It was morning, and Joxer had awoken first. He lay on his side, studying Meg. He loved to watch her sleep. Joxer couldn't get over how beautiful Meg was.

Then he remembered last night. Pain tore through his heart.

Joxer felt the rage rise in him again. He wished he had been there to stop Meg's rape. It didn't matter to him if he died doing it-Joxer would have avenged Meg.

He leaned forward, looking at Meg's beautiful, peaceful face. Joxer felt a tremendous sadness and pity rise from within. Tears came to his eyes.

"Poor Meg..." he whispered. "If I could take away the pain...all the pain, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Even if it meant my life."

Joxer couldn't stand the thought of Meg's rape. He hated what the Fates had put her through. He trembled. Tears continued to roll down his cheeks. At that moment. Meg opened one pale blue eye. Her brows knitted.


Meg was soon fully awake, her face filling with worry. She quickly placed her hands on either side of Joxer's face.

"Sweetie, what's wrong?!"

Joxer took one of Meg's hands, and kissed it. He shook his head in great sadness.

"Oh Meg...You've been through so much. I-If I could just take away all your pain-"

Meg immediately reached around Joxer and hugged him tight. Joxer did the same to her. Tears came to Meg's eyes.

"Oh Joxer..." she whispered.

They held each other close. Not a word was exchanged between them for a few long moments. They took comfort in the warmth and softness of the other. Then Meg pulled back slightly. She placed her forehead on Joxer's.

"Every time you hold me Joxer, every time you make love to me, you take away my pain." Meg said, her voice quivering slightly.

Joxer swallowed hard, full of emotion.

"I-I-I do??"

"Yes." she responded softly. "You do."

Meg leaned in and brushed her lips against Joxer's. Her tongue gently requested entrance. Joxer quickly complied. They kissed each other slowly, pressing their bodies into each other. After a moment, Meg pulled back a bit, rubbing her nose against his.

"Thank you for caring." she whispered.

Joxer smiled slightly.

"You're welcome."

Meg kissed Joxer on the nose. She pulled back again, her pale blue eyes searching his brown ones.

"Make love to me." she whispered.

Joxer's brow furrowed in confusion.

"A-Are you sure?"

Meg leaned in and kissed Joxer, more firmly this time. She ran her tongue along his lips. Joxer instantly felt the ancient urges well up inside him. Meg pulled back slightly, and uttered one word.


It was all Joxer needed to hear.

It had been a long week and a half.

Joxer couldn't believe he had been able to get through all this time. But Meg and Maria, as well as the other girls in the brothel, made it possible. Joxer was deeply touched by their help. He felt particularly grateful to Maria and Meg. Despite her fearsome appearance, Maria turned out to be a very warm, down-to-earth human being. They talked for many hours. Maria told Joxer about her fights with the Persians and Romans, as well as countless other warlords she had faced. The more Maria told of her story, the more Joxer realized how similar she was to Xena. They shared a lot of pain. Maria had also told him about what she did to Timerus. Maria was in the area of King Lias's castle, and was visiting Meg at the time. When Meg told her of the rape, Maria set out to get Timerus. She knew of his whereabouts. Maria found him, castrated him and cut out his throat. Joxer couldn't help but feel a deep satisfaction at hearing this.

And Meg...Joxer's heart swelled in admiration and affection for her. The beautiful, blue-eyed brunette had gone out of her way to help Joxer get back in touch with himself. She, as always, accepted him for who he was. Outside of her beauty, it was the other thing that attracted Joxer to Meg. She never judged him. She accepted him, with his faults. Meg was one of the very, very few people he could truly be himself around. Joxer found that people like that were very precious indeed.

Meg had bought him an outfit so that he could go into town and be inconspicuous. Joxer went out on rare occasions, and it was mostly with Meg. He used the brimmed hat that Meg gave him to his advantage. To his great relief, no one paid him much attention.

