Chapter Two: Humble Gesture

Naevia

She descended the stairs to fetch more wine for Domina.

Her eyes on a reflex flickered to the Gladiator’s cell, it was absent. For some unknown reason this disappointed her; had she hoped to see him? Crixus?

Impossible, she did not care for him. He was an animal. But she couldn’t help that her eyes always seemed to search him out on their own accord.

Sighing she turned to the wine rack and grabbed a jug; it was the heat, she told herself. A trick of Apollo’s playing with her mind.

Turning to go back up the stairs she felt a strong hand grip her shoulder, panic immediately gripped her as she turned around. The jug slipping from her fingers and hitting the ground with a smash she gasped when her eyes focused on the cell.

Crixus stood there, his long and muscled arm extended to her, his black eyes gazing at her.

She quickly looked down, another reflex reaction whenever her eyes met someone else’s.

“Apologies, I did not mean to startle” his gruff voice said.

She dropped to the ground staring at the broken pieces of the jug in horror, she flickered her eyes to him, watching as he bent to the ground, gazing at her.

His stare made her feel as if weights had been placed on her, she kept her eyes downcast as she worked to pick up the broken pieces of the jug.

“When we spoke last, I meant no offense” he said, his voice silent and husky.

She looked up at him for a moment in startled shock; did he feel sorry for having offended her? Impossible.

Frantically she looked down to the ground picking up the pieces of the jug; she had a more pressing problem than the Champion of Capua.

“I am practiced with swords not words” he continued quietly, his voice going husky with feeling.

She couldn’t concentrate on him as fear gripped her stomach; “If Domina discovers I dropped the last jug–” she began desperately hoping he would stop talking if he could understand.

“Hand me the pieces” he said pushed his long muscled arm through the bars.

She turned to look at his out stretched hand; it was dangerously close to her. It frightened her a little as she had never, in any fashion, been touched by a man.

“I’ll see them over the cliff” he explained, his voice husky from their whispered conversation.

She looked at him, could this brute, this animal truly have good intentions of helping her?

A small smile ghosted his face as the bars casted dark shadows over the rest, slowly she leaned towards him, careful to place all the pieces in his hands.

She tried not to let her blush show, bending her head as her skin connected with his, her hands looking small in his large ones. His other hand came over the top to cup her hands, and the clay pieces.

For hands that were used with such violent meaning, that had taken so many lives they were soft against hers, caring and gentle. Slowly she pulled away, watching as he extended his arms to prolong the touch. She looked up at him through her lashes, his black eyes held her with a tender look.

She sucked in a deep ragged breath she wasn’t aware she had been holding; she quickly stood up to break the eye contact between them.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw him rise as well, she turned to leave. She had lingered long enough.

“Wait” he called, his voice rising slightly, but not enough to attract attention.

Slowly she turned around, hesitant, what more could he want?

He slowly stretched his arm through the bar again, this time with a piece of cloth in his hand, “perhaps this gift will explain where words fail” he said huskily.

She looked at his outstretched hand for and the cloth within, what an earth had he done? Buying her something? For what purpose?

If anyone were to see them… she looked up at the stairs for a moment before she looked back to him, he too had let his eyes drift to the stairs before he looked back at her, “Please” he pleaded.

She sighed internally, as she grabbed the edge of the cloth and slowly pulled it forward, he once again stretched out his arm to prolong the touch.

She set her eyes downcast at the cloth as she pulled it to her chest, his hand lingered for a moment and she felt his gaze as she stood staring at the floor; she couldn’t do anything even if she had wanted to, she felt trapped under his intense gaze.

The shuffling of his feet alerted her that he was leaving and she looked after him still reeling from what had just taken place.

She suddenly remembered his gift, still quite frozen she pulled the cloth away from her chest and laid it out in her hand, pulling it back she gasped as she beheld the gift.

It was the beautiful opal necklace she had modelled for Domina not days ago, the one she had been so fond of. She stroked the jewels fondly, how pretty they were…

She snapped her head up to the bars, disappointed to see they were deserted; he had purchased it for her? Did he truly favour her that much?

Quickly remembering her purpose and place, she wrapped the cloth back around the necklace and stowed it away under her robes.

Grabbing another jug of wine she continued to marvel as she walked up the stairs.

What a mystery he was, he killed men, acted as if taking life was sport and yet he cared what she thought.

