Pompeii Passions

by ColumbusGuy

Chapter 4

Philon Takes Sextus Home


Sextus gets Philon to stop crying, saying it isn't grown-up. Philon asks Sextus what Arrius means to him; Sextus says they are friends only, and Philon then asks if he has a chance with Sextus; Sextus says there will be time for that later. Arrius and Sextus talk before going to sleep, Arrius admitting he brought Philon for Sextus to make a relationship with since they both realize that they can only be friends since Arrius has no interest in men.


Philandros was unsure of his location when he woke early in the morning...then it came to him! The villa of Sextus Manlius! His elation crashed seconds later – when he realized he woke alone. I am a complete fool...at least in the eyes of Sextus – and probably Arrius Flavius too! He was a child, to throw himself at the first attractive man he met! Sextus had made it very clear that he preferred someone older...even if his love was not returned in the same way. Philandros – the object of an older man's love – he laughed scornfully to himself. Such things happen only in cheap novels!

He adjusted his clothing, noting some grass stains on the light yellow cloth of his chiton, and donned the darker golden cloak around his shoulders. When he stepped out into the hall, he listened for a moment, and heard faint snores behind the door opposite his own. He carefully opened the door so that it made no noise, and looked inside the room.

Larger than the one he had slept in, it was likewise in need of repair...and contained two couches! As his eyes adjusted, he saw the form of Arrius on the farther one, and Sextus on the one closest to the door. He walked quietly between the two couches, and looked at their occupants, apparently sleeping soundly.

Arrius, what hold do you have over Sextus, that forbids him to even think of another? He stared for many moments at the sleeping man, noting every detail of his features. He could see no real reason to account for Sextus' infatuation, save that even in sleep, Arrius gave the impression of confident assurance which only experience could bring. The gods alone knew why one person was attracted to another, while feeling nothing for the next...it was too much for him to figure out.

He turned to observe Sextus, and his heart lurched inside his chest. He is so beautiful! Is it right, that I should think of spending my life with him alone? I have nothing to base this feeling on – certainly not experience! And yet – the gods again! – it seemed so obvious to him! It was meant that he belong to Sextus – why could this man not see it?

Philandros bent toward the sleeping form of Sextus Manlius, and very lightly pressed his lips to those of his idol for the briefest of instants. As he stood again, he whispered almost inaudibly "Goodbye...my love."

He then made his way to the door, looking back sadly, and closed it behind him.

At the villa's entrance, he accepted his horse from a slave, and asked for a tablet and stylus. He stared at the wax for many minutes, oblivious to the slave holding the halter of his horse. What could he write that would not sound either childish, or worse, petulant? Indeed, what could he write at all that would change the mind of the one he loved?

In the end, he wrote a few words, and handed the closed tablet to the waiting slave: "Give this to master Arrius Flavius when he wakes – do not forget!" He rode quickly away toward Pompeii and his townhouse there, the early morning breeze drying the tears he could not help shedding.

Arrius Flavius:

I love him – help me!

Visit me!

Ph.C.


Sextus wakes, discovering Philandros has gone, and intercepts the note for Arrius that the greek had written. He swears, and mounts his horse to take off after Philandros.

After several minutes of a fast trot, Philandros gradually slowed his pace...Grandfather would kill me if he saw me treat a horse this way first thing! Walk, canter...then gallop – saves the horse, and makes for a quicker journey. He patted Bucephalus' neck, and said quietly "Sorry, boy...it's my fault, not yours. Toss me off next time I act stupid." He laughed to hear the horse snort, in agreement or derision – who could say?

He rode on, wrapped in his own thoughts, eyes slightly red and swollen but no longer tear-filled. What is wrong with me? I know I'm no stoic – but neither am I one to give in so completely to emotion! Where is my practicality that father so loved? He gradually collected himself together, feeling shamed that he had done such a bad job of representing not only himself, but the family name to the first strangers he met! Never again! he vowed. I am a man...have been for some time now – well, almost...he forced himself to admit.

"No! I am a man!" Bucephalus snorted again, heartily. Philandros laughed, patting the horse's neck and feeling the excited pulsing there. "Yes, I am a man...and you, my friend – are the best of horses!" Beneath him, the brown and white gelding picked up his hooves more gracefully, swishing his tail back and forth energetically.

