Author: Sascha Morgan
Story Title: Worse Than Death: Part One
Characters: Joxer/Strife
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Joxer is sentenced to death by an angry village; or will he face a fate worse than death?

The guys don't belong to me but to ... eh... Whoever owns Hercules and Xena. Athononos, W1 & W2 belong to me however...

My first ever Xena/Hercules fic. Joy. Beta'd by Journey (if this is even close to humorous, it's because of her).

This story has humor, slash, Joxer and Strife. What more can you ask for?

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Worse Than Death: Part One
by Sascha Morgan

"*Achem,*" Oh Great And Mighty Bard Athononos *achem*ed. He had been chosen as speaker since he had the loudest voice (and talked the most).

The people in the townsquare fell silent. Well mostly, anyway.

"We are gathered here today," Oh Great And Mighty Bard Athononos continued. "To sentence this young, nice, overly sweet and adorable guy to death..."

"YAHOO!" A few of the townspeople shouted and started dancing about in the townsquare.

Oh Great And Mighty Bard Athononos glared at them. How dared they interrupt *him*?! They noticed him glaring, stopped dancing and hid behind their wives. "As I was saying," Oh Great And Mighty Bard Athononos said. "We shall sentence him to death..." He paused for the best dramatic effect for what he was about to say. "...Or a fate worse than death!"

{da-da-da-dum. da-da-da-dum. da-da-da-dum. da-da-etc.}

The towns people gasped. A few virgins fainted. A couple of children started throwing tomatoes at the dark-haired man who looked like a fashion disaster and was sitting unhappily inside a cage.

"I mean, really," Warrior 1 said to Warrior 2. "Have you ever seen a more horrible helmet? And not to mention that... Eh... What *is* that exactly?"

Warrior 2 looked with distaste at the prisoner. "I have *no idea*. Some people just have no taste *at all*!"

"...Now, what shall it be? Death or worse than death?" Oh Great And Mighty Bard Athononos looked around hopefully.

The townspeople looked at each other and remembered the chaos and destruction the young man had created. "Worse than death!" they exclaimed in unison.

"A fate worse than death it is! Will the prisoner please rise?"

The dark-haired man rose as much as he could in the cramped cage.

"State your name, please."

"Um... Joxer...the migh--"

"Well, *Joxer*, do you plead guilty?" Oh Great And Mighty Bard Athononos asked.

Joxer blinked in confusion. "What?"

"Do you plead guilty?" Oh Great And Mighty Bard Athononos repeated flatly.

"Eh... I.... I guess so..." Joxer stammered and wondered whatever had happened to innocent until proven guilty.

"Wonderful! Now, good people of The Town With The Unpronounceable Name, what shall this good man's fate be?"

"Wearing that outfit for all eternity!" Warrior 1 suggested.

Warrior 2 looked admiringly at his companion. "Oh my... You're *evil*."

"I do try," Warrior 1 said modestly.

"Become Gabrielle's sidekick!" a scrawny looking blonde suggested.

"Who?" Her friend looked confused at her.

"Chained to a rock forever and ever," the tavern owner fantasised.

"How... utterly dull," someone else commented.

"A-HA!" another one exclaimed and threw his fist in the air to get some attention. "By Zeus, I've got it! Eureka!"

"Yes, yes, now out with it!" Oh Great And Mighty Bard Athononos said impatiently.

"He shall become Strife's consort!" He looked around triumphantly ... and met a lot of blank faces.

"Who's Strife?" A tall redhead finally asked.

Joxer closed his eyes and sat back down. He did not want to see this.

There was a flash of light, a loud noise and then ... ta-da! A dark-haired God (well, they assumed he was a God anyway) dressed in black leather popped up. "Somebody said my name?"

"Oh my..." Joxer said.

