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The Great Wall
Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess belong to MCA/Renaissance. I belong to myself, I think. Do I?
Violence/Language: Humanoids and nonhumanoids get smooshed, kicked, obliterated, and insulted in this story. (Insults can be kind of violent, you know.) There is a lot of foul language in this story. Someone has a potty mouth! (Not me! Never!)
Subtext: Yeah, sure, I'll have some of that!! Just put it on my tab, ok?
Hettext: Yes. Don't worry, it shocked me, too. If the idea of Xena and Ares together grosses you out, bring your barf bag to your computer, and spare your keyboard the humiliation of being spewed on.
Insensitive Jerk Disclaimer: I am one.
Drugs/Alcohol: There is a lot of drug use in this story; also, a lot of alcohol consumption. [clink] Cheers!
Insults Hurt/Insults Comfort: This pretty much overrides the hurt/comfort category.
Spoilers: Too many to count. If you haven't seen all of season two, three and four, and don't want to be spoiled, skip this.
Timeline: After "Revelations" on Hercules and before "The Ides of March" on Xena. (There are still slight spoilers for that episode on this though.)
|Part 1 2|
Mumbling incoherently while under Morpheus' spell, Xena continued having her nightmare, actually wishing that the bard she sometimes called, "friend" would wake her up for once, instead of letting her suffer through it. Ever since Gabrielle had taken up Eli's teachings, she let Xena suffer through each and every one of her nightmares. "Serves you right for being so evil" were the bards exact words. A frown appeared on Xena's face. Even in her nightmarish slumber, the thought was enough to piss her off.
Waking up drenched in a cold sweat, the warrior frantically tried to recall the nightmare she had just had. Dancing...dancing, evil dancing, like that jack-ass Istafan had tried to stop. Should've let that bondage-loving-bastard stop that dancing. The Widow Twankey would've been horrified. Green clothes, that sometimes turned yellowish in color; the color of corn once eaten and then rejected by its host into a chamber pot.... Not that I've puked corn after a night of drinking mead with the Gamma boys or anything. A miasma of color. What was it called? A rainbow? I'm not an Amazon, nor do I keep up with Sappho's works! What's with the furken Sappho's pride flag showing up in my dreams!?! The warrior thought with exasperation. This has got to be Gabrielle's fault. I told her I didn't want to go to Lesbos. I also told her I didn't want her touching me, 'that way' in the middle of the night. She never listened, and you liked it when she touched you, did! n't you Xena? She sighed, angry with herself. Get back to the dream, Xena! The dancing had to be the key! Nope, wait...That damn Sappho's pride flag again...wait, there's a pot of...dinars at the bottom of it? What's that about?
"Xena, are you okay?" the bard questioned, feeling her friends forehead with the back of her mendhi painted hand.Oh sure, now you want to know if I'm okay. Like it would've killed you to wake me up... Xena smirked in the early morning light. Bitch, bitch, bitch. I'm sure glad she can't hear my thoughts.
Gabrielle narrowed her eyes and looked into Xena's blue orbs, ignoring the predatory glare her friend tried to use to get her to look away. "You really should be more respectful Xena, some of us psychic peace loving hippies can read minds."
Grabbing her sword and getting up to leave, Xena said, "Godsdamn it, Gabrielle! Can't I have just one thing to myself? My thoughts would be kind of nice, you know? Butt out of them!" And with that the warrior stalked off into the nearby woods to find her beloved horse Argo, who despite feeling neglected, would always love her if she had an apple. Swiping at the tears threatening to fall from her eyes, she squared her shoulders, and searched for her horse. There's no use being such a crybaby, Xena. she told herself. It really doesn't become you, anyway. If you whine anymore this year you might as well dye your hair and sniff flowers.
A thin light appeared, bright blue through the fog of the morning. Oh man, Ares again! What's with him?
"What's with me? What's with me, Xena?" the god of war asked, thoroughly irked. "I'll tell you what's with me, I-I..." Ares took a deep breath, almost sneezing when a mosquito flew into his left nostril. Rubbing his nose inconspicuously, he finished, "I think I love you."
He thinks he loves me? Oh that's a new one. Biting her lip to keep from laughing as she noticed a mosquito that flew up his nose, she answered with a laugh, "I don't think you love me at all. I think you love my leather. And what's with bothering me all the time? I could've been out here taking a dump for all you knew. Then poof, here comes Ares with his unoriginal spiel of love, while all I want is a newsscroll and one of Gabrielle's scrolls to wipe myself with."
Uh-oh, did I say that out loud?
"As lovely as that visual image is, my dear, it's not a spiel, it's the truth."
"You've got morning dew on your beard. Sucking on some grass, again? Or did you just drool a lot last night?"
Ares held a hand to his heart. (or where one used to be.) "If I had a heart, you'd be breaking it, Xena! I admire that!"
"Look, if you don't mind, I'd like to bribe my horse with an apple and wonder at the visual meanings of my dreams. Take a hike, stud boy."
Ares scowled. "Fine, but I'll be back."
She waved him off. "Get lost."
Gabrielle sighed thankfully as Xena took off into the forest. Putting away her stash of henbane laced nutbread, she tore off one last huge chunk before closing the bag up, and stuffed it in her mouth. Gods, this is Elysia. Eli was right, when you feel the urge to go completely psycho, stick a piece of drugged nutbread in your mouth and feel nothing! Wait, was that Eli or Aidan? Oh well, no matter! Pouring water on the dwindling fire, she wondered why Xena was acting so weird lately. Could she be pregnant? she laughed at that one. Since when had Xena been getting any action? She's had more action from my hand on her thigh then she has since that Marcus fellow came back from the dead. Moving to collect their meager belongings, her thoughts continued on Xena's sexual habits. Though Ares has been following her around lately. He's like a diaper. He's always full of shit, and always on her ass. Hey, I should write that down, it describes Joxer, too.
Thankfully she was done with her suspicious thoughts, and happened to be sitting contentedly on a log chewing some bitchin' 'shrooms when Xena came back to camp. Argo, who had eaten more than her fair share of "make-up apples," trailed behind her. Stupid horse. I wonder what Xena would do if I sold her to a glue factory?
Argo nickered as though she were reading her mind.
Stupid fucking horse!
The horse nickered at a louder volume. Stamping her hoof indignantly, Argo almost seemed to say, "Hey! What the hell? You feed me apples but you don't defend my honor? She's thinking some nasty thoughts, Xena!"
Xena, getting bad vibes from her horse, and not having any apples left, told Gabrielle like it was. "Hey, stop projecting your harpy thoughts on my horse, and let's go."
"Whatever you say, Mom."
Not even half-way to their destination it started to rain, soaking them completely within seconds. Rain water makes my top look horrible! But at least it comes in handy for making money, the bard thought to herself, while shaking out her hair all over the shivering warrior princess. Ignoring the look she received from the irritable warrior, she clutched her purse of dinars close to her. Hmph, she's just mad that the travelers didn't throw dinars at her. That's what she gets for not wearing something see-through. They stopped to make lunch, but neither of them were very hungry. Gabrielle had practically inhaled all of her nutbread and shrooms on the walk, and she could've sworn she saw Xena chewing on something.
"Xena, do you want to just go? I know how much you hate to keep Hercules and Iolaus waiting." Gabrielle shook her hair out again, spraying droplets of water all over Xena.
"Keep the bastards waiting. It's just like Hercules to send me a scroll, make me travel all through Greece in horrible weather conditions, all just so he can hit on me. What a waste of time."
"But, um, didn't the message say it was urgent, end of the world type business?"
