A/N: This story, although written first (as the episodes aired), is preceded by Fated to Pretend which delves into their relationship from 3x01 to where this story picks up at 3x06. I would recommend reading that before this.
I have always loved Gannicus - my favourite Spartacus-verse character. After Melitta, I didn't think I would ship him with anyone ever again. I was wrong.
Sibyl watched as Gannicus dismounted from horse, weariness evident in slump upon the mighty gladiator's shoulders. He had stood as saviour - more than once - and she was not sure how she would ever be able to give thanks.
Standing beside the horse she had been helped off of, she pulled her wrap closer, the flimsy fabric no barrier against the frigid temperature. Goosebumps danced over her body, no bit of flesh immune to its rabid spread. She rubbed her arms to try and hold on to the last vestiges of the comforting heat that had generated between her body and his, but she fought a losing battle. His body had radiated heat like a fire stoked by the gods themselves. Being bereft of his nearness meant the fire dwindled to embers, soon to be extinguished completely.
No one seemed to notice her as grunts and shouts of jubilation filled the air. The rebel leader, Spartacus, stepped forward and embraced Gannicus enthusiastically. Both equally pleased to see the other. The scene warmed her heart as she stood witness to a brotherhood and deep respect between the bringer of rain and the god of the arena.
She did not realise a small smile cuved her lips towards the heavens until she felt the stare of Saxa upon her. Gannicus's woman had launched herself at him at first opportune moment. While she wished she held right to be jealous, she did not. Standing across from them, she admitted to self that they made a fearsome pair.
Gannicus spoke. "It is a miracle any of us yet before you still draws breath." His eyes met hers and butterflies fluttered at her core. "The gods themselves must have taken note of delivered prayer in order to see us from certain end."
It was clear that there were matters of warfare to be discussed and Spartacus pulled Gannicus aside to break urgent words. She looked around, unsure where her place was. In Sinuesa she helped care for Roman captives. When they were released, she had lost purpose.
She watched as Gannicus and Spartacus walked off, Saxa keeping them within sight. She glanced around, uncertain of place and errand.
"Sibyl!" Gannicus called her name. She looked in his direction and saw him share words with Spartacus, who nodded in return. He walked back toward her and put a gentle hand upon her shoulder.
"Spartacus would have you aid Nasir in tending wound of injured Laeta. She is taken to his lodging, a cave not far from here. Make your way there directly. There is not much in way of food, but Nasir will share what little there is. take nourishment. Get some rest."
She dropped her head and felt tears threaten to spill. He lifted her chin. This time when issuing an earlier command, his tone was gentle. "Hold tears. Now go."
"Gratitude." She meant for the word to carry thanks for all he had done, and still continued to do to keep her safe. She had spoken less than two words to Spartacus, so she was sure it was at his request that she now had errand.
"Agron," Gannicus called. The general stepped forward and motioned for her to follow him. She looked back but Gannicus was gone. Instead, Saxa stood, eyes narrowed, staring after her.
Gannicus and Spartacus broke path back towards camp, both in silent contemplation. The rebel camp spread out before them, a pitiful amount of ramshackle, hastily constructed tents that would offer little comfort in harsh weather. Fires burned every few metres; people huddled closely around it for warmth.
"Seek rest and the comfort of warm embrace. Tomorrow brings new challenge from Crassus. One we must meet head on."
"Set mind at peace." Gannicus rested a hand on Spartacus's shoulder and squeezed. "We shall piss in the faces of those Roman dogs."
Spartacus gestured over his shoulder. "Your woman awaits."
Gannicus turned, watching Saxa make her way toward them. "She is fearsome sight to behold," he muttered in return.
"One that you seem less enchanted with upon light of your return."
Gannicus scoffed. "You would have answer. But I have none to give." When Saxa pressed her lips to his, he kissed her back; sure waning enthusiasm would be bolstered by much needed rest.
He slung his arm around her waist and made way down the hill.
Spartacus reviewed the maps given him by Agron. Their position was perilous. With the mountain pass covered in snow, their flank covered by Crassus army, their forward motion blocked, there was little option for sustained cause. His resolve strengthened at thought of being outwitted by the Roman leader. He was proving to be a worthy adversary, much more so than Glaber had ever been.
His musings were interrupted by the woman, Sibyl, as she entered the cave. The entrance had been draped with furs in attempt to stave off winter chill. "Apologies. I did not know you were yet within." She made a move to exit.
