NC-17 just in case.  Nothing graphic.

You're Not Joxer.

Jace looked up as the old witch he had brought his brother to walked out and smiled at him.  "Is he fixed?" he demanded.

"More or less," she offered.  "I could not remove that curse fully but I could change one he had been plagued with earlier in his life."  She pulled him away from the doorway.  "There is little to undo the will of the Gods," she said quietly.  "I can help, and I did.  Because another laid that curse on him to be more of himself, I used that to allow him to be himself, at least after dark.  You need not worry about him after dark but in the sun, he will be the one he always was."

"So, at night he's Joxer and during the day he's Joxer the Mighty?" Jace asked grimly.  She nodded.  "You couldn't give him more leeway?"

"No, I'm afraid I couldn't.  All I could do was change the curse Aphrodite had laid on him with a bell as a trigger.  I'm sorry I could not do more.  The original curse is too deeply set."

"Thank you.  I'll tell my other brother that you helped us."  He went to pick up the napping Joxer, he had been kept asleep the whole time with a potion.  "At least it's something."  He walked his brother out to his carriage and got in, heading for the tavern they were staying at, and that Jett would be waiting for them at.  He walked in and Jett came to get their brother, taking him up to their shared room.  When Jett came back, Jace ordered some wine and sat down across from him.  "She was as helpful as she could be," he offered.

"She couldn't remove it?"

"She could change what Aphrodite did to him the last time.  So he'll be Joxer at night, but his usual self during the day."  He took a sip.  "We'll have to tell him."

"We will," Jett agreed grimly.  "There's no way?"

"Not unless we get that God to remove it and hers.  Then he'll fully be himself.  Otherwise he'll just be the fighting lover that Aphrodite brought to the forefront."  He took another sip.  "I hate this for him."

"Me too," Jett agreed quietly, glancing around.  "What's first?"

"First, we've got to tell him, then convince him he can't follow those women around," he said coolly.  "I can see them killing him for this."  He finished his mug of wine and leaned back in the uncomfortable chair.  "What else can we do?"

"Hide him?"  He shrugged.  "Make him start a new life?"

"It wouldn't matter."

"Point."  He sipped his own wine, looking up the stairs.  "Fine, we'll tell him.  He'll need to know."  He started to get up then suddenly passed out.  Jace started to protest but so did he.

"Nope, don't think so," Discord said as she appeared.  "I like that curse on him.  He's a bright boy, he can figure it out."  She took the knowledge from them and disappeared again.

"Yeah, right," Strife agreed a few minutes later, putting the knowledge back subtly, so they'd know, but they wouldn't tell Joxer.  He couldn't get around Discord that way at this moment.  But he could provoke the knowledge.  He went in to fiddle with Joxer's mind, making it so he could tell the difference between them.  Then he woke him up, looking down at him, looking terribly interested in him at the moment.  "Morning, bright boy."

"What happened?" he moaned, holding his head.  He sat up, looking at him.  "Lord Strife?"  He looked around, then back at him.  "Am I in Tartarus and you're my torture?"

"No," he said patiently.  "Though it'd probably be less than a torture with how much power you send my way."  He tapped him on the aching forehead.  "Notice anything different?"

He took stock of himself, then looked at him, frowning a bit.  "I feel like I did when Aphrodite had that bell that changed me."

"Ya should," he agreed.  "They've made it so you're a bit more than you were.  They wanted that curse taken off and it didn't quite work."

"What curse?"

Strife groaned and rubbed his face.  "Joxer, did it never bother you that you went from skilled warrior to bumbling moron suddenly?"  He looked confused.  "Do you remember when you were a child?"

He nodded slowly.  "I was always tripping over things."

"You *never* tripped over anything.  You were a dancer."  Joxer looked really confused.  Fine, he could screw with his mother's plans yet again.  There was no way Joxer was going to figure this out if he had suppressed those memories. "Okay, let's put it this way.  The Fates made someone curse you as a child.  You weren't like this before then.  It must have filled in memories."

Joxer shook his head again.  "Maybe you've got me confused with Jace.  Or even Jett.  He's always been pretty good on his feet.  He never stumbled during those bad growth spurts."

Strife groaned and shook his head. "Trust me, you weren't either.  Now, considering that they got it removed partially, you've got to find the way to remove the rest of it."

"How do I do that?"

Strife shrugged.  "I have not a clue."  Joxer groaned and held his head again.  Strife looked outside, it was getting dark.  "Remember this, Joxer.  It's going to become a usual sensation."  He faded out.

Joxer looked at the empty spot, then doubled over, holding his stomach.  "Ow."  He got up and went to the outhouse, then found his brothers in the tavern with Iolaus standing there.  "Hey," he said, sitting down next to Jett and flicking him on the ear.  Jett jumped up and stared at him.  "What the hell is going on?  Strife just said I'm cursed and that I didn't always trip over my feet?"

Jett swatted Jace, who woke up slower, but wasn't frowning.  "It worked?" he asked hopefully, sitting up straighter.

"What worked?" Iolaus asked.  He took the empty seat and looked at Joxer.  "Are you all right?"

"No!"  He looked at Jett, who probably had the best mind of the three of them.  "Spill."

"Or what?" he sneered.

Joxer got up and grabbed him, pulling him closer.  "For some reason I think I can do what I did while under Aphrodite's spell," he growled.  "Which means I can whip your butt good.  Now, spill!"

Jett blinked at him.  "I haven't seen you like this since you were ten," he offered.

"What happened then?"

"Aphrodite appeared one day and said that the Fates told her to curse you or she and her whole family could die," he said honestly, looking at his little brother.

"That's the curse?"

"No, the curse turned you into this stumbling, trashy-armor wearing person that was pretending to be our brother," Jace said bitterly.  "I took you to someone who removed part of the curse for you."

"Uh-huh."  He looked at them, then at Iolaus.  "Why are you here?"

"Passing through?" he suggested with a grin.

"A favorite of Aphrodite's and you're just 'passing through'?" Jace asked.  "None of us are that dumb, sweetie."

He pulled out a scroll and tossed it at Joxer.  "She said she's sorry and she had no choice.  I'm here to make sure you can use your sword.  There's a reason," he said at the opening mouths.  "Herc's about three or four days behind me.  He'll be able to tell."  He looked at the other two.  "She said you two are really good.  She didn't want to do this."

Joxer let Jett go, sitting down to read the scroll.  In his hands it flashed and he remembered, letting out a long moan.  "Why me?" he whined.

"Read it, it does have words," Iolaus told him.  "Really, it does," he said at Jace's odd look.

Joxer picked it back up and looked it over, then shuddered.  "Fine. I can accept that."  He tossed it into the fireplace.  "Then that whole bell thing was a way to release it?"  Iolaus nodded.  "What's your part in this?"

"Getting you ready.  Herc can tell.  If he can, Xena definitely can.  Since they kidnaped you from her camp....."

"Crap," Joxer muttered, glaring at his brothers.  "You could have just sent a note, I'd have come."

"We didn't have the time," Jace pleaded.  "She's about to move off and no one knew where."

"Fine.  I'll handle her when it comes time."  He looked at Iolaus.  "Now what?"

"I'd suggest dinner.  It'll help your temper," Jett said dryly.  "It usually does mine."

"Fine," Joxer agreed, sighing and getting up to get them some dinner.  He assumed it was included with the room he had woken up in since the barmaid just smiled and handed it over.  "Thank you."  He walked the bowls back and sat down again.  He noticed a flask in front of Jett.  "Wine?"

"Blood wine," Jett told him.  "Someone made me drink some last year."  He took a sip and offered it to him.  "You can if you want."

"Yeah, that'll go over *real* well when Herc catches up to us," Iolaus told him.  "Nearly as good as me drinking it would."  He rested his elbows on the table and looked at Joxer.  "Hurry up and eat.  I'll be taking you out tonight to work on some balancing stuff.  She said so.  It's part of your nature anyway."  He nodded, eating quickly.  He looked at the other two.  "I have no idea what this'll do to him during the daytime."

"He could say he's a bacchi since he's only going to be living at night," Jace offered.

Jett shook his head.  "They'll know something's up if he does that."


Joxer looked at them.  "Why will I only be living at night?"

"You remember that princess over in Thessaly?" Iolaus asked dryly.  "The one with the daylight problem?"  He nodded once.  "That's you now."

"Crap," he muttered, going back to eating.  "So I'm normal during the day and this me during the nights?"  Iolaus nodded.  "Wonderful.  Just wonderful.  At least it's not a bell!"

"No, and she sent me even though Discord didn't want anyone to tell you," he offered smugly.  "She and Athena are both hoping you revert."

"I can revert?"

"Unless you can get the curse cleared within a lunar year, yes," Iolaus told him.  Jett muttered something in Chin.  Iolaus looked at him.  "You get around a lot more than I thought."

"It helps my reputation," he said dryly, taking another sip of his special wine.  "Will anything extend that year?"  Iolaus shrugged.  "No one's asked that yet?"

"Not a clue.  I didn't get told anything about it.  I'm only the messenger and helper this time.  And for this, I get to run away for a few months and play," he said smugly.

"Ah, no monsters," Jett taunted smugly.  "A vacation?"

"My first in a few years. Herc's not happy but he knows I'm on assignment for Aphrodite and she's keeping what I'm doing closely guarded."  He got up and went to get himself a mug of wine, coming back to drink it while the others ate.  "What did it say about removing the curse?"

"I've got to ask and I've got to get rid of the reasons that could have destroyed her family," Joxer said between bites.  "Where are we heading?  I should probably wash up and change."

Iolaus looked at him.  "Not really. We can worry about clothes later.  Just clean up after you're done.  We'll be back before dawn."  He took another drink and looked at Jett.  "So, how are you doing this without Bacchus?"

"It's odd and I can feel surges from him now and then, but he knows I'm not one of his naturally.  I never drank his blood, just his wine.  I'm a bit meaner when I'm working, nothing too hideous.  I don't change and I certainly don't fly around."

"Don't tell Auto that, he'll try for it to give him an advantage."

"True," Jett agreed dryly.  He looked at Joxer, who was nearly done.  "When was the last time you ate?"

