- Work in Progress
- Dark Themes
- Discussion - Murder
- Violence - Canon-Level
- Alternate Universe
- Fix It
- Time Travel
Joxer stared at the orb suspended in the air, frozen in a time bubble, trying to see if there was anything left of her mother in this creature.
“Is this it? The future of mankind?” Jett asked popping in behind his younger brother, silent as always.
“The future of mankind?” Joxer asked. “Not exactly; the hope of mankind perhaps.” He waved the orb away, returning it to its safe-keeping. “Did you need something?” It was a well-known fact that Joxer’s home temple was avoided at all costs; the tapestries considered too disturbing, even by the members of the House of War.
“I wanted to talk,” Jett admitted awkwardly.
Joxer raised an eyebrow. “Talk? About what, exactly?”
“The past few years.”
Joxer sighed and sat down on a stone bench which was set underneath a particularly gruesome tapestry depicting some sort of demon with a gray pallor and two huge horns.
Jett sat down next to him, looking at his brother for a long moment before he spoke. “How come you never said anything?”
“I couldn’t,” Joxer answered. “There was too much at stake.”
“I’m your brother. You could have trusted me.” Jett sounded hurt which was an unusual emotion for the God of Assassins.
“Your first loyalty has always been to the House of War, even before you married into it. This…thing I had to do, it was too important.”
“You told Strife.” Jett pointed out.
“Not at first. Strife only found out after he died. When he came back, it couldn’t be helped.” Joxer sighed. “It doesn’t matter now. What’s done is done.”
“Alright.” Jett allowed, not wanting to get into Strife’s resurrection. That was a touchy subject under the best of circumstances, and this was certainly not the best time to broach it. He stood up. “I get that you felt you had to work in secret. You couldn’t risk Dahok or any of his minions discovering your plans. But now that it’s over with, now that your,” he waved vaguely to where the cocoon had been sitting, “project is trapped, you can return to Olympus.”
“It’s not that simple,” Joxer said, suddenly bone weary. “There is still a lot to do. Besides, you know I never fit in there. Hades, I never fit in the Underworld either.” He sighed quietly. “I wasn’t wrong when I said I didn’t have a home anymore.”
Jett stared hard at his brother for a moment. “You could. Eris said that…” He trailed off not entirely certain if he should repeat exactly what Eris had told him. Finally, he scowled. “You have family there. Strife and Cupid; Eris and I. Even Jayce and his weird side of the family. We’d all like you to come back.”
Joxer sighed wearily, but there was a hint of a smile in his eyes. “I’ll try. But right now I have someplace I need to be.”
“Good luck,” Jett smirked, having a good idea what Joxer had to do. “You’ll need it.”
Joxer smiled as his brother disappeared in a flash. “Don’t I know it?” He took one last look at his tapestries before he too flashed out.
Joxer, the God of Demonic Prophecy, reappeared in an overly bright temple. He stared from one of the room’s occupants to the other. Both God’s were staring mutinously at one another, brows furrowed in a way that showed their familial connection though he would never say that aloud.
“Well, this is going well,” Joxer observed. He turned to his best friend. “How long have you been here?”
“Too long.” Strife snarled.
“Strife.” Joxer admonished. “You promised.”
The God of Mischief sighed theatrically. “Okay, fine.” He turned to Apollo. “So…” He trailed off not sure what he should say if anything.
“How’s…work?” Apollo asked suddenly, trying to make some sort of start at conversation.
Strife blinked. “I create mischief for the mortal world to bring about chaos and confusion. It’s…mischievous. You?”
Joxer wanted to laugh. He really, really did but knew he didn’t dare. This whole thing was his idea after all, and if he didn’t want a repeat of the prank wars from a few weeks ago, then he had better get these two talking.
“Good,” Apollo answered. He froze for a second before his eyes lit up. “Hey, I heard about that mess with Hercules last week. You had him so twisted around he wasn’t sure which Warlord he should be trying to stop.”
Strife grinned in remembrance. He had uncle Herc so confused he was ready to beg for Ares help. He looked up at Apollo startled by what he realized was a compliment. “Thanks. I, uh…noticed the…uh sun was shining today. Good job.”
