bookblather: A picture of Neko Case in a green sweater. (in the heart: ivy)
bookblather ([personal profile] bookblather) wrote in [community profile] rainbowfic2017-04-30 11:58 pm

Blackstar 9, Cloudy Gray Saturation: Pivot

Author: Kat
Title: Pivot
Story: In the Heart - Spartacus AU
Colors: Cloudy gray saturation and blackstar 9 (Don't stay in a bad place Where they don't care how you are→ Everyone Says ‘Hi’ (Heathen))
Supplies and Materials: Eraser (Spartacus AU), modeling clay (future), novelty beads (bring it)
Word Count: 3263
Rating: R
Summary: Turning points.
Warnings: Slavery, mention of forced abortion and threatened rape, violence, threatened murder, actual murder. Brutal AU. Please be careful.
Notes: Based off the show, mostly.

eta: good job self. Next time actually hit post.

1. play

When Olivia and Gina were girls, their lives were the same. How could they be different? They were the same age, the same sex, the same intelligence: they had the same teachers, learned the same skills, played the same games. And if, when they went out with Gina's father, Olivia had to walk a step behind, well, that was only natural: she was not the daughter of the house. It never occurred to her that she was somehow different.

Never, that was, until other girls began to visit, girls of good family, who danced with Gina and paid no attention to Olivia, as if she were no more than a bit of furniture. One even slapped her, when she tried to join a game of knucklebones. She fled the atrium in tears and ran to the safe embrace of the cook.

Tacita sighed when she saw her, but let her cry into her arms until the stinging pain of the slap and the betrayal had faded. Then she sat Olivia on the hearth and gave her a cup of honeyed wine, and told her, "It is because you are a slave."

"A slave?" That made no sense. Olivia knew she was a slave, like Tacita, like Kadmos had been before he turned thirty, but it made no difference, did it? "Why does that matter?"

Another sigh, this one sad, and Tacita stroked her hair. "This is a good house, my girl. The master treats us like family, and he frees us when he can. Those girls, they're not from houses like this. Their slaves are property. We are property."

"But I'm not property," Olivia said. "I'm a person."

Tacita sighed again. "Ah, child. You'll understand when you've been about a bit more. For now, just... leave them be. Now drink your wine."

Olivia pouted-- Gina was her friend, her all-but-sister, and those girls had no business forcing her away-- but she drank her wine anyway.

And later, when the girls ignored her, mocked her, laughed at her, she understood.

10. empty

When Nathan came back to himself, sitting in the empty ruins of what had been his family's house, he knew who had done this.

It was stupid, an impossible overreaction, unfortunately typical of the man. He should have warned Gail, should have told her what had happened. But how could he? It was an idiotic bet he never should have made to begin with, and now Flavius Spurius had taken his family.

The worst part was that he had no legal recourse. He wasn't supposed to be married until he left the army, and that was still three years off. Technically, his entire family was breaking the law. More than that, Spurius was a Roman citizen. Nathan was a Gaul by birth, no matter he'd been raised in Italy all his life. Three more years and he would have been a citizen, his family safe, and he could have thumbed his nose at Spurius. Now...

Now, what could he do? His superiors wouldn't care if an illegal spouse had vanished; they'd assume she'd left him, never mind fifteen years of happy marriage. He might-- might-- be able to get some compensation for his children, but never the right to go after them. Spurius would deny everything anyway, and no court would believe the word of a foreigner over a citizen born. Which left--

Which left desertion, and every punishment that carried. But this was his family. If they were still alive, he had to find them. If they weren't-- but he wouldn't think about that now. They were alive, he would find them, and somehow, everything would be all right.

His hand tightened on the hilt of his sword, heavy at his side. But first, Spurius.

3. classify

The gladiator dropped a bowl in front of her, and said, without preamble, "Eat."

