Standard disclaimer: None of the characters, places, etc. in this story are mine, but instead are the property of Universal Studios and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended by their use in this story.
Author's note: This is a little scraplet of a fic that I had written earlier as background to my Destiny series. Originally I intended it strictly as background, but when going back through a bunch of old files, I ran across it and decided it was good enough to be posted. Not really much to say about this one, except that it is set before the events of Death of the Conqueror, obviously; I think it's also probably set post The Storm, but can't be sure about that one. It's a little vignette detailing Xena and Caesar together in the aftermath of her killing one of her girls. Just a warning: the ending is kind of redundant with the ending of The Storm.
Xena had killed her latest one.
Caesar hadn't seen her do it this time, but he could always tell. He could feel it in the way she touched him, embraced him afterward. There was an almost desperate quality to her lovemaking, as if she strove to wrest from him by force whatever she thought he was keeping back from her—whatever small scraps of himself he was able to keep back.
He didn't like it. She was not violent with him, although she could be—indeed, had been. During the first year, she had often left him in so much pain that he could scarcely move. Even now, whether after a particularly difficult run-in with the Bright Warrior, or a piece of idiocy by one of her officers he often bore the brunt of her wrath expressed in blows. No, she was not violent after she killed one of her girls, but somehow these advances of hers were physically draining, in a way that even her most towering rages were not. It was as if he were spending the full night fighting against a current, and afterward he was always exhausted—although at least, at such times, he could tell that she was exhausted too; there was that for consolation. Although to see her like that…. He didn't like it.
She had brought him into her bed that night, instead of simply taking him on the floor of her tent as she did so often. After she had finished with him, they lay side by side, not speaking; he could feel her long body pressed against his—full breasts, firm thighs, muscled legs and calves….He knew her shape intimately by this time—how she fitted against him, how she moved against him, how she felt against him. Her breath tickled the side of his neck. He felt her hand move on his head gently, stroking his hair; her touch on him was light, soft, almost tender. Sometimes she was like that. Sometimes. He felt her hand move lower, to trace the lines of his jaw, his throat, skimming lightly around the edge of the heavy iron collar she had fastened on him, grazing his skin gently with the tips of her nails. He held himself still, permitting it. He could have turned his head to look into her eyes.
"You killed another one, didn't you."
Her hand stilled, her nails gouging his skin. "Another one?"
"Your little bit of fluff, what was her name….The one you picked up in the last town."
Her nails dug deeper; there was pain now. After a long moment, Xena replied, "Yeah."
"What was this one's name? I can't keep them straight anymore."
He shifted; the iron collar was cutting into his neck. The chains that bound his wrists clinked as he raised his hands to pull at it. "Why do you do this?" he asked, honestly curious.
"Why do I do what?"
Caesar could hear the beginnings of displeasure in Xena's voice, but he pressed on, regardless. "Why do you take these girls and then kill them?"
He felt her tense. "Shut up." Her voice was ice-cold.
"Wouldn't it be easier simply to find one girl and keep her? It doesn't make sense." It didn't. Caesar had watched Xena do this for years and had never figured out the reason behind it.
Her nails bit into his flesh, making him gasp in pain; he struggled to pull away from her. "Be grateful I don't, slave," he heard her jeer. "The day I find a girl to keep is the day I no longer need you anymore. Or is that what you want?" Her hand tightened further. "Is it?"
There was a strange quality to the last sentence. He said nothing, staring at the fabric ceiling of the tent. The silence felt as heavy as his shackles.
He had to say something. "Leave me alone."
It was only after the words had come out, and he felt Xena stiffen against him, that he realized how it sounded. She said nothing, but let him go. He could sense her eyes on him, and he cursed inwardly. He wanted to turn his head to look at her, to read the emotions on her face. There was a slight tear in the fabric of the roof, he saw; a star winked at him against the black night sky. She should really have her next girl repair that….
After a moment, he felt her reach out to touch him, stroking his shoulder gently, almost hesitantly. Slowly, he permitted himself to relax, and felt a corresponding softening in her. He was unprepared for what she did next—she put one hand on either side of his head, and turned him roughly to face her. He saw that her pale eyes were lightless, her expression unreadable, and had just enough time to take it in before she kissed him brutally, hard enough to hurt. When she drew back at last, leaving him half-dazed, he tasted blood; she had bitten him. He raised his hands half-consciously to rub at his bleeding lip. Her face was still closed, but something flickered in her eyes as she saw that. Xena….
She half sat up, reaching down to the end of the bed to pull the blankets and furs over them both, enclosing them in a warm cocoon; she pressed against him again, and he felt her lay her head on his shoulder, reaching up to touch his face gently; her fingers brushed across his bleeding lip. He lay still, permitting it. Her lips touched his hair, right under his ear.
"All I have is you."
Her breath passed over his skin in a caress. The whisper was so soft he was unsure he had heard it; he glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, but he could only see the top of her head, pressed against his chin. Could she have said that?
Her breathing slowed into the long, even rhythms of sleep. She was warm against him, and the bed was soft under him; certainly more pleasant than sleeping chained to the base of that hideous Dragon Throne of hers. He reached up with his bound hands, pulling some of her long black hair away from his neck, running its silky softness through his fingers. Then shifted, nudging her into a more comfortable position; she sighed, and settled against him. He closed his eyes, sinking into the warmth. After a time, he too slept.