DISCLAIMER: Xena, Gabrielle, Argo, etc. are ©copyright MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. I don't own them, I just play with them for a while and, like the good girl I am, I put them back when I'm done…okay, they get a little worn, but hey…I play hard! Absolutely no Copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fiction. It's intended as flattery toward the creators, writers, and actors of the characters. All other characters that appear are ©copyright Devlin@xenafan.com. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies may be made for private use only and I'd appreciate if you included all copyright notices and this disclaimer.

VIOLENCE WARNING: There is violence (come on it's the Conqueror). The nature of the story is not nearly as dark as some Conqueror fiction, but it's essence is still the slave / master relationship that exists between Xena & Gabrielle.

TIMELINE: My own making. Xena is the Lord, Conqueror of Greece, but she is almost forty-five years old when she meets the slave, Gabrielle. Many of Xena's evil ways have been sedated, but not all. I call this Xena the "thinking woman's" Conqueror. She is a woman who wants to try to do the right thing, but doesn't always know how.

SEX: Yes, I'll have some, thank you. Ooops! I mean, yes there is. It is our favorite two Soulmates, after all. It's not gratuitous, but it is quite explicit when it gets going. This story shows consensual as well as non-consenting love (master/slave), sex and yes, even some light bdsm between two adult females.

HIGH ANGST WARNING: I was threatened within an inch of my life if I didn't start putting this disclaimer on some (all?) of my work. I will henceforth rate the angst content with sad faces, one being the lowest and four being the highest. This story earns: L L (2 sad faces for those without TT Fonts)

UNDERAGE WARNING: Hey, the Supreme Court said in Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union (1997) that laws against making available, online, certain "indecent" materials for those under 18 was unconstitutional…look it up! Besides, this is perfectly "decent." J

I only know how others feel about my stories from feedback. Let me know what you think...homophobes need not apply, however. I'm at: Devlin@xenafan.com

**Special thanks to Jim Kuntz for his permission in using any Lion of Amphipolis references.

The Conqueror Series

Tale One: Journey's End

By LJ Maas

Chapter 15: Because I Could Not Stop For Death


"Ayah!" I yelled out, raising my sword up and over my head to block the attack at my back, pushing the metal blade away from my body.

"Hey, you're supposed to be watching out for me back there!" I shouted to Atrius.

I could see that my Captain was having difficulties of his own and I tried to keep from laughing at our predicament. We were old enough to have sired any one of the young men and women who surrounded us, but we were doing a damn good job at not getting our butts kicked too badly. Atrius was currently battling against two female soldiers, whose swordplay I would have stopped to admire, had I not been otherwise engaged.

"Look, it's a little hard to build up a lot of sympathy for you right now." Atrius panted. "Frankly, you're on your own Conqueror!" he added, taking a wicked right boot to the jaw, then making the future officer pay dearly for it.

I laughed and continued on, finally feeling my years as fatigue set into my muscles. Although I knew I would pay dearly for this over-exertion tomorrow, I was actually enjoying myself at this moment. Above all else, I was a warrior, and although I rarely admitted it, nearly nothing pleased me as much as a good fight.

I worked with two swords, thrusting with a short blade, while parrying blow after blow with my long sword. I kicked out to my left side, not seeing yet feeling my booted foot sink into soft flesh. At the same time, I heard a grunt and a whoosh of air being forcibly expelled from a set of lungs. A young soldier fell into my peripheral vision, sinking to his knees.

The recruits finally realized they needed to work together. This was the whole reason for Atrius and I putting our bodies through this agony. Officers in training tended to be an arrogant, often immature lot. This little exercise taught them that you had a better chance at victory if you worked with your men. Suddenly two and three of them started banding together for their attacks, and before I could avoid it, I felt my legs swept out from under me.

When my back hit the ground, the impact caused me to lose my short sword, while at the same time; a kick to my hand knocked the other blade a few feet away. The young man smiled in victory, I would tell him later why that was his undoing. I was on my back, trying to regain my breath when he raised his sword in both hands to bring the blade down to my throat. One can only hope in these types of situations that adrenaline doesn't get the better of the young recruit, and he does indeed, stop the downward motion of his sword, before it pierces your skin. I watched his style and form as the blade came at me, instantly assessing where his weakness lay.

