AresJoxerCupidStrife - Xandria


Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Okay the story behind this is Hergerbabe {hiya HB!} put out a challenge some time ago now on the AJCS list for a fairytale story using Strife as the protagonist. and finally, after RL biting me in the butt, here it is, the first of three parts, to be posted over three nights hopeyou guys like.

Warning unbetaed except for the spellchecker.

Title: Mischief Sleeping
Author: Xandria
Rating: 15+
Fandom: Xena
Feedback: Yeah baby!
E-mail: xandria1969@yahoo.com
Pairing: Ares/Joxer, Cupid/Strife, Auto/Jett, Iolaus/Hercules, ‘Dite/Heph
Spoilers: None
Summary: A tale is told to a child - fairytales slash version!
Notes: A fairytale, very very loosely based on Sleeping Beauty, with bits and pieces taken from other folk and fairy tales as well. Dedication: To Hergerbabe, for Life Sucks but Love's great, to Scorpio for Husband, to Christine{&HB again} for Opposites Attract and One Step closer, to Corona for Making Connections and the authors of other great stories like Dancing up a Storm, Down in Hades, Rest and Restitution, Mortality Sucks, and also JB and Shamenka and Vo and Brandy and the RR guys at AJCS...you all inspired me with this. And to Beth, for being such a great feedbacker. :)
Archive: Yes. Let me know where though so I can go look
Website: http://members.tripod.co.uk/macgregor/index.html
Disclaimers: Other people own them all (Sob!) Renaissance Pictures and all that have them. I own nothing, except for a clarinet that needs to be repaired and a 25 year old car whose value is the same as the cost of repairing my clarinet. Which means my total assets come to nothing, nada, zero, zilch.


Part 1

So ya wanna hear a story? Okay then howsabout this? Long time ago in a land far away...well that's how ya start stories like this.

Fairytales. Folktales. That kinda thing.

Ya done now?

I can always go and ya don't havta hear this at all.

Right.

Thought so.

'Kay then. Long time ago in a land far away...well it's the beginning, of course I gotta start again!

Long time ago in a land far way...oh lookee, no intarruptions!

Yeah, sarcasm.

No, it works bettah if ya're older.

So, in this kingdom, a couple were happily married but were unhappy as well. They'd been tagethah fer years but had no kids.

Well, they were two guys, see. It's harder fer two guys ta have kids, ya know?!

Yeah, well, anyway, they were also tha rulers of that country. Tha King and his consort, another king, only technically ya could say they was also both queens as well.

Yeah, they can be both.

‘Cause I say so.

So anyway, these two kings, lets call 'em King Ares and King Joxer, were sad. But then one day, Ares' mother came to him with good news.

"What?!" Ares said and sat down suddenly. Hera looked at him in surprise.

"I thought you'd be happy." Ares laughed and grabbed his mother, swinging her around.

"I am, Mother, I am!" Laughing, they went to go tell his husband the good news.

And then King Joxer became pregnant with their child...

No, I'm not gonna tell ya how they did that!

'Cause ya're too young! Come back inna few years!

Bettah yet, ask ya Dad, or ya Granma inna few!

Uhuh, the chicken noise sounds silly coming from ya ya know. The only thing I'm gonna tell ya is the story, or ya could just go straight ta bed.

Yeah, I am a meanie. Thought so.

Anyway, a few months later Joxer had the kid and it was a boy! A really cute one with a shock a jet black hair and sapphire blue eyes that laughed, and a clear, pale skin.

Yeah it does sound a bit like me, huh. Well it's my story, so I guess he would.

Delighted, the two kings invited all tha people in tha land to come see their child. And ta bring them gifts fer tha baby too a course.

Well, no, not really all tha people, but tha important ones, and it sounds good when ya're telling a story ta say all tha people.

Oh alright then. They invited a lot of tha people in tha land, well, tha important ones and that, those with powers so no one would be upset.

Except one invite got kinda lost so one person did get upset anyways.

So tha big day dawned and they were all there, those that were invited, anyway. Even Ares' ex and her new boyfriend, and a course the son they had had tagethah. Well okay, the kids too, but the one who counts here was Cupid, the oldest.

Cupid was eight and looked inta tha cradle at the baby and smiled. Tha baby smiled back and he told everyone, though his mother tried ta calm him, saying it was gas as the baby was too young ta really smile...Cupe felt he knew bettah though.

Tha othah kids? Well, tha twins, Phobos and Deimos, were both six and had gotten into big trouble, again, so weren't actually at tha presentation. But Harmonia at tha age a five was good little girl and just as enchanted with the baby as Cupe was.

Yeah, King Ares did have quite a few kids with his ex, but it didn't really work out, they were kinda like, opposites, so they split. And Dite got Joxer tagethah with Ares later on so he wouldn't be lonely or nuthin.

So anyway, everybody's there, even Herc, Ares younger brother, and his boyfriend, Iolaus, who also happened ta be tha grandson of Dite's new boyfriend.

Well it's background info. Okay, back ta tha story.

Ares held up his son high in the air, Joxer by his side.

"This is Strife, my son!" he said, and everybody cheered.

Then tha time came fer tha guests ta give out tha presents.

First, as the highest ranking, even ovah King Ares, was his parents tha Emperor Zeus and Hera, his Empress, who was able ta help em with that baby earlier.

"Ares and Joxer, my present for your son is this...let it be known from henceforth that Strife, Prince of the Empire, shall be also known as the Earl of Mischief." Which is a good thing as it meant that any children would help him and he could play with them and that. And he got ta have fun, play jokes, that kind a thing.

Yeah. Like I do with you.

Next to speak was Ares twin sister, Eris, also known as the Duchess of Discord.

"Well Bro, it's good to see you happy again. I know the kid's a part of it so this is my gift...Strife will be able to use any weapon needed and have the grace to do so, with the ability to shed blood."

Yeah, well, having the Talent to use a weapon and being willing to do it are two different things.

Well, one person who springs ta mind is ya new Granddaddy.

Yeah, ya Granddad is very good at it, but ya Granddaddy isn't.

Because they love each other.

Yeah, like me an ya Daddy, too.

Well, Ares family could give special presents like that because they had magic.

