The Truth Be Told

by CJ Shoup

This is my second Xena story; my first story was titled "Together, Forever?" This story is based on the on again, off again relationship between Gabrielle and Joxer (As usual, minus any sex.) This story has no subtext, some language and some violence, and deals with a serious problem some people have, but it just a story. Once again the characters do not belong to me, but the story does. I want to think my critics. My cousin Amanda and my friend from Mexico, Jess, who reads my stories before anyone else does. I would like to thank my editor Dimples who looked over my story. If you wish to respond with comments, my e-mail is

A massive bonfire was burning in the middle of the camp. The usual sounds of men belching and grunting could be heard through out the forest. In the middle of the campsite there was a tall red tent that stood out midst the others. As two men approached the tent, the flaps flew open and a large man stepped out.

"Matalis, my lord." One of the men saluted, placing his fist over his heart. Matalis returned the gesture. "Are we still being followed?" Matalis bellowed. "No my lord, we have not seen Xena for days." The other brigand responded. Matalis rubbed his thick crimson beard, thinking of what to do. "Men, keep a eye out for her. I don't want her interfering in my plans." "Yes my lord!" The two men shouted. The two men saluted and went to their posts. Unknowing to Matalis and his men, they were being watched by a pair of cerulean eyes.

Xena kept out of sight as her and Gabrielle were watching the campsite. "Finally, the snake showed himself." Xena said in a low voice. Gabrielle watched carefully along side, keeping quiet. Gabrielle broke her silence. "So, what's your idea"? Xena thought long and hard. While she was thinking, she began eyeing up Gabrielle. Then an idea sprung in her sharp, military trained mind. "Wait here, I'll be right back." Xena got up and returned to her horse.

Xena came back a few moments later with a large blanket under her arm and some rope in her hand. Xena began to unroll it while Gabrielle looked on. "What are you doing?" The curious bard asked. Xena answered without looking at her. "I'm going to give Matalis a little present. While he and his guards are distracted, I'll attack and take him out." Gabrielle nodded in agreement, but in puzzlement. "Good plan. So what do you want me to do" Xena turned to face Gabrielle and answered with a slight grin. "Take off your clothes." Gabrielle was shocked, "WHAT!" Xena quickly explained, "You are the present." Gabrielle's didn't approve of Xena's plan. All it took was a glance into Xena's eyes and a 'Trust me' to change Gabrielle's mind. Gabrielle sighed and began to disrobe. Once Gabrielle was unclothed, Xena instructed her to lie chest down on one end of the blanket. Xena carefully rolled Gabrielle up in the blanket. Once Gabrielle was wrapped, Xena tied her up with some rope, tight enough to keep the blanket from unwrapping, but loose enough so Gabrielle could move. Once she was ready, Xena carefully lifted up Gabrielle and carried her to a spot not far from the camp of Matalis. Unknowing to Xena, a set of eyes was watching.

Xena watched carefully not to be spotted by the guards. Once the coast was clear, she carefully laid down Gabrielle in plain sight so she can be seen. "You okay in there." Xena asked. "It's a little stuffy in here, but I'm all right" Gabrielle responded, her voice muffled as she talked. "Good." Xena patted the human package and darted out of sight.

Two guards approached the unusual package, poking it with their swords. "Come on." Xena said to herself, hoping that the guards would take the bait. The guards picked up each end of Gabrielle and took her back to their temporary hideout. Xena stood up and followed the guards.

The two men returned to report of their finding. Xena quickly ran up and hid out of sight, waiting for her chance to strike. They walked right up to their leader's tent. "Matalis, my lord. Matalis came out of his tent. "We found this not far from here." Matalis examined the package. He took out a dagger from his belt and cut the ropes. He kicked the blanket. The blanket unrolled until it revealed a bare Gabrielle.

The men began to drool as they slowly approach Gabrielle. She quickly wrapped the blanket to cover herself, praying that Xena's second part of her plan would begin. Xena saw this opportunity and began to move in. However, she was caught by surprise when she heard a familiar voice yell, "I'll save you Gabrielle." Xena looked up. When she looked up she saw Joxer, sword in hand, fighting some of Matalis' men. "Shit." Xena mumbled to herself. She unsheathed her sword and ran towards Gabrielle and Joxer.

