DISCLAIMER: Gabrielle and Xena and all the others mentioned herein belong to RenPics and probably a whole lot more folks besides, and certainly not to me. Although a girl can dream.
This is a conquerorfic, and contains homosexuality (of course, this is me after all), violence and adult situations, in other words it might not be for the young or sensitive. Also, this story is still unfinished.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Conquering Liasons
By Carola "Ryûchan" Eriksson

Chapter 1: The Less Evil Choice

She was already sitting on the bed, expensive clothing discarded haphazardly across the well-worn couch next to the warrior woman's weapons, when they showed the girl in.

Wearing the finest robe the brothel had to offer, besides the one currently worn by the woman on the bed, and nothing else, the young girl exuded fear. The warrior smirked slightly over the fact that the young girl's robe had no fastenings to keep it shut, and the trembling arms seemed to teeter between the desire to cover herself up, and the knowledge that pleasing her customer was imperative to her health.

With a softly spoken command and a simple gesture, the young girl was called upon to come closer to the bed and the figure on it.

The warrior must admit to herself that the brothel Madame had not been exaggerating the beauty of her new acquisition, this young woman was quite splendid. The redgold hair, green eyes, and much more the beautiful facial features that spoke of a gentle innocence very foreign to the warrior's world would have been more than sufficent for the older woman to bed this lovely creature, however that same gentleness stirred something else within the dark woman. Nothing concrete, but it was there.

Another soft command ordered the girl to let the robe fall to the floor, leaving her naked to her customer's eye.

The dark woman let her eyes slowly sweep the landscape revealed her, finding to her surprise it much more to her liking than she had any reason to hope.

"You are quite lovely, girl." The small smile turned wide and quite laviscious. "Indeed, much too perfect to be squandered on drunken soldiers and merchants."

"Come, sit."

The girl trembled but did not move. The warrior woman frowned slightly, and in a movement too quick for the young girl to follow, she had reached out and pulled her down into her own lap. The grip around her hips was deceptively gentle, yet unbreakable, and the young girl dared not truly attempt to break free.

"I will have you one way or the other, girl, which way it will be depends on you." The darkly velvet voice warned, but a small smile teased the edges of the woman's lips as she spoke.

The strong hands on the young woman's hips caressed the nicely shaped behind while the dark woman's eyes raked over her naked form, but other than that no further contact was forced with the warrior woman's own naked body. The younger woman tried to be as still as possible.

"Do you know who I am?" A frightened nod. "Good. And I suppose you have heard all about my many and various sexual perversions, haven't you girl?" Spoken with wry amusement.

The dark woman nodded as if she had received a response. "Yes indeed… to fine a filly to be squandered on oafs and drunks, I say" a smirk " and what I say is law."

"What is your name girl?"

"G-gabrielle, my Lord." The young woman stammered with wide eyes.

"Mmmm. And are you indeed as untouched as Madame Thora says, Gabrielle?" Something in that voice and the smirk that accompanied it was challenging, yet Gabrielle remembered the warning the Madame had given her prior to sending her into the room; always speak the truth, the Lord Conqueror will spot a lie faster than a fly farts, and you'll be the one to smart for it.

"I… have been kissed… once or twice." The fierce blushing that came with that statement made the Conqueror raise an eyebrow in surprise. A feral smile soon overtook her features.

"Ah. Well, like I said before Gabrielle, I will have you, one way or the other. But I give you a choice as to how." In a surprising gesture the Conqueror wrapped the edges of her crimson robe around their joined bodies, as if to keep Gabrielle warm.

"How did you come to be a slave at this brothel, Gabrielle?"

Blinking in surprise at the question, Gabrielle never the less took the opportunity to delay with her story what she feared would come only too soon. "My parents are farmers in Poteidaia. The latest handful of years have been very bad, and finally they had no choice but to sell either myself or my younger sister so that the rest of the family would be able to survive the winter… I volunteered because Lila is only thirteen, and Madame Thora paid my father in full… and I haven't heard from them since."

"I've been here at the brothel for little over two moons now, but Madame said she was saving me for…" Gabrielle's voice didn't quite carry to complete the sentence.

"Me." The purring voice seemed quite satisfied. "And when I've had my fill with you Gabrielle, do you know what your life will be like?"

The hands were back to caress Gabrielle's behind. "Thora is a very just and generous woman for a brothel Madam. Depending on the price she paid for you, you will live the life of an indentured brothel slave for some five years to come, taking on whatever customers she tells you to, in whatever manner you're told to. Then after that you'll be allowed a small percentage of the dinars you make and have the right to say no to a customer if you want to, and in time you might even, if you work hard and save your dinars wisely, earn enough money to buy your freedom from her. Thora is quite unusual like that."

"Of course, by then working the brothel will likely be the only thing you can do, and you may very well chose to stay on as a free woman… the older women here are usually the ones that has chosen that path." The blue eyes of the Conqueror pierced Gabrielle with their almost brutal honesty, there was no way she could doubt that the words spoken were the utter truth.

"By then Gabrielle, you will have been bedded by too many men and women to count, and perhaps you will long have ceased to care who does."

"B-but I had no choice! Lila…" Gabrielle could not keep from sobbing now.

"Hear me out girl, I was not finished. I have gotten it into my head that I will give you a choice." Smiling to herself when Gabrielle straightened and fastened teary green eyes on her again. 'That, and I already cannot bear to think of anyone else touching you.'

