Summary: The Conqueror leaves Greece to visit Cleopatra and meets a slave/gladiator named Gabrielle but all is not what it seems.
Disclaimer: See Part 1
Authors Note: Hey readers, sorry once again for the late update. I just want to thank you again for sticking with me. If you want to email me, my address is jacklavigne13@hotmail .com
My body felt unbelievably heavy as I woke up, knowing that one of my servants must have cleaned my room already due to the bright light shining into my eyes from the open windows. I let my eyelids flutter open slowly, unable to contain a groan as my head pulsed with a sharp pain behind my eyes. I really need to learn when to stop drinking; I thought to myself as I raised my hand to rub my temple in attempt to soothe my headache. I couldn't remember ever having such a bad hangover during the spring festival, but it was true that I usually didn't sleep or stop drinking during the five day celebration either. I was also a year older and my body was starting to show the signs though thankfully, not on the outside yet.
I attempted to sit up and quickly found that I was pinned in bed, a warm body sprawled over mine. I looked down through narrowed eyes, gazing at the golden mop of hair that was resting on my shoulder, thoughtfully. I tried to remember how I got to my room and how Gabrielle managed to fall asleep on top of me, but my head was a blurry mess. I could remember the festival, the brightness of Gabrielle's eyes and her deep throaty laughter. I smiled as I remembered dancing with the Amazon Queen, her lithe body fitting so perfectly in my arms. I also faintly remember her weapons master, Eponin, daring me into a drinking contest, which I'm pretty sure I won but I couldn't remember much after that.
That made a little bit of sense.
It wasn't until Gabrielle's hand flexed in sleep that I realized it was resting on my breast. My naked breast. We were both completely naked.
And then I remembered.
"You are not what I thought you would be," Eponin slurred, her head resting on the wooden table as she gazed at me with glassy eyes. I didn't know what to say to that, so I just smiled crookedly and shrugged me shoulders before taking another sip of ale. My mouth was almost completely numb and I hardly felt the liquid slide down my throat as I let my bleary eyes wander over the festival.
It was quite late yet the city was still packed with people, though they were a lot more intoxicated than earlier in the day. As I had suspected, there were people now starting small fights which were quickly broken up by my soldiers and there were more than a few couples getting hot and heavy on the dance floor and in the shadows surrounding us. I looked at the table I was seated at, letting myself enjoy the relaxed atmosphere, something that I wasn't used to. It wasn't often that I could sit with a group of people and let my guard down. Being the ruler of Greece certainly had its disadvantages, but tonight I let my hair down, feeling safe as I caught the eyes of several members of my royal guard watching me. Gabrielle's presence at my side helped, along with her Regent who I'd never had a bad relationship with.
Quite the opposite actually, as several people at the table were about to find out.
"What did you expect, Ep?" Ephiny asked, resting her chin on her fist, only to have her elbow slip off the table and to face plant onto the wooden table top. She quickly recovered, leaning both her forearms on the table and glancing towards me before returning her gaze to the weapons master. "The Conqueror isn't so bad. All you warriors are just big softies on the inside."
"We are not!" Eponin argued indignantly, to which I nodded my head vigorously in agreement.
"Oh, you're all tough on the outside, sure and maybe even a little rough sometimes in the bedroom," the curly blonde headed woman winked at me here. "But you all have gooey centers."
"And how would you know about the Conqueror's gooey center?" Gabrielle finally spoke up, having been unusually quiet since this conversation started. I quickly stuck my face into my mug, shaking my head ever so slightly at the Regent as she turned towards her Queen, but the bitch was too drunk to notice.
"Experience," Ephiny said with a big Cheshire cat grin. Damn Amazons.
"Oh really," Gabrielle said emotionlessly, though her blazing green eyes spoke of her anger.
I slapped my hand over the regent's mouth as she opened her mouth to elaborate, much to the amusement of the other amazons at the table. My appetite in the bedroom was well known and Gabrielle knew of my notoriety with beautiful women, but I was sure she didn't know about me and her regent. I had also hoped it would stay that way, though I wasn't sure why.
"It's been a lovely day, but I think it's time for me to return to the castle," I said, standing on shaky legs. I removed my hand from the regent's mouth and turned to leave, cringing when I heard Gabrielle's voice behind me.
"Wait, I'll come with you."
I was sure there was no avoiding it, considering that Gabrielle's room was in the palace but I had prayed that she wouldn't follow me. I waited patiently as she said good night to her subjects and friends, assuring them that she would see them tomorrow before nodding for me to lead the way. I did so, frowning as the world tilted slightly before righting itself again once Gabrielle put a steadying hand on my back.