Matalis and his men noticed Xena coming. "It's Xena. RUN!" The men quickly high tailed out of camp on foot and on horseback. Xena tried to run after them, but was unsuccessful in catching up. Xena's temper began to surface as she approached the abandoned campsite.

Joxer sheathed his sword as Xena returned. Joxer was proud of himself. He thought he did something helpful. "Hi Xena." Joxer called out, with his trademark grin

Xena brushed him off and tended to Gabrielle. Xena helped Gabrielle to her keep while Gabrielle kept the blanket around her body. Once she saw that Gabrielle was okay. Xena turned to Joxer. "Like that? I've been practicing." Joxer said triumphantly. Xena was not amused. Joxer ruined her plan and Xena wanted to take it out on his hide. She then remembered that Gabrielle didn't appreciate Xena taking out her anger on friends. Xena let out a low growl and walked away from Joxer with Gabrielle following close behind. Joxer shrugged his shoulders and followed the women.

Xena returned to camp first with Gabrielle next. Gabrielle, still using the blanket to cover herself, went to her clothes to get dressed. Gabrielle got dressed just in time for Joxer to show up. Xena let out a disgusted sigh. She walked over to Gabrielle with her chakram in her hand. "I'll get dinner, okay." Xena said, trying to keep her anger in check. Xena knew that when she was angry, she would sometimes yell at Gabrielle for no reason. She didn't want to take out her anger on Gabrielle, especially if she didn't do anything wrong. Xena walked past Joxer and walked into the forest to hunt down their meal.

Xena came back about a half a candle mark later with some rabbits for supper. She saw that Joxer didn't leave like she hoped. Xena walked over to Gabrielle and laid down the rabbit. Xena walked over to the far end of the campsite, sat down, and began to sharpen her sword. She tried not to think about what happened earlier, but each time she looked up at Joxer, her blood began to boil. After a few moments, she put down her sword and her stone and walked over to Gabrielle and Joxer.

Gabrielle took the rabbit and prepared it for the stew. Joxer walked over to Gabrielle. "Need a hand?" Joxer asked. "No, I'm fine." Gabrielle responded. Joxer let out a sigh and got up to return to his bedroll. When he got up and turned around, he was nose to nose with Xena. Joxer jumped back. "Don't do that!" He yelped. Xena grabbed him by the collar of his shirt. "We need to talk." Xena pulled Joxer closer. "Alone" Xena growled in a low voice. Xena dragged Joxer away from camp.

Xena and Joxer walked until they reached a clearing away from the campsite. Xena pushed Joxer in front of her. "What was that for?" Joxer asked. "Shut up." Xena screamed. Joxer tried to take the offensive. "Is this how your thank someone who helped you?" Xena came back, totally losing it. "Thank you? You want me to thank you? Gabrielle and me spent two months tracking Matalis down so we can stop him. We finally have him in my clutches when you came along and screwed up our plans. Yeah, thanks. Thanks for your help, IDIOT!" Joxer looked down at his feet. "I'm not an idiot." Xena heard what he said and pounced. "You're right. You're not an idiot. Calling you an idiot would insult all the idiots in Greece." Xena walked towards Joxer. "You are nothing but a stupid, gutless, spineless, dickless, useless, pathetic excuse for a human being." She poked Joxer's shoulder with each adjective she used. "You make me sick just looking at you. Your mother should be bitchslapped for having a son like you."

Joxer was completely stunned. Xena didn't let up on her verbal assault. "I thought we told you about this warrior wannabe crap. Joxer tried to get a word in. "I am a warr..." "SHUT UP!" Xena screamed. She put her hand in front of his face. "Talk again and I'll hurt you." Joxer tried to open his mouth, but quickly shut it when Xena cocked her right hand back, looking as if she was about to throw a jab. "One day someone will kick your ass and we are not going to be there to save you. We honestly don't want be around you, but this game you keep playing we have no choice. This isn't a game, you dumb bastard.

Joxer thought to himself. "Did she say we?" Xena saw the look on his face and really torn into him. "That's right. Gabrielle hates your guts. She hates you just as much as I do. She's just your friend to your face, but in reality, she can't stand you. I don't blame her when she said the next time you make another advance at her, she'd kill you."

