Disclaimers: Once upon a time, I wanted a really good excuse to write a story that was basically nothing but sex (and a little romance). This, it appears, was it.

This is most definitely rated NC-17. As I just said... lots and lots of sex between two women. Additionally, this story mentions non-consensual sex (in the sense of master/slave sex).

Feedback is always welcomed at meghan@meghanobrien.com. My website, as always, is at http://www.meghanobrien.com/

The Gift

by Meghan O'Brien

Janna struggled to keep an impassive expression on her face as she approached the castle. The soldiers she'd selected to make the journey with her rode along her flanks, their horses keeping pace just slightly behind hers. Janna reached down and gave her war-horse an absent pat as she scanned the intimidating building that loomed in front of them.

Four years, Edan, she mused, stroking a thick black mane. Four winters of war and this is my reward.

The invitation to visit with the King and attend the official victory celebration had found Janna hurt and exhausted, but quite willing to make the long journey to receive the royal gratitude she knew she had earned. Three winters as the commander of an entire battalion of the King's army, and an integral role in the decisive battle fought just two moons ago, had guaranteed her an audience with the King once the war was officially declared over.

She would have imagined feeling something more than the bone-deep weariness that consumed her as she rode through the castle gates. After all, wasn't this the crowning achievement of a life spent in humble service?

Janna looked down at the two members of the Royal Guard who met them just inside the gates.

"Commander Janna Arwyn," she told one guardsman, a tall, muscular man with alert eyes. "The King is expecting me."

He studied her for a moment and then bowed at the waist, sweeping his arm behind him. "Of course, Commander. Please, follow us inside."

She nodded down at him, and then cast her eyes around to share meaningful looks with her three companions. The two guardsmen turned and led them further into the city. Janna dug her heels into Edan's sides and followed. Her men trailed closely behind.

The King's aide met them at the castle doors. "Commander Arwyn!" he called at her approach.

Janna gave the wiry man a serious nod. "Good day," she said as she swung her leg over Edan's back and dismounted the intimidating horse. She stood almost a head taller than the King's most trusted advisor.

"It's wonderful to finally meet you," he gushed, a wide smile stretching his face. "I'm Devon, the King's right hand."

Janna reached out and took a smooth hand in greeting. Her own hand was calloused from years of training and fighting, and she fought to keep her embarrassment from her face.

I earned it, after all. She released Devon's hand, turning to gesture for her men to also dismount their horses. I never had a shot at having soft hands.

"The King has asked me to personally escort you to your quarters and get you settled in. A welcoming dinner is scheduled for tonight, but King Menos knows that you must be exhausted after your long ride -- not to mention anything of the epic battle you're surely still feeling -- and he wants to make sure you have a chance to relax before the feast."

Janna allowed a smile at Devon's rambling speech, and at the good-natured light in the balding man's eyes. "We thank you, sir, for your hospitality. I'm sure we'd all appreciate the opportunity to prepare ourselves for the King's dinner."

"Very good," Devon said, and turned towards the open castle door. "If you'll follow me, then."

He delivered Janna to her quarters first, and it was obvious at first glance that she had been given one of the most opulent rooms in the castle. The large bed was made with imported silk sheets and covered in a thick down comforter. Janna stood by it after Devon and her men left her, tracing her fingers over the expensive fabrics and surveying the ornate furnishings of the room with wide eyes.

"Wow," Janna murmured out loud. She let her gaze travel over the precious china, the shining gold, and the unbelievable craftsmanship that surrounded her.

For all the traveling she'd done while in the King's army, most of her days had been spent inhabiting army camps and traveling on horseback between sparse bases that existed only to serve the purpose of war. Never had she witnessed such luxury and riches with her own two eyes, let alone been in the midst of it, as if she had done something to deserve it.

Janna sat down heavily on the bed, and then jumped up again a moment later. She half turned and surveyed her backside. It wouldn't do to get everything all covered in mud and horse dust. She looked around a moment until she spotted an open closet door. Clean clothing hung within and she moved over to look at it in amazement.

"Nice," Janna commented. She reached out and took hold of the neatly tailored leather pants and silk shirt that had been left for her, relieved that she hadn't been given a dress strictly on the basis of her gender. She held the impeccably crafted clothing in front of her face, a lazy smile capturing her lips. The materials were thick, soft, and obviously expensive, and they looked to be roughly her size. "Very nice."

Her sword hung heavily at her side and, uncharacteristically, Janna couldn't wait to relieve herself of the burden. She got changed quickly, pulling off her armor and leathers with a sigh of relief. Sometimes she felt like she lived in those clothes. Living in an army camp most of the time -- albeit in her own secluded tent -- it was a rare treat for her to feel fresh air on her bare skin, or the soft whisper of expensive clothing.

This is the kind of thing I want to experience now, Janna mused as she pulled the silk shirt over her head. Simple pleasures, the kinds of pleasures a lifelong warrior has never gotten a chance to know.

Janna was ready for something more than war, death, and bloodshed. Those things had been her reality since she was old enough to hold a sword, and she finally felt as if she'd won the right to move past them.

She hoped the King would agree.

*****

Dinner was a pleasant but ultimately boring affair. The King seemed genuinely pleased to be in her company, and he didn't hesitate to shower her with praise and gratitude. Janna appreciated that her King was happy -- it was one reason she served so loyally -- but she was mildly embarrassed to be the center of attention.

As far as she was concerned, she had only ever done what she was meant to do.

Her men looked thrilled to be eating at the King's table, and they all listened to his stories with rapt attention. Janna smiled at the climax of each tale, enjoying the sound of mostly male laughter ringing through the hall around her. The King's wife, Queen Anna, and his daughter, the Princess Paloma, sat beside and across from him at the table, respectively. They were the only two other women at the sprawling feast, and their own laughter was polite and subdued.

Janna sat next to Paloma, ramrod straight in her chair and tense at the proximity of the young woman. Janna wasn't used to being around other women; though there were a few other female soldiers in the King's army, they were not many, and none seemed to possess the gentle femininity that characterized the King's wife and daughter.

Janna felt big and clumsy next to a dainty creature like Paloma. The girl held her utensils with slim, graceful hands, eating her meal with measured and delicate bites. Not for the first time, Janna wondered what kind of life she would lead if not that of a warrior.

"I hope you'll consider staying with us for a few days at least," the King said, and Janna snapped to attention at the sudden knowledge that he was addressing her. She looked at him with deferential eyes, giving him a grateful smile. "I'd very much like to thank you properly for your role in ending the Benzien conflict."

Janna kept her smile steady even as she smirked inside. The Benzien conflict, she repeated to herself. He makes it sound so civilized.

"We'd be honored to accept your invitation, my Liege," she answered. She looked around at her men, who wore wide grins that confirmed her words. "Your palace is truly impressive, and we are humbled to spend time in your presence."

"Fantastic!" the King said with a broad smile. "My son Thomas is away attending to matters of state until the day after tomorrow; I know he would be pleased to meet you at our annual Harvest festival. We're expanding it this year into a victory celebration, as well, and so I quite hoped you could attend."

"I would be honored, my Liege," Janna said, her voice sincere. "We all would."

The King gave her a modest wave of the hand, chuckling at her polite words. "Good, good," he said. "And please, relax and enjoy your stay. Everything that is mine I share with you, as loyal defenders of our kingdom."

Janna nodded. "Thank you, my Liege."

The King gave her a seated bow, and then beckoned over a young man wearing a white tunic. He quickly set about gathering the empty plates from the table, keeping his eyes down all the while. Janna murmured a quiet thank you as he took her plate. She was aware that slaves weren't thanked, but unable to suppress that part of her that never truly believed that some people deserved to be enslaved by others.

King Menos leaned over and gave the Queen a respectful kiss on the cheek. "My Queen," he said, "I must ask that you take Paloma and leave us now. We have business to discuss, things that are better left to men and warriors."

Janna shifted uncomfortably in her seat.

"Yes, my love," the Queen murmured. She looked across the table at her daughter, who gave her an obedient nod.

Paloma turned and gave Janna a smile that started in her lush green eyes and ended on full red lips. Janna smiled back, her face a study in polite detachment, as her heart pounded hard in her chest.

"It was a pleasure to meet you," Paloma said, and held out her hand expectantly.

Janna reached over and slipped her hand, palm down, beneath Paloma's waiting fingers. The princess's smile grew wider when Janna raised their hands to her lips, placing a light kiss on Paloma's middle finger while still maintaining eye contact.

"The pleasure was mine," Janna responded. She kept her voice even despite the mild flirtatiousness of the gesture. She had no ulterior motives in her interaction with the princess; the girl would shortly be betrothed, she heard, and despite Janna's natural physical response in the face of such beauty, she knew there was no possibility that the young princess could ever give her anything more than a schoolgirl crush.

Paloma giggled and withdrew her hand, standing up and smoothing down her skirt with nervous fingers. Janna fought to keep a blush from her face and avoided the knowing eyes of her men. The princess wasn't the first woman who had openly flirted with her, though Paloma was surely the most refined.

Most of the women who had approached Janna had been camp whores who traveled with the army and served the needs of her men. There had also been the odd barmaid or merchant's daughter in the towns they had passed through, much to the delight of her carousing men. It seemed that watching young women make a play for their stoic commander had been a favorite pastime of many of her soldiers. Had she ever taken one home with her, she imagined money would have been changing hands from all the wagering her troops probably did concerning her sex life.

Janna often wondered if anyone suspected the truth about that aspect of her life.

As the Queen and her daughter walked across the grand hall and quietly exited the room, Janna glanced at the King from the corner of her eye. She hoped he wouldn't be angry about his daughter's obvious admiration of the dashing female warrior. To her great relief, she saw the amusement twinkling in his eyes.

"Now don't you worry," he said in a conspiratorial voice, once the two women had left the room. "I'm not really going to insist that we go over anything of great importance tonight. I know you've traveled a long and hard road over these past years, and then again over the last few nights to come and join me in my home." The King reached up and tugged on his grey beard, shooting Janna a warm smile. "I just didn't want to introduce my offerings to you this evening in the presence of such girlish innocence."

Janna swallowed, feeling a light sweat form on her chest beneath the cool silk shirt she wore. Oh, no, she worried. And just what does he have planned that he can't tell me with his daughter here?

The King raised his hand and snapped his fingers twice, shooting an expectant look over at the young man who stood in the corner of the room, awaiting his command. "Marco, bring them in here, please."

Janna watched as the young slave who had served them dinner stepped through the service door for a moment before reappearing with a silent line of slaves following him inside. Janna could see two men and about seven women, all dressed in similar white tunics. The men followed directly behind Marco, while the women formed a silent parade after them.

Janna swallowed again. Hard.

"I want to make sure all of our guests' needs are being met," King Menos said, looking directly into Janna's eyes. "Fortunately, the palace is well prepared to offer you companions for the night to see that you're properly tended to."

Janna darted a quick sidelong glance at her men, who all sat with large grins of anticipation on their faces. Well, at least they're happy about this. She shifted in her chair, saying a silent prayer that her face wasn't as red as it felt.

King Menos gestured over at the line of slaves, still looking at Janna. "Commander, I'll invite you to take first pick. I assure you that the royal body slaves are all impeccably trained and perfectly suited for pleasurable service."

Janna froze. She was aware of the tight grin that played across her lips, but she felt none of the mirth it conveyed. She was well and truly being put on the spot, and she had no idea what to do. She glanced over at her men again to find them watching her with interested eyes.

I can't do this.

But Janna knew she had to do it. She couldn't refuse the King's gesture and, maybe even more importantly, she couldn't lose face in front of her men. It was one thing to refuse the company of the occasional woman in camp; Janna could always claim the need for absolute focus during wartime. It was quite another to be offered the company of one of the King's body slaves by the King himself. To refuse would draw unwanted attention, and Janna was terrified that she would be utterly exposed in the eyes of her men.

"Thank you, my Liege," Janna murmured. She pushed back her chair and stood, bowing slightly at the waist in the direction of her King. "Your hospitality is truly appreciated."

"Thank you, Commander." The King gave her a kind smile, full of affection and deep gratitude. "I hope you find my slaves acceptable."

Janna turned her eyes to study the line of young men and women for the first time. He actually thinks he's doing me a favor, she mused. She walked over to stand in front of the row of slaves, looking at the downcast eyes and subservient poses.

Janna quickly turned her attention away from the men. There was no way she was taking one of them back to her room. Not only did she feel a complete lack of interest, but the very idea seemed more threatening than anything she'd encountered in a lifetime of fighting.

No, it'll have to be a girl. Janna felt a rush of heat and fear suffuse her body at the thought. Ignoring it as best she could, she turned her attention to the young women in front of her. None met her eyes.

Janna walked to the head of the line and started a slow study of the women in front of her. She would have liked nothing more than to grab the hand of the first girl she could reach and flee from the room. Knowing that so many eyes were on her as she bumbled her way through something that felt so foreign was singularly unnerving.

Which one do I choose? Janna bit her lip in contemplation, walking down the line of tunic-clad girls. I just don't want to look ridiculous. I don't want to look like a fumbling idiot.

As she reached the end of the line, a red-haired girl suddenly raised her eyes to meet Janna's appraising gaze. She had striking blue eyes, the color of the ocean on a stormy day, and Janna only partially suppressed a gasp at the sight of them. Reassurance shone bright in her gaze, along with something else that caused Janna's heart to start thumping hard.

She's the one.

"Ah," the King said from behind her. "Excellent choice. I don't speak from experience, mind you, but I've heard many good things."

Janna turned and regarded the King with a polite smile, nodding at his words. "I think she will be just fine, thank you." She glanced behind her to gauge the slave's reaction to the words, suddenly self-conscious that the girl would resent being talked about like an object. Blue eyes were impassive.

I guess she's used to it.

"Your men are welcome to select their companions, and I'll bid you a good night," King Menos said, drawing Janna's attention back to the table.

Janna turned and bowed at the King. She tried not to blush under the leering, encouraging smiles of her top lieutenants as they stood and made their way over to the remaining slaves. They were all unmarried, and she imagined that each was thanking whatever force had garnered them an invitation to accompany her on this royal visit. Leaving her chosen slave for the moment, Janna strode over to where the King rose to his feet next to the table.

"Thank you for a most enjoyable meal, my Liege," Janna said, and bowed again. "And thank you for your continued hospitality and the invitation to spend these next days with you. I know my men and I are all looking forward to the opportunity to relax for a bit."

"It's my pleasure, Commander," the King said. Leaning over close to hear, he murmured, "We'll talk later about what happens next, now that this war is won. I want you to know that you'll have your choice of posts in Lyros, if you desire."

Janna smiled, bowing slightly to the King. A plum assignment in the capitol city was a significant step up, and something she would have to seriously consider pursuing. It was one of the most attractive options for tomorrow that she'd heard.

"I look forward to that discussion, King Menos."

"As do I," the King agreed. Clapping her on a muscular upper arm, he chuckled and nodded over towards the grouping of body slaves. "Now," he said, "go on and have a good evening. I've had a warm bath sent up to your room. Please feel free to ask a servant if you're in need of anything tonight."

"Thank you," Janna said.

"Good evening, then," King Menos said, and he turned and walked out of the hall.

Taking a deep breath, Janna turned back to her companion for the evening. The girl still stood in line, silent and watching. Her men had wasted no time selecting girls of their own; Marco nodded at the remaining slaves, and then led them out of the hall. When only she, her men, and the body slaves remained, Janna jerked her head at her men, indicating that they should join her near the table.

All three men turned and came at her silent command, leaving the four slaves standing in a silent group behind them. Janna waited until each of her soldiers stood in front of her before craning her neck and lowering her voice to address them.

"I'm sure I don't have to remind each of you that a soldier in the King's army respects all women, regardless of role or status." Janna pinned each of them with serious brown eyes. This had always been important to her; as a commander, she made sure each of her men was aware of her feelings on the subject. "The King wants us all to have a good time tonight, but let's remember to act like gentlemen."

Arden, a toothy blonde-haired man, gave her an amused grin. "Yes, Commander," he said. "And let me just say... I'm grateful to have the pleasure of finally seeing you succumb to someone's charms."

Janna fought another blush. She looked around at her men, her loyal soldiers, and allowed a crooked grin at the good-natured comment. Turning to Darius, she asked, "I suppose there's a pool that'll be paid out now, right?"

Darius feigned innocence. "You make us out to be no better than gossiping maidens," he complained.

Janna lifted an eyebrow at him. "Your point being?"

Her men laughed, and Arden clapped her on the back. Janna shared their good humor, glad that she had been able to forge a relationship with her soldiers that was authoritative without being alienating. Unlike her male counterparts, Janna had commanded through respect instead of intimidation. Being the only female commander in the King's army, it hadn't always been easy. It was at moments like these, however, that Janna was glad for it.

"All right, boys," Janna said when the laughter had died down. "You all have a good night, and I'll see you in the morning."

"Not too early, though," Jason said with a wide grin. Arden and Darius chuckled beside him.

"Not too early," Janna agreed. "Have a good night."

"You, too, Commander!" Darius said, and turned to collect the girl he had selected.

Arden and Jason also bid her good night, rushing to fetch their own companions. Within a few moments, all three of her men had exited the hall with eager anticipation, and Janna was left alone with the red-haired body slave with the piercing blue eyes.

Janna turned and faced the girl, who now stood with her eyes cast down to the floor. She hesitated to move closer to the slave, afraid of this next part of her evening. Putting on a stoic face for her king and her men had distracted Janna from the nerve-wracking reality of what this whole situation meant, and now that she was alone with the beautiful redhead, she was shaken to the core.

Janna's breath caught in her throat when the slave girl looked up at her once again. Blue eyes blinked once, twice, and then held her gaze with unflinching integrity.

She doesn't seem entirely broken, Janna thought. She knew it was the reason she had chosen the girl. Janna had been hooked the minute compassionate blue eyes found her nervous brown. There's more to her than she lets them see.

Janna imagined some kind of affinity with the slave. After a moment of blinking silently at the girl, she realized how she must look, and she shook her head with a quiet chuckle.

"What's your name?" Janna asked.

The girl looked surprised at the sudden question, and it took her a moment to answer. "It's Moira," she said in a low voice.

Janna took a step closer, shaken at the simple pleasure of the girl's voice. It was lilting and musical, softly accented, and it sent delicious shivers down the warrior's spine. The feelings, like the expensive clothing she wore, were unfamiliar to her. All of the awkward nervousness she'd felt around beautiful women in the past hadn't yielded the undeniable arousal she now felt flooding her body.

Oh, I'm in trouble here.

"Shall... shall we go upstairs to my quarters?" Janna murmured. She felt uncomfortable, uncertain; she had no idea how she should act in this scenario, and the only thing she knew was that she wasn't comfortable treating this girl like an inhuman object. "The King mentioned a hot bath... that sounds perfect right now."

Moira raised her head and pinned Janna with a steady gaze. The Commander resisted the urge to squirm beneath the look. Remember, you're the one in charge here. Not her.

"As you wish, Commander," Moira said. Quiet confidence shone in her blue eyes, and intelligence, and Janna felt a droplet of sweat roll down the small of her back at the sudden sure knowledge that there was more to Moira than she'd first imagined from a body slave.

She didn't know whether she was comforted or further terrified by that thought.

"Come on, then," Janna blurted, the command coming out gruffer than she had intended. She took three steps forward to close the distance between her and the slave, reaching out to lightly grip the girl's arm and guide her to the hall door. "It's just upstairs."

They walked to Janna's room in silence. Janna worked on controlling her breathing, mentally playing through what could happen when they got there. I wish I had a better idea of that part of it. The warrior turned to head to look at where the slave followed slightly behind her. If nothing happens, will she go and tell everyone?