I clapped my hand together, trapping the flat of the blade in between my palms. I moved quickly, before the young man even knew what was happening. With all the strength I could muster in my arms and shoulders, I pushed back and upward sharply. The hilt of his sword came speeding back up at him and cracked him under the chin.

I flipped his sword around, grabbing the hilt, and with just enough spring left in my legs, I jumped up from the ground. The man was still staggering backwards and my jaw tightened in empathy. His whole face probably felt like one huge, exposed nerve as blood spilled from the gash across his chin. I would be surprised if he hadn't bitten the tip of his tongue off. Dropping to a bent knee squat, I swept one of my long legs into his feet and he toppled to the ground.

One-two-three times, I twirled the broadsword in my hand, screaming out a blood curdling battle cry. The fallen man's eyes went wide as the blade came down, aiming for his head. At the last heartbeat, I veered right, sinking the blade into the soft turf, barely a hair away from the soldier's ear. My chest heaved with the exertion, adrenaline pumping throughout my system, and then there were the cheers. The other recruits stood back and applauded.

I immediately motioned for a healer to attend to the fallen boy. As they lead his unsteady figure from the field, he paused in front of me. I wiped my mouth of the water I downed from a nearby waterskin and took the boy's arm. He smiled, displaying a missing tooth and a bloody grin.

"It was an honor, Lord Conqueror. Everything they say about you is true; you are a mighty warrior. I thought I had you, though." The young officer shook his head, looking perplexed.

I squeezed his forearm and congratulated him. "You came close, young man. Never let your opponent see the fact that you know you've won. I saw that look in your eyes when you raised your sword. The thought of defeat made me try harder."

"Aye, Lord Conqueror." He smiled a little shakily, and was taken off the practice field.

The remaining officers gathered around Atrius and I, and we gave a critique of their performance. That's when I heard it and it made my blood run cold.


Gabrielle spent a few candlemarks writing in her scrolls after the Conqueror left her, to attend business elsewhere. The young slave already knew when she saw Nicos, what the news was about. She knew, as every other slave in the palace did, her Lord's clever plan to catch the headman, Demetri. Most free men and women weren't like her master. They treated slaves like chattel, property to be ignored until it was needed. Because of this, they spoke freely before their slaves, never realizing that intelligent human beings resided within the body of one held in thralldom. Slaves knew more about what was going on in this palace than the Conqueror herself. Gabrielle already knew that Demetri fled. The young woman experienced a jumble of feelings regarding this.

The truth of that man's actions struck this small slave for very personal reasons, but she never told anyone. Why bother? She was a slave after all, the Lord Conqueror's slave…well cherished, but a slave nonetheless.

The small blonde now walked the familiar hall on the way to Anya's rooms. She thought about belonging to Xena and all that she so recently came to know of the Conqueror's feelings for her. Gabrielle dared not tell her master how hopelessly in love she was with her. For a moment, when they were alone in their room, however, she felt certain that Xena was about to declare that very thing.

Gods, am I losing my mind? Xena the Conqueror, as beautiful as she is, would never fall for the likes of me…Would she? Besides, aren't you forgetting that you're her slave?

Gabrielle's thoughts carried her to last evening. She wept so hard, but when Xena could not profess her feelings, the young slave felt it would be wrong, if not actually dangerous, for her to make the first admission. If the Conqueror were never able to confess to those feelings, then Gabrielle would indeed be committed to a lonely life. Loving and being loved, but never able to speak the words…Gabrielle dreamed, her whole lifetime, of someone saying those words to her. She knew that whatever course Xena chose for their relationship, she would serve and love the Conqueror gladly.

Often her dreams turned prophetic, never in exactly the same way, but since she was a young girl, she would gather snippets from her time in Morpheus' realm, that would occur in her waking moments. Sometimes, many seasons passed in between the visions, but since she entered the palace, here in Corinth, she began having the most confusing revelations. Never before had she received a premonition from an object, but that happened too. She dreamed the gentleness of this woman, known as the Conqueror, the attentiveness. Gabrielle recently saw Xena proclaim her love to her as they lay together, but being it hadn't happened, she now questioned the reliability of her dreams. One nightmare, in particular, frightened her beyond imagination. She dismissed it as Morpheus disturbing her sleep, but the disconcerting scenario was repeated on the day she held Xena's dagger in her hands. Carrying the blade to her master, Gabrielle saw her nightmare again, this time played out in lurid detail in her mind's eye. She saw Xena, her back facing the small slave, suddenly turn, and thrust the dagger toward the blonde's throat.

