Eugh! This sucks, I don’t want to go back. Back packing around the globe for a month has been the best idea of my life. Took my mind off everything and saw the world. Now reality’s gotta come crashing in. Get back and be the disappointing short of perfect score, son.
Cat has been liking all my IG posts, and now wants to ‘meet up’ after I get back. Dumped by cheating ice queen! Don’t take her back, don’t take her back. The water works are a show. She left the gate open and killed Tau for fuck sake! I loved that dog.
Fuck me alive, I can’t deal with this right now. Last night, clubs/bars of Italia one last time.
The worst part of leaving to see the world was having to face the inevitable conclusion of the journey. In the month that he had spent away from home, Tim had gotten used to the lack of judgment from his family. From his peers. He had appreciated getting to live in a little bubble, at least for a while.
The last time that Tim had taken the days as they came was probably some time in middle school. Things had been simpler, back then. He was the smart kid, but didn’t have the burden of expectations on his shoulders. He hadn’t yet blossomed into the perennial disappointment his father now thought he was.
Tim wasn’t looking forward to coming home. He was glad that he had gotten the chance to enjoy life to the fullest this past month, because he knew he was in for misery once he got back home. Still, the memories of his trek across the continents with little more than some cash and his trusty backpack would be with him forever.
Today was his last day away, and he’d chosen to spend it somewhere he’d always wanted to go. He had gotten up early to have breakfast at a café near the Colosseum, wanting to catch a shot of the quiet streets of Rome before they were crammed full of tourists.
No sooner had Tim set his phone down than it pinged. Cat, his cold-hearted ex, had just liked his post.
Tim locked his phone and placed it face-down on the table. He sighed and took a sip of coffee. It must have been the ass-crack of dawn in Pittsburgh. If Cat was up, then it meant she was desperate enough to have him back to interrupt her ever-so-precious "beauty sleep."
Tim had been young and stupid when he got together with Cat. He was just a few years older, but infinitely wiser when it came to her. While he had enjoyed the "good" parts of their relationship, whenever she deigned to reward him with sex, most days he wished he had not had the displeasure of ever meeting Cat and her interminable narcissism.
The first time he hooked up with Cat, Tim had been in his junior year of university. Things had gone great. He had academic status on his side. But as soon as he graduated, and started struggling to find employment in the private sector, she had decided that he wasn’t enough for her.
Tim had his suspicions that the moment he failed his first interview, Cat had started planning her exit. She cheated on him, dumped him when he called her out on it, and somehow made him out to be the bad guy for "slut-shaming" her.
Now that Tim had seen the world, been to places that most people, especially Cat had only ever dreamed about, she wanted him back. It was classic, really. He knew her well enough to know her M.O.
Tim wasn’t going to take her up on her offer. He wasn’t going to let himself, even if the thought of being with her for one more night made his cock plump up. She had dumped him because he wasn’t enough. She had left his gate open and gotten his dog killed. She was the one that never failed to paint herself as the victim and him as the bad guy.
There was a point last week, in Cambodia, that Tim had had a moment of weakness. He had answered her video call and regretted it ever since. He’d sat there and let her talk, just like old times, as she went on and on about how much she had loved their time together and how much she wished she hadn’t done what she had done. By the end of it, the crocodile tears had been out in full force.
Tim wished he had never said he would think about getting back together again with her, because now she was going to spin it as him leading her on and he would be the bad guy all over again.
Cat truly was the worst kind of gold-digger that Tim had ever had the misfortune of meeting. She wasn’t after money, though that was always a bonus for her. She was after status. Fame. Notoriety. She was after the clout of having a boyfriend who had traveled the world and come straight back into her arms.
Tim wasn’t having it. He refused to even consider it. Because he was done.
The temptation was great, though, because a month on the road hadn’t left much time for gratification. But maybe one last night in Italy meant a chance to have the sizzling kind of nightstand that they showed off in movies. Tim was sure that kind of night would make him completely immune to Cat’s exploitation.
Tim cleaned off the last bits of his breakfast, paid for his meal, and made his way out of the café. He tapped his pocket. His wallet felt a lot lighter and thinner than it had been when he set out. He was probably down to his last hundred euro, and he needed to make it count.
The first order of business that needed taking care of was condoms. Tim hadn’t packed any, and he hadn’t been in Rome long enough to know where to find them. He hadn’t spotted any pharmacies yet, but he imagined it wouldn’t be long before he did.