As for the nightmares and panic attacks....they continued, but as Joxer forced himself to face his demons, he very slowly began to take control of things again. But it was extremely difficult, and not without setbacks. During the last few days, he actually was able to get a full night's sleep. Of course the special tea that Meg had given him that day helped. And, despite the tea's horrific taste, Joxer had been tempted quite a few times to use it to dull the pain. He gave in occasionally. But Meg and Maria were quick to point out that this was not the way to go about getting better-and that like it or not, he had to learn to face the pain without the help of things like the tea. Joxer thought about how Meg and Maria faced their private hells. He was no different. So, he made an effort to try harder.

Today, Joxer was in a good mood-better than he had been in a long, long time. He sat in the kitchen with Francisca, a pretty young redhead. Joxer was blown away at what an incredible cook she was. Joxer also found Francisca to be one of the friendliest people he had ever met. She was very affectionate, and ready to help out anyone. Joxer could see why Meg was optimistic about creating a restaurant. Francisca's enthusiasm was infectious. And she immediately loved the idea of a restaurant, when Meg suggested it to her. They had spent many hours formulating plans. Francisca was a runaway Roman slave. Her family had been killed by Roman soldiers, and she was taken prisoner. One night, a few slaves managed to escape, one of them being Francisca. Her harrowing journey took her across vast expanses of wilderness. On her way back to Meg's brothel, Maria found Francisca being attacked by some men. After defeating them, Maria brought Francisca back to Meg's place. Meg was more than happy to take her in. Joxer was amazed at Francisca's incredible tale of survival.

Now, he was leaning over Francisca's shoulder, watching her sprinkle some herbs into some sauce she was heating. The delicious smell was making Joxer dizzy. His mouth was watering. He shook his head.

"Oh c'mon Francisca! Let me have a taste!! This is torture!!"

Francisca turned abruptly towards Joxer, mock anger on her face.

"Hey-ey- EY!! Patience!"

She slowly mixed the sauce. Joxer stared at the pot, hypnotized by the smell. Francisca glanced at Joxer, and laughed.

"Gods, you're a riot, Jox!! Okay-okay. Hold on a sec."

She got a small bowl and poured some of the pot's contents into it. Francisca then got a piece of bread, and handed both to Joxer. She smirked.

"Alright already. Here! Now sit down and behave yourself."

Joxer took the food, his face beaming like that of an eager child. He sat down, and dipped the bread into the bowl. Then he took a large bite out of the bread.

"Mmmmmmmmmmm- MMM!!!"

Joxer's eyes were wide as saucers. He was blown away by this incredible sauce.


Francisca waggled her eyebrows.

"Ahhhh!! I see Joxer the Mighty likes, eh??"

Joxer's eyebrows shot to their full height.

"Likes?! Likes?! Are ya kidding?! I love this!!"

Joxer stood up. He placed a hand on Francisca's shoulder.

"Please make extra for later on. Please."

Francisca smiled warmly, and pinched Joxer's cheek.

"Anything for you."

At that moment, Meg walked into the kitchen. At seeing Joxer eagerly sniffing the contents of the pot, her right eyebrow shot up. Meg placed her hands on her hips.

"Hey!!" she exclaimed.

Joxer quickly jumped up, banging his head into pots that hung overhead.

"Ow!!" he squealed.

He rubbed his head vigorously. Francisca broke into a furious giggle. Meg marched right up to Joxer, eyeing him face to face.

"Whatcha bothering Francisca for?!"

Joxer stared at Meg, a hurt look on his face.

"Aw Meg, I-I was just trying some of her sauce!! It's great!!"

Meg rolled her eyes, and glared at Joxer.

"Jox, you forget we're going out on a picnic??"

"Pic-Jeez!! Yeah-the picnic!"

"Yeah, and I brought plenty of food. Let's go."

Meg then slapped Joxer in the butt with the palm of her hand. Joxer yelped in shock.


Meg raised her eyebrows.

"Git!! Git outta here!!"

Meg smacked him again. Joxer yelped again, jumping and hitting still more pots and pans. He simultaneously rubbed his head and buttocks, staring at Meg in surprise and fear.


