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Manius Victorius Roscianus


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Early 77 AD

The Fates had a sense of humor sometimes. Back when Lucius had walked into a small jewelry shop, looking for a gift for Vipsania and Mother, he had scarcely imagined that sometime in the future he would be brother to the young, bored-looking bored girl that sold said jewelry. And yet, here he was. Adoption ceremonies complete, papers signed, one idiot Lucius handed over by his brother to his new equites family. There was no way back now. He had given up the highest standing in the empire, and decided to go fight drunk people in the streets and run into fires instead.

Gods help him.

Lucius was not new to having a sister, although Vipsania had been married off early, just when Gaius had left. He could see that Mania, attending the adoption celebration, had not been too impressed with having yet another brother (and no say in it at all). So now that the fuss was over, he took the time to go seek her out. What did someone even say to a young woman who was suddenly his sister?... He hoped that he'd come up with the words by the time he found her.

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Mania had seldom been this enraged. In fact, she couldn't remember a moment in which the rage she was feeling came anywhere close to what she was feeling right now, and for somebody as short-tempered as Mania, that meant something. How dare they?! How dare her family just decide to adopt some idiot without even as much as telling her?! She was used to not being included in the decisionmaking regarding such matters by now, but to not even have been told such a decision was being made until only a few days before Lucius was officially adopted was a sign for Mania - a sign that she would apparently always be overshadowed and pushed to the side, even by people she had absolutely no blood relation to. Sure, Lucius was her adopted brother, but she would never truly recognize him as part of the family, at least not to herself. The paterfamilias had decided to adopt him, and there was nothing Mania could do to revert that decision now. If she were to publicly disagree with her father's decision. she would lose everything - even her very life, perhaps, and she was well aware of this. Her father was extremely strict when it came to abiding by his word, so Mania knew her punishment wouldn't consist of a mere disappointed look or stern talking-to. The fact Lucius hailed from a Senatorial family also instantly established him as one of her father's favourites, 2nd place only to her brother Primus.

She looked and looked at him, but she couldn't remember where she had seen him before. At the ludi? At a party? At some sort of military parade? No, he didn't seem like the sort of man who had accomplished anything noteworthy on the battlefield, nor did he seem very popular. Did one of the girls in her network of gossipmongers have a fling with him or something? He didn't really seem like a ladies' man either... She couldn't remember where she had seen his face before, no matter how hard she tried.

"Forgive me, dear brother,she begun after having found him wandering through the domus, completely foregoing any kind of greeting and making sure to put extra emphasis on his new role in the family, "but where have I seen you before? I've tried my hardest to remember but I just... can't." Perhaps she had seen him begging for crumbs and change on the street at some point; she wouldn't put it past her father to adopt a beggar, just to slight her.

@Chevi

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Oh, Mania was properly pissed. He could tell just by looking at her. She had apparently been looking for him too, as they came face to face in the atrium. Lucius gave her a cautiously friendly smile, to be immediately wiped off by her words.

"Forgive me, dear brother... but where have I seen you before? I've tried my hardest to remember but I just... can't." 

"I didn't expect you to" he admitted "I... came into the shop, a while ago. Buying jewelry for my sister and mother." Other sister. Not technically a sister anymore. That was weird, having Vipsania replaced with someone so different.

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"Oh, yes, that's it," she remarked before snickering, immediately reminded of what had perhaps been the most boring sales pitch of her entire life. The conversations in this house would surely be brimming with exciting information now that Lucius had joined the family! Conversation about as exciting as a dog licking it's own arse, to be exact; vulgar and something Mania would prefer not to be subjected to. At least he'd be spending most of his time at the barracks of the vigiles, so she could avoid him to her heart's content. Hopefully, Vulcan would curse Rome with many fires this year, so she'd have to see as little of him as possible.

