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 Six: Ares' manly self-image was not harmed in the creation of this fanfic.
Everybody gets high, everybody gets low These are the days when anything goes Every day is a winding road I get a little bit closer Every day is a fading sign I get a little bit closer Feeling fine --Sheryl Crow
Xena and Gabrielle lay entwined on the bedroll, wrapped in the fuzzy lethargy of afterglow. A short period of silence ensued before either of them was ready to move again.
"Gabrielle...." Xena murmured sensuously, sliding her strong fingers across Hercules' well-muscled abdomen. Oddly, the cognitive dissonance of the entire situation seemed to be fading.
"Ooh.... Xena," Gabrielle sighed, halfheartedly pushing her lover's hand away. "I don't think I can." She felt Herc's eyelids drooping. "Now I understand why men always fall asleep afterward."
"What?" Xena pushed herself up on one elbow to look at Gabrielle. Too late, she remembered that those beautiful green eyes weren't there to be gazed into. She averted her eyes and said, "Gabrielle, how would you know about that?"
Before Gabrielle could reply, they both heard a thrashing in the nearby bushes and, faintly, Gabrielle's voice calling, "Iolaus! Wait!"
Gabrielle, reacting more quickly than usual, rolled off the bedroll and plunged behind a tree. A split second later, Iolaus came crashing into the clearing and discovered a very naked Xena.
Belatedly, Xena thought of reaching for her leathers, but decided against it with a mental shrug. Anyway, Iolaus had seen it all ... long before either of the others! "What's wrong, Iolaus?" she asked blandly.
Panting, Iolaus dropped to the ground beside her. "I just can't handle it, Xena," he confessed. "It's just too weird. I tried ... really I did...."
"Hey, it's okay," Xena reassured him, awkwardly patting his arm. "It does take some getting used to."
"Listen, what if I -- I mean, you don't really need me to help with this switch back, do you? I could meet you in a couple of days and-"
"No, no." Xena put up a hand to stop him. "Listen, Iolaus, I know it's weird, but I still think you and Hercules should give it a shot. You might like it, and anyway, as Gabrielle would say," she smirked suggestively at him, "it's about time!"
As Iolaus sat, torn by conflicting feelings, the brush parted again and Gabrielle appeared. "Listen, Iolaus, I'm really sorry," she said earnestly. "Can we talk about this?"
Both Xena and Iolaus blinked and did double-takes as they realized it was actually Hercules. Iolaus groaned again and buried his head in his hands.
"Nice work, Herc," Xena exclaimed, getting to her feet and fixing Gabrielle's body with an angry Look. "You've really done it, haven't you? What did you say to get him so-Look at me!"
Hercules had averted his ... er, Gabrielle's ... eyes. "You're naked," he said, still staring at the nearest tree.
Xena looked down at herself. "So? You've seen me naked before." She smirked again, unable to resist.
"Yeah, but...." Hercules looked at the ground, shifting uncomfortably. "Gabrielle's body seems to be getting all hot and tingly."
"Ohh...." Understanding dawned on Xena's face as she considered multiple reactions, in varying degrees of sarcastic and lascivious. Instead, though, she turned to the trees and called, "Gabrielle, come on back."
"Um ... I'm naked too," came Herc's voice in reply. Xena rolled her eyes.
"Here." Seizing Herc's pants, she tossed them toward the bush that had spoken. "It's almost lunchtime," she added, turning back to Herc-in-Gabrielle. "Make us a fire while I go catch something."
Half an hour later, the four friends were feeling somewhat better as they ate the quail that Xena, having finally gotten dressed, had caught and that Iolaus, after much argument, had cooked. As the meal disappeared, anxious looks passed across the fire in several directions as everyone waited for someone else to broach the subject.
Suddenly, another rustling in the forest brought all four to their feet. Iolaus reached for his sword. But it was Xena who first recognized the footsteps, and rolled her eyes in disgust.
"Great!" she said. "Just what we need!" The others looked at her in confusion as she sat down again and picked up her half-eaten wing.
In another moment, the bushes parted again to reveal Joxer, who stumbled into the clearing panting and glaring. "You!" he shouted before anyone could react. Rushing up to Xena, he pushed a stubby finger in her face and accused, "It was all your idea, wasn't it? She listens to you! You did it! It's all your f-Wait a minute...." Suspiciously, he paused in mid-rant and looked carefully at the warrior. "You are Xena, aren't you?"
"Yes, Joxer," Xena said tolerantly. "Now calm down and tell us what's going on."
