AresJoxerCupidStrife - Kerensa


Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12 Part 13 Part 14 Part 15 Part 16 Part 17 Part 18 Part 19 Part 20 Part 21 Part 22 Part 23 Part 24 Part 25 Part 26 Part 27 Part 28 Part 29 Part 30 Part 31 Part 32 Part 33 Part 34 Part 35 Part 36 Part 37 Part 38 Part 39 Part 40

Overheard Conversations: Missing Scenes by Kerensa.


Fic: Overheard Conversations 1/?


Author: Kerensa


Email: vkevans@yahoo.com Feedback please. Feedback or death (well, maybe that’s going a little too far)


Rating: R, so far


Fandom: Xena/Hercules, brief mention of food from Harry Potter series


Pairing: Ares/Joxer, Cupid/Strife


Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, I’m just borrowing them for a little fun. The same with the Harry Potter stories. I have no money, no property, I even have to borrow the food I eat, so please don’t sue me.


Warning: m/m; MPREG; talk of nonconsensual sex; talk of underage molestation rape, and abuse; angst


Summary: Joxer and Strife are both pregnant and end up talking. Their husbands, Ares and Cupid overhear their conversation and find out a lot more about their husband’s, especially Strife’s past, than they ever imagined.


Status: WIP


Series: Children At Play


Archive: Yes to AJCS; anywhere else, sure just tell me first


Website: Nope, sorry I wouldn’t know how to set one up.


Notes: I want to thank my mother for some of the ideas in this story. She thought up the bad guy’s name and some ways to hurt poor Strife. Later in the series I will mention something, briefly, from the I LOVE LUCY show; bonus points if you can find it. Beta’d by me and Spellcheck.


Overheard Conversations


By Kerensa


Part 1


“Strife!” Joxer looked up in surprise as his nephew-in-law and fellow god flashed into the temple.


“Joxah.” Strife looked like he had been smacked upside the head. He was swaying and looked even paler than usual, if that were humanly…er…godly possible. He immediately clamped one hand tightly over his mouth, desperately trying not to throw up and one hand on his slightly protruding belly. The God of Mischief was only four months pregnant but he was already showing.


“Sit down quick, before you fall down.” Joxer suggested to his friend. Strife created a chair and cautiously sat down.


“I tell yah one of tha things I miss tha most about bein pregnant is not bein able ta just plop down. Ya gotta sit real easy or tha baby protests.”


Joxer just nodded. He could commiserate, after all he was seven months pregnant himself. Seven and a half he amended to himself.


^^^^^^


On the far side of the temple, unseen by the pair of young gods two bright flashes of light appeared. One of the lights was red and had sparks that went shooting off in every direction, the other one was blue and it had little arrows that came zipping out from it. The two other gods flashed into the temple in a bad temper.


Cupid looked over at his father, Ares looked back at his son and they both grimaced. The two gods shared a common foe, namely young, pregnant husbands who wouldn’t listen to common sense and do like their smarter, wiser husbands have told them to.


Before either of them could make a move there was a flash of pretty sparkly rose light with falling hearts. Aphrodite appeared in front of them in almost as bad a temper. “Hold it right there Cupie, you too Ares. Look, listen and maybe you will learn a thing or two.” Dite looked them up and down appraisingly. Obviously not too impressed with what she saw Aphrodite curled her lip sardonically. “Maybe.”


“I’m going to turn time back for one minute and we’re going to watch Joxie and Strifey. They won’t be able to see or hear us, but be quiet anyway, ‘cause I don’t want to miss anything.” Aphrodite snarled at them.


The dirty look that accompanied this statement caused both gods to use their brains and shut up. Neither one of them wanted to piss off the Goddess of Love. They both liked having sex more than once a century, thank you very much. Aphrodite glared at them again and noted how they weren’t moving. Satisfied Dite nodded, her long blond curls bouncing attractively. (Naturally. She’s the Goddess of Love.) With a snap of her fingers and a twirl of her hand a barrier went up around the trio and time started up again.


^^^^^^


Joxer was lying on a long cushioned chair (a couch to you and me) reading a scroll and laughing quietly to himself. His soft cotton shirt and loose pants did nothing to conceal how pregnant he was. Instead of looking ungainly or awkward, Joxer’s pregnancy made him seem more graceful and beautiful. Joxer’s slender, pale feet sticking out of the dark brown pants was so endearing and it made him look even more innocent than usual.


Strife flashed in unexpectedly, looking pale and miserable. His light from his flash was subdued, without any of the usual extras he liked to include. Like hopping frogs or locusts. Strife’s black leather tunic and pants only accentuated how wan he looked.


Cupid was surprised at his husband’s haggard appearance. He tried to go to his shaky young husband but was prevented by the barrier his mother had put up. Before he could do more than the token, “Mom,” protest, Strife create a chair and sat down.


Joxer scrambled around until he was able to get off the low couch. As he was getting up he grabbed a golden bowl out from under his couch and quickly handed it to Strife. Poor Strife was sitting on the edge of the chair, hunched over holding his mouth. “Breathe deep. Come on take nice deep breaths,” Joxer instructed.


“That has got ta be the lamest advice anyone evah gave.” Strife clutched the bowl desperately. “What lame-brain nitwit thought that crap up anyway.” Strife groused as he obediently took several deep breaths.


Joxer grinned sympathetically. “Obviously somebody who’s never actually been sick.”


“Yeah. Usually when I take ah deep breath I smell somethin that makes me want ta heave more than evah.” Strife closed his eyes and concentrated on not seeing his lunch again. Once was more than enough, thank you very much.


“What can I do anything to help? Do you want something to drink? Oh wait, sorry, I can’t get you anything.”


“What.” Strife looked up in surprise. “How come?”


“*Ares*.” Joxer growled. Now Joxer’s growl wasn’t as loud or threatening as the other god’s (more of a puppy-like growl), but it was a sound that was seldom heard. That made it even more startling. Nice, sweet Joxer *never* growled.


^^^^^^


Ares winced at hearing his name spoken so sternly by his normally soft-spoken, loving husband.


^^^^^^


Frowning, Strife looked at his friend. “What, Unc has somethin against ya givin out drinks?”


Joxer stood there pouting, his hands on his waist. Well, at least where his waist used to be. “No, your *Uncle*, in his mighty, all-knowing, infinite wisdom, has decided I’m too stupid to come in out of the rain. So he has put a protection spell around this room. While it’s up I can’t use *any* of my powers. ‘For my own good.’” Joxer’s face scrunched up cutely.


^^^^^^


Joxer’s statement caused Aphrodite to turn and give a shamefaced Ares her dirtiest look. It was a look that just screamed that something vital was going to fall off in the near future. Ares turned, subtly shifting his privates out of the line of fire. He tired to ignore Aphrodite as he watched his husband and nephew-in-law.


Cupid just looked at his father in admiration. “Damn, I wish I’d have thought of that Pop. Strife’s been havin’ kind of a hard time with this pregnancy and he’s supposed to be at home resting, but is he.” Cupid flapped his snow-white wings energetically several times in exasperation. “Nooooo, instead he’s flashing all over Olympus making himself sick. I just don’t know what I’m going to do with tha…mmph.”


Dite stopped Cupid in mid-rant by slapping her hand, none too gently, over his mouth. The dirty look he received didn’t promise anything falling off, but it did predict several long and frustratingly celibate evenings in his future. Aphrodite smiled a sweet, loving smile and Cupid shivered in fear. “Cupie honey, didn’t I tell you to SHUT UP and LISTEN!” Cupid’s eyes got very big and he just nodded his head at his mother and shut up. At last.


^^^^^^


“What did ya do ta make Unc restrain ya.” At this Strife giggled gently, nothing at all like his usual maniacal giggle. (You know which one I mean, the one that makes murderers run crying for their mommy’s.)


Joxer’s normally pale face flushed a delicate rose color at the innuendo. “Restrain ya powers that is.”


“I went to a tavern in Thrace.” Joxer cleared his throat. “One located in the sailor’s quarters.” Strife’s eyebrows shot up at that and Joxer frowned. “It was perfectly safe.” Joxer sat back down, slowly and pouted indignantly. “I am a god you know. I mean, as the God of Peace, I’m supposed to spread peace. I had to stop that tavern fight, innocent people could have been hurt.” Joxer stopped, assuring himself that he didn’t sound defensive. No sir, he had no reason to be defensive. None what so ever. Nope. None…uhm.


Strife just watched Joxer’s rant. He patiently waited until his friend settled back down. “So,” Strife drawled, “ya went into a rowdy tavern. Ta stop a fight. While ya’r seven months pregnant.”


“Seven and a half,” Joxer corrected automatically. “And yes I did. There was nothing wrong with my going down there. Just because I’m pregnant doesn’t mean I have to stop working.” Realizing this wasn’t getting him anywhere Joxer sat up straight, pulled his shoulders back and continued to rationalize, I mean, explain. “I was talking with Eris the other day and she told me that when she was pregnant with you she still managed to keep up with *all* of her godly duties.” Joxer finished his speech with an emphatic snap of his head and a ‘there, take that’ attitude.


“Um huh,” Strife said noncommittally.


After a long (dare I say it) pregnant pause, Strife looked thoughtfully at his scowling friend. “So…ya took advice from Ma, huh. Maybe ya should be locked up.” Strife smiled at Joxer to show that he wasn’t serious. Joxer smiled back at his friend. “Jerk.” Joxer threw a small pillow at Strife.


“Thanks I needed that,” Strife said catching the pillow. He giggled and started to hand it back when Joxer waved and told him “keep it”.


“Don’tcha need it Joxah. Oh, never mind.” Strife giggled again when he saw the pile of pillows on Joxer’s couch, around it, under it. Seeing that it wasn’t needed he tucked the pillow behind his back in obvious relief.


Returning to the conversation, Joxer said, “I would have been just fine, you know.” Joxer ran a hand over his light brown hair. It had gotten ruffled when he jumped, err, got up earlier. “Hello, I’m a God now. It’s not like I’m a mortal anymore, even if I am still a klutz. I would never do anything to hurt our baby.” The last sentence was spoken quietly while Joxer looked at the medium-sized lump he was rubbing.


“Well of course ya wouldn’t evah endangah tha baby.” Strife watched Joxer who looked so sad. Nodding decisively, Strife started snickering and Joxer looked up from his brooding.


“What’s funny?” Joxer wasn’t mad, he was just curious. He knew Strife would never make fun of him. They had both been ridiculed enough in their lives to ever intentionally hurt each other.


“I just got this pictcha in my mind of Unc…pregnant. Can’tcha just see it. There Unc would be standin in tha middle of a battlefield. He’s out ta here preggers, wearin’ a long black leathah tunic. In one hand he’s wavin a sword in tha othah hand he’s got a glass of milk. And he’s yellin’ ‘Don’t piss me off, I’ve got hormones workin heah.’”


Strife stopped laughing and sat quietly, watching Joxer expectantly. As anticipated, he didn’t have long to wait. Joxer frowned as he leaned back on the couch and absently continued to stroke his stomach. After a little while the frown cleared and Joxer looked up at a gently smiling Strife.


“Do ya get it now?” Strife looked at his friend steadily. “Not a very comfortin pictcha is it?”


“You…are a tricky god.”


“Thank ya.”


“Umh huh. No I don’t like that picture…not at all. All right I think I get it now. I understand more of where Ares is coming from. I’ll try to behave.”


“Good, ‘cause the world needs more haves.” Strife piped up cheekily.


Joxer snorted and rolled his eyes as he got the joke. “Speaking of behaving, aren’t you supposed to be resting at home? Cupid will probably have a fit.” Joxer look around, mildly surprised that the winged god hadn’t already come running to collect his wayward spouse.


Strife nodded sagely. “Yes, I’m supposed ta be restin’ and oh yeah, Cupie’s gonna blow big time.” Strife made a noise like a blast as he threw his hands out, mimicking the fallout from an explosion.


Joxer smiled as he watched these antics. Strife was always so entertaining. “So then what are you doing here?”


“I have absolutely no idea.”


“Oh…what?” Confusion obviously reigned supreme here.


“No really, I ain’t kiddin ya. I don’t know how I got heah. I have no idea what happened. One minute I was standin in tha bedroom trying ta put on some different shoes and thinkin to mahself, ‘I’d like ta go see Joxah today.’ Tha next thing I know, whoosh, I’m here with you.”


“What?!” Joxer quickly sat back up. “Are you telling me that you didn’t flash here deliberately?”


“Nope.”


Strife’s abrupt answer was a good indication of how worried he was. If something could be said in one word, Strife babblingly took 5. The more worried he was the wordier his sentences became. Unless he was really scared and then he became virtually monosyllabic.


“Crap. That’s not good.” Joxer frowned at his fellow pale god.


“Nope.”


“You could end up anywhere. I don’t know about you but there are a lot of places I really wouldn’t want to flash to all of the sudden…” Joxer stopped talking abruptly and put his hand over his mouth in horror. “Oh gods, I’m sorry. I didn’t think, that just popped out.”


“It’s okay Joxah,” Strife said quietly.


^^^^^^


On the other side of the temple there were now three thoroughly confused and upset gods.


Ares had gone from being really happy to extremely anxious in the space of about 2 seconds. He was thrilled when Joxer finally understood why he was so upset about Joxer going down to earth. On the other hand he now had to worry about the unexpected turn the conversation had taken. What was going on with his nephew?


Cupid was naturally worried (All right he was scared youknowwhatless.) about Strife flashing around without planning it. To top it all off, it now looked like there was some big dark secret that he and Joxer shared. Cupid didn’t like that one bit. His husband should be confiding in him, not a friend. Even if that friend were someone as nice as Joxer.


Aphrodite was beginning to have serious doubts about her plan. It sounded like Joxie and Strifey had a big secret they were keeping. She didn’t want it to hurt any of the people she loved when it came out.











Fic: Overheard Conversations 2/?


Author: Kerensa


Email: vkevans@yahoo.com Feedback please. Feedback or death (well, maybe that’s going a little too far)


Rating: R, so far


Fandom: Xena/Hercules, brief mention of food from Harry Potter series


Pairing: Ares/Joxer, Cupid/Strife


Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, I’m just borrowing them for a little fun. The same with the Harry Potter stories. I have no money, no property, I even have to borrow the food I eat, so please don’t sue me.


Warning: m/m; MPREG; talk of nonconsensual sex; talk of underage molestation rape, and abuse; angst


Summary: Joxer and Strife are both pregnant and end up talking. Their husbands, Ares and Cupid overhear their conversation and find out a lot more about their husband’s, especially Strife’s past, than they ever imagined.


Status: WIP


Series: Children At Play


Archive: Yes to AJCS; anywhere else, sure just tell me first


Website: Nope, sorry I wouldn’t know how to set one up.


Notes: I want to thank my mother for some of the ideas in this story. She thought up the bad guy’s name and some ways to hurt poor Strife. Later in the series I will mention something, briefly, from the I LOVE LUCY show; bonus points if you can find it. Beta’d by me and Spellcheck.


Extra Note: I want to again thank my mother. Some of the food Joxer eats is similar to what she ate when she was preggers with me.


Part 2


“I’m sorry if I upset you.” Joxer’s voice was tremulous. Strife started to reassure his friend, but didn’t get the chance. Joxer started crying and couldn’t seem to stop. Strife hurried over and sat down beside his friend. Strife magicked up a handkerchief and gave it to a grateful Joxer. Strife ran his hand soothingly up and down Joxer’s arm. “You know what I hate most about being pregnant?” Strife shook his head no. “I hate the HORMONES.” Joxer went from crying to yelling in less time than it takes to tell it.


Strife watched wide-eyed as Joxer jumped up. (Yes certainly he jumped, he was a pregnant, hormonal god and if he thought he had jumped then he had jumped.) Joxer started pacing. “Sometimes I get so mad I could just scream,” Joxer yelled. “Most of the time I start bawling like a baby.” Joxer gritted his teeth. “Then there are these moments when I just want to…to pull something’s head off. Man, woman, goat, I don’t care which.” By now Joxer was waving his hands around and striding up and down in front of his couch.


“Are ya sure you went down ta that tavern ta *stop* tha fight.” Strife’s quiet joke was a good distraction and stopped Joxer cold. He just looked at Strife who was wearing such a serious face. Then Joxer began laughing. The storm over, Joxer sat back down, cautiously and smiled at his friend in appreciation.


“See I told you that hormones suck. Lucky you, you haven’t had to deal with them yet. You or Cupid.” Joxer snickered evilly.


Strife got up and moved back over to his couch so that Joxer could lay back down. He smiled at his friend in an attempt to lighten the conversation. “So where is Unc anyway?”


“Thessaly.” Strife’s mouth fell open and his eyes almost popped out of his head. Strife looked around at the empty hall. Joxer winced at the horrified look on Strife’s face.


“Wait a minute.” Strife leaned forward, grunting and rubbing the side of his stomach as he did. Joxer frowned at this and was about to comment when Strife went on. “Da ya mean to tell me Unc restricted ya powahs an then left ya here, alone. Alone and helpless.” Strife’s voice got louder and louder until the last word was almost a shriek.


“I think he forgot.” Joxer muttered quietly as he watched his friend get mad on his behalf.


“Damn, don’t he know there are people out there who will take advantage of that kinda situation. People who look for somebody alone and vulnerable, so they can hurt em.” Strife stopped ranting and slumped back in the chair, panting. As soon as he got his breath back Strife continued. “No, I guess he don’t. Lucky bastard.” The last sentence was spoken without venom and oh-so quietly, but everyone heard it anyway.


“Strife, who in their right mind would come into the temple of the God of War and hurt that somewhat volatile (*somewhat*-Teehee) god’s husband. His very pregnant husband. Nobody’s *that* crazy. I don’t think I was ever in any real danger.”


Strife looked at his innocent friend sadly. “I know ya don’t.” Unfortunately Strife knew better. Quietly he said, “Joxah there are a lot of people who ain’t in their right minds.”


“Yeah, I guess that’s true.” Joxer agreed with Strife thinking of his own brothers. Both gods looked upset.


^^^^^^


Across the room the older gods were upset too. Ares couldn’t believe he had forgotten and left Joxer all alone and what the hell did Strife mean that there were people who would take advantage? Who were these people and how exactly did Strife know about them.


The three older gods were trying to figure out this confusing new information. Preoccupied, they missed it when Strife zinged the subject off in a totally new direction.


^^^^^^


“…beer to drink. I haven’t had one in a long time.” Joxer said longingly.


“Oooo…I like tha sound ah that.” Licking his lips in anticipation, Strife started waving his hands around. With a tiny flash of light two mugs, filled with frothy yellow liquid appeared. One appeared in Strife’s hand and the other one landed in Joxer’s. With relish both gods began to drink.


^^^^^^


“Beer,” Ares roared. Cupid was upset too, he just didn’t yell as loud.


Aphrodite had finally had enough of the two Neanderthals standing next to her. For pity’s sake were these two ever going to learn anything. She reached out two exquisitely manicured hands and popped both of the men on the back of the head. When she had their attention she said, “Do you two idiots really think they would do anything to hurt their precious babies?”


Dite’s growl was one that was worthy of Ares himself. It had Ares, being the macho War God he was…cowering in fear behind his winged son. “Hold still Cupid,” he told his unhappy shield, “she won’t blast her own son.” Both men waited, seeing if Ares’ hypothesis would hold true. Aphrodite rolled her eyes. “Idiots.” She turned back to observe the two pregnant gods.


^^^^^^


Strife watched as Joxer gulped down his second mugfull of *butter beer*. “Sooo, when did ya run outta somthin ta drink?” With a flick of his finger, liquid bubbled back into the mug, refilling it.


“Noon.” Joxer barely paused in his drinking to answer Strife.


“Ya hungry too?” He shook his head sadly at Joxer’s swift nod.


^^^^^^


Aphrodite was thoroughly disgusted. Joxie was starving! She reached over and hit Ares again. Several times. On his arm this time.


Ares was starting to become bruised from all of this abuse. He didn’t even notice. His husband had been thirsty and hungry all day. And vulnerable? Ares watched as his nephew flashed up some sandwiches that his young husband ravenously attacked.


Ares had forgotten about the protection spell he had cast. This morning had been hectic. Ares had received some bad news about a war he was trying to start. He was more distracted than usual lately, because he was having to do Strife’s job as well as his own. Quite frankly he wasn’t nearly as good at causing trouble as his young nephew was.


Wait a minute! Why hadn’t his priests helped Joxer? Ares was surprised when Strife seemed to read his mind.


^^^^^^


“Joxah, what about tha temple priests. How come they didn’t get ya somethin ta eat and drink?”


Joxer paused in the middle of eating to answer. “I don’t think they could get in. I heard the door rattle a couple of times and I yelled for them to come in, but they never did.” Strife sighed and shook his head in amazement. Oh well, nothing bad had happened, thank goodness, so he decided to talk about something innocuous for a while.


“You know, I’ve always wondered, if root beer is made with roots, is butter beer made with butter?” Joxer wiped the mustard off of his chin. Ahhh…there was nothing like a good peanut butter and mustard sandwich to hit the spot. He was soooo glad that Strife had brought back peanut butter from the future. Now if he just had some sauerkraut to put on it…


“Considerin where it came from, I wouldn’t be ah bit surprised.” Strife watched as Joxer finish his second sandwich and third drink. Strife felt his stomach roll and closed his eyes at the sight. It wasn’t the food, gods know he had eaten worse. No, the problem was that he still suffered from morning sickness…and afternoon sickness, evening...


Unconsciously Strife found himself taking several long, deep breaths. It helped settle his tummy. For now anyway.


“Ya still hungry?” At Joxer’s sheepish nod Strife grinned, his pale blue eyes sparkling mischievously. (How else would the God of Mischief’s eyes look.) “Good, cause now it’s time for the most important food for a young god ta eat, specially when he’s preggers.”


“Ambrosia?” Everybody grimaced at the thought.


“Yuck no. No, the *real* food of the gods.”


“Chocolate,” they chorused together. With that Strife waved his fingers and several small boxes appeared in mid-air. They dropped to land on a low table that Strife had made appear in between the two god’s couches.


“Ooooo…chocolate frogs. I love them, although they are kind of hard to eat.”


“They ain’t too bad once ya get tha hang of it. Ya just hafta be real quick and catch em before they jump away.”


^^^^^^


At this, the shamelessly eavesdropping gods looked at each other in horror. “Did Strifey and Joxie say they were going to eat frogs?” Aphrodite asked, wrinkling up her nose, naturally in a pretty, sexy sort of way. “Eewww…that is like just major grotty. I’ve never heard of anybody, pregnant or not, eating something that weird.”


^^^^^^


Looking a little green, the three older gods turned back in time to see Strife pounce. He caught Joxer’s chocolate frog, just as it was about to hop away. Strife handed the somewhat squished frog back to Joxer.


Joxer noted the pained wince and tummy rub that followed these exertions. “Thanks.” Frown. “Now spill it.”


Strife pretended not to understand what Joxer was talking about. He tried to ignore his friend and attempted to change the subject, again. “Take a look at how much mah feet are swellin. Bafore long I won’t be able ta get any shoes on at all.” At this Strife slipped off the loose shoes he was wearing and Joxer could indeed see how much his feet were swelling.


“Why don’t you make yourself a stool.” Joxer paused. “To put your feet up on.” He interjected before Strife could come up with the ‘Why would I want to make myself a stool for’ joke.


Strife stuck his tongue out at Joxer in retaliation for making him miss out on a good joke. “I would, but puttin mah feet up like that just makes mah back hurt even more.”


“Then why don’t you make your chair longer. Extend it out into a couch, like mine is.”


“Well, duh.” Strife smacked himself lightly on the forehead. Not enough to hurt or mess up his spiky hairstyle. “Why didn’t I think ah that.” Strife sent out a sparkle of energy. The chair stretched out and widened like a piece of candy being pulled. Strife then put his feet up in apparent relief.


“Now, as I said before you tried to change the subject, spill it. What’s going on? You are barely four months pregnant. That is wayyyy too soon for your back to be hurting and your feet swelling. I was about six months along before my back really started bothering me and it’s only now that I have any real trouble with my feet swelling.”


Strife started to shake his head, but before he could try to deny anything, Joxer overrode him. “And another thing. Why are you in pain? Don’t even bother trying to deny it, I’ve seen you holding your stomach.”


Strife became very interested in the nap on the back of his couch. He shrugged one shoulder negligently. “It’s no big deal. I’ve already talked with Asclepius and he says this is natural.”


“Natural?” The disbelief in Joxer’s voice spoke volumes.


“Fah me anyway.”


At Joxer’s astonished look, Strife went on, “Ace says I’m gonna have a lot more trouble with this pregnancy than most otha gods would.”


“Why?”


“Old…it’s cause of some old injuries.”


“Oh.” This sad response was all Joxer could say.


^^^^^^


Ares and Aphrodite were listening to Strife’s revelations in surprise.


Cupid was just stunned. What in Hades was Strife talking about? What other problems was Strife having and why hadn’t he been told?


What old injuries!?











Fic: Overheard Conversations 3/?


Author: Kerensa


Email: vkevans@yahoo.com Feedback please. Feedback or death (well, maybe that’s going a little too far)


Rating: R, so far


Fandom: Xena/Hercules, brief mention of food from Harry Potter series


Pairing: Ares/Joxer, Cupid/Strife


Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, I’m just borrowing them for a little fun. The same with the Harry Potter stories. I have no money, no property, I even have to borrow the food I eat, so please don’t sue me.


Warning: m/m; MPREG; talk of nonconsensual sex; talk of underage molestation rape, and abuse; angst


Summary: Joxer and Strife are both pregnant and end up talking. Their husbands, Ares and Cupid overhear their conversation and find out a lot more about their husband’s, especially Strife’s past, than they ever imagined.


Status: WIP


Series: Children At Play


Archive: Yes to AJCS; anywhere else, sure just tell me first


Website: Nope, sorry I wouldn’t know how to set one up.


Notes: I want to thank my mother for some of the ideas in this story. She thought up the bad guy’s name and some ways to hurt poor Strife. Later in the series I will mention something, briefly, from the I LOVE LUCY show; bonus points if you can find it. Beta’d by me and Spellcheck.


Part 3


“How…old are these injuries?” Joxer asked Strife carefully.


“Oh you know, some real old, some not so old and some…fairly…recent.” Strife’s attempt at nonchalance was ruined by this hesitant speech.


“How recent?”


“Pretty recent.” Strife muttered this under his breath, but again everyone in the room heard him.


“Oh Strife,” Joxer had tears in his eyes as he looked at his pale friend. “Why haven’t you ever told anyone, other than me.” Strife started tugging and pulling the threads out of the back of the couch. Joxer plowed on, determined to reach his goal no matter how hard it was, for him and for Strife. “When you say recent, how…recent do you mean?”


“Ah couple of…months.” Strife pulled on a piece of thread until it snapped off in his hand. He just stared at it a few seconds and then threw it onto the floor. Strife immediately began attacking another thread.


Joxer had closed his eyes in horror at Strife’s admission. “This has gone on long enough,” he said decisively. “You’ve got to tell someone about this, right now.” Joxer scowled. “You can’t go on like this anymore.” Joxer paused and stared at his upset friend. “I can’t believe no one ever noticed and that, in all these years, you have never told anybody.” Joxer wasn’t being judgmental. He was being supportive and he was going to continue to support Strife until he got the help he so desperately needed.


“Who would I have told?” Strife wouldn’t look up at his friend. His attack on the defenseless couch becoming more determined.


“How about Ares. Or your mom. What about Aphrodite…Cupid.”


“Nobody woulda believed me. I’m the ‘useless God of Mischief’ and he’s…well he’s perfect.” Strife shrugged his shoulder and with that one gesture dismissed himself as unimportant.


^^^^^^


“Useless! Why in Tartarus does Strife think he’s useless! Who told him that?” Ares was in full rant, pacing back and forth in front of the barrier. He was running his fingers through his curly ebony locks. The leather of his outfit made a faint creaking sound as he stomped around raging. “No matter what this big secret is, I would have believed him. Strife always tells me the truth.”


Aphrodite quietly broke in. “Who’s perfect?”


^^^^^^


Off in one of his numerous temples, Apollo heard the question and naturally assumed it was about him. With a flourish and a great deal of pomp he appeared in Ares’ temple. There were multicolored sparkles and dazzling lights. (Much like that you would see in your average carnival side show.) It was very impressive if Apollo did say so himself and of course he did, often.


Not one person, god, whatever, noticed.


^^^^^^


“Now as fah telling people. Unc…”


“Raised you?”


“…as an obligation.” By now Strife had made quite a place in the upholstery. He slid down a little and began digging at another section. “Ah could stay here with him as long as I did what I was told and didn’t cause any trouble.”


^^^^^^


Ares stopped in mid-stride and just stood there. He felt like he had been kicked in the chest by one of his beloved war horses. Strife was like a son to him. He loved him as much as he loved Cupid.


^^^^^^


Eris, the Goddess of Discord and Strife’s *loving mother*, was in ?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Thrace trying to cause problems between two neighboring warlords. The men had, amazingly enough, always got along and Eris hated contentment. It grated on her nerves, so she had decided to stir things up.


Eris had a godly connection with her brother and so she felt it when Ares got upset. In anticipation she happily flashed back to the temple. She soooo loved to see her brother blow things and people, up.


She arrived behind the barrier in surprise and was just in time for her own unhappy dose of reality.


^^^^^^


“My mom hates me. She always has…and always will. As soon as she could arrange it she dumped me on Unc.” Strife looked sad at this admission. Little bits of stuffing were falling from Strife’s fingers. He stopped and absently wiped his hand on the cushion.


^^^^^^


Eris was disconcerted. She had thought Strife was okay with their relationship or lack thereof. She stayed away from him and he avoided her. She didn’t know why she was so bad at the mothering thing, she just was. Eris had been happy with this arrangement and had thought Strife was too.


Eris’ wandering and admittedly not-too-stable mind forgot about everything except her son and the drama playing out in front of her.


The warlords in Thrace lived happily ever after. (Not skipping through the woods, holding hands happy. No, more like not ripping each other’s throats out happy.)


^^^^^^


“What about Aphrodite?” Joxer looked sad over his friend’s low opinion of himself. Of course, he couldn’t talk, nobody ever wanted him before Ares and Ares just wanted to control him.


^^^^^^


Ares heard what his young husband was thinking. He didn’t want to control Joxer, he was desperately afraid of losing him. Him and the baby. Before Joxer came into his life, his existence had been bleak and empty. Desolate. Ares knew in his heart that if something were to happen to Joxer he would go insane. Ares was appalled to realize that he had not done enough to show Joxer how important he was in his life.


He realized that confining Joxer to the temple like a wayward two-year-old hadn’t helped matters any.


^^^^^^


Hephaestus was in his forge working and he could feel the anxiety pouring off of his wife. Dite was normally so calm, so he knew something major was happening. He flashed in behind her and put his muscular arms around her waist. Aphrodite felt her husband enter the room. When he came up behind her, Dite leaned back for some much needed comfort.


There were tears in her eyes as she listened to her son-in-law list all of the people who *wouldn’t* have helped him.


^^^^^^


“Dite’s real nice, but she don’t know I exist.”


“As fah Cupid,” Strife paused and looked sideways at Joxer. Making a decision he asked, “Joxah, how long have ya and Unc been married?”


Joxer frowned at the unexpected question. “About a year and a half.” Strife cocked his head to one side and arched his eyebrows. He kept looking at his friend. Joxer blushed prettily and said, “All right, all right. We’ve been married one year, eight months, three weeks and five days.”


“Ya don’t need to tell me how many hours.” Joxer blushed a bright rose color and it was obvious to everyone watching that he could indeed name the hours as well.


“And how pregnant are ya?”


“Seven and a half months.” Joxer didn’t understand the question. Strife knew exactly how far along he was.


“I’ve been married 2 months and nine days.” Strife paused and then smiled. “And 14 hours, if ya want ta know.” Again Strife hesitated. “I’m four months pregnant.” Strife spoke quietly as he smoothed down the black leather tunic he was wearing. It was similar to his normal suit, with safety pins and all, but just not nearly as tight.


With that last statement everything became clear to Joxer. “You don’t think Cupid would have married you if you hadn’t become pregnant.”


“Joxah, we’d had been seein each otha for ovah 2 years. There had nevah been any talk about marriage before I became preggers.” Strife swallowed hard and looked miserable. “No, he wouldn’ta married me othawise.”


^^^^^^





Cupid just gaped at his husband in a very unattractive manner.


“He doesn’t believe I wanted to marry him!,” Cupid sputtered.


Aphrodite looked at her upset son. This was one of the main reasons she had made Cupid listen in on Strife’s personal conversation. She’d hated invading Strife and Joxer’s privacy like that, but it had been necessary. Ares had to understand how badly he was treating Joxie. Cupid needed to know about Strifey’s insecurities.


Dite realized that she too had some things to learn about her son-in-law. It saddened her that Strife thought she didn’t notice him, he was one of her favorite relatives.


Cupid turned to his mother, gesturing imploringly. “Mom, please drop the barrier. I need to talk to Strife.”


“What? Oh honey, of course. I had forgotten all about it.” Aphrodite raised her hand to drop the barrier, but before she could there was another bright flash of light.


When their eyes cleared the older gods saw that three women had appeared in the temple, directly in front of them. The Maiden, the Mother and the Crone.


The Fates.


Oh crap.


“We cannot let you do that yet,” they intoned all at once. Creepily. “There is more you *need* to see and hear.”











Fic: Overheard Conversations 4/?


Author: Kerensa


Email: vkevans@yahoo.com Feedback please. Feedback or death (well, maybe that’s going a little too far)


Rating: R, so far


Fandom: Xena/Hercules, brief mention of food from Harry Potter series


Pairing: Ares/Joxer, Cupid/Strife


Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, I’m just borrowing them for a little fun. The same with the Harry Potter stories. I have no money, no property, I even have to borrow the food I eat, so please don’t sue me.


Warning: m/m; MPREG; talk of nonconsensual sex; talk of underage molestation rape, and abuse; angst


Summary: Joxer and Strife are both pregnant and end up talking. Their husbands, Ares and Cupid overhear their conversation and find out a lot more about their husband’s, especially Strife’s past, than they ever imagined.


Status: WIP


Series: Children At Play


Archive: Yes to AJCS; anywhere else, sure just tell me first


Website: Nope, sorry I wouldn’t know how to set one up.


Notes: I want to thank my mother for some of the ideas in this story. She thought up the bad guy’s name and some ways to hurt poor Strife. Later in the series I will mention something, briefly, from the I LOVE LUCY show; bonus points if you can find it. Beta’d by me and Spellcheck.


Part 4


It was a good thing that Ares and Joxer’s temple was so large because by now there was an augmented audience watching the two unsuspecting gods.


Some of the gods, like Hera, felt the energy surge when The Fates intervened and wanted to see what was going on. So immediately after The Fates arrived so did Hera.


Zeus began to wonder what his wife was up to so he followed Hera to Ares’ temple.


Some of the gods felt Ares, Cupid and Aphrodite’s sadness and came running to help and in a few cases to gloat.


Before long the rumors were flying faster than Hermes could spread them. The gods and goddesses who didn’t come to Ares’ temple summoned scrying mirrors instead and watched events unfolding.


The two main participants in this drama remained serenely unaware of all this scrutiny and kept drinking butter beer.


^^^^^^


“Ya do know that most people think I tricked Cupid inta marryin me.” Strife’s matter-of-fact statement was distressing.


Joxer was shocked speechless and then he recovered. “How exactly do you *trick* someone into marriage.”


“By gettin pregnant on purpose.”


“Who thinks you did that?”


“Just about everybody.” Strife tried to smooth the torn place on the back of his couch. “I didn’t ya know.” This was said quietly, like Strife didn’t think his friend would believe him.


In astonishment Joxer huffed out, “Well of course you didn’t. Why in Hades name would you want to be married, *for eternity*, to someone who didn’t love you.”


Joxer sat fuming while Strife was mauling the couch again. “They really think you got pregnant just to get Cupid to marry you.” Strife nodded mutely. “Boy some people are idiots.”


“Joxah, most of em think I tricked him inta sleepin with me in tha first place.”


“How ridiculous. For that to be true you would have to be an outrageous liar.” Seriously he turned to his friend. “Do you make it a habit of going around tricking the other gods?”


“No, I try not ta lie ta anybody and I only do mischief to tha mortals.”


“Exactly.” Joxer nodded emphatically. “You are one of the most honest people I know. The idea of you tricking Cupid is just plain ludicrous.” Joxer crossed his arms over his stomach, well chest really, having made his point. “Besides why would you need to trick Cupid at all.”


Strife looked incredulously at Joxer. “Joxah look at me. I ain’t exactly good lookin heah. Even I don’t know how I ended up with Cupid.”


^^^^^^


There was a lot of shifting and shuffling of feet as various deities listened to what Strife said. More than one of them had said these cruel words about Strife. A few had even said them to his face. They could see how upset Cupid was and now realized how brainless they had been.


It was around this time that somebody decided to bring Xena and Gabrielle up to the temple. Misery loves company they resolved and they wanted the two women to be miserable as well


^^^^^^


Strife leaned his head back against the cushion and closed his eyes with a drawn out sigh. “Are you all right?” Joxer looked at his friend worriedly. Strife looked utterly exhausted.


“Yeah, I’m okay. Just a little tired is all.” Seeing the grim look Joxer was giving him Strife relented. “Okay, okay. I’m really, really tired.”


“Umm…transporting can be demanding all right.” Joxer remembered the last time he had gone anywhere and how drained he had been afterwards. Actually, it had been when he had gone down to that tavern fight. By the time he had fallen into bed that night he had been so worn-out he hadn’t even been able to flash his clothes away. Ares had done it for him…even after the argument they had just had. Maybe going down there hadn’t been a good idea after all.


Strife sighed quietly, unaware of the epiphany his friend had just had. “Yeah. Dite was over at tha temple last night, talkin about flashin heah ta fix this couple and flashin there ta set up that orgy. I tell ya, by tha time she was through talkin I was exhausted. Just thinkin about doin that much travelin makes me want ta take a nap.”


^^^^^^


Strife looked at his friend who was frowning. Strife slapped his legs resolutely. “Okay…let’s stop being maudlin. Are ya ready for more candy?”


“Sure.” Joxer let Strife divert the conversation, yet again. He realized that his friend needed to let the pain out a little bit at a time or it would overwhelm him. “What else have you got? I think I’m all frogged out.”


“Frogged out.” Strife snickered at Joxer’s joke and then began giggling. “At least they’re not Canary Creams.”


“Oh boy. No I definitely don’t want Canary Creams. I really don’t want to start molting.” Joxer snorted at that image.


Strife struggled for a minute with that picture. He could just see the spell turning Joxer turning into a large yellow canary. He giggled harder. In his mind Strife could see a big, feathery, yellow Joxer and the look that Ares would have on his face. Strife laughed harder, but before long he was hunched over, holding his ribs and flinching in pain. This killed any humor that Joxer saw in the situation.


Before Joxer could comment Strife held up a box and quickly flipped it around like a magician playing a card trick. “Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans! Oh goodie, I love those.” Wide-eyed, Joxer held out his hands and made a gimme gesture.


Both gods opened their boxes, poured some of the candy out into their hands and…just stared at it. Joxer poked experimentally at his candy. Finally Strife picked up a piece, shrugged and popped it into his mouth. Joxer watched him carefully.


“Mmmm, lime.”


Joxer looked back down at his candy and bravely ate a piece. Gathering his courage for another onslaught, Joxer snuck a glance at Strife. “What sort of injuries?”


Strife realized that Joxer wasn’t going to be put off this time. He mangled his box a while before deciding how to answer. “It’s like a broken arm.”


“What!” Joxer couldn’t figure out the euphemism. “A broken arm. I don’t understand what you mean.”


“Ya know, if yah break yahr arm it’s nevah the same, right.” At Joxer’s nod Strife continued. “Well if yahr kinda young the first time yah arm is broke and maybe yah don’t know how ta fix it, it gets sorta messed up. And then if the arm keeps getting broke, well it’s just gonna get worse every time. Eventually it’ll just…stay broke.”


^^^^^^


Around Olympus and in Ares’ temple, the various gods and goddesses wondered what he was talking about. Had Strife been beaten so badly that he was permanently injured? When did that happen? And precisely what kind of injuries would make it tough for him to carry his baby?!


As a whole, the Pantheon was upset and scared. They didn’t know how to react to someone who got hurt and stayed that way. Hephaestus, with his scars and injuries were far enough in the past that people didn’t know how to relate them to Strife.


There were even a few gods that thought Strife was actually talking about a broken arm and didn’t get what the fuss was all about. They were ignored because anyone that dense just didn’t deserve an answer.


^^^^^^


“But I thought if a god…broke his arm…he could just fix it and it would be as good as new.”


“Yeah, that’s true, usually. Course there are some exceptions ta tha rule. If tha arm is broken by anotha god it takes longah ta heal.” Strife swallowed hard and looked away. “If yeah are wearin…Hephestian metal it’s even worse cause that makes it like yah’re mortal when yahr hurt. And if tha arm ain’t allowed ta be healed right, well it takes an act of god ta heal it.” Strife snorted. “Actually it takes tha act of nine gods.”


“Nine?”


“Yeah, it takes a quorum of the *Big Twelve* getting tagetha ta heal somethin permanent like that. And we both know how likely it is that tha majority of that group would evah agree on anything…especially me.”


^^^^^^


By now the entire *Big Twelve* was standing behind the barrier. They looked at one another speculatively. (Except for Ares, Aphrodite and Hephaestus, because they were too busy watching their loved ones.) The gods were sizing each other up and doing a little soul searching. Each one of them was wondering who would or would not have agreed to help Strife. Most of them didn’t like what they saw…about themselves.


^^^^^


“I’m sorry.”


“Don’t be. I’m all right. It’s just ah fact of life.”


The gentle man was heartbroken, seeing his friend so, so accepting of his fate.


Joxer was trying to think of how to help the other god when Strife spoke up. “So what have yah got?” Joxer looked at his friend blankly. The he noticed that Strife was pointing to the candy in Joxer’s hand. Joxer had forgotten all about it while Strife had been talking. He decided to gracefully help Strife out.


“A black one.”


Strife bit the corner of his lower lip, completely unaware of how sweet and sexy he looked when he did that.


“Black huh. So, are ya gonna eat it?” As Joxer hesitated, Strife offered, “I wouldn’t.”


“How come?”


“Cause there are waaay too many black things that I wouldn’t wanna eat.”


Joxer contemplated for a few seconds. “Uhm, yeah mud wouldn’t be any fun to eat.”


“No it isn’t.” Joxer looked up sharply at that unintentional admission. “But that ain’t exactly what I was thinkin about.”


Joxer thought for a minute, considering the possibilities. What was worse than mud? “Eeewww, you mean shi…eeewww, that’s disgusting. They wouldn’t actually put that flavor in here, would they?”


Strife just looked at his friend who was looking at the innocuous piece of candy in trepidation. “If they’ll put in ear wax as a flavah, they’ll do anything.” After considering this for a few seconds Joxer shrugged, said “you only live once” and popped it into his mouth. He almost immediately started gagging and grabbed up his drink.


“Yuck, it was liver.”


“Liver flavored candy, how revoltin.”


Both gods looked at their respective boxes of candy warily before tossing them onto the table. Adventure was one thing, but liver flavored candy just went *too* far.


They sat quietly for a few minutes, resting. Not talking, not doing anything. Just soaking up the peaceful quiet of the afternoon.


Eventually Joxer started wriggling around on the couch, trying to get up. Strife watched him in sympathy. In the midst of the wriggling Strife offered, “Do ya need somethin? Can I help ya?”


“Thanks, but no thanks. Unless you can go to the bathroom for me.” Joxer finally managed to get up.


Strife giggled. “Sorry, you’re on your own theah. I was wonderin about that anyway.”


“Wondering about what?”


“Since ya can’t leave tha room, what d’ya do, use a chambah pot?”


Joxer grinned and pointed behind the couch. “No, Ares created a bathroom for me over there.” Strife arched an eyebrow and looked around. “Oh, it’s hidden behind a glamour.”


“Cool.” Strife watched as Joxer opened an invisible door and vanished.


^^^^^^


Strife relaxed a minute or two. (Well, he tried to.) Before long he started squirming. He couldn’t get his back comfortable, his ribs ached and he thought he was going to throw up again! In an attempt to find a comfortable position he twisted this way and that way on the couch.


Cupid’s eyes glazed over as he watched his husband. No matter how worried he was, all Strife had to do was start twitching like that and Cupid was as horny as Zeus when…well Zeus anytime.


Eventually several of the other gods and goddesses started to get turned on too. It so happened that these were the same deities who had told Strife that he would have needed to trick Cupid into sleeping with him. They were swiftly changing their minds.


They watched as Strife found a little chocolate left on his hand. Strife looked around for a napkin and couldn’t find one. Shrugging he began to lick the chocolate off and several more people’s brains shut down. They watched as those long, slender fingers slid into and out of his mouth. (More happy mush brains.) A pointed pink tongue licked in between his fingers, cleaning until there was no chocolate left. Many of the observing crowd were leaning against each other and almost fell over when Strife stopped licking himself. (His hand!)


None of them had ever stood still long enough to allow themselves to become aware of how sexy Strife was. With that soft, pale skin and startling blue eyes he was, perhaps not traditionally good looking, but he was…different. Even four months pregnant he was something!


Cupid looked over and saw the panting crowd and growled at them. They had better *back off*. Strife was his! He growled again and the people stopped panting. (At least where the jealous God of Love could see them.) There was a great deal of shifting around and adjusting of clothing. (Uh huh.) If Cupid noticed this he didn’t say anything.


^^^^^^


Standing up carefully, Strife rubbed his tender back. He twisted his torso around a little until there was an audible crack. Strife grimaced slightly and rubbed his back some more and then wrapped his arms cautiously around his ribs. He started wandering around the room, trying to relieve some of the achiness from sitting so long. He ended up in front of a long table that held various piles of scrolls. This table was coincidentally (yeah, right) in front of the barrier created by Aphrodite and The Muses.


^^^^^^


Cupid moved until he was right in front of his young husband. He could see the pain that was so evident in Strife’s nakedly open face. Pain that Strife had somehow managed to keep hidden from him.


^^^^^^


Strife glanced around the room. Several changes had been made to the temple since Joxer had come to live here. The stark black walls and furniture had been replaced with lighter colors. He was glad, it was so much…homier, not a phrase used automatically when talking about the God of War, but there you are. Joxer was like that. He distracted you with his sweet innocence, his natural serenity and then changed people, for the better, without even trying.


Strife looked up and saw a wall-hanging that he had never noticed before. Squinting he moved closer, trying to get a better look. The picture in the center of the cloth showed a man with black hair with strikingly blue eyes. Strife flicked his fingers and the tapestry lowered several feet to hover in front of him.


“That’s me!” Strife was dumbfounded. He looked closely at the small scenes surrounding the main figure. They were all of different aspects of his life. “There’s me doin mah first official act ah mischief. That lady never had such a big loaf ah bread in all her life.” Smiling a genuine smile, Strife followed the pictures with his fingers, being careful not to touch. “There’s even onna me pregnant, with Cupid and a little tiny Bliss by mah side.”


“Me. Ah Life Tapestry of me.” Strife raised the tapestry back to it’s original spot. He wiped tears from his eyes. Everyone could see how touched he was. “Ah wonder where tha one of Cupie is and if I’m in it.”


Strife turned around to look and accidentally knocked one of the scrolls from the table. Automatically he bent over and picked it up. As he stood up dizziness hit Strife like a whirlwind making him stagger over against the table.











Fic: Overheard Conversations 5/?


Author: Kerensa


Email: vkevans@yahoo.com Feedback please. Feedback or death (well, maybe that’s going a little too far)


Rating: R, so far


Fandom: Xena/Hercules, brief mention of food from Harry Potter series


Pairing: Ares/Joxer, Cupid/Strife


Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, I’m just borrowing them for a little fun. The same with the Harry Potter stories. I have no money, no property, I even have to borrow the food I eat, so please don’t sue me.


Warning: m/m; MPREG; talk of nonconsensual sex; talk of underage molestation rape, and abuse; angst


Summary: Joxer and Strife are both pregnant and end up talking. Their husbands, Ares and Cupid overhear their conversation and find out a lot more about their husband’s, especially Strife’s past, than they ever imagined.


Status: WIP


Series: Children At Play


Archive: Yes to AJCS; anywhere else, sure just tell me first


Website: Nope, sorry I wouldn’t know how to set one up.


Notes: I want to thank my mother for some of the ideas in this story. She thought up the bad guy’s name and some ways to hurt poor Strife. Later in the series I will mention something, briefly, from the I LOVE LUCY show; bonus points if you can find it. Beta’d by me and Spellcheck.


Part 5


Cupid watched his husband in dismay. He tried to go to him, but was again repelled by the barrier. He turned to The Fates to plead with them and was distraught to see that they too were upset. What could surprise them? He looked back in time to see Strife straighten up.


^^^^^^


“Well…that wasn’t onna tha smartest things I coulda done.” Strife continued to use the table as a support. “Now which pile do ya belong in?” Strife looked at the various stacks and back to the scroll in his hand. “It’s no use I’ll hafta look at it, I sure don’t wanna end up sendin some ah Joxah’s notes ta onna Unc’s warlords.” Strife rubbed his hand across his face tiredly as he giggled. It was a very weak and strained giggle, a pale imitation of his usual laugh.


Strife unrolled the scroll a little, just enough to read the heading. “Okay, Sexual Practices Among Mortals.” Strife used one hand to weakly push himself up off of the table. Strife was still contemplating where to put the scroll down when he realized what he had read. “Sexual, what?” Dumbfounded Strife stared at the offending piece of parchment.


“What’s up?” Strife jumped and yelped. “Jeez Joxah ring a bell or somethin, will ya. Ya almost scared tha kid right outta me.” Strife gasped as he put one hand to his throat. He could feel his pulse racing there and tried to calm himself down, this couldn’t be good.


“Sorry.” Joxer looked chagrined. “What’s so fascinating?” Strife silently, (His heart was in his throat doing a dance, an Irish jig maybe, so he couldn’t talk) handed the scroll to Joxer. Joxer read the title quietly. “I think this was probably sent here by mistake. I’m the God of Peace not the God of Getting a Piece.”


Joxer spoke so seriously that Strife found himself nodding in agreement. It was only when the God of Mischief got a burst of energy that he recognized the double entendre his friend had made. Strife and everyone else (Yes even The Fates) stood with their mouths hanging open. Joxer was so shy and innocent…and apparently mischievous.


Strife sputtered and laughed out loud. This time the laughter was too much and Strife doubled over in pain. The only thing that prevented Strife from collapsing to the ground was because he still had one hip resting against the table. Joxer took hold of Strife’s arm, the one that wasn’t currently leaning against the table. “Strife what is it? Call for Apollo quick. I would, but I can’t because of the shield.”


Strife held up one hand. “I’m all right. It was just a cramp.”


“*Just* a cramp.” Joxer looked at his friend incredulously.


“Yah, really I’m all right. I just pulled a muscle this mornin.” Strife straightened back up and smiled at his friend shakily. “Pickin up Bliss. Don’t worry though, I talked ta Ace and he said I was okay.”


Joxer nodded at his friend, still not entirely happy with the explanation. Noticing how wan and shaky Strife looked, Joxer took hold of his friend’s arm. “Come on, you need to sit down before you fall down.”


An unsteady Strife let himself be led, unprotestingly back to his couch.


^^^^^^


Joxer sat down beside his friend and indicated the scroll. “I don’t know about you but I’m curious to see what’s on here.” With that Joxer unrolled the scroll to the first diagram. He just stared at it. Then he stared some more. Next he turned the scroll around, examining it from every angle. “I don’t get what I’m seeing. I mean, obviously I have a fairly good idea what this should be, but I just don’t see it.”


Strife looked at the scroll and blushed. With a shaky hand he covered up part of the picture. “See if this helps.”


Joxer looked until it dawned on him what he was seeing. “Oh, okay.” Then Strife took his hand away and Joxer saw the rest of the picture. He just looked at it wide eyed. “I didn’t…why would…is he being tortured?”


“Nah, it’s supposed ta feel good.”


“It is?” Joxer asked incredulously.


“Yeah. That’s what I’ve heard anyway.”


Joxer looked at the picture with a frightened look on his face. “Who have you heard that from?”


“Different followers. They send me scrolls with some pretty sick stuff on it.”


“Worse than this?” Joxer squealed as he gestured at the offending scroll.


“Oh yeah.”


“Oh, um, well, I don’t…let’s go on to the next picture.”


The next picture was even more of a revelation. “Oh my. I don’t think that’s humanly possible.” Turning the page slightly, Joxer blanched. “Or even godly possible.”


“Joxah, I don’t think two octopi could do that.”


Joxer quickly unrolled the scroll further. “What’s that?!”


“Tha thing thay’re, uh…on?” Strife looked again, cleared his throat and grimaced. “That’s called a trampoline. It’s from tha future.”


“What’s a trampoline?” Joxer asked in shaky voice, not entirely sure he wanted the answer.


“It’s like…a big piece of leatha that’s stretched out ovah a big drum. Only it’s real stretchy. People get on it and jump up and down, cause it’s bouncy.”


“That sounds kind of precarious.” Strife nodded his agreement. “But then…” Joxer looked back down at the picture again. “…oh my, that seems dangerous.”


Joxer turned to the next illustration. He was looking down as so he missed it when Strife flinched and all color drained from his face. “That just looks painful,” Joxer said.


Not looking at him, Strife stated with absolute certainty, “It is.”


Joxer looked in horror from his friend to the picture and back to his friend again. He furiously waded up the scroll and threw it down on the ground. Placing an arm around the other god he tried to comfort him. Strife wouldn’t have any of it and got up hastily to pace.


Not knowing how to help his friend Joxer just sat there thinking. He watched as Strife paced frantically around the room. (Well, as frantically as a tired young god could.) Finally Strife sat back down on his own couch. Joxer hated to do it, but he pushed once again.


Joxer had a million questions, none of which he really wanted answered. “Strife…how old…how did…tell me about the first time you were…” Joxer found he couldn’t say the word. Glancing up at his friend Joxer realized that it was vital that Strife be the one to say the words. He needed to say them or he would never get any better.


At first Strife didn’t say anything and Joxer was afraid he had pushed his friend too far. Then Strife sighed and without looking up he started to tell his dreadful story.


“Unc wasn’t here. He was off…I don’t remembah where, workin with another war god. I was at an awkward age. You know the phase of life. Too old for ah sitter, too young ta go with him. He was just gonna be gone a coupla days and really how much safer could ya be, a god livin on Mt. Olympus. So I stayed heah…by myself.”


Strife swallowed convulsively. “HE came that first night. He was so mad.” Strife shivered. “Onna his intrigues had gone wrong and he was ticked off. He flashed in and grabbed me, he…he said I had had enough practice.” Strife stared blindly into space, caught up in the violence of the memory.


“He threw me down and hu…hurt me. Nothin had ever hurt so much in mah life. I thought I was goin ta die. And tha blood… Afterwards he told me not ta go ta anyone or it’d be worse next time.” Strife looked over at Joxer with tears in his eyes. “I couldn’t imagine it bein any worse…god I was naïve. That time was n-n-nuh-nothin compared to tha last time…on tha battlefield.” Strife shivered at the brutal memory.


Joxer got up and went to his friend, slipping an arm around Strife’s shaking back in comfort. Strife let him this time. Not really wanting the details, he had to ask anyway. It was necessary for Strife to get it all out in the open. Of course, Joxer had no idea just how *out in the open* everything was becoming.


“Where did it happen?” With a shaking finger Strife pointed towards the entryway. Joxer looked quickly, afraid someone was interrupting them. Seeing no one he looked back at Strife and saw a single tear trailing down his unnaturally pale cheek. “Oh god.” Joxer whispered in horror. “It happened here in the temple. In your own home. Right over there.” Strife nodded.


“Strife, you need to say it. I know it’s going to be hard but you have to say it out loud.”


“That’s…that’s where I was…where…” Strife looked beseechingly up at Joxer. Joxer gripped his hand tighter. “That’s where he…raped me tha first time.” With this statement Strife burst out crying and buried his head in Joxer’s shoulder. Joxer held his sobbing friend and cried too.


“Strife…how old were you?”


Strife struggled, he didn’t want to tell this last part. “Eleven.”


^^^^^^


For once Ares couldn’t say anything. He wanted, needed, to scream and yell and damage somebody. Strife had been hurt and hurt badly and he had never known. He had brought his young nephew into his home and failed to protect him.


Ares was crying. Not many people ever got to see this side of the God of War. But right now he wasn’t the God of War, he was Ares, uncle and surrogate father to Strife, who was hurting.


Ares felt an arm go around his shoulders. He looked at his brother in astonishment. In point of fact, it was his half-brother, Hercules. Neither the god nor the demi-god said anything. There wasn’t anything that could be said.


Iolaus watched as Cupid attacked the barrier again. He was so frantic and desperate to get to his distraught young husband that he couldn’t think straight. Before Cupid could hurt himself, Iolaus caught him. He put his arms around Cupid and held on tight.


Glad of something to focus on, Cupid held on to Iolaus and tried not to lose control again. Losing control wouldn’t help Strife and that was what was important at the moment.


Cupid turned to The Fates and began to plead. “Please ladies, please let me go to him. He needs me.”


The Fates looked at Cupid sorrowfully. Lachesis shook her head and said, “There is still more that you must see.”


“More.” Cupid was agonized. There was more. How much worse could it get? He turned back to the barrier, afraid he was going to find out.











Fic: Overheard Conversations 6/?


Author: Kerensa


Email: vkevans@yahoo.com Feedback please. Feedback or death (well, maybe that’s going a little too far)


Rating: R, so far


Fandom: Xena/Hercules, brief mention of food from Harry Potter series


Pairing: Ares/Joxer, Cupid/Strife


Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, I’m just borrowing them for a little fun. The same with the Harry Potter stories. I have no money, no property, I even have to borrow the food I eat, so please don’t sue me.


Warning: m/m; MPREG; talk of nonconsensual sex; talk of underage molestation rape, and abuse; angst


Summary: Joxer and Strife are both pregnant and end up talking. Their husbands, Ares and Cupid overhear their conversation and find out a lot more about their husband’s, especially Strife’s past, than they ever imagined.


Status: WIP


Series: Children At Play


Archive: Yes to AJCS; anywhere else, sure just tell me first


Website: Nope, sorry I wouldn’t know how to set one up.


Notes: I want to thank my mother for some of the ideas in this story. She thought up the bad guy’s name and some ways to hurt poor Strife. Later in the series I will mention something, briefly, from the I LOVE LUCY show; bonus points if you can find it. Beta’d by me and Spellcheck.


Part 6


“I’m so afraid Joxah.” Strife stayed leaning on his friend. He had finally calmed down enough to talk. “I don’t know how I’m gonna stand goin back.”


Joxer pulled back quickly and looked at his friend. “Going back where?”


“Back ta bein alone. I’ve been stupid. Everybody always said I was stupid and I guess they were right. I thought I could hide what I did and just be happy. That’s all I wanted ta do, was be happy. Is that too much ta ask?” Strife started crying again, softly.


“Strife you haven’t *done* anything.”


“Cupid will find out now.” Strife wasn’t listening to his friend. “I’m gonna hafta been real careful with this baby and he’s gonna find out why. He won’t want ta be around me anymore. He won’t want Bliss ta see me.” With one hand protectively covering his tummy Strife said, “He’ll keep me away from this one too.”


“Strife, why…” Strife interrupted, still not hearing.


“Havin Cupe these last few months has made mah life bearable. When I wake up from mah nightmares, seeing him layin there helps make em go away. I don’t know if I can stand bein alone again. Stand not havin somebody touch me, love me, care whethah I live or die.” Strife stared straight ahead, looking at a bleak and empty future.


“Strife look at me.” When Strife finally complied, Joxer continued. “You *are not* going to be alone. Cupid loves you and wants to be with you. The fact that you have been hurt isn’t going to change that.” Strife looked uncertain.


“I didn’t know it could be good. I thought it always had ta hurt and he humiliatin.”


Joxer couldn’t speak at first. What do you say to a statement like that?


“That’s natural, I guess. After all, he’d been…doing things to you for a long time hadn’t he?” Strife just nodded, not looking up. Joxer thought and thought. How could he help his best friend?


“Tell me about the first time he molested you.” Strife tried to shrink away, but Joxer wouldn’t let him. Like an infected wound, the poison had to be let out before it could get better. “How old were you?”


“I don’t know. Mah first memory is him comin in ta Ma’s temple. I was sittin in mah room playin with some blocks when he flashed in.” Strife raised a shaking hand to wipe the tears out of his eyes. “But…it wasn’t anythin new ta me. I knew what ta do, what he was gonna make me do with him.”


^^^^^^


Even the gods had to strain to hear Strife’s confession, because it was muttered so quietly.


“He was 4.” Ares turned to Hercules in horror. “Strife was 4 when he came to live with me. So, he was younger than that when all this started.” Ares turned to stare at his nephew. Hercules swallowed hard, thinking of his own children and imagining them being brutalized.


Eris had fallen to the ground. Her baby had been victimized in her own home. She hadn’t known. He had been brutalized and she had never noticed. Even for a bad mother this was a devastating blow.


^^^^^^


Strife was exhausted, both physically and emotionally. He had been through more of an emotional upheaval in the last couple of hours than he had in years. All he wanted to do was go home and sleep for a week.


Suddenly, there was a tingling in the air, one that Strife knew all too well. He jumped up in horror. “Hurry, get in tha bathroom. It’s under a glamour and he won’t know you’re theah.” Strife was tugging on Joxer’s arm, desperately trying to help him up and causing himself considerable pain in the meantime.


“Strife what is it?” Joxer was doing his best to stand up.


“HE’S comin!” The panic in Strife’s voice told just exactly who HE was.


There was really nothing that could be done. By the time Strife realized another god was flashing in, HE was already there.


^^^^^^


The Pantheon watched Strife panicking. In seconds there was a flash of light and another god appeared. The new god wasn’t very intimidating. He looked like a small stooped over old man.


“Hello Strife.” The deep voice, in odd contrast to the ancient body, snarled at the young god. Strife dropped Joxer’s arm and began backing up in dread. The old man stopped by the couch and looked Joxer up and down; he smiled in appreciation of what he saw. Recognizing the leer, Joxer pushed back into the couch, trying to get as far away from him as he could. “Don’t worry, I’ll get to you later.” The lecherous sneer had Joxer trying to become one with the couch.


The old man advanced on the retreating god. Strife was panting in terror and about the color of a piece of parchment.


^^^^^^


No one fought back. Joxer couldn’t because of the protection spell. The other gods were behind the barrier or sitting, stunned in their homes. Strife was too demoralized by a century’s worth of abuse to ever think of raising a hand against his abuser.


^^^^^^


The back of his legs bumped into a chair, causing him to stumble slightly. This was enough of a delay and the other god was able to catch him without even trying.


HE grabbed Strife by the wrists and squeezed hard. Strife cried out in pain as he was jerked closer.


Everyone watched as the old man began to change. He grew younger and taller, much taller. He easily towered 9 or 10 inches over Strife, who was himself a tall man. His body began to fill out and muscles rippled out to cover his body. Where there had once been a frail old man now stood a hulking giant who made Hercules look like a weakling.


^^^^^^


“WHO THE TARTARUS IS THAT?” Ares roared.


“That is Tryst, The God Secret Meetings.” Zeus’ quiet voice surprised everyone. He had been so unobtrusive that not many of them had even realized he was there. “I thought I got rid of that abomination years ago.”


^^^^^^


Tryst tightened his grip on Strife’s arms. Never before had Strife looked so fragile, so delicate. His pale, slender wrists were completely engulfed by the other god’s huge hands.


Strife cried out again as Tryst bent his arms back. Strife was forced to his knees and everyone could easily see the abused little boy Strife had been in the young god he was now.


“Please don’t hurt tha baby, please.” Strife had tears pouring down his face in pain and terror. “Please don’t hurt Joxah.” As inspiration struck he said, “Joxah is Ares’ husband, ya don’t want Unc afta yah if yah hurt him.”


Tryst laughed derisively and twisted Strife’s arms causing him to scream in pain as they cracked. Strife collapsed to his knees when Tryst let go of his wrists, only to be yanked back up when the other god clamped onto his upper arms and lifted him up. Strife dangled helplessly in Tryst’s bruising grip, his feet several inches from the floor. Tryst shook him, making Strife’s head snap back.


“Didn’t I tell you to behave. Didn’t I warn you what would happen if you disobeyed me. You are mine. You always have been and you always will be.” Tryst thundered in the hysterical god’s face, each sentence punctuated by Strife’s head being jerked back. “Now you have to be punished.” He pushed Strife back and slammed him down on the scroll table. Scrolls flew everywhere as Strife was arched backwards.


^^^^^^


Cupid turned to The Fates, ready to beg, threaten and offer his life in return, if they would only let him help his husband. He didn’t even have to ask.


The Fates each raised a hand and the barrier lowered with a boom.


^^^^^^


Tryst looked up at the noise and found himself facing an entire roomful of *pissed off* gods, goddesses, demi-gods and mortals. He looked down at the gasping Strife, his eyes blazing. “A trap! You set a trap, you little whore. Now you *will* pay.” With that he yanked Strife up and threw him across the room.


Tryst flashed out as the swarm of gods and goddesses poured into the room.


^^^^^^


Several people tried to help as Strife was thrown. Cupid sent out a stream of energy, trying to slow down his speed. Ares tried to catch his nephew with an energy field and managed to keep him from flying head first into the wall. Hera placed a protection spell around the baby. Aphrodite materialized a large pile of pillows for Strife to land on. This all helped soften the landing, but still, what you ended up with was a slender, unwell young god being thrown clear across the room by a huge, pumped up, insane older god.


Strife didn’t have a chance.


He slammed down on the pillows with a mighty thud. He landed so hard that the pillows literally exploded and feathers flew up in the air. Strife cried out once before he passed out.


^^^^^^


Joxer was flat-out hysterical. Not only was afraid for himself and his baby, he was terrified for Strife. Tryst (Yes, Joxer knew his name, Strife had told him a long time ago.) had erected a cage around Joxer’s couch. When Strife was thrown all Joxer could do was pray for his friend and his unborn baby.


Ares raced over to his spouse and vanished the cage with a thought. He held his precious husband and tried to calm him down.


Joxer clutched at Ares and cried tears of fear and terror. At last he felt safe. He jumped at a loud boom.


Ninety percent of the other gods in the room had vanished with a resounding crash. They were hunting.


Tryst didn’t stand a chance.











Fic: Overheard Conversations 7/?


Author: Kerensa


Email: vkevans@yahoo.com Feedback please. Feedback or death (well, maybe that’s going a little too far)


Rating: R, so far


Fandom: Xena/Hercules, brief mention of food from Harry Potter series


Pairing: Ares/Joxer, Cupid/Strife


Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, I’m just borrowing them for a little fun. The same with the Harry Potter stories. I have no money, no property, I even have to borrow the food I eat, so please don’t sue me.


Warning: m/m; MPREG; talk of nonconsensual sex; talk of underage molestation rape, and abuse; angst


Summary: Joxer and Strife are both pregnant and end up talking. Their husbands, Ares and Cupid overhear their conversation and find out a lot more about their husband’s, especially Strife’s past, than they ever imagined.


Status: WIP


Series: Children At Play


Archive: Yes to AJCS; anywhere else, sure just tell me first


Website: Nope, sorry I wouldn’t know how to set one up.


Notes: I want to thank my mother for some of the ideas in this story. She thought up the bad guy’s name and some ways to hurt poor Strife. Later in the series I will mention something, briefly, from the I LOVE LUCY show; bonus points if you can find it. Beta’d by me and Spellcheck.


Part 7


Cupid dropped to his knees beside his husband before the feathers could float back to the ground. Strife lay crumpled on his right side. To Cupid he looked like a little doll that Bliss had once thrown in the corner. Strife was unconscious and Cupid was afraid to touch him, afraid he would injure him more.


Apollo, Asclepius and Hera came running. They didn’t even try to budge Cupid from his husband’s side. Cupid wouldn’t go and Strife was going to need all the support he could get. Ace placed his hands carefully over Strife’s tummy. He smiled at Hera in relief. “Your protection spell worked. The baby is all right, but Strife has been badly hurt.”


Strife moaned and opened his eyes. Immediately he began to whimper and beg, “No, please don’t hurt tha baby.”


Cupid leaned over and tried to reassure his young husband. “Baby, it’s okay. Everything is going to be okay.” He brushed the hair out of Strife’s eyes and was saddened when his husband flinched at his touch. “It’s okay, it’s me.”


Strife looked up and tried very hard to focus. Everything was so fuzzy. “Cupid?”


“Yeah baby, I’m right here.”


“Tha baby! Is it okay?” Before Strife could ask anything else he grunted and doubled over in pain. He tried to wrap his body around the tiny child he was carrying. This caused broken bones to move and he cried out. Sensing where Cupid was, he blindly reached out to hold onto him. When Strife tightened his grip, his crushed arms moved and he screamed. The scream made his tummy hurt even worse. Strife laid on the floor, covered in feathers, and whimpered.


Even in his pain Strife kept trying to touch his stomach. If he hurt this much the baby must be hurt too. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” Strife cried for his lost (as he assumed) baby.


“Strife, baby, calm down. Try not to move. You’re only hurting yourself. The baby is fine.” The last sentence was the only one that Strife really heard, the only one that mattered. He looked up into his husband’s face and asked, “Tha baby’s okay?”


At Cupid’s reassurance Strife collapsed and hovered somewhere between consciousness and unconsciousness. Dimly he could hear the others talking, but not really what they were saying. It didn’t matter, the baby was fine and that was all he cared about. The pain didn’t matter; he had lived through far worse than this.


Strife snapped his head back up and bit his lip so he wouldn’t scream at the stabbing pain in his head. “Joxah, is he all right?” The cotton somebody had stuffed in his ears made it hard to hear, but he dimly heard Joxer saying he was okay.


Strife’s eyes rolled back in his head as everything began to fade away. He laid back down and started to twitch. Cupid wiped the tears from Strife’s eyes and looked pleadingly at Apollo.


Apollo carefully took Strife’s bloody head between his hands. He had to force himself to ignore the cry of pain this movement caused. He concentrated and sent some of his energy into Strife’s head, healing the multiple fractures and bleeding he found there. When he was through he looked down into Strife’s pale blue eyes and saw gratitude. He lowered the young god’s head back down onto an unbroken pillow.


^^^^^^


The cotton was gone. He guessed somebody had pulled the stuffing out of his head. Strife wanted to giggle at that image but he was too tired and besides now that he could think clearly the pain from the rest of his mangled body was again making itself known.


Strife felt himself being rolled onto his back. He tried not to scream, he really did, but the pain was too much. On the up side, at least he wasn’t laying on his broken ribs anymore. Once the wave of pain passed he found that he actually wasn’t hurting as much now.


He looked up and saw Cupid looming over him. Then his beloved husband picked him up oh-so-carefully, like he was picking up a delicate vase. Strife was prepared this time and managed to keep his cry down to a low moan. Then he was leaning against Cupid’s bare chest and the pain was forgotten. (Well, let’s get real here. It wasn’t forgotten, but he didn’t hurt quite as much.)


Strife closed his eyes and kept them closed, even when he realized they were moving. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Strife knew he should wonder where they were going, but he just couldn’t find the strength to care. The slight swaying motion lulled Strife and he was almost asleep when Cupid stopped walking.


“Lay him down on the bed.” That was Unc talking.


“Wait! He has too many broken bones; we need to make the bed softer.” When did Apollo get here?, Strife wondered.


Strife felt himself being lowered and he wanted to resist it. He was so comfortable in Cupid’s arms. And safe. It felt like nothing and no one could hurt him when Cupid held him. Strife didn’t want reality to intrude on his comfortable place, not yet.


The bed was like a cloud. Light and airy. It felt good on his shattered body. At least until broken bones rubbed against broken bones. Dimly Strife heard someone cry out and wanted to help them. He didn’t realize that person was himself.


Maybe he should ask them to put the cotton back. At least when his head had been hurt, he hadn’t been in so much pain. Now the pain was everywhere and it was hard to breathe.


Strife looked over at his husband. Cupid had tears running down his face. It broke Strife’s heart to see him so upset. “It’s okay,” he whispered. This only made Cupid cry harder. Strife turned his head when he realized Apollo was talking to him.


“…going to set your arms now. I can’t give you anything for the pain, because I don’t have anything that won’t cause complications for the baby.” At Strife’s nod of understanding Apollo continued. “I’m sorry. I don’t know of any other way.”


^^^^^^


Everyone (Yes, those not out hunting for Tryst were still watching via scrying mirror.) cringed as a grim Ace took hold of Strife’s arm, just above the elbow and Apollo carefully took hold of his hand. With a decisive pull and twist the arm was set. Strife bit his lip so as not to scream. Apollo moved to the other side of the bed as Ace placed his warm hands around Strife’s cold, shaking arm and healed the breaks. The other arm received the same treatment.


Strife’s mouth was bloody where he had bitten into his lips in pain. Cupid wiped the blood away. “I love you baby. It’s going to be all right.” Cupid kept murmuring in Strife’s ear and managed to calm him down.


“Where else do you hurt, other than your side?” Strife shakily pointed to his right leg. Upon examination it too proved to be broken. Luckily it didn’t have to be set, only healed.


^^^^^^


Strife got a funny look on his face and he started twitching. Joxer recognized the signs and grabbed a bowl for him to throw up in. Cupid and Ares helped Strife roll onto his side, just in time. Strife threw up and threw up and threw up. He had his arms clamped tightly around his ribs the whole time. The pain was incredible and by the time it was all over Strife was soaking wet. You couldn’t tell where the tears ended and the cold sweat started.


There was blood in the bowl. Not a huge amount, but enough to worry Apollo and frighten Cupid to death.


Apollo, Ace and Hera stepped back from the bed and began to consult with each other. Strife lay shivering and shaking. His husband and uncle rolled him back onto his back. Strife floated for a moment and was glad of it. At least here he wasn’t hurting.


Strife looked over when Cupid took a damp cloth and wiped his face off. He wanted to reassure Cupid, but he didn’t have the strength. It was really getting hard to breathe now.


He tugged weakly at the leg of his pants. Black leather might be the kind of clothing he always wore, but right now it was damned uncomfortable. Sweat and blood and feathers were mixed liberally all over his body and felt…nasty.


“Lay still baby.” Cupid waved his hand and Strife was clean and dressed in different clothes. His outfit was more like Joxer’s. The loose trousers (black naturally) were made of cotton as was his loose blue tunic. (It just matched the color of his eyes.) Strife was more comfortable now.


“Strife.” Strife watched Apollo, Ace and Hera approach the bed. All three looked exceptionally grim. “Strife,” Apollo said again. “We need to fix your broken ribs.”


“How are ya gonna do that without hurtin tha baby?” Strife knew that no magic could be done anywhere near his abdomen, not without causing serious problems for the baby.


“Hera’s going to do a protection spell, similar to the one she used when you were being thrown. It will protect the baby and allow us to work on you.”


Strife frowned. Hera was here when Tryst was? How did that happen? For that matter, why were there were so many gods here? Strife looked around the room at the several gods standing around. “How come there are sa many people heah?” Strife looked at his husband and realized that Cupid looked guilty. So did Unc. As far as that went, everybody except Joxer looked guilty.


“Strife, don’t worry about that right now, okay. Just focus on you and the baby.” Strife realized Joxer was right. It was all still so floaty and that made it harder for him to concentrate.


“Do whatevah ya gotta do. I know it’ll hurt.”


Hera came around and sat down on the bed next to Strife. Strife swallowed hard and looked at his grandmother in fear. He felt the bed ripple and realized that they had made it smaller. Now Apollo could stand on the right side of the bed and reach him just as easily as Ace could on the left side of the bed.


“We’re going to need some help holding him down.” Several people came forward at this and Strife was surprised to see Xena and Gabrielle among them. Strife gripped the sheets to either side of him as hands latched onto him. He looked desperately for Cupid and saw his husband beside him. (Naturally.) Strife turned back and tried not to look at any specific person, he didn’t want to make this any harder on them than it had to be.


Hera raised her hands up and flexed them a few times. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. Strife was stunned; nobody told him they were sorry, except Joxer. Strife nodded reassuringly to her.


Apollo carefully pulled Strife’s shirt up and he heard gasping. Strife couldn’t spare the attention to wonder what everybody was upset about.


Hera’s hands began to glow, getting brighter and brighter, until finally they turned translucent. With one last apologetic look at Strife, Hera lowered her hands until they touched his stomach.


Strife gasped. Her hands felt so cold. He watched in horror as her hands hovered there and then pushed *into* his stomach. Strife cried out at the pain, but managed to lay still. He fisted his hands into the sheets. She pushed in further and it was all Strife could do not to shove her away. He could see that she was in his stomach all the way up to her forearms. She moved her hands together and kind of locked them behind the baby. Strife managed to keep the scream down to a choked off cry.


“Now!” Hera muttered. Sweat was running down her face. This was obviously difficult on her too.


“Hold him tight everybody, it’s gonna get bad.”


Cupid’s head snapped up at that. “It’s gonna *get* bad,” he echoed.


Then Apollo’s hand started glowing and he too reached inside Strife. He curled his hand under Strife’s broken ribs and pulled up.


Ares watched this procedure as he tried to hold Strife’s hips down on the bed. He was horrified to realize that he could actually see the broken pieces of Strife’s ribs moving into place.


Strife screamed in agony. He twisted on the bed, trying to get away from them. Several more people surged forward and clamped down on him. Gabrielle had to actually lay down across his legs to keep them still.


Strife knew he had to stop, he had to lay still or the baby could be hurt. He reached out to the side with his hands and grabbed hold of something. He didn’t know what, he didn’t care. He sobbed when he felt the power from Ace heal his ribs. Then some of the pain was gone as Apollo pulled his hand out.


“Thank god that’s over.” Strife looked over at Xena and realized she was crying. Over him?


“We have to do the other side.” Strife closed his eyes when Apollo said this, not certain he could go through with any more.


“Can’t he have a break first?” His beloved Cupid. He could feel him stroking his hair.


“If we stop now, he’ll have to go through with Hera’s part all over again.”


Strife shook his head, looking straight at Cupid and then Apollo. “Go on, finish it, please.”


He was prepared for the pain this time, but was so exhausted that he screamed even louder.


There was still more work to be done. A lot more. Punctured lungs were healed and reinflated. His liver and both kidneys were made whole and working again.


Strife shuddered. The cold from Hera’s hands kept spreading farther out into his body. He bit his lips again to keep himself from begging them to stop.


The baby.


He would concentrate on the baby. He would do anything for his husband and his children. He could do this.


Finally it was over and Hera pulled her hands back out of his stomach. He vaguely felt someone pulling his shirt back down.


Cupid was kissing his forehead as he ran his hands through Strife’s hair. Eventually Strife stopped crying and lay on the bed unmoving.


“Strife is there anywhere else are you in pain?.” Ace looked like it was all his fault that Strife was hurting.


“Mah hands and arms.”


Strife didn’t understand why his arms were hurting. Hadn’t they already fixed them? He felt someone rubbing his left arm and hand. He looked over and realized he had a death grip on Cupid’s kilt.


“I can’t let go.”


He realized somebody else was massaging his other arm. Strife blushed when he realized that he had hold of Hercules’ woven leather pants. (The leg!)


“Sorry.”


Hercules just smiled at him. It took a few minutes of work before his hands would relax enough to unclench.











Fic: Overheard Conversations 8/?


Author: Kerensa


Email: vkevans@yahoo.com Feedback please. Feedback or death (well, maybe that’s going a little too far)


Rating: R, so far


Fandom: Xena/Hercules, brief mention of food from Harry Potter series


Pairing: Ares/Joxer, Cupid/Strife


Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, I’m just borrowing them for a little fun. The same with the Harry Potter stories. I have no money, no property, I even have to borrow the food I eat, so please don’t sue me.


Warning: m/m; MPREG; talk of nonconsensual sex; talk of underage molestation rape, and abuse; angst


Summary: Joxer and Strife are both pregnant and end up talking. Their husbands, Ares and Cupid overhear their conversation and find out a lot more about their husband’s, especially Strife’s past, than they ever imagined.


Status: WIP


Series: Children At Play


Archive: Yes to AJCS; anywhere else, sure just tell me first


Website: Nope, sorry I wouldn’t know how to set one up.


Notes: I want to thank my mother for some of the ideas in this story. She thought up the bad guy’s name and some ways to hurt poor Strife. Later in the series I will mention something, briefly, from the I LOVE LUCY show; bonus points if you can find it. Beta’d by me and Spellcheck.


Part 8


Strife lay on the bed and shuddered. The bed and the people leaning against it shook themselves he was shaking so badly. He was so cold. He could still feel the iciness of Hera’s hands inside of his stomach. Strife felt something soft and warm covering him. He opened his eyes. Xena was laying a blanket on him. Xena?


Strife looked around the room. Not only was Xena here, but so was the bard, Gabrielle. Over there was Athena and Artemis. Was that Poseidon looming in the corner?


“Cupid, how come there are sa many people heah?” Strife hadn’t forgotten his earlier question or the looks of guilt he had seen.


“It’s all my fault Strifey.” Aphrodite looked uncomfortable.


Strife heard the door shut and realized that everyone else had either backed away from the bed or left the room, except for Dite, Ares and Cupid. Outside of the room he could hear several booms as various deities flashed out.


Very faintly he could her snarling, several people snarling. “Leave some for us.” That was *Iolaus*?


Strife forgot about them and tried to concentrate on what was happening inside the room. He looked from loved one to loved one and was worried. This looked like it was going to be bad. He didn’t know if he could take any more *bad* today.


“What’s all yar fault?” Strife’s could barely speak above a whisper.


“I made them listen…”


“No, we are to blame.” Strife looked over at the three women who were talking one after the other. The Fates! “More needed to be heard.”


It was weird tha way they talked. One would say a word in tha sentence and tha next would continue, and so on. Strife’s wandering mind wondered what happened when somebody didn’t get ta say as many words. Did they hafta start another sentence sa everybody could get their fair share? What was he doin? Oh yeah, listenin ta them talk. (Cut him some slack, he’s been whacked around pretty good.)


“We summoned him in the first place.” Well that explained tha flashin without meanin ta. “We had not anticipated his being hurt. For that we are sorry.” With an uncommonly bright spark of light they disappeared. (Who says The Fates aren’t cowards.)


“What are ya’ll talkin about?” Strife looked blearily from one shamefaced face to another. Finally it was Joxer who answered him. He explained about the barrier that Aphrodite had created and that The Fates hadn’t allow to be removed. When he was finished poor battered Strife still looked puzzled. (Again, give the poor guy a break, he was just beaten to a pulp.)


Joxer looked his good friend in the eye and delivered the upsetting news. “Strife, when you and I were talking today, people were listening in.”


Strife frowned, “People? Who are ya talkin about?” Strife’s breathing started to get faster as he thought about what Joxer was saying. Then he started thinking about all of the things he had said, things he had admitted!


“Most everyone on ?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Olympus.” Strife’s eyes widened at Apollo’s statement. “A lot of gods were actually here in the temple. The rest were watching on scrying mirrors and heard everything that you two were…” Apollo broke off as Strife’s eyes got the size of dinner plates and he began to hyperventilate.


“Nonononononononono.” Strife got louder with each no. “Oh god no! Now they know, they all know…what I did…what I am.”


