In Another Life |Book 1|

/ By linkthehero [+Watch]

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Marcus watched Alexandria give Cato some love and shrugged. The truth is that he didn't care where they went, just as long as he got to spend time with her.

"We could head to the park or out to eat if you're hungry," he offered and downed the rest of his coffee before setting the mug beside the sink.

When she chose their destination, Marcus put Cato on his leash and pulled on a light jacket before they headed out. He couldn't contain his happiness to see her and after locking up he took her hand in his as if being apart was painful.

"How is filming going, by the way?" he asked, genuinely curious. He knew she had been nervous about the role when she started and although she seemed to be filling the shoes well now, he still worried about her state of mind.

They set off down the street, Cato leading the way, and Marcus listened to her update.
  Marcus. / linkthehero / 3y 226d 14h 39m 55s
The way that his lips trailed along her neck made her heart skip a beat and ensured that a smile danced upon her lips. She would never quite get used to this feeling but it was something that she loved having in her life now. Every time she saw him something within her felt complete and Alexandria wasn't quite sure if she could ever envision her life with Marcus beside her. They had already spent too much time apart and any time they spent together was at his place. It was almost like they were already living together and it was something her father wasn't very happy with. Their picture had appeared in a couple of papers since but she wasn't ashamed of their relationship so it wasn't as though she minded.

When she turned around he looked away from her for a moment.

"The book is not dead, I'm sure you are just having a block and I'm sure you have written more that you think. I'm happy to see you too."

His lips found hers and she found herself melting into the passion that laced the kiss. She laughed when Cato interrupted them but she offered her hand which he gladly received. Marcus leant against the counter, looking at her with those eyes that made her feel like the most special woman on the entire world.

"A walk would be amazing. I've been on set all week and filmed inside the entire time I would love to get some real fresh air!" She smiles and finished her water and looked down at Cato. "When was the last time you came out with us hmm?" She knelt down and gave him a fuss and watched his tail wag with excitement. "We should take him with us. Do you have anywhere in mind?"
  Alexandria (Modern) / d1gn17y / 3y 227d 8h 37m 54s
When she turned to help herself to a glass of water, Marcus wrapped his arms around her and kissed her shoulder blade. He didn't realize he even missed the smell of her.

She asked her question and he couldn't help but continue the kisses to her neck before finally letting her turn back around to face him.

He knew he could lie. Tell her it was coming along great. But he also knew that she could see through him like an open window. He sighed softly and looked away from her for a moment.

"I haven't got two sentences more than I wrote last week. I'm starting to think this story is dead and I'll have to come up with something completely different," he confessed, looking back to her.

His coffee was done and he turned to pour himself a mug. As he did, he spoke again. "I shouldn't be thankful for the distraction, but I am very happy to see you," he said, turning back and pressing his lips against hers once more before taking a sip from his mug.

They heard Cato rolling around in his bed and having just woken up from a nap he finally realized that Alexandria was there. He trotted over to give her his usual affection and Marcus offered him a treat.

He leaned against the counter, looking at her then. "Now to figure out what to do with this distraction... The weather is nice. We could go out for lunch and a walk. Or a movie," he offered, taking another sip of his coffee.
  Marcus. / linkthehero / 3y 227d 23h 35m 37s
Alexandria couldn’t be happier with the fact that she was with Marcus at this moment in time. The way he picked her up and spun her around gave her butterflies and it was something she had never quite gotten used to and she wasn’t sure that she ever would.
“I finished my scenes early and I got the rest of the day off. I wanted to surprise you so I didn’t call ahead. I’m glad you are here because that would have really messed up my plan!” Alexandria laughed to herself as she kept her arms around him, not ready to let go any time soon but the fact they had most of the day together now meant that she didn’t have to.

She allowed her eyes to close as he rested her head amongst hers. These were the small things that she liked to enjoy and she enclosed her hands around his and smiles at his words. “I’ve missed you too. I can’t stand being away from you for this long but for now, unless you have any plans for the day we can do whatever you like.” She smiled and let go of him for a split second to pour some water into a glass and took a sip, waiting to see what he would suggest for the day.
“How is your book coming along?”
  Alexandria (Modern) / d1gn17y / 3y 362d 3h 57m 52s
Marcus was so caught up in his thoughts that he didn't hear the key in the door or the shuffle of her feet. It didn't help that he was making a lot of noise in his frustration over his writers block.

