Idylls of the Conqueror

Chapter 8

The Conqueror returned to her castle in triumph.  The first night back was spent celebrating with her officers, but she excused herself after a few hours and summoned Hercules to her chambers.  He entered and immediately dropped to his knees and began pulling off his gauntlets and taking off his shirt.  An amused half-smile quirked her lips as she took them from him.  "You're a good boy," she observed.  She stroked along his jawline with her index finger, then tipped his head up to look at her, and noticed that his eyes were filled with tears.  With a bemused smile, she asked, "What is it, slave boy?"

"I don't think you'll like my explanation, my lady," he said hesitantly.

"Don't worry about it.  You have my permission to speak freely."  She draped herself over a chair and beckoned Hercules, pointing to the ground in front of her chair.

He got up, walked to the indicated spot, and knelt again.  "I . . . I don't believe in slavery," he began.  "I never have.  I know that all of this . . . " he gestured widely, " . . . is wrong.  But here I am.  What have you done to me?  And how have you done it?"

"Haven't you figured out by now, slave boy, that I haven't done anything to you?  To the others, yes.  Not to you.  Whether you believe in slavery or not, you obey my every order, and more than that, you go out of your way to make sure you please me.  And when you know you have, your eyes light up with devotion.  You're not like Gabrielle and the others.  They don't know anything but giving themselves to their owners.  They don't have a choice about what they are.  Not you.  You could free yourself any time you chose; we both know that.  But here you are."  She lifted her eyebrows and smiled again, her eyes glinting with amusement.

"You made the others the way they are, my lady," he noted cautiously.

"Yes," she agreed.  "I can't afford to have my authority questioned.  Greece can't afford for me not to have perfect control.  Caesar's too dangerous to us.  But there's a price, I see now.  So many of my people have . . . a kind of emptiness behind their eyes.  I never saw it until I saw the desire in yours, Hercules.  The way you offer yourself to me--it's such a struggle for you, and it means all the more to me.  What you do takes a type of strength that I don't often encounter."  She changed courses abruptly.  "Let me see that gash in your side."

"It's much better," he began.

"I didn't ask your opinion of it, slave boy.  I asked to see it," she snapped.

"Of course.  I'm sorry, my lady."  He pulled off the bandages, and she touched him lightly, inspecting the wound.

"You heal unnaturally quickly, slave boy.  I think it's time for you to tell me who you are and where you're from and why you're here.  But come to bed.  I may as well amuse myself with you while we talk."

"As you wish."  As they stood up, Hercules suddenly took Xena by the shoulders from behind, sliding his hands down her arms, so he lightly held them behind her back.  "I'm curious, my lady," he said mildly.  "Do you ever consider that I'm one of the few people in Greece who could have my way with you if I chose?"

Xena turned around to look at him, her face glowing.  "Yes, slave boy, and it's so enticing knowing you have that capacity but would never use it against me.  All that strength is at my disposal--freely offered."  She jerked her head.  "Now come on and do as you're told."

"Yes, my lady," said Hercules with a wry smile and a slight sigh, as he let go of Xena's wrists, followed her into her bedroom, and removed his clothes at her direction.

She settled herself against a pile of pillows leaning against the head of the bed, then patted the spot in front of her.  "Lean back here against me.  Yes, here."  He found himself between her legs, his head leaning on her shoulder.  With one arm she reached around him, and began to play with his chest, occasionally twirling a curl of hair around her finger and tugging it, occasionally tracing circles around one nipple or the other.

He was fully aroused, and she noted, "You do like it when I give you orders, don't you?"

She grasped a handful of his hair with her other hand and pulled his head so he would have to look up at her.  With an embarrassed but warm smile he admitted, "Yes, it seems that I . . . do."

"Well, that," she indicated his erection, "will have to wait.  Let's start with who you are," she ordered, as her hand travelled across his chest.

"Well, that will also explain why I heal so quickly.  I'm the son of Zeus--and a mortal woman."

He heard a sharp intake of breath behind him and a  soft whistle.  "A half-god.  That explains a lot.  In fact, I suspected as much once I saw your strength.  I thought you were sent here as a punishment perhaps.  But the son of Zeus?  I've never heard of you."

"There's a reason for that, but it's a long story."

"I'm comfortable," she said with a smirk.  "Carry on."

*This isn't easy,* thought the demigod to himself as the Conqueror's long fingers combed through the hair on his chest.  "Please let me ask you a question first, my lady.  Do you ever . . . have unusual dreams?"

"Ye-ess," she said slowly, her eyebrows knitting in a frown.  "I dreamed of you, slave boy, before you ever appeared here.  You're lucky I didn't use my dreams as a basis for deciding what to do with you.  In most of them, you had bested me in a fight, and you were holding a sword at my neck."

"That happened," he said quietly, turning to look at her.  "In another . . . timeline."

Her hand on his chest stilled.  "Another timeline?  That's pretty improbable, boy.  Why should I trust you or anything you say?" she demanded suddenly and harshly.

"I could leave," he said mildly.  "You know you couldn't stop me.  I could kill you.  You couldn't stop me from doing that either.  If I'd wanted to harm you, I would have done it by now.   I--I obey you, no matter how  . . . hard it is for me."

