Summary – Spartacus and Ilithyia meet masked once again.
Warning – moderate descriptions of sexual intercourse
Disclaimer – Pity I don't own Spartacus (or Pietros for that matter).
A/N – I found the constant tension between Spartacus and Ilithyia quite fascinating. Hateful opposites that continue to seek the downfall of the other, especially after their night together. So I really needed to dedicate something to them.
It turns out Quintus is not the only lanista to host masked pleasures under his roof.
Rome is like Capua, the same slice of the pie, but juicier, thicker. And in the most remote of places, smellier. Spartacus hides his face on this particular night because though he would rather begin to rally his men and prepare for the uprising of the ages, he knows the pain of losing the woman you love. He considers Crixus this night.
They put their heads together and brood over the worst because they know they must. They must acknowledge that Naevia's beauty now comes with no delicate innocence, and that she has served in a ludus all her life. Two very special skills that could not have been wasted on a simple brothel or ordinary house.
Spartacus stands masked and nearly indiscernible amongst the many muscular men shining under the light. This is his assigned ludus. Crixus intrudes a rivaling ludus. How fitting, that they are always pitted against each other, even in alliance.
Food and drink and oiled men. Desire and money. Command and subjection. The nobles peruse and make conversation, slightly more elegant than those of Batiatus but no less greedy. Every man, every lady, has eyes for the goods before them.
"Yes, my husband is away on duty again, sorely missed, but it can't be helped…"
"But of course, I manage beautifully on my own, how could you ever think differently?"
His ears ring alarmingly. Such familiarity.
"A ludus is a terrible place, I think, absolutely terrible…but where else would you think to go?"
"You mean…you've gone to one of these before?"
He can practically feel her smirk through the air. "You could say that." Memories of the night forged by Lucretia rush through his blood and rise like bile.
"Oh please, do help me manage," the unfamiliar voice says, trembling with nerves. "I don't believe I know what to do with myself here. So many men…so many brutes, they positively frighten me, and yet—"
"And yet you cannot seem to look away," Ilithyia finishes in a breathless hush.
Spartacus resists the urge to lunge. She was not killed with the rest? The other gladiators have assured him that they cornered all the guests, that the doors were barred, that not one body escaped unscathed by the sword.
Then how is it that he sees her before him? Body draped with the most expensive textiles. Blonde hair raining about her shoulders. Perfumed skin radiating the false sense of warmth and comfort as he remembers. And her eyes. Like a snake. A tall, horrendously beautiful snake, who has shed her old skin, and now remains even deadlier.
"I would school you in the ways of handling these fallen gods," Ilithyia says slyly, now steadying in within mere inches toward the muscle, making her way down the line with her companion. Spartacus hopes she will not recognize him. Or better yet, give him to her friend, allow her to move and observe.
"But," Ilithyia catches herself, just as they arrive before Spartacus, "The best teaching can often come from throwing oneself into the situation. Vulnerable and impressionable." Spartacus wonders if the glance she throws is for him. "And from your experience, you arise a learned, and completely different, woman."
"Ilithyia," She cries, "You do not mean to leave me alone with one of them!"
"You are too pious," Ilithyia sighs. She gestures to the silent man standing next to Spartacus. "Give yourself up. Give yourself to this one. Order him to be careful, but not gentle. You do not want to fully reign in a gladiator when he wishes to make love. Let his strength positively fill you!"
The blush blooms expectedly. "And you, Ilithyia?" She whispers in response.
"I will take this one," Ilithyia smiles at him. Spartacus narrows his eyes. Revenge.
She rips his mask off the minute they are alone. "You," She snarls, as if something disgusting has caught in her throat. "What are you doing here?" And then she rips off her own as well, so that he can fully see her glaring into his eyes.
Spartacus scowls back, weighing his options. If he were to tell the truth, to say that slaves wish to see Rome tremble under their indignant rage, to say that he and his men wish for justice far more than paid bloodshed, to say that they have come to make their abhorrence of her kind known…she will have his head.
But, he suddenly realizes with a spark of hope—tell her half of the truth, that he wishes to aid Crixus, and she might leave him free. Ilithyia has always favored Crixus.
"I come as faithful friend to Crixus," Spartacus chooses to say haltingly. He watches as her eyes widen predictably.
"Crixus?" She repeats. "What would he want, with the likes of you? You and he were forever rivals, pitted against each other to kill the last time I laid eyes on you."
"I aid him in the name of love."
"You love him?"
"As a brother," Spartacus clarifies. "I search for Naevia, the woman he loves."
The flash of a memory runs through her eyes. "The slave girl he attacked the cripple for touching. He loves her so to continue this battle?"
"Yes," Spartacus says, relieved that Ilithyia understands his purpose. She will let him go, she has always had a soft spot for Crixus. Most women tend to. "And I stand beside him in this battle."
Ilithyia studies his form and response, and does the thing to make his spirits drop. She smiles slowly. Spartacus watches her stand taller and raise her chin as if she looks down upon his sprawled form from the heavens. "No, I think not. I was never one to waste goods that are so readily available. And here you lie before me, meant to heed my every command."
His hopes die. "I am a free man."
She raises an eyebrow in return. "You are a criminal."
"I seek justice!"
"And I seek propriety."
