A/n:

yup i bet you thought i was never coming back, well it was touch and go, hehe. but here it is a new chapter.

Ok so i admit it, i was working on something else, but you know how it is when inspiration strikes you have to follow. I don't plan on giving this up any time soon, but I also don't plan on giving it much time either. Please be patient I'm sure it will be back.


To keep a Secret
-Chapter Eight


With lit torch in hand, lighting his way through the encroaching darkness, Pullo spared a last look over his shoulder, gripped the vine weaving its way up the ancient brickwork, and began to climb.

The eagle shirt constricted his movement as he reached up for his next handhold. The clean shirt had felt slightly tight across his chest when he put it on that morning, the eagle slightly higher than usual, and with a cold shiver he had realised why; it belonged to Vorenus. At first it had provided comfort as he moved around the camp questioning everyone he could find. Now, as he threw himself onto the layered roof, he felt sick. It wasn't because he hadn't eaten, or the pain from his now bruised knuckles, but rather the feeling of loss that invaded his soul.

He had failed. The night had fallen and he had not found Vorenus.

Leaning forward, Pullo peered over the edge of the pitched roof as the Primus Pilus, now the highest-ranking officer in the camp, led his gang of centurions inside the palace. Without hearing their report Pullo already knew they had been no more successful than he had. He dreaded to think how Caesar would react when he found out.

Sitting back, he paused to contemplate his next move, and indeed what Caesar's would be. The consul had already threatened Vorenus with fustuarium, the sentence of death to be carried out by his own men, so what more could he do? Maybe it would be for the best if Vorenus wasn't found, Pullo realised. Then instead of being executed he would simply be banished from ever setting foot in Rome. Pullo could live with that, as long as he could find him. What he couldn't stand was the thought of remaining here with another man as his superior. Either way, his army career was over. Closing his eyes, Pullo sighed. He had been the one who wanted to stay in Egypt in the first place. Now Vorenus was gone and it was all his fault.

III

Standing in the dusty courtyard the morning after their arrival in Egypt, all the men of rank shifted uncomfortably under the hot sun, bored and impatient. Waiting for Caesar was almost as much of a duty as making camp. News had already come that half the legion would be leaving with Mark Antony. Now they were just waiting to find how they would be split. Caesar appeared eventually, and walked the lines with an inspiring speech on his lips as always. Only when both the importance of staying and leaving had been highlighted, was it time.

"Step forward," Caesar beckoned the senior centurions of each cohort. "Let me decide."

Not wanting to wait any longer for the decision that could change his life, Pullo barged his way to the front of his cohort and bumped into his commanding officer. Caught off-guard, Vorenus had to take a step forward to steady himself.

His attention immediately drawn to him, Caesar's decision came quickly. "Staying."

Pullo beamed at the announcement. He knew he would get to stay too; there would be no discussion about that. Where Vorenus went, so did Pullo – as his official Optio, of course.

Smiling as he thought about all the times they would get to be alone, he missed the way both Mark Antony's face and indeed Vorenus' darkened at Caesars announcement.

Even that night when Vorenus had confided in Pullo his disappointment at staying, concerned that it would mean even longer until he could return to his wife, Pullo's delight had not wavered. As far as he was concerned, the longer Vorenus was away from his cheating, undeserving wife the better.

Only now, on the top of the palace roof, a cold draught prickling his bare skin, did Pullo's delight fade as he remembered that day. If he hadn't been so desperate for a decision, perhaps it might have been a different one.

III

Sitting in the dark room, his back against the rough wall, Vorenus breathed deeply. His eyes were shut, but his mind was spinning.

The guard had left earlier, with a flurry of threats and accusations, but they didn't concern Vorenus. Instead, he wondered why his own commands hadn't been carried out. It was true he hadn't recognised the guard's face, but when he had finally turned and left, it was clear to the Roman why this Nubian held such a hatred for him. Red and still fresh welts crisscrossing each other over the man's uncovered back, unmistakably the product of Vorenus' own hand. He had been carried away when he dished out his punishment – today? Yesterday? He had lost track of the days in this dark cell. But he did remember demanding that the wounds be dressed, which obviously hadn't happened.

"Get up!" Taharqa's loud voice announced his return before he reappeared, pulling Vorenus' attention sharply into focus. Silently he did as he was told.

"You think you hurt me, Roman," Taharqa began another barrage of insults.

Vorenus rolled his eyes. The guard's words meant nothing to him.

"You wait 'til I receive word – your death will be long and painful, I promise you, and when I am done, I will kill all you Roman pigs."

Vorenus took a deep breath. Threats to him were one thing, threats to his men were another.

"Pillo?" Tahraqa pronounced the name wrong, but was pleased when Vorenus finally moved his head. "Huh! You think I don't hear you when you whip me, you think I don't understand. I understand. He your friend. He I kill first!" With no fear of the Roman, Taharqa stepped closer to spit more of his threats into the his face. He was enjoying this, the powerful Roman at his mercy. How the tables had turned!