Strife started to roll to the left, but Cupid was there and Strife couldn’t face him. Strife whimpered. He couldn’t stand to see the disgust that would be in his husband’s eyes.


Instead he rolled to the right.


Ares was here and he didn’t want to see him either, but there was nowhere else for him to go. Nowhere for him to escape. Strife clenched his hands into fists and brought his arms up over his eyes. He curled up into a ball and sobbed brokenly.


^^^^^^


Across Olympus there were not very many dry eyes. People couldn’t believe that Strife felt he was to blame or that they would think badly of him. (Like that’s never happened before.)


More gods and goddesses left their homes and began the hunt for Tryst. (It’s a good thing the crime rate was so low on Olympus. Except of course for rape, torture…incest. Uhmmm…right.) They were going to find him and he was going to pay.


^^^^^^


Cupid waved his hand and the bed reformed until it was back to it’s original size. He laid down behind Strife and gently wrapped his arms around his crying husband. He snuggled up behind him, being careful not to put very much pressure on his still bruised body. Cupid put his head on Strife’s shoulder and began talking to him.


“Shhh, baby it’s all right. Everything will be all right.” Strife kept crying. “You’re right, we do know what you are.” Strife curled up into an even tighter ball.


Everyone looked at Cupid in horror. What was he saying?


“Do you know what I see? I see my sweet, wonderful, beautiful husband, that’s what I see. I see someone who has been hurt all his life and still turned out great. I see someone who didn’t let that monster ruin him. I see my husband, Bliss’ father and the father of our little baby.” Cupid rubbed his hand faintly across Strife’s tummy.


Strife was crying less and had relaxed, a little.


“Strife, look at me.” He looked up at Joxer. “Do you trust Cupid?” Strife nodded. Of course he trusted Cupid. “Then listen to what he’s saying.”


Cupid slid over and Strife allowed himself to be laid on his back. He looked up and saw his husband’s loving, unjudgmental eyes. Strife started crying again, tears of relief this time. All of his life he had carried this burden and now…now he wasn’t alone.


Cupid held Strife in his arms and let him cry. The others left the room and let Cupid comfort his husband. (Even the few people who were still watching via scrying mirror stopped watching.)


Cupid unfurled his left wing and spread it out and around Strife’s back. Anyone looking would only have seen snow-white feathers covering a black head.











Fic: Overheard Conversations 9/?


Author: Kerensa


Email: vkevans@yahoo.com Feedback please. Feedback or death (well, maybe that’s going a little too far)


Rating: R, so far


Fandom: Xena/Hercules, brief mention of food from Harry Potter series


Pairing: Ares/Joxer, Cupid/Strife


Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, I’m just borrowing them for a little fun. The same with the Harry Potter stories. I have no money, no property, I even have to borrow the food I eat, so please don’t sue me.


Warning: m/m; MPREG; talk of nonconsensual sex; talk of underage molestation rape, and abuse; angst


Summary: Joxer and Strife are both pregnant and end up talking. Their husbands, Ares and Cupid overhear their conversation and find out a lot more about their husband’s, especially Strife’s past, than they ever imagined.


Status: WIP


Series: Children At Play


Archive: Yes to AJCS; anywhere else, sure just tell me first


Website: Nope, sorry I wouldn’t know how to set one up.


Notes: I want to thank my mother for some of the ideas in this story. She thought up the bad guy’s name and some ways to hurt poor Strife. Later in the series I will mention something, briefly, from the I LOVE LUCY show; bonus points if you can find it. Beta’d by me and Spellcheck.


Part 9


2 weeks later


Strife gasped and his eyes flew open. He looked around in terror. HE was here, waiting for him. HE was going to hurt him. Strife whimpered.


Strife looked over and saw his husband lying beside him and relaxed. It had been a bad dream, nothing more. Strife was used to nightmares; he had been having them all his life.


Rolling onto his side, Strife snuggled up next to Cupid. Mmmm, a muscled chest with soft, velvety skin, who could ask for a better pillow. Strife nuzzled Cupid’s chest and raised his head slightly so he could kiss a tempting nipple.


Considerately, Strife stopped. He didn’t want to wake Cupid up…hello; part of Cupid was already waking up. Strife looked up and saw that Cupid’s eyes were open too. The lazy smile he gave Strife made Strife’s heart beat faster. Gods, how much he loved his beautiful husband.


Strife scooched up in the bed and the two gods began to kiss.


“Go back to sleep. You need all the sleep you can get.”


Strife drew back in surprise. Cupid closed his eyes and lay there smiling. Strife lay his head back down and listened until he was sure Cupid was asleep. Carefully, he didn’t want to risk waking Cupid up again, Strife rolled back onto his side.


He lay there frowning and thinking (That can’t be good.), with tears in his eyes, for most of the night.


^^^^^^


The next morning Strife woke up, smiled and turned over to kiss Cupid good morning. Cupid was gone. Strife listened and realized he couldn’t hear him in the bathroom. He sat up in the bed, no longer smiling.


Strife got out of bed and went to the bathroom. (All right, so he drug himself out of bed and staggered to the bathroom.) He was almost glad that Cupid wasn’t there to see him. (Uh huh.) Today was a bad day. He had to sit on the side of the bed for several minutes before his side and back stopped hurting enough so that he could get up. Normally Strife would have to wait for Cupid to go into the bathroom before he got up so that he didn’t see the trouble he had.


Strife went down the hall to the dining room. He was so glad to be back here. (In the temple, not the dining room.) He been made to stay at Ares and Joxer’s temple for a week and a half before Ace would let him flash home.


Bliss sat at the table, eating and laughing. His nanny had apparently just told a joke. “Hi Daddy Strife.”


“Heya kiddo.” Strife was choked up. It still got to him when Bliss called him daddy.


Strife looked around for Cupid and saw his dirty plate. Strife frowned when he realized that he wouldn’t even get to eat breakfast with his husband…or his son. Bliss finished eating just as Cupid hurried into the room.


“Bye Daddy, bye Daddy Strife.” Bliss kissed Cupid and ran up and kissed Strife on the cheek. He then ran out of the room, eager to start his archery lessons. His nanny raced out after the hyper little boy.


“Good mornin.”


“Morning baby. Sorry I can’t stay, I’ve got this couple I have just got to get together today. See ya later. Love you.” Cupid kissed Strife and ran out before he could say anything. It was a very chaste, unpassionate kiss, also on the cheek. Like Bliss’ had been.


Strife tried to eat, alone, in the empty dining room.


Cupid had been glowing. He’d had that look, that ‘I just had a good time’ look. Strife realized that Cupid had woken up horny, as usual, and had taken care of it by himself in the bathroom. As opposed to taking care of it with him, Strife, his husband.


Strife couldn’t force himself to eat another bite.


^^^^^^


Strife stopped in the doorway of his office and stared. Athena was sitting in one of the arm chairs. Athena?


“I guess ya’re mah babysittah for tha day.” Ever since Tryst’s attack, Strife was not left alone. (Except for when he’s wandering the halls.) There was at least one other god was with him at all times. They thought this would stop Tryst.


Strife knew better.


Athena smiled at him and Strife’s lummox was flummed. (He was flummoxed.) Athena *never* smiled and she hated him. Well, maybe hate was too strong a word. Disinterested. She had never been interested in him in all Strife’s life.


“I am here to keep you safe. Is there anything I can do to help you?”


Again Strife was surprised. “Uh, well, I’m gonna give Joxah a baby showah and I’m fixin tha invitations. Ya can help with that if ya wanna.”


Strife handed her one of the completed invitations and waited. He waited for the criticism or the condescension or the offer to redo what he had messed up.


“You have the most beautiful penmanship I have ever seen.”


Well that was unexpected. “Uh, thank ya.”


“I’m serious. I wish I could write half this good.” Athena ran a fingertip over the writing reverently. “There is no way I am going to mess any of these up with my handwriting. What else can I do for you?”


Strife was taken aback. She was serious. He got her started planning decorations and the two of them passed an amazingly pleasant day together.


^^^^^^


3 days later


Strife woke up alone, again. He could hear Cupid in the bathroom moving around. Strife got up and went and stood in the doorway; and there he was. Cupid. His beloved, drop-dead gorgeous husband. Standing there with nothing on and aroused.


Drinking in the sight, (Who wouldn’t.) Strife moved up behind Cupid and put his arms around him. Strife rubbed his hands over every bit of Cupid he could reach and he had *long* arms. Cupid hummed and started squirming happily. Strife lay his head between his husband’s shoulder blades, among the soft feathers of his wings.


That felt so good. He could stay this way forever. He kissed the back of Cupid’s neck, just below the hairline and Cupid shivered. Strife walked around Cupid, keeping his hands on him the whole time, and plastered himself to the front of his body.


Cupid grabbed him and they began kissing. Strife kept running his hands through Cupid’s feathers. They were so soft and felt so good on his body. He reached down and took hold of Cupid’s manhood.


Cupid pulled back abruptly. He stood there licking his lips and staring at Strife. “Sorry baby, I’ve got to hurry or I’ll be late.” Cupid’s voice was rough with arousal, but he turned away and walked over to the tub.


Strife couldn’t believe it. Cupid just walked away from sex. He watched his husband get into the tub and begin bathing. His hands were clenched in fists, tight enough that there was blood dripping from the fingernail gouges in his palms. Strife left the room, shutting the door without a backwards glance.


If he had looked back he would have seen Cupid watching him longingly. He would have seen Cupid close his eyes, remember Strife’s hands on him, and finish what Strife had started to do. He would also have seen a no longer aroused, but disappointed husband.


Cupid never noticed the drops of bright red blood on the tile.


^^^^^^


Strife ran into one of the many rooms in the temple and shut the door behind him. He was crying and leaned against the door for support. He wanted to sit down, but wasn’t sure if he could get back up if he did.


Strife cried.


After a long while, he stood up straight. Strife noticed his bloody hands for the first time and shrugged. Who cared? Holding them as far away from his body as he could, Strife healed them. (Remember the no magic close to his body rule.) When he was done Strife flashed on clean clothes.


Strife looked up and saw himself. There was a full-length mirror across the room. He went and stood in front of it and stared. He looked himself up and down and frowned at what he saw.


What he saw was a tall, skinny, unnaturally pale god. His hair was funny looking and looked ugly stuck straight up like he wore it. Look at those eyes. They were a funny, glittery blue.


Strife knew without his clothes he looked even worse. He still had bruises from HIS last attack.


No wonder Cupid didn’t want to have sex with him anymore.


Strife turned away from the mirror in disgust. He wiped his tear streaked face dry and put his hands over his face. There was a brief glow. When Strife lowered his hands there was no evidence he had been crying. No red eyes, no blotchy skin, nothing.


Like it had never happened.


^^^^^^


Cupid was getting worried. He couldn’t find Strife anywhere. What if Tryst had gotten hold of him?


He sighed in relief when Strife walked into the dining room. Strife didn’t look over at him. “Bliss ya bettah hurry or ya’ll be late fah ya classes.” Strife’s voice was curiously flat.


“I have to go help Mom with a major orgy she’s got planned.”


“Okay, see ya latah then.” With a brief look over at him, Strife left the dining room, without a kiss.


Cupid didn’t notice a small mirror by the door vanishing. Strife had sent it to the room he had just left.


Cupid reached out to stop his husband and hesitated. He followed Strife to his office and could hear Athena talking to him inside.


They could talk later.


^^^^^^


Strife walked into his office and sat down at his desk. Athena was telling him something or other about Joxer’s party. Strife wasn’t listening.


Who knew there were that many mirrors hanging around. He had passed no less than three more coming down the hall. All had been banished to the spare room. There was another one! Strife scowled at the mirror facing his desk.


Gods look at him!


That mirror disappeared as well. The blank wall behind it was more soothing to Strife’s troubled mind.


^^^^^^


The next day


Cupid blinked and looked around. He was in a cave. How in Tartarus did he end up here? There was a flash and he looked over to see his father, looking just as surprised and pissed off as he was.


“What in Hades name are we doing here?” Cupid noticed that Ares was more upset than mad now. He spun around and realized where they were.


The home of The Fates.


Oh crap. Again.


The three women turned from The Tapestry of Life and began speaking in that weird one after another thingy they do. “There is more you need to see.”


“Oh shit.” Cupid couldn’t agree with his father more. Had Strife been hurt more? (Well, duh!)


“Look.” The cave wall shimmered and turned into a huge scrying mirror. The Crone walked over to Cupid and looked up at him. Cupid resisted the urge to step back. “There is pain that only you can help.” He gulped and nodded.


She walked back over to the other two women and waited. The Mother stepped forward, “Be warned, we cannot keep interfering.”


“You will be able to walk among them, like you were actually there. In reality you will be here with us, until we send you on.” The Maiden looked over at Cupid and Ares. They both nodded, unsure what they were agreeing to.


“Let it begin.” Each woman spoke one word and everything changed. One minute they were in the cavern, the next minute they were in an office. Ares’ office to be exact. (He calls it a war room.) The two men could see and talk to each other, but their hands went through the furniture.


For better or worse, they were going to be observers here.




Fic: Overheard Conversations 10/?
Author: Kerensa
Email: vkevans@yahoo.com Feedback please. Feedback or death (well, maybe that’s going a little too far)
Rating: R, so far
Fandom: Xena/Hercules, brief mention of food from Harry Potter series
Pairing: Ares/Joxer, Cupid/Strife
Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, I’m just borrowing them for a little fun. The same with the Harry Potter stories. I have no money, no property, I even have to borrow the food I eat, so please don’t sue me.
Warning: m/m; MPREG; talk of nonconsensual sex; talk of underage molestation rape, and abuse; angst
Summary: Joxer and Strife are both pregnant and end up talking. Their husbands, Ares and Cupid overhear their conversation and find out a lot more about their husband’s, especially Strife’s past, than they ever imagined.
Status: WIP
Series: Children At Play
Archive: Yes to AJCS; anywhere else, sure just tell me first
Website: Nope, sorry I wouldn’t know how to set one up.
Notes: I want to thank my mother for some of the ideas in this story. She thought up the bad guy’s name and some ways to hurt poor Strife. Later in the series I will mention something, briefly, from the I LOVE LUCY show; bonus points if you can find it. Beta’d by me and Spellcheck.
Part 10

Strife darted into the room, his arms straight down at his sides and his hands clenched into fists. He inched behind the door and stood there waiting. A shadow came to the door and stopped. Strife held his breath. After a few seconds the shadow went on and Strife relaxed back against the wall. Pushing away from the wall he walked across the room.

“I can do this, I can do this.” Strife passed by an invisible Cupid and sat down on the edge of Ares’ desk. “I just need ta calm down.” Strife crossed his arms, hands still clenched, and rocked back and forth.

Cupid and Ares looked on in worry. Strife was so agitated his body was practically humming. Being this upset wasn’t good for him or the baby. But there was nothing they could do, because technically they weren’t even there.

After a minute Strife grimaced and made himself stop rocking. He uncrossed his arms and grabbed hold of the edge of the desk. “I am not gonna ruin Joxah’s baby showah.” Strife nodded decisively as his fingernails made furrows in the wooden desk.

“Everthin will be all right. I’ll just stay in heah for a little while and then go back out theah all calm.” Strife slid off the desk and began to pace. Unknowingly, he walked between his husband and his uncle.

He paced agitatedly between the two gods. Back and forth he went; turning so fast that his loose tunic swung out around him in an arc. He put a shaky hand over his mouth to stop his trembling lips.

“Okay maybe I bettah stop now, cause I’m makin mahself dizzy.” Strife proved this was true by swaying alarmingly. Both men reached for Strife, but couldn’t catch him. (Well, duh!) He bent over with his hands on his thighs, trying not to fall on his face as the world got gray and fuzzy. To Strife it was like a thick piece of dusty gauze was put over his face.

Strife straightened up and reached over to lean on the desk. Unfortunately, the desk was several inches past his hand. Strife started to tilt over and would have fallen if fate hadn’t intervened. (Actually it was The Fates.)

Cupid and Ares both automatically reached out to catch him. This time their hands, just barely, touched something. It was enough support and kept Strife upright as he stumbled over to the desk and plopped back down. “Ow, that hurt.” He rubbed his bottom lightly.

“Thank you ladies.” Cupid looked around the room. “Thank you for letting me help him.”

“You are welcome.” The disembodied voices echoed in the room.

Cupid looked back over at his husband who was still rubbing his bottom. “What’s up with that?” He looked at his father who looked just as concerned and puzzled as he was.

“Uh oh.” Strife turned a decidedly green color and he magicked up a big bowl.

He hunched over the bowl, one arm wrapped around his bad ribs and moaned. “Oh please, not taday. I really don’t wanna puke taday. I know, I’ll do that ‘take a coupla deep breaths’ thingy.” Strife took a really deep breath. He gasped and dropped his bowl as he clutched at his ribs. “Bad idea.”

Strife sat hunched over for a few minutes. He slowly sat back up and grimaced again. Cupid thought he was in more pain. He was, just not the kind of pain Cupid thought.

Strife was staring over Cupid’s shoulder. Ares and Cupid turned to see what Strife was frowning at. Neither one of them saw anything upsetting.

“How come I nevah noticed how many mirrahs there are everywheah?” Strife snarled at the offending object and raised his hand to get rid of it. After a few seconds he relaxed. “Oh yeah, I’m at Unc and Joxah’s, I can’t move it.” He turned his body slightly so he couldn’t see himself.

Strife laughed. “It’s probably a good thing anyway; that room is gettin kinda full.”

“All these mirrahs have got ta be Dite’s fault. Or Apollo’s maybe. They both like lookin at themselves.” He got up and began to pace again. “Eithah that or it’s punishment for us ugly ones.”

^^^^^^

Cupid was stupefied. Ugly!? Where in Tartarus did he get the idea he was ugly?

Cupid raked his eyes over his husband’s gorgeous body. Long and lean with that wild hair and oh god, his amazing blue eyes.

He felt himself becoming aroused and squashed the feeling down purposely. He couldn’t do that right now.

^^^^^^

Strife almost kicked the bowl he had dropped and he started to pick it up. He remembered at the last second, when his ribs reminded him, not to do that. With a wave of his hand the bowl disappeared. It was then that Strife noticed the gouge marks he had made on the desk.

“Great. Not only was I sittin on Unc’s desk, now I’ve scratched it up.” He moved his hand and the marks vanished. “He’s gonna blast me inta next week.” Strife rubbed a hand across his stomach. “Well maybe he’ll wait til I have tha baby before he does that.”

Strife smiled. A sad little smile.

He heard somebody walk by the open door. Both men watched as he stiffened up. They were both wondering what was going on. What had happened?

Strife slumped and sat back down on the desk. He closed his eyes and began rocking again.

“Strife.”

Strife yelped and jumped. Cupid and Ares jumped as well. They didn’t yelp. They were *manly* gods after all. (Yeah, right.) They had been concentrating on Strife so hard that they didn’t hear Joxer come in.

“Oops.”

“I’m tellin in ya Joxah, a bell would look really good on ya.” Strife smiled at his friend.

Joxer walked into the room and sat down on the couch. (All right. I know. He’s over 8 months pregnant. Really he waddled in and eased himself down. But Joxer’s just too cute to waddle.) He looked his friend up and down and frowned at what he saw.

“That doesn’t look very comfortable,” he indicated the desk. “Why don’t you come over here and sit by me.” Joxer gestured and then patted the seat beside himself when Strife hesitated. “Come on.”

Strife walked over and sat down with a heartfelt sigh. “Ya’re right this is a lot bettah.” He closed his eyes and tried to relax. “So, how come ya’re in heah and not out theah at yar party?”

“I just wanted to get away for a little bit.” Joxer turned to Strife. “I love my party.” He hastened to assure his easily hurt friend. “It’s just that, well…don’t get me wrong, I love them…” Joxer looked at the open door. “…well maybe love is too strong…like…anyway, they can be a little…”

“Overwhelmin?”

“Yeah. You too?”

Strife nodded. “Yeah.” Strife hesitated, giving his friend a sidelong glance. “Ya know this has been tha strangest week ah mah life.”

“Strange? How?”

Strife considered a minute. “Everybody treats me different.”

Cupid and Ares both stiffened up at this information and started to growl. Ares looked over at his husband and gasped. This caught Cupid’s attention.

Sweet, loving Joxer, the God of *Peace*, was scowling. His eyes were narrowed and practically spitting fire.

“How are they treating you different?” Joxer’s voice sounded so calm; in complete contrast to his visage.

Strife wasn’t fooled. He looked up at his friend and quickly put out a placating hand. “No, calm down. Not different bad, just different. They’re bein…nice ta me.”

“Is that a bad thing?” Joxer still looked angry. Only now he was angry at Tryst and everybody else who had treated Strife so badly that he was uncomfortable when people were *nice* to him.

“Nah, just weird.” Strife chewed on his lip, thinking. “People are friendly.”

“As opposed to nice?”

“Yeah. Too friendly, if ya know what I mean.”

“Oh…I see.”

Joxah I tell ya, I’ve had more propositions in tha last week than I evah had in mah entire life.”

“Oh really, just how many offers have you had?”

Strife twisted his wedding ring nervously. Cupid noticed that the ring slid loosely on his finger. “Nine.”

Joxer blinked in surprise. Ares’ mouth fell open. Cupid’s eyes started glowing a bright green. (Uh oh.)

“Actually I’ve been propositioned more in tha last coupla hours than evah before.”

“Let me get this straight. You’re a pregnant, happily married god,” Joxer noticed that Strife flinched at the happily married comment, “at a *baby shower* and you’ve been hit on?” Strife nodded. “How many times?”

Strife cleared his throat and blushed a bright red. “Four.”

“Four? Wow! I’m impressed.” He turned and looked through the doorway, considering. “Geez, I’d hate to think of who in *that* crowd would be hitting on you.”

“I’m not sure…but I think Hermes was probably jokin when he asked me if I wanted ta *really* learn how ta fly.” Strife blushed and looked down at the floor. It sounded so stupid when he said it; he had misunderstood Hermes and was making a *complete* fool of himself.

“Don’t count on it. Hermes might be a liar, but he’s always up for sex.” Joxer rolled his eyes and said, “No pun intended.”

Strife had to think a minute before he realized what Joxer was talking about. He snorted softly and thought maybe he hadn’t been wrong after all.

“Is he the one who upset you so much?”

“What are ya talkin about Joxah?”

“Strife, a few minutes ago you bolted out of that room like you had been shot with one of Cupid’s arrows. Obviously someone or something upset you. So was it Hermes?”

“Nah, he came ovah way early in tha party.” Joxer just waited.

“Tha one that was really kinda creepy was…Poseidon.”

“Poseidon?!” Strife nodded. Joxer thought of the *huge* god and gulped.

“Yeah. He was talkin ta me and all I could think of was, holy crap.” Strife shuddered and grimaced in pain. “Luckily he backed off gracefully when I said, no thanks. Not like…”

“Hmm, let’s see, a god who wouldn’t back off. Who could that have been? Let me think. Oh, I know, Apollo!” Strife blinked at Joxer’s sarcasm.

“You too, huh.”

“Oh yeah.”

^^^^^^

Ares was boiling. People were hitting on Strife, a very emotionally and physically vulnerable Strife. The same gods who wouldn’t talk to him 3 weeks ago now wanted to get into his pants!

Apollo had been coming on to his husband for god only knows how long. Ares growled low under his breath.

“Apollo is a dead man.” Ares nodded at his son.

Cupid was so agitated that his wings were spread out behind his body and vibrating like mad. Several feathers were flying through the air; loosened by his flapping and kept floating in the air.

“Cupid, calm down or they’ll never let us go to our husbands.” (The God of War trying to calm somebody down. What’s the world coming to?)

Cupid knew his father was right; The Fates were fickle. Besides he wanted to help his spouse. So far nothing seemed to indicate why Strife was so upset; disgusted maybe, but not upset.

^^^^^^

“Actually three ah tha nine times were by Apollo.”

“Yeah, Apollo is not really known for taking *no* for an answer. You have to be firm.” Joxer smiled wolfishly.

Strife blinked at the alien expression on his friend’s face. “Oh, yeah. How do ya do that?”

“I’ll tell you, you…” Joxer gestured Strife closer and whispered in his ear. Strife’s eyes popped out of his head. (Not really, because that would just be disgusting.) He leaned back at looked at his *innocent* friend.

“Wow. Now, I’m impressed.”

“Thank you.” He grinned at Strife smugly. “Trust me. You do that and he’ll leave you alone, way alone.” Joxer smirked. “Or if you want, I can take care of it for you.” He laughed at the thought. “Nowadays Apollo flashes out so fast when he sees me it’s not even funny.”

Strife smiled at that and Cupid sat down hard. He realized that he hadn’t seen his husband smile in at least a week. Had he done that?

“Tha weirdest was when ya hit on me.”

Ares and Cupid’s heads both snapped up in surprise at that bit of information. “What?” Luckily neither Joxer nor Strife could hear the jealously in their husband’s voices. (Actually it might have done Strife some good.)

Joxer looked bemused. “Really? Funny, I don’t remember that and I think that’s something I would remember doing.”

“Yeah, well it was almost you. Albeit a you with blond hair and a…Spanish? accent.”

“Ah, Jayce. Yes, he his accent is Spanish.”

“Buy ya’ll ain’t from Spain. Has he evah been theah?”

“Nope, not that I know of.”

“Okay…whatevah.” Strife let it drop. He certainly knew about odd relatives. “Anyway he didn’t really hit on me; more like he made an observation.”

When Strife didn’t go on, Joxer prodded him. “An observation?”

Strife blushed again. “He said that I looked delicious and he wanted ta lick warm honey from mah body.” Strife was bright red now.

So was Cupid for that matter, just not for the same reasons. Ares had a firm grip on his son and it was a good thing, otherwise Cupid would have gone after Jayce. (He wouldn’t have gotten far. Don’t forget he’s still in The Fates cave.)

“Course he was all wistful then, cause I’m ‘happily married and he’d never be able ta do it’.” Strife had still been twisting his wedding ring. Now he let go of it and instead started playing with the arm of the couch.

“I’m sorry if he upset you; that’s just Jayce’s way of talking to people.”

“That ain’t it.” Strife frowned. “I was flattered. At first, I thought that it sounded messy and then, and then I thought about Cupid doin it.” Strife closed his eyes and smiled dreamily. All three other gods watched him and smiled on their own.

“That’s when I got upset. Cause I realized it ain’t evah gonna happen.” Strife was practically whispering and had started to pull threads out of the arm of the couch. (Let’s face it, an upset Strife is bad on the furniture.)

^^^^^^

Cupid couldn’t understand what Strife was talking about. Why in Tartarus did he think the honey thing would never happen?

Cupid ran a hand across his mouth, checking for drool. He was seriously going to hurt Jayce, but wow, he couldn’t stop picturing Strife laid out covered with honey. That was sooooo going to happen as soon as Strife could handle it.

He looked over at his sad and depressed husband.

I’ve gotta do something to cheer him up. But what? (Well, duh!)

^^^^^^

“Why wouldn’t it ever happen?”

Strife looked up, surprised at the question. He hadn’t intended to say that last part out loud. Pasting on a fake smile, Strife waved a hand airily. “Oh nothin. Come on we need ta get ya back ta tha party.”

He started to get up, but only got half-way there when Joxer took hold of his arm to stop him. “Wait…” Joxer never got to finish what he was going to say, because as soon as he touched his friend’s arm Strife cried out, jerking it back and clutching it to his chest. “Oh gods, did I hurt you?”

Strife flopped back down on the couch and tried to reassure his friend. “No, ya didn’t do anythin.”

Over Strife’s protests, Joxer took hold of his left arm and gently pulled his sleeve back. Everyone but Strife was horrified at what they saw. His arm, from elbow to wrist was one huge bruise.

“What happened?”

“I just hurt mah arm this mornin is all. It’s no big deal.” Strife sounded so depressed, like he didn’t care that he was hurt at all.




Part 11

“’No big deal’, right.” Joxer’s voice rose slightly as he talked to the middle of the room. “Asclep…ius.”

Joxer jumped when Ace flashed in while he was in the middle of calling his name. It still amazed Joxer how quickly Ace came running when one of them hollered. Especially if the person was Strife.

“What’s wrong? Joxer, are you hurt? Strife, are you hurt? Is something wrong with the babies? What happened to your arm?!”

Joxer blinked at the rapid-fire interrogation. Strife just sat there and looked at him. Ace got down on one knee and carefully took Strife’s arm out of Joxer’s hands. He pulled the sleeve up farther and they could see that the elbow was swollen and bruised as well.

^^^^^^

Cupid looked at Strife’s badly bruised arm and frowned. He thought about how depressed Strife was and whimpered. He tried in vain to trace his husband’s sad face. The Fates wouldn’t allow this touch of comfort.

Ares put a hand on his son’s shoulder. Cupid looked up at him. “Dad, what’s happening?” He sounded so lost.

“I don’t know, but we will find out. And we’ll fix it.” Ares had on his ‘I’m the God of War, damnit, you will answer to me’ face. The determination in Ares’ voice helped calm Cupid’s mind.

“*Yes*, we will.” Cupid nodded forcefully. (Hey, he was no more immune to his father’s look than anybody else.)

^^^^^^

“What happened to your arm?” Ace repeated himself, in a quieter but more forceful tone this time.

Strife looked from friend to friend. He saw the dogged looks on their faces and sighed. “A statue fell and hit mah arm.”

“A statue.” Ace looked even more worried and considering the size of most of the statues gracing Olympian temples he had good reason to. “How big and how did it happen?”

“It was about, I don’t know, 2 feet tall. It was some god awful statue ah Dite. Looks nothin like her.” Strife hoped they would let the rest drop. (Like that’s going to happen.) No such luck, they all just looked at him. Strife squirmed like a child caught doing something they’re not supposed to.

“I was walkin through tha main hall in Cupid’s temple, mindin mah own business, when I saw somethin outta tha corner ah mah eye. I looked ovah in time ta see this statue fallin ovah and I jumped outta tha way.” At their skeptical looks he amended. “Well mostly anyway.” He gestured to his arm. “It hit mah arm was all.”

“Uh huh.” Ace said skeptically. He didn’t seem any more impressed with Strife’s dismissive ‘was all’ than Joxer had been. “So, why didn’t you call me as soon as you were injured?” Ace was running his hands over Strife’s arms, obviously looking for any other damage.

“There wasn’t any need ta bothah ya. Ya’re way too busy ta come runnin fah somethin this small.” Seeing the others eyeing his hurt arm; Strife went on the defensive. “It ain’t like mah arm was broke or nothin.”

“I see. So your arm has to be broken before you will *bother* me. The fact that it is cracked is too insignificant, huh.” Ace spoke very quietly and Strife looked surprised. He hadn’t realized the arm was injured beyond the bruises.

“Do you think it was Tryst’s doing?” Joxer winced in sympathy when he saw how Strife flinched upon hearing Tryst’s name. It upset Strife to hear Tryst’s name at all and he never said it himself.

“Nah.” Everyone was surprised at Strife’s definite answer.

“How can you be so sure?”

“Cause when tha statue hit me, I fell on mah butt. Sa basically I was stunned, sittin in tha middle ah tha hallway. If it had been…HIM, he would taken advantage and attacked.”

Strife’s matter-of-fact description of his near miss with the statue and being knocked to the ground was more upsetting than reassuring. Joxer was thinking about that statue and calculating just how much a two foot tall marble statue would probably weigh. Thinking of that much weight falling on the already fragile Strife made Joxer’s hands start to shake.

“You were knocked to the ground?” At Strife’s nod, Asclepius stood up. “So you landed hard on your behind. Maybe I need to check.”



Joxer looked at the two men and started to get up. “I’ll go in the other room and give you some privacy.”

^^^^^^

Cupid’s eyes narrowed in anger. He didn’t want *anybody* looking at Strife’s butt. He was the only one allowed to do that.

Cupid tried to reign in his anger. Ace was just trying to help. He wasn’t like Apollo.

He growled as he thought of his uncle. He looked over at Ares and saw the sad, thoughtful look on his face. Cupid’s anger fled as he thought about his husband being hurt.

And another thing, what the Tartarus did Strife mean ‘Cupid’s temple’? It is *our* home. Mine, his, Bliss’ and the new baby’s.

Cupid was even more upset to realize how insecure his husband still felt about his place in Cupid and Bliss’ life. He turned his attention back to see Joxer struggling to get off of the couch.

^^^^^^

Strife waved his hand dismissively at his fellow god. “It’s okay Joxah, ya ain’t gotta go anywheah. Ya don’t hafta look at nothin Ace, cause mah bottom’s just fine.”

Ace did not look convinced. “Really. It’s just a little sore. Okay, a lot sore, but it’s just bruised, maybe.”

Ace didn’t really believe Strife, but backed off anyway. It upset Strife alot for anyone to see him naked, especially his backside. Ace could see that Strife was sitting down without too much pain. “What about your back? If you fell like that you were undoubtedly jarred pretty good.” Ace had Strife lean forward and he started feeling his back. Strife winced several times. “Well, the good news is, nothing’s the matter with your back that a little rest won’t cure.”

Ace kneeled backed down and picked Strife’s arm back up. He dealt the next bit of upsetting news to the watching crowd. (Does three count as a crowd? Yes, if they are all gods.) “How about letting me see this without the glamour.”

“Glamour?” Joxer asked in surprise. His question was unknowingly echoed by Cupid and Ares.

Strife looked surprised for a few seconds and then his face cleared as he figured out what Ace was talking about. “Oh, I’m sorry…I forgot all about that. I’ve been usin a glamour fah sa long that I forgot all about it.”

“How long have you been using a glamour?” Joxer looked at his friend; wondering what he was hiding.

“Evah since tha-tha…battlefield.”

Joxer looked at Strife sadly. “You’ve been using a glamour for *40 YEARS!*?”

Strife nodded, not saying a word.

“Oh gods, does that mean that when you were hurt this last time that you really looked worse than you did?” Joxer was horrified at the thought. Strife’s abdomen had looked awful. If that hadn’t been as bad as it really was…

Before Strife could say anything, Asclepius spoke up, “No, when he was hurt he dropped the glamour.”

They watched as Strife closed his eyes and concentrated. A faint shimmer of light passed over the injured young god and everyone got to see Strife as he really was.

At first Joxer didn’t see any changes. Then he did.

The bruises on Strife’s arm were darker and bigger than they had first appeared. Strife was a couple of shades paler and had dark smudges under his eyes. Pain and exhaustion were evident in his face. This even thinner face, as a matter of fact, Strife was a lot thinner.

Strife slumped back on the couch.

“Are you all right?” Ace’s voice was quiet and soothing. The perfect thing for a nervous young god.

“Yah, I just forgot how much energy onna those things took. It’s nice ta not have that much of a energy drain.”

^^^^^^

“Forty years! What happened forty years ago?” Cupid looked to his father for answers; unfortunately Ares was just as confused as he was.

“I don’t know, but by *Zeus* I’m gonna find out.” Ares’ eyes were flashing alarmingly and he growled low in his throat. (Woof!) He couldn’t wait to get his hands on Tryst; that was one god who was going to scream.

^^^^^^

“Stick your arms out.” Strife’s eyes popped open and he looked scared. Asclepius grimaced. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be so abrupt. Please put your arms out, I want to put this blanket under them.” A thick silvery blanket appeared in Ace’s hands.

Strife relaxed and obligingly raised his arms. Ace carefully wrapped the blanket around Strife, tucking it in behind his back. “There that will protect the baby from the magic while I fix your arm. You were right, by the way, it’s not broken, but as I said it is cracked.” Ace fixed Strife’s arm, as best he could. (This was the second time in less than a month that it had been mangled.)

Strife smiled at Asclepius. “Thanks, I hadn’t realized how much it was botherin me.”

“No problem.” Ace sat back on his haunches and looked appraisingly at the two pregnant gods. “Now, I just *know* you two weren’t sitting here without putting your feet up.”

Joxer and Strife looked at each other and gulped. Uh oh.

“I’ve had my feet up.” Joxer tried to save his butt. “See there’s my chair,” he pointed into the other room, “and see I had a stool for my feet.” Feeling a little braver he added, “I’ve only been in here for a few minutes; before that I kept my feet up.”

“That’s right, I made sure he hadda stool fah his feet.” Strife backed his friend up, hoping to avoid getting in trouble.

“Good. Feet.” At the command, Joxer quickly stuck his feet out. Ace pulled off his soft slippers and examined his feet. “Well, they’re not too badly swollen…” Joxer sighed in relief. “…and they’ll stay that way, if you keep them up.” Joxer nodded and then groaned as Asclepius rubbed his feet.

“When was the last time you had a foot massage?”

“A couple of days ago.” Ace didn’t seem impressed.

“Really. A couple of days. Hmmm, if Ares is too *busy* then maybe I should find somebody else to rub your feet.” He looked thoughtful as he pondered the possibilities. “Dad maybe.”

Joxer recoiled and Strife gasped at this idea.

“Nah. He would have too much fun rubbing your…feet.” Ace rubbed a little longer and then put the slippers back on. “I know the *perfect* person…Hercules.”

Joxer’s mouth dropped open. “*Hercules*?” His voice squeaked on the name.

“Oh yeah, when his wife, the first one, Dainera, was pregnant he would rub her feet. From all accounts he was really good at it.”

“That might not go over well.” (Now, is that an understatement, or what?)

^^^^^^

Ares was stunned at Asclepius’ suggestion. He wasn’t serious? (Of course not, he just wanted to get Ares upset. It worked.)

“A foot massage? I never even thought about that.” Cupid looked chagrinned.

“Son, after this is all over come and see me. I’ll give you some tips on how to help your pregnant spouse feel better.”

Cupid just nodded at his father. He was ashamed of himself. Just because Psyche hadn’t wanted anything like that didn’t mean Strife wouldn’t. After all, Strife was about as different (Thank god.) from his ex-wife as was possible.

^^^^^^

“And where was your chair?” Asclepius smiled sweetly.

Strife gulped. He just *knew* that he was in trouble now. “Ovah theah, close ta Joxah’s chair.”

Ace looked into the other room and then back at Strife.

“I didn’t need a stool, cause I had ta keep an eye on tha proceedins.” That wasn’t a whine.

Ace scooped Strife’s feet up and carefully raised them up, so it wouldn’t make his back hurt any worse than it already was. He gently peeled the shoes off…and stared. Strife’s feet were badly swollen and discolored. There were angry red marks where his shoes had dug into his feet.

Ace looked up at Strife’s trembling lips and didn’t have the heart to scold him. (Well…not *too* badly anyway.)

Strife jerked and grunted when Ace started rubbing his feet. After a little while he relaxed again and enjoyed the attention.

“I can see that Hercules is going to be verrry busy.” Strife giggled at the thought of Hercules playing with his feet. (Cupid growled in the background.)

Asclepius magicked up a soft pair of slippers, kind of like Joxer’s. He eased them onto Strife’s feet. Then he stood up and faced the squirming gods.

“Now. Here’s how it’s gonna be. You can go back to your party, however, you will *both* keep your feet up. Understood?” He waited until they nodded before he continued. “Joxer, you keep doing like you have been. *Strife*, after this party you will go home and go to bed, for 3 days. Do you hear me? *Three days.* That means three days in bed, with your feet up on pillows.” Strife nodded, wide-eyed. “In bed, not sitting in a chair with them up on a stool, not reclining on the couch. In bed.”

Ace smiled that smile again and both men looked at each other in consternation. “Otherwise you’ll get in trouble. Do you remember what I said would happen if you didn’t follow instructions?” Strife nodded quickly. “Good. See ya later.” With that Ace flashed away in a brilliant pinkish-orange light.

^^^^^^

Both gods sat there for a few minutes. “So, are ya ready ta go back ta yar party?”

“Not yet, I can still hear Gabrielle reading.” Strife glanced out the door. In the background you could vaguely hear the young bard talking.

“Crap. Ya mean she’s tellin a story.” Joxer nodded and Strife started giggling. “Does it scare ya that what Ace is threatenin ta punish us with is what she considahs a gift.”

“Oh yeah. You have to admit though, listening to her stories for hours on end would have one good affect.”

Strife frowned as he thought. No matter how he wracked his brain, he couldn’t see an advantage. “Really and what would that be.”

“You could catch up on your sleeping.” Strife giggled at Joxer’s joke.

Joxer smiled, happy that he had cheered up his friend, if only for the moment. He hated to spoil it, but something had upset Strife badly and he wanted to know what or who it was.

“Why do you think Cupid wouldn’t want to do the thing with honey?”

^^^^^^

Cupid heard Joxer’s question and said, “Thank you. I want to know that too.”

He watched as his husband’s face twisted in pain.

“Oh baby.” Cupid again knelt in front of his husband. (He had moved when Asclepius needed to be there.) “Please tell me what’s wrong.”

Some of Cupid’s plea must have gotten through to Strife subconsciously, because he started to talk.

^^^^^^

“I repulse him.”

“What!” Of all the answers Strife could have given, this one was the most unexpected; for everyone.

“It’s true. I…disgust him now.” Strife rubbed his tummy and started to rock slightly. “I know what ya’re gonna say. Ya’re gonna tell me that Cupid love’s me. I know that’s true. I still see love in his eyes.”

“Then I don’t understand.” Joxer placed one hand on Strife’s back, trying to calm his friend down.

“He don’t wanna be…intimate with me. I don’t mean touchin. He’ll still give me ah hug and kiss, but he don’t want it ta go any furthah.”

“Maybe he’s been tired…”

“I thought sa too, tha first coupla times. Aftah that I knew it was just me. See, everythin would be fine. We’d be cuddlin an kissin and then, bam, he’d realize who he was with and he’d back off real quick.” Strife looked over to the side, not facing Joxer. “I figured it out real quick. I know I ain’t tha smartest guy around Olympus, but I ain’t stupid eithah.”

“Strife, I’m sure it’s not what you’re thinking. I’m certain there’s a logical explanation for how he’s acting.”

“Theah is Joxah. See, he had almost two weeks ta think about stuff before I got ta come ho…uh, back ta tha temple. He thought about all tha stuff with Try…HIM. All tha things I done with him.” Swallowing his tears, Strife went on. “I understand, aftah all, it disgusts me too.”

“Strife, you didn’t do anything wrong.”

“I know. I do. I know it wasn’t mah fault, but it’s still nauseatin. Tha things he did, that he made me do, were…foul.”

Joxer sat there; he didn’t know what to say. Cupid was the only one who could help this and apparently he was the problem.

“He won ya know.”

“Who won?”

“HIM…Tryst.” Strife bit his lip and looked quickly around the room. When Tryst didn’t appear he relaxed.

“Strife he didn’t win.”

“Yeah he did. He ruined tha only good thing I’ve evah had in mah life.” Strife’s face crumbled as he started crying.

“I had love fah tha first time in mah life, I had real love. He ruined it.”

Joxer turned Strife towards him and held him awkwardly as he tried to soothe Strife’s broken spirit.

^^^^^^

“NO! No, that’s not what’s going on at all.” Cupid whimpered, seeing the distress he had caused. “No, *please* let me go to him.”

“Granted.” The voices echoed through the chamber. “Just remember, we cannot keep saving you from your follies.”



Part 12

Joxer gasped and recoiled when Cupid flashed in. He was still trying to get his heart back in his chest when Ares touched him on the arm and he got another shock. (Scaring a verrry pregnant man. That’s a good idea.) When he realized it was his husband, Joxer calmed down and was silently thankful that he hadn’t had an accident because of it. (Remember, several pounds of baby were sitting on top of his bladder.)

Strife was just as surprised when Cupid suddenly appeared, kneeling on the floor at his feet. He heard Joxer’s gasp and looked over to make sure he was all right. Seeing his uncle, Strife was momentarily relieved; then he remembered that he had been in the middle of a crying jag.

His hands automatically went to his face, wiping away the tears and trying to hide what he had been doing. Strife would have used another glamour, but he knew Cupid would notice.

“That’s not what happened. Baby, you’ve got it all wrong. I understand why you feel that way and it’s all my fault. Please let me try to explain.”

Strife stopped breathing as he listened to his husband talk. “Oh gods, no, not again.” Strife panicked and tried to get off the couch, but Cupid wouldn’t let him. He refused to move from his spot on the floor and so Strife had to continue sitting there.

^^^^^^

Seeing how upset Strife was becoming Ares went over and closed the door. He waved until he got Aphrodite’s attention, so that the people at the party would know Joxer and Strife weren’t alone.

Since Tryst’s last attack on Strife, neither one of them was left alone. Strife for obvious reasons and Joxer because Tryst had made his attraction all too evident. Nobody was willing to risk either of the two men.

It was a good thing Ares came to the door when he did or they would have had another audience, rivaling the one at Ares and Joxer’s temple a few weeks back. Several of the gods and goddesses had heard Joxer’s yelp and were running to see what was wrong.

As a matter of fact, when Ares looked out the door there was quite a queue of people about to barrel into the room. Ares was touched and amused to realize that the mortals were leading the way. It was hard to tell who was in front; Xena, Jett, Jayce, Hercules or Iolaus.

At Ares’ gesture they all backed off. Not happily or graciously. Everybody was anxious and wanted to get their hands on Tryst.

^^^^^^

Strife’s nerves were already stretched to the breaking point. Hormones were running rampant in his already overtaxed body. He simply couldn’t handle any more stress right now and so he snapped.

He put his hands over his eyes, eyes that were once again streaming with tears. “No, no!” Strife hand his hands mashed tightly against his head as his fingers dug into his scalp.

Cupid took hold of Strife’s hands and carefully, but firmly stopped him from abusing his head. Strife refused to look at him and Cupid refused to let go of Strife’s hands.

Strife yelled out at the middle of the room. “What is goin on heah?! Can’t anybody talk in private anymore?” He halfway glanced at Cupid and then looked at his lap before closing his eyes in defeat. “Is everybody watchin on scryin mirrahs again?”

^^^^^^

It was Ares who answered Strife’s question.

“No, it was just me and Cupid. The Fates decided we needed to do a little more listening. Nobody else is involved this time.”

Ares looked at his distraught nephew. He then looked at his sweet husband, whose heart was breaking over Strife’s distress.

^^^^^^

“Baby look at me…please.” When Strife wouldn’t look up, Cupid let go of one of his hands and gently tilted his chin up. “Please let me explain. I do love you and I *do* want you.”

Strife closed his eyes in pain, both physical and emotional. Crying made his ribs hurt even worse. His back too. He couldn’t stand to see pity coming out of his husband’s eyes. Strife knew that Cupid would now try and hide the disgust he felt. Strife didn’t want to further ruin the memory of the love they had shared for just a few short months.

“You were whimpering.”

Strife looked at Cupid in surprise. “What?”

“When we were in the bathroom, getting ready to make love, you were whimpering. I was hugging you and realized you were moaning and twisting around in pain. *I was hurting you.* I knew I had to get away from you as quickly as possible or I *wouldn’t* be able to stop myself. I have never done anything harder in my life than walking away from you.” Cupid’s eyes were luminescent with unshed tears. He was silently begging Strife to believe him and to understand.

“I don’t remembah hurtin.” Strife was so confused. Could this be true. Maybe Cupid still wanted him. He was afraid to hope. Hope and Strife were not close friends.

“You were though. I heard you whimpering and opened my eyes. I tried moving my hands to see if that helped. It didn’t. No matter where I touched you, you were still in pain.” Cupid risked letting go of Strife’s other hand, long enough to wipe the tears off of his husband’s face. “I love you so much. You have *never* disgusted me and you certainly have *never* repulsed me.”

Strife cried more as he saw the truth in Cupid’s eyes. He leaned forward and put his forehead on Cupid’s broad shoulder.

Love. He was still loved.

^^^^^^

Joxer let Ares silently pull him up off of the couch.

He could hear Cupid murmuring in Strife’s ear, explaining more times of missed loving and the reasons for them.

Joxer realized that his friend was in good hands. Everything would be all right now.

Ares put an arm around Joxer’s waist (Or at least in the general area.) and carefully guided him to the door. Once there Joxer looked back at his friend. He stood there until he caught Cupid’s eye.

Joxer looked meaningfully from Strife to Cupid and back again. He stared at Cupid until the God of Love nodded. He understood. If he ever hurt Strife like this again, he would have to answer to the God of Peace.

Smiling, Joxer let Ares lead him back to his party. They left Cupid and Strife alone awhile to heal.

^^^^^^

Strife hissed and jerked in Cupid’s arms.

“What is it baby?”

“Mah back is crampin.” Strife’s face was tight with pain.

Cupid quickly stood up and moved around to sit beside Strife on the couch. He ran his hand across Strife’s back until he found the knotted area. Gently he rubbed it until Strife relaxed.

Strife started to lean back and Cupid moved his arm. Before Strife could misinterpret this action, Cupid scooped Strife up in his arms and sat him on his lap.

At first Strife was stiff in his arms.

“Did I hurt you?”

“Nah, I’m all right.” Strife made himself relax. It was Cupid, not HIM, who was holding him. Being in somebodies lap was hard. HE only did that when he wanted to molest Strife.

Finally Strife got used to Cupid holding him and he drooped. Not relaxed, drooped. He was so fatigued, mentally and physically.

But he was *safe*. Inside his mind the word *safe* echoed over and over again.

Strife closed his eyes and smiled in peace.

^^^^^^

Strife lightly ran his fingers over Cupid’s arm, tracing the tattoo that encircled it. He so loved that marking, it was sexy as Tartarus.

“Do you want to go home now.” Cupid’s soft question held the promise of bed…to sleep. Strife ruefully acknowledged that he couldn’t do much else right now. The party had taken more out of him than he cared to admit.

“Nah, I don’t wanna miss tha rest ah Joxah’s baby showah.”

“Are you sure you’re up to it?” Cupid kissed Strife’s temple.

“Um huh.” Actually Strife wasn’t sure of anything at the moment. All he wanted to do was stay like this the rest of the day. Rousing himself, Strife sat up and said, “We bettah get in theah before it’s all ovah.”

Cupid helped Strife get up and stood up quickly himself when Strife swayed. He held onto his husband until the dizziness passed.

When they got to the door Strife paused again. Cupid checked to make sure he wasn’t sick or hurting. Strife looked so unsure that Cupid had to hold him again. (Right, like he needed an excuse.)

“Come on baby, I want to see this bash you arranged.”

^^^^^^

Quite a few heads turned when they came into the room.

Joxer smiled when he saw Strife looking happy again. He guessed he would let Cupid live.

Apollo looked over and licked his lips mentally at how nice Strife looked. Then he saw Cupid glaring at him and he gulped. He chanced a glance at Ares and saw an equally menacing glare and started backing up. He peeked at Joxer and saw his innocent smile. Apollo yelped and flashed out in a hurry.

Cupid and Ares looked at Joxer with respect. Joxer just smiled.

Cupid immediately led Strife over to his chair and sat him down. Remembering Ace’s warning and how badly Strife’s feet had looked, Cupid thought up a foot stool and eased Strife’s feet up onto it.

^^^^^^

“All right, I can’t stand it anymore.” Joxer looked at Ares. “What in Tartarus did you do to Apollo to get that reaction out of him.”

Joxer smirked. “I went to Hephaestus and had him make a bracelet for me. The next time Apollo began to grop…uh, bother me I slapped it on him.” Ares didn’t miss Joxer’s almost-admission and Joxer didn’t miss the growl that accompanied it.

“What did the bracelet do?” Cupid was trying to divert his father’s attention. The last thing they needed was for him to beat the crap out of Apollo. Without him the sun wouldn’t come up.

“With the bracelet on Apollo couldn’t get it up. He was still as horny as ever, he just couldn’t do anything about it.” Ares grinned at his husband. “I told him he had to wear it for a month. He tried *everything* to get it to come off. After about a week he came to me, pleading with me to remove it. I told him he could take it off if he got the key. Then I told him that Ares had the key. All he had to do was explain why he needed it.” Joxer grinned at the audience that had gathered. “He wore the bracelet for the whole month. By then I think he was so ready for sex he was about to explode. It’s funny, he hasn’t bothered me since then.”

Several of the men listening backed up. Ares frowned at them and they suddenly found other things to do. (Yes, they had also propositioned Joxer.)

^^^^^^

Joxer looked at his painfully thin friend and decided more subtle direction was needed. He thought about hitting Cupid over the head with his plate and then decided that maybe that was not *subtle* enough.

“These are really good. What are they called again?” Joxer held up a bit of food in one hand.

“Nachos. They’re from tha future.”

“Did you like them?” At Strife’s nod he continued, “I thought so. I did see you eating…two of them.” Joxer looked pointedly again at Cupid who eyed the very small pieces of food thoughtfully.

“I’ll be right back.” Cupid walked over to the food tables.

While he was gone, Strife scanned the room, making sure all the food trays were full and drinks were plentiful. He had just spotted something that needed fixing and was about to get up when Athena appeared by his side.

Athena frowned. Why did Strife look so much worse all of the sudden? Earlier he had seemed tired, but now he looked positively worn out. She smiled at the young god and said, “Take a break, you deserve one after all the hard work you’ve done organizing everything. I’ll keep an eye on things for you.” With that she walked away before Strife could argue with her.

“Here you go baby.” Strife looked up to see Cupid holding a plate that was brimming over with food.

“I can’t eat all that.” Strife giggled at all the different foods.

That giggle warmed Cupid’s heart. He hadn’t realized that it had been missing for the last several days.

“Well you’re going to eat as much as you can.” Cupid waved his hand and Strife’s chair elongated into a small couch. He liked the way it looked and decided to call it a love seat. (Hey, who else do you think invented it.)

“What did you have for lunch?” Strife looked guilty.

“I kinda forgot in all tha rush.”

“I see…and breakfast.” Strife wiggled this time.

“I wasn’t hungry.”

Cupid sat down beside his husband and carefully pulled him closer so that Strife’s bad side was being supported by Cupid’s body. Cupid held out the plate. “Eat.” Strife took the plate and started nibbling on a sandwich. “We’ll talk later about your eating habits.”

Strife didn’t say anything and tried to eat more.

After a while, Cupid noticed that Strife’s plate was tilting at an alarming angle. He took it before it could slide out of Strife’s lax hand. Strife had fallen asleep in the middle of the loud party.

Cupid sat the plate and the glass of juice he had been holding down on a small table that appeared beside him. Somewhat satisfied with the amount of food Strife had eaten, he snuggled up with his husband and watched him sleep.

He wasn’t the only one.

Most everyone had noticed the change in Strife. Not how much happier he was, although they noticed that too. No, they noticed the abrupt change for the worse in his appearance.

Strife looked even more fragile than ever. His skin was paper white (Not that he was ever Mr. Tan.) and looked like it would tear at a touch. He looked thinner and like a slight breeze would knock him over. (Actually, at this point it wouldn’t even take that much.)

Protective instincts rose up and so did blood pressure. Gods and goddesses began to meet together to plan what they were going to do to Tryst when he was found. Some of the plans were bloodthirsty and gruesome. Then there were the *really bad* ones. (You don’t want me to tell you about the one with the starving rats, a metal bowl, some hot coals and lots and lots of straps.+)

Strife slept on, unaware of the fervor being created because he dropped the glamour.
-

+Thanks to Scribe for this suggestion.

-


Fic: Overheard Conversations 13/?

Author: Kerensa

Email: vkevans@yahoo.com Feedback please. Feedback or death (well, maybe that’s going a little too far)

Rating: R, so far

See earlier postings for warnings and disclaimers.

Extra note: In my universe there was no Twilight of the Gods and Strife never murdered Serena, Hercules’ second wife. Bliss is only about 4 years old now, Eve (Xena’s daughter) is 7. Yes, I know he should be a lot older, but hey it’s my universe. Also, there have been no godly children born between Strife and Bliss. I’m not sure if Deimos and Phobos are supposed to be younger than Strife, but here they’re not.

Special Extra Note: Thanks to my mother, Vivian and my daughter, Caitlin. They helped me figure out what some of the baby presents should be.

Part 13

Cupid stroked Strife’s face and sighed in relief. He couldn’t believe he had been *so* stupid. After all that he had learned about Strife’s past, (And didn’t it look like there was a *lot* more to learn) and it never occurred to him that Strife would still feel insecure about their love. Cupid resolved to be a lot more observant from now on.

He ran a hand over his husband’s thin-thin body. There was no way Strife was going to get this run down again if he could help it.

Jayce walked over to stand in front of Cupid and the sleeping Strife. He had just come from giving Joxer his baby present. Jayce smiled at Strife and then looked up and smiled at the glowering Cupid. He didn’t seem fazed at all that a very powerful and *very* pissed off god (Not to mention jealous husband.) was glaring at him.

“Chou are so lucky.”

That was the last thing Cupid expected to hear. “Yeah, I know.”

“I wich I were that lucky.” Jayce sighed dramatically. (As usual.) “Here, I have a present for chou too.” Jayce giggled and handed Cupid a small jar. “Acsually it is a present for both of chou.” With a wink, Jayce turned and walked away. After a few feet he looked back over his shoulder and gave Cupid a saucy grin. He sauntered away with a distinct wiggle in his walk.

Cupid blinked. “Maybe I can see what dad sees in Joxer,” Cupid muttered to himself. He glanced over at Joxer and saw him laughing with Ares. Okay, he could definitely see the attraction. Not that he thought Joxer was good looking or anything, although he was. That kind of thinking was dangerous and icky. It was like thinking Heph was good looking or something.

Oh boy. Now he was thinking about Heph and Jayce. Quick, think of something else. Cupid opened at the jar that Jayce had given him. He started to laugh and had to clamp his lips down tight so he wouldn’t wake up Strife.

It was a jar of honey.

Looking across the room he smiled at a grinning Jayce. Honey. Now he had some really good pictures in his head. Only this time they involved Strife and a paint brush.

Strife felt the movement of Cupid’s chest and stirred. He opened his eyes and sat up. Strife blinked confusedly and with a shaky hand he pushed the hair out of his eyes.

“What did I miss?”

“Nothing, we were waiting for you to wake up.” Joxer smiled at his tousled friend.

Strife was surprised and touched. “Ya didn’t hafta wait on me.”

Joxer frowned at Strife. “You’re my best friend, of course I wanted to wait for you.” Strife smiled and blinked away the tears that this sentiment caused. Gods he was turning into sappy twit.

Joxer turned around and acknowledged the gift Poseidon was giving the baby. It was a baby bed shaped like a sea shell; covered in pearls and lined with the softest blanket made from sea weed.

Cupid pulled Strife back against him, again supporting his bad side. Strife sighed happily. Cupid gave him a drink and then picked up the plate and offered it to his husband. “Here, you need to eat some more and try eating some of the vegetables this time.”

Strife grinned and picked up a carrot. He wasn’t really hungry, but if it would make Cupid happy he would try to eat more. Strife began nibbling at the vegetable; going as slow as godly possible. Maybe if he ate leisurely Cupid wouldn’t notice that he really wasn’t eating very much.

Athena came up and gave Joxer a book. (Big surprise.) “This book contains all the knowledge that a young person will need to understand intellectual problems. If the child asks the book a question it will answer it. Within reason, of course. The book will be able to discern how old the child is and if he or she asks a question that is inappropriate for their age the book will tell the child to defer to the two of you.”

Joxer blinked at the long-winded explanation. “Thank you, that sounds wonderful.” Athena nodded her head in reply.

Cupid was enjoying the relaxed mood when he felt Strife tense up. Cupid looked around the room, trying to see what had upset his husband. He couldn’t see anything or anyone that could be causing the problem. Then he realized that Strife was looking at himself in a mirror on the far wall. Cupid remembered Strife’s earlier words about being ugly.

“Baby, I love you so much. You are the hottest looking person I have ever seen. I can’t wait until you feel a little better and we can try out that jar of honey.”

Cupid was worried when instead of making Strife feel better, his words made him start crying. Joxer leaned over and gently patted Strife on the arm.

“Hormones,” he said quietly.

Strife laughed and seemed to feel better. That, in turn, made Cupid felt better. Of course, hormones. He had forgotten about them with everything else that was going on.

^^^^^^

“Strife!” Eve, Xena’s young daughter came running up. The little girl jumped up and down by Strife’s chair, her long black curls bouncing. “Hi Strife, can I feel the baby?” At Strife’s nod she put her hands on his tummy.

Xena smiled at her daughter’s antics. Eve and Strife had a close friendship and Xena could see more than a little of the imp in her daughter’s personality. It was funny, with her black hair, blue eyes and mischievous personality, she was more like you would expect a child of Strife’s to be than she was like the Warrior Princess.

“Here you go Joxer, just a little something for the baby.”

Xena gave Joxer a small, gaily wrapped present. Joxer unwrapped it and laughed happily. It was a small, leather wrapped chakram.

“It’s a teething ring.” Xena explained to the delighted Joxer. Xena looked at her father and was amazed to see him surreptitiously wiping a tear from his eye.

“Oh Xena, thank you. I love it.” Joxer impulsively gave his daughter-in-law a hug. “This is so sweet.” He placed the favorite gift a place of honor beside him on the chair.

Somebody, nobody knew who, had given them all a gift earlier. Gabrielle had *mysteriously* gotten laryngitis when she threatened, I mean offered, to read them all *another* story.

A musical laugh and a giggle caught their attention. Eve was showing Cupid and Strife how well she could juggle. She seemed to have inherited her mother’s dexterity and caught all of the thrown objects unerringly.

^^^^^^

“Joxie, here’s my gift.” Aphrodite held up a little, very little, dress for them to see. “I made it to look like my favorite outfit.” Aphrodite beamed at the two gods.

Ares scowled. “Dite…what if it’s a boy.”

“No prob Bro. The outfit will automatically change to match the baby’s sex.”

Ares didn’t look reassured. Joxer hastily thanked Aphrodite, biting the inside of his lip the whole time.

“What’s sa funny?” Strife looked at the dress Joxer was holding and shuddered.

Joxer reached over to one side and pulled up another dress. “Here’s Jayce’s present.”

Strife looked at the two outfits. “They’re tha same.”

“Yep.”

Strife began to giggle. The Goddess of Love and Joxer’s drag-queen brother had given the baby the exact same present. “Dite would have ah fit if she knew they was tha same.”

The two pregnant gods and their spouses all huddled together, laughing at the situation.

^^^^^^

Time passed and more people brought up their gifts.

Artemis, the Goddess of the Hunt, gave the baby a miniature unicorn. It stood less than 2 feet high and had long curly hair.

“The hair will change color once the baby is born. It’s hair will then match the babies hair color.”

Gaia, the Goddess of the Earth, gave a flower that would never die to Joxer and a garden to the baby.

“The garden will have grass and blooming flowers all year long. This will be a pleasant place for the baby to play in and will keep your unicorn happy and fed.”

Hercules and Iolaus came up. Hercules and Ares were trying not to glare at each other. The bonding they had done a few weeks ago had helped their relationship, but they were never going to be buddy-buddy.

Iolaus smiled at Joxer and Ares and gave them his present. It was the cutest little pair of booties and a baby blanket made from rabbit fur. “I caught the rabbits and cured the fur myself. I made it nice and soft so it won’t irritate the baby.”

Joxer smiled and rubbed the soft blanket against his face. Ares was delighted with the tiny pair of shoes.

Hercules gave them a mobile to hang in the baby’s room. It was a hand-carved wooden moon with stars floating around it.

Joxer spun the mobile and was captivated by how delicate it looked. Ares smiled (Yes he smiled.) at his brother in appreciation.

^^^^^^

Jett slid up behind Joxer and handed him a package before slipping back into the crowd. His gift turned out to be a very beautiful jeweled dagger. It was covered with gold, emeralds and rubies.

Jett came up to Strife who was, for a change, by himself. Cupid had gone off to get a sampling from the desert table, hoping to tempt Strife to eat more.

“Hey.”

“Uh, hey.”

“I just wanted to thank you.”

“Fah what?” Strife was puzzled.

“I know how much you’ve helped Joxer over the years. I heard about that time when you saved him from those men. If it weren’t for you he would have been raped and probably killed.”

“Uh, that’s okay I…”

“So, I owe you one. A freebie. Any assassination. Of *anybody*. All you have to do is tell me their name.”

“That’s real nice Jett, but I’m a god, I can kill anybody I want ta.”

“I mean *anybody*. I’ve got the means. If I can find them and you want ‘em dead, they’re dead.”

Strife looked into Jett’s eyes and gulped. He obviously had hind’s blood and was willing to use it for *him*. “Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.”

Jett nodded once and disappeared back into the crowd.

^^^^^^

Joxer looked exhausted, after all the party had been going on for *4* hours. Strife, who had been tired to begin with, is so far beyond exhausted it wasn’t even funny.

Aphrodite and Jayce looked at their loved ones and their respective, worried spouses and stuck their heads together, whispering. (Yikes!) In ten minutes the party went from booming to where everyone but the main four gods and Athena were the only ones still there.

“Now, what to do with all this food?” Athena peered at the bounty that was left on the tables.

“Theah’s an orphanage in Athens that could use tha food.”

Athena smiled at Strife and snapped her fingers. The food immediately vanished. Strife smiled as he got a burst of energy, emanating from the good feelings coming from all of those happy children.

“Let me handle the clean up.” With that Athena again snapped her fingers and everything was clean and back in order. “Well that took a lot.” Athena laughed at her own joke and flashed out.”

“I think you’ve been a good influence on her Strife.” Ares smiled at his young nephew.

“Thank you for the wonderful party.” Joxer smiled at Strife. He reached out and gave his good friend a hug. “Are you okay now?” he whispered. Ares and Cupid had moved to one side and were talking themselves.

“Yeah, I’m okay now. Sorry about earlier.”

Joxer just shook his head and gave Strife another hug. “Don’t be ridiculous.”

^^^^^^

“Do you have any idea what happened to Strife 40 years ago?”

“No, but I intend to find out.”

“Yeah, me too. Can I make a suggestion son?”

“Sure.”

“Let’s not ask him for a while yet. He’s been through enough strain for right now.”

“I agree Dad, but soon.”

“Oh yeah…soon.”

^^^^^^

Ares walked over to his *very* pregnant husband and picked him up. Joxer giggled as Ares carried him to their bedroom. Over Ares’ shoulder, Joxer waved goodbye to Cupid and Strife.

Cupid wrapped his arms and Strife and hugged him close. Strife looked over Cupid’s shoulder and saw a mirror. He frowned and thought to himself, “still ugly.”

Strife’s thoughts were interrupted when Cupid flashed them home. Strife’s legs gave way when they arrived. Cupid wasted no time and emulated his father by scooping his sleepy husband up in his arms and carrying him to the bedroom. By the time Cupid had walked the 20 or so feet, Strife was nine-tenth’s the way asleep. Cupid laid Strife on the bed and flashed on some clean sleep clothes for Strife.

Strife always wore clothes to bed. He never felt safe sleeping in the nude, like Cupid. (Let’s face it, he never felt safe at all.)

Mindful of Asclepius’ warning, Cupid eased Strife’s shoes off and put his feet up on a couple of feathery soft pillows. Cupid lay down beside his husband, spooning up behind him, and gently rolled Strife back so that he was half-way reclining on Cupid. In this way, Strife’s back and ribs are supported without Strife having to do anything.

Strife sighed at the comfortable position he was in. He was able to relax and sleep (mostly) pain free all night.

^^^^^^

Neither god hears the bedroom door open.

Bliss walks in; his curly hair tousled, rubbing his eyes. He stops when he sees Strife and Cupid asleep on the bed.

His sweet expression drops off and he snarls.

The boy backs out of the door that silently closes in front of him. Bliss ripples and elongates until he is…Cupid-shaped. “Soon little one.” His voice was much deeper and rumbling than Cupid’s normal voice. “You are *mine* and I will *deal* with you before long.”

The Cupid-shape strode down the corridor…to Bliss’ room. He snarled again when he couldn’t get any closer to the bed than the doorway, because of a barrier that glittered in the dark.

“And you will pay for that one too, Little One.”

The Cupid-shape leaves the temple with a flash.

^^^^^^

Strife frowned and began to whimper in his sleep. Cupid woke up enough to comfort him and feeling safe, Strife snuggled back against his husband. They both fell back asleep.



Fic: Overheard Conversations 14/?

Author: Kerensa

Email: vkevans@yahoo.com Feedback please. Feedback or death (well, maybe that’s going a little too far)

Warnings and Disclaimers: See previous sections

Chapter 14



The next morning dawned bright and clear. Apollo drove his chariot across the sky, all the while searching for Tryst. He didn’t see him anywhere. Disappointed, Apollo went back to his temple and sulked. He was so mad at Tryst and all the things he had done that Apollo didn’t even want to play (You know what I mean.) with the Muses.



The Muses, in turn, were also mad about what had happened and was *still* happening to Strife (And extremely horny.) so they too were looking for Tryst. Every person who was inspired to write poetry or a song was scrutinized. Sadly, they had no more luck than Apollo had.



It was a very bad day at Apollo’s temple.



^^^^^^



Strife was warm and comfortable. This was unusual. Not the warm part, no the comfortable part. For as long as he could remember Strife had been in pain of one sort or another. Since he had become pregnant it was substantially worse. But not this morning. His back didn’t hurt and his ribs only ached a little.



Smiling, Strife opened his eyes and looked over his shoulder at his husband. He grinned when he saw that Cupid was already awake and watching him.



“Mornin.”



“Good morning to you baby.” Cupid kissed Strife’s neck and Strife giggled at the tickling sensation. Strife snuggled back into the soft warmth that was his husband’s body. The lay spooned together for several more minutes, happily enjoying the quiet time.



“What time is it?” Strife stretched cautiously.



“Time for breakfast.”



With one last kiss Cupid slid out from behind Strife and rolled him on his back. Seeing that this caused no pain, Cupid went into the bathroom.



Strife lay there, enjoying the view. Once his sexy and naked husband (Whimper.) was out of view Strife sighed in disappointment and sat up on the side of the bed. Strife sat there and was pleasantly surprised to find that nothing was hurting *too* badly. He went to stand up gasped as his back started spasming. Strife dropped back down on the bed with a cry. He clenched the sheets between his fists and closed his eyes, waiting for it to pass. The pain was finally starting to ease up when Cupid touched him on the arm. Strife jumped in surprise and gasped when his back cramped up again.



Cupid put one arm across his husband’s chest, for him to lean on and rubbed his back until the pain passed. “Baby what happened? I thought you weren’t hurting.”



“I’m okay Cupe, mah back always hurts first thing in tha mornin.” Strife leaned back against his husband. “Whatcha did last night, the way ya were supportin me has helped a bunch. I feel a lot bettah than usual.”



“You hurt like this *every* morning.”



Strife’s eyes popped open when he realized what he had said. “Oops. Uh, yeah.”



“Why didn’t you ever tell me?” Cupid’s voice was quiet.



Strife answered just as quietly. “Cause theah wasn’t anything ya coulda done except be upset.”



Cupid straightened them up so he was looking his sheepish husband in the eyes. “I could be here with you so that you aren’t going through this alone.”



Strife looked up at Cupid. He looked so concerned. “I love ya.”



“I love you too. From now on let me help you.”



“I will, I promise.” Strife was contrite this time. The two gods smiled at each other.



“Now let me up, I gotta go.”



“Go where? You are supposed to stay in bed with your feet up for 3 days.” Cupid held up three fingers in demonstration and looked smug. “Did you think I’d forget about that?”



“No, I figured ya’d remembah that.” Strife smiled and ran a finger down Cupid’s nose and across his lips. “What I meant was, I’ve gotta go ta tha bathroom, if ya don’t mind that is.”



Cupid blushed and helped Strife to stand up. “Smart ass.” Cupid slapped Strife (Don’t worry, he was gentle.) on the bottom as he walked by.



“Thank ya, I always knew mah butt was intelligent.” Strife grinned and made sure to twitch his behind as he went into the bathroom.



When Strife was finished he leaned against the wall for a minute. Gods he was so tired and the day hadn’t even started yet. Strife took a couple of cleansing breaths and went back into the bedroom. He stopped in the doorway and had to smile. The bed was nice and neat and full of pillows.



Strife remembered Joxer’s couch from a few weeks back and smiled even bigger. Like father, like son.



“Come on, get back in bed.”



Strife frowned at his husband’s back. “How did ya know I was heah? Ya ain’t even lookin at me.”



Cupid took Strife in his arms. “I can feel you in a crowded room. You are my life and I will *always* know where you are.”



Tears gathered in the corners of Strife’s eyes at the lovely statement. He didn’t say anything; he just kissed Cupid and hoped his heart could speak for him.



Sitting down on the bed, still embracing, Cupid looked Strife in the eye. “How are you feeling this morning, baby?”



“Much bettah.” (Let’s face it, most anything would be an improvement.)



“Yeah, you do look better.” Cupid smiled happily and then remembering the scene in Ares’ office, began frowning. “You look *too good*. I want you to drop the glamour Strife.”



Strife was surprised; he hadn’t realized he was using one. Using a glamour had become second nature to him and so it was odd to *not* to have a glamour.



“Sorry Cupe, I forgot and used one without thinkin.”



Strife concentrated and a brief shimmer passed over his body. Without the glamour Strife still looked awful.



“Lay down baby.” Cupid lifted Strife’s legs as he lay back against the stack of pillows. There were pillows behind his back and pillows under his feet. There were pillows on either side of him, supporting his bad ribs. There…basically there were just pillows everywhere. (Here a pillow, there a pillow, everywhere a pillow. Old Mc…oh sorry, wrong story.)



“I guess mah babysittah will hafta come heah ta check on me.”



Once Strife was situated and comfortable Cupid returned to the conversation. “It’ll be easy on your babysitter today because that’s gonna be me. I’m going to be by your side for most of the day. In fact, I plan on being your babysitter from now on.”



Strife was dumbfounded. “Ya can’t stop doin ya work!”



“And why not?”



Strife sputtered, trying to come up with a reason.



“You are my husband and I’m gonna be the one to take care of you.” Cupid smiled and kissed his shocked husband. “Don’t worry. Mom’s promised to take care of any major problems that come up. If there are any couples that just have to get together *right now* I’ll go, but mainly I’m staying here with you.”



“Right now, it’s time for breakfast. Do you think you could eat?”



“I’ll try.” At the stern look from Cupid, Strife sighed and relented. “Okay, yeah I’ll eat somethin. As long as it ain’t too rich.”



“I think I can manage that.” Cupid smiled and went over to the table to pick up the tray he already had fixed.” Behind him Cupid heard Strife’s sharp intake of breath. He whirled around, looking for danger. Seeing none he looked at Strife and saw him holding his stomach.



Oh gods!



“Baby, what is it?”



Strife grabbed his hand and placed it on his stomach. “Feel.”



Cupid felt something faintly bumping the palm of his hand. “It’s the baby moving.” He was awestruck and Strife was glowing. Another bump. “Oh baby, that’s the most wonderful thing I’ve ever felt.”



Cupid was ecstatic. Psyche wouldn’t let him touch her at all when she was pregnant and so he never got to feel Bliss moving inside her.



The door opened and Bliss came running in. He stopped short and stared at the scene before him, frowning. Strife looked up and smiled at him and Bliss came running over. “Daddy Strife not sad anymore?”



“Nah kiddo, I’m happy now.”



“You gonna check my feathers this morning?”



“Ya betcha I am.”



Bliss giggled and turned around with his back to the bed. Strife began running his hands over the feathers, tweaking and straightening.



Cupid was puzzled. Bliss’ feathers looked fine. Why was Strife working with them? He was paying especially particular attention to one spot on the inside edge of one wing.



“All fixed. Now go on and ear yar breakfast.” Bliss giggled and raced over to the table in the corner of the room. His breakfast was laid out there this morning, instead of the dining room where he usually ate.



“Baby, what was that all about?”



“Ya didn’t think I’d leave him unprotected did ya?” Strife was carefully smoothing his sleep shirt over his tummy. He smiled as he felt another bump. “Years ago I went ta Heph and had him make me some little round button type thingies. I put a charm on em ta protect tha wearers from bein hurt by…Tryst.” Strife’s breathing sped up as he said Tryst’s name, but the fact that he felt safe enough in Cupid’s presence to say the name aloud said a lot about how much better Strife was doing emotionally.



“I couldn’t use tha protection mahself. I…tried, but he persuaded me othahwise.”



“What do you mean persuaded?”



“He told me that if I tried ta protect mahself he’d hurt Unc. I didn’t believe him at first. Then one day, after he’d…hurt me in tha garden, I decided I couldn’t take it anymore. I went in ta see Unc. He was in tha middle of a meetin. I was waitin ta talk ta Unc when I saw him. He…Tryst was standin right behind Ares. I couldn’t take tha chance.” Strife was nervously twisting his wedding ring.



Cupid was horrified. The crimes that Strife had committed against Strife just kept piling up.



“He used your love of dad to keep you under his power.” Strife nodded.



“Anyway, I knew I had ta protect any othah kids he might…hurt. Fortunately theah weren’t any othah kids until Bliss, except Eve.”



“Eve? You mean Xena’s daughter.”



“Yeah. As Ares’ granddaughter she was definitely a target. So I protected her and Bliss. Here, let me show ya. Kiddo would ya come heah a minute. Thanks.” Strife had Bliss turn around again. “Gimme yar hand.” He took Cupid’s hand and pressed his fingers in among the super soft feathers. Cupid could barely feel something there. It was about the size of a tiny seed. No wonder he had never found it before.



“Ya hafta know it’s theah ta find it. Eve’s is tha same size. As long as they’re wearin it HE can’t hurt em. It kinda throws a shield out around em if he comes around.”

Cupid smiled lovingly at his husband. “Thank you for protecting the children.” With a swat on the behind (Way different from the swat he gave Strife.) he sent Bliss back to eating.



^^^^^^



“Now it’s *really* time for you to eat.”



Strife took a look at the toast and cut up fruit and hoped he could eat without throwing up. He nibbled on one corner of the piece of toast and realized it was actually helping settle his stomach. Encouraged he ate more, until finally he had finished the *whole* breakfast.



Cupid was pleased with the amount of food Strife had consumed. He saw how much eating had taken it out of Strife. He was about to suggest a nap when there was a knock at the door. Cupid opened it to find his head temple priest.



“My Lord I was just coming with a report for My Lord Strife.” The priest looked into the room and his normally stern countenance softened into a gentle smile.



Cupid looked around and realized that Strife had fallen asleep sitting up.



“Give the report to me and I’ll pass it on.”



“Certainly My Lord. Upon investigation, I have determined that the statue fell yesterday because of a weakness in the base. The stone crumbled causing the statue to fall. We have checked all of the statues in the temple and their bases. There were two other’s where the bases were either cracked or crumbling. They are being repaired as we speak.



“You’re sure it was just deterioration and not sabotage.” Cupid was frowning, he just couldn’t believe Strife being hurt had nothing to do with Tryst.



“Yes My Lord, I am certain. There was a problem where the statue and the base was joined. It has crumbled a little bit, over time, in the back where it couldn’t easily be seen.”



Cupid nodded distractedly. It was being fixed and didn’t involve Tryst, that was all Cupid cared about right now. He dismissed the priest with a wave and nod. “Good work.”



“Daddy.” Bliss’ attempt at a whisper was louder than his normal speaking voice.



“What sweetheart?”



“Is that bad man going to hurt Daddy Strife anymore?”



Cupid wondered how Bliss had found out about Tryst. “Not if I can help it.”



Bliss’ little brow wrinkled. How could his Daddy not save Daddy Strife, there was nothing his Daddy couldn’t do.



There was another knock at the door. Bliss’ nanny was there, waiting to take Bliss to his lessons. “You go on and practice flying. Tonight you can show me and Daddy Strife how well you are doing.” Bliss giggled and ran out the door, chattering the whole time.



Cupid went back to the bed and gazed at his sleeping spouse. He leaned Strife forward until he was resting against Cupid’s chest. Cupid waved his hand and removed all but two of the pillows. Those he left laying side by side on the bed. He ooched Strife’s hips down in the bed and then lay him back down on his side. Cupid lay down on the other pillow and resumed their position from the night before. It was a testament to how exhausted Strife was that all of this upheaval didn’t wake him at all.



Cupid rubbed Strife’s arms and massaged his back until they both fell in to a peaceful slumber.



^^^^^^



3 days later



Strife was *so* bored. He had been laying in bed for 3 days. Cupid wouldn’t let him do anything. Cupid was trying to make up for not realizing how tired Strife had been and Strife appreciated it, he really did. He just wished Cupid would calm down a little. Strife couldn’t go to the bathroom without Cupid hovering (No pun intended.) over him.



Of course, Strife had to admit there were times when he needed the help. Just not *all* the time. At least not yet. Strife knew he was going to get a lot worse before this pregnancy was over and he wanted to stay as independent as long as he could.



Actually Strife liked the attention; he was just afraid that if Cupid had to keep taking care of him he would get sick of him and leave. (Strife’s just a *little* insecure.)



But today was the day. He was allowed to get up and walk around the temple a little. Asclepius had been by that morning and given him a clean bill of health. (Yeah, right.) Well, all right, Ace had said he was doing better.



A little. Some.



Sigh.



Strife had convinced Cupid to go and listen to some of his worshipers for a while. Cupid had reluctantly agreed. Now if he could just get away from Hestia for a little bit then he could get everything set up.



^^^^^^



Argh! Hestia had proved to be one of his more persistent babysitters. He had only managed to elude her for a couple of minutes at a time. However, Strife was determined and had done it. Everything was ready and waiting for Cupid to come home.



Gods he was tired.



Who knew arranging a seduction could take so much out of a god. He only hoped it would work.



Maybe if he laid down on the couch for a while…



Strife woke up when he felt a soft kiss ghost across his lips. “Mmmm, now that’s tha way I like ta wake up.” Strife smiled up at Cupid. He raised his head slightly a slid his tongue across Cupid’s lips. Cupid’s eyes darkened with desire. “Definitely a good way ta wake up.”



“I’m glad you like it.” Cupid wrapped his arms around Strife and proceeded to kiss him breathless.



“Can we have Bliss stay with Dite tonight?”



Strife looked so uncertain. Cupid couldn’t have that. He began kissing all over Strife’s face. His eyelids, cheekbones and nose were soon tingling. Cupid kissed his way to one ear and whispered in it before sucking it into his mouth. “He’s already there.”



Strife gasped and shivered when Cupid began to nibble on the skin behind his ear.



“Let’s take this into tha bedroom.” Before he could finish speaking, Cupid stood up, scooped him up in his arms and strode towards the bedroom. “I’m gonna take that as a yes.” Strife giggled and Cupid smirked down at him.



Cupid stopped in the doorway. There were candles everywhere. They flickered softly, casting shadows on the wall. Orange blossoms blanketed the room. The scent of them wafted up as Cupid crushed them underfoot as he walked to the bed.



He lay Strife on the bed and stood admiring the tiny petals that surrounded his husband’s dark hair. With a thought, Cupid made Strife’s clothes disappear. Cupid picked up a handful of the fragrant blossoms and dropped them over Strife’s body. They fluttered down like snowflakes and Strife arched up at the sensual feeling.



Cupid saw the brief flash of pain that crossed Strife’s face. Before he could say or do anything, Strife pulled him down and they kissed again. Strife needed this and so did he. Cupid knew he would just have to be careful of his injured lover.



^^^^^^



Strife pushed Cupid over onto his back and leaned over him. There was a sharp flash of pain from his ribs. He gasped before he could stop himself. Cupid was looking at him seriously. Strife knew that if he didn’t do something right now everything would be over before it even started.



“Cupe please, I need ta do this. Please let me. I’m all right, really.”



“Okay baby, just don’t hurt yourself.”



Strife smiled brightly, leaned over and began kissing his buff husband’s chest. With slow deliberation he trailed one hand down Cupid’s side, along his thigh and eventually up to the place he most wanted to be. Taking hold of his manhood, Strife began to stroke and caress his husband. At the same time he began licking and gently biting his nipples. It didn’t take long for Cupid to come, screaming Strife’s name as he did.



