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Gathering storm


Chevi
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((Follow-up to Gentle Persuasion and Every man has his price))

Felix had been thrown out of the Castra by force. He landed on his hands and knees hard, and one of the guards gave him a kick in the ribs for good measure. It hurt, but what he had just been through hurt worse. Things were going terribly wrong, and he was not sure why he had been allowed to leave at all. The tribune had to have been secure in his power and plans not to worry about Felix telling on him. 

Callista was still in there. Felix got to his feet, but the way the guards looked at him, he could not stand around and wait for her. He circled the building, but saw no sign of her. Cursing under his breath, he circled back, and found an alley where he could see the gates from. And then he waited.

It felt like forever, before she emerged at the gates. She was not thrown, but she looked worn. Felix's heart sank. He waited until the tribune disappeared behind the gates, and Callista started down the street with hurried steps. Felix watched the guards, waiting to see if any of them followed. Then, he walked after her until the crowd hid them from view. At the first turn of the street he caught up in a few strides, reaching out to pull her aside into another alley. He hoped he would not startle her too much, but for now, he just wanted both of them to be out of view. 

@Laria

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Callista was still shaking as she was escorted out of the Castra. The moment the guards left her she felt a wave of exhaustion hit her, all the adrenaline that had been keeping her going had worn away now that the threat of  immediate danger was gone. She hardly even saw the crowd street she was walking on, she just had one goal; to think up an excuse for taking so long and to go home. She she was wracking her brain for reasons that she might be so late after running a few quick errands, she was grabbed by the wrist and pulled into an alleyway. For a short moment all the adrenaline she had left kicked in, her heart pounded faster and she prepaired to scream or run, possibly both, until she saw who had grabbed her.

She looked up at Felix and felt a wave of emotion pass over her, she didn't even think and just started talking. "Inch’ e patahel? lav yes? "* she stopped speanking mid-sentence, realizing that in all of the confusion and terror her brain had reverted back to Armenian, she didn't even know that she still remembered how to speak it. She shook her head and started again, this time in Latin "I was so worried, what happened? Are you hurt?"

 

@Chevi

*that is the phonetic form, the actual spelling is "ինչ է պատահել լավ ես" essentialy it means "what happened, are you okay"

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Felix pulled Callista out of the street and into an alley. She seemed scared at first, but soon noticed it was him.

"Inch’ e patahel? lav yes? "

"It's me, Callista. It's alright." he said quietly, glancing over her shoulder, still expecting guards to appear again. He was not sure what she was saying; she was speaking her own language, probably out of confusion. Felix pulled her deeper into the alley.

"I was so worried, what happened? Are you hurt?"

Out of sight, Felix looked down at her, checking her over for signs of injury. She was shaking and pale, but did not look injured. Felix still looked, taking her hands in his and turning them over. Torture often started with the hands.

"I'm not. Are you? Did they hurt you?"

@Laria

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She allowed herself to be pulled deeper into the alley, glad to be moving father away from the Castra. Once they were out of sight of any guards Felix began to look her over, inspecting for any injuries, and she did the same to him. 

"I'm not. Are you? Did they hurt you?"

"No" she answered, but she was sure that she had been close at several points in that discussion. He took her hands and the long crucifixion nail that she had grasped, white knuckled, slipped from her fingers and fell in between them. It rolled in the dirt, and she watched it, a reminder of what would happen to both of them should she fail.

@Chevi

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She said she wasn't hurt. Felix looked her over anyway; she seemed scared, and from the way she'd walked away from the Castra, whatever happened in there could not have been any better than his own experience. Felix felt a rising anger against the tribune, just for bringing her in there. 

Turning her hands over, something clattered to the ground. Her hands were unhurt, but shaking. Felix leaned down to pick up what she'd dropped, and froze as he held it in his hand. It was a long nail, and Felix could think of uses that made him feel sick.

"Callista, what is this?"

@Laria

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Felix looked angry as he continued to look her over for injuries. It was a quiet sort of anger, that they both knew he couldn't act on but was still there. When the nail fell it was Felix, not Callista who moved to pick it up. 

"Callista, what is this?"

"A memento" she answered. Looking at the nail she thought of all it's possibilities, it wasn't as sharp as she would have liked but it was sharp enough. She thought how with just one good shove into her stomach this could all be over, but what would that solve? 

