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  • Jennifer Campbell
    I m finishing up a Xena story that I m eager to get edited and posted. If anyone is willing to beta for me, I d really appreciate it! I m not sure yet how
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 18, 2000
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      I'm finishing up a Xena story that I'm eager to get edited and posted. If
      anyone is willing to beta for me, I'd really appreciate it! I'm not sure yet
      how things work on this list, but before I agree to beta, I like to know
      what I'm getting into. So here's a little information on the story, and I'm
      also including the first part of the story so you can decide if it's
      something you'd like to tackle.

      Thanks, Jennifer

      ****

      Title: Nothing But You
      Author: Jennifer Campbell (campbellj83@...)
      Fandom: Xena
      Pairing: Joxer/Gabrielle friendly
      Rating: PG (or maybe PG-13) for regular Xena violence
      Type: Drama, major angst
      Characters: Joxer, Gabrielle, Xena, Aphrodite, original characters
      Time period: Fifth season, after "Animal Attraction"
      Length: 51k right now, but it's not quite done
      Summary: Fed up with Gabrielle's abuse, Joxer leaves his friends. He joins a
      wagon caravan as a guard, but he's signed on for more than he bargained for.

      ***

      He was dreaming, he knew. The colors seemed too bright
      for reality -- the sunset too vivid, the trees too
      green -- and this scene, well, nothing like this
      would ever exist in the real world. No lake would
      shimmer with such an inner glow or reflect the perfect
      golden ball of the sun as it slowly sank behind the
      tall trees, whispering their secrets too softly to
      understand.

      He didn't care, though. Because here, she loved him.
      Here, there were no unkind words or whithering looks.
      They sat quietly on the edge of the peer, their legs
      dangling only inches above the crystal clear water,
      and as he wrapped his arms around her, she didn't
      pull away. Instead, she allowed her head to sink
      slowly to his shoulder, and she sighed happily.

      He tightened his arms around her and gently ran his
      fingertips down the length of her arm. "Gabrielle,"
      he said quietly. "I love you."

      Her hand shifted to cover one of his own; their
      fingers intertwined. "I love you, too, Joxer," she
      said. "I think I always have."

      They sat in silence then, simply enjoying each
      other's presence as the sun hovered above the lake,
      bathing the water in brilliant colors and washing
      over Gabrielle's face. She was so beautiful. So
      perfect. His goddess. And here, she loved him as
      deeply as he loved her, without regret or shame.

      They sat for only a few short minutes before she
      shifted against his shoulder. "Joxer, you have to
      wake up now," she said.

      He shook his head, tightening his grip on her fingers
      and around her waist as if to hang onto the dream as
      long as he could. "I don't want to wake up. I want
      to stay here with you."

      "I know, love," she murmured. "But you must wake now."

      "No," he said, but he knew his refusal was useless.
      The sunset dimmed and faded, as did the lake and the
      trees. The last thing he lost was Gabrielle's warm
      hand, clasped with his own, but that too vanished,
      and he found himself clutching at only air. Joxer
      opened his eyes and blinked to clear the blurriness
      that comes in the first few seconds after sleep.
      It was still night, a full moon directly overhead.
      He couldn't remember where he was.

      He rolled onto his side and suddenly found himself
      assaulted by a foul smell that reminded him of Argo
      after a week on the road, or maybe the inside of his
      boots. His eyes adjusted in the dark, and he found
      himself nose-to-nose with a snoring lump of a man.
      With a surprised yelp, he bolted to his feet; the
      lump stopped snoring.

      "Joxer," muttered a deep voice. "I don't care who
      your father is. If you wake me up one more time I'm
      going to bust your nose in."

      Joxer blinked. Then his mind began to clear and he
      remembered. The lump's name was Larkos, and he'd been
      one of Joxer's companions on this long road for almost
      a week. Joxer had thrown around the family name to
      get this job as a guard for a shipment of potatoes,
      turnups and a few bolts of silk. The wagon master
      had been impressed by the warrior abilities of Joxer's
      father and had hired the son without hesitation.

      That had been a week ago. A week since he had left
      the company of Xena and Gabrielle, since the horrible
      argument that had sent him stomping into the woods.
      It wasn't like he hadn't heard the words a million
      times already, but something within him had snapped.
      He didn't have to take this abuse, not from those
      he called friends. The woman he loved, who knew he
      loved her, had insulted him once again, and something
      had just ... snapped.

