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Sara
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Early December, 74AD

Longinus winced as withdrew his head from the fountain, the freezing water dripping down his face and the coldness making him gasp and shudder. He enjoyed the Thermae less than he did his long, endless walks around the city but it was better for him, and he knew that begrudgingly. He'd spent most of the morning here, running laps around the expanse of the gymnasium and using the weights provided for patrons. Few paid him much attention besides a few cursory glances at his physique or the littering of scars across his torso, given he wore only his subligaculum. 

He felt the familiar, satisfying ache across his shoulders and even the ungraceful head-dunking hadn't cooled him off. Longinus was a man that hateddetested being idle and after almost a full lifetime spent in the legions, the sedentary lifestyle of Rome bored him. Most days he woke well before dawn (poor Attis being dragged up with him), and today was no exception. But rather than the usual drizzle of this time of year, the sun was shining bright and (slightly) hot and he had decided to enjoy it and give his long-serving body slave a break. Having walked a little he had found himself at the thermae, and the mornings activity had suitably worn him out. For now. 

Withdrawing to the side and careful to miss a group of men who were proceeding in some sort of race, he took a seat on a bench and exhaled a puff of cold air. Running a hand through his sopping hair (in desperate need of a cut) and across his beard (also in desperate need of a shave). He glanced around, in no particular mood to socialise but spotted a familiar face and with a frown, jerked his head for the man to join him. "...Decimus? Is that you?" He beamed a broad, inviting grin. "Gods, how are you man?"

 

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It was not often that Decimus found himself free to enjoy the gifts of Rome as he otherwise might've if he'd not been so gainfully employed. Being an active, and extraordinarily important, member of the army meant that his days were filled to the brim with all sorts of martial activities when he was not standing guard outside of an official function or in the halls of the palace at the behest of her ladyship. The concept of such a monotonous life had once filled Decimus's mind with dread and longing for the frontier that he'd left behind. As he'd become more accustomed to life within the walls of Rome, however, he'd begun to thrive in its familiar embrace.  He'd a constant bed to sleep in and the food was far more agreeable than it had been on the outskirts of those dreadful Pictish villages that they were often forced to scavenge from during Winter. He could hardly complain about the title either! Praetorian. He didn't think much of it now, but there were still some nights that he'd sit up and look at the ceremonial blade he'd been entrusted with upon his induction. 

With that in mind, "Days off" were few and far between. Today he'd been told that his presence at the palace was unnecessary. It wasn't unusual. He didn't often dig into the reasons why, but more often than not he'd be told that the Princess was doing something of a religious nature or was off and about with that Britannic shield-maiden Cynane. Nevertheless, he was always happy to lay down his sword for one day and think of himself for a change.

He'd arrived at the Thermae after  a long period of sword-sparring with a few other guardsmen. Fighting without a shield was almost a foreign concept to a common soldier, but it was an absolute necessity when one wasn't lugging a hulking frame of wood about to protect them everyday. The cool waters of the Natatio had been a welcome reprieve to his aching muscles. He was always amazed at how one could feel every sore and ache in the body after a short stint in the baths and today was certainly no exception. Exiting the pool and brushing out a bit of the excess water from his own hair, short as it was, he was quite surprised to see a man he'd thought long gone to the frontier. 

"Legatus?" he'd whisper to himself, slightly baffled at the concept that he should find Longinus here of all places! 

Decimus was not shy, and he approached with a knowing smile towards his old friend. 

"I am well, Sir! I see you've been shaken free of the Isle as well. The wilds too much for you?" 

Ordinarily he might have acted a bit more reserved around a superior, though Longinus was quite different. Already memories of cold nights overlooking various maps by candlelight had returned to his mind. As Primus Pilus he'd been privy to nearly all discussions of strategy and the like, not to mention an adviser on the current mood of the rank and file. 

 

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He grinned. He'd not been called Legatus in a long while, and it thrilled him, even if his company said it under his breath. He laughed and gestured to the seat on the bench next to him with a jerk of his head, offering it to Decimus. 

"Finally," He rolled his eyes not ready to admit to a man he'd not seen in years that he was yearning to go back, "And it was the drizzle that got me in the end," His grin broadened, "In the end the medicus told me that if I didn't leave I'd come back looking like a sponge from where the rain bored into me for years on end." Another bend of the truth (outright lie). He bloody missed the rain. 

Clapping the man on the back and then moving to wipe some of the fountain water from his face, he eyed Decimus. "When did you get back? When I left you were getting cosy with my replacement and storming about the hills." He chuckled. Longinus himself had been back for almost exactly two years now and had been bored almost instantly. Now, without the distraction of caring for Antonia and with his daughter occupied with Metella, he had grown idle. At least his friends were now returning back to the eternal city in dribs and drabs. He'd be bored absolutely stiff without them.

