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A walk in the gardens


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November 76

He had to be careful, he knew. What he did reflected on his brother, and he would in no way bring any scandal on Titus Augustus. For there had been scandal, a Patrician adopted as an Equite, and it was someone he knew. Perhaps he wasn't even that surprised, following their brief conversation. Rather he was curious. But that care had led him to arrange their meeting in the Gardens of Sullust, rather than at the palace.

The weather was cool as the Roman winter began to set in, though the sky was clear and the weak sun gave a little warmth, but Tiberius had dressed warmly in multiple tunicas, with a thick woolen cloak over his heavy toga. And he was trailed by a Praetorian guard and several slaves, so was rather hard to miss.

He was looking forward to talking to Lucius again, especially in light of the apparent changes in the other man's life.

@Chevi

 

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Lucius was slightly surprised to be invited for an infromal meeting with an imperial. He had assumed that that door had closed a while ago. As much as him and Gaius tried to make the whole transition happen without much fuss, gossip was gossip, especially in a city like Rome. And a senator's brother giving up his rank to join the vigiles, out of all things, was bound to make waves.

As he walked through the gardens, wrapped in his cloak, Lucius wondered if he was in for a stern talk from the young imperial. He had attended Tiberius' party, and he was among the select few that Silanus deemed worthy of that favor. Tiberius seemed like a clever, reasonable young man. But who knew? Maybe he did not take kindly to scandal. 

Lucius was wearing a plain tunica and a thick woolen cloak. It would have been too much to wear his vigiles uniform. It was not hard to spot Tiberius, trailed by praetorians and slaves. Lucius took a deep breath and put on a neatural expression as he approached him.

"Tiberius Claudius Sabucius. Salve."

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Lucius spotted them first - not difficult really - and Tiberius turned as the slightly older man greeted him, responding with a smile. "Lucius Vipsanius Roscius." He greeted him. "Though I gather that will have changed now?" He'd heard the man had been adopted by equites, though not by whom. It was a scandal for his birth family; how was it viewed by his adoptive family?

Tiberius's entourage dropped back a little further so that the two could walk together through the autumnal gardens. The breeze was cool but not unpleasant, and those of the trees that were deciduous were sporting beautifully coloured leaves, a first few scattered on the paths. A nearby fountain trickled water from the mouth of a carved stone fish into the ornate bowl below. Evergreens were topiaried into fantastic shapes, and small flowers showed their last few blooms. After Sallust died, the property returned to Imperial possession, and the attached villa was sometimes used as an escape. Tiberius had considered moving his household here as an option.

"I regret that we did not speak soon after the party; I think that things have been busy for both of us. But how have you been?

@Chevi

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Tiberius recognized him easily, and his entourage fell back to allow them to talk.

"Lucius Vipsanius Roscius. Though I gather that will have changed now?" 

Lucius nodded.

"Lucius Manius Victorius Roscianus, if everything goes according to plan." he noted. Officially, the adoption had not been finalized yet, but the process was moving along. Adopting an adult man was more complicated than adopting a child, after all. But at least a family was willing, and that opened an escape door for him. Out of the cursus, and, hopefully, political obligations.

"I regret that we did not speak soon after the party; I think that things have been busy for both of us. But how have you been?

"Well, you have heard the most important news, then" Lucius chuckled. "I have been busy giving my brother a headache, may the gods bless him. But I am glad we have time to talk now. And I'm sorry if I put you in a difficult spot." he added, glancing around. Despite the following, the meeting had somewhat of a clandestine feel to it.

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Lucius Manius Victorius Roscianus, if everything goes according to plan.

Tiberius carefully committed the new name to memory. As Lucius joined him Tiberius started walking again, a gentle stroll that would allow the two young men to enjoy the Gardens whilst they talked. The young Imperial was not one to go everywhere in a litter, he found that travel on foot allowed him to take in much more of Rome and her daily doings.