Gabrielle shook off the memories of that mental picture. Right now, she was the happiest she could ever remember being. Xena was very good to her, and the tall woman admitted that there was more between them than merely the relationship involving a master and a slave. Xena made the small blonde's hopes and dreams come true by giving her the materials, and allowing her the freedom to write. Perhaps, in time, Gabrielle mused, she could persuade the Conqueror herself, to tell of her own life. Xena's greatest gift hadn't been material, in Gabrielle's estimation. The finest present was to give Gabrielle a sense of herself. Some would call it confidence, even pride, but whatever it was, the young slave enjoyed the feeling that she was worth something, if only to her rather uncommunicative master.

The young slave's deliberations occupied her attention so completely, that she never saw the figure that blocked her path, until she nearly ran into him.

"Ahhh, the Conqueror's whore."

The voice stopped Gabrielle in her tracks. She raised a terrified gaze to the man in her path. Her eyes darted throughout the expanse of the hall, as if to find someone who might help her. Athena, please don't let me die…not yet…not when I'm so close.

"No sense looking for assistance, my pretty whore…you'll find none willing to help you here."

Gabrielle observed the look in Demetri's eyes. She'd seen that look before, a combination of madness and mirth, a volatile mix. Again, she looked around, searching her mind for a way out, even a way to appease. She was so close to Xena. The open-air columns on the second floor led out to a parapet that ran the length of the palace wall. She could hear the sounds of the village and the soldiers training on the field, just below.

Before she had a chance to make a move, Demetri reached out and grabbed her by the throat, squeezing until Gabrielle began to gasp for air, clawing at his hand. He released his handhold, twirling the girl around, and pulling her against his chest. He pressed his groin into her backside suggestively.

"I'm going to make you mine now, little slave." He leered.

Gabrielle squeezed her eyes shut tight. Men like this had taken her before, but it only hurt for a short time and then it was over. If she gave Demetri what he wanted, perhaps that was all he would do. She felt the man pawing at her chest, trying to pull open the blouse she wore. It wasn't the rough touch; she'd felt worse, or the idea of being taken against her will; that happened before, too. It was the fire that unexpectedly permeated her entire being. The feeling that this was wrong.

Suddenly, Gabrielle felt the burning come from within. It was like a warmth that started with a little spark, until it was a roaring blaze. She tried to give in and let this happen, tried to separate her mind from her body until the humiliation passed. She couldn't. From somewhere far off she heard a voice begin to go along with that fire in her belly. The voice told her that she didn't have to accept this fate; she didn't deserve to be treated this way. She was, after all the personal slave to the Lord Conqueror. It was happening so quickly, but soon the tiny voice inside turned into Xena's voice. The things Xena said…taught her…

Let me make this clear, Gabrielle. You belong to me……The next time someone…anyone makes advances…touches you in any way, I want you to scream, kick, fight, anything you need to do to get my attention. Then I'll deal with the situation. Do you understand, Gabrielle……That's right, Gabrielle, you belong to me……Don't you know how to fight back!?

The words Xena said to her swirled about her head in a jumble, phrases, and snatches of conversation that were burned into her memory. Finally, the young slave felt the fire explode into indignation. She did belong to Xena…to Xena and no one else. No one else had this right!

"No!" Gabrielle sank her elbow into Demetri's ribs and the man released his hold on her arm.

The suddenness of the action, especially coming from this slave, caught the man completely by surprise. He grunted as the elbow caught him sharply a second time.

Kicking back with her heel, Gabrielle felt her foot make contact with his shin. Demetri howled in pain, completely loosing the girl in his grasp. Gabrielle didn't wait, she ran directly for the outside wall.

She could feel how close Demetri was and she could see that the outside wall was coming to an end. She was running out of territory when at last she looked up across the palace courtyard. There, on the training field, Xena stood with her soldiers. Realizing the penalty for what she had in mind, Gabrielle knew it was either certain punishment, or death at Demetri's hands. Just as Gabrielle made it to the end of the wall, Demetri was behind her, his arm around her waist pulling her back inside. Her hands refused to let go of the stone ledge, as she cried out with everything that was in her.

"Xeeennnnaaa!" The high-pitched scream echoed off the surrounding walls.


