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This That Or the Other

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This, That Or the Other
by Kerensa


Chapter 1- If Wishes Were Horses

Joxer stumbled and fell to his hands and knees in the middle of the overgrown path. He yelped at the pain in his right leg and the palms of his hands and immediately sat down on the ground. Joxer yelped again when he felt something rough digging into his behind. He shifted to one slender hip and moved the large piece of bark that he had sat down on.

Then Joxer examined his injured knee. There was a small, but very sharp rock digging into his right leg. Luckily for Joxer, his leather trousers were sturdy enough to have kept the rock from actually going into his skin. As it was, it felt like there was a cut and the area was already starting to ache.

The warrior looked up in time to see his "friends" round the bend in the path and leave him behind. Joxer knew that they had heard him fall and had kept on walking. He really hadn't expected any differently, but it still hurt all the same.

His hand tightened on the piece of bark and for a moment he pulled back his arm as if to throw it. Sadly, his good nature took over and he just tossed the piece of wood to the side where it made a slight clattering sound when it bounced off a tree trunk.

"Tartarus, they don't even care when I'm wounded in a battle, why should this be any different," he mumbled morosely.

He used the back of his hand to wipe some moisture out of his eyes. 'They are just watering because of the dirt, that's all, darn it!' Joxer sniffed. 'I am *not* crying.' he reiterated to himself. 'Warriors don't cry.'

Pulling out his water skin, Joxer tugged up on the leg of his pants and inspected the wound. Sure enough, it was bleeding and there was a deep purple bruise that was spreading out from the cut. Not a big surprise there, Joxer always bruised badly.

Joxer pulled a semi-clean cloth out of his pack and pressed it to the wound to stop it from bleeding. The young man knew how easily leather stained and he didn't want dried blood on his pants from now on. After cleaning the open wound with some water, Joxer decided that it didn't need to be sewn up.

"Thank Apollo," he said fervently. "I really, really hate sewing up a wound, especially on myself."

A little wine (and crap did that hurt) and a hastily folded bandage later, and Joxer was on his way again. Hopefully the wine would keep the injury from becoming putrid. The last thing he needed was to get sick again from an untreated, or poorly treated, wound. The last time that had happened, Jett had threatened to kick his butt from here to Athens if he let it happen again.

Naturally the here wasn't *here*. The *here* was outside of Thrace where they had been visiting Jayce at the time, but anyway...

"Oh, there you are," Gabrielle's tone couldn't be more uninviting than if she had spit.

Joxer stopped limping towards her and wondered what he had ever done to make Gabrielle hate him so much. Was it his lousy fighting? Heck, she hadn't been fighting for very long herself and wouldn't even *try* to use a sword; at least he tried. He didn't try to hide his lack of ability behind some supposed reluctance to hurt anyone. What did Gabrielle think, that her staff didn't hurt when it whacked against someone's head. Joxer could certainly tell her otherwise.

Was it how clumsy he was? Tartarus, it wasn't like he *wanted* to trip all the time, he just got dizzy sometimes. Or was it his singing? Joxer knew his song irritated both Gabby and Xena. He tried to remember *not* to sing it while they were around, but most of the time he just forgot. When he was traveling alone, Joxer sang to keep himself company. 'Heck, it's not like anybody's around most of the time anyway.'

"I hope you have something to eat in that bag of yours, because I'm not cooking." Gabrielle didn't wait to see what Joxer had to say. The young woman would probably be stunned if she knew that Joxer was thrilled to death not to be subjected to Gabrielle's idea of cooking. He always choked it down, no matter how bad the food was, and fended for himself whenever he could. Gabrielle had noticed his reluctance to eat her meals. The blond woman always reminded Joxer that his cooking had laid out an entire army.* Joxer tried to point out that he was *supposed* to incapactitate them.