"I had heard." He confirmed. It was hardly a secret, the gossip mongers were quite excited about it. "You've not cause me any difficulty," he assured Lucius, "but what I do reflects on Titus Augustus, so I must exercise a certain care." Lucius had been raised in the Senatorial class, he would understand politics. There would always be those looking for any excuse to detract from Caesar's reputation, though fortunately no major problems had arisen yet. Tiberius suspected that the political scene was still a little shocked by Quintus's abdication, but he knew it would not last.

Of course, the Imperials were hardly the main ones that Lucius's odd choice would reflect on. Still, the other man's words amused him. "Your brother will survive." He observed dryly. "But he has lost a potential political ally." He pointed out, in case the other hadn't realised, though surely he had.

And Lucius might find opposition in the oddest of places. "It's interesting, isn't it? The things we take for granted in society, until someone questions them?" He glanced aside at his companion. "The striving of the Senatorial class, for further influence and political gain. And then you go and say 'I don't need that'." He grinned suddenly. "You scandelise because you make people question their own assumptions." And the reaction was really rather interesting. "Sometimes assumptions should be questioned." And he was all for that. 'That's how it's always been done' wasn't a good enough reason in the young Imperial's mind.

But to have worked and fought and striven for political advancement all one's life, sometimes at great cost, only to see another appear to invalidate that by throwing it away to become a vigile, was going to make some people angry. Because it made them wonder, even if only subconsciously, whether it had been worth it.

@Chevi

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"I had heard. You've not cause me any difficulty. But what I do reflects on Titus Augustus, so I must exercise a certain care." 

Lucius nodded. Of course. It was strange, having slid down the political ladder, and yet taking a casual meeting with an imperial. In a way, Tiberius seemed like the odd one out of his family, just in more subtle ways than him.

"Your brother will survive. But he has lost a potential political ally." 

"To be fair... I don't think I would have been very good at it." he admitted sheepishly. Or at least it would have been like pulling teeth, trying to play political games he had had no interest in whatsoever.

"It's interesting, isn't it? The things we take for granted in society, until someone questions them? The striving of the Senatorial class, for further influence and political gain. And then you go and say 'I don't need that'. You scandelise because you make people question their own assumptions. Sometimes assumptions should be questioned." 

"I am glad to hear you say that. For a long time, I thought I was trapped between the cursus honorum and... being a lawyer." Those were the two choices his brother had offered him, after all. "This third option might be... unconventional. But at least I am doing something that actually helps... No offense to senators, of course. I just like to... be among people to help them. more directly."

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To be fair... I don't think I would have been very good at it.

That was fair. There were plenty of people out there doing what they did because it was what was expected of them, whether they were good at it or not. He was sure there were plenty who had expected him to at least vie for the Caesarship; some might have even expected Quintus to designate him either, but he was certain that his adoptive father knew that Tiberius preferred not to be in the central light. Besides, Titus was good at it, and together they were a powerful team.

"Recognising where one's strengths do and do not lie is a valuable insight." He observed. "Having the courage to act on it is rarer." But Lucius had, whether or not he saw it that way. Plenty of people walked the path set out for them, and were if not miserable, at least unfulfilled. Clearly the other man did not intend to be so. His determination intrigued Tiberius, and his words confirmed the young Imperial's impression that Lucius was following his passion and strength, rather than the path that was set before him.

No offense to senators, of course. I just like to... be among people to help them. more directly.

Tiberius smiled faintly, amused. "The path of government is not for everyone." He acknowledged. It was the path before him of course, but Tiberius had both an interest and apparent aptitude. "But that is why I wanted to speak to you." He revealed. "I feel that it is too easy to have a disconnect between the common people of the Empire, and those who govern her. You are amongst the Plebians and Equites, but you understand the ways of the Senate. That means that you can act as a bridge, if you will." He said, watching Lucius for his reaction.

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"Recognising where one's strengths do and do not lie is a valuable insight. Having the courage to act on it is rarer." 

Sometimes Lucius had the feeling that the young imperial was wiser than some of the seasoned senators. Lucius certainly liked him better, based on their short acquaintanceship. Which was why he dared to be completely honest around him. 

