Kiss and Tell
Well here it is, and with no small struggle,
either! The following story immediately picks up
right after the events in my previous story "One
Slip", so you'll probably need to read that one
first if you haven't already.
Standard disclaimers and slash warnings apply, although
it's fairly light on smut and mostly heavy on angst.
This was a tough one, but I hope you enjoy. And yes, eventually there will be more to come...
Autolycus awoke from his very deep sleep with a weary
yawn. Slowly stretching stiff limbs and protesting
muscles, he rolled away from the bright sunlight
intruding into the room and cursed the loud voices
outside that had interrupted his slumbers. His body
advised him that a few more hours rest would be most
appreciated and might actually leave him feeling human
again. He had also been in the middle of a most
interesting dream when awakened and wanted to try to
return to it before it slipped completely out of his
Was last night all a dream, or did some of that really
happen? he wondered with no little awe if any of it
had been for real. He figured Joxer would be able to
help him sort out the details soon enough--and that could
wait until he caught a couple more zzz's.
The question formed in his mind as he reached out for his
companion and found nothing except rumpled sheets and a
cool pillow at his side. Curious, Autolycus lifted his
head and blinked until his eyes remembered the fine art
of focusing, then he looked all about the room with
increasing confusion. No signs of Joxer--not even a stray
piece of his clothing in sight. Dropping his head back
down onto his own pillow, the thief reasoned that Joxer
had perhaps left to relieve himself, or maybe to get some
If so, he'd better come back with enough for both of
us. Auto's stomach grumbled loudly in agreement with
that sentiment. He sure had worked up quite an appetite
thanks to last night's activities--real or imaginary.
Lying in bed, listening to the bustling sounds of the
waterfront and the loud calls of seabirds circling about
outside, he realized it had to be getting pretty late
into the morning, maybe even the afternoon. To his
admittedly blurry memory it had been almost dawn when
they'd finally given it a rest and decided to get some
Sweet Zeus, it's good thing he's not that demanding all
the time...But, every now and again, I don't think I'd
mind, Autolycus thought with a small smile to himself.
Despite the lateness of the day, he figured there was no
point getting up and dressing yet since it would probably
be a wasted effort once Joxer returned. But after
unsuccessfully trying to fall back asleep for some time,
he started feeling not only hungry but also slightly
edgy. Where had Joxer disappeared to for so long, anyway?
It wasn't like him to take off on his own without leaving
a note, or waking Auto briefly to let him know where he
was going. Since the thief had been completely dead to
the world for who-knew-how-long, he had no real idea how
much time had passed since Joxer had left. Autolycus was
a light sleeper normally--a man with as many bounties on
his head as he had to be reasonably alert all the time.
He was certain he should have heard Joxer getting up and
moving about...unless he'd been even more drunk last
night than he could recall.
Well, that wouldn't be a first... But that possibility
didn't do much to ease his mind. Generally he liked
maintaining his sobriety--that alertness factor again--
and he chastised himself for letting his self-control
slip because he'd been feeling blue and lonely.
Joxer's getting too strong a hold over you, Autolycus,
m'boy. It's one thing to let yourself fall in love; it's
another to get reckless and maudlin just because you're
missing him. Unfortunately, he knew it was too late to
change the way he felt. He'd fallen and fallen hard, and
he was constantly struggling to reconcile his old fears
of involvement and love with his newly discovered need
for those very same things.
As the minutes continued to slip by, his mind too
preoccupied to go back to sleep, he grew increasingly
worried. Joxer could have gotten himself into some sort
of trouble. Such a thought wasn't a stretch of the
imagination since Joxer was the party in question. The
man was a walking, talking, usually tripping pile of
trouble waiting to happen.
Finally deciding that he needed to head out in search of
his missing companion--not to mention get some food on
his increasingly noisy stomach--Auto forced himself to
get up and started pulling together his clothes. The
search for his scattered garments resulted in a rather
disturbing question forming in his mind, joining the
other disturbing ones already spinning about:
"How in Hades did my underwear get up there?!"
Scratching his head and deciding he probably didn't want
to know the answer, he retrieved the garment with some
difficulty and finished dressing, then headed downstairs.
