Idylls of the Conqueror
Copyright (c) 1998

by atara

For Ruth


This story takes place some time after my story "The Dark Side of my Soul."
It's rated NC-17 for graphic sex of every variety--f/f, m/m, and m/f, most
of it very kinky. If bdsm or any of those gender combinations offends you,
by all means don't waste your time--stop now. If, however, you have a
taste for polymorphous perversity, please read on. It's not essential that
you read the other stories in the series first, but they will provide some
insight into what's going on here. Starting with my story ". . . But We're
Not the Same," I'm essentially creating an alternate timeline, which
branches off after the events in "The Debt" (Parts 1 and 2). In this
timeline, Hope has sort of conveniently vanished, and Solan is still living
with the Centaurs. The other stories in the series and my other XWP and
HTLJ stories can be found at Giffstein Productions:

Xena, Gabrielle, Ares, Hercules, Iolaus, Callisto, and most of the other
characters are the property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No
copyright infringement is intended, and no financial profit is anticipated.
:-) Please check with me before archiving or distributing. Many grateful
thank-yous to Ruth, Mike, and Blade for beta-reading and encouragement.
Feedback welcome at

This is Part 1 of 2 Parts.

Chapter 1


The God of War paced around his temple, fuming. It had been months since
Xena and his goody-two-shoes half-brother had humiliated him, but Ares
could be very patient in holding a grudge. If he was going to get revenge,
he was going to do it right, and this required careful planning. And he
*was* going to do it right.

His glance idly slipped to the naked warrior, sleeping spent on the floor,
his young body already adorned with the badges of battles fought in Ares'
name. He had been amusing himself with this one, as he did with so many
others, but the release of tension was only temporary. He had worn this
one out, fucking first his mouth and then his ass, then casually,
offhandedly, stroking him to orgasm because, after all, the boy had tried
hard to please his god, and he was attractive, his battle scars so
pleasingly defined against his skin. But now the boy was asleep, and the
God of War's mind had returned, obsessively, to the same track, one that
carved deeper ruts with every circuit around his mind.

He smiled to himself. Yes, Hercules and Xena deserved to be punished, but
he had learned a lot during Xena's recovery from her captivity by Callisto.
The most important piece of information was just how deeply, ineradicably
in love his pathetic half-brother still was with the warrior princess,
despite his relationship with his blond boy-toy, Iolaus. The other thing
he had learned was how deep Xena's commitment was to doing good. Ares
finally had to admit, reluctantly and with no small degree of disgust, that
her essential goodness had been a part of her all along, buried deep
inside, and she'd been unfortunate enough to meet mentors who drew it
out--and Hercules would have to pay for that as well. He knew that if his
plan for revenge was going to work, he had to appeal to her integrity as
well as her dark side. But he was forming a strategy to deal with that
obstacle as well. He laughed to himself. If he pulled this off, it was
going to be very, very satisfying. And he *was* going to pull it off.

Meanwhile, he decided to check on the objects of his contemplations, adding
fuel to the fire of his desire for revenge. Removing hs attention from the
displays of weapons that bristled around his temple and from the sleeping
warrior, he called up a window with which he could view events at a
distance . . .

* * *

Xena and Gabrielle were indulging themselves with a night in a nice room in
an inn. A tasty dinner, some wine, and a hot bath had inflamed them both,
and they were determined to make the most of the comfort of their
surroundings. Gabrielle had seen more and more of Xena's playfulness and
lust return over the months. She was no longer adverse to pinning
Gabrielle's hands down while she explored the bard's body, or tying her up
while she teased her lover relentlessly, bringing her close to orgasm and
backing off again and again, until Gabrielle was nearly mad with lust and
frustration. Gabrielle craved nothing so much as having Xena's entire hand
inside her, rocking and pumping her into an explosive climax. Xena, for
her part, marvelled at the greediness of her young lover, determined to
give her bard everything she wanted or needed.

Gabrielle had been the soul of patience during her recovery. Xena knew
she'd been frustrated when she seemed better, but then spiralled down again
into an abyss of terror and despair. Her second encounter with Callisto
had relieved her of her soul-wrenching fear of the blonde goddess, but had
sent her into spasms of guilt and self-loathing about her warlord past.
But a series of opportunities to do good, and Gabrielle's patient loyalty
and reassurance had eventually pushed Xena's self-flagellation back to its
usual background level. It was a continuous stream coursing through her
mind, pushing her to do good and disallowing her self-forgiveness, but it
was no longer the raging river that drowned out any other thoughts. She
could laugh again now and play, and her own lust for her insatiable lover
flamed up anew.

Sometimes they ran across Hercules and Iolaus, the two of them more
harmoniously comfortable together than any time since Hercules' misguided
and tragic marriage to Serena. Xena would smile to see how proudly
Hercules showed off his ownership of the golden-haired hunter, noting that
he reassured Iolaus at the same time with his gestures of possession. The
four of them would share a meal, and Hercules would lightly rest his hand
on the back of his lover's neck, and Iolaus would inevitably shudder with
pleasure. Xena couldn't deny that Hercules still looked at her with an
unfulfilled longing, and she certainly felt a measure of desire for him,
but they both knew it was just going to have to stay unfulfilled. Life was
pretty good right now, and you can't have everything.

So Xena mused as she soaped her strawberry blonde bard in the tub, pausing
for a swig of wine now and then. Her hands glided over taut muscles and
lush curves, moving from Gabrielle's back to her abdomen, to her thighs,
then up to her breasts. Gabrielle was squirming and the wine was only
stoking her inner fires. "Be. Patient," said Xena, firmly, but with an
undertone of amusement in her rich voice. "I like to make you wait. Got

"Yes," muttered Gabrielle, as Xena's words shot a bolt of desire into her
groin. It was delicious to surrender to the warrior's control, and the
frustration made it all the more piquant, but some part of her still
rebelled and wanted to assert itself. When they got out of the tub, the
rebellious side took over, and she gave in to an irresistable urge to pinch
the warrior's rear end, rather hard.

Xena whirled, her blue eyes blazing. "Oops," giggled the bard.

"Oops, indeed!" snapped the warrior, fighting to keep a grin from breaking
out on her face. "You'll have to be punished for that. Of course, since
you obviously want to be punished, maybe the perfect punishment would be
not to punish you."

Gabrielle stood, naked, her hands on her hips and said defiantly, "Well,
then, Xena, you're saying I can keep pinching you and get away with it.
I'd suggest you watch your back."

"I'd rather watch yours," purred the warrior menacingly, suddenly scooping
the bard up in her arms. She sat down on the bed, flipped Gabrielle over
on her lap, grabbed Gabrielle's wrists with her left hand, holding them at
the small of her back, and smacked her legs apart with the right.

"Xe-na!" squealed Gabrielle in surprise.

"So this isn't what you want?" asked Xena casually, lightly stroking the
firm buttocks of the squirming bard flung over her lap. A finger
experimentally slipped inside Gabrielle, and Xena noted, "This certainly
*seems* to be what you want. That isn't bath water in there."

Gabrielle growled and squirmed harder, as Xena lightly stroked between her
lips, drawing out more of her dewy secretions. "You're going to have to
tell me you want it; you know that, Gabrielle," said Xena.

Xena was always scrupulous in securing Gabrielle's consent when they
played; even slightly intoxicated, she kept a leash on her dark passions.
She knew Gabrielle craved the games they played together, but Xena did not
want to violate her lover's trust or go one step beyond pleasure into
anything that would cause Gabrielle real pain or terror or humiliation.
She knew how those felt, and she would lacerate her own flesh before she
inflicted such on Gabrielle.

"I want it, Xena, please," begged Gabrielle, embarrassed, yet trusting, and
fully aware of her lover's scruples.

"I can arrange that." The darkly smooth voice of the warrior flowed over
the helpless bard, and Gabrielle felt more moisture seep from between her

She drew in her breath sharply with a gasped, "Oh, yes!" when Xena's hand
first came down on her needy buttocks. She raised herself up to meet the
descending smacks, which made her bottom tingle and flush warm. Gabrielle
sighed happily, secure in the feeling of safety and trust that rushed over
her. She offered herself to her warrior, body and soul, again and again,
and each time she was thrilled that Xena accepted the gift. And Xena felt
awed and humbled by such trust, and her desire to keep it motivated and
inspired her every day.

Xena was happily admiring the wriggling body sprawled over her lap, while
she delivered measured spanks to the bard's firm buttocks. Gabrielle was
in perfect condition, but Xena effortlessly held her down and smiled as she
monitored the way Gabrielle's squeaks and yelps of pretend protest began to
transmute themselves into ragged and shuddering breaths. Once the warrior
was satisfied that her victim's cheeks were nicely warmed, she again
slipped her fingers between Gabrielle's legs. "You *did* like that," the
warrior remarked.

"Uh-huh!" gasped Gabrielle. "I like what you're doing now, too!"

"Really?" asked Xena, raising her eyebrows slightly, as her fingers
deliberately probed and explored her lover's center.

Gabrielle was too aroused to mind being teased, and the teasing only made
her whole body flush even hotter. It was indescribably enticing to be in
the control of someone as powerful as Xena, someone she could trust not to
abuse that power. She knew that Xena could readily do whatever she wanted
with Gabrielle, but she also knew that Xena's first priority was her
pleasure and safety. And Xena truly did have many skills. Gabrielle began
to pant, as Xena formed three fingers into a wedge and began slowly sliding
them in and out of the receptive bard.

"Oh harder, please!" begged Gabrielle.

"Didn't I say something earlier about being patient?" returned the warrior.
Xena released Gabrielle's wrists, so she could gather a breast into her
free hand and toy with it. Now Gabrielle had to contend with a finger
circling her nipple, seeming to harden it further on each pass, as well as
Xena's fingers entering her and slipping out at a maddeningly deliberate
pace. Gabrielle was now groaning with frustration, but when Xena neatly
tucked her thumb into her anus, Gabrielle emitted a sudden squeak. It was
a sound the warrior adored, and she laughed appreciatively. Figuring that
her lover would soon be just about overwhelmed with stimulation, she
squeezed and released the breast she held captive in an increasingly faster
tempo, while speeding up her penetrating strokes inside Gabrielle

"Ohyeahohyeahohyeah!" exclaimed the bard inarticulately, as Xena brought
her to a convulsive climax.

Xena pulled her up into a sitting position on her lap, kissing her
repeatedly and murmuring, "How I love you, Gabrielle. I don't know what I
did to be so lucky, but I hope I keep doing it."

Sated and limp, Gabrielle returned, breathlessly, "Right now, Xena, I feel
like the lucky one."

* * *

"That was very entertaining," muttered the god of war, "but couldn't you
lose the sappy endearments? Yecch! Good thing I won't have to put up with
*that* much longer."

Next he turned his attention to the other object of his plans . . .

* * *

Hercules and Iolaus were camping out, on their way back home from stopping
a small war that Ares had had an interest in. Hercules was contemplating
his lover's golden hair and skin by firelight. Iolaus grew embarassed
under the demigod's hungry scrutiny (unaware, of course, that there was
another watcher), and grinned self-deprecatingly and looked away.

"Look at me," ordered Hercules calmly. Iolaus looked back at him and
squirmed slightly. Even after all their time together, first as friends
and then as lovers, the demigod's possessive gaze still aroused and
embarrassed him. Admiring the play of firelight on Iolaus' body, Hercules
had an idea. "I want you naked; I want to see all of you."

"Herc?" asked Iolaus.

"Do it."

Iolaus pulled off his boots, then nimbly leapt to his feet to pull off the
rest of his clothes. Hercules was lying on his side, one arm supporting
his head, and he showed no signs of undressing as well. "Now come here,"
he ordered. He grabbed Iolaus' wrist and pulled him down onto his knees.
He grasped a handful of golden hair and pulled Iolaus' head toward his
mouth, staking a claim to it with easy confidence. Iolaus moaned as
Hercules' tongue invaded his mouth, while a finger and thumb simultaneously
began tugging at his nipple.

"Tell me," demanded the demigod, breaking the kiss and repositioning Iolaus
with one hand, so he was sitting back on his heels, knees wide.

"I'm y-yours," stammered the blond, fully aroused and already aching with need.

"And this?" asked Hercules, wrapping a possessive hand around Iolaus' cock.

"It's yours. All of me is yours, Herc."

"That's right. Now, I've had a long day, and I want to be entertained. I
want to watch you pleasure yourself. Perform for me."

"What?" asked Iolaus.

Hercules smiled, his eyes glinting with amusement in the firelight. "You
heard me. Over there--where I can see all of you." Iolaus, stunned, moved
automatically where directed. Hercules fished in a nearby pack, pulled out
a vial, and tossed it to his companion.

Iolaus' reflexes were independent of his conscious mind, and he
automatically caught the vial, while his thoughts raced and tumbled in
confusion. On the one hand, he was surprised this had never been asked of
him before. On the other hand, he wasn't sure he could do something so
private in front of an audience, even if that audience was Hercules.

Very quietly, Hercules said, "Tell me what you're thinking, Iolaus."

"You want to know what I'm *thinking*?" Iolaus blurted in surprise. "Since

Suddenly he found himself being dragged by the ankle and flipped over. Two
hard smacks landed on his buttocks, and he was released. "I told you to
tell me what you're thinking, not to talk back."

Iolaus' erect member throbbed at these words and at their calm delivery.
Hercules mastered him in his own quiet way, never raising his voice, but
reinforcing his position periodically with a brief, but convincing, display
of his strength. Iolaus loved it. Something in him yearned to be used and
owned and appreciated in only the way an owner cherished a prized
possession, which was one reason Xena had had her way with him so easily.
He hadn't even realized at the time how much he had been inwardly hoping
Hercules would claim him as more than a friend. He had been initially
struck by Xena's beauty, but watching her fight had pushed him over the
edge. This was someone who had a strong hand, and he was overwhelmed with
realizing how much he had craved being subject to such strength.

But that was all past and forgiven, if not forgotten. Right now, he was in
the humiliating position of having to talk about his feelings about
Hercules' demand that he perform for him. "I dunno, Herc. It's scary, I
guess. I've never let anyone watch me do that before. I . . . uh . . .
well . . . it makes me kind of squirm when you look at me. And doing that
. . . "

"Good," said Hercules decisively. "I'm going to like that. Now go ahead
and remember you're doing this for *me*."

"Yes, Herc," murmured Iolaus. He lay on his back and reached for the vial
of oil, then started, as a strong hand pulled his legs wide apart.

"Wait," said Hercules, getting up to roll up a blanket and pillow it under
Iolaus' head. "I want to see your face too."

Iolaus flushed, and his hand shook as he coated himself with oil. He
realized that being manhandled in Hercules' usual effortless and impersonal
manner actually allowed him to distance himself from what was going on. He
was vulnerable, but matters were, he convinced himself, out of his control.
Now he felt exposed in a whole new way.

Hercules had returned to his reclining position, settling himself in an
exaggeratedly comfortable manner. "Eyes open," he said abruptly. "If this
were easy for you, what would be the point of it?"

Iolaus opened his eyes and looked into the smiling face of his lover. He
took a deep breath, then circled his shaft with his hand and began sliding
it slowly up and down. He groaned and automatically closed his eyes, but
remembered and popped them open again. "Take your time," said Hercules
smoothly. "I'm enjoying this."