"So are you," I noticed the amazon leaning against me as much as I was her. She shrugged her shoulders with a grin on her face, resting her head against my shoulder as her hand wrapped around my forearm. We walked in silence for a little while, until I could see the light from my castle, and then she spoke.
"So, you and Ephiny, huh?"
I felt my cheek heat uncharacteristically and shrugged my shoulders, forcing myself to retain my neutral expression. "Once or twice."
"Did you have feelings for her?"
I couldn't help but laugh at her words, though I quickly sobered at the hurt expression on her face. "No, she seduced me actually."
" She seduced you ? You've got to be kidding me."
"Nope," I replied with a small grin. "She came to negotiate our treaty, seduced me with her amazon charms and then she left with the amazon borders expanded and the rights to mine the mountains near Thessaly."
"Well then," Gabrielle chuckled in surprise before her grin turned devious. "If she could do that after bedding you a few times, I wonder what I can get you to do for the Amazons."
I arched an eyebrow at the blonde causing her to laugh out loud and I couldn't help but chuckle with her. I'm sure the guards stationed at the doors leading into my palace were surprised when they saw me enter the castle with the Amazon Queen on my arm, stumbling drunkenly and giggling like a bunch of school girls. It took me more time than usual to navigate my way through the palace to my rooms, due to the constant stumbling and spinning hallways, but we finally made it. We passed by the guards outside my door, giving them both large smiles which they hesitantly returned.
It was only then that I noticed that I hadn't dropped Gabrielle off at her room and had just brought her to my own quarters as if it was the most natural thing in the world, not that she seemed to notice or care, mind you.
"Gods, what an amazing day," Gabrielle grinned dreamily as she attempted to tug off her boots without unlacing them first. "I don't think I've ever had so much fun in my life."
"It was fun," I managed to agree; standing in the middle of the room, completely unsure of what to do as I watched Gabrielle finally pull off her boots. I watched silently as she straightened up, continuing to talk about the day as she made her way to my bedroom, pieces of clothing littering the floor as she undressed along the way. I didn't hear a thing or even realize I was moving as I followed her quietly.
"...Gods and that dance!" Gabrielle laughed, turning around mid-step and taking my hands before twirling us around the room as I chuckled. "It was a perfect day!"
I continued to watch her, half amused and half unsure as she continued to spin around the room before she flopped down onto my bed with a satisfied grin, stretching her lithe body on the soft mattress. I don't know if it was the alcohol or my heart finally taking control, but I found myself taking off my weapons, boots and clothes before lying down beside her. She turned her head to smile at me before leaning up on her elbow and looking down at me with a thoughtful expression.
"It was perfect, wasn't it?" She said, her eyes staring intently into mine. I could see in the shadows of her eyes, hidden behind the drunken haze, unbridled passion and all I could do was nod.
"Perfect," she repeated before leaning down and brushing her lips against mine.
My hands came up to frame her face as she kissed me slowly and passionately, taking her time to explore my mouth. It wasn't like all the other times we had kissed, or even when we had sex. There was no urgency or rushing, no fear or being caught or being angry about the past. It was tender and loving as I felt her body cover mine, her heart beating in sync with my own against my chest. It seemed to last forever as her fingers ran lightly up my sides, caressing my skin with her fingertips before she gently cupped my breasts in her hands and squeezed gently.
And then I think I passed out.
"How embarrassing," I muttered to myself, covering my eyes with my hand as I shook my head in dismay. With the amount of alcohol I had drunk during the day, I wasn't completely surprised but my ego was still a little bruised. Falling asleep in bed with a beautiful woman was sure to ruin my reputation. I prayed silently that Gabrielle wouldn't remember anything from last night.
"What's wrong with you, sleepy head? "
I cringed and felt Gabrielle's body shake with silent laughter before she pushed herself up on her elbows to look down at me with a sleepy grin.
"Hi," I managed to mumble, not daring to look the Amazon in the eye. Not only because of what happened the night before, but also because I wasn't entirely sure how I felt about everything to begin with. To be honest, I didn't know whether falling asleep had been a blessing or a curse.
"Good morning," Gabrielle purred in reply before stretching her body in a cat like manner and pressing against me in all the right places.
I stifled a groan and resisted the urge to pull her even closer, deciding a quick getaway was my best choice at the moment. Despite the fact that I knew indulging myself in the Amazon queen's body would be a great hangover cure, I figured that some herbs and water would do the trick just fine. I slowly eased myself out from underneath Gabrielle, almost audibly growling when my thigh accidently slid between her legs and was drenched in wetness.
I grabbed a robe, watching out of the corner of my eye as Gabrielle rolled onto her back, watching me as I made my way to my desk to get some herbs. I quickly crushed the herbs that I needed before pouring them into a goblet of water and draining it in a few quick swallows before turning to look out the window. It was only a few hours after dawn and I could hear faint sounds from the city, not as loud as yesterday but still loud enough to tell me that the festival was well underway.