He spotted the innkeeper sitting at his desk near the
entryway and greeted him with cheery, "Morning."
"Afternoon," the man corrected with a wink and a knowing
smile. "Must've been a good night for you, eh?"
"Heh, well, I suppose it was. I'm wondering if you've
seen a friend of mine passing through here...tall,
skinny, wearing black leather...brown hair, brown
eyes...maybe he tripped or fell a couple times on the way
out?" Auto added the last bit when the innkeeper showed
no signs of recognition based on his physical
"Hmm...no sir, can't say I saw anyone like that either
comin' or leavin'. And I've been here, oh, since not long
"I see." Autolycus frowned, growing more concerned at
this news. But of course, he told himself, it was quite
possible the old man had been distracted or even asleep
when Joxer left. "Well, if you see anyone like that come
through here--his name's Joxer--tell him I'm looking for
him in town." Auto fished out a handful of dinars and
handed them to the man. "I think I'll be needing the room
through the today, and the extra's for passing along the
Autolycus didn't have much luck picking up Joxer's trail
in town. No luck, to be precise. Joxer was not usually
a difficult man to find, but he'd certainly managed to
make himself completely scarce today.
After unsuccessfully scouring the small marketplace and
the busy waterfront, which truthfully was about all there
was to the town, Auto's stomach was becoming insistent
that it was time for some sustenance, especially if he
was going to keep running around this way for the rest of
the day. He ended up deciding to head back to the same
tavern where they'd crossed paths the night before, The
Siren's Lair, thinking perhaps that Joxer would have
returned there as well.
Autolycus stepped inside and looked about, taking in the
quiet daytime crowd, then he sighed in disappointment
when he didn't spot Joxer. Nevertheless, he put aside his
search for a while and took a seat. He ordered whatever
the day's special was, hungry but too distracted to care
much about what he would be eating. The food arrived in a
few minutes and did the trick for getting his energy
back, but he couldn't lose the worrying voice in the back
of his brain that he was missing something--something
that perhaps should have been obvious to him--in regards
to Joxer's disappearance. If only his memory of the
details of the night before were clearer...
Before he could contemplate any of this much further, he
looked across the room as the door opened once more,
letting in bright light from the world outside the dark
tavern. He breathed a deep sigh of relief at seeing the
blessedly familiar individual standing in the doorway,
glancing about uncertainly and then heading for an empty
table until Autolycus called to him loudly, "Joxer!
Joxer, over here!"
Startled, Joxer turned towards him, then grinned as he
recognized the thief. "Auto!" He bounded over towards his
table and grabbed Autolycus for a quick hug. "Wow, talk
about luck! I didn't expect to find you here!"
"Well there's not many places to go in this town," Auto
answered, letting Joxer go to reclaim his seat. He
noticed with a little regret that Joxer was no longer
wearing the black leather outfit from last night but had
changed back into one of the more colorful outfits Auto
had stolen for him a while ago. Not that he didn't think
the outfit looked good, but he'd rather enjoyed the all-
leather look...less flamboyant but quite delicious
Before Auto had chance to question Joxer as to where he'd
been all morning, the younger man grabbed a chair of his
own, sat down and started in excitedly, "Listen, I'm
really glad I caught up with you before you got to
Egio. I was so worried. Mom told me that Jett's broken
out of jail and he's looking for you. You and Xena."
"Jett?" Auto blinked a few times. Jett--Joxer's crazy
brother. Joxer's crazy brother was on the loose...and
looking for him?
"Yeah, you remember my brother Jett, the assassin? Bad
attitude, black leather head to toe, kinda screwy in the
head? The one we stopped from killing Cleopatra?"
"Jett," Auto repeated once again, getting an uneasy
feeling in the pit of his stomach. He hadn't...last
But if Joxer had really just arrived in town now...