      "Joxer, these are the wrong spices. I can't believe
      you mixed up pepper with garlic. I should know better
      than to leave my errands to an idiot."

      He shook his head sadly as he remembered her words.
      Just like everyone else, Gabrielle had called him an
      idiot. She had treated him like dirt. He'd just been
      too blinded by love to see the truth until now. Yet
      he still yearned for her, missed her with a pain that
      was almost physical. He dreamed about her every night.

      "... I love you, too, Joxer. I think I always have."

      "... I should know better than to leave my errands
      to an idiot."

      Useless, he told himself. It was useless to worry
      about the past.

      Larkos had gone back to snoring, so Joxer tip-toed
      away. He managed to leave his traveling companion
      sleeping peacefully by the wagons and trudged up the
      nearby hill to the watch point.

      The guard on duty was Renni, a short, friendly guy
      whose big ears and squashed nose reminded Joxer of
      a rabbit. Renni stood, and his sword hissed out of
      its scabbard as Joxer approached.

      "Who's there?" he asked.

      "It's just me. Joxer."

      The sword slid back into the scabbard, and Joxer
      relaxed his tense muscles. "Um, can I come up there?"
      he asked.

      "Sure," Renni answered as he sat. "I could use some
      company. But what are you doing up at this hour?"

      "I, um, can't sleep," Joxer answered somewhat lamely
      as he sat next to Renni. "I thought maybe I could
      take the watch for awhile. You know, so you can get
      some rest."

      Renni laughed and thumped Joxer on the back. "Hey,
      thanks. You're a real pal."

      Joxer coughed, trying to catch his breath from the
      friendly blow. He couldn't seem to speak, so he only
      nodded as Renni walked down the hill, whistling a
      happy tune. Soon, all was quiet again, and Joxer
      looked around at his surroundings. They had stopped
      for the night in a small clearing amidst a huge
      forest, with trees that seemed to reach for Olympus.
      Joxer smiled as he watched the faraway branches
      sway in the cool night breeze, wondering if he
      climbed to the top whether he might be that much
      closer to divinity.

      But what had the gods ever done for him? Aphrodite
      hadn't even seen fit to make Gabrielle fall in love
      with him. Gabby thought he was worthless, an idiot,
      someone to order around and then blame when things
      went wrong. He didn't have to take that. Not ever.
      It had been right to leave.

      "I don't understand why you can't follow a simple
      set of instructions, Joxer," Gabrielle had yelled
      while pacing the length of their campsite. Her face
      had turned red with the force of her tantrum. "Do I
      have to hold your hand while you do everything? Hmm?"

      Joxer hadn't known exactly how to respond, mostly
      because holding Gabrielle's hand had sounded like
      a good proposition to him. He had answered in his
      usual, intellectual manner: "Um. Bah ... um, Gabby --"

      "Don't call me that! How many times do I have to
      tell you that my name is Gabrielle, not Gabby. Jeez,
      Joxer."

      And then the snap had come. He'd stood silent and
      still by the campfire, watching with a stoney
      expression as Gabrielle had paced the clearing and
      muttered to herself about how dinner was now ruined
      because they had no garlic for the fish. It was then
      that he had said the words.

      "I don't have to take this from you. I'm leaving."

      He'd bent over to grab his helmet and pack, and when
      he had straightened, Gabrielle had been staring at
      him in confusion, all anger erased from her face.

      "What?" she had asked.

      "I'm leaving. You -- you obviously don't want me
      here, so I'm going to stop imposing myself on you."

      Gabrielle had moved forward then, reaching out to
      him. "No, please don't do that. Joxer, I -- I'm
      sorry. I didn't mean it."

      "But you did. You meant it. You and Xena, you don't
      need me. I just get in the way and make you angry.
      So I'll go."

      They had stood only inches apart, so close that Joxer
      had breathed in the spicy scent of her, drank in the
      sight of her big, lovely eyes meeting his for one
      last time. This sight had to be enough, a vision of
      beauty that would have to last him a lifetime. He
      had reached out slowly, caressed his fingertips down
      her cheek.

      "I love you, Gabrielle," he had said quietly, "but
      I can't stay here and take your abuse any more. I
      think I deseve better than that."

