Heaven's Rain: Blood of the Heavens

BY : InfinitNei
Category: -Misc Anime > Crossovers
Dragon prints: 1657
Disclaimer: I don’t own Fairy Tail or the characters of it. They’re copyright of H.Mashima. I also don’t own Spartacus or the characters of it. This is strictly for entertainment purposes. I don’t make money from the writing of this story.

Things Surrendered for Love


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Clasping the hems of her dress, Cecilia trudged a step or two behind Marianus through the ludus innards with an expression twisted by revulsion. “Well, good Marianus, I only now begin to understand why my dear Amena takes pity on your men. Even the hunting dogs back home are kept in more humane conditions.”

.

“That would be because they are bred with a purpose, not decades on this earth and still searching for it.” Marianus was unconcerned as he twisted a key from his master set in its lock. “These are animals for game and they live as such; like the goats we heard for milk, the pigs we keep for our table. They are kept in the same way and they will perform to our standards when the time comes to harvest profit.” She was chilled by his indifference as he spoke. “From them, we simply harvest blood as bounty,” he announced coldly. “As you have experienced, most of the men in this trade are criminals, murderers. In some cases, it is a gift from the empire that they are allowed to draw breath at all.” He ignored her intent gaze and cracked the gate open to usher her into the empty ludus, signalling that the ludus guard kept watch over the training executed not far away. “In a sense, I am offering sanctuary to the beasts. Allowing them a charitable chance at redemption in the eyes of the public they betrayed. It is ludus’ like this one that give these barbarians purpose.”

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Hearty laughter rang out at his side as Cecilia tiptoed around the weathered stone and iron. “Oh-ho, just imagining what my dear Legatus would say to a remark such as this brings me great joy.”

.

“Would have,” he emphasized coarsely. “Like many in this house, it did not take the man long to learn his place beneath heel.” He ushered Cecilia through the gates as he unlatched them so that she might better understand his trade. In the midst of his guidance, he chanced to spare her a fleeting look. “All it took was a single lashing to get what I desired, a utility that will most certainly be repeated when next a chance arises to see authority inflicted.”

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Cecilia was careful to absorb her surroundings at Marianus’ side and recall them to memory. “Come now, Marianus. You could not honestly believe that you have heard the last uproar from a legatus of Rome now, could you?” She flashed her instigating smile his way as he turned to face her. “Surely such a meagre showing of blood would not silence that particular beast’s fury.”

.

Marianus’ gaze narrowed with flickering concern before he redirected it calmly back to their course. “You truly are a sadistic creature. It is not a wonder why you stand here amongst the filth rather than back in Rome on the arm of a husband.”

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Cecilia swatted playfully at his arm. “How cruel! Have you forgotten that it was you who was responsible for taking my husband-to-be from my side?”

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Marianus snorted dully. “If I am not mistaken, his crimes did that long before I ever laid eyes on the wretch.” He shifted his cunning gaze back to where she was standing idly by the command he offered with his hand outstretched. “Be aware that it was my kind purchase of the dog that sees him warm between your sheets and not the rotting corpse his grandfather would see in his place.”

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Cecilia’s sharp gaze fluttered flirtatiously as she took his unspoken suggestion and entered the chamber of their current house champion ahead of him. “Death would have been kinder,” she instigated wryly.

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“No doubt the reason his own flesh and blood ever drew a blade against him.”

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Cecilia’s eyes flashed doubt as he made the bold insinuation. “You think that Makarov was showing him mercy? After Laxus killed the man’s own son?”

.

Marianus’ expression was sombre as he showed the woman all sorts of interesting and nightmarish things about the ludus they explored. “You may be surprised at what some men will surrender for love.”

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Cecilia decided that a wiser thing to do was silence herself on the topic before her intentions became suspicious and as badly as she wanted to retort that she knew exactly how far one would go, she remained quiet instead. “Such a meagre showing of guard. I only saw one man since passing through the front gate,” she announced curiously. “Is it truly only steel and stone keeping these men from rebelling?”

.

“Guards are of hefty sum,” he casually remarked. “Gallus is more than capable of keeping this particular band of miscreants in line during training and even if he were not, not a soul would make it past the entrance that stands so heavily fortified by my command. I need employ only a small force to keep an eye on the traffic of slaves in and out of the innards during the day. Actually, I lost a costly sum of wine just before you arrived. I would see that such a mistake is not repeated.”

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Cecilia burst into merriment. “Of course you would!”

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Marianus smiled and watched the woman pace the small dormitory, his ears filling with the satisfying sounds of his men training just outside the window. He could hear their strain, practically feel them perspire as Gallus doubled their regiments like he was commanded. He would begin to breed the titans of legend that he promised the woman before him, the one in her room carrying his child. Those who didn’t survive his efforts would only free up cells for the ones to succeed them.

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“So this is where our demon sleeps,” Cecilia crooned playfully. “Is this where you will be keeping Laxus once he claims the title?”

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“I grant your pet small comforts already,” he announced certainly with heightened spirits. “In his brief showing, he amassed a generous sum in the gambling rounds at the conclusion of the games. It only seemed fair to reward such accommodating behaviour.”

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Cecilia grinned sardonically. “Careful now,” she cautioned. “You threaten to betray your inner nature.”

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“Far be it from,” he assured confidently. “He has more or less been gifted a cot, not unlike this one and an empty fisherman’s crate to set drink upon when I see fit to bless him with such.”

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“How modest.”

