Annis didn't move from where she sat, but she said his name and invited him to sit with her, after he asked if he could join her, of course. She picked up the amphora of wine and said there was enough for them both. Alexius sat down next to her, leaning against the wall, "Enough wine is always welcome." He said and took it and drank a swig. No need for a cup today, it seemed. Not that they needed it, they had shared so many other things since they met, so why not a jar of wine?
"How have you been doing since the earthquake? I see they haven't rebuilt much here yet. At least my building was still standing when I came back home." Alexius said to her and handed the jar of wine back to her hands.
It was Thessala, wasn't it? Curled up by the door they'd tried to come through and apparently, that seemed to have saved her, because there was rubble on both sides of the door and around her. But she sat there, covered in dirt and dust, coughing, not looking like herself. Annis was right behind him and he noticed that other gladiators and workers at the ludus had begun searching for life among the fallen walls. When he was close enough, Thessala said something, possibly a name, but he didn't know it. Was that the one she shouted while the earthquake was happening... the one she tried to save? The reason why she had not left this door? Well fuck... there was a good chance Rana was not alive, judging by the amount of bricks on the other side of the door.
Annis spoke to Thessala, but she called her Saba and promised they'd get her out. Alexius nodded, "Yes, we're going to get you out." Alexius promised her and moved closer, helping Annis dig out Thessala properly. Hopefully she hadn't broken any bones! "Can you get up?" Alexius held a hand for Thessala to take, worried about his friend and what had happened to her... and her friend or whoever Rana was.
Alexius knew Annis had seemed very shaken the morning after the earthquake, but he had to return home to his son too and he had not had the time to return to the ludus until now. He knew of course lives had been lost and was honestly still a bit angry over that - why they would keep gladiators locked up, even during an earthquake, that was beyond him. To think that slaves had so little worth, that no guards cared to stop and unlock the doors and Alexius had failed to do it with the keys Annis found for him. But he didn't know how bad she was doing now. He found her in the courtyard, with a jar of wine near her, just staring into nothing.
"Annis, finally I found you." Alexius said, trying to sound cheerful, although judging by the look on her face, she wasn't feeling cheerful at all. He stopped near her, "Mind if I join you?"
It was a pity, that no man (or woman) had ever kissed Florus’ handsome and lush lips before. They had not been touched or kissed by anyone and Alexius would be more than happy and proud to be the first. And once Florus had learned how nice it was, he would want more. He listened to the young man tell about how he did not want to get into something with someone and not know what he was doing. Well not everyone thought that far! Alexius thought most people just kind of… did it. He nodded quietly at Florus’ words though and then he’d asked how Florus even came to the knowledge that man could like men the same way men liked women.
Florus blushed again and shared that a friend had told him and made him realize it all, because he’d never found a woman he was interested in like that. And then he would know how Alexius found out.
“I didn’t really have much of a choice in finding out.” Alexius revealed. “I began my training as a gladiator when I was 15 years old, I think. And I don’t know if you know this… but gladiators are often rented out to patrons to sleep with, the same way whores do. Gladiators don’t just fight. In a way, they are also a kind of prostitutes.” He admitted, he never spoke to anyone about it like that before, “But… that’s how it was. And I was still quite young when that happened to me and a man paid for my time and my body. He wasn’t bad though, it wasn’t a bad experience with him and although it wasn’t really by choice it happened… I enjoyed it enough and I was curious enough to want it another time. Soon it also happened with a woman and… it kind of just took off like that, I guess. I learned how to share and enjoy pleasure with anyone, back then.” Alexius said with a smile, “And I still do… enjoy sharing pleasure with anyone. With you too, I’m sure.” He added with a wink to the handsome youth. His insula wasn’t far away now.
Early July, 75 AD
Everything seemed to have settled down after the earthquake that shattered Rome – and a great deal more – not many days ago. Alexius had stayed at the ludus for hours that morning, helping with digging people out, but eventually he really had to excuse himself, because he had a son and needed to know if he was safe! It had been an eventful day, he even met his neighbor when he returned to the insula… and luckily Lexus was fine, even if he was a little shaken. That was all a few days ago now, and Alexius had busied himself with helping others dig out their homes and loved ones. He had been paid a little for that at least, although it was far from his usual job.
He thought he better check in on Annis though, and maybe Thessala, if she was in any mood to talk at all, but he wasn’t sure. Annis had seemed shaken too and he doubted the gladiators had been training much these last few days.
Alexius showed up at the ludus during the afternoon. He was a known face now, and now not only because he had once come just to see the gladiators train… he had then become Thessala’s occasional sparring partner and he had seen Annis a few times too. Oh and Theo, don’t forget him, he patched up Alexius’ latest bad cut in his arm, after he saved Felix from a beating. Alexius had then been here at the earthquake and helped out. He was practically family now, wasn’t he?
The guards allowed him in and pointed Alexius in the right direction - far from everything was rebuilt yet and some of the gladiators had to be relocated in the ludus. Alexius found the right way and hoped to find Annis - ready to give her a bit of needed attention and maybe some tender loving care.
The worst part of the earthquake seemed to be over now. Alexius stood with Annis by his side and covered his mouth from the amount of dust and dirt in the air. Slowly it began to settle and he looked around. It wasn't the entire ludus that had crashed, but a part of it. He wondered if the wealthier people's homes looked as bad as this though - they could afford better improvements. And not locking up their slaves. Thessala had not been locked up though, so she had to be somewhere among all the rubble, right? At least Annis was fine. And there were a lot of people out here in the yard. But not everyone.
