I wrote this when I was JUST out of school. Seriously. It's never been beta'd and I really remember only one review, where someone asked me why Caenus/Caenis died the way he/she did… and the answer is 'That's what happened in the myth.' I tried to keep true to both the show as well as the ancient myths. But this is pretty sophomoric.
Disclaimers: I own nothing. I made up no one. Argus, Caenus/Caenis, the Gods, etc, belong to everyone. This version of Hercules and Iolus, as well as Xena, Gabrielle, Joxer etc belong to whomever owns Xena. This takes place sometime in the end of the 2nd season. After "Return of Callisto" and "Comedy of Eros."
There was one small thing with which Xena did not like about being 'good.' She didn't mind the jokes from all the other warlords, she didn't mind the ostracism of those same people (for Zeus' sake, it wasn't as if they were good company either). What she minded was that it was extremely difficult to get some personal time.
For instance, Xena and Gabrielle had decided to go swimming today. It was a peaceful day, and with no wrongs to right, the warrior had the strange idea that some relaxation was in order. Certainly Gabrielle had been agreeable to the idea, and after finding enough fish to satisfy the bard's bottomless pit known as a stomach, the pair had started to horse around.
"Xena," Gabrielle grinned as she swam across the lake, "I bet I can beat you across the lake." Sighing, Xena knew she couldn't, but it was always fun to play around, so to speak. Of course Gabrielle got a bit of a lead. "Just from here to that rock." The warrior nodded and treaded water, agreeing to the race, and forming her own plan in mind.
And Gabrielle took off, Xena waiting a moment before starting her chase. Swimming was a skill she was very good at, and took of after the bard with little difficulty. It was inevitable, they both had to know, that Xena would catch Gabrielle. No doubt Gabrielle was counting on it. But Xena was very sure that Gabrielle wasn't counting on how Xena was going to catch her.
You didn't travel for over two years with a woman and not know where she was ticklish. For example, Gabrielle's feet were very ticklish (something Xena had learned when giving Gabrielle a foot massage after a particularly long hike). It was so easy for Xena to grab Gabrielle's kicking feet and trap them for a solid tickle. Thrashing, the bard tried to free herself and only managed to turn around into Xena's strong grasp.
Then there was a bit more rough-housing (splashing, chasing and playing ... tag) before things settled down into a very enjoyable and relaxing afternoon (even if Gabrielle complained that being drowned wasn't a turn on). The another swim to wash off, and a fish fry.
And there they had been, relaxing together. Xena checking the joins on her leathers, Gabrielle fussing over some scrolls, and the sun only a small ways past Zenith. A nice, calm, slow day. Pausing in the sharpening of her sword, Xena looked up and over to one side. There was something there. Much to Xena's delight, Gabrielle noticed something as well and looked at the warrior.
Raising a finger to her lips, Xena put down her whet-stone and stood in an easy motion. "Wait here," she mouthed to Gabrielle, and moved slowly towards the edge of the trees. Checking, once, on Gabrielle, Xena was gratified to see the bard picking her staff up and looking off to one side. She knew Gabrielle would wait, and wait prepared. Following the noises, Xena caught a glimpse of garish purple and light yellow. Both were out of place and she sighed.
Now that she knew who it was, Xena walked back to Gabrielle, who look up, inquisitively. "Some friends," muttered Xena, and she sat next to Gabrielle. The bard blinked and grinned, kissing Xena's cheek quickly. Arching an eyebrow, Xena smiled, "Oh and what'll they think now?" And what did Xena care? Not like she couldn't hold her own against the pair.
With a shrug, Gabrielle put her staff down and smiled back. "Well maybe if I knew who they were I'd worry more," drawled the bard. 'They' made a bit more noise, and there was an audible yelp following a smack. "Oh… them." The two women grinned and looked over at the noise, and watched Hercules and Iolaus walk out of the forest. "Hi guys, come over for dinner?"
Hercules smiled and shook his head, and Iolaus butted in before the demi-god could speak, "Only if you're cooking, Gabrielle." That brought a smirk from both Xena and Hercules. Everyone knew cooking was not one of Lena's many skills. "Actually, we're here on business." The two men sat down across from the two women and looked at each other.
It was the taller of the men who spoke, "Xena, you know King Shorhan?" Nodding slowly, Xena leant back. There went her plans for the next two days. "He's marrying the daughter of King Tarelan of Acacia." Of the neighboring kingdom. A marriage like that would help bring peace between the kingdoms, and that was good.
