Aia's reassurance brought the twitching inkling of a smile to Florus' mouth. Hopefully Tranquillus would indeed. There was not much he knew about the other man, come to think about it. He knew his eyes, his smell, his lips... He knew the body slave was a great kisser, he was patient, kind, steadfast and attractive... But he didn't know what his favourite flower was. Or if Tranquillus cared enough about flowers to actually have a favourite. There was so much they had to learn about one another.
'I am a gardener,' he confirmed. 'That's why I was named thus.' He resisted the urge to tell her Florus wasn't his name. It was someone else's, that had been bestowed upon him because the Romans didn't even care enough to learn his actual name. He was more guarded than when he had met Cinnia, though, and wasn't about to share information that could potentially get him in trouble. 'And what is it that you do?'
Florus nodded seriously. 'Gratitude.' It was a weird thing, that someone grabbing at him like that stressed him this much. It wasn't as though it had been anything other than an attempted robbery, right? Couldn't very well be anything else. Still, it had set him on edge, and even recreating the event to teach him about self defense brought him anxiety.
She explained to him the next move, and he nodded, serious as always. 'That makes sense. I'm ready.' He didn't know whether he'd be any good at that, but they'd just have to see. Florus assumed his combat-ready position, and looked at Cinnia, chin held high, somewhat defiantly. It gave him a measure of confidence.
'No,' Florus replied pensievely. 'I shouldn't like to get into something with someone and not know what I'm doing.' Of course, Attis had explained the bare bones of it all, but there was bound to be more. Presumably one didn't just jump on the object of their affection and do the deed. Presumably there was a lead up to it. At least he hoped. And with any luck, Alexius would explain it to him.
His cheeks had been doing a fine number today, with all the blood flowing through them, but they seemed to be returning to normal, at least until Alexius asked him how he had stumbled upon his knowledge. At least it was only pink, and completely unnoticeable. Hopefully.
'A friend told me. I said I'd never found a woman I was interested in, and he said it didn't have to be a woman. I didn't know that! How did you find out?'
Alexius let go of his hand, and Florus felt something grumble inside him. Was it disappointment? That was silly. Alexius was just trying to show him something; the gardener had no business getting overly excited. He stood up at the same time as the former gladiator did, very much as eager as the other man was. Just imagine, if Tranquillus could feel the way he felt, with just a slight pressure on his hand... He was going to get carried away now, and he knew he ought not to. He wasn't going to get Tranquillus, after all. For so many reasons.
'Alright, let's go,' Florus urged the other man. Maybe he was being too enthusiastic. Was that alright? It was a good thing Alexius lived close by: he didn't want to wait a second longer. It was also a good thing that they were going to be alone. It felt like it would be embarrassing to have someone else witness his inexperience and Alexius' coaching. Of course, he didn't have anything to prove to anyone, but if something ever happened, with Tranquillus, or, more likely, with someone else, he didn't want to be seen as the one who had needed coaching.
'I haven't,' Florus replied. Of course Alexius would need to know these things if he was going to teach him all about them. 'By a man or a woman.'
Cinnia's words and kind smile seemed to rouse something inside of Florus, and he found enough energy to brace himself, and enough enthusiasm to want to go on with the lesson. A shy, small smile appeared on his face, proof of his good faith. He was ready to do this, and yes, he was willing. He needed to learn so that no one would ever try to steal from him again. Or, if they tried, he'd ensure they knew he could give them what was coming to them, swiftly and without so much as breaking a sweat. Alright, that last part might be wishful thinking, but being prepared was always a good thing.
'Gratitude for your help, Cinnia,' the gardener said, his tone serious. Florus was serious most of the time. He found it difficult to disengage from a train of thought, and levity and wit often went by too quickly for him. It wasn't just the language barrier. Sometimes he felt like he inhabited his own head more than the outside world. But these lessons were grounding him in the moment. The moment to kick some ass.
'I think... I don't mind what you think is the best option. I just... please don't touch me there anymore.' He really didn't like it.
Gaul. He'd heard about the Roman province, but he'd never met anyone from there. As always when he encountered people from new places, Florus examined her, expression still neutral. Yes, she looked like a regular person. People didn't tend to have the name of their country of origin stamped on their face. Except for the one slave he'd seen once at the market. He couldn't read, of course, at least not really, not yet, but he knew some letters, and he assumed the F on the man's forehead was short for wherever he was from. Thrace, maybe? No, F didn't make that sound.
What was a Gaul doing in Britannia, he wondered. Then again, merchants existed, and he supposed they had to learn each other's languages in order to do their merchant stuff. Maybe she was part of a merchant fleet? She seemed to be a free woman, at any rate. Florus closed his curiosity up in a box. It wasn't his place to wonder about other people. All he really wanted to worry about was his plants, and a certain special someone.
