Author's Note: So this is my first Xena story. Most likely it will be my Only Xena story. I was never planning on writing fanfiction again, specially with a fandom I'm really not all that familiar with, but it's too insistent of an idea for me to ignore. This all takes place between the episodes "Sacrifice part 2" and "A Family Affair". As far as I know, in cannon they never say exactly how long there is between those two episodes. Joxer makes a comment about daisies "now" being in bloom, which means, I guess, they weren't before, and Gabrielle says that she was in a hospice for "a long time", but those seem to be the only clues given, so I'm taking that liberty to stretch time out. So that's my little disclaimer, there. I've never written these characters before,(or, well, this character, as the story will focus really on Joxer and my original character, which I promise will not be a Mary Sue. Really, I don't do those), and I'm taking some creative liberty with time. If that doesn't scare you off, then, by all means, please keep reading, and let me know what you think.
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters. The end.
Daisies of the Galaxy.
Part one: The Girl.
Her face never left his mind. That last look over her daughter's shoulder, panicked and apologetic all in one. She wasn't looking at him—for him there were no apologies, there never were—but all the same, he felt its impact. He felt its meaning. And it broke his heart. That would be the last look he ever saw on her face. That panicked, forlorn look.
He wished he could remember her smile.
She would never smile again.
That was all Joxer could think as he walked away from the small, broken temple that had been his second home for the last month. His first dwelling was an inn in a nearby town. The dinars it cost to stay there tended to add up quickly, but he'd taken to doing some odd jobs—selling the pelts of the small game that he caught for food, running errands for the local businesses, fixing roofs, painting walls, whatever he could find in order to stay close to what he thought to be her final resting place. It was far from warrior's work, but it was honest and justified in his mind. And it kept him occupied, busy, so that, instead of every thought being of her, he was left with every other thought:
"I've got to tar this roof, now. I can't believe Gabby's really gone. After this, I suppose I should see if I can sell that wolf pelt at the market. What am I going to do without her? Gods, it's hot out here. I miss her so much."
It was a small relief from his burden of grief, but a relief all the same.
When he wasn't working, he was at the temple, just sitting quietly by that glowing pit. He found it fitting, in a poetic sort of way, that she should die by falling in such a hole. It matched the one he now had in his heart. He knew that she, as a writer, would appreciate such an idea, and it made him hurt all the more knowing that he could never express such thoughts to her. He could never impress her with his poetic ideas. He would never be able to make her laugh at his less than poetic ideas. She was gone. And he was empty.
And so it had been for a full cycle of the moon. He slept little, ate less, worked hard, grieved harder, and spent every free moment at the site of her death. Because, without a body, there was no grave, and without a grave, where else would he mourn?
It was raining the day he found the girl. He had spent the last few hours at the temple and had just started back towards the town when he heard a curious sound. It was one he had heard before, but couldn't place. Human in nature, it was one of the most inhuman sounds he had ever heard. The emotion within it was both gut retching and so horrifying that it made the hair on the back of his neck stand up. His first instinct was to bolt—to flee from the area, running as fast has his legs could take him. However, some part of him, some brave, stupid part of him, told him to stay. To investigate.
And so he did.
Following the sound, he came upon a small clearing in the forest. The area was dark from the storm, but in the occasional flash of lightning he could make out a small pile of stones in the middle of the clearing. A grave marker. Near the marker was a girl. Her clothes, a simple dress of a light color, and shoulder length hair were plastered to her body, the lightning glinting off of her rain soaked skin. That instinct to run was back for an instant, thinking the figure before him to be a ghost, but the more rational part of his brain kicked in, causing him to notice the raindrops bouncing off her of body, proving she was solid, whole, and real.
He finally recognized where he had heard that sound, before. It was the same one that his heart had made as he watched Gabrielle fall into that pit. It was the sound of utter pain and mourning. It was the sound of a broken heart. And it was coming from that girl.
Moving a bit closer, squinting through the rain, he could make out an object in her right hand, something that flashed and shone when the light hit it. It was a dagger. It was only then that he saw the blood. It ran in dark rivers down each of the girl's arms, which she held high in the air, her face turned up to the clouds, the dagger held loosely in one hand. Her wrists were cut. That should have been his first warning that something was horribly wrong, but still he sat, watching her, as she slowly joined her hands together, so that they clutched the knife, the blade pointing towards her body. Her wailing grew louder, the howling wind of the storm seeming to join in, matching her pitch and feeling. She frowned, her eyebrows drawing together, and then her jaw set in a stubborn line—a look that took him slightly aback as it mirrored one that he had seen so often on Gabrielle's face when she was determined.
It was the shock of that familiar expression that made him realize what was about to happen: that girl was about to use that knife on herself. From the look of her arms, she already had, but, with the angle she was holding that knife, she was about to finish what she started. She was going to kill herself. If he didn't do something, she was going to die. And it would be all his fault.
That final thought sent him into action. Just as she thrust the glinting blade downward, towards her body, he jumped from his hiding place.
She turned her head towards him, startled by the sound of his voice. The dagger still continued its downward arch, but, instead of meeting her chest, he glanced off of her side, slicing a large gash. She cried out in pain, dropping the knife, instinctually holding her side. Pain replaced the determination in her eyes as she looked back up at him, her expression a confused frown.
The clouds and the rain cast shadows on his face. All she could see was a man in the storm coming towards her, his arm outstretched, calling for her to stop. The pain and blood loss caused her head to swim and she collapsed as he reached her. Dropping to his knees beside her, he cradled her head into his lap, his hands searching her arms and side, trying to get a better understanding of the depth of her wounds. She winced as he touched her, but said nothing, just gazing up at his face, her eyes beginning to glaze over and cloud.
"What were you doing?" he mumbled to her, not really expecting an answer, "Why did you think that…you know there's a better way…"
Her hand reached up and touched his face, so lightly he could barely feel it. He stopped his explorations to look at her, "What…?"
"Altus?" she whispered. And then her eyes closed and she fell unconscious.
"Who? Great. Now what am I supposed to do?" Joxer muttered, squinting though the rain for some kind of hint as to where to go from here. He needed to get this mysterious girl dry and warm or else she was going to die. He couldn't just leave her here to go find help, either. He had to do something, but what?
Lightning flashed again and he saw it in the distance. On the other side of the clearing, just beyond the first line of trees was a small cottage. Muttering a small prayer of thanks to the gods, he climbed to his feet, picking the girl up with him, and made his way through the clearing to the small home. With any luck someone would be there to help. Someone who actually knew what they were doing. As much as he wanted to be a hero, this kind of stuff was generally Xena and Gabri…was not really his forte, and he knew it. Hopefully someone was home. If not, well, he'd figure that out when he got there.
Author's note: Ok, so I'm stopping there. Guess this will be a multi-parter. I had kind of already assumed it would, but I figured I would see where my muse took me first. If you like it so far, please review and let me know. Oh, and again, I swear, this isn't gonna be a Mary Sue type thing. Though there may, eventually, be a hint of romance, this will be much more of a two people finding comfort in each other type fic than a two people falling in love type fic. Just saying.
Till next time, Toodles!