"It's code for, 'Let's have sex.' He thinks very highly of himself."
"I hate him." the normally pleasant demeanor the bard usually wore, turned into a hateful snarl with the thought of the "Hero of Mankind" There was something about him that Gabrielle just hated! "At least Iolaus will be there."
"Yep. Let's go, huh?"
"Okay. I'm telling you Xena, you should walk around in your shift and earn us a few more dinars."
"Did your parents know you were like this before you left Potedia?"
"Shut up and keep walking."
"Sure Gabrielle, whatever you want."
An hour later the duo were still walking in the pouring rain.
Ares, being the smart God of War that he was, planned out a way to use the weather to his advantage. Appearing in a puff of smoke, he stood in front of Gabrielle. Holding a nice, shiny gold dinar, he kissed it lightly for good luck, then dropped it down the front of the side-kick's ugly, yellow-colored-see-through sari top. He could feel Xena glaring daggers at him, and thanked Zeus for his god hood. Otherwise, he just might have wet himself with the intensity of the stare.
Gabrielle stuck out her tongue at Xena. "I told you, all it takes is a little rain and they all come flocking to bard-land."
Xena sighed disgustedly. "Put a cloak on, Gabrielle, please."
I can't believe the bastard is staring at you! she added in her mind for good measure. Tells me he loves me, then stares at my best friend? What a quick case of love that was.
The bard did as told, mainly because she had seen Xena look like that before, and did not like the transformation the warrior went through with it. She was like the Incredible Hulkcules (who despite his schizophrenia, was a lot more likable to Gabrielle than Hercules), piss him off a little and a normal guy turns green and goes berserk. Thankfully she stays her natural luscious, golden hue, even when she is pissed off.
Ares waited patiently until Xena walked up to him. When she was less than two feet away, he held out his hands. Xena tried to hide a grin when she saw what materialized in Ares' hands. A treasure chest full of shiny, gold dinars.
Holding the weight of the treasure chest in one hand, his other hand grabbed Xena's. Putting her hand to his lips, he kissed it gently. "A dinar for a peasant." he said looking pointedly at Gabrielle, and ignoring her words of retaliation, "A treasure for a Queen."
"Pfft!" Gabrielle interrupted. "I'm the only friggen Queen around here, buddy."
Xena shot Gabrielle a look that said, 'Get a load of this guy!'
"She's right you know." she said, removing her hand from his grasp. "She was an Amazon Queen."
"Was and is..." the God said, looking at Xena seductively, "are two different things."
"Look, I've got to meet up with Hercules and Iolaus by sunset. Do you think you could scram?" she asked him rudely.
"No problem, I'll take you there." He pouted while looking at Gabrielle again. "The both of you, I guess." Eyes still locked with the bard's, he asked, "Who let you out of the pit, anyway?"
In a blink of an eye they were in Corinth. Ares had left them there alone, in a dank, smelly tavern called, "Ode To Yer Hooters" Xena sniffed the air, trying not to inhale too much of a bad smell all at once. He probably did this on purpose. What would...oh wait, the guys probably are in here, her rational mind told her. Hercules and Iolaus....where would they be? At King Iphicles' castle? Mmmnn, not likely, Xena. Off fighting against someone evil? Once again, doubtful. In a smelly tavern full of dancing girls? Bingo! And boy could they dance! Well, one couldn't help but stare at it when so proudly displayed, could they? Hmph! I wonder if I punched Gabrielle if she'd even know I was here? The blonde woman's eyes were firmly fastened on two dancing women gyrating on a make-shift stage, made from a rotting table. Godsdamn thespians!
It didn't take her long to find the other two blonde's she was searching for. She moved close to Hercules and tapped him lightly on the shoulder. Not willing to break eye-to-body contact with the strippers, he simply answered, "No thanks, I've already had two lap-dances. I'm running low on dinars. I'll have to save another village before I can come back here for a while. I swear you girls have wiped me out."
Uh-oh. The big guy realized he had let Xena in on a little too much personal information. Centaur shit! he cursed to himself. Now she'll never go for it!
"Aren't you here a little early?" he asked, sparing her a glance. "Where's Gabrielle?"
"Gabrielle's checking out the hooters at table number two. I, on the other hand, am waiting for an explanation as to why I've been messaged with an urgent scroll, and find you and Iolaus in a strip tavern! Are the strippers in dire need of something?"
Well, at least he has the decency to look ashamed. Maybe I should bring up his dead wife and really kick him when he's down. Nah, not even I'm that mean. Xena dug into her cleavage and grabbed her breast dagger. Might as well make him real nervous. Running her thumb along the edge of it, seeming to test the blade for sharpness, she glared at him with her "warlord look."
"Actually, he has a reason." Iolaus butted in after the dancing girls went on break. "And it's not one of those phony, 'Xena sleep with me' messages, either."
"Reeeeeaaaaallllly." If it were possible, Xena's eyes got colder. Hercules and Iolaus could swear they had felt a draft.
Hercules scratched his head, hoping that he hadn't caught lice from one of the more "lowly" visitors of this fantastic tavern. "Xena, I need your help. My mother wants a huge wall-like fortress built around her house. I want this to be the most sturdy wall there has ever been. I am so sick of making walls for her. She's so ungrateful sometimes. Like, I have to save people, you know? I can't always be home slapping stones and guacamole together."
The look in Xena's eyes got positively feral. "You sent an urgent scroll to me so I could come out here and help you build a wall?"
"You and Gabrielle. I," he sighed, "I really appreciate it, Xena. I do."
"Fine, we start tomorrow. Make up plans to finish this thing as fast as we can, because I want out of here."
Realizing that new strippers had made their way on top of another rickety table, she gave up on her speech to them, and went about finding some place to board Argo. Thankfully Ares remembered to bring her, or I would've been out picking apples for a week when I got back. That Argo knows how to hold a grudge.
Nebula confidently walked into, "Ode To Yer Hooters." A place like this was old news for the pirate. When I get my hands on Curly, he won't have eyes for anyone else. Or at least, he'd better not.
When she found him, he was with Hercules, and what she first thought was a young, under-age cabin boy. Hey, who can tell when the only picture you get is from the back? Didn't think she'd react so badly though. Nebula had accidentally asked, "Who let the cabin boy in here?" upon seeing Gabrielle. Iolaus had gulped and moved over. (Seeing as he was the one closest to the "cabin boy.")
"I'll have you know," The very NOT a cabin boy, Gabrielle had started, "That I am a former Amazon Queen, not some pre-pubescent boy that scrubs down a ship."
"Whoa, down killer." Nebula said, trying to ease the tension. "I only got a view from the back." Fortunately for Nebula, "Miz Corinth" was in the middle of swallowing a flaming banana, and all eyes immediately turned back to her so they could see the end result, which consisted of a burped up, extinguished peel.
"Curly." she stated, mildly irked. "Curly," she walked in front of Iolaus, blocking his view, "Curly, are you going to talk to me or what? I never leave the sea, and I did for you. This 'important business' better be important."
Iolaus gulped and tried to distance himself as much as he could, from Nebula.
Looking at him with murderous intent, Nebula asked, "What is it?!"
"Hercneedspeopletohelpbuildhismotherawallsorry." Iolaus blurted out.
"You messaged me off my ship to build a friggen wall?!" Nebula could not believe her bad luck. A week of traveling to build a wall.
"Itisahugewallitisgoingtotakeeveryonetobuildit." Iolaus managed, despite the hand that was now clenched firmly around his throat.
Nebula softened her grip after a moment. "Well now, there should be some interesting things to go along with this. I can always just sit and watch you sweat."
