FREEDOM

© 2000 By C.J. Wells

 

Disclaimers: Xena, Gabrielle, Herodotus, Hecuba, Lila, Seraphin, Palaemon and Glaphyra belong to those rather fortunate individuals affectionately known as The Powers That Be at Studios USA, Ren Pics and whatnots. The only thing Iím gaining from using them is the personal satisfaction of toying with the characters in my own image. Certain specific Xena and Gabrielle characterizations contained in this story were originated in Chattel & Thrall by Dark Angel. For character and events background, I suggest reading these stories, as well as another fine piece, Remuneration by Day. I drew inspiration from these stories, but will take my continuing stories in a different direction. Marcus Antonius, a.k.a. Mark Antony (83 B.C.- 30 B.C.) was a real guy in ancient Roman history. All other characters named are mine.

Credits: This is a sequel of sorts to my inaugural fan fiction piece, The Embrace. Where that story told of events from Gabrielleís point of view, this story chronicles similar events from the point of view of our favorite Warrior Princess. I highly suggest you read that story first, as this may not make a lot of sense otherwise. Also, if for no other reason, doing so would make me very happy.

Character Warning: The Xena and Gabrielle depicted in this story are not the cute and cuddly Warrior Princess and Bard we see on the show. This is a Xena the Conqueror tale, and thus, Xenaís a naughty naughty girl. Sheíll be the first to admit it too.

Women in Love & Lesbian Sex Warning: As this is from Xenaís point of view, the tall, dark and deadly one does not mince words. Some of the descriptions are rather graphic and include past-tense references to bondage/S/M concepts and actions. Nonetheless, if you canít vote legally or if you donít like this sort of thing, Regis and Kathy Leeís on in ten minutes.

Violence Warning: See Lesbian Sex Warning.

Bad Words Warning: Kyleís mom would probably have me expelled to Canada.

Comments & Feedback: Oh, absolutely.


I have made a decision about Gabrielle.

As I discreetly peek at her quill away on her little table in her little bedchamber, my head is spinning as though I drank too much. Thereís no doubt Iím drunk, but the intoxicating culprit isnít from a wine or ale. The intoxicant is that little concubine of mine scribbling away in there.

She slipped away from bed this morning while I was still asleep and after the most wonderful night of my life. Now Iím wondering what sheís writing? Itís probably about me, no doubt. What I am to her, what Iíve done to her. I hope itís about us. Sheís got about hundred scrolls in her room that contain her writing alone. Ok, perhaps Iím exaggerating, but she does love to write. When I granted her request to learn to read, it was as if I was giving a child a lifetime supply of sweet nut bread and apple dumplings. Sheís been reading, writing and telling stories ever since. I really donít get that, but it doesnít matter. Itís just one of a thousand endearing things about her.

I purchased Gabrielle five years ago as my personal body slave. She is the eldest daughter of Herodotus and Hecuba, free citizens of Poteidaia, which is a little village located in northern Greece. I wasnít her first owner, and thus, she did not come to me a virgin. But pretty much from the start, I felt somewhere deep in my being that she was the other half of my soul. Of course, that wasnít the reason I bought her. At first it was lust, pure and simple. She is small and nubile. Her hair is the color of honey, her eyes the color of the sea. Her skin is creamy and soft. She has a nice firm ass and supple breasts. I could go on and on about just how truly beautiful and desirable she is, but frankly, in hindsight, it was the first words that flowed from her soft lips that enchanted me. The way she spoke, the way she looked and sounded when I heard her voice, thatís what drew me into her. She has a pure heart and a strong spirit. Thatís what intoxicated me.

When I first had her in my bed, I had her the way I had my previous body servants. For the others it had always been about control. I was in control of my pleasure. Before Gabrielle, orgies were common in my palace. I would have four, five, maybe more body servants surrounding me. I would have both men and women performing on me or performing on each other while I watched. More frequently, I had nothing but women, each one in charge of pleasuring a specific part of my body. My sexual perversions and appetites were the stuff of Corinthian legend.

So when Gabrielle joined my household, she was quickly introduced to a sexual appetite that, some of which I suppose, still revolts her to no end. Early on, I didnít care. But I just couldnít bring myself to share her with my other body slaves. I didnít want any of them touching her. She was mine. I wanted her all to myself and because I wanted her all the time, I just didnít have any need for the others anymore.

