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July 74CE

He had seen and heard that his younger brother had returned to Rome. With him, his children would be staying with him and as the Paterfamilias of the family, he would make him welcome. Quintus was excited to see Titus' wife and children again, also. Rooms, food and wine had been prepared. Everything had been made ready while his militaristic returned to the city of Rome. Quintus sipped some wine and thought of the memories of their childhood. The rapid flight made by Titus to the east to Quintus Caesar, and him spending his own beloved Cornelia and Venusiana away in order to protect them from harm during the purges. He had stepped into the arena with first the dictator and the mad Clemens, ready to do what was necessary. Those years were long ago now. There were times when Titus was able to return to Rome. He smiled into his reflection in the wine, frowned a little and lifted his gaze when one of the household slaves informed him that his brother had come. His wife and children would come later. 

Quintus stood and walked directly into the atrium in order to greet him, already Titus' belongings were being brought in by the household slaves and taken to his old rooms. Quintus approached him, extended his hand for a handshake and pulled his younger brother towards him. Pulled him into a warm, affectionate hug and held him. "Titus! It is good to see you." He exclaimed, greatly missed his sibling.

Then pulled back to get a better look at his younger brother's face. "You'll need to have a shave before Sulpicia sees you." He teased, their elder and bossy sister would insist on being properly dressed. Fortunately, she lived with her own husband and tended to nag him more than them these days. "Come, food and wine have been prepared. Cornelia will see you later, she is currently visiting her relatives. How is Valeria?" He asked and walked, expecting Titus to follow him. 

@Liv

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It was good to be back, but it was great to be home. Rome was, of course, home to any Roman worth their salt, but sometimes the lofty ideals of patria were supplanted by a simpler, baser need for refuge and belonging. As one of the household slaves welcomed him into the house that had been their parents' and was now his brother's, Titus couldn't help but reminisce. It had been years since he had last set foot in it, and the decorated walls had been witness to many things: his decision to join Quintus Caesar in the east, his brother Quintus' own one to stay in the city and protect the family from the lunatics that pretended to be the righteous rulers of Rome, their shared worries as to the safety of their wives and children... And older things still: Quintus' marriage, Sulpicia's cunning schemes to get out of trouble, himself swinging a wooden gladius at one of the slave boys in a play fight. It had been so long ago that it may as well have been in another life, a more innocent one.

As he saw his older brother come into the atrium, Titus broke out into a merry grin. "Quintus, my brother! It's been far too long!"He returned his brother's hug with a bone-crushing one of his own. Despite the years and miles that had separated them, their bond remained as strong as ever. "Is she here? I better borrow your tonsor before she shaves my face off too!" he laughed heartily. Sulpicia was a formidable woman of an even more formidable temper, and only the unwise should tempt her to unleash it. Yet it was also true that he should start to look more presentable and get rid of that itchy stubble, now that he no longer had the excuse of a long journey with limited tools and no skilled barber.

He followed after Quintus through the familiar spaces, studying his brother's back. He looked healthy, but tired, and when he'd pulled back from their hug, Titus thought there were deeper lines on Quintus' face compared to the last time they'd been together. Politics could be far more gruelling than most would believe, and a consulship could be just as much work as it was an honour, if not more - and was Quintus any less busy now, as a former consul, than he had been two years ago? For a fleeting moment, Titus felt what he thought was pity; at least in Dacia they fought the enemy with gladii and pila, not with intrigue and rumours.

"You're a far better host than I deserve, brother," Titus chuckled. There would be no shortage of delicacies, and dared he hope for some honey cakes too? "I trust Cornelia is in good health?" His brother's wife had seemed to recover well after the difficult birth of their youngest a few years ago, but one never knew with women - healthy as a horse one day and at death's door the next. Valeria seemed to be an exception so far, seemingly having a stronger constitution than most women, but for how long would the gods maintain their favour? "Oh, she's doing well. Grew chattier and more excited the closer we got to Rome, though you know she'd never admit it. That is, until we got word on the way here that her father was doing poorly, so she made a detour to go see him first - sends her deepest apologies to her beloved brother-in-law, of course, and hopes you can forgive her rudeness - and will join us later along with the children."

He smirked conspiratorially at Quintus. "So for now it's just us two brothers, eh?"

@Gothic

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Quintus and Titus could not have been any more different. Quintus was always better in the political sphere while Titus was militaristic in nature. Yet differences aside, there was a warmth between both brothers who had to deal with Sulpicia's demanding nature from childhood. He groaned into the hug, Titus had always managed to forget his own strength and nodded. He clicked his fingertips and the household tonsure slave approached with his gear ready to get it done. Sulpicia was both formidable and determined to maintain high standards for the family. Even if her brothers disagreed or protested with this statement. Perhaps she won't shave his face off yet she would certainly berate him endlessly until he complied with her wishes. 

