Joxer sat in bed next to Meg, his arm around her. He
tenderly kissed the side of her head, and whispered soothing words into her
ear. Meg sat, staring straight ahead, a blank look on her face. An angry bruise
had formed under her left eye. Maria was finishing with the cast. The other
women stood nearby, their faces full of grief. A couple of them wept silently.
Maria winced as she remembered the blood-curdling scream Meg released when she
reset the arm. Meg's cry of anguish ripped through her heart like a white-hot
knife. She also remembered Joxer's reaction. He could not stop crying, and he
desperately tried to calm Meg down, to no avail. A black fury churned inside
Maria. She was determined to make Stamrus pay for what he did to Meg. And to Joxer.
Maria looked at Meg, her hazel eyes tender and overflowing with sympathy.
"Meg? Sweetheart? I'm gonna wrap part of the sling around your neck, okay?"
Meg didn't respond. She continued to stare straight ahead, her face impassive. Joxer, however, pulled back and nodded the go-ahead to Maria. Maria delicately placed part of the sling around Meg's neck, and lifted her hair so that it would cover it. Joxer continued to hold Meg's hand.
"Everything's gonna be okay Meg." he said softly. "Everything's gonna be okay."
Maria pulled back a bit. She tenderly stoked Meg's bruised cheek. Tears came to Maria's eyes.
"I'm done, baby." she said, her voice quivering. "I'm done. Rest now."
Still no response from Meg. Joxer's insides were screaming in pain at what he had to do next. He took a deep, shaky breath, and spoke.
"Meg...I-I-I...I gotta go."
Meg's hand suddenly gripped Joxer's in an iron vise. Joxer gasped at the pain that shot through his hand. He stared at Meg in alarm. Meg continued to stare straight ahead. Her eyebrows went up slightly. Then she spoke.
"No." Meg said simply.
"I gotta go...I-I can't stay here."
Meg kept staring ahead.
"No. I won't let you go."
Maria knelt down by Meg. Tears ran down her face.
"Meg, honey, it's too dangerous for Joxer to stay here now!! Stamrus will be back with more men!!"
Meg slowly shook her head. She kept staring ahead, her face seemingly impassive. But tears began to flow down her cheeks.
"I don't want him to go. I don't."
Joxer leaned in towards Meg, his face full of love and sympathy.
"Meg, I'll be back." he said with utmost sincerity. "I promise I will."
The impassive mask fell away. Meg kept staring ahead, but great pain and grief rushed across her features. She shook her head erratically.
"No!! No you won't!! You'll never come back!! They'll kill you!!"
Meg turned abruptly towards Joxer, her blue eyes wide with soul-searing terror. She instantly wrapped her arm around Joxer and hugged him in a bone-crushing hug. Meg buried her face in Joxer's neck and wept hysterically. Joxer had never felt so helpless in his life. More than anything in the world, he wanted to stay by Meg's side. But current events had made this impossible. He knew it. And Meg knew it.
Joxer slowly began to pull away from Meg. Meg would have none of it. Her grip became tighter. Joxer grimaced in pain.
"Let go Meg." he muttered harshly.
"No!!" came the frantic answer.
Joxer had enough. He pulled away with all his might.
Joxer ripped himself out of Meg's grasp, almost yanking her off the bed. Meg grabbed at empty air, her blue eyes filled with anguish.
"No!! NOOOO!!" she screamed. "DON'T LEAVE ME!!! NOOOOO!!!!! OHHHHH GAAWDS NOOOOOO!!!!!! NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!"
Maria forcibly took Meg into her arms and held her close. Meg screamed and screamed, punching and trying to push away Maria. But Maria wouldn't budge. Meg soon collapsed into her arms, and wailed hysterically. The agony roiling through Joxer's insides was too much. He couldn't handle it anymore. He rushed out of the bedroom, downstairs and into the tavern. And soon, the agony inside Joxer was replaced with a blinding, seething rage. He raised his head to the ceiling.
Joxer began to smash everything in sight. He picked up a chair, and swung it down with all his might into the top of the bar. It disintegrated into kindling. He picked up a table and tossed it into a large mirror, shattering it. Joxer picked up yet another chair. He smashed this one into a table. It exploded into pieces, the table collapsing under the impact. Joxer continued, until he had destroyed just about whatever chairs and tables were left. He spun to his right-
And saw his reflection. In a mirror.
