Title: Jarbo 2: The Mutation

Author: Smenzer

Rating: PG

Pairing: Ares/Gabrielle

Archive: Yes, please. Let me know if you take it, OK?

Teaser: The Jarbo are back!

Disclaimer: The characters are not mine. They belong to Studios USA or

Whoever owns the Rights to Xena: Warrior Princess. This is just for fun. No money is being made.



"Here. Cook these." Xena ordered as she dumped a pile of slimy fish next to Gabrielle.

Gabrielle glanced up from the open scroll on her lap. She had decided to try her hand at being a bard again. Just because she was now a warrior didn't mean she had to stop writing. If only she could find the time! And she certainly couldn't cook with Xena bugging her to fry fish! "Xena, I'm busy! I'm trying to get our latest adventures written down before I forget them. And it seems like ages since I wrote anything."

"Gabrielle."

"What?" Gabrielle turned to look at Ares, who was sitting next to her on the log. The very mortal Ares that had given up his powers to save them from the murderous Athena.

"I'm hungry. Could you please cook the fish?" Ares asked, giving her one of his sad, puppy dog looks. "It's not my fault mortals got to eat."

"That's it!" Gabrielle explained as she threw her feather pen on the ground. "You two want me to cook, fine, I'll cook. But I want to get paid for cooking!"

"How about I pay you with a kiss?" Ares asked as he leaned closer to Gabrielle.

"I never had to pay you before." Xena complained in a gruff voice. "I thought we had a deal. I catch 'em, you cook 'em."

"I'm serious!" Gabrielle continued. "Look at our finances. We don't have any money and winter is coming. Do you want to spend the winter sleeping on frozen ground under a blanket of snow?"

"Me? You got to be kidding." Ares replied. He had to admit Gabrielle had a point. He never had to worry about such things when he was a God, but now as a mortal they obviously played a big part in his life. And he really didn't care for this camping lifestyle anyway. Silk sheets on a real bed was more his style.

"Well, if we don't have any dinars we can't get a room." Gabrielle explained to Ares, although she was sure he already knew that. He just needed someone to point it out to him in a clear way. And she knew if she didn't bring it up, Ares would just keep following Xena around....just like she did all those years ago. Sure, it was fun and educational and it gave her great stuff to write about, but for once she would like to spend a winter indoors. Even if it was for a short time. And hadn't that one person predicted a very bad winter now that the Gods were no longer controlling the weather? And no one knew that better than Ares!

"Fine. You're right. We DO need dinars." Xena admitted as she rubbed her lips, deep in thought. "I know! We can go over to my Mother's place. It's empty now and we can set up shop there. I'll catch the food and you can cook it, sell it. People like your cooking. They'll gobble it up."

So they scooped up the fish and headed over to Xena's mother's place. The house was kind of rundown after being empty all those years but it was nothing a few hours of intensive cleaning couldn't fix. Of course, Gabrielle ended up doing most of the cleaning herself while Xena fixed a few items that needed fixing. Both women had tried to get Ares to help, but physical labor was not his thing so he just pretty much sat around and watched. Finally they were all done and they could open up for business. Gabrielle had even painted a sign advertising their new restaurant and hung it up out in front. She hoped they would get some customers soon.

Gabrielle was busy frying fish in the kitchen when she heard a strange sound. She turned around and saw the kitchen was empty. "Ares," she called. "Is that you?"

The ex-God appeared in the doorway and looked at Gabrielle blankly. "What?"

"I thought I heard something, like a popping sound." Gabrielle explained as she peered around the kitchen. She opened a cabinet door and looked inside. Nothing that would explain what she had heard. Gabrielle shook her head and laughed. "I must be hearing things. Anyway, why don't you help me in the kitchen? You could chop these vegetables."

"Me?" Ares asked, shocked. "The God of War does not chop vegetables!"

"Yes, but you're not a God anymore. The mortal Ares can chop vegetables." Gabrielle told him as she pointed to the carrots sitting on the counter.

"You're just spooked and don't want to be by yourself." Ares told her as he reluctantly picked up a knife and glumly stared at the orange veggies.

"I am NOT spooked!" Gabrielle shouted.

POP!

This time they both had heard it and glanced up at the ceiling. A mysterious black circular opening had appeared on their ceiling. It wasn't a normal hole, as they could not see the second floor or anything above them. It was completely black and gave no clues as to what it's nature was. It seemed to watch them like a giant, unblinking eye that was all pupil.

"What...?" Gabrielle mumbled as she took a step closer to it. The thing, whatever it was, was positioned in the middle of the ceiling.

