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November 76AD

It had been three months since his fortuitous meeting with Consul Calpurnius Praetextatus, and both men had been busy. The Empire never stopped and neither did her governance. The Senate met and made decisions, and Tiberius advised and ran interference for Titus as needed, acutely aware of his role as the Caesar's brother, even as his uncles had served Quintus, and still served Titus.

Sometimes that role involved meeting with other politicians on his behalf, though in the case of the Consul that was no hardship. Tiberius would soon be twenty and was virtually assured of a role as military tribune, which meant that he and Aulus would be working closely, if the man's future position allowed.

So he'd been happy to courier several letters and documents to Aulus as an excuse to speak with him, and gauge his thoughts on several current issues. Accompanied by a Praetorian Guard and a slave, he arrived at Aulus's Domus wearing a fine tunica laticlava and white, woolen toga, clearly there on business.

As the slave opened the door the young Imperial smiled. "Salve. Tiberius Claudius Sabucius. I'm here to see the Consul."

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Horatia tapped the stylus against the wax, lost in her train of thought. The work of a matron was never ending, and she chose this blustery November day to account for the winter stores the kitchen slaves had produced, running through lists of items that were running out, working out costs and expenditures and arranging them around upcoming events; the dinners and the functions that they had been expected to hold at the domus since Aulus took the Consulship. She enjoyed the work, particuarly with her mother-in-law absent at the villa which left her in command of the domestic sphere, but it was difficult to concentrate with her stomach being battered most moments.

She glanced down, as if expecting to see the skin move from the flips and turns the child was doing within her womb. She splayed her fingers over the neat bump, a slight, wary smile on her lips. Now six or so months along, she had almost settled into the pregnancy. Almost. The nerves and the fear hadn't left her, but feeling the child strong and healthy gave her courage. 

Trying to return to her work (to see just how much the lictors were eating them out of house and home), her thoughts were interrupted yet again but this time by the polite cough of Aulus' secretary. "Domina, a visitor is here for dominus. Tiberius Claudius Sabucius." That warranted a quirked eyebrow, "Shall I let him know dominus is absent?" She shook her head, pushing herself to stand, "No, no. I'll greet him. Have wine brought into the gardens." Xanthos nodded and hurriedly departed her small study, set upstairs and away from all the other rooms - it was her sanctuary. The shelves were, however, already overflowing with codices and scrolls. She really ought to ask Aulus to extend it through into the next, vacant room. 

Smoothing down the fabric of her ornate stola, belted above her bump, she glided to descend the stairs, her face neutral but her voice warm as she entered the atrium, seeing the young man. Aulus had a lot of faith in him, although her own judgement was more reserved. Perhaps this was an ideal time to get his measure. "Tiberius Claudius Sabucius, an honour." She inclined her head before clasping her hands in front of her waist. "I'm afraid my husband is attending business that couldn't wait. He should be back later this afternoon, or you're welcome to wait." Her blue eyes were assessing, but not un-warm, "It's a pleasure to meet you, you're spoken about highly and -" She gestured with one of her hands having unclasped them, "We have a brazier in the garden." 

 

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Stepping through the portal into the atrium as the slave held the door for him, Tiberius was surprised to see not Aulus coming to greet him but a stately and statuesque woman wearing an ornate stola with a belt that revealed a modest but distinctly rounded belly; she must be pregnant. She had surprisingly red hair, rare amongst the Romans, and the youthful skin of one who did no hard labour and saw as little sun as possible. She was both an attractive woman and a striking one. Surely this must be the Consul's wife, of whom he had spoken so highly, and as she introduced herself she confirmed that suspicion.

"Salve, Horatia Justinia, the honour is mine." He replied with a polite nod. He smiled faintly when she said that he was highly spoken of, hoping that had been her husband, and was intrigued when she gave him the option to wait, as an alternative to simply coming back later. "Only if it's no disruption to you and your household." He clarified. "I appreciate that you were not expecting a visitor. But the brazier would be most welcome." It was cold outside, and he had walked from the Palace. Yes he could have used a litter, yes he had one, yes he avoided it if he possibly could. So having cold hands and feet was entirely his own fault. Still, he felt more alive that way, and he refused to be closeted away from Rome's streets.

The look that Horatia was giving him was shrewd, not quite calculating but definitely taking his measure in some form. Perhaps to see whether he matched what her husband had told her. Somehow that frank regard was refeshing. "Might I have the pleasure of your company, whilst I wait?" He ventured. He was intrigued to know more of the woman of whom Aulus had spoken so highly, who read tactical treatises and no doubt greatly supported her husband's political career.

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"Of course." She replied with a small smile, "I was doing nothing that can't wait." She gestured to the man standing a few feet off to the left, "Xanthos is my husbands secretary - any business you have for him, he can take. and place on his desk." Because business for Aulus could take anywhere from a quick trip out to many hors depending on which Senators needed speaking with, and what issue they were tackling. 

She gestured for him to follow her, skirting around her father-in-law's tablinum and through into the peristyle garden. Even in the winter, the plants lovingly tended by their garden slaves were in good shape and the fountains slowly meandered and trickled. In one corner a brazier had been set up with cushioned couches and wine already set out next to it. She enjoyed the gardens, she always had - since she was a girl in her own fathers domus - and the poor weather didn't deter her. "Please." She extended a hand, indicating he should seat himself first. He was a guest, it was only polite. 

