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.

Fallen


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Neirah was nervous as she swept through the gates of the ludus. She was given specific orders by her domina, but at the same time, she was stricken with guilt for undermining the orders of her dominus. There had been much confusion in the house of Aelius since the moment Vitus approved the union between Amena and Marianus. Unfortunately, Vitus had yet to see the evil that was lurking behind an ambitious gaze. If he had of, it was possible that he may have spared them all the torment and never have seen the union blessed. It left Amena in a position of partial power so long as her father lived and it was something she was prepared to utilise in Jupiter’s defence in the name of her domina.

.

She spared Jupiter’s dark cell a passing glance as she quickly hurried to the overstock to retrieve the provisions she needed to add to those taken from the medicus. As they had arranged, Levy had left it unlocked for her. She was a tad alarmed to see that he was not in his preferred corner, but she moved swiftly none-the-less. Upon meeting, he had assured her that the furthest corner from prying eyes was where the scent was least foul. It made sense that he didn’t want to stain the earth with the decay of the blood on his back.

.

She couldn’t get her defying hand to stop trembling when she thought of Marianus’ warning. In fact, after the key secured by her domina had been inserted into the cell lock, she had a hard time bringing herself to turn it. Then, she caught the sight of the man facing the back corner opposite to the one he preferred. It gave her more of a view than she would have liked of the damage done that afternoon at the hands of Gallus. She had grown accustomed to the wounded from afar, but to be so close to the gruesome spectacle made it difficult for her to feign ignorance to the pain gladiators suffered on a daily basis. Gladiators like her brother. Gallus had never been a cruel man, even as a gladiator. He had seen many men to the afterlife, as brothers, but he was swift and clean with his victories. He never lingered too fondly on causing more pain than was required for his preservation.

.

Her purpose became clear once more and steadied hands cranked the key in the lock to slide open his gate. She skimmed it silently shut behind her to save face, but knowing that escape would see Jupiter face two more locked gates and guard resistance, she decided not to waste time locking his cell entry behind her. Just holding the key saw the effort wasted. If he’d wanted to apprehend it from her and attempt an escape, there would be nothing she could do to stop him.

.

She set her provisions down, slightly alarmed when his cold and calculated glare wasn’t already upon her. Surely, he had heard her enter his cell. Rusty hinges moaned like the wind through the old building. She moved to speak, to get his attention, but then she recalled the poor taste he had for his false name. Until he saw fit to bless them with actuality, she was forced to refer to him as such.

.

Her gaze faltered, stomach weakening to the sight of the blood staining the sand beneath his hunched shoulders. To have refused aid in his condition was foolish. It wounded her to think that his pride was so precious that he would abuse his body to see it intact to whatever end. A great deal of muscle swelled past the lashes in his shoulder blades, discolouring around the split skin that glistened with the light trails of blood oozing past the marks. It had been some time since he’d been stricken, but with no aid offered, the wounds hadn’t quite managed to clot on their own yet.  

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At first, she feared the worst with the amount of blood beneath his seat, but that was when slow, ragged breaths raised tremoring shoulders before her eyes. ‘Perhaps he slumbers?’ Neirah thought helplessly. Tender fingertips approached his thick trapezius muscle to one side, one side that had narrowly escaped the bite of Doctore’s whip. ‘I should rouse him before I begin.’

.

It only took an instant for her to realise that perhaps she had been wrong about his state. That moment started with the presence of his sightless eye reacting alertly to the feeling of her touch against his shoulder and concluded with the feeling of a hulking forearm crushing her windpipe beneath his flexed grip. He panted heavy breaths against her capture, silently moderating her struggle for a moment before his gaze wandered out over his surroundings. Ascertaining the details of the isolated situation between the two of them, he slightly loosened the pressure of his forearm wedged up beneath her chin and the distressed scratch of her nails.

.

Neirah gasped for breath, choking on the force of air down her asphyxiated windpipe as she flailed fretfully beneath the beast’s grasp. Panic-stricken, she started to whimper, trying to give voice to her alarm to summon Gallus, guards, anyone to free her from beneath a man who could sever her spine from her skull beneath a flex.

.

Jupiter was aware of her plan and stifled it before she could do so. He dropped one hot, bloodied, palm against her face, encasing the better part of it from her nose to her chin. Then, keeping a weathered eye on their dark, still surroundings, he slowly turned his lips towards the ear lined with his thumb. “See heartbeat quieted and voice given to intent.”

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The horrified sapphire beads that were the frantic girl’s eyes stared over pale cheekbones as her ghastly expression turned to face him. Luckily, the sight to greet her was not that of his unseeing eye, something that from a nearness frightened her. She tried to keep her breathing even as her airway pinched beneath his warning. “Domina sends aid in light of your falling out with Medicus!” Neirah rushed her words past trembling lips, soft and breathlessly.

.

The tiny rattled brunette flinched to the sound of his dismissive scoff, and moments later, his grip on her throat was releasing. To this, she clamoured for air and held her neck with quivering fingers. Upon offering her freedom, he slowly turned away and faced the wall he had previously lingered before. “Take aid and see yourself removed,” he ordered. “My life is in no danger. These marks only seek to remind me of my purpose.”