Joxer rushed out of the kitchen. Francisca now broke into hysterical laughter. Meg turned to her, and winked. She smiled mischievously.

"Ya gotta keep yer men in line, ya know."

Meg left the kitchen, leaving Francisca sprawled on the table behind her, convulsing in laughter.

Joxer and Meg sat, overlooking a beautiful lake. The sun shone in all its glory through a brilliant blue sky. Joxer wanted to talk to Meg, about what he knew would be a particularly sensitive subject. On one hand, it really bothered Joxer to have Meg dig up such painful memories. On the other hand, he wanted to understand what was happening with Meg. And if possible, help her in some way. He turned to her.


Meg had just taken a bite out of a sandwich. She downed it with some port, and turned to Joxer.


Joxer looked at the ground, feeling very uncomfortable. But he pushed on.

"Um...I-I was wondering if we could have a talk about something."

Meg noticed the timid tone in Joxer's voice. Her brows knitted.

"What's up Jox?"

"I....uh, I-I was wondering if...if you don't mind...if you could tell me what happened after you left King Lias's castle."

Meg's expression darkened. She looked down at the ground, her blue eyes wandering over it nervously. Joxer moved closer to her.

"Meg, I won't judge you. You know me. I'm your friend."

Meg closed her eyes, and let out a deep sigh. Joxer placed a hand on her shoulder.

"You can trust me Meg. I won't tell anyone."

Meg turned towards Joxer, regarding him for a few moments. She placed a hand on his knee, and smiled sadly.

"I know you won't."

She looked out over the lake, her brilliant blue eyes flashing briefly in pain. Meg bit her lip, sighed, and began.

"After...what happened...I-I just couldn't stay there anymore. The memories were just too much. King Lias, Philemon, and Diana begged me to stay. But it hurt too much. I had to leave that place. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. They were so good to me...."

A tear rolled down Meg's cheek. She wiped it away. Joxer put his arm around her.

"Take your time Meg." Joxer said softly.

Meg licked her lips, looking at the ground nervously. She took a deep breath, and continued.

"K-King Lias was especially heartbroken. H-He ended up giving me some spending money, to help me get started on the outside. He told me that...that I was welcome back at the castle if I ever changed my mind, and that if I needed anything, to let him know."

More tears ran down her cheek. She wiped them away. She stared hard out into space. Joxer held her hand, gently squeezing it. She continued.

"I...uh...I left, a-and Maria wanted to come with me. I didn't want to be around anyone. She insisted. We had a big fight, and I walked out on her. I spent some time, traveling around, t-trying to find work. I looked into cooking jobs, but there weren't any. Finally, I did find one place that had an opening, but it paid very little. I worked there for a short time. I also started drinking. Little by little, I began to run out of money. And my boss was really abusive. He used to beat me. Then one day, he fired me. So..."

Meg lowered her head, her face full of shame.

"So I went back to what I was doing. Being a prostitute. There was no other work, and I-I really wasn't good at anything else...This went on for a couple of weeks. I-I was really depressed. I didn't know what to do. Then I ran into some of my old friends I used to work with, doing tricks. They told me some godawful stories about abuse they took from their pimps. That's when the idea hit me about opening my own brothel. I talked to the other girls, and they liked the idea. I had kept in touch with Maria. I arranged to meet with her. I told her my idea. She wasn't too thrilled about what I was doing, but I told her this was only temporary, until something else came along. I also wanted to help out my friends."

She sighed, and looked at Joxer.

"So, I used the money I had left over from King Lias to build this place. And here I am."

Joxer gazed at her with warmth and pity. Meg turned away from him, full of shame. A few moments passed.

"Why do you even bother with me…." she finally said in a small voice. "I'm just a stupid, worthless, good-for-nothing tramp."

Joxer's brows knitted. Anger filled his face. He grabbed Meg's chin, turning her face towards his.

