Author: Xebbie
Story Title: Heat of the Night
Characters: Gabrielle & Joxer
Rating: NC-17
Summary: After making the decision to deliberately continue meeting with Joxer, Gabrielle has to come to terms with what this decision means - and what she truly wants from the relationship. Fifth in the Pillow Talk series.
This rating is for explicit m/f sexual situations.

The characters belong to Studios USA and Renaissance Pictures and were used without permission. No copyright infringement was intended and no money was made.

Explicit male/female sexual situations. NC-17. They all are. I'm not a purveyor of porn, and this ain't as graphic as it gets, but heck, if the others are NC-17 then so is this. This story has sex in it *gasp!* It is between two consenting adults. Still, if you're under 18, you're not allowed to read it. Wait a few years, and then you'll wonder what all the fuss was about. Thanks to my 'Momma', who encouraged and encouraged and was very encouraging *g* Muchos gracias, girl- this might not have been written if not for you! ^_^

This is the fifth story in the Pillow Talk series, following Pillow Talk, The Look of Love, My Favourite Mistake and Accidents Will Happen. In terms of the series, somewhere mid-season four. Pre-haircut Gabby. Probably between 'In Sickness and In Hell' and 'If the Shoe Fits,' somewhere. In terms of THIS series, this one is third chronologically (being preceded by My Favourite Mistake and Accidents Will Happen), but all three of these stories are sort of a "flashback" after the events in The Look of Love (written first, takes place more or less last). Go figya!

You can also find Xebbie's stories at The GJerotica Archives and Xebbie's Adult Fics

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Heat of the Night
by Xebbie
© 03/00 by Xebbie

I love you tonight, you are my light
Pure and assured to make me feel all right
Tomorrow you'll find I'm not around
Don't be uptight 'cause I loved you last night

--The Cardigans, "Love You Tonight"

It's your choice, Gabrielle, she told herself, staring up into the darkness as if she were contemplating the secrets of the universe. There was actually something comforting about not being able to see anything in the blackness, though- it was like a clear mind. That was something she didn't have at all right now, however.

What had she gotten herself into? What was going to come of this? She'd never in her life felt quite so torn. Her back was starting to hurt- she seemed to be lying on a rock- and she wanted to roll over, but didn't dare just in case Xena heard her, and woke... or he heard her, and thought... She wasn't sure what.

Was he even over there? She wasn't sure anymore. She'd been lying there for so long that time had blurred together, and she might have actually dozed off. That seemed unlikely given her level of preoccupation, but who could say?

It was her choice. If she didn't want to meet him, she didn't have to. That was what they'd decided, and she knew it to be true- Joxer was too embarrassed on his own to bring it up as a complaint. What would he say, anyway? 'I thought we were going to sleep together last night?' Gabrielle's face went bright red in the darkness - she just wasn't used to thinking of it that way, even though she'd had some time to get used to it by now. They'd done it twice already - although they'd never actually planned to before, like this time.

She bit her lip. She had every right not to go, and shouldn't feel guilty if she didn't.

That didn't change the fact that she wanted to go. Try as she might, she couldn't convince herself that she actually wanted to stay in her bedroll and have a quiet night's sleep. She'd tried everything, including tossing guilt at herself for valuing physical passion over self-control and friendship. Didn't work; her body just yelled back at her that she was allowed to have fun, and there was no reason she shouldn't indulge in having fun with a willing partner.

And boy, she couldn't deny that it was fun, so her body seemed to have a damn good point. Sure, she'd been brought up to believe that a good woman saved herself for her husband, and then never slept with another man. But she didn't have enough fingers to count how many men Xena had been with, and wasn't Xena a good woman? ...Okay, granted, she hadn't always been. But she was now, and she certainly didn't seem to think that sexual freedom was a bad thing. There was a time and a place for everything, and dammit, Gabrielle had found hers!

She stood up carefully, her heart pounding in her chest. You're being frivolous, Gabrielle, that voice said again in her head, and she shrugged it off. Quietly, quickly, to the lake. He probably wouldn't even be there; he'd had all day to think about this and realize that it really wasn't what he wanted to do, so he probably would come to his senses and back out.

Yeah, right. She knew Joxer, and she knew he'd had just as good a time as she had. But if he backed out, then it wouldn't have to be her choice anymore.

The forest was darker than she'd thought it would be, and Gabrielle suddenly wished she hadn't instructed the meeting to be during the darkest part of the night. Granted, it would be harder for them to be caught- and how would she explain this to Xena- but it was a lot harder for them to find each other, too.

She emerged from the trees into the clearing by the lake, where they'd had their earlier tryst. It seemed days ago now, she'd been waiting for the night for so long! She looked for him, the moonlight reflecting off the water and painting the land, the trees, and her skin a peaceful, romantic blue. There was no sign of him. She blinked, feeling unexpectedly disappointed. She'd expected to be relieved, but instead her stomach felt as if it had fallen through to her feet.

A snap behind her was the only sound she heard before a voice murmured, "Hey."

