Author: Dana Cory
Story Title: The Love of Lao Ma
Characters: Xena/Lao Ma, Xena/f, Xena & Borias, Xena/Gabrielle
Rating: NC-17
Summary: Picks up where 'The Debt Parts I and II' left off. Xena explains how Lao Ma led her on a spiritual, emotional and sexual journey.
This rating is for explicit f/f and m/f sex.

Amazon Ice Awards
Winner of an Amazon Ice Award

The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, M'Lila, Borias, Ming T'zu, and Lao Ma belong to MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures, and no copyright infringement is intended. All other characters are mine. This story is for fun and NOT profit.

While Taoism is a part of my spiritual practice, my interpretation of the Tao Te Ching (and how it is incorporated into this story) may not be the same as yours. Purists might be offended.

This story describes a sometimes intense spiritual, emotional, and sexual journey. Intimate acts of love and lust are graphically described between consenting adults of various genders, and that includes the assumption that Xena and Gabrielle are lovers.

Old Anglo-Saxon agricultural terms are also used. If you are a minor and/or offended by such things, go watch Public Television RIGHT NOW.

All others, enjoy…Hey, you might even learn something…Also, this is my first attempt at "serious" (as in not humorous) fanfiction. If you want a good laugh, check out my other work

SPOILERS: Our tale picks up where "The Debt (1 & 2)" left off and contains references to those episodes. If you haven't seen them, this story won't make much sense. There's references to "Destiny" as well, but we've all seen that more than a few times, haven't we? Now, on with the show…

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by Dana Cory

"That was amazing…"

Xena's breathing was starting to slow, but her heart still pounded from the exertion of passion. "You're amazing…" Xena pulled her lover's sweaty body tighter into her own, and kissed the top of her head. The petite woman snuggled close into Xena's lithe form as the warrior ran her fingers through long silky hair. Xena took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, her heart finally returning to its normal pace. They savored the afterglow for several minutes, then Xena broke the comfortable silence.

"I want to tell you a story, I…need to tell you how Lao Ma taught me about love…"

A small hand played lazily with Xena's breasts, and both women smiled as the warrior's nipples responded to the attention.

"Unless you distract me …" Xena chuckled and lifted the guilty hand from her bosom. She gently kissed the palm, then sensuously sucked on each finger.

"You taste so good." The warrior stole a kiss from her lover's lips, then sighed to refocus her thoughts.

"I'm no bard, but I'll try to do the story justice…After I had served Ming T'zu - and for a little while at least, conquered my will - Lao Ma came into my room while I slept.

I awoke with a start to her fingers tenderly stroking my face. She was so beautiful, so powerful…I was mesmerized. She learned down and whispered in my ear:

'Xena, I'm very proud of you.' Her warm breath against my neck sent shivers down my spine. 'Tomorrow we will begin your next lesson.' Her lips brushed against mine lightly, then she left as silently as she had come.

My mind reeled at what the lesson might be. I was afraid and excited at the unknown tasks ahead, and I didn't get much sleep that night. At dawn a servant girl came to take me to Lao Ma's room. My teacher was kneeling at a small table and did not even look up when I entered.

'Xena, come and share tea with me.' She said still gazing straight ahead. I knelt across the table from her as the servants poured the tea. Lao Ma finally looked at me, her expression neutral as she asked:

'Xena, have you ever been with a woman?' I was taken aback by the question.

'Of course…' I sputtered as my pride answered before my brain. Her eyes narrowed and I knew I couldn't lie to her. I hung my head in shame and confessed the truth.

'No, I have not.'

She reached across the table and gently lifted my chin. She said:

'Do not be ashamed, but I need to have your honesty and trust. That is the basis of this next lesson.' Her hand withdrew from my face, and my heart ached at the loss of contact.

'Do you trust me, Xena?' She asked.

'Yes.' I answered from my heart. She posed another question.

'Do you love me, Xena?' I was hurt that she had to ask such a thing.

'You know I do…' I replied and reached my hand across the table to touch her cheek. She closed her eyes and turned her head to kiss the inside of my wrist. I shuddered.

She took my hand in both of hers and opened her eyes to ask the one question I most wanted to hear:

'Do you desire me, Xena?'

'Yes!' I breathed as my heart and sex pounded at the thought of being with Lao Ma. She held my hand against her heart and I could feel her rhythm was the same as mine. I leaned over the table to kiss her, but her hand on my chest stopped me.

'No, Xena, wait.' She said, and I pulled away from her, hurt and confused. Lao Ma quickly assured me she felt as much desire for me as I did for her (something I thought to be impossible), but that I would have to be patient and learn to control my desire, or it would continue to control me…"

A small but insistent thigh pressed between Xena's legs, causing the warrior to moan and lose her concentration for a moment. Xena reluctantly pushed her lover's leg to a more neutral position.

"Please, let me finish…After we shared tea, Lao Ma dismissed the servants. She undressed me, then removed her own clothes and led me to the bed. I was trembling with anticipation. I didn't know what to do, but I knew I wanted to do it to her. She told me to sit cross-legged on the bed, and she sat facing me with our knees barely touching. I wanted to touch her everywhere, all at once, but I fought for the control to follow her directions. She instructed me to hold my hands up palm to palm with hers, and not to speak or break eye contact. Heat seemed to radiate from her hands through my body, and the pain lessened a bit in my crippled legs.

Our hands moved together as we gazed into each other's souls. I gradually realized we were breathing in sync. I felt pure love like I'd never known before…unconditional, strong, infinite. The walls of pain and anger around my heart began to soften. After a small piece of forever, her hands left mine to caress my skin. It was so sensual, like butterflies landing and flying away again. She touched me everywhere but where I wanted it the most. My blood burned through my veins from all the new sensations. She whispered:

'Touch me, Xena' and I lunged at her like an unchained beast. I covered her body with mine and kissed her passionately, my hands moving desperately over her skin.

Almost instantly she flipped me on my back and had my arms pinned over my head.

I was stunned.

'I am not Borias!' she said. 'Xena, you already know how to fuck. I am going to teach you how to make love.' She released my arms and propped herself up on her elbows to look down at me. She told me:

'You have a great destiny to fulfill, and part of that destiny is a love so powerful the gods themselves will envy you.'

Of course, I thought Lao Ma was speaking about herself, and I thrilled at the possibility of staying with her forever, but it was also too much too soon and the instinct to fight or run suddenly overwhelmed my love for her. She sensed the panic in my body, and laid her full weight on me. Somehow, instead of feeling trapped I felt comforted, protected and enveloped in her love. Her skin on mine was softer than the silk of the bedclothes beneath us. The tension in my muscles eased as she whispered to me. Her lips were once again next to my ear, and she explained that the most challenging lessons held the greatest rewards. If I could learn to surrender my will and to trust in love, I would begin to know the Way. She promised to stop at any point in the lessons if I truly wanted it. It was my job to be honest with her about everything I felt, good or bad.

I nodded in understanding, and for the first time noticed the smell of her hair. I began my lesson by saying to her:

' You smell like cinnamon, with a hint of vanilla and…musk.' I felt her smile against my neck as she replied:

'Very good, Xena. Your scent is…burnt roses, with fresh cut wood and…myrrh.'

She nuzzled my neck and breathed in more of me, then rubbed the tip of her nose to mine and told me to roll over.

I obeyed as she sat up to give me room to move. I heard a bottle open, and then the sound of her hands rubbing together. I released a deep sigh as her oiled hands worked over the muscles of my back and arms. The oil was warm and cool at the same time, and I willingly accepted the attention. I was almost asleep when Lao Ma moved from my back to my hips and thighs, but I gasped awake at the pleasure of her touch there. It was not overtly sexual, but sensual and therapeutic. I tensed as I felt her hands move to my injured lower legs, and she immediately stopped. She asked if I wanted her to continue. I was tempted to lie and say yes, and I was afraid to admit my fear of pain. It was not easy for me to show any vulnerability, even to Lao Ma. I remembered that honesty and trust were paramount. I asked her to please be very gentle, and she assured me her intent was to ease my pain, not add to it. Her hands moved over my damaged limbs with long, soft strokes. The usual dull ache was replaced with the tingling warmth of the oil. I wished deep in my heart that there was some way for Lao Ma to take away the pain forever, not knowing that she would fulfill my silent plea a few days later.

She reapplied the oil to her hands and massaged my feet, working with pressure points to further enhance my pleasure. M'Lila had shown me how to use certain points to cause and/or block pain, but I had never realized the same principles could make a bolt of desire shoot from my toes straight to my sex. It became increasingly difficult to control my craving for Lao Ma. I wanted to roll over and quench the burning lust that she had built up in my body. I moaned my frustration and unconsciously began to grind my hips into the bed. She continued to work on my feet, and told me to breathe deeply and be patient. I tried to obey, but the beast in me had to take control and ravish her. I growled as the beast won and I started to raise up off the bed. Lao Ma released my feet and crawled up the length of my body, her bare breasts blazing a trail of fire along the way. I groaned and tried to arch into her, but she pinned me down again. Her full weight was on my back, and I should have been able to toss her off easily but somehow I couldn't move. I, who had never begged for anything, pleaded with her to let me touch her, bring her pleasure, hear her come. She increased my torment by whispering in my ear:

' You are doing well, Xena. You have shifted your desire from wanting to take to wanting to give. Now, set that desire aside and surrender to receiving pleasure, not as a conquered warrior, but as my beloved. I promise that all the things I do to you, you will soon practice on me when you have learned each part of the technique. Stay present in the moment and enjoy the experience while you learn. You will find fulfillment like you've never known before.'

She paused to nip playfully at my neck, which caused a whimper to escape my lips, then Lao Ma said the words that would become a mantra over the course of the next few days:

'Your pleasure is my pleasure.'

She again instructed me to turn over, and suddenly I could move freely. Her words and touch had helped me bank the fire of my passion down to glowing coals, and I obeyed.

She continued the massage on the front of my body, being very careful to maintain the plateau of sensuality without pushing me over the precipice of carnal need. She seemed to know my body better than I did, and I was finally allowing myself to love every minute of it. All too soon - although in reality it had probably been several candlemarks - the massage was over and Lao Ma rang a bell to signal the servants to bring food.