"Prove yourself to me," she said, her voice hard.  "Prove to me that I can do anything I want with you, and you'll submit to it."

"You can do anything you want with me, my lady," he whispered.

"What if every reflex you had was telling you to resist me?  Would you fight or surrender?"

"Surrender, my lady," he said firmly.

Suddenly her arm moved up and tightened around his neck, cutting off some of his air with careful precision.  A tremor ran through Hercules' body, as he quelled his instinctive reaction to yank her arm away and protect himself.

"You're mine," she hissed fiercely.  "I can do this to you because you're mine."

Hercules didn't respond.  He was conserving his breath, concentrating hard on willing himself to remain still, while seemingly every cell in his body cried out for escape.  The pressure on his throat increased slightly but perceptibly, but this was Xena, and he had to trust her, just as he was expecting her to trust him.  This was a test of his submission and loyalty, and he intended to pass it.  He consciously relaxed further against her, and as the pressure increased again, a blackness seemed to rise before his eyes.  Then Xena's arm was gone, and air flowed into his lungs, causing him to cough.

"I don't know if I'd entrust myself with what you just gave me there, slave boy," she said wonderingly.  "You've more than proved yourself.  Carry on with your story."

"Yes my lady."  He breathed in deeply, then pressed on hurriedly.  "This isn't  the way things are supposed to be.  Ares and Hera changed the timeline.  That's why you've never heard of me."

"Oh really?" she asked, her hand stilling for a moment, before tracing light circles around one of his nipples.  "And why would the gods do such a thing?"

Hercules sighed.  "Where do I start?  I'll get the simple reason out of the way.  This was Ares' idea.  He has always resented me, as has Hera.  Ares is convinced that I am our father's favorite, and Hera is jealous of Zeus's feelings for my mother.  In the other timeline, you and I humiliated Ares rather badly--it was a lot of fun too," his face lit up with a quick smile, "and he wanted to get back at both of us.  So he changed things in a way that I would lose . . . everything that was important to me."


"In that timeline, I'm a . . . hero.  I don't really care about that--I get tired of the word 'hero' in fact--but I've devoted my life to helping people.  People call on me for help because they know of me.  In this timeline, no one has heard of me.  No one would think to ask me for help.  I also try to help people find the good in themselves--and he nullified the most important time I did that.   And he . . . " Hercules' face twisted with anger, "took away someone very dear to me."

"Your lover?" asked Xena, tugging on Hercules' arm, so he could turn around and face her.  As he talked, she continued to fondle him, her fingers playing along the muscles of his upper arm.

"Yes," admitted Hercules, his face darkening.

"Who is it?"

"You know the priest at Ares' temple?  The one he brought with to your tent the other night?"

"The one with the golden hair," affirmed Xena.  "You have good taste.  What's his name?"

"Iolaus.  And the way he is now . . . he's not like that.  It's like he's just a shell of who he really is.  Ares took away all his spirit, his soul, his . . . fire.  In the other time, Iolaus is mine, but he's always challenging me, fighting me . . . and then giving himself to me--all of himself.  And the gods know I don't deserve him.  I've let him down, I've taken him for granted, but I've learned.  He's my center, my home, my other half . . . " he trailed off, his eyes welling with tears.

"I'm sorry," said Xena softly.  "It must hurt you to see him now."

"Yes," growled Hercules angrily.  "Ares did everything he could to cause me pain."

"And what does this have to do with me?"

"All of it," answered the demigod.  "Your dream . . . about me.  In the other timeline, you were a warlord, but not like now.  You were known as the 'Destroyer of Nations,' and you were drenching Greece in blood.  Caesar wasn't invading, like he is here.  You were just . . . angry  and . . . in pain . . . and deadly.  I met you at the right time.  You were ready to change, and I helped you.  Your army went on a rampage--destroyed every person in a village they attacked.  One baby was left alive, and you saved him, and for that you got drummed out of your army.  I'm sorry, my lady."  He had seen a shadow crossing her face.

"The only reason I believe you," she said slowly and abstractedly, "is that I've dreamed some of these things.  There was . . . I had to . . .  I had to walk a gauntlet, didn't I?"

Hercules nodded.

"I can't understand that.  I would never let my army get so out of control."

"I think," began Hercules carefully, "that you were ready for a change.  Let me ask you, do you have other dreams?  Of me?  Of Gabrielle?"

Xena shook her head.  "Why would I dream of Gabrielle?"

Hercules slammed a fist into the mattress in frustration.  "He's controlling your dreams, damn it!  He knew dreams from the other time would leak through.  But he's managing to select which ones.  Strife is probably helping him with that.  Listen.  After the gauntlet, you wanted to get your army back.  You tried to kill me, thinking that would do it.  I . . .  stopped you--that's the fight you've dreamed of.  But then you decided to help me fight your army--to stop them from taking over and killing everybody.  Ares was helping them.  You killed your lieutenant, Darphus, who had turned against you, but Ares revived him and gave him control of his beast, Graegus.  Darphus would have slaughtered I don't know how many people, and he was close to being unstoppable, if not for you.  You helped me defeat him.  And you changed--for the good.  Ares doesn't want you to dream of that--he wants to scare you into keeping your control here at whatever the cost.  He wants you not to trust me.  He wants to make sure you aren't swayed by what I say."