Besides, it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to wander the roads of Rome while he looked for a place to buy condoms.
If the last month had taught Tim anything, it was that the best parts of places were along roads that few people frequented. When looking for the most genuine experiences, tourists were a sure-fire marker of where not to go.
Tim didn’t want to see the rehearsed, polished side of the cities that he visited. He wanted to see the genuine side of them, with all the grit that came with that. It was more a matter of luck that he hadn’t yet gotten stabbed following his philosophy.
It was as Tim was making his way down an empty side road that he happened upon what looked to be a sex shop. It was somewhat weird, nestled away from everything else. But Tim figured that if anywhere had condoms, it would be there.
The interior was actually a fair bit classier than the shop’s exterior would have led Tim to believe. Product was arranged neatly on the shelves and there wasn’t any of that seedy atmosphere Tim would have expected of a sex shop in an alley.
A handsome man was standing behind the counter, wearing little more than a leather harness as far as Tim could see. "Buongiorno, signore!" the man greeted, with a grin.
"Hi," said Tim. "I would like to buy condoms," he said, quickly crossing the space between the threshold of the shop and the counter. He didn’t really want to spend more time in the shop than he wanted, however high-class it seemed.
"Ah, a tourist, I see," said the man behind the counter. He didn’t say the word with any particular distaste, but Tim still felt a little bit singled out. "Forgot to pack some from the trip, signor? Well, don’t you worry. Giordano has plenty in stock. Do you know your brand and size?"
"Trojan, if you have that," said Tim. It hadn’t really occurred to him that he might not be able to get his usual condoms here. "And, uh… Whatever the regular size is?"
Giordano chuckled as he reached under the counter. He produced a box of condoms in the exact brand and size that Tim did usually buy. "I like a man who knows his limits," said Giordano. "Here in Italy, we have this macho type who think that buying anything other than the biggest size is an insult to their manhood, yeah? It’s a little embarrassing if you ask me," he added.
Tim smiled awkwardly. He didn’t really need the diatribe, but whatever, he could see where Giordano was coming from. He was secure enough in his own masculinity that he didn’t need to show off to random cashiers.
As he was paying, Tim felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand. A shadow fell over the counter as he shivered at the scent of juniper that seemed to linger a moment too long in his nose.
"Oh, signor Regulus, buongiorno!" said Giordano. He seemed cheerful. Tim just felt intimidated and all the man, Regulus, had done was stand in line behind him. "I will be with you in a moment, yes?"
Tim chanced a look over his shoulder at the source of the imposing presence that he felt. In the brief moment that he had to glance behind him, he thought he saw the face of God. Or a god, at least, of the Graeco-Roman variety.
"Take your time, boy," said Regulus, his deep, commanding voice sending tremors rippling through the core of Tim’s being. He’d never heard a sound so smooth in his life. It was like liquid sex poured into his ears, and his body seemed to respond in kind. He had never thought of men like that before, but if there were any man to catch his attention, it was the one standing behind him currently.
"Thanks," Tim murmured quietly to Giordano as the cashier handed his change back to him. "Have a great day," he said. He picked up the condoms, intending to leave before he made a fool of himself in front of Regulus, but alas, it was not to be.
"Are you looking to get lucky tonight?" said Regulus. It took a moment for Tim’s mind to process that the Adonis was speaking to him, but when it finally did, he nodded, unable to bear the thought of lying to this force of personality in front of him.
"Come to the Anteros," said Regulus, and Tim had the distinct impression that he was prey in front of an apex predator. "We have a costume party tonight. I’m sure you would look great in gladiator gear. Anyone would be lucky to take you home."
Tim blushed. He had been looking for a place to check out that evening. Getting invited to one seemed as good an excuse as any. "A-Alright, I’ll be there," he said. "W-Where—"
Regulus interrupted him before he could finish. "You know how to use Maps, don’t you?" Tim shut his mouth, flushing scarlet. He felt like he’d been thoroughly schooled despite the evenness of Regulus’ tone. "Just look it up. Anteros. A-N-T-E-R-O-S. There’s only one place like it in all of Rome. All of Italy, even. I’ll see you there."
"I didn’t think you would be coming," said Regulus, as Tim walked through the front doors of Anteros.
Tim scratched the back of his head. It had been a relief to see women standing in line outside the bar. He’d managed to convince himself on the way there that it was going to be some seedy place for gay men. "I didn’t think I would want to," said Tim, smiling apologetically at Regulus.
