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Mid July, 75AD, Port of Piraeus

Longinus disembarked the boat with a grumble. The crossing hadn't been bad but it had been irritatingly long. He hadn't been to Greece since he was a boy, and the ten day journey - down the coast of Italia and then through the mare nostrum into Greece had been mind-numbing. For a man that had too much energy at the best of times, being contained to a small boat was torturous. At least he didn't suffer from the sea sickness as Titus did. Small mercies. 

Now they were in Greece, it...was not what he had imagined. Where were all the grand buildings and beauty that the writers wrote about? All he saw was a fleet of ships, warehouses and the pungent smell of fishing vessels that turned his stomach. He glanced at Attis, displeasure in his eyes. "This is a shithole. If it wasn't another ten days to get back, I'd suggest we get back on the boat." His mood had barely lifted in the few weeks he had been back from Formiae in Rome, and whilst he was no longer cocooned in the depression he had been, that depression had been replaced by bouts of anger and snappiness. Poor Attis. 

This trip to Greece had supposed to be with his wife, before their child was born. Instead, it was with his faithful body slave. He liked Attis, a tremendous amount, but it wasn't comparable. His mother had nonetheless urged him to still go, suggesting that the fresh air and change of scenery would lift his spirits (and keep him out of her, and Cassia's hair). He looked around at the slaves unloading baggage and then back to Attis. "How far to Athens?" They'd need to get horses, and then find somewhere to stay. In typical Longinus fashion, he hadn't even considered renting a house, musing that he'd strike lucky once he was here. But if this was all that Greece had to offer, then perhaps he was mistaken.

 

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"Maybe thirty miles, domine," Attis said. He was tired of being snapped at, but such was the life of a slave. "You're not likely to see the nice buildings and things down by the docks, either," he added, pointing out the obvious.

He never had liked sea travel but his meals had all remained in his stomach which was a mercy. 

"Why don't we find a half-decent caupona where you can have a drink and some food while I go and find horses?" He'd much prefer to have some wine and food first, but could probably scrounge some while on his errand. 

 

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He only arched a brow at Attis' quip and shrugged broad shoulders. "Ostia's nicer than this though." He argued back, as if he were a child fighting petulantly with a parent. At Attis' suggestion he merely shook his head, "No, I'm sick of sitting down. Come on." He jerked his head and battled through the crowds, lugging his own bag of essentials (Attis overburdened enough). 

"I haven't been here since I was a child," He remarked and glanced around with a wrinkled nose of disdain at their surroundings, "But Aulus did his Tribuneship in Greece. Alright for some." He muttered and then shook the thought of one of his oldest friends angling for an easy life from his mind. Aulus had more than proven himself in the years that Longinus had known him. He was just in a bad mood, that was all. 

"Let's get to Athens, find somewhere to sleep and then make a plan of what we're going to do." He said to his body slave, not seeking confirmation but expecting it nonetheless. 

 

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"Can't ride a horse without sitting down," Attis pointed out, lifting the bag he'd been assigned with a sigh and settling the strap on his shoulder.

"Ostia's a shit heap worse than this," he added, falling in behind his master. It wasn't, but if Longinus wanted to be contrary, then fine.

He'd never been to Greece before in his life, but wasn't going to get a chance to look around with his master in the mood he'd been in for the last few weeks. Maybe he'd get a chance to look round Athens. A slave could hope.

 

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Longinus muttered back, in retort, "You've obviously never trotted on a horse then Attis." But said no more at the man's retort about Ostia. Really, all things considered, despite his recent snappiness and irritability, he let Attis get away with things no other master would. Even now. 

"I've been told, in no uncertain terms, that I have to visit the Parthenon and the Temple of Hephaestus, see the sites, as it were." He scoffed. Longinus wasn't generally known as a man of culture. He liked the plays (well...some of them) during festivals, and certain volumes to read but he often found his attention span wax and wane and struggled to keep focused enough to really enjoy cultural activities as some of his friends did. He had been educated, as any good Senatorial boy had, so had a solid enough grasp of history, literature, art and the like, but how much of it he could recall was anybody's guess. He had hardly need to trot out the useless trivia he had learned on the architectural styles of the Empire whilst a legatus in Britannia, after all. That, unfortunately for Attis, meant that this tour was likely to be done on his terms aka...very fast, and with lots of running around involved. 

