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Mid-January, 76AD

Saturnalia had come and gone with the fresh winter winds that whipped about the city. Although it didn't get nearly as cold as Britannia here, Longinus' body was unused to the cold after a summer spent outdoors, basking in the heat of Italia and Greece. The hypocaust was at full steam (literally) for the occasion and the paterfamilias Longinus had spent the early afternoon chivvying slaves to make his domus look presentable. It was an odd place; half-decorated in his late wife's style, a quarter under the influence of his mother with her love for garish frescos and vivid mosaics, and the rest was left up to his tastes. Tastes which bordered on the downright odd. A British battle axe on the wall in one room, some pottery he'd found en route back via Gaul in another. It was an eclectic place that had none of the polish of other Senators and Patricians his rank, but it indubitably suited him

The slaves had done their work admirably though and it was at least tidy. After he'd waved his mother goodbye (thank the Gods) to spend the late afternoon and evening with his cousin Lepidus, Cassia his daughter going with her, Longinus was left alone with the slaves. He didn't know why he felt nervous, he'd come to his decision without much fanfare after a disappointing few months looking into the impossibility of adoption, and unsuccessfully musing over other eligible women. Maybe he was nervous because of the family? They didn't have the best reputation around, and his mother had curtly reminded him as she departed that Tertius - who'd seemed at least affable, and nice enough - had recently had a bastard born son by a slave, a son whom he'd recognised. Longinus had resisted the urge to tug at the neckline of his tunic at the remark, given he'd been in the same situation some months ago with Sestia, although that was a secret he'd take to his grave. 

He'd invited both Tertius and his eldest brother here today though, and perhaps that was why he felt oddly ill at ease. He found Tertius pleasant enough but his brothers reputation preceded him. Unfortunately for Longinus, his plan required the paterfamilias and that meant Secundus himself. He hoped Tertius could temper him a little though, hence the dual invitations. Poor Longinus wasn't to know of the discord between the brothers. 

A slave disturbed his thoughts and announced one of the brothers was here. "Yes, but which one?" He asked with a frown and the slave girl merely sighed and shrugged, "I don't know domine, he's tall, dark haired..." Longinus had to suppress a chuckle, "Yes dear Merula, that's very helpful." He shooed her away with a wave of his hand and jumped to his feet from where he'd been sat in the garden. Bounding through the house with his customary energy, he drew to the atrium and slapped on a wide grin he didn't quite feel. "Welcome!" 

 

TAG: @Járnviðr @Atrice

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It was more than a year ago that Tertius had a special visit from the Senators Longinus and Rufus, regarding possible marriage between Longinus and Tertius’ niece, Sergia. Tertius had hoped for the best after the meeting, which he thought went well enough – despite Rufus being sick – but there was no word regarding the proposal and when he heard that Longinus was due to marry another woman, he had assumed it was the end of that. Secundus would have to deal with marrying Sergia off on his own, again. His brother had, after all, pushed him and today Tertius had no say in what happened to his sister or her children. He knew though that none of them had married yet and Sergia wasn’t getting any younger.

So he was surprised when he gained the invitation from Longinus to come to his own, apparently to discuss the proposal once more. He had of course heard that the marriage that had been set up for Longinus did not go through, but he didn’t know that Longinus was still interested in Sergia. And again... it was none of his business. It was Secundus’ business and he was clearly not handling it very well at all. Quinctilia never remarried and Sergia was not married either. Hopefully young Marcus would do better, most likely being smart enough to find someone on his own and not rely on Secundus to get it done.

Tertius had dressed finely, in a dark blue tunica and toga with golden decorations, for the invitation. His lectica carried him up to the domus in the area of the small Aventine. From the outside, the domus looked like any other in Rome. But Tertius left the lectica and with Hector following behind him, he approached the place and a slave let him into the atrium. The decorations indoors were… interesting. There was much to look at here and Tertius certainly wasn’t bored while he waited for the host. At last Longinus appeared with a grin on his face, “Thank you for the invitation, Senator.” Tertius replied to the welcoming host, “I hope you have been well since last time.” He continued, unaware that there was another guest also approaching the domus.

@Sara@Járnviðr

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After years of worry about how to best arrange his sister’s and niece’s marriages, Secundus had finally had a golden opportunity dropped in his lap. This invitation from Longinus bore great promise. If a young senator married Sergia, half of Secundus’ problems (and the number had grown, recently, after that disastrous party and Livia’s increasing acerbic coldness) would disappear. With a potential solution within sight, Secundus approached the man’s domus with something describable as a smile on his lips. Despite his wife’s distance, he would soon have a child, and if today’s conversation went well, he would have a husband for his niece. His family’s fortunes were looking up.