"Hey!!" Joxer snapped. "I don't ever wanna hear ya call yourself that!! Got me?!"


"But nothing!!"

Meg jumped, startled by Joxer's harshness. His brown eyes bored into her blue ones. Meg recoiled slightly in fear. Joxer was not going to have any of this. He grabbed her shoulders and pulled Meg close to him.

"Now you shut up and listen to me Meg. You mean something. You have a purpose. You're not trash. You're a human being. A wonderful human being with a big heart. Someone I'm proud to call my friend and someone I really care deeply about. I don't care about what you've done. You're a good person. No-a great person And I think it's high time you realized that."

Meg stared at Joxer, stunned, not knowing what to say. Joxer released her and sat back, raising his eyebrows to their full height.

"Whatsa matter Meg?? Can dish it out, but can't take it?? Hmmm??"

Meg raised her right eyebrow as high as it could go.


"Weren't you giving me the same treatment when I said I was a worthless, warrior-wanna-be??"

Meg's brows knitted. She looked down at the ground for a few moments, silent. Then her blue eyes searched Joxer's face, full of anxiety and vulnerability.

"You really care about me that much, Joxer?"

Joxer placed a hand on her face, smiling warmly.

"More than you'll ever know."

Meg slowly broke into a huge grin. She shook her head is amazement and gratitude.

"Thank the gods I met you."

Joxer and Meg then embraced each other, losing themselves in a deep kiss.

Night time, once again.

Meg tucked herself under the covers, snoring softly. Joxer looked up at the ceiling. His now-familiar fear was still there. But over the course of the past week and a half, Joxer had slowly built up the courage to face sleep. The nightmares were still there, but he was able to control himself better. It was time to face yet another battle with Morpheus.

"Give it yer best shot, Morpheus." whispered Joxer in determination. "I'm ready for ya."

In a short time, Joxer soon fell asleep...

A familiar terrain soon appeared...

Corpses scattered about. On the ground and on endless crosses. Pools and lakes of blood dotting the area around him. The sickening smell of rotting flesh assaulting his nostrils.

"Hey, killer."

Joxer turned around. It was Criton. He stood there, knife in his chest, smirking. The warlord shook his head.

"You really think you can get over me, huh?"

Joxer walked up to him, eyeing him steadily.

"I can keep you under control. I can keep myself under control."

Criton's eyes widened slightly.

"Oh! Really??"

He drew the knife out of his chest, and suddenly flung it to his right. It flew through the air-

And into Meg's chest.

She cried out in agony and dropped to her knees. Her blue eyes were dilated. Blood exploded from the wound. Meg fell first-face into the ground. Joxer's eyes bulged in terror.


Joxer turned towards Criton. Rage erupted inside him. With a deafening cry, Joxer threw a vicious right at him. His fist connected hard with the warlord's jaw. Criton's head snapped back, blood and teeth exploding from his mouth. Joxer then threw a left. More blood and teeth flowed forth. Joxer began throwing a dizzying combination of lefts and rights into Criton's face. Rivers of blood flowed. Fleshy, rotted teeth flew through the air. He kept pounding relentlessly into Criton's face-

And then Joxer suddenly stopped. He moved back, shaking. Criton staggered back a few steps, and slowly straightened up. His battered, bloody, nearly toothless face stared at Joxer in surprise.

"That's it? You're just gonna stop?! I just killed your girlfriend!!"

Joxer closed his eyes, and clenched his teeth.

"This..." he hissed, " a dream..."

Criton's face became full of rage. He rushed up to Joxer, and sent a ferocious right into his jaw. Joxer flew through the air, crashing into the ground. Criton's eyes were wide with fury.

"Was that a dream, dumbass?!"

Joxer slowly sat up. He spat out blood, and several teeth. Joxer shook his head, and began to chuckle. Criton rushed up to him, towering over Joxer like a gargantuan, armored mountain.

"What's so goddamn funny?!" Criton snarled.

Joxer looked up at him, sneering.


