These characters are borrowed from MCA/Universal/Studios USA and Renaissance, but I'm not making any money off of this story, nor do I have any money, so suing me would be pointless.
This story contains adult situations and semi-graphic sex between two consenting adults, one of whom is Joxer. (Just thought I'd warn ya'!) It also contains SPOILERS for the 5th season of Xena: Warrior Princess, especially 'Chakram.'
You can also find this story at The GJErotica Archive
Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
Realization, or Enough of This Crap, Already!
Joxer walked away from the fire by himself, while Xena said goodbye to Gabrielle. Xena was going to visit her mother in Amphipolis for a few days, and Joxer was going to have to find something to do with himself. There was no way he could continue to travel with Gabrielle, not without Xena around to break the tension. Traveling with both Gabrielle and Xena had been almost unbearable lately. Joxer imagined that if he had to travel alone with Gabrielle, he might just die.
I never should have told her, he thought to himself. What a mistake that was. But he knew that he couldn't have kept his love for Gabrielle a secret any longer. The thought of losing her again, and her never knowing . . . . No, Joxer recognized a second chance when he got one. And if he was too dumb to take advantage of it, and was then given a third chance, he knew he had to take it. Suddenly there were footsteps behind him, and Joxer whirled quickly.
"Hi, Xena," Joxer said, turning to face her.
"Joxer," the Warrior Princess responded. "Are you leaving?"
"Whenever you do," Joxer replied.
"I was kind of hoping you'd keep Gabrielle company, while I was gone. I know she doesn't really need to be protected, I'd just feel better knowing she wasn't alone . . . "
"I can't, Xena," Joxer said, looking away, "I just can't. I thought I would feel better when she knew, but I don't. Everything's wrong now. She won't even look at me."
"Give her time to digest it, Joxer. She may surprise you."
"Yeah, well she can have all the time she needs, because I can't be alone with her. I have to go." Joxer sighed, tossing his helmet back and forth in his hands.
"All right," Xena said, "but you will be back?"
"I'll catch up to you guys sometime, after you return."
"Okay." Xena patted his arm sympathetically and walked away. Joxer soon heard her mount Argo and ride off toward Amphipolis. He looked at the darkening sky, and decided that Xena would probably be safe at her mother's before nightfall. Not that Xena needed any looking after.
Joxer turned and walked slowly back to the small camp they'd set up. Gabrielle avoided his gaze as he approached, and he collected his things without speaking to her.
"Leaving?" Gabrielle asked without looking at him.
"Yeah," Joxer said lightly. "Somebody's got to go and fight evil while Xena takes a break, and so . . . " He trailed off, knowing how utterly stupid he sounded to her. And to himself.
"Well, be careful," Gabrielle said, drawing circles in the dirt with her fingers.
"Sure, of course," Joxer responded. The pain in his voice made Gabrielle wince.
"Joxer," she said, looking up at him. "I . . . " She stopped, not knowing what to say. She desperately wanted him to feel better, but she couldn't lie to him.
"It's okay, Gabrielle. Just stop," Joxer said. Gabrielle thought ruefully of the days when he used to call her "Gabby". It always seemed so annoying, she thought sadly. She watched silently as Joxer gathered his belongings and walked off into the darkening night.
Joxer walked until the distant glow of the fire was no longer visible, and then he sank roughly to the ground as tears overtook him. He had ruined everything, his entire friendship with Gabrielle . . . Why couldn't he leave everything the way it was?
"Because that's what love does, silly boy," a voice said. "It changes everything." Joxer's head snapped around. Seated next to him was the pink-clad Goddess of Love, Aphrodite.
"Aphrodite," Joxer said hoarsely, looking away from her. "What are you doing here?"
"You think that poor broken heart is easy to ignore?" she asked him. "Honey, your pain's been giving me quite a headache!"
"Join the club," Joxer responded without sympathy.
"Quit sounding so glum," the Goddess ordered. "You've got my attention. True love has got to work out somehow, or my job will be toast."
"No," Joxer said quickly. "No spells. I cannot handle any more spells."
"That's not what I meant. I was thinking of something a little more . . . natural."
"Aphrodite, she doesn't love me. Nobody knows that better than I do."
"Joxie, baby, think of the way that woman's love life has gone. Not exactly what you'd call lucky, huh? She's so messed up, she just might not realize it yet."
"Yeah, whatever," Joxer said, "With all due respect, Aphrodite, I can't listen to any more of this." He got to his feet and began to walk away, only to be stopped by a hand on his chest. Aphrodite was suddenly standing in front of him.
"Let me tell you a little something about women," she said seriously. "You've got to win them over! You can't expect them to just fall for you out of the blue. If you want Gabrielle to love you, you've got to work for it. You've got to romance her."
"Sure!" Aphrodite smiled encouragingly. "You know the bit . . . .flowers, candy, jewelry . . . chicks dig that."
"There is no way that would work on Gabrielle," Joxer said, moving past Aphrodite. She stopped him again.