Joxer stared at it. His brown eyes widened in fury.
He darted towards the mirror, and threw a vicious right at it. The mirror disintergrated into a shower of flying glass. Joxer continued ramming his fist into the spot, screaming at the top of his lungs. Blood soon flowed from his fist. But Joxer didn't care. Soon, the powerful blows were ripping open a hole in the wall. More splinters dug into his flesh, along with the shards of glass already present. Joxer just did not care. His agony and rage were too much. Finally, exhaustion took over, and Joxer fell against the wall he was hitting. He turned towards the stairwell. Several of Meg's women stood there, staring at Joxer in fear. Suddenly, Maria pushed past them. At seeing Joxer and his raised, mangled fist, her eyes widened in shock.
"No...!!" she gasped.
Joxer fell to the ground and wept bitterly. Maria rushed over to him and instantly sat at his side. She held him close, kissing the top of his head and rocking him gently. Maria looked up and saw the bloody spot where Joxer had repeatedly thrown his fist. She grimaced.
"...Gods..." she muttered in disgust.
Maria's attention went back to Joxer.
"Joxer! Joxer, listen to me."
Joxer shook his head in grief. Tears rushed down his cheeks.
"This is all my fault!!" he sobbed. "All my fault!!"
Maria grabbed Joxer by the collar and yanked him to face her. Maria's eyes roiled with anger.
"This was NOT your fault!! This wasn't your fault!!"
"IT WAS!!" cried Joxer. "If I hadn't come here, Meg would be all right!!"
Maria had enough. She got up, and yanked Joxer to his feet. Maria then slammed him against the wall. The room shook with the impact. The other women gasped in shock. Joxer's eyes bulged out of his head. Terror flooded his features. Maria's hazel eyes were ablaze with rage.
"Listen to me, you son-of-a-bacchai!!" she hissed. "I'm gonna say this again one more time. This was NOT YOUR FAULT!! NONE OF THIS WAS YOUR FAULT, DAMMIT!! Get that through your thick skull and stop punishing yourself!!"
Maria released Joxer, who sagged before her. He stared at Maria in shock and grief, his bottom lip quivering. Maria's face changed from seething anger to extreme exhaustion. She let her head drop, her dark hair flowing over her front. She let out a heavy sigh.
"Great mother of Zeus..." she groaned.
Maria lifted her head, whipping her hair back. She gazed at Joxer with sadness and resignation. A few tense moments passed. She spoke again.
"All right Joxer. I've been keeping tabs on Xena like you asked. She's in the area, staying in Kratos. I think she knows you're somewhere around here."
Joxer sighed. He shook his head.
"I'm not surprised."
Maria turned to the doorway.
Francisca ran out from behind the other women. She was at Maria's side in an instant.
"Xena's staying in Kratos. Take Joxer to her. Tell her what happened here. Stamrus will be back with more men. I'm sure of it. Tell Xena to get here as soon as possible."
"I'm on it."
She turned to Joxer, and saw his bloody hand. Francisca gasped.
"Never mind that!!" snapped Joxer irritably. "Let's find Xena!! We don't have time to waste!!"
Francisca was taken aback by Joxer's harshness. But she quickly let it pass. Her face was set in determination.
"Okay. Let's go."
Francisca turned and ran towards the kitchen. Joxer grabbed Maria's arm.
"What?" she asked.
"After this is over, I wanna arrange a meeting between me and Meg. Set it up with Xena."
"No problem Joxer."
Joxer's eyes grew dark with anger and anxiety.
"Don't let anything happen to Meg. Anything."
Maria's eyes narrowed in agreement.
"I won't. Be careful Joxer."
Joxer turned and ran off after Francisca. Maria gazed at him, sighing heavily.
"May the gods watch over you..." she whispered silently.
Maria stood outside Meg's brothel, armed with her sword. She turned her head to the right for a moment, gazing briefly at the horizon. The sun had just submerged below it. Several of the women stood at the doorway, staring out into the deepening night blanketing the forest. Maria turned her attention back there as well. Her hazel eyes narrowed, waiting…waiting for Stamrus and his men to come. She knew of Stamrus's ego, and he was not going to allow a bunch of women to embarrass him. Maria then glanced up at the upper floor of the brothel. Meg was looking outside, a crossbow in her left hand. Her gaze was cold, impassive. Maria turned her own gaze back into the night.