Xena's lips were pursed in concentration.  "So what do I do in this other time since I stopped trying to kill you, slave boy?"

"You help people."

"I help people?!" she laughed harshly. "How?"

"You protect them against warlords, you help stop wars, you save people in danger.  And Ares has never accepted that you changed.  And he's never forgiven me for encouraging you.  He's wanted you back ever since--and this is how he got you back under his banner.  He created a threat--Caesar's invasion--that you would have to devote yourself to countering.  You were always the one he wanted to rule the world--on his terms."

Xena paled slightly.  "I've sometimes wondered if I was letting him use me.  But what I had to do was too important.  I didn't worry about it.  I can't imagine a life when I'm not fighting Caesar--or a life without an army under my command."

"That's what's Ares is counting on."

Xena changed the subject.  "And what other dreams should I have had of you?  And what does Gabrielle have to do with it?"

"You and I were lovers," said Hercules quietly, his eyes downcast.  "For a very short while.  And we stayed friends.  Soon after you left . . . left me to start atoning for your past, I . . . was forced to realize my feelings for Iolaus.  Thanks to Ares, ironically, but that's another story.  And you met Gabrielle.  She's your life's companion, your best friend, your lover.  She's not like she is here.  She's a bard--and quite a fighter too."

"Gabrielle is a fighter?" asked Xena incredulously.

"Yeah.  She's an adopted Amazon queen, and she learned from them.  She's a wonderful person, Xena.  Gabrielle's the reason you stayed on your path in that timeline.  She has a pure heart and a reverence for life and an inner strength that you couldn't imagine from seeing her counterpart here."  He smiled.  "She'll talk your ear off, and she stands up to you--there's a spark in her that Ares managed to eradicate here.  Just like he did with Iolaus."

"Really?" asked Xena.  "I'm intrigued.  But you, slave boy.  Am I right in guessing you still care for me--or the person I am there?"

"Very much," he admitted softly, his eyes hooded with griefs both old and new.  "I've never stopped loving you.  There's a part of my heart that will always be in your keeping.  Ares knows that."

"And you came here to try to put things back the way they were--in the other time?  That's why you let yourself be captured."

He nodded.  "But you learned something about yourself, didn't you?" she continued, brushing a thumb across his nipple.  "You want and need what you have here, don't you?"

"Yeah," he said quietly, nodding, his eyes wide and straying to the mark Xena had made on his arm the other night.

"And if the other timeline is restored, you'll remember this?"

"I think so.  I think that was part of Ares' plan.  I--I would miss . . . belonging to you.  Ares has made sure I'll pay a price no matter what happens.  I can't avoid that.  But this isn't right, Xena.  You belong with Gabrielle, and Iolaus belongs to me.  You don't have to be the Conqueror.  There's so much good you do there.  Without leading an army, without owning slaves.  But it has to be your decision.  That's the one concession Zeus got from him and Hera.  If you ask to go back to the other time, he has to do it."

"What's the catch?" she asked shrewdly.  "If Ares knew you would eventually tell me about this, why does he think he can succeed?  What are the disadvantages of returning to the other time?"

"I suspect that you're much happier here in some ways.  In the other time, you're always fighting against yourself, Xena.  So much of you wants to go back to your warlord days, and Ares has extended a standing offer to you to make you the leader of the world.  I know you're tempted--it would be so much easier to agree and to give in to the darkness within you.  You have to live with a lot of guilt, a whole lot.  Your old self was much more bloodthirsty than you are now.  It must hurt to remember--I don't think I can really understand how much.  And no matter how many good deeds you've done, no matter how much you atone, you'll never forgive yourself.  There are those who don't want to let you forget your warlord past, who don't want to let you forget your victims."

Xena raised on eyebrow.  "You make it sound so appealing," she said drily.

"I can't let you make a decision without knowing all of it, Xena," he explained.  "I'm going to have to tell you about Callisto."  And he did.  He told her about Cirra, about Perdicas, about Callisto's acquisition of godhood, about the revenge she extracted against Xena for over two terrifying, soul-shattering weeks.  And he told her about Xena's recovery and the glimmerings of an understanding between her and Callisto.  And he told her about how she had embarrassed and infuriated Ares with his help.

Xena laughed, but pressed Hercules, "I turned down ambrosia?  Huh.  I don't know if I would turn down such an offer now.  Think of what I could accomplish."

Hercules looked down, as a pained look flashed across his face.  "That is one of the ways you're different now."  He looked up, frowning slightly as he sought for the right words.  "You have a power, my lady.  You can compel people to obey you.  The Xena I know had that power too, but she always checked it.  I think she worried that if she didn't, there would be no going back.  Ares created a situation here where you would feel you had to bring all your personal power to bear.  I have to give him credit; I never expected he could carry off something this big."

"You're not making a convincing case for why I should go back to that time you describe.  I hope you realize this.  Good deeds and guilt are not exactly how I want to spend my time."