She turned her back on him and went back to placing her bed roll just so-so on the ground. The blond woman was particularly fussy about where she slept. It couldn't be too close to the fire or her delicate skin might burn, it couldn't be too far away or she would get chilled in the night.

The warrior-wanna-be shrugged and flopped down on the other side of the campfire. He knew better than to offer to help the Amazon princess. The one and only time he had spread her and Xena's bedrolls, the blond woman had ended up with her blanket getting singed on one corner. A head thump and nose twist later and Joxer was *forbidden* to ever touch Gabby's things again.

Joxer smoothed the ground, by getting rid of the bigger rocks (he'd had enough of rocks for today, thank you), and made his bed. He looked around the camp and wondered where Xena had disappeared to. It wasn't like the Warrior Princess to leave the setting up of the camp to Gabrielle. He started to ask, but took one look at Gabrielle's angry back (angry about what, he didn't know) and changed his mind. A few minutes later his unasked question was answered for him. Xena came striding into the camp, her clothes and hair were wet. Joxer was surprised, she and Gabrielle usually bathed together, which thruthfully, Joxer found a little odd.

'I mean, I'd take a bath with my brothers, but I wouldn't want to be naked in front of Iolaus or Autolycus.'

Joxer winced at the idea of his skinny body being on display next to those muscular bodies...wow, actually, he kind of liked the idea of their bodies, just without his there. Or better yet, if instead of his two friends, he could just see...no, that way led to blasphemy.

"...wondering where you'd gotten to." Xena's voice broke into Joxer's mini-fantasy. It was a nice one that had Iolaus and Auto lying on the bank, naked and drying in the sun, while Joxer washed Ar, uhm...someone's back.

"I..." before Joxer could give an explanation, the warrior woman turned away and walked over to Argo, her horse.

'At least she pretended to be interested,' Joxer rationalized. 'That's something anyway.'

Wondering just how pathetic he really was, Joxer gathered his few things and headed for the water that was obviously near by.

*****

Joxer groaned at the pain in his side. Lying on the ground was uncomfortable, no matter how often you do it, and Joxer always woke up with one or two aching places. He immediately clamped his mouth shut, hoping he hadn't disturbed his fellow travelers.

It only took a few seconds for Joxer to realize that something was wrong. He sat up, looked around the empty campsite and slumped. It was empty. There were no bedrolls, the fire was dead and Argo wasn't tethered to a tree anymore.

'They left me,' he realized. 'While I was asleep, they broke camp and left me.'

He hung his head and tried not to cry. There had been many times that they had threatened to leave him if he didn't hurry up, but this was the first time they had ever actually done it. The young man closed his eyes and sighed.

"There has to be a better life than this. Most *anything* would be better than this.'

*****

Somewhere, on the far edge of Mount Olympus, a goddess' head popped up. She heard Joxer's thoughts and was troubled by them. Joxer was a "pure soul". He was destined to do great things and that kind of attitude would only lead to his being careless.

Closing her eyes to concentrate, Gaia could see into the future. She saw Joxer's death, a noble death, where he saved the life of an innocent, but still...his premature death. Gaia shuddered in fear.

"This won't do," she stated unequivocally. "He has too much to do. Joxer cannot be allowed to die so young."

The Goddess of ------ bit her lip in contemplation. 'But what to do?' This was going to take a lot of thought and some intricate planning.

*****

"Hurry up!" Gabrielle's yell jerked him out of his depressing thoughts and Joxer fell back onto his bedroll. The blond woman rolled her eyes at him and she kicked some dirt onto the fire to make certain that it was properly extinguished. At the same time, she ended up kicking dirt onto the prone Joxer. "Idiot."

Joxer rubbed furiously at his eyes where some dirt had gotten in and was irritating them. Tears began to run down his eyes, as his body tried to naturally clear the dirt out. Gabby saw the tears and snorted.

