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Another day in the arena, another match won. Lexus was beaten and bloody, he was pretty sure he had a cut on his one thigh, because it was hurting worse than Hades in the midday sun. But he was alive and the crowd had cheered for him, when the two other gladiators lay on the ground, bleeding out. He enjoyed that part at least, the roar of the crowd when he won and could raise his arms and just take all the praise. It was all the praise he got anyway, so he had to take it. Now hopefully his master and the doctore would also both salute him, although he didn't make a habit of losing the matches. Else he might not live so long. But he was still a slave, still not free. And who knew when his master wanted to host an orgy again and he'd be invited to join, because who didn't want to bed or be taken by a gladiator like him? Not that it was all bad, it was more that he didn't have a choice. That was the issue. But at least not today, because something had to be done about that cut on his leg.

He left the arena and in the back of a wagon he sat now, travelling with some of the other gladiators back towards the ludus that was their home. A woman passed the wagon as it made a stop because the street was crowded and she offered him water. Apparently she'd seen him fight. Lexus winked at her and she blushed. Well he still had that in his favor too. He could make a woman blush, even when he was still covered in the blood from his opponents.

"Where are we anyway?" Asked a younger gladiator, one of the newer ones. Alexius looked around, "The Forum. The Vestal temple is right there." He said, looking towards it just as a group of Vestals left the temple and came down the stairs, apparently in their direction.

@Chevi

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From the Vestal House the roar of the crowds in the Amphitheater could be clearly heard. It was a day of games. The Vestals had good seats reserved for them, but not all of them attended at once; the senior mothers were gone, leaving the other sisters to tend to the ever-burning flame and their other duties around the temple. Calpurnia didn't mind. She visited the games on occasion, but she had never been invested in them

She noticed the wagon with the gladiators on it as she walked out of the House. It had stopped, and a woman was offering thr gladiators a drink. Calpurnia, curious as ever, stepped up closer to the wagon. The men sitting on it were covered in blood and dirt. Straight from the arena.

"Is everything alright here?" She inquired, looking at the stalling wagon and the men in it.

@Atrice

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Lexus took the water while his fellow newer gladiators looked curiously towards the Vestal temple and the women coming out from it. They probably barely knew a thing. Lexus had lived here a few years now already, he was a successful survivor of a gladiator, he knew how to please the crowd and how to live instead of die... and he knew the Roman gods, of course. They were the only gods he remembered and knew. So he knew Vesta too. And he knew better than to look too much in that direction, for while he had a way with women, he wouldn't be stupid enough to think seducing a Vestal Virgin was a good idea. On the other hand, they did say the city of Rome depended on that temple. Maybe if it was crushed, he'd be free? No, it wasn't going to be that easy. He really wasn't that stupid.

But then one of the women approached the wagon, a gorgeous and tall blonde lady. Such a pity such women should be virgins, he thought to himself. Think to never experience pleasure with a man! Such a pity indeed. She asked if everything was alright.

"Nothing to worry about." Their coachman said, his tone grumpy, and Lexus glanced towards him. You couldn't speak to a woman like her, like that! 

"Everything is fine, Domina, there's just quite a crowd around here today. But we're not in a rush." He said with a grin and handed back the jar of water to the other lady, who'd come to the wagon, "Thank you." He said and she smiled again, but then took her leave, as the Vestal was much more important than her. She was still there. Lexus kind of wanted to offer her a seat, but that would probably be beneath her.

@Chevi

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"You come from the arena." Calpurnia observed. No doubt they were on the way back to their ludus. "Did you win?"

Not all fights went to the death. Although the men, at least the tall handsome one, seemed like they would win. She tilted her head; at her height, she could see over the edge of the wagon. "You are injured."

@Atrice

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Alexius nodded with a grin at her question, "If I didn't win, I wouldn't be here." He told her and looked at the other gladiators. Some were newer and younger and didn't enter fights until death. He didn't know if they won or lost and for now they'd grown quiet, just watching and listening to Lexus talk. The Vestal looked further at the wagon and commented on his cut on the thigh.

"That's what happens. Nothing out of the ordinary." Was it too much for her? Why did she even stop by their wagon? He had an idea then... "Do you treat injuries?" He had no idea if that was a thing Vestals did, but she seemed nice and curious and easy on the eyes too, so... why not? Although he knew better than to touch her. He wasn't stupid. Just very drawn to certain people sometimes.

@Chevi

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So, he did win. A slight smile played on Calpurnia's lips, seeing his confidence. He had narrowly avoided death, judging by his injury; she had seen enough in the arena. And yet he spoke like it was natural.