"Yeah, Jett. Apparently prison didn't do much to improve
his personality and he's out for payback. Didn't take too
well to being put out of business by a woman and a thief-
-at least, that's what he told mom. So I had to leave
early. Mom wanted me to stay longer but I was too
worried. I figured you'd be taking this route so I got a
ride with some traders to make it here as fast as I
could." Joxer reached across under the table to touch
Auto's leg, squeezing it lightly. "I'm just glad I found
you before Jett did. Who knows what kind of plan he might
be putting together--I sure hope Xena and Gabrielle are
going to be at the festival too so we can warn them. I
know Gabby loves those sorts of things and I remember her
talking about how great it was last year..."
Joxer went on and on but Auto wasn't listening any
longer. Aw man...Jett! I spent the night with Jett?!
Why didn't he...I can't believe I didn't realize it...Was
I that drunk? Am I that dense?
Of course, they do look exactly alike, down to every
detail...Shit shit shit! I guess I should be glad he
decided not to kill me, but still...
"Hmph?" The thief looked up and tried to put on his best
"Are you listening to me? Are you feeling okay?" Joxer
frowned and asked with worry. "You look pale all of a
"No, I'm fine, Joxer." Yeah, terrific. I just found out
I spent the night getting screwed by my boyfriend's
homicidal twin brother. What am I supposed to do now?
"Just...guess I'm a little surprised about all of this."
No lie there.
"Well, don't worry, I'm sure we can take care of Jett,
now that we know what's coming." Joxer eyed Auto's still
half-full plate of food and asked, "Uh, are you going to
"No, by my guest." Autolycus pushed the plate towards his
companion. Suddenly he'd completely lost his appetite.
After an afternoon spent diligently "catching up" on
missed time--and then a good night's sleep recovering
from all that catching up--the two men were back on the
road towards Egio and the arts festival early the next
At least, Joxer seemed to have had a good night's sleep,
as he was walking along at a spirited pace and humming
lightly to himself as they made their way along the road.
He seemed too excited about the upcoming festivities to
talk about much of anything else: the performers who were
supposed to be there, the money he'd put aside to
purchase a new instrument for himself, the way his mom
had been so happy to hear he was going to give music a
try again...On and on and on he went, between humming one
of his silly songs, and Auto was too distracted for once
to become annoyed.
Autolycus had not slept nearly as well as Joxer had that
night, and now he was suffering from the ill effects of
his weariness and worry. He stifled a yawn, then nearly
tripped over a rock he hadn't noticed in the road due to
Joxer, who had been a few paces ahead of him, turned
around and asked, "Auto? You okay?"
"Yeah, fine. Think I need a new pair of boots or
something--these are getting kind of worn. Losin' all
their traction," he quickly excused his clumsiness.
"Oh. You sure that's it? You're so quiet," Joxer pressed.
"Yeah, don't mind me. Just...trying to make some plans of
my own for this festival. You know, while you're busy
doing your thing...I gotta think about doing my thing,
Joxer laughed lightly, satisfied with that answer. "I
should have figured as much." Then he went back to
humming, leaving Autolycus to his thoughts again. When
the still-distracted thief nearly slipped on some wet
leaves at the edge of a mud puddle, he yelled at himself,
Wake up, you idiot! Quick picking up Joxer's bad habits,
stumbling around and not watching where you're going.
And while you're at it, quick picking up his bad
brothers, too, his conscience reminded him. He still
couldn't believe the situation he'd gotten himself into
here, falling for Jett's playing him like a fool--by
playing his fool of a brother--and he was damned if he
had figured out what to do about it. Play the whole
mistake quiet, like it had never happened?
Sure, that made the most sense--until he considered the
fact that they were likely to run across Jett again, and
probably sooner than later. He'd mentioned the festival
and their planned meeting in Egio to Jett; at least he
was fairly certain he had that night. Who knew what the
assassin had in mind--for either him or Joxer...or Xena
and Gabrielle for that matter, if they had the likely
misfortune of being around for the festival as well.
And what if Jett caught up with Joxer first and told him
what happened? Maybe that's his planned revenge against
me, Autolycus mused. Joxer would know then that he'd
tried to hide the truth and would probably throw a fit.
Or worse, throw him out.
Would Joxer do that? Could this dumb-ass mistake of his
end up meaning so much to the other man that it could
screw up their entire relationship?
