Someone told me that this story has too much plot and not enough sex, as compared to its predecessor. Well, I'll try to remedy that, but for now, if you agree with that assessment, you'll probably be somewhat disappointed with this chapter. Sorry!
The final scene of this chapter is for Joseph, who seems to think Luther should be more assertive. Gee ... I wonder why? ;)
Please read the Disclaimer in Part
Ratings: This chapter is rated NC17 for language and sexual situations.
Xenite Disclaimer for Part Five: To her great dismay, Gabrielle was not abused during the production of this fanfic.
Much as she hated to admit it, Xena was only human, and she could only drive for so long. At last she had to admit defeat and take a rest; but she refused to spend any money on a motel. Instead, she pulled off at a roadside rest stop and parked Minya's car in the lot beside a Burger King. The lot was half-full of other cars, even at this hour somewhere between witching and dawn. Xena locked the doors, lowered the seat to the recline position, and closed her eyes.
Even in her dreams, Xena could get little refuge from self-flagellation. As she slept, the image of Gabrielle wearing the dildo returned, only to be pushed aside by, or perhaps morphed into, an angry Lao Ma, who stood over the naked and trembling Xena with a scowl on her face, waving a pencil ... or it might have been a knife; the dream was vague and foggy. Lao Ma's words were equally so, cryptic sad words that Xena would forget as soon as she awoke, but their sense was the usual: Xena had failed her, had betrayed her, had forgotten her and ignored her and dishonored her.
As Xena, in the dream, sat up and begged for another chance -- feeling the sweat chilling her body and the removed warmth of Gabrielle fading at her back -- Lao Ma stepped back, lifting a fencing mask to hide her face. Her eyes, sad and chiding, were still visible as she faded away. Xena could hear her voice answering the unspoken question: "Too late ... it's not too late ... it's too late ... it's not too late...."
Xena turned back to Gabrielle, reaching out, but before she could see whether her lover was still there, she woke up, cursing softly, with the taste of dirty laundry in her mouth. She stretched out her arm and turned the car key so she could see the time. Groaning reluctantly, she sat up, pulled the key out of the ignition, and headed into Burger King for some coffee. It was time to hit the road again.
Birds sang serenely as the young Xena started up the path toward Lao Ma's home. It seemed worlds removed from the L.A.. she knew: bright and airy, the garden framing the path laid out with an eye to aesthetic symmetry. The birds-of-paradise and other flowers bobbed gently in the breeze; faintly, one could hear the crashing of the ocean just a few blocks away. The perfume of the flowers was light, but Xena felt overwhelmed nonetheless, rather like Alice approaching the looking-glass house.
Just as she reached the wide wooden door and lifted her hand to knock, the door swung silently open. Lao Ma stood there, in her usual kimono, her hands folded calmly across her middle. "Hello, Xena."
Xena blinked, taking a moment to regroup, and then summoned the pretty words she had prepared. "Hi," she said, keeping her tone modulated, trying to project an air of contrition. "Um, I'm sorry I was rude to you the other day. I was ... confused and, um, I didn't really understand what you were saying to me ... but now I think I do. Anyway, I'd really like to learn, if you'll still teach me." She subsided, hoping it was enough.
Lao Ma regarded her in silence, and for an instant, as her lips parted, Xena was sure that the older woman saw right through her, was about to send her away. But instead she said, "Come in," and stood aside.
Xena entered, pushing the silent door closed behind her, and Lao Ma turned, leading her away. Xena had only a quick glance of the hallway -- panelled in simple wood, framed by paintings and quasi-paragraphs of mysterious characters -- before they were entering another room. It was large, part studio, part living room, part cathedral, or so it seemed to Xena. The room was carpetless, the wooden floors polished to a gentle shine. One corner had been hollowed out and outfitted as a breakfast nook, or a meeting area, or a study corner. The rest of the room was furnished sparsely.
Against the far wall, under a window that let the midmorning sunshine stream warmly in, a little boy was playing with carved wooden soldiers. "This is my son," Lao Ma explained. "Lao Tien, please go play in the garden." The child gathered up his toys and left, after giving Xena a searching look with his large, troubled dark eyes.
"So, Xena," Lao Ma said, turning to face the teenager. The sunshine framed her, so that her expression was hard to make out. "You have decided there is something you can learn from me."
"Um, they say you are a great teacher," Xena hazarded. The woman inclined her head.
"They say, yes. But what do you say? Having a teacher does no good unless there is something one wishes to learn."
"You said I didn't understand myself," Xena protested, increasingly confused by this maddening woman. "I thought you were saying you could teach me to know myself. To have control, or whatever it is that I don't got."
"I can teach you nothing that you are not willing to learn," Lao Ma told her. "You came here for a different reason. I also can teach you nothing if you will not be honest with me. So tell me what truly brings you here, and then we can begin."
Xena stared, and as the words sank in she realized to her horror that tears were beginning to form in her eyes. She pressed her lips together as hard as she could, but that only seemed to make things worse. Quickly she turned away, hating to display weakness, but before she knew it, Lao Ma was by her side, a comforting hand on her shoulder. Xena gave up and turned into the older woman's embrace, letting the tears fall silently as she listened to Lao Ma's soft comforting croon, felt a gentle hand stroking her hair.
