Pompeii Passions

by ColumbusGuy

Chapter 8


As the day faded into night, Sextus still slept – the poppy mixture was doing a good job of keeping the injured man quiet! Yet, had he muttered the name of 'Arrius' or not? Philandros could not be sure...though he remained by his love's side all that day, no more sounds recognizable as words came from the roman's lips.

Arcos returned to change the bandages, and check for infection, and pronounced that things seemed to be fine so far...another two days would tell him if infection had set in – after that, the wound should be fine, leaving only a very faint scar. Philandros thanked him, and managed to eat a little of the meal Hermes brought before he himself stretched out on the other side of the large bed.

He lay facing Sextus, so that he could see the first signs of waking, and be ready for any request his love might make...and to hear if he muttered any more names in his dreaming. As evening drew on, he felt his own eyelids growing heavy, and without realizing it, he too had drifted off to sleep.

In his own dreams, he was ahorse, riding through the countryside...seeing an elderly figure, he stopped and kindly inquired whether the man would accept a ride; the figure nodded, and as Philandros helped him up onto the horse's flanks, the figure seemed to grow into a demonic shape, huge and menacing. With saliva dripping from snarling jaws, the figure raised a huge razor-sharp talon, and plunged it into the boy's back, again and again and again....

Philandros jerked awake, staring wide-eyed into the dimly-lit room. He was bathed in sweat, and reached for the water jug next to the bed. He drank a long cooling draught, and rinsed a cloth in a basin...wiping his face and chest free of their dripping perspiration. What was the hour? Past midnight, surely! He wrung out the cloth and wetted it again, turning to Sextus' wonderfully muscled form to wipe his brow. The sight of those indescribable eyes staring at him caused his breath to catch in his throat. His eyes filled with tears, and though he knew Sextus would be displeased, he couldn't help it – he was just so glad to see his love awake and well again!

He kissed each feature of that face he was getting to know better than his own, and wiped the tears from his eyes with the back of his hand, laughing with relief! "I can't help it, my Atlas...I almost lost you – and I am greek!"

Sextus wakes and Philon convinces him to sleep more rather than get up as he wants; Arris arrives with news of Messalina (a friend who had been kidnapped and rescued), and seeing Philon taking such good care of Sextus, tells him he will be moving back to his own hous in Pompeii.

As Arrius related the adventure of Messalina's rescue, the emotions which were racing through his system caused complete confusion to Philandros; his response to Arrius when he had hugged him was perhaps the most worrisome of all the feelings he experienced that night – for the genuine worry on the man's face at the mention of Sextus' injury had changed something between them – at least for the young greek. This man, despite his public denials, held as much love for Sextus as he himself – something that went beyond the physical alone – and Philandros could not look on Arrius the same way again.

Arrius Flavius had become part of Sextus in his eyes, and therefore – part of himself as well.

He heard Messalina's tale with half an ear as his thinking reädjusted itself to this new realization...and he only came back to full awareness as he heard Arrius declare he was leaving Green Acres for his home in Pompeii. What? Leave?....Philandros shook his head several times as Arrius finished speaking.

He took Arrius' hand, and led him to a table by the window, which was just beginning to show dawn's rosy glow. He gripped it tightly with both his own, meeting Arrius' gaze with his own sharpened by the urgency of his emotion. Despite the lowered tone of his voice, Arrius could clearly sense the deep emotion behind his words.

"Arrius – you can't leave him! I don't pretend to know the history between you, or what your feelings for him are...but I know his feelings for you; yes, there is the physical side – but there is more to it – he needs you in his life to be complete. If you move away, it will be like driving another dagger into him – but this time into his heart – and no physician will be able to mend him!"

Before Arrius could speak, Philandros raised a finger to forestall comment, and looked over to the bed where Sextus lay, checking to see if their conversation had roused the object of this heated discussion. Apparently Sextus slept on, so far as he could tell. Philandros gripped Arrius' hand in one of his, and placed the other lightly on his well-developed chest, noting the feel of dried salt-water and perspiration in the woollen cloth which barely managed its task of covering Arrius' body.

"Arrius, if you leave him – us – he will eventually come to blame me for it; I came between you and disrupted your friendship – and I won't be able to keep him. I can't live with that hanging over me – rather than risk losing him in a cloud of hatred and recrimination, I'd give him up now – willingly – so long as we remained friends. I want him to be happy...and if you go, I know that will not be possible."