Philandros was almost laughing when he heard the drumbeat of a fast-approaching horse behind him. He edged Bucephalus closer to the verge of the road, to make room for the hurried rider...could be an imperial courier – who else would ride so fast? He continued near the side of the road waiting for the rider to pass...surprised that it was taking so long; it was then that he noticed the hoof beat slowing as it came closer and closer. He turned in his saddle to see what the problem was – Zeus forbid, I hope it's not a bandit! he thought with dismay – fully aware that he had no weapon at all...and dawn was just breaking over the lower slope of Vesuvius' green flanks.

He swore to himself as he saw it was Sextus, riding so hard to catch up with him. He almost spurred Bucephalus into a gallop, but then pulled back on the reins and gave the pressure with his knees which the horse knew to mean 'Stop'. As the horse came to a halt, Philandros tried to get an idea of Sextus' mood, but could not. His own mood was turbulent and confused. What do I say? It is always the wrong thing – or so it seems!

Then he saw the tablet...still unknowingly clutched in Sextus' left hand. Ποσειδ! The Fates hate me for sure – he's read the note! Now I've tried to bring his best friend into this – whatever chance I might have had is gone now!

As Sextus stopped his horse next to him, Philandros idly noted that they were able to see eye-to-eye from horseback – what eyes – NO! That's done with – he will want nothing to do with me now, I must face it! He gave a quick look into those eyes, before turning his face away. His voice was quiet but determined when it came, and he hoped Sextus didn't notice the slight quiver which verged on a sob.

"Dammit...can't I even be allowed a noble exit? A man accepts his loss with dignity, and moves on. I apologize for my actions last night..." his eyes settled on the tablet "and for trying to come between Arrius and yourself. You have every right to hate me for such actions...I will...." Here his voice did break, but he refused to give way to tears in front of this man again!

"I will...never...bother you again....I just...hoped too much – cared too much..."

He hung his head for a moment, feeling his cheeks redden with embarrassment, then looked once more into Sextus' eyes.

"Good bye..." he whispered, but could not get himself to spur Bucephalus on...he twitched the reins lightly, but the horse refused to move, giving another of his characteristic snorts.


Sextus catches Philandros on the road to Pompeii, showing him that he read the note; Philon is dismayed, thinking all is lost, but Sextus says he came to talk to him further, not bully him. Philon asks about Arrius, but Sextus says they can talk more at Philandros' townhouse; Philandros agrees.


Philandros was stunned to hear the words Sextus spoke! He had been angry, but because he had left...not just because of the note to Arrius. He tried speaking, but the words would not put themselves together at first...he laughed and gave up on any attempt at a speech...contenting himself with the truth, since that was what Sextus seemed to want, and the only thing he could think of in his present state of apprehension.

"Sextus...I'm sorry; you know I don't have a lot of experience in these things – in anything actually! I had few friends growing up – Herculaneum is full of old people, not many children grew up around grandfather's villa...but a lot of ancient retirees ended their days there."

Sextus smiled...those were similar to the things Arrius said of the place! "There were plenty of kids where I grew up...totally opposite to your life!"

"If I say the wrong thing, or act strange sometimes – please remember – it's because I am not used to much talk with people my own age. I can act fine at a dinner party, or any situation with older people...but not people like you and Arrius. All I can do is be honest with you, which can be very unsettling at times. I know I startled you several times last night...but it wasn't meant to be that way; you understand?"

Sextus nodded, watching the landmarks go by as they rode. Past the Herculaneum Gate, the road took them past the Salt Market, the House of The Vestals and several bakeries before turning left into the Decumanus Superior at the Forum Baths. Few people were on the streets yet...though some bakeries could already be smelt by the odor of baking bread. On the right, they passed the temple of Fortuna Augusta, and finally turned right at the Central Baths into the Cardo Maximus which ran more or less straight south through town to the Stabian Gate.

"I thought it was the house of Marcus Lucretius?" Sextus asked politely...hoping Philandros hadn't lost his way. The house should have been several insulae further along the Decumanus on the left....not behind the Central Baths and Asellina's Inn. Philandros looked puzzled for a moment, then looked around. "No...this is definitely it...fountain up at the Decumanus, one down at the next corner in the same block as the Stabian Baths. Nice brown-stained door!"

