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The Curia was slowly emptying of people after the most recent session of the Senate, and Aulus found that he was one of the last to leave, having been waylaid by some ancient senator who must have been twice his age if he was a day, who only wanted to talk his ear off about taxes, the grain dole, the cost of games these days and other inconsequential things.

He turned to head from the august chamber, pausing before he emerged into the sunlight and the presence of his lictors (Horatia had a point about them, even if Aulus wouldn't admit it - they did rather get in the way when you wanted to be a private citizen... on the other hand, part of the thing about being Consul was that you weren't a private citizen for the entire time you were in office. It was rather the point, after all!)

There was someone else taking a momentary breather in the shade of the Curia's colonnade, a young man who must be just starting out on his political career. At first Aulus thought it was his son, but Titus was still a few years short of joining the Senate.

"Claudius Sabucius," he said, once he caught a better look at the other. "Good afternoon - I trust you didn't find today's session too tiresome?"

 

@Sarah

 

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Some viewed Senate sittings as boring, but to Tiberius they were an important part of the good workings of the Empire. Some of the Senators were boring certainly, those too staid or selfish in their views, but largely the Senate acted as the check and balance on the whims of the ruling class; history showed that a dictatorship could do far more damage than stodgy Senators.

But they were the exception. Most here, like Tiberius himself, were born and raised to understand their duty in governing Rome well and fairly, and that their privilege extended from that. An Empire well run benefited all, which was why he always attended the Senate where possible, and paid close attention to the proceedings.

Afterwards though, if the session were particularly heavy or detailed, he appreciated a moment to pause and collect his thoughts before moving on. He wasn't the only one taking a few minutes in the shade of the portico, and there were a few quiet conversations happening as Senators mingled in the square below. Still, when an older voice called out 'Claudius Sabucius', Tiberius froze for a moment, feeling the ghosts of his father and brothers behind him. But it was himself the man was addressing, and the words rammed home the fact that he, now, was the only one to carry that name, and thus the head of Caesar Claudius's line. It was a very strange feeling, but one to which he must become accustomed.

Adjusting his snowy white toga to cover his momentary pause, Tiberius turned to greet the man with a smile, recognising one of the Empire's most influential politicians. "Consul Calpurnius Praetextatus." He inclined his head politely in greeting. He didn't know him well personally, but Tiberius did know that the Consul had always been a staunch supporter and servant of Quintus, and was heir to his father, with whom the young Imperial shared a name. "Good day to you too. Not too tiresome, no; thank you." Despite the length of some sessions, Tiberius held them all important. "How have you been?"

Their meeting was, perhaps, an opportunity. Across the way and up a street was a small but very respectable Taverna. "The session was long however. I'm going to get something to eat. Would you care to join me?" Perhaps over a jug of watered wine and a plate of bread, fruit and olives, he might learn more about the man who was Consul.

@Sharpie

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"Very well, thank you - and I will." Many people vied for a consul's attention, most of whom could be deflected to a more appropriate and more junior official, but other than his own family none had better claim to his time than Tiberius Claudius Sabucius, save only his brother Titus Augustus and their father. He caught the eye of his chief lictor and gave him directions in a low voice to disperse the others but for them to stay in view. Being this close to the Forum and the Curia Julia, presumably the proprietor was used to official and their entourages, but that was no need to overwhelm anyone, especially when there were several establishments where his lictors could spend his money and still be close enough to hand should anything untoward happen.

He would keep the chief lictor with him, just in case, though - the man had been a Centurion in Legio XX Valeria Victrix and could be perfectly discreet and very handy in case of any trouble.

It wasn't long before they were seated at the establishment's best table with a decent range of food spread before them, and Aulus could properly take stock of the young man. Quintus' adopted son was a serious-looking young man, young but determined - he had already taken his place among the vigintiviri, which was not a necessary step to beginning the cursus honorum, especially for a member of the Imperial family, but was a useful one.

"How are you finding political life so far?" he asked, helping himself to a sprig of grapes.

 

@Sarah

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"Excellent. I appreciate the company." He was hungry, and yes he could have gone back to the palace, but far more pleasant and interesting to have lunch here and talk to the Consul. An important man, if Aulus had the time for him then Tiberius definitely had the time for the Consul. Two Praetorian Guards left their places by the wall and fell in just behind them as the two men headed away from the Senate building in the direction of the discrete Taverna. One took up position outside whilst the other followed them in and settled at a corner table, out of the way but still within quick reach of his charge. There was another chair for the lictor if he wished.

