Libations

by Tym Greene

A day in the life of a grizzled old ram and his human protégé in ancient Rome.

Added: May 2022 5,159 words 841 views 3.5 stars (2 votes)

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Cassius rolled over, languorously enjoying the cool silk sheets sliding across his belly. He could see, silhouetted against the mid-morning sky, the brooding hulk of Gaius Cato, leaning on the balcony railing.

He considered—briefly—continuing the roll, to make it appear that he had only shifted in his sleep. It was a ruse that had often worked on his nursemaid, sentimental cow that she was, and had garnered him many hours that would otherwise have been spent in study. But Cassius Laevinus knew better. His father was expecting great things of him, now.

So the human grumbled his displeasure and cast the fine sheets onto the floor. At 22, he may have been nearly old enough to marry, but he still enjoyed acting like a child.

Gaius’s right ear twitched at the rustle of silk and the pad of bare feet, but the ram didn’t turn around. “Up so soon, Cassius? Any longer and you’ll miss dinner,” he teased good-naturedly.

“Ha! And you, watching the sundial again, in case someone steals your time?”

The grizzled ram snorted, but allowed his protégé to slink up behind him, pressing bare belly to nude back. He felt the twitch of a dream-stiffened member pressing against his tail, and heard the accompanying sigh.

“Unlike you,” Gaius murmured, allowing himself to be fondled, “I cannot stay abed all day.”

“Not even today? The courts are all closed, and the Senate—”

“The Senate is closed too, yes, so that we may be present in the triumph. One of these days, Cassius, you will finally wake up and realize that you are a man. A Roman. And on that day you will welcome your duties.”

“And on that day, I’ll have to leave you.”

“Well, little boy, you make a good argument. Perhaps you are learning to be a statesman after all.”

Cassius hated the ram’s nickname for him, and ground harder into the other man’s hips. “I am no boy,” he growled, flexing his shaft for emphasis, “And you and father are the only ones who want me to be in the Senate.”

“You cannot be a rich merchant’s son forever, no matter what anybody might or might not want.”

For a time they stood there, listening to their own breathing, the slight patter of the fountain in the courtyard below them, and the sounds of the large household rising to the day’s activities. Triumph or no, there were still birds to pluck, mosaics to scrub, tunics to wash. Indeed, there seemed to be an added urgency to Cato’s slaves as they went about their duties. Cassius smiled, recalling his father, years before, admonishing him: “Finish your studies and you can go to the festival.”

He had labored harder than ever that day, struggling to memorize verses that he could have rattled off with ease now. He had ultimately managed to fill only half of his wax tablet, but his father had pressed two denarii into his palm and sent him off to the festival anyways. They’re like children, he thought, looking down past Gaius’s shoulder at the men and women bustling among the courtyard’s columns. And, for a moment, he envied them, and their lives of simple, low expectations.

But the ram was turning, leading Cassius back to the bed.

“I knew I could get a rise out of you, you horny old goat,” he whispered, running a hand down Gaius Cato’s belly. The senator kept his wool short-cropped, no matter how often Cassius had asked him to let it grow. His finger traced the long pink scar that was the only blight on the older man’s body—the result of a midnight ambush that had left him no time to don his armor.

Cassius admired the body before him, kept lean and hard by light eating and hours in the gymnasium, hours that Cassius himself usually spent on a shady bench, pretending to read a scroll while admiring the other men—his mentor included—as they exercised nude in the sunny courtyard. He had often wondered what Gaius had been like as a younger man; everyone knew the stories that were told about army life, brothers-in-arms finding companionship in the barracks, captured foes abused and interrogated, and certain favors paid to officers.

The young human moaned and allowed himself to be flipped over onto his ample belly, thick buttocks easily spread. The image of General Gaius Cato rallying his men—sword held aloft as he fought off shaggy Gaulish boars, as nude as any heroic frieze—quickened his pulse.

The soft lavender scent of an expensive Alexandrian unguent wafted through the room as the ram’s slender length slipped in, easy as a dagger into its sheath. One day, Cassius knew, he would no longer lie beneath his mentor; not today, of course, not for a while. Some day, though, he would slide in and make the seasoned general moan as he himself did now. Who’s on top, that’s what really matters.