"Who knows more about this than I do?" Aphrodite asked, her eyes twinkling. She raised an eyebrow at him. "Do you want to hear my plan or not?"
Joxer felt a glimmer of hope rising in his chest, and he quickly slammed it back down. "No," he said decisively. "Whatever it is, I'd just screw it up anyway."
"You certainly will, if you go into it with that attitude!" Aphrodite said, pouting at him. She began to whistle the "Joxer the Mighty" song. "Joxer the Idiot is more like it," Joxer said. "Maybe I should write a new song."
"All you need to do is get her alone for a couple of days. A romantic getaway."
"Yeah, that oughta' do it," Joxer said sarcastically, walking away again.
"Joxer," Aphrodite called from behind him. He kept walking. "Joxer," she whined, "aren't you even going to give this a shot?" Joxer shook his head and kept walking.
"Hold it right there, lover boy!" Aphrodite commanded angrily, and then something hit Joxer like a pink lightning bolt and everything went black.
Joxer woke up to someone shaking him gently, and the sound of Gabrielle calling his name. "Joxer, please wake up." Joxer opened his eyes and found himself lying on a cold tile floor with Gabrielle leaning over him. She smiled slightly when he opened his eyes.
"Thank the Gods," she said softly. "Are you all right?" She helped him to sit up.
"Where are we?" Joxer asked, looking around. He was sitting in a room with a tall ceiling. No windows, one door. There was a bathtub in the corner, a table along one wall, and a large bed.
"I have no idea," Gabrielle responded. "One second I was at the campfire, and the next I was here and you were unconscious. But wherever we are, I can't find a way out."
"What's through that door?" Joxer asked, pointing.
"A closet full of towels," Gabrielle answered. Joxer stood up quickly, ignoring the pain in his head. He paced around the small room, examining the walls and floor, the inside of the closet . . . sure enough, there was no way to exit.
"Aphrodite!" Joxer yelled angrily at the ceiling. "Aphrodite!" There was no answer.
"Aphrodite?" Gabrielle asked him dangerously, narrowing her eyes. "Joxer, what did you do?"
Joxer stared at her incredulously. "I did not ask her to do this! This is not my fault!" he yelled.
"Well what am I supposed to think, Joxer?" Gabrielle yelled back.
Joxer stared at the floor dejectedly. "I don't know," he responded.
Gabrielle took a few breathes, calming herself down. "None of that matters right now," she told him sensibly, "Right now, we need to find a way to get out."
"Where's the light coming from," Joxer mused, "if there aren't any windows?"
"Hole in the ceiling," Gabrielle said, pointing up. Joxer blushed, embarrassed that he hadn't noticed that before.
"Oh, yeah," he told her. "I knew that. Can we climb out?"
"I really don't think so," Gabrielle replied, looking around the room. The ceiling was very high, and the walls were completely smooth.
Gabrielle and Joxer tossed around different escape plans for a few moments, but they discovered nothing that would actually work.
"So," Gabrielle asked finally, sitting on the floor, "What makes you think Aphrodite is responsible for this?"
"She came to talk to me, after I left the camp fire," Joxer said, avoiding her eyes.
"And? What did she say?"
"That I needed to . . . romance you. You know, with flowers and stuff."
"What?" Gabrielle asked in shock. The idea of Joxer trying to be romantic . . . the mental image that she conjured up was pretty ridiculous, and Gabrielle fought back a smile.
"I know," Joxer said, a smile tugging on his lips as well. "It's incredibly stupid."
"Did she say anything else?"
Joxer frowned in concentration. "She said that we needed to get away for a while, and I said . . . Oh, shit! I told her that that would be nice. Shit, Gabby, this probably is my fault." Joxer looked up at her as he apologized, and then looked away again. "Gabrielle," he corrected himself. She hadn't noticed until then that he'd called her "Gabby" again.
"It's okay, Joxer," Gabrielle said. "You didn't ask her to do this, did you?"
"No," Joxer admitted. "In fact, I asked her not to."
"Then it's not your fault." Gabrielle sighed and looked around the room again. "I don't suppose she gave a hint about how long we 'need' to be in here . . . "
"Not really," Joxer said, ignoring the sarcasm. "She said 'a couple of days,' so maybe that's what she meant? Two days?"
"Maybe," Gabrielle agreed. "Of course, there would be only one bed. Aphrodite," Gabrielle shook her head in disgust, and Joxer tried to ignore the sting he felt. She pushed her short hair away from her eyes. They sat there in an uncomfortable silence, not looking at each other. Suddenly, Joxer's stomach growled. He slapped a hand over it, embarrassed, and Gabrielle giggled. "I'm hungry, too," she admitted. Then she gasped, and Joxer looked to see food suddenly appear on the table. Now I know that Aphrodite's listening, Gabrielle thought to herself, as she and Joxer began to have dinner.