As promised, a large tub full of steaming water waited for them back in her room. Janna led them inside and shut the door behind her, keeping her eyes on Moira as the slave kept walking to go and kneel beside the opulent bed. Her throat worked as she turned and regarded the bathtub, which looked incredibly inviting.

Should I invite her to take a bath? Janna blinked at the tub, and then at the girl, and then at the floor a short distance in front of her. I don't want to be rude or anything, but if she takes off her clothes... Janna was aware that her hands were trembling, and she curled them into tight fists at her sides.

Enough, she thought. You've commanded thousands of men, rode into battle with only the sword on your back and taken down hundreds of enemies... surely you can manage taking a hot bath with a beautiful young body slave. Janna cleared her throat.

"Moira, is it?" Janna asked. She hadn't forgotten the girl's name; she simply wanted to hear that sweet voice again, but didn't know what else to say.

"Yes, Commander," Moira answered.

"Would you like to join me for a bath?" Janna asked, and then immediately flushed. Oh, so smooth. "I mean... if you'd prefer to go first, or if you'd rather not..."

Moira rose to her feet beside the bed. She reached down and grasped the hem of her tunic, lifting it easily over her head. She wore nothing underneath. Still looking at Janna, she murmured, "As you wish, Commander."

Janna tried to remember to breathe. The eyes she tried to avert instead stubbornly explored full pale breasts with rosy pink nipples, a pleasantly curved belly, and silky thighs. Janna felt bathed in sweat by this point. She couldn't stop the unconscious licking of her lips as she stared at the patch of dark curly hair between Moira's legs.

"Get in the tub, then," Janna whispered. Her throat felt dry and her voice cracked slightly. She forced a scowl on her face, hoping to regain some feeling of control in this situation. "The water's going to get cold."

"You don't wish for me to undress you?" Moira asked. She gave Janna a careful smile, as if amused but cautious about Janna's possible reaction to the words.

Mortified, Janna blushed even harder. "I can undress myself," she replied curtly. "Just get in the tub."

The corners of Moira's mouth stayed just slightly upturned, and she gave Janna a deferential nod. "Yes, Commander."

Janna watched with appreciative eyes as the redhead walked to the steaming tub full of water. It occurred to her that Moira's creamy backside was a work of art. It also occurred to her that she had never been quite so turned on as she was at that moment.

Janna released a shaky sigh. Please let me get through this.

She pulled the silk shirt over her head as she approached the tub where Moira sat. Janna had never been a modest woman -- living as a warrior made that difficult, if not impossible -- and so she was surprised by how shy she felt under the intensity of Moira's interested gaze. Janna captured hooded blue eyes with her own, licking her lips again.

Oh, she's good. Moira stared at her with what Janna recognized as desire. Even knowing that it was a practiced response, a tactic of any decent body slave, Janna felt her body simultaneously relax and become bowstring taut with anticipation. She's really, really good.

Janna hesitated only a moment before undoing her leather pants. She kept her eyes on Moira as she pushed them down past her hips, stepping out of them when they pooled around her ankles. Naked, she crossed self-conscious arms over her chest, shooting Moira a quick look.

Moira nodded at her and reached out a slim, wet arm. The movement caused one breast to lift and break the surface of the water, sending a flood of arousal to Janna's center. "Let me wash your back, Commander."

Janna nodded back and, without a word, climbed into the tub across from Moira. The water was pleasantly hot, soothing subtly aching muscles and drawing a contented sigh from Janna. She relaxed against the side of the tub, eyes fluttering shut almost against her will.

It had been forever since she'd had a hot bath.

Janna's eyes flew open a moment later at a soft touch to her upper arm. Her warrior instincts took over and one arm shot out of the water to capture Moira's wrist where it rested on her bare skin. The body slave looked at her with wide blue eyes, a soapy sponge clutched tightly in the hand that Janna held.

Shaken, Janna released the redhead from her grip.

"I apologize, Commander," Moira said. For the first time, her eyes looked uncertain. "I didn't mean to startle you."

Janna nodded, embarrassed at her panicked reaction. "And I didn't mean to startle you," she said. Her eyes, seeking refuge from Moira's piercing gaze, drifted down to take in bare breasts and defined collarbones. She flushed again, the heat from the bath water making her feel on fire. Quickly looking back up at Moira's face, she asked, "Forgive me?"

Moira's brow creased as she took on a perplexed look at that. The slave cocked her head slightly, studying Janna, as if trying to decipher her. The frank examination frightened Janna, and she felt a harsh scowl capture her face in response. Moira blinked, and then lowered her eyes in submission.

"There's nothing for me to forgive," she whispered. Her voice was unsteady and tentative, as if she wasn't sure she was giving the right answer.

Janna bit her lip as she studied the young redhead. I'm off to a monumentally clumsy start, aren't I? Shifting where she sat, Janna half-turned and presented her bare back to the slave. Thinking it best to get them back on track, she said, "Wash me, then?"

"With pleasure, Commander," Moira murmured behind her. A moment later Janna felt the sponge again touch her back, gently, before Moira began scrubbing her with leisurely strokes.

Janna was shocked when the gentle massage served to relax and inflame her at the same time. She felt the tension drain out of her muscles under Moira's knowing touch. Janna leaned forward, closing her eyes, and pressed the fingers of two steepled hands to her forehead.

"Oh, God, yes."

Janna's eyes flew open as the languid moan escaped her mouth. She moaned again, unwillingly, when the pressure of Moira's soapy hands increased.

"Oh, that feels good," Janna murmured. She hummed in pleasure at Moira's obvious skill, delighting in the way all the tension seemed to drain from her body. Her arousal remained, but took on less urgency as she simply enjoyed the contact of the girl's soft, bare skin against her own.

Her arousal regained its urgency the moment Moira's hands slid from her back around to her sides, grazing the edges of her breasts with a feather-light caress. Janna sat straight up and gasped as all the mellowing effects of Moira's massage disappeared under the hot lust that consumed her.

Janna sat trembling under Moira's touch. She felt frozen by her overwhelming emotions, by the way she wanted nothing more than to turn where she sat and take Moira's mouth in a hard kiss, but didn't know how. She did nothing; she simply trembled, gasping for air as gentle fingers traced the curve of her breasts.

Say something, Janna scolded herself. I should be saying something, shouldn't I?

"That's very nice," was what Janna finally managed, and she said it low and husky, with a voice made rough with desire. "I mean... thank you..."

Moira interrupted her clumsy speech by reaching around to cup full breasts in small pale hands. Janna gasped and arched into the touch, praying that the slave wouldn't feel how her heart was beating hard in her chest. Slim fingers circled Janna's wet nipples, warming them before drawing away and letting the cool air raise them into erect points.

Janna thought her heart might explode. Quickly, she sat forward, pulling out of the girl's reach, and gasped for breath.

For a moment there was only silence, and then a cautious question from behind Janna's curved back. "Am I... am I doing something wrong, Commander? Are you... displeased with me?"

Janna shook her head, but she was unable to turn around and meet Moira's penetrating gaze. "You're fine," she husked. "I just... will you pass me the sponge?"

Without a word, a small hand appeared over Janna's right shoulder, a sponge held tightly by slim fingers. Janna reached up and accepted the sponge from Moira, trying not to stiffen as the redhead trailed her fingers down Janna's arm as she retreated.

Taking a deep breath, Janna scrubbed her body clean. She worked quickly, methodically, washing until she felt fresh. She never turned around, and Moira remained still behind her. When Janna was done, minutes later, she turned to look over her shoulder at the body slave. Moira stared at her with a fond smile on her face, arms crossed over her bare breasts. Janna's eyes dropped to Moira's arms, an unconscious frown forming when she registered the loss of such an enticing sight.

Slowly, Janna's eyes still pinned to her chest, Moira uncrossed her arms and dropped them to her sides. She bared her breasts again for Janna's gaze, and Janna licked her lips at the beauty of them. Janna growled in the back of her throat when pink nipples tightened under her heated stare.

Her self-consciousness reappeared when she realized that she was simply staring at the girl, saying nothing, ogling her naked body. Janna blinked, thoroughly disgusted with herself. Moira remained silent, but her smile grew wide and confident.

Janna tossed the sponge she held to the naked slave. "Wash yourself," she said, standing up in the tub. Moira's eyes followed her as she stood, and Janna squeezed her thighs together to stave off the arousal she found in the girl's heated appraisal. "Wash yourself and then come to bed."

"Yes, Commander."

Janna turned and climbed out of the tub. She wanted nothing more than to watch Moira wash herself, perhaps even to direct the body slave in the activity, but she couldn't get past her instinctive nervousness about throwing herself headlong into this increasingly intense situation.

What if I'm terrible? Janna reached the bed, pulling the covers down at the corner and sliding between the silk sheets and the down comforter. What if I don't even know what to do?

Janna's fears didn't have long to fester. Before she knew it Moira was done washing and she stood up, smoothing the water from her skin with hands moving over her breasts, arms, and thighs. Janna watched the sensual display from her position on the bed, moving an unseen hand beneath the covers to find the wet heat between her legs.

She was undoubtedly aroused.

Moira climbed out of the tub, retrieving a towel from a nearby chair and quickly running it over her body to dry off. Janna swallowed hard, staring at the body slave. Moira stared back, and after another moment of drying her body, she began to stalk forward to where Janna rested.

Panicked, Janna sat up and swung her legs over the side of the bed. She planted both feet firmly on the floor, and then both hands on the mattress beside her hips. "Look, maybe you should just lie down for a while and I can... well, I mean there's a lot I need to... you know, I should really..."

Giving up on her fumbled excuse, Janna simply pushed off with her hands and attempted to stand up. She was terrified that Moira would get in bed with her. This whole trip -- and accepting the King's gift for the evening -- all of a sudden seemed like a threatening idea.

Moira stopped Janna's upward motion with two firm hands on broad shoulders. "Commander," Moira said in a low voice. She was strength and confidence, and her hands relaxed Janna's tension without hesitation. "Please, let me take care of you. Let me... let me relax you, Commander. I promise it'll be just fine, okay?"

Janna looked up into blue eyes that conveyed gentle understanding and she blushed hard, casting shy eyes to the ground. In that moment the young body slave did something no man or army had done to her in a long time; she utterly felled her defenses, and she reduced her to nothing more than nervous submission. Janna nodded, consenting to Moira's control, and Moira sank to her knees before Janna, sliding two hands up the length of bare legs and thighs.

Janna moaned at the feeling of skin-on-skin -- God, could that ever get old? -- closing her eyes and surrendering to the sensation of Moira's touch. Despite her lingering anxiety, her need had reached the point of no return. There was no stopping this now.

Not, Janna admitted to herself, that I really want this to stop.

A soft hand pressed against Janna's flat belly, pushing her back with tender insistence. Janna acquiesced and fell backwards onto the mattress. She sighed when she felt gentle fingers trace a path over her abdomen and then down to her thighs. When the caresses moved higher, spiraling inwards to cover her inner thighs, she moaned out loud. When in the midst of all the gentle touching, Janna felt the unmistakable sensation of full lips dropping a kiss on her center, she opened her eyes and gasped out loud.

"You like that, Commander?" Moira asked. Her voice was slightly teasing, but infinitely kind.

Janna felt entirely comfortable to nod with enthusiasm, groaning at the new sensation. "Yes, I do."

"Shall I give you more, Commander?" Moira whispered.

Janna shifted her arms so that she could prop herself up on her elbows and look down at where Moira lay between her legs. Her pale, beautiful face rested close to Janna's center, and Janna felt wanton at the abundant desire she felt pooling there. She lifted her hips slightly, gently bumping Moira in the chin with her pubic bone.

The redhead smiled and dropped another, much longer, kiss between Janna's legs. Again she raised her head and asked, "May I please give you some more, Commander?"

"Yes," Janna whispered. All her worries and doubts flew from her mind, and she was helpless to say anything but that. "Yes," she repeated.

Moira reached down, opening Janna with deliberate fingers. Janna shivered as the cool air hit her exposed arousal, and as she watched Moira stare at her with hungry eyes. As she continued to watch, Moira bent her head and licked Janna's center from bottom to top with the flat of her tongue.

Janna cried out at the touch. Her elbows buckled and she collapsed backwards in pleasure, reaching her arms above her head in an effort to find something to hold on to. Moira licked her again, and again, and then with slower and more concentrated strokes.

"Oh, my," Janna whispered. It was so much more than she had ever imagined. "Oh... Moira."

Moira hummed into Janna's center, the vibrations from her mouth drawing a hoarse cry from the muscular warrior. Her legs fell open in boneless surrender, and she felt Moira press forward against her thighs with her arms. The redhead stroked her hips with gentle fingers as she licked her, and Janna's toes curled with the bliss of it all.

Janna's mouth hung open and she squeezed her eyes closed as Moira pleasured her. Small noises fell from her lips without thought or reservation. Any feelings of self-consciousness were forgotten, any worries about this experience gone from her mind, at the heat and pressure from Moira's skilled mouth.

Janna reached down and tangled her fingers in Moira's red hair. "Oh, Moira," she said again. She stroked Moira's face with her other hand, lifting her head slightly off the mattress to stare down at the girl. "Moira," she murmured, and dropped her head with a whimper.

Moira moaned in response, increasing the speed and pressure of her tongue.

As Janna was pushed closer and closer to orgasm, she became aware of a kind of dim melancholy fogging her already cloudy head. A cold tendril of loneliness snaked through her belly, and she shut her eyes tight against it. She kept her hands on Moira's hair and face while her mind took over.

Maybe we just came home from supper at the tavern, Janna imagined, stroking silky hair. Maybe we raced home the minute we finished eating, unable to wait to touch one another. Maybe, she mused with a quickening of breath, maybe she spent the entire meal whispering to me over the table, telling me how much she loves me and wants me.

Janna arched her back and came with a hoarse cry, tightening her fingers in Moira's hair and pulling the girl's face into her body. Moira hung on as her body quaked with release, gripping her inner thighs with gentle fingers and nuzzling her center with her lips and nose. Eyes still closed, Janna whispered nonsense endearments without thought, swept away by the intensity of all the feelings still coursing through her body.

When at last the aftershocks faded away, Janna was left with the curious sensation of blissful sorrow. The experience had been beautiful and amazing, but, ultimately, not at all what she had wanted. She was unsurprised to feel tears leaking from her eyes.

Janna lifted a hand to cover her closed eyes, turning her head in shame.

"Hey," Moira whispered from between her legs. The voice was just as sweet and smooth as Janna had remembered, and it loosed a fresh wave of grief from her heart. "Commander, I..."

Janna bit her lip, willing herself to calm down. You're making a fool of yourself! She hastily wiped at her eyes with the back of her hand, sniffing hard. You're doing exactly what you didn't want to do... acting like a complete ass.

Janna managed a shaky smile, her hand still resting over her teary eyes. "Thank you, Moira," she whispered. "That was... well, it was wonderful."

"Commander," Moira said again. She slid her hands up Janna's upper thighs, drawing a shiver from the taller woman, and then up over her stomach, her chest, and her shoulders. Moira rose as she touched Janna, leaning over the warrior, and then she crawled on to the bed to recline next to where she lay. "Commander."

"My name's Janna," she whispered. Her face twisted with emotion, and she felt her cheeks flood with heat as she struggled not to dissolve into confused tears. On the one hand she felt wonderfully sated, and on the other she was sure she'd never been more alone in her life.

Moira was silent for long moments, and then she reached over and touched Janna's shoulder. "Janna," she murmured. She pulled Janna into a tentative hug, tightening her arms when Janna fell into her embrace without hesitation.

Janna snaked her arms around Moira's narrow shoulders, burying her face in her neck and pulling the girl closer to her body. They lay lengthwise on the bed, their legs dangling off the edge of the mattress. Janna stroked the length of a smooth, pale back with her hands, marveling at the texture of soft skin beneath her fingers.

I wish this were real.

Janna's breath hitched at the thought, and she felt slim arms squeeze her even more firmly. Her body trembled within Moira's embrace, no matter how hard she tried to regain her composure.

"Janna..." Moira's voice sounded hesitant, even a little nervous; as if she wasn't sure how free she should be with her words.

"Yes?" Janna whispered. "What?"

"Was that your... I mean, was that the first--" Moira paused, and then released a shaky breath. "Was it?"

"It wasn't my first orgasm," Janna said, and then blushed at the admission. She pushed her face into Moira's hair, mortified at how weak she must seem to this body slave.

"But it was--"

Janna drew in an embarrassed breath. "Yes," she interrupted. "Yeah. I know it's... it's pathetic, really." She pulled back a little to look at Moira with hard eyes. "And if you tell anyone--"

Moira shook her head, eyes wide, and stopped Janna's mouth with her fingers. "I would never tell anyone something like that," she said. The hurt was plain in her voice, and Janna stared down at a bare shoulder with sheepish eyes. "It was... it was beautiful," Moira whispered.

"It was?" Janna asked. She raised her gaze to hooded blue eyes, looking hard for any sign of dishonesty in them. Janna was adept at reading people -- her life had demanded it -- and she saw no indication that Moira was being anything but sincere.

The thought that this beautiful girl -- slave or not, she was beautiful -- would think that her tear-soaked first sexual experience was anything other than sad or pathetic floored her. It also set off a renewed burn of arousal so intense it momentarily took her breath away.

Moira gazed up at her and nodded. "I'm not saying it as... to try and please you, Commander. It really was just... it was unexpected and special. Thank you."

Having a body slave -- a girl forced to have sex with people like her under threat of punishment or death -- actually thank Janna for using her shook Janna to the core. She swung her head back and forth in mute denial.

Don't thank me. I don't deserve it... here's something that's supposed to be special, and I just take it from you. Janna blinked back more tears, reaching down and caressing Moira's cheek with the palm of her hand.

Moira leaned into the touch, staring up at her with a tender smile. "Really," Moira continued, shaking her head at Janna's sorrowful denial. "But why..." She reached up and wiped the tears that coursed down Janna's cheek away with the pad of her thumb. "Why are you so sad?"

Because this isn't the way it's supposed to be.

Rather than answer, Janna bent and took Moira's mouth in a sudden kiss. She closed her eyes, moaning as Moira parted her lips to accept her exploring tongue. Janna rolled over so that she was on top of Moira, reaching down and cupping the redhead's face with both hands. She kissed Moira with all the joy and fear and sadness and desire she felt inside, and then she kissed her some more.

Janna pulled back from their kisses with a gasp, looking down into smoky blue eyes. "Moira," she whispered. She ran her fingers through the girl's hair, tucking a loose strand behind her ear. "You're so beautiful, you know that?"

Moira shook her head, staring up at Janna with wide eyes. She studied the warrior the way one studies a particularly vexing puzzle, and Janna had to chuckle at the confusion in her gaze.

"Well, you are," Janna said. She ducked her head, suddenly bashful about her need to talk sweet to the body slave. Well, I refuse to share something like this with someone and not treat her like she should be treated. Lifting tentative eyes to study Moira's face, she smiled and traced one finger down over a petite nose. "I just love your freckles."

"Thank you," Moira whispered. "I, uh..." she paused and swallowed, looking almost scared. "My mother used to tell me that they were kisses from fairies. I... I know it's stupid, but..."

"No," Janna shook her head. She became pleasantly aware that her thigh was insinuated between Moira's spread legs, but she was more occupied with the feeling of gentle warmth that permeated her belly at Moira's shy revelation. "No, it's not stupid. It's just as charming as you are."

Moira rolled her eyes at the compliment. A moment later, she flinched as she seemed to remember her place, lowering her gaze in deference.