The sound chilled my bones, and when I looked toward the source of it, I saw Gabrielle leaning over the parapet, Demetri grabbing her and pulling her inside the palace.

I was moving at a dead run before the last echo faded away. I heard the oath Atrius muttered before catching up to me, followed by our class of recruits. All rational thought left me. I couldn't think or swear; all I could focus on was reaching Gabrielle. I took the stairs three and four at a time on my way up to the second floor.

Demetri was there, cut off by soldiers at the other end of the hall. Suddenly, nearly every soldier in the palace was converging at this point and that worried me. My former headman held Gabrielle to him, a dagger at her throat. If I didn't get some of these soldiers to back off, Demetri might just kill Gabrielle for the fun of it.

With a quick motion of my hand, we all slowed up, Demetri turning this way and that, Gabrielle struggling against his hold. That rather surprised me, but I guessed that I taught her well. Left with no place else to go, Demetri eventually felt his back against the stone wall. He inched along, until he was in front of a large wooden door, trying the latch to find it secured from the other side.

"You can't escape, Demetri." I said evenly. "Might as well as do this as painlessly as possible. Release the girl." I continued in a calm voice.

"Oh no, Lord Conqueror…" he began and I saw the glazed over look of lunacy written in his eyes. "You get to watch her bleed to death, first."

I watched as he pressed the tip of the blade against her slightly, puncturing the skin. A slow, thin line of blood made its way from just under Gabrielle's chin, trickling down her neck, and into the cleavage hidden below her ripped blouse. She winced, and when she looked up at me, I saw the fear in her eyes.

I never had the time to fight the beast back. All of a sudden, it was there, my darkness all around me, consuming and controlling my actions. The blood on Gabrielle's neck and the torn state of her clothing sent me spiraling into that abyss. Only this time a very miniscule part of me remained. I would need to be detached, even frigid, to pull this off. I would need all my wits about me, to outwit a madman.

Again, with my hand, I motioned to Atrius, who immediately began whispering instructions. It could only be I, no one else. If I were to save this woman, the only one to ever capture my heart, I would need to gamble with her life. And so, I pushed the last bit of Xena away, embracing all that I grew to detest about myself.

"You don't honestly believe that I'm simply going to let you walk out of here, do you, Demetri?" I asked as I slowly moved forward.

The man pulled back his hand, exposing Gabrielle's neck further. "I'll slit her throat, I swear it!"

"Forget about her." I replied, casually dismissing her with a wave of my hand. "You're the one I'm talking about. So, you kill the slave, look around you." I paused as he did just that. "How do you think it feels to be skinned alive, Demetri?" I asked, an evil grin pulling at my lips.

"She means that much to you, eh?" He grinned now, thinking I cared so much for the girl; I would make his death slow and painful.

"I don't give a damn about the fucking slave!" I screamed at him. I was now a mere yard away. "You stole from me…ME!"

Suddenly he was confused, I could see it in his eyes. He was wondering if grabbing the girl was a smart move after all. It was as if I was reading his mind. I knew what path his brain would take, before he did. Now, he was thinking that this was a ruse. He would test me.

I stood there, my arms folded against my chest, a malevolent glare burning into him. He raised his hand and I silently prayed to any Gods I hadn't heartily offended in the last twenty summers, to keep Gabrielle from too much pain, and for her to forgive me when all of this was at an end. He slashed the knife quickly across Gabrielle's upper arm, where her blouse had been torn away. The young woman cried out in pain at the four-inch slice, which began to bleed heavily.

I simply stood there, every muscle in by body under my command. I didn't even clench my jaw or change my pattern of breathing…nothing. The beast was as dead to emotion as a corpse and it had full reign now. I blinked emotionless eyes and saw the man's growing terror in his own. Yet, he still wasn't sure.

"I'll kill her!" He stated, with much less passion than before.

"Kill her then." I responded flatly.

"I'll do it!" he was hysterical now and rightly so. He saw it all coming to an end, and wondered how he miscalculated so badly.

"Did you hear me?" I shouted at the top of my voice, turning my back on the madman, raising my hands into the air for effect. "Kill the bitch!"

"What?" Demetri gasped aloud.