Strife lay across Cupid’s chest, panting slightly. That had taken more out of him than he had thought it would.



^^^^^^



Cupid gently turned Strife onto his back. He didn’t waste any time and began gently caressing his husband’s body. It had been so long since they had made love that it wasn’t long before Strife was thoroughly aroused.



Mindful of his painful ribs, Cupid was careful to anchor Strife on the bed. That way he didn’t arch up or twist around (Too much.) and cause himself any pain. Cupid didn’t want anything to spoil this night for Strife.



All too soon, Strife reached completion. He lay in Cupid’s arms, too tired to even hold him back. Strife fell asleep within seconds.



Cupid summoned a wet, warm cloth and cleaned the sweat from Strife’s face. With a thought they were both clean and the sheets changed. He kept the orange blossoms both on the bed and floor. He also left the candles burning all night long. (Don’t try this at home, boys and girls. Remember, they’re gods living in a stone room. Nothing’s going to catch fire here.)



A soft blanket appeared in the air above the two gods and floated down to cover them. Cupid smoothed it over Strife and himself and carefully arranged Strife’s body back in the spoon and Cupid-pillow position that they had discovered was so comfortable.



The loving and contented spouses slept happily all night long.



^^^^^^



Apollo and the Muses went to bed. (Just to sleep!) They were still frustrated (In more ways than one.) and disappointed that another day had gone by without finding Tryst. Apollo vowed to search again in the morning.



After a while silence descends on the temple. On one wall there is a mural showing the various deities on Olympus.



It begins to ripple and flows out from the wall to reform…into Tryst.



He has been hiding there all day. Unknown. Unseen. Safe.



Tryst turns back to the mural and finds the depiction of Strife. With a feral gleam in his eye, Tryst licks the image.



“I’m coming Little One.”



He snarls in the direction of Apollo’s bedroom and flashes out.



Fic: Overheard Conversations 15/?

Author: Kerensa

Warnings and Disclaimers: See previous sections

Extra Note: The lovely ensemble that Ares wears (you’ll know which one I mean) was thought of by my mother.



This section is beginning of 3 chapters that really go together.



Part 15-The Bad Week 1/3



2 weeks later



“So wheah are we goin?”



Cupid just grinned at his husband. “You’re going to just have to wait and see.”



The God of Love had one arm around Strife’s waist, supporting him. (That’s all. Really. Uh huh.) He made sure to keep himself between Strife and any statues. Cupid just couldn’t help thinking about that other statue. It was way *too* much of a coincidence that it fallen *just* as Strife walked by. Cupid wasn’t taking any chances.



Cupid had made sure that Strife got a lot of rest these past couple of weeks and it seemed to have paid off. Even with all the grousing (by Strife) and the wheedling (by Cupid) that had gone on. It had been worth the effort. Strife looked better. (Could he have looked any worse? Well yeah, actually he could.) He was more energetic and seemed to be really happy.



“Daddy, Daddy Strife.” Bliss came running down the corridor and up to the couple. Cupid moved slightly in front of Strife so that Bliss barreled into him instead of both of them. “Hurry or we’ll be late for the picnic.” Bliss bounced up and down, his little wings flapping furiously, unaware that he had just spoiled the surprise.



Strife grinned and tousled the little boy’s hair affectionately. “Wheah are we havin this *picnic* anyway?”



Cupid growled playfully with his son before answering. “The beach.”



Strife smiled. “Ummm…tha beach huh. Just thinka tha possibilities.” Strife was looking forward to seeing his two favorite men splashing around in the water. Not to mention seeing Cupe in a skimpy bathing suit. Strife and licked his lips playfully.



Cupid took a firm grip on his husband and son. “Behave yourself,” he whispered to Strife.



Strife leaned over and whispered back. “I will, I promise.” Then he licked Cupid’s ear playfully. Giggling, Strife leaned back and assumed an innocent look. Cupid rolled his eyes and flashed his family to the beach.



^^^^^^



Strife leaned against Cupid until his stomach settled and tried not to throw up. Flashing tended to disorient him since he had become pregnant. Strife surreptitiously let Cupid support him as he looked around. The last thing he needed was for Cupid to realize he still felt pretty bad. Strife wanted this outing. For all of them. Cupid had been taking care of Strife non-stop for a while now and Strife didn’t want his husband to get burned out.



Or sick of him.



“Dad and I have a surprise for you and Joxer.” Cupid turned Strife around and let him see the *surprise*. Strife had to put a hand up to hide his smile.



There was a *tent* on the beach.



Apparently Cupid and Ares had decided that an ordinary canopy was not nearly enough protection for their two pregnant husbands. No they were to have a tent and not just any tent. This was a tent that would have made a general proud. It was striped and big enough that most of Xena’s house would have fit inside of it and Xena had a big house.



Inside the tent were all the comforts of home and then some. Literally *all* the comforts. There were two lounge chairs, covered with pillows, naturally. A large table was topped with every kind of food imaginable. There were even carpets on the ground.



*Carpets?* Who put carpets on *sand*?



Strife turned back to his husband and smiled his appreciation, Cupid looked so proud. “Thanks Cupe, this is wonderful.”



Strife followed Cupid and Bliss into the tent. He looked over at Joxer, who was lounging on one of the chairs. Strife saw his amusement reflected back out of Joxer’s eyes.



“Hey Joxah, hey Unc.”



“Strife. You’re looking better.”



“Thanks Unc, you’re lookin pretty good yourse…” Strife stopped talking and just gaped when Ares stood up.



Ares was in a bathing suit, barely. It was a very, very small suit. It covered up Ares’ crotch, if you didn’t look too closely. Strife was stunned to realize that he was eyeing his uncle’s *assets*. The small piece of material that was stretched tightly across his groin was shiny and red with white hearts.



There weren’t very many hearts.



Then Ares turned sideways and Strife thought he was going to swallow his tongue. While the front of the costume was skimpy, the back…simply wasn’t there. Most of his butt and oh my gods, look how gorgeous it was!, was hanging out in the breeze. There was just a *little* (Need I stress more how little.) strip of cloth that covered up his crack.



Strife realized that Ares was talking with Bliss. He decided he had better stop ogling his uncle before someone caught him. Strife glanced over at Joxer and saw the smirk on his face. At least Joxer didn’t seem to be upset with him.



Strife sidled over to Joxer and waited until his husband, son and uncle went outside. “Hmmmm…I like that. I’m gonna keep that in mind fah tha future. If ya made tha piece in tha back littleah it would look even bettah. I think I’ll name it after Unc. I’ll call it a g-string.”



“*G-string*? Shouldn’t it be A-string?”



“Nah. G-string fah god-string.”



Joxer thought of Ares’ reaction to having a piece of string running up people’s butt being named after him and began laughing hysterically.



Strife watched his Uncle’s impressive form and determined then and there that Cupid was going to have an outfit like that, and *soon*!



^^^^^^



Cupid laughed as Bliss spun around in the water, his wings flapping and water flying everywhere. “I got Daddy. I splashed Daddy.”



“You sure did sweetheart.”



Cupid watched as Bliss danced around happily. It was a wonderful day. He sighed. If only Strife felt well enough to be out here with them then it would be perfect. He glanced over at the tent and could see Strife and Joxer resting on their chairs. They were both laughing and seemed to be having a good time. Cupid was glad to see Strife so happy. There hadn’t been very much to be happy about recently.



Cupid looked over at his father and saw that he seemed inordinately interested in a large sea shell. Wondering what was up Cupid left Bliss making a sand temple and wandered over.



As Cupid got closer to Ares he was surprised to discover that he could hear Joxer talking. Huh? They were too far away to hear the men in the tent. What was going on? He walked up behind his father and realized that Joxer and now Strife’s voices were coming from the conch shell that Ares was holding.



“What are you doing?”



“Shhh…I’m listening to them talking.”



Cupid’s mouth fell over in shock. “DAD!” Cupid was appalled by what his father was doing. “The last two times we listened in was because of The Fates. You can’t do that.”



“Yes I can.” Ares had a determined look on his face. “The only time we *ever* find out what’s going on with Joxer and Strife is when we listen in.”



Cupid sputtered a few seconds and then said, “Good point. Move over I want to hear too.”



Ares nodded at his son’s good sense and held the sea shell up higher.



^^^^^^



Strife looked over at Joxer who was dressed in shorts and a loose shirt that was patterned with red with white hearts, just like Ares’, uh…bathing costume. He then looked out at his husband and uncle, who for some reason were huddled together. Everybody was dressed for the beach, except him.



“Ya know, it looks like I’m seveahly oveahdressed heah.”



“No, really.” Joxer smiled to soften his sarcasm.



Strife stuck out his tongue as snapped his finger and changed from black pants and a long-sleeved green shirt to…really long black shorts and a short-sleeved green shirt. Hmmm…not, if truth be told, much of a change.



Strife held his arms out in demonstration. “Theah that’s much bettah.”



Joxer was about to comment on the lack of change in attire when Strife grunted and clutched at his stomach.



“Strife! Are you okay?” Joxer frowned at his friend.



“Yeah, I’m okay. It’s just a cramp.”



Joxer watched Strife still holding his stomach in pain. He quickly looked for Ares and Cupid and noticed them standing together. He didn’t know what was going on with them and didn’t really care. Where Ares was standing gave Joxer a good view of his butt, so as far as Joxer was concerned he could stand there all day. “How bad? Do I need to call Asclepius?”



“Nah, it’s already passin.” Strife relaxed back against the pillows and rubbed his stomach trying to relieve the achiness that was a constant in his life now. “It was onna those *I moved taa fast* cramps.”



“Ummm, I hate those. Of course, they’re not as bad as the *What the hell is ripping my back out* cramps.”



Both young gods nodded and said, “Yep” in unison.



^^^^^^



“Cramps! What cramps?” Ares actually stamped his foot in frustration. It had a lovely side effect by making Ares’ butt jiggle. (Oh my!) Ares was about ready to bite the head off of something. Why hadn’t Joxer let him know that he was hurting like that? What was he going to have to do, follow Joxer around all the time and listen to him talk? Argh!



“’Just a cramp’! I thought he was feeling *better*. I’m going over there *right now* and find out what’s going on.”



Ares grabbed his son’s arm and stopped him from leaving. “Don’t be ridiculous. If you go now, we’ll never find out what’s up with those two.”



Cupid realized his father was making sense. After checking to make sure that Bliss was fine and occupied far enough away, he went back to listening in. Naturally, they had missed some of the conversation inside the tent.



^^^^^^



“Why don’t you have some of this fruit.” Joxer waved the platter he was eating from at Strife. “It’s wonderful.” Joxer’s voice was muffled from the piece of fruit in his mouth.



“Nah thanks. I don’t think I could eat anothah bite.” Strife patted his large stomach contentedly. It was a *very* large stomach. In the last couple of weeks he had blossomed.



Joxer licked the fruit juice from his lips and watched his friend covertly. While Strife was getting bigger in the tummy the rest of him seemed to be shrinking. Gods, who knew he could get *thinner* than he normally was.



“Strife, I want to ask you a question, but I don’t want to upset you.”



“Okay.” Strife looked at his friend warily. What was going on? It was never good when someone told you that they didn’t want to upset you. That was a sure sign that you were *going* to be upset by what they had to say.



“Is there something wrong with the baby?”



Strife’s eyebrows shot up, he was more than a little surprised. “No. Why do ya ask?”



“Well…because you’re so big.” Joxer bit his lip and winced. Now that he heard himself talking, it sounded so insensitive. “I mean, not in a bad way, just big.” Well that helped. “You’re only five months along and already you’re bigger than I am now.”



“It’s cause I’m a man.” At Joxer’s perplexed look Strife explained. “At least that’s what Ace says. He told me that all pregnant people carry their babies differently. Men or women it makes no difference. Howevah, as men we’re different again from women. Our bodies make room for tha babies in otha ways. Ya eitha have a smallah baby…”



“Like I am.”



“…right. Or ya have a regulah sized baby and ya get real big. Like I’m doin.”



Joxer was silent as he digested this information. “I wish I could trade places with you. It would be so much easier for me to have a bigger baby than it is going to be for you.”



“Thank ya, that’s sweet. But I’ll be okay.”



Both men sat quietly for a few minutes and watched the sun glinting off the water. It was so peaceful, something that was rarely found in the lives of the gods.



^^^^^^



It *wasn’t* peaceful on the beach. Ares and Cupid were both upset at how resigned Strife was to his pain. Neither god knew of anything they could do to help him.



Both husbands had to stand there for a few minutes and calm back down.



Ares ended the spell on the sea shell. He was ashamed of himself for listening in, even though he was glad of the information.



Cupid started to go into the tent and realized Strife wasn’t there. He didn’t panic (Well…not too much.), because Ares had put a protection net on this section of the beach. Nobody could flash onto the beach, they had to land outside where he and Ares could see them.



Bliss played on, unaware of the problems *his* adults were having. Thanks to Strife and his *protection disks* this was one little boy who would be allowed to stay innocent, as long as possible.



^^^^^^



Strife had gone for a little walk around the beach. Walking sometimes helped ease the cramps in his back. Here he felt safe. Mostly. A little. He knew this was supposed to be a safe area. Of course, he had been in other*safe* places and that hadn’t ever deterred Tryst before.



Strife was tired. It had been a long day, but he hadn’t said anything because everybody was having such a good time. He didn’t know if Joxer got as tired as he did or was it because of his injuries?



Sigh. Strife was *so* tired of being a burden.



After just a few minutes he headed back to the tent. He knew Joxer would be worried if he was gone very long.



Strife leaned against a tree and rested. (Hey! Yes, there can be a tree on the beach. This *is* Olympus, after all. If they want an iceberg on the beach they can have it.) He closed his eyes and tried to gather enough energy to go on.



“Baby, are you all right?”



Strife didn’t even jump this time. He smiled at Cupid’s worried face. “I’m fine. Just restin a minute.”



Cupid moved around behind Strife and pulled Strife back against his chest. “That tree doesn’t look very comfortable.”



“Not as comfortable as ya are.”



“So how come you didn’t go on into the tent?”



“Pssst, come heah and I’ll tell ya.” Strife waggled his finger and whispered conspiratorially. “It was taa fah.” Strife smiled and giggled.



He was so tired that he was punch drunk. Otherwise he would never have admitted anything to his overprotective husband. Strife leaned back until the back of his head was resting on Cupid’s shoulder.



Cupid looked from the tent to where they were standing. Strife was too tired to make it *15* more feet.



He raised his voice slightly, “Dad, I think it’s time we went home.” Cupid put a finger over Strife’s lips to stop his protest. “It’s been a long day and we’re all tired. Let’s go home.”



^^^^^^



The Next Day



Strife grimaced. Apollo was touching him all over. Even if it was in his *medical capacity* Strife didn’t like it. However, Ace was busy with a plague and couldn’t make it for Strife’s bi-weekly check up.



Apollo’s hands roamed all over Strife’s stomach, rubbing and stroking. They kept going lower and lower and lower. Strife tensed up, causing his back to cramp a little. Just before Apollo would have been touching anything he shouldn’t, he stopped.



“The baby’s doin just fine…” Apollo smiled at Strife. Strife tried not to move. If he moved Apollo might use that as an excuse to *accidentally* touch him on the crotch.



“…but dude, you’ve lost more weight. Haven’t you been eating?” Apollo sat on the side of the couch and frowned at his patient.



“Of course I’ve been eatin. Cupid makes sure I get lots ta eat. Tha problem is, most of it comes right back up.”



“Hmmm…try eating smaller meals, several times a day. Smaller amounts might set on your stomach easier.”



“Okay. Thanks.”



Apollo frowned and drew himself up. “I want to apologize for the way I acted a few weeks back. It was tacky of me to hit on you the way I did. Don’t get me wrong, man. I would *really* like to get to know you better.” Apollo rubbed his hand on Strife’s thigh suggestively. “Maybe later, when you’re feeling better.” Apollo rubbed some more and licked his lips. “Anyway, like I said, I’m sorry.”



“Uh, okay.”



“Well, I gotta go now. Call if you need me.” Apollo spoke to Eris who was on the other side of the room waiting. Apollo flashed out in a dazzling display of lights that made Strife’s eyes water.



Strife shook his head ruefully. Only Apollo could apologize for hitting on me as he was making another pass.



Strife watched warily as his mother came over to sit beside him. Could this day get any weirder? He was still stunned that she had volunteered to be his babysitter for the day. She had never cared when he was a child, so why was she so interested now?



“How are you feelin?” Eris pulled out a knife and started playing with it. A sure sign of how nervous she was.



“I’m doin okay.”



“That’s good.”



So much for small talk, Strife thought. He was trying to think of something to fill the silence with when his mother spoke up again.



“I’m sorry. I was, am a lousy mother. I wish I’d known about Tryst hurting you and I would have stopped it…because I love you.”



Strife sat there stunned. She said she loved me! In all Strife’s life his mother had never once told him that she loved him. He honestly didn’t know how to react. Before he could say anything, Eris flushed a bright red and jumped up.



“I have trouble I’ve got to stir up. Bye.” With that she flashed out.



Again Strife was stunned. She just left me. I’m not supposed ta be alone and she left me. Strife sighed and shook his head trying to get his paranoia under control. (Is it paranoia if somebody’s after you?) I’m fine. Theah’s nothin ta be worried about. It’s not like HE’s hidin in tha corner or nothin.



With that lovely thought running through his brain, Strife knew he couldn’t stay in the sitting room any more. As nonchalantly as possible Strife got up and walked out the door. After all, it doesn’t pay to let a predator know that you’re aware they’re there.



^^^^^^



After a few seconds, the carpet in the *corner* of the room rippled and changed into Tryst. He snarled in frustration and flashed out.



^^^^^^



Strife felt better in the hallway. The *archery target in the middle of his back* feeling had faded the second he left the sitting room. Strife knew he needed to find some company.



And a babysitter.



Sigh. How depressing.



He decided to head down to Cupid’s office where Cupid and Dite were planning a temple dedication.



“Daddy Strife, Daddy Strife.”



Strife turned to see Bliss (Who else would call him Daddy?) running towards him. Alone. “Hiya kiddo. Wheah’s ya nanny?”



“I dunno. Where ya goin? Can I come with you? Are you going to see Daddy?” The little godling bounced around happily.



“So ya ditched her.” Strife tried to look stern. Obviously it didn’t work because Bliss just smiled and kept bouncing.



“Yeah I’m goin ta see yar daddy and ah course ya come with me.” Strife smiled as he watched his son skipping in front of him. Bliss managed to ditch his nanny more often than not.



Strife kept looking around, doubly afraid now that Bliss was with him. He knew Tryst couldn’t get close enough to attack Bliss, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t just stand down the hallway and blast him.



Strife gasped and stumbled as a sudden pain flared in his side. Holding his ribs, Strife waited for the pain to pass. He started down the hall again and got three more steps before the pain hit again. Strife thumped against the wall and closed his eyes against the burning in his ribs.



“Daddy Strife?”



Strife opened his eyes and looked at his son. “I’m okay. Tha baby is just kickin a little harder taday.” Strife wasn’t lying. He had realized the pain in his side was the baby kicking against his bad ribs.



He doubled over in pain at another kick.



“daddy strife?”



Bliss was so scared and Strife tried to reassure him, but then another pain flared in his side. When Strife could focus again he noticed that he had fallen onto his hands and knees on the ground. His tummy wasn’t being squished because Strife’s knees were far enough apart. He gasped as he tried to comfort Bliss. Pain slammed into his side again and drove Strife forward, until his forehead was lying on the ground.

Strife wrapped his arms around his torso and grunted in pain as his ribs were hit again.



“DADDY!” Bliss’ hysterical scream echoed through the empty hallway.



^^^^^^



Cupid heard his son’s cry from the other end of the temple and flashed in immediately. “Sweetheart what’s wrong?” Cupid only had eyes for his child at that moment.



“Daddy Strife! Help him!” Bliss pointed and Cupid spun around. His heart stopped when he saw his husband lying bent in two on the floor.



“Strife!” Cupid raced over and grabbed Strife who was gasping for breath. He looked back over at his upset son and was torn. He needed to help both of them!

Luckily Aphrodite flashed in and solved his dilemma.



“Come to grandma, sweetie.”



Dite held onto the sobbing little boy while Cupid held onto his husband. Strife jerked in his arms as another wave of pain hit him.



Flash. “What happened?”



Cupid looked at Apollo. “I don’t know I found him like this.” Strife was curled up so tightly that Apollo was having a hard time trying to reach Strife’s stomach. He needed to see if there was something wrong with the baby.



“It’s the baby’s fault. It’s kicking him. Make it stop!” Bliss sobbed louder with the last sentence.



Cupid saw several flashes behind them. He couldn’t stop and wonder who it was. Strife jolted in his arms again and whimpered. Cupid rubbed Strife’s sweat soaked hair off his face. It was the only thing he could think to do. Gods! He felt so helpless.



“Oh god.” Apollo didn’t know what to do. This wasn’t any injury or illness that he could heal. It was the baby doing what babies do. There really wasn’t anything that could be done to stop the baby from kicking, but Strife was in such pain he had to do something. But what?



“Can you move the baby?”



They all looked at Joxer in confusion. They had no idea what Joxer was talking about. After all, none of them had ever been pregnant before. Other than Aphrodite, who was busy with Bliss and didn’t even hear the question.



“Sometimes when my baby starts kicking I can rub it with my hand and get the baby to move some.”



A candle lit up above Apollo’s head as he understood what Joxer was talking about. “Cupid help me. We need to lay Strife on his side.” The two gods gently, but quickly lay the tight ball that was Strife down on his “good” side.



Strife moaned at the extra hurting this maneuver caused. His face was scrunched up in pain. The change in position shifted the baby. Almost immediately he began to relax and in less than a minute Strife lay bonelessly on the floor.



Soon the only sounds in the hallway were Strife’s ragged breathing and Bliss’ sad crying.



“bliss.”



Cupid leaned closer to his husband. “What is it baby?”



“i need ta talk ta bliss.”



“Sweetheart come here.” The little boy shuffled over. Bliss’ wings were drooped and he was sucking his thumb; something he hadn’t done in two years. “Daddy Strife wants to talk to you.” Bliss ran around and stood in front of Strife.



“hiya kiddo. come heah. why dontcha lay down by me a minute.”



Bliss lay down on the ground by Strife and looked at his second father wide-eyed.



“I’m okay now. I really am.” Bliss just looked at him and kept sucking his thumb. “It wasn’t tha baby’s fault. Heah gimme yar hand a minute.” Strife took Bliss’ plump little hand in his shaky one and carefully placed it on his tummy. The shakiness did little to reassure the little boy.



“Theah, feel that?” Bliss nodded his head. Yes, he could feel the faint bumping against his palm. “That’s what tha baby was doin a few minutes ago. Not much is it?”



Bliss shook his head no. He pulled his thumb out. “How come it hurt so much?”



“Do ya remembah a coupla weeks ago when ya hurt yar knee and we had ta wait before we could heal it? Remembah how much worse it hurt when ya bumped it? Little tiny bumps ya’d normally not notice before hurt a lot.”



Bliss nodded thoughtfully. “Sometimes I cried.”



“That’s right. See, it’s tha same with tha baby. It’s not kickin very hard. I was hurtin sa much cause of mah bad ribs.”



“Okay. Are you hurting now?”



Strife weakly shook his head no. “i’m okay now…” Strife’s hand slid off of Bliss’ and landed on the floor. Barely clinging to consciousness Strife made one more effort to reassure the little winged boy. “…why dontcha go with granma dite fah a while.”



“Okay.” Bliss started to get up and then at the last minute he leaned forward and placed a kiss on Strife’s tummy.



“Come on sweetie, let’s go find Grandpa Heph.” With that Aphrodite flashed them out.



“Let’s get you to bed.”



“i can’t right now. just let me rest a minute.”



Cupid looked at his husband lying on the cold, hard marble floor and grimaced.



“Baby I’ll take you there.” With that Cupid scooped Strife up in his arms, taking extra care to make sure that he was tilted on his side.



There were several flashes behind Cupid as he slowly walked towards the bedroom. The rest of the gods, with the exception of Apollo, had left now that the crisis was over.



“i’m sorry.”



“What are you sorry for?” Cupid spoke just as quietly as Strife had. He knew that his husband was mostly asleep.



“i’m sorry ya got stuck with me…”



“Stuck…”



“i…didn’t trap ya…on purpose…”



“Strife! What are you talking about?” Cupid had stopped walking and looked down at his husband. The exhausted young god wasn’t talking about anything right now, because he was fast asleep.



Cupid hurried into the bedroom and laid Strife down on the bed. He wanted to get Strife situated before he woke up.



“I need to examine him.” Cupid looked carefully at Apollo. He didn’t seem his usual lecherous self. Cupid nodded and Apollo ran his hands back over Strife’s stomach.



“Okay, everything seems fine here.”



He ghosted hands across his ribs. “All right. That’s good. Nothing seems to be broken, they might be bruised though. No matter what, they’re going to be really sore for a few days.”



Apollo held his hands above Strife’s body and closed his eyes, concentrating. Apollo snapped his eyes open and laid his hands on Strife’s hips. His hands were moving back and forth slowly. Cupid started to bristle until he noticed the horrified look on Apollo’s face.



“What’s goin on?”



“My…gods.” Apollo’s voice was subdued. “What in Tartarus happened here?”



“What do you mean?” Cupid wanted to shake his infuriating relative.



“His hips are a mess. They’ve been broken…no crushed…more than once.” Apollo removed his hands and stared at Strife. “Damn. He’s got to be in a lot of pain from that.”



Cupid was trying to assimilate this disturbing new information. “Wouldn’t that make having sex really painful?”



“Yeah Dude, it would.” Apollo started to say more and then realized it wouldn’t help anything. “If you need me just yell.” Apollo flashed out. He was so upset that he didn’t add any sparkles to his flash.



Cupid laid down on the bed beside his injured spouse. “Tomorrow. I swear that tomorrow we *are* going to talk about all of this. You aren’t going to wiggle out of it this time, baby.”



Cupid lay awake most of the night, watching Strife and thinking about what he had learned.






Fic: Overheard Conversations 16/? Part 2 of the Bad Week

Author: Kerensa

Email: vkevans@yahoo.com Feedback please. Feedback or death (well, maybe that’s going a little too far)

Rating: R, so far

Fandom: Xena/Hercules, brief mention of food from Harry Potter series

Pairing: Ares/Joxer, Cupid/Strife

Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, I’m just borrowing them for a little fun. The same with the Harry Potter
stories. I have no money, no property, I even have to borrow the food I eat, so please don’t sue me.

Warning: m/m; MPREG; talk of nonconsensual sex; talk of underage molestation, rape, and abuse; angst

Summary: Joxer and Strife are both pregnant and end up talking. Their husbands, Ares and Cupid overhear their conversation
and find out a lot more about their husband’s, especially Strife’s past, than they ever imagined.

Status: WIP

Series: Children At Play

Archive: Yes to AJCS, Beyond Cannon and MPREG; anywhere else, sure just tell me first

Website: Nope, sorry I wouldn’t know how to set one up.

Notes: I want to thank my mother for some of the ideas in this story. She thought up the bad guy’s name and some ways to hurt
poor Strife. Later in the series I will mention something, briefly, from the I LOVE LUCY show; bonus points if you can find
it. Beta’d by me and Spellcheck.


Chapter 16


Strife opened his eyes and looked around the bedroom blearily. He was alone in the bed, something that was unusual as of
late. He was alone in the room. That was even more unusual. Before he had time to wonder what was going on, he heard Cupid
come up behind him.

“Good morning baby. How do you feel today?” Cupid sat down on the side of the bed and stroked one hand gently over Strife’s
hip.

“Mornin. Um, not taa bad actually. Mah ribs are real tendah, but not as sore as I figured they would be.”

Strife smiled as he rolled onto his back. All right, so far so good. Nothing was cramping, twisting or pinching yet and for Strife that was a *major* accomplishment. That’s not to say he felt good.

“Are you hungry?” Strife frowned. Cupid was talking so quietly that he was nearly whispering. Strife could see that Cupid seemed unusually serious this morning. He had such a sad look on his face as he continued to pet Strife’s hip.

“Uh, yeah I am.” Actually he wasn’t, but for Cupid’s sake he’d fake it. Strife smiled at his husband and wondered about the subdued reaction he got. Then he mentally smacked himself on the head and said “duh” as it dawned on him what the problem might be. “Everthin’s okay from yestahday, no problems.” When Cupid still looked sad, Strife reiterated. “I’m fine, ya know.”

Cupid’s dark eyebrows shot up at that. “*Fine*, huh.” Cupid shook his head at Strife and sighed…disappointedly?

“Uh, yeah.” Strife was getting nervous. (Wow! Strife nervous, alert the…scribes.) Cupid sounded so…not sarcastic, but so…disbelieving. Yeah, that was it. Cupid didn’t believe Strife.

Strife frowned at that. What else had happened? Had he done something to upset Cupid?

“All right…for now.” Cupid’s eyes flickered between blue and green as he frowned warningly at Strife.

Flash.

Giggling. “Hi boys, I hope I’m not *interrupting* anything.”

Both gods looked over at the Goddess of Love. Cupid sighed a deep, heart-felt, truly put-upon sigh. “No mom, we’re not busy, yet.” More giggling as Aphrodite naturally assumed wrong.

“Moommm.” Another sigh, this one was so deep it came from his toes. The long-suffering son looked from his still giggling mother to his now giggling husband and rolled his eyes. “Was there something you wanted?”

Dite smiled and laughed and bounced and wiggled…and Strife found himself *really* glad that he was a happily married man. Dite was just so…Dite and he *really* shouldn’t be having those kinds of images in his head.

Was her under suit *smaller*? Crap, he didn’t thing that was possible. And if anything the lace overdress was *thinner*.

Wow, first Unc and now Dite. I wondah if bein preggers makes ya supah horny or if HE just hit mah head hardah than I thought. I mean, come on, I’ve nevah looked at *anybody*, othah than Cupid, like that before.

Lost in his musings, Strife missed most of the conversation between bouncy mother and super stud son.

Super stud son. Hmmm. Strife tried to say that three times fast in his head and got even farther behind in the conversation, so he was somewhat surprised when Cupid leaned down and kissed him.

“I’ll be right back baby, I need to straighten something out with mom. Then we can eat…and talk.” Cupid smiled and then went into the hallway.

Okay…he smiled. That was good. At least if he’s smilin, he’s not *taa* mad.

Talk. What did they have to talk about?

He needed something to drink. Strife eased up off the bed and flashed on some clothes. The young god decided to wear something bright and cheery, maybe that would put Cupid in a better mood. So, instead of his usual dark and somber colors, Strife flashed on some light-weight tan pants and a loose tunic that was a riot of colors.

Strife looked in the mirror and was pleased with his appearance. Well, pleased with how his clothes looked, anyway.

Behind Strife there was a flash.

Before he had time to react a gloved hand clamped over his mouth and another one roughly slapped a heavy *Hephestian* metal bracelet on his wrist.

Strife tried to cry out for help, but the yell was cut short when his kidnapper wrapped an arm around his ribs and deliberately squeezed tight. The young god doubled over in pain and promptly passed out.

The two flashed out.

The whole confrontation took less than 10 seconds. Then…well then, it was like Strife had never been there at all.

^^^^^^

When Strife regained consciousness he found that he was tied hand and foot and blindfolded. And gagged. Strife didn’t even try to escape. With the Hephestian bracelet on, he couldn’t use his godly powers and without them he was virtually helpless.

Strife had no idea where he had been taken, but he did realize that he was lying on the floor of a cave. Strife could tell it was a cave because of the feel of the dirt beneath his cheek, the distant sound of water dripping and the way the little bit of wind he could feel echoed around the cavern.

“Oh good, you’re awake.”

The purring voice had an odd quality to it. Disguising it. Making it impossible for Strife to figure out who was talking to him. Probably not Tryst then, his mind supplied. HE loved to flaunt his power and would have no reason to conceal his identity from Strife.

Was that good or bad?

Strife didn’t know whether to be reassured that his attacker might not be Tryst or to be more worried that someone else hated him this much.

“Play time!” The voice snarled at him and then giggled gleefully.

He felt an energy rush around his body as hands yanked him up roughly. He was shoved, stomach first, into the cave wall. Strife bounced off and grunted in pain. With his arms secured behind him, Strife couldn’t protect himself or the baby. “Let’s get started.” The voice laughed at the pain it was causing the injured young god.

Off balance because of his tied feet, Strife started to fall backwards. His kidnapper *helped* by putting a hand in the middle of his back and again slammed him into the rough wall. This time Strife’s head connected with the wall in a hollow thump.

Strife’s hands were untied and brought in front of him where they were attached to shackles that were chest high. Strife was too dazed to resist.

“You took what was *MINE*, you whore. Now you’re going to pay.” This statement was followed by another, final shove into the wall.

There was a zap of energy and Strife’s feet were untied. The kidnapper put one booted foot between Strife’s bare feet and kicked them apart. Strife hissed as pain shot down from his hips.

The blindfold was ripped off, taking some hair with it, just before the kidnapper flashed away.

By twisting uncomfortably Strife was able to untie the knot that held his gag in. He spit out the offending material and tried to lick his now irritated and dry lips.

Strife looked around his prison fearfully. Actually, he tried to look around, but it was too dark to see much of anything. Shadows danced off the wet walls and created illusionary monsters. (Like he doesn’t have enough real monsters.)

Shocky and scared, Strife tried to remain positive. Cupid would find him.

^^^^^^

“Dad, Dad he’s gone. I can’t find him anywhere.” Cupid grabbed hold of Ares’ vest and shook him. “You’ve got to help me. I don’t know where to look. OhgodwhatifTrystdoessomethingtohim."

Cupid was gibbering. That was really the only word that fit.

Cupid had discovered that Strife was missing within seconds of his being kidnapped. A few minutes later, all of Olympus, and a great deal of the mortal realm, knew that Strife was gone.

Ares tried to calm his son. He *quickly* realized this was a futile effort. Ares threw up his hands mentally and grabbing his incoherent offspring they took off.

Gods and goddesses helped look all over Mt. Olympus, searching every nook and cranny. (Ouch!) Desperately searching for the pregnant god. There was no telling what Tryst would do to him.

Ares and Zeus, plus a *whole lot* of other deities, were grabbing any magical creature they could find. Threatening and intimidating them in hopes of finding Strife.

Wood nymphs and satyrs. Centaurs and sea creatures. They even cornered a hydra. Let me tell you, threatening a hydra is tough, even for gods.

They had the hydra crying in less than two minutes.

Hercules and Iolaus helped look around the base of Mt. Olympus. Threatening and intimidating anybody they thought might know where Strife was.

Xena and Gabrielle helped look around on Mt. Olympus. Threatening and intimidating anybody…well, you get the idea.

Amazingly enough, even Tryst was looking for the missing god. Ironically he *wasn’t* threatening or intimidating anybody. Of course, he was only hoping to find Strife so he could keep the young god for himself.

It was all to no avail. No matter where they looked or who they threatened; nobody could find Strife.

^^^^^^

Strife was trying to rest. That proved to be an impossible task. The way his hands were secured in front of him prevented it.

Strife couldn’t lean up against the cave wall without laying against his stomach and putting pressure on the baby. There wasn’t enough give in the links to let him turn around and put his back to the wall. Similarly, the chain itself wasn’t long enough for Strife to sit down. In order to get off of his feet he would have to kneel on the floor.

The stricken young god was in an extremely precarious and highly uncomfortable position. The shackles were tight and irritated his still aching arms. Standing up hurt his already swollen feet and made his back throb. If he knelt his arms were pulled up above his head. This put an extra strain on his ribs and back. It would also make his knees hurt like Tartarus.

Strife stood up as long as he could. Sadly, in his already weakened condition, that was less than an hour. Eventually he was just too tired. His legs gave way and he slid down the cave wall and onto his knees. This pulled his arms up fairly taunt, which, in turn, put an extra strain on his back and torso. The pain in his side was so bad that Strife tried to get back up and discovered he didn’t have the necessary strength.

So now he was stuck.

^^^^^^

They tried performing another energy search. It should have located Strife straight away. (Unfortunately the energy search didn’t realize this.)

Ares snarled, pacing back and forth in Cupid’s throne room. Strife had been missing for over 10 hours now. Cupid was going to pieces, worrying about what was being done to his husband.

His heart filled with dread as Ares worried. What if Tryst disappeared with Strife? They hadn’t been able to find any sign of the homicidal god these last several weeks. If he took off with Strife, they might *never* find him.

Pace. Pace.

Even if they did find him, would he still be Strife? Ares knew that his nephew was emotionally unstable because of the hormones from his pregnancy and the stress from Tryst’s earlier attack. After Tryst had done Tartarus only knows what for several hours…Strife might not be able to handle it.

Pace. Pace. Pace.

There had to be something else they could do.

The Fates!

Ares stopped abruptly and felt a twinge of hope for the first time today. Of course, The Fates. They had helped before, several times. Maybe they would help now. Again, Ares grabbed his twitchy son and they flashed out.

^^^^^^

Strife cried out in pain as he slumped down. He straightened up and once again laid his head on his manacled arms. He still couldn’t lean against the wall, even twisting his body so that he was leaning on his side, because the cold from the cave wall made the baby kick like mad.

The problem was that Strife was so tired that he couldn’t help slumping down or leaning against the cave wall. So he was punished every time, by either the baby or his own rebelling body.

The pain in his back was steadily building. Not the *baby* back pain. Although that was bad enough. Not even the *broken* back pain. Even worse. No, this was a different kind of pain. It was on either side of his back and was a kind of burning, stabbing pain.

This was a pain Strife could remember, he just didn’t remember when he remembered it from. (Huh? Sorry, poor Strife’s mind is a little off right now.)

Strife tried to lick his lips, but his mouth was too dry. He was so thirsty. Desperately thirst. It had been almost a full day since he had eaten or had anything to drink. The steady dripping he could hear only made the need more intense, which he suspected was the main reason he was being kept here.

There was a flash behind him and Strife tensed up. Oh gods, not again! Every hour, on the hour his tormentor returned.

His kidnapper dropped behind him without a word and ran hands slowly up and down his back. Strife arched his back, trying to get away from the burning touch. A hand slithered between Strife’s legs. He twisted, trying to move his body out of range of the offending hands.

With his body in such an awkward position, Strife wasn’t able to even close his legs. He was chained up and helpless. Completely at the mercy of his unknown tormentor.

Just like all of the other times, the kidnapper gripped as hard as possible. The pain arched up from Strife’s already bruised and swollen groin, all the way to the top of his head.

“No…please stop. Please don’t touch me anymore.”

The plea only made the hands dig in tighter.

“Oooh…poor Strife. Does this hurt?” The false sympathy made Strife flinch. A particularly vicious twist and digging in of fingers had Strife arching his back in pain.

“*Nobody* takes what’s mine.” The voice hissed in his ear.

There was another flash and Strife was left alone. Until the next time.

^^^^^^

The Fates cave proved to be hard to find. Sometimes it was, sometimes it wasn’t. That was just a maddening little quirk of theirs to make sure that the people who sought them out really had to work for it.

Ares wasn’t in the mood.

Neither was Cupid.

Ares and Cupid *finally* flashed into their cave. They had been looking for the site for almost 6 hours.

Cupid wasted no time. He had to find Strife. Now!

Not caring that he was a powerful and important god, Cupid ran over to the three women and dropped to his knees. “Please. I’m begging you. Help me find my husband. You’ve helped before. *Please* help me again.”

The Fates looked at the humbled and, quite frankly, unraveling God of Love…and melted. They raised their hands and with a loud clap of thunder, the cave wall again changed to a scrying mirror. All five deities could see the small opening of a cave.

A cave! Oh gods, they were going to have to look for *another* cave! That could take *hours*.

Cupid jumped up. “Can you please tell me where it is?” His eyes were riveted to the scene in front of him. Cupid was appalled. Strife, his *baby*, was being held in that horrible little place!

“Yes.” The three women intoned. With another wave of their hands the location of the cave was implanted into their brains. “You must hurry,” they stated ominously. “There isn’t much time left.”

Ares thanked the women, because Cupid was doing that twitching thing again, and they flashed out.

^^^^^^

The cave looked even worse in person. A hot, dry wind blew through the desolate and forbidding area. The opening was tiny and almost entirely covered with scrubby vegetation. Bliss would have had a hard time walking in unimpeded. Cupid and Ares, who were much larger than Bliss, had to flash themselves inside.

At first, Cupid couldn’t see anything. It was so dark…and wet…and cold. The air was close and thick. Not much of the wind blowing outside could get inside the cave.

They could hear a low moaning sound that bounced crazily around the chamber.

With a snap of his fingers, Ares illuminated the cavern. The only thing they could see, the only thing there *was* to see, was Strife.

Strife, chained to the wall like an animal.

Cupid raced over, dropped to his knees behind his husband and carefully took hold of Strife by the shoulders.

“Nooooo…please not again.” Strife’s weak plea sounded so hopeless.

“Strife it’s all right now. We found you.” Cupid touched his husband’s back, trying to reassure him. Strife cried out and twisted his back, in a futile attempt to get away. Cupid, unknowingly, had mimicked the kidnapper’s stance behind him.

Strife could still feel the sensation of the kidnapper’s hands on his body. Even hours later they still burned and left him more than a little nauseated.

“No, please don’t touch me any more.”

Cupid froze, just for a second, his heart pounding in fear. ‘Don’t touch me anymore.’ Oh gods. “Baby, it’s me.”

The “baby” broke through Strife’s fear and caught his attention.

Strife stopped writhing in his bonds and twisted his head around. He squinted in the light. His eyes were tearing up, because he had grown accustomed to the darkness. “Cupie?”

“Yeah baby, I’m right here.”

Cupid tightened his grip under Strife’s shoulders pulled up again, trying to take a little of the tension off of his husband’s straining arms. Strife’s clothing was damp and cold. His limp hair had droplets of water in it from where it had dripped down from the cave ceiling.

Strife started to lean back into Cupid’s warm embrace, only to gasp and tense up again. “No, I can’t.”

“Strife, it’s all right. You can relax now. I’ve got you.”

The young god shook his head weakly, droplets of water flying off. “No, it hurts taa much when I relax.”

No matter what Cupid said, Strife couldn’t seem to understand that it was safe to rest now. Ares tried his hand at calming the young god, but had no more luck than Cupid did.

Cupid held Strife up as Hephaestus flashed in and tried to open the chains. He continued to hold him as the chains proved to be unopenable.

Strife’s face scrunched up in pain as he, unconsciously raised himself, by pulling up on the manacles. His hands were ashen from the lack of blood and badly swollen.

“Damnit.” Hephaestus sent another rush of energy into the recalcitrant chains. Useless! “Somebody…Get Hermes, NOW!” The normally levelheaded Heph was growling.

Hermes flashed in and looked at the chains. “These have an anti-lockpicking spell on them.” Hermes concentrated hard and removed the spell. Heph was *finally* able to unlock them.

Strife whimpered as first one and then the other arm was lowered for the first time in *16* hours. The last of his strength failed him. Strife allowed himself to relax and slumped back against his husband’s chest. Cupid rubbed the tensed and knotted muscles in his arms and back, trying to ease the discomfort brought on by returning circulation.

The young god shivered and turned in Cupid’s arms. Strife burrowed into his husband’s side whispering. “Warm, ya’re warm.”

Ares and Hephaestus helped Cupid to stand up with Strife cradled in his arms. Strife kept trying to get closer. “warm, warm,” was all he would say. Cupid held his frozen husband close to his chest and flashed back to their home.

^^^^^^

Joxer flashed into the temple and stood unnoticed in a corner of the room.

“Thank the gods he was found.”

“Yes, I just hope he and the baby are unharmed.”

“Let’s get going, I need to spread the word.”

The room lit up spectacularly as several gods flashed out.

Joxer stalked towards the bedroom, (Wellll…again, he really just waddled.) his long, slender fingers clenched into tight fists. He was absolutely livid. What was going on?

Ares came out of the bedroom just as Joxer reached it. “Ares, tell me what’s going on, NOW!” Ares blinked in surprise. Joxer never got mad, especially at him. “You have been gone *all* day. People are running around like crazy and I want to know WHAT IS GOING ON!”

“Calm down and I’ll tell you.” Ares put an arm around Joxer’s waist and carefully led him back into the meeting room and sat him down. With a deep breath he explained what had happened to Strife.

Ares looked at his flushed and panting husband. “The reason I didn’t tell you sooner was because you are too far along in your pregnancy to be getting this upset…”

Joxer growled and Ares stopped talking. He was shocked when his young husband leaned forward, grabbed his face and fiercely kissed him. “You’re right.”

Ares sat there gaping at Joxer. “What?”

“I said that you were right. This has upset me enough as it is. I can’t imagine being this scared all day.” Joxer smiled sweetly at his bumfuzzled husband. “I want to see Strife now, please.”

Ares just nodded and helped Joxer up and into the bedroom.

^^^^^^

The scene in the bedroom was *slightly* less chaotic than usual. For one thing, there wasn’t a huge audience like there had been the last several times Strife had been injured.

Strife was huddled in Cupid’s arms. He wouldn’t or couldn’t let go of the hold he had around Cupid’s neck.

“warm, warm, warm…”

“Strife, you’re safe now. You can lay down and rest.” Joxer’s soft voice reassured Strife.

Strife heard his friend talking and looked over at Joxer. For the first time Strife seemed to realize that he had been rescued. He looked around the room at his family and flushed bright pink in embarrassment.

“Okay, ya can put me down now.” Strife released the strangle-hold he had on Cupid’s neck and let his husband put him down on the bed. Cupid sat down on the bed and reached over to wipe some dirt off of Strife’s cheek. He stopped when Strife flinched away.

“I’m dirty, I need ta get clean.”

Cupid looked at his beloved husband and grimaced. Strife was a mess. From his sadly drooping hair to his dusty and extremely cold bare feet. With a wave of his hand, Cupid flashed Strife and his clothes clean.

“Thanks.” Strife murmured, trying not to cry. Strife thought it odd that he hadn’t wanted to cry during the ordeal, but now that it was over the need was nearly overwhelming.

“Strife, I want to check and make sure that you and the baby are all right. I need to examine you.”

Cupid watched sadly as Strife cringed at the thought. All of the progress Strife had made in feeling better about himself had been torn away in one day.

“O-okay.” Strife looked pleadingly from Ace to Cupid. “Please let me clean up first…please.”

They were perplexed. What did Strife mean? He was already clean. Joxer, a fellow sufferer, understood and stepped forward.

“Strife, we need to wait on that for a little while.”

“But…I can still feel…” Strife trailed off as he closed his eyes in shame.

“…the hands. I know. Let Ace look you over and then I’ll help you clean up later.”

“promise?”

“You helped me, both times, so don’t you think I’ll help you.”

“okay.” The okay was for Asclepius as much as it was Joxer.

^^^^^^

Ares looked sharply at his husband. ‘Both times?’ What did he mean by that? There was the time Joxer was kidnapped and tortured, but when else?

Joxer peeked over at his husband’s wondering gaze and saw the scowling frown on his handsome face. Uh oh. He had forgotten that Ares didn’t know about those men attacking and almost raping him.

Joxer gazed back over at his friend. Strife is the one who saved me. If it weren’t for Strife’s intervention… Joxer swallowed hard at the memories and at the images of what could have, no, would have happened if Strife hadn’t shown up.

That was actually the first time he met Strife and their friendship had grown from there. It was through Strife that Joxer finally got to know Ares. Where Ares really saw him as someone other than Xena’s nuisance and Gabrielle’s punching bag.

Looking back at his upset husband, Joxer nodded once. Ares acknowledged the gesture. It was agreed. After Strife was better, they would talk.

^^^^^^

Strife was lying on his side as Ace examined him. His hands and arms had been fixed…again, and Cupid was holding his hand. Strife had almost fallen asleep, despite the pain and humiliation he was feeling.

It got loud in the room when they saw Strife’s tummy and heard just how many times he had been hit there. The situation didn’t improve any when Ace got to his back. There were several bruises, but one in particular had everyone’s attention riveted; it was boot-sized.

“Tell me where it hurts.” Strife moaned, no matter where Asclepius touched. But when he touched Strife’s back on the sides, the young god cried out. Ace closed his eyes in concentration. When he opened them again…he looked scared.

“Strife, tell me where you need to ‘clean’.” Strife blushed. He closed his eyes and wouldn’t answer.

“I see.” Ace waved his hand and a privacy curtain went up, covering Strife from the waist down. “I’ll hurry.” Asclepius moved slowly behind the barrier. He looked over at Ares who moved from his place at the end of the bed and went to kneel by the head of the bed.

They all waited as Ace examined him. Cupid tried to comfort his husband, who was obviously in a lot of pain. “I’m almost through.” Finally, Asclepius stood up.

“Strife…are you *hurt* anywhere else?”

Not a sound could be heard as they all waited to see if he had been raped. Thankfully the young god shook his head no.

“I have some balm. Do you want me to put it on for you…or do you want Cupid to do it?”

“I’ll do it.” Cupid sounded so determined and Strife reluctantly agreed.

Again there was silence from everyone except Strife, who couldn’t help but cry out as the medicine was administered. When Cupid stood up he had a hand over his mouth, trying not to throw up. Ares laid a comforting hand on his son’s back and swore, “We’ll get him.”

^^^^^^

“It wasn’t HIM.”

Strife had surprised them. “Why do you say that baby?”

“Tha-tha hands were taa small.” Strife’s voice broke at the admission and Cupid held him while he calmed down.

“We need to sit you up…” Ace paused as Strife jumped; he had almost been asleep.

“…I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”

Cupid helped Strife sit up and it wasn’t as bad as they feared, the balm was helping numb some of the more painful areas. Ace brought over a mug of water.

Strife desperately grabbed the mug, spilling some on himself and the bed in his haste. He started gulping the water down and began to choke.

“Baby, slow down. You’re going to make yourself sick.” Cupid took hold of the mug and made Strife wait for a few seconds. Strife kept reaching for the cup until Cupid let him have more.

“You didn’t have anything to eat or drink, did you?”

Strife wouldn’t even stop to answer Joxer, he just kept drinking. Finally, Strife fell into an exhausted slumber, still leaning against Cupid.

^^^^^^

“Strife, wake up. You need to drink some more.”

Strife started crying as he was woken up for the fourth or fifth time. “Please let me sleep.” Asclepius was glad to see the tears. Earlier Strife had been so badly dehydrated that he *couldn’t* cry.

“I know you’re tired.” Ace paused in sympathy. “But you’ve got to drink more. You’re kidney’s are trying to shut down.”

Strife grimaced. “God’s, not again.”

Cupid looked over at Ares who looked just as confused as he was. Joxer patted Strife’s hand sympathetically and apparently did know what was going on.

“How about a deal.”

Strife rolled his head towards Ace. “What deal?”

“If you finish the cup of water you’re drinking and then one more, I’ll let you sleep for 2 hours.”

Encouraged by the thought of 2 whole hours of sleep, Strife started drinking in earnest.

Eventually Strife had to stop. “I’m sorry, I just can’t drink anymore.” Strife’s chin quivered.

“It’s okay, that’s close enough.” Strife looked at Ace questioningly. He was so tired he couldn’t concentrate. “Go to sleep now.”

Cupid lay down on the bed with Strife, because Strife started to panic at the idea of them letting go of each other. Cupid held his husband as close as he possibly could and watched him sleep.

^^^^^^

2 hours later

Ummm. Wrapped in Cupid’s arms, what a wonderful way to wake up. Strife opened his eyes and smiled at his husband.

“Hi baby. How do you feel?”

Strife thought for a second. “I feel bettah.” Strife sat up, with the help of Cupid…and Ace…and Ares. Okay, maybe better is a relative term, Strife thought as he sipped some more water.

He looked over and frowned as he saw Joxer *still* sitting there. “Unc, ya gotta take Joxah home, because he needs ta rest.” Strife sighed at the guilty look Ares got on his face. “Go on now, I’ll be all right.”

Ares helped a *very* tired Joxer to stand up. “I’ll see you later.” Joxer even sounded tired. Strife frowned at his uncle.

“Ya just take care ah Joxah.”

Strife turned to Cupid as the two gods flashed out. “Wheah’s Bliss?”

“He’s with mom.”

“Does he know I was hurt?” Strife could see by the look on Cupid’s face that he did. “Then ya gotta go ta him, he needs ta see his daddy.”

“Strife, I’m not going to leave you. You need me.” Cupid had a stubborn look on his handsome face.

“Ah course I need ya, but sa does Bliss. I’ll be okay.”

Cupid was finally convinced when Asclepius and Apollo said they would stay until he got back. Surely he would be safe with two gods watching him. With a kiss, Cupid reluctantly flashed out.

Strife lay back down with a weary groan and fell asleep.

^^^^^^

Cupid sat beside the bed, watching Strife sleep. Strife was doing much better; his kidneys had started working correctly the next day. Strife was doing better emotionally as well.

Of course, Strife had more practice at being tortured and abused. He was *almost* used to it.

^^^^^^

3 days later

Strife was laying in bed resting. He hadn’t been doing anything…and he wasn’t complaining. He was so exhausted that sitting up was a *major* chore.

The scene with the baby kicking him, being kidnapped, the…everything that had happened this last week had him sore and worn out. He smiled at Joxer who had come for a visit.

“So how are ya doin?”

Joxer frowned, his nose wrinkling. “Okay, I guess, but let me tell you a secret.” He leaned forward conspiratorially. “If I see another glass of milk, I’m going to scream.”

Strife giggled at the fierce look on Joxer’s face. It didn’t really suit him. It looked like a puppy who was threatening to lick you to death.

“I can only imagine. Cupe’s already fed me more milk than I’ve evah had in mah whole life. Gods only knows what it’ll be like when I’m furthah along.”

The two gods smiled at each other and sighed indulgently. No matter how much they might grouse, they would still drink the accursed milk. It was good for them, good for the babies and more importantly…made their husbands happy.

They talked for a while, about baby names and the gifts Joxer and Ares kept receiving. Joxer told Strife about the present that Salamoneus had brought. Unlike what everyone had expected it wasn’t an example of his latest scam, I mean, sales opportunity. The present was a gold coin. Not just any gold coin. It was one of the few of Midas’ gold coins that were left. They were very rare and supposed to bring good luck to the owner.

Strife laughed when Joxer told him about the look on Aphrodite’s face when she had seen the present. Dite had been *so* jealous, because Sal’s present had been “way better” than hers. Joxer sat and enjoyed watching Strife’s amusement.

Then, for a while, nothing was said as the two men communed with their babies. Both of them were stroking their tummy’s and feeling the babies bumping back. It was a quiet, peaceful moment. One to be cherished and never forgotten.

After a while, neither one of them were very comfortable. Joxer squirmed in the chair and Strife twisted in the bed.

“Joxah, I don’t mean ta be rude or nothin, but I’m gonna hafta lay on mah side for a little while.”

Joxer smiled at his friend. “Don’t worry about me, just make yourself comfortable.”

Strife smiled back and turned on his side. Turning over was a slow and laborious process that left Strife shaky and sweaty.

Joxer whished he could help, but that was just out of the question. Picking up anything bigger than a cat made his stomach twinge. Strife wasn’t a very big man, but he was heavier than a cat.

Barely.

Then it was Joxer’s turn. Oh joy. Joxer maneuvered around until he was awkwardly able to get up.

Thank goodness I can get up. That is one of the most uncomfortable things I have ever sat on. Joxer thought to himself as he walked around the room. Considering the fact that Joxer had spent the majority of his life sitting on either rocks or the ground, that said a lot.

Joxer rubbed his stomach and arched his back a little. Two more weeks. That’s all that was left before he had this baby. He was so glad it was almost over. As big as he was there just was no way to get comfortable any more.

Joxer snuck a glance back at Strife’s…well, back. He didn’t see how Strife was going to handle it. Joxer’s ribs and back ached enough as it was. With Strife’s body already being injured he was going to be in agony before it was all over with.

I’m so in awe of his resilience. With all he’s been through, he’s still able to smile and be cheerful. If I had been left chained up like that, I would still be screaming, especially since we don’t know who the kidnaper was.

My dinar’s are still on Tryst. He could’ve changed his appearance to fool us into thinking somebody else was after Strife. That sort of mind game would be something he would love doing.

A light knock at the door interrupted Joxer’s musings. It was one of Cupid’s temple priests. He bowed deeply to Joxer. (Hey, if you were standing in front of *Ares’* hubby wouldn’t you kiss…uh, up?) “My Lord. I wanted to check and make sure that neither you nor Lord Strife needed anything.”

Before Joxer could answer there was a loud cry behind him.

“Strife?!”

Joxer hurried over to the bed as fast as he could. He kind of bent/squatted over awkwardly and saw that Strife’s face was scrunched up in pain.

Nonono, please not something else! What in Hades’ name is happening now? How much more is Strife expected to go through?

“What’s wrong? Where are you hurting?” Joxer’s voice was calm, in an attempt to keep Strife calm. Inside, well inside was another matter. Inside, Joxer was panicking.

“Mah back. Theah was a terrible sharp pain in mah back.” Strife looked up at Joxer with pained blue eyes. “Has yar baby evah kicked ya in tha back like that?”

“Kicked me, yes, but it never hurt like this.” Joxer created another chair and sat down beside his friend and began rubbing circles on his arm. “Is the pain letting up?” Strife just shook his head no, his face pressed into the pillow.

From the doorway, the forgotten temple priest was watching the scene coolly. When he saw Strife shake his head the priest calmly and efficiently left to go and get Cupid. (Okay, not really. Actually the poor guy was shaking in his boots, er…sandals, and he ran down the hall in a shrieking panic.)

Joxer was still rubbing Strife’s arm when Cupid came running into the room. In his fright Cupid forgot that he was a God and therefore he could just flash himself there.

Cupid slowed down just long enough to help Joxer up and then he shoved the chair out of the way. Cupid dropped to his knees beside the bed and took hold of Strife’s hand.

Stroking Strife’s face he smiled at his husband. “Baby, what’s wrong?”

“Mah back.” Strife whimpered. “It hurts sa bad.”

For Strife to admit this out loud the pain would have to be really bad. Most of the time Strife suffered in silence. *No one* really knew how much he hurt day in and day out.

Asclepius flashed in, just in time to hear Strife’s admission. He pulled the covers down and Strife’s tunic up so that he could examine Strife better.

“I feel wet.” Strife whispered to Cupid.

Cupid had a pretty good idea where Strife was talking about. “Let me check.”

Cupid whispered back. He kissed Strife’s ear. “You might have had an accident. Don’t worry if you did, it would be an easy thing to happen when something startles you.”

Strife was very self conscious. When he had been tied to the wall there had been no way for Strife to go to the bathroom, so he had ended up soiling himself. Now he got easily upset at the thought of having another accident.

Trying not to cause Strife any extra embarrassment, Cupid slid his hand under the covers and between Strife’s legs. It was indeed wet.

“Yeah baby, you are a little wet, but I’ll get you cleaned right up. Nobody else ever needs to know.” Cupid frowned. Something wasn’t right. The liquid on his hand was…sticky.

Cupid pulled his hand out and looked at it. It was red. Before he had time to be frightened he heard Ace gasp. Cupid looked up to see that Ace was holding up a red hand too.

“My God! He’s been stabbed.



Part 17



Asclepius’ pronouncement caused the room to explode in a flurry of activity.



“Dad!” Ace yelled for Apollo. Apollo flashed in immediately, hearing the alarm in his son’s voice.



“I’m going to need your help, Strife’s been stabbed.”



Apollo took one look at the situation and hollered for Hera. The Goddess of Marriage and Childbirth flashed in and was quickly informed of the situation. The three healers went off to huddle in a corner; where they quietly and desperately consulted on what to do.



^^^^^^



“What?!” Joxer’s panicked shriek brought Ares flashing in. “I don’t understand.” Joxer was close to tears as he grabbed his husband in panic. “How…how could he have been stabbed? When? I’ve been right here beside him the whole time.”



Ares looked at Strife, who was bleeding and paled when he realized that his beloved husband and baby could have been hurt too. He clutched Joxer to him and began looking around the room intensely.



*Tryst.* It just *had* to have been him.



Where was that son of a bitch?



^^^^^^



Cupid stared at his bloody hand, wide-eyed for a few seconds. He vanished the blood with a thought before he leaned back over his husband. Cupid didn’t want Strife to realize how badly he was hurt. (Like he couldn’t hear the yelling.) Strife’s getting upset would only make his condition worse.



Ironically, Strife was the only one in the room who was *not* panicking. He was in too much pain and everything was getting fuzzy again. All of Strife’s flagging energy was concentrated on not passing out.



“No flash.” The whisper could barely be heard over the chaos.



Cupid leaned in closer to hear what Strife was saying. “Baby? What do you mean, ‘no flash’?”



“Theah…wasn’t a flash before…or aftah I was hurt.”



It took Cupid a couple of seconds to figure it out, but then he understood what Strife was saying. “He was already here and he’s still here.”



Joxer and Ares had crowded in closer when Strife started talking and could hear what they were saying. So could Aphrodite and Hephaestus who had just flashed in. The small group was standing right beside the bed, so they were *just barely* able to hear the whispered conversation.



Joxer turned around in Ares’ comforting arms and leaned against his husband’s chest. He snuggled closer and whispered in Ares’ ear. “The chair, the one on the other side of the bed. I have a feeling that’s him.”



Heph moved back as the healers again swarmed around the bed. “I’m going to get out of the way.” He casually limped to the other side of the bed. Some of his chains appeared in the hand he had behind his back. He nonchalantly moved closer to the seemingly inoffensive chair.



Heph attacked.



At the last second, the chair rippled and changed into a hulking, sneering Tryst. Just as Heph was snapping the shackles around his arm, Tryst laughed derisively and flashed out.



Half a second sooner and they would have had him.



Hephaestus was crouched on the floor where he had fallen when Tryst made his escape. Guiltily, he looked over at the bed and saw Strife, who was now lying on his back, looking over at him.



“Ya almost got him.” A smiled briefly skittered across Strife’s face and Heph felt something break inside. Strife had been hurt by Tryst, again, and he was trying to make everybody feel better because they hadn’t caught him.



Heph looked over at the others and saw he wasn’t the only one who was devastated.



^^^^^^



Cupid looked at his husband and was more frightened than ever. Strife was growing paler by the second. The sheets beneath him were fast becoming a bright crimson as more and more blood poured onto them. His stomach was distended and getting bigger as they watched.



Strife groaned and clutched at his ribs in agony.



“Damnit he’s bleeding internally.” Apollo spared a quick glance at Cupid. “We’ve got to stop the bleeding, now!”



‘Or he’ll die’. Cupid didn’t need to hear the words spoken to know they were true. He held on to Strife’s hand and tried to offer what comfort he could to his husband.



^^^^^^



Strife was only vaguely aware of what was going on around him. The pain in his back and ribs was so all-consuming that that was the only thing his mind could cope with at the moment.



Cupid was holding his hand and Strife tried to concentrate on that instead. Cupid was his lifeline, the only thing keeping him even marginally sane. No matter the brave face that Strife put on, inside his mind he was shaky. He didn’t know how much more he could stand.



Strife saw Hera sit down on the bed and knew what was coming. Tears were streaming down his face. Tears of pain and fear. Fear of what was happening to him, fear for the baby and fear of the pain that was looming in front of him. Inside his head Strife was screaming, NO! Get her away from me!



He didn’t say anything out loud though. He couldn’t. There wasn’t time to brace himself for the coming ordeal. Strife gripped Cupid’s hand tighter and held on for dear life. His and the baby’s.



^^^^^^



Hera’s hands were glowing once again, but this time she only pushed one hand into Strife’s stomach. Strife cried out weakly, but he didn’t have the strength left to struggle.



Apollo quickly sent a flash of healing energy into Strife’s side and sealed the knife wound. Then he concentrated and vigilantly siphoned the extra blood out of Strife’s abdomen. The group watched as Strife’s stomach deflated, going back down to it’s normal size. Normal pregnancy size, anyway.



As soon as she possibly could, Hera withdrew her hand.



^^^^^^



Strife made soft gasping noises as he struggled to breathe. His chest heaved with the effort and his lips were turning blue. The horrible pain in Strife’s back was gone, but he was so worn-out that he simply didn’t have the energy left to breathe.



“Why is he having such a hard time breathing?” Cupid was going to pieces as his husband struggled more and more to take in air.



“He’s lost so much blood, it’s making him even more fragile than before. All of the upheaval lately, added to the strain of his pregnancy has drained his godly energy.”



While he was talking, Apollo put his hands over Strife’s body and sent an energy surge into him. An energy surge was different than magic and wouldn’t damage the baby. They watched as Strife’s body arched up slightly at the impact. It didn’t help. He was getting paler as his breath grew shallower.



“tha…baby…save tha baby…” Strife’s weak request terrified Cupid.



“Strife, we’re going to save both of you.” Ace sounded so positive that Strife almost believed him.



“Baby, it’s going to be all right.”



Strife looked at Cupid, he seemed so far away. Strife wanted to touch his husband’s beautiful face *just one more time*, but he couldn’t raise his hand that far off the bed.



“I…love…….ya…”



Cupid’s eyes widened in terror. Wait! That was…Strife sounded so…final. NO! He was not going to lose his love.



“Baby, I love you too, with all my heart. You’ve just gotta hang on for a little while longer. Please.”



He clutched harder at Strife’s hand. Cupid could see the bruises already forming from how tightly he was hanging on to it, but he just couldn’t let go. Cupid knew that if he eased up on his grip at all, Strife was going to slip away.



Ares put a supportive hand on Cupid’s shoulder. Cupid looked up at him with eyes that were drowning with tears. “Daddy, please help me.”



Ares’ heart broke at his son’s lost expression. There wasn’t anything he could do for either of his sons. He watched the one that was dying physically and the one that was dying inside. Dying himself, he pulled his sobbing husband into his arms and wondered how they would ever survive this.



^^^^^^



Boom.



Everyone looked up at the sound. There was a new group in town. They were called the Self Appointed Guardians and they were ready to guard Strife against any terror. Not all of them were in the bedroom, although several more gods and goddesses were standing in the hallway. No, some were (naturally) watching via scrying mirror.



They were all prepared to see Tryst. Ferociously desperate to see Tryst and more than ready to rip him into bloody, screaming strips.



What they got was Hades, the God of the Underworld standing there looking dark and grim.



“NO!” Cupid screamed in terror as he jumped up and faced his uncle. “No, you can’t have him.”



Hades raised a hand and with a bright flash of light froze everyone, in various states of anger and fright. He ignored the horrified looks he was getting and went over to lean against the bed. They all watched as Hades closed his eyes and drew power to him. Streaks of energy swirled around his body.



He bent over and placed one hand on Strife’s chest, hovering right above his heart and with the other he carefully raised Strife’s head. Hades took a deep breath and the swirling energy was pulled deep into his lungs. He angled himself so that his mouth was just above Strife’s.



It wasn’t a kiss even though to some it looked like it. He blew swirls of sparkling, life giving breath into Strife’s mouth as he sent a bolt of energy into his chest. Sparks could actually be seen going from Hades’ hand to Strife’s twitching body. After almost a minute of continued life-saving efforts, Hades stepped back and sat down on the bed beside Strife.



Strife gasped and took several long, shuddering breaths. He started crying hysterically and Hades materialized a cloth to wipe his face.



“Shh, it’s all right. Just try to relax and breathe deeply.”



Strife did as he was told and was surprised when it didn’t hurt. “Cu-cu-cupid?” He looked desperately over at his husband.



Hades reached over and extracted Strife’s hand from Cupid’s grip. Cupid watched helplessly. “Strife’s frozen too.” Hades explained his actions to Cupid. “He can’t feel your hand.” With that explanation, Hades laid Cupid’s hand beside Strife’s head. Strife closed his eyes and rubbed his cheek against Cupid’s hand.



The SAG’s stayed as they were (Mainly because they were frozen.) for several minutes, until Strife calmed down and was breathing easier. Hades waved a hand absently and in an instant Strife, his clothes and the bedding were clean once again. Hades waited until Strife was relaxed before he began speaking.



“You have a decision to make.”



With a great deal of effort, Strife opened his eyes and looked up at the God of the Underworld in trepidation. In a shaky and still breathless voice he questioned. “What decision?”



“Whether you come with me or stay here.”



Strife blinked in surprise. *He* got to decide whether he lived or died.



“I couldn’t breathe.” The terror in his eyes was easy to see.



“Don’t be frightened. That is not a consideration anymore. I was able to supply you with enough energy to sustain you until you get your strength back.” Hades gave Strife a small, sad smile. “I wouldn’t leave you here to suffer like that. As for the blood loss…” Hades turned to the frozen Asclepius. “…you might consider looking at future *mortal* medicine for a solution to that problem.”



Ace’s eyes lit up as he realized what Hades was talking about. With a wave of his hand, Hades unfroze Ace. “Go. Get what you need.” Asclepius hesitated, giving one last agonizing look at Strife and then flashed out of the room.



“I…” Strife closed his eyes in pain. Emotional, not physical this time. Then Strife’s face closed off as he tried to reign in his feelings of terror and helplessness. “…I’d just be delayin tha inevitable.”



“What do you mean?”



Strife unconsciously leaned into Cupid’s hand, seeking every bit of comfort he could find. “HE’s relentless, ya know.” Strife said this conversationally, as if it concerned someone else. “HE won’t give up until I’m dead.” Strife’s attempt at an unemotional façade broke as he sobbed out the last word.



Hades gazed around at the frozen gods, trying to think of what to say. Before he could come up with an answer he became aware of Joxer. A wide-eyed and very, very, very (Okay, you get the point.) pregnant Joxer. Very, very. (Stop that!) Very. (Smack. *Silence*.) With a wave of Hades’ hand, Joxer unfroze. Joxer gasped and his hands automatically flew down to cradle his stomach.



“You probably need to get off of your feet.” Hades thought up a new chair and Joxer sat down.



“Thank you. Please don’t freeze me again.” Hades frowned and tilted his head in consideration. Joxer had sounded almost terrified. “I couldn’t feel the baby when I was frozen. I’ll sit here quietly, if that’s what you want.”



Hades inclined his head. “All right.” Hades smiled gently. He didn’t want to upset Joxer.



Joxer looked over at Strife and could see a new anxiety hovering in his friend’s pale blue eyes. Joxer understood what was wrong and immediately reached over and touched Strife’s tummy. He smiled at the familiar fluttery butterfly feeling under his hand.



“Everything’s fine.” Joxer reassured his friend. “I can feel the baby.” Joxer smiled at Strife who smiled back faintly.



Turning back to Strife, Hades continued their conversation. “Don’t worry about not being able to move. There’s nothing to worry about. I’m keeping you frozen, so you won’t feel any pain. That way you can relax and think calmly.” Hades smiled sadly at Strife. “No, your trouble with breathing is not an issue now. However, there are other things you need to consider.”



“Like what?” Strife took another deep breath and coughed. He looked into his husband’s begging eyes and tried to smile. “It’s gonna be all right.” Strife didn’t know if he was lying or not, but he had to say *something*, he couldn’t stand to see Cupid so upset.



Hades looked up at Cupid and smiled sympathetically, imagining his reaction if it were his wife, Persephone were lying there. “Don’t panic yet.”



Cupid was trying. Really. But having to stand by helplessly as the God of the Underworld tells your husband he can decide whether or not he lives or dies isn’t really very conducive to calm feelings. (Ya think.) Especially since Strife seemed to be having trouble making the decision.



“It’s not fair.”



Hades moved closer to Strife. “What’s not fair?” He spoke softly.



“I keep gettin sick and hurt. It ain’t fair ta everybody fah them ta hafta keep bein upset by it.”



Hades looked at Strife’s trembling lips and listened to what his great-nephew *wasn’t* saying. “What do you see when you look around the room?” Strife just looked confused. “Let me tell you what *I* see. I see a *large* group of people who love you and who are *very* frightened at the moment.”



Strife’s eyes widened at the word *love*.



“Yes…love. However, this decision is not about them, it is about you. Your feelings and your pain.” Hades looked over at Cupid as he spoke. “We all know some of what you’ve gone through. I don’t think *anybody* would blame you if you couldn’t stand any more.”



Hades turned back to Strife. “Do you think you will be able to endure the pain?” Hades carefully wiped Strife’s face again. “I’m not saying this to influence you, or scare you. However…you do realize that it’s going to get a lot worse, don’t you. The pain you’ve felt today is just the beginning.”



Strife nodded his understanding. The pain on his ribs when his stomach had swollen up so suddenly was just a taste of what it was going to be like in a couple of months.



“There’s always hope.” Hades looked at Strife steadily. “As long as you are alive there’s hope.”



Strife took a deep, shuddery breath, looked the God of the Underworld straight in the eye and said something he never thought he would say.



“I want ta live.”



Sighs of relief from the SAG’s gusted around the room, but no one sighed louder than Hades. A bright, sunny smile broke out on his face. “I have waited for over three years to hear you say that.”



Strife looked away from Cupid and back to Hades. “Oh. So, ya knew about that, huh.”



Hades cocked his head and smirked. “I *am* the God of the Underworld, of course I would know.” He gazed around the room at the gods and goddesses assembled there. (Again, a small crowd had gathered.) Hades made a decision. “Strife, I have a confession to make.”



“Confession?”



“Yes. Do you remember an incident about two and a half years ago? There was a problem with a juggler at a festival.” Strife’s brow creased as he frowned. “The juggler dropped several things, slipped in a manure pile and set fire to the tent, which sent a team of horses racing through the town, dragging the driver and dropping jugs of wine everywhere.”



Strife grinned. “Oh yeah, I remembah now. That was onna tha funniest things I’ve seen in a long time. Everybody thought I did it, but fah once I was innocent.” Strife watched as Hades blushed. “That was yar doin?” Hades nodded. “How come?”



“Because you needed two weeks.”



Strife brow furrowed in confusion. “Uh, I don’t undahstand.”



“I knew, because The Fates told me (Interfering biddies aren’t they.), that in two weeks you would run into Cupid again. They said he would *finally* get his act together and start pursuing you. Without those two weeks…well, let’s just say…you probably wouldn’t be here.”



“No, I wouldn’t.” Strife had a thoughtful look on his face. He glanced around the room and saw how many people were there. Briefly the mischief aspect of his personality took over and he wondered if he should sell tickets. He’d probably make good money.



Strife knew that talking in riddles like this wasn’t fair. He summoned up the courage and decided to let his family know what he and Hades were talking about.



“Did they discuss tha dagger?” Strife wouldn’t look at anyone. This was going to be hard enough to admit.



“Yes, right after you turned away…” Hades tilted his head and silently asked Strife for permission. After a quick glance around the room, Strife reluctantly nodded yes. “…after you turned away, Hercules and Iolaus told the location of the Hind’s blood dagger.”



Again there were gasps, but this time they weren’t in relief.



“Yeah, I’d been followin Herc and Iolaus fah a long time, watchin and hopin they’d talk about tha dagger. They were tha only one’s that knew it’s location.” Strife snuck a glance up and saw confusion in his uncle’s eyes. “Don’t worry, I wasn’t gonna try ta kill anybody with it.”



“That’s not true.” Everyone’s eyes snapped over to Hades.



“You were going to kill yourself, weren’t you?” Eyes swung over to Joxer. Joxer’s voice held no accusation, just pain. Pain that Strife had been hurting so much…and *no one*, not even him, had noticed.



“Yeah, I was.” Strife closed his eyes at the admission of his attempted suicide. “Thank ya.” He looked at Hades. “Thank ya fah tha two weeks.”



“You are so much more than welcome.”



^^^^^^



Hades glanced up as Asclepius flashed back in. Ace’s gaze flicked from Hades to Strife questioningly. “You’d better get that I.V. set up.” Hades smiled and Ace realized he still had a patient to take care of.



Asclepius was hopeful. If Hades still wanted him to help Strife, then maybe the stricken young god had a chance. Ace picked up Strife’s lax hand and rubbed the pale skin until he could see a vein. It took a while, because of the blood loss. Meanwhile, Strife reveled in the luxury of being able to breathe without pain. After Ace found a suitable vein it was easy to get the needle inserted and start the I. V.



“I’m going to need some different blood. Right now I’m using mortal blood, but what Strife really needs is some godly blood.”



Hades looked around the room and sighed. “I’ll need to unfreeze everybody now.” Inside Hades cringed. He knew they would be mad at him for almost taking Strife back to the underworld with him.



“Wait a minute! Before you do I need to know how much you’re supporting Strife. If he’s going to collapse the second you release him, I’m going to need some more help.” Ace kept fiddling with the I. V., trying to get it as painless as possible.



“I’m not maintaining Strife at all. He’s surviving all on his own.”



Ace crouched by Strife’s side. “Are you ready? Can you handle the pain yet or do you need some more time to rest?”



Strife smiled faintly at the healer. “I’m ready. I don’t like not feelin tha baby eithah.” He smiled knowingly at Joxer. Then Strife glanced over to where Cupid was still touching his face. “And I don’t like not feelin Cupe touchin me, otha than mah face that is.” He giggled weakly; it was so unlike his usual laugh that it was actually painful to hear.



“Very well then.” Hades leaned over Strife and waved his hand. Strife gasped and jerked slightly at the return of feeling.



“See, that ain’t sa bad.” Strife’s shaky voice and tense body belied his claim.



With another wave of his hand, Hades unfroze the rest of the room. “I’m going to go now.”



“Wait!” Strife reached out and grasped Hades’ hand. “Thank ya. Fah tha two weeks and fah lettin me have tha choice.”



“You’re welcome great-nephew. I’m glad I could help.” Hades paused and looked around the room. “I’ll see you again.” This statement gave no joy to most of the people in the bedroom.



“Okay.” Strife smiled again. “How about ya come fah a visit aftah tha baby’s born?”



Hades smiled delightedly; he was so happy at being asked to come for a *happy event*. “I’d like that.” With a wave of his hand the rest of the room unfroze and he left in a flash of black sparkles.



^^^^^^



“I’m going to do it.” Shove.



“No, *I* am.” Shove back.



“Boys, get out of my way, I’m going to help Strifey.” A jiggle and a shove.



Strife smiled as he watched his family fighting. It wasn’t unusual to see them fighting, as a matter of fact, seeing them acting loving and peaceful was when it got scary. This time they were fighting over *him*. Specifically over who got to give him blood.



Like it was a great privilege.



He was touched at the amount of love he could feel in the room. Ace had told them that “all godly blood is the same”. After that declaration, the argument had begun.



Joxer sat quietly with a bemused look on his face that Strife was sure matched the one on his own. Joxer, of course, was exempt from donating blood, because of his advanced pregnancy.



Finally Ares had had enough. “All right, that’s it! Back off! I’m going to go first and anybody who doesn’t like it is going to get blasted!” Amazingly enough, after that touching statement, the rest of the gods and goddesses gave in gracefully. Well, they shut up anyway.



******



Cupid was ignoring everybody but Strife. He had a soft cloth that he kept wiping Strife’s face with. Cupid was afraid, no he was terrified. He didn’t want to take his eyes off of his husband for a second.



He just didn’t know how to protect him.



Cupid felt a scream bubbling up in his throat. He pushed it back down. That would come later. *After* Strife was safe.



But how?



******



Strife looked up at Joxer. “Ya need ta go home.” Strife gave his friend a sad smile. “Maybe it would be bettah if ya didn’t come ovah ta see me fah a while.”



Joxer was astonished by the request. What was going on inside Strife’s mercurial mind?



“Strife what are you saying?”



“It ain’t safe fah ya ta be heah.” Strife fumbled blindly for Joxer’s hand. “I don’t want ya ta be a victim taa.”



“Strife, he didn’t hurt me. I’m *fine*.” (Oh crap, there’s that ‘I’m fine’ business again.)



Strife frowned. “I know ya weren’t hurt, but that doesn’t mean ya weren’t victimized.” Strife stopped to take a deep breath. He was concentrating so completely on Joxer that he failed to notice that Ares and the SAG’s had stopped breathing.



“HE was tha chair ya were sittin on, wasn’t he?”



Joxer nodded cautiously as he tried to disregard the gasps of dismay he heard. He could literally feel the tension building in the room, especially from his husband’s increasingly tense form standing beside him.



“HE coulda hurt ya. Ya and tha baby.” Strife looked over at Ares and then quickly back to Joxer. “I saw that ya were havin a real hard time gettin comfortable sitting theah. Right?” Joxer nodded yes and cringed, because he knew what was coming and it *wouldn’t* be good.



“HE was gropin ya.” It was less of a question and more of a statement.



Joxer winced at the look on Ares’ face. “Yes, he was.”



******



The SAG’s were horrified. Not only had Tryst hurt Strife, he had *felt up* a very vulnerable Joxer.



Some of the people gasped in dismay. Others began to growl. They all turned towards Ares and collectively got as far back as the room would allow. There was a great deal of pushing and shoving. People were jammed into corners with elbows stuck in their sides.



*Nobody* was complaining though. If it got them a few inches father away from the chariot wreck that was about to happen, they were happy to have the bruises.



Ares’ face was turning purple. His hands were clenched so tightly you could hear the tendons popping under the strain. His eyes were growing blacker and were just plain…scary.



Joxer reached up one pale, trembling hand and placed it on Ares’ chest where he rubbed it soothingly. Ares looked into his husband’s soulful brown eyes and smiled fondly.



Everyone let out the breath they didn’t know they were holding and relaxed as Ares calmed down, at least outwardly. Nobody really wanted to be around a pissed off God of War when the maniac responsible for the…pissing off…was nowhere to be found.



******



“Ya see, HE’s relentless. HE musta snuck inta tha temple by pretendin ta be somebody else. Sa many people have been in and outta mah room, it woulda been easy fah him ta get lost in tha throng.”



Strife coughed. He was still having a difficult time breathing and these long speeches weren’t helping.



“HE’ll just keep comin til he gets me.”



Cupid wanted to reassure Strife, they all did, but the truth of the matter was that they were worried too.



“Is that why you said you’d only be delaying the inevitable?”



Strife nodded tiredly. He didn’t really want Joxer to go, but he loved his friend and uncle dearly. Strife wasn’t going to risk either Joxer or the baby. Certainly not over *him* and definitely not just because he needed his friend to comfort him.



Flash.



The collection of gods surged forward in an effort to shield the two expectant men from harm. Welll…that was the intention anyway. In reality they ended up running into each other and were more of a hindrance than anything. So, it was a good thing there wasn’t any actual danger.



Just Hades.



“Oops.”



Watching these antics made Strife giggle which started Joxer giggling. Watching the objects of concern who seeming to be so happy, nobody could stay mad or worried for very long. Hades smiled and they all settled down, although a non-grim Hades was more than a little disconcerting.



“Strife, I have a present for you.”



Strife lay quietly for a few seconds, trying to get his breath back.



“…oh…okay.” Strife was fading fast. His borrowed energy would only get him so far.



Hades looked at the SAG’s. “Try not to panic.”



Naturally being who they were, they began to panic. There was a great deal of pushing and bumping.



Hades rolled his eyes at their antics. Tartarus, he worried about his family sometimes, he really did. Hades struck an impressive pose, snapped his fingers…and nothing happened.



Hades smiled at Strife and self-consciously snapped his fingers again. And *again* nothing happened.



“CHARON!”



Everyone jumped at the bellow, except Strife. He was just too worn out to care about much at this point.



Flash. sizzle. Flash. pop.



After several misstarts there was a final flash. Standing in the middle of the bedroom floor was an unusual creature. A two-headed dog.