Going so far as to buy her a necklace. Was he truly as harsh as he looked?

Thoughts of Crixus filled her mind and the difficulty of her situation.

xXx

“Enter Marmilo!” yelled Dominus.

The crowd erupted into applause and cheers as Crixus emerged from the holding area adorned in his Gladiator armour, her heart gave a small flutter as she beheld the sight of him.

“The marvel before you needs no introduction, he is known by his sword, his shield, by his glory!” yelled Dominus once more.

He roared holding his sword above his head and the crowd went wild, “Crixus, champion of Capua” finished Dominus.

Champion indeed she thought as the crowd chanted his name, she let her hand slip inside her robes to hold the necklace, the smooth jewels cool against her hot skin.

The Lady Illythia moved forward anxiously, as he walked forward to his starting position, “Finally, Crixus” she sighed, more to herself than anyone.

Domina threw her a glare as she continued, oblivious to the daggers she was receiving, “Look how his form catches the sun” she said.

She did indeed look; how the sun cast small shadows over his chest, how the light of the gods seemed to make him glow as if he was one.

He truly was a marvel. A marvel she could never have.

She dropped the necklace into her pocket and looked at Domina; for so many reasons he could not be hers, because both she and him belonged to another.

She watched as he threw his head back and roared, “Capua” and the crowd continued to chant his name.

“In honour of the name of Batiatus the sacred vulcanalia–” began Domunis, but he was cut off by a foreign roar as Spartacus leapt at Crixus.

She gasped as fear clutched her heart, he was unprepared. A blind blow like that could maim him and finish the game before it had even started.

But he was fast; swinging his shield he deflected the blow.

She hid her face from the rest of the fight, lest her face betray her feelings to others.

She stared down at the floor, listening to the clashing of sword against sword and shield against shield, though she didn’t dare look.

But then a roar erupted, one that could only belong to the champion of Capua, reluctantly she looked up through her lashes.

Spartacus stood fallen and Crixus took off his helmet to look up at the Palvanus, both Domina and Illythia squirmed in their seats thinking his gaze was for them, but his eyes were only on her; she was sure the anxiety she felt over the battle showed on her face, betrayed her feelings to him, but he only smiled in that triumphant way on his before he turned to the crowd.

The crowd cheered frantically as he paced in a circle, his cocky showman ship showing, “Capua! Shall I begin?” he called.

The crowd cheered and he looked up at her once more, his smile only for her as he put his helmet back on and turned to his victim.

She looked down at the floor once again, the intolerableness of her situation washing over her, did she want him? It was possible, but impossible at the same time.

The jewels in her pocket weighed heavily as a constant reminder that she was in danger and she knew, despite her wanting, she would have to return them to him.

But hopefully she could explain to him what a careful line she had to balance, one that she was in danger of stumbling if her feelings for him continued.

                                                                xXx

Crixus

He ran the small scrapple over his chest, cleaning away the dirt and grime he had gathered throughout the day.

“Crixus, you are summoned” called the guard.

He gladly rose, wrapping the cloth around waist he followed the guard out of the cell, she was there, waiting with her head down.

She didn’t look up as he approached but began walking up the steps, he watched the swinging of her hips rhythmically as she walked, she seemed careful to keep a distance between them, as always.

This was the first time that he had been alone with Naevia since he had given her the necklace, which he noticed she was not wearing.

“Your neck is bare of my gift” he stated hoping to capture her attention.

“It is” she replied softly, her back still turned.

“You did not favour it then? The necklace I gave you?” he asked.

She spun around so fast that he had to stop abruptly to keep from walking into her, she stared at him with wide yes, “lower your voice!” she hissed.

He kept silent staring at her; the way the moonlight fell on her face was absolutely stunning, highlighting her skin and cheekbones.

“Your gift…” she began as he waited anxiously, “I cannot accept it” she said producing it from her robe; it lay flat in her hand.

He looked at it for a moment as rejection washed over him, he slowly reached out to grab it “Pardon my mistake” he replied gruffly.

“You must understand, if Domina–“ she began desperately.

His patience had evaporated, all he wanted was to be as far from her as he could, knowing that she did not return his favour, there was nothing more to be said, “you made your intentions clear” he said curtly walking past her.

He stopped at the door of the chamber his thoughts still firmly of Naevia and the rejection he had just received when her saw her, Domina.