Without warning, a large creature tumbled out of the hole and landed with a squeal on the floor. It shook itself and climbed to its feet. The thing was obviously a large rodent but a kind of rodent Gabrielle had never seen before. For one, it's bare skin was a sickly green and it only had one giant bloodshot eye that followed her every move. It's face was like a rabbit, except it had short ears and giant gnawing teeth. The disgusting thing twitched its black nose and stood up on its back feet. When it did this, Gabrielle gasped and threw her hand over her mouth. The freakish thing had six legs! A long bare tail with a thick clump of black hair on the tip sliced the air behind it.

"It's a giant, two feet tall mutated jarbo!" Gabrielle exclaimed.

Just then they heard the front door open and bang shut. A man's voice rang out loud and clear. "Hello? Anyone here? I'm the Health Inspector to inspect your premises!"

"Ares! Do something! Quick!" Gabrielle hissed at him. She was scared to move. The thing was staring at her with its beady eyes. Evil beady eyes. She knew it sounded stupid. She was a warrior now, she had survived many battles. And yet now she found herself unable to move. Perhaps she was in shock.

The ex-God leaped forward and gripped the fat jarbo around its middle. The irony of it all did not miss him. He had been ruling Olympus and now he was reduced to a rat catcher. It did not amuse him at all. The Fates could be very cruel. Ares dashed forward, the squirming jarbo in his outstretched arms. Gabrielle ducked out of his path and she yanked open the back door so he could toss it outside. But Ares ran right past her.

Her mouth dropped open in shock as she watched him throw it into the deep fryer she had sitting on the stove. She had the fryer ready for this potato recipe she was going to try. She had ate them once at this restaurant and had asked the chef for the recipe. Traveling around with Xena she never had the opportunity to try it until now. The mutant jarbo squealed once and then was silent. Soon the room filled with the smell of cooking rat.

"Ares! What did you do that for?" Gabrielle hissed at him quietly. "You should have threw it outside!"

"The inspector would see it out there!" Ares told her.

Before they could say anything more, the Health Inspector came into the room. He was a fat man with white hair. His face was plump with triple chins and a thick neck. He wore a long white Toga with a square badge pinned on the front. Brown leather sandals were on his feet. He carried a scroll in one hand. "Hmmmm.....that smells really good! What are you cooking?"

"Umm....." Gabrielle looked at Ares for help.

"Emu. We import it. It's very tasty." Ares replied smoothly, once again taking on the air of the confident God he once was. "It's an exotic bird from a far away land. We thought we'd add it to the menu, see how it does around these parts. Isn't that right, Dear? It was our dream to open up a restaurant."

Gabrielle felt Ares' arms slip around her waist from behind as he held her. He rested his chin on her shoulder and smiled at her. Suddenly with him so close and the jarbo cooking in the pot she couldn't think straight. And if she didn't do something soon, they might both end up in prison for poisoning a Health Inspector with a mutant rat! And the way the man was salivating it looked like he would want to eat it. Gabrielle moaned quietly.

"Shhh. It'll be all right." Ares told her. Then he glanced up at the Health Inspector. "My wife is a bit nervous. Opening a restaurant is a big step, you know."

The Health Inspector was staring at Gabrielle in an odd way.

Something in Gabrielle's mind stirred. The more she looked at him the more she thought she had seen him somewhere before....

"Gabrielle?" the Health Inspector asked, a big goofy smile on his face. "It's me, your old buddy Salmoneous!"

"Salmoneous?" Gabrielle asked, a sinking feeling in her stomach.

"Yes, it's me! Boy, what an incredible chance of luck to run into you! I had heard that you and Xena were alive again, but I couldn't believe it! And now look at you, all married and settled down. Before you know it, you'll have a family!"

"What?" Gabrielle blushed red.

"You know, kids. I'll be Uncle Sal! I like the sound of that." Sal grinned at her. His large stomach rumbled loudly. "Is that emu almost done? I'm starving! Bring me a big plate of it. I'll pay you whatever you want! I made a ton of dinars on writing Hercules' biography. I'm still getting royalties from that."

Gabrielle watched Sal disappear into the other room, no doubt to go sit at a table and wait for his food. Her fingers curled into fists and she turned to tell Ares what was on her mind. But he was gone. Which only made her even more angry at him. The nerve of him to tell Sal that they were married!

"Ares! You get back here right now!" Gabrielle hissed. She hurried to the still open back door and peered outside. She didn't see him anywhere. "The coward ran off!"

"Hey, I didn't run off. And I'm not a coward." Ares' voice came from behind her. "I just went into the pantry to get a platter."

Gabrielle turned and saw Ares with a huge plate in his hand. Confusion flickered across her face. "What are you going to do with that?"

"Feed our customer." Ares picked up a fork and stuck it into the kettle of deep fried mutant rat. Flexing his big arm muscles, he lifted out a golden brown piece of jarbo. He carefully placed it on the plate and reached in for another. In a few short minutes, the plate was filled with steaming meat.