Now you might be asking yourself, ‘what’s the big deal’. After all, Cerberus was a *three* headed dog. Well, keep in mind that Cerberus was one of a kind and his job was to guard the gates of the Underworld. Not exactly a popular vacation spot. So, most people, even the gods, never saw him. At least not those who could come back and talk about it. (Except for Iolaus of course, and that poor dope has seen Cerberus so much he sends him doggie bones for Solstice Day.)



Anyway…suffice it to say that the dog’s appearance was a *big* surprise.



“What the Zeus’ name is *that*?” Who knew Ares’ voice could get that shrill?



“That is Bob.”



“Bob? What kind of name is that?”



“Well it’s, ummm, it’s…fine, I don’t know.” Hades looked sheepish. “Cerberus named the puppies. He said it was a future name.”



“Oh.” Okay, so what’s he doing here?”



“No, no, it’s a she.”



“WHAT?!!”



“Yeah. Don’t blame me, it’s all Charon’s fault.”



^^^^^^



Strife watched the dog with dread.



It wasn’t that Bob was all that frightening looking, far from it. One head was black with a white streak running from the tip of it’s nose down it’s back. The other head was similarly marked only this side was apricot colored with the white stripe. The two heads connected to a warm brown body. The whole animal was fuzzy and warm and just screamed sweetness. The dog looked like a scruffy little mutt who just happened to have two heads.



Strife was as frightened as he could be. Not necessarily of *this* dog, but of dogs in general. He hadn’t always been frightened of dogs. No…he used to love them, once upon a time. Now they just scared him.



^^^^^^



Ares looked over and saw how frightened his nephew was of Bob and what little humor there was in the male/female name situation fled out the door.



“Strife.” Hades spoke very softly to the spooked god. He waited until Strife looked up at him before he continued. “This is Bob. She is going to be your watchdog.”



Strife looked over at the not very prepossessing figure and frowned.



“Don’t let her appearance fool you. Bob is one of Cerberus’ offspring. She is strong and fiercely loyal. She will protect you and anybody you tell her to. Bob will attack anybody you want her to and she can’t be duplicated.” At the frown he got, Hades continued. “Tryst can’t pretend to be her, it’s something in her magical nature that won’t allow *anyone else* to take her form.”



“Come ovah heah Bob.”



Cautiously Strife extended one hand. First the black head and then the lighter one leaned forward. They sniffed cautiously and then they licked the proffered hand. Strife smiled at the tickly sensation and allowed himself to hope. Maybe he was going to live after all.



“Sit Bob.” The large dog immediately sat down beside the bed. “Good dog.”



Strife began to pet first one and then the other of the heads. Cupid ran his hand over Strife’s head, petting him. The repetitive motion calmed Strife’s battered nerves. For the first time that week, Strife felt safe. In a matter of minutes he fell into a deep sleep with a contented smile on his face.





Fic: Overheard Conversations 18/?

Author: Kerensa

Email: vkevans@yahoo.com Feedback please. Feedback or death (well, maybe that’s going a little too far)

Rating: R, so far

Fandom: Xena/Hercules, brief mention of food from Harry Potter series

Pairing: Ares/Joxer, Cupid/Strife

Chapter 18

One Week Later

“I want you to take the baby out of Strife…Now!”

Ace jumped out of his chair and stared at Cupid in astonishment. He was stunned. Not only at the statement, but also the fact that Cupid just flashed into his office without warning and scared the crap out of him.

“What?” Ace blinked several times, trying to slow his thumping heart down and get is mind restarted. “You want me to *abort* the baby!”

Now it was Cupid’s turn to be surprised. “Of course not.” Cupid looked at Asclepius like he was crazy or at least *incredibly* stupid. “No, I need to help Strife. Carrying this baby is agony for him and it’s only going to get worse. *A lot worse.* You all say so.” Cupid threw up his hands in exasperation. “For Tartarus’ sake, Hades offered to let Strife die because of how bad it is and how much worse it’s going to end up being.”

Cupid was flushed and practically hyperventilating he was talking so fast. “I have *got* to help him. Now…I’ve done some research on this…”

‘This’? Asclepius thought. I wonder what ‘this’ is.

“…and found that over the centuries, there have been a few cases like Strife’s. Cases from all over the world. Different gods sometimes, in different pantheons, but the cases were still similar. The situation is always the same, there was a pregnant person who was injured or became ill and a god transferred the baby to another person.”

Asclepius waited for Cupid to go on. Cupid just looked at him; apparently he thought that explained everything. “So, you want me to…?”

“Put the baby in me.”

“Oh.” Again Ace was surprised. “In *you*.”

“Yes.” Cupid nodded emphatically, never even registering the surprise. “It would be *so* much easier for me to carry our baby. I haven’t been kidnapped or stabbed. I haven’t almost bled to death. I don’t have ribs and back and hips and, and…*everything* already hurting. I’m strong, healthy and uninjured; I shouldn’t have any problem carrying the baby.”

Cupid was pacing around in Ace’s chamber’s. He was gesticulating wildly. The Love God’s wings were at full-spread and flapping like crazy. Ace was quite frankly having a hard time standing up with all the wind flying around.

“Cupid.” Asclepius grabbed hold of his desk as he briefly became air borne. “*Cupid*, calm down.” Cupid looked around at the mess that was formerly Ace’s neat workplace and stopped flapping. “Thank you. Now, please sit down a minute and let’s talk.”

Cupid sat down and waited, tapping one foot nervously.

“Good. Now I’m going to tell you why your idea won’t work.”

Cupid’s head shot up. No! He had found a way to help his baby. It * had* to work.

Ace raised a conciliatory hand. “Let me explain.” Cupid settled back. “In each of the cases you mentioned there were *very* extenuating circumstances. Extreme measures were needed because of the mother’s ill health.” Ace raised one hand to stop Cupid before he could object. “I know what you’re going to say and yes, Strife’s situation is bad.” Ace sighed. “The instances that you mention were even worse. They were *dire*.”

“Cupid, more than half the time the baby dies because of the transfer. There have been several cases where the *new* mother has died as well…*and*” Ace spoke louder, up and over whatever Cupid was going to say. “…and in *every* case the original mother died.”

He watched as Cupid paled. “Every one of them. The stress is too great and in Strife’s situation he’s already too stressed out as it is. Fetal transfer is only used as a last resort, as a final, last-stand attempt to save the baby’s life.”

Ace watched as Cupid deflated. “I’m sorry. If I thought Strife could handle such an exchange I would have recommended it months ago.”

The God of Healing watched a defeated Cupid for a few minutes, trying to think of something that would help. Ace shrugged helplessly.

“The only thing you can do is to try and keep him comfortable. Make the remainder of his pregnancy as relaxing as possible. Shower him with love and affection.” At the belligerent look in Cupid’s eyes, Asclepius amended, “I’m not saying you haven’t already been doing that, just keep it up. Clear the air about *any* problems or questions either of you might be worrying about.”

Cupid sat up straighter and looked more hopeful. “Yeah, I can do that.”

Asclepius smiled. A little pep-talk never hurt anyone. “You, Bob and all the rest of us will keep him safe. I think it’s going to be all right.” Ace paused when he saw the tears in Cupid’s eyes. “Yes, it’s going to be very hard, but Strife is a fighter, he’ll make it. *We’ll* make sure he does.”

^^^^^^

Later that same day.

Cupid came back into the bedroom and didn’t like what he saw. It was nothing Olympus shattering; Strife was sitting on the side of the bed.

Cupid raced over and pulled Strife to him. He could feel Strife trembling a little, even though he tried to hide it.

“What are you doing up?” Cupid’s eyes automatically swept the room for intruders. He has felt a little better since Bob had arrived, she was a really good guardian and he wasn’t afraid to leave Strife alone. (Yeah, right.) All right, he wasn’t quite as afraid to leave Strife alone…okay, okay. He was still scared to death to leave Strife alone, but did it anyway.

“I’m just sittin up a little while. Ace said I could.” Strife was no fool, he knew when to pass the dinar.

“Yeah, I know, but next time wait until I’m here with you, please. Just in case you get dizzy.”

“Okay Cupe.” Strife rubbed his face against Cupid’s warm chest. “Mmmm, this is nice.”

Strife let Cupid lay him back against the pillows. Strife noticed that Cupid was petting his hip again. It was a tendency that had begun a few weeks earlier and Strife didn’t understand what had caused it.

“How come ya do that?” Strife asked quietly, hoping that Cupid would realize he didn’t mind the petting. He was just curious.

For a minute Cupid didn’t say anything, he just kept rubbing. “When were your hips crushed?”

Strife sucked in a deep breath and he tensed up. “How…Ace.” Strife’s shoulders slumped when he realized he couldn’t postpone this moment any longer.

“No, it was Apollo who told me. He was as surprised as I was.” Cupid’s hands sadly stroked along Strife’s sore ribs and then slid around and rubbed his aching back.

“Tha first time…HE…hurt me, uh, he wasn’t happy with tha…amount ah room he had…” Strife paused when Cupid took hold of his hands, uncurling the tight fists he had unknowingly made. “…so he made more room.”

Cupid was afraid to ask, but he had to, after all he was the one who had started this conversation. “*How* did he make more room.”

“He did kinda like a wish bone, ya know, like ya do with a chicken.” Strife glanced up to Cupid’s astonished face and then back down to their tightly clenched hands. “He pulled mah legs apart until somethin cracked inside. That was tha first time they was hurt.” Strife couldn’t look back up this time. “Tha next time he hurt mah hips bad was…at tha battlefield, 40 years ago and…and…I’m sorry, I can’t talk about then.”

Cupid and Strife held each other and cried. Strife was still afraid that one day he was going to tell one of his stories and Cupid wouldn’t be able to handle it anymore and would leave him in disgust.

Cupid was about to be violently ill. Strife had been ripped apart, literally, at 11 years old. What happened at that battlefield had obviously been worse, because Strife couldn’t even talk about it.

“Oh baby, I’m so sorry you had to go through that…alone.”

“I wasn’t alone. Not fah tha second time anyway; Ace helped me.”

Cupid gasped in horror and jerked back from Strife. Strife looked terrified. His worst fears were about to be realized.

“You hurt when we make love.” Cupid was upset. “Don’t you?”

Strife didn’t understand, but at least it didn’t look like Cupid was going to leave. “Well, just like it does when ya have sex.”

Cupid was devastated. “What?” He sat there stunned.

“It’s just tha pain ya get from havin sex…” Strife trailed off at the look he saw on Cupid’s face. He kept looking more and more upset.

“Strife, baby, it’s not supposed to hurt when you have sex.” Strife looked disbelieving. “It’s true.” Cupid rubbed the back of Strife’s hand. “There might be some pain the first time or two, because you’re not used to it. After that there shouldn’t be any pain. With Tr…him being so horrible I know it would hurt, but with you and me it shouldn’t.”

Strife didn’t know what to think. “It’s not supposed ta hurt?”

Cupid crumbled at Strife’s lost little boy voice. “No baby, it’s not.”

“I, I didn’t know that. I just thought it always had ta hurt some.”

“Oh, gods.” Strife felt Cupid’s breathless exclamation against his cheek more than he heard it. Now it was his turn to jerk back in horror.

“Please don’t stop.”

Cupid frowned at his husband. “What? Baby, what do you mean?”

“Please don’t stop makin love ta me. I promise it don’t hurt that much. Please. I need ya ta love me…please.”

Cupid was distraught. This wasn’t going at all according to plan. Their little talk was supposed to help things, not upset Strife even more.

“Baby, I could never stop loving you…or making love to you. We’ll just figure out some way to do it so you’re not in any pain.” At Strife’s doubtful look, Cupid leaned forward and kissed the tears from his eyes. “I promise.”

Cupid held Strife and Strife held Cupid for a little while, until both of them were calm. Well…calmer.

^^^^^^

“Do you feel up to a little trip?”

Strife was startled. “Uh, sure. Wheah do ya wanna go?”

Cupid smiled, a suspiciously twinkling smile. “That’s a surprise. Come on, up you go.” Cupid helped Strife stand up and then held him while Strife got his legs under himself. “I would have liked to wait for a while longer, but I can’t afford to.” Cupid smiled again at Strife’s bewildered expression.

“Anytime I think about us making this trip, something happens. You get hurt, kidnapped…this is too important to wait any longer.”

“Okay, whatevah ya say Cupid.” Strife turned to the two-headed dog in the corner.

“Stay heah Bob.”

Wrapping himself gently around his husband, Cupid flashed them out of their bedroom.

Strife gasped at the heat when they arrived. “We’ve gone ta Tartarus? Or at least what I’ve heard some parts of it are like.”

Cupid laughed. It was very hot. As hot as a forge, this was fortuitous, since it was a forge. In fact, it was Hephaestus’ forge.

“Heph are you here?”

Strife and Cupid looked around as they waited for Hephaestus to arrive. There were several pieces of weaponry lying around in various states of completion. In one corner stood no less than 6 statues, all of Aphrodite.

Heph limped into view. “Hey Cupid. Hi Strife. I thought I heard you calling me.” Hephaestus frowned at Strife who was sweating profusely and tugging at the neck of his shirt.

“Shouldn’t you be sitting down.” Cupid looked over guiltily. He hadn’t thought about it; he should have realized that the heat from the forge would be bad for Strife.

With a flick of Heph’s fingers, several things flew off a pile beside the table. What was revealed was a beautifully ornate chair. The arms were fashioned into flowers and vines that twirled around one another to create a comfortable scoop to support the sitting person’s arms. The seat and back of the chair were a filigree of delicate strands of metal, woven together until they formed an almost cushion-like feel.

Strife gasped at the sight of the chair. “That’s taa pretty ta sit on.”

Heph smiled at the compliment and gave Strife a hand to sit down on it. “Thanks, I’m glad you like it.” He pulled a footstool over that was just as intricately made. “It’s yours you know.”

Strife gasped again. “What?” He ran one hand appreciatively over the ironwork. “I can’t take this it’s…”

“Yes you can, I made it especially for you. I don’t think all baby presents should be just for the baby. After all, who’s carrying the child for all these months.” Heph smiled at Strife’s blush.

“I…thank ya. It’s beautiful.”

“You’re welcome.” Heph smiled at the two men. “Now, what can I do for you?”

Cupid spoke up. “I need you to clear up a misunderstanding for me.”

Heph and Strife exchanged curious glances. Strife shrugged and barely managed to hide the grimace of pain that followed.

“Do you remember these?” Cupid held up his hand with his wedding ring and picked up Strife’s hand as well. Their fingers interlaced so that the rings were lying side by side.

“Of course, I made them.”

“When?” Heph had no idea how important that one word was.

“Wow, let me think. It was two, no, two and half years ago.”

^^^^^^

Strife had been sitting in his lovely chair, trying not to melt. God’s it was hot in here. His head snapped up.

“What did ya say?”

“I made the rings about two and a half years ago.”

Cupid nodded in agreement. He watched Strife’s shocked face and smiled happily.

“Yeah, I remember because it was right after you two got together. I asked Cupid if maybe he was jumping the catapult a little, since you had *just* started dating and do you know what he told me?”

Strife shook his head no, his eyes were huge in his face and tears were welling up in his eyes; threatening to pour down his cheeks.

“He said that you were the love of his life and if it took *forever* he was going to marry you and I said…” Hephaestus looked up and saw the state Strife was in and was afraid he’d upset him.

“Thanks Heph, that’s what I wanted him to hear.” Heph looked at a smiling Cupid and decided discretion was the better part of valor.

“I’m going to get back to work. Don’t worry about the chair, I’ll send it along after I’m finished polishing it.” He stopped talking since it was apparent nobody was listening to him. Heph limped away, wiping a tear from his own eye.

Strife was looking down at his ring; twisting the precious bit of metal around on his finger. He was crying and sweating in equal measures.

“Come on baby, let’s go home.” Cupid carefully scooped Strife up and flashed them home. He laid his precious burden on the bed. Taking Strife’s hand in his, he kissed the wedding ring.

“So you see, I planned on marrying you *years* before you became pregnant. I didn’t say anything because I was afraid you would say no. I had a hard enough time getting you to date me, let alone marry me.”

“Yeah, I guess that’s true.” Strife smiled up at his husband. “What if I hadn’t become pregnant?”

“I would have kept chasing you until I caught you.”

The two men happily kissed and curled up on the bed for a nap, after Cupid had flashed them clean.

^^^^^^

Flash.

Strife jerked awake when Cupid jumped out of their bed. “Bliss?” Seeing how upset his son was, Strife reached out one hand to comfort him. “Kiddo, are ya okay?”

“I’m…” The young god bit his lip and looked from father to father. “I need to talk to Daddy, Daddy Strife.” His eyes were floating with tears.

Strife smiled at the little boy. “It’s all right. Ya go on outside and talk with ya daddy. I’m gonna rest a while.”

Bliss smiled as his bottom lip trembled. “I love you Daddy Strife.”

“I love ya taa kiddo. Come heah and gimme a hug.” Strife held his arms out and the little godling gratefully hugged him. Just as the little god was leaving he turned back and placed a careful kiss on Strife’s tummy.

“Goodnight baby. Goodnight Daddy Strife.”

The winged god and his son quietly left the bedroom and left Strife alone with Bob.

^^^^^^

Out in the hallway Cupid knelt down pulled his son close. “Okay sweetheart, tell me why you’re back from you’re mom’s so soon.”

Bliss’ little face scrunched up into a ferocious scowl. “Didn’t want to stay with her and I *never*, *ever* want to go back.

Cupid was surprised at the vehemence of the statement. Bliss loved his mother a great deal and Cupid had always been careful not to let the dissolution of their marriage hurt that relationship.

Flash.

Cupid looked up to see his father flash in.

“Bliss, why don’t you want to see your mommy anymore.” Cupid looked up at an equally startled Ares.

“Cause she said mean things about Daddy Strife.” The little boy stamped his foot in anger. He didn’t look up to see the effect his words had on his father.

Ares, on the other hand, actually quaked at the thunderous expression on his son’s face. “What did she say,” he asked when it was apparent that Cupid was too mad to say anything.

“She told Uncle ‘pollo that Daddy Strife was a…horo…whar…wh-whore and how he deserved to be grouped like he was.”

“Do you mean groped?” Ares’ quiet purr was intentional. He didn’t want to upset his grandson any more than necessary.

Bliss nodded as he started crying. “She was mean about Daddy Strife and I don’t wanna see her ever again.”

Cupid held his son and comforted him, while inside he was seething. Luckily for all, Aphrodite sensed something was wrong and flashed in. Before she could say anything, Ares shook his head no.

Aphrodite acquiesced because she knew she’d find out what was wrong later anyway. “Come on Blissy. How about we go watch the ocean for a while.” The little boy perked up somewhat and let his grandmother flash him away, completely unaware of the chaos he was leaving behind.

Cupid looked up from where he was crouched on the floor. His eyes were the brightest green that Ares had ever seen. Even as the Green-Eyed Monster, Cupid’s eyes hadn’t been this ferocious.

Before either man could say anything there was another flash.

“Dude, your ex-wife is one evil bitch!” Apollo was actually disheveled. The god could come through a storm and would made sure that every hair was in place, but this time he didn’t care.

Apollo started to speak again and then looked at the distraught looks on their faces. “You heard.” At Ares’ nod and Cupid’s growl he went on. “How…oh wait, the little dude. Bliss heard didn’t he.”

“Yes, he was just telling us what she said.”

Apollo nodded at Ares. “Damn, I was afraid of that. I figured that’s why he came running in, saying he wanted to go home.” He shook his head ruefully. “Stupid cow wasn’t even bothered by how upset Bliss was. She just sent him off, by himself.”

Looking carefully at the still crouched Cupid, Apollo backed up a few feet. “You do know what this means don’t you.” Not getting an answer, at least not one that was intelligible, he went on. “Only a few people know that Strife was sexually assaulted when he was kidnapped and none of us would have said anything.” Again he paused.

“The only way she could have known was if she was the kidnaper.”

With a snarl Cupid flashed out to find his ex-wife. Ares and Apollo exchanged a quick look and then followed. Whether to help Psyche or Cupid remained to be seen.




Fic: Overheard Conversations 19/?

Author: Kerensa

Email: vkevans@yahoo.com Feedback please. Feedback or death (well, maybe that’s going a little too far)

Rating: NC-17

Fandom: Xena/Hercules, brief mention of food from Harry Potter series

Pairing: Ares/Joxer, Cupid/Strife

Note: Thanks to my mother for suggesting what the baby should look like. Thanks to my daughter, Caitlin, for the use of her

name.

Note2: Please notice the rating change. This chapter has a graphic rape scene.



Part 19



The music was soft and lilting. It washed over him in a gentle cascade.



Strife was held closely in Cupid’s arms as they danced around the floor. Strife smiled at his fiancé and received a brilliant

smile back.



“Just think. This time tomorrow we’ll be an old married couple.”



“Old huh.” Strife looked at his beautiful, soon-to-be husband and smirked. “Well, maybe ya’re old, aftah all ya are ovah 600

years old, but I’m still a young kid at heart.”



Cupid laughed and dipped Strife. The maneuver didn’t really go with the music, but nobody cared.



“Okay, break it up you two.”



The two lovers looked over at Aphrodite. Strife smiled happily at his almost mother-in-law.



“It’s almost midnight and you know the rules.”



Yes, the rules. The engaged couple couldn’t see each other from midnight on before the ceremony. It was a silly rule, started

by Zeus, because he wanted to fool around on the night before his wedding.



Strife and Cupid kissed one last time before Strife flashed back to his temple.



^^^^^^



Strife stood in his temple with little awareness of how he got there. He was so happy! Tomorrow he was going to marry the man

he loved more than anyone else in the universe.



Strife changed clothes as he walked down the hallway. He flashed his engagement clothes to a special room; one reserved for

mementoes. There wasn’t very much in there right now, but Strife resolved to add more memories as soon as possible.



Behind him Strife heard a snarl and whirled around just as Tryst flashed in. ‘Oh gods!’ Strife was stunned, he hadn’t seen

Tryst in almost 40 years.



Strife stumbled back as Tryst marched up to him. Without a word, the bigger god spun Strife around and started rubbing his

hands roughly up and down Strife’s body.



The young god flinched when Tryst rubbed his hands over Strife’s stomach. ‘Tha baby!’ He knew he was going to have to think

fast.



“I hafta be at tha ceremony in just a few hours. They’ll see.” Strife cringed against the wall as Tryst pressed up against

his back. “I won’t be able ta heal mahself in time…everybody would know somethin happened.”



Strife was desperate. He knew that if Tryst raped him he might lose the baby. He was hoping that for once the giant god would

listen to reason.



“Hmmm, you’re right.” Tryst ran his fingers across Strife’s lips and the young god swallowed in fear. “So, you’ll just have

to satisfy me otherwise.”



Tryst threw Strife down on his back. The bigger god reached down and with one huge hand ripped off Strife’s clothes. Strife

tensed up in fear; afraid that Tryst would realize he was pregnant and rape him out of spite. Strife glanced down at his

stomach and could see that it was still flat. He was only about 6 weeks pregnant and it was too soon for him to be showing.



A hand on his forehead shoved Strife all the way onto the floor. He looked up to see a naked Tryst looming over him. His

erection was massive and more than a little frightening, especially at this angle. Strife was terrified when he realized that

Tryst intended for him to go down on him while Strife was lying on his back, not kneeling like Strife was used to.



Tryst straddled his chest and rubbed himself on Strife. He yanked up one of Strife’s arms and wrapped a chain tightly around

his wrist. Naturally the chain was made of Hephestian metal.



“It won’t last you know. This *marriage* with Cupid. It won’t be long and he’ll see you for what you are, useless.” Tryst

crawled up Strife’s chest, dragging his erection across the young god’s thin body as he went. “You are *nothing*, barely

useful as a whore. Even your godhood is a joke.” Tryst’s entire body was right above Strife’s face. His enormous thighs

bracketing Strife’s head. “You are the useless God of Mischief.”



Tryst rubbed his engorged manhood across Strife’s trembling lips. “Now…open wide.”



Strife knew better than to refuse, so he opened his mouth. Tryst shoved his erection in and straight down Strife’s throat in

one brutal move. Strife immediately began gagging and choking.



Tryst threw his head back and laughed.



Strife tried to struggle, but Tryst’s legs were keeping his arms pinned to his sides.



Tryst leaned forward on his hands and began to thrust. Strife gulped down what little air he could between thrusts and tried

to scream.



‘CUPID!’



Because of the chain around his wrist, nobody could hear Strife’s cries for help.



The vibrations in his throat inflamed Tryst and he began to move even faster. Strife’s head was being pounded unmercifully

into the marble floor.



‘This doesn’t have anythin ta do with me. I ain’t heah. This is happenin ta somebody else. I ain’t heah.’



Strife kept repeating that to himself, trying to distance himself to what was happening to his body. ‘It’s just mah body, it

ain’t really me.’



Tryst kept up his assault for a long time; enjoying the struggling body beneath him and the tears that were pouring out of

his tightly closed eyes.



‘Somebody, anybody…please help me.’



^^^^^^



Strife woke up whimpering; the nightmare refusing to let him go. He could still feel the weight of Tryst, pressing him into

the cold temple floor. He took a deep breath and by force of will, stopped the tremors.



He had been sleeping for several hours and found he couldn’t move. Before he could panic…uhm…Strife started panicking,

thinking about all the times he had been restrained in the past. But he found he could move his arms and legs a little; so he

knew he wasn’t tied down.



It only took a few moments for the young god to realize he couldn’t move because his back had locked up from lying in one

position for too long. Strife tried to relax; hoping to get his muscles to cooperate.



He pushed the nightmare to the back of his mind. It was just one of many and had plenty of company in there.



Finally, he unclenched enough to roll onto his back. His back and ribs protested this move strenuously; spasming into tight

knots. Strife looked around for Cupid and was surprised not to find his husband…or anyone else. Just Bob, sleeping and

drooling in the corner.



“Cupe?” There was no answer to his query.



“Somethin’s up heah.” He knew something was wrong, because he hadn’t been left alone for this long in months; not since Tryst

attacked him at Joxer’s place. The God of Mischief was worried. He was afraid something had happened to Cupid or Bliss. Or

maybe even Joxer or Ares.



The thought of any of his loved ones being injured spurred Strife into action. He wouldn’t put it past people to not tell him

and try to *spare him* any worry because of his condition.



Strife went out into the hallway with a half-awake Bob trailing behind him. Strife spotted his best friend just a few feet

from his bedroom door.



“Joxah! Thank Elisia! Do ya know what’s goin on? I can’t find Cupid anywheah and I’m really startin ta…” Strife took a closer

look at his friend and raced forward.



“Joxah, what’s tha mattah?” Joxer was pale and sweating…and clutching his stomach.



“It’s…(puff, pant)…it’s nothing. I’m fine.”



Naturally Strife didn’t believe a word his friend was saying. He laid one hand on Joxer’s stomach and could feel the muscles

tightening. “Ya’re in labor, aren’t ya?”

Strife took hold of Joxer’s free arm and steadied him.



“Uh, unhhh…” Strife took Joxer’s grunt as an assent.



Strife frowned as he thought. He knew he couldn’t get Joxer back to one of the guest chambers by himself and for once there

weren’t even any annoying temple priests running around.



“Ya need ta sit down.” Strife knew he wasn’t supposed to use his magic, because it wore him down so much, but this was an

emergency. He waved his hand…and a peacock appeared in the hallway. Both gods looked at the bird in amazement. Strife

sputtered and then waved his hand again; this time there was a chair, although it did still slightly resembled a peacock.



Strife moved to ease his friend down onto the chair. Joxer stumbled as another contraction hit and inadvertently placed most

of his weight on Strife’s arm. Strife bit his lip at the spasm of pain that followed. ‘I ain’t got time fah this now, Joxah

needs me.’



“Joxah how long have ya been in labor?” Strife rubbed his friend’s back soothingly as Joxer tensed up in pain.



“A…few hours.”



“Hours! How come ya didn’t let us know?”



Joxer winced in pain and doubled over slightly. “No…nobody needed the distraction right now.” The God of Peace sighed in

temporary relief as the contraction passed.



“What’s more important than ya havin yar baby?”



Joxer gasped as another contraction hit and in his pain, he answered more truthfully than he normally would. “Everybody’s

looking for Psyche.” Psyche’s name was spoken through gritted teeth as Joxer tried not to scream. He gripped the arms of the

chair tightly and both gods heard the chair…squawk. They ignored the half chair-half bird.



Strife rubbed his friend’s back in sympathy. “Why are they lookin fah her?” When

Joxer refused to look up, Strife started thinking. “Was she tha kidnappah?” That’s the only thing, other than finding Tryst,

that Strife could think of that would be so important to keep everybody away. People were obsessed with finding Tryst and

Strife’s unknown kidnapper.



Joxer nodded yes. “Well…at least we know who ta be on tha lookout fah. But right now, who cares.”



Joxer looked up in surprise. He knew that not knowing the identity of the kidnapper had been worrying Strife.



“Ya’re more important.” Strife smiled at his friend and pushed the sweaty hair out of Joxer’s eyes. After making sure Joxer

was prepared, he took a deep breath and called out. “Unc, Ace, Apollo…we need ya’re help.”



Strife stared in stunned wonder as no less than two dozen gods flashed in all at once. The light from all the different color

flashes was blinding. Just as his eyes had stopped watering there were several more flashes and the people he’d actually

called for appeared.



Cupid raced to Strife, Ares raced to Joxer and Ace hovered between them. All of the other gods stood around looking worried.



“What’s the matter?” Strife blinked as Ares and Cupid spoke at the same time. He was saved from having to answer when Joxer

cried out.



Ares raced over to his husband. “Angel?”



Joxer answered him by bending over and crying out.



Ace dropped down in front of Joxer and put his hands on Joxer’s stomach. Asclepius’ eyes widened. He opened his mouth to

admonish the young god for not letting them know sooner and then he stopped. Joxer looked so miserable and young and

frightened.



“We need to get him laid down.” Apollo’s authoritative voice galvanized the gods into action. Without another word, Ares

scooped his young husband up into his arms.



“Bring him in heah.” Strife indicated a door farther along the hallway.



^^^^^^



Three hours later



“We’re just going to have to wait and see.”



Apollo was being all-knowing again and it was irritating the crap out of people. Strife, Cupid and Asclepius cringed, waiting

for Ares to blow his top. They were stunned when a sweating, panting Joxer half-way sat up and grabbed the surprised God of

Healing by the toga and yanked him down.



“Wait and see! I’ll show you wait and see you dumb, blond, son-of-a-bitch. I’ve been waiting *all day*!” Joxer cried out in

pain and almost pulled Apollo into his lap. “Figure out how to get the baby out…NOW!”



Joxer collapsed backwards. Ares caught him and lowered his husband back onto the bed. Apollo was speechless. Ace rolled his

eyes and bravely stepped forward; hoping to calm things down.



“Joxer look at me.” Ace waited until Joxer trained frightened eyes on him. “We do have ideas, several in fact, of how to take

the baby if it doesn’t come out on its own.” Joxer looked a little calmer, so he continued. “I’m sorry, but labor, whether

for a man or woman, takes a long time.”



“Just think ah tha baby. Will it be a boy or a girl? Will it look like you or Unc?”



Strife continued talking for a while; painting lovely images of different babies. Ares massaged Joxer’s face, trying to ease

the tension. Joxer smiled and tried to picture his baby.



^^^^^^



Strife frowned as Joxer let go of his hand. “You’re hands have been hurt too much, I’m not going to add to that.” Instead

Joxer grabbed hold of the bottom of Strife’s tunic and gripped tightly. He had no qualms about holding Ares’ hand however and

in between contractions Ares switched hands in order to heal the broken bones.



^^^^^^



Joxer panted as the pain ripped through his stomach, leaving him breathless. The young god was lying on his side facing his

friend and with his back to his loving husband.



“Strife...” Joxer looked at his friend, “you know how much I love Ares, right.” Joxer grunted and then panted some more.



Strife nodded his head reassuringly. “Of course ya do.”



Joxer smiled briefly. “Good, because I want you to know something.” Joxer cried out as he tugged on Strife’s shirt. “If Ares

*ever* lays a hand on me again…I’m Going To Rip His Balls Off…(groan) and SHOVE THEM UP HIS NOSE!”



Joxer screamed and writhed on the bed as a particularly vicious contraction hit him. Strife wrapped his hands around Joxer’s

and rubbed them sympathetically. A somewhat stunned Ares rubbed the spasming back.



When his friend had relaxed again, Strife nodded agreeably. “Sounds like a good idea ta me.”



^^^^^^



Joxer got very still. “Something just happened.”



Apollo hurried to his side. “What’s wrong?”



“I…I don’t know. There was a kind of tearing pain on my stomach.”



Apollo pulled up Joxer’s shirt. In this way the young god was lucky, since the baby wouldn’t be coming out in the traditional

feminine way, his clothes were left on and the birth would be less embarrassing than it would be for a woman.



Joxer’s rounded tummy was exposed and there towards the bottom of the swelling was what they had been waiting for. A thin,

red line running across his abdomen.



Strife looked over and could see the skin beginning to separate. He looked back up at Joxer and could see more pain on his

face.



“What’s happening?” This time it was Ares who was demanding information.



“We’re about to have a baby.” Ace grinned at the two men.



“We?!” Joxer snapped back and then the smiled too.



“It’s gonna be ovah soon Joxah, just hold on a little longah.” Joxer nodded at his friend as he gritted his teeth against the

pain.



Strife looked back and realized Joxer’s stomach had a hole in it. Well, not really a hole, more like a slit.



Joxer screamed, a louder and longer scream than ever before. His eyes widened at the agony he was feeling. “Oh gods!”



“Joxer, we’re ready when you are.”



“I’ve got to, I need to, push. NOW!”



^^^^^^



Hera flashed in to one corner of the room. Technically she was supposed to be there when a baby was born. Naturally she

couldn’t be there when every child in Greece came into the world, but she tried not to miss any godly births.



There was no way she was going to miss the birth of one of her grandchildren.



^^^^^^



“That’s it, one more good push should do it. You can do it.” Apollo kept up his encouragement.



“Shut up! That’s so fucking irritating.” Joxer snarled at the Sun God and gave one last mighty push.



The sounds of a baby crying filled the room.



“You did it Angel, you did it.” Ares hugged a sweaty Joxer, who immediately burst into tears.



Strife turned away from the tender scene, trying to give them a little privacy. He watched as Hera took the baby and cleaned

it up. She didn’t use her powers to flash the baby clean, because that usually startled and upset the new infant.



The God of Mischief was surprised to see that the skin on Joxer’s stomach had already closed back up. He looked over and saw

Ace disposing of the afterbirth and looked back to realize that Joxer’s stomach was already shrinking back to his

pre-pregnancy size and shape. Just one of the perks of being a god.



“Here’s your daughter.” Hera handed the baby to Joxer who cradled his child to his chest. The little girl calmed immediately.



A crying Ares moved the blanket to get his first look at his daughter. Bright red hair flashed in the torchlight.



Red hair?



Hera and Apollo exchanged uneasy glances. How did two dark-haired people produce a red haired child? Naturally they were

suspicious. Hera was married to the most untrustworthy person alive and Apollo slept with anything he could run to ground.

Nobody else was suspicious.



“Oh Arry look, she has red hair…just like my mother’s.” Joxer sounded absolutely exhausted. Elated yes, but exhausted too.

That was understandable since it was the middle of the night and he had been in labor for hours.



The new baby godling opened her eyes at her daddy’s voice. Instead of the usual murky blue that most baby’s eyes were, this

child’s were a bright, vivid green.



“Oh and look she has my grandmother Caitlin’s green eyes.”



Strife smiled at his good friend and his uncle. “Ya got a beautiful daughter.” Ares smiled proudly. “Whatcha gonna call her?”



Joxer smiled impishly. “We haven’t decided yet. We wanted to see the baby before we chose.”



“That’s good thinkin. Ya wouldn’t wanna put tha wrong name on tha baby.”



With that Strife rose stiffly to his feet. Cupid was right there helping him. “I’m gonna leave ya two, sorry ya three, ta

bond a while.”



“Dad, Joxer, thanks for letting me be here.” Cupid’s voice was rough with tears. “It was wonderful.”



Joxer and Ares smiled at the two men and then went back to inspecting their daughter. Actually Ares was inspecting the baby;

Joxer was falling asleep.



^^^^^^



Out in the empty hallway Cupid picked up his exhausted husband and carried him to their bedroom. Strife was as tired as Joxer

was. Sitting beside his friend for hours on end had worn the injured god out.



Strife fell into an uneasy sleep before Cupid could even get him into bed. Cupid laid his husband on his side and rubbed his

cramped and aching back until Strife relaxed.



Cupid collapsed behind his husband and began to worry. There was no way Strife could handle an extended labor, like the one

Joxer had just gone through, right now, let alone after several more months of pregnancy. What were they going to do?



Strife sensed how upset his husband was and snuggled back in his sleep. Cupid cuddled closer and sighed. Ace would figure out

something. He and Apollo and Hera had managed so far.



Everything would be all right…right? Right.



^^^^^^



The dripping water was driving her crazy.



Psyche twisted in her bonds, desperately trying to get some relief in her aching body.



The young goddess was on her knees, chained to the wall of a cave. The cave. The one where Strife was held prisoner. The

irony was not lost on Psyche.



There were other similarities.



Her stomach was swollen as if she were pregnant. She wasn’t, but she still had the pains as if a baby were kicking her.



Psyche’s ribs were in agony. It felt like they had been broken and rebroken several times. Just like Strife.



Her back hurt, her arms hurt, her hips hurt…everything hurt.



She wasn’t as weak as Strife was…yet. So her imprisonment had an added bonus that Strife’s didn’t have or need. Chains looped

around her legs; keeping the knees spread apart and keeping her kneeling on the floor.



Psyche moaned in pain.



There was a flash behind her and the goddess began to tremble.



“Hello bitch.”



Tryst didn’t bother to conceal his voice, she knew who he was and why he was here. He dropped to his knees behind her. The

insane god knew just exactly what she had done to Strife. He had tortured her for several hours to find out.



Psyche whimpered as his huge hands started to touch her. Then she started to scream.






Fic: Overheard Conversations 20/?

Author: Kerensa

Email: vkevans@yahoo.com Feedback please. Feedback or death (well, maybe that’s going a little too far)

Rating: R, so far

Fandom: Xena/Hercules, brief mention of food from Harry Potter series

Pairing: Ares/Joxer, Cupid/Strife

Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, I’m just borrowing them for a little fun. The same with the Harry Potter

stories. I have no money, no property, I even have to borrow the food I eat, so please don’t sue me.

Warning: m/m; MPREG; talk of nonconsensual sex; talk of underage molestation, rape, and abuse; angst

Summary: Joxer and Strife are both pregnant and end up talking. Their husbands, Ares and Cupid overhear their conversation

and find out a lot more about their husband’s, especially Strife’s past, than they ever imagined.

Status: WIP

Series: Children At Play

Archive: Yes to AJCS, Make Believe and MPREG; anywhere else, sure just tell me first

Website: Nope, sorry I wouldn’t know how to set one up.

Note: My mom thought up the baby's name and godhood. Also, the suggestion that has a # beside it was her idea.

Chapter 20

Strife had just come back from throwing up when it happened.

The young god straightened up from heaving over the side of the platform and sighed tiredly. No matter what he did, no matter

what advice he followed Strife still threw up several times a day.

‘At least they’re slowin down some. I just barf two or three times a day now, instead ah every coupla hours like before.’

Woof. Woof.

Strife felt something nudge his arm and looked down. Bob’s black head was nuzzling his elbow as her white head rubbed against

his waist. His ferocious watch dog was worried about him.

Strife smiled as he patted the heads. “I’m all right.”

The dog woofed again, not any more comforted by Strife’s reassurances than anybody else would be. Strife was not known for

being completely honest about his health.

The pregnant man rubbed the side of his stomach in an ever increasing need to relieve some of the pain. Unfortunately, there

was also an ever decreasing amount of relief to be found.

Resolutely he returned to the front of the platform. Luckily for him the back wall was covered with hanging draperies and had

hidden his mid-morning illness. As he came out from behind the curtain, something colorful in the crowd caught Strife’s eye.

‘No, please tell me I’m wrong.’ Strife craned his neck, looking at the head of bright red hair in the audience. Hoping his

intuition was wrong, the young god summoned up a small scrying mirror. The image in the glass showed that Strife wasn’t being

paranoid after all.

The hair was just the same shade of red as the baby’s, although the woman’s hair was muted with all of the gray threads

running through it. Sure enough, it was Joxer’s mother and right beside her was his rotten father.

He guessed it was inevitable that they would show up sooner or later, after all, their son was a powerful god now. Strife

just wished it had been later, much later, like 30 or 40 years later.

‘Ah course, they’d both be dead by then.’ Strife tried to see a downside to that thought and couldn’t.

The young god surreptitiously flashed away the handkerchief that he had cleaned his mouth with and the scrying mirror. He was

happy that they disappeared with only a small poof of black smoke; his powers had been acting up lately and you never knew

what was going to happen. Strife thought about what happened with that morning’s milk and shuddered in disgust.

Strife walked up to Joxer and the baby. The young god had to giggle; all that could be seen of the infant was one small fist

waving in his father’s face. Joxer was trying to keep the baby covered with a light wrap in an attempt to keep the hot Athens

sun from burning her delicate skin. The little girl had inherited her father’s fair skin and was prey to the harsh rays.

Joxer’s nose was already turning a lovely rose color, as was Strife’s. The color just matched Dite’s dress. While that

particular shade of pink looked good on Aphrodite, it really did nothing for the two men’s noses. Both men were too light

complected to withstand very much direct sunlight. When Joxer had been a mortal he had worn his helmet to help minimize the

damage.

Strife glanced back and could still see the bright red hair, which he personally didn’t think was nearly as pretty as the

baby’s. “So, are ya all ready fah tha presentation?” Strife walked around to the other side of Joxer. Joxer naturally turned

to keep talking to his friend and was now facing away from the audience.

“Am I ever.” Joxer struggled with the wiggly baby. “I wish Zeus would just come on.”

“Yeah, that’s probably tha problem.”

Joxer snorted quietly.

Strife looked around the platform they were standing on. ‘Well, everybody’s put in an appearance.’ People who were friends or

at least supposed to be friends of Joxer and Ares were here.

He spotted Xena with Gabrielle standing beside her, talking of course. Xena was holding her daughter Eve. The rambunctious

little girl was not happy with this arrangement. She would rather be running around causing mischief.

Strife smiled at his number one trouble maker and waved at them. Eve waved back to her favorite cousin.

Jett and Jayce were standing nearby. Neither one of them noticed Strife’s anxious look from them to where the brilliant hair

could still be seen.

Strife saw Hercules and Iolaus. Hercules was frowning and Strife turned to see what he was looking at. It was Ares. Hercules

didn’t get along with his brother and was always suspicious of anything the war god did.

Ares’ laughter drew the attention of a lot of the crowd. Ares just didn’t laugh much, at least not where most people saw him.

It was a deep rolling rumble that sounded innocent and sexy as Tartarus at the same time.

Ares was talking with his good friend Salamoneus, whom he had called up onto the stage. Sal was dressed in robes made from

the finest silk from Chin. They were a gift from Ares. For once Salamoneus was not working the crowd or running a scam.

Strife looked back at Hercules and saw the stunned look on his handsome face. Hercules rarely looked for the good in Ares,

preferring to believe the lies and innuendoes told about his half-brother. Seeing him acting more *human* was a good lesson

for the demi-god.

Over to one side, Strife saw Falafel with his food stand. The young god looked away quickly. He didn’t want to know what the

cook was selling now. Strife’s stomach clenched a little at the thought.

Strife saw the red moving closer. The young god didn’t know what to do. He wasn’t sure if Joxer would be glad his parents had

shown up or would he be upset. Strife figured his friend would be upset and didn’t want the day ruined for Joxer.

Strife began to chew on his bottom lip, debating on strategies and plans of action. After a minute of thinking, Strife

realized he had bitten his lip and began to lick the sore spot.

Several people saw Strife and were *intrigued*. Apollo began to whimper in lust and had to excuse himself behind a temple for

a few minutes.

“Aren’t ya tired Joxah?”

“Shhh…” Joxer gestured frantically. “Talk quietly or Ares will have me in bed so fast my head will spin.” Joxer glanced

around anxiously. “And yes, I am tired.”

“Have ya in bed huh? But I thought ya said ya were tired.” Strife giggled and Joxer smacked him on the arm as he shook his

head.

“You are incorrigible.”

“Thank ya. I do have a reputation ta maintain aftah all.”

Strife casually looked over at the crowd. ‘Crap, I can still see them.’

“So…maybe ya oughta sit down. We don’t want ya getting sick or nothin.” Strife walked back towards the chairs that were set

up for the gods. He made sure to keep Joxer turned away from the crowd.

“Thanks.” Joxer sat down with a sigh. “I am still really tired and sore.” Joxer rubbed his flat stomach absently.

“That’s undahstandable. Ya did just push a boulder outta ya stomach.”

Both young gods giggled at that image and the baby woke up, stirring slightly in her blankets. The little goddess looked at

her father and cousin; then she fell back to sleep.

“She’s such a good little baby, sa sweet.”

Joxer beamed proudly. “Yes, she’s so even tempered.”



Strife smiled at the sappy look on his friend’s face. Again Strife looked at the crowd. He was glad to see his maneuver had

worked and that Joxer’s parents weren’t visible from this angle.

“You need to sit down too.” Joxer eyed his good friend who was growing paler by the second.

“I’m goin ta.” Strife said distractedly; he had thought of another problem. Make that two problems. Namely Jett and Jayce. If

they saw their parents, all Tartarus would break out. Especially where Jett the *assassin* was concerned.

“As a mattah ah fact, I think I will right now.”

Strife walked to the edge of the platform and casually looked out into the audience. Yes, Joxer’s parents were still out

there. Damn. Strife had been hoping that in the 5 seconds it took him to walk over here they would have disappeared like a

bad dream.

No such luck.

Smiling, the young god waited until he caught Jayce’s eye and then Strife motioned for him to come up. The young blond man

looked towards Jett questioningly and Strife smiled and nodded yes.

The mortal two-thirds of the triplets hopped up on the stage. Actually, neither one of them did something so mundane as

hopping. Jett sauntered up; scaring several people on the way and Jayce pranced up, smiling coyly; causing several men in the

crowd to doubt their sexual tendencies.

Apollo, who had just returned from his sojourn behind the temple, watched the enticing wiggle in Jayce’s bottom and…had to

make another trip.

Strife smiled at the two brothers as he led them, away from the possible sight of their parents, over to the chairs lining

the other side of the stage.

“Come on ya two.” Strife beckoned to the two men. “Ya get ta sit with tha rest ah us; aftah all, ya are tha baby’s uncles.”

Strife looked back in time to see Jayce smile happily and Jett puff out his chest as he looked towards the small bundle Joxer

was holding.

Good. Everything was going according to plan. He wasn’t going to let *those people* ruin the day, for anybody.

“Ya can sit heah, right beside me and Cupe.” Strife waved his arm, indicating the extra chairs. The abrupt motion made the

young god dizzy or rather dizzier. The combined heat and stress was too much for the sickly god. Suddenly everything looked

wavery and Strife’s knees became weak.

Strife swayed slightly as he took a gasping breath. Reluctantly, it seemed, the black spots disappeared from his vision. The

young god found himself being held up by hands on his elbows. Strife glanced from side to side and realized that Jett and

Jayce were surreptitiously supporting him.

“Why don’t you sit down.” Jett spoke nonchalantly, as if he were discussing the weather, not telling a god with the power to

blast him into nothing…to get off his feet before he fell flat on his face.

Strife nodded and in no time felt himself being lowered into his chair. It was the chair Hephaestus had made for him. Heph

had thoughtfully put a spell on the metal so it didn’t heat up in the hot sun. The chilly metal helped cool off Strife’s

rapidly overheating body.

“This is beautiful.” Jayce ran his hand appreciatively over one arm of the chair.

“Yeah, it reminds me of you.” Strife looked up in shock at Jett’s words and realized the assassin *was* talking about him. He

looked down at his exquisite chair with it’s long, slender lines of black metal and was confused. ‘Me?!’ Before he could say

anything, Jett walked over to Joxer and the baby.

“Are chou feeling better sweetie?”

Strife looked over at the blond version of his friend. “Yeah, I’m fine.” At the arched eyebrows he got, Strife sighed and

amended. “Okay, I feel a little bettah now.”

“Umm…so are de still there?”

Strife looked at Jayce carefully. “Who are ya talkin about?”

Again, the eyebrows. “Our parents of course. I saw dem a little while ago.”

“Da ya think he did?” Strife gestured towards the leather clad man playing with his niece’s toes. The baby’s muffled laughter

floated out across the stage.

“Probably. Nothing much gets by our Jett.” Jayce smiled. “But don’t worry chour pretty head; Jett promised Joxie he wouldn’t

kill dem a long time ago. Or even hurt dem.” Jayce sighed indulgently. “Joxie has always been too forgiving for his own

good.”

“Good point.” Both men looked over at Gabrielle who was gesticulating wildly as she told something to Xena. The two men were

remembering all of the insults both women had heaped on Joxer’s head when he had traveled with them. Strife was remembering

the head thumps and nose pulls from Gabby too.

The pregnant god’s fingers itched to send a bee under her skirt. His better nature prevailed though and he didn’t. Better

nature, hah. As if the God of Mischief needed to worry about his *better nature*. In reality, he didn’t because he knew it

would upset Joxer and…he wasn’t supposed to use his powers very much. Darn it!

“Entirely taa forgivin.”

“Jes.” Jayce seemed lost in memories.

“We weren’t always like dis chou know.” Strife looked at the young entertainer and waited.

“Once upon a time we were happy young children. But our parents used to hurt us, especially Joxie. Momma would wound us with

her words and Dadda liked to break things.

Strife winced sympathetically, but stayed silent. He realized this was something Jayce needed to tell.

“Joxie could have been a dancer; he was so graceful as a young man.” Jayce looked over at his brothers. “When we were

16…Dadda beat Joxie so badly he couldn’t move for 3 days. He…broke…both of Joxie’s legs.” Jayce looked away to hide the tears

in his eyes. “Momma just stood there and told Joxie he was lucky Dadda even touched him.”

“As soon as we could manage it, we ran away. Jett and I had to carry Joxie. Poor Joxie cried the whole time. When we got far

enough away we hid in an abandoned barn. Joxie’s legs were all twisted and healing wrong…”

Strife closed his eyes in pain because he had a pretty good idea about what was coming.

“Jett had to rebreak his legs.” Jayce sighed and shook his blond head sadly. “I don’t know who screamed more, Joxie or

Jett…or me.”

“Causing Joxie that much pain broke something inside Jett. I had to step in and reset his legs and brace them; Jett couldn’t

stop crying.” Jayce trailed off as the horror of that time overwhelmed him. “I’ve never seen him cry since.”

“When Joxie was healed a little more we went farther away. We still had to carry him most of the way. His legs were never the

same after that. He never was a clumsy person. That wasn’t why he was always stumbling over things; his legs were weak. Joxie

never knew when he would be walking along and they would give way and he’d fall down.”

There was silence for a while; each man cursing Joxer’s sweet and forgiving nature where his parents were concerned. Strife

noticed something as well. The longer Jayce talked, the less of an accent he had and the less elaborate he was with his

gestures. Strife guessed this was the real Jayce; the one that would have been without his parent’s horrors.

“We all changed. Jett became an assassin to protect himself. I became an entertainer because if chou are amusing people dey

don’t want to hurt chou. And Joxie, sweet, gentle Joxie tried to become a warrior.” Jayce looked at his unclumsy, happy

brother and sighed. “We haven’t seen them since we left that summer.”

Jayce turned to Strife with a bright, false smile. “So…do chou think Zeus has some pretty young girl making him late?”

Ah, so the entertainer was back. The young god decided to play along. If that would help his best friend’s brother, he would

do whatever he could.

Strife lied back with his own smile. He knew all about pretending everything was fine. “Girl, boy, donkey…Zeus doesn’t care

which. As long as he can knock it down, he’s happy.”

Jayce leaned against Strife as he laughed out loud. His wild giggles caught the attention of several people who were

watching; this intensified the already considerable attention the two men were getting.

Strife was almost used to the scrutiny by now, but it still unnerved him. Lately the scrutiny had almost doubled. Since Joxer

had delivered his baby people had decided they could stop watching him so much and they turned that extra attention to

Strife.

Of course, none of them worried Strife. But…Cupid…was another matter entirely.

^^^^^^

Cupid saw Jayce draped all over his husband and was mad. Mad with a capital *PISSED OFF* He hadn’t forgotten the honey

incident. The god stalked over to the two men, glaring the entire way.

Jett noticed the upcoming disaster and managed to get to them and move his brother over one chair. Hopefully this would

prevent the God of Love from blasting him.

Jayce smiled up at the enraged god innocently. Cupid stood in front of the men and tried to decide where to send the blond

man’s decapitated body. Things were not looking good when Strife quietly diffused the situation by simply looking up at his

husband. Cupid could see how hot and tired Strife was. He was sweating and sitting slouched in his chair.

Cupid forgot about Jayce and his jealousy as he thought up a cool, wet cloth and ran it over the back of Strife’s neck trying

to cool him down. Strife shivered as a drop of water ran down the back of his shirt. Bliss, who had been following behind his

father, ran up to the two gods.

“Here Daddy Strife, this is for you.” The little godling handed Strife a cup of water; or rather, half a cup of water. In his

enthusiasm the little boy had spilled much of the water on the stage. Cupid obligingly refilled the cup before his son could

see. Ever since the problems with his kidneys had become known, *everyone* encouraged Strife to drink more.

“Thanks kiddo.” Strife smiled at his sweet little son and took the water gratefully.

Across the platform, Ares was giving a similar treatment to an equally drooping Joxer. With a flick of Ares’ hand a small

canopy appeared over the three gods, protecting Joxer and the baby from the sun. Cupid saw this maneuver and quickly emulated

his father, covering his little family with a similar covering.

Muttering could be heard as people saw the recently delivered Joxer and the heavily pregnant Strife getting sick because they

were having to wait so long in the sun. Zeus’ name and the threats of various kinds of bodily harm could be heard… And that

was from Hercules!

Finally, there was a brilliant flash of light and a magnificent clap of thunder…and Zeus arrived. The king of the gods stood

there in all his glory, waiting for the adulation that he just *knew* was coming his way. The elder god smiled benevolently

and then looked out at the gathered crowd. Seeing the hostility he gulped audibly.

Zeus could have told them why he was so late. He could have told them he, the King of the Gods, an all-powerful, all-mighty

god…uhmm…accidentally got locked in his own theft-proof vault. But gods didn’t give explanations to mortals, especially not

ones as lame as the truth was. Zeus decided to bluster it out.

“We have assembled here today for the presentation of our newest god.” Zeus waved grandly. “Joxer and Ares would you step

forward.” Ares growled at his father as he helped his tired husband and daughter stand up.

“Shhh, Ares it’s okay.” Joxer’s softly whispered words calmed Ares’ ire. The three gods stepped forward.

Zeus waited patiently as Joxer unwrapped their baby. The little girl blinked in the light and then gurgled happily. Zeus and

everyone watching were immediately charmed by the child.

“What name do you give your daughter?”

Ares’ proud voice rang out over the crowd. “Tempra.”

Zeus blinked in surprise and shook his head. Smiling knowingly, the King of the Gods bowed his head in acknowledgement. “How

appropriate.” He muttered under his breath.” With a wave of his hand, Zeus’ voice thundered out across all of Athens. Very

well. May I present to you…Tempra.” The applause filled the courtyard.

Zeus paused for dramatic effect. He did love announcing new godhoods. “All hail the Goddess of Temper.”

Many people gasped. This sweet child was the Goddess of Temper. Ares smiled happily; his daughter would be part of the House

of War even after she was grown up. Joxer and Strife exchanged grins; they had both seen the tantrums the *sweet natured*

baby could throw when she wasn’t happy.

The silence didn’t last very long and then the thunder of applause rolled over them.

^^^^^^

Iolaus was clapping so hard his hands were hurting. “Wow…she’s going to be really powerful!”

Hercules nodded knowingly. “Yeah. Just think of all the energy she’s going to get just from Hera.”

Iolaus turned away from his serious friend and started laughing. He saw Gabrielle smiling at him. The young red-head looked

the hunter up and down hungrily. Iolaus pretended to be oblivious to her intense stare.

Iolaus knew that Gabrielle had a crush on him; she’d made that obvious from the first time they met. He didn’t quite know

what he had to do to convince Gabrielle that he *didn’t* want her. He had been discouraging her since the first time they

met.

The hunter ignored the Amazon princess and looked back to the platform just in time to see an irritated Cupid flash his

sickly husband away. Bliss got to stay behind with his grandfather’s and little cousin.

The party for the new little godling lasted until dawn. Joxer, Ares and baby left after a couple of hours. Strife and Cupid

came back for a brief appearance towards the middle of the party. They stayed for a short time, collected their son and then

left again. Nobody was surprised, because they could tell the only thing holding Strife up was Cupid.

Most everyone else, god or mortal or demi-god, stayed all night long. The mortals were willing to stay until the food and

more importantly, the drink ran out. Since the food was supplied by Gaea and the drinks by Dionysus they didn’t run out and

eventually Hera slapped her rowdy husband on the head and declared the party over.

^^^^^^

The next day Strife was resting in bed, as per orders from Cupid, when he received a visit from Athena. The Goddess of Wisdom

had to actually walk in to the temple, because of the protection shield surrounding the temple.

After Strife had been kidnapped out of his own bedroom and then shortly after that attacked by Tryst, again in the same room,

several of the gods had gotten together and devised the shield. With it, no god or goddess could flash themselves into the

temple unless they had been given permission first.

Strife was rather surprised to see his aunt. Surprised but happy; they had formed a sort-of friendship while planning Joxer’s

baby shower.

“Hiya Athena. Whatcha doin heah?”

“I need to ask a favor of you.” Athena was clutching a very large book and looked so serious.

“What kind ah favor?” Strife was just as serious. If Athena was approaching him it must be important. Besides there wasn’t

much Strife could do lately in a godly fashion, or any other fashion for that matter, and any help he could give he would do

so gladly.

“I have come to ask you to subscribe Tempra’s name and godhood officially in The Divine Book of the Gods and Goddess of

Olympus.” Athena stood tall and proud, the aforementioned book clutched tightly in her arms.

Strife tried not to laugh. It wasn’t the request that had him giddy; it was the title of the book. It was so pompous and most

of the gods cringed anytime they had to say it. Then Strife realized what Athena was asking.

“Ya want *me* ta write her name in theah fah ya.” Strife was stunned. Putting a new god’s name in The Book was a big deal. As

far as he knew, no one other than Athena had ever done it.

“Yes, I would be very grateful if you would. Your penmanship is so elegant, it would be a welcome addition to the archive.”

Strife smiled happily. “I’d be honored.”

^^^^^^

3 days later

“Strife! What in all the god’s names are you eating?”

Joxer looked at the lumpy reddish mess in Strife’s bowl and winced. He turned away and pressed his daughter into his

shoulder, hoping to shield his impressionable child from the disgusting sight.

“Don’t worry, it’s just ambrosia.” Strife didn’t let the appearance of his best friend stop him from eating. Strife licked

his lips happily. “This is tha first thing that’s tasted good in a long time.”

“Ambrosia?” Joxer laid Tempra in her seashell cradle that Poseidon had given and turned back to his pregnant friend

questioningly. “Strife, that really doesn’t look like ambrosia.”

“It looks different cause it has catsup and onions in it.”

“Onions? And what the Tartarus is catsup?”

“It’s a food from tha future.” Strife thought a minute, wondering how to define catsup. “It’s made outta squished tomatoes.”

Joxer blanched and looked at his friend carefully. “You put onions and tomatoes in ambrosia?”

“Um huh.” Strife didn’t stop eating and all but licked the bowl clean. “I know it sounds disgustin but right now it tastes

wondahful.”

“I’m supposed ta eat as mucha this stuff as I can, but it tastes sa nasty I haven’t been able ta choke much down. Sa I’ve

been experementin and found one or two things that make it taste a little bettah.”

Joxer shrugged. “Okay. Gods know we’ve both eaten some really disgusting things while we’ve been pregnant. At least this one

will help build up your godly powers.

Strife grimaced. “I don’t really need ta build up mah powers that much.”

Joxer sat down beside his friend and patted his arm understandingly. “Are you still having problems with your powers?”

“Oh yeah. Yestahday I tried ta change mah clothes and I ended up with…mumble mumble.”

“What did you say?”

Strife sighed unhappily. “I ended up wearin what looked like…onna Dite’s outfits.”

Joxer had to bite his lip so he wouldn’t laugh in his friend’s face. Strife looked up and smiled. “It’s okay, ya can laugh. I

tell ya I’ve nevah looked sillier in mah life.”

Joxer thought about tall, skinny Strife with his very pregnant tummy in one of Aphrodite’s lacy, diaphanous gowns and bust

out laughing. Strife watched him for a few seconds before he joined in.

The two young gods kept laughing and before long even the baby caught the mood and started laughing. Joxer watched his baby

happily and put an arm around Strife’s shoulders as the laughter turned to tears.

“Shhh…just try to relax.” Damn, it wasn’t fair. Strife shouldn’t suffer just because he laughed a little.

Strife panted a minute. “It’s okay, it was worth it. Everythin has been sa grim tha last few months; it’s nice ta laugh.”

^^^^^^

Strife laid his head on Joxer’s shoulder and tried to ride out the waves of pain. His friend’s bony shoulder wasn’t a very

comfortable pillow though and he soon sat back up.

“Sa, how are ya likin mothahood?”

Joxer swatted at his friend’s hair in retaliation for the joke. “Actually…”

All of a sudden there was a loud thump. Both gods jumped and Strife choked off a cry of pain from the sudden movement. Joxer

was already looking for the source of the noise. He jumped up and was positioned in front of the vulnerable Strife and his

daughter’s cradle.

Strife realized something was blocking the sun. In trepidation he looked up and was terrified to realize there was a person

suspended right over him. It was a woman and she was lying on top of the shield that protected the garden from unwanted godly

visitors.

Strife’s gasp had Joxer spinning around. He saw Strife looking up and let his gaze follow his friend’s. It was Joxer’s turn

to gasp.

Gravity began to work and the woman’s body slid down the side of the shield, leaving a nasty streak of blood and other bodily

fluids.# The insensate body hit the ground with a squishy splat.

Strife struggled up out of his chair immediately, intent on helping this poor victim.

“Oh gods, somebody got hurt tryin ta flash in.”

“Strife stop!”

Joxer’s urgent tone stopped Strife cold. He looked back questioningly.

“It might be a trick. No matter how bad she looks it could be a trap to lure you outside the protection field.”

Strife shook his head. “Ya’re right. I nevah thought ah that.” Strife looked back at the prone body. “But we can’t just leave

her theah.”

“*We* aren’t; *I’m* going to check on her.” Joxer passed his friend and headed towards the edge of the shield. “I’m not

having problems with my powers.” He explained to the ill young god.

Strife backed up and sat back down as he watched Joxer. At the first hint of trouble he was going to start screaming for

help, because powers or no powers Tryst could hurt Joxer just as well as he could Strife. Tryst’s reaction to Joxer months

ago had proven he was interested in the young god.

^^^^^^

Joxer walked through the shield with a pop. Cautiously he approached the still unconscious woman. “She’s not dead, she still

breathing.” Behind him, Joxer could hear Strife’s sigh of relief. Joxer was glad too, he knew that his friend would never

forgive himself if somebody had been hurt because of his protection shield.

Warily, Joxer bent and rolled the body over. He gasped in surprise and stumbled back a few steps. “Oh my god…it’s Psyche.”





Fic: Overheard Conversations 21/?

Author: Kerensa

Email: vkevans@yahoo.com Feedback please. Feedback or death (well, maybe that’s going a little too far)

Rating: R, so far

Fandom: Xena/Hercules, brief mention of food from Harry Potter series

Pairing: Ares/Joxer, Cupid/Strife

Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, I’m just borrowing them for a little fun. The same with the Harry Potter

stories. I have no money, no property, I even have to borrow the food I eat, so please don’t sue me.

Warning: m/m; MPREG; talk of nonconsensual sex; talk of underage molestation, rape, and abuse; angst

Summary: Joxer and Strife are both pregnant and end up talking. Their husbands, Ares and Cupid overhear their conversation

and find out a lot more about their husband’s, especially Strife’s past, than they ever imagined.

Status: WIP

Series: Children At Play





Chapter 21



Strife was being held up, supported and generally propped by Cupid. What he needed was to sit down or better yet go lay down,

but the pregnant god insisted on waiting by the chamber door. Bob kept rubbing her heads against her master’s leg, in

sympathy and support.



Joxer stood to one side and tried to calm his daughter down. Tempra, as the newly appointed Goddess of Temper, could feel all

the anger in the room and was twitchy because of it. Luckily the little goddess was way too young to do anything with the

excess energy floating around.



Ares hovered protectively over his family like Echidna guarding her young.



Aphrodite, sweet, supposedly flighty Aphrodite…was clenching and unclenching her fists. Only the knowledge that it would

upset Strife so much kept the love goddess from blasting the door down and ripping her ex-daughter-in-law into pieces.



Hermes was hovering a few inches off the temple floor. He was waiting for information on Psyche. There were many anxious gods

and goddesses on sewing implements (you know, pins and needles) wanting to know what was happening with “the evil bitch”.



The door opened, Apollo and Asclepius emerged.



“It’s not as bad as it looked.” Strife was the only one who was relieved by Apollo’s statement.



“Her injuries are like yours were Strife…” He winced as Strife whimpered.



Cupid rocked back and forth a few times. “Shhh, it’s all right.”



Smiling apologetically at his insensitivity, Apollo continued. “She’s going to be fine though. While painful, none of the

injuries she sustained are life threatening.”



“How are her kidneys?” Strife’s inquiry came out breathlessly. “Have they been damaged taa?”



“No.” Ace hastened to reassure Strife. “She was given food and water, not a lot, but enough.”



“Okay, good.” Strife could hardly stand the thought of someone else, even Psyche going through the Tartarus he had and still

was enduring.



^^^^^^



“She’s going to be okay?” Apollo and Asclepius nodded yes to the God of Love. That was the main thing he wanted to know. It

wouldn’t be sporting to kill somebody who was at Hades’ door.



Cupid carefully let go of Strife and leaned him against the wall. His duty to his beloved husband taken care of, Cupid got

down to business.



“Good…” Cupid snarled. “…now let me at her.” He started to lunge towards the door.



“NO!” Cupid looked at his husband in astonishment. “Cupe ya can’t.”



Everyone, yes, even Joxer, wanted her blood. And her skin. And her bones. They were worried though, if Strife didn’t want

them to punish her they wouldn’t. His health was too precarious and they couldn’t risk upsetting him.



“Baby…why?” Cupid walked back to stand in front of his husband.



“Think ah Bliss. What’s he gonna think if his Daddy hurts his Mommy?”



Cupid slumped, imagining his son’s sweet face looking up at him in horror. “You’re right.”



“No problem.” Ares nodded happily and he started forward.



“Unc, ya can’t do anythin eithah. Or ya Dite. Or Joxah.”



His soft words froze everyone in place and effectively ended their plans for revenge. All three gods looked frustrated.

Aphrodite kicked the wall. Apollo absentmindedly fixed her broken toes.



“Bliss loves all ah ya taa much. Don’t make him chose between ya and his mom.”



Strife was having a hard time catching his breath and Cupid once again held him up.



Irritated that their revenge had been forestalled, Ares asked a question they had all been wondering about. “So who had her

anyway?”



“Obviously somebody who wanted revenge for Strifey.” Dite smiled at her upset son-in-law.



“It was Tryst.” Strife’s quiet announcement stopped the speculation.



“How do you know that for certain?” Joxer wasn’t denying Strife’s knowledge. If anybody would know Tryst’s handiwork it would

be Strife.



“Because I saw that she had a…mark…” Strife closed his eyes in pain. “…right heah, undah her arm.” Strife raised his arm

slightly and indicated that was the place.”



“It’s true she has a kind of…” Apollo didn’t know how to describe it.



“It’s like a curved X.” Strife tightened his grip on Cupid’s arm. “X marks tha spot.” He muttered shakily; his eyes focused

inward, towards the memories.



Joxer put a hand on his friend’s arm and cursed himself when Strife flinched. “Do you have a mark?”



“Yeah.” His hand moved abruptly as he started to reach under his arm again.



“Oh baby.” Cupid kissed the side of Strife’s neck.



“Oh gods.” Luckily Ace’s soft exclamation wasn’t heard by anybody else. He had suddenly remembered seeing that curved X on

several children in the village at the foot of Mt. Olympus.



^^^^^^



Strife’s pronouncement had, ironically enough, pushed Psyche from their minds for a little while.



“So how do we punish her, because she is going down.” Aphrodite thumped the wall beside her in a very unDite way.



“Let me handle it.” Apollo smiled serenely at them. “I believe I can come up with an *appropriate* punishment for her.”



Everybody looked at everybody else. They weren’t sure what to do.



“What do you say Strife? You are the injured party here.”



“Yeah, okay.” Puff, puff, puff. “Sounds good…(puff) ta me.”



Cupid caught Strife up in his arms as Strife’s legs finally gave way. He walked slowly and cautiously to their bedroom door.



“Please remove that filth from our home.” Cupid looked back at the rest of his family. “I don’t care what you do with it,

just get it out of here.”



The door quietly shut behind the 2, or rather 2 2/3 gods.



^^^^^^



The next afternoon



Cupid woke up as his husband walked into the bathing chamber. The two lovers had been taking an afternoon nap. Usually Strife

napped and Cupid watched him, but this time Cupid had fallen asleep too.



There was a slight sloshing and Cupid sat up with a frown. Strife was taking a bath…alone. That wasn’t good. The pregnant god

had a hard time walking around the room, let alone down the steps into the bathing pool. Not to mention, how was he going to

get up again once he sat down?



“Baby?”



Strife yelped at Cupid’s voice. “Are you okay?” Strife just nodded. Cupid was worried; Strife was staring up at him with eyes

that were huge in his face. “Do you mind if I join you?” Strife just shook his head no, still with those big,

frightened…frightened? eyes.



As Cupid stepped into the pool he noticed something amazing. While he had been taking off his clothes, with his back turned,

Strife had covered the front of himself with a large towel.



So Strife was sitting in the bath with a now soaking towel in front of him. And damn, he was breathing so fast, he was about

to hyperventilate.



“Strife?” There were a thousand questions wrapped up in that one word.



Strife’s mouth moved wordlessly. He was clutching the towel so tightly his hands were turning a funny, paler color. Cupid

slid closer. He moved oh so slowly, trying not to upset his husband further and trying desperately to understand what was

wrong.



“Tell me what’s wrong.”



Strife scrunched his eyes closed.



“Are you scared?” Strife nodded and wrapped the towel tighter around his chest.



“Something you don’t want me to see?” Strife’s nod was barely perceptible.



“Is it because of the baby? I’ve seen your tummy before, you know and I think it’s beautiful.” Cupid stroked their child

through the cloth and Strife smiled in bliss.



“No, that ain’t it.”



“Is it about Psyche? Strife frowned and quickly shook his head no.



Cupid looked down, thinking. He was at a loss. He wracked his brain, trying to think about what had happened recently that

could have upset his husband.



When Cupid looked back up he realized that Strife now had another towel. This one was draped over his shoulders. Thinking

back to when Joxer was kidnapped, Cupid got an idea.



“Is it about the mark?” Strife paled and clutched the towel tighter. He nodded his head so minutely that Cupid barely saw it.



“Can I see it?”



Strife looked so stricken that Cupid was about to retract his question. Then the young god released the towel and raised his

left arm. The unusual X was easily seen. It was thick and bright red. As with many light skinned people, Strife’s scars were

very visible.



Cupid ran his finger over the mark, wishing he could erase the pain it represented. “I don’t understand why I never noticed

this before.”



“Because ah tha glamour I used fah sa long.” Strife hung his head in shame.



“But baby, you haven’t used a glamour in months.” Cupid frowned, upset that he had missed something so important. “It’s not

like I haven’t seen you naked.”



Strife grabbed the towel again. “Ya haven’t.”



“What do you mean?” Cupid was confused. “We’ve made love, I’ve helped you change clothes, we’ve even had other baths.”



“Yeah, but…but we were always in tha dark.” Strife whispered the words ashamedly.



Cupid started to disagree and then began to think. “You’re right. We’re always in the dark or have a few candles.” He tilted

his husband’s head up. “Why are you afraid to let me see you?”



“Cause I lied ta ya.” Strife started crying. “I didn’t mean ta. I forgot about tha glamour when we first got tagethah and

later I was scared fah ya ta find out tha truth.” Strife talked faster and faster, trying to get it all out before he lost

his nerve.



“So there are other scars.”



Strife tried to look away. Cupid kept moving his head so that Strife had to keep looking him in the eye. “Yeah, theah are a

lot more scars.”



“Let me see.” Strife whimpered. “Baby, I love you. You are my husband and *nothing* will ever change that. Especially not

some scars.”



Strife looked into his husband’s eyes and decided he had to trust that Cupid was right about how he would feel. Besides it

was only fair that Cupid see what he actually looked like. A pale, shaky hand reached out from the folds of the towel.



“Gimme a hand up?”



Cupid immediately stood up and helped his unsteady husband to his feet. He waited until Strife seemed more stable before he

reluctantly released him.



Strife stood in front of Cupid and just stared. His hands were clenched tight around the towels. With a shuddering sigh,

Strife closed his eyes and let the towel around his back drop into the water.



Slowly Cupid circled around his husband; he put one hand on a shaking elbow in support. The sunlight streaming through the

window illuminated the back of Strife’s body. Cupid looked, with tears running down his face, at the devastation that was his

husband’s body.



It was covered with crooked X’s.



There were a few along his shoulders, more on his back and the backs of his legs. His bottom was covered with the scars.



Cupid realized his silence was scaring Strife. He molded himself to his husband’s back and wrapped his arms around Strife’s

quaking body.



“I’m still here baby.”



Strife burst out crying and turned himself in his husband’s arms. The other towel dropped, forgotten, into the water.



Inside Strife’s soul, one more wound healed over.



^^^^^^



6 days later



“Psyche, step forward.”



The young goddess who walked regally to stand in front of the Pantheon looked healthy and calm. She had been healed fairly

quickly from her ordeal. It was much easier on her than it had been on Strife, because she didn’t have a baby that needed to

be protected from magical complications.



Her healthy appearance did nothing for her case. Many saw it as a sign that she hadn’t been punished. Likewise, a little fear

might have helped. But Psyche was so certain her looks and charm would save her that she wasn’t very worried.



She was counting on the fact that she was good in bed, as testified to by many people, would keep the acrimony down. If all

else failed, she figured she could charm someone into taking off her restraints and then she could use her godhood to save

herself. As Goddess of the Mind, Psyche was used to bending people to her will.



A few weeks ago she would almost certainly have been right, but Psyche still hadn’t realized how feelings for her had

changed. She ignorantly didn’t understand that the only thing keeping her uninjured right now was the trial and Strife’s

worry over Bliss.



Apollo walked around the meeting chamber, talking as he went, until he ended up in front of the prisoner.



“I’ve thought long and hard about your punishment.”



Psyche smiled seductively. Apollo, no stranger to seductive smiles, was glad he hadn’t eaten lunch yet.



“Since you sexually assaulted Strife…” Apollo had to wait until the angry murmurs quieted down.



The smile slipped off Psyche’s face.



“I thought about tossing you in with a bunch of sex-starved prisoners and letting them have at you for a few years.”



Psyche blanched. There was some cheering in the audience.



“But I realized that would only upset Strife and eventually Bliss.” There was disappointed murmuring in the audience.



Psyche took a shuddering breath in relief.



“Sooo…I decided to send you down to earth. I would surround you with men. All of them fawning all over you. Pestering you.

Harassing you no matter where you went.”



Psyche frowned. It wrinkled up her nose and not in a sexy way. No, more like in an, ‘I stepped in a pile of shit’ way.

(Appropriate, don’t you think.) Her mouth twisted to one side and…well, suffice it to say it was *not* her best look.



“But I realized that had already been done. And done quite well I might add.” Apollo turned and bowed to Aphrodite. She

acknowledged the praise. That’s how she got back at Psyche when she was still mortal and people had dared to compare her

beauty to that of Aphrodite herself.



“So that left only one thing to do.”



Psyche flinched back as Apollo reached for her. She wasn’t as calm now, not after hearing Apollo’s discarded ideas.



The god cupped Psyche’s face between his hands. “So pretty…” He leaned forward and for a few seconds no one could see Psyche.

Apollo was too close in front of her. “…no more.” Apollo stepped back and everyone gasped.



Psyche’s beautiful, lustrous hair was now dull and an ugly shade of reddish-gray. Her flawless, roses and ivory skin was

wrinkled, saggy and grayish-yellow. Dark age spots covered her hands and arms. Her full lips had thinned to be almost

invisible. A once pert nose had elongated and widened.



She was, in short, a hag. (In protest, several hags protested.) She was so ugly that even the hags turned away in disgust.



Psyche held her arms up and looked over them in shock.



“You may look ancient, but you are still a young woman inside. With a young woman’s wants and needs.” Apollo looked at her

and snorted. “Good luck with that.” Apollo walked away, dismissing her like so much rubbish.



Psyche stood, hunched over and alone, in the middle of the chamber floor.



Zeus raised one hand negligently and flicked a fire bolt at her. When the flames dissipated he finally spoke. “You are a

goddess no more.” He turned to his wife, Hera.



The Goddess of Marriage and Childbirth smiled. It wasn’t pleasant to look at. She took her godhood seriously and Psyche’s

evil machinations had endangered not only Strife, but his unborn child as well.



“But you are immortal.” Her fire bolt struck.



Psyche stood in the middle of the chamber, stunned at how quickly her life had turned to ruins. She gasped and tried to step

back as Eris stalked up.



The Goddess of Discord smiled malevolently at Psyche. “You didn’t think I wouldn’t do anything, did you?” Eris put her hand

on Psyche’s chest. “From one mother to another.”



With a snarl worthy of her brother Ares’, Eris gripped Psyche’s dress and yanked her forward. “I’d love to rip you to bits

and see how the pieces liked living that way, but…” She pushed the old/young woman back. “…that would be *way* too easy on

you.”



Psyche looked at the crowd beseechingly. For help. For death, maybe? To live like this for eternity was too horrible to

contemplate.



The looks she received made the ex-goddess realize there would be no compassion from this crowd. Unsure, she looked back at

Eris.



“I have a nice little home all picked out for you.” Eris smirked. “Well, maybe hovel is more like it. It’s right in the

middle of Athens.” The crowd murmured it’s appreciation. (A lot of murmuring going on.) She would be stuck in the most

populous city in Greece.



Eris continued explaining her *gift*. “The house has a spell on it. No food or drink brought inside will be good for more

than a week at a time. Even dried or smoked meats. That ensures that you’ll have to leave your house *every* week and walk

among the people.”



Flicking her gaze up and down, Eris frowned. “I’m not sure it’s fair to punish them that way. Oh well, have fun.” With a

happy wave goodbye, Eris sent her son’s kidnapper and torturer to her new life.



There was no more murmuring. There was, however, a great deal of clapping and cheering.



^^^^^^



Tryst walked out of the meeting chamber and around the corner. He morphed back into his usual disguise, that of a middle-aged

cobbler.



The making of shoes meant that he got to be around a *lot* of little children. Of course, none of them were as *special* as

his Strife, but he made do.



Tryst flashed into his *humble* cottage at the foot of Mt. Olympus. This was where he had been hiding for the last 40 years;

ever since Zeus had thrown him off Mt. Olympus.



He walked to the hidden room in the back of his house. A small flash of his powers opened the wall that looked like a door.

Inside Tryst let his true appearance come out.



The giant of a man took a deep breath and smiled in appreciation. The room smelled like Strife. He opened his eyes and looked

around contentedly at the *trophies* lining the walls.



There were portraits of Strife everywhere; ranging from when he was a baby to one that showed him several months pregnant.



Tryst walked over and reverently picked up a stuffed hydra. It was a child’s toy and was worn from a loving child’s hands.

It’s four little heads bobbed gently.



The stains that covered it were nothing a child should have known about.



The God of Secret Meetings sniffed his prize and remembered the first time he had seen the little boy with it. He smiled in

ecstasy as he remembered the occasion when he took it from a small Strife.



Tryst leaned against the wall and reveled in the memories.






Fic: Overheard Conversations 22/?
Author: Kerensa
Email: vkevans@yahoo.com Feedback please. Feedback or death (well, maybe that’s going a little too far)
Rating: R, so far
Fandom: Xena/Hercules, brief mention of food from Harry Potter series
Pairing: Ares/Joxer, Cupid/Strife
Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, I’m just borrowing them for a little fun. The same with the Harry Potter stories. I have no money, no property, I even have to borrow the food I eat, so please don’t sue me.
Warning: m/m; MPREG; talk of nonconsensual sex; talk of underage molestation, rape, and abuse; angst
Summary: Joxer and Strife are both pregnant and end up talking. Their husbands, Ares and Cupid overhear their conversation and find out a lot more about their husband’s, especially Strife’s past, than they ever imagined.
Status: WIP
Series: Children At Play
Archive: Yes to AJCS, Make Believe and MPREG; anywhere else, sure just tell me first
Website: Nope, sorry I wouldn’t know how to set one up.
Notes: I want to thank my mother for some of the ideas in this story. She thought up the bad guy’s name and some ways to hurt poor Strife. Later in the series I will mention something, briefly, from the I LOVE LUCY show; bonus points if you can find it. Beta’d by me and Spellcheck.
Extra Note: Andromeda and its characters do not belong to me, I’m just borrowing them for a little while.
The tunnel mentioned in this story *is not* the one used in the one episode of the series. (Sorry, I can’t remember the title.) No characters were harmed with the use of this tunnel.
Credit: The chicken was my mother’s idea and the color of the egg was my daughter’s.

Chapter 22

Strife felt the covers being lifted and wondered what was going on. He thought briefly of panicking, but was too comfortable to give it much effort. Strife could see the pale pink light seeping in through the window. It was *very* early in the morning and long before they normally got up.

A hard hand ran down the back of his leg. Strife moaned in ecstasy when the other hand joined in and they both began massaging his foot.

“Do you like that baby?” Cupid’s voice flowed over him like a bubbling stream flowing over glistening rocks.

“Cupid…just…don’t stop.” Strife felt his bones melt under the soothing ministration.

“Don’t worry, I won’t.” Cupid switched to the other foot.

Strife squirmed and moaned and generally sounded like a man having really great sex.

Cupid laughed. “I’m glad you’re enjoying it.” Cupid kissed Strife’s big toe and Strife laughed at the tickly sensation.

The God of Love carefully eased his husband over onto his back. Cupid had discovered that if he did the turning for Strife it wasn’t nearly as painful. Plus, extra bonus, he got to hold Strife’s butt as he did it. Not that he didn’t grope his husband every chance he got anyway.

“Mornin.” Strife reached up and pulled Cupid down for a kiss.

“Uhmmm.” Cupid didn’t answer as he gave Strife as through a kiss as he the injured man could stand. He had to stop *way* before either one of them wanted to because Strife still had such a hard time breathing.

Cupid started to get up from where he was halfway sprawled across Strife’s lap. Strife frowned and tried to tug Cupid back. Cupid allowed himself to be pulled. Strife squirmed suggestively.

“Cupe?”

