Title: Decorus Somnium
Summary: Hearts once thought broken find a way to heal.
Lucretia's hand came to rest on Ilithyia's hip as the first nail was driven into Ara's wrist. Ilithyia's body slave screamed as the blow was struck and Ilithyia's eyes squeezed shut in despair as Ara's anguished cry filled the town square.
"Show no tears," Lucretia whispered, leaning forward to speak into Ilithyia's ear. "You must appear as supportive wife. Open eyes and set them forward."
"I cannot," Ilithyia whispered, still squeezing her eyes firmly closed.
Ara had been a good, sweet slave to her. The girls smile had brightened Ilithyia's increasingly gloomily days. Before returning to Capua, the only affection and pleasure Ilithyia had received from another's hands came from Ara. This girl was trusted slave, she was cherished slave, and Ilithyia stood helpless to protect her - and worse yet had been made accomplice in the girl's suffering.
"You must," Lucretia breathed out, pressing herself closer to Ilithyia until the blonde could feel the warmth of Lucretia's body behind her. "I stand behind you, a pillar of support. Feel me and know that you are not alone, but cast eyes forward and sculpt your features in image of loyal wife."
Ilithyia did not want to obey Lucretia's words. The screams that filled her ears painted a picture in her mind too awful for her eyes to bear, but she knew that Lucretia's words were wise and she heeded them.
Heart seizing painfully in her chest, Ilithyia forced her eyes open and cast them forward as Lucretia had instructed, focusing her gaze on the tanned, glistening and yet unabused skin of Ara's stomach.
With her gaze fixed on her slave's quivering abdomen, Ilithyia then focused her mind on the hand Lucretia had on her hip and the comforting feel of the older woman's body at her back, using Lucretia to shield herself from Ara's pained cries as the girl was punished for Ilithyia's transgressions.
Capua had been blanketed in darkness for hours when Ilithyia heard Lucretia's familiar footsteps in the hall beyond her room and turned from her window to witness Lucretia's arrival.
"The sight of you lifts heavy heart," Ilithyia breathed out, blinking against tears as Lucretia came to a stop just inside of the doorway to her room.
"Would that I could remove the burden from you entirely," Lucretia replied gently, her eyes holding Ilithyia's for a moment before she began to walk towards the blonde again.
When Lucretia was halfway to her, Ilithyia could remain still no longer and started in Lucretia's direction until she was able to walk into the older woman's waiting arms. Lucretia's arms moved around her, and Ilithyia clutched at her desperately, burying her face in the crook of Lucretia's neck as the tears she feared to shed earlier finally freed themselves.
"I too have lost trusted slave to bloody death," Lucretia breathed out, her eyes closing briefly in painful remembrance of Melitta. "It is tragic, but it would have been unforgiveable crime to risk your life and that of unborn child in foolish attempt to save her."
"Her fate was undeserved," Ilithyia sighed as she clutched more tightly at Lucretia, holding the other woman ever more securely against her, though her tears had begun to abate.
"As are so many of ours," Lucretia whispered, rubbing her hand comfortingly up and down Ilithyia's back. "Women have always paid the price for the sins of men."
"I sag beneath the weight of such heavy debt," Ilithyia murmured tiredly, resting her head on Lucretia's shoulder as her tears dried on her cheeks.
"Then cling to me to stay to on feet as I clung to you when you found me in wandering these ruins in rags, half starved and half mad," Lucretia declared, lifting her hand to stroke Ilithyia's cheek. "This is our strength as women," she continued, pulling back so that she could take Ilithyia's tear streaked face into her hands. "The world seeks to tear us down but we shall always hold each other up," she declared fiercely, eyes holding Ilithyia's intimately.
"How," Ilithyia breathed out, blinking up at Lucretia in awe, "could I ever have doubted you were touched by the gods?"
Lucretia's eyes widened and then a bashful smile touched her lips.
"You flatter," Lucretia replied, cheeks reddening slightly as she gazed into Ilithyia's eyes.
"No," Ilithyia disagreed with an earnestness Lucretia had once thought her incapable of, "You are a wonder."
Ilithyia's hand found its way to Lucretia's cheek which she stroked reverently with her thumb for some seconds before she pushed up onto the tips of her toes so that she could press her lips to Lucretia's.
The kiss was light and chaste as all kisses between them had been in the past, but this time when Ilithyia pulled back and her eyes flickered up to take in Lucretia's tender gaze, Ilithyia wanted more and brought their lips together again.
Lucretia was stiff and unresponsive to Ilithyia's more passionate kiss and tears began to build behind Ilithyia's eyes and her heart became heavy as stone. However, just as she was about to pull away from Lucretia, murmur an apology and flee her own room, Lucretia released a soft sound and then her arm moved around Ilithyia, holding Ilithyia against her as Lucretia's lips parted, inviting Ilithyia to deepen the kiss.
