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I unwittingly started the whole durn thing one day with one simple little story, in which Gab and Joxer discussed their relationship in a rather unique manner...
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© 06/99 by Xebbie
You've already won me over, in spite of me
So don't be alarmed if I fall head over feet
And don't be surprised if I love you for all that you are
I couldn't help it, it's all your fault
--Alanis Morissette, "Head Over Feet"
Gabrielle was quite bored.
The bed she was in was nice- well, it was always nice to sleep in a bed rather than on a pelt on the ground- but she was growing very impatient with just lying there. Patience had never been one of the bard's greatest virtues, and this morning was no exception.
She rolled her eyes as she looked at the form of her sleeping companion. How ironic, that she should be the first one up! For years, Xena and Joxer had been complaining of her late sleeping habits; it was infrequent that *anyone* should outsleep her, and in this situation it was just too frustrating. She wanted attention, or at the very least a way to pass the time.
As her lover slept she considered slipping out of bed and getting some breakfast, but dismissed the idea since she didn't want her companion to wake up to an empty bed.
She smiled as a thought occurred to her; she didn't have to wait for her lover to wake up, after all.
Slowly, Gabrielle slid an arm around the sleeping form, encircling the well-toned waist. She snuggled up to his back and absorbed the warmth of his skin, holding him this way for a while before lifting her head and planting small kisses on the back of his neck.
Nothing; he didn't even stir.
She set her teeth in resolve; looked like she'd be pulling out the stops this time. With a devilish smile, she kissed her way to his ear, then nipped at his earlobe as her hand caressed first his flat chest, and then lower down his stomach.
This, she knew from past experience, was enough to get him alert even when he was almost asleep on his feet. But his breathing remained steady; he didn't do so much as flutter his eyelids. Gabrielle sighed in frustration and let him go, flopping back onto her side of the bed.
"Awww, why'd you stop?"
She gasped at his voice, and quickly sat up and glared at him. "Joxer!! How long have you been awake?!"
He rolled over to face her, grinning sunnily. "I woke up when I felt something grab me from behind. Lucky for you it felt good, 'cause otherwise I might've knocked you out before I even woke up. What with my warrior instincts and all."
Gabrielle laughed. "You don't have a single warrior instinct in your body." She giggled again as he put on a hurt look, and gave his nose a light tweak.
He caught her hand and kissed it, then pulled her closer. "So uh... You wanna finish what you were starting?"
"Oh, you misunderstood, 'Attis'. I was just trying to get you to wake up, not- Eeek!" She screamed as Joxer pulled her down and kissed her ferociously.
As soon as he'd pulled away, he looked shocked and put a finger to his lips. "Shhh! What if Xena hears you? Ow!" he said as she whacked him with a pillow.
"You dummy!" she laughed. "You're the one who-"
"Hey, you were asking for it!" he said defensively, rolling over so that she was against the bedspread, and he was up on his elbow.
"Asking for it, eh?" she said, an eyebrow raised. "Am I asking for it NOW?"
"Oh, definitely." He kissed her again, lingering for much longer this time. He began to pull back, and she took hold of his face and guided it back to her lips for another few moments. When she finally let him go, he took a few deep breaths before speaking. "Gods... you are incredible, Gabrielle."
She touched his cheek, and smiled. "I have a good source of inspiration." Before he could lean down to her again, she rolled over and turned her attention to the door on the far side of the room.
He bit back a sigh of frustration. She was such a tease sometimes! But the frustration melted almost before the thought was completed; he knew exactly how good he had it. Gabrielle, the woman of his dreams, his unreachably perfect love, was in his bed- willingly- and was openly expressing her love for him. For HIM! He slid his arms around her waist from behind, and cuddled up close to her, resting his head on her shoulder. Who needed physical love when this was enough? Just holding her, feeling her, and loving her... that was all he wanted in his life, and he had it right now. Now he did sigh, a sigh of pure contentment. In response, she covered his arms with her own and laced her fingers through his, the best embrace she could manage from her position.
"Mmmm... this is nice," she murmured, just as he was beginning to fall into a comfortable doze.
"Hm? Yeah- yeah, it is." He kissed her bare shoulder and snuggled as close to her as he could.
