Orginaly Published: 06-10-07, Re-Published 05/02/10 due to problems.
A/N: Salve, So just a little one shot here, that appeared while I was taking a break from my bigger fic's. I'm Planning on making a whole series of these Missing Scenes. This one is set during EPISODE 2
The doctor who performed Pullo's operation in season one gave a very vague diagnosis for recovery. This missing scene explores what going on in the Vorenus house the following day. Vorenus and Niobe are still struggling to adjust to each other, and at the same time coping with the seriously injured Pullo.
Can be read as Vullo pairing if you wish.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of it, or make any money from this. If i did there would be a third season! I play just for the funsies!
Oh and of course much love to my beta's, who are always more patient with me than I ever deserve.
Vorenus stared hard at the man's chest, watching it rise and fall slowly, and every time it took slightly longer than it should he felt his own tighten.
Today, tomorrow, maybe never...
The doctor's words about when the man would wake up rang loudly in his head. It was already tomorrow, and the doctor's boy had been and gone, changing the dressing but offering no more insight than his master had.
As a soldier, Vorenus was used to having death as a constant companion and, when your brothers fell at your feet, carrying on as if you had never known them. But now for the first time, feeling that familiar ice cold breath on the back of his neck made his stomach turn.
Slowly his hand crept across the clean white linen sheet, desperate for some kind of contact to reassure himself the man in front of him was not slipping further away. However, as his fingers reached the thick cloth straps that he had pulled into as tight a knot as he could force himself to, binding the man to the bed for his own safety, they lingered as if to convince himself that was why his hand had strayed that way.
When he could resist no more he slid his hand on top of his brother's and felt a wave of relief wash through him.
The back of the man's knuckles were bruised and bloody, in a way that was enough to tell Vorenus the fight had not been one sided, and if he woke – when he woke, Vorenus corrected his thoughts – would probably be too sore to use delicately for a couple of days at least.
He was tired. It had been a long night, and sleep had not been a willing bed fellow. Slowly he allowed himself to lower his head, and rested it on the edge of the bed. His wife obviously made a prettier bed companion than the injured man beside him, but there was something about having the deep, heavy sounding breaths of a man nearby that helped him relax. Closing his eyes he whispered a prayer to Pluto, and listened to every breath taken next to him, feeling comforted as the next came as easy as the last.
"Who is he?"
The question made Vorenus jump and he pulled his hand back to himself immediately, ignoring the twinge of regret as he did so. Swivelling on the stool he saw his wife leaning against the doorframe. He had not even heard her approaching, and he couldn't help but wonder how long he had rested his eyes.
"A friend?" she pushed, questioning further.
Vorenus shook his head. "Just a soldier," he answered as he got to his feet, determined to make that true.
Niobe could see the tiredness in Vorenus' eyes, but she could not let it deter her from her reason for waking him. "He can't stay."
"Of course he's staying!" Vorenus snapped in response to his wife's cold tone, and he pushed past her.
"We do not have the room," Niobe pleaded as she followed her husband into the kitchen. She had slept on the floor with the children the night before. It was not an experience she wanted to repeat, and she did not see why she should when she had a perfectly good bed of her own.
"Then we shall make room."
"Make?" Niobe looked around her incredulously. What did he expect her to do? Discover another room they had not been using all theses years?
Vorenus clenched his jaw as he looked down to the blood still staining the table pink, and his worry for the soldier's health returned. If only she knew her husband as well as some of the men in his cohort, Niobe would already be able to see it was no use in arguing. "YES, make," he spoke through clenched teeth. "This is my house and I say he stays."
"Your house?" Niobe questioned, starring at him; she could not believe he was the man she had married all those years ago. The man who had held her so gently as she had brought their two beautiful daughters into this world, the man who promised he loved her, the one who touched her cheek as he kissed her gently awake every morning before he had left.
He had only been back two nights but she was already wishing he were gone again. One night of painful, unfeeling coitus, and another of a cold floor, it was enough for her.
Vorenus searched noisily through the kitchen. "Who do you think has been paying for it all these years?" he questioned bitterly. This had hardly been the homecoming he had expected. Considering the amount of his wage that was sent home, he at least expected to be able to find something to eat when he wanted it.
Watching as he looked in pot after pot, Niobe reached out to touch his arm.
