Flavius Aulus

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Chapter 11

Julia hurried to the office, took stock of the situation and ordered Craig to carry Flavius to his bedroom. Craig's legs buckled under him as he tried to stand up. He had sat still for so long that he had lost all feeling in his arse and feet. She immediately summoned Ty, Craig's lover and companion.

Flavius had permitted the two to live together and since then, their love and devotion for each other had become the stuff of gossip throughout the Palace, including it's guests.

Ty's confidence had improved but he was still terrified of being noticed by his masters. This time he grasped the situation and was able to take Flavius from Craig, while Alan helped Craig to stand.

As always Julia looked on, amazed at the way the slaves worked. Her husband had controlled every move, never giving them a chance to rectify a mistake but always ready to punish. Flavius gave them their heads and left them to get the job done. Julia could see the benefits in Flavius' methods as the little procession made it's way to the bedroom.

"Would My Lady care to retire while we undress him and put him to bed?" Craig asked.

"Yes. Thank you. Strip off yourselves so that you can get in with him. Make sure there's always one to hold him but apart from that make yourselves at home. I'll be back shortly."

It would not do for Flavius to be embarrassed by Julia to seeing him naked but, of course, slaves had no such modesty.

Alan was sent back to the House of Sparta when she returned to the bedroom. Ty was in bed with Flavius still clinging tightly while Craig was gently exercising to get the circulation going properly. He froze and stood when Julia entered the room but she simply reminded him to make himself at home.

Like all slaves, Craig was fit, without any fat on him; Julia appreciated the view. When he finished, uncertain what to do he nervously sat down opposite Julia only relaxing when Julia nodded approvingly.

No one spoke, not wanting to disturb Flavius. Julia decided to wait until morning before calling the doctor though she was determined that Flavius was going to see one but sleep seemed the best idea for now.

The whole Palace spent the night quietly worried. For the first time Steven refused an invitation to visit General Maximilian. The General headed straight for the Palace ready to wait all night in the waiting room but was shown up to the House of Sparta. Luke and Brutus stayed close to their fathers. Alan and Marcus clung to Titus while Hans and Steven sought reassurance from Harold but Steven soon found himself on General Maximilian's lap. The boys might enjoy the challenges of their lives in the House of Sparta but they could revert to being children without feeling embarrassed.

Ty and Craig slept in shifts with Flavius. Ty had to cope with sitting opposite Julia and accepting the drinks and refreshments she offered him.

Flavius began to stir not long after dawn. Craig was back in the bed with him and was awake instantly. Flavius was aware of the comforting warmth of the body beside him before he opened his eyes and his first conscious act was to move Craig's hand down onto his cock.

"We have company, Master." Craig murmured quietly in his ear.

It woke him enough to look around and saw his Mother and Ty sitting watching him.

"Good morning, Mother," he said still sleepy, "What's going on?"

"You're ill," Julia said simply, "Just lie there and rest."

"But I've got to report to Hans and deal with Publicus and those guys from the Town Hall and General Maximilian's weekly report and ................" Flavius tailed off.

"Hold him, Craig. He is not to get up until I say so."

She picked up the intercom handset.

"Is that Hans?"

"Good. Flavius wants to report to the House of Sparta. I say he needs to rest and be checked over by the doctor. What do you say?"

"Hang on for a moment and repeat it, will you?"

She put handset to Flavius ear saying, "Very well."

"You are to to do as your Mother says until the doctor says you are fit."

"Yes but....." Flavius tried to argue.

"There are no buts," Hans cut in, "You do as you are told."

"Yes sir." Flavius said, not realising that he had called Hans, sir, in front of his Mother.

"Thank you, Hans. Julia said, "Perhaps Titus and you would join me for lunch. We'll decide what needs to be done."

Hans said something to Julia.

"No. It's no insult to you but Craig and Ty are simply slaves and he has no duties or obligations concerning them. He'll rest better with them."

Turning to Craig she asked, "Who would you be most scared of disobeying? Flavius, Hans or me?"

Craig caught the laughter in her eyes, "If it came to the Master's well being, it would be a toss up between you and Hans."

"Good! Don't you forget it. You are in charge until the doctor gives the all clear and Flavius will be in your care.

She paused for a moment.

"You know. I can't believe that I've just said that." she said, "His father must be turning in his grave at such an idea. Just see that he rests."

Craig smiled, "Don't worry, My Lady. I'll tie him to the bed if I have to."

"Oh, I don't care what games you boys get up to. You look as though your cock is up his arse already. Just no worries or responsibilities, understood."

Craig had turned bright red and Flavius was grinning. He had got used to his mother's new ways.

"I didn't know that you knew about such things, Mother." he said, "What sort of lessons have you been receiving from your dance teacher?"

"None that your father would have approved of," she laughed, "I never knew how a man could react to a bit of bondage."

Kissing Flavius on the forehead she left.

"Can I get up to go to the bathroom, please sir," Flavius asked, amused sarcasm in his voice, "I promise that I won't try to escape."

"You'll spend the rest of the day tied down, if you do try. Don't forget I've got permission."

"And don't forget I'm the head of this household." Flavius said petulantly.

"So do you want to defy your mother and Hans at the same time?"

Flavius grinned and shook his head and headed for the bathroom.

"How can you talk to our owners like that?" Ty asked, "Aren't you scared of being punished?"

"A little bit. If I go too far then I probably will be." Craig admitted, "Flavius and, nowadays, the Lady Julia see us as human beings, not animals so they give us some leeway. Anyway, it's our duty to make Flavius well and if I have to keep my promise then I will and risk the punishment. We owe Flavius that much."

"You wouldn't dare tie me up." Flavius said, grinning, "I'm going to get dressed then get some work done in my office."

He was partly serious. He felt guilty at the thought of just lazing around. School would be starting again soon and he had neglected his studies during the long break. Another part just wanted to see how far he push Craig and was excited by the possibilities of him being in control.

Craig had hoped that Flavius would just cooperate but it seemed that he wanted to play. Craig lunged forward and grabbed Flavius before throwing him on the bed. Craig straddled him, pinning his arms and telling Ty to find some cord or something. All he found were silk ones in Flavius' dressing gowns then watched in terrified enthralment as Craig tied their Lord and Master, spread-eagle to the bed.

Flavius true feelings were obvious as his member crept up along his stomach and he grinned at Craig who lay down beside him.

"I've often wondered whether Noble Lords are ticklish," Craig said, "I think I'm going to find out out."

As Craig drew his finger nail across Flavius' armpit then down his side to his hips, Flavius squirmed and squealed with delight, the noise getting louder as Craig began work on his thighs.

Suddenly the door opened and Matthew entered. Ty flung himself into a corner petrified and sobbing. Even Craig felt a bit nervous as he stood up.

"The Lady Julia is here with the doctor," Matthew said, unperturbed by the scene, "If you'd cover him just enough to receive his Mother, I'll admit them. Pull yourself together, Ty. You're not in trouble."

Julia chose to wait outside while the doctor examined her son. The doctor was a little taken aback by seeing his patient spread out before him but quickly recovered. He pulled back the sheet.

He sat down beside Flavius and carried out the usual doctor checks, listening with a stethoscope, taking his temperature, pulse and so on. He checked Flavius' eyes then had Craig release his hands so that he could examine Flavius' back before telling Craig that he could secure the boy again. He drew his finger across Flavius' instep watching how Flavius reacted. Finally he grabbed Flavius' cock and pumped a couple of times before taking some blood samples.

He then began talking to Flavius. If the physical examination had left Flavius feeling exposed then the questions the doctor asked, left him feeling more naked than he believed possible.

Finally the doctor was satisfied and stood up to leave indicating that Craig should follow.

Outside the bedroom, Julia, Titus and Hans were waiting anxiously.

"Physically he's fine. I'll send these samples off but I don't expect them to show anything." the doctor said, "His reactions are normal, probably excellent for a boy of his age. Mentally though, he's showing signs of stress. There's an accumulative effect from his grief over the loss of his father, post traumatic stress from his punishment and dealing with a plot against him. He's taking on the school system and the Town Hall. It's natural for a boy of his age to push boundaries but he's taking it to whole new levels."

His audience grinned, relieved that the news did not seem to be too bad.

"We all know from our history lessons how leaders with great potential have turned into tyrants. We could possibly be seeing the start of the process with Flavius. I know I'm stepping outside the boundaries of medicine but I could start using words like paranoia, megalomania and a few others to justify it. There's no sign that he is suffering from those conditions but there aren't that many case histories to say how they develop in someone in Flavius' situation."

"My son has taught me to value an honest opinion," Julia said, "so please speak freely on anything to do with Flavius' welfare."

"Very well!" the doctor said, "We should consider an in-depth assessment and arrange for appropriate counselling but I'd like to try a simpler approach first."

He turned to Craig.

"Are you or your colleague involved with the Governor's work?"

"No sir, I usually work in the kitchens."

"And you're nothing to do with the House of Sparta?"

"No sir," Craig said simply.

"In that case, carry on with your games. Sex is the best sort of therapy for stress so feel free to drain his balls as often as you can. He'll rebel at being kept in his bedroom after a time but keep him there for at least twenty fours before you weaken and let him out. Even then only let him visit his friends in the House of Sparta and you go along with him. Fun, exercise, good food and no responsibilities for at least two weeks then gradually get him back to his old routines over another couple of weeks."

"Would you write a note to that effect, please Doctor," Hans said, "The Emperor is anxious to talk to him."

"Medically? No way should he do that." the doctor said emphatically, "I'll write the note but don't ask me to present it. I'm not standing up to the Emperor."

"Hans has already done that," Titus said, "He told him that he could either wait and have a fit and healthy Governor doing his bidding or not wait, and have a Governor incapable of running the province."

"You got the strangest slaves I've ever come across." the doctor said, "Have you got any that bow down and ask for mercy?"

"Not since Flavius took over," Julia laughed, "but you'll find your instructions are carried out to the letter."

The doctor turned to Craig.

"You have to provide continuity over the next few weeks. As he recovers and mixes with the others more he'll need you less. I afraid you'll just slip back to the kitchens and be forgotten."

"Yes sir, I understand." Craig said, "Master Flavius has been good to me so I'm happy to serve."

"Excuse me, sir." Hans said, "Us boys run the House of Sparta and look after our guests. Flavius would be expected to help."

"No way for at the first two weeks. Complete rest means complete rest. He's going to object for two reasons. First as part of the stress, he'll have the feeling that he has to and later he'll want to re-establish himself with his peers. If you're convinced it's the latter then he can begin light duties but not if it's too soon. It'll slow recovery."

"Thank you doctor," Julia said, "We'll follow your advice. Is there anything else?"

Only that Flavius is likely to get angry and frustrated with this slave," the doctor replied nodding to Craig, "Again it's not really my business but I'd hate to see him punished for doing a good job."

"Thank you for the the warning, doctor," Julia said, "If Flavius mistreated the slave he would feel bad about it afterwards. I assume that would slow his recovery as well."

The doctor nodded.

"So would spilling a drink if he was serving it. I understand he does that sort of thing in the House of Sparta. Any minor mishap could seem like a major disaster. That's why he shouldn't do anything until he's rested."

"I suppose I'll have to tell the Emperor," Hans said unhappily.

"You won't," Julia said, "One stressed out boy is enough. Titus, tell the Board of Guardians to deal with it."

"Can we visit?" Hans asked.

"Of course," the doctor replied, "The slave should see that he doesn't tire himself out but the more he's occupied, the better.

Another thing, Boys like to pull the legs off spiders and other nasty things. Flavius can do it with humans. I believe that's how his hysteria started. Work out rules for what's acceptable for fun and games and see that he gets a lot of pleasure within those rules. It'll help him develop a more disciplined and healthy approach to these things. You've already started but swing it around so that he is on top. Supervise him by all means to see that he sticks to the rules but let him use his imagination."

"Thank you again, Doctor." Julia said, "Your advice will be followed. Craig your part in this won't be forgotten but let's get Flavius well first. Hans, I know you feel it's your duty to look after my son but the other boys need you as well.

"Thank you, My Lady," Hans replied.

"I'm trusting you and Craig to work together on this," Julia said, "Now you'd better get on."

At Craig's invitation Hans followed him into the bedroom. The relief on Ty's face was almost comical and he was close to tears.

"Thank god you're back." he sobbed, "The Master's been ordering me to release him and I can't stand up to him the way you can."

"In that case he can stay tied to the bed while his friends visit. If he behaves himself you can give him a blow job after they've gone."

Craig saw the look on Ty's face.

"He's our Master, my love." Craig said softly, "We have each other because of him so don't begrudge him his rights to your body."

"No Craig and I'm sorry Master." Ty whispered.

Hans had watched the scene approvingly.

"How are you feeling? Flavius?" he asked.

"Fed up! I seem to spend more time a prisoner than being Governor." Flavius snapped.

Hans sat down on the bed and began playing with Flavius' cock which became rock solid almost instantly. Flavius groaned in ecstasy.