Joxer was floored by the last comment. He was so in shock about what Xena just said that Joxer didn't even see Xena push him to the ground. When he tried to get up, Joxer was greeted by Xena's sword pointed right between his eyes. Xena, with an angry serious tone in her voice, let out a threat. "You got five minutes to grab your stuff and get as far away from us as you can. If I see you, and I hope I never do, I do not want to see you in that outfit. No hat, no armor, no sword. Nothing GOT THAT!"

Joxer got up to his feet. He just looked at the ground. When he looked at Xena, he saw the angry look on her face. He sighed and nodded. Xena sheathed her sword. "Now get out of here." Joxer just turned walked slowly past Xena and walked backed to camp. Xena followed closely behind. Joxer and Xena reached the campsite. Joxer continued while Xena stayed back, watching to see if he would keep his promise.

Gabrielle greeted Joxer. "Hey Joxer, dinner's ready. Are you going to...?" Joxer didn't even look at Gabrielle. He grabbed his gear and started to leave. Joxer turned around to see Gabrielle one last time. Joxer just sighed to himself and slowly walked away.

Xena walked in just in time to see Joxer go out of sight. "What's wrong with Joxer?" Gabrielle asked. Xena walked beside Gabrielle and put an arm around her. "Don't know?" Xena responded. Xena smelled the stew. "Come on, let's eat." The two women sat around the campfire and started to eat.

Xena ate the stew while Gabrielle just stared at it. Xena looked at her friend with a concerned look. "You okay?" Gabrielle looked at Xena and started "Joxer was acting funny, as if something was bothering him." Xena continued to eat. Gabrielle then asked Xena "What did you say to him?"

Xena thought for a moment on what to say to her. If Gabrielle knew what really happened, Xena would not hear the end of it. After Xena came up with something, she started explaining. "Remember when we had that talk about Joxer trying to be a warrior." Gabrielle nodded in agreement. "Well, I told him. Must have taken it badly." Gabrielle sighed. Xena wrapped her left arm around Gabrielle's shoulder. "Don't worry, Joxer is just upset. In a couple of days, Joxer will be back as if nothing happened. Don't worry about him, okay." Xena tried to encourage Gabrielle to agree with her. "Okay." Gabrielle agreed. Xena kissed Gabrielle's forehead. "Good, now eat before it gets cold. You'll need your energy. We've got a long day tomorrow." Gabrielle picked up the bowl and they continued their meal. After the meal, Xena helped Gabrielle clean up and set up the bedrolls.

Morning came early. Xena was wide-awake while Gabrielle slept soundly. Xena thought about how she handled Gabrielle after Joxer left. She didn't care about him. Gabrielle was the most important. She didn't think she'd lied, just stretched the truth a little. Xena shook the idea out of her head, finished her tea, and walked towards Gabrielle to wake her up. Once Gabrielle was awake, they had a quick breakfast. Once breakfast was over and the camp was cleaned up and broken down, the two started their quest in chasing Matalis.

They continued to chase Matalis and his men for a month. Xena and Gabrielle traveled from village to village, trying to catch him. Plan after plan would fail and Matalis somehow would slitter away from the warrior princess's grasp.

The two girls set up camp one night after a long day of non-stop traveling. They had a dinner of venison, which was a change of their usual rabbit and fish dinners. Gabrielle suddenly called out "Xena?" Xena looked up from her meal and glance at Gabrielle. "Yes?" Gabrielle continued once she got her attention. "It's been a month since we have seen Joxer, do you think he's all right?" Xena let out a disgusted sigh before responding. "I thought I told you not to worry about him." Gabrielle sighed, "I know, but I miss him. He seemed pretty upset about leaving us." Xena raised an eyebrow and answered with a small grin. "If you left me for a few days, would you be upset?" Gabrielle smiled back "Good point." Gabrielle finished her meal. "Thanks for the deer." Gabrielle complimented. "Sure." Xena responded. Xena got up to get her sword. When she returned to the fire, Xena saw that Gabrielle was already asleep. Xena walked over to drape a blanket over the sleeping bard. "Good night." Xena place a peck on Gabrielle's cheek. She looked at her sword. "It can wait until morning." Xena put down the sword and joined Gabrielle in the bedroll.