Auto wished he knew, but it was too hard to figure out
Joxer sometimes to know for certain. He tended to get
real sensitive when it came to relationship business,
even over things that Auto didn't think should matter at
One way or another, Autolycus wasn't savoring the idea of
confessing to Joxer he'd spent a whole night bonking his
lunatic brother. And he knew the longer he waited, the
worse the confession was going to go over if he had to go
through with it.
Tartarus. Which god did I piss off this time to step
into this nightmare?
Sometimes his life was simply not fair at all.
Late that night, the two men happened through another
small village where they decided to stop for the night.
At the pace they were travelling, and according to the
signposts along the well-traveled road, they would likely
make it to Egio by the following nightfall.
To deal with who knows what, Autolycus thought
morosely, having a strong feeling that Jett would
probably be one of those "whats". He hadn't been able to
shake the feeling all day that either someone had been
following them since they left Egira, or that they were
walking right into some kind of a trap. It hadn't helped
when the serving maids in the village tavern all gave
Joxer slightly odd but definitely fearful looks--which
the wanna-be-warrior-turned-wanna-be-musician completely
Auto didn't. Jett had been through here, all right. He
wished there was some way they could head back in the
opposite direction and forget about this whole festival
business, but he knew Joxer had his heart set on going.
Regardless of what awaited them come tomorrow, for
tonight they had a cozy room and an even cozier bed in
the inn above the tavern. With full stomachs and a half
bottle of wine to be finished, the two men had called it
an evening and retired to sleep...and to pursue other
less mundane activities as well.
"That's it...that's it...oooh yeah...!" Pleasure coursing
through him head to toe, Autolycus arched upwards,
desperately trying to push even farther inside his
lover's body. Joxer responded to Auto's urgings, riding
him with abandon and well-practiced skill, his pale skin
flushed and glistening with sweat as they both neared the
inevitable and necessary climax.
Nothing ever felt better, more perfect than this,
Autolycus always thought right at that moment. The
Elysian Fields could offer no better place to be than
here, sheathed in Joxer's warmth and trapped between his
solid thighs. "Joxer..." he groaned as the pleasure
magnified tenfold, then a hundredfold, then overwhelmed
him completely for a brief but incredible moment. Dimly
he was aware of Joxer's echoing moan, the liquid warmth
spreading over his stomach as the other man came soon
after he did.
Joxer then slid down on top of him them, covering his
chest and then his neck with gentle kisses. When he
lifted his eyes to look into Auto's, the usually gentle
gaze was practically smoldering with unabashed lust...and
Funny, that, Autolycus noted. Jett had been full
of that same wild lust, too. But Auto realized now that
he should have noticed that the love had been missing.
Their night together had been intense, sure, but in
retrospect, he knew that was the clue he should never
have missed as far as knowing that something had been
wrong. There had been no "love" in what Jett had done to
him. It had been sex--nothing but sex, like Auto had only
known for all of his life until finding Joxer. Now that
he knew better, about the difference between intercourse
and making love...
...Well, he should have known better, when it came to
telling his playmates apart.
"Where are you, Autolycus?" a soft voice asked, those
warm brown eyes looking into his now with worry.
"You're somewhere else; I can see it. Now, call me picky,
but if I'm making love to you, I want you here with me,"
Joxer scolded him lightly, though his smile took the
sting from the words.
"Sorry, Jox. I was just thinking...about how lucky I am I
Joxer's smile widened and he leaned in to place a tender
kiss on Auto's lips. He was always so easy to please with
the right words, a gentle reassurance or embrace.
Makes it so damn hard to think about hurting him with
words he shouldn't have to hear.
"Mmm..." Joxer almost purred, snuggling against Auto and
looking so terribly happy he was practically glowing. "I
gotta say, sleeping under the stars is kinda romantic,
but nothing beats a nice comfy bed, don'tcha think?"
"Like we ever get much sleeping done," Autolycus said
with a smirk.