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Neirah’s brow furrowed over curious eyes awash with elevated concern. To her bemusement, her fear was outranked. “You embrace ownership by Dominus so soon?” She didn’t mean to make it sound like she was surprised, but she had honestly expected that if the man wanted to put up a fight, he would have offered more than what had been displayed in his few days of possession. To deny aid a second time, he was certainly capable of it.

.

Jupiter’s gaze shot over his shoulder to hers with an impatient ferocity. “They seek to remind me of what is to be repaid in full.”

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Neirah bowed her head to the intensity of his wounded glare. “A-apologies,” she rattled out in a mousy tone void of defiance. She had felt much more confident when bars were between them. “I only do as commanded by my domina. I offer wine for the pain, a simple bandage for the bleeding. I am not as practised as Medicus in such ways. I cannot offer what he denied you.”

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“He denied me nothing but the sight of his face,” Jupiter growled impatiently.

.

To this, Neirah was humbled with interest once more. “You did not strike back at Medicus for offering aid?”

.

"I have yet to lay eyes upon the man to know if he truly exists."

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Neirah quietly knelt by his side, her heart racing for the betrayal he was offered. “You were never offered aid?”

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“I was delivered back here by the apologetic hands of my assailant,” he informed her swiftly. “It is a game that I am familiar with. I have practised it myself. Beat the disobedient, then kindly nurse wounds given by your hand. I will not be broken like some simple beast.”

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“This is not as it seems,” Neirah assured him sternly. “Domina sends aid denied by Dominus. They share no hand in the other’s device. My Domina is kind. She sees that you have done no wrong and fights for your preservation.”  

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“Not by her eye,” the cold man rumbled grimly. After a moment of silence, he turned his lethargic gaze her way. “You remain after orders were given to see you removed. Why?”

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Neirah’s expression darkened with determination, growing more confident as her safety was prolonged. “I serve my Domina, not a slave no higher in station than myself.” She watched the flicker of fire behind his cold expression but she kept her lips tight. “Domina sends aid and I will see it provided.”

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“Against your house master’s will?”

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“I was raised with my Domina in the House of Vitus,” she assured him. She sloshed around a cloth in the bucket of water she had brought with her into Jupiter’s cell. “Until his last breath is drawn, he is the true master of this house in my heart.”

.

Jupiter’s gaze flickered to life for a moment before it was banished once more. “The heart of a woman is fickle. Like yours, like your domina’s, they will all break beneath the hands of a man. Such is fated.”

.

Neirah paused for a moment to let his warning sink in before she finally grew brave enough to lay her cloth against his bloody lashes. For a man himself, he certainly had a grim opinion of the gender. His body tightened at first as she disturbed the open wounds left by the tip of Doctore’s whip, but whether by comfort or pride, he adjusted soon after. “You see a truth like that of my Domina. She often claims the same.”

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Jupiter caught a groan in the back of his throat, converting it into a haggard sigh upon expulsion. “She is wiser than even I expected,” he hastened. “Now you understand why my words are saved for her ear.”

.

Neirah ignored that his words were actually falling on her ears first and foremost to take a strike for that that he’d denied her domina. “Yet she asks only one thing of you. Your name. And you deny her,” Neirah quipped out shrewdly. “To see your name given would see unpleasant claims of identification lifted from you upon the sands. It is not as if she will not reward the effort.”

.

“My name reveals more about a dead life than I care to have whispered through these decaying walls,” he warned her. “It is my own to keep until I see fit to use it again.”

.

Neirah could hear a song of sadness fill his voice. He was somewhat gentler upon her second visit and it gave her the courage to offer him the compassion he’d originally wrung out of her. She slowly poured him a drink and held out the cup in two gentle hands. “Here, drink,” she encouraged. “You have lost much blood. This should see your discomfort lessened.” Their eyes met for the briefest of moments before she banished her weak gaze from where they had locked. “Perhaps the fermentation is not as you would recognise from Rome, but-”

.

He interrupted her thought as he reached out and reluctantly retrieved the cup, reminding Neirah of a rodent stashing away his next meal before opportunity fled. “Adequacy is the ability to numb the senses,” he muttered. He dipped dry lips over the brim of the cup and let a taste he’d been without for months wash over his tongue. Unfortunately, as Neirah had suggested, the brew was nothing like what his tongue was used to and caused him to grimace at the flavour. “Fortunately for me, even water has the ability to numb should you drink enough of it.”

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The dark-skinned beauty was diligent in her work, trying her hardest to clean the wounds threatening infection. Her focus wasn’t broken, but her humble expression did lighten with amusement. “You speak of drowning?”

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“It is not an unwelcome thought.”

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Neirah found herself stifling a chuckle for the execution of his dry remark that she assumed was meant to be taken humorously. “Are all Roman gods so bleak?”

.

“Perhaps not, but I can imagine one who sets fire to the sky has a temperament much like my own,” Jupiter mused bleakly. He watched his wine swish around in his cup for a moment before finishing the remainder and pushing the empty cup behind him towards where she sat. “Some days I too see the very land and sky as my enemy. I would relish in splitting them for my rage.”

.