"Joxer?" she said, again pulling him back from the clouds of sleep.
"Let's talk for a while."
"Oh." He shook himself to wake up, and gave her his full attention. "Okay. Uh... about what?"
She turned her head to face him as well as she could manage. "Oh, I don't know. Things that are going on in our lives. Like, what did you get up to between the last time we saw each other, and now?"
He shrugged. "Well, I dunno. Not a whole lot. Let's see... Thought about you a lot." She grinned, and squeezed his hand tighter. "Um, I saw a puppet show that was kinda cool- well, I mean, if I'd been a little kid it would've been cool. You know." He cleared his throat as she smiled to herself. "Uh, oh! I got into an argument with this merchant who said that I'd taken his pasta strainer, of all things! I told him that I didn't even know what a pasta strainer was, let alone why I'd need one, and then he tried to tell me I'd hidden it in my armour! So I said, 'Gimme a break- this stuff is high quality craftsmanship and it's NOT stolen!' So then, he set the guards on me-"
"The guards?" Gabrielle asked, trying not to laugh.
Joxer cleared his throat. "Uh, yeah- well I was right near this castle, and... uh, the merchant was friends with them so he got them in on it. Anyway, after an extended swordfight- which I won of course- I stood over the twelve bodies and said, 'Still want to test my skill?' Only I said it more menacing than that.. I can't be menacing around you. Anyway, he..."
Gabrielle smiled to herself as he told his ridiculous story. *In his own way, he's as good a bard as I am,* she thought. *Don't ever change, Joxer.*
He finished the tale, and kissed her shoulder again. "Anyway, that was my experience. How 'bout you?"
"Oh, the usual really. I think Xena and I told you about a lot of it last night at the tavern though... She saved about three villages between here and where we last saw you, broke up five pairs of bandits, and ran into Ares twice. Kind of slow, now that I think about it."
"Yeah, it gets harder and harder to be without me, doesn't it?" he asked teasingly. She rolled around to face him, and looked at him archly. He smiled contritely. "Well, it gets harder and harder for me to be without *you*, so I just kinda thought..."
She broke into a huge, warm smile. "Sometimes you really say the right thing, Joxer," she said quietly, and kissed his nose. "I love you, you big dope."
"I love you too, Gabby," he said softly. When the resulting kiss had ended, she settled onto his chest and they snuggled some more. He broke the silence a few moments later. "Gabby?"
"Uh... I was thinking just now... Well... Why don't we just tell Xena and get it over with?"
She sat up. "About us? Joxer, we've gone over this. It's just not the right time."
"I know, I know..." He sat up too, next to her. "You're right, but...I mean, she's my and your best friend. One of these days we've really gotta tell her."
Gabrielle nodded vehemently. "Yes, I *know*, and we will!! We definitely will! ...Eventually."
They sat in silence for a moment. Then Joxer said, "Do you want me to tell her?"
"NO! It's not-" She broke off, and sighed. "It's not that I can't-"
He put an arm around her comfortingly. "Look, Gabby, after a while she'll figure it out anyway. She's gonna wonder why we have to stay at a hotel every time you guys meet up with me, for one thing, or she'll walk in on us, or-" He looked up in panic as the door began to open. Gabrielle's heart nearly leapt out of her chest. She looked to Joxer, to find that he had rolled off the bed in one quick motion- unfortunately taking most of the bedspread with him.
"Gabrielle? Are you up yet?" Xena called as she walked in. She stopped, seeing Gabrielle yanking the bedspread up from the floor and hastily covering herself with it.
"Xena!" Gabrielle said loudly. "G-good morning! Yeah, I'm up, I... I just woke up in fact. Just now. Sorry. I was sound asleep until I heard the door opening, and I just... whoa. You wouldn't believe the nightmare I was having- I kicked all the linens right off the bed! But I'm fine now."
Xena raised both her eyebrows. "Good," she said, nodding slowly. "But you don't normally sleep in the all together..."
"I was hot last night- I mean the room was hot last night," Gabrielle answered quickly. Her face was quite red. "It was just really stuffy in here, and since I was *completely* alone I just figured, why not?"