Cupid ran his hand over the growing bulge between Strife’s legs. “Are you sure baby?”

“Oh gods, yes. Please.”

Cupid started to put his hand inside Strife’s sleep pants when Strife stopped him again.

“No, I want ya ovah me.” Cupid frowned, trying to think of a way to please his husband without causing him any pain.

“Please.”

That did it. Cupid could feel Strife’s need and wanted his husband to have a little pleasure in this time of so much pain. He immediately climbed onto their bed and positioned himself so that he was straddling Strife’s hips.

This was exactly the opposite of their usual position of him between Strife’s widespread legs. Well, no more! At least not until Strife’s damaged body could be fixed and the pregnant god could move without pain.

With a thought both of the men’s clothes vanished. Cupid saw Strife tense up, he was still uneasy at being naked. Thoughtfully, Cupid had a drape fall over the window. The room darkened appreciatively.

Strife relaxed and smiled seductively at his husband. “Thank ya Cupe.” His pale blue eyes glittered like the best aquamarines.

“You just lay still and let me do all the work.”

Strife nodded and licked his lips. Cupid watched that pink tongue slip in and out of Strife’s mouth. His eye’s darkened as a bolt of lust shot through him.

It was awkward. Cupid’s knees were angled over Strife’s hips and his arms were braced by his husband’s ribs. Cupid angled his hips down and let them slide up and over Strife’s penis. He had to be extremely careful. Too much pressure would hurt and not enough would just tease.

From the look of ecstasy on Strife’s face, Cupid knew he was getting it right. Cupid was enjoying himself as well, although not nearly as much as he would have been normally. His hips ached from keeping them so far apart. Any closer and he would be crowding Strife’s damaged hips. Cupid’s back was aching because of the angle he was thrusting at. There was no way in Tartarus he was going to squash his husband or baby.

The pregnant god automatically tried to open his legs, but was stopped when his thighs bumped into Cupid’s. Cupid balanced himself on one hand and gently soothed Strife’s hip with the other. Strife relaxed his legs and went back to enjoying their lovemaking.

Strife gasped and tried to writhe on the bed. Cupid held onto his husband and carefully anchored his body to the bed. Cupid knew that if Strife moved around very much he would be hurting too badly to enjoy their liaison.

All too quickly, but just in time for Strife’s flagging energy, the two lovers climaxed. Cupid slid to one side, making sure to not mash or jar any of Strife’s body.

Cupid rolled his already sleeping husband towards him, so that they were lying face to face. With a negligent wave of his hand, Cupid cleaned and covered them up.

Strife grimaced in his sleep and one hand automatically went to his stomach. It seemed the baby wasn’t very happy with their activities and was protesting. Before he could be woken up, Cupid laid one hand on Strife’s large tummy and rubbed gently, soothingly. Strife smiled happily and before long Cupid followed his lover into sleep.

^^^^^^

Flash.

“Hi Strife.”

“Hiya Joxah.”

Strife frowned as he watched his best friend pacing frantically around the sitting room.

“What’s tha mattah?” Strife’s eyebrows raised in surprise when he noticed something or rather, someone, missing. “Wheah’s Tempra?”

Joxer smiled automatically at the mention of his daughter. “She’s at home. Ares *insisted* that I take a break.” Joxer growled a little.

Strife tried to hide his smile when Joxer growled. He couldn’t help it, it just sounded so…cute. Not that he’d tell Joxer that.

“Well, I can undahstand wheah Unc’s comin from. Aftah all, ya haven’t been more than a step away from Temmy since she was born.”

This time both men smiled at the use of Tempra’s new nickname. She had been christened Temmy by Bliss, because the little boy said Tempra was too big a name for his cousin/aunt.

“She’s in good hands, ya know.” Strife tried to reassure his still pacing friend.

“I know.” Joxer laughed and plopped himself down on the chair beside Strife’s couch.

“Ares can take care of her. Like he pointed out to me, he has had *several* other children.” Joxer rolled his eyes and snorted. “Like I could *ever* forget that.” He grumbled and muttered under his breath.

Strife leaned forward to hear what Joxer was saying.

“Mumble, mumble….dite…” Growl.

“Yeah, well they don’t matah now, da they?”

Joxer looked up, his eyes a liquid brown with tears.

“Them othah parents aren’t important any more. Unc’s only evah been married once…and that’s ta ya.” Strife kept looking Joxer straight in the eye as he handed his godly friend a handkerchief.

Joxer laughed shakily and made a show of wiping his tears away. “I guess you’re right.”

“Well ah course I’m right.” Strife huffed indignantly and was rewarded when Joxer *really* laughed this time.

Joxer sighed and gifted his friend with a smile. “Thanks.”

“No problem Joxah.” Strife understood Joxer’s insecurities. Just thinking about some of the lovers that Cupid had been with over the centuries was enough to make Strife want to throw up.

Silently, Strife wondered if he should talk with his uncle or at least have Cupid speak to him. Mentioning past affairs and their resultant offspring to a newly delivered Joxer wasn’t exactly being sensitive.

^^^^^^

“So tell me, are your powers still acting…” Joxer twisted his hand around crazily. “…wonky?”

Strife opened his mouth to answer and then…

There was a bright flash and in front of Strife, an 8 foot, 400 pound, fat, green chicken popped into view. The bird squawked indignantly and immediately dropped a 15 pound green and blue dotted egg onto the ground. The chicken flapped its wings happily and then disappeared back where it came from…with another loud pop.

Joxer looked at Strife, with his mouth hanging open. Strife looked at the egg, still lying, quivering on the ground.

“I’m havin one or two problems.”

Joxer burst out laughing and sat down on the floor by Strife’s couch.

Bob sat up in the corner where she had been sleeping. It had all happened so fast that she hadn’t been able to react to the chicken thing. Sensing no danger, the poor dog gave a confused “woof” before going back to sleep.

“Are ya hungry?” Strife indicated the huge, green and blue eye. Joxer, who had been calming down, had to actually lay down because he was laughing so hard.

It took a while, but eventually Joxer stopped laughing. Except for a stray snicker or two here and there, the room descended into a calm peace…but not for long.

“I had a couple of visitors today.”

Strife was glad of the change of subject. “Oh yeah.”

“Yeah.”

Strife waited and watched as Joxer played with one of the pillows on Strife’s couch. He was about to say something to break the silence, when Joxer spoke up.

“They’ve been trying to come see me for a couple of weeks.”

‘A couple of weeks.’ That would make it about the time of Tempra’s presentation. Oh crap. “Really?” Strife tried for nonchalant, afraid of whom the visitors might have been.

“Yeah, really.” Joxer’s eyes twinkled bemusedly. “Apparently they had problems *every* time they got close to the temple. You know, little things like, falling into manure piles and having the local magistrate mistake them for slavers.”

Strife opened his mouth and then closed it silently. He didn’t know what to say and let me tell you that was a *major* event in the God of Mischief’s life.

“So tell me, my good friend,” Joxer propped his chin on his fist, “are you responsible for my parents not being able to get close to me?” Joxer sounded far from upset.

A swiftly shook head answered Joxer. “Good. You don’t need to be wasting energy on *them*.”

“It’s just that at tha presentation, I, uh…” Strife trailed off and looked at his friend reluctantly.

“You kept them away?” Joxer raised an eyebrow questioningly.

“Nah, I just kept ya from seein them.” Strife bit his lip. “I didn’t want ya ta get upset or nothin on such a special day.”

Joxer nodded. “Thanks. It would have *ruined* the day if I’d seen *them*.”

Strife sighed and rubbed his twingeing stomach; any kind of stress caused him to cramp up. “So ya ain’t upset?”

“Not at all. As a matter of fact, I’m glad they showed up.”

“Ya are?” Joxer nodded. “How come?”

“Seeing them laid to rest some old fears.” He hesitated. “They were *old*.” Joxer frowned thoughtfully. “I didn’t expect them to be old. In my mind, father still had a strong arm and mother an even sharper mouth.”

Joxer shook his head and shook off the old memories. “But now they’re just a couple of old people…who are all alone. No children, no grandchildren, nothing.” Joxer’s expressive brown eyes turned towards his godly friend.

Strife held out his hand and Joxer clasped it carefully. The new two men could think of nothing worse than being without their children.

“It’s their own fault.”

Joxer nodded at Strife. “I know and that’s what I told them.” The young god’s chin trembled even as he sat up resolutely. “I told them to get out and never come back.”

“Good fah ya.” Strife smiled, proud of how far his friend had come over the years. From letting Gabrielle abuse him on a regular basis to standing up to his parents in just a few years was quite an accomplishment.

Smiling, Joxer blushed as he admitted. “It did feel good.” The God of Peace smirked. “I don’t know who was more surprised, Father or Ares. You won’t believe it, he actually tried to hit me.”

Strife gasped. “Yar father?” At Joxer’s bemused nod Strife gasped again. “And he’s still alive?” Strife couldn’t believe that Ares hadn’t killed the mortal for daring to threaten his husband.

“Yeah, but I bet he’s still running.” Joxer laughed, but it was a strained laugh. “I’m not that child anymore; I won’t let *anyone* hurt me again.”

The God of Mischief nodded in understanding. “I’m proud ah ya.”

The two friends realized they were still holding hands and let go.

^^^^^^

“Sooo...” Joxer looked over at the egg and giggled again. “…that’s kind of dangerous, don’t you think?”

“Yeah, Cupe’s gone ta get somethin ta help me control mah powahs a little bettah.”

“Ah, from Heph.”

Strife flinched and bit his lip as pain lanced through his stomach. “Calm down little one.” He rubbed the spot soothingly.

Joxer started to say something and then realized nothing would help. So he decided to pretend there wasn’t anything wrong. “Hmmm, what do you think Heph’ll make? A ring, a necklace…a tiara?”

The two men chuckled at the image. “Yeah, one with jewels ta match mah eyes.” Strife batted his eyelashes enticingly.

Joxer stood and held his arms up over his head as he stretched; Strife envied him the freedom. “I’m hopin Cupe’ll get back with tha powah suppressor before anythin else goes wrong.”

Strife heard a gasp and glanced over at Joxer, who was looking over the back of the couch with his mouth hanging open. The young, pregnant god struggled to get up and see what was the matter with his friend.

“Joxah, is somethin up?”

A choking laugh was all the answer Strife got. After several frantic seconds of flailing around, the overbalanced young man was finally able to stand up.

Normally Joxer would have helped him. He knew how hard it could be to get up when you were *very* pregnant. This time Joxer didn’t even notice his friend’s problems, he was too stunned by what he was seeing.

Strife leaned against the arm of the couch, he was panting and out of breath by the time he finished his maneuvers. As soon as he could, Strife moved away from the support.

“What’s wrong?” Strife raced over…well, okay…inched over, to stand by his friend.

“Uh,” Joxer cleared his throat. “There’s definitely something *up*.”

Strife didn’t answer. Now his mouth was hanging open as he took in the scene before him. The temple wall was gone. In it’s place was a huge, black, gaping…tunnel? Even more amazing was the man standing in the middle of the opening.

The two young men looked the stranger up and down and then up and down again. Strife was looking for a third time when his gaze got stuck midway. Abruptly Strife looked up and over at his friend, embarrassed by his actions. He saw that Joxer was intentionally *not* looking at the newcomer either.

It was hard, uhm, I mean, difficult not to look at him. The man was gorgeous.

The stranger was dark. Dark hair, dark eyes, dark skin.

He was tall and broad shouldered. The man’s velvety brown skin gleamed in the torch light. His muscles had their own muscles and brought along their little muscle friends. His long black hair was arranged in narrow braids and hung down past his shoulders.

And, oh yes, he was completely naked.

Bob was barking frantically. She kept surging forward only to be pushed back into her corner. The godly watchdog didn’t like this and kept pushing until she was exhausted.

Strife and Joxer stood there uncertainly for several seconds. The stranger didn’t seem to notice; he was too busy swaying in the middle of the room.

Strife realized that, since this was *his* temple, he was technically the host. That meant he got to approach this enticing specimen of manhood. Not really all that comfortable with very large, very naked men; Strife swallowed hard and stepped forward.

“Hi.” Strife waved his hand, attracting the newcomer’s attention. “I don’t mean ta be rude, but wheah are ya from?”

The man focused glazed eyes on Strife and smiled seductively. “Harper.” The name was spoken like a caress.

“Uh…”

Strife stepped back as the large man stalked forward. Before he could get more than a step, the stranger had picked Strife up and sat him down on top of Cupid’s desk.

When he moved they could see that the man had several long spikes coming out of the sides of his arms. So, they realized that whoever or whatever they were dealing with wasn’t human.

“Hey!” Joxer immediately went to his friend’s aid. Or at least he tried to. Joxer bounced off an invisible shield that surrounded Strife and the desk. Realizing that it was probably Strife’s powers acting up again, Joxer wasted no time and ran to the chamber door. There he found another invisible shield; this one surrounding the whole room. They were trapped.

Joxer turned back to see the naked man laying Strife down on the desk. Strife was struggling as best he could, but the injured young god didn’t have the strength to fight back against Bliss, let alone this large man.

“Stop!” Joxer was panic stricken; afraid that this stranger was going to attack his friend and there was nothing he could do to help him.

“Harper, Harper, Harper.”

Joxer took another look at the scene. True, the man did have Strife laid out across the desk like a prize, but he wasn’t mauling him. In fact, the man was nuzzling Strife’s neck and rubbing his spiky hair gently.

Strife, meanwhile, didn’t seem *too* upset. He had stopped struggling; it didn’t help anything and only made him tired. He wasn’t thrilled with the situation, but he wasn’t scared either. They could sense that there was no malice in the bigger man’s actions.

“Ya’re hurtin me.”

Strife’s softly spoken words galvanized the other man. He leaned back and looked into Strife’s eyes.

“Harper?”

The man blinked, looked closer at Strife’s face and quickly got up. Strife lay on the desk puffing. The other man reached out a hesitant hand and almost touched Strife’s tummy.

“You are not my Harper.” His voice was strong, his mind clearer.

“No, I ain’t.”

Strife flinched in pain as his back spasmed; laying on a hard wooden surface wasn’t exactly comfortable. Seeing the pain, the man helped Strife sit up; all the while watching Strife’s belly.

“You’re pregnant.”

“Yeah.”

The man frowned. “How is that possible?”

“Well, I’m a god.” At the man’s stunned look, Strife stuck out his hand. “Hi, I’m Strife, tha God ah Mischief.”

It suddenly dawned on Strife that he was shaking hands with a naked stranger like it was an everyday occurrence and he started giggling. There was a slight pop and Joxer stumbled as the barrier separating him from Strife disappeared.

Joxer raced forward and wrapped an arm protectively around Strife’s waist, even though the other man didn’t *seem* to be a threat. There was no sense taking chances. Strife seemed glad of the support, both emotional and physical.

Surreptitiously, Joxer waved his hand towards a chair. Nothing happened. Apparently Strife’s powers were affecting his as well.

Crap.

“What’s yar name?”

The stranger turned at Strife’s question and looked at him blankly, so Strife repeated himself. “What’s yar name?”

“Tyr Anasazi of Kodiak Pride…out of Victoria by Barbarosa.” He paused. “I’m a Nietzschean. We’re genetically enhanced you know.” He paused again, frowning and took a deep breath that expanded his chest dramatically. “How did I get here?”

Fighting back the feeling that he should applaud, Strife shifted nervously on his perch. “Um, well…” Strife gestured to the tunnel still open behind them. “…mah powahs are a little off lately.”

Tyr swung around to look at the tunnel and then swung back around to the two gods, making himself bob. Joxer and Strife automatically looked down at the sight and then just as quickly looked away in embarrassment.

“I was in our quarters.” Tyr flicked some of his braids over his shoulder irritably. “I’ve been ill with the Ijerian fever…I wonder if I missed my medicine?”

Looking at the glistening, sweat covered chest, Joxer nodded. “I would guess so.”

Joxer realized he couldn’t stand it anymore. Reaching over, he pulled a small blanket that Strife had been using, off the couch. He stuck it out towards Tyr. “Here. Do us *all* a favor and put this on. Please.”

Tyr looked at the object blankly. Obviously whatever sense he had regained had deserted him. Joxer grimaced and decided not to act like a coward. He was a god for pity’s sake.

Joxer wrapped the blanket around the other man and tied the ends together, making a long, fuzzy skirt. Of course, Joxer had to first wrap his arms around the other man and that meant he was up close and, uhm, became personally acquainted with more of Tyr than he was comfortable with.

“Did I bring my medicine with me?” Tyr asked the question innocently.

Joxer blinked. He looked at the still mostly naked man and blinked again. “Well, if you did, I’m not looking for it.”

That was the final straw. Strife burst out in a flurry of giggles and Joxer soon followed suit. Luckily, Tyr was still out of it and didn’t take offense at the laughter. There was a larger pop and another voice could be heard.

“Tyr! Tyr, where are you?”

“Harper?” Tyr turned towards the tunnel and out walked a smaller, blond young man and a purple woman with a long tail.

“Harper?” Strife’s mouth fell open when he saw the real Harper. The real Harper who was 7 or 8 inches shorter than Strife.

“Purple?” Joxer’s mouth fell open when he saw the purple woman.

Harper only had eyes for Tyr and vice versa. “There you are Big Guy. I was worried about ya.”

The purple woman skipped (yes, skipped) over to Joxer and Strife.

“Hi, I’m Trance. Who are you?”

“I’m Joxer and this is Strife.”

Trance smiled brightly and bounced some more. She was so cheerful and perky; it made Joxer seem positively grim in comparison.

“The gods of mischief and peace huh.” She glanced at Strife’s stomach and smiled again.

“I’ve always wanted to come to Ancient Greece.”

Before the two gods could wonder how she knew who they were, Trance bounced over to her friends. Strife grunted in pain at that moment. Joxer rubbed Strife’s back in a futile attempt to help him. The pain in Strife’s tummy, caused by all the tension, and the cramping in his back, caused by laying on the desk, ended a couple of seconds later. While the two gods were distracted, the conversation going on between their unexpected guests continued unnoticed.

Joxer glanced up as Harper walked over to them. The pale young man was smiling a crooked smile.

“Thanks for takin care of Tyr for me.”

“No problem. Aftah all, it was mah fault.” Strife swung an arm towards the tunnel. He winced at the movement and rubbed the side of his burgeoning stomach. The blond young man’s blue eyes swept down and were riveted by Strife’s tummy.

“You’re pregnant.” Everyone seemed to be stating the obvious today. However, Harper seemed more envious than surprised.

Strife started to explain the whole god thing, again, when Harper went on. “Can I?” The young man reached a slender hand out questioningly towards where the baby lived.

“Sure.”

Harper’s hand hovered for a moment, unsure of where to touch. Strife took his hand and placed it where you could feel the baby moving at the moment. Harper smiled in awe. He just stood there for a few minutes. During that time, no one moved. Finally, the young man stepped back.

“Thanks.” He paused and looked up. Pale blue eyes met paler blue eyes. “You’re really lucky.”

“I know.” Strife whispered.

Almost immediately, Harper shook himself all over and turned back to his friends. “Come on Big Guy, let’s get you back to the Andromeda.”

They watched as Harper walked over and Tyr wrapped an arm around the smaller man’s waist. He pulled up and Harper’s feet left the ground. Tyr started feeling around on the side of Harper’s neck and finally found what he had been looking for. The large man, latched on to a strange metallic looking device sticking out of the young man’s neck and licked it reverently.

Harper shuddered happily. “Come on…let me down now.” Tyr reluctantly lowered his prize. Harper smiled and started walking towards the tunnel. “Let’s go home.”

Tyr reached out for the younger man’s butt and growled when Harper evaded his touch.

The two gods looked at each other and smiled. The sound was a familiar one; both their husbands had a tendency to growl when they were mad. Or when they were aroused. Or when they were…

The three unusual people walked through the tunnel and vanished from sight. The tunnel expanded, bulging outward for a second, causing both gods to duck in fright, and then it winked out of existence with a very tiny pop.

^^^^^^

As soon as the barrier dropped, Bob raced over to the spot where the tunnel had been and barked several times. Satisfied that she had done her job correctly, Bob trotted over to the desk and lay down. She put her heads under Strife’s feet and let the pregnant god use them as a footstool.

Joxer watched this scene with an amused smile on his face. He was startled when Strife started talking.

“He mistook me fah that guy?!” Strife looked so peeved.

Joxer nodded understandingly. “You have to admit there were *several* similarities between the two of you.”

Strife looked astonished. “Joxah, he was alot shortah than me…and he had blond hair.” Strife waved at his *very* black hair.

Joxer sat down on the desk and patted his friend on the arm. “Shorter, yes, I’ll give you that, but he’s ski…uh, slender, just like you are. It’s true his hair is blond, but he has the same…” Joxer tried to think of a diplomatic way to phrase this. “…*spiky* hairstyle that you do. You both have blue eyes and pale skin.” Joxer eyed his friend’s *very white* face. “Not quite the same shade of white though. And he has the same air of…vulnerability that you do.”

Strife looked at Joxer who was biting his lip in trepidation. “I look vulnerable.” Strife sounded so, well, vulnerable as he spoke. “Even when I’m not pregnant?” He answered his own question by blushing and ducking his head.

“Do I look vulnerable to *you*?” Strife looked up at Joxer’s question and nodded without hesitation. “Yeah, that’s what I thought.” Joxer frowned.

“Well Tartarus, that’s depressin.”

The God of Peace looked at his troubled friend and sighed. “What was that thing on Harper’s neck anyway?”

Strife reached up and rubbed his own neck. “I don’t know, but at least I know what Tyr was rootin fah.” The young god snorted. “I’m lucky he didn’t leave a mark.”

Joxer coughed and Strife looked over. “Well…”

“He didn’t.” Strife looked horrified. “He did.”

Joxer giggled. “I’m sure Ace can get rid of it.”

“Gods, I hope sa. Othahwise Cupe’s gonna hit tha roof.”

“I’m sure everything will be fine.” Joxer hastened to reassure his friend, although privately he wondered what Cupid’s reaction would *really* be. Cupid, like his father, wasn’t exactly rational where his husband was concerned.

“Strife…I want to ask you something. I need your opinion, because, well…you have more experience than I do. At least, I would imagine that you do considering how much older you are than me. Of course, I’m not saying you really have experience, maybe just knowledge…”

Strife clamped one hand over his friend’s mouth in an effort to stop the babbling. “Joxah, just ask.”

The young god blushed. “Okay. Uhmmm…” He cleared his throat. “About Tyr. Is it me or was he…big?”

“Are ya kiddin, he was huge. I think he was even tallah than Unc.”

Joxer blushed even redder. “No, I mean *big*.” He raised his eyebrows in emphasis.

“Oh, ya mean *down theah*.”

“Yes, his (mumble, mumble).”

“His manhood?”

Joxer ducked his head and nodded. “I don’t have a lot to compare him to.” Joxer admitted. “I’ve only ever seen 5 men naked in my life, if you count Tyr.”

“Five?” Strife asked in astonishment. Joxer nodded. “But I thought ya weah a virgin when ya got married.”

“I was.” Strife tilted his head at Joxer. “Oh, yeah. See there’s been Jett, Jayce, myself, Ares and now Tyr.” Joxer blushed a fiery red when he admitted to looking at himself.

“I don’t think seein ya brothah’s really counts. Aftah all, bein triplets means ya’re tha same. Right?”

“I never really thought about it that way, but I guess you’re right.”

“Yeah, well…I don’t have much ta compare him ta eithah.” Strife shrugged negligently.

“I’ve only evah seen three men’s…ya know, before; Cupe and Tyr…and HIM.” Strife flinched and looked around quickly, afraid Tryst would appear.

Joxer saw the reaction and hastened to distract his good friend. “Shouldn’t that be four.

You forgot to include yourself.”

“Nah, I, uh, I ain’t nevah looked at mahself like that.”

Strife seemed embarrassed and Joxer was astounded at Strife’s matter-of-fact admission that he had never seen himself naked. What small child doesn’t examine themselves out of curiosities sake. Apparently one’s who have been molested. Joxer swallowed hard and tried not to cry at the evidence of more of Strife’s loss of innocence.

“But from mah limited experience, yeah, I’d say he’s really well endowed.”

“No kidding.” Joxer laughed. “He did say he was genetically enhanced. Now, I don’t exactly know what that means, but I have pretty good idea where he was enhanced.”

Strife snorted. “Really. That thing was frightenin if ya ask me.”

The two men snickered.

^^^^^^

Cupid was panicking, again. He was almost used to panicking by now. It had become a somewhat natural state of being over the last several months.

The love god had just come back from Hephaestus’ forge, only to find he couldn’t enter the room where his husband and step-father were. Cupid could see them talking, but couldn’t get any closer.

“Cupid what’s wrong?”

The distraught husband looked over at his father and frowned. “Dad? How did you know something was the matter?”

Ares’ eyebrows shot up. “Cupid, you’ve been yelling your head off calling for me.”

Now it was Cupid’s turn to be surprised. “I have?” Ares nodded. “Wow, I didn’t realize it.”

Cupid grabbed his father by the arm and shook him. Manhandling the God of War was not usually the smartest thing in the world to do, but Ares knew his son had been under a lot of strain lately, so he let it go.

“I can’t get to them.” Cupid pushed against the barrier covering the door. In an instant, Ares went from concerned to terrified. He didn’t like not being able to get to his husband or nephew. Bad things tended to happen when they were separated.

Inside, they could see Joxer and Strife sitting on the desk. The two younger gods didn’t seem to be in any trouble, so Cupid and Ares relaxed a little. Strife said something and the two men laughed. There was a muffled pop and the two gods realized the barrier was thinner. They could at least hear their loved ones now.

“Sa, da ya think we should tell Cupid and Unc that theah was a naked man in heah before…”

Ares and Cupid growled in unison.

“WHAT?!”

^^^^^^

“…and that he was gropin me?”

Joxer winced at the noise and looked at the open doorway. “Uh, I think you just did.”

Strife looked over at his friend and followed his line of sight. “Oops.” He waved. “Hi Cupe, hi Unc.”

“WHAT naked man?” Ares’ voice shook the statues along the wall. Cupid’s face couldn’t get any redder and his eyes were glowing a bright green.

“Um.” That less than eloquent answer didn’t help.

Joxer smiled and the sight of such innocence calmed the two volatile gods down enough so that they listened. “See, Strife’s powers started acting up…” By the time he finished explaining, Cupid and Ares looked *a little* less stressed.

^^^^^^

Cupid smiled at his husband benignly; all the while his fingers were digging into the marble doorframe. A *naked man* had been *groping* Strife! He was still seething inside, but he wanted Strife kept calm.

He watched as Joxer went over and picked up a blanket from the floor and turned around to show it to Strife. For some reason this was hilarious and both gods were soon giggling. Joxer quickly went over so the laughing Strife could lean on him.

Ares and Cupid exchanged anxious looks. Joxer was hanging on to Strife whose tears were from pain now, not laughter. Joxer looked ready to cry himself.

There was a loud pop and Cupid fell into the room. He straightened himself and raced over to Strife. On the way he saw Joxer wave a hand and Strife touched his neck. Unknown to Cupid, the mark on the side of Strife’s neck was now healed.

“Hiya Cupe.” Strife’s breathless voice belied his smile.

“Baby.” Cupid cuddled his husband and wiped the tears from his face.

“I’m sorry Strife.” Joxer was leaning against Ares and looked so sad.

“What’re ya sorry fah Joxah?”

Joxer sighed and looked at the blanket in his hand. Both men snickered, remembering Tyr wrapped up in it. “For making you laugh. I know how much it hurts you, but there was no other way.”

“No other way, Angel?” Ares held his husband tightly.

The God of Peace sighed. “No. The problems with Strife’s powers only cleared up when he laughed. I knew he was really going to have to laugh to get that last barrier down, because it encircled the whole room.”

“Oh…is that what caused things ta happen.” Strife leaned against Cupid’s warm body.

“I’m glad ya figured it out.”

“Me too.” Cupid smiled. It was a brittle smile, showing just how close he was to exploding. “Now, so it won’t happen again…”

Cupid held out his hand and from it dangled an earring. A very tiny piece of almost invisible chain was suspended from the loop and on the end of it was a pale blue crystal drop. The crystal matched Strife’s eyes perfectly.

Strife and Joxer looked at the blue crystal and then at each other. Thoughts of their earlier conversation flitted through both young god’s heads and they began to laugh.

“At least it’s not a tiara.” Strife continued to laugh. It didn’t hurt as much now, because Cupid hand a firm hand on his side, supporting his ribs.

“No, but it does match your eyes.” Joxer was being supported by his husband too. Not because he needed it, just because.

Ares shrugged at his son’s enquiring look. Cupid slid the earring into one of the holes in Strife’s ear. It was mixed in among the multitude of other earrings, but still stood out. It glittered in the light, shining brightly.

Strife sighed and slumped as he relaxed.

“Now I don’t hafta worry about mah powahs doin somethin weird.”

He leaned farther back onto Cupid. Using all of that energy, albeit unwittingly, had worn Strife out. He was mostly asleep when Cupid picked him up and didn’t even realize when Joxer and Ares flashed out.







Fic: Overheard Conversations 23/?
Author: Kerensa
Email: vkevans@yahoo.com Feedback please. Feedback or death (well, maybe that’s going a little too far)
Rating: R, so far
Fandom: Xena/Hercules, brief mention of food from Harry Potter series
Pairing: Ares/Joxer, Cupid/Strife
Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, I’m just borrowing them for a little fun. The same with the Harry Potter stories. I have no money, no property, I even have to borrow the food I eat, so please don’t sue me.
Warning: m/m; MPREG; talk of nonconsensual sex; talk of underage molestation, rape, and abuse; angst
Summary: Joxer and Strife are both pregnant and end up talking. Their husbands, Ares and Cupid overhear their conversation and find out a lot more about their husband’s, especially Strife’s past, than they ever imagined.
Status: WIP
Series: Children At Play
Archive: Yes to AJCS, Make Believe and MPREG; anywhere else, sure just tell me first
Extra note: The Iolian Harp is real. I’m not sure if it has bells or not, but in my story it does. There are several different spellings used. I used this one, because it goes well with the story.
Another note: I used my extensive knowledge of hospital stays, stemming from practice with my mother, to bug Strife.

Chapter 23

Six young men broke into the temple. They were stealthy. They brave. They were strong!

They needed to be, the statue of Zeus weighed a lot.

Carefully they carried the large and rather overblown statue of Zeus, the one with his hand outstretched (reaching for gods only know what), out the door and across the village to Apollo’s temple. Inside Apollo’s shrine, they placed the statue among the muse’s statues. When they were done, it looked like Zeus was groping one of the muse’s breasts.

Laughing, the very young men, raced back to their homes. They couldn’t see anyone else topping *that* prank.

^^^^^^

Strife was walking down the hall when he felt the first tendril of energy. He gasped at the surge that followed.

“Woah!” Strife leaned against the wall, concentrated on the power and followed it back to its source. Strife watched what was happening and giggled. “Now *that’s* a good piece ah mischief.”

He giggled happily for several minutes. A good power feeding from his godhood always made him giddy. The laughter left him and little breathless and naturally made his ribs ache. The young god took a deep breath and tried to continue on. Then another wave of power hit him.

Strife gasped for air and tried to blink back the black spots he could see. He hadn’t felt this much power all at once in years, if ever. Since most of Strife’s followers were small children, they simply weren’t capable of doing very much in the way of mischief. Used to tiny bursts of energy, Strife wasn’t prepared for the onslaught and was rapidly being overwhelmed.

Bob whimpered and stuck her heads under Strife’s arms. It worked and the pregnant god was barely managing to stay on his feet when the young men placed Zeus’ marble hand on the muse’s breast.

The force of that prank hit Strife like a runaway chariot. He couldn’t keep up with the power or channel it away from himself.

Strife dropped to his knees, despite Bob’s arms. The impact shot pain up Strife’s body and made his vision swim.

“c-c-cupe…” His call for help was almost silent.

The black dots all decided to get together and make a blanket for him and so, they covered his vision and Strife slid into the darkness.

^^^^^^

The jarring motion roused Strife. He opened his eyes and looked up at Cupid’s worried profile. The beautiful jaw was tense and Strife could see tears threatening in the liquid of his eyes.

“i’m all right now.”

Cupid jumped, he hadn’t realized that Strife had regained consciousness. “Baby, what happened?” Cupid was verging on hysteria.

“Theah was a really big surge in mah godhood…and I guess it was taa much fah me right now.”

The God of Love stopped and looked down at his husband consideringly. He knew Strife wouldn’t lie to him, but he also knew that his husband had a tendency to downplay how he was feeling. “Are you sure that’s all?”

One pale, shaky hand cupped Cupid’s cheek. “I’m sure, mah love.”

Sighing in relief, Cupid smiled and continued walking, at a much slower pace, towards their bedroom. “Well, regardless of what it was, you are going to lay down.”

“okay.”

Cupid frowned at Strife’s easy capitulation. If the young god was giving in that easily, he must be feeling bad.

Strife giggled quietly. Cupid smiled. “A really good one, huh.”

The young god nodded and giggled again. Cupid saw Strife frown and was about to question him, when Strife beat him to it.

“Aren’t ya sick ah carryin me around?”

Again Cupid stopped. “What?”

Strife licked his lips and swallowed hard. He was still a little woozy. “Ya seem ta hafta carry me around half tha time now. Don’t ya get sick ah it?”

“Oh baby, having you in my arms is one of the most wonderful feelings there is.”

Strife’s eyes teared up. “Sa, are ya gonna carry me around fahevah?” He smiled at his joke.

“Yes.” Cupid sounded so serious that Strife had to laugh. “No, it’s true. I’m going to carry you around like this until the baby is born.”

Strife thought that Cupid was serious this time and all things considered, he was probably right. The young god knew that his health was only going to get worse, a lot worse. Truthfully, it felt good to be carried. He was tired all the time anymore and walking around made his feet and legs feel like someone was sticking them with something sharp.

“Then after the baby is born…” Cupid’s voice ended Strife’s musing. “…and we don’t have to be careful about squishing the baby…” Cupid leaned over and kissed Strife on the forehead. “…I’m going to carry you on my back. Strifeyback.”

Laughing, Strife leaned closer to his husband. “Cause I’m not a pig, huh.”

Lightly squeezing the bony body, Cupid laughed. “Not even close baby, not even close.”

They arrived at the bedroom door and before Cupid could magic it open, Bob got in front of them. The black headed side of the dog tried to push the door open, but the white head shoved her away. It then decided to open the door and the black head pushed her away. The dog’s two heads began barking at one another.

Strife rolled his eyes. “I’ve heard ah arguin with yarself but this is ridiculous.”

Cupid snorted. “Come on dog, we need to get into the bedroom.” Bob woofled at Cupid and wagged both her tongues at him before she went back to her doggie complaining.

Cupid rolled his eyes and waited. If the dog’s antics amused Strife, he’d watch them for a little bit.

Strife went rigid in Cupid’s arms. He then sucked in a quick breath. Cupid looked at him. Even Bob stopped snipping with herself and looked at her master.

“Don’t panic.”

Cupid looked at his husband wildly. “What? What’s wrong?”

“Tha temple priest is about ta find that tha statue is missin.”

Cupid didn’t know what Strife was talking about; he hadn’t heard the story about the mischief. He didn’t care either. Whatever it was, it was going to be hard on Strife.

Strife was breathing hard and starting to sweat. He grabbed hold of Cupid’s harness ring for support. “And onna Apollo’s minions is about ta find tha statue.” Strife’s other hand grabbed Cupid’s arm, bracing himself for what was coming.

The respective priests learned about the prank at the exact same moment. The resulting energy slammed into Strife like one of Zeus’ lightening bolts. Strife gasped and his back arched, bowing him back at such an angle that Cupid had a hard time holding him.

Bob barked in confusion and jumped out of the way as Cupid kicked the door open with a booted foot. He rushed to the bed and laid the convulsing Strife on it.

“ACE!”

^^^^^^

Asclepius was doing research in the Hall of Knowledge when he heard Cupid’s roar. Ace wasted no time and literally dropped what he was doing. He flashed into Cupid and Strife’s bedroom within seconds.

“What’s happening?” Ace helped Cupid roll a still shuddering Strife onto his side. This helped the pregnant god’s labored breathing.

“Strife said it was a godhood surge.” Cupid was shaking badly himself. His blond hair was standing straight up, like Strife’s usually does, from running his fingers through it.

“Oh…good.” Asclepius was glad, no he was positively thrilled. This was something he could help with. Ace snapped his fingers and a large, ginger jar appeared.

The healing god raised his hands and energy literally poured off of Strife and into the special jar. The liquid energy swirled around the mouth of the jar, sending out flashes of bright blue light. The very small mouth of the jar allowed the energy to come in and then it sealed itself off.

Strife collapsed in a heap. Cupid curled around him, one hand possessively cupping their baby. Strife giggled weakly.

“May I?” They looked up at Asclepius. He was gesturing to Strife’s new, magic dampening earring. Strife barely moved his head and Ace took that as assent. He removed the jeweled earring and concentrated. Ace’s brow was dotted with sweat by the time he was through.

“There, that should help.” He replaced the earring next to the others in Strife’s ear. “I put another shield on it; this one will only allow a small amount of energy from his godhood through at a time. The excess will go into this jar.”

Ace stopped talking when he heard a slight snore. Looking down he realized that his patient was deeply asleep. He smiled at the sight and glanced over at Cupid. The winged god was also smiling at his somnolent husband. Ace noted that Cupid still looked very strained.

Talking in a quieter tone, Asclepius spoke to his other patient, Cupid. He knew that as Strife’s husband, Cupid was going through almost as much as Strife was. Seeing a loved one in so much pain was very draining, emotionally and physically.

“The saved energy can be fed to him in a more controlled manner; one that he is better able to withstand.”

Cupid nodded slightly as he buried his face in Strife’s shoulder. “Is…is he okay now?”

Cupid’s voice quivered as he hugged his sleeping husband tighter.

“Yes…”

The conversation was interrupted when Strife had a brief flurry of giggles. Even in his sleep, the young god was enjoying the fruits of his godhood.

“…yes, as you can see, he’s fine.” Ace paused to brush a stray lock from Strife’s

forehead. “However…” Cupid looked up quickly at that. Ace held up an appeasing hand.

“…he is going to have to take it easier. That means mainly bed rest for the remainder of his pregnancy.”

Cupid sat up on the bed, already nodding. “When I was carrying Strife in, I told him he was going to lay down and he agreed.”

Both men looked at the normally hyperactive god. It was painful to see him lying so still.

“I imagine, if we keep Strife’s mind busy, he won’t miss being out as much.”

Ace pulled the blanket over Strife. The pregnant god looked better, even after his ordeal. The recent infusion of power had brought much needed color to his cheeks and lips.

Cupid summoned up a basin of warm water and a cloth. The loving husband began to clean Strife off. He wanted to touch his husband both to reassure himself that Strife was still here and because the soothing motions of the cloth over his body would soothe Strife’s jangling nerves.

Without another word, Asclepius left the two lovers alone.

^^^^^^

3 days later

Strife wished he could say he was bored. He wasn’t, because he never got the chance to be bored.

Everybody and I do mean *everybody* had come for a visit. They were doing everything they could to keep Strife from being bored.

Strife appreciated the effort, but by now what he mainly wanted was to be left alone. He was really tired and getting less rest than when he was still allowed to get up.

Apollo dropped by and talked to him. He learned more about sunrises and sunsets than he ever wanted to. Not that he wanted to know *anything* about sunrises and sunsets. Apollo talked about the various diseases and illnesses he had run into. Yuck! That just made Strife want to throw up. Then he talked about musical instruments. Strife had no idea there were so many different ways to make music.

The only thing remotely interesting in Apollo’s talk was hearing about the Iolian Harp. Apparently it was a very simple musical instrument. Bells were strung on wires and housed in a frame. The frame was place in a window and when the wind blew, the bells would chime and make music.

Strife thought it was interesting because he wondered if Iolaus had been named after it. Apollo thought he was interested in the harp itself…so, now Strife had one for his window.

And the damned thing had been driving him up the wall.

Asclepius heard Strife complaining about a headache and had the Iolian Harp taken down; until Strife was feeling better. Of course, taking the box down had made Strife feel a *whole* lot better.

Then Falafel had himself transported to Olympus. Strife had yet to find out who did that little favor. Strife didn’t know what the Tartarus a burrito was, but it was disgusting. At least the way Falafel did it. The stench from his offerings made the whole temple reek for hours.

Until Gaea brought her present of flowers…for *every* room in the building. So...Strife had to put up with almost being choked to death on the fragrance of the flowers.

The headache thingy worked there too. Strife had a pretty good idea that Ace was helping him out with the more irritating presents. If Ace said it was bad for him, then no one was offended when Strife didn’t keep their presents.

Xena, Gabrielle and little Eve came up as well. Eve’s juggling demonstration was a welcome diversion. But Gabrielle’s song put him to sleep. Gabrielle wasn’t offended, after all, it was a lullaby.

Strife quickly realized he had a good thing going here and pretended to be asleep or at least, went to sleep as soon as possible after some of the more persistent visitors arrived.

He only had to pretend part of the time. The sheer amount of company he had left Strife so done in that he fell asleep easily.

Joxer was a big help during this time. He came to visit often and that was nice. Joxer had a soothing voice and chattered about anything and everything. Strife could listen as he felt like it and not feel pressured to answer.

Apollo had practically expected him to memorize all the illnesses he talked about. And Athena…sheesh, she actually gave him a test after her visit. She didn’t say it was a test, mind you, but she was disappointed when Strife couldn’t read Egyptian hieroglyphics.

No, Joxer was a blessing. Especially when he brought Tempra. The sweet baby was a joy to watch. Her laughter sounded much better than that harp had.

Plus…when someone exceptionally obnoxious, like Aphrodite (‘Tartarus, not pink curtains Dite.’), came calling, Joxer had the perfect remedy. He just pulled his shirt up and started breast feeding the baby.

That cleared the room faster than yelling fire in a playhouse.

Strife about laughed himself silly when Artemis flashed out so fast that she left her quiver behind. Demios was almost as bad and Poseidon…well, let’s just say he won’t be returning any time soon.

^^^^^^

“Hello Strife.”

Strife and Joxer had been talking. Strife was laying in the bed, propped up by a few pillows. Joxer was leaning back in a very comfortable chair that he had magicked up. They both looked up in surprise as Zeus walked in.

“Oh…uh, hi theah.”

“How are you feeling today, my boy?” Zeus smiled at the two young gods.

“I’m feelin a lot bettah.” Strife paused, unsure of what else to say; he had never been around his grandfather that much during his lifetime. “Thanks fah askin though.”

There was a flash and several dozen flower vases appeared. Gaea was at it again. There was a wide variety of flowers and while they were pretty to look at, the smell was overwhelming.

Joxer grimaced at how quickly Strife paled. “I’ll move these to another room.”

Strife smiled at his friend thankfully. He didn’t trust himself to speak. If he opened his mouth, the smell would come in and his last meal would probably come back out.

Joxer was grabbing up a couple of the bigger vases when the door opened. Ares and Cupid walked in. They were overcome by the smell as well. Seeing what Joxer was doing, the two large men picked up the rest of the offending flora.

“Baby, I’ll be right back, just as soon as I get rid of these.” Cupid smiled at his husband. All the while, he was eyeing Strife to make sure he was all right.

“I’ll stay with Strife until you get back.” They all looked at Zeus in surprise. He wasn’t exactly known for his nurturing personality.

Zeus watched them, aware of their surprise. “We have to protect him from Tryst.”

Strife flinched badly when he heard Tryst’s name. Bob sensed her master’s upset and barked. Zeus looked at the scruffy watchdog with ill-disguised contempt.

“At least we know Tryst can’t change into an animal. Strife’s *guard* is safe to have around.”

Strife nodded gamely. The floral fragrance was about to make him sick. The heavily laden gods headed out the door as fast as they could.

“I’ll see you tomorrow Strife.” Joxer waved, his hand peeking out from the middle of a bunch of flowers.

“Okay, bye Joxah.”

Zeus watched as the door closed quietly behind them. He came and stood at the edge of the bed.

“Hello boy.”

^^^^^^

The meeting hall of Cupid and Strife’s temple looked like someone had exploded a garden into it. Flowers of every conceivable color and shape crowded the room. There were flowers from all over the world. There were even flowers that had long been extinct.

Ares and Cupid were talking while Joxer was walking slightly ahead of them.

“Thanks for keeping Strife company, Joxer. Bliss has been really upset today.”

“Um huh.” Joxer’s preoccupied reply went unnoticed.

Concern for his grandson made Ares turn. “What’s the matter with Bliss?”

“According to Bliss, ‘baby’s hurt their mommies’. He says he’s never going to have a baby or let his wife have one.”

Ares and Cupid looked towards Joxer for help. He usually knew what to do in these kinds of situations; the God of Peace was so good with small children. Joxer hadn’t heard what they were saying.

Joxer paused in the hallway for a moment and then continued on. Something was wrong, but he couldn’t figure out what it was. He could feel something tickling in the back of his mind. Joxer gasped and stopped so abruptly that Cupid almost ran into him.

“He can’t change into an animal.”

“What?” Ares glanced over at his husband in confusion, his mind still worrying about Bliss.

“That’s what Zeus just said, but Tryst *can* look like an animal. Strife told us that months ago. That was one of the reasons Hades got a magical watchdog, because Tryst has turned into animals before…and Zeus knows it!” They all looked at each other in nooning (hey, this is *way* worse than dawning) horror and raced back to the bedroom.

Joxer reached the door first and flung it open. Blood curdling screams echoed out of the room. They all shoved their way in and Joxer was almost knocked off his feet when they stopped and stared in amazement.

There was Tryst.

He was the one screaming.

Bob had hold of Tryst. The *sweet and innocent* looking dog was snarling and biting. Tryst’s arm and leg were bloody where the dog’s two heads were clamped down. His head was bouncing off the wall as Bob shook him like he was a snake. Tryst’s other arm and leg flailed around helplessly as he tried in vain to get away.

Ares yelled for Hephaestus and lunged forward to help hold on to Tryst. Heph flashed in and immediately clamped some of his chains on Tryst.

He was *finally* caught.

They got Bob to let him go.

Eventually.

Ares and Hephaestus flashed out with what was left of their bloody, whimpering prisoner.

^^^^^^

While all of this mayhem was going on, Cupid and Joxer hurried over to Strife. They could see at a glance that Tryst hadn’t been able to hurt him. Tryst hadn’t even been able to get close to the pregnant young man. Bob had saved him.

He was *far* from all right.

Strife’s eyes were huge, his hands were held out in front of him and trembling badly. He was shaking so much that his body was quivering from the tremors. The edges of his loose sleeve fluttered like a frantic butterfly.

The pregnant young god was gasping for air. His pale face was flushed with panic and pinched white around his lips.

Naturally he had seen Tryst change from looking like Zeus to his regular self. The figure of an older, grandfatherly man in the traditional white robes had changed and distorted into the younger, menacing giant wearing his skintight brown leather. Leather that was meant to frighten by showing off his body and all it was capable of.

Strife had realized he was alone with his tormentor. He had seen Bob attack Tryst, smelled the stench of blood and fear filling the room. He had heard the agonizing screams.

Years of fear and torment pulled at his mind. Months of pain and weariness drug on his body. Everything tore at his soul.

Poor Strife’s mind was working overtime. Tryst was here. He was going to hurt him. He was going to hurt the baby. He was the one in pain. The screams were his and he just…

couldn’t

take it

anymore…

Strife started screaming.

Cupid reached out to comfort him. Strife saw Tryst grabbing for him and tried to squirm away. He fell off the bed and onto the floor with a thud. The pain this caused was Tryst beating him.

Ace flashed in and tried to calm the panic-stricken young god down. Unfortunately, Asclepius was wearing a brown leather vest and Strife thought he was Tryst.

Strife scrambled backwards, away from the bed and away from the hands reaching for him. He panicked even more when the soft blankets that had fallen with him, wrapped around his legs like a living entity.

In his desperation, Strife tore the blankets into colorful pieces. His terror overcoming the weakness in his body.

Joxer tried to talk to him. The words twisted around until Strife only heard Tryst spewing filthy language at him. He clamped his hands over his ears in a futile attempt to stop the noise.

Strife kept screaming.

Cupid hovered over Strife, tears pouring down his face as he tried to calm his hysterical husband. Strife felt the salty tears dropping onto his upturned face and they were the sweat of Tryst as he pounded into Strife’s aching body. Strife tried to push himself even farther into the corner.

Strife’s voice was becoming hoarse from the screaming.

Cupid leaned closer. He had to calm Strife down. Strife tried to bat Cupid away and his wing accidentally slid across Strife’s arm. Strife felt something soft touching him. Tryst never did anything soft. Everything was hard and painful with Tryst.

Was that a feather?

cupid?

Silence descended as Strife’s scream abruptly stopped.

“Baby? I’m here, it’s me, Cupid. It’s all right now.” Cupid ran a shaky hand across Strife’s face.

The young god flinched back wildly and hit his head against the marble wall. A small trickle of blood ran along the edge of his hair. Strife whimpered at the additional injury.

“Baby…please.”

Strife was no more immune to Cupid’s pleading than Cupid had been to his. He watched warily as Cupid slowly lowered himself to his knees. When Strife didn’t try to get away, Cupid reached out a shaking hand and gently caressed his husband’s sweat slick face.

Strife leaned into the touch. Encouraged, Cupid picked Strife up and then sat back down again on the bed, with Strife cradled in his embrace like a baby. Strife burrowed his head into Cupid’s chest as he latched both hands onto his harness.

^^^^^^

Joxer watched his friend anxiously. He wasn’t screaming like he was dying now, but he wasn’t exactly calm either. Strife was holding onto Cupid’s harness like his life depended on it and his pale blue eyes were darting around the room in paranoid terror.

Joxer didn’t know what to do. Any time he tried to get closer; Strife began whimpering and tried to burrow deeper into Cupid’s arms. Every time any of them talked, Strife jumped in surprise.

Ace had tried to get close enough to put a sleep spell on the terrified god, but only succeeded in upsetting him more. A sleep spell wasn’t really the best plan for someone who was pregnant, but Strife had to be calmed down soon or he was going to lose the baby.

There had to be something they could do, it wasn’t good for Strife to be this upset. But what to do? Joxer didn’t have any idea.

Then inspiration hit. Joxer slowly lowered himself until he was on eye level with his friend. When Strife finally looked him in the eye, Joxer began to carefully move closer. Strife was looking over Cupid’s shoulder and although he was looking at Joxer, his eyes were glazed and not really seeing much of anything.

Strife reminded Joxer of a colt he had seen once. The poor thing had been injured; a bramble had been wrapped around one of its legs. It was in such pain and so scared that it had taken Joxer several hours to get close enough to help her.

With infinite patience Joxer cautiously laid his hand on Strife’s trembling shoulder. He forced himself to ignore the flinch and kept his hand there until Strife was used to it.

Just like with the colt, Joxer had to gentle Strife before he could help him.

Not moving his hand, Joxer slid behind Strife until he was sitting on the bed behind him. Strife didn’t get hysterical and so Joxer slowly leaned closer until he was laying against the bony back. Joxer was more worried than ever; he could feel Strife’s heart still pounding frantically, through the thin skin of his back.

Joxer carefully and oh so slowly wrapped his arms around Strife’s still trembling frame.

His long arms covered his emaciated friend and he still managed to take hold of Cupid’s arms as well. Cupid was shaking almost as badly as Strife was, so this comfort was beneficial to him too.

“They’ve got him. He’s gone. Ares and Hephaestus have him in chains.”

Joxer’s quiet declaration broke the unending cycle of torment going on inside of Strife’s head. He stopped twitching and turned his head slightly to look back at Joxer. His eyes actually focused on Joxer’s and he seemed to be a little more aware of his surroundings.

“he’s in heph’s chains?”

The three gods were encouraged; these were the first words Strife had said in over an hour.

“Yes.”

Joxer continued to rub Strife’s shoulder encouragingly. The husband and best friend sandwiched Strife between them. They could feel his body moving as he panted for breath.

“he’s gone?”

“Yes, he won’t bother you *ever* again.”

“promise?”

Joxer and Cupid’s hearts broke at the shattered desperation in Strife’s voice. He sounded like a small child and like a child he needed reassurance.

“I promise.”

Strife slumped against Cupid and closed his eyes. Cupid rocked him easily. Ace eased up beside the trio and gently laid his hand on Strife’s head. They were happy to note that Strife *didn’t* jerk away this time.

“Sleep.” Ace rubbed one hand across the soft black hair as he spoke. Strife let go of his pain enough to fall asleep.

^^^^^^

The sleep that Strife fell into wasn’t an easy one. The young god moaned and tossed his head in pain. The fall from the bed had rattled his bones and jarred already painful muscles. That coupled with how tense Strife had been had left him hurting badly again.

Cupid was torn. He didn’t know how to help Strife. He wanted to hold him, but he wanted to be punishing Tryst. He wanted this to be over and not have his lover in so much pain!

Strife rolled halfway onto his back and cried out softly.

Cupid waved a hand towards the bathing room. He carefully picked Strife up and started towards the bath. Sheets and blankets that had accidentally been picked up as well, dropped along the way.

“Cupe…what?” His questioning tone wasn’t from fright…well, maybe a little fright. If anybody had a right to be worried it was Strife.

Strife’s blue eyes were dazed and sleepy. With his black hair curling softly around his face he looked so young and so innocent. For just a moment Cupid could see the child he had once been.

“It’s all right baby.” Cupid hastened to reassure his husband, not wanting Strife to have one more second of fear. “I have an idea of how to make you feel better.”

As he snuggled into his husband’s bare chest, Strife closed sleepy eyes and relaxed. It was safe in Cupid’s arms; nothing bad *ever* happened here.

“okay.”

Strife was almost asleep again when Cupid walked them down into the bathing pool. Clothes vanished as he sat them down in the fragrant bubbling water. Cupid turned Strife so that he was leaning back against Cupid’s chest.

The water swirled around the two lovers, doing more than cleaning them. Strife finally, completely relaxed and laid bonelessly over Cupid’s body. The water buoyed up Strife’s tummy, taking some of the strain off his damaged back.

Strife wriggled around happily at the lessened pain and Cupid had to bit his lip at the sensation. His beautiful husband hadn’t intended to arouse Cupid, but sitting on his lap and wriggling did it every time.

Strife sighed contentedly and looked at the night sky through the window. Stars winked in a velvety black sky.

^^^^^^

Screams reverberated through the room. It was a dank, nasty room; filled with truly frightening implements of torture on the walls.

The man in the middle of the room hadn’t the energy or inclination to look at anything but the young woman kneeling between his legs. She waved her hand and he gasped in relief before she rubbed a hand up his naked thigh.

He shuddered in remembered pain. The chains holding him spread eagled to the metal frame rattled. He tensed, waiting for more pain.

“Soooo…” Eris, the Goddess of Discord, sister of Ares, mother of Strife, smiled darkly up at Tryst. “You like carving your little marks all over my baby’s body do you.”

The avenging mother flicked her hair out of her face and grimaced when she felt the dried blood. With another wave of her hand she was cleaned up.

With a seemingly gentle caress she moved Tryst’s now healed penis out of the way and reached for his scrotum. He started gasping and trying to twist out of her grip. Eris tightened her hand and watched her son’s tormentor arch in pain.

With a firm grip, she pulled the delicate tissue as flat as she could. She pulled it *very* far. She’d perfected this part. There had been plenty of time, Eris had been at this for hours already.

“How do *you* like it?”

Her knife drug across the sensitive skin. *Slowly* carving Strife’s name. Over and over again. When she finished, she would do the same with his limp penis. When there was no skin left to write on…she’d heal him and do it all over again.

Tryst screamed and screamed and tried to get away…and couldn’t.

He was completely at her mercy. There was no mercy to be found in this room or anywhere else.

Several gods stood around watching, waiting for their turn. That was going to be Tryst’s punishment. The gods were going to take turns, one day’s worth at a time. Every day there would be a new god who would come in and hurt the disgusting, child abusing, rapist.

Tryst screamed some more.






Fic: Overheard Conversations 24/?

Author: Kerensa

Email: vkevans@yahoo.com Feedback please. Feedback or death (well, maybe that’s going a little too far)

Rating: R, so far

Fandom: Xena/Hercules, brief mention of food from Harry Potter series

Pairing: Ares/Joxer, Cupid/Strife

Please see earlier chapters for warnings, disclaimers, yadda, yadda.



Chapter 24



Strife coughed and scrunched his face up as his ribs protested. The young god turned onto his side a little bit more, moving the baby and making breathing easier.



Falling off the bed two days earlier had made him sore in some places and left him downright hurting in others. The prolonged screaming had resulted in a sore, irritated throat. That, in turn, caused him to cough which was agonizing on his ribs.



Strife shifted on the bed, trying to relax. He smiled as the bed moved in an odd way. In an attempt to help with Strife’s ever increasing pain, Cupid had stuffed the mattress with something softer than feathers. Strife just couldn’t figure out what it was. There was a scent coming from deep inside the mattress, but it was elusive.



Moving the pillow out of the way, he pressed his nose into the mattress cover and sniffed deeply. Nope, he couldn’t quite catch the fragrance. The young god squeezed the cover with his free hand and smelled again.



Roses. Cupid had made a bed out of rose petals.



“Oh.”



The pregnant god shifted again. The rose petals shifted with him and contoured themselves around his traumatized body.



Strife smiled and drifted off to asleep.



^^^^^^



“He sounds like a dog caught on a nail.”



Ares turned to Athena in surprise. That kind of vicious comment was totally out of character for the knowledgeable goddess.



The God of War turned back to watch Tryst being *punished*. He had to admit that Athena was right about the sounds Tryst was making though.



“Now young man, there’s no need to carry on so.”



Gaea’s gentle voice and softly smiling face were usually very comforting. Of course, when Gaea spoke like that she generally wasn’t sticking cactus thorns all over someone’s body.@



The older woman tilted her head to one side and considered the crying man critically. There weren’t very many spots left on his body that didn’t have the stinging needles on them.



They were literally falling off his penis, because they were being crowded out. On the rest of his body there wasn’t a space of more than 2 inches to be found that was bare of cactus needles. Even his eyelids had the thorny spikes protruding from them.



Gaea stood and sighed sadly. She couldn’t find any more space. They’d even raised Tryst up, so he wasn’t able to stand on the ground anymore.



He had *really* screamed when the bottoms of his feet were pierced. Not as much or as loudly as when she attacked his penis…but you couldn’t have everything.



The goddess smiled happily and snapped her finger. A pair of long medical tweezers appeared in her hand. Gaea dipped them into the basket of needles and picked up another thorn. She turned back to her begging victim and giggled happily as she began to stick him in the small, 2 inch places.



Ares blinked and looked over at his son. Cupid was watching avidly; making sure that Tryst suffered for what he had done to Strife.



“Remind me never to make Gaea mad.”



Cupid turned to his father and nodded distractedly. A particularly high-pitched scream startled them. It seemed Gaea had found more room on his genitalia after all.



^^^^^^



“It’s not fair…” Iolaus poured the bucket of water over his sweaty head. The water slid over the light strands, washing away the dirt and grime and making them glitter like gold.



“…we helped look for him. We should be able to punish that creep too. Right Herc.”

Not receiving an answer, the hunter pushed wet locks back from his eyes and looked over at his friend in surprise. Hercules was still sitting on the log and he was staring at Iolaus.



“Right…Herc?”



Hercules snapped himself out of his stupor and smiled quickly at his best friend and the man he loved more than anyone else. “Right.”



Iolaus frowned and went back to wiping himself off.



Hercules watched intently, hoping to all the gods he knew of that he was wrong. Iolaus raised his arms again, drying his golden hair off and…there it was. He hadn’t been wrong.



There was a crooked X on the underside of Iolaus’ arm. Almost in the armpit, it was hard to see, because it had faded so much. Unless you knew what you were looking for, it wasn’t easily recognizable as a scar. Only in the brightest of sunlight and standing at just the right angle could this damning, tiny reminder be seen.



Hercules bit down hard on his lip so he wouldn’t scream. At least out loud.



Iolaus wasn’t completely unawares of his friend’s scrutiny. The hunter made more of drying off than was necessary, hoping that Hercules was enjoying the view. Iolaus glanced over, his scrutiny hidden by a curtain of wildly curling hair. No such luck, Hercules hadn’t finally noticed his best friend as a possible love interest. Iolaus didn’t know what was going on. He finished drying off and pulled his clean clothes back on.



“Herc, are you okay?” Iolaus’ soft inquiry startled the demi-god.



“Yes, I’m fine.” Hercules’ voice was a higher than usual and his smile a little too bright.



“Yeah.” The blond hunter’s disbelief was evident in his voice and his raised eyebrow. “I’m going to see if I can catch us something to eat.”



Hercules nodded, still smiling his fake smile. He managed to stay seated until Iolaus was out of sight. Then Hercules raced over to the woods and threw up everything he had eaten for the last day.



“Oh gods, no.” Hercules wiped the tears from his eyes. More tears slid down to take their place. “Ace.” His entreaty was immediately answered.



“Hello Hercules.”



The hero looked up at his uncle and begged with his eyes.



Asclepius sighed and held out a hand to help the demi-god up. “I’m sorry, but it’s true.”



Hercules almost fell as his legs gave way. Ace used his godly powers to get his nephew back onto the log. The big man hung his head.



“Tryst wasn’t able to rape him.”



Looking up hopefully, Hercules just listened.



“He tried, but Iolaus’ mother arrived and unknowingly saved her son.” Ace looked towards the forest where Iolaus was hunting. “Thank Elysia.”



“Then why does he have the mark?” Hercules ran both hands through his hair, almost pulling out a couple of clumps.



Ace gently pulled his hands away in time. “He made the mark and was getting ready to rape Iolaus when Tryst heard Iolaus’ mother coming in. Tryst cleaned everything up and healed the wound. He probably planned on finding Iolaus later. I don’t know why he didn’t follow them when they left town. Maybe he forgot. Maybe he found someone else.”



Hercules shot him another agonized look.



“Yes, I’ve discovered *a lot* of other children who have been abused.” Ace’s anger got the better of him and a fire ball formed in his hand. Before he could throw it the god took a deep breath and calmed himself down. The fire ball disappeared with a puff of smoke.



“He doesn’t remember anything, if that helps.” Hercules and Asclepius exchanged a look that agreed that it *did* help. “Luckily, none of the children remembered.” Ace pounded his fist onto his leg. “Just Strife.”



The two men were lost in melancholy. Thinking of the sheer amount of horror that one insane god had caused.



The faint sound of Iolaus’ whistling brought both men back to the present. Ace and Hercules both jumped up.



“Ace.” Hercules’ desperate whisper was met with a finger over his lips.



“I’m going.” Asclepius was even quieter.



He waved his hand towards the woods and a tiny flash of light flicked off the end of his fingers. Hercules watched the tiny flame flash in among the trees. He turned back questioningly.



“The scar is gone now. So is the memory. It’s not just buried, it’s erased.”



Hercules smiled his thanks and there was a bright flash as the god left. Iolaus came whistling out of the woods a minute later.



He smiled brightly. “I’ve got dinner.” The dead rabbit dangled from his capable hunter’s hands.



“Great, I can’t wait for some of your rabbit stew.”



Hercules reached out and grabbed his friend as he was walking past. Iolaus was startled, but more than happy to hug his friend back. He only wished that Hercules was more than a friend.



^^^^^^



Joxer paced quietly as he watched Strife sleeping. Even laying on his side, the pregnant god was having a hard time breathing and Joxer was worried. He knew how frightened Strife had gotten the last time it was so hard to breathe.



The God of Peace wished he could give his friend a little peace. The threat might be *finally* over, but Strife just couldn’t seem to really relax. Then, of course, there were the physical problems.



Over the last few months, Strife had been kidnapped, attacked and beaten, had power overloads and fallen *several* times. His badly mistreated body was so sore and worn out that Strife was having a very difficult time sleeping.



Strife’s eyes were going back and forth crazily underneath his closed eyelids, indicating that he was having a strong dream. Joxer rubbed his good friend’s shoulder, hoping to prevent a nightmare that would only drain and upset Strife further.



Bob lay in the corner, chewing her bones. After her wonderful job of protecting Strife *and* capturing Tryst, she had been given a special treat. Each head got a *very big* bone.



“ZEUS!”



The yell startled the dog into dropping her bones. She jumped up and started barking; seeking out the danger.



Strife’s eyes had popped open; they were wild and scared. Before Joxer could stop him, Strife sat up in bed and yelled Zeus’ name. Then Strife screamed and grabbed his ribs in pain.



“Oh gods, oh gods.”



Strife was rocking back and forth. He began to pant for breath. It was only moments before he was in serious trouble. Strife’s pale blue eyes locked on Joxer’s in panic.



“Asclepius!”



Even as Joxer was yelling for their healing friend, he was laying Strife back down on the bed.



“Strife, it’s all right. Nobody’s going to hurt you.”



Strife’s mouth hung open as he gasped for air. Ace flashed in and began to rub Strife’s tense back. If he could get the young god to relax he would be able to breathe better. If not…



He coughed again, trying to get much needed oxygen into his laboring lungs. Strife started to slip into unconsciousness.



Ace gasped as inspiration struck; he snapped his fingers. Joxer looked up hopefully and watched as a complex…thingie, flashed in beside him. It was made out of metal and had long pale things coming out of it. Asclepius did something on the side of it and the…thingie began to make the most horrible noise.



Joxer eyed Ace, wondering if he should stop him or not.



“It’s called an oxygen tank.” Ace flipped another lever and picked up a mask that had some of those pale things going from it to the bigger metal thingie. “It helps with breathing.” Asclepius explained as he bent to place it over Strife’s face.



Joxer raised his friend’s head and helped Asclepius. He figured that if Ace had snapped, he could pull the mask back off again before it hurt Strife.



“I think this will help. I hope.” Asclepius muttered quietly.



The two gods watched Strife closely. In a matter of minutes Strife looked and sounded better. His lips didn’t match his eyes in color now.



It was only then that Joxer guiltily realized he hadn’t called for Cupid. As Strife’s husband he needed to be there.



Joxer brushed his brown hair out of his eyes and took a fortifying breath. “Cupid, Ares, could yo…” The two gods flashed in, panicking.



“Strife?” Cupid ran to his husband and stopped in shock when he saw what was on his face. “What the Tartarus is *that*?”



Ace was in the middle of explaining what *that* was, when Strife came to. The young god immediately began tugging on the oxygen mask.



“No, Strife you need to leave that on. I know it feels odd, but it will help you breathe.”



Strife nodded and kept pulling. He put one pale, desperately thin hand on Asclepius’ arm in mute appeal. Ace sighed. “Okay, I’ll take it off. But just for a minute.” He pulled the mask off and left it hanging underneath Strife’s chin.



“zeus.” Strife whispered and then grimaced against the pain his earlier gyrations had stirred up.



“Baby, everything’s fine. I know HE pretended to be Zeus, but he can’t hurt you now.”



Strife shook his head. His jet black hair was spread out on the pillow; it contrasted nicely with the white pillow case. Sadly, his pale face didn’t; on the contrary, Strife’s face blended in with the colorless pillow covering.



Cupid grimaced at that thought. It seemed like Strife was fading away, into the pillow. Not able to stand that image, Cupid quickly changed the pillow case to a soft green color.



Strife coughed again and one hand automatically went to his injured side, trying to brace his bad ribs. The godly trio could see what this conversation was already doing to Strife’s flagging energy.



“no…if tryst was zeus…” The pregnant man coughed and licked his lips. His eyes were fighting to stay open. “…then wheah’s zeus?”



Everyone froze. They all looked at each other in horror.



Asclepius had the presence of mind to replace the oxygen mask. Strife struggled with morpheus, his eyelids drooping lower with each blink.



“Strife.” He looked up at Ares. “I’ll find him, don’t worry.”



The young god nodded. He knew it would be all right now; Unc would make everything better.



Ares smiled at his injured nephew. He kissed his worried husband and flashed out, leaving Strife in more than capable hands.



^^^^^^



The room shook as Ares flashed in with a loud boom.



Ares walked over and waited until he had Artemis’ attention. The goddess paused, arrow still notched on the bow in her hand.



Tryst was looking a little worse for wear. *Several* days of torture was beginning to wear even him down. They did allow him *two* hours a day to heal, so he stayed nice and healthy.



He didn’t look very healthy now. Not with the multiple arrows sticking out of his body. Artemis had been punishing Tryst and having target practice all at once.



“Artemis, may I borrow the prisoner for a while?”



The Goddess of the Hunt didn’t hesitate for a moment. “Of course.” She stepped back and stood to one side; waiting and watching.



Ares strode up to Tryst. When he couldn’t get close enough, Ares grabbed hold of one of the quivers and ripped it out. Tryst screamed as his thigh was torn open.



“Where’s Zeus.” Short and to the point, that was Ares’ motto right now.



Around the room there were shocked gasps. Gods and goddesses looked at each other searchingly. Was Zeus really missing and how had they not realized it?



Tryst smiled, he felt in control again. They wouldn’t let their *beloved leader* rot. Tryst felt certain that they would have to let him go. He might be exiled, but he could work around that.



“Where’s Zeus?” Tryst didn’t know Ares enough (and was stupid), so he didn’t recognize the dangerous purr in the war god’s voice.



“I need some incentive.” Tryst smirked. “Give me a reason to help you.”



Ares nodded in agreement. “All right.”



He moved closer to the chained god. It didn’t bother Ares that he had to look up, way up, at the prisoner. He reached out one of his *very* large and *very* strong hands…and wrapped it around the base of Tryst’s balls and penis. Tryst froze, his eyes getting very wide.



“He’s your incentive.” A slight tug had the bigger god gasping. “You tell me where Zeus is or…I’ll pull your *dangly bits* off.”#



Tryst clenched his jaw and looked Ares straight in the eye and *dared* him. Ares smiled again.



“This is Upsetting STRIFE!” With that, Ares ripped Tryst’s genitalia off.^



Blood spurted from the man’s groin as he screamed in agony. Ares watched dispassionately for a while, then he glanced over at Apollo. The other god nodded his head and Ares waved his hand, tossing Tryst’s penis and balls back onto his body.



The god shuddered in pain as his body healed itself. He jerked back with a whimper as Ares reached between his legs again.



“I’ll keep this up as long as I need to.” Ares’ face was thunderous; this time his voice matched it. “*Where’s Zeus*?”



^^^^^^



Several hours later



Strife was laying on his left side trying to get some rest. He couldn’t lay on his back, because that made it even harder to breathe and he couldn’t lay on his right side, because of his bad ribs. Lying in basically one position all the time made it almost impossible to get comfortable, no matter how soft you made the bed. Add to that the pain *every* time he took a breath and you were left with one thoroughly miserable god.



Joxer was sitting beside the bed watching his friend and keeping vigil. Strife was finally asleep, but even slumbering he was still moaning. The sound was muted because of the oxygen mask that Ace had brought back from the future to help Strife breathe.



Boom!



Strife jerked awake at the sound and cried out in pain. Joxer looked daggers at the doorway, ready to tear into whoever had woken Strife up. He saw a contrite Ares standing there and his expression softened a little. An Ares who had Zeus with him.



“Strife you have company.”



Strife struggled to open his eyes. His eyelids felt like someone had poured honey on them. He saw his uncle standing by the bed and smiled as best he could. “Hiya Unc.” The whispered greeting could barely be heard. “Have ya found out anythin about Zeus?” Strife’s pale blue eyes were shimmering with tears and this made them look silver in the candlelight.



“Yeah, I think I have.” With this Ares pushed Zeus closer to the bed.



“Oh thank tha gods.” Strife sobbed and moaned at the pain this action caused. “What did he do ta ya?” Strife’s blue eyes were looking Zeus over, checking for damage.



“Child, it’s all right, he didn’t do anything to me.”



Strife looked at Zeus unbelievingly. “Ya’re just sayin that ta make me feel bettah. Tell me tha truth.” He closed his eyes in pain and puffed gently. He really needed to take a deep breath and calm himself, but that would only cause more pain.



“I swear to you that he didn’t hurt me. I was kept locked in a room…a nice room.” Zeus added the last part quickly when Strife looked horror stricken. “I had all the food and drink I wanted. Please believe me. Tryst knew he couldn’t risk hurting me, the consequences would be too high.”



Strife looked up at his grandfather searchingly. He so wanted to believe him, but the trouble was that he knew Tryst and what he was capable of. Ares touched his arm and Strife looked at him blearily. “I promise you that Zeus was *fine* when I found him.”



Strife closed his eyes in relief and relaxed. He knew Ares wouldn’t lie to him. The guilt he had been feeling vanished.



“My dear grandson.” Strife opened his eyes in surprise. *Grandson!* Zeus had never called him grandson before.



The King of the Gods was ticked off. Not only had Tryst *dared* to imitate *HIM* and attack *his grandson*, but he had, uhm…locked Zeus in his own closet. Ares had promised to keep that little tidbit secret. It was bad enough that he kept getting accidentally getting himself locked in, he didn’t need to add to the snickers he heard when people saw him walking by.



Zeus patted his arm again and then stood up and faced his son. “There’s somebody I want to *talk* to.”



Ares snorted. “Get in line.” Sarcasm over, Ares smiled wickedly at his father and said, “Follow me.”



Joxer watched as his husband and father-in-law flashed out. With Zeus found there would be no more delays, Tryst was going to *really* suffer now. He hated to think what kind of punishment Zeus could come up with.



He looked back at Strife who was once again asleep. He looked more at peace now and Joxer hoped he could get a little more rest this time. Joxer frowned as Strife whimpered in his sleep. In one corner of the room Bob whined.



Joxer quietly magicked up several *warm* pillows. Instead of wrapping cloth around a hot rock, Joxer just made the cloths themselves hot. There was no way in Tartarus that he was going to put anything rough around Strife.



The pillows were positioned strategically around the injured god. Some were tucked around the rounded tummy, easing muscles there. Others were placed along his spasming back.



Soon, Strife was warm and relaxed. He drifted deeper, into a comforting slumber. Joxer tucked the covers carefully around his friend and sat down to wait.



@My mother suggested this torture.

#Wildannuette said the dangly bits part.

^Calia suggested castration.







Fic: Overheard Conversations 25/?

Author: Kerensa

Email: vkevans@yahoo.com Feedback please. Feedback or death (well, maybe that’s going a little too far)

Rating: R, so far

Fandom: Xena/Hercules, brief mention of food from Harry Potter series

Pairing: Ares/Joxer, Cupid/Strife

Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, I’m just borrowing them for a little fun. The same with the Harry Potter stories. I have no money, no property, I even have to borrow the food I eat, so please don’t sue me.

Warning: m/m; MPREG; talk of nonconsensual sex; talk of underage molestation, rape, and abuse; angst

Summary: Joxer and Strife are both pregnant and end up talking. Their husbands, Ares and Cupid overhear their conversation and find out a lot more about their husband’s, especially Strife’s past, than they ever imagined.

Status: WIP

Series: Children At Play

Archive: Yes to AJCS, Make Believe and MPREG; anywhere else, sure just tell me first

Website: Nope, sorry I wouldn’t know how to set one up.

Notes: I want to thank my mother for some of the ideas in this story. She thought up the bad guy’s name and some ways to hurt poor Strife. Later in the series I will mention something, briefly, from the I LOVE LUCY show; bonus points if you can find it. Beta’d by me and Spellcheck.



Chapter 25



Strife closed his eyes and smiled at the feel of sunshine on his face. The glare wasn’t as intense as normal and Strife squinted up at the protection shield. Yes, it really was darker where he was sitting. The God of Mischief smiled at the thoughtful intervention and wondered who had done it; Joxer or Ares or Cupid?



The sound of giggling had Strife look over towards where his son was sitting. Bliss was watching his Grandpa Joxer and Temmy. Joxer had a look of serious determination on his face.



Strife contemplated his friend and wondered what the problem was. He watched as Joxer dipped his hand in a bowl of warm water and tried *again* to tame Temmy’s wild red hair down. It didn’t work. As soon as Joxer moved his hand the little godling’s hair stood straight up again.



The God of Mischief smiled happily. He felt safe. That was a luxury he had never felt before and Strife reveled in it. They were sitting in Joxer and Ares’ garden, which was surrounded by the protection bubble. So, he knew no one could attack them in here.



Ah course, Tryst isn’t a threat anymore.



Strife ducked as he thought the god’s name. It was purely a reflex action. Strife still had to remind himself that the insane god couldn’t hurt him anymore.



“Joxah, I don’t think that’s gonna work.” Strife smiled at his friend. “I betcha that Temmy’s gonna have curly hair, that’s why it’s goin every which way.”



“Curly?” Joxer looked at his daughter’s head critically, which earned him another laugh from Bliss. “Quiet you.” Joxer smiled and tickled his grandson. He looked back at Strife.



“Are you sure?”



“Yeah, that’s tha way mah hair did, at least accordin ta Ma.”



Joxer’s eyebrows shot up. Strife never called Eris, Ma. She was always Eris or Discord.



Strife ducked his head. “She’s been comin ta see me lately. We’ve been talkin about babies and she’s told me some ah when I was little.” Strife muttered quietly. “And she wants me ta call her Ma.”



The God of Peace placed a hand on his good friend’s shoulder. “I’m glad.”



The pregnant god smiled happily. “Yeah...anyway, she said mah hair did like that.” Strife touched his curly hair.



For the time being, it wasn’t fixed in Strife’s usual spiky hairstyle, because the young god didn’t want to mess with it. As a consequence, Strife’s dark hair hung in tight curls. Looking at him, it was easy to tell that he and Ares were related; they both had similar hair. Joxer was surprised at how curly it was and wondered how Strife got it to stand straight out.



Flash.



Bright pink light and lots of flowers and hearts heralded the arrival of Aphrodite. She had to land just outside the shield, so the flowers, hearts and lights rained down on the side of the screen, leaving a pretty pile ringed around the bottom edge.



Hercules let go of Dite’s arm and shook his head. Hearts and flowers in every possible shade of pink, fell from his head. Hercules looked at the ground in disgust and ran one large hand over his light hair, checking for more detritus. Iolaus smiled at his friend’s reaction and kissed Aphrodite on the cheek.



“Thanks for the lift.”



“Anytime Sweetcheeks.” Dite smiled, showing dimples and plenty of cleavage.



The Goddess of Love patted Iolaus on his sweet cheeks, allegedly removing the flowers and such. The thought really didn’t count, since Iolaus didn’t have any *extra* decorations on his butt.



She missed the glare that Hercules gave her. Iolaus didn’t and was encouraged. Strife and Joxer exchanged careful grins. Maybe Hercules was finally seeing the light.



“Hi Joxie, hi Strifey.” Dite smiled and twitched a little. She liked touching a man’s butt, loved it in fact. She didn’t care that it wasn’t her husband’s butt; it’s not like she planned on sleeping with Iolaus. Besides, that nicely rounded tush just called for her to give it a nice squeeze.



“Please come in.” Ever the pleasant host, Joxer waved with his free hand and invited the trio into the garden.



Aphrodite raced over and after gaining permission, picked up her granddaughter. “Hello sweetie.” Baby in hand, she turned to Bliss and wrapped the little godling up in a tight embrace. “Hi my little bird.” Bliss laughed at the nickname and gave his grandmother a hug.



Dite looked at the baby and shook her head. “Oh dear, her hair’s standing up, just like Cupid’s did.” She turned and smiled at Joxer. “Don’t worry though Joxie, I’ve got *just* the thing.”



With a flash Aphrodite magicked up a jar. “This is my extra special hair gel. It is *guaranteed* to keep her hair flat.”



Strife started making frantic no-no motions with his hands. Joxer got the idea and went to save his daughter’s hair from Dite’s fretting and fussing.



The young god sighed in relief. He had made the mistake of using Dite’s extra special, *guaranteed* hair gel once. His hair had been so stiff that it had broken off in big chunks.



“How are you doing?”



Strife turned back to the guests. Hercules was standing there holding out a bunch of flowers…to him!



“Uh, thanks.” He took the bouquet and touched the petals in wonder. “I’m doin pretty good. Thank ya fah askin.”



Hercules smiled at the flustered young god. “Good, good, I’m glad to hear it. Here let me get that for you.” The demi-god helped Strife lean forward, while he fluffed up the pillows he was leaning on.



^^^^^^



Iolaus had been watching everyone, but especially Hercules, who had been acting more than a little strange lately.



Iolaus had noticed a marked change in Hercules just a couple of days before. He didn’t know what to make of it, but he kind of liked it. Okay, he *really* liked it. Hercules was paying more attention to him and seemed to *really* be watching him. Maybe, if Iolaus was praying to the right gods, Hercules would admit he was in love with Iolaus as much as Iolaus was in love with Hercules.



Maybe.



Hopefully.



^^^^^^



Bliss sat down on Strife’s couch. Strife hugged his son to him and Bliss carefully hugged him back. He tentatively touched Strife’s tummy, rubbing the large bulge easily.



The little boy didn’t hate the baby anymore. His Daddy, the other daddy, had explained that it wasn’t the baby hurting Daddy Strife, it was what that *bad man* had done to him.



So now Bliss was mad at the *bad man*. Whoever he was.



Bliss twitched happily. Daddy Strife had a soft brush and was running it across his wings, making the feathers shine.



That was so nice and showed how much his Daddy loved him. Just as much as he did the new baby.



His Mommy had been wrong, just like Bliss knew. Daddy Strife *did* love him, even though he had been born to Mommy.



Mommy was gone now and although he missed her, Bliss was glad she didn’t say mean things anymore.



^^^^^^



Strife sighed and sadly finished brushing Bliss’ plumage. The feathers were so soft and now glowed in the sunlight.



Bliss hopped up and started bouncing. The active little godling couldn’t sit still for very long.



“Daddy Strife, can I go play?”



Strife smiled at his son. “Okay, but don’t wandah taa fah.”



Bliss smiled. “Okay Daddy.” He kissed his father on the cheek and ran off, followed by Tempra’s little unicorn.



^^^^^^



Strife hissed in pain as his leg started to cramp. He grabbed at his knee; that was the closest he could get to the calf of his leg. With Strife’s burgeoning stomach in the way he had no choice in the matter. Strife was limber, but even he wasn’t *that* flexible.



The young god jumped when someone took hold of his leg. Through his pain-filled and teary eyes, Strife watched as Hercules began massaging his cramping muscles.



He laid back on his lounging couch and tried to relax as his uncle’s worst enemy worked out the kinks in his leg. Strife drifted drowsily on the edge of sleep as Hercules massaged his calf and then moved on to his other leg.



It wasn’t cramping. Strife didn’t care.



His legs hurt so much anyway, even since he had been staying off them. Strife moaned slightly when Hercules moved on to his feet. He was almost asleep when Hercules stopped. Strife opened his eyes and blearily focused on the demi-god.



“Does that feel better?” Hercules frowned as he looked at his nephew.



“Yeah. Thank ya, that feels a lot bettah.” Strife smiled tiredly and wondered if it would be rude if he went to sleep.



“Good.” The large man sat down by his blond hunter friend. Iolaus looked bemusedly from Strife to his friend, who was now fussing over him.



Strife looked over at Joxer, who was biting his lip vigorously, trying not to laugh. The pregnant god thought for a minute and then realized what was so funny.



Oh gods, Hercules was rubbin mah feet. Just like Ace joked about all those months ago.



Strife shook his head ruefully and wondered when his life had become so comical.



^^^^^^



A little while later Strife woke from a light doze. He opened his eyes and looked at the people sprawled around the garden. The young god was relaxed enough that he wasn’t in *too* much pain.