He dismounted and knocked at the door, which was presently answered by Grumio, the fortyish caretaker. He smiled at the new master and took the reins of the horses, leading them past the doors of several small shops and around the northern corner of the building: "Stable."

Garden

Philandros was left to show Sextus into tha atrium, which lacked the usual pool, but held a nice statue of a man leaning on his knee. Sextus admired a painting in the entrance hall of some musicians, and let the boy – no, young man – lead him through the tablinum into the garden. Statues were everywhere! A cascade at the far end poured water into a channel which emptied into a circular fountain in the middle. On all sides, figures of animals and mythical heroes abounded...but the biggest beside the pouring figure in the fountain niche were four hermae situated at the corners of the garden.

"Corinna! Can I have some breakfast for my guest and myself, please?" His voice carried into the kitchens beyond the far left corner of the garden, and he saw the old woman's head peer around the corner. She nodded, and retreated back into her private domain, from which the odors of porridge and sausages were already issuing.

"I haven't seen the entire place yet," Philandros said with an apologetic smile. "I think we can eat in here..." and led the way into a room next to the tablinum with a window looking out onto the garden. On one wall was painted a scene with Bacchus, while others held one of Hercules and small cupid-like figures engaged in various tasks. Indeed, a couple couches for reclining were scattered about, and several low tables.

As they waited for food to arrive, Philandros looked at the reclining form of Sextus but could suddenly think of nothing to say. Now that the time had come for serious discussion, he was at a loss for words. He sighed, and spread his hands wide in a shrug. "I don't know what to say...what to ask. I don't even know if I should be the one to speak first!" He gave another sigh, and looked into those eyes he could not forget or describe. Blue? Gray? Pale green? There were hints of all of these, yet none was right! Finally, he gave up.

"Sextus...tell me what I need to know: about you, about love, what I need to do next!" The sincere pleading in his voice was probably painful to the experienced man, but he hoped his lover? would understand.


Sextus admits he loves Arrius, but it can only be as a brother...if Philon can accept that, then he and Sextus have a chance to make a relationship. Philandros agrees if that is the truth, Sextus swears it is and they kiss.


Sextus' kiss was long, lingering and very pleasant...and much as Philandros wanted to continue it to its hopeful conclusion...he still had some issues on his mind. Having instinctively entwined himself with Sextus, he now pulled his lips away reluctantly, and looked deeply into his friend's eyes. The puzzled look on the older man's face was endearing. "I thought you wanted this, Philon?"

"More than anything you can imagine, Sextus....but if there are truths to be told, then I have one as well." His voice was a bit fearful, and held a hint of sadness. "I don't know what to do here, Sextus..."

Sextus laughed slightly. "You were doing pretty well for a beginner!"

When this got only a slight smile, he saw that what troubled Philandros was something else, and sobered quickly. "We'll be fine, Philon...or is it money matters which trouble you?"

Philandros shook his head, then laughed quietly. "Yes...and no...like most of my recent experiences! I do need to find some way to make money – father left this house, and not a lot of ready cash until I turn twenty-one in three years. But, that's not what bothers me right now..."

Sextus stroked his cheek, and let his hand wander down to the lightly-tanned shoulder revealed by the boy's chiton, relishing the smoothness of Philon's skin. "We will find something you can earn money from...I'm sure you have many talents! What is this other matter?"

Philandros blushed red for what seemed the hundredth time in the past day, and eventually got the story out: being the last of his family, the worries of his grandfather concerning children and the story of Solon's brother which he had been afraid Philandros would emulate – and how, in desperation, he had promised his grandfather that he would sire children, or at least one child.

Sextus listened to this convoluted and anguished tale quietly, eventually getting the people straight in his head, occasionally stroking Philon's cheek or chest in reassurance. When the young greek had finished, it took some moments longer before he could look Sextus in the eye again...and when he did, he saw the man's expression slightly hooded in concentration.

Before Sextus could respond, Philandros blurted out one last sentence, with pain and resolve mixed in equal parts: "I know I promised him I'd try, Sextus...and a man doesn't break his word – but I've found what I want – and it's you!

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