We fed each other with a playful sensuality, laughing and teasing, free of the strict etiquette of formal Chinese dining. As her fingers placed each exotic morsel in my mouth, she asked me to meditate on where the food had come from, and the journey it took to reach my plate. If I didn't know, I got to feed it to her as she explained its origin. I understood that I had never really appreciated food before. I had a new respect for the sacrifice made of a piece of fruit or vegetable or fish to fuel my existence. After I had learned the source of each type of food on the plate, we simply enjoyed nourishing each other. We sucked each other's fingers clean, but my teacher stopped the playful game before it crossed over from sensual to sexual.

In this way - with loving words, gentle touches, and food - Lao Ma tamed the beast in me as one would tame a wolf. You must remember, I was barely nineteen; raw and undisciplined. She was beginning to civilize me the way I had feared she would Borias, only I had become a willing convert.

After we had satiated one hunger, it was time to stir up another. Now it was my turn to give the massage. I've always been a quick study, and I endeavored to impress Lao Ma and give her the same wondrous pleasure she had given me. I learned her contours with my hands, and studied her body like I would study a map before battle. I did very well, considering that I wasn't used to doing anything tenderly, and she encouraged my curious explorations - up to a point. I was gently discouraged from staying too long in certain areas, but I secretly enjoyed watching the changes in Lao Ma's breathing when I strayed out of bounds. The idea that my touch aroused her caused a flood of power and passion through my body; not the urge to dominate and posses that I was used to, but a new concept of creating joy for another person - making love. I wanted to follow the path of my hands with my mouth, but I restrained myself to a few light kisses on her hands and feet. She smiled and allowed these small transgressions, but softly warned me not to get carried away. I was nearly done with her massage, and I didn't want to stop touching her. It occurred to me that we hadn't really kissed yet, well, other than me pouncing on her like an animal and her gift of air when I was hiding in her tub. As I worked the pressure points on her delicate feet, I jokingly asked if she had refrained from kissing me all day as punishment for my earlier boorish behavior. She answered in a very serious tone:

' Xena, if I were to punish you, you would know it. A kiss is the most intimate act of love, and there is much more to discover of each other before we share that intimacy.'

I immediately felt like a scorned child, dropped her foot, and got off the bed. I threw on a robe and stomped around the room, trying to control the turmoil of emotions in my stomach. I wanted to pout and rage at the same time. Lao Ma lay on her side with her head propped on her hand, and interrupted my internal storm. She calmly said:

'Xena, be an adult and come back to bed.'

That was much easier said than done. I decided to rage. I screamed at her:


'You're right, Xena, you don't know.' She replied impassively. 'That's what I'm trying to teach you.'

This statement didn't ease my fury one bit. It was as if all the people who had ever hurt or abandoned me were present in Lao Ma, and I boiled over. I ranted and raved about love and betrayal, loss and revenge, and anything and everything that had ever pissed me off. The beast was loose again and I paced the cage of her room. All the while my teacher lay on the bed, her expression neutral but attentive. Eventually I yelled myself hoarse, and as the storm wound down I huddled in the far corner of the room, crying and rocking uncontrollably. Through my tears I watched Lao Ma rise off the bed and come over to me. I instinctively shrank from her when she embraced me, but the need for comfort overpowered my pride and soon I was holding her tight, sobbing into her naked bosom. She held me for a long time, cooing and stroking my hair. I was ashamed at my outburst and deeply grateful for her unconditional love. The tears dried up, but I still couldn't bring myself to look at her. Thankfully, her melodic voice broke the tense silence.

'Xena,' she said, and I flinched at the reminder of who I was. 'I do love you; more than I can express with words and touch, more than you can comprehend right now. I will always love you, and no matter what happens, you must remember that.'

She placed her hand under my chin and tried to lift my face. I resisted long enough to wipe my nose on my sleeve, then met her gaze with puffy eyes. Her hands moved to caress my cheeks, and she leaned in to kiss me. It was an eternity before I felt the soft pressure of her lips on mine. I pressed into the tender touch as my hands came up to cup her face. I relished the sweetness and love as our mouths moved together slowly for eons, and I didn't dare try to deepen the kiss. I pulled back just enough to breathe and say 'I love you', then our mouths melted together with a passionate intensity unlike anything I could have imagined. I knew if nothing existed but that moment, the universe would be perfect. My head swam with the intoxication of desire as I felt Lao Ma's tongue emerge to tease my lips. I moaned and opened my mouth to eagerly receive whatever gifts she chose to bestow upon me. She did not enter, but nipped at my lips and then moved to my ear. She nibbled a few times, then whispered:

'Xena, come back to my bed.'

In one fluid motion I rose and swept her off her feet and into my arms. She gasped in surprise, then laughed and draped her arms around my neck for the short trip to the bed. I stole a few small kisses as I carried her, then carefully lowered her down into the silks. I stood up and shrugged out of the robe, and knelt on the bed beside her.

I said for the first time in my life:

'Your pleasure is my pleasure.'

It was certainly not the last time I would speak those words. Lao Ma smiled, sat up, and reached for the washcloth and water basin by the bed. I sat still and quiet as she ceremoniously dipped the linen in the water and washed the traces of despair from my face. She patted me dry with another cloth, then returned the toiletries to the nightstand. She held out her hand and said:

'Let us enjoy the sunset together.'

The passage of time had been the last thing on my mind all day, but sure enough, I saw the fading light through the windows. She led me out onto the balcony, and positioned me behind her as we stood bathed in the pink and orange hues of the dying day. She loosely held my arms around her waist, and leaned comfortably back into me. I tightened the embrace slightly and nuzzled her hair before resting my chin on her shoulder. I paid special attention to how the colors and shadows played across the different shades of our skin. We watched as Helios was slowly swallowed by the horizon, and when there was no more light, returned to her bed.

She rang for the servants to bring the evening meal, and as before they paid no notice to our nudity. We ate more efficiently this time, but still delivered the food into each other's mouths with great affection. After the meal was cleared away, we simply lay together wrapped in a peaceful embrace, digesting the food and the tumultuous events of the day. Lao Ma's head was pillowed on my breast, and I thought she had drifted off to sleep . I was about to join her in Morpheus' arms when I felt a fingernail delicately trace a line from the inside of my wrist up my forearm. My eyes opened and I gasped as goosebumps raised up along the path of my teacher's touch. I questioned her with my gaze, and she stated in an academic voice:

' This is your heart meridian…'

Her fingernail slowly tickled up the inside of my arm and over my chest. I looked at her with amazement as she explained the role of it in the Chinese system of medicine. She continued to outline and explain numerous Rivers of Ch'i all over my body, to my intense delight and amusement. I knew I should be paying better attention, that this was a very serious lesson in a complex healing art, but the sensations left by her fingernail were deliciously distracting. I was silently praying I wouldn't be tested on this new information anytime soon, when Lao Ma's hand suddenly cupped my sex. I startled and held my breath. She smirked and said:

'That got your attention back. Now, this is your base chakra-'

'You're telling me!' I interrupted as I finally let go my breath. She grinned, but kept her hand where it was as she told me about the principals of the seven wheels of information in one's body. She wasn't rubbing or actively stimulating anything down there (although I desperately wanted her to), but I felt a steady heat growing. Just when I was about to push her hand exactly where I wanted it, she moved to cup the area under my navel. I sighed in relief and frustration, and the rest of the lesson was much easier to remember. She touched my stomach, heart, throat, forehead and the crown of my head, leaving little balls of warmth behind at each location on my body. Some were warmer than others - you can guess which ones - and I longed to feel Lao Ma's body on mine again. I opened my mouth to suggest the idea, but my teacher cut me off and instructed me to sit cross legged again. I obeyed, hoping this wasn't going to be a long lesson in meditation. I was pleasantly surprised when Lao Ma sat in my lap, facing me. I groaned as she wrapped her legs around my back and hands around my neck. I embraced her torso and whimpered as our breasts touched and soft, curly hair brushed my stomach. My heart almost pounded out of my chest when she told me to widen my legs. I opened for her, and her body slid gently down until her curls mixed with mine. I instinctively wrapped my legs around her back, which caused our hips to tilt and warm, damp flesh came into contact. I threw my head back with a long moan and pulled her hips in tighter, trying to deepen this wonderful new kind of kiss. She shifted slightly, and our clits touched. I invoked all the gods all over the world and buried my face in her neck as we moved together in a torturously slow rhythm. Her breasts rested just under mine, and I could feel hardening nipples brush tantalizingly along the sensitive crease where my breasts began. My own nipples were woefully alone, and I brought my hands to the back of Lao Ma's head, hinting at where I wanted her mouth to go. She moved her arms from my neck to my back and lowered her face to my chest. To my great frustration, she ignored the aching points and her mouth hovered over my heart. Her breath was hot on my skin, and a rush of energy pulsed between my heart and sex. She inhaled my love and exhaled more back into me, blowing the ember of my desire up to a bonfire. I noticed our body rhythms were in sync again as I breathed into her hair, almost tasting her scent in my lungs. I was drowning in waves of indescribable sensations. What was happening to me was a new level of existence. I became aware of the cessation of movement between our hips but I felt so good, so alive in love, that I didn't care. I couldn't comprehend how the simple act of Lao Ma breathing on my bosom flooded every part of my body in pleasure. She began to move her fingernails in small circles across my back. I arched into the caress as she lightly scratched all over my skin, relieving itches I never knew I had. My hands moved in a similar way across her much smaller back. She lifted her mouth from my heart and whispered into my lips:

'Your pleasure is my pleasure.'

