Title: Jarbo 3

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.

** This story picks up where Jarbo 2 left off. **

Gabrielle was exhausted. She wiped her hands on a towel and turned to look around the kitchen. The pots were cleaned and put away, the jarbo blood was off the floor, Ares had just gone outside with a huge bag of bones, in other words the kitchen was clean for tomorrow.

"What a totally crazy day!" she said to herself. She wasn't sure how to straighten out the mess that Ares had helped her create. For one, they had been feeding mutated rodents to her best friends! Second, those same friends were persuaded she was married to Ares, with Xena thinking she was pregnant. Gabrielle tossed the towel onto the counter and headed out of the kitchen. She was totally exhausted. Her feet ached from standing all day in front of the boiling, hissing pot and she couldn't wait to fall into bed. She climbed the steps and threw open the door to the bedroom she was sharing with Xena.

The Warrior Princess was already in bed, a large platter of cooked jarbo on her lap. Xena picked up a big hunk with her greasy hand and started to gnaw on it. Her blue eyes spotted Gabrielle standing in the doorway. "What you doing here?"

"Xena, since when do you eat in bed? And shouldn't you be filled by now? You've been eating that all day it seems!" Gabrielle took a few steps into the room and stopped, one hand on her stomach. Watching Xena eat was twisting her stomach! As she watched, Xena licked the greasy juice off her hand, then pulled a few thin strips of meat out from between her teeth, gobbling them down. Finishing the piece, Xena tossed the bone onto the floor where it slid under a dresser and clanked against the far wall. "You're making a mess! You can't be throwing bones on the floor!"

"And shouldn't you be with your husband?" Xena asked, picking up another piece of cooked meat. "Especially in your condition?"

Gabrielle sighed. She wasn't going to get anywhere arguing with Xena. One she made up her mind on something, it was almost impossible to change it. Plus she didn't think she would be able to sleep while listening to Xena chewing on cooked rodent! It was just too disgusting. Turning around, Gabrielle left the room. "I'll see you tomorrow, Xena."

"Goodnight." Xena said from around a mouthful of jarbo. "Hmm....I love this emu!"

"I guess I'll have to sleep somewhere else tonight." Shaking her head, Gabrielle walked down the hallway. She stopped to lean against the wall, taking deep breaths to calm her upset stomach. How could Xena eat those things? "Because she doesn't know what they are!"

"You talking to yourself now?" Ares asked as he appeared in the hallway. "I thought you'd be in bed by now, sleeping."

"Xena kicked me out. For some reason she seems to think I'm married!" Gabrielle wanted to give Ares a sharp look for starting this mess, but she was too sleepy. "Besides, she's in there feasting on the you-know-what still. I swear, I never saw her eating in bed like that. It's so unlike her."

"Well, you can share my room!" Ares said as he suddenly gripped Gabrielle around her wrist and hauled her into his room. Once inside, Ares closed the door and leaned against it, arms crossed over his chest. He knew any minute the warrior bard would start protesting. He counted silently in his head: three, two, one, now.

"Ares, I can't share your room! It's not proper." Gabrielle pointed out.

"So, you'd rather sleep out in the hallway?" Ares asked. "Because dear brother with his blonde friend has moved in and that fat guy took the last room. So its either this or the hallway. Now since they think we're married, it'll give me a bad reputation to have you sleeping out there. And you know how Hercules likes to solve problems with his fists."

Gabrielle moaned and collapsed on the bed. She could easily imagine how Hercules would get the wrong idea and would start pounding on Ares, possibly injuring him now that he wasn't a God. Or worse, have Sal trip over her sleeping in the hall, crushing her with his 300 pound body! And with all the food they were stuffing into themselves all day, the bathroom would be very popular tonight. All the guys would be running up and back, stepping on her fingers and tripping over her legs. A door could fly open and hit her one.

Why did she have all these problems?

"All right. I'll stay. But you better behave!" Gabrielle removed the sais from her boots, waving one at him before putting them within easy reach. "So don't get any ideas!"

"Hey, I don't bite." Ares protested as he moved away from the door and started to remove his leather vest. Truth is, Gabrielle had agreed a lot quicker than he thought she would. Which was fine with him! The marriage idea had been spur-of-the-moment, but the more he thought about it, the more he liked it. None of his other ideas had ever really worked, the ones he had used years and years ago on Xena. But perhaps, if he was patient and took it easy, he just mind end up with Gabrielle for real! Of course, she didn't have the slightest idea of what he was up to. But if he wasn't careful, he knew he could goof it up. What to do next?

He moved over to the bed, expecting that Gabrielle might be asleep already. She had looked very tired from cooking rodents all day. But she was awake, one arm resting across her forehead.

"Oh, I feel terrible!" Gabrielle moaned.