"What are you – " she began, but was forced to jump back as Vorenus' hands finding it empty, knocked the large cooking pot bad temperedly to the floor. Wide-eyed she starred at him for a second, before she dropped to her knees and began retrieve the pieces of the shattered pottery. She had saved hard to buy that new pot. She had stayed awake night after night sewing her friends' ripped garments for coppers until her fingers bled, and he had broken it so casually.
"Not you, this last year," she muttered resentfully below her breath, but not below Vorenus' hearing.
Gripping her upper arm, Vorenus pulled her to her feet, his face dark with anger, and she could not help but flinch away. Was he to beat her too? She could not even claim to be surprised.
"I said I'll sort that out and I will," he replied, forcing a calm into his words he did not feel, as he saw the fright he did not wish to cause on her face. "But he stays."
Letting go of her he headed towards the doorway; he needed to get out get some air. The home he had been dreaming about every night for the last eight years was suffocating him.
Niobe rested her head back against the nearest wall with a deep breath; no, this was not her husband. "What's his name at least?" she called to Vorenus' back.
"Pullo," Vorenus answered from the balcony, throwing a gaze back past her to the still form in the bed. "Titus Pullo."
Niobe let out a cry of frustration when he finally disappeared, dropping the shards of pottery she had managed to collect, and fought instead to hold on to the tears in her eyes. Slowly she moved back to the doorway and stared at the man in the bed – her bed. His breaths still came, slowly and surely, and for a second she watched, allowing herself to be relaxed in the quite room. The question – why it was that the only time she saw any flicker of the man she had once loved, was when he was by this brute's side – intrigued her.
"Just a soldier," she whispered her husband's description of the man, and shook her head. "Like Jupiter!"
Pullo felt everything swim around him. He could hear voices but he could not identify them, he could see shapes but they meant nothing to him. Every part of him hurt, and he struggled to remember what had happened.
He could feel something warm nearby, something giving him strength, something that told him not to worry, that things did not have to make sense right now. But all too sudden it was gone, and Pullo wanted to cry out, he wanted to grab and claw back whatever it was that had made him feel so safe, but he could not move.
The voices sharpened, and although he could not work out what they were saying, one had a distinctly female quality to it. His mother's maybe? No she was dead, wasn't she?
A loud crash made him jump, and he knew something was going on. Desperately he tried to force his mind to work, force his eyes to open, but it was hard work, and just the effort tired him to the bone. His mind wasn't ready yet.
Just as he was about to give up and lapse back into confusion, he heard a voice that made sense, words that he understood.
"Pullo… Titus Pullo"
He heard his name.
Fighting hard now, he took a deep breath, and tensed every muscle he owned just to force his eyes open. The light was too bright as his eyes began to move, and he relaxed as a shadow crossed it briefly, giving him relief, but still it was not enough. He tried to move his arms to shield his eyes.
Only to find that he couldn't.
Panic shot through him, the soothing voice he could hear again was his mothers, and he was still a boy, a boy tied up so tightly he couldn't feel his fingers anymore, tied up for days at a time in a slave camp. Now things made sense; his body ached because he had been beaten again, beaten for giving his pregnant mother his food, beaten for collapsing on his job, whatever the reason the punishment nearly always came in the same form. He had never escaped, never found the army; it was all but a dream.
A cry escaped his throat, and he pulled against the restraints, tears in his eyes. He had to escape, he couldn't live like this, just surviving, he was meant for more, he knew it.
His mother's voice was screaming now, but he didn't care, he would come back for her, he swore he would, he just had to escape, for he knew if he didn't he would die here, he'd seen it once too often.
Niobe watched as his fingers tensed, and a smile crossed her lips. As much as she might not want an extra person in her household, she was not a monster and she did not wish him ill. Her husband would, she realised, at least be relieved.
Walking closer, she stood over him as his eyes began to open. "Titus Pullo?" she asked tentatively. "Are you awake?"
She jumped as in response his arms suddenly shot out and pulled tightly against his restraints.
"Hush, CALM," she tried to soothe as his seizure grew worse, and his arms pulled the cloth tight against his wrists. "It's all right, it's just to help you," she tried to explain, but her voice just seemed to make it worse.
She looked around desperately for something to help. "VORENA!" she cried suddenly, never more relieved to see her daughter as she appeared in the doorway, just as Pullo's scream ripped through the apartment.
Startled and frightened, first by her mother then the soldier, the young girl dropped the water jug she had been carrying.
