Orginally posted 18/8/07 reposted here 06/02/10
So here it is the beginning of a brand new story. yay!
The pairings will be pretty exclusively V/ullo. Some Antony/Atia and seeing, as we will be in Egypt for the majority of the story a little Cleo/Caesar.
It set during season 1 and in Episode 8 (caesarion)
So short of the disclaimer here we go, hope you enjoy, and see you at the other end. pp xx
Disclaimer: I own nothing that is already owned by someone else (bbc/hbo/bruno heller etc..) any mean no offence my playing with them for a short time.
To keep a Secret
- Prologue (CH1)
To keep a Secret
"Legionary, keep moving!"
The new centurion strained his voice to be heard over the noise of the rest of the men in the legion, and waited impatiently for the older man he addressed to obey his order.
Standing on the dirty sand of a Grecian beech, and staring out at a sea so rough that the boat in front of him was already straining to break its anchor ropes, Titus Pullo did not even hear the order. His eyes and ears were deaf to all around apart from the white waves repetitive dance as they crashed into one another again and again, drenching him in a fine salty spray, the smell and taste of which was so familiar it made his stomach heave and twist painfully.
It wasn't that he was scared, Titus Pullo wasn't scared of anything, and he always had a sharp blade to hand that would argue with anyone who said otherwise. He just really didn't want to get on another boat.
The shout finally caught his attention and Pullo turned to look at the boat, already riding low in the waves and only getting lower as more men poured onboard, and saw a face he hadn't seen before beating a path to him.
"What the hell is the matter with you?" Centurion Micades Servius demanded as he reached the still Pullo. "Get on the boat!"
Pullo swallowed hard as he looked down at the man, contempt etched on his face.
"With all due respect…" he paused, loathing to use the next word with someone who so obviously didn't deserve it, "Sir, no."
Servius' brow furrowed just a little as he narrowed his eyes at Pullo.
"What's your name Legionary?" he asked, forcing himself to soften his face. He was new to Thirteenth and to the cohort he commanded, and knew nothing of the man in front of him, or of those slowing around him.
Pullo pulled his shoulders rigid.
"Titus Pullo, Sir," he answered. "From the original Thirteenth." He could not help himself but say it. The men around him might walk under the Thirteenth standard, but Pullo had trouble recognising them as his brothers; most had originally been with another legion before today and only moved over after the vast majority of the Thirteenth had perished in the storm. "Optio to…"
"Original Thirteenth huh?" Servius interrupted, nodding in an attempt to try to look impressed. "Well Original, I don't know what you're used to, or who your piss-poor commander is," his face had hardened again, "but when I give you an order, I expect you to obey it. Now get on the fucking boat."
Pullo's eyes wandered to the water as he bit down the angry bile the centurion's insults forced into his throat. Where was Vorenus anyway? And why wasn't he here, with him, overseeing this? Pullo wondered idly as the sound of the waves, licking closer to the camp and himself, drilled further into his head. Vorenus would understand his hesitance.
Servius followed Pullo's gaze and smiled. This was getting better and better. He would show this century how he dealt with people not obeying his every word.
"What's the matter, Original?" he questioned as he felt the rest of the lines around him slowing to a virtual stop, as everyone tried to see what was going on. "Scared of a little bit of water?"
Pullo's eyes snapped back to the man, his jaw tightening. "Fuck you sir," he hissed below his breath.
"Ha!" Servius laughed, now turning to play the crowd that was swelling around them. "Well no wonder most of the Thirteenth are dead."
"Say again?" Pullo threatened, as the anger he had previously bit down began to pulse through his veins.
"With men like you, the Thirteenth never stood a chance," Servius goaded further, his eyes narrowing as he turned to Pullo. "What happened, did you get frightened of the storm? Too scared of a little bit of water to help your brothers?"
With the vivid image of the friends he had lost, their dead and bloated corpses floating past him on the waves, and the memory of believing just for a short time that he had lost another, Pullo's temper snapped. Throwing himself at the centurion, he knocked him hard to the ground, and a roar erupted through the men as more came running closer to see what was happening.
