Face claimThomas Brodie-Sangster
"I bet it's a crazy story," Titus said appreciatively, finishing a square of placenta and reaching for another from Aulus' hands; it proved a bit much to both take big steps to keep up with his father and also coordinate things, so he was glad when Aulus slowed down a little bit.
Indeed, he'd taken just a bit easier to Felix than to Aulus on return, though that still wasn't saying much; he was around and doing not-business-stuff a little more often, and he had none of the mystique that Aulus-as-father had about him. Felix said once, too, that he sort-of remembered him from when he was just a wee Titulus, which helped the process of making friends a little bit because people your parents trusted that far back were probably good for you.
Felix was also quiet but not in the really judgmental sort of way that some adults with important stuff to do could be; Felix quietness was more like a curious quietness, like listening all the time. Or maybe it was just that he was a slave in general?
Titus still felt a little self-conscious about asking him for anything other than basic quick things that didn't eat up too much time -- not because he was under any delusions about relative rank or anything, but just because he was so ... big, and always seemed to have more of his stuff together than Titus did. More stuff to do, and so on.
He never told anyone because it was probably silly, all things considered. Even the small Calpurnia would laugh at him.
"How long do you think it takes to find a friend like Felix? I'm not really good at making them yet," said Titus, just a bit glumly. "There's Calpurnia, but she's a sister, so that's different."
The truth was that his lack of a strong, internalized secure base from which to explore his world meant that he found it intimidating to let people get too close -- there was always something he wasn't telling someone, which meant that he'd never really forged a profound bond with anyone other than his sibling, whose closeness to him was mostly a function of the fact she was the small Calpurnia and those were little and fwubsy (which was for sure a word) and needed him.
Already people he knew talked about 'liking' girls or boys or whatever in some mystical, arcane kind of 'that way'; he didn't get it. What did they mean, that way? There was just liking, like you meet and you go oh that's a neat person, and then there was brother-type liking, like he liked the small Calpurnia even though sometimes she was annoying, and then there was parent type liking, like Mama liked him, and then there was marriage liking, like Grandfather and Grandmother, or like his mother and father. Also drama liking, like when someone in a story liked someone else's wife and wanted for her to be his wife and they couldn't just share because it was illegal. Surely that was already enough likings for people? What was this 'like that' liking that had his playmates segregating themselves into single-gender groups to whisper about it?
Was he just ... dumb?
No, he had some vague inkling of an idea, but it hadn't quite come in yet, like his understanding of poetry.
It clicked. A little later than it ought to have done, but he was thirteen, and more or less swept up in being parented; when it did, he felt the oddest mix of oh, I'm stupid and wow, I'm pretty clever if I do say so myself.
The intellectual side of things was rather quickly sidelined by the aforementioned awareness of sonhood; Titus took another bite of placenta and unconsciously sidled closer to Aulus' hip so as to be squished closer to him, from where he could probably better absorb the important message about difficult choices. Yeah.
"I guess it's good that that sort of thing doesn't happen often. I hope I don't have to make choices like that any time soon... I'm kind of not sure what they might be, but as of now, um, when I have to decide important things I sort of freeze up for a while. I think it would be pretty bad to freeze up if I had to decide anything that decided anything about someone's life, you know ... ?"
The confession took a bit of effort, but less than earlier -- he was a broadly trusting sort of child, even if there was a deep-rooted suspicion in there somewhere that happy things were temporary, born of craving stability for so long.
If he'd made a couple mistakes or rambled a few times and his father was still here, then that meant that he was generally forgiving enough that Titus could loosen up just a bit.
"Where did you get all that courage and decisiveness? I bet it took a lot. I've just been assuming it comes with age, but I'm already thirteen years old and I can't even quickly decide that I want placenta, you know? Like, what if you don't like placenta, and then I only find out because I'm here eating and you want a snack too but you don't like mine and," quieter for Aulus' dignity's sake, "you don't want to openly buy like a huge box of globuli for just yourself?"
