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 (or two men) in love turns you off. This story contains explicit sexual content, as well as probably some four-letter words.
Xenite Disclaimer for Part Four: Joxer's manly self-image was not harmed in the production of this fanfic.
Sex is natural, sex is good Not everybody does it, but everybody should Sex is natural, sex is fun Sex is best when it's one on one -George Michael
Gabrielle awoke as the sun topped the trees and made its way into ... her ... eyes. She experienced a long agonizing moment of disorientation before remembered what had happened. Slowly, she pulled Hercules's body to a sitting position and looked around. Iolaus was still on watch, sitting by the embers of their fire and keeping an eye on the road.
"Morning," he said, somewhat sarcastically. "Do you always sleep this late?"
"Usually," Gabrielle admitted. "I take it you haven't seen anything. Or anyone."
"No one interesting, anyway," Iolaus said. "And no one's seen me, more importantly."
"Listen, Gabrielle...." Iolaus paused, then forged ahead. "There's something I'd like to ask you, once you're awake enough."
"Um ... okay. Give me a minute." Gabrielle rubbed at Hercules's eyes with one hand, reaching with the other for a water bottle. "I'll be right back."
"Hey, um ... just point it at the ground," Iolaus advised.
"I know. I've done this before, remember?"
"Oh yeah." Iolaus tried not to think about it.
"Gabrielle? What?" Iolaus leapt to his feet.
"Umm... nothing," came the abashed voice from behind the bushes. "It's just, umm ... this one's a lot bigger than the one I had before."
"Oh," Iolaus said weakly. He waited until he ... she ... had gone around a tree, and then shook himself firmly. Get a grip, he told himself. He tried desperately to conjure up a mental image of huge, towering mountains of ice. Ice water. Snow. Frost. "Dammit...."
"Dammit Xena! Why didn't you wake me?"
"Well, some things don't change. You always were cranky in the mornings," Xena observed drily. She poked the embers of the fire, tossing some sand onto them.
"You were supposed to wake me up for my watch," Hercules grumbled, trying to untangle himself from Gabrielle's bedroll.
"You looked so peaceful sleeping there," Xena muttered, turning away. Hercules rolled his ... Gabrielle's ... eyes.
"She's making you soft, Xena. You never used to be."
Xena jumped up and glared at him. "You just try saying that when you're back in your own body... I'll kick your ass!"
Argo whinnied uncertainly. Xena whirled around.
"Pack up. We're hitting the road."
"Y-Y-You can let me go now," Joxer told Aphrodite with his customary bravado as they entered a different wing of Mount Olympus. "I mean, let me go, foul wench ... I won't-Mmf!"
"Shut up, you annoying little troll," growled Ares.
"Like, hel-LO," Aphrodite interrupted, pulling Ares' hand from Joxer's mouth. She glared at her brother, then paused for a moment to smile sweetly at Joxer. "Just park it over there for a sec, okay studmuffin?" She turned back to Ares. "Dude, you are like to...ta...lly busted."
"Hey." Ares spread his arms nonchalantly. "You got out of the cell, didn't you?"
"You know perfectly well no god can imprison another god for very long. But that's like totally beside the point. You're up to something." Aphrodite shook a slender finger in his face. "And you better tell me, like, ay-sap, or ELSE!"
"Or else what?" Ares scoffed, batting her finger aside. "You're not going to go to Zeus with this little inconvenience. So you were locked up for a couple of hours. Is it worth the Almighty finding out what you've been up to with his golden boy?"
"Dude," Aphrodite smirked confidently, "everything is totally under control with Herc." A sudden frown darkened her lovely features. "Hey .... wait a sec! That's what you're up to, isn't it? You're trying to interfere!"
Ares laughed incredulously. "Are you in that river everyone keeps telling me about? You're the one who interfered! I've done nothing!"
"Oh, but you want to." Aphrodite nodded knowingly. "I know exACTly what it is with you. But don't worry!" she added cheerily. "I'll take care of everything!"
"Hercules is going down this time!" Ares nearly shouted.
"Don't bet on it!" With a poof, Aphrodite disappeared. Ares glowered.
In another instant, she was back.
"Oops," she trilled sweetly. "Forgot something." She grabbed Joxer by the belt and was gone again.