Xena walked up at that moment and looked at the scene. Joxer was sitting on his bedroll, rumpled, with tears rolling down his dirty face. The smirk on Gabrielle's face and the dirt on her boot gave Xena a pretty good idea of what had happened. She had asked the bard to let Joxer know they were ready to go. Xena had earlier decided to let the young man sleep, because he'd looked pretty rough the night before when he'd made it to the camp. So, she'd quietly gathered the camp and taken Argo to the stream to drink. She had even managed to keep Gabrielle quiet, not an easy task for the young woman who woke up so cranky.

The Warrior Princess frowned and looked at her friend carefully. 'Something is up with Gabrielle. She has been treating Joxer like centaur droppings and Xena didn't understand why. Xena decided that the best thing right now would be to get her away from Joxer, before she did or said something else to hurt him.

"Are you two ready yet?" Not giving them time to answer, because it was obvious that Joxer wasn't and Elysia only knows what Gabrielle will have to say about that, Xena started walking away. "Let's go."

*****

Naturally, Joxer didn't know what was going on in Xena's head. All he saw was that she and Gabrielle walking off and leaving him.

"My life stinks!" he exclaimed. "I wish I could have a different life."

*****

"Hoffman! Where are those pictures, you idiot?"

The slender young man hurried into the office. Several pictures dropped from his hands in his haste and he had to stop and pick them up off the carpeted floor.

Josh Hoffman tried to hurry. Mr. J. Jonah Jameson was in a particularly bad mood today. Not that that distinguished it from any other day, but still, he didn't want *all* of the Editor-in-chief's wrath directed at him.

"Here you are, Mr. Jameson."

He quickly handed the photographs to the older man. Jameson's mustache twitched as he frowned. Josh looked at his chief's desk, wondering what set him off this time. All he saw was a cup of coffee, that had been there long enough that it had a greasy film on the top, and a stack of crumpled newspapers. In other words, nothing out of the ordinary.

"No." A photo was tossed, Josh caught it. "No." Another almost hit him in the eye. "No, No, NO!" Hoffman bent over to pick up the ones that he couldn't catch.

"These are crap!" Jameson yelled. "I don't want stock photos, I want new and fresh ones."

"There aren't any, sir." Josh winced at the glare that was thrown his way. "Since Spiderman gave up fighting," he gestured to the costume that was tacked to editor's wall like a trophy. "...there hasn't been any crime saving pictures to take."

"I...Don't...CARE," Jameson shrieked. "I want a great picture for the front page. Not like this crap!" He slapped a hand down on the last several days worth of newspapers. The covers showed good, but rather dull, pictures of politicians and movie stars.

"But, sir..."

"Shut up! Get me Parker. He seems to have all the interesting shots." Half a second later, he barked, "Well?! Get on it!"

Hoffman hurried out of the office and over to his tiny and overcrowded desk, trying not to be embarrassed. 'It's not like he doesn't yell at everybody else too,' he thought miserably. He didn't want to go back and tell Jameson that he couldn't get hold of Peter. The boss would be mad and scream at him and he was tired of being screamed at.

"I wish I could have a different life," he thought and Gaia decided to answer his and Joxer's prayers.

*****

Joxer sat down abruptly, as his head spun. 'At least this time I didn't sit down on a rock,' he thought. 'Although whatever the Tartarus this is, it is almost as hard.'

"Woah." He held his head in both hands as the room spun even faster and tried his darndest not to throw up. He had no idea where a stream was and Joxer didn't want to use what little water he had in his water skin to clean himself up.

"Are you okay, Josh?" Joxer felt a light touch on his arm and looked up into a pair of concerned green eyes. 'Who's this?' he wondered in surprise.

"Uhm." He glanced around the room...Room?...and wondered where in the Tartarus he was.

'It must be some parallel world,' he decided. 'I know Iolaus has dealt with these before.' Not wanting to look like *too* much of an idiot, and get whoever the heck he was in trouble, Joxer decided to pretend he knew what was going on.

