“There are questions being asked. Rumours spoken.”
Titus glanced up from his wine and blinked. “Yeah?”
“General Anthony,” Vorenus said like that explained anything.
“You’re gonna have to be a bit more specific, eh?” How much wine had the poor sack had anyhow? At least a couple of skins if Titus’ memory was correct. He cradled his head in his hands in hopes that the world might stop going round. Guess this is what happens when you take a mate out for a drink, especially when said mate wasn’t getting his leg over at home and felt the need to drown his sorrows. At least it wasn’t Titus paying for the drink.
“’Bout you and I.”
Well that settled that then. “What about you and me?”
Vorenus glanced around and the tips of ears went very red. It was adorable really. “That we share more than rooms.”
Titus bellowed with laughter. “They think that you and me…That we…” He gestured between them. More laughter. He couldn’t help it, honestly. It was just the thought of Vorenus grabbing linen for anyone, least of all Titus Pullo. “Venus’ tits.”
That earned him a glare. Such a pious fool, Vorenus. Mouthing his prayers why his wife’s busy making a cuckold of him under his own roof. Or was, until Titus put a stop to it. Died well, the man had, eventually. Who’d have thought the young master was such a dab hand at torture.
But back to the matter at hand. Vorenus was speaking again. “They say that girl of yours is just cover and that the reason my wife weeps is because I spend each night in your bed.”
Hm, a Prefect in his bed. Not something Titus would turn down.
“They say that we retrieved the Eagle by dubious means, not like men.”
That was a bit more serious.
“They say I lent you to Pompey’s slave, since everyone knows where his tastes lay.”
It took a few moments for that to sink in. Then Titus exploded up from his seat, sending bench and table tumbling and attracting the attention of the shopkeeper and his men. “They say what!”
Vorenus stared up at him, or actually a bit to his right as if he was seeing double. Titus didn’t really care. Risking the wrath of everyone from Mars downwards, he grabbed Vorenus by his tunic and hauled him up too, where he hung, looking confused.
“I am no one’s arse,” Titus bellowed. “Least of all a fucking slave’s!”
“That’s what I told ‘em. I said, ‘General Anthony, Legionary Titus Pullo doesn’t take it from anyone, not even his girl’.”
Not even his…? “Ah, crap.” He dropped Vorenus.
This was pointless. Once word started to spread it’d be all round the thirteenth in no time flat and Titus could look forward to some interesting conversations next time he was in camp. Maybe if he fucked Eirene in full view of the forum it’d restore his reputation. Anything short of that wasn’t going to help.
“So I was thinking,” Vorenus was still speaking, from a heap on the floor. “Since there’s no smoke without fire and Niobe won’t couple with me, we could go back to your rooms and have some fun.”
Refusal hovered on Titus’ lips. Not that he’d objected to a bit of the other in his youth, but he was a man now. If he wanted something like that, he’d find a comely slave boy. But there was something about Vorenus; his nobility, his honour. His blushing face, his arse and the fact that he was so far in his cups that Titus could probably get him on his hands and knees before he noticed what was happening.
With a wide grin, Titus dragged his friend to his feet and slung a comradely arm round his neck. “Yeah,” he said, “why not. Give those bastards something to gossip about at any rate.”
As they staggered to the doorway, the shopkeeper gave the pair a quizzical look. Titus frowned at him and pressed his finger to his lips in the universal sign for get out there and spread the word. “Keep a lid on it,” he said, “But the lad needs a good seeing to once in a while. Gets real desperate if he don’t and you know what they say, ‘What’s good enough for Caesar.”