They traveled for a couple of days until they reached the next village. Xena looked around the village to see if she saw any of Matalis' men. She didn't. "Gabrielle, I'm going to put Argo away. Go to the inn and talk to the keep and see if they saw or heard anything about Matalis's men. See if they have a room as well. We might as well stay for the day." Gabrielle nodded. Gabrielle grabbed their gear and she headed for the inn. Gabrielle turned around and asked, "Where do we meet?" Xena responded "At the inn." "Okay" Gabrielle turned back around. Xena left for the stables.

Once she put her horse away for the day, Xena walked over to the inn. Once she got inside, Gabrielle was waiting outside. When Xena approached Gabrielle, she asked, "Find out anything?" Gabrielle replied, "The inn keeper said that there were some men of Matalis's pass bye. Nothing has been stolen from anyone yet." Xena's quick mind thought for a moment. "They must have been scouting the village." Xena asked, "Did they have a spare room?" "Yeah, our stuff is already there. I'll meet you there as soon as I get something to eat." Xena agreed to that idea. They both walked into the inn. "It's the third door to the left," Gabrielle told Xena. Xena nodded and walked upstairs.

The tavern wasn't busy, only a few tables were taken. Gabrielle walked slowly to a table in the corner. She placed her staff next to her chair as the barmaid greeted her. "I'll have a cider and the special." Gabrielle told the barmaid. The barmaid nodded and turned to the kitchen.

As Gabrielle waited for her meal, she noticed a familiar person leaning against the bar. She studied the male carefully. The person looked like a friend of her, someone she hasn't seen in a while. The only difference was the clothes. She was so fixed on the person that she didn't see the barmaid bring her food and drink. She thanked the maid and started to eat the slab of lamb. She picked up her drink when the mysterious person turned to his side, revealing his face to Gabrielle,

It was Joxer! She hasn't seen him since he left her and Xena almost a month ago. Gabrielle had a smile on her face. She finished her meal, picked up her drink and walked over to him. She leaned over the bar and started talking to him. "Hi Joxer." Joxer looked out the corner of his eye. He saw the young bard smiling at him. Seeing Gabrielle again reminded him of what happened a month ago. He felt the pain come back. Gabrielle continued "Why the change of clothes?" Gone were his sword, armor and hat. Replaced by simple peasant clothes. Gabrielle laid a hand on Joxer's shoulder, "Are you okay?" Joxer shrugged the hand off his shoulder. He continued to stare at his drink. "Joxer, what's wrong?" Joxer continued to ignore her, muttering, "leave me alone" under his breath. Gabrielle turned the other way. She was surprised by his actions. Normally, he would be all over her, like a dog meeting his master. Joxer acted like she wasn't there. Out of the corner of her eye, Gabrielle saw Joxer leave the tavern and go upstairs. She finished her drink and followed him.

Gabrielle walked down the hallway, past her room, to find Joxer. She stopped at the last doorway when she heard someone crying. The door was ajar. Gabrielle slowly opened and peeked inside. There was Joxer, sitting on the edge of the bed, crying. She then noticed he pulled out a dagger out of his bag. "What the.." Gabrielle muttered. She continued to watch until Joxer aimed the dagger at his heart. "JOXER!" Gabrielle screamed. She ran towards him, grabbing him from his left side. "Drop the dagger. DROP IT!" Gabrielle screamed at him. Gabrielle squeezed his wrists as tight as she could. After a brief, tense moment, Joxer dropped the dagger. He then grabbed on to Gabrielle. Gabrielle held him, while Joxer sobbed on her shoulder.

Gabrielle held Joxer for an hour until he had calmed enough to lift his head off Gabrielle's soggy shoulder. "Why?" Gabrielle asked. "I didn't want to live anymore." Joxer sobbed. "Joxer, how long have you felt like this?" Joxer looked down at the floor and answered "a month." Gabrielle recalled, "That's how long Xena and I last saw you." Joxer lowered his head in shame. "Wait, after you left, Xena said she talked to you." Joxer nodded. Gabrielle slowly placed her hand on his shoulder. "What did she tell you?" Joxer grimaced before answering, "I can't tell you. It hurts too much." Gabrielle hand went to Joxer's other shoulder, holding him in a half hug. "Please, try to tell me." Joxer mustered up as much courage as he had in his fragile heart before telling Gabrielle about the verbal assault Xena laid on him.