After the delicious meal, Gabrielle and Joxer sat on the rough tile floor for what seemed like hours, not speaking to each other. Finally, Joxer heard a soft "thud" and looked over to see that Gabrielle had fallen asleep and her head had fallen against the wall. Joxer tried to sit up quietly, but his armor was noisy, so he took it off. He crept over to Gabrielle and lifted her into his arms, carrying her to the bed. She didn't stir as he gently tucked her between the sheets. He removed one of the pillows from the bed and placed it on the floor. The room had begun to get very cold, but there was only one blanket and he left it with Gabrielle. Upon inspection, the towels that had filled the closet had disappeared.
Thanks a lot, Aphrodite, Joxer thought sarcastically, as he settled himself onto the hard tile to attempt to sleep. Thanks ever so much . . .
Gabrielle awoke quietly and peered into the darkness. She sat up in the bed and searched the room for Joxer. She noticed him curled into a ball on the floor, his armor beside him. He seemed to be shivering in his thin tunic and pants. Gabrielle took the blanket off of the bed and spread it silently over him. Then she stood in the far corner of the room and whispered into the blackness.
"Aphrodite?" she called softly. "Aphrodite, I know you can hear me. You've got to stop this. This is not helping Joxer any, you're only hurting him more."
"How do you know?" a voice hissed from behind her. Gabrielle whirled and found herself facing the Goddess of Love.
"Because I don't love him, Aphrodite," Gabrielle hissed back.. She had to force herself to continue to whisper.
"Don't you?" Aphrodite whispered back. Gabrielle shook her head, staring at the Goddess in puzzlement. "What qualities do you look for in love?" Aphrodite asked her. "Selflessness? Devotion? Kindness? Name one of those traits that he doesn't have."
Gabrielle shook her head again. "I agree, Aphrodite, that he's a wonderful, kind, gentle man. But he's not the one for me."
"How do you know that?" Aphrodite asked impatiently.
"Because I believe there's one love for everybody, and mine was Perdicas."
"Perdicas is dead," Aphrodite said, trying furiously to whisper.
"What's your point?" Gabrielle asked angrily.
"Maybe there's a reason for that," Aphrodite replied. "Maybe you and Perdicas didn't last because there's a big, important love in your future. Maybe that love is going to be important to the fates of many people."
"Is that true?" Gabrielle asked softly.
"You might never know," Aphrodite answered. "Because you don't know your heart. I know that you have love for Xena, but I don't think you know what real love is. Or passion. Or destiny. I don't think you know what it is when it's standing in front of you."
"I know," Gabrielle said forcefully, "that Joxer is not any of those things to me."
"You don't sound so certain anymore," Aphrodite responded, and then she was gone.
"Aphrodite," Gabrielle hissed at thin air. There was no answer. She cast a quick glance at the still-sleeping Joxer before she climbed into bed and attempted to sleep.
Joxer awoke with a start, and realized that he was being smothered.. He wrestled with his attacker for a moment before gaining the upper hand.. He pounced on it victoriously and realized . . . that it was a blanket. I'm fighting with a blanket. A momentary wave of self-loathing washed over him, but he pushed it aside. He stood up with the blanket clenched in his fists and noticed Gabrielle shivering in her sleep. By the Gods, Aphrodite, he thought, walking over to the bed. What are you going to accomplish by freezing her to death? He spread the blanket over Gabrielle and checked the towel closet again in vain. The room was so cold that Joxer could see each breath that he took. He walked back over to his pillow and pulled his armor back on. It wasn't very comfortable to sleep in, but maybe it would add some warmth. There wasn't really a way to get comfortable on this floor, anyway. Joxer figured that Aphrodite had made it extra uncomfortable as a way of discouraging anyone from sleeping on it. Joxer pulled his helmet down over his cold ears and settled back down to sleep.
Gabrielle awoke again, this time to a strange clanking sound. Light was beginning to blossom through the hole in the roof, and she took that as a sign that it was early morning. She glanced around the room and quickly identified the source of the sound. Joxer was asleep, shivering violently in his armor. Gabrielle noticed that the blanket was back on the bed and made an angry snorting sound. What are you trying to do, Aphrodite? she thought angrily. Torture him?
Gabrielle stepped off of the bed and let out a sharp gasp as her feet connected with the cold tiles. "Gods, it freezing," she muttered to herself. She pulled her boots on and stepped quickly to Joxer's side, covering him with the blanket. His helmet was resting haphazardly over his face, and she lifted it off gently. Her hand brushed against one of his cold ears, and she had a sudden temptation to lower her face and kiss him until he was warm again. She pushed back the thought, disgusted with herself, and walked to the table to examine the spread for breakfast.
"You got to hand it to her, she leaves pretty good food," a sleepy voice said almost an hour later. Gabrielle glanced over at Joxer, who was stretching sleepily and attempting to tame his messy hair. "How's the breakfast?" he asked, smiling teasingly at Gabrielle. She noticed that she'd eaten a pretty substantial portion of it while he was sleeping.