There would only be this one chance and as I sit here writing about it, I know it sounds as if it took an eternity to accomplish, but nothing could be further from the truth. It all took but the blink of an eye. I knew…rather the beast knew what Demetri's actions would be. It was an otherworldly sense, whether an accident at my birth or a curse from the Gods, I would likely never know.

Demetri paused for a heartbeat, wondering how his plan had gone so horribly wrong. He lowered the hand slightly, that held the knife to Gabrielle's throat, and it was in that one heartbeat; that one wrinkle in time, that I realized I had to make my move.

My back still facing the madman, I turned. As I made that turn I brought my hand up to my belt, and with one swift motion, I pulled my ever-present dagger from its resting place. My motion was quick, too fast to stop or to be anticipated by the victim. Since I'd had my back facing him, I couldn't be certain of where he stood, I could only sense it. The entire time, I prayed that Gabrielle was as quick as I gave her credit for.

It all happened in one, seemingly effortless, motion. My weapon hand led the way, and as my body turned, the dagger headed straight for Gabrielle. Gods, this girl is truly the other half of my soul, I remember thinking, as she jerked her head to one side, allowing my blade to plunge into Demetri's throat.

His knife clattered to the stone floor and I could remember using all my might to press the dagger into his neck. He coughed and gasped, his eyes rolling back into his head, blood spattering over both Gabrielle and I. I remember my whole body shaking as I continued to press the blade into him, even though it would go no further. I heard sounds all around me, but I was caught in the lingering grasp of power. The only thing circling my mind was that this man tried to take what was mine.

I sensed a hand on my arm, and felt a growl rumbling up through my chest.

"Gabrielle, no!" I heard my Captain's voice, but the hand around my forearm squeezed.

The hand moved to my face and I heard the soft voice. "Xena? Xena?"

Those soft fingers were pulling at my chin and I tensed my jaw, fighting the feeling. I gave up and the hand managed to turn my face. Finally, my eyes pulled into focus, as if seeing this vision for the very first time. Deep green eyes drew me in and held me there, while I felt my fingers being pried away from the hilt of my dagger.

"Gabrielle." I managed to say, receiving a small smile of acknowledgement.

I didn't care what it looked like. I grabbed the woman, wrapping my arms tightly around her. As she pulled me away, I looked back and saw Demetri's body, suspended in death, impaled against the wooden door by my dagger.

I nodded to Atrius, who seemed to have the most incredulous expression on his face. "Send for the healer." I said, remembering Gabrielle's arm, then I pulled her with me, walking back to our rooms.


I began to feel it the moment I held her in my arms, the twitching sensation in the muscles, the searing warmth that flowed from my belly, settling between my legs. I could feel the pattern of my breathing change and the moment we were in the privacy of our rooms, I pressed myself against her.

Gabrielle leaned back against the door and I kissed her. It wasn't like any kiss we'd shared yet. It was powerful and urgent, rough and intensely raw. I could feel Gabrielle's hand at my back, holding the bunched up cloth of my shirt, tightly in her fist. I had only one desire, one focus, and when I paused for a heartbeat to let my brain catch up with my libido, I knew the sensation for what it was; battle lust.

Gods, it's been so very long since I felt anything like this! I realized it was because I hadn't fought with a passion for anything in so long, hadn't struggled in battle, risked my life, for anything I truly wanted or believed it was my manifest destiny to have and own. This was what the darkness always called up in me. No matter how hard I tried, I was never able to fight off the demon when it came to satiating its lust after a battle.

Gabrielle's body tensed against me, and all at once, her head turned from my lips, her arms pushing against me.

"Xena, I love you!" she cried out.

The words were like a blow and I literally staggered back a step from the weight of the assault. Gabrielle dropped to her knees and I could hear fear in her voice, fear, and a great sadness.

"Forgive me, My Lord."

I felt all the surging ardor and passion drain from my body at once. Dear Gods, who knew? Who knew that the many seasons I spent suffering, trying to control my dark side, how was I to know that the cure was in this small slave at my feet? The rush of adrenaline quieted and I felt the beast retreat into nothing.

"Forgive you for saying it…or for feeling it?" I asked in a very weak voice.

She lowered her head even further, most certainly expecting a swift punishment, which she seemed sure would be forthcoming.

"For feeling it, My Lord."

I stood there for a few moments, almost unwilling to believe her answer. I slowly knelt down and pulled her upright, taking more care for her injured arm than I did earlier. I held her in my arms for a moment and lightly kissed her forehead.

