Ooops, I Did It Again.

Part Two of the Impractical Magic Series

by Lori Bush (

Disclaimer: Not only are the characters not mine, but certain parts of the underlying theory of this whole series are heavily borrowed. Xena, Gabrielle and Joxer belong to Renaissance Pictures and Universal/USA Studios. The atmosphere of the series, along with a few specific concepts, lean heavily on the Discworld books; if you have read them, you will recognize a lot of Terry Pratchett's spirit in these stories. Joxer's staff originally belonged to Esk, as a matter of fact. As always, I beg of you not to sue. Besides, I don't have anything you want, honest. Oh, and everyone forgive me for the Britney Spears reference. I don't care for her, but the title worked so well.

Rating: Probably PG-13. There are some adult concepts in this story.

Violence: Not in this one.

Sex: Nope, although a little bird-and bees kinda talk. A few naked girls, but because of the camera angle, you don't see much. :-)

Archive: GJRS, JFFG, TedTalk, TRIS, Raye. Anyone else with permission, probably.

This is story number two in the series, the first being "The Gift That Keeps On Giving." You can find it at my website, in the "Serial Stories" section, where this will soon be archived as well. If you want to understand this story, you have to read that one first.

I wander even farther away from canon in this one than I did the last. This universe is pretty much taking off under its own power now. My ideas of magic are a mix of Terry Pratchett and the stuff I needed to have happen in order to make the story work. The stuff about the Druids is similar - some actual Druidic History mixed with things that made it fit here.

Thanks again to Rebecca Littlehales, who helped me make it better by pointing out mistakes, inconsistencies and things that needed further elaboration. Thanks also to my pre-readers, a marvelous cheering section any author would appreciate. I hope you all like this series, since I'm having a great time with it!

"Joxer! JOXER!" Xena's voice broke through the hazy fog of Joxer's half-finished dream. "Wake UP!"

"Mmmmffp," he responded groggily. He remembered them being attacked, a huge army of nearly invincible foes coming after the three friends in waves. Xena and Gabby were helpless, and Joxer the Mighty Wizard had saved the day.

"Joxer, you've been dreaming. Wake up!"

He shook himself. Memories came back. He had been upset with his powers. Ever since a dying wizard had given him the gift of magic, Xena had been helping him learn to use his new abilities. Day before yesterday, in an effort to change a rock into a rabbit, he had instead produced something that resembled nothing so much as a turtle with huge ears. In a fit of anger, he declared that he'd quit. He wasn't going to be a wizard anymore. He had done no magic since.

Or so he thought. "Look what you've done. For the god's sakes, WAKE UP!" The panic in Xena's voice was unusual.

His eyes flew open and he sat up quickly. The stand of trees that he had seen earlier to the side of the camp was now a clearing, filled with scattered piles of smoldering ashes and several lumps of slag that might have been rocks previously. Huge burned ruts raked the ground. He had seen the remains of razed villages that looked less catastrophic. Guilt suffused his features. "I did that?" His voice died away to a whisper.

Xena had regained some of her composure, and gave a half smile. "And Gabrielle slept right through it. It's a good thing you were facing away from us, though."

The young man groaned, dropping back to his pelt. "Oh, gods, Xena, I could have killed somebody. I could have killed you. Or Gabby."

She patted him reassuringly. "But you didn't. Go back to sleep. We'll talk about it in the morning." The Warrior Princess crawled back to her own bedroll on the other side of the fire beside the still somnolent bard. Soon her breathing was deep and even. Joxer didn't sleep much more that night.

The young man was silent during breakfast, and wandered away soon thereafter. Xena found him in the woods, his staff having followed him. The Warrior Princess still hadn't decided what to make of the staff. Joxer treated it like a pet, Gabrielle like a demon, and the staff itself seemed to be mildly amused by both. It also seemed to have developed a crush on the Amazon's staff, not realizing perhaps that it was not equally equipped. Joxer would leave his stick by his belongings, and come back and find it beside Gabrielle's things almost every day, usually in close proximity to her defensive weapon. Xena wondered if it thought the other staff was simply as blind to its feelings as the Amazon was to the wizard's.