"You are to rest." Hans said, "You are not to worry about anything. When you come back to the House of Sparta you will behave like a guest until the doctor says you're fit. If I have to remind you I'll take that chain off you. The Board of Guardians know what you want and they'll attend to your official duties. Trust them. In the meantime the only thing you have to decide is whether I should finish you off now or whether you can wait for Ty's mouth."

Flavius grinned at Hans.

"I like that sort of decision," he said before becoming serious, "What about Publicus. Craig was right. I wasn't going to torture him as a warning or to get information. I was just looking forward to it."

"Why not after what he tried to do to you?" Hans replied, "We'll deal with him for now. You are going to rest and if a bit torture turns you on then you can play with one of us. We'll just keep it as fun though."

Flavius nodded, "Thanks. I think I've got the message. You know I am feeling tired again. Will you finish it off and can I go to sleep for a while?"

Hans happily obliged and Flavius writhed and groaned as the pressure mounted in his balls. When he came he came powerfully covering his chest and stomach. Hans kissed Flavius and left, leaving Ty to gently wash his Master down with a cloth. Maybe it was not the greatest of jerk-offs but it drained Flavius emotionally and he was asleep before Hans had left the room.

The doctor had been right about Flavius' state of mind and now that Flavius accepted that he was going to rest whether he liked it or not, he was beginning to realise just how tired he was. Craig undid Flavius' bonds and watched as his Master curled up. He lay down beside the boy and was surprised as the boy wriggled around until he firmly pressed into Craig. Craig mentally shrugged and wrapped his arms around the boy.

************

Harold still worked in the same office he worked in before becoming involved Flavius' upbringing. He did not get as much work done as he used to but his employers could see advantages in his connections with the Governor's palace and were only too happy for him to keep his job ticking over until Flavius no longer needed him.

Alan had gone, bought by Titus and his assistant was now a free boy, seventeen years old and well educated. Although his father was a freed slave he had pushed his son to get the best possible education. The boy, Mark, seemed an appropriate choice to work for Harold.

Harold was having his morning chat with Mr. Jameson, his superior at work a few days later when Mark stuck his head round the door looking worried.

"Excuse me sir," he said, "There was a call for you but I thought it was someone playing a practical joke. It's being switched through here. I'm to put it on speaker phone."

"Good Morning Harold," a voice said, "I must say your security seems better than mine."

"Good Morning, sir. I'm sorry about that. Mark's new."

"Good Morning Mr. Jameson. I'm sorry for intruding on you like this."

"Not at all, I take it that it's Imperial business so I'll leave you to it."

"No, it's not necessary. I just wanted to know how Flavius was doing. I get the official line if I contact the Governor's palace and Harold has the habit of telling the truth."

"He's fine, sir. It's hard to keep him from working but the rest is doing wonders for him. I should have noticed how dull and tired he was getting before."

"Do you agree with a months rest, though?"

"Yes, I do, sir." Harold replied, "We forgot he's only fourteen and we let him take too much on."

"Very well. Don't knock yourself out, Harold. These things can be difficult to spot. I've heard what you've done with his cousin. It'll keep him out of mischief. Mr. Jameson, your firm is introducing some educational programmes. Do you have any thoughts on the matter?"

"Not really, sir." Mr Jameson replied, "But with our contacts we're not really typical."

The voice chuckled, "Perhaps not, but Harold's assistant appears to be an excellent example, don't you think?"

"Oh yes and not only him. We've filled one two vacancies by freeing slaves and bonding them for a time. It's working very well."

"That's good to hear. I must go. I'm afraid I'm a closet football fan and I want to be done before the match this afternoon. Good Bye."

"I'm glad I'm not the only one to like the game. I wish I could have played when I was younger. Good bye, sir."

"Excuse me, sir, but who was that?" Mark asked. "His voice seemed familiar."

"It should do." Harold replied with a grin, "It was the Emperor."

Mr. Jameson and Mark stared at him.

"I told him to fuck off and stop playing games." Mark said, "I thought it was a wind up when he said he was calling from the Imperial Palace. I only believed him when he gave me a Rome number to call."

"You'll have to improve your telephone manner, Mark." Harold replied, "Even if it had been a wind up, it might have been an important client. We've got some odd characters on the books."

"I'm sorry, sir. I'll be more careful in the future."

"You'd better. You won't get away with swearing at the Emperor too often."

"If it's not breaking a confidence can you tell us what really happened and where Publicus is now?"

"There's not much to tell. There was a crazy plan to undermine the Governorship with the idea of eventually removing the Emperor. Publicus would become a figurehead Governor with others manipulating him. He's been enslaved and Flavius owns him but he's on loan to a local shopkeeper. He has the general store just off the forum."

"I know the one," Mark said, "He's always got something like it out the back. His son is in the House of Sparta."

That's the one." Harold said, "Flavius has been under a lot pressure since his father died so he's having a rest before school starts."

"Dad says it's the first time that there's only been one law in the Empire." Mark said, "He says he likes the way Flavius puts his money where his mouth is."

"Sometimes it's more like 'hoist by his own petard'." Mr. Jameson laughed, "but I agree he's setting standards others should follow."

Publicus was still in a state of shock over the change in his fortunes. From the moment of his arrest his life had been in a downward spiral and he wasn't sure why. His Mother had drummed into him that he was the true head of the House of Aulus and that Flavius was too weak and decadent to be in charge and he had come to believe it. He had grown up to be ashamed of his real passions, art and chess. Art had nothing to do with government while chess was just a silly game for intellectuals.

He had become a drunk to dull his misery and Flavius had become the focus of his frustration and self loathing.

The humiliation of being led by Flavius through the streets from the court was still burned in his mind and the terror as he awaited his fate in the dungeons of the Governor's Palace had nearly sent him mad. Apart from being cleaned and fed he spent his time in complete darkness and alone.

Luke was the first visitor to speak to him.

"Does the name 'Outback' mean anything to you?" Luke asked.

Publicus thought for a moment.

"I play chess on-line with someone with that nickname." Publicus answered, "He's in a local group.

Luke slapped his face hard.

"You call me, sir." he said sharply, "He says you're a good player and you're always polite. He even says he enjoys the chats he had with you."

"Do you know him, sir." Publicus asked.

Luke slapped him again.

"I didn't give you permission to speak." Luke snapped. "You like to draw. One or two people seem to think you might have talent."

Publicus just stood not daring to speak. It was another another humiliation to know that a mere commoner was aware of his most private secrets."

"I take it that your Mother doesn't know much about computers. Alan's a whiz kid on them. He soon dug out your files."

Publicus stood forlornly before his new tormentor feeling more naked than ever, knowing that his personal thoughts were now public property.

"Here's the deal." Luke said, "You serve my father in his shop. He's Outback, by the way and you can guess where the name came from. He'll probably be soft with you and let you do your art stuff but I'll be watching you. I got a public whipping because of you and I want the chance to beat you raw all the way along the street. If you betray our trust then I'll see you impaled.

"The alternative is to wait here and face Flavius I'll be back later and you can tell me what you've decided."

Titus had taken over all of Octavia and Publicus' belongings. The computer had been checked for any subversive material and then been given to Alan who had shown Titus Publicus' private files.

Luke's father needed help in the shop and Titus was relieved that his son had a chance to find some happiness with kindly people. Flavius may object when he learned of the plans and demand vengeance but Titus was hoping that his nephew's normal good nature would return.

Luke was trying an interesting piece of slave psychology. New slaves could be sullen and uncooperative, difficult to train. By appearing to be able to choose his future Publicus would have less excuse to resent his new status. He was going to work for Luke's father whether he wanted to or not but, hopefully if he agreed willingly then he would be more receptive to his training.

Publicus was unaware of all this. His choice appeared to between being reduced to the status of a slave only fit for working in a shop or appealing to Flavius and seeking his mercy. He desperately wanted to believe that his cousin would forgive him but he knew it was very unlikely and he would still have to face his father and brother.

When Luke returned he agreed to serve his father in the shop. Luke nodded and had Publicus bend over. Luke genuinely hated Publicus for what he had done and was determined to make Publicus pay. Like Flavius he found it exciting to have a boy so much older than himself in his power.

Luke rammed his cock into Publicus with no warning and with all his strength. He hurt himself causing him to go soft briefly but Publicus shrieked with agony. He gradually picked up a rhythm as he pumped in and out and his cock quickly recovered. The pain had slowed Luke and he pumped in long steady strokes as he settled down again before his body tensed and he shot deep into Publicus.

Luke found a profound sense of relief as he powered into Publicus. His fear of being enslaved, contempt for the way Publicus had betrayed his cousin and concern for Flavius had been eating into him. There was also the knowledge that Publicus was considerably older and stronger than him but it was him that was in control.

Luke was completely spent, drained of all emotion as well sperm when he pulled out of Publicus. He cleaned himself under a shower then looked at the disgusting mess trickling out of Publicus. For Luke, Publicus' destruction was complete. He was not naturally cruel and Publicus made a pitiable sight as he sobbed uncontrollably.

Luke released the slaves shackles and told him to clean himself up. When he had done that then Publicus could report to the kitchen for some food before waiting at the entrance. Publicus obeyed without question, relieved to be free of shackles for the first time since his arrest. He walked through the back passages of the Palace thinking of when he could strut through main entrance demanding attention but now he did not dare disobey Luke.

While Publicus stood eating in silence, ignored by the other slaves who hated him for threatening Flavius and the treatment they received, Luke joined Flavius and the other boys in Julia's quarters to enjoy a cheerful, happy meal. Titus, his daughter and Marcus were also there but no one mentioned Publicus.

It was only when Luke said that he had to leave for his father's shop that Luke felt a little uncomfortable but Titus shook him firmly by the hand.

"It's a chance for my son," Titus said, "I'm not sure that he deserves it but I'm grateful to everyone who're allowing it."

Julia made her favourite slave begin another improbable story of his adventures while a free man in Rome distracting Flavius, Titus and Marcus.

As Publicus followed Luke meekly through the streets his mind was empty, resigned to his fate.

The first thing Luke's father did was to send his son out the back for a tunic for Publicus before showing him his quarters. Publicus' eyes lit up when he saw his art materials and portfolios there for him. He was taken to the office computer and made to set up all his chess sites before being taken through the shop accounts.

Luke's father had insisted that Publicus be allowed to develop his obvious talent for painting. Slave education was at the centre of Flavius' Governorship so he could hardly ignore it with his slaves.

Publicus soon found himself happy in his new life. He was soon running the shop while Luke's father opened a second one just inside the forum selling high quality goods. They even had to buy a couple of new slaves. One for each shop.

There were a number of personality differences between Publicus and his father, Titus. His interest in males of the species being one. Unlike his father he had no interest in women. Luke's father allowed him to choose the other slave. Luke and he chose one who would model for them. Slowly Publicus and Luke became friends sharing their interest in art while Publicus also became close to the slave and they worked well together.

Over time he made it up with his family and Flavius even sat for him, proudly hanging the finished painting in his office. He resisted suggestions that he be freed and continued to work for Luke's family for the rest of his life.

*********

Meanwhile It was becoming routine for Harold and Mr. Jameson to have their morning break interrupted by a call from the Emperor. To start with they were for progress reports on Flavius but gradually turned to other things. They always discussed sport, especially football and it was a pleasant interlude for them all.

Initially Harold was the only one who dared disagree with the Emperor. He had got used to dealing with Flavius and it was a relatively small step from Governor to Emperor. Mr. Jameson learned that he could at least disagree over sport. The Emperor found the break from the fawning and stuffiness of the Palace staff stimulating and the calls continued for a long time.

Mr. Jameson and Mark did not notice but they answered some strange questions about the docks the company had and whether a vessel could be tied up without attracting attention and whether people could come and go without the rigorous security checks they would have in the Naval dockyard.

Harold was also aware that he was being pumped on how far Flavius' ideas on being incognito could be pushed. He did not know what but he was sure that something was being planned.

Chapter 12

Young teenagers are extremely resilient and Flavius rapidly recovered. He was well enough to attend school when it started again and watched the news, questioning things that were being done in his name.

He was petulant and sulky at first feeling left out of things and surprisingly it was Ty that spoke to him.

"You demand that people should think for themselves," he said, "As long as they're doing things the way you want them done, leave them to it. We want you ready for the next crisis, not the routine."

It was the fact that Ty had said it, speaking confidently and passionately that soothed Flavius. After the complete rest that Craig imposed in his quarters, Flavius was informed of decisions and he had to admit they he rarely disagreed with them.

Flavius also accepted that he slept a lot during the first two weeks or so of his 'cure' and did not complain too much at not being fully involved with the House of Sparta. He was not the best of patients criticising loudly when Luke, Steven or any of the boys failed to do a job as well him. He conveniently forgot that Hans often had to pull him up or make him repeat work because it was inadequate.

The doctor saw Flavius impatience and restlessness as healthy and simply insisted that Flavius slept and rested as much as possible.

