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"He's probably feeling a bit threatened. And he's going to be paterfamilias - isn't his paternal grandfather dead? So he's got all that responsibility and nobody to show him how it's done. And here you come along, hero of Britannia and want to take his mother away too. Have you told him you don't plan on that?"

He probably hadn't, which just went to prove Aulus' point that Longinus was an idiot. A very nice idiot, and he wasn't one when it came to command of a legion, at least. And Aulus would thrash anyone else who tried to call Longinus an idiot. Anyone who wasn't Titus, that was.

"Teenagers are all awkward anyway. Even Titus - my son, Titus, don't you get all miffed at me! He's working out what it means, being a man. That's all."

 

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The cup's topped-up state lasted only a few seconds before Titus brought it to his mouth again. "Don't remember you being this interested in having a son when Antonia was still alive, but what do I know?" he grumbled, shrugging with a little too much gusto and sending half of the contents of his wine cup flying over the table to land on Aulus' clothes with a purplish splash. 

He looked forlornly at his almost-empty-again cup. "Worry not, I know there's a million of us running around. If I had an as for every time a Titus did something, I'd be the richest man in the empire." Awfully good taste they had, Aulus and his wife, to name their kid that. Probably after one of his grandfathers or uncles or great-grandfathers or whatever, but still a very nice name. 

Titus held his cup out to Longinus, wordlessly requesting another refill. "Ask me again in five years, unless you want to know the girls version..." was his muttered comment before he turned to Aulus and clapped him on the shoulder with far too much excitement. "How's that going for him? Been to the girls and all? Got his toga on?"

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Longinus winced as Aulus spoke sense (as always - what was with this bloody man - how could he speak so much sense so far into his cups?) and grumbled. "No, I haven't laid it out quite so plainly but I'll endeavour to do so." He furnished the statement with a wide grin but couldn't help but kick Titus' chair until it wobbled at the comment about Antonia. He didn't say anything to chide him though, and let the kick and the glare that followed be enough. 

He snorted in amusement at both of their descriptions of their children, relieved he had a few years reprieve from dealing with anything related to teenager-isms with Cassia. He chuckled at Titus' enthusiasm over the other Titus but couldn't help but chime in with an amused grin and sly comment. "Bet you paid the finest girl at the Venus?" He grinned and decanted more wine into Titus outstretched cup, "Or did you buy one just for the act?" 

 

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Aulus bolted upright as dark red wine slopped out of his friend's cup, spilling over his tunic, joined by some of the contents of his own cup as Titus slapped him on the back.

"Shit, Titus! This tunic was clean on!" Several hours before, but still.

"And no, not yet. Probably take him to the Venus, let him have his pick. Better yet, get one of the freedmen to take him. He'll put his toga on in the next, oh... month or so, I think." He looked mournfully at his friends. "How did I get so old that my son's taking his toga virilis in the next month or so?"

He tipped his cup back to find there was only a mouthful or so left in it. How had it got so low all of a sudden?

 

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"I'm sorry!" In his haste to apologise, Titus threw up his hands, realising belatedly that all that did was slosh good wine and ensure a repeat of the very situation he was apologising for. This time round, however, Bacchus must have taken notice and directed the wine mostly on to the table and Titus' own tunic. That was going to be two hefty fullonica bills that week, but then again, it wasn't like they went out drinking all the time. Just occasionally. For special occasions as well as ordinary ones.

By some mercy of the wine god there was still some of his grape nectar in the cup. Titus downed it carefully so as not to turn his clothes completely dark red, and again held it out to Longinus, who had seemingly taken on the barman role. "Good choice. There's this blonde there, what was her name again? Vipsania? No-- Vibia! She's a real treat!" With his free hand Titus touched his thumb to his index and made an 'o' shape. "Might be a bit too experienced for your boy, though, Aulus. Even if you take him there after he's put on his toga."

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Longinus snorted in amusement as both men were suitably doused in wine and gestured to the dark blue tunic he was wearing, mercifully free of stains (that he could see) for now. "And I'm the idiot, am I?" Scoffing, he took another sip and managed to spill a half-mouthful down his front almost immediately. 