Gasping, she turned so quickly she nearly overbalanced herself. "Joxer!" she hissed, righting herself, and brushing away the hand he offered to help her steady herself. "What-"

"Sorry. Didn't mean to scare you." The reflected moonlight clearly showed the smug grin that was plastered over his face- he was proud of himself, the idiot.

"Sure," she grumbled, eyeing him. "I bet." Jerk- he was never that quiet usually. Of course, he usually had the armour on; now, at this hour and on this occasion, he was down to just the simple tunic he usually wore, and his pants. That probably helped. He looked so... soft, in this light. She gave him a hesitant smile, even as part of her instincts told her to run.

What was she doing here? This was Joxer, not some dream man, not some anonymous lover she could idealize in her mind. Joxer, her idiot friend who messed everything up and broke things and said the wrong thing nine times out of ten. Then again, he was also the man who had twice given her the most incredible sex she'd ever dreamed possible. He was a dork, but he was an experienced and attentive dork.

She'd never felt so confused. Desire to be with him mingled with fear of what it could all lead to. She stared at him and realized- not for the first time, she admitted to herself- that he was honestly good looking sometimes, when he was relaxed and not so aware of himself. He had beautiful eyes, wonderful skin, and an infectious grin. He was downright cute- but blink, and he was Joxer again, gangly and awkward.

Oblivious to her thoughts, he moved closer to her, brushing her arm almost timidly. "You came," he said in an obviously happy half-whisper, his eyes gazing into hers, and moved closer to kiss her.

Something in her jumped into panic, and she moved back, away from his touch. He blinked, naked confusion reflecting blue in the liquid depths of his eyes. Putting a hand over her face, she sighed. "I'm sorry, Joxer. I'm kind of- I don't know. I'm not sure I should..."

"Gabby, you don't have to be here," he said seriously, his tone one she still wasn't used to hearing. When he spoke maturely, his voice deepened, seeming to come from another part of him entirely; it was not only deeper, but softer, almost velvety. The sound of his voice alone almost made her shiver, and she looked up. "I understand, I really do. I didn't even expect you to show up, honestly."

She sighed. "No, Joxer. I made up my mind. I'm here, and I'm not going to back out of this. Just... give me a moment." She looked around. "Can we sit down or something?"

"'Course." He wandered to the edge of the woods and made himself as comfortable as he could, then watched as she joined him. What was keeping her here? She was obviously ill at ease. Pride, maybe. Gabby sure liked to prove that she could do anything she put her mind to. He bit back a sigh, hugging his knees to his chest as she adjusted her position next to him.

Clearing her throat, she whispered, "Have you been here long?"

"Ahhh..." He was hesitant to admit it, but he'd been waiting here and watching the sky darken for some time now. Then again, maybe she'd want to know that he was looking forward to it. He pondered this for a second- he didn't know a whole lot about the fine art of seduction, but it seemed that coming off as too eager was not usually a turn-on. "Not too long," he said uncertainly.

Then there was silence. It stretched awkwardly between them, and she stared out at the lake and chewed at a fingernail as he blew out a breath, gazing up at the few stars that were still burning in the sky.

"Beautiful night," he said, his quiet mumble sounding as loud as a scream in the stillness. She agreed- or at least, he thought she did, since her response was nothing more than a non-committal grunt. His heart sank, but he forced himself to speak reasonably. "Gabrielle, it's okay. You don't have to prove anything to anyone, least of all me."

Her head snapped around to face him. "Prove anything?!" she said, a bit too loudly, and then cringed as the statement echoed across the lake and back. More quietly, she said, "Joxer, I am not proving anything. To anyone. Certainly not to you. I'm here because I can have a good time, too, no matter what you might think of me."

"I know you can," he said soothingly.

"I'm not repressed," she added, and became aware that saying it out loud didn't have the effect she wanted it to.

"I know," he said again, and carefully patted her on the shoulder.

She swatted his hand away. "Joxer, stop patronizing me."

"Sorry," he said automatically. Silence descended again.

This wasn't going the way he'd thought it would. Oh, hell, it was going exactly the way he'd thought it would- in his worst nightmares. She didn't want to be here, she was being abusive again, and worst of all he couldn't even get rid of her now. What in Tartarus was he going to do?

Next to him, she let out a quick breath and then turned to him with a soft smile. "Okay. I'm- I'm sorry, Joxer," she said, and put a hand to his face. "I am on edge. I admit it. I have been all day. But I'm here because I want to be here, okay? I've given it a lot of thought, and... and I want to do this. I'm not the type who normally does things like this, and deep down inside there's a part of me telling me it's wrong."

"Then-" His protest was stopped by her hand, covering his mouth.

"No, Joxer. There's a part of me telling me it's wrong, but there's also a part of me screaming that it's okay - that it's good. I'm a big girl. I can make my own decisions, and my decision is to be here. With you. Are you... okay with that?" She slowly moved her hand from his mouth, her eyes shining in the moonlight, the flush on her cheeks obvious even in the semi-darkness.