"What's going on is you-it-sh-I-" Stuttering incoherently, he drew his sword and pointed it at Xena. Bored, she flicked it aside and took another bite.
"Hey, leave her alone," Hercules advised, grabbing Joxer's sword and twisting it out of his grasp. The would-be warrior turned his glare on the new target.
"Who're you supposed to be, a fierce warrior trapped in the body of Gabrielle?" Joxer sneered. Herc raised Gabrielle's eyebrows.
"Actually, I'm Hercules."
"Joxer ... yoo-hoo!" He looked across the fire at Hercules' body, which waved and smiled at him. "I'm Gabrielle, over here."
"Wha-Y-" Joxer's eyes widened and rolled up in his head. He clapped both hands to his temples and sank down onto the log beside Xena.
"Don't worry, you get used to it after a little bit," Xena advised. "Now, what's this you're accusing me of?"
"Well, Aphrodite-" Joxer paused, looking somewhat wildly from one to another, licking his lips nervously.
"Oh, Aphrodite," Xena said dismissively.
"What's Aphrodite got to do-" Iolaus paused as everyone looked at him. "-got to do with it?" he finished weakly.
"Okay, a couple of months ago," Joxer said, "for no reason at all whatsoever, she turned me into a - a - a-"
"Woman?" Gabrielle guessed.
Joxer stared at her for a long moment. "How did y- It was you!" he cried. He leapt to his feet. Xena followed suit, menacingly. To everyone's astonishment, Hercules' face turned bright red.
"Gabrielle?" Xena turned to her lover. "You didn't really put Aphrodite up to that, did you?"
"Well...." Gabrielle scuffed Herc's foot in the dirt. "I might have sorta suggested it, in passing...." Joxer gave a squeak of outrage. "But I was just trying to get her off our backs! And it worked!"
"Yeah, it worked real well! So well I got caught in between Aphrodite and Ares!" Joxer whined.
"Ares?" The name made both Xena and Hercules tense. "How'd he get involved?" Hercules asked suspiciously.
A soft tinkling noise filled the small clearing, accompanied by a shower of golden light. Joxer moved to hide behind Xena.
"Dude, what a total bummer," Aphrodite complained, daintily readjusting the filmy shawl over her shoulders. "Like, imagine the nerve of that Ares trying to butt in on my scheme! Again!"
"Hello, Aphrodite," Hercules sighed. She gave him a dazzling smile.
"Hi, big brother! Ooh, not so big lately, eh?" She nudged Gabrielle's body suggestively. "Hey, babycakes," she added to Iolaus, who blushed unwittingly. Then the goddess caught sight of Joxer.
"Awww, poor baby," she cooed, moving toward him. He attempted without success to disappear into Xena's shadow. "You're not scared of me now, are you? Didn't I say I was sorry?"
"Leave him alone," Xena commanded. "Aphrodite, just tell us what part Ares played in all this."
"Oh, that." The Goddess of Love made a dismissive gesture. "Like, so he found out about my experiments with body-switching and he tried to grab some of the action for himself. Big whoop. I totally took care of him." She put her hands on her hips, incidentally thrusting her ample breasts up at Xena, and cocked her head coquettishly. "Know what I mean?"
"Aphrodite!" shouted an angry male voice. A small sonic boom reverberated through the forest and Ares appeared, buttoning his trousers. "Don't EVER leave me like that again!"
"Like what?" his lovely sister replied innocently. "Oh ... you mean, high... 'n dry?" She giggled suggestively. Ares reddened, glaring around the circle of people.
"I'm going to-"
"Ohh, no you're not," Aphrodite scoffed disdainfully. "Like, you're all hot air, dude! This is my scam and you got no say in it. Dig?" She turned away, dismissing him with a little wave. "Isn't he cute when he's pissed?" she confided to Gabrielle.
"Listen, Aphrodite," Hercules said firmly, moving forward to capture her attention. "Let's just get me and Gabrielle back where we belong, okay? Come on. You've had your fun."
"But like, only half of it, right?" She pouted prettily at him. "Dude, like I totally don't get what your hangup is!" Iolaus blushed even harder. Joxer looked confused. Gabrielle and Xena tried not to smile.
"Aphrodite!" Hercules exclaimed.
"Okay, okay. Geez!" She wrinkled her forehead in concentration. "Like, I've only done this once or twice ... okay, both of you click your heels together and say 'There's no place like' ... no, wait." Ares rolled his eyes as she paused, frowning. "Oh yeah! Gotcha!"