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Marianus snickered as he watched her pick up one of Bixslow’s helmets to examine it. “Not when compared to where the previous champion now rests his head.”

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Cecilia absently tossed the helmet down into the others with a gleeful squeal, knocking one to the floor. “Can I see?” Her eyes lit up with a childlike curiosity as she reached out and captured his arm for an encouraging squeeze. “This place is so delightfully grotesque. I have never seen the like and it serves to thrill me like I have never known!”

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Marianus gave a low rumble of approval and swiftly kissed her nose. “Like nothing you have known?”

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She squirmed in delight. “Except second, perhaps, to the thrill of bedding a mighty lanista and keeper of titans.”

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This response seemed to please Marianus and cause his demeanour to alter mischievously. “I am keeper of a meagre few that would stand worthy of such a title, but soon I will amass a vast collection that would see your opinion shared by the lips of every mouth in Syria.”

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“Nigh, the entire Roman Republic,” she crooned into her passionate kiss.

.


.

Amena crossed the room in a rush, combing her fingers through her hair to straighten the dishevelled mess before she dared to step foot out of her room. Her demeanour had become far coarser since her anxious nerves had begun to process the depth of her disloyalty. “You must not speak a word of this to anyone,” she commanded authoritatively. “Should any part of what has been done here leave this room, all we seek to achieve will be lost.”

.

Laxus’ expression knotted sceptically as he grew staggered in redressing to absorb her sudden adjustment in conduct. “Domina...” He acknowledged her statement earnestly but remained apprehensive for her alteration. She seemed on edge, which was strange to him after the three of them had had such a pleasant... conversation.

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“Until we find a trusted means of communication outside of each other’s company, we must move in secret. This will not be easy with Marianus and Cecilia prowling about, but it is necessary.”

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“I would suggest the ludus keeper,” Laxus suggested quietly. “I recognize him from my days as a legatus. He was present at his master’s side when we were in session and held in the highest regard.”

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“Freed?” Amena turned her disheartened gaze to face Laxus squarely. “No, he aspires to hold such a position in this house as well. He is too close to Marianus.”

.

Laxus steadied his heavy breath and nodded his head obediently. “Your will...” It would do him no good to reveal that Freed was already on their side. Exposing the man’s conspiracies when he was still making a name for himself in the house would see him from the walls, and Laxus’ reliable source of information lost.

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“This particular scheme hinges on my faith in you, Legatus. No one must know of this encounter; your brothers, your doctore and especially not Cecilia. Should she voice any intentions that might hinder our conspiracies, I would see them brought to surface. I must be aware of all her betrayals so that I might flutter about in her wake.”

.

Laxus’ conscience was stricken with instantaneous guilt the moment the words slipped past her lips. He diverted his gaze, afraid that his culpability would become apparent before the witty observation of his master. Perhaps exposing that Freed was the man to deliver such news to him would aid in the slave’s cause. He parted his lips, the bothersome truth moments from slipping past. “In such a regard, there is something you must realise of Marianus and Cecilia-”

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Amena’s gaze flickered with inquisition to his announcement but before she could demand his conclusion, Neirah was interrupting the conversation’s trajectory.

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“They will be returning at any moment,” she concluded swiftly. “We do not have time to dither.”

.

With the gasping realisation, Amena started to fluster about again. “Gods, you are not wrong.” Amena rushed to Neirah’s side and helped her to straighten her own appearance. “You will not be granted audience with each other until the conclusion of this week’s events. See these moments cherished and kept as a reminder of the comforts to come should our plans succeed.”

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“Of course, Domina,” the slave murmured agreeably.

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Amena’s expression was harder than usual as her hastened touch roamed the woman to conceal marks of passion. “See that Jupiter is bathed before he returns. Rid him of any trace of this encounter in the villa servant’s baths. His scent should not be proper when next Marianus and Cecilia’s notice is upon him.” She seemed indifferent to Neirah’s gentle whimpers as she tightened the woman’s robes conservatively. “The concern incites by fault of my own. I will sink only so far,” she announced guiltily. “To bed the filth of a gladiator is the only thing that holds less appeal to me than bedding a man alone.”

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Laxus scoffed incomprehensibly and rolled his eyes to her insult.

.

Noticing how badly Amena’s hands were shaking, Neirah reached out and stilled them in her own before offering a tender smile. “You have my gratitude,” she whispered genuinely. “I would see it reflected in my diligent services.”

.

Amena took only a moment to match the slave's gaze before diverting hers and turning away. “See it done then,” she commanded. “I will summon Levy to my side. It is best that when Marianus returns, the one at my side holds the title of body slave. I would not want to incite suspicion.”

.

Neirah’s gaze faltered solemnly. “Yes, Domina.”

.

Laxus flinched as the woman threw open the doors to the room and swept through the halls demanding that Levy be retrieved from her duties. He stepped to the dainty slave girl’s side, heaving on the worn cloth belt wrapped snugly around his hips. “Perhaps I am still learning the ways of this enterprise, but this encounter seems stranger to me by each passing moment.” He adjusted his gaze to where Neirah was aflutter with concern. “I have never seen a woman detest a man so passionately.”

.

“Do not be coy,” she murmured quietly. “This outburst had nothing to do with you.” She bowed her head and gave her arm a gentle rub to banish the chill the encounter left behind. “It is not you she is displeased with.”

.

“My esteem thanks you for that observance.”

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Neirah whirled to face him energetically. “If you are being facetious, now is not the time.”