He gave her a gentle smile. "It's absolutely fine with me," he said.

"I don't want things to get... weird."

"They won't," he said, although he wasn't sure what he could promise. He could only promise that he wouldn't let that happen- her own reactions weren't his to control. He put a hand to her blushing cheek, and stroked it. She was so soft. As she put a trembling hand up to cover his, he bent down to her and slowly gave her a feather-light kiss on her lips. He felt her almost pulling away, but she held fast; he took that as a sign that he'd simply have to try harder. No problem, he thought, smiling ever so slightly as he leaned even closer and caressed her lips lovingly with every ounce of devotion he felt for her.

Gabrielle let her eyes drift shut, as Joxer increased the pressure on her lips. She was hyper-sensitized to him, her lips tingling as he massaged them with his own, the gentle touches of teeth and tongue spreading the incredible bliss to the rest of her body. That a kiss alone could be so powerful simply astounded her; oh, this incredible man. It was the most romantic, loving kiss Gabrielle had experienced, and a door seemed to open in her heart as it went on. Romantic? Loving? Oh, it was, it truly was, and it scared her almost to be kissed this way, but it was wonderful... it was magic... it was...

It was Joxer.

A shudder went through her and she pulled away from him, her hands going to his chest to push him away, turning her head too late to avoid seeing the surprise and hurt in his eyes as they snapped open. The separation had been like a wrench on her heart - some part of her still wanted so desperately to go back to that feeling. She put her face in her hands to calm herself, and they sat in silence.

Finally, he said thickly, "I'm sorry." The pain in his voice was unmistakable, and she had to hold back tears. It was several minutes more before she could lift her head and speak.

"It's not your fault," she said, staring out over the lake again, as if it put distance between them. "I really- I really thought I could do this. I told you I could. It's not your fault at all."

He didn't answer. She dreaded looking at him, but after the silence stretched on a few moments longer, she did. His own gaze was locked on something far off across the lake, an imaginary point which fixed his attention. His expression was morose, his lips drawn into a little pout, a small dent in his forehead. Perversely, she found the expression adorable- even handsome. She gave a small half-smile, not certain herself if it was in amusement or regret, expecting the attraction to fade in the space of a blink as before. Oddly, it didn't, yet her confused feelings didn't change.

"The time just isn't right. It's not you, Joxer, I'm just not the type of person who... who can have casual sex. I'm sorry."

His expression changed suddenly, as he broke into a humourless grin and chuckled. He looked at his feet. "Yeah, well, I kind of figured. It's not your fault, Gabrielle."

"You're upset."

Again, he laughed, and ran a hand through his hair. "Just disappointed. I mean, you told me-" He broke off. "Forget it. It's not fair of me to say that. It's okay. I'm not mad. Look, I'd rather you do this, realize that it's wrong for you, before we make any more mistakes." His voice dropped into a softer register as he spoke, back into that serious deep mature zone, and he pulled his legs up to his chest and rested his arms on his knees, giving her a quick, sad smile before looking back at the ground.

Gabrielle felt the feeling from before surge up, a feeling of love, of being loved. She wanted to smooth the hair back from his face, kiss his forehead, his jawbone, remove the frown from his face - it tore at her heart to see him this sad. And, again, the panic welled up in her, as did a feeling of self-disgust. She thought she'd grown so much - was she really still so naive? Little girl Gabrielle, thinking she's falling for every man who holds her, who kisses her softly. That it was for Joxer only proved her foolishness- the man was a friend whom she'd known for years, and she should know better than to complicate things this way. A relationship with would never- could never work, not between the two of them; her own life was too complicated to even try.

No- none of that. She shook her head, clearing it, and saw him as Joxer again. Her friend and companion Joxer, not the romantic, loving man she'd nearly idealized him as a moment ago. None of that. "It wasn't a mistake," she told him firmly. "We decided that today, and I still believe it."

He looked up at her, a sidelong glance, his eyes smouldering mournfully beneath half-lids. "If it's something that's not right for you, it's a mistake."

"It's only a mistake if I regret it, Joxer." She leaned against him, felt him try to scoot away from her, and followed stubbornly until he relented and let her put her weight against his side. "I don't regret it. At all." She put a hand over his, and squeezed it. The lanky man stared at it for a moment, then smiled faintly.

"Okay," he said simply. After a brief pause, he said, "You don't have to-"

She cut him off. "I know. You don't have to tell me- I know. So shut up, Joxer." She punctuated this with a kiss on his cheek, and leaned back against him. His shoulder relaxed beneath her, and she knew with some relief he'd accepted the situation. She stroked his hand softly as they sat in silence, and he gently entwined his fingers with hers. This time she felt only friendship for him, not that confused rush of feelings from a few moments before; she felt at ease, comfortable, happy.

"Is it okay if we just sit here like this for a while?" she asked him.

He nodded. "Sure. This is kinda nice." She smiled, and lifted her head to his, and he looked at her and smiled back. It was a relief, for both of them. Gabrielle looped her other arm around his, holding him in a casual embrace, enjoying his warmth. He shifted then, his bare skin rubbing softly against hers, and she tingled where he touched her.

