He'd been so proud, from the first moment that he'd stepped into the Coliseum. There was an air about him, as though he knew that he was good, and he wasn't going to let anyone see him as anything but. The confidence carried into the way that he walked, the way that he held himself so brave and tall, the way that he accepted even defeat with grace, because that defeat was just another chance for him to learn.
But defeat rarely happened for Aelius, and the chance to take him down a notch was something that I craved. When I’d started in the arena, I’d kept myself to myself -- the other men would look to each other for comfort when they experienced pain, when they lost. I didn’t want that -- I didn’t want to rely on anyone else; it was a weakness.
Or maybe it was simply the fact that the only one who might have been worth comforting me was the very person who had
At first, I saw my obsession as something innocent -- well, as innocent as the desire to take out a rival could be. We were frequently paired together in matches; our skin, our height, our bodies matched in such a way that it was aesthetically pleasing for the crowd to watch us fight one another...
My eyes strayed to him when he didn't think I was looking, my lids low and narrowed; it was easy enough to feign petulance, indifference, ire. It was easier, in fact, than trying to face whatever the actual swirl of emotions in my chest was.
But as much as I would have liked to ignore it, Aelius was always there, a constant and unwavering reminder of the fact that something was going on in my chest.
Something was going on in my mind.
And something was going on with my body.
It happened after our fights -- I was hard; so hard that it hurt, so hard that my body ached with it and I had to excuse myself to the bathhouse or my own quarters; I wanted to think of anything else, but it was always his body, bronze and glistening with slicked oil and sweat in the sunlight while we practiced -- that was what I saw when I touched myself. Aelius beneath me -- Aelius, finally bending to my will... and Aelius, panting and sweat-soaked because of the things that we would do together--
The thoughts did me no good, because fantasy would not become my reality. I'd thought, perhaps, to confess; but those thoughts were washed away with the news buzzing amongst the other gladiators.
Aelius would probably seek out other work, something more befitting of a freed status.
He was leaving , and the anger that had been welling in my chest started to boil to a head.
Of course, we were assigned to fight that day, too. He beat me with careful ease that only infuriated me further, and I didn't say a word to him when he marched off with all of the confidence of a man who would soon be free, and who would soon leave the Coliseum.
But he was there the next day, and I could tell that something had changed; a part of me wanted to ask what was wrong with him, but a part of me was filled with some oddly savage joy... because I'd mourned him, I'd said my goodbyes, and like some gift from the Gods, he was still here.
Still here -- and still being assigned to fight me, like the fates were intent on laughing, making a mockery of the warring conflict in my chest. I was a freeman. I didn't have to feel like I was bound to this place, stuck here without him.
I couldn't keep my head when we were fighting; the sun was blazing against my skin, but the heat wasn't what permeated my chest, my mind, my heart that thundered hard and fast in my ribcage and threatened to rip out.
It was the thought of Aelius, proud and strong. Brave and leaving . It made something in my gut wrench, and I stormed out of the arena before there'd even been much of a chance for the match to be called. I could hear the lanista calling after me, but it didn't matter.
Because, of course, he'd beaten me. Again.
My entire body was shaking, fury rocking through me -- it wasn't Aelilus' blows that I was seeing behind my eyes, but the vision of his back walking away. His voice, so rich and taunting -- just... vanishing.
But that voice rocked through the room in a boom of fury and brought on the wings of a door slamming shut. "There, Fabius! Is that what you wanted? Did you need proof that I'm better than you?"
The words pounded in my head -- beat, beat, beat with my heart.
And I was moving before I realized what was happening. My fingers gripped him roughly, the slick oils given traction by the sand from our fight and making it easy for me to spin him and slam him against the wall.
"Wh-What are you doing?" The words jolted out of his mouth. "We fight in the arena, not outside of it!" But I didn't care -- I was touching him now, outside of our armor, outside of the view of the public. I didn't stop until I'd shoved him roughly against the wall, and that still wasn't enough.
"Is everything all right?" I could hear the sound of the servants' concern, no doubt brought on by the sound of our scuffling. For a moment, my vision flared red and my teeth grit together.
"Get out." I shouted the words furiously. Punctuating, and threatening. I didn't have to look to know that they probably tripped over one another to get away. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from Aelius to make sure; even with everything happening, he was thinking about how to get out of this situation, how to use his strength to his advantage. It made my gut twist -- I shoved him again, though it didn’t have the same vigor as before.
This close, my senses were just flooded with the soft smell of sweat and blood, and underneath it all, the smell of him.
"You damned show off," the words tore out of my chest before I could stop them. My fingers don't leave his shoulders -- I didn’t want him moving from where he was pinned. I didn’t want him to go anywhere. "You're so intent on letting everyone know that you're leaving, but you have to make sure that they all see that you're better than me before you go, don't you?"
I could see something akin to contrition flash across his eyes, but that wasn’t what I wanted. My arm moved almost of its own accord, fingers grabbing his wrist, holding tight and then drawing it to my body.
The warmth of his palm on my hard cock is nearly enough to make me lose myself, even through the cloth covering me.
"Look at what you do to me..." I slipped my hand forward and felt another groan threaten to ache from my chest when my palm found that he was just as hard as myself -- of course he was. There had always been something here between us... and one way or another, I knew that I couldn't let him leave without it coming to a head.
"Do you think this is just from adrenaline? From fighting?" I leaned my body in close, my voice a soft growl in his ear. "You can't tell me that you're hard like this when you're paired with anyone else." I knew -- I'd looked, greedy that his reactions were mine and mine alone.
"I don't... I don't know. But someone might see--"
"They won't." I cut him off before he could breathe more into his excuse. "Just... stop fighting, just this once and give in ." Aelius' wide eyes were too soft, his body too close. I could see his pulse jumping in his throat, his breath quickening... and there was no more resisting.
My mouth claimed his, and I tasted him for the first time. With our bodies pressed so hard together, I could feel his heart trying to leap out of his chest, like it meant to join mine. I could feel every long, hard line of him that I've memorized over the years... and my mouth was a little too rough, my tongue too demanding -- but I couldn’t get enough of him, I couldn't get enough of the moment now that I've finally taken it.
More than that, he was kissing me back. It was all tongue and jaw-muscle. All strength.
Just like Aelius.