Surprisingly, Iolaus found that he was enjoying it too. He came to a
sudden decision to flaunt his status as prized possession. He stroked his
cock with slow, smooth motions, letting his whole body writhe in response
to his increasing arousal. If the big man wanted a show, then that's what
he was going to get. His other hand moved to his chest, rolling a nipple
between thumb and forefinger. Hercules smiled and nodded approvingly.
Iolaus gathered some of the fluid seeping from the opening onto his thumb,
and stroked the head of his cock in hard circles before grasping the shaft
again tightly and returning to moving his whole hand up and down. His
mouth was slightly parted as his breathing became more rapid, the pressure
of his own fingers on his nipple grew harder, and his hips pumped into his
own hand. The sheen of sweat on his body enhanced the gleam of firelight
on his skin, and Hercules reflected that this had to be one of the most
amazing and beautiful spectacles he had ever witnessed.

"I'm close!" gasped Iolaus, instinctively knowing he should ask permission
to come.

"Go ahead," said Hercules generously. Iolaus stroked and pumped faster and
harder, and his body convulsed as he spurted a fountain of semen.

His chest was heaving with his ragged breaths, and his entire body had gone
limp and fluid on him. He noticed Hercules standing up, pulling off his
own clothes. He reached out his hand, and, understanding the signal,
Iolaus tossed him the vial of oil. While Hercules quickly anointed his own
erection, Iolaus grinned and panted, "So, was it good for you?"

"Yeah, it was," answered the demigod with a conspiratorial smile, and his
characteristic easy shrug. "And this is gonna be good for me too." He
easily picked up the smaller man, and slowly and carefully impaled him on
his own eager cock, while Iolaus wrapped his legs around his back and
grasped his strong shoulders. "Oh. Yeah. I. Like. That," said
Hercules, backing up carefully and bracing himself against a nearby tree.
His large hands encircled and supported his lover's waist, and he began
lifting Iolaus up slowly and pushing him back down on his erect member.

"Gods . . . " gasped Iolaus. "You're so deep inside me." Hercules was
showing off, of course, but it was a gift to Iolaus, who never ceased to be
enticed by displays of his lover's superhuman strength. Watching Hercules
fight still drove him wild with desire; sometimes he would drag the demigod
to the nearest private place afterward, begging, "Please, Herc, fuck me

Hercules grimaced with the exertion, his teeth bared. He tightened his
grip on Iolaus and began driving into his delicious burden. Iolaus moaned
happily, as he could almost feel the bruises forming where Hercules'
fingers dug into him. The demigod came with a ferocious growl, shooting
liquid lightning into his lover's body. He carefully disengaged himself
and swung Iolaus around into his arms and pulled him up for a long,
breathless kiss. He thought of Iolaus stroking himself to completion,
writhing and rocking and exposing himself entirely to his demanding lover.
Hercules murmured in his ear, "Thank you for sharing your self with me.
You're beautiful. I love you."

"I love you, too, Herc," Iolaus responded contentedly.

* * *

*Can't you people engage in a good fuck without all the love talk?* the god
of war thought to himself irritably. Still, he was in a remarkably good
mood. He had enjoyed Iolaus' performance immensely, and it had given him
an idea, another dimension to add to his plan. It would require a little
more tweaking here and there, but it would be worth it for the pain it
would cause his half-brother and the pleasure it would give himself.

He was coming to realize that he was going to need some help, and he knew
exactly where to get it. Asking his mother for help wasn't usually his
style, but trying to pull off something this big required that his pride
make some concessions. And he knew the queen of the gods would delight in
the opportunity to render her stepson invisible and unimportant, and she
still held a grudge against Xena for her role in helping to free
Prometheus. Having Hera to run some intervention with Zeus would help too.
Ares chuckled to himself and flashed out of his temple to arrive at Olympus.


Chapter 2


A few days later, Hercules woke up, stretched, then leapt to his feet,
realizing that something was wrong. In fact, more than one thing was
wrong. Iolaus was missing, and he himself had woken up somewhere other
than where he had gone to sleep. "Iolaus?" he called out, but there was no
reply. He scouted around and emerged from the woods where he'd woken up
only to see Ares' temple. But it was different--much bigger and more
imposing. *What the . . . ?* thought Hercules to himself. Everything
seemed subtly different, but except for the change in Ares' temple, which
was inexplicable in itself, he couldn't put his finger on it.

The doors to the temple swung open, and a figure emerged. A blond figure.
A blond figure with curly hair. He had a broom and was sweeping the temple
steps and whistling contentedly to himself. "Iolaus?" asked Hercules and
ran for the steps. "Iolaus!" he exclaimed. "Boy, am I glad to see you!"

Iolaus looked puzzled, and asked, "How do you know my name? And who are you?"

*Great. Just great,* the demigod thought to himself. *He's lost his
memory again and doesn't recognize me.* "I've known you for a long time,"
he began carefully.

"Nope. You must have the wrong person. I've never seen you before."

Hercules was starting to notice the differences in his lover's appearance.
Iolaus' hair was longer, extending just below his shoulders, and he wore
tight black leather pants and no shirt. His face had fewer lines, and he
didn't hold himself with the edgy alertness that Hercules was so used to.

"I don't get how you know my name," the blond continued, "and we haven't
been properly introduced."

"I'm Hercules."

"Huh. Doesn't ring a bell."

Hercules was having a sinking feeling that something much bigger was going
on than a mere memory loss on Iolaus' part. Memory loss wouldn't account
for the changes in Iolaus' appearance. "Why are you sweeping the temple?"
he asked, genuinely puzzled and trying to focus on something small to help
counter the rising wave of disorientation that was threatening him.

"I'm the priest here. Have you come to make an offering to the god of war?"

"Not likely!" snapped Hercules. He directed his glance skyward and yelled,
"ARES! What in Hades is going on?"

The god of war materialized on the top step of his temple, chortling, and
laid a possessive hand on Iolaus' ass and squeezed. The blond seemed
somewhat embarassed by this public display, but he leaned into the god's
touch as if he were very familiar with it.

"Why are you harrassing my priest?" demanded Ares, a malevolent smile
glinting behind his eyes. He pulled the blond toward him and idly began
pulling at an erect nipple.

"Get. Your. Hands. Off. Of. Him," enunciated Hercules through clenched

"Who *is* this guy?" asked Iolaus incredulously, pressing closer to the god.

"Him? He's nobody," said Ares dismissively. "An acquaintance from another
time. Another time! Hah!" he laughed.

"I see," said Hercules, still gritting his teeth.

"Well, you always were a little slow on the uptake," said Ares casually.
He gave Iolaus a friendly smack on the rear, saying, "Finish up out here.
I have to talk to my old friend inside. *Don't* come in until I call
you--no matter what you hear."

"Yes, my lord," answered Iolaus and went back to sweeping, while glancing
at Hercules and shaking his head.

Ares beckoned his half-brother inside and firmly closed the door. Just as
the door closed, Hercules was on him from behind, an elbow firmly locked
around the god's neck. "Whatever you've done, change it back NOW!"

"Oh please," said the god, driving an elbow into Hercules' gut and freeing
himself. "Get real, little brother. Do you really think I'd make it that

Hercules roared with fury and leapt into the air, one foot driving into the
god's chest. Ares flew back, then recovered, rematerializing in front of
Hercules, and flipping him over his back. Hercules held on, pulling Ares
over the same way. Then he whirled around, kicking the god solidly in the
side. Ares grunted slightly, then smacked Hercules so hard in the face
that the demigod felt blood oozing from the inside of his mouth. He swung
his arm, hitting the god across the chest, and Ares fell into a short
column holding a large amphora, which tumbled to the floor and smashed.
"You're just creating more work for him you know!" yelled Ares as he leapt
to his feet.

Hercules grabbed his half-brother and began throttling him, but he was too
angry to have much control, and Ares easily brought up his arms between
Hercules' and shoved them apart. "Listen to me!" exclaimed the god. "I
can't change it back--I fixed it so I couldn't change it back on my own."

Hercules stopped fighting, and drooped, looking defeated. Ares relaxed,
and Hercules suddenly lashed out, striking him a blow in the jaw. "That's
for Iolaus," he muttered, before stalking several steps away.

"Oh Iolaus is the *least* of the surprises you'll find in this time,"
gloated Ares, rubbing his jaw. "But you'll be glad to know I haven't hurt
him or coerced him. He's here because he wants to be." The god laughed
heartily. "That's almost worse isn't it for you? Than my forcing him?
He's happy, but it's oh-so-hard for you to see it. You'd almost rather I
hurt him rather than see him give himself to me willingly. I always knew
you were a selfish brute, brother of mine!"

Hercules smashed another amphora, then sagged. He didn't want to make
things harder on Iolaus. "Tell me what's going on," he demanded wearily.

"What's going on?" asked Ares innocently. "Oh, you must mean *besides* the
fact that I own your golden-haired boy and can fuck him whenever I please.
Well, that, dear brother, is for me to know and for you to find out."
Hercules charged Ares again with a furious growl, but the god vanished.
Hercules sank to his knees and put his head in his hands.

The door opened, and Iolaus came in, rather hesitantly. "He said it was
all right for me to come in," he explained. He went over to the nearest
smashed vase and began cleaning up.

"I'm sorry. I'll help you," offered the demigod.

"No thanks," said Iolaus quickly. "I'd rather take care of it myself."

Hercules watched his efficient movements with a brush and dust pan, took a
deep breath and asked, "Forgive me for prying, but does he treat you well?
Are you happy?"

Iolaus looked up with an innocent, unselfconscious, sunny grin, and said,
"Yeah. On both counts. Why do you ask? And if you don't mind my asking,
what was all that about outside?"

Hercules felt his heart cracking inside him. Carefully hiding the catch in
his voice, he said, "Case of mistaken identity. You remind me of . . .
someone I know. May I ask how you ended up here?"

"Sure," said the blond. "I don't mind some company. I got into a lot of
trouble when I was a kid--stealing, that kind of thing. One day he just
appeared and offered to make a warrior of me. He brought me to the
Conqueror's training camp--back when she first started to put an army
together--and I learned fast. I fought in her army for several years, and
he kept coming back to check on me. I think he was probably protecting me
in battle, y'know. He asked me to be his priest . . . and to be his.
Like I was going to refuse? He's incredible--being with a human doesn't
come close."

Hercules shook his head slightly, amazed at Ares' skill in bringing this
off. It was apparent to almost anyone that Iolaus had a craving to be
owned and to serve, and he was enticed by strength and power, and if Ares
was treating him as well as he said, it wasn't surprising his devotion
should be so complete. Hercules reminded himself that this Iolaus had
never met him before; he didn't want to think about whether he or Ares
would win in a straightforward competition for the blond warrior.
Something else Iolaus said had struck a chord. "You said something about
the . . . Conqueror?"

"Yeah, the Lady Xena," said Iolaus in a tone that implied any fool would
know that.

Hercules' breath momentarily left him, and he gasped, but forced himself to
remain calm. "Excuse my ignorance," he began. "I've travelled from a long
way from here."

"Yeah, you must have if you haven't heard of Xena the Conqueror," snorted
Iolaus. "She pretty much has all of Greece under her control now, except
for a few cities holding out. She'll defeat them in time. Good thing too."

"Why is that?"

"Julius Caesar. If not for her, we'd be part of Rome by now. Her methods
are pretty harsh, but she has good cause. Any weakness, and Caesar's
armies would devour us. We're lucky to have her; my lord has never had a
finer protege," said Iolaus with satisfaction.

"I see," said Hercules faintly. His head was spinning with the shock of
all he had heard. He stood up and added, "Thanks for the information. I'd
better be going."

Iolaus nodded, then said, "Hey, you've travelled a long way. I've plenty
of food here. Would you like to take a few things for the road?"

Hercules' stomach recoiled at the thought of accepting Ares' hospitality,
but he knew he needed to eat. "Sure, thanks, I appreciate it." Iolaus
brought out a bundle and a skin full of fresh water.

"Good luck on your journeys, friend," he said. "And take my advice--don't
piss off my lord again."

"I can't promise that," said Hercules grimly, as he left the temple. He
sought out a quiet spot in the nearby woods and sank to the ground. Ares'
alteration of the timeline had been thoroughly planned and was fiendishly
clever. He apparently made sure that Xena and Iolaus at least were doing
nothing that violated their essential natures. Iolaus was serving a master
who treated him well and helped protect his country against invaders, and
Xena could give full expression to her dark side, while yet engaged in a
good cause. Hercules had to admit that Ares' scheme was pretty damned
breathtaking. *And why am I here? And why do I remember the other time?*
he asked himself, then smacked himself on the head. *Of course, he wants
me to witness it all and not be able to do anything about it. He wants me
to see Iolaus as his possession, and he wants me to see Xena unredeemed and
fufilling the role he has always wanted her to play.* Hercules sighed in
frustration and said quietly, "Shit."

He forced himself to eat some of the bread and cheese and dried fruit
Iolaus had packed for him, but it was hard getting it past the lump forming
in his throat. He roughly brushed tears out of his eyes, but he couldn't
stop thinking about how contented and *serene* this Iolaus had been.
*Damn,* he reflected, *he's happier than he ever was with me.* He kept
thinking about Iolaus serenely going about his duties and quietly deferring
to his master. Then it finally dawned on Hercules that this really wasn't
*his* Iolaus--his Iolaus was full of fire and passion and pure orneriness.
His Iolaus hadn't lived under a fond god's coddling protection. *His*
Iolaus would never be happy like this. He felt somewhat better and ate
more of his food. There was someone he had to see, but he still felt a
duty to this Iolaus, and he intended to keep an eye on him for a while
longer to make sure that Ares was, in fact, treating him well. Then he
would be able to put that concern behind him and work on restoring things
to the way they should be.

At night, he crept back toward the temple and found a window where he could
see the interior unobserved. Ares was sprawled on his throne, in his usual
indolent pose, stroking the golden curls of a kneeling and naked Iolaus,
who held his hands clasped lightly behind his back. Hercules' heart sank
when he saw the tattoo of a sword, matching Ares' earring, on one buttock.
"You were made to be the possession of a god," Ares purred throatily.

"Yes, my lord," Iolaus answered with a quick flash of a smile. "I'm glad
*you* think so."

"All, all mine," mused the god. His fingers trailed along Iolaus' neck,
down one arm, then drew light circles around his stomach before moving to
his chest. Ares carefully traced the curve of each pectoral muscle.
"You're a good boy," he crooned; "you've been working out every day."

"Yes, my lord," said Iolaus, blushing slightly. When Ares suddenly twisted
one nipple, he didn't flinch or start, but merely opened his eyes a bit

"And so well-trained," mused the god, twisting and pulling on Iolaus'
nipple, before ministering to the other one in the same fashion. He then
reached down and began lightly squeezing the blond's balls and running one
finger up the underside of Iolaus' erect and quivering cock. Iolaus' face
was soft and vulnerable, and the god growled, grabbing the back of his neck
and pulling him forward for a bruising kiss. Hercules was trembling with
jealousy and rage, but he managed to remain silent. He thought of the
times he had let Iolaus down, most recently by marrying Serena, and he made
a silent vow, if he ever restored the original timeline, never again to
take his lover and companion for granted.