So, it went on down tha line; tha family and important people giving baby Strife gifts, some magic, some not. Hercules for example gave Strife a rattle, while Artemis gave him tha skill ta hunt.

Then finally, tha last one was gonna give her gift. Dite came forward and was about ta speak when there was a big noise and then she came in.

Callisto.

She looked at everybody and laughed. Everybody shuddered 'cause in her laughter ya could hear madness and death.

"So. Big party. I guess the invite got lost, but don't worry, I have a gift, anyway. On his eighteenth birthday Strife shall prick his finger on this Hind's blood dagger and die!" Laughing, Callisto vanished in a gust of black smoke.

"No! Not my son! No!" Joxer grabbed his son up and held him, weeping. Strife, a course, picked up on his Dad's emotions an began at bawl his eyes out too. Ares came ovah and put his arms around tha two of them and they began ta calm down.

"I'm sorry, Ares." Zeus said. "All the gifts are given, we can't stop this."

"Exsqueeze me? They are so not all given. I haven't given mine, yet." Dite said as she came up ta tha two and smiled at them, then down at baby Strife as well.

"Ah Dite, you're good at magic and all, but your specialty's more the love side, isn't it?" Joxer said.

"Yeah, Joxie, but love can do a lot. I can't stop the curse, but I can slow it some. When Strife touches the dagger, it will make him go into a deep sleep instead. And he will be woken up by true love's kiss."

"True love's kiss?" Ares said, curling a lip. Dite hit him. "Yeah. Like you and Joxie have." She snarled, looking him in the eye. King Ares looked away as he didn't like ta admit ta emotions like that.

So anyway, Strife had all these blessings and a curse, but that was okay.

Now, someone suggested banishing all tha sharp objects from tha land, which was silly. Ares and Joxer brought in the best tutors possible, instead, and taught Strife how ta use all weapons, like swords, and bows and arrows, but especially daggers.

Joxer even persuaded Ares ta let his brother out of prison and Jett taught him everything he knew, which was a lot, as Jett was tha King of Assassins, so he knew his knives. And occasionally Jett's boyfriend, Autolycus would visit, and he was always welcome, though they had ta search him before he left as he was tha King a Thieves.

Yeah, that's why they searched him. He'd leave with more stuff than he came with.

Nah, he just took it.

Yeah, that's why he's tha King a thieves, 'cause they nevah caught him. But they searched his stuff, ‘cause they knew he couldn’t resist a little five fingered discount here and there.

So Auto taught Strife ta pick locks, ta break inta tha castle vaults and ta have a good time. Joxer's othah brother visited at times too, and he taught Strife how ta sew, ta flirt, and how ta court a woman. Or a man, since he seemed ta like both. See, Jace liked ta dress as woman and had a good idea a how they thought, but could explain it ta a youngster like Strife was.

So Strife grew up with tha abilities he'd been given, and he liked ta play jokes. But there was one thing. While tha parents had made sure that Strife was taught all about how ta use a dagger, they forgot one thing.

Two, really. Strife's curiosity and ta tell him not ta go near any sharp pointy object on his birthday.

Simple really, but there ya go.

So, we have an eager young man with a lot a curiosity and a healthy sense a mischief on his birthday. He knows his presents have been hid somewhere, so he gets up early ta look. And he comes ta a part of tha castle he's nevah seen before, which is strange cause he's been everywhere before, he thought.

Looking around, he sees a light so goes ta this door and pushes it open. And on a little table in tha middle a the room is this dagger.

Now I'm talkin bout a real work a art here. Well balanced, good grips and the blade...well, Strife had ta see fer himself what it was like. He liked the daggers best of all, see. So he picked the dagger up and ran it lightly across his fingah. Tha blade was so sharp it just cut right through and blood came up.

Strife smiled in delight. But then he began ta feel dizzy and put tha blade back down on tha table, leaning on it a little.

"Wow, hot in here all of a sudden." He muttered ta himself. And then there were hands moving him and he looked over ta this blond woman, she smiled at him and held him as he grew weaker. Tha last thing he saw was her laughing face, which seemed so much worse all of a sudden. Tha last thing he heard was her laughter and then he knew nuthin but darkness aftah that.

Hey is that tha time? Better go ta sleep now.

You’ll havta wait.

Yeah, I’m positive ya won’t die.

Sleep!

:After several minutes the narrator moves quietly to the door and jumps as strong, muscled arms go around him:

So what did ya think?

Yeah I think ya can hold out fer tha rest ‘til tomorrow as well.

Mmmmmmmm, no. Luv ya kisses but ya gotta wait.

Ta morrow.

Oh, I think I can distract ya.

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Damn, ya’re such a hottie!

@@@@@@@@@@@@

Part 2

So ya ready fer tha next bit?

Yeah, ya didn't die aftah all. Funny.

Okay then, here we go.

At tha same time, in other parts a tha castle his parents had everyone looking for Strife. Seems they'd just realised no one had evah told him ta be careful on tha day or ta tell him about tha curse, which if ya ask me they shoulda done long before.

And then they heard it. Laughter. Tha same mad laughter that combined death and madness. It grew louder, and then Callisto appeared once more.

"Too late! He found the dagger and took it in his hand...Strife is now mine! You have three weeks to find him, and if you don't I will keep him forever!" She disappeared again and Ares and Joxer held on ta each othah in dismay. And everyone else was pretty upset too.

Yeah there were a lot of people there. More than usual.

Well, it was Strife's birthday, so a lot had come there fer that. Including Cupid, and Ares' othah kids too.

I mention it cause he's kinda important ta tha story here.

Now, Cupid hadn't seen Strife fer a few years cause he was Ares oldest son and heir. And Ares was the oldest son of Zeus, tha Crown Prince. So Cupid had been travellin, goin ta all tha places in tha Empire and learnin all about leadership. They had it set up so when Zeus dies, Ares would become Emperor and Cupid become King. That way tha future rulers get practical experience before tha big job and get a chance ta learn from any mistakes.

So anyway, Cupid had been looking forward ta seeing Strife as he always had had a soft spot fer him...and was hoping fer maybe more now he was tha right age.

No, I'm not gonna tell ya what he was tha right age fer. Ask ya Dad or ya Granma...inna few years. But let me know first so I can go away somewhere.

