Xena and Joxer's Excellent Adventure
As the ship rocked from side to side, Xena and Gabrielle watched the docks drawing closer, their sea journey was almost at an end.
"Not too much longer now." Xena commented. "Sure wish I could go with you."
"I know. So do I. But this time it's Amazons only. If I had my way, you'd be included too. But rules are rules. If you had let us initiate you into the Sisterhood...."
"Well, you know me -- I'm not much of a joiner."
Gabrielle softly bumped Xena's upper arm with her shoulder. "Maybe someday?"
Smiling slightly Xena answered, "Maybe."
"You really didn't have you come, I know how much you hate the Romans."
"It's not the people I have the problem with, and really, not even the soldiers. It's the Roman emperors. None of them have ever been worth a damn, especially Caesar, and Caligula. Besides if I had stayed in Greece it would have been that much longer before you came back to me."
"You're not going to get into any trouble are you? I'd hate to hear that you've been at war while I've been gone."
"No, I'll keep a low profile. If they leave me alone, I'll leave them alone." Xena replied.
"Let's hope so."
As the two women walked down the gangplank they heard a familiar voice yelling out to them.
"Xena! Gabrielle! Over here!"
With surprise on both faces, they looked toward the sound to see Joxer waving at them.
"Where'd HE come from?" Gabrielle asked.
"No telling." Xena replied.
"Hiya, girls!" Joxer said with unbridled enthusiasm. "Funny meeting you two here. Taking a vacation?"
"Joxer, what are you doing here in Italia?" Gabrielle asked.
"I was just going to ask you the same thing."
"The Amazons are having a Spring Gathering. It happens every eight years. This time the tribes of southern Italia are hosts. So WHY are you here?" Gabrielle asked.
"It was kind of an accident. I was drinking, and gambling, and I lost. But I didn't have the dinars to cover my bets, so I had to work it off as a deckhand on a trading ship. So here I am. How lucky can I be? My two most favorite people in the world!"
"Xena," Gabrielle said, "I guess I should be going. I see a few Sisters I recognize and it will be safer if we travel together."
Seeing Xena's expression, she continued. "It won't be that long, only full moon to full moon."
"Yeah, but it's still five or six days until the moon is full. That makes it almost thirty-five days. We've hardly ever been apart that long before. I really don't like this."
"I know. I don't either, but this is important to me. And it's important to my tribe, to ALL the tribes. With all the wars and turmoil the Amazons been through, this Gathering is really needed to bring us together again."
"I realize that. And I know it's vital for them if they're to survive. But I'm REALLY going to miss you."
"Hey, what about me? You can hang out with me while she's gone. We'll have a GREAT time!" Joxer exclaimed.
Rolling her eyes, Xena answered. "Oh yeah! A REALLY great time!"
After giving Xena a long and loving embrace, Gabrielle said, "Now you two have fun, stay out of trouble, and I'll see you after the next full moon."
"So, what do you want to do?" Joxer asked as Xena glumly watched Gabrielle disappear down a well-traveled road with a half dozen of her Sister Amazons.
"I don't know. I guess get something to eat."
"Uh, I don't really have much money with me." Joxer stammered.
"So what's new? I'll pay for it, as usual."
Finding a tavern, they sat at a small table near the door and ordered roast pig, duck eggs, brown bread, and ale.
After the meal they continued to order more ale, there was nothing else to do and nowhere to go. Eventually they both became more than slightly drunk, Joxer even more so than Xena.
As they left the tavern, Xena longingly looked down the road Gabrielle had taken.
"You know," Xena said as she slapped Joxer on the back with false cheerfulness, "I don't think it would hurt anything if we went a little ways down the road, just to make sure Gabrielle's okay."
"Are ya' sure?" Joxer asked, "I think if she wan-ned you to comalong, she'd'a ast ya'."
"What are you saying? That she doesn't want me around anymore?!"
"Huh?" Joxer said as he squinted at Xena as if he was going to cry. "Gabbyell don' want you nomore? Didjoo have a fight?"
"No! No fight, she went with the Amazons to some kind of Gathering."
"Why'd she-doo that? I thought we gonna git somethin t'eat?"
"What in Tartarus are you talking about? We just ate."
"We did? Was it any good?"
"You're drunk! You don't have any idea what you're talking about. I'm going after Gabrielle. She needs to know I'm still looking out for her."
"Okay." Joxer said, working his mouth as if he was still eating. "Less go fine Gabbyell."
As Xena strode purposely down the dusty road, Joxer stumbled behind, talking more to himself than to Xena.
As they walked, the exercise helped to sober up Xena, but Joxer only got tipsier. Soon they arrived at a raging river, fresh with icy water from the Spring melt. Uprooted trees of all sizes were being carried downstream to the Ionian Sea.
"How we gonna cross?" Joxer asked. "I don' swim so good."
"I suppose we could cross like the Amazons did -- take to the trees and cross where the branches from both sides meet."
Looking up, and up, to the tops of the lofty trees, Joxer said, "I don' clime so good either."
As he continued to look up, he turned in a full circle, got dizzy and lost his footing. Before Xena could react, Joxer stumbled backward, took several missteps, fell into the churning river, and was being washed downstream, flailing, reaching out for anything, but grabbing nothing.