When her hands covered his eyes he almost jumped, but the familiar feeling over their smoothness and the feeling of her pressed against him were too telling. A huge smile broke across his face and he turned, his eyes wide with shock and excitement. He picked her up, spinning her around once, unable to contain himself.

"What are you doing here?" he asked when he set her back down, but he didn't take his arms away from her. "You better not be slacking off just to see me." He chuckled at his own joke before taking her face in his hands and kissing her deeply. When he pulled away, he rested his forehead on hers. "Oh, I've missed you," he said softly. "I mean, I know I get to talk to you every day, but in person is so much better than over the phone."

He pulled away to look at her. "You look beautiful," he told her, as he always did. Even when she had washed the makeup off. Even when she was in just her underwear and one of his oversized jumpers.
  Marcus. / linkthehero / 4y 69d 13h 30m 12s
Realtime Responses

Alexandria (Modern)
The time seemed to pass by so quickly and those days of lounging around in bed, getting to know the man who had stolen her heart. Soon enough she was thrown into work and it was becoming extremely busy to the point that she would only really see Marcus before they slept and first thing in the morning. Alexandria very rarely used her own place now and she was quite glad that Marcus was happy having her there because the press didn't really bother her here. Most of them still waiting outside her apartment and since her father broke in she hardly spent any time there at all. In fact, she loved Marcus' place more than her own because it wasn't surrounded by money. It was a normal homely place, not one that is made to look like a model home that isn't supposed to be lived in, just looked at. This place wasn't bought with her Father's money either and as soon as she had finished filming her intention was to buy her own place because then she would have time to actually look around houses and she could live somewhere that her Father has no influence over. For now, she was happy staying with Marcus for as long as he would put up with her.

Neither of them could have guessed that a month would pass and she would still be using Marcus' home as though it were her own. In fact she realised that she hadn't really been back to her apartment at all and a smile laced her lips at the thought of is as she walked down the street towards Marcus' place. Alexandria had finished filming for the day, nailing all the scenes she needed to film with no need to rerun any so she was given the day off and her intention was to surprised Marcus knowing that he would be home now waiting for her phone call. Alexandria still got butterflies whenever she knew she was going to see him and she loved that feeling and wondered how she ever managed to get by without him before. It was as though he had become a part of her and she found herself to be quite scared at that thought considering they had only know each other for a month.

As she neared his place she felt her smile widen and her heartbeat quicken as it always did. She placed the key that he had given her in the door and tried to move as quietly as she could. Alexandria could hear him in the kitchen, no doubt making coffee and she began to tiptoe towards it quietly knowing that he wouldn't have heard her come in over all the noise he was making. She saw him standing waiting for the coffee machine to announce that it was ready to be poured and for a minute she just watched his muscular figure in all its glory before she decided she could no longer keep her hands off of him and she moved quietly towards him and placed her hands over his eyes and pressed her body up against him.

"Guess who," she whispered almost seductively and kissed his cheek gently.
  Alexandria (Modern) / d1gn17y / 4y 92d 18h 9m 11s
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With the paparazzi- and not to mention her own father- on Alexandria's heels, Marcus had to be glad that they were seeing less of each other lately. Of course it was difficult after their last few days together, but the last thing he wanted was to cause trouble for her.

They managed to find time once in a while to grab a bite to eat together and on days she didn't have to be up early she used his apartment like her own home, instead of her trailer on set. He was glad of it. If they weren't going to see much of each other, they might as well be together even in sleep.

Those mornings were his favorites. Her arms wrapped around him lazily and he would forego the gym just to be with her for another hour or two before she finally had to go.

Before they knew it a month had passed by. It had been pretty mundane. Her father seemed to be waiting their relationship out, no doubt hoping it ended in flames. And the paparazzi were too busy waiting to see her act to care too much about where she was staying outside of work. Marcus hadn't realized just how crazy his life had become since meeting Alexandria.

He took the new down time he had when he wasn't working or seeing her to work on some more personal things. His novel had been sitting in a file on his computer for years and it wasn't going to write itself. His writers block had been unbearable, so he shoved it away, hoping inspiration would come to him. When that didn't happen, he ignored the problem. But now, with his newfound free time, he pulled up the document and set his fingers to his keyboard. Surely something would come to him this time. Surely meeting such an amazing woman and having his heart soar lately would have given him something to work with... Right?