Mark Antony sat with an unimpressed look on his face. Vorenus in front of him stood with his back rigidly snapped fully to attention; it had been that way from the minute he had walked in the tent, some time ago now. He ached all over, his head spun, and he desperately wanted to ease those complaining muscles. But until Antony gave the order, he wouldn't even dare to think he could.
"You disappoint me Vorenus," Antony finally spoke and got to his feet, throwing aside the scroll he had been pretending to study when he could stand to pretend no longer. "I thought better of you." Although Caesar had technically already had this conversation with the soldier, and much to Antony's disgust had decided not to punish him, the gods' favourite or not he saw no reason why that should stop him. He raised his voice. "I expect better of you!"
Vorenus kept his eyes focused straight ahead as Antony moved around the desk and towards him. He had known this was coming, and he was determined not to rise to Antony's baiting.
"I did not think you would fool so easily," Antony snapped, "and yet here you stand, made a fool of by an old man with tears in his eyes!" Enraged further by Vorenus' lack of reaction, he continued. "You bring shame on yourself! You bring shame on the Thirteenth!" His face twisted with contempt "And you bring shame on me!"
Hoping finally to pull a reaction from the stoic man, he hid his smile as he saw Vorenus flinch in response to his last accusations.
Vorenus had already given all the excuses he had, but he could not defend himself any longer. "I acted for the good of the republic, not myself," he tried to explain.
"The Republic? THE REPUBLIC!" Antony slammed his fist heavily on to the desk "YOU are sworn to me Vorenus… to me!! Not the Republic, Not Caesar, ME! And IF I told you to go cut the head off every second man in this legion I expect you to do it! If I told you to fuck Juno herself, you would do it! AND IF I asked you to burn the senate house, you would do it! Why?"
Vorenus paled. "Because I am sworn to you," he answered, feeling his heart pounding in his chest. He had sworn his life to the man in front of him, and that wasn't something he would deny.
Nodding, Antony took a calming breath and regarded the soldier for a second. Despite a night having passed since Vorenus and Pullo had arrived back in camp, and longer since they had escaped the island they claimed to have been wrecked on, he still looked far too pale.
Pushing up from the desk he stepped forward again. "Have you any idea how lucky you are?" he questioned. "Caesar could have had you flogged to death in front of the whole fucking legion."
"Caesar is most merciful," Vorenus admitted, not only thinking of the treatment he had received, but of the whispered tales he had heard about the return of Brutus and Cicero, and how Caesar had embraced them.
"Hmm," Antony agreed, as he walked behind Vorenus. "So he is. But maybe I was too generous in taking you back?" Antony questioned softly.
Vorenus lowered his head, dread growing in his stomach at where Mark Antony was heading with this. He needed this job, and he loved the new position he was now in.
Rounding on Vorenus, Antony looked to his lowered gaze for a second and his eyes flicked to the uniform Vorenus wore. Reaching out to cup the man's face, he turned it up to met his eyes.
"Perhaps your new rank is too…" he paused in surprise as he felt a fever beneath his touch. "…demanding of you?" He finished, quickly recovering.
Vorenus shook his head as he tried to ignore the fingers that now moved to play at the back of his neck.
Antony's hand trailed across Vorenus' shoulder and down onto his chest. "But how can I trust you, when you let our enemies walk free?"
Vorenus looked to the hand that was now laying flat against his chest, rising and falling with his every breath. "My actions were… foolish," Vorenus admitted, the word leaving a bitter taste in his throat. "It will not happen again."
"Oh I know," Antony admitted, his voice dropping to a low whisper as he leant in closer still, and his hand jumped around Vorenus' throat, his grip now tight. "Because if it does," he continued, and Vorenus fought not to react when he felt the man's lips brushing softly against his ear and his fingers squeeze tighter against his Adams apple, "I swear I will slit your throat myself."
Suddenly a roar of voices from outside the tent grabbed their attention, and both Mark Antony and Vorenus head's snapped up at the noise, the sound of a brawl not foreign to either of them. Just then a soldier, flanked by Antony's door guards whose instructions had been to prevent just such an interruption, stumbled into the tent and fumbled a salute.