Danny looked up at him, suspiciously. He wasn't the first one to do something like this. The burly one they called Caius, he'd pissed in her porridge, and the one whose German accent was so thick she had yet to catch his name kept spitting in it before he gave it to her. This man, though, he'd never said a word to her, the others seemed to respect him, and she'd begun to think she could shelter in his shadow if he went on ignoring her.

Obviously that wasn't to be. She scowled, and pushed the bowl away. "I'm not hungry."

"You're lying," the man said, and sat down across from her. "I have a son your age and he's always hungry."

"Good for him," Danny muttered. Wonderful, he was freeborn, probably the kind that sold themselves to pay off their debts. No slave had a family-- at least, not the ones in the ludi.

The man watched her for a moment. "I haven't done anything to it," he said. "You don't need to fear that from me."

"Why not?" she demanded, and flung a hand at the other gladiators and trainees. "They think it's fun."

He shook his head. "They're... they have no purpose but to die for our master." Was there a little twist of disgust on the word? "They find their fun where they can. It's cruel, and it's what they do."

Danny snorted. "And you expect me to believe you're different."

That got her a long look down the bridge of his nose, before he shook his head again. "I suppose not. But you need to eat, and I give you my word I haven't and won't do anything to your food." He looked down at his own bowl, made a little face. "Not that you could make it much worse."

"Funny," she said.

"Thank you." He looked between the bowls again, shrugged, and took hers, then handed his over. "There."

She paused. He hardly would've spat in his own food, or worse, unless he was trying to trick her-- but abruptly she was too tired and too hungry to bother, and she snatched the bowl before he could take it back. The man watched her eat for another moment, long enough for her to start to worry, but then he said, "I'm Nathan."

"Danny," she said, through a mouthful.

He smiled. "Don't talk with your mouth full, Danny."

She swallowed and stuck her tongue out at him, and he laughed.

6. rectify

Aaron was clearing up after a lesson when someone knocked, and Clara poked her head into the room. Her eyes brightened when she saw him there, and alone. "Aaron. May I come in?"

"Of course," he said, and gestured at the benches. "Sit anywhere you like. I'll be through soon."

She nodded, but stayed on her feet, clasping her hands at her waist. "Aaron, I... I wanted to talk to you. If you have a moment."

"For you, always," he said, and gave her a quick, curious look. They had talked, a few weeks ago, and she had kissed him once, but it hadn't come up again and he'd assumed she wanted to forget about it. But she looked so uncertain now. "Is this about--"

"No," she said, quickly, and then shook her head. "Or, not really. I spoke to my father."

Oh dear.

Aaron didn't fear Clara's father. They'd worked together on numerous occasions, free man and slave treated as equals, and the man would surely not condemn him for something as small as a kiss. Keep him and Clara apart, perhaps-- his stomach dropped at the thought-- but nothing else about his life would change. He didn't think.

"What did you talk to him about?"

Clara straightened her back, and looked him in the eye. "I asked him if I could use my dowry for you," she said. "To buy your freedom. So we could be married. I mean. If you wanted."

Aaron dropped the wax tablet he was holding.

Married? He'd given that up after-- after. He'd planned to earn his freedom, then find his parents and his sisters and buy their freedom too, and then, perhaps, if he was still young enough, he might consider finding a wife. After he'd met Clara, he'd spent nights in useless wishing, but he'd never really believed anything could come of it. He'd never dared even hope.

And now...

Clara had gone red and dropped her eyes to the floor. "You don't have to," she said, without looking at him. "You can still have my dowry. You don't have to marry me. I'm sorry, I just thought--"

"Clara," he said, and she cut off, her eyes jumping up to meet his. "Clara. I-- I don't know what to say, I'm so-- I would love to marry you. Please."

She came to him so fast she tripped over the tablet. He caught her, barely, and kissed her again, his arms around her waist.

Freedom, and Clara.

It almost made up for the rest of it.