Maybe, she realized, lust could be separate from emotions... even for her. Her fingers stroked his bicep, the softness of his skin as it covered the firm musculature beneath. Oh, yes- she had deceived herself to try and believe he didn't have a nice body. She knew from experience that that was false. Maybe it was time to re-evaluate more than one of her firmly held beliefs about her clumsy friend.

She nuzzled the skin of his shoulder, and pressed her lips against it gently, feeling his balance shift as he turned to look at her. "Gabrielle...?"

Another slow, warm kiss to his shoulder, and she looked up at him. "Hmm?"

"Wh-what..." His question stopped as she smiled at him. Actually, it was more like a downright leer. He swallowed. "Uh..."

"Shh," she said softly. "Don't worry." She pressed her lips to his skin again, the kiss slightly open-mouthed, and he almost swore he felt her lick him this time. His heartbeat lurched into double-time. What was she doing? He was caught between silently savouring the attention, and near anger at her inconsideration... Did she have any idea what this was doing to him?

She moved up past his shoulder, to his neck, and brushed her lips against the junction of neck and shoulder blade. Peppering kisses up to his ear, she soon reached the lobe and nipped at it gently, smiling as he gave a low keening whine. "Do you like this?"

"Gabby... please don't..." he whispered. "I can't take this right now."

"You don't like me?" she said in a small whimper, suckling at his neck.

He exhaled abruptly, blood rushing to his extremities. "You know I do..." He reached out and pulled away from her, cupping her face in his hands to look her in the eyes. "Wait." Gods, she was too beautiful. And now he saw that she had that mischievous grin on her face- the one that told him she knew exactly what she was doing. "Do- are you sure you know where this is going?"

"If I pull away, Joxer-" She paused and kissed his chin. "-You have permission to never speak to me again."

His heart thudded in his chest, and he was sure she could actually hear it. His hands still over her face, he breathed, "What do you want me to do?"

She grinned. "Kiss me. Take me. Ravage me." She started pulling at his tunic, widening the opening at the top so she could slide her hands down it, across his skin. "I don't want love or tenderness, Joxer, I just want to have fun. No strings. No relationships, and no morning after regrets. Anything goes." With that, she attacked his mouth furiously, nearly knocking him over with the strength of her kiss.

It took him a few moments to be able to process this, what with the passion she was exuding. Gods, the woman was living sex appeal. But, slowly, he recognized her words: no strings, no relationship. No love or tenderness. He nearly broke the embrace, as his heart bruised. She'd be in his arms, but never his; was it worth it?

She broke off her frenzied exploration of his mouth, panting. "Joxer? What's wrong?" she asked, undisguised concern in her voice.

"I..." He swallowed. "Gabrielle, are you sure you wanna do this? With me, I mean? You could probably find someone better any place you looked, and I... I dunno."

Gabrielle sat back a bit, exhaling, her face serious. "No. I couldn't. I want this to be with you, Joxer, there's no one I trust more than you. We know each other, we know what to expect. That's what makes this... interesting."

It wasn't exactly what he'd wanted to hear. Yet he couldn't deny the animalistic portion of his brain that was crying to him to just give up, give in to her, and pleasure her 'til dawn. It was better than nothing, after all... He stared at her, half of her face shadowed and merely silhouetted to his probing eyes, the other half watching him carefully. "I don't know," he said slowly.

She sighed, looking at him levelly. "You're going to make me beg, aren't you?"

His already weakened resolve slipped another notch. "...Maybe," he said, almost bashfully, a grin forming on his mouth.

The half of her mouth that he could see quirked into a determined smile. "You'll pay for this," she whispered, and something about it was oddly arousing. Then she slipped onto his lap, straddling his hips, and kissed the top of his chest sweetly. "Please, Joxer," she whispered, sounding almost helpless, "make love to me."

"Hmmm... keep going," was the reply, and he wondered how exactly he'd managed to sound both confident and cocky when he felt ready to pass out from his need for her.

She gave him a stern glare, but he could see her need burning in her even from a distance. "You set me on fire," she said huskily- then added, "And don't push it any more."

"Yes, ma'am," he relinquished, as his hands skirted to her hips and stroked along her bare midriff. She nearly purred at the contact, arching her back as his touch moved up her sides, around her body, lightly brushing at her breasts beneath the fabric of her bodice before finding their way up to her face and softly petting her cheeks. She tilted her head to kiss his fingertips, then proceeded to licking them.

"Shut your eyes," he murmured, brushing a kiss against her jawbone. She gave him a quick 'don't screw with me' look as warning, then obliged. He turned, guiding her off his hips and onto the leaf-strewn ground, and lay her back. She waited for his kiss, anxious to have access to his lips again, but was only slightly disappointed when his amazingly soft mouth settled at the hollow of her neck instead.

"Ah..." The breath escaped her in the form of a sigh. "Am I still supposed to keep my eyes shut?"