He sat there a long moment, looking at the cursor blinking on the screen. Oh, how he hated that blinking line. It taunted him.

"Coffee," he muttered to himself, creating another excuse to step away from the computer. After all, it was getting close to the time of day that Alexandria usually called him on her break...
  Marcus. / linkthehero / 4y 93d 13h 47m 53s
Alexandria was sure that she might have received more argument about her presence here but she knew that Marcus knew that she might be their only hope at preventing any unnecessary deaths due to their injures and she merely nodded when Marcus agreed to help her and she moved to the wounded man laying closely to Cato.

“I am going to talk you through cleaning his wound while I work on this gentleman here.” She said. She spent some time talking him through the process in detail in hopes that when he had to move on to the next person he wouldn’t need as much guidance from her. There was nothing about injuries that phased Alexandria at all because she was used seeing all sorts when the gladiators battled with each other within their walls. Alexandria nodded when Marcus finished and told Cato that he needed to rest, knowing that they had done as much as they could at this stage. Later they would need to tend to the wound again but for now, other people were desperate for their help.

They lost track of time and neither of them seemed to realise that they have spent a good portion of the day healing those injured and when darkness fell they finally came to an end and had treated people as much as they possibly could at this stage. She reluctantly left the temporary hospital to eat, knowing that neither of them would be much use if they were not rested and fed and she looked up towards Marcus as they began eat their food.

“Cato will be alright. He is a strong man. I know it must have been hard for you to see him like that.”
  Alexandria / d1gn17y / 4y 231d 20h 58m 0s
Marcus was about to ask Cato what he meant by his previous words when he heard Alexandria's voice. He turned to look up at her from where he was crouched next to his friend. He wasn't surprised to see her. He knew she would want in, especially with her medical knowledge. But Marcus hated for her to be mixed up in all of this.

Cato echoed his feelings,but Alexandria would hear none of it. Without doctors, she was the next best thing and they all knew it. She stepped into those shoes willingly enough, almost eagerly. She knew that time was not on their side.

She looked Marcus in the eye and told him they needed to act fast and that she would need his help. Marcus had only the basic knowledge of healing simply from having had it done to himself, so he felt hopeless. But if she needed him he wasn't about to let her down. Or anyone else for that matter.

He nodded as she lowered herself to his level, obviously wanting to start with Cato. "Just tell me what you need me to do and I'll do it."

So Alexandria walked him through the process of cleaning Cato's wound and the entire time Marcus couldn't believe that this had happened to his friend. He had seen enough wounds to not be phased by the sight of the bone and muscle and the stench, but it made it difficult because this was a man he cared deeply about and he hated to see him like this. Cato's life would never be the same after this.

After the wound was clean they wrapped it up and moved on to the next. Soon, they would have to come back and cauterize his wrist and Marcus would hate to see that but it bust be done. After Cato they moved on to the other wounded guards and gladiators. Most wounds were easy to stitch up, but some were as grousome as Cato's. It took the rest of the day and even some of the night to get most of the work done. By the end, the two of them were exhausted and hungry and they finally sat down to eat something that the unharmed cook managed to make for them.
  Marcus / linkthehero / 4y 231d 22h 20m 0s
Alexandria smiled at the way he spoke of Cato and was moved by the obvious friendship and adoration he had for him. Smiled as they walked towards the house and couldn’t help but feel relieved at the idea that they would finally be returning home. She didn’t have anyone to miss like Marcus did but the place was her home and it held many memories for her and that is what she had missed the most. More than anything, she missed the normalcy that home offered. There had been far too much action for her to handle whilst in Rome.

Their goodbyes didn’t last too long but she couldn’t help but feel sad about that fact that Marcus was leaving his sister behind after just discovering that she was alive and well after all but she knew as well as he did that there had been much learn that required some space over the past few days.

The journey was undoubtable a long one and the conversations that took place between her and her father were extremely forced. She still hadn’t forgiven him for keeping secrets from her yet so every time she felt the pressure she would get out and walk with Marcus who seemed to enjoy the walking but she was not as accustomed to the heat as he was and had to retreat to the shade every now and then.