"The path of government is not for everyone. But that is why I wanted to speak to you."

"Oh?" Lucius arched an eyebrow. So, this was not going to be a lecture about bringing shame to the entire patrician class. Great.

"I feel that it is too easy to have a disconnect between the common people of the Empire, and those who govern her. You are amongst the Plebians and Equites, but you understand the ways of the Senate. That means that you can act as a bridge, if you will." 

Lucius smiled a little. He liked the idea, and he liked the young man's idealism even more.

"Maybe, in time? Right now, the vigiles don't trust me because I'm a patrician, and the patricians don't trust me because I joined the vigiles... that bridge is a little shaky at the moment."

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Tiberius hadn't asked Lucius here to lecture him; quite the opposite. He wanted to ask the man a favour. But he felt that it was important to establish his own position and views first, so that Lucius didn't mistake his intention. He had no personal objections over the other man's choices, but he understood why others did. No one likes to have their own assumptions questioned; but sometimes it does them good.

Still, Lucius appeared well aware of the obstacles in his own path. "Actions speak louder than words." He observed. "The vigiles will view you as one of their own in time, if you act the part. I'm sure I don't  have to tell you never to expect others to do something you're not prepared to do yourself." Which, from an Imperial, was perhaps the height of hypocracy, but if Lucius wanted to be accepted by his new peers he'd have to act the part. And going by his enthusiasm and drive. Tiberius doubted he'd have any difficulty doing so.

"The bridge might be a little shaky, but you don't have to be the only column supporting it." He said. "I am one of Caesar's advisors, and I am of a mind to form my own, small concilium, comprised of those who can give me a more direct view on our people and their concerns. As I'm sure you've discovered, it is all too easy for the Senatorial class - never mind Imperial class - to become distanced from those who are the heart of Rome. I'd like you to be one of my councellors."

He looked across at Lucius, to see what he thought of the idea.

@Chevi

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It would not have been fair to pretend he fit into his new vocation right away. It would have been neat, to say he was right where he needed to be, but in truth, neither his family nor his comrades believed that just yet. He did, but proof was still forthcoming.

"Actions speak louder than words. The vigiles will view you as one of their own in time, if you act the part. I'm sure I don't  have to tell you never to expect others to do something you're not prepared to do yourself." 

Lucius smiled.

"That's the reason I live in the barracks with the other recruits." Technically, once his adoption was legal, he could have gone straight to centurion, with the right connections. He didn't want to. The only way to do this was from the groud up.

"The bridge might be a little shaky, but you don't have to be the only column supporting it. I am one of Caesar's advisors, and I am of a mind to form my own, small concilium, comprised of those who can give me a more direct view on our people and their concerns. As I'm sure you've discovered, it is all too easy for the Senatorial class - never mind Imperial class - to become distanced from those who are the heart of Rome. I'd like you to be one of my councellors."

Lucius blinked, genuinely surprised this time. "Me?"

They barely knew each other. Sure, they had met at the party through Silanus, and he had a lot of respect for the young imperial. But all Tiberius knew about him was from that brief encounter, from Silanus, and from no doubt gossip. And yet, he wanted Lucius to... advise him? About the concerns of the people?...

Maybe he could do that. It was a chance he would have never dreamed of, in his new position. It dawned on Lucius that in his own way, Tiberius was just as unique in his family as he was in his own. A royal misfit.

"That... that would be an honor." he nodded slowly, with a smile. "Are you sure it won't cause trouble... me, instead of one of the tribunes?"

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Perhaps like attracted like. Tiberius was a little different, he knew that, though he did his best to fit into the mold that was expected of him. He'd earned a reputation for being quiet, studious and thoughtful; he could live with that. It was part of the reason that Titus - popular, fun, bold and outgoing Titus - was a far better choice for Caesar and Tiberius was determined to support him. Had he not been born an Imperial, he might have been a philosopher, and Tiberius saw some of the same thoughtful nature and concern for others in Lucius.

