Learning The Ropes

By joan the english chick
Part 1

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8

Please Note! This story is a bit of a departure for me. It is an "Uber-Xena" story: that is, a story where the characters appear in a different period of history. In this case, it's.... well, read on. Most of the locations are real, and I know because I've been to them. I hope the idea works for you.
The story is also very kinky. It takes the term "alternative" to new levels. Please do not read this story if any of the following turn you off:

Almost every character in this story is based upon a character from the Xenaverse. Most of them are fairly obvious if you've seen a good number of episodes. If you are confused about any, feel free to email me. I will put a list at the end of the final chapter.
There are also many Xenite in-jokes in the story. Because of the setting, there aren't any actual spoilers, but you might not get some of the references if you haven't seen the episodes.

Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle, and any other characters you recognize are property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance, and are used without permission. This story is property of the author, namely me, and may not be reproduced, retransmitted, or posted anywhere without my expressed permission.
Warnings: This story is rated NC-17. Do not read it if you are under 17 years of age, or if the idea of two women (or two men) in love turns you off. This story contains explicit sexual content, as well as a lot of four-letter words.
Xenite Disclaimer for Part One: No textbooks were harmed during the production of this fanfic.

"Xena, how about that one? He looks pretty uptight."

Xena narrowed her eyes and watched out the window as the young man crossed the street, clutching his briefcase. "Maybe," she pronounced laconically. "Medical, or Business?"

"I was going to say Law. Don't you think?"

The object of their attention reached the other side of Massachusetts Avenue and disappeared into Harvard Yard. "Maybe," Xena said again. "He looked like an asshole."

"You've said that about all of them," Gabrielle pouted, bright green eyes still scanning the foot traffic as it rushed past.

"All college men are assholes," Xena explained, fiddling with the stirrer in her mochaccino. "Can we get the fuck out of here already?"

"Let's just give her a few more minutes." Gabrielle turned from the window, scanning her friend's scowling features. "You don't really hate all college men."

"Assholes," Xena repeated mechanically. "Well, all of 'em except Jax. He's just a moron."

"An-" Gabrielle stopped in mid-word, shaking her head. It wasn't worth it. "Whatever."

"Remind me again why we're waiting around for this lazy-ass professor who can't even keep an appointment?"

"Xeeeeena. I told you, I asked her to come critique my idea for my senior thesis. We were having such a great discussion about the nature of epic poetry, but Terry had to shut it down because it wasn't really germane to the class topic. That's why I wanted to talk to her outside of class." Gabrielle looked anxiously at her watch. "If she doesn't show up soon we'll have to jet. The Feminist Coalition meeting is in half an hour."

Xena rolled her eyes. "Yeah, like we want to go to that."

"We're members of the coalition, it's our duty to attend the meetings."

"Fuck that," Xena opined. "Those whining bitches piss me off. All they do is sit around and gripe about how bad their lives suck and how it's all men's fault."

"Well...." Gabrielle smiled fondly across the table. "You know, that's all you do too."

"I...!" Xena sat up straighter, eyes and mouth widening in outrage. The fortuitous arrival of the professor cut off whatever indignant retort was forming on her lips.

"Gabrielle, I'm so sorry," the harried older woman gasped breathlessly as she blew into the coffeehouse. "The faculty meeting went overtime... as always!"

"It's all right," Gabrielle assured her, rising slightly, moving her chair over so that the newcomer could fit hers in at the tiny table. "Professor Amazov, this is my ... friend, Xenaida Tapper."

"Xena," Xena said, almost politely. The professor gave her a quick smile and a brief handclasp.

"Oh, you're not an English major. I haven't seen you around the department," the professor said inquiringly.

"East Asian Studies," Xena replied shortly.

"Xena, would you get me another?" Gabrielle asked, holding up her empty cup with a beseeching smile. "Oh, did you want something, Terry?"

"I'd love a double latte, if you're going," the professor said. Gabrielle gave Xena another pleading look. Rolling her eyes, the other woman stood up -- the professor looked a little startled by her height -- and stalked to the counter, grumbling.

"Is your friend all right? She seems a little upset," the professor said. Gabrielle shook her head.

"No, she's always like that. She has a lot of anger issues. Listen, about my thesis...."

