Kissing Decimus was... well, great didn't really cover it. There was a light, bubbly feeling in Aia's chest, something that would have made her laugh if she hadn't been occupied with making the most of the kissing. A soft moaning sound escaped anyway as his hand moved along her thigh. Decimus was kissing her like there was no tomorrow, which, for at least today, had been a feeling everybody shared.
Finally, they parted, and Aia caught her breath. Decimus was looking at her intently, as if he was trying to ask a question without words. Still flushed, Aia smiled at him, hoping that was the answer he was looking for.
"Yeah..." she agreed with the sentiment. Absent-mindedly she took the tray of food and pushed it onto the table, freeing herself up to turn back to him. It was still hard to believe than any of this was real, and really happening. She lifted her hand to his face again, like when he was still asleep. Touching was all new and exciting this time. "We should have done this a lot sooner..."
Being just a little out of place was a common experience for Aia. It was how she had been living her life ever since the death of her mother: out of place as a child on her father's business trips, out of place as a girl raised as a boy. She found order and stability when she became an interprex for the legions in Britannia - but she was out of place by definition, being a member of the conquering army, being a Celt among Romans (even if not a Briton), and, most of all, being a woman pretending to be a man. She spent the better part of her life being other than normal, a little off from where she was supposed to be. And ever since she'd come to Rome, she was the odd one out at Flavia Juliana's household, not family, but not quite a servant either; the girl who followed the domina around, but also tended to sneak out to taverns or cemeteries to get into trouble. Not a man anymore, but also definitely not a lady.
But the moment Decimus pressed his lips against hers, Aia was right where she wanted to be.
Everything made sense in that moment. It was right. In hindsight, it was also a long time coming, but that kind of clarity only came after the fact. If Aia's mind had not been so hazy because Decimus was kissing her she would have thought of the matchmaker's obscure words about how she was not seeing something right in front of her.
Well she sure as hell saw it now.
Kissing Decimus was the best thing ever. Something she wanted, in her heart, in her (very hazy) mind, and in her whole damn body. His hand tightened on her thigh, almost involuntarily, and the goosebumps were everywhere now, spreading over her skin like fire. Leaning over his injured shoulder was not the best angle for a kiss, but she tilted her head and made the most of it, kissing him back with her lips parting. Damn, they needed to do more of this. A lot more.
If Decimus noticed the goosebumps, he didn't comment on them. His eyes still closed, he was picturing the dream he'd mentioned. If he was going to mess with her, he gave no sign of it, and what he said sounded genuine. Aia watched him curiously, wondering what a dream about her would be like.
"Well... Let's see. In the one I remember best, I found myself in a dark forest. It was like those deep endless groves in Britannia, but far more mystical. Fog blanketed the forest floor and I was stood in the elements with naught but a tunica about me... It was cold."
Aia had had dreams about Britannia often. Many conflicting feelings were attached to that place in her mind. Fear and worry, for sure; she had nightmares about the time she had been captured, sometimes, or the time she was injured. She had strange dreams about the endless forests and the blue people, not all of whom were enemies. And yes, she had dreams about being back at the camps, and being Aius again. It was no wonder dreams carried Decimus back there too.
"So there I was, wandering about the wood to find a way out of the black when I noticed a figure standing there, just opposite me. We were dead close, and when they turned, well... It bore your face. As soon as we'd locked eyes, you smiled and were suddenly engulfed in green light..."
Aia blushed a little. It was strange, being a character in someone else's dream. Decimus opened his eyes, getting lost in explaining the images in his memory.
"The forest was lit completely then, and you were surrounded in a torrent of swirling leaves and vines that shone with the colors of autumn. Light burst from each one, and... Well, they just swirled around you until you disappeared into thin air... Seemed almost druidic, but it was beautiful."
He looked back at her, and Aia knew she was still blushing. There was something in the way he told her about the dream - maybe the fact that he told her at all, since dreams were always very personal. Her hand still rested on top of his, and they were looking at each other in the faint light of the lamp. She wanted to hold her breath to stay in that moment. But that would have been stupid. "That... sounds beautiful." she said quietly. Decimus was a surprising man sometimes. "I... never thought someone would dream like that about me."
They shared some more food; Decimus took it from her hand this time. She'd never known him to be the kind that wanted slaves to place peeled grapes into his mouth. Or maybe he just needed to know he could still eat on his own, and wasn't completely incapacitated by his injury.
"Well, no need to worry about that. I don't plan on returning any time soon."
He patted her thigh with a reassuring gesture, and his hand remained in place. It was a familiar touch; they had touched each other before, they hugged, they even shared a bed. But somehow, right now, knowing that he was still alive after an awful day, it felt different. Goosebumps ran down Aia's leg.
Decimus did not seem to notice; he closed his eyes and was quiet for a moment. She thought maybe he was drifting off to sleep when he spoke again.
"And I do remember seeing you as well... It may sound foolish, but I think I might have had a dream or two about you."
Damn goosebumps. Aia's hand moved, resting on top of his. It was easier to look at him as long as his eyes were closed. He looked peaceful, and Aia found herself distracted.
"You did?" she sounded surprised. In a good way. Given that he woke up talking about Venus, he was not sure how she would compare to other things he dreamed about. She'd never considered herself someone others would dream of. Somehow she hoped he wasn't messing with her. "What was it like?"
