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A Thespian and an Elegist Walk Into an Amphitheatre...


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It was a day much like any other for Titus. He had barely gotten any sleep, owing to the fact he had hosted a party at his insula that went on for most of the night. When he did finally get to bed, he wasn't by himself, and when his newest conquest's stamina had finally been depleted (and, by Hercules, he was enduring), the first rays of sunshine had already begun making their way into Titus' room through the cracks in the roof. Of course, the aftermath of alcohol consumption had also begun to unravel by then and a monstrous hangover had begun to develop, but, in Titus' world, fire was best fought with fire, so half a bottle of wine to get him back to at least a tipsy state quickly alleviated any ailments.

By now, it was the afternoon, and the city was beginning to become more and more lively, as was customary. Titus made his way to the Forum. When there, he would usually burst out into an impromptu performance. These were always very fun to put on - not because of any money he would earn, but because of the surprise and disgust on the faces of the upper crust as they passed him and caught on to his words, which were mostly targeted at politicians and other greats of the Empire and never very nice. Today, however, he was on his way to catch someone else's performance. A poetry reading, to be exact. Not for his own enjoyment, however - it was more like field research. In the newest of his acting troupe's comedies, he was to play a desperately lovestruck poet, and who was more apt to act as inspiration for such a role than Servius Gabinius Salax? Even among fellow artists, Servius was known for his tendeny to make any girl who would give him the time of day his muse, showering her with elegies and professing his love for her for everyone to hear. Titus, in a way, admired him; it definitely took courage to so confidently walk straight into rejection time and time again. Titus had, through the grapevine, however also heard of the debauchery Servius had gotten up to in Athens and, to Titus himself, partaking in the hellenic Mysteries seemed like a dream come true. Perhaps Servus would soon attend one of Titus' parties and give him a taste of the Mysteries? He certainly wasn't bad-looking at all...

As Titus arrived at the venue, it was obvious he was rather out of place. The stench of stale sweat which he radiated had gone to combat against the elegant and subtle perfumes and tinctures used by the Equites and Senators, and Titus enjoyed the souring expressions on their faces as they realised his Eau de I Haven't Even Seen Any Water in a Week very much overpowered anything that could hope to counteract it. He got comfortable in his seat and waited for the performance to begin.


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Gabinius shifted from foot to foot, but he kept his chin held high as he scanned the forum. He'd gathered quite a nice crowd of some pretty eminent people, he noticed, channelling his smugness into a particularly sickly smile and aiming it at a nervous looking patrician girl standing next to her father. Hmm, I'd like to get a leg over that! The girl's brow furrowed - quite a shame, she ruined her good looks completely - and grabbed her father's arm, leading him away from the crowd. Damn.

Gabinius smoothed back his hair, swallowed and turned to his slave-boy.

"Adonis!" he hissed through his teeth while beaming a simpering smile at an acquaintance who'd just shown up. Adonis stepped forward to his side, looking perfectly bronzed and coiffed.


"More rose-water," he said, his eyebrow quirked in irritation, his hands passing over his slicked-down hair to indicate that the slave-boy should apply the unguent to it. "And while you're doing that, tell me what in the name of Venus this word says." He stabbed a slender finger at the scroll, sighing lightly and letting his eyes flick closed as the slave's strong fingers massaged his scalp. No reply. He opened his eyes again.

"I can't read, Domine. Apologies."

Of course. Gabinius grunted and pushed the boy away. "Get out of here," he said. Adonis had many talents, all of which Gabinius appreciated; unfortunately literacy was not among them.

His audience were starting to hop from foot to foot themselves now, which Gabinius took as a sign that he should probably start his recitation. He gave a loud cough and raised his dark eyes to sweep the crowd.

"Erm... esteemed ladies and gentlemen. I thank you for coming along today to hear me recite what are to me, um, a very personal and very... richly-felt suite of poems. They do say that to write, one needs a good muse. I mean, I would hardly attribute the... elegance of these carmina to my own particular genius - ha, ha - far from it, no. But whereas Vergil and Homer had the divine inspiration of Calliope, I have what I would say is an even greater stimulation for the mind, and that is the favour of a true Venus. There is truly no better..."

Quite by accident, Gabinius found his lecherous gaze alighting on a figure lurking at the edge of the crowd. His words got lost in his throat with a sort of gurgle. He recognised that man - his nose recognized his musk, too - as... now who was he, the owner of that impertinent stare directed at him from between those matted curtains of hair? He failed to stop a flicker of amusement register on his lips as he remembered a particularly moving performance of the Eumenides during which Apollo had ended up landing face down in the orchestra in a pool of his own vomit, then said something which made a lot of patricians go whiter than their toga candida. Best bloody performance of Aeschylus Gabinius had ever seen.

"-truly no better, umm..." Shit. He'd forgotten what he was saying. "Hm, well, I think without further ado, I'll just... start."

He could feel the actor's eyes on him like a suggestive touch as he opened his mouth and began to read the first line.


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Titus was no stranger to how other people perceived him; the fact he had been noticed by Servius was more than clear to him, and Servius' stammer confirmed his assumptions. The tension between the two artists was palpable, but where that tension originated from was yet to be seen. Many of Rome's artists, for example, dreaded the sight of Titus at their performances, as that most likely meant Titus would attempt to usurp their performance, and probably succeed in doing so - it was relatively difficult to follow a poetry recital when an actor from the crowd decided to interrupt the performance and take upon the stage, where he said some very unsavoury things about the wife of whichever senator happened to be sitting in the audience, cursed several gods and goddesses, announced the impending end of the world and then passed out, with the audience attempting to wake him up to no avail. Often, Titus would only take his bow after first taking a drunken nap; judging by how many people were usually left when he did so, many of them did not realise the performance was still ongoing as he slept. As is the case with any true genius, Titus and his art seemed to be woefully misunderstood by the people of his time. An artist's suffering truly knows no end.

Today, however, Titus was going to stay put and just be a member of the audience, for the first (and probably last) time in his entire life, or at least the time of his life he wasn't blacked out for. The fact Servius had taken notice of him also made him want to wait it out and see if any other reactions to his presence would surface on his part. Feeling the elegist's eyes on him along with the uncertainty that accompanied his gaze had an almost... erotic quality to it. No doubt, should Cupid will it, their meeting would not be confined simply to looks.


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