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Laxus’ expression grew weighted with the immediate impact of guilt. “Apologies...”

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Neirah heaved vulnerability as she reconsidered her words to him during their amorous activities. They didn’t understand each other, but it was for a lack of trying. She yielded to the circumstance in order to enlighten him. “I could see it in her eyes,” she explained. “The way she touched me...” She turned to face Laxus’ inquisitive gaze with a meek smile. “I break her heart.”

.

Laxus dropped his gaze, his expression humbling sympathetically as he watched the small slave battle remorse. “When I moved to announce of Cecilia and Marianus’ treachery, you stopped me...” He raised his attention to judge her reaction to his inquiry. “Why?”

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Neirah’s fleeting sapphire gaze skirted along the lines in the floor. “Albeit hard to notice just yet, Domina indeed carries Marianus’ child... and the suspicion that Marianus grows to favour Cecilia. Even if Marianus is a tyrant, that gift is still half of hers and one most graciously anticipated.” She raised her solemn smile to face the Roman. “She does not need the unnecessary strife. She has already taken your side in this conflict.”

.

“She has taken yours,” he corrected gently. He raised the backside of his fingertips to dust the flushed swell of her cheek. “I have never seen a master so devote to a slave. I begin to wonder if your title as this house’s enchantress truly does hold merit.”

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Instead of shying from his affection, Neirah melded into his touch with a gracious sigh. “If that were true, we would not be standing here conspiring against the rule of Marianus by manipulation of Cecilia. They would hold me just as close to heart... like Cecilia once did. But jealousy moves us in ways that betray our nature.” Neirah’s smile tipped back to beam into his considerate gaze. “It is why I worry for my domina,” she whispered sadly in admittance. “I fear the way she entangles herself in the conspiracies of this house. She sacrifices her comfort, her safety. She leaves it all in your hands.”

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Laxus quietly absorbed her sentiment before his expression softened and his gentle smile shared his confidence with the nervous woman. “In my experience, women of all statuses share a willingness to sacrifice everything in the name of those they love. Your domina, my mother... even Cecilia would become mad with conspiracy to obtain what she most desires.”

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“And what of men?” Neirah encouraged softly. “What would they surrender in the name of such a fleeting emotion?”

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Laxus humbled in thought for a moment as he recalled the day his mother was stricken from his world at the hands of another’s cruelty. His entire journey of vengeance was fuelled by the love he had for her, in reciprocation of the devotion she had to him. “Blood,” he started certainly. His tone remained a dull murmur as he continued to speak. “Time, position; life itself, given the circumstance.”

.

Neirah’s gaze remained fixated as she coaxed his tongue to articulate the depth of his devotion to their journey together. “And you? What would you sacrifice to see your plans come to fruition?”

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His brow creased with concern to hear warning fill her tone. 

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“Would you sacrifice the lives of all those around you who remained loyal when the world turned their back on a Legatus of Rome?”

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His sheepish gaze diverted to hear her speak of his intentions to rebel. He thought on her words for a long moment before responding. “No,” he muttered earnestly. “I would sacrifice many things in the name of self-preservation.” He returned a dim side-glance her way. “But not that...”

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To this, her expression seemed to soften with affectionate warmth. “I am glad.”

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He gained confidence in the softening of her expression and dared to step towards her, his doting touch extended to dust over the swell of her flushed breast. “But I would sacrifice a great many other things in the name of affection.”

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“Affection,” she purred. “Is that what we have titled this?”

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“Whichever title we give it, I would go to great lengths to preserve it,” he ascertained. “The greatest I can imagine...”

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Neirah’s throat worked as she watched his weighted gaze follow the coarse fingertips to trace the lines tattooed on her right breast.

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“I would rob the very sun from the sky with my own hands... no matter... how it burned.” His shamefaced gaze fluttered from her skin to her eyes and then quickly retreated again “Just to feel its heart... beat...”

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Neirah’s lips parted with a breathless acceptance of his sentiment. “Then you will do it. You will willingly bed Cecilia to conceal our intentions.”

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He couldn’t quite bring his gaze to hers for the weight of his disgrace. “No,” he deferred. “If I showed willingness now, she would suspect me. But I will gradually lessen my resistance until none remains; if that is what it should take.” He finally dropped his hand and let their expressions meet. “I am not new to the kind of politics that topple houses like this one,” he assured her confidently. “And I will not be caught unaware when the beams come crashing down.”

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Neirah’s expression humbled passionately as its bashful flush diverted at the command of her smile. “You were an impressive man once, I can see that now,” she whispered amorously.

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He captured her chin and gently drew the look of soft cobalt gems back into his midst. “As often impressive as a slave comes to a man like a proper Roman woman.”

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Neirah couldn’t contain her sheepish smile. “I cannot tell if you are showing modesty or being incredulous.”

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He matched her smile with a heartfelt willingness. “Most days, I wonder the same thing.”

.

Neirah did not mind that he put his tongue to better use. Even if traces of her master were still upon it, the soothing strokes comforted her and filled her with purpose. “Come, Legatus,” she whispered in decree. “We must tend to your condition before Dominus arrives with his pet.”

.

“I will not disobey,” he assured her confidently. “Not while my condition is vastly improving.”

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“Hound,” she exclaimed quietly in good humour. “Now is not the time. Follow closely and I will direct us through the house where witnesses will be restricted to a generous minimum.”

