Scipio reached over to undo the gag and Hannibal leaned into the touch, rendering it far more intimate than it had any right to be. Scipio started, but did not pull away.
"Do not make me regret this," Scipio said.
Hannibal smiled. He had every intent to make Scipio regret this; not quite, however, how he suspected Scipio expected.
"Even so I yearn day after day, longing to reach home, and see the hour of my return. And if some god should strike me, out on the wine-dark sea, I will endure it, owning a heart within inured to suffering. For I have suffered much, and laboured much, in war and on the seas: add this then to the sum," Hannibal said. The words were rusty from disuse but the fury behind them was palpable.
"I am not your Calypso," Scipio said, the 'not' a vicious thing.
"True." Hannibal waited until Scipio relaxed minutely to add, "Calypso at least had care for her captive."
"There is no care Calypso had for Ulysses I did not have for you," Scipio said.
"Calypso loved Ulysses," Hannibal said, just to see how Scipio would react -- a flinch, again, but inwards, more at himself than Hannibal. "She did not drag him in chains to his shame."
"It is a triumph," Scipio said, drawing himself taller. He still had Hannibal's gag in his hand.
"Your triumph," Hannibal said.
"You would have done the same, had you been in my place."
"I would not. I did not."
The gag fell to the floor. "It was different, after Cannae."
"It was not." It had been, but if Scipio could not see that himself, he was not the general Hannibal thought he was -- but then, if Scipio were the general Hannibal thought him to be, Hannibal would not be tied up in a Roman jail waiting for death on Scipio's order.
Scipio sighed. "It was. You know it was."
"Do I?" Scipio had seemed to wish to convince himself more than Hannibal and Hannibal had no issue with forcing Scipio to face his guilt. It was, after all, the whole point of this conversation, to make Scipio regret what he'd done.
"You are a man of intellect," Scipio said. "Captivity has not addled your mind this much."
"You're a man of intellect as well," Hannibal said. "If you were to be bound and gagged and ferried halfway across the world, surrounded only by brutes who did not speak your language, yourself mute and in chains, I do not think you would have fared much better."
He was tempted to push the point by adding a word or two of Carthaginian, but he finally decided to let the shift from Greek to Latin speak for itself.
Scipio crouched in front of where Hannibal knelt. Hannibal's neck thanked him for it.
"You are no longer mute," Scipio said. He stuck to Greek.
"I am still in chains," Hannibal replied. He stuck to Latin.
Scipio reached out to Hannibal's bounds, then stopped. "You know why you're in chains."
"Because you ordered it so," Hannibal said. He gave a shrug, as much as he was able, to let Scipio know he knew it was not the answer Scipio excepted but that he did not care.
"You are only alive now because I ordered you in chains," Scipio said.
It was true. "Do you expect me to thank you?"
"I." Scipio paused. Bit his lip. Sighed. "I suppose not."
"Good," Hannibal said. "I will not."
"You would have killed yourself rather than live on your knees," Scipio said. There was a strange mix of emotions in his voice. Hannibal could not quite tell what all of them were.
"I would have died on my feet with my sword in my hand, but alas you took that choice from me. You took all my choices from me." Hannibal tried to spread his hands for emphasis, but the chains stopped him.
"You could choose not to speak," Scipio said. He put one knee on the ground. Hannibal knew better than to assume it meant he was admitting weakness; a crouch was a hard position to hold for any length of time.
"So I could," Hannibal said and let silence fall.
Scipio put his other knee on the ground. "Please don't."
He smiled and waited, then said, "As you say, it is the only choice left to me."
Scipio breathed out slowly and closed his eyes. He ran his hands over his face as though he were washing something away. Finally, he stood up. He knelt again behind Hannibal and undid the chains. There was a slight trembling in his fingers.
He returned to stand in front of Hannibal.
Hannibal stood, carefully. He stumbled, legs uneasy after so long, and Scipio caught him. Hannibal looked up at him from beneath his eyelashes.