The mention of the Venus piqued his interest, although it had been months since he'd set foot inside the place (what need did he have, given Sestia?) but the revelation that he was not alone in enjoying the delightful Vibia horrified him. Wrinkling his nose he grimaced in disgust at Titus. "Vibia, and she is, although the fact that you've got your end away where I have is suddenly making me queasy." He mimed a retch and then grinned, trying to shake off a mental image he wanted nowhere near his thoughts. He glanced at Aulus; "Please say you haven't ridden her too? I know we're friends but that's a bit too much, even for me." 

 

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Aulus attempted to draw himself up in a dignified manner. "I have not. There are others at the Venus, you know. Titus would probably run a mile if I bought a night with Vibia for him. My son, not you," he added, indicating his friend of the same name. 

"Though I'm surprised you didn't," he added, thoughtfully. 

"So, you're going to have all the usual sacrifices and everything, then?" he asked Longinus, grinning as he managed to spill his own wine and join them with a damp wine-stain on his tunic.

 

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Titus chortled heartily at the mess his self-proclaimed idiot friend had just made. "Bacchus punishes you for your hubris, Longinus." Served him right. Disappointed at the lack of refills, he took matters into his own hands, grabbing a new jug and pouring away; it was a small miracle that most of the wine ended up inside the three men's cups and not spilled on the table.

"She's a whore, what did you expect? If you're so fussy go and buy her for good. Threesomes every day!" He gulped down his wine in one go and set the cup down with finality and just a little too much force. The loud clunk against the table drew the attention of a few other patrons, but once the threat of impending violence was discarded, all went back to what they were doing.

Aulus had a point; Vibia wasn't the most beginner-friendly whore around. His son would be better off with a nice, inexperienced girls with not too many previous terms of comparison. Titus was fortunately saved from exerting more brain power on the beauties of the Venus by Aulus' timely question. The sacrifices made such a mess. And that dreadful spelt cake. "Yeah, how many guests are you looking at again?"

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He snorted a laugh at both of their statements and waved a finger in both of their directions; "You, Aulus Calpurnius Praetextatus are a prude if you've never enjoyed the delights of Viba...although I'm pleased you haven't, and you," He moved a finger to Titus, "Are a despicable whore if you think threesomes every day would go down well with my bride to be." 

As their conversation turned once more to the wedding he groaned and leant back in his chair, blinking at the ceiling. The particulars of such an affair were never going to be his forte, especially when it was a rushed and fraught affair. "Yes sacrifices, and I don't know," Sestia had been in charge of the invitations besides a few odd-ball additions from himself, "Thirty? Maybe less?" He prepared for the onslaught of snickering about how he didn't know anything about his own wedding. "My soon to be wife is much better at this sort of thing, I fully believe, so I'm largely staying out of her way." 

A drunken thought occurred to him though and he frowned at both men in turn. "Maybe neither of you will be invited, on second thoughts, given I don't remember being invited to either of yours." He had known both of them in his very early youth, but it didn't occur to him that they weren't close back then, and he was almost completely absent from Rome for fifteen years.

 

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"My wedding was fifteen years ago, in Greece, and I don't think I even knew you then," Aulus pointed out. "And you'll have fun trying to stop anyone and everyone joining in the procession from her house to yours, or are you foregoing the very best bit of the whole thing? Apart from the sex, of course." He shrugged. "You could skip the whole thing and do as the plebs do, if you wanted to be boring. Though even they have the reluctant bride torn from her mother's arms..." It only occurred to him then that they might not have that bit - was Sestia's mother still alive? He somehow didn't think she was. Cobnuts.

"You can borrow any of my female relations for that, if you need. And the hair - though I don't remember if Horatia had that or not." The traditional bridal hairstyle with its seven braids was very similar to that of the Vestals. He wondered if his sister might like to help, but then, she probably knew neither bride nor groom and would prefer to keep out of it altogether.

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A despicable whore? Him? Brave words coming from a man with at least one known illegitimate son; there was probably half a dozen more that Longinus didn't know about roaming the fields of Britannia. Titus very briefly considered retorting that Longinus should then find himself a more amenable bride to be, but some trace of sense prevented him. He didn't want to get booted from the wedding before it had even started.

"Funny thing, mine was also fifteen years ago! Not in Greece, though," Titus piped up. He jabbed a finger at Longinus' shoulder and gave him a quizzical look. "Were you even in Rome back then? And we weren't friends then, why should I have invited you? To aggravate my in-laws?" That required no help, he managed just fine on his own.