He drew to a quieter corner of the docks where a rotund Greek was bellowing about horses for hire. Longinus arched a brow and inspected them. After a bit of haggling, in which the Greek obviously was expecting a more cheerful client and relented fairly quickly on his preposterous price once he had seen Longinus' stony face, Attis and Longinus were off on their horses. 

 

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Attis had been on a horse a handful or so of times and felt about it much as his master felt about ships and the sea: A necessary evil to be ensured as best he could. Thirty miles or so might as well be three hundred. The horse looked at him with utter contempt as he hauled himself into the saddle and sorted himself out. 

"Don't dump me on the ground and I'll see if I can find you an apple or something at the other end," he muttered.

He had no illusion that this visit would be nice, peaceful and relaxing, though he might be able to get a chance to have some time to himself and have a more leisurely look around.

"It's worth the climb up the hill, from what I've been told, domine," he said, privately thinking that it probably wasn't anything to compare with the temples on the Capitoline.

 

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Longinus merely grunted a response, and shrugged his shoulders once he had swung up into the saddle. In truth, he couldn't give a toss about the architectural merits of Athens, but he couldn't very well verbalise that all he really wanted to do whilst he was here was get drunk and mope. Even Attis wouldn't stand for that, station as a slave or not. 

He rode in silence for the most part, musing sullenly to himself. He wavered between an urgent desire to get out of this country and return back to Rome, and a wish to stick it out in the naive  hope it might lift his spirits. He was better than he had been when Attis and Titus had found him at Formaie but he was a long way off his previously...vibrant personality, at least in the company of close friends and slaves. He could turn on the charm as required for strangers (an improvement) but why bother when it was only Attis, who knew full well just how down he was?

When he did speak again, they were about halfway through their journey and he didn't turn around to face Attis. Something had been playing on his mind and better out than in... "I don't know how to make myself feel better." It wasn't a question, more of a statement, and he didn't quite know how Attis would respond as he continued, "I've not felt so...morose before." 

 

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"I don't know how to make myself feel better. I've not felt so...morose before." 

Ah, shit. Attis sighed. At least Longinus was able to admit it now, he supposed. 

He caught his horse up to his master's - they were the only people on horseback on this road, his master seemed open to having a personal conversation and it wouldn't be the first time that Attis had walked (well, ridden in this case) beside his master rather than behind him.

"I don't have any answers, domine. Just... You can't live in the past and so there's no point being... upset over it. I mean, well. It's natural to be sad about it, but things change and... Well, let the past go and be in the past." He shrugged helplessly. "I don't know what else to say."

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Longinus glanced to Attis next to him, a look of just...abject sadness in his eyes. No smiling or banter, just...sadness. Well, at least he was honest, if not entirely helpful. Attis had been with him for nearly a decade by his count, he'd seen Longinus depressed (on his return from Britannia the last time), joyous, mischievous, well...everything. It must have been slightly unnerving to see him now, so despondent. 

"I just thought I'd finally sorted everything." He said in response with a shrug. "I was happy to stay in Rome, have a wife, have a son, climb the ladder as a Praetor...now all of that's gone." He sighed and raised a hand to rub the back of his neck, feeling awkward. "What do I do now? Marry one of the women on Titus' list who provide nothing but fertility and a pretty smile? Try and run as a Praetor and lose to my friend? Gods," He sighed and dropped  his hand back to his reigns. "Everything just seems so pointless now. Might as well just find a new posting somewhere, get lost in the history books." 

