LEGAL DISCLAIMER:  The character Xena is a copyrighted character that belongs to MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures.  I don't own her - much to my heartfelt regret - and I promise I'm not making any money off her.  All other characters, the plot - what there is of it :o) - and events are my own creations; please ask if you'd like to borrow them.

SEX DISCLAIMER:  This story depicts a sexual encounter between two consenting more-or-less adult women.  It's graphic and includes just a hint of kink, mostly in the form of domination.  If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it.  If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story.

RATING:  NC17 ... for the sex :o).  The violence is negligible, especially for a Xena story - see, no violence disclaimer - so the rating is definitely for the sex.

SPOILERS:  None.  This story takes place well before anything in the series.

FEEDBACK:  Please.  Tell me what you liked, tell me what you hated; I'm thick skinned in this medium so flames will simply be ignored :o).  You can catch me at

NOTES:  Written December 7th, 2000 - January 18th, 2001.  Revised January 23rd, 2001.

~ What Do You Do? ~

Imagine © 2001

Trade is brisk this evening.  Trade is brisk every evening, I acknowledge to myself with a certain wry humour.  We are in a trade that thrives in the night and tapers during the day.  It is the nature of the business ... the business of a pleasure-house - a whorehouse, to be crass but certainly succinct.

We cater to one and all, the only pass required in our establishment being the minted clink of coin ... which is to say that we cater to the prosperous.  The entrance fee alone serves to screen those who come to our doors, which is exorbitant and paid before-and-exclusive-of any services required of the 'ladies' within.  Those who shy away shake their heads and spit to the side, grumbling to themselves that a whore is a whore, and what matter if they are taken ankle deep in garbage against the wall of an alley, or in the plush comfort of silken sheets and perfumed rooms?  Those who steel themselves and pay their entrance know that it is the ambiance as much as the carnal pleasures that they come for.  Indeed, in some cases the attraction is the ambiance rather than the carnal pleasures.  Our services are many and varied and not restricted to carnal coupling, whether against the wall, between the sheets or wherever a patron might desire.  We talk.  We laugh.  We simper.  We flash smiles and massage shoulders, we set our patrons at ease and titillate with scandalous gossip whispered in mirthful undertones.  We lend laps to rest in and shoulders to cry against, and many a highborn virgin has come masked and robed into our domain, seeking in our arms 'initiation' without fear of judgement.  We are more than whores, and while the moralists in this seething city might express incredulity should the opinion be voiced, none-the-less I believe that many an outwardly content marriage in our great city of Athens would have collapsed long ere now without our services.

Partaking of these services this night are the usual mix of patrons.  I cast a glance of careful interest over them as I place a hand upon the banister and begin to descend the stairs to the public floor.  I am wearing a flattering dress the colour of dark red wine.  It complements my dark complexion.  It is sleeveless and off the shoulder, the bodice emphasising the slenderness of my waist and lifting ample breasts; the skirt is long and sleek, flowing over my hips, the material clinging to my figure while allowing me a comfortable stride.  I wear garnets in my ears and on a delicate silver chain that settles against my collarbone as I move.  A matching chain is on my left wrist, snugged against the base of my hand by its own weight.  My hair is loose and brushed to a bright gloss, swaying gently against my shoulders and down my back.  I am trained to do this and I know I make an alluring sight as I descend the stairs.  I am unsurprised by the number of looks I gather to myself from the patrons waiting more-or-less patiently for a lady's attention.  My gaze runs over them unabashedly as I move with graceful calm, making them wait for me.

There are the nobles and the married, who move amongst their fellows hidden behind elaborate masks, fearing the scandal should their visit here become known.  There are the wealthy merchants, mostly discernible by the cut of their clothes and the softness of their hands.  There are the prosperous tradesmen, their glittering, embroidered guild badges sewn to their tunics and cloaks, announcing their trade to all.  In a small cluster are the high ranking officers of the city's army, resplendent in their uniforms and clinking with their weapons.  And then there are the scattering of warriors, mercenaries mostly, come into some brief windfall that permits them the luxury of an establishment such as this, bold with their armour and blades, exuding an aggressive air calculated to irk the soldiers of Athens.  Hovering in discreet attendance to these unruly patrons are the men hired to suppress any flares of violence.  In reality they merely watch for danger, knowing themselves unfit to handle these experienced fighters.  They limit themselves to herding the defenceless to the safety of the upper floors while leaving the lower floor to whatever altercation might arise.

I pass a silversmith as I saunter down the stairs, his guild emblem of chain beneath hammer glittering black and silver as he passes me.  He casts me an appreciative look even as he follows one of our ladies to her room.  Leanari slants me an amused glare as she notices her customer's preoccupation, and I lift a shoulder in a smug response that I know will bring me laughing reprisal at the morning meal tomorrow.  We are fast friends and regardless, women in our trade rarely covet the affections of their customers ... just their coin.

Oh, it would be remiss of me to say that we do not have our special patrons.  There are those who return to us time after time, who are gentle, or not, as our tastes demand.  They pay more than they are required, and treat us with such respect as can be offered to a woman one pays for sex.  We make time for them, passing over others in their favour, for even high-priced courtesans cannot sneer at loyal patronage.  Still, for the most part we are not fools, and so we do not bank our hearts upon the fickle nature of an exchange that is simply business.

I turn to watch as Leanari opens a door and steps within, holding it as the silversmith passes her in his entrance.  She notices my attention and quirks an amused brow at me before shutting the door.  I smile and return to my descent.  Leanari and I are enough alike to be sisters, which could explain her patron's interest.  We are much of a height, which is a little above average at five foot eight, and share the same slim but strong build, deep olive skin and straight dark hair.  Her eyes are brown while mine are several shades lighter, much akin to cinnamon, but our features are similarly fine.  Standing side by side we have often been mistaken for siblings.  I have no siblings and have never mourned them for they would have been extra mouths to feed in the struggling household of my childhood; hers had all died of a fever that swept the small village in the mountains of Aetolia where she grew up.  We have both lost our families, and in our friendship we have tentatively found another.

I find myself smiling as I reach the ground floor, and I keep that gentle, mostly meaningless expression on my face as I work the room.  The light is soft and diffuse, coming from numerous candles and the twin fireplaces, which serve to warm the room against the mid-autumn chill.  A delicate mist of incense hangs in the air, the fragrant smoke rising from braziers scattered around the walls, handfuls of herbs smouldering in their bowls.  It lends a golden glow to the surroundings, adding romance to the interior of a decidedly unromantic establishment, softening the polished edges of tabletops and flower-strewn mantels, disguising the slightly worn though clean fabric covering lounges and large pillows.  The noise level is low - a response to this carefully cultivated atmosphere.  The multitude of voices is a resonant hum rather than the clamour usually generated by this number of men mixed with wine and ale.  The clink of tableware is a low counterpoint coming from the dining tables arranged to the right of the stairs I have just descended.  To the left are three shallow steps leading down to a floor scattered with plump pillows, rugs and long lounges.  The patrons, and consequently the ladies, are distributed evenly between these areas, and the servers are busily efficient as they move with a studied calm between kitchen and bar, lounge and dining area.

A server passes by me with a quick smile.  She has emerged from behind the stairs, from the kitchen, and bears a tray of plates for the dining area with skilful dexterity.  My eyes follow her for a brief moment, tracking her graceful movement before gazing past her to drift over the tables and seated diners.  A small group catches my attention.

They have secured for themselves the table in the corner of the dining area, a habit I have noticed of many warriors.  It is at times amusing to watch the jockeying for that position, the alphas of this motley pack decided by who is strong enough to hold that spot.  Nearly the entire floor can be seen from the chairs along the table's wall-edge, and it is for this that the wary fighters manoeuvre.  My attention is caught and my interest is piqued by this group, for that premiere chair in the very corner of the room, flanked by none and positioned to observe all, is held by a woman ... a woman in the garb of a warrior.  She lounges in that chair with a careless grace, tilting it back on its two rear legs so that she rests against the wall.  A booted foot propped on a table-leg maintains her balance.  Curiosity pulls my body a few steps in her direction, and as I draw close enough to observe the wary non-expression on that sculpted face, I realise that she is not a woman at all, but a girl.

I reach out with one arm, snagging the sleeve of one of the servers and drawing her to the side so that I might speak with her.  "Teriece," I murmur and incline my head discreetly toward that table.  "Who are they?"