Joxer snorted. “Okay, this is getting ridiculous. Apollo, Strife, maybe we should try something that isn’t so…one-on-one.”
“Like what?” Strife asked.
“Hmmm. Well, Jayce’s birthday party is next week. You’ll both be there, I assume?”
Apollo nodded. Strife looked like he was about to shake his head but changed his mind at the last minute.
“Good. If we can get through the night without either of you trying to blast the other, I’ll call it a success and we can go from there.” Joxer tilted his head slightly, hearing a prayer, his eyes going wide when he recognized the voice.
“What is it?” Strife asked in alarm seeing the look on Joxer’s face.
“Nothing…I have to go.” Joxer disappeared in a muted flash, leaving the two God’s alone once more.
Xena finished making the circle and lit a lone candle. “Joxer.” She said quietly, knowing she didn’t have to speak the words aloud, but it helped center her thoughts. “I…I was hoping we could talk.”
Joxer flashed into the clearing, standing just outside the circle Xena had made. “That wasn’t necessary, Xena. I wouldn’t hurt you.” He sat on the ground, trying to appear less threatening, not that he thought Xena was afraid.
“I know. I just…wanted to show respect I guess.” She said sheepishly.
“I’ve never known you to respect the Gods,” Joxer said with a flicker of the old smile.
“I’ve never known one deserving of it.” Xena countered.
Joxer nodded ruefully. He knew, better than most, about Xena’s history with the Gods. “What would you like to talk about?”
“Me?” Joxer asked in surprise. “What exactly would you like to know?”
“You’re the God of Demonic Prophecy. Is that anything like Apollo?”
Joxer laughed. He didn’t mean to, really, but the idea that he might have anything in common with his best friend’s father was…amusing at best, offensive at worst. “Sorry.” Joxer shook his head. “Not exactly. Apollo is…okay, I can’t really be objective about Apollo, but while he is the God of Prophecy, that’s true, it’s a little different to the kind of prophecies that I receive.”
Xena frowned. She wasn’t aware there was any tension between Joxer and Apollo, but then again her genuine knowledge of Joxer was insufficient. That, was in fact, the purpose of this little summoning. “What’s the difference?”
Joxer sighed and fingered a blade of grass on the ground absently. “With Apollo, when dealing with the Prophetical part of his godhood, he tends to oversee the seers in Greece, the oracles, and whatnot. He does receive visions about the Pantheon, but they tend to follow a certain theme; His other visions, the ones about the mortal world, they have limits. They are meant to guide the oracles, not the mortal world at large. He can have prophetic dreams about certain occurrences, but it’s rare. Even if he does foresee some event, or that one of his prophets do, it is almost always linked in some way either to Greece, or the power base of the Greek Pantheon or tied directly to the humans that fall under their protection.”
“And what you see is different?” Xena guessed.
“What I see is very different.” Joxer agreed, trying to think of a way that explained it to Xena’s satisfaction without revealing anything too important or dangerous. “For example, Apollo’s prophecies and those that follow him, tend to have a short lifespan, relatively speaking. That’s not because their vision is so shortsighted, but because there will come a time when the mortals of this world will no longer need the guidance of the Gods in quite the same way. Their faith will shift focus, and those that continue to worship will dwindle in numbers.“
“Is that the Twilight of the Gods I’ve heard myths about?” Xena asked, curiously. She’d heard Hercules mention it once, and Gabrielle had talked about it a few times, but it hardly seemed like something that was likely to occur.
“Yes and no.” Joxer shook his head, explaining the changes to occur seemed like a little more information than she was really looking for. “Regardless, the visions I receive are not isolated to Greece, and while they do contain references to mortals, most of the things I have seen are not limited to mortals alone, in fact, they tend to center on the world outside the mortal realm.”
“Do all your visions come true?” Xena asked, deciding to let Joxer choose how much to tell her.
“They all have the potential to come true. Some can be subverted, but others will occur, regardless of what is done. In some cases, it is imperative that certain things happen in a certain way.”
