Please read the Disclaimer in Part
Ratings: This chapter is rated NC17 for language and sexual situations.
Xenite Disclaimer for Part Six: Gabrielle was abused during the production of this fanfic, and she loved every minute of it.
"XENA!" Lao Ma's shout sliced through the late-afternoon air, filling the little house. Lao Ma rarely raised her voice, but when she did, she used it to great effect.
"Xena!" she called again, striding into the airy studio like a crackling lightning bolt. Xena was in the middle of the wide floor, standing on her head.
"Whassup?" the teenager questioned flippantly, parting her legs, one in front and one in back. She lowered the front foot to the floor and rose gracefully.
"What have you done with Lao Tien?" Lao Ma demanded furiously. Flushed from the blood rushing to her head, Xena gave her an insoucient look.
"Just teachin' the kid a thing or two," she replied casually. "You know, about life and stuff ... all that good stuff you been trying to shelter him from."
"You took him into the middle of a gang war?!"
"Whoa, it wasn't like a real war or nothin'," Xena protested, her bravado faltering. "It was just, you know, like a pow-wow."
Lao Ma was not deterred. "You took my son into a violent, dangerous situation where he was vulnerable," she accused, narrowing her eyes angrily. "I entrusted you with his care, and you put his life in danger. He's just a child!"
"He's old enough to know that life is pain," Xena muttered rebelliously.
"Your life, maybe, because you are full of hate," Lao Ma shot back. Xena blinked; the words stung. "I won't have you contaminating my son with your hatred," the older woman went on. "I've tried to teach you that there are other ways, but you seem determined not to learn anything from me!"
"That's not true," Xena denied half-heartedly. "I've learned-"
"You've deceived me, that is all," Lao Ma declared. "I've had enough. You will leave this house."
Xena stared at her in shock, feeling the electric stab of fear in her gut. "What? But-"
Xena felt tears pressing at the backs of her eyes, and stifled them ruthlessly. "Fine," she yelled, her pain converting all too easily into anger. "I'm glad to go. I hate you! And I hate your stupid games, and your stupid philosophy and your stupid Way! I'm a killer, don't you know that? Bad to the bone! I hate you!" And with that she fled -- or stormed out, as she preferred to think of it -- pausing only to slam into her room and grab her few measly belongings before she slammed back out again, hearing with a petulant satisfaction how the delicate wooden door cracked as she threw it back against the wall.
Before she really knew what had happened, Xena was out on the street again. The birds were silent; the fragrant flowers, the warm sun, the distant roar of the ocean seemed to mock her. But as she slung her bag over her shoulder and stalked off toward the nearest bus stop, she told herself that she felt an exhilarating sense of freedom. She told herself that she was much better off than she had been when she first came seeking Lao Ma, all those months ago. She told herself that now, she had friends, and a place in society, a place where she fit in. She told herself that she was finally on the road she wanted to be on.
Today, as she sped grimly down the endless highways of middle America, Xena remembered that day and winced at how insufferably childish she had been, how stupid, how petty. Not for the first time, she wished she could rewind the entire decade and try it all again.
Well, she couldn't actually replay the past, but perhaps she could still atone for it. She looked down at the speedometer and watched distractedly as the needle crept past the eighty mark and climbed up toward 85.
Xena was right about one thing: Gabrielle was a fast reader. Staring out the window at the rippling earth below, she remembered how voraciously she had devoured the books Xena had given her, and then how she had stayed sitting there, quivering with unsatisfied desire, as she absorbed the new information.
It was fascinating, in a way. Gabrielle had known that there were people who reveled in this kind of sex-play -- master/slave games, the deliberate erotic infliction of pain, and so forth -- but she had never realized it was so ritualized as to have customs, terminology, entire books devoted to it. She could see more books on Xena's shelf whose titles intrigued her -- "The Topping Book" -- but somehow she dared not budge from the bed, even to get more reading material. And Xena had only given her these ones. Xena, of course, did nothing without a reason.
When at last Xena opened the door and reentered the room, her backpack slung casually over her shoulder, Gabrielle sprang upright on the bed where she had fallen, musing, into a kind of slouch. Xena gave her a veiled look.