Teriece flips her head, moving true white-blonde hair out of her eyes as she directs a casual glance around, allowing her eyes to merely skitter across the group in question before scanning a bit more and returning to meet my gaze.  "New to the city," she murmurs.  "Just came through the north gates this morning.  Haven't caused any trouble yet - at least I haven't heard of any.  Rumour has it they're hunting down members of some warlord's army they broke up a little while back," she tells me, justifying her reputation as the premiere gossip of our little sisterhood.  It is amazing how quickly a rumour can reach her ears, and mystifying how she sorts the gold from the dross.  All I know is that she has never been known to be wrong.

"And the girl?" I ask.

Teriece shrugs a little, surprising me though I know that even she cannot know everyone in our populous city.  "Don't know.  The men are typical, but she's very quiet.  Reserved.  They call her Xena."

I smile and let her go, turning to approach them, and Teriece reaches out to delay me.  "Tersa," she says.  "Be careful.  They're all over the edge," she tells me, meaning that they are in a state of battle-lust.  I shiver.  You can never tell what a warrior will need to sate them once they have been pushed into that haze of violence and heightened sensation.

"Even the girl?"

"Especially the girl," Teriece confirms, a meaningful lilt to her voice I find intriguing.  "Watch her eyes," she advises me, then lets me go.

I give her another smile, appreciating her warning, and divert my path to the bar where I nod to the barkeep.  He inclines his head gravely, giving me a half smile as he sets a mug of cider down before me.  I take a seat and sip slowly at the sweet, mildly fermented drink, observing the warriors discreetly.

They appear to be prosperous and experienced.  I am no warrior and what I know of that caste is based purely on observation, but this group's weapons and armour seem both well worn and well kept, and they would not be here did they not have money to squander.  The remains of a meal are still spread across their table, waiting on a server to be removed.  From the number of plates it appears that one member of their company has already been led upstairs.  The four remaining men appear clean enough, which is surprising, and certainly attractive enough, but it is the girl I am most interested in.  I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of female warriors I have seen, and this one's youth and presence here is particularly intriguing.  Her hair is dark and long; black I suspect, though in this light and at this distance anything sufficiently dark is black.  Her face is tanned, though it is that shade of tan that tells of a naturally pale complexion.  She wears dark leather trousers tucked into knee-high, armoured boots, and a long-sleeved collared shirt of some pale material.  The shirt is open at the collar, revealing a triangle of smooth, tanned skin and the long column of her throat.  She wears a three-quarter-sleeved tunic over the shirt, a deep-sea blue that complements the sun-tinted colour of her skin and the paleness of the shirt.  Its sleeves are wide and it has a deep V-neck.  A wide girdle of linked bronze discs cinches it at her waist and a harness moulds it to her body, holding a scabbard to her back.  The hilt of her sword is visible over her right shoulder.

I watch her quietly, my curiosity growing as I study her interaction with her companions.  Teriece was right.  She is very quiet, reserved beyond measure.  She sits silent and watchful in the face of the warriors' easy laughter, in their midst and at their head, yet strangely set apart.  I notice occasional, secretive glances from her companions, their eyes alight with a strange mix of confused desire, affection, and an almost paternal pride.  The desire in their expressions strikes me as curious, for there is something almost ... asexual, about this girl.  Perhaps it is her youth, or perhaps it is just that she is so cool, so devoid of expressed emotion, that it is difficult to view her with anything other than pure objectivity.  She is too striking to be pretty, but I would not say she is beautiful.  The planes of her face are too strong, too sheer, for beauty.  I have barely thought this when one of them says something too low for me to catch, and in her reaction I am forced to revise my opinion.  For just a moment, a fraction of a heartbeat, the most extraordinary smile flashes white across her face.  It's breath stealing, heart stopping, and it reveals in the planes of her face an unlikely beauty - a beauty so profound that my first instinct is to distrust my senses - and then the smile is gone and it is too ... but not completely.  I am empowered now; where before it hid from me, now I can see its ghost beneath her skin.  It presses up, its cage the elegant bones of her face, its chains her youth.  It waits on the last of her growth, the years that will propel her into adulthood, and it into freedom.

The sudden need to breathe reveals to me that I have stopped in the face of that smile.  I am somehow on my feet and moving towards that table, my body moving entirely of its own volition.  Bemusement floods me at this entirely unanticipated revolt in my faculties.  I have barely enough time to compose myself before the warriors notice my approach and raise their faces to look at me, welcome in the expressions of the men, a wary curiosity in the girl's.

The men shift a little from their table, allowing me room to walk amongst them.  They each wonder whom I will choose and it is evident from their expressions that none are of a mind to reject me.  I smile quietly and slip between them, coming to stand before the girl.  Her eyes lance up at me; I chide myself as I once again lose my breath, astounded by the beauty and intensity of those blue, crystalline eyes.  Her mouth falls open.  She is obviously startled.  Her chair falls to all fours with an emphatic thud, which allows me the opportunity to seat myself on her lap, one arm slipping behind her neck to find purchase on her other shoulder.  Almost despite herself her arm curls around my waist, offering stability.

The table erupts into laughter and the largest of the men leans forward to clout the girl across her shoulder.  I flinch at the sound of the buffet and am amazed at how this girl I perch on is hardly moved by it.  "Phshaw Xena," he guffaws, gesturing at her face, which is still cast in startled lines.  "This pretty thing has you looking like a deer in a wolf-pack's sights."

I feel the tension in the girl's body.  One glance into those extraordinary eyes shows me what Teriece spoke of.  They are wary and confused, but a dark, pulsing need shifts beneath these surface emotions, an inclination to violence that reacts ill to the laughter.  She moves.

Bang.  The laughter dies abruptly.  I am almost trembling from the discipline required not to flinch at the sudden violence so close to me.  Her hand lingers a moment against the hilt of a dagger, then withdraws from it, leaving it buried to the guard in the hard wood of the tabletop.  I stare, barely able to restrain myself from gaping.  The heat of the girl's glare is almost palpable.  The men shift uneasily and I realise immediately that the girl's claim on this seat is no accident.

"No offence Princess," one of the men rumbles.  He is tall and lean, with the hard countenance of a seasoned warrior and the sparse map of scars of a good fighter.  I marvel at his deference to the girl I have chosen.  Xena shifts a little beneath me and I am reminded that I have yet to secure her decision.

I raise a hand, moving with a languid grace designed to soothe her hair-triggered nerves.  Very gently I stroke her cheek, directing her confused eyes to rest on my face.  They seem to glow from some deep, inner fire, and I marvel at their beauty.  Almost I am grateful that she has not yet grown into that beauty I glimpsed, for even as experienced as I am, these eyes in that face would surely break my heart.

"I'm Tersa," I tell her softly.  She swallows hard.  I find her silence in the face of her confusion endearing.  It is curiously wise for one so young and evidently steeped in violence.  "Will you join me upstairs?" I ask her.  I can tell by the barest flicker of her eyes that she longs to glance at her men for some reaction, but that she feels unable to, perhaps fearing that it would be taken as a request for their approval.  At last she firms her jaw and gives me a brief nod.

I smile gently and lean forward, brushing the lightest of kisses onto her lips.  I feel her tremble beneath me as I slide off her lap and take her hand.  Leading her to the stairs I consider that kiss with a smile.  She has the softest lips I think I have ever touched; smooth, almost fragile, like the innermost petals of a rose.  When I kissed her, I could feel the suppressed flinch in her body, as though only an iron will prevented her from jerking away from my intimate gesture.  She moves like a wild thing in my wake; graceful, silent, such power in those supple paces that I am taken aback when I cast a glance over my shoulder.

A flickering movement at the periphery of my vision catches my attention, and I turn to see the house Mistress beckoning me to her.  I pause at the foot of the stairs and perforce so does she.  "Forgive me," I say, turning to smile up into her wary eyes.  "I'll be right back."  I step quickly toward my employer, impatient to be done with whatever she requires.

"What, Merris?" I enquire as I draw close to her, some asperity in my tone.  I hear myself and am given pause, surprised.  Since when have I been so eager to bed a patron?  I glance over my shoulder and have to suppress the shiver as I lock momentarily with those blazing, intense eyes.  It is as though she doesn't know her own power.  She breaks the gaze quickly, looking away, the very faintest of flushes gracing the edges of her cheekbones.  I find myself with the startling certainty that she is a virgin.  Surely if she had even the smallest experience in seduction she would have held my gaze with hers.  I have no doubt that I would have been a puddle of arousal on the floor as a result.  I am astonished and amused, and a vaguely incredulous smile curves my mouth.  Gods am I aroused, I admit to myself.  It's an aching heat from my heart to my groin, and I realise it's been there since that first smile.  It is with some effort that I focus myself on Merris's words.