I repeated the words back to her, and for a sliver of eternity we stayed like that; our lips barely touching, breath mingling as we chanted to each other, building the erotic intensity. A sudden swirl of physical need whipped up my spine as Lao Ma reestablished the rhythm of our hips, and I cried out her name. We ground into each other, bodies inseparable; moving, breathing and moaning as one being. Beads of sweat gathered and dripped down our skin as the pace increased, both of us panting as we approached a plateau. Our eyes locked as my teacher expertly guided our bodies up to and away from the edge of ecstasy more times than I could count. Lifetimes passed as I gazed into her soul, and I willingly bared my own, desperate for release but not wanting to leave the heavenly world I was in. Finally, Lao Ma gasped the words:

'Now, Xena!' and our lips merged in a searing kiss as tidal waves of ecstatic pleasure swept us away. We rode the ever increasing currents as our mouths opened and flowered into each other. Tongues danced and fingernails dug into flesh as the tremors continued to rack our bodies. Very slowly, the flow of release wound down and our kisses shifted from deeply passionate to gently loving. Eventually we broke the kisses and rested our foreheads against each other as we caught our breath, occasionally rubbing noses or nuzzling. A glistening mix of sweat and juices cooled our bodies as wisps of steam rose into the cool night air from our skin. I murmured into my teacher's ear:

'I am yours, Lao Ma. Every part of me is yours…'

She pulled back and pressed two fingers to my lips to quiet me. She said:

'No, Xena. One person can never truly own another. You belong only to yourself. Never forget that.'

She kissed me again, and pushed me back to lay on the silks of the bed. She wrapped the covers around our bodies and snuggled into me. She told me to sleep well, as the most challenging lessons were yet to come…"

Xena paused her storytelling to get up and pour herself a glass of wine from the half-empty bottle on the table. She drained the entire glass in one draught, causing her bedmate to raise an eyebrow at her. The warrior smirked at her companion, poured another glass, and returned to bed.

"Don't worry, I promise I won't get too drunk to finish what I've started…" Xena said as she set the glass on the nightstand. She turned back to her lover and sealed the statement with a scalding kiss. Xena realized she had become very aroused by recounting her memories to her young friend, and positioned the petite beauty under her own larger body. The small woman eagerly acquiesced to the warrior's advances, and raised her slender thigh to press between Xena's legs. The Warrior Princess moaned and arched into the welcome contact, then began a slow grinding of her hips. They were soon lost in a primal rhythm, groaning and gasping as the cords of lust pulled tighter. Xena briefly considered the contrast between this animalistic rutting and the tender lovemaking of her story, then gave up the ability to think when she felt teeth sink into her shoulder. The warrior growled and pumped ferociously into the body beneath her. Tiny hands grabbed her hips, driving home one final bruising thrust as both women crashed over the edge. Xena howled and shook, then collapsed on her still shuddering partner. They lay together, panting and recovering from the rush of hormones. After Xena had caught her breath, she took another sip of wine and continued with her story.

" I slept more soundly that night than I ever had before. Waking up in Lao Ma's arms, I was sure I had died in my sleep and gone to the Elysian Fields, even though I didn't deserve to be there. As I watched her begin to stir from sleep, I knew I also didn't deserve to be so happy, to feel so loved. My teacher woke to see the dark cloud of my thoughts pass across my face, and she immediately asked what was wrong. I confessed my fears that I was unworthy of her. I asked her how she could possibly love a murderous warlord like myself. She told me:

' Xena, the bad can be raw material for the good. As you discover your own inner nature, you will see how much good you can give to the world. I have looked into your soul and seen the potential for greatness, but it is up to you to manifest that destiny. I can guide you only so far down the path, then you must find you own Way. It is your spirit I love, Xena, not your deeds.'

Tears collected in my eyes as she spoke, and spilled down my cheeks as she pulled me into a tender kiss. We broke apart after long moments, then she tickled me until she won a smile.

As we donned robes and headed to the baths, I marveled at the blessing of Lao Ma in my life. This remarkable goddess had rescued me from a gruesome death at the jaws of Ming T'zu's hounds, washed and clothed me, helped me through several agonizing days of opium withdrawal, and withstood my hostile arrogance and temper tantrums all throughout our lessons. I still wasn't convinced I deserved such a woman, but I was determined to become worthy of her faith and love.

We bathed each other in sacred silence, communicating with adoring looks and affectionate caresses. Surprisingly, I didn't feel any sexual compulsion for Lao Ma during the bath. I was perfectly content sharing this intimate and ancient ritual with the woman I loved. I sighed in sensual bliss as she washed my hair; her tiny hands gently massaging my scalp with rose scented oil-soap, warm rinse water running down my face. I smiled to myself at the memory of the first time she had washed my hair. I had been so skittish, acting more like a cornered animal than a person.

What an idiot.

We dried each other with reverence and tenderness, then dressed in traditional gowns. Lao Ma stated that our lessons would be held outside for most of the day, and I secretly hoped the lack of a bed would not change the nature of the lessons. My heart (and a few other organs) fell when she ordered two servants to pack some supplies and follow us. I was also disappointed to see her wave away the litter-bearers. Some of the pain had returned to my legs, and I leaned on my teacher as she led me through the garden.

We walked for quite a while, and the garden gave way to forest and brush. My legs ached terribly from the exertion, but I did not reveal my discomfort. Just when I was on the verge of collapsing, we came upon a stream and stopped. Lao Ma dismissed the servants, then she helped me to sit on a nearby stump. I stifled a groan of relief as I rubbed the soreness from my calves. My teacher unpacked some of the mysterious supplies, and laid out a bountiful picnic on a richly embroidered silk blanket. She assisted me as I hobbled from the stump to the cloth, and we sat down together.

We ate as she explained more about Ch'i - the lifeforce that permeates the universe - and how it flows through and connects all things. She said that the laws of nature and heaven are the same; it is the laws of Man that are unnatural. We are not really separate from the rocks in the stream, the leaves floating on the surface, or the water itself; that is the illusion of our minds - the culmination of will and desire. She told me of the yin and yang, and other basic principles of her philosophy. I listened attentively and asked questions, but had trouble wrapping my head around these foreign concepts. My teacher seemed to sense my growing frustration, and shifted the lesson to a breathing meditation. I gave up on the hope of making love with her anytime soon, and resigned myself to the exercise in relaxation.

I had just closed my eyes and taken a deep breath when I felt Lao Ma place her hand on my heart. My eyes popped open and the breath caught in my throat. She told me to close my eyes and continue breathing, and left her hand where it was. I did as she instructed, and a familiar warmth spread from my chest out to the rest of my body.

I reached to return the touch, but her other hand caught mine.

'No, Xena.' she said. 'Be still. Listen, feel, learn, but do not move until I tell you.'

I withdrew my hand obediently, and nodded my assent. I concentrated on keeping my breathing slow and steady, even as I felt her hands unbutton my gown. My own heartbeat drowned out the sounds of the forest as she unclothed me. She directed me to lay on my stomach, and I heard a rustling of silk. She told me to lie absolutely still and focus on the sounds around me. My heart had slowed a bit, so I could hear many other things; the running stream, birds singing, a breeze rustling through trees, small animals scampering under bushes. I heard Lao Ma's breathing very near, but not close enough to feel her body heat. Her voice added to the music of the forest:

' Xena, listen to the rhythms of nature blend into one song; feel the beats pulsing through your body.'

As she spoke, my own heartbeat and breath blended into the melody. I reveled in the joy of this new tune, and suddenly felt a strange vibration pass over my skin. I realized my teacher was hovering just above my head, humming softly. She crawled slowly down my body, breathing a different tone into each of my chakras. I moaned in dissonant harmony as I felt her breasts skim along my back , followed by a wash of cool, silky hair. She paused at the base of my spine and covered it with her mouth. I arched slightly as her tongue uncoiled and drew loving spirals. Every part of my body thrummed with love and pleasure. I hissed in disappointment when she moved away for a moment, but raised my hopes as Lao Ma's hands raised my hips. I jumped slightly at the feel of warm breath against my much warmer sex and anxiously awaited her kiss. Her open mouth brushed over my wetness and I cried out for more contact. My teacher ignored my pleas and stayed where she was, breathing and humming. Her lips barely touched mine, but I felt the vibrations pulse throughout my body. This single note expanded into chords of ecstasy, and I became the song of the stream and the birds and the wind. I was an instrument of nature, a reflection of the Way of heaven, and my spirit soared as I floated on waves of orgasm that originated from everywhere and nowhere. I gradually drifted back into my sweaty and blissfully sated body and laid there unable to move for a long time. I had a fuzzy memory of Lao Ma ordering me to be still at some point earlier in the day, so I didn't even try to see if any of my muscles worked. I became aware of fingers gently petting my hair, and I wearily opened my eyes to see my teacher lying beside me and smiling. I smiled back and asked if all the lessons were to be so…enlightening. She smirked and told me to roll onto my back. I happily obeyed.

She braced herself up on one elbow and put a hand on my heart again. She said:

'Xena, you are progressing very well. You are beginning a great journey, and have experienced a small part of your connection to all life. The next step to deepening this connection will test your ability to trust and surrender your Will. Are you ready to proceed?'

I replied with a flippant remark about deeper being a very good thing, and hid my apprehension. If what I had just been through was small, I wasn't sure if I could handle anything bigger.

Lao Ma instructed me to keep my hands out at my sides and close my eyes again. I was not to move or reciprocate her touch. It was my job to feel, enjoy, and of course, learn.

I complied, thinking that surely after yesterday's lessons I was in full control of my desires. Nothing was further from the truth. I could sense my teacher hovering over me again, and I itched in anticipation of the first touch. I suddenly felt very vulnerable. I wanted to open my eyes and see what would happen. I tried to resist temptation, but at the first languorous caress I peeked. I watched through slitted eyes as Lao Ma moved her fingertips over my arm. I whimpered at the touch and she looked up from her task to catch me cheating.

She was not happy. She scolded me, and before I knew what was happening, I was blindfolded.

Now I was not happy. Trust was one thing; blindness was another. I protested loudly and attempted to remove the cloth, only to find that I couldn't move my arms. I wasn't tied down, but I was absolutely bound by some unknown force to the ground. I started to thrash my legs and realized they were stuck as well.

I panicked and screamed a string of colorful curses at my captor. She waited out this tantrum as she had done before, and when I ran out of words and languages, she asked if I was done. Tears that had been gathering in my eyes spilled out and soaked the blindfold. I said in a meek voice:

' Please, I'm afraid. I promise I'll do anything you say, just please release me.'