Far far away. I hear Hades has a nice place on tha outskirts a tha solar system...

Ya know, tha planets.

Hasn't ya Aunt taught ya 'bout them yet? And she's supposed ta be tha smart one. Nevah mind, I'll tell ya later. And then me and ya Auntie are gonna have a talk 'bout what she's teaching ya!

So anyway Callisto had appeared and everyone was very upset. Until 'Dite spoke up.

"Okay people, it's a real bummer Strife got cursed and all but we are forgetting something here! All we have to do is to get Strife's true love to kiss him and he'll wake up!" She smiled at them but no one looked any happier.

"'Dite, Strife doesn't have a true love." Ares said with a sigh, one arm around Joxer and tha other holding tha bridge of his nose. Joxer said nothing at all, just looked at everyone with these large sad brown eyes. Dite frowned before speaking again.

"Yes he does."

"Well he hasn't met them yet."

"What? But he was supposed to have met them by now!"

"Maybe they don't know yet?" Cupid said, annoyed at tha idea of Strife's true love. He wanted ta be tha one, see. So he was also glad that Strife may not have met em, but hoping if he already had, then maybe he still had a chance.

"Cupie, you're right!" Dite exclaimed and kissed Cupid on tha cheek.

But first they had ta find Strife. See, Callisto, she hid him away. So they had ta find where he was ta break tha spell.

This took a while, but at least Ares and Joxer knew that while Strife was sleeping, even tha enchanted sleep, no harm could come ta him. So they made sure whoever went ta look fer him would be prepared.

Well, fer whatevah they might meet on tha way.

I dunno. Hydras maybe? Ya wanna hear tha rest a this or not?

Didn't we talk about this earlier?

Yeah I am mean. So mean in fact ya can just go ta bed now and...

So ya're sorry? No more intarruptions? Goody.

So they sent out a notice, fer people ta come and look fer Strife. A lot a people came ta do so. Including Cupid. Phobos and Deimos, still causing trouble, decided ta do so as well.

I think 'cause they wanted ta be in whatevah Cupe did, as they followed him around a lot and imitated him. Really upset him, too, as they were more like Ares while Cupe was more like 'Dite, so when they tried ta do tha same as him there was chaos. But that was their nature, so there ya go.

So a day later they were all gathered at tha castle, arguing about where ta start looking fer him. But then Jett and Auto, who were good at this sorta thing, asked if Callisto had left anything behind. No one had thought ta look, 'cause she had just appeared then disappeared by magic, but they went and looked.

Tha only thing she left behind was a coin. Everyone stared at it, trying ta figger it out. It was a gold coin, and was ya basic coin a tha realm. Until Auto, when he took a hold a it, realised tha head on tha one side wasn't Zeus, but someone else. Grabbing it, Ares looked at it and swore. Joxer took it out of his hands and looked at it, puzzled, bafore handing it ta Cupe. When Cupid took a hold a it, he swore too.

See, as both were being groomed fer tha Emperor's position, they were taught what tha older rulers looked like. Tha coin was one made when tha father of Zeus, Cronus, had ruled. Thing is, hardly any gold coins at all had been made then, and they had all been used fer one purpose only...ta put on tha eyes of tha dead.

Well, people do it ta pay Charon, tha ferryman.

Tradition. Two gold coins ta go ta tha othah side, ta be judged by Hades.

Nah, don't pay tha ferryman, don't even fix a price, ya don't pay tha ferryman, till he gets ya ta tha othah side.

So tha only coins like that were from tha dead...which meant Callisto had been ta Asphodel and Hades realm recently. Or had taken ta robbing graves.

Hoping it was tha first, tha questors set out ta go ta Hades. It would be a long journey, and take many days. Unless ya died, and then it felt as if ya got there too quick.

Yeah I do know all about that side a things. That's why I know about tha ferryman. Charon's a tricky guy. No good at dice though. He doesn't get out much either so his conversation's limited.

So, they had ta go through lotsa obstacles ta get there, too. Well first, there was a desert. They had ta trudge through tha sand, be careful a sandsharks, too.

Nah, they all went as a group. They wanted ta rescue Strife, and while they all wanted ta be his true love, they all liked him enough they wanted him back too.

'Cause with Strife gone, so was tha laughter. Tha little mischief's, tha joy of tha kids, tha play, little jokes, tha silly things ta make ya laugh...all gone. They had ta have Strife back.

So anyway, they were in tha middle of tha desert when they heard it. Sandsharks. Now, they knew they'd be in tha desert with tha creatures so they brought weapons ta fight them...and this folding platform thing that was made a metal they could all get on and hope fer tha best.

One of tha people there was Herc, Ares, younger brother, along with his boyfriend Iolaus. They were there just ta help tha othahs rescue Strife. Herc had fought sandsharks before, so knew what ta do. He gathered tha othahs in a group and they waited fer tha things ta get closer.

Nah, they travelled under tha sand, but ya could hear tha noise they made, so there was enough time to rig tha platform and then wait.

So they came up under tha sand and leaped up undah tha platform, but 'cause it was metal all they did was get a headache. Unfortunately it made em angry so they leaped again, this time ovah tha platform thingy, and grabbed a couple of tha people in tha group. Or tried to as Herc, who is very very strong, managed ta grab one and kinda swing it in tha way of tha othah.

Yeah, there were only two of them.

Yeah, Herc is very very strong.

Well, this is what happens, see, when Herc gets mad. He gets even strongah and 'cause one of tha sandsharks nearly got Iolaus, who's very very good at getting inta trouble, he was able ta easily bash the sandsharks inta each othah. And they kinda whimpered and took off then.

Well, see, big strong creatures like that aren't used ta being hit back. So when they got what was really only a little hit, like when a puppy's hit on tha nose, they couldn't deal.

No, there is no puppy.

No, I'm not gonna get ya a puppy either!

Oh, look, ask ya Dad!

Yeah, ya gonna have lots ta ask him. I can't wait ta see his face. From a distance.

So anyway, they got through the desert, and then they reached a lake. It was a big lake, so big, ya could hardly see tha othah side. And they had ta get across it ta get ta Hade's place. So they looked around and there was a boat, but only big enough ta carry half of tha guys, so they drew lots ta see who would go and who would stay.