Gabrielle was in shock. "She said all that?" Joxer nodded, not once looking at Gabrielle. "The shot about my mom was the one that hurt the most." Gabrielle had a look of sorrow on her face. "Oh gods" Gabrielle said to herself. "I know what you are thinking, I'm used to it, right?" Joxer said in a broken voice. Gabrielle shamefully nodded. Joxer suddenly stood up and started a confession of his life.

"Ever since I was a little kid, I was picked on, teased, beaten up, and alone. I didn't feel like I belonged. My parents didn't like me. My brother's friends didn't want me around. None of the girls liked me. I was the laughing stock of my neighborhood. So one day, I thought if I became a warrior, I would get people to admire me. So I came up with an outfit that would make me stand out of the others. Thus I became Joxer, The Mighty. People still teased me, saying I wasn't fit to be a warrior, but I wasn't going to listen to them. So I left to seek out and be a warrior. I tried to join every army I could find, but was turned down each time. I was dejected, but I never gave up. Then I met you and Xena. I tried to show I could be like you two, but all I got was slapped around, and my nose pulled constantly. I never gave up trying to win you and Xena's approval, and you know what kept me going." Gabrielle shook her head. "No, what." Joxer lifted his head up and looked at Gabrielle for the first time. "You. Every time I got a smile from you, or every time I heard "Thank you, Joxer." It made me feel alive. Like I finally belong. All because of you. I know I did stupid things that got you angry with me, but I used what happened to me to try harder not to make the mistake again. I took the good with the bad. That night, however, changed me forever. That night, Xena destroyed Joxer The Mighty and part of me went with it. I was never the same since."

Gabrielle gathered her thoughts before asking "Where did you go after you left us." Joxer continued. "I went home, but I was laughed out of my neighborhood. After a few days of wandering, I visited Meg. I told her what happened between us. Meg welcomed me in and I stayed with her for a while. Soon I started thinking about what Xena did to me every time I looked at Meg. One night, I got angry with Meg for no reason and we got into a big argument. I broke the relationship off. Meg kicked me out. So I left Meg's and wondered from village to village, alone. Getting drunk in taverns, crying myself asleep at night and waking up with more problems than I started.

Gabrielle looked at her broken, male friend. "Why didn't you get a hold of me? I would have helped you." Joxer quickly added, "Because I thought you felt the same way" Gabrielle was shocked at what he just said. "Why would you think that?" Joxer continued, "When Xena was insulting me, she didn't say 'I', she kept saying 'we'. She was referring to you. She said you were my friend to my face. When my back was turned, you hated me." Gabrielle embraced Joxer. "Joxer, I don't hate you." Joxer wiped away a tear from his eye. "You don't?" Gabrielle smiled at Joxer. "You said yourself that you said and did things that upset me." Joxer nodded in agreement. "You would have to do something very drastic for me to hate you." Joxer let out a sigh of relief. Gabrielle went on. "Besides, Xena was probably just angry and she took it out on you." Joxer cut Gabrielle out. "You don't understand." Joxer paused for a moment before letting Gabrielle in on another hidden secret.

"I look up to her." Gabrielle understood where he was coming from. She was the same way. "I admire her courage, her strength, her 'never say die' attitude. I was hoping one day, she would show me how to defend myself. That way, I could be on my own, not having to have you two around to 'save my ass' all the time." Gabrielle nodded in agreement. It would do him some good.

The two were silent for a few moments. Gabrielle glanced out the window, noticed it was getting dark. "Joxer, it's getting late. I have to go." Joxer grabbed on to Gabrielle hand. He had a hurt 'please don't leave' look on his face. "Why don't you join me for breakfast tomorrow, we can talk some more, okay." Joxer nodded. "Okay." Gabrielle leaned over and gave Joxer a small peck on the cheek. Joxer blushed; it was the first time Gabrielle showed normal affection to him. Gabrielle started to leave when Joxer stopped her before leaving "Wait." Joxer stood up and walked over to her. He reached out with his arms and drew Gabrielle closer in an embrace. "Thank you." Joxer whispered. He then returned the jester and placed a small kiss on her cheek. As soon as Joxer broke the kiss, he flinched. He felt Gabrielle was going to hit him. She didn't. All she did was smile at him. They exchanged good nights and Gabrielle left. Joxer went over and lie down on the bed. For the first time in a month, Joxer had a smile on his face as he went to sleep.

