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Two days after his brother had burst into his tablinum with news that he had made a decision and wanted to pursue a career in the vigiles, with the aim of attaining the rank of prefect, Gaius had almost reconciled himself to what needed to happen. Almos, but not quite, which was why he was in the Piscina Publica, his faithful Cassander in tow, going to call on his own former legate. He needed an older man's opinion on this (even that of the irreverent Longinus would be more helpful than continually going over the same line of thought in his own head - maybe Longinus could see something he hadn't seen?)

Anyway, it had been long enough since he'd seen his former commander. This was more of an excuse than anything - and he had sent his brother round to have a talk with him, Longinus might well want to know what, if anything, had come of that talk.

He let Cassander knock on the door and go through the formalities - "My master has come to call on your master, if he is in?" - and then they were admitted to the house. The decoration in the atrium was as eclectic as he had remembered Longinus' house to be, and there was a dog barking somewhere in the back quarters. It sounded like quite a large dog.

 

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Longinus was this close to actually banging his head on the stone desk he kept in his tablinum. Vitus was, predictably, unamused by his masters evident displeasure at going over - for the fourth time that week - correspondence from clients. He'd managed to escape the previous three times citing urgent matters, which his secretary knew to be a barefaced lie given he controlled his diary of commitments - but unfortunately this time, Longinus couldn't escape. They'd been through three letters; two on some business to do with slowed grain imports and asking for an intercession, and one asking Longinus to speak to their teenaged son about a career in the legions. He couldn't even muster up the enthusiasm for that. 

Fortuna rarely smiled on him, but today she did. He heard muttering in the atrium and the padded footsteps of one of the house slaves coming to announce the surprise visit of Gaius Vipsanius Roscius. He bolted upright, a grin spreading ear to ear and gave Vitus a look that very well may have said 'I win'. It was met with a level stare from his slave which seemed to say 'This time'. Moving fluidly through the house, he caught sight of his former Tribune and moved to embrace him, calling over his shoulder for somebody to fetch Attis. His bodyslave was undoubtedly busying himself with the dog or Metella - his two favourite pastimes, it seemed. 

"Gaius," He clapped the man on the shoulder as he withdrew, "Should I worry that you've come unannounced?" Grinning he continued, "What brings you here as my saviour from the drudgery of correspondence?" 

 

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"Cassius Longinus!" Gaius managed a grin; obviously he'd interrupted something that Longinus didn't want to be doing (he would lay an aureus to a bent quadrans he'd been doing paperwork of some ilk). "I need your advice - or at least, a listening ear.."

He noted Longinus' scarred body slave approaching from where he had sequestered himself, to pause just within Longinus' eyeline so that he didn't have to actually interrupt the two citizens. He knew his legate's sarcastic slave from of old, but his actual training couldn't be faulted.

"To tell the truth, it's about my brother - I understood he could follow directions enough to come and see you, at least."

 

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Longinus quirked a brow, amused. He was hardly considered a sage man, certainly not one many came to for advice (at least not on personal matters) outside of his immediate circle of friends. It was oddly touching. 

"He did,Longinus jerked his head towards the triclinium beginning to move off in that direction, "Not sure what good it did him though. Mostly just listening to me trying to extol the virtues of the legions. He didn't seem keen." He gave Gaius a sympathetic shrug and then eased himself down onto the couch, wincing. He'd taken it too far yesterday with his run and was paying for it now. "But he seems like a smart lad, and honest at least. What's worrying you?" He gestured for Attis to fetch some cups, surprised to see they had already been provided. He didn't give Attis enough credit.

 

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"He wouldn't," Gaius said, following his host and erstwhile legate in the direction of the triclinium, in the private area of the house, oddly touched that he was allowed into the more intimate family area rather than being entertained in the atrium. He settled on one of the other couches and sighed at Longinus' question.

"To be honest, I'm not entirely sure where to start," he said, accepting the cup of wine Longinus' slave offered him. "He has decided on a career path, at least. He confessed to me the other day that he has decided he wants to be a tribune." He paused for a moment to give the next words their full effect. "Of the vigiles."

He swallowed two mouthfuls of wine while waiting for the words to sink in, eyeing Longinus over the rim of the cup as he did so.

 

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Longinus choked on his wine, but mercifully (for the slaves), managed to gulp it down before it spluttered everywhere. Well...that was unexpected. He himself had little to do with the vigiles but woe-betide anybody who mention them when his mother was in the house; she was convinced that during the Civil War they were responsible for the thefts from the domus that sat unattended. 