Arrius stared at Philandros with surprise – he had had no idea that this boy held such a deep love for Sextus – attraction, yes...love, most likely...but such a self-sacrificing devotion from his innermost soul? He pondered this revelation, marvelling at the depth of the boy's ardor. Did Sextus share the same intense feelings as this greek, or was it merely what people commonly referred to as love when all they really shared was lust? For that matter, what and how deep were his own sentiments toward his friend Sextus?

"He means that much to you – that you'd give him up for his own sake...if it were necessary?" Arrius' voice was a mere whispering of amazement.

Philandros' eyes were glistening in the dawn, filtering through the shutters. "Arrius...he is my life – has become part of my soul. And yet," Philandros placed both his hands on Arrius' chest now, sliding them to the man's sides where he gripped tightly to emphasize his point. "...if it is your wish, I will find a way to distance myself from him so that he not lose you. My love for him is so great that, if you cannot find it in yourself to share Sextus and join with us in the tripartite union of Eros, Hermes and Hercules* – I will gracefully go with some excuse, and say nothing of this conversation between us."

Arrius merely stood, taking in the boy's words, the intensity of the feelings behind them, and the growing awareness of the exotic scent he wore that hadn't quite faded with time as the heat from Philandros' hands on his chest began to blend with that rising from his own body. Those green eyes – like a lush meadow – gazed at him, only an inch or so lower than his own, and Arrius seemed to lose himself in their depths...

Note: Eros, Hermes and Hercules formed a sort of trinity representing the ideal of homosexual love...something most mythology books gloss over...as they do the unions between many greek gods and mortal men. Apollo was known to have slept with almost every god and goddess, as well as many mortals.

Sextus wakes and Philon tells him Arrius returned with good news of Messalina, and says he will be back later to talk to him. Sextus gets a sponge bath.

Philandros had not considered how much fun could be had from the simple act of cleaning oneself, and perhaps – since he was cleansing the one he loved most – that was why it took so much longer than was needed. And that might also have been the reason why Sextus again found himself in need of rest.

As Sextus began to doze, Philandros got up, and began rummaging through chests to find something he could wear...his own chiton being torn, dirty and covered in blood was not salvageable. He found a tunic in one chest which must have been from Sextus' younger days – it would fit well enough though it was still a bit larger than he liked. The material felt strange on his skin, rougher than the cloth he usually wore, but wonderful because he imagined he could still catch a breath of Sextus' scent on it!

Philandros returned within a few minutes, Hermes following with a tray of rolls, fruits and cheese. He had also found some freshly cut flowers to decorate the room, and began putting them about in various containers. He moved a low table over to the side of the bed, and set the breakfast things on it before seating himself beside his love.

Sextus woke to the scent of flowers, especially the rose which Philandros had trailed beneath his nose, tickling his upper lip. His eyes took in the young man, dressed in a gray tunic too large for him, and wearing a chaplet of flowers in his reddish locks. The look on Philon's face was at once innocent and mischievously randy...the sparkle in his eyes gave a lie to the innocent part of his look. Sextus laughed heartily, and groaned a bit as he sat up.

Before he could say anything, Philandros stuffed a piece of apple in his mouth, followed at intervals by rolls, cherries, bits of cheese and an occasional sip of watered wine. Within the space of a quarter hour Sextus had eaten his fill, another morsel would have caused him to explode! He turned down the offer of more wine, and started to get up, slowly and carefully.

"Where are you going? You need to rest!" Philandros tried pushing him back down onto the mattress, but to no avail.

"What I need now, will prevent me from resting! There isn't a pot in here...and I can't wait long!" Sextus managed to sit up, the pain still sharp, but less than the night before. Philandros laughed, and assisted his love to his feet from the side opposite the wound. With a slow pace, the two started for the baths.

Philandros revelled in the sense of usefulness he felt...he was able to do something for his love which was really needed! Someone he idolized found him indispensable as well as desirable! He wanted to be respected by his lover, not just a convenient release...that could be gotten from any street in Pompeii.

He decided that perhaps a soak in the warm waters of the bath might be a help to healing, and once Sextus was settled in, he sent Hermes to see to the airing and changing of the bedding in the bedroom. He then sent a servant to the market in town to find something special for lunch...duck? And perhaps some special dessert? A pudding of cherries, perhaps?

Philandros returned to the bath, and took the opportunity to inspect the wound...it was a bit red, but seemed to be doing fine...and as he towelled Sextus off, he applied a fresh coating of honey and covered it with clean bandages. Sextus groaned slightly, but relaxed when he realized there was hardly any pain from his love's touch.