"Not bad," she said, blushing slightly. "If there's not enough for you, I figure Aphrodite can come up with some more."
"That's all right. I'm not that hungry. Just kind of achy." Joxer sat in the corner and took one boot off, rubbing his foot.
"Gods, Joxer! Your toes are blue," Gabrielle cried, kneeling next to him.
"Yeah. I guess I got a little cold last night," Joxer said, shrugging sheepishly.
"You should have gotten in the bed," Gabrielle scolded, and then stopped abruptly. She felt her cheeks flame. "I mean, you could've gotten frostbite or something . . . If it's a choice between freezing to death and being beaten up by me . . . " Gabrielle babbled with an embarrassed smile.
"I'm fine, Gabrielle," Joxer said, cutting her off. He didn't seem the slightest bit amused by her awkward outburst. He attempted to stand up and fell against the wall. Gabrielle caught him and helped him to sit down again.
"No, you're not fine," Gabrielle said. She noticed how Joxer winced as she slipped his other boot off, and her suspicions were confirmed. The other foot was even more blue than the first one. "Aphrodite, this is so stupid," Gabrielle muttered angrily to the air. She wrapped the blanket around Joxer's feet and walked over to the bathtub. "I wonder how this thing works," she muttered, leaning over it, and suddenly the tub was filled with steaming water. "Okay," Gabrielle said, sitting beside Joxer. "I know this is going to hurt, but we don't want your toes to fall off." She began briskly rubbing his feet. Joxer grimaced and bit his lip, and Gabrielle could see how hard he was trying to be brave.
Joxer tried to ignore the burning sensation in his feet, but the sharp pains blocked out everything else. "Oww," he hissed under his breath, and Gabrielle looked up at him in concern. "It's okay," he whispered. The pain was starting to subside, and the coldness beginning to recede. He was suddenly able to think about how nice, though weird, it was to have Gabrielle rubbing his feet. It was actually starting to feel pretty good, and he could breath normally again without those stabbing pains, and his muscles were starting to relax . . . Joxer gasped suddenly as Gabrielle leaned over and began blowing warm breathes across his toes.. He began to feel a stiffness in quite another part of his body, not only from the strangely intimate gesture but also due to the fact that when Gabrielle leaned over like that, he could see down the front of her little brown leather top.
"Okay," he said suddenly, moving his feet out of her reach and curling his knees up to hide his erection. "Thanks, Gabrielle. I'm fine.."
"We need to get you into this bathtub," Gabrielle said. "The warm water will help more than anything." She put an arm around him to help him stand up, and Joxer gently pushed her away.
"It's okay, Gabrielle, really. I'm fine." He tried determinedly to stand up on his own, but ended up having to lean on the wall for support.
"Do you . . . need me to help you . . . " Gabrielle began haltingly, eyeing his clothes.
"No!" Joxer yelped, almost falling over. He quickly began to take off his shirt
"Okay," Gabrielle rushed over to the towel closet, which was now of course full of towels again, and placed one next to the side of the tub, avoiding looking at Joxer.
"Gabrielle," Joxer began, painfully embarrassed, "I . . . feel really weird about taking a bath with you in here."
"It's okay, Joxer," Gabrielle responded. "I won't look."
Joxer blushed and looked away. "I know you won't," he whispered. "I'm going to have to take one too, eventually. I'm probably getting pretty stinky."
"Well, I wasn't going to mention it . . . " Joxer laughed as Gabrielle swatted him. His shirt was unbuttoned at the collar, and Gabrielle jumped as her hand landed on his bare skin. His laughter stopped abruptly as she moved quickly away.
Gabrielle sat on the floor on the far side of the bed, facing away from the tub. The bed at her back blocked any possible view, and she fought the temptation to peek as she heard Joxer drop his clothes to the floor. She closed her eyes and took a few slow, meditative breaths. She sucked her breath in sharply, however, when she opened her eyes and found herself staring . . . Aphrodite had managed to conjure a mirror, angled purposefully to give Gabrielle a perfect view of Joxer's naked form. "Holy Gods," Gabrielle whispered, her breath coming faster in spite of herself. She had no idea that Joxer was so . . . well-endowed. Almost impossibly so. Trick mirror, she told herself, and raised up over the bed to see for herself. As it turned out, it was not a trick mirror. Gabrielle sat back behind the bed quickly, breathing in tiny gasps. Her entire body felt like it was on fire. In the mirror, Joxer lifted one foot and set it slowly in the tub, wincing as it hit the hot water. Gabrielle suddenly lashed out her hand and grabbed Joxer's discarded helmet, hurling it at the mirror. The mirror shattered with a satisfying crash.
Joxer yelped and fell into the bathtub with a splash. He screeched again as the water scalded his frozen body. When he could finally breath again, he raised his head fractionally over the edge of the tub, making sure none of his body was visible before he spoke. "Gabrielle? Is everything okay?"