"They're in love I take it," Xena said, in her dry 'I'm a warlord' voice (that was what Gabrielle called it, and Xena caught the woman grinning at her as Xena spoke). Of course they were, "So what's the problem?" The daughter, Carillona, had been kidnapped and Shorhan had disappeared. "And you can't rescue her because..." It was easy to guess which half of the problem Hercules hoped she'd tackle.
Sighing, Iolaus picked up the thread, "Because Hera kidnapped her." Oh. The last thing Hercules needed was his stepmother (however that actually worked, those Gods...) mad at him about another thing. "And while you're getting Carillona, Herc and I will be trying to find Shorhan." It was already assumed that Gabrielle and Xena would go. How nice.
Now it was Gabrielle's turn, "Let me guess, King Tarelan thinks Shorhan kidnapped his daughter?" The men nodded, "And the rest of Shorhan' people think that Tarelan is faking the daughter's kidnapping and are responsible for Shorhan's disappearance?" The two men nodded again and Gabrielle looked at Xena, "I guess I know what we're doing tonight..." The warrior nodded, minutely.
Checking her sword, Xena asked, "Where is she being held? Any ideas?" Looking flustered, Hercules tried to avoid the answer, "Hercules..." Then he told her, and Xena stared, "Hera's holding her where!"
The Garden of Hesperides. A lovely place, and quiet. But as Xena relentlessly reminded Gabrielle, appearances weren't everything. After circling the place, Xena asked Gabrielle what she knew about Argus. "Argus? The boat-maker or..." Or the man with 1000 eyes.. or 100. No one had ever really bothered to count them. At Xena's even nod, Gabrielle winced. This wasn't going to be easy.
Drawling in that lazy manner, Xena said, "The man with 100 eyes." Okay, so maybe Xena had counted them, Gabrielle wouldn't put it past her warrior. And where in Hades would you fit 1000 eyes on a human body. It would be rather cramped. Stopping her mind from wandering, Gabrielle racked it for an answer.
"A long time ago Hera took one of her greatest warriors and made him a guard. His name was Argus, and he was a skilled fighter, with the stamina of a God. He and Caeneus were sent to guard her personal temple. Hera gave him 100 eyes. This, with the ability to rest half his body at once, made him the perfect guard."
That was all anyone really knew about Argus. No one could sneak by him, and Caeneus was immortal and un-harmable. They were a perfect duo. "Caeneus...isn't that the man who the woman Caenis became?" You had to have perfect tonality to say the names differently, and great ears to hear it. Thankfully Xena had both, and Gabrielle had pretty good ears.
It was no time for levity, but still, the tale of Caenis, or Caenus, was rather amusing. "That's right. Poseidon, he fell in love with Caenis, because she was very beautiful." Xena sniffed and said that was about standard for the gods, "Hey, I don't interrupt you in a battle, Warrior Princess," retorted Gabrielle, a bit miffed.
Chastised, Xena smiled, "No, you don't, Bard and Amazon Princess." The warrior turned to face Gabrielle, "Can you forgive me, or should I take my life?" They both smiled, no reason to be dry and serious all the time.
And no reason to give Xena another reason to toss Gabrielle into a stream. "Anyway, oh mighty warrior, Poseidon granted Caenis one wish, anything. She wished to be a mighty male warrior." To which Xena scoffed, "Hey, it wouldn't be MY wish. So he granted it, with an added gift."
Xena nodded, "Immortality...Well if we can get past Argus and Caenus, then we'll simply rescue the girl and get back in time for the wedding." Like it was that simple. "Immortal...No Lava around here..." Xena paused and got a glint in her eyes. Gabrielle cringed. Anytime Xena had a look like that, it meant a plan Gabrielle wasn't going to like. "Trust me..."
Sighing, Gabrielle shook her head, "What about Argus?" Xena shrugged and said maybe they'd have to put him to sleep. Gabrielle stopped in her tracks and smiled ear to ear. "Oh, is that all?" Arching an eyebrow, Xena looked doubtful. "Trust me," Gabrielle smiled.
He stood tall and proud. He was the elite. Hera had chosen him because he was the best. No one could sneak by him. Those two women this morning, he had seen then, but they were just tourists. A lot of them walked by to see the gardens, and there was no reason to pay them much attention. Out of the corner of one eye, Argus saw something.
