Longinus stared a little dumbfounded at Aulus at his speech before hurriedly glancing down at his desk, pretending to sort various items of paperwork. He'd never really heard somebody speak about his abilities in such a complimentary way, at least not since Silanus was alive. His men didn't really count when it came to giving commendations. At Titus' thanks to Aulus' diplomacy Longinus raised his cup in thanks and muttered a; "For once I agree with the honourable Titus on something." And cast the younger man a sly, but friendly-enough smile. The thought occurred to him, very briefly, that should the trappings of rank and jealousy be removed - himself and Titus might have been friends. He was not to know that in years to come, he'd count both the men in the tent as his closest confidants.
At Titus' question he arched a brow and considered it for a moment; "Public, most likely." He shrugged his shoulders and continued to stack his scrolls, "At least for Gaius and Mantius. Fustuarium, I should think." He sighed. It was not an order he enjoyed giving out, but anything less than the most severe punishment would only show weakness to his men, which was not something he wished to do. "Appius will be flogged and broken down to a legionary." He continued, and once finished he resumed his seat and took a sip of wine, "I don't want to look petty by having them all executed because they've made me look incompetent." Besides, a flogging if delivered well enough, could be crippling and wasn't a pretty sight. He'd not yet considered an appropriate punishment for Tabnit, the slaver, but his thoughts on the matter were interrupted by the arrival of his Tribune.
The lad - despite his twenty-four years - looked as if he had only just put on his toga virilis with a lanky frame and a pock-marked face. He was not a man Longinus would have chosen for his deputy, but needs must. Besides, he was not to be in his position for much longer as Longinus had received word that he'd be receiving a new Tribune; Lucius Junius Silanus early the next year - a man he'd not seen since he'd ferried him back to Rome after Decimus' death when Lucius had only been ten.
Nodding his thanks to Attis, and barely disguising an amused grin as the Tribune struggled with the appropriate salutations, he waved a hand. "You know the legate Aulus Calpurnius, and this," He waved a dismissive hand at Titus, "is the Quaestor Titus Sulpicius Rufus. We have a task for you, but it needs to be completed discretely." Longinus spent the next several minutes explaining in intricate detail the outlines of the scheme they had uncovered and precisely what he wanted his Tribune to do; leaving no room for interpretation or mismanagement. When he was finished the youth nodded and hurriedly left the tent, determined to round up Gaius, Appius, Mantius and Tabnit as discretely as possible and sequester them away from the other men ready for Longinus to speak to.
When he was gone he glanced up dispassionately at Titus and offered a wry smile; "Content, Quaestor? That we're taking it seriously now?"
He fully braced himself for the stinging slap of a ringed hand across his face. He was not at all braced for her tugging on his tunic to pull him back into a heated kiss. He returned it with the same passion as he gave, moving a hand to cup the arch of her cheek - his fingers settling in her hair. Gods she was wildly unpredictable but he most certainly had no complaints. When she finally withdrew, he grinned at her - his buoyant, infectious smile and gently stroked his thumb across the arch of her cheekbone.
"They won't." He offered as an assurance and then glanced over his shoulder, "They're good slaves and you're lucky you've kissed a man who treats them too good for their own worth so they'll never risk my ire or they'll lose their privileges." Of which, they had many he thought to himself as he turned to look back at her.
His thumb continued its sweeping motion across her cheek as his heart rate settled. He felt alive, more alive than he had done in weeks - perhaps months - since he'd returned to Rome and after Antonia's passing. It was amusing to him, that a beautiful woman should be the one to show him what a stasis he'd been living in. He didn't, however, wish to push his luck. Much as a lesser part of him would positively leap at the chance of sweeping her literally off of her feet and taking her to bed, time in Britannia hadn't made him quite that much of a scoundrel or lacking in manners. Judging by the warmth of her skin under his touch and her words, moments previously, she felt uneasy about this and he was not a man to put aside another's feelings just so he could get his end away.