It was with that thought, and behind his closed eyelids the picture of nude heroism, that the merchant’s son shoved a hand between belly and bed and flogged himself to completion. His moans and inner spasms seemed to feed the senator’s passion as well, and soon he slumped forward onto Cassius’s back, sweating and panting.

Outside, the sundial’s shadow swept across a few more degrees, and the fountain continued to burble. It was fed by the same source as the rest of the mansion; as a senator—and a wealthy one—Gaius could have his water supplied directly from the aqueduct. Which meant that the water in the washbasin was still cold enough to set Cassius’s teeth on edge as he cleaned up. He tossed the dampened and dirtied scrap of linen back into the basin, splashing water onto the frescoed wall behind.

“Here, come and help me dress,” Cato commanded gently. “Your father never showed you how to properly wind a toga, did he? It’s practically a disgrace for a man of your age and status to go about in just a tunic.”

“But my father does.”

“He’s only a merchant.”


Senator Cato lived in a quiet, fashionable district where even the taverns and snack shops built into the house-fronts were sedate. The raucous haggling and bar fights of seedier neighborhoods would never be found here. On this day in particular it was especially empty: store counters manned by trusted slaves or sullen-looking second sons.

Cassius resisted the urge to taunt them, to gloat about his own freedom and leisure. He idly contemplated adding a handful of choice innuendos to the jeers that tasted so good, even as they sat unsaid on his tongue. Something about having bested a general in single combat…but as he watched Gaius walking along the raised sidewalk before him, the words soured in his mouth: for as godly-heroic as the ram looked when nude and looming over him in bed, in a toga on the street he was just another senex, right down to his purple hem.

No, the shopkeeper’s assistants and butcher’s boys would only laugh at him for such a conquest. Besides, he reminded himself, a secret shared has no relish, which only made his stomach grumble. So instead he gloated about going to the triumph: “Shall I wave to Caesar for you, boys? I hear this year they’re throwing coins to the crowd.” The looks on their faces was victory enough.

Of course, he tried not to remember that his grandfather had been a slave too, brought over from Greece to tutor some nobleman’s brats. When the nobleman had died—a heart attack, right in the middle of a lavish banquet—his grandfather had been freed, and given enough money to open a small shop. His father had built that into a thriving business, and now Cassius himself was learning how to be a statesman. In a few years he’d be old enough to move through the ranks of civil service, and then…senator. That was a pleasant thought indeed: from slave to senator in three generations. “I love Rome,” he mumbled to himself, feeling a surge of pride.

They came to an intersection and turned towards the distant noise of the gathered mob. Cassius knew this street well, soon there would be a little dead-end alley on the right, with a convenient dogleg. He jogged slightly to catch up to Gaius, thinking of the auxiliary soldier he had once cornered there, an exoticallyEgyptian crocodile with pebbled skin and smooth belly scales. He’d been drunk, and hot, and had believed Cassius when he said he was a senator. His only protest, as Cassius slipped hands under his uniform to caress his meaty thigh and powerful back, was that he looked too young to be a senator. “But you humans all look alike,” the reptile had belched, smelling of cheap spiced wine and sounding delightfully foreign, “I can never tell…ooh, yeah, do that again.”

Cassius had been the one giving orders that night, and he could feel his own modest erection growing rigid, bobbing with each step. “Gaius, wait…” he called. The ram turned, his back to the alley. Cassius lurched against him, pushing with both arms, feeling the solid body under the draped wool cloud. “Quick, in here.”

Gaius bleated in surprised protest as his back hit the brick wall, and the human took advantage of the opportunity to press his mouth to the ram’s. He could taste the eggs and honey and wheat loaves they had both eaten for breakfast, but behind that was the flavor of the ram himself. Cassius stroked a hand across the top of Gaius’s head, between the horns where he kept all of his tension. Fingers raked through the shaggy tuft, caressed the place where horn and skull met, and the ram relaxed, bending into the kiss.

His breath was hot on Cassius’s cheek, moist from those dark narrow nostrils. The younger man ran his tongue along the precisely-regimented row of teeth, under the mobile lips, and against the other tongue. They stood, bodies pressed together, in the musty shadows between brick apartment blocks.