Another bite -- it was good darn pastry, and it helped ground him when he was talking about something uncertain like this, like a socially acceptable fidgeting outlet.
Titus didn't have hands big enough to hold all these pastries, and didn't really want to get any honey on his tunic -- it was water-soluble and all, but he just hated feeling grimy. The urge to be strong and self-sufficient was also firmly entrenched in his psyche, so it was kind of a struggle deciding.
In the end he figured that his father would want him to think practically and only make sacrifices for the sake of social face when they were genuinely important; pastries were not quite so very vital to continued survival as that, though they did make it more fun, so he solemnly handed them off, making brief eye contact as though daring the very gods to find an objection.
Lucius Junius Brutus ... umm, hmm. Oh! "He founded the republic," the boy said solemnly, at length. "He was called Brutus because he pretended to be stupid so that the king wouldn't know that he was upset that he executed a lot of people they were both related to, because I guess Tarquinius really was stupid and didn't think anyone would be, but he really wasn't stupid - it turned out to be an ironic cognomen, like in a story or something. He was just waiting for the right time to, you know, find... found the republic. And the reason that we know that the gods were behind it is because Tarquinius' sons, you know the king's, they went with Brutus to the oracle at Delphi. And they asked her who would be king next, and she said, the first one of you to kiss your mother will be the most powerful one in Rome. So everyone thinks she means the king, and also their actual mother, but Brutus pretended to trip and kissed the ground, like mother earth, and then after he overthrew the monarchy and became the first consul. So it was like a sign. Yeah."
This somewhat sanitized account wasn't really a product of the educational system so much as it was Titus wanting not to discuss anything too unbecoming (being a young boy, topics like ravishments and takeovers tended to drive him to embellish when he did talk about them, a byproduct of age and also liking to play Romans and Barbarians) -- and just to be extra sure, he took and bit into a square of placenta. Can't drive me into conversational territory I'm bad at sounding like a grownup in if I can't talk!
Just as good as he thought it would be, here. Like ambrosia, by comparison to the stuff out in Raetia... but then that was kind of to be expected, since sweets were always better when the tribe that made them up made them.
Or maybe things were just best when they were Roman, in general.
@SharpieTitus listened quietly. He'd heard the story of why Tatta had to leave before, but never from him, for obvious reasons, and hearing it told from his perspective that way was ... sort of eye-opening. Tatta was just like the heroes in the stories from his childhood - which made sense, considering most of them were direct ancestors, some of whom shared his combination of praenomen, nomen and cognomen, but still!
He'd always told himself that the reasons were noble and he shouldn't be too upset, but now that he knew just how strongly his father felt about that sort of thing, it was a bit easier to feel open with him. Titus would probably have done the same thing.
Of course he would've done the same thing, actually -- it would be the honourable thing to do. Especially if your friend the emperor your commander needed you. "Yes, I've heard of Marcus Junius Brutus..."
And now he was comparing Marcus Junius Brutus' plot to assassinate Caesar to a Euripidean play! Titus was sure that there were more educated and cooler comparisons to make, because obviously his father had studied more, but he was trying to explain things at his level, which most adults did only if they were being a) awful (something Titus could completely rule out from Aulus) or b) trying to include him in adult things (which was probably happening now).
It was ... so ... good. He almost missed the offer of victuals, though his nose led him to the conclusion that that was what they'd stopped for, anyways -- he made a little 'oh' of surprise and joy, then scrutinized the baker's stall for edibles, checking behind his back as furtively as he could to see if his father approved of his choice.
He wasn't no little punk with no little punk tastes!
Honey cakes ... globuli ... honey cakes ... globuli... placenta! A whole baking sheet of squares of placenta!
Definitely not little punk tastes. "Before you start on Brutus so that I don't interrupt you, let's have a few squares of placenta, all right?"
His best sweet, wholesome Ganymedean beseeching glance -- small Calpurnia would be proud. Not that he was lacking in the right emotion to put behind it; he just wasn't confident that if he let himself grin like he normally would, it wouldn't come out like some gap-toothed barbarian abomination expression.