At least I don’t hafta have tha oxygen tank. Mah breathin’s much bettah taday.



Strife looked around and again and frowned. He sat up slowly and turned so he could look all the way around his chair.



“Wheah’s Bliss?”



Everyone turned to look at him.



“Wheah’s Bliss? It ain’t like him ta be gone this long.” Strife started to panic, his breath becoming labored as he hyperventilated.



“BLISS!” His yell went unanswered.



Strife started to call again, but Hercules stopped him. “Let me.” The demi-god had seen how yelling caused Strife pain.



Joxer covered the baby’s sensitive ears. Hercules bellowed for Bliss. Temmy woke up anyway, despite her daddy’s protection. The little godling didn’t cry, she just looked at Hercules. Her bright green eyes showed that she seemed to realize this was something serious.



There was no answer. Everyone jumped up. Well, Strife and Tempra didn’t jump up, but all the rest did. They scattered out to look for Bliss, each person going in a different direction.



After listening to his friends going farther and farther into the garden for several minutes, Strife couldn’t stand it anymore. He laboriously pushed himself up and off his couch.



“Bob….come heah.” She ran over and Strife held on to the dog’s neck’s as they began to look too.



^^^^^^



Strife stood in the middle of the garden, panicking. He and Bob had been looking for Bliss with no luck.



“Wheah’s mah son?!”



He paled as he remembered something. “Tha Phoenix tree.”



Strife rushed, as fast as he could, to the other side of the garden. Intuition was telling him that that’s where he would find the missing boy.



The Phoenix tree was the only one of its kind in the world. Every 100 years the tree disintegrated and then regrew. It was a very important tree and had a prominent place in the center of Mt. Olympus, which happened to be in Ares and Joxer’s garden. The tree was at a dangerous point now in the process and so Ares had the surrounding area cordoned off.



Strife arrived at the tree and looked around. “BLISS!” He yelled frantically.



“Hi Daddy Strife.”



Fearfully, Strife looked up. He gasped in horror. Bliss was almost to the top of the tree. Strife frenetically began pulling his power suppressor earring out.



“Bob, go get help. NOW!”



The dog looked at her master. She wanted to obey, but her doggie mind was telling her to protect Strife. Bob barked once and then ran off.



“Hiya kiddo, how’d ya get up theah?” Strife smiled up at his son, not wanting to scare the little boy.



“I flew! Whee! Wanna see, Daddy Strife.”



“Bliss, no!”



The little boy ignored his terrified father. He began to flap his snow white wings happily. Slowly, he rose to the next branch. Now he *was* at the top of the tree.



“See, I hop up, one place at a time.” Bliss smiled, pleased with his achievement.



“That’s great Bliss. Why don’t you come back down now, the same way you went up.”



Strife started coaxing the little godling down. He was afraid of using his own powers to bring Bliss down directly, because of how badly they had been acting up lately.



Bliss landed on the next branch and Strife heard it creak ominously. Quickly, Strife sent out a tendril of power and strengthened the branch. Bliss hopped to the next branch and Strife realized the tree was starting to collapse. He had to keep supporting the previous branch or it would fall on the little godling’s head.



Strife’s head was throbbing with the strain of bolstering up the tree. He didn’t let the pain show as he smiled encouragingly at his child.



Bliss was about halfway down when he missed the branch he was trying to land on. His little wings weren’t strong enough to support his weight for more than a few seconds and with a frightened shriek…he fell.



“Nooooo…” Strife screamed in horror.



From out of nowhere, Hercules appeared. He raced by a frozen Strife and caught Bliss before he could hit the ground.



Strife hurried forward and dropped to his knees. He clutched Bliss to his chest and they both cried hysterically. Cupid came running up. He would have been there sooner, but because of the protection shield, he couldn’t just flash in. Cupid held his family.



“Thank you, oh gods, thank you Hercules.”



Hercules nodded. He was shaking like a leaf. When he had seen Bliss falling, all he could think of was his own dead children.



Apollo and Asclepius ran in. They checked Bliss and Hercules over for injuries. Except for a few bruises and some displaced feathers, the two were fine.



Asclepius stared at Strife and noticed that he was very red in the face. Before he could comment, Ares arrived.



“How in Zeus’ name did Bliss get by the security around the tree?” Ares was nauseated at how close he came to losing his grandson. He looked up at the tree and frowned as he noticed several of the branches quivering.



“What’s holding them up?” Ares gestured to the tree.



Asclepius looked from the tree to Strife. He noticed that the tree was quivering in time to Strife’s shaking body. Thinking about that and the strain that was evident on the young gods face, Ace came to a hasty and worrisome conclusion.



“Oh gods, are you supporting the tree?”



Strife nodded dazedly; his mind still locked on protecting his child. Cupid quickly picked up his husband and son; Strife refused to let Bliss go. He carried them far away from the dangerous tree.



Iolaus saw Strife’s earring lying on the ground and grabbed it. Hercules picked up the baby unicorn that was eating grass right under the tree. Ares placed a barrier between the tree and the retreating people.



When everyone had moved back, Asclepius started talking again. “It’s okay Strife, you can drop your powers.” Strife’s eyes were still fixated on the tree. He was shaking harder and his face had gone from red to gray. Cupid rubbed his tight muscles, trying to relax his husband.



Bliss looked up at his father. He pulled one hand from between his daddy’s and touched Strife on the face. “I’m okay Daddy Strife.”



Strife looked at his son and laughed nervously. Concentrating carefully, he relaxed and let go. Strife collapsed back into Cupid’s embrace, still holding their son.



Immediately, the first branch fell, it broke off more on its way down. They in turn, knocked off even more as they fell. The tree was soon lopsided, one side completely gone and the other side still full of brushwood. The uneven weight soon toppled over the rest of the tree. In minutes, there was nothing left but a tiny sapling, standing proudly in the middle of the rubble.



They were all too stunned to say anything.



Iolaus wordlessly handed Strife’s earring to Cupid, who gratefully accepted it. He put the earring back in Strife’s ear and still carrying his husband and son, he walked to the edge of the garden and flashed them home.



^^^^^^



Later, after Strife had been checked out by Ace and pronounced exhausted but okay, they all lay together in one bed.



“Daddy’s, do you want to see what I found in the tree?”



Cupid shuddered at the mention of the tree. It would be many years before he could even look at the Phoenix tree again without getting sick to his stomach.



“Ah course we do kiddo.” Strife’s voice was tremulous.



Strife lay on his side, with Cupid spooned behind him and Bliss sitting in front of him. The pregnant god was on oxygen again. His efforts to protect Bliss had worn him out once more.



Bliss opened his tiny hands. There, cupped one in each hand, was a butterfly and a dragonfly. Each was a jeweled figurine.



Cupid started to comment when a light ran over the figurines and they twitched. The insects came to life. They were as beautiful and bright as when they were made of gems. The insects fluttered around and then landed back on Bliss’ hand, where they turned back into jewelry.



“The dragonfly is my birthday gift to Temmy.” The little boy was so proud of getting a gift all on his own. “The butterfly is for my new baby brother or sister.” He smiled happily.



“That’s wonderful Bliss.” Cupid smiled at his son and urged him to lay down on the bed.



“Yeah, it’s perfect kiddo.” Strife smiled from behind his oxygen mask and they all quietly slipped off to sleep.



^^^^^^



Ares was wandering around the next morning, trying to burn off some excess energy. He still couldn’t understand how Bliss got so close to the Phoenix tree.



The God of War stopped outside the chamber door. With a deep breath, he gathered the necessary energy and went inside. What he saw was startling and considering the goings on lately, that said a lot.



Tryst wasn’t chained in the middle of the room today. Instead, he was sitting on a log, with his legs pulled wide open. Hephaestus was kneeling in front of him.



“It’s very simple…” Heph picked up his hammer and a couple of *very* long nails. He positioned one over Tryst’s groin. “you have to decide what you want worse.”



He swiftly raised the hammer up and pounded a nail through one of Tryst’s balls.* Blood spurted up onto Hephaestus’ face. In another swift move, he put a nail in the other ball. More blood flew. The Fire God absently wiped his face clean.



Heph turned the hammer around and lightly tapped Tryst on the top of his head. The frantic eyed god stopped yelling and looked up.



“You have to decide if you want to pull those out with your fingers…” He pointed to Tryst’s imprisoned genitalia. With a flick of his fingers, the ends of the log caught on fire. “…or do you want to burn.” Heph looked at Tryst like he was something smelly. “You decide.”



^^^^^^



Tryst’s hands and feet were released. The only thing holding him there were the two nails.



The imprisoned god grabbed at his mutilated genitalia and sobbed; the pain was indescribable. He flicked a frantic look towards either end of the log. Flames were oh so slowly creeping closer.



Tryst tried to decide which would be worse, ripping his balls more or burning. He took hold of the nail heads and began to pull.



That didn’t work and so, he tried moving them back and forth. After he threw up to one side, Tryst sat and thought for a few minutes. The crackling sound of the burning log galvanized Tryst again. He tried twisting the nails around, hoping to sort of unscrew them.



Hephaestus placed a barrier around the other god. His screams were unnerving to hear.



Tryst was having a hard time holding onto the nails; they were slick with all the blood. He looked at the fire again and frantically wiped his hands off on his thighs.



He worked all day and all night. The fire crept ever closer. The nails stayed in place, despite all efforts.



Of course, they were *Hephestian* nails. So, they weren’t going to come out no matter what. Tryst’s frantic mind didn’t think about that. Nobody else reminded him either.



*Yep, you guessed it. My mother thought up this torture.




Extra Note: There be torture here. If this squicks you, please skip the part with Tryst.

Chapter 26



Strife lay in bed and tried not to move. He didn’t want to wake Cupid up, but it was so hard. His side and back alternated spasming and his left leg kept trying to cramp.



Another typical night, trying in vain to get some sleep.



He tried stretching his leg out and the half-cramping stopped. Of course, that pulled on his back, which made it hurt worse. Strife thought about it for a few seconds and decided the pain in his leg was better than the one in his back. So, he bent his knee again.



The pale god gripped the sheets and stuffed the edge of his pillowcase in his mouth, to keep from making any noise.



Cupid felt his husband’s body tense and woke up. “Strife…baby, what’s wrong?”



Strife surreptitiously pulled the material out of his mouth. “I-I’m all right Cupe. Ya go on back ta sleep.” The pregnant god hoped the dim light would help conceal his lie.



The love god sat up and waved a hand, raising the light level, in one smooth move. He could see the sweat on Strife’s face and watched as his husband clenched the sheets in one tight fist.



“Where? Back, tummy, legs?”



The God of Mischief gave up all pretense and whimpered as he nodded yes. Cupid immediately began rubbing stomach and back; wishing he had more hands so he could massage Strife’s legs.



Strife sighed and relaxed as the pain abated somewhat. Cupid’s wondrous fingers moved up and eased the tension on his neck and forehead. Sleep beckoned enticingly.



“Please don’t lay here and suffer. I love you and *I want* to help you.” Cupid’s quiet voice was as soothing as his hands.



“okay.”



Cupid nodded as he watched Strife slip off to sleep. Strife had promised and he *always* kept his promise.



^^^^^^



Iolaus walked to the edge of the creek and stooped down to fill his water bag. The blond hunter snuck a look back and saw Hercules watching him intently. The demi-god couldn’t seem to decide whether to stare at Iolaus’ butt or scan the surroundings for danger.



The young man sighed and shook his head in frustration.



‘I wish Herc would make up his mind. If he wants me like I want him, then I wish he would say something or better yet, do something.’



Iolaus ducked his head and prayed. It was a general prayer, not sent to any particular god. So, any god that wanted to, listened in.



‘Please let him love me. I’d be a good companion for him. We get along and I love him with all my heart. Even more than I did Ania.’*



Iolaus whispered ashamedly in his mind. The specter of his dead fiancé flashed before Iolaus’ mind. He had truly loved the girl and had mourned for years when she was killed in a fall. But Hercules had always been in his heart, from the time they were children.



‘Please…I’m so lonely.’



The hunter dipped his hands into the water and rubbed his face vigorously. That got rid of the salty evidence of grief that was on his face. He got up and walked back to Hercules, who was pretending not to watch his friend.



^^^^^^



Tryst was still chained in the middle of the chamber. He watched Zeus and Aphrodite talking.



Quite frankly, Tryst was bored. It wasn’t that he liked the pain, but he could handle it. After all, he was a god. They couldn’t keep this up forever; eventually they would relax their vigil. The giant of a man gazed around the room. There were already less spectators than before.



Besides he liked being exposed.



His huge penis hung heavy between his outstretched legs. Tryst had seen many of the gods and goddesses eyeing it enviously.



A flash of pale skin in the audience made him turn.



Tryst could see Ganymede. He was a small man, smaller than Iolaus by several inches and very slender. His silvery blond hair hung well down onto his shoulders and looked like corn silk.



He looked like a fragile flower, surrounded by the much larger gods and goddesses. His bright hair shone like a beacon and his pale skin glowed alluringly.



The small immortal was wearing a very short, pale blue chiton that draped across one slender arm. As Tryst watched the material knotted on his shoulder came untied. The outfit slipped down, showing Ganymede’s pale, hairless chest and soft rose colored nipples.



Ganymede blushed a delicate rose color and caught the material. The young man looked around shyly, seeing if anyone had noticed. He retied the knot carefully. Raising his arms up made the hem ride up and *almost* exposed him. Ganymede realized this and carefully pushed it back down.



Tryst was becoming aroused. It was the first time in all of the long days of his body being touched that he had shown the slightest sign of an erection.



Ganymede looked up suddenly and saw the look in Tryst’s eyes. The young man glanced down and saw the evidence of Tryst’s interest. He blushed and looked away.



Everyone else’s attention was on Aphrodite and Zeus who were still arguing. Cupid went over and joined the fray.



Ganymede peeked back at Tryst through a curtain of silky hair; his bright green eyes looking on in interest. He watched Tryst’s twitching erection. The slight young man licked his lips and watched in fascination as Tryst’s penis got thicker and longer.



Ganymede flicked an intrigued look up at Tryst and saw the hunger in the big man’s eyes. Glancing around, the young man carefully made his way over to the bound man.



By the time Ganymede reached his side, Tryst was fully erect and panting.



‘If I can just get that beautiful boy to release me, I’ll take him away and bury myself in that inviting body for as long as I can.’



Tryst smiled seductively at the boy. ‘I bet he’ll scream wonderfully.’



Ganymede glanced around. He laid one slender hand on Tryst’s muscular thigh. As small as the young man was, his hand settled naturally just below the bound god’s impressive manhood.



Smiling sweetly, Ganymede slid his hand up. He glanced up shyly as his long, delicate fingers wrapped around Tryst’s penis. He stroked up and down a couple of times.



All thoughts of escape fled Tryst’s mind.



The other hand cupped Tryst’s balls and rolled them carefully.



Tryst was in Elysia and then…



Snick.



Tryst gasped as unyielding metal clamped tightly around his engorged penis and balls.



Mouth hanging open in surprise, Tryst watched as Ganymede backed away. The young man was holding his hands out like they were diseased.



Dite hurried over and put a supportive arm around Ganymede’s shaking shoulders. “Are you okay, honey?”



Ganymede nodded. “Is that what you all wanted?” He gestured to Tryst and his new jewelry.



“It’s just perfect.” Zeus smiled at his young cup bearer.



“Good.” The young man had an odd look on his face; a face that was now had an unhealthy greenish tinge to it.



“Let’s get you cleaned up.” Persephone came up from another direction and took hold of the young immortal.



Ganymede nodded, his eyes still on his hands. “I think I’m going to be sick.”



Athena took hold of his other arm, as Aphrodite moved over to one side, out of the way.



“I understand.” The two goddesses rushed the young man outside where wretching could be heard.



“That boy has gone above and beyond the call of duty. I’ll have to reward him somehow.” Zeus nodded thoughtfully before turning back to his prisoner.



^^^^^^



Cupid, Dite and Zeus crowded around. Cupid eyed Tryst’s enormous erection and was sick to his stomach. That *thing* had been used on Strife when he was a little boy.



Aphrodite smiled evilly and Tryst shivered, making his penis sway like an alarming snake.

Cupid’s eyes flashed a brilliant green and he lunged for the person who had caused his Strife so much pain.



Ares caught his snarling and spitting son; not without a lot of effort. Cupid flapped his wings; hands flexed into claws and began to drag his much larger father towards the prisoner. Hephaestus and Apollo came forward to help Ares hold onto his son.



“Wait Cupid.” Ares ducked in time to avoid being hit in the eye. “You agreed, just let Aphrodite and Zeus follow through with their plan.”



Thinking about the plan, a panting Cupid relaxed. He indicated his consent and allowed his family to pull him back. Aphrodite nodded and snapped her fingers. Tryst immediately fell forward.



For one brief moment, Tryst thought they had made a mistake. All he needed was a second without Hephaestus’ chains and he would disappear. This hope ended abruptly, about the same time as he abruptly slammed down onto the wooden altar Zeus had caused to appear.



Tryst screamed as all of his considerable body mass, plus the weight of the chains and restraining platform…landed squarely on his engorged and painfully trapped manhood.



The pain was so crushing, that if he were a human, Tryst would undoubtedly have had a heart attack. As it was, his vision darkened with the threat of passing out. He didn’t because of Apollo’s on-going contribution to his punishment; no passing out allowed.



The platform kept Tryst secured and spread-eagled. The narrow altar supported his body, but his arms and legs hung over the side. Tryst was still crying out as pain ran through his body.



Dite pulled out a nail file and waited. When Tryst stilled, she turned to Zeus. “Your turn.” She sashayed over to wait by Cupid.



Zeus raised his hands majestically. With a clap of thunder, several men appeared around Tryst’s table. The King of the God’s smiled.



‘It worked!’ He thought to himself. ‘It really worked, without *any* problems.’



Zeus was so ridiculously pleased that there hadn’t been any problems with his powers that he forgot what he was doing for a minute. Someone cleared their throat and Zeus went on, pretending he hadn’t been standing there, grinning like an idiot.



“I couldn’t find anyone willing to have sex with you.” Zeus shrugged. “Let alone *several* people. So…I created these creatures.”



The men were actually faceless automatons with genitalia the exact same size as Tryst’s. At a gesture from Zeus, the first one moved behind Tryst and shoved itself inside the prone god.



Tryst screamed as he was ripped open. Suddenly he wasn’t bored anymore.



Zeus raised his voice. “It’s not as bad as if you were a small boy…” Tryst shrieked as he was pounded unmercifully. “…but volume should make up for what they lack in bulk.”



There was an uneasy shifting in the room as people saw Tryst being punished.



The King of the Gods turned to his reluctant audience. “Tryst will be raped once for *every* time he raped Strife.” Zeus looked back and wiped a hand across his eyes. Sadly, he continued. “They’ll start over until the necessary number is reached.”



Aphrodite sobbed on her husband’s shoulder. The rest of the room looked at the *several* manlike creatures and were equally upset, realizing what they represented where Strife was concerned.



The crowd had thinned out. No one really wanted to see someone being raped, even if it was Tryst. With the chains, wards on the room and guards outside, Tryst wasn’t going anywhere.



Tryst was moaning. The second *thing* was coming forward. There was a brief flash and Tryst gasped. Zeus turned back. “Oh yes, I almost forgot, you are going to be healed between times…” Tryst screamed as he was ripped open again. “…so every time is like the first time.”



Zeus nodded in satisfaction. Ares pulled the door closed and left Tryst *all alone* with his companions.



^^^^^^



Strife sat up in the bed and watched Joxer changing Tempra’s diaper. The sickly god was carefully wrapped in several blankets, because Strife had gone from being hot all the time to having chills.



The young god smiled when Joxer threw the soiled nappy over his shoulder. It disappeared with a small puff of smoke. Tartarus only knew where it went.



Actually it was Tartarus where it ended up; in a room full of people who neglected their children. The diaper was just one of many.



“I wondah why a baby’s butt is just sa cute?”



Joxer grinned at his godly friend as he cleaned his daughter off. “I don’t know. Even covered in poop it’s still cute.”



“Yeah.”



Strife smiled tiredly and leaned his head back against the pillows. He wondered briefly where Cupid was, but was soon distracted when Tempra got the hiccups.



The sweet natured little girl, the same one that most everyone had a hard time seeing as the Goddess of Temper, was soon spitting mad. Her little fists flailed angrily every time she jerked with the hiccups. Perfect feet kicked angrily in the air.



“It’s a good thing she doesn’t have her powahs yet.” Strife laughed slightly.



“No kidding.” Joxer shook his head at his daughter’s antics. “Wait until she gets going.”



Strife watched the little red-head working herself up into a fit. He slowly pushed himself into a sitting position and leaned over the baby. Intrigued, she stopped scowling.



“She looks just like Unc when she does that.”



“I know. You should have seen the look on Ares’ face when I told him that. He looked so proud.” Joxer laughed. “The two of them made faces at each other all afternoon.”



The God of Mischief laughed along with his good friend. He then tilted his head to one side and watched amusedly as the baby girl imitated him. When he was sure he had Temmy’s full attention, Strife stuck out his tongue, crossed his eyes and made a funny noise. A loud, funny noise.



Tempra jumped in surprise, squeaking as she sucked in a surprised breath. Before she could cry, Strife placed a hand on her soft tummy, calming her.



After a minute or so, the baby girl gurgled happily, making spit bubbles and began playing with her toes. Joxer was shocked. “You did it.” He exclaimed quietly. “Her hiccups are cured.”



Strife laid back, worn out from this little bit of exercise. “It works every time.” He smiled at the happy Joxer. “I visit mah followahs…on tha sly. I don’t wanna scare anybody and seein tha God ah Mischief woulda scared most people. Anyway, I’ve helped lotsa little kids that had tha hiccups.”



The tired god closed his eyes; just for a *minute*.



“You’d be surprised how many people get mad when a kid gets upset ovah havin tha hiccups.” Strife rubbed his tummy protectively. “Tha little ones were always tha ones that suffered fah it, sa I helped settle them down.”



Joxer watched his friend slip deeper into sleep and smiled thoughtfully.



*Ania was Iolaus’ fiancé in the Hercules movie Hercules and the Amazons.




Fic: Overheard Conversations 27/?

Author: Kerensa

Email: vkevans@yahoo.com Feedback please. Feedback or death (well, maybe that’s going a little too far)

Rating: R, so far

Fandom: Xena/Hercules, brief mention of food from Harry Potter series

Pairing: Ares/Joxer, Cupid/Strife, Hercules/Iolaus

Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, I’m just borrowing them for a little fun. The same with the Harry Potter stories. I have no money, no property, I even have to borrow the food I eat, so please don’t sue me.

Warning: m/m; MPREG; talk of nonconsensual sex; talk of underage molestation, rape, and abuse; angst, TORTURE

Summary: Joxer and Strife are both pregnant and end up talking. Their husbands, Ares and Cupid overhear their conversation and find out a lot more about their husband’s, especially Strife’s past, than they ever imagined.

Status: WIP

Series: Children At Play

Archive: Yes to AJCS, Make Believe, MPREG and Lone Tree; anywhere else, sure just tell me first.



Chapter 27



Hercules sat in the corner and gritted his teeth. He and Iolaus were in a tavern in Thrace. A tavern where people were dancing. Where Iolaus was dancing…with Widow Twanky.



‘Damn, she’s good.’ Hercules thought to himself as he watched her dip his partner, friend, want-to-be-lover.



The demi-god took a long drink out of his mug and frowned when he realized it was empty. One of the tavern maidens sidled up to him and offered to get more. Hercules waved absently at the pretty young woman.



‘I wish she’d get the Tartarus out of the way.’



Hercules got his wish as the woman flounced off in a huff. She was not used to being ignored and bent down attractively when she sat the filled mug back on the table.



“Here you go…*sir*.” Her voice purred more than a dozen cats, but Hercules ignored the kitten voice and the ample cleavage that was being thrust in his face.



“Oh, thanks.”



He craned his neck, trying to see around her. Iolaus and Widow Twanky were still dancing. The older woman leaned forward and whispered in Iolaus’ ear. She was so close that a lock of his curly golden hair fluttered as she talked. Iolaus jumped and shivered at the sensation and then he laughed at whatever she was saying to him.



Hercules growled.



At the next table, several hunters decided it was time to call it a night. People on the dance floor noticed Hercules’ bad mood and decided to sit down for a while…on the other side of the room.



In fact, everybody except the Widow Twanky and Iolaus, were watching Hercules with a great deal of trepidation. Herc didn’t notice, because all he could see was his best friend and *that woman* getting closer and closer.



Hercules growled and snarled.



The song ended and Hercules thought he was saved, but alas and alack (I’ve always wanted to say that.) it was not to be. An even *slower* song began and the Widow Twanky pulled the blond hunter in close. They began to sway with the music and Hercules began to sway in his chair…from anger.



Iolaus squeaked when the older woman grabbed his nicely shaped, leather clad butt…with both hands. Before Hercules knew what he was doing, the demi-god was up and across the room. He grabbed Iolaus by the arm and snarled at the dance instructor.



“Keep your hands to yourself.” He tugged decisively on Iolaus’ arm, pulling the smaller man inexorably towards the tavern door. “Come on, we’re out of here.”



Iolaus took one look at Hercules’ face and decided not to argue with his bigger and much stronger friend.



Not that he really wanted to anyway.



^^^^^^



A scantily clad, blond young woman, bounced up to stand beside the more sedately dressed Widow Twanky.



“I think that worked, don’t you dearie.” She turned to look at the Goddess of Love.



Aphrodite smiled as she listened through the closed door. She could hear Hercules ranting as he drug Iolaus to the inn where they were staying. “I think it just might.” The invisible goddess (to everyone else) smiled again. “Thanks for your help.”



“Oh no, thank you.” The smaller woman rubbed her hands together. “I’m always glad to lend a *helping hand*.”



The two women laughed at the joke. People in the tavern steered clear of the obviously insane woman laughing by herself in the middle of the dance floor.



^^^^^^



Strife moved sluggishly back and forth on the bed. The muscles in his back and side spasmed and cramped endlessly. They were gnarled up like the branches of an old tree. The young god rocked himself slightly. It didn’t help with the pain, but he couldn’t seem to stop himself.



It was always worse at night. The pain seemed to grow substantially worse when the sun went down. The young god had come to hate seeing the sunset, something he normally loved.



True to his word, Strife wasn’t trying to hide it anymore. Not that he could. His pain could be seen in every movement and heard in each and every whimper he made.



Cupid molded himself to Strife’s back, he could feel the muscles twisting and contracting as he leaned against them. His body heat seemed to alleviate the pain somewhat. Cupid reached around and began to rub Strife’s stomach, trying to ease his husband’s burden.



Strife flinched and jerked at Cupid’s touch. Cupid immediately started to remove his hand. Strife stopped him by latching onto it and holding it up to tuck under his neck like a security blanket. The young god rocked faster.



“He’s too sore.”



Cupid looked up at Apollo. “What do you mean?”



Apollo smiled sadly at the love god. “His body is too sore to be touched.” At Cupid’s uncomprehending look, the Sun God explained. “Let me give you an example. Try rubbing your leg. It would feel good for a while, but then it gets annoying. If you keep it up long enough, it becomes painful.”



Ace saw the horrified look on Cupid’s face and *accidentally* hit his father on the arm for his lack of tact. “You haven’t done anything wrong Cupid; he’s just worn out.”



On the bedside table, the power collecting jar released a small amount of energy. The blue tendril floated over to the suffering god. It helped boost his flagging strength, which was a bad thing, because during a momentary lull in the pain, Strife had been about to fall asleep.



Strife cried out and gasped for breath. He frowned and began pulling on the oxygen mask frantically.



“No Strife, you need to keep that on.” Asclepius’ gentle touch stilled Strife’s weak hand.



The pregnant god shook his head. “I want it off fah a few minutes; it’s smotherin me.” Strife’s voice was muffled, but they understood him.



“All right, but just a *few* minutes.”



Strife nodded and looked a little less frantic when the mask was removed. “Thank ya.”



He twitched and squirmed. Strife tried rolling to his back and Cupid obediently pulled his husband over, onto his body. That helped for a minute and then Strife was moving again. He looked over his shoulder at Cupid.



“Help me sit up a minute. Ma-maybe that’ll help.”



He sounded so desperate that Cupid immediately scrambled around on the bed. With the help of Ace and Apollo and Joxer, who had just flashed in, they eased Strife up so that he was sitting on the side of the bed.



Strife was rumpled. His clothes were wrinkled and tangled, his hair was sticking out in all different directions (Yes, this time was different. It was sticking out in a *bad* way.) and his bed was a mess too. Joxer waved and refreshed Strife’s clothes and bedding.



“Is that any better?” Cupid asked hopefully.



Shaking, Strife looked at Cupid and seemed to be thinking. He shook his head no and then contradicted himself as he said, “I don’t know.”



He gasped and arched his back in pain. Strife started crying hopelessly. “It don’t stop.”



“What doesn’t, baby?” Cupid was at a loss, he didn’t know what else to do.



“Tha pain.” Strife gripped the sheets. “It doesn’t stop anymore, not even fah a minute.” He jerked in pain and ripped huge patches off of the sheets.



“Oh gods!” He leaned forward and grabbed onto Cupid’s hips; his slender fingers leaving tiny bruises on Cupid’s skin. “Make it stop…please, someone help me.”



Strife buried his face into his husband’s chest. Another spasm and he screamed. The sound was muffled, but Cupid felt it straight through to his heart.



“Oh gods, do something.” Joxer looked at the two healers and begged. He was crying as badly as Strife and Cupid were.



Apollo was pulling on his hair frantically, trying to think of something, anything. Ace was pacing when suddenly…he stopped. The healer looked at the agony Strife was in and made a decision. He closed his eyes for a second and concentrated.



There was a brief flash. Cupid looked up to see Hades; he clutched Strife tighter in fear. Strife felt Cupid tense up and peered over his shoulder.



“Not taday…please.” Strife sobbed. “I don’t know if I could say no taday.”



Hades moved forward and knelt in the middle of the bed. “Shhh, it’s all right.” He placed a hand on the back of Strife’s neck and there was a slight flash. Strife sagged in Cupid’s arms like he had no bones left in his body. Before Cupid could panic, Hades touched his other hand to the back of Cupid’s neck. “It’s all right.” He reassured again.



The two gods laid Strife back in the bed. Joxer again fixed the sheets. The young god was still crying helplessly. Joxer reached over and stroked his best friend’s forehead soothingly; all the while exerting a tiny fraction of his godhood. It worked and as Strife felt the peaceful feelings envelope him, he calmed down.



Strife lay, gasping for breath and looking around in wonder. “I’m not hurtin anywheah.” Looking over at Cupid, he smiled, his blue eyes trying to be comforting. “I ain’t hurtin, Cupe.”



Cupid smiled and kissed Strife carefully and quickly. The young god was still panting for breath. Cupid ran a hand over Strife’s dark hair as he cupped his chin; realizing that Strife was once again frozen by Hades.



“thank ya.” Strife’s voice was a reedy whisper.



Cupid looked up at his uncle, thanks shining from his eyes.



Hades smiled sadly at both men and ran a comforting hand over both of their heads. “No thanks are necessary.”



“is this…hurtin…tha baby?”



Hades moved back as Asclepius replaced Strife’s oxygen mask and Apollo waved a hand over his stomach.



“No, the…” Apollo started to speak and closed his mouth quickly. “…baby seems fine… Oops, I almost spilled the grain. You still don’t want to know what the baby is, right?” At Cupid’s nod, he continued. “Okay then. The *baby* is fine, *it* seems to be asleep right now.”



“how…how long can I stay like this?” Strife was struggling to keep his eyes open. “can I take a little nap?” He frowned, hating that he was begging, but he was just so tired.



“I think you can take more than a nap.” Apollo smiled, not his usual wolfish smile, but a genuine ‘I care about you’ smile.



“okay.” His eyelids fluttered as he tried to keep them open. Strife looked at his tired and still upset husband. “ya…ya need ta get some rest taa.” Strife’s eyes slid shut and then opened reluctantly. “go on now…” He watched Cupid struggling. “please.”



“All right baby, if it means that much to you, I’ll go get something to eat and rest for a while.” Cupid smiled, but it was a strained smile, showing just how close to the edge he was.



Strife watched through slitted eyes as Cupid went out the door. “joxah?” He looked beseechingly at the other young god.



“I will.” Joxer smiled and followed Cupid into the hallway.



When Strife saw that Joxer was going to take care of Cupid, he allowed himself to fall asleep.



Hades, Apollo and Asclepius carefully turned Strife back onto his side so his breathing was better. They all sat down to wait; keeping vigil over the injured god.



^^^^^^



Joxer followed Cupid out into the hallway, just in time to see him slide down the wall into a huddle. The young god raced forward and pulled Cupid into a hug, noticing that Cupid was rocking himself just like Strife had been.



“Shhh, it’s all right. It will be all right.”



For just a moment, Joxer had the feeling this had happened before. He recognized something vaguely familiar about this situation. A flash of an image raced across his mind, but before he could identify it, Cupid began talking.



“How? How in Zeus’ name is it going to be all right?” Cupid buried his face in Joxer’s shoulder.



“Cupid…”



Cupid raised his head up. Joxer winced at the sad look in his eyes. “Strife is in so much pain. How can he go on for another three or four weeks!”



The love god leaned back against the wall. Joxer sat down beside him. “I don’t know how to help him.”



Joxer held his step-son and let Cupid cry. He didn’t use his powers this time, because Cupid needed to let some of the tension out or he was going to explode. Eventually Cupid leaned back and closed his eyes.



“He’s not always in pain.” Cupid opened his eyes and looked into Joxer’s sincere brown ones.



“You’ve never been mortal and therefore don’t really know what it’s like to be hurt, do you?” Cupid thought about it for a moment and then shook his head.



“I’ve never thought about it before. But no, I haven’t ever *really* been hurt.” The God of Love frowned and looked upset again, like it was a bad thing to be uninjured.



“Right, well…I have.” Joxer swallowed hard at some of the memories that simple sentence evoked. The young god pushed those memories back into the deepest part of his mind.



“Strife is hurting. He gets tense when something hurts or cramps up. That, in turn, makes his body tense, which just makes him hurt more. The next time something hurts, it’s worse and so on.”



Cupid listened and thought about what Joxer was saying. “Add to that the lack of sleep from hurting so much and he was bound to fall apart.” Joxer smiled kindly and Cupid relaxed.



“He’ll feel much better after he’s rested. Strife’s body will be comfortable and won’t ache nearly as much.”



The love god frowned and whispered. “But how’s he going to make it for another month?”



“Nothing says he has to carry the baby that long.” Cupid looked at Joxer with hope for the first time. “Babies are born early all the time. Maybe this one can too.”



Cupid sat up and grabbed hold of Joxer’s arms. “Do you think…maybe it’s…” He bit his lip. “Do you really think so?”



Joxer nodded, his brown hair danced in the torchlight. “Yes, I do.”



Cupid stood up and the two men started back to ask Ace and Apollo. At the other end of the corridor, a door flew open. Athena raced down the hallway waving a small book in her hand.



“I think I’ve found something!”



^^^^^^



Joxer flashed into the chamber. He looked around for Ares and spied him leaning against the far wall. Joxer strode over, completely ignoring the glowering man in chains.



Despite *many* days worth of torture, Tryst was still his arrogant self.



“Ares, you wanted me.” Joxer smiled at his husband and hoped this wouldn’t take long. He needed to get back to Strife. Only his and Cupid’s presence comforted the pained god nowadays.



Mind you, Strife wasn’t actually in pain right now, because he was still frozen by Hades. But the pregnant god was still exhausted and tended to panic when he woke up and couldn’t move. More fears, courtesy of the monster restrained behind Joxer.



“Angel, it’s your turn.”



Joxer frowned, his mind his preoccupied with Strife.



‘I wonder what Athena found in that book. I hope it’ll help Strife.’



Preoccupied with his thoughts, Joxer missed hearing what his husband had to say. A touch on his arm brought Joxer back to the present.



“I’m sorry Ares, what did you say?”



Ares’ eyes twinkled with love and Joxer had to smile back. The God of War gestured towards Tryst.



“It’s your chance to punish Tryst.” Ares smiled at his gentle, loving husband. “If you want, one of us could take your turn.”



Several of the gods leaned towards the couple. They were hoping Joxer would take his husband up on the offer. They really didn’t see the God of Peace hurting anyone.



“Oh.” Joxer looked at the naked man. “Okay.”



Mistakenly they thought Joxer was giving up his turn. They soon learned better.



Joxer walked over to stand in front of Tryst. He tilted his head back and forth, several times…appraisingly. While the other gods had planned and perfected their revenge, Joxer had been too worried about Strife to even think about it. Besides, Joxer’s mind just didn’t work that way. The young god could defend himself and those he loved, but he had never deliberately hurt anyone before.



He frowned for awhile. He couldn’t think!



Joxer blew out a breath of frustration. “Oh, the Tartarus with it.”



The nice young god stepped back a few feet. He raised his hand and everyone waited without very much hope.



At the last second, Joxer turned to Ares. “He can’t pass out right.” At a nod he continued. “And he won’t become numb to the pain?”



Ares smiled. “No, he feels every second.”



“Okay, good.” Joxer smiled at his husband brightly.



He turned back to his friend’s rapist and the smile fell off like it had never been there. Tryst looked a little less sure of himself.



He wasn’t facing Joxer the Mighty or the God of Peace. No, Tryst was being confronted with Joxer, the young man who had been hurt most of his life. Standing there with a hardened face was Joxer, who knew *exactly* what Tryst had done to Strife. Things that even Cupid didn’t know yet.



“I’ve always thought that simple was the best.”



With that the young god rubbed his hands together briskly. A fire ball formed between his palms. It was a bright orange-red color, almost too bright to look at. Joxer pulled his arm back and threw.



Everyone waited, this time in breathless anticipation. They weren’t disappointed.



The fire ball flew from his hand and stopped a few feet later. It expanded, going up to the ceiling. The sides and back widened until you had a solid column of flames.



Tryst’s shook his head in denial. His lips were trembling and tears started to run down his face. No one knew, but the evil god had a phobia about fire. He looked to Joxer and whimpered.



For the first time, Tryst was really frightened. Even the gods have a healthy respect for fire.



Joxer hesitated a moment and then he made himself think about Strife. Strife as a child, being hurt by Tryst. Strife as he was now, in constant pain.



The God of Peace smiled, a truly malevolent smile that frightened the most hardened of the gods. He pursed his lips and blew gently. The flame leapt forward and didn’t stop until Tryst was surrounded.



The screams reached a new level.



Joxer calmly turned and walked out the door. His mind already back on his friend and what he could do to ease his pain.



The room behind him was thunderstruck. The gods looked from their shrieking prisoner to the slender, retreating body with awe. They would never take the God of Peace for granted again.



^^^^^^



Strife felt the ghost of a touch glide across the back of his hand. He opened his eyes to see Cupid looking so sad. His hand was one of the few places Cupid could safely touch his husband without causing him additional pain.



Actually it wasn’t. But Strife wasn’t going to let Cupid know that. He might stop. Strife took whatever affection he could get, forgetting that love was his for the taking any time he wanted it.



The God of Mischief closed his eyes and went back to sleep.





Fic: Overheard Conversations 28/?

Author: Kerensa

Email: vkevans@yahoo.com Feedback please. Feedback or death (well, maybe that’s going a

little too far)



Rating: R, so far

Fandom: Xena/Hercules, brief mention of food from Harry Potter series

Pairing: Ares/Joxer, Cupid/Strife

Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, I’m just borrowing them for a little fun.

The same with the Harry Potter stories. I have no money, no property, I even have to borrow

the food I eat, so please don’t sue me.

Warning: m/m; MPREG; talk of nonconsensual sex; talk of underage molestation, rape, and

abuse; angst

Summary: Joxer and Strife are both pregnant and end up talking. Their husbands, Ares and

Cupid overhear their conversation and find out a lot more about their husband’s, especially

Strife’s past, than they ever imagined.

Status: WIP

Series: Children At Play

Archive: Yes to AJCS, Make Believe, Beyond Cannon, Lone Tree Preserve and MPREG; anywhere

else, sure just tell me first.

Website: Nope, sorry I wouldn’t know how to set one up.

Notes: I want to thank my mother for some of the ideas in this story. She thought up the bad

guy’s name and some ways to hurt poor Strife. Later in the series I will mention something,

briefly, from the I LOVE LUCY show; bonus points if you can find it. Beta’d by me and

Spellcheck.



Chapter 28



“…this spell will allow us to pull some of the pain out of Strife and take it into

ourselves.”



Strife could hear talking and tried to open his eyes. They wouldn’t cooperate, so he just lay

there.



“How long will it last?”



That sounded like Iolaus, but Strife couldn’t be sure. Lack of sleep and continuous pain had

sapped the young god’s energy.



“It will last until we are able to heal him. Or until the pain is transferred back to him.”

There were angry grumbles. (Gee, who could that be?) “I agree. Nobody’s going to make him

take the pain back.”



‘I wondah who they’re talkin about?’



Strife tried to work out the mystery, for a few seconds, and then he decided he just didn’t

care. Sleep beckoned, but the young god managed to hold it off for a little while longer.



Cupid was stroking his hand again and it felt so nice that the mischief god let himself drift

in the comfort. Since he could feel Cupid touching him, Strife surmised that Hades had taken

the freezing spell off again. It could only be left on for short periods of time or the baby

would be endangered.



Strife recognized that he felt safe, even surrounded by other people. The young god soaked in

the contented feeling, knowing it would probably be gone soon. If he didn’t move, didn’t

breathe very deep, if the Fates were kind to him…the pain might stay away for a few more

minutes.



If there was one thing Strife had learned in his short, brutal life; happiness was a rare

commodity, one that people and circumstances were always trying to take away from you.



Cupid’s voice was as soothing as his touch and the pregnant god let himself drift towards

sleep once more. “It won’t hurt Strife will it…or the baby?”



Strife forced himself to open his eyes at that question. *Nobody* was going to hurt his baby.



“Of course not, Cupid, I wouldn’t have brought the book over if that were the case.” Athena

sounded only slightly offended.



The God of Love sighed. “I’m sorry, I know you wouldn’t.”



There was quiet for a few moments and Strife tried to focus on Asclepius’ face, his eyes

didn’t want to work properly, so he closed them again. The young god frowned and thought

about what he’d heard.



“Sa, ya mean that evahbody would be hurtin instead ah just me.”



Cupid jumped when Strife started speaking. The young god opened his eyes and looked up at his

husband. He realized that Cupid and indeed, all the rest of the assembled gods, hadn’t

realized he was awake.



“Uh, no Strife. That’s not how it would be at all.”



Apollo laid his hand on Strife’s blanket covered leg. Cupid growled and he hastily removed

it.



Asclepius moved forward and sat down on the edge of the bed. *He* laid his hand on Strife’s

leg and no one objected. Apollo huffed in a breath at the unfairness of the situation. He was

innocent! (Oh dear, is anyone else rolling on the floor? That’s what I thought.)



“With this spell…” Ace waved the book that Athena had brought. “…we could take out some of

your pain, but…” He raised a hand to stop Strife’s objection. “…but we can divide that pain

up among *several* different people.”



Strife licked his lips as his tired mind tried to wrap itself around the concept. Cupid

pulled Strife up a little and gave him a drink of water. When he started to lay his husband

back down, Strife held on tight; so, Cupid kept his lover reclining against his chest.



“We wouldn’t be able to take all of the pain away, but we could lessen it. And…” Asclepius

raised one finger in the air to emphasize his point. Strife watched as Ace’s hand seemed to

waver in front of him. “…we can spread the injuries out.”



“What?”



Strife flinched as his back spasmed slightly. Unknowingly, the young god whimpered. Ace

started talking faster.



“Instead of having all of your injuries, we can give one or two to each person. That way the

pain won’t be as overwhelming as it is for you.”



“I…” The young god shook his head to clear away the fuzziness. “…I can’t ask anyone ta do

somethin like that.”



“Then it’s a good thing you’re not asking.”



Strife rolled his head where it rested on his husband’s shoulder and looked at his uncle, his

brow furrowed in questioning.



“We’re going to do it and that’s final.”



Ares crossed his arms over his chest and looked at his nephew. Strife smiled at the *bad ass*

pose his uncle was using. The young god found himself agreeing, just like he always did where

Ares was concerned.



“o-okay.”



“Good.” Ares nodded emphatically, even as his eyes sparkled with love.



“Thank you, baby.” Cupid whispered into Strife’s ear, relief evident in his husky voice.



“ya’re welcome.”



^^^^^^



“This is gettin ta be a regular sight.”



Joxer laughed at his best friend’s statement. He glanced around the bedroom and was

overwhelmed by the amount of deities waiting around.



“Yes, it is, isn’t it.”



Strife looked around the room guiltily. He couldn’t believe that his fellow gods and

goddesses were willing to *hurt* for him. Most of them didn’t even know what the word pain

meant, except when applied to their mortal followers.



The god’s conscience wavered and he almost called the whole thing off and then, well, and

then he remembered the pain on Cupid’s face and the fierce determination in his uncle’s eyes

and Strife told his conscience to back off.



“Strife.”



He opened his eyes and looked around disorientedly. Strife had almost fallen asleep, in the

middle of his and Joxer’s conversation. The shallow breaths that he was forced to take,

because of the ever present pain in his sides, caused the stricken god to be breathless most

of the time.



“Yeah, Ace?”



“Are you ready to begin?”



Again, his conscience tried to stand up. “Uh, I don’t…” Ares frowned at him and growled, low

in his throat. Strife’s conscience dropped to its figurative knees and crawled back to where

it came from.



“Yeah, I’m ready.”



“Good.”



Joxer moved from his spot at Strife’s side and Asclepius took his place. “First things

first.”



Cupid helped roll Strife partly onto his back. Several pillows were placed behind the

pregnant god, to hold him in place as his husband was forced to let go. The God of Healing

gently placed his hands on Strife’s ribs. Very gently. Even so, Strife jerked in pain and

gasped for a few moments.



“Those who *volunteered* for this part, please step forward.” Ace made sure to stress the

volunteered part to help ease any guilt in Strife’s mind. Ares, Hercules, Athena, Hephaestus

and Gaea surrounded the bed.



The group all touched Asclepius someplace on his back. They had been told what to do and they

knew it was important that the connection from Strife to Ace to them not be broken until the

spell was over.



Asclepius began to chant the words of the spell. A slight glow fell over the group and they

all closed their eyes as Ace concentrated.



Strife gasped and arched up into the light touch. He could feel the pain being pulled out of

his body. It felt like he was standing in the ocean at high tide. The waves of the spell

pulling him, farther and farther outside of himself. Just as he was about to panic, it was

over.



Strife collapsed on the bed. He missed the looks on his five helper’s faces and it was a good

thing. Pain hit all of them, making even the strongest hunch over in misery.



Ares looked at his nephew in horror. This was only part of what Strife felt all the time.



“Does that feel better?” Strife smiled and nodded slightly. “We were only able to pull out

about half of the pain. I wish we could do more, but the constraints of the spell itself

won’t allow it.”



“No…that helps sa much.”



‘Half!’ Ares thought to himself. ‘We’re feeling half of what he feels.’ Then the God of War

looked at his half-brother and fellow gods. ‘Not even that. Because that half is divided

among the five of us.’



Ares looked at his nephew and frowned when he realized that the terrible pain in his ribs was

only a fraction of what Strife had dealt with his whole life. Doubling up his fists in anger,

Ares cursed that he had already had his time to punish Tryst. He realized that they were

being too nice to the evil god.



Strife smiled contentedly as he luxuriated in breathing painlessly, at least for him, for the

first time in months.



“Okay, let’s work on your back next.”



Another set of people stepped up to help the stricken god.



^^^^^^



Hercules sat down on a rock and squirmed around as his ribs ached. As a half-god, Hercules

wasn’t any better equipped to deal with the pain than his godly counterparts.



He watched irritably as Gabrielle flirted with Iolaus again. The demi-god scowled at the

blond woman and seriously thought about going over there and smacking her upside the back of

her head. He figured that if he aimed just right, she would fall forward, unconscious, and

drown while nobody was looking.



He smiled at the idea.



^^^^^^



Gabrielle, who was unaware that her murder was being planned just a few feet away, slid

forward in the water and ran a hand across Iolaus’ bare chest. The hunter ooched himself

over, even as he smiled uneasily.



The four friends had decided to camp together for a while. Each one of the heroes had taken

some of Strife’s pain into themselves, earlier in the day. None of them were at their best

physically and they were hoping to protect each other at this time when they were vulnerable.



Xena sighed and rolled her eyes at her friend’s not-so-subtle antics. She saw Iolaus’

attempts to get away without being rude. And she caught the look in Hercules’ eye.



“God’s!” She muttered in exasperation.



None of them were in the best of moods. Hercules’ ribs were hurting. Gabrielle was nauseated

and had leg cramps. She had taken part of the problems Strife was having with being pregnant.

Xena snorted.



‘I don’t see her having a baby anytime soon. Well, another baby.’



The way the bard had whined since she took part of Strife’s misery made Xena pray to Hera,

the Goddess of Childbirth. She prayed that if Gabrielle did ever have another baby, Xena

would be far, far away. When Gabby gave birth to Hope, the pregnancy was quick. She didn’t

have to put up with the everyday aches and pains that come from carrying a child for nine

months, so she had no idea what she was letting herself in for.



Iolaus had moved over as far as he could in the stream without getting into the deeper water.

Moonlight glinted off the clear water, giving the Warrior Princess a good look at Iolaus’

face. He was wincing in pain. Pain that was caused by Strife’s badly mangled hips. The blond

man pushed his hair out of his face wearily. Again he tried to scoot away by sliding back,

into the shrubbery beside the water.



Gabrielle followed, like a lioness bringing down her supper.



Xena hoped she didn’t have to break up a fight, her head was throbbing like mad. That was her

gift to Strife. The young god’s head had been injured numerous times over his life and the

pain was terrible.



Finally having enough, Xena stood up. “Gabrielle!” She snapped at her younger friend. The

young woman in question looked up irritably. Iolaus smiled his thanks at the Warrior

Princess.



“We’d better turn in for the night. Don’t you think?”



Gabrielle started to protest, but Iolaus’ enthusiastic cry overrode her. “Great idea. We want

to be nice and rested for tomorrow.”



Nobody bothered to ask what they needed this rest for. A day sitting around the campfire

wasn’t exactly stressing, but except for Gabrielle, nobody cared. Any excuse to get away from

the mounting tension was okay with them.



The blond bard stood and stretched sensuously. Her bathing clothes were skimpy, but it wasn’t

really that much of a big deal. Her regular clothes were so revealing that this glimpse of

skin wasn’t that much of a difference.



Iolaus waited until she was out of the way and he stood up.



And Hercules gasped.



And Xena stared, mentally drooling.



Gabrielle’s eyes widened and she grinned.



Iolaus, oblivious to all the commotion, stood for a moment, trying to unkink his aching back

and hips. He absentmindedly wiped the sand off his butt. His bare butt.



Joxer, a good friend of Iolaus’, had given him a replica of Ares’ bathing costume. The much

vaunted and greatly admired g-string. Iolaus’ was a bright, shiny blue and showed off his

assets to considerable advantage, both those in front and the nicely rounded ones in back.



“Here Iolaus, let me help you with that sand.”



Iolaus tried to back away from Gabby and her helpful hands. Xena wondered if the disaster

could be prevented and privately, wondered if she could lend a hand too.



The inhuman roar startled all three of them into stillness.



^^^^^^



Hercules’ mouth hung open. When he had come down to the beach earlier, Iolaus had already

been in the water. The hunter had said he hoped the buoyancy of the water would help ease his

pains.



So Hercules hadn’t seen what Iolaus was wearing. He just assumed that his good friend had on

the same loincloth covering that he did.



Now he knew differently.



The demi-god’s eyes glazed over as he took in the sight before him. Iolaus was perfection

itself as he stood there, water sliding off of his smooth skin. Hercules licked his lips as

he could almost taste the water that he wanted to suck off of that skin. His fingers tingled

with the thought of gripping those taunt…



“Here Iolaus, let me help you with that sand.”



That nauseatingly sweet voice cut through the fantasy quicker than a hydra through a village.

Hercules’ eyes narrowed as he saw Iolaus retreating from that blond twit.



“Rrrrrarrrghgggh.”



Gabrielle turned startled blue eyes towards Hercules and she stumbled back, falling on *her*

butt in the water. He stalked towards her, not seeing Xena moving forward to protect her

friend.



“You keep your hands to yourself. He’s MINE!”



The snarl had the bard scrambling back, crab like, towards Xena and presumed safety. Hercules

noted the fear and reveled in it. He looked at Xena and saw her nod of understanding.



“Huh.”



Turning towards the man he loved, Hercules grabbed Iolaus by the shoulders and tugged him

close. Iolaus looked up with bright, shining eyes.



“No one else *ever* sees you like this again.” He gave the smaller man a little shake. “Got

it.”



“Uh, sure Herc.”



Hercules smiled seductively. “Except for me.” He reached behind the hunter and grabbed…his

behind. Both hands gave the rounded cheeks a good squeeze.



“Ohhhh. Yes, Hercules.” Iolaus grinned at his soon-to-be lover.



The two men walked back to the campfire. Hercules made sure that he was between Iolaus and

the two women. No more free peeks at Iolaus’ fine form were happening again. And just to make

sure, Hercules kept his hands over Iolaus’ beautiful behind, just covering it, of course.



Xena and Gabrielle followed at a distance. Before Gabrielle could lay down, Xena scooped up

their bedrolls and moved a discrete distance away, on the other side of the camp site.



^^^^^^



“Herc…I don’t think I can…”



“Shhh. It’s all right Iolaus. Neither one of us are ready to go any farther tonight.” He

kissed the blond hunter for a few seconds and then stopped. “But Strife will have his baby in

a few weeks and we won’t be hurting when they heal him. And then…” Hercules smiled, brushing

the damp curls off of Iolaus’ face.



“I’ll wear this outfit for you again.” Iolaus kissed Hercules once more. “*Only* for you.”



Hercules looked over at their wet bathing clothes. They had changed out of them almost

immediately. It was too cold to sleep in wet clothing.



“Damn right.”



Grinning happily, Iolaus turned around and Hercules spooned up behind him. Humming

contentedly, the two men fell in an easy slumber, dreaming of nights yet to come.



^^^^^^



Across the clearing a nearly naked goddess stood watching. She sighed mightily and her ample

chest heaved prettily.



“Finally!”



Aphrodite smiled and nodded her head, curls bouncing crazily. “I knew that outfit would get

Hercules to make a move.”



With a giggle, she disappeared in a bright pink flash. Flowers and hearts littered the ground

in her wake.



Fic: Overheard Conversations 29/?

Author: Kerensa

Email: vkevans@yahoo.com Feedback please. Feedback or death (well, maybe that’s going a

little too far)

Rating: R, so far

Fandom: Xena/Hercules, brief mention of food from Harry Potter series

Pairing: Ares/Joxer, Cupid/Strife

Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, I’m just borrowing them for a little fun.

The same with the Harry Potter stories. I have no money, no property, I even have to borrow

the food I eat, so please don’t sue me.

Warning: m/m; MPREG; talk of nonconsensual sex; talk of underage molestation, rape, and

abuse; angst

Summary: Joxer and Strife are both pregnant and end up talking. Their husbands, Ares and

Cupid overhear their conversation and find out a lot more about their husband’s, especially

Strife’s past, than they ever imagined.

Status: WIP

Series: Children At Play

Archive: Yes to AJCS, Make Believe, Beyond Cannon, Lone Tree Preserve and MPREG; anywhere

else, sure just tell me first.

Website: Nope, sorry I wouldn’t know how to set one up.

Notes: I want to thank my mother for some of the ideas in this story. She thought up the bad

guy’s name and some ways to hurt poor Strife. Later in the series I will mention something,

briefly, from the I LOVE LUCY show; bonus points if you can find it. Beta’d by me and

Spellcheck.



Chapter 29



“Baby.”



Cupid’s quiet voice roused Strife once more. The mischief god was so drained. He felt better,

the pain level had lowered so that it didn’t hurt to breathe anymore, but he was still very

tired from the maneuvers. Every time Asclepius used the spell to pull pain from Strife’s

body, it also pulled out energy.



Beside his bed, the ginger jar that contained the pent up power from Strife’s godhood, was

steadily sending out energy. A thin blue stream flowed from the small mouth of the jar to

Strife’s body. Apollo had unstoppered it, because the pregnant god needed to be replenished

before they could help him any more.



“yeah, cupe?” Strife’s voice was a reedy whisper.



“There’s something I need to ask you and you’re not going to like it.”



At that, Ares and Apollo’s heads snapped up. Kind of like a couple of dogs at a hunt.

(Appropriate in Apollo’s case.) The last thing Strife needed right now was to get upset.



“wh-what is it?”



“I have somebody here who wants to help take away some of your pain.”



“uhm, okay.” Strife thought and thought. He couldn’t imagine who it could be that Cupid felt

would upset him. Only Try…him…Tryst, would be that horrible and Strife wasn’t worried. *He*

was securely tucked away in Tartarus. Strife knew he was safe from him.



“who?”



Cupid opened his mouth to answer, but was forestalled by a small, clear voice. “Hi Daddy

Strife.”



“hi kiddo.”



Strife smiled at his young son and let the little boy take hold of his hand. “how are ya

doin, kiddo?”



“I’m fine.” The little boy beamed and it brightened the whole room. Even Strife managed to

dredge up a smile in return. “I’m going to help make your hurts go away.”



The God of Mischief smiled and nodded sleepily…until what the little boy had said penetrated

his hazy brain.



“What?!”



The little godling was the only person in the room who wasn’t affected by Strife’s shout. To

Bliss, it was little more than a whisper, but to the others, who knew just how weak Strife

was, it was a full out bellow.



“Son, why don’t you go outside for a few minutes.” Bliss frowned and looked back and forth

between his Daddies. “It’s alright, I’ll come get you in a few minutes. In the meantime you

can play with Bob.”



“Okay.” The small child smiled happily and ran out into the corridor to play with his

favorite two-headed dog.



“Cupe.” Strife grabbed hold of Cupid’s arm and tried to lever himself up. He grunted as he

tried to raise his tired, heavy body from the bed. The size of Strife’s tummy would have been

a hindrance even if he wasn’t exhausted.



“Strife, baby, you need to calm down.”



Cupid pushed on Strife’s thin shoulders, lightly pressing him back into the pillow, in order

to keep him on the bed. The pregnant god struggled a moment and then gave up. There was no

way that he was strong enough to fight his husband. Instead, Strife tugged on Cupid’s kilt.



“Cupid, what’re ya thinkin. Theah’s no way that I’m gonna let Bliss do…” Strife struggled

with what he wanted to say. “He isn’t gonna hurt because ah me.”



The love god kissed the glimmer of tears from Strife’s cheeks. Pale blue eyes looked up at

Cupid beseechingly.



“Baby, just listen to me, okay.” Strife nodded.



“This is really important to Bliss. He can see how much you’ve been hurting and he wants to

help.”



“But…”



“No, let me finish.” Strife closed his eyes resignedly.



“Do you trust me?”



Strife’s eyes flew open. “Ah course I do, Cupe.”



Cupid smiled and rubbed one hand across Strife’s sharp cheekbone. “Bliss wants to help you

and we…” He gestured one hand towards Ace. “…have figured a way for him to do that, *without*

hurting him very much.”



Before Strife could say anything else, Asclepius moved closer to the bed and picked up his

hand. “Strife, which finger hurts you the least?”



The question was a strange one, at least to Strife’s still tired mind. He closed his eyes and

frowned in concentration. Flexing his fingers experimentally, he pondered the question. It

was difficult to decide where the pain wasn’t as intense.



“Uh…mah pointin fingah, I guess.”



“Okay, here’s the plan. We let Bliss take the pain from this one finger. Ahhh…” The god put

his fingers over Strife’s lips to stop the argument before it could begin. “Naturally we will

divide the pain up over a *lot* of other people. Bliss will only receive a *tiny* portion of

the pain, just enough for him to feel like he’s helping you.”



Strife looked over at his husband pleadingly. He saw the same feeling looking back from

Cupid’s eyes and sighed, giving in. “Alright. I know ya wouldn’t let anythin happen ta Bliss.

If ya think this will help him…then I agree.”



Cupid leaned over and kissed Strife on the eyelids. Strife wrapped his arms around his

husband and held on tight. “Just…just gimme a minute, okay.”



There was silence in the room, as everyone gave the young god a little time to get used to

the idea. Strife’s love and care for all children was widely known, even on Earth, but his

feelings for his little, adopted son were particularly strong.



The blue light of Strife’s energy, slid around the God of Love and continued on its path.

Every second saw Strife growing stronger and a little closer to being helped some more.



Finally, Strife relaxed and let go of his tight grip on Cupid’s neck. Cupid leaned back and

looked at Strife enquiringly. Strife took a hitching breath and nodded, he couldn’t say the

words out loud and Cupid understood.



“Hi, Daddy. Hi, Daddy Strife.”



It was hard to remain upset in the light of Bliss’ enthusiasm and Strife smiled happily.

“Hiya, kiddo.”



“Can I help now?”



The little winged god, bounced up and down beside his father. “Yeah…okay.”



“Yea!” Bliss clapped happily.



Cupid laughed, as did several other people. Any happiness in this room was wonderful to hear

right now. And it was contagious.



“Settle down son and sit down.”



Bliss grinned, but he gingerly sat on the edge of Strife’s bed. Asclepius sat down directly

behind him. He picked up Strife’s hand. It was shaking badly and Bliss frowned and leaned

forward. “It’s okay Daddy, we’ll make it all better.”



Strife bit his lip, so as not to cry in the face of such sweetness.



“Touch my leg Bliss, but remember don’t touch your Daddy while we’re doing the spell. Okay?”

The little boy nodded solemnly at Ace.



Strife saw Ares walk up and place his hand on Asclepius’ back. And then Apollo did and

Hephaestus and Aphrodite. Then Athena touched Ares’ back…and so on. In just a few moments,

all the gods and goddesses in the room were linked together. None of them wanted to see the

little boy hurting.



A slight hum filled the room as the God of Healing said the spell. For a second, Bliss’ eyes

filled with tears and then it was over.



“D-Do you feel better now, Daddy Strife?”



Strife pulled his son closer and kissed his finger. “Yeah, ya’ve helped a lot.”



^^^^^^



“Daddy.”



“Yes, Bliss.”



Cupid stopped tucking the little boy into bed, to see what he wanted. His hand was propped up

on a pillow, to make his owie feel better.



Privately, Cupid hoped that Strife never saw the pillow or the way that their son held his

hand so carefully. The little godling wasn’t handling the pain, but he was so proud to be

helping his daddy that nobody had the heart to say anything.



“Is the man that hurt Daddy Strife going to hurt me?”



In a flash, the God of Love had an image of Tryst hitting Bliss. “NO!”



Another image of Tryst naked, sped across his mind. The thought of that animal and his son,

even in the same universe, was enough to make the love god sick to his stomach.



Cupid made himself calm down when he saw the scared look on his son’s face. “Never.

He will never hurt any child again.” Thinking of Strife, Cupid declared, “or any body else

either.”



“Okay Daddy.”



A child’s total belief in their parent’s ability to protect them is a wonderful thing. Cupid

sat and watched his child sleep the sleep of the innocent and protected and then he went back

to his husband and watched him as well.



^^^^^^



The door slammed back and knocked a chunk out of the stone wall. People craned their necks to

see who was coming in. A violent entrance like that was usually reserved for Ares, but he was

already there.



Tryst raised his head and looked worriedly at the door. When he saw who was there, the

imprisoned god smirked and looked away in dismissal.



Asclepius marched forward, ignoring everyone and everything in his path. The god kicked away

some chains with one sandaled foot. He shoved a rack of weapons to one side.



The entrance had surprised everyone. Asclepius was one of the most even tempered and quiet

gods on Olympus.



“Do you know what I’ve been doing the last couple of days?”



The question was directed at Tryst, but it was obvious that Ace didn’t really expect an

answer.



“I’ve been helping Strife with his pain.” The god walked closer to Tryst. Extending one hand,

he bent his fingers into hooks and raked one hand across a naked thigh. The huge god flinched

in pain. “Pain that you caused.”



“Do you know how much broken ribs hurt?” Asclepius shook his head. “Of course you don’t, most

gods never experience anything like that.”



Ace pulled on the chains holding Tryst prisoner, testing them. “I do. Know how it feels, that

is.”



Across the temple, Apollo’s head snapped up. “What?” This was his son, had he been hurt too.



“As I pulled the pain out of Strife, I felt it. Not just the part that we were able to divide

up, no I felt all of it.” Ace stopped in front of the imprisoned god. “That made me even

madder than ever.”



He stuck out his hand and a small, very small, fireball formed there. It wasn’t hot, there

was no heat radiating off it, so Tryst wasn’t concerned.



“For every time you’ve broken a bone on Strife, you will feel it.” The ball grew bigger and

brighter.



The room became deathly quiet.



“For every time he was frightened…you will feel it.”



The globe grew substantially.



“For every time you beat him…” Bigger. “…raped him…” A lot bigger. “…terrorized him…”



By now the ball was huge. The magic containing it caused the inside of the globe to swirl

madly. There were red and black sparks crackling over the surface of the sphere.



“For every second in that…field…”



Ace’s arm was completely hidden by the light. Tryst had given up his pretense of nonchalance

and was tugging frantically at the chains holding him. Blood ran from the torn flesh of his

wrists and ankles.



Asclepius looked up at Strife’s tormentor. He wasn’t smiling. He didn’t seem happy with what

he was doing. No…the god’s eyes had a fierce, burning light in them.



“You will feel *all of that*, every instance. All of it, crammed into every…single…second.

All. Day. Long.”



Arm straining, Asclepius pulled back and threw. The ball of light exploded over the

restrained god.



Agony, so intense, hit Tryst and his body bowed out because of it. His mouth opened in a

silent scream and stayed there. The larger god couldn’t even draw in a breath to scream, it

was so agonizing.



“*Now* you’re being punished.”



Ace spit on the suffering god and walked out of the room.



^^^^^^



Soft breathing was all that could be heard. There were no moans of pain, no shuffling sounds

as Strife tried to get more comfortable. Nothing.



The little boy peeked his head into the room and hesitated. After just a moment he crept

closer to the bed and crawled in. Sliding under the covers, he inched closer to his father

and curled around his rounded tummy. Satisfied that he hadn’t disturbed his Daddy Strife,

Bliss fell asleep.



Strife peered from under half-closed eyes. With one arm, his slid his son closer. He watched

Bliss sleeping and with an immense feeling of peace, he went back to sleep.



^^^^^^



A few minutes later, Cupid tiptoed in. He smiled at the portrait his husband and

child…children made. Being very quiet, Cupid slid under the covers and wrapped himself around

Strife’s back.



^^^^^^



Once Strife was sure that Cupid was asleep, he glanced over his shoulder. Strife had to smile

again. Cupid looked so handsome lying there.



Hearing a noise in the corner, Strife looked at Bob. The poor dog was confused, unsure

whether she should protect her master or not.



Strife raised one finger to his lips and mimed ‘shhhh’. Bob squirmed around and laid back

down, the black head was lying on the white one.



Closing his eyes, once more, Strife went back to sleep.




Chapter 30



Hercules grimaced. If Gabrielle tried to sneak a peek at Iolaus one more time…he was going to

poke her eyes out.



Heartened at the thought, the hero cracked one eye open and glared at the general direction

of the bard in question. Gabrielle wasn’t currently looking their way, but she stiffened as

she felt his stare on her back.



“Go back to sleep Hercules.” Iolaus muttered sleepily.



^^^^^^



Strife opened his eyes and blinked fuzzily. It didn’t help; the room was still pitch black.

The young god felt around on the bed and discovered that no one else was lying there.



“Cupe?”



Silence.



Strife sighed. Cupid must have gone out. To check on Bliss. To answer a prayer from a

follower. Something.



And Strife had to pee…desperately.



He reached behind his back and pulled out the pillow that was propping him up. It wasn’t

easy, even with all the *help* he had gotten, his ribs were still painful if he twisted too

much.



Nevertheless, he persevered and soon the fluffy, down filled pillow was tossed on the other

side of the bed. With a little work, the pregnant god was laying on his back.



“Now what?”



Strife tried to roll onto his other side and realized his mistake. Instead of taking the

pillow from his back, he should have used that as something to push off of and sat up on the

opposite side of the bed.



Sighing wearily, Strife began to rock from side to side, hoping to get enough momentum to

roll over onto his right hip. After a few tries, Strife felt a little nauseated; he was

getting motion sickness. In a surprising move, he flipped over and achieved his goal.



“Woo hoo. Look at me, I’m a regulah athlete heah.” The young god began giggling at the

notion. He thought about what he must have looked like, rolling around like a log, and the

giggles took on Olympian proportions.



“Alright, now what?”



Strife pondered the situation for a few moments. He was facing the right direction. Uh huh.

He needed to get from his side to sitting up. Okay. He needed to get to the bathroom before

he had an accident. Oh yeah!



He reached over with his free hand and tried to push up. That didn’t work, Strife had to

angle so far over to get past his tummy that there was virtually no leverage room left. The

young god got the giggles again.



Longingly, the God of Mischief looked over at the side table. There, in the weak light,

Strife could see a necessary vessel#. Just what he needed, the heck with the bathroom…and

just out of reach. No matter how hard he stretched.



“Darn.” His fingers almost touched the clay bottle. “I can’t reach mah pee pot.”



Strife snickered at that and then he started laughing out loud. He clutched at his ribs when

they started aching.



*Hercules sat partway up. He looked skyward as he rubbed his side.*



Settling back down again, Strife licked his lips as he realized he was thirsty. He closed his

eyes and thought of a nice cup of wine. A nice, cool flagon, brimming full of sweet wine.



“Well, that sure helped mah needin ta go ta tha bathroom.”



*Gabrielle groaned as she hurried to the bushes, wondering why she had to go to the bathroom

all of a sudden.*



Rolling his eyes, Strife tried to concentrate on his problem once more.



“Okay, maybe if I get mah legs ovah tha side ah tha bed…maybe then I can use mah knees ta

help pull mahself up.”



Suiting word to action, Strife began to “walk” his body sideways. He moved his feet in a

walking motion and turned a little bit at a time, until his feet were hanging off the edge of

the bed.



Puffing and panting, Strife lay there for a minute, trying to get his breath back. Hooking

his heels on the edge of the bed, the young god began to pull his body closer to the edge. By

the time his legs were dangling, at an angle, from the knee down, over the side of the

bed…Strife was exhausted.



Quite frankly he couldn’t care less about the bathroom right now. An attack of the giggles

struck again, he wasn’t really sure from where.



Easing up slightly, Strife got one elbow underneath him. He placed his other hand, palm open,

onto his supporting palm and began to maneuver upwards. With the tip of his tongue sticking

out, he kept going.



He was getting there!



Strife had just gotten partially up on one elbow when the bedroom door opened. The noise

startled him and the young god’s elbow slipped on the sheet. He plopped back onto the bed

with an oomph.



“Strife!”



Cupid dropped their tray onto a convenient table and raced to his husband. He dropped to his

knees by the bedside and brushed sweaty hair back from Strife’s flushed face.



“Baby, are you alright?”



The God of Love looked so worried that Strife’s heart melted. “I’m okay, Cupe. I just needed

ta go ta tha little god’s room.”



“What?” Cupid was busy, making sure that Strife wasn’t hurt and so he wasn’t really paying

that much attention.



Strife smiled at the loving touches. He reveled in the attention. The young god was used to

being the object of concentration, it was always bad attention though.



He tapped Cupid on the shoulder. “I…need…ta…go…ta…tha” He pointed over Cupid’s shoulder.

“…little…god’s…room.”



Cupid frowned for a moment and then he blushed as he got Strife’s meaning. “Oh, I’m sorry

baby.”



Sliding his strong, tanned hands under Strife’s body, Cupid gently set his husband up. Strife

didn’t have to move a muscle and before he knew it, he was standing beside the bed.



“Ya don’t hafta make it look sa easy, ya know.” He grinned at his blond husband.

“Woah.” A wave of dizziness washed over him and Strife leaned against Cupid for a moment.



“Baby?!”



*Xena rubbed her forehead and exchanged an uneasy glance with Hercules across the fire.

Gabrielle raced back into the woods.*



“It’s okay, Cupe. I’m just a little dizzy.” Strife nuzzled his face into Cupid’s neck, his

tummy kept them further apart than either man liked. “Theah, I’m all bettah now.”



With a smile, Strife let go of Cupid’s hand and headed for the bathroom. He got about half a

step before Cupid caught hold of him again. Strife was glad, the trip to the other room

looked longer than ever.



“If you needed help up, why didn’t you just call me?”



Strife stopped and thought for a moment. He shook his head and laughed. “Now why didn’t I

think ah that?”



^^^^^^



Tryst flinched badly when the door slammed open. He waited to see who it was and only relaxed

slightly at the sight of Persephone.



Very slightly. Persephone was a very nice, quiet goddess…and those were the worst ones, Tryst

had learned. Warily, he scrutinized the deity as she crossed the room.



Around the chamber, people watched him twitch and smiled. The daily punishment had been going

on for hours, but Tryst didn’t realize it. The tension and worry about who was going to

punish him and how they were going to do it, was worse than his actually being punished.*



Tryst relaxed after a little while when it was apparent that no one was going to come

forward. His body went limp as he slumped in his restraints.



Boom.



He yelped and tensed up, eyes looking wildly around the room.



The former God of Secret Meetings didn’t notice the satisfied looks from all the gods and

goddesses present. He just waited and feared.



^^^^^^



Asclepius knocked on the door. The door swung open on its own and the god had to smile at the

sight that greeted him.



Strife was lying on his bed, nothing new there. Cupid was sitting beside him, again nothing

Olympian shattering.



“Hello Ace.”



“Hiya.” Strife waved from where he was propped up.



Asclepius frowned at Strife’s wan appearance. “Hello Strife. Hello Cupid.” The god sat down

on the opposite side of the bed from Cupid. “How are you feeling today?”



“Tired.”



Cupid turned to look at the medicine god. “Shouldn’t he be feeling better. I thought that was

part of the reason for that.” He pointed to the ginger jar that was still sending out a

steady stream of energy.



“Yes, it is. I would have thought you’d be a little stronger by now.” Asclepius smiled to

show that he wasn’t too worried. “Can I check you out?”



Strife nodded slowly. Ace placed his hands on either side of Strife’s large tummy and closed

his eyes in concentration. He opened them quickly with a slight gasp. Moving his hands

carefully, the god looked inward and smiled.



“Alright…I have know why you are still tired.”



The God of Love narrowed his eyes at Ace. “Come here, Cupid. There’s something I want you to

see…or rather feel.”



Asclepius took Cupid’s hands in his. “Put one here.” His hand was placed on the upper right

side. “Feel that?”



Cupid smiled as he felt a smooth round lump just under Strife’s ribs. “Yeah, what is it?”



“That’s the baby’s head. Now, put your other hand…here.” This one went on the other side of

Strife’s tummy, towards the bottom.



Still smiling, Cupid obediently moved his hand. Strife smiled as well, happy that he could

share this special feeling with Cupid. Inside, the God of Mischief was glad that Psyche had

been such a bitch during her pregnancy. It was nice to know that Cupid hadn’t felt this with

anyone else before.



Cupid frowned a little and looked over at Asclepius with a puzzled look on his face. “Wh-what

is that?”



Ace nodded at the unsure question. He leaned against the side of the bed, one hand propping

up his chin and tried not to smirk.



“Well, Daddy…that’s the other baby’s head.”



The love god’s eyes widened as he gasped.



“What?!”



Strife blinked confusedly at the exclamation and then he gasped. “Tha othah baby?”



“That’s right.” Ace gave in to the grin he’d been holding back.



“Ya mean…”



Cupid and Strife looked at each other in shock.



“Twins!”

--

*Thanks to Scribe for this suggestion.

#Bathrooms used to be called necessary rooms.

--



Chapter 31



Strife looked in shock from Cupid’s face, to his husband’s tanned hands

where they rested on Strife’s tummy. He gasped as he really realized what

Asclepius was saying and sat bolt upright up on the bed.



“Ow, ow.” His eyes filled with tears for a moment, as the movement sent pain

up and down his body. “No, I’m alright.” He reassured Cupid and Asclepius

who weren’t looking as happy now.



“Lemme feel.”



Cupid slid one arm around his husband’s back as he supported the younger

god. Strife stretched and even then it wasn’t easy for him to reach that far

down on his stomach. Cupid helped Strife reach where he needed to.



Strife smiled as he felt, first one and then the other of his babies’ heads.

The dark-haired man laughed. Not a giggle, not a nasty laugh, but a truly

happy, heart-felt, from the bottom of his soul, laugh.



“Oh, Cupe.”



Suddenly his tummy didn’t seem so massive anymore. Not since he knew that it

was holding, not one, but two precious children. Strife’s breath hitched at

the thought of having *even more* of a family.



“two.” He whispered.



“How is this possible?” Cupid looked over at Asclepius. “How come none of

you realized there was another baby?”



“I don’t know.” Ace shook his head as he studied Strife’s abdomen. “At the

very least, Hera should have sensed both of them.”



“Hmmmm…”



None of them seemed to care how it happened, just that it was happening. All

three gods looked happily at Strife’s tummy, as if the babies were going to

burst out at any moment.



Strife gasped and grabbed hold of Cupid’s arm. “Cupe, we gotta tell…”



“Bliss.”



They both said their son’s name at the same time and laughed. Cupid leaned

forward and rested his forehead against Strife’s. Pale, blond hair and dark,

curly locks intertwined for a few moments.



“You’re right.” Cupid stood up and looked towards the door indecisively. His

wings fluttered a little, fretfully.



Asclepius smiled as he acknowledged Cupid’s dilemma. “Wait here, I’ll go and

get Bliss for you.”



“Thanks Ace. I want him to be the first to know, but…” The God of Love

gestured to his sickly husband.



“It’s not a problem.” Still smiling, Ace stepped closer and whispered. “Try

and keep him calm. He shouldn’t get very agitated, even if it is a happy

excitement.”



Cupid nodded and sat back down on the bed. Strife was still leaning forward

and his face managed to look pale and flushed at the same time. The love god

eased Strife back against his chest. Strife couldn’t reach the babies any

more, but he wasn’t stressing himself either.



“two.”



“Two.” Cupid nodded and kissed the side of his husband’s neck.



^^^^^^



“Daddies?” The little godling stood uncertainly in the doorway.



“Come here, sweetheart.” Cupid gestured to his son. Bliss saw the smile on

both his father’s faces and raced towards the bed.



“Hop up heah, kiddo.” Strife patted the edge of the bed.



Bliss fluttered his wings a little and rose up, to sit beside Strife.



“Ya did really good theah. Before long ya’ll be flyin all ovah tha place.”



The small boy’s face lit up with the bashful smile he directed at them.

“I’ve been practicing, just like you wanted me to.”



Since the incident with the Phoenix tree, Strife and Cupid had been

encouraging the godling to practice his flying. They had come too close to

losing the little boy that day.



“That’s good…son, we have something to tell you.”



Bliss looked, wide-eyed, from one to the other of them.



“Don’t worry, it’s good news.” Cupid hastened to reassure their son.



^^^^^^



“Wheeeeee! Wheeeeeeee!”



Joxer unconsciously ducked as Bliss flew overhead. “How long has he been

doing that?” The God of Peace laughed as Bliss made another pass.



“Since we first told him about tha babies.”



The two gods watched as Bliss did another loop-de-loop about 5 feet above

the ground. He didn’t fly too close to Strife.



‘Cause I don’t wanna hurt my new baby brothers or sisters.’ Bliss had said

the first time he celebrated.



“That was two days ago.” Joxer turned to Strife incredulously.



“Yep. He’ll be fine and then all ah that sudden he starts flyin.”



Bliss tumbled to the ground and rolled end over end, in his version of

landing. Bob barked at the display and the little boy raced over to play

with the dog.



A muffled snort drew Strife’s attention away from his son. Joxer had one

hand over his mouth and was desperately trying not to laugh.



“What’s sa funny, Joxah?”



Joxer moved his hand and the laughter escaped. “I just had this image in my

mind, of two little godlings. They have black hair, blue eyes, tanned skin

and snow white wings.”



Strife closed his eyes and smiled at the image. That would be just perfect,

a combination of both he and Cupid. The god sighed and rubbed what parts of

his tummy that he could reach.



“And that’s funny?” Strife looked inquiringly at his friend.



“No. Oh no, that’s not the funny part.” Joxer leaned forward and put a hand

on Strife’s forearm. “I can see one of them popping in front of a mortal and

scaring the crap out of him. The guy would run away, only to be confronted

with the other one.”



Strife giggled. “Yeah. They’d look alike, sa they could confuse people.”



“Right. No one would know which was which or what was going on.” Joxer

laughed, gently teasing his good friend, even as he leaned over to calm a

stirring Tempra.



“Just think ah tha mischief potential.” Strife laughed. He thought for a

minute and then sobered. “Oh my.”



Joxer opened his mouth and then closed it slowly. He bit his lip in

consideration. “Oh my.”

Strife looked down at his tummy. “Me and Cupe aren’t gonna sleep fah about

20 years.”



^^^^^^



The three heroes walked down the dusty street in a fowl mood. (No, I did not

mean foul. Just hold your horses.) Feathers wafted after them in a small

cloud. (See, I told you.)



Now, they were in a foul mood too…and the reason slunk in behind them.



“How many times do I have to say I’m sorry.” Gabrielle whined. “I didn’t

know they were making pillows in there.”



Her three companions ignored the younger woman. Xena was mightily sick and

tired of Gabrielle chasing after Iolaus, literally this time, and wanted to

get home where her mother was visiting and watching over Eve. The Warrior

Princess desperately missed her daughter and wanted a chance to visit with

her mother before the good woman needed to go back to her home.



Hercules’ hands clenched and unclenched, imagining Gabrielle’s neck in

between them. Not only had that harpy chased Iolaus into the building, she

had had the temerity to wipe the tail feathers off of Iolaus’ tail.



A low growl began to build up in Hercules’ chest. Iolaus reached back and

patted his almost-lover on the chest. He was hot, tired and sick of being

tossed back and forth like Cerberus’ chew toy.



“Calm down Herc.”



The blond hunter sensed that Gabrielle was about to break the silence again.

“Shut up, Gabrielle!”



There was complete and utter silence…for about a second. The bard started

sputtering in indignation and the others walked away.



So, when the three heroes entered the tavern they were in a foul mood. The

feathers had mostly blown away by then, so the fowl part didn’t count.



Pouting prettily (or so she thought), Gabrielle followed. ‘Well, at least

there’s a bright side. Following them, I get to watch Iolaus’ butt.



^^^^^^



Gabrielle ran back out again a few moments later. The blond bard raced

behind the building and threw up.



^^^^^^



On Mt. Olympus, Cupid supported Strife as the young god threw up his lunch.



“I’m sorry, Strife.” Cupid winced as his husband heaved some more. “I didn’t

realize that Falafel’s new dish would bother you.”



“Cupe, a word ah advise, don’t give anythin ah Falafel’s ta anybody.”



The God of Love frowned worriedly. “I’m alright Cupe.” Strife smiled, making

his eyes sparkle like stars in the sky.



“Good.” Cupid gave his husband a gentle squeeze as he hugged him.

Inadvertently, he pressed on Strife’s bladder and so…



“Careful or I’ll hafta…”



^^^^^^



Gabrielle hurried out again and ran for the bushes.