Rubbing his neck after Nebula finally let go, Iolaus managed to reply, "Missed you!"
The day couldn't have gotten any worse for Xena. Woke up from a nightmare, to a nightmare. She thought having to bribe Argo to be her horse again had been bad, but the "urgent" message turning out to be Herc needing help to build his mother's wall was the kicker. What had happened to the last wall he had built for his mother? Did they just disappear? Of course, having found them in a strip tavern was no big surprise, either. She wondered who else they had messaged to build the stupid thing.
It had taken Xena quite a while to find a place Argo wouldn't whinny at, to stay in. Finally, after a half an hour of bartering, she had a sweet deal. Argo was now resting comfortably in a deluxe stall, which was covered in only the best hay. The barn also had an extra bucket of morning oats, and all the carrots she could ever want. Xena found herself echoing Gabrielle's morning thoughts in her head unknowingly. Stupid fucking horse.
Walking back to "Ode To Yer Hooters" was no small feat. Once again she was drenched from head to foot. Literally punching in the door, she yanked Gabrielle's and Iolaus' ears at the same time and threw them out onto the muddy ground outside. Going in for a second trip, she yanked Hercules by his little yellow shirt and did the same to him, not noticing the tall woman behind him.
Who the Hades just dared to touch my Curly? Nebula thought. Angry at the assailant, she grabbed a heap of mud in her hands and smoothed it into the shape of a ball. Satisfied with the way it felt, she threw it at the dark-haired woman, hitting her squarely in the back of the head.
Hercules, Iolaus and Gabrielle all watched in amazement as Xena's eyes rolled up into the back of her head. She seemed to stand still for a moment, before dropping like dead-weight to the wet, dirty ground.
Nebula wiped her hands on Gabrielle's sari. "No one messes with my Curly." the pirate exclaimed, finally managing to get her hands clean.
"If I was a better friend, I'd defend Xena, but right now I'd like to go back into the tavern." Gabrielle said, walking back into the tavern.
"What do you think, Herc?" Iolaus asked, eyeing Xena's unconscious form.
"I think Xena's going to be more pissed at us when she wakes up, then she was before Nebula knocked her unconscious with a mud ball." Herc said sarcastically, looking at Nebula with a frown. He shrugged. "But, I'm with Gabrielle, let's go back in the tavern. Write her a note Iolaus, and stick it in her breastplate. That way she'll know where to go when she wakes up."
"Why do I have to write the note?"
"Because you're the sidekick."
"Oh yeah." Iolaus stared at Nebula. "Nebula, this is Xena, you know, the warrior princess? Yep, you just knocked her unconscious, and something tells me she won't be very happy with you when she wakes up."
Nebula snorted. "Yeah, that scares me. C'mon, we're missing the smoke blower and the midget!"
"Let's go in. I'll write the letter inside, bring it out, and run back in so I don't miss anything! Come on!" Iolaus said running to the door of the tavern.
The three of them went back inside "Ode To Yer Hooters." A few moments later, Iolaus ran back outside, stuffed a piece of parchment in between Xena's breastplate and her cleavage, then ran back inside. There's nothing like a smoke blower and a midget, he thought with glee.
Oh Gods, it's still raining. Xena cracked open an eye. A raindrop landed in the blue orb, blinding her for a moment. Why does my head feel like a minotaur got pissed at me while we were playing ping pong and whacked me on it with a paddle? Sitting straight up, she opened her eyes wide, and looked at her surroundings. She was sitting in a muddy puddle in front of "Ode To Yer Hooters."
Okay Xena, you got Argo a place to stay. Did she kick you? Nope. You went into the tavern, got Iolaus, Hercules and Gabrielle. Did any of them kick you? No. Then what the hell happened to you, Xena? she sighed. I don't know! Looking down at her leathers to survey just how much mud she was caked in, she noticed the small piece of parchment sticking out from behind her breastplate. Someone's going to die later, she thought as she unfolded the parchment and began to read.
Nebula (my sometimes girlfriend), got a little upset at the way you treated me. She um...knocked you unconscious with a mud ball. Sorry.
Anyway, none of us wanted to miss the smoke blower and the midget, so we left you out here, confident that you could take care of yourself in a timely manner once you woke up. We're all staying at King Iphicles' castle, even Herc's mom, so it makes you wonder why she's always so damn worried about her house, when she's never even there! Anyway, if you want to go and um, get clean, that's where you're going to want to do it. See you there!
Xena ignored the two guards manning the front of King Iphicles' castle. The guards, seeing an armed to the teeth warrior walk through their gates, also ignored her. The King didn't hire them to be guards; they were just there for decoration.
It had taken Xena a half an hour to get to King Iphicles' castle. She unfortunately had to make another trip back to the stable and get her saddlebag. Argo, of course, had needed another rubdown and a few carrots. (And many, many apologies for future wrong doings.) But she was finally here!
The security here is so lax, I almost want to try and assassinate King Iphicles, just to see what happens. Nah, Gabrielle would kill me.
An older woman, with graying blonde hair and too much visible cleavage for her age demographic, met Xena at the main hall. She wore a long, flowing, yellow dress, and shooed away visible guards like they were fruit flies hanging around her bananas.
"Hi there, I'm Alcmene, Hercules' mother...Oh yeah, and that Iphicles fellow...he's my son, too. Now, what can I do for you? Are you here to kidnap me?"
"Cause me some kind of bodily harm?"
"Kill me because I'm responsible for the death of your kids, like 'The Mother Of All Monsters'?"
What in Tartarus is this woman on? No wonder why Herc takes so long to answer questions sometimes. She must've been hitting the henbane like Gabrielle hits innocent trees. Xena thought idly, her mind still swimming from her bout of unconsciousness. "Um, no. I'm here to...uh...help build your wall."
Alcmene smiled suddenly. The smile was so wide and so huge it was blinding Xena. "Oh you're a nice woman! Come on now, I'll show you to your room. Would you like a bath? Iphicles is taking one now, I'm sure he wouldn't mind the company. Don't ask him to share his rubber ducky though. He starts to kibbie."
Oh man! I finally get a bath and I have to take it with the King? Debating about whether or not she really cared that she would have to share the tub she finally asked, "Is the water still hot?"
Skank! Don't you touch my son! Alcmene thought, as she continued to keep her brilliant smile, brilliant. "Scalding!"
"Sure, then. I'd love a bath. You wouldn't believe this but--"
"I'm sure it's a great story," Alcmene rudely interrupted, "But I haven't got all day. Let's go get you in the tub."
Gods, I'm hungry! thought the bard, as a voluptuous stripper stuck her huge, heaving set in her face. Gabrielle was sick of "Ode To Yer Hooters" Mostly, she didn't want to part with her hard earned, wet shift dinars.
"Can we go now, Herc?" she pleaded.
"I don't think that's wise." Herc mumbled.
Gabrielle had already asked him three times. She tried to sneak out twice, but the demi-god didn't want her to leave. He said they all had to go or face Xena's wrath alone, and no one in their right mind wanted to do that; however, he had stated that he was quite confident his mother could calm her down by the time they got home. That had been forty minutes ago. Gabrielle was now certain that Xena had been drowned in three inches of muddy water, and it would be all her fault! Yet another reason why she wouldn't be able to look into the "light!" She could not allow that to happen.
"Look, I'm going whether or not you are. And I'm going to tell your mother where you are." she threatened.
"You wouldn't dare." Hercules said, almost sarcastically.
"I'm with the bard, Handsome. Let's go." Nebula yawned, a little sick of the show herself. It wasn't as if they wouldn't have another chance to come here. This wall mission was going to take quite some time.