“I did not take you for such a passionate man. To think that you could exhibit such fierce emotions offers comfort.” Neirah gave him a wry look and slowly filled his cup. She had certainly begun to believe that he was of privileged upbringing simply in the way she was treated by him. She was a slave, his or not, they were all treated similarly. She didn’t bother to push his annoyance any further though. It was a blessing he’d let her approach at all.

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“Withholding such a passion is a skill I used to possess, it weathers as my forsaken soul remains tethered to this life…”

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Neirah’s tanned shade paled in surprise. ‘Quite a bleak fellow.’

.

He retrieved his cup with no word of thanks and continued. “But with subject roused, I find myself assured of my earlier predictions.” He turned his healthy steel coloured iris over his shoulder and observed her caring for his flesh. “I do not recognise your shade. To speak of Roman gods like you are unfamiliar with them leads me to believe you are not of my lands.”

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My lands. She hid her amusement when he referred to the land as his by rinsing her cloth in her bucket. “My brother and I hail from just south of here. Our sands were Egyptian, once.”

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“The ill-tempered brute that was on the losing end of my blow this day?” Jupiter hummed in thought as he stared at the dark wall before him. That man had made his presence all too clear from the moment they had laid eyes upon each other. “He strikes me as the like. But you seem misplaced.” He shifted a curious side glance her way, carefully observing the play of dark lashes over-bright eyes. “It is your eyes. They betray all other dark features.”

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“It is true. I am a shadow over this land in comparison to most,” Neirah sighed bleakly with the resurfacing of her ‘noisy’ appearance. The olive-skinned woman hid her features to banish them from his prying half-gaze. She couldn’t help but feel like a distraction of the worst kind. “But I am informed that my eyes are bright like the holes in the night sky.”

.

“An awful poetic way of categorising the oddity, but not inaccurate.” He ignored Neirah’s impatient puff as he encouraged her to fill his cup once more. “My mother had the like,” he muttered quietly. “Eyes bright as the jewels she wore around her neck. I believe I had the like once; before clouds rained hell upon an innocent face.”

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“You speak of tragedy?” Neirah whispered tenderly. “You must have fallen far if you claim not to belong to this world. Something has taken your family?”

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His gaze grew sharp with his reminiscence as he turned to face her once more. “He who splits the skies had my aid in the task. Between the two of us, little remains.”

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The colour drained entirely from Neirah’s face as she stared back into his conviction. Surely, he hadn’t been the one to put out his mother’s eyes that he was so fondly reminiscent of. “Y-you…”

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“You thought the lives of the men I took upon introductions to this ludus were my first?”

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“I- of course not,” she stammered awkwardly. “But the life of your own mother…”

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Jupiter turned his gaze away in solemn state. “Her life was taken in the name of the god-king. My hand had less to do with it than my birth.”

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Neirah’s aching heart skipped a beat relating his circumstance to the shape of the scar on his eye. “Then… the scar over your right eye…”

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“Set by my father years ago when I rushed to my dying mother’s aid. He took her life for bearing him a meek son unfit for his name. That same night he took the sight of my right eye and begged that Jupiter take the blood spilt and forge it into something stronger.”

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Neirah was devastated by the expulsion of his truth and she could feel his body tighten beneath her fingers once more with his growing fury. “M-meek? But you tower above most men in your company? Surely any father would have been pro-”

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“Does every youth spring from their mother’s womb as such?”

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Neirah bowed her head in surrender. “Apologies. I understand now why Domina’s name displeases you.”

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Jupiter sighed vacantly before spitting out his retort. “None required. The man got what he wanted, what he deserved.”

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“You claimed his life then?”

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“Be careful what you wish for.”

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“Then that is why you have fallen,” she whispered weakly in self-conclusion. “Such a crime is hard to overlook in a family of worth.”

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That is when Jupiter’s gaze hardened once more. “A transgression I was more than willing to justify,” he growled. “But the only blood that remains of my line now ends with my father’s father; a senile old man unfit for the command of his own flaccid cock.”

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Neirah flinched with the sheer venom dripping from Jupiter’s malcontent words. “But you draw breath. If we explain to Domina, I’m sure she would do her best to see you home to the remainder of your family. Believe me when I assure you that this house wants nothing to do with nobility abandoned to slavery-”

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“She mustn’t know of this,” Jupiter demanded impatiently. “Wine and blood loss have seen my tongue loosened but its tale mustn’t reach their ears.”

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“I-”

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“I am no longer of this world, since the moment my grandfather’s sword pierced my chest.” He didn’t mean to come off so violently as he pitched his cup against the wall and watched the goblet ricochet off with a loud snap. He lowered his gaze and traced the scar over his right pectoral. “He took my life the day I took his son’s, claiming that the last of his blood was unfit to govern his people if he could not value the life of a father. From that day on, my station was lost and my name with it. All that is left is what you see before you.”

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Neirah’s heart ached for the pain she heard surfacing in his tone, pain that not even his poor attitude and defiance could conceal. He had been betrayed and deeply wounded. “You survived,” she assured him tenderly to break the silence. “Surely that means something to somebody.”

.