Cassius reached down, feeling for the bulge under the toga, the swaying heft of the ram’s balls and the plump sheath that had been pressing against his own cock. His fingers quested through folds of wool, found the finer linen tunic beneath, and then wool again, warm and short and familiar. His hand slid up the inside of the senator’s thigh and nestled in the crook of his groin. One thumb uncurled to press against the base of the sheath there, making the ram moan into their kiss.

Then a fanfare of horns echoed between the tall flat walls. “Oh no,” Gaius groaned, pushing his protégé away. He scurried back to the main road, leaving Cassius flustered and panting and with no choice but to follow after the clop-clop of the ram’s hooves on the paving stones. His clothes tugged at his erection, which quickly flagged and drooped.

They were late. By the time they reached the Via Triumphalis, the procession had already begun. Gaius pushed through the crowd—which grudgingly made way when they saw the purple senatorial hem of his toga—and Cassius clung close behind his mentor, jockeying for a better spot beside the ram.

“By Bacchus, boy,” he shouted over the blare and blat of the cornu trumpets, “look what you’ve done.”

“What, me?”

“Yes, you. Thanks to your dalliance, I’ve missed it.” He waved an arm at the head of the procession—now blocks away—with its white cloud of senators just rounding a corner. “My place was there, with them. You could have walked alongside me. Apparently that honor means nothing to you,” he added with bared teeth.

“I’m sorry,” came the insincere reply. “I’d rather watch, anyways,” Cassius added, sotto voce, preferring the cool shaded spot they had found to a long trek in the middle of a sun-baked street.

He stared at the carts and wagons rolling past—some pulled by burly infantrymen, others by captured Egyptians—all heaped with gold and treasures, blinding in the mid-morning light. Cassius, his chastisement forgotten, pointed at one especially muscular captive: “Look at that one,” he cooed, “I’d wager he would make a good house slave.”

The senator looked from his soft-bellied protégé to the sturdy sweat-slicked human pulling a cart laden with silks and tapestries. Though the same breed, the two men were clearly of vastly different breeding. His gaze flitted back and forth again, as though contemplating a switch, then he snorted. “Or maybe you just see a shiny new plaything, eh?” he scoffed.

“Maybe,” Cassius allowed. “He’s probably owned by some centurion already. They always claim the best spoils.”

When the last of the carts had passed by, the two stood in the midst of a sudden respectful silence—as though a muffling cloud had descended on the crowd pressed around them. Seven men were striding along the Via Triumphalis. Nude apart from their gilt horn-tips and garlands of flowers, the bulls’ white hides were nearly as resplendent as the gold treasures had been.

Cassius began to breathe heavily, and Gaius glanced over at him, wondering what was the cause of the younger man’s arousal. Perhaps it was simply the handsome bullflesh on such public display; perhaps the fact that one of the bulls was not sternly stoic like his fellows, but rather gazed around at the onlookers with a dopey grin. Sacrificial bulls tended to be inbred idiots, the ram knew, the gods seeming to prefer simple purity above all other qualities. Or perhaps Cassius Laevinus took pleasure in the knowledge that these men would soon be sacrificed: there were men in Rome who hungered for, as they termed it, the right of “final fuck.”

The remainder of the triumph passed by with appropriate pomp and noise, once the sacrificial bulls had moved along. But there arose a murmur of discontent amid the general clamor of jubilation: a large wagon with a lone figure atop it was drawing near. Cassius pushed against the bear looming on his right, craning to get a better look, impatient to see what had caused the disruption.

When he saw, he bellowed a triumphant laugh, teeth glistening unpleasantly: “There she is!”

Before them was a young black mare—a filly, really. Her arms and legs were bound loosely in gold chains that seemed to weigh down her fine-boned aristocratic frame, as did the gold collar around her neck. The thin diaphanous chiton she wore wafted around her where it wasn’t weighted down with the chains, and revealed just as much as it hid. Both men had heard the rumors: this girl was the younger sister of Cleopatra, the Egyptian queen. Arsinoë, who looked so small and fragile on her wagon, was said to have lead troops against Julius Caesar; she was supposed to be a heartless, murdering monster. Senator Cato’s expression hardened as he watched Cassius joining the other youths as they taunted and jeered at the captured princess.