The modern Roman empire did not believe in therapy or counselling. Invalids were expected to eat healthily and exercise as much as practicable and there was little room for softness or feeling sorry for yourself. Sex and slavery were normal. You could not achieve anything without hardship or pain. The doctor lived and worked in these attitudes so he was more likely to prescribe a day in a brothel than a session with a counsellor. Such people were available but to visit one was a sign of serious mental illness.

Concepts of cruelty were also different. Flavius kept slaves therefore he had to administer harsh punishments. As he had discovered he could easily become a real sadist who simply lived for the pain he could inflict which was undesirable. Flavius was expected to serve the Emperor, not his own blood lusts but neither could he shirk his duties as a magistrate or a slave owner.

And so, Flavius and the other boys found themselves being taught by some of the best and most extreme sex workers in town.

He learnt how to use a whip, not only to inflict pain but to stimulate someone's body until they climaxed. Brutus and Steven were willing subjects for his lessons. It was unusual for them ever to be soft when tied to a whipping post even when Flavius was being taught how to inflict real pain.

At the other extreme he practised using a feather. Sometimes he used Ty as a subject and Flavius could cum without touching his cock as he watched a man twice his age beg to be allowed cum in his turn.

Instead of learning to torture he learnt to control his victim, giving him pain or pleasure and deciding when and if he would climax. When they did climax they did so in massive convulsions that left them so very drained and contented afterwards. Of course, Flavius wanted to experience orgasms just as powerful as his friends and would often be on the receiving end.

It was during this time that Ty finally came to trust Flavius. His own massive ejaculations at the hands of his Master while his lover looked on were wonderful experiences and of course, it was his duty as a good slave to return the compliment and pleasure his Master in the same way.

The boys played just as freely with cages, crosses shackles and manacles. Those that completed some ordeal were allowed to choose a friend to fuck while those that used a safe word to stop received nothing.

Flavius spent his first day of school with a series of steel balls pushed up inside him held there by a butt plug. He felt uncomfortable and full but he was distracted enough not to worry about how the changes in education were progressing.

Twice he had to punish Palace slaves. He did not experience the uncontrolled blood lust he had felt with Publicus but watched fascinated as the slaves screamed and writhed under his lash. He was proud that although it took them a couple of days to recover, there was not even a scar on their bodies afterwards, but somehow it was not as much fun without the loving sex following.

Craig and Ty returned to their regular duties once Flavius was back in the House of Sparta but they were not forgotten. They were given new quarters and arrangements were made to train them as chefs.

Chefs were traditionally free men, not slaves. Good food was important and chefs had to run highly disciplined kitchens. The Governor's Palace would either break with tradition when a vacancy occurred or they would be given their freedom and helped to open their own restaurant. Craig would be happy with either alternative as long as Ty was beside him.

Marcus watched the other boys, fascinated by their games. He tried the feather torture and allowed himself to be tied to the St. Andrews cross for a time but he still preferred to return to books.

Harold was worried about Steven. Between the games the boys played and his time as the General's Boy his body was taking a real battering. Steven's lifestyle made him the exception to the rule and was seen by a psychologist as well as being given a thorough medical. He was pronounced as being extremely fit and mature for a boy of his age with a strong sense of fair play and a healthy enjoyment of sex.

Only Hans and Luke did not attend school. They had missed too much to catch up though Luke was learning to run his father's shops and Hans was learning how to run the Palace under Matthew. Alan attended as Marcus' servant and was rapidly catching up. After being tutored at home, according to his mother's ideas, Marcus struggled the most at school. Brutus had joined Flavius in his protest against the segregation in schools and attended wearing his House of Sparta tunic.

He discovered a talent for football, rarely finishing a game without some scrape or injury and his tunic covered in mud. At first his father had been horrified that his son was debasing himself in such a way -- playing sport in public with slaves. However, he found that his son was being compared with Flavius and his association with the Governor's Palace was not doing his own standing any harm.

When anyone complained about his son's behaviour his reply was, "No one objects to the character they're developing, so I'm not going to object to the methods."

The whole student body was slightly in awe of Steven. His standing at the Governor's Palace made him special and his title unofficial title 'General's Boy' gave him star status. Once or twice, the General's car had picked him up and the chauffeur stood smartly to attention as he opened door.

Steven already had the reputation for standing up to bullies and often when he sat during the breaks a number of the younger boys, some older boys as well, sat as close to him as possible without disturbing him. He seldom spoke to his old friends. They were still wary of him but Marcus would often join him. At first, Alan, Flavius and Brutus played the part of obedient slaves but gradually their friendship for each other took over and sometimes they would laugh and joke together.

Steven was in charge. He had even caned Flavius for disobeying direct orders but it was all part of the complicated game they were playing and it did not stop them being friends.

Flavius did not enjoy being punished but it made him feel like a 'normal' boy, able to forget his duties as governor.

In years to come, Brutus would receive the credit for making football respectable. His conversations on the subject were invariably filled with words like, tactics, strategy, advances, retreats and engaging the opposition that it became associated with military training which was definitely acceptable.

Back at the House of Sparta the boys always had a wary eye on Hans. It was a rare triumph to fool him and he varied his punishments when they were caught. Sometimes it would be simple, an hour or so stretched on a cross. Just long enough for their muscles to be agony from supporting their weight but never long enough to do real damage.

One of his favourites was making them kneel on the hard floor with their arms stretched out sideways, palms down. He would place small books on the backs of their hands and glasses of water on top of them. None of it was very heavy but it was a matter of leverage on the shoulders and pressure on the knees. Hans would set a timer behind his victim who would be facing a blank wall and would soon lose all sense of time.

The really cruel part was that the victim never knew when the time limit was up. He just knew that, if he spilt any water before the timer stopped he would be punished in some other way and made to do it again. On the other hand he could carry on enduring the punishment long after he needed to.

Harold was the adult in charge of discipline but rarely intervened. The most memorable occasion was when the boys were preparing for a meeting of the Board of Guardians. Food promised from the Palace kitchens failed to materialise and Hans, being in charge, felt under terrific pressure. He swore at Matthew.

Harold made him endure his own punishment. Hans was mortified by his lapse and endured the strain twice as long as anyone else had ever succeeded in doing. His arms and shoulders were locked and needed massage to get full movement back and even then he cried out in agony if he pushed them too far.

Pain and punishment were part of their lives and each ordeal was a challenge met. If Flavius and Brutus enjoyed the opportunities to relax then Hans enjoyed his new status in the Palace. He and Matthew, the majordomo, were now invited to Julia's quarters every morning for coffee. They had learnt to relax and discuss Palace matters freely and their conversations often passed onto general gossip.

As the Lady of the Household it was Julia's job to run the Palace. While her husband had been alive she had been expected to remain aloof from the practical details and concentrate on harrying Matthew as he did his work or picking fault with the other slaves..

It worked but she was discovering that cooperation worked even better and there was no doubt that standards at the Palace were now amongst the highest in the Empire. Some said that they were even better than the Imperial Palaces.

She was still confused by Flavius' approach. He could chat to the slaves as equals especially about their work and he made far more allowances for genuine mistakes but she had seen the slaves he had punished for laziness and carelessness and knew that they would not try to take advantage of him again.

Slavery was an accepted part of life and no one, not even the slaves disputed Flavius' right to instil discipline. The slaves he whipped, had deserved it and no one had any sympathy for them.

The slaves and staff seemed to work harder for Flavius. They saw that the better the Palace was run the better their prospects. Julia saw the differences when she planned a dinner party for some friends. Instead of waiting for her to choose the menus the cook produced suggestions of his own including dishes she would not have thought of. Her maid did not wait for Julia to instruct her but sent for the latest dresses to be modelled at the palace and Matthew the majordomo organised a timetable so that every one spoke to her as needed.

Julia found herself just as busy preparing the party but it was at a far more interesting level, knowing that everything was well under control.. Just before her guests arrived she inspected the staff's efforts and knew it was going to be an evening that would impress her friends.

Where the Governor's Palace led, the rest of the province followed and there was little doubt that slaves and the lower classes were treated better than before. Since Flavius had the approval of the Emperor then he was worth knowing and so, trade was being drawn into the province and even the the nobles were prospering.

Anyone in favour at the Governor's Palace tended to do well. Senator Crallus was already beginning to find that the opposite was true as his prospects began to shrink. He had only ever been of the fringes of events and Flavius had collapsed before turning his attention to him. The Bureaucrats at the Town Hall still hoped that he might stop or slow Flavius but it was a forlorn hope. He had openly supported Octavia so now everyone avoided him and he found getting credit almost impossible. It had a devastating effect on his businesses and he was in real trouble without Flavius lifting his hand.

He reacted by treating his own slaves even worse than before, blaming their laziness for his troubles. He took a real pleasure in watching his slaves die under the lash or while being crucified. His free staff left because they could not cope with his increasingly wild tantrums and he found it impossible to buy new slaves.

Partly it was because of cash flow problems and partly it was because the traders had aligned themselves to Flavius. Suddenly there was an increased demand for educated slaves and prices were going up. Flavius was not some soft-hearted individual opposed to slavery, his reforms were profitable and like other businesses they were benefiting from the Emperor's favour. Concern for slaves welfare became a selling point and traders would lose favour if their slaves were sold knowing that they would be senselessly tortured. The more extreme brothels had always paid more for good quality slaves but they were willing to buy ones convicted of violence or others who would not receive much public sympathy.. Senator Crallus was not discriminating and did not care who he hurt.

The Province was prospering, life was improving for nearly everyone and so it's inhabitants could afford to be tolerant of the Governor's eccentric ways. And there was nothing more eccentric than wandering around town in a slave's tunic with a group of other slave boys when he could be dressed in the finest of clothes, surrounded by an armed escort insisting on everyone bowing to him as he passed.

Flavius did walk through the town in formal dress when he was on official business and then demanded due respect. Then people he had chatted with or had played with, stood for him in respectful silence. On one occasion a travelling trader had clipped him round the ear for kicking a ball too close to his stall. He had not recognised Flavius until the next day. Flavius was on his way to the Magistrate's Court in formal attire and stopped to welcome the trader.

"You had some trouble, yesterday." Flavius said, "I hope you don't have any more."

"No trouble, Your Excellency. I'm surprised you even heard about it." the Trader replied, "It was just some kids causing a bit of mischief with a football and I get nervous when balls are thrown near all this glassware. They were very polite though and moved off without real hassle. I refuse to go to some towns because the kids seem to run wild.."

The trader could see the locals, laughing or giggling to themselves but could not see why he was the butt of some joke. He was flattered that the Governor had stopped to speak to him but why was it so funny?

It was only after Flavius had moved on that a local explained. The trader was firstly terrified that he had struck a great Noble. He knew of Flavius' reputation and character and so fear turned to embarrassment that he had lashed out at a youth like Flavius.

"Don't worry." the local said, "Just don't try swindling anyone while you're here. He gives just as well as he takes and keeps the guards on their toes just like everyone else."

It was a quiet period for the House of Sparta. Harold was vaguely aware that the Emperor was planning something that might involve them but he was more concerned about the impending visit of one of one of his wife's aunts; an imperious woman who was convinced that her niece had married beneath her.

"He mentioned it while relaxing after giving his daily report to the Emperor.

"I've got relatives like that." the Emperor laughed, "I haven't been deified like Augustus or Caligula so I'm not a real Emperor. You've got no chance."

"Why not ask the House of Sparta to help." Mr. Jameson suggested, "It'll give them a chance to show what they can do."

"I don't really like to." Harold replied, "I'd be taking advantage of my position."

"I don't see why." the Emperor replied, "It would be wrong to try and get an invitation to the Governor's Palace or being introduced to him officially but I've loaned slaves to my friends for a special occasion. You're in charge of discipline so it would be in their interests to get in your good books."

It was Brutus who suggested a plan when they were assembled at the House of Sparta that evening.

"We've got relatives like that, too." he said, "They live in Rome and think we're country bumpkins. When they visit, Father insists on the freshest produce from our estates, trains up slaves so we have more servants than we need and re-decorates the house. If they go home complaining that they can't afford to live like it in Rome, he gives the slaves an extra Saturnalia. We could act as the Cirenson slaves for the weekend."

Saturnalia was traditionally a festival celebrated in December marked by tomfoolery and a relaxation of the social order. It remained popular between the 17th and 24th December though, nowadays, it shares with other celebrations.

Any event where slaves were allowed to relax could be called an extra Saturnalia.

"I'm not sure that we can accommodate six slaves even if we had enough work for them," Harold said, "It would be nice to put one over on the old dragon, though."

"Five slaves." Brutus pointed out, "Steven is your son. He can't be a servant."

He paused, uncomfortable about what he wanted to say.

"Spit it out, boy," Harold snapped, "Just say it."

"Well sir," Brutus began, "Flavius and I are used to receiving due honour. Now that we've turned fourteen, even our mothers have to acknowledge our position in the family. You and Steven need lessons in looking superior. I know you say substance over front but a bit front could go a long way.