Without hesitation, Xena dived into the bone-chilling water and began swimming toward the drowning Joxer.
As she closed in on him, she was looking ahead, and spotted an area where the river made a sharp bend. On the outer edge where the water was the fastest, the bank was being washed away. But on the inside a small beach was being built up. As she grabbed Joxer by his shirt at the collar, she tried angling in toward the beach. But in his panic, Joxer began to fight her, thinking he was being pulled under the water to his death.
The more he fought, the less control Xena had over the situation. Only because of her enormous strength was she able to wrestle Joxer toward the beach. But just as she felt her feet touch bottom, a large log caught her from behind, hitting her in the head and knocking her unconscious. Somehow, Joxer was able to regain his footing, and was barely able to drag Xena to the shore and onto the small beach.
By this time it was late afternoon and dusk was falling. Xena remained unconscious, and Joxer passed out from the alcohol and exhaustion. The two remained out until well after the sun had risen the next morning.
Joxer was the first to awaken. As he sat up shaking his head, and trying to remember what had happened, he heard Xena moan. He looked over at her, wondering why they were on the sandy shore of a raging river.
Slowly things came back to him -- meeting Xena and Gabrielle; Gabrielle leaving with the Amazons; Xena and him eating, and drinking; Xena dragging him along to follow Gabrielle; and falling into the river.
As Xena slowly woke up, Joxer surmised that somehow he had saved her from drowning, but just how he couldn't remember.
Xena sat up holding her head as if she was in pain. As she took one hand away, there was sticky blood on her fingers.
"What ... what happened?" Looking around, she continued, "Where are we?"
"I'm not really sure. I think we were following Gabrielle and somehow we fell into the river. I think I saved you from drowning."
"Gabrielle? Who's Gabrielle? And who are YOU?" Xena asked in obvious confusion.
"Who's Gabrielle? Wow! You really must have really been hit hard. Xena, she's only your best friend in the whole world, that's all."
Slowly shaking her head, Xena tried to make sense of what he said. "And who did you say you were?"
"NO! Joxer. Joxer the Mighty. Come on Xena, you know me."
"Xena? Why do you keep calling me Xena?"
"Because that's who you are. This must be more serious than I thought if you can't even remember your own name."
Looking around as if searching for something familiar, Xena slowly stood up, the throbbing in her head not quite as bad.
"What am I wearing?" She asked as she finally noticed her armor and her weapons. As she took the Chakram off its hook, she sliced several of her fingers, quickly dropped it, and grabbed her bleeding fingers with her left hand.
"What IS that thing? It's dangerous! Someone could get hurt or killed with it!"
"That's your Chakram." Joxer told her as he picked it up very carefully. As he started to hand it to her, Xena backed away from him.
"I don't want that! And get this stuff off me!" With only her left hand, Xena managed to remove her armor and scabbard. Then feeling the small knife nestled between her breasts she pulled it out with two fingers and threw it away.
"What kind of person would wear these awful things?" She demanded to know.
"A WARRIOR!" Joxer told her. "Xena, you're the Warrior Princess."
"NO! You're mistaken. I'm not a warrior, I can't be. I HATE those things!"
Joxer gather up Xena's weapons.
"Xena...." He started to say.
"DON'T call me that!"
"But it's your name. What else am I going to call you?"
"I don't know. But I don't like that name. It's ... it's hard, and cruel sounding."
"So what DO you want me to call you? Warrior Princess?"
"No. Don't call me Warrior. Don't call me anything that even sounds like war or violence or, or ... I don't know. Just don't."
"Fine. So you pick out a name. Whatever you want."
Xena looked around and then headed toward the woods. As Joxer started to follow, Xena looked at him sharply. "Do you mind? I would like a little privacy."
Realizing why she was going into the woods, Joxer backed away, then turned around, embarrassed.
When Xena returned, she was carrying a small yellow and pink flower. "Oh, look, Jerks... I mean Joxer. The first flower of spring. That's what I want to be called -- Flower."
"Flower? What kind of name is that?"
"What's the matter, aren't I -- pretty enough to be called Flower?"
"Are you kidding? You're beautiful! I just never heard of anyone called Flower before."
"I don't care. Until I can remember my real name, I want you to call me Flower."
"But I already told what your REAL name is, it's...."
Quickly putting her hand up, Xena said, "NO. Don't say it! Don't call me that terrible name!"
"Okay. Flower it is."
"Is there anything around here to eat?" Flower asked Joxer after a while. "I'm getting kind of hungry."
"If I had some kind of net I might be able to catch some fish, but ... no net."
"Can you hunt something?"
"I can try. Why don't you stay here and I'll go a little ways into the woods to see what I can find?"
"Sure. Just don't be gone too long, okay?"
"I'll be back before you know it."
A little while later Joxer returned with a big grin on his face, and his hands behind his back.
"You'll never guess what I found!"
A Big Surprise
"Guess! You just won't believe it!"
"I don't know. A bottle of wine?"
"No! Something even better than that!"
"I give up. What?"
Bringing both hands out he exclaimed, "Wild turnips and radishes!"
When all he saw was a confused look on her face, Joxer said proudly, "For my famous turnip and radish STEW!"
"But how are you going to make it? We don't have any fire or a cooking pot?"