The benefits of having 100 eyes meant he didn't have to move much to get a clear view. The something was a young woman. Familiar, but not in any bad way. As she walked up, Argus took a long look at her. Not bad looking, a bit on the cute and young side, and a redhead. He'd much rather a brunette. An a taller one at that. "Whew!" The woman walked right up to him and smiled.
Argus arched 250 eyebrows, which in his case was the same as just one in a normal human. "Can I help you, m'lady?" Hera always got upset if he wasn't polite. For all Argus knew, this young woman was Hera in disguise. Gods did that, you know. The young woman smiled and sat down, saying she needed to take a rest. "You are welcome to rest here, but I can not let you inside."
Blinking, the woman looked past Argus. "Inside? Why? Do you have something special in there?" Gruffly, Argus said it was Hera's special garden. "Ohhh THIS is the Garden of Hesperidies? Very nice. So you must be Argus?" It was rather hard to mistake him for anyone else. "100 or 1000?"
Argus arched 50 eyebrows. The 50 awake eyes blinked. "100 or 1000 what?" It was a question that was lost on Argus. Elaborating, the woman said eyes, and took a boot off. "Oh. One hundred." What an odd question. It was followed by another. "No, as long as I can rest some of my eyes, I do not need to sleep." Questions, she must be a priestess or a bard.
As the woman rubbed her foot, she smiled, "Really? So can I try out a few tales on you." She was a bard. Tales? "I'm sure you get very lonely here." It was true, and it HAD been a while since Argus had heard any good yarns. He tended to scare a lot of bards off. "So did you hear the one about how Xena and Hercules rescued Prometheus?" Canes had mentioned a new warrior named Xena. It was a woman's name, but Argus had decided not to mention that. With interest, Argus listened.
The first tale was riveting, and had most of Argus' attention. Thankfully only two eyes were watching the bard, and he was wide awake with the other 48. Nothing would pass by him. He decided this might be a test of Hera. The second tale was more demure, but still interesting. The third was a even quieter and Argus felt himself relaxing.
"Bard, do you not know anymore action tales?" The woman blinked, and said she did, but how often did she get the chance to tell the quiet ones to people who couldn't fall asleep. "Well … this is true." He couldn't very well admit to any limitation like that. "Still, another adventure tale, or be on your way, Bard." The woman nodded and smiled, starting off into another story.
But even this adventure was causing Argus to grow tired. One by one his eyes began to close. He yawned. Forcing his 50 eyes to stay open. Then he tried to , he was amazed when he found it difficult to open his other 50. They did not wish to open either. Panic. He wanted to stay awake...but the Bard...She was so calming, and gentle, and kind... her voice soothed his fears away, relaxed him...His mind realized what she was doing a moment too late.
Argus, man of 100 eyes, man who never slept, was asleep.
As the last eye closed, Gabrielle kept talking, just like Xena told her too. Waiting, patiently, Xena stayed perfectly still until Gabrielle pulled her boot back on. "Well?" Smiling, the bard gestured to the man. Carefully, Xena waved a hand in front of 75 eyes. "I told you I could do it."
Smiling, Xena rested an arm around Gabrielle's shoulders, "I had no doubt, Gabrielle, that you could talk anyone to sleep." Gesturing inside, Xena handed Gabrielle the shovel, "Now lets get started, Caenus is sure to notice something."
With a sigh, Gabrielle hefted the shovel, "You know, a princess shouldn't have to do this..." Arching an eyebrow, Xena said that if Gabrielle had another suggestion, she was open to hear it. "I suppose going and getting a Gorgon head and turning him to stone is out of the question?" It was far fetched and Xena exhaled in an almost snort. "Right, I know. Dig." The bard sighed and set to it.
His post was never left unguarded. Even when he slept, Caenus knew that Argus would wake him. Just as he always woke Caenus when the sun hit Zenith. Except today. "Argus!" Roaring, Caenus stormed out of his quarters. It was far after midday, and if he hadn't smelt the food for dinner being prepared, no doubt Caenus would have slept the whole day. "We have a DEAL oh all-seeing one."