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His smile grew crooked with a lazy arousal to her authority and he couldn’t help but tease, if only delicately. “Domina...”

.


.

Levy was trembling so fiercely that she couldn’t fold a single article properly. From beneath her lashes, she watched Juvia work, her hands steady as ever. The woman had returned to acting as close to normal as she ever had been. It was terrifying.

.

“You tremble, Juvia notices.”

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Levy let out a timid yelp and dropped the sheet she was actively folding. She wanted to reach for it, to flee in terror as vertigo overwhelmed her with the sight of the sheet on the floor. It stretched and squirmed like a liquid serpent, distorting her vision until she thought she might lose consciousness. And there the sheet sat oozing dark crimson pools out from beneath it on the floor she knew was clean.

.

Her hallucination was broken by the sight of Juvia kneeling in front of her to pick up the sheet. She did so without an ounce of hesitancy or recollection that, moments before, it would have fallen over a mess of blood and face pulp. Her soft hazel haze floated helplessly from side to side as Juvia straightened and returned the sheet to her hands.

.

“You do not look well,” Juvia cooed softly. When Levy fled backwards to the feeling of Juvia touching the back of her hand to the girl’s forehead, she either didn’t notice or she didn’t care. She settled her hand back before her and kept her tone even as she returned to her task with her warning on her lips. “You should lie down. See colour returned to your cheeks before you are summoned to aid Domina.”

.

Levy parted her lips to speak, to blast the girl for her betrayal, to beg the gods to turn back time and erase the memories of what she had seen. Unfortunately, before a single word could flow past her lips, she was being interrupted by the house guard.

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“Levy, Domina summons you to the bath.”

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Levy shuddered in terror, her face flooded with guilt as the man stood mere feet from the scene of a most heinous crime.

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“Apologies,” the guard muttered conservatively. “I did not mean to startle you.”

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“Levy is not well,” Juvia intercepted. “Perhaps Juvia could assist Domina in her place so she might rest a moment.”

.

To Levy’s dismay, the guard sternly shook his head. “I was commanded to summon Domina’s body slave. She will have to present herself and give voice to concerns once she has tended to her summon.”

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Juvia’s tone lowered to near agitated. “Very well.”

.

With the woman’s vacant announcement, Levy sprang to life, desperate to escape the intense situation she’d found herself in. “I will go to her at once,” Levy rushed out in distress. “I will be a humble moment. I need only to finish folding one more sheet.”

.

“Nonsense,” Juvia murmured tenderly. “Eirene will aid Juvia in folding the sheet once she returns.” Juvia’s lifeless navy gaze might have been assuring if it weren’t for the secrets she hid all too well behind her eyes. “You tend to Domina by chance she is in dire need.”

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Levy’s heart felt like it was flopping about wildly, no longer tethered within her ribcage. She gave the woman a slow, shuddering nod of acceptance. Juvia did the same. With their secrets remaining, Levy followed her summon across the villa towards the baths praying that her anxious fretting did not undo her.

.


.

Neirah’s fingers wrung out a soft cloth in the bucket sitting on a wooden, mildew-scented bench next to her gladiator. The bath that she and her fellow slaves shared was modest, dingy and humid. The wood was slowly rotting away in the corners where the steam rose and mingled with the organic materials. As Amena’s body slave, she had never had to use them much. She was privileged enough to share her mistress’ proper baths with milk and perfumes. Unfortunately, the carrying of a traceable scent back to the ludus was what they were trying to avoid. 

.

She laid her cloth against Laxus’ shoulders, her expression faltering behind him as it followed the mapping of tension in the muscles through his back. She followed the cloth’s path with her fingertips, her touch gentle in attempts to soothe his stresses away. “Your body is wracked with tension again,” she announced quietly. “I thought I had noticed it slip away earlier this afternoon, but perhaps I was mistaken.” She watched the side of his face from over his shoulder, her gaze judging the weight of the responses she hoped he would offer. “Does Domina’s plan displease you?”

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He didn’t give her tender cerulean gaze much to observe as he diverted his attention to the floor and continued to fiddle with bits of string between slow, restless hands. “No.” His announcement was confident but not entirely earnest. “She asks little... of a slave.”

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Neirah didn’t seem convinced by his response. She drew a deep breath to steady her racing heartbeat before freeing one scrubbing hand of her cloth so that she might lay it against the side of his neck in comfort. “By whose standards?”

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She couldn’t see the way his expression humbled peacefully, if not a fraction desperately. With slighted actions, he leant into her warm touch and for once, when he sealed both eyes, all he saw was black. It was in the way they’d scented his skin, in the way he’d held a fraction of control that evening. It reminded him of home. “I did not mean to be cryptic,” he rumbled softly. “I should have spoken plainly and admitted that thoughts of home were weighing my heart heavy.”

.

Neirah shuffled and dipped her cloth again before returning it to his body. “What was it like?” She didn’t mean to pry, but she was ever curious. Perhaps speaking about it would lighten his burden. “Living in Rome, I mean. Is it anything like what you have experienced in Syria?”

.

“It is structured the same, seeing that they are both a part of the same empire. Politics still control the weak of mind, break the weak of heart. It is a lively place.” He smiled meekly to himself and intertwined his fidgeting fingers to silence them. “But it was warm; filled with familiar faces upon passing. I never thought I would miss it, not after the betrayal I suffered upon its grounds.”

.

She watched him carefully as the tension strained the muscles that she was washing at his back. “Have you reconsidered? Your plans for return. You were so sure that your grandfather’s life would have to end for you to be welcome back.”