Gabrielle returned to her room. Xena was waiting, arms crossed over her chest. "Where were you?" Xena asked. Gabrielle walked over to her sack "I was visiting a friend I haven't seen in a while." Xena got suspicious. " Oh, really. Any body I know?" "Yes, you know him." "Who's this 'friend' of yours?" Xena asked. Gabrielle faced Xena and said the name that left a nasty taste in Xena's mouth. "Joxer."

Xena tried to cover herself. "So, how's he doing?" Gabrielle knew what she was trying to do. She responded, "He's fine. He had to go home. Someone wanted to bitchslap his mother for having him." Xena acted as if she was beside herself. "What?" Gabrielle continued. "Why would you tell him that? Saying that you were going to slap his mother. Coming from a woman who tried to conquer the world. Someone should slap your mother." Xena was shocked about that comment. Gabrielle went on. "Oh, and I do not hate Joxer." Xena could comment on that. "Don't lie." Gabrielle almost lost it. "If I hated Joxer, I wouldn't have stopped him from putting a dagger in his heart." The women stood and looked at each other in silence. Xena finally broke the silence, asking, "What do you want me to do?" Gabrielle answered with three words. Three words that put a nasty taste in Xena's mouth

"Apologize to him"

Xena was disgusted "What?" Gabrielle continued, "He was torn to pieces because of what you said. You at least own him an explanation of why you said what you said." Xena didn't want any part of it. "Why are you defending him? You hate him just as much as I do." Gabrielle returned the verbal fire. "Yes, he has done things to irritate me. Yes, I hit him because I was angry with him. Yes, I didn't appreciate his advances. However, he does have some good things about him and right now he needs a friend and that friend, like it or not, is me."

Xena sighed. She knew that once Gabrielle set her mind to something, nothing would change it. "I'll think about it." Gabrielle had a small smile on her face, but she was still angry with Xena. "Fine." Gabrielle went to her bag and grabbed her nightshirt. She got undressed with her back turned to Xena. Gabrielle finished and climbed into bed. Xena felt sick. She didn't want to talk to Joxer, but she knew if she did, Gabrielle would drop the issue. Xena didn't even bother getting undressed. She took off her boots and armor and climbed into bed. Xena rolled over and wrapped an arm around the Gabrielle's shoulder. Xena scooted closer and planted a tiny kiss on Gabrielle's neck. Xena's hand started to move slightly when Gabrielle shifted to move away from Xena. "Don't even think about it." Gabrielle muttered in a half sleep. Xena rolled on her back, staring at the ceiling. She looked at Gabrielle, who rolled over and stared at Xena. Xena gave in. "All right! I'll talk to him!" Gabrielle smiled "Thank you." Gabrielle rolled over and settled in. Xena continued to stare at the ceiling. "Why me?" She muttered.

Morning finally came. Joxer sprung out of bed to get ready for his date. He got undressed and took a hot bath. Joxer put on his cleanest shirt and a pair of brown leather pants. He slipped on his boots and walked out the door.

Joxer quickly walked down the stairs to the dining area of the tavern. He looked around to find Gabrielle. She was nowhere in sight. Joxer was discouraged, but he didn't leave. He sat down at the table in the corner with his back facing the wall. Joxer kept his eyes fixed on the stairs so he won't miss Gabrielle.

An hour went by and no sight of Gabrielle. Joxer continued to wait. After two hours, Joxer sighed disappointedly and left the table.

Joxer walked up to his room. He opened the door to leave when he saw a sack outside. Joxer opened the sack. Inside were a scroll and a piece of silk. Joxer unrolled the scroll and read it.


I'm sorry I couldn't talk to you before you left, but Xena wanted to leave early. I wanted you to come with us. Xena said no, so I did the closet thing. I got you a little something. This piece of silk was mine. I wanted you to keep it. In case I don't get to see you again, keep a promise for me. Always keep me in your heart, because I'll keep you in mine. You will always be my friend, and I'll always love you.


A small tear began to trickle down Joxer's face. He put down the scroll and held the silk in his hands. He felt warm inside. He folded the piece of silk as neatly as he could and tucked it down his shirt next to his heart. Joxer put the scroll in the bag and left the room.