"They really were gifts for them, then. Parting gifts, I suppose?" At this exact moment, a neverending game of cards between her and Lucius began in Mania's head - she had been playing the same game with Primus for years now. She'd abuse any piece of information which could possibly invoke an emotional response from his side, then abuse his weak spots to her own benefit. From what she could remember from his visit to the jewellery store, Lucius seemed at least somewhat fond of his family, so they would be her first weapon against him. Had she been a warrior, she liked to think, she would've been a master tactician. But Primus was easy to keep in check like this, as he was very much an insecure crybaby who would've been worth nothing without the promise of his father's shop, and was aware of it to boot. Lucius, however, was different... His worth in society was inherent. He had been born with it. His worth came from his lineage, not his coffers. Certainly a worthy opponent, but Mania had never been one to back down from a challenge.

@Chevi

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He could see the recognition in her eyes, although it did not come with any semblance of friedliness. This was going to be a battle, as much as Lucius did not want it to be.

"Oh, yes, that's it. They really were gifts for them, then. Parting gifts, I suppose?"

"Not at the time" he admitted, smiling a little. He had not been planning this for that long. It had been more of a... sudden clarity type thing. "Look, I know you probably didn't expect another brother to be added to your family... I'm sorry they sprung this on you." They probably did. The father... his father now, for better or worse, seemed like a strict person. Having a father for the first time in a long time, that was going to take some getting used to.

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She rolled her eyes, then took a few steps towards him. "No, you're not. If you were, you would've rejected the adoption. You're a man, after all, are you not? You get to make your own decisions, as opposed to having decisions made for you." Mania had never spoken this openly about her opinion on the societal chasm between men and women before, but she didn't care. She could see Lucius didn't want to be on her bad side, so she knew he wouldn't go ratting her out ot her father. That was one decision she could make for him, though. She had already decided never to warm up to him long before this conversation had even started. If Lucius was smart, he was aware of it by now. If he hadn't figured it out yet, he was just as much of a hopeless optimist as her younger brother, Cassius, and wouldn't pose a threat to her in any meaningful way.

"I can think of a couple ways you could make it up to me, though," she continued, strolling through the atrium, counting the ways with her fingers. "Jump into the Tiber and forget how to swim, for example, or maybe volunteer to fight in the ludi? Eat hemlock for breakfast, perhaps."

 

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Lucius' eyebrows rose in surprise as Mania rounded on him. He didn't expect her to be quite this outspoken right away; most noble girls he knew liked to sulk more. He decided then and there that Mania and Ovinia should never meet. That would be an alliance forged by the Furies.

"No, you're not. If you were, you would've rejected the adoption. You're a man, after all, are you not? You get to make your own decisions, as opposed to having decisions made for you." 

Yep, he had definitely heard this one before. Out of the exactly two hell-bent girls in Rome, how in Tartarus had he ended up lover to one, and brother to the other?...

"I can think of a couple ways you could make it up to me, though. Jump into the Tiber and forget how to swim, for example, or maybe volunteer to fight in the ludi? Eat hemlock for breakfast, perhaps."

"Out of those options, I'll definitely pick the ludus" he smirked, falling into step next to her. The upside of him spending time around all kinds of people was that he was not easily scared off. "Although if you're lucky, some drunk fool will just stab me next week and do you a favor." Or maybe get paid by her to do it. Huh. "What is it exactly, though? Do you object to me personally, or to just another brother in general?"

@David

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She enjoyed seeing the surprise splattered across his face, knowing she was probably much less docile than what he had expected. Other people might've hated being underestimated, but not Mania; actually, she wanted people to underestimate her, and they usually did, either due to her gender, due to her beauty, due to her social status or a combination of the three. Such a beautiful young lady from such a noble family couldn't possibly be unpleasant in any way, they thought. Oh, how wrong they were. Mania, of course, knew few people who actually got to know her liked her - she was ambitious, not stupid. Her goals were much grander than being well-liked, though, and Lucius had, through his adoption, hurled one more obstacle her way.

