“Gentle” would not be the first word used to describe Adelina Aurelius, and it certainly wouldn’t describe the way she had just opened her bedroom door. She felt sorry for the floors of her house for having to bear the weight of her stomping, and tonight was one of those nights. She deposited her pack wearily near the doorway and began unstrapping her armour.
“Long day?” She heard a voice call, and looked up to see Wesley Illica sprawled out on her bed, flipping through sheets of paper. “You know, I’ll never get the hang of these maneuvers. Why we’re learning them after the war with Gotha, I’ll never know.”
“Wesley!” Adeline yelped. She shut the door behind her. “Do you know how many people could have seen you? I must have walked by four senators on the way here!”
Wesley collected the papers and shrugged. “What, can’t I see my beautiful wife?”
Adeline sighed and continued removing her armour. “We’re back in Rome now. We have to be careful about this.”
“You’re wearing a ring. It’s not like they won’t figure it out,” he said, and patted the space next to him. “Come to bed, darling.”
Adeline shed the last pieces of plate mail and gathered them in her arms. “It’s still light out,” she said incredulously.
“Barely, and I have to be up before it’s light anyway.” He held out his hand. “You look tired. Might as well lie down.”
Adeline opened the door to a cabinet and stored her armour neatly inside. “Is that your professional opinion?”
“Absolutely,” he said with a grin. “You’ve been diagnosed with chronic overexertion, and the only cure is a nice long rest next to yours truly.”
Adeline smiled weakly and closed the cabinet doors before climbing into the bed. Wesley wrapped his arms around her as Adeline played with her ring absent-mindedly.
“You know, I’m going to have to meet him someday,” Wesley said, pulling her close.
“No, you don’t.” Adeline’s voice was muffled against his side. “He may actually kill you.”
“So we keep this a secret until he dies, then?” Wesley chuckled. “No father could want that.”
“He would,” she said stubbornly.
Wesley rolled his eyes. “You don’t know that. Adelina, he might even be happy for you. And if he isn’t, well then, Aurelius can go to hell.”
Adeline twisted around in his arms. “I thought you didn’t believe in hell,” she said sleepily. The day had been a long one, and it felt very good to lie down next to something warm. Wesley placed a kiss on the top of her head.
“I don’t, but it’s the sentiment that counts.”
Adeline closed her eyes and wrapped her arm around his.
“You know that can get you arrested for treason,” she said quietly.
“Sorry sir,” Wesley chimed. “Lapse in judgement, sir. Won’t happen again, sir—“
“I mean it.”
Adeline sat up and turned towards him. “Wesley,” she pleaded. “He can’t know. Please, for your sake, I don’t know what he’d do.”
A heavy silence filled the room.
“We could run away,” he murmured finally.
Adeline raised an eyebrow.
“We could transfer,” he continued, nodding slowly. “Somewhere far away, maybe across the ocean.”
Adeline scoffed. “Roma Atlanta? That awful place?”
“I hear it’s not so bad,” he mused, reaching for her hand. “Beautiful weather, lots of beaches, exotic food…and I hear the Legate is getting old.”
A bitter laugh escaped her throat. “I don’t know what’s more unbelievable, the idea of moving to the new world or Aurelius promoting me to legate.”
“We could leave all that behind too, you know. No rank, no loyalties…just Doctor Illica and his lovely wife Adelina, looking for adventure in mysterious new places.” Wesley tugged on her finger. “It could be fun.”
Adeline smiled weakly and lay back down to face the wall. Wesley was right. All things considered, it didn’t sound too bad.
“I’d change my name,” she murmured. “Only slightly.”
She pulled the sheets around her.
“Did I ever tell you I was supposed to be named Aurelia?”
Wesley shifted so that the sheets covered the both of them. “You did not,” he said softly.
“My mother wanted to name me like they did in the olden days,” she said, staring into space. “Back then, I would have been named Aurelia, and so would all of my sisters, if I’d had any.”
Wesley failed to suppress a laugh, and Adeline shoved him gently. “True Roman efficiency,” he grinned. “I can’t imagine why they got rid of that tradition.”
“It…was a little much,” Adeline conceded. “But my mother didn’t think so.”
“And your dear old dad wouldn’t give his ailing wife the simple pleasure of naming her child?”
Adeline was silent.
“They thought I wouldn’t make it,” she said at last. “They thought she would die before I was born. Or that if she did last until childbirth, I’d have some kind of horrible deformity.”