"Iolaus?" Herc questioned.
"Yeah, let's go. I'm a little hungry myself." the hunter replied with a grin.
"Fine. You all win." Herc said. Grabbing the last of his dinars from his stash in a small pouch he kept at his waist, he placed them by the nearest strippers feet. "Don't forget, Sensual Shelly, the wall building starts tomorrow. I expect you to be there."
Sensual Shelly giggled, gyrated, and nodded her head. "I'll be there." she answered in a squeaky, girlie voice.
Alcmene opened the door to the bath chamber without knocking.
Iphicles' hand paused in mid-lather of his hairy armpit. He noticed the beautiful woman standing beside his mother. Ooh mom brought me a present! the young King thought.
"Iphicles, this is...um...this is..." Alcmene trailed off as she tried to remember the name of the woman she was bringing to her son, to bathe with. "What's your name?"
"This is Xena."
Iphicles squinted up at her to get a better view. "Didn't you try to invade Corinth about ten years ago?"
"Um, I might've."
"Oh well, it's old news." he shrugged.
Alcmene interrupted. "Anyway, as you can see, she's as filthy as a peasant child. She's going to take a bath with you. Behave! I'll be back to check on you two." She stood behind Iphicles. Grabbing his ear, she pinched it hard. "Especially you, young man."
Alcmene hustled out of the bathing chamber, leaving the King of Corinth and the Warrior Princess alone.
Oh what the Tartarus. Xena took off her armor and leathers, and joined the blushing King in the tub. He looks a lot like Ares. That could be trouble. He is HOT.
"So what happened to you?" Iphicles asked her.
Figures, he wants to talk. Sinking down into the scorching depths of the tub, she sighed at the wonderful feeling it induced. "I got whacked with a mud ball and knocked me out."
"A mud ball?"
"Yes, and I'd rather not talk about it."
"Okay. So why are you here?"
Xena's eyes, which had been closed in relaxation, sprang open with rage. "I'm here to help your stupid brother build a stupid wall for your mother."
Iphicles took a moment to ponder what he had seen of the warrior princess, which had been everything. Hmm...young, beautiful, dangerous, sexy. Yep, that bastard did her. Taking a deep breath, he decided to ask her. "Have you and Herc done it?"
Oooh, that was good, Iphy. If you're lucky, she won't kill you.
Iphicles didn't even have a chance to take another breath before his head was forced underneath the water. Xena held it there until she was sure he had turned blue and learned his lesson. It wouldn't be so bad if I hadn't done Herc. I'd just like to know how they all know!
Wheezing, and trying to catch his breath, Iphicles sputtered, "I'm sorry!"
"It's okay. I'm sorry I tried to drown you."
Alcmene came back in a few minutes later. "Iphicles, what happened to your hair, child? You didn't let this wanton strumpet wash it, did you?"
"Hey, I'm no wanton strumpet!" Xena yelled, defending herself against the verbal attack.
Alcmene rolled her eyes. "Please child, Hercules has told everyone in the known world about how he saved you. I happen to know, whoever he saves, he sleeps with."
Xena pouted. "Your son's a whore."
Oh no, bad thing to say, Xena! Xena wasn't sure she had ever seen a vein on someone's forehead change color and throb like that before. Alcmene was beginning to scare her. Remembering what she had seen Alcmene do to Iphicles before she had left the first time, she covered both of her ears with her hands. It wasn't enough to save them from Alcmene's wrath.
Alcmene pinched her right ear hard enough to leave a bruise.
"Oow." Xena whined, not at all pleased with the situation. She was sitting naked in a bathtub with Hercules' older brother, and being disciplined by his mother by being ear pinched like she had never been ear pinched before. What a crappy day! And it's not like I can kill her or even defend myself against her. I'd never hear the end of it from Hercules.
"Don't you ever say that about my Hercules! His father's Zeus, King of the Gods!!"
Xena couldn't help herself. "Zeus is a whore!" she yelled, feeling Alcmene's cruel fingers grasping her other ear in a pinch. "Ow!"
Iphicles stood up gloriously naked in the tub, and grabbed a nearby towel. Placing it around his hips, he then began attempting to remove Alcmene's fingers from Xena's ear. "Mother, please! She's company! Your wall, mother! Remember the wall!"
Nothing was working. The woman's fingers were glued to Xena's ears.
A soldier entered the room, not even blinking at the sight before him. He had seen everything, and seeing the King's mother discipline the King and his friends by pinching their ears was nothing new to him.
"What is it?" Alcmene asked, never breaking the hold.
"There's another visitor at the door, Alcmene." the soldier answered her.
"I'll just be a moment, thank you." Alcmene said sweetly. Hating to let go of Xena's ears, but knowing she had to in order to answer the door, she finally let the tortured flesh go.
Xena sank into the tub holding her ears. Gods, no one has punished me like that since I was six! How does he put up with it? she wondered, looking at Iphicles.
"I'll deal with you both later." Alcmene threatened, following the soldier out the door.
Iphicles took the towel back off and sank back into the tub. "What a bitch. I swear, if I didn't fear the Furies wrath..." the King made a chopping motion against his throat, "well, let's just say she wouldn't be pinching anymore ears."
Xena lightly touched her injured ears. "I like you."
Morrigan stood in the main hall, waiting for Hercules' mother. A soldier had gone to retrieve Hercules' mom since the King was otherwise indisposed at the moment.
Alcmene looked at the woman in the main hall. Flaming red hair, arm gauntlets, looked permanently pissed off. Yep, another one of her sons, "girlfriends." Besides, she's much too little to kidnap me or cause me bodily harm. her mind reassured her.
"Hello, I'm Alcmene, Hercules' mother."
"Hi there, I'm Muraghan."
"Moron-ghan?" Alcmene questioned.
"Mura-gh-an." Morrigan said slowly.
"Ooh, oh dear. Morrigan! Oh it's nice to finally meet you dear, my son's told me so much about you!"
"Dade he now? And what could Harcules have possiblay have told ya? And what's this argent message I got? I traveled all the way from Eire ta come hare."
Alcmene smiled sweetly, because she knew she was good at it, and it immediately stopped all questions. "You'll have to ask him yourself, Morrigan."
Morrigan threw her hands up in aggravation. "Well, whare es he?"
The sweet smile quivered slightly. "I'm not sure. He told me this morning that he was leaving to save a nearby village with his little friend Iolaus. He should be back in time for dinner. He never misses it. Would you like to take a bath? You're as grungy as an orphan girl."
Xena never batted an eyelash as Jason, former King of Corinth, and Hercules' Step-Father, sat down in the tub. Now he was on the left of her, and Iphicles was on the right. It was like being stuck in a King/Former King sandwich. How is anyone supposed to relax around here? she thought, while splashing Iphicles with some water. I wonder if he's sitting on the soap, like Gabrielle always does? her eyes then moved to Jason, Or maybe he is. He looks like he could be the soap-sitting type.
She yawned widely, then looked at Jason again. Ears still throbbing, she asked, "Your wife is not going to have a fit that you're taking a bath with us, is she?"
Jason chortled. "No, I do it all the time. Except usually Iphicles isn't in here, right?"
"Yeah, I'm usually with the maids and the servants. Nice women."
"And the prostitutes." Iphicles said with a dramatic sigh.
"Yeah, them too." Jason said, pouring himself a glass of wine.
"I thought you didn't drink." Xena said, narrowing her eyes.
"Pfft!" Jason looked around to make sure Alcmene wasn't nearby. "If you lived with that she-demon day and night, wouldn't you drink, too?" he asked, offering her a cup of wine.