"Flavius and I should become your valets. I'm not trying to be rude or talk about class but Flavius and I are brought up on functions and receptions and they're all about front."

Harold nodded, "Point taken. Aunt Agathia knows all about front. It's my wife who bears the brunt and I either shut up and take it or upset Lyllia more by causing an argument."

"That's right." Steven added, "She'll bring her son, Paulus, and he'll go on about how he's a supervisor in the Imperial Post Office. He's a pompous twat."

"Is he married?" Germanicus asked.

"Divorced." Harold replied, "She bore a son and that's all she was wanted for. The boy's eighteen and not turning out too badly, is he, Steven."

"No! I get on with Fabian. He was forced into the Imperial Post Office and he hates it. He wants to be an engineer but it's too low class for Aunt Agathia."

"In that case the Governor would like to meet him." Flavius said, "He may help with his Imperial service. I think the House of Sparta should give Aunt Agathia a visit she'll never forget."

"I'm not sure that the House of Sparta should get involved in a family squabble." Germanicus said, "It's a bit demeaning."

"We're not getting involved in a family squabble," Brutus replied, "The House of Sparta is all about training and it would be great opportunity for Hans."

"It makes sense," Titus said, "but it must be volunteers only. Once the weekend starts it'll be as intense as your weeks bondage was and I don't think this Agathia woman will make life very pleasant for you. Hans, Alan, it applies to you as well. You'll lose a lot privileges that weekend."

"I'll do it." said Alan, "I like Steven's mother and I'd love to help her."

Luke nodded in agreement.

"Isn't this what it's all about?" he asked, "Looking out for each other."

"We'll need a female slave to act as maid for Mrs Cirenson and none of us can cook." Hans said, "We'll have to involve Craig."

"I don't think Lyllia will tolerate another cook in her kitchen." Harold said, "She'll treat the idea as an insult."

"Craig's only just started training," Hans replied, "so he's not a chef but the rest of us could burn salad. Craig should know enough to be useful to Mrs Cirenson."

The adults sat back as the boys took over the planning. Mr Jameson had been right. It was a chance for the boys to impress the adults. Hans, in particular, saw it as a chance to prove his worth and even Germanicus was impressed with the way the other boys supported him.

"You know, this is making me think about my own slaves." he said, " My majordomo lets too much slide, so it's certainly time I took more interest in the day to day running."

Even Julia became involved in the boy's plans. She was still embarrassed at how she had been influenced by her sister in law so she was only too happy to help rescue the Cirensons from their relatives.

Lyllia, Harold's wife, was a little reluctant at first, worried that her housekeeping skills would be shown up by the Palace staff but Hans soon put her at ease.

"The Palace uses extra staff for a big function, Madam." he said, "Why shouldn't you?"

Aunt Agathia's biggest complaint was that there was so little to do in 'such a sleepy backwater so Hans and Lyllia worked out an itinerary to keep them busy for the weekend.

Friday evening there would be a buffet meal and an early night followed by a quiet Saturday morning so that they could rest and recover from the journey. In the afternoon, shopping in the forum and in the evening, a formal dinner party. Sunday morning, a visit to the baths, still a very popular social event in the Roman Empire and in the afternoon a drive out to Brutus' family estates to visit the winery.

Brutus had involved his parents in their plans. The winery was not open to the public but Brutus' father sometimes allowed parties to visit by appointment. It was not the sort of group or type of people that he usually allowed and he would remain aloof in the house with the rest of the family.

At least that was his original idea until Brutus brought Hans along to plan the afternoon with the estate slaves. Brutus was anxious to show Hans how the winery was managed and it soon became obvious that the estate slaves were hiding something.

As the slave in charge became more evasive and scared looking, Hans started looking more closely at the accounts. Between them, Brutus and Hans could see that an excessive amount of wine was spoilt yet the casks were all full. They did not object to tasting each barrel and the total quantity of good wine that they tasted almost tallied with the sum of the recorded spoilt and good lists but it didn't tally with the sales ledger.

The slave was trembling by the time that Brutus went to find his father, Gaius Crevellio leaving Hans to watch over things.

When he arrived, Brutus' father frowned, visibly annoyed that a stranger and a slave to boot was poking into his affairs. He calmed down as the boys showed him the books and persuaded him to check the stock.

"Why?" he asked looking at the slave.

The slave was sobbing almost incoherent as he tried to make his excuses.

"You're a slave. Do you know why?" Senator Crevellio asked again but this time looking at Hans.

"He saw a profit in it somewhere," Hans replied, "We might both be slaves but we're human beings and all different."

Brutus' father looked angry again at Hans' impertinence but calmed down again almost at once.

"Maybe you're right." he said, "I was thinking of closing the vineyard because it was unprofitable. You know the modern custom. Give the older slaves their freedom. Could that be it do you think?"

"I've heard slaves talk of it." Hans replied, "It scares some and others can't wait. I've heard gossip of slaves manipulating their masters but not like this. He could just be selling it."

"Bloody slaves are all the same," Brutus' father muttered, "Give them an inch and they'll destroy you. Haven't you learnt that yet, Brutus. You've hung around them enough lately."

"No, I haven't, Father." Brutus replied, "Hans is right. They're human beings and some are good and some are bad."

"So what do you think we should do with him, boy?" Gaius Crevellio asked Hans.

"My master, Flavius, would give him his freedom and everything he deserves."

"I heard about that slave of his. Carry on."

Moving to the terrified slave, Hans quickly bound his hands behind his back before grabbing the tunic at the neck and pulling sharply down. As the torn garment fell to the ground, the loin cloth followed. The slave was in his late forties, overweight covered in hair. His cock was almost lost in his thick bush of pubic hair. His sloppy appearance offended Roman sensibilities and he lost any sympathy he might have had.

"You'll have your papers when you leave." Hans said, "If you're ever seen again round here you'll be buried for compost while you're still alive. Now go and wait by the gate."

The slave looked pleadingly at Brutus' father and at Brutus. As Hans yelled for someone to fetch a spade, the slave ran off down the track.

"You see, father," Brutus said, "Everything he deserves, nothing."

"I'm not stupid," his father snapped, "I do take the point but I still don't see why I should trust that slave over one of my own."

"I don't think you should do that. It's not compulsory." Brutus replied, "You get to know the Nobles you do business with and you don't trust all them but some are your friends who you do trust."

"I'm not making friends with fucking slaves." Brutus' father yelled, "You do that enough for both of us."

"Yes and I made a bad mistake with Joshua." Brutus replied, "OK so Luke and Joshua not slaves but they're only a rank above. It's the same at all levels."

"My office. Five minutes." Brutus' father snapped as he stalked off.

"I'm sorry," Hans said, "We seem to have annoyed him."

Brutus shrugged. "He's proud of me for taking that punishment well and ashamed of me for mixing with slaves. The House of Sparta confuses him and now we've said that he's messed up with this place. The proper order is missing and he hates it."

When they entered Brutus' father's office they lined up in front of the desk, waiting nervously for the man to speak.

"I should be thanking you," he said, "You kept your eyes open and used your initiative. Brutus, I'll be pleased to make your friends welcome and see that they leave with cases of our best wines."

"Thanks dad," Brutus replied.

"Slaves address their betters as sir." Brutus' father said with a smile, "Flavius tries to stay in character. So should you. I'd beat you for your rudeness but you'd enjoy it too much."

Brutus blushed, unsure what to say. His father laughed out loud.

"I've seen you get hard and it's rarely been because of a girl. When the time comes, try and give me grandchildren but for now, just have fun."

"Yes sir," Brutus managed to grin, "And you can rely on Hans to beat me if I deserve it."

"How did you know something was wrong?"

Brutus grinned.

"Luck sir. The slave got the idea that we were going to supply the Governor's Palace, starting with an official function. I'd said something about our wines being as good as anything the Palace imported. You had said that we shouldn't try to make any large orders and the slave started saying something about a lot of wine being spoiled. That was when Hans took me outside and said something was wrong."

"Hans?" Brutus' father asked.

"It wasn't what he said but how he was saying it, sir. There's a 'breakages and spoilt' log in the Palace cellar so I wondered if you had anything similar. Brutus wanted to show me how much he knew about the place and showed me the records."

"I see." Senator Crevellio said thoughtfully, "I should clamp down on the free staff and slaves though I suppose you two would disagree. What do you suggest?"

"You've said that Sebastian knows more about wine making than that one ever did." Brutus replied, "You only left him in charge because he was a bully and kept the other slaves in order. Put Sebastian in charge and ask Flavius if Hans could work here under Sebastian until he settles in."

"I'll make Sebastian foreman but I'm putting you in charge, Brutus." Brutus' father looked at Hans, "As for you, I was rude to you and you didn't deserve it."

He pressed a buzzer and the majordomo appeared.

"The House of Sparta is to be welcomed as honoured guests. This boy, Hans, is to be recognised as the the Head of the House and takes precedence over my son when he is wearing their tunic. Hans will instruct you further about their rules."

"Yes, Master," the majordomo replied, "I have the papers for the slave you're sending away."

"Have you heard what's happened?" Brutus father asked.

"Yes Master."

It took an effort for Brutus father to overcome his pride and put the next question.

"What do think about it."

"Well Master," the majordomo began, surprised at having his opinion sought after, "I've said before I thought something was wrong but I didn't know it was this bad."

"Yes you did," Brutus' father said, "and I didn't listen. I should have done. I'm going to do a full audit of the estate. Any free man can resign and leave and if any slave asks to be sold on, then take him to the market. As for those that are left, if I find anyone else has been cheating me I'll carry out my son's threat and bury them alive in the vineyard but either way I want the bad ones gone."

"Yes Master. I'll warn everyone and may I also warn them that Master Brutus will be working with you. He seems to be good at this sort of thing."

"Yes you may. It seems he also has a good teacher." Brutus' father grinned, "Thank you, Brian. Would you pour us all a glass and we'll drink to a new beginning."

Gaius Crevellio knew that the troubles in the winery were his fault. He had put off dealing with the reports he had received and the slave had taken his indecision as a licence to steal more. His father would have probably crucified every slave on the estate as a warning and the fact the majordomo had tried to warn him would not have saved him.

There's an old saying, 'rags to rags in three generations'. Grandfather builds up the family fortunes, son just about holds onto them and grandson has no interest and spends it all. Brian, the majordomo, knew that Gaius Crevellio was barely hanging on and if the estates failed all the slaves would be sold on without hope of gaining their freedom. Brian knew the custom of freeing slaves but it did not happen if any slave had betrayed their master.

Brutus may well prove to be exception to the rule and save them all. He was not cruel like his grandfather but he did seem to have the same energy and confidence.

Gaius may well have threatened an audit but would never have carried it out. Brutus, supported by his friends probably would do it and would punish any slaves they caught stealing.

Gaius' aggressive attitude was just a front. Verbally putting down slaves was as close as he got to exerting discipline but for the most part it left them confused and demoralised. Brutus and his slave friend Hans had acted decisively that afternoon and it was like a breath of fresh air. He should have resented the idea that he had been ordered to defer to Hans, a mere slave boy but transferring responsibility was the one thing Senator Gaius Crevellio could do quickly and without changing his mind.

The slave was waiting by gate as ordered. He tried to speak when Hans and Brutus approached him but Hans slapped him hard across the face.

Wrinkling his nose with disgust as he handled the slave's dirty, smelly pubic hair he tied the bag to the slaves cock, as Flavius had done to another slave not so long ago, before gagging him.

Yelling at the slave to run, Hans picked up some stones and prepared to throw them. The slave trotted off, too slow for Hans who lobbed a couple as a warning and watched as the slave broke into a run. Some of the estate slaves were watching but returned to their work when Hans glared at them.

He headed off back to town wondering how he had got involved in Crevellio affairs and wondering how he was going to juggle all the extra tasks he seemed to have.

Chapter 13

Flavius might be Governor but most of the planning and organisation was done by adults. He was respectfully listened to, but he was continuing the training that his father had started. His influence came from his attitudes and through his escapades as a member of the House of Sparta. No one treated him like a dumb kid. He had shown that he could get things done but he was still a long way off being an adult.

Helping with the Cirenson weekend visitors was more of a challenge than his official duties. There was an immediacy to it, so that the results would be instantly visible and so would his mistakes. He had an equal voice among other boys rather than feeling like a school kid as someone patiently explained why he was wrong. There was an element of role play in his tasks and he got a great deal of pleasure in helping his friends. In all, Flavius was enjoying himself helping to prepare for the event and was looking forward to the 'show'.

Luke had the least reason to enjoy acting as a servant. He was used to being treated like one in his father's shop but like Flavius, he felt that he had a voice in the House of Sparta and he was helping his new friends.

The plans changed slightly for the weekend visit changed slightly. Alan would work in the kitchen alongside Mrs Cirenson and they would not bother with valets and maids. Since they had been to the most functions Flavius and Brutus would act as waiters. The idea being that they should know what was expected. Hans would act as majordomo and Luke would assist.