Hercules impulsively took Xena's hand between his.  She lifted one eyebrow, but did not otherwise react.  "You're lonely, aren't you?" he asked.  "You've let me get closer to you than any other slave.  Maybe I offer you more of a challenge.  Maybe it's because I can't hide my desire for you and what you do to me," he flushed, "and maybe it's because you sense the bond between us--our souls will always share a link.  But I can never belong to you completely.  I miss Iolaus, my Iolaus, so very much.  And I can never be your life's companion.  The true mate of your soul is Gabrielle.  Think of her as she is now.  And then try to imagine her full of life--a storyteller, an Amazon queen, someone who's willingly devoted her life to you--out of her own free will.  Forgive my bluntness, but you have nothing here that compares with that."

"What about Callisto?" Xena demanded abruptly.  "You're asking me to sacrifice her, destroy her, condemn her to an eternity of suffering and madness."

"I don't have an answer to that.  I do have some small hope she may find some redemption some day--in the other time.  But I can't argue that she's better off here."

"Some of what you say does intrigue me," she said softly.  "What you say about Gabrielle has a ring of truth to it--I don't know why.  But you have to understand, as far as I know, this is my life here.  This is what I know.  What will you do if I decide to stay here?"

"I would stay with you as long as you wanted me," he answered, his face drawn with pain.  "I can't get Iolaus back--Ares' Iolaus is not the same man I love.  And serving you is . . . fulfilling and intoxicating in ways I never imagined.  I won't deny that.  There's a part of me that does want this.  But the rest of me will always be missing my real home."

She nodded.  "I appreciate your honesty, Hercules.  I know you didn't have to tell me all of it, but you did anyway.  You're a good man.  All I can say is that I need time--time to think.  I will talk to you more about this another time.  But right now, you're still mine, and furthermore you're naked and in my bed.  I intend to take advantage of the situation."

Hercules bowed his head, a smile making its way across his face.  "As you wish, my lady."

She got up abruptly and pulled off her robe, tossing it across the room, then lay down on the bed, clasping her hands behind her neck in a consciously relaxed pose.  "Make me feel good," she ordered.  "You can use your hands and your mouth.  If you please me, perhaps I'll do something for you."

Oh, I'll please you, Xena, he thought to himself.  I know you.  What he said aloud was, "Yes, my lady."

He bent to kiss her, one hand cupping her jaw.  She met the pressure of his lips with a bruising roughness, as their mouths locked together, tasting and probing, and she laced her fingers snugly into his hair, lest he try to pull his head away.  He stroked his way up and down her upper arm, just skimming her flesh with the curve of his hand, occasionally pausing to grip her arm firmly, giving her a small taste of his strength before resuming his gentle caresses.  Hercules had learned long ago that lovers were inevitably enticed both by his strength and by his exquisite control of it, and he would mete out controlled doses of leashed power in a way that reminded his lovers he could readily shatter every bone in their bodies, but was instead devoting his exquisite physical control to their pleasure.  Iolaus, in particular, went out of his way to provoke Hercules to use his power.  With women, however, he was particularly cautious, but with Xena he didn't have to be.  She craved sensation, and he knew that his light touches would be all the more maddening for her knowledge of the force that he was holding in check.  Every time he tightened his grip, he heard the slightest intake of breath from the Conqueror.

When Xena released her grip on his hair, he lifted her hand to his mouth. sliding her thumb inside and swirling his tongue around it and sucking it vigorously.  Another faint gasp.  When he moved on to her index finger, he let his free hand travel down her side, feathering along her ribs and stroking the curve of her hip.  He released her finger, then licked his way up the next one before sucking it into his mouth.  Xena smiled, saying in a sultry voice, "Slave boy, you almost make me wish I had a cock."  His lips twitched slightly in an amused smile, but he didn't cease his attentions.  After the last finger received this treatment, Xena pulled him back down for a kiss with an impatient growl.

As he began placing kisses along her throat, she tipped her head back, giving him more access, as a shiver passed through her.  "Are you remembering what I'm remembering?" he asked her.

"My dream," she murmured.  "You and the sword.  I don't know what it was like when it actually happened, but after that dream, I always wake up wet.  I guess I knew you weren't going to kill me--good thing too, or you might not have survived your arrival here."

Her throaty voice brushed along his nerves and sent an additional pulse of blood to his already rigid cock.  "You were so defiant," he mused.  "Your eyes were just blazing.  I may have won that particular battle," he reflected as his fingers travelled across her abdomen, drawing wide circles, "but you had already won the war, to coin a phrase.  I wanted you more than anything."  Hercules pressed his lips to the hollow of her throat, twirled a circle there with his tongue, then traced a line up along her throat.  "You were so dark, so angry, and I wanted to fall into your darkness.  No one ever made me feel like that before."

She grinned.  "Well, now you've had your chance, slave boy."

"Thank you, my lady, for letting me make the most of it."  He gathered her breasts into his hands, which were rough and callused from the work he'd been doing.

"I like that," she purred.  "Personal slaves always have such soft hands."  He caressed her breasts with long strokes of his fingertips, just barely grazing her nipples, which were already hard.  He could feel the tension rising in her body, and she snapped "Harder!" through clenched teeth.  His fingers dug deeply into the soft flesh, and Xena growled contentedly as he squeezed and stroked.  Hercules captured her nipples between his thumb and forefinger and began to press them with a controlled and steadily increasing pressure.  "You're good, slave boy!" she gasped, grabbing his upper arms and digging in her fingers hard. She shuddered in a quick orgasm.