"Point taken." Xena replied, accepting the offered cup from his hand. "Whoever's grabbing my ass is signing their death certificate." she said, looking at both men with death in her eyes. Seeing as they both looked suitably guilty, she couldn't just kill one. It was one or both, and once again it boiled down to the Big Guy being mad at her for taking out his family. How on earth am I going to explain this to Gabrielle?
Alcmene opened the door to the bathing chamber and pushed Morrigan in. She noticed Jason, and the vein in her forehead began to throb and change color like it had before. "Jason, I hope you realize you'll be carrying the heaviest rocks tomorrow." she said, her voice like ice.
Jason took another gulp of his wine and smiled nervously. "Of course, dear."
"This is Morrigan. She's another one of Hercules' floozies."
"Herc's a whore." Xena whispered in Iphicles' ear. (The undamaged one.)
Iphicles giggled. Seeing his mother looking at him, vein pulsating in the candle light, he stifled his giggle, and somehow turned it into a cough.
"Morrigan's going to be taking a bath with you all."
"What is this, the Corinth Public Pool?" Iphicles questioned, suddenly getting territorial with his bath water.
"Iphicles, be a good boy and share. You already have been for the past twenty minutes." Alcmene informed him.
Morrigan looked at the three people in the bathtub. "Um, if ya don't mind, Alcmeanie--"
"That's Alcmene." Alcmene interrupted.
"Yes, um, I'll just be teakin a dip in th' river." Morrigan said, hoping to Gods that she didn't do anything to earn her the red and bruising ears that two of the occupants of the tub bore like war scars.
"Whatever. Just get clean, dirty girl."
Morrigan hurriedly left the bathing chamber in search of a nice, freezing river to get clean in. Harcules better damn well have a good raison for branging me out hare. she thought to herself, as she walked out into the rainy streets of Corinth. The Castle door closed ominously behind her.
She searched the streets of Corinth, looking for someplace that would give her a room and a bath for a short while. She finally ended up at, "Ode To Yer Hooters" which looked like the only respectable place to bathe in the entire city. Oh well, anything baits a river. she thought, strolling into the tavern. AHHH! A girlie tavern, she told herself, as her eyes registered where she was. Ooh and lookie hare. Harcules and a few of his pals.
Hercules, Nebula, Iolaus and Gabrielle were on their way out of the establishment when Morrigan spotted them.
"Ah, es thas what ya call savin' a wee village, Harcules?" Morrigan asked in her lilting Eire accent.
"Well than, what am I hare for?"
"What?" Hercules' mind refused to cooperate.
"Ya sent me a message."
"Oh, right. Yeah, I need your help. My mom wants a huge wall built for her, and well, I messaged everyone I knew. Sorry. Did you meet mom?" Hercules asked her, trying to ignore the sparkle of rage that lit up in Morrigan's eyes.
"Who is that?" Gabrielle asked in a whisper, to Nebula.
"One of Herc's girlfriends." Nebula answered.
"Yeah, I met yer mum. She tried ta make me take a bath wit' a bunch of people I don't know!"
"What? Why would she do that?"
"I guess I'm just as dirty as a little orphan girl." Morrigan grimaced.
"We were on our way home, anyway. I never miss supper. C'mon. I'll get you a bath by yourself. By the way, you remember Iolaus from when he was evil Dahak, right?"
"I remember her, too."
"Okay, well that's Gabrielle. Now let's go home."
The moment they walked through the door, they could feel the tension.
Xena, Iphicles, and Jason all sat on the floor in hall before the main hall. (The really scary hall.) They were soaking wet, and had only a small towel to cover themselves with. Worse yet, they were making puddles on the carpeting.
Hercules tried to speak, but realized he couldn't seem to get the words past his mouth. "Y-you all took a b-bath...together?"
"I was covered in mud." Xena shot at him angrily.
"I was already in the tub when she came in." Iphicles said, moving to a puddle-less spot on the carpeting.
"And I'm drunk." Jason defended himself, taking a sip of wine from a gourd that just happened to find its way into his hand.
Gabrielle, noticing Xena's and Iphicles' bruised ears, asked, "What the Hades is wrong with your ears?"
"We were punished." Iphicles sputtered. "And we're being punished again. We can't have our clothes!!"
"This is really weird." Nebula said to Iolaus.
"Not really. Alcmene is known for her weird punishments." Iolaus told her.
"Yes, but Iphicles is the King!"
"Mnn hmm. But no one likes to be mean to mother."
Nebula shook her head. "It's still freaky."
Xena stood up, a little disorientated from the bath, the pain in her ears, and the throbbing headache she had. She pointed a finger at Hercules. "This is your fault. Look at what your mother did to my ears."
Herc didn't have to look very far. The bright red and purple bruising surrounding Xena's entire earlobe's were evident to anyone who glanced her way. He cleared his throat, "What did you do to upset her?"
"I called you a whore. Whore."
If the name bothered Hercules, he didn't show it. "She did that to you because of that?" he pulled Xena into a wet hug. "I'm sorry."
"No, no." Xena held back a sniffle. "You're not a whore, Herc. You're just..a nice guy."
Gabrielle interrupted their hug by pulling Xena away from Hercules. "No one hugs her when she's wet and half-naked, except for me!" she yelled.
"Um, I was hugging her a few minutes before you came in." Iphicles informed the little blonde-haired stranger.
"Is that true?" the bard asked Xena.
"I was cold."
Iphicles shivered violently. "All right look, this is my castle. My home. We're going to find us some clothes, and we're going to have dinner. Despite what my mother says."
"Thank the Gods, you do have a backbone." Xena said, more to herself than to anyone else.
A knock on the door startled them out of their discussion.
"Aren't you going to answer that?" Iphicles asked a nearby guard.
The guard shrugged his shoulders. "No."
"What do I pay you for then?"
"I don't know, but I'm getting paid good for it." the guard answered with a smug smile.
Iphicles made a familiar chopping gesture at his throat in the general direction of the guard, and opened the door. "What?"
The God of War stood leaning against a sleeping guard. "Can Xena come out and play?" he asked, his voice tinged with sarcasm.
Iphicles answered with what his mother would have said. "It's raining. Xena can't play in the rain."
"I can too play!" she said, standing beside Iphicles.
Hercules pushed them both behind him. "She's grounded."
Ares pursed his lips. "She doesn't look grounded. She looks good."
Xena tucked loose strands of wet hair behind her ear. "Could you get me some clothes? Hercules' mother is being a huge bitch."
"Hey!" Hercules said, upset that Xena would call his mother that.
Iphicles shook his head. "Don't bother defending Herc, it's so true!"
"I suppose I could do that. It's going to cost you though." Ares grinned lecherously, fingering a ringlet of his long, dark hair.
"With what?" Xena asked, wishing only to be warm again.
"I could think of a few things." Nebula said, adding her two dinars into the conversation.
"Xena, you don't want to owe him for a favor!" Gabrielle whined pitifully. "Remember what he did to me? He got me first class tickets to Ch'in but I had to jump into a hole of molten lava! It wasn't worth the fortune cookies, Xena!"
"Hey!" Ares scowled. "I didn't tell you to eat those. It's not my fault you got one that said, 'Bad Luck. Jump Into Scorching Chasm' you know?"
"Just come in." Hercules mumbled to the God of War. "And don't track any mud. If the carpet gets any wetter none of us will be able to have any dinner tonight."
Ares strolled into the hall. Stopping in front of Xena he asked, "So, do you want clothes or not?"