"I ate the night before you captured me.  How long ago was that?"

"Two days," Jace admitted.  "She was headed in the other direction."

"And it was a problem so she's still heading in the other direction but he's got to head that way too.   He's got to make the petition in Aphrodite's main temple."

"Ah," Jett agreed, nodding.  "How does he take care of the 'but' clauses?"  He took another sip.

Iolaus looked at him.  "Shouldn't you just nibble on a person instead?" he offered dryly, smirking at him.

"Then I'd have to go over.  I'd hate that."  He looked at Joxer.  "What were the reasons?"

Joxer looked at him.  "Something I was going to end up killing would have protected her family," he admitted.  "I'm due to run into them within the next six months.  After that, there's another matter that's got to be attended to but she didn't say what.  Then I've got to devote myself to her and ask her for that when I do so."

"Ares won't be pleased," Iolaus noted.

"Yeah, well, I'm still going to be praying to him for guidance over this trek," he admitted tiredly.  "Can we go?"

"Go clean up," Iolaus instructed.  He nodded, going to wash up in his room.  "Don't wait up, guys.  She gave me strict instructions on where to go tonight.  She's set up a diversion to calm him down and then help him with the clothing issues he's got.  She said she hated him in that outfit he had on during the bell thing."  He finished his wine and got up, handing the barmaid his mug.  He also handed her a tip.  "Thanks."  Joxer came down the stairs and Iolaus looked him over.  He was tense.  The whorehouse would help him a lot.  He tugged on his sleeve.  "Come on, Aphrodite said so."  He nodded, waving at his triplets and heading out after him.

"He's favored of Aphrodite?" the barmaid asked Jace with a wink.  "Are you all favored?"

"No, she's played with his life.  During the day he's not the lover he could be during the night.  If you're up when he gets in, ask for a sample."  He grinned at her.  "Some of us prefer the fairer, more delicate gender of young warriors."

Jett snorted.  "Yeah, and I saw your last one that you threw away because he was getting *old* at twenty."

"So says the man who never gets any," Jace sneered back.

"You'd be surprised," he offered smugly.  "Do you know how often I get confused with Joxer at Meg's?"

Jace just gaped, staring at him in shock.

The barmaid walked off, going to gossip, which would definitely bring someone to test him out later.


Iolaus walked out of his room and found Joxer chatting with someone downstairs, looking him over.  They had found some older clothes in one of the back closets of left-behind things.  The vest was stiffer leather.  The pants were worker style pants, but they fit him well and they tied at the front.  The shirt under the vest looked like a peasant's shirt.  It would hide him quite well and no one would think he was other than Joxer in it.  He looked good and harmless in it.  That would be a ploy on his side when they met up with Hercules.  He walked into the room and grinned at Joxer.  "Okay, are we ready to move on?"

He stood up, kissing the back of the young woman's hand.  "Sure.  Where are we headed to now?"

"Out into the woods."  He walked him that way, only stopping at the stables for the inn.  He pulled something out of the pack he had left out there, handing it over.  "Yours."

"Your sword?"

"No, your sword.  My sword is being fixed."  He clapped Joxer on the back.  "Come on.  We'll go take in some practice."

"Sure."  He followed behind his friend, smiling happily and nodding at the people who passed them by.  He felt a shiver of dread and looked around.  "What was that?"


"Oh.  How did you know?"

"I've known a few bacchi," Iolaus admitted, taking Joxer out into the woods.  He found a stick for a staff and waved him on.  "Come on.  We'll get in some light practice."  Joxer beamed and lunged and Iolaus put him on his back.  "Good.  Now let's try it for real, Joxer."  Joxer got up with a groan and focused on the basics, reteaching his body what it was meant to do.


Iolaus looked up a few days later as his usual partner walked into the inn, looking very upset and confused.  "Let me guess, you ran into Jace?" he teased, grinning at him.

"You're here?"

"Only for the night, Herc.  Come sit and eat."  He looked at the barmaid.  "He can stay in my room tonight."  He flipped her a dinar and she nodded, going to inform the owner of that and pay him.  He looked at him.  "So, how's it been?"

"Strange.  I don't have anyone to talk to."  He sat down, looking his friend over.  "Where are you headed after this?"

"I expect to be snatched sometime tonight and sent off again.  She told me to rest here today because you'd be showing up.  Oh, all three triplets are here."

"Good."  He nodded at that, looking over as one of them came down the stairs.  "There's Jett," he sighed.

Iolaus looked, then shrugged.  "That's Joxer, Herc."

"It can't be.  He's not tripping over his feet and he's not wearing that armor."  He let out a little shudder.

"It's still Joxer."  He looked back.  "Aren't you?"  He nodded, sitting down to join them.  He looked outside, dark was just starting to fall.  "Are you okay?"

"Fine.  Thanks."  He grinned at him, then at Hercules.  "So, how are things going?  New monsters to slay?"

"Not recently.  More like going and doing hero-manual labor," he joked.  "Please move this boulder so the water will flow right, please help us with the roof of this building, can you help us with a charity fight.  Things like that."  He smiled at the barmaid.  "Can I have a mug of water?"  She nodded, going to pull some up for him.  He paid her and smiled.  "Thank you."

"You're welcome."  She winked at Joxer, who had given her quite a few good mornings recently.  "So, when were you headed out?"

"Probably tomorrow or the next day," he offered, winking at her.  "Then I'm headed to the main temples for Aphrodite."

"Hmm.  I'm sure you'll," she suggested with a small leer.  "Remember to say goodbye, Joxer."  She walked off, going back to her other customers.

"Huh?" Hercules asked. "She flirted with you."

"She's done that for the last few days," Iolaus offered with a small smirk.  "Joxer does draw the girls."

"Usually they flirt with you," Hercules told his partner.  "Did you rub some of your luck off on him?"

"No, he's doing something different for Aphrodite and he's always been good with the ladies," he offered, sipping his wine.  He looked over as Jace walked in, smirking at him.  "Hey, Jace.  Where's the grumpy one?"

"Sleeping, still. I swear he's going over."

"If so he's just got to beg and plead not to," Joxer said firmly.  "I won't have my brother being a bacchi."

"What's going on?" Hercules asked.

"Someone forced blood wine on Jett," Joxer told him.  "He's been a bit more grumpy lately."  He looked at Iolaus.  "So, what am I doing tonight?"

"Sparring with Jett," he said, looking at him.  "That way we're sure you can handle some things."  He nodded, understanding that.  Jett was a good test for him.  "Then those two get to go wherever and you get to start your trek."

"Sure," he agreed happily enough.  "Will I get company?"

"Not unless you want it," Iolaus offered.  "They could go with you if they had the time."

Jett stomped down the stairs and the barmaid handed him the wineskin he had her store for him.  He nodded his thanks and sat down, looking at Hercules.  "What?" he growled.

"Good morning to you too," he said dryly, smirking at him.  "I know where he is in the Underworld if you wanted to talk to him and have him release you."

"I already did that.  He wanted more than I was willing to pay."  He looked at Joxer.  "Why did he want both of us?"

"I was there when he was killed," he said simply.  "Xena had me playing the harp."  Jett shuddered.  "Exactly.  So I know why he wants me."  He grinned.  "What did he want from you?"

"The usual," he snorted.  "I'm not Jace so it's not happening."  His brother swatted him hard and he glared at him.  "I can hit you back.  Remember that.  You'll look really pretty in the fireplace."

Jace pouted.  "You meany," he sneered.

"Ya think?" he asked dryly, taking another sip of his wine.  Joxer snatched it and corked the wineskin, putting it out of his reach.  "Joxer."

"Tough. You're going over.  I'm helping you delay it.  Iolaus said you could travel with me if you wanted.  I'm sure we'll have to pass by Meg's and some of the girls said they missed you the last time I was there."  Iolaus broke out in snickers.  Hercules just looked confused.  "What?  You thought I wouldn't go?"

"Meg's?" he asked.  "Isn't that the...innkeeper who looks a lot like Xena?"  Joxer nodded.  "You go to her place?  Often I mean?"

"Every chance I get," Jett and Joxer said in unison.  Then Joxer stuck his tongue out at him.  "You were let in for free that first time because they got us confused."

"Lord Cupid save me from straight people," Jace complained, rolling her eyes. "Please?  I could use a pretty new boy."

"You tossed aside the last one he sent you too early," Jett sneered.

Jace swatted him again.  "Nasty shit."

Jett backhanded him, looking quite casual and unphased about it, then grabbed his wine to take another drink but Joxer took it from him and put it down his shirt.  "It tastes better cold," he said patiently.

"It might, but you're not getting any more for a few hours."  He smirked at him and Jace pounced Jett, doing his best to pummel him.  Hercules sighed and he shook his head.  "I wouldn't.  Jace and Jett will both get you and then you'll be in pain tonight instead of catching up."  He moved a seat out of the way of the fight, watching them.  Eventually Jace kneed Jett in the groin and got up, flipping back his hair.  "That's mean," he chided gently.

"So?"  He sat down with a flounce and smirked.  "I won."

Jett came up and grabbed him, biting him on the neck.  "I need this."

"Get off me!" Jace snarled, swatting at him.

Joxer reached over and pulled him off, holding out his wrist.  "Here, stubborn."  Jett looked at him.  "I was there when he was killed."  Jett bit him, hard, and he winced.  "At least there's no fangs yet," he complained, shoving his brother off his arm.  "Thank you.  I need some blood."  He saw the barmaid hovering and grinned at her.  "Someone fed him bloodwine against his will.  We're trying to keep him normal.  A bacchi Jett would be scary.  Slightly."

"I can bite you again," Jett offered dryly, smirking at him.  "You do taste good."

"Yay," he said smugly.  "I'm guessing that's why some girls like me, I'm sweet."  Then he grinned.

"You're not Joxer," Hercules said firmly, standing up.  "He's never been like this."  He looked at the other two, he could believe they were the other two triplets.  He'd met them each once or twice and they acted just like themselves.  Well, Jett was a bit more grumpy but it was understandable.  He glared at Joxer.  "Who are you?"