"You're looking awfully pleased with yourself," she noted, when she focused again on his face.

"Pleased because I'm giving you pleasure, my lady."

"Oh, and is that the only reason?"

Hercules smiled, raising his eyebrows.  "I love touching you," he said simply.  "The way I can feel your strength coiled in your arms and your legs.  The way your breasts fill my hands and your nipples harden under my fingers.  Your taste on my tongue.  I had such a short time to . . . memorize every detail.  So, I'll admit I'm pleased for myself too."

"I sup-pose I can allow that," she responded with an exaggerated reluctance and a grin.  "Well, show me what else you can do, slave boy."  Hercules lowered his head to her breast, drawing tight circles around her nipple with his powerful tongue, while his hand slid along the outside of one muscled thigh.  He sucked the already sensitive nipple into his mouth, grazing it with his teeth, as his hand began exploring the slight swell of Xena's inner thigh, making her writhe with the featherlight touch of his rough fingertips along the sensitive skin.  He then took in more of her breast, filling his mouth with the soft flesh and began a slow steady suckling, while his fingers found Xena's center.  One finger travelled the slick path between her lips, moving languidly back and forth in rhythm with his mouth on her breast and just barely gliding over her clit on each pass.

Xena's body was humming with tension again, but he felt her relax slightly when he spread her lips and began stroking her clit more puposefully.  His touch was still flutteringly light, and Xena tensed again when it was clear it was going to stay that way for a while.  He smiled to himself in gratification--he knew he could he keep her on the edge all day if he wanted to.  "I.  Should.  Flog.  You.  For.  Showing.  Off.  And for teasing me."  He heard the dark rumble in her voice, and his cock quivered against her thigh.  She laughed.  "Oh, you liked that threat, did you?  You will pay for this slave boy."

After a while, his suckling increased in both pace and intensity, and he circled Xena's clit with an increasingly firm finger until she bucked in climax, and he released her breast from his mouth.  Without a pause, he thrust three fingers forcefully inside her.  "Yesss!" she hissed, rocking her hips to meet his thrusts.  She howled as another orgasm rolled through her body, and Hercules marvelled at the power of the muscles clamping down on and convulsing around his fingers.

"Care for another, my lady?" he asked insolently, his eyes glinting with pleasure.

"Yes, damn it!"  He pressed the heel of his hand against her clit and began to grind it firmly.  She returned his pressure with her own pumping hips, until he carried her over the edge once more, her back arching and her muscles straining until she collapsed back, her breathing harsh.  Hercules took the liberty of casually toying with her triangle of dark curls, combing them with his fingers while she came down off of her peak.

Suddenly, she caught him off guard, rolling him over onto his back and pinning him down.  She straddled his abdomen, and latched on to both of his nipples, twisting and pulling them hard.  "Let me see you clean off your hand," she ordered, her voice hard.  He was almost breathless with the pain of her assault on his nipples, but concentrating, he brought his hand, still drenched with her juices, to his mouth and began carefully licking off his fingers with a quivering tongue, while she watched him with icily predatory eyes.

When he finished, still relishing the taste that spread over his tongue, she bent to kiss him, fiercely plunging her tongue into his mouth.  Then she pulled away, tossing her hair back over her shoulders.  "Will you open yourself up to me completely, slave boy?" she panted.  "Let me all the way in?  Give me everything you have to give?  I'm giving you a choice here because if you say yes, I will take everything you've got."

Hercules hesitated for the barest of moments, then sat up, his own wide blue eyes studying Xena's, which glowed with a sapphire intensity.  "Yes, Xena, my lady.  Yes.  Please.  I freely offer myself to you."  He shifted so that he was on his knees, then bowed his head all the way down.

Xena passed her hand gently over the honey-colored locks, then said in a devastatingly soft and dangerous voice, "Over there.  Hold on to that ring.  It should be obvious that you had better not let go."  He looked where she indicated at an iron ring at the end of a heavy chain suspended from the ceiling.  Letting go of it wouldn't be the problem, he reflected, as he crossed the room.  He'd have to be careful not to pull it out.

Xena approached him, holding a black leather strap.  She circled him, asking, "You want to please me, don't you, slave boy?"

"Yes, my lady," he whispered.

"Tell me, have you played like this before?"

He nodded.  "But I'm usually the one holding the strap."

"All the better for me."  The Conqueror grinned.  "You wouldn't be any fun if this were easy for you."  She stopped behind him, letting her hand trail down his spine and roam over his buttocks.  "You have to be so careful, don't you?" she purred.  "Always having to be mindful of your strength."  He nodded, unable to find his voice, paralyzed like a mouse spellbound by a cobra.  "You see," she continued.  "I usually have that problem too, but right now, I don't need to worry about it."  Her words were followed by a sharp crack of the strap across his ass.  He was staggered by the force of the blow, and had to regain his balance, afraid of pulling down the ring he held onto.  The pain flared across his skin, then exploded outward as the compressed flesh wrenched itself back into place.  Another crack.  He gasped sharply, reflecting to himself that Xena certainly wasn't holding back.  Another blow, and the tension in his body began to melt away, as some kernel of resistance inside him began to loosen.  With each searing stroke of the strap, he found himself consciously relaxing and breathing, letting himself sway with the force of the blows.  He closed his eyes and surrendered to sensation, as the strap delineated stripes across his ass and down the back of his thighs.