It was common enough for sons to follow their fathers into their line of work for them to be taught by their fathers as part of their education therefore Steven knew something about bookkeeping and accountancy. Hans delegated him to assist Brutus on his father's estate. Flavius' mother, Julia, liked the family. She found them easy to talk to and unlike many of her so called friends from her own class did not use their connection with the Governor's Palace to seek favours. She had been highly amused at the suggestion that the Cirensons needed lessons in arrogance but agreed to help.

"There are always people who want to undermine us," she said, "It's not a matter of being arrogant though, it's a matter of expecting due respect."

And so, the plans for the weekend developed. Steven's parents felt as though they were in the middle of a military operation as the boys enthusiastically made their plans and operation 'Overwhelm Guests' began when Steven met them at the station though it was Aunt Agathia who opened fire.

"Why isn't your father here to greet us," she demanded to know, "I take it he's forgetting all his manners nowadays."

"Not at all, Great Aunt." Steven replied, "He's anxious for you to greet him properly in his own home, for once.

He turned to Luke and Hans.

"Bags!" he snapped, "Get a move on.

Turning back to a startled Aunt Agathia he continued, "Allow me to show you to the car."

His cousin Fabian had a broad grin on his face as he watched. Agathia had been complaining on the train how they were expected to carry their own luggage once they had left the Station and how undignified it was to have her relatives acting like porters. The look on Agathia's face was priceless as her family was led to a smart limousine and were seated inside. Steven had reminded her that she would be guest in his father's house and that she was not the head of his family although she had always acted that way in the past.

Agathia hopes of regaining the advantage at the house were dashed when Luke and Hans leapt out of the car to open the doors for them and as she swept down the path, the front door was opened by another slave and she was guided into the living room by yet another. Harold should have been at the door to greet her, apologising for not being at the station with his wife fussing around hoping that they were not too put out.

Instead, they stood at the far end of the room waiting for her. She stood for a moment, waiting for him to move. With Harold being so formal she had no choice but to follow convention herself. She curtsied briefly and thanked Harold for inviting them.

"It's good to see you again, Aunt Agathia, "Harold said, "Would you be offended if we just relaxed informally this evening. Lyllia is so anxious to catch up on the family gossip."

"No! I'd be glad for the chance to rest," Agathia said weakly. "The journey was very tiring."

"In that case, please sit down." Harold said, "A cup of tea, perhaps."

Flavius had disappeared into the kitchen after showing them into the living room. He re-appeared as if by magic carrying a tray. The water had been boiling and Alan had brewed the tea as Agathia had entered the house. So far the boys had executed their plans flawlessly.

Harold opened the next phase of the campaign.

"I'm afraid we've got one or two problems with the sleeping arrangements." he said, "You can have your usual room Aunt Agathia but I'm afraid we're having to put Paulus and Fabian up at a hotel. The car's available to ferry them to and fro so I hope it won't be too much trouble.

"It's fine by me," Fabian said, "I don't mind a sleeping bag on the box room floor with Steven but I think Dad finds Steven's bed a little small. We'd manage if you wanted us to."

"I'm doing work for the Governor and the Emperor," Harold said quietly, "Steven is also working for the governor as well as Senator Crevellio's son. I'm afraid that I have to ask that you only enter my study and his room when invited."

"I work for the Emperor in the Post Office." Paulus snapped, "How can a shipping clerk claim to work for him? I thought you were getting above yourself. And as for your Governor, all he seems to be doing is running wild and unsettling the slaves. You're lucky decent people are still willing to visit you with the province descending into chaos."

"It hasn't seemed very chaotic so far, dad." Fabian said, "You really should read the news more and not listen to gossip."

"The news is about matters that should be left to our betters." Paulus retorted, "Your job is to help get the mail delivered and leave others to do theirs."

"Why don't you show Paulus the Imperial Decree, dear," Lyllia said, "I'm sure that he's seen plenty but I'm so proud of you for receiving one."

There was a stunned silence. Agathia's mouth dropped open and Paulus just stared.

As Harold escorted Agathia and Paulus into the next room where the decree was displayed, Fabian looked at Flavius and snapped, "I need some fresh air. Fetch me a cold drink in the garden."

Flavius had been uncomfortably aware that Fabian had been staring at him all evening so he was a little nervous as he approached Fabian.

"Thank you," Fabian said, "You heard dad. I don't think Grandmother or him have heard of the House of Sparta. They certainly don't know who's in it and wouldn't know the insignia."

Flavius remained silent.

"Ah. A well trained slave who only speaks when asked a direct question." Fabian continued. "Your name wouldn't happen to be Flavius would it?"

"Yes sir, I'm Flavius."

"You had no choice but to become Governor but you've found a way of escaping. Is that right?"

"Officially the Governor is in the Palace." Flavius replied, "And I'm just a slave but we're the same person, sir."

"But how do feel about having your life mapped out for you? How does the Governor feel if you'd prefer."

"I'm doing a lot things I like doing and I like being able to change things even if it's only by a little."

"And the education reforms are important?"

"Yes of course." Flavius replied, "The Empire needs scientists and engineers."

Fabian grinned impishly, "You're forgetting your manners, slave. Speak more respectfully.

"I'm sorry, sir." Flavius replied following Fabian's mood, "I forget myself when I'm speaking on behalf of the Governor."

They might have continued their discussion but Brutus came running over.

"Excuse me sir," he panted, "your Grandmother wants you."

"Fabian," she shrieked, "we're visiting the Governor's Palace tomorrow. We have an audience with him."

"I'm sorry Aunt, I didn't make myself clear." Harold said, "The invitation is only for Fabian."

"Don't be ridiculous, Harold," Paulus snapped, "Why would he want to see a junior clerk when there's a supervisor who could tell him about the Post Office."

"His Excellency doesn't want to talk about the Post Office, Paulus." Harold said.

"Then why does he want to see Fabian? Do you know?"

"I can't discuss the Governor's business," Harold said, "You should understand the need for confidentiality from your own job."

Paulus nodded grudgingly.

"The Governor must think very highly of you, Uncle Harold," Fabian said, "He's lent you some of these slaves hasn't he?"

"You mean they're not rented from an agency?" Agathia asked.

"No, Aunt." Lyllia replied, "They're from the Governor's Palace and amongst the best they have. The Lady Julia did offer to lend me one of their chefs but I like cooking so I made do with a helper."

Once she started, the battle swung inexorably in Lyllia's favour. Whatever Agathia or Paulus said she had a story to top it. Even when Agathia complained that shopping in such a backwater was a waste of time Lyllia was able to boast of the range of shops opening up.

"There's one even the Emperor has heard of. "Lyllia said, "It's owned by the father of one of Steven's friends. We call it "I've got one out the back". It's his stock answer for most things and it's usually true."

Fabian had amused himself watching his cousin, Steven. Steven had spent the evening playing the dutiful son but it seemed to Fabian that he would rather be working with the slaves. Occasionally Steven had thrown nervous glances at the majordomo. Fabian guessed it was all to do with the House of Sparta. He had always liked the Cirensons and was impressed at how their friends had rallied round to help them. But he was getting bored with all the gossip and thought he'd stir things up a bit.

"I'd like to stretch my legs before going to bed." he said, "I'd like to walk to the hotel."

He pointed at Flavius, "That one can show me the way."

He was a little disappointed that there was no fuss. Flavius merely replied, yes sir and went to wait by the door.

Once he had made his goodbyes and escaped he had Flavius walk beside him so that they could talk.

"I have a confession to make." Fabian said, "I was hoping that Steven or Uncle Harold could use their influence to get me into engineering. Then I met you, I like you and now it seems wrong to use you but I thought you should know."

Flavius grinned, "Use the Governor you mean. I'm not sure if he can help you. What do you want from him."

Fabian shrugged, "I don't know. Sponsorship, maybe. Why do you..... I mean does he want to see me."

"His Imperial Service is about getting more engineers and scientists. If that's what you want to do but can't, he'd like to know why."

Fabian was quiet for a while.

"Dad won't support me while I'm studying. I could try working through college but with the jobs available and the fees, the figures just don't add up. I might get a job in engineering if I had sponsorship but it would have to be someone who'd stand up to Aunt Agathia and have influence."

"It would also have to be someone who knows you and His Excellency doesn't." Flavius said, "Why did you say you like me."

"You're sexy, easy to talk to and there's something about you. I don't know what, confidence maybe but I like it."

"You could spend the night in the Governor's bed if you liked." Flavius said. "We could talk more in the morning."

"Sounds good. Won't we be talking tonight?"

"It'll be difficult if my mouths full of your cock."

You're the Noble. Your cock should be in my mouth." Fabian said.

"We'll sixty nine then. I won't tell if you don't." retorted Flavius cheerfully.

They changed direction heading for the Palace. As was the custom now, Flavius was ignored as he was wearing his House of Sparta tunic. They made their way to Julia's apartments. Flavius had become closer to his mother since his father's death and they often chatted gossiping about their day.

Julia greeted Fabian warmly making him feel at home and listened as Flavius talked about the events in the Cirenson household.

"I almost feel sorry for your Grandmother and Father," Julia said, "I'd hate to have these boys gang up on me."

Fabian laughed, "Grandma deserves it. Maybe she'll accept that Uncle Harold is a good man now."

"Flavius has an eye for fine young men and I think you'll do. If you're spending the night with my son make sure he gets some sleep. He's been ill and he still needs plenty of rest."

"Mother, I'm nearly fifteen. I can look after myself."

"You're a slave this weekend and you'll do as you're told." Julia said firmly.

"That's right, boy." Fabian said in a mock stern voice, "Little slave boys need their rest so they can serve their Masters better. If you play up at bedtime I'll put you over my knee and spank you."

"Yes Master," Flavius replied in a small boys voice. "May I go wee wee before bed?"

"No! I think a clamp to hold it in until morning." Fabian threatened.

"No way!" Flavius exclaimed, crossing his legs protectively.

Julia joined in with the boys giggling. It was time for her to retire for the night. She was becoming a little jealous of Flavius. Fabian was a handsome young man and if he had known it, he had the choice of two beds that night.

When the door of Flavius apartment was closed behind them Flavius said, "When I'm woken up tomorrow I'll be His Excellency the Governor and your Master, so tonight, I'll be the slave and you be my Master."

"I've got a better idea," Fabian said, "Tomorrow you'll be Governor and I'll be a humble civil servant in the Post Office. Tonight we'll be a couple of friends who want to make each other happy."

Flavius grinned, "It sounds like a plan."

He reached up to kiss Fabian on the lips while fumbling with fastenings on his clothes. Fabian easily undid Flavius' tunic so that he stood naked in front of him. Flavius cock stood proudly out from the small bush he sported, otherwise he was still hairless which emphasised his youthfulness.

Fabian made Flavius step back while he undressed himself, content to admire the beautiful vision before him. Once naked, Fabian stood with his hands behind his head, saying, will I do?

He tried to be active so he was trim with defined muscles. Like all Romans, he associated body hair with barbarians so he was shaved smooth with just a small neat triangle of hair above his genitals. He was in strange surroundings and he was still a bit nervous so his cock was still soft but Flavius was experienced enough to realise that it would enlarge impressively.

Flavius took it all in then answered an instant later by leaping at Fabian, wrapping his arms around Fabian's neck and his legs around his waist. Fabian staggered back onto the bed, feeling Flavius' cock grind into his stomach. Moments later he felt Flavius jerking convulsively and felt a warm liquid lubricating his stomach.

Flavius was devastated.

"I'm sorry," he sobbed, "It shouldn't have happened so quick."

Fabian wrapped his arms around the boy.

"It happens," he said, "Now why don't you scoot up a bit. It might be fun to see how quickly we can get you to cum again."

Turning disaster into a game worked. Flavius' cock was still highly sensitive and he shuddered as Fabian's tongue and mouth began their work. Flavius was young, excited by the idea of a challenge, lost in the sensations that Fabian was creating and was happy in the young man's company.

It did not take long for him to reach another climax shooting into the back of Fabian's throat but as he tried to pull off, Fabian grabbed the boy's arse cheeks and held him firmly still gliding his tongue around the cock impaling his mouth. The sensations built up in Flavius cock. It was like nothing he could describe. Not painful or unpleasant, just powerful. He took it for as long he could before wriggling free to kneel astride his lover. He looked down to see Fabian grinning at him.

"What's the matter?" Fabian asked, "Didn't you like it?"

Flavius could hardly speak.

"I loved it." he managed to gasp.

Fabian's hands were already exploring Flavius' thighs. Flavius slid further down Fabian's body until Fabian's cock was nestled in his crack.

Fabian held his breath as Flavius lifted himself, stroked the rigid cock then guided it towards his love hole. Slowly he pressed down, groaning as the wonderful feelings spread outwards. His own cocked ached as it became hard for the third time in such a short space of time but Fabian was stroking it remorselessly as he worked his hips up and down gently working deeper into Flavius. Fabian held back waiting for Flavius to reach the edge. It took much longer and Flavius began to wonder if it would ever happen when his muscles contracted and he shot onto Fabian's stomach.