"Two of the People's Tribunes already part of Titus Augustus' concilium." He pointed out. "I am looking for those from whom we would not hear." He clarified. He didn't want politicians, and he didn't want Patricians; their voices were loud enough already. He wanted those at the mining face of the people who really made Rome function. And as a Vigile, Lucius was one of those.

"It's nothing formal." He assured Lucius. "It's highly likely I'll never actually gather all my counsellors together." Partly because he didn't want to upset others. "But I can't think how else to explain it." Well he could, but 'friendly spies' didn't really have a good ring to it. "You walk the streets and see the homes of the plebs. You might notice a problem. 'This block of Insulae are too fire prone, those one are falling apart, and these have no easy water access'; that kind of thing." He glanced at Lucius to see what he thought.

Not every problem was worthy of Imperial attention of course, but Tiberius was there to act as a filter for his cousin, providing him with the things he needed to know and could potentially do something about. And if not, the right word in the ear of the right Patrician - often owners of such properties - might just solve the issue.

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"Two of the People's Tribunes already part of Titus Augustus' concilium. I am looking for those from whom we would not hear." 

It made sense, what Tiberius was saying. Lucius did not like to play politics. But he also knew that he was not officially an officer of the vigiles just yet; if a centurion, a tribune, or even the praefect found out that he was counseling an imperial as a mere recruit, he would never get away from the gossip that he used his patrician privilege for going over the head of his superiors. It was a serious accusation he wanted to avoid. So now, he had to make a choice, once again, about making his own life a whole lot harder.

"It's nothing formal. It's highly likely I'll never actually gather all my counsellors together. But I can't think how else to explain it. You walk the streets and see the homes of the plebs. You might notice a problem. 'This block of Insulae are too fire prone, those one are falling apart, and these have no easy water access'; that kind of thing." 

Lucius chuckled, and nodded. "You have no idea how much the people need someone to hear them like this... although I am telling you right now, I will probably see and hear more than you will have the capacity to deal with. But even a little bit helps. And I appreciate it."

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The idea that he might make Lucius's life that much harder hadn't really crossed Tiberius's mind. Whether he was focused on his own plans to improve the lot of Rome's citizens, or subconsciously he still thought of Lucius as a Patrician and therefor of the class generally assumed to be able to manage any trouble they might encounter was hard to say. Certainly he wasn't trying to make trouble for Lucius, but he wasn't immediately involved in the structure and complexities that the older youth faced.

That was why he wanted his point of view. Lucius was immersed in an area of society that Tiberius had no direct connection to. And he felt it was important.

You have no idea how much the people need someone to hear them like this... although I am telling you right now, I will probably see and hear more than you will have the capacity to deal with. But even a little bit helps. And I appreciate it.

The young imperial gave a small, tight smile. "I will trust you to filter what you observe and only bring me that which cannot be remedied by or within the Vigiles themselves." He certainly didn't need to hear about everything, nor want to usurp the function of the Vigiles themselves.

He glanced across at Lucius and gave him a broader smile. "We ignore the plights of the plebians at our peril; they are the foundation of the Empire."

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"I will trust you to filter what you observe and only bring me that which cannot be remedied by or within the Vigiles themselves." 

Lucius nodded. Obviously. Not everything in the city could be remedied by the vigiles or the urban cohorts, and those remaining might be too unrealistic an ask even for an imperial ear. But he would try to be as useful as possible. This was an impossibly rare chance for the people of Rome. The young man would have meed a good emperor.

He still might.

"We ignore the plights of the plebians at our peril; they are the foundation of the Empire."

Lucius smiled. They were. The everyday people, on the streets, in the markets, in the insulae, in the legions. They were holding up the entire empire. "You know they like you, right? They write it on the walls." Reading the walls had always been a fun pastime, but now it was also important information for the vigiles.

