Disclaimer: I don't own Proximo, the Colosseum, or Rome, but I own everyone else. A woot to Oliver Reed, Ridley Scott (my hero), and Rome. I've always wanted to know the story behind Proximo and I actually had this idea years ago, about his loss and how similar he and Maximus really are. By the way, I am totally in love with Maximus. RIP Oliver Reed. I'm guessing there's probably loads of people with this title, but bear with me. It's the best I could do for ol' Proxie.
Shadows and Dust
When Maximus walked away from me today, I watched him pretending he was myself once—broken, but I was not so honorable or so inspiring. I suppose he believes I could not understand loss or desertion, but I know the both of them well.
I was a foolish man in my youth. Always brawling and being a show-off to the older boys, but that is one of the many reasons that I became a gladiator aside from the fact that I was a newly freed slave who had just bought his freedom and was then incredibly poor. Being a gladiator I was adored by many, especially the young women of society and I was often requested to bed them after many a conquest.
During those times when I was young I know not how many seedlings I cast about until I received a surprising visit from a very prestigious woman. Olivia was the wife of a senator by the name of Cassius. Nearly a month before, Cassia, their youngest child and only daughter, had come to me seeking what all women sought of me. She paid me earnestly and I repaid her with her wishes, producing the belly that was now swelling.
"This will ruin us." Said the woman. "And I will not make a rash decision about what to do with the child, for it is as much yours as hers."
My throat had gone dry and my stomach weak. I felt as if she were telling me that I was to bear the child. "And what are your daughter's thoughts?"
Olivia, the old goat, just lowered her eyes a bit. Even in indignity she held a great pride about her graying person. "Cassia wishes to bear it, despite the shame."
I thought for a moment. A child. My child. A robust ruffian or a sweet little girl. I smiled momentarily at the image in my mind, but it faded as well as my smile and all I saw was the woman. "Her choice is also mine."
At this Olivia seemed slightly relieved almost, as if she had a quota of votes to fill. "Then there is hope yet."
With that, Olivia began to depart, but I wanted to know more. "Will I ever see it?"
Pausing, Olivia glanced back. "Yes. You will."
My heart swelled at her words—a child, a family of my own. How I loved the prospect. The war of my life would soon cease and there would be love. If only for a moment in time.
Cassia came to me not long after, but it seemed too long for me and her belly was visibly growing. The woman came in a carriage, being lofted by several men and I was called to hold a conversation with her. When I saw Cassia, the glow on her skin made me want to scoop her into my arms, and kiss her a thousand times for all the happiness I had gained.
I did not think she would be so cold.
When they chained me to the wall, let Cassia in, and shut the door I felt the closeness in the air and also the discomfort. "Won't you come closer?"
"I do not think that would be wise."
"I did not hurt last time." I said with annoyance. "What makes you think I should hurt you here?"
Slowly and reluctantly, Cassia stepped forward, the light shining on her making her look glorious and I told her that. "Don't flatter me." Cassia insisted. "I don't think I can bear it."
My heart sank. She was here for the child I reminded myself, not for me. "Let me touch you."
The young woman gazed at me—she was so small and frail looking it was almost as if she's break in two if the child grew any more. When Cassia looked frightened, I explained to her my motives. "I will only touch your torso, only for the child." I insisted. "Only to have him know I am his father."
Slowly, Cassia made her way toward me as her silk robes swayed with the lace she wore to cover her hair. Finally Cassia was close enough for me to touch her and I did. I pressed my hands to Cassia's belly, the supple skin beneath her dress molding to my hands as I felt her womb. "How much longer?"
"A few months." Cassia said; her voice a little more relaxed.
We stood together in silence as I felt her heartbeat beneath my hands and I imagined the baby, sleeping in the womb—dormant until his time to appear. "Will you come again…soon?"
Cassia pressed her hands atop mine gently and smiled. "Yes."
After removing my hands from her stomach, Cassia gently kissed my cheek, my dark curly hair falling onto my forehead as we gazed at each other. "What will happen to him?"
With a sigh, Cassia shook her head although her brown eyes remained focused on me. "I don't know…"
"Don't worry." I whispered softly. "Everything will be all right."
I suppose that is what I wanted to believe, too.
Cassia left then and I remember that sunny day—how beautiful Cassia was when she walked away, glimmering in the sun. I fought rigorously that week. I won every event—but I put on quite a few spectacles, enough to make the crowd love me as always. I was the champion to the people and the grave to my opponents. In those days there was more killing. Animals were meant to die, like most of the weaklings they shoved into the arena. It was so hard to put on a show when the opponents are slobbering idiots.
I did not see Cassia again, but I did see Olivia. The old woman came to me, her dark eyes grim, and her wrinkled lips pursed. I was chained to the wall again to speak to her.
Cassia was dead, Olivia said, the baby had come to soon. A little girl. Cassia and my child were gone. I did not want to believe the old woman. I fought with her, my mind becoming my fists.
"Liar!" I snapped, tugging at the chains. "Tell me where they are!"
"Why would I lie?" Olivia snapped. "It happens all the time! Babies live and babies lie and so do young girls that you ruin!"
The fierce lion within me growled a bit and then retreated. "Forgive me…I…"
"I know, boy," the old woman bravely touched my shoulder, "it is hard for all of us…we have both lost a daughter and we both have cause to mourn…but we must carry on. I must go on being a mother and a wife and you must go on being a gladiator. That is the way of things."
"Yes." I agreed reluctantly. "We must."
Olivia left me there, still chained, and I felt as if a retarius had speared my heart with his notorious weapon. "Damn you!" I shouted to the sky. "Damn you for what you've done to me!"
In my cell I cried like a woman over my loss. It's strange how easy it is to cry when you have not been hurt physically. A grown man, sobbing in his cell like a child. I wanted to hold my daughter in my arms. Lift her to the sky and be thanking the gods, not condemning them.
Jupiter be with me. I was not so strong then.