Gabrielle opened her eyes cautiously and was relieved to find that she could no longer observe Joxer's obvious desire. "Yes, Joxer," she said, her voice shaky. "Everything's fine." She closed her eyes and tried not to imagine what Joxer would feel like inside of her.
Gabrielle must have nodded off while she was waiting. When Joxer was out of the bath, dressed, and warm, he walked around the bed and sat next to her. Her eyes were closed and her face was flushed, and she was breathing very quickly. Joxer decided to wake her up, and he gently reached out to shake her arm. "Gabby," he whispered softly.
"What?" Gabrielle snapped, opening her eyes immediately.
"Sorry," Joxer said, backing away from her. "Were you sleeping?"
"No," she muttered, looking away from him. "Just . . . thinking.." Joxer wondered briefly what Gabrielle was thinking about that made her so agitated. Probably driving herself insane trying to get away from me. "Your turn in the tub, if you want it," Joxer offered.
"Um, no," Gabrielle said hurriedly, scared of Aphrodite's tricks.
"That's okay. I'll just, um . . . " She trailed off and walked over to the towel closet, taking a towel over to the tub and cleaning herself off as best she could with her clothes on.
Surely she's not doing that because she thinks I'd look at her, Joxer thought. As much as I might want to, I would never invade her privacy that way. I hope she knows that.
Joxer glanced over at her and found himself unable to look away. Gabrielle ran the towel over her breasts where the top left them exposed, and then over her legs, pushing up the short skirt. Joxer's pants were getting incredibly uncomfortable, and he decided he'd better not watch any more. He waited until Gabrielle's back was turned, and then quietly squeezed himself into the tiny closet, shutting the door behind him. He beat his head silently against the wall in frustration.
"What's the problem, cutie?" a voice said. Joxer was glad that Aphrodite hadn't decided to materialize, because there definitely wasn't room for two people in the closet.
"What's the problem?" Joxer asked the wall, "What's the problem? What do you think the problem is, Aphrodite? Do you think this is fun? Do you think this is helping anybody?"
"It wasn't fun until earlier, when that chick was trying not to jump you."
"'That chick' has a name, which happens to be Gabrielle. And 'that chick' has never been and will never be the slightest bit inclined to jump me."
"Joxie, baby, get real," Aphrodite said laughingly. "She totally wants you! I think if I left you guys in here about two more days, she would definitely have sex with you."
"No, thanks, you've helped enough," Joxer said spitefully.
"You don't believe me, do you?"
"Well, you've been right about so many things so far . . . " Joxer's response was laced with sarcasm.
"About that . . . " Aphrodite's voice turned sorrowful. "Jox, I may have been wrong about some things. At the time, I was certain, but now . . . I'm beginning to be afraid that I read my tea leaves wrong."
Joxer's heart sank. "I know," he said calmly. "I'm not the great love that's destined for Gabrielle. I guess I've always known that."
"You heard us last night?"
"Of course I did." Joxer managed a partial smile. "You think that floor is easy to sleep on?" Aphrodite laughed a little. "It's okay, Aphrodite. However misguided it was, I appreciate you trying to help me out."
"Jox, don't give up yet. I mean, stranger things have happened, and . . . "
"Really, it's okay. I'm done now. Look how much of her time I've wasted already."
"Yeah. I want her to find her great love as soon as she can, so she can be happy for as long as possible. I want her to be happy for the rest of her life."
"Joxie, that is so sweet!" Aphrodite almost sounded like she was crying. Joxer attempted a smile, but it fell at the end.
"Well, I mean it," he said truthfully.
"Well," Aphrodite said, sniffling a little, "don't you at least want me to get you laid before you get out of here and she takes off?"
"No," Joxer almost shouted. "When will you learn just to leave me alone?" He could feel the Goddess's rage filling the closet, and he braced himself for another pink lightning bolt.
"Joxer?" Gabrielle asked. He was suddenly blinded as she threw open the closet door. "What are you doing in here? Who are you talking to?"
"Aphrodite," Joxer said, shaking his head. "We may be in trouble. I think I really pissed her off." Gabrielle burst into laughter as she noticed the way the Joxer had folded himself up to fit into the closet.
"I had no idea that you were so limber," she said wryly. "Maybe you should work that into your song, somehow . . . "
"Fine!" Joxer growled, suddenly angry. "That's just fine! You make fun of me too, just go ahead! I have had it with all of you women! You and Aphrodite can just . . . " Joxer's ranting was cut off when he attempted to slam the door in her face and succeeded only in slamming it on his finger. "Ow! Oww, shit!" he cried, trying to sit up and bumping his head on a low shelf. "Oww!" He crawled out of the closet with his injured hand clenched into a fist and the other resting on his head. Gabrielle fell to the floor in fits of laughter. Joxer suddenly realized how long it had been since he heard her really laugh. Gabrielle noticed Joxer watching her, and tried to bring her laughter under control. "I'm sorry, Joxer," she said seriously. "I'm not making fun of you, I promise. It was just kind of funny . . . "
"It's okay, Gabby," Joxer said hoarsely, gazing at her solemnly. "I haven't really heard you laugh that way since you and Xena . . . came back. It was nice."