Lao Ma removed the blindfold and I saw only love in her eyes. She answered:

' Xena, you are bound only by your own fears and mistrust. When you have surrendered your Will, you shall be free.'

I was terribly confused. I told her I didn't understand; I had offered myself to her completely the night before, and she had stated I belonged to myself. Now I was to submit to her will, blindfolded and paralyzed with fear?

She laughed, which annoyed me, and replied:

'I covered your eyes not to punish but to assist you, since it was too tempting for you to look. You are blinded by the illusions of separateness your eyes feed to your mind. Blocking your sight will help you to see the Way more clearly. Xena, surrendering your Will and submitting to the Will of another are NOT the same thing. Surrender is an act of trust - in yourself as well as me. I do not want your submission, and I am not doing this as a way to impose my Will on you. If you do not want to continue your lessons, we can stop, but this is the next step on the path and can not be avoided.'

I wasn't sure what would be worse; not making love with Lao Ma at all, or not being able to touch her while we did. I decided something was better than nothing. I told her that I loved her, and trusted her not to harm me. I closed my eyes, and she retied the blindfold. I took a deep breath and tried to let go of my need to control. She lowered herself onto my body, and I was again comforted by her sweet weight. She kissed me with abandon, and I lost myself in the taste of her.

I was a bit surprised at how much softer Lao Ma's skin felt in the darkness of my temporary blindness. We had kissed and touched each other for hours, yet part of me kept expecting to feel whiskers and rough, hairy skin. Our lovemaking was certainly different from anything I had done with men; there was passion without violent urgency. With Borias sex was a battle; the thrill of conquering or being conquered. I realized at that moment that subjugation had no place here. Although I seemed helpless, Lao Ma was truly serving my needs and not her own. There was no manipulative seduction, no secret agenda - only compassion and devotion.

A surge of love pulsed through my heart and I had to communicate it to my lover, teacher, savior. Without the use of my hands, I channeled all of my passion through my lips and tongue. My efforts produced several delicious moans from my teacher, and I hungrily swallowed the sounds. Lao Ma broke the kisses and I felt heavy breaths on my neck . She rested for a few moments, then began to trace intricate patterns with her tongue along my throat. I groaned and arched my back when she bit and sucked on a particularly sensitive spot. Her hands roamed over my skin with calculated skill, and I ached to return the caresses. I desperately wanted any part of her in my mouth, but she stayed just out of reach. She pressed her thigh between my legs, relieving some of my frustration while creating more. I whimpered and bucked my hips to increase the contact, but she pulled away. I growled my disapproval, but still the erotic torment continued. Lao Ma moved her hands and mouth on me in ways I never thought possible, teasing and building unimaginable pleasure without release.

I could feel the heat of Helios moving across my face, which was the only way I knew time was passing. I blessed the cool breeze that blew over my sweaty skin as my moans once again blended with the forest song. At some point I was able to move my legs again, and I wrapped them around my teacher's body at every opportunity, trying to draw her in. She chided me to relax and simply enjoy her gifts and lessons of love. I commented that my enjoyment would greatly increase if she would just hurry up and take me already!

She laughed again - even more annoying than before - and laid her body on mine, bracing herself on her elbows on either side of my head. I sighed at the feel of skin on skin and craned my head to where I guessed her lips were, silently begging for a kiss. She brushed her tongue along my lower lip, then moved to whisper in my ear:

'Xena, an open and loving heart is the greatest treasure. From caring comes courage. Trust in the Way of love, and know the wisdom of the universe.'

Something shifted in my soul at the sound of these words. A sudden warmth spread through me that had nothing to do with carnal need. I loved Lao Ma with all my heart.

I trusted her with my broken body and wounded soul. I treasured her love and wisdom. I inhaled a deep, soothing breath. I honored my desire to reciprocate, and then set it aside. My passion would not dissipate if it was not expressed immediately…Why was it so hard for me to be present in the moment, to accept the attention of my lover? I had to control…What? The answer hit me in a lightening bolt of clarity: nothing.

As I exhaled, I let go of my need to control. I now had the courage to surrender my Will to an infinitely loving and compassionate universe, beautifully reflected in my teacher.

I noticed a feeling of lightness in my arms, and I enveloped Lao Ma in a tender embrace. I didn't wonder at my mystical bonds or their sudden absence. Nothing mattered now but the woman in my arms. She adjusted her position slightly and I felt one of her hands slide down my torso to rest between my legs. I smiled and chuckled at her timing. Of course when I let go of the desire, it was instantly fulfilled. She lowered her mouth to mine and I felt her smile against my lips. She said:

'Your pleasure is my pleasure. Do you see that now, Xena?'

She punctuated her words with light strokes against my very swollen and sensitive clit. I bit my lip and nodded, relishing the sensation of her touch. My eyes had been closed under the blindfold, and they flew open when her fingers dipped into the liquid heat of my sex. The blindfold was secure, but to my amazement I could SEE Lao Ma. I was about to ponder this new mystery when my teacher's next words brought all logical thought to a grinding halt. She asked:

' Xena, may I enter?'

I shuddered with delight and managed to gasp 'Yes! Please, yes!' before all the blood rushed out of my brain and speech became impossible. Her fingers slid easily inside me, and I arched and groaned as she gently pushed into my need. We established a slow and steady rhythm, creating a strong physical and spiritual bond.

It felt very different than having a man inside, and Lao Ma's caress was so much more…versatile than what I was used to with Borias. I was so aroused by the other activities of the day, I was ready to come after only a few thrusts, but my teacher carefully kept me teetering on the edge. I could feel the wetness of her excitement slick on my thigh as we moved together, and I knew her ache had to be at least as strong as mine. Her self-control was incredible. She concentrated completely on my body, extending the plateau as far as possible. I thought I would burst if she didn't release me soon, and she seemed to sense my wonderful dilemma. I felt her press a point deep inside, and I exploded into her hand. I rode the waves of my own flood, then sank blissfully into its depths as silence and blackness engulfed me.

I gradually drifted back into consciousness in Lao Ma's arms. I blinked a few times, realizing the blindfold was off. It took me several minutes to get my bearings, but when my voice returned I had to ask:

'What the Hades did you do to me?'

My teacher laughed and replied:

'Something very good.'

I agreed wholeheartedly, then noticed we were both absolutely soaked - and not with stream water. I sat up suddenly blushing with shame and started to apologize for apparently losing control of my bodily functions when Lao Ma shushed me and placed her still wet fingers against my lips. She told me not to worry, and explained the source of the light, clear liquid. The smell of myself on her hand made me dizzy, and I tentatively reached out with my tongue for a taste. The salty sweetness was intoxicating, and I became drunk with the desire to know her own unique flavor. She allowed me to lick and suck the ambrosia from her fingers, but stopped me when I tried to move my mouth to other parts of her body. She grinned mischievously and said:

'No, Xena. You are still the leaf in the stream. There is more to this lesson, but I promise you can practice these new skills on me soon…'

I wasn't sure I could survive any more lessons, but I dutifully lay back down on the silk cloth. She covered me with kisses, rekindling fires I thought had been well doused by my last orgasm. It wasn't long before I was begging for completion again.

After a thorough exploration of every inch of my body, her tongue danced into my greatest need. I knew the currents of desire flowing out of me rivaled the Nile, but Lao Ma skillfully collected every drop. Moaning gave way to screaming as I relinquished my soul to her and…OH….GODS!"

Past and present came together violently as Xena felt a delicate but determined mouth latch onto her sex. The memories had once again made Xena very wet and ready, and the warrior moaned loudly as a skilled tongue mimicked the actions in her tale to perfection. She dimly realized she had unconsciously urged her young companion into this position during the story, and the girl was more than willing to oblige the older woman. It took only a few deft licks and sucks for the former Destroyer of Nations to be completely undone by her talented little friend. Xena arched off the bed and screamed her release as her body flooded the girl's face in musky juices. The warrior didn't wait for the tremors of her climax to subside as she sat up and grabbed her lover in a rough embrace. She pulled the petite woman into a bruising kiss, forcefully sucking the girl's tongue in a desperate effort to steal back the traces of her passion. Xena grasped a fistful of her lover's hair and held her in an iron grip as she licked the girl's face clean. The Warrior Princess broke away to possess her companion with a hungry gaze, then growled and effortlessly lifted her by the hips. The younger woman cried out in surprise as Xena gracefully repositioned their bodies so that the girl's swollen and dripping sex hovered just over the warrior's feral grin. She mercilessly impaled the small beauty onto her long, supple tongue, thrusting and swirling inside the honeyed walls. The girl gasped and moaned, spreading her legs to deepen the welcome invasion. Lost in scent and feel and taste, Xena's thoughts drifted back to her first taste of Lao Ma. Her oral assault of the present unwittingly became more gentle as the warrior fell into the past…

"Now, Xena," Her teacher's words echoed in Xena's mind. "You shall learn to be the stream, and I will play the leaf…"

The warrior had tried too hard at first, but Lao Ma had been a patient teacher, telling Xena exactly how to move her tongue and lips and fingers to bring or suspend the greatest joy, and to control the flow of Ch'i. She remembered the exquisite textures, aromas and flavors of her teacher's body - inside and out - and the delightful hours of discovering what made the usually composed and serene Lao Ma writhe and moan in pleasure.

A frustrated groan drew Xena back to the present, and she moved her mouth to caress a painfully engorged clitoris. She flicked her tongue against it with increasing speed and pressure, driving her partner to grind into her face. The warrior suddenly sucked hard and thrust two fingers into the girl, causing her to scream and fall forward as orgasm shook her fragile frame. Xena crawled out from under the trembling woman and enveloped her in strong arms. The girl whimpered softly and snuggled into the warrior's bosom, both women still struggling to catch their breath. After a while, their heartbeats returned to normal and blood again flowed equally to all body parts.

Xena retrieved the glass of wine from the nightstand and shared it with her bedmate. She replaced the empty glass on the small table, and turned to taste the spirit on her lover's lips. The kiss started soft and warm, but soon a new fire of lust sparked and flamed. Xena forced herself to pull away.

"No, you wicked temptress," Xena playfully teased her voracious companion. "I'm going to finish this story if it's the…last…thing…I…do…" The taller woman punctuated the last words with quick kisses. "And no fair wearing me out to shut me up!" Xena ducked in for a final smooch.