"I would offer you the position of my body slave. As such you would be my… lover, and serve me in a multitude of minor but important matters, most of them basically means serving me in my private chambers when other servants are not there to do so. You would be… a companion, of sorts, to ease some of the silence of my personal quarters. You would live in those quarters, at the palace, with me, and your position would be highly elevated from that of all other slaves in the Realm. Food, clothing and entertainment would be provided for you, as long as you serve me well."

The Conqueror's face darkened and her eyes hardened in warning. "Make no mistake Gabrielle, if you choose to be mine, then mine you will be. I will not share you with anyone, nor may you refuse me… If you are mine I will demand nothing other than your complete loyalty! I will not see a hair harmed upon your head if you serve me well, but do belive me when I say that should you betray me your punishment will be harsh."

The voice gentled once again, and she touched Gabrielle's face in a sensuous caress. "Serve me, and serve me well Gabrielle, and I swear to you that neither you nor your kin shall have need for anything dinars can buy. And more, should the day come that I have had my fill of you, of your companionship, then I will give you your freedom back." Gabrielles eyes were wide with shock. "But only if you are loyal to me."

The Conqueror was not entirely sure why she argued her case so passionately, either the girl would understand the value of her offer and take her up on it, or she was to ignorant to understand just how dark her future at the brothel would likely be, and refuse. The girl was attractive enough to turn Aphrodite's eye, that was for certain, but that was not reason enough to all but beg the girl to choose a life in the palace before a life at Thora's brothel. And what made her so certain she would even enjoy the company of the younger woman? She sat back a small space and awaited Gabrielle's decision.

A long moment of silence as they merely watched the other.

"…Yes, my Lord." Gabrielle's voice was quiet and trembling, but her eyes held something other than fear as they gazed at the Conqueror. "Thank you, my Lord."

Xena smiled then, and pulled Gabrielle fully into her arms. To Gabrielle's suddenly widened eyes she grinned and spoke in a husky timbre: "Oh fear not my sweet, I have no intention of laying with you here in this place now, when I know we will be completely undisturbed in our own bed not far from here."

"I will see to the details with Thora while you dress, but first… I will have a kiss from those inviting lips."

And then the wide-eyed young girl from Poteidaia discovered that she had been wrong… She had never truly been kissed at all.

Chapter 2: Learning The Lay Of The Land

It took not long at all for the Conqueror to settle matters with the brothel Madame. In fact Madame Thora was paid many times more the price she herself had paid for young Gabrielle, although she offered the girl as a gift to the dark ruler instead.

Indeed, although Gabrielle herself was not aware of this fact, and Thora would not likely reveal it to the Lord Conqueror, the Madame had bought this Poteidaian slave with the sole purpose of catching the Conqueror's eye - after many years observing the ruler's tastes, she knew this one would fit her well. She had perhaps not counted on that the slip of a girl would appeal to the Conqueror's taste quite so much that she would not wish to part with her, but the knowledge was even so a pleasing one.

In a spur of the moment decision, the Lord Conqueror asked Thora to personally travel back to Poteidaia and the girl's family with a rather large amount of money. Thora would be lent a royal carriage for this purpose, and for that experience, alone, the brothel Madame was more than eager to lend her assistance.

Gabrielle on the other hand had no possessions to collect, and her simple garments of homespun wool, pale and tattered by wear, took mere moments to put on. Before she had even had time to think more closely upon what fate would have in store for her, she was seated in front of the Ruler of the Known World atop a large warhorse, wrapped in the ruler's cloak.

One strong arm was wrapped around Gabrielle's waist and the Conqueror's lips was occasionally dipping in to explore an exposed ear or neck as they rode on, making Gabrielle's skin break out in goosebumps despite her thick covering.

Madame Thora's brothel lay on the outskirts of the city of Corinth, and so Gabrielle had never before seen the walls of the palace courtyard, much less the palace itself. Despite her nervousness and the bleak situation she was in, she could not help but stare awed at the sight before her.

"Home, Gabrielle." The velvety voice purred in her ear, clearly amused by the open mouthed gawking. "…be it ever so humble."

After crossing the courtyard the horses were left to servants, while they continued into the depths of the palace proper. Gabrielle was shocked at the size of the marble and granite passageways, gawked at the decorations she passed, and was terribly intimidated by the group of black, blue and silver-livery dressed guards that silently matched their pace.

More guards were passed occasionally, but wearing other colors, and the corridors seemed endless until one passageway at the end of a large hallway where two of the black-dressed guards stood at attention. Inside was a large hall with two other doors, one smaller where Gabrielle could hear loud voices emanate, and the other was a large, ornate oak door where another pair of guards were posted.

They opened the door for them, and the Conqueror dismissed the other guards with a wave.

Behind that door was a small antechamber, very sparsely decorated, and two more doors. The Conqueror steered Gabrielle to the right door, but paused before pulling it open.

"That door " indicating the left door "leads to what will be your own chamber."

Gabrielle's eyes widened even further, her own chamber? Not even at home, before the times went so bad, had she ever had her own room… but now as a slave she would? She was ushered through the doorway.

"It will have the bare necessities installed later, like your clothes, a chest and a bed. And whatever I'll deem that you need have there, I suppose."

Gabrielle found to her surprise that she was really truly frightened of the prospect of sleeping alone, but wasn't the alternative supposed to frighten her worse? Everything was just so confusing lately.