 

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Attis sighed again. "I don't have the answers to all of that, domine. But... we're here in Greece, so you're not going to run a political campaign here. I suppose you might find a woman you'd like to marry, but let's not pretend that's likely. So... you're here, for now. Just... enjoy the scenery and the culture - they've got more temples than you can shake a stick at, if you want to visit them. You could take a trip down to Delphi or somewhere if you wanted to bother the Pythia for some prophecy or other, although I've never heard that they've got anything good to say, and it's all twisted up to mean the exact opposite of what it sounds like they said, anyway. If you want sex, you've got me - or I can find you a girl or two if you'd prefer. Forget all of that other stuff, just for a bit, and it'll be easier to think about it and make those decisions later."

And since when was Attis the proverbial dispenser of advice? Longinus wanted to spend a lot more money on a slave if he wanted good advice from a slave than Attis could give.

And at least Longinus had the comfort of knowing his name would end up in the histories; Attis would silently disappear from history as if he'd never existed at all. There was a thought morose enough for anyone!

 

@Sara

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Longinus listened. Actually listened (which was rare for him). Everything Attis said was true - when did he get so practical? He even managed a smile at the reference to sex. He hadn't much been in the mood since he returned from Formaie, although had taken Attis once or twice. He did miss women though, and it was...sweet that Attis should reflect that in his comments. "Titus was good for you," He commented lightly, "Made you all wise and sage." He managed a chuckle as well. Attis had an uncanny ability to cheer him up, and he felt glad (again) his body slave was back in his service.

"Right...forget it, put it in the past." He mumbled, trying very hard to shove all those thoughts of moonlit nights with Sestia into the dark recesses of her mind. Instead, all he managed was a sigh and then without warning, he bellowed as loud as he possibly could. "FUCK HER." He exhaled a deep breath once he did, almost winded by the action. It felt...oddly cathartic. "Fuck her, and her fucking family." He said again with a decisive nod to Attis. 

 

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Attis' face grew dark and he muttered something uncomplimentary about Sulpicius Rufus as his master mentioned the other man. Almost immediately afterwards, he clapped his hands to his ears and swore as the horse skittered under him at the unexpected bellow. He had to grip the horse's neck as he slid round, eventually sliding right round and onto the gravel of the road on his arse (no nice paved stone roads out here, apparently!)

"Bloody Minerva!"

 

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Longinus watched what happened almost in slow motion. The frantic gripping onto the mane, the brief glance of panic in his eyes as he slid...and slid...and slid, until he was parallel to the horse and then was unceremoniously dumped into the gravel. Longinus couldn't help it, and before he could stop himself, he howled with laughter. Tears sprung in his eyes in mirth as he laughed, and laughed and laughed. 

"Yo-You'd earn a fortune as a c-comedy pair," He gestured breathlessly through bellows of laughter at the horse and then Attis. He didn't realise it at the time, of course, but that was the first time he'd laughed - properly - since it all happened, and now he started, he couldn't stop. He manoeuvred his own horse to next to Attis and then dismounted, reaching down a forearm for his body slave to clasp and help him up. "You bloody idiot." 

 

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Attis was left in the dust, literally, trying to salvage the shreds of his dignity (not that slaves had any dignity, of course, being slaves, but all the same it was a humiliating tumble). And meanwhile, somewhere above him, Longinus began laughing.

Proper laughter, too - the sort that he hadn't heard from his master since before the whole mess with his absconded fiancee. That was worth any amount of undignified falling from a horse.

He accepted his master's help up, unable to keep from laughing himself, despite the pain - he was certain to be black and blue when he woke up in the morning, but that was neither here nor there for a slave.

"You startled the damn horse, domine," he managed, grateful beyond words for the familiar look of amusement that he could see on his master's face. "I charge a sesterce a show, but this one was free gratis, just for you."

 

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Longinus grinned the big, goofy grin that usually inhabited his face - or used to, before all of the mess. "How generous." He took a step back towards his horse and jerked his head at it, "You sure you know how to ride? I mean, you're welcome to ride with me as a lady, all nestled it nice and tight at my front - I'll even let you hold the reins?" He chuckled, only joking. On occasion, Attis had been given a horse in Britannia when they needed to attend the Proconsul down in Britannia and walking would have slowed Longinus down. 

