

***

Well, I'm on Olympus now and babysitting Bliss while Strife and Cupid have some alone time. Thankfully they put a bracelet Hephaestus made on him that makes him almost like any other baby. He can still fly though and he's using that ability to dive bomb me from above and pelt me with coloured inks. Makes me wonder if he's really Strife and Cupid's kid and not Cupid and Psyche's kid like we mortals have all assumed. His laughter is like Strife's too.

He's really cute though and keeps feeding me slices of apple and giggling right after. Kind of makes me wonder what he's up to, but I guess I'll find out eventually.

Ares should be here soon to take over and if Strife and Cupid are still … um … getting reacquainted, I'll have to let him know that his lieutenant is back. And that his favourite dog might be carrying Cerberus' puppies. I just have to hope he's in a good mood, `cause if he isn't I might get to see Hades again and I'm fairly sure he can't be too happy with me.

***

Strife and Cupid finally came up for air just as Ares arrived. It made for an interesting meeting. One I will never describe in detail, for if I did Ares would kill me. Especially if I mentioned the fact that he just stood there and gaped at Strife for a couple of minutes and then stuttered for another minute or two before getting over the shock. But I won't ever tell anyone about that, so I should be okay.

Anyway, as this reunion was happening, none of the adult gods paid any attention to me, until they saw Bliss feed me some more of his apple. Then Ares, Cupid and Strife did the gaping at me thing and then swarmed around Bliss, asking him questions.

***

Okay, I'm not sure what's going on, but I know something is. Bliss keeps saying "Gammy's apples" and Ares and Cupid keep asking "are you sure?" While Strife rolls around giggling. They're really getting on the little guys nerves, in fact he looks like he's just a few seconds away from going ballistic … and there he goes.

Strife is yelling at Cupid and Ares now and I'm just keeping an eye on Bliss, to make sure he doesn't hurt himself.

***

It took a whole hour, but things have calmed down a bit. The gods keep looking at me and then each other though. Strife and Cupid are even shoving each other and whispering, "you tell him", "No, YOU tell him."

I just heard Ares' sigh from across the room and now he's standing up. Maybe now I'll get to know what's going on.

***

I'm immortal? Me? But I'm just, well, me! I thought only really special people got to be immortals. And it's obvious I wasn't ever meant to be one `cause Cupid is reprimanding Bliss for giving me some of "Gammy's apples" - which, I suppose were Hera's golden apples. Telling him, "you know you aren't supposed to give them to mortals."

"But Jox isn't just a mortal, he's my fwiend." Seemed to end that argument.

***

I've been an immortal for a few days now, but I don't feel any different. I'm still a klutz, still devoted to worshipping Ares, and still just taking things on a day by day basis. The only thing different, is I now have a new title, courtesy of Strife and a job to go with it.

I'm now the Immortal of War and Strife's deputy. My job is to create as much chaos as possible wherever he sends me and to try not to have the new title go to my head. He seems to thing I'm stupid enough to believe I could challenge Ares or something, that I'll start thinking the "Immortal of War" could be just as good as the "God of War." As if. I know I don't stand a chance against him and that there's a better chance of it snowing in Tartarus than of ever belonging to him in a more than just another worshipper way.

Aphrodite is thrilled for me and keeps hugging me and congratulating me on my immortal status. Hephaestus seems pleased too and doesn't seem to mind when I hang out at his forge. Bliss is happy too. Then again, he always seems happy. Whether that's because of his godhood or just how he'd be regardless of what his godhood was is another thing.

Strife, Cupid, Ares, Dite, Heph and I take turns caring for Bliss during the day for right now. But he'll be starting half day lessons with the muses soon. I'll miss the little guy. Even if Strife begins to give me more work to do, as he's promised.

He keeps threatening to send me to "the freaky foursome" so I can tell them my news. I can only hope that he won't do it any time soon as I have no idea what I will say to them.

***

I think Strife's been reading my scrolls. That or he has a sadistic streak. Or both.