Cupid, Deimos and Phobos were among tha winners, and so was Herc and his boyfriend. Some of tha losers were upset 'cause they weren't even in it ta win it, I mean save Strife, but Herc offered ta wrestle anyone who wanted ta take his place and they shut up aftah that.

Yeah and I think they were scared of being hurt. Well, like I said, Herc is very very strong.

Anyways they get in tha boat and they're halfway ovah tha lake, when it happens. This storm suddenly appears out a nowhere and starts moving the boat back and forth, up and down, side ta side, ovah and ovah, till the guys in tha boat feel as if they've been put through a spin cycle.

Managing ta grab control a bit, Cupid and Herc both move tha boat back a little. As soon as they're closer ta their side of tha lake, tha storm stops. Relaxing a bit, tha boat drifts back just ta the middle, and tha storm begins again.

"Magic..." Phobos breathed out as soon as they get back again. "How do we get over if it does this?"

"Oh man, make it stop. My stomach's still going up and down." Deimos moaned.

"Why don't we go back to the shore, I have an idea...if you two are willing to help me with your magic for this." Cupid said ta his brothahs. So they went back and he told his idea.

"Are you nuts?!" Hercules yelled. See, he had a funny idea 'bout magic, he felt it was wrong fer his family to use, taking advantage of othahs like that. He nevah thought they might not mind it, or that it was more often helping.

"No." Cupid said calmly.

"But you want them to do this, to deform you?!" Herc ranted. He rants a lot, doesn't even know what he's talking about most of tha time. Ignorance isn't bliss, in his case it's pigheadedness.

No, you aren't ignorant.

Yeah, ya know lots.

Hey, it's a saying, I had nuthin ta do with it!

'Kay then, so they were arguing.

"Herc, it's really a good idea." Tha boyfriend, I mean Iolaus, said. "Can you think of any other way to get the boat across? We don't have much time left, not enough to go around, anyway."

"Alright, but I don't like it!" Herc said and went ovah ta tha othah side of tha little beach they were on ta sulk.

Yeah, he does too sulk if he doesn't get his way.

Well tha expression on his face is either that or constipation, does it matter?

So any way, tha three brothahs sat and talked, then joined their hands in a circle and concentrated. Soon, this big green light began ta glow, covering them. Then, aftah a little, it died down, ta reveal tha three of them changed.

Cupid, Prince Royal of tha Empire of Olympus and Grand Duke of Love, had been changed inta a giant swan. Deimos, Marquis of Pain, inta a giant cormorant and Phobos, tha Count of Terror and Fear, inta a Giant heron.

Well, they changed inta them cause all three birds can swim if they hafta.

Then, tha rest of tha group got back inta the boat aftah tying these ropes around tha birdboys, er, brothahs and they flew, pulling tha boat across.

When they got ta the middle tha storm started up again but this time they were strong enough ta go past tha halfway point. What with tha guys in tha boat pulling on tha oars real hard and tha birds tugging along, they made real good time ovah ta the othah side.

So, then they were all tired but they had one thing more ta do before resting that night. So, tha brothahs started their spell again but when they were halfway done Callisto decided ta attack.

'Cause she's a bad guy and didn't want them ta rescue Strife. And bad guys cheat.

No, it's not nice, That's why they're tha bad guys, they lie, and cheat, and steal. And ya know what else? They don't share either.

Yeah, I think it's mean not ta share too.

So, she appears again, and everyone scatters. Except tha three brothahs, as they can't move yet, being in tha middle of tha spell an all. So, she goes ta hit them and then Herc manages ta grab her and stop her. And she disappears with a mad laugh. So he thinks it's alright now 'cause she's gone but then he turns around and stares in shock.

"Cupid!"

Tha last part of tha spell was almost done, but then they got distracted. So, All three are back ta human shape again except Cupid, he now has these big, snow white wings on his back.

Oh looky there, ya gotta go ta sleep now.

Well, ya havta wait, ya got a big day tomorrow. It's Sleeptime now.

No, there's still a little more ta go. One last part.

Yeah, and then they all live happily evah aftah.

Na uh. I'm not a meanie. I'd only be one if I didn't tell ya tha rest of tha story.

Ahuh. Sleep!

Kids!

Oh it's you. Mmmmmmmmm.

It didn't work last night, what makes ya think I'll tell ya tha rest tonight?

What ya gonna do with that feather?

Hey! Get away from me with that thing!

Oooof! Aggghhhhhh! he he he he! No! Ya gotta wait 'til tamorrow like tha kids!

he he he he he he he! Ooo, it hurts...

@@@@@@@@@@@@

Okay, so part three is larger than I thought, so it will be in two parts. And a warning, guys, Gabby bashing and this part has less Joxer/Ares in it.

Part 3

Ya ready fer tha last bit?

Ya're looking forward ta it?

Ya think I'm tha best? Not really, but it's nice ya think so.

So, ya comfy?

No last drinks a water or anything?

Oh, ya want me ta get on with the story? I can do that.

Okay then, so Callisto attacked and then tha spell had gone wrong so now Cupid had these big snowy white wings on his back.

Yeah, I like tha wings, too, but in tha story it was a bit of a surprise ta people.

"Oh no!"

And everyone is looking at him wide eyed, all upset like, and Cupid looks like he might cry when his brothahs start ta do it. See, they love him heaps and have this hero worship thing going, even though they're s'posed ta be tough guys.

But Iolaus, he just stares and tha look on his face is wonder, awe, delight.

"Can I touch them? They look so soft." He said and Cupid nods. And then Iolaus smiles, and it's like tha whole place lights up with it. And Cupid begins ta calm down a bit.

"I knew something like this would happen," Hercules said then, but quietly, 'cause he did care for his nephew a lot and didn't want ta hurt him. So then they had their dinner and went ta sleep.

'Cause if they wanted ta go on tha next day they had be strong. Can't do it without sleep or food, ya know.

Yeah, they even ate tha green stuff. It really does make ya strong and healthy.

Nah, it wasn't my idea ta make 'em taste yeucky! I think that was ya Great Grandma's, nah, come ta think of it, she loves kids. Probably ya Auntie, tha so called smart one who can't even teach kids right.