"Not that I expect you to actually sleep in there." The Conqueror's expression shifted from wry amusement to seriousness in a matter of heartbeats. "You will sleep with me, and you will live with me, in my chambers… That room is just so that you may have a small corner for yourself, where I shall try to interfere as little as I can." A sharp look. "Unless you give me reason to."

A fair warning, and Gabrielle had already decided to try to decipher exactly what rules there were for her new life, so that she would be able to make certain she stayed well within the limits put on her. She could already tell that she did not, under any circumstance, wish to anger or upset her new owner in the slightest.

Her new home proved to be elegant luxury in abundance for a young farmer's daughter's eyes. Everything seemed rich and splendid, yet not gaudy as things tended to be at the brothel. Only the finest materials could be found, that much was apparent even to her, and the best furniture, the lovliest decorations, rugs and tapestries that Gabrielle could have looked at for candlemarks in order to make up stories about. And yet it had a strangely homey feel to it.

With growing trepidation Gabrielle watched the Conqueror make her way across a grand rug near the large fireplace to get a decanter. The girl just knew she would stumble on the edge of that rug one day when she had something invaluable in her hands, and completely destroy something along the lines of a priceless Chin wase, after all her mother had always said she was clumsy.

The Conqueror noticed the fearful gaze directed at her thick persian rug, and wondered what about the warm, soft material could possibly inspire such a look. It didn't even feature her as the centrepiece, so surely it wasn't that offensive?

But ah, the rug must be easier to face than the Ruler of the Known World right now, especially for a brand new young bodyslave. The dark woman felt compassion, and thought of a way to put the girl a little more at ease.

"This is where I receive people if I grant them audience in private, and it also serves as my study." Pointing to a large oak desk littered with scrolls and a huge painting of the Known World mounted on the wall above it. "In that alcove over there is where we dine, unless we use one of the palace many dining rooms. In the room at the back there we have the bedroom."

Wineglasses in one hand and the decanter in the other, she indicated by the the toss of her head that Gabrielle should enter before her.

Gabrielle found herself thinking that the bedroom alone would be as large, if not larger, than her home in Poteidaia. Another large fireplace was in this room, and a large lounging area filled with divans and soft pillows, and an enormous black bearskin rug right in front of the fireplace. Then there was a few small steps up to the other part of the room, which held a huge beautiful canopied bed large enough to house all those blackdressed guards that was standing in the outer corridors.

She spotted yet another door, and felt quite dizzy with all the twisting and turning she had done so far. The other woman noticed her distressed look, and smirked.

"Don't worry, that one goes to the bath and toiletries. And on the other side of the bathroom is your chamber, so you see we've gone in a circle." She smiled more kindly at Gabrielle. "Don't worry about finding your way around, I won't be sending you off on your own until you're comfortable with your surroundings." A thoughtful look. "Actually, I may not wish to send you off anywhere unescorted at all… You may have to learn to live with having a member of the Royal Guard somewhere in the vicinity whenever you leave this area of the palace. I will have to give that some thought."

She would be allowed to move around at will? Had Gabrielle somehow misunderstood this concept of slavery? Because none of this sounded nearly as bad as the stories she had heard at home…

They moved on to a mass of large, comfortable looking pillows, and the dark woman indicated where Gabrielle should sit as she made herself comfortable. Gabrielle complied nervously, but was quickly lost in the intricate embroidery on one of the smaller pillows near her.

"That is supposed to be Zeus, seducing Leda in the form of a swan." Smirking at the obvious perusal, and handed over one of the glasses before pointing at another pillow. "Now that one is from a place called Japa, and it is about two lovers, Vega and Altair, that can only be together once every year when their stars meet."

The Conqueror smiled as she got Gabrielle's complete and undivided attention.

"I take it you like stories, Gabrielle?" Gabrielle nodded shyly in answer. "I'll have to show you my Royal Library then, it is quite extensive. But have a taste of your wine, it is quite sweet."

Gabrielle had caught sight of one pillow where the Conqueror rested her arm. She did not dare ask, but when she glanced at it once more the other woman realised what she wanted.

"This? Yes, that is me, when I killed the Nemeian lion." She smiled wryly and handed the pillow over to the curious young woman. "Do you know that story?"

"Yes… Yo-ah, err, I mean my Lord, my Lord strangled the beast with your own bare hands, even though it was the child of Echidna herself, and that is why my Lord is sometimes called the Lion of Amphipolis."

"Relax Gabrielle. When we are not in public I want you to call me Xena. " She smiled reassuringly at the wide-eyed girl. "When in public though, you'll do better to refer to me as 'My Lord', although you needn't bother with all those other cumbersome titles."

"And the story is true, as you will be able to tell for yourself sometime when I show you the trophy room, although I did have some help." Xena grinned mischievously. "I wore gauntlets with heavy spikes dipped in poison. The storytellers all seem to forget that part of the tale, just as they seem to forget that Echidna got rather upset with me beause of that, and that is the real reason I ended up killing all those other monsters."

"But enough about me. Tell me about you, Gabrielle."

"M-me? But I am nobody interesting…"

Xena reached out to take Gabrielle's hand, removed the wineglass and pulled her forward, patting at a spot between her own knees. "You are interesting enough to catch the eye of the Ruler of the Known World, Gabrielle… Or are you challenging my taste?"

Shaking her head empathically while blushing badly, Gabrielle anxiously knelt at the indicated spot.

_Facing_ Xena.

