Summary: All she ever wanted was freedom…and him…Gannicus/OFC
Disclaimer: I do not own anything! The characters are not mine. The title of the story was taken from a Mumford and Sons song and the chapter title and lyrics were taken from a Duffy song by the same name.
. . .
Although you think I cope
My head is filled with hope of some place other than here
Although you think I smile
Inside and all the while I'm wondering about my destiny
I'm thinking about all the things
I'd like to do in my life
I'm a dreamer, a distant dreamer
Dreaming far away from today
. . .
The hot sun beat down on the marketplace as people pushed past one another, rushing to finish up last minute affairs in the market or hurrying to get to the games. The latter was the more popular of choices and paired with the fact that Batiatus had yet to secure a position in the pulvinus with the higher up individuals, I found myself following closely behind him and Lucretia into a crowd of rowdy commoners.
As we fought to get to the arena, I glanced sideways at Melitta—Lucretia's personal slave—and watched as she gracefully side stepped past a drunken man. For a moment, I felt a stab of jealously as I stared at her for she was perhaps one of the most beautiful women I had seen. She didn't have the fake beauty that the Roman's such as Lucretia had adopted, but she was truly beautiful with her dark tanned skin, her black hair and her brown, golden flecked eyes.
Yes, she was quite beautiful and I was quite jealous. I was, I supposed, pretty, but not beautiful. Instead of having a dark, almost mysterious look to me like Melitta, I was born with fair skin that freckled in the bright Capua sun and blond hair that had caused me much grief in my life for it was not a trait most desired in slaves for the simple fact that many of the Roman women believed that their husbands favored the color due to the popularity of it in the prostitutes that littered the streets and worked in the brothels. My gray eyes, however, was one of the few traits that I did not dislike for they reminded me of my mother, who in my mind ranked above Melitta in beauty.
Unlike myself, my mother's tresses were a silky reddish blond color, her skin was tanned a golden brown by the harsh Capua sun and eyes that were the same bluish-gray of mine. But—unlike mine—they always seemed to have a spark of life in them that shone even brighter when she whispered one of her stories of the land that she hailed from, the Britons whom she called her people and her hopes that she would one day see both of us free. Of course, she never did get to see freedom, never got to see her home lands or the people she called her own, but instead died a slave while bearing her third child—a boy—who did not live to see the sunrise.
I repressed a sigh, reminded myself that Melitta was one of the few friends I had and pushed my jealousy aside, for I refused to lose a friend due to my own ridiculous insecurities. We continued to push through the crowd of commoners—mostly already drunk—before finally making our way into the small, almost shabby, arena. Once inside, Batiatus managed to find—or better yet, steal—a spot in the front where he could get a better view of his gladiators, though not as good of a view as he would have found in the pulvinus where the Magistrates and higher ranking individuals sat. Batiatus was not one of these men even though he was a lanista, his gladiators were some of the better fighters and his father was a very popular and respected man, who many people adored. However, Batiatus was not popular, not respected and did not have a seat in the pulvinus, which had—much to my annoyance—caused him to complain almost without stop the entire day.
"It's so fucking hot." He muttered, glancing up at the blazing sun and pulling at the sweat drenched collar of his robe before focusing his attention once more on the pulvinus that had yet to be occupied by the rich merchant Tullius and the Magistrate Sextus.
Sweeping my wet blond hair over one shoulder, I continued to listen to the muttered complaints of my Dominus as I watched two gladiators below angrily slice at one another with their swords. It wasn't much longer until finally the gladiator who hailed from our ludus was bested by young Vettius's gladiator sending Batiatus into a rage.
"No, no, no! Get up, GET UP!" Batiatus screamed in frustration, throwing his hands up in the air. When the realization that his gladiator was not getting up, he muttered "fuck," and turned his back to the sight of the bloodied gladiator in disgust.
I glanced sideways at Melitta as men with hooks came running out into the arena to drag our gladiator from the blood soaked sand and whispered, "Gannicus should be entering at any moment."