Suddenly he drew back sharply.  Xena had moved around to the front of him and flicked the strap against a nipple, with perfect positioning.  Then the other side, and he groaned loudly, his erection futilely clamoring for attention.  After several more such blows, Xena turned away, returning with something shiny in her hand.  He guessed immediately what it was--a pair of clamps connected with a chain.  Both the clamps and the chain were heavier than the delicate pair she had used on Gabrielle the other night.  "Do you know what these feel like?"

"Yes, my lady, but never after such," he smiled wryly, "careful preparation.  I'm guessing it will hurt quite a bit more than I'm used to."

"You're guessing right, slave boy."  Xena pinched each nipple sharply.  "Do you know why I'm doing this to you?"

"You enjoy it?" he asked tentatively.

"Well, yes, of course, that's part of it," she answered dismissively.  "I'm doing this because I feel the need to claim you, Hercules, reach inside you and make you mine from the inside out."  A shadow crossed her face.  "Maybe it's because I may have to let you go.  I want you marked as mine in a way you'll never forget.  And to get you where I want you to be, I need to open you up, break down barriers you don't even know you've raised against me."  As she spoke, she stroked his chest gently, but possessively, touching his body with an assurance that it was hers to do with as she pleased.  And when she finished, she carefully placed first one clamp and then the other on his nipples, while a searing bolt of mixed pleasure and pain shot from each nipple straight to his groin.

A spasm of pain crossed his face, as his nipples burned and throbbed.  Xena stroked his face, then ran a hand down his side and then a finger along his erection.  The clamps had seemingly heightened all of Hercules' sensations, and his nerves tingled in the wake of her fingers.  Then he felt a sharp flash along his cock from the tip of the strap.  He groaned loudly and hung his head as a flush of humiliation flooded his cheeks.  Another flickering blow on his aching member, and Xena reached around to grab a handful of hair and pull his head back.  "Don't hide from me, slave boy," she commanded in a low and throaty tone that seemed to slip under his skin and intensify the pulsing in his nipples and cock and buttocks and thighs.  His eyes were wide and vulnerable, his lips slighly parted as he tried to breathe through all the sensations assaulting him.  "Don't you know how beautiful you are like this?" she asked, giving a sharp tug to the chain linking the clamps, sending a renewed shock of pain through his system.  "Don't you know how much it pleases me to know you could stop me any time, but you submit to this--for me?  Don't fight it; just let go.  Let everything go."

She moved behind him and swung the strap against his ass.  As he staggered forward, the chain between his nipples swung wildly, sending stabbing pains through him.  "Let go," she purred, and he widened his stance and relaxed, swaying with each crack of the strap against his ass and letting her take him wherever she needed him to go.  He had certainly experienced worse pain in his life, but he felt as though Xena was flaying him open, leaving him with no defenses.  The half-god, the hero, the son of Zeus were all stripped away, leaving only a pure essence of desire, surrender, and above all, a need to please this woman who had claimed his body and his soul.  As blow after blow fell, his body was suffused with a quivering tension that begged for explosive release.  It was similar to the tension he felt immediately before a fight, when only the solid connection of his fists or feet with flesh would help dispel it.  He found himself craving the heavy thud of the strap, as if his body were reaching out for it.  Xena immediately sensed the difference in how he was holding himself.  "You want it now, don't you?" she demanded.

"Yes, hard please," he gritted through clenched teeth.

"My pleasure," returned the Conqueror, throwing more force into her swings of the strap, sending him spiralling higher and higher into a realm of pure sensation where the humming energy of his need sparked and crackled with the driving energy of Xena's relentless wielding of the strap, fusing them together and creating a sizzling exchange of electricity and power.

After a final blow of the strap whistled through the air and exploded on his raw flesh, Xena snapped, "Down!"  Hercules gratefully let go of the ring and dropped to his knees, looking up at his Conqueror through eyes blurred with tears.  He kissed the strap she held to his lips, and then she guided him to his feet with a tug on the chain.  "On the bed, on your back now!" she ordered.  She smacked his inner thighs with the strap, insisting, "Wider, I want them wider."  Her need was palpable, and Hercules willingly let himself be surrounded by and consumed in its heat.  When he complied with her order, she casually tossed the strap across the room.  "Use your hands to hold them there."  Hercules slipped his hands under his thighs and held them wide apart, while Xena contemplated the sight before her.

She got a vial of oil from her bedside table, settled herself between Hercules' legs, and began copiously anointing her hands.  Hercules' eyes widened.  Calmly, almost ignoring him, Xena continued stroking the oil along her long fingers, and the demigod couldn't help a small moan from escaping.  Xena's lips twitched in a glimmer of a smile, then she began anointing him, spreading oil with her fingertip around the opening to his body.  Her light touch teased the sensitive skin, and he found himself craving more.  Suddenly, she slid two fingers inside him, and Hercules gulped in surprise.  "You have been fucked before?" she asked casually, one eyebrow lifted.

