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21 February 2014 @ 12:41 pm
Fic: The She-Wolf of Rome  
yeah, so when I left the Coriolanus viewing I wanted two fics, one I did for Porn Battle already (Martius/Aufidius), and then this one. Because the role can be just tertiary, but in this production even without many lines, Virgilia was great. and so I wanted to write something about the aftermath of the play.

Fandom: Coriolanus
Characters:Virgilia, Volumnia
(ref: Martius/Virgilia)
Rating/Words: PG. 1700 words

The final time Martius came home, Virgilia shed no tears. She remembered his teasing words and, though she could not find laughter, she forbade her own tears as they bore him within.

So she stared upon his body with hot, dry eyes. When Menenius and Volumnia began to wail and moan in grief, Virgilia looked at them, a cold hatred knotted in her chest, wishing them both gone. Only her son's tears roused her pity, and she smoothed his hair and let him cry the tears she couldn't, not yet.

When Volumnia attempted to help her with the washing and readying for burial, Virgilia snapped at her. "It is a wife's duty. Mine. And I will do it."

"My son…"

"My husband," Virgilia insisted furiously. "As I cared for his wounds each time he returned to me, so then I will care for him now, and you cannot steal this from me!" Her eyes burned more hotly, threatening tears, but she blinked them back, unwilling to show weakness.

Startled by the defiance, Volumnia retreated, and left Virgilia to her lonely ablutions.

It was difficult. So many wounds - so many scars… The worst wounds were those that had taken his life, still raw and unhealed. She wiped the blood away and wrapped the wounds in linen, tenderly, as if he could still feel them.

She remembered bathing and bandaging other wounds before, those that he had survived. She remembered kissing him and telling him stupid jokes and stories to distract him from the pain. She'd wiped his face so many times, tending him when he was fevered from his wounds.

So many memories of their time together, moments strung together like bright golden beads. Too few in the end…

… laughter as they'd missed the edge of the couch and fallen to the floor, still entwined ...

... that time he'd managed to pull her gown off and his gaze had touched her naked skin like fire, even when he was so hurt he could not have risen for Jupiter himself...

… his hands, hard and calloused from his sword, taking the pin from her hair and combing through the length with his fingers, brushing her neck with such gentleness…

… The urgency of his mouth on hers, how it felt when he lifted her in his arms and carried her to their sleeping couch…

… Listening to his voice recite Greek poetry to her…

... The brilliant light in his eyes when he beheld her with his newly born son, and all fierceness had fled from him as he dropped to his knees before them and put his head in her lap…

Those were the memories she wanted to keep, not this pallid empty body.

Now there were tears, silently sliding down her cheeks, as her fingers traced his most loved face, the proud line of his nose, the strength of his brow… She wrapped him in a clean white robe and bent to kiss his cold lips one last time.

Some weeks after the funeral, life began to settle into something which should have been the same as when Martius had been away on campaign and yet was not, because she knew he was never coming home.

Putting aside her needlework, Virgilia entered the courtyard. For a moment, she found some contentment in watching Martius the Younger fighting with his father's old wooden sword against his trainer.

Martius did a particularly strong combination, and Virgilia heard applause from the eastern portico and peered across to see Volumnia watching Martius as well.

Virgilia put a hand across her stomach, roiling with ill humours, and she wanted to go drag Volumnia away by the hair. Leave him alone, have I not lost enough?

Inhaling a deep breath, she walked around the peristyle, keeping to the shade, to meet her son's grandmother on that side.

Volumnia cast a glance at her. "You still veil your head."

Virgilia eyed Volumnia's uncovered and coiffed hair. "I still mourn my husband," she said. "You do not?"

"Of course I mourn the loss of my only son, dearest daughter."

Virgilia smiled a tiny bit. "Loss. You lost him. Like you dropped a coin by the side of the road. At least until it is replaced." She watched her son. "But I did not lose my husband. He was stolen from me. He was murdered."

"By oathbreakers and villains," Volumnia snapped in disgust. "Tullus Aufidius shall pay for his treachery if vengeance must wait until my grandson may take his head from his neck."

Virgilia's hands clenched and she hissed, "Not by Tullus Aufidius. By you."

Volumnia stepped back, eyes wide and shocked, with a gasp. "Daughter!"

An untempered rage that had sat in her heart all these long lonely weeks boiled over into furious words. "You made Martius change his mind. What did you think would happen? Did you think Tullus Aufidius would stand idle and let Martius make a mockery of him in that way? Never."

