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Two freedmen walk into a bar


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Teutus was a freedman with a nobleman for a father, but he hated them, it seemed. Maybe he was better off with his own kind… freedmen and former slaves, like Alexius. He patted Teutus on the shoulder, when the other said he was sick of the nobles, “Sometimes I am too.” Although not all times. When they fell for his charms or paid him for his work, he didn’t hate them. But other times he remembered former patrons and former nobles who wanted a little fun with a gladiator and then he was not so fond of them.

 Silence fell a bit and then Teutus emptied his current wine and said something about not talking to any of them ever again. Alexius arched a brow, looking at the upset and disappointed Teutus who could not find more wine in the jug he bought.

“Your father and the slavegirl, you mean?” He asked, “Don’t think about them now. Finish that… and then we’ll go and find something more amusing to do. And you can sleep at my place, if you’d like.” Depending on how drunk Teutus got from here on and the rest of the day and evening, Alexius had two choices. He did have a couch in his humble home – Teutus could sleep it all off there, if he needed. Else there was Alexius’ bed, of course. If he needed comfort. Anything to help out a fellow freedman, right?

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"You're not related to one," Teutus pointed out. "More trouble than it's worth. They never keep their promises, so don't believe them when they promise you the moon, not till they give it to you." It had been the very height of irony for Tertius to extract a promise from his son, when he'd been so free with making promises of his own and never keeping them.

The only reason Teutus would ever keep the one he'd made was because of Antonia. She would never understand it if he disappeared from her life - she would be heart-broken, probably.

He probably had far too high an opinion of himself. She was Roman, and freeborn, and she would get over it - she was young, kids were resilient.

"I wouldn't want to be any bother," he said, perfectly willing to stay here and buy himself another jug of wine if it meant not being a bother. He was used to staying out of the way. He was good at it, even, had always been good at it before, running errands, teaching Antonia, taking notes for his father... he'd spent his entire life not being a bother, in fact, so why should he start being one now?

Curiosity got the better of him, though. "What's more amusing than watching someone crawl into a wine jug?"

 

@Atrice

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Teutus pointed out that Alexius might not like nobles if he was related to one, said that they never kept promises. He must have had a hard time with his father, Alexius thought. He could imagine it must have been tough, being born as a slave to a Senator and not freed until you were an adult. It must be weird too. At least Alexius was born free and he’d strived for that ever since he was enslaved – and he gained the freedom too.

 “I’ll remember your advice.” Alexius just replied. He didn’t believe any promise spoken by a drunk and if people of the Senatorial class promised him anything while not drunk, it was mostly cash earned for hard work or other benefits he didn’t mind having. But he didn’t think too deeply about it, instead suggested they found something more amusing to do and offered Teutus a place to sleep in his own insula, if he needed it. Alexius let out a little laugh when Teutus didn’t want to be a bother.

 “Trust me, you won’t be. I have people sleeping over at my place all the time.” It wasn’t a lie. Just most of them slept in his bed. But Teutus could have the couch if he was way too drunk or just didn’t want Alexius’ bed. Which was hard to imagine, but sometimes people surprised him! And he didn’t know Teutus that well yet. He didn’t even know if he liked men like that. Meanwhile Teutus would know what was more amusing than getting drunk.

 “Oh I can think of a lot of things.” Alexius said with another grin, “There are plenty of ways to distract yourself. We could go watch a game, like we talked about. Sharing a bit of pleasure is rather… entertaining too.” He added with a wink, “Else just simple people watching can be fun too. I like to watch people. And meet people. I know people all over Rome.” It seemed Teutus needed a lesson in how to have fun. Well he’d found the perfect teacher – or at least Alexius thought he had.

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"I'm drunk," Teutus pointed out, with the simple statement of the inebriated. "Not as drunk as I'd like to be, though." He shrugged. "I'm sure you'd rather not drag a drunk stranger all over Rome, and back to your place."

He was nice enough to look at, and seemed a nice enough person. If Teutus were less drunk he wouldn't mind going back to Alexius' place with him. Hades, he wouldn't mind going back if he was more drunk, and that would be easy enough to sort out. 

There were other popinae in Rome and they surely had enough wine to solve that problem. He wasn't sure at all that would appreciate carting a dead drunk Teutus back to his room. He'd probably wake up in a gutter somewhere. Hopefully he'd still be alive to do the waking up part of that. 