"Mm-hmm," he answered, the vibrations of his murmur settling against her skin in a soft tickle. She giggled, and a moment later, so did he. It tickled even more.

Joxer sat up and glared at her as she opened her eyes and covered her mouth with her hand. "Don't do that," he said sternly, but the twitching of his mouth betrayed his humour.

"You tickled me!" she claimed defensively, and he smirked.

"I'm gonna do a lot more than that." Quickly, he dove back to her neck, his kisses harder now, more insistent. His tongue followed his lips, trailing a soft wet line of fire over her nerves. She gasped and grabbed at his hair as he settled in one spot, now sucking at the skin, now nipping gently.

"By the Gods," she swore in a whisper. None of this was anything she hadn't experienced before, but Joxer was drawing it out so maddeningly that with each passing second she felt more likely to explode. He licked up to her ear, kissed along her jaw to her mouth, and settled wetly upon her lips. She destroyed any attempts at gentleness by thrusting her tongue past his lips, grasping his bottom lip in her teeth and sucking at it as he gave a muffled yelp of surprise. He recovered a mere moment later, reclining over her and relaxing his body against hers, running his fingers through the long strands of her hair. She pulled his head down against hers frantically, as if trying to merge their bodies from the head down, burying her hands in his spiky hair and revelling in the feel, the taste, the scent of him.

Joxer, hell, who cared if it was Joxer? He was perfect, perfect, the epitome of masculinity, here to teach her about the joys of physical love and unrestrained passion. She let go of his head, running her hands over his body, wanting to feel as much of him as she could; her hands slid down his sides, then under his tunic and over his strong back, his smooth skin. She grabbed, kneaded, stroked, and otherwise claimed him with her hands everywhere she could reach.

He broke the kiss, and breathlessly asked, "Should I take it off?" At her eager nod, he pulled himself up and yanked the fabric up over his head, tossing it a few feet away. She growled appreciatively, running her hands up his stomach, gripping at his pectorals and giving a light affectionate squeeze to one of his nipples before pulling him back down to her.

He resisted, giving her a firm look. "Eye for an eye," he said, grinning.

Gabrielle blinked, then smirked. "Go for it."

The smile fell from his face. "Oh - me? Wuhhh.. okay..." He reached for the laces of her top.

"With your teeth." She wasn't sure, but she had a feeling she was more surprised by that statement than he'd been. Where had that come from? When he gave her a startled look, she giggled. "Told you you were going to pay for making me beg. I'll take those," she concluded, reaching up and grabbing his wrists, then pulling him forward. His head landed squarely between her breasts. "Well?"

"Just let me enjoy myself for a second," he mumbled against her flesh. She gripped his wrists harder, wriggling impatiently, and he lifted his head. "Fine. What Gabrielle wants, Gabrielle gets, huh? Wait 'til I get through with you."

Whether it was an idle threat or not, Gabrielle liked the sound of it. He grabbed the laces of her bodice in his teeth and gave a yank. Something gave, though she wasn't entirely sure it was the right thing. Oh well - trial by error. As he fumbled his way through his task, her body alternately being hit by his nose and his chin, she grinned to herself. She couldn't believe she was doing this! Here in the dark, no one knew of their tryst but them. In its way, this was immensely exciting.

Even Xena didn't know. Xena didn't even know that Joxer was so good at this, let alone that Gabrielle was taking advantage of that. She decided to keep it that way. He was hers, in some odd way, and she was proud of it. No sharing allowed. The nudges of his face felt lower now; she checked his progress, and sure enough he was more than halfway done. "Good boy," she breathed, and he glared up at her.

"Dish ishn' ash eashy ash it looksh," he grumbled, tugging at her hold on his wrists, and she giggled. "Eashy f'r you to shay," he muttered, edging down her body a bit more and gripping the last bit of lace. He pulled it through with a triumphant yank, spat out the lace before Gabrielle could ask for it back, and gave her an absolutely soul-probing kiss. She let go of his wrists, and in one move he pulled her closer to him and simultaneously pushed her top apart and pushed it down her shoulders. One arm stayed around her waist and the other found her breast, massaging it momentarily, then ending the kiss to stare into her eyes for a brief second before lowering his gaze and taking in the sight of her exposed flesh.

A reverent sigh escaped him, and he bent to her breasts, planting a soft kiss against the very top of her cleavage, his lips lingering before slowly descending towards her nipple. "Hah," she managed weakly, as his tongue traced a circle around the protruding flesh; her top still hung partway off her shoulders, trailing down towards the ground. He kissed, licked, sucked, and she groaned at the soft hesitance of his mouth against her flesh, yet still relishing it; she held herself up on one arm, and stroked his head with the other, gently combing her fingers through his hair as he licked the base of her breast before switching and paying the other equal attention.

