Their time at the villa, “really living in history instead of just dropping in and out”, as Barbara had said, was indeed proving educational.
“The toga,” Barbara lectured, unclasping the shoulder brooch and letting Ian’s toga fall in folds to the ground, “was a symbol of Roman citizenship. From the” — it was difficult to concentrate — “second century BC, only males could wear it. Taking on” — very difficult, with her fingers moving so lightly, raising goosebumps — “the toga virilis marked the start of a young man’s life.”
He’d noticed he only ever heard foreign languages from his companions, never those native to the time and place who must be speaking it, but that wasn’t Latin, not as he learnt as a boy; the words in Barbara’s mouth were a whole new language.
“Romanos, rerum dominos, gentemque togatam,” she breathed, warm on his cheek, her mouth too close to be seen but her eyes smiling, and the words themselves could be nonsense as far as he cared. He might have known what they meant, but his hands were on her shoulder, fumbling: cloth dropped away from her and she took a step back.
“Come and sit down,” Barbara said, and took his hand to lead him to the bed.
They were still learning each other’s bodies. Exploring, feeling heat rise under his fingers and his tongue, tasting wine on her lips, salt on her skin.
Barbara arched her back slightly, allowing Ian to reach round and unclasp her bra. It was a familiar action, but felt somewhat out of place.
“This is completely anachronistic, you realise.” He tossed it aside to land on his discarded tunic, the index finger of his other hand drawing a lazy circle around her nipple, tight in reaction, anticipation.
She gazed up at him, her eyes half-closed and her lips slightly parted. “Roman women usually bound their breasts with cloth or leather. The strophium, the mamillare. Would you like that, Ian? When in Rome...”
She drew in her breath as he kissed his way along her collarbone, continuing the diagonal path to her breast, and her hands went to his hips, sliding under the waistband and tugging.
“These are just as an...” she said, then he moved his hand, there, and the word was swallowed in a moan. “Nineteen hundred or nineteen hundred and forty years makes no difference.” She brought her legs up and used her feet to push his pants down from his thighs to his ankles, where he kicked them off.
“And that’s your considered opinion as a historian?” Ian slid down the length of her body, pulling damp cotton knickers nineteen hundred and forty years out of their time with him.
“Yes,” Barbara murmured as Ian made his way back up, placing kisses all along one leg and trailing his fingers up the other. “Oh. Oh...yes.”
She laced her fingers through his hair and tugged.
“Ow,” Ian complained against her, and followed the imperative, continuing upwards in the same fashion.
“Later,” Barbara said, when he drew level, and kissed him fiercely. “But now, please...”
Her legs wrapped around his waist and her hips rose to meet his, hard against his: it didn’t matter that they were in Italy over eighteen hundred years before either was born; that they were anachronisms, drifting, lost in time (never mind their underwear).
She anchored him with every breath, every scrape of her nails against his skin; reasserting their presence — in this time, in this place, still together — against the danger that must surely come, somewhen, somewhere.
This was cartography, mapping curves and angles: his mouth on hers, her hand between their bodies. Sounds were silhouettes, tracing round shiver, and gasp, and that wonderful noise she made in her throat as she tightened around him, drawing his own cry.
Barbara stretched and sighed sleepily.
“Enjoying our Roman holiday?” Ian whispered, threading his fingers through her hair, stroking the delicious hollow behind her ear.
Barbara shifted and looked up at him. “You mean, drawing sadistic pleasure from a violent spectacle?”
“I was thinking more Audrey Hepburn.”
“'There were his young barbarians all at play; There was their Dacian mother: he, their sire, Butcher’d to make a Roman holiday!'”
“That’s not in the film,” Ian pointed out.
“Barbarians. Are all the Barbaras and Ians at play?”
“Very funny,” Barbara observed dryly, as her foot stroked his leg. “Although, now you mention it, you’re not quite the image of the Roman citizen.”
Ian adopted a hurt expression. “I thought you liked me in Roman dress.”
“Oh, you’re very handsome in it. And out of it,” she added mischievously, her fingers playing across his bare chest. “But there are a few discrepancies. Your hair, for instance.”
“I like my hair!”
“It’s very nice hair,” Barbara agreed. “But that’s not a Roman style. I’ll get something from the market.”
Ian frowned, opened his mouth to say something.
“Anachronisms,” Barbara reminded him, a smile that might have been smug hovering at the corner of her mouth.
He kissed it away.
Ian woke up abruptly as he tumbled ungracefully from the bed, landing flat on his back on the floor. That bed really was too narrow, he decided.
Barbara rolled over and looked down on him, half-amused, half-concerned.
“Have you hurt yourself?”
“Just my pride, I think,” Ian replied ruefully, half-raising himself on his elbows as Barbara, amusement winning out, fell back against the pillows, laughing.
She — they — had been laughing more and more, recently, as they relaxed, reassured by the amount of time that had passed without crisis. Ian loved to hear her.
“I’m glad you think this so funny,” he said, trying to sound as dignified as was possible in his position.
“Oh,” Barbara giggled, looking down on him again, “You do look terribly indignant.”
“Is that so?” Ian grinned, and pulled sharply at the hand she held out.
Barbara toppled off the bed in a flurry of surprised limbs and landed sprawled across him.
“How nice of you to break my fall.”
“Don’t mention it.”
“Is this your delightful way-” her teeth scraped across his lower lip, “of saying you’d quite like me to be on top this time?”
Her hand closed around his cock, her nails catching slightly. Ian hissed.
Barbara smiled. “I’ll take that as a yes.”
“Yes,” he said, as she rolled her hips teasingly. “Please.”
“Wait a minute, child.”
“But we’re almost there now!” Vicki exclaimed, her voice somehow much quieter than the Doctor’s.
“Dear me, always so impatient. Sit and appreciate your surroundings for a moment. That sunset is beautiful, is it not?”
Ian let his head fall back against the floor. “Fuck.”
“Later,” Barbara rejoined, a promise and a sly smile, silencing him before he could apologise, and ran to gather up their clothes.
“Why’s he talking so loudly? Do you think he's going deaf?”
Barbara paused, looked back at him, and he could see the thought occur to her in the same instant it did to him.
“Quick,” was all she said, tossing him the bundle of his clothes.
Ian pulled on his tunic and shook out his toga before he realised.
“Oh, we won’t be needing those,” she said lightly. “They’re anachronistic. No, Ian, you’re not supposed to suffocate yourself in it,” she added and hurried over to help him with his toga.
Successfully dressed but still dishevelled, Barbara brushed him down, trying to ensure there was no dust or dirt left from the discarding of his clothes onto the floor, and he did the same to her. Their hands were less than purposeful in this aim.
“Tempus fugit,” Barbara said, laughing, a hand to his cheek, and he kissed her deeply, wanting to taste the words on her tongue, to take them into himself and make them not be true.
They were happy, safe, together, an island in the chaos, and he wanted that to last.
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