“Although I would disagree with your sentiment, I do draw breath,” he admitted bitterly. “And I suppose, to somebody. Seeing worth to my survival, I was dragged from the grounds of my father’s end and treated. The intentions of my so-called rescuer were to ransom me. Unfortunately, I ended his life before I had fully recovered. This left me weak in defence. I was apprehended by a Roman slave trader and taken to Ostia where I was thrown on a ship bound for Syrian sands.” Jupiter had become bitter in tone as he sneered his words through clenched teeth. “In the end, I was the coin that saw some vagrant to one more meal before famine took him. A man of my fucking station; lost for less than the price of a common fucking house slave.”

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Neirah swallowed her fear for his bitter rousing and reminded herself that although the man before her was a young, spoiled nobleman, he was wounded and enslaved against just intent. She shouldn’t have cared, but an upbringing by her domina had seen her once hard heart soften. “And now you’re here. Enslaved in error.”

.

“Here, there, it matters not since that day. I will take back my family’s station by means of force if I have to,” Jupiter spat out vindictively as he stared through the wall with half a wrathful glower. “And when I do, every mark that remains on my body by the hand of this house’s lanista will be another nail put towards his crucifixion.”

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Neirah bowed her head, surrendering her cloth to the water she’d dirtied by cleaning his wounds. Suddenly, her breast swelled with uncertainty. “Apologies… I never meant to pry. But I suppose… this is why Dominus was afraid to welcome you to the House of Aelius. He worried your past would catch up with us.”

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Jupiter tipped his venomous gaze to the dirt beneath him and let it soften. “Your apologies are always swift,” he noted. “But I suppose I can expect no more from a body slave. You obey the commands of your masters without hesitation. If nothing else, that is commendable.” He watched her retrieve the cup he’d pitched and refill it with trembling hands. Her hands were shaking so badly that she had started to slop wine over the edges of his cup and that was an unforgivable sin. “Rest easy,” he assured her hoarsely. He slowly retrieved the cup from her to keep from watching her rattle the fill over the rim. “My quarrel is not with you or yours. If you worry about the surrender of this house’s slaves upon his demise, I will see you all promptly rehomed. That is providing the old master of this house doesn’t resume command as he searches for a replacement heir.”

.

Neirah quickly bowed her head and sealed her eyes to deny fretful tears. “When you seek to make your move on my home, I only ask one thing.”

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Jupiter quirked a golden brow with amusement. Her home. An impressively dedicated slave indeed. “Bold from the start,” he dismissed. “Humour me with heart’s desire.”

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“I only wish that during anticipated ascension you recall my Domina’s kindness.”

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Jupiter’s gaze faltered to the devotions of Domina’s body slave. As the woman flustered before the drink he’d tipped just passed his nose, he took a moment to quietly observe her in a way he hadn’t indulged in before. She was a waste. A pitiful waste on her class. Her body was soft and well formed to be on the arm of someone in power. Someone far above the mousy mess with muddy knees bowed before him. But she was. A beautiful lie wasted on a house he would see destroyed for his vengeance. And all she begged for was the safety of her master.

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“She has done you no harm. She bestowed upon you a name that she thought would honour you.” Neirah raised dirty fingertips to her eyes to capture fretful tears in his presence. “I would humbly beg my life for hers.”

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Jupiter watched the frail woman’s body shudder with alarm when she considered a gruesome end to the House of Aelius. “How unexpected,” Jupiter rumbled curiously. “I anticipated your prayers to be for your brother. Not the woman who has collared your neck.”

.

Neirah gently shook her head. No matter how she considered the situation, it petrified her. “With my life forfeit for Domina’s, my brother is free to fight for his freedom, a life that caring for me has denied him.” She raised her desperate gaze his way. “Domina is of a sister to me. She has been kind to the slaves of this house for my entire service. Marianus is the true villain, not she. I would see her live and her ideals preserved to be passed on to her children. As a slave, she gives me hope that I do not expect you to comprehend.”

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Jupiter did something Neirah didn’t know how to read when his lips curled into the most crooked of grins for the first time since his enslavement. “I have no use for the woman or her father’s passion for the arena,” he assured her. Neirah’s stomach knotted uncertainly when he reached out and took the free hair around her face into his hand. He worked the silken strands between slow fingertips for a moment in thought before raising his gaze to hers. She hated how still her body became in reaction, so unlike that she had offered Otho the night before. “If nothing else, she sends me a slave bathed in oils that remind me of springtime back home,” he murmured huskily. Neirah’s throat worked with apprehension as she watched his shifty gaze roam. “I could see such a sentiment rewarded with life.”

.

Neirah’s heart fluttered, her cheeks flushing rosy with the genuine promise in his once shady demeanour. In that moment, she could see a once charming man who may have had every heart in Rome beating like hers did in that moment. Racing, uncertain, entranced. If he was once as powerful as she was led to believe, once as handsome as a man with one blinded eye could pull off before her eyes in that moment; perhaps he had truly lost everything. Fate had hardened him, but like her domina, she only hoped the best for their fallen star’s future. If nothing else, it would serve her well to see him properly accommodated so that if his hand did rise in rebellion, she and her domina might be spared.