"Ooooo-kaaaay." Xena bit her lower lip and averted her eyes. "Well anyway, I need you to get up now. There's been a bit of a situation in town with these two warring families- nothing too serious but I could use your talent with words to help talk a little sense into them." She gave a half-grin. "And yes, we'll have time for breakfast first."
As the warrior was leaving, Gabrielle called, "Xena? Um... could you, uh... knock first next time?" Xena raised an eyebrow, but nodded.
"No problem," she said in an odd voice. She shut the door firmly as she left.
A moment after the door shut, Joxer stuck his head up from the floor. "She's gone, right?"
"Yes," Gabrielle said, her face in her hands. "Okay... okay, you're right. We need to tell her. But not today, okay?"
He climbed back into bed, and slid back under the linens. "We have to do it eventually. She deserves to know."
She shook her head. "Soon, but not today. I just can't do it today."
He was silent for a moment, then asked, "Gabby? Are you... embarrassed to be with me?"
"No!" she cried instantly, turning to face him. "No, no, it's not that! Oh, Joxer, it's not that!" She sighed. "It's just... you and I are Xena's best friends. And she and I are especially close... How do you think she'll react to both of us being in love?"
"Oh," Joxer said, temporarily at a loss for words. He'd known that Gabrielle was hesitant to tell Xena about their ongoing relationship for some time now, but she'd always been vague about her reasons. The general gist of it, he'd figured, was that Xena "wouldn't approve" somehow. This, however, could well be a real problem. He bit his lip. "Well... it's not like she won't have a place with us forever. I mean, I've never been closer to anyone than I am to her- except you, and that's different."
"Of course she'll have a place with us," Gabrielle said matter-of-factly. "But will she accept that?"
"Eventually," he said, holding her again and smoothing her hair. "Do you think she'll be happy for us too?"
Gabrielle smiled, a little sadly. "She will, I think. She won't stand in our way. I just want her to know that she doesn't have to *lose* us."
"After everything you two have been through, Gabrielle, I'm sure she'll know that." He smiled in relief as she nodded. Putting her hand to his cheek, she looked into his eyes for a moment before kissing him firmly on the lips. He pulled her back onto the bed, not breaking the kiss, and she sank willingly into his arms.
Then they both jolted apart as a banging started on the door. In a shaky voice, Gabrielle called, "Y-yes?" "Are you decent yet, Gabrielle?" Xena called, a bit of exasperation in her voice. Gabrielle bit her lips guiltily. "Uh, no- I kind of... fell asleep again."
"Well, wake up. Do you have any idea where Joxer is? He's not in his room!"
The lovers looked at one another, wide-eyed. Finding her voice, Gabrielle called, "I- I haven't seen him since... uh... since last night. Yeah, not since we went to bed- since *I* went to bed, without him- last night!"
Xena sighed loudly. "Okay, but come on down, Gabrielle. I'll look around for Joxer for a while longer but if we don't find him after breakfast we'll have to leave a message with the innkeeper. I'll meet you downstairs as soon as possible, okay?"
"Okay!" Gabrielle and Joxer held their breath until it seemed that Xena had gone. Then they looked at each other. "We'll tell her today," Gabrielle conceded quietly.
Joxer nodded. "After we talk to those warring families?"
"Yeah," Gabrielle said. She stood up. "For now, I'm going to get dressed and go downstairs. I'll keep Xena busy for a while, and you get dressed and go out the back. You can come back in the front way and say you were out on a walk, okay?"
"Yeah," he said distractedly, a goofy grin on his face as he watched her dress. She gave him a stern look. "Joxer! Like you didn't see enough of that last night!"
"I can never see enough of you," he said sincerely, and she found herself blushing as she laced up her top. He belatedly acknowledged her modesty, averting his eyes until she said it was all right.
"Okay. I'll see you in a few minutes," he said after she'd kissed him.
She nodded, gave him one more kiss, and turned for the door.
She turned around, her expression inquisitive.
He smiled fondly. "I love you, Gabrielle."
Her entire face softened. "I love you too, Joxer," she said quietly, and then slipped out of the room, closing the door gently as she left.
Continue on to the sequel The Look of Love