"No, we don't" she answered his question. Dealing with blood and gore was not something the Vestals did. Also, he was likely a slave. A touch of her hand could free her if she wished. Every time she thought about that, it always came with a strange sense of power. 

The wagon was still not going anywhere, though. Calpurnia tilted her head, thinking, then waved over the novice that accompanied her, whispering to her. Surprised, the girl scurried away. Calpurnia turned back to the gladiator. "What is your name?"

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Of course he had confidence. Ever since Lexus became a slave, even when he was a child, he wanted to be free again. And ever since he parted ways with his sister, he wanted to find her again. And how could he be free and find her again, if he was dead? So he fought hard, trained hard to become a skilled gladiator who would live. And by now he'd been a surviving gladiator long enough to receive plenty of praise. And with praise often also came pleasure, which he almost always enjoyed. So why should he not be confident?

She smiled at his answer, a smile that felt contagious. Such a pity she was a Vestal! She'd commented on his injury though and really it was nothing, but he wondered why she asked. Maybe she wished to cure him? But she didn't. Instead she waved over another young woman, whispered to her and the girl disappeared. Lexus glanced at their coachman... the Vestal made him curious. He really hoped they wouldn't be moving on soon. Then the lady spoke to him again.

"They named me Lexus." He replied and leaned more against the wagon's side, closer to her, "And what's yours?" 

@Chevi

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"Calpurnia." She answered. He leaned closed, but she held her ground; she was not the kind of woman to shy away from men. As a Vestal, she did not use her full family name. Not with strangers, anyway. 

The girl returned, carrying some fresh linen kerchiefs that were used for washing. Calpurnia took them, and offered them up to Lexus. "Seems like it might take some time for the road to be freed" she noted, craning her neck towards where the crowd was gathering up. "Use these. For your wounds."

@Atrice

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By now, Lexus was ignoring the other gladiators in the cart. His eyes were on the interesting and pretty Vestal instead... whose name was Calpurnia. A pretty and fitting name for her, he thought. It sounded like she was someone important. Which she was. And yet, she did not shy away when he leaned closer. Instead she received the girl she sent away moments ago, handing some fresh linen pieces to him. 

He reached to take them from her hands, noting how careful she was to not let him touch her when it happened. Although did that count? Was it the Vestal who could not touch a slave without freeing them, or could the slave do the 'touching' and still be a slave? Or would that free him? Oh he should like to be freed by her. And be hers. 

"Thank you... Calpurnia." He said and shifted, "I would prefer your gentle hand though, but I guess that is out of the question." He said and tried to fold the linen to cover his wound and press against it. He handed a few of the pieces to his comrades too. The coachman looked over his shoulder at the commotion behind him and arched a brow, sending Lexus a glare as he saw what was happening, but that was also ignored. Lexus had plenty of company beside him already.

@Chevi

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Calpurnia gave him a surprised look; she was speaking more forwardly than most men she spoke to. Even senators did not dream of talking about her touching them. Slaves definitely didn't, even though they, unlike senators, had a very good reason for wishing so, and it had nothing to do with her being a woman.

"Where are you from, Lexus?" she asked curiously. He said he had been named; which didn't mean he was not from Rome, exactly, but it did make her cuious.

@Atrice

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She gave him a surprised look, when he halfway joked about her touching him. Well he really wouldn't mind. Not just for the sake of freedom though. She was gorgeous. Which man wouldn't like to feel her gentle touch upon his skin? But she didn't reply to it. Instead she asked where he was from.

"I was born in Germania. But I've not been there since I was a boy." He said and then felt the coach move. Fuck.

"Looks like we're leaving, Calpurnia. Will you see me in the arena next time I fight?" He called after her, while the coach began moving through the crowded street, away from the temple. It was a tiny hope that she'd come to see him... and useless too, since she was a Vestal. But she was lovely. And she'd helped him. Why should he not want to see such a lovely and kind woman again? Gods knew he didn't see them at the ludus.

@Chevi

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Germania. He sounded Roman, but he was sentenced to the arena as a slave. Calpurnia knew about Germania, from books and from stories from others, but she'd never met someone who actually came from there. The cart began to move, and he asked if she'd see him fight.

"I might" she smiled after him. Smiling at someone openly was not really fitting for a Vestal, and she returned to her usual expression in the next moment, turning to return to the house.

***

The next fight came several weeks later; the gladiators needed time to heal. Calpurnia was offered a chance to accompany her sisters, and this time, inconspicuously, she agreed. The Vestals had their own seats in the Amphitheater, good ones; she could see the entire arena very well from hers. She had to admit, while she usually didn't care much for the fights, right now she was curious to see how Lexus would do.