"You can't feed that to Sal!" Gabrielle protested as she moved to block his path to the other room.

"Why not? He wants it." Ares reminded Gabrielle. "Besides, we need the dinars and he said he'd pay us whatever we want."

"But it's a jarbo!" Gabrielle crossed her arms over her chest. "You can't go around feeding jarbo to people! And especially not to people I know! They could die from it! And what was the big idea of telling him we were married? Did you hear what he said? He thinks we're going to have kids!"

"How the heck was I supposed to know you knew him? Seems like you and Xena know everyone! I was trying to distract him from what was cooking in the kettle!" Ares explained to Gabrielle. Then he grew quite as he looked at her. A smile appeared on his face. "You know, that wouldn't be such a bad idea."

"Why you!" Gabrielle swung her fist at him but he easily ducked underneath it.

"You know, you can't hit anything when you're mad!" Ares laughed as he walked past her towards the doorway to the dining room, the plate of hot jarbo still in his hands. He turned to look at Gabrielle. "Besides, what are you so worked up about? He'll eat and then he'll leave. End of story. No one won't ever hear that story but him. He doesn't know who I am anyway."

"That's true." Gabrielle admitted.

Ares was about to push open the swinging door to the dining room when he heard the outer door open and more people enter. He paused in mid step, listening. That voice. He knew that voice. Then he heard a second familiar voice. He knew both of them. In fact he knew exactly who had just entered to eat in Gabrielle's new restaurant. Before he could say anything to Gabrielle, Sal's voice rung out loud and clear.

"Hercules! Iolaus! Guess who got married?!"

"Who?" Hercules asked as he moved to sit at Sal's table. The Demigod hero had not aged a day. He had found out he was immortal, apparently some weird side-affect from killing Zeus. Or maybe it was just bound to happen sooner or later anyway and he just didn't realize it. Hercules really didn't mind being immortal as long as he was not a full God with powers - and that he had Iolaus for company.

"Yeah, who got married?" Iolaus asked as he plopped into the chair next to his best friend. He stretched his legs out under the table and leaned back in the chair, running a hand through his thick blonde curls. Thanks to Hercules, he was immortal, too. "And what is that mouthwatering smell? I'm starving!"

"Remember that story about Xena and Gabrielle being alive? Well, it's true!" Sal leaned forward, his dark eyes glowing with excitement. "I just met Gabrielle in the kitchen with her new husband! Isn't it exciting? And that delicious smell is emu! Oh, I can't wait to eat!"

"Gabrielle?" Hercules asked, surprised. "Me and Iolaus had heard that story but we didn't know if it was true or not. Who did she marry?"

"Handsome guy. Tall, dark hair, great voice. Nice clothes." Sal replied as he opened his scroll and jotted a few things down on it. "Might as well fill out this health report while I wait for my emu! Time is dinars, you know!"

"That could describe almost anyone." Hercules rose from his chair and headed towards the kitchen. "I'm going to go see how Gabrielle is doing and order us some food."

"I'll go with you!" Iolaus jumped up and hurried after his friend.

Hercules pushed open the swinging doors to the kitchen and passed through. He stopped dead in his tracks when he saw his half-brother, Ares. Even more shocking was the fact that Ares was holding a steaming plate of meat! The Demigod's jaw dropped open and he just stared at his half-brother, his brain for the moment unable to believe what he was seeing! It was just too strange!

"Hercules, would you please move out of the way so I can go serve this emu?" Ares asked with a grin. Perhaps it was worth being mortal for a short time just to see that shocked look on Hercules' face!

"What?" Hercules muttered. He felt Iolaus push into the kitchen behind him.

"Ares! What are you doing here?" Iolaus asked, just as shocked as Hercules. The delicious scent wafted up from the hot plate of meat, making the Golden Hunter's stomach growl loudly in hunger.

"What does it look like I'm doing?" Ares replied as he pushed past Hercules and Iolaus, escaping from the kitchen to go serve Sal his lunch. He placed the cooked mutant jarbo before Sal.

Hercules watched Ares for a moment, then turned to see Gabrielle. "Wait a minute....tall, dark hair....you're married to ARES? Of all people, how in the world did you end up married to him?"

"Yeah!" Iolaus agreed. "And can we get two big plates of that meat?"

"Hercules, you don't understand...." Gabrielle began to say. Before she could finish the back door swung open and Xena entered the kitchen.



Hercules spotted Xena immediately and hurried over to her. "Xena, did you know Gabrielle was married to Ares? How could you let her marry someone like that? I thought you cared about her!"

"What?" Xena cried, dropping the big basket of fish onto the floor. The basket toppled over and silvery fish scattered over the floor. "What are you talking about?"

"We met Sal here. You know, Salmoneous?" Hercules explained as he pointed towards the dining area of the new restaurant. "Our meeting was by accident. He told us that Gabrielle was married to a tall, dark haired man. I came into the kitchen to see who it was and found Ares!"