His cheeks were still quite pink, but as she incorrectly assumed his someone was a woman, he raised his eyes to meet hers, somewhat defiantly, though his expression remained altogether polite. 'I like irises. I hope he does too.'
The Roman's reaction left Florus relieved. At the time, he'd been highly annoyed by Tranquillus' constant interventions in his gardening plans, and considerably flustered by the other man's presence and gaze, without knowing why. He'd thought he'd answered the body slave curtly, rather rudely, and had been so very afraid that his impoliteness would have him reported to the Roman, but he'd been lucky. He'd learned to know Tranquillus, in all that time, and now he knew the man was just kind. So kind. And so attractive. And now was not the time to think about his brown eyes.
'Gratitude, dominus,' Florus said. 'I would be glad to work with any fruit tree of your choosing.' Any tree, really. Or plant. Of course, it was much more fun when he could decide the plants he wanted, but he didn't hate the imposition, either, if he forgot for a moment that he didn't have any ounce of choice in his life whatsoever. Thinking about the gardens usually helped in that regard. When it wasn't he who chose the plants, it felt like a game. Oftentimes they were plants he wasn't familiar with, and the goal of the game was to figure them out by himself.
Incomprehension coloured Florus' usual neutral glance as the Roman urged him to destroy the ugly statue even more. He didn't quite understand why the man was so keen to have his own property even further destroyed, but he also didn't care too much. Part of the statue's face was still intact, and its eyes seemed like they were uncomfortably peering into the young man's soul. Sure, he would destroy it. No problem. 'I think smaller bits would be preferrable, dominus,' he said.
Florus looked at his cup of wine, and might have been about to drink when he noticed Alexius' eyes on him. Something about how the man looked at him was warming his cheeks. It was exciting, arousing even. He would learn so much! He was a good deal more cheerful than he usually was, and not sober at all, but he was still in control. Or, well, his pulsions seemed to have a better control of the situation than his mind. Alexius was a good-looking man. Very experienced. Good.
'It is,' he confirmed. 'I didn't know what I wanted until two months ago.' He didn't know when he would get the chance to thank Attis for it, but he felt like he should. He'd never understood why women had no appeal for him, and had always pretty much figured everyone else was also pretending they liked them as much as they did. 'But now I know,' he said, raising his head to look into the other man's eyes. And it was very good to know that he was not alone with his desires. It was good to know that someone like Alexius understood.
Something pulled from his navel as Alexius caressed his hand, and he repressed a shiver. That felt really nice. The former gladiator was going to teach him how to touch, and maybe then he'd learn how to elicit such a reaction from someone like Tranquillus. Or most likely not. But still. And then the other man spoke of pleasure, and Florus had to bite his lip. Alexius was very good at this. If one day Tranquillus could feel just half of how the former gladiator was making him feel, right now...
Florus finished his cup of wine, but found that swallowing presented a bit of a challenge. 'So, erm, do you want to go now?' They needed to go now, really, because it was already bordering on indecency, as far as the gardener was concerned.
Hitting someone, anyone, and especially a friend, it turned out, made Florus miserable. The blow had landed, and it seemed like he had hit well. She'd stumbled back, and seemed to touch her jaw gingerly. It seemed painful. She gestured that it was alright, fine, but he still felt incredibly guilty. He hated that he had hit her, especially since it wasn't the move they'd practiced. He wasn't sure how he could make it up to her. He'd have to find a way, because surely this would not do.
He shook his head at her words. 'I didn't mean to, Cinnia. I didn't want to hurt you.' Permission to do it or not, he hated it. He hadn't liked fighting in the battles either. He felt so out of his depth, far away from what made him him. He liked plants, not violence. 'I don't think I would have made any kind of warrior,' he said. 'But I don't think I'd feel sorry punching someone who grabbed me, though.'
'Aia,' he repeated. It wasn't a name he was immediately familiar with, and that, coupled with her accent, made him wonder where she was from. He had only once, since leaving Longinus' household, met a Briton in Rome, and that was Cinnia. He wondered if any of his tribe, the Silures, were wandering the city, enslaved as he was. Probably. He couldn't fathom being the only one left. It was a depressing thought, for one, but honestly it just seemed supremely unlikely. 'Where are you from, Aia?'
Aia's perceptiveness brought a pink tinge to Florus's cheeks. Or maybe it wasn't really perceptiveness, and the gardener just felt called out? He was, after all, totally arguing about the price of flowers, for his special someone. 'Erm...' Well, she certainly had her answer.