Gabrielle returned his gaze, meeting his eyes for the first time in a long while. "You called me 'Gabby'. You don't do that much anymore."
"Things are different now," he told her. He turned away, but not before she noticed that his dark eyes were filled with tears. For the first time, she understood what his pain must feel like. It made her throat constrict to see him so upset. Empathizing with him like that, Gabrielle began to realize just how much death had changed her. She was more focused on her emotions, more peaceful . . . older, somehow. It made her wonder how many other changes there might have been that she hadn't noticed yet.
Gabrielle and Joxer spent the rest of the day in almost total silence. Gabrielle seemed lost in thought, and Joxer didn't want to disturb her. He paced around the room, trying to be as quiet as possible. Finally, the room began to grow dark.
"Just a few more hours," Joxer said suddenly, startling Gabrielle out of her thoughts.
"What?" she asked, blinking up at him. He looked away from her before he answered.
"Just a few more hours. I think after tonight we get to leave."
"Leave?" Gabrielle seemed surprised at the word.
"Yeah, leave. We've just got a few more days before we have to meet Xena."
Gabrielle's brow furrowed in thought, and she bit her bottom lip.. That doesn't leave me much time to think. Aphrodite's words had been echoing like a bell in Gabrielle's head all day. She found herself thinking about what part Joxer played in her life . . . and what her life would be like without him. That thought had shaken her to the core, and she realized that Aphrodite might know something about Gabrielle's heart that she hadn't even been aware of herself.
But do I say something to Joxer? Gabrielle wondered. I don't want to hurt him. I just wish I was sure . . .
"Gabrielle, I know this was a big inconvenience to you. I just wanted to apologize again," Joxer said, looking at her seriously.
"It's okay, Joxer," Gabrielle said absently. "It's not your fault. Love works in mysterious ways."
Assuming the 'love' comment was a reference to Aphrodite, Joxer thought privately that 'mysterious' wasn't the word he'd use to describe the way Aphrodite worked. He would probably use a word more like 'demented.' This thought was accompanied by a sharp pain, like somebody had poked him in the butt. He whirled around, but of course there was no one there. No one visible, anyway . . .
Joxer saw Gabrielle fighting back a yawn, and he went over to the bed and removed his pillow. Gabrielle rolled her eyes at him in frustration.
"Joxer, I'm sorry, but this is ridiculous. If you sleep on the floor again, you're probably going to lose a toe. That bed is big enough for the entire Athenian army! If you sleep on one side and I sleep on the other, I'm sure we won't disturb each other."
Joxer shook his head. He didn't think he was physically capable of sleeping in the same bed as Gabrielle.
"I'm not going to argue with you about this, Joxer." Gabrielle suddenly sounded very tired. Joxer nodded and climbed into the bed, settling himself down on the very edge. Gabrielle did likewise at the other edge. They didn't face each other and their bodies didn't touch, but Joxer could feel the heat of her body on his back. She moved slightly in the bed and made a small, sleepy noise and Joxer thought he might go mad. He ground his head into the pillow and tried not to think about her.
Gabrielle stirred listlessly. The closeness of Joxer's presence and the scent of his skin were slowly driving her crazy. Her physical desire paired with her newfound feelings made the temptation to touch him irresistible. She slowly and casually stretched her leg out until it brushed against Joxer's under the covers. He jerked his leg away as though she'd bitten him, and she moved back over to her edge of the bed. She fought the urge to try again, biting her lip. She new that once her feelings were revealed, everything would change, and they could never go back. Do I really want to risk that? she wondered, as she drifted uneasily into sleep.
Joxer had settled into a listless slumber, but he suddenly awakened without knowing why. He tensed in the darkness, trying to determine what was different. Then he realized that Gabrielle's body was pressed closely against his. He turned his head, and her soft hair brushed his cheek. He sat up slowly, and she didn't wake up. Joxer glanced to make sure that he was still on his edge of the bed, which he was. Then he glanced over Gabrielle's sleeping form and found that she was still sleeping on her edge, too. The bed had gotten considerably smaller. "Aphrodite," Joxer growled, shaking his fist at the darkness. He got no answer, and the bed did not return to it's normal size. Joxer attempted to lay down to sleep, but with every movement his body brushed against Gabrielle's smooth back or the curve of her ass. I cannot handle this, Joxer thought angrily. He jumped out of bed and took his pillow into the closet, shutting the door behind him and trying in vain to block out the image of Gabrielle in his mind.
Joxer risked everything to tell me, Gabrielle thought in her sleep, and then she snapped awake without knowing why. Finally, the thought presented itself again. Joxer took the risk to tell me. Because he loved me enough that he wanted me to know. Gabrielle sat bolt upright in the bed, looking for Joxer. He was gone, and the bed seemed smaller to her, somehow.
