Disclaimer: I do not own anything. Story title is owned by Mumford & Sons. Chapter title and lyrics are from a Lightspeed Champion song.
Galaxy of the Lost:
. . .
Trapped in bed
as the poison slowly creeps
and stops me dead.
I should have known
better than to cave
into such fantasies.
. . .
Mornings in the House of Batiatus were always the most hectic, especially for Melitta and me. They were always comprised of the two of us running around like madwomen trying to ensure that everyone was where they were supposed to be, doing exactly what was expected. There was food to be prepared, clothing to be laid out, water to be collected for the bath, and many more things that kept the household running and Lucretia from punishing us. After all of that, we rushed to take our positions within Batiatus' bedchamber where we waited patiently for him and his wife to leave their bed for the day.
The morning after the incident with Gannicus was no different save for Naevia's and Diona's constant questioning of why I was late taking to my bed the night before and wondering out loud who I must have been secretly meeting in the late of night. All of which I chose to ignore, not feeling in the mood to rehash every detail of the night before with Gannicus over and over until the two felt completely sure that I had spilled every detail.
"You cannot blame them for being curious, Enora; they are but young girls that are easily excited over the very idea of a man." Melitta stated as we made our way toward the bedchambers of Batiatus.
"I do not understand where any of you got the idea that I was meeting with a man. Perhaps I was simply kept later than usual to tend to Batiauts. May I remind you that he did not return home from wherever he was until long past the sun had fallen in the sky?"
Melitta gave me a knowing smile and replied "I am not denying that Batiatus kept you slightly later than usual. However, I do know that he had taken to his bed long before you took to yours as had all the other slaves."
I sighed "There was no secret meeting. As I was checking to make sure that Ingrid hadn't once more snuck down to the ludus with the intentions of spreading her legs, I just happened to run into Gannicus."
"Gannicus?" She repeated, slowing her pace slightly.
"Yes, Gannicus, and to make a very long story short, our brief meeting ended in him informing me I was far too solemn and me dramatically storming off in tears. Now you know the complete truth. All I ask is that you not tell Naevia and Diona. I am simply in no mood to handle their prodding." I finished as we neared the bedchamber and I reached out to pull the drapes open. However, before my fingers could even brush the silky fabric, Melitta placed her hand on my arm and drew me to stop.
"Gannicus is not the right man for you, Enora." She began once I had turned to face her, a look of confusion marring my features. "All he can think about is the next jug of wine he will drink, the next whore he will lay with, and the next man he will kill in the arena. He will never be a man who falls in love and stays faithful"
I was taken aback for a split second but managed a quick recovery and attempted to feign ignorance. "I am afraid I do not know what you're speaking of."
"Enora, you do not hide your infatuation with him well. I have seen the way you watch him when he is training or when he is in the arena."
My breath got in my throat while my neck and cheeks flushed bright red in both embarrassment and the beginnings of anger.
"You mean the same way you do?" I demanded chillily. I was met with a momentary silence but little change in her demeanor.
"I am afraid that you mistake my friendship with him for something more." She said in such a calm manner that one would think we were talking about the weather outside. She did not get flustered, embarrassed or angry as I had just moments ago at the same accusation, sending a whisper of doubt into my mind. Maybe I was mistaking friendship for something more. Maybe my jealousies were making me believe I was seeing something that wasn't actually there just as they had the previous day. I was beginning to believe more and more as the seconds past that I was mistaking glances and friendly concerns as something more because I wanted there to be a reason for him having rarely given me the time of day. However, I was not yet willing to give up the fight and with all my stubbornness, demanded chillily "Do I really?"
"Yes, Enora, you do and we will not discuss this silly matter any further. Do you understand?"
"Do not speak to me as if I am a child!"
"Then stop acting like one."
The spark of anger that had begun to flicker, bloomed once more in my chest, but before I could act on it in any form, Melitta yanked back the drapes and I was forced to bite my tongue and take my position inside.
We did not speak to each other until late the next evening. Part of this was due to having little time to stop and chat as directly after our fight I left with Batiatus for the marketplace where we spent the remainder of the day while he 'socialized' with those of higher standing in an attempt to secure a spot in the first fight in the new arena. I spent the day sweating in the hot sun that beat down on the market, struggling not to breathe in the stink of the city made worse by the heat, and continued to stew over Melitta's words.
By time we ventured back to the villa, the sun had faded in the sky and challenges had somehow been issued involving Gannicus and one of Vettius' men, meaning that I had to spend the rest of the evening helping him prepare for the big fight the following morning. By prepare, I meant that I stood behind him listening to his complaints, ensured that he didn't forget to eat, ran about fetching various people he wished to talk to about Gannicus, and helped him pick out what he would wear the next day. Compared to many of the other slaves within the walls of our estate, I had what would be considered the easiest job yet by the end of the day I felt completely drained. It wasn't the menial tasks that I partook in day after day that did it to me, or Batiatus' constant ramblings that I was forced to listen to for hours at a time, or even spending my days dodging Lucretia as much as I could, but instead it was having to remember to act like a slave. It was especially exhausting on days when I found my emotions running high because those were the days that I would nearly break. I would catch myself right before a rude retort slipped from my mouth or my face scrunched in a look of disgust directed at the man and woman who claimed ownership over me. On days like these, once I had managed to get Batiatus undressed and into bed, I would practically run to the slave quarters where I promptly passed out, which was exactly what I did when I was finally dismissed for the night, forgetting all about Melitta, and our fight.