^^^^^^



“Being pregnant sucks.”



The man who had been walking up to ask Gabrielle to dance, turned and

abruptly went the other direction. Xena snorted into her mug and pretended

to choke to cover it up.



“I don’t know why anyone would willingly let it happen to them.” Gabrielle

pouted.



Rolling her eyes, Xena looked at her friend. “We really don’t have a choice.

Besides, the outcome is worth it.”



“Humph.” The three friends ignored the bard, hoping that she would give up

on the subject, for all their sakes.



“Here ya go darlin.”



The accent had Gabrielle looking up into smiling blue eyes. They were

surrounded by a shock of vivid red hair. The man’s skin was pale and his

nose and cheeks had a fair scattering of freckles on them.



“Uh, thank you.”



“This’ll probably help with your stomach. I know it helped me sisters.”



Gabrielle looked down at the glass of milk and grimaced. “Why would milk

help?”



“Where are you from, I can’t quite place the accent?” Iolaus asked with a

friendly smile.



“I hale from the land of Eire. My name’s Beru, by tha way. And who’re you?”

His eyes roamed around the table, including them all.



Introductions were made and Beru blinked. “Well it’s not everyday that a

bloke’s intraduced to a group of heroes. It’s nice ta meet ya all.”



He started to leave, but was stopped by a touch on his arm. “Thank you for

the milk.” Gabrielle said sweetly. Her friends looked at each other and

rolled their eyes. “But, I’m not pregnant. I was talking about someone else

that I know.”



“Oh, all right then. Do ya still want tha milk?”



Gabrielle smiled and lowered her eyes coquettishly. “Well, since you were so

nice to bring it, I’ll keep it.”



Beru nodded and shrugged carelessly. “That’s great darlin.” Then he strolled

back to the counter.



Gabrielle watched his retreating figure. ‘I’ll show Iolaus that there are

other men out there.’



Iolaus drank his grog happily. ‘Thank the gods. Maybe she’ll pester him for

a while.



Chapter 32



Apollo had his hands on Strife’s stomach, rubbing intently, feeling around.

He was checking up high, because Cupid growled at him anytime the god got

close to Strife’s crotch. Hera had her hands moving around and Ace was there

too.



They were trying to get a “look” at the second baby and had been for several

hours. Since the discovery of the other twin, the trio of gods had been

trying to find out why they hadn’t seen it before.



This wasn’t the first time they’d done this. Looked that is.



Hera, quite frankly, was pissed off. As the Goddess of Marriage and

Childbirth she was supposed to know these things. A mistake like the one

with Strife was bad for her image.



Strife opened his eyes and looked at them with a grimace. He was reclining

on his bed, half-way sitting up and looked miserable. It was difficult

enough to get comfortable without 3 people on him.



Joxer frowned at the look on Strife’s face. The God of Peace looked at the

people who were swarming all over his friend and decided enough was enough.

They were so interested in figuring out the mystery that they weren’t paying

any attention to the man they were touching.



“All right, that’s it.”



Hera, the queen of the Gods, raised a haughty eyebrow at Joxer’s commanding

tone. “I beg your pardon.” Disdain dripped from her voice. You could almost

here the ‘Who do you think you are, ex-mortal?’ in her voice.



“You heard me.” Joxer wasn’t fazed in the least. “Get off of him…all of you.

Now!” Joxer glared until they backed away. “For Tartarus’ sake you’ve been

mauling him for hours now.”



Strife smiled tremulously at his best friend. “Th-thanks, Joxah.”



Joxer smiled back brightly. He could see how tired and shaky Strife was.

Cupid, sitting beside him, looked bothered. The blond god had only just

flashed in and wasn’t aware of how long this *search* had been going on.



The dark haired man, er, god, gestured to Strife’s covered tummy. “Can I see

something?”



“Sure.” Strife closed his eyes, drained and weak.



Cupid pulled Strife closer and watched as Joxer raised Strife’s tunic. The

small patch of skin they could see was red and mottled from all the man (and

woman) handling.



Ace, at the least, had the decency to look chagrined. They had been so

focused on solving the mystery that none of them had considered what it was

doing to Strife. Hera continued with her haughty look, while inside she was

just as bothered as Ace was. Apollo was looking anxiously at Cupid, more

afraid of getting blasted than he was for his patient.



Joxer smacked Apollo on the arm. The blond god jumped in surprise, not

expecting retaliation from that direction. “Hey blondie, I’m here too.”



Apollo looked warily at the young god. As the God of Peace and married to

the God of War, Joxer had a lot of power. He didn’t usually use it, and

certainly not to threaten anyone, but apparently this time he was making an

exception. Apollo nodded quickly and backed off.



“Oh, Strife, I’m so sorry.” Ace patted Strife’s shoulder. “I-I wasn’t

thinking.”



“Neither was I.” It about killed Hera to admit it though.



“Uh, me neither. Bye.” Apollo flashed out quickly.



“However, I have an idea why we couldn’t sense the other baby.”



They all turned to look at Hera. “One of your children has a unique power.

It can mask its energy signature. He…or she, will be able to hide themselves

from even the gods.



Cupid shot up an eyebrow at that. “Oh goodie. It’s been hard enough keeping

track of Bliss, but with a power like that…”



Everyone looked wary, already worried about the coming years.



“Uh, yes, well Hephaestus can make an energy dampener, like your earring.”

Ace gestured towards Strife. “That should help until the child is old enough

to control their powers.”



“Ye-ah.” Cupid said in a sarcastic tone.



“One can only hope.” Hera stated. “I remember how easily you freed yourself

from a similar device, Cupid. And with you and Strife combined…”



Again there were several shudders. Strife wasn’t fazed by the idea. He

wasn’t anything. He was sound asleep.



^^^^^^



“Crap!”



Ares followed the sounds of falling objects to his husband’s work room. The

God of War peeked around the edge of the doorway. He knew better than to

just barrel in. Joxer was a peaceful person with a sweet and charming

personality, until he started carving, then it was every man (or god) for

themselves.



“Darn!”



“Angel, what’s wrong?”



Joxer looked up from the floor. He was surrounded by several pieces of wood.

The young god looked so distraught that Ares just had to sit down beside him

and give his husband a hug. (Like he needed an excuse.)



“I’ve got to hurry. Strife’s having two babies, not one, and I only have one

present.”



Ares nodded. He didn’t suggest that Joxer magic up the present. Joxer’s

carvings were too beautiful and too unique to cheat over.



“What can I do to help?”



The young god beamed at his husband. “Help me pick out the right kind of

wood.”



The war god ran a hand up and down Joxer’s spine, calming his husband. The

two of them quickly solved Joxer’s problem. Reluctantly, Ares left Joxer

alone, knowing that he would be anxious until the other baby present was

finished.



Besides, Ares knew that he and Joxer would have all night to make it up.



^^^^^^



“Joxah.”



“Hmmm?” The God of Peace turned slightly towards his good friend. The day at

the beach was relaxing. The fresh air had been a welcome relief from the

closed up temple. For once the two gods felt safe enough to relax outside.



Life had been a lot calmer since Strife wasn’t in as much pain.



Strife frowned and began twisting the hem of his tunic. Joxer narrowed his

eyes worriedly. The pregnant god wasn’t supposed to get upset.



“What was…Tryst’s final disposition?”



Joxer was careful not to let his shock and worry show. He would have to be

cool and calm about this. It hadn’t really dawned on him that Strife didn’t

realize Tryst was still being punished. It was so much a part of everyone’s

life lately that it was easy to forget Strife didn’t know.



The God of Peace gazed over at his friend as he thought. Strife looked so

vulnerable as he sat in his chair. Legs were slightly splayed, trying to

give extra room for his large tummy. Strife was still pale and drawn

looking. He panted for breath with the least little exertion and even though

he had been helped, you could still see winces of pain some of the time.



“Uhm, what do you mean?” Joxer smiled guilelessly. He was good at that. That

pretense at ignorance and his brainless grin had saved Joxer from being

beaten up more times than he could remember.



“Aftah He died, what was his final punishment?”



Strife shifted around on his chair, giving Joxer a few precious moments to

decide what to say. He looked over his friend seriously. Even with all the

help Strife had received and how much better he was…he was still very

fragile. Joxer knew how caring and emotional his friend was and he knew that

the truth would devastate the young god.



“Actually Strife…I’m…not sure.”



Dark hair flew as Strife turned quickly to look at Joxer. His pale blue eyes

were wide and terrified. “He-He-He ain’t free, is He?”



Bob sensed the fear and got up from her position at the end of Strife’s

chair and hurried towards her master. The young god grabbed both of her

heads and held on tight.



Appalled, Joxer scrambled over to his friend. “Oh gods! Of course not.”



Joxer wrapped his arms around Strife’s shoulders and leaned the pregnant god

forward. It was awkward, because there wasn’t much forward for Strife to

lean, his tummy took up all the available space.



“Shhhh, calm down. Come on, settle down.” Joxer’s voice and the motions of

his hands on Strife’s back, calmed the mischief god.



“We wouldn’t lie to you Strife. Tryst is gone. You don’t have to worry about

him.”



Joxer wasn’t lying, Tryst couldn’t get free and it was only a matter of time

before he died. So, the God of Peace, who couldn’t lie to save his life, did

his best to look sincere.



“I…I’m sorry Joxah.” Strife sighed deeply and tried to stop shaking. “I know

ya’ll wouldn’t lie ta me. Ya wouldn’t let me feel safe if it wasn’t.”



“It’s alright. I didn’t mean to scare you.” Joxer leaned Strife back. He

flicked one hand and the back of the lounge chair slowly lowered, so that

Strife was reclining. “Close your eyes and try to relax.”



The tense body slowly melted into the chair. Bob kept her head on Strife’s

knee and the young god absentmindedly stroked the nearest head. Stress

caused him to succumb to sleep in a matter of minutes.



‘Ares. Love, could you come here. It’s not an emergency.’ Joxer called to

his husband, silently, with his mind.



Immediately there was a flash of red sparkles. Ares was standing behind

Strife’s couch, out of the way of his nephew, in case Strife woke up. The

dark haired god started to speak and Joxer quickly shook his head and

pointed at the sleeping Strife. Ares smiled in understanding.



‘What is it Angel?’ Ares thought to his husband.



‘Strife asked about Tryst. He wanted to know what happened to him after

Tryst went to Tartarus.’



Ares bit his bottom lip and looked down at the back of the tousled head.

‘Damn.’



‘Yes.’



Joxer tried not to be distracted by the lip action…but it wasn’t easy. It

was only recently that Asclepius decided that Joxer and Ares could have sex

again and they were busy making up for lost time.



He shifted carefully. Surprisingly it was an infection that had bothered the

young god. Infections were rare in gods and usually hard to get rid of. This

one had plagued Joxer since a few days after Temmy’s birth.



The young god looked back up and saw the twinkle in his husband’s eyes.

Joxer blushed and knew that his lust had been noticed.



‘Later, Angel. That’s a promise.’



The blush on Joxer’s face took on a rosy glow. He smiled happily,

anticipating the night to come.



‘I think…’



Ares frowned at Joxer’s hesitation. ‘What Angel?’



‘I think its time to end this. Strife will be very upset if he finds out

what everyone’s been doing to Tryst.’



The two gods glanced down at the heavily pregnant god. They looked at each

other and nodded.



‘You’re right. Don’t worry any more, I’ll take care of it.’ Ares winked at

Joxer and flashed away.



^^^^^^



“Father.”



Ares’ voice echoed in the chamber. Several of the gods looked up,

recognizing that something important was about to happen.



Tryst still hung from his shackles. He wasn’t interested in much anymore.

Ace’s punishment had finally broken the prisoner.



There was a blinding flash. “Yes, son.”



Ares gestured to the suspended man. “Strife is starting to ask questions.”



Zeus nodded his agreement. Around the room there was murmuring, but they all

agreed as well.



“Tryst, God of Secret Meetings.”



Tryst looked up fearfully. He looked around the room for pity and found

none. Amazingly, the only person who might have pitied him was the one who

had suffered the most. But Strife wasn’t there.



“I formally remove your godhood.”



A bright swirl of light came out of the large man, who gasped at the

feeling. “I know just who to give you to.” Zeus spoke to the glowing ball in

his hand. “But that’s for later.” The shimmering orb disappeared with a

small pop.



“I remove your immortality.”



Tryst’s eyes widened in panic as he realized he could and would die. For the

first time in his very long life, he was vulnerable.



At a gesture from Hephaestus, the shackles opened and Tryst dropped to the

ground. They could safely free him now, he wasn’t a threat anymore.



“For your numerous crimes against the god Strife and the many other people

you have not doubt abused over the millennium, I sentence you to death.”



The former god lay trembling. He was too scared to say anything.



A lightening bolt flew from Zeus’ hands.* It hit the former god in the

chest. With an agonized shriek, Tryst flew back against the chamber wall.



Moments later there was another flash. Hades looked at the dead body and

smiled. “Now it’s my turn.”



*Mom’s idea.






Chapter 33



“Come on, Cupe. Tell me wheah we’re goin.”



Cupid took a quick look down at his lover and tried not to smile at the wheedling tone. A smack on his arm told the love god that he hadn’t been

successful, so Cupid gave in to temptation and grinned at his husband.



“If I told you that, it would spoil the surprise.” He waggled his dark eyebrows at his husband in a humorous leer.



Strife snorted softly and shifted a little in Cupid’s embrace. The blond god could tell that Strife really didn’t mind the suspense. His husband was

normally a very active god, running from prank to prank, war to war. He knew that the mischief god had to be bored out of his mind, not being able

to do much of anything.



The pregnant god leaned his head against Cupid’s bare chest and sighed. The tired sound made Cupid pause for a few seconds. If Strife was already

this tired, and they hadn’t even started yet, maybe…



‘No.’ Cupid thought. ‘Strife needs a pick-me-up.’ Cupid grinned again. ‘Other than me picking him up, that is.’



“What are ya smilin about?”



Strife had opened his eyes and caught the love god with what Cupid was sure was a very goofy look on his face. The God of Mischief had narrowed

his eyes and was smiling uncertainly. His pale hands were rubbing his very pregnant tummy nervously. The gold wedding band on his left hand turned

loosely as his hand moved. It glinted in the torch light as it spun slowly around.



Cupid saw the nervous motion and realized that Strife thought he was laughing at him, something that had happened all too frequently in the young

god’s life. Eager to knock that idea out of Strife’s head immediately, Cupid tilted Strife up and gave him a kiss.



“I was just thinking how gorgeous you are.”



Strife snorted. “Cupe…”



“Strrrrrrife, have I ever lied to you.”



The young god’s mouth closed slowly. “No.”



“Well then.” Cupid raised his dark eyebrows at his lover.



Strife blushed, the pink stain tingeing his cheeks. “Thanks.”



“I’m not saying anything that isn’t true.” Cupid whispered.



Smiling contentedly, Strife wiggled a little in his husband’s strong embrace. Cupid groaned at the sight and the feeling of that wonderfully warm body

next to his. It had been entirely too long since they had been able to make love.



Clearing his throat, Cupid captured Strife’s attention once again. “I’m going to put you down now, baby. I think you’ll want to walk in.”



Strife looked at the door they were standing in front of and nodded his head. He definitely didn’t want to be seen being carried around by Cupid.

Strife had a hard enough time getting respect as it was.



Cupid slowly sat Strife down on his feet. He kept a strong hold on the younger god until he seemed steady and then Cupid stepped behind him. He

was still close enough to catch Strife if he started to fall, but far enough away to give the illusion that the other man was making it on his own.



^^^^^^



Strife wasn’t sure if this was a good idea, but he wasn’t going to confess that to Cupid. Very much aware of his husband standing at his back, the

young god pushed the heavy oak doors open. They opened with just a whisper of a touch and Strife smiled to himself at the thoughtfulness.



“Surprise!”



He gasped and stumbled back half a step. Cupid was there, of course, and grabbed him by the shoulders until he got over the shock.



The younger god looked around the room in amazement. There were tables covered with food of all kinds. Drinks were flowing, literally, from several

different fountains. It was obviously a party…but why?



Blinking uncertainly, it only took the pregnant man a few seconds to make the connection. He put one shaking hand on his chest and stared, open

mouthed, at the decorations.



“A baby showah…fah me?” The young god was genuinely amazed.



“Of course for you, do you see any other pregnant people here?” Joxer smiled at his best friend.



Strife smiled and then did a double take when he looked at what Joxer was wearing. He glanced around the room at the rest of the assemblage and

burst out laughing.



They were all wearing black leather suits with studs and safety pins.^



“Ya’re all dressed like me.” He said breathlessly.



“Hi, Daddy Strife.” Bliss ran up and Strife giggled again. Even Bliss was covered in black. The little boy had tried to spike his hair up as well. It hadn’t

worked very well and as a consequence the young godling’s hair hung around his face in greasy rivulets.



“H-hi kiddo.” Strife hugged his son happily.



Cupid wrapped his arms around Strife from behind, giving support and hey, getting in a nice body rub at the same time. Strife noticed something and

looked over his shoulder. Cupid was now dressed in all black too.



“You see Strife,” Ares came up and wrapped an arm around his husband. “You’re the only one here not dressed like Strife.”



The younger god nodded. It was true. He was dressed in soft, loose clothes, not tight like his normal leather outfit. Instead of black leather, the

pregnant man was wearing dark blue pants and a glittery blue shirt. He stood out among all the black like an exotic butterfly.



Strife’s legs wobbled. Joxer saw the waver and came over and wrapped an arm around his friend’s waist. Cupid stood on the other side of Strife and

did the same. Between them, the two gods supported the pregnant man and got him up onto the small dais where his chair was.



Panting slightly from the exertion, Strife allowed Cupid to arrange him on the soft perch, to the blond god’s satisfaction. Strife’s body felt heavy, as

if the babies weighed as much as Cerberus. Getting off of his feet, even after just a few minutes of standing, was a blessing.



Strife smiled at how his family was acting. It was sweet how Cupid held up his feet, while Joxer pushed the footstool under them, while Ares added a

pillow to cushion them more. At the same time Aphrodite was adding more pillows around him and Bliss was helping by handing her the pillows. The

pampering felt very nice.



“Okay.” Ares clapped his hands. Everyone looked at him expectantly. He paused and thought for a moment. “So, start partying.”



Music started up as the rest of the assembled guests scrambled to obey the God of War. Strife giggled at the sight as he looked for the musicians,

finding them tucked behind a large bank of plants and flowers.



Ares crossed his arms and glared menacingly at the crowd. Several people began to dance. Others began to fill their plates with food. *Everybody*

was having fun, whether they wanted to or not.



Strife snickered behind his hand, not wanting to ruin the desperately happy mood. Ares looked over and cocked one eyebrow at his nephew. Strife

smiled and was astonished when his uncle winked at him.



Cupid sat down on the marble step beside Strife’s chair. The two parents-to-be watched as several people got in line to give their natal presents.



Gulping silently, Strife eyed the procession and realized it was going to be a long afternoon.



^^^^^^



The pile of presents was stacking up. Strife smiled winningly and waved as Persephone walked away. He leaned over to whisper to Cupid.



“What in Tartarus are we gonna do with a hundred baby shirts?”



No one else could hear Strife’s question. Cupid shrugged as he continued to rub the calves of Strife’s legs.



“I don’t know Baby. We only need a few.”



“Uhm huh.” Strife closed his eyes and sighed happily as his husband loosened a knot in his left leg. “Right, cause ya dump tha dirty ones in a hampah

and they clean themselves.”



Even Strife knew the in’s and out’s of baby care. He had been watching Joxer, since Tempra had been born, learning what to expect. Persephone,

however, had never had a baby or even been around very many children, so her ignorance on the subject wasn’t completely unexpected.



“Hello Strife. Hello Cupid.”



Strife yelped and jumped a little bit. He hadn’t been paying attention to anything other than Cupid’s magical hands.



“I’m sorry, are you alright?” Poseidon loomed over the two men. Water dripped down onto the stone floor beneath him.



“Yeah, I’m fine.” He smiled gamely, trying to pretend he hadn’t almost wet himself when he was startled. “I was…” Strife couldn’t think of an

explanation that wouldn’t worry people. “So…how are ya doin?”



Poseidon smiled and let Strife get away with the small ruse. Hey, his brother was Zeus, he knew all about lies and deceptions.



“I am well, thank you. Here is my present for the newest godlings-to-be.” The sea god waved his hands and with a flourish…an oyster shell

appeared.



Not an ordinary oyster shell. No, this one was about the size of a large basket. The outside was covered with gold and jewels. Cupid stood up and

caught the present. He held it, so that Strife could see it better.



“You see…” Poseidon flicked a finger and the shell opened up, separating into two halves. “It is a bathing tub for the babies. Each child will have his

or her own side.



Whenever you want to give one of the babies a bath, you open the shell and rub the inside of one side and say ‘water’.”



Strife tentatively followed the instructions. “Watah.” The inside of the oyster shell was pearlescent and smooth. As soon as the young god removed

his hand, the one chamber of the shell filled with about 2 inches of water. Strife dipped a finger in and found it to be nice and warm.



“You don’t have to worry about getting the water to the correct temperature. The water will always be warm. After you finish bathing the baby, rub

the bottom of the shell again and say ‘done’.” He watched as Strife did. “And the water will disappear.”



The two gods admired the unique present. Poseidon continued. “That’s not all. There is an anti-fumble spell on the shell.” At the curious looks,

Poseidon laughed. “It can’t fall or be knocked over. Even if the table that the bath is setting on breaks, the shell will just float to the ground.”



Strife tentatively pushed the closed shell off of Cupid’s hands. They all watched as it bounced down the steps. Cupid glared at his uncle and waited.



“Uh, while the baby is in it that is. Otherwise, it’s still a shell.” Poseidon cleared his throat in embarrassment at having forgotten to impart that

information. “Oh, and here.” He handed Strife 2 light green cloths. “Here are their bathing cloths. They are made from sea weed and extra soft.”



Cupid smiled as Strife rubbed one across his cheek. They were as soft as a whisper and guaranteed not to bother a sensitive baby’s skin.



“Those were a present from some of the mermaids. They asked me to bring them for you.”



“Thank ya.” Strife smiled and nudged Cupid. “We really appreciate tha gifts. And thank tha mermaids fah us.”



“Yes, thank you.” Cupid forgave Poseidon for the momentary fright. “They are wonderful gifts.”



Poseidon smiled and waved goodbye. Everyone either closed their eyes or turned away when he flashed out. Such a large god made a really big

flash.



Joxer picked the oyster shell baby bath up and placed it on the growing pile. Ares waved a hand and cleaned up the water that Poseidon had left

behind in a puddle on the floor.



^^^^^^



“The baby’s are coming, the baby’s are coming.”



Bliss was flying figure 8’s around the room, singing as he went. “The baby’s are coming.”



A collective gasp went around the room. Did Bliss know something they didn’t. They quickly turned to look at Strife. The god in question was sitting

quietly in his chair, eating some of the snacks from the buffet. His plate was sitting on the flatter, shelf like protrusion of Strife’s tummy. The baby’s

had created the perfect place to rest the plate.+



Strife realized he was being watched and looked up. Suddenly becoming aware of the scrutiny, his eyes widened dramatically. “Uh, is somethin

wrong?”



Several people laughed, a few waved and all tried to pretend they hadn’t been staring. Strife looked over at Joxer, who grinned and ducked his head.



I have an odd family. Strife thought to himself. He shrugged and went back to eating, knowing that Cupid would be upset if he didn’t. As would Ace,

Apollo, Hera, Joxer, Ares…



“The baby’s are coming…”



^^^^^^

Babies are like tiny leaves,

before they enter the world,

and nothing is cuter

than a baby girl’s curl.



Everyone is amazed

when you take your first step,

Babies are very energetic

and full of pep.



This is the end of the poem,

please applaud,

for the baby’s

of the two gods.*



Strife sniffled and wiped his eyes with the small napkin that Cupid pressed into his hand.



“That was wondahful, Gabrielle. Thank ya.”



Gabrielle smiled at the compliment and seemed genuinely happy that the pregnant god was pleased with it. “You’re welcome.”



Cupid smiled at the young woman, grateful that her gift was nice and above all, short. He held out his hand and took the scroll that she was holding

and then turned and gave it to a still teary eyed Strife.



“Cupe, I wanna frame tha poem and put it up on tha wall in tha baby’s nursery.”



“I think that’s a great idea.” Cupid smiled at Strife’s hopeful, upturned face. “Anything you want, Baby.” He whispered.



Strife leaned into Cupid’s side and hummed happily as he reread the poem. Gabrielle went back to stand beside Xena and Eve. The crowd quietened

down as the man, errr, god of the hour, closed his eyes tiredly.



“Strife?”



“I’m okay, Cupe.” Glancing up at Cupid’s unbelieving face, Strife scrunched up his nose.



“No, I mean it. I’m okay, fah a while longah.”



Cupid nodded his head. *That* he believed. This baby shower was going to be a lot shorter than Joxer’s had been.



^^^^^^



Joxer watched as Strife shifted on his chair. He God of Peace walked up, carrying his daughter and stood by his best friend.



“Are you all right?”



Strife smiled briefly as he bit his lip and squirmed a little. “Yeah. Ya brought Temmy. Can I see her?”



Beaming, like the proud parent he was, Joxer leaned over so that Strife could see the newest godling on Olympus. Normally he would have let Strife

hold her, but at the moment the pregnant man wasn’t supposed to lift anything larger than his drinking cup.



The young god pulled back the edge of the blanket and snorted at what he saw. Joxer grinned as Strife tried not to laugh and startle the baby.



“Ya’ve even got Tempra dressed like me.” The little girl was dressed all in black. Her outfit matched everybody else’s, even down to the black diaper

with silver safety pins she was wearing.



“That’s sa cute.” Strife twisted again and sort of grimaced.



Joxer saw a movement out of the corner of his eye and looked over. There, in front of an innocuous looking door was a queue. The god frowned as

he saw Gabrielle standing behind Aphrodite, who was standing behind several other goddesses. All of them were shifting around.



Looking back at the mischief god, Joxer realized that every time Strife squirmed, they did too. “What’s the matter?” Joxer wasn’t too worried,

because nobody seemed to be in pain. Not really.



“I need ta go.”



“You need to go lay down?” Joxer began looking around for Cupid.



Strife tugged on the edge of Joxer’s black shirt. “No. I need ta go ta tha bathroom.”



“Oh. Oh! Okay.” Cupid had seen Strife shifting and was rapidly walking towards the platform where the pregnant god was sitting. Joxer looked back

at the line of women and started to laugh. The group was outside of the bathroom door. They were all of the people who had taken part of Strife’s

pregnancy pain and problems.



‘They are doing the peepee dance.’@ Joxer thought to himself.



He watched hysterically as Aphrodite threw her hands up in the air and flashed out. Apparently she had realized that she could go back to her own

temple and use the bathroom there. The other goddesses sheepishly realized the same thing and followed suit.



Gabrielle was momentarily startled and then realized the way was clear. She ran into the bathroom as fast as she could, holding herself stiffly.



Joxer heard a snicker behind him and glanced back to see Ares’ smiling eyes. Leaning against his husband, Joxer waited for Strife and Cupid to

reappear. The God of Love had placed an invisibility screen around Strife’s chair, so he could help his husband get some relief.



^^^^^^



Strife leaned back against the pillows. Of course, he could have fallen over on his face and still be lying on pillows. (But I digress.) The pregnant god

sighed and glanced around. Thankfully no one seemed to notice the sigh.



Bliss was playing with Eve and Bob. He had stopped circumnavigating the room crying “the babies are coming” like a feathered Paul Revere.



The god snorted to himself, sorry that he couldn’t share that observation. But no one else would get the reference. Not many other gods watched

the future in the Hall of Time and he didn’t have the energy to explain who Paul Revere was and all about his famous ride.



Now, Bliss and Eve were quietly singing the words. Every once in a while, one of Bob’s heads would chime in with her woofly chorus.



“Hi.”



Salamoneous, one of Ares’ good friends, was standing there with his hands behind his back. Recognizing a present giving stance when he saw one,

Strife pushed on the arms of his chair, trying to maneuver himself into a more upright position. It wasn’t very decorous to be slumped down like he

was.



“Hello, Sal.”



“I’m glad to see you looking so well.”



Strife narrowed his eyes at the other man and privately wondered if he’d been hit in the head recently. The young god new that he was paler than

usual and looked like he’d been punched in the eyes, they had such dark circles under them.



“Uh huh.” Skeptical was Strife’s middle name. Actually he didn’t have a middle name…or a last name, because he was a god and god’s…uhm, anyway.



“How are you doing?”



Strife, if he were completely honest, felt like crap. But he couldn’t admit that to anyone. This party was to celebrate his new babies, so Strife was

determined to enjoy it as long as godly possible.



“Not taa bad.” Strife smiled at Salamoneous.



The older man smiled genially. “I glad to hear that.” Whipping his hands out from behind his back, Salamoneous stuck out his hands. “Here, these are

my presents for the babies.”



A faint tinkling noise issued from his hands. When the con man opened them, there were two bright gold baby rattles in them.



Strife delicately took the toys. His hands shook slightly from fatigue, making the rattles…rattle.



“They’re beautiful.” Indeed they were. The gold was carved with figures of baby animals, but smooth to the touch. There were no sharp edges or

rough corners.



“I’m glad you like them.”



“Soooo, you’re feeling better then?”



Strife frowned at the repeated question, unsure of why Salamoneous was so insistent.

“Yeah…kind of.”



“I’m glad to hear that.”



He glanced over at the table and stroked his gray beard thoughtfully. “I know Ares has been really worried about you…he always does.”



“He…does?” Strife asked hesitantly.



“Oh, yes.” Salamoneous nodded knowingly. “The whole time he was with me, you know, when he was stuck on earth.” Strife nodded. “Anyway,

you’re who he talked about most of all.”



“Oh. Uhm…” Strife didn’t know what to say.



“He was so afraid that you would do one of your disappearing acts.” Salamoneous squinted at the young god. “Do you still do those?”



“No, I haven’t had ta disappear in a long time.”



The older man smiled. “That’s great.” The sighed and narrowed his eyes as he thought.

“My goodness, it’s been a long time since he and I first met. Hmmm, how long has it been anyway?”



“Forty years.” Strife said quietly.



The con artist nodded. “That’s right, forty years.” Caught up in his memories, Salamoneous didn’t see the pained grimace on Strife’s face. Neither

man noticed Ares, who had just walked up.



^^^^^^



“Strife?” Iolaus whispered.



The young god rolled his head against the back of the chair and looked at the blond hunter. “Hey, Iolaus.”



Iolaus sighed when he realized that Strife hadn’t been asleep after all. The God of Mischief was draped bonelessly in the cushion and pillow bedecked

chair. His earlier attempts at staying upright had fallen by the wayside as the party went on.



“I, uhm, have something for you. Or rather, for the babies.”



In one hand Iolaus held a silvery, furry object. In the other, a light brown one. Joxer helped his good friend by taking the presents for him.



“I’m afraid I’m not very imaginative.” Iolaus blushed. “So, my presents for your babies are the same as the one I gave for Joxer’s little girl.”



Strife smiled and sat up straighter, his eyes looked on eagerly. “Baby blankets and booties?”



“Yes.” Iolaus seemed embarrassed to be offering the same thing.



“Oh, let me see.” Strife gestured enthusiastically. “I just love tha one’s ya did for Temmy.”



“See, I told you.” Hercules grinned at his almost lover. Iolaus smacked him on the arm in retaliation.



“Oh, fox fur.” Strife exclaimed over the silvery bundle. A tiny pair of furry silver booties were nestled in among the soft blanket. “Silver fox? Mah

goodness, that’s rare ta find.” Iolaus blushed at the compliment. “And is that…deer skin?” The brown bundle was found to be a velvety leather

coverlet and shoes that had a tiny figure carved around the edge of them.



Several people came up to ooh and aww over the small garments. It wasn’t easy finding something unusual for a godly baby, let alone two,

especially since the second child hadn’t even been known about until very recently.



“Hera gave me a hand with those.” Iolaus indicated the outfits.



“Yes.” The queen of the gods strolled up. “They have a couple of spells on them. Firstly, they will grow with the children and fit them always.

Secondly, they will never wear out. You can keep them forever.”



Iolaus’ gifts were laid over to the side with the multitude of other presents. Hercules’ leather wrap that could strap both babies to the carrier’s chest

was added to the pile and laid in the beautifully carved cradles that Joxer had made.



^^^^^^



Cupid leaned over and pushed the hair out of Strife’s eyes. The pregnant god didn’t so much as wiggle.



Around the room, flashes indicated the departure of the guests. They could see that the guest of honor was literally out on his feet, so they

discretely left. (Discrete, this bunch?)



“Baby.” Cupid whispered. He didn’t want to startle the young god by just picking him up.



“Hmmmm.” Strife hummed back.



“It’s time to go back to bed.”



“Go home.” Strife leaned into his husband’s embrace sleepily.



“We are home, remember.” Cupid grinned at Joxer and Ares. “The party was in our meeting hall.”



“Uh huh.” Strife murmured into Cupid’s neck as the love god picked him up.



“Good night everybody and thanks for the great party.”



“You’re welcome.” Joxer smiled gently.



“No problem.” Ares beamed. Of course, he hadn’t actually done anything…but anyway.



Athena waved from across the room. Again, she was taking care of the cleanup. By the time Cupid reached the doors, the room was clean and

silent. Everyone had gone home.



^^^^^^



Ares and Joxer were lying in bed. The covers were rumpled, evidence to prove their enthusiastic love making earlier. As were their naked limbs,

entwined like a complex knot. Joxer lay on his side facing the baby’s crib and Ares was spooned up behind the slender man.



A frown crossed Ares’ face as his eyes darted back and forth underneath his closed eyelids. With a gasp, his eyes snapped open and he sat up.



“Oh gods, no!”



As a new parent, Joxer snapped into instant wakefulness. “What is it? Is something wrong with Temmy?” He looked over and saw that their daughter

was still sleeping away, her little mouth hanging open.



“No.” Ares whimpered.



“Ares, what’s wrong?”



Joxer wrapped his long arms around Ares’ chest and hugged him. He could see how upset his husband was and was anxious to find out why.



“Strife’s…” He paused and thought hard. “…the times when Strife disappeared, he was recovering from Tryst’s attacks, wasn’t he?”



Joxer nodded, a tiny motion that threatened to spill tears down his face. He looked at the pain on Ares’ face as the war god thought back to all the

times Strife had *disappeared* for several days at a time.



The young god hoped he wasn’t betraying his best friend’s confidences. He didn’t think he was, so he would just have to hope for the best.



“Oh…no…” Ares’ mind connected Strife’s and Salamoneous’ words. “I was right to be worried.”



Joxer pulled Ares back onto the bed and held him tight. Neither man slept much that night.

^^^^^^

Hades looked up from his scroll. “Oh…damn.” He spoke to the wind.



The wind picked up his despair and swirled it out into the realm. People suffering in Tartarus whimpered in misery. Those in the Elysian Fields felt a

chill of disquiet.



The god looked over at his huddled prisoner and threw his hands up in the air.



^Mom’s idea.

+My mom actually did this when she was pregnant with me.

*My daughter Caitlin wrote this poem for me.

@The peepee dance was Kirsten Crumbliss’ idea.




Chapter 34



“Marry me.”



“What?!” Iolaus’ mouth hung open.



Hercules reached out and gently closed said mouth with one hand, although that adorably befuddled expression made Hercules want to kiss him

instead. “You heard me. I want you to marry me.”



“B-b-but…” Iolaus’ blue eyes reflected his shock. “How?”



“Well, I know we can’t have a real wedding ceremony. The only men who can do that are the gods.” Hercules frowned at the unfairness of it all.



“Yes.” Iolaus answered.



“But we can have a commitment ceremony. I want you to be my mate for the rest of our lives and I don’t care who…what did you say?”



“I said yes.” The smaller man grinned up at his fiancé.



Hercules grabbed the hunter to his chest and pulled him up for a kiss. The two men slid to the ground, where they kissed and caressed for endless

minutes.



“When?” Iolaus asked lazily. His perch on top of Hercules’ body was comfortable and he was drowsy from the mid-day sun.



“As soon as possible.” Hercules liked his living blanket.



“Okay.” Iolaus smiled. “After Strife has the babies. I want us to have a proper honeymoon.”



Hercules moaned appreciatively at the prospect and rubbed Iolaus’ butt gently. “Soon.”



“Soon.” Iolaus agreed.



^^^^^^



Strife twitched and shifted his behind around awkwardly on the chair. He just couldn’t get comfortable. The young god had been lying in bed so long

that his back was hurting, so now he was sitting in the chair Hephaestus had made for him. He looked at the door fretfully. Cupid had just left to get

something to cheer Strife up, but already it felt like he’d been gone a millennium.





Looking over at the new door on the other side of the bed, Strife thought. Jiggling his feet in frustration, the god of mischief studiously *didn’t* look

at the door. Tapping his fingers against the arm of his chair made a nice tinging sound but didn’t really help. He bit his lip in contemplation and then

nodded his head decisively.



“I can’t take it anymore, sa…sa that’s it.”



With that, Strife pushed the blanket off his legs. He took a deep breath to fortify himself for the upcoming ordeal. Pushing with his elbows against

the back of the chair he slid himself to the edge. Having strong metal arms to help him, Strife was able to maneuver himself up without too much

difficulty.



“Come on, Bob.”



The dual headed dog bounded over and let Strife lean against her. Strife needed the assistance and even with Bob’s help, he had a hard time walking

over to the door.



“Ha! I made it.” Strife grinned at his triumph, as he left the room.



^^^^^^



About 10 minutes later, Cupid returned. His arms were laden with different culinary treats and games that the mischief god had brought back from

the future.



“Baby, I’m back. Sorry, it took longer than I thought to…”



It was then that Cupid noticed that Strife was missing. He went from happy to terrified in seconds. Looking wildly around the room, the God of Love

started to hyperventilate.



“s-strife?”



He whimpered and ran to the bathroom, hoping his missing husband was in there. No such luck. The water in the bathing pool was even lifted up with

his godly magic, until it hovered up by the ceiling, just in case Strife’s water logged, godly self was hiding there. Still no luck. Moving back into the

bedroom, he heard a loud splash and belatedly remembered the floating water.



At a loss, Cupid did what any grown man, er god, (oh Tartarus, you know what I mean) would do in a situation like this…he yelled for his daddy. Dual

flashes heralded the arrival of Ares and Joxer.



“Cupid, what is it?” Ares noticed the lack of Strife and began to panic as well.



Joxer stayed calm, while Ares looked for someone to blast and Cupid began to list the people who might have a grudge against Strife. The God of

Peace wasn’t too concerned, with Psyche neutralized and Tryst dead, the threat to Strife seemed to be eliminated. Closing his eyes, he

concentrated.



“Res, Cupid, calm down. He’s right next door.”



The two gods looked at each other and grinned in embarrassment. Several months of disappearances and attacks had the father and son more than

a little bit jumpy.



Both of them meekly followed along behind Joxer. They were embarrassed that neither one of them had thought to do a simple search for the missing

god. What they saw in the other room surprised everyone but Joxer.



Strife was standing in the middle of the nursery with his arms full of stuffed toys. The pregnant god was looking around carefully, unawares of his

audience.



“I know, I’ll put them ovah heah.” He started towards the changing table. “No, that won’t work. I’ll need ta have that free.” Turning he started to go

over to the tall dresser. “No, that won’t work eithah.” He stopped abruptly and whimpered, clutching the small toys spasmodically. “I don’t know

wheah…”



Sensing someone behind him, Strife turned quickly and was almost overbalanced. Three gods and one dog caught him as he stumbled.



“Hi.” Strife smiled in an almost maniacal way. “I’m fixin tha nursery.”



“Baby…it’s all…”



A subtle smack on the arm from Joxer stopped what Cupid was going to say. The blond god looked at Joxer in astonishment.



“Strife, why don’t you let us help you.”



Strife thought for a moment, his face scrunched up in concentration. “I guess that’d be okay.”



Joxer took hold of Strife’s arm as Ares gathered up the stuffed toys, including the ones that had fallen when Strife stumbled. Cupid just stood there,

not quite understanding what was going on. He was still a little shaky from the scare he had earlier.



“What do you want to do?” Joxer kept a firm arm around his friend.



Strife reached over to the changing table and began to pull on the corner of it. “I wanna, uhn…” He gasped as his stomach twinged. “…m-move this

somewheah else.”



Joxer and Ares exchanged nods. Ares, the mighty God of War, rippling with muscles, and holding a bunch of stuffed animals, spoke up. “Why don’t

you let Cupid and I do that for you.”



“Well…” Strife hesitated. He should be doing this, at least that’s what his mind was telling him.



“Let us be…” Ares looked Joxer up and down and licked his lips playfully. Well, as playfully as a man holding pretend centaurs can. “Let Cupid and I

be your personal *body* servants.”



Joxer blushed at the look his husband was giving him. Strife just looked distracted, not really hearing the meaning behind the words.



“Okay, that’d be…okay.”



Cupid glanced over to see Joxer helping Strife to sit down. He started to question again and this time it was Ares that nudged his arm. Looking at his

father, Cupid saw the older god shake his head. “Shhh.” He whispered. “He’s nesting.”



Nesting? Cupid wondered what the Tartarus that was, but decided to ask his dad later, after Strife was back in bed. His husband had a thin sheen of

sweat on his face and was obviously overly excited, but even as Joxer was sitting him down, Strife reached out to move a lamp. The pregnant god

couldn’t seem to stop rearranging, it was up to them to help him.



“So, where do you want these?” Ares indicated the toys in his arms.



Strife bit his lip nervously and looked around the room. “I’m not sure.”



He reached up to play with the suppressor earring he was wearing. If he took that out, just for a minute, he could fix things around like he wanted

to. He already knew how some things should look, but…



“I have a suggestion.” Joxer said gently.



“What?” Strife looked almost frantic. He just *had* to get this done. Right now!



Joxer waved his hand and a tall wicker basket appeared beside Ares. “You can put some of the babies’ things inside and the toys on top.”



Strife looked at the basket critically. Cupid carried it over and Strife even looked inside. “I like it. That’s a great idea!” Strife reached for his friend

and Joxer leaned over and gave the pregnant god a hug.



“Okay…now, I wanna move tha changin table ovah theah.” He pointed to the other side of the room.



Ares sat the playthings down on the basket and immediately went over to the heavy changing table. Cupid followed along, keeping a careful eye on

Strife the whole time. But he didn’t have to worry. Joxer was talking in a low voice to the young god, making sure he stayed calm.



^^^^^^



“Strife…what is that?”



Joxer sounded, not quite frightened, but definitely worried. He pointed to a nearby wall. On the wall were numerous rabbits. Some were small, some

large. Some of the creatures were well drawn, cotton-tailed rabbits. Others were, well…lopsided and kind of menacing.



“They’re tha bunnies ah war.”*



“Uh, okay.” Looking closer at the mural. Good grief, the pictures were moving, not very fast, but they were definitely on the go. Joxer bit his lip.

“What are they doing? Are they attacking that centaur?”



“Ah course. Like I said, they’re tha bunnies ah war. What else would they do?” Strife said, with a tone that told Joxer that explained everything.



Unsure of that logic, Joxer decided to humor his friend. He knew what it was like to have hormones driving your body crazy and he’d only been

pregnant with one godling.



“Naturally.”



Strife smiled and nodded. Ares seemed fascinated with the vicious bunnies while Cupid just looked confused.



“So, what else do you want changed?”



“I don’t like wheah tha baby beds are at.” Strife gestured to the beds, each one a duplicate of the other. The blankets lining them were white, but

would change to match the sex of each baby after they were born.



“I want…” He looked around thoughtfully. “I want them ovah theah, against the wall next ta Cupe’s and my bed. And I want them ta be with the

heads ah tha beds facin each othah with tha long sides against tha wall.” Strife nodded as his husband and uncle rearranged the furniture.



“Good thinking.” Joxer smiled approvingly. “The babies will want to be closer together.”



“That’s right. Fah tha first few months, I’ll keep them in just one crib. They’ll be used ta bein tagethah.” Strife giggled and rubbed circles on his

tummy. “Aftah all they’ve been in tha same place fah nine months.”



All four gods laughed at that.



^^^^^^



“So, what about your chair?” Joxer pointed across the room to the rocking chair that was waiting for Strife. “Is that what you want for the room?”



“No, not really.” Strife bit his lip as he concentrated.



“That’s okay, I changed mine.”



“Several times.” Ares muttered. Joxer glared at him and Ares pretended not to notice.



“I want ta be able ta lay down with tha babies, that way I can hold them both at tha same time.”



Cupid waved his hand and a lounging chair appeared. “How about this, baby?”



“No-o-o. That’s nice, but I don’t really want a bed…”



Joxer looked at his friend for a few moments and then waved his hand. Instead of a chair or even a bed, there was a pile of pillows and blankets.

They were heaped all over each other and made an inviting nest.# It was even shaped like a nest, round with a higher edge and a depression in the

middle to lay in.



“That’s it!” Strife cried, looking truly happy now.



“I thought you might like that.” Joxer said quietly. Strife was the only one to hear the sad tone to his friend’s voice. He reached out and the two

men hugged.



“Thanks, Joxah.”



“No problem.”



^^^^^^



Strife leaned back in his reclining chair. He wanted to stay in the nursery for a little while longer, to make sure he was satisfied with the

arrangements. Joxer thought he saw a look of longing on his friend’s face, like Strife needed a little time by himself, so he shooed Cupid and Ares out

of the room.



Joxer understood, sometimes coddling got on your nerves, no matter how well intentioned. The God of Peace would have left as well, but Strife

patted the chair Joxer had been sitting in. “Stay with me, please.”



“Sure.” Joxer smiled and sat back down. “So, how do you like it?”



Strife looked around carefully, consideringly. “I like it.” He finally pronounced. “What da ya think ah it?”



The former mortal looked around just as carefully. “I think it looks wonderful.”



“Good.” Strife rubbed his tummy and winced as one of the babies kicked. Strife leaned his head back against a pink and blue cushion and closed his

eyes.



Joxer watched him out of the corner of his eye. He didn’t want Strife to fall asleep in the chair or his back would be killing him the next day.



“Sa…”



Joxer blinked, surprised, because he thought Strife was mostly asleep. His voice didn’t sound sleepy though, he sounded…



“Sa, has His fate been decided on…finally?”



The careful way that Strife had worded the question told Joxer that they hadn’t fooled Strife, not completely anyway. He most likely didn’t know

anything about Tryst’s *punishment*, but he knew something had gone on.



“No, not yet, but Hades is still trying to decide.” Joxer said decisively. “As a matter of fact…” Joxer smirked a little, hoping that Strife saw the humor

too. “…Hades has him in a cage in the corner of his office.”



Strife blinked and then snickered. “He’s in a cage, like a dog?” Joxer nodded and the other god laughed. “I hope it’s a small enclosure.”



^^^^^^



Gabrielle stomped into the tavern. Her blond hair was swinging back and forth across her back as she flounced over to a table and dropped down.



“Is somethin wrong darling?”



She looked up into Beru’s bright blue eyes and smiled. Perfect.



“Yes, my friends aren’t being very nice to me right now.” Gabrielle looked down at the table sadly. She waited to see if the man from Eire would take

the bait.



“That’s terrible.” Beru placed a strong and comforting hand on the blond woman’s shoulder. “Why don’t you tell me all about it.”



Gabrielle smiled as Beru sat down at her table. This was working better than she could ever have imagined. She’d show Iolaus that other men found

her desirable and before long the blond hunter would come crawling back.



^^^^^^



Beru watched as Gabrielle smiled. Her eyes had a far away look in them and he wondered what she was thinking about. He was amused at her

attempts to gain his sympathy. Beru had seen the interaction between the 4 friends the last time they were in the tavern and he didn’t believe

Gabrielle’s complaints at all.



No, he knew the blond woman was up to something. He’d play along for now, because it amused him. Besides, she was a comely woman.



Eyeing Gabrielle up and down, Beru wondered what she’d look like naked. He decided that listening to her tales of woe might be worth it if he got a

tumble in the end.



^^^^^^



It wasn’t easy, but Strife got up again. After he was upright, the young god waddled out of the bedroom, into the nursery and over to his resting

area. “I wanna try it out.”



Using the wall as leverage and Bob’s body as support, Strife slowly eased down the wall and onto his bed. The bedding was thick and soft and felt

oh so good on his achy body. Strife curled up as best he could and fell asleep almost immediately.



^^^^^^



This time when Cupid discovered Strife was missing, he didn’t immediately panic, but decided to check the nursery first. The sight of Strife nestled in

the bed both warmed his heart and made him want to cry in frustration.



Cupid knelt down in front of the pregnant god and waited. He wasn’t going to wake Strife up now that he was actually resting, so he watched. He

watched Strife’s almost peaceful face. He watched the babies moving around underneath his tunic, the slight twitches easy to see.



“Hiya, Cupe. Whatcha doin?” Strife smiled sleepily.



“Looking at three of the four most important people in my life.” He watched happily as Strife blushed. “What are you doing?”



Strife thought for a moment. “Gestating.”



Cupid burst out laughing. Strife giggled. Cupid picked up his wayward husband and took him back to bed.



“Are you going to stay here now?”



“Yes, Cupid. I’ll be good.” At the dubious look he got, Strife smacked his husband on the arm. “Hey, I’ve been good…lately.”



“Yes, you have. Now, stop wandering off.”



“Okay.” Strife sobered. “I’m sorry if I’ve worried ya.”



“That’s okay, baby. Now go to sleep.” Cupid covered the two of them up and they settled down for the night.



*Thanks to Shamenka for letting me borrow her bunnies of war from her wonderful story, “Bright, Shiny and New.”

#It was mom’s idea for Strife to have an actual nest.



Fic: Overheard Conversations 35/?
Author: Kerensa
Email: vkevans@yahoo.com Feedback please. Feedback or death (well, maybe that’s going a little too far)
Rating: FRM, so far
Fandom: Xena/Hercules, brief mention of food from Harry Potter series
Pairing: Ares/Joxer, Cupid/Strife, Hercules/Iolaus
Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, I’m just borrowing them for a little fun. The same with the Harry Potter stories. I have no money, no

property, I even have to borrow the food I eat, so please don’t sue me.
Warning: m/m; MPREG; talk of nonconsensual sex; talk of underage molestation, rape, and abuse; angst
Summary: Joxer and Strife are both pregnant and end up talking. Their husbands, Ares and Cupid overhear their conversation and find out a lot more

about their husband’s, especially Strife’s past, than they ever imagined.
Status: WIP
Series: Children At Play
Archive: Yes to AJCS, Make Believe, Beyond Cannon, Lone Tree Preserve and MPREG; anywhere else, sure just tell me first.
Website: Nope, sorry I wouldn’t know how to set one up.
Notes: I want to thank my mother for some of the ideas in this story. She thought up the bad guy’s name and some ways to hurt poor Strife. Later

in the series I will mention something, briefly, from the I LOVE LUCY show; bonus points if you can find it. Also, a brief appearance by some of the

people on Andromeda. Beta’d by me and Spellcheck.


Chapter 35

‘Joxer.’

The young god’s head jerked up in surprise at the voice in his head. Once upon a time, Joxer would have worried about his sanity if he had heard an

unusual voice speaking in his head. Now that he was a god he was somewhat used to being summoned mentally, because he and Ares mentally

talked back and forth to each other all the time. Considering his family though, both biological and godly, he did still worry about his sanity at times.

‘Yes, Cupid?’ he answered back.

‘Could you come help please? Strife needs you.’

‘Certainly. I’ll be right there.’

After asking Ganymede to watch the baby, Joxer flashed over to Cupid and Strife’s temple. The young immortal was happy to help watch over the

red headed godling. Joxer left the former cup bearer sitting by the crib, hoping for the little girl to wake up so he could play with her.

Cupid and Strife's bedroom was empty when Joxer arrived, so the God of Peace naturally looked for them in the nursery. No luck there either. Joxer

stood for a moment and concentrated. He could feel the presence of *several* deities in the bathing chamber. Joxer decided that either they were

having a party in there or he was sensing the babies now too. Joxer grinned as he strode towards the bathroom. The idea of them having a party in

the bathing pool was too strange even for this group.

The pregnant man and his husband were in the pool, but they were alone and so Joxer concluded that he was right about sensing the babies. "Hi,

guys." Joxer smiled as he watched his friend worriedly. Strife was hunched over Cupid's arm and moaning in pain. Joxer hurried down the steps into

the water and over to his friend.

He waited until Strife stopped crying out in pain and had leaned back against Cupid's chest before he continued. "What's up?"

Strife panted for a little bit and looked at Joxer resignedly. The god’s shimmery blue eyes were dulled. "I'm hurtin again."

"As bad as before?" Joxer glanced from Strife's weary face to Cupid's worried, and also weary, one.

"Nah, not nearly as bad as before, but..." Strife winced and hugged the tanned arm that was across his chest. "It's just sa hard. I-I've not been

hurtin as much since evahbody took some ah mah pain. I kinda got used ta tha luxury." He shifted in Cupid's grasp, trying to find a more comfortable

position. Joxer slid closer and watched in sympathy. "And now the pain's come back...at least some of it." Strife whimpered and scrunched his eyes

closed against the cramping pain.

Joxer looked up at Cupid. They were both upset to hear Strife saying that having less pain was a 'luxury'. The God of Peace spoke up when his friend

seemed to be hurting less. "Maybe we should call Ace then."

"That's what I've been saying," Cupid sounded downright desperate. His free hand was busy making circles on Strife's collar bone, a clear sign of his

agitation. The movement caused the damp fabric of his loose shirt to slide off of one shoulder. The part of the arm that could be seen was sticklike,

it was so thin, and a testament of how badly this pregnancy had drug Strife down.

Strife shook his head no. In spite of his worry, Cupid had to smile at how nice the black locks felt as they swooshed against his bare shoulder.

"Theah isn't anythin that Ace can do; he admitted that last night when he checked on me." The mischief god gasped in pain again and Joxer rubbed

a hand on his tummy trying to ease the tension. Joxer winced in sympathy when he felt how tight the muscles were.

"What about Hades?" Joxer asked quietly.

"I want ta save his freezin powah until it gets really bad." Strife admitted tiredly.

Joxer could understand that. Now that Strife was so far along in the pregnancy, the freezing spell could only be used three or four times a day and

then for only about a half an hour at a time. Although it didn’t sound like much, those few times of respite were crucial to Strife. He needed the relief

from the pain to keep his strength up.

The mischief god flinched badly when Ares flashed into the marble room. Strife still startled easily and probably always would. There was no way to

tell if the nervousness was a part of his natural personality or a result of all the years of abuse...or both.

Ares didn't say anything. No questions, nothing. He just walked into the water and stood behind his husband, lending his support to all three of the

gods.

^^^^^

Hera was the next one to flash into the bathing chamber. She raised her eyebrows at the unusual sight before her. The goddess had to bite her lip in

order not to laugh. Cupid, Strife, Joxer and Ares were all sitting in the clear water; all in their normal clothes. Hera figured that Ares' leathers were

probably uncomfortable as Tartarus by now, Cupid's too. She shook her head and sighed. The sound caught everyone's attention. Strife hadn't

noticed her entrance because he'd been in too much pain and the others had been concentrating on the suffering god.

"What are you doing?" she asked bemusedly.

"Strife's hurting more and being in the water helps him," Cupid answered in a distracted voice.

The Goddess of Marriage and Childbirth shook her head and squatted by the side of the bathing pool. She reached out a hand and gently touched

Strife on the shoulder. "Well, of course he's in more pain, he's in labor you idiots." She rolled her eyes when the other three men leaned forward to

peer at Strife more closely.

"Oh, Elysia! Of course." Joxer smacked himself on the head. "Why else would a nine months pregnant person be having pains every few minutes."

Cupid thumped his head back against the edge of the marble. "Damn, I am an idiot."

Hera smiled and decided to have a little mercy on the trio. "It's alright. Everyone's been under a lot of stress lately and not thinking too clearly."

‘Although what good sitting around staring at the poor boy is doing is beyond me,’ she thought with a mental roll of her eyes.

The goddess snapped her fingers and a small bell appeared in her hand. She shook it a couple of times and the tinkling sound, though soft, was

clearly heard in the quiet room. Hera was summoning some help. She felt that it was crass to yell for people, like Hercules did, and she didn't like

invading people's privacy by calling them mentally. This way the person whom she wanted to see would hear the musical note and know to come.

"Labor?" Strife raised a wet and shaky hand and wiped it across his tired eyes. "Pain with a purpose. That makes a difference."

“Yes,” Joxer agreed with his friend. He smiled encouragingly. “This time it will have a happy result.”

“M-make that two happy results.” Strife grinned weakly.

Another flash and this time Asclepius was standing there. "You rang?" He looked at Hera expectantly.

Strife, who loved to watch movies and television from the future, exploded in laughter. Joxer had been privy to some of the shows Strife watched

and he snorted at the unintentional reference.++

Strife moaned at that moment, before Hera could explain, and Ace instantly understood why he had been called. The medical god was in the water in

a flash, his long white, medical toga swirling around in the water behind him before it sank down into the water. "How long have you been in labor?"

he asked as he expertly felt the large bulge that was Strife's tummy.

"About three or four hours," Cupid answered for Strife who was suffering through a contraction.

“Oh, okay.” Ace looked concerned. That would put Strife fairly early into his labor and that wasn’t good for the weakened god. That meant that

there were *hours* left to go.

“No,” Strife puffed a few times. “I started having pains early this morning.” The young god twisted his head to look at his irate husband, hoping to

head off any hurt feelings. “I didn’t realize it until just now, but that musta been what I was feelin. I wasn’t tryin ta hide anythin from ya, I promise.”

Cupid kissed Strife on the forehead to show that he wasn’t upset. He would have given his husband a proper kiss, but Strife was still trying to catch

his breath.

"That's even better," Asclepius said as he gauged how far along Strife's labor was. He made sure to keep his face a calm mask when he realized that

Strife still had a long ways to go.

Joxer eyed his friend and thought frantically. He remembered his own, long and very painful labor, quite vividly. Strife’s would be even worse,

because he came into the pregnancy in a lot of pain and had quickly spiraled down from there. The young god worried his lower lip with his teeth as

he leaned back against his husband…his sexy husband. Joxer’s face lit up, he had an idea.

“What you need is a distraction.”

Strife smiled and nodded his head sleepily. “Sounds good. What kind ah distraction have ya got in mind?”

“A, uh…another ‘best of’ list.” Joxer smiled, pretty proud of himself, considering he was making this up as he went along.

The God of Mischief gave a little giggle. Actually it less of a giggle and more of a sad attempt at one, but the others appreciated the effort he was

making. “Okay,” he said indulgently, subconsciously realizing that the others would need the distraction as well.

“A what?” Ares asked as he pulled Joxer tighter to his chest. The big god squirmed as his clothes squished uncomfortably. ‘Damn, wet leather is

*not* comfortable and I think it's shrinking. Especially in the crotch area.' Joxer wriggled on his lap when he leaned back to explain. 'Okay, maybe

that's why my leathers are getting tight. Oh, the Tartarus with looking tough,’ he thought, right before he changed his clothes to something more

water friendly. The fact that the white cotton made him look like his counterpart in the alternate universe, Ares, the God of Love, *and* was very

sheer when wet…sadly went unnoticed by the people who would appreciate it most.

“A ‘best of’ list,” Joxer repeated. “That’s where we decide on the ‘best of’ something that we’ve seen or had before. For instance, we did a ‘best of’

list of things we had eaten. Of course, we did a ‘worst of’ list too, but that was kind of nasty.”

“Yeah, tha worst food we evah ate was disgustin,” Strife interjected.

Joxer flinched at the memory and nodded his agreement. “Right, and so I thought we’d do something different this time.”

Strife didn’t answer. The God of Mischief’s jaw was tight and his eyes were clenched shut as he rocked back and forth in Cupid’s loose grasp. When

the contraction ended, Strife slumped back and panted for a few moments.

“Don’t hold your breath,” Joxer advised. “That only makes it hurt worse. And it wears you out.”

“o-okay.” Strife’s eyes were unfocused for the moment. “What have ya got in mind?”

Joxer bit his lip and leaned back into his own husband’s warm embrace. The water swirled around them, casting up little waves in response to the

movement. The newer god ran a finger across Ares’ arm, playing with the dark hair curling there. He looked over his shoulder and straight into Ares’

enquiring, dark eyes and then over to Cupid’s equally puzzled ones. Joxer grinned in a very unJoxerlike way.

“How about we decide on the sexiest man we know?”

Strife raised both eyebrows in amusement. “That’s gonna be a really short contest theah, Joxah.”

Joxer rolled his eyes and ignored the bristling of the god behind him and the one behind Strife. He knew what he was doing. This would definitely

distract Strife and that was the object of the game, after all. If his and Strife’s respective spouses got jealous in the meantime, well, they’d just

have to get over it.

“Well, obviously we have to eliminate them.” He waved a hand, indicating their spouses. “Otherwise, you’d say Cupid, I’d say Ares and it’d be a tie.

No,” Joxer shook his head. “We’d have to have a couple of restrictions. The main one would be that we don’t include anybody that we really know.

That should cut down on any problems.”

Strife looked at his uncle’s darkened visage and snorted. “If ya say so.”

“You can add props, say what kind of clothes they are wearing, that kind of thing. You know, set the scene. Okay, I’ll start it off.” Joxer sat for a

moment…thinking. Ares seemed to relax when his young husband didn’t already have somebody in mind. “I know. Chakotay.* Wearing…blue jeans and

a tight, muscle man shirt. In white.”

Strife blinked at the image in his mind. “Good one. Okay, uhm…Tom Paris**. Wearin a silky blue poet’s shirt and a pair ah dark brown pants, also

outta silk.”

Joxer swallowed hard and began to name someone else when another contraction started. The dark haired, former mortal grabbed his friend’s hand.

It was apparent that the pains were getting worse. Strife grunted at the hurt. His whole body clenched up, causing the spasms to get worse.

“Try breathing like this.” Asclepius began to pant like he had seen in the Hall of Time. Strife’s mouth dropped open and he started to giggle

uncontrollably. Ace wasn’t insulted, he recognized the laughter as Strife’s way of not getting hysterical at the escalating pain.

“Why would I wanna do that?”

“It’s supposed to help lessen the pain of childbirth.”

“Ya’re kiddin me. Why would breathin like that help when yar insides are bein ripped out?”

Ace shrugged. “I only know what I saw.”

“I want to give a couple of suggestions for your list,” Cupid said when Strife had calmed down. “I have two friends, Skylar and Tony#. They are from

waaaay in the future.”

Cupid waved his hand and the image of two men appeared. They looked remarkably alike, both being of medium height, with dark hair and eyes and

an interesting smirk on their faces. The only real difference between the two men was that Skylar had pointed ears and…sparks in his eyes.

“Are they gods?” Asclepius asked, curious about the ears and those intriguing looking eyes.

“No, Skylar is a life spark.” Cupid waved his hand around in a circle, trying to come up with an explanation. “Life sparks were basically the beginning

of all life, at least in their universe. Poor Skylar is the only one left. I’ve been friends with him for a long time.”

“And, uh…Tony?” Ares asked, looking at the two beings appreciatively.

Cupid laughed. “Tony is a misguided mortal. He thinks that he’s made up Skylar, when in fact Skylar is as real as you and me.”

“Th-they’re good lookin,” Strife stated.

“You should see them in a pair of jeans,” Cupid muttered under his breath.

^^^^^

The expression on Cupid’s and Ares’ faces was priceless and if anyone had been looking at them, they would probably have laughed. Not out loud,

mind you, not in front of the super powerful God of War and the God of Love. Those two powerful gods deserved respect…at least to their faces.

Anyway…they were getting more irate by the minute. Intellectually they knew what Joxer was doing and the distraction did seem to help keep

Strife’s mind off the pain. But inside their guts, deep down where the testosterone lived…their husbands were discussing other men!

“Yeah, Jim’s really hot, but I agree with you, Blair is cuter.”+ Joxer stated with certainty.

Ares’ face darkened appreciably and he pulled his husband into a tighter embrace. He didn’t let up until Joxer grunted in pain and whacked him on the

arm.

Cupid’s embrace wasn’t as tight, in consideration of Strife’s delicate condition, but his touch was *very* possessive.

“I’ve got it.” Strife grinned at Joxer. “Tyr.^ In tha bedroom. He’s layin on red satin sheets in tha middle ah a shiny brass bed. And…he’s.....wearin…”

Strife gasped and dug his fingers into Cupid’s tanned arm. The contraction seemed to go on forever, as his loved ones watched Strife suffering.

Finally, he relaxed and continued on. “He’s wearin silver…chains.”

Ares could hear Joxer gasp and angled his head so that he could see the expression on the younger man’s face. Joxer’s mouth was hanging open and

his eyes had a dazed look in them. Strife laughed triumphantly.

“Oh, my…” Joxer swallowed hard. “Red s-satin next to that dark skin.” Joxer rubbed his hand over Ares’ arm and licked his lips several times.

“And-and silver chains. They’d be small chains, ones that shouldn’t hold such a big man down, but they would.”

Ares was about to explode, because enough was enough. And then…Joxer turned and looked at him…appraisingly. Wide, dark eyes raked up and

down Ares’ body like a hunter about to bring down his prey.

“Oh yeah, red satin with that dark curly hair on it.”

Strife grinned. "Joxah, Tyr has long, braided hair," he reminded the younger god.

"Uh huh." Joxer didn't seem to be listening, he was more interested in Ares. The warrior ran his hands over Ares’ hair appreciatively. “And silver

chains…” The young god licked his lips as his feverish gaze roamed over Ares’ wet, but clothed (darn it!) body.

Suddenly, Ares wasn’t jealous anymore. He realized that Joxer was imaging him in that position. Ares smiled and leaned down to whisper, “Whatever

you want, Angel.”

If Ares and Joxer had been alone, and Strife hadn’t been in labor, there would have been a serious ravaging going on. As it was…

“Congratulations.” Joxer turned around and held out his hand to Strife. “You win, again.”

The hand that Strife extended was shaking, but he still managed to laugh. “When are ya gonna learn, Joxah? I’m just good.” He gave a hitching

laugh at the joke.

Ares and Cupid nodded at each other, happy that the game was over. The war god thought of nasty things, like cold, wet leather, to calm down the

arousal that his wonderful husband had created.

^^^^^

Strife cried out and tried to curl into a ball, not an easy feat considering the size of his stomach. Cupid ran a wet cloth across the younger god’s

sweaty forehead and down the back of his neck. They were out of the bathing pool now and back in the bedroom. After a while, the water had

begun to irritate the pregnant god, so they had shifted location. The only problem was that now Strife was sweating up a storm and *that* was

irritating him. Strife let out a puff of breath and relaxed as the pain passed.

“Has Hades been here at all today?” Apollo asked consideringly.

“No,” Cupid answered, but before he could say any more, Strife spoke up.

“It’s hard ta breathe. Let me sit up a little bit.” Strife’s color improved a little as he was leaned against Cupid.

“I’m going to call for him, because Strife needs to rest for a little while.” Apollo closed his eyes and concentrated for a moment; his brow furrowed at

the effort.

It was an understatement that Strife badly needed some rest. The pregnant man couldn’t even straighten his tunic that had gotten messed up. It

had ridden up a little and he was embarrassed that his tummy was sticking out, but right now, he couldn’t move it back down to save his life. Joxer

noticed him staring at the shirt and thoughtfully tugged it down.

Hades flashed in and was talking with Apollo. Strife watched them and wondered why there were bright sparkles around the two gods. He slowly

looked around the room and realized that the sparkles were getting bigger...

^^^^^

The band of children giggled as they snuck into the temple. It was Strife’s one and only temple in all of Greece. The twenty or so adolescents walked

into the temple, not bothered by any temple priests. It's not that Strife didn't have any priests, he did...two of them. No, the reason the invasion

wasn't challenged was because that most of Strife's followers were children and he had decreed that they could come and go in his temple any time

of the day or night. There had been many a time that a child had been sheltered inside the temple walls, running from someone who was chasing

them.

Hagon stepped back from the stone altar and grinned. He looked at his friends and they all laughed. Deciding they should run before someone caught

them, the rest of the preteens and teens raced out of the temple door. Hagon stopped and looked back with a giggle. Circling Strife's altar were

minature busts of all the other gods of Olympus, even the minor ones. They were arranged to appear as if the other gods were tribute to the God of

Mischief.

The busts weren't very big, only a few inches high, but that was to be expected since they had been *borrowed* from the different gods treasury

stores= (gift shops). The kids were ambitious, but they didn't have the time to make all the statues by hand. Their god, Strife, needed the energy

*right now*.

With a glance up at the ceiling, Hagon intoned, "For you, Lord Strife. We all hope you have your babies soon." With that the young man followed his

laughing friends down the alleyway.

^^^^^

Strife gasped and sucked in a deep lungful of breath. The oxygen mask that Asclepius had placed over his face sent a surge of air into his body. The

young god watched as the sparkles quickly disappeared.

"Is that better?" Ace asked anxiously. Strife nodded and frowned. "You almost passed out," the healer explained.

Well, that certainly explained a lot. Strife lay bonelessly in Cupid’s comforting grasp. He didn’t want to move. Actually, the pregnant god doubted

that he could move.

Strife laughed as the energy from the children’s prank finally reached him. He appreciated the effort that the teenagers had put into the well thought

out piece of mischief. It wasn’t often that his followers planned any of their pranks, usually the practical jokes were spur of the moment and only

yielded a small amount of energy. He wondered what some of the more well known gods would think once they realized that their treasury stores had

been ransacked to help him.

“I want to try something,” Apollo said. His voice roused the young god from his momentary musings. Apollo picked up Strife’s hand and held it. Strife

could feel the jealousy pouring off of Cupid, but Strife didn’t sense any lust from the healing god. ‘He’d have ta be kind ah desperate ta hit on a guy

havin a baby,’ Strife decided ruefully.

“Squeeze my hand, please,” Apollo asked quietly.

Strife looked at their joined hands and tried. He concentrated as hard as he could and even then there was only a very slight tightening of his pale

hand over Apollo’s tanned and strong one.

The healing god nodded decisively and placed Strife’s hand back on his burgeoning tummy. “Strife, I think we need to talk.”

At that moment, Strife felt the beginning of another contraction, only, this one felt…different. Strife was trying to think what was different. He was

about to mention the fact to Ace and Apollo when he felt one of the babies shift downward in his stomach.

Strife gasped, his eyes going wide at the overwhelming pain that ripped from one side of his body to the other.

^^^^^

Iolaus cried out and dropped to the ground. Hercules heard his fiancé and came running back up the stairs and into the room where they were

staying.

“Iolaus!”

He gathered up the writhing man and held him close. “Herc, oh gods.”

“Iolaus, what is it?” Xena came running in, followed quickly by a worried Gabrielle.

As quickly as it started, the pain stopped. Iolaus lay panting on the ground. “It…was……my hips.” He laid his head on Hercules’ lap and shuddered as

the ghostly fingers of pain skittered across his body.

“Oh,” Xena said quietly. As one, the other three mortals looked Olympusward.

^^^^^

Strife’s scream pierced the air, sharper than one of Zeus’ lightening bolts. He found that he did have some strength after all, when his body did a

writhing dance, trying to escape from the agony he was feeling.

A touch from the God of the Underworld and Strife's pain vanished. Strife collapsed back on the bed and shook from the aftershocks of the pain.

Cupid held on to him tight and Strife was surprised at being able to feel his arms around him. ‘Hades musta not frozen me sa high up,’ he decided.

Strife smiled his thanks through the mask and Hades nodded back. The older god had a thoughtful look on his face and Strife took a moment to

wonder what was up.

“What the Tartarus was that?” Cupid yelled in a panic. Strife wanted to reassure his husband, but he didn’t know how.

Ace had his hands on Strife’s body; he began at the damaged ribs and worked his way down. “Ah,” Asclepius sighed and nodded. “One of the babies

is pressing against his pelvis, which, in turn, is putting a strain on his hips. The baby doesn’t know that Strife isn’t a female and is trying to come out

the traditional way.”

“Are you still hurting, baby?” Cupid pushed the hair off of Strife’s face, in frantic, little sweeping motions. Strife leaned his head against Cupid’s hand,

stopping the barely controlled, panicked motions.

“No…I…I don’t feel anythin right now.” It was hard to talk, but for Cupid he’d find the strength somewhere.

"Strife."

Strife opened his eyes and looked at Asclepius, who was standing beside his father, Apollo. The other god smiled when he realized that he had

Strife's attention. "Do you remember how tough it was for Joxer to have Tempra?" At Strife's nod, he continued. "You aren't going to be able to have

these babies. At least not without some help," he hastily added at Cupid's panicked look.

"i agree." Strife's voice was weak and faded.

“So, we’re going to take the babies out.”

“How?” Joxer’s brow was wrinkled as he frowned at the two gods.

“I’ll get them out.” Hera stepped forward, her face grave and sympathetic.

Strife tried not to panic, but it didn’t work. He was scared to death of the pain that Hera’s *touch* would bring.

“Can you feel that?” Strife looked over at Joxer in surprise and then down at the former mortal’s hand that was resting on Strife’s tummy.

“Uh, no.”

“Then you won’t feel it when Hera gets the babies.”

“That’s true.” Strife smiled at his friend and then over at the trio of healers who were going to deliver his babies. “I’m ready when ya are.” He

wasn’t, not really, but hey, he’d give it his best shot.

“Good.” Ace smiled and walked over to the table where the power collecting jar was located. “Brace yourself.” The god concentrated for a moment

and a crack appeared in the jar, light began to pour out of the fissure and floated over to Strife.

Strife was prepared for the extra power this time and it didn’t overwhelm him. He closed his eyes and sighed, feeling stronger than he had in a long

time. With his eyes shut, Strife missed it when more of the jar broke open. The blue light completely enveloped his body for a few moments. Cupid

was hidden too, but the power didn’t touch him. When the light dissipated, Strife wasn’t quite as wan as he had been.

^^^^^

Down on earth, several of Strife’s followers were trying to help their god by playing as many pranks as they could.

Beru added his energy burst when he swatted Gabrielle on the butt. The Amazon Princess’ mouth fell open in shock.

The bartender gave her a mischievous smile and slapped the other butt cheek. Gabrielle blushed and ducked her head.

‘Interestin,’ the man from Eire thought. ‘It might be fun ta discipline her. I think she’d find it entertainin too.’

^^^^^

Strife’s eyes widened in surprise when followed the prank back to its originator. He wondered if Gabrielle was into bondage too. That thought made

the pregnant god nauseous and so he shut that idea right out of his head.

“Okay, it’s the time, before the power surge wears off,” Apollo stated in a calm and professional tone.

Hera stood to one side of the bed and waited as her hands started glowing. Joxer quickly pulled Strife’s shirt up, exposing his tightly stretched

tummy. Everyone in the room winced at how thin Strife had gotten. Each rib was plainly defined under the pale skin; the ridges where the bones

were badly mended could easily be seen.

The Goddess of Childbirth slowly eased her hands into Strife’s stomach. The god flinched automatically, expecting it to hurt, despite the freezing

spell. Cupid started playing with his hair again and Joxer rubbed his shoulder. Strife was pleasantly surprised when there was no pain, just a slight

feeling of cold that started to seep up his chest.

They all looked at Strife expectantly. “Uh, I’m okay.”

Hera nodded and waited for a moment, giving the babies time to get used to the new intruder, then she wrapped her hands around one of the

infants and pulled. The skin on Strife’s tummy stretched at first, before giving way with a small pop. A gush of amniotic fluid followed, along with a

red and dripping baby. Almost immediately there was the sound of a newborn baby’s first, thin cry of life.

It amazed Strife how quiet the whole process had been. Not one word had been spoken and as far as Strife could tell, no one, other than Hera had

moved. Now, it was all talking and movement.

“Oh, baby.” Cupid kissed the side of Strife’s head. The mischief god could feel his husband’s face move when he smiled.

“Strife, she’s beautiful,” Joxer said.

“It’s a little girl?” Strife tried to see his daughter, but there were too many people in the way.

“She certainly is.” Ace walked over and placed the naked bundle on Strife’s chest. Not the safest way to hold a baby, but it was worth the risk.

Strife stared at his daughter and everyone, other than Cupid, faded away. She was a little round ball of soft skin and blond hair. Strife wrapped his

hands around her tiny, pale body and started to cry. He looked up at Cupid and saw the same look of wonderment on his face. The baby gave out a

soft, snuffly sigh and opened her eyes. Strife saw his own pale blue eyes staring back at him from a face that was just as pale. That, coupled with

the light colored hair, made her eyes stand out startlingly.

“Sh-she looks like both ah us,” Strife said dreamily.

“Yes, she sure does.” Cupid wrapped his arms around Strife and helped him cuddle their baby.

“I hate to interrupt,” Apollo said with an indulgent smile. “But we need to get the other baby out before time runs out on Strife’s freezing spell.”

Cupid stood up immediately and picked the little girl up. The love god knew how much it had hurt Strife the other times that Hera had done her thing

and he was adamant that he not feel that again.

Cupid started to walk over to the table where an ecstatic Aphrodite was waiting to hold her granddaughter, when he gasped. Strife looked up at him

warily. “Is somethin tha matah, Cupe?”

The love god was looking at their daughter and smiling goofily, so Strife didn’t think so, but it was better to be safe than sorry.

“No. Look.”

Cupid turned the baby around, so that her little bare backside was facing them. The baby’s bottom was cute, no doubt about that, but Strife didn’t

understand why Cupid was so happy. And then…there was a shimmer up and down the baby’s back and two wings fanned out from her shoulders and

began to flutter. The wings weren’t like Cupid’s and Bliss’, they were longer than her body and translucent. Flickers of color glinted off the clear

wings when they hit the light just right.

Strife gasped and held out a shaky hand. Cupid obligingly sat back down on the bed and let Strife touch their baby again. “They’re sa soft,” Strife

said in wonder. “Her wings don’t look like yars, but they feel just as fluffy.”

After a few minutes, Apollo cleared his throat. Strife knew that the sands were fast running out of the hourglass, but he hated to be parted from his

daughter. However, Strife wanted his other baby too, so he let Ares take her from their hands. The large god cradled the tiny infant in his big hands

and smiled as she cooed to him.

“You’re halfway there.” Strife smiled at Joxer’s softly spoken words.

“Yeah. I’ve got mah first happy result,” Strife said, referring to their earlier conversation.

Strife watched as Hera once again put her hands in his stomach. She caught hold of the baby and started to pull, but this time there was something

different. His stomach began to stretch again, but the baby wouldn’t come out.

Hera frowned and pulled harder. Strife tried to brace himself, but not being able to feel his body from the chest down made that impossible to do. He

started to slide towards her. Cupid sat back down behind him and got a better grip. Hera pulled again. This time, Apollo put an arm around her waist

and helped.

Strife grunted and bit his lip as the pain from the cold crept higher and higher. This time was certainly different from the last birth. There was a

*lot* of noise. People were yelling for help. (Apollo.) Others were demanding to know ‘what the Tartarus was going on’. (Ares) The newest god on

Olympus could feel the tension in the air and was screaming her little lungs out. Bob, who hadn’t made very many sounds at all, throughout Strife’s

labor, began to bark, as she looked around for whoever was hurting her master.

It was Asclepius who finally answered the spoken and unspoken question. “This must be the baby that hid itself for so long. It’s using those powers

to resist coming out.” Ace looked worried.

The mischief god cried out as his ribs were twisted. ‘Gods! It feels like I’m bein pulled in two,’ Strife thought.

Joxer was leaning against his side, offering encouragement. That gave Strife an idea. He worked one hand between all the people who were trying to

help, and laid it on the side of his tummy.

“Come on out…li-little one. Yar daddies want ta see ya. Please,” he implored.

There was a loud pop and Hera stumbled back, baby in her hands. She and Apollo both would have fallen if Ares hadn’t caught them. Strife slammed

back into Cupid’s supportive chest and gasped for breath.

“You did it! You did it!” Joxer laughed in relief.

“Oh, baby. Oh thank The Fates.” Cupid was shaking like a leaf and began kissing the side of Strife’s head. “It’s over.” Cupid’s voice trembled, shaking

worse than his body was.

“You have a son,” Apollo exclaimed. He was determined to tell the good news, because he was sort of pissed off that he didn’t get announce the

little girl earlier.

“A boy,” Cupid laughed in relief. “We have another son.”

A brief smile flitted across Strife’s face. That was all he could manage right now. “How come he’s not cryin?”

It was true. The boy godling hadn’t made a sound.

Strife could feel Cupid freeze behind him and knew that his husband was as scared as he was. Again, it was Joxer who saved the day.

“He’s fine,” Joxer reassured them. “I can see his little hands waving in the air.”

Hera walked over to the bed and handed the baby to Cupid. “Don’t worry. Not all babies cry when they are first born. Ares was the quietest baby

I’ve ever seen.” She looked at her youngest son, a reminiscent smile on her face. Ares looked stunned, his mother wasn’t the most motherly person

on Olympus.

Cupid sat down on the bed and laid their son on Strife’s chest. They ignored Hera, who was busy cleaning Strife up, inside and out. This time Cupid

had to do most of the holding of the baby, while Strife caught his breath.

The little boy was smaller than his sister; not as long or as round. He was skinnier, like Strife, but had a darker, tanned complexion, like Cupid. His

hair was dark brown, like neither of them.

Hades moved out of the corner where he’d been standing, watching the drama unfold. He reached a leather clad arm out and touched Strife on the

shoulder. Immediately, the God of Mischief felt sensation return to the rest of his body.

“Thanks fah yar help.” Hades smiled and congratulated them, before disappearing in a blaze of red sparkles.

“We need ta tell Bliss.” Strife was anxious for the little boy to meet his new siblings and also for Bliss to realize that he hadn’t been replaced in

Strife’s heart. He smiled as Asclepius laid their daughter beside the little boy on his chest. Cupid laid Strife back down on the bed. Without the added

pressure of two babies in his abdomen, the mischief god could breathe easier now, so he could just be propped up on a couple of pillows.

“Daddies!” Bliss was bouncing up and down where he sat on Joxer’s hip. “They’re here!” The little boy’s eyes widened dramatically and he clamped

plump little hands over his mouth. “I’m sorry, i need to be quiet,” he whispered the last part.

“I knew you would want him here as soon as possible,” Joxer explained as he let the exited godling down. Cupid nodded his thanks. Strife would, but

he was too worn out.

Bliss tiptoed over to the bed, his eyes were wide as he looked at his baby brother and sister for the first time. Strife flicked a quick look at the bed

and was relieved to see that all evidence of the birth had been cleaned up. ‘Good. That would have scared Bliss ta death.’

“It’s okay, you can come closer.” Cupid waggled his fingers, trying to coax the little boy over to the bed.

“Are you okay?” Bliss was eyeing Strife worriedly. Strife had to smile, he knew that his son had been scared several times in the last month. It was

sweet that he was more worried about Strife than he was curious about the new babies.

“Yeah, kiddo, I’m just a little sore and kind ah tired.”

That was not true, it was an obfuscation, a complete fabrication…a lie. Strife felt like Cerberus had chewed him up and spit him out. He ached all

over from where he’d been tugged on during the births and where he’d been tense from the pain. Strife was so tired, breathing was a chore that he

would have avoided if possible. However, his little white lie, or maybe big, red lie, worked and Bliss’ attention shifted once more to his new baby

brother and sister.

"They don't have any clothes on," Bliss said with a little blush.