I fell in love with Gabrielle early on. I know it now. I knew it then. But I also hated her for it. I hated her for the way she made me feel. Love is for the weak and it always leads to betrayal. Sometimes my heart would lurch when she looked at me. That would anger me and, in retaliation, I would whip her. Of course, she never understood why. I especially hated it when she cried. Of course, I was the only one who made her cry in the first place, but once she started, I took it as another form of betrayal. I would whip her until she cried, and then I would whip her some more demanding that she stop crying. She learned fast. She would hold her tears until she was safe in her own bedchamber, and then she would wail the night away.

I think I mistreated her because I wanted her to hate me. I reasoned that if she hated me enough, there would be no possible way that I could love a woman who despised me. I was forcing her to hate me while I was trying to force myself not to love her. Of course it didnít work. As time passed, I just fell more and more deeply in love with her.

I wanted to feel every inch of her. I wanted to be deep inside of her. I never cared much for the feel of the male sexual instrument inside of me, but all of a sudden I desired to know that feeling, from the manís point of view. Early on, I had my leather craftsman, the same one who made the straps with which I used to whip her, to construct a human-like phallus for me to use on Gabrielle. It was longer than the average male member, but I reasoned that if I, Xena the Conqueror, Empress of the Known World, was a man, my member would be longer than any other manís anyway.

Early on, I derived great pleasure in inflicting pain on her during sex. It let me know that she was feeling me. But the first time she climaxed with me, ah, that was one of the greatest highlights of my life. It came totally unexpected to me. I had climaxed in a mad rush after having her with my phallus. She lay there, clearly in pain from the device, holding back tears, when something absolutely bizarre came over me. Guilt, was it? Remorse? Compassion? I donít know. All I know is, I wanted her to feel what I felt. So, in desperation, I scooped up her creamy thighs onto my shoulders and began sucking her center. She tasted so good. I caressed her breasts and hips, her belly and her thighs as I performed. Her sex became saturated, which excited me, but when I heard the first moan come from that rose-petal mouth of hers, I was in bliss. Her thighs nearly broke my jaw as she tightened them around my face. Her thrusting was surprisingly powerful and when she found release, her scream was wonderfully deafening.

I discovered then that sex with Gabrielle was much more satisfying for me when she actually enjoyed it too.

Oftentimes I watched Gabrielle from afar. Despite my tyranny, sheís never lost her gentle and caring soul. Everyone in the palace loves her. She has become surrogate sister and daughter to my various cooks, housemaids, healers and dressmakers. Their children surround her begging to hear one of her bardic tales. The older men have adopted her as well. My problem has been with the young men of my troops. Iíve noticed how they look at her. Once I overheard two of my elite Imperial Guard talking about her provocatively. I had their tongues removed. I have had several of my men lashed for looking at her the wrong way. But one day, four years ago, Gabrielle herself paid a price for my extreme jealousy. I caught her eyeing an exceptionally attractive young corporal in my army. He returned her glances and when I saw her smile at him, I flew into a hurricane of a rage that could have leveled Corinth. I grabbed her and dragged her to the Imperial stables, where I had her branded her with my signature "X" on her shoulder blade. It is the same device used to brand my horses. I made the young soldier watch. Then she serviced me in front of him.

The following evening, as she was recovering from the burn wound in the Imperial infirmary, I slipped into the young soldierís barracks, dragged him from his rack and took him out behind the building where I beat the Tartarus out of him and then slit his throat. As I was cutting his life away, I whispered in his ear, "This is for betraying me by coveting what is mine."

One evening, the following year, the dressmaker Illiana came to me and told me that she had designed a beautiful long-sided silk chiton with a matching ampechonion, or scarf, for Gabrielle. I told Illiana to instruct Gabrielle to wear the garment when she reported to me for service that evening. It wasnít the first time that Gabrielle wore a garment of Illianaís design, but when Gabrielle arrived that night in that particular dress, my heart stopped. My stomach wrenched in knots. My palms sweat. My knees almost gave out on me. She was absolutely gorgeous. Her sheer magnificence was tormenting me. I became very afraid at the way I was feeling, but when she smiled at me, I lost it. I grabbed her in fit of rage and ripped the dress off of her. I then tied her to the bed, using scraps of the garment as binds. I hated her for making me feel this way. I became crazed. Grabbing my whips, I beat her hoping she would cry so that I would have an excuse to beat her until she died. I wanted her to die, and then once she was dead, I would plunge my favorite dagger into my own heart. Then I would join her on the other side where we could be together in a different incarnation, not as Conqueror and slave, but as Xena and Gabrielle.