Ares blinked. He had been mortal for only a short time so far and had no real experience with sickness. In his opinion, Gabrielle really didn't look sick, but then what did he know? "Do you want me to get Xena?"

"How could I feed rats to my best friends?" Gabrielle asked. "Who knows what awful disease those mutated jarbo were carrying? And where are they coming from? We don't know anything about them and here the entire town was eating them all day!"

Ahh.... so it was guilt that was making her feel terrible.

"Well, in case you didn't notice, no one is sick." Ares pointed out as he sat down on the edge of the bed to remove his boots. Would Gabrielle really marry him? Would she forgive him for the awful things he had done in the past? Things like killing Eli, sleeping with Hope and sometimes just being nasty, like letting the Titans loose? And was she mad about this rat business? She seemed to be annoyed at him earlier, but not truly angry. He hadn't done it on purpose, he had just been hiding that jarbo!

"Well, I hope no one gets sick!" Gabrielle said as she rolled over on her side to watch Ares. She really didn't believe all those bad things Xena said about the ex War God anyway. She knew that she could trust him but yet she felt confused. Why did all her friends believe Ares story about them being married? It made no sense, especially since Ares had always chased after Xena in the past. Oh well, it didn't really matter. She would clear it up with Xena tomorrow. Somehow.

Before Ares could settle down, Gabrielle was fast asleep.

*** ***

Ares turned over for what seemed like the thousandth time, putting the pillow over his head. But it didn't do any good. He threw the pillow onto his legs and rolled over on his side, looking at Gabrielle. He propped himself up on one elbow, watching her sleep.

Next to him, Gabrielle snored loudly, her mouth open wide. The moonlight from the window fell on her, so he could see her quite well. She mumbled something in her sleep, rolling over closer to him. Her arm flung out and hit him one on his hairy chest. Her fingers clutched at the hair and he squeaked in pain.

"Great. That's just great." He muttered to himself. Now he knew the real reason Xena sleeps most of the time wearing that metal breast plate! The innocent bard was a real hazard while she was sleeping!

*** ***

BANG! BANG! BANG!

"What?" Gabrielle sat straight up in bed, glancing towards the bedroom door. Who could be pounding on the door like that? Geez, it sounded like someone was using their fists on it!

"Gabrielle! Get up!" Xena cried from the other side of the door.

"Xena?" Gabrielle asked, slightly confused. Why was Xena on the other side of the door? She turned her head to see who was sleeping next to her and was shocked to see Ares! The now mortal War God was fast asleep. Staring at him, she noticed something odd. There seemed to be a patch of hair missing from his chest.... Slowly she opened her hand that was clutched in a fist and saw the missing black hairs.

Oops!

"Gabrielle! Hurry up!" Xena cried even louder. "If you don't get up, I'm coming in!"

"I'm coming!" Gabrielle called. She tossed the handful of black hair onto Ares chest, then wiped her hand on her leg. The warrior bard hopped out of bed and rushed to the door. Flinging the door open, she stared at Xena. "What's wrong? Is there a problem?"

"Yeah, I'm hungry and want more of that emu!" Xena told her. "That stuff tasted really good, better than that fish we always eat."

"OK, I'll be down in a minute." Gabrielle hurried back to the bed and poked Ares on his shoulder. "Wake up, Ares!"

Ares opened one eye, peering up at Gabrielle. "What?"

Gabrielle glanced towards the open door, then leaned down close to Ares ear. "Xena wants to eat more jarbos!"

"Well, we better go cook her some then." Ares sat up and swung his feet onto the floor. Picking his vest up from where he had tossed it last night, he pulled it on and secured it with his belt. Then he pulled his boots on. "Looks like Xena isn't going to even give us time to wash. I guess we have to start getting up earlier."

Ares followed Gabrielle out the room and down the hall. Hurrying down the stairs, they soon saw their friends sitting around one of the tables in the dining part of the restaurant. Xena, Hercules, Iolaus and Sal waved to them but kept right on talking to each other.

"We all want more of that yummy emu!" Sal called to them loudly. "I'll be sure to eat here every day as long as you serve it. I never tasted anything so delicious in my entire life and I've tried almost everything!"

"Fine. We have to go cook it first." Ares reminded the four as they headed towards the kitchen door.

Gabrielle reached the door first and pushed on it. It didn't open. She turn to Ares. "It seems to be stuck."

"I'll get it." Ares put his shoulder against the door and shoved. It opened partway and the two slipped inside. Gabrielle gasped when she saw the kitchen was packed with mutated jarbos! The large one-eyed rodents were everywhere! They ran on the counters, danced on the table top, climbed over the stove, a few swung on the curtains and dozens scurried on the floor. As she watched, two more plump rats dropped from the mysterious hole in the ceiling and landed on their brethren with a loud thud. Gabrielle quickly closed the door and pulled out her sais as several rushed towards them.