"Speak," Mark Antony commanded immediately, with a snarl on his face as he quickly broke the contact with Vorenus and stepped behind his desk.
"Sir, Mark Antony, sir, there's a fight, a legionary wouldn't get on the boat and then…" the soldier's words tumbled over each other, his nervousness at dealing with high-ranking officers plain for all to see.
"Who?" Mark Antony asked, impatiently interrupting, and was amused to see from the corner of his eye Vorenus tighten his jaw. It seemed they both had the same thought, the soldier's very next words proving them right.
"It's, Titus Pullo Sir, of the Thirteenth, and…"
Holding up his hand to stop the boy, Antony turned his eyes to Vorenus, who was now standing smartly to attention as he had been before, and saw the concern shining in his eyes. "Oh just go and sort your dog out," he sighed.
"Sir," Vorenus forced himself to salute properly as he turned on his heel
"Vorenus!" Antony called as the soldier reached the door.
Turning back, Vorenus' steps faltered as his eyes locked with Antony's, which spoke so clearly of all that had already been threatened he need say nothing more, and they both knew it.
Pulling away after a second, and nodding his acknowledgement of Antony's unspoken words, Vorenus lowered his head once more and pushed out of the tent into the dust of the camp.
As he began to weave his way through the crowds, following the noise and the stumbling soldier who had first announced the problem, he could not help but wonder if he would ever be grateful for Pullo's trouble making again. He was certain Antony's threat was no idle one and that if not interrupted could have been worse.
As he neared the noise Vorenus turned his mind to the matter at hand; what had Pullo done now?
Through the cheering crowd Vorenus watched as Pullo and a Centurion he did not recognise rolled in the sand, each attempting to throw blows at each other.
Rolling his eyes Vorenus couldn't help but wonder how, in the first few minutes Vorenus had been away from Pullo's side in over a week, he had managed to find himself a fight.
Watching closely, he could see the centurion spit more curses at Pullo, and Vorenus saw Pullo's hand twitch closer to the sword on his hip. Enough was enough.
Vorenus' strong and authoritative voice reached him the second his hand gripped his blade, and a second before he ended the fight permanently.
Pulling hard to rein back his temper, Pullo sucked in a deep breath and let go of the man. His eyes frantically moved to search the crowd for the only voice that could cut through his red rage.
The crowd around Vorenus parted, and suddenly all of them were saluting the high-ranking officer, including Servius, who at least had the decency to look sheepish as he slid in the sand trying to find his feet.
"What in Hades is going on here?" Vorenus questioned as he stalked through the parting crowd to the Centurion, and Pullo.
Scrambling to his feet, Pullo slammed his fist into his chest and out again in a salute to his friend. "I…err…"
"I wasn't asking you, legionary," Vorenus snapped, un-disguised contempt shining in his eyes as he turned to Servius.
Servius smiled as he stepped in front of Pullo to meet Vorenus' gaze. He knew nothing of the man in front of him, but he knew a superior officer when he saw one, and he knew what a good position he was in. Now he really would show Titus Pullo his authority.
"HE," Servius looked back pointedly at Pullo, "disobeyed my direct order. He is a coward, and an embarrassment to the legion, Sir."
"An embarrassment?" Vorenus repeated raising his eyebrows to Pullo, who just shrugged.
Servius nodded, grinning wickedly, aware of nothing but the fact that he could almost taste the man's punishment. "Scared of the water, I'd say," he added conspiratorially.
Vorenus snapped his attention back to the Centurion, his eyes dark and intense with a look that wiped the smile immediately from the man's lips. "You had a simple job, Centurion," he spoke, a little too calmly as he leant closer so that his word's resounded loudly in the man's head. "You cannot do it, and that makes me think that you're simple."
Servius paled, unsure where this was going. "But he wouldn't get on the boat," he mumbled, trying to defend himself. "He attacked me."
Vorenus didn't doubt the man for a second. "Pullo," he spoke, not removing his gaze from the centurion in front of him. "When we get to Egypt you alone will be on latrine duty for a week."