With a glance at his own crotch and a slight gesture of his hand, Ares
indicated that Iolaus was to unbuckle his belt and unfasten his pants.
Iolaus deposited a reverent kiss on the tip of the god's freed and
resplendently erect organ and proceeded to service Ares with his mouth,
licking his cock in long strokes, moving down to bathe his balls in his
mouth, one at a time, then taking the length of the god's member in his
mouth and sucking on it until Ares stopped him with a quick gesture. With
a wave of the hand, the god created a nest of pillows on the floor, and
Iolaus quickly positioned himself there on his knees and elbows. The god
waved away his own clothes, then materialized a bowl of clear oil,
efficiently and unhurriedly lubricating the blond's anus with his fingers.
With a quick coating of oil on his own cock, Ares pushed inside the tight
opening, and Iolaus pushed back against him with quivering eagerness. Ares
thrust hard, growling, gripping Iolaus' hips tightly with his hands, and
Iolaus moaned in delirious ecstasy. The god climaxed with a primal roar,
but then pulled Iolaus close with tender affection, stroking his muscled
arms and combing through the riotous mane of blond curls with his fingers.
He then teased Iolaus by running his fingertips up and down his
still-unsatisfied organ, then dipped his hand in the bowl of oil, and
closed it around Iolaus' cock, bringing him off with vigorous strokes.
Iolaus cried out in his climax, then curled into the god's protective

When Hercules turned away, heartsick but assured that Ares was, in fact,
treating Iolaus well, his last sight was of Iolaus lying on his side, with
Ares behind him, caressing his back and buttocks, punctuating his caresses
with an occasional possessive squeeze. Hercules kept trying to remind
himself that this wasn't the same Iolaus he loved, but it was very hard to
convince himself of that while watching *his* property so thoroughly and
masterfully possessed by another, and that other being Ares. After all, if
he couldn't succeed in changing the timeline back, this might be the only
Iolaus in existence. Depressed, angry, and feeling helpless, he moved on
toward his next destination.

* * *

The temple of Zeus looked much as it did in the original timeline. It was
nighttime, and no priests were present. He pushed through the doors
impatiently, then yelled "ZEUS! I need to talk to you now!" The king of
the gods appeared soon thereafter.

"What is it, son?"

"Don't give me that, Zeus!" snapped Hercules. "You know what Ares has
done! Why are you letting him get away with messing with the timeline that

Zeus hesitated. "There wasn't much I could do. He had help. Working
together, they're pretty formidable."

Hercules smacked his forehead. "Of course. Hera." He paced around the
temple, having no outlet for his anxiety, frustration, and nervous energy.
"Where do I fit in?" he demanded.

"Ares promised me you wouldn't be hurt," answered Zeus. "No one here knows
who you are. I didn't think you'd mind the anonymity."

"You didn't think I'd mind . . . " Hercules' voice strangled in his throat,
then he exclaimed, "Then didn't you think I'd mind losing my lover to Ares?
Didn't you think I'd mind what happened to Xena?"

"Ah, Xena," said his father. "She's the focus of the change in the
timeline. It all has to do with her. If she asks Ares to restore the
original timeline, he has to do it. That's the one concession I got out of
them. Ares is right that I have favored you over him--I thought it best to
let him have his way this time."

Hercules was furious, "Zeus!" he snapped, making the name sound like an
invective, "how is she supposed to ask that if she doesn't know about it?"

Zeus tried to keep his patience; he understood why his son was upset, and
he felt vaguely guilty about it. "She might have dreams of the other time.
She might realize something's wrong. Unfortunately, Ares planned this very
well. She's protecting Greece from invasion--very effectively I might add.
I guess it's not very likely she'd recognize that she's somehow not

Hercules was gripping his hands together tightly, trying to stop himself
from smashing something. He made a conscious effort to steady his
breathing, then asked, "So he can't change it back unless she asks him?"

His father nodded. "Well, then," said Hercules, "I'm going to have to
persuade her somehow."

"I can't help you there," said the king of gods gravely.

"Why am I *not* surprised?" Hercules stalked out of the temple without
bidding his father farewell, slamming the doors behind him. His whole body
still twitching with frustration, he drove his fist into a large boulder
with a roar.

Almost immediately, he heard a voice call out, "Geronimo!" and his sister
Aphrodite appeared in midair in a graceful dive and landed neatly on her
feet beside him.

"What's up, big brother?" she asked. "The old man is really down. Did you
two have another fight?"

He glared at her. "Do you know what Ares has done?"

"Yeah," she shrugged.

"Well, maybe you can figure out why I argued with Zeus!"

"Chill, big brother. What's the big diff?"

"What's. The. Big. Diff?" he repeated slowly and unbelievingly. "C'mon,
'Dite, even you should be able to figure this out. For one, Xena is a
warlord now, Xena the Conqueror."

"This is a problem?" she asked.

"Yes. This is a problem. She's turning Greece into Ares' version of the
New World Order. And the only way to change things back is if *she* asks
him to. The other big diff, sister of mine, is that Iolaus belongs to Ares

"Leatherboy's doing Blondie? That's way uncool. OK, now I get what you're
so tweaked about."

Hercules sighed. Talking to his sister was always frustrating, but it was
particularly so now. "No, Iolaus is not *all* I'm 'tweaked' about. He's
part of it." He began to pace again, ignoring Aphrodite, and talking
almost to himself, "How am I going to be able to get close to her so I can
talk to her?"

"Well, du-uh," said the goddess of love. "Get yourself captured by her as
a slave. You've got all the right equipment. She'll choose you as her
personal boy toy in no time."

"Xena keeps slaves?" asked Hercules, then sighed. "Of *course* she does.
And why do you think she'll choose me for anything?"

"Exsqueeze me? Have you looked in the mirror lately? If you weren't my
brother . . . "

"Don't go there!" Hercules interrupted her.

"Well, anyway, you want to get close to the warrior babe, that's how. Of
course you'll have to make the slave thing convincing. You'll have to lose
the 'tude, dude. But look at the bright side--you'll get a chance to do
your old girlfriend. I've heard she's really hot."

Hercules briefly considered throttling his sister, but it was never worth
getting angry at Aphrodite. It usually just washed right over her.
"Thanks, 'Dite," he muttered with difficulty. "You've been surprisingly

"Good luck!" she called out, as she vanished. "Later."


Chapter 3


After some inquiries, Hercules learned the location of Xena's headquarters,
a heavily fortified castle outside Amphipolis. He also learned that she
regularly sent out troops all over her territory, which was to say, most of
Greece, to enforce order, to secure supplies, and to maintain military
readiness. They would also capture slaves to serve the Conqueror and her
officers and to perform menial labor. Now he just had to get himself
captured and make it look convincing. He scouted for a couple of days and
discovered a fairly large party of Xena's troops was approaching a village
near Amphipolis. As several armed horsemen rode into the town square,
Hercules had just been caught stealing a loaf of bread from a stall.
Apparently oblivious to the presence of the approaching soldiers, he took a
very carefully controlled swing at the stall owner, knocking him flat, but
not doing much damage.

He then took off at a run, carrying his misbegotten loaf of bread. He was
quickly surrounded by a group of soldiers. He resisted capture as
realistically as he could, pulling his punches and kicking with only a
small portion of his strength, while trying not to make it obvious that he
was doing so. It wasn't easy for him to fight like an ordinary man of his
size, but he managed, and was soon jumped and held down by enough soldiers
that he could conceivably give up. He heard another horse approaching, and
one of the soldiers said, "Look what we caught, my lady." Hercules looked
up and could not conceal his astonishment. Callisto looked down at him
from the back of a magnificent black horse.

"Well, well, well, what's this?" she demanded.

"A thief, my lady," answered the soldier.

"A thief," she repeated. "Not a very bright thief apparently." She rode
up to Hercules, who was still being held by several men, and slapped him
sharply across the face, then backhanded the other cheek. "Do you know
what we do with thieves around here, stranger?" she demanded, while he
glared at her sullenly, hoping he continued to convey the impression of
someone not very bright. "We put them to work as slaves for the Conqueror,
so they can be put to good use and kept out of trouble," she said casually,
her voice deceptively soft. "My lady will be very pleased with *you*."

"Your lady?" he asked hesitantly.

"Yes," she said abruptly. "The Conqueror. You have the honor to have been
captured by her second-in-command." She turned to the soldiers. "Chain
him securely. I don't want him to be able to move a muscle." Hercules was
almost oblivious to the lengths of chain being wrapped around his entire
body, to his arms being firmly manacled behind his back, and to the various
locks snapping shut that held the chains in place. Callisto was Xena's
second-in-command? It was almost enough to make him laugh. Ares certainly
did have a twisted sense of humor. He wasdeposited in a cart, not
particularly comfortably, and left guarded while Callisto and her soldiers
finished their business in the village. As a matter of course, he
experimentally tested the strength of the chains binding him--if he had
wanted to, he could have broken them, but, of course, he didn't. Then he
was on his way to be delivered into slavery.

* * *

Xena's castle was suitably imposing. Once through the gates, he was
dragged unceremoniously out of the cart and made to shuffle along through
the castle, his ankles hobbled together, and the chains and locks clanking.
*I'll make a wonderful first impression,* he thought, wondering if his
sister's idea really had that much merit after all. Once he and some other
newly captured slaves were brought into the Conqueror's presence, however,
he could think of nothing else. The Conqueror exhibited a commanding and
powerful demeanor, wielding it like a scepter, and Hercules found himself
almost feeling that serving her would be a privilege.

She was sitting on a throne and wearing a long purple dress, trimmed with
silver. A simple silver circlet adorned her head. Her legs were crossed,
and he saw a hint of boots of the finest black leather. On a hassock next
to the throne knelt Gabrielle, sitting back on her heels, her knees apart.
She was dressed entirely in green, with a bodice and short skirt that, if
anything, covered less than what she wore in the original timeline. The
hassock was lower than the throne, and Xena had an arm resting on
Gabrielle's shoulder, and a hand idly reaching into her bodice to toy with
the closest breast. Otherwise she paid no attention to Gabrielle, who
sometimes gasped silently or swayed slightly in response to her nipple
being pinched or rolled between the Conqueror's fingers. Hercules was
furious with himself because his first reaction was to find the scene
undeniably erotic--he almost envied Gabrielle's position before sternly
reminding himself how he felt about slavery.

Callisto stepped forward, knelt on one knee and bowed to Xena, casting a
brief glance at Gabrielle. "My lady," she said, "these are the new slaves.
The supplies we acquired are already being stored."

There were two other men and two women who had been brought in with
Hercules. None were as securely bound as he was. Xena slowly got up from
her throne, after giving Gabrielle's breast a rough squeeze. The slightest
flash of alarm and recognition flickered in Xena's eyes when she noticed
Hercules, but was instantly replaced by a studied brusqueness. She glanced
at the women, turned to Callisto and said, "Kitchen or farms, wherever
they're most needed." She then regarded the other two men and said, "Farms
too or working on our fortifications if they have any talent for
stoneworking. Take them away. *This* one," she indicated Hercules, "stays
here." She appraised Hercules with cool deliberation, her eyes travelling
his body.

She jerked her head at Callisto, "Get those chains off him. What was he up
to when you caught him?"

"Stealing food," answered Callisto, unlocking the locks and removing the
chains. "I don't think he's very bright--we caught him in the act."

"I see," said Xena, never taking her eyes off of Hercules. "How very
foolish of him. I want a pair of manacles for his wrists forged of the
strongest metal we have. Leave the chain between them long enough to give
him some freedom of movement. He's no good to us if he can't work." As
the last of the chains was removed from him, Hercules straightened
slightly, grateful to have the pressure off his arms. Xena suddenly pulled
a knife from her boot--he later learned that she was never without this
particular accessory--and held the point to his throat. "On your knees,"
she ordered, "very carefully, and get your hands behind you."

Hercules knelt slowly, the point of the knife following him down, and he
put his hands behind his back. "You're a slave now," said Xena calmly.
"You'll be well-fed and have a place to sleep in return for your labor and
absolute obedience. My question to you is, are you going to cooperate or

"I'll cooperate," he said softly, the knife point moving with his throat as
he spoke, but pressing against him with such complete control that it never
pierced his skin. He then allowed an edge of bitterness to creep into his
voice. "It's not as though I have anywhere else to go. I'm not afraid of
hard work, and I'll more than earn my food and shelter."

"Good," she said shortly, letting the knife drop back into her boot in a
swift and fluid motion. "You'll be chained, but that's mostly to remind
you of your status. There won't be anything to stop you from running, but
the manacles will identify you as my property. Returning escaped slaves to
me is a popular activity in my territory--I have a generous reward system.
What do you say to that?"

"I won't run, my lady," he said, bowing his head in what he hoped was a
sufficiently respectful gesture.

"Well, Callisto," drawled Xena with satisfaction. "It looks like you've
found me some valuable property. If he pans out, you and your troops will
be rewarded."

Callisto simply bowed her head in acknowledgment.

Xena summoned her household steward. "Phideas, get him fitted for those
manacles and get him a meal. If he's stealing food," she said, glancing at
Hercules narrowly, "he's probably hungry. And show him where he sleeps.
I'll put him to work tomorrow." She turned back to her new acquisition.
"You may stand. Go with Phideas." Suddenly the knife was out of her boot
and back in her hand. She tapped Hercules' chest lightly with the flat of
the blade. "I don't want to hear of you causing any trouble, slave-boy."

"You won't, my lady. You have my word," he promised softly.

Xena began to turn away, then turned back, saying lightly, "Oh and take off
that shirt and those gauntlets. You won't be needing them here." She
grinned ferally as Hercules flushed, and Aphrodite's words echoed in his
mind. He removed his shirt, and she plucked it out of his hand, watching
him as he unbuckled his gauntlets, seeming to devour his chest and arms
with her eyes, and remarking briefly, "Oh, that's very nice," before
dismissing him and his keeper. As he left, she had returned to her throne
and to her caresses of Gabrielle, and was conferring with Callisto. And
Hercules had to confess himself feeling somewhat deflated at no longer
being the object of that intense gaze.

* * *

If they did her bidding, Xena's slaves were actually treated quite well.
The food was plentiful and nourishing, and he had a small private cell-like
room to sleep in with a straw mattress. The male and female slaves slept
in separate quarters, each with its own latrine and bathing facilities.
The area where they slept was locked at night, but the individual rooms
were not. He was put to work where his strength would be most useful,
stacking wood, bearing heavy loads, helping with the continual repairs to
the castle's fortifications and to the defenses around the villages nearby.
For several days, he saw little of his new owner, but he wasn't surprised.
Sometimes he caught a glimpse of her riding out in front of a body of
troops. On these occasions she wore a leather garment and armor similar to
the one he was familiar with, but all black, with gleaming metallic armor.

One day, when delivering loads of firewood around the castle, he came upon
Callisto with Gabrielle in a well-travelled corridor. Gabrielle was facing
the wall, her hands flat against it above her head, and Callisto's hand was
moving between her legs. Callisto was making no effort to hide what she
was doing, and Xena was not far away, so Hercules had to conclude that the
Conqueror shared her personal slaves with her second-in-command. The
thought brought him a momentary dismay, but he reassured himself that
Callisto had taken next to no interest in him since she'd brought him in.
He fervently hoped she was only interested in women. After storing the
appointed portion of firewood in a couple of rooms, he emerged back into
the corridor to see Gabrielle moaning and pumping her hips in rhythm with
Callisto's thrusts. At the same time, Xena emerged from another room. She
leaned gracefully against the wall, crossed her arms, and smiled, watching
until Gabrielle yelped in climax. "Very entertaining, Callisto," she
remarked lightly, before moving away in Hercules' direction. "I hear good
reports of your work, slaveboy," she said. "Keep it up."

He bowed his head and said, "Yes, my lady," while inwardly cursing the
puppy-like leap his heart had taken when she turned her attention on him.
Before he moved off, he noticed Gabrielle on her knees in front of
Callisto, reverently kissing her hand and then being made to lick the
warrior's fingers clean. He wondered if this particular relationship was a
planned part of Ares' scheme, or if it had just evolved out of the
situation. Under Xena's rule, human beings were simply *used* in any
number of ways, and they were controlled with an impersonal efficiency.
What affection he saw given to slaves had a distant, abstracted quality,
and punishments were meted out ruthlessly, but again impersonally, for the
slightest of infractions.