Then it struck me. Gabrielle is good and pure. She would naturally end up in the Elysian Fields. I was naturally fated to Tartarus. I would never see her again. That thought terrified me. What am I doing? I thought and then I threw the whips across the room. I untied her and then went over to the other side of the bed and sat there for candlemarks, my back to her, staring at nothing.

Gabrielle never cried. She waited for me to tell her to leave, as I always did when services were completed. But much time had passed and she desperately wanted to retreat to her room where she could release her tears of pain and anger. So, in a quiet voice, she asked, "Are my services completed, my Lady."

"No, Iím not done with you."

More time passed. Finally, I glanced over at her. She had miraculously fallen asleep. I grabbed a candle and illuminated her lovely naked body. For the first time I really noticed them. The scars. The fresh ones and the ones that had healed. What have I done to her? I asked myself. I ran out onto my balcony and threw up over the railing. I then grabbed my sword and went to the barracks of the Imperial Guard. I awakened my Guard Commander, Palaemon, and had him wake up 25 of his best men. I then ordered them to the palace courtyard where we drilled and trained until dawn.

When I returned to my chamber, Gabrielle was sleeping curled up in a ball. Her face was red and tear-stained. She had obviously awakened, found me gone, and had her cry.

I summoned one of my healers, who looked over Gabrielle, left, and then returned with fresh warm foamy water in a basin and a potion of salve. He instructed me on how to cleanse her skin and apply the salve to her wounds. I dismissed him and then woke up Gabrielle. She seemed quite startled at seeing me there kneeling beside the bed. I then gently began applying the strange smelling water to her skin. I washed her entire body and then, after drying it with a soft linen towel, I applied the salve using the tips of my fingers. She would look at me until I caught her and then she would look at the ceiling. At one point I joined her in looking at the ceiling, saying, "Anything interesting going on up there, Gabrielle?" Perhaps it was all the tension that needed lifting, but the remark actually caused her to snicker a bit.

When I was done, I threw the satin blanket over her cleansed and salved body and told her to rest. I wanted to kiss her so badly just then that my head began to ache. But I just retreated to my tub to wash away the sweat and dirt and filth that permeated my body and my soul.

Gabrielle doesnít know this, but I burned the whips that night.

Following that incident, I insisted more often than not that Gabrielle stay in my bed with me after sex. Before, I would tell her to leave after she was done servicing me. I couldnít stand not being able to touch her, embrace her, envelop her, after we came down from climaxing, but I couldnít bring myself to do any of those things either. Now I needed her there with me. I needed her there because I started engaging in a bizarre new form of behavior.

After sex, I would roll over and feign sleep. Once Gabrielle was asleep, I would roll back over to face her. Then I would just look at her. There would be only the dim light from the few candles left illuminating the chamber, but it was enough. I would marvel at her sheer beauty. Sometimes I would grab her small hand in mine. I did it very lightly so as not to wake her. Sometimes I would run my fingers down her cheeks and neck. Other times I would circle a finger around her pink nipple until it hardened. I would twist the ends of her hair in my fingers. When she lay on her side, I would lightly stroke her back. I would kiss her cheeks, her forehead, her hands and her belly. By the gods, I love her so much.

One night, I gathered up enough courage to kiss her lips. Itís not that I hadnít kissed her before. I kissed her every time we had sex. But I didnít kiss her as a lover. I kissed her as the Conqueror with all of the harshness and brutality of the battlefield. Now, as she slept, I kissed her lips as softly as if she were my blushing bride.

Why canít I be like this with her when sheís awake?

One good thing came out of that incident with the whips. I found myself talking to her more. Of course, it was still with the command of my position as her Lady and Mistress. Of course, my tone was often harsh. Outwardly, I demanded the respect from her that I received from everyone else in my world. Inwardly, I wished I could just talk to her as a friend. Of all of the men and women that I felt jealousy toward when it came to my Gabrielle, the one that haunted me the most is my royal librarian Demitrius. Demitrius is an old man. Gabrielle doesnít desire him. Sheís not in love with him. But he has something of her that I fear I never will; he has her solid friendship.