Raising one eyebrow, Xena gave a delighted but amused smile at that. "Pleased though I am that you are that eager to serve me, my sweet, I nevertheless had something else in mind."

And turned Gabrielle around so that her back faced Xena, then she pulled the younger woman to rest upon her shoulder. "There, that is nice." Followed by a contented sigh.

Gabrielle was blushing furiously by now, and she was quite stiff in Xena's embrace. Xena smirked, and leaned in to a glowing red ear to whisper ardently. "I am sure that before too long there will be no nook or cranny in these chambers that does not speak to me of your sweet taste and the feel of your soft skin upon mine, that will not carry the echoes of the sounds of our ecstasy."

"These pillows will see us in levels of pleasure the likes of which Leda and Zeus never imagined, I'm sure." Xena turned Gabrielle's face so she could kiss her with barely controlled passion.

"But for now my sweet… Let's talk. Let me know the woman who will share my life and my bed."

Chapter 3: Gabrielle of Poteidaia

Gabrielle's story began haltingly, in a shy voice as the young woman sat stiffly, propped against the Ruler of the Known World.

But lifelong habit and only barely suppressed nature soon loosened Gabrielle to her audience of one, and the story itself, though simple, became her focus.

"I was born in the village of Poteidaia, and I have lived all my life there."

"Poteidaia is a small village where most people breed goats, that are sold in the market of the nearby villages. There lives a herbalist that serves as our healer, a blacksmith, and a seamstress, and the mayor is also the innkeeper. There is no school for the children, and we do not rate a village temple, although every family keeps a small shelf where we honour the gods in one way or the other."

"It is only a short distance away from the garrison at Amphipolis, since it lies a ways out from the village itself, so sometimes soldiers will come to Poteidaia to visit the inn, but it is not often."

"My father, Herodotus, inherited his land from his father, as his did in turn, and he has always regretted the fact that he has no son. He married my mother, Hecuba, while they were both young, but for a long time it seemed they would have no children at all. Then, after delivering first me, then my sister Lila, it turned out that mother could bear no more children, and father would not have a son."

"My parents are getting on in years, but they work hard tending the flock and the crops. I've helped with the chores since I was little, as all children do, but my foremost duty growing up was looking after my little sister. In fact, my first real memory is of Lila, and how mother tells me that it is my responsibility to take care of her. And I did."

"When I was too small to carry her myself, she was tied to my back while I did other chores, and when she got bigger I could keep her with me by telling her stories. She probably didn't understand much of my silly little stories to begin with, but she would listen to my voice and not cry or try to go play somewhere else. I can't remember a time when Lila wasn't there."

Xena was glad that Gabrielle was facing towards the fire, as too much of the girl's story cut too close to home for her, and filled her with the sadness from her own past. And sympathy for the diligent, hard working child who wasn't allowed to be a child for very long.

"Our family was not rich, but the land and the animals kept us well fed and clothed, and even allowed for a few extra things now and then. That is, until the goat plague stuck that year, killing nearly two thirds of all the goats in the village. My father lost nearly all his stock, and when the drought struck the year following that, we were ruined."

"Others did fare better, such as Perdicus' family. Father loaned some money in order to get himself back on his feet, but it was one setback after another, and soon he was too indebted even for them. They had loaned us the money in the first place basically because we would be family, and it would be better for Perdicus if father got the herd back and the land to work again before Perdicus would have to deal with it."

Xena frowned darkly, somehow she did not like the sound of this. "Who was this Perdicus?"

"Oh!" Gabrielle blushed again. "Perdicus is my childhood friend, and he is also the boy I was supposed to marry."

Gabrielle might not have seen the first startled, then murderous expression on Xena's face, but she did feel the woman give a start, and most certainly how the strong arms around her tightened uncomfortably.

"Uhh, umm, well it is the custom in Poteidaia that fathers agree upon arranging future marriages between their children while the children are quite young, especially the first born ones. It was that way with me, my father and Perdicus' father decided when we were very little that we would marry when we'd grown up, and Perdicus would become my father's heir. We knew we were betrothed, of course, but as children it only meant that our mothers approved of us playing together. Which meant that whenever we weren't working, me, Lila, Perdicus and our friend Seraphin would go and get into one mess or another."

"When we got older, things changed. There were…expectations." Gabrielle looked very uncomfortable at that, and Xena was thinking of a long list of things to do to hapless goat herders.

"That's where the, umm, kissing thing came into the picture. Anyway, the day that was decided upon to be Perdicus' and my wedding day was the first day of the harvest festival on the year that the drought struck, so by unspoken agreement it was postponed a year. Then Perdicus' family wanted us to wait until father got the farm back together, but when father kept failing… I was never told exactly what was said, only that father came back from a meeting with Perdicus' father and told me that the betrothal was off."

"Did it… bother you? That you would not marry this…" Xena was surprised to find that she could not make herself say the name. "goat herder?" Well he was, surely that can't be too offensive?

"No, not at all! You see, Perdicus and I, well, we…" Gabrielle was silent for a long while. "We were friends growing up. The man… wasn't even my friend, not really. But I was never asked what I wanted…"

"When the marriage would not happen, Perdicus' family wanted their money back, and we didn't have any. There were other offers for me, but none that father approved of, so I talked to the mayor and got his promise that I could work in the inn for him, that I could sleep in the kitchen and he would feed me, and I would give my earnings to father. I also got Lila an apprenticeship to the seamstress, and that would bring in some dinars too."