 

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"Would have been a pity for one Rome's great generals to come back looking like that." 

Shaking his head at the thought, Decimus made his way over to the bench and made himself comfortable on the smooth marble. Feeling the impact of that familiar hand on his back sent a chill down his spine. It brought him back to the moments leading up to one of the last great battles he'd seen against the northern tribes where he'd felt that confident pat on the back of his shoulder as the rattle of a thousand barbarian swords and axes echoed through the forest. That simple gesture had instilled confidence in the hearts of many during those campaigns from long ago. It was almost as if they'd never truly parted ways. 

"I'd say I came to the city about a year ago now... Something like that."

He'd snort when the suggestion was made that he was off "Storming" anywhere in the days after the Legate's replacement had taken command. 

"I wish! I'd wager we marched for a whole week before meeting resistance some days... Think they lost the stomach for it after they figured out they couldn't take shots at you anymore!"

A hearty laugh would give way to silence soon enough as Decimus looked over some of the nicks in his hands. 

"No, I was ordered to come to Rome to represent the Governor on some state business... It was only after a few weeks of being in the city that I'd been told to report to the Palace." 

He turned his head to meet the gaze of Longinus to measure his reaction when he informed him of the good news. 

"I am Praetorian now." 

 

@Sara

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Longinus arched an eyebrow. Several of his peers who had (finally) made it home from Britannia had complained of much the same; the boredom which had been frequent on his third tour had only intensified after his departure apparently. It made a sly grin stretch on his face at the thought and laughed boyishly at Decimus' remark. "I was always an easy target with that helmet." He chuckled, but couldn't hide the bitterness in his voice. Gods he missed it. 

He was about to enquire what particular business warranted a Primus Pilus rather than Tribune to carry a message but was cut off in thought by the revelation his friend and soldier had elevated himself so highly. 

"A Praetorian?" He beamed. He always thought Decimus would do well and was genuinely delighted for him. "And who have you got under your guard," He leant back and chuckled, "Anybody interesting?" The imperials were always interesting by virtue of the fact that they were so elevated. It was not a life he'd want for himself (not that he really had an option to, given the rank of his birth) to stand and watch princes and princess and forgo battles in some far off land, but he did understand the need for permanency and to belong, to settle, even if only theoretically. 

 

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Decimus rolled his eyes and smiled as he thought about revealing that tidbit to Longinus. Officially, of course, it wasn't exactly a good idea to go around divulging the fact that you were close to the ears of the highest authorities in the land to anyone who asked you. Being a guardsman went hand in hand with discretion, and the less people who knew exactly what you were doing in the palace the better. With that in mind, Decimus felt as though he could probably trust a man whose loyalty and dedication to Rome were unquestionable, especially to those who'd served under him. 

"Oh, I'd say so."  He'd say with a coy smile. 

Admittedly, he knew little of what other high-ranking nobles thought of her beyond the false smiles and political language they used with her at parties and other sorts of occasions. It was likely that she had more than a few admirers, though none could hope to win her very easily. She was a determined young woman, and one that Decimus was all too happy to serve... Even if he wouldn't be in the heat of battle every waking moment.

"I guard Claudia, daughter of Drusus." He thought for a moment on that. He was almost certain that was correct, but his memory from the readings was a bit foggy as it had been some time since he'd delved into the records. Before too long, though, he continued.

"Interesting enough?" 

 

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Longinus chuckled at the man's coy smile and arched a brow, genuinely intrigued. "Claudia Caesaris?" Both brows rose now and he studied the man before he said with a scoff, "Interesting enough, I'd say so..." He shook his head. This woman seemed to be at the center of so many of his recent interactions; Cynane and now Decimus and of course not forgetting her name so prominently on Titus' list of potential brides. 

"What's she like?" He placed his arms behind him, fingers curling over the edge of the bench and leant back. She seemed intriguing, and Cynane certainly seemed to find her company favourable but he suspect the ship had sailed on any potential match; both because she felt infinitely out of his league, and secondly because his dealings with the Varus' were progressing. That didn't quell his curiosity though, and he studied the man intently. 

Somewhere in the back of his mind he couldn't quite place the Decimus Rutilius Atellus he knew from battlefield and strategy negotiations, soaked in rain and battered in mud, with the man that now guarded princesses and lingered in imperial palaces. He shook his head as he tried to picture it and failed. "Are you enjoying it?" He queried with a good natured smile, "Don't ever want to go back?" He supposed he was digging at what the man had to keep him here, especially given how much promise he showed in the regular military. Most people probably would be confused at the sentiment, given the Praetorian's were the elite of the elite, but Longinus didn't necessarily equate their skills with those of his men who fought and died in the mud of Britannia. 

 

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