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Lucius Cassius Longinus

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Mid November, 74CE

Longinus leaned absently against the building on the corner by the Podium Praeconis. He needed to get out of the house, its atmosphere was stifling and Cassia still refused to leave her room, despite his attempts to lure her out with treats and the promise of her favourite activities. His own grief was more complex than his daughters - she was a child, and all she knew was that her mother who had been there - dotingly - since her birth was never coming back. Longinus, who had spent the majority of his marriage apart from Antonia simply felt...restless, like he'd lost his peace. He grieved her, he did, and felt her absence around the domus but their strained marriage had resulted in a conflict of feelings which he was attempting to suppress as hard as he could. 

And what did he usually do when he was irritable or uneasy? He stretched his legs. He'd walked aimlessly around the city, trailed faithfully by his body slave but he'd sent the man away now and had drawn to the Podium. He felt so out of touch with the city - with its politics, which he took little interest in and general happenings. 

He raised a hand to rub the beard which he knew he should shave off  - but felt little inclination to, and yawned. Gods this city. He glanced around and noted the thronging crowd, which made him shudder and the shadows cast by the dominating landscape of temples and buildings that stretched farther than the eye could see. It was not an environment in which he felt at home and wished he had a drink in his hand. Gods he was so bored. It was serendipitous then, as somebody spoke up and he turned his face to glance at the new companion. "Hm?" He frowned, urging them to repeat whatever he missed.

 

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Aulus had been in the Forum on business and found himself near the newsreader, who did not seem to have much of interest to announce this morning. He admired the man's slaves in their short tunics for a moment (and decided he would have Felix spend the night in his bed tonight) before turning to find a familiar figure nearby, looking bored in a less studied way than a younger man would when trying to impress his friends and slaves.

His initial greeting went unheard, but was at least enough to disturb the other's reverie.

"I said, I thought it was you, although I don't think the beard suits you," Aulus said again. It had been easy enough for him to have gone unheard; the Forum Romanum was the busiest place in Rome, and the other had been deep in thought. 

"I wasn't aware you were back in Rome," he added, offering his hand. "I am sorry for the loss of your wife."

 

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He grinned and reached out to clasp the other mans forearm, "You sound just like my mother," He released his grip and moved a hand to brush over his jaw, "I think its quite fashionable personally." He didn't, he just didn't care enough to remove it and now that several of his friends and acquaintances had made a point of commenting on it, it was almost a point of principle and dark mischievousness to keep it growing. 

"It's good to see you Aulus, and mhmm," He nodded, trying to count the months before shrugging, "January before last now. Crossing in the winter wasn't my finest idea but made it home safe." He shrugged. He might have preferred not to, it would have at least been more...exciting had he done a Varus and got himself kidnapped by Gauls on the journey back. 

The mention of Antonia wiped the perennial smile from his face, however, and he awkwardly but graciously inclined his head. "Thank you. We..." He sighed, "Saw it coming, she'd been unwell for a while," And he wasn't sure he'd ever get the sound of her hacking cough out of his head, "But it was...is still difficult." Talking of his wife was difficult. It would have been more straightforward had their marriage been happier, he supposed, but he wasn't entirely sure she ever forgave him from taking up post less than a year after Cassia's birth. And he'd never really forgiven her for trying to make him stay. 

With a smile he arched a brow, "And how is the great Governor of Raetia faring, what brings you back to Rome?" Longinus had never been particularly good at keeping up with news and hadn't heard he'd been recalled to Rome.

 

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"No longer the Governor of Raetia; I've been there for three years and Quintus Caesar thought it was about time someone else got the headache of overseeing the fortifications along the border there. Thank the gods for the Danube." It had been with a peculiar mix of regret and anticipation that Aulus had made the journey back with his family to Rome. Representing the Emperor had its ups and downs and resigning his imperium had at least allowed him to spend more time with his son and daughter. "We were fortunate not to make the journey in winter - and doubly fortunate that Raetia has a land border with Italia. A sea crossing in winter - you have my sympathies."

He adjusted his pallium. The garment was lighter and easier to wear than the formal toga, and more personal besides, but it was not his formal military uniform, his preferred clothing. "What of you? Are you looking for another military appointment or have you decided to try for a political office this time?"

It would be interesting to see who got what positions come January, he thought; several of his friends were interested in one political position or another.

 

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He could't help but mask his surprise. Was he that out of the loop he'd failed to notice one of his friends, or at least one of his acquaintances returning from Rome? He grinned though, "I don't envy you. Better than Rome though?" He asked, out of interest. Even doing building work sounded more enjoyable to the perennially active Longinus than milling about in Rome doing nothing of consequence. But the mention of 'we' piqued his interest and he arched a brow, "You went with your family? Your wife..." He winced, but smiled with good natured friendship, "Her name escapes me but I'm sure the lovely lady is pleased to be returned at least?"

At Aulus' question he laughed and rolled his eyes, "Well, if you ask Titus Sulpicius Rufus I'm supposedly supposed to be speaking a praetorship," He watched Aulus' reaction, seeing if the idea sounded as ridiculous to him as it did to Longinus himself. He respected the man, they had shared interests from their brief interactions in Britannia, and he also knew the man preferred the military to civil route through life. His estimation of Longinus' career prospects would be a good help to deciding his future, "But that was a bet and I'm not sure I'm honourable enough to stick to it." He shrugged and sighed, "I'd prefer the military but where else is there for me to go?" He sighed again, and wished he hadn't sent Attis away to waste away his time on Metella, he could use a drink. "And you? Now you're back in Rome?"