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She watched her auburn waves slowly slip from his fingers. A part of her hadn’t minded at all when Otho’s gesture was repeated by Jupiter.  

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“I recognise that look,” he cautioned her slyly. He took a confident drink from his refilled cup. “Still your heart, slave. A scent can not elevate you.”

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Neirah snapped herself from her thoughts with a gentle snort to his insult. “My heart is still,” she assured him coldly. She took up bandages in her hands and approached his wounded shoulders. “And it belongs to my Domina. It cannot be stolen by such abrasive fingers.”

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As Neirah circled him to unwind her gauze, Jupiter caught her head upon passing. Fear is what stilled her beneath his touch, but it wasn’t what saw her remain as the swirl of his gentle fingertips fondled the sweetly scented roots of her hair on the back of her head. “Something I have grown to realise is that I do not need eyes to see the desires of a woman.” If just for a moment of inebriated indulgence, he embraced the scents and sounds of the soft woman tending his wounds. It had been a very long time since he’d been handled with care. “The heart of a woman is fickle,” he reminded her. “With moist thighs and trembling skin, they will all break beneath the hands of a man.”

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With no way to steady her uncertain trembling, Neirah quickly denied the only words she could of his overconfident statement. “You do not moisten my thighs.”

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“You dare challenge a man who was forced to grow reliant upon senses other than sight?” Feeling the weight of eyes upon him he leant into her and laid his lips upon her ear. “Put your arms around me,” he ordered coarsely. What Neirah couldn’t understand was why she immediately moved to obey his command by wrapping the gauze around his broad shoulders from in front of him. His triumphant smirk broadened as Neirah quickly scooted out of his grasp and towards his back again, leaving him to stare lazily at the dirty wall before his eyes. “I can see it in your eyes,” he continued upon return to his tangent. Bright, beautiful eyes stained with tragedy. Even he was impressed with the hunger he was capable of grinding into his tone as he watched the retreating sway of the hips belonging to a slave girl. “Do not make my fingers confirm what my nose assures me.”

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Neirah shivered with his lewd insinuation, thankful that he couldn’t see the flush of her skin from his boldness. It set the tips of her ears, the tops of her breasts and the joint of her thighs ablaze with humility. She sighed in relief as she tied his bandages and realised that the man in front of her had been drinking. He was excused to behave in such an erratic manner. “I wish all men were such lusting drunks,” she dismissed tenderly. “I would not be here dressing the wounds of Dominus’ cruelty.”

.

Jupiter did not turn to face her as he drawled his firm warning. “No, instead you would be trying to avoid the touch of hungry fingers from a man who mingles with lower stations upon intoxication. Mistakes a better man would not make…”

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She couldn’t help but see the truth in his statement. Marianus was a more violent drunk than he was a lusting one but she had already been assaulted by said hungry fingertips once. What confused her was how Jupiter was aware of such things. Sometimes, the things he said made her think more inwardly than she believed he intended. It added to the mystique she was fighting hard to ignore. “You claim to be a better man than Marianus,” she encouraged with a soft smile. “I should like to see that proven.”

.

She didn’t mean for her words to doubt him, in fact, she agreed that there was a chance that Jupiter could see them all free of Marianus’ abuse and left to carry on as they were before his arrival. But when the lethargic crawl of Jupiter’s sharp gaze met hers, her hope started to dwindle.

.

“Then I suggest you see yourself removed.”

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Neirah’s heart leapt into her throat with his insinuation and she quickly obeyed him, seeing herself and her effects removed from his cell. She drew in a steadying breath as she took the key to his prison from where it hung beneath her robes and saw it towards the lock it belonged to. It was in that moment that Jupiter’s wrist snapped through the bars to grab it before she could secure the lock.

.

His palm was hot, and be it with fever or passion, it was hard to ignore. Neirah’s gaze trembled as frantically as her fingers as she looked back into his unsettling half gaze to search it for his intentions. She wanted to break free of his gaze to demand aid in case he attempted escape, but she had to constantly remind herself that escaping would do him no good if the story he’d spun her was accurate.

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Her breath was meek and trembling as he wove his head to one side, his lips lowered in instigation towards hers as his gaze engrained the lines of her face to a memory stronger than sight. His gaze might have wandered, but hers was fixated on the cloudy sight of his blind eye mingling in parallel with the healthy one. A part of her wondered if maybe all sight wasn’t damaged. She found herself genuinely fearing that he could peer deeper than flesh with it; learn her in ways that she couldn’t hide from common sight. Sparks traced her spine and stilled her when both of his eyes landed on hers inquisitively.

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“What do your master’s call you?”

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She didn’t like how exhilarated his disposition had become subject to alcohol and blood loss. She preferred when he was edgy and cruel. He was easier to ignore. “Neirah,” she murmured weakly. “Depending on the day.”

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Jupiter rolled his cell’s key between his thumb and forefinger, relishing in the heat radiating from his new pet and her luscious bosom. Even if she perspired for the fact that the now intoxicated brute was holding the key to the cell that she wasn’t meant to have, it still made his palms sweat with triumph. He cocked his head to one side as he looked down at her. “I suppose it would do you well to imagine I’ll mutter it this night in my sleep.”