Two weeks ago, I was walking toward the library. Gabrielle spends much of her time there when sheís not with me. As I approached the door, it flung open and she sailed out and down the corridor away from me crying. I donít believe she saw me there. I immediately entered the library and found Demitrius sitting at his desk. He immediately stood.

"My Liege," he bowed as a formal greeting.

"Whatís wrong with Gabrielle?" I asked.

"My Liege," he began. "Iím afraid I was the bearer of bad news to her. I received word from my colleague Doremus, one of the men of your Commander Glaphyra, that one Lila, servant to the wealthy merchant Sopholes and formally of the village of Poteidaia, has died of an infection in her lungs. Lila was your Gabrielleís younger sister, Conqueror."

I immediately had a plan. "Thank you, Demitrius," I said before departing the library. Returning to my bedchamber, I immediately summoned Palaemon.

Palaemon is my most loyal Commander, the highest-ranking officer of my Imperial Guard, and the closest thing I have to a friend. Although heís young and rather egotistical, he has earned my respect through efficiency and competence on the battlefield, and through somehow possessing a thorough understanding of my eccentric nature.

"You summoned, My Liege?" he inquired as he entered my chamber.

"Yes," I began. "I want you to dispatch word to Commander Glaphyra immediately that I will be needing both her services in surveillance and in her theatrical skills."

I handed him a scroll with notes I had written. "Take this to her personally," I continued. "You are to leave immediately. Take a squadron of men with you. I will rendezvous with you and your squadron in Salonica in 24 candlemarks. Got it?"

"Somehow I think this has something to do with that pretty little courtesan of yours, eh Conqueror?" Only Palaemon could speak to me like that and live, but I still had to make him sweat.

"Do you enjoy breathing, Palaemon?"

"Yes I do, My Liege."

"Then shut your ass and do as I say!"

"By your will, Conqueror." He bowed and briskly departed, but I bet he had a smirk on his face all the while.

Palaemon obviously knows how much I love Gabrielle.

That evening, I summoned Gabrielle to my bedchamber. She had obviously been crying all afternoon. I truly didnít know how to handle this. I too lost a sibling a long time ago. No one was there to comfort me in that loss, so I guess I never learned how to mourn. I also didnít want to let on that I knew about her sister, so I acted as though I was ready for her to perform when I grabbed her face and asked her why she had been crying.

It angered me that she didnít immediately answer. Had I been Demitrius the words would have flowed out like water. That wasnít her fault, yet I found myself yelling at her and demanding an answer. She told me about Lila. I suspect she was afraid that she would be getting Demitrius in trouble by telling me. It is so wonderful how she is always concerned about the well being of others. She knew she had to tell me where she got her information, but she also started providing excuses for his actions. She didnít understand that I wasnít the least bit concerned about that. When she called him her friend, that awful wave of jealousy hit me again and I accused her of having an affair with him. I could tell from her expression when I made the accusation that she must have thought I had gone completely insane. I have to admit, it sounded pretty crazy to me too when I said it.

Then I asked her if she wanted to see her sister. I felt knots in my stomach as I spoke the words. Iím sure she didnít have any idea where I was coming from. I didnít either. Was I just going to allow her to leave the palace, Corinth, the Peloponnese, me, to journey to far off Macedonia to see her dead sister?

I told her she could go, but that she was to make her own travel arrangements, and I gave her a week to be with her family. She was in mourning, but she couldnít have looked happier. I, on the other hand, felt something I donít believe Iíve ever felt before. I was hurting. I was granting her freedom from me, albeit temporary, and that thought must have brought her so much joy. My heart could have exploded at the thoughts that ran through my mind. I have successfully conquered most of the known world. And in my own little world I hurt Gabrielle so much for so long because I wanted her to hate me. In that world, I was successful too.

Gabrielle was so happy that she forgot herself and started to walk out before being dismissed. I wasnít going to let her go without taking me with her. She still had yet to perform her duties with me. After she licked my sex, I took hers into my mouth. Her climax was wild and loud and she didnít notice the single tear that fell from my eye.

That tear shocked me.