As usual, Xena got her way. They skipped the Feminist Coalition meeting. So it was that they were still wandering through Harvard Square when a faint voice called Xena's name.

"Xena! Xena! Hey!" The tall woman rolled her eyes.

"Quick, Gabrielle, hide."

"Oh Xena. It's only Jax. He means well."

In another moment Jax came running up, panting. His ratty woolen scarf trailed behind him like a misshapen tail; his huge Army-surplus overcoat engulfed his scrawny figure, and the hat on his head looked like a dust jacket for a miniature pyramid. He pushed cheerfully in between the two women, oblivious to their glares.

"Hey, guess what? Football tryouts are tomorrow!"

"Great, Jax. Good luck," Gabrielle said tolerantly.

"Hey, thanks, Gabby. You know, if you and Xena felt like trying out for rugby, maybe I could give you a few pointers." He turned to look up -- way up -- at Xena. "Rugby's a great sport for women, know what I mean?" He nudged her in the ribs.

Xena grabbed his arm and twisted it behind his back. "Don't ever nudge me," she growled.

"Ow! Owowowowow! Cut it out!" the little man whined. Xena released him sharply and stalked off. Jax rubbed his arm with an injured expression.

"She sure is touchy today, huh?"

"Xena has a lot of unresolved anger," Gabrielle explained. "Mostly toward her parents. But she never learned any appropriate coping techniques. Her mode of expression is very raw." She shrugged. "Well, what do you expect? She's from Brooklyn."

Gabrielle knocked on the door to Xena's dorm suite. "Xena? It's me, let me in."

In a moment the door opened. "Sorry, Gabrielle," said Xena's roommate querulously. "She came in a bit ago and shut herself up in the bedroom."

"Thanks, Minya." Gabrielle walked into the shared living room and dumped her coat and bookbag on the floor with the others. "You look nice."

"Oh, you think so?" The plump brunette twirled, showing off her bright yellow and orange dress. "Howard's taking me to the movies. They're showing Casablanca at the Brattle." She sighed gently. "It's soooo romantic, isn't it?"

"It's one of the more tolerable expositions of the fascist patriarchal hegemony," Gabrielle agreed. "That's a new dress."

"Yeah...." Minya looked up. "Well, I did try the fashion tips Xena was giving me, but I feel so gloomy and sad in all those dark colors. I like bright, happy colors. Do you like my hair? I think I'll put it up, actually." Still twittering, she disappeared into her bedroom.

Gabrielle went to Xena's bedroom door and knocked. "Xena?"


Gabrielle opened the door and went in. The Indigo Girls were singing about past lives. The computer was on, chattering as it printed out an essay. Xena was naked on the bed amongst an unruly tumble of blankets, idly stroking a buzzing vibrator between her thighs. She held it against her wet vulva, watching as Gabrielle slid smoothly out of her own clothes and walked over to the bed. Xena tossed the vibrator aside and pulled the smaller woman under her, wrapping her legs around Gabrielle's, squeezing her ass firmly, closing her teeth around one nipple.

Gabrielle lay passively under the assault, breathing evenly, twining her fingers in her lover's hair. Xena climaxed once, swiftly, shuddering, as she pressed the redhead against her. Gasping a little, she twisted around and reached for the vibrator, which was still buzzing softly among the sheets.

"I liked that last one," Xena said harshly as she pushed the toy inside Gabrielle. "Tomorrow you'll go find him." She twisted the buzzing piece of plastic, tilting it, seeking the angle. Gabrielle's hips lifted up off the bed, questing. Xena's mouth curved upward. She moved, so her dangling breasts brushed Gabrielle's, and thrust the toy in deeper.

"Okay," Gabrielle agreed breathlessly, clutching at Xena's shoulders.

It's not easy finding one person in a school as large as Harvard, especially if you don't know his name, but that's what Gabrielle set out to do the next morning. Xena had an early Chinese language class, but Gabrielle was free for the morning, so she reluctantly got up when Xena did, showered with her, and set out. Following her hunch, she tried the law school first. She waiting around in the main law building until the 9AM classes let out, and scanned the students' faces as they poured from the classrooms and scurried off in their different directions like so many industrious ants.