"Uh, yeah. I mean, yes, I'm fine." He smiled brilliantly at the concerned woman and watched as she flushed.

"Okay, th-that's good."

Joxer wondered what was the matter with her. She seemed embarrassed. 'Ah, that's it,' he realized. 'She's embarrassed to be seen talking to me.' Joxer's smile slid off his face, but was unnoticed by the flustered young woman who was wondering when Hoffman became sexy.

"Hoffman!"

The way she was staring at him, Joxer realized that he must be this Hoffman guy. He hurried into the room with the clear walls. Joxer's eyes got bigger and bigger as he took in all the strange things around him. 'What in Tartarus is this place?'

"Uhm, yes?" Joxer watched the angry man pacing around the room tentatively. 'Don't babble, don't babble,' he thought to himself desperately. 'That only makes people irritated and the last thing you want to do is start off on the wrong foot here.'

"Well?" The man pulled some long burning thing out of his mouth and rolled his eyes at Joxer.

'So much for starting out well,' he thought with an internal sigh. 'Just once, I'd like somebody to be glad to see me, instead of irritated.'

"Did you get hold of Parker?!" the other man bellowed.

The hollering didn't really bother Joxer, he'd been yelled at by bigger people than this guy. 'Really bigger,' he thought wistfully. 'Ares is so much bigger and his yell is a lot nicer than this guy's. Of course, I've been really, really lucky, Ares has never yelled at me before. No, he's always nice and with that sexy as Tartarus beard he's...' Joxer snapped out of his daydream and realized he'd never answered the man. He didn't know how to answer him, because Joxer had no idea who or what Parker was.

He opened his mouth to explain but was saved from having to make up an answer when he heard somebody clear their throat behind him. Years of traveling with Xena and being attacked by all kinds of people had honed Joxer's sense of self preservation. Not to mention the fact that he had been plucked out off of the road he'd been traveling and sent to this new and frightening place. He spun around, just in case of attack, and...started to fall when his head seemed to keep spinning.

The smaller, young man behind him caught Joxer's arm and with one hand and steadied him quite easily. Joxer was surprised at the strength in that hand, he wouldn't have thought the other man could hold him up like that.

"You wanted to see me, Mr. Jameson?" Parker said with a smile. "I got Josh's message."

Joxer smiled back. 'Okay, I'm Hoffman and Josh too." He kept smiling as he tried to figure out why he had *two* names. Spotting a piece of wood on the man's desk that read J. Jonah Jameson, Joxer realized that everyone must have more than one name here. It was confusing, but Joxer decided that if he just remembered to answer to either name, he should be alright. 'And Josh is close enough to Joxer that I'll probably answer to it anyway.'

He watched and listened as Parker, who he quickly realized was also called Peter, and Jameson argued over the lack of good photographs. The young warrior wasn't sure what a photograph was, but apparently it was very valuable.

Jameson yelled at the young photo finder and anyone else who wandered by the room. Peter left quickly and Joxer surmised that he didn't know where to hunt for this elusive photo. That was too bad, because Joxer liked him.

"Hoffman. Hoffman!"

Joxer jumped and remembered he was supposed to answer to that name. He turned around to see what the angry man wanted and blanched. On the wall behind the desk was something that he hadn't noticed before. It was a...pelt, he guessed. It was red and black and sort of shiny. He couldn't imagine what animal it was though and, by the god's...Jameson even had its eyes.

The warrior was nauseated. He'd never heard of someone keeping a kill's eyes before. That was just *horrible*.

"Get these out of my sight." The older man thrust a handful of parchment at him and Joxer tried not to flinch. He was a little more wary of the other man now, after seeing his trophy on the wall. There was no telling what someone who would do that was capable of.

*****

Ares' head snapped up from the battle he was monitoring. 'Something's happened to Joxer,' he decided. 'I can't feel him any more.' Ares was about to panic. Joxer was his most devoted follower; the young mortal was always praying to him. Those prayers were constantly in the back of Ares' mind and had sustained the war god on more than one occasion. And if he kept a closer eye on the mortal than he did most anybody else, well, that was his prerogative as a god.

