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Please read the Disclaimer in Part One!
Warning: This story is rated NC-17. Do not read it if you are under 17 years of age, or if the idea of two women in love turns you off. This story contains fairly explicit sexual content.
Gabrielle sat on a rock, working the tangles out of her wet hair, while Xena crouched in the stream rinsing off their dishes. Suddenly, Gabrielle snatched up her staff and swung it around behind her, catching with a *thunk* and an "oof."
"Glad to see your reflexes are still good, Gabrielle," Joxer said somewhat breathlessly as he removed the staff from his chest and came to sit beside her. "You're lucky you have me around to test you."
"Gabrielle," Xena cooed, approaching to kneel by the bard's side, "why don't you let me do that?" She reached for the comb, but Gabrielle pulled it away.
"No thanks, Xena. I can comb my own hair. Why don't you pack everything up so we can get going?"
"Oh...okay," the warrior princess sighed sadly. She stood and went over to Argo.
"What's with Xena?" Joxer asked. "She didn't even hit me."
"Aphrodite put a spell on her." Gabrielle leaned close to Joxer and whispered, "She's in love with me!"
"Aphrodite? But I thought she married Hephaestus and.....oh." Joxer's eyes widened as he looked at Xena. "What are you going to do?"
"I don't know. When we stop at the next village I'll try to contact Hercules. Maybe he can talk some sense into Aphrodite. She is his sister, after all."
"I'll talk to Aphrodite for you," Joxer declared, jumping to his feet. "She and I have...an understanding." He winked lasciviously. Gabrielle tried not to look too dubious.
"Okay...thanks, Joxer." She watched the bumbling warrior swagger off. "Ready, Xena?"
"Always, my sweet," Xena said adoringly. Gabrielle felt a surge of despair. She had known for a long time that her feeling for Xena were more than just friendly, but not knowing anything about women's love, and not wanting to jeopardize their friendship, she had kept it to herself. But no matter how many times she had imagined Xena falling in love with her, it had never been so....what was the word...sappy! Something had to be done.
"Xena," she began haltingly as they walked the forest path. "You know, the way you've been behaving lately is...unusual for you."
"My feelings for you have changed me, that's true," Xena agreed.
"No, that's not true!" Gabrielle cried. "It's Aphrodite who's changed you. The real Xena wouldn't be so lovesick, even if she *did* love me. She'd be....she'd be strong and brave and fierce, in love just like she is in everything else." She stopped walking and looked into Xena's eyes. "Do you understand what I'm saying?"
"Of course I do, Gabrielle," Xena murmured lovingly. "You want me to be on top."
"Aaagh!" Gabrielle let out a cry of frustration. "That's not what I meant at all!"
Xena's expression changed; she looked crestfallen. "It's not? But-" She was cut off by the sound of a male voice yelling.
"There she is!"
A raggedy group of bandits - the same ones as yesterday - emerged from the bushes, their faces grim with anger. "Warrior Princess," one of them said, "you have seriously pissed off me and my tribe."
"I'm sorry," Xena said earnestly, her face a mask of concern. "I never meant to hurt anyone."
The leader of the marauders looked momentarily confused, but rallied quickly. "You can't fool us with your false apologies!" he roared. "Get her, men!" As one, the bandits rushed forward. Gabrielle beat off the first few successfully with her staff, but then more men came along and her efforts began to fail.
"Xena," she shouted, "what are you waiting for? Fight!"
"But my love, all I want is to be with you, what do I care for fighting?" Xena called back, her eyes shiny with unshed tears as two of the thieves grabbed her arms.
"If you don't get rid of these bandits there won't be any me to be with!" Gabrielle cried in a panic as the leader seized her and put his knife to her throat.
Xena's eyes narrowed. With a single motion she threw the two men from her arms, grabbed her chakram and tossed it at the leader. It hit him in the wrist, making him yell with pain as the knife fell from nerveless fingers. Xena caught the chakram on its return, put it back in its place at her waist and stepped forward to grab the leader of the bandits by the throat.
"No one," she spat in his face, "but NO ONE places a finger on Gabrielle, except ME. Got it?"
Frightened, the man nodded his head. Xena released his throat and dealt him a blow to the head with the side of her hand. He collapsed unconscious on the ground, and those of his followers who were still upright took to their heels.
Xena turned to Gabrielle and took her hands anxiously. "Are you all right, my darling? Did he hurt you? Oh...you're bleeding." She put her fingers to the base of the bard's throat, where the knife had nicked her and a tiny line of blood welled up.
"It's nothing," Gabrielle said, but Xena had already bent down and placed her mouth over the cut. She licked away the spot of blood and kissed the injury gently, the heat of her mouth making Gabrielle shiver with unexpected desire. With difficulty, the bard pushed her friend away, and with even more difficulty, she swallowed. "Let's get going."
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