Strife looked around and spotted Joxer in the cage. He was sitting down and holding his hands firmly over his eyes. Strife grinned wickedly. He kind of liked Joxer. Of course he liked pretty much anyone who could manage to annoy Jercules, and now it seemed like he had managed to piss off a whole village to the point that they wanted him dead. He stopped and rewinded. Or rather they wanted him to have a fate worse than death. Personally he thought the 'Gabrielle's sidekick' idea was the best. 'Specially now that she had found 'The Way'.

Strife snickered and brought his attention back to the townspeople. "So what's he done?" He nodded towards Joxer. ^Not that I don't already know...^ It's a God thing.

The village people exchanged looks, then they looked at Oh Great And Mighty Bard Athononos, who paled at the thought of having to actually talk to the young God.

Strife remembered something. "Oh and I'm Strife, God of Mischief. You may bow," he added with a grin. Then he sent a flashy lightning thingy towards the redhead who had wondered who he was. The redhead acted as though he'd been electrocuted and fell into a heap on the ground. "Anybody else wondering who I am?" He looked around. "No? Cool! Then let's get on with it. You," he pointed towards Athononos. "Talk."

"Well, um... What do you want to know?"

"What...Has...He...Done?" Strife said slowly and pointed at Joxer.

"Let's see..." Oh Great And Mighty Bard Athononos muttered and looked around for his scroll. He found it, fumbled a little and started reading out loud. "... Complete destruction of the Mamalama tavern, horse theft, numerous fights and talking about the Goddess Aphrodite in a foul and disrespectful manner." He frowned as he said the last part about the Goddess, and several of the townspeople looked shocked. One actually fainted.

Strife looked just a tad impressed. "Really? Good for you!" ^Damn, I must have missed that one!^

"It's just a misunderstanding..." Joxer said faintly, still keeping his hands firmly clasped over his eyes.

"It's not!" The townspeople shouted as one. "We were *there*! We *saw* you! We *heard* you!"

"Well, that ought to settle that matter," Strife commented. "Now, let's get back to the punishment, shall we?" He leered. Pain and Strife just go together like... bread and butter, or Ares and war, or Xena and chakram, or Auto and ego, or... well, you get the picture. "Didn't someone mention something about making him my consort? Now, how, exactly, were you gonna do that?"

"Aphrodite is the village's protector," a brave dirty-blond man explained.

"...And?" Strife fixed him with a pointed glare.

"She does stuff like that all the time," a dark-haired woman who looked a lot like Xena said. ^Thanks for clearing that one up....^

"She does? Oh... *Now* I get it!" Strife looked like something had just dawned on him. "I've been wondering what Apollo sees in Salmoneus..." He shook his head. "Anyway, I think I'll take him."

Joxer removed his hands from his eyes and stared at the God in shock. "You'll WHAT?!" This was turning out to be a really bad day, he thought as his warrior heart dropped to his toes. His hands were suddenly clammy and his tongue flicked out to moisten too-dry lips. Not that he was scared of the young slightly insane God or anything...

Throwing his head back Strife howled. His eyes glinted with mischief. ^OOOOhhhh. This is going to be sooo much fun!^

Then there was another flash of light and; "HOOOOOOLD IT!"

Strife whirled around. "Aphrodite?"

"The one and only. Now, what do you think you're doing?" The beautiful blonde Goddess folded her arms over her ample chest and frowned. In a very attractive way, of course.

"Who? Me?" Strife pointed at himself. ^Damn! Whatever you want make it snappy willya?^

"Yes, you!" ^Eeewww! What rock did you crawl out from under this morning?^

"I'm just doing what your followers want me to do, take Joxer as my--"

"Joxer? Joxer?!" Aphrodite shrieked and even more people fainted. Strife just winced slightly. "After all I've done for you--"

"Huh?" Strife looked confused at her.

"Not you, you despicable God-person, Joxer!"

"Oh. Right." He shook his head. "What am I sayin'? What have you ever done for Jox?" ^Don't think I didn't hear about the bell thing....^

"It's Jox*er*!" Aphrodite corrected. ^Duh!^

"Hey, he's my consort. I can call him whatever I like!"

"He's not!"

"Is too!"

"Is not!"