.

During his thoughtful pause, he slowly opened his eyes. Her prying had struck close to home by breaching the topic. “I have considered much behind these walls,” he admitted distantly. “Perhaps a part of me wonders if this is a better place for me.”

.

Neirah’s gaze widened alertly to his bleak admittance. “Here? In Damascus? But you are a legatus of Rome-”

.

“Was,” he corrected firmly. “I was, once.”

.

Neirah’s gaze diverted to his grim shift in demeanour and she decided that maybe their conversation would be better left where it was. She didn’t know what might make him reconsider his return to Rome but she could tell that it was most certainly weighing in his heart. She reached out and gently stroked the swelling scars of his lash wounds that he had received in the first week of his stay with them in Syria by Marianus’ cruel command. She watched his skin rise like he knew exactly which betrayal her fingers traced in his marred flesh. She let her soft touch slide down over the ruts in his back and continued to bathe him. “It is not a better place, not for you,” she offered tenderly in his defence. “You deserve better than what these walls can give you. You had just cause to end the life you took, the one that saw you trapped among us. To a slave who has known nothing better, the life of a gladiator does not seem... so bad.” She butted her forehead against his nape and slowly closed her eyes. “But not you. You are a good man who made a tragic mistake.”

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Laxus diverted his sentimental gaze and just relished in the weight of her affections upon him.

.

“You deserve forgiveness...”

.

He closed his eyes again when he felt her arms wrap around his waist from where she sat behind him, her eyes dampening the skin she had already washed. Slipping his hand over where hers met against his navel, he cleared the sentiment from his voice and spoke. “I wish that I could unbind the knots in my tongue so that it might speak pretty words in return.” He smiled humbly to the way her lashes fluttered against his nape to hear his thoughts. “Something about starlight, and the way it moves in your eyes. I could never forget it.”

.

He worked his thumb over her knuckles with a heavy sigh before turning and facing the woman’s damp eyes. He quietly took her chin in his hand and stroked her jaw with a delicate touch, his gaze roaming her striking features as they showered him with their affection. “But I am not skilled with such things.” He was honest as he tipped his head to one side and watched her expression flush with amorous intentions. “Even if I was, the sentiment would seem hollow to speak. Many beautiful women have crossed my path. But there is no amount of beauty that Venus could bless on a woman’s curves that could stop my breath like your kindness and the peace you bring when you are near.”

.

Neirah’s expression flickered with vulnerability for a moment before her confidence was returning and offering his staggered tongue assurance. “I herald no such fantasy,” she whispered kindly. “The peace is inside of you, it always has been.” She reached out and took his hand in hers, lowering it from her face. “And I am thankful that you value my company enough to indulge in that peace when for so long, the opportunity has been denied to you.”

.

She chanced to brace her brow against his, trying to raise her mousy voice over the sound of laboured breaths anxious to release the tension both harboured for the other. “Within you, I sense a calm spirit, longing to return to that blissful state denied to you all those years. My heart softens to your call, beating faster, every strike strengthening the prayer it contains to be the prize you claim.”

.

“It is in moments like these that I would have you,” he reminded her huskily. “I never knew I had as much strength as I have discovered it takes to resist such a desire.”

.

Her quivering fingers raised and dusted his jaw as she neared him until their lips were connecting when she moved them to speak her honest whisper. “It frightened me at first; perhaps, even now, it still frightens me. I have never longed for anything before. My life was simple before you came. I was happy.”

.

Laxus’ expression grew pained with the impact of her comment, like her lack of self-worth wounded him. “You were comfortable...”

.

Neirah slowly shook her head to deny his observation. “I never knew what comfort was until you embraced me, swore to my preservation. You made me feel beautiful and valued; something Domina could never do no matter how many pretty words she spoke between master and slave.” She reached out to him and gently swept her fingers against his chest, once, repeated. She was eager to touch and learn him in the ways that he spoke of learning her with Amena that very day. “Now, I fear many things, this sentiment I speak included,” she admitted bashfully. “But what I fear can no longer distort my acceptance that I feel a purpose in your arms that I have never felt before.”

.

To be fair, Laxus was more enamoured with the way the woman’s beautiful pouty lips moved, the way her breath raised her weighty breasts and expelled the sentiment to cripple his senses. He worked his fingers tightly against her scalp, waiting to rake her into his fierce passion. “And what is this... new purpose?”

.

Neirah didn’t hesitate as she reached out and clasped his face between both hands in the dimly lit bath. “To be your guide,” she breathed. “The light that guides you back to where you belong.” Her lips curled into a sad smile. “Home.”

.

Laxus sealed his eyes tight, remaining pressed close to her but his thoughts abandoning their original trajectory. “My grandfather would see me dead before I ever stepped foot through his city gates.”

.

“He has already seen you dead.” Neirah’s confident smile hadn’t faded when he returned his gaze to hers. “And has shed tears over the loss.”

.

“You do not know this...”

.

Rather than defending her knowledge and drudging up Regulus’ name to sully his mood, she defended it with her heart’s kind reasoning. “He meant to spare you the fate that has befallen you with your resilience,” she reasoned. “You must know that Cecilia would have trapped the both of you in the worst of circumstances.”

.

He could feel his body tightening at the very mention of her name. “He could have taken her life instead.”

.

“An innocent life in the eyes of the soldiers by his side? Search your heart for reason.”

.

