Title: A Place to Call Home
Fandom: Spartacus: War of the Damned
Summary: Saxa is injured during the "I am Spartacus" raids in the mountains west of Petelia, and as a result she lives to escape north across the Alps with the other rebel survivors. Victory AU.
PART I - FLIGHT
When figures first appeared on the road that led to the foot of the Apennine Mountains, Saxa broke away from the rebels concealing themselves in the woods and took a forward position, crouching in the underbrush near the treeline with a dagger clutched in her right hand which could still hold weapon.
She had broken her left arm in the last of the raids on the Roman villas in the mountains west of Petelia and because of that, Spartacus had forbidden her from taking to the field with the others in combat. Saxa had protested, of course, jabbing her finger in Agron's direction as proof that she could yet find way to fight. However, it soon became clear that no new weapon could be crafted that could adequately compensate for her entire left side being vulnerable, and Saxa had reluctantly fallen to command, agreeing to look after those who insisted on waiting at the base of the mountain.
Saxa remained tense and battle ready, but as the figures on the road drew closer, she saw something familiar in the gait and shape of the men approaching, which eased some of her disquiet. One of the figures was large and hulking with shorn hair and carried a circular shield with a strange protrusion jutting from the middle, while the other was shorter and slight with long-hair, carrying a spear at his side. It was Agron and Nasir. Saxa was sure of it. And with that recognition, something that closely resembled hope began to rise inside of her.
If Agron and Nasir were on their way back, perhaps the battle was going well.
Perhaps Spartacus had once again managed the impossible and jammed cock in Rome's ass.
Perhaps the Romans were in retreat.
Perhaps victory was not such an impossible thing after all, and the road would soon be flooded with their wounded but triumphing warriors.
Perhaps she would once again get to pick up sword against Rome when they turned and marched on the capital upon a day.
With each thought, hope swelled in her chest, and when the men on the road finally came near enough to Saxa for her to confirm their identity, a large smile spread across her lips before she rose to her feet and stepped out into the open, making herself visible to those on the road.
"Saxa!" a female voice hissed admonishingly from the trees behind her.
The woman, probably Laeta, was closer to the road then where Saxa had left the others to scout for danger, but she was not close enough to the treeline to have a clear view of the road, so Saxa turned her head towards where the voice had come from, and called out, "Agron and Nasir, plus another on horseback." She leaned forward then, squinting to make out more detail, and then added, "Injured it looks," a moment later when she saw that the man on horseback was slumped over.
Without bothering to wait for a response from behind her, Saxa then turned back towards the road and started to stride towards Agron and Nasir.
As Saxa approached the men she was able to make out even more details, and the hopeful smile that had been playing at the corners of her lips since she spotted them, died. Agron's body was tense and the expression on his face severe, and Nasir walked with his shoulders slumped and his head bowed down, both of their bearing suggestive of ill tidings.
"Saxa!" Agron called when he and Nasir were close enough to communicate without having to project loud enough to wake the gods. "Holen Laeta oder eine, die Heilkunst wissen," he told her. Fetch Laeta or any who know the healing arts.
A terrible feeling of foreboding came over Saxa at the sound of Agron's words, and she found herself momentarily rooted in place. The feeling of panic and uncertainty only lasted for a moment however, and her eyes soon focused on Agron again. She wanted to ask him who was with them. She wanted to ask him who was on the horse. But, something inside of her stopped her from parting lips to speak. Somehow she knew her questions would reveal a terrible truth, and she knew that she wasn't ready to hear it. She couldn't do it, not quite yet, not alone. So she turned, and headed back into the brush to fetch Laeta as Agron had requested.
By the time Laeta and the others concealed in the trees made their way out onto the road, Agron and Nasir had reached their position, and were helping the wounded rebel down from the horse.
When Agron gently rested the man on the ground, all who were assembled were finally able to see who lay before them, and a deep and heavy quiet fell over those gathered around.