Theo began shouting out orders and Alexius jumped on it too, helping Annis moving bricks and stones to dig out people, "Thessala!" He called out again. She was a good friend. He didn't want to think he lost her. She had been calling a name, hadn't she? Was her friend buried, perhaps... and that's why she had not wanted to leave? But what use was it that two people died instead of one? He carefully moved further in over all the rubble and tried to remember where the doors had been, the doors they had tried to open. Everything was changed now.
He heard someone cough and saw a person, covered in dust, she seemed almost white, like a ghost, there near a door that had survived standing, while the walls around it had fallen in, mainly on the other side of the door, "Thessala? Are you alright?"
It wasn't nice to be out with someone you liked and were interested in, only to go around and kiss and flirt with others. Alexius would try his best to show Felix all of his attention, because the handsome body slave deserved to be treated right. And besides, why would he not want to give Felix all of his attention and treat him right? He was nice, even if he was a man of fewer words than Alexius... and he was good looking and wanted to spend time with Alexius. So why not? And now they were even decorated with garlands, both of them. After that, Alexius thought of drinks and Felix agreed with the idea and wondered how else you'd celebrate Fors Fortuna.
"People don't tend to be so serious... and it's Fortuna we're celebrating, she would want us to enjoy ourselves. Let's see the temple first. Pay our respects... and then..." He added with a certain playful look at Felix.
The closer they got to the temple, the more stalls were there with people selling drinks and also bits to eat. Everything was decorated. There was a feeling of joy and merriment all over. He saw a stall with wine that wasn't too expensive and steered that way, "So what do you do, Felix, when you just want to have fun?"
He smiled, yes he might be a man of simple pleasures… as long as there were pleasures, he was happy, so he did not demand much. And his own room and bed and a warm meal every day and a lovely woman who wanted to sleep with him every night… well, who could demand more? Alexius did not. Yet now he had his own home together with his son and he did not know yet if he would get to bed the lovely woman next door here. One could always hope though, especially considering her lack of husband.
Alexius asked more into that, and said it wouldn’t be much of a marriage since she still lived with her own family – well technically, her husband could have lived with them, but he knew it was often the other way around. When a woman married, she’d move in with her husband and his family. Didia said she had been married, but it didn’t last. Alexius nodded, “Sorry to hear that – but not all marriages are meant to be.” He knew all about that. He had cared about Ariella and she had been lovely but… there were so many other people that were the same. And he didn’t want to keep on betraying her, she was too good for that.
Then Didia suddenly took the conversation to another level, wondering if he was offering marriage and Alexius gave her a surprised look, “I was just…” He began, before she suddenly called out about going to marry again and accepting his proposal, but out loud, clearly making fun of it. That surprised him a bit. Why would she do that? It was an honest and curious question, that’s all! Then she said to never say such a thing to a woman or she would think he was proposing.
“To be honest, I never gained such a reaction before.” He said with a small smile, she was not the first woman he ever asked about having a husband, “And I don’t have a wife either, but it is hard to find the right one. A steady partner would be nice… but… anyway, it’s not like I’m missing out on anything.” He added, his grin widening again. He almost wanted to tell Didia that, well, he was just next door, if she needed a bit of pleasure. Could he marry someone like Didia though? She seemed nice enough and she was definitely attractive, but would they get along if married? And would she accept his sleeping around? Alexius kind of did want to marry again, but it had to be the right one and if he could not find that… he would be fine too. But it would be nice with a steady partner too, someone to come home to and talk to.
Alexius had a tendency to get infatuated by people – or maybe just really fascinated. And when that happened, there were no one else in the world he’d rather spend time with, but the one he had cast his current attention upon. And how could you not want to give Florus all of your attention? When he was so young, so attractive, so fresh and sweet and so open-minded and willing to learn everything there was to know? Lucky for him that he’d met Alexius, who would welcome him with open arms and parted lips and more!
They were now leaving the tavern together, side by side and on the way, Alexius thought again of how passionately he’d like to kiss Florus and that did not weaken his desires for the young man. So he wondered, since it seemed as if Florus had only just found out that men could enjoy men, if Florus had ever been kissed before. And sweet Florus said he had not been kissed by a man and not even by a woman.
“You haven’t?” He asked, a bit surprised, “Well… there’s a lot for you to learn, it seems.” Alexius added and smiled, happy with a bit of conversation to keep his mind and cravings distracted, “How did you find out that men could like men? If you did not know this before?”
The more he drank and the more Florus drank, the more eager they both seemed about their new plans for the day… Florus coming with Alexius home and then they’d do a little show and tell about pleasure. Alexius could barely wait. And when he looked at Florus again, really looked at him, admiring him, Florus caught his gaze and seemed to blush a bit and it all just made Alexius want him more. Florus then confirmed how it was a whole new world for him and he hadn’t known until two months ago… but now he knew.
Alexius nodded and then he’d picked up Florus’ hand, caressing his hand and fingers with his own, while he spoke of touching and feeling and pleasure. He definitely understood it all. Florus almost seemed to tremble a bit by his gentle touch and he let go again and emptied his own drink. Florus did the same and wanted to get going. Alexius nodded with a content gaze at the other, “There’s nothing I want more right now.” He said with a smile and left payment on the table by the jar and the cups, then stood and gestured that Florus could come too.
“I don’t live so far away, as I said. And I’m fairly sure we’ll be home alone.” Else, it wasn’t like Alexius had not taken anybody with him home while he lived together with his son. And Lexus was growing older too, so there wouldn’t be an issue, he thought. But as far as he knew, they’d be alone. Just like he wanted. Even if the desire to just pin Florus against the nearest wall and kiss him and touch him was strong too. So strong. He inhaled a small breath while considering when he’d last wanted someone so badly... he looked at Florus, thinking a bit of conversation might help, "So tell me... have you even been kissed before? By a man?"