“I dishonoured him and he saw my failure from his sights...”

.

Neirah reached out and captured his face, jerking it strongly back to observe her squarely. Once she had his attention, she let it linger for a stern moment before crushing his lips with her passionate defence. Just before he could relax into the kiss, she slowly slipped away from him and rejoined their brows. “You know you are wrong.”

.

It was all she said. He wanted to be mad, furious, even. He wanted to lash out again, see her from his sights in tears like every other time the conversation had been broached, but he couldn’t. His breathing became hastened, heavy and filled will pain as his expression watched the dull torchlight dance in the certainty of her beautiful smile. A part of him had always hoped, but that part of him wasn’t strong enough to believe. She was where he was finding that strength.

.

He diverted his attention, his heart heavy and vulnerable in her hands. It was the way she moved, the way she comforted him and made him feel like no matter what path he chose, it would lead to a desirable outcome. She was his safest place to hide, and within her arms, he felt like he could finally listen to his own heart’s song and accept the sentiment it beat for. “I... miss her...”

.

Neirah’s smile flickered hesitantly as he shifted on the bench, his mechanical movements drawing him closer to her. After the hesitant adjustments were made, he let his shuddering movements lay his head on her shoulder. He turned his face into the crook of her neck, his nose dusting her kinky auburn tresses. Each inhale drew in the scent of home and his mother, causing his damaged gaze to fog with the threat of tears. He sealed his wide gaze tight under a furrowed brow and wrapped strong arms around the small woman, clutching her desperately to his tired body.

.

Neirah was overwhelmed, for an instant, but quickly regained her bearing. It was strange to think that a gladiator needed anything other than a sword to thrive. But he had said it himself moments before when speaking to their domina. He wasn’t a gladiator. He was a man lost and far from home, desperate to return even if his heart felt like he’d failed his lineage. At that moment, he was the furthest thing from a savage beast. He was a lonely boy who’d never gotten to say goodbye.

.


.

Cecilia paced her room, reorganizing her belongings so that she had a means of self-defence concealed at almost every turn. She had learned everything she’d needed to know about the ludus, the gladiators, and their training that she’d need to, but she couldn’t stop her blood from boiling. A slave, a filthy Egyptian slave had intentions on ending her life. What was worse was that Marianus didn’t take the threat seriously and Amena was the furthest from condemning the prickly little rose. She heaved into one of her travelling chests with a furious hiss. But the most infuriating defence that the little shrew had, was the one that Cecilia was due to lay with at any moment. Surely if she was the direct cause of the slave girl’s demise, Laxus would be inconsolable or worse and that would not suit her purpose in the slightest.

.

She whirled to face the door as it was opened and her favoured gladiator was all but tossed inside. A part of her wanted to be delighted but she couldn’t help but feel just the slightest bit of loathing as he shifted that downtrodden, lacklustre gaze her way. “I bet you and your little whore think you are wondrously clever,” she announced swiftly. She rushed into his presence with a twisted scowl on her face, her robes sweeping around her urgently as she joined his presence and gave him an infuriated shove. “Tell me, how long has she been plotting against me!?”

.

All Laxus wanted at that moment was to sleep, to be fair. He had had less than no idea what the woman was raving about but he figured no matter how earnestly he made the announcement, he knew she’d just continue to rant until her fire had extinguished. It was how she’d always been. “I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.”

.

He was stricken a little more alert when her palm was cracking against his face. Honestly, if she didn’t stop abusing and taking advantage of his position, he was going to lop her arm off.

.

“Your fucking bitch!” Cecilia raised her voice and threw her arm out to the side as she expelled her fury. “She made attempt on my life not a full day ago!”

.

Laxus’ brow knotted with a genuine mix of bemusement and horror. “Neirah...?”

.

Cecilia whirled from her frantic pace to face him and glower feverishly at his detached expression. “Do not dare to speak that name in my presence!” She started to pace again immediately after her venomous command. “The next time she makes attempt on me I promise to make so many incisions in her throat that the jest could collect her head without so much as a-”

.

Cecilia froze for a silent moment of comprehension as Laxus’ arms fell around her from at her back. They weren’t on her throat, which genuinely surprised her. Her bewildered expression lowered to where his arms folded around her waist to keep her still. She wanted to strike him off, but his sudden expression of gentle affection had her startled into a disbelieving hush.

.

Laxus lowered his lips to her neck and gave it a tender kiss, ignoring the urge he had to set fire to the sense just to numb him to the betrayal. “Do not take her away from me.”

.

Cecilia’s knotted grimace turned over her shoulder to where his stern, yet quiet, expression lingered vacantly against her skin. He wasn’t looking at her, but he also wasn’t avoiding her attention.

.

“If what you say is true, I had no knowledge of it.” It was taking him a moment to process the thought of Neirah being brave enough to even think of making an attempt on anyone’s life much less acting upon it. A part of him wanted to believe that Cecilia was simply dramatising the story with unnecessary embellishment. A different part of him wanted to love the little firecracker even more for the very thought. And in the woman’s actions, he had found an excuse to aid in the structure of his allegiance with Amena. “I would see... my resistance to you lessened if I was only given your word that you would spare her.”

.

Cecilia’s gaze flickered with uncertainty. From what she could tell, Laxus had honestly believed that Cecilia had the power to end Neirah’s life upon command. Be that so, the woman would already be dead. She took another quiet moment to comprehend the empowering notion before reaching out and petting his head with a devilishly triumphant smirk. “I suppose I could be swayed to spare her. When last I checked, you still had not indulged.”