9. multiply

Someone bought her to run their nursery, which made Gail almost laugh. They'd taken her children, and now they wanted her to raise their own? But it was more than she thought. She had care of not just the master's children, but those of his breeding slaves. Even more, she was to care for the pregnant girls, the ones who hated what they bore and the ones who carried it patiently, and more than that, the ones who loved the children in their bellies, who feared what would happen when they gave birth.

And they were girls, most of them, no older than Summer or Ivy. Gail could see herself in them. She had been loved, in love, and she had been a bit older, but she had carried children, borne them, raised them, loved them fiercely, lost them to the Romans. These girls--

She told her master that the infants were so sickly because they were taken from their mothers and given goat's milk, and that mother and child would be healthier if he left the babies to nurse. She told him that mothers cared more for their own children than they did for the children of others, so he ought to leave the toddlers with them. She told him mothers knew best how to teach their own children, so he should leave the young ones to work alongside their mothers.

And the girls who hated their babies, the ones who wanted them dead-- she smuggled silphium into the nursery, and told the master that a woman's hatred for a child would poison it in her womb. She told him there was nothing to be done about a woman's feelings, and that they were better off working elsewhere. Gail could not protect her own children, but she would protect these girls, as long as she could.

And when she couldn't protect them anymore, when she couldn't keep their babies with them, well. Her master trusted her, and there were knives in the kitchen.

Something could always be done.

2. carry

Summer's monthly was late.

She stared at her thighs, clean of blood for the fourth night in a row. It had never been late, ever. Even when she had first begun her monthlies, when most girls bled irregularly or not at all, it came with the waning of the moon like the beat of a heart. And yet, nothing.

She knew what that meant. She had seen it before. And she had-- the other girls, the ones whose monthlies had stopped, they had come back crying from the ludus, and they had been glad enough to take the silphium. But she had given her body willingly, after the first time happily, even in love, and if they had given her a child in return--

Her hands had gone to her belly, protective.

No, Summer would not give up the child, no matter what they did to her. They couldn't make her take silphium. They could beat her, they could sell her, but they couldn't take the child.

She would have to hide it until she was too far along for them to stop it easily, but she could do that. They could take the child once it was born, and she would have to think of something to stop them, but she had time. For now, here, she was pregnant, made so by men she loved, even if they didn't love her. For now, and here, she could be happy.

She had not been happy in a long, long time.

4. defy

Really, when Gina thought about it, she ought to have done this a long time ago. When her husband first made Olivia wear a collar, at the very latest. But she hadn't thought about it, hadn't thought at all; it made her wince in shame, when she remembered how blind she had been.

Or, not just blind, to be fair to herself. She had also been terrified. She was still terrified, if it came to that. If her husband found out what she had done, he would kill her. She was his wife, his property as much as any of his slaves: no one would care what he did with her. And if anyone did care, well, he just had to lie. She knew how good he was at that.

The leather was smooth under her fingers, the metal studs cold. They would warm, once in contact with skin smooth and pink after working in the sun, scattered with freckles. The hidden clasp at the back could be covered with long hair the color of sunsets. It could be removed with a pull no harder than opening a gate, easy enough for someone who'd been working in the fields for years.

Gina shook her head sharply. She couldn't think about that.

One for Olivia, the sister of her heart, the closest friend she'd ever had. One for-- for someone she dared not think about. If the worst happened, they could free themselves.

If the worst happened, at least she would have done something worth remembering.

7. accompany

Lars was sitting on the steps of the villa when one of the gladiators wandered by. The one, actually, who had killed Lars's master, a dark-haired man the others had called Spartacus. Lars nodded, and to his surprise, the man detoured up the steps to sit by him.

"Hello," he said, when he was a few steps away. "You look confused."

"Not confused," Lars said. "Just thinking. Spartacus, right?"

The man's mouth twitched, but he said, "It'll do. What's your name?"

"Lars," he said, and made a little grimace of his own. "From the north."

Spartacus nodded. "I'm from Thrace myself. What are you thinking about?"