Everywhere the firm hand of Xena's control was evident, although it was
mostly administered through Callisto or Phideas. Hercules was horrified by
what he saw and shocked at the thoroughness and pervasiveness of Xena's
rule. Almost everyone he saw *wanted* to please her, to obey her. Her
presence was as commanding as a god's, her will was law, and she wielded
her personal influence like a finely honed and accurate tool, pulling a
string here, nudging a lever there, keeping the entire system in orderly
balance. Ares must have been ecstatic--it was what he'd wanted from Xena
all along. And he found himself falling under her spell. His goal was to
get close enough to her so he could talk to her about the original
timeline, but he found himself responding whenever he sensed her eyes on
him, standing straighter, making his movements more sure and fluid, trying
to make the hardest labor look easy so his strength was apparent to the
most casual viewer. He couldn't help trying to draw her attention--not
simply because it served his original purpose, but because he yearned to be
the focus of those intense blue eyes. He learned to move and work with
minimal clanking of the chain hanging between his wrists, wanting to appear
as graceful as possible; he hated the chain though, as it continuously
reminded him of his lowly position.

He had noticed that Xena and Callisto were apparently good friends, but not
lovers. They worked well together as Commander and Lieutenant, but he
often saw them laughing and joking together. Callisto seemed to be one of
the very few people with whom the Conqueror dropped her commanding
demeanor. He learned from Phideas, who liked to talk, that Xena had indeed
raided Cirra when Callisto was a young girl and had taken Callisto
prisoner. Callisto had apparently admired Xena from the start and wanted
to emulate her, and Xena had taken the chance of having Callisto trained as
a warrior. Her abilities were superb, and she eventually earned the
position of Xena's second-in-command.

One day Xena and Callisto had a picnic with Gabrielle in attendance, Xena
apparently having chosen a spot where Hercules could see them as he worked
rebuilding a crumbling wall. Gabrielle gracefully served out all the food
and poured wine, then knelt between them, holding a wine goblet in each
hand. The other women chatted and laughed, taking the goblet from
Gabrielle's hand when they wanted a sip, then returning it, and sometimes
popping a morsel of food into Gabrielle's mouth.

When he had to turn away for his work, he would feel Xena's eyes on him,
creating a slight chill in the back of his neck, but when he turned back,
she was always looking at her companions. The meal over, they apparently
ordered Gabrielle to strip, and they stretched her out on the grass,
Callisto holding her arms pinned above her head and toying with her
breasts, while Xena's hand stroked the slave's parted thighs and then
buried itself between her legs.

Just then Ares appeared before him, apparently invisible to the others.
"How do you like this world, brother?" the god taunted. "Perfect order,
and everyone knows his or her appointed place. Including you. I knew you
wouldn't be able to resist coming here. I can't tell you how much I enjoy
seeing you like this. It gives me so much satisfaction to fuck my
golden-haired boy and know that you're in chains. They suit you." Ares
chortled triumphantly.

Hercules felt a fury rising in him, and even with the manacles and chain
between his wrists he could have probably made Ares at least uncomfortable
for a while, but he was not going to make himself look absurd by fighting
an invisible god in front of Xena. He steadfastly ignored his
half-brother, pouring all of his concentration into his work.

"Very well," said Ares. "I have to talk to your owner any way." The god
disappeared from Hercules' view, then reappeared in front of the three
women. Xena glanced at him, but he said, "Carry on," with a grand wave of
his hand. When Gabrielle thrashed and cried out, Xena turned her attention
to Ares, who talked to her softly and urgently.

Hercules was apparently the subject of their conversation. Xena laughed
dismissively, her voice carrying. "So you know him, and he's a habitual
liar? Well, you don't need to worry about what he might say to me, Ares.
It's not as though I kept him for his conversational skills."

* * *

The next day Hercules had seen Xena and Callisto ride out with a body of
troops. Gabrielle brought him his lunch, as she was sometimes sent to do.
He had noticed she had a serenity about her similar to what he had seen in
Iolaus at Ares' temple. This time, he gently asked, "Are you allowed to
stay for a while and talk? I don't get a lot of company."

She gracefully settled herself on the ground beside him and laughed. "You
will soon enough. She has her eye on you."

In between eating his bread and cheese, he asked, "Does that bother you?"

"No," said Gabrielle, shrugging. "If I were the only one she ever took to
her bed, she'd wear me out."

"How . . . um . . . do you feel about being here?" he asked, embarrassed,
but curious. "I mean, yesterday, was that hard for you?"

Her eyes gleamed with mischief. "No. I liked it. It's pretty flattering
to have both of them focused on *me*. I like being here." Her voice took
on a dreamy tone. "She's just so . . . amazing. From the first time I saw
her, I knew I wanted to be lost in her, give myself to her. She's the most
powerful person in Greece-- how could I not want to please and serve her?"

Hercules nodded despite himself; he had noticed that feeling growing in
himself, but he didn't like it. "What about Callisto?" he asked.

Gabrielle laughed ruefully. "She pays more attention to me than the
Conqueror does. Xena always keeps her distance. She doesn't let anyone
get too close to her. Callisto lets me in sometimes. Xena never does."
She shrugged. "It makes me feel good to please them. And I hate it when I
make mistakes. I never want to disappoint them. Of course, I don't like
being punished either."

"I can imagine," he murmured.

"It's pretty brutal," she agreed. "But it works to keep people in line,
and it's only happened a couple of times, and not for a long time. I'm
very careful. But not just to avoid pain. They have important work to do;
I want to do whatever I can to smooth whatever part of their way I can."

Hercules was torn by conflicting feelings. Part of him wanted to shake
Gabrielle out of her complacency. Something about their lives in this
timeline had exaggerated both her and Iolaus' desire to please, to subsume
themselves into something larger. But it had erased the spark and energy
and stubbornness that made them who they were. The Gabrielle he knew would
sacrifice almost anything for Xena, would follow her till the ends of the
earth, and would do almost anything Xena told her; but she would also speak
up when she disagreed with Xena, she could fight with courage and
determination, and she would have talked the ears off anyone who would
listen about the evils of slavery and war.

Gabrielle stood up, saying, "I really should get back."

"Thanks for the lunch--and the conversation." Yes, part of him raged
inside at her serene acceptance of her status . . . but part of him envied
it too. There *was* something about this Xena that drew him, something the
Xena he knew kept carefully contained and controlled. This Xena would have
never let her army get out of her control the way *his* Xena had. She
could have unleashed her personal magnetism and gotten control of Darphus
and her men, but even then something had prevented her from exerting the
irresistable influence over others that she was capable of. Perhaps she
didn't trust herself to control it, and even at her most savage, she was
afraid of giving her power full rein. That was one of the reasons he had
been able to see her potential for good. As cruel and murderous and
vicious as she had been, she had known there were lines she shouldn't
cross. This Xena had no such scruples, but he felt himself drawn to her,
despite despising her methods. It troubled him that he couldn't figure out
if that feeling was simply an artificial result of her charisma being
brought to bear on him, or whether it originated within himself. It didn't
occur to him until later that perhaps those possibilities did not mutually
exclude each other, that the feelings Xena inspired in him and others
*were* real and that was what made her so dangerous. He did know that he
craved to be singled out by her, and that Gabrielle's casual "She has her
eye on you" had unleashed a wave of hope in his heart.

At the same time, he recalled Gabrielle's information that Xena never let
anyone close to her. Hercules *had* to get close to her to accomplish his
goals, but he also desperately hoped the bond he had with *his* Xena would
have some meaning in *this* world. As he worked, mechanically setting the
stones in place and mostly succeeding at keeping the chain out of his way,
he realized what disturbed him so much about Gabrielle and Iolaus' manner.
It was their glassy serenity. They both seemed to enjoy and find
fulfillment in their roles, and they obviously derived sexual satisfaction,
but both seemed to lack *passion*. They were graceful, obedient, and
responsive, but it was as if their responses were more conditioned and
automatic than spontaneous or *alive*. His own passion for Xena had never
died and never would, even as they had allowed an enduring friendship to
grow between them. He felt an unaccountable desire to break through the
invisible wall the Conqueror kept around herself, and he somehow knew that
if he had any chance to do so, it would be by distinguishing himself from
Gabrielle and the other slaves. He wanted this Xena to recognize him as a
part of her soul, and he wanted to melt her detachment into something
resembling the passion and intensity of the Xena he knew.


Chapter 4


A few days later, Hercules found an opportunity to bring himself to the
Conqueror's attention, although it would not have been his first choice of
methods. He was bringing a load of wood inside, and Gabrielle was
approaching the room where Xena held conferences with her generals. She
was carrying a tray with a carafe of wine and some mugs. Suddenly and
inexplicably, her grip shifted on the heavy tray and she dropped it.
Reacting on instinct, Hercules sped down the hall to her side, dropping his
load of wood heavily. He said to Gabrielle, with all the authority his
voice could muster, "*Don't* say anything!" As the door slammed open, and
an angry Conqueror stalked out, he dropped to one knee, his head bowed, and
said, "I'm sorry. It was my fault, my lady; I accidentally bumped into

Xena pulled his head up by the hair and looked him shrewdly in the eye.
Her gaze seemed to say, "I know you're lying," but what she said out loud
was, "That was a very expensive wine, slave boy, and you disrupted my
meeting with my generals. I can't take that lightly."

"Yes, my lady," he murmured, shocked at his own feelings of awe. Much as
he disapproved of her methods and everything *this* Xena represented, he
couldn't help but be intoxicated by her aura of power and authority. And
he quailed inside at the thought that he'd angered her, although he knew it
wasn't his fault, and he was pretty sure she knew it too. "I can't
tolerate that kind of carelessness," she continued, her voice like ice;
"you'll have to be flogged. Be in my throne room at sunset."

"Yes, my lady," he answered, angry with himself for the slight quaver in
his voice. Still holding on to a handful of his hair, she slapped him once
across the face, and he felt utterly naked, as if the heat of her hand
striking his cheek had instantly melted his clothes and several layers of
skin, leaving him exposed in a way that was entirely unfamiliar to him.

He gazed up at her, lips slightly parted in astonishment, wondering just
what he *wouldn't* do at her command. Her icy blue eyes seemed to lance
into his, noting and gauging the depth of his surrender to her authority.
One side of her mouth quirked slightly in a glimmer of a predatory smile;
then she turned her attention to Gabrielle, who was standing nearby, her
eyes wide with disbelief. "Get us some more wine and help him clean this
up," ordered Xena before returning to the conference room.

Gabrielle scurried off to fulfill the first order, while Hercules
mechanically went to fetch cleaning supplies. When Gabrielle had safely
made her delivery, and was helping him clean up, she gasped, "Why did you
do that? Do you know what's going to happen to you?"

"Yes," he answered quietly, with a slight smile. "I remembered what you
said about being punished. I think I can better take a flogging than you.
I have a pretty high pain tolerance."

"Oh, she'll make sure it hurts," insisted the blonde slave. "She'll
probably have Callisto do it, and she's deadly with that whip. But I can't
have you take a punishment for *me*."

"Yes. You. Can," he said firmly. "Will it make you feel better to know I
also had my own reasons for wanting to come to her attention?"

"It helps a little," Gabrielle said softly. "Whatever your reasons, thank
you. I owe you."

"No you don't," he returned. "I took this on myself."

* * *

At sunset Hercules was dutifully waiting in the throne room, on his knees,
head bowed. Part of him was still tugged by an urge to submit and
surrender to Xena, and part of him held a hard determination not to break,
but rather to give her the best show he could. He realized suddenly that
his urge to submit and his desire to perform for her were part and parcel
of the same impulse. Resistance was out of the question--it would utterly
thwart his reason for being here. Breaking down would be intolerable and
make him a failure in the Conqueror's eyes. Dignified submission seemed
the only option. He hoped he could muster it.

Xena swept in, followed by Callisto who was carrying a long, coiled whip
with a single tail. Several household slaves and attendants followed, as
well as some of Xena's generals--Hercules was to be made an example of, and
all watching would know that Xena ran her household, and by extension her
territory, with an iron hand. Xena sat on her throne, and her generals
dispersed themselves around her, while the slaves, including Gabrielle,
were off to the side.

Xena's voice echoed in the large chamber. "Slave boy! Go stand with your
hands against that column. I expect you to keep both hands there until I
tell you to move them."

"Yes, my lady," he answered in clear, firm voice.

He walked over to the column she indicated. It was wide, and he placed his
hands flat upon it and apart, the chain from his cuffs dangling between
them, his legs wide for balance.

Xena spoke to Callisto: "Give him twenty, ten on each side, in a feather
pattern. I want his whole back striped. And he looks pretty tough--make
them deep enough that he'll be feeling them for a few days. Draw blood."

"Yes, my lady," answered Callisto, with a hint of delighted mania in her
voice. So she wasn't entirely unlike her other self, thought Hercules, as
he tossed his hair back impatiently and waited. Callisto came up behind
him, saying thoughtfully, "Oh yes, that's very nice. The marks will suit
you, slave boy. I think we'll start . . . here," she noted, as she traced
a line along his shoulder blade with her finger, then traced the identical
line on the other side, while he struggled not to recoil visibly at her
touch. "And then here," she added, moving her finger down, "and then the
other stripes will be longer until we get down . . . here," she ran her
fingers along his lower back, "when they get shorter again. It's really
quite an attractive pattern. My Lady Xena has good taste." She moved
around to his side and in a suddenly hard voice, ordered, "Kiss it!" She
brought the coiled whip to his lips, and he bent his head and kissed the
black leather, trying not to show that he was actually a little afraid.
Her voice returned to the almost childlike quality it had had earlier:
"And you'll be glad to know I have *perfect* control."

He tossed his hair again, restlessly, and he caught a glimpse of Xena
watching with intense focus. Yes, he had certainly brought himself to her
attention. The thought steeled him, and he took a deep breath, focusing
his attention, and consciously relaxing his muscles. The preparation
helped a little, but the first crack of the whip took his breath away. It
was like a line of icy cold fire on his skin, followed by almost unbearable
rush of pain from the wound's contact with open air. The line followed the
identical path Callisto had traced with her finger, and he could feel a
tickle from drops of blood beginning to drip from the stripe, while it
still burned and throbbed with a sharp ferocity.

Callisto paused, wanting Hercules and all the watchers to absorb the impact
of the first stripe before she laid down the second. With a deafening
crack, she sliced open his flesh on the other side, with apparently the
same length stripe, and the same depth as the first. Another pause, and
another blow on the first side. This time the line of fire was slightly
longer. He gasped with each blow, but refused to cry out. By the sixth
stripe, he had to concentrate to keep his now sweaty hands in place on the
column. From what Gabrielle had told him, slaves were *always* bound
during a flogging, and the fact that he wasn't, he realized, meant that
this was a very serious test. He had no intention of failing.

But it was hard, oh, so hard. The stripes grew longer as they moved in
perfect precision down his back, each one angling up from his spine to the
outside. The sharpness of the pain brought tears to his eyes, and he had
to battle down a surging impulse to whirl around, rip the whip out of
Callisto's hand, and break her neck--or at least drive his fist into the
column which supported him, bringing it down. There was something about
this quality of pain that sent bolts of energy surging through him--he
*had* to move, he had to release some of the pain--and he couldn't. He
thought of *his* Xena, her back marked by Callisto's knife, and his own
back repeatedly opened up under this Callisto's whip, and his mind whirled
with confusion. And his blood welled out of each slice from the whip, and
it suddenly occurred to him that it was an offering to the Conqueror. He
carefully repositioned his slippery hands, fought back the low growl that
was rising in his throat, and surrendered himself.