Yeah, we did have a big talk taday.

Ya heard us? We did get pretty loud, hey.

Yeah, seems she wasn't gonna bother ta teach ya some stuff...

Nah, don't let anyone get away with thinking ya ain't a smart kid! This was some misguided revenge thing tha bi...big nasty aunt had fer yer Granddaddy .

I dunno what he did this time. But I managed ta tell her she tries ta use tha kids ta get back at him she wouldn't only havta worry 'bout him, but ya Dad, me, ya Grandma and even ya Great Grandpa and Great Grandma.

Yeah, she's not too smart ta pi...get us all upset.

Ooo, mushy! Hey, I love ya too...so, wanna hear tha rest of tha story?

So, next day, they finally get ta the entryway ta Hades. All they had ta do next was ta some how get a cross anothah lake, but this one was from a mountain that had exploded and was a lava one.

Yeah, very very hot. Hotter even than ya Pop's forge. And ya know how hot he needs ta get it fer making things.

There was no way ta get around this one. Not in tha time they had left. Tha only ways was up. But tha brothah's couldn't do tha spell again, so soon. And Cupid could only carry one person. So, he went on alone, ta tha end.

Flying ovah tha lake of fire, he nearly went too high. See, the heat caused these updrafts and made him go up and up and up. He had ta use his wings ta keep low enough. Finally, aftah a long time, he made it.

"I would never have been able to carry anyone with me. How am I going to get Strife over?"

Deciding to worry about that later, Cupid took a deep breath and sat down to rest for a few. Reaching into his belt pouch, he took out a canteen of water and had a long drink. Aftah a while, he sighed, stretched, then entered inta Hades place.

Now Hades wasn't too bad a dude really. But he didn't like it when people came ovah without an invite. So he had this dog, Cerberus, he got, ta guard tha place. And when Cerberus realises there's an invader he starts barking like mad, before going out ta get whoevah it is.

So this big smelly dog with three heads comes running up ta Cupid and...

I don't know why Cerberus had three heads, he just did. Maybe it was easier fer him ta smell out intruders. But can ya say halitosis? Talk about ya doggy breath. Three times ovah.

He comes running up ta Cupid and knocks him ovah, barking like anything. Then, he starts ta lick him ta death. See, Cupid had visited Hades on his travels, so Cerberus remembered him. And the big fuss Cupid had made of him. And the doggy treats.

So there Cupid was, patting Cerberus, scratching him and tha like, when Hades appeared. Sighing when he saw who it was, he invited in him fer a cup of tea.

Well, he's Lord of tha Dead, not many willingly go there. It gets lonely. And Cupid and he had enjoyed his stay there. Cupid had even fixed him up with this girl, Persephone. Great girl, pity about tha mother-in-law, though.

"So why are you here, Cupid?"

"Callisto took Strife and we think he's here somewhere."

"Her again? When are you guys going to take care of her once and for all?"

"Don't ask me, I don't know why Granddad didn't do it either. Only reason I can think of is she was one of his...which he wouldn't admit to since he and Granma have finally made up and she thinks she knows about all of them."

"That would fit. It's possible Callisto is hiding Strife here somewhere. My realm is large and I can't always keep track of everything. However, I can narrow it down for you. He's not in Asphodel, Elysium or Tartarus...Persephone finally got her mother to visit so we went through them all to make sure it was all as it should be."

"Why would Demeter want to see Tartarus?"

"Oh no, that was me. I did it and imagined I could send her there if she got too...too..."

"Like a Mother in law?"

"Well she acts like she's from Tartarus originally...So that only leaves one part Strife could be hidden away...Hel."

"Hel? What's that?"

"It's a new part that has appeared in recent years...to do with that group of people led by that fanatic woman, you know, the great unwashed? Gobby or Giblet something. That half naked woman prancing about thinking she's it and a bit not realising people are stepping back from the BO not in awe at her presence. She's always raving on about Peace and Love but if you don't follow her Way you'll end up in Hel after having your nose twisted off and being bashed to death by this little stick she carries around. Ask your Stepdad sometime about her."

"So what's Hel like?"

"That's it, I don't know. It could be anything. I haven't had a chance to look, your Dad's been busy defending the Empire so I've had to see to all those extra dead plus the usual, and as you know I have only been married a year or so. My free time, what I've had, has been spent with her." Hades glared at his great nephew. Cupe smiled at him and held his hands up in peace.

"Hey Hades, I know you work hard. I just thought I could prepare if I knew. Okay, so Strife might be in this part but you have no idea what it's like? And Callisto is probably waiting...oh well, life isn't boring anyway!" Cupe sighed then and took a sip of his tea.

"So what exactly happened anyway?"

"Well, as you know, it was Strife's birthday..." And Cupe told Hades tha whole thing. And, knowing what Strife was like as he had visited once or twice, he couldn't believe no one had told him about tha curse.

"All that training, and no one said the most obvious thing?"

"I know. I guess it was so obvious no one thought of it. So then Callisto appeared saying we had three weeks to find Strife or he would be hers forever. She left behind a coin with Cronus's head on it and thought this would be the best place to look."

"Seems like it but how are you going to break the spell?"

"Well, Mom said True Love's kiss would wake him up. I've been waiting for Strife to grow up so we could, well, I know I love him that much. I can only hope he feels the same."

So Cupid told Hades all about tha feelings he had fer Strife, and how he had asked ta go way on tha tour 'cause he wanted ta wait 'til Strife was of age. He was twenty but Strife at twelve was way too young fer that and every time he looked at him he loved him more and more and knew he had ta go before he did something he'd regret.

What Cupe and Hades didn't know, was that Callisto was in Hel, and that was where she was holding Strife. And that she had used her magic ta see how far tha searchers had got. She found them halfway round tha lake of fire and realised Cupe was missing so looked fer him.

When she saw him having tea with Hades she screamed in rage and was about ta go attack them when she heard what they were talking about.

"Love?! HAH! I loved Xena and look where that got me! True Love's kiss?! He can't kiss Strife if he cant' reach him!"

Laughing with tears running down her face...

Well she's bonkers, completely loony tunes, ya know? So she could laugh and cry at tha same time.