She even smelled divine. Times like these, Joxer honestly thought she couldn't possibly be mortal; mortals had physical imperfections, and he'd been with enough women to know that there was rarely a perfect one, but most had the kind of benefits that made it easy to forget the less-than-perfect parts. But Gabrielle, she was perfect... There was nothing about her that wasn't soft, well-shaped, and at the right time- breathtakingly arousing. He ran his lips over her nipple, teased into swollen firmness, enjoying himself through letting her enjoy herself.

"Joxer," she said, her voice low; he looked up to find her smiling at him brilliantly. "Do I get to do this to you?"

He nearly fell over, desire overwhelming him. "Uh, whoa... Well, you- you can do... uh, whatever you want, Gabby." He was aware that he sounded inane, but she merely smiled. She straightened, shrugging off the bodice the rest of the way before pressing up against his chest and kissing him warmly. The night air had started to chill him, but after this kiss he no longer worried about it. She ended it with a small lick at his parted lips, then pushed gently at his chest.

"Down you go," she murmured, then plopped down beside him, letting her fingers rove over his chest. She traced a few patterns idly, gazing at his skin as his chest rose and fell from his rapid breaths. "I haven't appreciated you nearly enough, Joxer," she said lustily, propping herself up over his chest. Her breasts sank onto his chest as she nuzzled beneath his chin.

"Ah- well- you're doing a, a really good job right now... Gabby," he said breathlessly. "Any time you wanna... appreciate me... you just go right ahead." He chuckled, then winced as she bit him. "Hey! That's not very appreciative!"

"Oops," she mumbled. Any actual ire he might have felt dissolved as she ran the flat of her tongue over the wounded spot, paying special attention to the slight welt where her teeth had injured him. Apparently deciding she liked this action, she trailed the tip of her tongue across his chest, flicking it here and there- then reversed her path, more slowly, using the wider section of her tongue. "Mmm, you're all salty," she said softly, and blew gently against his flesh. The breeze against his wet skin gave him goosebumbs, and she laughed. "Like that?"

"Uh-huh," he said, breathlessly.

She sat up, her breasts swaying at the motion, and looked down at his lap. Then she tsked sadly. "Aw... Your pants don't fit anymore. Would you be more comfortable out of them?"

Through a dry mouth, he mumbled "I guess so," and nodded dumbly.

"Would you like me to help you?" Her eyes glinted.

"Uh-huh," he said again. She reached for the ties on his trousers, and in a weak voice he added, "With your teeth."

She stopped, staring at him as he broke into a grin. How- she'd had him, in the palm of her hand! Her mouth cocked into an amused half-grin as she realized that there was definitely more to Joxer than she gave him credit for. Pursing her lips, her grin became decidedly hungry, and she bent to his waist. He'd upped the ante, but she wasn't about to back out.

"I'll take those," Joxer said saucily, gripping her hands and holding them down on his stomach as he settled onto his back. The look she was giving him was something in between a glare and a lusty gaze- she refused to relent. He liked that. He sucked in his breath as her lips lowered to his belly, where she tongued at his navel before edging lower and nudging his crotch mildly, as if feeling her way through the situation. Her teeth found the ties on his pants, and tugged gently; when that did no good, she tugged much harder in frustration, her chin inadvertently hitting his erection in the process. He let out a gasping breath as she looked up at him.

"Ish not moving, Joshur," she said around the string.

He lifted his head. "Oh- yeah, that's cause I double-knot them."

She spat out the string. "You double-knot them?!"

"Well, yeah!" he said indignantly, his voice becoming a harsh whisper. "I don't wanna, ya know, be in the middle of battle an' have 'em- fall down!"

She made a noble effort not to giggle at the image, and failed miserably. "Okay, granted, that probably would happen to you."

"That has happened to me," he grumbled. She giggled again, and kissed his belly gently.

"Okay, I get that. But how am I supposed to undo this with my teeth?"

"Use your imagination," he said suggestively, followed directly by an "Ow!" as she pinched his stomach with her nails.

"Can I just use my hands for a second, to-"

He sighed. "Okay, hang on. I'll do it." He reluctantly let go of one of her wrists, reached down, and took a moment to pick at the knot. "Geez, ya made it worse," he muttered as he encountered resistance.

She sniffed angrily. "I can go you know. I'd be perfectly happy just going to sleep."

"Sorry, sorry." He patted her hand gently. "Just- it's a pain in... There." He'd pulled enough loose that she could undo it with a finger now, but he took hold of her wrist again before she could move it far enough. "Nope- teeth. You just have to pull a certain way. Unless you can't," he finished with a smirk.

Ohhhh, that had done it. And he knew it. Throwing that gauntlet at Gabrielle just made her pick it up and throw it back harder. She met his eyes, finding less of a challenge there and more of an impish excitement and a certain delighted adoration, and wrinkled her nose in a mock glare. Then she bent and picked up where she'd left off, pulling more gently at the strings and using her tongue to worm through the remainder of the knot.