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“It would simply do me well to imagine you slept at all,” she denied.

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Jupiter gave a little tug on the key around her neck, forcing a startled gasp to escape her throat as her face near collided with his bars. “You bend to your domina’s every whim, yet are bold enough to defy me when you have been assured my station far outranks that of this house. It makes me wonder, would you wear my collar as willingly as you wear hers?”

.

Neirah puffed out her chest to assure that the tattooed side of her right breast was visible to his line of sight. The tribal lines of the sun marking their house were as dark as the small tattoos beneath both of her eyes and worn just as proudly. If nothing else, the pride of her house stifled the gentle whines seeking to escape her with her enticement. “If it were your mark I bore and your kind hands that raised me, I would show you the same respect.” She gently slipped her fingers between his to retrieve her key from his lazy grasp. “I have stopped your bleeding so you might return to your corner without sullying it.”

.

There was a hint of amusement in Jupiter’s hazy gaze as he looked back at her. “You knew why I adjusted?”

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Neirah gave a stern nod and quickly locked his gate, desperately trying to convince herself the act was for her benefit. “I never doubted that your sense of smell was keen since the sight loss of your right eye,” she assured him confidently. “But it was wrong to assume that you moisten my thighs.”

.

She turned with a settling sigh just in time to miss the dampening of his lower lip beneath the slow roll of his tongue from behind his menacing grin. She was almost relieved to be escaping his dominant presence, but that was before she felt his reach gently encase her throat to slowly back her up against the bars of his cell. When he straightened, he easily towered two heads above her, but what she couldn’t understand is why she didn’t feel nearly as threatened by his embraces as she did Otho’s.

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“Listen carefully, slave,” he whispered huskily against one ear draped in spring-scented locks of hair. “I am the only cock in this ludus that does not crave the cunt of a slave.”

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Neirah’s gentle gaze widened when it fell on the shadow of Otho stalking through the ludus depths like a prowling tiger. In that moment, she realised that perhaps Jupiter had known he was watching all along and that was why he adjusted his racy demeanour and spoke in hushed tones against her sensitive ears.

.

Jupiter continued just as gently, his every breath filling with her presence despite her lack of station. She still smelled like home. “If you see voice given to your master in my place, I will see hand moved to banish your demons.”

.

Neirah quickly rolled her head to the side that he spoke against, her eyes wide and uncertain as their lips nearly collided with her bewildered adjustment. She immediately regretted how near to his face that left her. “You would see Otho from this world? He is this house’s second strongest warrior. Surely Dominus would-”

.

“I am not new to the games that are rank and politics,” Jupiter warned her soundly. He rolled his suspicious gaze to the shadows where he knew Otho lurked, watching their interactions intently. “The pig has wanted you a lifetime. Even now, he broods knowing that something he wants is in my hands.” He rolled his fingers over her jaw and gently stroked her chin. “The training of gladiators is a costly venture. If he was to make a challenge of me in the morning, how do you think he would fair?”

.

Neirah was uncertain about much as she tried to process his offer. Amena’s salvation, an end to Otho’s haunting gaze; the hot breath of her saviour at her nape as he whispered poison in her ear. “What do you seek from us?”

.

Jupiter’s grin broadened. “An audience with your domina.”

.

“You seek the impossible!” Neirah hissed quietly upon whirling from his grasp. “Dominus will never allow-” Her gaze widened with the subconscious realisation that two days hence, Vitus and Marianus would spend their day to market.

.

“Can we make the best of each other’s company for the duration of my stay?”

.

The unbearable conceit.

.

It either hadn’t taken Jupiter long to sober or he was never drunk. The thought comforted her that he would act in such a manner just to throw Otho off her scent. She could see that he was no stranger to games. Coming from a man that had managed to slay his own father, she wasn’t sure why that surprised her. “I will see that voice is given to your desires to meet with her,” she assured him tenderly. “I can promise no more.”

.

“Then my hands are not dirtied in vain.” He reached out and slowly offered her the empty cup he’d been holding. “See this removed. When through the night my bleeding subsides, I will bury the bandages in the sand of my cell. Enough blood has been spilt in the corner to see story strengthened. You were never here this night.”

.

Neirah swallowed hard and retrieved the cup before nodding frantically. She couldn’t help but see their gaze joined once more upon parting. “Gratitude…”

.

His forearms draped haphazardly through his bars, Jupiter watched carefully as she hurried away, and like he’d thought, Otho didn’t dare to advance on her when she was under his watchful eye. Otho had been aware of their first meeting, and since, another. Jupiter was also aware that a small cerulean haired maiden was sent to the ludus that night. It seemed like the villa house slaves were becoming more mobile between structures. Neirah saw this as Marianus using the slaves. Jupiter saw it as a notion to be built upon. He kept his gaze locked on the defiant brunette for the duration of her exit. He knew all he had to do was simply find a way to coax her tongue to wag. So long as he could see himself to the Roman citadel, he could make his way from there. But for that, he needed to broaden the reach of the humble Syrian ludus. Then, he would situate a circumstance where payback could be delivered for all fifteen lashes laid against his shoulder blades that day.

.


.

