Pompeii Passions

by ColumbusGuy

Chapter 13

New Arrivals

Sextus assures Philon that he is his only love; a visitor arrives from Alexandria, who seems to have plans to disrupt things at Green Acres; Praetorians have appeared in Pompeii, causing unrest.

Philandros went downstairs from the guest room where he and Sextus had spent the night – Hylas having been alone in the big bed Sextus had provided specially for them. Now, Sextus seemed to be talking with someone in the study, and Hylas...who knew? Arrius had gone off, most likely to set the villa up for easy defense should worse come to worse.

At some point today, I must ride to Pompeii and bring my household here...I don't want anything to happen to my servants there. Philandros poked around a bit, and finally decided that a bath was in order before setting out.

He heard singing and saw Hylas lounging in the water when he entered, removing his clothing slowly for the other boy. He saw that the bandage had been changed on his arm, albeit clumsily...and Philandros sauntered over and rewrapped the linen neatly, allowing his fingers to explore the boy's biceps as he did so.

"May I join you?" Hearing no objection, he settled himself into the water next to the dark-haired beauty, allowing their legs to become entwined 'accidentally' as he did so. Hylas picked up a sponge which he offered to Philandros, but the other boy shook his head, and merely turned his back for scrubbing. With back thoroughly cleansed, he turned so that the two were face to face, only scant inches separating their bodies.

"We haven't had any time alone, Hylas...I am jealous of Sextus for that which I haven't yet sampled...." His index finger traced a line on the boy's chest from hairless pectorals down to an attentive part below the water, which he grasped gently with a smile. "I have an errand in Pompeii, and would like you to accompany me...what do you say?"

Hylas was quiet, but seemed to enjoy the sensations which Philandros was giving him beneath the water's surface. Philandros took this silence for assent, and kissed the raven-dark curls on Hylas' forehead gently.

"Sextus has said he would like me to acquire a bit more muscle..." here Philandros caressed Hylas' right nipple, "and I think the two of us should visit the palaestra while we are in town. Meet me in the stable in an hour, and we'll head off to town for my errand."

Philandros licked the area where his hand had just been, and rose from the water, watching Hylas eye his every move as he dried himself and went to put on a fresh chiton – I think the lavendar one, today....

Sextus enters the bath chamber with the visitor, Memnoch; he pretends not to know Hylas.

Philandros looked at the Alexandrine with a raised brow – but his greeting for the man was polite as his mother had taught him – and he gave Sextus a brief but intense kiss before replying to his question.

"Yes, we must go – if the situation in town is going to be bad, I want to bring my slaves here and lock up the house for safety...it shouldn't be a long trip...and I expect we'll be back before dinner this evening."

With Hylas trailing behind, Philandros started upstairs and called for Olaf. At the giant blonde's appearance, he gave instructions as best he could...knowing the very limited nature of the boy's latin. "Olaf...Sextus – in bath – " he said slowly, pointing downstairs and handing the boy a sponge and towel. "Go – help Sextus – yes? Stay with Sextus – I home soon."

The boy nodded eagerly...he had learned how to bathe properly from Hermes, and he liked master Sextus...and would be at his side to help until Philandros returned. His big blue eyes lingered on the two greeks as they got dressed, then he went downstairs to find Sextus and help him wash. Hylas looked at Philandros with a smile, and the two laughed quietly at the surprise in store for their roman friend.

At the stable, Julius eyed Hylas strangely, but handed the reins of the horses to the two greeks. In his turn, Hylas winked at the younger boy with a smile and shrugged his shoulders. The two mounted and were soon on the road to Pompeii, noting that there seemed to be a bit more traffic leaving the Herculaneum gate than usual for this time of day. Was the situation in town already serious, or was it just the extra-cautious leaving while they could?

Within a few more minutes, the two boys arrived at the house of Marcus Lucretius, now the town villa of the red-headed greek; as he showed Hylas quickly about, Philandros gave orders to Grumio and Corinna to close up the house, and for the new steward Archelaus to oversee the packing of the most essential items for the trip back to Green Acres. He left the two horses there, and he told them to use his Bucephalus for pulling the cart – he and Hylas would use the white mare to ride back later in the day.