Not one for pleasantries (especially since his return from war), Secundus barely waited for the slave to greet him before expecting entry. He did not intend to allow this man to slip through his fingers. He would arrange this marriage to ensure his family’s prospects. No matter what his brother claimed, Secundus care deeply about his family’s legacy- unlike Tertius himself, who care only about his line of inheritance, Secundus wished to see his sister and her children properly wed, as well. The slave seemed scared of his behavior, but Secundus did not care. This meeting was important, and he would not be waylaid at the door.

I am Senator Secundus Quinctilius Varus. I have been invited by your master. Speak with him so that I may enter.

Secundus would never order another man's slaves as though they were his own, but he had to admit there was a special thrill in issuing commands to Longinus' slaves. As a guest, he had been granted that right. He supposed it was improper, since they belonged to Longinus, but that made it all the more satisfying. Besides, if a senator could not command slaves, something had gone terribly wrong. His lip curled in dark amusement as he waited for the slave to go inside and announce his arrival.

@Sara @Atrice

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Longinus greeted Tertius with the familiar arm clasp and a buoyant smile. "Not at all, not at all. Thank you for making the time, I appreciate it was probably a little rude of me not to follow up after our last conversation." It had been indescribably rude, but the short-lived passionate affair with Sestia had somewhat addled his brain and his senses. "I have thank you," He smiled and inclined his head, "And I hear you're well too, another son?" He chuckled, pleased that he'd sought to confirm some basic facts with his mother before she departed. She really was a scion of gossip. "You have my congratulations, if they mean anythi-" He was interrupted by Merula, one of his house slaves, looming into view with a vexed expression on her face. 

She cleared her throat as if to make some grand pronouncement, before rather meekly announcing; "Secundus Quincti-...Quinctilius Varus, domine." She'd been in Rome for almost ten years but her British accent oftentimes got the better of her. Longinus smiled and inclined his head, suggesting that she should go and let the other man in. He turned his attention back to Tertius briefly, after Merula had departed. "I thought it best to have you both here, given we've had a previous conversation, but I don't think I've had the pleasure of meeting your brother. And it's a sensitive matter of course," And one he wasn't entirely convinced about - but he tried to brush off those thoughts, he needed to be practical now and who really got love in their marriage? "I hope that's alright?" He added and looked at Tertius expectantly as the sound of sandalled feet echoed and the other man approached. 

"Secundus, a pleasure!" He greeted the other man, as he had done with Tertius. 

 

TAG: @Atrice @Járnviðr

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Longinus had such a charming and winning smile on his face, Tertius thought to himself, while the other senator greeted him, clasping their arms together and thanking Tertius for making the time to come here. Then admitted it had been rude that he did not contact Tertius after last time they talked, “Don’t think about it.” Tertius replied in a friendly tone, indirectly informing Longinus it had been noted but since Longinus more or less apologized, it was alright. Besides, the matter of Sergia now seemed entirely out of his hands anyway. He didn’t know yet she was the reason he was here, now.

 The other senator commented on Tertius’ latest addition to the family and Tertius smiled, he couldn’t help but being proud of his son, even if he was born by a slave from Britannia. Peregrinus was now almost half a year old and he was thriving and happy. Tertius looked forwards to seeing his first steps and hearing his first word, “Yes, I did have another son a while ago… little Peregrinus.” He said, leaving it unmentioned between them, that he had no wife to bear the son. Everyone knew anyway, so what was there to hide? But it wasn’t something you talked about openly, of course. They were then interrupted by one of Longinus’ slaves, apparently here to tell something of importance. It was then she spoke the name.

 Tertius’ eyes widened with surprise, Secundus… here? Why? He had not seen his brother since just after the earthquake in the summer and he honestly had not expected to see him so soon. Or so suddenly. He looked at Longinus, who explained himself and then said he had not had the pleasure of meeting Tertius’ brother. The pleasure? More the disgrace! Tertius felt almost speechless and only opened his mouth to speak after Longinus asked if it was alright, “I didn’t exp…” He was cut short as his brother walked into the scene as if he owned the place. It didn’t go well last time they met. Secundus more or less ordered Tertius to simply leave his childhood home. He lifted his chin while Longinus approached his brother, but he didn’t speak – he honestly could not come up with any polite greeting for his brother right now.

