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Januarius

All Washed Up

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There were a great many things about working at the Thermae Mercuari that Januarius had come to love.  Take the clientele, for instance.  They were, well.  Common, not to put too fine a point on it.  Not much like the old masters who had wanted Januarius standing at their sides for endless, dreary hours, ready to hop forward and pour a new cup of wine whenever the level in the old had sunk to a perilously low level.

And those masters hadn’t been bad, not at all. It had simply been boring.  Jan’s talents were wasted.  They were wasted here, too, no doubt, but at least Jan was able to do something a little more interesting than standing about like a living statue with his fucking wine.  Any idiot in Rome was capable of that.  Even the barbarians, recently captured and capable of no more than a few words of Latin, could pour the fucking wine.  Here in the baths Jan was nearly a proper physician.

Or a proper whore, depending on who was looking for his services.  Jan tended to disabuse that set of customers of the notion as soon as he could.

The scruffy-looking man approaching him now might belong to either of the two camps.  Hard to say, really, just as his rank was difficult to gauge; he was sun-worn and scarred, a man who had seen a hard life, but not necessarily a slave.  A soldier, perhaps, or even a bloody charioteer.  A patrician fond of the countryside who’d taken an unfortunate fucking tumble from his horse on one of his sprawling estates.  Jan didn’t know.  Jan wouldn’t guess, not yet, and he wouldn’t bridle unless (until!) the man made an arse of himself.

“Ave,” Jan said, smoothly, smiling as the stranger approached the couch and set of oils.  “You wanted a massage?  Is there anything troubling you?”

An old injury, if Jan were forced to wager, though it could just as easily be some strain acquired in the man’s line of work.  Something outdoorsy, Jan thought.  The stranger was clean and well-scrubbed by this point in his procession through the baths, but that air of scruff and hard work was ground-in.
 

Edited by leely

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Of all the peculiarities of Rome that Tarbus had been forced to navigate, the thermae were amongst the more pleasant. As a boy he had grown accustomed to a frigid dunk in the river or in the rear of the stables: less of a luxury, but far more efficient than the lengthy pilgrimage through the bloody baths. In the beginning, Tarbus had been quite alarmed. 

Soon enough, however, the disconcerting stretch of dithering and bathing and lounging (not to mention the scrubbing) had been mitigated by the bone-deep satisfaction it afforded Tarbus after a long week with the horses. At times it felt that the dirt he accumulated could not be eroded by mere mortal hands. Fortunately, those at the thermae seemed in possession of loftier digits. 

Never, though, had Tarbus strayed towards the masseuses. The thought of them touching him so—Augh! He grew hot at the thought. He could not bear it. 

It’d been a long week, however. A handful of the newer purchases (horses, not slaves, though Tarbus was chagrined to find that the distinction grew ever narrower) were pesky blighters: Ferox and Astutus lived up to their nomenclatures, it seemed. The former had tugged ferociously against the reins that morning; Tarbus’s back was subsequently smarting. 

Reluctantly, Tarbus trailed towards the brightly clothed masseuse and admitted, “My back. The horses were troubling me this morning.” He considered it a challenge to be overcome, not shied from, but he could only do so when his bloody back didn’t pain him so. 

@leely

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Horses.  Ah.  Januarius was familiar with horses—was a skilled rider, actually, though he hadn’t been able to practice regularly in years now.  He’d probably sit a horse like a sack of fucking parsnips nowadays, wouldn’t he.  He’d probably be riding a horse shaped like a sack of fucking parsnips, too, for that matter.  The fine riding horses of his father’s stables were far beyond him now.

Well, at least he didn’t have to shovel their shit.  Januarius had been spared that particular fate.

“Horses?” Jan asked, beckoning the man towards the low couch where he did his work.  “Sit.  Is it a strain, or do you feel tight all over?”

Jan raised his eyebrows and his hands, expectant.  He’d find out what the trouble was no matter what the man said, but right now he would wager it was simple soreness and tightness in the muscles rather than a more serious injury.  Back injuries were generally obvious.  Men walked with tender, mincing steps, their faces pale and the awkwardness in their gait easily spotted by a practiced eye.

Oil of mastic, thought Jan, for muscle aches.  Oil of peach for the man’s skin—everyone deserved a bit of pampering, even if the scarred and sun-freckled man before him was clearly a lost cause.  Oil of spikenard towards the end, for calming effect and pleasant aroma.  This would be a simple task.
 

@Jane

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Warily, Tarbus approached the low couch and did as he was bidden. Sitting before the man so pliantly felt disarming; he found himself ashamed by how promptly he had followed instructions, by a man no more his superior than the sodding stable boys. Evidently, Rome had already taken its toll. He had endured the yoke of the city for far too long. 

The baths had once performed for Tarbus the precarious act of salving at least a fraction of his worries. These ones in particular were favoured by ordinary folk to such an extent that Tarbus considered it a lagoon of respite in the city he had grown to despise so fiercely. To him, Rome was the beacon of all he had striven to fight. That he continued to conspire against. 

