by Laine Roberta Lawless
It was close to midnight when the soldiers returned with Protus, and almost everyone in camp was sleeping, except for Xena, who was still seething over her defeat. They dismounted, pulled him off his horse, and pushed him, hands bound behind him, to the ground.
"I thought I told you to be back before nightfall!" Xena snapped.
"Im sorry, Xena. He was following the remnants of Boregos army and it took us awhile to get the drop on him and get him away without anyone noticing. I thought you would prefer we return with him, even if we were late."
"Youre rightthis time," Xena said ironically, implying that he usually was wrong. Xena pulled Protus up by his hair until he was kneeling in the dust and facing her. "So, youd desert my army for a buffoon like Borego? Whats the matter with you?" she said, and slapped him hard across the face. Protus flinched but he didnt speak.
"Talk to me, you coward!" she yelled, getting louder. Xena slapped him even harder in the face, but still he did not talk. Her face took on an ugly cast, her lips curling into a snarl, and her brow furrowing. She despised defiance to her authority. Seeing that this might take some time, she told the soldiers to bring him to her tent.
She had the soldiers tie him up to the center pole of the tent, with his hands bound behind his back. Alyssea and Gabrielle were inside sleeping, until the soldiers brought Protus in. "Whats going on?" Alyssea asked, waking up.
"This is the traitor who betrayed us!" Xena spat, pointing at Protus, whose head was hanging down. "This is the little worm who said that Lyceus army would make easy pickings. Now hes going to pay for his treachery. No one fucks me over and gets away with it," Xena threatened. The whole time Xena was talking, Gabrielle was staring at her wide-eyed. Shed had some rough nights at the tavern, witnessed some brawls, but there was something particularly horrifying about the sadistic look on Xenas face tonight. It really scared her. Alysseas shoulder was still hurting, and she smiled at the thought that she might get to torture Protus a little.
"Let me have a crack at him, Xena!"
"I will," Xena reassured her. "But I get to have him first," she said ominously.
Protus was shaking in his boots. He had seen Xena in action once before when she was this angry. He weighed whether he should talk or not. Either way, he figured he would end up dead, so why should he confess anything? Xena knew hed betrayed her, and she was not the forgiving kind. Her vengeance was swift and assured. Xena grabbed his beard and stuck her face in his. "Who paid you to tell me that lie? Was it Borego?" she demanded.
He could feel her hot breath on his skin, and the white-hot anger she exuded enveloped him like a tornado, swirling around him, assaulting every part of his being. Protus was so scared he pissed in his pants. Everyone in the tent could hear it cascading down his leg and falling like a small stream to the ground. Xena was disgusted and amused at the same time. She laughed, but it was anything but reassuring. She used it to publicly humiliate him.
"You know, Protus, I used to think you had some guts, but youre just a little bedwetter, arent you?" The soldiers and the women all laughed. "I dont like traitors, you know that. You will pay for what youve done. Tell me now, make it easy on yourself, and maybe Ill let you live."
"Xena, you wouldnt kill him, would you? What has he done?" Gabrielle blurted out, alarmed at the danger she perceived.
"Gabrielle, stay out of thisits not your concern!" Xena was clearly annoyed with Gabrielle. This was her show, and she was going to run it her way.
"But Xena, you cant just kill him! What about the changes you wanted to make?"
This had gone beyond annoyance to embarrassment, and Xena had had enough. "Come with me!" she said, pulling Gabrielle out of her blankets and marching her outside the tent. Gabrielle resisted a little bit, and then deciding Xenas temper was too volatile, reluctantly cooperated.
"This matter is none of your business!" she hissed. "This man is responsible for my decision to fight this battle, and he lied to me about the strength of my enemy. Someone paid him to give me false information, and I have to find out who."
Staring right back into her blazing blue eyes, Gabrielle said, "I thought you wanted to make a change in your life, Xena. So how can you change if you do this? You come in here, you wake me up and then you start torturing someone. And you dont expect me to object? What is this?" she pleaded.
"Dont challenge my authority in front of my troops! I told you when you came here you would see things that would make you sick. If youre not ready for that, then you shouldnt be here!" Gabrielles eyes started to moisten, and she looked as if she were ready to cry. Xena softened toward her, and the coals of her anger began to die down. "All right," she said, putting her arm around Gabrielle, "Ill deal with this skunk tomorrow. Im sorry for the way I woke you up. Go back to bed."