She couldn’t even remember falling asleep but when she did it was to Marcus’ voice announcing that their home was on fire. She awoke abruptly and jumped out of the carriage. When Marcus broke into a run she tried to follow, wanting to help get out those who would be harmed. Lucan grabbed hold of her arm and told her not to go but she managed to pull her arm away from him. “I don’t care what you want. This is your fault in the first place.” She said as she ran after Marcus and observed the chaos that had fallen over her home.

It seemed that most of the fire had calmed but the damage that it left behind made her extremely upset at the fact that she lost her home but for now she needed to help those who would no doubt be injured by the fire. The barracks would be where Marcus was heading. He would be making sure the Cato was unharmed and her medical knowledge would be more useful there anyway.

She didn’t hear the conversation between Marcus and Alpheus but she knew where he would be taking him so she followed and sure enough he was heading into an area where it appeared most of the injured were being kept. As she approached she saw Alpheus guarding and he held out his hand. “Miss, you don’t want to go in there. It’s not pretty. You need someone to keep you out of harm’s way.”

“Alpheus, no-one here has the medical knowledge I do. Let me in there. I can help.” He waited a minute clearly contemplating what Marcus had said. “Please, I know that you want to protect me from whatever is in there but truth is if you don’t let me in there some of your men will die. Neither of us want that.”

Apparently she said the right words because now she was walking through the door and being greeted with the stench of rotten or infected flesh. It wasn’t hard to spot Marcus in the crowd of unhealthy people and she didn’t even need to think twice about who he might be tending to.

“Cato,” she said over Marcus’ shoulder, sharing a look with him that told her she shouldn’t be hear.

“This is no place for you miss.” To his response Alexandria smiled and put her hand on Marcus’ shoulder to encourage him to move so she can look at his wounds.

“You have no need for a doctor now I am here. I just hope we are not too late. Marcus, we need to treat these people fast before infection sets in. Can you help me?”
  Alexandria / d1gn17y / 4y 239d 4h 46s
Marcus listened to her words and a smile stretched across his face at her words. The thought of her teaching him how to write his name meant more to him than she could have imagined. It was something he never thought he would know how to do. Something he didn't care how do to until she came along and showed him what life he was missing while being a captive in another man's world. Learning to write was just another proof of his freedom.

His smile grew at the mention of his friend. He nodded. "I am. I believe this is the longest I've been without him by my side. We met as children. Quintus bought us off some slavers and we were so afraid we clung to each other for safety. Little did we know that we'd be doing that all our lives," Marcus joked, almost sadly. "It feels strange to be without him. We've been each other's shadow for so long, I forgot what it felt like to be without him."

Marcus looked to his hands. He had never said any of this aloud before. Of course he and Cato had their own way of speaking these things, but it had never been so direct. Marcus made a mental note to tell the man to his face how much he meant to him once they were back...

But things rarely went as they were supposed to around Marcus.

They said goodbye to Aeliana and Felix. Titus left to go his own way that same day after handing Lucan a letter with cryptic words describing how he could get in contact with the man should he need him. He mentioned something about a vault, but other than that the words were too poetic for Marcus to understand much.

The long trip back to the villa was full of awkward conversations between Lucan and themselves. Marcus let Alexandria do most of the speaking since she was forced to ride with him in the litter. Marcus was thankful for the fresh air. Occasionally Alexandria would hop out to walk with him, but he would make her retreat back under the shade of the curtains when he witnessed her cheeks flush from the heat of the sun.

Everyone expected to return to the villa to find a nice meal and a bath waiting for them, but Marcus could sense something was wrong even before seeing the smoke rise on the horizon. It was when he finally saw it that he decided to speak up.

"The villa's on fire," he said, almost calmly as he hadn't had the time to truly process the statement. Then, without any further commentary, he broke into a run, leaving the other guards surrounding Lucan and Alexandria to either follow or stay behind. Luckily a handful of them stayed put to watch over them, but Marcus knew that she and her father would be close behind.

Upon arriving at the villa, Marcus immediately ran to the barracks. He put his wrist to his nose, trying to block away the stench of burned flesh. Everything was smoking, but only a few fires remained. Marcus couldn't decide of that was a good or bad sign. The house itself had caved in, leaving half of the place in tact, but the roof drooped down and one of the walls had collapsed. The barracks were hopeless, however. They had been made completely of wood.