Joxer was pacing, obviously distraught about the damage he had caused in his sleep. Xena couldn't make out the words, but he was apparently talking it out to his staff, which indeed listened well. She almost hated to stop him since he needed to vent the troubling emotions.


He whirled around at the sound of her voice, his panic clearly written on his face. "Xena!" he breathed with relief. The torrent of words came pouring out, almost too quickly to follow. "You can help me figure out what to do. I 'm willing to stop sleeping, but I'm not sure how long I can keep that up without using my magic, and not using the magic is the whole point, right? Maybe you could tie me up each night, and gag me so I can't do any spells. But I don't know if I really need my hands and mouth to make stuff happen. Maybe there are some herbs you can give me so I won't dream, or."

"Joxer," Xena interrupted. She knew he was just getting started. "I think you need to start using your magic again, and this won't happen."

His face hardened. "No." She gave him a doubtful look. "I will never be a real wizard, and I don't want to screw up anymore, so no."

The Warrior Princess sat down and patted the log beside her. He was still pacing, and it was starting to make her dizzy. "Sit," she commanded.

Once he settled in she tried to explain. "Joxer, you probably noticed your body is changing. Gabrielle mentioned that you have a temper now she never noticed before. You seem to be eating a lot more these days, but you aren't gaining any weight. I think the problem last night has something to do with all that." His puzzled gaze implored her to go on. "I think it's a little like when you went through adolescence. Your voice changed, your appetite changed, and, uh, mmm. other things happened as well." She looked at him hopefully, not really wanting to spell out the details of what she suspected. But her subtlety was lost on the young wizard, and she sighed. "Joxer, when you became a teenager, you probably started thinking about sex. And with all that built up desire and no outlet, sometimes your body took care of things for you, at night, right?" Xena was blushing, not a common occurrence for her, and looking everywhere except at the man beside her.

"Oh, I know all about having desires but no outlet," Joxer all but growled, gazing unconsciously towards the campsite as if he could see the bard standing there. Suddenly, the meaning of what he had just heard hit him like a ton of boulders. "You mean I'm having a magical wet dream?" He gulped and looked at Xena, realizing what he had just blurted out, then looked away in relief when he saw she was as uncomfortable with the subject as he now was. He shook it off and steeled himself with determination. "I can't accept that. I'll stay awake tonight, and tomorrow we'll figure out a way to control this without my having to do magic. I'll stay a distance from your camp tonight, so I won't be any danger to you guys if I do fall asleep. But I refuse to be a wizard anymore."

The day passed uneventfully. They were heading vaguely towards the coast because Xena just felt they should, and they made a good distance's travel during daylight. Gabrielle questioned both Joxer and Xena about the changes to their previous campsite, but neither one would even look her in the eye, let alone answer her. In fact, neither seemed much in the mood for conversation. The bard settled into an almost jealous pout, which neither of the others noticed. That fact deepened it. When dusk set in, camp was made, and true to his word, Joxer set up a long ways from the women. This Gabrielle didn't bother to question, since her companions were obviously not talking to her today.

The young man spread his pelts on the ground in an isolated clearing far enough away from his friends to keep them safe. He made a small fire and sat and thought about his problem and the possible solutions. He knew he could stay awake for one night, but that was a short-term fix. Maybe if they found a hypnotist in the next town. He'd heard stories of how they could manipulate a person's mind to make them do whatever they were told. That was an idea he could share with Xena tomorrow. Xena. Yeah, sure, magic is like sex. You forget, Xena, even if I do it poorly, at least magic is currently a part of my life. But that was not a fruitful path of thought to travel. He' d decided after his last visit to Meg that doing that sullied somehow the love he felt for Gabrielle, and he wouldn't do it anymore. So maybe Xena's comparison wasn't so far off, after all. There were some parallels.

