Face ClaimBurak Çelik
It was crazy how little Florus had thought about his own heart until Tranquillus came into his life. It was always just there, pumping, and doing whatever it was supposed to do, he presumed. Nothing really noteworthy. Just there. But now, when he was with Tranquillus, he was constantly aware of it, pounding in his chest like it wanted to come out. Not in a bad way, like if he was especially winded, but in an indescriptible manner, like it was too full to contain everything he felt, He didn't know what purpose hearts had, except maybe be a receptacle for feelings, and a tell-tale symbol of what kind of person you were. Tranquillus, for instance, had a steady, calm heartbeat, and the young gardener loved nothing more than settling in beside him, head on the other man's chest, listening to his heart.
When his heart rushed because the body slave looked at him a certain way, or touched him, Florus understood what it was. The older man made his heart bounce around erratically like a child's stray ball. And right now, as Tranquillus leaned over to kiss him, he felt it. The man's kisses were as intoxicating as wine, and left his head in a better, more blissful daze. The young Briton knew he'd do anything for more of those. Including learning all the letters in the world.
'I'd really love that.'
He nodded, then returned to Tranquillus' palm. R-A-I-L-U-S came the familiar pattern, but he remembered it was wrong. He usually got in right, nowadays, but he was used to practicing with a stick in the dirt, not all flustered under the other man's steady gaze.
'No, wait, that's not it,' he said. He was really keen on a reward for getting it right. Especially if it was a kiss. He was fairly certain there was no punishment involved for getting it wrong, but why run the risk of not getting a kiss?
T-R-A-M-Q-U-I-L-L-U-S. He thought that was not exactly correct, but even crinkling his features and frowning his eyebrows didn't give him a hint. 'Do I get one for effort?'
Florus looked up at Tranquillus, eyes twinkling. It took more time than he would like, but he was succeeding. He was reeling Tranquillus in. The body slave was really intent on teaching him, and it was difficult to tear him away from that. Truly, he loved this. And Florus loved him for it. His intellect, his dedication... If Tranquillus didn't exist, the world would be a sorry place indeed.
The gardener could sense in the older man's tensing back that he was winning him over. And right on cue, as predicted, Tranquillus rose and went to sit on the bed beside him. The Briton put a hand on Tranquillus' knee, smiling sweetly, as he cupped his own chin with his other hand.
'I told you I take my education seriously,' he said as the body slave praised him, trying to sound matter of factly, but entirely failing to hide how proud he was of himself. 'In all asp-'
Tranquillus tracing letters on his back shut him up in record time, and from somewhere deep inside his spine, he shivered. Florus pulled himself upright, and took the body slave's hand in his own, tracing a T in his palm then looking back up at the other man. He loved it when they were this close. And he loved showing him that he had made at least some progress.
Florus looked at Tranquillus with a pout. Maybe he was being too subtle? The fruit had seemed very efficient for distraction, but his words, definetely less so. He hadn't thought he was being subtle at all, so how did he get things this wrong? Time to think of a new strategy. Learning his letters was all good fun, but it was never as fun as any of the other things he and Tranquillus got up to. Most likely he would never read any kind of text whatsoever, but that was of little concern when there were all kinds of other things he could learn. Besides, he'd never wanted to become an erudite. Knowing his letters and being able to read what he came in contact with in the course of his everyday life was more than enough. And if he could, eventually, read something out loud to the body slave, without stumbling too much, just enough to be impressive, well, then he'd be all set.
'I don't think those kinds of poems lack educational value,' Florus replied, having taken a new strawberry, and fiddling with it between his fingers. Maybe this was his new angle. 'There are so many things I don't know about, and I really need a tutor to help me,' the young man said, his tone very much back to the mock-innocent teasing. He grazed his teeth slowly on the fruit, and looked intently at the older man.
'Oh, I'm very focused on my education.' Just maybe not the same kind of education Tranquillus had in mind. To show his good faith, and maybe to help the other man understand exactly where his dedication was coming from, he started tracing letters on the bed. Upside down, taking his time because it was still very hard, he was still razor-focused.
There. Lectus. Bed. Hard to be any clearer. And he was pretty proud of himself.
Florus was equal parts amused and fascinated by how easy it was to reduce his Tranquillus to a gaping fish with a few insolent words and a naughty tongue. That he could have such an effect on this brilliant man, so reasonable and clever and logical, it defied comprehension. But Florus wouldn't question it. He just wanted to enjoy it.