"Gabrielle, I thought I told you to call me Xena." I said gently, smiling down at her.

She made an attempt to smile back at me, but I knew there was only one thing I could say that would ease her fears. It was the one and only thing I knew for certain in this life.

I pulled her closer, brushing my cheek against the soft texture of her hair. "I love you, Gabrielle," I whispered to her. "With all my heart, I love you."

If I'd ever hoped to look into the face of an angel, my wish came true when I pulled away slightly. Gabrielle's face was the vision of joy, her green eyes with a new added sparkle.

I quickly turned from any thoughts of sex, to the simple desire to be close to Gabrielle. I brought her into the bedchamber, carefully using a damp cloth to wipe away the blood that was spattered across her face. I helped her to remove her clothes and change into her robe, and then I set about cleaning the wound on her arm. A pounding on the outer door interrupted my actions.

"Enter." I shouted loud enough to be heard into the other room.

The young palace guard, Aristes, entered the room. He stopped at the open door to the bedchamber, probably amazed at me kneeling in front of Gabrielle, attending to her wound.

"Captain Atrius wishes to know if you need any assistance here, Lord Conqueror."

"I do as a matter of fact. Where is Kuros?" I asked about my healer.

"He is attending to Lord Demetri, Lord Conqueror."

When I stood up, I could see that Aristes was backing up, preparing for what was sure to come.

"Attending to Demetri? Fuck him, he's beyond help! Tell him to get his butt in here, this is where the live patient is!" My voice grew louder as I advanced on the young man.

Aristes scrambled from the room and I returned to Gabrielle, a scowl on my face as I kneeled before her once again.

"Xena…" Gabrielle's uninjured arm reached out and she laid a hand against my cheek. "I'm all right."

I grinned in embarrassment. "I know." I turned my face to place a kiss in the palm of her hand.

"Lord Conqueror…" I heard Kuros' voice behind me.

"Her arm," I motioned the small man into the room. "From a blade." I explained shortly.

We settled Gabrielle against some cushions on the bed and the healer carefully examined the wound. "Yes, it does look as though stitches are in order." He looked up at me expectantly.

"Well," I motioned him on with my hands, "get on with it."

I knew why he asked that way. People didn't always bother with giving medical treatment to slaves. It was oftentimes easier and cheaper, in the end, to buy another healthy slave, than to treat a sick or injured one.

I paced the room nervously, while every one of Gabrielle's murmurs of pain, brought me over to the bed to watch. I hated to admit it, but seeing Gabrielle like this frightened me. It showed me just how quickly it could all disappear. The last time I walked over to stand behind the healer, I must have inadvertently nudged him with my knee. I heard his exasperated sigh right before he glanced up at me.

I muttered something unintelligible and moved away again, until I heard Gabrielle's small cry. I leaned over Kuros' shoulder to get a look at what he was doing.

"Lord Conqueror!" the small man finally gave up and paused.

"What?" I tried to say innocently.

"Would the Lord Conqueror mind getting out of my light?" He said rather forcefully.

"Touchy touchy…" I said softly, but I think they both heard me.

"Xena, please come over here." Gabrielle asked, indicating the other side of the bed.

She held out her hand and I took it in both of my own, carefully sitting on the other side of the bed. I watched the tiny, precise stitches being placed in her skin and remembered how much it stung. It made me happy, however, to think that Kuros thought enough of Gabrielle to place the type of sutures that would leave the smallest scar.

"It hurts, doesn't it?" I asked gently.

"Actually, I can hardly feel it since Kuros put the ointment on." She replied.

"What ointment?" I looked to the healer for the answer.

"It temporarily deadens the area to the touch. I use it for children, and beautiful young women." The older man graced Gabrielle with a fatherly smile.

"You have an ointment that does this?" I arched an eyebrow about as high up as it would go, glaring over at the man. "Why didn't you ever use that on me?"

"Well, you are a warrior, Lord Conqueror, and frankly, it is extremely difficult to make. If I used it every time you needed stitches, there'd be none left at all."

"Look, Kuros--"

"Xena?" Gabrielle interrupted.

My demeanor changed instantly. "Yes, Gabrielle…can I do something for you…get you something?"

"Xena, would you do something for me if I asked?"

"Of course, love," I paused and kissed the hand that I still held in both of mine.