Adjusting his belt, Caenus paused by a reflective shield. He was as stunning as he had been as a woman. Even more so now. His chest rippled, tanned and muscular. The black 'skirt' he wore ended at his knees, much like a Greek's long tunic, but with no top. Instead, he had a leather strap across his chest, resting on one broad shoulder. A stunning masterpiece of a man. Yes, Poseidon had done well. A handsome warrior and invulnerable. and invulnerable
"ARGUS!" Where was the man! He never let Caenus sleep in, and in return, Caenus would always eat with Argus. Something the lonely man enjoyed. "Where are you and who are you?" Not missing a beat, Caenus grabbed his sword beat, Caenus grabbed his spear and pointed it at the shadows. There was someone there. Two someones. One was very quiet, one was trying very hard.
The quiet one unfolded from the shadows. Dark leather, dark hair, and the most beautiful blue eyes Caenus had ever see. "Well well well," pulling up his spear, Caenus leant on it. "Are you a gift from Hera?" Reaching out towards the darkly clad woman, Caenus regarded her weaponry. A sword, a round...object and probably a few others tucked away. "Or Ares...Still..."
Touching the warrior's chin (for that was the only thing she could be), Caenus looked past her to see a smaller woman. Blonde, shorter, not a sister, but there was some bond between them. "We're here for Carillona," growled the warrior. Caenus arched his eyebrows. Spirited. But no woman could be a warrior. That was why he'd had Poseidon make him a man.
Still, she was intriguing. "Why? When you could have ... me." The woman had a look of disgust cross her face. "Oh? Maybe that eye-popping man out there is more your speed..." Caenus looked out to the gateway and froze. Argus...was asleep? The spear came back up and touched the warrior woman's throat, "What did you do to him?" Snarling, Caenus felt the rage of battle warming within him,
To his surprise, the woman smiled a slow smile. As if she knew she was better than he was. Better than HE! Hardly! "Nothing, compared to what I'm going to do to you," she purred, and backhanded Caenus. Caught off guard, the blow sent him back a step.
But it didn't hurt. Laughing, Caenus looked at her. "Don't you know who I am? Your puny after midday, and if he hadn't been awakened by the repairs being done outside't you know who I am? You puny mortal, you can't hurt me!" Swinging his own fist, Caenus planned to send the mortal woman the next phase of the moon. But the woman had moved, and he met empty air. Even the silent blonde had vanished.
"Out here, hot stuff." She was mocking him. "What? Two women to fast for you?" Roaring, Caenus raced into the courtyard and stared at her. The warrior was smiling. Who was she? "I'm Xena." Xena was a woman? It was true? "And you, are dead." She drew her sword and turned it in the fashion of a skilled warrior.
She was a fool, and Caenus charged her, drawing his own sword. A clanging of metal and she... she deflected his attack! No, it was impossible! Caenus swung again, a more clever move, feinted to one side, then rushing on the other. But this... Xena wasn't fooled. But this... Xena wasn't fooled, and parried. "You can't hurt me," Caenus reminded her, but Xena simply asked if that was all he had?
Angered at this woman, Caenus leapt towards her. Swinging with all his might, all his rage, that a WOMAN would beat the mighty Caenus, upset him more than even. But Xena stepped aside. Something sharply hard hit his the back of knees and Caenus tumbled forward. "Gabrielle! Now!" Now? Now what-brielle! Now!" Now? Now what? As he hit the ground, he realized what they were doing.
Looking up, Caenus paled and screamed out. "NO!" But there was no chance. Dirt thundered down upon hims. Dirt thundered down upon him. Burying him alive! The air was getting thin! The The air was getting thin! "NO!" He clawed at the dirt, it was getting dark, he couldn't see...but he could feel. Something was happening. His hands were changing. His chest felt different. His legs, hips... He ... was Caenis!
Above ground, where no one could hear Caenis' shrill scream of death, Xena made sure the stones were secure over the ground. Looking on, Gabrielle chirruped, "Poseidon isn't going to like this, you know." Scoffing, Xena turned to head back inside, saying that she didn't appreciate having her holiday ruined. Smiling, the bard reached for Xena's arm. "We'll find a way, Xena. When no one's around."
Patting Gabrielle's hand, Xena sighed, "It's not easy. Sometimes I wish I was still an evil warlord..." Gabrielle suggested the 'look'. "Yeah, but it doesn't work on Hercules and Iolaus...Come on. Let's get Carillona and get out of here." No matter what, Xena was still in a fould mood.