"Speaking of the bride's mother, are her family coming up from Carthage? Think they'll make it in time?" If they were not able to, Aulus' implicit suggestion of having his sister stand in was a very kind one. With a Vestal not only attending but also participating to a degree, it would surely be a marriage blessed by the gods.

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Longinus waved a hand at both of their poor excuses as to his lack of invitations to their weddings, "Semantics, semantics. And in sixty I was..." He furrowed his brow, having to actually think about it harder than he'd care to admit, "Tribune to Silanus for the Victrix," Although he couldn't help the nauseating grin in Titus' direction, "Actually had command of the legion whilst he was in Rome that summer...I would have been what twenty?" He moved to scratch the stubble on his jaw and flicked the bird at Titus as he did so. He never got tired of rubbing salt into that particular wound.

"And no, no we're doing it properly," He rolled his eyes, "No pleb wedding for us." He never was a very good actor and very much wore his heart on his sleeve...and face. He couldn't disguise - try as he might - the wince at the mention of her family. "No, no they won't be joining - though her brother might. I'm, um," He sipped his wine, "Actually going to Carthage after the wedding, to see her Father, as it goes." He drank again, very much trying to avoid the subject. Unfortunately, owing to drink and his innate lack of an ability to lie, it was very obvious he was trying to avoid said subject.

 

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"Oho, now we get down to it," Aulus chortled. "Are you trying to tell us that the bride's father doesn't know his daughter's marrying again? You're either terribly brave or stupidly idiotic. Maybe both." He turned to Titus. "It might be both, do you think? Jupiter preserve you - I think you're going to need him!"

His cup had emptied itself somehow and he reached for the jug, splashing more wine into his cup, and those of his friends. 

 

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"It's definitely both," Titus agreed enthusiastically as he bobbed his head up and down before taking a swig of his newly-replenished wine. He debated emptying the rest of its contents down on Longinus' head in retaliation for his little jabs, but it would be a waste of decent wine and quite possibly the beginning of a fistfight, which could not end well given the place and the abundance of other patrons. If Longinus turned up at the wedding with a botched nose or missing most of his teeth, Sestia Vaticana would never allow Titus into their domus again.

He stared at Longinus with unfocused eyes. "Please say you didn't! Not even you could be that rash... right?"

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Longinus grimaced into his wine and cursed himself. "Shhhhhhh!" He said with narrowed eyes and palms as if lowering the volume, glancing around to ensure they weren't being overheard. "It's...a delicate situation...we're not..." Oh balls, "Not sure her father would approve of me per se, or rather he wouldn't approve of not being the one who decided when and to whom she's getting married. Bit of a control freak, as it were." He glanced at Titus, "As I suspect you'll be with poor Sulpicia." He took another sip, noting he should really stop draining his cup quite so fast if he was going to keep control of his lies and his senses. 

"We've written to him," A lie"And I'm going after to apologise for offending his dignitas but..." He shrugged and leant back in his chair, so much so it wobbled and was perilously close to falling back and landing him on his back on the floor. He recovered just in time, "For now keep that to yourselves." He wagged a finger in both of their directions, "Understood?" He purposefully chose to ignore any other connotations in what Titus was asking him.

 

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"Oh, definitely both. My dearest friend Lucius, I don't see how anyone could not want you as a son-in-law, but you do have to actually ask before doing the deed." Aulus couldn't help the stupid grin on his face, or the slight fuzzy look everything had taken on. 

"You're a brave reckless man. It was nice knowing you!" He lifted his cup to toast his friend, slopping some of its contents onto the table. 

 

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Titus was confused. Sure, anyone who actually knew Longinus would at times regret that very fact, but to an outsider he was a good catch. So he didn't quite get why Sestia Vaticana's father wouldn't approve... until Aulus voiced his loaded suggestion.

"Oh. Ohh!" He let out a low whistle and joined in on the toast. "That's idiotic, even for you! Plenty of dark-skinned beauties at the Venus if you couldn't keep it inside your subligaculum." Titus sipped his wine whilst observing Longinus with blurred pity. "So who'll be Cassia's guardian after your untimely but entirely deserved death?"

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Longinus shot a glare at each man in turn but directed his annoyance at Titus mostly with clipped words and a minute tensing of his jaw; "I will thank you for not referring to my soon to be wife in the same league as girls from the Venus, just because of her complexion."