.

“I was commanded to show resistance.” He could barely form the words without gagging on the thick sludge of her honey scented skin clogging his senses.

.

She turned her affectionate demeanour to face him and dote upon his vulnerability. “That is because a good slave does as he is commanded.”

.

Laxus’ stomached heaved just at the thought of articulating the sentiments that came to mind the moment she started to stray back into a false air of secure superiority. ‘An allegiance...’ he mused humbly. Some things were harder to surrender than others in the name of love. “Yes... Domina...”

.


.

Freed rushed through the quiet halls that nightfall. He’d been keeping a careful eye on Cecilia’s chambers in hopes that his Legatus might become available, but it seemed that the two were locked up in intimate knots for longer than usual.

.

His spirits lightened when he heard the sound of the door shutting, the burly escort outside of Cecilia’s chambers commanding Laxus’ immediate return to the ludus. Freed grew wrathful when the man shoved the compliant legatus forward. He knew in his heart that all it would take is one wrong move and the young legatus would tear the man apart. None of them seemed to appreciate that the only reason they had control of such a powerful man was that he was surrendering it. “Apologies, Jupiter. I was kept late in my duties.”

.

Laxus flashed hesitancy next to the guard that was the victim of Freed’s ploy.

.

“You are here to return the hound?”

.

Freed’s sharp gaze flashed defensively. “You refer to a great gladiator of this house, one your master is particularly fond of.”

.

“Ha!” The round man articulated callously. “The man fought one day’s worth of games. Gazille has fought a decade’s worth of them. This one is for fuckin’ and if Marianus wants to summon him so he can stroke his cock to the name this one used to carry, so be it.”

.

“Very well,” Freed announced humbly. “I shall inform Dominus of your opinions promptly. Perhaps you prefer an assignment that would see you closer to the champion of your heart.” Freed was merciless in his defence. “Perhaps you would better be suited to serve the ludus guard.”

.

The twist in the man’s once jolly demeanour said it all. Guards serving the ludus hated every moment of it; more so since Marianus had expelled the first over the unfortunate loss of wine. He stepped towards the lean man with intimidation in his words. “You pompous fucking shit-”

.

The man had barely gotten a hold of the threads wrapped around Freed’s torso when Laxus was jerking back his fist and powering it so hard into the man’s unsuspecting jaw that he was stricken unconscious before he could finish his threat.

.

Freed quivered a moment for his uncertainty as he watched Laxus pant a couple deeps breaths through his nose, the audible hiss forceful as he tried to sustain his racing heart without gasping for air. The veins in his arm were raised like the hackles on a wild dog as he glowered at the man in a heap before him. When he was sure the guard wasn’t rising, he unknotted the ferocity from his expression and drew a settling breath.

.

Freed tried not to tremble when Laxus raised his casually indolent gaze to face him, a look of exhaustion etched in the lines of his face.

.

“I needed that after this fucking night,” he admitted brutishly.

.

Still enamoured by the man’s passionate defensive of him, Freed barely managed to articulate his concern. “Gratitude Legatus, but you really should not have raised a hand in my defence.” Freed chased after the brooding mass as his feet started to return him to his proper place. “If Dominus finds out a slave struck a guard-”

.

“If the fucking idiot even recalls why he was struck unconscious, I have no aversions to defending my reasoning.”

.

Freed’s expression warmed appreciatively. “You have my thanks,” he repeated. “I did not think the man would be so bold as to take a hold of his employer’s slave. If I had held worth, he could have been excommunicated or worse.”

.

“You hold worth to me.”

.

Freed paused in his stride, actively falling behind the young legatus a few paces. Laxus stopped and turned to face the man expectantly, giving him the time he needed to catch up.

.

“You are not usually the one who sees me back to the ludus,” Laxus started casually. “You were waiting for Cecilia to be through with me.”

.

“Astute of you,” Freed marvelled. “I could not rest with thoughts of conspiracy on my mind. Ever since your keen reception of my findings in Cecilia’s chambers, I have been abuzz with curiosity.”

.

Laxus shifted his attentive gaze over their surroundings to be sure they were alone at such a late hour on their approach towards the courtyard. “If the man she corresponds with is indeed her brother, it would mean she holds value in his company. It leads me to believe that she cares whether or not he lives or rots.”

.  

“You say that like you have the means to pose a threat to him.”

.

“Any Roman of worth with half a brain between their ears has the means to pose a threat to him. It is why he abandoned the republic to retreat into hiding. The crimes he committed against the Senate would have him judged and condemned to a life of-” Laxus paused thoughtfully and diverted his sheepish gaze, unsure of how to complete his sentiment.

.

“It is fine, I understand,” Freed assured him kindly. “The life of a slave is not for everyone.” He lowered his voice as they entered the courtyard. “What crimes did this man commit to see the Senate act with such hostility toward him?”

.

“Cecilia’s father holds a mediocre place in the Senate but it seems like every child his wife birthed came equip with the notion that they deserved more. Cecilia had set her sights on me. It was possible that I was in line to succeed my grandfather’s prestige and aside from the title of fucking Caesar, there was not much further for me to rise.” Laxus’ expression narrowed vindictively. “Ignatius was a whore. He valued his cock above all else and to be fair, it attracted him the notice of some of the more promiscuous Roman elites; elites far above Appius’ station. What he did not know was that one he was particularly fond of was already married with heirs and a powerful husband.”