"Find your father quickly," Niobe ordered as she approached the girl and pushed her back outside, her eyes rolling just briefly at the second broken pot of the day.
Standing by as she watched the man twist and turn violently trying to escape. She hoped the girl was quick; if the man continued to fight like this, it wouldn't be long before he either broke himself or the bed he was tied to.
Vorenus stood just outside the courtyards gate, resting against the wall. He was trying to make himself report to mark Antony, but he was having trouble pulling himself away from home, and it certainly was not because of his wife's attitude. She had changed so much over the years, grown older, more beautiful, she had built him a home, raised his daughters, all but erased the need for him altogether. She had done all this but she could not find place for a colleague of his. Pullo was seriously hurt, and the fact that he still had not woken was Vorenus' main concern. Had his wife grown so heartless she expected him to think otherwise?
Then again, what right did Pullo have to expect help from him when he was trying to build his family? Yes, they were both thirteenth, but hadn't Pullo walked away to follow his own path?
He closed his eyes again. When had everything become so complicated? Gaul was simple compared to this.
The cry pulled open his eyes, and almost a growl from his throat. Why couldn't they leave him alone for five minutes?
"Speak!" he snapped as he grabbed his daughter's arm, and a squeal escaped her mouth as he took her by surprise.
"Oh father, your man…"
He let go of her before she had finished and was running back to the apartment. Had Pluto finally made his decision?
Niobe stood at the head of the bed, with a bowl of water cradled in one arm. Gently she wiped the cloth over the man's forehead. He had finally calmed himself, much to her relief, but his exertion had caused a fever to break out across his furrowed brow.
"Shhh," she calmed softly as she felt him stir under her touch. His fight had disappeared almost as quickly as it had appeared, but it seemed more from exhaustion than obeying any will of his own.
Niobe jumped as she heard her husband calling for his soldier before he had even stepped foot inside the door. "Vorenus," she breathed relieved, and with a smile rushed forward to meet him.
"What happened?" Vorenus demanded urgently, looking over her shoulder as she met him in the doorway, blocking his path.
"He woke," she explained, smiling at her husband. "Briefly, he was fighting, and shouting."
Moving her to one side, without a thought Vorenus pushed past to get to the bedside and failed to see the way the smile slide from her face. "Pullo?" he called cautiously, his hand moving to the man's shoulder.
"He was trying to get free," Niobe added, as she suppressed the shiver of her earlier fright and tried not to let the pain of the way he had just treated her seep into her voice. "I think he was dreaming."
Vorenus could hear her, but all he could see was Pullo's white face, as unresponsive and calm as he had left him. Scanning his eyes down the man's body, the only sign that he had even moved was the dark red welts around his wrists were the cloth had bitten into his skin. Moving his hands to the straps, he forced himself not to be bothered by such little wounds, and methodically began checking the knots were still tied as tight as needed.
Niobe turned away when her husband finally sank wordlessly back down to the stool he had been sitting on all night. Her throat tight, he looked so much more like that man she knew when he was with that soldier, that she couldn't help resent the injured man.
Cress-fallen she moved to the kitchen and began retrieving the rest of the broken pottery
Vorenus sat at the kitchen table and pushed the bowl in front of him away. He wasn't hungry and even if he was, the porridge was overly salted again. He looked to his wife, twilight shadows playing on her face. How difficult was it to get it right? He had told her once. Even Pullo could get it right.
Niobe shifted under Vorenus' gaze and stopped eating, and gestured for the girls to as well. She had thought a family dinner might please him, but maybe she had been wrong. It had been hard enough to get him to leave his soldiers side.
"Eat," Vorenus growled as he saw his youngest daughter try to steal one more mouthful of food when her mother wasn't looking.
Looking to their mother for a confirming nod, both girls only obeyed their father and returned to their plates after receiving it.
"Does it not please you?" Niobe asked as she looked to Vorenus' full plate, her own appetite having disappeared.
Vorenus could not even be bothered to complain, his eyes wandering to the other room instead. Although Pullo had not stirred again all day, he was reluctant to leave him too long in case he did.
Looking back, Vorenus realised Niobe was still waiting for an answer. Her eyes never left his face, and for a second their gaze was locked as she silently demanded an explanation to his behaviour.
The deadlock was broken by a piercing scream, as Lucius the baby decided to answer for his namesake.
Jumping to her feet immediately, Niobe rushed to the crib and pulled the babe into her arms.