... Not that he really minded at tis age if it did. Anything for quality layered dough pastry!
It must be even better here than in Augusta Vindelicorum!
Titus trailed after Aulus mostly in silence after that, admiring the fact that they existed in the same space and separately anxious about how he should act so as to not lose what limited favour he thought he had. Or had he already lost it going off like that? Was that too much in too short a span of time? He didn't frequently see actual relatives because the bulk of them - even the new ones he was only now meeting - had careers to attend to and were busy doing things that he was still too young to do. He didn't know. He kind of thought he might win it back if he was quiet and a little more reserved.
Occasionally they would pass something that he'd definitely never seen before, and Titus would keep his awe to himself, because -- and he'd known that before, but now it was attenuated -- it was kind of boorish to express too much of it. Except maybe in poetry, but he didn't really get that yet.
When his father finally spoke up again it startled him out of a sort of daze, and he did his best to pretend that he hadn't been in that either, scrambling mentally for answers but outwardly trying to stay composed.
"I like to think I'm not a bad student." Was that a good answer?
He really wasn't -- he could do arithmetic fine, even 'very well', and had put one of the few things he'd had time to learn personally from his grandfather (i.e. the place-memory trick) to very good use memorizing speeches and poems, and he was attentive to lectures even when the topics seemed to have nothing to do with anything. He suspected that was quickly becoming not enough -- before the move to Rome, which had begun sort of a Dog Days period of not really doing much in an educational context, his tutor in Raetia had told him he should begin to read didactic texts about poetry. He'd been good about going through them, and they were interesting even though the "click" of understanding and internalization hadn't really dawned on him yet.
"Do you like ... um," despite his awareness that filler words weren't good, it was this or swallow his tongue, "literary criticism? I don't remember you ever really talking about that with me before, but maybe I just didn't get there yet. I read 'Phoenician Women' for my tutor a bit before we came and, um, I don't get what the point was of making it so ... tragic. I understand that it's supposed to be about how it's difficult to balance duty to family with duty to the state and, um, the pursuit of happiness... but it's just so dismal. Why did Euripides choose to write it that way? I don't think we're supposed to do meta stuff yet, that's supposed to be for ... well, technically now, as in starting this year, but ... did ... um, do you know if he was in a big war or something like that? Was he in a situation where he had to choose between those things? Or do you not have to have lived something on that kind of scale to write about it? I thought ... you might know, since you did all this ages ago and, um," he glanced up doeishly, "you've seen... a lot of this kind of thing for real."
"I remember the house," said Titus truthfully; maybe it was best to branch out and begin from there. That was how Grandfather taught him to memorize things -- pick a long walk and imagine the ideas as objects along it, that you can see and touch. If he started at the house, then he would definitely recall something contextually appropriate...!
"You know, the house. Ours."
It occurred to him that all his memories of it weren't really dignified enough to bother his father with -- there was watching baby Calpurnia to make sure that she didn't fall in the impluvium and drown (as Calpurnias, Titus imagined, were wont to do if one but gave them a second's time to do it, nevermind that it wasn't really that deep), and then playing with the guard dog, and that time that he fell asleep in the lararium, and that time that he knocked a bust into the impluvium (he maintained that that wasn't his fault)... but all of that was so mundane.
He didn't remember doing anything cool in there. To be fair he'd been nine at the time -- but then, when 'the time' was only a couple years ago, one never really was able to judge oneself-from-the-past as a different person with different immediate definitions of cool.
"Well and there was the bath and the subura but we never really went there because it's just a subura, you know? There's that temple in the neighbourhood too that Grandfather seems to not approve of and Mamma has never been to," something about people drinking and partying with someone named Orgia in there (seemed like a Greek name), though what she'd done that was so undignified escaped Titus at the moment and he was above gossip, "and then ... oh!"
As much as he'd been trying to maintain the appropriate level of gravitas, he was excited to finally be remembering something.
