"Don't be such a little bitch, Fabullus," Catullus giggled, clinging to the nearest stable object as he struggled to remain upright. Then the object moved, and dumped Catullus back on the couch.
"My God, you are so wasted," Veranius sighed. "If you throw up on me I'm not speaking to you for a week."
"I am not drunk," Catullus insisted. "Fabullus, give me another drink!"
"No," said Fabullus, secure in his role as ruler of the wine-jug and deeply amused.
"Little bitch," Catullus repeated under his breath.
"Did you just compare me to your ex-girlfriend? Gaius, I'm hurt."
"Clodia's not a little bitch," Catullus said, waving around the hand that he wasn't using to hang onto Veranius' arm. "She's a way bigger man than you'll ever be."
"I'll bet she is," Veranius murmured with a smirk.
"How would you know?" Fabullus asked. Now he looked a little offended. "You've never seen it."
"For which he can count himself infinitely lucky," Veranius shot back.
"Wait, really?" Furius' head snapped around. He and Aurelius had hitherto been ignoring their friends in favor of harassing the serving girl. "I thought Fabullus had gotten around with everyone."
"My love for Clodia is a pure flower," Catullus proclaimed with drunkenly exaggerated dignity.
"Was," Veranius muttered, but went unheard as both Furius and Aurelius, now thoroughly distracted from the relieved slave-girl, started laughing.
"Pure?" Aurelius sputtered. "Gaius, you do know that we've all read your poetry, right? And you want us to believe you weren't tapping that ass and any other one that came along?"
"I'm feeling rather unloved and extremely demeaned," Fabullus remarked idly.
"If you don't want us to think it's cheap, you shouldn't give it away for free," Furius said.
The conversation devolved into an argument between Fabullus and Furius over who deserved a worse reputation, but Catullus was still clutching at Veranius, looking both upset and intoxicated. "All right, let's get you home," Veranius said, and heaved his friend up. "But I meant it about the vomiting."
"You believe me, don't you," Catullus asked plaintively as they staggered home, Catullus because he'd had far too much to drink and Veranius because Catullus was a lot heavier than he looked.
"Of course I do, Gaius."
"Because my love is a pure flower," Catullus insisted.
"Whatever you say," Veranius agreed absently, hoping that at least one of Catullus' slaves was still awake to take the inebriated poet off his hands.
"No, listen to him." Catullus suddenly dug in his heels and dragged Veranius to a halt. "It's important. My love is a pure flower, and Clodia plowed over it. Do you understand?"
"No, not really. Come on, you can tell me tomorrow, after you've slept this off."
"I'll write you a poem," Catullus decided, and let Veranius start pulling him in the direction of his house again.
"You do that."
They continued in silence for a few minutes, until another idea occurred to Catullus. "Did you sleep with Fabullus, too?"
Veranius snorted. "I'd rather steer clear of that well of venereal disease, thanks very much."
"Oh, good." Catullus subsided for a bit, then added, "Because I don't think I could love anyone who'd slept with Fabullus."
"Your dick would probably fall off," Veranius said, before his mind caught up with what Catullus had really said. "Wait, what?"
"I don't think they would appreciate my pure love. People who sleep with Fabullus, I mean."
"Look, I am not Clodia," Veranius snapped, involved in spite of himself.
"Of course you're not!" Catullus said cheerfully. "She's prettier than you. But also she's slept with half of Rome, so you're probably still preferable."
"Thanks," Veranius ground out from between gritted teeth. "But no thanks. I don't want to be your next poetic endeavor. I'm not interested in having a love affair recorded for the public and posterity. My private life is private. All right?"
"Oh." Catullus frowned. "Well, can we have an affair if I don't write about it?"
Veranius rolled his eyes. "Sure. If you even remember this in the morning."
Catullus grinned at him, sweetly and without artifice, and against all his best intentions, Veranius softened a little. "I won't forget," Catullus said, with unwarranted confidence.
They had finally, thanks be to all the gods who looked out for drunken poets, arrived at Catullus' home, and one of his slaves had run out to meet them. "Thank you, Master Veranius," he said. Veranius had been to Catullus' house enough that the slaves weren't afraid to speak to him. "I'll take him to bed."
"Very good," Veranius agreed, and handed his friend over. Before he could escape to his own house and his own bed, of which he thought with no little longing, Catullus called him back.
"What, Gaius?" Veranius demanded.
"Can I write just one poem? Please?"
Veranius laughed ruefully, knowing that sooner or later he always ended up giving Catullus whatever he wanted. "One poem. Good night, Gaius." He nodded to the long-suffering slave and headed off down the street. At least it was dark, so nobody could see his idiotic grin.