"If you get done before we are back...start without us – Corinna knows the place from our trip here from Herculaneum. We are off to the palaestra for some exercise."

"Master, what shall we do at this new place?" Archelaus asked...his authority as steward was very new, but he didn't want to impose on another man's household. Philandros smiled, sensing the problem at once.

"The steward there is hardly more than a boy...you can instruct him on proper etiquette and the correct way to run a house – Hermes means well, but he lacks formal training and confidence...which you will be able to provide in abundance."

Hylas followed his master out into the street, and they set off down the via Stabiae to the town's entertainment quarter.

On the walk to the palaestra in the Theatre Quarter, the two greeks chatted and talked about the businesses they passed: bakers, taverns, fullers and brothels. Philandros noted that Hylas changed the subject rather quickly to comments on the people they passed...and the tension that underlay the city like a thin sheet of ice. Both noted that though the noonday rest was nearly over, not all of the shops had their shutters down yet.

Some vendors outside the gymnasium tried to sell them wine or snacks of various sorts...one in particular tried to sell them figs as some sort of tonic for all ailments. Philandros brushed past them all with a polite shake of the head, and entered the wide door with Hylas quickly following.

Inside, a large courtyard was the largest space; here men and youngsters were engaged in various exercises from running and jumping to wrestling and boxing. In the shade of the colonnade, other men were lifting weights of various sizes, receiving massages or being scraped down after wrestling. One section near the far end seemed to be reserved for a group of young men who were practicing with weapons, and doing military-like drills.

"Well, at least the unrest hasn't slowed down business!" Philandros commented. He looked about, wondering what would be best for them to try first. If the truth were to be told, he didn't know much about sports...he liked to run, and do some minor athletics, but he really had no idea on how to build up muscles in the manner which Sextus seemed to like. He looked at Hylas, wondering if the boy had any ideas. It was more than evident that Hylas was paying no attention to the sports being practiced, but rather to the practitioners themselves.

Philandros nudged him in the side, and pointed to a space where some weights were set up. The two went over, and took a seat on the bench, looking about curiously. Philandros picked up a set of dumbells, and began to lift them up and down experimentally. Hylas tried a smaller set which he could manage with one arm, his other being bandaged. After more than half an hour, Philandros set the weights down, as Hylas had done earlier. Sweat was running down his chest, but Philandros didn't feel any stronger, or feel more muscular.

A laugh interrupted the two boys contemplation of as-yet undeveloped musculature, and another youth ran over and slapped Philandros on the back before embracing him in a strong grip. Breathless, the newcomer stepped back and surveyed the two others with a broad smile.

"Kalo Philon! I haven't seen you in ages! What are you doing in Pompeii? Who's your friend here?" The man appeared to be about a year older than Philandros, dark haired and smoothly muscled as befitted someone who was a natural athlete.

"Giton? Zeus, it's good to see you again! I'm here to close up my house for a while....With the tension here, I'm staying with a – friend – outside of town. What of you?"

The slightly taller boy smiled. "Oh, Herculaneum was too small for me, so I came here to make a big name for myself! Trying to do some exercises?" He poked Philandros in the ribs, which caused them both to laugh as if at some private joke between them. Hylas stared at this Giton with interest – some love from his master's past?

Giton looked at the weights, and shook his head sadly. "You aren't going to get anywhere like that – those are just for arms; don't you remember anything from our days at the palaestra in Herculaneum?" His hands pushed Philandros back down on the bench and into a reclining position.

Hylas watched in fascination as the boy picked up a bar with weights attached to either end with apparent ease, and took a stance straddling Philandros' head. He ordered him to raise his arms, and then rested the bar in Philon's hands while keeping the weight of it in his own. Hylas could see Philandros stiffen his arms as Giton let the bar go...and then he guided the red-head's arms in lowering and raising the heavy weights.