"Yes, of course, but never . . ."

"By a woman," she finished.  "Well, slave boy, this will be a new experience for you in more ways than one.  Can you let me all the way in?"  As she talked, she pulled her fingers out, poured more oil on them, and slid them back inside, thoroughly coating the narrow passage that she was claiming.

In answer to her question, a dazed Hercules only answered emphatically, "Uh-huh."

"Good," she said briskly, adding a third finger, which he accomodated easily.  "You looked pretty fascinated when I was doing this to Gabrielle.  I'm guessing you imagined yourself on the other end."

Hercules blinked.  "Yeah, you're right.  But I wasn't sure  . . . "  A small "oof!" cut off his sentence, when four fingers pushed inside him, beginning to spread him open and igniting a slow burn at his center.

"Well," said Xena with an ironic smile, "even the son of Zeus can learn some new tricks."  She stopped talking, focusing on what she was doing.  More oil, and the four fingers probed and stretched him.  Hercules consciously relaxed himself, and the fingers pushed in further.  "Good boy," Xena murmured, sliding her fingers slowly in and out, finally adding her thumb, pushing her hand inside Hercules like a wedge.  The burning sensation grew more intense as the Conqueror's hand slowly, inexorably, stretched him wide.  He tensed up for a moment, as heat flooded through his legs, curling his toes.  "Relax for me, slave boy," purred Xena in a low register, and Hercules complied, letting her in further.  Xena paused, pouring an additional dollop of oil over her hand and said conversationally, "This is the widest part.  Take a deep breath for me and let it go."

Hercules inhaled deeply and slowly exhaled.  As the breath flowed out of him, a sharp pain flared as he was stretched wider than he could have imagined possible and penetrated by Xena's hand, now curled into a fist, and buried in him up to the wrist.  "Oh gods . . . " he gasped hoarsely.  Her fist burned inside him, shooting molten streaks of pain along his legs and into his cock.  Holding his legs apart as he was, he had never felt so exposed, so vulnerable, and so possessed.  It was utterly exhilarating, and the pain began to transmute into a delirious pleasure.

"I'm inside you.  Right now, all of you belongs to me," said Xena quietly, her voice belying the blazing intensity of her eyes.

"Yes, Xena," he agreed.

"Ready?" she asked.

He nodded.  As her fist began to move, he groaned loudly between clenched teeth.  He pulled his legs even wider apart, as she rocked her fist slowly inside him, then pulled it part of the way out and plunged it back in.  He was drowning in sensation, groaning uncontrollably, when suddenly he felt first one, then the other clamp yanked off his nipples.  He howled as the dammed up blood rushed into his nipples, bringing tears to his eyes.  It was like a thick needle stabbing into him from inside, but Xena's fist driving into him quickly recaptured his attention.  Then she slowed down to a deliberate pace, sending slow ripples of fire radiating out from his center.  The sensation was the most exquisite he could remember and the most unbearable.  He desperately wanted her never to stop, and he desperately wanted her to stop right now.  A continuous, uncontrolled low growl emitted from his throat, and the muscles in his legs began to tremble and quiver with tension.

"Look at me!" ordered Xena, and Hercules had to concentrate to get his eyes open.  "You're completely in my hands," she purred.  "I can take you anyhere I want you to go."  Her voice seemed to be brushing over his already-raw nerves, and he whimpered, a little-boy sound he hadn't known was still in him.  Xena's smile was devastating--she looked as she did in the full joy of battle.  "Brace yourself, slave boy," she rumbled, and began fucking him harder and faster with each stroke, in a ferocious rhythm that overwhelmed him like a wall of fire.  Her other hand, still slick with oil, enclosed his cock and began working it with rapid strokes.  "Come for me now, slave boy," she murmured, and he roared as his climax crashed through him in shattering paroxysms, and a fountain of seed spilled over him and over Xena's hands, as she carefully withdrew her fist from inside him.  Tears gathered in his eyes, and he felt wrenchingly empty.

"I know," she said quietly.  She had provided herself with a basin of water and a washcloth next to the bed, and quickly cleaned off her hands before moving to pull the weeping demigod onto her lap.  Her fingers combed through his long hair, as she soothed him, then her hand strayed over his buttocks, examining the welts from the strap.  "Thank you, Hercules," she finally said.

"F-for wh-what?"

"For the gift you've given me of yourself."

"I-I should be th-thanking you," he stammered.

"For what?"

"For taking what I wanted to give you," he answered in a firmer voice.  "For seeing something I wanted and needed before I ever knew I wanted and needed it.  For letting me show you my love for you in a way I never could before."  He managed a grin.  "And for the most indescribably overwhelming fuck of my lifetime."  Xena laughed, pulling him closer.  Hercules reached across himself to touch Xena's initial on his arm, then looked up at her, his face achingly vulnerable.  Xena bent to kiss him, her hair falling forward like a curtain around his face.  As their lips locked together, and their tongues twined, he felt for the first time that she was kissing him as a lover, not as a piece of property.

"Come with me," she said suddenly.  "There's something I want to share with you."  She leapt off the bed, and he followed somewhat more slowly.  Xena pulled on her robe and rummaged in her wardrobe, finding an old cloak.  "Put this on and follow me."

