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23rd of August, 75 AD

He barely had any sleep last night, after Jocasta came to tell him that he had a new son. Tertius had gone to sleep in the chamber that had been set up for him, the day after Charis suddenly went into labor. He had to sleep somewhere, although it definitely was not the same as his own bed. Hector had done everything he could to make Tertius feel comfortable and he also tried during this particular night, but for some reason, Tertius was just not really in the mood for sex. Finally Hector fell asleep and Tertius turned many times, thinking about freedom, adoption, ceremonies and sons. He’d have to speak to Teutus about the matter.

No doubt his oldest son was worried about his rank in the family now that Tertius would be a father, a real father, to his newborn son. No doubt Teutus was also aware that the child had been born now, so perhaps he could guess why Tertius sent for him. Tertius would have to make sure Teutus understood it all, what had happened and what was going to happen.  He'd have to make sure Teutus understood his own rank and Tertius' plans - because he honestly wasn't sure if Teutus did understand at all, why it was taking so long and why it wasn't as easy with him as Tertius had hoped. He’d also tell his plans for the new son so far. No one else knew about the plans, not even Charis. And no one else would know until the ceremony, no one but Teutus anyway.

He could not just discuss it right away though, he was a Praetor and Senator and had to do some honest work first. But after the morning turned into afternoon and the warm part of the day began, Tertius headed home and sent a slave to find Teutus, so they could meet in the tablinum. Here he sat now, on the edge of the table, just like last night, when Jocasta came to dryly announce the birth of his new son. Hopefully Teutus' mood would be at least a little better.

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Teutus had spent the night awake like the rest of the household, and comforting Antonia, who was scared by all the sudden hustle and bustle, though he did not think that she fully understood what was going on and the potential danger to Charis. 

He had spent the morning trying to concentrate on his reading, except that his mind kept turning to the precariousness of his own position here. Especially as he had been informed that the baby was a healthy boy. 

Born to a slave mother, the child might be, but Teutus could not imagine that Tertius would not acknowledge it and raise it as free - he had wanted an heir for so long and Teutus could not be that heir, not really. And now he'd be supplanted and relegated permanently to the position of a freedman. 

He really ought to set up some sort of business, there was nothing else that he could possibly do with his life.

He was not altogether surprised to receive a summons from Tertius and presented himself in the tablinum, where his father was leaning against the table, trying to project an air of casualness.

"You sent for me," he said, striving to keep his voice neutral.

 

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He waited as patiently as possible for Teutus to show up. This was an important conversation to have, he thought. And it should be before the ceremony with the newborn son. Gods he wanted to see the boy, but tradition was tradition and he’d just have to wait. Meanwhile he could focus on the son he’d known most of his life, but only recently did something good for. Something that should have been done years ago.

And what now? What if tradition was unable to change and he wouldn’t ever be able to claim Teutus as his rightful son and heir? He had an idea for what to do, if that was the case, but he’d first have to see if Teutus would agree to it.

At last the oldest of his now two sons appeared. Teutus tried to sound neutral, but to Tertius, he seemed tense too.

“I did.” Tertius said, “Care for a glass of wine?” He then asked and poured a small cup for himself, because honestly, he could actually use one to calm himself too, “So… how did you sleep last night?” Actually the last two nights, it had taken several days from that night he found Charis in the garden and until she finally last night gave birth. He hoped she was alright. But for now, he needed to focus on Teutus.

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Wine wasn't going to help anything at all, it would just taste sour and muddy his thoughts, so he shook his head. "Badly, I don't think anyone slept well," he said, and steeled himself. "I suppose I should say... congratulations on the birth of your son."

It would surely be easier all round to acknowledge the child rather than try to do whatever process in the courts, or with the Emperor or whatever.

He found himself hating the baby, who hadn't done anything to him at all except survive the birth. Distantly, he found himself hoping that the high infant mortality rate would see the child dead before its fifth birthday, and he hated himself for the thought. This wasn't like him at all, but he had nothing - he never had had anything, not really.

Perhaps it would have been better all round if he'd been sold at the same time as his mother.