She finally started crying, she had tried to hold back her tears but now she couldn't stop them. Through her sobs she tried to explain the nail, though her works were interrupted by her own ragged breathing. "He threatened me with it, and then he slammed it into his own desk. It sat there, upright, for our meeting, until he finally let me go. He gave it to me as a reminder of what he could do" 

@Chevi

Edited by Laria
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"A memento" 

A chill ran down Felix's spine as he held the nail. Did he hurt her anyway? In a way Felix couldn't see? The thought was terrifying. 

Callista finally broke down crying, trying to talk while tears ran down her face.

"He threatened me with it, and then he slammed it into his own desk. It sat there, upright, for our meeting, until he finally let me go. He gave it to me as a reminder of what her could do"

The coldness turned into boiling anger once again. Felix's eyes darkened at what she was saying. He looked down at the nail again. It was the kind uses for crucifictions. The thought of Callista being threatened in that way... he could almost see it. He could see that wild look in the tribune's eyes, the same he gave to Felix when he refused to cooperate. But Felix was a man, and Callista was a woman. How a Roman man treated women, that spoke volumes.

Felix tucked the nail into his belt. Maybe, one day, he'd get the chance to stab the tribune in the eye with it.

"Look at me" he said more gently,  framing Callista's tear-stained face with his palms, trying to keep her grounded "I'm not going to let him do anything to you. Do you hear? I won't." It was a hard promise to keep, but he intended to keep it, or dye trying. He wrapped his arms around Callista, trying to comfort her.

@Laria

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"Look at me"

She did, and he took her head in his hands. She blinked up at him, her tears already starting to subside.

"I'm not going to let him do anything to you. Do you hear? I won't."

She felt his arms wrap around her and she gladly hugged him back. She felt her breathing steady and her heart beat a little slower. She was safe now, she would be okay. 

She pulled back from the hug and started talking, this time less frantically. "Felix, I agreed to help him" as she said this shame filled her face, "he said if I didn't he would kill you and Titus and Calpurnia in addition." He also threatened he own life but that didn't feel as important at the moment. "I'm so sorry" she said, she was looking down now, to ashamed of what she had done to look up at him. 

@Chevi

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Felix hugged Callista until she stopped crying, and the trembling subsided. Normally, he would not have been so forward with her; he cared about her, but they were not close enough for this kind of intimate contact. But for now, all bets were off. He just wanted her to feel safe, after all that the tribune had done to her.

She eventually stepped back, but did not look up again.

"Felix, I agreed to help him. He said if I didn't he would kill you and Titus and Calpurnia in addition. I'm so sorry"

Felix didn't think he could get any angrier at that man. He was wrong.

"You were right to do it." he told her, tilting her chin up "He would have hurt you if you didn't. I... refused to help him, and I... was scared he'd take it out on you. I'm so sorry, Callista."

@Laria

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"You were right to do it... He would have hurt you if you didn't. I... refused to help him, and I... was scared he'd take it out on you. I'm so sorry, Callista."

She shook her head at him as he tilted her chin up and apologized. "It wasn't your fault" she assured him, "you were much braver than I was." It was true, had done what she couldn't; said no. 

She sighed and said "you're in danger now, Felix, even more than I am and it's because of me. He's using you as leverage to keep me in line." Though she usually wasn't so forward she took his hand and said "you need to be careful." 

@Chevi

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"It wasn't your fault. You were much braver than I was." 

Felix didn't feel brave. His bravery felt like stupidity in retrospect; he had never been the diplomatic kind. He could be tactful when needed, but not smooth enough to make a man like the tribune believe he would betray his master. He wished he could have been better at deception. Maybe Callista would have gotten away easier.

"You were brave enough, Callista. And you are smarter than I." She always had been.

"You're in danger now, Felix, even more than I am and it's because of me. He's using you as leverage to keep me in line. You need to be careful." 

"We are all in danger." he nodded "But you should not be the one protecting me. You and I... we need to protect the familia. We need to find out what that man's plans are, and what we can do to stop him. It was clever of you to agree to help him... maybe we can use that. Dominus will know how."

@Laria

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"You were brave enough, Callista. And you are smarter than I."

She certinly didn't feel smarter, she had agreed out of sheer terror, deceiving him had never even crossed her mind. If she had been smart then she would have agreed right away when he offered her freedom, it would have made it seem as if she had no loyalties to the familia and she would have gotten out of there quicker. 