"Looks like we're going to be real busy!" Ares pulled his sword from its scabbard and swung at the closest jarbo, cleaning killing it with the first blow. He quickly moved to another and another, his long blade always moving as it sliced the air. Ares grew excited and moved faster through the kitchen. "Come on, that's it, come to papa."

Pots rattled and dead jarbo thumped to the floor. Gabrielle cornered an especially large jarbo and killed it with the long blade of her sai. By now most of the jarbo were dead and Gabrielle moved towards the stove. A jarbo leaped out from behind a potted plant and jumped on her, knocking her backward onto the table. The stubborn rodent clung to her chest, its large claws tearing the fabric of her dark red top. It's jaws went for her throat and she gripped it around its neck, pushing its pointed snout away from her. She struggled with it for a few moments until Ares raced over and tore it off her. He flung it onto the floor where he finished it off with his bloody sword.

"Gabrielle? Are you OK in there?" Xena's voice asked through the closed kitchen door. "I thought I heard some loud thumps..."

"I'm fine! Don't come in." Gabrielle jumped off the table where the jarbo had knocked her. She frantically stared around the bloody kitchen. She couldn't let Xena see this! There were dead jarbo everywhere! "You collect all the jarbo and I'll go out to talk with Xena."

"OK." Ares replied. The ex War God opened the pantry door and started to toss dead rodents in. With any luck, they'd all be eaten today and none would go to waste.

Taking a deep breath, Gabrielle opened the kitchen door and stepped out. Just as she stepped out, she realized one of the straps holding her top up was completely torn. Stupid jarbo!

The room was packed with people. Every table was filled and several groups stood along the walls or waited on the stairs. When they saw her, they all started shouting the same word: emu.

Gabrielle sighed. Looks like she was going to spend another endless day cooking jarbo! She just hoped the ones Ares had just killed would be enough to feed this huge crowd. Why, everyone from town must be squeezed in here! Why in the world was the jarbo so popular? It didn't make any sense!

Moving through the crowd, she reached Xena's table. Her friends' took in her torn top, her messed up hair and the sheen of sweat that covered her skin. Fighting with jarbo made you sweat, you know.

"Is that emu done yet?" Xena asked her.

"I didn't even start cooking it yet!" Gabrielle told her.

"Well, if you wouldn't be fooling around with Ares in the kitchen, it would be." Xena replied.

Gabrielle blushed, her face turning bright red. "Xena! I wasn't fooling around with Ares in the kitchen!"

"Sure you were." Xena stated as the warrior's blue eyes raked over Gabrielle's torn clothes and mussed hair. "Look how you look. You didn't look that way when you and Ares went into the kitchen. And we heard the two of you in there, all the loud thumping and stuff."

"And we heard Ares." Iolaus added. "He said 'come to papa' and a few other things."

"And we ALL know how Ares is." Xena added. "Besides, you don't end up looking like that from cooking. Ares was chasing after me for years to have kids. I kept telling him NO because I knew once he got started he wouldn't want to stop."

"Xena!" Gabrielle's face turned even brighter red from embarrassment. Her hands curled into fists and her blue eyes flashed with anger. "Ares is NOT a pig and we were NOT fooling around! We weren't doing anything like that!"

"Then what were you doing?" Hercules asked.

"We were killing giant mutated jarbos!" Gabrielle blurted out. "That's what we were doing! We're going to cook them and serve them to you! The emu you're all eating is really mutated jarbo's that fall from a hole in the ceiling! OK? Are you happy now?"

The four friends at the table stared at Gabrielle in shock. They exchanged glances with each other. Hercules and Iolaus started to laugh, the Demigod pounding the table with a fist until the entire table shook.

"Oh, that's a good one, Gabrielle!" Hercules laughed. "No wonder you're such a popular bard! You have such a big imagination."

Sal started laughing, too, his triple chins quivering and he gasped for breath.

"Look, Gabrielle, you don't have to make up wild stories." Xena explained gently. "There's nothing to be embarrassed about. You and Ares are married, you're both adults. I know you kept your marriage a secret from me for a long time, but that's past. I'm not going to say bad stuff about Ares any more. I'm just glad he's not going to bother me any more for kids because he's got you now. But you don't have to be embarrassed or make up crazy stories. I've been with lots of Warlords in the past, so I know how guys are. Especially guys like Ares. They like to do that sort of thing. That's why he married you. So you should just admit the truth, like you always did before."

"But that WAS the truth!" Gabrielle insisted.

"Umm...yeah. OK." Hercules said, staring at the table top, blushing. "What ever you say, Gabrielle."

Xena rolled her eyes. "Don't tell me you get embarrassed, too! What's the matter with you people?"

Iolaus grinned at Gabrielle. "Just bring us four big plates of the emu!"