"Is she of age?" Merris asks quietly.

I smile at the woman with exasperated humour.  It amuses me that the mistress of a whorehouse gives thought to the propriety of servicing her clientele.  Still, I suppose one must draw one's line in the water somewhere.  "She's here isn't she?" I reply.

Merris grimaces at me, a surprisingly sour expression on her attractive face.  "She's here because she left Eronisus with a fractured wrist.  She almost left him with a knife in his gullet."

That's my girl.  I am delighted by this information though I keep my face appropriately serious.  Eronisus is the least liked of all the doormen.  He is tall and impossibly broad, and he has a distasteful habit of forcing women into a corner and pawing at them until he is dissuaded by appropriate volume or struggle.  I cannot see him passing up the opportunity to grope at this delightful warrior of a girl.  He's lucky she wasn't at the killing edge, for there would have been no 'almost' about it.

"If she's old enough to kill she's certainly old enough to get laid Merris," I tell her calmly.

Merris purses her lips thoughtfully.  She appears to consider the merit of my flippant statement before giving me a short nod.  I blink at her somewhat stupidly and have to suppress the urge to laugh.  Then I consider my words again, and find myself suppressing the urge to cry.  I take a deep breath and shrug it off, turning quickly to return to the girl ... to Xena.  I extend my hand again and she gives me a curious look before taking it, following me once more.

I close the door behind us gently and turn to watch her as she looks around the room.  I follow her eyes, evaluating what I see with new eyes.  I am pleased, I think.  It is a small room, comfortable but not garish, sensual but not wanton.  I like warm, earthy tones and this penchant is reflected throughout the room.

Immediately before us a rug woven in shades of green and tan covers the floor before a long, comfortable couch upholstered in a muted, dried-flower pattern.  The couch backs against the short wall adjacent to that which we have just entered through, facing the length of the room and the bed opposite it.  The bed is large and comfortable as one might expect, a four-posted affair of gleaming, varnished mahogany.  The pale cotton canopy is tied back, revealing warm rose silk sheets and pillowslips in a delicate shade of cream.  The full-length mirror standing at the bed's foot is framed with polished rosewood, the rich, honey toned wood almost as bright as the silver.  Candelabra placed throughout on low tables light the room; their flames are steady now that the door is shut, for the windows are closed and shuttered, pale yellow curtains drawn against the chill.  Braziers serve to warm and perfume the room, the coals casting reddish glows against the walls.  I notice the girl's shoulders rise as she takes a deep breath, and I am pleased that my sparing hand with incense is a fresh contrast to the haze of the lower floor.  Her gaze lingers last on the large tub placed squarely between couch and bed, steam still rising from its depths.

She looks and smells clean enough from what I have encountered of her, a welcome change from the majority of warriors I have served, yet there is a flicker in her eyes, a kind of nostalgia, that tells me it has been a while since she has had a hot bath.  More over, I gather from her expression that it is a welcomed luxury.  I hold my frown within, wondering once more at this enigmatic girl.  She glances at me with cautious eyes, battle-lust seething below the surface, wildness in every line and motion of her body, and yet there is a veneer of civility over it all that charms me.  There is a thoughtless chivalry about her that is endearing.  In the midst of staking her superiority to her men, driving a dagger hilt deep into the table before her, her arm had curled tighter around my waist, a gentle security from falling off her lap at her sudden movement.

She clears her throat nervously and I realise she has finished her appraisal of the room.  I draw closer to her, smiling gently to ease her nerves.

"Ah ... I'm a girl," she finally gets out, taking a wary step away from me.  I bite my lower lip to keep from laughing.  Her voice is a delightful surprise.  Deeper than I had expected, warm and smooth and yes, beautiful, like honey flowing over sun-warmed darkness.

I smile.  "Mhmm, that much is obvious," I tell her.  I take her hand and she lets me draw her gently towards me.  "An exquisite girl," I murmur, bringing my free hand to trail lightly against the curve of her jaw.  I am close enough that I feel the shudder of air against my forehead as her breath trembles in response to my touch.  "A divine girl," I tell her, and earn myself a doubtful look.  "The most beautiful girl I have ever seen," I confirm in a soft voice, letting my thumb brush against the soft definition of her mouth.  She swallows hard, her eyes wide, confusion in those crystalline depths.  It occurs to me that she has yet to grasp that pleasure is as possible between two women as it is between a woman and a man.  I am reminded of Merris's question.

"How old are you?" I ask quietly, drawing her with me as I glide to place us before the mirror.

She looks away, then her eyes return to lance through me with a defiance that leaves me breathless.  "Fifteen," she says, a challenge in her voice.

It is young, I admit, though not much younger than the age at which many girls are married off in farming villages north and west of Athens.  It is older than I was when I first lost my virginity.  I recall that this girl has somehow fashioned a power over the warriors we left downstairs, and I am unsurprised that she is ruffled by any attention to her age.

I give her a gentle smile intended to soothe her defensiveness and turn to observe us in the mirror.  At five eight I am a little taller than average for a woman.  Certainly I am not short.  At fifteen Xena is already taller than me by a few inches, and I can tell by the breadth of her shoulders and the length of her limbs that she is still growing.  She is slender, almost gaunt, as though the demands of her growing body are being met at the expense of flesh.  I wonder if she eats enough, and am struck by this atypical concern.  I acknowledge to myself that from the moment I laid eyes on her my interest has been atypical.  As she was kind enough to point out to me, she is a girl, and though I am not inexperienced with women, rarely have I gone out of my way to bed one.


I start a bit, surprised out of my distraction.  I search blindly for an answer that will not discomfit her.  Though whores are rarely called upon to tell the truth, I am somehow certain that she would not ask if she didn't want to know.  "I was wondering how much experience you had," I tell her gently.

Xena flushes and looks away, her jaw clenching as she absorbs my comment.  It is obvious that this is as sore a topic as that of her age.  "I've led warriors for four moons now," she offers defiantly.

I am only a little surprised by this explicit confirmation of her position.  "So you've known battle ... and its aftermath?"

She nods briefly.

"So you know what goes on between warriors in battle-lust, and women?" I ask quietly.  I feel a quiver through her body as I move to place my length against hers.

She is staring at me.  I can feel an incredible heat emanating from her body.  Her eyes are so bright I fear I will be blinded if I continue to meet them, but I can't make myself look away.  There is desire there, unfocussed desire rising in the midst of confusion.  I see her long, elegant throat move as she swallows.  "I know what happens between men and women," she admits.

There is a slight emphasis on the word 'men', and I tilt my head back to look at her more squarely.  "Have you ever been one of those women?" I ask.

She swallows again and shakes her head.

"So what do you do when you feel like this?"

She bites at her lower lip and I can see the tension in her surge, as though given strength by my explicit reference.  "I work," she rasps, breaking my gaze to look away.  "If I work hard enough maybe -"  She cuts herself off and I see a dark shadow of grief cloud her eyes for a brief moment before she shrugs it aside.  "And I run.  I run until I can't," she tells me, looking back up to meet my eyes.

I step back a little and offer her a soft, inviting smile.  I hold it, holding her attention, allowing the calm in my eyes to soothe her nerves.  "Well, this is something else you can do," I murmur.  The flush in her cheeks lets me know that she heard me.  I turn my back to her and lift my hair off my shoulders, offering her the laces at the back of my dress.  She inhales sharply, audibly, as she understands my request.  After a moment I feel her fingers between my shoulder blades.  They burn, and it is I that has to suck in a breath as she fumbles with the ties.  I feel the top of the bodice loosen and I release one hand to press the fabric to my breasts, holding the dress in place.  Her hands trail slowly down the length of my spine as she parts the material, threading laces through their holes.  I am trembling as she reaches the small of my back and steps away.  Gods, add a teaspoon of seduction and there wouldn't be a man or woman who wouldn't be putty in her hands.

I take a deep breath and steady myself before turning to face her.  Her eyes are wide in her sun-kissed face, her mouth parted slightly to suck in shallow breaths.  My eyes fix on those moist lips and my mouth waters even as my heart pounds.  I have to shake my head and remind myself that I'm supposed to be the professional here.  I release my hair, then slowly lower my hand.  The dress slips down easily, over the swells of my breasts, down the narrow span of my waist, the graceful width of my hips, and then past my legs to puddle at my feet.  I step out of it, leaving my slippers there as I move.

Xena's eyes are wide.  She had followed the dress as I dropped it, and now as I stand before her in nothing but my jewellery her eyes dart very quickly to my lack of underwear, then back to my eyes, one brow hitching in startled enquiry.