A flash of shiny black sparks lit up the battlefield. "Unc, I can't feel Joxah, any more." Strife's pale blue eyes were wide with fear. Strife, as the God of Mischief, considered the eternally clumsy mortal as one of his followers as well, and that's how he had felt it when Joxer vanished.

"I know, neither can I. I didn't feel him pass on to Hades though." The mischief god flinched at the reference, his own death and resurrection were not that far in the past. Ares watched his nephew surreptitiously, hoping he wouldn't get too upset. "I need you to go and check on him, I would but..."

The invisible god's looked around the battlefield. This was an important part of an ongoing war and Ares couldn't, in all good conscience, leave until it was settled one way or the other. Besides which, if something had happened to Joxer, there wasn't anything Ares could do now anyway. Strife would be the better one to look around and find out what was going on.

There was another flash, this one bright blue. Cupid appeared, in all his winged glory. Cupid was also one of Joxer's gods, Aphrodite too. Joxer loved with all his heart and so he was the love god and goddesses' worshipper too, even if he didn't realize it.

Strife's gaze roamed all over the tanned and muscular body, taking in his fill while he could. Ares watched his nephew all but disrobing his son with his eyes and wondered if the two gods would ever get together.

"Joxer's..."

"...disappeahed." Strife finished for Cupid. The younger god closed his eyes to search this plane for the mortal and missed the way Cupid was eyeing him back.

"Yes, we were just talking about that." Ares looked from one god to the other, planning quietly in his mind. "Why don't you two go and find out what's happened."

'That'll give them time to get to know each other better,' Ares decided with a smirk.

Neither of the younger gods looked opposed to the idea and they flashed out together.

*****

Joxer decided to go back out into the other, very noisy, room and see if he could figure out what had happened to him. He had just started out the door when there was a loud whooshing sound and a gust of wind flew through the room.

Jameson cried out behind him and Joxer spun around. He knew better than to leave a possible threat at his back. He'd learned that by age 10, when one of his warlord father's enemies had tried to kill him. Jett had taken care of the attempted assassin and taught Joxer how to watch his own back.

"I've been robbed!" Jameson shrieked.

Joxer looked up at the wall instinctively and sure enough, the mysterious pelt was gone. Several people came running in. "What's happened?" one man asked, in a yell that cut through all the talking.

"Spiderman's costume is gone!"

'Costume? Like something you would wear to one of Dionysus' festivals. Oh, it was clothing then, not a pelt and the eye thing...must have been a mask.' Relieved beyond words, Joxer slumped, leaning against the clear wall.

"Miss me?"

Everyone in the room turned to look over at the window. There, hanging upside down, was someone dressed in the costume. Jameson snarled and threw down his nasty, smelling, burning thing. Joxer's attention was momentarily taken off the guy at the window. He picked up the *whatever* that Jameson had thrown down and stuck it in a strange looking mug filled with dark liquid. The fire hazard taken care of, Joxer listened to Jameson and the man in the window bantering. They sounded like Hercules and Ares, sniping at each other.

'Oh, and is everybody stupid here? Don't they recognize the voice of, ah, so his name is Spiderman...anyway, can't they tell that he's Peter? His voice is the same, he's shaped the same. Not much of a mystery to me,' Joxer decided.

"I want to know who that man is!" Jameson yelled, after Spiderman had left via the window.

'I guess that answers that question,' Joxer thought with a carefully hidden grin. 'And I thought I was supposed to be the idiot.'

Joxer followed everybody out of the room and went back to his desk. 'I don't think I like it here very much,' Joxer decided. 'I wish I could go back.'

"Hoffman!" Jameson bellowed.