"Please. See your errand attended."
She seemed hesitant but went to the far corner of the enclave. It was not a large space, but it served his needs. It could accommodate a man his size at standing height, there were flat rocks which served as makeshift tables but nothing else. The floor of the cave was smooth rock in some places, sand and pebbles in others.
Sibyl kneeled at Laeta's side. The Roman women lay on a bed of furs – his bed – and made faint moaning sounds.
"Her fever has broken. Nasir spoke truthfully. She will live."
Spartacus nodded, unwilling to acknowledge the unexpected relief news brought.
"I will bathe her and see her made comfortable."
"You are named Sibyl?"
She turned and looked him in the eye. She looked younger than he suspected she was. There was innocence about her, but also an inner strength he sensed had been hard won after years of cruelty at the hands of her Dominus. A wound all slaves struggled to mend.
"That is so."
"Gratitude for your efforts in tending Laeta."
"An errand I am sure was procured at the hands of another. It was Gannicus who suggested how I might be of use?"
"It was so, yes. But I stand grateful nonetheless."
"It is no imposition. I had often wished I had worked in her house. Her slaves spoke of her kindness towards them." Sibyl watched as Spartacus's eyes returned to Laeta, his brow furrowed in thought.
She wished to give him some privacy. It was the first time they had exchanged words and although he was kind, he made her nervous. "I shall find Nasir and be back to bathe her."
She was not sure whether he heard her, but she rushed back into the cold, saddened that rebel leader seemed as alone as she was. Only difference that he had trusted friends. She stood absent friend, family or home.
Gannicus stood at the entrance of his tent, looking out into the vast night. The camp was relatively quiet. In the distance, odd conversations could be heard, but mostly, people were conserving energy, huddled over fires or sleeping in groups for warmth nearby. Unconsciously, he rubbed his hand, fingering the makeshift bandage placed there by woman he would do better not to think of.
"You not sleep?" He turned and watched as Saxa stretched, the furs slipping from her body. She was gloriously naked; her hair tussled from their pleasurable pursuits. "I know what else we can do to make sleepy. And sweaty," she added with a feline smile.
He was not always sure what she said. In truth, he was not interested either. Between them, things were simple. They laughed. They fucked. They did not break unnecessary words. They did not pretend to be more than what they were. And he had been content with arrangement. Until Sibyl, her gods and her misguided trust.
Gannicus stepped back into the tent and pulled on his cloak. "I have business with Spartacus. I would have words."
He saw her face fall slightly, but it was not long before her grin turned seductive. She walked towards him, cold forcing nipples to bead like arrow heads. "Spartacus not want talk now. We make fucking instead." She pushed her tongue into his mouth and he was distracted for a minute, but still restless and unsatisfied.
He distentangled himself and stepped back. This time, her face fell completely. "You go see Spartacus?"
She cocked her head to the side. "You see little girl?"
Gannicus allowed a smile to play across his face, sensing an argument he had no patience for. "What need have I of a child when I have a woman in my bed?"
She did not seem convinced, but staved tongue. She wove her fingers through his hair and kissed him deeply, pushing her sex into his. "Later, we make the fucking," she reiterated before she moved back to the warmth of the pallet on the floor.
He grabbed his swords and headed out.
Gannicus entered cave, not finding Spartacus where he had expected to find him - pouring over strategy and warfare. The cavernous interior was empty save for the Roman woman in the corner.
Fucking cold everywhere, he mused. He walked to the fire, resting swords close to hand, his attention diverted by Sibyl who entered. She had not seen him and headed straight for Laeta, carrying a large bowl with steam rising tantalisingly from it.
He waited for her to set burden down before saying, "you have been put to work."
Although she seemed surprised to see him there, she did not jump nervously as he had expected her to. He was pleased.
"It takes mind from troubles and lifts spirits to do what is necessary - and of use."
Gannicus nodded and watched as she kneeled next to the unconscious woman, carefully bathing her face, neck, her hands and arms, her legs and feet.
"I am no warrior. But I can tend wounds and help the injured."
He stood aware of fact that he watched her every move, unable to stop self from looking. The curve of her back, her dark hair across her shoulder, nape of her neck, the curve of her waistline, her thighs, the swell of her calves. She was no fucking child.
"You could learn to wield a weapon."
She flashed a smile over her shoulder. "Weapons are for warriors. If intent be clear, I have fear of blades."