Tranquillus' answer wasn't especially satisfactory to the young gardener. What did he mean by indecent? Was the detailing of sex something that was indecent? He liked sex, rather a lot, and he didn't think it was a bad thing. It had been amazing every single time. Well, except once, but he was certain that could happen to anyone. But in any case, Tranquillus was flustered, and that was fun.
'Why don't you give me an example of just how detailed?' Florus finished his strawberry, and turned around on his stomach, propping himself up with his elbows. 'Maybe you could act it out?' The tone was perfectly innocent, and his grin did its best to be that way, too, but the glint in his eye was nothing short of evil.
He reached out for another strawberry, this time extending his arm out for Tranquillus to take it. 'That's a shame, a scholar like you,' he teased, then shrugged. 'It doesn't matter, though. You could read me a treatise on architecture and it would still be the most attractive thing I'd ever heard.'
The other man seemed to have at least regained his manners, but it felt to Florus like it was the only thing Teutus had regained. He didn't look like he would have any balance, and he even looked, well, quite frankly, green. That was never a good colour when you were a human and not a plant.
The man was upright, at least for now, but the gardener was sure that a strong gust of wind would easily put an end to that. He reached his arm under Teutus', and around his shoulder. That should do it for the balance, but the walking, well, he couldn't do that in the other man's stead.
'Of course,' he said. 'Please don't throw up on me?'
Florus pondered his options. He really didn't want to go around Rome just telling everyone his name, or, at any rate, the name they called him by here. He'd told it to other people before, like Cinnia and Alexius, but they had more of a relationship together than just the gardener objecting to a drowning. On the other hand, did he have any leg to stand on if he were to deny the other man?
'It's Florus,' he muttered after a moment. What the other man was bound to do with that information, he didn't know, but it wasn't like he had much of a choice in the matter. 'So, did you want me to take you to a fountain, or just get you some water?' The young man always preferred to be useful, but in cases such as this, he needed direction.
'Alright,' Florus breathed, trying to focus. He knew her arms were going to be around him, he was expecting it. Still, he tensed as she moved to attack him, and it took him a split second longer than he would have liked to pull himself together and remember himself.
Bend over. A bit awkwardly he did just that, unsure why that particular movement was necessary. Elbow to the stomach. That one was easier, and didn't require much thought. The movement was very swift. It connected with her belly, and then with her jaw with a precision that was unexpected for someone so inexperienced, and it was gentle. It made contact, and was efficient, but he was just touching, not hitting. If Cinnia wanted to be hit for real, she'd have to ask for that, because it wasn't a service the young gardener was keen to provide.
'Oh, so you're like a tutor, then!' Florus exclaimed excitedly, already connecting some dots. 'My, er, um... I know a man in my domus who was a tutor.' The smallest of smiles found its way on the young Briton's face. He couldn't help it, even mentioning Tranquillus made his heart soar and beat more fondly.
'I'm a gardener in a domus,' he said, though she probably wouldn't have needed the explanation. His disheveled hair and dirt-caked hands spoke for themselves. Not to mention the fact he'd already mentioned the first part before. He got a bit light-headed when Tranquillus came to mind. Couldn't help it. 'I live in the villa too, but I don't have my own quarters.' Like Tranquillus did. Undoubtedly she did too, since she wasn't a slave.
'You wouldn't think it, though, because no one in the room thought to wake me up when the earthquake started.' Except Tranquillus. Wonderful, amazing Tranquillus. Fat lot of good the other slaves were, really. If the body slave hadn't had the presence of mind, and the gigantic crush...
'I, um, yes?' Florus replied lamely. When Alexius said it out loud like that, it didn't seem reasonable. It made no sense, honestly. What sense did it make to hold out for something that was never going to happen, anyway? The other man was right, if he kept up with this, he would indeed be missing out. And how long, honestly, would it take for him to get over the body slave? Would he be saving his heart and his body forever, just in case? Would he let himself wither away and die, untouched, unloved, because he was unable to just let go? Alexius hadn't said this much, but it sent thoughts spinning in the young gardener's mind. There was no logic to it, and maybe he should just give in to the man, and let himself experience some pleasure. It wasn't as though he knew what that would feel like, outside of his hands. Was he really going to deny himself the touch of a man, just for a pipe dream? Something passed over his eyes as he looked at the ex-gladiator. He was sure Alexius knew how to please a man. By the gods, he spent so much time talking about it, he needed to be good at it!
