Longinus grumbled and narrowed his eyes in thought. He would usually have laughed about his mothers tendencies to overbear but he didn't feel a whit of humour now. "I'm not convinced she has any sense at all. My father balanced her out, now he's long gone all she has to focus her energies on is me." He shrugged. It would be different if he had any siblings; she could concentrate her attentions on a brother or a sister and leave him well enough alone to get on with being pater familias but as it was, she liked to interject at every corner of his live.
At Attis' interruption he dragged his eyes to his body slave and murmured a sarcastic; "What a diligent slave you are." But made no move to leave the pool. Neither titus nor Attis deserved to be on the receiving end of his foul mood, but he couldn't help himself. Relucntantly though he dragged himself out and moved to sit on the bench next to Titus - waving a flippant hand at his body slave to get on with whatever he was planning to do. He had to admit his muscles ached, but he'd admit it only to himself.
His jaw set in irritation and he was silent for another few long minutes, seething and contemplating; although he was largely seething at himself. When he did speak, it was directed at neither of them in particular. "I don't know how I'm going to show my face in Rome. Either I'm going to be the subject of much amusement or derision, or I'll get a dozen or so pity invites to dinner with smug married couples all petting my shoulder and murmuring there's somebody out there for everyone whilst trying to set me up with their hideous, irritating niece or daughter." He clicked his fingers for wine, which was almost instantly in his hand and he sipped it deeply. Gods above he needed to get out of this mood.
Longinus gave both men a side-eye that spoke volumes. His personality before all of this mess had largely remained unchanged since his teenage years; lots of laughter and boisterousness and a foolish amount of energy that rarely diminished and kept him taking odd hours. But he did have facets of seriousness. Nobody could be a legate without some degree of gravitas, even Longinus, and the night terrors (which had irritatingly worsened over the last month) meant he had the odd days where not even Attis could make him smile. Yet that was before. He'd been through plenty of hardships in his life thus far, and none had broken his spirit quite as badly as this. He didn't doubt that his friends saw this as a passing mood that would break within a month or two, but Longinus himself was unconvinced. What if something irreparable had happened to him? What if it didn't get better?
He mused in silence for a moment, bobbing in the water and face on his forearm - lent on the side of the pool.
There were, however, some practical things his friends could help with which were grim to think about but offered slightly more hope than discussing his new temperament. He glanced up at Attis, "Write to Vitus. Some of Sestia's things were moved into my house before the wedding, I want them gone. Not to Cassia, not to my mother, but out of my house. Understood?" he arched a brow at his slave, no trace of amusement in his voice at all. He glanced sideways at Titus, "Do you think it's fine to ship my mother out here for the summer? I don't particularly want to go back to Rome and have her bending my ear about this new widow, or this new heiress." He snorted but again, without humour. He wanted his mother and her nagging gone, much as she'd hate it.
He stifled a yawn with his forearm and added to neither in particular; "And feel free to daub over the graffiti of me fucking my now ex-betrothed, and instead write 'Sestia is a bitch' in nice big letters instead." She wasn't a bitch, and he regretted saying it. He loved her. He just hated that she had gone.
He could sense Titus' dislike of the silence and it made him smile a little more. That Attis was silent was disconcerting, but then he supposed he never really paid attention to his body slave when in company. When it was just the two of them, on occasion he had a mind to fetch a muzzle for him to stop his bloody incessant talking. He jested. He'd missed it.
At the question, he cracked an eye and peered at Titus and then around the room. "Oh." He commented before he shut his eyes again and rested (riskily) the wine cup on the edge before he proceeded to float on his back like a child in the water. Mercifully for Titus, should he be looking, he didn't quite manage it and his privates were concealed by the water. "I haven't done anything to it since it became mine. How old was I when my father died?" He called to Attis, and then frowned, trying to remember himself. "Twenty-two, maybe? So that's what...fourteen years ago." He shrugged and then cracked his eyes, peering up at the ceiling for a moment before he turned around and swam back towards the edge. He rested his forearms against it and sighed, "He was a grumpy shit, permanently morose." He chuckled, "And he deigned to decorate his villa to match his personality; all dull and cold. Antonia also added her own particular brand of rubbish to it." He reached to take a sip of his wine before setting it back down perilously close to the side.
He glanced up at Attis with an arched brow. "You remember my father, don't you? Sullen and salty? Maybe it's just a latent trait, I've been happy and fun and now I'm filling my familial duty by being a miserable bastard for the rest of my life."
Longinus glanced between the pair. There seemed to be some hostility, but that wasn't unexpected given the fact that Attis rubbed people up the wrong way just with a glance. He considered, briefly, that it also meant they'd not fucked because if Titus had taken some pleasure from his returned body slave, he was unlikely to be so miserable with him presently. Interesting. He said nothing, however.