I smirk.  "What did you expect?" I ask sweetly.

The other brow joins the first as she is reminded of my profession and a wry, lopsided smile curves her mouth.  It is not the smile I witnessed downstairs, but it too lights her face with an explosion of beauty.  I feel my breath catch in my throat, and then she shudders into a short burst of laughter and I feel something almost like pain as that warm, smooth sound caresses the length of my spine.

Gods!  What made you? I ask silently.  Even lanky and only half way through her journey between childhood and womanhood, there is too much beauty here to look upon without aching.

I grin at her and step closer, and her laughter dies as she fixes on my approach.  Again I offer my back to her, lifting my hair.  Again her fingertips scorch my skin as she unhooks the chain from around my neck.  I offer my wrist and smile my thanks as she attends to that too.  Leaving her standing there I pace to a small table, removing my earrings as I move.  I leave the jewellery there and then proceed to move about the room.  At each candelabrum I snuff a few candles, dimming the ambient light to warm amber.  At last I return to stand before her, aware that she has refused to glance at me the entire time.

She seems to have calmed a little for her eyes are not as wide.  They remain fixed on my face and I am charmed by this abashed courtesy that refuses to see my nakedness.

"I'm Tersa," I tell her again.

She blinks and then nods a little, evidently embarrassed by her lack of manners.  "Xena," she whispers.

I reach for her hands and place them against my waist.  They remain frozen for a moment, startled and rigid, and then they move a little.  Her fingers part slightly and curve, wrapping around the column of my waist as though to touch as much of my skin as possible.  Her hands are large and she is almost able to touch them together on each side.  My eyes flutter at the heat that surges straight from her hands to my centre.  She inhales sharply.  I look into her eyes.  They seem to have paled, facets of silver now glowing in those crystalline discs.  She swallows hard and I'm irrationally pleased that I'm having at least a fraction of the effect on her that she is having on me.

"So you're a princess?" I ask softly, resting my hands atop hers, moving my thumbs in a soft, gentle caress.

Xena blinks at me.  She seems to be having trouble thinking.  "Huh?  Oh!  That.  No," she shakes her head.  She seems almost shy.  "They just call me that."

"They call you 'Princess'?" I observe doubtfully.  It sounds like a name a highborn lady might give her lapdog.

"Sometimes," Xena nods.  "It's ... 'cause I'm a girl, and - and young I guess.  They call me their Warrior Princess," she admits.

I smile.  That's more like it.  I notice that her eyes have still yet to stray below my chin.  "Xena, do you want me?" I ask quietly.  I know the answer, but I don't think she does yet.

She blinks at me and looks away.  Her hands break free of my waist and my skin cries out at the loss of contact.  She hitches a shoulder in a shrug.  "I - I don't know ... I guess," she mutters.  "Do you?  Want me, I mean?" she asks.

I nod.  "Yes," I say somewhat more emphatically than I had intended.

Xena just looks at me, as though surprised by my immediate response in the affirmative.  Then her jaw firms and she exhales a deep breath.  That dark energy pulsing inside her seems to surge closer to the surface.  My mouth becomes dry, a feeling akin to awe rising in me.  She begins to circle me, slowly, gracefully, and again comparisons to something wild float free in my mind.  Her eyes roam my body freely now, as though in admitting that I want her I have somehow given her permission.  They seem to sear a trail along my flesh.  I'm almost embarrassed as I feel my breasts swell in response, nipples becoming tight and aching, a wave of heat and wetness flooding from my centre.  She threads her fingers through my hair and lifts a long tress of it, bringing it to her nose and lips.  She sweeps it all to the side and leans in from behind me, seeming to scent the skin just behind my earlobe.  My eyes flutter shut and when the very tip of her tongue licks at that tender spot I can't help the low whimper that breaks free from my throat.  Of its own volition my body leans back into hers.  She shies back and her hands at my shoulders are the only things that prevent me from staggering.  I turn to question her with my eyes.  She seems almost startled - by herself I think.  I must admit that I myself am surprised by the aggressive sensuality that infused her actions so naturally.

"Uh, I think that's a yes," she says, slightly apologetic.

I am still in a haze and it takes me a moment to realise what she is saying.  The moment realisation dawns I gift her with a radiant smile that makes her blush and look away.  Even at fifteen she is so poised that I know in a few years' time these blushes will be so rare as to be considered myth.  For now they are a sweet reminder of her youth.

I soften my smile and gently take her hand, leading her to the sofa where I press her down onto it.  She looks at me sideways from beneath a veil of midnight hair.  I give in to the temptation to brush it out of her eyes.  It is so soft it steals my breath away to feel it slipping between my fingers.  Like trying to grasp water, the smooth strands slide off my hand, leaving shimmering sparks in every nerve they touch.  She is watching me intently and I blush as I realise this, shaking myself from my reverie.

"Can I take your sword?" I ask by way of redirection.

She hesitates, then her long fingers work the harness buckles with practiced ease and she allows me to take the bundle of leather and steel into my hands.  I am hard pressed not to gape at the sheer weight of it.  "How do you move so lightly in this?" I ask as I place it beside the bed.  I have bedded enough warriors to know that she will not feel comfortable in my bed without her weapons close at hand.

She shrugs.  "I don't know.  You just get used to it."  Her voice drops almost an octave as she speaks and her last words are a low, thrilling hum.  It shivers down my spine and I turn to look at her, knowing that she is watching me.

I am certain now that her eyes have paled.  Even from across the room I can see that they are silver in their intensity.  It is only as my approach brings me closer to her that I can make out the blue facets still in her eyes.  I take a deep shuddering breath as blazing eyes sweep my body.  I come to stand before her.  I steel myself and once again take her lap.  This time I straddle it, my knees coming to rest at either side of her hips.  As my legs part I am besieged by a warm, rich scent.  It is the smell of my arousal, rising from the heat of my body and the wetness at my centre.  The flare of her nostrils and the sudden dilation of her pupils tell me that it has not escaped her attention either.  Her hands come to rest against my hips.  I close my eyes and bite on my lip.  Only years of discipline give me the strength to still my hips from their urge to grind against her.  It is almost painful to be this aroused and unable to act on it.

I feel the softest touch on my mouth and my eyes fly open.  Xena watches me, uncertainty in her expression, and I smile and nod.  She leans back in for another brush of lips, so very soft, and then once again retreats.  When she returns I lean in as well, and one of her broad hands drifts up my back, branding me with her heat so that I shudder.  She brushes her mouth to mine again, softly, lifting and returning with gentle strokes.  I shiver, and my hands slide up to rest against her shoulders.  Allowing the tip of my tongue to emerge, I lick a request against her lower lip.  I can tell by her momentary stillness that she is nonplussed.  I do it again and she pauses, then returns my question to me.  My mouth opens and she starts a little, before allowing her tongue to venture where I have invited it.  I groan against it.  By the gods she tastes divine.

I have initiated boys before, and they are almost without exception clumsy and rough, nervously eager in their invasion of my mouth.  This is so different.  She is shy, but there is a natural grace in her that precludes such clumsiness.  She explores my mouth with delicate strokes, so soft, almost insubstantial, an invasion staged by a wraith so that I feel an overwhelming need to surrender everything to her if it will just allow me more contact.  My hands slide up to link behind her neck and I press closer to her.  The barest shreds of propriety keep me from whimpering out a protest as she disengages, leaving me with smaller kisses brushed against my lips.  She leans back a moment and it is small comfort to me that her breathing is ragged.  I am fighting a war with my body, trying to keep the twitching in my hips from becoming desperate rocking.

I stroke her cheek with the back of one hand, and when she opens her eyes I gauge the expression in them before leaning in to initiate the kiss.  The wildness is there, swirling close to the surface, rising on the edge of battle-lust, but there is still a film of control keeping it in check.  I know to be careful in how I push her.  This time when I stroke at her lower lip with my tongue she responds appropriately.  I enter her mouth, exploring the warm depths with groaning delight.  I stroke against her tongue.  She learns quickly and soon the kiss gains speed, the play between our tongues moving with abandon between my mouth and hers.  I press up against her body, feeling rough wool and smooth linen against my nakedness.  Her large hands rest against my skin like living brands, one in the small of my back, the other at the nape of my neck.  My arms have slipped further up so that my elbows are now behind her neck as I surge against her.  I hear a low growl thrum up from her chest and I ease off a little, knowing that I'm pushing the envelope of her control and yet not able to care too greatly.  I know she can hurt me if she loses control, but gods, in the state that I'm in I don't think I care.  At the moment I welcome any sensation, as long as she is the one imparting it.