@Sara @Járnviðr

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As Secundus stepped inside, confident that things were finally going his way, he spotted his brother. What was Tertius doing here? What right did he have to intrude, when Sergia's marriage was his business, as paterfamilias? Unless he had misunderstood Longinus' intentions for inviting him here. Was this meeting about senate business, and not his niece's marriage? He stewed for a moment, distracted by this thought. How dare the man invite his brother, when any Roman knew of their mutual enmity! Secundus joined the two men in their standing, wasting time with pleasantries. He would need to offer some of his own, despite this obvious insult; whether senatorial or famillial matters were at stake, it was certainly a meeting of some important if Longinus had invited both Varus brothers to his domus, knowing their reputation.

"Tertius, what a surprise to see you here. Longinus, you did not mention that you were inviting the both of us here. This is somewhat of a family reunion. How are you, brother? And your wi- I'm sorry, my mistake. How is your son?"

Secundus did not smile. He had not intention of allowing Tertius to insult him again, not in front of another senator. Besides, surely they could put aside their differences for one evening? Secundus did not expect Tertius to see reason, the mangy cur. He looked to Longinus, lips a thin hard line as he struggled to find words polite enough for the needs of the situation. No smile came, and the words remained out of reach. Well enough. He would speak honestly, and hope that his candor would not insult or offend Longinus over-much.

"Longinus, if you could tell us why were have been invited here today? I admit, I have my own guesses. Does this concern our family, or our senate?"

@Atrice @Sara

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Longinus couldn't disguise his wince as the two guests came eye to eye. He knew of Secundus' reputation but hadn't counted on it impacting his relationship with his own brother. As an only child, Longinus didn't really have any sense of what sibling relationships could be like or their complexities yet faced with said complexities right here in front of him, he now understood his error. He swallowed the lump in his throat as Secundus delicately made a comment on Tertius' latest offspring before the man turned his attention back to his host. Right. Straight to business then. 

He swept his arm aside and gestured for the brothers to follow him through to the triclinium where assorted foods and wines had been prepared and arrayed around the three couches. "Your family." he replied with a buoyant smile over his shoulder to the elder Varus as they finally entered the space. Taking a seat on one of the couches he looked at each man in turn before sighing, running a hand through his hair. He'd never had the best ability to speak delicately and ran through his words in his head one more time before he spoke, just to try and mitigate any bad reactions from either brother. 

"It concerns your niece, actually, the lovely Sergia. Whilst I've never had the pleasure of meeting her myself," That he could recall - although he wouldn't put it past himself to have met her and forgotten, the beauties all looked the same at their classes parties, "Your brother, Tertius," He dipped his head at the younger brother, "Has spoken highly of her in the past." He reached forward to pick off a few grapes and tossed them into his mouth, continuing to speak after he'd munched them down, "I suppose I was wondering what your family's plans were for her?" He flashed a warm grin, his meaning implied. 

 

TAG: @Atrice @Járnviðr

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At Longinus’ gesture, Secundus satisfied himself with a single glare at Tertius before following the man to the triclinium. He admired the spread for a moment. Not all men knew how to entertain their guests without a woman’s eye to help them. Those as young as Longinus often failed at behaving appropriately, as they required a woman’s touch to mellow them. Secundus approved of a man who could perform necessary duties without the help of someone to temper him; it spoke well of him, that he did not laze around in want of a wife.

The man confirmed that this meeting concerned their family, and Sergia specifically. Secundus resisted the urge to celebrate already; this battle had yet to be won. He must convince Longinus that Sergia would make a good match, when he must have other options. A young, handsome senator did not lack in options, when it came to selecting a marriage. He thought of Sergia, and considered how best to present her virtues to this potential suitor. He could not start by complimenting her beauty; surely, every family insisted that their daughter looked the comeliest.

Tertius, of course it came back to Tertius. Secundus had momentarily forgotten his brother, but of course that could not be allowed. Longinus mentioned some previous conversation with him, and Secundus wondered scornfully why the marriage had not already been settled. Incompetent fool. This should have always been a matter decided by him, and not Tertius, with his soft touch and weak will.

Sergia is unlike other women. She has a maturity and caution that comes to most women later in life, yet her confidence belies her youth. She is fond of reading, I believe, though she is less fond of her uncle,” he jokes, although as far as Secundus can tell, it is true that Sergia dislikes his meddling. “Have you not yet had the chance to meet her, Longinus?

Secundus takes some food and wine, only beginning to eat once he’s finished speaking. Despite this pretense of propriety, though, Longinus may notice that his manners around food are somewhat boorish; Secundus does not eat with the care customary among senators. It would not take a stretch of the imagination to believe that Secundus learned how to eat around barbarians and not Romans.