"Isn't that for the eques?" He asked with curiosity, although it was very much stating the obvious. "Why on earth does he want to go ordering a load of slaves and freedmen into burning buildings or nighttime brawls?" He shook his head, "I see the appeal -" He held up his hands in defence, "Of doing something for the Empire, and getting a bit of action...but he realises being a Tribune is as much about paperwork as it is about actually doing something? Right?" 

He took a sip of wine. "What did you say?" 

 

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"That is precisely the issue," Gaius said, somewhat gratified at the reaction he had provoked. He wondered if his brother had wanted to provoke a similar reaction in him when he'd informed Gaius of his decision. Probably.

The slave behind Longinus had a similarly shocked expression on his face - a sign that slaves weren't as emotionless as they should be, and couldn't ignore the conversation between the citizens they waited on as much as they should.

"Because this is my brother and he is a damned idealist," he said. "He rather likes the idea of helping people, in a more immediate sense than a senator does." He heaved a long-suffering sigh. "What could I say! I gave him a week to think it over, the good and the bad, and told him I'd find an equite family to adopt him if he still wanted to after that, Jupiter help me!"

 

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Ideals were all well and good and he himself had a streak of it (perhaps why many of his battlefield orders and stratagems were met with bemused glances), but this was a step beyond even that. He'd confined his idealism and irreverence to a life worthy of a patrician, and hadn't - in his own estimation - taken the easy way out as Gaius' brother appeared to be. Although he quite quickly felt bad for that thought and the judgement.

"You've got more courage than me," He chuckled with an anguished expression for his friend on his face, "I'd have told him no if you felt this strongly about it. He understands the implications it could have on your own reputation? And that you have no other heir...unless it's been so long since we've caught up that you're about to tell me you have a wife and four sons." He grinned and shook his head with a sigh, "I understand where his heart is coming from but...surely there's another way?" 

 

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"I haven't been able to think of one and Lucius doesn't seem to want to - he's got this idea now and honestly? I think I would rather he was prefect of the vigiles than a stall-holder selling olives in the Forum." He gave a rueful shrug. "He didn't tell you about that, did he? I found out from one of my own slaves, who had it from the slave of Gnaeus Julius Agricola. And yes, I know you can't trust slaves, but Lucius didn't deny it - and even had the temerity to present me with a jar of olives from his morning's work."

To have a brother willing to mind a market stall, even for an hour or so, was just as potentially damaging to his reputation.

"At least Clodius Pulcher got adopted into an equite family so he could run for a political office!"

 

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Longinus choked down another mouthful of wine and then let out a howling laugh. The image was a picture he wanted to see firsthand. Always a fan of oddities and irreverence, he had to admire the balls on Lucius Vipsanius Roscius to do something like that...and be utterly shameless about it. Even if he did feel equally sorry for Gaius at having to deal with the fallout. 

"Were they decent olives at least?" He quipped with his laughter settling into a grin. He sighed and rolled his neck until it gave a satisfying click and then turned his attentions back to Gaius. "You want my advice? If you don't think he'll be dissuaded, let him do it. I have a couple of good, decent equite families that are clients that would do right by him. But tell him that being Tribune doesn't mean you have to be the poor bloke running into the fire," He chuckled, "You get to tell the others to do that." Sighing, he continued after a beat, "And you had better get yourself married and get a son. Not implying you're old..." He grinned, "But you get hit by a cart or fall in the Tiber tomorrow and what's left of the gens if you're gone?" 

 

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Gaius groaned. "Yes they were - and I am not telling him that, I don't want him to come back with more and the impression I somehow condone his acting like a pleb or a freedman."

He swallowed the rest of his wine and held his cup out for more. "Don't remind me - I haven't seen a single girl I like. No, that's not true. I've had a very pleasant conversation with one Ovinia Camilla, though I suspect that isn't going anywhere. How does a man find a good wife he's going to actually not mind being married to for long enough to get a son on her, anyway?"

He found that he was looking forward to reminding Lucius about the paperwork and that rank came with certain expectations, even for equites. It probably wouldn't be enough to bring his brother to his senses, but he could hope, at least.

 

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Longinus snorted and shrugged, "My late wife and I were married for nine years...although granted I was in Britannia for six of them." Which sounded worse out loud than it was in reality...at least to him. He suspected that had Antonia Nennia been here, she would have strongly disagreed. "And...Gods keep her but we couldn't stand each other for most of that time. My advice?" Which was terrible advice from a man with terrible taste in women if Antonia and Sestia were anything to go by, "Pick a beauty. That way - even if you can't stand each other - you'll get a son...although," He glanced self-consciously in the direction of his daughters bedroom, "That didn't work out so well for me." 

With a sigh, he considered Gaius. "What's wrong with this Ovinia that you don't see it going anywhere? With Antonia, her father was an oaf but I offered above and beyond with my spoils from Britannia. You must have a fair amount in the bank, so to speak." 