As Flavius squeezed round him Fabian shot his own load deep into Flavius. He thrust his hips convulsively, at the same time grabbing Flavius shoulders, pushing him down.

Flavius ached, drained as he never been drained before. Fabian had never been on such a high. They had both been with other partners who had been kind, considerate and giving but there was a spark between them that they had never experienced before. As they settled down in the bed Flavius was nestling up to a lover not a protector or a fuck buddy. He could not explain the difference but he knew it was there.

Fabian felt the same way. He was more at peace than he had ever been before and Flavius seemed to belong beside him. He wondered where it was leading but for the moment he did not care.

**********

Flavius woke the following morning feeling better than he had done for ages. He turned and looked the youth lying beside him and smiled. Fabian seemed to be so contented. Flavius gently shook his shoulder until Fabian was also awake.

The slave who had disturbed Flavius waited patiently until Flavius was ready for him.

"The Lady Julia asks whether you and Mr. Fabian would care to join her for breakfast." he said.

Flavius looked at Fabian who shrugged.

"We'd better get moving then." Fabian said, "We don't want to keep her waiting."

"Oh, she'd understand." Flavius replied, "What's wrong?"

In spite of Flavius' efforts, Fabian was was staying completely soft.

"I'm a bit out of my depth." Fabian admitted, "Slaves coming and going, breakfast with noble ladies. I'd hate to have to explain I was late because I was fucking her son, again."

"Would you like to get used to it?"

"Oh yes," Fabian replied, "but you don't want someone like me hanging around for too long. I understand."

"You wouldn't be hanging around. You'd be with me and that's what I want."

"We only met yesterday."

"Weird, isn't it? Don't you want to be with me?"

"I suppose I could put up with a little kid hanging around." Fabian said with a grin.

Flavius squeezed Fabian's cock so that he yelped.

"Not so much of the little kid." Flavius retorted.

Fabian rolled over on top of Flavius, pinning his arms looking down into his eyes. Flavius lifted his head to meet Fabian and their mouths merged into a long passionate kiss.

As they paused for air, the slave coughed discretely asking whether he tell should the Lady Julia that they had been delayed. The moment was lost as they both collapsed into fits of hysterical laughter.

"Tell the Lady Julia that we will be delayed a little." Flavius said, "We're not used to sharing our morning routines yet."

Fabian stared at Flavius.

"Yet?" he asked, wondering whether he understood.

"It's up to you. If it's what you want then there's something you have to do." Flavius said, "You've got until then to decide."

Because of school, some formal events had been shifted to Saturday mornings. It was the one regular time of the week that Flavius had to be Governor. He stepped into that role the moment he began putting on his formal robes. Fabian dressed first and was shown through to Julia's apartments where he was introduced to Titus and Marcus.

He was made to feel welcome but it was one of those uncomfortable times when everyone was just waiting and filling in time with small talk.

Julia, Titus and Marcus went through the little ritual saying that they were at Governor's service then waited looking towards Fabian.

Fabian took a deep breath to calm himself down and approached Flavius, kneeling in front of him.

"Your Excellency," he said, "I'm at your service."

Flavius bent forward and kissed Fabian on the the forehead before taking his hand and asking him to stand.

Protocol and ritual was almost like a language in the Roman empire. Kneeling instead of bowing denoted greater submission than bowing, while the kiss showed that he was more than mere servant. Even taking his hand showed that he was someone special.

"Welcome to the family." Julia said over breakfast, "We'll have to find to you an apartment though I assume you'll practice sharing your morning routines."

Fabian blushed, completely lost for words.

"Mother, stop teasing him." Flavius said grinning, "You'll scare him away."

"I understand you want to be an engineer." Titus said, "Any particular field?"

"Electronics." Fabian replied, "I've built my own computer and I've been involved in software projects."

"Yes but software is not real engineering is it" Titus said, "It's more arty-farty like a playwright or an artist.

"It's planning and design." Fabian replied, "Your ships would still be navigating with sextant and compass without it."

Titus nodded, "Good point but all the best software comes from Japan. They've got the market."

"It's not the whole story though." Fabian replied. "Historically a lot of the original work on computers started here and in the neighbouring provinces but it was all to do with codes and spy stuff then. No one saw the real potential though. The real development happened in the American provinces but it wasn't taken seriously so they moved it to Japan. The Empire still gets favourable licenses because of that but we're still dependent on Japan."

Fabian paused, wondering if he was going too far but everyone was listening intently.

"The Japanese model is intensely commercial and tied up with licenses and copyright but a Scandinavian has come up with a new model based on Open Source. All the software is freely available and you can adapt it to your own needs."

"So instead of being dependent on Japan, we become dependent on Scandinavia." Julia said.

"Not at all." Fabian replied, "The beauty of Open Source Software is that we can develop our own. If we couldn't cooperate with Scandinavia for any reason then our own system would diverge and become incompatible over time. A lot of Roman citizens are doing work on the project but at the moment it's not really benefiting the Empire because we choose the Japanese stuff."

So you're saying the Empire could become independent of foreign software and computers." Flavius asked.

"Probably." Fabian replied. "I'm more interested in Internet technology which needs to be compatible worldwide."

"And you're saying that we already have experts in the field," Flavius asked.

Fabian nodded. "Oh yes! They've published several papers on possible developments and we've got a good base in the hardware technology."

"Flavius," Julia said, "It's time you got today's show on the road. Are you introducing your companion today?"

Flavius glanced at Fabian who shrugged.

"I think so, Mother." Flavius replied, "If nothing else, Fabian'll be able to come and go more freely. It's just a shame that he'll have to stand at the back of the hall."

"Not for long." Titus replied, "I've a feeling he could become involved in your education reforms. I'd like to talk some more."

The morning went smoothly. Fabian went through the ritual again and then was guided to the back of the hall. He was now recognised as the Governor's companion but his position in the crowd showed that he still had no status compared to the Nobles.

Now that the Nobles saw him as a successful Governor, bringing business into the Province, his eccentricities were increasingly tolerated though they would be happier if he slowed his reforms down..

Fabian was readily accepted because it was hoped he would distract Flavius so that he lost interest in them altogether. When Matthew came to collect him when the last petition had been presented Fabian found himself being greeted warmly by many in the hall.

Matthew took him back to Julia's apartment and shortly after Flavius arrived dressed in his House of Sparta tunic.

He knelt saying, "Good Morning My Lady."

"You can relax, Flavius." Julia said, "Have you got time to eat before heading for the Cirensons.

"Yes Mother." he replied, "There's just one thing I have to do first."

He approached Fabian and knelt again saying, "This slave is at your service, Master."

Fabian bent down to grab him round his waist and lift him up. He stood back up and their heads were at the same level."

Fabian planted a large kiss on Flavius' mouth.

"You are never my slave, Flavius." he said, "I don't want that, do you understand?"

Flavius nodded and kissed Fabian. As he set Flavius on the floor Fabian lifted Flavius' tunic and landed a resounding slap on the boy's bare backside.

"That's for calling me Master." he said mock sternly, "Don't do it again."

Flavius had not been really hurt and giggled as he hugged Fabian.

"You win," Flavius said contentedly.

Fabian had no wish to join his family shopping. It was boring at the best of times but it would have been terrible to be in close company with Flavius but not acknowledge their new relationship. Flavius wanted to stay in the role of slave for his friends, Harold and Steven.

He spent time talking about his ideas on computing to Titus until he mentioned he liked swimming.

"Why don't we go to the baths," Marcus suggested, "I like to swim too."

"Grandmother would have a fit." Fabian replied, "I like to swim lengths and really go for it and she says it's bad manners to train so hard, especially in public."

"Nonsense." Julia snapped, "Even my husband would have approved. He'd talked about having a pool built in the Palace but he'd never got around to it. It's pure physical ability like athletics. If you decide to go, Matthew will phone ahead. He'll arrange a lane and a coach for you if you wish."

"My mother said the same thing and wouldn't let me go to the pool." Marcus said, "Can we go, please?"

Fabian shrugged in surrender. At the pool he began to realise how his status had changed. He gave his name and prepared to pay but a slave showed him and Marcus straight to the changing rooms. When they were ready, they were taken to the pool and the lane with a big reserved sign beside it. Fabian felt as if everyone was looking at him but Marcus was more used to the special treatment. He spotted some friends and soon they were playing happily.

Fabian dived in and swam as hard as he could. He pushed himself until he was exhausted then sat on a recliner beside the pool watching Marcus. The slave stood dutifully nearby ready to serve him. On Fabian's instructions the lane divider was removed. He felt guilty about taking up so much space for himself.

When Fabian entered the water again he soon found himself surrounded by Marcus' friends being used as a diving board and targeted for their rough and tumble. His cock was a particular target for their games.

It was all harmless fun and Fabian enjoyed himself. As they left he felt refreshed and ready for the evening event. The dinner party. Fabian was dreading it. If the boys had planned the weekend like a military operation and had inflicted serious defeats on the enemy, the dinner party was the opportunity for Agathia to rally her troops and launch her counter attack.

Apart from his grandmother using the formality of the evening to regain the advantage, he would have to be in the same room as Flavius and not acknowledge him. It would be easier than the more relaxed shopping trip he had escaped that afternoon but the evening still promised to be a monstrous ordeal.

Chapter 14

Once the family was assembled Agathia swept in, pushing herself in front of Harold and sitting herself at the head of the table.

"We're all here now," she said, "I hope the food is as punctual."

As if on cue the phone rang.

Hans answered it, looked surprised and said, "It's for Mr. Fabian, sir. May I suggest he takes it in your study, sir."

Both Flavius and Harold noticed the tone of his voice and Harold nodded.

"Rubbish," Agathia said angrily, "It's just one of his useless friends. Just hang up, boy."

"We don't just hang up on people in this house, Aunt Agathia." Lyllia said, "Go through Fabian."

"Hurry up then. Don't keep us all waiting." Agathia snapped glancing angrily at Lyllia

Hans looked at Flavius.

"Go and attend Mr. Fabian," he said.

"Let's have a drink while we're waiting." Harold said, "I hope you like this bottle, Aunt Agathia. It's from the vineyard, we're visiting tomorrow."

"Senator Crevellio. Someone else you're sucking up to," Agathia retorted, "This family has managed very well without crawling after favours."

Brutus looked as if he was ready to tip the bottle he was carrying over Agathia's head. Steven grinned and shook his head. Luckily Flavius arrived asking Harold if he could step into the office. Harold returned a few minutes later.

"Lyllia, my dear. Could you delay dinner for as long as possible. If it won't keep any longer then please begin without us." He looked pointedly at the Imperial Decree before continuing, "It is important."

"Yes of course, dear." Lyllia replied, "Steven, please look after our guests. I'll have to be in the kitchen. Allen won't know what to do."

"Typical backwater attitudes." Agathia snapped, "You let the telephone run your lives and have a cook who doesn't know how to cook."

"Be quiet, mother." Paulus said more sharply than he intended, "It's obvious that call is from someone important. I hope Fabian hasn't upset someone at the Governor's Palace."

"That's another thing." Agathia said, "Just why is the Governor so interested in him and not us. Do you know, Steven."

"Fabian's not in trouble, Aunt." Steven replied, "but I can't discuss Palace business, can I Uncle."

"No, of course not."

It was a tremendous relief when Harold and Fabian finally returned. Not even Agathia objected when Harold claimed his position at the head of the table and had Fabian and Steven sit on either side of him before calling Lyllia and Allen from the kitchen. Once the family was seated he called for attention.

"The late Provincial Governor was a close friend of the Emperor and in his turn the Emperor has taken a great deal of interest in his son, Flavius Aulus, the present Governor. It helps that Flavius is attempting to modernise the education system as his Imperial Service. It also helps that Flavius is a bright, mature young man who seems to recognise those qualities in others.

"Modernising education is important for the future of the Empire otherwise we're going to lag behind our rivals."

He paused, glancing between Agathia and Paulus.

"I know you think that such things should be left to your betters but it seems that our betters think that some of us in this room have something to contribute.

Now apart from various training schemes Flavius' Uncle Titus has been looking for ways to kick start technological development and it seems that Fabian has an ideal scheme. I don't understand computers but I do know that most of it is imported. It seems that Fabian has succeeded in convincing Titus that there's an alternative and Titus has got the Emperor interested.

"Fabian has a week to prepare a presentation before he takes it to Rome to show the Emperor."

Agathia and Paulus were staring open mouthed, for once at a loss for words.

"He's a clerk in the Post Office." Paulus spluttered, "What can he know about anything. This is all nonsense. He can't possibly change the Empire."

"No! He can't, any more than Flavius has done. Flavius forced a single school to consider new ideas. Other schools are starting to copy and the Civil Service is having to catch up after a lot of pressure from the Emperor. The changes are being organised by thousands of people but it's Flavius who deserves the credit for making it happen.

"The same applies to Fabian. I repeat, I don't understand computers. I just use them. Apparently Fabian does know something about them and he's got people interested. Again the work will be handed over to Universities and the like but it will be Fabian who started it."