That yielded nothing, but there were a lot of faces, so Gabrielle went next to the law library, where she described her quarry in hushed tones to the student assistant: "He's kinda tall, brown hair, skinny, with an expensive trench coat, looks like he comes from money."

"Honey, that describes three-quarters of the students here," the librarian told her quietly.

"He carries a briefcase, looks worried all the time?" Gabrielle hazarded.

"Hmm ... well, it could be one of the rich boys who use the back room to study," her informant shrugged. "Try back there."


In the back room, which was actually the old microfiche room that had been converted to a study area when the microfiche archives got too big, Gabrielle hit pay dirt. The skinny uptight young man from yesterday was studying by himself in a hard chair.

Gabrielle pulled out her well-worn copy of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and reread some of her favorite poems, keeping the corner of her eye on the guy. It was almost an hour before he closed his book, returned it neatly to the reshelving pile, gathered up his briefcase and coat, and left. Gabrielle stuffed her poetry back in her bag and went after him.

She followed him between the old law buildings, past the Science Center, and into the new cafeteria in the basement of Saunders Theatre. He got himself a sandwich and fries and soda, and found a small table in a corner. Gabrielle grabbed a cup of yogurt and went over to him.


He looked up, startled. "Hi." He searched her face carefully, trying to figure out how she knew him.

"Oh, you don't know me," Gabrielle assured him, putting down her bag and sliding into the chair across from him. "My name's Gabrielle O'Connor. I don't know you either, but I wanted to talk to you."

"Oh, really? Luther Hawthorne. Is this some kind of prank?" he asked, chewing a french fry, glancing around to see if anyone was watching.

"Prank? No, not exactly."

"It's just that a good-looking woman like you doesn't come up to a guy like me with a line like that for no reason." He spoke plainly, without pretension or deprecation.

"I didn't say there was no reason. My girlfriend and I noticed you yesterday going into the Yard."

"Oh?" He examined her some more, trying to discern which sense of "girlfriend" she was using.

"Yeah, and if you don't mind my waxing a little cliched, I want to offer you what every college man dreams of."

"Sex?" he joked, reaching for his soda. Gabrielle nodded.


"Y-" He choked, swallowing the beverage too soon, and took a moment to cough. "Yes? I was kidding!"

"I know. I wasn't."

He stared at her, bemused. "Let me get this straight. We've never met. You don't know who I am, but you want to have sex with me."

"Sort of."

"Sort of?"

"Well, there's a condition," Gabrielle explained matter-of-factly, digging into her yogurt.

"I've been tested."

"That's good, but no. Not what I meant. You have to agree to certain rules."

"Rules? Like what?" He looked suspicious, but his interest was clearly piqued. Gabrielle knew she had him hooked.

"My girlfriend will explain. You interested?"

"Sure, I guess."

"Got dinner plans?"


"Grendel's, six-thirty. Meet us." She looked him up and down. "Don't change your clothes between now and then."

"Okay." Not surprising her, he opened his briefcase, took out a daily planner and wrote it down. Still looking somewhat dubious, he replaced the planner and closed his briefcase, watching her all the while.

"See you then." Gabrielle finished her yogurt and stood up. The man's eyes followed her every move as she put on her coat and slung her bag over her shoulder. "Luther."


"This is for real. Not a prank. Do you believe me?"

"I think so," he avowed cautiously. Gabrielle moved around to his side of the table, until he had to tilt his head back to look up at her.

"Believe it." She slid onto his lap, her hands cupping his face, and kissed him hotly. His knees were bony under her thighs; his shave was close; he smelled of Old Spice. His mouth opened in surprise as hers covered it, and she pushed her tongue between his lips, teasing the roof of his mouth with its tip for an electric instant before pulling back. She stood up again, looking down at his slightly wild expression.

"Believe it." And she turned and walked away, feeling his gaze on her back long after she'd left the building and crossed Harvard Yard.

Gabrielle had two afternoon classes, and then she headed across the Yard again to meet Xena. On her way, she was intercepted by a friend.

"Hi Gabrielle!"

"Hey Tiffany!" Gabrielle slowed her pace to match her friend's. As usual, Tiffany had a small posse of friends following her around. They fell in behind. "How's the baby?"