"I'm Joxer, Hercules.  Just because I'm not wearing the funny armor and tripping doesn't mean I'm not Joxer.  If you don't believe me, ask Aphrodite about that bell of hers."


"She used a bell to charm him into being this Joxer," Iolaus told him.  "Sit down, Herc."

"No!  He's not Joxer."

"Herc, sit down," Iolaus said firmly.  "You're creating a scene."

"No!  That's not Joxer.  There's no way that's Joxer.  It's probably Strife or someone!"

"Ya called?" Strife asked as he appeared, on the stairs safely out of harm's way.  He wiggled his fingers.  "Not me.  That's Joxer as Aphrodite created him."  He grinned at him.  "I'll miss you."

Joxer beamed at him.  "It's not like this won't cause trouble for at least a few years.  After all, I've still got to run into Xena."  Strife cackled at that.  "That bad?"  He smirked and nodded.  "Wonderful," he said, taking a sip of his wine.  Jett sniffed at his neck and he swatted him.  "No, Jett. Or else I'll drag you to that cave and offer you to Bacchus."  The twins shared a look and Jett slunk back down.  Joxer, this Joxer, would do that to him.  He looked at Strife, who waved a hand with a grin.  "Thanks for the approval."  He looked at Hercules again, taking another sip of his wine.  "I am Joxer, Hercules.  This is just how Aphrodite created me.  She has this little bell that she rang and it made me change into this me."

"There's no way," Hercules told him.  "You're too smooth and you haven't tripped since I've gotten here.  The Joxer I know was never a ladies man.  He was never without his armor, and he was always tripping over things."

"No, not really.  You thought I was Jace dressed down once," he offered dryly, smirking at him.  "In that marketplace if you don't remember."  Hercules flushed at that and he shrugged.  "I've always been a ladies man. You should ask Meg about me.  I've been there so many times it's not funny.  They all know me by name and can tell me and Jett apart."  Jett chuckled darkly at that.  "Even before they get us into bed."  He finished his wine and put the mug out of his way.  "I'm still the same old Joxer, Hercules.  You never bothered to look at the real me behind the armor and the tripping and the song."  Everyone at the table shuddered at that.  "You know, I can sing a few verses too," he offered dryly, smirking at them.

"You're too much like Auto," Hercules said, staring him down.  "You're not Joxer."

"I am," he sighed.  "And if you're not convinced, that's your problem, Hercules.  Jett, would you like to spar?  Iolaus said it was time to try myself against you."  Jett sneered at him.  "I'll let you nibble again if you win."

"Sure."  He got up.  "Sword?"

"In the room," he admitted, heading up to get it.  He stopped behind Strife to whisper to him.  "What's going to happen with him?  Am I fighting him or just walking away?"

"We're all betting on walking away," he whispered back.  He gave him a sad grin and a hug.  "I'll still miss ya, ya dork."

Joxer winked.  "I'm still yours.  There's never been a time I didn't cause trouble and chaos."  He finished his trek, coming back with the swords.  He tossed Jett his.  "Woods?"

"The usual clearing is fine," Iolaus promised.  He stood up.  "I'll come watch and referee."  Both twins nodded.  "We'll be back in about an hour, Herc."  He walked out after the twins, watching Jett carefully.

"Like what you see?"

"I was turned for a bit," Iolaus offered.  "Back when we were in the Academy.  Hercules got me and the girl I was with free."  Jett looked back at him so he smirked.  "Yeah, she got me in there," he agreed smugly.  "Another case of part of my body leading the whole. It wasn't too bad.  Like a perpetual orgy most of the few days I remember."  He stretched up, then put his arms behind his head.  "It will be a fair fight, Jett."

"Sure.  If I remember what those are," he agreed.  Joxer walked into the clearing ahead of him and he attacked.  Joxer did counter and the fight was on. He glanced at Iolaus now and then.  He wasn't going to stop them.  Joxer was holding his own.  He was impressed.  Then Joxer slipped on some wet grass and he was following him but Joxer kneed him again, making him howl.

Joxer flipped him over, sitting on his chest, panting down at his brother.  "Give up?" he panted, beaming at him.

"Hell no," he growled, trying to get free.

Joxer leaned down to bite him on the tip of the nose.  "Quit, now. I'm sitting on my sword and you'll have to pray to Aphrodite for whole other reasons if you don't quit."  Jett quit at that.  He liked his dick attached.  They stared at each other.  "Give up?" he asked again.

"No.  I'll concede a draw."

"That's more than good enough," Cupid agreed as he appeared, hauling Joxer up.  "Hey, pookie," he offered with a grin.

Joxer kissed him then beamed back.  "Hey, dear.  I am not babysitting Bliss this week."

Cupid giggled and shook his head. "Non issue."  He looked him over.  "Doing good.  That's the first step.  The next is your trek. You've got the two heros, an old friend, and a few others."  He winked at Jett.  "He'll turn you back.  You aren't what he needs to get Xena so he can be restored."  He looked at Joxer again, beaming down at him.  "You sure you're okay?"

"Fine."  He looked down at himself, then frowned at the cut on his thigh, turning to slap Jett hard across the face.  "You cut me!"  He looked at it again.  "It'll be fine."  He looked up but Cupid was gone.  He shook his head and sighed.  "Want a drink?" he asked his twin.  "I could use a drink before I go visiting the ladies again."

"Sure," Jett agreed, following him back past Iolaus.  "Good enough?"

"If Cupid said so," he agreed, grinning at him.  He held up the pouch of blood wine, letting Jett have a few drinks before he took it back.  "I'll show you where the storehouse was.  We'll meet up with Joxer after that."  Jett nodded, walking beside him.  "So, Joxer, the pretty redhead tonight?" he called.

Joxer turned to grin, walking backwards.  "She was very pretty."  He turned around and ran into Hercules.  "Hey."  He walked around him.  "It was a draw."

"How?  You can't fight!" he shouted, turning to look at him.  "You're not Joxer."

Joxer stopped, sighed, and turned around, looking tired of this already.  "I am Joxer," he said patiently.  "I've been Joxer for all of my life, since I was named. I'm sorry you don't like this me, but go petition Aphrodite if you want me changed back to normal."

"Aphrodite!" he called.  She appeared, looking confused at him.  "Is that Joxer?" he demanded, pointing at him.

She looked, then nodded. "Yeah, it sure is," she agreed, giving him a faint grin.  "Why?"

"Then why isn't he normal?  He said you did this to him?"

"I *had* to do this to him, Herc.  The Fates said so."  She looked at Iolaus.  "Did he win?"

"Draw," he said with a wink.  He gave a subtle point at Jett.  "I'm going to show him where the blood wine stores are."

"Sure," she agreed, flicking a hand out.  "Not an issue.  I'll take you after that."  She grinned at him then looked at Hercules again.  "What's the big?"

"He's not Joxer!"

"He is, little brother," she said patiently.

"He doesn't like how you made me," Joxer said with a small grin for her.  "I suggested he could pray and petition you to make me my normal self again."

She grinned at him.  "You're so cute.  There's stuff that's got to be done before then, pookie."

"I know," he agreed.  "Still, every little bit helps.  Just, no more bells, please.  I almost like this me."

"Good point.  I won't bell you again," she said with a wink for him.  "You and that redhead?  Very hot.  Thanks bunches for the bursts of energy."  She looked at her little brother again.  "I'm sorry, Hercules, but I *had* to change Joxer.  The Fates said so."

"Change him back!  He's not supposed to be like Jett!"

"Well, someone's got to be like Jett," she offered dryly.  "Otherwise the world is full of bad and stupid people."  She gave him a meaningful look, which made Jett chuckle and lean on Joxer's shoulders.  "You really tied?"

"Ask Cupid, he was watching," Iolaus assured her.  She nodded, grinning at him for that.  "Herc, like I told you, he's really Joxer.  He can sing the whole theme song for you if you want to make sure, including the two new dirty verses he just added the other night."  Jett shuddered at that.

Joxer patted him on the back.  "At least I sleep with the women you don't want," he offered with a grin.

"True.  That redhead was much too cute and nice for my tastes," he agreed.  He tugged on Joxer's arm, leading him off.  "Thanks, Aphrodite.  I actually like this little brother better.  I can understand him."

"You could have understood me before but you refused," Joxer said dryly, following him.  He turned and bowed at the Goddess.  Then he winked. "If at all possible, I'll do it again for your pleasure, my lady Goddess.  The most fair in the heavens and on Earth should only know pleasure, unless she likes it a bit kinky."  Aphrodite tittered at that and Jett drug him off with a wicked grin.

"See, I told you he was still Joxer," Iolaus said dryly.  He looked at the Goddess.  "Hercules is sorry, he's stuck in this rut."  He walked over and drug Hercules off, going to throw him into a horse trough, hopefully one with spit streams in it.

She burst out in cackles when he did that, then disappeared, heading home to get ready for the surge of energy those two would be giving her, and the one Jace would be giving when his new boy got there later that night.  She had many uses for that energy. She just had to find her husband for a bit and *convince* him to come home for a few hours.


Joxer snuck out of the inn the next morning, heading out onto the road.  He had always liked traveling.  He whistled as he walked, enjoying the sky.  Even if he did need a hat to block out the sun.  It was very early.  He heard a noise behind him and glanced back, catching sight of Hercules. "You can travel with me if you want," he called back.  "I'm heading toward Aphrodite's main temple.  I've only got a lunar year to get there."

"Fine," he complained, catching up with him.  "I still say you're not Joxer, you're either Jett or Strife in his form."

"Think what you want, Hercules.  I'm sure we'll be running into Xena this way.  She was heading in that general direction."  He rolled his eyes and sent his usual morning prayers to the God Ares and to his buddy Strife, and of course to Aphrodite, including a bit that hoped she got good pleasures of her own last night and thanking her for his.  He focused on the road, seeing the carriage heading his way, and got out of the way.  "Sorry, morning prayers," he called over at Hercules' odd look in his direction.  He checked the road then got back into the middle of it again, walking on, letting his mind wander as he considered last night with the nice redhead.  He hoped she had gotten as much pleasure as he had from it.  She had said she had, but one never knew about prostitutes.  They usually lied about it afterward if asked.  She had volunteered the fact that he was one of the best she had ever had.  Did that mean she was telling the truth?  He looked at Hercules, who was still staring at him.  "I'm not going to suddenly change without a God showing up and you should be able to feel them."  He continued to stroll along, thinking his merry thoughts.  After all, Meg's was on this road too.  He felt himself get hard at that and sighed in pleasure.