Harold turned to Lyllia, "I'm sorry, dear. Can you salvage dinner or should we eat out?"

The meal proved to be surprisingly good despite the delay. They ate in silence, everyone seemed lost in their own thoughts.

Afterwards, the conversation started up again.

"I suppose Fabian will be staying with you, Harold?" Paulus asked.

"No! I'll be staying at the Palace. I've become the Governor's companion." Fabian replied.

"I've heard of that but what does being a companion mean?" Lyllia asked.

"Not a lot," Harold replied, "Everyone recognises that he's close to the Governor and he's probably had to demonstrate his status to the Nobles. If they're all happy that he's not going to grab privileges that he's not entitled to, then they won't mind him coming and going freely."

"Companion indeed! He's become a catamite," sneered Agathia, "I knew it. All this is a farce so that Aulus brat can get up Fabian's arse. You're coming home with us and we're leaving now. Harold arrange it."

"You can leave if you wish, Grandmother but I'm staying." Fabian said, "I've already been up Flavius' arse so he's entitled to return the compliment."

The courts could interpret Fabian's admission as an assault on a noble and it was a capital offence. It left Agathia shocked and embarrassed.

"Mother, you are missing the point." Paulus said, "Fabian has been summoned by the Emperor. Whatever the reason that's a great honour and it'll guarantee his promotion. He may even end up out ranking me.

"This Aulus boy will soon get tired of him and as Harold's said he's just got one or two wild ideas that's caught some gullible people's attention but once the Emperor sees through it all, he'll be home."

"Excuse me, Uncle. I need some air." Fabian said, "Someone fetch me a drink."

A few minutes later, Flavius joined him in the garden holding a tray with a drink. Fabian just stood.

"I'm sorry about the crack about getting up your arse." Fabian said, "She really got to me. She insulted everything and everyone and made me feel cheap. They've made you seem cheap too and I hate them for it."

Just then Hans, Steven, the other boys and Lyllia joined them.

"I'm sorry for spoiling your evening, Aunt Lyllia," Fabian said.

"You didn't spoil it. We should be celebrating your good news. I hope Harold knows what he's doing."

"I don't understand them." Brutus said, "They seemed annoyed that Fabian has such good prospects. Why weren't they pleased for him?"

"Because he's disturbing their neat little world." Lyllia replied, "Aunt Agathia isn't the big wheel any more and all she wants, is to have everything back as it was."

"I've never seen dad so angry," Steven said, "I almost feel sorry for them."

As he spoke Harold's voice could be heard. No one could hear what he was saying but there was no doubt that he was furious. Finally he called them all back in, sending Steven to change into his Sparta tunic.

When he returned, Harold had him stand by his friends.

"These boys all volunteered to help us and set out to give you the best possible time. All you've done is try to ruin it. Flavius, Brutus come here."

Harold paused before dropping his next bombshell of the evening

This is Flavius Aulus, Provincial Governor of this province and a true loyal friend of ours. This is Brutus, son of Senator Gaius Crevellio, an equally good friend as are Hans, Alan and Luke. Their last duty of the weekend is to dump you and your bags in the car to take you to the station. You are no longer welcome here."

"Lyllia," Agathia said, "Are you going to allow your husband to speak to me like that. I'm your family."

"Aunt Agathia," Lyllia replied, "Harold is my family and these boys are our friends. You can stay if you wish but while you are here you will remember that this is Harold's house. He will be treated with due respect as will our friends and other guests."

"Yes but if they're going to run around like slaves how do we know who we should honour?"

"Respect, Aunt. Not honour. Flavius gets as much honour as he wants at the Palace. They all volunteered to help, then worked hard to make your stay enjoyable. They all deserve respect for their efforts."

Agathia knew she was beaten and things would never be the same again. She either cut herself off from her niece or go home to boast of her families connections and changing fortunes.

"Harold, I've been too hasty," she said in an unusually polite tone of voice, " I wish you had told me who these boys were. I would have understood better but I can now see that His.... er..... Master Flavius is a fine young man who wont let Fabian down and it's obvious you're held in very high esteem.

"He's just Flavius in that tunic, Aunt." Lyllia said, "He needs to get away from the stresses of the Governorship."

"That's the role that he's born to." Paulus said, "His breeding should be enough for him to cope."

"And I'm still in the room." muttered Flavius irritably.

"You can't have it both ways," Fabian grinned, "If you want to be a slave then you have to put up with listening to pompous waffle."

Paulus glared angrily at his son while Agathia was not sure if she should join in with the laughter but it was not enough to save the evening. Everyone was edgy and on guard. Agathia decided she was tired and chose to go to bed not long after. Paulus followed suit heading back to the hotel. Harold and Lyllia were emotionally drained by the experience and were glad for time to themselves. Flavius and Fabian headed for the palace with Hans. Brutus also went home leaving Luke and Alan to serve breakfast.

Fabian joined his family as they set off for the baths. Agathia was unhappy at the fuss that Fabian's appearance caused.

A lane was hastily roped off in the swimming pool so that he could swim his lengths, a most undignified public display, irritated that he spent time playing with some of Marcus' friends who were there and amazed at the cordial way in which he was greeted by their parents, some of which were highly ranking nobles.

The afternoon visit to the Crevellio estate was equally awkward. Agathia was only too aware of the remarks she made in front of Brutus which made Gaius Crevellio's obviously genuine efforts to welcome them so much more embarrassing.

Agathia was only too pleased to be on the train that evening heading for home and never visited again.

************

Flavius served as Governor until his death, aged eighty seven. He held several offices in the Empire and was a friend to three emperors. Father,son and grandson. Years later historians still argued over the contribution he made to Rome's Great Revival which began in his lifetime.

His supporters credit him with single handedly modernising the Education system and the Imperial Civil Service, not to mention preventing the war with Scandinavia. His detractors say he was just a lucky fool with a fetish for being treated like a slave.

Flavius was no fool, just the opposite. He had a talent for understanding people and bringing out the best in them. He possibly had a fetish. Even late in life he would put on a slave tunic and wander around the town. There is no record of him ever being punished when he was an adult but he did enjoy escaping from the Governor's Palace and all it's formality.

He was certainly a catalyst in starting the Great Revival but unless the will to change the Education system had been strong enough throughout the Empire, his Imperial Service would have failed.

Neither could he have changed the Civil Service without Imperial support or a general feeling that it needed changing. His experiences in those first few months as Governor taught him a lot about the entrenched attitudes people could adopt. He had also discovered that it was possible to unsettle and undermine their complacency.

Where the plot against Flavius had been amateurish there was another plot against the Emperor which was much better organised and a threat to the entire world. People in powerful positions were trying to undermine the relationship between the Empire and Scandinavia. They were making fortunes as both sides re-armed and expanded their forces and would make even more in the rebuilding that would follow a war when, in it's weakened state, the Empire would be vulnerable to a take over.

The Emperor knew that dispatches between him and the Scandinavian King were being intercepted and subtly altered. He had unofficial ways of communicating with the King but they never knew who to trust. It was essential that they met face to face and agree some documents that could not be intercepted. Even the Scandinavian King had heard of the House of Sparta and had taken an interest in Flavius' progress.

The King had agreed that the meeting be held there and preparations begun. The Scandinavian navy had a square rigged sailing ship, the Thor, which they used for training and good will visits. It would be setting sail on a training cruise soon, during which a crew member would develop severe appendicitis and the Captain would ask for assistance. It would be given permission to tie up at the dock that Harold and Mr Jameson would arrange.

As thanks, the House of Sparta would be invited to join it for a short cruise. With the Governor's Palace putting on a reception to greet the officers, there was plenty to distract attention. No one cared that a couple of unimportant officials boarded the ship and no one noticed that they did not get off again.

In spite of Flavius' involvement in the House of Sparta travelling incognito had not become acceptable but it was seen as a useful tool. Flavius had also demonstrated his Province's complete loyalty to the Empire. Officially the Emperor was taking a holiday in Capri. A few knew that he had an important meeting to attend to and only a handful of operatives from the Imperial Secret Service based in Flavius' province, knew that he had boarded the Scandinavian training ship.

The only other person who knew was Mark, Harold's assistant, who suddenly found himself the Emperor's aide.

Although Flavius was credited with being fully involved in the meetings he knew nothing about it until they had cleared land. The Emperor appeared on deck to watch as a submarine surfaced alongside to transfer the Scandinavian King on board. While the two monarchs discussed world problems, Flavius was being chased up a mast by a seaman wielding a short length of rope known as a 'starter'.

He may have created favourable conditions for the meeting but his involvement was limited to an adventure that few Roman boys had the chance to experience. It is unlikely that he ever learned of the plot and he was never involved in the arrest and interrogation of the conspirators.

Once they had compared documents, the ones sent to the ones received all doubts, that they had been tampered with, had been removed. Logs showed who had handled the documents and who had the means to alter them.

Three people in the Empire were initially arrested and one was able to prove his innocence and released.

The interrogation room was laid out in a way designed to terrify. It had the desired effect on the older of the two men who was detained. He broke as soon as he was brought in. The younger man was made of tougher stuff. The interrogators were experts at reading their victims and knew what to do. One of their least frightening devices was a bar resting on two posts with four more posts at the corners of a rectangle surrounding the bar. The victim was tied laid along the bar with his arms and legs tied to the corner posts. His head was tied to the bar so that he could not lift it. Prisoners were always naked and this one was now secured in a very vulnerable position. His weight was carried by relatively small areas of his body which quickly began to hurt and the posts had tackle so that he could be stretched tight.

Apart from that, he had not been hurt and the interrogators spoke to him gently even kindly.

He was questioned one last time and he still refused to talk though he was a lot less confident. His nose was pinched and as he opened his mouth to breath a spreader was pushed in keeping it open. A cloth was placed over his mouth and nose then water trickled over it. The man had a terrible sense of drowning. Even when the towel was removed he coughed and spluttered as he tried to draw in air. At the same time the interrogator inserted a feather touching the back of the throat making his victim gag.

The interrogator removed the spreader.

"Some people play games like this for fun." he said, gently stroking his prisoners cock. "It turns them on. I don't get it myself but we'll play a little longer if you like. We'll have to get down to business soon though.

"When we do get serious what shall I do first? Smash your face to pulp or cut your cock off."

The man had not been hurt but he had been terrified at the prospect of choking to death. The threats were the last straw and he began talking as freely as the other prisoner.

Both men were locked in a small cage barely two foot by two foot and six foot long and a tarpaulin was draped over it before it was carried out to a lorry. The lorry took them to a dock where the cage was loaded onto a small but fast boat. They finally understood their fate when the boat's engine stopped and they felt their cage tilting upwards. The cage slid down the plank it had been resting on into the water, pulled by the concrete block that had been chained to it. The last thing the two men were aware of, was the cold of the water and a tightening of their chests as they sank into the depths.

Others met a similar fate, disappearing without trace. It said something for the Security Service that every one of them was actively involved in the plot and that there would have been enough evidence to convict them had they stood trial. Instead, their families were led to think that they had met with an accident while on Imperial Service and did not question the substantial pension they received. The media commented on the spate of accidents involving important members of Roman Society but confined speculation to statistics, odds and probability.

Flavius was unaware of all this. He recognised that he had been used to cover the secret negotiations which led to vastly improved relations with Rome and Scandinavia. His involvement was limited to obtaining places for Roman boys on Thor's cruises in exchange for a safe Winter berth that never became icebound.

As well as being accused of pandering to the lower classes and threatening the social order he is also accused of being cruel and heartless towards his slaves. Flavius was a good friend and freed more slaves than any other Roman of his time. He encouraged his slaves to undergo training and then sponsored them while they set themselves up in business. He was never known to punish a slave who made a genuine mistake. The one thing he would not tolerate was disloyalty to himself. If slaves tried cheating, stealing or betraying him in any way then they could expect no mercy.

Flavius had little appetite for harsh punishments or torture but he could offer to hand the unfortunate slave over to Brutus and Steven.

The two boys had become friends sharing their common interest and not long after Agathia's visit, they had explored the more remote areas of the estate.

They came across a wall, at least twelve foot high, topped with barbed wire. Much of the wire had rusted away but it still gave the impression that they had found a grim and forbidding prison.

The slaves attending them looked terrified as the boys searched for the entrance. It turned out to be unlocked but the hinges were seized solid. While waiting for it to be opened one of the slaves told the boys what he knew.

It was well known that Brutus' grandfather had been a cruel man and that he had his 'fun house' as he called it. Gaius, Brutus' father, had never mentioned it preferring to forget about his father's viciousness. Slaves taken into it were rarely seen again and over the years it became a place to be avoided as the stories that the slaves told about the place turned into the stuff of nightmares.