"You know," She said with a wry smile as she seated herself - expertly disguising the discomfort that stretched across her back from her pregnancy as she did so, "I owe you an apology; your secretary and I have been struggling to find a date for a dinner," She arched a brow; "You're a busy man. But then so is Aulus." A light smile crossed her lips as one of the house slaves silently padded in to leave a tray of dried fruits and nuts, and pour the wine. It was offered  to Tiberius first. 

 

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At Horatia's words, Tiberius turned to Xanthos and offered him the tight bundle of scrolls and papyrus sheets he was carrying. "These are for the Consul's consideration." He said simply as he offered them over. They could discuss the contents later, and Aulus might even prefer to have time to consider them before they talked.

Gesturing to his own slaves to wait in the atrium, Tiberius followed the lady of the house at her gesture, observing discretely but with interest. Aulus seemed neither a man of excessive ostentation, nor one who was miserly. The house was fine and comfortable, everything it should be.

The gardens though were carefully tended, here there was evidence of a loving hand. He enjoyed gardens himself, and could see the evidence of care. "Thank you." With a slight bow Tiberius sat on one of the cushioned couches as requested. Whilst as a guest he should sit first, he did so as quickly as possible, so that the lady of the house, obviously pregnant, could sit as well.

Matching her wry smile with one of his own, Tiberius covered his slight embarassment by taking a dried fig from the platter offered. "I feel it is I who should offer the apology." He replied in turn. "It is not for want of desire to attend." He assured her. But it wouldn't do. "I serve Titus Augustus closely, but there must be time for other things, and the Consul was very kind to make the invitation." And of course there was always time between missives from the lady of the house to his secretary and back again, during which things changed.

"Let us set a date now, if it please you." He suggested. "If we make it a few weeks ahead, I will clear that date of any other duties and, some Imperial disaster notwithstanding, promise it to you." He trusted that Horatia would understand that if there was some major event for which Caesar himself required Tiberius, then the young Imperial must serve his brother first. But otherwise he was hers.

Best not to make it too many weeks ahead though, he mused, given her expectant state.

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She smiled politely, gaze assessing as he made his apologies. It was expected, and sounded utterly true and she held no ill-will towards the young man for the lack of a dinner. Other things, perhaps, if her cousin's love-struck gaze was anything to go by, but not that he was too bound up to call in for cena. "Yes, let's." She met his suggestion evenly and waved a few fingers at a slave who quickly padded away. "I keep my office upstairs," She explained - although choosing not to explain the novelty of having her own office, "But I'd rather not walk there right at this moment, I'll have my calendar brought down." She'd taken to the role of matron with fervour and kept detailed accounts of who was meeting who and when and for what purpose. It was both useful for organising social events, but she suspected it would be even more useful should there be a need in the future for raking through connections and meetings.

It would take the girl some minutes to gather Horatia's various tablets and scrolls and so she instead, offered the man an amused look. "If I were a pessimist I'd say the fact you mention serving the Augustus closely and have fears of an imperial disaster is a little concerning." She chuckled and gave him a wry smile which indicated she wasn't serious. "It most be so rewarding to see your Titus Augustus rise," Her smile became softer and a little more genuine, "And it must be gratifying work, I imagine, to serve as one of his counsellors. Such an opportunity, for all of you." Moreso than she could really imagine, if truth were told. She had exposure to a great deal more of the world than many women her class by virtue of an indulgent husband, but her world was still narrow in comparison to men like Aulus and Titus. She couldn't even picture what it was like to walk into the Senate chamber, or sit with Caesar and offer advice or counsel. 

"I'm afraid I'm not as well versed in politics or the cursus as many of your conversational partners, I'm sure, but you must be thinking about starting your own career soon, no?" 

 

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The lady of the house had an office of her own. Of course, most women ran their husband's household quite completely, but it was an interesting detail. Aulus had spoken quite proudly of his wife's intellect and broad, often self-initiated, education. "Of course." Never would he ask the matron of the house to climb the stairs herself to fetch her calendar in her current condition. Besides, he was in no hurry, and quite intrigued to meet Aulus's lady.

He smiled, a little chargrined, as she pointed out the juxtaposition of his words. Nothing got by her, it seemed. "A poor choice of words perhaps." He acknowledged with his own faint smile, clear that he understood she was teasing him gently. "But I feel it's only fair to be clear that I must serve the Empire first." He was an Imperial, it was the way of things. Born and raised to serve. A slave had only one master, he had the Empire.

Was it rewarding? For a moment that smile disappeared as Tiberius let a small moue pull his lips together in a thoughtful expression. "It is." He allowed after a moment. "Titus Augustus is well suited and well liked, and I am both pleased and proud to be a part of his reign and one of those ensuring the continued prosperity of the Empire." But the words sounded stilted, almost rehearsed. "But I think I speak for both of us when I say that we both mourn the departure of our father from the throne." He added seriously. Yes they were successful, rising stars of the Empire, but they were also young men, still finding their way in the world, and suddenly bearing a great deal of responsibility. Tiberius would never begrudge Quintus his retirement, but it left Titus and himself suddenly at the helm of the Empire.

But, as he had done in all things, Tiberius rallied after a moment; they were not alone. "But we are most fortunate to have the advice and support of Quintus Augustus's counsellors and supporters, including your husband, and for that we are grateful. A great many good men serve the Empire, and that assures her stability." At least, he hoped so. 