How long they stood wrapped together exploring each other's mouth neither could say, but when Lucretia's lips pulled back from hers Ilithyia felt that it had not been nearly long enough.
"The sweetness of your kisses mends my heart," Ilithyia whispered, gazing up at Lucretia. "Would you deprive me of more and break it all over again?"
"I would bring you nothing but joy and pleasure. I part from you only to secure privacy," Lucretia responded, angling to her head towards the open doorway. "Friendly embrace," Lucretia continued stroking Ilithyia's cheek tenderly, "would not be looked upon favourably by husband. Removing selves from sight of prying eyes would be wise."
Ilithyia's face fell as sense came back to her now that she was absent Lucretia's lips against her own.
"I fear there is no place in this ludus shielded from Gaius' eyes. He mistrusts my every word and action. I draw breath with caution in fear that he will turn hateful eyes upon me and accuse me of stealing life-giving air in attempt to rob him of life," Ilithyia sighed despondently.
"I am no longer mistress of this house but I still know her secrets," Lucretia said, drawing her hand tenderly down Ilithyia's arm until they stood hand in hand. "I know of a place that will suit our needs."
"Take me to it," Ilithyia declared, squeezing Lucretia's tightly. "I would feel my lips upon yours again."
Lucretia brought their joined hands up to her lips and placed a kiss upon the back of Ilithyia's hand, then, with her lips still grazing Ilithyia's skin, Lucretia murmured, "Follow, and all of me shall be yours," before she gently released Ilithyia's hand and started towards the door.
Ilithyia lay trembling as aftershocks rocked her body, milked by Lucretia's fingers which still moved inside of her. A large smile stretched across Ilithyia's lips and when she felt Lucretia's mouth press a kiss to her cheek, Ilithyia angled her head to the side and drew Lucretia into a kiss, moaning softly as she tasted herself on the older woman's lips.
"You've done this before," Ilithyia whispered playfully, her eyes crinkling at the sides as she looked into Lucretia's eyes. "Such skill requires practice," she continued, her voice light and girlish in a way that Lucretia had not heard for some time. "Who was she?"
"A friend from my girlhood," Lucretia whispered, closing her eyes to ward off tears as she remembered Gaia, her beautiful, loving, loyal, wonderful Gaia who had been so viciously ripped away from her. "Her life was snuffed out too early. A casualty of a war the world leaves our sex ill-equipped to fight."
"You cared for her deeply," Ilithyia breathed out, stroking Lucretia's cheek tenderly.
"Yes," Lucretia whispered, eyes still closed against the pain memories of Gaia caused to bloom in her heart. "As I care for you," she continued, forcing her eyes open so that she was looking into the sky blue of Ilithyia's.
Ilithyia was not Gaia, but despite all reason Lucretia had come to care for the blonde. Her relationship with Gaia had been founded on love and trust in the purity of childhood, whereas her relationship with Ilithyia had been forged in blood and pain, but a bond had been formed between herself and Ilithyia nonetheless.
With Quintus and her baby dead, Lucretia was a lioness without a pride to protect, but Ilithyia and the child growing within her gave Lucretia something beyond herself care for. Holding Ilithyia in her arms was a balm to wounds Lucretia had thought would stay open and festering forever. Ilithyia's companionship filled a hole that had been echoing inside of Lucretia since that terrible night Spartacus and his band of animals had attacked the ludus, and she found that she need it, she needed that human connection as badly as Ilithyia needed Lucretia's arms to seek shelter in.
When Lucretia's senses returned to her after her long exile in the ruins of her home, she had simply set her ambition towards Ilithyia's baby and escaping from Capua with the child. However, the affectionate – though still often tentative – relationship that had developed between herself and Ilithyia over the past weeks had made Lucretia consider altering her plan. Thought she and Ilithyia had hurt each other calculatingly, callously, and devastatingly in the past, the time they had spent together since Ilithyia's return to Capua made Lucretia realize that she and Ilithyia were not so different from each other, and that they were much stronger working together as unit than they were working individually.
Ilithyia's lips brushed against Lucretia's cheek and Lucretia sighed contently and drew her hand up Ilithyia's arm, luxuriating in feeling of warm flesh under her hand.
It was pleasant to be embraced as a lover again, to feel damp skin pressed against her own, her legs tangled with another's as soft kisses were pressed to her skin. She had missed having this in her life and she did not want to give it up. She would escape from Capua as she had planned, and she would have the child, but as Ilithyia's lips pressed against her own, Lucretia turned her mind towards considerations of achieving both of those things and keeping Ilithyia at her side.
"I will attempt better job of protecting you," Lucretia whispered as their kiss broke. "When Gaia lived I made mistake of thinking that she could build life on path society permits for our sex to walk."
"And now?" Ilithyia asked softly, captivated by the shifting shadows behind Lucretia's eyes.
"Now I know we must stamp out our own. By any means necessary," Lucretia declared, her eyes burning with intensity as she focused her gaze on Ilithyia once more.