Gabrielle still wasnt sure what Xena would do with her prisoner, but she was scared enough by the Xena she had seen tonight to rethink challenging her again. Xena led her back to the tent, and Gabrielle lay down.
"Tie him up to a tree outside and put a guard on him all night. I dont want him to get away," Xena told the soldiers. "Good work," she said as they exited. Xenas anger had been burned out of her for the moment, and she decided she could finish with Protus in the morning. There would be plenty of time.
Xena lay down in her tent and was just drifting off to sleep when she felt something touch her shoulder. Startled, she sat upright and cocked her fist, preparing to strike at the intruder. Gabrielle lurched back on her heels, almost falling over. When Xena saw who it was, she said, "Dont sneak up on me like thatyou might get hurt!"
"I-I was cold. Can I sleep with you to stay warm?" Gabrielle pleaded, her eyes like those of a hungry puppy.
Xena thought such a request strange, but she didnt see what harm it could do, and it was a chill night. She lifted her blanket and motioned for Gabrielle to come in. She lay next to Xena, facing her back, and threw her arm over Xenas waist. Xena was a little surprised to feel Gabrielles breasts grazing her back, and her arm around her . Suddenly she felt Gabrielles hand start to wander up to her breasts, and down to her pubis, while soft kisses were being planted on her back and neck. The Warrior Princess felt herself becoming aroused. What was unusual about this for her was that she had never felt this way before with a woman. Xena could feel all the tension and anger of the day starting to drain away from her, to be replaced with a pleasurable new excitement. Rather than question it, she just let herself slip into the pleasure of the moment.
Gabrielle had known little hedonistic pleasure in her life. It seemed that every time shed had sex with a man, it had been for his pleasure, and shed gotten nothing out of it. It had been quick and brutish, with no thought given to what would please her. She wasnt even sure why she had done it, except once in awhile shed gotten some money for it. Gabrielle was tired of pleasing men. She was excited being next to this powerful, volatile woman with a hard body. Her passion was unleashed, she wanted to please this warrior, to love her, even though she didnt know how. So she worshipped her with her hands, caressing every inch of her body. Xena didnt say anything, but Gabrielle thought she was pleased by her uneven breathing and her occasional moans.
Gabrielle turned Xena over on her back, straddled her and planted a kiss on her lips. Xena kissed back with a passion that Gabrielle had never experienced. This was a new experience for Xena, since she had never been with a woman before. She delighted in exploring Gabrielles body, feeling her breasts, her slim waist, her firm butt. She put her hand between Gabrielles legs and felt the wetness there. Gabrielle moaned in her ear, and moved onto Xenas hand. The hand found her inner crevice, and went exploring inside it.
Xena continued kissing Gabrielle, their tongues mingling in a slow dance, and rolled her over on her back. Gabrielle couldnt hold back anymore. She sucked in her breath and let out a loud sigh, and pushed Xenas hand farther in her, saying, "I want you inside me--now!" Xena buried her fingers in Gabrielle while her thumb massaged her clitoris. She was wet all over, and so was Xena, who was panting and sweating with excitement. She didnt know why, but Xena felt the urge to kiss Gabrielle all over, starting at the top and working her way down to that special place. She was so slippery with sweat, she tasted salty, and she smelled sweet. Starting to kiss her, Xena was inextricably drawn to her vulva, compelled to taste it, to drink in its essence.
Gabrielle was being pulled into Xena by a magnetic force. She wanted more of her, wanted to be closer to her. She asked Xena to turn around, so she could get closer to her sex, and pulled her to her mouth. Putting her hand between Xenas legs, she heard a gasp, and felt Xenas body tremble. She wanted to taste the Warrior Princess, to be inside of her, to feel what she felt, to know what she knew.
They immersed themselves in the pleasure of each other, unashamedly and with total abandon, and at last they were satisfied. It seemed to last an eternity, but it was over quickly. They contentedly lay in each others arms without speaking. Xena was not quite sure what to say, and she was really more comfortable not talking. Gabrielle was afraid to say anything, afraid the genuineness of the experience would evaporate at the utterance of one word, so she remained silent. They drifted off to sleep that way, in each others arms, unaware that someone had been observing the entire time.