"There are plenty of interesting things to talk about besides politics." He replied with a smile. "All those things which make the politics worthwhile, for a beginning." Like friends and family. But she'd asked him a question. "I turn twenty in a few days, so will submit my candidacy for the next round of Military Tribune appointments." Which, by virtue of his birth, he was guaranteed to get. "Your husband has kindly offered to take me on as Tribune, should his role align with that." Which he hoped it would. "I would be honoured to serve him; he's already taught me much." From there he could be a candidate for the role of Quaestor at twenty-eight.

"I understand that your son is to take the toga this year, if he hasn't already?" It was some months since he'd spoken with Aulus, as Horatia had pointed out.

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If Tiberius thought his words sounded stilted, Horatia thought also. Still - she kept her face carefully neutral and examined the man in front of her. Rehearsed though he may be, it was still impressive. She had her own brothers and couldn't imagine either of them being quite so cautious and well versed in the politicking of their class by Tiberius' age. She likewise made no comment on Quintus' retirement beyond inclining her head in agreement. She knew that surely Aulus missed his one-time legate and friend on the throne of the Empire, but she'd heard nothing but good things about the men currently leading it. Then again, she supposed she would only hear good things. "Aulus didn't tell me you were a flatterer," She said, lightly amused at his words and kindness, "But you're right - the men in the consilium seem the perfect blend of rational and ambitious, pragmatic but optimistic, although naturally my view is less-informed than some." She nonetheless had her own opinions.

She listened to his answer with interest, saving little pieces of information for later. Now having met the man he seemed charming and astoundingly astute...which was not what she had necessarily been expecting from her cousin Sosia's praise. Aulus' seemed more accurate. "Ah," She said with a wide, genuine grin, "I would be delighted if it did work out, the provinces can get challenging and from a selfish perspective it would be nice to have some decent company at dinner." She said amused, "When we were in Raetia for his term as propraetor, things became a little monotonous." Because Horatia had never really gelled with the military leaders and their wives.

Nodding at his own question, she sipped her wine. "He is. I still can't believe he's fifteen, it's baffling." She also couldn't believe she'd found herself with child again. Her youngest was thirteen years old, and surely the rumour mill of Rome was turning at the gap in her pregnancies, not that they knew of her losses in between (or her consumption of silphium). "We're due to host a dinner to celebrate, and so if I cannot find a date with you before I know Aulus would be greatly honoured if you would attend. His sister Calpurnia is likely to come, as is my daughter obviously, and father, and potentially some of my cousins." She sipped her wine and watched his face, "I believe you have already met my cousin Sosia?" 

 

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Titus was well suited to the throne, a throne which Tiberius didn't want, but he missed Quintus, the man who he remembered most as his father. He would far rather that he was still there, on the throne, to guide and teach them. They'd been bred and trained to rule, but Tiberius couldn't help feeling that they were yet too young. Thank the Gods for the support of men like Aulus.

It was the second time that Horatia had claimed that her view of the political landscape was less well informed than some. "I suspect that you do not give yourself enough credit, Lady Horatia." He replied. And perhaps it sounded like flattery, and those words could certainly serve that purpose, but they were an expression of a genuine suspicion on his part. The wife of the erstwhile Consul could easily be a powerful political force in her own right. Certainly his own mother had been. "Certainly you seem to have an excellent handle on those in Titus's concillium." Because he couldn't agree more. For two young men suddenly carrying the Empire on their shoulders, they were far from alone.

The fact that Horatia seemed pleased by the prospect of having Tiberius with them as Tribune to Aulus if he was assigned to the provinces was something of a relief to the young Imperial. If Aulus's family didn't welcome his presence, it could become an awkward and tedious posting. "It would be far more enjoyable to be posted with a family I already know and whose company I enjoy." He returned, smiling. "I admit I am looking forward to the prospect of some time in the provinces." Purges and such not withstanding, his childhood had been fairly sheltered.

The whole experience could be very enjoyable, if they all found each others' company agreeable. Wanting to learn more about Aulus's family, Tiberius asked about his son, and listened as Horatia confirmed that the young man was soon to take his toga. The biggest step in becoming a man. He laughed a little when Horatia declared it baffling that her son was now fifteen. He supposed that, having nursed him from a squalling infant, it might be. Still, it was far better than the alternative, given how many were lost before they reached their majority. "So suddenly a young man grown? But I believe that is the idea." He said, an ever-so-gentle tease. "And something well worth celebrating. I would be honoured to attend, if you'll have me." That was quite an honour, to be invited to so important a family event. Though he supposed that if Aulus did take him as Tribune, they would have to put up with him at close quarters. "Shall we save ourselves the trouble of scouring dates, and settle on that one?"  He suggested.

Horatia warned him that there would be other family there, including her daughter, Aulus's sister and possibly some of Horatia's cousins. Then she mentioned one cousin in particular. Oh. Tiberius hadn't made that connection, and he really should have. Sosia had told him her father was Gaius Horatius Justinius, and here he was talking to Horatia Justinia. Oops. But if there was anything the young Imperial was trained for, it was giving a winning presentation. He smiled broadly, and entirely genuinely, at the mention of Sosia's name. "I have indeed!" He confirmed happily. "I bumped into her - quite literally - at the Temple of Minerva." Well, she'd bumped into him, but it was ungentlemanly to accuse a lady. "And she attended a gathering that I hosted at the Palace, a sort of get-to-know-your-peers for young Imperials and Patricians." He explained. "I hoped it might help her make some new acquaintances here in Rome."