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Why was Secundus here? He wasn’t there last time Tertius met with Longinus, so why now? Tertius gathered it had to do with Sergia, but he did not consider his brother to show up. Secundus didn’t care about anyone but himself. Of course though his brother tried to plaster on some polite words, but then he could not help but insinuate that Tertius just had a son with someone not his wife – because he didn’t have one – but Tertius would not let him feel he’d won.

 “We are all fine and thriving, Secundus. I hope you and your family are the same. I’m surprised to see you in Rome, I heard you’d gone to the villa.” He commented back to his brother, but none of them smiled and then Secundus turned his attention to Longinus and went straight to business. Poor Longinus seemed bewildered for a moment, but then he invited both his guests further in towards the triclinium, while Longinus revealed the reason for the meeting. Tertius took a seat, making sure Longinus would be between him and Secundus, so he could keep his distance. Longinus began talking about Sergia, whom he was apparently suddenly interested in again. Tertius picked up the goblet with wine closest to him.

 Secundus spoke of Sergia and mentioned of her youth, although she was in her early twenties now and should have been married years ago. Something Secundus had not seemed to be busy with until now. Why had he not found a husband for her already? The poor young woman was trapped with him instead. Then Secundus mentioned she was not fond her uncle… not her uncle Tertius, but Secundus. Quinctilia and Sergia sometimes came to see Tertius, he supposed to rest a bit from Secundus’ oddities, and they seemed happy enough with that. His attention returned to Secundus, who now began eating. It wasn’t a pretty sight. Tertius wondered why he was here at all. It was obvious now that Secundus would exclude him from the conversation the best he could and he was the one in charge of Sergia, Tertius was not. Instead he picked up a handful of dates, eating them while watching and paying attention the conversation. He had nothing to add right now, after all.

@Sara @Járnviðr

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Maturity and caution. Longinus tried to disguise his wince. Those two words were about the farthest things away from descriptors of himself. His militaristic prowess that had led to him becoming a legate at twenty three and serving in the role thrice over was in large part down to the risks he bore and his boundless, unflappable energy. Maturity - likewise - was not a personal strong point of his. Even reading wasn't a preferred past time for him - he struggled to concentrate (delegating his correspondence to his Tribune in the legion and secretary now he was a civilian). 

"They say opposites attract don't they?" He chuckled when it became evident he was dwelling a little too hard on the description Sergia's uncle had bestowed. "And no, I can't say I've met her - at least not if memory serves." He ran a hand through his hair (note to self - visit the odd little barber Barbatius for a cut and a shave), and sighed - depositing down his grape stem in favour of picking up a cup of wine. 

"My first wife was neither mature or cautious, Gods preserve her soul." Antonia was many things; a beauty, vivacious, immature, combative, caring, and all at once. He missed her though he never admitted it, "She passed a year and a bit ago, and I had thought I'd found another but alas - squabbles over money, on her end I should add," He continued with a low - barely believable chuckle, "Meant it fell through and so I'm turning to potential brides I may have overlooked the first time around." He sipped his wine. It was wholly unappetising just how much this felt like bartering for a pitcher of wine at a bar, or a slave at the market but such was their class and rituals for marriage. He tried to shake off his discomfort. 

He equally tried to ignore the evidently ravenous Secundus stuffing his face. He was no prude, nor did manners really matter much to him but it was beyond even him. He shot Tertius a curious look as if to ask; 'is he quite alright?' before ploughing on; "Your brother did a fine job of talking her up," He chuckled and gestured at Tertius, "I should have perhaps considered her first and saved myself the bother of my last engagement." He sipped again at his wine and then set it down on the table. 

"Though I do have to ask, of course...is there any particular reason why she's still unmarried?" He quirked a brow, "She's what? Twenty-three? Twenty-four?" 

 

TAG: @Járnviðr @Atrice

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Secundus ignored the wine for now. Eating brought him a rare sort of pleasure that had survived contact with his time away. Even as a prisoner, food had never become something they could turn against him. Not for lack of trying, he thought. When Longinus spoke, he finally distracted himself from the food with great reluctance. Did opposites attract? He supposed it was a helpful saying, for those who concerned themselves with attraction. Attraction had never solved much of anything, in his experience, although perhaps these younger men had their own experience that he would never know. That was the way of the world, for older men to pass on an leave the world for the younger to inherit. Sergia herself would soon join the other matrons of Rome, if married; if not…he did not wish to think of that. His own sister had continued to refuse his suggestions, much as Sergia still did. If only he could get a hold of his clan, then Secundus could rest easy.