"Yes," I chuckled at her questions. "All you have to do is ask."

"Okay. Would you go wait in the other room until I'm finished?" Gabrielle asked so sincerely, it took me a couple of heartbeats to realize she was serious.

I could feel the muscles in my face falling and suddenly I felt like a scolded child. "Okay. I'll do it for you," I carefully reached up and brushed the golden bangs from her forehead, placing a gentle kiss there. "But, I am not doing it for him." I jerked a thumb in my healer's direction.

Gabrielle giggled and squeezed my hand and I thought; to be on the receiving end of that, I didn't care if Kuros thought I was completely whipped. I didn't even care if he spread that bit of gossip through the whole palace.

I rose to do as Gabrielle asked, pausing in the doorway that separated the bedchamber from the outer room. I turned back one more time.

"You might need something, are you sure you want me to--"

"Yes!" they both said in unison.

I tried to muster as much dignity as I could, straightening myself up and walking into the other room.

"I never get ointment." I grumbled under my breath.


"We look like a pair of bookends." I said in jest, to the young woman sitting in front of me in the large tub.

I indicated our arms; mine, already with a healing scar, Gabrielle's stitches on the opposite arm. She smiled, but I could see the weariness in her eyes. We decided on lingering in the bath once the cleaning and hair washing was complete. I pulled Gabrielle's back against my chest

"Be careful not to get your arm too wet." I cautioned.

"You take good care of me." Gabrielle replied, leaning against my shoulder.

"I didn't do such a good job today." I responded.

Gabrielle turned slightly, until she could see the expression on my face. I think she honestly wanted to know if I was teasing or not. It was no joke to me.

"Xena, you saved my life today."

"Gabrielle, it was because of me that you were put in jeopardy in the first place. I fear that loving me, it won't be the last time." I answered, gently stroking her beautiful face.

"It's a price I'm willing to pay…if you'll allow me," she added, capturing my hand within her own, and raising it slowly to her lips.

I reached in and replaced my hand with my lips. Gods, so soft. The tender kiss lingered on, becoming two, then three. Who would have thought that mere gentleness could arouse such passion? I would never have dreamed it possible for me, to ever be so completely sated by such caring and compassionate lovemaking. That is until Gabrielle.

"I do love you, Gabrielle." I whispered, kissing her once again. "I want to show you how much. Would that be all right with you?" I asked at last.

Gabrielle nodded her head and I easily lifted her as I stood, stepping from the bath. We took turns drying one another off, and then I scooped the small woman into my arms again.

"Xena," she laughed, "I can walk."

"Yes, but this feels so much better." I answered with a lopsided grin.

"Mmmm, yes it does," she replied, immediately pressing her lips against my neck.

I placed Gabrielle down on the large bed, stretching the length of my body out next to her, running my fingertips along her skin, the entire measure of her beautiful body, stopping to tease and stroke the areas I knew brought her pleasure. Gabrielle arched her body into the touch, closing her eyes, trusting me to pleasure her for a change. When I bent my head down to brush my lips against her own, I let my body press into her, beginning to wonder whose pleasure this was for.

"Gods, you feel so good." I continued the lazy caress, letting my fingers wander lower.

My lips moved along her jaw, down to her neck, and back up to her ear, where I nipped and sucked on a perfect earlobe. Sliding my hand up along her ribcage, I cupped the underside of her breast and brushed my thumb across the nipple, the flesh hardening quickly under the easy touch.

"Xena..." She said in a heavy breath, and I was thrilled to hear my name, in as close to a moan, as Gabrielle ever uttered.

I positioned my body over Gabrielle's, easing my weight on top of her, but resting the majority of my body weight on my elbows and arms. Gabrielle pressed her body up against me and I moaned aloud for the both of us. Once again, I lowered my head, taking Gabrielle's lips with my own, savoring the taste of the young woman. I slowly slid my tongue across the woman's bottom lip; simply as a promise of what pleasures, I could offer her with that tongue. When I pulled away, Gabrielle's hands reached up, entangling themselves in my damp hair, luring me in to another passionate kiss.

"Ah, ah, ah…" I smiled, disentangling myself from the small woman's embrace. Gabrielle looked confused until I brought her arms over her head, carefully avoiding the injured area, and wrapped her fingers under the wooden headboard. "Remember, love…if you let go, I'll stop." I smiled down at her.