"Now…where was I ? Ahh, yes…We had spent the entire day by the stream learning each other's bodies and souls, finally dipping in the cool water to wash and play as dusk stretched our shadows on the bank. We giggled and splashed like children, and I couldn't remember the last time I had felt so happy and care-free.

Slowly, maturity returned and we stood waist deep in the water holding each other, watching Helios disappear and Selene take his place in the sky. I noticed the moon was almost full, and secretly wondered if there was some significance to the timing of these new lessons. I dismissed the thought and tightened my hold around my teacher's waist.

I feathered small kisses along Lao Ma's neck as I held her, and she turned her head to look back and up at me. She smiled and we kissed with a gentle intensity, warming each other's lips in the midst of the cold stream.

She had kept her promise. With her loving guidance I had experienced the yin and yang of being the floating leaf, the running stream, the wind, the rocks and many other indescribable states of consciousness.

When darkness fell, the servants returned with lanterns and warm cloaks, and stood dutifully as we dried off and dressed. To my immense relief, the litter-bearers arrived a few minutes later. The magical spell of making love with Lao Ma had again reduced the pain of my deformed limbs, but a free ride is a free ride.

I tried to act gallant and helped my teacher into the litter, but then stumbled when I attempted to climb in beside her. Being crippled and unused to such a vehicle, I ended up as the maiden in distress. Lao Ma giggled as she watched no less than four of her manservants assist me into the luxurious compartment. I was bright red with humiliation by the time I joined her among the cushions.

My teacher smirked at me and commented that she'd have to do something about my legs soon or hire stronger servants. I was sulking so hard I didn't take her seriously, and thought she was mocking my clumsiness. I'm sure I turned purple from her words. I recalled that not so long ago I would have killed anyone who dared to mock or pity my disability. She noticed my deepening color and laughed out loud. I wanted to disappear. Lao Ma's next comment crushed what was left of my self-esteem.

'Xena,' She said through her mirth ' Why are you impersonating a beet?'

I felt my crimson face drain to white. Well, she had asked for honesty about my feelings, and at that moment I was hurting pretty bad…I snapped back:

'Why do you taunt me? Your words are killing me, Lao Ma!'

My teacher's expression quickly changed from amusement to one of compassion and love. She reached her hand to my face and stroked my cheek with a butterfly's touch.

She stated:

'Xena, my most precious one, you have only just begun to live. ..'

She leaned in and closed the short distance between us. The heat of anger was replaced with a more pleasant burning as I smelled my scent on her breath. Her lips landed lightly on my forehead, then kissed each eye closed. We rubbed noses as she spoke softly:

'Xena, the enlightened one finds amusement with life. My love, what have I hurt with my playful teasing? Your ego? Your pride? Those are masks, confining you in hollow fears. To know the Way is to live without the masks, to have integrity without self-righteousness. You despise pity from others, yet you wallow in it yourself. You are not the only person who's suffered at the hands of evil. Learn from your adversity, Xena. Who better to bring peace to the world than one who has conquered the chaos in her own soul?'

As with much of what Lao Ma said, it would take years for me to truly understand what she meant. I'm lucky I can remember anything from that time clearly, since I always got terribly distracted and aroused by her presence.

The vibration of her voice tickled my lips, and I bit my lower lip to relieve the itch. My eyes flew open when I felt her teeth gently sparring with mine for possession of my tingling flesh. They fluttered shut again as we nibbled and pulled on each others lips; teasing, testing, tasting. It wasn't long before our tongues entered the fray, playfully wrestling in a contest with no losers. In the small space of the litter, our knees touched and hands smoothed over the silken platform of each others thighs. Without breaking what was perhaps history's longest kiss, our fingers intertwined and joined in the fun. In a heartbeat they figured out the game, mimicking the erotic twirling dance of softly muscled mouths.

Until I encountered Lao Ma, my hands had been only tools of violence. Even during sex with Borias or other men, they were weapons of manipulation feigning tenderness. When I was with her, however, all I wanted to do was handle my teacher like the renowned fine porcelain of her kingdom.

My long fingers dwarfed her delicate hands, and I delighted in the contrast of her refined skin sliding against my rough calluses. I could feel a growing circle of Ch'i spiraling through us as our fingers and mouths swirled to the gentle sway of our transport.

I think this was the very first time I really experienced the Way of Lao Ma. I was completely in the moment, yet time did not exist. I was alive with love, but I did not feel the urgent longing of our previous lessons. I inherently knew that if this was the last kiss we shared, or one of a thousand, it didn't matter. There was no Will, no desire, just the perfect harmony of our souls blending into each other and a greater whole. I know it sounds strange to say there was love without desire, but I don't know how else to explain the feeling of having everything and nothing at the same time. Breathing was irrelevant. We were each the only inspiration the other required. Eternity passed, followed by forever, and eventually we were separate beings again.

We pulled away from each other, sharing a smile and a sigh. Lao Ma made an unnecessary gesture of straightening her gown as she settled into her half of the compartment. A second later, the litter stopped. We were back at the palace.

We ate dinner in the solitude of her room. Lao Ma told me about her time as a courtesan at Ming T'zu's court. The training in physical pleasures - and pains - was extensive. She found comfort in the embraces of the other women at court, and performed her job well with Ming T'zu, enough to bear the coveted heir. When she had served her usefulness in breeding, Lao Ma had been sold to Lao T'zu as a political pawn. She spoke with a kind of detached acceptance of the abuse her body and spirit had experienced with Ming T'zu. Only the philosophy her grandmother had taught her as a child kept my teacher sane.

I had committed terrible atrocities in my young life, had slaughtered countless innocents without remorse, yet somehow hearing Lao Ma's story brought tears of rage and sympathy to my eyes. Now I had new reasons to hate Ming T'zu. I promised my teacher that I would destroy the House of Ming. She grabbed my hands suddenly and I cringed at her vehement reaction.

'No, Xena!' Lao Ma's voice cut through my rage. 'You will forgive him his crimes as I have.'

I jerked my hands away from her icy grip and stood to my full and imposing height. I was no longer the obedient student. She was my mate and instinct drove me to protect and avenge her. I replied:

'Forgive that monster? Lao Ma, I can control my rage enough to serve him dinner, but don't ask me to forgive and forget! He doesn't deserve it!'

She sighed and rose in one fluid motion to stand before me. Although I looked down at her, I instantly felt very small.

'No, Xena,' she said. 'But you do.'

I loved Lao Ma, but her cryptic words irritated the Hades out of me.

'What?! Are you calling me a hypocrite?' I challenged.

This was not how I wanted to end such an intensely pleasurable and intimate day…

'No, Xena,' she answered. 'Listen to me. Forgive him for yourself. Ming T'zu's crimes will never be forgotten, any more than your crimes against the people of his kingdom. His karma is not your concern. Clear your spirit of anger and hatred, bloodlust and blind desires of petty revenge. Break the cycle of violence and death. Live with the harmony of the Way.'

My teacher turned away from me and began to prepare for bed. I stood there for long moments, completely baffled. Lao Ma was sliding her naked body under the covers when I finally spoke. I asked her if she meant I was as evil as Ming T'zu, and therefore had no right to condemn him. For the first time in all our lessons , she sounded a bit exasperated as she answered me.

'My love, there is a time for talk, a time for action, and a time for rest. It has been a long day, and I, for one, choose rest.'

She lifted the silk of the bedclothes to reveal the softer surface of her bare skin. I knew an invitation when I saw it, and all the confusion drained from my head along with most of my blood. I scrambled out of my gown and slid under the covers to join her. I hadn't realized how exhausted I was, and I easily slipped from Lao Ma's embrace into Morpheus' tender care.

I awoke on the third day of our loving lessons with my head pillowed on my teacher's bosom. I kept my eyes shut and listened to her heart beat. I floated on her deep, even breaths, matching her body's rhythms. I sensed a subtle change as she began to stir awake, and I moved slightly to take some of my weight off her. She inhaled sharply, then sighed my name and ran her fingernails up my spine to find gentle purchase in my hair. I groaned her name as her nails left a tickling trail on my back, and sank into the exquisite softness of Lao Ma's breasts. I nuzzled my face between her firm mounds then rubbed my cheek against a hardening nipple. She tightened her hold in my hair as her sharpened point grazed across my cheek to my lips. I licked and teased her with the tip of my tongue for the longest time before taking her entire breast into my mouth. I massaged her other breast while I suckled with abandon. Recent experience had taught me I could draw an orgasm from my teacher this way, and I carefully noted her sounds and movements. I switched the position of my hand and mouth when Lao Ma's breath became shallow. I knew if she came I would join her for the ride, and I shifted to straddle her slender thigh and speed the journey for both of us. My mouth paused in its task of pleasuring and I cried out at the feel of wet on wet, reflexively squeezing the flesh in my hand. My teacher whimpered, signaling the end was near. I latched onto the underside of her breast and sucked with all my might. Suddenly Lao Ma moved me off her thigh and my hips were between her legs. I was surprised at the loss of direct contact for my aching sex, but stayed attached as she thrust into me and climaxed, screaming my name. I continued to lavish her bosom with love as shivers passed through her tiny frame. I was so happy to give her pleasure, I didn't care that I hadn't come with her. I could have spent the rest of my days worshipping Lao Ma's breasts. They were perfect…so much like yours…"

Xena cupped her lover's breast and ran her thumb lightly over the nipple. The girl moaned and the warrior smiled as the small point stiffened before her eyes.

" So much like you…so responsive…" The older woman mumbled and took a taste of the young flesh so willingly offered to her. Xena twirled her delicious prize in her mouth, alternating pulling and pushing with her teeth and tongue. The smaller woman hissed and growled at a particularly hard suck, and the Warrior Princess released one nipple only to consume the other with equal voracity. A pained whimper from her companion broke the tall woman out of her lusty haze, and Xena struggled to control her raging passion lest she injure the girl.

"I'm so sorry," The warrior panted. "Did I hurt you?…So sorry…" Xena felt tears brimming in her eyes, and lay her head on her lover's chest.