Pleasure. Florus bit his lip. The wine made his mind a bit of a blur. He remembered Alexius touching his hand, and shivering, then. Pleasure. The other man was looking at him the way Attis had looked at the honey cakes. There was a hunger there. Pleasure...
'I can't,' he said, after a too long moment of silence and staring. It wasn't that he didn't want the pleasure Alexius' words and looks promised. No part of him would let him go through with it. It was Tranquillus he wanted. Tranquillus he wanted to inhale with all his sense, Tranquillus he wanted to please in all the magnificent ways Alexius was promising him. 'I want... I want it to be him.' Clearly he was a fool. It was never going to be him.
When Alexius offered to continue the conversation upstairs, Florus thought it only fair. Where else would they go to talk? It would probably be odd if they stayed here having conversations of this nature. 'We can talk,' the gardener agreed. He wasn't sure that with Alexius' clear interest, the older man would want to hear about Tranquillus, and what was holding Florus back, but talking was safe. He licked his lips. 'Maybe you can give me tips?'
'I don't think that's something I'm allowed to assist you with,' Florus replied, absolutely seriously. Drowning a Roman, even at their request, was a terrible idea. He knew as much without having to put even an ounce of thought into it. But oh, that wasn't what he meant. He hadn't been literal. In the best of times, Florus wasn't great with the intricacies and double meanings of language. Add to that a foreign language, and his pounding head this morning, and he was having a hard time with the deciphering of it all.
'The trick,' he said, as though he were wise and experienced in the ways of wine, or indeed of life. 'Is to have something to think about that you regret more than the drink. It makes your body hurt less.' How such a phrase could be uttered in such a helpful, polite tone, and with all the seriousness of the world was something akin to irony that was also lost on the young man.
@Sharpie No worries, friend! I'm uh, even later.
Topics I Participated In
For the fifth time that day Titus had to shoo away Betua's anxious form that kept hovering about the entrance to the kitchen. Yes, it was her territory as much it was his possession, but there was a tradition to uphold. If she found the results of said tradition inedible she was free to go and serve something up on the sly. If Titus had to be honest, though, he thought he and this three helpers were faring quite well and did not warrant such levels of worry. Valeriana had helped pluck a chicken with unfettered, gleeful abandon, tearing out the feathers in small but forceful fistfuls before gathering an amount she deemed sufficient and running off giggling, possibly to disturb her indisposed mother. Publius was surprisingly adapt at peeling fruit and vegetables; in another life he might have made a fine tailor, or perhaps a medic. Still, the boy was just the right amount of both careful and daring with a blade in his hands. And Titus? Well, he had finished plucking the chicken, quartered it - clumsily, yes, but he was no butcher -, taken out the nasty bits and tossed the good ones into a big clay pot where onions, lentils, carrots and chestnuts awaited company. Copious amounts of garum and red wine and a handful of assorted herbs and spices, selected with no concern for how well they would go together but merely for their fragrance, had followed suit and the pot, properly lidded, had been placed in the oven to work its magic and hopefully turn all that food into a passable stew.
At the same time, his eldest hadn't been idle either, and had prepared quite the artfully decorated platter of assorted cheeses and cured meats before moving on to dessert: apples boiled in a mix of red wine and honey with chopped walnuts and more honey on top, and some stuffed dates and preserved plums on the side in case someone didn't fancy apples. Titus felt a surge of parental pride well up inside him: if his attempt at preparing a meal for the slaves failed, Sulpicia would save his honour by making sure they would still have something decent to eat.
The clay pot was smelling like it might be done cooking, and after a moment's deliberation with his son on how they would take it out of the oven without incurring serious burns, Titus spotted two thick and seemingly well-used squares of leather hanging from a hook just by. They served their intended purpose and soon enough the pot was set on a table and uncovered, belching out a great curtain of steam. It smelled like food, which was a start. As he portioned the stew into two big bowls Titus dipped his ran his fingertip along part of the edge of the pot and brought it to his mouth to taste. All right, so maybe he had been too careless with the garum and the gravy was a bit saltier and thicker than intended, but he had had worse. All in all, it was a valiant effort; he was pleased.
