So I am sitting in my classics class listening to the lecture like a good little student when my professor mentions as an aside that there was a type of gladiator who used a curved sword and romantic/sexual assignations between gladiators and Roman citizens were not uncommon. And then this fic appeared.
The games were not Lavi's idea of a fun night out. He much preferred to stay at home—there was enough bloodshed in the world without two men fighting to the death for sport. Of course, his Roman friends all attributed this to his barbarian origins, and took every opportunity to drag him to the amphitheater, with poor results.
After much cajoling by his friend Albanus, Lavi had finally agreed to attend for today's feast day, figuring that at least it would give him some material for the history of the empire he was working on compiling. So he sat through the morning animal hunts and the lunchtime executions of criminals trying as hard as he could not to show his boredom or disgust with the whole proceedings.
Finally the afternoon came, and the gladiatorial competitions began. Albanus scooted to the edge of his seat, peering at the entryway to see which fighters would emerge. As the first man walked out—a thraecis, with his shield and curved sword, a helmet enveloping his entire head, save for a tail of black hair that fell out the back—wild cheers erupted across the entire Colosseum.
Albanus, realizing that Lavi was still inexperienced in gladiatorial gossip, took it upon himself to translate for his friend. "That man hasn't lost a single fight. No one knows where he came from, or even what his name is! I guess his lanista wants to make him a man of mystery. He's probably a prisoner of war. Well, at least foreign of some sort. That hair of his is definitely not Roman."
Perhaps it was the identification of "foreign" that drew Lavi's eyes to the man with the sword down on the pitch below. A murmillo ran out to meet him, and then they gave the customary salute to the emperor in his imperial box before commencing the fight.
At first, Lavi assumed the thraecis would be no match for the murmillo, who was easily twice as big and blocked each sword slash with his massive legionary's shield. The thraecis was likely to be grabbed by that silly ponytail and pulled down to the ground, and to his death. Yet the thraecis moved fast, lighting-fast and deadly. It took him barely any time to get behind that shield, and once he was there, the short gladius the murmillo wielded was completely ineffective against his opponent's skill.
In merely a blink of Lavi's eye, the murmillo was on the ground, shield and sword knocked away, the thraecis's blade at his throat. The thraecis glanced up at the emperor, who signaled to him to kill the murmillo. A quick swipe of sword against throat, and it was all over. The audience roared their approval, and a hoplomachus was brought out, to replace the murmillo and be killed just as quickly.
It was astonishing. Lavi watched the games more intently than he ever thought could be possible, his eyes glued to the thraecis and his graceful movement. The more Lavi observed, the more he realized that the armor was cumbersome and the sword was not the thraecis's natural weapon, but that didn't hamper the man in the least. And the more Lavi observed, the more he realized he wanted to know all about this man, to strip away that armor and see who he was, to trace the cheekbones hidden underneath that helmet, to run his hands through that gorgeous hair.
Lavi was not only observant, he was resourceful. It took only a few words to the right people at the end of the games to meet the thraecis outside the Colosseum's basement waiting rooms, and a few more words and a few more coins for the thraecis to be in Lavi's tiny flat above a produce vendor's that night.
He was beautiful unarmored, even slimmer without all the metal enveloping him, hair tied back into a black river that ran down his neck. Eyes narrowed and lips thin, face all angles, angles which matched his military posture and tensed hands that looked as if they were not comfortable without a sword in them.
"My name's Lavi. What's your name?"
"You're not a Roman, are you?"
"I'm not, either."
He didn't bother to ask where Kanda was from. It would ruin the romance of it all, the strange pull that an unknown gladiator fighting for his life in a merciless arena carried. Instead he traced those lips, and his exploratory fingers were met with a light bite before he was pushed back violently onto the bed.
He had nearly forgotten he was bedding a fighter.
But Lavi could hold his own better than the murmillo, if he did say so himself. He pushed back on that slim angled body and felt the hard muscle beneath, running his fingers down to the tie that held Kanda's tunic closed. He deftly untied it before Kanda fought back, quickly switching their positions and pulling Lavi's tunic off breathlessly fast. Kanda's lips traveled down Lavi's throat, alighting on a nipple. His teeth were sharp, forcing Lavi down onto the bed as if he were a gladiator bested in a fight.
Yet Lavi's legs wound around narrow hips, and his body turned, rolling both of them over and around, giving him enough time to remove Kanda's tunic before the other man took control once more.
Kanda was not a gentle lover, and certainly did not submit like the women Lavi had slept with since he had arrived in Rome. No, it hurt, unquestionably, but in a good way. And they fought together, with each bite and kiss and stroke and thrust, tasting blood and death against their teeth and tongues, screams and moans of anguish and ecstasy bursting past their lips.
It was, for one moment, as if Lavi could die, die without finishing his history, die with his written pages bursting into flames, never to be remembered. As if nothing was fixed and everything could be changed, could be destroyed, with one thrust too hard.
The shadow of death hung sweetly over the bed, and Lavi could feel the blessed delirium that it caused, could reach out with one hand and slip into nothingness.
He was powerless, and it was delicious.
Perhaps, he considered, as the two men lay together afterwards, drenched with sweat and speckled with blood, this was the appeal of the games.