Leaning in, he left another lingering but gentle kiss on her lips and and then withdrew - leaving his forehead resting against hers. He spoke quietly but with genuine amusement and affection; "I'm not so roguish to presume I'm getting anything other than a kiss," He moved a hand to smooth down her beautiful waved hair, "But I need you to know that I like you, genuinely."
Longinus grinned and arched a brow feeling a current of danger like him; the thrill of anticipation and anxiety lest he make a wrong move. It was much the same hum as before a major manoeuvre or battle, although the only consequence of this would be a slap across the face if he put his foot wrong. He decided to risk it and with gentle words and an inclination of he his head, he spoke; "No, I suppose I'm not." And before he could say much more, he filled the void between them and left a light but lingering kiss on her lips.
The opportunity to deepen it, or do anything more than this chaste affection was squashed, however, by the clattering sound from outside the triclinium. He pulled back in surprise - his reflexes acutely tuned to sounds of violence or danger and glanced over his shoulder to see a pair of bare feet receding from view. A slave, eavesdropping no doubt whilst holding something metallic and heavy, had presumably dropped it in surprise at the scandalous actions of their master. If it was Attis' feet he saw, he swore to the Gods he'd wring the mans neck. As it was, he could only suffer the uncomfortable silence that followed and reluctantly turned to look back at Sestia - an uncharacteristic sheepishness on his face. "I..." He didn't know what to say and braced himself with a wince for a slap across his cheek.
Longinus rested his jaw on his knuckles as he listened, narrowing his eyes. "Why a waste of coin?" He asked, intrigued. Surely Juliana would not send a useless lawyer to defend Lucius, her stepson? And he doubted Tuscus would recommend a man without promise. But regardless, he listened to Lucius' quandary and tried to work through the various options, arching a brow as he appraised them like any good tactician or strategist would.
After some quiet when Lucius had finished speaking, Longinus sighed and moved his hand from his face. "I think you'd be in for a challenge to claim all you did was torch your possessions," He shrugged, "You risked fire damage to the neighbouring land if not the ground itself and Vitellia would likely argue that you shouldn't have built on it in the first place - so your possessions become hers by virtue of you building on her land." He was no lawyer, but he knew the cunning tricks of words they used to argue their cases and win their clients honour back. He moved a hand up to scratch the light beard he wore by habit of not finding a decent barber and considered his next words carefully. What could he do for his friend that would actually make a difference? His trial was around the corner and there were so few avenues open to him. After careful consideration as he glanced around the meagre cell and back to the man he called one of his closest friends.
"I will speak to Alexia, where is she now?" It wasn't like she had a domus to reside in anymore, he thought with dark amusement, "And let me do some digging into Proculinus. I'm not going near Vitellia with a ten foot pole," He chuckled, "I don't want my balls ripped off - but I'll find out what I can. When's the trial for the arson?" Surely it couldn't be more than a few days away. That Longinus would speak on behalf of his friend as a character witness, went unspoken.
His lips twitched upwards in a wry smile at her words. That she didn't move her arm away from his touch was something else altogether. He grinned at her mention of 'leeway' and arched a brow. "True, but then if either of us were to..." He narrowed his eyes, crinkling with amusement, "Enjoy some...leeway, what would the good honest pious of Rome think, should they ever find out?" His fingers still lightly trailed over her wrist and hand - finding the motion soothing.
What would people think? He didn't doubt that his closest friends; Titus and Aulus would be shocked. Then again, they both had seemingly perfect marriages and their wives were both still beautiful and young enough to be engaging. Longinus was, for all intents and purposes, thoroughly alone and even in his marriage he had hardly had the solace that a good Roman wife could bring. He considered the scandal only for a brief moment. He had no idea whether Sestia was all talk but no action - not that he'd mind either way. He was not a man so intent on bedding women that he'd take offence if her flirtations were as far as it went. Besides, he enjoyed her company as was; anything more would be an added bonus.
Still - tension lay heavy in the air and gently he raised his hand from her own to lightly run across the high arch of her cheekbone. He grinned; "Besides, leeway from the conventions is all well and good but I should hate to think you consider me the sort of man that is scandalous enough to invite you for dinner alone, send his family and all of his slaves away for...lascivious reasons..." He stopped his sweeping and settled his hand on her cheek, speaking quieter; "Even if you are maddeningly beautiful."