It wasn't like he really cared either way, right now, though.

 

@Atrice

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Teutus pointed out that he was drunk - as if Alexius had not noticed that yet. And then he continued with this round of poor self-esteem that he had, which made Alexius feel sorry for him again. He shouldn’t feel like that. Teutus was young, he was handsome, he was a freedman! He was more than what he’d previously been and he continued to speak so badly about himself. Alexius really had to do something about that. He hated seeing someone nice feeling so low.

 “It wouldn’t be the first time, Teutus.” Alexius pointed out, he’d hung out with drunk people plenty of times. And he got drunk too sometimes – a few cups of wine were not enough though, not for Alexius’ size and the way he was used to drinking.

 “Besides, I thought we agreed we’d go out, once the jar is empty. There’s so much to do. Unless you’d rather drink?” He really would love to show Teutus that being free was amazing, even though Teutus didn’t seem to see it right now.

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Teutus didn't really want to surrender his nice cozy seat here, but there were other popinae in Rome. He shrugged. "I don't mind, where were you thinking of going?"

Anywhere Tertius Quinctilius Varus wasn't, was more than fine with Teutus, who also didn't want to see Charis or her baby, though they were probably keeping Tertius company and talking about Teutus and how he'd just left. He hoped Tertius would remember Antonia too.

He sighed and pushed his empty cup aside. If he couldn't drown his thoughts, maybe Alexius would be able to distract him from them.

 

@Atrice

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He really had to knock some self-confidence into Teutus somehow... but how, exactly? Teutus agreed to come with Alexius out in Rome to experience and explore, but Teutus did not seem overly excited about it. Poor guy, he should be! But he just wanted to drink. Maybe Alexius could find a place to both drink and have fun. Again the thought of the arena came back to him.

"The arena, of course. I think that's the best idea. Either that, or maybe a ludus? We can watch them train, for free, and I know those places well. And we can get a drink on the way there, if you'd like." Alexius promised, waiting for Teutus to finally stand and follow him, "You must know your way around Rome, did you live here all your life?" He asked on the way out, curious to get to know Teutus better, to figure out what he needed to feel good.

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"Whichever you think best, I'll follow you," Teutus said. He was in no mood to argue, and less mood to actually make a decision - not that any of his decisions recently had been exactly outstanding in any way, shape or form. He wasn't quite sure he wanted to watch gladiators, even training; he hadn't really found watching men fighting to be something he liked, but he was prepared to have his mind changed.

"Most of my life, yes," he said. "Except summers - it gets too hot in summer for most senators, so..." He trailed off with a shrug. "I know my way round a lot of the city, but I wouldn't say I know the whole city. It's pretty big, after all."

 

@Atrice

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Poor Teutus seemed determined to not seem very happy and Alexius was of course determined to change that. Or at least make Teutus less unhappy. Distract him somehow. There were a number of ways to distract people and first he thought he’d take Teutus out for a day and night on the town. It wasn’t even dark yet though, so there was plenty of time left. For now, he said he’d just follow Alexius.

 “Well do you think it’s a good idea? I am open to suggestions.” More than Teutus knew, probably!  Once outside the taverna, Alexius tried to make some conversation to get to know Teutus better and the other shared he’d lived here most of his life except for the summers and then mused about the city being pretty big.

 “Yes, it is a pretty big city. The largest I’ve seen too. I think I know most of it by now. I’ve been living here most of my life too, after all.” And he got around for all kinds of reasons. Employers, friends, former contacts, lovers, everything. He knew people from all layers of society and if they were worth knowing and keeping as friends, well he stayed in touch the best he could… “What’s your favorite part of Rome then?” Alexius continued to wonder.

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"I am drunk," Teutus informed his new friend, with all the dignity of the definitely not sober. "I have no idea what a good idea looks like any more, and if you want to take me to watch gladiators, I'll come with you. Otherwise, I'm going to buy another jug of wine and get even drunker."

He shrugged, and burped. "I don't know. I've mostly seen markets, the Forum, the Forum Boarium, several temples, and the bathhouse nearest home. My father likes the gladiators, I've never seen the appeal." He shrugged. "Maybe you can change my mind?"