These years had been long and stressful yet they were not as draining on him as the civil war nor the reign of Clemens. There was the constant risk that at any moment he would be dragged off or news of his family being slain would finally reach him. Those years had taken their toll. Yet the reward was great and the ultimate survival of his family was worth any stress as payment. The Dark Gods had been kind. 

"Oh nonsense, brother, you are a worthwhile guest and always welcome here," He answered with good humour, and nodded his head. He was blessed with Cornelia as his wife and with Venusiana as their lover. Both women were vital to his health and happiness. "She is, and will be pleased to know you asked of her. Hopefully you will see her before you leave for home," Quintus answered, and sat down on the reclining sofa while slaves began to tend to them. Food and wine was brought for them. Quintus extended his hand and a full goblet was placed in it before being brought to his lips. Valeria, Titus' wife was healthy and strong as a horse. No doubt she would give Titus healthy sons that would serve well in the legions. He knew her father and regularly saw him in the Senate. 

"Oh, I am not offended, brother," He said, held up his hand and smiled kindly. A parent's illness was never easy to cope with and the Gods could easily snatch him away. "I hope the illness soon passes, and will look forward to seeing her along with the children." Quintus laughed and shook his head with amusement. Titus had not changed much since childhood in that area. 

"It certainly is, and with no Sulpicia to plot and scheme against." He winked back at his brother. Poor Sulpicia. Perhaps they were the reason for her behaviour? 

@Liv

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The barber slave came swiftly, bearing the tools of his trade. Titus glanced at him, then at the wine and delicacies Quintus' slaves had set out, and knew he had a couple of seconds to decide what to do first. Neither option was particularly good manners, but he was at home, with family, and that stubble was itchier by the minute, so manners be damned. 

He nodded at the tonsor and the man set to work with practiced ease. Titus could only grunt in agreement and acknowledgement at his brother's words, as nodding or speaking would have been an unnecessary risk with a sharp blade sliding along his face and neck at the tonsor's whim.

It was over a few minutes later, and Titus ran a hand through his newly-shaved face. The skin was as smooth as a baby's, and he thanked the barber with a "Very good" and a nod of dismissal. Now he was presentable again, if one of their lady wives or sister suddenly made an appearance.

"That was the best shave I've had in months, make sure to keep that man around," Titus commented as he held out his hand for a goblet of wine, which a slave quickly filled and passed to him. The drink was exquisite, a fine vintage that felt like liquid velvet as it went down his throat. Quintus spoiled him.

Titus raised his half-full goblet in a toast. "To you, brother! And to the gods that have held us in good health and allowed this meeting to happen." He helped himself to some fresh bread and sausage. After the boring meals of his journey, this felt like a banquet fit for an emperor, and it was only embarrassment that kept him from licking his fingers.

"I bet he will be good as new when he sees Valeria," Titus jested about his father-in-law; however, the smile quickly gave way to a more serious countenance. "I do hope so, too. Old Publius may be grumpy, but he's a good man." And a doting father and grandfather, even if he did not always want or like to show it.

"You speak as if we ever stood a chance against Sulpicia's own plots and schemes!" He laughed raucously and snapped his fingers for more wine. "She was the teacher and we the hapless victi--pardon me, students. Ah, good times." The sofa was so very comfortable, and Titus leaned back onto it.

He took a swig of the wine, almost emptying the goblet. "So tell me, Quintus. What has transpired while I was away that I should know of?" 

@Gothic

 

Edited by Liv
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Quintus watched as his brother received a shave and silently approved. It was the sign of civility to be beardless. With beards being reserved solely for the mourning period. The Senator preferred the finer things in life. Clothes, food, women, and the company he chose to keep. The same included slaves and servants who would serve him. "Naturally," He answered. 

The brothers were opposites when it came to their lifestyles and appearance. Quintus in politics and Titus in warfare. He smiled, raised his goblet in happiness and it was good to see him again. "Indeed, indeed! And to you, returned to us, safe and in good spirits!" Quintus exclaimed. There was a brief look of distaste as his brother aimed towards the sausage. They were too barbarian for his tastes. But people would occasionally indulge in foreign foods. He gave his brother a brief look and was thankful that their eldest sister was not there to chide them both. 

It had been sometime since he had seen the grumpy, old Publius and smiled at the fond memory. Publius was a good man. Quintus nodded in response, smiled and chuckled. Their eldest sister was certainly a character that none of them could possibly avoid. Sulpicia certainly let her feelings be known when she was not happy about something. 

"Oh Gods! Above and below! She could be wicked, couldn't she? Fortunately having children mellowed her out a little," He teased cheekily. Of course, would both men be so bold if their sister was around? Possibly not. 

"Hmm, that depends. Do you mean familial related or do you mean politically?" He asked. Both, especially for noble families were closely intertwined. 

 

 

@Liv

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Under his brother's pointed scrutiny, Titus almost felt like a child caught being naughty. At least Quintus was content to express his disappointment with only a look; their sister would have slapped his hand away and sent the sausage flying off it. Rome had no problem appropriating gods and goddesses of conquered lands and putting its own spin on them: why not do the same with food? At least cheese and charcuterie - ale was a different story and well beyond a line that should not be crossed.