"Hades, no." Auto let his hand glide down Joxer's bare,
soft back, trying to simply let himself enjoy the moment
as he usually did. He was still debating whether he
should tell Joxer about Jett or not, and he knew tonight
was the night he had to do it if he wanted to be certain
to beat Jett to the punch.
"Glad you're not complaining. But I think we should,
y'know, take it easy now and then. Just so we aren't
complete zombies during the day," Joxer continued on,
oblivious to Auto's continued pensive mood. His fingers
traced out incomprehensible patterns down Auto's chest
as he said, "The first night I was at home,
mom got all worried because I slept straight past
lunchtime. When I told her why, though, she didn't seem
worried any more."
"You told your mom about me?" Auto asked, this revelation
stirring him out of his other thoughts.
"Yeah. I mean, I told her I was involved with someone...a
handsome, charming, roguish sort of someone...but I
didn't go into all the nitty-gritty details or anything."
"Mm hmm. But she expects to hear all that when we visit
her on the Solstice."
"Well, she really wants to meet you, and I had to promise
her I'd be home sometime soon again. Especially when I
ran out on her so fast this time. I just couldn't stay
when I knew Jett might be on your tail."
In more ways than you know, Jox. Aw hell, Auto groaned
to himself. He couldn't do it; he couldn't keep up as if
nothing had happened...it was going to drive him mad! To
anyone else it wouldn't have been a problem, but damn
Joxer...why did lying to him about anything always feel
so wrong? Why was it so fucking impossible to keep a
secret, one teeny tiny secret from him?
Okay, here goes a fat load of nothing...or everything.
After taking a deep breath and slowly exhaling it, he
started, "I, uh...listen, Joxie, there's something I need
to tell you or else it's gonna make me crazy. I didn't
want to get you upset--well you're probably gonna get
upset anyway--but I don't want you hearing about it from
someone else later, 'cause I'm sure that would only get
you even more upset than you're likely gonna get now."
"What is it?" Joxer asked, raising his head, making Auto
all the more uncomfortable now that he had to look into
those soulful eyes while making his confession.
"It's that, ah, I don't think that we really need to
worry about Jett. At least not where I'm concerned.
We...ah...I ran into him already. In Egira. The night
before you showed up."
"What?! Why didn't you tell me?" Joxer asked, clearly
surprised and confused.
"Uh...well, at the time I...I didn't know it was him. I
thought he was you. And he just let me believe he was
"...Until you made some sort of move on him, I bet."
Joxer grinned. "That must have really surprised him,
Auto squirmed. "Actually..." he started, giving Joxer a
sheepish look, "if it did...I...didn't exactly notice."
Joxer's smile slowly faded as he began to understand.
"Auto, you didn't...you did it with my brother?!"
"Babe, I'm sorry, you gotta believe me. I really thought
he was you! I never would have--"
"You're saying you couldn't tell the difference me and,
and him--during that?"
"Hey, it's not like I'd screwed him before and could
compare notes!" Auto argued, then immediately he
regretted his outburst when Joxer just gave him the most
crushed expression, then rolled off him and turned his
back to him. "Aw, come on, Jox...hear me out here, will
ya? I'd had a little too much to drink. Maybe more than a
little too much 'cause I wasn't thinking too clear...I
did notice you were acting kind of strange, but he just
played it up completely as soon as I'd made the mistake
of thinking it was you from the start. A minute ago you
were worried Jett was gonna kill me! At least he only...I
mean, I didn't want you to keep worrying, all right? Or
to run into him later and have him spring this on you.
That's why I told you about it."
No answer. Yeah, this is going great. Brilliant plan,
Autolycus. Spill the beans and then stumble all over
yourself trying to explain it afterwards.
He ran his hand along the back turned to him, trying to
coax some reaction out of the silent man at his side.
"Stop it, Auto! I don't want to hear it right now," Joxer
Frustration and desperation tinged Auto's equally blunt
reply. "Well that's too bad, 'cause you're gonna hear me
out. Now, I haven't stepped out on you once except for
this. And that was only because I thought I was with
you! So, okay, I was an idiot. I should've been
thinking with my head instead of my dick, and maybe I
would've figured it out. And considering we're talking
about Jett here I might've ended up dead as a result,
huh? Is that what you'd have rather seen happen?"