"Is too and what's it to you anyway?"

"I saw him first! And he dissed me, not you!"

Strife blinked. "Y'know, I've always thought the blond side of the family was a bit weird, but ya really take the cake here, 'Dite."

"Don't call me that!"

"Why not? Ares does."

"You're not Ares!"

"You're kiddin'?" ^Why don'tcha tell me something I don't know for a change?^

"Ohh!" Aphrodite stomped her foot in the ground in frustration. Strife grinned wryly at her.

The town people had taken the chance Aphrodite's arrival had given them and locked themselves in their houses. Well, most of them. Warrior 1 and 2 was too busy staring at Aphrodite and Athononos simply didn't think of it. Joxer was, for obvious reasons, still stuck also. He was sitting on the floor of the cage with his hands over his ears and his eyes firmly shut. He was hoping that maybe if he couldn't see them or hear them, they would go away. Of course he was also hoping that this was all a nightmare and that he would wake up soon....

Aphrodite calmed down a little. "Okay, so you want Joxer?"

Strife nodded, wondering what the blonde bimbo was thinking now.

"And so do I. Well, there's only one way to decide who gets him!"

"Yeah? How? You gonna ask him?" This actually kind of made sense to Strife once he'd said it.

Aphrodite blinked. "Ask him? Whatever for? No, we ask one of the Gods to decide!" She beamed.

Strife thought about it, then nodded. "Okay. I don't think Ares is doin' anythin' special today..." Before he had even finished talking, there was a flash of light and a blond God with wings popped in, looking a little annoyed.

"Mom? Strife? What's going on here?"

"Cupid?" Strife said. "You brought *Cupid* to judge who gets him?" ^Play fair why don'tcha?^

"Get who? Mom, what's going on?" Cupid repeated.

While Aphrodite explained and Cupid sighed in exasperation, Oh Great And Mighty Bard Athononos opened the cage and let Joxer out. He figured that with two Gods fighting over him, the prisoner wasn't going to go far should he decide to run for it. Joxer crawled out of the cage and promptly tripped over his own feet as he tried to stand up. Warrior 1 and 2 broke out in laughter at the sight. Joxer was blushing furiously by the time he actually managed to get on his feet again.

None of the Gods noticed that by the way. They were too busy arguing.

"Not fair!" Strife complained.

"Are you calling me partial?" Cupid fumed.

"You said it, Wingboy, not me!"

"I'm not partial, I'm simply doing what makes most sense!" Cupid defended himself.

"Ha!" Strife crossed his arms over his chest.

"There's my boy," Aphrodite beamed and patted Cupid on the head.

Cupid ducked out of the way. "Mom!"

"Yes, darling?" Aphrodite smiled brightly.

"Don't do that!"

"It's always so touching to see the obvious display of affection within our family," Strife commented. The Goddess and her son shut up in pure shock and turned their heads to stare at him. "What?" Strife said defiantly.

Cupid shook his head. "Nothing."

"I understood that," Aphrodite exclaimed in surprise. "How weird," she added.

Seeing that the Gods were caught up in their discussion, Joxer decided to sneak away. He didn't come very far before Strife noticed and stopped him. By popping up in front of him, grabbing his arms and reappearing in front of Cupid and Aphrodite.

"He's mine," Strife said, daring any of them to object. They were still too shocked over hearing Strife talk normally, to actually register what he said.

"Yeah, yeah, sure, whatever," Aphrodite said distractedly. ^When did he start making sense?^

Joxer paled. "Can't we talk about this?" he asked weakly.

Strife grinned in satisfaction. "Nope."

"But I'm really sure I'd make a very bad consort," Joxer tried again.

"Nonono. You're perfect!" And with that Strife grabbed a better hold of Joxer and >flashed< out of the village and into his temple. Yes, he does have a temple. He's a God, remember?


Tune in next time for the answers to the following questions: Did Joxer do it? What's going through Strife's mind? Is there going to be a steamy seduction scene in the next part? Or am I just going to be a tease?

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