"I honestly thought father would approve, but that evening Madame Thora had approached him with her offer. Father made it clear to me that no matter what I said, either Lila or myself would be leaving with Madame Thora that evening…"

"He knew you would agree to spare your sister… the bastard! So, when he could weedle no more out of your would-be suitors, and rather than having to wait a while for the dinars you would manage to earn for him, he sold his oldest child as a slave. Not to a merchant or a farmer, but to a brothel! Like so much cattle!" Xena was truly enraged by Herodotus' behavior, but tried to control herself not to frighten the girl further. "Your mother, Gabrielle, what did she do during all this?"



"…she took the two dinars I had already earned at the inn from me, because she said I wouldn't need them anymore where I was going."

Xena opened her mouth to spout some kind of profanity over Gabirelle's parents, but was stopped short when the young woman started crying inconsolably in her arms. Heart wrenched by the pitiful sound, she did somewhat awkwardly try to hold Gabrielle close and offer her comfort.

'This was not quite what I had in mind when I thought she'd be more relaxed if I could get her to talk to me. I wanted her in my arms, yes, but somehow I had a more joyous experience in mind.'

But all the same Xena held Gabrielle quite gently as she wept, wishing only that she could think of something to make Gabrielle's sorrow go away.

Xena The Conqueror, Ruler of The Known World, and the most powerful and legendary woman in that world, sat holding her weeping young slave for a long time, until Gabrielle finally ran out of tears.

Cradling Gabrielle closer in her arms and burrowing her face into Gabrielle's hair, Xena sighed dejectedly. "Here I thought we would speak for a while, indulge in some sweet wine and maybe get to know one another a little, before ending the night with you in my arms, in bed, showing you the gift of Aphrodite. Instead I make you sad, and make you cry, and I would be a cad to do anything more than maybe hold you through the night. Simply an act of brilliance."

"I-I'm sorry My Lord." Gabrielle sniffled.

"No no, shh." Xena kissed her gently. "You have nothing to apologize for." Another kiss, deeper and longer this time. "Gods, but you have sweet lips Gabrielle! I could come to crave a daily dosage of these remarkable lips, quite easily."

Xena rested her forehead against the younger woman's, and wondered if there was any chance she truly could control her burning libido for another night. She allowed herself another kiss before pulling at Gabrielle, intending to stand them both up from their semi-reclined position.

But that last kiss did Gabrielle in, and the day's intense emotional upheaval left her inhibitions on too shaky grounds, allowing her to follow a more instinctive response. Moaning slightly Gabrielle used Xena's pull upward to search for another kiss, inadvertently toppling them both in the process.

What followed was far more intense, and infinitely more hot than previous kisses, as neither woman thought of a reason not to indulge in their passionate exchange. After long moments of heated kisses and touches, Xena finally moved back just a little.

Shaking her head slightly to clear it, Xena gazed into green eyes mere inches from her own, in a face flushed from their activity. She shivered slightly and growled deep in her throat as she could see a desire in those eyes that matched her own.

Unsteadily Xena got to her feet, bringing Gabrielle with her since she simply refused to let the other woman go for even a moment, and whispered huskily into her ear. "Bed?"

Gabrielle was beyond coherence at this point, but the eager clinging did not seem like a rejection, so Xena carried the now rather passionate young woman across the floor.

The worn peasant clothes did not survive Xena's frantic search for Gabrielle' skin, and her own fine garments caught a tear or two before they, too, were impatiently shed. Once naked, Gabrielle's ardour cooled ever so slightly, and anxiety moved back in place.

Xena noticed, and pulled Gabrielle back into her arms. With her lips agains Gabrielle's ear she asked "Do you wish to… deny me?"

Her voice was gentle, without malice or threat, but something Xena had said to her in the brothel suddenly sprung to Gabrielle's mind. 'Nor may you refuse me', that was what Xena had said at that time. So was she genuinely giving Gabrielle a choice now, or was she testing her? Was she free to actually say no?

And did it matter?

As she gazed into those incredibly blue eyes Gabrielle came to the conclusion that no, it didn't really matter. Because as frightening as it may be, 'no' was not what her heart was telling her right now.

She smiled shyly and shook her head emphatically. And got a startling reward in Xena's wide, delighted smile.

Soon, in the middle of that luxurious ocean of a bed, all wrapped in satin sheets and one most warm and hot-blooded warrior, the young woman from Poteidaia found myriads of sensations and feelings that not even her active mind had been able to imagine before.

Everything was new, unexpected and exciting. Lips and hands and even teeth, all traced a map of sensations that had Gabrielle breathless with desire. Then Xena dipped down to indulge in a different taste of Gabrielle's sweetness, and Gabrielle found her voice. With a vengeance.

Gabrielle came quite vocally from the diligence of Xena's lips, tounge and hands, and once her energy was spent, she lay back down trying to catch her breath. But when she heard Xena's growl she opened her eyes again, and was shocked to see a feline predator stalk its way back up her body.

"Gods woman, I could come just listening to you!" Xena's hungry look caused Gabrielle's heartbeat to speed right back up once more. And then Xena was upon her again.

"Spread your legs for me, my sweet."

Xena moved upon her, and gasping Gabrielle responded. Closing her eyes, Gabrielle moved with Xena as she, with firm hands and a mounting sense of urgency, ground her sex into Gabrielle's. Soon Gabrielle was approaching that pinnacle again, but Xena's shaking voice in her ear called her back from the brink.