"Are you sure this is the right way?" Xena asked as they strode swiftly along the path, Argo between them.
"Yep." Hercules was still sulking about the missed watch.
"Don't lie to me, Hercules. Are we lost?"
"No, we're not lost!" he snapped. After a moment, he added, "But we are making good time."
"I hope you're not still upset about those bandits we bumped into back there."
"Naah, you took care of them." He scowled at Gabrielle's hands. "It's just a little strange, hitting someone and not seeing them move."
"Reminds you of the time you gave up your powers?" Xena asked, somewhat more gently.
"Yeah," he replied quietly. There was a silence. After a while, Xena broke it.
"Did you hear what their leader said?"
Hercules raised Gabrielle's eyebrows questioningly. "You mean after 'That's Xena, let's get her'?"
"It sounded to me like he said, 'First Hercules, now Xena. It's not my week.'"
Their eyes met over Argo's neck. "Uh-oh."
"Iolaus, I don't think I can stand one more game of 'I Spy.' Can't we play something else?" Gabrielle tried not to whine. It sounded so undignified in Hercules's voice. She was getting seriously bored.
"Sorry, Gabrielle. Maybe I was wrong. We should start walking again. Those bandits wouldn't attack in broad daylight...." He looked around uncertainly. "Would they?"
"I d-Hey!" Gabrielle jumped to her feet. "Look! It's them!"
Iolaus got up to look too. "Thank Zeus!"
"XENA!" Gabrielle yelled, waving her arms frantically. In the distance, Xena's pace picked up noticeably.
"Okay, Gabrielle. I think she sees you," Iolaus said, covering his mouth with his hand. Gabrielle stopped jumping up and down, and looked embarrassed.
"Gabrielle!" Xena exclaimed, somewhat hesitantly, as she and Hercules came within range.
"Xena!" Gabrielle started to run forward, then paused and moved toward Xena at a more moderate pace.
"Hercules?" Iolaus asked cautiously. Herc made a wry face that looked much cuter on Gabrielle's features.
"Yeah, it's me."
"I'm really sorry about this, Hercules," Gabrielle said fervently. "If I had any idea Aphrodite would-"
"Don't worry about it," Herc reassured her. "Aphrodite can be devious like that. It's not your fault."
"Thanks," Gabrielle said, relieved.
"Is that really how I sound?" Hercules asked in astonishment, studying his body carefully. Gabrielle squirmed under the scrutiny.
"I guess so," she said. "Wow, I didn't realize my hair had gotten so long." Iolaus snickered.
"Okay," Xena announced, taking charge as usual. "We can cut through the meadow over there and be back at the temple by midday tomorrow. Then we'll find some way of summoning Aphrodite, and make her switch you two back."
"Um, Xena," Gabrielle said tentatively. Xena and Hercules glared at her. Iolaus looked hopeful.
"I was thinking, you know, since we're ... like this ... anyway, well, why not take advantage of it?" Gabrielle looked at her body. "I mean, if you don't mind."
"Umm..." Gabrielle's face blushed. "No, I don't mind," Hercules said. Xena's eyes widened.
"You can't mean...."
"Come on, Xena," Iolaus urged. "It could be fun. Gabrielle tells me you had agreed to it before."
"Yeah, but that was -- I mean, not -- It wasn't-"
"Xena," Hercules said, prodding her toward his body. "Go for it. Have fun."
"There's a lovely little clearing right beyond those trees," Iolaus told her helpfully.
"You'll love it," Gabrielle promised.
An observer, watching the action from afar, would have seen Hercules seize a very reluctant Xena by the arm and pull her, protesting all the way, back into the bushes. Meanwhile, Gabrielle would have appeared to be making Argo comfortable by the side of the road, while Iolaus fidgeted nearby, several times beginning to speak but then falling silent.
However, no observers were present save a lone bird, which watched the action with a disinterested eye, hoping the humans would toss aside some bread as part of their mating ritual. As for Argo, she put her head down and began to munch the grass, her mind a blissful blank. Not much surprised her any more.
In a moment Xena returned, just long enough to grab her largest bedroll from Argo's saddlebag and then disappear into the forest again. Argo flicked her tail. The bird gave up on lunch and flew away.
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