"You just watch. Why don't you cut these up into bite-size pieces, and I'll get the fire started." And he handed the turnips and radishes and Xena's breast knife to Flower. "You can use one of those flat rocks to cut them up. And don't throw away the tops, they're my secret ingredient."
As Flower started to cut up the vegetables, being very careful not to cut herself, Joxer began to gather small stones to make a fireplace. He then gathered dry kindling and grass from the edge of the woods. From a pouch inside his breast plate, he pulled out two pieces of flint wrapped in an old rag. As he struck the two together, sparks began to ignite the dried grass. Soon he had a respectable fire going.
Joxer then took his copper helmet off, remove the straw hat liner, and filled it with water. Using three large stones as support, he then placed the helmet, now a cooking pot, over the coals.
When the water began to steam, Joxer dropped in the pieces of turnips and radishes, saving the green tops for last.
As the stew began to cook, Flower said, "That is the most amazing thing I have ever seen. How clever you are to think of using your hat to cook in."
"Why, thank you. It is rather clever, isn't it? But we'll both have to eat out of it since we don't have any bowls."
"What will we use for spoons?"
"Not a problem. I can whittle us a couple of flat spoons out of a piece of wood. It shouldn't take long."
When the spoons were made and the stew had cooked, Joxer let Flower take the first taste.
Knowing that Xena and Gabrielle weren't that fond of his stew, he really didn't expect Flower to like it much either.
"Oh, Joxer," Flower said as she swallowed the first bite. "This is simply delicious!"
"Huh? It is? Are you sure? I mean, of course it is. It's my secret ingredient, you know."
Together they finished eating the stew.
"You just have to make that again," Flower told him. "I just don't think I could EVER get enough of it!"
As Joxer began to wash out his helmet, Flower took it away from him. "Let me do that. Washing dishes is woman's work. It was enough that you did the cooking."
As the day passed, Joxer tried to tell Flower about her life as Xena. But she was more interested in Joxer's adventures as a warrior, and somewhat curious about Gabrielle.
When the afternoon began to turn to dusk, Joxer found more firewood while Flower gathered fresh grass to make beds for them, next to each other.
"I thought since it is still getting cool at night that we would be warmer if we slept close together. If it's all right with you." She explained.
"Uh, sure. Whatever you want." Joxer answered a little uncertain.
Joxer interweaved branches and medium sized limbs together to make a windbreak. The two pallets would then be between the windbreak and the fire.
As they lay down, Joxer let Flower take the one closer to the fire.
"Joxer," Flower said. "I want to thank you for everything you've done for me -- saving my life, cooking for me, taking care of me. I know I am perfectly safe with you around."
"Think nothing of it. Even though you don't remember, we've been friends for a long time. And that's what friends do for each other."
"Is that ALL we were, just friends?"
"Well, yeah. Just friends."
"Oh, okay. Goodnight."
The next morning Joxer found himself wedged between the windbreak and Flower. Sometime in the night she had moved closer to him for warmth, and in his sleep had moved away from her. After a few times he had nowhere to go. He knew he should get up before she woke up, but she was lying so tightly against him he was afraid if he moved even slightly, she would wake up. And if she was Xena again he knew his health would be in serious jeopardy.
But the longer he lay there, the more aware he became of the warmth and softness of her. The scent of her hair and the pressure of her body against his was too much. And despite himself, he found he was becoming more than a little aroused. And as close as Flower was to him if she woke up she too would know it ("Please, let it be Flower and NOT Xena!").
Then he felt Flower stir. As she slowly moved and stretched and moved again, he held his breath, hoping she would think he was still asleep, and that he had done nothing wrong.
Becoming desperate, Joxer slowly and carefully began to ease himself up and away from Flower. As she stirred again, he was able to cross over her and got up. But seeing her shiver with the morning coolness, now that his body heat was gone, Joxer put wood on the smoldering fire.
After the fire had caught up, Joxer returned to the woods to relieve himself and to look for more turnips for breakfast.
When he returned, he was shocked to see Flower stripping off her clothes and easing into a relatively calm pool, protected from the cold river, for a morning swim. Not wanting to be seen watching her, Joxer went back into the woods until he thought he heard her back at the camp fire.
Just before he left the woods, Joxer checked to make sure Flower was dressed. Then acting as if nothing had happened, he shouted out as he walked toward her. "Great news! Not only did I find more turnips, but also wild carrots and onions. We are REALLY going to have a feast for breakfast!"
After they had eaten Flower asked Joxer why were they camping out instead of going to a village somewhere.
"Because we're on the wrong side of the river," He explained. "And we're going to have to wait until the river isn't running quite so fast before we can swim across."
"Then why don't we walk upstream and downstream? Maybe we can find somewhere better to cross.'
"Now you see, THAT was going to be my next suggestion. What we'll do is go downstream until midday. That way we'll have time to get back here before sundown if we don't find anything."
"What a good idea! I never would have thought of THAT!"
"Well, it's just part of my training. But before we go, we need to hide your, I mean Xena's weapons and armor.'
"Why? Why don't we just throw those awful things into the river and be done with them?"
"I don't think that would be such a good idea."
"And why not?"
"In the first place, there are bandits and outlaws around, even if the Roman soldiers do keep the peace. And you never know when an extra sword might come in handy. And besides, Gabrielle would never forgive me if I let you throw them away."
"Not to mention that Xena would kill me!" He muttered under his breath.
