And Then…
Brenda Bryce
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2015 Brenda Bryce

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"And then there were two." The voice echoed off the walls of the stadium along with the roar of the crowd.

Geoff kept his gaze on the announcer and not on the carnage he'd dealt in the last several hours. The field was littered with the dead or dying, and he'd been the one to mete out half of it.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the gladiator he'd have to fight on the morrow. Blood spattered, as he himself was, covered in various bits of battle gear, a furry nonhuman that was built like a behemoth. Geoff exhaled slowly.

"Two gladiators. Alone and unafraid. Fierce and undefeated."

Win or lose, it didn't matter. He'd still be --

"On the morrow, watch these two magnificent specimens battle… To the death!"

Again the roar of the crowd reverberated in the stadium, the thunder nearly deafened him. They lounged in their booths -- each climate controlled to their species -- watching the spectacle of the battle. The clear fronts of the stands might protect the spectators sequestered behind it from harm and the elements, but not from the sounds and smells of the fighting. This, too, became a measure of entertainment. The different sections of the stadium competed to see who could be the loudest. Such was their lives. The battle, the competition; there was nothing more. Since technology had taken over to simplify their lives, they only had the ancient pastimes to entertain them, keeping them from boredom.

Yes, the crowd loved the fight, and the survivors, but he had no caring of their enjoyment. Not anymore.

Geoff bowed to the crowd in each of the four directions. As was expected, he raised his arms in triumph. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Ardis do the same. Turning, Geoff repeated the motions for the other side of the pla-steel stadium that he'd been told was meant to look like one from the ancient days of Old Earth.

Carrying his chain and shield, he turned and left the playing field, ignoring the hover cameras that tried to get his every expression. The stasis shield had been lowered and he entered the quiet, empty passageway. Unable to walk another step, he stopped to lean his back against the cool fab-stone of the wall.

Ardis followed, a few steps behind, and paused next to him.

Geoff could smell him now. Sweat mixed with the blood of the defeated and, even over his own stench, his nose twitched at the other gladiator's strong scent. He drew it in, enjoying the sensation of taking a deep breath.

"You must tend your wounds."

Geoff lifted his gaze from the floor and stared at the other gladiator. "It doesn't matter."

He thought, for a moment, that Ardis would reach out one of his massive hands and touch him, but the hand only twitched and settled. The mace and shield that Ardis had drawn, weapons the controllers said were ancient in origin, had fared him well this day. Only a few bruises to the chiseled face and several scrapes marred the hair-covered body.

Ardis' sand-colored hair was at least two inches long, coating his entire body except for his face and a few other places, like the palms of his hands. Geoff wondered for one moment what the gladiator's race was, as he'd never seen a humanoid with a full pelt, then shook off the thought. No longer did it matter what race they'd been born to. They were slaves, for at least one more night.

"Come, Geoff." Ardis' deep voice rippled over him, and as tired as he was, the hairs on his arm stood up in reaction and his cock twitched. He wondered what the hair would feel like against his own body, whether it was as soft as it looked, or dry and scratchy.

Pushing off the wall, he fell in beside Ardis. At the end of the doorless, windowless hall, they handed the weapons master their gear and strode beyond him, without breaking the silence. They passed through an inconspicuous doorway where a stasis shield automatically enabled to keep them from seeking freedom, and walked down a long, winding set of stairs to the gladiators' quarters. When Geoff started to turn into his own space, Ardis held out a staying hand.

"Join me? I'll care for your wounds as you seem to have no care of them yourself."

Geoff hesitated. He knew what the other asked. Companionship. A last night of contact for whoever did not survive the coming battle. It was a way of life here, and Geoff had known no other.

He scrutinized Ardis' body. Bare, strong feet, thick muscular legs, powerful, broad chest, and arms as big around as Geoff's head. He had a strong, smooth, chiseled face, and his eyes… Ardis' blue eyes had Geoff nodding, following him to the other gladiator's quarters.

Ardis' intent stare had shown a loneliness and attraction that he himself felt. It was overpowering and consuming. He needed just one night of contact, before he might die.

Yes, Geoff understood these emotions, and they would share their time together.

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