“I bet Caesar strangles her himself,” the young man whooped—referencing the tradition of doing away with captured royalty—his arm stuck out into the street, thumb pointing at the cobbles. “Kill the foreign bitch!” Before Gaius could intervene, his shout and gesture were taken up by the other young men, and a wave of derision began to follow the Egyptian.

The ram turned away. “This is going too far,” he murmured.

Cassius could not hear what Gaius had said over the din, but he looked at his mentor, grinning with pride at having led his peers. “What did you say?”

“I said that this is unseemly. We are Romans, not Barbarians.”

“What are you talking about?” Cassius laughed. “This is a triumph! This is Roman: we beat her, we conquered Egypt, and now her life is forfeit. I thought you were a general, not a milksop.”

“I am a general, boy, and as such I know when men overstep what is right and just. I am done here; stay if you want.” He snorted as though to punctuate the declaration, and left, purple hem trailing behind him.

A rolling cheer distracted Cassius from his mentor’s ire, and he spun around in time to see the last of the lictors pass by. He felt his heart quicken: this was it.

A matched team of four white horses nosed into view, each one glowing with the honor of having been selected to pull the Imperator’s chariot. Cassius whooped and hollered, Gaius forgotten now that Caesar was in sight.

The rather ordinary-looking donkey was decked out in full ceremonial armor, his face daubed red to make him look like Jupiter. As was tradition, a lean slave stood behind Caesar, holding a laurel crown just above his head, and whispering “memento mori” into his tall grey ear. Julius looked at the crowd around him with hooded eyes and blasé expression, right hand lifted in a constant salute.

Caesar aeternum! Triumpe! Triumpe!” Cassius shouted, his adulation merging with the crowd’s. So dazzled was he by the glaring breastplate and aura of greatness, that Cassius failed to notice Julius’ occasional glances backward. Close behind him followed a second chariot, containing Arsinoë’s older sister, Cleopatra VII.

Cassius knew that the remainder of the procession would simply be a parade of Caesar’s troops—plenty of handsome men to ogle, every one fit and rugged, representing nearly every breed of the known world, but nothing could compare with the thrill of seeing Caesar himself.

He smiled broadly as he turned to follow after Gaius Cato, elated to have finally seen his hero in the flesh.


He caught up with the ram easily in the deserted streets, and followed him in silence, each man replaying the triumph in his own mind. Cassius envied the way citizens and slaves alike bowed out of the senator’s way as he walked. Some day, he thought, plucking at the plain hem of his own toga, they will bow for me. Gaius seemed perturbed, and walked right past the street that led to the mansion. Cassius was about to point out his mentor’s error, when he saw where the other man was really headed: above the apartment blocks before them rose a plume of black smoke, striped with streamers of steam, looking like a zebra’s flank in the sky.

The scent of burned pine resin filled his nostrils, overpowering the usual pungency of crushed garlic cloves roasting in olive oil from the street-side snack shops, and making him grimace and snort. Gaius Cato spun around, making a face. “You didn’t have to follow me. I would hate for you to forego such a momentous occasion.”

But Cassius sneezed, and missed the ram’s scathing remark. “I saw Caesar,” he explained, wiping his nose on the edge of his toga. “The rest of it’s boring anyways.”

Gaius stared at him, as though trying to confirm that he had heard correctly. “Boring,” he echoed quietly, “I see.” He turned and entered the bath house without further comment.

Cassius, however, remained on the threshold, the stone slab cold under his feet, the attendant slave glancing at him, waiting to see if he would be needed to serve. Cassius hated going to the baths. The water in the frigidarium was far too cold, and, while the warm air of the tepidarium was comfortable enough, Gaius never lingered there, passing instead to the hot rooms where he often conducted the real business of being a senator.