But he could only assume that Horatia knew that because Sosia had told her. The question was, how much had she told her cousin?

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"I, and Aulus and Titus would be delighted." she grinned and nodded, "Aulus has set a date. It's a day for the two of them of course." Which she tried not to resent. It was her that had nourished him in her womb for nine months, gave him life, breathed him into the world and carried him on her hip until he could walk...cared for him, watched him mature and then suddenly it had seemed - he had become his fathers son, not his mothers. He no longer had the interests they had once enjoyed together and it was a cruel reality but she had gotten used to it. But his steps into manhood with his father reminded her of the fact that they were growing ever further apart. At least she had her daughter still...until she wed. 

Conversation meandered until they reached the main point of intrigue for Horatia. His smile was winning and broad but Horatia sensed not entirely genuine. Maybe he was simply stunned that she had uncovered something? Or uncomfortable. She matched his smile with one of her own. Well...so far their stories matched. Sosia had said much the same and she arched her brow, intrigued. "That's very kind of you. I encouraged her to reach out to her peers, there's a wealth of friendship to be gained in Patrician...and Imperial circles. She's very sweet, of course, so that helps." She inclined her head, and studied him. "Of course, being sweet she is perhaps unused to things in Rome and the ways and means of most people. I'm sure she'll learn in time  but for now, I'm glad she has a friend like you." The impression on the word 'friend' was slight, barely distinguishable but there. You are to be a friend and nothing more, do you understand? She let a beat of silence pass. "She tells me you intend to see one another again?" 

 

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"Then I shall be there." He declared, satisfied. It would be an honour to attend the family event, and a pleasure to get to know Aulus's family better. Horatia's melancholy over the growing distance between herself and her son went right over his head unfortunately, it wasn't something that would have occurred to him. A child reaching adulthood was a cause for celebration; but then he'd never birthed and raised a child and had no understanding of the closeness that was being left behind.

Horatia knew. Or knew something anyway. That look was a little too shrewd, there was just a little too much emphasis on the word friend. Not without reason, of course. Ah dear. Tiberius knew that he shouldn't have kissed Sosia, that it wasn't right or proper and could damage her reputation if anyone found out, but it was easy to be logical when she wasn't standing just there, with her big, dark eyes and her flowers in her hair. Youthful hormones wanted what they wanted, and even the restrained Tiberius fell victim to them occasionally. "She is very sweet." He agreed, trying not to blush, "which makes her very easy company. Not having to concern myself about politics in her presence." Plus the way she all but worshipped him did wonderful things for his ego. "I am pleased to be her friend," entirely true, however much he might want more, "and I understand that she has also found a friend in Gaius Ovinius Camillus's daughter." And Ovinia seemed like a good companion for Sosia, being quite observant and willing to speak her mind.

He had promised to see Sosia again, Horatia was quite right. The two of them must have talked. "I'm sure that knowing her cousin is here for her is something she finds very reassuring." He observed. Horatia was a logical friend and confidant. "She told me that she misses the countryside, so I offered to show her the Gardens of Sullust." He explained. They were a popular public hortus. "Perhaps you'd like to join us?" He suggested, surely clear evidence that he had nothing but good intentions.

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If he was discomfited by her line of questioning then he didn't let on and she was impressed. Few men his age would be quite so adept at hiding their feelings and impulses, especially from the observant eye of somebody like Horatia Justina but Tiberius was doing admirably. Even if Horatia herself didn't believe him a jot and usually she wouldn't care - the love lives of the imperials were none of her concern, but when they concerned the honour of her sweet, naive cousin they most certainly were

She cracked a smile and chuckled, shaking her head; "I'm sure my cousin doesn't want her old relation trailing her during a walk in the gardens." And Horatia was not going to be so overbearing as to drive her cousin away. She was sweet and needed all the help she could get. "It's sweet of you to offer, but I'll leave such things to the young. Besides," She moved her hand to her bump, "I might not be in any condition for lengthy strolls through the city soon."  Her pregnancy was progressing normally in her sixth month and despite only being in her early thirties, she was feeling the exhaustion more this time around than a decade and a bit ago with Calpurnia. She waved a hand, "It's not the most interesting thing for young men to think of I know," She chuckled, "But such is our lot as women. But," She moved her hand away from her bump and back to her wine, "Tell me - what are your plans for the immediate future Tiberius? I know you say a Tribuneship but beyond that? You must have plans?" 

 

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A wave of relief followed Horatia's declining to rise to his challenge and chaperone Tiberius and Sosia in the gardens. Much as she seemed like a fine lady, he didn't really want her there during his precious time with her cousin, even as he knew he shouldn't want that time with Sosia as much as he did. And she gave an entirely acceptable excuse. Though he hadn't commented on her swollen belly, it hadn't escaped his notice. "Of course. May Juno and the Parcae bless you." He replied, acknowledging the obvious now that she'd drawn attention to it. Of course, nothing was certain, or even probable until the child was named on it's eighth or ninth day. There was a long gap between Horatia's last live child and this pregnancy, so Tiberius assumed that there had been others lost. But this one was well along at least; he hoped for both her and Aulus' sakes that it resulted in a healthy child; and a healthy mother.