Janna laughed. "No, no... roll your eyes at that, please. I'm sure I sound like a sad and silly thing, right? You have every right to let me know that." She grasped Moira's chin in her fingers, smiling as she encouraged the girl to look her in the eyes. "I'd like... I'd like it very much if in here, we could just be Janna and Moira. Not the commander and the slave."

"Really?" Moira stared deep into Janna's eyes, as if trying to decipher her very soul. Janna smiled down in nervous anticipation, pretending more confidence than she felt. She didn't want Moira to see how she was trembling inside.

"Really," Janna said. "And you are really so beautiful," she murmured, and then she leaned down and dropped a string of kisses along Moira's lower lip. "So beautiful," she said again.

"So are you... Janna." The reply was slightly more confident, as Moira seemed to gain a trust in the kind of reaction she could expect from the warrior.

Janna smiled down upon Moira, and then dropped her head to take Moira's mouth; once, again, dipping inside just briefly before tracing her tongue along her upper lip. She moaned into Moira's mouth, feeling her hips seek friction with Moira's body.

Moira was a good kisser. In fact, she was an excellent kisser. She had technique and form and skill all down pat, and Janna was sure nothing in life could feel better than the sweet torment of Moira's delicious kisses along her throat and mouth.

"Moira," Janna murmured against the girl's neck. "So beautiful... you taste so good."

A warm hand settled on the back of Janna's neck, encouraging her enthusiastic kissing. Janna nibbled her way across Moira's collarbone, and then paused for only a moment before sliding her mouth down and taking a stiff nipple between her lips. Moira gasped and arched her back, digging into Janna's skin with blunt fingernails.

Janna squeezed her eyes closed, shuddering at Moira's rising excitement. She traced her tongue around Moira's nipple, and then nipped and tugged at her with her teeth. Janna was acting completely on instinct, driven by the simple desire to connect with the woman beneath her. She pressed her thigh against Moira's center, sucking harder through a moan at the hot wetness she found there.

"Janna," Moira gasped. She brought her other hand down to tangle in Janna's hair and, after a minute hesitation, pulled the warrior's head up to meet hers. "Will... will you kiss me again?"

Janna did as she asked. She took Moira's lips with a grateful groan, planting her hands on the mattress beside the girl's head. She began to rock against Moira, smiling into their kiss as Moira joined in her movement.

And then the kiss changed.

As amazing as their kissing had been until that point, it suddenly became something altogether different. The change came from Moira; Janna felt the girl relax beneath her, she felt a flood of slick heat soak her thigh, and she felt desperate fingers clutching at her back. Moira plundered Janna's mouth with an eager tongue, taking control of the kiss and stealing Janna's breath from her lungs.

Moira whimpered and hummed into their kiss, thrusting her hips up to seek friction with Janna's thigh. Janna broke away from Moira, dropping her face into her neck and closing her eyes in pleasure. For a moment she simply enjoyed the feeling of Moira taking pleasure from her body, and then she lifted her head with serious intent.

Moira gazed up at her with desire-clouded blue eyes. Janna stared down at her, and for a moment Moira's shameless motion faltered. Smiling, Janna gave the body slave an almost imperceptible shake of her head.

"I want to make you feel good, Moira," Janna whispered. She shifted and brought her hand down between their bodies, sliding her fingers over Moira's belly until she reached the damp curls between her legs. Janna exhaled shakily before dipping into the thick arousal that she found there, rubbing gently at the redhead's swollen folds.

Moira moaned and spread her legs farther apart.

Janna grinned, pleased at the reaction she'd caused. "Does that feel good?" she asked. She didn't even try to hide the excitement in her voice.

Moira nodded. "Yes," she hissed. She thrust her hips, moving back and forth against Janna's hand.

Janna grinned harder. She searched with her fingers and found Moira's clit, touching her in the same way she enjoyed touching herself. She bit her lip and looked down at the moaning girl, relaxing when she saw the obvious pleasure on Moira's face.

"How am I doing?" Janna whispered in a low voice. She colored at her shy question, but returned the blissful smile Moira gave her.

"Perfect," Moira murmured. She licked her lips and arched her back into Janna's touch. "You're perfect, Janna."

"Tell me what you want," Janna said. "Tell me how to make you feel good."

Moira blinked rapidly at that, and she emitted a surprised whimper. She stared up at Janna with wide blue eyes, reaching her left hand up to curl around the back of her neck and pulling her down for a quick kiss. With her other hand she reached between their bodies, finding and grasping Janna's fingers with her own. She closed her eyes and slid Janna's hand down over the length of her center, pressing against her fingers until she slipped inside of Moira.

Janna gasped at the sensation of being surrounded by slick heat. She could have never imagined a woman feeling like that.

"This is incredible," Janna whispered. Her voice trembled, but she was beyond caring. She stroked in and out of Moira gently, rubbing her fingers around the smooth inner walls that held her fingers in a tight grip. "I can't believe how good this feels."

Moira nodded. A strangled laugh escaped her, and it quickly turned into a purring moan. "I can't believe it, either," she said, and closed her eyes.

Janna knew she had to make Moira cry out in pleasure. She was driven by the sudden, burning desire to hear the girl's voice call her name, to echo throughout the room in ecstasy. She shifted and gazed down to watch the play of muscles in her arm as she worked between Moira's legs; she looked back up to smile at the rapture on the redhead's face.

"Your thumb, baby," Moira murmured, and then opened her eyes with a startled gasp. Looking up with slightly panicky eyes, she corrected, "Janna. Use your thumb to stimulate me while you're inside."

Janna leaned down and planted a gentle kiss on the girl's damp brow, and then shifted again to rest beside Moira. "Like this?" she asked, and moved her thumb up to rub at Moira's swollen clit.

"Yes," Moira whimpered, her voice strangled. "Oh, yes, just like that." She reached up and grabbed Janna's shoulder with desperate fingers. "Please don't stop."

"I won't," Janna promised. She increased the motion of her hand, holding her breath for a moment when Moira writhed beneath her in unthinking pleasure. "I won't."

Moira clutched at Janna's arm with her free hand, crying out her loud release. Her thighs trembled and she arched her back, nearly dislodging Janna from her position above her. Janna held on, still moving her fingers, fascinated by the way she seemed to control Moira's body like some kind of puppeteer. She felt more powerful than she ever had before; no sword, no battlefield victory, had ever moved her as much as this delicate redhead who shook and whimpered around her hand.

"Janna!" Moira called out, and then she collapsed limply onto the bed.

Breathless, Janna stilled her hand and leaned down to take Moira's mouth in a passionate kiss. Moira returned the kiss without hesitation, reaching up to wrap her arms around Janna's neck and pulling her down against her body. Janna tried to keep all her weight from settling on the smaller woman, but Moira persisted and Janna was happy to relent.

They broke apart from their kiss after a few moments, and Janna looked down at Moira with a proud grin. "Was that okay?" Janna asked.

Moira rolled her eyes again, returning Janna's smile. "It's clear that you are equally as talented at making love as you are at making war," she said.

Janna's face darkened at the innocent comment, and Moira seemed to shrink back in mild fear. Janna forced her mind to calm, intent on setting Moira at ease. "Good," Janna answered. She dropped a final kiss on Moira's cheek and moved to lie on her side next to the redhead. She reached over and tucked a wisp of red hair behind Moira's ear. "That'll make a career change easier, having a new skill."

Moira laughed, and the sound was musical to Janna's ears. "I'm not certain how that particular skill will lend to a new career... unless you're interested in selling yourself into slavery?" she said. Her voice was light, but there was pain behind blue eyes.

Janna saw the dull ache in Moira's gaze and a crashing wave of guilt consumed her. In an instant, she remembered who -- what -- Moira was.

And what I've just done to her./ v Janna turned on to her back to escape the suddenly too-intense blue eyes that stared at her, and she closed her eyes against the onslaught of emotion that overwhelmed her. I'm no better than her slavers, or any of the people who use her like a cheap toy.

"Janna?" Moira asked. She touched Janna's arm, stroking at her with tentative fingers. When Janna didn't answer, the fingers stopped their motion and Moira whispered, "Commander?"

The use of her title made Janna's blood run cold. While she had touched Moira, she had been able to pretend that things weren't really as they were. Moira wasn't really a body slave, given to her as a gesture of gratitude by her King, just as she wasn't really a warrior who felt old before her time, but appallingly inexperienced just the same. When she'd kissed Moira, when she'd been inside her, she had been able to pretend that theirs was an act of love. No more, now that stark reality slapped her in the face.

Janna squeezed her eyes more tightly shut to stave off the tears that overwhelmed her. This is ridiculous, she thought, furious with herself for her apparent weakness on this night. Anger felt like a much safer emotion; it was familiar and it made her feel stronger, and so she allowed it to take hold. Fucking ridiculous, and over what? Things are as they are, and nothing I feel will change that.

"Nothing," Janna finally replied. She opened her eyes and looked over at Moira, who blinked rapidly at the look in Janna's eyes. To her credit, though, she didn't move or shrink back, but instead met cold fire with a compassionate gaze. Janna was awed by her courage -- countless men had shaken in terror at Janna's anger -- and she forced her eyes to soften. "Nothing," she repeated, more gently this time.

Moira bit her lip and looked at her. After a moment she resumed her stroking of Janna's arm with tentative fingers. Janna blinked back still more tears; growling low in her throat, she reached out and turned Moira on to her side so that the redhead's bottom pressed against her belly.

"Let's get to sleep," Janna grumbled, her voice gruff from the strain of not breaking down. She leaned up on an elbow, blowing out the candle that sat beside the bed, and drew the covers up over their bodies before lying back down. Janna pulled Moira tightly against her body, unable to stop herself from taking comfort in the girl's warmth even despite her continued guilt. Truly, she would have liked nothing more than to touch Moira all night, but her conscience wouldn't allow it.

She had taken enough from the girl.

Janna closed her eyes, splaying her hand over Moira's slightly rounded belly. She listened as the girl's breathing gradually slowed, enjoying the unique scent of skin and hair so close to her nose.

Janna had been certain Moira was already asleep when the redhead covered the hand on her belly with one of her own. She heard Moira take a breath, and then she heard the girl whisper into the still night air. "I'm glad you picked me."

Shaken, Janna said nothing, and let the girl drift off to sleep in the company of silence.

*****

Janna woke at the sound of soft knocking on the chamber door. She startled awake, sitting up in the bed, and only after a confused moment registered a warm body still curled around her own. Janna looked down at tousled red hair fanned across a pillow, at a face still peaceful in sleep, and at perfect breasts bared by the blanket she'd pulled off their bodies in her rush to sit.

The knock sounded again, and before Janna could answer the bedroom door swung open and a tunic-clad slave crept inside. She carried a serving tray loaded with bread, fruit, and meat, as well as a large silver pitcher. At the sight of Janna, sitting up in bed, awake, the slave girl gave a muted gasp and stopped in her tracks.

Am I really that scary?

Janna held up her hand in a calming gesture. "It's all right," she whispered. She looked down at the girl who still slept -- like a rock -- beside her. Janna tugged the thick down comforter up to cover Moira's breasts, wishing to preserve some measure of her modesty; as an afterthought, she pulled it up and held it over her own bare breasts. Janna glanced back over at the serving girl with gentle brown eyes. "You can go ahead and leave the tray on the table."

The girl gave her a wide-eyed nod, stumbling over to the table and depositing the food-laden tray upon it. She smoothed down her clothing as she turned to offer Janna a nervous bow.

"I'm sorry, Commander," she said. "I didn't mean to wake you. The King wanted to be certain that you had food when you rose."

Janna held up her hand again. "Please, don't worry about it. I was just getting up."

The girl bowed once more, and then turned to scurry out of the room. The heavy wooden door eased shut behind her, and Janna looked down upon the slumbering form beside her in wonderment.

"How are you still sleeping, little one?" Janna whispered. She reached down and, after a moment's hesitation, fingered a silky lock of auburn hair.

Moira shifted a little in her sleep, and then turned to move closer into Janna's naked body. The feeling of soft breasts pressing against her hip spurred Janna into quick action. She leapt forward on the bed, throwing the comforter from her body and, she noted with some ambivalence, exposing Moira's pale flesh. Moira groaned a little, and then opened big blue eyes in sleepy confusion.

Janna scrambled to her feet next to the bed and looked down upon the languid girl who still lay there. Moira blinked at her, and then propped herself up on her elbow.

"Are you okay?" Moira yawned. She sat up slowly, stretching like a graceful cat. "What's wrong?"

Janna didn't answer as her eyes were drawn to a purplish bruise on Moira's creamy throat. It hadn't been there the night before. Janna felt sick with sudden shame.

"I hurt you," Janna whispered. Her eyes were fixed on the mark her mouth had left on the girl's body; she couldn't remember putting it there. She resisted the urge to reach out and caress the area she had injured. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean..."

Moira stared at Janna in mild confusion, and then she brought her hand up to touch her throat where Janna was staring. After a moment she smiled in comprehension. The smile was at first vaguely amused, and then it became playful, almost mischievous.

"You didn't hurt me," Moira murmured in a low voice. She reached out a hand towards Janna, giving her a pleased smile. "Quite the opposite, in fact."

Janna squeezed her hands into fists, hiding them behind her back. She trembled with the desire to go to Moira, to climb back into bed and feel soft skin against her body again. The way Moira looked at her, almost like a lover, was as powerful a thing as she had ever seen. It was a force of nature, that look, and Janna was almost helpless to resist it.

Almost.

Janna exhaled, taking a step back away from the bed. She stumbled in her retreat, bringing her arms up and flailing a little for balance. Moira stared after her from her position on the bed, a sweet half-smile on her face that neither mocked nor condescended. Janna realized that she was naked, and then she was struggling into her clothing within an instant.

"Do you wish for me to leave, Commander?" Moira asked. Her voice was more tentative than it had been since she'd woken, as if she wasn't sure what to make of Janna's mood.

Janna fastened her pants, shaking her head. "I'm just... I'm going to go spar with my men." She struggled with her weapons, shooting a quick look at the naked girl who now sat in bed, arms crossed over her chest. "I can't have them thinking that just because the war's over, they can get soft."

Moira said nothing. After a moment, she shifted as if to stand up.

"No, wait!" Janna said. She was finished dressing, and so she just stood there with her hands hanging limply at her sides, uncertain of how to behave. Moira stopped her motion, sitting back on the bed and looking up at Janna with wary eyes. Janna twisted her hands in front of her, struggling with what to say.

"Yes, Commander?"

Janna swallowed, and then took a step towards the bed. "Do you have anywhere you need to be right now?" she asked.

Moira shook her head. "I'm not expected back early. It was assumed that you might require my services this morning. I don't have any more duties until this evening, at the banquet."

Janna sighed. The banquet, that's right. All the nobles getting together to gloat about a war they had no part of. She gave the girl a steady look. "You must be hungry."

It was a statement, not a question.

Moira nodded. "I can get breakfast down in the slaves' quarters."

Janna shook her head, crossing the room to pick up the tray the girl had left for them. She turned to Moira, gesturing for her to lie back in bed. Moira obeyed, watching her with strange blue eyes as Janna brought the tray over to rest on the bed beside her.

"I guarantee this is better," Janna said. She picked up a piece of fruit, giving Moira a gentle smile despite herself. "Look, they even have strawberries."

Moira leaned forward and, with breathtaking grace, took a bite from the red berry Janna held in her fingertips. Janna was instantly aroused.

"I... I've got to get going," Janna blurted out. She drew her hand back as if it had been burned, and then reached up and squeezed at the back of her neck with her fingers. "I want you to just... just stay in bed and eat. You go ahead and leave when you're ready; I won't be back."

Moira swallowed the fruit, giving her a wistful smile. "Yes, Commander."

Janna resisted the urge to lean down and take the redhead's lips in a desperate kiss. It would be so easy to stay, to spend the morning in bed with the beautiful girl. She seemed willing, even, weakening Janna's resolve, but Janna reminded herself that it wasn't as if a body slave could truly consent to her attentions.

Janna gave the girl a regretful smile, starting a slow backwards walk to the bedroom door. "Have a good day, okay?" she said.

Moira cocked her head, gave her a confused smile, and nodded once as she fled from the room. "Thank you, Commander. And you, too."

*****

Janna took a deep breath as she exited the ballroom, and then exhaled into the dim silence of the hallway. She could hear the muffled voices of the nobles and high-ranking soldiers who attended the banquet in celebration of the end of the war. It probably wasn't appropriate, slipping out when she was one of the guests of honor, but Janna was already growing tired of the constant celebration and recognition that she found in Court.

And I've still got to make it through the Harvest festival tomorrow evening. Janna closed her eyes for a moment, rocked back on her heels, and then turned to make her way down the hall with purposeful strides.

She craved something, but an entire day of ceaseless searching had failed to reveal what it was.

You're gonna kill us, Commander! Darius had gasped earlier, flat on his back out in the practice field. Her men hadn't appreciated her early-morning need to spar with them until they were gasping for air, and rubbing their limbs in pain.

Whatsa matter? Arden had chuckled. Your girl didn't tire you out?

She'd given him an extra kick to the mid-section for that one.

In fact, Moira had exhausted her. All she could do was think about the girl, and about how it had felt to love her, and how she wished last night could have happened somewhere else, under different circumstances. She was drawn to Moira, truly, and she hated that she had taken advantage of the girl's position to take what she'd wanted from her.

Janna roamed the dark hallways of the castle, enjoying the brief respite from the constant stream of conversation and introductions. She wouldn't be able to stay away long; more than a few minutes and she would surely be missed.

Janna heard the noises before she saw their source: a low male voice and soft female whimpering. Her steps faltered for a moment as she considered what she might interrupt if she were to keep walking, but the sudden sound of someone being struck and crying out in pain hastened her movement down the hallway.

She found them around the corner, next to a low windowsill in a dark corner of the hallway. The man had one hand covering the woman's mouth, and the other reached under her tunic. He stood between her legs, and she sat on the windowsill, struggling against him. As Janna watched, he removed the hand from her mouth and slapped her hard across the face.

"Just relax!" he hissed.

Janna crossed to them in two steps, reaching out and yanking the man away from the woman he was attacking. She vaguely recognized him as the son of a lesser noble, and she glared at him with angry brown eyes. The woman beneath him gasped and sat up; Janna turned her head to look at her and was lost in familiar blue eyes.

"Hey!" The man struggled out of her grasp, turning to stand in front of her with his hands on his hips. "Just who do you think you are?"

Janna stared at Moira, who stared back at her with a frightened gaze. The girl's clothing was torn, exposing one shoulder and the slope of her breast, and her cheek was red where she had been slapped. Janna turned to regard the angry man, narrowing her eyes at him as red-hot anger consumed her.

"Commander Janna Arwyn," she stated. "Of the King's army. And who are you?"

"Wesley," he answered with a sniff. "My father is Lord Barrony."

"And what do you think you're doing?" Janna asked, as if speaking to a small child. "Do you think hurting women is befitting of nobility?"

The young man snorted at her, shooting Moira a disdainful look. "She's a whore," he said. He raised the hand that had been under her skirt to his face and smiled as he inhaled. He turned back to look at Janna. "A body slave. She was just doing what she does best."

"Getting slapped across the face?" Janna asked angrily. "She may be a body slave, but she's still a human being and should be treated as such."

Wesley scoffed at her. "Relax, Commander. It's nothing she's not used to." He shrugged, hooking his thumbs in his pants. "Besides, tonight's a celebration. Surely that's more important than bickering over this little whore."