"Marcus!" he heard someone call and he turned towards the voice. It was Alpheus's bold figure beside the side of the house that had not collapsed. Marcus jogged over. He didn't have to asked what had happened. His face said it all. "Men in hoods attacked two days ago," the man told him. "We tried our best to defend the place, but... we were overrun. They were all wearing these..." He pulled out a necklace from a pouch. It was the serpent pendant that Marcus had pondered over for so long. "We killed a good handful, but most retreated. Suddenly. As if what they were looking for wasn't here."

Marcus turned around to look at Aeliana and her father as they finally arrived. He turned back to Alpheus. "Cato?" was all he asked. Alpheus broke eye contact for just long enough for Marcus to know it wasn't good.
"He... isn't doing so well."
"But he's alive," Marcus said. "Take me to him."
"It's not pretty."
"I've seen far worse, I'm sure."
Alpheus sighed. "We tried to set up a hospital of sorts in the part of the house still standing. We sent for aid, but no one's come yet. I'm not sure why."
Marcus only nodded. "Stay out here and watch over them. The assassin's might not be so far away. Alexandria may try to follow me. Let her if she must, but I'd rather she didn't see what I assume I will in there."

He stepped around Alpheus and headed towards the side door to the house. It was now the only accessible one. The stench only got worse when he stepped through the threshold. Rotting flesh and open wounds attracted flies and all other manner of vermin and Marcus had to maneuver his way carefully. Half of the men were guards, the other half gladiators. It was far too few to be all of them and Marcus was afraid to ask what had happened to the rest. He found Cato in a corner laying on a blanket and Marcus's heart fell. He looked pale. Paler than any black man could be. Marcus knelt to take in the wounds that had been inflicted upon his best friend. An open scar glistened across the side of his face, but that was not the worst of it. Cato's left hand was missing completely. Marcus ran a hand down his face, taking in the sight with a curse.

Cato stirred, feeling a presence and looked up at Marcus with a grin despite his position. "You're late," was all he said with a cough.
"I should have been here," Marcus said solemnly. He didn't have to mention's Cato's new handicap.
"If you were, you might be lying here, too."
Marcus slowly eased himself down to sit on the floor. "Why haven't the doctors come?" he asked. "Has everyone abandoned us? If you're not seen to, you'll get an infection."
"My health should be the least of your worries," Cato said gruffly.
  Marcus / linkthehero / 4y 262d 11h 49m 24s
Alexandria had found herself to have grown used to the fact that there was now a rift between her father and herself. She was still being stubborn and making sure that he had to work for her trust again but at the moment he was still trying to communicate to her through Marcus. Her father didn’t know that there was anything between them yet, or he didn’t say anything if he did but he knew that Alexandria trusted him which is why her father approached him.

She smiled towards Marcus as he lowered himself next to her and she was glad to feel him next to her when he did so. Not really caring about whether anyone was looking in their direction, she leant into him slightly to close any distance that was left between them. Perhaps she should have been more respectful of her father but she cared too much about Marcus to think about keeping some distance between them now.

Alexandria looked down at the cover of her book that she had now closed. She loved reading but there was nothing that could keep her more satisfied than Marcus. His company and conversation was more than enough to forgive him for interrupting her reading.

“It’s just some mythological story. Nothing special, but the art work is fantastic too.” She said as she handed the book over to him so that he could look through the pages. There was nothing quite like the feeling of flicking through a good book and she hoped that he would enjoy the feeling of it as much as she did. She raised her eyebrows when he spoke of the fact that she had not yet taught him to read and she laughed slightly at his comment about them running away. It was still something they thought of every now and then but they were wise enough to know that there were better ways to handle this situation.

“I don’t believe I have had to opportunity to teach you yet. I am pretty sure we have been otherwise occupied.” She said with a laugh, referring to the drama that seemed to follow them over the past couple of weeks. “I promise when we get home the first thing I will do is teach you how to write your name. Every man should be able to do that.” She said holding her hand out to him. “I bet you are looking forward to seeing Cato.”
  Alexandria / d1gn17y / 4y 292d 21h 48m 23s
Marcus took her invitation, taking a seat beside her. Had it been earlier in their relationship he might have subconsciously left a gap between them for safe measure. But now he had no worries about that and he let their skin touch as he took his place on the ground next to her. He couldn't be sure, but he felt that she might have leaned into him.