With each crack of the whip, he gritted and bared his teeth, trying not to
let a sound escape, and he tossed his head, his flying hair being the only
part of his body he was allowed to move. He was shattering and dissolving
with each strike, his will seeming to seep out of him with his blood.
Despite all of his problems with his father, so much of his sense of
himself was bound up in being the son of Zeus. Now all that was slipping
away, so that all he was was a slave whose body no longer belonged to him,
but was subject to be used and even flayed open at the will of another.
The painnever got more tolerable, and in fact, each successive blow built
up the pain across his entire back even more. It was more unbearable each
time the whip laid his flesh open with perfect accuracy, every time his
back erupted in that sharp-edged flash of fiery pain. After what seemed
like hours, it was over, the twentieth stripe laid down with the same
exquisite precision as the first. His back both burned with pain, all the
wounds flinching from the open air, and itched ferociously--both the deep,
quivering itch of the wounds themselves and the tickling sensation of
numerous tendrils of blood making their way down his back.

He remained in position obediently, waiting for permission to move. "You
may move now," said Xena calmly, "and thank her who gave you your deserved
punishment." Gabrielle had prepared him for this, and the thought sent a
wave of nausea through him. He carefully turned around, got down on his
knees, and bent his head down to kiss Callisto's boot. She emitted a
slightly manic giggle, and he wondered if she had any idea how close she
came to being flung bodily across the chamber. Then he stood up, squared
his shoulders despite the pain, and walked boldly and with his head high
toward Xena's throne. There, he again dropped to his knees, again bent
over to kiss her boot, noting the pain as the skin on his back stretched
open the slashes from the whip. He murmured, "Thank you for correcting me,
my lady."

She simply nodded coldly and said, "I trust you won't earn yourself another
flogging, slave boy," then directed Gabrielle to tend to his wounds,
dismissing them both.

Gabrielle was crying as she led him to the castle infirmary, where wounded
soldiers were normally treated. "I . . . I've never seen a whipping like
that. Oh gods, and it should have been me!"

"No," he hastened to reassure her. "I knew what I was doing when I stepped
into that. *Please* don't blame yourself." He cupped her jaw gently in
his hand and tipped her face up to look in his eyes. "Listen to me,
Gabrielle. It was *my* choice." He knew Xena had chosen Gabrielle on
purpose. She couldn't flog her for dropping the wine, but she could
certainly make her suffer his flogging vicariously.

Gabrielle let herself be consoled; she was used to others telling her what
to do and think. She prepared a salve, explaining, "All I'm allowed to put
on your back is something to prevent infection." Hercules nodded; of
course, Xena wouldn't want it to heal any faster than necessary. If, as he
expected, floggings were usually administered to set an example to other
slaves, she'd want the reminders to last, and the stripes were deep enough
that even his faster-than-normal healing ability wouldn't get rid of them

He ceased to pay attention to Gabrielle's gentle touch on his back, as he
pondered his own reactions to the flogging. Nothing had shaken his
unwavering belief that slavery was an absolute wrong, but something in him
had thrilled at the knowledge that Xena had ordered and was witnessing his
punishment. His abasement was all the more complete in that she'd ordered
another to administer the flogging--that it was Callisto was an irony that
he couldn't even begin to get his mind around at the moment--and in that
he'd essentially consented to it by not being bound. He gestured slightly
and realized he was getting used to the clinking of the chain that dangled
from his manacled wrists; much of the time he forgot it was there. And
feeling Xena's eyes devouring him as the whip landed, he had felt an
overwhelming desire to please her. He flushed, bowing his head so
Gabrielle wouldn't see as she continued her ministrations to his back. Who
was he becoming, he wondered.

* * *

Hercules had even more trouble than usual falling asleep, worried that he
might roll on his back and still troubled by his responses to the whipping.
Sleep had used to come so easy to him, but not here. He had become so used
to having a warm body, a particular warm body, to enfold into his embrace
each night, that he was uneasy sleeping alone. He forced himself not to
think of Iolaus when Xena was around; he had to be alert and focused. But
at night, or during the days when he had seen the Conqueror riding off on
business, his thoughts invariably made their way to the blond hunter. He
imagined himself twining his fingers in the tangle of curls; gazing rapt
into those bright blue eyes which signalled surrender and submission and a
knowing sense of mischief and complicity at the same time; feeling his
heart skip a beat when one of those dazzling smiles flashed onto Iolaus'
face; plunging his tongue into the warm cavern of Iolaus' mouth; watching
that mouth sucking on one of his fingers, Iolaus' eyes closed in dreamy
bliss; stroking his hands possessively along the muscled arms and legs and
over the blond's chest and abdomen and back; sinking his fingers or teeth
into the round, taut buttocks; and bringing the hunter's nipples to life
with his rough ministrations. He usually had to stop his remembering at
this point. Whenever he thought of Iolaus offering his mouth or his ass to
be penetrated by Hercules' cock, the demigod invariably had a vision of
Ares using Iolaus the same way, and his stomach would clench in hopeless
fury. Enthralled as he was by the Conqueror's magnetism, he wanted his
lover and friend and property back.


Chapter 5


The next day Hercules was back outside repairing fortifications. Xena was
sparring with Callisto, whose moves were as lightning fast as he
remembered, but Xena eventually disarmed and overpowered her with solid
kicks and blows. Xena's war cries and Callisto's shrieks rang in the air,
as both women flipped and whirled, trying to get an advantage. When Xena
had Callisto pinned to the ground, she let her up and dismissed her with a
friendly pat on the rear.

He straightened momentarily, stretching and wiping the sweat from his eyes
with his forearm, careful not to hit himself with the chain that dangled
between his wrists. He winced, for the sweat stung the cuts in his back,
but he'd been too busy to notice it until now. He felt her eyes upon him
again and turned around. "Slave boy!" she called, walking toward him. "Do
you have any fighting skills?"

Hercules replied matter-of-factly, "I've been told I have some abilities in
that area, my lady."

"Really. And how are your reflexes?"

He suddenly reached up and caught the knife she had thrown just as it was
whizzing past his ear, and answered drily, "Fine."

She grinned, "I see. Well, as you see, I'm sorely in need of a challenging
sparring partner. Are you willing to volunteer?"

"I don't want to hurt you, my lady."

"So sure of your abilities, are you?" she laughed. "Well, think of it as
doing me a favor. Even Callisto's too easy an opponent, and my skills are
getting rusty. And I prefer to improve my chances of surviving the next
battle any way I can."

"Of course, my lady," he answered, remembering a time when *his* Xena had
demanded he practice with her. He easily leapt the portion of wall he had
been working on and approached the Conqueror. He returned her knife and
dropped to one knee before her and bowed his head, his honey-colored hair
falling forward. "However I can be of service, my lady."

"Stand up. Hold out your wrists." She unlocked his manacles and tucked
the key back into her bosom, saying, "Don't get used to being without
those. They suit you."

"As you wish," he answered quietly, wondering to himself, *Why does she
trust me? I could easily break her neck and run. Is it so obvious that
I've surrendered my will to hers?*

"Turn around. Let me see your back," she commanded lightly. He complied.
"Callisto does lovely work, don't you think?" she asked.

"I can't fault her technique, my lady," he answered mildly, while she
indicated that he could turn back and face her.

She laughed. "You are a genuine prize, slave boy." She grabbed a sword
from a small cart filled with weapons and tossed it to him. "So show me
what you've got," she challenged. "And don't think of holding back, or
I'll *really* lay your back open for disobedience."

He didn't bother to explain that he rarely used his full strength in fights
with humans. As it was, remembering his experiences with *his* Xena, he
knew she would prove a challenge, even to *his* strength. They came
together in a clash of blades, attacking and parrying. Hercules wondered
if she knew that every move pulled and reopened the gashes in his back; he
concluded she probably did and that this was another test. Of what? The
extent of his submission? He knew she was more skillful than he was with a
sword, but he took advantage of the fact that he could move considerably
quicker than she would have expected, given his size. And Xena was being
cautious, aware that he had no protection for his lower arms. Their
movements evolved into a controlled dance, Xena attacking, and Hercules
parrying. She whirled around, slashing downward toward his sword, and he
spun backward, bringing the sword up with the strength of both arms above
and behind his head. "You're not bad, slave boy," she muttered.

Eventually, she saw an opening, and with a carefully controlled blow, she
sent his sword flying away from him. He was actually relieved--this was
more familar territory for him. She advanced on him, her sword flashing,
but he readily avoided her blows, sometimes ducking under and sometimes
jumping over her slashing sword, then threw himself into a sudden roll,
knocking her off her feet and onto her back. She arched her back and
jumped into a standing position, exclaiming, "*Good* boy!" As she raised
the sword, he charged her, grabbing her wrist and throwing her. She
flipped and landed on her feet and took a flying leap to strike him in the
chest with a solid kick. As she spun around to kick him again, he caught
her foot in his hand, upending her. She was up again immediately, but was
breathing more heavily.

"Is this the kind of thing you were looking for, my lady?" he demanded, as
she came up behind him, and he drove an elbow backward into her stomach,
which sent her flying backward.

"Yes it is!" she panted, flinging her body into a roll, leaping to her
feet, and charging him. He was about to grab her and simply pick her up
and toss her, knowing she wouldn't get hurt, but she was quicker and
managed to hook a foot around his ankle, bringing him down hard on the
grass. He winced as the blades stabbed into the wounds on his back, almost
all of them bleeding again and stinging excruciatingly from sweat. She
pointed her sword at his throat, but he clapped his hands on the blade.
Their eyes locked, and for a moment he thought he saw a gleam of
recognition there. They had been there before, and he wondered if any
memories from the original timeline were seeping through. As it was, she
was distracted for a moment, and he wrested the sword out of her grasp,
flung it aside and rolled up to his feet.

Mad at herself for letting her concentration waver, she took it out on
Hercules, driving him backward with a series of solid, well-placed kicks to
his chest and stomach. "C'mon slave boy!" she taunted. He ducked under a
backhanded swing to his jaw, and scooped her into his arms. She flipped
herself over backward and out of his grip, struck him a blow in the jaw
that spun him around, then locked her arm around his neck from behind,
yanking his head back by the hair with her other hand.

"Am I allowed to surrender, my lady?" he gasped, knowing he was perfectly
capable of dislodging her arm but not positive he could do so without
breaking it.

"Normally, I'd say no," she said, releasing her grip on him, "but I think
your back's taken enough punishment." His back was streaked with blood,
and strewn with clinging blades of grass. She reached out her hand and
clasped his wrist firmly, treating him for a moment, as almost an equal.
"That was impressive, slave boy. Best workout I've had in a *long* time."

He bowed his head, then dropped to one knee, surprised at how naturally
this gesture was coming to him. "My privilege and my pleasure, my lady."

"Flatterer," she laughingly accused. "Stay there." She retrieved his manacles, then fastened them back on him, musing, "you seem to have a lot of wa
ys of making yourself useful. Take those weapons back to the castle, then
get yourself cleaned up and get those gashes looked at again. I want to
see you and Gabrielle in my chambers at dinner time. It's time for you to
learn some new duties."

"As you wish, my lady," he replied.

She looked down at him, where he remained kneeling, traced one finger in a
path over his cheekbone and along his jawline and thence to his lips, where
he lightly kissed it. "You're turning out even more useful, not to mention
entertaining, than I anticipated, slave boy. *Don't* disappoint me." She
turned around and walked away, collecting her sword as she went, neatly
flipping it up into her hand with her foot. He got up slowly and rather
painfully and set about fulfilling her orders.

* * *

As he moved toward the slave's quarters to get cleaned up, Gabrielle came
running toward him. "She wants me to take care of your back," she

He nodded. "Just let me wash up a little first."

The cold water was excruciating on his back, but he was glad to flush all
the sweat and grass and dirt out of the gashes from the whip.

"What did she do to you?" asked Gabrielle, applying a salve that would
prevent infection.

"Target practice," answered Hercules, and he shrugged self-deprecatingly
and smiled.

"She wants you to wait outside her chambers; I'll bring her dinner later.
She'll let you know when you're wanted," explained Gabrielle.

Hercules waited outside the Conqueror's chambers, as ordered. After a
while, the door opened, and she looked out. "Come in, slave boy." As he
followed her, he noticed that she was wearing a long black robe, tied with
a sash, with apparently nothing underneath.

"Let's see your back," she said abruptly. He turned around, and her
fingers very lightly inspected him. "You'll do. They'll heal. Now--I'm
assuming that strength of yours is good for more than carrying firewood,
repairing fortifications, and flinging me around the practice field." She
smiled almost warmly, before resuming her abrupt tone. "How are you at
giving a massage?"

He grinned, saying, "I've been told I have some abilities in that area."

"Good. Prove it." She unlocked and removed his manacles, then walked over
to a kind of padded table, opened the top of her robe and pulled her arms
out of the sleeves, then lay face down on the table, her back bare.
Hercules had caught a glimpse of breasts, breasts he had caressed and
worshipped and suckled. What this Xena had in common with *his* Xena was
an utter lack of self-consciousness about her body. Xena could be just as
intimidating nude as she could in the severest armor.

"As you wish," he whispered, and began rubbing her neck, thumbs firmly
rotating at the base of her skull. Any flexing of his muscles made his own
back throb and ache; Callisto had laid stripes across every possible muscle
group. But he was overcome again with an intense desire to please this
cold warlord, and not only as a ploy to achieve his goal of restoring the
original timeline.

"Oh, that's good," she purred, as his strong thumbs made their way down her
neck. "You just got yourself another job, slave boy."

"I--I hope to please you, my lady," he stammered.

"Well, keeping working at it," she returned. "You've made me a good deal
sorer than I've been for a long time."

His hands moved to her bare shoulders, and he began to probe them deeply
with his fingers, using his strength to coerce knotted muscles into
submission. "Is this too hard, my lady?" he asked as his thumbs worked
deeply into her shoulders.

"No. I'll let you know if it's too hard, slave boy."

"Yes, my lady," he answered, somewhat abashed. But he took pride in his
task, and relished the feeling of the tense muscles yielding to his
pressure. He didn't exactly know what such a massage would feel like--no
one he knew was strong enough to really liquify his muscles like that,
although his Xena had come close--, but he knew from experience that a
Herculean backrub was a prized commodity. Iolaus in particular would
congratulate himself on having a half-god as a lover, when Hercules would
give him a massage. No, best not to think of Iolaus now. Satisfied that
the shoulder muscles had loosened sufficiently under his hands, he placed
them on Xena's upper arms and began working his way down. She allowed
herself a small sigh of contentment, and Hercules smiled to himself.

Suddenly he noticed faint lines radiating across her back. Transfixed and
momentarily forgetting himself, he traced one with his finger. "Yes," said
Xena abruptly, as if reading his mind. "I don't mete out any punishment I
haven't experienced myself. I wasn't born the Conqueror, you know. Now
get back to work, slave boy."

"Yes, my lady." Silently wondering about *this* Xena's past, he found a
sore spot immediately under her shoulderblade, a hard knot of tension. He
began rubbing it gently, then harder, seeming to dissolve it under his
fingers. He moved down her spine, with sweeping outward strokes of the
heels of his hands, and then worked his thumbs into another area of tension
in her lower back.

He returned his hands to her shoulders, for another long and deep massage,
until she said, "Nice work, slave boy." Xena sat up, pulled on her robe,
then gestured to the manacles. Hercules brought them to her and held out
his arms while she locked them back on. Then she said, "Gabrielle will be
bringing my dinner soon. Go kneel in the corner there out of the way.
Watch and learn."

He flushed, but moved quickly to his appointed place. He had a pretty good
idea just what he would be watching and learning, and a tangle of confused
emotions whirled in his brain. On the one hand, he found his position both
embarrassing and humiliating. Embarrassing because he would be watching
Xena making intimate use of Gabrielle; humiliating because he was being
made to watch. At the same time, he had a flash of hope in his heart; if
he was to watch and learn, then presumably Xena would be wanting him for
the same purposes. Yet he also felt absurdly jealous of Gabrielle. How did
the Conqueror have this effect on him?