Slightly abashed, he forwent the sausages and picked up a small honey cake instead. It was crunchy on the outside but deliciously soft on the inside, and Titus let himself get lost in the flavours for a moment. As a child, he'd often plagued the kitchen slaves to make some and not tell his parents, and the present chatting and ribbing about their sister brought back a warm, comfortable feeling inside his chest. "Mmm, like a snake," he nodded, wiping some crumbs off the corner of his mouth. "Don't know if it was the kids or Lucius that made her calm down a bit, though." Their brother-in-law might have had a hand in it too.

"Well, I was actually thinking of both, to be honest," Titus admitted while sipping on what was left of his wine. "But family comes first, so I'm all ears!"

@Gothic

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He could not help but remember the food in military life. Quintus gave his little brother a slight look of disgust at how much pleasure Titus was from eating a small honey cake. Titus liked his sweets. Quintus remembered using them to bribe his younger and smaller brother to do what he wanted. Quintus had the brains and Titus had the brawn. Quintus took another mouthful when their wicked sister was referred to as a snake. He pretended to choke and look around the room. Just in case she would suddenly appear and punish them for daring speaking out against her. 

"Snake? A snake, brother! Even for our dear Sulpicia, that is is quite harsh," He answered. An amused gleam in his eyes and could not quite hide his amusement at the comment. Quintus reached down to grab a napkin and tossed it towards his brother in a not so subtle hint. It was followed by a good-natured wink. 

"Oh, I'm not sure, I think she spreads it out amongst all of us," Quintus grinned. He paused to think about their family, and in turn, their extended family. "The children are good, Quintus (his eldest) is becoming a man, and eventually the rest of them will grow older and become adults." He answered, there were several times when he worried about the future with the darkness of the civil war that loomed. The children were growing into adults, and they would soon become the grey elders of the family that the children would judge.

"Nelia is also well, radiant as ever," He beamed proudly, his wife was still beautiful and he respected her mind. "Venusiana is also well," He added about the not-so secret partner he and his wife shared. However, many believed she was a close friend of the family. 

"Come! Tell me, what of your family?" 

OOC: Let me know if you're okay with what I have said. 

@Liv

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First the sausage, now the honey cake. Whatever Titus ate, Quintus seemed to disapprove of it. But why serve all these delicacies, then, when his brother knew so well how much he liked them? It could be Quintus' roundabout way of taking the mickey and making Titus feel like they had travelled thirty years back in time and he was just a gluttonous little boy, easily manipulated by promises of sweets from his older siblings and not yet quite clever enough to figure out just what said promises entailed. 

He pretended to be all contrite about the less-than-positive way he had spoken about Sulpicia, but it was all in good fun. Titus himself had had worse insults directed at him coming from their sister's lips, especially when the age difference had made their interests utterly incomprehensible to one another. He shot Quintus a bashful look that lasted all of three seconds before it dissolved into a fit of laughter as he batted away the napkin thrown at him. "First you condemn what I eat, then you scold me, and finally you attack me with a napkin. If I've worn out my welcome, brother, you need only say it and I'll show myself out," he joked, gasping for breath between laughs. Barring when with Valeria, he felt hadn't indulged in such familiar fun in far too long.

Hearing that Quintus' family was doing well brought a satisfied grin to his face, and also a slight pang of sadness at not having had so much to do with them over the last few years. That had been his choice, and he was far from regretting it, but just like with his own children, it meant he had missed out on some of the simple pleasures of civilian life: watching his kids play with his nieces and nephews was one of them. "When is Quintus Minor donning his toga virilis?"

Titus took another sip of his wine as his brother went on to mention his two wives, not in the slightest disconcerted by it. "I hope I get a chance to greet them properly later." Their arrangement - the particulars of which were of no interest or concern to Titus - had existed for a number of years and similar ones were certainly practised in domi all over Rome. He did not accord Venusiana the same deference he treated Cornelia with, but that had more to do with birth status and family prestige than the place each occupied in Quintus' life.

"Oh, they're well. Flacca is delighted to be back," he commented, unusually referring to his eldest by her seldom-used cognomen to distinguish her from their sister Sulpicia; in Titus' own house, it would not have been necessary. "Rome's a lot more interesting place to be than the backwaters of the empire when you're turning into a young woman, you see. There's 'fashion' here." His eye roll and sudden falsetto were a faithful impression of his adolescent daughter. "Publius is doing fine too. He's not too fussy, thankfully. Which is more than I can say about Valeriana... Did you know she tied herself to a tree when we told her we were leaving? Didn't want to come." Now he could chuckle about it, but at the time it had been a veritable test on his patience. What god had he affronted so badly that they saw fit to make his youngest daughter take after her paternal aunt in character?

@Gothic

________

It's totally fine, no problem at all! He does have a weak spot for honey cakes 😅

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