Janna clenched her fists at her sides. She glanced at Moira, who remained silent. The girl shrank back against the windowsill, clearly uncomfortable at being the cause of their argument. Janna regarded Wesley with cool eyes, taking a step closer to Moira and reaching out to grasp her upper arm. She gently tugged the girl until she stood beside her.

"You asked who I am," Janna said. She flicked her eyes over to Moira, and then nodded her head at the purple bruise that marred the pale flesh of her throat. "I'm the one who gave that to her, and I'm the one who will be taking her again tonight."

Wesley's eyes lit up in amused comprehension. "Ah," he murmured, and bowed at her. "Say no more. I wouldn't have interfered if I'd realized the slave was yours for the evening."

Janna resisted the urge to growl in the back of her throat. She felt protective of the girl whose arm she still held, and wanted nothing more than to slug the bastard who had hit her across the face. However, despite her position of honor amongst the King's soldiers, she wasn't sure it would be easy to explain knocking out a nobleman over a mere body slave.

Janna gave him a curt nod. "Why don't you get back to the celebration?" she asked.

Wesley gave her a tight smile. "I think I will," he said. He gave Moira one last lecherous look, and then turned on his heels to stride away from them back towards the ballroom.

"Hey, Wesley?" Janna called after the young man. He paused, glancing back at her over his shoulder. "I see you hit another woman, slave or not..." she waited a beat, narrowing dangerous brown eyes in his direction. "I promise you'll be sorry."

Wesley didn't react to the threat, merely turning and walking away with a small smile. Janna watched him go, wishing she could have pulled her sword and lopped off the hand he'd used to strike the girl. Janna turned back to regard Moira with serious eyes.

"Are you okay?"

Moira released a nervous laugh, crossing her arms over her chest. "He's right, you know. It's nothing I'm not used to."

Janna closed her eyes, swallowing against the pain in her throat. "That doesn't make it right," she whispered. Opening her eyes, she looked past Moira to stare at the castle wall. "I'm sorry, you know, what I said..." She scuffed a foot on the ground, chancing a quick glance at Moira. "I didn't think that appealing to his sense of propriety when it comes to the treatment of women was going to work. Telling him that you're mine for tonight seemed like an easier way to get him to leave you alone."

Moira gave Janna a careful smile. "I didn't mind."

Janna didn't even allow herself to ponder the significance of that statement before she turned and took a couple steps away. She looked back over her shoulder only reluctantly, feeling a pang in her heart at the disappointment that shone in Moira's eyes at her retreat.

"Well," Janna said, and kept walking. "Have a good evening, okay? Be careful."

Moira nodded, and Janna turned her eyes forward with a grateful sigh. Holding intelligent blue eyes was delicious torture, but torture nonetheless.

Janna was about to turn the corner of the hallway when Moira called out behind her.

"Janna?"

Janna stopped, surprised at the sound of her name. It was the first time Moira had uttered it since their moments of passion the night before. Janna turned where she stood, and then took a step back in surprise when Moira flew into her arms.

The redhead rose on her tiptoes and took Janna's mouth in a sweet kiss. Janna trembled with the effort not to react, not to plunder Moira's mouth, not to push her up against the wall and take her without thought. She couldn't do that, because then she'd be the same as all those who had taken advantage of the girl in the past. She'd be no better than Wesley, with one hand up her skirt and the other stifling her cries of pain.

Moira pulled back from the kiss with a ragged gasp. "Janna," she murmured again, and then she stepped forward and pressed the length of her body into the taller woman. She wrapped her arms around Janna's neck and kissed her again, hard and pleading.

Janna took the girl in her arms and walked them until Moira's back met the wall. She pressed Moira against the cool stone, returning her kiss with unrestrained passion. Moira groaned into her mouth and clutched at her shoulders with both hands. She was soft and warm, and before Janna knew what she was doing her hand had found its way to a cloth-covered breast.

Janna broke the kiss, gasping in self-loathing. She tore her hand from Moira's breast, lifting it and staring at her fingers as if they belonged to a stranger.

"Moira, I'm..." Janna took a stumbling step back from the wall and the flustered girl. Her collarbone was exposed from where Wesley had torn her tunic open. "I'm sorry."

Moira took a step forward, extending her hand to Janna. "Commander... Janna. There's no reason for you to apologize. I kissed you."

Janna shook her hand and continued to back away from the redhead. "You didn't need to do that," she said. "You don't owe... I've already taken enough from you." She watched Moira shake her head in protest, but she couldn't bear to stay and listen to whatever the girl might say. "Just be careful, all right?" Janna continued, and turned on her heels. She walked away from Moira with purpose, shutting her ears against the soft protests from the slave she left behind. "Good night, Moira."

*****

Moira was waiting for her on her knees next to the bed.

Janna wasn't startled when she opened the door to her quarters, having been told by the King that her favorite slave and a hot bath were again being sent up for her, but she was nervous and uncertain of what to do. It seemed that Wesley had made casual mention of her interest in the red-haired body slave to his father, who somehow managed to let slip to the King that the Commander was certainly enjoying her time at the Castle. Before she knew it, the King had approached her with a broad grin and the generous offer to have Moira waiting for her when she was ready to retire.

Janna hadn't known how to refuse. Truth be told, there was a big part of her that didn't want to refuse.

Janna stepped into her quarters and shut the door behind her. She was nervous to approach Moira, and so she simply stood with her back against the hard wood behind her, watching the slave with wary eyes.

Moira knelt beside the bed, eyes down to the ground. She no longer wore the white tunic Janna was accustomed to seeing. Instead, she was dressed in lingerie made of dark green silky material. It was the most elegant and expensive piece of clothing Janna had ever seen, and it looked as though it had been designed with Moira's body in mind. Janna's breath caught in her throat and her heart began to pound.

She looked beautiful and Janna didn't know how she would resist touching her.

Moira lifted her head and pinned Janna with a mournful gaze. The warrior was surprised to see tears shining in bright blue eyes.

"Commander, I apologize," Moira began when Janna didn't say anything, continuing to stand still in the doorway. "I know you didn't really want me again, that you were just saying that to the nobleman's son, but two of the guardsmen delivered me here just the same. I... I swear I didn't tell them..."

Moira's nervous, fumbling speech broke Janna out of her stupor. She's worried I'll be angry that she's here. Janna took a few more steps into the room, shaking her head at the frightened girl.

"Moira, it's okay," she said. "I knew you would be here when I retired. The King... well, the King offered to have you waiting for me."

Moira's shoulders relaxed, and her whole face telegraphed relief. "Oh," was all she said. She remained on her knees.

"I didn't know how to refuse the King," Janna continued, desperate to explain her weakness to the girl. "He was going to send up a hot bath, as well."

Moira nodded, biting her lip and looking down at the floor. "Shall I leave you then, Commander?"

Janna considered for a moment. She didn't know how to keep the girl with her and not give in to her stubborn desire, but she also didn't like the idea of sending her back to her quarters. Who knows what kind of trouble could find her at this time of night?

"Maybe I could escort you back to your--"

A loud knock interrupted Janna's speech. She turned to the door behind her, blinking in confusion, and then after a moment stepped forward and tugged it open. Two young men dressed in slave tunics stood outside, each carrying two buckets of steaming water.

"Your bath, Commander," the one on the left said, bowing as far as he was able with the burden in his hands.

Janna stepped back from the door to let them in. She watched Moira as the boys filled the large tub at the other end of her room. As they emptied their buckets, two more slaves appeared with buckets of their own. Moira watched the filling of the tub with a longing gaze, unaware of Janna's scrutiny. The efficient slaves had the bath filled to the brim in no time at all, and Janna dismissed them with a polite nod of her head and a quiet thank you.

She turned to Moira when she shut the door behind the last of leaving slaves. I should really walk her to the slave quarters. Instead, she said, "Would you like a bath, Moira?"

Moira looked up at her, startled and confused. Janna realized how her rapidly shifting mood and her inability to do what her head told her was right would elicit this reaction, and she gave the girl a weak smile.

"Yes, Commander," Moira whispered. "If you desire me to have one."

Janna shook her head, crossing over to where the girl still knelt. "No," she said, and reached down to offer Moira her hand. "I'm asking you. Would you like a bath?"

Moira accepted Janna's hand, allowing the warrior to help her stand. Blue eyes darted over to the large bathtub, and then back to Janna's face. "Yes, Commander," she said. "I would."

"Could you please stop calling me that?" Janna asked. Her heart broke every time the beautiful redhead addressed her in so deferential a tone. She felt defeated by this girl, and full of rage that such a willful force be subjugated in that manner. "I told you...my name is Janna."

Moira nodded, her gaze never wavering from Janna's face. "Yes, Janna. I'm sorry."

Janna shrugged, uncomfortable at the growing intimacy of the scene. At least when she's acting as the slave, I don't have to worry about forgetting my place. When she heard that sweet, low voice murmur her name, Janna felt close to losing control.

"I can leave you," Janna offered. "Take a walk for a while, give you a chance to enjoy the hot water..."

Moira cracked a wide smile, which receded after a moment of obvious struggle. She caught Janna's eyes and held them. "I'd prefer that you stay," she said.

Janna shook her head, giving Moira a sorrowful look. "I told you that you don't owe me anything," she reminded the girl. "I don't... I'm not interested in taking that from you. Not like everyone else takes from you."

"Janna," Moira said, and closed the distance between their bodies. She stood so close that Janna could feel incredible heat pouring off her body.

"Yes?" Janna asked, swallowing hard.

"Do you think, despite the fact that I am a slave, that I am capable of giving myself freely if I so chose?" Moira's eyes bored into hers, serious, and Janna sensed that she had better give the right answer.

"You do not own your body," Janna whispered, reaching out to caress Moira's cheek. "But nobody could ever own your soul," she said. "I see that when I look into your eyes."

"I want you to stay," Moira repeated in a soft voice. "Please."

Janna knew that to leave now would mean insulting Moira, and she couldn't bring herself to do that. She nodded at the girl, stroking her cheek with cool fingers.

"Will you bathe with me?" Moira asked.

Janna nodded again. She couldn't deny the girl anything.

Moira immediately reached forward and found the hem of Janna's shirt with both hands, tugging it up and over her head without hesitation. Janna was surprised at the bold movement, but remained still as the redhead quickly undressed her. Blue eyes swept over her tanned flesh as it was bared, and Janna felt her body react to Moira's heated gaze and soft touch. Her nipples tightened and her arousal pooled between her legs; Janna shifted uncomfortably when the last of her clothing was removed and she stood nude in front of Moira.

"Will you undress me?" Moira whispered. She gave Janna a cautious smile, reaching out and catching a cold hand in her own. She brought Janna's hand to rest on her silk-covered hip. Her body was supple beneath the expensive fabric. "Please. I'd like it."

Janna closed her eyes, nostrils flaring as she exhaled. After a moment, she opened her eyes and pinned Moira with a hard gaze.

"Why?"

Moira blinked at her. She opened her mouth, hesitated, and then asked, "Why, what?"

"Why would you like that?" Janna whispered. "For me to... to undress you."

"Because you don't treat me like a slave," Moira answered. She reached down and covered Janna's hand that still rested on her hip. "Because last night, the way you touched me... I didn't feel like a slave." Moira's eyes dropped to the ground, and Janna watched the tips of her ears turn red. "I felt like a lover, and..."

Janna swallowed, reaching out and tipping Moira's face up with a hand beneath her chin. "And what?" she asked, breathless with an unfamiliar stirring in her stomach.

"And I want to feel that way again," Moira said.

"I want to feel it again, too," Janna admitted. She dropped her hand from Moira's chin to the hem of her tunic, looking up at her with cautious eyes. "I... I enjoyed last night, very much."

"You were nervous," Moira said, and smiled.

Janna nodded, blushing. "Yeah, I was. I never expected my first time to be... under those circumstances."

"And you're unhappy that it was?" Moira asked. Her voice contained just a hint of sadness; it was skillfully hidden, but Janna heard it nonetheless.

She didn't want to hurt the girl, but she couldn't lie to her, either.

"I don't believe in slavery," Janna said, in lieu of a real answer. "I'm not comfortable with it." She shifted on her feet, glancing back over her shoulder at the bedroom door. "I've fought for our King and I will always be loyal to him, but I cannot in good conscience agree with everything that happens in his kingdom."

"If I told you again... that I wasn't performing as a slave last night?" Moira blushed, casting shy eyes over to the tub. "I mean... at least not in the end?"

Janna felt her entire face burn, the roots of her hair aflame with embarrassment. "I always... I'd always hoped I would find someone who loved me."

Moira smiled at her, and her face screwed up a little as if she was holding back some painful emotion. She nodded, looking down at Janna's hand on her tunic. "I know what you mean," she whispered.

Janna blinked at the wistful comment, reaching up once more to cup the girl's cheek in the palm of her hand. She suddenly felt like the most insensitive oaf imaginable. "I guess you would, wouldn't you?"

Moira didn't answer.

Janna sighed, and then stepped forward to take the girl in her arms. "I'm sorry," she murmured. She dropped her face into Moira's hair, inhaling deeply. She startled a little when two warm hands came to settle on her back. Oh, yeah... I'm naked. Janna pulled back and looked down on Moira, curling one half of her mouth up in a tentative smile. "I did enjoy last night," she admitted. "Too much, I think. I... I confess that I've been feeling a little guilty about... about the way I took advantage of you. Of your position."

Moira shook her head, giving Janna a sad chuckle. After a moment she sighed and took a step back out of Janna's arms. "Can we continue this conversation in the bath?" she asked in a shy voice. "The water's going to get cold."

Janna smiled at that. "Sure," she said. She took a hesitant step forward and then stopped, scratching at her temple with nervous fingers. "Would... would you still like me to undress you?"

Moira gave her a bashful grin, fair skin suffused with red. "Yes."

Janna gave Moira a little bow and a faux-cocky grin, reaching for the hem of her top once again. "As you wish, my lady."

Moira remained bright red as Janna removed her clothing. When the girl stood naked before her, Janna reached out and took Moira's hand in her own. She led Moira over to the tub, stopping to stand next to it. Without releasing Moira's hand, she nodded towards the bath.

"After you, Moira," Janna said. "Just hold on to my hand for balance."

"Thank you," Moira whispered. She held tight to Janna's hand as she climbed into the large tub. She didn't let go until after she had settled down with a long sigh of pleasure, leaning back against the side of the tub and smiling over at Janna. "You coming?"

Janna just nodded. She climbed into the tub as quickly and gracefully as possible, sitting down beside Moira. The water came to just over her breasts, and she sighed in contentment as the hot water relaxed her muscles.

"So you think you took advantage of me?" Moira asked.

Janna sighed again. Right to the point, she mused. No fooling around for this girl.

"Moira," Janna began, "I allowed you to service me. I brought you to my room as some sort of token awarded to me for a successful campaign, and I took pleasure from you despite the fact that my heart told me it was wrong. Yes, I took advantage of you." Janna looked down, playing at the surface of the water with her fingertips. "I took advantage of the fact that you couldn't say no. You had no choice but to be with me, and even though I knew it was wrong... I let it happen."

"I couldn't say no," Moira murmured, echoing Janna. "But you agree that I can say yes? In theory, at least, slave or not... that my passion is still something I can freely give, if I chose to do so?"

Janna closed her eyes and pinched at the bridge of her nose with two fingers. "In theory," she repeated, "I suppose, yes. But it wasn't as if we talked about it. It wasn't as if I asked--" Moira interrupted her by laughing. She actually tipped her head back and laughed. "Janna, you were more nervous and hesitant than anyone I've ever serviced. I swear you were actually trying to get away from me without letting me touch you. I practically had to beg you to allow me to bring you release!"

"Still," Janna muttered. "You were doing your job. I let you. So that means I took advantage...of your position, of the duties you're forced to perform."

Moira eased over to where Janna leaned against the back of the tub, sitting closely enough to her that their bodies were pressed together along their lengths. "I've already told you," she whispered, "I liked what we did last night. The way you looked at me... the way you touched me... it was like you wanted me. Like you cared about me. I... I felt like you really saw me, and not just a mere body slave."

"I did see you," Janna answered. Against her better judgment, she reached out and wrapped a silky lock of red hair around her index finger. She tugged gently, eliciting a rumbling purr from Moira. "And you were beautiful."

"So are you," Moira answered. She hesitated for a moment, and then moved forward again until she straddled Janna's hips. Janna sat back against the side of the tub, bringing her hands up to grip Moira's waist as she settled on top of her. "Even..." Moira began, and then she looked down and stared at Janna's collarbone. "Even if you don't want to make love with me again, may I please stay here tonight? It's just that I..."

When she fell silent, Janna slid her hands down and squeezed her hips in encouragement. "It's just what?" she asked.

"It's just that I don't feel like a slave when I'm with you," Moira whispered. Her chin trembled with the words, and Janna moved her hands up to press against Moira's lower back. "And I haven't felt that in so long, and I know you'll be leaving soon, so I..."

Janna pulled Moira into another hug. The girl buried her face in Janna's neck, and Janna allowed her eyes to drift closed with the pleasure of feeling Moira's body held so tightly against her.

"How long?" Janna asked after long moments. "When did you become a slave?"

Moira released a shaky breath. "I was taken from my family when I was fourteen winters old," she answered. She tightened her arms around Janna's shoulders, and the warrior pulled her even closer. "I was trained as a body slave not very long after."

Janna swallowed, a kind of mute horror taking her words away. She pressed a kiss to Moira's cheek. After a moment, she whispered, "I'm sorry."

"So am I," Moira said, releasing a desperate chuckle into Janna's ear. "I was taken from Gaul," she continued. "I don't know if I'll ever see it again."

Janna stroked the length of Moira's back, pulling away slightly so that she could look into the girl's blue eyes. "How long have you served in the castle?" she asked.

Moira rolled her eyes up to the ceiling in contemplation. "About one and a half winters now," she said. She sighed, tracing Janna's collarbone with her finger. "It hasn't been so bad, honestly. A lot better than my last master, at least. He was..." she shivered within Janna's embrace. "He was brutal."

Janna shuddered herself when she remembered Wesley's rough treatment of the body slave earlier in the night. "Things like... like what happened with Wesley, earlier tonight... does that happen very often?"

Moira blushed, dropping her eyes to where their bare breasts pressed together. "Sometimes," she admitted. "Not very often, anymore."

Janna felt another question come to her lips, one she was unable to stop from asking. "Do you... do you often serve women?" She blushed as soon as she said it, joining Moira in rosy-cheeked silence.

Moira looked up into Janna's sheepish eyes, giving her a slow smile. "No," she said. "Not often. Here at the castle, never before last night. Before, a couple of times."

Janna shifted beneath Moira, gritting her teeth a little at the feeling of silky inner thighs draped over her hips and an impossibly warm center pressed to her belly. She kept her hands on Moira's waist, flexing her fingers a little, and studied the redhead's chin. "So... do you like... do you like women?"

Moira reached out and ran a fingertip along Janna's jaw; muscles working, Janna exhaled steadily through her nostrils. "I do," Moira answered. She met Janna's eyes with her own, holding them with cautious intensity. "I like you, in particular. Very much."

Janna blinked in surprise, unexpected tears blurring her vision. She felt the quiet confession hit her directly in her chest. "Moira, I like you, too," she whispered, almost in disbelief.

Moira cocked her head to the side, studying Janna's face with a look of nervous pleasure. Then she tipped her head back and laughed, and Janna closed her eyes in bliss at the sound.

"This is... I've never done this before," Moira admitted with a shy grin on her face.

"What?" Janna said, just as shy. "Courting?" She couldn't help the lovesick grin that captured her lips.