As they walked along the shore, Flower was picking the yellow and pink flowers and was weaving the stems together until she had made a wreath of them, and then put it on her head like a crown.
"What do you think?" she asked Joxer.
"Very nice. It really makes you look really -- nice."
Midday came and they had to turn back without finding a safe place to cross the river. When they got back to their camp site there were footsteps in the sand that weren't theirs.
"It's a good thing we weren't here." Joxer said. "They might have been outlaws."
"Or maybe soldiers." Flower said as she pointed to places where helmets, spears, and swords had left impressions in the sand. "Maybe they just stopped to eat." She went on. "It looks like they were using our fire to cook something."
"That would be my second guess." Joxer said. "You may be right."
The next morning they headed upstream, but with no success. The river was still raging with the Spring runoff. Once again they got back to camp at dusk, this time there had been no visitors.
"I guess we're going to have to wait until the river calms down." Joxer told her.
The next day they decided it was no use to walk up and down the river bank, so decided to spend the day resting.
"Tell me more about Gabrielle." Flower requested. "You mentioned she was an Amazon. Was she always one?"
"No, not at first. When she and Xe -- You-Know-Who, first met she was just a peasant girl in a small village named Poteidaia. She was supposed to marry a man named Perdicus, not that she wanted to. And then You-Know-Who happened by just in time to save all the village girls from slavers. But instead of getting married, Gabrielle wanted to go with You-Know-Who."
"Joxer, you don't have to keep saying 'You-Know-Who.' You can say her name."
"Well, Xena didn't want Gabrielle to go with her, but she followed her anyway and found her in Amphipolis, that's Xena's village. A lot of stuff happened, and in the end Xena let Gabrielle go with her."
"So what did she do? Gabrielle, I mean. Was she just a tagalong?'
"I guess, at first. But she had these scrolls she was writing on about all the adventures she and Xena were having. Some of the stories are really pretty good. She called herself a Bard because of her stories."
"So how did she become an Amazon?"
"She tried saving the life of one of them when they were attacked. The girl died anyway, but before she did, she passed her Rite of Caste to Gabrielle, and eventually she became their Queen."
Flower was silent for a while. "I think that 'Gabrielle' is really a pretty name, not like XENA! Why would anyone name their daughter Xena?"
"I guess you'd have to ask Cyrene."
"Is she Xena's mother?"
"See? That's a pretty name too. I bet every woman Xena knows has a pretty name. She's probably the only one with an ugly one."
Joxer didn't know what to say.
A little later while Flower was walking along the edge of the river, looking at the trees, she stopped to look at one in particular.
"Joxer!" She yelled out, waking him up from a nap.
He jumped up and fumbled around, trying to get his sword out of the scabbard. After picking it up where it flew out of his hands, he looked to see what the trouble was.
Seeing nothing he asked, "What's going on?"
"I was just looking at that tree. I'll bet if you were able to cut it down, it would fall right across the river and we could use it for a bridge."
"Well, OF COURSE it would! I was just lying here wishing I had an axe to do just that."
"Can't you use your sword?"
"I don't think so, that tree must be at least three times as big around as I am, and swords aren't made for chopping. If it didn't break, the blade would get so dull in such a short time it would be useless."
"What about using Xena's sword. It looks like it's heavier than yours. Maybe it would be better to use. And even if it did get dull, you can always sharpen it."
"I don't know. Xena is kind of particular about her sword. I'd sure hate for anything to happen to it."
"So what! She's not coming back. I'M here, remember. If you don't want to do it, then I will!"
And without another word Flower retrieved Xena's sword and began hacking away at the base of the tree. After watching her take three or four whacks, Joxer took the sword from her, told her to go back to the beach, and took up where Flower left off.
During the days that followed, they both fell into a regular routine:
Each morning Joxer would have to disengage himself from Flower where she had snuggled up next to him during the night to keep warm, and then would go into the woods to look for wild vegetables for their breakfast.
And while Joxer was in the woods Flower would take her morning swim. And as hard as he tried not to, sometimes the temptation was too much and Joxer would watch her as she left the small sheltered pool, walked nude back to the warmth of the fire, and got dressed.
After they ate breakfast, Joxer would spend half the day chopping away at the massive tree. With every stroke wishing he had a axe. But as sharp as Xena's sword was, it was designed to cut down enemy soldiers, not large and backbreaking tree trunks.
One day Flower discovered that she had a knack for rapidly scooping up fish out of the pool and throwing them onto the beach; a welcome relief from the vegetarian meals they had been eating.
Wisely, Joxer didn't mention to her that she was using Xena's favorite method of catching fish.
"Joxer, have you noticed that the moon will be full in a few days?" Flower said one evening. "That means that we have been here almost a month. How much longer do you think it will take to finish cutting down the tree?"
"I wanted to be done by the full moon. We planned to meet Gabrielle back at the sea port. She and the Amazons are supposed to be finished with whatever kind of meeting they're having."
"Do you think you can do it by then?"
"I'm going to try, but I really don't think it'll be done in time."
"Do you think she will leave if we're not there?"
"I don't know. If she doesn't see us either she'll come looking for us, or figure we went back to Greece and will leave without us."
"Would it be so bad if she did? Leave, I mean. We seem to be getting along pretty good by ourselves. Do we really need her hanging around?"