“M-my! Time has escaped me!” Levy prattled worrisomely. She raised both hands to her hair to straighten the dishevelled mess. “The sun threatens to rise upon my time with you!”

.

Gazille reached out and quickly snagged her arm, drawing her into his firm embrace. “Then I would see Apollo properly saluted for his efforts.”

.

Levy whined against his playful groan in her nape, barely containing her smile. “Gazille, please, your training will commence soon and you have yet to rest. Jupiter was unkind to you days prior.”

.

“Jupiter can suck my cock!” The brute slurred overzealously. It was clear that the lines between their fellow slaves and the gods themselves were blurring with the renaming of the Roman dog. “I allowed him victory to see… to see Dominus’ spirits lifted! I tried to keep him from the lash, but he just-”

.

Levy giggled and caught Gazille’s arm. “Now is not the time for games. I suggest that you see pride deflated and,” Levy’s cheeks flushed with guilty heat. “And leave your cock for mouths better suited for the task.”

.

Gazille growled with a desperate hunger. “Mn, if only my sword could bring me so much pleasure.” He captured the small woman and pulled her tight to his naked body, relishing in her sweet mewls as he seized her mouth with his. “I never thought anything would fit better in my hands. I was wrong. Tell me I have not wasted ignorance of your presence for years on end.”   

.

Levy’s softly flushed features smiled tenderly as his lips murmured praise against her wild cerulean locks. “You make it hard to be away from you,” she whispered delicately in avoidance of his question. “It is strange, with the way Neirah has told her stories, I feel like I have known you my whole life. Only now, when I am with you, I want to stay and learn more.”

.

“I will give voice to desires when next Domina summons me,” he assured her warmly. He helped her adorn her robes with a heavy hand. “With the Syrian games opening next week, she is sure to call upon me to assess my condition.”

.

“I would see her well informed that your condition is improving.” Levy giggled bashfully and raised on her toes to place a final hastened kiss on his lips.

.

Gazille reluctantly let her slip through his fingers upon her exit. He hated how surreal it felt. He had only just met the girl, but his heart had warmed to her quicker than he could have ever anticipated. He frowned as the catcalls of his cellmates jeered her for the sweet little noises she’d made beneath him that night, but he was almost too content to care.

.

Upon hearing the guards escort her from the ludus, he knelt and retrieved the headband she’d lost upon her entry to his room. He held it to his face to inhale her scent before a crooked grin curled his lips. “My sword, huh?”

.

“What kind of example is this?!” Marcus hollered. “I fell to Jupiter’s fist, where is my whore?!”

.

“Shut up! You are lucky to be alive, far be it fucking!”

.

“I could still out fuck you, asshole!”

.

“With a performance like your last, assholes will be all you fuck.”

.

“You wish!”

.

Gazille growled lowly and slammed his ratty door to block out the bulk of the other gladiators. They were dogs, but they were his brothers. Even Otho, who he was surprised hadn’t put his two words in on the matter. All save for one. One that he was now aware had a voice and used it only for his baby sister.

.

A part of him did feel guilty as he held Levy’s forgotten headband between his hands. She had left so swiftly, he hadn’t really thought to try and rush it to her. Then again, if he were her, he’d want to escape the ludus as quickly as possible also. He had claimed some noble victories on the sands in his ten years of serving his house, but he was rarely offered company outside his sisters for it. That day, he simply survived the ruthless pounding of Jupiter’s fist. If it hadn’t of been for Marianus’ cruelty that sought to break the titan, Gazille’s one swollen eye may have never opened again. He held Levy’s headband to his face once more for another deep inhale. It seemed strange that she had been sent to him that night to offer Domina’s sympathy.

.

In the end, he wasn’t sobered enough to care. His body was pleasurably exhausted and his mind successfully relieved of the tension that had been growing since Marianus’ rise to power. If nothing else, he would sleep well for the few hours he’d claim.

.


.

Levy quickly rushed back to the villa as swiftly as her feet could carry her. Her smile was tight as she tried to conceal its broad corners, even if the steps she took offered slight discomfort. She was elated to see that Neirah was still up when she arrived. She quickly rushed to the woman’s side and hastened her through the silent villa towards their chambers.

.

“Levy, heavens you tremble like a leaf,” Neirah whispered in alarm. “Whatever is the matter?”

.

“I have done it!” Levy whispered giddily. “I have laid with the champion!”

.

“I will not believe it,” Neirah rushed out in excitement. “I did not believe my brother would take the order kindly!”

.

“He was more than kind,” Levy whispered slyly. “How can such a proud man be such a goofy drunk?”

.

“Wine changes everyone,” Neirah purred. She wrapped her arms around Levy and hurried them to their beds so that she could help the tipsy girl clean herself. “Including you, apparently. To tell such secrets with no wonder of who can hear.”

.

The sheepish girl threw her hands over her mouth to stifle her humiliated giggle. “Gods, you are right.” She burst into more gentle laughter. “I should not have partaken. The wine has made me lewd.”

.

“If what you say is true, it has made you both lewd,” Neirah scolded playfully. “Now hush before you wake the entire villa with our schemes.”

.