" I never meant to hurt you…Please forgive me…" The former warlord sobbed quietly. The petite woman's brow furrowed in confusion, and she stroked Xena's hair to soothe the suddenly distraught older woman. "Please…forgive me…please…"

The girl figured this outburst wasn't about a minor "ouchie" in bed, but knew enough not to push the currently… unstable… warrior for details. Instead the young woman cooed and shushed Xena in a comforting embrace until the tears stopped and the stoic mask returned to the older woman's face. The Warrior Princess drew in a deep breath and continued her story as if nothing had happened.

" I lay on Lao Ma with her legs wrapped around my thighs and covered her face with little kisses. My lips landed on hers and she pushed to deepen the kiss. I gave her entrance into my mouth, then surrendered totally as she rolled on top of me. I heard my teacher retrieve something from under the bed as her tongue possessed mine. Curiosity won over passion as I heard a faint jingling, and I broke away from her lips to see what was going on. I had barely lifted my head when I felt two small, cold, smooth spheres pressing into my very hot and wetly swollen folds. I jerked in surprise and asked what the Hades Lao Ma was doing. She chuckled and deftly inserted the balls deep inside me. I was dumbstruck at this odd invasion. My teacher explained that today's lesson was about emptiness and fullness. She threw my own words back at me with an amused smirk.

' Xena, you said everyone has to be full of something. You will experience the beauty and peace of emptiness, and the contrast of being filled; then you can make a conscious choice of what shall fill your soul. '

My mind struggled to comprehend Lao Ma's words as my body tried to process the feeling of these strange, foreign objects shifting and pressing against my sensitive inner walls. And that damned muffled jangling noise!

I squirmed and told Lao Ma this lesson would drive me insane. She replied:

'My love, The Way is the Great Mother, empty yet inexhaustible, it gives birth to infinite worlds. It is always present in you. You can use it any way you want.'

I felt my annoyance building again. I also noticed the spheres strained my need for release, and the pulsing that had started in my sex from pleasuring my teacher was becoming downright painful. I took Lao Ma's hand in mine and guided it to relieve the ache between my legs. I groaned as she stroked me firmly a few times, then I cried in frustration as she abruptly pulled away. She rose and began to dress, then instructed me to do the same. I yelled :


'Xena, keep your voice down.' She scolded. 'You will not disturb the peace of my household.'

I stared at her, my jaw hanging open in disbelief. I asked if she planned on leaving me this way all day.

'Not all day,' she replied as she buttoned her gown. 'I have business to attend to this morning. You will stay in the garden until I send for you. Is this clear to you, Xena?'

"NO! IT IS NOT CLEAR!' I shouted in defiance. Lao Ma snapped her head up to pierce my soul with her gaze. She said very softly:

'Xena, get dressed.'

I felt small again. I lowered my eyes and threw on the silk gown. She led me out into the garden and I lumbered into the sunlight, blinking at the brightness. My stomach growled loudly. I asked my teacher - or at that moment, tormentor - if we would eat breakfast outside today. She looked past me out into the garden and answered:

'Xena, you will fast all day. There is plenty of fresh water in the garden well, and that is all you may consume. You can do anything you like as long as you stay in the garden; sleep, work, meditate - it does not matter. '

I fought the urge to argue my assignment, and strove to obey Lao Ma. I asked what my specific task or lesson was, so that I could complete it to her satisfaction. My teacher replied:

'You will know the lesson when you have learned it.'

She finally looked at me, albeit briefly, then walked back into the palace.

I stood in the sunshine for several minutes, thinking of colorful new phrases to describe my situation. None seemed strong enough. I itched with restlessness. I wasn't good at doing nothing. At least with the previous lessons, I had something to focus on; something (or someone) to do. And the torturous distraction of those damn balls…Even if I figured out what the lesson was, how could I possibly concentrate with a constant, raging, urgent, pulsing, throbbing…HERA'S TITS! I tried to shake off my arousal, to no effect.

I limped around for a while, but the more I moved, the more my legs felt bad and my insides felt too good. I sat on a bench and rubbed my sore calves. As my hands worked over the twisted bone and scarred flesh, I realized I could very easily rub the other ache away as well. I smiled at my apparent triumph. I started to run my hand up the inside of my leg, under the silks. I closed my eyes and remembered how Lao Ma's hands felt. I licked my lips and recalled her taste, the tangy nectar of her passion slathered all over my face. My/her hand was almost to its goal when I heard the gardener whistling as he approached to begin his workday.

I immediately pretended to be fixing an errant thread on my gown, and returned his bow of greeting as I smoothed the invisible flaw. I picked up his tune and hummed along.

With nothing else to do, I watched him work. He talked to the plants, and treated them with great respect. He scolded the weeds affectionately, even as he ended their lives with a firm tug. I was fascinated with his simple grace and ease of movement. Sometimes it looked like he was a plant himself, he blended so comfortably with his charges. It seemed like he rustled in the breeze and turned to the sun like the leaves of the trees he so delicately pruned.

My stomach growled again, and I was tempted to steal some fruit from the trees. I didn't want to think about what would happen if I disobeyed Lao Ma, so I hobbled to the well and tried to fill my belly with water. Now I sloshed and jingled when I moved. I thought of my first encounter with the Way of Lao Ma:

'Nothing is as soft as water, but who can withstand the raging flood?

The supreme good is like water, which nourishes all things without trying to.'

I contemplated this wisdom, then mumbled :

'Soft as water? More like cold as ice…'

The gardener heard me speak in my native language and looked up from his work to see if I was addressing him. I shook my head and bowed, and he smiled and returned the bow before going back to work. I knew most of the servants looked at me like some sort of exotic new pet for their mistress. Surely it was a break in royal protocol for Lao Ma to be fucking a barbarian woman all day, but even the servants who looked at me with distaste were fiercely loyal to their mistress and wouldn't dare leak her dirty secret to the court. Still, I was the freak with the pale demon eyes.

Somehow, though, the gardener was different. He treated me with the same respect he had for his plants, which was probably a high compliment.

I was about to get up and get a closer look at what he was doing when the balls shifted and bumped the most wonderful pressure point. I gasped and clenched my thighs together as hard as I could, trying to stave off an imminent orgasm. I bit my lip and broke into a sweat. I was frozen, afraid to move but desperately wanting to. I slowly exhaled the breath I had held forever, and a whimper escaped. The spheres were magnets of desire pulling me into vivid flashbacks of Lao Ma taking me, and me taking her. Another small movement deep - so deep - inside and I shuddered and yelped in a short but intense climax.

The gardener shot a furtive glance in my direction. I winked and nodded at him, playing the crazy alien. He laughed out loud, then turned to his plants and explained the joke.

I silently wished he would explain it to me…

Those damned magnets of desire shifted again and this time I was violently thrown into a fantasy of what Lao Ma would do at the end of the day to relieve my ache. My mind raced with images of being on all fours, my teacher's hand entering me from behind to retrieve the balls. To my horror and delight, she doesn't remove them, but manipulates the spheres and prolongs my agony and ecstasy. This brought on a stronger second orgasm, and I was brought back to the present just in time to hear myself cry out as more tremors tore through my body. I was panting and wiping the drool and sweat from my chin when I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder. I looked up into the very concerned face of the gardener. His eyes sparkled with warmth from a leathery face framed with graying hair. He checked me for fever with the back of his callused hand, and smiled a nearly toothless grin. I blushed but smiled back and told him I was fine with a very thick Western accent. He patted me on the back, then nodded and bowed as he walked back to his latest project. I sighed and resigned myself to this Tartarus of a day.

I muttered:

'Fuck-a-kraken…' under my breath, and fortunately the gardener didn't seem to hear my latest vulgarity.

I moved to the far end of the garden and sat in the shade of a plum tree. My new best friend had already tended to this tree, so I thought I could live out my torture in relative privacy. I attempted to meditate, breathing deeply and trying to push my desire away.

It was a useless exercise. The more I resisted the pull of carnality, the more I became a helpless pendulum, swinging from erotic memories to arousing fantasies. It was exhausting, and eventually - after three of Ares' lifetimes - I gave up struggling and surrendered to my fate. Immediately I felt relief wash through my body. Not a climax, but an overwhelming sense of freedom from…everything. I was all pleasures -past, present, and future - on a joyous ride through time. At some point, I noticed the momentum was winding down and I was existing more and more in the present.

The moment I reached perfect stillness in this cycle was a great epiphany. I wasn't hungry, I wasn't thirsty, I wasn't horny, or even tired. I just was. I felt the quiet peace of emptiness, and the fragile balance of fullness. It was similar to how I felt in the litter with Lao Ma the night before, but even more profound. I was ineffable. How can I describe the indescribable?

I rose and walked over to the gardener. No sloshing, no jingling, no distraction. I knelt beside him and watched him work. Without looking at me he said in flawless Greek:

'All things are born of being. Being is born of non-being.'

I sat there smiling in perfect contentment. I had learned the lesson.

A moment later, two servant girls came to fetch me. I glanced at Helios and saw that his journey was almost over. I smiled and nodded at the servants, and they led me away.

I never saw the gardener again…"

Xena paused her storytelling as she heard light snoring from her companion. The warrior looked down to see the girl sleeping soundly, and drooling slightly, on her ample bosom. She gingerly moved the smaller woman off and climbed out of bed. Xena threw on a silk robe and mumbled to herself as she headed to the chamber pot.

"Speaking of fullness and emptiness…"

A much relieved Warrior Princess returned to the warm pallet a few minutes later, her bedmate none the wiser of her absence. Propped up on one elbow, the older woman ran her fingers gently over the girl's face, memorizing every youthful contour. She leaned in and buried her nose in luxurious hair, thick with the fragrance of passion. The little one stirred from her nap, and stretched with feline grace. Xena nibbled her earlobe and whispered.

"Don't pass out on me yet…I'm far from finished with you." The tall woman brushed her lips over her lover's face, but pulled back before the girl could steal a kiss.