 

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Tertius offered his son wine, but Teutus shook his head and then said no one had slept well last night. And he’d slept badly too. Why had he done that though? He must be worried, Tertius thought. If only Teutus could understand his thoughts and why things were the way they were, but at this point, it seemed as if it might never happen. Teutus congratulated Tertius with the birth of his new son though, but he did not seem very cheerful.

“Thank you.” Tertius said and sipped the wine, “My second son, that is.” He added then, wanting Teutus to understand that so far, this did not change what Tertius hoped he could do for Teutus.

“Now… I want you to be honest with me. You are my son too, after all. My first-born, although I know I was not much of a father when you were a child. But times change… and it changes people. Tell me your thoughts on gaining a brother?” He wondered if Teutus actually would be honest with him, for a change. His oldest son still seemed a bit uncertain with his new freedman life and also uncertain about what he could say to his father and how to treat him. Tertius hoped it would be better with time, but it was hard to tell with Teutus. He was difficult to read. Perhaps the apple did not fall so far from the tree after all.

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Honest? Teutus didn't think that his father really wanted him to be honest - he couldn't have a clue what Teutus was thinking, because if he did, Teutus' honesty would be the last thing he'd ask for.

"I... He will no doubt be your freeborn heir and will supersede me in every respect. What am I supposed to think?"

Even though doubtless a freeborn heir without Tertius' being married would doubtless raise some eyebrows, Teutus didn't think people would be crass enough to mention it out loud where Tertius could hear them.

He wondered whether he should move out, find a room somewhere in the less attractive parts of Rome and get work somewhere - there was always work for someone with secretarial training, after all, and not everyone wanted to use slaves for that kind of thing. He would be less beholden to his father that way, and would only have to see him when performing the customary salutatio, rather than every day, knowing that he ate and drank and slept and was clothed by his father's generosity.

 

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This would be interesting. Because to be honet, Teutus did not seem very thrilled about the idea of a new baby brother in the house. Despite everything that Tertius had done for him lately, everything he tried to do, Teutus just didn’t seem very excited at all. Wasn’t he happy to be free? Wasn’t it what he always wanted? Tertius couldn’t help it that there were certain traditions and habits that were so ancient in Rome that everyone would glare at him if he dared to try and change something. The only loophole was to either ignore tradition and become an outsider by society or talk to Caesar. Both seemed… almost impossible and definitely very difficult.

Teutus said he expected the new son to become Tertius’ freeborn heir and that meant he’d completely replace Teutus. He seemed bitter. Tertius understood why.

“You’re right, I am going to free him. And changing things for you… is not as easy as I had hoped.” He said with a small sigh, “But, despite that, or maybe because of that... I have a favor to ask you. Because you are my son, Teutus. And I want you to always be a part of my family, because, well… you are.” Tertius said and put down the wine for a moment, watching the younger version of himself closely.

“If anything should to happen to me… if I were gravely injured or worse, if I died, before Antonia and before Charis’ son reach adulthood. I want you to be their guardian. I want you to take care of them and the property until they come of age.” And as a praetor, he could do this - appoint a guardian for his children and his household. It was the least he could do for Teutus. Give him a job and a way to always be a part of the family.

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He hadn't expected that and the only reason he didn't gape at the idea was due to his lifetime as a slave, learning to control his facial expressions despite what he thought. "I... That is..."

If Tertius were to die before the two children came of age, that meant that Teutus would have the rights to live in the house and treat the property as if it were his own, though not to the degree that they would have nothing when they came of age. He would be Antonia's guardian until their brother came of age, or (if Tertius willed it) until her marriage - women required a man to act on their behalf in the courts and in other legal situations.

He took a breath, deliberately not thinking of the baby, and focussing on Antonia. "I would be honoured, Father."

He would never be rid of the stain of his slave past - Roman society wanted its freedmen to always bear the stain of their slavery, after all - but it would improve his standing at least a little, with Tertius' immediate circle.

"Should anything happen to you, I will do my best for them," he added, although he would rather not do the best for the boy who would surely inherit everything that should have been Teutus', were there any justice in the world.