"Of course not!"
"All right then." Auto slinked his hand around Joxer's
waist, lying close against him. He hated the way that
precious body that usually relaxed right into his touch
now felt so stiff, so unresponsive to him. Softening his
tone again, he continued, "Look, all I knew back there
was that I was lonely, I'd been drinking and thinking
about you, and then suddenly, there you were! I was too
happy to see you to question it, to notice what wasn't
quite right. But go ahead, chew me out if you want to, if
it'll make you feel better. Call me a jerk, an idiot,
whatever you want...just say something."
Joxer sighed and after a long pause, answered slowly,
"I'm...I know I should be mad at Jett, not you. I'm just
a little...I don't know what I'm feeling right now.
Except confused, and hurt. I can't help thinking you
should have known it wasn't me."
"I swear I didn't. Okay, I knew there was
something...something different...in the way you were
acting. I mean the way he was acting. But Jox, we play
so many games with each other sometimes, I figured you
were just taking things a little extreme, being so rough
like you were, because it was some sort of new game you
wanted to play."
After taking a moment to consider this, Joxer asked
softly, "Did you like it?"
"I said, did you like it? Was he...was he better than
"I didn't say that!"
"I know you didn't. I'm just asking. He's always been
better than me at everything else. Why not be a better
Auto sighed, feeling as if he were digging himself a
deeper grave with every comment he made. Maybe he should
keep his big damn mouth shut the next time he got the
idea he needed to make some grand confession. "I love
you, Jox, not Jett. If I...enjoyed myself, that night, it
was only because I thought I was with you." Autolycus
heard a soft snort at that remark. "What?!"
"You're not going to sweet-talk your way out of this
"Gimme a break here. I'm trying my best! What do I have
to do? Hmm?" His fingers ran down Joxer's side, as he
brought his mouth lightly against the back of his long
"Don't," Joxer protested sharply.
Auto drew back, surprised, almost...almost frightened
by the coldness in the man's response. "Joxer?" he asked
"Auto, just...not now. Okay?"
"Okay. Yeah, okay. What can I do. Tell me."
Auto sighed and dropped his head back on the pillow.
"Shit..." he swore under his breath. He didn't know what
to do--try to force some sort of response out of Joxer?
Let him work this out on his own? For so long, he'd kept
himself from ever letting anyone get too close; now that
he had, he didn't know how to deal with it when things
"Jox, you want me to stay here, tonight, or what? Do
you...do you want me to leave?" he finally asked. "I
don't want to go, honest...but if you don't want me
"No, don't go," Joxer cut him off quickly. "Just...just
"Holding. I can handle that. No problem." Autolycus
turned back to Joxer, pulling his body close once more
but this time daring to do nothing more than that. Not
Sleep came uneasily that night, when it finally came at
For the second morning in much too-recent memory,
Autolycus awoke to find himself alone. Only a note
scribbled in obvious haste left on the pillow next to his
own awaited him. He contemplated it for several minutes
before working up the courage to actually focus upon it
and read Joxer's words:
/ I am leaving to find Jett. I need time to work this
/ out and settle things with him, and I need to do
/ this on my own.
/ I know what happened was not your fault. But
/ right now I need time to deal with the anger I
/ feel towards both of you.
/ I'm sorry. Don't follow me. I'll find you when
/ I'm ready.
/ I love you.
"Ah, Joxie..." he sighed after rereading it a few dozen
times. He folded the note carefully and put it aside on
the pillow again where he wouldn't lose it. He fell back
onto the bed, rubbing his eyes until his hands clenched
into his fists in frustration.
Dammit! He pounded the bed so hard he bounced. Then he
realized he felt the strange sensation of moisture
welling in the corners of his eyes. Tears? No--he was
not going down that miserable path, not now. Not after
all this time. True, everything was going on a fast
chariot to Tartarus and he didn't know what to do about
it--except that leaving Joxer on his own to take on Jett
was not an option.
Neither was losing Joxer over this fool of a mistake he'd
made. One way or another, he'd set things straight.
He had to.