Holding Out For A Hero

by Lori Bush (lwbush@gw.total-web.net)

Disclaimer: The characters are not mine, belonging as they do to Renaissance Pictures and the rest. If someone wanted to give them to me for Christmas, however, I wouldn't really object. At least, give me the gift of not suing, 'kay?

Rating: G

Characters: Xena, Gabby, Joxer, Ephiny, Xenan (a cameo appearance)

Setting: Right after "The Bitter Suite."

Summary: Joxer from a different perspective.

Archive: If I sent it to your list, it's yours. If I didn't just ask - I'm known to be generous.

Author's Notes: First off -- Rupert, I love you now! There probably isn't a songwriter alive I like better than Jim Steinman. And I've always liked this song, in particular. The story almost wrote itself.

We never really got to see much of the interaction between Joxer and Ephiny in "The Bitter Suite," but she certainly seemed to respect him in the one scene they had together. And several other authors have touched on the fact that Xena owed the Amazons all an apology (specifically, Misty Flores in "The Other Foot"). I combined those thoughts with a pinch of sugar and baked at 350...




Holding Out For a Hero
Written by: Jim Steinman and Dean Pitchford
Sung by: Bonnie Tyler


Where have all the good men gone and where are all the gods?
Where's the street-wise Hercules to fight the rising odds?
Isn't there a white knight upon a fiery steed?
Late at night I toss and I turn and I dream of what I need

I need a hero
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night
He's gotta be strong and he's gotta be fast
And he's gotta be fresh from the fight

I need a hero
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the morning light
He's gotta be sure and he's gotta be soon
And he's gotta be larger than life

Larger than life

Somewhere after midnight
In my wildest fantasies
Somewhere just beyond my reach
There's someone reaching back for me

Racing on the thunder and rising with the heat
It's gonna take a Superman to sweep me off my feet

I need a hero
I'm holding out for a hero till the end of the night
He's gotta be strong and he's gotta be fast
And he's gotta be fresh from the fight

I need a hero

I'm holding out for a hero till the morning light
He's gotta be sure and he's gotta be soon
And he's gotta be larger than life

I need a hero

I'm holding for a hero 'til the end of the night

Up where the mountains meet the heavens above
Out where the lightning strikes the sea
I can swear that there is someone somewhere watching me

Through the wind and the chill and the rain
And the storm and the flood
I can feel his approach like a fire in my blood

I need a hero
I'm holding out for a hero till the end of the night
He's gotta be strong and he's gotta be fast
And he's gotta be fresh from the fight

I need a hero
I'm holding out for a hero till the morning light
He's gotta be sure and he's gotta be soon
And he's gotta be larger than life

I need a hero
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night
He's gotta be strong and he's gotta be fast
And he's gotta be fresh from the fight

I need a hero
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the morning light
He's gotta be sure and he's gotta be soon
And he's gotta be larger than life

I need a hero

I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night


~**~

The blonde Amazon Queen pushed her hair back from her face, sighing. The sunrise was beautiful, but she could read the clouds. There'd be a storm by evening. As if in confirmation, her broken arm began to twinge. She sighed again -- she'd probably better go back to wearing the sling, or the healer would have her head. Although she might have to thank Xena if the injury proved to be a weather-portent.

Xena. She'd come back, and apologized to Ephiny and the others for her behavior, and Gabrielle had been at her side, as before. They were vague about what had brought about their reconciliation, but it was clear that the issues that had led to the most intense confrontation the Amazon village had seen since the end days of Velaska were behind them, now. Gabrielle even looked unharmed -- Ephiny wished her own wounds had healed as easily. Her fracture throbbed again, in agreement. Or those of others -- one in particular should have been emotionally hurt in a way even a healer couldn't treat.

But, she realized as she trudged back through the woods, he wasn't hurt that way. He had been hurt, physically, but he'd never let the emotional pain of what one of his best friends had done to him while trying to kill the woman he loved put the slightest dent in his trust for either of them. His strength of heart was equal to that of the most honored Amazon.