Then she heard it…the sounds of hooves, thundering along the ground.
Maria tensed up, going into a battle stance. And within moments, a dozen horses appeared. Heavily armed soldiers rode them. And at the head of this group was Stamrus. They came to a stop. Stamrus glared at Maria in contempt and malice. He spoke.
"I'm going to burn this brothel to the ground, and all of you whores with it."
He pointed his sword at Maria. His green eyes were ablaze.
"And I'm gonna have your head."
Maria laughed harshly.
"Not before I take yours." she snarled back.
Stamrus lifted his hand.
Five of his men lifted their bows. Their arrows were lit.
They aimed for their target-
And suddenly, Stamrus heard a shrill, screeching sound. It grew louder and harsher. He looked around erratically.
Suddenly a silver disk shot out of the darkness. It screamed towards the archers. With deadly precision, it tore through the throats of each archer. Blood exploded from their throats. They fell off their horses, onto the ground, dead. Stamrus's jaw dropped in horror and disbelief.
The disk flew around the front of Stamrus and back into the darkness from which it came. And then Stamrus heard another sound. A high-pitched battle cry.
Stamrus’s blood ran cold. He knew that cry…and who it belonged to.
"Oh Hades..." he whispered.
A dark form on horseback burst from the darkness. Stamrus's eyes widened in terror.
It was Xena.
She flipped from her horse, flying into a tight somersault. Xena landed alongside Maria, and quickly drew her sword. Her blue eyes were filled with a cold rage, one that shook Stamrus to the very center of his soul. Xena stepped forward. She eyed Stamrus with malice.
"You owe my friend Meg an arm." she hissed icily. "And I plan to collect."
Stamrus fought down his rising fear. He wasn't about to let women push him around.
"Off yer horses!!" he shouted to his men.
They dismounted. The seven men stood on either side of Stamrus. His eyes widened in fury.
The men attacked. Xena and Maria rushed forward. The battle begun.
One man leapt at Xena, sword drawn back. Xena did a vicious whirling kick, sending her heel hard into the man's head. There was a loud crack as the side of his skull caved in. His left eyeball burst out of his head, blood and bone exploding from the socket. He flew through the air, smashing face-first into the ground, dead.
The second man swung his sword at Xena, who ducked with lightning speed. Letting out a piercing cry, Xena buried her sword into the man's chest. Blood and flesh exploded from his back as her sword tore through it. She viciously yanked the sword back out. The lifeless body fell to the ground. Xena spun around-
And a booted foot hit her across the face. Her head snapped to the left, blood shooting in a crimson stream from her mouth. She staggered back. Out of the corner of her right eye, Xena saw a sword coming down at her. She raised hers, and the two blades collided with a ferocious clang. Xena's sapphire eyes widened in fury. Letting out an angry cry, she thrust her right foot out, slamming it into the man's chest. There was a loud crack as several ribs snapped. He flew through the air, crashing heavily into the ground. Xena whirled to face him.
The man, incredibly, staggered to his feet. Xena raised an eyebrow. He drew a knife, and growled at her savagely. Xena flashed a brilliant, feral smile. She dropped her sword, and motioned him towards her with her hands.
"C'mon, ya son-of-a bacchai!!" she hissed eagerly. "Come and get me!!"
With a loud, angry cry, the man attacked. He lunged at her. Xena effortlessly sidestepped him. She rammed her left elbow into his face. There was a loud crack as his jaw was shattered. Xena grabbed the arm holding the knife and turned it back into its owner. The knife tore into the man's chest. His eyes dilated in incredible pain. He looked up at Xena-
And sent a vicious left into her face. The blow sent Xena flying through the air, and she crashed into the ground. The man staggered towards the fallen form. Xena shook her head, and turned towards him. Black fury overwhelmed her. With a piercing scream, she launched herself at the man, hitting him hard. They crashed into the earth. The man grabbed Xena's throat. She gritted her teeth, and drew her own knife. Xena buried the blade in the man's side. The man kept his gray eyes locked with her blue ones. He tightened his fingers around her throat. Xena withdrew her knife, and stabbed him again, twisting the blade inside his body. Xena growled heatedly, pushing the knife deep into him. She felt his blood flowing over her hand. Teeth bared, she glared at her combatant. He tried to keep up his front, but soon, agony washed across his face in huge waves. Still, he kept squeezing at Xena's throat. Xena's eyes narrowed.