The growl continues, a low, bestial rumble more felt than heard.  It shivers into me through my contact with Xena's body and I shudder in response.  She feels it, and breaks the kiss between ragged pants.  "Okay?" she gasps out.  Her voice is low and resonant, and it thrums delightfully in my body.

"Uhuh," I nod firmly, reassuring her.

I feel the hand at my neck shift up into my hair, taking a firm but gentle hold.  Slowly but inexorably I am drawn back by that hold, arched over the hand supporting my lower back, exposing my throat and breasts and stomach as I go.  Her eyes watch me, silvered, blazing eyes with wildness leaping in them, watching me with silent question.  I answer by closing my eyes and surrendering to the demand in her gentle touch.  Her lips whisper over my throat, soft and warm, brushing feathery kisses that tingle in my nerves.  She nips lightly at my pulse point then suckles at it gently, feeling my quickening pulse against her tongue.  I groan, tilting my head to offer her better access.  She savours the throb of my pulse too gently to leave marks, but I have a feeling that will change before the night is over.  She lifts her mouth and blows warmth over the wetness on my throat.  I shiver when her breath leaves me, the dampness on my skin shifting abruptly from warmth to chill.  She drifts over my throat and shoulders, descending slowly, tasting my skin with gentle strokes of the tip of her tongue.  Heat is beginning to pour off me in waves as I flush, my blood surging to my skin, sensitising my nerves to these unbearably delicate kisses.  My breasts are aching for attention, and when she hesitates upon reaching them I force the issue by arching against her.  "Please," I groan.  Gods.  Which one of us is the experienced one?  She answers my plea, and as her mouth engulfs one of my nipples in wet heat I have to bite my lip to stifle the strangled cry that blossoms in my throat.  It emerges despite my best efforts as a desperate mewl.  Gods she is too gentle!  I can hardly feel her and it's driving me crazy.

My hands hover behind her head, desperate to slide through her hair and press her against me, but the dying gasps of my caution warn me away.  There is no doubt that her control is slipping, aided I am aware, in large part by my efforts.  The weight of my hands behind her head might be more restraint than she can handle at this moment.  My mind desperately casts about for a solution.  It comes as a gesture I have never cared to make before.  I hesitate barely a fraction of a heartbeat before I bring my hands before me, lifting and cupping my own breasts and offering them up to her mouth.  She breaks off to give me a startled, but shyly pleased look, and then she lowers her mouth and I feed myself to her.  I stroke her cheek to encourage her to take more into her and when she growls low, nipping at me not so gently, I cry out and surge against her.

She flinches at my cry and begins to pull away.  I stroke her cheek gently.  "It's fine.  It's great.  Please don't stop," I gasp.  She lifts from my breast and I almost scream, but then her mouth descends on the aching hardness of my other nipple.  I gasp out my thanks, completely heedless now of what roles we should be playing in this encounter of ours.  I yield to her hand, offering myself up to her as she accepts my cues, suckling with fierce intent at my breast, nipping roughly, sending dizzying surges of heat spiralling to my groin.  There is a flood between my thighs.  I'm surprised she can't feel it even through the layers of wool and linen and leather that cover her.

She lifts from my breast and I gasp.  My hair is released and her strong hands ease me back upright.  I collapse against her, my forehead resting in the hollow of her shoulder.  I don't know whether to be disappointed at the loss of that divine stimulation, or relieved.  My arousal has been escalating steadily and release is nowhere in sight.  Large hands stroke soothingly at my back and through my hair.  I am pressed so close to her that I can feel how ragged her breath is, the pounding of her heart.  I ease back in her embrace to look into her eyes.  The feeling of safety this girl can conjure in the circle of her arms is amazing.

She meets my eyes unsteadily, wildness and ferocity and uncertainty clashing in a tumultuous, blazing conflict.  She swallows and the tip of a very pink tongue emerges, wetting her lips then disappearing.  "I don't know what to do," she whispers at last.

I blink at her.  I'm utterly befuddled and I have to laugh.  Hurt flares in her eyes and I berate myself as I hurry to soothe it.  I know that at any moment her innate aggression will rise in an attempt to assuage this hurt if I don't tend to it first.  In the state she's in I'm lucky I haven't already been thrown across the room.

"I'm sorry," I whisper, raising a hand to caress the delicate curves of her mouth.  "I was laughing at myself.  You're setting me on fire and my body is insisting you know what you're doing regardless of what my head is telling it," I admit to her.

She stares at me, surprised and cautiously pleased.  I wonder what fools she must keep company with that she doesn't already know how ultimately desirable and arousing she is.  Then I take note once more of the wildness that heaves just beneath the surface of her skin, and the strength that slammed a dagger to its hilt in a thick hardwood table, and I admit to myself that were I a warrior beneath her command, I too might be wary of overstepping my bounds.

"You don't have to know what you're doing," I reassure her.  "That's what I'm here for, except I keep forgetting every time you touch me."

Xena blushes.  If I weren't already completely charmed this would seal my fate.  "Okay," she breathes.  She settles back a little on the sofa, allowing her hands to fall to my hips.  "What do I do?" she asks.

I smile gently.  I ask with my eyes, and when I receive silent permission I lean in and kiss her softly; a gentle kiss, almost chaste, just a brush of my lips against hers.  I begin to speak, interspersing my words with these mild kisses.  "The question isn't 'what do I do?'  It's 'what can I do?'" I whisper to her.  She trembles against me, and I know she is fighting the urge to grasp my face and take my mouth in a savage, incendiary kiss.  I ease off on the teasing and her trembling subsides a little.  "Sex is like religion," I say.  Elegant brows flare at this comparison.  I smirk and move to elaborate.  "There is no one right way," I state solemnly.

A tiny grin curls her mouth and it settles as a spot of intense warmth in the very depths of my chest.  "Okay," she says quietly.  She catches my gaze squarely with that blaze of silver.  "What can I do?"  Her voice thrums low, a dark, dangerously sexy hum that drives the humour from my body, rekindling the intense edge of my arousal.

I swallow hard.  Anything you want, I breathe in my mind.  I settle for something a little more practical.  My hand quivers a little as I pluck at the sleeve of her tunic.  "You could -" I tug at the material in mute suggestion, "- if you wanted to," I whisper.

She moistens her lips and nods quickly.  Before I can move, her hands grasp my waist and she rises to her feet before placing me gently on mine.  My eyes widen and my jaw drops.  She gives me a quizzical look, completely unaware of the unlikely strength she has just displayed.  Her hands move to the bronze discs that circle her waist.  She trembles.  Her eyes close and I see her inhale deeply.  It is a bid for control, but it erupts from her throat as a low growl.  The potential for violence seethes in every line of her body.  Her eyes open and I whimper beneath that incandescent gaze.

I am careful in my approach.  Her breath continues to come in low snarls.  I glance a question at her and she nods, giving me leave to touch her.  She shudders as my hands whisper over hers, working at the clasp that fastens her girdle.  The bronze links slip free of her waist and I almost drop them, unprepared for their hefty weight.  I drape them over the arm of the sofa and turn back to her.  I can feel her watching me with that burning gaze.  I am trembling as I stand on my toes to ease the tunic over her head, acutely aware of the sodden fabric where I had rested on her lap.  Her nostrils flare and I know that she has noticed it too.  I lay it aside and turn back.  The air rushes from my lungs, the intensity of her gaze freezing me in place.  Her eyes scorch my body as they trail over me.  She wets her lips; her tongue disappears again and I groan with the desire to follow it.  Her voice resonates in my bones.  "I - I need ..."  She bites her lip in frustration and growls low.  She is shivering.

"Yes," I answer.  The word is barely out of my mouth before her body meets mine and my back hits the wall.  Her arms are around me, an attempt to cushion me from the impact.  Her mouth is on mine, hot and furious.  By the gods she learns quickly!  She growls into my mouth, frustrated, filled with a desperate need and completely lacking the experience to satisfy it.  Blind instinct drives her hips forward, searching desperately for some sort of contact.  Her large hands scorch my body as they descend, coming to cradle my hips, urging me up.  I'm more than willing to oblige.  She lifts me up and I wrap my legs around her waist, and when she surges forward again she swallows the cry that falls from my lips.  I have to admit that her blind instinct is pretty damned good, and gods I want to take advantage of it ... but I can already tell that this won't be enough to bring her release.  She's held on to it too long, tried too hard to control herself, and now her body is exacting its price.