"Joxer, I need you," the sexy feminine voice cooed in his ear. "Let me help you with that shirt." He felt fastenings being undone, and he smiled widely. Then he opened his eyes, and realized that he had been asleep, and those really were Gabrielle's hands all over his now exposed chest.

"Gabby, STOP!"

The bard pouted. "You don't want me Joxer?"

"NO! I mean, yes, but not like this. You're, uh, oh, damn! The dreams. Xena had to bring up sex today."

"Xena brought up sex? With you? I thought she was my friend. Taking my man like that."

"No, Gabby. Stop it. Not that way, not her and . no, NO. I need to change you back. Let me think." He concentrated the best he could while slapping her hands away from the laces of his trousers. Finally, he articulated a spell that got her to go back to her own bedroll, go to sleep, and hopefully forget all about what had just happened. Joxer didn't sleep again that night, either.

When Joxer failed to show up for breakfast, Xena went looking for him. She found him in the same, much larger clearing surrounded by rocks of various shapes and sizes, and more than a few stunned-looking small creatures of indeterminate species. She sniggered. "Did you decide I was right?"

Her smile fell away when she saw the strained and exhausted face that looked back at her. "Xena," he pleaded in a voice heavy with fatigue, "is there somewhere I can go where people can teach me what I'm supposed to be doing? I mean, really? People who've done it themselves?"

She made a lightning quick decision. "We'll find the first ship to Britannia as soon as we reach the coast, Joxer. Right now you need to sleep."

He stared at her blankly, too tired to argue. She gathered his pelt and took him by the hand, bringing him back to the campsite where Gabrielle was cleaning up after the meal. Tucked in by the Warrior Princess, the budding wizard slept straight through to the next morning.

Hands on him, a beloved voice. "Joxer, wake up." No panic in the voice, and no seduction in the hands. "You've been asleep for a whole day and night, now wake up!" Irritation. Things must have been normal last night. He opened his eyes.

"All day and all night?"

Gabrielle nodded. "Xena found you in the woods surrounded by stuff you must have conjured or something, half-dead from exhaustion. She brought you back here. That was early yesterday."

"That long and all I did was sleep? Nothing, uh, weird happened?"

"I sorta thought you sleeping for all that time was weird, but outside of that? No."

He pushed up to a sitting position, noticing the Warrior Princess emerging from the woods behind the bard. "Xena, I guess you were right. About the," he waved his hands, "outlet thing. It worked."

She nodded grimly. "And you were right - you need someone who knows more about what's going on than I do to train you. We'll go to Britannia and find the wizard I used to know. He'll know what to do with you."

The bard stood up. "Why do I have the feeling there's half this discussion I 've missed somewhere?"

Xena lifted an eyebrow at her best friend. "Because there is?" she responded teasingly.

Gabrielle lifted her eyebrow back. "Gonna tell me?"

"NO!" answered male and female voices together, Joxer's far more panicked than Xena's. The bard sighed. She hated this feeling that they had secrets from her. For some reason this thought unearthed a memory of a half-forgotten dream involving her, Xena, Joxer, jealousy, and - no, she was sure she'd forgotten that dream; she needed to forget that dream. Gabrielle shook her head to clear it.

Gabrielle threw a glance over her shoulder at the warrior wizard, who was far enough behind he couldn't hear her. They had been traveling for the better part of the morning, and most of the time he had been right beside them. She glared at her best friend. "Britannia? You do realize that requires we take a ship? Unless of course you think his magic is strong enough to get all three of us there by itself?"

Xena gazed down from Argo's back. "I hate to think of where we might end up if he tried to get us there with magic just now." She turned her eyes back towards the young man. He had conjured up three beanbags and was juggling them, the staff propelling itself dutifully beside him. "He doesn't have that kind of control yet. But his potential is great - don't get me wrong. Someday he may be capable of that."