"G-gabrielle? May I…?"

Gabrielle had no idea what the question was, and frankly didn't care as long as they just didn't stop quite yet. And she could not have answered Xena anyway. But silence apparently was answer enough, because Xena withdrew for a brief moment.

Gabrielle frowned and opened her eyes, just as Xena once again sought her lips in a hot exchange. But there was something down there that had not been there before, rubbing gently at Gabrielle.

Moving together again, Xena's arms gripped Gabrielle just a bit tighter, and in one, smooth motion, Gabrielle was entered.

Gabrielle cried out at the sudden pain, but Xena touched and kissed so gently and soothing, until the sting of pain was far less than the desire to continue, to reach that summit. Moving in unison, the held back desire was so great that it did not take them long to peak, Gabrielle's loud cry accompanied by Xena's low-pitched one.

Gabrielle had not the energy left in her to open her eyes when Xena gently withdrew from inside her and left the bed. She did begin to protest, however, when moments later she felt Xena reaching for her thighs.

"Sshh my sweet, I'm only going to clean you a little." Xena's voice was as gentle as her hands as she carefully wiped Gabrielle with a wet cloth.

That done, Xena laid down next to Gabrielle and wrapped her arms tenderly around the young woman, kissing and caressing her lovingly. Feeling a sense of contentment she never had experienced before, Gabrielle burrowed her head into a convenient shoulder, sighed softly, and went to sleep.

The last thing she heard of Xena's whispered endearments was a sleepy but still solemn oath.

"Oh my sweet Gabrielle, I promise I will never consciously hurt you when we make love ever again.

I swear it."

Chapter 4: Talking Things Through

Waking up in someone else's arms was another new sensation for Gabrielle, although in truth Xena was none to acustomed to it either, and it was found to be a very pleasant one. The dull ache and strain Gabrielle could feel from her lower body was equally a new sensation, but one she could do without in her opinion.

Xena, as if reading Gabrielle's mind, gently rubbed her lower back in soothing circles and told Gabrielle that the ache would soon be gone, and promised that Gabrielle would not need to do anything too stressful that day. It was a moment of utter sweetness, and Gabrielle once again wondered about the concept of slavery.

Xena sighed and shook her head ruefully. "I'm such a bastard. You cry you heart out in my arms and I promise not to push things, to leave you be for just one night. But instead I barely let you dry your eyes before I tear the clothes off your back and ravish you. So much for treating you gently."

Gabrielle blushed fiercely. "I… I think that was me that, um, started it… you know?" Peeking shyly at Xena's expression. "And I, I, umm… I… Ireallywantedyouto."

The confession earned her a soft kiss and a gloriously warm embrace. "I'm glad Gabrielle. I'm really glad. Did it hurt an awful lot?" Xena was gently cuddling Gabrielle to her. Gabrielle shook her head resolutely, it had definitely been worth that small bit of pain.

"Good, good. Well Gabrielle, as much as I would like to stay in bed with you all day, how about some breakfast?"

The answering rumble emanating from Gabrielle stomach caused the young girl to blush again and Xena to burst out laughing.

Before getting to enjoy their breakfast, Gabrielle was treated to a tour of the bath facilities. Xena took quite a delight in explaining in great detail how the warm and cold water was transported there through pipes, to both the huge sunken oriental-style bath, as well as to the spouts above porcelain bowls that was for washing hands and face. The lavatory in itself was a firmly closed off affair so that no unpleasant odour would escape, also in porcelain and more comfortable than most chairs Gabrielle had used in her young life. She was thankful that it did afford privacy for her visits, something the bath did not - giving herself a quick wash while Xena was right there doing the same was very awkward. Xena had promised her that Gabrielle could take a long soak in the luxurious tub later, but for now a quick wash with a washrag, a bit of soap and a bucket of water would do, much like back home - even if the bucket was fancy and the soap was purple and smelled like lavender.

Having no clothes left to wear did pose a bit of a problem. Xena solved it temporarily by having Gabrielle wear one of Xena's emboidered tunics together with a pair of breeches that was cut off at Gabrielle's ankles. She informed Gabrielle that she would order the seamstress to sow up an entirely new wardrobe for Gabrielle, so Gabrielle would have to take measurements later that day. When she told Gabrielle that she had gotten some really nice silk in her latest tribute from Chin that would look nice, Gabrielle choked on her honeyed roll.

"Easy now, it's not going anywhere." Xena smirked, and nudged Gabrielles tea closer. "Gods, but you look like such a child wearing that."

Xena was much surprised, and very amused, to see Gabrielle turn stubbornly defiant over that remark.

"I am not a child! In Poteidaia women my age would…"

"Peace, peace." Xena smirked. "I do not question that you are a woman, Gabrielle…" Xena's gaze raked lustfully over Gabrielle's form, even though it was covered in much to large clothing. "Far from it."

"I'm doing my best to be a good warrior here, and stay nibbling on my toast." Xena's voice pitched to a low sultry tone. "When I would much rather dine on a sweet breakfast of Gabrielle…" She leaned in to brush her hand up Gabrielle's thigh.

Gabrielle yelped, bug-eyed, and lunged for her tea, draining it in one long draught. Xena laughed.

As they continued to eat their breakfast, Xena with a small smile playing at the edges of her lips all the while, Gabrielle stole frequent glances at the darkhaired woman. Now, in the light of this morning, Gabrielle became aware of things she had been far to nervous to notice before.