"Maybe we should start a circus show whilst we're here. Shake off all the formality; Attis and his horse, I reckon the girls would pay handsomely, don't you?" He grinned, still teasing.

 

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Despite the pain in his rear end, Attis couldn't help grinning a goofy grin back at his master. He could kiss the man, really he could!

"I can ride - you wouldn't want to carry this bag too, I don't suppose, domine?" he said. He also didn't suppose that Longinus would want to swap horses and gamely caught the reins of his own, which had wandered to the side of the road to start cropping the grass there. "Two apples," he said to it in an undertone. "Only, don't do it again, hear me?"

He scrambled back into the saddle, and glanced at the sky, whispering a prayer of gratitude that his master had at least managed a proper laugh - even if it had been at Attis' expense.

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"Fat chance of that, you're lucky I'm carrying this one." He indicated to the one slung over his shoulder. He chuckled and moved to remount his horse, which he did with the practiced ease of somebody that had spent a considerable time in the saddle. 

The rest of the ride passed with more conversation than the first half, Longinus throwing questions at his body slave and (usually) chuckling under his breath at the responses he produced. Attis was good company, he could see why Metella liked him - not that he pried into the affairs of his slaves often, mind, but Attis was an exception to most rules in his house. As they entered the city, Longinus blinked at his surroundings. It was hotter than Rome, that he could tell the moment they stepped off the boat, but it was just as busy and chaotic and crowded. He knew the vague directions of the stables in which they were to deposit the horses and steered in that general vicinity, taking in the sites as he did so. It was perhaps a good job he hadn't brought Sestia here, it wasn't particularly romantic from his viewpoint. 

 

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It was so very easy to fall back into the old pattern of banter with his master now that the dam had broken. It felt familiar and comfortable, in a way that conversation between the two of them (their respective stations in life notwithstanding) had not been for the past few months.

"Have you been here before, domine?" he enquired, the question quickly followed by, "Ah, where are we going to stay while we're here?"

 

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Longinus nodded as he steered the horse through the back streets of Athens, calling over his shoulder to Attis. "When I was a boy, with my father." About thirty years ago, and the memories from those days were hazy at best. He'd been given a list of places to go though, by his relatives who had spent more time here, and his friends. That list was somewhere buried in the bottom of one of the two bags they carried though - so Attis' second question was difficult to answer. 

"Somewhere." He answered noncommittally with a slight smile, "We'll definitely be staying somewhere." He was in two minds; he could rent a room in a taverna or something for the first couple of nights at least before trying to find a proper house to rent, but then again he wasn't committed to the idea of staying in Rome for the entire duration of this little month-long trip, so it seemed like a waste. 

"You know what Attis," He glanced over his shoulder as they neared the stables, "I'll leave that in your very capable hands. You can be in charge of our lodgings, and you can do a better job that Vitus did that time we all had to visit Napoli," And the man had rented the most ostentatious villa imaginable. 

 

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"I'm not entirely sure I can manage that, domine," Attis answered, pausing fractionally before adding with a straight face, "After all, I don't think the Greeks have palaces to hire out for perfect strangers to spend their holidays in."

He wasn't sure his Greek would be up to the task either but he'd make do, of course - he'd have to. 

"Could we find a popina first, though?" He was feeling parched from the road, and a little stiff, and didn't feel like hiking the length and breadth of Athens without a drink (though if Longinus said no, he'd just find one anyway while on his errand, as he had originally planned to in Piraeus).

 

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Longinus chuckled as he swung his leg over and dismounted from the horse, tossing a bag of coins (half on starting the journey, half at the end) at some dimwitted Greek stable hand who glanced between Attis and Longinus with confusion. 

"I suppose, I don't want you fainting like a lady, I'll get more gossip attached to my name; Longinus the abandoned bridegroom and abuser of slaves." He smirked. He knew he was far from the usual sort of master, at least for slaves he liked. Sure they worked hard as  they would in any household, but for slaves like Attis, Metella, Vitus, even the new Dacian lot he got from Titus last year, they could generally run their mouths off without risking his ire. He wasn't fond of corporal punishment, he'd doled out enough in the legions to put him off for life, which is why Attis' punishment had been so vindictively and perfectly tailored to him. And said punishment had indeed worked, so alls well that ends well, he thought. 