Her gaze flickered away from the scene below to glance between Batiatus and Lucretia, ensuring that their own eyes were directed elsewhere before whispering back "Do you wish to have the flesh whipped from your back for not holding your tongue?"
I rolled my eyes at her dramatics before replying, "In all of my years serving as a slave, I have never had the flesh whipped from my back and I have been coming to the games since I was a little girl, whispering to the other slaves about who would win and who would fall."
Her eyes flickered once more to the two she feared would catch us, "It doesn't matter what you used to do; that was a different time and now you are expected to act in a very different manner."
"And why is that?" I asked, my voice taking on a slightly more chilly tone than I had intended.
"You know why."
Of course, I did know exactly why and she knew I did, though she still sighed slowly and added, almost inaudibly, "You serve Quintus Batiatus now. Not his father."
We held each other's gaze for a few seconds more before I broke away and turned my eyes toward Gannicus as he entered into the arena, sending the crowd into a fit of excitement as women tried to gain the handsome gladiators attention by ripping open their bodices to reveal their breast and their menfolk cheered drunkenly for Batiatus' prized gladiator.
His eyes scanned the crowd until they found their way to where Melitta and I stood silently. At first, I actually believed he was staring at me, causing a slight fluttering sensation in my stomach. However, I quickly realized that it wasn't me at all he was staring at, leaving me feeling quite ridiculous at ever believing he would pick me out of the crowd. Instead his eyes were focused on Melitta, who had stiffened slightly beside me and was choosing to ignore his blatant staring by focusing on a spot in the distance.
I would have been a bit more shocked or even upset, if I hadn't already noticed their almost awkward exchanges that had been occurring between them more frequently as of late. Of course, all I had ever witnessed was a glance here and there or an occasional flinching from Melitta whenever he took a hard hit, but nothing more.
As I turned back to the brutal fight below, I came to the conclusion that I was just making more out of shared glances than what was actually there, leaving me feeling slight ashamed that I would think Melitta or Gannicus would do such a thing. After all, they both loved Oenomaus far too much to even think about causing such a betrayal.
My thoughts, however, still lingered on the odd interactions between the two long after Gannicus won his match and I was back at the villa, preparing his rewards for him.
"You must stop this nonsense." I muttered to myself while walking across the dusty training field toward the small building across from the villa, attempting to dodge the training that was in full progress and ignoring the two giggling whores behind me.
Pulling open the door to Gannicus's chamber, I paused for a moment and watched him as he sat on his hard cot, studying the hands that had just won him yet another fight. Suddenly, he lifted his head, met my staring eyes and flashed an arrogant grin.
"Looking quite smug today, aren't you?" I stated, clutching the jug of wine tighter against my chest, hoping that he didn't notice the blush that was creeping up my neck and into my cheeks.
"I am the champion." He reminded me with that arrogant grin still playing on his lips.
"Of this ludus," I reminded with a laugh as I moved further into the room and then, as I place the jug of wine on the small table, added, "and you make it very hard to forget."
"Ah, and what is this?" He asked in mock curiosity, pushing himself off the cot and closing the distance between the two of us.
"You know exactly what this is." I replied, a slight smile forming on my lips, "Dominus was quite pleased with your showing at the games today; therefore, he thought to reward you with your favorites: Wine and women."
With that statement, I motioned for the giggling women standing in the doorway behind me to step further into the room before. Then I bowed my head in silent goodbye and turned to make my leave. However, before I shut the door to his chamber, I paused for the briefest of moments to glance back at Gannicus as he reached for one of the empty headed women and let myself wish for just a second that it was me he was reaching for with that look of lust in his eyes. Then just as quickly as the momentary wish had found its way into my thoughts, it was gone and I pulled the door closed, leaving him to have his fun.
It wasn't long after that, that I found myself in the overly warm kitchen, placing an assortment of fruit in a basket for Lucretia while listening to Diona and Naevia's excited chatter.
"They are taking bets on who will live to receive the mark of the brotherhood." Naevia informed me in a giddy manner as she placed another strawberry in the basket.