"It's not that uninteresting." He assured her. "After all, one takes a wife in the hope of children." Something that he was all too aware of. "I don't doubt that our Consul is pleased." He added with a twinkle in his eye beyond his years. He knew that Aulus was fond of his wife, and that he only had one son. No doubt there was hope for that reassuring second. Plus if Horatia bore a live child, she would then gain further freedoms. It would be good for the whole family.

Her next question was a good one. What were his plans for the future? "I intend to continue the cursus honorum." He replied. "I'll go where my military service takes me. Then I'll stand for Quaestor in my year." And given his heritage there was little doubt he'd achieve that. But that was eight years away. "And in the time between I'll seek a wife." He said simply. As the pater familias and last male of his line he felt a responsibility. And of course, once he had an heir of his own he'd come fully into his inheritance, which was substantial. "From there I will do what I can for my family, just as any man." For like any other Patrician he would have his own responsibilities. "All whilst supporting Titus Augustus as needed, of course." Any call his brother might have on him would trump his own plans. 

"I am hopeful that my plans may align with the Consul's for at least part of my military service, but I am sure that you and he have your own plans." Her son Titus would no doubt stand for the vigintiviri in a few years, and then on to his own military service. Her daughter would come of age, and hopefully there would be a new child.

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Horatia listened with a soft smile. A perfect life, perfectly noble, perfectly content...but of course the fates had a way of messing with best laid plans. Aulus had been on track for much the same before the civil war had swooped in and disrupted their life for almost six years. She tried not to dwell on what they had lost, and what could have been and instead reigned her thoughts back into the present and the bright, but serious young man sat in front of her. Her lips twitched in a smile. "A life of duty and service." she nodded in understanding, "But you should perhaps try and find some room for fun and enjoyment in between military service and a quaestorship and finding a wife." She chuckled. "Life is far too short to just follow a path." Whether Tiberius took, or even wanted her advice that was another thing, but she gave it freely anyway.

Intriguing, though as he posed the question back to her. "I think Aulus thinks much the same as you," She commented neutrally but there was a hint of a smile on her lips, "Many people see him as ambitious for his own sake I'm sure, but the truth is he's risen so high and done so much in service of Quintus and now Titus Augustus, not for fame and glory." her smile became a touch more pronounced; "So I suspect he'll go where Caesar tells him he is of the most use. But I've made very plain that I expect us to be back in Rome within a few years lest my daughter be forced to marry some Judean or British chief out of a lack of other, more suitable options." Calpurnia would have only the very best for a husband of course, but it didn't hurt to keep Aulus as focused on that as he was on other matters. They had time, but that time would run out sooner than they both thought, no doubt.

"You must have similar concerns for your twin?" she asked with genuine interest, "I'm ashamed to say I've not met her myself, but I hear she's a lovely girl. And very welcome at my book club, should you think it would interest her?" 

 

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Posted (edited)

But you should perhaps try and find some room for fun and enjoyment in between military service and a quaestorship and finding a wife.

She chuckled gently, no doubt meaning to give him permission to enjoy himself a bit. He met her gaze thoughtfully. "And what if I do enjoy those things?"He asked with a sudden, impish little smile. And he did, in a way. Fulfilling his potential and the path set before him were satisfying, and he was driven to serve the Empire. "I read a lot. Information from all parts of the Empire, and a number of philosophers. And legal documents." He looked a little sheepish for a moment. "Perhaps that sounds boring but I find it fascinating, trying to understand how both people and society function." And if your understanding was good enough, he reasoned, you could start to work out where the levers were. And if he could work out where society's levers were, he could pursue his goal of furthering stability. And then no one would have to live through purges and civil war again.

It was interesting to hear Horatia's impression of Aulus' political drives, which fleshed out his own first impression, that they were much aligned in serving for the good of the Empire, not their own political gains, fame or that ephemeral concept, glory. "I think that the Consul and I are alike in our goals." He said quietly. It was perhaps not the most modest of claims. "If the Empire prospers, we all do." But it was interesting, and kind of fun in a way, to hear Horatia's take on the possibilities of the next few years. Not everything was politics and trade routes. Of course she was concerned for her daughter's future, as was only proper. He gave her a keen, slightly amused look. "I'm sure you and Aulus would find the very best blue-painted chieftain if necessary. But did you and he not wed whilst your family was in the provinces?" He asked. Wasn't Aulus serving with her father? Of course, that required the presence of someone suitable.

It occurred to him, not for the first time, that Aulus and Horatia's daughter was of about the right age for him to consider marrying, when she came of age. And they were a good family to be connected to. Of course, Horatia wasn't the only one concerned for a young woman in the family, and she was perhaps a little concerned for his sister as well, not without cause. "I daresay that she would enjoy your reading club." He replied. "I will recommend it to her. She appreciates intelligent company." Claudia was a bright and savvy young woman. "I am also working to establish my own household, which of course includes my sister." And included his responsibilities for his sister, prime amongst them was finding her a husband.