*****

Joshua Hoffman, newspaper man and editor in training at the Daily Bugle, fell over onto his side in the middle of the empty camp. Okay, reality check. Actually, he's just J. Jonah Jameson's flunky and gopher. The editor hadn't ever let him do any actual work on the newspaper and unless things changed drastically in the future, he never would. JJ, as he liked to be called by his friends, few that there were, was ticked off that Josh's grandfather was the head of the Board of Directors. Josh knew that Jameson had been *persuaded* to take him on and treated Josh like dirt because of it.

The younger man lay there for a few minutes, trying to take stock of his altered situation. He knew he was outside, because of the breeze on his face and the sound of birds and insects around him. He was laying on the ground, lucky him, and his head was *finally* feeling less like he had been bounced off a Volvo.

Josh sat up and thought he was going to hurl, but he didn't. Hoffman realized that he hurt all over. The side of his head hurt, and feeling it, he discovered a lump there. His nose ached and touching it made his eyes water. Josh shifted on the ground, trying to get more comfortable, and realized that his butt ached too. He started to get up, but when he put any weight on his right knee, it screamed out its protest. He pulled the rough blanket to one side and saw that the knee was about four different shades of purple and black and there was a nasty gash in the middle of it.

"Needs stitches," he decided expertly. And yes, he was an expert. Many, many years as a klutz had earned him the title.

*****

There was a double flash of godly light in front of him, of black and blue. Coincidentally, it matched the colors on his knee. Joshua didn't see it, because the gods who were searching for Joxer, kept themselves invisible. It's a good thing too, because Josh would have freaked completely out at the sight of two gods.

The displaced mortal looked around the clearing. 'What in the heck was going on?' he wondered. 'How did I get here, where ever this is, and more importantly, where are my clothes?'

The thin blanket covering him wasn't much protection against the elements and...what kind of underwear was this?! Joshua stared at his crotch for a long moment and finally decided that the underwear was a kind of loincloth. "Great," he muttered sarcastically. "Now, I'm Tarzan?" The young man snorted. "Damn, if I'm the next Tarzan, with my crappy body, we are in trouble."

Strife laughed in agreement. Cupid, however, arched his eyebrows in surprise. "What's he talking about? He has a nice body."

The mischief god blinked at his buff and gorgeous cousin. He looked over at the man who looked like Joxer, but obviously wasn't. The sunlight glared off the pale body and he was so slender that Strife wondered how he ever managed to stand up wearing the armor he usually did. The similarities between Joxer and Strife were obvious. The god thought furiously, if Cupid thought *he* looked good, then maybe there was hope for Strife.

"Who is he?" Cupid walked around the unknowing mortal. "He looks like Joxer." Cupid leaned forward and sniffed. "He even smells like Joxer, but his aura is definitely that of somebody else."

Strife's mouth hung open. Watching Cupid sniff someone had shut his brain down. "Uh, y-yeah."

"Well, this obviously isn't him. Let's go tell dad." Cupid smiled at Strife and held out his hand. The mischief god smiled back uncertainly and took the proffered hand. Joshua was just as unaware of the gods when they left, as he had been when they arrived.

*****

Josh, completely unaware of the conversation, and the sniffage, looked around and spotted Joxer's armor lying to one side. "You...have...got...to be kidding," he said slowly, as he poked at the mish mash of fabric and metal. He took a deep breath and started pulling the clothing on, because there wasn't anything else around.

"Damn, this guy has a *lot* of scars," Josh said, as he looked at a long, jagged, and only partially healed cut, on his right flank. He frowned and covered up the wound. "Alright, this is freaky. I'm some place that I don't know and obviously I'm somebody else, so what's going on?"

He stood up slowly and limped around the blackened remains of a campfire, trying to get his bearings. "Shoot, I don't even know which way to go."

Joshua was completely out of his element. He had been born and raised in New York City. The closest he ever got to nature was when he took a walk in the park. *Outside* usually consisted of noisy cars and buses. *Nature* was the scrubby little tree that lived in its concrete container by his front stoop.