When the man continued on, though, and addressed Tertius, Secundus adopted a sour expression. Why ask his brother, when this matter concerned Sergia and her paterfamilias? Rather than give Tertius a chance to speak, Secundus interjected. His brother had already mishandled the family through his negligence, so Secundus needed to apply a heavier hand to this affair.

If you overlooked Sergia due to my brother’s description of her, or if you feel reluctance on the basis of mine, do not hesitate. Meeting a potential bride is the best way to become sure of her. As for whether opposites attract- if maturity is something you lack, Longinus, I would advise finding a wife who has a surplus of it. Opposites may not attract- that is a matter of beauty, and the ineffable qualities a woman displays when you meet her- but they do complement one another. Find a wife who gives you what you do not already have. Sergia has not married already because Tertius and I have paraded many unsuitable suitors past her, and we allowed our,” mutual hatred, Secundus thought venomously, “petty squabbles to get in the way of selecting a good marriage for her. Please, meet her, and judge for yourself.

Wisdom, spoken as though he understood anything of the matters of marriage and wives. Secundus had faced difficulties with Livia since the start of their marriage, and he did not understand the woman’s mind at all. Yet, when it came to speaking to outsiders, some part of him remembered the old lessons he had learned as a young man, and the words that might convince Longinus came. Secundus did not know if anything he had just said was true, but it felt like what a Roman would say. He supposed he was, after all that had happened to him, still a Roman.

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The more he sat here, eating the snacks, drinking the wine and listening to the conversation, the more upset he became. Secundus, the madman, had more or less thrown him out of his childhood home last time they met and now they were supposed to sit here and act civil, because of Longinus. Tertius didn’t want to be here. He wanted to not see Secundus. They’d been fine before Germania. Even while they were there. But after Secundus’ disappearance and then reappearance many years later… things went the wrong way. But he sat quietly, now. Listening to Longinus attempt to joke, although he’d not met Sergia, and then he mentioned his late wife. Not quite proper when discussing your future wife, Tertius thought.  

 Meanwhile Secundus was eating in a very uncivilized way and he caught the glance Longinus sent him. Tertius just rolled his eyes without a word, quietly letting Longinus know that Secundus was far off and there was nothing to do about it. Longinus went on. Wondering why Sergia wasn’t married. Yes, why exactly was that? Tertius arched a brow too, curious to hear what his brother would answer to this interesting question.

 Tertius had no chance to reply and he would let Secundus do it anyway. Of course Secundus blamed Tertius and then gave a strange speech about how opposites did not attract and how a wife should give him what you didn’t already have. Tertius was amused, wondering what exactly Livia gave to Secundus, because he could not imagine that lovely, young woman wanting to give anything to Secundus. Then his brother claimed that both he and Tertius had paraded suitors to Sergia before, but their squabbles got in the way.

 “I don’t recall I had any need to parade suitors back then, not yet. She was still a child, when I married and left our childhood home… or don’t you remember, Secundus? It is more than ten years ago.” Tertius replied, “I’m afraid I do not have any good explanation to why Sergia is unmarried. She is beautiful like her mother – our sister - and will make a good wife to anyone, I’m sure.” Tertius said with a friendly smile, “But I do agree with my brother in one case – to make sure you get along and the match is well-made, you should meet her. I am quite sure she is eager for marriage.” He knew she was eager to marry – so she would not suffer a moment longer in the same house as Secundus. Tertius had felt the same when he married.

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Oh great, not awkward at all. Longinus smiled politely at both the brothers and nodded in the appropriate places. Is this what poor Aulus felt like? Being so good at politicking that he could mask his boredom or confusion? It certainly wasn't a skill Longinus himself readily possessed. "Ah siblings squabble," Longinus said with a waved hand, "Or at least I heard they do. I'm an only child, so never had the worries you both do I'm sure." He offered a warm, friendly smile as if to brush over the awkwardness that filled the room. 

"And I hope I'm not forced to partake in a parade," He grinned, obviously joking, "And you have nothing to worry about Secundus, your brother did a more than admirable job at singing her virtues - I just fell for an unsuitable lady that wasn't her." He shook his head, growing a little more serious, "But things fell through and here I am." He'd claimed some vague reason - dowry or a fall out of money (the usual) to save his face in the wake of his failed engagement and mercilessly the gossip and rumour mill had turned again and he was no longer the topic of the moment for the bored housewives of Rome. 

"So..." He glanced between the brothers, "Do you have any ideas for when I can meet your lovely niece?" Surely, if they were invested in him as a potential match it should be on them to suggest a time and an appropriate place?