With the suns rise, I had gotten over my anger and was left only with a dash of hurt and quite a bit of embarrassment over how I had acted the previous day. However, Melitta and I had still not spoken to one another, partly due to the frenzy that the morning brought, leaving us not a moment to stop and have a chat but mostly due to my own stubbornness. If I had really wanted to speak to her—and if she had wished to do the same—we could have found time. Yet we didn't. Instead, we did our early morning chores separate from one another, we watched the fight between Gannicus and the man that Vettius chose in silence—which was utter torture for me considering how there was to comment on—and then spent the rest of the day and most of the evening avoiding each other as much as possible. Well, I spent the rest of the day and most of the evening attempting to avoid her as well as Naevia and Diona who had moved on from asking me questions on who I was having secret meeting with to pestering me with nonstop questions on why Melitta and I were not speaking to one another.
It wasn't until late that evening as I prepared to bathe that the silence between us was finally broken. I had waited until I knew that the bathing room would be very near empty before entering and then I sat on the hard stone by the pool slowly preparing myself to bathe in hopes that by time I had to take my clothing off that everyone would have found their bed including Melitta and focusing quite hard on ignoring that she was currently ignoring me. However, my hopes did not come true and I soon found myself alone in the room with Melitta who was slowly putting her clothing back on as an awkward, deafening silence filled the room.
Finally, she gathered her belongings and began walking toward the door. As her footsteps echoed through the room, I felt myself beginning to relax, glad that I would have a few moments alone that were not filled with awkward silence.
But then her footsteps came to a halt and there was a moment or two of that horrible silence. "I hurt your feelings and for that I am sorry." She said quietly.
I didn't say anything to her apology for a few moments, instead pretending to concentrate on taking my hair from its braid. Melitta sighed heavily and out of the corner of my eye I could see her shake her head at me before turning to walk away.
"I wish I were as pretty as you. Or Naevia or Diona. Or even Ingrid, for that matter." I said softly, looking up to watch Melitta freeze mid-step.
"Oh, Enora, you are beautiful. If you were not, Lucretia would not be so jealous of you." She ensured me as she rushed to kneel at my side, a sympathetic look crossing her features.
I laughed bitterly, "Oh, please! Her hate for me has nothing to do with beauty but with whether I can carry a child or not. And if I were so beautiful then why doesn't anyone else notice."
"They do notice but you are so focused on him that you can't see it."
"This has nothing to do with Gannicus."
"This has everything to do with Gannicus. I know you do not want to hear this, Enora, but you are innocent and pure and a man like Gannicus will steal that from you without ever blinking an eye. Then all you will be left with is heartache and shame."
"I am not as innocent as you wish to believe."
"No, you are not." She said softly, reaching up to finish unbraiding the hair that I had forgotten about during our conversation. "No slave ever truly is, but in the ways of men you are as innocent as a babe."
She finished undoing my braid and ran her fingers through my freed curls to ensure that no knots remained before pushing herself to her feet. "All I ask is that you remember what falling in love with the wrong man did to your mother. I do not wish to see the same happen to you."
I nodded my head, not trusting myself to speak for fear the tears that I was holding back would begin to fall.
She gave me an almost motherly smile and patted me on the shoulder "I wouldn't linger long. We have a long day tomorrow." Then she was gone, leaving me to finish bathing and finally allow the tears that I had been holding back for so very long finally roll freely.
When my tears had been spent and my body had been washed free of any filth, I took a shaky breath and forced myself to leave the comforting privacy of the overly warm bath with the intentions of heading to my bed.
It was not long before the door to the slave quarters was within view and I knew that I would be forced to step inside, squeeze myself into the warm space between Naevia and Diona, and pretend that I was just fine, that everything was normal as I listened to their whispers in the night. But I wasn't fine. I had not been fine for a very long time and in that moment as I forced myself to take one step after another toward the door I couldn't bear to pretend that I was. So instead of entering the room where my bed and my childhood friends awaited, I veered right and kept walking. I did not stop until I was at the edge of the cliff, surrounded by the warm night air. There was something rather comforting about being right at the edge, staring out at the vast land below.
I could have stood there forever.
I would have stood there forever if Gannicus had not chosen that moment to come crashing out of his room and stumble onto the sand of the training field, singing a crude song at the top of his lungs.
I froze for a moment, not sure whether I should continue standing there or hurry back to the slave quarters before he even realized I was standing there.
I had just made up my mind to race back inside when he twirled around to face me. The song immediately faded away when he caught sight of me and he gifted me with a large grin. "Enora!"