"So if this is our house," he said, drawing a loose square in the dust with one pointed sandaled foot, "then here's these other houses -- that one's the domus Petronii Aquilini, I kind of remember them," or rather kind of remember they exist and hear their names around sometimes, but not if we've ever met before literally this year and am now terribly ashamed but doing a great job of hiding it. "And then there's the subura, which means the public pool is here, and the bath is that way..."
He thus lost himself for a few moments sketching out a map with his foot of the limited areas of the city he knew -- an oval shape for the immediate neighbourhood of their family home, then vague circles off to the side for places he knew were geographically probably related to other places that had their own circles. He'd never been to them, so he couldn't confirm -- he indicated the non-domus places he HAD physically been, a grand total of three he remembered because they were very close to the house.
"I know there's more because I've read about it, but I've seen none of it because I'm not allowed to go too far from the house on my own because it's Rome not Augusta Vind'licorum," he explained, parroting his mother's admonition, "and Mamma says I'll only be allowed to do that in Rome when I'm properly grown. House rule," he added apologetically, as though it being a Rule He Had To Follow somehow made up for how totally wimpy that must sound to an adult with Freedom.
(But then was even Aulus really free from Mamma's influence? And besides -- it did. If you weren't a law-abiding citizen then you were a crook and you'd get angry letters from the government.)
"I just want to see everything, you know? Now that I have you," still uncertainly, still as if that wasn't a given, "we can do that, right? We can just ... go and see the sights and buy sweet rolls and things."
If he were asked to be honest -- completely honest -- and he could somehow find it in himself to comply, Titus would be forced to admit that it wasn't really that he particularly wanted to walk around doing nothing. But every hour he spent walking around doing nothing was an hour of time to talk to his father, to learn what kind of person he was and bask in this weird ephemeral feeling of paternal love; part of him was anxious that it wouldn't be the same watching a gladiator fight or a chariot race or a play, because gladiator fights and chariot races and plays were all cooler than Titi. Titus recognized that, felt dwarfed by the history and the... happening around him.
Titus didn't remember much of Rome -- he'd been nine when he left, so the strongest snatches of memory were specific if hazy tableaux that didn't do much to contribute to a general impression. Some of the things stashed away in his memory were doomed to be forgotten; four years was a long time for the heart of the world, and as much as there were constants, many of the bits that would be noticeable to a child and call back the memories attached to them were variable for the simple reason that adults had ceased to find them noteworthy. Others changed because the people responsible for them changed, for various reasons; Rome seemed to Titus a colder city than Augusta Vindelicorum in spirit, and the climate, in a child's imagination that still tended to anthropomorphism, must have warmed specifically to compensate.
This didn't mean he didn't want to remember, though. His grandfather kept Vindelician and Raetian house slaves -- somethingeth generation, not really expecting much change in life -- who had treated Titus warmly enough, even taught him what they knew of the local speech, but although Raetia the place (at least Grandfather's residence there and the nearby city) felt like home, Raetians the people seemed to treat him and his as sort of outsiders. He didn't really blame them -- poor folk were like that with rich folk.
The divide seemed superficially narrower in the provinces, but although everyone clearly thought of Rome in theory as something aspirational, Rome in practice was far away and beyond most people's reach. And because people had sort of ... treated him specifically as a Roman, both citizen and unbelonging city slicker, for most of his living memory, there was something in Titus that wished he identified more with the city -- with what he'd comforted himself would welcome him a bit more warmly than local kids. He'd thought he would, but ... so far things were kind of ... hard to identify with. Very loud. And he'd grown a foreign accent while he was away, to boot, which he was really trying to lose -- it was working, but not near fast enough.
It would come with time, maybe. Hopefully. Maybe there was a transformative moment when you offered up your bulla and suddenly some benevolent genius loci appeared in your dreams to tell you all about how to experience patriotism, rather than the vague overwhelm and fear of not measuring up that weighed on his shoulders now.