"I pray that you are not thinking of participating in their silly games." I stated flatly, glancing up at the excited faces of the two women I had known since we were babes. The three of us had been inseparable while growing up, brought together by the hardships of being the children of slaves and the tragedies that life bore us. We spent our childhoods together, whispering secrets to one another, playing our childish games and dreaming about what our lives would be like when we grew older. But that changed—I changed—after my mother's death as did the friendship we shared. With her death, Naevia and Diona became my family—my sisters. However, I no longer shared in their whispers, laughter, or dreaming after that for I was forced to come to terms with what my life would forever be like as a slave in the house of Batiatus, leading to the slow dissipation of my girlish innocence. An innocence that my two friends still managed to maintain even through all of our years of hardships.
"Of course not, I just thought to inform you and perhaps hear your thoughts."
"On what? Who of the recruits will live? I do not know nor do I care."
"I just thought that because you take such an interest in the games that you would have a better idea of-"
"Unless you are thinking of betting the little you have, I do not see what it matters," I interjected as I glanced up once more from my work. "But if you care so much, then I believe the Syrians will fare well."
"The Syrians? Really?" Melitta asked, catching the last part of the conversation as she stepped into the room, jug of wine in hand.
"You do not think that they will fare well in the test?" I asked, turning my head to look at her before adding, "They are not the best, but when it comes to passing the test and receiving the mark, then I believe they are the safest bet."
"I don't believe that they will do horribly, but what about the new one. The Gaul."
"The Gaul? Really? The man who spends more time on his back than he does wielding his sword?"
"If you remember, Gannicus was much the same when he first arrived." She reminded me, a slight smile on her lips.
I laughed lightly, "Perhaps you're right. I had forgotten for a moment that once upon a time we believed that our beloved Champion would not make it to receive the mark of the brotherhood."
After a few moments of silence, I sighed and stood from the stool I had been occupying. Grabbing the basket of fruit I had been working on, I shoved it into Naevia's hand, "I have spent far too much time and have almost forgotten my duties. We must see to Domina" I stated, ushering the two women out of the room.
Before exiting, I turned once more to Melitta, "Before you go to spend your evening with Oenomaus will you check on Gannicus and ensure that the women I sent…satisfied him?"
She laughed, "Oh, I'm sure they have, but I will check anyhow."
I nodded slowly and mumbled a quick "Thank you," before following after my two friends toward Lucretia's quarters.
I concentrated on their quite, happy chatter as we walked down the dimly lit hallways, attempting to keep my mind from Gannicus and his giggling whores
"What took you so long?" Lucretia asked coldly the moment we stepped into her bedroom.
Bowing my head, I answered "My apologies, Domina. I was asked by Dominus to ensure that Gannicus was rewarded for his victory in the arena today."
She scoffed, but said no more of my tardiness and turned to watch Naevia place the basket on the table in front of her "Where's Melitta." She demanded finally, breaking the silence.
"You gave her the rest of the night to spend with Oenomaus" I reminded, my gaze still directed at my feet.
She sighed "Of course." Then snatched the small, cracked hand mirror from the table and held it out for Diona to take as I stepped forward to pour her wine "So instead I get left with you." I heard her pretend to mutter to herself, knowing full in well that she intended me to hear. I had never been among Lucretia's preferred slaves for numerous reasons, one of the biggest being that she was afraid her husband would soon decide that she would never be able to bare children and turn to me for the task to ensure an heir as so many other men did in their circumstance.
"Where is my husband" She asked after I had handed her the cup of wine I had just finished pouring into the small golden goblet.
"He is still at the market dealing with business matters." I answered, taking a step away from her, placed the jug back on the table and folding my hands in front of me once more.
"Why aren't you with him?" She asked curiously, staring into the mirror that Diona held in front of her.
"He said that he had no need for me there, but to instead come back to the villa and see that Gannicus was properly rewarded."
She rolled her eyes before waving her hand in dismissal, muttering "Just go."
I held in a sigh of relief, bowed my head in farewell, muttered "Domina" and quickly took my leave without a glance back at the two women I left to continue slaving over Lucretia.