Xena was, simply put, extraordinarily beautiful.

That face, those eyes, that smile… Gabrielle tried not to stare, and found her heartrate going up as Xena flashed her another bright smile. What was that all about?

That hair, those eyes again… Why would someone like this want someone like Gabrielle, for anything at all?

Those strong arms, that strong, beautiful body… She could have anyone at all in all the world, and yet Xena seemed to have picked her. Little Gabrielle from Poteidaia. And made her feel very desired, when they'd…

Gabrielle's thoughts sidetracked to the previous evening's events. They had. Oh gods, they really had! And how! Suddenly the strange conversations and supposedly good advice she'd gotten from the prostitutes at the brothel seemed to make perfect sense. Well, almost. Much more sense than her mother's advice regarding Perdicus, back when it was still presumed they would marry. 'Stay still, try to relax and think of something else, and with any luck he'll be done quickly.' her mother had said then.

A glance at Xena, remembering the touches and how they made her feel. 'Think of something else? Not a chance. You have no idea mother.'

'Oh Xena, I am quite sure I shouldn't be feeling this way, whatever this is. Gods, her hands, her _lips_…' Gabrielle was feeling decidedly dizzy just remembering. 'I'm going insane!' Another glance at Xena. 'But look at her! Gods, I hope she doesn't notice! If she touches me I'll die! If she _doesn't_ touch me I'll die!' Wasn't there any more tea? 'I want her to kiss me. Kiss me Xena! Kiss me now!'

Xena did notice Gabrielle's odd behaviour. The girl looked flushed and seemed to be breathing a bit more heavily. Was there anything… Ah. Xena smiled to herself. That slightly glazed look in Gabrielle's eyes…

She leaned in and purred into Gabrielle's ear. "Thinking of last night, are you my sweet?"

Gabrielle was very embarrassed to find that she moaned out loud and leaned into Xena.

"Me too." Xena whispered, and pulled Gabrielle into her lap and hungrily sought out her lips.

When after quite some time they finally separated they were both breathing heavily, and Xena was once again fighting the impulse to simply throw Gabrielle across the table and devour her. Considering that Gabrielle's lovely green eyes had gone dark with desire, it seemed likely that she would not particularly object, either. Unfortunately they did not quite have the time.

"As much as I would really like to continue this…" Xena said regretfully. "I'm expecting the Chamberlain here at virtually any moment. And I wouldn't let the old lecher lay as much as an eye on you." Grinning roguishly at a slightly embarrassed Gabrielle.

"I'll have to leave then, after going through a few things with him first, and it'll take me most of the day I'm afraid. We have a few things to go through before he gets here, then after I leave you can take that bath you wanted. The seamstress will be announced by the guards before she's let in, so you won't have to worry that she'll surprise you in the bath."

"Also, I'm going to send the Junior Chamberlain, or Chamberlain's Assistant as he prefer to call himself, to keep you company while I'm gone. His name is Jace, an agreeable young man who happens to be a true sodomite, unlike the old pervert. He'll show you around, maybe you'll want to go to the Royal Library if I'm gone long?"

"Oh… Don't look so sad Gabrielle. I do unfortunately have a score of tedious meetings I must attend to today, as much as I would prefer to spend the day with you instead. I'll try to keep the fools on a blabbering limit so I can come find you as soon as possible, allright?"

Xena sighed. "It's one of the many drawbacks of ruling the world, Gabrielle. Everyone comes to you with their problems, no matter how petty, and you're the one left to sort them out. Even when people know what they need to do, they want to come and take up my time telling their stories, and then hear me tell them to do what they already knew all along they had to."

"The General of Messini said his girlfriend is much more beautiful than the General of Parnassus' lover, and soon I had a dispute on my hands. Their neighbour throws his lot in, and suddenly all three are threatening to go to an all-out threeway war in that zone, all over male ego. So I must play their nursemaid, sit them down and tell them to play nice, or I'll give them a spanking." Giving Gabrielle a long-suffering look. "Imagine how tedious these things are to deal with all the time."

That got her Gabrielle's sympathy, and Gabrielle felt a bit sheepish that she had wanted Xena to stay with her. She opened her mouth to speak, but hesitantly closed it again.

"Yes? What were you going to say?"

"Nothing, really… It's just that, you describe those men as little boys, well… It seems like, if they can't play nice and not bother you, you should tell them someone else might get their toys." Gabrielle glanced up and saw Xena's amused expression. "Well that worked with the children in Poteidaia…" She muttered uncomfortably. "Silly me, huh?"

Xena just shook her head.

"But back to you Gabrielle. We need more time to go through things properly, but a few things should be mentioned before I go off for my meetings today. Do you remember what I told you I expected of you as my body slave?"

Gabrielle frowned, but recited Xena verbatim. Xena blinked. "I can be so charming when I put my mind to it." She muttered and scratched her chin. "Do you always remember everything people tells you, word for word?"

"Yes, mother used to put me in places to listen to what the other adults would talk about when I was little, then ask me to repeat it to her later. If I hear it I remember it, it's just the way it works."

"Interesting… can be a useful skill to have, Gabrielle. Anyway… There are a lot of do's and don't's for you to remember, most of them are about loyalty to me. You may not, for instance, reveal things I tell you that are important or might be used against me, or knowledge you will have of me. Do you understand why?"