 

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"There's nothing wrong with Ovinia, or her family, or anything of the sort, don't get me wrong," Gaius said. It had been a very pleasant afternoon stroll at the Mausoleum of Augustus, after all. He was doing the lady a disservice; marriages were supposed to be for the betterment of the families involved and the continuing of the husband's line, and Ovinia Camilla was perfectly suitable for that. If only he didn't have the nagging feeling that she would rather not marry him, and that there might even be something between her and Lucius.

Ridiculous thought.

"Oh, I've got more than enough wealth for me - a seat in the Senate isn't cheap, as you know very well, Legate." He raised his cup in salute. "At least you have a daughter, it's more than I have."

He didn't think his brother wanted to inherit everything; Lucius was adamant enough about not following the expected political path as it was, Gaius didn't dare imagine what he'd say if he raised the subject of marrying and having children.

If he was going to do that, he really ought to lead by example and have his own wife first.

 

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Longinus shrugged, "I love my daughter dearly," although she felt like a stranger half the time and seemed to far prefer Metella's company to his own, "But she's not a son and neither of us are getting any younger." He could have had another son. He almost had, before the dream drifted through his fingers like sand on a beach and Sestia flew back to Africa. 

"I'm making entreaties of the Vari, Sergia Auletia - Praetor Varus' neice." He grinned, "Have yet to meet the lady one on one though, mind, don't get any ideas and pursue her yourself." He chuckled. Scratching his jaw and the stubble that littered it, he winced, "I don't...really have any other opinions though, or help on this. I got Sergia's name from a list that Titus..." He corrected himself, he didn't know if Gaius and Titus were acquainted and thought he should remedy that, "Senator Sulpicius Rufus gave me. Lots of eligible women on the list...none particularly interesting, save Sergia."

Stifling a yawn on the back of his hand, he shrugged; "So when do you set out to find your equites for your brother? Do let me know if I can be there for the show when the other Senators hear about it." 

 

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"I'll muddle through and find someone somehow," Gaius said, though he privately thought there was likely to be a massive outburst from Ovinia's family when they heard about Lucius, and that Gaius was letting him do it.

"I'm hoping that my brother will come to his senses within the week, although the chances are slim - a snowball would have a better chance of making it to Aegyptus, I think. I may have to consider fortune-hunting equite or plebeian girls when the news does come out in the Senate."

He might have to beat a hasty retreat to the villa in Campania to get away from the gossip-mongers. At least, he thought, somewhat viciously, if Lucius were to find his calling in the vigiles, he'd be stuck in Rome with all the gossip swirling around his head.

It was a mess, and of course Lucius wasn't the one who was going to have to clear it up!

 

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Longinus snorted in amusement, shaking his head. "It won't be as bad as that, you'll find yourself a nice divorcee with terrible lineage and barren who'll snap you up." He was joking, of course, but realised he may have gone too far and his usual brand of humour might not be so suited to this particular moment in Gaius' life. 

"There's been worse things that have happened to sitting Senators. You remember old Gavius Paratus? Didn't his daughter run off with some freedman? And oh-" He chuckled, "And then you have my intend's family...two sons by two different mothers for Praetor Varus and they're both slaves, yet he's recognised the latest as his heir." He shook his head, "Your brother joining a decent, old equite family to do a job for the city well...it won't matter to anybody who you really care about." At least in his professional opinion. 

 

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"Easy to laugh when it's not your family that's caught right in the middle of the latest scandal," Gaius said. Thank the gods that Vipsania Roscia wasn't anywhere near the city right now!

"The only way to come through a scandal is for everyone else in a family to behave impeccably," he said. Maybe he should wait a bit until all this had blown over before he married. Maybe he should hurry up and marry Ovinia before it all came out - no, her brother would surely make her divorce him if it came out so soon.

"I don't suppose there's some alternative we've completely missed, that means Lucius can have some sort of honourable career as a patrician somewhere?"

At least, if Lucius did pursue this course of action, adoption would mean he'd change his name, putting some distance between himself and gens Vipsania. And he was the younger son anyway.

 

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Longinus arched a brow and gave Gaius a deadpan look. "You were always the most honourable Tribune I had, I'm sure you will be utterly impeccable and I've not heard anything untoward mentioned about  your lovely sister." It was just Lucius then, the black sheep as it were. 

Sinking down lower on the couch and holding his cup out to be refilled, he let out a huff of thought. "Send him away to a province? Heard Hispania's nice this time of year..." He grinned, "You could let him do whatever he wanted there - out of the way, in the quiet anonymity. Claim he's infirm or something?" 