"Xena," I breathe, trying to get her attention.  She snarls at me.  My head falls back as she surges into me.  My hips ignore me, thrusting against the exquisite pressure she's applying.  "Xena."  It's a whimper this time.  Sweet merciful gods!  I groan.  I'm not sure if I can stop myself from coming.  "Princess!" I cry out, a last ditch effort to stop her.  She freezes, her body still pinning me to the wall, and I don't know whether to sob from relief or disappointment.

"What?!" she growls.  Her breathing is ragged.  I can hear the unleashed rage in her voice, yet the shiver of fear serves only to intensify the heat at my centre.  I swallow hard and try to control my voice.  It will be too easy to push her into violence.

"Please," I say softly, quietly.  "Allow me to finish undressing you ... mistress."

I feel the ripple of surprise pass through her.  A wary, almost grateful look softens the ferocity in her eyes as I offer her a role that will allow her some modicum of control over the rage.  Still, it is a very close thing.  A long, tense moment passes before she gives me a careful nod, stepping back and easing me down, a fragile control gathered around her.

I am reminded that it is also a role that offers me as much protection as I can get while this fury is upon her.  The less threat I pose to her, the less likely that frightening strength will be turned against me.  Gods.  I am not of a temperament to be submissive.  I dare a look into her eyes and suddenly find myself revising that thought.  One look into those glowing, crystalline eyes and I'm prepared to grovel.  I suppress a grin that is entirely inappropriate to the moment.  I was prepared to grovel long before now.  I find myself now with the dilemma of assuring her of control, while guiding her to release.  I swallow quietly, lick my lips and venture a question.  "Where may I start?"

Her eyes flash to me.  Her pupils are dilated, rimmed by a silvery blaze.  Her chest expands with slow, deep breaths.  Too slow.  Too deep.  The delicate quivers in the lengths of her fingers betray her barely leashed intensity.  She stares at me for a moment that stretches out, shivering with tension, and then carefully edges one foot forward.

I take a deep breath and kneel to unbuckle the armour from her legs.  Greaves.  Boots.  A boot knife, which I handle gingerly, justly wary of holding a weapon in the presence of a warrior in battle-lust.  I work my way up her body, gentle and quiet in all my moves, soothing her savagery with graceful submission.  My actions tell her that she can have whatever she wants, however and whenever she wants it, and so she is able to find patience.  I rise to my knees and slide my hands beneath her shirt, reaching for the laces on her trousers.  Her hand descends to my head.  I pause and press my face against the thigh before me.  I catch my lower lip between my teeth, nervous, unsure of the gesture's meaning.  Is she telling me to stop, to wait, to keep going?  Slowly her hand begins to glide through my hair.  Her fingers are warm against my skull, gentle, soothing, stroking strands of hair off my forehead.  I shiver and my body stretches into her hand, letting loose a contented, cat-like purr that startles me before I regain control of myself.  I inhale deeply and assume that this is not a request that I wait.

The laces come free quickly beneath my experienced fingers.  Her trousers are loose on her and they descend easily once I have parted the waist.  As I ease them down I encounter my first scent of her arousal.  I barely suppress a whimper as the smell washes over me, dark and rich and warm.  A rumbling growl shivers into my skull through the fingers in my hair and I know that she has smelled it too.  I pause, fearful that this stimulus will push her back over the edge, but other than that low growl she remains unmoved, her hand still gentle in its stroking.  I hold my breath and keep my touch feather-light, trying to keep the sensation to a minimum as I remove her underwear.  If I wasn't convinced of her arousal before, I am now.  She's easily as wet as I am.  I groan as I see this, filled with a sudden, reckless desire to lunge straight for the source of that hot wetness.  Self-preservation goes to war with desire, and wins ... barely.

I inhale shakily and begin to rise to my feet.  Xena's hand in my hair halts my assent.  Her other hand drops to my shoulder, presses me back down.  I stare up the long column of her body.  "Mistress?"

Her head is tilted to one side as she regards me at her feet.  She doesn't answer, but eventually she slides down my body to join me on her knees.  I shudder beneath that long caress, my mouth opening slightly to ease the labouring of my breath.  Her hand in my hair tightens, tilting my face up gently, and she places a warm, firm kiss on my mouth.  Her tongue sweeps between my parted lips, sweet and strong, coaxing a long groan from my throat before withdrawing.  I lick my lips as her other hand lifts to cradle the side of my face.

"Keep going," she murmurs.

It takes me a long moment to remember what it is I'm supposed to keep doing.  At last I nod.  My fingers are unusually clumsy as I work with the carved buttons of her shirt.  I'm biting at my lip in frustration by the time I finally free the last of them and ease the shirt off her shoulders.  She releases me long enough to let it fall free, down her back and to the floor, revealing the last of her garb: a brief linen corset and vambraces on her forearms.  The corset laces in front; I'm pathetically grateful, for I seem to be temporarily incapable of standing.  Xena is practically naked before me now.  I'm in awe.  She is so slender I had half expected to be able to count her ribs, but all I see are long smooth planes of muscle, the only softness the full swells of her breasts.  What was hidden beneath the layers of her clothing is now laid bare: the stately expanse of her shoulders, the fullness of her breasts, the smooth tapering of her torso into a slim waistline, the graceful curve of her hips ... gorgeous legs that give new meaning to eternity.  I'm almost panting.  I force myself to remove her vambraces first, giving myself time to recoup.

They come free with little effort.  Like the rest of her armour I have removed tonight they are well kept, the leather straps clean and supple and threading through buckles without undue resistance.  I heft each one in my hands before setting it aside.  Gods, it's a wonder the floor didn't collapse beneath her with the weight of arms and armour she carried up here.  I have no doubt that a good portion of that muscle she carries so gracefully was built by the sheer weight of her accoutrements.

At last, with a small measure of my composure back, I turn my attention to the corset that supports her breasts.  I glance up for approval, which I receive, before I reach for the ties.  My fingers curl over the quilted edge of the garment and Xena shivers beneath the inadvertent caress.  Her hand tightens in my hair, not painfully, but sufficient to draw my attention and issue a silent warning.  I wet my lips as I work, taking care not to touch her skin again.  My fingertips tingle with the memory of that brief contact.  Her skin is so soft ... I want to feel it beneath my mouth.  I'm hungry for it.  I am so caught in this desire that when the last lace comes free and the corset falls away from her breasts, I groan at the sight of warm, bronze coloured nipples tight and hard before me.  It's more than I can bear.  I look up into her eyes and feel no shame in pleading.  "Please," I gasp.

Her eyes widen a little before she grants me a tiny, almost nervous nod.  Her hand in my hair guides me forward slowly, so slowly I'm fairly shuddering with need before she brings me close enough.  I moan as I take her right breast into my mouth, stroking the sweet hardness of her nipple with the flat of my tongue.  Xena shudders and groans deep in her throat, pulling me closer to her as I suckle with gentle tenacity.  My hands reach for her waist to steady myself.  The moment I touch her she draws me away.  A frantic mewl falls from my lips as I reach back for her breast with the blind instinct of an infant.  Her hand remains steady in its control of my head, her grip firm, almost comforting except that it keeps me from what I so desperately desire.  At last it occurs to my hazy mind that she's objecting to my hands.  I snatch them away from her waist and almost sob with relief when she allows me back in.  I clasp my hands behind my back to keep them away from her.  Gods she is so sweet.  I can't get enough of her.  I feel her cheek come to rest against the top of my head.  Her other arm brings me into a loose embrace, helping to keep my arms behind me.  I groan against her breast.  Even restrained by my hair and arms, there's a delicious safety in her embrace that sends surges of liquid heat to my groin in time with the beating of my heart.  She firms her grip in my hair and guides me to her other breast, and I have to smile at this sweet mastering of my body.  She's the most natural dom I have ever met, amazingly gentle despite the battle-lust waiting to sate itself on my body.  It awes me when I remind myself that she has no experience beyond this night.

Xena is shuddering against me now, low sobs of frustration tearing loose from her throat as she clutches me to her with rhythmic squeezes.  What do I do? I recall her saying, and I castigate myself for getting lost in my own pleasure while she searches blindly for the path to her own.

I release her breast and she draws me back so that we make eye contact while she continues to shudder against me.  I offer a suggestion, quiet and calm to penetrate her haze.  "The bed?"

She nods and uncoils from her knees to her feet in one graceful, sinuous motion, carrying me with her as she rises.  She places me carefully on my feet, releasing my arms and head as she does so.  My body surprises me, immediately missing the restraint, particularly her tender grip in my hair.  I lick my lips, a little unnerved by this reaction.  I've allowed myself to be dominated by others before, usually by warriors in battle-lust, but I've never wanted it before.  Gods, 'want' is such a mild word for the intensity of this feeling inside me.