He mumbled to himself as he relaxed against the side of the pool, bringing his legs up to float out in front of him and nearly dropping his almost full cup of wine into the water in the process. He didn't glance at either, content in the silence as he listened to the rhythmic drip drip drip from somewhere. He was usually not somebody that enjoyed silences, and liked to fill them with chatter, but for now he was content to stew in his own misery sans conversation. If that irritated Titus and Attis then so be it, he hadn't invited either of them here and he didn't particularly wish for them to stay. This was his house and if they didn't like the miserable, sour man than found then they were welcome to take their horses and fuck off. He didn't realise, but as he was day dreaming the image of tossing them both out on their arses, a smile lit up on his face.
Longinus arched a brow and peered down at Attis. "Attis, body slave and master military strategist extraordinaire." He chuckled but nodded his head, "But you're right. His century can look forward to some very early training for the next month." He did not enjoy creating discord with his men, but sometimes it was necessary. If a raw recruit like the one currently led flat on his back in the mud was the source of hostility in his century, then perhaps he'd pull up his boot laces and actually work harder. Or he'd break. But Longinus was banking on the former given the set of the young lad's jaw and the obvious irritation in his eyes. He'd be an excellent soldier by the time he left the ninth, and this was the first step.
Tertius skulked off, having pulled himself up from the mud - joining his fellow men on the sidelines and pointedly not looking in the direction of his legate and the willowy woman that had bested him. Longinus had to keep the smirk from his face as the woman showboated and dropped the wooden gladius. She'd be an excellent addition to the arena, of that he was sure.
He jerked his head at one of the men and spoke in Latin, "Take her back to her cell. And tell the bloody slaver not to touch her, I'm keeping her." The man nodded and moved to take Annis away but before he could, Longinus stepped forward and muttered in Brittonic; "You should be pleased, you've singlehandedly pissed off an entire legion." he grinned, "You did well - I'm not above admitting that. You'll go to Rome, and to a school for Gladiators - I'll sponsor you through it." He stepped back and then spoke in Latin to the assorted lot gathered here. "You all...well, mostly all performed well today. Gaius Avidius," He glanced over at the centurion of Tertius' century, "You'll be leading your men on close quartered, single combat drills at dawn, for the next two months." He heard a rumble of dissent through the men and Tertius' face flushed the colour of his scarlet cloak. "The rest of the men that fought today will receive extra rations for the next month." He inclined his head and the men began to disperse, some muttering and some grinning. He cast one final look at Annis. "Well done Annis." He said with respectful acknowledgement and turned on his heel to leave.
Longinus listened to the platitudes of Titus and Attis with vague interest. The dowry story was the easiest and most convenient thing he, and a very flustered and stressed Vitus, could come up with in such a short space of time. He had hoped it would be at least passably plausible. Then again - he supposed darkly - new gossip sprang up every day in Rome and by next week his indiscretion with Sestia; graphically depicted on the walls of the eternal city, would be very much old news.
He allowed Attis to help undress him - feeling the tension in his muscles and he pulled his hand across his neck to try and make it click. He'd been overdoing it on his runs and walks and swims and knew it, and his body was protesting. "Soak. If I steam my sweat will just be pure wine at this point." He muttered and moved, shamelessly naked, into the decent enough sized pool. Unlike his domus in Rome which contained all manner of eclectic things and decorations that he liked - much to the horror of his mother - he'd not really touched the villa. It remained largely the domain of his parents before his fathers passing, and then Antonia - and he smirked at the frescoes of lovers entwined as he sank into the water, but his heart caught. Hadn't Sestia mentioned something about visiting after the wedding, and helping him redecorate?
Trying to rid himself of the conversation and with absolutely no grace, he dunked his head under the water and came up with hair plastered all over his face. He moved to the side and held out his hand for a cup of wine. As Attis approached, he flicked his eyes between his body slave and Titus, referring to both as he spoke; "You two have a good time together then? At his place?" He jerked his head at Titus and glanced between them. He needed something to think about besides the conversation that now played in his head of the woman he was going to marry drawing up plans for the villa. The villa she'd never visit.
"I'm a mean man, Attis." Longinus retorted with a smirk. He was anything but the sort and his body slave knew it, he just enjoyed mischief and irreverence far too much for a man of his years and rank. Nonetheless, he firmly stood by this particular scene as something good for the morale of the men. He'd reiterate that to the Propraetor should he get called up on it. He lazily watched the youth swinging the sword like an idiot who had forgot absolutely everything he had been taught, and instead decided the military tactics of the barbarians were something worth replicating as he responded to his body slave; "And maybe. I must just keep one or two myself, and sponsor them through the Ludus."