I allowed Gabrielle to return to her bedchamber that night. Once she was gone, I set out to Solonica for my rendezvous with Palaemon and his squadron. I carried her woman smell with me.

Glaphyra is the Chief Commander of my forces in northern Macedonia and Thrace. I donít know much about her formative years, except to know that she was a cunning spy and meticulous assassin when she joined my ranks. We were lovers for a short time when we fought together against the Roman forces in Gaul, but Iím almost embarrassed to admit, her sexual appetites were too, shall we say, exotic, even for my tastes.

Among other things, Glaphyra had a passion for theatrics. Had she not taken up the sword, she would have made a talented dramatist or bard. The note I sent her instructed her to travel to Poteidaia posing as a Priestess from the Temple of Demeter and convince Gabrielleís mother not to burn Lilaís body for two days. I figured that would give Gabrielle enough time to reach Poteidaia and see her sister one last time.

Just before my arrival in Salonica, Palaemon had honored an order from me as well. I had him take to Gabrielleís mother a chiton that Illiana had made for the body. This garment was not nearly as nice as the ones she makes for my Gabrielle, but it was more than I suspected Gabrielleís parents could afford.

I had every confidence in Gabrielle to find transportation to Poteidaia. She has many friends in the palace who travel the countryside and I was proud of her when I received word from two scouts of Palaemonís squadron that "The Conquerorís blond concubine found her way to her parentsí home," as they reported.

Of course, it was something that I was going to make happen for her even if she had not made her own arrangements for travel.

We camped outside of Poteidaia during her stay. That first night, Palaemon and Glaphyra were constantly questioning my motives for being there. I tried to convince them that I felt it necessary to monitor her movements as protection from my legions of enemies, who could do great harm to her as retaliation against me if she were abducted. They werenít buying it.

"But Conqueror, if I may so inquire," Glaphyra asked, "Why is it necessary for YOU to be here? Surely, Palaemon and myself as commanders of two of your most elite fighting forces are competent enough to protect a simple body slave." She thought for a moment, then added, "Why are we here? Is surveillance over this house whore of yours a matter of Imperial security, my Liege?"

Iím sure Palaemon felt some level of pity toward his colleague as she was wincing in pain from my blow to her face. I threw a linen cloth at Glaphyra, who was withering on the ground trying to reset the cartilage in the nose I had just broken. "For the blood," I said, indicating the cloth. "If you ever call her that again, Commander, Iíll gut your entrails and feed them to your horse."

Later that evening, when I was alone brooding in my field tent, Palaemon entered.

"May I speak, My Liege?" he started.

"What is it, Commander?"

"Commander Glaphyra didnít mean any disrespect to your Majesty or the Realm, Conqueror," he said.

"I know that, Commander." I replied.

He continued, "Sheís not aware of the special nature of your relationship with the young body servant."

"What do you mean Ďspecial nature,í Commander?"

Palaemon hesitated, and then Iím sure somewhere in that male bravado mind of his he felt he had nothing to lose. "If I may say so, Majesty, the fact that youíre in love with Gabrielle."

"GET OUT!" I shouted. "Get the fuck out!"

"Yes, my Liege."

After he exited my tent as though he were being chased by Bacchae, I started contemplating different ways to execute him. I am often angry with Palaemon. He challenges me in ways no one else ever would. However, by the time Morpheus claimed me that night, I had decided to let him live, again.

The following morning, two of Glaphyraís scouts reported to me that Gabrielle was already in the village marketplace and appeared to be purchasing goods. Almost as an afterthought, one of them added that she was in the company of another small blond-haired woman. I immediately headed for town, making no announcement to my two commanders, who were too busy arguing over whom was the greater battle god, Ares or Artemis.

I watched Gabrielle with the woman I would learn is named Seraphin. I immediately disguised myself as a visiting priest of Delphi, hiding out mostly in the village tavern, drinking ale and nourishing my growing rage. I watched them hugging and giggling and holding hands. It took every level of restraint for me not to slice that bitch in two with my chakram. I had spent countless candlemarks over the years agonizing over the desire men had for my Gabrielle. But just the thought of her in the arms of another woman was sure to doom me to complete and total madness.