"What?" Hercules asked cautiously.

"I just remembered that Meg's on this road," he offered with a grin.  "About halfway to the temples if I remember my distances correctly.  So within a month I'll be there with her and she can easily put us up for the night."  He might also be able to find a ship going toward the islands there too.  Since her main and favorite temple was on an island he'd need to book passage sometime.  Of course he had nearly no money....  He would come to that when he got to it.  He could easily fill in for crew for a few days or other things.  If he had to, it wouldn't be the first time he had paid his fare on his back or his knees.  Maybe he could find a female captain going that way.  He shook off that thought and checked the road around him.  It was very familiar.  He'd been this way many times in the past.  "Herc, there's usually some good hunting in a few miles if you wanted to catch something for later," he offered.  "It'll be about where I planned on stopping for the noon rest."

"Sure," he agreed.  He'd wait to pass judgement on that.  After all, he had no idea if this person with him would steer him wrong.  It's not like he could trust him since he said he was Joxer.


Joxer, Hercules, and Jett caught up with Xena about two weeks later, about a week after Jett had joined them looking much better and with more blood wine with him.  He coughed to break up Gabrielle's story, making her jump up and grab her staff.  "Great way to greet friends," he said dryly.

"Joxer!" Xena said, standing up and smiling at him.  It fell a bit when she saw Jett.  "Hercules.  Jett."

"Morning," he said, coming over to hug him.  He whispered in her ear, making her pull back and look at him.  "He's not!"

"He's still convinced I'm not Joxer.  So far I'm either my big brother here or Strife to him."  He shrugged off his pack and sat down.  "Sorry.  We're heading toward Crete eventually."

"Why?" Gabrielle asked, looking him over.  "I agree, you're really odd, Joxer.  If you're Joxer.  You didn't trip."

Joxer cleared his throat.  "Bell," he said, looking at Xena.

"Aphrodite," she said, nodding a bit.  "That explains it.  Are you heading to her main temple?"  Joxer nodded.  "Good.  Why aren't you sailing?"

"I was going to check at Meg's, see if I could get a discount," he said with a small smirk.

Jett swatted him.  "Shameless bastard," he growled.  He set down his pack and sat next to it, one arm over it.  "Morning."

"Morning," she said, smirking at him.  "You look like you're a bacchi."

"Someone gave him blood wine against his will," Joxer admitted.  "The price to turn him back is my blood."

"Ah.  So why hasn't he handed you over?" Gabrielle asked.  "He could save you if he wanted."

Jett looked at her.  "I'm not usually that cold, but thanks for standing up for my reputation."  He looked at Xena again.  "Hercules is paranoid."

"I noticed."  She sat down, pulling Hercules down next to her.  "Well, we're camped for the night.  You three can join us if you want.  Argo's a bit lame so we've been going pretty slowly recently."

Joxer nodded. "That's fine.  We're moving pretty quickly anyway."  He stretched and winced, so Jett slapped him on the back.  "Ow!"  He hit him back.  "Bastard!"

"See," Hercules said dryly, pointing at them.  Gabrielle nodded and Xena gave him a look.  "He hit Jett back?  Joxer?"

"He has in the past, but it's usually girly swats," Jett told him.  He looked at the ladies, and he used the term loosely in one case, and shrugged.  "Aphrodite even told him what happened.  He didn't believe her either."

Xena patted Hercules on the knee.  "Where's Iolaus?"

"Off doing something for Aphrodite," Hercules said grimly.  "He won't be back for months."

"Which way were you headed, Hercules?" Gabrielle asked.

"After them to make sure that the real Joxer comes back alive," he said grimly.

"If you really want to follow us to Crete, you've got to pay your own way on the ship," Joxer told him.  "I'll probably be working for mine."  He looked at Jett.  "How about you?"

"I've got a few dinars," he admitted.  "I can pay for my own passage."

"That's fine," Joxer agreed, looking at the ladies again.  He grinned at them and Xena arched an eyebrow up.  "I'm missing the ladies at the last tavern," he admitted.  "They were kinda nice and sweet.  Not too horribly old or abused.  Very pleasant company to chat with."  Jett snickered at that and he swatted again.  "Shut up."

"Fine," he chuckled. "You and those twins just *talked*."  He burst out in giggles, leaning on his bag.  "If you say so, Joxer."

"I did."  Well, no he hadn't, but you didn't say things like that in polite company and you certainly didn't brag about your conquests with women, not even women warriors.  Gabrielle's staff 'accidentally' fell toward him and he caught it, handing it back to her.  "Here, did you dent the bottom again?"

"No," she said.  "It just rolled off my knees."  She put it on her other side, giving Xena a meaningful look.  Xena leaned over to stir the cooking pot over the fire.  "So, we're having rabbit for dinner."

"I've got some jerky left," Joxer offered, pulling his pack over and digging through it.  "Oh, here, some salt too," he offered, handing it to Xena.  "We're about two days from Meg's right?"  She nodded.  "Are you going to be stopping there too?"

"Not if I can help it," Xena said honestly.  "You know Meg and I don't get along that well, Joxer.  The fact that she looks just like me and does what she does makes me sick."

"Sure.  Well, I'll probably be there for at least a day," Joxer told her with a grin.  "She's popular with some of the local sailors. Plus she's got a sweet spot for me."

Jett gave him an odd look.  "That's putting it a bit mildly."

"Yeah, well, they are still women," he said dryly, glaring at his brother.  "We all know I'm a lover, not a fighter."  Gabrielle muttered something that sounded like 'he can't be any worse than he is as a warrior' and he glared at her.  Xena coughed and caught his eye, shaking her head.  "So I was thinking about breaking there for a few days to find a good ship to sail out on.  I can always help the crew for a few days."

"She didn't give you passage money and you're on an errand for her?" Gabrielle asked.

Joxer looked at her.  "The Gods help those who help themselves," he shot back.  "Besides, I'm not so special that she's got to keep an eye on me all the time, Gabby.  The only thing I'm going to be asking her for is the petition I intend on making once I get there.  She's got too many other things to worry about.  The lady is my favorite Goddess ever, but that doesn't mean she's got the time to worry about one mortal's life.  Even one doing things for her so he can make his petition."

"Oh."  She shrank in on herself a bit.  Joxer had never talked back to her before.  She looked at Xena.

Jett looked at him again.  "Are you sure you're Joxer?  That sounded like Jace in a snit."

Joxer glared at him.  "I'll have you know I can do a mean impersonation of Jace," he said dryly.  "I simply haven't seen the newest show so I can't do his act yet," he finished smartly.  Jett shivered at that.  "So there."  He stuck his tongue out at him.  Then he grinned at Xena again.  "Sorry, he's being grumpy because he needs more blood wine and I've got his sack locked."  He handed over the key and Jett opened it, taking out a wineskin then locked it again.  He handed the key back.  "Thanks.  Are you sure you want to go to Crete with me?  You're going to be on a ship like that and the rumors say that bacchi don't like open water."

"I'll live," he promised him.  "I'm still not turned."

"Good, then I'll add some more water to the stew," Xena told him.  "You look like you're about half turned."  Jett nodded.  "What else did he want?"

"Me to be like Jace," he said dryly, taking a sip of his wine.  "I might give him a few drams of Joxer's blood if he really got pushy but if I did that I'd never sit again.  I don't think I'd like that since I'm not like Jace."

Joxer giggled, leaning on Jett's arm until he got punched.  "Jace has found himself a new boy," he announced.  "He came into the tavern with his farming family, who was dragging him off to marry him to some farmer's daughter in the morning.  He looked at the boy, fell in lust, and asked him if he ever thought about going on the road as an actor.  His parents scowled when the boy gladly took his offer.  Then again, Jace pays dowries for his boys."

"He certainly does," Jett agreed. "I still say the kid wasn't worth ten dinars.  He was fairly plain and dirty."

"Yeah, but with some help from Jace, he'll make a stunning addition to his show.  He had that girlish look to his face still and seemed most eager to be his...helper backstage."  Jett snickered at that.  "I'm wondering if he knew what he was in for, but I guess the girl was not to his liking anyway."

"Hopefully the girl finds someone else," Gabrielle noted. "I'm sure she wasn't thrilled with being married off like some prize pig being bred.  Especially not to a boy who would run off on her."

"Yeah, well, the boy described her as horribly plain and that her face looked like a badly made urn," Joxer told her with a small grin.  "Apparently the last he'd seen of her was when she was ten."  He grinned at Xena again.  "He basically slid into Jace's lap and thanked him the old fashioned way.  Jace was quite loud that night and we were all sharing the same room."

"At least not the same bed," Jett offered, taking another drink.  Joxer reached for his wineskin and he hit him again.  "Mine.  Let go."

"You've had enough."

"Get off!"  He bit him, making Joxer yelp and swat him until he let go.  "Tough.  Mine."

Joxer elbowed him in the ear, making Jett's head spin for a minute, then he took the blood wine from him.  "You've had more than enough.  Eat real food, Jett. That way I don't have to worry about you seducing me for Bacchus' pleasure."

"Hey, he said he wanted you," he said dryly, snatching the wineskin back but he didn't open it.  He looked at Xena.  "Sorry, he's being a bratty little brother and I'm under orders not to let him die."

"No you're not."

"Yes I am.  Bacchus said he needed your blood.  I'm under orders not to let you die."

"That's one way to earn passage to the islands," Gabrielle teased.

Joxer glared at her.  Then he took a calming breath.  "Gabrielle, I get better women than you do when you go trolling.  Always.  And since I don't always get charged for it, even by those girls who do charge, and I'm sure you know who I'm talking about here, that says a lot more to me than you, who has to pay extra."

"Hey!" Xena shouted, breaking up the fight. "That wasn't nice, Joxer."

"And hers was?" he demanded coolly.