Now all that was left was to serve it to the critics. He picked up one of the bowls, Sulpicia the other and Publius the charcuterie platter and the three of them made off into the triclinium, where bread, wine and olives had already been freely made available to the servants. Titus had the feeling it wasn't only just Betua's expectant look that was trained on him, and that made him a little uncomfortable - nobody liked to be judged, after all. But a natural inclination for resting bitch face and years of making intentional use of it meant his expression remained mostly neutral, even as they placed the food on the table and began ladling the stew into individual bowls for the slaves' convenience.
"Dinner is served, my fine ladies and gentlemen. I hope you'll enjoy it."
@Chevi @Ejder @Sara @Sharpie
I suggest no set posting order since there's a few of us. Also, feel free to NPC Betua and any other slaves!
End of August, 75CE
The reading lessons had taken on a very different mood since Tranquillus' return. Sure, being a tutor, he did his best to actually teach Samorix his letters, but spending time alone with his lover was stimulating on more ways than just intellectually. Even the quiet times when they just sat together were lovely, and if the young gardener's scholarly progress might have slowed, he did not seem to mind at all. Right now, he was stretched out on Tranquillus' bed. It was the afternoon time, with the whole household taking a rest. Samorix had shown up at Tranquillus' door with a small basket of strawberries, promising that no one would miss them. They were sweet as the kisses they shared, and Tranquillus felt his resolve to teach more letters slowly draining away.
"You know, the dominus warned me not to educate you too much, or you might aspire to become a secretary" he noted with a chuckle, looking over Samorix's form from where he was sitting at his desk "But I feel like if we keep meeting like this, I will start feeling like an abysmal teacher..."
Two months were an eternity. Tranquillus usually welcomed the summer time outside of the city; the dominus was more lenient with free time in those months, and he had peace and quiet to read and think and study. But that had been before Samorix. Now, two months away from the city seemed longer than his entire life so far.
Not that Tranquillus had been idle. He did read and study, and spent some time on the beach when his dominus wanted to go swim. He also had... many interesting conversations with his fellow slaves. And lots of thoughts to occupy his mind.
Mostly thoughts of the young gardener they had left behind in Rome.
No letter arrived from Samorix, which was not surprising, given that he barely knew his letters yet, and Tranquillus did not really have the means to send him messages either. Without word from either side, the months passed with excruciating slowness. Tranquillus occupied himself with collecting small odds and ends he thought Samorix would like, and making notes of plants and flowers. All the while, a small nagging voice in the back of his mind kept telling him that the young man might come to his senses before he returns, and pick a more suitable lover for himself. Slowly, the voice got louder.
And now, here they were. The family returned to Rome in the cool of the fall weather. They were greeted by their household with the appropriate enthusiasm. Tranquillus' eyes scanned the group of slaves and servants, searching for one face only; his eyes met Samorix's only for a moment, but it was enough to send lightning down his spine. Gods, he'd missed him. Did he...?
There was not much time for reunions. The entire family returning home required coordination and organization as boxes and crates were moved and unpacked. Tranquillus was in the middle of it all, making sure his dominus had everything he wished for, everything he needed at his fingertips. The hustle and bustle of the arrival lasted until after dinner, then the family decided to retire to sleep off the long travel. And Tranquillus was finally out of things to do.
Slipping into the gardens, he inhaled the scent of flowers. The greenery was lush, as if some god of plant life had walked through it and blessed it; not many men in Rome would have a more beautiful garden to call their own. It had only been two months, two and a half since the earthquake, and the change was impressive. With the cooler weather the freshness of the trees and flowers returned, and there was already fruit on some of the citrus trees. Samorix had worked wonders while the family was away.
Maybe he found happiness here.
Tranquillus looked around, searching for the young gardener. He finally caught a glimpse of him standing under one of the trees. He looked like he was... waiting, lost in thought. Gods, he was beautiful. Tranquillus swallowed, fighting the rising voice: What on earth am I even doing here?...
It wasn't the first time Teutus had ever been drunk. It was the first time he'd ever been drunk as a free man, and it was definitely the first time he'd been so drunk he'd ended up slumped in the street without even making it halfway home. He fumbled a hand to his head and groaned at the stab of sunlight that assailed him as he opened his eyes the barest crack.
He was just wearing his tunic, and must have looked like some poor sap too poor even to be worth robbing - that was the only explanation for the fact that he still had his new gold signet ring on that his muddied mind could conjure up.