Joxer went outside when suddenly he heard a scream. He ran towards the scream. When he got to the middle of the village a thief was mugging an older woman. "Give me your money, you hag." The thief screamed. Joxer's emotions were surging through him. He wanted to do something, but he remembered what happened the last time he tried to be a hero. Then something moved him. He finally ran towards the thief and tried to stop him. Unknowingly to Joxer, Gabrielle also heard what was going on and went to check it out. Gabrielle watched as Joxer tried to handle the situation.

"Hey!" Joxer screamed. "Pick on someone your age, kid." The thief turned around to see Joxer with his arms across his chest. The old lady quickly got out of the way. "Looking for trouble?" The thief sneered, "You don't know who you're dealing with?" The thief pulled a knife and began to circle around Joxer.

Xena got there just in time to see Joxer take on the thief. "What is he doing?" Xena asked. Gabrielle looked at Xena. "He's trying to stop a thief." Xena sighed, "He's going to get killed." Gabrielle shook her head at Xena's remark.

Joxer kept his cool as the thief kept circling around him. "I'm warning you, leave quietly or else I'll rough you up." The thief laughed at the threat. Joxer got into a fighting stance. Joxer started a kickboxing routine. "He's dead" Xena said, watching from a distance. During his routine, Joxer's boot came flying off his foot. The boot smacked the thief between his eyes. The thief was knocked off balance. He stumbled back, tripped on a rock, and landed in a water trough.

The thief, humiliated, ran off as people applauded Joxer. "I don't believe it." Xena said in shock. Gabrielle ran to Joxer to congratulate him for his heroics.

Joxer stood in shock. He couldn't believe what happened. "Hey." A voice called for Joxer. He turned to see who called him. Gabrielle ran up him. "Nice job." Gabrielle said with a smile. Joxer held his head down, trying not to blush. "Excuse me." The old woman walked behind Joxer. Joxer turned to face the woman he just helped. "Thank you very much." The old lady opened her bag and pulled out a few coins. He placed the coins in Joxer's open hand. Joxer looked at his hand with the coins, then he looked at Gabrielle. A smile came over his face. That smile immediately was wiped away when Xena approached them.

Xena stood in front of Joxer. She noticed the hand that had his small reward for his heroics. She didn't approved of doing good deeds for money. "You shouldn't have taken it." Xena spoke out. Joxer replied. "Why not, I would have insulted her. Besides, I need the money." Xena responded, "I thought you were better than that." Joxer came back, "I'm just like you, only I like to get paid." Gabrielle stood in the middle, not knowing whose side to be on. Joxer was her friend, but she knew Xena longer. Xena interrupted her thoughts. "Come on Gabrielle, we're leaving." Xena walked away from Joxer to the stable. Gabrielle grabbed Joxer by the arm and they both followed Xena.

When Xena got to the stable, she saddled up Argo. She turned to face Gabrielle. What she saw irritated her. Gabrielle and Joxer were standing side by side. It looked as if they were defying her. "Listen Gabrielle, I do not have time to mess around with him. We need to find Matalis and stop him." Joxer interrupted. "He's not far." Xena turned around and looked at Joxer. "And how do you know?" Joxer started, almost sounding like Xena. "When I fought the thief, he had the same armband Matalis' men wear." "You mean a red armband, with a flame shield and two swords crossed over it." Joxer nodded. "Which way did he go?" Xena asked "Through the south entrance." Gabrielle added. Xena sighed in disapproval. She looked at Gabrielle, who gave her the puppy dog eyes routine. Xena finally gave in. She walked over to Joxer and stared him right in the eyes. Xena asked in a low voice. "You really want to come along?" Joxer gulped nervously before nodding yes. Xena made one point perfectly clear to Joxer.

"Stay out of my way! Understand?"

Joxer nodded again. Xena mounted Argo. "Come on, Let's go." Xena kicked Argo and the horse gallops out of the stables and pursued the thief into the forest. Gabrielle and Joxer quickly followed.

Xena stopped her horse just before an opening. The opening led to the campsite of Matalis. She carefully observed what was going on before Gabrielle and Joxer caught up. "Do you have a plan?" Gabrielle asked after she caught her breath. "Yes. Gabrielle, you and Joxer take the front. I'll go from behind the camp. We'll surround them and wipe them out." Gabrielle nodded in agreement. Before they left to get into position, Xena pulled Joxer to the side and growled, "Don't screw up." Joxer nodded and left with Gabrielle to the north. Xena turned around and headed south.