When Seraphin went over to Gabrielleís parentsí home at night, I concealed myself under Gabrielleís bedroom window. The voices in conversation were muffled, but the laughter was clear. I didnít know that while I was watching my Gabrielle with that bitch, Palaemon was watching me. The second time I had followed her to Gabrielleís, I had decided I was going to kill her. While concealing myself in some bushes, Palaemon saw the blade come out from under my cloak and rushed me from behind before I could make my move.

"What in Tartarus do you think youíre doing?" I exclaimed.

"Iím sorry, my Liege, but I canít allow you to kill that innocent girl." He had his powerful arms wrapped around mine from behind and his hand was gripping the hand that held the weapon.

"You must want to die tonight, Palaemon." I said and before he had time for it to register, he was on the ground and my dagger was propped against his throat.

"Itís not what you think, my Liege," he started. "Iíve been watching them as well. They have been friends since childhood. They are close friends, thatís all. Gabrielle would never betray you, Conqueror. She loves you."

I felt like the dagger was slicing my own throat. "You donít know what youíre fucking talking about, Commander," I said. "Gabrielle hates me. Iíve made damn sure of it."

The blade was starting to break skin. He continued, "With all due respect, youíre wrong, my Liege. I have eyes. I see. And I have ears. I hear. She wants to understand you. Sure, she hates what youíve done to her. She hates what youíve denied her and she hates what youíve denied yourself. She probably doesnít even realize it herself, but Conqueror, trust me on this one, she loves you."

I removed the knife. "Donít kill the girl, Conqueror," he said. "You are so close."

At the time, I didnít know what he meant by that, but I once again felt defeated by his logic. We returned to camp and the following morning, I set out for my return to Corinth. Per my instruction, Palaemon remained and continued his surveillance of Gabrielle. I felt he would insure her safe return to my city. I ordered Glaphyra to return to her command post in Thrace. I paid her a handsome bonus for assistance in this "special" mission and for suffering a broken nose. Understanding me the way she does, Glaphyra didnít seem to hold a grudge. Before I departed, she said in jest, "I owe you one, Conqueror."

"That you do, Commander," I replied as I smiled at my loyal officer.

The night that Gabrielle returned to me, I had made a huge mistake. I retreated to my bedchamber and drank. Not enough to intoxicate me, but enough to call out my inner demons. I started in the late afternoon. As I consumed the ale, I looked over at my bed and started forming images in my mind of Gabrielle and that Seraphin in my bed together. I pictured that cunt sucking Gabrielleís breasts, kissing Gabrielleís lips, rolling her tongue around Gabrielleís honey-colored patch above her sex, and sticking her peasant fingers into my Gabrielleís core. I pictured her fucking my Gabrielle. I heard Gabrielleís moans. Heard her cries of passion and when I heard in my mind her shout the name "Seraphin," I threw my mug across my bedchamber where it smashed against a wall.

When Gabrielle entered my chamber that evening, I wanted nothing more than to hug her and profess my undying love for her. But my demons had taken over and I literally watched in horror as those demons struck Gabrielle with a force to send her flying to the ground.

I accused her of betraying me with that little bitch. Gabrielle denied it and tried to explain the nature of their friendship. I wasnít listening. As I paced the room, those images swirled in my head. Then Gabrielle told me that she told Seraphin that I didnít love her. Before I could stop myself, I was on top of Gabrielle, dagger in hand, prepared to commit murder.

I didnít think I was capable of experiencing more pain than when she dared me to kill her, begged me to do it. The darkness in her eyes, the sheer hatred behind them was enough to cause my heart to stop beating. I believe it did for a moment.

I threw the dagger and got up off of her. Then I collapsed on the floor and tried desperately not to cry. Looking at the hands that have taken hundreds of lives and came very close to taking the life of my beloved, I told Gabrielle that I loved her. I didnít say it in those words, but I conveyed it the best way I knew how. Because I was incapable of really saying it, I wanted to show her just how much I love her. I told her to come to me and when she did, I hugged her with such force, with such conviction, that nothing else in this world mattered.

As she cried in my arms, mourning her sister I assume, I held her and did my own mourning. I mourned the lost years. I mourned all of the time I wasted being a complete and total bitch to her. I mourned all of the joy we could have shared, the fun we could have had, and the love we could have made. I mourned for all of the scars I put on her body and the humiliation I subjected her to, the names I called her and the words of endearment I denied her. I wanted to tell her that she doesnít belong to me. I belong to her. I would kill for her. I would die for her. And I donít deserve her.