It didn't take long, and soon he was breathing in broken gasps and she was wondering if her heart could beat any faster. She nosed at the top of his pants, tugging them down the best she could, often thumping gently against the hardness there that nearly entranced her. Joxer lifted his head occasionally to watch her, his grip on her hands loosening as she got closer to her goal. She looked up and met his eyes, almost shyly; the shyness was both heart-achingly adorable, and at the same time baffling, since she was no stranger to this part of his anatomy. He supposed it was all part of your perspective, though.

She'd worked the pants down around his hips and was beginning to tug anxiously at his boxers, when she stopped and froze, her eyes going wide.

"Wha- UGH!" he said, springing forward as far as he could go when she sat up and used his belly as leverage. Her hand dug into his abdomen painfully.

"Sh!" she hissed quickly, completely alert.

His face going red, he tried his best to be quietly urgent. It came out as a whine. "But Gabby-"

"Quiet!" she snapped in a whisper, but thankfully noticed his predicament. Looking apologetic, she moved her hand, mouthing "Sorry". Then she listened in silence for what seemed an eternity. Joxer was afraid to even breathe, and Gabrielle didn't seem to be doing it either.

Finally she relaxed, and said in a hushed whisper, "Sorry. I thought I heard- well, I don't know. Just something." She smiled at him weakly. "You okay?"

He patted his stomach gently. "Yeah, I only bruise on my upper body."

"Sorry." She hugged him close, and he noticed she was shaking. "Gods, Joxer, someone could have found us! It might not even have been Xena! Anyone could be lurking around here!"

His arms around her, he stroked her back. "I'd protect you," he offered.

She had the good grace not to laugh. "We'd be without weapons- all alone, naked..." She lifted her head, and their eyes met, mutually acknowledging the realization that their time together was more precious than they'd thought. The kiss was begun without thought, quickly rising into abandonment; no more time for foreplay. The thought of discovery was as arousing as it was frightening. He rose to his knees, pushing his pants off the rest of the way, as she slid out of her skirt and underwear in one move. Small caresses and minor explorations didn't break the frantic pace towards fornication as they settled back down among the leaves, Joxer covering Gabrielle's body with his own, settling against her warm softness, sinking into her amorously before reaching down and burying his length within her.

They gave a mutual sigh at the penetration, and Joxer deliberately slowed the pace of the moment. Twice, now, he'd sacrificed his desire to do this slowly, for the sake of immediate pleasure. Now, though no less entranced than before by the feeling of being inside his love, he still clung to his sensibilities; he wound his fingers in her hair, looking down at her, burning the details into his mind as he slowly, gently, rocked within her.

She returned the gaze, holding his eye contact, his body bathed in blue light so that he resembled something more than human, something from another world, like a faerie king above her. Her breath caught, and held, the slow pace keeping her from losing herself entirely in the passion, but still glorying her body in shudders of pleasure. Staring up into his eyes, she said in a wondering whisper, "Oh, Joxer... Joxer, how did we get here?"

He ran his fingers through her hair, his eyes searching hers, as if examining her soul. "I don't know," he whispered in answer, his breath falling hotly against her lips. His fingers found her ear, and stroked it delicately. She reached for his face, cupped his cheek in her hand.

"Kiss me," she murmured, and so he leaned down to her, enveloping her in a beautiful kiss, and thrust more deeply within her until all she heard or felt or saw was him; two souls locked in a union of body and heart, they quickened their pace as one, building towards the inevitable climax. His pelvic bone ground against her, stimulating her doubly as the friction rubbed against her clitoris, sending her into shivers and inspiring guttural moans. And yet she wouldn't relinquish the kiss, refusing to let go of his lips for more than a brief moment at a time as she kissed him long, hard, soft, light, every way she could- worshipping his lips as he did the same for her, winding his fingers through her hair delicately and stroking her face with loving fingertips.

This is mine, she thought hazily, claiming his mouth again and grabbing fistfuls of his hair; my tryst, my secret, my lover. She would never share- he was hers alone, and oh Gods it felt so good to feel this way! The heat he generated within her spiralled throughout her body, convulsing across her like lightning, and finally she broke from the kiss, almost pushing his head away and gulping for breath. He turned his head and did the same, over her shoulder, breathing in ragged gasps.

"Joxer-" she managed, her voice rising an octave as she gasped, "oh Joxer I'm close- I'm so close, don't stop, keep going and don't stop!"

He didn't stop, in fact he held her closer and sped up, and she tilted her hips higher and welcomed him into her body even deeper than before. Her gasps became cries, almost pained yelps, as she took a breath and another and lifted her hips higher, slamming them against his; she came violently a moment later, her cry of release animalistic in nature as the warmth of her orgasm jarred through her body.

Joxer lost any attempt at a steady rhythm, and simply slipped into a furious pace inside her; he grabbed fistfuls of the dirt beneath them, his eyes squeezed shut, grinding against her for all he was worth and when she came, he came, spurred onward as her muscles contracted wildly around him. He straightened, stopped breathing for a second as it washed over him, then nearly wilted onto her sweat-slicked body. Laying his head against her chest, he heard two heartbeats, and wondered which was hers and which was his own.