 

TAG: @Járnviðr @Atrice

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Secundus flared his nostrils, more like a bull seeing red than a man discussing his niece’s marriage. Tertius had interrupted a perfectly nice conversation, and for what? Reminding him how long it had been without his niece or his sister having accepted any of the suggestions he had given them. Controlling the Varus women continued to prove difficult. At least Tertius seemed motivated to help Sergia. Perhaps, in this one arena, they could work together to accomplish a shared goal.

Or at least, they might have been able to, if not for the lout, Longinus, commenting on their tension. A squabble? To simplify the bitter feud between Tertius and himself as though it was something petty! Secundus had lost respect for his brother over his conduct with his family, and his failure to secure their clan’s future. None of that was petty. Longinus was right that he could not understand what it was like having a sibling. His frustration mounted as the man continued, trying to paper over the tension in the room with a paltry smile. What sort of man worked this hard to avoid conflict? Limp, weak. Despicable. Was this to be Sergia’s future husband, then?

You can come to our villa. I will invite Sergia there to join my wife and I for a day, and you may join us there as well. We will have dinner, and we can allow the two of you to become more familiar with one another. I do wonder, though, Longinus…if you fell for an unsuitable lady once before, how do you intend to be sure of any future prospects?

@Sara @Atrice

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Tertius pretended to ignore the way Secundus stared at him, when he pointed out that Sergia had been way too young for marriage, when Tertius himself married and left the house for good. It was all on Secundus, this issue. Tertius had tried to do his bit with Longinus already and he did not think it was his fault it didn’t work out then. But it might now. Longinus awkwardly commented on the ‘squabble’ between siblings and how he didn’t know about them. He smiled, but he had no idea what a nest he just stuck his hand into. He was a friendly man though, Longinus. Tertius hoped he’d not end up getting stung.

 Longinus continued about Sergia, apologizing again about how he fell for an unsuitable woman instead, so now he was here. And he would know when he could meet Sergia. Secundus was right – there was one area right here, where they seemed to agree. Their niece should have a husband and it better be sooner, rather than later. Longinus was a fine choice. Tertius thought he’d not mind being related to him. Secundus had stayed quiet for a while now though and now words escaped his lips, inviting Longinus to his villa to meet Sergia. And then he wondered, indirectly, just how suitable Longinus might be, if he fell for the wrong lady before.

 Tertius arched a brow, he couldn’t help but smile. His brother showing a bit of cleverness for once! That was interesting. And that was a very good question! Tertius picked up a handful of grapes to eat them, as if he was watching a show.

@Sara @Járnviðr

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Longinus was not astute at reading body language, otherwise he might have caught the obvious increase of tension in the room. As it was, they continued to chatter as the host took up a cup and sipped at the fine wine that had been decanted for the occasion. 

The offer sounded genuine to Longinus, at least at first until the man continued and let a question hang in the air that Longinus would rather not answer. The failed engagement with Sestia was one of his biggest shames, and would likely be a regret he took to his grave both for his actions and the bitter disappointment he still felt that it did not work out. He swallowed the lump in his throat and glanced at each man in turn. He was not somebody easily riled but he took offence at being questioned in his own home and he sat up straighter, letting his gaze linger on his guests. 

"The lady in question was a match on paper, at least initially, but familial woes and - not to be indiscrete of course - reconciling monetary affairs became a battle I could stand no longer." He shrugged and sipped his wine in thought before glancing at the brothers before him, "And it was a momentary misjudgement. You cannot be a decorated legate with riches," He wafted a hand to gesture around the room, "Single, and in Rome without overzealous mothers and fathers foisting their daughters on you." His lips twitched in amusement, "I've become quite skilled over the years at separating the wheat from the chaff and gauging who is..." He frowned, pondering the right word for a moment, "Who is suitable as a potential bride." He set the cup, almost still full back on the table as tension flared in the room, "But I'd welcome advice from both of you, about whether you think Sergia really is suitable. And if so, I'll happily pay call on your villa Secundus." He put the ball back in their court and took up his wine again.

He would not be vetted by a family that had been through such dishonour as the Vari. Who did they think they were? 

 

TAG: @Járnviðr @Atrice

 

Edited by Sara
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Uninterested in accepting Tertius’ implied critique of his approach thus far, Secundus continued eating rather than look at his brother. Longinus continued to irk him with his commentary on their relationship, as though such a personal, family matter was worth discussing in this company. Still, the man seemed an appropriate husband for Sergia, if only he would recognize that. Meeting the girl wouldn’t hurt anyone, and this stubbornness struck Secundus as the immature folly of youth; once upon a time, he would rather have brawled and drank than met potential matches, but then circumstances had required marriage- and besides, Germania had taken the fight out of him. In an arena like this, he still had some bite in him. To protect his family’s honor and legacy, of course Secundus dared to question this man’s reputation in his own domus.