"Ahhhhggggg!" Gabrielle spun around on her heel and marched back into the kitchen. This mess was getting worst and worst! How would she ever straighten it out? It looked hopeless! She shoved the kitchen door open and hurried inside. "Do you know what that Xena accused us of?"

"No...." Ares said, surprised. Gabrielle looked angry and whatever Xena said had apparently upset her something awful. "I suppose it was something about me?"

"She tried to say you were a pig and that we were fooling around in the kitchen!" Gabrielle shouted. "How could Xena accuse me of such a thing?"

"Well, Xena lived a very wild life while she was a Warlord. I'm sure you know that." Ares replied, unsure of what to say. He did know that Gabrielle didn't do that sort of thing. She wasn't like Xena at all really. Yes, she had turned out to be a highly skilled warrior and perhaps in some ways better than Xena, but the bard didn't sleep around. Nothing at all had happened last night between them, except for her snoring keeping him awake. "I'm sure she was just thinking of what SHE would do."

"You're probably right." Gabrielle said. She glanced around the kitchen and was pleasantly surprised to see Ares had the floor and counters clean. Not a spot of jarbo blood remained on any surface. And all the jarbo had been put away, hidden from prying eyes. The pot was bubbling happily as a plump jarbo cooked, the kitchen filling with the delicious aroma. No doubt the smell would attract even more people. She headed towards the back door. "I'm going to step outside for a bit of fresh air."

"Fine with me." Ares said as he watched her go out the back door. He frowned. Sometimes Xena was just too rough on Gabrielle.

*** ***

Hercules glanced at Iolaus. "You don't think she was serious, do you?"

"Nah." Iolaus replied, but his eyes shifted towards the kitchen door. "At least, I don't think she was. Was she?"

"I better go check." Hercules told his friend as he rose from his chair and headed towards the kitchen.

"Yeah, maybe you better." Iolaus agreed. The little hunter thought of actually eating a jarbo and shivered. The idea was disgusting! Ick! But he knew Gabrielle and she would never do that to him. But Ares......

*** ***

Hercules entered the kitchen and instantly spotted his half-brother. Ares was leaning against a counter as the pot of emu cooked. The demigod's pale blue eyes shifted around but nothing looked suspicious. Except for the fact that Ares was actually IN a kitchen! Hercules stopped in front of Ares. "Do you know what Gabrielle told us?"

"No, what did she say?" Ares asked. "I do know that what Xena said upsetted her."

"She said that the emu was really mutated jarbo." Hercules watched Ares carefully, especially his dark eyes.

Ares laughed. "That's the most crazy thing I ever heard! Where would we get all these mutated jarbo, little brother? In case you don't know, I'm mortal now. I gave up my Godhood to save my wife from dying. Xena had almost killed her, hitting her in the head with her chakrom. Or didn't Xena tell you that part?"

Hercules' face paled and his eyes widened in shock. "No, she didn't."

"Well, she did. It took all my powers, every last drop to save her and Eve." Ares explained as he looked everywhere in the kitchen EXCEPT up at the hole on the ceiling. His stupid goody-goody brother was standing almost underneath it. "But I was glad to give up my powers if I could save her. I changed, Hercules. I'm not the evil God I used to be. I'm not saying I'm perfect, but I'm a lot better than what I used to be."

For once, Hercules didn't know what to say. He didn't know this Ares, who was a stranger to him. "And you really love Gabrielle?"

"I gave up my Godhood, didn't I? What more proof do you need?" Ares asked.

Hercules knew Ares must have changed a lot in order to give up his powers and immortality freely to save someone, anyone. And Xena had verified that Ares was mortal now, totally without powers.

"I'm not saying that I like being mortal, you know." Ares continued. He knew he had to throw his nosy half-brother off the trail and this was the perfect diversion. "In fact, I hate it. You actually have to walk every where, you get dirty and have to wash, eating and well, I won't even mention the other thing. It's all very disgusting, takes up lots of time and darn right annoying. Then there's pain, of course. I'm sure I'll hate that even more. Nor do I care for the idea of growing old and loosing my great looks. But it'll be worthwhile if I can spend those days with Gabrielle, you know?"

"And the jarbo thing is just a story?" Hercules asked, feeling foolish already.

"Well, Xena did embarrass her, did she not?" Ares replied.

"Umm, yeah, she did." Hercules blushed again, thinking what Xena had implied. It had been very embarrassing!

"Well, I do like to play, Little Brother." Ares grinned. He watched Hercules fidget nervously as the demigod became redder. Soon he'd be running out of the kitchen and forget all about his snooping. "And my wife does, too. She's just not ready to admit it to Xena."

"Umm.... I should be going." Hercules stuttered as he turned to leave. Just then a mutated jarbo dropped from the mysterious ceiling hole right on top of Hercules!