But then he reminded himself ruefully that Xena always *had* had this
effect on him, if not in such a dramatic way. The day before the battle
with the revivified Darphus he had fallen hard, although he suspected it
first happened when he held a sword to her throat, and she had glared at
him, courage and defiance blazing out of those blue eyes. But that day
before the battle--when poor Iolaus had gone off to scout--and he had
watched her bravely confronting her new life, he had realized in a flash
why Iolaus had been so dangerously infatuated with her. Hercules willingly
handed her his heart on a platter. He had hoped she did care and that she
was, in some way, reciprocating his feelings, but he already knew they
weren't destined to be a couple. But he also realized it didn't matter
what she felt--he was willing to give her anything she wanted, even if she
was just using him.

Despite all the pain that had come later--his own hurt feelings about her
entirely expected departure, Iolaus' hurt feelings about his betrayal, and
Ares' subsequent assault on Iolaus which finally forced the friends to
confront their feelings about each other--he had never regretted that time.
Desire had flared between them, white-hot, pure as silver, and
incandescent. His hands had burned where they touched her body, his
muscles had melted when she touched his, their mouths had fused in
drought-quenching kisses, and when she had guided his cock inside her, she
had locked him to her with a strength and force that freed all of his own.
He was surprised they didn't consume each other in the heat and friction of
their powerful bodies.

>From that point on, a part of him had belonged to her, even as he was
forced to realize his love for Iolaus, even as he later betrayed that love
with his own impetuous foolishness in marrying Serena. When Hera had bound
Prometheus, Hercules' first and only thought was that he had to stop Xena
from striking the fatal blow. When Ares had framed him for Serena's
murder, she had brought him back to himself, and in a few quiet words she
had made him see his own mistakes with utter clarity. He had had to take
time to mourn, but it was the memory of Xena's words that finally sent him
back to Iolaus, apologizing the most abject way he knew how. And when
Callisto had taken Xena captive, leaving her hurt, terrified, broken, and
shattered, he had dedicated himself to putting her back together. Which,
of course, had gotten them into this mess. They might have known that
humiliating Ares would have future repercussions, but they both couldn't

And here he was, kneeling on a stone floor, his wrists manacled, waiting
for a demonstration in the proper methods of serving as a personal slave of
a violent and ruthless warlord, while his lover was quite happily serving
as the plaything of the god of war. Hercules' musings were interrupted by
a light tap on the door and the entrance of Gabrielle.

She carried a heavy tray and deftly set the dishes and platters on the
Conqueror's table, barely acknowledging Hercules' presence. Her job was to
please her Mistress, and if her Mistress wanted him there, then that's how
it should be. She poured a goblet full of wine, then stepped back. Xena
gestured at the blonde slave's clothes, and Gabrielle took them off,
folding them carefully and putting them on a low stool. She knelt, naked,
near Xena's chair, and Xena said, "You need some adornment, girl." She
pulled something that glinted out of a pocket in her robe. It was only
when she began to attach them to Gabrielle's nipples that Hercules realized
it was a pair of silver clamps, linked with three light chains. He winced
slightly in sympathy, as Gabrielle silently gasped, her lips parting but
making no sound.

"Have you already eaten?" asked Xena brusquely.

"Yes, my lady," whispered Gabrielle. Hercules and Iolaus had played with
such toys before, and while he was usually the one applying them, not
wearing them, they reversed roles on occasion. He remembered the sensation
quite vividly--an intense, shooting pain that burned and throbbed its way
directly to his cock. He couldn't help wondering how it would feel with a
woman's full breasts, and then he was horrified, but not entirely
surprised, to discover that his cock was beginning to swell inside his
tight pants.

"Good," said Xena, "because I want some entertainment while I eat." She
was seated at the head of a long wooden table, and she directed Gabrielle
to get up on the table, lying down at the other end out of the way of
Xena's dinner. "Spread your legs wide, girl," she ordered. "I want your
fellow slave to have a good view. Now play with yourself. I want you
dripping wet by the time I finish eating, but I don't need to tell you not
to come."

Hercules flushed a deeper red, but no one was looking at him, and he
couldn't help watching with rapt attention. And he couldn't help
remembering when he had ordered Iolaus to perform in a similar fashion for
him. Gabrielle positioned herself as directed, spread her legs, and began
playing with her own pubic hair, twisting the reddish curls around her
finger. She then slid her finger along her center, parting her lips. At
first she circled the entrance to her vagina with one finger, occasionally
sliding it inside. Hercules glanced at Xena. He couldn't see her face,
but her pose reminded him of nothing so much as a large bird of prey,
focusing intently on its victim. She ate her dinner abstractedly, her
attention on Gabrielle.

He was getting increasingly aroused and was disturbed at his own reaction.
There was no question that the situation was highly erotic, but it made him
deeply uncomfortable at the same time. And Gabrielle was so matter-of-fact
about what she was doing. She was obviously becoming more aroused,
particularly as her now slick finger began circling her clitoris, but from
what he could see of her face, she seemed neither humiliated by nor
passionately involved in what she was doing. He might very well be in her
place soon, he thought, as he watched her spreading her lips wider with one
hand, and stroking her own increasingly engorged clit with the other.
Would he be able to obey the Conqueror's every command, no matter how
personally humiliating he found it? Would he be able to please her? Would
he be able to distinguish himself from Gabrielle and the other slaves
enough to earn her confidence and accomplish his mission? And would be
able to move her enough to melt some of the ice from her eyes and her
heart? He knew his desires were no longer entirely related to his mission;
he knew he had to reach *this* Xena somehow in order to accomplish it, but
he also wanted to reach her because he was captivated by her. And much to
his own discomfiture, he was captivated by the idea of *serving* her.

Xena finished her dinner, and ordered Gabrielle to stop what she was doing
and clear the table. Gabrielle obeyed instantly and gracefully, not a hint
in her facial expression to indicate that she was frustrated. She cleared
the table, taking the heavy tray outside, but leaving the wine, which she
brought into Xena's bedroom. Xena beckoned to Hercules, and he got up and
followed her. She pointed to a stool in the corner of the bedroom, saying,
"Over there. You've probably had enough of kneeling on a hard floor for
now." Hercules was a bit surprised at the Conqueror's taste for luxury as
he sat down on the stool and looked around him. The bed had a very sturdy
iron frame, undoubtedly useful for securing bed-mates, and was draped by a
canopy of rich purple velvet which matched the coverings on the bed. A few
iron rings jutted from various points along the wall or hung from the
ceiling, making the Conqueror's propensities very apparent.

Xena directed Gabrielle to pull the coverings off the bed, and then she
took off her own robe. Her body was as perfect as Hercules had remembered,
strong, muscled, and yet rounded in all the right places. He desperately
wanted to taste those nipples again and to fill his hands with the contours
of those breasts. Gabrielle scurried to put the robe away, and then Xena
said, "Hands and knees. Middle of the bed." Gabrielle obeyed, positioning
herself on her hands and knees, legs spread wide. Hercules suddenly
noticed a variety of chains and cuffs hanging from the corners of the bed
frame. Xena selected the length she wanted and buckled the leather cuffs
onto Gabrielle's ankles and wrists, so that there was a length of chain
extending from the slave to the corners of the bed. Xena carefully
maneuvered herself between the chains at the head of the bed, sitting in
front of Gabrielle with her own legs parted. "Please me now, girl," she
ordered. Gabrielle crouched lower, kissing her Mistress reverently between
her legs before proceeding to pleasure her with her lips and tongue.

*Watch and learn; there are rituals here I'm supposed to be picking up,*
thought Hercules to himself, shifting slightly to accomodate his
increasingly uncomfortable erection. Xena caught his eye as he shifted,
and let a knowing half-smile reveal that she knew exactly what was making
him uncomfortable. Then she returned her gaze to the strawberry blonde
head moving between her legs. Hercules was momentarily rocked by a surge
of jealousy, and he was sure Xena had read that too in her momentary
glance. He deeply envied Gabrielle at the moment, wishing it was his
tongue tasting the Conqueror's essence, his tongue giving her pleasure.
And he knew, without any self-inflation, that his strength made him better
at providing that particular pleasure than almost anyone. Still, Gabrielle
must have known what she was doing, for Xena soon took in her breath
sharply, her body jolted in climax.

"Good girl," she purred, stroking the slave's blonde hair. "Would you like
to come, girl?"

"If it pleases you, my lady," answered Gabrielle, back up on her hands and

*The rote answer,* thought Hercules grimly. *Watch and learn, indeed.*

Xena retrieved a vial from a table next to her bed and positioned herself
behind Gabrielle. "Get on your elbows," she ordered softly, and Gabrielle
lowered herself again, and Hercules couldn't help admiring the way the pose
made the slave's buttocks stand out while exposing all the treasures that
lay between her legs. Xena pushed Gabrielle's legs a little farther apart,
then poured oil from the vial over her hand. She spent a few moments
stretching Gabrielle's vagina with three fingers, but was satisfied the
slave was sufficiently prepared, and made her hand into a fist and pushed
it inside. Hercules gasped at the same time that Gabrielle did. Gabrielle
had obviously been entered this way before, and Xena's hand passed the
muscled opening easily. Hercules had never seen anything quite like it,
for all of the experimentation he and Iolaus had done. Seeing Xena's fist
vanish into Gabrielle's body, seeing her wrist tightly gripped by those
strong muscles was one of the most powerfully and intensely erotic sights
he had ever seen. It gave him ideas, and he glanced at his own big hands,
now marked with manacles and wondered two things: if such a thing would be
possible with Iolaus, and if he'd ever have his Iolaus back to try it.

Xena began moving her hand, rocking it slightly, then increasing her tempo,
pulling her fist out part of the way and pushing it back in. Hercules
pretty much forgot how to breathe, and he watched Gabrielle seeming to pull
Xena back inside her. Xena's fist drove faster, and Gabrielle shrieked and
bucked in her climax. "Good girl," murmured the conqueror, leaving her
fist where it was. With the inside edge of her other hand, she began
rubbing the slave's clitoris hard in a sawing motion. Gabrielle came again
almost immediately.

"Thank you, my lady," she gasped breathlessly. "My lady is too good to her

Xena only smiled and unbuckled the cuffs. She pulled Gabrielle into her
arms, carefully removed the clamps, and held her while the slave came down
off her shattering climaxes and gasped with pain from the clamps' removal,
gave her some gulps of wine from her goblet, then dismissed her gently. As
Gabrielle had reported, the Conqueror slept alone. Gabrielle obediently
went to the outer room to gather her clothes and departed. Her body
radiated all the signs of someone who had been thoroughly fucked, but her
face maintained its usual placid expression.

Xena carelessly pulled on her robe and tied the sash as she crossed the
room to where Hercules waited mutely. "And did you learn, slave boy?" she

"I trust . . . I did, my lady," he answered carefully. His condition was
all too apparent, and his cock had been ready to burst out of its leather
restraints for quite some time now.

Xena rested her hand lightly over the obvious bulge in his pants. "You're
frustrated, aren't you, slave boy?"

"Yes, my lady," he answered, his voice strained and his face flushed.

"Good. I'd like you to stay that way for a while--until I give you
permission to come. I won't know what you're doing alone in your sleeping
chamber, obviously, but I'm asking you not to take care of it yourself."

She could see by the defeated sag to his shoulders both that he was going
to obey her command and that he wasn't at all happy about it. "As you
wish," he murmured, bowing his head as he felt both shame and frustration
flood his cheeks.

Xena reached out and gently ruffled his hair, to soften the blow. "It's
obvious you're not accustomed to slavery, boy," she said. "You're not like
the others here. Yet that gives you the potential to be all the more
valuable to your owner. I can see your willingness to suffer for me and to
obey an order that I can't possibly enforce. That pleases me, slave boy."

"Then I am more than rewarded, my lady, " he answered, and he meant it.

She grinned and dismissed him. He walked rather uncomfortably to his
sleeping quarters, and it was a long time before his erection subsided
enough for him to get to sleep. Yet the thought of bringing himself
relief was no longer even a remote possibility, and he realized he had submitted himself utterly to the Conqueror. No one but himself would know if he str
oked himself to climax, but he wasn't even tempted to disobey Xena's


Chapter 6


Hercules woke up in the morning with his back itching ferociously; it meant
that it was beginning to heal with his usual rapidity, but it wasn't
comfortable. Before eating a quick meal and heading out to his work, he
went to the infirmary in search of some kind of salve that would keep the
cuts from drying out even more and cracking open again. He ran into
Gabrielle on the way, and she offered to help. Hercules felt acutely
self-conscious, remembering the night before, but Gabrielle's serene
demeanor was unchanged. She applied salve to his back gently and
efficiently, then returned to her other duties.

Hercules spent the morning chopping and stacking firewood for the castle.
The chain dangling between his wrists made the job extremely awkward, and
he could feel various muscles getting sore from the effort of trying to
swing the ax without hitting himself with the chain. And he was troubled
by his experiences the night before--by Xena's treatment of her slaves and
by his own undeniable reactions to that treatment.

Suddenly he stopped in mid-swing, feeling the unmistakable mental twitch of
sensing one of his divine family members nearby. He turned around to see
Ares watching, his arms folded across his chest, and a wide grin leering
from his face. "It's good to see you settling into your new lifestyle,
brother," he mocked.

"This isn't over yet, Ares!" snapped Hercules, his voice hard.

"In your dreams," laughed the god. "You're just a body to her, a piece of
particularly well-prepared *meat*. And she's content in this time in a way
she never was before--no conflict, no internal struggles. I don't know why
I never thought of this before. If you really think she's going to listen
to your stories about another time, you're deluding yourself."

Hercules glanced around. Xena and Callisto had ridden out that morning,
and no one else was around. With a primal roar he flung the ax at the god,
striking him in the chest. Ares looked vaguely surprised at the ax blade
buried in his chest, then pulled it out and threw it back with a roar of
his own. Prepared for this move, Hercules sidestepped and caught the ax by
the handle, tossing it aside.

Ares charged him, but Hercules clasped his hands together and swung out,
catching the god in the stomach. Ares staggered backward, but charged
again, grabbing the chain and yanking Hercules forward, then giving him a
solid knee to the groin. Hercules took in his breath sharply and gasped,
"you must be worried that Xena *will* listen to me, or you wouldn't be here
trying to convince me otherwise." He punched Ares in the jaw with a sharp
jab, causing the god to let go of the chain.

Ares kicked Hercules in the stomach, sending him flying backward. The hard
landing on his back opened several of the gashes, and as he jumped to his
feet, he could feel the shock of air, and grass, and sweat stinging the
wounds. "Wrong again, brother," taunted Ares. "I just hate to see you
wasting your time and energy in a lost cause."

"Your concern is touching," muttered the demigod, biting off his words sharply.

"You should work on some acceptance issues," said Ares with mock sincerity.
"You could do worse than to be the Conqueror's favorite pet."

"What's the matter?" asked Hercules calmly. "Jealous?"

Ares' face twisted in a brief spasm of rage, and the fight resumed, with
Hercules silently cursing the chain that limited his movements. He managed
to grab the front of Ares' leather vest, however, and haul him forward,
kicking his feet out from under him. He straddled the god, bringing his
wrists together, and swung the chain in a vigorous swipe across Ares' face.
"Gotcha, didn't I?" said Hercules with a lethal smile.