Naturally, the man showed discomfort immediately, as though caught in a spider’s web or a snake’s gullet. Secundus smiled involuntarily, as though it was a reflex to enjoy another man squirming. Longinus appeared to have a spine, as he fired back a volley of his own, citing a simple mistake based on a seemingly good match marred by familial and monetary issues. The younger senator launched into a critical assessment of the Varus clan, with its ‘overzealous mothers and fathers’, and about whether Sergia was ‘suitable’. Secundus’ smile did not falter, though; this part, he quite liked. Roasting his enemy on a spit, watching them burn- he took another bite of the tender meat Longinus had provided for them.

Suitability can only be judged by the suitor,” Secundus said simply, because anything more complicated would trigger an eruption of his anger that simmered under the surface. He looked at his food, and nodded at Tertius, hoping the fool could work with him for once, rather than against him. He just needed a moment to cool his head; let Tertius converse with this frustrating man for a moment. They shared a goal, and this was about Sergia’s future. Tertius tended to take the most plebian choice, though, so perhaps he would purposely misunderstand Secundus and fail their family again. "Livia and I would be happy to host a dinner for you and Sergia."

@Atrice @Sara

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It was an interesting conversation to follow – although what interested him most, he realized, was seeing how Secundus behaved out among other people. So far, his brother had been behaving somewhat well, but not perfectly, no, not at all. Just look at the way he ate. You did not eat like that as a guest! You showed some grace, you honored your host and the food he offered. Tertius tried to ignore it though, while Longinus and Secundus spoke. His brother had asked Longinus a very interesting question and Tertius listened quietly to Longinus attempting to explain himself. In short, Longinus blamed money and misjudgment on his own behalf. But he’d been about to marry the lady? And he had liked her? But Tertius said nothing.

 Longinus claimed he now knew how to tell a suitable bride from an unsuitable one – although he just admitted he misjudged a lady before – and then he quickly more or less invited himself to Secundus’ villa to meet Sergia. Secundus did not seem too impressed by Longinus, judging by his answer and the way he looked at Tertius. Tertius knew that look on his brother’s face. He was on the verge of dishonoring their family again. He was on the verge of an outburst. Tertius could not allow that to happen. Secundus said he’d happily host a dinner for Longinus and Sergia though.

 “Secundus’ wife is very kind and I am certain Sergia will like her.” Tertius then said, “Although Sergia seems to prefer the city to the villa in the countryside, as far as I am concerned. But I’m sure she will come to meet a potential suitor, if Secundus asks her.” He continued and then looked at Longinus, attempting to draw attention away from his brother, “What do you prefer, Longinus? Do you prefer the city or the countryside?”

@Sara @Járnviðr

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Longinus narrowed his eyes and glanced between the men. What he had done to offend Secundus was beyond his skills of deduction, but judging by his clipped words and sparse sentences, he'd done something. You see? This is precisely why he needed a wife, so she could get him out of traps he accidentally barrelled straight into. It was odd, but he let it rest. No point devolving the conversation into an argument when he had no desire for one, nor any particular gripe against Secundus other than considering him a bit boorish. 

He offered a dimpled smile at Tertius, grateful that one of them seemed to have the sense to steer the conversation to safer pastures. "I've not had the pleasure of your wife's company, I don't think Secundus," He said with a quizzical frown - trying to dredge back through memories of parties and such like, "But I know she's the sister-in-law of my good friend Aulus," Who was a good friend - but he was also useful, not many men could count themselves a close personal acquaintance of (fingers crossed) a future Consul. 

But at Tertius' question he scratched the stubble on his jaw and considered; "To be honest, a bit of both. I find Rome a bit dull," He shrugged utterly without pretence, "I was away from Italia for...Gods," He tried to count it out, "Fourteen? Fifteen years?" Fourteen sounded about right. Maybe fourteen and a half, "So I'm still getting used to it. I like it for a time but nothing beats a bit of fresh air and the countryside." He grinned, "I'm sure I can win Sergia around to its benefits." He chuckled and sipped his wine. God he hoped he could, he did not want for a wife who spent all her time fussing over having the latest fashions in their domus and spreading gossip around the city of Rome like it was her full time job. Antonia, his late wife, had done quite enough of that for one of his lifetimes thank you very much.