Xena nodded once, deciding that he had given her enough answers, for now. She stood up and carefully stepped out of the protection circle. “I want to help.”
“Excuse me?” Joxer asked, surprised. “How?”
Xena shrugged slightly. “I don’t know. You’re the God. You tell me.”
Joxer stared at her intently for a long moment, staring into her, weighing her words against what he could see of her aura before making a decision. “Very well. I do have something you could look into for me.”
Jayce looked over the scroll carefully before eying his pacing brother with a grimace. “If you’re going to muddy my floors with your incessant pacing, at least tell me why you’re so upset.”
“I don’t like this plan of Joxer’s,” Jett said with a snarl, twirling one of his knives around, looking as if he’d really much rather be stabbing someone with it.
“Which idea is this?”
Jett looked up from his weapon to glare at his brother. “The one where he thinks it’s a good idea to reunite your father-in-law with my son-in-law.”
Jayce rolled his eyes dramatically. “You’re only irritated because if it works that means you’ll actually have to see Apollo more often. Plus, you’re afraid if Eris spends more time with him, she might forget it’s you she’s married to.”
“I’m not afraid!” Jett snapped.
“Of course not,” Jayce mumbled. Before re-rolling his scroll and handing it over to his brother. “This list is fine. But tell father that if there’s another incident like last year, I will not be held accountable for the repercussions.”
Jett smirked. “That was a fun party.” He disappeared before Jayce could say anything further.
Jayce shook his head. Maybe he should remind Apollo of what happened last year, and he’d keep the reveling to a minimum. Probably not. Jett was right about one thing, Apollo was tied up in knots about this situation with Strife.
Besides, birthdays only came once a year.
Joxer watched through the viewing portal as Xena loaded the heavy crate into the cart and connected the cart to Argo so that they could be on their way.
He sent his power through the portal, questing, trying to determine if anyone else was watching, through any similar means. Once he had concluded that no one was, Joxer teleported to her location.
Xena tightened the fastenings to the crate to make sure it didn’t accidentally pop open during the ride and then straightened up. “Checking up on me?” She asked Joxer quietly, not surprised to see him, though the appearing and disappearing at will would take some getting used to.
Joxer smiled slightly. “Not exactly.” He placed a hand on the back of her neck, and she flinched at the contact.
Xena held herself still as she felt heat where their skin touched. Joxer had never been overly tactile with her before, so she guessed this was another God thing. Almost as soon as she had registered the heat, it started to dissipate. Joxer released her and stepped back. “Sorry, but that will prevent anyone else from finding you.”
Xena raised an eyebrow. “Anyone?”
Joxer laughed softly. “Yes, even your father.”
“He won’t like that.” Xena frowned. Ares really wouldn’t like that. “I thought he could always find me through our blood connection.” Ares had told her once that there was nothing that could disrupt that.
“That’s true.” Joxer nodded. “I’m not really preventing him from locating you, exactly, more like preventing him from isolating precisely where you are. I guess you could say I’m masking you like you would hide scent during a hunt.”
“He still won’t like it,” Xena observed.
“No, I don’t suppose he will, but I’ll deal with him if it comes to that.” Joxer nodded towards Argo. “You’d best be on your way. I may have some additional work for you when you return.”
Xena nodded her agreement and turned towards the horse. She felt Joxer leave and shook her head. She wasn’t entirely sure exactly why she was taking the crate where she was. Only that Joxer seemed to think that it needed to be in a particular place.
When she had agreed to help Joxer, Xena wasn’t sure exactly what she was getting into, but she believed that her friend had a heavy burden and maybe if she could help him with some of it, she would begin to make sense of the path she now traveled. Without Gabrielle to guide her, things seemed less clear than they once were, and yet, she couldn’t go back to how she had served her father before, not yet.
Perhaps not ever. Maybe she just needed time.
Joxer watched Xena again through his portal only long enough to see that she had begun to move towards her destination before he waved the image away with a nudge of power.
She had been right about Ares, and it was only a matter of time before the War God realized he couldn’t contact his daughter and Joxer had only exerted enough power that the average person would come up blank. If someone with an actual, honest connection to her and knowledge of how such things worked, they would recognize who had masked her signature.