"You have wonderful fingers, my dearest one!" He looked at the youngster's grin, and saw him put some of that honey on Sextus' left nipple. "What...Ohh! Yesss!" Sextus moaned blissfully as Philandros licked off the sticky substance with a seductively slow caress of his tongue.

"Jupiter! Your fingers aren't the only talented part you have!"

Sextus wakes again, and convinces Philon they should go to Pompeii the next day so he can work at the Slave Market, and later, Philon and Arrius can go to Herculaneum to search for Tellus.

A knocking at the door roused them some time later...it was past noon, judging by the shadows! Hermes entered, bearing a tray with roast duck, some vegetables and a custard topped with cherries. Hermes glanced at his master, and took an even longer look at Philandros before leaving with a smile. The two ate in relative silence, enjoying one another's company without the need for words. By their glances, and by their occasional smiles it was plain the two had found what they sought in life.

Finally: "Sextus...do you mind if I look around the villa? I've only seen a small part of it...and none of the grounds..."

The roman frowned for a moment, then nodded. "I guess it's alright...but remember, repairs are still being done, and the grounds have been neglected for a while! Don't judge me by what it looks like from the outside!"

Philandros laughed, and gave him a lingering kiss. So long as Sextus was there, the meanest hovel would be a paradise! "You rest now...if we're going to Pompeii tomorrow, you need to rest all you can! I'll be nosing around – see what I can find to divert myself – and be back in plenty of time for dinner." He smiled at the lonely look which appeared on Sextus' face, and gave him another kiss, this time on the tip of his nose.

"You won't even miss me – you know you are feeling drowsy again!"

Philandros exited the bedroom, and went down the hall, poking his nose into each room he passed. Many were empty, except for dust and cracked plaster...rooms which had not yet received the attention of the repairmen. Downstairs, he knew the way to the baths, and so checked out the other wing, past the central atrium and the offices. Here were guest rooms, equally in need of attention, and beyond them, the wing with the servants quarters and service areas like kitchens and farm rooms. In one large space, he saw an olive press, a mill for flour, and a wine press! In all his explorations, he had seen only a few servants...did Sextus have no staff?

In the kitchens, he saw Hermes instruct an old cook concerning dinner, and two boys cleaning dishes. Hermes told him that there were several other house servants, but at this time of day they were off to town to do marketing for the next day. He also mentioned that the field hands were in a separate building, along with their overseer...and would be busy clearing up the neglected parts of the grounds. When Philandros asked what the estate produced, Hermes shrugged. "The usual stuff, I guess...olive oil, some wine, wheat and barley...oh, and there's a pond where we get fish for the table. You saw part of the fruit orchard when you were first here."

Philandros thought for a moment before speaking again. "I need to ride home to get some fresh clothes...as you can see, Sextus' things are too large for me. He's sleeping now, but if he wakes before I return, tell him where I've gone. I'll be back in plenty of time for dinner!"

Hermes nodded, and pointed the way to the stable...faster than going back to the front of the house. He found a boy in the stables who got a horse ready for him, and within minutes he was on the road for Pompeii.

I must mention the attack on Sextus to the magistrates, and alert them to be looking out for Tellus... Did he still have Sextus' horse? Or even the knife? Where could an old slave run off to in this resort area full of country villas and small towns? Philandros looked about as he rode toward town, taking in the vista of managed estates which swept even up the sides of Vesuvius, until the slopes became too steep for anything but forest and scrub.

In town, Philandros rode toward the forum, and alerted the vigiles office to the events regarding Sextus' attacker, and gave them a description of the old man, and the horse he had last been on. The officer looked skeptical of any success in the matter, but agreed to alert the gate guards and watchmen.

As he left the forum, he thought he saw Arrius outside a shop, and waved, then continued on to his domus. He put the horse in his stable, and went in to tell Corinna and Grumio of the events. He assured them Sextus was recovering fine, and told them to alert the officials if they saw Tellus in the course of their errands.

Next, he went to his room and sorted through his clothes, seeking just the right set for his dinner with Sextus that night – and something else for the morning! As he was sorting through his few items of jewellery, he began to yawn. He called down to Grumio, that he needed to be wakened in two hours, as he had to meet Sextus for dinner. With his clothes arranged for the evening, and next day, he stretched out for a brief nap.

For all the time we spend in bed, we don't really do much sleeping...was the last thought he remembered before he began to snore quietly.

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