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Tiberius didn't know Lucius well, but he would trust him to do that which he asked according to his own judgement, at least until he saw evidence that trust was unfounded. There were those who couldn't trust, who sought to micromanage everything and everyone, but that way lay paranoia and madness. He far preferred to assume the best of everyone until he was given cause to do otherwise. Having high expectations often encouraged people to live up to them.

Besides, Lucius seemed to share his appreciation of the citizens of Rome's lower classes, and that meant a lot. Far too many of Senatorial rank seemed to forget that they were individual people, each with their own needs, wants and dreams. But on such things the Empire rose or fell. And it was the duty of those who were born to the gifts and roles of leadership and governance to ensure they had enough of them to continue, satisfied. That brought stability, and to a child who had survived the purges, stability was of greatest importance.

You know they like you, right? They write it on the walls.

"Do they?" Tiberius gave an odd little smile, as though he was both pleased and embarassed by the thought. "The walls around the Palace are kept rather clean." He observed dryly; he didn't get to read the juicy stuff. "That... is good to know." He said with a thoughtful nod. "I do what I can for them. In the name of Titus Augustus, of course." He needed to emphasise that, needed it to be known that his efforts were all in support of his cousin and adopted brother. Let no one get ideas...

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Lucius chuckled at the look on Tiberius' face. As much as he was mature for his age, and smarter than many senators Lucius had met, he was still young enough to be bashful about compliments.

"Do they? The walls around the Palace are kept rather clean."

Of course they were. And Tiberius could not easily go around Rome, perusing graffiti. Lucius made a mental note to keep an eye on them. More than usual.

"That... is good to know. I do what I can for them. In the name of Titus Augustus, of course." 

"Of course." he nodded. No one wanted to accuse Tiberius of going for the rank of emperor. Maybe a lack of that ambition made him who he was. "So... how would I best reach out to you, if I had issues to talk about?" A vigiles recruit showing up at a Palatine on a regular basis was bound to raise some eyebrows, after all.

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It was an odd but pleasing thought, the idea that he'd made enough of a difference to someone that they'd written on a wall about it.

So... how would I best reach out to you, if I had issues to talk about?

It was a fair question. Neither of them wanted to be accused of upsetting the apple cart by the senatores, nor indeed by Lucius's fellow vigiles. Perhaps in the future they could be more open about it, but right now discretion was the key.

"You can send a message - written or verbal - with a slave, if you will. And if it is urgent, you can come yourself." Which probably wasn't what Lucius had in mind, but Tiberius hurried to explain. "It is my intention to move into the villa in these very gardens, in the new year. So I will no longer be living in the main palace complex." Which meant that he wasn't surrounded by as many walls, guards and watching eyes.

"I'm sure that, as a Vigile, you know that the villa has a couple of back gates into these gardens." He suggested, subtle as a block of masonry.

@Chevi

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"You can send a message - written or verbal - with a slave, if you will. And if it is urgent, you can come yourself."

Sending a message was going to be relatively easy. Even if he did not want the rest of the vigiles to find out about his connection to the Palatine, Lucius could send one of the household slaves from his adoptive family. He was in no position to own a body slave himself, and honestly, didn't really miss it either. But visiting, in person...

"It is my intention to move into the villa in these very gardens, in the new year. So I will no longer be living in the main palace complex. I'm sure that, as a Vigile, you know that the villa has a couple of back gates into these gardens." 

"Oh" Lucius blinked in surprise, glancing around. Tiberius having his own residence... this was not a bad place for that. And it would make it easier to meet with him, and his circle, without drawing much attention. Especially if the villa did have bakc gates... "I didn't know that. But now I do." He chuckled. "This seems like a good place to live. What made you decide to move out? If you don't mind me asking."

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"Well, now you know." The young Imperial said with a slightly impish smile. He was looking forward to it, including having greater freedom to meet with whom he wanted.