Gabrielle looked uncertain, so Xena took time to think of something that might explain. "Say you would be overheard saying that when we are in bed I no longer notice the world around me. That bit of information gets around, and the next thing I know there's assassins taking pot-shots at me in bed with you."

"Oh!" Swallowing hard. "I promise, I won't reveal anything like that to anyone!" Shyly she continued. "Xena? Do you, really?"

"What?" Gabrielle blushed, and Xena caught a clue."Riiight. Why yes Gabrielle, when we are together…" She gave Gabrielle a sultry look. "…my senses are all filled with you. The castle could come tumbling down for all I'll notice."

She smirked at the shy but pleased little smile that graced Gabrielle's lips at her answer.

"You may not be unfaithful to me." Gabrielle looked quite offended by that, which endeared her all the more to Xena. "It might seem a natural course of action to you right now, but in time… Should you ever… I'm not adressing this right, am I? To put this in my most blunt fashion, though it makes me sound barbaric, here goes. If a man or woman by word or deed comes on to you Gabrielle, I will have them punished, and severly. You are _my_ woman Gabrielle! Would I find that you are the one to…"

Gabrielle's hand across her lips made Xena go quiet in surprise.

"May I say something? This might sound awfully silly to you, but… " Spoken with shy hesitation. "This is how I thought of it last night."

"I will act as though you are m-my husband." She was blushing furiously and avoiding to look at the astounded Xena, but bravely pressed on to get it all out before she thought better of it. "That way I can sort of figure out what will be expected of me… I'll serve you and obey you, we umm, ahmm, well… and keep you company when you want me to, try to anticipate your needs when I can, of course I'll never be unfaithful or disloyal, and I will try very hard to please you and make you happy." Gabrielle almost gasped, having gotten that out at last.

"You humble me." Xena's voice was soft and very gentle. Gabrielle looked up, finally, and saw a strange expression on Xena's face, one that seemed both sad, affectionate and… longing? "Allright, to hear you say that is actually far more reassurance than I would have asked for, so the other details can wait. But Gabrielle? You do know that I very much want to please you and make you happy, too, don't you?" Xena's voice was almost pleading.

Gabrielle smiled, a pretty smile that warmed Xena's heart. "I do now. Thank you."

Xena shook hear head and pulled Gabrielle back into her lap. "Although it sounds good in this respect, your definition of a wife's expectancy from married life is rather depressing. Is that what you would have had to expect from life married to… the goat farmer?" She kissed Gabrielle's brow.

"I am my father's property until he sells me to another for a price he chooses. It doesn't really matter if you call it marriage or slavery, does it? It would still not have anything to do with freedom, or choice, and then I'd be my husband's property. He would be free to do whatever he pleases to me, and have me do whatever he pleases. Should I refuse, I would be punished. So, the difference, as I see it, is that maybe I get a slavebrand instead of a wedding band, and you have already treated me better than anybody ever did in my life." Quietly."You even listen when I speak, don't you?"

"Oh Gabrielle!" Xena's voice was choked, but she held Gabrielle so close that the young woman could not make out her expression as she spoke. "How could anyone treat you… And women's situation in Poteidaia is abhorrent! I will have to see to it that my laws are enforced better, that much is clear to me."

"And my sweet, there will be no marks put upon your lovely skin by me. I don't brand the slaves that work in the castle, they just wear the castle mark on their collars for the years they work for me. You will not even need to do that, I would not have you wear a slavecollar for any reason."

"You see, my sweet Gabrielle, while I can't outlaw slavery, I have made laws that protect even the rights of slaves. It will take a long time and a lot of enforcing of those laws before they are accepted, but in time the difference between slave and merely servant will be very small. And in my castles the slaves all live by my laws, and it has proven to be a working system."

Quietly. "You are the only personal slave I have had, Gabrielle, since I in my youth defeated a warlord who had the body slave Satrina. I gave her her freedom back at once, but she stayed with me, and now she's a general in my army in Africaans."

"Does it still ache much, Gabrielle?" Spoken softly, while she lightly rubbed the small of Gabrielle's back.

"No, it's allright, it's… not that… bad…" A strange expression passed over Gabrielles features.

"Xena? What was that you, umm, well, you used last night? I thought I felt…"

"Oh, that!" Xena grinned sheepishly. "Did I forget to tell you about that? Ooops."

"When I was considerably much younger than I am now, I sort of had this reputation among the Olympian gods. Well Aphrodite took a shine to me, and we were lovers for this very brief time." Gabrielle scowled. "Anyway, during that she gave me a gift that not a lot of people know about…" Xena almost looked shy.

"You mean, that was… you? But you're not a…" Staring inadvertently at Xena's crotch as if it would reveal anything. "Oh! Is that what you meant by showing me the 'gift of Aphrodite'?"

"No no, I'm not, I'm all woman, believe me. And I don't turn into a male with this gift, I just get something rather similar to a certain part of the male equipment. And no, that wasn't what I meant at all… Haven't you heard that people call a woman's pleasure the gift of Aphrodite?" Gabrielle digested that.

"Can you… Is there any chance that I might… get pregnant?"

Xena's eyes got all round at this suggestion. "I suppose it might… It should be possible, actually. It's not like I have used it a lot so I wouldn't know, though."

"Tell you what though." Xena smiled brightly at Gabrielle. "Bear my child Gabrielle, and I will make you my Queen. That wouldn't be so bad, would it?"

Part 5

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