At last Xena managed to stop the flood, and Lao Ma released her. They were kneeling on the floor now, and Xena sat back on her heels, sniffling uncomfortably, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand and refusing to look at the other woman.
"I have a problem," she admitted gruffly, studying the minute detail of a knot in the floor. Lao Ma rose gracefully to her feet.
"Then come and tell me about it, and perhaps I can help." She put out a hand. "And then, you can begin to learn."
Blinking her eyes dry, Xena looked up at her new mentor, took a deep shuddering breath, and put her hand in Lao Ma's. She stood up, and with the other hand, Lao Ma handed her a handkerchief. Blowing her nose, Xena followed docilely behind Lao Ma toward the corner of the room.
Gabrielle awoke the morning after her first night with Xena to find her head gently cushioned on a soft, warm shoulder. Her legs were entwined with Xena's, and with each exhalation she breathed warm air across the dark nipple just below her chin. Xena's arm was around Gabrielle's shoulders, holding her snugly.
Gabrielle tilted her head up slightly, and blinked at the brilliant blue eyes that met her gaze. Xena appeared to be fully awake, watching her.
"Morning," Gabrielle said, feeling her skin flush with sudden timidity. Xena's lips curved slightly.
"Morning," the older woman replied. Her fingertips began drawing small, deceptively slow designs on Gabrielle's bare ribs.
"How, um, how did you sleep?" Gabrielle shifted, almost unconsciously pressing her breast toward Xena's lightly caressing hand, and rethought the question. "*Did* you sleep?"
"A little," Xena replied coolly, looking away at the ceiling. "More than usual."
"Oh?" Gabrielle watched her new lover's face in some confusion. "Well, but how long have you been awake?"
"A couple *hours*?" Gabrielle repeated in surprise. "And that whole time you were just lying here watching me sleep?" She felt the blush returning.
"Mostly." Lazily, Xena lifted her other hand, which had been hidden from view. It was curled around a bright golden dildo. "Been waiting for you to wake up so I could use this."
"Y-...." But then Xena's fingers drifted upward and tweaked a nipple, and Gabrielle gasped, whatever she had started to say slipping away as her sensitized skin came to life. She was still blinking sleep out of her eyes, but she responded almost instinctively to the commanding touch and tone. Her knees lifted and parted, her head lolled back against the pillow as Xena shifted, lifting herself up onto the arm that was underneath Gabrielle, her other hand moving downward, stroking the toy lightly across the redhead's belly.
Gabrielle's eyes half-closed in pleasure and anticipation, but suddenly the movement stopped and her eyes popped open again. Xena was regarding her with an indecisive expression.
"What?" Gabrielle asked breathlessly, twisting her hips impatiently against the mattress. Xena sighed and put the dildo aside.
"You've never played this game before," she said matter-of-factly. "You don't know the rules."
"Rules?" Gabrielle repeated, blinking as Xena drew her arm out from underneath Gabrielle's shoulders and swung up to cover her. The dark woman settled on all fours over the redhead, knees on either side of hers, hands on the mattress beside her head. Xena's long dark hair brushed Gabrielle's breasts, making her shudder. "I didn't know we were playing a game," she said in some confusion. "I thought we were ... making love."
"Oh yes." Xena smiled a little. "But you said you wanted to be ordered around, and that, my little slave, is a game." She dropped down to cover Gabrielle's mouth with her own in a fierce, burning kiss, biting the younger woman's lips until she yelped, then pulling back. Xena sat back on her heels and gave a loud groan of ... frustration? She looked down at the woman underneath her, shook her head, and climbed smoothly to her feet.
"I don't get it," Gabrielle said petulantly, sitting up to watch with continuing confusion as Xena strode naked across the room to her bookshelf. "I want it, Xena, and I know you want it. So why did you stop?"
"Look," Xena told her, returning to the bedside with a small pile of books in her hands. "Do you see that?" She nodded toward the golden dildo, which lay abandoned among the tangled sheets. "I bought that months ago, when I first met you, and I've been dreaming of fucking you with it ever since."
Gabrielle picked the toy up and turned it around in her hands, trying to assimilate this. She trembled slightly at the thought of Xena fantasizing about her. "I-"
"But," Xena cut in brusquely, tossing several books one-by-one onto Gabrielle's naked lap, "when I do it, I'm gonna do it right. So you read all those, and then you'll see."
Gabrielle set the dildo aside and picked up the books. "Jay Wiseman," she murmured, reading the spines. "'S&M 101.' Miller and Devon. Pat Ca...Cal-"
"Califia," Xena finished for her. Gabrielle looked up to find her lover getting dressed.
"Where are you going?"
"Got a class," Xena said coolly. "You?"
"Um, no, nothing today," Gabrielle replied. "But don't you-"
"Read those," Xena instructed firmly. "When I get back, we'll see if you're finished. And listen." Her eyes hardened. "You better not touch yourself while I'm gone. If you do, I'll know. Understand?"