Xena sat down again, calming herself down.  "No, it wasn't.  Apologize, both of you."  She glared at Gabrielle.

"I don't...."

"Now," Xena growled.

"Fine.  Sorry, Joxer."

"Sorry, Gabrielle," he said stiffly.  He looked at Jett, who was snickering and knocked him out again.  "I've had about enough of you today too, big brother."  He looked at Hercules, who just shivered and shifted closer to Xena.  "Yes, I'm still Joxer."

"I doubt it," Gabrielle told him bitterly.  "He was never mean to me."

"Yes, and you treated me like a naughty puppy most of the time," he shot back, glaring at her.  "I'm not letting you do that this time."  He got up and grabbed his pack.  "Hercules, watch Jett for me please.  I'm going to continue on."  He headed off into the darkening night, heading for Meg's.  At least she liked him.

"Gabrielle," Xena said coldly.  "I warned you not to treat him like that anymore."

"I don't!"

"Yeah, and your staff just *fell*," she said dryly, staring her down.  "Joxer is not a punching bag and he's not there for you to treat like your slave.  Now, go apologize to him."

"I would but that's not Joxer."

"Fine," she sighed.  "When we get to Meg's you can go in there and do it then."

"Not if it's not him I'm not.  I agree with Hercules, that's not Joxer."

Jett moaned and woke up, holding his head.  "What happened?"

"Joxer and Gabrielle got into it again," Hercules told him.  "He took off for Meg's.  He said to stay tonight."

"Sure.  Whatever.  Just make my temples quit aching."  He held them.  Then he sniffed.  "Autolycus.  I can smell you," he called.  "You're giving me a headache so just quit lurking."

"I took a bath this week," he complained as he sat down next to him.  "What's up with Joxer?"

"Did you hear about that bell thing with Aphrodite?" Xena asked.  He nodded, almost everyone had.  "That.  Again."

"Oh.  That's good.  At least he can protect himself.  We do know that I'm not the only bandit in these woods?"  They all nodded.  "Good."  He looked at Jett.  "You look rough.  Are you heading for a healer's?"

"No, I've got to follow him to Aphrodite's and then go beat the snot out of Bacchus," he complained, still holding his head.  "Can you maybe shut down the Godly son aura?  Both of you?"  He and Hercules both dropped their shields with an embarrassed look.  "Thank you ever so much, people."

"It's a side effect of being forcefed blood wine," Xena offered gently.  "I remember that ache."  She looked Jett over.  "Drink some more, it'll help you and him."  Jett uncapped his latest wineskin and guzzled a large swallow, then sighed in relief.

"Why does he need Joxer's blood?" Hercules asked.

"Because Joxer was there when he was killed and he needs the blood of the one who trapped him," Jett said miserably.  "It's one of the last things he needs to bring himself back."

"But Xena killed him," Gabrielle complained.  "I was there too."

"You were a victim, she was his killer, Joxer was the one who trapped him," Jett said patiently.  "Especially since he's an innocent."

"He's not," Xena told him.

Jett sat up.  "Yes he is."

"No, he's not.  He killed someone by accident during a fight before then, Jett.  He wasn't a blood innocent."

"But it wasn't intentional?" Autolycus asked.  She shook her head.

Jett shook his head. "No wonder this started to break down.  Joxer was supposed to stay a blood innocent to stay protected."  He glared at her.  "Weren't you supposed to be watching out for him?  I know Auto was told to if and when he ran into him."

"Yeah, I was," he admitted, looking at Xena.  "Still, accidental killing is different than intentional.  It could still count."

"It could," Jett admitted. "I wonder if he realizes that."  He looked up.  "Strife!"  He appeared, looking attentive.  "Did you know Joxer's not a blood innocent?"  He slowly shook his head. "He's not.  That screws Aphrodite's plan all to Tartarus too."

"It does," he admitted, considering it.  "Intentional?"  Xena shook her head.  "How do you accidentally kill someone?"

"He was waving his sword around while we were attacked once and a guy ran onto it," Gabrielle told him.  "That was back around the time Bliss got free and shot everyone with arrows."

Strife nodded, then he disappeared, heading to Aphrodite's temple.  She was nibbling and lounging, reading some smutty book from the future.  "Joxer accidentally killed someone during a battle."  She choked and sat up.  "They said it was around the time that Bliss got loose that time."  He dusted some flecks of glitter off his arms.  "Oh, Jett knows why Bacchus wants them both.  He may not realize he's painted as the innocent in that picture but he knows why and Bacchus is pushing his claim hard."

She shook her head.  "This isn't good.  Ares!"  He appeared.  "You didn't say Joxer was no longer a blood innocent."

"He is."

"He's not, Unc," Strife said patiently.  "Xena said so."

"Shit."  He went to scan Joxer's life in the Halls of Time, finding the incident.  He watched it a few times, then groaned, flashing back to stop Aphrodite from pacing.  "Yes, he did.  That means you'll have to take it fully off and they won't like it."

"Which they already know and that means my family won't be protected, Ares."

"He'll still protect you," Strife promised.  "He's like that.  The same as Jace would."  He grimaced a bit.  "He serves you the same way some bards do."  She nodded at that.  "Unc?"

"There's no getting around it.  He was waving the weapon.  The guy ran at him and onto the sword, it's still a killing.  The sword was in his hand and being used for defense."  He looked at Aphrodite.  "He won't break.  Not with so long under."

"He will break, I'm already seeing spots of it," she countered.  "He's not the happiest of my people, Ares."

"Yeah, well, it happens sometimes that love isn't nice," he pointed out.  "At least he's not counterproductive."

"No, he's not," she said, sitting down again.  "This stress is not good for my skin.  Strife, go talk to him about this.  We've got to go to the secondary backup plan."  He nodded, disappearing.  She looked at her brother.  "What do we do?" she asked quietly.

"Just what you thought.  We can always hamper him somehow."  He disappeared, going back to watch that incident again.  It wasn't bad, more like a kid's move.  How had he missed this?


Strife appeared in front of Joxer, stopping him with a hand to the middle of the chest.  He looked at him.  "What happened?"

"That brat."

Strife nodded.  "It happens.  Why didn't you tell me you had killed someone."  Joxer looked clueless.  "You were supposed to stay a blood innocent, Joxer.  Remember?  That was part of the curse."

"I never knew about the curse," he said bitterly.  "It was an accident, does it have to count?"  Strife nodded, not looking pleased.  "But it was an accident!"

"Yeah, but it still happened," Strife said bitterly.  "Ares even checked, it was enough.  You're not a blood innocent.  This puts a major crimp in the plans, Joxer.  This puts a lot of strain on it.  So just hold tight at Meg's and plan to go to the islands anyway.  It could be worse."  He disappeared.


Aphrodite calmed herself down and went to the general meeting that was being held.  She looked at Zeus.  "The plan is gone," she announced.  He raised an eyebrow.  "He's not a blood innocent."

"Why is this a matter for the pantheon?" Athena demanded.  "What mortal is worth this anyway."

"The one who'll be protecting my whole house in a few centuries," she said dryly.  "You know, the one keeping us from death?"

"Sorry, but I still don't see the relevance," she said, then shrugged, looking at Zeus.  "Do you?"  Aphrodite let out a shriek and went for her.

"Stop it!" Zeus yelled, stopping her.  "Aphrodite, I have warned you time and again about your language and your temper."

"So you're going to let my family die!" she shrieked.  "I'll see you and yours dead with mine."  She flashed out, leaving behind the curse.

"What is she talking about?" Apollo asked from his perch.  "What threat to the House of Love?"

"It's an old prophecy from the Titans.  They cursed the House of Love to all fall dead some day of a threat.  They included an out in an improbable warrior but certain things had to be maintained while he was cursed to fit it."

"Including his blood innocence," Apollo finished, nodding that he got it.  "Can we divert the crisis?"

"Hardly.  There'll be a battle and if there's no warrior to protect her house, it will all fall to one of them."

"You kept this hidden from us?" Hera demanded.  "You kept something this important to the whole pantheon hidden!"

"We were working on it," he assured her.  "Some things just need rearranged now.  Otherwise that battle-maddened warrior can and will remove them all."

"Pity," Athena said snidely.

Cupid appeared.  "Oh, really?" he asked coldly.  "Well, guess what, *Auntie*.  When you fall in love, in just a few years I might add, your kid will be one of ours.  He'll fall too."  He glared at Zeus.  "You attacked my mother for trying to protect us?  How dare you!"  He flicked a hand at him.  "Maybe now you'll stop populating the world with stupid offspring and pay attention at home.  It's a shame the reputation you've given us.  Even those of us in love can't because of your reputation."  He glared at Athena again, then suddenly smirked. "A bit too late, isn't it, *Auntie*?  Didn't you want to announce how you've broken your vows?"

"No man touches me sexually."

"Your vows said no man is to touch you," he said.  "It didn't hamper conception."  He walked over and patted her stomach.  "Welcome to the house, Celebration," he said, staring into her eyes.  He backed up.  "She's pregnant.  I charge Athena with breaking her Godly vows."

"You can't," Athena spat.

"I can and I did," he said snidely.  "Pity."  She flinched.  "It'll be a great playmate for my son.  After all, Grandfather *should* do to you what he did to my mother and force you to marry the father."

"I should if I knew who it was," Zeus agreed.  "That is the Godly decree set down by Hera herself."  He looked at her, then at Apollo.  "Would you please confirm this report."

"You're not coming near me," she hissed, manifesting her bow.  Apollo stopped, just staring at her.  "No one is coming near me.  This child, if there is a child, will not be in the House of Love."

"Apparently your area's brains are all used up," Strife said as he appeared with Clotho in his arms.  "Will you *please* tell her what the child is?"

"The Child will be the God of Celebrations.  Her marriage will be like Aphrodite's.  After a few years she will learn to love him."  She looked at Cupid, then flinched.  "What?"

"You let Joxer kill someone," he said coldly.  She went pale and flashed out, heading back to her cave and her sisters.  They had to check the weave now.  He sneered at Athena, manifesting his crossbow.  He shot her, then called her lover, his brother.  He shoved him at her.  "Your kid.  It's now part of the family curse."  He went weak kneed and glared at Athena.  "You forgot the cardinal rule of no bodily fluids touch her, little brother.  Little Celebration there will love playing with Bliss for as long as they live."  He glared at Zeus.  "You'd better have a backup plan.  A very good one."  He flashed out, forcing Strife to go with him.