"Gannicus. I believe that you are drunk." I stated, wondering how it was that he always seemed to be drunk whenever I found myself in his presence.
"I believe that you are correct." He laughed, stumbling toward me and closer to the edge of the cliff as wine sloshed over the side of the jug he carried. "Why don't you get drunk with me?"
"I do not hold my drink well I'm afraid." I declined with a shake of the head.
"Even better!" He yelled, shoving the jug in my hand.
"Why don't we get you to your chambers, hmm?"
I was greeted with a wicked little grin "My chambers, huh?"
"Really, Gannicus? I am attempting to keep you as far away from this cliff as possible." I explained, grabbing his large wrist with one hand and trying to keep a grip on the wine slicked jug in the other.
We, somehow, managed to make it across the training grounds and into his chambers without incident.
Once inside the cool, dimly lit chamber, Gannicus pulled away from my grasp and stumbled to his bed. He plopped down on the hard cot and proceeded to watch me as I placed the jug of wine on the small table in the corner of the room through half lidded eyes.
"Tell me, Enora, why are you once more not in your bed? I am beginning to believe it is because you wish to keep running into me."
Wiping my wine slickened hands on my dress, I turned to face him as a smile pulled at one corner of my mouth "Do not flatter yourself, I simply could not sleep."
"What, I wonder, has kept you from your beauty sleep?" He pondered, propping himself up on an elbow.
I swept my hair over one shoulder, wishing that I had thought to braid the still wet tresses before deciding to venture outside "I just…I have a lot on my mind this evening. Mostly thoughts about my mother. I miss her very much. Especially on nights like these when I feel so … alone. I suppose that is the true reason I cannot sleep. I feel very alone. I know it sounds ridiculous considering I sleep in a room full of other slaves every night. I also have Naevia and Diona, but they have always been much closer to one another than to me and do not even attempt to understand what I am feeling. They are too busy gossiping and wondering about the size of your manhood. And then there is Melitta who really does try to understand how I feel, but how would she know? She has Oenomaus. None of them understand how it feels to be just so alone because they all have someone and I have no one. I'm rambling, aren't I? I do that sometimes. It tends to happen when I am nervous. Not that I am nervous… Really, I'm not. I think I will stop speaking now."
He gave me a knowing look, the grin never once slipping from his face, "Do not worry, Enora, I make a lot of women nervous. Some even swoon. Now why don't we go back to that bit about the size of my manhood?"
"I think not…and I would very much appreciate it if you do not mention that I said anything about Naevia and Diona discussing that...part of your body." I managed to choke out, wondering how I had gotten myself into this predicament again, "I do believe that it is time for me to say my goodbyes and leave you to your sleep."
As I turned to make my escape from the small room, his hand shot out and wrapped itself around my wrist, forcing me to stop "Please do not leave."
I bit my lip, "Gannicus, I must—"
"You're right. They all have someone and what do we have? No one. Nothing." He swallowed hard and let my wrist slip out of his grasp "It seems that you and I cannot sleep for much the same reason." He laughed a humorless, bitter laugh.
I didn't know how to reply to his comment so I stayed silent, trying to figure out if I should leave or not. Finally, after a few more seconds of standing there, I let out a breath I didn't realize I had been holding and motioned for him to scoot over on the bed.
"I will stay only until you have fallen asleep and then I must go back to my own quarters before the girls realize I am missing." I informed his as I lay down beside him, and then added quickly, "And I will not be taking off my dress."
"You do not have to take off your dress." He said slowly, but I stayed tense, knowing that he wasn't going to leave it at that. "Do you know what I love about dresses?"
I stayed silent in hopes that he would choose not to continue with what I was betting would be a statement that would make me blush all the way to the tip top of my head.
"I love how easy they make it to fuck." He said with laughter in his voice as he slipped a finger under the hem of my short dress "All that must be done is slip it past the hips and—"
Before he could finish I slapped his hand away and yelped "Gannicus!"
He chuckled and pressed his lips close to my ear. "Calm down, Enora." He whispered huskily, slipping an arm around my waist "I promise I'll be a good boy."
I swallowed hard and hoped he couldn't see the goose bumps his voice in my ear—and the memory of his hand caressing my thigh—had caused to arise on my arms. "Good." I managed to whisper in a quivery voice and then we both fell silent. It wasn't long after that, that his breath evened and I knew that he had fallen asleep with his arm still securely wrapped around my waist and his faced pressed into my wet, tangled hair. I would wait just a few more moments, I told myself, before I forced myself away from his comforting warmth and back to my worn sleeping mat that was shoved between Diona and Naevia. Just a few more moments…
. . .
I feel better
now I've seen you
but deep inside
my bones feel like timber
And I am shaking at the tension
And I will shudder at the mention.
. . .
Author Note: I am sorry that this chapter took so long to post. It ended up being quite a bit longer than I had first intended (and I had a tad bit of writers block at one point) so I hope nobody is too upset with how long it took for me to finish. I really enjoyed writing this chapter and I hope that y'all enjoyed reading it! Please R&R and—once again—thank you to everyone who reviewed the first chapter.