The proprietor was clearly accustomed to Senatorial customers, and quickly but quietly brought out a platter of tasty morsels and a jug of watered, spiced wine for the Consul and the Prince, and a plate of fresh bread, cheese and smoked fish for those who accompanied them. Nodding in acknowledgement of the man's quiet efficiency, Tiberius settled a the table by the open window, pleasantly shaded by vine leaves, and chose an olive.

How was he finding political life? "Interesting." He replied, meeting the Consul's blue gaze squarely. "I am aware I still have much to learn, but then life is a learning experience." And he had a significant head start in that particular arena, having been trained for this role all his life. There were times when he'd wished for a more carefree childhood, but that was not the life of an Imperial, even without insurrections. "The direction of the Empire's future is not something to be taken lightly." And he did not. "And I am provided with some excellent role models." He added the last with a fleet smile, clearly meaning to include Aulus's example amongst those.

Because Aulus was a man of great political influence, his career the epitome of what a Senator aspired to. "How is the Consulship treating you?" He asked, interested to know. How was the other man managing the role, and how did he see that going?

@Sharpie

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Aulus' estimation of the young man as a serious and thoughtful person who would give things their due consideration was borne out by his words. Everyone of his age had a lot to learn, whether or not they knew it or were willing to admit to it. That Claudius Sabucius admitted both spoke volumes.

"The direction of the Empire's future is not something to be taken lightly."

"Indeed," Aulus said, accepting the implied compliment with an incline of his head. "And not least among those role models is your adopted father - he was such to me, when I was not much older than you are now, in fact." And if he could return that by being a role model to Quintus' sons in any way, he would - he owed the previous emperor a great deal.

It seemed wrong to think of him as the 'former emperor' or anything along those lines while he still lived, but there had been wisdom in his unprecedented decision to retire. It was the sort of wisdom that characterised Quintus Flavius Alexander and coloured all his actions, the wisdom that had drawn Aulus and others to him, to offer their support in whatever way they could.

He would be very much missed as ruler - though if Titus showed anything like the same sense as his adoptive brother was currently demonstrating, the Empire would be in safe hands.

"It is a lot of work, of course, although I can imagine that it would have been more work a hundred years ago. But to achieve the pinnacle of your ambition - that is something not everyone can say they have done." He would not be hunting for anything further; his ambition was not for power in and of itself, but for power to serve Rome, and to serve Rome meant to serve the emperor. Titus Augustus could be as sure of Aulus' loyalty as Quintus Augustus had been.

"And what about you? What will you be doing once your term as vigintivir comes to an end?"

There was something about Tiberius that reminded Aulus very much of himself at a similar age. He would do everything in his power to ensure that the young man, and his own son, did not have to live through a period of turbulence and unrest such as that which had marred his own early career.

 

@Sarah

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Tiberius was a serious young man - too serious according to some of his peers - and perhaps a trifle reserved. Whether that was purely his character was possible, but more likely it was at least contributed to by his tumultuous childhood. He'd never wanted for care and rarely for some affection, but the all too frequent changes in parental figures had encouraged a self-reliance and a tendency to think before he spoke.

Swallowing his olive, the younger man nodded in agreement. "My father - Caesar Quintus - takes a great deal of care with our education; mine and Titus's." For Quintus wasn't out of the picture yet, even if he had retired and was currently at his estates. He referred to Quintus as father, even though he'd called his step-father Honorius the same. Even Geta had been a kind of father-figure for a while. Indeed, the one he remembered least well was his biological father, who passed when he was only very young. "But there are many opportunities to learn, if one recognises them when they present." There was an almost playful light in his eyes for a moment. Yes, he definitely saw Aulus's company as a learning opportunity.

And Aulus was the very example of success, as he pointed out achieving his ambition, and at the youngest possible age. Tiberius admired his achievement, and the determination it had no doubt required. But he also admired his dedication to his work. It was one thing to be ambitious in personal glory, another to be ambitious in service. In that Tiberius saw much to admire, for he thought along similar lines.

And himself? "It is my intention to follow the cursus honorum."  He replied, having intended such from the start. His experience as a minor magistrate had been interesting, but Rome's success was built on it's military and to understand the Empire you had to understand her armies. "I will always serve and aid Titus, of course. But unless he wishes me elsewhere, I shall hope for appointment as a tribunus militum." It was true that, being an Empire, Caesar could largely do as he wished, and often his family could too, but Tiberius considered it important that he too played by the rules. Else why have them? And one would not wish to set a poor example for others to follow. Plus he was interested in the learning opportunities - and travel opportunities - of the role.

"Did you serve your time as a tribunus militum in Rome? Or in the provinces?" He asked, curious.

@Sharpie

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"Your father Quintus Caesar had always taken a great deal of care with everything he has turned his hand to," Aulus said in agreement, and smiled. "I spent my time as tribune in Achaea, if you can believe it - serving under your father while he was legate there. While it was not the frontier of the Empire, I spent time there too, later on, in Germania and then Britannia. The Empire has rather a lot of border and not everyone on the other side of it is friendly."