"Patience, love." The dark warrior chided her young friend. "I insist you hear me out…"

Xena emphasized her point by firmly palming the petite woman's sex. The young woman winced slightly, and the older woman's face fell realizing she had pushed her companion to soreness. The legendary libido of the Warrior Princess was often overwhelming to her partners, even the experienced ones. Before this night it had been so long since…Well, that didn't matter now. Xena sighed and enveloped her lover in a protective embrace, her small head resting in the crook of the warrior's strong shoulder.

"Here now, little one," The former warlord was suddenly feeling very maternal.

"You rest, and I'll finish the bedtime story…Let's see, where did I leave off? Ah, yes…

The servants took me to the bathhouse, where they washed me thoroughly - inside and out. Under any other circumstance I would not have allowed such intimate care from strangers, but I sensed this was part of some important ritual. I was at peace, high from the experiences of the garden, but still very grounded and aware of my body. I cooperated wordlessly with my groomers, knowing I would be with Lao Ma soon. In a strange way I was proud to be so…prepared…for anything my teacher required. The servants rubbed a lightly rose-scented oil into my hair and skin, then dressed me in a new silk gown. My hair was brushed, but left down and damp.

I was brought to Lao Ma's room, where she was sitting in meditation. The servant girls bowed and left, closing the door. The heady aroma of sandalwood incense filled the room, along with other scents I didn't recognize. I inhaled a deep breath and savored the many pleasant smells. My teacher did not acknowledge my presence, but I saw a kneeling pillow positioned across from her. I assumed that meant I was to join her, so I approached as quietly as possible. I sat cross legged, since it was quite painful for me to kneel, and closed my eyes.

I was soon lost in the depths of my own soul, sinking into a deep altered state very quickly. I saw everything I had ever been, done, or imagined. All realities opened to me, all showing at the same time. I watched the carnage and beauty of my past, present, and future unfold like a play in my mind's eye. I observed my life from a neutral position, feeling compassion without judgment. I experienced the flood of emotions for all the love and loss as if it were happening to someone else. I can't say how long this karmic display went on, but after a while the pictures slowed and blurred into darkness. I panicked for a moment at the empty void surrounding me, then I was overcome with peace.

Out of the blackness, three women emerged with open arms; M'lila, Lao Ma, and a small blond whom I did not yet know. I fell into M'lila's embrace first, and I inherently knew that although we had never made love in this life, she was the first to teach me of love. Without words I thanked her for her sacrifice as I held her, and then she withdrew back into the darkness. I was drawn next to the beautiful stranger, but she raised her hand in a staying motion. She blew me a kiss as she too was enveloped in the void, and I knew she would be waiting for me. I turned to Lao Ma, and grasped her outstretched hands. At the first touch, I became aware of our nudity, though I couldn't specifically remember being clothed before. My teacher smiled at me, and I leaned in to kiss her. Our mouths and bodies melted into each other, and I realized that despite the temptations of the past or future, the present was always the only reality that mattered.

When the kiss ended, I opened my eyes to see the familiar furnishings of Lao Ma's room. I didn't know if I was still in the vision, but I also didn't care. I was in the naked embrace of the woman I cherished above all else, and I never wanted the moment to end.

Somehow without breaking contact, we became horizontal. We rolled joyfully together on a warm, soft, buoyant…something. I was vaguely aware of not being on the bed or the floor, but I still didn't care about such trivial details.

I felt my excitement growing steadily, but without the urgent longings of the morning. I slipped a finger between Lao Ma's legs and stirred her arousal until it rivaled mine. My teacher accepted the attention for a while, then slid around my side to lay on my back.

Suddenly the fantasy that had first gripped me in the garden was coming true. I was on all fours on the pillowed floor, and Lao Ma's tiny hand was buried in me, retrieving the long-forgotten spheres. Exactly as I had feared and imagined, she stayed inside, stretching me to impossible limits as she played with the balls. The sacred silence that had hung over us was shattered by my cries of strained pleasure. Just when I thought I would explode from the internal pressure, Lao Ma withdrew.

Where I had been almost painfully full, I was now achingly hollow. I collapsed into the pillows, panting and groaning. I was dizzy and the room spun precariously as my teacher gently rolled me onto my back. My equilibrium gradually returned as Lao Ma made slow, deliberate love to me. Every touch was holy. When I was able, I began to mirror her caresses. We fed hungrily of each others love, but the sense of emptiness still haunted me. I started to guide my teacher's hand back inside, but she pulled away and sat up on her heels. I whimpered my disappointment, trying hard not to verbalize my frustration. For whatever reason, speaking was apparently not an option.

Lao Ma reached behind one of the cushions and brought out a package wrapped in silk and tied with ribbon. I looked at her quizzically as she unwrapped the mystery, then my eyes widened with apprehension when she revealed the objects; a VERY large jade phallus and a long string of not-so-small pearls. I gulped and grimaced as my teacher handed me the toys to inspect. The phallus was heavy, and polished amazingly smooth. It was in the same general shape as a man, but intricately carved with feminine imagery. I looked more closely, and saw that the characters blended into each other in very intimate ways. It was a beautiful piece of art. I remembered a time Borias gave me a jade trinket, telling me it would bring good fortune. I wondered with a chuckle if it was somehow more potent inside one's body. I handed the tool back to Lao Ma, and proceeded to fondle the pearls. I had a pretty good idea what the phallus was for, but the use of jewelry during sex puzzled me. I shrugged my confusion and gave the silvery beads back to my teacher.

Well, I had wanted to be full again, but this wasn't quite what I had in mind. Nevertheless, I trusted Lao Ma completely, and I communicated that trust by assuming a traditionally open and vulnerable posture. I had never willingly positioned myself this way for a man, and never would. I took a huge leap of faith -along with a deep breath-and turned to present to my beloved teacher. I rested my head on my forearms, and kept my hips raised and knees spread. A wave of anxiety started in my stomach and passed through the rest of my body at this unusual exposure. Of course Lao Ma sensed my fear, and curled her body over mine to comfort me. She gently rocked me, her familiar warmth driving the doubt from my body. In my heart I heard her promise:

'Your pleasure is my pleasure'

Although I was sure she had not spoken the words out loud, they rang loud and true. I echoed her in my mind, trusting that she would hear me just as clearly. I felt her smile against the back of my neck, and the phrase:

'I love you, Xena.' hummed through every particle of my being, reverberating deep inside my soul. A single tear of joy escaped down my cheek, and I instantly relaxed.

Lao Ma subtly changed the rocking motion to sensuous friction. Her legs were spooned behind mine, and her thigh pressed tantalizingly into my sex. I moaned as her hardening nipples cut fiery paths across my back. Before I even realized I wanted it, one of her arms curved under me and cupped my breasts. My teacher breathed heavily in my ear as she fondled me, her excitement building on mine. Her other hand came up to stroke my now very swollen folds, and I bathed her fingers in my arousal. I gasped when I felt her thumb penetrate and her fingers slide forward to tease my clit. I pushed into her thrusts, craving more. She increased the force and tempo, adding fingers until she had to sit back for more leverage. She pumped me into a frenzy, then abruptly pulled out. I moaned at the change, and started to lower my hips to rest.

I arched up again at the feel of the hard, smooth phallus poised at my eager entrance.

I grunted as I strove to absorb the cool stone into my body. Lao Ma eased it in slowly, but I began to cramp up as the unrelenting thickness and heaviness sank into me.

My teacher heard my breath catch, and stopped all movement. She ran her fingers lightly over my clit, until the infusion of pleasure caused my inner muscles to relax again.

I sighed in relief, and Lao Ma pushed deeper. I couldn't fathom a greater sense of fullness, and the hollow hunger was long gone. I was adapting to the tool, but it was certainly more of a challenge than any man I had been with. We established a gentle rhythm, my teacher anticipating my needs and altering her course as necessary. The cadence increased steadily, and somewhere in the middle of a deep thrust I realized the tingling massage oil had been applied. When that had occurred was beyond my comprehension at that moment, and once again, I really didn't care about the details. Passion boiled through my blood, and soon the most immense object in my sexual universe was not enough to satisfy me.

Of course, Lao Ma figured this out before I did, and just as the request was forming in my head I felt a slender finger enter in a smaller, tighter place. I hunched and groaned at the unexpected, but very pleasant, invasion. The delicious counterpoint drove me to the edge, but as usual I was not allowed to fall. I whimpered as I felt the wonderful finger retreat, then grinned as the use of the pearls was suddenly made very clear.

My teacher expertly pushed in each jewel until most of the string was inside my darkest place. Now I understood the special washing. This was definitely the strangest and most intense sexual experience of my life - ever!

The thrusting had continued all the while, and the hand that had inserted the pearls was now busily working my clit. I was sure I would explode into millions of happy warrior bits if and when Lao Ma let me come. The heavy burden of pleasures was getting overwhelming, and I inhaled a breath to beg for my release. My plea transformed into a scream of ecstasy as I felt a command emanate from my womb.

'Let go, Xena!'

Lao Ma pulled out the string of pearls as she thrust all the way into me a final time.

Ecstatic shockwaves followed the jewels as I screamed again and died a thousand little deaths. Fullness and emptiness blurred into a blazing fireball that ricocheted to every part of my trembling body. I surrendered everything I ever was or would be, poured out my soul into Lao Ma's hands, then passed out.

When I awoke, I was in bed, wrapped in my teacher's arms. I was still shiny with sweat, and my breath wheezed in my throat. My eyes fluttered shut again, and I greedily drank from the cup of water brought to my lips in the darkness. I was totally spent, and lay like a deadweight in Lao Ma's embrace. I drifted into slumber as I heard my teacher speak for the first time that night:

'Now, my beloved, you are ready. Tomorrow, you will be healed…'

I dreamed that night of dark , exotic women and a certain petite Amazon Queen. I woke up the next morning feeling like a new person. My body was blissfully empty and at peace. My heart was overflowing with love. The darkness in my soul was somehow lighter, and for the first time since I was a child I felt optimistic about the future. Maybe I really could stay here as Lao Ma's consort, her Warrior Princess. We would bring peace to the land with strength and wisdom. In my joy I kissed my love awake, and then patterned my kisses from her face down the rest of her beautiful body. I was about to dip my tongue into her sweetness for a breakfast treat when she sat up and pulled me into a soul scorching kiss. After we broke for air, I jokingly asked her if I could return to my feast, since I had been fasting and all…

Lao Ma gazed deep into my eyes and traced my grin with her thumb. She answered:

'Soon, Xena, but first, I want you to come with me.'