"Ares!" Hera snapped.  He appeared and snatched Athena's bow from her hands, breaking it and tossing it aside.  "Thank you, dear.  Apollo.  Now."  He walked over and let her man hold her while he checked her over.  He nodded, getting out of the way.  He wanted to be far, far away from this battle.  "Do we have a backup plan yet?"

"There was one.  We can remove the curse fully but he was cursed because he would have been the worst of the three.  It was used to temper a hatred greater than Jett's and stronger than Jett's.  He would have outpaced Jett within five years as an assassin and he would have done it for fun and games.  That's why we chose Joxer."  She nodded at that.  "So, we can release him fully, or something else can happen."  He looked at Zeus.  Who looked clueless. "Atropos!"  She appeared, looking scared.  "There's another option, right?"

"The prophecy itself gave two options.  A godly protector, one who is Godly but is also a consort or lover to Love's house.  Or the immortal protector who could be worse than their enemy when it was necessary and more brutal than war.  He was not supposed to know War's touch," she reminded Zeus.

"He's been mine since he was eight," Ares said dryly.  "I had to work hard to keep him a blood innocent."

"That is not what we wove," Atropos said firmly.

"No, but it's what happened."  He looked around.  "Discord!"  She appeared.  "Did you happen to change anything about the triplets way back when?"

"No, their father hating healers wasn't me.  I've been working around the curse's knot to try to keep him within the bounds of the letter of the prophecy.  Why?"

"He accidentally killed someone while trying to defend himself."

"I saw that.  He's also coming more and more out from under the curse.  He was beating up on Jett earlier.  By the way, what is Bacchus' problem?"

"He needs them to return."

"Oh.  Okay."  She nodded at that.  "Fine, we'll work on that next," she decided.  She looked at Zeus.  "I've tried.  I've tried really hard.  I've kept to the letter of the prophecy time and again, even though it created the situation as it stands.  Now we've got to do something drastic."  She looked at Ares.  "Someone's got to tell him."

"I'm not even supposed to talk to the kid."

"No, you're not supposed to touch him," she said dryly.  "Don't have sex with the boy, go talk to him.  We all know why he's that angry.  Hello, forced away from his arts."  She looked at Athena.  "What did you want for a birthing present?  I found this great nut taffy while I was having Strife.  You know, that bastard child you laughed about," she sneered.  "Congrats on little Celebration there."

"There is no child!" she shouted.

Ares' youngest son looked up at the head Gods.  "Please restrain her," he pleaded to Hera.  "I won't have her hurting him."

"I agree.  We won't let her hurt him."  She waved a hand, binding Athena.  "Take her to her temple, force her to rest.  I'll be in later to check on the child myself."  He nodded, taking her home.

"That was a bit abrupt, don't you think?" Zeus asked dryly.

"It's clear Cupid's complaint is correct.  She did break her Godly vows.  She's lucky she's still got her powers.  The Goddesses will be meeting tonight, Hermes, go tell them."  He nodded, zipping off to spread that official and the unofficial announcements.   She looked her husband over. "I'm sure that impotency curse will come off some century, or at least before he dies and it becomes permanent."  She looked at Ares.  "I want a plan as soon as you have one.  Today if possible.  Give me a backup too if you can.  Also, work on getting Bacchus back, we'll need him to control some of the darker things going on."  He nodded, taking Discord with him when he left. She looked around.  "The rest of us are going to be celebrating Athena's upcoming wedding.  See that the presents aren't as tasteless as the ones you gave Aphrodite."  She disappeared, going to the Fates' cave.  "What can we do?"

The three looked at her.

"The best bet is the Godly consort," Atropos told her gently. "I don't know who in Love it could be with though."

"He prefers women but I have seen him with a man," Clotho suggested.

Ares flashed in.  "Harmonia's already married and she's about the only woman in Love that's not already married to a God."  He looked at the lines, moving ahead.  "Here.  We need the three of them.  Jace would gladly be the consort between Strife and Cupid, or with Bliss when he's older, but frozen in age to be young. We will have to pull Hermes' idiot son up as well.  We'll need at least two other fighters in addition to them for that battle anyway."  He looked at Hera, moving her closer to show her.  "Who do you want?" he asked.

"Iolaus.  He's very good and quite feisty, plus I've heard he's tied to Aphrodite."

"Her grandson," Lachesis offered.

"Very good," Hera agreed.  "Fine.  Bring those three up and Autolycus and Iolaus."  They nodded.  "Who else do we need?"

"We need one very good warrior," Ares told him.  "We need a native son warrior and I haven't had any.  We'll need a God of Battles or something."

"Who would be the mother?" Hera asked. "Pick anyone, I'll talk them into it."

He shrugged. "I have no idea," he admitted.  He noticed a neon orange strand back in their time and looked at it, frowning a bit.  "Who is that?"

"A witch that got misplaced.  Hecate said to leave her in the brothel there.  Joxer was dallying with her quite frequently while he was there," Clotho said with a small smirk.  "She'll go back eventually."

Ares considered it, tracing all the godly offspring lines.  "Gabrielle is one of Zeus's?  He's falling down in the sperm department," he complained, moving on while the women laughed.  He frowned, finding a string from Joxer's line.  "There's a string from Joxer?  A son?"

She came to look at it, tracing it back.  Hera looked at him, then at the Fates, who all shrugged.  "It wove itself?"

"We're not sure of anything," they admitted. "It's happened before.  Strife's got one too."

Clotho pointed it out.  "I didn't spin that one."

Hera checked it, letting the string touch her fingers and tingle it.  "Hmm."  She traced it down the tapestry, coming to a dead end.  She went back to trace the roots off it, finding a good one that had intersected with one of Ares' children's lines, and that of Joxer's son.  "What about this child?" she asked.

Ares touched it, then shook his head.  "Too delicate."  He frowned, looking at it.  "It's the same string!"  He looked at the other end.  "Why is it neon orange down there and pale purple up here?"

"An extreme change in attitude or personality," the three Fates said in unison.

Clotho checked.  "There's a kid," she announced.  "It's around the right time.  He'll be able to fight.  He's Joxer's and hers, and she's had some of Strife's line in her for a while."  She looked at Ares.  "At the right moment, you can call that one and have his help.  That would be the perfect solution."

"Only if we get to train him personally," Ares said dryly.

"Point," Hera agreed.  "You can do that.  Even if it is just in his dreams.  He'll need to know."  She looked at the child.  "He'll be mortal."

Ares shrugged.  "We can fix that too," he pointed out dryly.  She nodded that was true.  "So that's the last one we'll absolutely *have* to have.  We'll still need more."

"Some of the rest will fight, Ares."

"Yeah, and some won't," he pointed out dryly.  "I'm moving three legions up here and putting them into stasis."

"If you must," she sighed, resigned to the crypt he'd be building.  "How are we going to get Bacchus back?"

"He needs Joxer's blood, but he still thinks he's an innocent too," he said dryly.  "He'll need Jett, a chosen childe, and he'll need the stupid harp."

"I can get them once Aphrodite has released them," she agreed.  "We'll need to be at full strength."  She looked at the Fates.  "Screw up *this* plan and wish for the Twilight," she warned, flashing off to tell everyone they had a plan and to start preparations for the marriage of Athena and Ares' youngest son.

"I agree," Ares said dryly, flashing to the mortal plane.  He looked at Joxer, who was sitting against a rock being unhappy with life.  "We've worked around that problem.  Any other revelations you'd like to give us?"

Joxer grimaced at him.  "What was the nature of this curse?"

"To make you, basically, who you've been for the last few years.  You were cursed because at the end of it, you'll be the one protecting Aphrodite's family."  He squatted down to look at him.  "Do you want the truth?  It's not pretty."  Joxer nodded, just staring at him.  "You'd have been worse than Jett.  You fit the prophecy and we made you the way you were to try to protect you long enough."  Joxer snorted at that.  "You were meant to be a healer.  Your idiot father has some explaining to do to Discord."  Joxer nodded at that.  "You were going to be the best assassin.  You were going to be doing it for fun now and then.  You were going to be the bane of a lot of people.  We were saving the world from that and giving you the useful job.  Otherwise Jett would have gotten it."

"Now that it's slightly broken, I'm reverting," he stated.  It wasn't a question, he could feel the urges that he knew Jett felt now and then.

Ares nodded.  "That can happen, if you allow it."

Joxer snorted again and shook his head.  "No, I'm reverting.  I just had the mental images of how pretty I could make Gabrielle and Xena over their treatment of me.  That's why I walked off," he said quietly.

"I understand.  You can limit that if you want it.  Just because you think it doesn't mean you have to do it, Joxer."

"What about my training?"

"That could help it and once you've gotten through all this, I'll be handing you to Iolaus to start your training over."

"Eeeh, I'd rather not," he offered.  "He's kinda scared of me."

"True," Ares admitted.  "But there's no good trainers right now and he's one of the better and more unusual fighters around. You'll need that sort of gift."

"Yeah, but I'd end up hurting him, which would really piss Aphrodite off since it's her grandson."

"How did you know that?"

"I've been able to feel offspring now for a few years.  I'm not sure why but it started when Bliss hit me with that arrow way back when."

"Oh, good.  That's something we wanted to know."

"It let me find Xena now and then," he admitted dryly, smirking at his God.  "So, since I can't train with Iolaus without killing him, and therefore taking your last really good trainer, who am I starting with?"

"I don't know," he said dryly.  "Strife!"  He appeared, then grinned at Joxer.  "He said he's reverting back to what he could have been."

"Oooooh," he hissed.  "There's two ways around that.  Another dominant personality and letting that psycho created by his family be the voice in the back of his head, or remaking his personality."  He plopped down and pulled Joxer against his side.  "You're shivering."  He looked at Ares.  "Your choice, Unc."

"I know," he agreed.  "We'll figure that out.  He wanted to train with someone beyond Iolaus."