"Flirting," Moira answered. After a moment her smile faded, and again she looked down at where their bodies pressed together. "No matter how you make me feel, I am still a slave." She looked up at Janna with sorrowful blue eyes. "I don't think slaves can be courted."

Janna felt as though her heart had been ripped out at the look Moira gave her. Reality, as unpleasant as it was, came crashing down on her once again.

And with it came anger.

Anger at the King, which shocked her, for not outlawing slavery, as she believed he should. She felt anger at herself, for finally feeling something for the most inappropriate of women. Anger at the countless men -- and few women -- who had known Moira's body before her, and who never saw the beautiful woman she was. Anger at time, because it would march inexorably forward, and eventually she would lose the girl who felt so right in her arms. Janna would be the Commander again, and Moira would still be a slave.

But not tonight.

Without thinking, Janna lifted one hand to the back of Moira's neck, drawing her in for a tender kiss. When she pulled back, she said, "Tonight I'm courting you. Tonight... you're not a slave, okay?"

Moira released a sobbing laugh, leaning her forehead on Janna's shoulder. "Okay," she agreed in a whisper.

Janna dropped her hand to rub against Moira's back. The water was growing cooler, and Janna looked around until she located a small bottle sitting on the low wall the tub leaned against.

"May I wash your hair?" Janna murmured into Moira's ear. "Please?"

Moira nodded, giggling nervously. "Yes."

Janna gave her a brief hug, and then returned her hands to Moira's hips and encouraged her to scoot backwards off of Janna's lap. "Just let me get the bottle," Janna said, turning where she sat and stretching out to snag the small glass container that held the fragrant shampoo.

"Yes, Commander," Moira drawled, and then shot Janna a playful smile.

Janna uncorked the bottle and poured a coin-sized amount of shampoo into her palm. "Careful," she warned Moira with a smile. "Be good."

"Yes, Janna," Moira repeated, and then turned her back on the snickering warrior.

Janna worked the sweet-smelling liquid into Moira's red hair with both hands, using strong fingers to massage the girl's scalp. Moira moaned out loud, leaning back against Janna's chest. Janna couldn't help but moan along with her.

"That feels so wonderfully good," Moira said, humming with pleasure. "I'm not sure I've ever felt anything that good before."

Janna chuckled, enjoying the feeling of soapy hair twined around her fingers. "Well, you're easy to please."

Moira snorted a little. "You have no idea."

Janna reluctantly removed her hands from Moira's hair, dipping them into the bath to collect water in her cupped palms. "Tilt back," she instructed the girl. She lifted her hands and poured the water over Moira's hair, washing soap from the red strands.

Moira whimpered at the sensation, and kept whimpering and mewling as Janna washed the rest of the shampoo from her hair. Janna kept pouring warm water over Moira's head long after her hair was clean, just so she could keep hearing those noises.

When Janna was finished, she leaned forward and dropped a kiss on the back of the girl's neck. "Was that acceptable, my lady?"

She heard Moira exhale shakily before whispering, "Very much so, thank you."

"Are you ready to get out?" Janna asked. The water was beginning to cool and her fingers to wrinkle.

Moira sighed, turning to smile at Janna over her shoulder. "Sure," she said.

Janna smiled back. "Let me just get a linen for you to dry off." She got up on her knees, leaning over the edge of the tub to the same ledge the bottle had come from, stretching as far as she could for the towel that was folded near the window. Her fingers had just found purchase on the soft fabric when she felt warm hands grip her hips, and then she was pulled open and exposed to the cool night air. "Moira--"

"Just relax," Moira whispered from behind her, and then Janna's knees almost buckled at the unfamiliar sensation of a wet tongue gently exploring the puckered skin of her anus.

Janna gasped. "What are you--"

Moira pulled her mouth away, resting her face against Janna's bottom. "Do you like it?" she murmured.

Janna's mouth was open and she struggled to breathe. Do I like it?

"It's... it feels incredible," she said.

"Less talking, then," Moira suggested, chuckling. "More making those noises you were making."

"As you wish," Janna answered, and whimpered at the feeling of hot breath against her center.

Moira hummed, kissing Janna's swollen folds, and then slid her tongue up to its original location. She played at the tight ring of muscle with the tip of her tongue, drawing a low moan from Janna. The warrior rested on her arms, leaning on the ledge, and pushed herself back on to Moira's mouth without shame.

Janna cried out when she was suddenly penetrated by Moira's searching tongue. It was a totally unfamiliar feeling, and it was deeply, deeply erotic.

"Oh..." Janna whimpered. "Oh," she repeated, and then exhaled. "Moira, I need--"

Moira knew what she needed. Without further instruction, skilled fingers found the wetness between her legs, sliding down to tease at her opening, and then back up to rub at her swollen clit.

Janna felt like a woman possessed. She threw her head back and groaned her pleasure, rocking her body against Moira's face and hand in boneless surrender. She closed her eyes and clenched her jaw shut, exhaling hard through her nose. Already her knees felt weak and her legs were shaking, and she knew it wouldn't be long before Moira released her.

Janna cried out in alarm when Moira pulled away. "What... Moira, what..."

She heard gentle laughter behind her. "Don't worry," Moira murmured.

Janna pitched forward, hissing in pleasure, when Moira brought the fingers of her free hand to rub at her center. She gathered wetness at the source, and Janna held her breath in anticipation of feeling her lover inside of her for the first time.

Moira didn't enter her, but instead slid her fingers back up to rub at the puckered flesh she had worshiped earlier. Janna tensed a little at the foreignness of the feeling, and then gradually relaxed when she gave herself over to the sheer bliss Moira created with both hands.

After a few minutes, Moira increased the pressure of one fingertip on her anus. "May I?" she asked. She sounded as breathless as Janna felt.

Janna didn't hesitate. "Yes," she answered.

Moira entered her slowly, pressing forward with excruciating patience. Janna's mouth hung open as she accepted Moira's finger, pushing back against the invasion. Moira's other hand never stopped working between her legs, stroking her swollen clit in rhythm with the tentative thrusts into her body.

Moira's voice was low and throaty when she leaned forward to speak into Janna's ear. "I want you to come, Janna. Let go."

As if she were obeying an order, Janna cried out and her body shook with pleasure. Moira murmured happily behind her, continuing to fuck and stroke her until she collapsed against the side of the tub with a weak sob.

Moira withdrew from her slowly, and Janna groaned at the loss. The warrior was still for a moment, blinking in mute shock, and then turned around to stare at Moira in amazement.

Moira giggled, a surprisingly shy noise in light of recent events. "Well, I decided that I was probably going to need to make the first move," she explained. "I didn't think you were going to do it."

Janna blushed. "No," she admitted, looking down to where her fingers played on the surface of the water. "I probably wouldn't have." She looked up, giving Moira a careful smile. "And you know... you really don't have to--"

Moira leaned forward fast, taking Janna's mouth in a hard kiss. She gripped Janna's dark hair in her hand, holding her head in place. She pulled back after some time, pinning Janna with hooded eyes. "Don't even say it."

Janna nodded, accepting Moira's words. "May I take you to bed?" she asked, wrinkling her nose as she splashed at the water. "It's getting a little chilly in here."

Moira raised her eyebrow and gave her a sly smile. "Of course."

Janna leaned over again and retrieved the linen without interruption, turning to shoot Moira a smirk over her shoulder. She climbed out of the tub, taking a moment to shake off not unlike a soaked animal, and then held the linen out to Moira in offering. Moira stepped out of the tub and into the linen, sighing in pleasure when Janna pulled her in for a hug with the towel wrapped around her body.

"Warm?" Janna asked.

"Very," Moira murmured.

Loath to release the redhead, Janna instead swept her up into her arms and carried her over to the bed. Moira released a noise that was part giggle and part moan, snaking her arms around Janna's neck with a wide grin.

Janna tossed Moira on to the bed, eliciting a squeak from the girl as she bounced on the mattress. Moira rolled to the side, out of the linen, and then picked it up and discarded it with a careless toss. She lay naked on the bed, eyes dark with desire, and beckoned Janna to join her.

Janna's hands curled into fists at her sides. Her words came out in a nervous rush. "I'd really like... well, I want to use my mouth like you did last night."

Moira's smile was slow, serene, and painfully vulnerable. She spread her legs, drawing Janna's attention to the abundant wetness of her center. "Come here," Moira whispered.

Janna did as she asked, climbing on to the bed and crawling her way up the length of Moira's body. She held herself inches above Moira with two hands planted beside the girl's head, leaning down to kiss her and suck gently on her tongue. Moira's hands came up to rest on her lower back, blunt nails scratching moisture-slicked skin.

I wish I could take it slow, but I can't.

Janna kissed her way down Moira's throat and across her collarbone, dropping her mouth further to suck a hard nipple between her lips. She nipped at the girl with her teeth, tugging lightly at her skin, and then batted at her prize with the tip of her tongue.

Moira writhed beneath her, wrapping her legs around Janna's waist and painting her belly with her arousal. Janna could smell Moira, the musky sweet scent of her desire, and it made her mouth water. Unthinking, she released Moira's nipple and continued her journey down the redhead's body until she kissed the damp curls between her legs.

Janna was on fire. She grasped Moira's leg in a desperate hand, lifting it over her shoulder and further opening the girl to her attentions. Janna bent low, closing her eyes as she inhaled deeply, and then planted her mouth hungrily on the slick folds between Moira's legs.

She was delicious. Janna was greedy as she lapped at her, tracing the tip of her tongue over her heated flesh. She moaned loudly as she feasted, alternately licking and sucking as she struggled to sate her hunger for Moira.

She wasn't certain it would ever be sated.

Moira's hands found their way into Janna's hair, pulling her head into her center. She thrust her hips in the shameless pursuit of release, and Janna nuzzled her with her whole face. She knew that Moira was close to release when her fingers tightened in her hair; the pleasure-pain of the sensation unleashed a throaty moan from Janna, which in turn drew a shuddering climax from Moira.

Janna didn't pull away until she felt Moira's hands on her shoulders and heard the quiet pleas for mercy. She grinned as she retreated, looking up at Moira with a proud smile.

"Was that okay?" she asked. The slick fluid that covered her cheeks and chin was answer enough, but she wanted to hear the words.

"Baby, you're a natural," Moira gasped. She threw her arm across her eyes, still panting.

Janna crawled up to lay beside Moira, drawing the girl into her arms with a sigh of pure contentment. Moira snuggled into her, humming, and for a moment Janna thought she was falling asleep. Her body relaxed and molded to Janna's, and she pressed her nose into Janna's neck.

Just as Janna closed her eyes, she felt Moira's hand touch her stomach, and then slide down to cup her center. Janna blinked, turning to glance at Moira with hooded eyes.

Moira smiled back, sliding two fingers down to find her sensitive clit. "You're not getting off that easy," she said, and then cocked her head and laughed. "So to speak."

"No?"

"No," Moira said. "I plan on making the most of our night. You'll have to pass out to get a rest."

Janna laughed, and her legs fell open in happy agreement. "I'll keep that in mind," she said.

Moira's fingers moved down to gather wetness, and then slid back up to circle her clit. Janna held her breath in anticipation, and then released it slowly.

"I... I want you inside of me," she whispered.

Moira looked over at her sharply, blue eyes growing bright with emotion. She met Janna's gaze steadily, still stroking her clit, and then she looked away. Moira shook her head, twisting her lips in quiet sorrow.

"I don't think that's a good idea," Moira said.

Janna was having trouble keeping her eyes open under Moira's touch. She cocked her head, pinning Moira with a perplexed look. "Why not?" she asked, and then whimpered as the girl found a particularly pleasurable rhythm.

"I can't take that from you," Moira whispered. "That belongs... that belongs to someone special. Someone who can love you... after tonight." Janna opened her mouth to protest, but Moira stopped her words with a desperate kiss.

Pulling away from Janna's mouth, Moira murmured, "Please don't argue with me about that. Please... just let me give you what I can. Let me make you feel good tonight."

Janna wanted to protest, but she didn't want to ruin what was happening between them. She pushed her desire back, forcing it to the same place where she ignored the reality of their situation and their roles in society.

Tonight was a night to feel good. Tomorrow would come soon enough, and with it her sorrow for the things she couldn't have.

Janna closed her eyes, wrapped her arm around Moira's neck, and willingly retreated into the solace of their night.

*****

Janna awoke to find Moira sleeping soundly. The girl's head rested on Janna's shoulder, and her arm was a protective weight draped across her stomach. Janna looked down at the top of Moira's head, curling her own arm tighter around the girl's body.

I don't know how I'll let her go.

Janna closed her eyes at the thought and took a deep, shuddering breath. Moira stirred in her arms, mumbling incoherently and then falling silent with a tired sigh. Janna's body shook with quiet laughter at the redhead's noisemaking, and she felt an affectionate grin tug at her lips despite her mood.

The grin faded after a long silence.

I really don't know if I can let her go.

Janna stroked her finger up the length of the arm that rested on her stomach, from wrist to shoulder. Moira whimpered and nuzzled her nose into Janna's neck.

Janna didn't know how long ago they had fallen asleep; they had made love far into the night, Janna desperate and Moira with awe in her eyes. They had both laughed over how insatiable Janna was, but Janna's laughter was tinged with sadness. She knew she was insatiable because she was trying in vain to get her fill, even despite her certainty that there would be no such thing as enough.

I care for her, she reluctantly admitted, far more than I should.

Their lovemaking had been punctuated by affectionate, breathless conversation, by good humor and playful teasing, and by tender caresses delivered while staring into one another's eyes. It had been the best night of her life, and also the worst; the best because for the first time she imagined she could fall in love, and the worst because she knew it was all an illusion.

Somehow, despite the ugly reality of Moira's life, she was the most beautiful woman Janna had ever met.

Janna bent her head and kissed the top of Moira's head. Her hair still smelled like the expensive shampoo from last night. Janna exhaled, and then eased out from beneath the redhead to lay propped on her elbow next to her.

Moira continued to sleep.

Despite the roughness in her throat and the slight throbbing ache between her legs, Janna felt the slow burn of arousal flare up deep in her belly. She reached out and stroked Moira's shoulder with her fingertips. After a moment of hesitation, she drew the comforter down so that she could stare at bare pale flesh. Her hand gravitated to Moira's silky skin, and she traced the curve of her breast with cautious fingers.

I want her again. She circled a nipple with the tip of one finger, coaxing it to hardness. One more time... just one more time and then I'll let her go. She repeated the lie in her head. One more time, and I can bear it.

Janna bent her head to give Moira's erect nipple a gentle swipe with her tongue. The girl groaned a little, shifting where she lay. Janna smiled, and then licked her again. Moira arched her back, unconsciously pushing her breast against Janna's lips. Janna moaned her approval, sucking supple flesh into her mouth. She rested her hand on Moira's ribcage, and then slid her fingers down to rest in the impossibly soft juncture of hip and thigh.

Moira stiffened for a moment beneath her, surfacing into wakefulness with silent wariness, and then she relaxed into Janna's caress. A soft moan escaped her mouth; two hands reached up to tangle in dark hair and hold Janna's head to her breast.

"I was having the nicest dream..."

Janna looked up at Moira's sensual murmur, smiling around the nipple she held between her teeth. She released the erect nub for a moment and whispered, "Tell me about it", before bending to her task once again.

Moira whimpered and shifted, tugging at Janna until the warrior eased a thigh between her spread legs and moved atop her. Moira was wet, and Janna could feel it like liquid fire against her skin.

"There was this beautiful woman," Moira began in a low voice, pausing for a moment to arch her back once again and moan. "And she was... she was making me feel the most wonderful things."

"That does sound like a nice dream," Janna agreed. She kissed her way across one breast to the other, circling her tongue around a second nipple. "What happened next?"

"I woke up," Moira answered. "And I found that it wasn't a dream at all." A small hand reached down and grasped Janna's hair, pulling her head up from where she kissed down Moira's body. "Janna, kiss me."

Janna surged upwards and captured Moira's mouth in a passionate kiss. She braced herself on one hand and slid the other between their bodies, finding damp curls with her fingers. She dipped into Moira boldly, sliding her fingers through slick heat and over swollen folds. She found her clit, giving it an affectionate stroke, and then she moved down to slide two fingers inside of the girl.

Moira gasped into their kiss and pressed her body up into Janna's. Janna explored the girl's mouth languidly, and fucked her the same way, before breaking their kiss to press her lips to Moira's ear.

"Did she kiss you like that?" Janna whispered. She smiled into her neck when Moira's breath caught at the question.

A brief hesitation, and then, "Yes."

Janna bent her head and latched onto Moira's throat, sucking and nipping at the pale skin with careful reverence. She pumped her fingers in a sensual rhythm, matching the movement of Moira's hips with her deep stroking. Pulling back from Moira's throat after a moment, she again moved her mouth to the girl's ear.

"Did she touch you like this?"

"Yes," Moira murmured. She tightened her hand in Janna's hair, urging her up to meet intense blue eyes. "You do touch me, Janna," she whispered, blinking against the emotion that filled her eyes.

Janna abandoned her playful game at the quiet melancholy in Moira's voice. Her heart swelled at the whispered words, compelling her down to take Moira's mouth in a slow kiss. Still she kept her hand moving, seeking out the places that would make Moira cry out in pleasure.

Moira gripped her shoulders with both hands and fell into their kissing with a groan of pleasure. One hand lingered only briefly over a shoulder blade before sliding down to rest on the biceps of the arm that worked between Moira's thighs. Moira squeezed her arm tight, writhing beneath Janna's body.

When Moira came, it was with an exultant cry released into Janna's mouth. Janna pulled away from their kiss so that she could hear the fully glory of the noise. She stared down into blue eyes that were wide-eyed and overwhelmed, and full of an innocent trust that brought tears to Janna's eyes. She dropped her head, burying her face in Moira's neck and closing her eyes.

Moira continued to shudder after her cries quieted, pressing her legs together to still Janna's hand. Janna kept her head down, shivering when Moira raked over her back with light fingertips. Overcome, Janna turned her head to speak to Moira.

"I don't want anyone else to touch you like this -- to feel you like this -- ever again."

Moira's whole body tensed at Janna's broken whisper. The redhead's breathing hitched, and Janna worked her jaw at the feeling of Moira beginning to cry below her.

"Please don't..." Moira sobbed. "Please don't do this."

Janna lifted her head to stare at Moira with desperate eyes. She was still inside of her. "Do what?" she whispered. Her lower lip trembled, and she bit down hard to stop it.

Moira shook her head and closed her eyes. "You were... you were supposed to be the one to end this. You were supposed to just get up and walk away from me, because that's the way things are, and all my wishing isn't going to change that."

"I'm telling you how I feel," Janna protested. "I can't let you think I don't care about you."

"You should have," Moira said. She opened red-rimmed eyes and gave Janna a heartbroken look. "You should have just let me have the last couple nights to remember always. It was perfect and it... it was enough. It was going to have to be enough, and now--"

"Now what?" Janna interrupted. She slowly withdrew her fingers from Moira's center, wrenching a disappointed whimper from the girl. She reached up and cupped Moira's face in her hands, bending down to kiss each corner of her mouth. Tears leaked from her own eyes unnoticed. "Now what?"

"And now you've given me hope that can never be fulfilled. You've... you've made me want things I know I can't have!"

Moira was shouting now, and Janna eased off of her body to lay beside her. She reached over and rested her hand on Moira's stomach, petting her with gentle fingers.

"Shh," she soothed the redhead. "It's okay, please... please don't be angry. Everything's going to be okay."

Moira shook her head, rolling over on her side away from Janna. She pulled up her knees and draped her arms across her face, shaking with silent sobs. "No, it won't," she muttered. "It won't," she repeated.