"You....don't seem...to get...the point!!" she snarled.
Letting out a piercing scream, Xena withdrew the knife and stabbed him hard, twisting her knife inside him with all her might. The man's eyes dilated. He gagged, a red foam erupting from his mouth. His grip on Xena's throat lessened, and the hand fell to the ground. Xena glared at the dead man in contempt.
A man swung his sword at Maria. She viciously swung hers, and the two swords collided with a horrific clang. Maria snapped out a huge foot. It burrowed into his stomach. He went up in the air, and fell hard on his knees. Letting out a savage scream, Maria swung down her sword, slicing the man's head off. A fountain of blood erupted from the wound. The head bounced off into the darkness, and the body collapsed onto the earth.
Two more men ran towards her back. Maria thrust her sword into the ground, and effortlessly somersaulted over their heads. Landing behind them, Maria grabbed their heads, slamming them together with all her might. They exploded in a shower of brain, bone, and blood. Both bodies fell to the ground. She spun around. Two more men faced her. Maria smiled ravenously at them, cackling with demonic glee. They let out an outraged cry, lunging at her. She leapt into the air, swinging her massive foot at them. It smashed into their jaws, shattering them like glass. The force of the violent blow sent the men into a spin. Landing on her feet, Maria wrapped her massive arms around their heads and savagely yanked them in opposite directions. Two loud, sickening cracks. And two corpses dropped to the ground in a cloud of dust.
It was over.
Xena and Maria turned, acknowledging each other with a nod. Maria looked around. Stamrus was nowhere in sight.
"Stamrus!!" she shouted. "That son-of-a bacchai!! Where did he go?!?"
Xena quickly looked around. Suddenly, her sharp ears heard the sound of hoofs galloping upon the earth, receding hastily into the night. She looked into the direction of the sound. Her pale blue eyes narrowed.
Stamrus rode his horse as hard as he could. Sweat poured down his brow.
He had to get as far away as possible. Lucky for him, he had a fast horse.
But he was taking no chances. Especially not with Xena.
The wind whipped at his face. The forest flew by him in a greenish black-blur, the bright, harsh moonlight cutting through the trees. He looked back for a moment. The purple-orange sky was signaling the end of another day. One that Stamrus hoped he would live through.
Then he heard it. Like a cry from the innermost bowels of Tartarus.
Stamrus's eyes bulged in terror.
"Sweet Hera!!" he hissed.
He drove the horse harder and harder. His heart hammered with ever-increasing ferocity, until it felt as if it were going to explode from his chest. A terror he never knew snaked its way throughout his body. Sweat was pouring down his face in torrents. Stamrus snapped the reins with a frenzied hysteria. His throat went dry. He looked back again-
And what he saw made him stop breathing.
The dark rider, on a almond horse. The rider's jet-black hair whipped through the surrounding air, twisting through it, feeding on it. Her hard, alabaster features bristled with malicious energy. And finally, her eyes…
Brilliant blue balls of demonic fire. They clawed their way into Stamrus's soul. He knew from that look there was no hope for him. Stamrus turned around, digging his heels into the horse's sides. The horse responded, tearing through the forest floor at an unbelievable speed.
The wind was pushing past Stamrus at such a rate that it made him dizzy. But he had to focus. His life depended on it. He pressed on. Then his ears picked up the sound of galloping hooves growing closer and closer to him. His eyes widened in horror.
"Sweet Hera, no!!" his mind screamed.
Stamrus kicked and beat the reins into his horse with all his might. But the animal could not go any faster. He entered a clearing. A gentle, sloping hill was at his left. Stamrus heard a savage cry-
And then it hit him.
Something smashed into Stamrus. His horse disappeared from underneath him. He felt airborne. Stamrus smelled leather, sweat. Green grass flew past below him. A huge mane of dark hair entered his vision-
And then he crashed into the earth. His left shoulder snapped.
Stamrus felt searing, burning pain rip through his shoulder. He also felt the wind rush out of his lungs in a flash. Grass and dirt tore into his face and mouth. The weight that was on him vanished. Then Stamrus felt two hands hoist him to his feet. He saw a woman's face. Something that looked like a fist enveloped his vision-
And his face exploded in a flash of blood and excruciating pain. Stamrus felt airborne again, only to be stopped seconds later by something hard smashing into his back. He sagged, opening his right eye. He saw tree bark tearing into his right arm.