Vorenus looked to his daughter, and was surprised to see her act with less haste then his wife.
Feeling her father's gaze on her, Vorena finally got to her feet and moved to her mother to try and take the baby herself.
Pullo was pulled from the darkness by the sound that haunted his nightmares; a baby crying. Slowly his muscles tried to move, and his eyes to open, but it was still no use; they refused him, and still the baby cried.
He felt his chest begin to grow tight as panic struck him. He did not know what to do. He could almost feel a baby's weight in his arms, and he could hear the snarl of the guards to shut it up or they would, but Pullo could not move. He tried again but felt the familiar feel of bonds biting into his skin.
The baby's cries got louder and more distressed, and Pullo began to fight hard against his restraints.
He could not let another baby die.
Without warning Pullo was back in the cell he had called home for more years than he carried to admit, alone and being woken by the pained, desperate last cries of a baby too ill to be cured by even the most skilful of hands.
His mother, having little choice but to work wherever the slave master decided to order her that day, had left before dawn, just as she did everyday, leaving him and his tiny brother to fend for themselves. So with no one else to rely on, Pullo had learned to look after the baby himself; a baby that, in amongst the filth and inhuman conditions, had little hope of surviving to begin with, but still being but a child himself, younger even than Vorenus youngest, Pullo hadn't known that.
Dutifully over the last couple of weeks since his brother had been born he had given up his own water to try to cool the child's fever, his own bedding to provide comfort, and had learnt how to take the pain of his beatings in silence just so that he did not wake his brother. An accomplishment one of the slave masters had taken personal offence at, and the night before had continued to punish him until he could not hold the cries in anymore and a whimper escaped his childish lips.
Pullo cried out loudly now though, as with the sleep still in his eyes he made the discovery that the slave master who had punished him last night, had neglected to remove his shackles, and he could not even hold his crying brother tight to give him a last minute of comfort before Pluto took him.
Shame burning deep into his heart, he fought until he could fight no more, and his brother's cries faded away.
Above the superficial cries of his grandson, Vorenus heard Pullo's more pained one. It forced him to his feet immediately, sending his chair across the room, and his youngest running frightened from the table to her mother and sister's side.
Entering the room, Vorenus saw the scene exactly as his wife had described it earlier; Pullo desperate to break his bonds, fighting against an unknown enemy.
"Pullo!" Vorenus snapped, his voice as hard and authoritative as he could make it, trying desperately to pull the man from whatever it was that was tormenting him so. It had little effect, and Vorenus saw him pulling at the restraints again, bruising his wrists further.
Desperate to stop the fellow soldier hurting himself, Vorenus climbed on the bed and used his own weight to pin the man's wrists still. Surprisingly he felt the man initially flinch at his touch, before continuing to fight against him. Vorenus looked to his wife, standing in the doorway, the crying baby still in her arms, his children hiding behind her. "Get me a knife," he ordered, suddenly knowing what he had to do.
"No," Niobe shook her head unseen by Vorenus, who had already looked away. "You are not freeing that animal in our home."
Vorenus snapped his head back, his face thunderous, as he fought to keep Pullo below him still. "For the gods' sake I gave you an order!"
"ORDER?" Niobe snapped back as she handed the baby to her eldest and pushed them to the door, knowing they would be safer outside. "I am not one of your blasted men!" she continued as she pulled Vorenus' dagger from where it hung, and approached him with it. "You cannot order me."
As the silence of the cell hit him, square in the chest with more power than any fist Pullo had ever felt, the memory of a past he had spent so long trying to forget began to fade.
He could hear bitter voices arguing around him again, but these were different, not of the past but the present, wherever that might be. Desperately he tried to remember what had happened. He remembered fucking a whore whose name he did not want to know, he remembered wandering through the streets looking for some fun, happy just to be alive.
Slowly he became aware of someone above him moving, and for a second he forgot about trying to remember, instead focusing on the firm hands that held him still. Their presence, instead of intruding, was reassuring and calming, familiar even, and from them he felt the same comforting warmth as he had earlier.
Something sharp stung suddenly at his wrist, and in a flash of pain and fire, he remembered everything; the dice game, the fight, and the pounding of his own heart so loud in his head it was deafening.
Staggering through the streets, his head dripping with his own blood as loneliness gripped him, he had nowhere to go, no one to help him. Was he truly worth no more than a bloody death in a gutter?