Tim pulled at the skirt of vertical leather straps that represented the majority of the clothing he currently had on. Prior to getting inside, he’d been given a choice whether he wanted to show up as a legionnaire, senator, or gladiator. He had asked for a gladiator costume instinctively, remembering what Regulus had said, and now he was somewhat regretting his choice.
Under the skirt, the only thing Tim was wearing was a jockstrap. He had a shield in one arm, and a pauldron and arm sword in the other. He didn’t have anything else on apart from the leather-strapped sandals he wore on his feet.
Regulus was dressed similarly, except he had on what appeared to be a bronze breastplate, and a crown of gold laurels resting on his brow. He looked like a king, which Tim felt was more than fitting. "Go on, mingle," said Regulus. "Have fun before tonight’s entertainment starts."
Tim took a deep breath and nodded. The thick scent of juniper that seemed to hang around Regulus helped to clear his mind. "Thanks," he said, feeling emboldened. It was unlikely he would meet anyone he knew, here. And with his current outfit, nearly everything was out on display, and if there was anything Tim knew how to do, it was how to market his assets. If only from trying and failing so many times before having any success.
Tim was having a nice drink of what he’d been told was mulled wine with a girl that had showed some interest when the "entertainment" started. It was a series of gladiator fights the audience could join, the winner of which would get to cross swords with the champion.
Tim would have been content to watch, but with a bit of a buzz in him, and a girl he wanted to impress, he threw his name in for the contest. She’d laughed as if he was crazy, but he just told her to watch him win.
The first match was one of Tim’s, and the moment that he saw his opponent, he knew that it wasn’t going to be an easy fight. The announcer read out the rules. They were simple. The first to land three blows would win. And as the seconds to the beginning of the round were counted down, Tim looked at the girl and grinned.
The moment that he crossed swords with his opponent, however, Tim noticed who was sitting at the side of the ring, lounging in his throne like he owned the place. It was Regulus, a small smile on his face as he intently watched Tim.
The smell of juniper seemed to reach across the arena in that moment, and Tim faltered just enough to get a slice from a prop sword across his calf. He looked up at Regulus. The man’s expression was inscrutable. Tim didn’t know why someone like Regulus had helped him, but he felt a sudden need to prove that he was worthy of it.
Girl forgotten, as soon as the next round was started, Tim attacked his opponent with a ferocity that he had never seen himself display before. He landed a hit after a few withering blows sent his foe to his knees, and jumped back just as the referee got in between them.
Tim looked at Regulus and watched as, almost imperceptibly, the corner of Regulus’ lips twitched up in a small smile. Tim felt a surge of satisfaction at the sight, as well as a need to see more.
As if fighting with instincts that he had had his whole life, Tim managed to land a second and third blow with ease. There was a girl on the sidelines cheering and trying to get his attention, but Tim just locked eyes with Regulus and raised his sword over his head. Regulus smiled a little, and Tim knew he needed to see more.
Every opponent that followed was more difficult than the last. Tim suffered a few hits, himself, but still, he fought like a wild animal uncaged. The only difference was that his savagery was tempered by human intuition, which made him all the more effective.
The last fight was close. The score was 2-2, and Tim was sweating buckets. In his mind’s eye, he wasn’t in the Anteros anymore, but rather in the Colosseum, fighting for honor and the approval of his king.
Tim and his opponent had been at it for ten minutes, but neither was yielding. They both had marks of the evening’s hits on them, too—patches of skin starting to bruise, and small gashes where hits either came too close to bone or were angled just right to break skin.
It had to end at some point, and the first person to make a move was going to get to dictate how things went. Tim’s opponent seemed to have the same thought, suddenly lunging across the arena. Tim, thinking quick, feinted and struck with his prop sword without looking.
The world was quiet for a moment, and then it exploded into cheers. Before he knew it, his hand was being raised. He’d won. His opponent walked up to him and shook his hand, congratulating him on a well-fought fight. He didn’t even know how he’d managed it.
Tim looked to Regulus’ throne to see what the Adonis thought of his victory, but the seat was empty. It wasn’t until a heartbeat later that he realized he was alone in the middle of the arena, again. Well, not exactly alone.