"What do I have to do?" she questioned, rolling her eyes.
"Lunch, with me. Tomorrow."
"Fine, fine. Just get us clothes!"
Ares scowled again, this time at her tone of voice. "I think," he said, looking her up and down, "that I might have something left over from your warlord days in the Halls of War." He waved his hand over her. The towel disappeared. In its place was Xena's old chainmail outfit, complete with her chainmail hat.
Xena sighed as she looked down at the outfit. "You kept the clothes I wore while fighting the Centaurs?"
"What can I say?" Ares shrugged. "I've always liked the," he arched his left eyebrow, "bad girl look."
"I'm sure. Now, Iphicles and Jason."
Ares waved his hand over the King of Corinth, and the former King of Corinth. They were instantly clothed in a warm pair of pants and a long-sleeved shirt.
"Well Xena, I'm leaving now. I have a torture Meet N' Greet with an old warlord friend of mine and his army. Don't forget our lunch date tomorrow."
Ignoring the daggers Gabrielle was shooting her way, Xena answered him with a slight smile, "Oh, I won't."
The God of War shot an evil glare at his half-brother Hercules, then left King Iphicles' castle in a flash of white light.
"How did you all get clothes?!" Alcmene screamed from across the hall, hefting Zeus' belt over her shoulder. "I said you would all get a taste of Zeus' belt, and I meant it! Now drop your pants and get in line."
Hercules waited until his mother stood beside him, then he placed a soothing hand on her shoulder. "Mother, please, is punishment really necessary?"
"No," she readily agreed, "but I thought I'd hand it out, anyway. Especially to her."
"Please mother, I just got home. Let's discuss it over dinner, huh? With all of us?"
Alcmene felt her heart swell. Her son Hercules, he just radiated goodness! Who could say no to him? "Of course, son. Over dinner." They hugged briefly. "So, did you bring me any presents this time? A quarter of an apple, maybe?" Alcmene asked eagerly.
"I sure did!" Hercules replied, handing her a tomato.
"Oooh. A tomato! Hercules! You shouldn't have!" Alcmene blushed. "You're such a good boy."
Dinner is worse than having my ears pinched, Xena thought, drinking her wine a lot faster then she probably should have. At least then I was sitting in a tub with a naked Iphicles.
Gabrielle had refused to even look Xena's way when they sat down; she chose to sit next to Nebula, instead of Xena. And she hadn't even offered Xena any of her 'shrooms, like she normally did before dinner. I'm so hurt. Those 'shrooms are everything to me, and she knows it.
Alcmene handed Xena a bowl of gruel and an apple.
"That's it?" Xena questioned hesitantly. "My godsdamn horse eats better than this!"
Iphicles shot her a warning look.
The next thing the warrior princess knew was that her hand hurt. Alcmene had hit her with a wooden spoon. "Eat it all or no dessert." Alcmene said in a voice that was sugary sweet. It would've made Xena sick, except she hadn't eaten anything since breakfast, and right now even gruel looked good to her.
Iphicles and Jason also got gruel and an apple. The three of them were forced to watch as the rest of the group were fed quail and Macedonian boar, complete with all the vegetables they could possibly want.
"Hercules," Alcmene said, spooning half a bowl of corn into Hercules' plate, "You never did introduce the rest of your friends. I already know Iolaus, of course. Who are the women? They're clean," Alcmene glared at Xena and Morrigan, "unlike some of your other friends."
Morrigan decided she had about all she could manage of Alcmene's attitude. "Thas fraygan dinner sucks. I've aten better wit' pigs in their sty."
Two wooden spoons were produced. Two hands were simultaneously smacked.
"Please don't speak to mother like that." Hercules mumbled, while demolishing the corn in his plate.
"May I be excused?" Xena asked, knowing if she asked any other way she would probably get smacked again.
"Yes, of course, Xena." Alcmene dismissed her. "Iphicles!" she yelled, her voice grating on everyone's ears. "Show Xena to her room."
"Don't 'Yes mom' me, mister! Get up and do it!"
Iphicles cringed. "Yes, mother."
"Do you normally take that abuse from your mother?" Xena asked Iphicles, as he walked her to the room she would be staying in.
"I have to."
"Why? You're a King."
"And you're a warrior princess. Did you stop her?"
"No. I...well I guess I understand why you don't stop her. It's just, you're the King for Gaea's sake!"
It was said so forlornly that Xena almost stopped in mid stride to hug him.
"Well," Iphicles stopped walking, "this is where you'll be staying. Your room is right beside mine, so if you need anything, you know where to find me. Don't bother getting a guard. As you may have noticed, they're good for nothing."
"I did notice."
"Are you really going to have lunch with Ares tomorrow?"
"He did give us all clothes. We would've been served on ice at dinner if he hadn't."
"True. It was a nice thing for the God of War to do for us."
"He can be nice when he wants," she narrowed her eyes, "but mostly he's just bad, bad, bad."
Xena took a moment to look around the room. It was beautiful. The blankets were a jade color, in fine Ch'in silk.; they matched the carpeting and the curtains perfectly. A large bay window let the evening breeze flow through the room. She found it curiously relaxing.
Iphicles coughed, letting her know she had "wandered off" again. "Gabrielle will be in the room connected to yours. If you both decide to talk again."
"No, no. Thank you. And thanks for staying to help in the construction of my overbearing mother's wall. I appreciate it."
He stood there, just staring at her, until she finally said, "If you don't leave your mother is going to pinch your ears so hard you'll be crying for three days straight."
"You're right. Hope to see you tomorrow, Warrior Princess."
"You too, Iphy baby. You give good bath."
Xena was sleeping peacefully for the first time in two weeks, when Gabrielle stormed into her room like a raging banshee. Xeeeenah, I'm your friend, I love you! Let this banshee yell at you! You are the choooosen one, Xeeeenah.
The bard had a pillow in her hands. Taking aim, she threw it with such force at Xena's head it would have probably decapitated a normal human being. "I can't believe you!" she said, pacing around the room in anger.
Oh, gods, I just want to sleep! Why can't she leave me alone? Xena grabbed the pillow out of the air before it hit, and waited for Gabrielle to continue ranting.
"Of all the low things you could possibly do! I thought that little, 'Borias and The Hestian Temple' story took the cake, but this is truly disgusting. A bath with the former King and present King of Corinth, Xena?"
"I um..." Xena wiped at some crud in the corner of her eye before continuing, "What are you talking about? You were off at a strip-tavern with Hercules, Iolaus and Nebula all day! You watched me get knocked out by a mud ball, and then went back in! How's that for friendship?" she pointed an accusing finger at Gabrielle, "For all you know, I could've drowned in that three inch puddle."
Gabrielle thought a moment before answering, "Oh yeah? My 'shrooms? You aren't getting any again. Ever!" And with that the bard went back into her room, and slammed the door.
Xena snorted. Who does she think picks them? The hairs on her arms suddenly stood at attention like little soldiers who hadn't realize a sergeant was in the room until it was too late. She looked around the room, but saw nothing. "What do you want, Ares? Did the Meet N' Greet end already?"
He appeared beside her on the bed. Rolling his eyes, he said, "Those things get boring so fast. If you've seen one torture session you have pretty much seen them all."
"Get off of my bed." she said in a low growl.
"But don't you," he paused as a succulent roasted chicken leg appeared in his hand, "want to eat some delicious chicken?"
Her stomach growled, announcing that it was hungry. He knows my weakness. I must kill him now. Where's that damn Hindsblood dagger?
"Now Xena," he waved the chicken leg under her nose, letting the aroma of honey and spices waft up her nose. "I know you're hungry. Your stomach just told me. Eat Xena. Go ahead."