A knock on the door interrupted their conversation. Janna jumped at the noise, sitting up and swinging her head around to stare at the closed door. Her heart thumped in her chest; listening to Moira's pain made it feel like it would shatter.

"It's breakfast," Moira said. Her voice was muffled beneath her arms.

Startled, Janna called out, "I'm awake!" She darted her eyes down to Moira, and then added, "Come in!"

"I should go," Moira mumbled. She pushed herself into a sitting position, still facing away from Janna.

Janna reached out her hand; the door opened and the same serving girl who brought their breakfast the previous morning stumbled in, stopping Janna so that she hovered inches from Moira's skin.

Don't go.

The words wouldn't come. Janna sat, helpless, as Moira rose from the bed. The serving slave barely glanced over at her, and Moira walked to her discarded lingerie with a total disregard for her nudity. Janna just sat, mouth agape and mind blank, and watched both slaves move around her room.

"Good morning, Commander," the serving slave called out to her. "Are you in need of anything else this morning? I've got breakfast and tea here for you."

Moira shot her a sidelong glance as she struggled into her clothing. Janna watched the redhead, feeling a sharp pain tear through her chest.

"No," Janna said. "No, thank you."

Moira shrugged on a silky robe, covering her barely clad body for her walk back to the slaves' quarters. Janna opened her mouth again, wanting so badly to call out to her, but not knowing what to say.

"The King wanted me to remind you that he's having a luncheon this afternoon to welcome home the Prince," the serving girl continued. Janna watched Moira flinch at the comment, and then her eyes were drawn back to the tunic-clad girl who retreated to the door. "He hopes to see you at three candlemarks past noon."

"Thank you," Janna said again. She watched helplessly as Moira scurried across the room to join the serving slave, seemingly eager to escape from Janna's presence. The warrior felt despair well up in her throat, and she opened her mouth in panic. Say something! She filled her lungs with air, willing the words to finally come.

"Moira!" Janna called out.

The serving girl stopped in the doorway next to Moira, turning back to glance at Janna with fearful eyes. After a moment, Moira also turned to look at her. Her eyes were tired. The serving slave saw something in Janna's gaze, and she turned as if to continue into the hallway. Moira stopped her progress with a hand on her arm, and then turned blue eyes back to Janna.

"Yes, Commander?"

Janna swallowed. Hot tears stung her eyes, and she turned her head in shame. She swallowed again. "Thank you, too."

She didn't watch Moira's reaction. She heard a small noise and then a whispered, :"You're very welcome, Commander."

And then she listened to the door click shut.

*****

"I'd like you to be the captain of my Royal Guard."

Janna blinked, turning to look at the King walking beside her. Her hands were clasped behind her back as she accompanied the old man on a walk throughout his castle, and her face was serious. The pronouncement had come out of nowhere; one minute they were talking about Roman history, and the next he was offering her the promotion of a lifetime.

And she didn't know how to answer.

"That's..." Janna said. She swallowed, turning her eyes forward again. "That's a very generous offer, my King."

"Yes," King Menos said, chuckling softly. "It is." He turned to gaze at her face, while she continued to subtly ignore him. "Are you interested?"

"I..."

"Were you hoping to go back to your army?" the King asked. "I'm afraid we may have no need of warriors for a little while, at least." He gave her a gentle smile. "Or at least I hope. But if you want to go back--"

"No," Janna interrupted, and then looked down at the ground with a red face. "I mean, no, my King. I... I think I'm done with fighting, if it's all the same to you." She watched her feet as they walked, listened to the quiet clicking of their feet on the stone floor.

The King reached over and patted her on the back. "I understand," he said. "I hear that you've been in my army since you were fifteen years old?" He took the lead, turning to guide them down a curved hallway.

Janna nodded, smiling at the memory of the quiet, brooding youth she had been. "Yes, my King. I told my Commander that I was eighteen, to get in... I was always big for my age."

"And talented," the King said. "That helps."

Janna gave him a sheepish look. "I do all right."

"You do more than all right," the King insisted. "That's why I want you leading the Royal Guard. They're good men, you know... but they could use some training. And I can't understate the importance of having some eyes and ears here in the castle; someone with your sharp mind, keeping watch over things and advising me on matters within the Kingdom."

"I'm flattered, sire," Janna murmured. "I..." Janna stopped talking, studying the walls as they walked. She was about to tell him that she needed to think about it, but she wasn't sure that it actually required much thought. I'm done with the army, and I have nowhere else to go. Janna felt a twinge, and her upper lip twitched with it. I have no one... I don't know what else to do.

"You'd live in the castle, of course. Perhaps the suite you're staying in? If you like it, that is. If not, we can always fix up someplace else..."

The King was speaking earnestly, trying to win her agreement in none too subtle a manner. Janna's mind was racing with his words; one image, one thought took hold. Moira. If I stay, I can see Moira.

And then a door opened in the hallway in front of them, and the object of her thoughts stepped out and blocked their path. She was wiping her eyes with the back of a shaking hand as she closed the door behind her. Janna felt her breathing falter as she looked at the redhead, and at the heartbreaking emotion that was so plain on her face.

Moira exhaled, and then flinched at the sound of their footsteps and the King's fading voice. She whipped her head around and caught sight of them. Shining blue eyes widened when she realized who was approaching. Moira quickly ducked her head and stared at the floor.

Janna didn't even hesitate. "Moira," she said. "H-- Hello."

Moira gasped again at the sound of her voice, but didn't raise her eyes from the floor. "Commander," she murmured. She cast a fearful look up at the King, and then quickly dropped her eyes again. "My Lord."

The King chuckled, tearing Janna's eyes from her lover for a brief moment. "Ah, Commander Arwyn... your favorite girl, right?"

"Right," Janna whispered. She stood so close to Moira that she swore she could feel the heat pouring off her body, and she was dizzy from it. Janna struggled not to reach out and touch tousled red hair; Moira looked scared and sad, as if she was expecting to be struck at any moment. Janna clenched her hands into fists at her sides.

"If you take the job," the King said conspiratorially, "you could have her whenever you like. If you want," he continued, "I'll restrict her duties... she can service you exclusively."

Janna's mouth dropped open. She turned to look at her King, who grinned back at her, and then she swung her eyes over to look at Moira. The girl stared back at her with wide blue eyes, something indefinable shining in her gaze.

Exclusively? Janna swallowed, locking her gaze to Moira's. But I want her to want me. I don't want her to be in my service.

"Your Highness, I--"

Janna's fumbling speech stopped when the door behind Moira swung open. A young man emerged from the dim room, tugging his pants closed as he walked. He stepped right into the startled body slave, grunting a little as their bodies made contact. The sandy-haired man swung his head up in irritated shock, giving Moira an impatient shove across the hallway.

"I thought I told you I was finished with you," he snapped.

"Dennis," the King rumbled, drawing the young man's attention down the hall for the first time.

Janna stepped forward and caught the stumbling Moira in her arms, steadying the girl on her feet. She raised angry eyes to the young man -- the Prince -- who had pushed her lover.

"With all due respect, Prince Dennis... that wasn't necessary," Janna said on impulse. She felt Moira stiffen in her arms, and then the redhead took a careful step away from her. Moira kept her eyes to the ground.

The Prince stiffened a little, regarding Janna with cool eyes. "She startled me. She'd already performed her service for me and I wasn't expecting her to be hanging around."

"Dennis," the King interrupted. "This is Commander Janna Arwyn, our most honored guest."

Dennis's face softened, and he held his hand out in greeting. "Commander, it's a pleasure to meet you. My father tells me you turned the tide of war almost single-handedly." He spared a quick look at Moira, chuckling softly. "I'm sorry I frightened the slave."

Janna nodded, recognizing the need for some fast diplomacy. "I'm afraid the King exaggerates my role in the war, but I'm grateful that he thinks so highly of my performance."

Dennis gave her a wide grin, and then boldly looked her up and down. "I'm certain that he's accurate regarding your performance," he said. "My father doesn't give praise lightly."

Moira tensed a little next to Janna.

"I'm sorry, Dennis, I didn't realize you were already settling in... I should have let you know that this girl has captured our Commander's attention for the past couple nights." The King gave his son a meaningful look. "In fact, I was just suggesting that perhaps one perk of her accepting the role of leader of the Royal Guard might be the gift of the little redheaded slave in her exclusive service."

Janna waited for Dennis to react to that pronouncement. Surely if he's been with her, he won't take kindly to the idea of letting her go. To her surprise, Dennis gave her a sheepish smile.

"I apologize, Commander," he said. "If I'd realized the girl was otherwise engaged, I would have summoned someone else for service." Dennis gave Moira an appraising gaze, causing the redhead to shrink back a little into Janna's space. "She's not a favorite, to be honest, though I understand why you would be taken with her. The girl will ride you all night long, if you let her. And that mouth--"

"Apology accepted," Janna said. She flicked her eyes over to Moira, whose face was bright red with her humiliation, and her eyes watery with shame. Janna's eyes slipped shut and her nostrils barely flared with repressed anger. Opening her eyes, she gave Dennis the friendliest smile she could muster.

She almost choked on it.

"Good!" the King exclaimed, clapping his hands together in delight. He looked over at Moira and gave her a patient smile. "Why don't you excuse us now, girl, and we--" he looked at Dennis, and then at Janna, "can go talk some more over lunch?"

"Yes, my Lord," Moira whispered. She stepped away from Janna, head down.

"Very well," the King said. He turned, wrapping his arm around Dennis's neck with an affectionate growl. "Dennis can tell us about his trip!"

King Menos and his son turned to walk away, and at the same time Moira spun around in the opposite direction. For a moment Janna stood, confused, and watched the King and the Prince turn at the end of the hallway, disappearing around the corner. They continued to talk and laugh, unaware of her absence.

Janna whipped her head in the other direction, seeking out the quietly retreating redhead. Her mouth opened in silent protest as she watched Moira scurry down the hallway.

"Wait!" Janna hissed, running after the body slave. She caught up with Moira in three giant strides, and reached out to grab the girl's arm to pull her to a stop. Moira released a quiet sob, pulling away from Janna so hard that she stumbled backwards with the effort. "Did he hurt you?" Janna whispered. She gripped Moira's arm again. "Did he hurt you?" she demanded.

Moira shook her head, and tears now flowed freely down her face. "No!" she spat. "Now go! Before they find us, please."

Moira turned around and raced down the hall away from Janna, leaving the warrior standing in mute despair. She stared after the crying girl, hesitated a moment, and then, hanging her head, followed the path the King and Prince had taken.

*****

The castle courtyard was full of people, talking and laughing and dancing, and rows of torches provided some illumination to the revelry. The Harvest festival was always the most popular celebration in Lyros; this season, coinciding with their wartime victory, it was the party to end all parties. The roar of the crowd was almost deafening, the joy on everyone's faces blinding.

One face, however, was not joyful. Janna stood to the side of a large throng of dancers with a mug of strong ale in her hands. She watched the dancing with a blank expression on her face; though her eyes were fixed on the crowd, her mind was far away.

Janna was not having a good time.

She can service you exclusively. The King's words kept rattling around in her head, as did the look on Moira's face when he'd said them. She didn't know what to do with those words, or with the King's offer. If she's mine exclusively, then at least nobody else can hurt her. Janna looked down at her feet, sighing hard. But I don't want her like that. I can't... be with her like that.

Janna looked up at the crowd again, seeing nothing, and then turned to escape the celebration. She needed solitude and quiet; she wanted only to be alone with her thoughts, as tormenting as they were. She couldn't keep her mind off Moira. I want her. Even though I know it's wrong, I just... I want her.

Janna found a quiet, dark corner away from the noise of the party, next to the castle and against a stone wall that overlooked the dark village surrounding them. Janna stepped up to the wall, leaning over to rest her elbows on it. She gazed up at the sky and released a wistful sigh.

"You're not enjoying yourself?"

Janna started at the soft voice, spinning around to look at where Princess Paloma stood behind her. The Princess was dressed in a stunning burgundy dress, and she wore a playful smile on her face. Janna swallowed, remembering the girl's flirtatiousness at dinner just two evenings past.

"Princess," Janna greeted, bowing respectfully. "Of... of course I'm enjoying myself. I'm just getting a breath of fresh air."

Paloma cocked her head at Janna, giving her a quizzical smile. She approached the wall where Janna stood, taking her place next to the brooding warrior. Paloma mirrored Janna's former pose, planting her elbows on the wall and looking out at the village beyond. After a moment, Janna joined in her study.

They shared long moments of silence together. Finally, Paloma murmured, "You didn't look like you were having very much fun back there. Not the whole evening, in fact. I've..." she glanced up at Janna with careful eyes. "I'm not sure I've ever seen someone so gloomy at Harvest Festival."

Janna's lips curled into a reluctant smile. "I didn't realize you'd noticed."

Paloma released a throaty chuckle. "Oh, I noticed," she said. She reached over and traced her fingertip up Janna's arm, from wrist to elbow. "I've made it a point to notice everything about you since you've arrived."

Janna shifted uncomfortably, though she couldn't suppress a nervous smile at Paloma's bold declaration. "You have, have you?"

"Oh, yes," Paloma purred. "And I like what I've seen." The fingertip was back again, but this time it didn't stop at her elbow; Paloma traced a path all the way to where Janna's collarbone was exposed by the open collar of her silk shirt.

Janna's stomach dropped. She stepped back from the Princess quickly, giving the girl a humble bow. "Princess, my apologies, but I can't--"

"You are in love with her, aren't you?"

Janna looked up in shock. Her face immediately glowed red at Paloma's knowing words. "Who?" Janna whispered, breathless. Oh, no. Oh, no, please. She knows.

"That body slave," Paloma murmured. Her small grin grew exponentially larger when Janna failed to deny the claim. "The redhead."

"I'm not..." Janna mumbled. "I don't--"

"Janna," Paloma interrupted her. The grin softened into a fond smile, and she reached out and grasped Janna's arm with a gentle hand. "It's okay. It's okay."

"But--"

"It's funny, because everyone thinks I'm so innocent and na´ve," Paloma said, giving the flustered warrior a wry smile. "My father thinks I have no idea about everything that goes on around the castle, but I watch. I know more than I'm given credit for knowing, and one thing I know is that you're in love with that girl."

Janna felt the blood drain from her face. "Princess Paloma, please..." Janna didn't know what to ask for; she didn't know what this meant. Having her feelings laid bare made her feel raw and exposed.

Paloma turned her head to give her a calming smile, and then looked back out at the village again. "I don't believe in slavery," she said. "I never have, even when I was a little girl. It seems as if, growing up around it, I should have just figured that it's the way of the world... the way things are meant to be."

Janna felt her shoulders relax slightly. I might as well see where this is going. "And you don't," she said.

Paloma shook her head and wrinkled her nose in distaste. "No," she said. "Especially not body slaves. That's not something that should be demanded from someone through force or intimidation." She sighed, shaking her head. "My father also thinks I don't know about my brother... about his obsession with them. Dennis... well, it disgusts me."

Janna nodded. "I agree," she murmured. Of course, I say this after having spent two nights with a body slave. What must Paloma think of me? "I never..." she began. "I didn't want to take that from her, either, but--"

Paloma held her hand up to stop Janna's speech. "It's none of my business, whatever happened or didn't happen between you two," she said. She leaned forward and took a deep whiff of the night air, releasing a sigh of pure contentment. After a moment, she spoke again. "I do believe in love, though."

"So do I," Janna whispered. She gazed at Paloma from the corner of her eye. I can't believe I'm having this conversation with the Princess. Strangely, though, she trusted the girl. "I've always wanted to be in love."

Paloma released a dreamy sigh, every bit the teenage girl she was. "Me, too," she said. "So far I haven't experienced anything more than intense preoccupation, I think." Paloma chuckled, a mellow sound that mingled easily with the gentle din of the crowd behind them. "But I keep hoping."

"You'll find it," Janna replied. She smirked over at the starry-eyed princess, raising an eyebrow in amusement. "One of these preoccupations will prove to be more than mere distraction, I guarantee it."

"It looks like you've found it," Paloma remarked. After a moment's hesitation, she whispered, "I did see you two in the hallway last night."

Janna inhaled, and then exhaled. "Yes?"

Paloma released a low chuckle. "That wasn't a kiss between a slave and her master for the evening."

Janna waited a beat. "No?"

"No," Paloma said, and shook her head. She opened her mouth as if to continue, though it took her a moment to form her soft question. "So what are you going to do?"

Janna closed her eyes. The headache that had begun to recede threatened to return in full force. "Do?"

"Hey," Paloma said, and snapped her fingers. She gave Janna a crooked smile. "Enough of the one-word answers, Commander."

Janna returned Paloma's smile, straightening up so that she could give the girl a little bow. "I apologize, Princess."

Paloma's lip twitched in amusement. "That's better. Now... what are you going to do?"

Janna slumped her shoulders in defeat. "I'm not certain there's anything to do," she said. "I don't think I'm supposed to love a slave."

Paloma clucked her tongue in amused disapproval. "If you believe in love, then you must know that nobody can tell us who we're supposed to love. We just... love."

Janna nodded, and then gave Paloma a tentative look. "But I don't even know if she feels the same way."

"You know," Paloma murmured, and leaned into Janna with a conspiratorial smile. "I recently befriended one of the serving slaves from the kitchen. Don't tell my father; of course... he'll think I did it just to be rebellious. And maybe I did," she admitted. "Her name's Lily. Do you know her?"

Janna shook her head. "No." Moira was the only slave she knew by name.

"Lily has reason to see the body slaves on occasion. She takes them meals, picks up their trays. She told me that Moira has been different since you came." Paloma looked up at the sky, relaxing into a contented smile. "Happy."

"Really?" Janna whispered. "But maybe--"

"Janna," Paloma interrupted. "She has no other reason to be happy. They aren't happy, any of them."

"You think she loves me?"

Paloma stood up, turning to face Janna. Janna, too, straightened and faced the princess. "I can't blame her."

Janna blushed, and then ducked her head in embarrassment at the girlish reaction. "What can I do?" she whispered, her voice broken. "I don't know what to do."

"My father has asked you to be Captain of the Guard, correct?"

Janna nodded. "He has." She remembered the most interesting part of King Menos's offer. "He even..." she lowered her voice, looking around to make sure that they were still alone. "He offered to put Moira in my exclusive service if I accepted the job."

Paloma's eyes slipped shut, and she shook her head once in mild disappointment. Opening her eyes, she said, "And you don't want that." She sighed, crossing her arms over her chest. "Of course you don't want that."

"No, I don't."

"So ask my father to give her to you. Ask him to transfer ownership to you, and then when she's yours--"

"I can free her," Janna murmured.

"If you chose to do so," Paloma said. "If you could bear to leave the decision in her hands."

"The decision?"

"To stay with you," Paloma said. "To be your lover."

Janna's face burned hot, and she turned her eyes up to the sky. "Of course that should be her decision. I'd never dream of taking that power from her."

"So ask him," Paloma encouraged her. "This is for love... surely that's not too much for you to do."

Janna shook her head. "No," she said. "No, it's not too much." She was silent for a moment, and then she said, "Slaves are expensive, though, and especially trained body slaves. Far more expensive than even a year's wages."

"So promise him something in return," Paloma said. "Or give him ample incentive to agree."

"Incentive?" Janna asked, cocking her head at the smirking princess. "What do you mean by incentive?"

Paloma looked over one shoulder, towards the empty path leading to their private corner, and then over her other shoulder, at the dark shadows surrounding them. Once their solitude was confirmed, she turned back to Janna with sparkling eyes.

"My father wants me to marry someone of noble blood," Paloma began. "Someone respectable, and preferably someone with whom we can strategically ally. I'm not sure he'll ever get exactly what he wants from me, but I do know one thing that would drive him absolutely mad."