"I'd kill him," Joxer noted.  "He's not the most patient.  He made it through the three days without screaming at me, and I'm impressed with that, but I can't do it for real.  Besides, I've got some basic skills.  I'm actually pretty decent as a warrior."

"Fine," Strife agreed.  He and Ares stared at each other.  Joxer was his, it was his decision.  "We'll go with the dominant personality idea.  It'll be the safest and you can still call up that rage and let it loose when it's time."  He grinned at him.  "I'll be nicer than Aphrodite was to ya."

"Thanks, Strife."  He kissed him on the cheek.  "What about Bacchus?  Jett's getting worse."

"Oh, you'll need to help get him back," Strife said dryly.  "Then again, you're going to be going with his plans since he needs it."  He smirked at him.  "Jett's innocence will have to be sullied this time, and it's not gonna be a pretty one."  Joxer snorted and shrugged.  "You really are reverting, aren't cha?" he asked, looking into his mind.  He pulled back and looked at him.  "Fine.  You wanna suddenly be a bard?"

"No thanks.  Just some moral constraint would be nice."

"It would be, yeah," Discord agreed as she appeared.  "Then again, you've got to find a life on Olympus in a few years too."  She looked at Ares.  "Remember that glowy ball you weren't sure about?"  He nodded slowly and she smirked.  "It just opened. It's for him. Bia left him something."  She tossed it over.  "It's her sanity I think."

Ares looked at it, then tossed it to Strife.  "He's yours.  He's just going to have to be a consort to someone in the house of Love."  He stood up and looked at the pair.

Strife looked at him, then shook his head, warping the energy.  All Joxer really needed was the voice in the back of his head to tell him 'no, that's wrong' so he could control the impulses.  He inserted the necessary gaps between action and thought, then kissed him.  "You and Cupe would be really hot," he whispered.

Joxer grinned at him.  "I should spank you for doing that, Strife."

"You should," he beamed.  "You won't though.  Not now."  He felt both Gods look at his work and smirked at them.  "I'm good.  It's not the first time.  I gave Jett some a few years back."  He grinned at Joxer again.  "So, who do ya like?"

"I seriously like girls more," he complained.  "I like how they taste and how they smell and how you can squeeze them because they're soft."

"Well, there's Hermaphroditus," Discord offered.

Joxer shuddered.  "I support the guy, but no thanks.  I'm sorry, I couldn't."  She shrugged at that and beamed.  "Do I have to be a consort to someone in *love*?  I could be a consort to someone else and still protect Aphrodite.  She's a scary Goddess and I appreciate the hell out of what she does to others.  Sorry, Lady Discord, but I think she's scarier.  She can do some damage that no one even suspects until they try to function."

"Oh, I agree, Aphrodite on a rip is scarier than I am," she assured him, beaming at him.  "Surely you can't mean me."

"I don't know.  Could you handle sex every day, maybe even twice or three times a day, all very good of course?"  She gaped and he smirked.  "Go back and review my time with Iolaus a bit, Lady Discord.  I like sex.  A lot.  In many positions and all the time.  I'll get out of bed to fight someone, but not to do many other things since they can be included in sex."

Ares chuckled.  "Well, you'd certainly fit in with the house of Love," he said sarcastically.  "How about it, Discord?"

"Fat chance.  I top in my relationship."

"You can still top, Lady Discord," Joxer said with a leer.  "That's fine with me as long as I get to lick and play."  She blushed and shook her head, disappearing.  "Sorry," he offered, blushing a bit himself.

"That's it, you're gonna get a job under Cupie and we'll both share ya," Strife told him seriously.  "Either that or stick ya with Auto and make him your keeper."

"Well, he'd probably be sneaking ambrosia soon anyway," Ares admitted.  "I know Hermes was considering how to let him know where the two caves were."

"That's easy.  There's one at the base of Mount Olympus in that hidden temple, in the hidden back rooms, and there's one in Thesbos," Auto said from up the tree, smirking down at them.  "Too late."  He hopped down, looking at Joxer.  "You mean you were supposed to be worse than him?"  He nodded, smirking at him.  "Wonderful.  Now what?"

"There's a prophecy from the Titans," Ares told him.  "You guys get to help guard Olympus and Joxer's going to be the guy who saves Aphrodite's family from dying."

"Interesting.  My place in this prophecy?"

"We need some good warriors and minor Gods do work as well.  You can fight," Ares pointed out dryly.  "Therefore....."

"Gotcha."  He nodded.  "Sure, but I'm not marrying Joxer.  I'd hate to have to tie him down and go cheating on him to find a girl."

"We could always bring a few to put between us.  I like girls more," Joxer assured him.  He looked at his friend.  "What was the name of that hot goddess you introduced me to a few years ago?"  Strife looked confused.  "That really hot one.  The one I drooled over.  I was too busy staring to remember her name."

"Um, Eratos?"

"No, not her."  He swatted him and frowned.  "That dance, the bard's festival.  In the garden?"

"Oh, her."  He nodded.  "She's technically one of the graces.  Well, that would put him under Aphrodite," he realized, looking at Ares.

"It would," he agreed.  He looked at Auto, who was trying to figure out who they were talking about.  "Not Thalia, the other one with the blonde hair."

"Oh, her.  Yeah, major casabas on her," he agreed happily.  "I could take that trio.  Joxer?"

"If I must," he sighed, smirking at him.  "But I do not like to bottom."

"Me either.  We can easily have a wife."  He realized what he said and shook his head. Then he looked up.  "Hey, no fair tampering!" he shouted.

Hermes appeared and patted him on the back.  "I need grandchildren, son."

"You have seventeen of them," he complained.

"Okay, I want *legitimate* grandchildren," he said dryly, smirking at his son.  "Hera said that works for her, the graces all agreed to tease and play with these two.  They think they're cute and they know it's an alliance marriage."  He looked at Strife.  Then at Joxer.  "Speaking of illegitimate grandkids."

"Yeah, that redhead, well, ya did it to her one too many times," Strife said smugly.

"Shit, I'll never hear the end of that from Jace," he muttered.  Auto laughed at that.  "Oh, speaking of the queen.  He's got a new prince for his stables."

"I heard about that already," he admitted, smirking at him.  "I heard Jett had been there and went to see if he was still there.  So, what does Bacchus need?"

"Me, Jett, and the harp," Joxer said dryly.  He looked at Strife.  "You're going to make sure he doesn't kill or turn me, right?"  He nodded quickly.  "Good!"  He looked at Auto again.  "Fine, if we must."  All the Gods nodded.  "Sure."

"Fine," Autolycus agreed.  "It's just for show anyway."

Strife smirked at him.  "Athena's pregnant," he said dryly.  "Cupid caught it after she dissed the family."

Auto burst out in giggles.  "I thought she was only letting him touch and kiss."

"She was, but bodily fluids can be exchanged that way too," Hermes said dryly, patting his son on the back.  "That's how you came to be, son.  As well as grandchildren number 2 and fifteen."  He clapped him again then disappeared.  "Ares, the wedding's coming in about an hour," he called down.

"Shit, I've got to go find a tasteless present," Strife said.   Joxer whispered in his ear, making him glow and cackle.  "Ooooh," he said with a shiver.  "I love you, Joxer.  Never change."  He kissed him and left, leaving Ares to moan, shake his head, and follow.

"What did you offer?" Auto asked, creating a fire with a wave of his hand.  "It's chilly tonight."

"It is.  Thanks."  He leaned forward.  "A mirror that shows all those things she'll try to hide.  Every stretch mark.  Every roll of fat she'll never get rid of.  Every dimple on her thighs.  Every pimple on her butt.  Every hemorrhoid.  All of it.  Every day for the rest of her life to remind her of her husband."  He then grinned sweetly.  "Aphrodite and Discord are the only mothers I know who didn't seem to gain any weight and only got prettier."

"True, you wouldn't think Aphrodite had any kids with her body.  Discord either.  Then again, Hera does look fine."

"Yeah, but it's been ages.  She gets lots of exercise running off to the next birth and to beat the snot out of her husband."

"You know he won't put up with that sort of talk, right?"

"Am I a God?" Joxer asked dryly, smirking at him.

"Point," Iolaus said as he appeared.  "He said you were right and Hera agreed sarcastically about chasing after him being good exercise."  He handed over a goblet.  "Drink.  Now.  And I do have patience, thank you."

"Not for me."  He gulped the stuff, making a sour face.  "Eww."

"Yeah. Usually."  He took the goblet back and gulped some of his own.  "Auto, have you had any recently?"

"Yeah, just the other day.  I've got some in my pack," he offered smugly.  He looked at Joxer.  "So, you think she'd like to try it first?"

"Sure, why not?" he offered dryly.  "Aphrodite, can I please get free now?  That way I can give you a massive power rush?"  He felt something be taken from him shoulders and smiled wickedly at Auto and Iolaus, making them shiver.

Strife came back and slapped him gently.  "Sorry, it shifted."  He disappeared again, going back to working on his present.

Joxer shook his head, hearing that morality monitor back in his head.  "Good."  He looked at them.  "Let's go party."

"First, we've got to cure Jett," Iolaus said patiently.  "Then you can go party."

"Fine."  He looked at Auto. "You go get bacchi boy and meet me at the old cave.  His body is still there.  I know where the harp is."

"It's in the underworld."

"I gave him back a regular harp and hid that one there."  He smirked and disappeared, taking the fire and his pack with him.

Auto got up with a sigh.  "He's a quick learner."

"Strife did the instant lessons your dad did," he offered, smirking at him.  "See you at the wedding?"

"Not a chance."

"Fine.  Leave me alone with all the goddesses."  He smirked and slowly faded out.

Autolycus looked up.  "What did I get myself into?"  He popped back to the camp, picking up Jett and his pack.  "Come on, we're getting you fixed.  We have to get Bacchus back or else everyone on Olympus dies sometime soon."

"And that's a bad thing?" Gabrielle asked.

He shot her with a light power bolt.  "Yeah, it is," he said dryly, then smirked at the heros.  "Herc, Athena's getting married tonight thanks to the new baby, Celebration if I eavesdropped correctly.  See you guys around soon."  He winked and disappeared with Jett and his wine.  He landed inside the cavern, finding Joxer already playing the harp and humming along with it.  "What are you over?"