All those big brawny men... they weren't really Teutus' type, but neither was the smooth-skinned Hector who'd spend all his days and nights in Teutus' father's bed, given half a chance. No wonder he was jealous of Charis, attracting the master's attention the way she had, even if she hadn't intended to and didn't want it. Teutus wished he'd approached her first, that they hadn't had that argument over nothing at all.

Not that he expected his father would have left her alone if Teutus had asked her first. Yet another thing to add to the list of reasons Teutus wanted to clear out of there as soon as he reasonably could.

 

@Atrice

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Alexius didn't feel very drunk, maybe a little, but not as much as Teutus here. Then again, Teutus seemed to be somewhat skinny thing compared to Alexius, who was tall and strong. He'd take good care of Teutus and make sure he didn't get into trouble. Teutus said he didn't know about good ideas and Alexius was welcome to take him to watch the gladiators. Then he went on about his favorite parts of Rome, but didn't really say which was his favorite. Although to Alexius, it sounded like he'd seen a lot of the city. And his father liked gladiators, but he didn't. Alexius arched a brow with a grin, when Teutus suggested Alexius should change his mind.

"Maybe I can." Alexius said, "You know why I keep returning to the arena... and the ludii to watch them train? It used to be my life." Alexius explained, he hadn't shared this much with Teutus before, after all, "Anyway, you seem to like me, so maybe gladiators are not so bad after all." He said with a smile, although at the same time, he wondered if it really was a good idea to go the arena, if it wasn't something Teutus liked a lot. He didn't seem fond of his father and what his father liked, so maybe not? 

"But if you'd rather not go there, we can do something else. We could also just buy that jug of wine and find someplace quiet to drink it, if you'd prefer?" It wasn't very late in the day, maybe one of the gardens in Rome would be a nice place to relax with wine and a new friend... "I think that's what we're doing." 

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"Yeah, I like you," Teutus said. "I did say, if you really want to show me your gladiators, I'll come with you. I've never had an ex-gladiator talk about them, only listened to my father, and he's more interested in their looks than... Anything else. I think." 

He seemed to have fallen in with someone who preferred someone else to take the lead which Teutus wouldn't mind doing nine times out of ten. Today was the tenth time, though, when he'd prefer not have to make any sort of decision of his own but follow someone else's ideas. The only thing he was perfectly clear on was that he wanted to stay out of his father's house for as long as possible while the household celebrated the baby. 

He didn't want to think about that,he wanted some sort of distraction and watching gladiators train would probably be a better distraction than taking an amphora of wine anywhere and drinking it dry. 

"How far is it to your old ludus, Alexius?"

 

@Atrice

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He smiled when Teutus agreed that he liked Alexius – that was a good start, then, on many different levels. And maybe he could make Teutus see the interesting part about gladiators. They were much more than slaves who fought for entertainment. They were men (and women) fought for survival. Alexius thought that if he had not back then hoped to someday meet his sister again and return to Germania, he might not have lived. But he had the hope and that kept him going. Teutus pointed out that his father was more interested in the gladiators’ looks than anything else.

 “Of course he is. And I can’t say I disagree when it comes to their… looks. But gladiators are much more than that.” Alexius explained. He just wanted to somehow make Teutus feel better and wasn’t sure if gladiators were it, but you never knew. Alexius liked to help people and bring joy to them somehow and he liked Teutus. He had to do something. The other wondered how far away Alexius’ old ludus was.

 “It’s not so far.” He said, “I have friends in the ludii too, today. Old comrades and new sparring partners.” And more, he thought to himself. He ought to pay Annis a visit soon, and Thessala. Hopefully they were slowly feeling better after the earthquake, both of them. He’d been at the ludus during the earthquake, after all, and losing some of their friends had been hard on both. Right now though, he was with Teutus. He looked at the younger man next to him, "Tell me what you do know about gladiators, other than that your father likes them."

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Teutus squinted at his drinking companion's slightly blurred face. He was Roman, he knew about gladiators, even if he didn't particularly like watching the Games.

"I'm not a barbarian," he said, feeling a little insulted. "You have the retiarius, with the net and trident, the secutor with the sword and shield, the Thracian - you know all this, better than I do!" He shrugged. "I have been to the Games before, I just don't find them particularly appealing."

He saw little point in watching combat for fun. Maybe he wasn't truly Roman after all.