"I'm sorry," he said softly. "I didn't know you were reading. I'd have waited to tell you." The soft smile on her face reassured him that she didn't mind. "What are you reading, anyway?" he asked, his own small smile growing. He looked at the cover of the book despite the fact that he would not be able to read the title.

He wondered what it would have been like in Quintus's care had he had books to entertain him in his cell. If he had learned to read and was able to have such entertainment, he was sure things might not have been so bad.

The fact that he realized just how bad things were back them made him feel like a different person completely. Alexandria helped him realize just how wrong it was for Quintus to hold men like caged animals. Before he met her, he simply understood his situation as his life: the one and only he would ever have. Complaining or contemplating on the issue would not have helped in any way. Little did he know how lucky he would be.

Alexandria offered him the book and he leafed through the pages, taking in all the different letters that he didn't understand. "You know, you still have yet to teach me how to read," he reminded her, looking up at her with a smile. He liked having excuses to spend time with her. Of course he didn't need the excuses anymore, but that didn't mean he didn't still find enjoyment out of it. "I don't even know how to spell my own name," he pointed out. "And shouldn't every man be able to do that? Especially if we ever decide to run off together," he teased. They both knew by now that they probably would not flee their only family. But it was always fun to think about.
  Marcus / linkthehero / 4y 309d 17h 28m 25s
As time passed Alexandria and Marcus both grew to understand more about the Orchid organisation and they were beginning to see its importance but even though this was the case Alexandria couldn’t help but remain angry at her father. Ever since his betrayal he attempted to use Marcus as a messenger rather than working up the courage to see her himself. They avoided each other often and she kept telling herself that no matter how much she was hurting, she wouldn’t be the one to cave first. If he wanted to repair their relationship and build back their trust he would need to be the one to make the move.

Marcus had taken to sleeping in the same room with Alexandria at night lately. Mostly because they were unsure of who they could trust or whether they were even safe here still. She enjoyed the company and most nights they just enjoyed each other’s company until they were ready to sleep. Marcus was a gentleman though and refused to take comfort in her bed. They both knew that even his presence here was inappropriate so his body so close her as they slept hardly seemed appropriate either, especially since her father was still unaware of their relationship.

She was unsure if Marcus’ sister knew about them but if she did there were never any conversations about them because Alexandria didn’t speak to anyone anymore unless she really had to. In all honestly she knew that she was being immature and stubborn but she also felt like she deserved to be, at least for a little while longer. Marcus had proven to be stronger than she was because he was trying to mend the bonds that had been broken between them while she remained distant and cold but the betrayal of a father seemed to wound her deeper than she had expected. She had even taking to skipping meals because she didn’t want to put herself in the situation where she would have to pretend like everything was alright but Marcus always took her to kitchens to ensure that she ate something. He hated that she skipped her meals but he seemed to understand her. On this particular occasion whilst they were all at lunch she had made her way into the gardens where she seemed to spent most of her time here. She was growing homesick and felt a growing desire to return to her villa where she could feel comfortable again.

She lowered herself to the ground with a pile of books next to her and chose one that she would read until Marcus came to find her and within minutes she had become lost in the world of fiction. There was no way of knowing how long she sat there but she was too engrossed with the words on the pages to hear the footsteps approach from behind her. It wasn’t until she heard the gentle tone of a man’s voice that she realised she had company and as soon as she heard him she closed her book and looked up towards him and greeted him with her content smile and nodded her head.

“That is good news darling. I am glad that we finally get to go home. Come sit with me. It’s a beautiful day.” She said as she patted the ground beside her.
  Alexandria / d1gn17y / 4y 321d 3h 43m 1s
Marcus let her take his hand, but for a moment he did not raise his head. He simply looked up at her with his puppy-dog gaze and an exaggerated pout on his lips.

"Bad timing is right," he joked, finally lifting his head from his arm. "But being worth it is right, too." His pout grew into a smile and with his free hand he reached out for his drink to take a sip. "Whatever happens," he added, "I want this to work. We'll make it work."

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Any thought of going home had been delayed until they could get every affair in order in Rome first. It had been three days since Marcus had walked out of that arena. Three days since he had been told the truth about his family. And he and Alexandria had spent those three days trying to understand every bit of the story. Now that their trust in those around them had been tainted, it had been difficult to have the conversations with Lucan, Felix, and even Aeliana. In fact, the only one Marcus could look in the eye anymore other than Alexandria was Titus. He had been open with him since the beginning. Sure, he had lied in the arena about who he was and why he was there, but Marcus knew that he would have done the same if he was in his shoes. It was more for his safety than anything he came to understand. But Alexandria's father and Marcus's sister would not have been in any more danger than they were beforehand had they simply told them the truth from the start.