With lightning speed, Criton grabbed Joxer by his neck and lifted him into the air. Joxer's feet dangled over the ground. Criton snarled savagely.

"Still laughing, dumbass?!"

Joxer eyed Criton calmly.

"You're not real. You don't exist."

Criton released Joxer. He dropped onto his feet. Criton eyed Joxer heatedly.

"I do exist!! In... HERE!!"

He tapped his fingers hard into Joxer's skull for emphasis. Criton then walked around Joxer, glaring at him in disgust.

"Ya think that stupid tea you drink's gonna help?!" Criton chided venomously. "Ya think knocking up that bitch Meg's gonna take your mind off what you did?! You think talking to your stupid friends is gonna help?! Well, it AIN'T!!"

Criton rushed up to Joxer, nose to nose with him.

" in you. part of you. All this Joxer the Mighty bullshit don't mean a goddamned thing. You killed me. And now, ya gonna hafta deal with me for the rest...of...your... life."

Joxer eyed Criton steadily.

"Then I will."

He turned around and began to walk away from the warlord. Criton's jaw dropped down in shock.

"What the-"

He ran out in front of Joxer, and approached him with fury. Criton poked him hard in the chest with his finger. Joxer staggered back. Criton moved forward, finger raised.










Criton drew his right fist back, and it snapped forward like a cobra. But Joxer caught it in his hand. He eyed Criton calmly.

"I know I can't." he replied. "And I don't plan to. Not anymore."

Joxer pushed Criton's fist away. He walked past him. Criton stared at Joxer, dumbfounded. Joxer stopped for a moment, and turned towards the warlord. He smiled slightly.

"See you tomorrow night." he said simply.

And with that, Joxer walked into a white fog, and disappeared.

Joxer dug his face into the pillow. He saw the sun shine through his eyelids, but he didn't want to get up. It felt chilly, and the bed was too comfortable.

Then all of a sudden, he smelled bacon. The strong, delicious smell of bacon. Then he noticed the sun was blocked out by a dark form that appeared in front of it. Joxer opened one eye...

And saw a very attractive pair of legs, their skin creamy-white. He followed the legs up, to a thin pair of black panties. Joxer began to get aroused.

His eyes continued the journey, past the hard, flat stomach to the gentle swell of two sizable breasts. They jutted out invitingly, partially hidden by the purple nightgown that wrapped around part of the supple, sensuous body. Finally, he saw the woman's head, covered with long, jet-black hair. Two sapphire eyes gazed curiously at him, the beautiful, delicate mouth turned up in a crooked grin. Her right eyebrow was raised to its full height. The beautiful woman spoke.


A devilish smile appeared on Joxer's face. He reached out, cupped Meg's buttocks, and drew her close. Joxer began kissing and licking Meg's stomach. Meg gasped in surprise and excitement.


Joxer nuzzled Meg's stomach.

"You offered breakfast." he mumbled against her soft skin.

Joxer kneaded Meg's buttocks, kissing and licking her stomach. Meg's breath started to become short and rapid. As much as she was enjoying this, Meg, much to her disappointment, had to make Joxer stop. She had to go out. Meg gently, but firmly began to push Joxer away.


Joxer finally let go. He looked at Meg, hurt. Meg pouted.

"I'm sorry sweetie."

Joxer crossed his arms, and looked away from Meg.

"No. You're being mean. You just like to tease me."

Meg's lips curled up into a sly grin. She picked up a piece of bacon from the nearby table and climbed into bed, straddling Joxer's hips. Joxer stared at Meg, rolling his eyes.

"Aw Meg!! Why do ya torture me like this?!"

"Because you love it."

Joxer smirked, shaking his head. Meg raised her eyebrows.


Joxer pouted. He reluctantly opened his mouth, and Meg fed Joxer the bacon. Joxer then slowly sucked on Meg's fingers. Meg gasped slightly at this, and let her fingers linger a little longer in his mouth. Then she pulled them out. Meg smiled mischievously.

"You're just as bad as I am!!"