Unfortunately, Ares had both.
A flash of Godly power drew Joxer away from his inner thoughts. He turned towards the newcomer, only mildly surprised to see Apollo appear in his temple. The blond God looked around uncomfortably before focusing on Joxer.
“I agreed to this truce with Strife.” Apollo started, “But do you really think that your brother’s party is the best place to start?”
Joxer tried not to smile, he really did. Granted, he didn’t work very hard. “Jayce has been…complaining about last year’s incident with the contingent from the Underworld, hasn’t he? And you’re concerned that Strife will use the opportunity to create a little…mischief.“
“Well, that is what he does!” Apollo snapped.
Joxer narrowed his eyes and took a step closer to the Sun God. “Do not forget, Apollo, that it is your actions that started this feud with your son that I am trying to rectify. Strife has agreed to a truce, just as you have. He will abide by it, so long as you do.” He took one step closer. “Furthermore, I am well versed in my brother’s more trying qualities; however, his hissy fits are not my concern. Straightening out this mess between you and Strife is.”
Apollo opened his mouth about to say something nasty when Joxer’s eyes shifted to black, and he was suddenly reminded of which side of the family tree Joxer came from as if the incredibly creepy temple wasn’t disturbing enough. He closed his mouth and disappeared in a muted flash.
“I thought so,” Joxer mumbled before turning his thoughts inward once more.
“Where is Xena?”
“Why do you think I know?” Joxer asked curiously watching as Terpsichore tried to tempt Urania onto the dance floor.
Ares stared at the other God for a moment trying to determine if Joxer was testing him or if it was a valid question. “I know your power signature when I feel it.” Ares finally answered.
“Or don’t feel it.” Joxer clarified, turning to Ares and knowing this was more a case of an absence of power rather the signature itself.
Ares narrowed his eyes. “My daughter is gone.” He enunciated clearly. “I may have originally noticed because she was supposed to be at this party.” He waved his hand encompassing the surrounding revelers, the gods, goddesses, and demi-gods, celebrating the birth of the triplets. “However, let’s be clear. She’s not missing. She’s gone. That tells me that someone or something has cloaked her, and whatever or whoever did it, did not cause her any undue stress while doing so. There are very few things that would have the ability to do so and not raise any sort of alarm with her. You are on a very short list. So I ask again where is Xena?”
“I can’t tell you,” Joxer answered quietly. He looked away from the dark gaze. He didn’t want to lie to the War God, but he couldn’t answer the question completely honestly either. There was too much at stake. “She’s doing something vital for me.“
Ares nodded, having guessed that was the case. If Xena had been on a minor errand, Joxer wouldn’t have expended the power necessary to cloak her in the first place. “Fair enough.” He smiled, deciding that the time for business was passed. “You owe me a dance.”
“Excuse me?” Joxer asked, looked bewildered.
Ares grinned, liking the confused expression, and more than a little pleased he had been the one to put it there. “Don’t you remember? Strife’s wedding? You promised me a dance. Then you had that weird…episode…and you disappeared, and I never got my dance.” Ares frowned as he remembered. “That was a vision wasn’t it?”
Joxer shuddered as he remembered. “Yes.”
“A bad one?” Ares pressed.
Joxer nodded, unable to verbalize precisely how bad it had been. He remembered it in excruciating detail.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Ares offered a little awkwardly.
Joxer shook his head. “No, but I will give you that dance.“
Strife grinned across the room at his old friend dancing with his uncle. Maybe agreeing to come to this party wouldn’t be too bad. He felt someone brush up against his left side. He turned his head slightly to see who it was, knowing instinctively it wasn’t his mother or his husband. Seeing who it was, he lost the grin. Then again, maybe it would be that bad. “What do you want?”
“I didn’t See that coming.” Apollo nodded towards the dancing couple.
Strife raised an eyebrow at the god, noticing the extra emphasis on the word see implying he meant it in a more mystical sense. “You get visions about the goings on of Olympus?” He asked curiously. He didn’t know that much about his father’s godhood.