@Atrice

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She might see him in the arena. She might. That wasn't something he'd expect happened, but he could hope for it. Even if it was foolish and stupid, because he was just a slave and a gladiator, and she was one of the most important and celebrated women in Rome. Untouchable. And there were so many people, men and women, in Rome, that he could touch. And did touch. When they didn't touch him first. 

Weeks later, when his leg had healed and he found himself facing the gate to the open arena once more, he had almost forgotten about her. That's until they were presented and Lexus entered the arena, wearing his usual Murmillo gear, in which you could barely see his face. And he could barely see out. But he lifted his shield into the air and used the gladius as a hammer upon it, drawing attention to himself before he turned to face his opponent. A Thraex, nothing unusual there. His opponent tried to appear as fearsome as Lexus, but Lexus laughed in his face. It wasn't soon after that they were allowed to fight. After a lot of dancing around each other, each using their own blade towards the other and hiding behind shields, Lexus finally used his shield to make the other back up towards a wall. It wasn't until they reached the wall that he glanced up for a moment, seeing who sat there. 

He could barely believe his eyes, it was the Vestal! Calpurnia was her name! But he had no time for her now. Still, he felt a bit of pride and joy that she actually came, as he asked her to. It was a precious moment though, that he took to feel joy over that and his opponent used it against him. The Thraex ducked and rolled away from Lexus' shield and rounded on him, aiming for his back.

@Chevi

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Calpurnia would not have recognized Lexus in the murmillo armor, but she didn't need to; his name was announced, and met with a roaring ovation from the spectators. He was popular. And he looked formidable too, against his opponent. Calpurnia watched the fight with keen eyes; she saw the slight tilt of his head as he slammed his opponent against the wall below her. Did he look at her? It was hard to tell. But he hesitated for a moment, and it gave a chance to his opponent to bolt a way. Calpurnia winced; she leaned forward, opening her mouth, and she barely managed to bite back a cry of warning. She was not supposed to act like this. Sure, sometimes even Vestals were carried away by the excitement of the fights. But she felt guilty about it.

@Atrice

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He did not expect to see the kind and beautiful Vestal at the arena. It had been weeks since that day with the crowded street and much had happened since. But how could he forget her face? He could not. And that was a problem now, because he took a precious moment to see her and recognize her. A precious moment that his opponent used to duck away, now behind Lexus, his sword aiming for Lexus' backside. Had he waited an instant longer, the opponent would have won. But Lexus was quick, turned on his heel and the sword hit his shield instead. He yelled, pushing at the other again, faster now, harder, until the other stumbled and fell. That's when Lexus dropped the shield to jump around and land with a foot on the other man's chest, keeping him down. Now the fight got exciting and the crowd roared and yelled all around him.

It was too soon though. They wanted more. So Lexus let a bit of his weight go and while he did manage a slice in the other man's arm, the other also grasped his arm afterwards and pulled him down. There were swords and shields and flesh and blood all over, as they continued to roll and dance in the arena. Right until the moment Lexus decided it was enough and he had his gladius at the other man's throat. Looking up at today's head of the games to find out, whether his opponent should live or die. Many in the crowd yelled that he should die. But Lexus held his breath. Let his eyes wander. She was still there, the Vestal. And he waited. This was not his decision to make.

@Chevi

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Calpurnia was not well versed in the games, but she could tell that Lexus was good. Very good, at what he was doing. The fight was drawn out enough to be exciting, but in the end he came out on top. The crowd roared his name. It was the moment where the decision was to be made: should the defeated gladiator live or die? While Calpurnia was impressed with the skill Lexus had shown, she was not particularly fond of killing. The Vestals raised their hands to signail their opinion; Calpurnia held up her thumb. He should live.

@Atrice

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He caught his breath while the crowd roared around him, some wanted his opponent to die and some wanted him to live. The majority wanted him to die though, but when he looked towards the Vestals, it would appear they would have him live. Lexus looked up towards the noblemen's seat and the highest ranked among them had stood. Raised his hand. The crowd went silent, waited for his judgment, as he too looked around to make sure he'd seen what the people wanted. Lexus wasn't sure what he wanted. He hated that he had to kill other slaves, but if that's what it took for him to live and hopefully one day be free and find his sister... so be it. 

Apparently, it wasn't going to be so today. His opponent was to live. Lexus looked down upon the man on the ground and gave him a silent nod and stepped away. And knelt down before the one who made the final decision, even though many in the crowd were clearly displeased with the decision. But he'd listened to the Vestals. Well they were representing Rome, so he supposed that made sense. 

Not long after, he was leaving the arena and walking towards the cells beneath the sands. Other gladiators from his ludus were fighting today too and he wasn't going back until they were. Soon he could remove his helmet and look at the various bruises and cuts he gained today, while sitting in a locked cell. He could hear the crowds above, but here, it was thankfully silent. If only he had something to drink. And some company... that might be nice too.