He tore off a chunk of bread to give him something to do as he thought.

"Is there anyone in particular you would wish to serve under, or anywhere you'd like to serve your time as tribune?" he asked, and smiled. "And no, I won't be offended in the least if you didn't want me - there are some extremely capable legates in Rome right now, any one of whom would be good for you career."

He wasn't entirely sure how he had ended up serving under Quintus Flavius Alexander, but it had absolutely been the making of him - he would follow Quintus into Hades itself should the need arise - as it was, the circumstances fourteen years before had been close to Hades, and Quintus had been the only chance Aulus could see for a positive outcome and a stable Rome. And here was his son, wanting to carry that legacy on.

Having seen what could easily be, without a firm hand on the helm, Aulus would do what he could in support and encouragement for the younger generation now that it was his turn to pass on his hard-won wisdom and to give advice.

 

@Sarah

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"The Empire does have a lot of border." Tiberius acknowledged. "Which is why understanding her military is so important for good leadership." Which was something the youth had mixed feelings about. He saw the necessity of course; as Aulus pointed out, many of their neighbours were not friendly. He preferred diplomacy where possible; it caused fewer deaths. But diplomacy could be something of an empty hand, if the military wasn't there to back it up. And to protect them.

A slice of duck breast topped a piece of bread, a drop of garum to season it, as Tiberius listened to the Consul, marveling a little at the places that he had seen, and using it's assemblage to cover his surprise at the unexpected offer, so very cleverly worded.

"And no, I won't be offended in the least if you didn't want me".

The young man wasn't one to make assumptions or presume on his station - he had refused the cognomen Caesar for that reason. So he hadn't expected Aulus's offer, especially worded as though it were automatic. He tended not to take people for granted. He took a bite from his bread whilst he considered the sudden opportunity very carefully.

"I haven't yet formed a specific preference." He admitted. "I had thought that it would be more educational if it was not a family member." Much as he loved his uncles and Octavius in particular, who had also served as Consul. But he had haunted Octavius like a dead rat in the hypocaust during his teenage years; he'd already decided that he had more to learn from others. "Personally, I would love to see more of the Empire." He admitted, almost shyly. "But it is my duty to support Titus and not put myself in too much danger, so I do not think I will be going to the frontiers yet." Maybe one day.

Swallowing the last of his morsel of bread, Tiberius made a decision. Had he not spoken, moments before, on the importance of recognising learning opportunities when they presented? One set of blue eyes met the other. "If you are willing, Consul, I would be honoured to serve you and learn from you, during my time as military tribune."

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"Indeed," Aulus replied. The man who had the hearts, and therefore the backing, of the Legions was the man most likely to prosper as Emperor. He could only hope Titus would be able to win the men over as his father had done before him.

"I would be willing to have you as Tribune, although where I will end up being posted is on the lap of the gods, and with your cousin Titus," Aulus replied. If he could, he would take his friend Longinus as Legate, too, if he was not going to get his own political posting elsewhere (did the man have a scrap of ambition that way? Aulus hadn't seen any such thing - but he had seen how capable he was in a military capacity). "Even a border province does not mean that you will be thrown into skirmishes with any barbarians, after all, and there are several places where the problems are with those within the province rather than with those outside it."

He washed his bread down with a mouthful of wine.

"I think the one thing we can all agree on is that we want Titus Augustus to flourish in this new role. It must be quite daunting for him, and for you - your father was older when he came to it, and he only took the purple reluctantly, because there wasn't anyone else who could forge a unified Rome out of what was left from the civil war."

Aulus was sure that it could not be long at all before people started talking about Quintus as 'a second Augustus' - and really, the comparison was quite apt in some ways, and totally missed the mark in many others. Watching the young man seated before him, one of the generation on whose shoulders the stability and security of Rome now rested, Aulus suddenly felt old. Would Titus, and Tiberius and those other young men, be up to the task?

Had Quintus and Aulus been up to the task at that same age?

At least this time there weren't jealous Praetorian prefects or passed-over Legates vying for the purple, and the threat of proscriptions and purges. Aulus very much felt the full weight of his current responsibility - if the Consuls and the rest of the Senate were behind Titus, the transfer of loyalty and power from Quintus to Titus would be smooth and easy.

He didn't even need to wonder whether Quintus had foreseen this day - the man had plans and contingency plans and who knew what. He had been assured of Aulus' loyalty and had accepted him and ratified him as Consul knowing he might be handing the Empire over to his son during Aulus' Consulship. He had always played the long game, after all.

 

@Sarah

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