"Xena, gruel and an apple hardly make a meal, and you left before you even had a spoonful."
"I wasn't..." her stomach growled again, "hungry."
An entire roasted chicken appeared on a platter on the middle of her bed. A cup of mead levitated in the air; it seemed to call to her.
Xena, eat me.
Eat me, Xena. I'm delicious.
I taste so good.
Sink your teeth into me, tear off my flesh and devour me whole, Xena!
"All right, that is enough! I will eat your food, but at what cost?" she asked dramatically.
"Same old lunch tomorrow Xena." Ares pouted, "I just wanted you to feel good before you went to sleep. I'm not an ogre, you know."
"Could've fooled me." she said, biting into the juicy chicken leg.
Morrigan followed Alcmene down a hallway, keeping her eyes peeled for a glimpse of the evil wooden spoon. He let his mum bait me wit' a spoon. What kind of boyfriend es that?
"Here you are, Morrigan. This is your room." Alcmene told her, pointing at a broom closet.
"Et says, 'servants closet, not fit for sleighpin!' on th' door!" Morrigan pointed out the sign on the door.
"Servants put that there. Gods know they don't know what they're talking about. Go, there's a cot there, get to sleep. I wish I could've gotten Xena's room for her. I'm sure she's got a nice one." Alcmene scowled, "I would've liked to have had her sleep in the servants closet, but whatever."
Morrigan stepped out of the closet. "I'm not sleighpin in thar. I'd rather sleighpe wit' th' pigs."
Alcmene shrugged. "Have it your way. You can get to the pens by going through the kitchen. See you in the morning." she walked off, leaving Morrigan alone to debate whether or not she wanted to actually sleep with the pigs.
Morrigan pulled the cot out into the hall, and grabbed the blanket. So what if I'm sleighpin in th' hall? At least et won't be in th' closet!
Xena. Xena. Xena. I do not like that woman. Alcmene thought while she walked to Iphicles room to say goodnight. She paused when she heard a moan from the room before his. "He had better not be." she said under her breath. I'll pinch his ears with a live crab if I have to... She heard the moan again, louder this time, with more feeling. Lobsters work equally as well for extreme ear pinching.
A soft, "Oh Gods..." could be heard throughout the hall.
Alcmene couldn't take it anymore, she kicked the door open with all the old woman muster she had. She expected debauchery or some kind scandalous behavior, but all she saw was Xena laying on her bed, taking a huge bite out of a plump chicken leg.
"Oh Gods, Ares, this is delicious." Xena mumbled. She looked up, but didn't stop taking a bite of the chicken leg when Alcmene kicked in the door.
Alcmene blushed. "Oh, sorry. I thought you were fornicating with my son. I'll have Hercules fix the door tomorrow." Narrowing her eyes suspiciously, she asked, "Where did you get the food? Do things just appear near you?"
Xena finished chomping on the dead and cooked chicken, and grimaced. "I have a God friend, one that isn't as big of a whore as Zeus is, but he still gets around." she glanced at Ares, knowing Alcmene couldn't see him.
Alcmene's vein pulsated once, before erupting and turning purple. She gave no warning, she just tackled Xena, full-contact.
As Alcmene's fingers clamped down on Xena's ears, Xena wildly grabbed at Ares.
"Get her off of me!"
"Another favor....." Ares warned her.
"Whatever, just put her to sleep!"
Ares lightly touched Alcmene on her forehead, putting her into a deep sleep. "Where do you want her?" he asked Xena.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, tell me where you want her to sleep for the night, and she'll be there."
"Oooh." Xena's thought about it. The ear pincher deserved to be punished herself. "Put her in the servants closet."
Ares nodded his head, and Alcmene was gone.
"Gods, that woman has strength." Xena said with a sigh.
Hercules stopped in front of what should have been Xena's door, but was now an open space; the door was on the marble floor, splinters all around it. Noticing Xena's bright red ears, and knowing the brightness for what it was (a recent ear pinching by mother), he asked, "Have you seen my mother? She usually comes in to say goodnight to me around this time."
Xena, eating a bowl of chocolate pudding, stared at him for a moment before answering, "Haven't seen her, Big Guy. Maybe you should ask Iphicles."
Hercules took a better look around Xena's room. The pudding, the chicken bones, it all smelled of Ares. "Ares is here, isn't he?" the moment the words came out of his mouth the God showed himself to him.
"So what if I am?" he asked twirling his fingers through Xena's hair.
"No twirling until I'm done eating." she said, angry that he would dare to bother her while she was stuffing her face. He sighed, but stopped twirling.
"I don't think you should be in here. Mother would have a fit if she knew Xena had a man in here." Hercules said, trying to steal a goblet of pudding by placing it under his shirt. Xena stealthily came to the rescue of the pilfered pudding. She put it back on the small table beside her to be consumed later.
"Spare me, Hercules. Iolaus and Nebula are sleeping together." Xena defended herself. "Ares is just feeding me, and then he's going to the Halls of War to visit his little skank Discord because I won't put out."
"Am not." Ares interrupted.
"This could get exhaustive." Ares said, scratching at his goatee.
"How did you know Iolaus and Nebula are sleeping together?" Hercules questioned her.
Xena rolled her eyes. "Oh please." Imitating Iolaus she said, "Hey baby, I'm a map. Don't you want to hunt down the hidden treasure?"
Ares took up where she left off as Nebula, "No thank you, if X marks the spot, someone needs to mark it bigger. I can barely see it."
Hercules grimaced. "Gotcha. Um, I'll ask someone else. Maybe Gabrielle knows."
Xena spooned more pudding into her mouth, "Why don't you go ask her? She's in a fantastic mood."
Hercules knocked on Gabrielle's door cautiously. The last thing he needed to do was anger the volatile little bard.
"What?!" she asked, not opening the door.
"Um, I was wondering if you happened to know where my mother is?" he asked, leaning his ear against the door to hear her better. The door creaked open. He steadied himself so he didn't fall into Gabrielle's room.
Gabrielle was standing in the middle of the room, a pillow in her hand. Faster than any mortal eye could see, she threw the pillow at his head and slammed the door shut.
"What did I do to deserve that?" he asked, truly wondering what he could've possibly done to have pissed her off.
"You were born."
Hercules huffed and puffed outside the closed door. No one treated him badly! He was a hero! He was the son of Zeus! The good for nothing dead beat asshole that he is. He huffed again. Well, onto Nebula and Iolaus then. I won't stop until I find mother!
Stopping outside of Nebula and Iolaus' door, he placed his ear against it.
"Oh Iolaus baby, be my cabin boy! Swab that deck or I'll throw you overboard!" Nebula said, unaware that someone was listening.
"I'm swabbing as much as I can, Captain! I can't swab anymore. The deck is clean." Iolaus answered with a groan.
Irritated, Nebula said, "The deck will be clean when I say it's clean. Do you really want to spend an hour with Big Bald Bob?"
"No Nebbie, Big Bald Bob scares the Tartarus out of me! I'll keep swabbing!"
"That's a good cabin boy."
They can't possibly know where mother is. Hercules raised an eyebrow. Though it couldn't hurt to continue listening and find out. The eyebrow lowered. No, I'd better find mother. She might be kidnapped or something.
He continued his journey, and stopped in front of Iphicles' door; he knocked loudly.
Iphicles snored, not hearing the knock.
Hercules opened the door and crept into the room. Placing his finger in his mouth, he drenched it thoroughly with spit before placing it in Iphicles' ear.