Xena marched into the camp. The thieves noticed her and started to run away from her. The thieves then ran into Gabrielle and Joxer. As so as they were cornered, Xena attacked. The first guard met her. Xena ducked his swing and took him out with a vicious left hook. The second guard drew out his sword, Xena replied. The two exchange parries before she disarmed him. She then hit the thief with a side blade kick into his chest, dropping him.

Xena faced her third victim before one tried Gabrielle. Gabrielle blocked a swing with her staff before connecting with a shot to his face. Joxer picked up a sword. The thief charged at Joxer. Joxer dropped his shoulder and flipped the thief over his head.

The fight continued until all the thieves were out cold and the three heroes were standing. Just then Matalis stepped out in view. He drew out his sword and stared directly at Xena. Xena stared back and prepared for a showdown with Matalis. Joxer and Gabrielle stood back and watched.

The two circled each other. Matalis made the first move and swung at Xena. Xena blocked every move. Xena somersaulted over Matalis and tried a shot from his behind, but Matalis spun around and quickly blocked it. The two exchanged thrust until Matalis feint a blow to Xena's left. Xena fell for the fake and Matalis scored a blow when the tip of his sword cut Xena's left shoulder. Xena dropped her offense just enough for Matalis to get two knees in her stomach and a jab to the jaw. Xena dropped to the ground dazed. Matalis hovered over Xena, who was defenseless. "NO!" Gabrielle yelled, trying to get Matalis' attention away from Xena. It didn't work. Joxer suddenly took off his boot and threw it at Matalis. The boot hit Matalis right in the side of the head. The blow dazed him enough for Xena to gather herself. She picked up her sword and with all of her strength, pushed it into Matalis' armor. The sword punctured the armor and went through his chest. Matalis fell away from Xena and dropped to the ground. Joxer and Gabrielle hurried to an injured Xena.

"Are you all right?" Gabrielle helped Xena to her feet. As Gabrielle helped Xena walk back to the village. Xena tried to look at Joxer. No matter how angry she was at him, something inside had to admit Joxer had saved her.

That night, Joxer and Gabrielle prepared a fish dinner around the campfire. Xena stayed near the fire looking at Joxer. Finally she got up and walked over to him. "Can I talk to you for a second?" Xena grabbed Joxer and pulled him out of the camp. Gabrielle had a concerned look on her face. She didn't know what Xena was going to do to Joxer. However, something inside told her not to intervene.

Joxer and Xena walked to a clearing away from camp. "You are not going to rag me again." Joxer snapped. Xena spun him around and they were face to face. "I thought I told you to stay out of my way!" Xena said in her low voice. Joxer gulped. Xena sneer slowly turned into a smile. "I'm glad you didn't listen." Xena walked towards Joxer and did something he didn't expect.

Xena hugged him.

Joxer stood still. Xena broke the hug after whispering "Thank you" in Joxer's ear.

Xena patted Joxer on the back. "The next time we are in a tavern, I'll buy you a drink." Joxer jumped on the idea. "Just don't tell Gabrielle about this." Joxer nodded in agreement. The two left arm in arm back in camp. Before they reached the camp, Xena broke the embrace. Xena return first with Joxer behind. Xena sat down by the campfire while Joxer sat on top of his unrolled bedroll. "Joxer" Xena spoke out. Joxer looked at Xena. "You can travel with us whenever you like." Joxer let out s smile while Gabrielle was in shock. "All right Joxer, what did you do to her." Gabrielle asked. Xena took the defense. "Nothing! I just thanked him for helping me, that's all." Joxer added. "She hugged me."

Gabrielle looked at Xena. "Ahhh, Xena getting all mushy for Joxer." Xena replied, "I am not." Gabrielle continued to mock what Joxer said "Joxer and Xena, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G." "That's enough!" Xena yelled. Xena tried to stop Gabrielle from carrying on. "Wait until Hercules hears this." Xena's jaw dropped. "You wouldn't" The two continued their silly argument.

While the two were arguing, Joxer leaned back on his bedroll. He listened to the quarreling of his friends. He smiled and said in a joyful voice, "It's good to be home" before going to sleep.


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