Stamrus had enough.
He drew a large knife, and shook his head clear, seeing a form rapidly advance towards him. With a loud, piercing cry, he charged at the form. Something grabbed his right arm-
And snapped it like a twig. Stamrus screamed in agony-
And something hit his face again. Stamrus crashed back into the tree. Something grabbed his left hand. Another something grabbed his throat. Stamrus's eyes dilated as iron fingers tore into the soft flesh of his neck-
Then Xena's face popped into his line of vision. Her face was twisted into a hideous snarl. Her blue eyes bored into his green ones. She lifted Stamrus's left hand into his line of vision.
"Time to collect." she purred with absolute venom.
Xena snapped back a finger on Stamrus's hand. There was a sharp, cracking sound. He screamed again in agony. Xena instantly increased the pressure on Stamrus's throat, silencing him. A loud gagging sound emanated from his throat. Xena's face was almost upon his.
"You broke my friend's arm." she growled. "And you tried to kill Joxer."
Xena broke another finger. Stamrus screamed. And Xena silenced him again, gripping his throat in an iron vise.
"I care about Meg and Joxer very much." Xena said in a cold, dark voice. "They're like family to me. And anyone who messes with my family messes with me."
Xena broke a third finger. Stamrus cried out in absolute agony. Xena silenced him again, squeezing his throat. Xena's eyes narrowed into feral slits.
"I want you to spread the word." she growled like a ravenous wolf. "Tell everyone this: if someone tries to collect that bounty on Joxer's head, their heads are mine."
And Xena broke a fourth finger. Stamrus screamed into the night. The blood-curdling cries echoed throughout the surrounding valley. Xena silenced him again.
"Oh, and Stamrus? You enjoy hurting women so much?? Here's a parting thought from me-"
Xena rammed a knee with all her might into Stamrus's groin. The resulting explosion of pain shot through his body and into Stamrus's head. Xena released Stamrus, and he dropped into the ground, eyes rolling into the back of his head. He rolled around in the dirt, gasping savagely, folded in a fetal position. Xena glared at Stamrus for a moment, then walked over to her horse. She rubbed the horse's face affectionately.
"C'mon Argo." said Xena. "Let's go check up on Meg."
She climbed onto the horse, and rode up the hill, into the depths of the forest.
Xena and Maria reached the top of the stairs. Francisca's head popped out of Meg's room.
"Can we come in?" asked Maria.
Maria and Xena entered Meg's bedroom. They saw Meg, seated at the window. She looked out into the night. Meg rocked slowly in her chair, her lower lip quivering. A solitary tear ran down her right cheek. She absently rubbed her injured arm. An overwhelming sense of sadness and pity filled Xena. She walked over to Meg, and knelt down beside her. She tenderly placed a hand on Meg's shoulder.
"Meg? It's me. Xena."
Meg didn't respond, at first. She kept staring out into the night. Then her eyes moved to the right. Meg glanced at her identical twin.
"Is he alright?" she said in a low, fearful voice. "Is Joxer alright?!"
Xena delicately wiped strands of hair from Meg's face.
"He's safe Meg. He's all right."
Agony shot through Meg's face for a few brief moments. She fought to keep her pain down, and looked outside again.
"It's so unfair, ya know?"
Xena's eyebrows knitted together.
Meg turned her head to face Xena. Grief flowed over her features.
"It's so unfair. Why do things like this happen?"
Xena moved in closer. She gently wiped Meg's tears away with her hand.
"I don't know, Meg."
Meg lowered her head for a moment, her eyes wandering over the floor. She looked up again.
"Promise me you won't let anything happen to Joxer."
Xena grasped her left hand in hers.
"I promise. No one is going to hurt him."
Meg's face became overwhelmed with pain. She began to cry. Xena instantly embraced Meg, kissing her on top of her head and gently stroking it.
"Ssssssshhhh..." Xena said in a soothing voice. "Everthing's going to be all right Meg. Sssssssshhhh..."
Maria walked over to the pair, placing a hand on Meg's shoulder. Xena looked up at Maria. Maria saw what appeared to be tears in Xena's eyes. But she did not shed one. Still, the pain in Xena's face was obvious.
