Name: Freedom

Pairing/Character: Pietros/Barca

Rating: G

Summary: Pietros cares for Barca's birds one last time.

Notes: Inspired the prompt, "Pietros/Barca, feather." Completed.

The first to wake in the Ludus, Pietros rushed across the courtyard to draw water from the well. His body remembered the routine even if his mind was still wracked with the deepest of aching grief. He reached the well when he heard the chirping and raised his bleary eyes to look around at the shadowy pre-dawn surroundings. Dropping the bucket in his hand, he realized then he hadn't been abandoned by his lover.

Pietros knew Barca was dead the moment he saw the pigeons, cooing in their cages, against the wall, in the same place they had been since Barca bought them. His eyes remained dry as he walked towards the masterless birds. His gladiator lover would never have left them behind.

So often Pietros and his warrior had sat, side by side in the sun, listening to the song of the delicate creatures that brought out such tenderness in so fierce a gladiator. They would whisper then, after the others had gone inside for supper or rest or debauchery, about freedom and the future.

Once Barca told him of how they would go to Alexandria and sail the Nile like the Pharoahs of old.

Pietros laughed and leaned his head on the bigger man's shoulder before asking where they would go after Alexandria and how he would spend the rest of his winnings.

Barca wrapped his arm around Pietros shoulders and whispered in his ear, "All on you, lad."

Goosebumps rose along Pietros' arms as he pressed his palm to the wooden bars of the birdcage.

A white and brown speckled dove batted its wings against its confinement.

Pietros knew what he must do before he ran to the well and fetched water.

As the birds flew away into the cloudy sky, a single feather spiraled down to land in the bloody sand of the Ludus.