If Brutus had ordered the slaves to enter with him, they would have probably refused so, once the door was opened, Steven and Brutus entered alone. The top three feet of the wall was covered with small blades pointing downwards. Together with the barbed wire, anyone attempting to climb the wall would have been cut to shreds. The concrete yard was still in good condition except for a few cracks that had given plants a foothold. A gallows stood in the yard along with a cross and a selection of beams supported by posts. Much of it was made of wood and was rotten. The entrance to the building was also rotten but the inside was in surprisingly good condition. There were three rooms and a small kitchen.

One room was a comfortable bedroom apart from the manacles attached to the bed. There was a day room, the d├ęcor split into two parts. The smaller part boasted a concrete floor, with eyelets fixed to the walls, floor and ceiling and a display of whips, knives, manacles and other devices. The other two thirds of the room looked like a comfortable office with a desk and comfortable chairs.

The third room was simply a torture chamber. Again there were eyelets over the walls, floor and ceiling. There was a rack, harnesses, shower and toilet area and tiny cells to hold prisoners.

Roman boys are not too worried about slaves being whipped or punished but there was something about all the devices that revolted them. Manacles had small spikes on the inside so that when they were attached the victims limbs would be pierced. Neck rings had something like sandpaper glued to the inside or were rough and burred so that every movement scraped the skin. Whips had pieces of metal knotted into them so that the flesh was ripped and torn. Even the cells had small spikes protruding so that the hapless prisoner could not avoid standing or leaning into them.

The whole set up was there to inflict injury. It was pointless.

"No wonder the slaves are scared of this place. Grandfather had a thing about spikes, didn't he." Brutus said, "We could do it up though and have some fun here.

"Not with those spikes everywhere," Steven replied, "I'm not into being ripped apart."

"Neither am I. Like I said, do it up." Brutus said, "Keep it as our fort if you like but get everything new and we can be ourselves here."

"It'll be be difficult getting your slaves in here." Steven said, "If they refuse, you'll have to punish them just for being scared."

There was a bright glint in Brutus' eyes as he replied, "I'll promise that nothing will happen to them that couldn't happen to us and they'll be rewarded for helping."

They found half a dozen slaves willing to help. They were all fairly young and were used to Brutus. The stories about his grandfather seemed more distant to the younger slaves, as if they were myths or legends.

One slave, Fred, had been a builder before being convicted of robbery, and so, while the gate was being repaired, he, Brutus and Steven planned the renovations. The first thing to be built was a simple flat pack shed standing beside the gate. Once finished they all trooped inside and stripped. Once outside the slaves automatically lined up nervously waiting for orders. Steven joined the line while Brutus knelt in front of a startled Fred, offering him a red armband.

"You're the expert so you're in charge while the gate's locked." Brutus said.

He leant forward and kissed Fred's cock. "Don't give anything that you don't want to accept."

Years later the slaves would believe that Brutus had said, 'I'm at your service' but he had deliberately avoided uttering that formal line.

Brutus and Steven modelled the fort on the House of Sparta. Fred was uncomfortable with his role and for a time Steven found himself becoming second in command advising Fred on what to do.

All the rotting wood was cleared first. Any furniture that could be salvaged was taken outside and thoroughly cleaned. Steven took pleasure in allocating the dirtiest jobs to Brutus until Fred accepted that he really was in charge then made Steven work alongside Brutus.

Outside they built a system of beams and posts looking like the skeleton outline of an enormous box. There were arrays of ropes and tackles.

Brutus was it's first victim. He was secured spread-eagle to the beams. His weight was still on the ground and his his arms were bent slightly but his body was completely vulnerable. He was stiff and hard before Steven handed out lightweight cat o'nine tails to a couple of slaves.

As they approached him, Brutus' cock pointed upwards to the sky. He was breathing heavily and as he tensed himself for the first of the blows his rib cage was clearly visible above his taut stomach.

The blows stung making him jump and wriggle around as his back and front reddened. Suddenly his hips buck and he shot string after string across the yard. His legs buckled and he hung from the ropes until he was lowered to the ground.

"That works," Steven said, "Who's next?"

A couple of the slaves were sporting their own hard hard ons but it was one of the slaves that done the whipping who said, "I've given it, now I suppose I'll have to take it."

He was semi hard but he obviously was not keen.

"What would turn you on the way Brutus was?" Steven asked.

The slave thought for a moment.

"Being spanked knowing that I would be fucked afterwards." he replied.

"You're down to launch the office then. We'll install a spanking horse just for you."

The slave smiled nervously, wondering what he had let himself in for.

"We're slaves." one of the others said, "This isn't our idea of fun."

His cock was stiff and solid and he had always been the most willing to speak up for the others.

"How do you mean?" Brutus asked.

"We all get punished from time to time." the slave replied, "You're just asking us to volunteer for some more."

They all tensed, the slaves looking worried as Brutus ordered the slave who had been speaking to be secured as he had been.

The slave was in his twenties, muscular without an ounce of fat on him. His balls hung proudly behind his impressively thick cock. It pointed to the ground not in the least excited by unfolding events.

Brutus knelt in front of the frightened slave, gently stroking the inside of his thighs before leaning forward to gently lick the slave's manhood. As Brutus' hands crept higher and his mouth enveloped the cock head the slave groaned in ecstasy. He spread his legs a little further and pushed his hips as Brutus' carefully slid a finger into the bound figure.

Brutus pulled back just long enough to softly say, "You don't have permission to cum." before taking the slaves cock deep into his mouth steadily working him to a climax with his tongue and lips. Very slowly and very gently his finger penetrated deeper and deeper into the slave.

The slave tried to obey his Master and held back for as long as he could until he could no longer stop the convulsing of his muscles and he shot deep into Brutus' throat.

Brutus withdrew his finger and stood up to look at his prisoner.

"Shall I punish you for cumming without permission or do you want to leave the fort and never return?"

The slave was still frightened but he felt he could trust Brutus. Brutus had promised that nothing that happened in the fort would ever leave it and Brutus would never want it known that he had sucked off a slave. He was also beginning to understand that Brutus wanted some sexual fun and games and he could be a willing partner.

"I'll stay and take my punishment, Brutus," he said eliciting shocked gasps from the watching slaves.

"Use my name would you?" Brutus asked with a grin, "That's OK in here. Except of course when I can torture you. Maybe you should be more polite then."

As spoke he had grabbed the slaves nipples and pinched. The slave gasped with the sudden pain.

"Don't you have to be careful, as well?" the slave asked, "I could be doing this to you soon."

Brutus laughed out loud and slapped the slave hard across his stomach.

"Yes you could but it won't get you any mercy now. Your punishment for cumming without permission is to stay tied up until everyone present has jerked you off and I've fucked you.

One of the other slaves approached Brutus and knelt.

"Master, You said we could speak freely in here," he said, "I'm happy to help you restore this place but it doesn't feel right playing these games with you. May I be excused."

Brutus nodded, "Of course. I said I only wanted volunteers. Would you be prepared to administer your part of the punishment before you leave?"

The slave grinned. "Of course, Master. Thank you."

He approached the bound slave slapping him hard across the stomach as Brutus had done.

"Have fun, Lukas." the slave said, "We all know you get hard thinking about our young master so maybe you won't mind a bit of pain as well."

Three of the other slaves also withdrew. Though each one agreed to complete his part of the punishment and each followed suit by giving Lukas a slap.

Lukas was halfway through his punishment. He ached, his cock felt rubbed raw and he was exhausted. He could move slightly; the manacles were leather lined so they could not hurt his skin but he could not rest. It seemed that the last slave had finished with him, just a few minutes ago in spite of being promised a break. Now Steven was approaching him with something in his hand and disappearing behind him. He gasped as he felt a pressure pushing slowly upwards but insistently into him but he was too spent and drained to resist. Almost reluctantly his cock began to stir at the new sensations spreading through his body as he felt Steven's body as he wrapped his arms around his waist to grab his cock. The pressure of a young teen body pressed into him, the dildo rubbing his prostrate and the incessant stroking of his cock made his protesting body react. Finally he shot yet another load. He felt the tension and stress drain away and hoped for a longer rest to recharge his overworked balls. The sixth slave, the one who had volunteered for a spanking took over almost without a break in the rhythm.

The slave knew Brutus had only suggested he take his turn but he thought like a slave. It did not occur to him to stop even when his own arm began to ache with the effort. Lukas struggled as best he could in his weakened state, desperate for a few moments to rest and regain control of his emotions. His cock ached as once again it became rigid. All his struggles had achieved had been to rub the dildo against his prostrate more. It seemed to take ages but finally he shot his sixth load.

Brutus had said that Lukas should stay tied up, not that he could not be moved so he had the slave lowered to the ground with his feet manacled together, tied to a securing eye and similarly, his hands secured above his head.

Brutus knelt down beside his victim, gave him a few more playful slaps then began stroking his cock again. Lukas was desperate to cum, not out of passion but to end his ordeal and have the chance to rest but Brutus was saving the best to last as he straddled Lukas to guide his semi-turgid cock up into himself. Lukas was torn between fear at the consequences of penetrating his Noble master and elation that Brutus was consenting to it. He shot with a force that surprised everyone. His whole body seemed to convulse with each wad of cream then he just relaxed semi conscious, drained of every last scrap of energy.

Steven, and the other slave agreed with Brutus when he released Lukas except for a pair of light handcuffs. He was still tied as Brutus had promised but he was allowed to rest, eat and drink before Brutus completed the last part of the 'punishment' with Steven and the other slave taking their turn as an extra penalty for calling him by name.

Brutus and Steven became close friends and partners while their activities in the fort became notorious. The two slaves became willing partners in their games and General Maximilian was known to visit.

Flavius' reputation for cruelty was guilt by association and it did not worry him greatly. In fact, he was happy for slaves to be slightly wary of him.

Luke joined the army and under the new training schemes attained the rank of general.

Alan was was re-united with his blood family but remained as Titus' slave until he turned twenty one when he was freed and adopted by Titus. He worked as Titus' secretary and later he took over running the family business. Marcus became a Professor of Classics at one of Rome's top universities, happily married and content with his life.

With Fabian's arrival, Hans thought he was no longer needed. It was partly true. Flavius turned to Fabian, rather than Hans for love and comfort but without him the House of Sparta would have failed. He did not take his freedom until he wanted to get married and only then because he wanted his son to be free. His training allowed him to open a hotel, the first of a whole chain across the Empire.

The House of Sparta had worked better than anyone could have believed possible and continued for many years.

Fabian never became one of its boys but was always a welcome guest. His presentation on computer software became the last event to define the way the House of Sparta would conduct its affairs.

He understood his subject and could speak confidently but he suddenly found himself with the full weight of the Governor's Palace and the House of Sparta supporting him which was overwhelming and faced the prospect of meeting the Emperor which was terrifying.

To help calm him, Flavius took the role of his personal slave, constantly by his side to help and advise him. Flavius was with him when he went to formally terminate his employment and clear his locker at the Post Office sorting office where he worked with his father. The Governor's Palace had rung to say that he was on his way, he arrived in a smart limousine and it was made clear that he was covered by Imperial Edict.

"Remember, Master." Flavius had said just before they arrived, "You're the man they're dealing with. I'm just a stupid slave to do your bidding. Don't even look at me unless you want something."

Fabian looked at him and smiled, "Thanks, my love. I'll make you proud of me."

Flavius was indeed proud of Fabian. As he was a V.I.P. from the governor's Palace, the senior staff lined up to greet him and be introduced. Flavius smiled to himself as he noticed that Paulus was not considered senior enough to join the line but Fabian insisted on seeing his father in his own office. When they left, Flavius was carrying Fabian's belongings and hustled out of the way while the Post Office staff tried to be pleasant to Fabian.

In later years he was often asked what he learnt from the House of Sparta. He always replied that he had discovered that the sun did not shine out of his arse.

Flavius continued his role as Fabian's slave when they went to Rome. No one recognised him until Fabian was taken to the Emperor and the Emperor just glared at Flavius.

"I'm not used to Provincial Governors skulking around the Imperial Palace, boy." he said, menace evident in every syllable. "Explain yourself."

"My Master is not used to all this, Your Imperial Majesty." Flavius said less confidently than usual, "His Excellency thought that he needed a slave who was. He thought that it was part of his service to you that he should give Master Fabian his utmost support. He also thought that any sort of personal visit might detract from the real purpose of this meeting."

The Emperor continued to glare at Flavius for a time before turning to Fabian.

"Welcome," he said, "I apologise for not greeting you immediately. Please relax. This is not a state function and I'm sure that you've been briefed that I prefer honest answers so we'll be as informal as possible."

The Emperor ignored Flavius from then on. Once, Fabian was caught off guard by a question and Flavius moved to intervene. Fabian had snapped at him to shut up and the Emperor had noted the irritation, amusement and pride in his protege flash across Flavius' face. The rest of the Palace followed the Emperor's lead and Flavius found himself in the background completely ignored leaving him to learn a lot as he watched the Palace going about it's business.

Fabian returned home with instructions to develop his ideas further. Flavius returned knowing that the principles that the House of Sparta was based on had won the Emperor's approval and would continue. Flavius could look forward to an exciting time as he grew to manhood.

The End