Longinus listened. He was not a man known for his patience; his energy seemingly unexpendabley, but when the situation called for or necessitated it, he could exercise exceptional restraint. This situation, it seemed, called for it. He hadn't intended to pry or make her uncomfortable and felt a wave of guilt wash over him, so, instead of responding or interrupting glibly he listened with narrowed eyes. He didn't respond to her posed question at first and instead stayed silent, mulling it over. In the end, he settled on; "I would think you would have found it hard. And dull." He smiled softly, without the wryness of earlier. Any woman, especially one as evidently vivacious and charming as his company would have found such a marriage difficult. He couldn't imagine it was a life many wanted to lead. "I am in awe you managed it." He added simply.
He couldn't help but wince at the mention of his daughter though and shook his head, "Gods, I don't even want to think about it." Because he'd only come back into her life two years ago - how could she be growing up so fast? "But I would ask her opinion," He shrugged, "She has a right to a say in the decision that momentous - although if she decides that the freedman slinging much in a popina is the man of her dreams, I will have to intervene." He added with a little grin and then almost choked on his wine, setting down the cup at her last question. "No - no young heiress," He raised a hand to rub the back of his neck, "Antonia was five years younger than me - I was twenty-five, she had just turned nineteen when we married and even that was a gap of significance in terms of maturity." His wife had always had a petulant streak about her, "I think I'd feel...downright..." He pulled a face, "Odd trying to find a wife that could conceivably be my daughter in age..." Not to say there weren't beauties, but life had shown him that marrying for lust would hardly work out.
The thought made him smile though and he daringly dropped his hand from his neck to rest lightly on hers. "Why?" He asked, innocently enough, "Did you have somebody in mind for me?" He moved his thumb lightly to trace the bone of her wrist.
Longinus arched a brow and looked up dispassionately; "Gaius Rabirius," He nodded and thought through the name in his head. He'd heard it before, although where and in what context escaped him. But it couldn't be anything good - few low ranking officers were mentioned frequently enough for him to know them intimately unless they had done something exceptionally well, or exceptionally poorly. He considered the odds and decided that the likelihood of this one doing something so exceptional as to arose his legate's approval was minimal given they'd not fought or gone raided in weeks. After a few further moments of silence he offered a weak smile, a shadow of his usual buoyant grin and nodded; "That's the one, I'm sure of it."
He glanced across at Attis, a crinkle of good humour returning to his eyes as he spied the slave sat on the floor dutifully examining scrolls. "Fetch my Tribune, Attis. Tell him I need to speak with him about supply chains." He didn't want to arose suspicion amongst the men if Attis was indiscrete enough to summon the young man in view of the others, although he suspected his dutiful slave had more sense than that.
He'd speak with the Tribune and delegate the logistics of apprehending Gaius, Appius, Mantius and Tabnit. They'd been encamped and marching for weeks now and he knew the young lad was getting restless; finding the monotony of camp life dull compared to his dreams of action and glory. It was a small task, but it'd give him something to do at least - although the punishment would of course be at Longinus' pleasure to dispense. Whilst Attis fetched the man, Longinus set to silently re-rolling all of the scrolls that littered his desk, silently, and pointedly ignoring Titus for fear he'd lose his cool, and Aulus by virtue of his embarrassment at this mess.
Longinus listened intently, with the patience he could muster. He was not a man known for enjoying sitting behind a desk or concerning himself with administration. It's why his mother had balked at the idea he had wanted a Praetorship in the first place. His Quastorship had hardly been an unrivalled success; Longinus finding the tasks monotonous and dull and not putting in nearly enough work as he probably should have done. This conversation was likewise not helping his passion for public service in the form of being a Praetor. Had he been a more honest man, he would have admitted such to Titus if not both of them; but he didn't want to lose face.