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Horatia smiled delightedly, understanding exactly what he meant. "Will you follow me?" She said as she pushed herself to stand. It was more difficult with the bump but not insurmountable and she was determined to take his full measure in, which therefore warranted a trip to her sanctuary. She spoke over her shoulder as she led him further into the house and to the staircase that led up to her study. "We did wed in Achaea - Aulus was serving as a Tribune and I was visiting my brother who was also." The smile on her lips was softer now at the memory. "But I'll have to take the measure of any Tribunes paying call to my daughter in any provinces we might visit." She glanced over her shoulder with the briefest of amused looks as she ascended the stairs. 

"Your sister will be more than welcome, I can assure you." She stopped in front of a set of double doors, an impish smile on her own lips, "If she won't be put off by my own interests." She pushed them open to reveal Horatia's study. On one side of the room, covering its entire length, was shelves as high as the roof stacked with a litany of scrolls and codices. They were all neatly organised and labelled. She was not embarrassed of this part of her, but few saw the mind underneath the polite, well mannered, dutiful wife of the Consul-prior. She watched his reaction carefully. "I also find it fascinating, trying to understand how life and its people function." She gestured to one particular set of shelves as she seated herself on one of the couches. "Those are accounts of all of the provinces, all of them." It was quite the collection. "You are welcome to borrow whatever you wish to." 

 

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"Certainly." Horatia's smile was such pure, unadultered delight that he could hardly refuse her request to follow, intrigued by what in his words could possibly have brought it on. Uncertain as to whether to offer his hand to help the lady of the house up given her pregnant state, his brief pause meant that she was already up and ahead of him, leading him through Aulus's very comfortable Domus. Where could she possibly be taking him? They passed a slave carrying a wax tablet, who turned and followed them wordlessly, then up some stairs to the second level, usually only seen by the residents and their slaves. As they walked Horatia made it clear that she and Aulus had indeed wed in the provinces during his Tribuneship, but any repeat performance would require her approval. She gave him a knowing and somewhat amused look over her shoulder and, caught off guard, the young Imperial blushed slightly for the first time that visit. He was still growing into the idea of having a wife, let alone needing to organise his own.

They passed through a set of double doors and suddenly there they were, surrounded by racks of scrolls, parchments and tablets, as well organised and stocked as any library. Tiberius  looked around, blue eyes wide for a moment as he took it all in, before a slow smile spread across his youthful features as Horatia explained that her own interests were similar to his. Understanding people, society and life. Finally his gaze returned from the well stocked racks to meet hers, and that impish cast appeared in his smile again. "I did think, when you said that you had little understanding of the politics, that you weren't giving yourself nearly enough credit." He observed. "Now I know you protested too much." He would have to get Claudia to Horatia's reading club. Surely she would appreciate the company of another intelligent, well read woman. "I suspect that Claudia would be intrigued. She's and intelligent woman."And, he strongly suspected, more cunning than he was. It was a shame she hadn't been born a man.

The smile turned to a flash of a grin, before he moved to the rack of provincial reports that Horatia indicated, turning as few of the tags to read them. "There are benefits to having a husband who is Consul, hmm?" He suggested, knowing that not all of these documents were accessible to everyone. Of course, they were accessible to him. But some accounts came from their military commanders, and others had important trade implications. Still, it was very kind of her to offer to borrow them. "Thank you." It was quite the privilege she was offering him, given that this was her personal collection. "Perhaps you'd like to visit the Palace library some time?" He offered in turn.

There was something special about being allowed into Horatia's inner sanctum, even as the put-upon slave pointedly put Horatia's calendar back on her desk where it had been. Tiberius was suddenly aware that, apart from the slave, he was alone with the lady of the house in her inner sanctum. Not that he had any nefarious intentions, but he would prefer not to put Aulus in the position of having to give him the benefit of the doubt. At the same time, they had danced around the possibility of a future union between himself and Calpurnia Horatia, and this elegant lady hadn't seemed to mind. Tiberius decided to rake a firm step, even though it seemed so much easier on the floor of the Senate than in this cosy sanctuary. "Lady Horatia, would it be overly bold of me to ask if I might sit near your daughter at your son's celebration, so that I may speak to her?" She would only be young, but it would be an opportunity to introduce himself and get some idea of what kind of woman she might grow to be.

If she was like her mother she would be a formidable one.

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"Please." She chuckled and rolled her eyes, "I have my own means of procuring them." Of course Aulus funded the majority, split with her father, but often she would simply but receipts of sale under his nose and not elaborate on what or where she'd purchased things. "And I would be delighted to." She said with genuine pleasure. She'd visited the Palace a handful of times either with Aulus or her father, but never had entered the sanctum of the more private spheres of the place, including the library. 

She watched him as he studied the racks and then cast his eyes to the slave and then onto her. He seemed to be toying with the idea of something and Horatia could guess what before he'd had a chance to draw breath for his question. The smile on her lips became more genuine but she nodded after a brief hesitation. "Of course. I'm sure she'd be delighted." She was sure Calpurnia Horatia wouldn't be, but she was a teenager and such pettiness was commonplace (even if she couldn't remember herself being the same). "My daughter is a curious mix of Aulus and I," she chuckled and then gestured for the slave to bring her the calendar so she could start to look for dates as they talked, "She's quieter than my husband, she takes after me in that respect. But have you ever had the pleasure of meeting Aulus' mother, Aurelia?" Her lips twitched in amusement as she glanced up at Tiberius, "Now that is a formidable woman. A core of iron. I think Calpurnia has that, not that she's needed to flex it whilst in Rome or Raetia." She'd fought to come into this world after all, nearly taking her mothers life in the process. She was a fighter. Much like Horatia herself.