He has a perfectly good bath at home, Cassius pouted as the bull attendant stared at him, wondering why the human was just standing in the doorway. Big enough to bathe in. Big enough to fuck in too, he smiled, picturing his mentor in the marble basin. The water would be just the right temperature, comfortable and soothing, scented with that Egyptian stuff that made for such a slick entrance. The ram would have drunk too much, and would ask for Cassius’s help with washing, allowing the human to climb into the water with him. His hands would rub up and down Gaius’s sodden wool, soft pudgy fingers raking through to the skin beneath, the still-powerful body relaxed and defenseless. Perhaps now he could finally show his mentor just how much of a man he was—

“Excuse me, citizen…” the bull’s basso rumble rolled over him, casting aside Cassius’s all-too-pleasant daydreams.

“What?”

“Do you need assistance, sir?”

He eyed the slave, mentally removing the crisp white tunic, then swiftly putting it back in place: too fat, he thought, unconsciously resting a hand on his own belly. “No. Thank you.”

He brushed past, left his clothes with the slaves in the undressing room, and headed—nude—into the baths proper. With a grateful shiver, he saw that Gaius must have already finished in the frigidarium’s pool. The air alone in that room was enough to quell his libido: the lone lithe otter floating on his back did nothing to pique Cassius’s interest as he hurried through.

Thanks to the triumph, the baths were mostly empty, and Cassius felt a swell of hope as he shuffled through the building. Sure enough, the ram was seated on the low stone bench that ringed the caldarium, talking animatedly with a trim young rhinoceros. Cassius had seen him before, loitering around the Senate chamber. Already he was starting to feel apprehensive—though whether from the sweltering heat or the attentions Gaius was paying to the rhino, he couldn’t tell.

“…if it’s as you say, Gaius, then he acted abominably. There is simply no justification for—”

“There you are,” Cassius interrupted. “Who’s this?” The other two men stared at him for a moment: the ram in obvious discomfiture, the rhino scowling with annoyance. The only sounds in the caldarium were the plink of dripping water and the soft hiss of steam flowing through the hollow walls.

“Cassius,” the ram said, “this is Primus Tarquin. Primus, this is my protégé, Cassius Laevinus.” The two young men shook hands grudgingly, then Cassius plunked down onto the stone bench beside Gaius. “His father is a senator.”

“Yes. He says that I’ve learned everything he can teach me about politics, and wants me to seek out my own mentor.” He leaned forward, stroking the larger of his horns absentmindedly as he talked. “And I could think of none better than Senator Cato.”

“Well? And did you tell him that you’re already training me, Gaius?”

“I was going to, yes. But he asked me about the triumph.”

“It’s absolutely criminal, what he’s doing. Practically un-Roman.”

“Who…Gaius?” Cassius pictured himself cavorting with the ram, just that morning. Nothing illegal, certainly, nor even immoral, but Primus had already given Cassius the impression that he was the sort of man to take offense easily. He’s probably a prude, too.

The rhino spluttered, “No, of course not; Senator Cato is truly a paragon of virtue.”

“Primus, please! I’m sitting right here.” He sounded sufficiently embarrassed by the praise, but Cassius could see the stirring between his legs. The old ram loves having his ego stroked…among other things, he thought.

Primus, however, seemed not to notice the effect he was having on the former general. “I’m talking about Caesar. That arrogant ass acts like he is out to conquer the world; he’s no Alexander.” The rhino went on expounding Caesar’s faults, citing the bickering with Pompey, the dalliance with Cleopatra, and most recently his re-writing of the entire Roman calendar, “…adding a month for himself, no less.”

Cassius had stopped listening. The heat had combined with the stale sweat of a thousand different men, the musk of mildew and wet stone, and the nose-itching tang of pine smoke. Now he sat panting, legs spread, cock engorging. He’d be a lot more quiet if his mouth were full…since he likes Gaius so much. He could picture the slender young man bending forward, taking the ram’s length into his muzzle—as Gaius grabbed onto his horn—which would leave his taut ass exposed, perfect for Cassius to plow into. That’ll give the prude something to squawk about.

Cassius blinked, his ears telling him that Gaius had asked him something, but his mind was still full of images of the rhino: bound, gagged, used by the two of them. “What?” He tried to clear his head.

“I had asked what you thought,” the ram replied, leaning back on the bench, sending up a fresh cloud of his own musk. “About Caesar,” he added.

“I like him,” Cassius murmured, mid-fantasy.