Xena pulled back, placing her hands on either side of Meg's face. She lifted it up to hers.
"Do you want to see Joxer, Meg?"
Meg's eyes widened. Xena could see a flash of hope erupt within them.
Xena smiled warmly.
"You sure can. First thing tomorrow if you like."
Meg stifled a sob. She nodded vigorously. Xena nodded also, grinning.
Xena got to her feet. Maria looked at Xena with tremendous respect and gratitude. She placed a hand on Xena's shoulder.
"Xena, I can't thank you enough for this."
Xena grasped Maria's hand, squeezing it slightly.
"Think nothing of it."
"What now?" asked Maria.
"I'm heading back to Kratos." said Xena. "Joxer and I will meet you at the hill overlooking Kratos Square at sunrise."
"Good enough, Xena."
Xena knelt down in front of Meg. She leaned in, and tenderly kissed Meg on the cheek. Xena lifted Meg's chin. Blue eyes met each other.
"Be brave, Meg." said Xena.
Meg nodded slightly.
A crisp wind blew around Joxer. He shivered slightly. Joxer turned to his right, seeing the first few rays of the sun reaching into the heavens. He licked his lips, and looked at the ground, pawing the earth with his right foot.
Xena walked up to him, placing a hand on his shoulder.
"You okay, Joxer?"
Joxer sighed. He glanced at Xena, and then at the ground again.
"I-I don't know."
He turned to face her.
"This week...this week with Meg was...was the most enjoyable time I've had in...i-in I don't know how long. I-I just wanted to get away from people, after I killed Criton. But when Meg found me, she made me feel whole again. Like I meant something. She held me up during my rough moments. I-I didn't want to leave that warmth..."
Joxer's face darkened.
"But I guess the Fates had other ideas, huh?" he said in a small voice.
Xena gazed at her friend in pity.
She sighed, and spoke again.
"Joxer, I'm sure you'll find a way to deal with this. Don't give up hope."
He looked at the rising sun. Joxer blew out a deep breath.
"That's the only thing that keeps me going Xena. Hope."
He turned to her.
"And friends like you."
Joxer suddenly heard the sound of approaching horses. He turned to his right. And out of the forest rode Meg and Maria, wearing hooded capes. Joxer ran out towards them. He stopped before Meg's horse, and helped her off of it. Meg faced Joxer. Tears filled her eyes.
She hugged him tight. Joxer returned the hug, being careful not to hurt Meg's right arm. He trembled with emotion. Tears ran down his face.
They held each other for a few moments. Joxer and Meg turned to Maria and Xena. Joxer spoke again.
"Um, Meg and I are going to take a walk by those trees there."
He pointed towards a large group of pines. Xena and Maria nodded.
"Take as much time as you need." said Maria.
The pair walked off. Soon, they were in the cover of the massive pines. Joxer turned to face Meg.
Meg grabbed his head and kissed him passionately. She pushed him up against a tree, pressing into him. Their tongues flailed wildly in each other's mouths. Meg moaned hungrily into Joxer's mouth. The searing kiss went on for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, Meg broke the kiss, leaning her forehead on Joxer's. Both gasped heavily.
"Y-Y-You...are not...making this easy for me, are ya Meg?" stammered Joxer.
Meg nuzzled his right cheek. Her blue eyes gazed deeply into his brown ones.
"Nope." she whispered softly.
Meg ran her left hand down alongside Joxer's arm. Suddenly she felt the bandage wrapped around his hand. Meg pulled back, eyes wide in shock.
Joxer stared at Meg.
Meg instantly lifted his right hand, inspecting it closely. Her brows knitted and her jaw dropped. Joxer sighed.
"Meg, it's nothing."
Meg glared at Joxer.
"How can you tell me all this dried blood is nothing?!"
"Meg, look-I was ticked off, and I rammed my fist into a mirror."
"Meg, listen-Xena got out all the shards and splinters."
Meg's eyes narrowed. She poked Joxer hard in the chest. Joxer gasped in pain.
"Hey!!" he exclaimed.
Meg poked him again. Her blue eyes were ablaze.
"What in Tartarus are you doing punching out mirrors?! Of all the stupid things-"
"Okay, okay, okay!! Alright already!! It was dumb!! I admit it!!"