Joxer still lay, bruised and broken, in the healer's hut. He'd begged her not to tell the other women he was there when he'd heard of their arrival, so she hadn't. Even in his battered state, he was protecting them.

Ephiny had asked the Warrior Princess casually if she'd talked to Joxer since the incident, even though she knew the answer. But Xena's reply made it clear she thought the only injury she'd given the young man had been when she punched him out. It was also clear her remorse for that act even outweighed her regret about breaking Ephiny's arm. If she'd realized that she'd trampled Joxer's fallen body under the hooves of the horse she been using to drag Gabrielle away, she'd have been horrified. It was understandable why the wanna-be warrior wanted to keep a low profile for a while. He could never hope to defend Xena in battle, but he could protect her emotions.

When he'd first arrived with Queen Gabrielle, bringing her for the Purification Ritual, Ephiny had pretty much ignored him. Then she recalled some of the stories the bard had told about him, and she mentally dismissed him as a fool -- another foolish man. But his devotion to Gabrielle became quickly apparent, and as Ephiny watched, she saw little of the fool she'd expected. He was quiet, and serious, and hovered frequently outside the hut where Gabrielle was sequestered. By the end of three days, she respected him as much as she ever had any man. But not as much as she would after she saw him stand up to Xena.

Reaching the edge of the village, the acting Queen saw her half-Centaur son scampering around, playing some children's game with a group of the younger girls. She'd given little thought to men -- males, human or any other -- since Xenan's father had died. She didn't hate them, like some of the Amazons -- she just didn't think about them. She smiled at the child's antics. Perhaps he should spend some of his time with males, too. She'd have to think about it. If more men were like Joxer, she wouldn't even pause for consideration. Her smile twisted a bit into a grimace.

Last night, she and Gabrielle had spent some time together, Queen-to-Queen, talking about the tribe and the future before the bard headed out again with Xena. They were starting to have some trouble with the barbarians to the North, and Gabrielle made a few suggestions of things to try in order to keep peace with them. As they were winding down, Ephiny asked something she' d sort of always wondered, but more so lately.

"Have you ever considered settling down, Gabrielle?"

The other Queen smiled a bit uncertainly. "You mean, like, here, and taking back over? You're doing a fine job, Ephiny -- this village doesn't need me."

"No, that wasn't what I meant, really. I know you were married once, and it didn't work out the way you planned. Would you ever try that again?"

Gabrielle smiled again, a bit more ironically. "How could I settle down after the life I've led? I travel beside one of Greece's greatest heroes. I live adventures most people could never even imagine. There are a lot of men out there who've caught my eye, but nothing more. Maybe someone like Iolaus, but he's got his own commitments, and besides, we haven't spent enough time together for me to know whether we could make it work. Naw, it's gonna take a super-man to sweep me off my feet, and they don't exist."

Ephiny thought of the strength of devotion and love that motivated the man who lay healing only a few huts away from where they sat. "I don't know -- there might be a few super-men hiding in what look like average guys. You just need to know where to look."

Gabrielle laughed, signaling the subject was closed. "Sorry, Eph, but I'm spoiled. I'm holding out for a hero."

The acting Queen waved goodbye to the hero and her sidekick -- the woman of so many faces. She was the bard, the Queen, and -- to the man who she unknowingly left behind in the village -- everything. She turned slowly, long after they'd moved out of sight, and headed to the healer's hut.

He was still asleep. Xena liked an early start; besides, Joxer's body was still rebuilding, and needed the rest, anyway. Ephiny brushed a bit of hair back off his forehead, and noted that the bruises on his face had faded to mere shadows, now. It was just the internal injuries that still needed time to heal. She pulled her hand back before she gave into the urge to rest it on his face -- she didn't want to wake him.

Maybe, once he was better and she was through this whole deal with the barbarians, she'd invite him back for a while. Xenan could learn to be a man from worse people.

Oh, my Queen, Ephiny thought. Not all heroes are stoic and tough, like Xena. They aren't all big and strong like Hercules, or clever and witty like Iolaus. She gave in after all, and rested her hand on Joxer's face. Sometimes, the superman is hiding in a place you've never bothered to look.




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