The kitchen door opened and Ares entered. He leaned against the wooden door jamb, his arms crossed over his chest. "If anyone is interested, the place is filling up with hungry customers who want emu. How about you vacating the kitchen?"

"Why you!" Xena snarled, crossing the short distance to the now mortal ex God of War. She gripped his black leather vest with her fist. "When did you marry Gabrielle?"

"Xena! I'm not married to Ares!" Gabrielle insisted as she looked from Xena to Ares to Hercules and Iolaus. "I'm not married to anyone!"

"That's why you saved her, isn't it?" Xena stated as her shrewd mind clicked away. "Why you gave up your Godhood. I refused to give you a child and accept your deal so you somehow tricked Gabrielle into marrying you! That's what happened, isn't it? And you two were planning on keeping it a secret."

"Xena!" Gabrielle cried. How in the world this she get into this huge mess? "I'm telling you we're not married! He made that up!"

"Why would he make up a story like that?" Hercules asked, confused. He wondered over to the pot of fried mutant rat and peered in. Picking up a fork lying on the counter, he stabbed a big piece and pulled it out. Handing it to Iolaus, he speared a second, even larger piece for himself. "I know Ares lies, but why lie about something like that? I mean, what would he gain from it?"

"Hmmm...this is really good!" Iolaus tore off another hunk of the cooked rat, juice dripping down his chin. "Its crunchy on the outside but soft and tender inside! Its even better than rabbit!"

Gabrielle gulped as she watched Hercules and Iolaus eating the fried mutant rat. She felt her stomach twist and she clutched at her throat. Watching them was making her sick!

"Gabrielle, are you all right?" Xena let go of Ares and rushed over to her friend. "You look a bit green. Are you pregnant?"

"Xena!" she hissed as her face turned a bright red.

Ares grinned.

Hercules found a plate and piled the remaining meat from the deep fryer on it. "I think I'm going to go eat in the other room and let you discuss this. Come on, Iolaus."

Iolaus followed Hercules out of the room, his fork clutched in one hand.

"Look, there's nothing to be embarrassed about." Xena told Gabrielle as she led her friend over to a chair and sat her down. Xena rubbed her chin for a moment, deep in thought. Then her eyes cleared as she realized something. "I'm the reason you kept it a secret. You didn't know how to tell me so you just didn't. You knew I'd go ballistic on him, like I just did. But I see that you changed him just like you changed me, so that's a good thing. You do that to people, Gabrielle. I don't know how but you do and it even works on Gods!"

Xena peered into the empty deep fryer and frowned. "Those hogs ate it all! How about you cooking up another batch of whatever that was? Smells great!"

"But..." Gabrielle said.

Xena patted her on the shoulder. "Don't worry, Gabrielle. You'll be a great mother!"

Ares watched Xena leave the kitchen. He made sure the door was closed, then strolled over to Gabrielle. "Well, I think that worked out quite well, don't you think? I mean, none of them know that they're eating.... you know."

"Ares! They think we're married!" Gabrielle said as she jumped up from the chair. "And Xena thinks I'm pregnant!"

"Is that a problem? Because if it is, I could always fix that." Ares grinned. He ducked as Gabrielle swung her fist at him, hopping out of the way. Laughing, he ran around the table as Gabrielle chased him. "You know, if this is what married life is like, I like it!"

"Oohhhh, wait until I catch you!" Gabrielle threatened as she ran after him.

POP!

Ares skidded to a halt and Gabrielle crashed into him from behind. Another mutant jarbo had popped out of the mysterious black hole on the ceiling. It was lying on the floor, still dazed. The large rodent shook its head and stared at them with its single red eye.

"Sorry, my Dear. We'll have to play later. It's time for us to go to work." Ares turned quickly and kissed Gabrielle on her lips. Turning back to the rat, Ares drew his sword from its scabbard and attacked the jarbo. A moment later it was dead. He carried it to the deep fryer and tossed it in.

"Ares, if they ever find out...." Gabrielle stared at the boiling pot that contained the rat.

"But they won't. We'll just have to keep them out of the kitchen now, won't we?" Ares glanced down at the fish lying on the floor. "How about you cooking these for us?"

Gabrielle picked up the fish and started to prepare them for lunch. As she worked, three more jarbos appeared and Ares dispatched them with ease.

That evening Ares was leaning against the counter in the kitchen, his sword out and ready for more jarbo. They had served more jarbo and made more dinars in a single day then they could imagine. Customers kept piling in and ordering the "emu". Gabrielle ended up cooking nonstop all day just to meet the demand. Luckily, they hadn't run out...yet. "You know, this idea of mine worked out better than I thought it would. Not only did I get a wife and a house but lots of money, too! What more could a man want?"