 

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He hadn’t been sure of what Teutus would say to his plan and idea. His son was hard to read and he didn’t really know anything about Teutus’ plans or hopes for the future. It was more than half a year since he was freed now and he knew Tertius had struggled with searching the law for a loophole, but he also knew Tertius had not succeeded. And that’s how and why he came up with this new plan, because he wanted to do something for his son. He would not lose him. Teutus more than deserved that Tertius paid him attention, especially now.

Teutus seemed surprised, stumbling over his words and Tertius watched him closely, still unsure about what that reaction meant. Was it good or bad? Would Teutus accept Tertius’ idea… or not? Would he rather make his own name and find his own trade? Tertius knew nothing. Teutus never told him about these things. For some reason, both his son and the mother of his newborn child found it hard to be honest with him. At least he hoped he could trust Teutus with this. Well, he would just have to, because he was not taking it back. It had been decided. He had spoken.

At last, Teutus took a breath and said he’d be honored. And he would do his best for Antonia and his new brother, should anything happen to Tertius. Tertius stood with an appreciative smile on his face, “Good… I’m glad to hear that.” He said and then he did pour a cup of wine for Teutus, despite that his son had not wanted it, “This calls for celebration! I know you’re the only right person for this task and I hope you understand how important it is for both me and for your siblings. And for our name.”

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Teutus took the cup offered, and sipped from it, although even his father's best wine tasted like vinegar to him right now. What was there to celebrate? He was going to have to stand by and watch as yet another sibling was brought up with all the rights and expectations of a freeborn citizen - and this one had even more because it was a male child.

Tertius had his heir, finally. And it wasn't Teutus - and Teutus wasn't surprised by it, not really. He'd known this was going to happen, eventually, as soon as Tertius summoned Charis to his bed. It had only been a matter of time.

'Our' name. That was rich. It was Tertius' name - Teutus should by all rights have taken the name Tertius Quinctilius Teutus. There was nothing to say that he couldn't do that even now - nothing other than common usage and tradition.

He swallowed thickly and set the cup down; he hadn't wanted it in the first place. "I understand, Father. I think... It isn't necessary for a guardian to live in the same house, especially while the paterfamilias is still alive, and my presence will surely be unwanted here now you have a freeborn son." He took a breath, willing the lump in his throat to disappear. "I should find somewhere of my own to live, I think."

 

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When Teutus said he’d be honored to become guardian for his younger half-siblings, he said he would be honored. And he would do his best for them, if anything should happen to tertius. Those were well chosen words, Tertius thought. It made him a little proud of his son and happy too, that Tertius had finally found a way to please Teutus and make him feel honored in the house. He was no longer a slave, after all, even if it seemed like he had trouble adjusting. But he’d just have to. And this new rank would hopefully help.

Teutus even took the wine offered and drank, but then he set the cup down. He still wasn’t smiling. Did Teutus ever smile? He said he understood but then went on about how he didn’t have to live in the house and his presence would be unwanted here. He suggested finding his own place to live and Tertius put down his cup too. He’d been so pleased, he’d felt happy, when Teutus uttered those words just before. But now they seemed empty. As if Teutus hadn’t understood anything at all.

“Why would your presence here be unwanted, Teutus? You are my son. I freed you. And I will make you guardian of this house and family, because anything else seems impossible and I want you to be part of this family.” Tertius said, “Why would I want you to leave? You think I’d do all this and that my only desire now is to see you go?”

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"And I am grateful to you, truly," Teutus said. "But, I'm your freed son and can't ever be more than that, no matter how much either of us wish it could be different. Surely your freeborn son will mean more to you than I ever could."

And I don't want to have to watch him grow up with all the opportunities I will never have.

He didn't think that his father wanted him to go, but equally, he didn't think that his father would be able to keep from favouring his new son over his ex-slave, son or not. If he could leave, even if only to some poky room in an insula down in the Subura, he wouldn't have to watch his half-brother by another slave grow up able to do all the things Teutus could never do, and enjoy all the rights Teutus would never have.