Levy rattled in place as Neirah removed the girl’s wine-soaked robes to Juvia so that she could see them to the wash. “What an amazing man. He was everything I dreamt he would be and more.”

.

“He better have been,” Neirah chided impishly. “Otherwise it is my wrath to visit next. I was not allowed the chance to offer caution to his conduct.”

.

“None required,” Levy giggled musically with the permanent flush in her cheeks deepening. “If for just a moment, I felt… I felt like I was no longer a slave…” Levy clasped her small hands to her modest, bare chest and let the warmth of her encounter fill her as she was tidied. “Even if Domina sent me, I felt like my heart and body were my own to do with as I pleased. What is more is that I think he felt it too.”

.

Neirah reached out and gave her sister in service a tight hug from where she was cleaning her up. “Gratitude,” she whispered affectionately. “I prayed that someday my brother would be offered the comforts of freedom.”

.

“How strange,” she murmured. “Is it possible to lay with a man and not fall in love?” Levy turned sobering hazel eyes to her dear friend with a look of concern on her fair features. “Neirah, are we permitted to love?”

.

The sincerity of her question rattled Neirah to the core.

.

Levy was reminded of the words spoken by Gazille earlier that night. “If that is what happens, is it to be condoned?”

.

Neirah pulled her friend into a warm embrace and stroked her tousled tresses from her face. They were always such a pretty mess when she was without a headband to keep the docked once-bangs back. “Just remember my brother’s words. It is not a sin to fall in love. If hearts collide, it cannot be helped.” She smiled down at the fretful woman reassuringly. “All things that can be, I will see to.”

.

Levy turned her glossy gaze towards the women before they shared a gentle kiss. “Gratitude…”

.

“Now, to bed with you,” Neirah chided playfully. “We have very little time left to sleep before we must be up to tend to Domina.”

.

Levy giggled and tucked herself in. “Of course.”

.

Neirah captured the gentle fingers that Juvia had laid upon her shoulder before the woman placed a gentle kiss on Neirah’s cheek. “Juvia believes you have done a beautiful thing.”

.

Neirah smiled and swept back Levy’s dishevelled bangs from her sleepy smile. “She deserves it,” she cooed affectionately. “She serves this house well.”

.

“They both do,” Juvia assured her tenderly.  “How did you fair with Jupiter this evening?”

.

Neirah frowned and settled among the sheets next to Juvia. “He is a tedious and difficult man,” she almost growled. “I cannot see what Domina values in his salvation.”

.

Juvia smiled weakly and laid her head on her pillow, glancing back at her friend supportively. “Juvia believes that Domina is gifted. She sees things far beyond what we might comprehend. Juvia believes that Domina has a purpose for protecting Jupiter.”

.

Neirah smiled and gently blew out the candle at the end of their marbled servants quarters with the other women already asleep around them. “I hope her purpose is great,” she whispered somberly. “Greater than he.”

.

Neirah laid her head against her own flat pillow and stared into the darkness of the room. It was one of the only rooms in the villa that had no natural light filtering through open concept halls. When she allowed herself to dream, she dreamt of such things. Vast rooms to view the sun and the stars from. Long, sheer curtains dancing on the fresh breeze as it swept the petals of blooming trees through the room.

.

Her expression faltered as she recalled the startling embrace she’d received from Jupiter that night. He’d claimed she smelled like springtime in his homeland. She wondered if where Jupiter was from, he’d had large open rooms that swept blooms through on the breeze. Her gaze weakened humbly to assimilate herself into his position. A man who once had it all, now scraping the bottom of life’s barrel to survive. It was no wonder he was bitter, if not a little pampered once. If she had to admit, she wished that he would surrender his pride and make it easier for himself, for all of them. But then, perhaps, she had never had such a thing as pride. Since her youth, she had lived to serve her Domina. She would do as commanded, pride surrendered.

.

Neirah considered Jupiter’s bargain for a humble moment while she awaited rest to take her. She was unsure of what Jupiter could possibly offer Amena to sway her hand. Certainly, she wouldn’t see his release. If he could have pulled off the like, he never would have seen himself sold. As far as his blood was concerned he was dead. He had made that very clear. 

.

She then thought about his sudden shift in demeanour when Otho was perceived to be watching their interactions from afar. Having never been intimately hunted by a man like she felt she was that night, she was overwhelmed by the nearness she’d experienced with him. It was unlike what Otho had assaulted her with.

.

Jupiter was far from desperate, and before she had learned it was all a ruse, she was genuinely concerned that he was going to lay hands on her. She supposed what concerned her the most about that was that it wasn’t something she wanted to fight. She tried to tell herself that Amena was right. Men were incapable of holding women. Jupiter had said it himself. All women break beneath the hands of man. She turned to face Levy while her thoughts wandered. But perhaps he didn’t mean to be taken literally. Perhaps he meant to say that all women would eventually give in to the desire to be in a man’s arms. To feel protected from lurking dangers. Perhaps growing up with a doting brother that risked his life every day for her security numbed her to the romantic principles of love.

.

Neirah shook her head and promised herself that her Domina was all she needed, shuffling beneath her undersized sheet to try and conceal the developing moisture between her trembling thighs.

 



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