Marcus wanted nothing more than to mend their old bonds. He made himself try to rekindle what had been lost between the small group. But it was proving more difficult than he thought. He and Alexandria felt like outcasts compared to the others. His whole life, Marcus was a black sheep, but now it was even moreso. They were completely left in the dark and at the mercy of whatever these so-called Orchid's wanted to shine the light on. There was no way to know if they were still hiding some truths.

Their isolation only brought Marcus and Alexandria closer together while simultaneously distancing them from the others. Lucan and Titus would try to educate Marcus on what being a part of the order really meant and how it was more about saving lives than taking them. The worst part is that Marcus was starting to understand where they were coming from. He was starting to see what the Orchids had been necessary and why they were even more necessary now. But his pride and confusion would not let him expose that truth. He would not let them know his thoughts, at least for now. So he kept his somber demeanor and his gaze low. Except for when he was with Alexandria, of course.

With everything they learned, they bounced their thoughts off of each other without worry or judgement. Marcus even confided in her that he could understand why they wanted to reform the Orchids. They spent most of their free time together, taking comfort in each other's presence. And as inappropriate as it was, Marcus had taken to sleeping in Alexandria's room. They had lost all care for tradition and the worries of her father. His opinion no longer mattered to them. But, even so, Marcus would not allow himself the comfort of her bed. He still had trouble wrapping his mind around the fact that Alexandria wanted him in her life as much as he wanted her. And there were parts of him that were so forcefully ingrained in him in servitude that he would not so easily break away from. So he slept on come cushions they collected beside the wall with the door. He knew the chances of another attack from Dillard were slim, but the assassin's were still out there. He wanted to be ready in case they came that far and somehow found them. Some nights he would forget a blanket since he had rarely been granted one in his old cell and it simply did not cross his mind. He would wake up in the middle of the night to Alexandria tenderly covering him up with a wool blanket. And once he could have sworn that she climbed under with him for just a few minutes as if she thought he was still asleep. When she returned to the bed that night he was left even colder than he was before she had covered him with the blanket...

On that third day, at lunch, Marcus expressed his desire to return to Lucan's villa. He was eager for all the other gladiators to receive the word of their freedom just as Lucan had promised. He was especially eager to see the look on Cato's face. Marcus found himself missing his best friend. They had been cellmates since their early teenage years. They were brothers and they would be born again with freedom.

"Unless, of course, you don't actually plan to free them after all," Marcus said bravely as he watched Lucan sip some of his wine that afternoon. Three days proved to have given Marcus enough time to grasp his freedom. And with that came a stubbornness that Marcus never knew he had. He found himself feeling guilty or regretting what he said soon after he said it, but he knew that Lucan probably deserved it. Despite still owing him so much, Marcus wanted to let him know that he didn't intend to be used again.
"Of course I meant that," Lucan said, sighing. He swirled his drink around a moment before looking up at Marcus. "I meant every word." Marcus only nodded. "I know... we've hurt your trust. But that stops with the Orchids. There were no lies about the present. You have easily made your feelings known to me, now and I expected nothing less. But... my daughter hasn't spoken to me about it. Does she share your feelings? Does she too feel betrayed?" If Lucan knew that Marcus was spending his nights with his daughter, he didn't think it his place to ask anymore apparently. He had lost that ability along with their trust.
"That's a conversation you need to have with her," Marcus said simply. He wasn't about to confess Alexandria's feelings. He knew the answer to the question, of course. But it was not his place to say. The only way their relationship would mend is if Lucan stopped using him as a middle man to communicate with Alexandria.

With that, Marcus turned around and headed through the house and out the door. He found Alexandria in the garden, as usual. She would often sit outside reading or picking flowers or simply thinking. And Marcus liked the way she looked sitting there against the bright colors of the blooms.

"I've convinced your father into returning to the villa," he told her softly so that he did not disturb the air or startle her. "We set out tomorrow."
  Marcus. / linkthehero / 4y 326d 13h 21m 8s

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