Ares roared and shoved the demigod off him, rolling up to his feet and
taking Hercules down with a jab to the solar plexus. "What you haven't
figured out, brother," sneered the god, "is that I win either way. If I
lose Xena to the original timeline, you lose her too, and I *know* that
however much you want your golden boy back, you're gonna miss what you have
here." Ares' eyes were bright with triumph, and a predatory grin slashed
his face. "And you'll spend the rest of your life knowing how much of a
slave you are and . . . " Ares vanished, with his voice trailing off,
"knowing that *I* know it too."

Hercules sagged momentarily, staggered by the truth of Ares' jeering words.
But he took a deep breath and forced himself to return to his work, all the
while shaking inside. There was nothing he could do about what he was
discovering in himself, and there was nothing to do about Ares' knowledge
of it. It would just be another weapon against him in the god's arsenal,
but Hercules wasn't without his own collection of Ares' weaknesses. The
never-ending contest would just have another layer of bitterness added to
it. His only consolation was that if he *did* succeed in restoring the
original timeline, Ares would probably be too humiliated by his defeat to
blurt out embarrassing facts about Hercules to Iolaus and Xena.

He spent the rest of the day in a haze of self-pity, doing his work
automatically, while cursing the fact that he would never be let alone,
never be able simply to live his life without worrying about his loved ones
or himself being targeted. Then he thought of Iolaus moaning under his
hands and mouth, his blue eyes brilliant with desire. Hercules fell to his
knees, his face in his hands, awash in memories of his life with the blond
hunter. There were plenty of rough edges where they rubbed against each
other, sometimes irritatingly, sometimes painfully, but where they did fit,
they fit so well. Waking up next to Iolaus gave Hercules a peace that he
hadn't felt since he lost his family, but at the same time, Iolaus inspired
in him a consuming lust linked with a desire to possess that he had never
felt with anyone else. And Iolaus gave himself--freely, willingly,
completely, with a fierceness and strength that let Hercules know that
Iolaus was going after what *he* wanted just as ruthlessly as Hercules was.
And that knowledge freed the demigod to love Iolaus with a driving passion,
claiming the hunter ever more surely as *his*.

He got up with a sigh, preparing a load of firewood to bring into the
castle, unaware that he had been watched by two women on horseback, one
dark and one blonde. "There's more to him than meets the eye," mused Xena
to Callisto, "although what meets the eye is certainly enticing. I can't
help wondering what it is that he left behind."

* * *

While Hercules was distributing firewood inside the castle, Gabrielle came
running up to him. "She wants you tonight after dinner; she's having a
dinner meeting with Callisto and some of the others. You're to wait like
last night."

Hercules nodded. "Thank you, Gabrielle. I'll be there."

When he was done with his chores and had eaten supper, he cleaned himself
up, not happy about the twinges and stinging across his back. He would
have felt a lot better if he hadn't been fighting with Ares, and he gritted
his teeth in a momentary spasm of fury. He reflected that this was
probably not the best mood in which to greet his Mistress, remembering his
sister's pithy advice to "lose the 'tude, dude." But he was both depressed
and angry and didn't know if he could hide it.

His body strung tight with tension, he took himself to his appointed place
outside the Conqueror's chambers. After about ten minutes, he saw her
approaching down the corridor. Just watching her walk, he felt the aura of
the magnetism she emanated, and his earlier mood thawed into an
irresistible drive to please and serve. "Slave boy," she said
matter-of-factly, then simply jerked her head toward her door, indicating
that he was to follow her.

There was a bath filled with steaming water waiting in the main room. Xena
turned to look at Hercules and asked, "So how are you at washing a woman's

"Pretty good, I think," he answered with a shrug and slightly raised
eyebrows, thinking of the time when he'd been called to wash a shattered
and bruised Xena's hair after her ordeal with Callisto. And Deianera had
loved for him to wash her hair.

"Good," she said. "Help me remove my armor."

"As you wish," he said quietly and unbuckled her armor, removing it, and
sliding the bracers off her arms as she held them out to him. She sat
down, indicating her boots, and he knelt in front of her, pulling them off.

She stood up and took off the rest of her clothes and said, "Go get that
tray." The tray held soap, a sponge, and some vials of fragrant oil. He
brought it over to the tub and shook a few drops from one of the vials into
the water. "Very good," she said as she stepped into the tub. "On your
knees, slave boy. I'll let you know when I need your help." Hercules
kneeled by the side of the tub watching the Conqueror as she languorously
soaped herself, drawing the sponge along the length of first one, then
another bronzed, muscled leg, then along her arms. As the sponge in her
hand swept in circles around her breasts, he felt his neglected cock
beginning to stir. His eyes were riveted by her glistening skin, the taut
curve of her neck, the slope of her breasts, and the alert nipples
responding to the touch of the sponge and the difference in temperature
between the water and the air.

Xena suddenly tossed the sponge back over her shoulder, saying, "Think
fast, slave boy!" Hercules reached out and caught it, reacting even before
the words were spoken. "Wash my back," she ordered, leaning forward to
give him access.

"Yes, my lady," he answered, wrapping a loop of the chain around one arm so
it wouldn't swing against her and complying quite willingly, sliding the
sponge across the hard planes of her back. His fingers just ached to reach
around and cup a slippery breast, and he figured she knew it, but he obeyed
her scrupulously, not venturing with even a finger outside the selected

She sighed in relaxation, then said, "Now my hair."

Hercules rubbed the soap between his hands, working up a lather, then began
rubbing the soap into Xena's hair. His fingers massaged her scalp with
exquisitely controlled pressure, and she exhaled slowly, saying lightly,
"When Callisto brought you in, I knew you were special, but I didn't
imagine you'd be useful in *so* many ways. I can't wait to find out what
*else* you're good at."

Hercules flushed, but continued working his fingers through her long hair,
feeling it slide like wet silk between his fingers. There was a pitcher
near the tub, and he filled it, carefully rinsing Xena's hair, entranced by
its sleek fall away from her forehead as she tilted her head back.
"Towel," she said as she stood up gracefully, rivulets of water glittering
as they flowed down her body. He wrapped a large towel around her, then
used another to soak up water from her hair. She sat down on a chair,
still wrapped in her towel and told him where to find a comb. Hercules
combed Xena's hair dexterously, then brought her her robe as ordered and
helped her into it. She turned to him, tracing the shape of his lips with
one finger.

Xena draped herself in a large armchair, letting her robe fall open. "You
have a lovely mouth, slave boy," she remarked; "come here and show me if
you're as skilled at giving pleasure as you look."

Hercules raised his eyebrows slightly and moved to kneel before her chair,
his mouth quirking in a half-smile. Feeling reckless, he asked, "Would my
lady like it quick, or should I draw it out?"

Xena grabbed a handful of long honey-colored hair, yanking hard, but the
slight twitch of her mouth showed her amusement. "Draw it out, slave boy.
In fact, I don't want to come until I tell you I'm ready. And keep your
hands to yourself."

"As you wish," answered Hercules quietly. This was something he was both
good at and loved to do, and he had no doubt about his abilities to read
her signals and hold her off until she was ready. And he had an advantage
she didn't know about--experience, however brief, of pleasuring Xena's body
before. Remembering how Gabrielle had started, he kissed her lightly at
the very point of the upside-down triangle of her dark curls. He then
parted the already-moist lips with his tongue, tracing a path along her
center with a featherlight stroke. His strenuous tongue danced over her
contours and along her folds, probing, licking, stroking, teasing, and
swirling. Sometimes he toyed with the entrance to her body with the tip of
his tongue or used it to tightly circle her clit. He would steadily
increase the pressure of his strokes, as Xena's breathing grew more rapid,
and her grip tightened in his hair. Then he would back off, exploring her
with the lightest of touches as her breathing reluctantly slowed.

He pushed inside her with his tongue, fucking her with voluptuous
deliberation, probing the slick passage, using his strength and skill to
keep raising the level of her arousal without taking her over the top.
Then he drew long ovals with his tongue up from her entrance and around her
clit and back down, while her breathing grew increasingly ragged.
Hercules wondered if he could push the Conqueror to demand to come, and he
closed his lips around her swollen clit, flicking it with his tongue.
"Now, slave boy! Now!" she growled roughly, and Hercules smiled to
himself, lapping at her clit with vigorous broad strokes that brought her
shuddering to her peak and over it into waves of convulsive climax.

She released her grip on his hair as her breathing slowed, and he sat back
on his heels, tossed his hair back, and looked steadily into her eyes.
"I'm impressed," she said coolly, and he marvelled at how quickly she
mastered herself. "You're looking pretty pleased with yourself," she
continued, "and don't think I don't know what you were doing there, boy. I
wouldn't want you to forget your status, and that's why I will go to bed
satisfied tonight, and *you* will not. Understand?"

"Understood, my lady," he answered, his eyes shining with the knowledge of
having pleased her. His cock was demanding attention, but his own
satisfaction really didn't seem that important at the moment.

Xena pulled him toward her by his hair, thrusting her tongue roughly into
his mouth to taste herself there and kissing him roughly. Then she
released him and said "You're dismissed, slave boy. Perhaps I'll have more
use for you tomorrow."

He bent over to kiss her hand and murmured, "Thank you for letting me serve
you, my lady," then got up and walked out of the room, about as
uncomfortably as he had the night before.

* * *

This time Xena summoned Hercules herself, after a day spent conferring with
Callisto and efficiently and briskly directing groups of men who were
moving weapons and supplies. She watched him work for a while, her lips
involuntarily quirking into a smile as she admired the play of muscles
under his sweat-sheened skin. She observed the way he compensated for the
annoying presence of the chain between his wrists, the way his biceps
bulged as he lifted the heavy boulders he was using to repair her
fortifications, and the way he tossed his long honey-colored hair off of
his face.

Finally she approached him, saying peremptorily, "Slave boy! I have use
for you tonight. Get yourself cleaned up and come to my chambers."

"As you wish," he answered, with a slight bow of his head.

Newly bathed, he took himself to the doors of her apartments. The guards
outside let him in with a knowing wink. She was at a table, looking at
some parchment documents, and wearing the black silk robe she'd worn
before. "Down," she said, pointing to the floor. He knelt near her feet,
silently, and waited, his head bowed and his hair falling forward around
his face. She licked her lips and went back to her work, until there was a
knock at the door. "That'll be my dinner," she said. "Go get it and bring
it inside. Set it up here." She cleared the documents off the table,
while he went to the door.

Hercules accepted a tray with covered dishes and a carafe of wine. He
carefully set the table for her, moving as smoothly as possible to prevent
the chain from clanking against things. "Very nice," she said. "Now,

"Yes, my lady," he answered and knelt again near her feet. She began
eating, then offered him a piece of food. He flushed for a moment in
anger, but opened his mouth and took it.

She laughed. "I knew some indignity would get to you, slave boy. Well,
too bad. I *like* feeding you, and I like seeing you on your knees."

"As you wish, my lady," he answered, not very effectively concealing the
edge to his voice.

She laughed again and offered him a sip of wine from her cup, and the meal
continued, with the Conqueror feeding Hercules from her hand, treating him
as nothing so much as a prized pet. His jaw and the cords of his neck
tightened in anger and humiliation, but he had resolved to earn her trust,
and if she wanted to feed him like a pet, then he would submit to it. When
she finished her dinner, she said, "Take the tray outside. Someone will
clear it up. Leave the wine." He carefully replaced the used dishes on
the tray and took it to the guards outside.

"Now come here," she ordered, "and bring the wine." He carried the carafe
and the goblet to the bedroom where she beckoned him.

"Now strip."

"As you wish." Hercules nodded questioningly toward a low stool, and she
gave him an answering nod in permission with a brief flick of her hand. He
sat down and began to take off his boots. She poured herself a glass of
wine and sat down on the bed to watch. He stood up and let his belt fall
to the floor. She raised her eyebrows slightly and nodded at him to
continue. Her scrutiny made him uncomfortable, but he found it enticing as
well. He knew others admired his body, but he had never given it much
thought. Now, being treated as a desired object, he was pleased at the
impression he made. He unfastened his leather pants and pulled everything
off, standing before her naked.

She looked him up and down appraisingly, as a smile began to spread across
her mouth.

She pushed herself back on the bed, so that she was leaning on a pillow
that rested against the iron bars at the head of the bedframe and patted
the bed in front of her. "Come here. Sit facing away from me. And lean
forward a little." He obeyed, and she began lightly tracing the cuts in
his back with her fingertips and lightly stroking the muscles which stood
out. "What a magnificent plaything you are," she remarked. "If the gods
designed you as a pleasure toy, they couldn't have done a better job."

Her voice was like dark honey laced with spice, and it insinuated itself
around all his nerves, while her fingers played across his back. "I want
you to answer my questions," she said in a harder voice.

"As you wish, my lady," the demigod answered.

"Why did you take that whipping for the girl? I hope you realize that what
I was punishing you for was your presumption in intervening. I knew right
away that the accident wasn't your fault."

"I figured that, but I wanted to spare her punishment, my lady. I thought
I was more capable of enduring a whipping than she was."

"I see. And if you figured I saw through your ruse, what made you think I
would go along with it?"

"I hoped the prospect of seeing me whipped would prove entertaining enough
that you would spare her," answered Hercules very quietly.

"And so it was," the warlord remarked, drawing her finger with slightly
harder pressure along each cut. "Was it so for you?"

"If you're asking if that kind of pain excites me, my lady, no it doesn't.
But I will admit to wanting to make an impression on you, to please you."

"And so you did. How about this? Would *this* excite you?" He heard her
reach for a knife, pull it out of its sheath, and then he felt her drawing
it lightly over his back. She didn't break the skin, but merely skimmed
the surface with the blade pressing just enough for him to feel it. The
knife would leave faint lines, but not draw blood at that rate. "*Does*
this excite you?" she demanded.

"It would be obvious to you that I was lying if I said it didn't, my lady,"
said Hercules, ruefully regarding his stirring cock.

She laughed. "And what if I decided to hurt you with this?" She pressed
the point slightly into his shoulder blade. "What if I wanted to watch
your blood oozing out of your skin? Would you try to stop me?"

"No, my lady."

"Why not?"

"I want to please you." His voice trembled slightly.

"That's hard for you, isn't it?" Xena purred, continuing to play with him,
now drawing circles and spirals with the very point of the knife.

"Yes and no," he answered. "Obeying *anyone* does not come easy for me,
but I can't help wanting to serve you, to . . . submit to you."

"I've noticed. It's one of the things I like about you, slave boy. You do
it even though it's hard for you. It's been a long time since I've
bothered summoning a man to my bed. Frankly, I prefer that little slave
girl you protected so nobly. But there's something very tempting about
you." She tossed the knife aside carelessly, got up and ordered, "Lie down
with your hands above your head."

He complied, and she wrapped the chain around his wrists, pulling them
together, then reached for a lock on the table next to the bed and locked
the chain to the lowest of the iron bars of the frame. His arms were
stretched above his head, and his erection was impossible to conceal. "Oh,
that's lovely, that really is," she murmured. "Chains become you, slave
boy. What *is* it about you?" She raked her nails down the the underside
of his arm, from his elbows to his armpits, leaving faint red lines. "I
just look at you, and I want to abuse you," she continued. "And you're
splendid, undeniably, but it's not just your looks that draw me."

"You flatter me, my lady," he remarked, smiling up at her, while thinking
to himself, *Perhaps you sense that I love you, love you even though you
tried to murder me and you betrayed my best friend, love you despite your
crimes and your dark soul. I ache with love for you--did I fall when I
held a sword to your throat, and you offered it to me, expecting me to kill
you? Or did I fall later when you changed? Ah, it's not you anyway, or is

She smiled. "May-be," she drawled, tracing a finger down the line of his
jaw, "it's because those blue eyes of yours seem to beg for it whenever you
look at me."