"Are you coming or not?!"

Josh jumped at the woman's yell. He stumbled, because of his injured knee, and would have fallen if not for the tree he managed to grab. The young, blond woman snorted and rolled her eyes. The man from the future gave her a dirty look. He didn't like being made fun of. It happened *way* too much for his liking and this guy that he was supposed to be seemed to be a victim of derision too.

"Joxer, are you alright?"

He wasn't as startled by the new voice and besides, she sounded friendlier than the younger woman. "Oh hey, I know this guy's name now. Joxer. Joxer? What kind of name is that?' he wondered. 'That doesn't give me a clue as to where I am. And what in the world are they wearing?'

Hoffman tried not to stare at all the feminine skin on display. He didn't want to be caught ogling them. Joshua could tell that the dark haired one was a fighter of some sort, he blond too, considering the weapons they were carrying. It was only then, that Hoffman noticed Joxer's sword and realized he must be a super hero too. Hey, he could recognize a hero when he saw one. He had been around Spiderman for a couple of years now.

'At least I hope we're all super heroes and not villains,' he thought worriedly. 'You can never tell. The Green Goblin was a bad guy, but Dr. Octopus started out as a really wonderful and nice, scientist.'

"Don't worry about him, Xena. He's just being his usual klutzy self," the blond woman said with another eye roll.

'I wonder if she gives herself a headache doing that,' Josh wondered, even as he realized that not all bad guys were villains.

"Gabrielle," Xena's tone was chiding. At least she didn't roll her eyes. "He can't help being clumsy."

Joshua wondered how Joxer would feel about the left handed support he was supposedly getting from the dark haired woman. He knew that it didn't make him feel all that much better.

"So, are we going anywhere today or not?" Gabrielle swung a tall walking stick around in an arc. She made it look like she was practicing, but Josh, who had been picked on a lot in his life, recognized it as a subtle threat.

Fingering the lump on the side of his, or rather Joxer's, head, Josh had a pretty good idea where it had come from.

'Geez, even JJ never hit me.'

*****

"Damn! I don't like it here. Maybe my life isn't so bad, not in comparison with this poor schleb's. I wish I could go back."

A strong wind seemed to pick him up and spin him around, almost as if he were in a tornado. Joshua gasped as the air was sucked from his lungs. When he came back to his senses, Joshua was, thank heavens, back at his desk at the newspaper.

"Hoffman!!"

He automatically jumped up at Mr. Jameson's bellow and ran into his boss' office. "Yes, sir?"

"How did this happen?" JJ was holding out a coffee mug that had one of his infamous cigars sticking up out of it.

"I don't know, sir, but I'll get you a fresh cup."

"Oh, well, yeah, see that you do." Jameson seemed unaccountably flustered at Hoffman's friendly smile.

'Maybe this life is okay, after all. And if Jameson doesn't start letting me do the job I'm supposed to be learning, I'll go somewhere else.'

Josh smiled at the thought and got a clean cup of coffee for the irascible editor.

*****

Joxer sat down with a thump and realized his behind was never going to stop being bruised at this rate. This time was different though, because Xena turned and came back when she heard him fall.

"Joxer? What's wrong?"

"I-I d-don't know." He swallowed hard and watched as the world faded in and out for a moment. The young man realized he must look as bad as he felt, because Gabrielle even seemed worried.

"We'll make camp here for the night," Xena stated.

"But we just broke camp here," Gabrielle complained.

Joxer watched as Xena turned and glared at the blond Amazon princess. He was mildly surprised at the support, at least from Xena. Gabrielle grudgingly began to gather some wood for another fire.

'I wonder what happened,' Joxer thought, as he lay back down on the bedroll that Xena had thoughtfully spread out for him. 'And will it happen again?'

He closed his eyes to rest. The little bit of time that he had been in the other dimension had exhausted him.


TBC