"Joxer?" she called into the darkness, and got no reply. "Joxer?" Suddenly Gabrielle made out a faint snoring sound, coming from the direction of the closet. She crept over and opened the door, smiling a little at the sleeping form curled against the wall. "Joxer?" she said softly, and reached out to stroke his silky hair.
"Huh? Gabrielle?" Joxer asked groggily, waking up to the unfamiliar sensation of Gabrielle's hands in his hair.
"Joxer, I need to talk to you," Gabrielle whispered, her hand trailing across his cheek.
"Is this a dream?" Joxer asked in confusion. "No." Gabrielle smiled at him. A soft, affectionate smile. "Joxer, I love you." Gabrielle took a breath and repeated herself, stronger this time. "I'm in love with you." Her eyes began to tear up. "Joxer, I'm so sorry I didn't realize it until now."
Joxer's mouth hung open in shock. Then his eyes narrowed in suspicion, and he pushed past Gabrielle into the center of the room. "Aphrodite," he called furiously, "What did you do?"
Gabrielle put a hand on his arm, turning him to face her. "She didn't do anything."
Joxer stared at Gabrielle in disbelief.
"Seriously, sweetie, I had nothing to do with this," Aphrodite's voice said softly in Joxer's ear. "Looks like I was right after all." Joxer never knew whether she had actually materialized or not, because he couldn't take his eyes off of Gabrielle. The expression of love on her face was all he'd ever wanted in the world.
"Gabby," he whispered. He raised a hand to stroke her cheek, and she didn't pull away. In fact, she leaned her face closer, resting it in his palm. Then she leaned forward and kissed him, and the rest of the world faded away. Kissing Gabby like this felt completely different from any kiss they'd shared during any spell she'd been under. It felt real, yet also more magical. Joxer didn't even realize he was crying until she pulled away and began to kiss each individual teardrop off of his face. "Gods, Gabrielle." Suddenly Joxer was happier than he'd ever been in his life. He threw his arms around Gabrielle's waist, lifting her into the air and spinning her around, watching in delight as she laughed.
Joxer lowered Gabrielle down to the ground and she pulled his lips down to hers. The kiss lasted for what seemed like hours, and Joxer felt like he could die happy. Then Gabrielle pressed closer to him, and the kiss didn't seem so innocent any more. They held each other tightly, and their passion rose until the room almost echoed with the strain. Joxer tried to control his reaction, but Gabrielle was pressing her body closer and closer to his. She rubbed one leg against the bulge in his pants, and Joxer couldn't stop the moan that escaped his lips. In one smooth motion, he picked Gabrielle up and carried her over to the bed.. He leaned over her and she twined her body around his, pulling him down on top of her. He pressed against her, running his hands over her breasts. She moaned softly and Joxer pulled back. Some internal part of him still expected to be hit. Gabrielle's face revealed the nervousness she felt.
"We don't have to do this, you know," Joxer said softly, brushing Gabrielle's short hair away from her face. "We've got all the time in the world."
"No," Gabrielle said quickly, "I want to. It's just that I . . . haven't done this in a long time." She bit her lip and looked away, embarrassed. Joxer burst out laughing and tilted her face back up to his.
"What, you think I do this a lot? Who do you think you're talking to?" His smile was so adorable that Gabrielle's fears vanished immediately, and she raised her lips to his.
"I love you, Joxer," she murmured. Their lips parted just long enough for her to slip Joxer's tunic over his head. She ran her hands over his bare chest, delighting in the feeling of unexpected muscles. She could feel his erection straining against her leg, and she wondering idly what Xena would say if she knew all the secrets Joxer had been hiding. Not that I'll ever let her find out . . . Gabrielle gave a satisfied gasp as Joxer slipped her top off and teased her breasts with his tongue. Waves of pleasure rolled through her as he caressed her nipples with his mouth, and he trailed one hand slowly up her thigh and into her skirt.. Gabrielle shifted slightly to allow him easier access, and couldn't conceal her disappointment when his hand stopped it's ascent. Joxer stared into her face with worshipful eyes.
"Joxer?" Gabrielle asked softly.
Joxer continued to gaze at her in wonder, shaking his head as though he couldn't find the words. "I just . . . I never thought . . . I hardly even imagined . . . "
Gabrielle smiled at him wickedly, and ran her tongue lightly across his lips. "By the Gods, Joxer, I want you so much . . . " Joxer smiled at her, and for a moment she thought he was going to cry again. Gods, he loved her so much! How could she not have noticed it before? She couldn't imagine keeping a love like this secret for so long . . . Joxer lowered his face back down to hers and kissed her hungrily. She couldn't remember ever being kissed like this. She gasped loudly when his fingers slipped into her, expertly touching all the right spots. Then her gasp turned into something more like a scream as Joxer's fingers found exactly the right spot. The world started getting blurry and she arched her back, moaning in ecstasy.