"Flower, you just don't understand. We're almost like family. You don't just run out on your family."
"I wouldn't know. I don't remember ever having one. All I know is that you saved my life. You've taken care of me, and cooked for me, and treated me like I was someone -- special. Even though you've tried to tell me different, I think there was more between us at one time, a lot more."
"Flower, you've got it all wrong. Sure I care about you, but...."
Flower put her finger tips gently over Joxer's lips. "Don't say anything. I'm not blind. I've seen the way you look at me. And I know you've been watching me when I swim in the morning."
"That was just an accident! I didn't know you were...."
"Joxer, I wanted you to see me. Don't you know? Can't you tell? I love you. And no matter how hard you try to deny it, I know you love me."
Not knowing what to say, Joxer nervously began to gather firewood for the night. When he returned to the campfire Flower was already in her place next to the fire, leaving the space for him between her and the windbreak. With an uneasy smile, Joxer carefully lay down beside her, taking care not to touch her.
To Joxer's relief, Flower only said goodnight.
The next morning it seemed to Joxer that Flower was even closer to him than she had been at any time before. And slowly he tried to make his escape.
But as soon as he moved, she did also, even closer to him, if that was possible. The back of her was tight against the front of him.
Then Flower turned onto her other side, now facing Joxer, still pressing her body against his.
She half opened her eyes and sleepily said, "You awake?"
Not knowing if he should answer or not, he just grunted, as if he was still mostly asleep.
Flower put her top leg over his and pulled his lower half even closer to her. This action caused Joxer's eyes to open wide in shock and surprise.
"Smiling sensually, Flower whispered, "I thought that might do something."
Still afraid to move, Joxer said, "Yes, well, good morning. I guess it's time to get up and get breakfast started."
But Flower didn't move. "I don't think it will hurt anything if we lay here a little longer, do you?"
"No, I guess not." Joxer replied in a higher voice he had intended to use.
"Joxer, you did love me, back when I was this Xena, didn't you?"
"Uh, well, uh. You see, we ALL loved each other; you and me and Gabrielle. Just like one big happy family. Like brothers and sisters. You see?"
"I think there was more to it than that. I think you and I had something ... special."
"Wh- Why would you think that?"
"I told you that last night, just the way you've been taking care of me. How you looked at me. The way your hand would 'accidentally' touch mine. Look how close we are right now. I know you want me, I can feel it, you know."
Before Joxer could answer, Flower put her lips against his, and even though he knew someday he would pay dearly for it, and probably sooner than later, he couldn't help himself. As her hands began to explore his body, caressing him in the most intimate places, his hands also roamed over hers, awkwardly. But despite his clumsiness, Flower's passion seemed grow to match his until they were both exhausted, satisfied, and drenched with sweat.
They slept again until the sun was overhead. Flower woke up first, and gently nudged Joxer awake.
"Did we...? We did, didn't we?" He asked, still unbelieving what had happened.
"Yes, My Love, we did. And even though I don't ever remember us doing it before, I'm sure this time it had to have been the best. No wonder they call you Joxer the Mighty! You must have left a long trail of satisfied wenches in your travels."
"Well, I don't want to brag, you understand," Joxer said, his ego becoming greatly over-inflated.
"Then don't," Flower said as she kissed him, "Let me pretend it was the first time for both of us."
"You know, Flower, if I don't make a trip to the woods, we're both going to be sorry."
Laughing, Flower rolled away from Joxer to allow him to get up. "Hurry back my Love, I think our second time isn't too far away."
When he was far enough into the woods, Joxer began to lament his fate. "Oh, Joxer! What have you gotten yourself into? Have you lost your mind? What is Gabrielle going to think? What's going to happen when Xena gets her memory back? I'm a dead man, I just know it!"
As he continued to bewail his misfortune, Joxer could hear Flower shouting to him to come back to her. And even though he knew better, he found himself once more wrapped in her arms, his passion rising, and hers enfolding him and welcoming him inside.
It was well past midday when Joxer went back to the chore of felling the tree. Knowing they had to meet Gabrielle in just a few days, he attacked the tree with renewed vigor. And he had the idea that if he was tired enough by nightfall then he would have an excuse to go right to sleep, and, hopefully, to avoid any future problems.
But even though he almost instantly "fell asleep" after supper, he was helpless when she teased and enticed and excited him each morning.
Two days after the full moon, halfway between midday and dusk, the tree fell across the river -- a perfect bridge.
Joxer wanted to cross over right away, but Flower insisted they wait until the next morning. She wanted them to spend one last evening and night together, to rest and to celebrate.
And it was a celebration. Flower did everything she could think of to make Joxer feel like a king.
And the last thing Joxer remembered as he drifted off to sleep was something about them becoming betrothed.
The next morning was a final repeat of the past five mornings, so it was almost midday when they finally broke camp.
"I still don't know why you have to take those horrible instruments of death!" Flower complained as Joxer carefully bundled together Xena's armor, sword and scabbard, Chakram and breast knife.
"I told you, these are things of Xena's that Gabrielle will want."
"Well, I wouldn't want them if I was her!"
"But you aren't. Xena is the most important thing in her life. And if she doesn't come back, these are the only things she'll have that belonged to her." Joxer tried to explain.
"Then don't expect ME to carry any of it!"
