Medousa suddenly found herself uncomfortable around her mistress. Not in a bad way, exactly. But in a way she couldn’t quite put her finger on. She felt as though Cynisca were behaving with almost too much familiarity. At least, in as much as a proper Mistress/Helot relationship should be. And she found that she herself didn’t mind. And yet this also bothered her. She tried to put it from her mind as they went through their daily routines, trying to comport herself as if these feelings were not affecting her. She would sometimes catch herself simply staring at Cynisca’s body when they were training, watching the way her breasts moved under her tunic, or noticing how her dark locks would tumble down about her shoulders, or even admiring her nakedness openly when she attended her at her bath. Cynisca never let on that she ever noticed Medousa noticing her. But every once in a while, Medousa would notice a smile appear on Cynisca’s face, and would realize that she had been staring. She would blush furiously, and turn her face away. But Cynisca never said anything to reprove or discourage her.
One early evening, Cynisca and Medousa came home from a day of training in boxing, wrestling, and weapons. They were both so tired, they had very little appetite for food. Cynisca had badly strained her shoulder while throwing a much stronger, larger opponent. They both made their ablutions quickly so as to be able to sit down to eat, in Cynisca’s case, and in Medousa’s case, to be presentable and fit to wait upon her mistress at table. After picking at her food for a while, Cynisca stood.
“Come, Chrysanthe,” she ordered. “Let’s go to the baths; I need you to work on my shoulder.”
Medousa stood at her station against the wall until Cynisca left the room. Then, she put down the pitcher of wine she had been holding and dutifully followed after her mistress.
Cynisca stepped out of her clothes and sat as Medousa poured water over her from a large basin. She took a vessel of fine ash, and mixed it quickly with olive oil, and smoothly rubbed it onto her mistress’ skin. Cynisca said nothing, though a small smile graced her lips as Medousa worked. Medousa blushed as she ran her hands freely over her mistress’ body, feeling the heaviness of her breasts, and firmness of her thighs. She had performed this service for her mistress often enough before; But now Medousa could feel her heart racing, and she glanced around nervously at the other attendants in the bath, uncomfortable with their presence, confused by the feelings she was suddenly experiencing.
Finally, Medousa went over Cynisca with a scraper, and then rinsed her off once more. Cynisca smiled over her shoulder at her handmaid, then rose and stepped into the swimming bath. She sighed, relaxing. She looked over at Medousa who stood by, towels and oils at the ready for the massage.
“Chrysanthe, you should wash yourself, as well. I don’t want you all filthy and smelly when you’re giving me my massage.”
Medousa hesitated, ill at ease in front of the other bath attendants. This was, after all their mistress’ time to bathe. Not hers.
“Glauke,” Cynisca called. “Go wash Chrysanthe, and then fetch her a clean tunic.” The other servant brought a jar of water, got Medousa out of her clothes, and washed her briskly, going over her carefully with a cloth and a scraper. Glauke was rough, not caring about Medousa’s comfort. She kept her eyes down, not wanting to make contact with the princess’ handmaid.
Before Glauke could get a fresh tunic for Medousa, Cynisca stepped out of the bath and lay face down on one of the low stone benches. “Leave me, Glauke,” she said. “Everyone leave. –Come, Chrysanthe; my shoulder pains me.”
Medousa blushed again as the other Helots left the baths, sniggering and making rude comments under their breath as they departed. Cynisca gave no indication that she noticed. Medousa picked up a vessel of medicinal oil, and began to work it into Cynisca’s limbs. She used long, firm strokes, pressing hard, yet trying not to cause too much pain as she worked.
She took Cynisca’s injured arm at the wrist and straightened it, placing her hand firmly upon Cynisca’s shoulder. She pulled the arm straight while rotating the limb until the palm was first facing up, and then, rolling away from the body, back down. Medousa then made sure she pulled Cynisca’s arm straight, holding it in position as she sought the injury in the shoulder. She forcefully pressed her fingers into the muscle, finding the nerve roots, and easing the spasm in the arm. Medousa quickly found the spots of tension and then gently pressed them out while stretching the ligaments.
Cynisca caught her breath sharply at first. Medousa relaxed the limb for a few seconds, then pronated her wrist again, while pulling it out in a taut stretch. Cynisca let out a sigh, and Medousa let the arm go.
“Oooh,” Cynisca sighed. “Thank you, Chrysanthe. That feels much better.”
“You should be more careful when executing your throws.”
Cynisca laughed. “I didn’t expect you to be so heavy!”
Medousa smiled. “You should try sweeping my legs out next time. That’ll prevent me resisting your throw.”
“Do my back, would you?”
Medousa worked rhythmically until Cynisca started dozing off.
Medousa continued to work, kneading and stroking, as she listened with some amusement to Cynisca’s gentle snoring. The other servants had gone, to tend other responsibilities. Medousa was alone with her mistress.
As Medousa continued, her strokes became gentler and gentler, her mind distracted as she stared, rapt, at the body of her young mistress. Medousa suddenly felt an upwelling of emotion in her heart. This person here, under her hands and fingers, had been, for almost her entire life, the one source of comfort and security and affection she’d ever had. Since the murder of her own family, this young girl, to whom she had been given as a slave, had in fact been her constant friend.
This girl had rescued her beloved stuffed wolf cub when they were children. This girl had snuck into her bed to play and talk every night, when they were children. As they grew up together, she suffered no one but herself to bully her or boss her around. Whenever the hateful old Megaera would rain blows down upon her back or scold her, it was this girl who always found her and comforted her. This girl brought her along everywhere with her, even to her own Agoge, and included her in everything she did. When the male members of the household, whom she could not resist or fight, would accost her, it was this young woman who had defended and protected her. She even went as far as to overlook and cover up Medousa’s most serious household infractions. Though Medousa was but this woman’s slave, the princess treated her as if she were someone she valued greatly. She began realizing what Cynisca’s protective, proprietary attitude toward her actually meant. And she realized that she harbored similar feelings for her young mistress –her friend.
Medousa felt her throat choke slightly, but not with sadness. A sudden swelling of gentle desire filled her. On impulse, she leaned down and softly kissed Cynisca’s shoulder.
Cynisca suddenly woke, turning over to look up at her. Medousa straightened up, suddenly embarrassed.
“I–I’m sorry, mistress,” Medousa stammered. “I meant no–That is, I didn’t–”
Cynisca said nothing, but looked up into her face. Her steady gaze silenced Medousa’s fumbling words. Their eyes locked together as Cynisca slowly smiled.
“Medousa,” she cooed quietly, using her real name. “What took you so long?”
She reached up and pulled Medousa’s face down to her own.
From that day on, Medousa and Cynisca were inseparable. Though they were discreet, Cynisca could often be heard using Medousa’s own name when they conversed, when they thought they were alone. And the glances, and quick, brief touches that passed between them in public when they were unable to be alone were obvious to any and all who had ever found themselves in love.
But, because of their discretion and propriety, their relationship went officially unnoticed and unremarked upon. What little criticism there might have been was not that Cynisca was sleeping with her slave, but rather that she so clearly loved her slave.