As the woman tried to knee the young man in his nethers Longinus winced, feeling the boy's shame and embarrassment. He could not - however - stop the laugh that left his lips at the woman's words. He liked this one. He glanced down to Attis and repeated what she'd said in Latin for his benefit; "Apparently she thinks the men of the ninth are just boys who haven't got their cocks wet yet." He chuckled again and almost missed her landing a blow to the side of the boys head which felled him.
The young man tumbled into the mud and the crowd - previously jeering and shouting, fell silent. Longinus watched with a tensed jaw to see what both would do, with no desire to intervene. Either the young man would accept defeat, be humiliated but a good sport, or he wouldn't. The woman herself, could either claim the victory as she had it, or really try and drive home her win with another blow. He merely watched.
Longinus chuckled at his body slave and arched a brow. He couldn't remember the last time he actually went to the games and supposed Attis might have accompanied his mother or wife, or bought a ticket himself in the years before he'd dragged the poor sod to Britannia with him. He also trusted the man's eye.
He grinned wider at the woman's taunts, even if they weren't understood by most of the crowd - if any at all. Longinus, however, watched with hawk-like precision as the legionary's jaw tightened - evidently irritated by the woman's showboating and not incomplete skill with the shorter, wooden gladius. He swung high and missed and his colleagues from his cohort shouted encouragement. It wasn't too much avail, however, as he missed another jab aimed at her arm.
"He'll be in for a bollocking and a half from his centurion if he loses this." He said to Attis, with amusement. "My last three I sent to the arena were useless, kept losing. Bloody slave traders are charging me a rip-off fee now, so I need a good one to sell." He narrowed his eyes at Annis and silently encouraged her.
Longinus muttered a non-committal response of "Earlier." To the question of when he last ate, although truthfully it must have been some time yesterday. He had been known throughout his life for his odd habits and needless energy and exercised religiously to stave it off. Unfortunately, now his appetite was null and void but that daily habit continued he was looking wan and gaunter than usual. The question about when he last visited the in-house baths was not one that needed answering.
Reluctantly, he pulled himself to his feet and snorted a; "Thank you mother." At Attis' insistence. He had missed his body slave, and felt comfort from his presence - as he did with Titus' - even if he was loathed or unable to admit it in his present state.
He glanced dispassionately down at Titus on the couch and jerked his head. "Come on then, weary traveller." The slaves - he noted, had been standing around ogling their masters guest as they fluttered away as Longinus stepped through into the main portion of the villa - leading the way to the bathing facilities. His back was turned to Titus and he was relieved he didn't have to see the other man's face as he asked, quietly; "Does anybody believe the dowry story?" He prayed to Gods some did. His reputation didn't need denting.
Longinus was in a good mood. His men needed some light entertainment after a few weeks of skirmishes and irritant British tribesman trying (and failing, he might add) to raid the fort. And what better way to give the very finely honed men of the ninth legion - or fifty of them or so - a few moments of reprieve than their very own mini gladiator fight? Well, it would be with wooden swords and nobody would die but it would be better than polishing and marching and for him, at least, the mind numbing paperwork that came with organising thousands of men. The mini tournament also had the added benefit of figuring out with centuries needed shaping up. If they were beaten one on one by crippled Brits and women then they'd be humiliated, and in his mind, work harder the next time.
But as of yet, no Briton had won and Longinus, irritated at the haul of spoils, squinted at the mass of captives who had tried and failed with their wooden swords and nets to ensnare their Roman counterparts. He glanced down at his body slave next to him and muttered to Attis; "Well this is a shit show for them," He jerked his head back at the captives, "They all told me they were the best warriors in their bloody tribe. Not much cop if they can't even best a lad with a face full of pimples and about as much muscle as your little finger." He snorted in amusement and then stepped forward into the little roped off circle that had been marked out for the occasion.
"Gentlemen, gentlemen," He raised his hand and his men stopped talking, most of them grinning - buoyed by the amusement the afternoon had offered. "And for our last outing I am giving you something special." An oooh went up through a few of the lower ranks and he grinned. He needed the order and respect of his men, but that didn't mean he couldn't have a little fun once in a while, in a very irreverent, Longinus sort of way. He just hoped the Proprator wouldn't catch wind of his little games. If he did, he was sure he could bluff his way out and say this was a military drill. He hoped. "For the glory of our wondrous ninth, we have Tertius Mucius Cornix!" The gangly lad stepped forward and grinned to his friends. Longinus arched a brow. Nobody had spotted or paid much mind to the woman standing a little way off and Longinus grinned. "And for the unfortunate British, we have the lovely Annis." he extended his hand and the blonde was pushed forward, a wooden training sword deposited at her feet.
Longinus withdrew to next to Attis and grinned down at his body slave. "What do you make of her?" He jerked his head at Tertius to indicate they should start this little faux-fight.