"He's great." Tiffany pulled out some pictures and showed them to Gabrielle. While the redhead was looking through them, her blonde friend got serious. "Listen, Gabrielle, we noticed you weren't at the Feminist Coalition meeting last night."

"Yeah ... Xena wasn't feeling good so we decided to skip it," Gabrielle replied, handing the photos back. Tiffany gave her a look.

"Honestly, Gabrielle, most of us don't understand what it is with you two. It seems like every meeting someone comes up to me and asks, 'What does Gabrielle see in that woman?' I never know what to tell them."

"Oh, Tiffany." Gabrielle sighed. "I wish you all wouldn't worry about me so much. Xena and I are fine. She loves me, and I love her." She saw her friend's expression and added, "And don't give me that look. I know how it sounds, but really I am not in denial. Xena is not abusive. I wish you believed me."

"I want to, really," Tiffany said earnestly. "But the way she treats you...."

"I know she seems mean sometimes, but it's all just part of the game we play with each other," Gabrielle said. "She's ... I don't know how to explain it. She's like...." She searched for an appropriate metaphor. "She's like a hero without a sidekick. You know? And I'm like a sidekick without a hero. We complete each other."

"Well, you certainly seem happy," Tiffany sighed. "I guess all I can do is try to be happy for you."

"Thanks. I know you don't understand."

"No, but I'm trusting you. You're too smart to delude yourself." They stopped walking at the gate leading out of the Yard and into the Square. Tiffany looked Gabrielle in the eye. "Promise me, if she ever hits you, or gets abusive, you'll come to me."

"I promise," Gabrielle said firmly. "But she won't."

"Try to make it to the next meeting, okay?"

"I will. Give the baby a kiss for me!"

"Bye, Gabrielle!" called the other women in chorus as they followed Tiffany off toward the Common.

Gabrielle proceeded through Harvard Square and made her way past the Garage, across JFK Street and into the little park in front of Grendel's Den. On their favorite bench, Xena was holding court. Gabrielle walked up to her, pushing past a few hangers-on, and took her seat on Xena's lap. On either side, a man was sitting, and the heated debate seemed to be about politics.

"Hi Hank. Hi Ian," Gabrielle said when a momentary lull presented itself. The men greeted her amiably. Xena, as usual, seemed bad-tempered.

"You two get lost now," she ordered. "I need to talk to Gabs." She jerked her chin at the other groupies. "And take those assholes with you."

"Later, Gabs," said Ian as he and Hank got up. Hank put his hand in Ian's rear jeans pocket, and they sauntered off, gathering the hangers-on with an imperious gesture of Hank's hand.

"Assholes," Xena said, watching them go. Gabrielle pushed a wisp of hair out of her lover's brilliant blue eyes.

"Oh, Xena, they're decent boys. You're just sulky because they both turned gay after you screwed them." She cocked her head. "You should be honored, really."

"Honored?!" Xena repeated incredulously.

"Yes... because of your liberating influence they're happier now than they ever were. If you hadn't played them both for fools they never would have found each other. You validated their subversive emotions."

"Bullshit." Xena scowled. "Neither of them was any good anyway. Did you find our boy?"

"Yes." Gabrielle smiled triumphantly. "I was right. He's Law. His name is Luther Hawthorne."

"Luther Hawthorne," Xena repeated, tasting the syllables. "And he'll be here?"

"He'll be here," Gabrielle said confidently.

"What else? Did you kiss him?"


"Tell me."

Gabrielle shifted slightly on Xena's lap, thinking. "Well, he didn't want to believe I was serious. He seems to have some self-esteem issues but he covers it pretty well. He's too bony but he has nice hands. He uses Old Spice, but not too much. He has a nice mouth, although he was too surprised to really kiss back."

"Hmm." Xena absorbed all this for a moment, then stretched out her neck, claiming Gabrielle's lips for a long exploratory kiss. Gabrielle tried to convey, somehow, through her mouth, what it was like to kiss Luther Hawthorne.

When they finally came up for air, he was standing by the bench, watching.

Next Chapter

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joan the english chick
Last updated 7 February 1998 (content) / 25 February 2002 (format)