"Which is why you showed reluctance when instructed to use it."
She nodded. Gannicus frowned, uncomfortable with idea that she was not capable of protecting herself.
"Sibyl, this is a war. It would serve cause if able to wield weapon to protect self when need arises. That day will come. Even your gods cannot stop it."
"The gods will protect me."
"The gods cannot ensure that your journey to the afterlife is swift. If Roman's were to take you captive, they would rape and pillage, marking your death with torturous intent."
He watched her lay furs closely around Laeta before rising nimbly and coming towards him. She gestured for him to sit upon flat stone next to fire and sat beside him. Without words, she reached for his hand and undid the knot she had made earlier. Gannicus frowned at her, but did not pull away.
A part of him, a part he would never own to, enjoyed her gentle ministrations and the attention she lavished upon him. It came from less lascivious purpose and seemed to be born from genuine need to nurture and care. With cloth and warm water, she proceeded to clean his wound.
"You would have me train with your men?"
"They are not my men," he growled. "I would have you develop skill. Skill enough to protect yourself."
"I will make request to Nasir."
Gannicus knew Nasir had tastes which did not press upon women. Still the thought of her being instructed by another man caused a streak of unexpected jealousy to take hold. He had no right to feel it.
"Why wait to receive instruction. I would give first lesson now." The words were out of his mouth before he had wisdom to stop them.
Sibyl had been just completed redressing his injury. Her neck snapped up at his words, Their eyes colliding spectacularly.
Wide, clear and trusting. Open, honest and trusting. Beautiful, green and trusting.
"You would teach?"
Gannicus stood, needing to place greater distance between them. "I would instruct first lesson." He reached for the swords he had laid down and offered her one, the blade pointing outwards.
She was biting her lip, but put down the bowl, stood and reached for the offered weapon. Her arm drooped under its weight and he chuckled. Her eyes darted to his and he saw her resolve strengthen. He nodded with approval, amused grin still in place.
"It is heavier than anticipated." Sibyl adjusted its weight in her hands. "I am more likely to stab self in lower limb than cause injury to enemy."
Gannicus roared with laughter and she smiled in return, enjoying the full bodied sound.
"I was once as you are, without muscle and strength. That will come."
"Mind cannot conjure image of you as I now stand."
He winked at her and demonstrated the appropriate grip when holding the sword. "How you wield weapon comes only after you master how to hold it. See blade as extension of arm."
Sibyl nodded and tried to lift the sword with one arm. She barely managed before having to use her other to aid.
He moved to stand beside her, demonstrating how his hands were positioned and his weight distributed. Eventually, he stabbed his own sword into the sand and stepped in close.
His arms bracketed hers, his hands cupping her fingers firmly as they held his sword. Stepping even closer, he rotated their wrists, gently slashing the blade from side to side.
She stood a lot shorter than he was and her head tucked into the bottom of his chin, back pressed to his chest. Gannicus peered down at her. She had her lip between her teeth, concentrating hard.
"Move your legs further apart. Stand sure and strong," he whispered, unintentionally close to her ear.
He heard her breath hitch when his hands dropped from her arms and cupped her hips, running fingers downwards towards her knees. "Bend," he instructed. "More. Good. Do you feel the difference?"
"It feels lighter," she said surprised, excited. She turned her head, smiling broadly, their eyes meeting. He was sure he could see his own reflection in their depths. Her smile was brighter than any day experienced in recent memory. Like the powerful waves of vast oceans, he felt a pull and fell towards her. Her lids drooped; her eyes focused upon his lips. Gannicus saw colour flood her cheeks, his eyes own gaze moving to her mouth.
He nuzzled her hair, his eyes closed, trying to regain control. And then he felt her pull back.
"Gannicus…" He opened his eyes and met her direct gaze. He watched her shake her head slightly, as if trying to lift mind from heavy fog. "We cannot do this."
"No." He realised he stood deeply disappointed. His hand caressed her cheek, running down to her chin before letting go. She was right. "We cannot."
He stepped away, taking sword from her limp hand and retrieving his own from the sand. "Perhaps future instruction from Nasir would be wiser."
Sibyl looked as if she would say something, but in the end simply nodded.
"Eat. Then sleep."
At the exit he looked back at her. The last woman who stood such a vision had been the only woman to hold his heart. He turned and then he was gone.
"May the gods grant you good dreams," she whispered to the emptiness.