Joxer couldn't believe this was actually happening. His fingers were working away in Gabrielle's warm, wet center, and his mouth was taking its sweet time worshiping her breasts. When she arched into him, crying out, Joxer was almost pushed over the edge. The knowledge that this was actually Gabrielle, and not some dream . . . He didn't know how long he could last at this. He drew in a sharp breath as Gabrielle's hand slipped into his pants and wrapped itself around his dick, stroking gently. He could feel the brink of his orgasm, and he knew he had to delay it long enough to . . .
"Gabby," he panted, moving back. She withdrew her hand. "Um, can we . . . "
Gabrielle merely smiled and slid her skirt off in one motion, flinging it against the wall. Joxer pulled his pants off, suddenly embarrassed as he lay exposed before her. Gabrielle just seemed more excited, sliding down to tease the tip of his dick with her tongue. He knew he couldn't take much of that, and he grabbed her shoulders and pulled her mouth back up to his.
"Gods, Joxer," Gabrielle groaned, breaking the kiss, "You are so big. I've been imagining all day what you would feel like inside me . . . "
"What?" Joxer said, his eyes snapping fully open. "What are you talking about?"
A slow blush spread across Gabrielle's face. "Never mind," she mumbled. "It's a long story, involving everyone's favorite Goddess and a cleverly angled mirror."
Joxer suddenly felt insanely embarrassed. "Aphrodite," he whined in annoyance.
"Hush!" Gabrielle said, pressing a finger to his lips. "She might show up." She pulled Joxer into a long kiss, and then her body was grinding against his and Joxer forgot all traces of self-consciousness. He slid his fingers back down to Gabrielle's wetness, and she grabbed his wrist and jerked his hand away.
"Please, Joxer?" she whispered, and he almost lost it again. He slid into her in one thrust, and they both gasped at the sensation. Gabrielle's mind fogged over, and all she could perceive was the feeling of Joxer inside of her, filling her . . . They began to move together slowly, finding a rhythm. Joxer groaned as they began moving faster, unsure of how long he would be able to last. Gabrielle moaned deeply, and then her legs tightened as an orgasm ripped through her. "Gods, Joxer," she cried, and the sound of her calling his name sent him over the edge. Finally they collapsed, spent, in each other's arms.
Gabrielle and Joxer made love twice more before finally falling asleep in a tangled embrace.
"I love you, Gabby," Joxer murmured sleepily into her hair, and his heart leapt again when the reply came.
"I love you, Joxer." Joxer's last thought before sleep overtook him was one that he thought he'd never have again. Thank you, Aphrodite . . .
Joxer awoke slowly. His body seemed strangely, pleasantly achy, and his muscles were sore. He opened his eyes and saw that the Queen of the Amazons was still curled against him, sleeping. She hadn't been a dream.
He looked around and found that he and Gabrielle were back at the camp where Xena had left them. The fire looked as though it had been burned out for days, and he and Gabrielle were huddled tightly under the blanket. Upon inspection, he found that their clothes were neatly folded, resting near his armor. He felt a sudden tremor of fear. Now that they were back in the real world, what if it turned out that everything had been a spell? Or a mistake? He was afraid to wake Gabrielle up, but he had to know . . .
He nudged her gently, and she stirred and snuggled closer to him. "Just let me sleep a few more minutes, Joxer," she murmured sleepily. Joxer relaxed a little. At least she knew who she was sleeping with. "I love you," he whispered cautiously, and braced himself for an answer.
"I love you so much, Joxer the Mighty." The response came accompanied with a little giggle, and then Joxer found himself being tickled fiercely.
"Hey!" he yelped, and a brief fight ensued before the two lovers got dressed and wandered off together to find breakfast.
Xena returned from her mother's feeling the most calm and peaceful that she had since the crucifixion. She followed the trail she'd taken a few days ago, and soon arrived at the camping place to find Gabrielle sitting by herself, tending the fire. She looked up and smiled as she heard Xena approach.
Xena sat beside her, and they talked about the events that had taken place on Xena's brief vacation. Xena showed Gabrielle all the food that her mother had sent back, and Gabrielle set about preparing dinner.
"So," Xena said finally, "Have you seen Joxer?"
"He took a quick trip into town. To leave an offering at the temple of Aphrodite," Gabrielle responded, smiling to herself.
"You mean he didn't leave when I did?"
Gabrielle felt a sudden blush spread over her cheeks. "Well, actually, Joxer . . . stayed here with me." She never lifted her eyes from the fire.
"Oh?" Xena asked coyly, arching an eyebrow.
"You see, the thing is," Gabrielle looked up at Xena suddenly. "I'm in love with him." She hoped her friend would understand.
"It's about time you figured that out," Xena responded dryly.
"What?" Gabrielle asked in shock. "You knew?"
"Of course I knew," Xena responded. "I've known for ages."
Gabrielle suddenly felt a little irritated at her friend. "How come you always know everything before I do?"
The Warrior Princess smiled smugly before answering. "Well, the show isn't called 'Gabrielle'."