Apollo shrugged and then grinned himself. “How else do you think I always seem to know who is doing whom around here?”
Strife cackled. “I just thought the muses liked to gossip.”
Apollo nodded. “That too.” His eyes moved across the room to where Aphrodite was speaking quietly to Hephaestus. “I saw that long before it came to pass.” He pointed discreetly to his other son and the organizer of this little party. “And that coupling has given me more than a few nightmares.”
Strife snorted. Being as close to Joxer as he was, Strife knew more about his two brothers than was probably common knowledge, so he could only imagine. “And Cupe? What have you seen for him?“
Apollo stiffened. He was only trying to find some common ground with his estranged son, and he had thought that the romantic entanglements of the Pantheon might have amused Strife. He should have known that nothing was ever that simple. “Strife.”
“Did you see?” Strife asked lowly, recognizing the cautious tone in his father’s voice. He hadn’t been sure where he was going when he’d asked, or if he truly wanted to know, but now that they had ventured there he couldn’t turn back. “Did you know what that spell would do to him? How years of his life would be affected by one of his own arrows? Did you see how the friendship we had shared as godlings would be ripped apart by that farce of a marriage because she didn’t like me? Did you know how that spell would cause Cupe, my Cupid, to do whatever she asked of him, including telling me we couldn’t be friends anymore? Did you see that?“ As each question was asked, the memories of those horrible years coming back to him, the tension surrounding them mounted until there was a swirl of angry energy surrounding the two.
“Yes!” Apollo snapped out. “I knew.”
“Is everything alright?” Joxer appeared between them, placing a hand on each God and absorbing the energy. “Strife? You alright?”
Strife shook Joxer’s hand off and stalked away.
Joxer watched him go before turning back to Apollo. “What’s going on?”
Apollo sighed. “We were talking about how sometimes, most times, I get visions about the romantic relationships of the Gods. He asked me about Cupid.”
“And Psyche.” Joxer finished flatly. “Fantastic. Good Job, Apollo.”
“How was I to know he was going to ask about that?” Apollo growled.
Joxer narrowed his eyes and was about to respond when he felt Xena re-enter the area in Greece where the masking would no longer be necessary. “Nevermind. I’ll talk to him.” He turned around and moved across the room quietly, deciding that he’d give Strife a chance to cool off before he tried to deal with that mess.
The party was only half over; if he could meet with Xena, perhaps he could bring her back in time to set Ares mind at ease, and still salvage something from this disaster.
“Is it done?” Joxer asked as he appeared next to Xena.
“Yes. I placed it exactly where you said.” She smiled at him as he placed his hand against her neck. She felt the heat searing her again as she assumed whatever he had done to her before was removed.
“Good. Your father is looking for you.”
Xena frowned. “Your brother’s party. Does he know where I was?”
Joxer shook his head. “No. But he figured out that you were doing something for me.”
“What should I tell him?” She asked quietly. She didn’t like lying to Ares, especially since he could always tell.
“Nothing. If Ares asks, which he may, or may not, just tell him you were doing something for me, and you can’t talk about it.”
“Will he be able to read my thoughts?” She asked with concern. “He’s done that before.”
Joxer grinned. “No. And if he tries, he’ll just get a headache, and believe me, he won’t try it more than once. Now, come on, if I’m gone too long, both your father and my brother will come looking, and I have a situation with Strife and Apollo that needs sorting.”
Xena frowned as they transported to Olympus, curious, but decided she really didn’t want to know.
Apollo downed another glass of wine and scowled at all the partygoers. Everything seemed to be going smoothly. His little hiccup with Strife hadn’t been noticed by anyone other than Joxer it appeared, which was probably for the best. Their long-standing feud was the subject of enough gossip as it was.
“If you drink much more, we’ll have to teleport you to Asclepius for treatment. I don’t imagine your son-in-law will appreciate his husband being called away in the middle of his birthday celebration because you can’t hold your wine.”
Apollo rolled his eyes at his sister’s dry tone. “Artie, back off.”