He strode out of the stable yard, presuming Attis as usual was following behind him. The crowds were jostling and he frowned. "Um." He squinted, trying to gauge which way to go. But he had been to enough foreign cities to know that confidence was critical; looking lost or hopeless was only bound to get them robbed or worse, so without hesitation, he set off at his usual, striding, quick-pace to the right - surely a popina would be down here somewhere? 

 

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"I'd faint like a man, domine," Attis replied, hitching his bag up a bit to settle it more comfortably on his shoulder. That was the second time that Longinus had quipped about Attis doing something like a woman and he couldn't help hoping that Longinus didn't get it into his head to make Attis dress in a woman's tunica before fucking him the next time. 

He followed his master down the side-street, Longinus practically oozing confidence even if he didn't feel it - something patrician men did all the damn time, in Attis' experience.

There was indeed a popina down here, if the sign was anything to go by. Dionysus'... Something. Grapes or krater or something, judging by the poorly drawn sign.

There were seats available inside out of the sun, and a stone bench against the wall outside - Attis could guess where slave were supposed to sit.

 

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Longinus spied the popina at about the same time Attis did and looked miserably at the stone bench. He liked rules, but conformity was only worth something when it was for a good reason. Making his slave sit and bake in the sun would serve neither of them any good, and Attis was dressed finer than several plebs he reckoned, given his station as a patrician's body slave. With a jerk of his head, he signalled that Attis should follow him in. 

It took a few moments for his eyes to adjust to the dimness of the pace and he squinted. A rotund man beamed at the pair of them as they entered and hurriedly ushered them to a table in the corner, "Friends, you're most welcome," Longinus could see why - the place was hardly packed, "What can I get for you and your boy?" Longinus snorted in amusement at the use of 'boy'. He didn't like using it himself, it was unnecessarily condescending, but it amused him ever so slightly to hear somebody else use it. "Wine, and water." He returned in Greek to the man, "And I'll have you know that boy is the famous Attis." The man blinked, confused and put on an uneasy smile, "Oh? I..."  Longinus had to smother his laugh, "Yes, it really is him. The famous circus performer himself, in your popina. But without his horse, sadly and Attis and the horse without the horse is...not quite as special, I grant you. Although where are you performing in Athens, Attis? Maybe our friend can find some coin for some tickets?" 

He glanced with mischief and challenge in his eyes at his bodyslave-cum-circus performer. 

 

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Trust Longinus to drag out a joke until it had long ceased to be funny, especially to anyone else involved. 

"I thought this was to be a holiday from all that, domine?" he said - he'd understood most of the Greek, enough to know that Longinus was making a joke at his expense, and from hearing the word hippos, he presumed said joke was to do with his involuntary acrobatics of earlier - even Attis recognised the word for 'horse'.

"I bet I can do better than Vitus, there's bound to be some overly ostentatious villa in the surrounding countryside whose owner will be overjoyed to rent to an esteemed Senator and the Legate of Nona Hispania," he added. He would like to see Longinus' face if he could manage to rent the equivalent of the Domus Augustorum.

 

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Longinus snorted, "Go on then, but if the sparse friends I have out here think I've gone mad and drunk on my riches, then you only have yourself to blame." He had a few acquaintances to see whilst out here, largely friends of the family or his late father and a couple he knew from his time in the legions and others like Claudia Corinthia, but this was largely a time for him to get away from everything and everybody. He wasn't an ostentatious man; he was just as happy in some draughty military tent as his villa in Formiae, and Attis knew that.

He took as sip of the wine that arrived with a fluster from the owner. "We've got to host a party," He grimaced, "Or...not a party, but a gathering. I was going to, with..." He rolled his eyes, her name unspoken, "Some of my fathers military friends. And well, I suspect they're still expecting a 'do, even if the wife is now missing. I..." He winced, "Usually leave the parties to my mother or cousin. Any ideas for what we should do?" 

 

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