"Better to be burned here than some frozen little speck of a town on that island..."
Better not to be burned anywhere. She could see Decimus meant what he said, and there was some sadness in his eyes. For someone who had been in close proximity with death multiple times, Aia was definitely not ready to think about dying as a possibility just yet. Not her own death, and definitely not that of Decimus.
"A weapon?.. It was mine and Cynane's job to protect you and the Princess. You've left this life behind, as you ought to have. You always had too much brains to be wasted on the end of a blade."
Aia snorted. She broke off a piece of bread and offered it to Decimus with some cheese. "Yeah, like all Rome wants is women with brains." She grinned, popping another olive into her mouth. "Bodyguard or not, don't scare me like that again. Watching you get stitched up was not my favorite pastime ever." She tried to sound like she was joking, but really, she was not going to forget those hour-long minutes while Decimus was on the medicus' table.
Aia broke off a piece of bread, and offered some to Decimus as well. The injury must have had an effect on his pride because he accepted her feeding him bites of food without complaint. He noted he was still alive, implying that therefore he had an appetite. It was a simple comment, but it made her smile anyway.
"Yeah, well, not for lack of trying." she huffed, looking away "For a moment, when they shot you off the horse, I thought..." you were gone "... I thought how stupid it would be to get killed in bandits outside Rome after all we've done in Britannia."
It would have been one dumb way to go out of this world, for someone as brave and as good as Decimus. And Aia would have had to hunt bandits for the next decades to come.
"I should have been armed." she noted, frowning. The feeling of being useless was going to stick with her for a long time. "It was stupid, not carrying a weapon."
"Please... I could hold down that entire tray if you didn't need some."
Aia grinned. That was a good sign. Hunger meant Decimus was ready to replenish his energy, and his body was doing everything it could to heal. She would have been worried it he didn't have an appetite. She balanced the tray on her lap as they settled in. It was nice and warm in the bed, and up against his side like this she would have felt if Decimus was feverish. He seemed fine.
"Where did you get all of this from, anyways? You weren't skulking around the kitchen just for me, were you?"
"I live here" she chuckled, popping an olive and a piece of cheese into her mouth, and offering some of the same to him. He had one good arm so he didn't technically need to be fed, but it was an instinctive gesture. "And I couldn't sleep, so I decided to get some food. And then I looked at all the food and through Well, if Decimus is still alive, he's probably hungry." It was close enough to the truth.
Aia helped Decimus drink, and made sure he drank enough before he lay back down. It must have been hard for him, being so limited in his movements. Relying on others for help for such easy things as drinking was never easy for someone who made a living from being strong. Even Aia's pride would have stung if things were the other way around.
"Gods I needed that... Good to hear as well. You took a good beating from that slime."
"Yeah." she admitted with a frown. The memory of the fight would stick with her for a long time; for someone who had been in the legions, she had felt helpless and weak against the attack, even though she'd put up a decent fight. "It would have been worse if you didn't help, though."
"The arm will heal in time... Infection would have set in by now anyways."
Aia hoped the same. The night would be critical time, but she prayed to the gods things would look better in the morning. Or at least not worse. She'd seen Decimus pull through all kinds of injuries. She thought he'd gone back to sleep when he opened his eyes again.
"Here, stay a while, bring the tray."
Aia smiled a little. Decimus moved over on the bed. There was an extra blanket at the end of the bed; she picked it up and folded it, working it behind Decimus' back to prop him up a little better, before she sat on the bed next to him, hiding her bare feet under his blanket. It was definitely cozier like this, side by side. She pulled the tray closer.
"You think you can hold down some food?"
"Thank you... That would be great."
Aia nodded, getting up and walking to the table to pour a cup of the wine. On second thought, she pulled the whole small table a little closer to the bed, so that it would be within arm's reach. With that done, she sat back on the edge of the bed. Decimus had managed to wiggle up a little, but he was still far from sitting up on his own.
"How are the others?.. No one else cut up too badly? How are you?"
"I'll live. My nose hurts and I have some bruises, but I'm fine. So is Cynane and the princess. Claudia was drenched in blood but it was not hers." Aia shifted, using one arm to support Decimus while she offered him the cup. It was not an easy thing to do; he was mostly dead weight. Aia wiggled some more so he could lean against her side. She held the cup for him.
"The medicus says your arm will be fine. Provided you don't exert it before it heals."
"Gods... I thought I was dead for a moment."
After calling out to Venus, Aia was not sure if being alive was a disappointment or a relief for her friend. Either way, she chuckled and patted him on the cheek.
"Well, you managed to scare the shit out of me."
The moment when he fell... she would probably never quite forget that. He still looked like death warmed over, but he was definitely talking, and even making sense now, given the circumstances. He struggled to move, but he was probably too weak to do so. No wonder.
"I've been stuck and drained like a pig at a festival. Fucking thieves..."
"Yeah. I hope they rot." Aia agreed whole-heartedly, shifting on the edge of the bed "You probably shouldn't sit up. Do you want to drink?" she glanced at the pitcher of watered-down wine on the table, and the cup next to it. The medicus said he would need to drink, because of all the blood he lost. "I can help. That wound probably hurts like a bitch..."