Flower crossed over the tree bridge with no trouble, nimbly skipping over and around the limbs that jutted out at all angles. Joxer wasn't so agile. Even without the bundle he was trying to carry without dropping, he would have had problems crossing. Eventually he made it the other shore and they headed downstream toward the sea, and hopefully to the correct sea port.
Soon they came to a path that led away from the river but still angled in the right direction, the same path they had traveled over a month ago. As they walked along Flower began to feel a little uneasy. The longer they walked the more anxious she felt.
"Joxer," She finally said, "Something's not right."
"I'm not sure. I keep feeling like we're being watched."
Looking around, Joxer couldn't see anything. "Are you sure? Things look all right to me."
"I guess you're right, maybe I'm just nervous about meeting your Gabrielle."
But the longer they walked, the more apprehensive she began. She was constantly looking over her shoulder, into the woods on both sides of them, even up into the trees.
As Joxer and Xena made their way down the path Gabrielle looked down on them from the top branches of the trees with her sister Amazons. After discovering Xena wasn't waiting for her, she had asked around and after a while it was evident that Xena and Joxer hadn't sailed back to Greece. So Gabrielle asked some of her Sisters to take to the trees to look for them.
After two days of searching she was told they were seen crossing over the river on a large tree that had been recently felled. But for some reason Xena wasn't wearing her armor or weapons. So Gabrielle decided to see what was going on before barging in on them.
Seeing Joxer carrying the bundle and watching Xena as she clung unnaturally to Joxer's arm, she decided to get ahead of them, and meet them at the next bend.
As Joxer and Flower made the turn they were both surprised to see Gabrielle standing before them as if she had appeared out of nowhere.
"Gabrielle!' Joxer exclaimed. "I am I glad to see you! Where'd you come from?"
"Xena, what's going on? Why is Joxer carrying your things?"
"YOU'RE Gabrielle?" Flower asked. "She's certainly not how I thought she'd look." She said to Joxer.
"Xena, what are you talking about?"
"My name is NOT Xena. It's Flower!" Flower informed her angrily.
"Oh, I know, this is some kind of joke. I don't WHAT kind of joke, but hahaha, I'm laughing anyway."
"Gabrielle," Joxer said, "She's not joking, she really does think her name is Flower."
"What are you talking about? Why would she think that?"
"I'm standing right here!" Flower said, still angry. "And for your information, Joxer and I are lovers, we are betrothed, and I might even be with child."
At first Gabrielle couldn't speak. Her mouth opened and closed twice before something could come out.
"WHAT?! Joxer! You didn't ... you wouldn't ... you couldn't!"
Then in a fit of rage she grabbed Joxer by his breastplate "What in Tartarus have you DONE?!"
Seeing the man she loved being threatened, Flower pushed Gabrielle away, but not realizing the strength she had, Gabrielle flew though the air for a distance of twice her height and slid for another length.
Suddenly a dozen armed Amazons dropped from the trees, intending to slay the one who had dared to assault an Amazon Queen.
"Amazons! NO!" Gabrielle shouted out. "Let her live!"
Seeing the female warriors with swords drawn, Flower lost her bravado and tried hiding behind Joxer, her Protector.
Getting to her feet, and dusting off her pride, Gabrielle walked back to them.
"Okay," She said, taking a deep breath to calm herself. "Let's do this again. Joxer, you have some explaining to do, so start NOW!"
After listening to Joxer's somewhat convoluted story, which was constantly being verified by Flower, Gabrielle thought she finally understood.
"...And you can keep those horrible things that belonged to that horrible Xena!" Flower finished saying to Gabrielle.
As she took them from Joxer, she handed them to one of the Amazons standing with her.
Walking back to the sea port no one spoke, each one in deep thought:
Gabrielle was trying to figure out how to return Xena's memory to her.
Joxer was worrying what was going to happen if Xena DID get her memory back. And if she didn't, was he really was going to have to marry Flower, and was she really with child?
And Flower was wondering about Gabrielle, was she plotting against her marriage to Joxer?
"So you said she was hit in the head with a log?" Gabrielle asked Joxer for clarification.
"Yeah, it was big one, too. Her head was really bleeding. If it hadn't been for me, she would have drowned, you know."
Nodding absently, Gabrielle was thinking again.
"No," she thought to herself, looking at Flower, "I could never bring myself to hit her like that, even if I knew exactly where and how hard."
When they arrived, Gabrielle suggested they find a tavern and get something to eat. Since neither Joxer nor Flower had any money, Gabrielle offered to pay.
As she watched them wolfing down the roast lamb, black bread, and ale, Gabrielle realized she was at a loss. She simply didn't know how she was going to bring Xena's memory back to her.
As Joxer and Flower were downing the last of the ale, Gabrielle said, "Just as soon as you two are finished, we'll see about booking passage back to Greece."
"Why?" Flower asked.
"What do you mean 'Why?' " Gabrielle responded. "That's where we live."
"No." Flower answered back. "That's where YOU live. I think Joxer and I are going to stay here. We're going to be married, raise our children, and live a long and happy life."
"We are?" Joxer said with much surprise in his voice.
"Yes, My Love. Why should we go back to the home of that horrible Xena, and her violent friends, when we can live a peaceful life right here?"