We are all in danger... But you should not be the one protecting me. You and I... we need to protect the familia. We need to find out what that man's plans are, and what we can do to stop him. It was clever of you to agree to help him... maybe we can use that. Dominus will know how."

her face paled again and she said "if you tell Dominus he will kill you, we need to figure this out on our own." She thought for a moment and then said "When I talked to him he seemed to have some sort of vendetta against Domina specifically. He said that he suspected that her whole family were traitors. I don't know why but he acted as is he were obsessed with her"

@Chevi

 

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There was no question in Felix's mind that they had to go and tell Aulus about this. His family was in danger, and the two of them had no power, or means, to stop it on their won. Callista, however, paled at the idea.

"If you tell Dominus he will kill you, we need to figure this out on our own. When I talked to him he seemed to have some sort of vendetta against Domina specifically. He said that he suspected that her whole family were traitors. I don't know why but he acted as is he were obsessed with her"

Felix's brow furrowed.

"The domina? He's after her?" that made little sense. Horatia was not active in politics, and she was the epitome of a faithful Roman wife. Why was this man obsessed with her? And if he was, why would he try to destroy her family...?

"That man is unhinged." he frowned. He wrapped an arm around Callista's shoulders, steering her down the alley "We need to go home. We are not safe out here. Come."

They would take the back streets and alleys, hoping to lose any guards who might be following. Felix knew the city enough by now to navigate.

"We have to tell them. We don't have a choice."

@Laria

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It looked as if Felix was confused, and rightfully so, this whole situation was absurd. 

The domina? He's after her?"

She nodded and said "It seemed like it, but it might have just been because most of my time is spent with her... What did he ask you about?" She was considerably calmer now that she was out of the Castra and that Felix was here. 

"That man is unhinged."

She was about to agree with him but the words caught in her throat when she felt his arm wrap around her shoulders. 

"We need to go home. We are not safe out here. Come."

"Okay" she said, to stunned to say anything else. She let herself be lead through the maze that was Rome's streets, trusting Felix to not get them lost. 

"We have to tell them. We don't have a choice."

She sighed and said "I know we have to but... I'm just scared... he threatened you and even the children." She felt a lump form in her throat but willed herself to not start crying again, telling herself that she had done enough of that today. "I'm terrified Felix" she admitted, "I don't think I've even been so scared in my life."

@Chevi

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Was that man really after the domina? Why would he? The men of Rome often clashed over political power or even money, but for someone like that tribune to have a personal vendetta against someone as noble and reserved as Horatia... Felix was at a loss of ideas. It made the whole thing more troubling, not knowing what the enemy's clear goal was.

"It seemed like it, but it might have just been because most of my time is spent with her... What did he ask you about?" 

Felix sighed, steering Callista away from the crowded streets and towards home. She was still clearly shaken as she followed along; he tried to keep her steady. The sooner they got home the better. They needed to talk to Aulus.

"I know we have to but... I'm just scared... he threatened you and even the children... I'm terrified Felix... I don't think I've even been so scared in my life."

"I know." Felix sighed "I am sorry you had to go through all that... I was scared to. Scared he'd hurt you." he admitted, glancing at Callista. He felt protective of her. "We will go home and talk to dominus, and we will figure this out. And we might need your help. You said that man... thinks you work for him now? Did you get his name?"

@Laria

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How could this had happened? What had she and Felix done to deserve this? These thoughts ran through Callistas mind as she was lead back to the domus. None of this made sense, for some unexplainable reason her domina had been targeted by a member of the praetorian guard and Felix and she were now stuck in the thick of it. 

"I know... I am sorry you had to go through all that... I was scared to. Scared he'd hurt you... We will go home and talk to dominus, and we will figure this out. And we might need your help. You said that man... thinks you work for him now? Did you get his name?"

She blushed when he looked over and said that he was afraid that he, (whomever he was) had hurt her. She shook her head at herself, she was already to emotional as it was, she couldn't be focusing on her crush too. 

"I didn't, no" she answered "but from the way all the other solid gets were following orders from him we can assume that he is pretty high ranked, that narrows it down some." She knew that they would be needing her help, after all, she had made a promise to betray her familia to a man who's name she didn't even know, the least she could do was act as a spy. 

When they finally reached the domus her breath hitched and she stopped walking. It felt as if oxygen had stopped working for her and she couldn't breath. How could she enter her home now after all she had done? She tried to steady her breathing but it only got quicker and shallower. "I can't" she managed to squeak in between wheezes. It felt as if she were drowning, she started to see black spots dance in front of her vision before she collapsed, unconscious 

@Chevi

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