Good question. About his master's body, twitching on the floor with Spartacus's sword through his skull. About the other slaves, singing and drinking and dancing in the villa. About how very far he was from home. "What to do next, I suppose."

"Fair question." Spartacus sat down beside him, and together they gazed out across the valley. "You could go home."

Lars shrugged. "I guess. It's a long journey."

"For us all."

He made a noncommittal noise. "Yes, well."

Another silence stretched between them, oddly comfortable. Then Spartacus said, "You could join us."

"Me?" Lars turned to look at him. "Really? I can't fight."

"You could learn," Spartacus said, "but we really don't need fighters. You ran this villa, right?"

"More or less." He'd run his own family's home, too, working with his sisters. It had spared him a lot when the Romans came. "Why?"

Spartacus dipped his head forward. "We're short on people who know things like... well, where you get food, how you make it food. How you keep it good. Fighters we've got, but we need people who are organized. You strike me as an organized man."

"I suppose I am, at that." Lars leaned back onto the steps behind him. "Huh."

"Think about it," Spartacus advised, but he was already nodding.

"No, I don't need to. I'll join you."

"Good," Spartacus said, and Lars could hear the smile in his voice.

5. mollify

When the rebels came, Jake begged.

Of course he did. He wasn't happy with his life, particularly, but he did want to continue living it, and when Sinuessa was overrun he went down on his knees and put his hands in the air. No point in hiding-- they'd find him. No point in running-- they were faster. No point, in fact, in anything but begging, and trusting to the mercy of those who'd never known it.

Maybe not the best plan, he thought, when someone large jerked his head back by the hair and lifted a sword.

"Please," Jake blurted, forcing the words out as quickly as he could. "Please, don't kill me, I can't fight, I'm no danger."

The large man paused, and then laughed. "You're no danger? You're Roman, boy, you're all a danger."

"I'm not," Jake said, obscurely offended at the worst possible time. "I just live here. I'm a Gaul."

"A Gaul," the large man said, his skepticism clear. "You're a Gaul."

All right, that was fair, he took after his mother. "My father was," he amended. "My father was a Gaul, a freedman. He married my mother, they had me." And his sisters, but he was not going to discuss the most painful moment of his life with a stranger who wanted him dead. "I'm not Roman. I don't want to be Roman. I'm here because I was born here but I'd leave if I could afford to." All true, more or less, or true enough.

The large man looked at him for a moment, his expression thoughtful, then he shrugged, and dropped his sword. "Fine. Live if you must. It won't do you any good."

Jake, still breathing, really had to disagree.

8. lay

For years afterward, Ivy woke from nightmares. Usually sweating, sometimes screaming-- her only consolation was that Gina had her own nightmares, and so did almost everyone she knew. They didn't talk about them, not really. Everyone knew what they'd been through. No one wanted to remember it.

Tonight it had been the fields. The men and women had separate sleeping spaces, so she hadn't needed to fear at night, but during the day-- and she had been so angry, she could hardly breathe. Now she stared up at the ceiling and let Gina's breathing settle her own while she remembered where she was.

Gina was warm beside her, a comfortable and comforting presence. She'd never had Gina before. She could hear Robbie through the wall, snoring, and the soft whistle Andy made every third or fourth breath under that. The girls were a room beyond that, but she imagined them safe in their beds, sleeping dreamlessly. The children were another small miracle, their safety absolute and assumed: she would see it stayed that way.

More than that-- she could smell the river, and the snow on the air. It had never snowed in Italy, not where she was, not until after she was free. The goats called to one another in the fields, small contented noises. Her parents lived beyond those fields, her brother and sister safe in their own houses with their own lovers. The friends who'd survived had settled less than an hour's ride away, and she had horses, could get out of bed and ride, right now, to their homes. She could go anywhere she wanted, do anything she needed. She was free. She was safe. It was over.

Gina sighed in her sleep beside her and rolled over, flinging an arm across Ivy's middle.

It was over.

Ivy closed her eyes, and settled back to sleep.

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