"What is so appealing about watching men fight for sport, then?" he asked, perfectly willing to listen to a different perspective.

 

@Atrice

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Teutus was drunk, that much was obvious. And now that Alexius asked what Teutus knew about gladiators, the other seemed offended and then began listing all the different types of gladiators and mentioned that Alexius knew more about them anyway. And he didn’t seem to understand what was so appealing about it.

 “Well one thing is the types of gladiators… but another is the gladiator himself. Behind the armor and the weapons, there’s a man fighting for his life.” Alexius explained, “And in the end, it’s not even always up to the gladiator, who lives or dies in that arena. But they are men. They are not just… nameless creatures, like many high and mighty Romans seem to think.” He said, “No offense to you of course! But, what I find appealing is… that I don’t watch them just for the sake of the sport. I was the one on the sands first. I’m interested in their technique. And their spirit and motivation. That’s what I find appealing.” Alexius looked at Teutus, wondering if he could even comprehend that.

 “If you think about it like that… look at it like that. I find it is more interesting.” He continued and turned around another corner towards the nearest ludus where you could watch them train, “So… since you are not so fond of your father anyway. Try not looking at them like he does.”

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"You go to watch them just because you like eyeing them up," Teutus said, somehow amused by the idea - although Alexius hadn't really struck him as the uptight sort at all. He shrugged. "I guess I can see the appeal in that after all."

Especially as they wore pretty much just a loincloth and whatever armour or other protection their various roles allowed for. He wondered for an instant if that was wy his father liked them so much and decided he didn't care to find out the answer to that question. Anyway, his father had Hector if he wanted to get handsy (or worse) with a man - and it wasn't as though Hector didn't like the attention. He'd been jealous enough of Charis when she'd caught Tertius' attention, after all.

"So, is there someone in particular who's caught your attention, then?" he asked, glad to have something to ask that would deflect the conversation even more away from him and how uncomfortable things had grown at home.

 

@Atrice

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Alexius gave Teutus a look, when the younger man suddenly claimed Alexius’ main motivation for watching gladiators was because he thought they were hot. Did he listen at all to what Alexius just tried to explain to him? About the men behind the armor, what they went through, their technique, their motivation… did he listen to that at all? Sure Alexius also enjoyed looking at them, but that was far from the main reason. It annoyed him a little, actually, that Teutus hadn’t paid attention at all. Here Alexius was, trying to explain things from the heart and Teutus didn’t hear a thing at all.

 Teutus went on, wondering if someone in particular caught his attention, “Sometimes.” Alexius just said, it was rare he got annoyed at someone, but somehow, Teutus had managed to hit the right spot. Usually Alexius was all about the drinks and the fights and the sex and befriending people, but he didn’t like to be misunderstood. By a Roman. Teutus might be a freedman, but he was also the son of a Roman, grew up in a Roman household and apparently, he paid as little attention to Alexius as many other Romans did.

 “Is there anyone you fancy, Teutus?” He then asked, trying to get the conversation away from himself, because obviously, that was not going so well.

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Teutus intercepted the look. Even drunk, he realised he'd managed to overstep, and it didn't take a genius to work out how - Alexius had been talking about knowing the people behind the armour. Obviously he had friends, and Teutus had just put his foot in his mouth.

Just because he had no real friends to speak of, didn't mean that other people didn't.

He patted the other man's arm. "I'm sorry. I must sound like a crass idiot - I didn't mean to upset you. And no, nobody at all." Not even next-door's pretty kitchen girl, that he'd spoken to several times in passing; he'd tried not to develop crushes on anyone because he didn't want to end up in a similar situation to his father - or worse, one where any son he fathered would automatically be a slave and remain so.

Maybe he'd feel differently in a year's time, but right now, that sort of thing would lead to a worse situation than this morning's, which had just felt as though Tertius had stabbed Teutus right through the heart. And probably didn't even know it - he rarely ever thought about what other people thought or felt on a subject, and only cared about their thoughts if it affected him.

"You talk, I'll listen - I'm only good for putting my foot in my mouth today, I think," he said. He'd rather just listen than try to come up with any cheerful sort of banter, anyway, and there was much less chance of him saying something truly idiotic if he just didn't say anything at all.