Xena is watching me cautiously, and I shake off my preoccupation with disturbing ease.  "Kiss me?" I ask.  She answers by stepping closer and I shiver against her as her hands move through my hair, drawing my face back for a kiss.  When she leaves my mouth I'm humming with pleasure to find myself once again in her embrace.  The delicious weight of her hand is back in my hair; the other has drifted down to rest in the small of my back.  I reach behind me to secure that hand to my body, using the contact to draw her with me as I back toward the bed.  When I feel it against the back of my legs I sit down and then inch myself back onto it.  Xena follows me down to the bed, hovering over my body, keeping pace with me in an unnervingly graceful crawl.  I stop retreating once I feel I am more-or-less in the centre of the bed.  She hesitates a moment, then slowly lowers herself upon me.

I groan at the delicious weight that settles down on me, and I slip a thigh between hers.  She slides a hand into my hair and I smile, yielding happily as she pulls me back for a deep, demanding kiss.  In the midst of this kiss I press up gently against her centre.  She cries out into my mouth and breaks off to give me a wide-eyed look as her hips automatically surge forward.  She groans and the expression on her face is almost like pain as she begins to rock against me.  She descends to resume her kiss, and it is my turn to cry out as she returns the favour, finding my centre and sliding against it with the hard muscle of her thigh.  Her mouth finds the tendon in my neck and she bites down on it.  I gasp at the feeling that is more pleasure than pain.  The knowledge that she has only to bring a little more pressure to bear to break my skin causes an aching tightness in my stomach.

I groan and try to think through the white-hot pleasure surging with each press of her thigh against me.  "Move up," I whisper.

She lifts from my neck to give me an incredulous, desperate look.  "No," she groans, shaking her head.  Midnight gossamer shifts about her head with the motion, clinging to the fine sheen of sweat on her face and neck.  She rejects my suggestion, and as though she fears I will somehow force the issue she reaches for my wrists and pins them to the bed on either side of my head with her large hands.  She begins a long, hard grind against my vulva, a bid to drive all thought from my mind.

My head falls back and I gasp raggedly, my hips disregarding me as they meet her thrusts.  I've been ready for ages.  I don't think I can stop this if she won't cooperate with me.  I'm moaning, distantly aware that she has moved my hands above my head and now grasps both wrists in one hand.  Her free hand slips between us and her fingers slide against my clitoris.  I buck against her with a desperate, keening cry.  Gods, if she has instincts this good on a battlefield it's no wonder she's leading warriors at fifteen.  I feel a climax rushing toward me as though from a great distance.  I'm powerless beneath her as senseless collections of words begin to fall from my lips.  "Oh gods oh gods oh gods - oh - gods - please - keep - oh - please ... oh - fuck," I scream, driven into a realm of pleasure so keen it's almost pain.  I convulse helplessly beneath her, coming so hard it feels as though my insides must surely melt in this exquisite heat.  She keeps me from hurting myself, pinning me to the bed with her greater weight.  I shudder, I moan and sob, I shiver.  My body floats in a sea of bliss so deep that if I had sense I would fear never finding my feet.  At last some measure of calm returns to me and I relax beneath her in a delirious haze, shivering occasionally with small aftershocks of pleasure.  Distantly I become aware that I've frightened her, and it is only this that gives me the strength to return to myself.

"Tersa," she whispers to me.  It's the first time my name has actually fallen from her lips, and I shiver at how this unremarkable word has suddenly acquired such velvet beauty.  "Are you hurt?  Did I hurt you?  What's wrong?" she whispers.

I smile as I realise that she has brought that formidable will of hers to bear, and the rocking of her hips against me is a barely discernible twitch.  "Everything's perfect," I whisper.  I grind up into her purposefully; her eyes widen and her face dives to press against my neck.  "It's beautiful," I whisper in her conveniently placed ear, moving my thigh against her in long, firm strokes.  "You're beautiful," I breathe.  "Every time you get a woman in your bed to act and sound like I just did, consider it a great accomplishment," I tell her.  I have to grin as the heat against my neck gives away her blush.

She lifts her head to catch my gaze and I whimper as those burning depths cause a cramping flash of heat in my groin.  Her eyes are hooded, a faint crease of concentration between her brows as she moves above me, on me, exquisitely graceful in this most primal of movements.  A portion of her weight rests on forearms planted either side of my head, and the position brings out the most delicious definition in her arms and shoulders.  We move against each other, our bodies sliding together easily, skin slicked with passion and sweat.  Her eyes drift shut and she bites gently at her lower lip as her rocking takes on an edge of desperation.  At last she opens her eyes and looks at me, embarrassment and anguish clear in her expression.  "I'm - I'm ... I don't think I can," she whispers to me mournfully.

I give her a reassuring smile.  Four months of disciplining her body with exhaustion ... I'm not surprised that it's refusing to give in to her pleasure now.  "You're fine, just let me help," I say, and whisper to her what to do.

She leans back and gives me a wide-eyed look, embarrassed surprise in her expression.  "You want to ..." she blushes.

I nod quickly.  "Gods yes," I breathe.  For a moment I think she might refuse, but then her desperate need overrules her embarrassment.  She bites her lip and closes her eyes, but she nods acceptance and crawls up my body.  I groan as the length of her torso slides up mine, and when her soaked folds comes within reach I waste no time in wrapping my arms about her hips and guiding her to my mouth.  I moan happily as I dive in for a first long, savoured taste.  She's sweet and warm and deliciously salty, and the first taste inflames my craving for more.  A strangled, incredulous curse falls from Xena's lips and her hips buck beneath my tongue's caress.  I tighten my arms, though I know she isn't going anywhere.

"Sweet Demeter," she whimpers.  A glance up shows her head hanging down, face in an almost painful expression of carnal pleasure, her hands clenching in the sheets.  At any other time, with any other person, I would prolong this first pleasure.  I'd tease and stroke and whisper against her flesh, I'd take her right to the edge and hold her there for as long as my skill would let me.  Right now my skills and experience are bent on sending her over that edge as quickly as possible.  The engorged length of her clitoris pulses against my tongue as I suckle intently, and I plunge two fingers into her core without preamble, wrenching a hoarse cry from her throat.  I thrust deep and hard, and as I rake my teeth along her shaft with exquisite gentleness, I curve up with my fingers, sliding against the tiny node on the front wall of her passage.  There's a moment of stillness, a second of breathless anticipation, and then she crashes.  She arches above me, her passage clenching around my fingers, her clitoris twitching in my mouth, and an indescribable howl rips free from her lungs as she comes.  It's wild, it's fierce, it's exultant, it's all this and more, a deep, soul-stirring cry that hitches with each quake of her body.  She shudders helplessly and I ride the waves of her release, drawing the climax out in all its glory with my mouth and fingers.  It is a long while before her voice drops to a satisfied growl and her shuddering calms.  It's a while longer before her core eases its convulsive grip on my fingers.  I extract them gently, coaxing a few more shivers from her frame, and I pass my tongue over her folds in a soothing caress.  She groans low and rolls off me carefully, collapsing to the side in a sprawl of leaden bliss.

I lay still, savouring the last of her taste on my lips and fingers.  I have time now to feel pleasure - and profound relief - that my gamble had paid off.  I have no doubt that she was indeed a virgin when she entered this room, but a warrior's life is hard on a body ... I am glad that she felt no pain.  My wish not to hurt her is sincere, but I must admit that at least some of this sentiment springs from the fear of her reaction should she feel pain in this most vulnerable of positions.

An amused chuckle drifts down to me and I realise she must be watching me lick my fingers with the relish of a child with candy.  I don't think I've heard her chuckle before.  It's a deep sound, smooth, warm ... terribly sexy.  I shiver pleasantly in response and give a satisfied hum as I lick the last of her essence off my hand.  After a moment she reaches down and hooks her hands beneath my arms, dragging me up against her with an easy strength.  She settles me in her embrace and a pleased smile curves my mouth.  It's a terribly possessive thing.  I find myself delighted by the gesture.  I rest my cheek against her chest and listen to her heartbeat.  It slows to a resting rhythm with a speed that speaks of superb conditioning.

In this moment of peace a persistent question floats free in my mind.  I lift my head to gauge her eyes.  There is a measure of calm in her gaze that is new.  The feral intensity is still there, but it seems that the harshest edge has been taken off her battle-lust.  I decide it might be okay to ask her a question.

