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Pullo would like to know what it is he's hoping for, that's all.

He's fucked a few boys and liked it well enough; he's been fucked, when he was a boy and a slave, and didn't like it much at all.

Neither one is quite what he wants from Vorenus. Nor this brotherhood shite, all this hanging about as useless as balls on a nanny goat while Vorenus and Niobe smile at each other.

Maybe it's war he hopes for, the two of them soldiers again, away from women and kids who lock a man down like a slave's chains. But with war comes rank, comes discipline, comes a camp full of stinking men and not a moment for a talk and a laugh, nor a quiet corner to have one in.

So not war, not quite. Maybe it's making camp under the silent stars, firelight reddening Vorenus's face and his Gaulish yellow hair, a good sweet wine to pass between them. The smell of woodsmoke and sweat, and then something . . . something could happen. Something that's Vorenus in his arms, somehow, and the feel of his skin and the sound of his heartbeat, and time enough for hopes to come clear and true.

It doesn't matter. What's real is Rome, Niobe, politics that stink like Vulcan's unwashed arse, and Vorenus being ever so patient with an old soldiering pal he can't get rid of. The city's no place for hoping, and Pullo's too old for it anyway.