Xena and Gabrielle awakened to sunlight streaming into the tent, and a shadow falling over them. "Did you two have a good time last night?" Alyssea sneered, standing over them with her hands on her hips. Xena was still sleepy when she found Gabrielle encircled in her arms, and she was momentarily set back until she remembered the night before. Recalling how good she had felt, she squeezed Gabrielle and smiled. She hadnt had that much pleasure in many a month, and she savored every minute of it, with no regrets at all over what she had done.
She looked up and found Alyssea and a group of soldiers standing around her and Gabrielle in a circle. "Yes," she said, and held Gabrielle even tighter. Gabrielle had a frightened look in her eyes. She had never before been surrounded by this many warriors at one time, warriors who were glaring at her with icy eyes. "What are you doing in here now?" Xena demanded.
"We are awaiting orders from you," the Captain said.
"Get out of here!" Xena bellowed. "This isnt a show! Ill let you know what I want when Im ready!" And with that, the soldiers turned and left, murmuring among themselves. There was no doubt as to the subject of their discussions.
"Why did you let them in here?" she demanded of Alyssea.
"I didnt. I was just getting up when they came in," Alyssea protested.
"Well, you should have kept them out!" Xena barked, standing up to her full 6 feet, totally naked. "And what was that smart question you asked me?"
"Oh, I dont know," she said coyly. "I was awake last night after everyone left. You were very noisy."
It seemed to Xena that there was a note of jealously in Alysseas voice, so she said sarcastically, "Oh, Im sorrymaybe we should have invited you to join us!" With that, Alyssea turned on her heels and stomped out of the tent.
Gabrielle was sitting up by now. "Is something wrong?" she asked. not really wanting to hear the answer.
"No, everythings just fine," Xena lied, offering her a hand, and helping her get up. "Lets go down to the stream and clean up," she suggested, offering Gabrielle a long shirt to cover her nakedness.
Xena was careful that her men did not see her and Gabrielle going to the stream to bathe. One audience had been enough this morning, and she didnt feel like doing any explaining. As they slipped into the chill water, Gabrielle asked, "Xena, what are you going to do with that man you had tied up last night?"
"I dont know, Gabrielle. He must be punished for his treachery. I cant just let him go free."
"Xena, I thought you wanted to change in your life. How will punishing him change anything?"
Xena was silentshe found this question difficult to answer, because she was having a hard time justifying it to herself. She looked up to the sky, as if searching for answers from above. A lone raven swooped down past her and Gabrielle, turned in Xenas direction and cawed loudly, circled around them, and then flew away. "Was this a sign?" Xena wondered. A raven was usually a messenger from the gods, an omen that brought enlightenment.
Just then Gabrielle said, "If you want to leave all this bloodshed behind, Xena, shedding more blood is not a good start."
Then Xena remembered what the seer had told her: that the goddess may speak through Gabrielle. Suddenly she had this light feeling, as if some burden were being lifted from her. and she felt free to leave war behind. She encircled Gabrielle in her arms and held her tightly.
"I dont want to fight anymore, at least not for gain. This was to be my last battle, my one big score, and because I didnt listen to my gut feeling, half my army is dead. Im responsible for their deaths, just as much as Protus is."
Gabrielle looked up into Xenas eyes and asked, "So what are you going to do with him?"
Xena, still holding her, said, "I cant just let him go. My men wouldnt respect me."
"Your men dont respect you now," Gabrielle said ironically. "I heard them talking about us when they left your tent. Its all my fault because I slept with you, and they saw us," she said, trying to pull away from Xena.
Xena held onto her and would not let go. Not feeling quite as confident as she usually did, she said, "What we did last nite was beautiful. I havent felt such pleasure in a long time. I loved being with youI have no regrets. Do you?" she questioned, holding Gabrielles face up so she could look her in the eyes and see her feelings.
"No, I loved pleasing you. I dont know what happened to me, I just, I just " she drifted off, at a loss for words. She knew the fearsome attraction she felt for the Warrior Princess, and it scared her, but she didnt want to let Xena know that. Xena didnt ask any further; she just held Gabrielles face in her hands, and gave her a long, passionate kiss, and Gabrielle relaxed into Xenas embrace.
Xena left the water with Gabrielle knowing what she had to do. She had to disband her army and punish the traitor. And she wanted to leave with Gabrielle and Alyssea if she wanted to go.
Continued in Powerplay .
ã 1997 Laine Roberta Lawless
No reproduction or distribution without authorization