"Can I ask you something?"

Xena blinks at me with a familiar lassitude, then nods cautiously.  I try to think of a way to ask this without embarrassing her unduly.  "In fifteen years not a single person got up the nerve to kiss you?" I blurt out.  Okay.  Perhaps not the most tactful approach to take, but it certainly got my question across.

It seems Xena is getting over her embarrassment.  She blushes some, but mostly she just grins at my immediately contrite expression.  "I never let anyone," she tells me quietly.  I question her with my eyes and she shrugs ruefully.  "I always wanted to be a warrior, so I - I never let anyone treat me like a girl.  Plus I was always taller than all the boys my age," she adds with a shrug.  "And I guess I never really wanted to kiss anyone, so what was the point?"  She pauses and worries at her lower lip for a long moment before looking up to meet my eyes.  "It's that obvious?" she asks quietly.

"Not anymore," I say, my lips shaping into a sultry smile.  "You're a very quick study," I purr with supreme satisfaction.  A grin flashes across her face, startling and beautiful as the sun flaring in the mid of night, and I hum happily as my words garner a delicious response in the form of one of those sweetly dominating kisses.  "Oh yes," I breathe once she releases my mouth.  "Very nice."

Xena licks her lips, a strange, contemplative expression on her face.  After a moment I smile, realising that she must have tasted herself in my mouth.  She looks up to catch me watching her and I let my smile broaden into a lascivious grin.  "That's nice too," I tell her.  She blushes profusely, but I can see from the curious glint in her eyes that she's wondering if I taste the same.  The thought causes my stomach to clench with a deliciously hot ache.

"Tersa sweetie, wake up."

I frown at this voice in my ear, soft and coaxing, but not the voice I have become used to over the course of the night.  I mumble something into the pillow, not entirely sure myself what it is I'm trying to say, so I am unsurprised by the speaker's confusion.

"What was that?  C'mon Ter, morning has been and gone.  Roll over huh?"

By this stage I have placed the voice as Leanari's, so I oblige the request and squirm onto my back, trying to suppress a groan as my muscles protest the effort.  I pry one eye open far enough to take in the worried cast to my friend's face.

"You okay?" she asks me, perching herself on the edge of the bed and brushing tangled hair out of my face.

I think about this, taking mental inventory of my body before trying to formulate an answer.  I hurt ... but in a good way.  It's that dull, burning sensation of muscles pushed to the very edge of their endurance.  I'm bruised in places and I know that they must be visible by now, but there are no marks on me that I didn't ask, plead and even beg for.  I smile slowly, sleepily, a genuine curve of my lips that seems to set Leanari somewhat at ease.  "Uhuh," I nod slightly.  "Just fine," I purr, squirming deeper into the soft mattress and tugging sheets into some semblance of order around me.

Leanari's mouth twitches, as though she fights to suppress a grin at my antics, and she blows out a breath, casting a glance around the room.  "Some mess," she murmurs, raising a brow at me.

I tilt my head a little so that I can see the room.  She's right.  The canopy hangs awry, half torn from its rings.  The rug is folded back on itself, and evidently soaked.  Much of the floor is wet, and I doubt that very much water is left in the tub.  One of the curtains lies in that shallow lake of water.  I grin, and then laugh lightly as I recall intense blue eyes narrowed, an elegant brow hitched to a sharp angle, adorable mischief in her expression as she waited to get my attention before sweeping a wave of water into my face.

"Uhuh," I grunt agreeably, and chuckle at Leanari's evident frustration.

"Ter, I was worried," she remonstrates with me.  I am instantly remorseful.  "You disappear at the start of the evening and I see neither hide nor hair of you for the rest of it."  She pauses for a long, pointed moment before the corner of her mouth twitches into a smirk.  "We certainly heard a lot of you though," she drawls.

I smirk back and she swats my shoulder playfully.  "Brat," she laughs.  "You realise that we spent the entire evening trying to match up so our customers wouldn't feel inadequate?" she tells me.  "It was damned exhausting!  I just hope whatever he paid you was worth the performance, 'cause otherwise there are some ladies wanting to speak with you about the state of their voices."

I have to laugh at that.  "She," I correct.  Leanari's eyes grow impossibly wide.

"You spent the entire night with a woman?" she inquires slowly.  Her amazement is not without justification.  Of the lot of us, I am the one most firmly oriented towards men.

"A girl," I smirk, disgustingly pleased with myself.  "An amazing girl," I sigh.  "And that was no 'performance'."

I turn my face into the pillow, inhaling deeply of the clean, dark, inherently wild scent still clinging to the fabric.  I make no mention of the price.  I'm a courtesan, a whore - I am not given to flights of fancy or romance, and yet ...

"Ah ... Tersa?"

I look up, intrigued by the nervous, somewhat pained timbre of her voice.  She glances at me and smiles half-heartedly before looking away, not quite meeting my eyes in the exchange.


She tries to smile again, but it is a terribly nervous, exceedingly discomfited thing.  "I - ah ... was wondering ..."  She shifts and clears her throat, fiddling with her left shirt-cuff.

I have helped her to dress and she now sits on the edge of my bed whilst I sprawl amongst the sheets in leaden satiation.  It is obvious what the somewhat belated question is.  I laugh gently and put her out of her misery.  "How much?" I suggest, allowing the unruffled calm of my tone to ease her embarrassment.

She smiles hesitantly and nods.

I am quiet for a while, and then I ask her a question that has bothered me since that first moment I stood before her, when she looked up at me, utter incredulity in her expression.  "Why did you come tonight?  I mean - you obviously weren't expecting ..." I wave my hand vaguely, "this."

She gives me a rueful, lopsided smile, and whispers, "They assumed I wouldn't."  She hitches one shoulder in a helpless shrug.  "I - I don't like it - when people just ... assume things about me," she admits.

I have to grin at this delightfully contrary, entirely consistent answer.  I take one of her hands between mine, examining that long, elegant, slightly oversized extremity as I consider my own answer.  I find myself uncharacteristically hesitant to put a price on what I have shared with her.  I know what I should charge her, but that is an entirely different sum from what I want to charge her.  At last I lift a shoulder in a languid shrug and smile.  "Whatever you think is appropriate," I tell her.  I am slightly ashamed, completely aware of the difficult position I have put her in.

She stares at the floor for a long moment, and then her mouth curves into a shy smile.  Her hand twitches between mine, curling around to weave our fingers together as colour rises into her cheeks.  "I don't think there are enough dinars in the whole of Athens to meet that price," she murmurs.

I laugh, delighted by the gallant statement that is flushing her an adorable shade of pink.  "Well then, I wouldn't want to bankrupt you," I say lightly.  "I'll take a dinar ... a kiss ... and a promise that if you aren't attached, you'll come visit me the next time you're in Athens."

She laughed and gave me all three things, and I am still bewildered at myself.  A single dinar for an entire night?  It is preposterous.  A single dinar ... a delightful kiss ... and the promise of more.  I smile.


I realise that Leanari has asked me a question ... what that question was I haven't a clue.  I give her an apologetic smile.  "Hmm?"

"I asked why you're still here," she says, dryly amused.  She tweaks at one of the sheets, but I know she is referring to the entire room, to this wing of the building that is dedicated to the night's traffic.  Though some of the women find it expedient, I am not usually one to slumber in a room redolent of the night's work, as Leanari well knows.

I flush a little, uncomfortable with the reason.  Still, if I cannot tell my closest friend, a woman who is by turns sister and mother and child to me, then who can I tell?  And for some inexplicable reason I want someone to know.

To know ... what? I ask myself quietly.  I take a moment to contemplate this question, and my eyes widen as the answer comes to me.  I am most assuredly a fool.  I have led a wild warrior of a girl to my room, taken her virginity ... and yielded to her a portion of my heart.

"Uh - 'cause - um -"  I flush more brilliantly than Xena at her most embarrassed last night.  "The sheets smell like her," I whisper, hiding my face in the pillow.

Leanari catches my jaw in her hand and gently tilts my face around.  She stares into my eyes, searching them for an answer.  I can tell when she finds it, because her eyes widen a little, and a smile begins to tug at the corner of her mouth.  The smile broadens into a grin and she begins laughing, shaking her head, thoroughly amused by me.  I scowl at her and she shrugs helplessly, not intimidated in the least.  Still, she yields to my weakness.  She hauls me to my feet and settles a robe around my shoulders.  Then, with rolled eyes and an infuriating smirk, she strips a slip from its pillow and folds my hands around it, before leading me to my room.

~  finis  ~

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