For the moment, he nodded up at Aulus -- his father, this almost larger-than-life figure that had re-entered his life -- and managed an expression of owl-eyed, guarded reciprocal fondness. If he showed too obviously that he cared what he thought of him, that this feeling of being loved this way, this ... paternal sympathy had been missing for so long and he'd never even known, some irrational part of him still thought it might disappear again. And maybe it would; maybe the gods were apt to get exactly that disappointed in him. Maybe there'd be a revolt in stupid Britannia or something -- not that Titus was sure why, but it was the butt of a lot of dark adult jokes, so obviously there were solid reasons to revolt there.
"Not really," he said quietly, finally, by way of response. "I was a kid when we left, so I don't think I have much to remember it by."
Oops. "I-I mean, by which to remember it."
Darn provincial way of talking -- Titus straightened his back and pretended to be looking out at one of the temples so as to hide the big ol' honkin' thorn of embarrassment pricking at him.
(Big... ol'... honkin'? That definitely wasn't in any of the texts that had formed the basis of his education -- not even the theatrical comedies.)
"... I suppose I'll have plenty of opportunities to re... familiarize myself with Rome now." And with you. But he would never dare say that yet, just the same as he'd been careful not to call Aulus "tatta". Because that would be immature, and excessively chummy, and wouldn't he think he was weird if he was almost a whole grownup and still using baby words? (It was different with Mamma, obviously. Mamma was still sort of like a timeless entity beyond reproach and change in form of address.)
TITUS CALPURNIUS PRAETEXTATUS 13 | 7th october, 61CE | Scion of a senatorial family | Child | In discernment | Wanted - Sharpie| FC: Thomas Brodie-Sangster in The Last Legion (no idea what he'll grow into but this is more than wholesome enough)
Titus is very inquisitive and intelligent -- which, given that he's a child, you'd think would lead to problems. As an oldest son, though, and especially the oldest son of a Senator, he's internalized an understanding of his place in the familia and sort-of-kind-of in the broader gens, as far as he can keep straight at the age of 13.
He does have a charmingly old-fashioned, slightly naive outlook on mores -- the sort of thing that would come from spending much of early memory in one's grandfather's house, and be strengthened by the abiding sense of uncertainty generated by moving with as much relative frequency as Titus' family has.
Being surrounded by stories of ancestors' accomplishments, heroic military conquests, and the glory of the state was a constant against the backdrop of a slightly tumultuous early life; it therefore hasn't occurred to him and likely won't until much later in life that the social order isn't exactly great for everyone. Or maybe it has, maybe he's overheard Tiberius' house slaves talking, or picked up something in the street -- one never does predict all the uncannily adult conclusions children can come to.
Regardless, he squares a semi-denied awareness of the danger of the world around him (if not yet the scope of injustice that can happen in it) with his early childhood dreams by hoping to be the Big Man and do the Big Thing One Day, like most prepubescent aristocratic Roman boys do.
Obviously Nothing Intriguey And Bad Will Happen To Him, even though it's happened to others before.
His friends won't ever hurt him because he makes friends carefully. He stayed out of the way as much as he could and let the adults do adult things without snooping when he shouldn't (... mostly), so he's not a bad kid. He's a good kid. Good people make good senators, right? For the people? The other people. Yeah.
The path is laid out for him and he just has to follow it -- and if he's honest and forthright and makes his offerings on schedule well then great, he's going to be a great leader and do great things and his family will be super proud of him and then he'll find a wife and build a home and live in that home forever and ever and never move. Right?
Titus did put on a brave face during the family relocation he was old enough to remember, and superficially seems to have dealt well with his father's spotty presence in his life, but this kind of thing tends to affect children strongly, and his mother's general worry about his father and the family's social position has given him a worried kind of insecure attachment to the concept of Aulus specifically and home in general. He's very protective of his things and his relatives (particularly his little sister), and although of course he's being socialized to impassive stoicism in the face of all that worry, sometimes it manifests in face-affecting ways.
This wouldn't be so bad if he'd let himself be a child and learn at his own pace, but of course, like most bright oldest sons, he's convinced that he's basically a grown-up already even though he still has a bulla and isn't technically culpable for pinching sweetcakes from the kitchens yet. As Basically A Grown-Up he needs, of course, to maintain social face. His father went to war like three years after this age! He's not letting himself look bad by comparison!