Joxer grinned.

"Maybe badder!!"

He grabbed Meg's shoulders, and pulled her to him. Joxer kissed Meg hard, his tongue demanding entrance. Meg quickly gave in, and the two were kissing each other deeply. Meg moaned into Joxer's mouth, pressing into him. Then, she felt some fingers move aside her panties in front. Moments later, a wet hardness plunged into her. Meg broke the kiss and cried out in ecstasy. Joxer pulled back the nightgown and wrapped his mouth around a hardened brown nipple, sucking it in as deep as possible. He clutched Meg's buttocks and pressed her down onto him, impaling Meg even more. Meg rocked against him, moaning and whimpering. She held Joxer tight against her body. Soon, the lovers climaxed simultaneously. They cried out as wave after wave of pleasure ripped through their bodies. Joxer fell back against the bedpost, pulling Meg with him. He continued to suck on Meg's breast. Meg held his head in place, enjoying the attention Joxer was lavishing on her breast. But to her disappointment, Meg remembered she had to go. Meg kissed the top of his head.

"Joxie..." she whispered.


"Honey...I gotta go."

Joxer pulled back slightly. He frowned.

"Breakfast is over?!"

Meg nodded sadly.

"I'm afraid so."

She sat back, straddling Joxer's legs. Meg grasped Joxer's hands, holding them in her lap. She smiled warmly at Joxer. He returned the smile.

"Think I can have the same thing for lunch?" asked Joxer.

Meg stared at him, wide-eyed.


"And for dinner?!

Meg tilted her head back and laughed heartily. She placed her hands on either side of Joxer's face.

"For you sweetie, anything."

Meg leaned towards Joxer. The two exchanged a slow, gentle kiss. Meg pulled back. Joxer's brows knitted in curiosity.

"Going food shopping?"

Meg nodded.


"Gotta get a lot of stuff?"

Fair amount."

"How long will ya be?"

Meg shrugged.

"Dunno. An hour, maybe."

Joxer placed his hands on Meg's legs, rubbing them gently. He enjoyed the feel of her silky skin. Meg raised an eyebrow, and grinned.

"Joooooxxxxxeeeeerrr..." she said in a sing-song voice.

Joxer's brows knitted.


"Now, you're teasing me. And I said, breakfast is over."

"What?! Y-You mean, no snack??"

Meg shook her head.


Joxer face grew more devastated.

"N-Not even a crumb?? N-N-Not even a sweet little crumb??? Please-can't I have at least that?????""


Joxer frowned deeply. He pouted, looking down at the bed.

"You're mean. I don't like you any more."

Now it was Meg's turn to pout.

"You don't??"

Joxer shook his head.

"Uh-uh. Nope. And you can't change my mind either."

Meg raised an eyebrow. A wicked smile crossed her face.

"Oh reeeally??" she purred saucily.

Joxer trembled at the sound of Meg's voice. He looked up, and Meg suddenly gave him a hard, demanding kiss. She grabbed Joxer's crotch and held it as Joxer instantly grew aroused again. His member pressed firmly into the palm of Meg's hand. Meg swirled her tongue around and around in Joxer's mouth and finally, she pulled away, leaving Joxer completely breathless and slightly dizzy. Joxer's head fell back against the board.

"Gods..." he gasped.

Meg leaned next to his ear, slowly massaging his crotch.

"Now…" she hissed. "…this is a taste of things to come, if you behave. I'll be gone for a while. Be ready at noon. Another picnic. And you'll get this, and a lot more. Got it?"

Joxer nodded his head erratically.


Meg smiled against his ear and licked it.

"Good boy."

Meg quickly pulled away, rolled off the bed and walked to the door. She turned to Joxer, flashing a brilliant smile.

"Gotta get dressed. Bye sweetie. Enjoy your bacon."

Meg left the room. Joxer stared at the door in a daze.

"Man..." he gasped. "That woman's gonna kill me."

Then Joxer smiled. It wouldn't be such a bad way to die.

Part 5