As Hercules was obediently but wonderingly tying the sash, Xena went out onto her balcony and leapt over the balustrade, flipping in mid-air.  Hercules shrugged and followed, resting one hand lightly on the balustrade and vaulting over it.  He landed on his feet as silently as Xena had, and she beckoned him, one finger on her lips.  She led him out of a gate in the castle walls that was concealed from the outside.  He noticed that the gate opened without a sound and was obviously well-oiled.

She led him to a nearby stream, tugging on his hand as she ran lightly along the path until they came to a pool crowned with a small waterfall.  The moonlight silvered the water, which sparkled and flashed at the base of the waterfall, seeming to shatter the moonlight into glittery fragments.  "This is where I go when I want to get away from being the Conqueror," explained Xena simply, and Hercules heard the longing that echoed under her voice.  "I've never brought anyone else here.  It probably wouldn't do for people to know that the Conqueror leaves her castle at night, unarmed and undefended.  But I feel I can trust you."

Without really thinking about it, Hercules knelt and kissed her hand.  "Thank you, my lady.  That means . . . a lot to me, more than I can say."

"C'mon," said Xena, smiling, and tossing off her robe before she plunged in the water.  Hercules tugged off the cloak and followed.  The water was cold, and he surfaced, sputtering and shivering, until he spotted Xena, the moonlight glinting on her hair like jewels.  She streaked toward him, diving between his legs and coming up behind him, to pull his arms behind his back.  He kept them there compliantly, while she played with him, running one finger down his upper arm, from shoulder to elbow, mapping the topography of his muscles, caressing his broad back and shoulderblades, thoroughly tracing the welts on his buttocks, and flashing around in front of him to savor the feeling of wet, slippery skin stretched over taut pecs and abs.

"May I use my hands?" he asked.

Xena acted as if she was considering a moment, gave a tweak to a very sensitive nipple, and said, "Yes."  Hercules slid his hands along her arms, pausing to kiss every finger tip.  He cupped slippery breasts and stroked round, muscled buttocks, while Xena explored him the same way, both their hands roaming all over each other's bodies.  Suddenly, Xena grabbed Hercules' wrist and pulled him after her toward the waterfall.  The water showered them as they stood under it, and Hercules tossed his wet hair back over his shoulders, his entire face lighting up with a broad smile.  He felt proprietary fingers gathering up his balls and gliding along the length of his cock.  "I see there are advantages to being the son of Zeus," said Xena, smiling conspiratorially at him from under half-lidded eyes.

"It is one aspect of my godly heritage I do appreciate," responded Hercules, with mock gravity.

"Good, then let me appreciate it too.  Don't be forgetting that your godly heritage, like everything else about you, belongs to me," Xena insisted.  Hercules effortlessly lifted her up, lowering her onto his erect member, and she wrapped her flexible legs around his waist, and her arms around his neck.   Hercules threw his head back in exultation, thrusting into Xena's molten heat, while the cold water streamed down their bodies and splashed around them.

Xena wound her fingers into the demigod's hair, keeping his head pulled back, and her mouth sought out the pulse beating in his exposed throat, sucking on it in time to the throbbing of his veins and the urgent rhythm of his cock, which she matched, contracting around him and releasing with perfect muscular control.  When she lifted her head, a bruise was purpling on his neck, and she growled, "Hold still now, slave boy!  I want to use what's mine."  Hercules complied, and Xena braced her hands firmly on his shoulders, digging her fingers in to maintain her grip, and began raising and lowering herself on his cock.  Each time she pulled herself up, she drove downward fiercely, while Hercules concentrated on keeping his grip on her waist and on holding himself steady for his mistress.  Suddenly, her body stiffened in his hands and her legs tightened around him as she came with a shuddering moan, her muscles convulsing around him.  Hercules groaned through clenched teeth, fighting hard not to come, and she panted, "Go ahead!"  A few determined upward strokes, and his climax surged through him, as he howled in harmony with the crashing water.

Xena shifted her weight enough to send them both falling into the pool, and they floated for a while, cooling their heated blood, washing themselves and each other off, and kissing.  They eventually climbed out of the water.  Xena sat down, leaning against a tree and gestured for Hercules to join her.  She pulled his head into her lap, and he gazed up at her, seemingly enraptured.  She slipped her thumb into his mouth, and he sucked it dreamily, while she stroked his hair and drew light circles on his chest with her fingers.  They remained there wordlessly for some time, until Xena said, quietly, "Perhaps it is I who should be asking what you've done to me, slave boy. But we should go back now."

They returned to the castle, slipping silently in by Xena's concealed gate.  "After you," said Hercules with a bow, and Xena launched herself into an aerial flip, landing on her balcony.  Hercules jumped straight upward, following her.  "Stay with me tonight," she said softly, but trying to keep an edge of command in her voice.

"It would be my pleasure," answered Hercules, bowing his head in acknowledgment of the rare honor he had been granted.

"Don't think it's such a privilege," she said drily, reestablishing some distance, "I don't sleep well, and I toss and turn a lot."

"Tonight will be different," said the demigod assuredly, and he kept his word, lightly stroking the Conqueror's back until she relaxed and fell into a deep sleep.

to Chapter 9

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