Lucius sank onto the stone bench. He leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes, trying in vain to shut out the image of the three crosses. No, one cross in particular.
“Too much carousing last night?” Tertius gave him a playful punch in the arm, a sly smile spreading across his face.
Lucius looked at him through one half-opened eye and shook his head from side to side. “It’s not wine and women that make me tired.” He paused, considering whether or not to continue. No one else was around, and he trusted his friend. “I’m tired of being a soldier. Tired of killing Rome’s enemies. Tired of all the agony.”
Tertius’ face took on a sober look. “How bad was it today?”
“Two of them deserved it. But that third one. He was already half-dead when we lifted him up. He didn’t resist at all–didn’t fight us or even curse. I looked in his eyes. Not a scrap of hatred like in the other two. In fact, he looked like he pitied me. Imagine–Him pitying me!”
“How long did he last?”
Lucius rubbed his eyes, hoping to rid himself of the sight. “He was dead by the time we broke the others’ legs. I shoved my sword into his side to be sure.” He raised his hand in the air. “It’s odd. I’ve been dirty with men’s blood before, but when his touched my hand, in a strange way I felt clean.”
Tertius studied him through narrowed eyes, and growled, “How can that be?”
Lucius looked at his palm, then turned his hand to look at the back. “I don’t know. I don’t understand it any better than you. But I know what I felt.” It wasn’t an outer cleanliness, like when he visited the gymnasium with its pools. No, it was inside. Something that made him feel he need never be ashamed again.
The centurion arrived, interrupting their talk. “Lucius, Tertius, you will stand guard at the rabbi’s tomb. There is some talk that his followers will try to steal the body. Keep watch and make sure no one approaches the tomb.”
Tertius guffawed. “His followers? They all deserted him last night. Such cowards wouldn’t dare steal his body.” He tapped Lucius’s shoulder. “Come on. Guarding his tomb will be child’s play after crucifying him.”
Still mulling his experience, Lucius rose and followed without a word.