But I was paralyzed to speak. All I could do was wipe her face.

I lay with her that night. For the first time, I didnít deny myself the pleasure of her warmth and closeness. I held her in my arms as we slept.

I have seen my Gabrielle more the last week than I have ever seen her. We have been sharing meals together more. Iíve seen her in the courtyard when I conduct training. She has been present for some of my meetings with my regional politicians. She reads to me from her scrolls. And at night, we lie together naked and embrace.

The first night after the night of her return from Poteidaia, we each drank a goblet of sweet red wine in bed. As I embraced her afterwards, I told her about a trip I was planning to Crete. I didnít mention this to her, but I had planned on taking her with me. It wasnít a military operation. I merely had some matters of state with my governor there. I had never taken Gabrielle with me when I traveled. In battle, focus on the opponent is everything. And in politics, a savvy but distraught governor or magistrate can be more dangerous than a skilled warlord full of bloodlust. The last thing I needed was her presence to distract me in either situation. Now, however, the thought of her accompanying me made it feel like a holiday.

Strange, but our embrace did not lead to sex.

The following night, I asked about Lila. She was reluctant to respond, but I was curious to know about her sister. Once she started to open up to me, Gabrielle prattled on as though she was speaking to Demitrius. Her frequent glances at me suggested to me that maybe she was worried that I was finding her tone too casual. She didnít realize just how ecstatic I was at that casualness, however.

Although I held her soft nubile body as she spoke, we didnít have sex that night either.

The following night, as I again held her in an embrace, I told her about a military campaign I might be forced to attend. My Imperial commanders in the Roman territories had sent word to me that the Roman dissident Marcus Antonius was building legions of plebeians in an attempt to overthrow my stronghold there. As I spoke, I noticed a real look of concern on her face. My heart felt several degrees warmer. Morpheus took us early that evening and, alas, there was no sex.

The following night, I was becoming quite frustrated. When we relaxed in an embrace, her lovely soft body and sweet smell were becoming too much to resist. I reached over and grabbed my phallus. It had been a long while since I had last used it, but I was now badly feeling the urge. When I noticed the expression on Gabrielleís face when she saw it, the urge was instantly gone. I asked her if she enjoyed my phallus. She told me, quite bluntly, that she hated it. I donít know why, but I found her frankness terribly amusing. Iím sure she was offended by my laughter, but she was instantly relieved when I put the thing away. Iíd been enjoying this embracing thing. Why ruin it?

The following day I wrapped my prized artificial male member and the strap that holds it in place on my body in some thick parchment and had it delivered to Glaphyra in Thrace. Iím sure sheíll get a kick out of it.

That night I was feeling very mischievous, probably from lack of sex. When Gabrielle crawled into bed with me, I immediately wrapped my arms around her as I had done the last four days. Holding her against me, I started to lightly pinch her ribs. She flinched.

"Are you ticklish, Gabrielle?" I asked, beaming.

"Yes, my Lady," came the muffled reply as her face was buried in my neck.

"Where?"

"Where youíre pinching me, my Lady."

"Is that so." And with that I began digging my hands into her skin, tickling her like nonsense. Her laughing was deep and wonderful. I began laughing.

"You know, Iím ticklish too, Gabrielle." I said between chuckles. "On my neck."

Without hesitation, it was an invitation my sweet Gabrielle seemed glad to accept.

It went on only a few moments, but our hands were wildly groping and our laughter was strong. I couldnít believe it. I, the Destroyer of Nations, was playing with my body servant. When we came down from this exuberance, we resumed our embrace. I began stroking her hair. Morpheus was going to claim me very soon, but before he did, I whispered in Gabrielleís ear, "Was that fun, Gabrielle?"

She was dozing off. "Yes, my Lady," she whispered back. "It was."

The following day, I was needed in Athens. I left early in the morning and didnít return until after nightfall. I immediately summoned Gabrielle, who had spent most of her day writing in her scrolls in the library. I was exhausted. Most of my day had been spent strategizing with Palaemon and my other local commanders about this Marcus Antonius situation. My presence in Rome seems imminent.