.

“Strange,” Freed murmured curiously. “Infidelity may be frowned upon when brought to light of the republic, but she was the one to sin, not he.”

.

“That was almost true,” Laxus quietly explained. “Until her husband caught them together and she claimed rape. Ignatius was arrested to be executed the next morning.” He slowly rolled his intense gaze to face his companion. “But when they came to retrieve him, he was not there.”

.

“Cecilia released him...” Freed gasped out intuitively.

.

“That was the conclusion I and a select few came to as well. It could not be proven, and to be honest, I was surprised that Lucia kept her distance from that particular conspiracy. The cell keeper was found dead near to Appius’ cell and the key in the lock. Everyone just assumed that he had had the knife on him all along but I think his bitch of a sister was the means to see him free. If she currently corresponds with him now, I have no doubts that it was also her allowance that saw him harboured as a refugee out of the republic. She may be sustaining him still.”

.

Freed was desperate to try and absorb the weight of his findings. “When I went searching for the means to banish her, I never believed I would stumble across something of this magnitude.”

.

Laxus nodded with an appreciative smile as he clapped his hand against the man’s moonlit shoulder. “Just knowing that the man’s alive by her utility might be enough to scare her off.”

.

“But we are going off of speculation alone,” Freed mumbled thoughtfully. “I would see more concrete evidence provided before we bring our ambitions to Dominus. He certainly would not take kindly to harbouring two enemies of the republic.”

.

“Agreed-”

.

“Daquan, how could you let this happen!?”

.

Laxus’ brow knotted to the sound of shrieking distress cutting through the night from within the once quiet ludus.

.

“That sounded like the jest,” Freed casually observed. The next shriek of rage was confirming his suspicions and the sickening sound had him hastening with his key in the lock of the ludus gate.

.

Both Laxus and Freed rushed through the gateways towards the champion’s quarters, both a little alarmed that no one had hurried to the distressed demon’s aid for all the racket he was making.

.

“Someone has hurt you, tell me who hurt you!”

.

“Bixslow, what is all the commotion about?” Freed announced anxiously. The man seemed to be in good health and proper, but for whatever reason, he wouldn’t stop wailing. The flash in Bixslow’s furious gaze made Laxus reach out and ease Freed behind his back in case the demon decided to attack the curious man.

.

“When I left for the day’s training, Ai was safely by Daquan’s side while Huan and I battled.”

.

Laxus’ expression grew sceptical as he surveyed the room and tried to figure out how the helmet had gotten onto the floor in Bixslow’s panicking arms. “And she... fell?”

.

“She was pushed!”

.

“By Daquan...?”

.

Laxus could barely handle how bizarre their conversations with the man were.

.

“Daquan would never push his sister! He is sworn to her defence!”

.

Laxus slowly encouraged Freed back behind him entirely as Bixslow started to rant and rave in his native tongue. He kept his alert murmur hushed in the wild jest’s presence. “What is he saying?”

.

“I-It is hard to... tell... He is talking so quickly.” Freed focused a little harder on the frantic man’s dialect as his expression morphed sorrowfully. “He keeps apologizing for not being here to protect them while their mother was out. He apologizes for raising his voice to the one called Daquan.”

.

Laxus started to relax as Bixslow’s tone grew softer when addressing the helmet out of place. “That means someone found their way into the ludus during training?”

.

“It would seem so,” Freed announced. He stepped back to Laxus’ side once they were sure the jest had been defused. “He scours Ai for marks but the hel- she had only toppled from the shelf. Someone was definitely rummaging.”

.

“But they would need a key to get through the gate, would they not?”

.

“Yes.”

.

“There are only a small few with access to these cells during the day...”

.

“Unsettling indeed,” he agreed.

.

Freed stepped ahead of Laxus and knelt by Bixslow’s side, speaking to him in a shared tongue that was foreign to Laxus. They shared some nods, a stray laugh or two and one incredibly awkward hug. At least, Laxus hoped that was what Bixslow was offering the ludus attendant but with the way Freed flailed like he needed to escape had him double taking. When Freed finally returned to his side, Laxus spoke. “What did you say to him?”

.

“I assured him that I would do all I can to find out who was in his uh... home while he was away.” The two started to walk back through the ludus towards Laxus’ cell. “I asked if Ai was alright and he said she was fine, just scared.”

.

“That part I did not need,” Laxus grumbled uncomfortably. “He does realise he wears these things in the arena, does he not?”

.

“I have already expressed that I believe he does,” Freed assured him softly. “But every now and then, when he starts speaking in his native tongue, it is like he relapses; reliving his trauma.”

.

“I guess we all have our little problems...”

.

“We may have bigger problems considering the possibilities of who might be snooping around the ludus while the gladiators train. There are only two full sets of keys to my knowledge. One guarded at the main gate and one with Marianus. The set I have is similar to Doctore’s, limited. So far as I know, those are the only four locations of keys. Doctore and I were occupied and the ludus guard has less than no interest in the ludus innards.”

.

“You think Marianus was down visiting the ludus?” Laxus shook his head at the thought. “Impossible. If Marianus returned from town ahead of schedule to wander the ludus, he would have had to have been pretty distracted not to notice that I... was not... training.”

.

“He would have had to be pretty distracted not to notice your presence.” Freed cocked a brow at him cleverly as he watched the young legatus get himself up to speed. “Now you understand why we may have bigger problems.”



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