 

TAG: @Járnviðr @Atrice

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Before Secundus could say anything they would all regret, Tertius swooped in to speak instead. He complimented Sergia and Livia, which calmed Secundus down somewhat- even if his brother’s audacity provoked in him the urge to respond. He could resist picking a fight in another man’s domus. It was in his own where his loss of control over his own emotions truly showed. Tertius suggested that Sergia might prefer the city- perhaps, but Secundus had reasons for wanting to retreat to the countryside. Speaking of which, it might be better for Longinus to meet Secundus without Livia or Aglaea there. He had, in haste to push Sergia upon the younger senator, momentarily lost his wits. He could not allow Longinus to join them at the villa.

My wife is charming enough company, though a bit acerbic. She would have quite a bit to say about you, I’m sure,” Secundus said, chuckling slightly. “Sergia has never quite appreciated her wittiness,” he added, hoping to draw a clear line. If Longinus didn’t like Secundus, and didn’t expect to like his wife, placing Sergia in opposition to them only flattered her- and would discourage Longinus from coming to the villa. He needed to nip this in the bud before the problem he’d created became even bigger. No one could discovered Aglaea’s pregnancy until Livia had one of her own.

Sergia will appreciate your disinterest in the city. She finds much of her uncles’ interests insipid, as well. Young people like yourselves do tend to. Are you certain you won’t come to like Rome more, in time? It has much to offer.

@Atrice, @Sara

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Tertius watched Longinus smile warmly at him, before musing about whether he’d met Secundus’ wife and then said he knew about her, at least. Longinus’ good friend Aulus? Tertius felt he didn’t get out enough, he didn’t have anyone to call his close friend. Longinus seemed to have several, since he brought another with him the day he came to talk to Tertius about Sergia. Secundus then said his wife was charming and might have a bit to say about Longinus. Tertius arched a brow, what would Livia have to say to Longinus? And did Secundus really find his wife charming? Not enough so he’d join her whenever she visited with Tertius, which had been awhile though, honestly. He hoped she was alright.

Secundus had suggested Longinus came to the countryside villa to meet Sergia and Tertius explained what he knew of his niece; that she preferred the city, but he smoothed over that she might join the countryside flock to meet a potential suitor. Longinus said he both liked the city and the countryside, although he found Rome to be dull, because he’d been away from it for so long. Tertius liked the countryside too, but honestly, he did prefer the city. Which was perfect, since Secundus seemed to favor the country – it made it easier to avoid his brother. Of course Longinus hoped he might win Sergia over anyway and Tertius smiled, “I’m sure you can.” He replied, before Secundus barged in again. He wondered which uncle Secundus referred too, when he spoke of the insipid interests, since both Secundus and Tertius were uncles to Sergia. Was he biting at Tertius even now? Gods, this was getting tiresome!

He sipped his wine quietly and Secundus hoped Longinus would like Rome more, in time. Tertius nodded at Secundus’ words though, “It does have much to offer. Maybe you just haven’t discovered it all yet? Or perhaps it will be easier to enjoy the city, once you have something to keep you here, for example a beautiful and young wife.” Tertius added with a smile. His niece was beautiful indeed, any man should be happy to call her his wife.

@Sara@Járnviðr

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Longinus chuckled and ran a hand through his hair which could do with a crop. "I'm flattered you think me so young." His thirty-seventh birthday was rapidly approaching, which he tried to ignore. When did he get so old? 

He only grinned at Tertius' comment on having a reason to stay in the city. He had hoped for as much with his first marriage and whilst his late wife was achingly beautiful, her personality and their clashing temperaments had driven him firmly into the embrace of the legions. He hoped it wouldn't be the same with Sergia...if it got that far. But Secundus and Tertius, despite their oddities, were doing an admirable job of selling her as a prospective spouse. He'd been warned by friends that this was to be expected, and he wouldn't really know whether to pursue it until he met the lady in question herself, but for now he was content enough to continue to pursue her. Although part of him bristled that he needed to; he was a decorated, well-respected, wealthy ex-legate from an ancient family and she was a woman unwed in her early twenties. Shouldn't the chase be the other way around? 

Finding it curious he arched a brow, keen to press on - no need to beat around the bush. "So this dinner then," He said in between sips of wine. "Do you have a date in mind? I can rearrange things on my end to attend the villa, and even if it doesn't pay off - I hear the hunting around Tibur is excellent so hopefully it won't be a wasted journey." He grinned. 

 

TAG: @Járnviðr @Atrice

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