"Ya're right, they don't. We can't have that, can we?" Bliss shook his head, not looking at the naked babies. "Cupe?" He looked over at Cupid and

winked. The love god winked back and waved his hand. "There, what da ya think?"

Both babies were clothed, a little. They at least had a clean white diaper on and were each covered by their own blanket. Bliss nodded his approval.

He reached out a hesitant hand, but stopped before he touched either child. He looked from Strife to Cupid, seeking permission. Cupid nodded and

Strife said, "Go ahead. Ya won't hurt em."

Bliss touched the bright pink blanket that had white wings on it. He gasped and jumped in the air when the blanket fluttered madly under his hand.

Cupid leaned over and gently pulled the blanket down to the little girl's waist. Bliss' eyes got impossibly bigger when the iridescent wings began to

flap.

"Ooooo, she's so pretty. What's her name?"

Everyone looked at Cupid and Strife enquiringly. They wondered if the couple was going to be mysterious, like Ares and Joxer had been, and make

them wait until the presentation ceremony to know the babies' names.

"This is Gossamer," Cupid announced happily.

Bliss bounced up and down happily, his little white wings flapping vigorously. "Gus...Gars...Goss..." He frowned in irritation before his face brightened

with an idea. "Gossy!"

Gossamer wriggled around on Strife's tummy and sighed happily. "I think she likes her nickname theah, Little Feathahs." Bliss giggled at endearment.

"And this is yar brother, Garreth."

Bliss ran around to the other side of the bed to see his brother more clearly. He leaned over, until his face was right in front of Garreth's. The

newborn opened his eyes, but didn't seem startled at having someone so close. "Hi, Garreth." Bliss waved at his brother.

"What's his nickname, sweetheart?" Cupid rubbed a hand across his son's tumbled curls. The blond hair wouldn't be tamed though, just like always.

"He doesn't want a nickname," Bliss stated with certainty. "So, he'll stay Garreth." The baby boy made a gurgling sound and closed his eyes, quickly

joining his sister in sleep.

Bliss leaned forward again and watched the blanket intensely. With a chuckle, Cupid lowered the yellow blanket that was covered with flying

centaurs. The young boy peered at Garreth's back and waited. He tilted his head and looked over at Strife. "No wings?" He didn't sound too

disappointed.

"No, he doesn't have any wings." Strife smiled tiredly at his son.

The godling reached out and patted Strife on the shoulder gently. "It's okay, daddy, we'll love him anyway."

Strife's breath caught, as it did every time Bliss referred to him as 'daddy'. "Da ya want ta know a secret," he whispered. Bliss' eyes got big and he

nodded quickly. Leaning forward conspiratorially, Bliss, and everybody else, waited. "I just realized somethin about Garreth. Watch."

The God of Mischief carefully raised his hand from his son's bare back. When he saw that the baby wasn't going to roll off, he moved his hand away

completely. After a few tense seconds, Garreth floated up in the air and hovered about six inches over Strife's stomach. The baby never noticed

that his soft, if somewhat bony, bed was missing; he kept right on sleeping.

"He can levitate," Joxer said with a laugh.

"Yep." Strife let the weight of his hand gently lower the baby back onto his body. "I've got a husband and two children that can fly and one that can

float. I may have ta have Daedalus fashion me up a pair ah wings, just ta keep up."

Bliss giggled and quickly put a hand over his mouth, so as not to wake the babies. "You are so funny, daddy." Bliss squirmed back into the bed until

he was laying between Cupid and Strife's reclining figure. "Are you going to feed the babies with your chest, like grandpa Joxer does?"

Strife flinched for a moment. "No, I can't. I was...hurt once and can't do that."

Joxer patted Strife's arm sympathetically. Hearing the pain in Strife's voice over not being able to feed his children, Apollo looked thunderous. Strife

blinked in surprise. He wouldn't have figured the God of Healing would even notice.

Apollo looked around the room and began pointing to people. He seemed to be taking a tally. Strife was astonished to realize that several more

deities had come in since he'd had the babies. He...(oh, let's get real here. After the last several months, Strife wouldn't be surprised to find a crowd

of people watching him go to the bathroom.) He wondered what they were doing here. Then he looked down at the twins and decided, duh, they

wanted to see the two newest gods on Mount Olympus.

The healing god smiled and stopped counting. He looked from Hera to Zeus to Ares to Aphrodite to Hades to...well, you get the picture. They all

nodded back and turned to smile at Strife. After a few moments Strife felt a tingling sensation in his chest. Gossamer woke up and started squirming.

Garreth woke up as well, but he lay and waited patiently.

"I think I know of two kids that are hungry," Ace said with a smile.

Strife touched his chest gingerly. His...breasts?...felt heavier all of the sudden. He looked around the room, which was rapidly emptying, and realized

that there had been a quorum of the Big Twelve, the main gods of Olympus.

He pulled the tie that was holding his shirt closed and loosened it. Feeling a little self conscious, Strife brought his daughter close to his chest. The

little girl wasn't shy, she rooted around until she found a handy nipple and latched on to it. The downy head was partially covered by the open shirt.

Strife blinked at the strange feeling. Cupid helped maneuver Garreth to the other side of Strife's chest where he attached himself just as

determinedly to the other source of food.

"You can feed them now." Bliss bounced on the edge of the bed.

"Yes, I've been healed." He looked over at Apollo and smiled. "Thanks."

"No problem, dude." Apollo grinned and flashed away.

Cupid waved a hand and made the bed wider, he laid down on the bed beside Strife. Bliss had already fallen asleep, still lying between his parents.

An exhausted Strife drowsed while the babies fed. Cupid kept an eye on his suddenly much larger family and tended to the babies as they fell asleep,

one by one. He was used to taking care of a baby, having done most of the care for Bliss, Cupid burped the little ones and changed their diapers.

Strife fell asleep before both babies stopped eating, completely warn out by the very long day's events.

= Thanks to my daughter, Caitlin, for naming these places.
++ This is a reference to Lurch from the television show The Aadams Family.
* and **-Chakotay and Tom Paris are from the Star Trek Voyager series.
# Skylar is a character that is borrowed from a writer friend of mine, Tony Lawrence, and is from the Battlestar Galactica fandom. Skylar is Tony’s

own creation and can be seen in The Red Tailed Comet series by Tony.
+ Jim and Blair are from The Sentinel.
^ Tyr is from Andromeda.



Fic: Overheard Conversations 36/40
Please see earlier chapters for warnings, etc.

Extra Warnings: Uhm, second chances. (ducks and runs)

Chapter 36

Strife gasped and jumped when someone touched his bare leg. Garreth was lying on his chest at the time and was also startled. The new baby

started to cry and then realized that he was close to something tempting. He started moving his head around on a wobbly neck, until he found the

food source and started sucking. Garreth wasn’t really hungry, because he had just eaten, so he only sucked weakly a few times until he was

comforted, and then the godling fell back to sleep.

Asclepius waited until the baby settled down again before apologizing. “I’m sorry, Strife. I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

“It’s okay, I just didn’t hear ya come in.” Strife smiled wanly and wondered what was going on. He squinted in the dim light and realized that there

were *several* other people in the room with them. “Cupe?” Strife was frightened. He didn’t like surprises of this sort, not in the bedroom. Not

anywhere actually.

“I’m right here baby.”

Strife saw a movement and the room got a little brighter. The God of Mischief calmed down considerably when he saw his husband standing by their

bed. He looked around the better lit room and realized that the *other* people were family. Dite, Ares, Heph and such. They weren’t anyone to be

afraid of, they’d never hurt him.

“Wh-what’s going on?” Strife cleared his throat and before he could open his mouth to ask for some water, four mugs appeared in front of him. Strife

grinned, amused at how attentive everyone was still being. “Thanks.” Naturally he accepted the mug from Cupid.

“We’re here to work on you,” Apollo said breezily.

“Work on me?” Strife was puzzled, his sleep muddled mind not able to figure out what they were talking about.

“We want to heal you,” Ares said with a roll of his eyes at Apollo.

“Or at least part of you,” Ace said quietly.

“Wait a minute,” Cupid said anxiously. “I thought you healed him last night.” He turned back to Strife. “Isn’t that what you said.”

“I meant that mah chest was healed, sa I could feed our babies.” Strife placed a hand on Cupid’s arm. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean ta give ya false

hope.” He bit his lips to stop them from trembling. Strife felt like he was going to cry.

“Oh, baby, it’s alright. I just got it all wrong. It’s okay, don’t cry.” Cupid began to kiss the side of Strife’s face and the mischief god felt his wacky

hormones settling once again.

Apollo waited until Strife had calmed down before he started talking again. “So,” he clapped his hands lightly, “are you ready to get started?”

“Yeah, I guess so.” Strife frowned when Joxer picked up Garreth.

“Shhh, it’s okay, honey.” Joxer bounced a little as he walked around, settling the infant back down before he laid Garreth back in his crib. “You are

such a good baby, already back to sleep,” Joxer cooed. The God of Peace laid the new godling down in his bed and before he could cover him up,

Garreth began to float up and out of the crib.

“Ack! Where do you think you are going, little one?” Joxer mock scolded, waving a finger and smiling. He carefully lowered the blanket onto Garreth’s

back. That small amount of weight lowered the baby until he was just barely hovering over the bed. Joxer shook his head fondly and gave Strife a

wild grin.

“He just doesn’t want to go to bed, does he?” Strife laughed. Joxer waved his hand and another blanket appeared. That settled the little boy more

firmly onto his bed.

Beside him, on his own small cot, Bliss slept on, unaware of what was happening. Thanks in part to a child’s ability to sleep through anything and

even more due to the spell that Joxer wove around his bed so that he wouldn’t be disturbed.

Strife turned around and realized that while he had been preoccupied with watching his son get settled, Ace and Apollo had been busy. The room

was softly lit with a few strategically placed candles. Every one of the Big 12 was in the room, along with some of the less powerful gods. All told,

there were about 20 gods, other than himself and the babies.

The mischief god felt his eyes tear up. Just a few months ago, he would have bet that he couldn’t get two or three gods to help him and now they

were lining up.

Apollo sat down on the side of the bed and ignored the glare that Cupid gave him. “The only problem is that this will probably hurt some.”

“Hurt.” Cupid leaned forward. “Why the Tartarus will it hurt?”

“Because resetting broken bones is messy.”

Strife was somewhat amused that these mighty gods, who were used to fighting battles and dealing with all sorts of nasty situations, had actually

turned green at the thought of him hurting. It was sweet really. Strife, on the other hand, wasn’t all that upset, he’d been dealing with the pain for

a great many decades, some of it even for as long as he could remember. What was one more time, in comparison with that.

^^^^^

“We are going to heal the worst of your injuries first.”

“Just make sure that keeping him from hurting the least is your main priority,” Cupid said. Strife smiled at the protective stance his husband had

taken by the bed.

“We will,” Apollo said slowly. “But it won’t be easy on Strife…or any of us.”

An anxious Cupid was about to ask for more of an explanation when Apollo began to glow. He looked nervously over to his father and saw Ares

watching Apollo solemnly. Joxer however, smiled reassuringly and that put Cupid’s mind more at ease.

Cupid quickly sat down on the bed beside his husband and when there wasn’t any objection, he picked up Strife’s hand to offer his support. He might

not be able to take this on for Strife, but he’d do all he could to help him.

All of the gods in the room, minus Joxer, Cupid and the babies, were glowing now. The light from their bodies flowed over and covered Strife for a

moment. Everything was quiet for a moment and then Cupid heard a crackling sound.

“What…”

There it was again and this time Strife grimaced. Cupid looked from his husband around to the other gods. All of them had their eyes squeezed shut

as they concentrated. Everybody except Joxer and his eyes were wide with distress.

“Oh…gods…….look.” Joxer pointed to Strife’s chest.

Cupid pulled the mischief god’s loose tunic up; he could see the strange movement that Joxer was pointing to even before Strife’s bare skin could be

seen. With the shirt out of the way, they could see what was going on.

Strife’s broken and sadly misshapen ribs (which had been hidden under a glamour for so long) were plainly visible on his thin body. Cupid heard

another crackle and one rib snapped, seemed to jump under the skin and then settled back in its rightful place.

Joxer dropped to his knees beside the bed and magicked up a wet cloth. He began to wipe the sweat off of Strife’s face. Cupid turned to the others,

intending to stop them, at least until Strife could be given something for the pain.

“Don’t,” Strife said in a tense voice. He opened his eyes and looked up at Cupid. “It’s okay…really. I’m not hurtin like ya’d think it would.”

Cupid winced when he heard more bones popping as they broke and were rearranged. “Strife,” he started to argue. That just *had* to be hurting

like Tartarus.

Strife shook his head and closed his eyes again. Every once in a while he would twitch, showing that it did hurt somewhat, but other than that he

lay still and quiet. Cupid picked up his love’s hand and offered what comfort he could. Joxer held the other hand and murmured reassurances,

whether they were for Strife or Cupid couldn’t rightly be said.

“It’s done,” Asclepius wheezed.

Cupid opened his eyes and flicked a look around the room. The gods looked tired and Cupid guessed that the healing process was difficult to do. He

looked down at Strife and saw a smile on the worn out face.

“It doesn’t hurt,” Strife said in wonderment. “Breathin doesn’t hurt. Fah tha first time in mah life, it doesn’t feel like I’m breathin through broken

rocks.”

Strife closed his eyes and smiled as he took several deep breaths. Cupid looked over and saw that Joxer was crying; he felt tears running down his

own face.

“Thank you.” He was speaking to all of them, everyone who was helping Strife. “This means so much.”

Zeus stepped forward. As King of the Gods he could speak for them all. “You are welcome, my grandson.”

“More will have to be done,” Apollo said quietly and with an indulgent smile.

Cupid saw that Strife had fallen asleep with a contented look on his face. It was one of the few times recently that Cupid had seen his husband

without the perpetual mask of pain on his face, sleeping or awake.

“More?” he asked in dismay.

“Yes, but it won’t be nearly this bad. All of his injured bones are repaired. Now, we will have…clean up work to do. There are more areas of soft

tissue damage that we will work on, but that shouldn’t hurt at all.”

“Oh, okay.” Cupid let out a whooshing breath, in an overwhelming sigh of relief.

He started to thank them again, but didn’t get the chance. In a series of several, very bright and multicolored flashes, all of the gods left. Joxer’s

soft, “good bye” lingered for a moment in the air after they were gone.

Cupid laid his own tired body down on the bed beside his husband and followed his little family into sleep.*

^^^^^

Big, strong hands roamed over the smaller man’s back and then down to squeeze the soft, rounded cheeks of his butt. The smaller man moaned from

where he was laying on top of his lover.

Hercules grinned up at Iolaus. “Like that do you,” he smirked.

Iolaus wormed a hand between their bodies and grabbed a couple of different body parts. He gave a little laugh as Hercules arched up when Iolaus’

hand played between his legs. “Only about as much as you like that.”

The hunter yelped when Hercules flipped them over. Now Iolaus was the one lying on his back. The soft bed was a lot more comfortable than their

usual bedroll on a hard ground. And speaking of hard…

Iolaus wrapped his legs around his fiancé’s hips and held on tight. “So, it’s decided then, we’ll get married as soon as Jason can meet us at Corinth.

It just wouldn’t be the same without my brother there.” Iolaus kissed Hercules on the neck, pulling a tiny piece of skin into his mouth and nibbling on

it.

“Yessss…Iphicles would be disappointed to miss out,” Iolaus muttered. Hercules continued to talk. “He was mad at me the last time we met up. Like

he pointed out, I’ve been married twice and he hasn’t been at either ceremony.”

“Well, we certainly wouldn’t want him to be upset,” Iolaus mumbled at the side of Herc’s neck.

“It’s too bad that mom can’t be here,” Hercules said, referring to his late mother, Alcamene.+

Iolaus stopped nibbling. *That* was certainly a mood killer. He was more than a little put out that Hercules still had enough brain power to think of

such things, especially considering where Hercules’ hands were at the moment.

The hunter laid his head back down on the pillow and frowned as Hercules kept listing details for their upcoming wedding. Iolaus drummed impatient

fingers on Herc’s muscled back. The demi-god didn’t even notice when Iolaus stopped participating in the love making. Hercules’ hands stopped

moving and Iolaus decided that drastic measures were needed to get Hercules’ attention off of the ceremony and back on Iolaus.

With a hidden smirk, Iolaus tightened the grip with his legs, and it was a *very* tight grip. Iolaus used his legs a lot, walking, climbing and such, so

they were really strong. He snapped his hips up, running his aching manhood against the hard planes of Hercules’ abdomen.

Hercules’ speech stuttered to a stop. Inside, Iolaus grinned. “Go ahead, don’t worry about me.” Iolaus groaned as he began to thrust. He let go of

Herc’s back and reached behind him to take hold of the head of the bed.

The demi-god’s mouth fell open when Iolaus’ engorged length rubbed against his. “I’m just going to take care of myself,” Iolaus stated as he began

to thrust faster, his blond head arching back as the lightening bolts flew up and down his spine.

From between mostly closed lashes, Iolaus watched as Hercules frowned and growled. The large man grabbed hold of Iolaus’ hips and jerked them up

at the same time as he lunged forward and latched on to the blond man’s mouth.

‘That worked,’ Iolaus thought triumphantly as he wrapped his arms back around Hercules where they belonged. ‘Let’s see him talk about wedding

guests now.’

^^^^^

Strife was resting in the sun when Hades appeared.

The God of the Underworld hesitated to wake the mischief god up. It had only been three days since he had given birth and the young god was still

bushed. Lying on either other side of him were the twins; each one in their own exquisite cradle that Joxer had hand carved for them.

Strife looked five times better than he had the last time Hades saw him. ‘But then again, most anything would have been an improvement,’ Hades

thought ruefully.

Hades looked at the peaceful trio, sleeping under a large canopy, and decided his question would have to wait. He was just about to flash away

when Strife spoke up.

“Sa, have ya decided whethah or not ta say anythin?” He opened one eye and looked up at the other god.

Hades laughed. He should have realized that sneaking up on the God of Mischief and Ares’ right hand man, would have been next to impossible;

especially when Strife was guarding two of his own children.

“I didn’t want to disturb any of you.” He angled his neck to peer into both cradles. Hades was certain that he had that silly look on his face that

people get when confronted with something very innocent. He couldn’t see much of Gossamer, but Garreth, who was on his side of Strife’s couch

was a cute little bundle who’s tiny behind was sticking up in the air.

“It’s okay. Theah’s a sound bubble ovah their beds. We can hear them and they can hear Cupe and me, but nothin else. That way they won’t be

disturbed by any loud noises.” Overhead a bird flew by, its screech was piercing. “Like that,” Strife said with a frown.

"That's an excellent idea. One of yours?" Hades waved his hand and a large and heavy, black chair appeared beside Strife's lounging chair. Hades

was quite frankly embarrassed at magicking up such an extravagant chair. If he had his own way, the chair would have been invisible, but

Persephone insisted that he have a grand chair, one that fit his stature as such a powerful god.

Hades didn't get to spend enough time with his wife as it was, thanks to that thrice damned agreement with Demeter, so he didn't want to spend

any of their precious time arguing. Hence, the fancy chair. Besides which, Persephone said that seeing him sitting in mid air, with nothing visible

supporting him, was just *creepy*.

"Yeah, I thought ah tha sound bubble. It was right aftah Bob saw somethin in tha garden and started barkin. We'd just gotten tha kids asleep and

that woke 'em up." Strife sat up with a wince. He was still aching in several places and had to be careful when he moved. The mischief god glanced

from side to side, checking on the babies. When he could see that all was well, Strife turned back to his guest.

"How are you feeling?" Hades asked. He had seen the pained expression.

"Pretty good." At Hades' disbelieving look, Strife laughed, quietly though, so he wouldn't disturb the sleeping infants. "No, really. I'm feelin a lot

bettah."

"Uhmmm." Hades narrowed his eyes and then smiled at what he saw. Strife's dark hair was tousled, not creatively mussed like he normally wore it,

but more sleep disarranged. "What's next?"

"Mah back," Strife said with a happy grin. The gods had been healing Strife's problems, one at a time. He was too run down from the pregnancy to

do it all at once. Besides, Strife had too many *major* injuries to heal in one sitting. "I just got mah hands done taday." Strife held up his hands and

wiggled the fingers energetically. "See, no pain."

Hades smiled, although he was sobered by the thought that for all these decades, Strife had been in pain whenever he used his hands at all. "That's

wonderful."

"Thanks. They could probably do it fastah if I wasn't sa tired, but Ace said that's mostly due ta my breast feedin." Strife blushed an interesting

pinkish due. "Nobody evah told me that feedin a baby would take sa much outtah ya."

"Well, you are feeding two extra mouths. I'm sure that makes it a lot harder. Speaking of which..." Hades snapped his fingers and a bowl of wiggly,

pink stuff appeared. "You need to keep your strength up."

Strife took the bowl reluctantly. "Yeah, I know. I just wished it didn't taste sa nasty." Strife took a large mouthful of ambrosia and swallowed it

quickly. He reasoned that if he had to eat the crap, he might as well get it over quickly. "It's times like these that I miss the cravings I used ta get."

Hades blinked in surprise. "Uh, why?"

"Cause then I could pile whatevah I was hungry fah on top ah tha ambrosia and it tasted wondahful."

The nasty snack was quickly dispensed with and turned to watch the older god. "Sa...what's really goin on heah. Not that I don't like tha visit,

because I do, but yar antsy about somethin."

Hades looked at the still sickly young god and summoned up the nerve to say what he needed to. "I've been doing some checking on a soul that

needs to be processed." Hades watched as Strife paled further.

"Tryst," he twitched slightly as he whispered the dreaded name.

"Yes," Hades said reluctantly. "I've reviewed his life and discovered a few things that makes deciding his ultimate fate sort of hard."

"What kind ah things?" Strife reached over and moved Garreth's cradle with a shaking hand. The little boy had been able to tell that his father was

getting agitated and had started to squirm. The gentle motion of the cradle settled both of their nerves.

"His father abused him when he was a child. Beat him, raped him, that kind of thing."

"Just like he did ta me." Strife looked horrified. "Only it was his fathah doin it ta him." Strife rubbed his head. It felt strange to feel sympathy for the

young Tryst. "I can see why yar havin trouble sortin him."

"Yes, that kind of trauma either makes a person vicious and bitter or," Hades smiled sadly at Strife. "Or it makes him scared and hurting."

"I...yeah." Strife looked at Hades warily. "Sa what da ya want ta do? I wouldn't want him ta suffer fah all eternity, if it was because ah somethin he

couldn’t control."

"I have an idea," Hades said quietly.

^^^^^

"He wants to what?!" Joxer semi-shouted. He managed to keep the noise down, because of the children. Bliss was playing quietly near the three

babies who were lying on a blanket on the grass.

Strife gave a quick glance at the kids and then looked back to Joxer. "T-Tryst is going to be given a second chance." Strife swallowed hard and

clamped a hand over his mouth. Joxer leaned forward and wrapped an arm around Strife's shaking shoulders. No matter how disgusted he was Joxer

was still Strife's best friend and he could see how upset the mischief god was.

"I don't know how ta tell Unc or Cupe. I don't want them ta get mad."

Strife had his eyes squeezed shut, so he missed the bright flash just behind him. Joxer looked up into Ares and Cupid's worried eyes. Cupid must have

sensed Strife's upset through their link, however, Strife was so upset that he didn’t sense his husband or uncle behind him. Joxer started to say

something, but Cupid shook his head *no*.

"I don't think Cupid or Ares," Joxer gave both men a pointed looked, "will get mad at you. Now, tell me about this second chance that Tryst is

getting." Joxer thought that Ares' head was going to fly off from the strain and Cupid's mouth couldn't hang open any farther.

"He'll be reborn...as a mortal," Strife hastened to explain. "Tha family that he'll be born inta is nice, they won't abuse him or anything. Hades said

that he'll make sure Tryst isn't hurt by them. That way we can see what Tryst would have been like with a regular life."

"And if he lives a decent life?" Joxer was gritting his teeth at the thought of Tryst being alive again.

"If he doesn't turn out ta be evil, then he'll be reborn again...as a g-god this time." Strife started to hyperventilate and Joxer hugged him, running a

soothing hand up and down the bony back. "He won't remember bein Tryst though. He'll be a whole new person." Strife's continued use of *He*

instead of Tryst's name just underscored how more this was bothering him.

Cupid walked around and knelt in front of Strife. "It'll be okay." The love god held his husband in a tight embrace. Strife nodded into his shoulder, he

was so upset that it didn’t even dawn on him that his blond husband shouldn’t be there.

"I had ta agree, everybody deserves a second chance."

Joxer grabbed hold of Ares to keep him from flashing out and finding Hades. If the God of the Underworld were smart, he'd stay invisible for a while.

*Thanks to Lynn for pointing out that we needed to see more of Strife’s being healed.
+My thanks to the AJCS listsibs for helping me remember how to spell Hercules’ mother’s name and where Iphicles was king of.



tbc

Fic: Overheard Conversations 37/40
Author: Kerensa
Email: vkevans@yahoo.com Feedback please. Feedback or death (well, maybe that’s going a little too far)
Rating: R, so far
Fandom: Xena/Hercules, brief mention of food from Harry Potter series
Pairing: Ares/Joxer, Cupid/Strife, Hercules/Iolaus
Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, I’m just borrowing them for a little fun. The same with the Harry Potter stories. I have no money, no

property, I even have to borrow the food I eat, so please don’t sue me.
Warning: m/m; MPREG; talk of nonconsensual sex; talk of underage molestation, rape, and abuse; angst
Summary: Joxer and Strife are both pregnant and end up talking. Their husbands, Ares and Cupid overhear their conversation and find out a lot more

about their husband’s, especially Strife’s past, than they ever imagined.
Status: WIP
Series: Children At Play
Archive: Yes to AJCS, Make Believe, Beyond Cannon, Lone Tree Preserve and MPREG; anywhere else, sure just tell me first.

Chapter 37

Strife rubbed the wrinkles out of his black outfit nervously. This was the first time he'd worn his regular clothes in several months and the tight

leather was taking a little while to get used to again. Because of the problems with the pregnancy Strife was thinner than ever before, so the

leather was still a little loose on him, hence the wrinkles.

Gossamer reached out and grabbed hold of one of the safety pins on Strife's collar. "Mah goodness, look how smart ya are. Ya’re already grabbin hold

ah stuff and you only a week old. Why, ya must be one ah that smartest babies in tha world," Strife cooed to his daughter. He glanced over to

where the other smartest babies in the world were. Cupid was holding Garreth and Bliss was sitting on his dad’s other knee. Ares was carrying

Tempra and laughing with Salamoneous, while Joxer was talking with Aphrodite and Hephestaus.

Strife looked down at his daughter and breathed a sigh of relief that they'd managed to keep Dite's influence down to a minimum. The little girl was

wrapped up in the silver fox fur blanket that Iolaus had made for her, as Garreth was tucked into his deerskin one. Both children were wearing the

booties that matched their blankets; the ones that the blond hunter had given them as well. Instead of the fluffy and frilly clothes that the love

goddess had proposed, Strife had dressed Gossamer in a shiny purple dress with a green diaper. Garreth had on a shiny green tunic, with a purple

diaper.

Strife wanted people to notice the babies.

In honor of the special occasion, the twin's presentation day, Bliss had requested, and been allowed, to have his wings colored. Instead of the usual

white plumage, he now had feathers that were all different colors. The change would only last for the day, or until Bliss took a bath, whichever came

first. Which meant one day, because the little boy was going through his “I don’t want to take a bath” stage.

Cupid had on a special pair of pants and kilt. They were made of red leather and looking at him, Strife couldn't wait until they could be intimate

again. Thanks to the other gods of Olympus, Cupid was willing to make love again, because Strife was completely cured. No more pains in his broken

ribs, because they were whole again. No more problems with his hips, for the same reason.

A bright light flared around the dais and Zeus appeared. The older god was dressed in his most regal white with gold trimmed robes. Zeus looked at

the gathered throng and nodded happily. There were no free spaces as far as the eye could see. Everyone wanted to see the first set of godly

twins, since Ares and Eris had been born all those millennia ago. Added to that, there was a third godhood to be dispensed; Ganymede was to be

elevated to godhood today.

Cupid wrapped an arm around Strife’s waist and the two proud parents waited with their family. Strife was still carrying Gossamer and Cupid had hold

of Garreth. Bliss was standing right in front of his fathers, his rainbow colored wings twitching in suppressed excitement.

Zeus reached out a hand towards Hera and beckoned her to come up onto the stage. The goddess blinked in surprise. Everybody was stunned, Zeus

wasn’t known to share the limelight. Hera took the proffered hand and allowed herself to be drawn up to stand right beside her husband.

“Thank you, my dear.” Zeus’ whispered endearment was only heard by the few people on the stage.

Their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren looked on in open mouthed amazement as Zeus raised their joined hands and kissed Hera on the

back of the hand. The goddess took the attention calmly. She didn’t act like this was the first time in years that Zeus had seemed interested in her,

which it was. There was no way the vain goddess was going to admit that, at least out loud.

“Everyone…Welcome! We are gathered here today for the presentation of our two newest godlings…” Zeus had to pause as a wave of applause

swelled up and crashed over the stage. Strife and Cupid grinned at each other happily.

Zeus smiled. “I agree.” Several people laughed and the mood lightened appreciably. “In addition, the immortal, Ganymede, is to be elevated to a

godhood.”

Strife shared a smile with Joxer. They were both very fond of the small immortal, he seemed so frail in need of shelter and care. What was funny was

the fact that Ganymede was 438 years old, much older than even Strife and Joxer's life had been a mere second in time to him. The immortal, who

seemed so delicate, even in comparison to Strife, was in fact in a lot better shape than either of his godly friends.

Ganymede had never been physically attacked, ever, in his whole life. Life in his father's kingdom had been good, he had had both a loving mother

and father. And even Zeus had behaved around the young man, not molesting or even tricking him into having sex. That doesn’t mean that

Ganymede was a virgin, by any means. He had had many lovers over his centuries of life, both male and female.

"Let us deal with the elevation first." Zeus paused a moment and thought about what he had said. The King of the Gods realized that it sounded like

he wanted to talk about how high the place was that they were standing on. He cleared his throat and blushed a little. "Ganymede, please step

forward."

The slender young man moved to stand in front of the dais. His chiton was longer than he usually wore it. The garment came to mid knee and was a

pale yellow color, one that almost matched his blond hair. A simple coronet of twisted green vines decorated his head. You could see the power and

newfound confidence in the young man, because naturally he had already been given the ambrosia.

It took the magical food a few hours to turn someone into a god, longer if they went from mortal, straight to god, without a stop at immortality

along the way, and it took a while for the person to recover from the change. So, Ganymede had actually been a god for almost a week now. Today

was when they found out *what* he was the god of.

Strife jiggled his fussy daughter. He hoped that the ceremony wouldn't last too long, because it was getting close to the twin's next feeding time

and there was no way in Tartarus that he was gong to bare himself in front of everybody. A cool breeze blew over the stage. Gossamer stopped

fussing when she saw a strand of her own pale hair waving in front of her eyes. The godling gurgled happily as she reached for the elusive strand.

The mischief god was glad for the cooler air. It was a lot cooler than it had been for Tempra's dedication, when he and Joxer almost melted in the

sun, but not cool enough to be a problem for the little ones. Strife watched as Ganymede's pleated skirt swayed gently in the moving air. He realized

that the immortal must have weighed down the hem so it wouldn't fly up in the wind. Ganymede would have prepared in advance, he certainly had

enough practice with people trying to look up or down his clothing.

Zeus raised his hand in benediction and Strife perked up, things were *finally* moving along. "Ganymede, former mortal, son of King Tros of Troy.

Cup Bearer to the King of the Gods. For services above and beyond the call of duty..."

Strife frowned and looked over at Cupid. What had the young immortal done that was so much help? Ganymede didn't help out with battles or

plotting revenge or anything that would usually earn such an accolade. Strife looked back at the ceremony.

"...all the years of faithful service to your gods, you are hereby and forever know… as the God of Secret Meetings.

The waiting throng stilled in an instant and everyone turned to look at Strife. He shifted his young daughter to lay across his chest, so that she

could drool down his shoulder, and clapped his hands as best he could. Everyone relaxed and the cheering and clapping from the audience rose in a

happy swell.

Strife had a terrible, sick feeling in the pit of his stomach, that he was desperately trying not to show. What in Elysia's name had Ganymede done to

earn Tryst's godhood? He was scared to death that it had been something truly horrendous. Strife realized that Ganymede was still looking at him.

The mischief god looked back and saw the calm smile on his friend's face. He relaxed. Ganymede was silently telling him that he was fine. Strife

believed him and decided that he didn't want to know what had gone on.

"Strife," Cupid whispered. "Strife!"

He looked over at his husband and realized that he had been standing there in a daze. Strife felt a tug on his leg and glanced down at Bliss. "Daddy

Strife, it's time to give the babies their presents," Bliss stage whispered. Everyone laughed at the little boy's mistake over being presented and

presents.

"Yeah, kiddo, it is. Come on." Strife gestured with his head and their little family went to stand in front of Zeus and Hera.

Zeus smiled and looked at the tiny bundle in Cupid's arms. Some of Garreth's curly russet hair was peeking out of the blanket. Clutched in one hand

was his purple colored rattle that was a gift from a well wisher. Gossamer had a red one tucked inside her blanket*. Then the older god looked at the

young goddess.

The King of the Gods picked her up and turned to smile at the crowd. He paled and looked uneasy. “All hail the Goddess of Divine Retribution.”

Strife's mouth fell open in shock.

*****

Hercules began to laugh, quietly though. "Hera ought to love this." He turned to Iolaus to explain. "As Goddess of Divine Intervention, Gossamer will

decide what punishment that erring gods should be given. She will decide what is just or unjust, too easy or too harsh." For a moment, they thought

of Tryst and both decided that his punishment had been *waaaaaay* too easy. "Hera will be able to petition for Zeus to be punished for his

infidelities and Gossamer would be able to pass sentence on him."

Iolaus gasped. "Wow. As judge of the gods, she'll have more power than Zeus," Iolaus said in awe.

The demi-god nodded and they both turned to look at the innocent and very powerful baby.

*****

In the audience, Gabrielle wasn't paying very much attention to what was going on and so, she missed the momentous announcement. Gabby saw

Iolaus and Hercules standing to one side of the stage and started to go over to talk (bother) them. Beru was standing with her and took hold of her

arm and pulled her back before she could get very far.

"None of that, darlin'," he said drolly.

"But," Gabrielle started to protest.

"Do you want me ta punish ya?" Beru's rolling accent sent shivers down her spine. Gabrielle honestly didn't know how to answer that question. Her

new lover had spanked her on one or two occasions. He said it was for discipline and Gabrielle had to admit that people weren't as annoyed with her

now. But...she found that she liked the spankings, so much so, that sometimes she acted up so he would need to correct her.

Gabrielle smiled at Beru impishly, but stayed by his side.

*****

Eve looked at her mother questioningly when Xena snorted. “It’s nothing,” Xena reassured her daughter. She stared resolutely at the stage until the

excitable little girl wasn’t paying attention to her again.

Xena flicked a glance over at her good friend. ‘Damn,’ she thought bemusedly. ‘If I’d known spanking her would get her to treat people better, I

would have done it years ago.’

Looking at Joxer, and seeing how happy he looked, Xena ruefully thought of all the times that Gabrielle had treated him badly. ‘And I stood by and let

her,’ Xena thought with more than a touch of shame.

‘Maybe somebody should have spanked me too.’

*****

A determined tug on a stray lock of hair brought Strife’s gaze back to his son and off of his daughter. He shook his head, there would be time to be

stunned over the implications of Gossy’s new godhood later.

“Don’t worry, little one, ya’re next.”

Zeus smiled and gestured to Strife, who stepped forward and laid Garreth in his waiting arms. Strife made a couple of abortive moves towards the

older man and his charge. The antsy god still wasn’t happy with other people holding either of his younger children.

The King of the Gods saw the signs of anxiety and, of all things, winked at him. Strife gave his grandfather an embarrassed grin, shrugged and tried

to stand still.

The older god closed his eyes for a moment, concentrating on the essence of the little godling. He opened his eyes and smiled and then Zeus turned

to the crowd and showed them their newest god.

“I present to you…the God of Illusion.”

*****

“Well, that explains it.”

“Father?” Asclepius turned to look at Apollo.

“That’s why we weren’t able to find but one baby for so long.” At Ace’s uncomprehending look, Apollo continued. “Garreth has already shown that he

can tap into his powers,” he said, referring to the hovering ability that Garreth had already displayed. “So, he must have been able to use some

illusion powers to hide himself in the womb.”

The frown disappeared from Asclepius’ forehead. “Yes, that does make sense. Should make it interesting for Strife and Cupid though.”

The father and son grinned at the thought of all the mischief that little boy was likely to cause in the next few years.

*****

The after dedication celebration was louder and even more boisterous than the one just a few months earlier for Tempra had been. Of course, this

party was celebrating *three* new gods, so that was a little understandable.

This time, Ares and Joxer stayed for hours. Tempra slept part of the time underneath the silence bubble^ that Strife had thought of. The twins were

under there too and after a little while, so was a very worn out Bliss.

The presence of three cradles and a small child’s bed slowed down the drinking a little bit. Several people (those who thought they could get away

with it) wandered over to see the children.

Hades walked up onto the stage and over to have his own look. The God of the Underworld was trying to avoid some of his relatives. Not many

people were happy with the situation regarding Tryst (himself included).

Tempra’s bright red hair twined around her head and all but covered her face. One tiny fist was stuck in her mouth and she was chewing and drooling

in a determined manner.

Bliss’ white wings fluttered as he dreamed, probably of flying, and made the blanket covering his back flutter up and down.

Gossamer’s wings were tucked in close to her body and barely made a tiny bump under the covers. Her pale brow was puckered up. After a few

moments there was a tiny *brrrrt* and the frown melted away.

Garreth’s legs were pulled up under his body and his butt was stuck up in the air. That was the baby’s favorite way to sleep. Around the edges of

the blanket, numerous seashells were sewn into the fabric. They had found that that small amount of added weight was all that was needed to keep

him from hovering over the bed. (For now anyway.)

“Hello, Hades,” Ares’ quiet voice was more frightening than if he had yelled.

“Hello, nephew.”

“I don’t like this.” The grinding of teeth could be heard over the laughter all around them.

“I know.”

“Is there any way of stopping it? Strife doesn’t have to know.”

Hades turned around and looked at Ares’ worried face. “It’s already done,” Hades said with regret.

Ares sighed, his massive shoulder’s slumping. “Are you sure it’s safe?”

“Yes.” Hades didn’t seem upset that his decisions were being questioned.

“It better be,” Ares warned.

Hades watched as his angry nephew walked back over to the celebration. He wondered what would happen if and when Ares found out where Tryst

had been reborn.

“Darling, let’s go party.”

Hades smiled as his wife, Persephone, leaned against his shoulder. “Right you are, my dear. Let’s go have some fun.”

*Thanks Scribe for the baby presents.
^ I just love Get Smart.




A/N: This chapter *finally* tells what happened to Strife 40 years ago when Tryst hurt him. Be warned, it is fairly graphic.

Chapter 38

Strife leaned back against the love seat, his long legs stretched out on a stool and relaxed. He still got tired a lot, but Apollo had reassured Strife

and *especially* Cupid, that that was normal for someone who has just had a baby, let alone two. Or for someone who had gone through all that he

had before, during and after the pregnancy. Or…it was then that Strife decided that Apollo just liked the sound of his own voice and tuned the

healer out.

The mischief god watched the children playing on the other side of the room. The twins, Tempra and Bliss were all on a pallet on the floor. Strife was

babysitter for the afternoon, so Joxer and Ares could have a little *quality* time to themselves. Strife giggled when he remembered how serious Ares

had looked when he'd said that.

"Quality time, mah behind," Strife murmured with a snicker. "Makin out like crazy weasels time, is more like it."

It had taken some doing to convince the other gods that Strife was capable of looking after *all* of the children by himself. But he had pointed out

that, without the power suppressor earring, he could keep an eye on the kids and call for help if he needed it.

The new parent rolled his eyes. Everybody seemed to forget that children were his worshippers. Many a neglected or abandoned child had been

watched over by the God of Mischief when their parents weren't around.

A couple of temple workers walked in to the room. One of them started dusting the scrolls on Cupid's worktable and the other came up to Strife and

bowed.

"Is there anything you require, my lord?"

It still gave Strife a kick to be catered to like that. Before he and Cupid had married, Strife had been used to being largely ignored by any followers

other than his own, lone temple priest.

"Yeah," he drawled and twittered inside when the acolyte seemed thrilled at the prospect. "Why don't ya get some snacks fah Bliss and me."

"Certainly, my lord." The man hurried out of the room, striding purposefully, like he had been given a special mission.

Strife leaned back again and closed his eyes for a moment. He had noticed something lately; his energy levels were higher than before he got

pregnant. The god had first thought that he just wasn't used to not being drained by the pregnancy and/or the glamour that he used to wear all the

time, but now he realized that he had a *lot* more followers than before. Grownups were actively doing mischief and in several towns there were

shrines being built in his honor. Strife wasn't sure if it would last or not, so he decided to enjoy the increase while it lasted.

He stood up in a seemingly lazy nonchalance and walked over to the young ones. So he was standing guard in front of them, when the worker, who

had been dusting the same three scrolls for the last 10 minutes, turned around. Strife was a skinny, but solid barrier between her and the children.

"You know," he said with a smirk, as he crossed his arms over his chest and struck one of his bad ass poses (Ares #12, patent pending), "I'm not

stupid."

"I-I don't know what you mean, m-my lord. I'm just..." She trailed off at seeing Strife's arched eyebrow. "How did you know?"

"Well, besides tha fact that ya've nevah been around heah before *and* that ya've stayed in one place tha whole time ya've been in tha

room...ya're hair was a dead giveaway." He looked from her faded red hair to Tempra's bright head that was lying on the blanket.

Jocasta bowed her head and waited to see what Strife would do for punishment. Strife looked at her for a long moment. "Leave and don't try this

again. Ya're lucky that I'm in such a happy mood because ah mah babies bein born or I would have blasted yar behind down ta Earth. I don't know

how ya got up heah and I'm not gonna ask, but *don't* try it again. Unc wouldn't be sa forgivin."

She looked up at Strife and tears began to run down her face. "T-thank you. I just wanted to..." She trailed off as she tried to see behind him.

"I know. Ya want ta see yar grandkids. I undeahstand, but that ain't up ta me, it's up ta Joxah and Unc. If ya evah want ta see them,

well...actually, I can't think ah any way yar evah gonna see em."

Jocasta started crying even more and Strife winced when he realized how insensitive that last statement had been. True, but insensitive. Strife

sighed.

"Aftah tha things ya did and let be done ta Joxah, yar lucky that Ares hasn't turned ya inta a rock."

The older woman paled considerably and reluctantly nodded her agreement. She gave one last longing look behind Strife and turned to leave.

"Heah, let me help ya." He waved a hand and Jocasta disappeared in a flash. He giggled at the startled look on her face. "I wondah what'll happen

when she appears at her house dressed as one ah mah followahs?" Strife laughed so hard that he had to sit down.

"What's funny Daddy Strife?" Bliss scooted over and leaned against Strife's side. Apparently the thrill of playing with three drooling babies had worn

off.

Strife wrapped an arm around his oldest child. "Nothin, Feathahs. I'm just happy ta have mah family." His hand drifted lower. "And ya know what?"

Bliss shook his head no. "It's tickle time."

Bliss yelped as Strife started tickling his sides. He started laughing and tried to tickle Strife back. Father and son rolled around on the marble floor.

For Strife it was the first time he had ever played with such abandon.

The three babies watched the fun, as best they could. Garreth and Gossamer weren't old enough to raise their heads yet, but Tempra, who was

about four months old was determinedly ooching her little body, trying to join in the fun.

*****

Ares backed away from the door. He was thrilled to see all *five* of the kids having such a good time. Right now, Strife seemed as much a kid as

any of them.

"I don't remember him ever being a kid before," Ares realized. That realization brought a sharp pain to his heart. "His godhood is all about children and

their innocent fun, but he was never allowed to have fun."

The God of War flashed back to his temple, considering the irony of that truth.

*****

“Ares, what’s wrong?”

The God of War turned towards his old and dear friend, who had come for Ares' grandchildren's presentation and was staying for a few weeks.

Salamoneous stood in the doorway of Ares’ war room, frowning.

Ares waved a hand dismissively and then scrunched his eyes tight and let his hand drop in defeat. He had never been able to fool the other man, not

since they had traveled together, all those years ago.

“Sal, I was right about Strife. He was really hurt 40 years ago, in some damn battlefield. When I was down on earth with you, my nephew was being

hurt by that animal.”

"Tryst," Salamoneous hissed out the name. He couldn't stand the thought of Ares or any of his children being hurt. "Damn! I'm so sorry." He placed a

supportive hand on Ares' shoulder.

There was a bright flash. “Dad, calm down.” Cupid’s jaw was tight enough to break. “We already knew that Strife was hurt. If you had been on

Olympus, he still would have been attacked.”

“I know, but…I still want to know what happened.”

“Me too, but I don’t see how we can find out. Joxer won’t say anything because Strife asked him not to.” They all nodded, happy that Joxer was so

loyal and at the same time, ticked off royally that he wouldn’t share his information.

“Yeah and Strife gets all upset when he even thinks about that time.” Ares slammed his fist down on the table. Scrolls flew everywhere.

"It won't help anything," Sal said quietly. "Nothing can change what happened."

"I know," Ares said just as quietly, Salamoneous was a calming influence on the volatile god. "It just...it isn't fair that he had to go through all that

pain, alone. Someone should have been there for him."

Ares looked at the older con man and knew that they were both remembering when Ares and he traveled together. It was during the time when Ares

had to do without his godly powers for a while. Another one of Zeus' stupid decrees. The god had been badly injured and it was only through

Salamoneous' intervention that Ares had survived at all.

After their adventures, and as soon as he was a god again, Ares had offered to make his friend an immortal. He had been stunned when the young

man (hey, he wasn't always older) had declined the offer. In the back of Ares' mind he had thought that the con man would expect some sort of

reward for saving his life, but that hadn't been the case.

It seems that a few years earlier, Sal's young wife had died in childbirth. Salamoneous had been devastated by the loss of his true love and didn't

want to live forever without her. Ares had been reassured that the two lovers, and their child, would live together in the Elysian Fields, after his life

was over, so he didn't protest too much. He did, however, make the offer periodically, just in case Salamoneous changed his mind. The God of War

opened his mouth to make the offer again, but Sal just smiled sadly at him.

“If it was me, I’d check the Halls of Time.”

The two gods turned towards the con artist and gaped. “Of course!” They said in unison and flashed out.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you looked at it, Salamoneous was brought along for the ride. In the older man’s opinion, this

probably wasn’t a good thing. In fact, he was sure it wasn’t. He had no desire to see Strife being hurt, even if it was a memory of that time. Sal

didn’t say anything though. Ares was his good friend and he figured that the war god was going to need all the support he could get. Plus, this might

give them an insight into Strife's feelings and if anything would help the mischief maker, then Sal was all for it.

It had been so wonderful these last couple of weeks, to see the young god racing around on Earth and Mount Olympus again. It was doubly good to

know that he wasn’t in pain anymore. Strife was still much too thin, in Salamoneous’ opinion, but the young god was slowly making headway.

The Halls of Time were a series of rooms connected to a large dais that had thousands upon thousands of scrying mirrors on it. Ares strode up to

one of the portals, picked at random as far, as Salamoneous could tell.

“I want to see the life of the god, Strife,” Ares barked at the mirror. Instantly, the picture changed from a murky, cloudy mess to show a baby with

a mop of dark, curly hair and pale blue eyes. All three men smiled at the image of the gurgling baby.

One by one, the smiles fell from their faces. They knew that the happy little baby wouldn’t be allowed such innocence for very long.

"Good grief, he was a skinny little thing, even then," Salamoneous said, trying to postpone the moment as long as he could.

"Yeah, way too thin," Cupid frowned as he spoke. "I wonder how much he got to eat?"

Ares and Salamoneous looked at Cupid in horror. "Oh, but..." Sal shook his head in denial.

"Eris was a lousy mom," Cupid stated with certainty. None of them denied that, it was a well known fact that Discord had neglected Strife even

before Tryst got to him.

“Show me…40 years ago,” Ares said reluctantly, and in a much quieter tone. Now the scene shifted to show Strife standing beside Ares, in the war

god’s throne room. Strife was listening intently and nodding at whatever Ares was telling him.

“Find the occasion when Strife was injured on a battlefield,” Ares whispered. The scene shifted to a muddy battlefield. The fight was obviously over,

because bodies, dead and dying littered the ground. The sky was a murky gray and dark, heavy clouds threatened more rain for the already soaked

field.

Strife flashed in, with a bare minimum of lights or sparkles. His face was set in a pained mask of despair. The young god started walking among the

bodies and occasionally he would stop and lean over one of the soldiers. Strife would then raise up and flick a tiny spark of a firebolt at the people

who were looking for wounded. The healer’s attention would be captured and they would come over to the area and find the person still alive.

“What’s he doing?” Sal asked quietly. It was unnerving, waiting for Strife to be hurt and knowing that there wasn’t anything they could do to stop it.

“One of Strife’s self assigned duties is to help the fallen fighters. If he can, Strife gets help for them and if they are already dead, he makes sure

that their bodies aren’t desecrated.”

Cupid looked up at the revelation. He hadn’t been aware of that particular aspect of his husband’s work. The love god wasn’t really surprised, he

knew how compassionate Strife was.

"I guess that's all theah is," Strife's voice floated out of the mirror. All three men turned their attention to him. "Everybody else is dead."

A flash behind Strife had the nervous young god jumping. He spun around and came face to chest with tight brown leather. Strife gasped and tried

to move back. Tryst's hand snapped out and grabbed hold of Strife by the neck and picked him up until he was eye level with the very tall god.

"This is all your fault!" Tryst thundered into Strife's face.

Strife's eyes were wide with fear and he clutched at his throat as he gasped for air. Gods don't need air the way human's do, and if it had been a

human doing this, Strife would have laughed in their face. But god to god fighting was different and so, Strife was choking.

"I have been banned from Olympus." Tryst shook Strife and the young god's body flailed around in response. "You *must* have done something!"

Tryst screamed and threw Strife, as hard as he could against a nearby tree.

Strife screamed, as much as he could through his damaged throat, when his back slammed into the tree. Tryst stomped over and hit Strife across

the face, knocking the young god onto the ground.

"What did you do? That damn old fool couldn't have known anything was going on if you...hadn't...told...him!" Each time he paused, Tryst punched

Strife in another place. The crunching of bones echoed through the valley.

Tryst flipped Strife over onto his stomach, screaming obscenities the whole while. With a clap of thunder, it started raining again. The water washed

away some of the blood, but made the ground even muddier.

Strife was face down in the mud. His damaged jaw wouldn't close properly, so thick mud was oozing into his mouth. The three gods watched as

Strife had to swallow the mud to keep from drowning in it. He was, in essence, eating the mud.*

With his back to the insane god, Strife didn't see it when he pulled out a wicked looked, curved blade knife. Tryst sliced open one side of Strife's

leather shirt and sliced a deliberately crooked X into the skin. Strife cried out as the blade dug into his back.

Mercifully, by the time that Tryst got around to raping Strife, the young god was mostly unconscious and didn't seem to know what was going on.

The huge god finished satisfying himself, stood up and leaned back his head and screamed in frustration. He kicked Strife in the side, lifting the

smaller god up with the motion. Tryst flashed away in a swirl of black sparkles.

Strife lay on the ground, completely helpless. One hand clutched at the mud spasmodically, indicating that Strife was somewhat aware of what was

happening.

There was another flash, this one of bright yellow sparkles. Asclepius appeared in the middle of the battlefield and glanced around with a frown

furrowing his brow.

"What in the..." He walked around, looking at the bodies. "I don't understand. Hades told me that he sensed a god about to pass over into his realm,

but I don't see anything."

Strife moaned and Ace turned around quickly, looking for the source. Strife moved a leg slightly and the healer god hurried over. He would help this

poor soul and then find the god that must be ailing.

"It's alright, son. I'll take care of you."

Asclepius squatted in the mud and placed a comforting hand on the fallen man's back. He didn't realize, of course, that his back was badly broken.

Strife screamed at the touch. It wasn't a very loud scream, because of all his injuries. Ace yanked his hand back like it had been burned.

"Oh, I'm so sorry, child. I didn't mean to hurt you."

It was then that he took a closer look at his patient and noticed the black leather and metal studs. "strife?" he whispered in horror. Ace held a hand

out over Strife's body, being careful not to touch him, and closed his eyes. He concentrated and gasped when he realized the full extent of Strife's

injuries.

"Great Zeus," he breathed out, his eyes widening in fear.

Taking a deep breath, Asclepius forced his face into a calm mask and leaned down until he was right next to the young god. His pristine white robe

was quickly being stained black and red.

"Strife." The one visible eye, that was almost swollen shut, looked up at him. Ace smiled reassuringly. "I'm here now and you are going to be alright."

Strife's eye darted around as he made inarticulate sounds at the back of his throat. "You're safe," Ace reassured him. Strife gave him a frightened

look and Ace reiterated, "you are safe. I won't let anyone hurt you."

They all watched as Strife started crying. Ace waved a hand and Strife's battered body gently rose from the ground. When Ace had a good magical

grip on him, the two flashed away, leaving behind mud and blood and dead bodies.

*****

Joxer hurried down the hall. He could hear yelling and things breaking in the War Room and knew there would be Tartarus to pay if somebody was

messing with things in there.

The last time someone had done anything had been when Bliss had decided to draw on Grandpa Ares' *funny* papers. The maps, showing all the

battles that Ares currently had going on, were enchanted and so Bliss' scribblings had translated themselves into changes on the battlefields. It had

taken Ares weeks to straighten things out and only Bliss' sweetly innocent face had saved him from being punished by his grandpa. Cupid, on the

other hand, had spanked the little boy, because the energy burst that Strife had received had let the love god know that the little boy hadn't been

as innocent as he seemed.

He opened the door, while shielding himself at the same time. (Hey, Gabrielle might have always called him a dummy, but he wasn’t stupid.) It was a

good thing he did have a protection shield around himself, because an energy bolt hit a nearby table and bits of wood were blasted everywhere.

“Ares?”

Joxer’s quiet inquiry stopped the rampage. Ares raced across the room and Joxer just had enough time to drop the shield before his husband grabbed

him up.

“Angel! Are you alright? Did I hit you? Are you hurt?”

‘Babbling, Ares is babbling.’ Joxer blinked in surprise.

“I’m fine. I heard the…” He looked around the room, at the utter destruction of the stone walls and furniture. There wasn’t a scroll left that hadn’t

been reduced to scraps of paper. “…uh, hollering. So, I protected myself before I checked.”

“Thank Zeus, thank Zeus,” Ares said, as he petted the back of Joxer’s head. “I don’t think I could stand it if I hurt you.” Ares abruptly let go and

walked away.

Joxer watched his husband’s tense back for a moment. He was about to say something when Ares screamed. Not just any ordinary scream, no, this

one literally rattled the walls of their mighty temple.

Across Mount Olympus, several gods and goddesses looked up in fright. They would have come to check on the volatile god, but Joxer quickly sent

out messages of constraint. He would help his husband.

The God of Peace walked over to Ares’ throne. There wasn’t much left of the beautiful black chair, so Joxer waved a hand and fixed it. He took hold

of Ares’ large shoulders and gently turned his husband around. Joxer wasn’t surprised to see that Ares was crying. He sat the sobbing man down on

the throne and then sat himself down on his lap. Joxer would have done it the other way around, but he knew that, god or not, his legs would have

been crushed in the endeavor.

With arms wrapped around Ares’ neck and Ares’ arms wrapped around his waist, Joxer murmured soft, nonsense words of comfort, until Ares calmed

down. “How did you find out?”

There wasn’t any question in Joxer’s mind what Ares had discovered. It was only how that was the mystery, because he knew that Strife would

never have said anything, it was much too painful for him.

“The Halls of Time,” Ares whispered raggedly.

“Oh.” Joxer would never have thought of that, but not being born a god, he wasn’t used to such things. “I’m sorry and no, it isn’t your fault.”

That started the tears running down Ares’ face again. “But…”

“No, no buts. You had no way of knowing what was happening, no one did.” Ares was shaking his head. Joxer carefully took hold of the bearded face

in both of his hands. “Strife doesn’t blame you,” he said distinctly.

Ares laid his head on Joxer’s shoulder and closed his eyes. “But I do,” he whispered.

“I know,” Joxer said sadly, knowing that only time could lessen this pain.

*****

Strife didn’t understand what was happening when Cupid flashed into the bedroom and crushed him tightly to his chest. It didn’t matter. Whatever

was wrong, if hugging Strife would help, he’d do it.

“Cupe?” He was hugged tighter, which would normally be good, but ouch! He had just been about to feed the babies and his breasts were *really*

full and tender.

“A-are you about to feed the kids?” Cupid’s stutter was worrisome, so Strife tried to lighten the atmosphere.

“Nah, I thought I’d give tha milk ta Bob instead.”

Bob raised her heads and gave a confused bark. Cupid laughed and seemed a *little* calmer.

“Can I watch?” he asked shyly.

“Ah course,” Strife said with a smile. He wasn’t quite as self conscious about his body, not now that the scars that Tryst had placed all over his

body had been removed.

He picked up Gossy, who was always the first to get fussy and held her to one breast. The little girl latched on with a suction that made the

mischief god gasp every time. “Calm down theah, it’s not goin anywheah.”

Cupid laughed at their daughter’s *starving baby* routine and picked up their son. He placed Garreth on Strife’s chest too. Whenever possible, Strife

liked to feed the babies at the same time. He felt that it was better to keep them close, since they had been together for so long inside his body.

Garreth wasn’t quite as aggressive, or as vocal, as his sister, but he was just as appreciative of the food he was given. Both children ate and made

little happy sounds, their small hands clutching at Strife’s skin.

Cupid stuck his finger in one of Gossamer’s little hands and watched delightedly as she grasped it firmly. Strife watched Cupid and realized that

seeing his children like this had helped with whatever had upset the love god.

With a baby in either arm, Strife relaxed back against Cupid’s strong chest and relaxed. There wasn’t anything that could harm his little family, not

really.

^^^^^^

The baby lay in his bed, happily chewing on stuffed toy. One leg kicked out, bumping the side of the small cradle and accidentally set it rocking. The

little boy stilled, his eyes growing large with delight. He kicked out again and again, trying to make that funny motion happen again.

A very large and dark man appeared next to the bed. He watched the tiny child’s innocent actions with a carefully blank look on his face. Finally, he

leaned over until his face was right above the baby’s. The child stopped kicking and watched the new person with interest.

“Just to let you know,” Ares snarled, “I’m going to keep an eye on you.”

The newly reborn Tryst, blinked and jumped slightly when the God of War flashed out. The jump started the cradle rocking and distracted the baby

from the loss of his new playmate. One tiny foot started kicking again, determinedly.

*I mentioned this in chapter 4.




Chapter 39

Epilogue 1- Flash forward

20 years into the future

Strife flashed into the main square at Tixeda, a smaller town on the outskirts of Athens. There is a festival going on in one front of one of Strife’s

temples and the young god decided to visit today.

Over the years, Strife had become a very popular god. The agony that the young god had gone through with his pregnancy and the knowledge of

what he had gone through all his life, allowed people to see him as a person instead of an unreachable god.

Now, instead of one forlorn temple, Strife had many temples all over Greece. They all have festivals, hoping that Strife will grace them with his

presence. Strife always manages to make an appearance, at least once, at each festival.

Strife stayed invisible, for the moment, because he had already attended this particular festival once. It wasn’t a good idea to frequent one place

more than the others, it tended to cause bad feelings.

He was giggling, high on the feedback from all the mischief. Strife’s followers were very devoted, so there was always a *lot* of mischief going on.

Out of the corner of his eye, Strife saw a blur of colors. He turned and saw a trio of jugglers, bouncing their leather balls (Not *those* balls! Ouch!)

off of one another. Strife laughed even harder at the antics than the crowd did.

Leaning against a building, over to one side, a young man was standing, laughing along with everybody else. Strife stared at him a moment, his mind

not comprehending what he was seeing. Then he gasped, petrified when he realized it was Tryst. He was a lot younger than Strife remembered, but

still looked the same.

Sandy brown hair hung down his back in shimmering waves. The tall body wasn’t as muscled yet, but it was on its way. His brown leather pants and

jerkin weren’t quite as tight as Tryst used to wear, but they did accentuate the large bulge in his pants.

Strife remained invisible as he stared. The young man walked off and Strife forgot about the festivities and followed him around the festival. He

watched as Tryst enjoying the attractions.

“Hello, Wildrius.” A young woman smiled seductively and leaned against the younger man’s chest. She had to angle her neck back really far to look

him in the eye, because she only came to the middle of his chest.

“Hello, Temptrus.”

Wildrius smiled shyly and ducked his head. Temptrus stood back up with a sigh. She looked him up and down appreciatively and walked away with a

saucy twitch in her skirts.

An elderly lady’s jewelry cart started to fall and the reincarnated Tryst caught it with one hand, while with the other, he kept the necklaces and

bracelets from toppling off. The woman smiled at the kindly man as he kept hold of the cart until it was fixed.

In the back of one of the stalls, three boys were picking on a much smaller and younger child. Wildrius stepped in and separated them. He talked to

the bullies and they slunk off. Strife was too far away to hear what Wildrius said. He talked to the littler boy and then the little boy ran off to play.

All in all, Tryst, now called Wildrius, seemed like a very nice, likeable, young man.

Strife can’t stop staring and shaking.

There was a black flash of light and Hades popped in. “Hi, Strife.”

The young god jumped, startled out of his perusal. “Hi, Hades.”

Hades looked over at the former god. “I hadn’t intended for you to see him. I’m sorry, I forgot about the festival and that you’d probably be here.”

“It’s alright.” Strife stuck one fingernail in his mouth and started to chew. “So, uhm, how’s he doin?”

“So far, he’s doing very well. He hasn’t attacked anyone or acted odd in any way.”

Strife nodded absentmindedly. “I’m glad.” He looked at the god warily, still worrying his fingernail, that was by now, ragged. “I’m glad.”

Hades nodded noncommittally, wondering who Strife was trying to convince.

“Well, I gotta go.” Strife smiled up at Hades. “Theah’s three more festivals goin on taday that I need ta visit.”

“Oh yes, and you just *hate* doing that.”

Strife smiled brightly at the sarcasm. “Ah course.” With a giggle and a worried glance at the young man across the square, he flashed away. Bright

red stars rained down in his wake.

“Hmmm, that’s new.” Hades caught a few of the stars in his hand before he too flashed away.

^^^^^^

Tryst looked up and smirked. He remembered all of his life as a god and was just biding his time. He figured that he could be *good* for a few more

years and then *accidentally* die. Then he can get back at all those who hurt him and those who had denied him what was rightfully his…Strife.

The young man pocketed the necklace he stole from the old lady’s cart. He knew knocking it over would be a good distraction. Fingering the bit of

metal he figured that it would be a good way to convince Temptrus to let him be rough this time.

He held up a handful of coins that he had *convinced* the young boy to give him. The threat of what he could do had sent the three bullies running

and scared the child into giving up all his spending money. Gods, Tryst loved getting things without working for it.

Tryst looked up and saw a little boy, all alone. The child was thin and tiny, with dark brown, curly hair. Tryst angled his head for a better look and

could see bright blue eyes. His groin tightened at the sight of that young child.

The little boy called “mommy” plaintively and ran into an alley, looking for her. The former god knew the alley was a dead end.

Tingles started in his balls at the idea of what he could do to that little body. Looking around carefully, Tryst checked to see if anyone was

watching. No one was, so he followed.

“Are you lost?” He smiled kindly.

The little boy nodded tearfully. One tiny hand brushed curls out of his eyes.

“Good.”

The smile turned menacing. He grabbed the little boy by his upper arms and held him up to eye level, leering at the crying boy. Tryst reveled in the

fear and pain he could see in the expressive eyes.

“Hello Tryst.” Hades appeared beside the former god. He tucked his invisibility helmet under his arm and Tryst realized that the God of the

Underworld had probably been following him this whole time.

Tryst gasped in shock.

Another flash and with a strange rippling sensation under his hands, the *little boy* turned into Garreth. The curly hair lengthened until it rippled

down his back like a brown waterfall. Garreth was still a lot smaller than Tryst (who isn't), but the power running through the slighter frame made the

former god shiver.

“Hello, I’m the God of Illusion…and Strife’s son.”

Flash. “I’m his daughter.” Gossamer’s wild grin was in sharp contrast with her angelic appearance.

Flash. “I’m his other son.” Bliss’ eyes were blazing.

“And since you can see us, even in our disguised state, that means you’re still you.” Hades said. With a gesture he indicated the still held Garreth.

“That little display shows you haven’t changed.”

Tempra flashed in and punched Tryst in the jaw, making him drop Garreth. “I’m Strife’s niece, in case you didn’t know.” She kicked Tryst in the butt.

Hades waited until she was finished. “Goodbye Tryst.”

The God of the Underworld stepped back and waited. All of Strife’s children and his niece raised a godly hand. Hades joined them and all 5 of them

blasted the former god. Tryst dropped dead.

The shell of what used to be Tryst, lay in the dirt a long time before he was found. Several rats came up and sniffed the body, but scurried away

without tasting.

He was buried in an unassuming grave. Mourned by some, the one’s who had been fooled by his act. Many others quietly celebrated the death of the

man who had tormented them.

^^^^^^

In Tartarus, deep in Hades’ realm, Tryst was waiting in a cold, black marble room. He was strapped to a chair. The heavy chains crisscrossed his

body and legs.

Hades appeared, his flash darker than ever. Without a word, he snapped his fingers and the room was now Tryst’s trophy room. Another snap and

the walls were filled with pictures of Strife, all ages. The images were frozen in mid-movement.

“Tryst. Former God of Secret Meetings. Rapist and Murderer. Torturer. Destroyer of children.”

Tryst stopped leering at the images of Strife and looked over at Hades warily.

“You are sentenced to remain in this room for all time.” Hades stepped back and Garreth flashed in.

“The images of father will forever haunt you.”

The dead man kept a neutral look on his face. So far he didn’t see much in the way of punishment. He’d get to look at Strife and fondle his trophies

without interruption, for all eternity.

He looked to a corner where Gossamer stood. After each pronouncement she would nod her approval.

“You’ll never be able to hurt anyone again.” Tempra smiled nastily. Tryst was somewhat surprised, he hadn’t notice her entry into his prison. “No one

other than yourself that is.”

Bliss stood before Tryst in all his glory. He had grown up to be a handsome man, just like his father, his physical father that is.

“I give you the one thing you’ve never had in your life…love.”

Tryst frowned at that, as Gossamer pronounced. “The punishment is adequate for the crime.”

Bliss notched an arrow and aimed. Tryst felt hands jerking his head around. “Look straight ahead now.” Hades said serenely.

He felt a sharp, momentary pain in his side and then a tidal wave of warmth spread through his body. For the first time Tryst felt joy and hope and

happiness. He opened his eyes and Tryst’s world changed. There was Strife, his one true love.

Several flashes indicated the other gods leaving.

Tryst didn’t care, he had Strife.

The chains disappeared and the frozen images on the walls thawed out. The memory of Strife began to scream as Tryst hit him again and again. The

young man begged Tryst to stop as he was raped on another wall.

Tryst turned around. Everywhere he looked there were horror filled scenes of his love being hurt…by him.

“No…NO…stop!” Tryst cried.

The former god raced from one scene to the other, desperate to help his beloved. He bounced uselessly off the walls, impotent to help.

“Stop!”

Realization of what he’d been, the horror of what he’d done, hit Tryst and he collapsed to his knees. No relief there. Even the floor and ceiling were

covered with the images.

Desperately, he scurried backwards and knocked over one of his tables. A child’s blanket wafted down. It was torn and horribly stained a brownish

red. Tryst looked over and saw an 8 year-old Strife being beaten on the same blanket.

Tryst curled up in a ball on the floor and began to scream. So began his eternity.

^^^^^^

“Hades.”

The God of the Underworld looked up with a smile. “Strife, come in. I’m glad to see you.”

“Thanks.”

Hades frowned at Strife’s subdued tone. “What’s wrong?”

“Uhm.” Hades watched as Strife paced around the room.

“I was just down ta Tixeda and they say Wildrius has died.”

“That’s true, but…”

Strife didn’t seem to hear him. “Sa, now he’ll get his second chance. Okay, okay.” Strife was rubbing his hands together, twisting them into painful

contortions.

“Strife…”

Once again, Strife didn’t hear him.

“I’m pregnant.” He blurted out.

“That’s wonderful.” Hades smiled as well as frowned at his great nephew. “Isn’t it? You’re not going to have problems like you did last time, are you?”

“No. I’m all cured. Theah shouldn’t be any problems.”

“Then…”

“Nobody else is pregnant.” Strife continued to pace. “I checked. No othah gods or goddesses are expectin.”

“Oh-kay.” Hades shook his head, not understanding.”

“I can’t.” Strife whispered as he placed both hands on his tummy. “I just *can’t*.”

Hades stood hastily and hurried over to the upset god, as he understood what Strife meant.

“Oh, Tartarus. No, Strife. I would never make you do that.” He placed one pale hand over Strife’s paler, black leather clad hands. All 3 were over

Strife’s flat stomach.

“You would never have to carry Him, no matter what.”

Strife closed his eyes in relief and clutched his hands tighter, protecting the baby even from bad dreams.

“Strife…look at me.” Strife looked up and Hades could see the fear in them, something he hadn’t seen in 20 years.

“Tryst…” Hades patted Strife’s shoulder. Strife still winced when his name was said. “…wasn’t as reformed as we thought.”

Strife’s eyes widened and he gasped in fear.

“No one was hurt.” Hades hastened to reassure him. “He’s dead now and in Tartarus. He won’t *ever* be coming back.”

Strife slumped to the floor before Hades could catch him. Hades dropped down beside him.

“Strife?”

The young god looked up. Tears were streaming down his face. “Oh, thank tha gods.” He sobbed and leaned into Hades’ shoulder, crying as hard as

he could.

Hades closed his eyes with a grimace as he held the young god tightly.

“I’m sorry.”

“W-why?” Strife’s muffled voice came from Hades’ collar.

“You’ve been scared this whole time, haven’t you.”

Strife nodded yes and then shook his head no. Leaning back, he magicked up a handkerchief. “No, not really. Most ah tha time I’d forget He was

even out theah. But then othah times…”

Strife shivered at the dreams he’d had. Dreams where Tryst hurt Strife’s children and Cupid, making him watch, before turning his attentions to Strife

once more.

Hades gritted his teeth. “You shouldn’t have had to worry at all. If I had it to do all over again, I would never have asked you for permission for Him

to be born again.”

Strife cleaned his face and dropped the handkerchief. It disappeared before it could hit the ground.

“No, it was only right that he got anothah chance.”

Strife flowed to his feet, looking like black mercury. His eyes glinted even brighter in the torchlight, highlighting the tears that still floated there.

“Nevah?” Strife asked, not looking at Hades.

“Never.” Hades stated emphatically. Strife smiled and looked up at that.

“Okay. Bye.” Strife waved as he flashed home to his family.




Fic: Overheard Conversations 40/40
Author: Kerensa
Email: vkevans@yahoo.com Feedback please. Feedback or death (well, maybe that’s going a little too far)
Rating: R, so far
Fandom: Xena/Hercules, brief mention of food from Harry Potter series
Pairing: Ares/Joxer, Cupid/Strife, Hercules/Iolaus
Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, I’m just borrowing them for a little fun. The same with the Harry Potter stories. I have no money, no property, I even have to borrow the food I eat, so please don’t sue me.
Warning: m/m; MPREG; talk of nonconsensual sex; talk of underage molestation, rape, and abuse; angst
Summary: Joxer and Strife are both pregnant and end up talking. Their husbands, Ares and Cupid overhear their conversation and find out a lot more about their husband’s, especially Strife’s past, than they ever imagined.
Status: WIP
Series: Children At Play
Archive: Yes to AJCS, Make Believe, Beyond Cannon, Lone Tree Preserve and MPREG; anywhere else, sure just tell me first.
Website: Well, a LJ.
Notes: I want to thank my mother for some of the ideas in this story. She thought up the bad guy’s name and some ways to hurt poor Strife. Later in the series I will mention something, briefly, from the I LOVE LUCY show; bonus points if you can find it. Also, a brief appearance by some of the people on Andromeda. Beta’d by me and Spellcheck.

Chapter 40-Epilogue 2- Flashback from the flashback

Strife grinned over at Joxer, who smiled back happily. They looked around at the family gathering and shook their heads in unison. It wasn't often that you saw this many gods of Olympus in the same spot. Especially, without bloodshed.

Ganymede, the new God of Secret Meetings, was talking with Hera, the Goddess of Marriage and Childbirth, about an assignation that a young couple needed to make. If they didn't the young man would feel that the girl wasn't in love with him and run off to join the Athenian army. Both people would die, alone and childless. Aphrodite joined the conversation and added her two dinars worth of advice.

Amazingly, all three deities listened to one another. And considering that Aphrodite and Hera hated each other, and that Hera had been jealous of Dite and Ganymede (she'd seen Zeus eyeing the young man) for centuries, that was saying a lot.

Ares and Hercules were having an arm wrestling contest. Those watching knew that Ares could beat the demi-god any time he wanted to, just like he could in any fight they were in. (Hello, a god here.) But Ares let Hercules win sometimes, because Zeus had decreed it. He didn't want his baby boy to feel inferior. However, lately, Zeus had begun to realize that he wasn't doing right by his *legitimate* baby boy and had backed off on his decree.

Hercules fell to one side when Ares pinned his hand to the table, without any effort whatsoever. "Oops, guess I got lucky." Ares smiled winsomely and winked at Joxer. Hercules caught the wink. The demi-god eyed his brother suspiciously.

Iolaus cleared his throat and it was evident from the strained look on his face that he was trying to hold back the laughter. Obviously, being a smart guy, Iolaus had figured out that the gods were letting Hercules win most of his battles. The blond hunter tugged on his fiancé’s arm and pulled him over to one of the banquet tables that had been set up in Ares and Joxer's garden.

Strife plopped down on the grass beside the children. It was so wonderful to be able to do that, especially without any pain. The children were playing among the flowers and could do so safely. In the garden, as it always had been as long as Strife could remember, there were no thorns or thistles or anything to cause pain. Strife had always liked that about his uncle’s flowerbeds.

The cradles were nestled among the flowers and each had a little canopy over them to protect the new babies’ skin from the harsh sun. Cupid and Eve were running around, playing tag while the adults looked on indulgently.

Xena was talking with Gabrielle and Beru. The man from Eire had a proprietary arm around the Amazon woman’s waist and Gabrielle seemed happy. Xena was gesturing around the garden and had a bright purple rose tucked in the front of her bustier. The rose was one of Joxer’s own special inventions and a favorite among the gods.

“This has been a nice day,” Joxer said as he sank down beside Strife. The dark haired man took a peek at his sleeping daughter and tucked the blanket around her a little more.

“Yeah, it’s a nice change from tha fightin that usually goes on.”

Joxer nodded and gasped. “Uh, we may have spoken too soon.” He gestured to where Hera was walking towards Hercules and Iolaus.

“And maybe not.” Strife grinned and nodded at the scene. Hera had talked briefly to the pair and then pulled out…a golden apple.

Joxer’s mouth fell open at the same time as Hercules’ did. “Iolaus will be immortal too,” he breathed out quietly.

“Yeah, they can be tagethah forevah.”

Strife and Joxer smiled at each other. They liked the blond hunter and now he would be around from now on. “I’m so glad,” Joxer bounced a little where he sat. “Iolaus was always nice to me, even when I was just a klutzy nuisance.”

The God of Mischief narrowed his eyes, but before he could say anything, another voice spoke up. “You were *never* a nuisance,” Cupid growled. “They,” he jerked his head over his shoulder, at Joxer’s *friends*, “were the pains in the butt.”

Joxer smiled delightedly. “Thank you, Cupid that means a lot.”

“He isn’t sayin anythin that’s not true.” Strife crossed his arms and stared expectantly at his friend, upset that Joxer still felt that way, even after all these years. “If Hercules hadn’t been a demi-god *and* undah Zeus’ protection, he’d have been dead years ago. Xena has been undah Unc’s protection fah years and Gabrielle has been protected by her. And Iolaus, well, we know how many times he’s died and been brought back.”

Strife turned to look back at his best friend. “But ya didn’t have any special powahs or protection and ya survived all on yar own.”

Joxer idly played with a blade of grass while he thought. After a few moments he looked up at Strife and smiled. “Thank you.”

“I think you both survived,” Ares said solemnly as he walked up. Strife and Joxer looked up at him from their seated positions. “You survived and because of you both I’m better than I used to be.”

Strife blushed at the compliment and glanced over to see that Joxer was teary eyed. Cupid sat down behind Strife, slipping the mischief god into his lap. “And just look at what we’ve made.” He gestured to the godlings.

“We have a good life,” Strife stated quietly and all three of his family, his grown up family that is, nodded in agreement.

*****

“Angel, come here a minute, please.” Ares’ voice called to Joxer and, with one last look at his slumbering daughter, the God of Peace followed it back into their bedroom. What he saw there stopped him with a gasp.

Their regular bed was now a four-poster, brass bed. Red satin graced the bed, like a shimmering offering from an acolyte. And stretched out, like a sacrifice, was Ares. Complete with silver chains that held his powerful arms and legs tethered to the corners of the bed.

Joxer stood in the doorway and stared for a *very* long moment. Ares’ dark hair was spread out on the blood red pillow in silky, ebony curls. His husband’s spread position gave Joxer the ultimate in view of Ares’ beautiful manhood, the one that was hard and waiting for Joxer to come over and take care of it.

“Are you my sacrifice?” Joxer asked hoarsely. He thought he was going to pass out, because all the blood in his body had immediately spread downwards and all the oxygen in his body had run out into the night.

Ares grinned and lowered his eyelids in mock shyness. “Yes, my lord. I’m here for you to do *anything* you want to.”

Joxer slowly approached the bed and stared, taking his fill of the feast laid out before him. He sat down and ran a questing hand up Ares’ thigh. Ares tensed at the touch and arched his hips, trying to move Joxer’s hand in the right direction. The war god sighed in frustration when Joxer not only didn’t move his hand closer, but he moved it away altogether.

The former mortal looked at the small bedside table. A bottle of oil was warming in a bowl of hot water. There were several towels and, ah ha, just what he was looking for. Joxer took off the leather tie that was holding a cloth over some snacks for later. Holding up the strip, Joxer smiled wickedly at his husband. He reached between Ares’ legs and began to wrap the long piece of leather around the impressive genitalia.

“We wouldn’t want this to end too quickly, would we?”

Ares grinned. He liked this new side to his lover, at least once in a while. The God of War had a feeling this was going to be a very *long* night.

*****

Cupid held up a paintbrush and pursed his lips thoughtfully. Strife lay between his legs, where the love god was kneeling over him. The mischief god was panting and flushed with excitement.

“Ah ha,” Cupid said triumphantly. He dipped the brush into the pot that was balanced on the edge of the bed and ran the golden colored liquid around Strife’s left nipple.

Strife groaned and arched his back at the sensation. Cupid grinned wickedly and, picking up the pot, poured a thick stream of honey over Strife’s erect penis. The God of Mischief almost levitated off the bed as the honey oozed between his legs.

“Oh gods, Cupe.”

Cupid was satisfied now. He had reduced his hyper husband to a bundle of writhing limbs. Since he had found out that sex had always been painful for his husband, Cupid had resolved to make any more love making to be as pleasurable as possible. This was the first time since the birth of the twins that they were allowed to be fully intimate and he was going for all it was worth.

“Oh darn,” Cupid’s voice was low and seductive. Strife opened his eyes and Cupid was thrilled to see how the arousal had dilated them to where the pale blue was almost gone.

“We’re out of honey.” He tilted the pot that Jayce had given him all those months ago, over Strife’s sticky chest. “Whatever will I do now?”

He dropped the clay pot onto the floor and leaned down until he was just above one temptingly peaked nipple. Cupid stuck out his tongue and gave the small brown nub a passing lick. Strife gasped and then whimpered when Cupid sat back up.

“Hmmm, tasty.” He leaned over and gave the other side the same treatment. Cupid started to sit back up, but never got the chance once Strife grabbed hold of the back of his head and kept his mouth where it was. Cupid smiled and began to nibble. He was so pleased that Strife had finally started showing what he wanted in bed. The younger god had been so traumatized by Tryst that sex was something he either endured or at the very least was passive during. But not anymore…

“Cupiddddd…” he hissed when Cupid began to leave little bites across and down his body. “Please,” Strife whimpered when Cupid licked up the trails of honey, that he had painted on Strife’s body.

With a kiss to one bony hip, Cupid raised his head. “I have a lot more honey to take care of.” Strife started to answer but his words turned into a strangled scream as Cupid began to lick between his legs.

The love god wanted to prolong this first *pain free* time, so he deliberately avoided Strife’s erection that was demanding attention. Instead, he concentrated on the rest of Strife’s groin and was thrilled to discover that Strife squealed happily when the juncture of leg and hip was snacked on.

By the time Cupid took Strife’s erection in his mouth, the mischief god was thrashing around so much that it took all of Cupid’s strength to hold him to the bed.

*****

Strife thought he was going to go nuts. (Some people thought he already was, but I digress.) Cupid had been making love to him for hours now and didn’t show any signs of stopping soon. He hoped.

The twins had been fed just before they started having sex and were okay for a while. (Yeah yeah, I know.) In reality they’d need to be fed every two to three hours, but Apollo had come up with a formula to supplement their breast feedings. Even with godly powers, a man can only produce so much breast milk and Strife was attempting it for two of them. The formula could be used once a day and filled their little tummies up for hours. In this way, Strife and Cupid were lucky, and almost immediately the babies were sleeping through the night.

The mischief god gasped. His mind, and other things, was wrenched away from thoughts of his children and back to their bed, as Cupid inhaled Strife’s cock and tried to suck it off of his body. Strife gasped as Cupid enthusiastically licked and sucked, bringing Strife to the edge once more. It certainly wasn’t the first blow job that Strife had ever received, but it was, so far, the best, because it didn’t hurt him.

There was no pain anywhere, for the first time that Strife could remember. And gods, who knew making love could be so wonderful!

Strife cried out as he climaxed, arching his back up and his penis further down Cupid’s willing and talented throat. He collapsed back onto the bed like a molten lump of metal.

“Strife, Strife.” Cupid kissed his way back up Strife’s body and the mischief god could feel Cupid’s rigid length dragging along his hip.

“Cupid, I love ya.”

Cupid stopped licking the side of Strife’s neck and raised up onto one elbow. Looked down at his husband, Cupid brushed the sweaty dark hair out of Strife’s eyes and smiled. “I love you too, baby.”

Strife took hold of Cupid’s hips and, in a move that surprised Cupid, flipped the love god over, so that he was the one laying on the bed. The blond god grinned up at his lover, happy at the aggression. Strife began to move between Cupid’s legs and he decided that he didn’t care who was being more dominant, just as long as he got off…and soon.

*****

Strife and Cupid laid curled around one another. Pale limbs were entangled with tanned ones and dark and light hairs were mixed together on the pillow that they shared. They were alone in their bedroom. No one, not even the ghosts of lost loves or hated foes, would ever come between them again.

The End.


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