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just a boy inside a voice

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“He is a boy, not six summers if he is a day!” Agron barely keeps himself from shouting, hand already settled firmly on the young boy’s shoulder. It is for his sake that Agron restrains himself – for his, and for Nasir’s, who stands at the boy’s other shoulder, his feelings apparent only from the firm, obstinate set of his mouth.

 

“He is a stowaway,” Crixus points out gruffly, “With little use and little right to stay.” This is nearly too much for Agron to take and he is already wheeling on the fucking Gaul to make him mind his tongue about things he knows not of when Nasir catches Agron’s eye and shakes his head minutely. Crixus is only saying what the others before them are thinking – fucking Gaul or not, Agron cannot simply beat acceptance into every person who disagrees with him.

 

As much as he may want to.

 

And it is true, Crispus – as the boy named himself when asked, though Agron knows his eyes and hair are too dark to come by such a Roman name by birth – has arrived at their camp with little more to his Roman-given name than the clothes on his back and the leather around his throat. Nasir had hissed at the sight and for his sake as much as the boy’s, Agron had attempted to remove it, but Crispus shied away from the blundering touch. For now, there is a tense truce between the three of them: Crispus will not move far from either Nasir or Agron - made nervous by overwhelming numbers of people and weapons - and he will gladly bear their hands on his shoulders, but no more than that.

 

So now, they stand at an impasse – the three of them facing Spartacus and Crixus and countless others gawking at the scene. Agron wants to roar at them that this is a camp and surely there must be better things for them to do than stare at a slave boy too nervous to even move from the spot he is in. Instead he must stand and growl uselessly as Spartacus determines the fate of the boy who had only grasped what they themselves desire for every slave of Rome – freedom.

 

But he is young, part of Agron’s mind objects. Too young to be of real use to the rebellion, too small to hold a real weapon – though Agron would certainly not ask it of a child, even one so brave as this one. But yet still, Agron cannot bear the thought of sending this boy away. His dark eyes are so reminiscent of Nasir’s and his coltish grace is Duro through and through – and Agron wants to protect him. He cannot understand the urge, not when associated with one so unfamiliar - but all he knows is that he wants to see this boy grow just as he had watched Duro grow, raise him so he never again has to speak the words yes, Dominus.

 

And from Nasir’s expression, he agrees absolutely - which reassures Agron somewhat. His partner in all things is far more of a strategist than Agron’s temper allows him to be. If he sees wisdom and sense in keeping this boy close, then Agron knows it is not a wholly impetuous decision.

 

“The boy should speak for himself, should he not?” Spartacus says slowly, a glimmer in his eye that silences all those murmuring around them. “He is a free man now and the choice should now be his own.” Crispus stares up at the Thracian, dark eyes wide with something Agron cannot read. The boy’s gaze flickers from Spartacus to Nasir and, finally, to Agron himself. Agron cannot help but offer an expression that he hopes delivers some comfort to the boy, but in the end it is Nasir’s gentle squeeze to Crispus’ shoulder that prompts the boy to speak.

 

“I ran away after Dominus punished me for being clumsy,” Crispus says steadily, though his gaze has turned uncertain as he gazes up at Agron, as if asking for approval or reassurance. Agron is quick to deliver it, dropping to one knee so that he and Crispus are staring at one another eye to eye. The type of punishment Crispus recieved is evident from the bruises on the boy’s arms and face – signs of a Dominus too fond of laying violent hands upon his slaves.

 

“You did not deserve that punishment,” Agron says firmly, “You were right to run.” And despite Crispus’ original hesitancy to be near the towering gladiators and rebels, he seems to relax at these words, settling closer to Agron as he hears the words he has been desperate to hear all along.

 

“You were very brave and very strong to have escaped,” Nasir adds quietly, also crouching so that his height is less intimidating to the boy. “We are very proud of you.” Crispus’ eyes grow wide and his hands clench in the small, dirty tunic he is wearing.

 

“You are?” he asks, his eyes flickering between Agron and Nasir quickly and uncertainly.

 

“Very proud,” Agron affirms. “We would be honored if you would stay with us here. We-” Agron flicks at nervous glance at Nasir before focusing again on Crispus, “We would take care of you, Nasir and I. We would protect you and feed you and you would stay with us, if you wanted.” And Crispus is watching them with those same wide dark eyes, hands twisted so tightly in his tunic that Agron fears he will tear a hole in it any moment now.

 

“A-as a slave?” Crispus asks uncertainly and it is all Agron can do to keep from growling at the idea of this boy returning to servitude after so soon escaping it. No, if he had anything to say about it, Crispus would never again know the lash of a whip or the sting of a Dominus’ anger.

 

“No,” Nasir murmurs quietly before Agron’s rage at Roman pieces of shit can overwhelm him. “No Crispus, as our son.” And there is the word that Agron has avoided in his mind so vehemently, has navigated around so thoroughly. There is something thick and hot throbbing in Agron’s chest as he repeats the word over and over again in his mind, trying to control the panic that is settling in. He is not suited to being a father, not ready to shoulder burden so great. As much as he direly wishes to keep Crispus from harm, he knows fervently that he will be a horrible father.

 

As if he could hear the thoughts of Agron’s mind as clearly as if Agron had spoken them aloud, Nasir’s eyes focus on his lover, his hand lifting to cover one of Agron’s larger ones. Without words, Nasir communicates just how mad he believes Agron to be, how much faith he has in the ex-gladiator who has known little of life except blood and sand and sweat. And yet, Nasir’s gaze says that he believes Agron will be a perfect father for this young boy – and it is this expression that allows Agron to admit it to himself: he sorely wishes for it to be true.

 

“Your son?” Agron did not think it was possible for Crispus’ eyes to become wider, but he has again been proven wrong. “Me?” There is a pause wherein Agron’s chest is so tight that he cannot breathe, but that is broken a moment later when Crispus speaks again. “You want me?” he asks disbelievingly, swaying even closer to Agron, who winds an arm around the small boy.

 

“We do,” Nasir affirms, the beginnings of a smile appearing on his face. “But only if you want us in return.”

 

Crispus nods furiously before flying at Agron and burying his face in Agron’s neck, setting the tall German’s heart thudding wildly. Agron gathers him close with some hesitation, but he can feel the grin on his face mirror the one on Nasir’s lips.

 

“It appears our free man has chosen his fate,” Spartacus says with some amusement, though Agron can clearly see he is not necessarily pleased with the outcome. No doubt Spartacus is considering the perils of a rebellion for a small child – or a small child on a rebellion. Agron understands his fears, he truly does – but in an instant he also knows that there is nothing he will not do to protect this boy from any and all foes – especially Rome. “Welcome Crispus,” Spartacus concludes, only to be interrupted a moment later.

 

“Elazar,” Crispus says, his voice muffled against Agron’s neck. Nasir prompts the boy to lift his head and so he does, gazing out uncertainly towards the crowd. “M-my first name was Elazar. Before Dominus…” Here he hesitates, and Agron curls a comforting hand around his back, rubbing there gently, assuring him wordlessly that he need not go on. Elazar is a Hebrew name, Agron knows, knowing now that Cr- Elazar’s dark eyes and hair mark him as from Judea.

 

“Elazar,” Nasir repeats, his smile quiet and proud. “It is an honor to meet you.”

 

“And you,” Elazar responds shyly, ducking his head again – but smiling in return.