 

@Atrice

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Alexius liked most people he met. And he met them with friendliness, if they seemed the sort that would be friendly with him. He treated them nicely unless they deserved otherwise. It was a rare thing that he got annoyed by someone like that. He and Teutus had been spending some time together already, they’d discussed setting up a business together sometime and Alexius thought they were getting along. Until Teutus suddenly seemed to act like any other Roman. Alexius’ answers to him were short and it probably wasn’t hard to tell that he wasn’t happy. He’d never been very good at hiding his emotions.

 Teutus patted his arm then, apologizing, as he seemed to understand he’d upset Alexius and then said he didn’t fancy anyone at all. And then he told Alexius to talk instead of him. See, this situation was exactly why he preferred action to talk. He wasn’t very good at it either and he couldn’t hide his emotions. It was so much easier to show what you felt than talking about it. 

“Maybe talking isn’t what we should be doing at all.” But what else was there to do? Part ways? No, Teutus was drunk and by now, Alexius felt some obligation to look out for him. The younger man was skinny and didn’t look like he would be standing for long in a fight. No, Alexius would watch over him, “Maybe we shouldn’t go and see the gladiators fight either...” Teutus wasn’t that interested in them, it seemed, and Alexius felt weird about it now. Then there was only one good option left, wasn't there? “Do you want to come with me home?”

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"I don't think I'm very good at talking right now," Teutus admitted. He'd put his foot in it once too often in just this single conversation, after all. "Come home with you? I wouldn't mind that."

He grinned, probably looking a bit stupid, but Hades, who cared? "I can think of better things than talking, too," he said. Alexius was pretty good-looking, after all, and if he was offering what Teutus thought he was offering, Teutus wasn't about to say no. It had been long enough since he'd slept with anyone, after all. He hadn't wanted to sleep with any of the girls his father owned, not really - that would lead to all sorts of complications and he certainly didn't want to risk fathering a child while he was still his father's property. Then Charis had arrived and everything had gone directly to Hades.

Maybe a bit of good sex was what he needed right now, get the frustration out of his system - if he was right and Alexius was offering that. If he was wrong, well, they hadn't said as much either way, yet. Things could still be rescued before either of them died of embarrassment because they'd read the situation wrong.

 

@Atrice

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It was barely evening, in fact it was still bright day and not late in the day either. But why not go to Alexius home? Maybe Teutus just needed a place to rest and not talk. Or maybe he needed more than that. Alexius had suggested earlier that Teutus came with him home, but back then he didn’t want to be a bother… now however, Teutus said he wasn’t very good at talking and he wouldn’t mind coming home with Alexius.

 “Good.” Alexius said with a smile and then Teutus said those enchanted words – that he could think of better things to do than talking. Alexius looked at him, was Teutus thinking what he was thinking? It definitely sounded like it.

 “So can I. I can think of a lot of things.” He added with a grin. Lexus wasn’t at home now, he was working during the day and wouldn’t be back until tonight. And Alexius always had wine at home. Not the best wine, sure, but wine and wine that did its job. Really this was perfect. If Teutus was suggesting a little bit of pleasure… it could also serve as a great distraction from less warm thoughts. He smiled, thinking about how easily Artemon had been distracted too, that time. Alexius was good at making people forget their troubles.

 “It’s not so far. And you’re welcome to stay as long as you’d like to. My son probably won’t be back home until tonight.” Alexius said then, feeling he ought to say that, so Teutus wouldn’t have to fear any interruptions. This was a good plan. Alexius liked it a lot – everything was better now, again.

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"I should probably go home at some point, but I don't need to just yet." I don't want to just yet even.

Alexius was a good-looking man. More than that, even, he seemed genuinely nice, which Teutus desperately needed right now. Even if he'd seemed to somehow put his foot in it during their conversation, Alexius hadn't seemed to mind too much, had made excuses or just gone with the abrupt change of subject, and hadn't let the conversation become as awkward as it might have done with someone else.

There were days when it seemed that Teutus' entire existence was one level of awkwardness or another, no matter who he was with or where he was. It must be nice to be able to deflect that and smooth things over - it was a talent Teutus could stand to learn. It seemed, somehow, that ever since he'd been given his freedom, he just made everyone around him awkward or uncomfortable, and it was a nice surprise to meet someone who didn't feel like that around him.

He hoped it would last longer than a few minutes.

 

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