 

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"Despite everything, I do want him to be happy, you know," Gaius admitted. Right now, his brother's happiness was taking precedence over his own, which was all wrong, and would probably upset Lucius if he ever learned of it.

"I think I want to get very drunk," he added a moment later. "It won't solve anything but right now I don't think I can solve anything sober anyway."

 

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"Here, here!" He grinned and held his cup aloft after downing his refilled beverage for Attis to slosh more wine into. "I'm always available for your drinking needs, anything to get me out of the correspondence." He smirked, "When my father died I wish he bloody told me how much mindless administration there was being paterfamilias." 

Stretching out his aching legs on a small table just in front of the couch (rather than using the sofa as intended) he eyed Gaius. "Well...if you need anything, beyond my wine cellar, you know where to find me. I meant what I said about finding him a family." His clients were good and most importantly patient with their well meaning but paperwork-phobic patron. 

 

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"I want to find him a good family, whether among my clients or yours. Hades. I don't think I want my own brother to be one of my clients, perhaps I ought to go through yours to find him a new family. Lucius Vipsanius Roscius, you unutterable headache!" He raised his newly refilled winecup in an ironic toast before lowering it again a moment later.

"You've got a secretary, you know. What you need to do, is delegate all the correspondence to him so that you can just spend one afternoon a week signing things, it makes life so much easier. Ask him to sort out the really important stuff that you need to read, and just skim the rest. Don't keep putting it off because it makes the pile grow bigger every time you look at it."

He'd been just the same as a legate, and it had taken a while to figure out a system that worked, but Gaius had managed it in the end.

 

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Longinus let out a garrulous laugh at his description of his brother and raised his cup in his own toast. For one of the few times in his life, he was glad he was an only child. 

Arching a brow, he snorted. "Don't think I didn't know you were manipulating me in much the same way as my Tribune." There always had been a nice neat stack of orders for him to sign, which had made life easier and allowed him to get on with the creative side of the job which was both much more enjoyable, and much more within his skillset. "And I know, I know." He waved a hand, "But if I did that then the next time I met my clients they'd ask me if I read their latest letter and I'd have to bullshit my way through because all I did was sign it. I tried it," He chuckled, "It didn't end very well. It was easier in the legions - if I didn't want to do something you could do it for me, but now?" He sighed and shrugged, "Much like you, I don't have a brother to palm things off onto." 

 

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"That's why you get your secretary to read through everything and tell you the gist of each letter - the man's a secretary, I presume he can read."

He was tempted to stick his tongue out at his former legate,  but manfully resisted the temptation. There had been things that had never reached Longinus' desk, that Gaius had dealt with on his own without the Legate's needing to be disturbed. "That's what Tribunes are for, in case you didn't realise - you must have been one yourself, once?"

He'd rather enjoyed it, when he'd found his feet and grown into the authority the position gave him. His was much more ordered neat mind than Longinus' which operated in bursts of creativity that made Gaius groan as he tried to make a workable plan from something Longinus had just tossed out on the spur of the moment.

 

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"I don't know, Vitus?" The man came into view - with the most inscrutable expression on his face, "Can you read?" The man merely gave a tight smile which made Longinus snort in amusement. 

Aching a brow, he merely gave Gaius a smug grin. "For four glorious years from eighteen to twenty-two, I'll have you know. Under Decimus Junius Silanus, Gods keep him, he taught me everything I know - including how to play to my strengths." Which was his rapport with his men and the chaotic but unambiguously brilliant bouts of creativity in strategies or discipline that kept his legions going battle after battle, raid after raid. He once recalled a conversation with Titus where they'd lamented their weaknesses and celebrated their strengths; Titus had been the man that would religiously follow the strategies and battle plans written about in the annals of history - meticulously executing it with ruthless efficiency. Longinus was the man that was mad enough to try them for the first time, and ergo get them in the history books. 

"Drudgery and politics are not my strengths. It's why I often pine for a posting and then shake myself and realise I should probably aim a little higher. What about you?" He took a sip, "What's on the cards for your career?" 

 

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"I don't know," Gaius admitted. He didn't have the brilliance of Aulus Calpurnius Praetextatus, this year's consul prior. Gaius was a more stolid type, who would execute orders well, would do his best to delegate what he couldn't do and whose initiative wasn't lacking but wasn't always quite on the money. "I think aedile next year - or at least, I'm running for it, who knows whether I'll get it. I can't see myself becoming consul, not like your friend Calpurnius Praetextatus. Maybe Praetor, though - we'll see."

He had ambition, just not enough to worry about whether he got to a particular rank - not that Lucius had noticed or cared.

"Though, who knows if that's even going to happen after all this mess with my brother," he added. "He's great at causing problems but I never see him around clearing them up afterwards."

 

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