Servius' eyes widened. "You can't… that's not enough…"
"If you cannot keep control of the men in your charge…" Vorenus snapped, loud enough so all could hear, his words silencing the Centurion, "…you shall be in charge of no man."
Servius shook his head, his dread growing at what he expected next. "No…no…"
Vorenus knew that in all honesty Servius' actions had probably just been an attempt to show his authority over his new men, but unfortunately he had picked the wrong way and person to try with. Now Vorenus had the opportunity to teach his own lesson, not only that he would not tolerate any of his centurions unable to keep control of their men, but that those who did well could expect reward.
"You!" Vorenus pointed to the man who had initially come to find him. "What's your name?"
Looking to Servius, his former commander, the boy stepped forward. "Manius Fulvius…."
"Well Manius Fulvius …. Congratulations, you are now a centurion, of full rank and honours of the man you are replacing." He nodded to where Servius still stood, his face as dark as the storm clouds rapidly gathering overhead.
The boy forced a snappy salute past his shaking hands. "Thank you, sir," he managed to answer, his voice barely carrying past the cheer that erupted from the braying crowd.
Ignoring him, Vorenus turned now to the guards that had followed him from Mark Antony's tent. "Take him to Mark Antony." His eyes flicked back to Servius. "And tell him of my decision," he commanded, before he looked to the noisy crowd who, as quick as they had deserted them to watch the show, now under his gaze began to reform their lines with military precision.
Pullo watched as Servius, head bowed, followed to where he was being led, and was surprised at the lack of resistance from the man. Pullo had certainly taken his own demotion all those years a go a hell of a lot worse.
Only as the crowd around them began to disperse did Vorenus look to his friend.
"Latrine duty?" Pullo asked, unable to disguise the smile on his face that resulted just from seeing his friend again.
Vorenus sighed silently. "I should have had you flogged," he admitted, and thought of Mark Antony's similar threat.
"Again?" Pullo questioned, his eyes dipping just slightly, looking to find the light scar that rested just above Vorenus' cheek bone. The last time he had laid his hands on a superior officer it had been him, and that scar, the result. That time, however, he had been flogged, receiving more than a few scars of his own, and imprisoned.
Vorenus turned away with a roll of his eyes. "Just get back in line," he ordered.
Pullo's chest grew heavy, and his smile faded. "I cant."
Vorenus sighed. Why just once couldn't he do as he was told? Turning back he saw a flick of emotion in Pullo's eyes that was gone so quick that, had he been looking at someone he didn't know as well, he would have trouble swearing it was there at all. But this was Pullo, and he immediately understood his reluctance. If anyone got close enough to see, there was a good chance the same might be reflecting in his.
"You have to," he answered matter-of-factly, ignoring the flicker. If he acknowledged it in Pullo he would have to acknowledge it in himself, and it was just easier to ignore.
"I don't," Pullo answered childishly, "and anyway, Triton hardly shows me great favour at the moment, so I think I will not."
"Triton does not like to be mocked," Vorenus explained, for the hundredth time. "We have increased the offering, and if you can keep your mouth shut this time, we will be fine," he insisted, trying to be convinced by his own words.
Pullo watched as Vorenus' jaw set on the last word, and he knew he could not push his friend much further.
"I…" he began.
"Pullo," Vorenus growled through gritted teeth, not wanting to argue this anymore. "Get… on… the… boat."
Instinctively Pullo pulled his back straight in response to Vorenus' tone. "Sir," he replied with a salute.
With a nod of his head that confirmed their conversation was over, Vorenus pulled his eyes from Pullo's and strode reluctantly back towards Mark Antony's tent.
Pullo kept his eyes on his friend's back, trying to draw as much strength as possible from his words and presence, until he lost him in the crowd. Swallowing hard, he turned and took his place back in line. After all, Titus Pullo wasn't scared of anything.
A/n: Well I hope you enjoyed the first instalment and that you come back for next chapter.
Please let me know what you thought, you know where the review button is; right down there in the corner, looking at you with big puppy dog eyes. ;p
Remember reviews keep the FF world spinning.
T.N.T stay safe PP xxx