Janna couldn't help her grin of anticipation at Paloma's scheming tone. "Yes?" she asked.

"The idea of me being with a warrior," Paloma said. She looked up at Janna with a mischievous gaze. "Especially a woman warrior."

*****

"King Menos?"

The King turned around, mid-laugh, and gave Janna a broad grin and a strong clap on the back. "Commander Arwyn!" he cried. "It's lovely to see you!"

Janna bowed to the older man. "It's lovely to see you, too, my King."

"How are you enjoying the festival?" the King shouted over the noise of the crowd.

Janna took a step closer to the King, raising her own voice to be heard. "It's wonderful, your highness. Very impressive."

"Think you might be joining us for many future Harvest Festivals?" the King asked, leaning in to her and waggling his eyebrows.

Janna didn't even hesitate before answering. "As a matter of fact, I'd like to speak with you about that."

All of a sudden the King was all business. He reached out and took Janna's arm, leading her out of the thick of the crowd and over to a relatively quiet corner. He lowered his voice a bit when he spoke again.

"You've made a decision about my offer, then?" he asked. "Captain of the Guard?"

Janna nodded, bit her lip, and then took the plunge. "Yes, sir, and there's just one thing I ask before accepting the honor."

The king cocked his head, giving her a playful smile. "Oh?"

"Yes, my King," Janna said. She reached up and swiped at her damp forehead with the back of her hand, gathering her nerve. "I... I ask that instead of putting Moira -- the red-haired girl -- in my exclusive service, I ask... I ask that she be given to me."

The king opened his mouth a little, closed it, and then opened it again. After a moment he shook his head in confusion. "You want a slave?" he asked. "A royal body slave?"

Janna pressed forward before he could refuse. "I know that's asking a lot," she said. "And I want you to know that in exchange, I pledge at least five years of service as captain, no matter what else happens. You'll be buying that pledge from me with the slave."

"And your undying loyalty?" the King murmured, looking her up and down with hard eyes.

Janna met the King's blue eyes with her own hard brown. "That goes without saying. I have always been loyal to you, and I always will be loyal to you."

The king held her stare. "That you have," he murmured. "Still, a body slave..."

Princess Paloma chose that moment to interrupt their conversation, strolling up to the pair and insinuating herself between them. She directed a flirtatious smile up at Janna, which Janna returned with a solicitous nod, and then she gave her father an excited grin.

"Hello, father," Paloma said. "Commander Arwyn."

"Princess," Janna nodded.

"Good evening, Paloma," the King said, and gave the girl a smile. "Are you enjoying yourself?

"Very much so, yes," Paloma answered. "And you?" she asked. "Commander?"

"Yes," Janna said. "Very much so."

"So what are you two doing off in a corner with your heads huddled together?" Paloma asked. "Making big plans?"

"Actually, I was just telling your father that I just may accept the post as Captain of the Guard," Janna answered. She glanced at the King out of the corner of her eye, judging his reaction to her honest disclosure. "It's quite an offer."

"Oh," Paloma breathed, clapping her hands together with a delighted laugh. "That would be fantastic! Would that mean you would stay here at the castle with us?"

Janna tipped her head, giving the King a careful look. "I just might, yes."

Paloma took another step closer to Janna, clasping her arm with two hands. She squeezed Janna's bicep, giving her a blissful grin. "I hope you accept the job, Commander. I really do."

Janna gave Paloma a gentle smile, and then turned beseeching eyes on to the King. "I hope so, too."

"In light of that good news," Paloma said, "do you think I could convince you to share a dance with me?"

Janna swallowed nervously. She darted a quick look at the King, who stared at the two of them as if they were vaguely threatening creatures, and then gave Paloma a polite smile. "I would be honored, Princess."

"Now just hold on a minute," King Menos interrupted. Both Janna and Paloma turned to look at him; he shifted on his feet, and then swallowed and cleared his throat. He turned to Paloma with a doting smile. "Do you mind if the Commander meets you on the dance floor?" he asked. "We were just finishing up a conversation, something very important."

Paloma nodded, giggling, and let go of Janna's arm with a dreamy sigh. "Of course," she said. "Commander Arwyn, I'll see you out there?"

Janna gave Paloma a courteous bow. "Yes, Princess. As soon as the King and I have finished our discussion."

Paloma stepped up to her father and rose on her tiptoes to plant a soft kiss on his cheek. "Thank you, father. I'll see you later."

King Menos squeezed Paloma in a gentle hug, sending her off towards the dance floor with a smile. "You have a good time," he said. "And behave!"

The princess smirked back over her shoulder at him, and then she disappeared into the crowd.

For a moment the King was silent, and then he cleared his throat to speak. "Ownership of the redheaded slave, and you'll pledge at least five years of service?"

Janna's heart began to rattle against her chest. "Yes, my King," she agreed in whisper.

The king tilted his head, considered, and then gave her a slow nod. "It's a deal," he said. "She's yours."

Janna released a joyful little laugh despite herself. She gave the King an embarrassed smile, ducking her head to avoid his gaze. "I'm going to free her, you know."

She looked up at the King to see him nod his grey head. "I thought you might," he said. "If you were only interested in the sex, the exclusive service would have been enough."

Janna didn't say anything to that, but the smile remained on her face.

"I'll have her delivered to your room tonight," the King said. "We'll talk about transitioning you to the position of Captain tomorrow."

Janna gave the King a respectful bow. "Yes, my King. Thank you."

King Menos chuckled. "Good," he said. "Now, go give my daughter that dance you promised her. Please just don't mind her flirting; she's been insufferable since age fourteen."

Janna laughed. Paloma sure knows where her father's worries lie. "No problem, your highness."

"Go enjoy the rest of the evening," the King exclaimed, and delivered another clap to Janna's back. "I'm off for another drink to celebrate!"

Janna gave King Menos a polite nod and took her leave of him. It took her only a few minutes to find Paloma standing near the dance floor. The princess watched the moving bodies with a grin on her face, which broadened when she spotted Janna walking towards her.

"Commander!" Paloma shouted. Her grin turned playful, and she beckoned Janna forward with her finger. "Come and give us that dance!"

Janna crossed the floor to Paloma, bending in a deep bow when she reached the princess. "My lady," she said, and held her arm out to Paloma. "I would be honored if you allowed me--"

Paloma giggled, grasping Janna's arm. "Let's go," she said.

They settled into an easy embrace on the dance floor just as the music slowed down, and the dancers surrounding them drew together and swayed to the beat. Janna gave Paloma an excited smile as they began to move together.

"It worked, didn't it?" Paloma asked.

Janna released a shaky breath as her smile became brighter. "Yes," she said. "You were right... it worked."

Paloma let loose a delighted squeal, stepping closer in their embrace and wrapping her slim arms around Janna in a hard hug. "I knew it!"

Janna returned the hug, tipping her head back and laughing. "Thank you, Paloma." She gave Paloma an appreciative squeeze, and then pulled back to look in her eyes. "Five years of service as Captain of the Guard, and no flirting back with you, and he gives me Moira." Janna licked her lips in nervousness at a sudden thought. "She's being delivered to my chambers tonight."

"That's fantastic," Paloma murmured. "I'm so happy for you, Janna, I really am."

Janna's face hurt from her joy. Still grinning, she said, "So am I. And I'm scared out of my mind."

Paloma softened into a sympathetic smile, reaching up and patting Janna's cheek. "My poor Commander," she cooed. "Nervous about your wedding night?"

Janna sputtered a little. "It's not my wedding ni--"

"Isn't it?" Paloma interrupted. She settled her arms on Janna's shoulders, clasping her hands together at the nape of Janna's neck. "It's a beginning."

Janna nodded, and then dropped her eyes. She worried at her lip with her teeth, shrugging one shoulder in doubt. "Or an ending."

Paloma pulled back from their embrace a little to slap at Janna's chest with a dismissive hand. "Oh, stop," she admonished. "Face it. You're quite the catch... it's a beginning. Any woman, slave or not, would be mad to let you go."

Janna blushed to the roots of her hair. "I... thank you, princess."

"You're welcome," Paloma said. As the song drew to a slow finish, Paloma stepped back and bowed to Janna, offering her hand to the warrior.

Janna took Paloma's hand in her own, raising it to her lips to press a gentle kiss on her fingers. "You would make a fine ruler, you know," Janna murmured. She held Paloma's eyes with her own, nodding in confirmation when the compliment registered as surprised delight.

"Coming from you, I consider that the highest compliment," Paloma said. She shot Janna another infectious smile, and then glanced over Janna's shoulder with slightly widened eyes. Paloma stepped forward suddenly, bringing her lips to Janna's ear. "I see your love now," she whispered.

Paloma drew away, and Janna turned, breathless, to see Moira in the company of two of the Royal Guard. She wore her plain white slave's tunic, and her red hair was pinned up off her neck. The two guardsmen walked on either side of her, escorting her across the courtyard. Janna's eyes moved up Moira's body to her face, where she found Moira staring back at her. She held the redhead's gaze for only a moment before Moira turned her head, looking straight ahead to where she was being led.

Janna felt a tugging in her stomach, and a fluttering in her chest, as she watched Moira walking. Knowing the girl's immediate future, holding the power to determine that future, weighed down upon her and made her impatient to give Moira's life back to her. Even if all it earned her was a genuine thank you, it would be enough.

I think this may be the most important thing I've ever done.

A soft cough from behind her drew Janna's attention back to Paloma. The princess stood with her hand over her mouth, hiding an amused smile at Janna's distraction. Janna looked around, confused when she noticed that everyone around them had started dancing again.

Paloma waved at Janna with the hand not over her mouth; finally, she gave up on suppressing her smile, and gave Janna a full-blown laugh. "Go to her," she commanded, still giggling. "Go to her and tell her what you've done. And," Paloma added, stepping away from Janna, still waving her away, "how you feel."

Janna simply bowed, giving Paloma a grateful nod. "Yes, Princess. Right away."

*****

In truth, Janna didn't make it back to her quarters right away. She was too anxious, too keyed up, and she feared that she would beat Moira back there and have to sit and wait in agonizing silence. Instead, she walked. She took the long way back to her room, around the castle and through dark, winding hallways. The castle was practically deserted, as everyone was busy celebrating at the Harvest Festival. Janna enjoyed the quiet, though it made it difficult to still her racing mind.

She's mine. She's mine until I set her free.

Janna recognized the hallway she strode down as being adjacent to the one in which her room was located, and she slowed her steps considerably. Anxiety tugged at her gut, and she was scared about what the night would bring. Even though giving Moira her freedom was never a question -- she knew beyond a doubt that it was the only thing to do -- Janna hated the thought that it might cause her to lose the girl forever.

Maybe I could... maybe we could be together one more time, before I set her free. Janna turned the corner, heart hammering when she gazed down the hall at the last door to the left. Moira was probably in that room already, and she likely waited for Janna in anticipation of her passion. Janna paused at the end of the hallway; after a moment, she sighed and shook her head. No, I can't do that. That's not treating her like a free woman. And she will be... just as soon as I make it to that door.

Janna's feet felt like they were full of sand, and heavy, slowing her down so that she began to doubt she'd ever reach her door. She stared at the ground as she trudged along, eyes stinging and tired. She was excited, in one way, hands trembling at her sides, her breath coming in shallow gasps. She couldn't wait to see Moira's face when she told her what she'd done. And she was nervous. What if she wants to leave tonight?

Finally Janna reached the door. She stared at the doorknob for a good few minutes, and then she willed herself to bring her hand up to grasp it. Janna took a deep breath, set her shoulders, and threw the wooden door open. She stepped inside, affecting an air of confidence she didn't feel.

For a moment she didn't see Moira, and then a soft gasp drew her attention across the room. Moira stood with her hand to her throat, in front of the full-length mirror that sat beside the large bathing tub. She faltered as if to drop to her knees; gathering herself after a moment, she released a shaky chuckle and stood up straight.

"I suppose you would scold me if I knelt for you... wouldn't you?"

The question sounded a little uncertain, filling Janna with a sudden affectionate peacefulness. Seeing Moira replaced her fear with protectiveness and love. Letting Moira go suddenly seemed like the easiest and most desirable thing in the world.

"I probably would," Janna answered, shutting the door behind her with a gentle click. "I don't think you should ever kneel for someone again."

Moira dropped her eyes to the hand that still rested below her throat, and then looked up to take a couple steps towards where Janna stood motionless. For the first time Janna noticed that Moira wore a slave's collar. It was thick brown leather, the standard for slaves, though Janna had never seen the redhead wearing one before. In the center was a dull silver emblem that Janna had to move closer to see.

"Does this..." Moira took a step closer, meeting Janna in front of the bed. She reached up and tugged on the collar, swallowing and closing her eyes. Janna watched the pale hand tremble for a moment before Moira released the collar and opened her eyes. "Does this mean what I think it means?"

Janna was close enough now to see the emblem on Moira's collar, and her mouth hung open in surprise. It was her personal seal -- the same symbol that was imprinted on her armor -- stamped into a plain metal plate that was affixed to the leather around Moira's neck.

It clearly marked her as Janna's slave.

Janna's eyes filled with tears, and she smiled down on Moira. She shook her head, reaching up to brush the backs of her fingers across Moira's cheek. "No," she whispered. "It doesn't."

Moira's face fell, and she bit her lip as tears spilled from her eyes. Janna's heart shattered at the girl's crestfallen expression. "Am I... am I at least in your exclusive service?"

Janna reached around Moira's neck and found the catch on the collar beneath the tendrils of red hair that escaped from the two braids that were pinned to her head. She unhooked the collar, pulling it off Moira and dropping it to the ground.

"I told King Menos that I would accept the post as Captain of the Guard if he gave you to me. He... agreed." Janna paused at the surprised delight that overtook Moira's face, and then grunted when Moira threw herself into her arms with a muffled sob.

"Thank you," Moira whispered. Her body quaked in Janna's arms. "Thank you, Commander."

Janna pressed her lips to Moira's head, inhaling as she kissed soft red hair. "Don't start calling me that again," she murmured. "And hey... you didn't let me finish."

Moira pulled away from Janna, nodding and wiping at her eyes with shaking hands. "I'm sorry... Janna."

Janna flexed her fingers at her sides, steeling herself for what would come next. The moment of truth. "Moira... you're free."

Moira's head whipped up, and she pinned Janna with frightened eyes. Her mouth opened and closed a few times, and a breathless squeak escaped. After a moment, she said, "What do... do you mean?" She stepped backwards, nearly stumbling.

Janna reached out and caught Moira, pulling her back into a calming embrace. She rubbed her hands over Moira's back, basking in the guilty pleasure of the reassuring caress. "According to the King, I own you. According to me, nobody can own you but yourself. So I'm setting you free."

Tears were streaming down Moira's cheeks. She began to sob out loud, snaking her arms around Janna's waist. She pressed her face into Janna's shoulder, shaking her head. "Is this real?"

"Yes, baby," Janna said. She felt tears tickling her own cheeks, and she leaned down to press her face against Moira's head. "It's real. I just did it."

Moira pulled back, wiping her eyes with her hands. "But how?" She looked up at Janna. "The king, he wouldn't let you do that. Dennis, he--"

Janna shuddered at the sound of the prince's name. "I told King Menos I would free you," she interrupted. "He knows. It's done."

Moira's knees gave out, and she slumped against Janna with a soft cry. "I can't..." she whispered. "I'm not..."

"Shh," Janna murmured to the girl, tightening her arms around her. She stepped back and swept Moira into her arms, walking her over to the bed and placing her lightly upon it. Janna crawled a respectable distance away from Moira, settling down on the bed and crossing her legs. She reached out a tentative hand to touch Moira's ankle. "I know it's overwhelming. Take your time."

Moira lay curled into a ball for a few minutes, crying quietly. Janna just sat, silent, and leant the only support she could. She stroked Moira's ankle with her finger, waiting for her tears to run dry.

Eventually Moira shuddered and fell silent. Janna continued to trace her finger over her delicate ankle, delighting in the simple contact. She feared it would be some of the last she knew. Janna was just beginning to suspect that Moira had fallen asleep when the girl sat up, turned red eyes on to Janna, and held out her arms.

"I need a hug," Moira whimpered.

Janna crawled across the seemingly vast distance that separated them, pulling Moira into her arms again. Moira turned her head and pressed her nose against Janna's neck.

"I don't know what to do," Moira whispered after a moment. She stayed in Janna's arms, burrowing even more deeply into their embrace. "What should I do?" she asked.

Janna pulled back, dropping a kiss on Moira's nose. "That's the beauty of being free, Moira. Whatever you want."

"What do you..." Moira began, and then blushed and lowered her eyes. "Do you..."

Wonderful, Janna. She doesn't know if she's coming or going, and you still haven't told her your intentions yet. "Moira, I... I love you. I want you to do whatever makes you happy. If you think that maybe... if we could be friends, or that I can be in your life in some way... well, I would love that." She gave Moira a steady look, reaching up and tugging on a lock of her hair with a gentle smile. "I just want you to be happy. You should do whatever makes you happy."

Moira looked at her with wide eyes. "And if I said I wanted to return to Gaul?"

Janna blew out a shaky breath, dropping her gaze to where their chests pressed together. She swallowed, struggling with the words that didn't want to come. You knew this was a possibility. Returning her eyes to Moira's face, she gave the girl a brave smile. "Then I would simply ask that you allow me to escort you safely."

"You would do that?" Moira asked.

Janna gave her a solemn nod. "Of course I would. I could probably negotiate with the King when I could take over as Captain, and I could take some time--"

"Janna," Moira interrupted with a smile.

Janna fell silent. After a moment, "Yes?"

"I don't want to go to Gaul," she whispered. "I don't have anyone there. Gaul... hasn't been home in a long while."

Janna nodded, releasing a relieved breath. "Okay," she said. Bringing her hand to her temple, she looked up at Moira with careful eyes. "But you should know... I pledged five years to King Menos. And I... I don't expect you to stay here, with all the memories and everything..."

"Five years?" Moira asked. "Five years... for me?"

Janna blushed, glancing away from the redhead. "Yes."

Moira captured Janna's chin in her fingers, turning the warrior's face to her own. Her blue eyes were full of awed wonder. "Why?" Moira whispered. "Why me?"

"You're a beautiful woman, Moira." Janna turned embarrassed eyes to the comforter on the bed, next to her hip, and she reached down to pick at it with her fingers. "You're kind. You're patient, and you're passionate. Nobody deserves what was done to you, and especially not someone as... as amazing as you are."

"But I'm just a whore."

Janna snapped her eyes up to lock with Moira's, shooting her a fierce glare. "Don't say that. Don't ever say that again."

Moira shook her head, cheeks red. She looked away from Janna. "How can you even want to be with me...after this afternoon? Knowing what I am, what I've done?"

"Moira," Janna said, pulling the girl more tightly against her body. "That's not who you are, and it's not your fault. And it means nothing to me, truly."

"You would want me?" Moira murmured. She sounded as if she couldn't fathom the idea.

"I do want you," Janna answered. "As a friend, or as more. Whatever you want to give me."

Moira cast a sheepish gaze to the floor. She opened her mouth as if to speak, and then closed it.

"What?" Janna asked.

Moira opened her mouth again, releasing a hesitant breath. "What about Princess Paloma?" she whispered.

Janna furrowed her brow in confusion. "Paloma?"

Moira nodded, picking at her tunic with nervous fingers. "Aren't you... aren't you courting her?"

Janna tipped back her head at laughed at the thought, which earned her a hurt look from Moira. Janna shook her head, reaching out to touch Moira's arm. "No, sweet girl. Why would you think that?"