Scipio's forearms were hot against his.
Scipio let go and took a step back hurriedly. He held up his hands in front of him, as though trying to ward off an attack from Hannibal.
"I will not harm you," Hannibal said.
"As if you could." Scipio waved a hand dismissively.
It was an effort of will not to react to that, but Hannibal had always had more will than he knew what to do with. "What is it you're afraid of, then?"
"I am not afraid," Scipio said and again the 'not' was viciously defensive.
"You are neither afraid nor my Calypso," Hannibal said. His tone was mocking. Of course his tone was mocking; he wished to rouse Scipio to anger.
And rouse him he did.
Scipio grabbed the front of Hannibal's tunic and shoved him against the wall. He started to pull away. Hannibal caught his hands, still fisted in his tunic. Scipio's eyes widened and he pulled harder to get away. The struggle was extremely short-lived; Hannibal had not even finished loosening his fingers that Scipio had stopped. Instead, Scipio gripped the tunic harder and slammed his mouth against Hannibal's.
Hannibal pushed back into the kiss.
Scipio stepped back and looked away. His grip on Hannibal slackened.
Hannibal took a step forward, into Scipio's space, and put his fingers under Scipio's chin to tilt his head up.
Scipio's lips parted.
Hannibal kissed him.
Scipio pulled back. "No."
"I will not harm you," Hannibal repeated. He had every intention of keeping his word; hurting Scipio -- like this, at least -- was not his aim. Oh no. Far from it. For this to work, Scipio had to enjoy it.
Romans had such peculiar ideas about sex, especially sex between men.
"I know." Scipio pushed a strand of hair away from his eyes, gold turned ashen yellow with the sweat and the dim light. "You've said. If nothing else, you're a man of your word."
Hannibal smiled. "I assure you, I am a man of more than words."
"I know," Scipio said. He kept his eyes locked with Hannibal's. Scipio, too, had will enough for many things.
"Are you afraid?"
"Not of you."
"We are the only ones here," Hannibal said. It was true, for a given value of true. They were the only ones in the room, but there were guards outside, if Scipio wasn't a fool -- and Scipio was no fool. It seemed likely, too, that the guards would be able to hear them; what was the point of guards who did not react if you cried out?
"Yes," Scipio said. It was less a word than a sigh.
He pressed himself up against Hannibal and kissed him again. Hannibal kissed back. Scipio's armour dug into his flesh. At least Scipio was unarmed, which meant that wasn't a sword Hannibal was feeling against his thigh.
Hannibal reached out to undo Scipio's armour.
"No," Scipio said. "Let me."
Hannibal let Scipio take off his own armour. Did Scipio think Hannibal didn't know how to take off another man's armour? Perhaps he did, or perhaps this was where he drew the line in his mind.
Once the armour was gone, Hannibal reached to trace the edge of Scipio's tunic, the purple band almost black in the dim light. "Will you stop here?"
It was a dare.
Scipio blew out a breath through his teeth. "Will you join me?"
Hannibal was tempted to ask what choice he had, but that might be enough to convince Scipio not to go through with this. In answer, he took off his tunic.
There was no more talking after that.
When all was done and Scipio's sweat was drying on his skin, Hannibal traced the scar curving around Scipio's ribs. Only one kind of weapon made this kind of scar, the stone of a Balearic slingshot.
Scipio caught his hand. "I shouldn't have done this."
"No?" Hannibal pulled his hand free of Scipio's grasp. "Why not?"
"You know why not," Scipio said. Now that his lust had been sated and its heat was fading, he seemed to grow ashamed of his nakedness.
Hannibal was as naked as Scipio was, but the very opposite of ashamed. He said, "Enlighten me."
"I don't understand why you do this," Scipio said.
"Do what?" The question was idle -- perhaps too idle; Hannibal was overplaying the lovestruck fool.
"Make me say things we both know you already know." Scipio stood and started dressing.
"Perhaps I just want you to admit you were wrong about not being my Calypso."