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It's Here That They'll Find Me

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Note: set ~74CE, the morning after this thread: https://www.aeternaromarpg.com/topic/7033-good-omens/#comment-24268’

TW: suicide


Quite how he’d arrived back home, Marcus wasn’t entirely sure, but pushing against the invisible, foggy barrier to recollect details led only to the surfacing of memories that made his heart sink progressively lower. He’d started off using the same optimistic bluster on himself that he would on others; surely it couldn’t have been that bad? He didn’t remember anything too mortifying… and that was when something else would unhelpfully pop into his head that was, indeed, that bad. Ye gods, he didn’t think he’d be able to look Aulus in the eye ever again! As of now, the boy’s discretion was the only thing keeping his reputation seaworthy: as it was, Marcus wouldn’t even trust such a creaky vessel to take him on the crossing from Delphi to Corinth; take away the few planks nailing it together and it’d go under completely.

It was these things that Marcus Horatius Justinus was mulling over as he dragged his somewhat deflated self along the Appian Way, heading for the city gates. He’d dispensed with an entourage for today, allowing himself instead to blend in with the crowds as they got on with their merry lives all around him. Quite what he was going to do, he wasn’t entirely sure. He only knew where he was going, and that stowed under the folds of his toga was a small, army-issue dagger that had been secreted away in a trunk under his bed since he’d last returned from service.

Thankfully, he reached the city walls without incident. He’d already had enough interaction today with the wailing, grovelling flocks of clients waiting for him on his doorstep that morning; he’d told them all as politely as possible to get stuffed. The last thing he wanted was to run across some well-meaning acquaintance or other, asking him how he’d been and whether he’d support some wretched proposal or other. But nobody did stop him, and now he was here, watching the road get progressively less well-maintained, the verges get scrubbier, the scrappy little houses on the sides of the street within the walls turn into a jumble of modest marble tombs on the outside, all clamouring for attention, all the same - long dead, and to all intents and purposes as forgotten as the next man. Marcus’ feet knew just how far to carry him - his thoughts stayed firmly turned inwards - and he raised his head only when he stepped off the path as he came to that twisted old cypress tree. There was Aemilius Paulus, with his short, curt little epitaph; behind him, the flashy tomb with the marble columns that Marcus made a point of never reading; that soppy, leering sarcophagus by a certain Cethegus to his jumped-up whore of a freedman wife, immortalised for having the ‘biggest tits in Rome’; and then, at last, sitting gracefully in the centre of the little collection, a lovingly-maintained monument with a frieze of the graces above a large panel of carved text.





Marcus grunted with the effort of squatting down before it, but when he began to rub at the inscription with a rag, cleaning the accumulated grime from the lettering, he did so with great tenderness. When he had finished, he sat back on his haunches. The stone now showed its brilliant true white hue; the same could not be said for the surrounding stelae. Cethegus’ wife, for all her fondly-recalled endowments, lay mouldering beneath a grimy piece of rock untouched for years. Perhaps her husband was long dead; perhaps he saw no point in caressing stone when he could no longer caress flesh. Marcus was more devoted in his ministrations.

After tearing up the odd weed from around the stone’s base, Marcus allowed himself rather self-consciously to trace the outline of the first two words. Livia Calavia. Livia Calavia.

His fingers fell to rest in his lap. He gave a small cough and glanced over his shoulder, then back at the tomb.

“H-hello there, my robin. It’s silly old me again. Look at me now, eh? What a sight. You never knew what it was like to get old and hopeless. Somehow I can’t imagine you getting old. You were always too beautiful, too spirited for that.” A fond smile. “Look what I’ve got.”

Shaking fingers slipped inside the folds of his toga, found the bound leather, pulled it out. A glance over the shoulder again, just in case.

The blade took some tugging to unsheath after all those years. As he traced it across his wrist, he smiled, almost in shame.

“You remember I did this once before. I promised you then I’d never think of it again, didn’t I? Well, here I am again. Of course you knew I would be. I was always so weak, I think you knew that, or would have, if you weren’t so damned infatuated with me, the gods only know why.” A chuckle. A pause. Then, quietly, “it’s been ever so long, my dear. Perhaps… perhaps my strength has got me as far as it can. Would you forgive me, Livia, if I did it now? If I poured myself out and came running down to meet you? I know Horatia wouldn’t. Stubborn girl.” The very thought of her made him hang his head. “I love her more than myself.”

The knife dropped the hand’s breadth to the ground with a dull thud.

“No. No, my robin, we both know I couldn’t. This damned world isn’t finished with me yet.”

Marcus rested his forehead against the edge of the monument and closed his eyes.

“But when it is -” he spoke at barely a whisper now - “it’ll be here that they find me. Like this.”

With that, Marcus Horatius Justinus heaved himself to his feet again, stretched, cast one last, lingering look at the block of stone on the roadside and headed back to Rome.

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