Spartacus furiously moves to stand, but she stops him with a single finger. "The very moment I scream," She says furiously, voice now dropped to a dangerous whisper, "a dozen guards will arrive and snatch your dirty hands off my body."
"By then, I will have killed you."
"And once you leave this room without me, you will be discovered." Ilithyia sighs languidly, leaning into him with sly eyes. "And what will become of you then?"
Spartacus closes his eyes. Frustration. Contemplation. Is it worth it, to risk what they are working for, just to see this woman dead? All that they aspire to do? Spartacus stares at her levelly, trying to gauge her purpose in keeping him here. They worst she can do, he realizes, is all he has already suffered.
So he nods slowly.
Ilithyia smiles again. "Bear your mask," She says, "and remove everything else from body."
Spartacus doesn't move, slightly dumbfounded by her command. Only when she opens her mouth and moves to the doorway to ready her scream does he fit his mask back in place.
She wants it, Spartacus realizes. She wants it, again. But it is different this time, for her eyes have none of the soft admiring of a young girl, and the naivety that trusted friend would give her the man she herself treasures most. This woman knows the man bent on his knee before her, and knows the title traitor that she gives him. But even more so, she knows the mad lust she feels for him between her legs. She would have him again. Now.
Spartacus removes his garments. And then he moves to do likewise with hers.
They are not Spartacus and Ilithyia this night. They are Poseidon, god of the sea, and Aphrodite, goddess of love, lust, and beauty. When he strikes, she reels with pleasure.
The commotion is not noticed at first, for the voices are distant and soft. Spartacus is far too occupied with his self-despise, his grimacing disappointment, but even more so, the tangy sheen of sweat glistening on Ilithyia's chest, her heat and her wetness surrounding his hardness as his powerful arms steady her soft legs on the hard wall and thrust-thrust—
Footsteps. Shouts. "Here! What of this chamber?"
"No, Lady Ilithyia occupies this chamber. You mustn't disturb her."
At the mention of her name, Ilithyia tenses and holds her breath.
"Spartacus may be anywhere!"
At the mention of his, Spartacus stills, then glares at Ilithyia imploringly.
"You deceitful—" He begins in a furious whisper, now thoroughly convinced of her true intent.
"Put your mask on, fool!" She interrupts without hesitation. It is gone. Fallen. On the floor, beside the bed. And now Spartacus looks on with confusion.
"With all my respect, the whims of Lady Ilithyia are powerful and unpredictable. If you interrupt her on a night such as this, she may very well have you crucified, let alone dead."
"She does not understand the danger she is in if Spartacus lies there with her. A little bother will be nothing compared to death, once she realizes."
"Mask!" Ilithyia commands again. But when Spartacus fails to respond, Ilithyia seethes, reaches up, and breaks his nose.
"ARHH," Spartacus roars from the unexpected pain.
"Hands away from your face, you animal. Stand up. Cover my body."
At the sound of the cry of displeasure, three men in uniform and the domina of the house enter the room. "You!" One of the men shouts, pointing at Spartacus. "On your knees!"
"What is the meaning of this?" Ilithyia demands. "How dare you enter in such a ruckus? Do you know who I am?"
The three men arrive in front of a kneeling Spartacus, eyes fixed on him while the domina rushes to wrap sheets around Ilithyia. "We seek Spartacus, the gladiator bringer of rain, and the criminal who slay his ludus."
Ilithyia makes a bored noise and huffily covers her chest.
"Well?" the domina demands. "Is it him?"
The man narrows his eyes, scrutinizing. "I cannot be sure. They say his face is as sharp as his wit, his body lean as a Thracian dog, hair short like the grass in Spring—"
Ilithyia grabs his face before Spartacus could move. "Does this look like the face of a sharp-eyed gladiator to you? Just look at his nose!"
They blink at his disfigured, pained face. "He may be suffering from injury—"
"I have met Spartacus," Ilithyia says with a certain determination that throws them all of. "I have seen him fight, walk the halls of his ludus, train under the hot sun. Did you not think that if anyone would recognize this Spartacus, I would?"
She is met with shocked faces, and the painfully confused stare of Spartacus. "A-apologies," the man says, "We were simply minding your well-being. We had not realized your control of the situation."
Ilithyia nods slowly, her face steadfastly turning into the little girl's pout that lets daddy know she isn't having her way. It is a most dangerous look. The men realize this, perhaps, and are quickly led out by a gracious domina, attempting to salvage the situation with women and treats.
Spartacus stands slowly.
"…Ouch," He says, feeling his nose. It is quite thoroughly broken.
"Surely a gladiator can withstand a broken nose," Ilithyia says pitilessly.
Attempting to ignore the jab, and failing, Spartacus positions his fingers carefully and sets it back into its place. "That was unnecessary," Spartacus feels he must point out, "But…gratitude."
Ilithyia raises her eyebrows, strangely silent. Perhaps she is now surprised at herself. "Do not take it a sign that I care for your well-being, Thracian," She reminds him. "I would not have it that you are dead before I am finished with you."
Spartacus braces his teeth. Before she has the chance to cry out, he throws her upon the bed, sheets flinging open to reveal her body. "I will not hesitate to kill you on a different night," Spartacus growls. "Nor your husband. Especially your husband."
"And I would not hesitate to bring you to a humiliating death in the stadium of Rome come morning," Ilithyia responds, spreading her legs. "But I care not for these silly threats now. Take me."