He cracked his eyes open again. There was someone standing there, and Teutus took a chance. It was daylight, after all, and even here in wherever this was (the Porta Absidata, gods damn it, if he hadn't managed to get nearer home than he thought!) nobody was going to rob anyone in broad daylight on a public road.
He hoped it was a public road not some stinking back alleyway, anyway.
The markets were bustling with activity, as they always were, but Florus didn't care. They made him uneasy, most of the time. Too many people, and too many things going on at once. Sensations, colours, noises, smells... Eventually it all set him on edge. There was a reason why his only outings generally were restricted to the baths, and why he preferred to stay in the gardens when it was possible. There was no peace outside. Not with so many Romans around, that was for sure. Not to mention everything else...
Today his mind was focused on something else, however, as it had been for the past two weeks. Tranquillus. Oh, he'd been thinking about him for a long time, now, but it had been two weeks since they'd shared their first kiss and Florus' world had become that much more beautiful. The world made more sense now that he had an anchor. It had also been almost two weeks since Tranquillus had left, and Florus missed him enormously. He hadn't known that he could feel so happy and so sad at the same time. Just as he had been able to touch the body slave, he had been taken away. It was so difficult.
The only thing he could do was throw himself entirely into his work. He'd been a devoted, caring gardener before, but now he threw all his energy into it, working all the hours where there was sunlight, and barely stopping to eat. He didn't really notice a difference in the outcome yet, but that wouldn't stop him from working. It was that, or sit around the gardens feeling sorry for himself. That had never been his type.
So he'd had an idea to make the domus more flowery. Large clay pots, which he had found in storage, somewhere, could be used to host plants and put around the doors leading to the gardens. It would be beautiful. And he'd even found a smaller pot, which he thought he might use to put beside Tranquillus' bedroom door.
All he needed to do was shop for the plants that would go in that pot, now. The young gardener browsed the flower and plant merchants, occasionally stopping to smell them. Interested, he pointed at a very nice iris. The merchant told him the price, smugly, and Florus exhaled incredulously.
'Are you serious? That plant is not worth that price!' He was indignant, now, and found his Latin to be failing him, so he reverted to Britonnic. 'Do you take me for a moron? You're a thief, that's what you are!'
After the night Florus had spent in his bed, Tranquillus and the young gardener were back to mostly avoiding each other. What was there to talk about? Florus had his eyes on something, and Tranquillus had errands to run and a dominus to follow around. The garden was slowly getting back to its former glory, and the summer was progressing with days full of heat over the city. Tranquillus buried himself in his work and his studies, hoping that maybe eventually he would forget about... whatever he needed to forget about. Florus' eyes, mostly. Or his real name.
It would have gone well too, it it had not been for the flowers.
He walked past the flower seller without looking, but the the word Britannia hit his ears and he turned to look. The flower, honestly, was not much to look at, squat in a clay pot and blooming with small white flowers. But it was something from the far north. Something that reminded him of Florus and his gardens, and Tranquillus could not resist the sudden inspiration to buy a gift. A gift could not be a mistake, surely?
Walking into the gardens, the air was filled with the buzz of bees. Tranquillus looked around, holding the pot of heather. Where did the gardener go? Lost in thought, he lifted the heather to his face. Did it even have a scent?...
The newt moment, a loud yell echoed through the gardens.
Flowers sometimes were a bad idea.
The moon was high in the sky, and Florus had spent the past hour in the shed, drinking the beverage he'd made out of fallen plums. They couldn't be used for the Roman's table, and he couldn't eat all of them at once, so he'd taken to storing them in the shed, in a small barrel he'd previously used for storing seeds. The seeds were all planted, now, and the barrell had been filled with water and plums. The heat had cooked it all, and it had ended up fermenting. It was some sort of alcohol, Florus had figured out as much from the smell.
And alcohol gave you courage. Courage to act on your desires. He'd only wanted to sample some of his drink, at first, but the more he drank, the more he wanted to drink. And the more he drank, the more he thought it was a sensible idea to tell Tranquillus how he felt. How he wanted him. How he filled both his days and his nights. How he wanted to touch his body, and how he wanted the older man to touch him. Yes, it was a great idea.
An hour of drinking, and he was no longer reasonable. The liquor was half gone, by now, and his brain felt like it had been wrapped in many layers of linen. But it was bathing in a comfortable haze, and told him he was ready. It was time to do this.