A shiver ran through Ilithyia's body upon hearing Lucretia's tone and seeing the look in her eyes.
"Are you cold?" Lucretia asked, brows creasing in concern as she felt a shudder run through Ilithyia's body.
"No," Ilithyia breathed out softly, tracing Lucretia's bottom lip with her thumb. "Aroused," she whispered, her eyes alight with renewed passion as she gazed down at Lucretia's face. "Passionate words beget passionate response," Ilithyia husked, shifting slightly so that she could draw Lucretia's hand between her legs so that Lucretia might feel the effect she was having on her.
"Most generous offering is well received," Lucretia rasped, smiling as she teased Ilithyia with the tip of her finger. "And wish is soon to be granted," she continued, giving Ilithyia her finger to the first knuckle before pausing to watch as Ilithyia's eyes slipped shut and her lips parted in desire.
"Tease for too long and desire will rob you of prize," Ilithyia panted before sinking down onto Lucretia's finger and rotating her hips, giving herself the pleasure Lucretia teased at.
"Are you so easily undone?" Lucretia asked, her lips curving up gently at the sides as she allowed Ilithyia to use her fingers as she desired.
"Evidence of desire drowns fingers," Ilithyia replied, and Lucretia bit down on her bottom lip to hold in the sound of her own desire as one of Ilithyia's hands moved between her legs to stroke her own bud. "There is no use in pride denying what cunt makes clear."
Lucretia smiled and then, with her eyes dancing with amusement, she took hold of Ilithyia's hip. Holding her possessively, she then thrust into Ilithyia powerfully. Ilithyia's eyes widened and she gasped in pleasure and Lucretia's smile widened, then, using the hold she had on Ilithyia's hip, Lucretia flipped them over and draped her body over Ilithyia's.
"Very well, I shall see to cunt's desires," Lucretia breathed out playfully before leaning down to kiss the blonde as her fingers set about keeping her word.
Lucretia gasped softly as she felt Ilithyia's lips brush against the swell of her breast. She had thought the blonde asleep and had been content to simply rest in the low light of the room, enjoying the closeness and intimacy of Ilithyia's body pressed against hers.
"Does your mind ever rest?" Ilithyia asked, lifting her hand to stroke Lucretia's jaw gently. "I can hear the wheels turning," she continued, shifting so that she was leaning over Lucretia and could her friend and lover's face.
"Necessity murders rest," Lucretia responded, though her eyes softened as her gaze fell upon Ilithyia's face. "Gaius rages as man on fire. I fear action must be taken soon or opportunity will disappear forever."
"Has mind settled upon course of action?" Ilithyia inquired as she shifted to rest her head upon Lucretia's shoulder once more.
"No," Lucretia breathed out, though the beginnings of a plan had started to form in her mind. The parts of it and how they would all fit together were still uncertain in her mind and she did not want to present an unfinished plan to Ilithyia and have her worry about details Lucretia had not yet worked out. "Ability to think has been compromised by wicked fingers and tongue," Lucretia continued playfully, smiling as she tangled her fingers with Ilithyia's.
Ilithyia smiled and then laughed before leaning forward slightly so that she could place a kiss to Lucretia's neck.
"Apologies," Ilithyia murmured impishly.
"No," Lucretia replied immediately, "gratitude," she whispered before shifting so that she could capture Ilithyia's lips in a sweet kiss.
"Whatever plan mind hatches when sense returns must keep us together," Ilithyia breathed out, supporting her weight on her hand as she flowed up so that she could see all of Lucretia's face. "You are life-giving sun. Absent you I should wilt and die as flower left to languish in darkness."
"Fear not, for nothing less than the hand of Jupiter could part me from you," Lucretia replied, reaching up to stroke Ilithyia's cheek. "We shall escape this place, free you of burdensome husband and remove ourselves to sun-drenched isle where we three may live in peace," she continued, smiling at Ilithyia as her other hand moved to Ilithyia's abdomen to rest on the slight bump.
"A beautiful dream," Ilithyia whispered.
At one time the life Lucretia just described would have seemed terribly boring and tedious to her, but she had seen too much of life, and blood and death to feel that way now. Scheming and social climbing, plotting and manoeuvring had brought her nothing but suffering and sorrow, and she wanted no more of either. Living in peace with a healthy child and someone who looked at her with love and touched her with tenderness was now all Ilithyia craved.
"Soon to be beautiful reality," Lucretia replied, stroking her thumb over Ilithyia's stomach. "But now, let us to the bath. Appearances must be kept until plan is put in action and presences will soon be missed."
Ilithyia nodded and then leaned down to kiss Lucretia gently but thoroughly, pouring all of the gratitude, love and devotion she felt into the kiss, her heart swelling when she felt Lucretia melt beneath her and give herself over entirely to Ilithyia's caress.
When the kiss broke, they rose and helped each other dress, and then hand-in-hand they started towards the door and a future, that while still uncertain, was brighter than it had been before.