He knew perfectly well how his exceptionally early promotions in the military had riled his closest friend, and he knew he'd be equally susceptible to jealousy should Titus advance up the ladder and end up as a Governor somewhere whilst he was stuck at home kicking stones because the idea of a promotion bored him. He'd just have to suck it up, he supposed.
Casting an eye between the pair he arched a brow at Tertius, offering a good natured grin. "It sounds an impressive amount of work for sure," And none of it particularly interesting to him, "I'm not a man that likes to be inactive," Understatement of the century, "And I'm already finding myself bored and itching for something to do besides read accounts and correspondence. But one day I should think I'd like to return to the military." This was as much as he was willing to confess to Tertius, a perfect stranger, that a position as a Praetor was a necessary evil for him. Holding up his hands and reclining back on the couch he grinned across at Titus; "I've been stealing the conversation, I apologise. Titus - is there something you wish to speak of, or..." He arched a brow, "Does the sick man need his sick bed?" His lips twisted into a grin, as if in challenge.
Longinus smirked and clapped Titus hard enough on the back for the sound of the slap to reverberate around the small room. "Thank you friend you're too kind." He smirked and narrowed his eyes back at his friend. What did he care if the barber thought he was broke? Who was he going to run and tell? "Let us make this a fortnightly trip then, on your coin, as you so sadly point out I'm not sure I have the funds to keep myself looking presentable." Barbatius would likely see through the joke, but even if he didn't, he didn't care. Let Titus pay for his personal grooming for the foreseeable, that would teach him.
As Titus paid, Longinus inclined his head to the barber and then cast a glance at the slaves; standing perfectly still, eerily quiet. It was bloody unnerving and he quickly flashed a forced grin at the man; "Its been a pleasure, we'll leave you to get on with your day." He inclined his head one more time and shoved his friend through the doorway and out of the shop. Rounding on Titus when they were suitably out of earshot he rolled his eyes dramatically; "If you wanted to get me bloody killed you could have thought of a less elaborate way to do it than taking me to a psychotic barber." He chuckled and arched a brow, grinning; "Drink?"
TAG: @Atrice @Liv
Longinus out! Thanks for a fab thread!
Longinus quirked an eyebrow and glanced around. There were only a handful of slaves in the room to serve the wine and food, and their eyes were demurely lowered. Yet he was under no assumptions that when they left and went back to their own dormitory their tongues would wag and gossip would be spread across the house. He trusted his slaves, and it showed in the leniency he afforded them. Few masters he knew would tolerate Attis' cheek or Metella's eyeroll's, or even the fairly relaxed way most of his household staff carried out their business. But he afforded them those privileges to act as the humans they were, complete with personalities. He only asked for discretion and loyalty in return, which he felt he had. For Sestia, however, he could see her reluctance.
But he felt at a crossroads. To send them away seemed astoundingly presumptive, but to keep them meant he doubted he'd get much of an honest answer out of her. Weighing up the options, he was silent for a few moments and then slowly jerked his head, "You can all go." He didn't fail to notice the amused glanced a couple of them shot one another as they silently set down wine pitchers and platters and departed into the domus.
He cast an eye to her and debated holding out a hand for her to take, but decided against it. If the act of leaving them completely alone was unsettling to her, he didn't want to make it worse. Besides, she already thought him a drunken idiot and quite possibly a lothario - he wasn't going to solidify that impression (yet). He offered a gentle grin and stretched out on the couch, feeling the satisfying click of his neck as he did so. "And then there were two." He chuckled and sipped his wine. He didn't know what to say - he was no great conversationalist, especially with women. It had been years since he'd needed to impress one, after all. With a smile, he leaned his jaw on his palm and decided, for now, the conversation had better steer to safer pastures, lest she think him completely without manners. "So, now we are alone," He let the tense moment of anticipation hang in the air for a second before grinning, "I can ask you just how bloody awful it has been living with a man old enough to be your grandfather, and then your father." He chuckled and winced, "Is he still on the drink?" Whilst her father had an excellent reputation amongst the Senators of Rome, his habits had not escaped the wagging tongues of wives, and his mother had frequently mentioned it in his youth.