"But Xena, power of that magnitude rivals that of the gods!"

"Perhaps it does. Before Eire invaded the country, the gods in Britannia were never a very big deal partly due to the wizards and witches and their power. The incursion of the Celts just reinforced this. Druidism is simply a religion that was started by the mages long ago. Some have even speculated that our gods were the parents of the mages, who started out as demi-gods but interbred enough to dilute the bloodline, and that Dagda, father of the Druidic gods, and Zeus are actually one and the same. And of course, there is Math ap Mathonwy, who, although recognized as a Celtic god, is really just the ultimate wizard."

"So, in a way, Joxer is a god now?" Gabrielle was as troubled by this idea now as she had been when it had first occurred to her.

"Yes, and no. He could have powers to rival those of the gods, if properly trained. However, he will never be immortal, although he could live into his hundreds - several hundreds. A lot depends on the strength of the wizard that gifted him. I have a feeling he was very strong, and that's why it's so important that Joxer's training be properly conducted."

"So we have to," the bard forced out the word, "sail to Britannia to help him." A beanbag flew forward from a poorly aimed toss, and the new wizard chased after it, just managing not to plow down the bard in his haste. "You are SO lucky I like you," she snarled at him, leaving him nodding in agreement, although he didn't know why.

Gabrielle stewed while Xena negotiated their place on the vessel to Britannia. "I hate sailing, makes me sick," she mumbled over and over.

Xena and Joxer approached. "I can take care of that, you know, Gabrielle," Xena said, interrupting the bard's miserable litany.

The younger woman's eyes grew wide with fright. "And have me eating all kinds of crap in the meantime? I don't know which is worse!"

"What's the problem?" Joxer queried.

"You've never sailed with us before, have you? She gets deathly ill," Xena explained.

"When we took the boat to Sysiphus' Island she was fine, but I guess she really wasn't herself then, either, was she?"

Xena smiled sardonically. "None of us were. Plus, that was a much smaller boat, and a shorter trip."

"Excuse me," the unhappy bard broke in, "but I'm still here. Anyone want to acknowledge that? Besides," she said, in morbid tones, "They want us to get on the boat."

Joxer walked behind the bard up the gangplank, deep in thought. Just before they boarded, he reached ahead and touched her, mumbling in that strange language he still occasionally used. Gabrielle spun on her heel, hand poised to smack him, but drew back when she noticed the staff appeared to be watching her. "What did you do to me?" she asked the wizard, irritation in her voice.

"Nothing," he said innocently.

"I felt something when you touched me."

He frowned. "Yeah, you felt me touch you. Go on - we can't stand here all day."

She glared at him once more for good measure, then stormed the rest of the way up to the ship to join Xena. The wizard grinned, staff in hand, humming as he followed her aboard.

The water had been calm, and the winds had been brisk. They were nearly to the tip of Italia before Gabrielle realized she hadn't felt the slightest bit seasick. That was when the storm started.

It didn't worry the bard when the wind picked up a bit. She even managed to ignore the gathering clouds. But soon the boat was pitching and yawing wildly, and sailors around her were muttering their prayers to Poseidon as they scurried to batten down for the squall. She saw the waves begin breaking higher and higher, and felt mild surprise that her stomach was handling all the movement quite well. It wasn't long before both Xena and Joxer had found her and ordered her to go below, even though they both appeared to plan to help out on deck. The bard wasn't about to miss the action, however, especially if her two friends were involved. So when the huge wave washed over the railing, nearly turning the whole ship on its side, she stood right in its path.

Joxer felt the tap on his shoulder, and his staff seemed to be pointing at something that stood right beneath the crest of the enormous wave. When the wizard realized it was Gabrielle, his heart stood still for an instant. Grabbing the stick, he raced to get her in his line of sight, and with hastily mouthed words, managed to charm a rope into tying her to the nearest mast. Once his love was safe, however, there was no time for him to get away from the descending rush of water. Clinging tightly to his staff, the young man was violently swept into the Mediterranean.