"Slowly, Philon...breathe with it...up, down, up, down – keep it level!" Hylas couldn't take his eyes off the scene before him: his master sweating with his muscles bulging with the strain of lifting so much weight, and the sight of Giton's muscled thighs as he stood above Philandros, ready to take the weights when his friend got tired.

For what seemed forever, Philandros raised and lowered the weights, becoming more and more aware of the pain he was feeling in the less-used portions of his body. He was also uncomfortably aware that another equally large part of his childhood friend was dangling only a short distance above his face between Giton's thighs. Finally, he could lift no more, and Giton took the bar away. With a sigh of relief, Philandros started to sit up. He felt a delicious thrill when Giton ran his hand along his sweating and hurting shoulders. Hylas noted again that Giton seemed to linger slightly whenever he touched Philandros.

"You see, Philon...that is what a proper workout is!" He glanced at Hylas, and noted the bandaged arm. "Well, looks like your friend can't do that yet...but there're other tricks he can learn!"

By the time Giton ran them through a series of exercises, both boys were tired and sore in almost every part of their bodies, while Giton was doing nothing more than sweating and breathing slightly heavier than normal. Rather than have one of the palaestra attendants do it, the three took turns scraping one another down with strigils before plunging into a cold pool.

Hylas could not tell for sure, but it seemed that Giton's stroking with the strigil was more prolonged and attentive than it needed to be...and he took on the job of doing Hylas' back before Philandros could begin.

Philandros signalled for some wine, and the three drank it while in the pool cooling off, talking of the past and what each had been doing for the past two years. Hylas' thoughts quickly went elsewhere during this exchange, but his ears perked up when Giton accepted Philon's offer to return to his town house for a meal.

It seems Philandros has quite forgotten that the servants will be on the way to Green Acres by this time....Ah well, we'll figure out some way to entertain his friend!

At Green Acres, Memnoch tells Sextus about Hylas' past, but it is old news. Sextus invites him to stay a while; Olaf bathes the two men. Philon's slaves appear at Green Acres.

(While Hylas and Philandros are returning from the palaestra having just met Giton...)

The cart stopped at the entrance to the villa, and Archelaus got down to rap at the wooden door. He waited some time before it was flung open by a boy of about fifteen or sixteen, clothes dishevelled and hair uncombed.

"What do you want?" the boy said abruptly.

Archelaus stood thunderstruck...this was surely not Hermes, Sextus' chief servant? No manners whatsoever, no respect for his own appearance? Despite his physical beauty, surely no sane man would assign the duties of a major domo to this creature?

He turned and saw Grumio assisting Corinna from the cart, and then beginning to unload the few trunks and chests from the town home of Philandros Cleanthes.

"Boy, I and my companions are the servants of Philandros Cleanthes, protegé of your master Sextus Manlius...show us to our rooms, and inform lord Sextus that my master should be returning later this evening."

When Hermes just stood there with mouth agape, Archelaus tapped him on the shoulder with his wand of olive wood. "Now then...be about your task, boy!"

Hermes jumped, and led the way to the left of the atrium, and to two rooms near the kitchen. Archelaus looked into the first, and nodded. "This will do for me...Corinna may have the other...but Grumio will need a space also."

"I...we...the other rooms aren't repaired yet!" Hermes stuttered, his eyes raking the muscular figure of the gardener...far too old for his taste! Grumio started to say that he could share with Corinna, who was nearly his mother's age...but Archelaus interrupted.

"That will not do – slaves do not sleep two sexes to a room. You may share my quarters Grumio, since it is only for a few days....Now, Hermes is it? – inform your master, and we shall start on your education in household management!"

As Hermes started off, Archelaus called after him: "First Lesson: Speed And Decorum...move quickly but quietly...accomplish your task promptly drawing as little notice to yourself as possible!"