"Do you want me to just go with Ephiny to the festival today?" Gabrielle's voice pulled me from my thoughts. I frowned as I considered her words, turning to look at Gabrielle who was lying casually in my bed. I felt my mouth go dry as she stretched again, the thin sheet slipping down her body to reveal her perfect breasts and toned abdomen.
"What?" I managed to rasp, shaking my head to rid it of the carnal images flashing before my mind's eye.
"Did you want me to go to the festival with Ephiny today?" Gabrielle repeated. "You know, to give you some space considering that it's the most romantic day of the festival."
"Why would I want you to do that?" I asked, confused as ever.
Gabrielle chuckled quietly, slipping from the bed and leaning down to pick up her clothes which were scattered all over the floor. I couldn't resist taking a peek at her shapely backside as she bent over to pick up one of her boots, my skin flushing with desire as I remembered how the firm flesh felt in my hands. I watched in silence as she pulled on her clothes and walked to the door, throwing a look at me over her shoulder as she pulled it open.
"I'll meet you in the main hall in half a candlemark."
And then she was gone.
A little under a candle mark later, we were walking through the streets of Corinth, surrounded by a small group of Amazons and a few members of the royal guard. The atmosphere was a little different today but no less enjoyable as I repressed the urge to smile at the large amount of couples that we wandering the city. I couldn't afford to ruin my reputation further. There were poets on every corner, men selling tickets to see plays in the many theatres in Corinth and I could hear music from the city square. I wondered if I would spend hours there today as I did yesterday, dancing with Gabrielle in the middle of a crowd of swaying bodies.
"Oh, tickets for Sappho!" Gabrielle exclaimed excitedly as we passed by one man attempting to sell seats to see the tenth muse. "Xena, would you-"
"First row, just after sunset," I replied absently, listening to Eponin as she argued with Solari about defensive strategies. I smiled slightly as I felt Gabrielle squeeze my forearm, turning my head so that I could see her beautiful smile which she was directing at me wholeheartedly.
“Well, I did tell you that I would introduce you to her, didn't I?” I grinned as Gabrielle started to bounce excitedly, much like a child. It warmed my heart to see such enthusiasm from her, something I'd never seen before.
It wasn't long before I was being dragged over to the food vendors and I wasn't surprised considering that Gabrielle hadn't eaten breakfast. I watched as she selected several lamb sandwiches before sitting down to listen to a poet that was standing a few feet away. I spent this time studying her, noticing how beautiful she looked in the red leathers that clung to her body. I thought about the night before and wondered if things would be different right now if I hadn't fallen asleep. How would I have felt if we slept together?
Better yet, how did I feel right now?
"Conqueror, are you okay?" I snapped out of my thoughts when I noticed Gabrielle gazing at me with green eyes full of concern and a little bit of amusement.
"You are beautiful," was my choked reply and my eyes widened as the words played over and over in my mind.
"Thank you," Gabrielle uncharacteristically blushed, her cheek turning a light pink as she focused on the food in her hands. I couldn't help but smile a little bit before turning away and focusing my attention on the Amazon's that still surrounded us. I listened to Ephiny discuss politics with another amazon and I felt my smile grow larger as Gabrielle covered my hand with her own.
It was in that very moment that I realized exactly how I felt.
It was a candle mark until sunset and I was sitting on the edge of my bed, lacing up my sandals as I readied myself for the rest of the night. The day had been pleasant, though I had made sure I watched how much I drunk. I didn't want to be completely sloshed for Sappho's performance, no matter how much I thought that it might make the evening a little less boring. While I respected Sappho and knew enough about storytelling and poetry to know that she was good at what she did, it didn't make it any less boring. Too much love, not enough blood and gore.
I stood up and looked at the full body length shield that hung on my wall, serving as a reflective surface. I was wearing a deep burgundy dress that clung to my body in all the right places, with twin slits up the sides, baring a fair amount of skin. My hair was tied up on the top of my head, held in place with an ivory comb from Lao Ma, leaving on a few raven coloured strands to frame my face.
Damn, I looked good.
I grinned ferally at my reflection, hoping that everything went well tonight so that my plan could be executed. If I had it my way, tonight I would let go of the past and the Amazon Queen would be in my bed. And this time, I wouldn't fall asleep.
My grin widened as I heard a knock on the door to my outer chamber. Thinking that it was Gabrielle, I strode from my bedroom with one final look at my reflection and opened the door. My smile faltered as I looked into Palaemon's serious face."Xena, we have to talk."
To Be Continued
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