She smiled and I moved down along her neck, using my lips, tongue, and even teeth to lead me along her throat. I couldn't help but be pleased at the rapidly beating pulse there.

"I want everyone to know you belong to me," I growled, pulling that tender flesh into my mouth, sucking long and hard.

Gabrielle gasped, "Oh Gods, yes!" She cried out.

The sound of Gabrielle's passion surprised both of us. I grinned up at her. "So, I take it that means you like it?"

She nodded, her face flushed pink in a combination of desire and embarrassment.

I began to gently tease, my fingers brushing across her erect nipples. I kissed her breast, all around the hard point, not yet letting more than my warm breath touch the pebbled flesh.

"Xena…" Gabrielle squirmed under my touch.

"Is this what you want, love?" I asked.

Without waiting for an answer, I slowly enclosed one of the hardened nubs into my mouth and sucked, at first leisurely, working the sensitive flesh over with my tongue, graduating to a firm sucking. Gabrielle whimpered slightly, unused to verbally expressing herself. Gods, I could come just listening to the wonderful sounds she was making. Before switching to the other breast, I leaned up and reached for her mouth, placing a soft kiss there.

"You can be a loud as you want, love." I reassured her.

She took me at my word when I used my knee to gently spread her legs apart, moving my thigh in against the warm wetness there.

"Gods, Xena!" she groaned.

"You're so wet." I answered, "Gods, do you know how good that feels?"

I moved downward, my mouth and tongue sliding across the flat plane of Gabrielle's stomach, the satiny skin tensing and releasing in anticipation. I spread her legs further apart with a touch of my hand on her inner thighs, settling my shoulders comfortably between them. Breathing deeply, I let my mouth water at the intoxicating scent of Gabrielle's passion, turning my head, first to the right, then to the left, I placed a kiss to the inside of Gabrielle's thighs. My own body shivered in delightful expectation, at the thought of finally tasting this gift that I measured worth more than Sumerian treasure.

I slipped my hands under Gabrielle's hips, pulling her to my eager mouth. I ran my tongue along the length of her entire sex, feeling her body shiver, her hands clutching the wooden bar under the headboard tighter.

Gabrielle spread her legs wider in encouragement, and I simply couldn't hold back any longer, I buried my tongue deep into that sweetness. Gabrielle's hips immediately thrust upward against my tongue. I let her grind her hips into my mouth for a few short moments, then gently held them to the bed, spread open for my pleasure, as well as hers.

I allowed my tongue to roam and explore the delicate folds, delighting in the constant moans of pleasure coming from Gabrielle. I reveled in the textures and taste of her, feeling her hips begin to move in a rhythm all their own. I felt my own hips rocking against the mattress, groaning against the smooth wet flesh in my mouth as my clit rubbed against the silk sheet.

I began to easily stroke the hidden nub, now swollen with need. I felt Gabrielle's body begin to tremble uncontrollably, her legs parting wider, and the muscles in her thighs stretched taut. I slid a single finger inside, then two, gliding repeatedly into Gabrielle's soaking depths, relentlessly continuing the actions of my tongue on her center.

"Gods, please…more…" she gasped out.

I held a close rein on my own body's desires, abdominal muscles cramping, to prevent the explosion I could feel coming. I pressed into Gabrielle with three fingers and her whole body was trying to thrust against me, in order to achieve her release.

I finally felt her back arch, and I wrapped a strong arm around her out of control hips, burying my face deeper, sucking hard, while my tongue moved rapidly across the swollen nub.

Gabrielle cried out my name over and over, as waves of release washed through her, contracting against my fingers inside her, the young woman's body convulsing as a second orgasm quickly exploded within her. It didn't take much more to release myself after hearing Gabrielle scream in passion for the first time. We both collapsed, the last vestiges of any energy, draining from our fatigued muscles.

As Gabrielle lay spent, I eventually crawled up and kissed her tenderly, pulling her into my embrace. Gabrielle nuzzled my neck, seemingly unable to speak. She tried a couple of times, but finally gave up.

I chuckled, pulling the sheet up over us. "I know, my love…I know." I answered her unspoken emotion.

Encouraging her into a comfortable position, I smiled and thanked any Gods who were still in my life, when I heard Gabrielle's sleepy voice whisper against my chest.

"I love you, Xena."

To be continued in Chapter 16: Calm Was The Day…

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