"Yes," Gabrielle acquiesced meekly. She wasn't sure how Xena had known what she was thinking ... but she was beginning to believe the woman really *was* omniscient.
"Good." Xena nodded sharply. "From now one, *no one* touches you there, except me." Her lips curved upward in a hungry, feral grin. "See ya later." And she was gone.
Gasping slightly with the effort of controlling her lust, Gabrielle opened to the first page of 'Sensuous Magic.'
Xena awoke the morning after her first night in Lao Ma's house to find a light breeze ruffling the gauzy curtains and stroking across her face. The warm weight on her legs was a sleeping Siamese cat, which slitted one eye open but otherwise did not react as the dark girl slid her legs carefully out from underneath it.
On a chair by the door, neatly folded, Xena found a pair of loose baggy pants and a plain cotton shirt. Her torn jeans, leather tank-top and combat boots were nowhere to be seen. She went into the tiny adjoining bathroom and checked her naked body in the mirror for fresh blood, bruises or cuts, but there were none, so she pulled the pastel clothing on and opened the door.
In the hallway, sitting cross-legged on the polished floor in front of Xena's door, sat little Lao Tien, his dark hair damp on his forehead, watching the door with a solemn gaze. Xena regarded him, and he her, in silence for a moment. She tried to figure out whether he was scared of her, but she had little experience with children and found his expression as inscrutable as his mother's.
Finally she summoned her best scowl and was pleased to see a flicker of something she definitely recognized as fear flash across the little boy's face. "I'm a devil from hell," she growled at him, "so you better watch out!" Flushing with alarm, he scrambled to his feet and ran off.
Xena chuckled nastily, feeling better already. She turned and walked down the hall to the studio. From the breakfast nook against the far wall floated enticing aromas, and her stomach grumbled in response. Lao Ma was seated at the table, studying an elegant board before her. It was divided into light and dark squares, and topped with a number of elaborately carved marble figures.
"Ah, Xena, good morning," Lao Ma greeted, pushing the board carefully aside as the teenager slid into a seat across from her. "I hope you slept well."
"Yes," said Xena, and carefully added, "thank you. Any coffee?"
"We drink only green tea," Lao Ma replied, pouring her a cup from a delicate porcelain teapot. "I think you'll find it equally stimulating."
Xena gave her a dubious look, but took a small sip and, remembering her objective, tried her best not to make a face. Lao Ma watched this without comment.
"Can I have one of those?" Xena asked in a subdued tone, looking at a plateful of pastries which, though unfamiliar, were definitely to her liking, judging from the smell and the dusting of sugar across their tops. Lao Ma nodded and gave her a plate.
"Yes, and please eat quickly. We shall begin today's lesson with a game of chess."
Luther had just gotten out of an evening class and was headed across campus for a late dinner when Hank and Ian found him. They appeared as if from nowhere, flanking him, matching their strides to his. Luther, clutching his briefcase, felt a little like Red Riding Hood in the dark, dangerous forest.
He noticed that both men were wearing black jeans and tight black T-shirts. "Someone die?" Luther asked, trying to sound flip. Ian snorted.
"No blue jeans at Man Ray," Hank said, looking down at their six moving legs.
"No-" Luther glanced from one to the other. He had never been to the club Hank mentioned, but he had heard of it; it was a notorious hangout for goths and gay men. "You're going dancing?"
Hank rolled his eyes. "Work, baby, work. It's a rough job, but...."
"Filling in for Xena while she's away," Ian explained. "She bounces there couple nights a week."
"Oh." That, at least, made sense. Luther could easily see Xena as a bouncer. He, for one, wouldn't want to cross her.
"So, you coming?" Hank asked, patting Luther lightly on the butt. Luther jumped a little and tried to get himself under control.
"Not yet," Ian teased, winking lewdly at his lover. Hank smirked.
"Um," said Luther uneasily. "Well, I mean, I've got work...."
"Hey, whatever, baby," Hank replied casually, waving a hand. "You know where to find us when you want us." He smirked again, making Luther shiver.
"Oh, yeah," he agreed, suddenly emboldened. "*If* I want you." Ian laughed with delight.
"The boy's still scared of you, Hank," the short blond exclaimed.
"I'm not scared," Luther asserted a little too hastily. "I just have ... other stuff on my mind."
"Uh huh." Hank agreed; he and Ian looked suddenly serious. "Like Gabby?"
"Just hoping I did the right thing," Luther said, not bothering to wonder how they knew. Hank looked at him, and for once there was no teasing, no hungry threat in his gaze.
"I think you did," he said slowly. "But no use worrying about it now. What's done is done." He shrugged his shoulders widely, rolling them to loosen the tension. "Anyway, we'll find out when they get back." His smirk returned. "If they get back. Maybe they'll just decide to hang in sunny L.A. and surf the wild life!" He laughed. "Come on, we gotta blow. Catch you later." He gave Luther a friendly slap on the shoulder that nearly knocked him over, and gathered Ian with a casual pat on the ass. The two of them turned and walked off.
Luther, shaking his head in bemusement, continued on his way.
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