They gazed down, at the blackened, bloodied body resting upon Agron's cloak, their hearts weighted with sorrow, and even the sounds of the forest momentarily disappeared, no bird chirping or insect buzzing, as if nature itself did not dare disturb them as they mourned for Spartacus, their fallen leader, a god among men.
Laeta took position beside Spartacus's fading form and Agron knelt next to her before leaning over Spartacus to hear words the words his cracked lips parted to break.
As Spartacus began to speak, Belesa approached Saxa from behind and took hold of blonde's good hand, squeezing it firmly, and Saxa's eyes slid shut, immediately taking comfort in the touch. Her fingers tightened around Belesa's, a second later, clutching at them gratefully, not having realized how much she needed comfort until it had been given.
When Spartacus's eyes closed for the last time, the sky darkened and began to weep, honouring the Bringer of Rain with its tears one last time; and those gathered around joined it, salty drops streaming down their cheeks as they said goodbye to the man who had given their lives back to them, who had led them to freedom.
They gathered stones for Spartacus's burial and then whispered their final thanks and goodbyes as they laid the stones upon his now peaceful form.
After the last of the stones was put in place, Roman horns sounded in the distance. The blows signaled the end of the battle, and instinctively the heads of those gathered around lifted and turned to peer in the direction Agron and Nasir had emerged from, searching for sign of survivors along the road, but their eyes found nought but dust.
Nasir spoke then, reminding those assembled of necessity to move, and with tears still shining in her eyes Laeta agreed and issued soft, but firm command to all around to gather their things for the march into the mountains.
As they stuffed objects into bags and tied bundles, as they packed carts and loaded the backs of donkeys, the eyes of those at the base of the mountain would sometimes drift back to the road, still searching, still clinging to hope.
But when Agron gave the command to begin the hike up the mountain, the survivors turned their eyes from road and looked north towards their future, finally accepting the terrible truth that no one else was coming. Not Gannicus, or Naevia, or Lugo, or Nade, or Sanus, or Pollux or any of the others that had marched into battle.
Those that were gathered at the foot of the mountain were all that was left.
They were all that remained.
And if they were to continue living, it was time to march north.
The first night they spent in the Apennine Mountains on their journey north to the Alps, was cold, for they did not dare light fires for fear of attracting the attention of any Roman scouts that might have been roaming the area in search of survivors from the battle field.
When they had finally stopped walking and made camp for the night, they settled themselves in small groups and sat in the dirt, eating rations of bread and salted meat. When the food was done, they brought out what remained of the wine from the raids on the villas west of Petelia, and paid tribute to those who had fallen. Passing the wine from person to person, they lifted the jugs in the air and said the name one who was no longer with them, then drank, before passing the jug onto another.
After the wine was gone, they simply spoke, sharing stories and memories of the friends and lovers and family they had lost. They smiled and they laughed as they remembered times past, and though their eyes remained tinged with sadness, some of the sorrow lifted from their hearts, as they focused on treasured memories from the past instead on thoughts of present loss.
The hour grew later and later, and finally it was time for them to fall to their beds and sleep.
It was a grim time for those who the night before had a warm body lying beside them, and a time of bittersweet joy for those who still had loved ones by their side, for their hearts ached for their less fortunate companions.
When Saxa and Belesa retired to their tent for the night, Belesa found herself cradling Saxa in her arms for the first time since they had become lovers.
Once she had fixed their bed of furs and laid down, Saxa had crawled into Belesa's arms and lay her head upon Belesa's breast, her ear resting above Belesa's heart so that she could hear it's comfortingly steady beat. And, mindful of the blonde's injured arm, Belesa had carefully wrapped her arms around Saxa and held her close, as Saxa had done for her on so many nights in the past.
"You could not have changed the tide of battle," Belesa breathed out, breaking the silence that had fallen over the tent once they had taken to bed.
"No," Saxa agreed softly.
She knew that one more person on the battle field would not have altered the course of the battle. If she had been healthy and able to fight, many more Romans would have died that day, of that there was no doubt. The sand would have been watered with the blood of numerous legionaries who presently drew breath because of her absence from the field. But fierce as she was, Saxa knew that she alone could not have affected the final outcome of the battle.