 

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He felt that he tried so hard with Teutus, but apparently his son was going to resent him forever and now he did not even wish to live in the house anymore. Tertius knew it was a great honor indeed and quite a mark of recognition, that he would make Teutus guardian of his other children and household, should anything happen to Tertius. It was not just a task you handed out to everyone. Teutus claimed he was grateful, he said he was honored, but he’d still rather leave Tertius’ house than stay. Was there nothing he could do to please his son? More than he’d already done?

The conversation had taken a quite different turn than he had hoped. And Tertius wasn’t fond of it. Teutus was out of his control and he hated that.

“I don’t think you understand how much you mean to me, Teutus.” Tertius replied, obviously not very pleased with the way this was going, “Do you think I planned to have another son? If I did, I would have married. You are my first-born. I can’t help it that when you were born, it wasn’t up to me to decide what to do to you. You are still my son indeed and no paper or rather the lack of it is going to change that fact.”

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"How much I... No, I don't think I do," Teutus managed, unsteadily. "But when you take that woman's child up, as I know you will, he will have all the rights and opportunities that I never could have, and how could you not feel more for a son who can follow you into the Curia than one who will forever be tainted with the stain of his slave past?"

It wasn't Tertius' fault that Teutus would never be more than a freedman, but his paternal grandfather had long joined the gods and was forever out of Teutus' reach. Directing your anger and bitterness at a jar of cold ashes and bones was not going to help - but directing those same emotions at a living flesh and blood man wasn't much consolation either.

"Surely it would be best for me to be elsewhere, so you don't have to divide your attention and affection, Father?" And I don't have to witness your care for my replacement every day.

 

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It was upsetting that his oldest son, that he had hoped he could do so much for and honestly already had done a great deal for… didn’t want to be here. But it was too late, wasn’t it? He had made too many promises he couldn’t keep and now Teutus didn’t want to be part of the family, now that he had a chance to be something else. He had been given the Varus name and now he would not honor it? He didn’t understand it. He didn’t understand that he meant much to Tertius, no matter what had happened in the past.

Teutus said he didn’t understand what he meant, but he still expected Tertius would feel more for his new son than he could feel for Teutus. He went on saying it would be best for him to be elsewhere, so he’d not have to divide his attention. Tertius inhaled a breath, trying to think about how to solve this situation. It had turned out differently than he had hoped! And not the way he had hoped! He had expected Teutus to be less than happy with the idea of his new brother being freed right away, but Tertius had still honored Teutus with the promise of making him guardian, should it be needed.

“If you think it would be best… if you do not think you could thrive here, then perhaps it must be so.” Tertius said, although he wasn’t happy about it. At least Teutus had called him Father, for once. Not Domine or Tertius. Father. He had to do something, despite how different this had turned out. Teutus was not yet satisfied and how could he satisfy his oldest son the best? He could try his best to help Teutus with his new life, if that’s what he desired so badly.

“But I will help you. My son is not going to live in some cheap and dirty insula in the subura. And you said recently you thought about going into the trading business? Find out what exactly you wish to do… and I will invest.” Tertius then said, hoping he made it clear that no matter what, he would somehow play a part in Teutus’ life.

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Teutus tried to filter through his thoughts for something to say that wouldn't sound bitter, or angry or accusatory, and gave a gesture of helplessness.

"I took your name," he said simply. "I should have styled myself Tertius Quinctilius Teutus, like a proper freedman, but I took your name as if I was your freeborn son." He swallowed thickly. "But I'm not, and I can't be, and I... don't think I could bear to see Charis' son grow up with the rights and everything that I will never have. I live here, I eat, drink, sleep thanks to your generosity - even the clothes I wear have been paid for with your money. And I am grateful, truly. But I can't continue to live here on sufferance. If I had the rights of a freeborn son, I would probably have already left to serve as Tribune somewhere. This... this wouldn't be any different."

And the bitterness had escaped despite his best intentions. He tried to rein it back in.

"I don't want..." His voice nearly broke and he swallowed to try again. "I don't want you to think that I want to leave because I don't want to be part of your family." That wasn't how families worked - even if he had no blood relationship to Tertius, he was still the man's freedman and that would bind him to Tertius' family for life. "I just want... a chance to find a path for myself."