"Personality problems?" he joked, grinning at them.  "Hey, Jett.  Sorry about this, big brother. Have some more wine though, it can only help."  Jett fell to his knees, groaning.  "Feed him some more, Auto.  Oh, hey, Jett, you're now in-laws with Auto.  Don't worry though, we'll find you a nice girl somewhere."  He went back to playing and humming.  "Hmm, I'm under.... Mental Health?" he suggested, then shrugged. "I'll figure it out later.  Jett, really, man, drink a lot more wine.  It'll be easier.  I'll be nibbled on, your innocence will be breached, we'll go have a good nap and a feast later from the reception's leftovers."  He felt Bacchus hear him.  "He's coming.  Auto, can you put the head back on the body?"

"Sure," he agreed, leaving Jett guzzling the blood wine.  He moved the head into place and concentrated really hard, healing the body.  Then he got out of the way.  Bacchus was going to be cranky, he didn't want to get in his way.

"So, you come to me now?" Bacchus whispered.

"I want my brother back," Joxer pointed out.  "Go easy on him, okay?  I want him unharmed by your immensity."  He looked at the shade.  "Please."

"You ask a favor, after you helped kill me?"

"All I was told was that it was necessary, Bacchus."  He put the harp down and faced him.  "I got handed the talking head in the bag and the harp.  He said it was necessary.  Xena and Gabrielle said it was necessary.  I was young and dumb."

"You were.  You're no longer young and you're a God."  Jett moaned and took another drink.  He looked at him and smiled.  "He would do my line proud."

"Yeah, but he still likes girls and he's still an assassin," Joxer said blandly.  "We're missing Athena's wedding.  Can we speed this up?"

"She's being married?" Bacchus asked.  "To who?"

"Ares' youngest son with Aphrodite," Auto told him from his safe spot.  "She didn't think it'd hurt anything to let him touch and some of his fluid got on her...well, now she's pregnant," he finished smugly.  "Cupid said to marry her off like Aphrodite had been."

"Interesting.  There will be many parties tonight."  He moved closer to Joxer.  "I must drink of you to become alive and then take him."

"All I ask is that you be gentle with him," Joxer said, moving his hair out of the way.  "There ya go.  Strife said he'd make sure you didn't kill or turn me."

"Thank you."  He leaned in and bit the soft, pale neck, reveling in the hot blood it contained.  He gulped from it, moaning a bit. He was pulled back into his body as he drank, and his body formed around him again, giving him a physical form to be drinking.  He pulled back at the mental nudge from Strife and Asclepias, then smirked at him.  "Are you sure I should be easy?"

"You're bigger than some women's waists, Bacchus, please," Joxer pleaded, looking at him.

"I'll try."  He walked over to where Jett was nearly in a drunken stupor and readied him, then stripped him and carried him to his pillows.  He settled down with him, gently stroking his last childe as he entered him.  Jett gasped and moaned, grabbing his arms.  "All who are mine accommodate me and welcome me," he whispered in his ear.  "They become mine truly.  Are you mine, Jett?"

"," he stuttered.  "I don't want to be yours."

Bacchus gave him a sad look.  "You would be immortal.  None could challenge your dominance in your field.  You would reign forever as the king of assassins."

"Please, not this month," he complained, starting to break free of the spell of the God and his blooded wine.  "Can't you please hurry up?"

Bacchus smiled.  "Just a moment more," he offered, finishing off.  He pulled out before he was done.  "If you are sure.  You could take my seed and become my true childe.  One who would rule the night and spread fear and mayhem forever with me."

"No, I like my present job," he complained, wincing a bit.

"Very well then," he agreed, spilling that seed onto the ground.  He whispered into Jett's ear, dragging a large claw over his neck.  "You are free, Jett.  I will miss you."

"Yeah, but now I can't sit and I won't be able to for months."  He got up with a wince, looking at his brother, who was bandaging his neck.  "Not one word," he warned.

"Or you'll do what, Jett?  Cry?"  He looked up at him and they locked eyes.  "Did you know why it wasn't you?" he asked.

"No, I'm just really thankful I don't have the theme song," he said with a wince as he walked over to them.  "Why wasn't it me or Jace?"

"Hmm, there is a third, isn't there," Bacchus said, sounding delighted.

"He only likes young boys," Joxer told him.  He got up, leaning on Jett to find his balance.  "Because I would have been worse," he hissed.  "I don't have that little voice to stop me.  Strife had to put one in.  Do you really wanna see what we'd do to each other?"

"No, not at the moment," he admitted.  "Some day soon when I can sit again."  He let Auto help them out, noticing Joxer took the harp.  "Keeping a souvenir?"

"Yup, sure am," he agreed dryly.  "That way it can't happen again.  Oh, mental health includes stress and things," he told Auto.  "I'm going to Meg's to be babied. Coming, husband?"

"Sure.  They can let Jett soak there."  Between them they got Jett to Meg's and watched her fawn all over the two triplets.  He coughed and she blinked at him, so he grinned.  "Hey, Meg."

"Auto, such a naughty boy.  What's happened?"

"Bacchus is back.  He needed these two to heal and reappear."

"Ah."  She nodded.  "We've got a wonderful soaking tub, Jett, dear.  Joxer, I'll look at your neck."  She winked at him.  "Could I ask you to ...perform?"

Joxer kissed her.  "I'll pay for a room and all that but I'm staying here for a few days and hiding."

"That's fine, dear.  You know the rules.  You either pay for the room or you work for the room.  As long as you do one, we're fine.  Jett can be with you."  She smiled at Auto.  "Are you a trio?"

"Well, by Olympian decree, I'm supposed to be marrying Joxer. That way we can be around to help Aphrodite's kids when they're attacked in a few years.  So we're finding girls to put between us."

"Fine, I'll only charge you one and a half times the going rate then," she said, pinching him on the butt.  "Go up to your usual room so he can be cleaned up while I'm starting the pool.  That poor boy.  I had no idea he was the innocence they spoke of."  She bustled off.

"Not one word, Meg," Jett called.

"Of course, dear.  You know I don't tell tales."

Joxer nodded.  "She doesn't.  Come on, big brother.  Let's get you cleaned up so you can soak that poor spot."  He helped him up the stairs, letting Auto pick out a woman for them.

Auto made a pile of gold chain and grinned at Meg.  "That should be enough, right?"

"For the next week," she agreed happily, taking it to test it.  Sometimes Gods didn't make things exactly as they should be but she knew Auto knew what gold was.  The weight was good and it tested as real gold.  She was more than happy with it.  "Take anyone except the new girl," she said from the office. "Someone wanted her specially."

"Sure, which is she?"

Meg came out of the office and pointed.  "Her, dear.  Pick anyone but her."  She looked around and waved at one girl, bringing her over.  "Try her, Autolycus.  She's a very pretty and very nice girl."

"Sure," he agreed, kissing her gently.  She kinda reminded him of discord, but with strawberry red hair.  "Me, my husband, you?  Sound good?" he asked with a small leer.

"Sure.  Anything you want," she promised. "I've always liked Joxer and Jett."  She let him lead her up the stairs.  Jett was curled in a chair and Joxer was fixing the bed. She smiled and bent down to help him and Auto took a long look at her backside.  Well, at least a long look for him and then he went in to touch it.  After all, now he had to live up to Joxer's reputation here. They all knew him on sight so he must be good.

Jett looked up as someone knocked on the door, letting the bouncer help him up.  "Thank you."

"You're welcome, Jett.  Come on, the bath's started and it's nice and warm."  He helped him down to it and settled him in it.  "Some of the girls like to bathe in here when it's been a rough client.  Just relax and let the water work."

"Good.  It's helping already," he promised.  "Thank Meg for me, okay?"

"Of course."  He left, going to tell Meg his thanks and then check the others.  Joxer's girl was already squealing and pleading upstairs.  Sounds like the two of them together were going to be one hot combination for the tavern.


Xena walked into Meg's place a few days later, giving her look-alike a long stare.  "Is Joxer still here?"

"Yes, Xena.  He's doing me a huge favor," she said happily.  "He's cleaning up a little mess for me."  She led her to one of the cleaner tables, letting her sit there so she wouldn't see Joxer when he came out of the room.  "Why are you looking for him?"

"Gabrielle wants to apologize before I beat her."

"Ah, that's always...nice."  She smiled at Jett as he came down the stairs.  "There you are!  You should have eaten by now!"  She drug him into the kitchen and got him some of the leftovers from breakfast.  "There, you eat.  Xena's out front."

"Yes, Meg.  Thanks again."

"It's not a problem, Jett.  You know you two are some of our best clients."  She smiled and kissed him on the cheek.  "You're fantastically kinky and the girls all love you, Jett.  Just as much as they love Joxer and his tongue."  She went back out to sit with Xena, noticing the door to Joxer's temporary room was open.  "Did he come down?" she asked.

"No, he went into another room.  He waved but he was only half dressed."  She looked at her.  "So, I take it business is good?"

"Business is great," she agreed happily.  "How about yours?"

"Good.  We're on our way to visit my mother again.  She's getting fussy."  She shrugged a bit and then Joxer hopped down the stairs, grinning happily.  "Hey."

"Xena."  He kissed her on the cheek.  "How are you?"

"Fine. Are you all right?  You look different."

"Just a lot of fun.   This is a great vacation for me," he said happily, flopping down next to her with only a small hiss of pain.  "Sorry, over-exerted last night."

"You did what?" Xena asked.

"Anything consensual I could think of," he said honestly, making her blush.  He chuckled a bit and grinned at Meg.  "He left it up there.  He also went out the window."

"That's fine, dear.  Jett's getting some breakfast if you needed something else."

"No, I'm good."  He leaned over to kiss her on the cheek. "Thank you for letting me have this small vacation."

"You're welcome, dear.  You're one of my best customers.  You and that brother of yours.  He should give lessons."  She winked at him and they looked at Xena again.  "He is a lover and a fighter."

Xena looked at Joxer.  "You're not Joxer."  He only rolled his eyes and sighed.

The End.