When she arrived, as had been the situation the last five nights, I was already in bed. When she joined me, I wanted to tell her that I would probably be sailing to Rome within the next two days, but I decided against it. This was our time together and it had been wonderful the last few days. I wasnít about to ruin it by filling her ears with matters of warfare. I just wanted to hold her. When she settled in my arms, I was almost immediately asleep. The last thing I remembered before sleep claimed me though was rubbing her bare back and thinking just how good it was to be able to touch her while she was awake and experiencing my affections.

The next evening, last night to be exact, I began preparing myself for a night of wild and wonderful sex. I dressed in one of my regal chitons and pampered my skin with a fine scented cream. I even wore my laurel wreath to give me the "Empress of the Known World" look. I wanted to look and smell special for my Gabrielle. I instructed her to report to me in one of Illianaís finer creations. Of course, what she wore didnít matter really. We had taken a weekís break and after six nights of holding that wonderfully sexy naked woman against me, I was about to explode.

Last night, however, Gabrielle and I made love for the first time.

It was so incredible, so wonderful. I had never thought I could ever feel a greater pleasure. In my younger days, when I was in the process of conquering the known world, I had come across some exotic plants in the east that altered the mind when one smoked them. I was told then that there was no greater high than what these drugs brought, and I experimented with them to experience that feeling. Yes, I got high then, but nothing, absolutely nothing compares to the "high" I experienced last night.

It was love and lust and passion all rolled into one. It was warmth and heat and coolness interacting; a strange temperature rising and falling and then rising again. It was hard touches and soft ones. Sex is mechanical. You rub me hard enough and long enough, and just the right way, Iím going to climax. But this wasnít just sex. I was able to feel every inch of Gabrielle without touching her, go deep inside of her without penetrating her. It was as if we blended, mind, body and soul.

And we kissed! Did we ever kiss! We kissed the way Iíd been craving to do from the first time I laid eyes on her. Our tongues played and wrestled and suckled. But to hear her moans in my mouth and to moan in hers, I just couldnít believe that all those years I denied myself, and her, this magnificent sensation.

After I experienced the greatest climax of my life, and at the same time listened to the ecstasy of her screams of release, I relaxed my body on her. I felt euphoric. After removing my saturated fingers from her sweet-tasting core, I began licking them. But when she lightly, innocently, kissed my cheek, all of my emotions came crashing into me. I began to cry, and my pride wouldnít let me share that cry with her. I got off of her and marched away, telling her to leave. Palaemon must have been right. The way she ran out of the room, sobbing, confirmed for me that she did indeed love me too. All of this overwhelmed me even more and I couldnít stop crying. But I also couldnít leave her alone any longer either. I needed to be with her, tears or no tears. I ran after her and, peeking in her bedchamber, asked her to come back to me. I was still too shy to let her see me that way, so I galloped back to my chamber and literally jumped onto the bed. I frantically wiped my face on my blankets.

When she returned, Gabrielle lay down next to me. She didnít remove her garment, as I had required over the years. She was pissed. I couldnít even look at her, yet I found her defiance endearing. My lip curled and a single tear escaped my eye. Then she looked at me and, saying it in the same silly way that I said it to her last week, she told me that she loved me.

Gabrielle called me by my name last night. I havenít heard my name spoken, without "The Conqueror" behind it in almost seven years. I had never heard her say it. All of a sudden, the word "Xena" became the second most beautiful word in my vocabulary, second, of course, to "Gabrielle".

I took her in my arms and planted her on top of me. Then she actually said to me, "I love you, Xena." Now it truly doesnít matter if I donít end up in the Elysian Fields when I cross over. As far as Iím concerned, Iím there now. After I was sure she was asleep, I leaned down and whispered in her ear, "I love you too, Gabrielle. More than life itself." I then promised myself to let her hear me speak those words while she was actually conscious to receive them, and soon.

When I rose this morning, she was gone. Normally, I would have considered this a gross insubordination of an indentured servant. But Iím not thinking like that anymore, not when it comes to her. I have found her in her bedchamber, quilling away as she so enjoys. I have made a decision about Gabrielle. I am granting her freedom. In whatís left of this life, in whatever she decides to do with that freedom, I will be at peace in the knowledge that from now on, we will be Xena and Gabrielle to each other and I will love her forever.

THE END

You are cordially invited to read my next installment,

The Antonius Situation

alt fic index <> homepage