Getting a fucking massage, then, made him positively Roman. 

As if to protest his reluctance, Tarbus’s back gave a fierce twinge. He grimaced. “It’s tense all over, really, but I think I pulled it a bit earlier. It’s near my shoulder, really. Ferox was being an irritating bastard,” he grumbled. The horse would be a fearsome opponent to train, but even more fearsome a competitor once he made it onto the tracks.  

@leely

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Januarius managed, by dint of great effort, to keep from rolling eyes.  The man now seated on his couch seemed positively reluctant.  Bizarre, really.  If anything, Jan’s troublesome clients usually went quite the other way, thinking that Jan’s clever, skilful hands offered more than a simple massage.  A slave’s obligation to his master, of course, but insisting on such wasn’t generally the done thing in a polite, civilised place like this.  Not when Jan had much more useful talents, and when there were many others available for that sort of thing.

Not that Jan would have to worry about such a demand from this man even if he weren’t half-cringing on the couch as though about to be tormented.  This man, whoever he was, was no master.

“Ferox?” Jan asked, with some interest.  Fearsome name.  He oiled his hands and set to work without delay, fanning his fingers out and brushing the oil into the man’s shoulders.  Muscles knotted, a strain—hm.  Nothing he couldn’t handle.  “I suppose you don’t train ladies’ horses, then.”

Ferox would be a soldier’s horse, or a patrician with certain Ideas about his own virility (and, Jan would wager, a small dick).  Or maybe a charioteer’s horse?  

@Jane

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The thought of a lady prancing around Rome’s cobbled streets on a horse named Ferox was positively laughable. As the masseuse rubbed oil into his shoulders, Tarbus was distracted enough by the vision for a smirk to curl onto his expression rather than the jolt of alarm that almost certainly would have followed instead. 

Proudly, as ever, he lifted his chin. “Certainly not. I train the charioteers and their horses. For the races. For Factonis Album.”

That he could ever derive some pride from the fate that had been forced upon him was as repugnant as accepting a massage from a Roman sycophant, but with some resignation, Tarbus acknowledged that he was a mite boastful of his achievements with the faction. After all, his years as a boy had been marked by his father’s efforts in the tribe’s stables. Such sandals had been fairly large to fill, but Tarbus considered himself triumphant. 

Then, the masseuse’s fingers dug fiercely – satisfyingly – into a particularly fearsome knot in his shoulder. Tarbus grunted and subsequently flushed scarlet.

“Have you been to see the races?” He asked through gritted teeth. Concentrating upon his work would be the closest thing to distraction he could attain with the other man’s fingers so… slick, gods, on his back. 

@leely

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Januarius grinned, amused by the mental image himself.  Amused, again, by the man’s obvious pride in his station with Factonis Album.  They all had their pride, didn’t they?  They clung to it stubbornly, too, even with the indignity of being owned by another man.  Jan wasn’t exactly prone to self-examination, but he’d picked up a few things about his fellow slaves since his exile from his father’s domus.  Wryly, he supposed most of them applied to himself, as well.

Ah!  He heard that grunt, quiet though it was.  He’d found the problem.  Jan dug into the man’s shoulder, working at that stubborn knot.

“A few times,” Jan allowed, glancing up from the man’s back.  “I like them more than the games.”

Whenever a ticket to those games came his way he did his best to give it away or sell it, actually.  Watching men hack away at each other, and at animals Jan would have been happy just to watch, was faintly nauseating.  The chariot races themselves were a little too violent for him, truth be told.  When accidents happened they were gruesome.  Not that Jan would admit his distaste to anyone outside of the privacy of his own head.

“You must be very good,” Jan went on, “To work for Factonis Album.  Let me know if I’m too rough.  They say a vigorous man needs a vigorous massage, you know…”

@Jane

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The man’s hands drove deeper. Had he not resisted, Tarbus was certain he would have oozed out of himself and into an undignified puddle upon the floor. He could not recall the last time he had been touched so fiercely yet with such kind intention. Since the raid upon his tribe – his last contact with men, he supposed, and how dreadfully that had ended! – Tarbus had kept decidedly to himself. 

Begrudgingly, he relaxed a fraction beneath the masseuse’s hands. The conversation certainly helped to distract Tarbus. “Yes, it’s much better than the games. Although I’d sooner there were no chariots.” 

Galloping along upon horseback was far superior, but Tarbus scarcely had chance to explain as much. If he had not been touched so in some time, if ever, then the compliment (was it a compliment, or was he mocked) proved more disarming still. 

It had not escaped his notice that the masseuse was a handsome man. Different: well-built, but hardly rough ‘round the edges like those Tarbus was accustomed to. Just as, er, vigorous. 

“Well,” Tarbus was began, willing his voice not to sound as strained as he felt his breath in his throat, “it is quite… hard.” Gods save him. “I s’pose both of us work up quite a sweat.”

@leely

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