 

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Tertius wasn’t known to be a very emotional man – at least not with things like these. Maybe he was, but he showed it differently. He thought he could open up towards Teutus by offering his help, but his son wanted something else. It was clear this meant a lot to Teutus, when he began talking. He said it truthfully this time though, Tertius could sense that he was being genuine and honest now. See if people were like this all the time, maybe there wouldn’t be any issues! But there were and he tried to be glad that at least Teutus was honest now and spoke from the heart.

He let Teutus talk… about how he could never be Tertius’ freeborn son and how he could not bear to watch Charis’ son grow up as one. He said he was grateful but couldn’t continue to live here. He said he might have been gone already, if he’d been a true free son. Teutus sounded bitter. Sad. As if he’d had this in him for a long while but never opened up. Why did it have to be so hard? Tertius sighed when Teutus had finished talking.

“I… understand. Thank you, Teutus, for being so honest.” That’s all he ever asked for, people he cared about being honest with him, but he never got it and that’s why things continued to spiral the wrong way, “You will always be a part of this family and I want you to be. No paperwork can change the fact that you are my son, no matter what is written.” Tertius said and inhaled a breath. He ever knew this conversation would be this hard.

“Very well… you can find a place of your own. But I will still keep the promise I just made. You will live well and I will invest in whatever you choose to do.” Tertius said. It would be strange to not have Teutus here. And he'd helped out so much, Teutus. Tertius would have to find someone else who could function as his secretary and assistant. He'd think more about that later... “And you must promise me to come if I find that you’re needed here. You will, after all, still become the guardian of this house if anything should happen to me.”

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No paperwork can change the fact that you are my son, no matter what is written...

Well, that didn't alter the fact Teutus didn't feel like that, nor would anyone say he was, in any legal sense whatsoever. It would be easier if Tertius hadn't freed him at all, but he had, he'd finally kept that years-old promise only to be stymied now. He released a breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding.

"I don't want you to think I'm planning to walk out of the house right now and not come back for years," he said, and forcibly relaxed his hands where he'd been gripping himself too tightly for the whole conversation. "I don't mean to do that. And I need to look into exactly what I want to do. So, maybe six months?"

He didn't dare leave it open-ended, or it would never happen - or happen only when the baby was old enough to take his toga or something stupidly late like that. And six months would give his father fair warning, and time to find a new secretary to replace Teutus' slave role in the house.

"And - I promise I will, Father. If I'm needed here, I'll come."

 

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That was good at least - that Teutus did not plan to just leave the house and run off and never be seen again. Tertius hadn't freed him just to lose him, after all. He had plans. Plans that would not come to happen, but then he changed the plans. Teutus was the only one who'd be the right guardian for his other children, should anything - gods forbid! - happen to Tertius. And he would announce this and he would count on Teutus to be there, should he be needed. Teutus continued, saying he had to look into first what he would do and suggested that it would not be until six months from now. Tertius nodded, that was a good plan.

"Six months sounds like a good amount of time. And in that time, we will look for and find a proper place for you to live." Tertius replied to his son, who then also promised he'd come if he was needed here.

"Good. I count on you to keep that promise." Tertius said and then he was a little thoughtful, thinking about Teutus' future. They would still also need to find a wife for him, he was of a proper age for that. And then look into where he might stay... then Tertius had an idea he hoped his son would like, "You know, if you want to get away just a little bit, you're welcome to use the countryside villa." 

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"A room or two in an insula will be more than enough," Teutus pointed out. It didn't need to be a run-down sort of insula in the depths of the Subura; there were decent neighbourhoods in other parts of Rome, after all. The problem would be paying for it - Teutus thought he'd find it just as hard to live on his father's good will in an insula as he would under his father's roof. Even the Imperial family didn't spend their days doing nothing, they had careers in the military or the political sphere, so Teutus himself had to find honest work doing something, somewhere.

"It's more than just getting away," he admitted. "Even Quintus Augustus doesn't use his son as his secretary, I need to do something useful." And if all this is going to go to Charis' son, I need to have my own income and home anyway by then. "But I might go there, just for a stay, thank you."