"Joxer!" screamed Gabrielle, struggling with her bindings. Spying another dark head, she screamed, "Xena!" But her voice carried easily in the suddenly still air.

Joxer tried to hold onto the staff, but it was pulled from his hands as he dropped through the water. He knew he had about reached the end of his ability to hold his breath, and had almost resigned himself to death as his world started to go dizzy. Still, with almost his last coherent thought, he wished he could breathe underwater, and his lungs filled with air as he gasped. It took a few deep breaths before he realized he had conjured the ability that would keep him alive, and he stopped dropping through the depths and began consciously swimming.

The two women looked over the side of the ship to the staff floating forlornly without its owner in the calm, clear water. The storm had ended, apparently as soon as Joxer had gone under. Gabrielle was crying. "I should have gone beneath decks as soon as you told me to, Xena. He was washed overboard because he was saving me from my own stupidity. Now he's drowned, and it's all my fault!"

Xena never looked at her friend, but studied the floating wooden stick as if it held answers. Suddenly she grabbed the bard's arm and said, "He's okay - look!" The blonde woman gazed at the staff just in time to notice the fading glow, then it began to move slowly but methodically to the west. "He's okay, Gabrielle. He cast some kind of spell to save himself. I bet the staff, even though it's magic, can't overcome the fact that it's made of wood and therefore floats. So it's just following him. Captain!" the Warrior Princess called out, "Follow that stick!"

Meanwhile, under the surface, the young wizard found himself surrounded by half naked beautiful women, who were pointing at him and giggling. While he appreciated the view, he did wonder what it was they found so amusing about him? He was no longer wearing his armor, since he found it vibrated as he pronounced spells, so that wasn't the issue. He found himself feeling particularly grateful for the change of wardrobe as he swam, anyway, although he did find it necessary to pull off his boots. His green shirt billowed about him, and bubbles rose from his nose as he breathed, but the girls hair floated and they bubbled in similar fashion, so that wasn't terribly unique. Maybe they just found him amusing in the same way as the people who rolled their eyes and sighed with a smile when he stumbled or did something else stupid. His face fell. Suddenly, though, the group parted, and a voice like water rushing over a hundred falls asked, "What have we here?"

One of the young women giggled again, and answered, in a tinkling stream of a voice, "/i>Maylia saw this dry-lander and liked him, so she grabbed him. But all the other dry-lander toys we've taken from the big floating things stopped moving after we brought them here, and this one still wiggles. He's cute." The other water girls giggled again in agreement.

Joxer finally saw the watery figure, a man-shaped liquid form as large as Mount Aetna. He shook a wet finger at one of the group and his voice rushed again. "Maylia, I have told you girls time and again that you can't have mortals as toys, they drown. Although this one is obviously something different." The huge figure turned to Joxer. "Catfish got your tongue, boy? Can you not speak?"

Joxer gulped and attempted an answer. "Yes, sir." He stopped, startled by the sound of his own voice, like waves breaking on the shore. Seeing the large figure's impatient expression, he continued. "I was on the ship with Xena and Gabby when this storm blew in out of nowhere. The next thing I knew, I was here, and all these girls were around me."

The big face wore a frown. "Xena, huh? Never liked that girl - she's a bucketful of trouble. Still, I shouldn't be surprised that you know her - she always knows the special ones."

Joxer waved his hands, slowly due to the water resistance. "No, sir, I'm not special at all." He considered expounding on Joxer the Mighty, but had given that particular part of his persona little quarter of late. He gave some thought to where he was, and whom it might be he was conversing with, and the fact that he was alive at all. "We-l-l-l, except for being a wizard. And interesting things always happen to me. But that's because I spend time with Xena, mostly."

The big figure laughed with liquid mirth. "Of course, a wizard. I should have recognized the power signature. We might even be distantly related, boy. Who's your father? He ever mention a great-great-great Uncle Poseidon?"