There was a clang as Regulus’ bronze breastplate fell to the floor. Tim had thought it was just prop armor, but it was clear to him that it was genuine. "Well fought," said Regulus, catching a prop sword out of the air as it was tossed to him from beyond the arena. "You’ve proven yourself worthy. Now, you face me."
As Regulus walked toward him with all the practiced, graceful stalk of a predator, Tim suddenly realized that he was hopelessly out of his league. But he couldn’t just throw down his weapon because his enemy was bigger, stronger, and probably more skilled. He had to fight. Because some part of him knew that that was what Regulus wanted.
Tim was smaller and lighter, which made him brave enough to try and land a few weak hits on Regulus as he measured up the other man. Regulus was slower to turn, but vastly stronger than he was. If he could make use of his speed, there was a chance that he could win it.
Tim dashed forward and exchanged blows with Regulus. He was sweating. Panting. But he wasn’t about to give up. The smell of juniper filled him, energized him. He wanted to show Regulus all that he had.
But Regulus was like a brick wall. His defense was impeccable. He was slower, but not slow enough for Tim to get a leg up. Every attempt was blocked and counterattacked. Tim had to push himself just to dodge. It was difficult, but with each deflected blow, Tim became more and more confident that he had a chance.
Tim breathed deep, drinking in the scent of juniper, feeling it tingle with warmth from his chest down to the tips of his fingers. He moved. Faster than before. Faster with every breath. Regulus had to move faster than before to meet him.
Eventually, Tim managed to land a hit. Then, after a few minutes, another. The crowd was quiet, a hush over them as victory hung by a single strike for Tim. He moved. Faster than he had ever thought himself capable. He saw an opening and went for it.
The next thing Tim knew, he was lying on his back on the floor, dazed. Regulus had moved lightning fast to block him. "At last," said Regulus, grinning from one side of his handsome face to the other. "At last you’ve come to me, my omega."
Tim had no idea what Regulus was going on about, but he wasn’t going to let it unbalance him. He composed himself, and moved to attack as soon as he was able. Regulus met him blow for blow, moving faster than Tim had thought the big guy capable of. He hadn’t even considered that Regulus might have been holding back.
The fight was fierce, prop swords clashing against shields and against one another. Tim fought and Regulus fought back. But ultimately, it was the smallest twitch, the smallest hesitation, that lost Tim his first hit. He ended up on his ass, his chest stinging from Regulus’ sword slashing against it. The strange part was, looking up at Regulus as the big guy helped him up, Tim felt his cock stir.
When the fight resumed, Tim realized that Regulus was still holding back. He withered at Regulus’ assault, but managed to keep his ground for a good half minute before sustaining his second hit. By the time that the sword smacked the outside of his thigh, his cock was hard and throbbing. There was just something about the raw strength and skill on display from Regulus that made his whole body sing.
The third hit almost seemed like a foregone conclusion when Regulus knocked Tim’s shield to the floor in one blow, and then cleaved through his prop sword with a second. The third hit was almost playful, a light tap on Tim’s chest, right above his heart. And yet it felt like Regulus had stabbed him right through.
When the announcer was done with them, Regulus grabbed Tim by the wrist and dragged him through the crowd. They made their way to the back of the bar where one of the staff brought them the box containing Tim’s clothes and possessions.
Regulus rifled through them, and Tim saw no reason to object. He only felt a deep need to be close to Regulus, the juniper scent intoxicating in his lungs. Regulus pinned Tim against the wall and handed him his phone. "Take a picture, my little gladiator," said Regulus. "Let the world know you’re mine."
Tim held his phone out at arm’s length and snapped a photo just as Regulus leaned in and kissed him. It was the hottest kiss that Tim had ever had in his life. His body arced into Regulus’ as he was taken in, body and soul by the man whose arms were wrapped around him.
When they pulled apart, Tim struggled to find his breath. He looked up at Regulus and for once in his life adult life, he didn’t feel like a disappointment. Out of reflex, he posted the photo he’d taken. Five seconds later, his phone was ringing with a video call.
Regulus plucked the phone from Tim’s hands, and he let him. Regulus picked up the call. Cat was on the other end. She looked furious. "You promised me we were getting back together!" she screamed.
Tim couldn’t look her in the face until Regulus’ arm tightened around his waist. "Never," said Regulus, leaning in to kiss Tim once again. Tim moaned into Regulus’ lips. "And if you so much as even think of lying about my omega to make yourself look better, I will personally make sure that the only job you ever get will reflect just how much of an attention whore you really are."