Meg growled. She shook her head.
"Ya know...you...drive...me... crazy!!"
She grabbed Joxer's head and kissed him again. Meg moaned hungrily into Joxer's mouth. He whimpered in response. After a long moment, Meg broke the kiss again. She laid her forehead on his.
"Don't go." Meg said in a small voice.
Joxer grimaced. He shook his head a little.
"It's not safe now. Maybe when things cool down-"
"And when will that be?!"
Meg pulled back, searching his face with desperation. Joxer frowned deeply. He sighed.
Meg lowered her head. Tears came to her eyes. Joxer immediately lifted Meg's chin. His heart broke at seeing Meg's tears.
"Oh gods...Meg, don't cry. I hate to see you cry. Please-please don't..."
"And why shouldn't I?! I don't know when I'll see you again!!"
Joxer sighed. He looked into the heavens, and then at Meg. His face became set with determination.
"A month and a half, Meg. I'll be back by then. I swear."
Meg's eyes widened. Her jaw dropped.
"A month and a half?!"
"Meg, under the circumstances, it's the best I can do!! Please don't argue with me on this!!"
Meg lowered her head. She bit her lip, and was silent for a long moment. Then she looked up at Joxer.
"Okay. A month and a half."
Joxer sighed. He smiled.
Meg's eyes narrowed. She poked Joxer in the chest. Joxer gasped in pain and shock. Meg spoke again.
She pulled away. Joxer stared at Meg, his face full of pain and shock. He rubbed his injured chest vigorously.
"Ouch!!" he exclaimed. "What in Tartarus have you been doing?! Taking lessons from Xena?!"
Meg quickly pressed herself against Joxer. She nuzzled his nose.
"I'm sorry." she said softly.
Meg claimed Joxer's lips. They kissed each other slowly, lovingly. Finally, Meg pulled away again. Joxer reached into his pocket.
"I have something for you, Meg."
He lifted his hand in front of Meg's face. Opening it, there was a tiny golden locket. Meg gasped.
He opened the locket with his thumb. Engraved inside was a beautiful, tiny rose. Meg gaped in shock.
"I-It's beautiful!!" she exclaimed.
"Let me put it on you. Turn around."
Meg turned, back facing Joxer. She lifted her hair. Even though his right hand was bandaged pretty heavily, Joxer was still able to fasten the locket around her neck. Meg turned around to face him. Joxer smiled warmly.
"Perfect!" he exclaimed happily.
Meg broke into a huge grin. She hugged Joxer tight, and then kissed him on the cheek.
"Thank you, Joxer." she said softly.
A moment of silence. He sighed.
"I've gotta go."
Meg's expression darkened. She bit her lip and looked down at the ground. Joxer placed an arm around her.
"I said I'll be back. I promised."
Meg looked back up at him.
"A month and a half, eh?"
"A month and a half. Joxer the Mighty keeps his promises."
Meg's eyes narrowed.
Joxer and Meg walked out into the clearing. Maria and Xena stood, waiting patiently. Joxer spoke.
"I'm ready to go, Xena."
"I'll get your horse." she replied.
Xena walked off towards a small group of trees. Maria walked up to Joxer and Meg. Joxer placed a hand on Maria's arm.
"Keep Meg safe, Maria. I'm counting on you."
Maria instantly took Joxer into her arms, giving him a strong hug. She pulled back, looking into his eyes with warmth and affection.
"You know I will."
Joxer looked past her. Xena appeared with two horses. He turned to Meg. Joxer sighed, and smiled sadly.
"Take care of yourself Meg."
Meg nodded. A set of tears came to her eyes.
"You too, Joxer."
They leaned into each other, exchanging a long, gentle kiss. Joxer broke the kiss, stepping away from Meg. She wiped the tears from her eyes. He turned around, and walked over to Xena. They mounted their horses. Xena and Joxer waved farewell to their friends.
"See ya in a month, Meg!!" Joxer exclaimed.
"A month!!" Meg shouted back. "It's a date!!"
Xena and Joxer then rode off at a fast gallop. In moments, they disappeared into the forest. Maria walked over to Meg, placing an arm around her. She saw Meg fumble with the locket. Maria smiled.
"He gave that to you?"
Meg looked out into the forest. She smiled warmly.
"A month, Joxer...I'll be waiting for ya."
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