"Poseidon?" Joxer gasped in shock, partially at his own stupidity for not immediately recognizing the water god. "No sir. My father wasn't a wizard, sir. I inherited my power. But it's true then, that the mages descended from the gods?"

"Nonsense, boy," the water god said gruffly. "You may have inherited the power, but you have the blood. You probably caught on fairly quickly, didn't you? Somewhere in your family line there's a godly relative. Yes, they came from us, ages ago, and they've caused us nothing but trouble ever since. Sort of like that Xena woman does. How'd a nice boy like you end up hanging around with her, anyway?"

Joxer noticed they had been moving as they talked. One of the girls from earlier had followed them at a discrete distance, the one Poseidon had scolded. The wizard protested defensively to the large figure, "She's one of my best friends," and immediately wished he hadn't said anything.

The god lifted what on a creature made of something other than pure water would have been an eyebrow. "No accounting for taste, I guess. It's a good thing I like you, boy."

Joxer nodded in agreement, realizing just how good a thing this was. Poseidon had a reputation as the moodiest of the gods, which was saying a lot with that bunch. Best to stay on his good side.

They swam into a beautiful castle carved from coral in every color of the rainbow and decorated with gems. The girl behind them hesitated at the door. Poseidon snorted. "Come on, Maylia, come in. I know you've been following us."

The girl, who Joxer noticed had fins instead of feet, swam to the water god. In a high clear bubbling fountain voice, the girl asked, "May I have him when you're done with him, uncle?"

The water god rolled his eyes at Joxer. "Nereids - they're all alike." Turning to the young thing his voice was stern, but gentle. "He belongs to himself, Maylia, not you, even if you did go to all the trouble to try and get him."

The young woman's lower lip stuck out, making her look like a small child. "Doesn't he like me?"

Joxer smiled at the girl encouragingly. "I don't even know you," he told her gently, "but I'm sure I could like you, if my heart didn't already belong to someone else."

The young Nereid's eyes grew wide. "But she's a dry-lander, isn't she? You can't go there - you'll die!"

"I'm a dry-lander, too."

She shook her head emphatically. "Dry-lander's can't wiggle once they're here. They can't talk to us. Maybe you were a dry-lander, but you aren't anymore."

Poseidon patted the girl's head. "I have to admire your choice, Maylia. This one is special. Things seem so simple to you, but in the world of magic, they aren't always that way. I'm afraid he isn't one of us, and he has to go back." Turning, the god grasped the reigns of a chariot the wizard knew hadn't just been there, and gestured for Joxer to climb into the seat. Considering the size of the god, the chariot was not so terribly large. But considering the size of the mortal wizard, the thing was overwhelming. Joxer began to swim up to the bench that loomed above him.

Xena and Gabrielle watched the staff as it floated, now idle. They had followed it for quite a ways, but it was now stopped, waiting patiently for its wizard to return. Xena looked at the bard. "You seem to have calmed down," she stated, warily. Her friend had waged wanton hysterics for a while, then sobbed quietly. It wasn't until the staff began moving at a steady and determined clip that the young blonde had settled into sniffles punctuated by the occasional hiccup. Gabrielle stared at the staff, still too suffused with guilt to speak.

Xena rested her arms on the railing, looking at the bard's blotchy tear-streaked face. "He loves you, you know," the Warrior Princess offered, her gaze once again on the patient stick.

"I love him too," the blonde woman answered, almost absently.

"No-o-o," Xena drawled thoughtfully. "When you say that, the way you say 'love' makes me think of kittens, and baby bunnies, and rainbows in clear blue skies. Warm, sweet." Gabrielle turned to nod at her friend, wondering what she was talking about. That was sort of exactly what she meant. Wasn't that how friends were supposed to feel about each other? Xena's gaze bore onto hers as the warrior leaned back against the ships railing. "When he says it, it isn't warm and fuzzy at all. It burns inside like a fire, eating everything in its path. I'm sure he isn't dead, but he'd gladly die if it would save you."