      She hadn't answered, only standing silent by the
      campfire as Joxer had walked away. Now, here he was,
      surrounded by men like him -- men who were running
      from a past they wanted so desperately to forget,
      men who had taken the most dangerous job they could
      find in hopes that perhaps some band of thieves
      would end their suffering with a well-placed stab of
      the dagger or shot of an arrow. Maybe then, in Hades'
      realm, they could forget their pain. Maybe there, he
      could forget Gabrielle.
      00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000
      He grabbed a stick lying the ground and poked furiously
      at the dirt with it. He sighed. "You can't hurt me
      now," he whispered to himself. "You can't hold me
      down. Not anymore."

      "Awe, what's this? My stud muffin is acting all
      gloomy."

      Joxer glanced up to see a woman's shape outlined
      against the moonlight. Even in the dark, Aphrodite's
      hair seemed to shine as it curled in golden locks
      around her shoulders. She pouted prettily and cocked
      her head as she examined the man sitting cross-legged
      in the dirt.

      "Hi, Aphrodite," Joxer muttered. He returned his
      attention to his stick. He didn't feel like talking
      to anyone right now, least of all the goddess of love.

      Aphrodite waved her hand, and somewhere in the midst
      of a shower of tiny hearts appeared a small, pink
      blanket. She laid it on the ground and sat down
      gracefully, never taking her eyes off Joxer.

      "Come on now, what's wrong," she coaxed. "You can
      tell Dite all about it."

      "Why should I tell you anything?" Joxer asked with
      one furious dirt-stab with his stick. "You're the
      one who got me in this mess."

      "Oooohhh," she said, nodding. "It must have to do
      with Xena's little friend."

      "Gabrielle."

      "Yeah, her." Aphrodite leaned forward, gently taking
      Joxer's stick from him and laying it aside. "Listen,
      babe, I had nothing to do with that one. You fell
      in love with sidekick-girl all on your own."

      "But she hates me." Joxer refused to look up. "She
      grabs my nose and makes fun of me. Why would I fall
      in love with someone who treats me like dirt?"

      Aphrodite shrugged. "Maybe you fell in love with her
      because the only love you've ever known is abusive.
      Your family sure didn't shower you with affection.
      And your dad, well, yelling and hitting were the
      only ways he knew to express his emotions, even love."

      Joxer didn't answer. Great, he thought. I left Athens
      to escape my family, and I ran headlong into the
      same kind of relationship I'd left behind.

      Aphrodite laid her hand on his shoulder. "Listen,
      Joxer. Sometimes love just doesn't work out. Not
      everyone gets a happy ending."

      From somewhere above them, an owl hooted softly, a
      sound so lonely that it brought tears to Joxer's
      eyes. One drop escaped, trailed slowly down his cheek
      and dropped silently into the dirt. He didn't bother
      to wipe his cheek.

      "But I never get a happy ending," he whispered. "Just
      once, I'd like to win, you know? Just for one time,
      I'd like to get the girl, beat the bad guys and live
      happily ever after."

      "I know." Aphrodite squeezed his shoulder. "That's
      what everyone wants. But we can't all be the hero."

      With that, she vanished in a shower of tiny hearts
      that sprinkled over Joxer and disappeared before
      they touched the ground. In the east, the sky
      lightened slightly, and the stars began to fade.
      It would be day soon, and the camp would rouse.
      Another day of guarding would begin.

      Today would be difficult, he knew. He'd think of
      Gabrielle's golden hair all day -- hair that seemed
      to shine like the sun. He'd think of Aphrodite's
      words. Not everyone can be the hero. Xena and
      Gabrielle, now they were heroes. But Joxer the
      Not-So-Mighty, he was an anti-hero. Nobody wanted
      an anti-hero to save the day; the universe didn't
      work that way.

      At the bottom of the hill, the others woke and
      prepared themselves for the long day ahead. Joxer
      slowly stood, wiped the dirt off his pants and took
      a deep breath. Despite the pain, he knew today was
      another opportunity, another chance to find his
      place in the world. He walked into camp, his head
      held high.

      In the distance, he heard the solitary hoot of an
      owl as it took flight, soared over the camp and
      vanished into the rising sun.

      **

      That's the end of the first part. If you're interested in betaing, please
      e-mail me at campbellj83@.... Thanks!
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