She caught her breath, her arms still around him, her eyes still shut after the intensity of moments before. As he lay there, using her breasts for pillows while his breath slowed, she moved one arm from around his back and ran it up his neck, then through his hair, slowly.

He gave a little contented noise, almost like a purr, and nuzzled against her, but made no move to get off. She kept her fingers in his hair- it was drenched- and with her other hand, stroked the broad blueness of his back. The coat of sweat made him glisten in the moonlight, and she smiled. Very romantic, Gabrielle, but you do realize that this is no dream? Real actions have real repercussions.

She frowned, wishing that voice in her head would just shut up. There she was, trying to enjoy a post-sex cuddle, and she couldn't even do that without nagging doubts in her head. This IS Joxer, it reminded her. She thought about that. Okay, so it's Joxer. So what? she asked herself; after all, she had already come to the conclusion that there was plenty about her friend that she didn't know, or had misjudged. It was time she took that realization to heart, and really began to see him without her preconceptions.

Yeah, so it was Joxer. It was also great sex. The one did not cancel the other. She smiled sardonically; if Xena ever found out about this, she'd probably throw up.

Joxer shifted on her, then lifted his head. "Sorry- I fell asleep," he mumbled. "I should move-"

"Lie here," she said, clearing away a spot next to her. He rolled off of her, and she cuddled up to his side. Surprised, he moved his arm to let her get closer, and she rested her head against his chest as he held her. "It's still dark, we have a little time. We'll get back before Xena wakes up."

"'Kay." He yawned contentedly. "Wish we had a blanket."

"I'll remember it next time," she murmured, tracing patterns over his chest, and smiled at the unintentional confirmation that this would become a habit for both of them. Joxer, too sleepy to notice, merely mumbled his agreement before falling asleep. Gabrielle pulled his free hand close around her, kissed it, and let herself drift off, as well.


"Wake up!"

A hand smacked at his face, and he jumped awake instantly- noticing a moment later that his pants were draped loosely over his torso, just barely preserving his modesty. The air was chilly and the sun was beginning to peek over the horizon. He was afraid to look at Gabrielle.

She yanked his chin around to face her anyway. Oh- she was all dressed again. Well, mostly, he amended- the top didn't seem to want to stay closed. "Joxer, the lace."

"The lace?" he asked stupidly.

"The lace," she repeated, indicating her green top, which was hanging loosely and slightly open about her. "Where did you throw it?"

He blinked in surprise as he suddenly took in every detail of the situation. "The- the lace! Oh, Gods, Gabby, I'm not sure!"

If he'd been wearing any clothes, she would have undoubtedly grabbed them to yank him closer. "If I don't find that lace, Joxer, you are buying me an entire new outfit. No- two."

"Okay," he said, agreeably. Shopping with Gabrielle made him feel like they were a couple, so he had no argument. His cheerful countenance caught her off guard, and she stopped.

"...Okay?" He nodded, and she sighed. "Get dressed. I'll keep looking for the lace and as soon as you have pants on, you help me." She stalked off, muttering to herself, and miraculously not hurting him at all.

This was without a doubt the best morning after they'd had yet, Joxer thought. She wasn't even bothering to hold her top shut, and from the right angle he could see most of the swoop of her breast, and when she bent over like that... He yanked on his shorts before she got an eyeful of his distraction, then pulled the pants on a moment later, glad that the ties of his pants weren't discardable like the lace. He didn't know what her reaction would be to his announcing he'd lost the ties of his pants, but it probably wouldn't be good.

Shirtless, he joined her in the hunt. "I think I tossed it somewhere over here," he said, stooping, and since she didn't look at him he took the opportunity to keep eyeing her breasts as she inadvertently flashed him. Unfortunately, she looked up a moment later, saw him staring, and glared.

"That's not where the lace is, Joxer," she growled, and pushed his head down to look at the ground. She knelt a moment later and looked a few feet away from him.

There. "Found it," he said, holding the bilious green string up triumphantly. She yanked it away, turning from him for a moment to lace up the top, and then faced him again.

"...Okay. Well... Um..."

Oh. He'd thought they were past the awkward part. So much for planning in advance. "Well..." he joined in, not sure what she was going to say.

She flushed. "See you in camp in a few minutes? I'm starving. I'll fix us breakfast."

He blinked.

"Joxer? Aren't you hungry?" She waved a hand in front of his face. "Hello?"

"Uh- I just- I guess I thought you were gonna say something, uh, different."

She gave a short laugh. "No morning-after regrets. I promised. Meet you in camp." She patted his shoulder, and set off in the direction of their campsite.

And that was that. After all the heartache and the angst from the first two encounters, this time she summed it up with "meet you in camp". He cocked an eyebrow- not even a 'thank you'. Hmph. Wasn't that just like Gabby? He grinned; next time, he'd have her thanking him profusely for sure.

They'd even have a blanket then.

Finding himself deeply in love, sexually anxious, and ravenously hungry, Joxer resumed dressing so that he could take care of at least one of those states. At least one.

Continue on to the sequel In The Clear Light of a New Day

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