And she what, Xena was still in a foul remained in the dark mood even after the wedding of Carillona and Shoran/wedding of Carillona and Shoran. "Xena, can't you even smile?" Hercules grinned, both watching as Gabrielle and Iolaus danced. "I mean, you defeated two of the most dangerous foes, you rescued Carillona, and the wedding's a success." He smiled.
Toying with her ale mug, Xena sighed, "Hercules, I've been trying to take a break from all this... Just me, the forest... relax. It's not healthy to be so... wound up all the time." She looked up at the demi-god, who was surprised. "What?"
Hercules smiled, "Nothing, it's just I don't think of you taking it easy... where do you go?" She liked to go to forests, where it was quiet and secluded, and she could be with Gabrielle alone. "I can understand that, I suppose. She's a wonderful woman." Sipping her ale, Xena smiled.
"She certainly is, Hercules... Look, can I ask you a favor?" The bigger man nodded, slowly. "Do you think, that for maybe the next ten days or so, you could manage to forget I'm in the area? You know, tell people I'm in Palestine or something?" He laughed and clapped Xena's shoulder in the roughly familiar grasp.
Drinking his own ale, Hercules smiled, "I can forget you're around for twenty days if you want, Xena. You deserve some time off. Maybe you could go see your mother?" Probably not, Cyrene and Xena still had a touchy relationship. "Just go and relax, I'm sure Iolaus and I can take care of anything that comes up."
It really wasn't that often that Xena asked anything of her friends, and she was glad Hercules knew it. "Thanks, Hercules." Looking over, Xena smiled as Gabrielle and Iolaus ended a fast dance and came over. Spinning himself into a seat, Iolaus laughed and "Having fun?"into a seat, Iolaus laughed and said yes. In turn Gabrielle In turn, Gabrielle spun herself into Xena's lap, draping an arm across the warrior's broad shoulders.
"Well it is some fun, you ought to try it fun, you ought to try it someday." Chuckling, Xena put an arm around Gabrielle's waist, intending to move her to the seat beside her. But Gabrielle all but snuggled into that arm and smiled, "You're comfortable, Xena. Don't move."
Rolling her eyes, Xena argued she wasn't a pillow. Then she caught Hercules and Iolaus smiling at each other. "You know, you two ought to take that back up to a room," teased Iolaus. "Or a dark corner." Xena sighed and gave up, complaining about mothers.
Hercules smiled, "I know what you mean, Xena." Looking meaningfully at Iolaus, the big warrior stood up. "Come on, I think I saw Xena leaving the party early, didn't you, Iolaus?" Xena had to smile at the men, and nudged Gabrielle. Both partners caught on swiftly and nodded, saying goodbyes with hugs, and sneaking out.
The glade was quiet and peaceful, Gabrielle nestled next to Xena on the warm summer night. "So you asked Hercules to forget where we were?" Xena nodded, idly tracing her fingers up and down Gabrielle's bare back. "That's so sweet, Xena," murmured Gabrielle.
The warrior hmmed, softly, and slid her hand up to toy with Gabrielle's hair, "It was that or threaten him... I swear, even us old warlords need a vacation." Giggling, Gabrielle asked if she always took a break from her plunders. Xena smirked and slid her hand back down Gabrielle's back, in a more seductive manner, "Do you really want to find out."
Gabrielle smiled and turned her face up to kiss Xena. There was no argument from the warrior, and things were starting to go rather well when Xena suddenly froze. "Xena?" Shushing Gabrielle, Xena's eyes looked beyond the bard for a moment. Then she muttered a curse and leant back against their bedroll. "Tunics?" Someone was there... again.
Handing over one of her own tunics, Xena nodded, "Unless you want to give an old friend a surprise..." Joxer? Oh Gods, Gabrielle hoped not. She didn't hate Joxer, but she wanted a vacation just as much as Xena. The tunic was, like all of Xena's, far too long for Gabrielle. But they all lingered of leather, and that Xena smell. The last thing she wanted was another lovesick puppy
There was a jangling of noise and a short, chubby man stumbled into the glade. Not Joxer. "Xena, thank the Gods I've found you! Hi, Gabrielle." Glancing at Xena, Gabrielle saw the icey look of annoyance cross Xena's face. Poor Salmoneus. He was in for it now. "I need your help. Do you know how long it took me to find you? Why someone would think that you were hiding, listen..."
With a sigh, Gabrielle moved to brew some tea. Well, at least they'd had two afternoons...