Vorenus' eyes twitched, which would have been enough to warn anyone who knew him that they were on dangerous ground. Unfortunately, Taharqa knew nothing of the Roman.

"I kill him, and I wash my hands in his worthless blood. Maybe I kill him first. In front of you."

Taking a deep breath, Vorenus drew himself up and in one swift motion head-butted the guard with all of his force.

III

Cleopatra stomped back and forth in front of her servant, finally free from Caesar's side for the first time all day. "I am happy, but what of the other?" she demanded, her heels clicking against the stone.

"Without his master, he will be yours to bend." Charmian smiled as she repeated the words Servius had reassured her with.

"Dead too then," Cleopatra demanded, as she picked up a light scarf from the bed and draped it around her shoulders. She would leave no risk. It was a shame though; she had enjoyed her night with the soldier, but his skill was not worth the threat he posed. "Get the guards to wait in the catacombs and we shall send him down to them."

Charmian nodded. "Of course."

"And send this for them." The queen moved quickly towards the dresser and reached down to the bottom drawer. "Oh..." she groaned as again her swollen stomach got in her way, and she was forced back upright.

Falling to her knees immediately, Charmian retrieved the small, engraved box with the filigree lid that she knew the queen was reaching for.

Leaning against the bed, her hand pushed into the small of her back, the queen blew a strand of hair out of her face. "You know what to do with it," she snapped.

Charmian nodded and got to her feet. "As you wish."

III

Lashing out as the pain screamed across his face, Taharqa hit back at the Roman with the only weapon he had.

Never normally one to show his pain, Vorenus now gasped for air, as what he had was forced from his aching lungs. The flame from the torch Taharqa hit him with licked easily through his thin shirt, and burnt his flesh until it dropped still burning to the sand.

Holding his palm against his bleeding nose and bathing his hands in his own blood, Taharqa growled against the resulting pain. "You will regret that," he spat at the Roman.

Bent double, Vorenus forced his head up to meet the man's eyes. "I doubt it."

Shouting words Vorenus couldn't decipher, Taharqa stumbled away, leaving the flaming torch where it had fallen, and spitefully kicking over the cup of water he had earlier placed in the cell as he went.

Only when the door had slammed shut behind his foe did Vorenus allow the pain to overcome him, and he fell to the floor. Instinctively his arms shot around his stomach to protect the fresh wound but still it hurt more than he had ever expected.

The only thing that that hurt worse was the thought of Pullo, alone in the camp, and what he would get up to without Vorenus there to watch over him.

III

Pullo's eyes opened as he heard a soft voice echo around the empty courtyard. He didn't remember falling asleep but as he cast a quick glance to the stars he found them duller than when he had last looked. Sliding forward as the voices came once more, he looked down at the scene below.

The queen's servant stood talking rapidly to someone in the shadows. Squinting to see, he leant as far forward as he could without losing his footing completely.

"Your payment was for both, so now we expect you to deliver."

"That was not the deal. Don't you understand what you're asking?"

Charmian took a step back, and Pullo frowned as her companion followed her in to the light. What on earth was the queen's servant doing with Servius?

"Further payment then," she offered, and from the folds of her dress produced a golden necklace with a stone so big it seemed to reflect the entire moon.

Pullo's expression only turned darker, as Servius practically snatched the jewel from her hands.

III

As the Roman soldier slipped away into the shadows, Charmian couldn't help but cast a glance up to the roof. The light she had noticed there earlier as she had left the queen's bedroom now moved away before disappearing completely. She smiled. Neither soldier knew her plan, but neither needed to. Gesturing for a slave she had asked to wait for her, she quickly whispered orders to him.

III

Tripping as quickly as he could, Servius headed back to his tent with the small box Charmian had given him grasped carefully in his hands. When he accepted the queen's original task he hadn't realised he would became a messenger boy too. But then again who was he to argue? It was the nicer of the two tasks Charmian had demanded of him tonight, and besides, the heavy necklace she had produced would make a nice addition to what he had already been paid.

Looking down at the box he held tight, Charmian's orders replayed in his head. "Do not open it, do not drop it. Deliver it to the guards. They will know what to do."

Distracted by thoughts of what it could be that he carried, he failed to see the foot appear in front of him, and catching his own foot on it he fell face first into the sand.

Immediately rolling to look up at his attacker, Servius felt his heart race for his mouth as he found the cold eyes of Pullo looking down at him, his face as dark as Mars himself.

"I think there's something you want to tell me."

III

Taharqa squinted through his swollen eyes at the slave sent by Charmian. His head pounded and his back ached, but no matter; his freedom was worth it. His loyalties had lain with Ptolemy right until the moment Cleopatra had promised him that. That and the freedom to treat the Roman who had beaten him however he liked while he was held prisoner.

"More?" he repeated, and fought back the sigh. "Do not worry, we shall be ready."


A/n: Hmm will servius get what he deserves? will pillo (lol) find vorenus? will vorenus live to be found? will the next chapter come any quicker than this one?

answers next time, i promise ;P

I know i have no right to ask after waiting so long, but please review. love you. PP xx