“Like him?” Primus spluttered. “He is a fool, a usurping fool. And anyone who follows him is a fool as well. Am I right, Senator?”

“Well, now, that’s a bit much. I would not have wanted my men questioning my every act when I was a general—”

“Oh not the troops: they hardly have much choice in the matter. I meant those among the citizenry,” he glanced pointedly at Cassius when he said this, “who are blinded by his boasts and promises, and the oriental opulence he’s trying to force down our—”

“I like him.”

“Then you are a fool. Honestly, Senator Cato, what is this world coming to? Clearly this boy has not been in your tutelage long, or he is a dunce. Why do you waste your time with him?”

Cassius leapt to his feet: “If I’m a ‘boy,’ then so are you, horn-face. And how dare you insult me—insult Gaius, who you say you esteem so highly?”

“I—”

“And don’t even think of speaking about Caesar that way. He is an example for all Romans! Right, Gaius?”

The grizzled ram looked more discomfited, sitting between these two young men, than he had ever been on the battle field. And in the pause, Cassius started to feel as though things were slipping away. He shoved the thought aside; his future was assured. Was he not his father’s son? Did he not live in the age of Caesar, who had shaped the world and time itself to suit his whim? A tiny smile crept up as he thought of just how sweet life was going to be.

When Senator Gaius Cato finally spoke, it was with a quiet word; but so hushed was the background noise of the empty caldarium, so resonant his well-trained rhetorician’s voice, that the one word rang out, like a true general’s command. “No.”

And still Cassius smiled, like a fool: he could not believe what he had heard, what Gaius had said.

“No, Cassius, you are wrong. Caesar is a bully, a brute, a beast, as are all who praise him. As are you. I had turned a blind eye to your faults, hoping that in time you would learn—”

“Well,” Cassius interrupted, his voice sharp and brittle, “maybe I should go and apprentice myself to your father,” he stabbed a fat finger at Primus Tarquin, who was looking smug as only a nobleman’s son can. “I’m sure he could find plenty of things to teach me.”

The rhino recoiled at the human’s leer, even as Gaius leaned forward protectively. “Cassius Laevinus! What has gotten into your head? If you were one of my soldiers, I’d have you whipped for insolence like that. And to a senator’s son—”

“I am not one of your precious soldiers, and I’m not your protégé any more. My father will find me a more suitable mentor—”

“What, do you think your father can afford to hire another senator to babysit you, boy? Do you have any idea of how much he has already paid me? And don’t even dream that he’ll be able to somehow entice your precious Julius into taking you…”

But the merchant’s son had already turned tail, and was lumbering across the cavernous, marble-sheathed room. He was not fast enough, however, to outpace echoed snippets of the conversation he was leaving behind.

“…horn-face? That’s the best insult he could…”

“…are like him, I worry for the future of Rome. Why can’t they all be more like you, Primus?”


Gaius had lingered in the baths for hours, enjoying the quiet and the earnest conversation with the intelligent young rhino who did not fidget and did not leer. The fact that Primus had not even tried to enact any sort of physical contact between them went practically unnoticed by the older man.

He returned to an empty home, with only the slave boar Nassa—half-blind and arthritic—left to guard the door. The other slaves must have finished their chores early (or made a token effort, enough to give the appearance of finishing) so as to enjoy the festival atmosphere after the triumph. He would have to be especially thorough in his inspections tomorrow. He scowled as he mounted the stairs, the oil lamp flickering in his hand, musing that Caesar would be the ruin of his home as much as of Rome itself. Then he stopped, sniffing.

The familiar soft scent of lavender seemed to be wafting up from under his bedroom door. He thrust it open to reveal not a masturbating human, as he expected, but rather an empty room.

Then he saw the hole punched in the plaster, obliterating the fresco of cavorting fauns he had once told Cassius reminded him of his own youth. The ram stepped forward to get a better look—was that blood glinting off the smashed wall?

A sudden crunch made him look down: under his hoof was a shard of pearlescent green glass, with other pieces surrounding it in a drying puddle of slick, lavender scented Alexandrian unguent.

Outside, beyond the balcony’s railing, the sky grew dark, the clouds under-lit by torchlight as the city celebrated through the night.

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