I made the required risqué remark as she dressed, but donned my own gown and followed my teacher obediently into a large room. She lay me down on a low pallet, and I fell into a strange kind of sleep. I awoke as she called to me, and I was whole again. It was the happiest moment of my young life, and I delighted in the magical air dance we shared. It never even occurred to me that we were doing something impossible for mortals. After the last few days of unimaginable ecstasy. I thought that nothing Lao Ma could do would ever surprise me - until I saw Borias trespass into our paradise.

The spell of harmony Lao Ma had so carefully woven was broken forever by my rage. The fact that she had invited him into our perfect world, to share in the glory of our strength…I was furious!

I didn't know who had betrayed my trust more…

The thing about Borias, though, the thing that completed my failure as Lao Ma's student, was that the urge to kill him or fuck him was indistinguishable. That was the chaotic nature of my dance with the man, and the dance was so easy to do. Everything about me and Borias was familiar and easy. No difficult, foreign philosophies or obtuse lessons; just good, old-fashioned fuck-'im-'til-'is-eyes-bug-out lust. The only challenge was who would be on top today, and as soon as Lao Ma left us alone to work out our differences, I knew I would end up on top - always.

As I looked at him kneeling across from me, and saw the old flicker of desire in his eye, it suddenly occurred to me I could have my cake and eat it to. It would be effortless to seduce Borias, and Lao Ma loved me already, right? Ahh, the simple logic of the delusional!

The moment I kissed Borias, I was dead again. Unfortunately, I was too young to know that death and hot sex often feel the same…

I easily conquered him with my newly healed body. I stripped him naked while I stayed clothed, reinforcing my dominance. I grabbed his hair as my reins and forced him into the submissive posture I had so willingly assumed with Lao Ma only hours before. I perverted what I had learned from her over the last few days, to great effect.

Borias was mine.

I tortured him with pleasure and pain, giving him a brutal initiation into the realm of penetration. He protested and resisted at first, but his body betrayed his excitement at our new rough play. I questioned his manhood for letting a woman fuck him like a dog.

I humiliated him with words, taunting and teasing, cruel and cold. When he didn't know whether to cry or come, I flipped him over and consumed him in my merciless cunt. With the reins still wrapped in my hands, I rode him hard.

Very hard.

When I had stolen every last drop of his essence, I straddled his face and made him drink of himself and me. Only when my thighs were raw from his beard and he had sucked an earth-shattering orgasm from my body did I free him from his capture.

He didn't take me to the transcendental heights I reached with Lao Ma, and I certainly wasn't in love with him, but that also made him safe. He couldn't hurt me if I didn't care. Lao Ma had hurt me deeply without any malicious intent. I thought, surely, if I ever gave her cause to be angry, her wrath would cut deep. Perhaps if I hid my heart behind Borias, I could continue to enjoy her favors without risk of pain. Yes, my plan made perfect sense at the time…

I have never been so wrong.

My arrogance and mistrust cost me dearly. I stupidly thought the love Lao Ma had for me was stronger than the strongest love in the universe - maternal instinct.

I was astounded at my former teacher's mercy. She could have easily killed both me and Borias, yet as soon as we regained consciousness, Lao Ma personally tended to our injuries. Her touch was still gentle, but more clinical than the loving caresses we had shared in recent days. Borias and I had to escape the wrath of the House of Ming, and Lao Ma arranged for a ship to take us far from the Kingdom of Chin.

To my utter confusion, she gave me a passionate kiss goodbye and wished me well. In my feral state I mistook her spiritual and emotional strength as proof that the servants were right - I had been nothing but an exotic pet to Lao Ma. Only years later did I see her compassion and unconditional love for what it was…"

Tears welled in Xena's eyes, and a small hand came up to wipe them away. The warrior gently clasped it in her much larger hand, and stared wistfully straight ahead as she spoke.

"So many years later…about the time I met a beautiful bard from Poteidaia…"

The warrior unconsciously squeezed the girl in her arms a little tighter, and continued.

"If I had only trusted…Things would have been so different. So much less death… Trust and honesty - that was what Lao Ma wanted to teach me…and love. "

Xena scrunched her eyes to try and stop the flood of tears, to no avail.

"Oh gods! Lao Ma…" The tall woman sobbed, and looked down at her companion, cupping the young woman's face.

"And you look so much like her…So beautiful…" Xena's words trailed off as the guilt of what she had done, in the past and the present, hit her full force.

Dark almond eyes looked up at the warrior with the same bemused expression they had held all night. The young prostitute decided she should speak up before the strange foreigner started babbling again. She said in a very thick accent:

"I no speak Greek."

The girl then proceeded to explain in her native language that while Xena was a fine lay, their time was up, and if the warrior wanted to see more pink, the girl would need to see more gold. No freebies, no extensions, even to beautiful barbarians.

The young woman's words were like a slap in the face, slamming the Greek woman into the present. Xena didn't know enough Chinese to understand all of the prostitute's words, but she got the gist of it. The warrior tried to think how she had gotten herself into this situation, struggling to remember through a haze of alcohol and opium. Strange, she mused, how I could recall a few days from several years ago in detail, and not remember how I got to a brothel today…

After escaping from the Emperor's Palace, she and Gabrielle…Oh Shit! Gabrielle… Xena lifted the sheet and looked at the whore's naked body, noting several lovebites, scratches, and other marks of her conquest. The warrior looked down at her own nude form, confirming her suspicion that the damage was just as bad. Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!

Bile rose in her throat at the thought of how she would explain this to her lover. Xena took a deep breath, and heard Lao Ma's words echo in her head:

"You have a great destiny to fulfill, and part of that destiny is a love so powerful the gods themselves will envy you."

Xena had long since realized that love was with Gabrielle. Whatever may have happened with Lao Ma, the warrior knew her bard was the true savior of her soul.

Honesty and trust are paramount…

The marks certainly helped clear up the honesty issue. A calm settled over the warrior as the answer became crystal clear. She had to tell Gabrielle everything - including revealing the lies that had already accumulated on this journey. Xena would have to trust in the love she shared with the bard to survive this challenge. It wouldn't be easy, but they could rebuild …They had to… Besides, thought Xena as she inspected some of the lovebites more closely, even if I wanted to lie to Gabrielle, I don't think "Oops, I fell in the bushes" covers this…and bandits don't leave hickeys…

The warrior was torn from the inside of her head when the girl cleared her throat and shook the shallow basket of coins. Xena nodded and tossed a coin in, miming it was for the…uh, extra wear and tear. The prostitute's ears perked up at the jingle of Xena's bulging coin purse, and she lay back on the bed in wanton invitation.

Xena smiled at the obvious ploy. It was certainly tempting…

The warrior recalled something else Lao Ma had taught her:

In the Chinese system of medicine, nostalgia is considered a disease. It is a sickness of the spirit which traps one's Ch'i in the past, thereby preventing the soul from growing and learning from the present. It is treated as seriously as tuberculosis or any other chronic illness.

Xena considered her options. She glanced out the window. It was still several hours until dawn, and to the best of her recollection she had stumbled from the opium den to the brothel in mid-afternoon. The warrior winced at her own shameful behavior. The buzz was wearing off, and the memories were becoming painfully clear.

After escaping from the Emperor's Palace, she and Gabrielle found a nice, quiet inn and cleaned up. The bard had tried to ease the tension between them by talking about everything but what really needed to be discussed. Xena was still in shock from the trauma of the ordeal and hadn't said anything since the reflex "I love you, too, Gabrielle" at the Palace. After tending to Xena's wounds, the petite Amazon had wanted the comfort of snuggling with the warrior, and lay the nearly catatonic woman down on the bed. When Gabrielle tried to remove Xena's robe, the taller woman panicked and bolted. A dumbstruck bard had then sat on the edge of the bed and watched as her lover threw on trousers and a tunic, and mumbled something about important travel arrangements and unfinished business. Gabrielle was stunned, but didn't want to upset her lover further, and nodded when Xena said she'd be back by morning and ran out of their room - barefoot.

By some ungodly fortune, Xena's money was in the pocket of the pants. True to her word, the warrior had gone to the docks and secured passage on a ship to Persia - where Argo was being stabled - leaving the next day. She had wandered around the more unsavory parts of town the rest of the morning, trying to escape the misery of her soul, until the sweet smell of opium lured her into its embrace. The brothel was crawling distance from the den, and once the Warrior Princess saw the uncanny resemblance of this girl to Lao Ma, well…

Xena looked at the young beauty waiting for her decision. The girl lay on her back with her hands folded behind her head, and one knee raised, giving the warrior an excellent view of the goods under consideration. Not that Xena didn't know her way around there by now, but…By the gods! Thought the older woman, how old is this girl? She looks younger than Gabrielle was when I rescued her…

Xena weighed the bag of coins in her hand. They still had plenty of money for the rest of the journey back to Greece.

She looked at the prostitute, looked at the moon out the window, and then looked at the purse in her hand. She released a bone-weary sigh…She wanted to mend things with her lover, but it was going to get ugly before it got pretty again, and the usually courageous warrior wasn't in a hurry to face the fury of an Amazon Queen.

Well, can't get in much deeper shit with her than I am now, as long as I'm back by morning… What's a little more fun going to hurt? Ahh, the simple logic of the delusional…

Xena threw several more coins in the basket by the bed, and leapt onto her prone prey with a growl. The girl squealed and giggled at the ferocious display. This foreigner was crazy, but at least she was more fun than the usual tricks.

Xena whispered tenderly in the young woman's ear, and lost herself in her disease.

"I am yours, Lao Ma. Every part of me is yours…"


OK, kids you can unfasten your seatbelts now, the bumpy ride is over.

Love? Hate? Lust? Fate? Drop me a line and share your (non-abusive) thoughts. Flames will be used to light my gas stove, so don't bother.

My eternal gratitude to Pat Califia for technical consulting, and Laura Watts and Ian Phillips for their immoral support.

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