@Chevi

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The gladiator lived. Many wanted to see him die, thirsty for more blood on the sand, but the decision had been made, with the help of the Vestals. Vestals rarely voted for death; blood thirst was beneath them. She watched Lexus walk away from the fight, with a mix of celebration and discontent from the spectators. The Roman crowd was a fickle thing.

As the fights continued, Calpurnia nodded to the novice and the slave that accompanied her, and left her seat. She made her way down to the ground hallways of the amphitheater, and asked to be led to see the fighters. No one argued. While it was somewhat unusual for a Vestal to venture here, her position as someone who had the power to advocate for slaves allowed her to walk among them.

She was led to the cell where Lexus was resting and stood at the entrance, watching him through the bars of the door. "That was an impressive fight."

@Atrice

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At least none of the cuts were too bad today and most of what he thought were bruises, was really just dried blood from himself or his opponent. He was bloody and dirty. And a little hurt, but he'd suffered worse. Now he could only hope that his master or someone else at the games were pleased enough with him, so they'd sent him a woman. Lexus did always enjoy a good round of pleasure after a fight. So when he heard footsteps approaching the cell he stood and moved to the bars, hopeful. And he was not disappointed, even if this woman might not bed him. She was pleasing. Very pleasing. As she stood there, watching him and complimenting his fight.

"Thank you." Lexus said, "There were impressive views from the sands too." He added with a charming smile; he meant her, of course, but she should be able to guess. And she'd come to see him fight. And now she was here. He hadn't expected that...

@Chevi

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Lexus looked... well, he looked like he had just been in a fight, dirt, blood, sweat and all. From the seats in the arena, it seemed like a performance... up close, she was reminded it was real. He had faced actual death, and won.

And now, he was flirting with a Vestal.

Calpurnia carefully kept a straight face.

"They didn't give you a drink?" she tilted her head, looking at the small cell. For someone whose name was being yelled by thousands of people, this place was... dire. Calpurnia waved a hand to the slave, who was carrying a basket of food and drink for her (no one went to the games without some food and drinks). She held it up to the bars. "There."

@Atrice

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Lexus had lived in this city since he was a child and he knew no other gods but the Romans - and he knew them well enough to know, that they were his gods too. So he respected them, of course he did. But he was also just a slave and rarely got an opportunity to visit any temple and bring any kind of sacrifice. And then now, suddenly, he was blessed with the company of a Vestal. A quite beautiful one too. And one he'd asked if she would come and see him fight. And she did. He didn't lie when he said she was an impressive sight.

She said nothing to his compliment, but instead went on about a drink. Kind of like last time. He'd subtly (or maybe not so much?) flirted with her and she'd been careful to not react to it. It didn't matter though. She came and that was answer enough. She liked him, didn't she? And now she stood there, offering him a drink. She was brave, this one. He could easily reach out and touch her, as she held the drink to the bars. And if he touched her, would he be free? But no one were here to witness it. No one would believe it. And his master wouldn't allow it. Lexus was far too popular to just set free.

"Thank you." Lexus said and took the cup and held it to his lips, drinking a good, long sip from it. In fact he emptied it; it was indeed what he needed... then he would hand it back to her, "Do you do this often? Visit gladiators in their cells after the fight to offer them drink?" There was a playfulness in his voice and eyes that couldn't be missed. 

@Chevi

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"No. Not often." she admitted, watching him drink. She knew he was playing with her, but she wondered why. Did he have a death wish, or did he believe she would free him if she thought he was nice? "I am assuming you are used to other kinds of visitors?" She knew many women (and men) in Rome admired gladiators, or even believed that they had some kind of... supernatural allure. She was not one of those people, but she did find it curious.

@Atrice

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She was sweet, he thought. Not so easily charmed as many others, but perhaps there was a good reason for that - she couldn't afford to be easily charmed as a Vestal. He knew they had very strict rules too. Something about burying them alive or something, if they did something wrong. He wasn't entirely sure about those rules, but he'd heard stories. Oh he wouldn't like to be the cause of her being punished. She was just... very pretty and sweet. And here, with him, alone. Almost, anyway, save for the few slaves in the background somewhere. She said she didn't do this often and wondered if he was used to other kinds of visitors. 

Alexius let out a little laugh, "Oh yes... I am used to that. Usually it's not too bad." He explained, "But I've never had a Vestal visit me before, so this is new. Not that I'm complaining." Alexius said with a wink, but then let the playfulness fade a bit, "Why did you come to see me? Since you're obviously not like the other kinds?" 

@Chevi

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