"How about the next ides?" She said and gestured to the calendar. 

 

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Tiberius found himself liking Horatia; certainly he could see what Calpurnius Praetextatus saw in her. She was intelligent, confident and witty. He found himself smiling, amused, even as she made clear her own resources. "I stand corrected." He acknowledged with a mock-bow. "If you accompany him next time your husband attends the palace for Caesar's consillium, I'll arrange to give you access to the library." That would give her a few hours to peruse the scrolls whilst the menfolk debated, if she wished. 

It was a delicate matter, entertaining the possibility of a future marriage to Horatia's daughter, but she seemed to be taking the idea in good spirits. If it happened it would be some years hence, and much could change in that time, but it didn't hurt to at least consider it now. And Tiberius would admit to himself that he was intrigued to see whether Calpurnia was a similar creature to her mother. "If she's anything like her mother, I know I will enjoy meeting her." He wasn't entirely certain why many men seem to disregard women except as mothers and home makers; many of those whom he'd spoken with were intriguing individuals in their own rights, and no doubt forces to be reckoned with, within their own spheres. 

As though to assuage, or humour, his curiosity, Horatia went on to describe her daughter, in words that only left him more curious. "I have not had the pleasure of meeting the Consul's mother."He admitted. "Perhaps I'll have the pleasure at your son's celebration?" There might well be a lot of the family there. Including Sosia, which could be interesting, but if there was any awkwardness then he could only blame himself and would have to manage it. Hopefully not. Still, her description didn't daunt him. "I know all about women with iron cores; I was raised with one." He said, half hoping that description never found it's way back to his twin. "But I'm afraid that, out of myself and Titus - that is, Caesar Titus Alexander - I'm the quiet one." The boring one, the bookish one. Titus was the popular fellow, though he should still probably refer to him formally in company. That popularity was just one reason why he made a much better Caesar. 

"The next Ides it is." He would make it so. Horatia had a whole family to organise and didn't need to be worrying about one Imperial guest. "I shall look forward to it."

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Horatia nodded in gratitude, a soft smile on her lips. That sounded like heaven to her; an afternoon uninterrupted in the Palace libraries, likely only the slaves and clerks working around her as Aulus busied himself with business of the state and she indulged her passions. She would let the men make the arrangements rather than impose herself and if the invitation wasn't forthcoming (she'd found people tended to forget such offers as quickly as they made them), then she'd drop a gentle reminder when Tiberius came for Titus' ceremonial day.

"She should be there - she spends most of her time in Baiae with Aulus' father, but they come to Rome for special occasions." which meant the domus suddenly became far more crowded and far more hectic...as did Horatia's position as Aurelia often, rightfully, asserted her role as materfamilias when she was in residence. At least she had her study as her own sanctuary. "Then I shall very much like to meet your sister, and please," She laughed and shook her head, "Quietness is a virtue. I also find it helps quite a lot. People tend to overlook those who don't make a show of themselves," At least women, being an Imperial prince it was somewhat different she imagined, "You can pick up all sorts of interesting pieces of information when others aren't aware you're there or listening. Besides," She said with an amused quirk of her lips, "I think Rome is quite full enough of loud, brash, uncultured types." Particularly in the Senate, not that she said as much. 

"And excellent." She gestured to the racks of scrolls, "You can return whatever you select then." 

 

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Posted (edited)

Claudia Caesaris would get along well with Horatia Justinia, he was sure of it. They were both intelligent women with independent minds. He would encourage her to come to Horatia's reading club. It was heartening to hear Horatia say that quietness was a virtue, making it clear that she understood in a way that others who thought that volume and force equated with power didn't. "It's not necessarily a bad thing to be underestimated." He observed in turn. Not that he tended to drop of people's radars, being an Imperial, but it was easy to lurk in Titus' shadow. "And there is a lot to be learned from actually listening, instead of just waiting for a turn to speak." And from observing others of course.

He perused her collection of scrolls, finding a tag that declared it to be observations from a Roman officer stationed on the northern Germanian border. Across that border lived the Sarmatian tribes to the west, and the Dacians to the south west, and Tiberius had taken a sudden interest in learning more about them. Particularly the Sarmatians. Horse nomads who raided both Roman settlements and Parthians, the seed of an idea had been planted when Tiberius had learned that his own body slave, Jason, was Sarmatian, after hearing Aulus previously bemoan the Parthian raids. Would it be possible to make peace with the Sarmatians and redirect their raids against the Parthians? Both would benefit Rome. If he could wrangle for his military term to be spent, at least initially, in northern Germania, he and Aulus might be able to negotiate something. Mind you, Horatia might not thank him for taking them that far north. He needed to work on the idea further, then speak to Aulus.

Right now however, their thoughts were on things other than Imperial politics. Familial politics were also interesting, and the prospect of meeting Aulus's mother at the upcoming event was quite intriguing. And his father, presumably. Quite the family. He felt a momentary pang of jealousy, but only because they seemed to be a large and very functional family. He pulled the scroll carefully from it's pigeonhole.

"I believe that you can also learn much from listening to those to whom others do not." He offered carefully. "The Senate and Patrician classes are regularly loud, though I wouldn't say uncultured and not always brash." He smiled faintly as though at some private joke. "But there are other large portions of society which are equally important. The Plebian classes of course, and the women of Rome." He met her gaze. "Not everything of import happens in the Senate."