So, laughing with tears running down her face Callisto went to where she had laid Strife down.

He was on his back, arms crossed across his chest, looking as if he'd wake any moment. He was in his new birthday outfit, a pair of raw black silk pants and a navy blue silk shirt, open at tha chest. And cradled gently in his hands, was tha Hinds Blood dagger.

Looking down at him, a strange look passed ovah Callisto's face and she bent down ta kiss tha sleeping prince. He stirred and it almost seemed as if he might wake up. And Callisto's face almost looked kind as hope began to dawn...until Strife just seemed to fall into an even deeper sleep.

Screaming in a fury she began tha spell that was meant ta keep Cupid out. Tha bed Strife was on suddenly rose up as tha ground under it was lifted. Made of glass, it would be impossible ta climb, or get through, as it rose up in a dome of diamond like hardness ta surround tha Prince.

Then round that big glass dome she waved her hands and these thick bushes grew, with thorns that dripped with poison. A little bat flew over them and one of the branches that waved around shot up and impaled it.

Laughing, she waved her hands again and it looked as if Strife was in tha bed, sleeping, without tha trap around him. Finished, she then went to spy on her biggest obsession, the woman who had left her years ago.

In tha meantime, Cupid had been taken ta tha part of Hades where Hel started.

"Like I said, I don't know what's in there. You have my protection, but I don't even know if it works in there. So I'm lending you Cerberus. He can sniff out any danger and when you come back you two can tell me what it's like."

"Thanks Uncle Hades. Uhh, you do realise Cerberus, smart dog that he is, can't talk?"

"Of course he can't talk! But he can show his thoughts in pictures...that way I know what it is when he comes across something or someone and I can prepare accordingly." Cupid looked over at the Helldog that could project his thoughts. He was currently laying on the ground watching his master adoringly, laughing at Cupid and biting at a flea.

Well, yeah, Cerberus has three heads, remember? So he could too do all three tha same time.

So Cupe goes inta tha part of Hades realm that was new ta him and Hades both.

Looking around, he could see lots a similarities ta Tartarus, only this was worse as there all these replicas of tha Gabby woman running around, each smelling as bad, in charge of tha torture.

Nah, they weren't being whipped, or made ta push boulders up a hill, or drown in salt water while desperately thirsty...this was worse. They were made ta listen while she told them about the Way, had ta hear her stories, and all about her adventures with her girlfriend. On and on and on in unending agony ta those poor souls.

Which is kinda why Callisto decided ta use it fer her hiding place, see, as the Gabby woman was tha one ta steal her girlfriend in tha first place. Stupid interfering busybody. Xena and Callisto were ideal fer each other, two psychopaths, each keeping tha othah contained, one of tha Emperor Zeus' bettah ideas. Any, tha Gabby woman sees Xena and gets tha hots fer her. So goes and steals a love spell from 'Dite.

Yeah, so tha whole mess was all her fault. And then, aftah Xena hooked up with tha Gabby woman, Callisto goes ballistic and throws tha curse on Strife. So that's when they discover what has happened and go ta get tha Gabby woman and stop her. But she has little magic of her own and whisks her and Xena away ta a neighboring country fer a few years. And she discovers tha so called Way in tha meantime.

Yeah, Gabby has nevah been known fer her humanitarianism.

So while Cupe is staring at all this one of tha Gabby's comes up at him and starts ta speak at him.

Aftah a minute of this he's ready ta scream and a whimper breaks out.

Yeah, he's very brave, but not many can face up ta one of Gabby's 'lectures and not suffer. Tha best at that would be ya new Granddaddy, but I think that's 'cause a tha brain damage.

Yeah, he's a great babysitter. Nah, he's not that hurt now. Soon as he found out what was happening ya Granddaddy grabbed ya cousin ta get him sorted.

Well, ya cousin's good at helping sick people and stuff.

He learnt off his own Dad, and he's gotten pretty good at it. And, as soon as ya new Granddaddy saw Gabby aftah being cured of tha brain damage he ran a mile.

His own dad hurt him when he was a kid. That's why tha unique armour and song and stuff too.

Hey, I liked him that way, heaps, but I like him lots now, too. And ya Granddaddy's really happy too, 'cause they're tagethah now and nothing tha bi...big meanie can do or say can stop him. Especially aftah he realised just how bad she'd been ta him ovah tha years. She's supposed ta be preaching a Way of Peace, and abuses one of her 'friends' on a regular basis.

Let me tell ya something, you let me know if a friend of yours begins ta act like that ta you. 'Cause I'll show 'em all about what friendship is supposed ta be like. And so will ya dad, and tha rest of tha family.

Yeah, just like we did with her.

Yeah, I guess it's not fair on tha othah toads but she was stubborn. Once her girlfriend realised what was really going on she let it alone.

Well, she's been trying ta atone fer things, but with her they were getting done still, only she couldn't see it. Love, they say, is blind.

Nah, I don't mean ya Daddy or ya Grandma...Sheesh! It's anothah of those sayings.

C'mon, let me finish tha story will ya!?

***********

Right.

Ya done?

Sure?

Right then. So Cupe had let out this little sound, like a moan as the Gabby went on and on and on.

But then Cerberus decided ta get in on tha act. See, he didn't like tha smell of tha Gabby woman, and it was nuthin ta do with tha BO 'cause dogs like ta roll around in stuff that smells pretty bad and there was lots of it in Hades fer him ta use.

See, dogs can tell if there's something off 'bout a person, and Cerberus was especially good at it. So he had a sniff of her and growled, howled and snapped at her.

Three heads, 'member?

And she stopped and got this nervous look.

"Hey, animals like that shouldn't be allowed to run around loose...they could hurt someone!" And tha Gabby began ta screech as Cerberus began ta move tawards her.

But this stopped all tha othah Gabby's in Hel and they screeched too an began ta move tawards Cupe and Cerberus.

"I don't think so!" Cupe said and pulled this powder stuff outa his belt pouch and shook it out. Blowing on it, he said a few words and tha stuff billowed up in this big pink cloud that spread out everywhere, all ovah Hel.

It even reached Strife and he smiled in his sleep and said Cupe's name before settling down again.