I'm with "the freaky foursome" and Jace's dance troop is here too. And Auto and Salmoneus. Which means that soon after I tell them my news, it'll spread all over Greece. And beyond.

***

I still don't know what to say.

***

Well, I just blurted it out. Everyone but the ladies believed me right away. Gabby decided I was lying and pummelled me with her staff as Xena held my friends back. Then Gabby stabbed me with her knife. Right in the heart and if she had been right about me lying, I'd be dead and she'd be a murderer.

That I just pulled the knife out and healed right before her eyes apparently means that I've betrayed her and Xena and all they stand for. She tried beating me with her staff again, but Jace and Auto stopped her. Now Herc is giving her and Xena the lecture to end all lectures, but I can see it's not doing any good. I can see they still see me as having betrayed them by becoming immortal.

Xena even said that my "accepting" the golden apple proves that I've betrayed their friendship for it means I'd rather be friends with the gods, "none of whom can be trusted."

I said that at least the gods have never physically hurt me, which is more than I can say of Gabby. And that at least the gods seem to think I can learn to be useful and seem to trust me enough to do important jobs, like look after Bliss.

And she said that proves "all gods are fools."

I just shook my head and told her that our friendship was over and that I'd try not to cross paths with her or Gabby ever again. I turned to go and everyone but Xena and Gabby moved to follow. I told them it wasn't necessary, that they shouldn't put their friendships with the women at risk over me and Xena and Gabby agreed. Told them not to waste themselves on the likes of me. But they all said they weren't wasting themselves because I had proven I'd always be a good friend and they all kept walking away from the women. I followed.

Once we were a fair distance away from the ladies, Ares appeared and mad it known I was "the immortal of war" and thus worked for him. The gang said that was fine with them, but then Herc and Iolaus spoke up. They said they'd prefer never to be put in a position where they'd have to fight me and Ares promised that he'd make sure they wouldn't have to. He told them any fights involving the house of war and the heroes would involve him, Strife or Discord and then shook on it. Then he asked Herc if he was up to "playing" today. After one or two "what do you means?" Herc tackled Ares, Ares threw him off and then the fight was on.

While they fought, Iolaus asked me what Ares had meant by calling it "playing", since it was obvious it was a no holds barred kind of fight. I told him it was only a no holds barred kind of fight on Herc's part. That just as Hercules was twice as strong as the strongest human, being half god and Zeus' son, that Ares was twice as strong as Hercules and had centuries more experience too, being a full god and Zeus' son. Iolaus agreed that made sense but asked me not to tell Herc about it, as then the hero would likely ask Ares, Discord and Strife to stop treating him with kid gloves and that'd lead to Herc being hurt. I promised not to say anything.

Salmoneus started taking bets and selling something he called popcorn. Jace cheered the fighters on and ogled both Ares and Herc. Auto came up to me and asked me if Ares was just my boss or something more. I told him just my boss and then he asked if I was willing to continue the thing we had going, of having a night or two or more of sex every time we met. Suddenly, Ares was in my face and telling Auto that I was his.

Auto said, "I know, but only in the he's working for you way. It's not as if you've claimed him as your lover or consort or husband or anything."

Which I suppose is how I ended up in front of Hera and Zeus, along with everyone who had gathered around to watch the fight.

***

Herc actually vouched for Ares!

And stood at his shoulder as a groomsman.

And managed to shock Zeus while doing so.

Everyone on Olympus showed up. Including Strife and Cupid, who still haven't married yet, but will come the summer solstice.

Jace was my bride's maid and practically cooed at the dress Aphrodite made for her. Auto grinned and high-fived Cupid when Ares wasn't looking. I'm going to have to thank them one day.

Salmoneus sold the gods wedding decorations and wedding gifts. Iolaus just grinned and mingled with the gods, blowing both Charon and Hades a kiss.

It was chaotic and wonderful. Everything I had hoped a wedding would be and nothing like I thought mine would be. And the kiss! The kiss melted my bones away, but it was worth it. Oh god, it was worth it. And I know from just that kiss that I will always worship at Ares' feet.


Part 3



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