An unseen gust of wind raced through the clearing, knocking both Gabrielle's and Hercules's bodies onto their butts. The other mortals blinked rapidly before moving to check on them.
"Whew," Gabrielle said with a mixture of relief and regret. "Well, it was fun while it lasted."
"Speak for yourself," Hercules grumbled, allowing Iolaus to help him to his feet.
"I-" "You-" "Wha-"
"Shut up!" yelled Xena as everyone started talking again. Ares narrowed his eyes and advanced on Xena, hand going to his sword. Gabri -- er, Hercules -- stepped in his godly brother's path and gave him a cautionary glare. But before Herc could say so much as "go ahead, make my day," Xena moved to loom over Aphrodite and spoke in a voice that carried with authority.
"Now, I want you to promise me that you won't ever switch any of the four -- the five of us," she corrected, catching sight of Joxer still cowering by the fire, "into the opposite sex again." She paused for effect and then yelled, "EVER!" Everyone jumped. Aphrodite pouted.
"Oh, well, like, if you say so," she sighed theatrically. "But only cuz you're my bitchinest babe, right?"
"Sure, whatever." Xena glared at her and tapped her foot.
"Okay, she promised," Hercules said. "Now both of you, get outta here." He shoved Ares roughly toward Aphrodite. The God of War whirled around, glaring, ready to start a fight.
"You're gonna regret that, boy!" Ares growled.
Aphrodite tapped Ares lightly on the shoulder. Not taking his eyes off Hercules, he snarled, "What?!"
"My room, five minutes," Aphrodite said, and giggled. Turning to Iolaus and Gabrielle, who were standing apart from the action with Joxer hiding behind them, she waved cheerily. "Toodles noodles!" She disappeared with a poof, leaving her shawl to flutter enticingly to the earth.
Exasperated, Ares bent over and picked up the shawl. Straightening again, he looked to Xena and Hercules, who were watching him tensely, prepared for anything. Ares struggled for a moment, searching for a phrase of appropriate menace to spit at them. Finally he shrugged and just said, "Women!" as he too disappeared.
The five mortals breathed long sighs of relief. Gabrielle ran her hands down the length of her body, then looked over at Hercules.
"No offense," she said, "it's a nice place to visit, but I sure wouldn't want to live there."
"Likewise," Hercules told her fervently. Iolaus, unnoticed by anyone, pouted.
"Okay! So, another day, another mighty conquest!" Joxer proclaimed in his best self-congratulatory tone, puffing out his chest. Xena glared at him.
"Joxer," she said threateningly, but Hercules interrupted.
"Hey, Joxer, there were some bandits we passed along the road there. Could you take care of them for us?"
The would-be warrior's eyes widened eagerly. "Could I! I mean -- no problem, Herc old buddy! Consider it done!" He thrashed into the forest singing, "Here comes Joxer the Mighty!" The sounds of his armor clanking and the twigs snapping underfoot and the forest creatures fleeing in terror could be heard in the little clearing for several more minutes.
"Well," Hercules said, clearing his throat as he turned back to the little group. "We, um ... we've got to stop meeting like this." Xena grinned in amusement. Gabrielle nudged Iolaus, hard. He glared at her.
"Yeah, Xena, we should really get going," Gabrielle said hastily, grabbing up their frying pan and assorted other possessions. "I mean, don't we have to be in Dentopolis by sundown?" She wiggled her eyebrows meaningfully at Xena, who got her intention immediately.
"Oh ... yeah, right, of course," Xena agreed. "Listen, Herc, you and Iolaus don't mind cleaning up the campsite, do you?"
"Um ... I guess not...."
"Great! See ya!" Deliberately "forgetting" to grab their bedroll, Gabrielle headed for the road. Xena followed, giving Hercules an encouraging pat on the shoulder as she passed.
The last time Gabrielle glanced back over her shoulder, she was pleased to see Hercules and Iolaus looking at each other with a hot intensity as, tentatively, they moved toward each other.
Xena and Gabrielle walked side by side, leading Argo, for a long while in silence.
"Xena?" Gabrielle said at last. Xena looked sideways at her, suspiciously.
"I know you're probably kind of mad at me, and I promise promise promise I won't ever do anything like this again...."
"And you want me to know that the sex is great no matter what bodies we're in...."
"But...." Gabrielle looked innocently over at her friend and lover. "What do you think Joxer looked like as a woman?"
The two women laughed until they had to stop walking, and then they sat down by the side of the road and held their sides and wiped tears from each other's eyes. Argo made immediately for the sweet new grass at the edge of the forest, snorting softly to herself. Not much surprised her any more.
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