 

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"Well, different to Rome. More mountains, and far more civilised sort of barbarians - at least, the ones on this side of the Danube. The rest - even you might appreciate the challenges presented by the German tribesmen. I spent the three years of my propraetorship in overseeing the construction of a wall and chain of forts to protect the part of the border north of the Danube. It isn't all military exploits and laurels to be won, to be sure, but there are more challenges than merely military operations."

It probably wouldn't appeal to his friend, but it had suited Aulus surprisingly well. Beforehand, he would have said that he was, like Longinus, purely interested in a military career and had taken political positions more from necessity than conviction (his very first political role, as quaestor, had been rudely interrupted less than three months in - but that was hardly typical).

"I think you'd make a good praetor, you know - there's less marching about, but the majority of it is just like running a legion. Anyway, it's only a for a year - besides which, I'm planning on running for consul for next year. Who knows, you might end up in Judea or somewhere afterwards. I hear it's like Britannia but rather warmer. The natives are just as opposed to Roman rule - and they have only one God, can you imagine that?"

He clapped his friend on the shoulder. "Sounds like you could use some wine - much better than listening to announcement after announcement about runaway slaves. Come on."

 

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Longinus arched a brow, listening to Aulus' work. He was mistaken if he thought that the younger man wouldn't enjoy such activities; he relished the satisfaction of completing projects, overseeing men (and with the prospect of some skirmishes to add some excitement). Still, he didn't expect his friend to understand, most of his friends had only ever seen him in the theatre of war. 

"True, but that requires me to actually manage to get a praetorship." He snorted in amusement. He'd never had an ambitious bone in his body to move up in the world of Roman politics, and that might well serve to disadvantage him against people like Titus and whomever else was in contention. But he smiled back and inclined his head, "Of course you have my full support if you intend to run for Consul." He couldn't help but imagine that Aulus would excel at it, he had all the seriousness and gravitas that Longinus himself lacked. 

At the mention of wine he beamed and adjusted his pallium, gesturing for Aulus to lead the way. He decided to omit that he had been lingering to hear if any of the descriptions matched those of his long-sold son. "How are you finding being back in the city?" He asked with an arched brow. 

 

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"I don't see any reason why you shouldn't get it, if you want it. You're more capable of doing it than some of the others, and it isn't as though there are only two places."

Titus would have his support, too, but Aulus did not wish to see a man as capable as Lucius Cassius Longinus waste his time twiddling his thumbs waiting for a military appointment somewhere when he could be putting those skills (or a number of them) to use in the meantime and keeping his name in Quintus Caesar's mind as someone who would be suitable for whatever military service he required. 

"So, how are the wilds of Britannia? As cold and dreary as I seem to remember?"

 

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He arched a brow, "Is it odd to admit I actually quite liked Britannia, despite the cold and the damp?" He chuckled, "But it was peaceful enough when I left. A few fools trying their hand at retaliation, but it really was quite dull towards the end." As it often was at the close of a war. Lots of logistical challenges, administration concerns but nothing to really stimulate the mind or the body. But as always, Longinus looked back at his time with rose-tinted glasses and would jump at the chance to return, if asked. 

He smirked a little with an arched brow, "But even if the last few months were a little dull, I was compensated handsomely." He had more spoils, gold and slaves, than he knew what to do with now. 

He glanced ahead - realising that he hadn't a clue where Aulus was leading them but presumably a tavern of some sort. Longinus wasn't a man with many airs or graces, anywhere with decent wine or ale would suit him fine. He arched a brow and looked across to the older man, amusement on his face. "You didn't answer my question though, what it's like to be back in Rome? That bad, eh?" He was jesting, but could appreciate if it was the case. He was bored absolutely stiff, himself.

 

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"Well, I haven't heard any disputes or settled any riots - though the Raetians are civilised enough not to have those as frequently as some people. I don't think I crucified as many barbarians as you probably have, either. Rome seems... about the same as it ever did, with the addition of some fine new buildings. And right now, I don't have to worry about the price of bread, or laying on games or hearing court cases."

The grin he sent his friend bordered on boyish before he sobered again. "Here, will this suit you?" he enquired, pausing by a wine-shop. This close to the Forum, it promised to be a semi-decent sample of the breed, it would have senatorial patrons on a regular basis. 

 

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He grinned and rolled his eyes, "Rome will never change. I was out at the villa for most of the summer," He'd begun to see the eternal city as some claustrophobic nightmare and had retired to the villa he'd purchased some years ago at the start of June and had stayed until September had settled in. "I came back and I swear the newsreader was reading the exact same announcements about the exact same slaves and grain as when I left." 

He indicated with a nod of his head that the establishment would be fine. He ducked his head into the entrance and found a table close to the window. Even in November there was little breeze and the city was still stifling, especially for a man who had spent so many years in the damp of Britannia. 

The owner or a very well turned out slave or freedman flustered over and after gracious welcomes to the two Senators flustered through his offerings. With a boyish grin he gestured to Aulus, "He'll choose or we'll end up with piss in a pot and I won't hear the end of it." He'd never really had a taste for the fine things like many in Rome did. A girl brought over a few snacks and Longinus picked at a few, "Seen many of our mutual friends since you've been back?" he pondered as he tore at some bread, "Gods I think it's been years you know since I've seen some of them." Titus was the exception to that, but then their identical ages and career trajectories had landed them closer than Longinus was with others. 

 

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