She knew that, she did, but despite that knowledge she couldn't help but feel that she should have been there. She couldn't help but think that one or two more rebels might have made it up the road to the foot of the mountain if she and her daggers had been there on the battlefield.
"Yet you wish you had been able to fight," Belesa breathed out, softly, knowingly.
"Yes," Saxa replied, her eyes slipping closed as a pained sigh escaped from her.
"I would be alone tonight if you had,"Belesa said, her voice cracking slightly as she spoke. "I would be weeping alone in the dark, clutching cloak to breast in absence of beloved body … heart dying with every beat that throbbed absent you beside me," she whispered, blinking rapidly to try and hold back the tears that formed in her eyes at the mere thought of losing Saxa. "I know you did not wish it so, but I thank the gods you could not fight. I thank the gods that you yet live."
Saxa was quiet for a few moments after Belesa finished speaking, and then she shifted awkwardly in Belesa's arms, her splint making it hard to move, though eventually she managed to prop herself up on her good hand so that she could look down into Belesa's face.
"I had no desire to die," Saxa breathed out, holding Belesa's eyes. "It is true, I longed to fight with those I stood beside in battle for years past, but I do not regret I live. I would have that you hold my body in your arms, not only have cloak to clutch. Do not think I would prefer to be glorious memory instead of warm body lying in your arms. It is not so. I mourn that I could not fight as I had sworn to do, but I do not scorn life," Saxa pronounced, wishing that she could reach out and take Belesa's hand in her own, offering comfort to Belesa as Belesa had done for her earlier that day. Yet, this simple gesture was another thing that her injury robbed her of the ability to do. "To live, and be free, is great gift. I will honor those who sacrificed for us to be so. I know we do not pay respect by lay down, crying forever blind to world because of hurt heart. I know we pay respect with love and laughter, with eyes open and heart hungry, living a life we have chosen."
Belesa was silent for a moment as she gazed up at Saxa, and then her face relaxed, an open and vulnerable expression coming over her face as she breathed in deeply, and began to blink, fighting back tears.
"Gratitude," Belesa whispered, her eyes shimmering with as yet unshed tears.
"What for?" Saxa asked softly, moved by the emotions etched upon Belesa's face though she was not sure exactly what combination of feelings she had produced.
"Existing," Belesa whispered, looking and sounding a little hopeless as she gazed over at Saxa. "For being real, and here, and loving me," Belesa continued, a single tear slipping from the corner of her eye. "I would kiss you," she whispered a moment later, sounding awed, overwhelmed, and entirely in love.
"I would be kissed," Saxa murmured, a soft sigh escaping from her a few seconds later, when Belesa's pushed up onto her arms and pressed their lips together in a slow, tender, reverent kiss that brought tears to Saxa's eyes.
Minutes later, when Belesa pulled back from Saxa's lips, Saxa's eyes remained closed, and she breathed in and out in a slow, steady rhythm; truly calm for the first time all day. The sight warmed Belesa's heart and she lifted her hand, bringing it up to Saxa's cheek so that she could gently trace her fingers along the soft, golden skin.
"You need sleep," Belesa whispered, her heart swelling with love when Saxa automatically leaned into the warmth of her hand, her eyes still peacefully shut.
"No," Saxa breathed, finally allowing her eyes to flutter open, after indulging for a few more seconds in Belesa's sweet touch. "Need you," Saxa sighed before leaning forward to capture Belesa's lips. "Please," she continued, seized by a sudden and powerful need for Belesa's touch. "Make love," she whispered imploringly, wishing that she could reach out and lift Belesa's hand to her breast.
"Heart's desire is my command," Belesa whispered, stroking Saxa's cheek gently. "Lay back," she sighed, brushing her lips against Saxa's shoulder as she helped guide her wounded warrior down. "I will see you well attended," she promised before capturing Saxa's lips in a slow, deep kiss.
To be continued…