My home is behind the street of the cloth dyers.
Vorenus. The name chimed loudly in Pullo's head, forcing it's way past his heartbeat, as through his hazy vision he recognised the street he was on as the same one he had traversed at his captain's side early that very day. Vorenus would help him, he had to, right?
Staggering with a purpose now, Pullo pulled himself along the walls, leaving them smeared with his blood as he passed, only one thought managing to stay coherent through the red pain that engulfed him.
Vorenus, he had to find Vorenus.
Free from their bonds, Pullo's hands twisted into the sheets, holding tight as a wave of nausea hit him. These memories were no less painful than his earlier ones. Had he found him? He had to know; desperately he looked for the strength to open his eyes.
There it was. For the second time in a day, the only thing he recognised was his name.
"Pullo open your eyes."
But this time it was different, this time he recognised the voice, and it eased his fear. Slowly he forced his eyes open, and to his relief recognised the man above him.
"Vorenus," he breathed, never more glad to see anyone. "Sir."
Vorenus stared at him, his face as expressionless as the nearest statue, never betraying the adrenalin coursing through his veins.
"Are you calm?" he questioned cautiously, as he continued to pin the man to the bed.
Pullo nodded, confusion still flooding his brain. Slowly he felt Vorenus' fingertips drag across his tender wrists as his hands relinquished their hold on him, and he climbed from his seat above him, disappearing from view for a second only to reappear with a cup.
Pullo nodded again at the question, but found his muscles to weak to allow him to sit up.
Without a word or even a look, he felt Vorenus' hands move around him, giving him the strength and support he needed. Once he was sitting up he gratefully drank from the cup, soothing his sore throat with the honey water.
Looking around as he lowered the cup, Pullo took in his surroundings, and saw a woman hovering in the doorway. He quickly shot a questioning look to Vorenus.
"My wife," Vorenus answered, his tone neutral as he read the look. "Niobe."
Pullo's aching eyes moved back to the woman, and he smiled as widely as he could. So this was the creature Vorenus had pledged his life to.
"Be… beautiful," he croaked.
In the doorway, Niobe smiled. Surprised and unaccustomed to such compliments, she felt a blush colour her cheeks, only for it to fade as quickly as Vorenus answered him with a laugh.
"You and women," he groaned mostly good-naturedly at the man in the bed, as he ignored the lump in his throat.
Pullo smiled despite himself. "I… this wasn't over a woman… this time," he answered, trying to defend himself.
"Gambling?" Vorenus guessed, and he knew he was right when a look of sheepishness flashed across his brother's face
"He was cheating!"
Vorenus hid a grin. Nothing had changed and all was well, just how he liked it.
"Rest," he ordered as he saw Pullo's eyes drop and the man fight them to stay awake.
Pullo nodded, with no notion to argue. Sliding back down the bed, rolling on to his side, and curling into himself, various muscles complaining at the movements, he did as told.
Getting to his feet Vorenus pulled the blanket that Pullo had kicked off in his earlier convulsions back over the man, and went to move away.
Pullo's hand quickly shot out and caught Vorenus' wrist. With fragility in his eyes that made Vorenus' chest ache, he stared at him. "Am I ok?" he whispered.
Vorenus nodded and sat back down on his chair, not wishing to end the contact between them anymore than Pullo appeared to. "Be grateful you have a thick skull," he added.
Pullo's eyes where closing but his chest at least made an attempt to laugh, and heaved heavily.
Vorenus watched as his soldier's features relaxed as he fell into a restful sleep. He couldn't remember the last time he had felt so relieved, and for the first time since Pullo had pulled him from his bed the previous morning he smiled.
Having shrunk away, Niobe watched the scene from the shadows of the kitchen, feeling almost like she was intruding in her own home. Biting her lip she refused to shed another tear over the fact her husband could be kinder to a man he didn't even like than to his own family. That's when she saw it, his smile, the smile that made her feel like a girl again, the same relaxed smile he had given her on their wedding day, and a flicker of hope flared briefly in her heart that the husband she knew was in there somewhere.
A/N: Awww, Poor pullo, Poor Vorenus, and as much as i hate to admit it poor Niobe, they all suffer in this piece. I hope you didn't ;p
Till next time friends. xx
P.S Please review, review, review. If you don't how else will i know what you thought?
Besides reviews, make me happppppy! xxx