This whole thing was turning out to be a lot harder than he had anticipated. Despite everything, Tertius had been a constant in Teutus' life, and the vague promises he'd made had built towards some sort of certainty that no longer existed just because he'd got some British girl pregnant and was going to raise her son the way Teutus should have been raised. Why couldn't Juno have given the pair of them a daughter?

Thinking like that was going to do nobody any good, though, and Teutus let out a quiet sigh. He needed to get away somewhere - even if only to the villa! - and sort through his jumbled emotions and figure out what his life was going to look like now he'd had everything pulled from under him yet again.

 

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Teutus didn’t seem to think he needed much, when it came to his own, future home. But really, Teutus was the son of a Senator, a freed son even, no matter what any paper said. He would not have his son live poorly, “We’ll find a nice insula then, if that’s what you wish.” Tertius said, although the thought of his son living in a simple insula was almost appalling. It was not what he had imagined at all when he freed Teutus! Then he offered that Teutus was welcome to use the villa in the countryside, but Teutus kept saying he wanted more than to just get away. He wanted to do something useful.

 “And you’ll find something, I’m sure. Else I also have some connections, who might be of help.” Tertius said, but he was also thinking about the villa. Currently he had two plebians living there, with their families, to oversee the slaves working in the fields and the olive groves. Maybe Teutus could take over from one of those families. Then he’d still be working with and for the family, but not in the house. He’d be making his own life. Tertius decided to return to that thought, should it be needed. It was still difficult for him to imagine not seeing Teutus every day. They were just getting to know each other. And Teutus had always been there.

 “Do you have any other questions or things you want to talk about, now we’re at it?” Tertius then wondered. He’d almost forgotten the reason for summoning Teutus today; that he just fathered another son. Teutus did matter to him, after all.

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Teutus' initial plan was to look into importing and selling things in Rome - the place imported luxuries from all over the Empire, surely there was room for one more merchant to set up a trading business, probably travelling out to some of the further provinces to buy their goods there and ship them back to Italia to sell. It would take several people, of course, and he would have to select them carefully - perhaps beginning with a slave or two to do the selling here, maybe? He would have to think about it - that sort of venture would use all the secretarial skills he had learned over the past few years.

"I will think about it, and let you know," he said, and shrugged, then shook his head. "I don't think I have anything else I need to say, no, Father."

He had disappointed the older man, it was clear that he had - maybe it wouldn't be clear to anyone who hadn't spent years covertly watching the man's expressions to gauge his mood, but it was clear to Teutus. But Tertius was one of those people who wanted everyone to run according to some plan of his own, and he was always surprised when people turned out to have their own ideas and plans for their lives - if he wanted something, why wouldn't he ever come out and say it instead of making people guess and get it wrong?

If he wanted to control Teutus so much, there was no need to have freed him. And even now, he could claim a paterfamilias' potestas, which he had over Teutus twice over by virtue of being both his father and his patron. He could veto any of Teutus' plans any time he wanted, and that made Teutus resentful too, though at the system rather than the man by the desk. This time, anyway.

 

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Teutus promised to think about it all and let Tertius know what he’d do. And he concluded it all by stating he had nothing else he needed to say. So that’s that. Teutus knew his new brother would be freed by Tertius on the 9th day after the birth and that Teutus would never truly become Tertius’ heir. The closest to it was the fact that Teutus would be the guardian of his younger siblings, should Tertius be gone before they grew up – and before Antonia married. And meanwhile, Teutus would find his own place to live and his own trade. And he seemed so intent on it, needing it even, that Tertius would not stop him. Even if he had hoped his son and he could have a better relationship now, it seemed as if it would never happen.

 “I don’t think I have more to say right now either… son.” Tertius then replied, “I have to return to my work too. Remember if you ever have any questions or anything you need to talk about, I’m right here.” He paused, then added, “I expect you’ll be around for dinner later.” He added with a smile. And by those words, Teutus probably knew him well enough to know he’d been dismissed, for now.

 That was that.

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