Her hair blond with a red dress that showed through to the skin of her breast and stomach.

“Does it excite you to know that your very footsteps dampen my thighs?” she asked huskily as she moved out from the shadows.

He took a deep breath; he needed his mind to be elsewhere, away from Naevia, “I would have them dripping even more”

“Well draw closer and make it so” she purred.

He stepped forward, looking down at his hand as he did; he had been so sure that she would have accepted the necklace; the thought of her returning it and banishing him had not crossed his mind.

“What are you clutching?” she asked curiously.

He looked down at his hand again. The women he had intended the necklace for had made her feelings known, what was he to do with it now?

“Show me” she commanded.

He stepped forward extending his hand, better to give it to a women who already favoured him than to give it to another and risk the same rejection, “A humble gift… for a goddess” he said thickly, he hoped his voice wouldn’t betray to her the pain it caused him to give the jewels he had so admired on Naevia to her.

The Domina smiled and turned around, moving her blond hair away from her neck, “Put it on” she commanded.

He stepped forward again and grudgingly placed it around her neck, how he longed for it to be Naevia’s silky black curls that tickled his hand, her soft mocha skin that he could caress and her neck to see the jewels adorn.

“Does it please you?” he asked, he needed to hear that his efforts had at least pleased someone.

She turned around to face him, her blond hair narrowly missing in flicking his face, “yes” she replied reaching her hand under his cloth to grab him.

He sucked in a shallow breath as her lips captured his demandingly, harsh and rough, the way Domina liked it.

Gripping her shoulders he shoved the material of her dress aside, his anger and frustration could easily be channelled into another source as he felt himself grow hard as the her long fingers pumped him up and down.

He could forget Naevia… For now.

                                                                xXx

Naevia

She had hurt him; why did that bother her?

Why did the hurt look in his eyes haunt her even now?

Why couldn’t she stand the thought of him being angry at her when it was her that should have been angry at him?

His giving her the necklace had placed her in danger, if Domina was to find it she would have been accused of stealing it, or she would have wanted to know who had given it to her.

No one was allowed to court her without Domina’s permission, and she was positive the last person that she would allow to court her would be Crixus, her lover.

Why hadn’t he let her finish? Why hadn’t he let her explain this to him?

Frustration boiled within her as she entered the Domina’s room with her wine, something she always desired after being with Crixus was a goblet of wine.

Walking into the room she stopped dead when she beheld the sight of her, sitting on the couch, wearing her necklace.

Hers? It wasn’t hers, she had given it back to Crixus, yet if he had truly brought it for her, why did it now hang around the neck of Domina?

“Stop standing there girl and bring me my wine” said a sharp voice, bringing her out of her thoughts.

She quickly made her way forward, “apologies Domina” she said softly as she kneeled down for her to grab the goblet from her plate, “Dominus returns from the pits” she said quietly hoping her voice did not betray the seething anger that boiled within her.

She sighed as she gripped the goblet and laid down on the couch, “You may go” she said waving her hand in her direction vaguely.

“Domina” she said respectfully bowing her head before she turned and left the room.

What had he done?

Had he truly brought the necklace for her? He can’t have as it now graced the neck of Domina.

Had he given it to her out of spite? To teach her a lesson for refusing a Gladiator? To watch her gift grace the neck of another to forever taunt her?

“Naevia” called a voice.

She turned to see Mira, another slave like herself walk towards her, “Are you alright?” she asked curiously as she came to stand by her side, “you look pale” she said placing her hand on her cheek in concern.

Mira was the closest friend Naevia had; she was the slave closest to her age and had served Domina for almost as long as she had. The two of them had grown up together in the Ludus.

“I’m fine” she said quietly as she looked down, her hand falling from her cheek as she did.

After a moment she seemed to accept this, “alright, I’ll go to the cellar and put the wine away if Domina is finished with it” she said.

An idea quickly formed in her head, “no!” she said loudly, Mira gazed at her curiously, “I’ll go” she said walking past her quickly so as not to invite argument.

The Domina was occupied; perhaps she could speak to Crixus and know his mind so as to set hers at ease.

Grabbing the jug of wine she descended the stairs, quickly glancing to cell she could see it was empty apart from the guard. So she would have to summon him then, how to do so without arising suspicion?

Placing the jug back in the rack she turned to the guard, Draba, he had been here many times when she had been sent to fetch Crixus.