“Oh,” Wesley said dumbly, as he began running his fingers through her hair.
“The name Adeline comes from the colonies, I think,” she continued. “Aurelius romanised it and called me Adelina. To remind everyone of the Empire’s conquests. Between you and me, I think that’s barbaric. So…” she closed her eyes. “If we left, I’d change my name to Adeline.”
Wesley kissed the back of her head and pulled her over to face him. He put one hand on her cheek, and wiped away a tear rolling down the side of her face.
“Then Adeline it is,” he said softly.
She relaxed into his touch, and the two lay there silently. Wesley was almost asleep when Adeline shot up suddenly, eyes wide.
“I forgot,” she said. “I have something for you.”
She scrambled out of bed and headed for her pack. Wesley looked on, amused, as she pulled a package delicately from the bag. It was draped in cloth, and Adeline handled it as if it might turn to dust in her hand. She made her way back to the bed and held it out. Wesley cocked his head to the side and took the package, weighing it experimentally in his hands. He removed the cloth gently to reveal a worn book, and breathed in sharply.
“A gift,” Adeline said quickly. “Happy anniversary.”
“A bit early for that, isn’t it?” Wesley shook his head, dumbfounded. “ De Sarceturae Corpori . How did you get a copy of this?”
Adeline crawled back into the bed.
“It wasn’t cheap. But I thought…” she trailed off, and her eyes went dark. “I thought it could save your life someday.”
Wesley gingerly picked up the book and placed it onto the bedside. He turned back to Adeline. Cradled her head. Led her gently down onto the bed.
“I love you,” he breathed, and kissed her until she forgot what was worrying her.
Adeline did not cry when she awoke alone the next morning. She did not cry when she returned home and found Wesley still gone, along with his book. She did not cry when she spoke with his centurion the following morning, and learned how Aurelius had him transferred to the navy in Roma Atlanta. She did not cry as she stormed into military headquarters, and she did not cry when she crashed through Aurelius’ door.
“How dare you,” she spat, charging towards him. Aurelius was unfased, seated at his desk and poring over a loose sheet of paper.
“Yes, by all means, come right in. No need to knock.”
“He’s my husband, not some toy!” she raged, stopping just at the edge of his desk.
Aurelius put the paper down.
“Forgive the confusion. You didn’t invite me to the wedding.”
Adeline was shaking, fists balled at her side. “Legionaries don’t come back from the new world—he’s going to die out there!”
“Adelina please, don’t exaggerate. It’s only pirates, he’ll be fine. Besides,” he said with a bemused grin, “I hear he’s quite the competent fighter.”
Adeline snapped and slammed her hand on the table.
“Reverse the transfer. Bring him back.”
Aurelius shrugged. “I’m afraid that ship has already sailed. And I don’t mean that figuratively.”
“Then transfer me. Or discharge me, I don’t care. Father, if you have any love left for me at all—“
Adeline barely had time to blink before Aurelius was in front of her, staring intensely down over the bridge of his nose.
“You come here,” he said in a low growl. “You come barging into my office unannounced, you speak with such disrespect, you hurl these accusations at me…”
He raised his voice, anger bubbling beneath the surface and radiating throughout the room.
“All these years, and still you don’t know your place.”
Adeline winced, and took a step back.
“I have granted your Wesley letter privileges,” he said, voice calm once again. He returned to his seat. “Be thankful I allowed him that much.”
“Don’t you have somewhere to be, soldier?”
Adeline trembled. “Yes sir.”
“Then you are dismissed.”
It took Adeline’s entire being to keep her composure as she walked out of the building and onto the streets of Rome. She did not cry when she rejoined her cohort for the day. She did not cry when she ran them through their drills, and she did not cry when the new recruits fumbled and fell.
She returned home late that night. Her pack fell to the floor with a thud, and she walked, legs stiff, to their bedroom. She collapsed on the bed, bunched the sheets in her hands. And finally, lying motionless, she let the tears fall. She wailed, face pressed against the covers to muffle the sound. She cried until she had nothing left, then she cursed Aurelius for all she was worth.
Adeline lay there for hours, never moving, never sleeping.
The birds had just begun to sing when Adeline moved sluggishly off the bed. Her eyes were red and her throat was sore, but she made her way slowly to her desk and took a seat. She pulled a piece of paper in front of her.
She closed her eyes. Paused. And with a laboured breath, she began to write.