When it reached tha poor souls stolen from Hades they all disappeared, back ta Hades fer him ta deal with properly. And tha Gabbys? They shrieked in pain and fled, as it burned them.

Nah, not poison. It was Love. See, that was tha kinda spell Cupe was real good at, and could do anytime. And the souls went as all they wanted was ta be in their rightful place, whether Elysium or Tartarus. The Gabby's, having no idea of love or compassion in them couldn't stand it. They ended up fleeing back ta tha original, and entering her, so she was possessed, like, only not really 'cause it was herself.

But this also broke tha spell she had on Xena who took one look at her, covered her nose and shuddered.

"What have I done? Oh Callisto, can you ever forgive me?" She muttered to herself as she left tha Gabby, ignoring her shrieks.

Callisto, forgetting all about Strife, stared at the image of Xena and went aftah her.

Nah, this isn't a story bout her.

I'm not gonna talk anymore 'bout them, I swear.

Yeah, she's tha bad guy, but sometimes bad guys become that way 'cause of things that happen ta them. Callisto was one.

Anyway, tha good thing about her fergetting tha spell is that while it was still strong, it could be broken now.

Yeah, that's why. So Cupe not only freed all tha souls but also freed Xena and Callisto. And gave himself a better chance ta rescue Strife.

Hey, I'm getting ta it! All these intarruptions don't exactly help, do they?

Right. So Cupe had just chased off all the Gabbys and Hel was left empty. And he had a good look around, so he could tell Hades all about it later. And ta look fer Strife.

And finally, he'd looked everywhere but the far left corner behind these three big stalactites.

Stalactites are these things in caves tha hang from tha ceiling.

Nah, those are stalagmites. They stick up from tha ground.

Yeah, well, they were there 'cause all of Hades is underground, and some of it was like these big caves. Some seemed like a different world, too, it depended which part ya happened ta be in at tha time. Hel, was a big cave, and it was hot, as tha volcano was close ta that part of Hades.

Hey, you asked, didn't ya?!

Okay, okay, on with tha story! Pushy pushy!

Well of course I do! Just 'cause ya annoy me a little every now and then...

Nah, when ya love someone, it's unconditional! Look at me and ya Dad! Or Your Granddaddy and his new hubby!

Look, she does love ya, who wouldn't ya know?! It's just, she...uh, she had so much love she had ta share it around, is all! That's why she broke up with ya Dad, so she could love others too. It don't stop her loving you too!

Nah, don't worry about it. Her not being around doesn't mean she loves ya any less. She's ya Mom, ya know?! And I know about different mother love...

Well, my Mom loved me so much she gave me ta Unc ta take care of, 'cause she knew she couldn't do it right! That's probably what she did too!

Aww, I hate it when ya get upset.

Come here.

Of course I like hugs! Ya know I do!

Okay, why don't we snuggle up in tha bed tagethah then fer tha rest of it?

Nah, ya Daddy won't mind. He knows...hello there handsome.

We're not feeling happy so we wanted hugs.

Of course ya can! All three of us can cuddle while I tell that rest. Or do ya want ta just do this and I'll give ya tha rest later?

Okay.

So Cupe went behind these three Stalactites and saw him.

Strife was laying there in top of this bed with a red silk cover, and tha black pants and blue top stood out against it, along with his pale skin. Cupe thought he nevah looked lovelier. He'd grown into a lovely young man, and tha surroundings just enhanced all that, ya know?

Ya okay?

Nah, ignore him, ya Daddy's okay, he just had a tickle in his throat, is all. Of course, if it gets worse he can sleep with you tonight, 'cause he told me once you always make him feel better.

See, tha coughing stopped already.

Ya, okay.

So Cupe saw him just lying there and he moved forward ta kiss him but Cerberus, growling, stopped him.

Well, lots of image tricks don't work on animals, they rely more on tha othah senses, like smell and hearing. And Cerberus was trained especially in that kind of thing, as people often tried ta get inta Hades using a spell ta try and sneak away tha dead.

"Cerberus? He's just lying there. I can save him. Or, if I'm not the one, at least move his body in reach of whoever it is" Cupe said ta tha dog. He just growled and took a hold of his hand in one a his mouths, gently.

And tha next second, these pictures went inta Cupe's head.

Thorns. Big, big thorns. Surrounding this big raised glass thingy in tha middle of which he could just see what he thought might be Strife's body on tha bed.

He stared down at tha dog and patted him with his free hand.

"Wow. I'm glad you stopped me, I don't like the look of those things." Cerberus let go and Cupid decided ta just fly to the top and see if he could break in, but tha dog grabbed him again and pulled him ta tha side. Another image entered his head, one of him throwing something just over tha thorns, and then tha dog let go.

Shrugging, Cupid sighed. "This better not be you wanting to play." Cerberus shot him a look of disgust and snorted. Cupid picked up a little stone and threw it.

As fast as the stone flew, the thorns were faster. Several shot up and grabbed for it, so hard it flew into several pieces.

"Oh man!" Cupe said then. "Damn you are one smart dog, Cerberus! Anything else I should look out for?" Cerberus snorted again and sat down, scratching behind an ear.

Staring at tha thorns fer a while, he decided what ta do. Love was his special thing, so he pulled out anothah little bag from his belt pouch. Tha little powder in this one was green and he mixed it in with his water bottle before flying up above tha thorns, but out of reach.

Shaking tha bottle up, he said a few words before opening tha cap. Tha contents sprayed out in a stream that spread out all ovah tha plants, until they were saturated with it. Shouting a word tha liquid glowed gold an tha plants thrashed about fer a few minutes, until Cupe shouted anothah one and all tha movement stopped.

And then tha plants changed, into roses. Red roses, yellow ones, white, lavender, pink, blue, black, gold and silver. All tha colours roses were and all tha colours they weren't. Tha cavern was filled with tha scent of them and Cerberus sneezed, all three heads, and looked reproachfully at Cupe.

"Sorry Cerberus. Boy am I glad for the Summer I spent with Granny Gaiea now! Roses are very close to love, you know! But if I'd known you were allergic I would have tried for another flower."

Smiling, Cupid flew up ovah tha rose bushes, which waved, but that did nothing more than make poor Cerberus sneeze even more and tha poor dog whined. Reaching tha covering, he tapped it ta see how hard it could be.