“Naevia, what brings you here so late?” he asked.

“Domina, she request Crixus” she said with a small smile, the lie flowing easily off her tongue.

He laughed, “As always” he said with a grin, “back in a moment” he said before he ducked down into the cell.

She took a deep breath to steady her nerves, if Domina was to find that she summoned him without her permission she would pay dearly. But she had to know his mind and he had to hear hers.

The shuffling of feet alerted her to the guards return with Crixus, he looked up at her briefly as he passed, his face appeared to be made of stone as it showed no sign of any emotion, but something flashed in his black eyes too quickly for her to identify.

The jingling of keys and the creak of a door were all she had to alert her that he was out of the cell, slowly raising her head from the floor she turned to Draba, “thank you” she said quietly.

He nodded and walked away, she kept her eyes on his retreating back, making sure he was well out of ear shot before she spoke, glancing up she saw Crixus half way up the stairs, “Wait!” she hissed anxiously.

He looked down at her through the corner of his eye, seeming reluctant to face her as he paused on the stairs, “Domina will grow impatient; you know the urgency of her desires” he said gruffly.

“She did not summon you” she said quietly watching as Draba rounded the corner.

She breathed a quick sigh of relief, she was now free to talk, she turned to him.

“Then why am I here?” he asked still not looking at her.

She took a deep breath, trying to summon the courage she needed, “the necklace…  you purchased it for me?” she asked.

“As I’ve said” he replied curtly.

Her anger flared as he still refused to look at her, “then why does it grace the neck of Domina?” she demanded.

He laughed sarcastically and turned to look at her, walking down the steps, “The mind of a women, you deflect the gesture only to question where it lands” he said coming to a stop, his massive form towering over her, she felt herself cower within as his steely gaze bore down on her, “Your words were ‘I cannot accept’” he said.

Her fear gave way under the weight of her frustration, “Yes my words” she agreed, watching as he turned away, one of his large hands gripping a bar tightly, frustration was clear on his face, “Cut off before completion” she said offense clear in her voice.

He turned to look at her, his jaw taunt yet his face gave nothing away, his black eyes bore into her again, “then complete” he demanded.

She took a deep breath, all her frustration and anger bubbling to the surface; he had no right to be angry with her, “That it is impossible for me to keep it regardless of desire! There is nothing in my possession that was not given to me by Domina!” she said, “Are you so thick that this fact was ignored? Did you think she would not notice?” she demanded staring at him furiously.

He stared at her intently, his face seemed to soften slightly, releasing the bars he turned to face her fully, stepping closer, “I misunderstood your meaning for returning it” he replied lowly.

“Of course you misunderstood! You have no mind outside of the arena!” she said, her daring surprised her as he stepped closer, he towered over her once more, his black eyes staring at her intently with acute restraint.

But she didn’t back down, let him understand how he had angered her and what she thought of him, “You think only with your sword and your shield you stupid lumbering–” she began, her voice and anger growing stronger with each word only to be cut off by his lips capturing hers.

She breathed in deeply through her nose in shock as her eyes automatically closed; his lips were hard and insistent upon hers, yet gentle.

Butterflies welled in her stomach and she could not pull away as a warmth spread throughout her, the urgency of his lips pulled her closer and his tongue traced the bottom on her lip skilfully.

Shock fluttered through her and she pulled away to look at him, his black eyes had darkened even more as they stared at her hungrily.

She wanted nothing more than to kiss him back, yet something that had felt so right was so dreadfully wrong; they could not be together, and he was a fool for thinking as much.

“You are a fool!” she gasped, speaking her mind, she needed to be away from him before her desires got the best of her, “Guard!” she called quickly.

She did not miss the small smile that graced over his lips as she passed, and she felt his gaze on her as she hurried up the stairs.

It was only once she heard the cell door slam and she reached the top of the stairs did she stop.

What had just happened? What feelings had he stirred within her? Some deep warmth in her stomach that clenched it into knots.

She could not forget the way his lips had felt on hers; slowly she placed her fingers ever so lightly to her lips in thought.

She permitted herself a small smile, she had just received her first kiss but the euphoric feeling that had spread throughout her couldn’t last, she knew that.

Quickly squashing the foreign feelings within her she continued to the slave quarters.

It was getting harder and harder to fight her feelings for him that seemed to only grow more fierce over time.

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