Artemis turned and really looked at her twin. “Okay, this isn’t just a party drunk. What has you so upset?”
“Strife and I had a little…disagreement,” Apollo said vaguely.
Artemis blinked. “No, I’m pretty sure your disagreements with Strife usually involve more firepower.”
Apollo sighed. “He started to get upset but Joxer interrupted, and he walked off.” He hesitated unsure how to continue. “Artie, I don’t know how to do this.“
“What this?” Artemis asked.
“This father thing. It’s complicated.” Apollo sighed.
Artemis snorted. “Apollo, you have other children. This isn’t the first time you’ve had to deal with them.”
“None of my other children hate me.” Apollo pointed out reasonably. “Strife is…complicated.”
“You’ve said that before.” Artemis nodded. “What exactly happened tonight?”
“We talked about my visions. The ones about the pantheon and he asked me about Cupid and whether I had known about him shooting himself with that arrow and falling for Psyche because of it. He wanted to know if I had known that Psyche would make Cupid choose between them and that because of that arrow, Cupid wouldn’t choose Strife.”
“And did you?” Artemis asked carefully, unsure how precisely to advise her brother.
“Yes,” Apollo admitted quietly.
“And the fact that Strife was your son did that make any difference?“
“I thought…I thought that Strife would get over it…or he wouldn’t care.”
“What would make you think he wouldn’t care?” Artemis asked in confusion. Strife and Cupid had been close since they were godlings. Everyone on Olympus knew that. The fact that they came from different disciplines didn’t matter. When their friendship dissolved due to the effects of that arrow and Psyche’s jealousy everyone on Olympus felt Strife’s pain.
“He’s the God of Mischief,” Apollo said with a shrug. “The House of War is full of Gods who don’t care about anything or anyone.”
“Oh, ‘Pol.” Artemis sighed. “If you really believe that, you’re beyond hope, brother.”
“Sweetie?” Aphrodite called, following the swirl of angry power to her son’s temple. “Are you alright?”
Strife threw a Powerball at a statue Cupid had in the corner of the room. “Do I look, alright, ‘Dite?”
“You look like someone who needs to calm down,” Aphrodite answered as Strife threw another Powerball, this time at a painting, leaving a scorch mark in its wake.
“How dare he? That bastard knew the whole time, and he just stood by and did nothing!”
“Strife!” Aphrodite shouted, gaining Strife’s attention. “Perhaps you should start at the beginning?”
Strife looked ready to launch another fireball but decided that maybe he should talk about it. He usually only talked about this kind of stuff with Joxer, but judging by the fact that his friend hadn’t tracked him down yet, he was probably putting out a fire somewhere else. Aphrodite would have to do. She wasn’t nearly as airheaded as she preferred people to believe.
“Did you know that Apollo gets visions of the pantheon?” Strife asked, suddenly. Aphrodite was the goddess of love, and she involved herself in the love-lives of the Gods as much as mortals.
“Sometimes, yes. Usually only about certain things though.” She paused as she started to get an idea where this might be going. “Is this about Psyche and Cupid?”
“He knew!” Strife spat.
“What did he know, exactly?”
“About the arrow and what happened because of it.” Strife scowled at the floor, he could feel the anger threatening to resurface.
“And you’re upset because he didn’t say anything, warn you somehow?” Aphrodite asked softly.
“Yes!” Strife began pacing again.
“What do you mean, why?” Strife stopped, mid-pace to stare at his mother-in-law.
“Well, he gets visions of other gods and what is going to happen, why should he try to stop this one thing? What makes this so special?” Aphrodite asked in an entirely rational voice.
“I’m his son!” Strife roared.
“Yes.” Aphrodite acknowledged. “But how was Apollo to know how you would react?”
“I’m sorry?” Strife was confused now. “Cupid was my best friend. More than that. I am in love with him as you well know. I was in love with him then too. That just about killed me.” Strife said the last quietly, even now he hated to admit how hard it was for him to deal with those events.