"So," said the dark woman, continuing the conversation as if there had not been a two-hour pause, "now that you know the rules, you still want to play?"
Dry-mouthed, Gabrielle could only nod. Xena smiled slightly and let her backpack drop to the floor, a certain tension leaving her shoulders.
"Okay," she said, moving forward and gesturing to the books strewn across the bed. "So you know what there is. What do you want to do?"
"Whatever you want," Gabrielle replied immediately, breathless. Xena just stood and continued to look at her until she flushed deep pink.
"Um," Gabrielle said timidly, quivering with anticipation and fear, almost unable to believe she was about to say this -- "do you have a whip?"
Xena took in a short, sharp breath; her eyebrows rose. "You don't want that," she said, but her eyes flashed hungrily. Gabrielle nodded again, licking dry lips.
"Yes," she whispered desperately. Xena drew another, slower breath, considering. Without speaking, the older woman moved over to the bed and knelt; Gabrielle watched, her entire body tight with apprehension.
Her expression neutral, Xena put one hand on the bed and leaned down to reach underneath the bed with her other hand. She moved back slightly, and a large, solid wooden trunk slid out from under the bed. It was not too tall, so it fit under the bed; but to make up for its height it was quite long. A combination lock held it shut.
Gabrielle continued to watch, sitting anxiously on the bed, as Xena shifted her weight back onto her heels and spun the dial in three swift, confident twists: left, right, then left again, and the lock popped open. Xena tossed it aside and lifted the lid. Gabrielle craned to look inside.
An array of objects lay inside that trunk, some wrapped in cloth, some sealed in plastic bags, some simply naked, but all placed with care. Xena didn't give Gabrielle a lot of time to examine the contents of the trunk; her strong slender fingers probed, seized, and removed something dark and coiled, then she lowered the lid back over the rest of the things with a solid 'thunk.' Gabrielle let out her breath in a small sigh as Xena groped for the lock and refastened it to hold the trunk shut.
Shoving the trunk back out of the way, Xena took the coiled object and held it lovingly in both hands, unfurling it slowly. It revealed itself as a number of slender leather straps, extending from a solid handle about a foot long and the width of a thumb. Xena let the strands flow through her fingers and then passed the tool to Gabrielle.
"Oh, it's a cat-o'-nine-tails," Gabrielle said in some surprise, turning the thing over, marveling at how buttery soft the leather felt, how expertly and beautifully the individual tails were woven into the handle.
"It's a whip," Xena said with a small shrug, moistening her lips. Her jaw was set and she shifted slowly from knee to knee as she watched Gabrielle handle the implement.
"'Silent be, it was the cat,'" Gabrielle sang softly to herself, and smiled a little. She looked up, and blinked at the heat in Xena's gaze. "Don't you have a real whip? I mean, like a bullwhip? Isn't that what it's called?"
"You don't want one of those," Xena said firmly, seizing the cat and getting to her feet. "Trust me. You'll like this."
"Okay," Gabrielle said timidly, rising as well. The fluttering in her stomach was surely anticipation, not fear.
Xena looked at Gabrielle's flushed face and her mouth quirked. "Look," she said, reaching down and taking the younger woman's wrist. "Here's how it feels." She slapped Gabrielle's forearm lightly with the whip. The poet could feel the rush of wind, ruffling the tiny hairs on her arm, an instant before the leather tails made contact. There was a slight sting, but no more. Gabrielle looked at her arm, half expecting to see angry red stripes marking it, but there was nothing. Perhaps, the slightest flush of blood reddened the skin, but no more.
When Gabrielle looked back up, Xena nodded to her. "One more thing," she said. "We need a word."
"A w - A safeword," Gabrielle realized, remembering her reading. Xena nodded again.
"Pick something you'll remember, but something you wouldn't normally say in the..." she closed her eyes halfway and smirked again, "heat of passion."
"Hmmm...." Gabrielle thought about it, but not for too long, as she had already been contemplating it while she waited for Xena to return. "How about 'frying pan'?" she offered.
Xena looked amused. "Frying pan?"