On wobbly legs, he made his way to Tranquillus' room, his tunic disheveled, and knocked what he was convinced was a sultry knock.
Trigger warning: mention of assault attempt
It had been weeks since Florus had met Cinnia out in the markets. Weeks, during which he'd been extremely busy. Busy with the gardens, first and foremost, but then also busy with figuring some very obvious things out. And, then, of course, after the earthquake, there was so much to do, so much to repair in the gardens. Trees to replant, new plants to order, the lack of rain to deal with, and the neverending battle against weeds. Yes, Florus had been very busy.
He had wanted to see the other Briton again, but chance had not favoured him, and for a while he hadn't thought about her offer anymore. Until one evening when he was returning to the villa from the baths, and a hand had violently grabbed his arm from a shadowy alley. Florus had said he wasn't carrying any money, but that hadn't stopped the stranger from pawing at his waist, despite his evident lack of a purse. He'd managed to turn around and shove the stranger away, and had run all the way back to the villa. The altercation had lasted all of ten seconds, but it had been really stressful. What if he hadn't been able to get away? Surely he would have gotten beaten up badly.
Since then, though, Cinnia's offer had come back to the forefront of his thoughts. She'd said there was a chance he could end up in a situation like this, and he almost had. Florus had to take it seriously. And he had to heed her advice.
This was why, on his next free day, he had walked all the way to the imperial palace, and, as Cinnia had said, asked for her by name at the servants' entrance. The gardener stood there waiting, his back straight, hands behind it, feet apart at shoulders' width, immobile.
In Britannia, the days of summer seemed to stretch into infinity. The sun set late, and the evenings, when they were clear, were surreal. In Rome, the days of summer seemed to stretch into infinity by way of the temperature. Every day was hotter than the next, and there was no limit in sight. The flowers were blooming, and everything was gorgeous, but Florus needed to water things a lot more than he did in the colder months. Still, even if he was being modest, they looked amazing.
He was finished with his labours for the day. The sun had set, and the sky was the deep blue hue of the hour when everything is a silhouette. Tranquillus had offered to teach him how to read and write, and Florus would be an idiot to refuse an offer like that. He might be too stupid to learn, he figured, but at least it was an excuse to spend time with Tranquillus, and that was something he enjoyed.
He'd been told where Tranquillus' room was, and he stood in front of the door, too nervous to actually knock.
'Tranquillus?' He finally called out.
Mid-July, 75 AD
It had been a few weeks since the earthquake that shattered Rome, although he had heard that other parts of the nearby country had been hit far worse than the city. Still there was rubble here and there and some buildings, that had been too old or too badly built, had crumbled. Luckily not the little insula he shared with his son! Lexus had been fine the day after, it seemed, although a bit shaken. Alexius hadn’t even been at home when it hit, he’d been at the ludus with an arm wrapped around the divine body that was Annis. As soon as he was able, he’d returned to his son and they had talked things through and went out to help where they could in the city.
Now that was a few weeks ago though and people had worked together to rebuild what was broken. Life went on in Rome, as it always had and always would in this eternal city. And he had returned to the ludus more than once to help out there too. Not today though; instead he went to visit one of his most familiar thermae, the one that was near the ludus and in the same region. The bath too had suffered some damage, but most of it was working once more and he thanked the gods for that.
He hadn’t thought much about what happened here so many weeks ago, when he met the handsome young Florus. They hadn’t met here, actually, but he had smiled at Florus for the first time and then caught him to share a drink. Sadly, after Alexius had dared to touch Florus’ hand, the youth more or less bolted out. He wasn’t very experienced and even still a virgin. Pity with that, Alexius would have loved to teach him a thing or two about pleasure. Luckily, there were plenty of fish in the water in Rome and Alexius wasn’t bored or unsatisfied.
Now he was back at the thermae, going through the less damaged baths and finished with a nice massage. After this he returned to the changing room and put his tunica back on – in the summer there was no reason to wear breeches, it was far too hot in Rome this time of the year. As he strapped the leather belt around his waist, another person entered the changing room from the baths and Alexius looked up at him briefly… and then looked again at the very handsome and very naked youth over there. What a sight to behold!
“Florus!” He exclaimed with a grin, recalling how they’d talked about drinking together again sometime, “How good to see you again.”