He then focused on Aulus, irritation seeping from him; "And for your reference, I haven't touched her." A bold faced lie, but he wasn't about to let his friends - who were already well into their cups - disparage Sestia over her choices, or more practically, accidentally and drunkenly let-slip to their wives when they get home. Women's whispers travelled fast and it would be round the whole of Rome before sun-up. Feeling his anger cool off a bit he slumped back in his chair, and decided a half-truth was the way to go. 

"Her father...is a man that enjoys his wine, and his rages. If she were to go to him and say that she wished to marry me, he might well put her on the next boat back to Carthage if he's in one of his bad moods. We'd simply rather not risk the refusal, and ask for forgiveness instead." He shrugged and held out his cup for Titus to re-fill. 

 

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"Well, that was a very definite denial," Aulus said, his eyebrows halfway to his hairline. "So definite, in fact, that I don't know I believe you. I presume you're leaving your lady wife behind with her sons and your daughter while you make the perilous voyage to Carthage? May I suggest you lodge a new will with the Vestals before you depart? We wouldn't want anything to happen, of course, but it's as well to be safe."

He didn't know the Proconsul - all his service had been spent to the north of Italy, or the east.

"We shall pray to Neptune, Juno and Jove for your preservation," he added, reaching for the jug and splashing wine into empty cups - mostly, a fair part of it ended up on the table by mistake.

 

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Titus glared back with all his might, though the effect was lost after a few seconds owing to a giggling fit. "Her complexion has nothing to do with it, your lack of self-control does." He managed to stop laughing long enough to down the contents of the cup Aulus had attempted and mostly succeeded to refill. No amount of prayer would save Longinus from a proper dressing down in Africa, which was perfectly justified as far as Titus was concerned. Were he in the Proconsul's shoes, he would do the same or worse. 

"I don't know, I'm not buying it," he shook his head a couple of times before stopping abruptly because the world had become a lot more mobile than he had accounted for. Neptune's trident, it was like he was at sea. "Who would her father be saving her for? Titus Caesar?" Titus picked up a jug to refill their cups and frowned upon finding it empty. Fuck. Still frowning, he waved it at an employee passing by who grunted his acknowledgement. 

He turned to Aulus, arching an eyebrow in confusion. "Should we really pray for his preservation though? Isn't it better for him if Neptune sinks him on the way there?" He gave Longinus a bleary, pitying look. "If her father's as fierce as you say he is..."

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Longinus felt irritation seize him and he had to snap out of it, quickly, lest one of his last few evenings as a single man descend into a brawl with his two closest friends. "You," he glared at Aulus, "And you," and then at Titus in turn, "Shut your mouths. Slander me all you want, things are different for her." He glared firmly at both men - but the drink in his blood made it come out more like a squint than anything, "Any of the layabouts in here catch wind of a rumour that we've shagged before the wedding, what d'you think would happen? Or if your own lovely lady wives start their prattling or gossiping." He waved a dismissive hand, "Nothing happened. End of." 

Trying to shake off the annoyance he sipped at the wine Aulus had generously topped up. Maybe it was merely his annoyance at himself for having gotten into this mess that was coming back to bite him? Whatever it was, he let out a loud groan and slumped forward - hitting his forehead on the table. The room was spinning a little - but in that pleasant sort of way where everything is a bit warm and fuzzy, long before the hangover kicks in.

"Anyway," He continued, head still planted on the table, "On to happier topics," He finally withdrew his head from the table and tried to focus in on both of their faces, "Give me happier news please, not about my impending death at the hands of my soon to be father in law." 

 

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"Jullus Flavius Alexander, perhaps, the gods know why he hasn't married again," Aulus said, attempting to sound authoritative but interrupted by a hiccup. "You are definitely protesting too much to be entirely innocent, Lucius Longinus," he added, looking at his friend, and having to blink to bring him back into focus. "At least you're doing the right thing by her, eh?" He nudged Titus in the side, probably a little harder than he'd intended to and reached to pat the back of Longinus' head before he straightened up, catching his head on the cuff Aulus was wearing. "Sorry."

"Happier news... I don't know if I have any. Oh. My wife's thinking about starting some sort of reading club for the ladies of Rome - your wife and your soon-to-be-wife are both invited to join, naturally. I've been assured that the more lurid authors are banned. No Landicus for them."

 

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