Gabrielle gasped, giving Xena the assurance that she had made her point, no matter how hard it might be for her friend to grasp in one chunk. The bard needed to realize that with the changes their friend was going through, she might want to reexamine her own feelings about him. Then she realized that the smaller woman was looking over her shoulder at the water beyond. Turning, she stifled her own shocked outburst. Two horses that were at least twice as long as their ship were pulling from the waves a chariot that would fit the average Greek city inside with room to spare. Holding the reigns was a huge male figure formed completely of water. And beside that figure on the seat of the chariot, almost too small in comparison to even notice, was Joxer.

"Well, boy, is there anything else you need from me right now?" The huge voice whirred and eddied and rushed.

"No, sir," Joxer replied, noticing he was still speaking the strange water language himself, "Except if you could get me my - " Before the words left his mouth, the staff had sprung joyfully from its resting place and into his hand, "-staff. Never mind." The wizard looked from where he was to the ship, seemingly leagues away, and tried to figure out how to get over there.

"See, you've underestimated yourself again. You didn't need my help. However, I can do this much for you." The great large hand carefully scooped up the man from the seat and deposited him gently on the deck of the waiting vessel.

Gabrielle launched herself at the wet wizard and wrapped her arms around his waist. "I'm so glad you're back, Joxer! Are you okay?" He gave her an awkward hug and looked mystified.

Xena walked over and patted the young man hesitantly on the shoulder. "Yeah," she added ineffectually, still keeping one nervous eye on the water god.

"I make them uncomfortable. I'd better go," the big god rumbled. A feminine figure seemed to materialize from the water at the god's side and whispered in his ear. The huge head nodded, and the girl disappeared as a wave washed over the side of the ship, reforming into a very naked young lady in front of Joxer.

"I'm sorry I stole you. I'm glad you didn't stop wiggling." She stood on her tiptoes and kissed Joxer on the cheek.

"Maylia, you have feet!" Joxer blurted out in surprise, a little startled to hear his proper voice again.

The girl nodded and blushed. The crew of the vessel was far more interested in Maylia's other visible parts. She screwed up her face, obviously concentrating very hard. "Good-bye, Joxer," she managed to verbalize in passable Greek.

"Good-bye," the wizard said gently, as the girl melted back into a puddle and slid over the edge of the deck and back to the ocean. Joxer noticed both the woman still attached to his waist and the Warrior Princess staring at him, expecting some kind of explanation. He shrugged. "Nereids - they're all alike."

The water god waved as he and his team were swallowed back into the water. "Don't be a stranger," he called in Greek just before his head disappeared.

Xena looked as if she had tasted something funny. Gabrielle was still clinging tightly to his waist, now resting her head on his chest, seemingly unaware of her own actions. The staff stood patiently to one side with an air of relief. There were a few minutes of uncertain silence, which Joxer finally broke.

"Uh, is there anything to eat here? I'm starving!"

Gabrielle looked up at him, then a light came on in her eyes and she released him suddenly, waving her hands as if she didn't know to whom they belonged anymore. "Uh, um, I'll go see!" she announced, a bit too brightly, and she turned and scurried away. She found herself hearing the words Xena had pronounced just before Poseidon had appeared. It burns inside like a fire, eating everything in its path. Maybe, if that was really what Joxer was feeling, it explained why she felt so warm after holding him.

Joxer ran a hand through his damp hair and raised a brow at Xena. She shrugged. They turned together and headed towards the galley, Joxer's mind taking inventory. I helped Gabby with her seasickness, tied her up, made myself breathe water and changed back again - I wonder if that's enough? For good measure, he concentrated, and found himself wearing dry clothes again. That should be enough. I think I can safely go to sleep after dinner. Leaning his suddenly exhausted frame heavily on his staff, he followed Xena down the stairs.