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Horatia glanced at the scroll he was holding, squinting at the tag on it. He'd taken it from the provinces section so it was likely some account of some barbarians and their customs - interesting but not her preferred genre at present. She wouldn't miss it. 

Sitting on the couch, she reclined and listened, interested as he spoke. The door was open and there was a slave loitering in the corridor so she felt fairly well covered that she could fight off any suggestions of impropriety, and besides she was too comfortable now in her advanced stage of pregnancy to move. "Quite right." She chuckled with a little shrug, "And I am happy to offer my understanding of the women of Rome, but alas I don't know much about the plebs. Although my sister-in-law and I are keen to start a charitable project for them, although we haven't narrowed down our specific idea thus far." She considered Tiberius with a tilted head and narrowed, intrigued eyes. "How do you learn what the plebs feel? Are thinking?" 

 

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Posted (edited)

Tiberius stayed by the scroll shelves, perusing the tags with interest as Horatia made herself comfortable, though he'd probably selected what was currently the most interesting for him. But it also maintained a respectable distance between them.

He smiled faintly at her chuckle. "I would appreciate knowing the concerns of the women of Rome." He replied, accepting her offer. "And I think that one learns the Plebs concerns by asking them, or those who work closely with them." He said. It was simple in concept but not always easy in execution. "They have their Tribunes of course, but to enter politics requires wealth comparable to an Equite." Which wasn't most of them. "In many cases one can simply read the writing on the walls." He gave a wry almost-smile.

"Caesar has his concillium, of which both Aulus and I are a part, but in order to serve him best I am also finding a few more... unconventional advisors of my own, in order to have a better view on all the people of Rome." He revealed, thinking that Horatia with her interest in the workings of people and society might understand very well that Roman society wasn't just about the Patrician classes. "One of those advisors is a vigile." Which gave him a very different perspective on plebian lives.

"But I am looking for others. I don't yet have an advisor on the concerns of the women of Rome." He added pointedly.

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She grinned and rolled her eyes, amused. "I spend half my life shielding my children's eyes from the graffiti, please don't put ideas in their heads." It was amusing to her though - she mused maybe because she was a voracious reader and liked any medium, but probably more because the pictures gave her girlish giggles. Not that she'd ever admit that to anyone.

She listened with interest. She knew of the concillium, and Aulus' pride at being asked to take part in his capacity as Consul and now Consul-prior. What was discussed, naturally, didn't often filter back to her - not because of any notion of her not being able to comprehend it but rather because of the sensitive nature of much of it. That was fine for her, and she got her information elsewhere. As they discussed earlier, there were benefits to being somewhat more reserved. Tiberius' own concillium was intriguing though, particularly as he mentioned a vigile. "That's certainly novel." But she was intrigued by the idea. "I assume you take your fill of the information and then refine it before passing critical information higher?" It was a good system, if that was what he intended from it.

His next statement made her pause and blink though. Very rarely was Horatia struck dumb but she was now. She understood the point of his words very clearly. She cleared her throat, shaking off her confusion as easily as unwinding a palla. "The menfolk in your concillium don't provide you with the concerns of their wives and daughters?" She arched a brow but the smile on her lips was amused. "You surely have female friends, patrician girls of your own age to advise you?" She was skirting around the question, or statement, trying to test just how genuine it was.

 

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Tiberius smiled at Horatia's giggle over the - sometimes detailed - graffiti on the various walls of Rome. Admitedly most of it was not exactly profound. He'd been told that his own name featured there on a few occasions, and wasn't certain how he felt about it. But it was one possible source of information, and he was interested in attracting as broad a range as possible. Hence his raising the subject with his hostess.

I assume you take your fill of the information and then refine it before passing critical information higher?

Tiberius nodded. "That is the intention." Caesar couldn't be bothered with all things all the time, that was what he had counsellors for. Tiberius was acutely aware of the importance of all classes of peoples to the functioning of the Empire, so he took it upon himself to gather the relevant information on his brother's behalf. "It is easy to turn one's eye outward to the provinces or the Empire's borders, especially in instances of unrest, but I believe that unrest can be prevented if the needs of the people are seen to." Wasn't that part of the point of the bread which the Empire provided the citizens of Rome? So they need not go hungry? Of course, to ensure stability one also needed to ensure that the aspirations of those who sought greatness were turned to the Empire's benefit, not her downfall. So many considerations, hence the importance of Titus's concillium. Wise minds to advise him. Tiberius was glad that Aulus was amongst them. 

His carefully worded invitation seemed to give Horatia pause, and he waited whilst she considered, before asking whether his male counsellors didn't provide him with the concerns of their wives and daughters. "In a word, no." He said, a tad ruefully. "Not all are wed, to begin with. And I fear that the minds of men whilst at work are often turned to things other than their family." It was true. Roman society was structured to keep the two spheres quite separate. "I have female friends, and of course my sister" he agreed, still thinking that Ovinia might make a good adviser, "but just as the concerns of an Imperial Princess are not those of a Roman maiden, so I suspect that a maiden's concerns are not those of a matron." He suggested. "Unless you regularly discuss your concerns with women just entering society?" He asked. For all he knew, she might. Who knew what women did, whilst their menfolk were busy?

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