"But - but, Greece is MY home too. And besides, I'M a warrior, don't forget. I'm Joxer the Mighty!"
"Oh, I think we both know about that 'Mighty' part." Flower said with a sly, leering look on her face; a look that all but turned Gabrielle's stomach.
Shaking her head in disgust, Gabrielle paid for the three meals and stormed out of the tavern.
"Perhaps we can tie them up and take them with us."
Gabrielle turned to see Tamaro, one of her sister Amazons from northern Greece. "That is, if it is so important to you."
"That's a thought, but until Xena regains her memory we'd be fighting her the whole time. And don't forget, even though she claims to be a different person, she still has the strength and the many skills of Xena."
"I have put Xena's things in our temporary camp next to yours."
"Thank you, Tamaro. This past month has been so good for me; for all of us. I never knew I could come to love so many Sisters in such a short time."
"Yes, you are right. I too, have come to love our Sisters from other tribes. And don't you think that with so many heads together we should be able to come up with a solution?"
"I appreciate that, but I know everyone is anxious to get home. I couldn't ask any of you to postpone your long journeys just for one of MY problems."
"But that is why we all came here, to help one another. And knowing that one of the legendary, and surely most beloved, of all Queens needs our help makes us even more eager to do what we can."
Reddening with embarrassment at the compliment, Gabrielle told Tamaro she had permission to contact as many other sister Amazons as she felt necessary to work on the problem.
While Gabrielle was trying to think of what to do, she saw Flower and Joxer standing outside the tavern, engaged in some kind of serious conversation. Neither one looked particularly happy.
"Honeymoon over already?" Gabrielle said softly to herself. "I can only hope."
Then the pair walked over to her.
"Uh, Gabby," Joxer began. "We seem to have a little bit of a problem. It'll be dark soon, and neither one of us seems to have any money for a room. And we don't have any blankets or anything for camping out. And we, I, wondered if maybe you could help us out, seeing how we're all such good friends."
"You two are planning to live here, but don't even have the resources for one night?" Gabrielle asked with no compassion in her voice.
"Perhaps we could find a place for them in our camp." Tamaro suggested. "Of course, this MAN would have to remain outside the perimeter, but we would certainly welcome the woman."
"Is that to your satisfaction?" Gabrielle asked Flower, with a hint of sarcasm.
"Would Joxer really have to stay outside? We've never been apart, you know."
"You will have to accept it." Tamaro answered. "Men are not allowed."
"You could always stay with me." Joxer told Flower. "Just so we have somewhere to sleep for the night."
"Yes, My Love, that is what I will do. If that is to YOUR satisfaction." She said to Gabrielle, returning the same sarcasm.
"It's fine with me." Gabrielle replied.
Time to Go!
Joxer and Flower were provided with blankets, furs and a small tent. They were instructed that the tent be placed twenty paces away from the edge of the camp, and two Amazons were posted to make sure Joxer didn't accidentally wander into the camp in the dark should he need to relieve himself during the night.
The night passed without incident except for the sounds of passion that came from the tent, much to the disgust of the Amazon guards.
Early the next morning, just as the sun began to lighten the sky, a squad of twenty-five Roman soldiers stormed into the camp, overpowering the guards, and awakening the Amazons, who had no chance to arm themselves.
"We have been told that the murderous traitor of Rome, Xena the Warrior Princess, had been seen entering in this camp. If you turn her over to us we will leave and no one will be hurt. If you refuse, all will die as enemies of Rome."
Fortunately for Joxer and Flower, their tent was pitched was on the opposite side that the soldiers had come.
Silently and quickly, Gabrielle and Tamaro went to them and indicated they were to climb to the top of the nearest tree to hide. After expressing some trepidation, then with some encouragement, Flower scrambled to the top as fast as any Amazon, much to her surprise.
Joxer, however, had to be pulled up with ropes by several Amazons. But even with their help, he was only able to get to the lowest branches, barely higher than twice the height of a horse and rider.
As the soldiers fanned out looking for Xena, the anger and resentment of the invasion of their camp began to fester in the Amazon Sisters. As many were rounded up, just a many took to the trees, but weaponless.
And as luck would have it, just as the soldiers arrived at Joxer and Flower's tree, Joxer sneezed once, twice, then three times. And losing his grip, he fell to the ground, landing on two of the soldiers.
He was immediately seized by two more soldiers, as several more began to more closely examine the branches.
Joxer struggled briefly, but was struck with the pommel of a sword against the side of his head for his trouble.
"Joxer!" Flower screamed out when she saw her Lover being beaten by the soldiers. And without thinking, sailed down from the top of the tree, diving from branch to branch, with Xena's war cry echoing throughout the forest.
As if it were a signal, the Amazons rallied. The ones on the ground causing confusion to allow the ones in the trees to drop on the soldiers. Being outnumbered two to one, and with many of their weapons taken away from them, it didn't take long for the Amazons to turn the tables and were rounding up the soldiers.
In the meantime, Flower had landed cat-like next to her beloved Joxer and without hesitation kicked, punched and head-butted the soldiers surrounding him. In a matter of a dozen heartbeats it was over and Joxer was safe again, and in Flower's arms.
"Well, well, well," Gabrielle said to Flower. "Looks like someone doesn't mind using those violent skills when she needs to."
Realizing what she had done, Flower blinked her eyes as tears were squeezed out to run down her cheeks.