Instead of hunting down Batiatus, which should have been my first priority, I wandered around the villa for a long while, checking on the other slaves work, ensuring that Lucretia's friend and guest, Gaia, was properly taken care of, and praying that I wouldn't be forced back in Lucretia's company.
It wasn't until it had grown an inky black outside before Batiatus wandered back from market and sought me out to aid him in things that were too difficult for one of his status to do on his own such as help him undress and the such. After I had seen him safely tucked into bed next to his wife, I headed down to the gladiator quarters where I made sure that everyone was exactly where they were supposed to be.
I wandered down the dark, empty hallway, thinking about all that needed to be done the next day, when the cocky voice rang out from behind me, making me visibly jump "You shouldn't be wandering the halls at this hour."
I spun around to face Gannicus, clutching my chest in hopes to stop the pounding of my heart and muttered, "Neither should you,"
Completely ignoring my reaction to his sneaking up on me, he leaned against the wall of the dimly lit hallway and said, "I heard you were speaking of me to the others."
"Really? I suppose you heard this from Melitta?"
He grinned, "Who else?"
"Do not get a big head, my friend. I was more speaking of the Syrians than of you." I informed him matter-of-factly.
"Ah, so it is one of the Syrians that you have taken a liking to. We have all wondered which of us would finally wet—"
"I have not taken a liking to any of you." I interjected before he could finish his lewd statement. I rolled my eyes at his attempted innocent grin then began down the hallway once more.
I didn't make it far before he began to speak again, following close behind "It's the tall one, isn't it? The one with that fucking ridiculous beard."
I made a noise of disgust in the back of my throat and glared up at him "Really? You honestly believe that he would be the one I would choose out of all of you?"
"Honestly, I always thought you were madly in love with me." He stated with a laugh, playfully draping his arm over my shoulder as we began making our way through the area where the men's cells were.
Most had already let sleep claim them for the night, but there were a few of the gladiators who still sat up bragging about their prowess in the arena and in bed.
My stomach clenched, but I still managed a light laugh at his statement, coming to a stop in front of the Syrians cell "So… no to the stupid looking one?" He asked staring into the cell of men, all of whom had immediately perked up at the sight of a woman.
"Gannicus," I began, the laughter dying in my throat and my voice quickly taking up a tone that was laced with warning.
"Oh, what? There has to be someone in this hell hole that you have wanted to—"
"What does it matter if there is? Even if I wanted to fuck you or the Syrian with this stupid beard, I wouldn't." I said in a low voice, then stomped away from Gannicus and the cells full of staring men and into the hallway that led to the gate that separated the gladiators from the rest of the household.
"So you do admit that you have dreamed of finding yourself in my bed?" Gannicus's amused voice asked close behind me, making me jump once more, and jerk around to glare at him.
"Why can't you ever be serious, Gannicus?"
"Why can't you ever stop being so serious? You have a nice laugh, Enora. It's a shame I don't get to hear it more."
Tears stung the back of my eyes as I stared at the man in front of me. A man who I had been in love with since the day he had first stepped out onto the training grounds with the other gladiators. A man that I doubted would ever feel the same way as I did or look at me in the same manner as he did the other women. I swallowed hard and stated in a thick voice "There is nothing to laugh about here, Gannicus."
I turned away from him for the final time and walked slowly to the gate, unlocked it with the key I kept on a chain around my neck, and walked up the steps toward cramped slave quarters where my worn sleeping mat and the dreams of a life I would never have—one filled with laughter, love and freedom—awaited me…
Author Note:I would like to I would like to acknowledge that I did change the timeline slightly in that Crixus had not just been purchased, but instead had been at the ludus for, in my mind, about a week, maybe even two. I hope that everyone enjoyed this chapter (as well as the character of Enora) and if you did then you can head over to my livejournal—which you can find the link to in my profile information or by simply searching LadyLovegood on the livejournal website—where I will be giving updates and the such on this story as well as a few others that I am working on. Please R&R!