"Yeah, you know, like, out of the frying pan, into the fire? Or is that silly," Gabrielle added, deflating slightly. "I guess it's silly."
"No, it's fine," Xena assured her. "Frying pan it is. You won't forget?"
"I won't forget," Gabrielle promised. Xena nodded once again.
"Good," she said firmly.
Then she laid the little whip on the bed and said, "Close your eyes."
Trembling, Gabrielle obeyed. For a moment that seemed eternal, all was still -- she could see, hear, and feel nothing. Then there was a slight sound and fingers cool on her chest. Xena was unbuttoning her blouse. She moved slowly, careful not to let the backs of her hands brush Gabrielle's breasts. The young redhead wanted desperately to see the look on her lover's face as her pale soft skin was revealed, but she dared not look. She screwed her eyes tightly shut and concentrated on the feathery sensation of the material loosening across her chest.
The last button came free and the blouse slipped off. Gabrielle felt goosepimples rise across her arms as the air hit her torso. She felt Xena's arms encircling her, and then abruptly she was pulled forward, her breasts bumping Xena's. Startled, Gabrielle opened her eyes and found her lover grinning at her in amusement. Xena's hands were behind her, twisting open the clasp of her bra. Strong confident hands slid up Gabrielle's back and to her shoulders, pushing the bra straps down, releasing them from her arms, leaving the scrap of white cloth pinned between the two women where they were still joined at the breasts. Xena bent her neck down and closed her lips over Gabrielle's, claiming her in a soft wet kiss.
Gabrielle wrapped her hands around Xena's upper arms and stretched into the kiss, but all too soon it ended and Xena's hot mouth was trailing across her chin, down her throat, and down farther still. Gabrielle moaned moistly at the ceiling as Xena's lips closed around her left nipple and she felt the brush of her lover's tongue. Xena's hands were moving lower still, unfastening Gabrielle's jeans and pulling them downward. The young writer barely felt the denim sliding across her hips, so intent was she on the sensation of sharp teeth ever so lightly scraping across her sensitive breast.
Abruptly, Xena straightened up, removing her hands and mouth from Gabrielle's body. The redhead gasped and blinked as Xena gestured to her jeans, which were pooled around her ankles.
Recovering enough to step out of the jeans and kick them aside, Gabrielle realized that she was now fully naked except for her brief panties, and Xena was still clothed. The whip was in Xena's hand, gleaming dully like a little black hole. The tall dark woman jerked her chin toward the far wall.
"Hands against the wall," she ordered, her voice gruff and smoky with desire. Gabrielle immediately turned and went to the wall, placing her palms flat against it, bracing herself. Her back was to Xena and her skin seemed to crawl as she waited for the first blow.
"Here it comes," said Xena's voice softly, and then as Gabrielle tensed she brought the whip down. There was the rush of air, and then the slapping sting as the leather made contact. Gabrielle jumped and gasped. Her breasts still felt heavy and swollen from Xena's mouth, the scrap of cotton between her legs was soaked, and now her back sent her confusing signals of pleasure-pain as the whip struck again and retreated, leaving her breathless and moaning.
Remembering that day from her airplane seat, Gabrielle could still almost feel the heady new sensations on her skin -- even though, in the intervening years, that and many of its kindred had become familiar to her. But it didn't take much effort to recapture the emotions of the moment: how she had marveled at the sensitivity and responsiveness of her skin; how her arousal had been unexpectedly heightened by the fleeting thought of how her ultra-liberal parents would react to knowing their daughter enjoyed being whipped; how the cool quiet calm of Xena's breathing from behind her had mingled with her own increasingly harsh pants until she couldn't tell one from the other; how, for the first time, she had reached orgasm without a single finger touching her body. The entire episode had been like a tactile epiphany, and its cathartic effects lingered even now.
When at last Gabrielle surfaced from the flood of memories, she was surprised to find that there were lights appearing outside the window, dotting the landscape into tidy grids. As she was looking with surprise at her watch, the Fasten Seatbelts light came on, and a tinny female voice echoed over the loudspeaker.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we're beginning our final descent into LAX...."
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