Philandros smiled to himself as Hylas stood up to search for more wine...the boy was shameless sometimes – or was it artful? Hylas made no attempt to put his chiton back in place, but rather left his upper body bare from the waist. Looking at Giton from the corner of his eye, Philandros thought he saw a small smile, and saw that Giton watched the slave until he left the room.

Interest? Philandros could not be certain; he and Giton had known one another for nearly ten years, but Giton had been the active and adventurous one, while he had been more studious and reserved. Giton was naturally open and expressive in his affections for his friends, so this could give no clue as to whether he preferred the company of men over women. Being a bit shy as a boy, Philandros had had little experience, so he had no aspects of his own experience to draw conclusions from.

Talk moved from topic to topic with no obvious plan or connection, as conversation will between friends who had known one another for a long time...but Giton fell silent as Hylas reëntered the room. Once their cups had been replenished, Hylas resumed his seat, giving Giton a friendly smile. He complimented the boy on his athletic form...which caused Philandros to nearly choke on his wine...did Giton sense the double meaning of that statement? Since Giton ran his hand down the muscles of his chest with a smile, he must have!

The wine flowed as the byplay continued, the three becoming more relaxed with one another...and Philandros became more tormented. He hadn't thought of Giton in a sexual fashion before...but he was finding himself more attracted to his friend now that they were older – and Sextus had ignited his hidden desires.

With surprise, Philandros noted that the light through the window to the garden had entirely disappeared, and that Hylas at some point had lit a lamp in the corner. When had it gotten so late? There was no way a trip could be made to Green Acres now...and he had meant to stop at the house of Messalina Terentius also to thank her for her note yesterday. Now, they would have to stay overnight...and the house wasn't set up for guests at the moment!

After searching, they found some cold sausages and made supper of them and the last of the bread and wine...then Philandros led the way upstairs. He had no idea if any rooms other than his own were made up, but doubted it very much, and investigation proved his guess to be correct. His own bed was only big enough for one ideally, two with much crowding...which Philandros didn't think he could face with Giton.

"Master, you could use the blankets on the floor for Giton...I can see what is left in the servant's rooms." Hylas made the suggestion without any real enthusiasm.

Philandros didn't like the sound of this suggestion...but couldn't see a better solution, until Giton spoke up. "It's far too warm to sleep up here tonight – let's take a few blankets down to the garden and sleep outside! The fresh air will be very good for you both!" And so saying, Giton grabbed a few pillows and headed back downstairs, leaving the other two to follow in his wake.

By the time Philandros and Hylas entered the small peristyle, Giton had the pillows arranged next to one another, and pointed the spot for the blankets to be spread. He seated himself on the ground, and began passing the wine jug around some more as the other two settled in. They talked some more, until they all began to yawn and the jug was empty. Philandros watched the stars wheel overhead, and listened to the water as it tumbled down the cascade in the garden pool. The air was still, and had only lost a bit of it's daytime heat. Lassitude overcame him, and he felt his mind begin to drift, but he did note that Hylas already seemed to be asleep, while Giton too finally seemed to run out of words.

Giton looked at his friend lying on the ground staring at the stars, then at Hylas who was curled up on his other side. He stretched with a large yawn, and settled back on the blanket between them, the grass soft beneath them. His thoughts soon settled themselves under the influence of the hour and the wine, and he felt himself relax for the first time that day. Philandros had not questioned him about what he was doing in Pompeii beyond the first minutes of meeting, nor of how he was supporting himself. He had indeed come to Pompeii to make a name for himself...but things had not gone as he had expected – none of the acting troupes thought him good enough, and he had no other real skills to contribute...so he had a minor job moving scenery – until Marcus Renatus had seen him at the Odeon!

How do you explain to your friend that you are the some-time model and some-time sex toy of a rich old aesthete from Rome?

As the moon climbed higher, it shone down on the three boys – Giton had thrown his arm across Philandros' chest as he slept, and Hylas had snuggled up to Giton's back for warmth. Philandros had put his head on Giton's shoulder and put his own arm around his friend's neck, and was snoring quietly. Outside the house, noises of carts and the laughter of drunks gradually died away.

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