That concern about face bleeds over into how he makes friends already -- he's too sweet and guileless to actually think in prejudiced terms or be deliberately mean yet, but he knows on some level which kids he's not supposed to hang out with because they're Bad Kids, and separately which kids would make bad (i.e. negative-face-generating) playmates, and on top of that he's pretty selective about who gets to get close. He already separates "rando I met" from "potentially useful acquaintance", "useful acquaintance" from "amusing acquaintance","useful associate" from "dangerous associate" and so on like an adult , filtering information he shares with each accordingly -- surely Papa would be proud.
The poor thing just wants to find a permanent place to fit in and please everyone -- the trouble is that this also struggles within him with the awareness that he's supposed to sometimes make choices that hurt people to help more people, and that sometimes the best thing to do for someone you love is the thing that Doesn't please them.
He probably doesn't really have a solid handle on what makes him "him" yet -- he likes studying, especially rhetoric and mathematics, but he's very hard on himself and has had his intellect emphasized all his life as his best quality, partially because he was somewhat sickly while he adjusted to Raetia. As a result, he has an unfortunate tendency to play it safe and give up on things outside that sphere if he thinks he could embarrass himself doing them, and conversely can be a bit excessively confident in his intellectual skills. He prides himself, rightfully but maybe a smidge destructively, on not being a snitch.
He's also got a sore spot -- insinuating that he can't do something related to the occupation he sees himself in in the future is a quick way to upset him profoundly and maybe get punched, if you're within the narrow but well populated list of social standings he considers punchable. That's accompanied by a bit of an inflated sense of honour and patristic concern; Titus likes to assert himself as leader of whatever group he plays in, oblivious to the fact that not everyone welcomes his leadership or his little nose poking into everything.
Titus is still a minor and accordingly dresses appropriately: knee-length tunic, cloak if it's cold, both made to last. He tries not to get dirty and seems a bit averse to dirt in general, but inevitably there are still mishaps. He tries to be dignified when he's out in public wearing the freeborn child's toga praetexta, at least, and he's got eating in it on formal occasions down. Mostly.
He hasn't hit puberty yet, so he's small and compact, with proportionately long limbs that presage a very awkward and very lanky adolescence. He has a furtive kind of glance and fidgets under stress, but smiles easily and generally appears to be very earnest and honest. His hair is a sort of ash- or strawberry-blond, depending on the lighting, and his eyes are a bright hazel, almond-shaped. He's maybe about three foot ten and clearly still growing into both his limbs and his ears.
Father: Aulus Calpurnius Praetextatus
Mother: Horatia Justina
Siblings: Calpurnia Horatia
Tiberius Calpurnius Praetextatus, Aurelia Faustina [paternal grandparents]
Calpurnia Praetextata [doting paternal aunt]
61CE - Birth.
62CE - Senatorial purges. Titus' father flees Rome under cover of darkness, leaving him and his mother temporarily now to try not to be forced to leave them rather more ... permanently later.
63CE - Aulus does things that Titus has no means to comprehend yet in Germania and later Britain; meanwhile, the small Calpurnia is born. Titus is thrilled, as much as a one-and-some-to-two-year-old can be; there's oddly not much of the typical jealousy over attention.
70CE - Aulus reappears from the military campaign void, then assumes governorship of and takes the family to Raetia. Titus is nine-ish. Nine-ish is old enough to be a little shaken, and to realize that one's sister might be shaken more, on the supposition that girls and baby kids are more fragile than whole grown nine-year-old boys.
74CE -The family returns to Rome. Titus has a little bit of trouble adjusting, having picked up social norms that could be considered somewhat dated and rustic while living in Raetia, but the promise of finally seeing the place he was born and will come to join the ruling class of is enough to make it easier. He's a quick learner and has all the tutoring he could possibly need... but who knows what sort of influences he might encounter here?
Mim | EST | modernist baba yaga#0721 [Discord]