"Well, you were dancing..." Moira said, and then trailed off. "And kissing her hand..."

"Chivalry," Janna answered. She lifted Moira's chin with her fingers, encouraging the redhead to meet her eyes. "And friendship. She felt her father might be especially persuaded by my request if he thought I might be interested in her."

Moira's face twitched in surprise. "Giggly little Paloma?" she asked. "I would have never thought her so devious."

"There's a lot more to Paloma than meets the eye," Janna said. "I'm grateful for her advice and friendship, for they helped bring you to me."

"Then I'm grateful, too," Moira whispered. She looked down, biting her lip, and sniffled. "And relieved. I never knew I could feel such jealousy as I did when I saw you two together."

Janna reached out and cupped Moira's cheek in her head. "Don't be silly," she admonished. "I don't see anyone but you when I close my eyes."

Moira sniffled again, wiping her eye with the back of her hand. "I must look a sight right now. Red eyes, raw nose... I'm a monster." She gave a shaky laugh, and then leaned her head against Janna's chest.

Janna tightened her arms around Moira. "You're lovely," she said. "Perfectly lovely."

Moira pulled back, slapping at Janna's chest with one hand. "You're biased," she said, and even managed a giggle. "Perfectly biased."

Janna cocked her head at Moira, giving her a smile. "That's a bad thing?"

Moira shook her head. "No," she murmured. "Not at all." She reached out and curled her hand around the back of Janna's neck, and Janna fell into deep blue eyes. "No one has ever done something this wonderful for me before," Moira said. She dropped her gaze from Janna's, turning up her lips in a sad smile. "Not even close, actually."

"I'm sorry for that," Janna said. She leaned over and pressed her lips to Moira's brow.

Moira shrugged, and then looked up at Janna with a crooked little grin. "I like that you're the first, though."

"I like it, too," Janna admitted. She tucked Moira's hair behind her ear. "I want to do things for you as often as possible."

Moira bit her lip, and then met Janna's eyes. "I... I love you, too, Janna."

Janna was happy for every moment she had lived so far, just because each one had brought her to that instant; the whispered declaration, and that beaming, incredulous look on Moira's face. The girl stared at Janna with so much love that it was nearly paralyzing to look at.

Janna started to laugh. Her body shook; she tried to suppress it, but it proved impossible. I feel too good. After a moment, Moira grinned with her, releasing soft laughter of her own.

"That good?" Moira asked. She was blushing, pale skin suffused with red. Her face nearly matched her hair.

Janna nodded. "The best thing I've ever felt."

"Good," Moira said, smiling. "I rather like making you feel good."

"You're rather gifted at it," Janna replied. She released a long sigh, and then, pulling back from Moira, turned to flop down on the bed. She lay on her back, eyes to the ceiling, and stretched all four limbs in contentment. "I didn't realize how tense I was until this very moment. My whole body aches."

Moira chuckled, lying down beside Janna. She rested her head on Janna's shoulder and stretched her arm across Janna's belly. "Why were you so tense?" she asked.

Janna shrugged, pulling Moira closer into her. "This feels heavenly," she murmured. She paused a moment before answering the redhead's question. "I was nervous. I was afraid I would free you and you would walk out of my life." She turned her head to give Moira a careful look. "I wouldn't blame you if you did, you know. I know that you're going to have a lot of bad memories, and I'm... well, I'm a part of them."

Moira pulled her head up, looked at Janna, and then leaned down and captured her mouth in a gentle kiss. Pulling back, she murmured, "You're a part of some very good memories, as well."

"You, too," Janna said. She lifted her head to take Moira's mouth again, and they released mutual groans into their kiss.

"Are you interested in helping make some more?" Moira dropped small kisses across Janna's lips, from one corner of her mouth to the other.

Janna struggled to keep up with the sensual assault. "Moira--"

"I want to taste you," Moira murmured. Small hands began unbuttoning Janna's silk shirt, pulling apart the material as she worked. Moira's mouth slid from Janna's lower lip to her chin, down her throat to the breasts she had bared with her ministrations.

Janna hissed in pleasure when a hot mouth claimed her nipple, and sharp teeth tugged on the sensitive flesh. She reached up and curled her hand around the back of Moira's head, pressing the girl's mouth into her.

Wait a second. "Moira--" Janna tried again, and again the redhead interrupted her.

"You have the most magnificent breasts," Moira said. Her mouth vibrated against Janna's heated skin, drawing a low groan from the aroused warrior. "So responsive."

"Moira--"

"How close to release do you think I could get you, just pleasuring your breasts?" Moira raised an eyebrow at Janna, smirking, and tugged at her erect nipple with two fingers. "I'll bet I can at least make you beg for it. What do you think?"

Janna found her voice. "Moira, wait."

Moira's smile faltered slightly. "Wait?" she repeated.

"Just wait," Janna said. She tried to calm her breathing; after a few moments, she was able to go on. "I wanted you to know... I mean... we don't have to do this tonight."

Moira furrowed her brow in confusion. "You don't want to..." she lowered her eyes and her voice, "make love?"

Janna exhaled shakily. "Yes," she answered. "I do, but--"

"But what?" Moira asked. She pulled back from Janna, releasing the nipple she had been tormenting. She seemed to retreat a little behind blue eyes. Moira gave her a timid look. "What's wrong?"

Janna propped herself up on her elbow. "Nothing's wrong," she assured, reaching out and touching Moira's face. "I just want you to know that... it's not expected of you anymore. If you feel like having a night to rest, or you just aren't in the mood... well, I don't want you feeling like that's something I'm expecting from you."

Moira's relief was obvious and profound. "You're afraid I don't know that I can say no now?"

Janna shrugged, embarrassed. "Yes."

"The woman I've been thinking about non-stop since she came into my life -- the only woman to ever make love to me -- frees me from slavery and tells me that she loves me. Is it so unimaginable that I would want to be with you this way? Tonight?"

"It's not unimaginable," Janna protested. "It's just... would you like me to call for a bath or something? Food?"

Moira shook her head. "I had a bath already today, after..." She averted her eyes, face coloring. "After my service."

Janna pulled Moira back down on to her, lowering herself to lay flat on the bed again. She wrapped her arms around the redhead, pressing her face into the girl's neck. Don't spare a thought about it, Moira. It's over now. "Dinner, then?"

Moira kissed Janna's temple. "I'm only hungry for you," she whispered. She traced the edge of Janna's ear with her tongue, making her tremble beneath Moira's body.

"You're sure?" Janna asked. She struggled to talk through the ragged panting Moira's ministrations elicited. Her hands moved on their own, sliding down the length of Moira's tunic until they reached the bottom hem.

Moira's teeth scraped over her throat, across her collarbone. "Please, Janna. I want to show you how I feel... and I want to feel your love for me."

Janna moved beneath Moira's tunic, finding her soft bottom with both hands. Janna squeezed the firm flesh, allowing her arousal to flare for the first time. "I want you, too."

"Me first," Moira said. She sat up slightly, reaching behind her back to capture Janna's wrists in her hands. She grunted with the effort of removing Janna's hands from her behind; grinning, she pulled Janna's arms above her head, finally pinning her wrists to the bed. "Okay?"

Janna beamed at Moira's confident move. "You're in charge," she told her lover.

Moira closed her eyes, sitting up to straddle Janna's hips with a serene smile. "I could get used to hearing that," she admitted. She rocked against Janna slightly, opening her eyes to gaze down upon the prone woman. "Keep your hands above your head. Until I tell you that you can move them."

"Yes, Moira."

Moira reached down and gave Janna's unbuttoned shirt an impatient tug. "Sit up."

Janna obeyed, wrapping her arms around Moira's waist as she rose. She gave Moira's chin a kiss, chuckling when the girl planted a hand on her bare chest and pushed her back slightly.

"I love you," Janna murmured. She watched Moira's hand as she pushed her silk shirt off her shoulders. Janna released Moira's waist, spreading her arms to allow Moira to ease the material over her hands.

Moira tossed the shirt on the floor. She shifted on Janna's lap, planting both hands on strong shoulders and leaning in for a lingering kiss. "I love you, too," she whispered when she pulled back, her voice tremulous.

Janna scraped her blunt nails down the length of Moira's back. "I'm so lucky I found you," she said. She felt the emotion swell again, and she slammed her eyes shut in reaction.

Moira shook with quiet laughter. "I'm the lucky one," she answered, and pushed Janna back until she lay flat on the bed.

Rising up on her knees, Moira reached down to grab the bottom of her tunic, pulling it up over her head. She wore nothing underneath. Janna moaned, reaching out and caressing the redhead's hip with her hand.

"You're the loveliest woman I've ever seen," Janna told her. She squeezed Moira's hip, squirming beneath the girl when she shifted at the contact.

Moira removed Janna's hand from her body with a disappointed groan, replacing it on the mattress above Janna's head. "I still can't believe that someone like you would give a girl like me a second glance," she murmured. "But I'm not going to question it anymore. I feel too good to question it."

"Good," Janna said. She spread her fingers out, keeping her hands still on the mattress. "Don't."

Moira giggled. "I won't."

Janna waggled her eyebrows in question. "So... what are you going to do?"

"To you?" Moira asked. She leaned down and nibbled on Janna's earlobe.

"That's the question," Janna groaned.

"I want to worship every bit of your body," Moira whispered. She leaned up and over Janna's head, and her breasts dangled enticingly close to Janna's parted lips. Moira bent down and kissed the palm of Janna's left hand, tracing her tongue down to her wrist and the pulse that throbbed beneath the surface of her skin. "I want you to know how much I love you."

"I do, Janna gasped. Moira's lips left a string of lazy kisses down the length of her arm, traveling lower until she reached her sensitive armpit. Janna released something between a giggle and a moan at the kiss she received on the tuft of dark hair Moira found there. "And you drive me crazy."

Moira kissed her way across Janna's upper chest, all the way to her right armpit. She slowly worked her way up Janna's other arm, bestowing the same pattern of nibbles and licks that she had with the first. She ended with a firm swipe of her tongue across the palm of Janna's hand, causing the warriors fingers to twitch uncontrollably.

Moira laughed into Janna's palm, kissing each finger in turn before she pulled away with a smile. "You're wonderful," she said.

"Because I'm ticklish?" Janna teased. She willed her breathing to calm, turning her head to the side in pleasure.

Moira's mouth found the slope of her breast. "That's one reason."

"What are the others?" Janna asked. She felt playful, and it was an unfamiliar but thoroughly enjoyable sensation.

"Well," Moira said, and then sucked a nipple into her mouth. She released it only when she'd drawn forth a sufficient gasp of pleasure. "You're gentle."

Janna chuckled. "My men would fall down laughing if they heard that," she admitted.

Moira raised an eyebrow, moving her lips over to tease the other breast. "You're gentle with me," she amended. She swiped her tongue across Janna's erect nipple, murmuring in pleasure. "You're brave. You're loyal. You make me feel safe. You're loving. You listen to me when I talk. You--"

"Okay," Janna said, red-faced. I never expected a whole list! "That's enough. I get it. You like me."

Moira crawled up Janna's body until she was staring directly into hooded brown eyes. "You know I more than like you, my warrior. I love you." Moira's voice was serious now, all traces of playful seduction gone. "When I became a slave, I never thought I would find someone who looked at me the way you do. That you do, and that I can't help but look right back at you with the same eyes... well, it's a miracle to me."

Janna swallowed, bringing her arms up to wrap the redhead in a tender embrace. She craned her neck, planting a soft kiss on the corner of Moira's mouth, and then she rolled them over so that Moira lay beside her on the bed. Janna rolled on to her side and Moira mirrored her action, smiling. Janna reached out and stroked one hand along Moira's curves, meeting shining blue eyes with her own.

"I'm not terribly comfortable with most people," Janna began, giving Moira a cautious smile. "I know I'm better at fighting than talking, and I know how sad that is. When I grew tired of fighting over the past year, I began to fear that there was nothing left for someone like me after the battles and wars are gone."

"Oh, Janna," Moira murmured, touching Janna's throat with reverent fingertips. "You underestimate yourself."

"You bring out the best in me," Janna told the girl. Moira blinked up at her, holding her gaze. "You make me feel things I never knew I could feel, and you have since our first night together. There was... there was no way I could just leave you here. Not when I've just found you."

"You say the most amazing things," Moira whispered. She closed her eyes when Janna began to caress her bare skin, tracing the lines of her body as if trying to memorize them. Her lips curled into a smile when Janna's touch trailed down between her legs and she began playing with the damp curls she found there.

"I mean every one." Janna kept her touches light, non-threatening. She moved her hand up over a soft belly, and then out to a curved hip. "I want you to live with me."

"Where?"

Janna smiled at Moira's soft question, circling a lazy fingertip along the underside of Moira's breast. "King Menos offered me this room as my own, but I told him I wasn't certain. I thought that if you stayed with me, you might not... well, you might not want to live here anymore."

"I'll live wherever you are," Moira replied. She propped herself up on her elbow, reaching over to tug on Janna's leather pants. "I want these off."

Janna played with Moira's hair as the girl unfastened her pants. "How about we build a home of our own, near the castle? I'm certain the King would be accommodating."

"That sounds wonderful," Moira whispered. She sat up and grabbed the waist of Janna's pants, urging the other woman to arch her back and allow Moira to ease the leather down her long legs. When Janna was just as bare as she, Moira lay back down with a contented smile. "Right now you could say anything and it would sound wonderful."

"Just as I suspect that right now you could do anything and it'd feel wonderful," Janna admitted. She lay flat on her back, grinning up at Moira when the girl propped herself up to lean over her.

"Do you want to test that theory?" Moira asked. She bent down to kiss Janna's lips, licking at them with her tongue.

"Yes," Janna whimpered. Her legs fell open at Moira's sultry tone, and her hands balled into tight fists at her sides. "I want to feel you inside my body. I want you to take me."

Moira smiled against Janna's temple, running a worshipful hand over Janna's hip and thigh. "Does that mean you're giving yourself to me?"

Janna nodded. "Yes," she whispered. She reached up and touched Moira's eyebrow. "Unconditionally."

Moira came to her without hesitation. The kiss was slower than any of their previous kisses, and softer, and so full of poignant feeling that it made Janna's legs tremble. She held Moira's face as they kissed, tracing her cheeks and chin and ears with her fingers.

Moira's hands mapped out the landscape of Janna's body, leaving gooseflesh in their path. The touch burned Janna and calmed her at the same time.

Janna closed her eyes as Moira's hand slid between her legs. She held her breath as she was stroked and explored, and then let it out in an explosive hiss when Moira's fingers moved down the slick length of her center.

"You've been thinking about this?" Moira whispered, her breath hot in Janna's ear.

Janna nodded, swallowing hard. "I wanted you to be the one." She averted sheepish eyes. "The only one."

"Thank you."

Before Janna could respond to that, Moira was stroking her swollen clit and kissing her neck. Any words she had died in her throat at the exquisite touch. Janna grunted in pleasure, digging her heels into the mattress and thrusting her hips up to meet Moira's hand.

"I never thought someone could excite me like you do," Moira growled and nipped at Janna's collarbone. "Your scent drives me crazy, and the sounds you make... I think about touching you all the time. I've never thought about anyone like this before."

"Yes," Janna moaned. She gasped when Moira pressed her finger down to probe at her opening. Janna felt Moira's grin against her neck.

"You feel ready for me," Moira whispered. She swirled her fingers around, gathering wetness from Janna's center. "Are you?"

"Please do it," Janna begged. "Please...this is too much..."

Moira bent close to Janna's ear. "I'm going to go slow. I'm going to be gentle."

"I don't care right now," Janna whimpered. She spread her legs even wider, offering herself to Moira. "Do whatever you like, just let me feel you inside me."

The pressure of a single finger against her center increased; Janna's mouth fell open when she felt Moira press just barely inside of her. Moira wiggled her fingertip gently, relaxing the tight opening with patient strokes.

"You feel so good," Moira said. She bent and licked at Janna's nipple, pressing her finger slightly deeper inside. "So ready."

"Yes," Janna gasped. She tossed her head to the side, bringing her hips up to try and draw Moira further into her body. Moira pressed her free hand against Janna's hip, holding her in place. "More," Janna pleaded.

"More," Moira repeated. She slid her finger inside Janna to the first knuckle. Moira's hot breath tickled Janna's ear, causing her to soak Moira's hand with a renewed flood of wetness. Moira's labored breathing caught at the feeling of Janna's arousal, and Janna could feel the girl's hand trembling inside of her.

"Stop trying so hard," Janna whispered to her lover. "I don't need your control. I just need you. Let it go."

Moira pushed inside of Janna with a soft cry, dropping her head to rest on Janna's chest and shuddering in pleasure. Janna released a keening noise at the feeling of Moira buried deep inside her. For a moment there was slight discomfort, and then Moira began moving her finger again - soft, gentle motions - suffusing Janna's lower half with an incredible heat that pulsed from her center to the tips of her toes.

Janna's mind was cloudy with it.

Moira's sensual assault was relentless. Her mouth moved over the bare skin of Janna's shoulders, neck, and chest, while her hand pumped steadily between Janna's legs. Janna reacted without thought, head tipped back and mouth open in silent bliss, her body moving to meet Moira's thrusts like a counterattack.

It was delicious, feeling Moira inside her. It was like nothing she had ever felt before. When Moira's thumb reached up to stroke at her swollen clit again, banging against her in rhythm with her gentle fucking, Janna felt like she was dying.

And if this is death, I greet it warmly.

Janna's thighs began to tremble and she knew she was close. She wrapped her arm around Moira's narrow shoulders, pulling the girl tight against her body. Moira lifted her face to stare directly into Janna's eyes, unblinking. They each held the gaze silently, unwavering and intense, until Janna's vision went blurry with her rising pleasure. Though her eyes closed reflexively, she forced them open again and again to stare into Moira's soul.

When Janna came, it was with an explosion of sound and emotion. She yelled out her release, chanting Moira's name like a prayer. Waves of pleasure numbed her to everything except her lover's hand inside her and warm kisses on her throat. For long moments she remained disconnected from her body, peaceful, and then Moira's gentle whisper drew her back into the moment.

"This is one of my favorite memories."

Janna opened her eyes and looked down on Moira, who stared up at her with intense eyes. Janna chuckled. "Already?"

Moira nodded, burrowing her face into Janna's chest. "And it's still going."

Janna squeezed Moira, and then ran her hands down the redhead's bare back. "It's my favorite memory, too."

Janna continued to touch Moira as she calmed down. She concentrated on taking measured breaths through her mouth, and on drowning in the softness of Moira's bare skin. In no time Moira's breathing grew ragged, and her body began to writhe on top of Janna's. Janna moved her hands down to cup Moira's buttocks, pulling her hard against her body, and flipped them over so she hovered over Moira.

Moira reached up and twined her hands through Janna's dark hair. She tightened her fist, tugging on Janna's locks and focusing her attention on Moira's blue eyes.

"You're wrong, you know," Moira murmured. She gave Janna a lazy smile. "I do belong to you. My heart... it's yours."

"And it's the best gift I've ever been given," Janna said. She closed the distance between them, nibbling on Moira's lip. "I think my heart has been yours since the moment I first really kissed you."

"So kiss me again," Moira whispered. "And make me yours."

"Forever," Janna vowed. She slid her hand between their bodies, finding the spot that made Moira breathe harder with instinctive fingers.

Moira smiled and closed her eyes. "Forever," she repeated.

Janna sealed their promise with a kiss.

END

Find some place near the beginning... after Janna and Moira make love, Janna is laughing and Moira is staring into her eyes. That's the moment love awakens.


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