It was very hard, like a diamond, and all he did was hurt his fingah.

Frowning, Cupe brought out tha sword his Dad had given him and tapped it with tha hilt. All that did was make a chime like sound that grew louder and louder as it echoed and reverberated 'til Cupe had ta put his hands ovah his ears in defense. Cerberus howled in protest, and Cupe flew down ta sit and think.

He didn't have much time left now as it was already tha middle of tha twenty first day since Strife's birthday. He only had a few hours left ta break in and hopefully save Strife - if he was tha one meant ta kiss him with True Love and break tha spell that is.

Aftah a few minutes he stood up and pulled tha bow he had on his back and strung an arrow ta it, then shot at tha dome. It hit it with a bell like sound and then bounced off ta go flying around tha cavern, coming off each surface and going back again. Cupe dived and Cerberus had ta run out of tha way several times before it stopped.

"Okay so that idea sucked." Cupe muttered ta himself. Sitting down, he tried ta think of anothah way ta get in. With a wary look at Cupe, Cerberus settled down close by, one head on his paws, one tilted on the side and tha othah one just panting with his tongue hanging out.

Aftah quite a while Cupe realised he couldn't think of anything ta do it. He'd left it too late ta get back ta Hades and he doubted even his uncle could get through anyway. He flew up and looked at Strife through tha glass again. Putting both hands onta it he pressed down and leant closer ta stare at him.

"Strife. I've waited, so long, and, oh, this just sucks!" Flying up higher he went and sat on top of the dome to try and think some more. It was some time later that Cupe realised he couldn't see because of tha tears. Angrily wiping them away he shook his hands and tha moisture scattered everywhere, including tha dome.

"Bad enough I can't think of anything, now I have to cry! I hate crying! But, Strife's too young for this! He has his whole life ahead and now it's just gone!" Where the tears had fallen tha dome began ta glow, but Cupe didn't notice, too busy telling himself off fer being weak enough ta cry. And then, all of a sudden, he fell, only just spreading his wings out enough a stop himself hurting Strife by landing on the Sleeping Prince.

"What, how, oh wow!" He finally had look at Strife aftah four years away. At tha age of twelve Cupe knew he'd be a good looking man, but ta see tha reality was something else. Strife was...beautiful. A pale skin that glowed like pale moonlight, hair black as the night, and Cupe remembered his eyes glowed like blue sapphires, like the ocean, like tha...

Ya okay? Want a glass of water?

Hey, it's my story, what's wrong with tha way I describe them?

It is not over tha top! Have ya heard ya son complaining?! No?!

Right.

Not sure I want ta say anymore now.

Nah, not being mean, I'm hurt.

I'll tell ya tha rest as soon as ya Daddy apologises.

Not good enough. Tha kids were enjoying it, I was, so what's tha mattere?!

Excuse me? The kids. Ya son and ya daughter? Tha one I have inside me when ya fitted me up?

She can too hear it, Grandma said so. She should know.

Ahuh. I'll carry on, then, but only fer tha kids.

Besides, ya daughter kicks if she doesn't get her way.

Okay, so Cupe stared at Strife an it was like, wow, ya know?!

And he put his hand out and on ta his cheek, and tha sleeping prince turned his head slightly, nestling inta it. Smiling, Cupe got onta tha bed beside him then leant down ovah him. Frowning, he picked up tha Hinds Blood dagger and put it carefully ta tha side, out of tha way.

Bending forward, he kissed him. With a sigh, Strife moved tawards him and opened his mouth. Cupe's eyes widened and he moved back slightly. Strife put his arms around his neck and pulled, hard, 'til Cupe was laying flat against him. Then, Strife kissed Cupe.

He opened his eyes ta look up at him and smiled.

"Now that's a birthday present!" Cupe smiled back and they began ta celebrate.

Nah, the party was little later. This was more private.

Yeah, they had a real good time.

Well, ya could say they played some games too?

What are you laughing at?

I'm still not too happy with you!

Huh. So, Cupe took Strife in his arms and carried him down ta the floor of tha cave before they made their way back out ta Hades. Aftah some more tea, and an explanation of what happened, they made it ta tha front door ta meet tha rest of tha party.

Soon aftah, they were back at tha kingdom ruled by King Ares and King Joxer. And both were delighted ta see their child again.

And then they all lived happily evah aftah.

Yeah, that's it.

Ya want more? Okay.

Cupe and Strife got married, 'cause they were True Lovers. And even though Cupe had been married before that was an arranged one ta give him an heir and ended when they had a son, Bliss. And with Hera's help, Strife soon got pregnant with a child, which made their joy complete. And he had a daughter, Recess, who was dubbed tha Grand Duchess of Fun and Games by tha Emperor Zeus.

Jett and Auto got hitched, too, and so did Herc and Iolaus in a double wedding before the four went off tagethah on a honeymoon ta tha same place. Joxer got pregnant again and spent both weddings either being sick or yelling at his husband, Ares, who looked tired, but happy. He loves being a Dad, heaps.

Phobos and Deimos both met some nice girls at tha wedding and ended up dating them fer a while. Deimos got engaged, but Phobos broke up and is still looking fer tha one.

'Dite and Heph finally got married and Harmonia still lives with them and probably will 'til she's ninety unless King Ares stops being such an over protective Dad ta his only daughter.

So, life went on, but they were basically happy.

And they all loved each othah for evah aftah.

Did ya like tha story?

Cerberus? Oh, he got tha biggest bone Cupe could find.

Yeah, almost. Ya Daddy did come ta Hades ta get me.

Yeah, the baby inside me is gonna be called Recess.

Don't ya want a little sister?

Girls can too be fun!

Cmon, ya can go bother 'Pol or something when she's old enough...

Thought ya'd like that idea.

C'mon, go ta sleep.

:Several minutes pass:

I am not encouraging him. Sunny Britches can be very annoying and it would be poetic justice fer our kids ta...Mmmmmph!

Well, I can't argue with that!

Ooooo, hey! Wait a minute! Not here!

I don't care if he is asleep, let's go ta our room!

That's better, we can...Mmmmph!

Ahuh, I love ya too.



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