"I feel it's time I established my own household." He said honestly. "I'm the last Julio-Claudean male." Which made him pater familias but the family consisted of himself and his twin sister. "Whilst Quintus Augustus ruled, my uncles all had their own Domii." And still did, of course. "I grew up in the palace, but Titus is Caesar and will have his own household too. So I think it's time to move out, to give both of us some space. The Villa Sullusti is a stepping stone, whilst my own inheritance is sorted out." It was still an imperial residence, after all. "But I think some people think I'm mad for leaving the Palace." He glanced at Lucius, wondering what he thought.

"Marcus Junius Silanus will be moving in too." Well, he assumed he would, once Tiberius made the offer. "So if you need to get a message to me indirectly, you can go through him." He would have to leave it up to Lucius to judge what would be most appropriate, given his new place and position.

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It was beginning to sink in for Lucius that the young imperial really did trust him. Telling him about the entrance to his new domus, and ways to send messages. And even answering his - somewhat personal - question about why he decided to move off the Palatine.

"I don't think it's mad." he admitted. He knew why people would think that; to the plebes in Rome, moving out of the place that was as close to the gods as humanly possible did seem like insanity. But for someone like Tiberius, the last of his male line... the Palatine's shadows might have been too long. Lucius could relate to that. And he trusted the younger man not to use his new domus to lose himself in drink and whores. "I think it's an opportunity."

"Marcus Junius Silanus will be moving in too. So if you need to get a message to me indirectly, you can go through him." 

"He is?" Lucius arched an eyebrow and grinned. A strange pair, the two of them, but somehow a good match anyway. "Well, that is good news. As long as he is not in charge of the guest list..." Last time, Vibia's presence had ruffled some feathers...

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Tiberius did trust Lucius, for two reasons. Firstly he'd been given no reason not to, and secondly he felt a kindred spirit with the other young man, they both understood the importance and value of the lower classes, and the duty of care of the Patricians. And he would continue to do so, unless that trust was broken. That didn't mean that he didn't guard himself of course, or his garden gates. Lucius could present himself at the rear door of the Villa Sullusti, but there would always be at least a slave there.

And it seemed that Lucius understood him, or at least his reasons, which was reassuring to hear. He did see his move into the Villa as an opportunity; a chance to find out who he was and how exactly he could serve the Empire. And he wouldn't be alone; as he told Lucius, Marcus would be with him too, and was another avenue to the Imperial's ear.

As long as he is not in charge of the guest list...

That caught Tiberius's interest. "Oh? It sounds like there's a story there..." He cast the other youth a keen glance.

@Chevi

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Lucius cleared his throat and then chuckled at the question. Of course, Tiberius had been otherwise occupied during their little spat with Ovinia and Silanus, back at the party on the Palatine.

"Silanus is good at bringing in quality entertainment." he admitted with a smirk. "But... some young women might find that quality entertainment a bit... unnerving." Noble women generally protested the presence of prostitutes on a principle... even if they were there as musicians. Go figure. "Anyway. I should not take any more of your time, I'm sorry. I will reach out as soon as I have something useful to report."

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Some young women might find that quality entertainment a bit... unnerving...

Another piece of the mosaic was added, creating a larger picture. Ovinia had been upset at the party, but she'd blamed the incident on the boys teasing her about her brother, whom if he recalled correctly was older and in the military and likely capable of taking care of himself. So Marcus had invited someone for the entertainment who had upset Ovinia. Whilst Tiberius was inclined to trust someone until given reason not to, here it seemed he was being given reason to at least vet the entertainment if Marcus was doing the organising. "I see." He said evenly.  "Thank you." He did appreciate the subtle warning; he and Marcus were good friends, but he would not let friendship blind him.

Admitedly, he had come to suspect that Marcus would need some guidance if he was to become the political success required to restore his family's name. Tiberius could provide that guidance, providing that Marcus would listen to him. That remained to be seen. Right now however his attention was on Lucius, who had also been at that party, the start of their acquaintance.

"Don't apologise, I asked you here." He reminded the other man. He'd wanted to speak with him. "But of course you have work to do. It is I who should not keep you."He offered the other a friendly smile. "Thank you for meeting with me, and I wish you all the best on your new road."

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