“I know, honey, but your father, he…he doesn’t know love from…well from hate.” She paused for a second trying to think of how best to explain what she had to say. “You and I, Cupid, your mother, and Uncle, we all deal with the baser emotions on a daily basis. That’s our job. We know them, we feel them, we can project them, and sense when others are feeling them too. Apollo doesn’t deal with emotions like we do. He’s basically an intellectual. His house focuses on the healing arts and Divinity, what do they know of emotion? That’s why he’s having such a hard time dealing with you. You inspire such strong feelings in him he doesn’t know how to deal with them, or you.“
“She’s right,” Joxer said as he flashed into the room quietly.
Strife sighed and sat down on the floor. Joxer sat next to him, their shoulders bumping. Aphrodite smiled softly at the two. She knew she’d gotten her message across and hoped that Strife would think about what she had to say.
“I’m going to go back to the party. Heph is probably wondering where I ran off to.” She bent down and kissed Strife on the cheek.
“Thanks, ‘Dite.” Strife whispered as she disappeared in a wave of floral perfume.
“Sorry, I’m late.” Joxer nodded towards the destroyed statue. “I always hated that thing.”
“Where were you?” Strife asked with a laugh.
“Xena’s been doing some…work for me. She came back, and I had to find out how it went and to remove the power mask I put on her.”
Strife’s eyes widened. “You blocked Unk from finding her?” Joxer nodded. “He’s not going to be happy about that. You’re braver than I am.”
“So…about what ‘Dite said…” Joxer began.
“You really think it’s true?” Strife asked, unsure what to believe.
“Yes. Apollo is not what I’d call emotionally in tune. He’s had a lot of relationships, but none of them have seemed very meaningful. I’d doubt very much he’s ever been in love. He’s never had to deal with a lot of strong emotions…until you.
“What should I do?”
Joxer bumped his shoulder again. “Well, this truce is a start. He needs to learn how to deal with you. You’re not the one that started this. He is. He wanted your attention, now that he has it, he needs to figure out what to do with it.”
Strife grinned and stood up. “Come on. Let’s get back to the party, maybe you and Ares and dance again. That was entertaining.”
Joxer started to blush. “Hey, no fair teasing me. I’m only trying to help.”
“How was your little mission?” Ares asked as he approached Xena with two glasses of wine.
Xena smiled slightly as she detected the sarcasm in his voice. It wouldn’t have been detectable to anyone who didn’t know her father exceptionally well. “Successful.”
Ares nodded and handed her a glass of wine. “Are you going to tell me where you were?”
Xena took a sip of the wine to keep from laughing. Her father could be predictable at times. She raised her eyes over the glass and eyed him carefully before taking a long drink from the fruity wine. Her father continued to look at her, his dark eyes serious, though she could tell he was fighting a smile as well.
“Xena.” Ares finally said, slightly exasperated.
“Father.” Xena countered. “If you spoke to Joxer,” she paused as he opened his mouth to argue, “and knowing you, you did speak to Joxer, you know I can’t tell you anything.“
Ares narrowed his eyes at his daughter. She was right. Joxer had told him as much but he really, really hated being kept out of things, in particular when they concerned his own kids. Maybe he could get some sort of impression where she’d been. Joxer said he couldn’t read her mind, but perhaps he could get a sense of where she’d been or what she might have been doing, some sort of clue. That might be enough for him to put the pieces together. He felt his power reach out and connect with her, their blood bond making it that much stronger. He centered his power and aimed it towards her mind, hoping their own mental connection would give him an impression.
First, there was nothing. Just the standard connection between him and Xena, then there was this overwhelming sense of heat, like fire just under the skin, the feel of electricity dancing across nerve endings, and then the smell of fire and brimstone and ash. When the connection broke, Ares found himself lying in an unfamiliar place, staring up at Xena, who looked both concerned, and annoyed.
“What…what happened? Where are we?” Ares started to sit up and realized he was on a couch of some sort.
“The Underworld, Father,” Xena said with a grin. You made quite a spectacle of yourself at the party.“
Ares looked around quickly and saw Joxer’s parents watching him from a corner of the room. He now recognized where he was. Hecate’s temple in the Underworld. Fantastic. This was not the impression he wanted to make on the parents of the god he was trying to court.