A Bene Placito

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by templemarker

Notes: Titus Pullo/Lucius Vorenus, for sphinxvictorian in Yuletide 2005. Read it there.


When Titus first kissed him, it was almost apprehensive–just a clumsy swipe of lips, barely more than a greeting. But if Vorenus looked–which he did–he would have seen fear, shyness, worry, and behind it all, hope.

Titus was so unerringly faithful, even given all they had been through both together and separately. It reminded Vorenus of a stray become a pet, once given a kind hand and forever at his master’s side.

Vorenus brought a hand to Titus’ face, feeling the short cut of hair Titus always favored at his fingertips. It was soft beneath his fingers, and Titus cautiously leaned into the touch as if not daring to take more.

“Oh, Titus,” Vorenus sighed, drawing Titus’ face closer. This time when they kissed the spark only hinted at before took flame. Gods, he needed this. Vorenus admitted to no one that his life only felt real with Titus was by his side. The last few years had been nothing but playacting the role of magistrate, waking up each night with betraying dreams, yearning for days long gone. It was somehow appropriate that, when Titus finally came back into Vorenus’ life, all he had worked for was torn to pieces.

This was coming home: to Titus, to himself, to the soldier he had never stopped being.

Titus sagged against him, and Vorenus felt his bone-deep tiredness as if it were his own. “Sleep, caro,” Vorenus said, helping Titus to a bedroll, arranging himself next to it. The endearment felt no stranger on his tongue than were he to whisper it to one of his daughters; he brushed his lips against Titus’ shorn head and murmured, “Sleep.”

In the morning, Titus rose before he did and prepared few provisions they had for the breaking of the night’s fast. Titus would not look at him, and Vorenus noticed more than once the aborted moves Titus made to touch Vorenus’ hand, or brush leg against leg. He had not made it clear then, last night; or Titus had simply thought it all a dream. Vorenus never hid the fact that he was poor with words and saying what he meant. That, he thought in bitter retrospect, was why he had been such a perfect marionette for Caesar’s whims. It was easy enough to convince a man in ignorance that what he is doing was right.

Still, it would serve them both well if he were to tell Titus of what he felt. When Titus handed him a cup of clear water, scuffing at the dirt like the overgrown child Vorenus suspected he was, Vorenus reached out and clamped a hand on his wrist. He was ready for the shudder of surprise that ran through Titus’ body, and as Titus’ wary eyes met his own, he indicated with his head for Titus to sit.

When Titus had done so, Vorenus took a sip of water and stared resolutely into the small fire Titus had made. “Titus,” he began, then faltered. He felt Titus shift next to him, and Vorenus carefully placed a hand on Titus’ leg. “I should tell you that…I have wanted this. Wanted you. For a very long time.” Once he began it was far easier to continue. “I missed you, when you were gone. It was a foolish thing you did, placing your heart in the hands of that slavegirl. But I should not have let you go away, and I apologize for that.”

Vorenus finally turned to look at Titus, whose mouth was hanging slightly open. “It has been a long time coming, friend,” Vorenus said quietly. “This–thing–that is between us, it should have been started long before, when Caesar still warred with Pompei. We knew it then, but my eyes looked to Rome and to my wife, and not to what stood patiently next to me.” Vorenus leaned in and met Titus’ lips with his own for a brief second. “I thank you for waiting.”

The silence stretched for long moments, until it took all of Vorenus’ training to keep still at the disbelief in Titus’ eyes. “Well, say something,” Vorenus said irritably.

Titus shook himself, as if coming out of a dream, and took Vorenus’ head in both of his hands, bringing him close to kiss him deeply until the cup fell from Vorenus’ hands, forgotten.

“You infuriating man,” Titus panted against Vorenus’ face where he kissed him roughly. “Have you been sitting on those words for the last ten years? Could you have not said them any sooner, perhaps before I nearly stumbled to my death? I left thinking you had no desire to see me, even as a friend; and now I find you knew and felt this all along!” Titus’ fingers fumbled against Vorenus’ tunic, and Titus looked up fiercely into Vorenus’ eyes. “Never again, my love. It has taken us far to long to get here for you to ever leave me again.” His hand dipped into Vorenus’ crude leggings, and Vorenus found himself nodding helplessly. Titus was no seducer with words either, but it was as if each thing he said was burned into Vorenus’ mind. As he spilled into Titus’ hand, Titus kissed him once more, pushing him into the nearby bedroll as Vorenus arched against him.

Titus wiped his hand in the dirt, and returned to kissing Vorenus. “It was as if my life shattered; there was nothing left to stay for if even a slavegirl could find no love for me. I was heartsick, looking at what you and Niobe shared; and Niobe knew, just looking at me, that I waited for you even as you went back to her bed again and again. But never again, my dear friend, never again.”

Vorenus pulled him close, grasping the length of him and watching pleasure make Titus’ face slack. He ran his fingers again through Titus’ fine hair, and thought of how he could now do that for the rest of his days. Titus came quickly, resting against Vorenus’ side.

Together they were dirty, poor, and runaways; it was like every adventure they once had. There was much left for them to repair, between themselves and the lives they left behind in their city. But for now, they had each other, and that was enough.


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