Commodus was a beast of a man. Everything about him screamed massive—the broad shoulders, the towering frame. When he walked into a room, people noticed, for his beauty above all else. Annabeth wondered, constantly, if that was why they kept him around. The other emperors had a clear, ineffable distaste for him, but no bout, no fight, led to betrayal. She had spent so long studying him. The cons out-weighed the pros. He was not the strongest piece.
One particularly quiet night, where humidity hung in the air and people had slunk away into the shadows, he caught them in the gardens. Percy and her, splayed out half-naked on the grass between two rows of thick shrubbery, in some neglected corner of vegetation, with their clothes and hair sticking to themselves and each other. They lay there, limbs tangled, frozen, watching him stand at the end of the aisle, his body illuminated by the pathway lights. Annabeth made note of the sheen in his eyes, the way his lips tweaked up at one end before he walked off without a word.
The look he gave them had her second-guessing herself.
Waiting was torture she could do without, but it happened. Day after day, pacing her room at night, walking the halls, and staring into flames. Percy and she were not allowed to talk, not allowed alone in the same room. Nero wasn’t a fool, he knew what they could do together. The knowledge that Commodus could have told him days ago was enough to drive her mad.
On the fifth eve, past the time of her undress, when she was convinced that would be her last night alive, or at the very least her last night not in chains, a knock came at her door.
She and Percy had been summoned.
And that look finally made sense.
The chambers were spacious and filled with warm, evening air, which the smell of daphne flora lingered in. The padded fabric underneath her knees—a dark red sewn with gold. The dress gathered about her waist—a sheer, teal silk. The four-poster platform lounge they splayed out on, thin curtains billowing back and forth in the breeze, was centered in the middle of the room. Percy, utterly bare, with his deep tan-almost-gold under the firelight, shivered as she sunk down onto him again.
A few footfalls away, splayed across the bed, was Commodus.
Propped up against the ornate headboard, surrounded by lush linens and pillows, he lay. A strange sight to process, the icy blue color of his eyes, so familiar to her, insistent on remaining on their moving figures. Perhaps though, even stranger was Apollo, once again in possession of his godhood, lounging at his side. Annabeth tried not to look, but every so often, the brutal, malice of their situation slithered its way up her spine and infected the tendrils of her nerves, causing her to send a glare his way. As if he was the sole reason for all of it. As if the emperor’s victory was his choice.
It could have been; only the fates knew that.
Just as Apollo tilted his head up towards Commodus, Percy grazed his fingertips across her upper thigh, causing her gaze to drop. His eyes, dark and heady, were observant as he watched her. He pushed himself up and pressed down on her hips, so she sunk even deeper down his shaft; a light groan escaped her, drawing the gods’ attention.
“Ass,” she muttered. He pressed a smile into her shoulder.
“What are they doing now?”
“Obviously, they’re looking,” she bit gently at his ear. “What did you expect?” She threw a glance over his shoulder and caught Commodus’ gaze just as Apollo palmed him through the sheets. He gave no acknowledgment of the touch, only kept her stare and gave a slight tilt of the head. Her hips bucked.
“Spare my feelings, please,” Percy said.
“I know you’re staring.”
“They get to stare at us,” she huffed and slowly came to a halt in her ministrations. Percy pinched her chin between two fingers and brought their lips together. Softly at first, then harder, until they were gasping into each other, too caught up to break for air. Voices filtered in through the open terrace doors, but neither broke the kiss. She knew it came from the guards who, past the garden’s wall of cypress, roamed the halls in the night; they had avoided them to often to count.
“Keep going,” Commodus called out, with a husky tone that echoed against the walls. “Unless you require our assistance.” A dark look, one that Annabeth knew all too well, flashed across Percy’s face—but his cock twitched inside her. After a moment, when she knew his storm had moved onward, she rolled her eyes.
“Spare my feelings, please,” she mimicked and rocked her hips again, faster. He smirked and pinched her thigh.
“Are you tired?” he asked.
“Are you nearly done?” Quicker than she could blink, with swift agility, he flipped them over and laid her across the bedding. Percy rose up on his knees, skin dragging taut, his lithe figure on display. The months of gladiator battles had hardened his muscles, added new scars to the fray, and as he dragged a hand through his tousled curls, she watched them stretch. A sharp, barely audible exhale came from their audience and his eyes flicked off her, if only for a second.
Then, hands gliding up her thighs, he took the silk ‘round her waist and ripped it at the seams; the tear of fabric filled the room. She hooked a leg behind his haunch and forced him back on her. Falling to his elbows, he laughed and kissed her. Once, on her lips, twice, on her jaw, and thrice, across her collarbone. “Show off,” she said, wrapping both legs around his waist.
“I know what they want,” he said.
“Do you?” Annabeth asked. A loose curl slipped across his brow and she grazed her fingertips up over his cheek to place it back. Lust had overtaken his eyes, blowing the pupil wide and deepening his iris to a rich green. She watched them flit around her face, filled with so much love that it knocked the air from her lungs. “And what do I want?”
He buried himself in her in reply, pushing deep so he could lean close; reflexively, they pressed together. Bodies twisting and bending, repeating well-practiced steps. Pain blossomed as he nipped at her earlobe and whispered, “Freedom.”
Annabeth gasped with ferocity, so much that she counted it a miracle Percy was already inside her or their audience would have grown suspicious. He started a lazy rhythm, but she gripped his ass, dug her nails deep, knowing this would be the end of their show.
“Rebellion,” he whispered, voice like sandpaper, and his rhythm increased; fast and unrelenting. Percy, she heard herself cry, Percy. Sheets ruffled in the background, but she didn’t care. The gods were a thousand miles away. Her lips traversed every patch of skin they came across, tongue darting out to lick a particularly filthy stripe up his neck. The air around them was heavy, it hung across them like a curtain; humid from their breaths mingling; sweat making tendrils of hair stick to her neck. It was an intoxicating scene, a moment accomplished by lovers alone. Mesmerizing and very, very overwhelming. A tight, vice-like wave started at her center and her nails traveled up the curve of his back, alerting him. His lips, pillow-soft, pressed against hers one last time, “Revenge.”
The wave crashed—her legs locked down on his hips, forcing him to the hilt as she tightened around him—and swept quickly over to him as his body drew taut against hers. He slipped a groan into the crook of her neck, to keep it a secret, to give it to her alone.
The after-haze was a gentle, slow mixture of loving murmurs and absent-minded fluttering brushes. The scent of sex was more pronounced now, over-powering the florals, but not tainting them. Percy, collapsed across her, fit his head against her shoulder; his breaths ghosted across her chest. As her heartbeat evened out, she thought, this moment would be enough. To stay here, forever. The torch flames flickered about the walls and she watched, vision blurring, as their shadows danced about the ceiling.
Then a figure hovered over her and her gaze re-focused. Commodus, half-nude with gleaming eyes and mussed hair, as if someone had been tugging at it, stood at the foot of the platform. She froze up, slinked an ankle around Percy’s calf to keep him in place, but refused to shrink. A humored smile graced his features but disappeared just as quickly when she sneered back. It was replaced with something like shock, something calculating. Before she could place it, he grabbed the drape that hung stagnant against the post and spoke.
“Return to your chambers,” he said. “I will call on you again.” The curtain was drawn, cutting them off. The words lingered though, like perfume, and they seeped into her skin. Again she thought of the emperors, of their united front and the disorder that lurked in the shadows.
True, Commodus’ purpose still evaded her—
but she now had the time to figure it out.