"But I had no choice. They were hurting Joxer. I couldn't just stand by and do nothing." She tried to explain.
"Exactly what Xena would do." Gabrielle said to her. "Like it or not, you ARE Xena, with all her skills, and strength, and violence, and compassion, and love for a dear friend. You can't get away from her, no matter how hard you try."
Flower could only hold on to Joxer and let the tears flow.
"I think maybe we should break camp and leave this place." Tamaro said. "The ships will be leaving with the tide and we should be on them."
"I think you are right." Gabrielle said. "We'll leave the soldiers tied up. By the time they escape we should be far enough at sea to be safe."
"Why not just kill them all?" Asked one of the Norse Sisters from the frozen lands to the north.
"If we did that, the Romans would come after us for sure. This way they may not think it's worth wasting their resources chasing after us."
As soon as the soldiers were tied up, the Amazons began to break camp. Due to the urgency of the situation, and with their exceptional efficiency, before midday the Amazon camp was deserted, with only the ashes of the campfires to prove this had been the campsite of over fifty individuals.
Most of the Amazons were already on board ships waiting for the tide to turn so they could sail. Others had melted away into the forests, traveling on foot back to their tribal lands to the north and west.
And despite what she had said earlier about staying, Flower and Joxer were swept up with the rest of them and found themselves with Gabrielle, Tamaro, and many other Grecian Amazons sailing to the east, back to their homeland.
"I won't really feel safe until I see the shores of home." Tamaro told Gabrielle.
Smiling, Gabrielle agreed with her. But her concern was still about Xena, and the situation with Joxer.
"There HAS to be some way to get her memory back." Gabrielle said to Tamaro.
"I'm sorry we weren't able to help." Tamaro said. "But we never got the chance."
"I know. But I'll think of something."
"Hey look everybody! Look what I found!" Joxer yelled out as he came up from the hold of the ship. "A keg of ale! Anybody with me?"
"Amazons don't foul their bodies with such disgusting things." Tamaro told him, not hiding the distaste in her voice.
"All the more for me." Joxer said happily. "Flower?"
"Thank you, I don't mind if I do." She answered as she gave the others an arrogant look.
After finding two cups, Joxer managed to pry the cork out of the side of the keg, which spewed foam and warm ale over Gabrielle, Tamaro and several others.
Joxer and Flower laughed and pointed, drank the foaming ale, and continued to laugh. Gabrielle told the others to let it pass. It would be a waste of time and energy to try to do anything about it.
As they drank more of the ale, Joxer and Flower got louder and more unruly -- laughing and taunting the Amazons. Singing at the top of his lungs for music, Joxer began to swing Flower around in circles as he tried to dance with her. But as she spun faster around him, their ale-soaked hands slipped and she was thrown against the mast, hitting her head and knocking her out.
Gabrielle rushed to her and gently cradled Flower's head. "Someone get me some water and clean rags!" She ordered.
Only after the blood had been cleaned away and her head bandaged, did Gabrielle let some of the others move Flower out of the sun onto a makeshift pallet. Gabrielle stayed by her side the rest of the day and throughout the night.
The sun was half way to midday when Flower began to stir. When she awoke Gabrielle was ready with a water skin. After drinking her fill, Flower looked at all the women gathered around her, a confused look on her face.
"Joxer?" She finally said.
"Flower, I'm here." He said as he rushed to take Gabrielle's place. "I'm right here." And he put his arms around her and kissed her.
Suddenly Flower's right hand grabbed Joxer by the neck and held him out at arm's length.
"What in Tartarus do you think your doing?" She exclaimed. "Are you suicidal?"
"But, Flower, my Love...."
"Flower? Have you gone crazy as well?" Then looking at Gabrielle she said, "Gabrielle, what is this Idiot talking about? Who is Flower?"
"Xena?" Gabrielle said. "Is it you?"
"Has EVERYONE gone crazy?!"
Then realizing where she was, Xena asked, "Why are we on a ship? The last thing I remember I was swimming after this drunken fool after he fell into the river."
"You really don't remember what happened?" Joxer managed to squeak out. And realizing she still had Joxer by the neck, Xena let him go.
Before Joxer could start explaining, Gabrielle signaled for him to walk with her some distance away from Xena.
"Joxer, if you value you health, you had be very careful what you tell Xena about what went on between you and 'Flower.' Because if she ever finds out you two were ... doing it, well, if she doesn't kill you, I will!"
"Gabrielle, I swear to you, she'll never hear it from me!"
After they walked back to Xena, Joxer explained to her about him saving her life, about her losing her memory and wanting to be called Flower, about him cutting down the tree with Xena's sword, and Gabrielle finding them as they walked back to the sea port.
Gabrielle then explained about the Roman soldiers looking for her, and why they were now on a ship sailing back to Greece. All of which Xena seemed satisfied with.
That evening as Xena and Gabrielle were standing at the railing, watching the sun set, Gabrielle asked Xena if her head was better.
"Except for the gash, it's seems to be. The pain is mostly gone."
"So you really don't remember anything about being Flower?"
With an innocent look on her face, and with an innocent tone of voice, Xena replied. "Nope, not a thing."
Then she bumped Gabrielle's shoulder with her own. "But you'll be glad to know I'm NOT with child."
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