The King bolted upright in bed with a girlie scream. "Who gave me the wet willius? Who?"
Hercules laughed, then remembered why he was there. "I can't find mother."
"So you come into my room and give me a wet willius?!" Iphicles said loudly. "I was having the best dream and you woke me for this! Xena was moaning so deliciously in it, too." The surly King looked at his younger brother waiting for an explanation. "Okay, mother's missing, what now?"
"I don't know. I just can't find her. I thought maybe you would get up and help me look for her."
Iphicles held his hands up to his ears. "You see all the abuse my ears go through everyday, then you give them more abuse, and you expect me to help you?" he snorted, "If we're lucky the old dingbat is dead." Having said his piece, King Iphicles pulled his royal blankets over his head and muttered, "Now get out, before I call my guards, who will do nothing and get paid for it."
Hercules watched his brother create a cocoon from his blankets, then walked out of the room and closed the door behind him. He's just mad because his father's not Zeus. Loser. He was just about to give up until he saw a small sign mounted on the wall with an arrow pointing further down the hallway. The sign said, "Worthless Servants--Supplies this way. C'mon, get moving, what do you think we pay you for?" A few more signs and he found Morrigan curled up on a cot outside of the servants supply closet.
He shook her gently to wake her up. "Morrigan." She didn't respond to his voice. "Muraghan." He said, trying to trick her into waking up. It worked.
"What do ya want, Harcules?"
"I'm looking for my mother, do you know where she is?"
"Th' last time I saw yer mum was while she was tryin' to stuff me in th' supply closet. Told me ta sleighpe wit' th' pigs, she did!"
"Sorry about that. Well, I did my part in looking. Why don't you get off this uncomfortable cot and come and sleep in my bed?" Ooohoooohoooohpleasesleepinmybed.
Morrigan groggily sat up, staring Hercules in the eye and making him breathe bad almost-morning breath, she said, "As I told yer mum, I'd rather sleighpe wit' th' pigs. Much batter company, those pigs."
Shit, shit, triple shit. "Okay. Can't blame me for trying. See you in the morning."
Hercules turned to walk back down the hallway, opposite the helpful little arrows. She flipped him off behind his back and said, "Oh yeah, most definitely. On th' 'morrow!" She let her head fall back on a tiny blanket she was using as a pillow, and fell back asleep.
Xena held a pillow over her head hoping to block out the sound.
"COCKADOODLEDOO!!!! COCKADOODLEDOO! COCKADOODLEDOO!"
It was loud, persistent, and very annoying.
"Gabrielle, shut up!" Xena said, not masking her tone in any way. After dinner last night Ares had fed her mead like it came off of a mead tree. His intent had most probably been to get her to sleep with him. She had passed out with her head on his chest after telling him how much his sideburns turned her on. She felt herself blush as she remembered that particular moment with vivid clarity.
"SHUT UP GABRIELLE!" Hercules yelled from his room.
Oooh gods, Gabrielle's doped up already. How does she get up early enough to get stoned before we're even awake? Xena wondered. Pulling herself out of her nice warm bed and feeling her head spin, she quickly ran to the chamber pot to reject some of her food from last night. Hmm, the pudding still looks good the second time around.
Xena spared a glance to her broken door on the floor. Hercules' problem. She stopped thinking to puke again. When she was done she heard Hercules' condescending tone from where her door used to be.
"That's what you get for hanging out with the G.O.W."
"Herc," she took a deep breath, "if I had a door right now, I'd slam it in your face." If he took that the wrong way, she didn't know.
"COCKADOODLEDOO!!!! BWACK, BWACK!!"
Xena held her hands to her head, then used the pillow again. "She never shuts up."
"Time for breakfast, Xena. If you think you can keep it down." Hercules said caustically.
"I'll be there in a few minutes, I'm just going to put on my chainmail."
"Are you going to fight Jason in a duel over orange juice and raw eggs?"
Xena merely glared at him. I will get that orange juice. I will get it or Jason will be very sorry.
Hercules continued down the hallway. He woke up Nebula and Iolaus with no problems. Even Iphicles woke up right away. The four of them were watching Morrigan sleep when Gabrielle ran down the hall and COCKADOODLEDOO'D in her ear.
Morrigan jumped halfway off of the cot and held a dagger in each hand. With her eyes barely opened she asked, "Which one of ya es th' wee leprechaun that's houndin' me?!" Her eyes opened all the way and registered the fact that it was just Gabrielle and not an evil groping leprechaun like she had feared. "Ya shouldn't be wakin' people lake that!"
Boom. Boom. Boom.
"What was that?" Iolaus wondered.
"Whatever it was BWACK, it came from the servants closet." Gabrielle said.
Hercules opened the door to the servants closet and saw his mother. She was wrapped up in a bearskin straight jacket, with her hands tied behind her back. "Mother! What happened to you?" he asked, removing an old sock that belonged to Iphicles from her mouth.
"Oh, it was horrible!" She cried, "That evil woman Xena, she put me here!"
"Okay mother. I'm sorry she did that to you. Let's go eat breakfast."
"That's it?" Alcmene asked Hercules, her eyes brimming with tears. "That's all you're going to do? Can't you kill her or something?"
"Mother, that would be mean. You slept well, right?" he asked, untying her hands from the back.
Alcmene shrugged; she had slept very well for where she had spent the night. "Yes."
"Well then, she did you a favor. Please, breakfast? I'm starving!"
"Anything for you Hercie-bear."
"Where's Jason?" Iphicles asked, really wanting to know where his step-father was. Usually when the two of them were together his mother would go for Jason first in an ear pinching incident.
"I'm sure Xena would love to find him before she eats." Gabrielle said, holding Alcmene's hand in comfort.
"Well lets hope so or she won't eat." Alcmene said with glee.
The clatter of wooden and tin kitchen utensils was making a vein in Xena's forehead throb; one she had never had until she stepped into King Iphicles' castle. After finding Jason passed out in the tub with a seamstress and getting him dressed and to the kitchen table, she was finally being allowed to eat. Her appetite was not so good. She barely managed to keep down an egg and a glass of goatsmilk. Apparently, they were all out of orange juice. Alcmene had told both herself and Jason that with an evil glare, while pushing cups of goatsmilk at them.
"How soon do you think my wall will be done, Hercules?" Alcmene inquired.
"About two weeks, maybe three."
That elicited a few scattered groans of dread.
"Well hurry up and eat your breakfast, idiots. I want that wall done in a week!" Alcmene ordered her table of helpers.
They had finished breakfast quickly, none of them wanted to earn Alcmene's five finger punishment Xena now called, "The crusher." And now they were trudging downhill to Alcmene's house to start on the wall. A giant can of guacamole had been given to each of them, along with a thin piece of metal that would be used to smooth the pasty stuff out before stacking the rocks on one another. Xena was tired and they hadn't even started building the thing yet.
Nebula wiped at the sweat that was starting to pour down her forehead. "This really blows, big time." she said to Gabrielle.
"Tell me about it," Gabrielle said, wiping some sweat droplets of her own, "I detest him, which makes me wonder why I'm still even here!"
"You want Xena." Iolaus accused her. "You're here to see her sweat, and to get a few more pounds of henbane that Salmoneus promised you."
Gabrielle stuck her piece of metal into her can. "Maybe. Who told you? Is Sal your contact, too?"
"No, I just guessed. Gods, you are such a henbane-head, Gab."
Gabrielle popped another 'shroom into her mouth. "Whatever. Say, did you ever get the deck swabbed?"
Iolaus turned red, and ran behind Hercules so he no longer had to walk next to Gabrielle.
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