*Admit it, Herc,* he thought to himself, *it's *this* one you want to be
with right now. It's *this* Xena who makes you want to submit and serve.*
He gazed up at her, eyes glowing with desire, and said, "Is it so obvious
that I need you to use me?"

"It's so obvious, slave boy, and use you I will--for *my* pleasure.
Whether you will be allowed satisfaction will depend on how well you please

"As you wish. But I have a name, my lady."

"No doubt. And what is it?"

"Hercules. Would you please indulge me by letting me hear you say it?"

"It can't hurt," said the warlord casually, as she drew her hands along his
upper arms, revelling in the feel of the slightly straining muscles. Then
in a much gentler tone than he'd heard her use yet, she said, "Hercules.
Hercules. *My* Hercules."

He closed his eyes, and an identical voice from his memory came to his
inner ear, saying, "Is this what it feels like to be you, Hercules?"

"So, Hercules?" she asked. "Why haven't you broken that chain? I know you
can." Her hands still molded his upper arms, sometimes travelling to his

"Yes, I can," he said simply. "I've *chosen* to obey you, my lady."

"I'm flattered," she said with a wry smile. "But why should I trust you
not to change your mind and decide to escape . . . or worse?"

"You have my word," he insisted. "I will obey you and serve you to the
best of my ability. And, frankly, there's not much you could do about it
if I did decide to leave."

"That will have to do," she said abruptly. "You're just too delicious to
resist right now." Her hands wandered over his chest, running her fingers
through the hairs, and lightly raking him with her nails. She stood up
suddenly, untied her sash, and let the silk robe fall off.

"You're beautiful, my lady," he said reverently.

She smiled, and walked across the room to retrieve her knife, well aware
that he was watching her as she moved. When she returned, she suddenly
mounted him, and he gasped as his cock was enclosed by her moist heat. She
didn't move, but took the knife and began drawing patterns with its point
on his chest. "Don't move until I tell you," she ordered, while she drew
lines along his abdominal muscles with the knife, then moved it back up to
his chest, tracing a spiral that radiated outward from first one nipple
then the other. His nerves danced as the point of the knife travelled over
his chest and abdomen. She drew a circle with it within the hollow of his
throat and then a straight line down to his navel, and then etched icy-hot
lines along the tender flesh on the undersides of his arms, one after the
other. She was fascinated by the swell of his pectoral muscles, and traced
them with the knife, sometimes pausing to press it harder into his flesh,
but without drawing blood. He moaned softly; it was agonizingly delicious
to be inside her, and it was maddening not to be able to do anything about
it. "I know what you want, Hercules," she added, "but whether you get it
or not will depend on your perfect obedience. And on *my* whims. A slave
shouldn't count on having his desires satisfied."

"As you wish," he whispered.

"Exactly," she answered with a smile, and he dared to grin back. They both
knew they had an unspoken understanding, as if they were reading each
others' minds. But she didn't want him to be too complacent, and she
pressed the point of the knife into one nipple with perfect control. He
wouldn't get hurt, but the sensation was like a bolt of lightning straight
to his groin. He groaned aloud, exerting all his willpower to prevent his
hips from thrusting upward. While keeping pressure on one nipple with the
knife, she reached for the other with her free hand, and began to pull on
it and roll it between her fingers. Hercules had a double motivation not
to move. He was genuinely afraid of displeasing her--and not because he
feared punishment, but because he wanted her to be pleased--and he didn't
want to jolt the knife point pressing into his nipple. The other nipple
burned with her rough handling. He was consumed with desire, and the
desire to surrender himself to her pleasure burned even hotter than the
desire for his own release.

"Please, Xena," he begged her hoarsely. "Please let me use my hands."

She raised her eyebrows at his free use of her name, but decided to let it
go because she liked the sound of her name in his pleading voice. "What
for?" she asked coolly.

"To give you pleasure, Xena, my lady, please."

She put the knife aside and laid her hands flat along his chest. "Go
ahead," she said. "Free yourself. Impress me."

This was a harder task than it would have been before, as he now had to
cope with the chains wrapped around his wrists and the lock on the bed, but
it would simply take more effort. He began to pull his wrists apart,
straining against the metal. He clenched his teeth with the exertion, and
Xena felt his entire body tense beneath her. He also had to concentrate on
controlling himself--he hadn't been given permission to come yet. As he
separated his hands, the chain began to creak and ever so slowly some of
the links began to pull apart. "That's amazing," she said, despite
herself. He pulled harder, his body flexing, and the muscles swelling in
his chest and arms. The chain suddenly snapped, and the heavy iron lock
that had attached it to the bar flew off. He reached up and snatched it
out of the air and was left with the manacles on his wrists, and a length
of broken chain dangling from each one.

"I *am* impressed," she said, grinning, her eyes sparkling. "Can you break
off those chains so they don't get in the way? Leave the manacles--they
look good on you."

"As you wish," he said, smiling back, his face alight with pleasure. He
snapped the chain off each manacle, and again she enjoyed the flexing of
his muscles beneath her.

"Now what did you want to do with those hands now that you've freed them?"
she asked.

"Make you feel good," he said softly, "although apparently I already am
doing so" he added with a slight raise of his eyebrows. Her juices flowed
down around his stiff cock and down her thighs and lubricated his belly and

"Yes, you can tell I liked that," she purred in a sultry tone. "Now, go
ahead, make me feel even better."

He slid his large hands up along her rib cage until he cupped her breasts,
then grasped them firmly and began to brush his thumbs over her erect
nipples. "Yesss," she hissed, then added, "don't think you have to be

"As you wish," he said, with a wide smile. He began molding her breasts
more roughly in his hands, then rolling the nipples between his fingers.

"Harder," she said through clenched teeth. "Use some of that strength of
yours in a good cause."

"As you wish," he repeated, pressing harder, while pulling on her nipples
sharply. With a rough squeeze, he brought her to her climax. She gasped
and let out a sharp cry, and she pulsed around his aching cock. He held
his body utterly rigid, willing himself not to come, and when the danger
had passed, he looked up at his mistress, noting the sudden softness in her
face and the gesture with which she pushed her dark hair off her forehead.

She gazed at him, her blue eyes piercing his own. Her lips twitched
slightly in a knowing smile, which he returned. But what she said, in a
devastatingly soft voice, was "Get your hands back over your head."

He obeyed, and she leaned forward, bracing herself on his arms, knowing he
had the strength to support her weight. "Stay still," she admonished, and
began to slide herself up and down on his cock. He gritted his teeth as
the friction made his arousal all the more unbearable, and her fingers dug
into the flesh of his arms. With perfect control, she raised herself
almost all the way off him, then lowered herself back down, with a
maddeningly slow pace. This continued for several minutes, and he tossed
his head, growling softly with his teeth bared, unable to keep his body
entirely still or his voice silent.

Suddenly, with one hand, she grasped a handful of his long hair, and
wrapped it tightly around her hand, her fist now bracing itself on his arm.
"You've been *very* *very* good. You can move now, slave boy," she
whispered, "and you have permission to come, but you'd better give me a
good ride." His hips rocked upward at her words, and he began thrusting
into her slowly. She matched her motions to his, and he gradually moved
his pelvis faster. "Go ahead, slave boy, show me how strong you are," she
urged. "I *like* it hard and fast."

"As you wish," he gasped. It was actually an infinite relief not to have
to be gentle and hold back as the world's strongest man had to with other
female lovers. Given permission to go all out, he thrust into her with all
his strength, and she clamped herself against him with all of hers.

Hercules' groans grew louder as his cock drove into her depths, and her
breathing got faster and faster, until she came with a shrieked "YAH!"
while yanking hard on her handful of his hair. His orgasm followed hers
immediately, and it was as if weeks of tension released themselves in an
overpowering flood. His hips high rose off the bed, lifting her with them,
as he came, and he roared, engulfed with ecstasy. She collapsed against
his chest, and he ventured to put his arms around her, and they lay
together while the spasms of their bodies gradually slowed.

Tears were welling dangerously in his eyes, however, and he turned his head
away, letting his hair fall over his face. Between the long-delayed
physical release and his conflicting feelings about Xena and about his own
submission, Hercules was overwhelmed. He felt as head-over-heels,
foolishly in love as a teenager, beset with a desperate puppy love that
thrilled at the least acknowledgment by the beloved. He felt deliriously
happy to have pleased his Mistress and humiliated at his willing surrender at the same time.

As Xena carefully levered herself off his body, he quickly p
laced his hands back over his head. "You have good instincts, and I like
that," she said softly, "but you can drop the formalities for *now*." He
lowered his arms, and she brushed the hair out of his face, forcing him to
reveal to her his tear-filled eyes. "You don't know how much I cherish
those tears," she murmured. "My other slaves are so inured to their status
that they don't really *feel* what it is to give of themselves. You give
yourself willingly, and it's so very hard for you," she mused. She lightly
stroked his arm as she talked, tracing the curve of a bicep, then she bent
to kiss him. She parted her lips, and he accepted the invitation, letting
her capture his tongue in her mouth and claim it as her own as she sucked
on it forcefully, while her tongue twined around it in an urgent and
compelling dance.

When she broke the kiss, she reached across him to the table next to her
bed, rummaging in the drawer. She pulled out a key and unlocked the
manacles on his wrists, saying gently, but with an ironic smile, "I don't
think you'll be needing those any more, slave boy. Somehow I don't think
you'll be trying to run away." Xena reached for the knife abstractedly,
the way another person might toy with a toothpick and began tracing lines
along the swell of his biceps.

He swallowed, his eyes still leaking tears, "That I won't, my lady."

"You came to me for a reason, didn't you?" she asked. "The minute I saw
you I knew those chains couldn't hold you, and you must have let yourself
be captured."

"You're very observant, my lady."

Xena smacked Hercules sharply on a nipple with the flat of the knife,
saying, "I didn't get where I am now by being unobservant, slave boy."

His cock immediately sprang to attention, and he heard a throaty chuckle
beside him. "One of these days, you're going to have to tell me where
you're from and why you're here," she paused, "Hercules, but I haven't much
time, and right now I want to amuse myself . . . with *this*." She
touched the very tip of his cock with a finger, then drew it down its
length, then shifted to sit between his legs. He felt the point of the
knife press into his balls and gulped suddenly. Xena laughed and remarked,
"I suggest you hold *very* still, slave boy."

"Yes, my lady," he breathed. With the flat of the knife, she weighed his
balls, lifting first one, then the other. Then she delicately scraped the
blade over them with a touch so light he felt no pressure, just a wisp of
breeze as the knife hummed over his flesh.

"You trust me," she said wonderingly. "Any other man I know would have
gone completely limp by now in fear."

"I have reasons to trust you," he said softly.

"Hmm. That's an intriguing thought, but I'll hold it for later." Xena
tapped his cock with the flat of the knife. When Hercules moaned, his
arousal rising in him again as if it hadn't been quenched, she tapped him
harder, then slapped his cock on one side with the knife and then on the
other as it swayed and quivered. Hercules' knuckles were white where he
was gripping the bed frame above his head, as Xena proceeded to drag the
point of the knife along the underside of his cock, and then, with an
exquisitely delicate touch, she collected a drop of the fluid that was
seeping out of the tip onto the knife and licked it off with a feral grin.

"Gods. What you do to me, slave-boy." She put the knife aside and moved
up to the head of the bed. "I want you to pleasure me with that
magnificent tongue of yours," she ordered, straddling his head. Hercules
readily complied, placing his hands on her buttocks to help support her
weight and probing her depths with his tongue, while her juices and his own
seed spread along his cheeks and chin. Then he sucked her clit between his
lips and closed his teeth on it, all the while sucking hard. Xena climaxed
with a triumphant whoop, and Hercules felt the paroxysms of the muscles
under his fingers. She shifted so she was sitting next to him and
descended upon his mouth for a brutal kiss that left his lower lip bleeding
from the ravages of her teeth.

"You're mine," she growled roughly. "Mine, slave boy."

"Yours, my lady," he murmured, awed by the intensity of her passion.

"You may not wear my manacles any more, but I want you to bear my mark,
Hercules," she said fiercely. "And I want to see you bleed for me, up

"Wh-whatever you wish, my lady," he agreed, caught up in this moment where
nothing else existed but Xena and his need to please her.

"On your knees," she said in a slightly calmer voice. He scrambled off the
bed and knelt, gazing up into her blazing blue eyes from his own clear blue
depths. She had the knife in her hand, and he noted how much the knife was
an extension of her body, of her power and control. "Brace yourself," she
said dryly, then with a few swift strokes, she carved her initial into his
upper arm, slightly below the shoulder. "That will last for a while," she
said with satisfaction as the blood began to well up, "and the beauty of
it, is that I can always have the pleasure of doing it again."

She straddled him, impaling herself on his erection, then leaned forward to
lick the blood from the mark she had carved. Then she kissed him, forcing
her tongue into his mouth. Her voice low, she said, "Yes, taste yourself.
Taste your essence, taste yourself opening up to me, giving me everything
that you are, Hercules."

*Not everything,* he thought to himself as a wave of love for Iolaus washed
over him, Iolaus who gave himself so willingly to *him*.

But then she whispered, "Fuck me, slave boy. Use your strength to lift
your Mistress," and he was swept away again by his own desire to be
possessed. He slipped his hands under her muscular buttocks, and she
grasped onto his hair with both hands like reins. His head fell back, and
the cords of his neck stood out while he raised and lowered her on his
throbbing shaft, forcing himself to keep to a deliberate pace, until she
ordered, "faster now."

Within a few moments she yelled, "Oh yes! *Good* boy*!" and she convulsed
around him, triggering his own obliterating, shattering climax.

Spent and exhausted, he nonetheless managed to sweep her up in his arms and
deposit her on the bed. She patted the bed next to her, and he lay down
gratefully, lifting her hand to his mouth and pressing kisses on it. Xena
ran her fingers through his sweat-soaked hair, pushing it away from his
forehead, then ran her fingertips along his cheekbone and jawline. "I have
to tell you something," she said after a while. "Caesar's preparing a
force to sail toward the coast. He sends out these *feelers* now and
then," she said disgustedly, "always hoping I'm somehow no longer in power
or weakened. Or maybe he hopes these periodic skirmishes will wear me
down. I have to defeat them convincingly--then he'll stay away for a
while. We leave for the coast tomorrow."

"I saw the preparations," answered Hercules quietly. "Let me go with you."

"Why?" she challenged, her hand flat on his chest.

"You've seen that I can fight, my lady," he offered. "I can help."

"You're sooo transparent I can see right through you," she purred silkily.
"You want to be there to try to defend me, don't you?"

He nodded. "I don't need protecting," she said harshly, but then her tone
softened, "but I'll take you with me on *one* condition."

"Yes, my lady."

"You obey my every order without question--as a warrior, not as a favorite,
not as a devoted slave. That means you go where I tell you, whether it
leaves you in a position to defend me or not. Understand?"

"Yes, my lady," he answered, bowing his head. "I will obey."

"All right then," she smiled.

"If I may make a request," he began.


"My shirt and my gauntlets. I'll feel pretty silly going into battle
without them."

"Of course," she laughed. "You'll have them in the morning when we ride.
When we get back here, though, you give them up again. You're a slave,
*my* slave first and foremost."

"I understand, my lady."

"Good," Xena said decisively. "Now go get some sleep. We'll be up early."
She pulled Hercules to her for a prolonged kiss, then smacked him on the
buttocks. "Now go, slave boy."

He dropped to one knee, kissed her hand, and whispered, "Thank you, my
lady. F-for everything. I . . . "

"You don't need to say anything," she said gently. "I *know*."

He got up, pulled on the minimum number of clothes to make a decent exit,
and headed for his own quarters.

Continued in Part 2

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