"To save the city! That was why we went to him, Virgilia. To spare our home in his rage."

"Rage that was only caused by his banishment, for something you wished, for Gaius Martius to take up the consulship," Virgilia retorted. "Because you wished your son consul, you wished to live in a consul's house and eat a consul's food... You cared nothing whether he would be suited for it, which even a blind beggar knew he was not. He knew he was not, and yet did so, for you."

Volumnia looked at her pityingly. "You blame me, Virgilia, and I know you are quite mad with grief. But you would have kept him home, petted and unmanned, not the greatness I knew he was. His death is to be mourned, but he was great, daughter. And he will long be remembered, and that is what I wanted most of all, as any mother should."

Her fury ran out of her, like water on sand. "I didn't want greatness," Virgilia whispered. "I want him to be alive. With me."

There was condescension in Volumnia's smile then, as if she beheld a weak reed, broken in a tempest. "Rome's greatness deserves great sons. As yours will be, one day, as great as his father."

Virgilia's eyes went back to her son, imagining him as tall and strong as his father, lying on the same bier, wrapped for his own funeral.

It was with that image in her mind, that she watched as Volumnia moved closer to the courtyard and called to Martius,

"Bravo! Strike hard and quick!"

Martius saluted her with his blade and shouted back, "Yes, Grandmother, I will!"

Virgilia's hand went back to her stomach, as if some terrible oracle's sight had come upon her and she saw the future unspool at her feet, of the past reflecting forward.

You took my husband, now you take my son, too?

A week later, her hands were steady as she stitched Martius a new tunic. He was growing so fast, it seemed she was remaking his clothes all the time.

Volumnia entered the chamber, chasing away the servants with a sharp word. "I see you have no wine, daughter. Shall I pour us some?"

"If you would; the heat has grown oppressive," Virgilia answered, watching as Volumnia poured from the decanter into the two cups already there, waiting.

Volumnia handed one to Virgilia, who held it between her hands but did not drink, before she set it aside to take up her needle again.

Volumnia didn't notice, sipping at the wine and seating herself on the lounge. "You should encourage Martius," she said. "He asked me why you do not observe him more."

"I have my own tasks and I will not hover over him like a vulture," Virgilia answered. She stabbed her thumb with the needle in her frustration, and hissed a curse at the blood droplet that welled up to stain Martius' tunic.

"You are right, the heat seems oppressive in here. We should retire to the garden." Volumnia put a hand to her chest, her forehead suddenly beading with sweat. She took a deep draught of the wine, thirstily. "I feel quite… strange…" She swayed and her numb fingers dropped the cup, so it fell to the floor and only a little of the wine remained to dribble out. She stared at Virgilia in shocked realization. "You."

Without qualm, Virgilia watched as the elder woman fell to her knees, clutching at her throat. Virgilia put the sewing aside and took up her own cup, moving nearer to Volumnia to quiet her if she intended to call out. "Yes."

"Because… you blame me for Martius…"

Virgilia shook her head once. "I do, but that is not why." She poured out her wine across the tile, untasted, and knelt beside her mother-in-law. "Because I will not let you destroy my son, as you destroyed his father. He will not be a tool for your glory, and if he achieves greatness it will not be because you forced it upon him. And perhaps then my son will live long enough to see his own son grown to manhood."

Volumnia collapsed, curling up on her side and gasping for breath.

"I am sorry," Virgilia murmured to her. "But there is only one lady of the house and only one mother of the master of the house, and I will not let it be you."

"But… Martius…" Volumnia gasped.

"If you see him, tell him I love him still and always," Virgilia said. "I will be reunited with him in the afterlife, I believe that. But not yet."

Volumnia's final breath choked in her throat and she was gone.

Virgilia calmly dumped the remaining poisoned wine down the privy so no one else would be harmed by accident, and then hurried to the archway to call for help.

Later she felt a little guilty, as Martius cried for the loss of his beloved grandmother, but as she smoothed his hair and held him tight, she was also grimly satisfied.

I shall have the shaping of you, my son. Your future will not be a shadow of your father's, and you will serve Rome as you wish, not to serve her ends for glory and death.

I pray for your forgiveness when next we meet, my husband. But you have taken all my softness with you, and I am left only hard grief and the fierce protectiveness of a she-wolf. But I promise I will raise our son well, and you shall be proud of us both.

In the end, you and I will find our softness and our peace once more, together.

Crossposted from DW There are comment count unavailable comments over there. Feel free to comment wherever.