She was next to be surprised, though; his comment about the options she had presented him with was like a welcome breeze of fresh air in the often stale and uninteresting relations that had become standard within the family. "Oh, don't worry, I've tried bribing them; no amount of wine could convince them to do it, not even they are as stupid as to stab a member of the Senatorial class," she retaliated. Of course, Mania was merely joking. She wouldn't actually try to get Lucius assassinated, despite the fact she felt nothing but contempt for him. She was smarter than that; if there was one thing to be learned from Rome's extensive history, it's that murder plots always unravelled. "Though I guess you're a former member of the Senatorial class now, right? Pray tell, what in the world could have convinved you into deliberately taking a step down the social ladder? People usually want to go up." 

His next question genuinely required some thinking on her part. "Both, I guess," she answered after a few seconds. "I never wanted another brother - not that anyone asked or would've genuinely cared about my answer if they had - and your Senatorial background is an advantage for you, at least when it comes to my father, which, in turn, makes it a disadvantage for me." For a moment, she considered letting him know her true feelings about her father as well; he had long since stopped being the respectable, powerful gold merchant she once looked up to so much. However, she decided to keep that part for herself. Anything else would've been delivering herself to Lucius on a silver platter.

@Chevi

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"Oh, don't worry, I've tried bribing them; no amount of wine could convince them to do it, not even they are as stupid as to stab a member of the Senatorial class,"

"In that case, maybe I should start making my own food" Lucius grinned, only half joking. He knew the basics of how to cook. Granted, he was going to eat at the castra soon, and no, he didn't honestly believe Mania would try to poison him. Then again, she might. He didn't know her that well yet.

"Though I guess you're a former member of the Senatorial class now, right? Pray tell, what in the world could have convinved you into deliberately taking a step down the social ladder? People usually want to go up." 

"You really want to know?" he arched an eyebrow. It was kind of a long story. He answered her question with one of his, instead. He needed to know if she objected to him, or to adoption in general.

"Both, I guess. I never wanted another brother - not that anyone asked or would've genuinely cared about my answer if they had - and your Senatorial background is an advantage for you, at least when it comes to my father, which, in turn, makes it a disadvantage for me."

"Not as much of an advantage as you'd think. It's fuel for scandal, more than anything." he admitted. People couldn't get enough gossip about a man who willingly gave up his patrician standing. "I know you don't trust me as far as you can throw me, but I am not here to take anything from you, or your family. It's a formality. I needed to be an equite to be able to join the vigiles."

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Mania waited for Lucius to finish with his explanation. For a few seconds, she simply stared at him in disbelief, waiting for any kind of sign that what he'd just said had been a joke, that he actually had some sort of good reason for damaging his own social standing. After he, however, hadn't given her any kind of sign, which suggested he was serious, Mania laughed, and she laughed loudly. It was absolutely absurd; giving up a life filled with riches and rewards simply for existing, to join the vigiles?! Her laughter echoed from the walls surrounding the atrium, and it took her a good minute to calm back down again and catch her breath.  "To join the vigiles?! To rescue plebeians and drunkards from burning buildings?! You gave it all up for that?!" Truth be told, Mania couldn't care less if the plebeians all died today. She wanted nothing to do with them, and she honestly didn't understand why they were allowed to enjoy any rights at all. After all, most of them had nothing to warrant any rights, no social nor economic merit. She chuckled once more before finally piping down completely. "By Jupiter, you're even dumber than I had thought."

There was one thing Lucius was right about, though; this was excellent fuel for scandal. Fuel Mania herself would generously spread among Rome's social cirlces at upcoming gatherings and events, in the hopes of making Lucius the laughing stock of Rome. He truly was an idiot in her eyes, especially after what he had just told her. She'd always thought the Senatorial families were at least somewhat smart, but that was, apparently, not true at all. "What about your own father, then? The one you had before you were adopted, I mean." Mania figured that might be another emotional topic for him. "I, for one, know my father would be deeply ashamed if Primus or Cassius even considered doing something this asinine."

@Chevi

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Oh. Obviously, Mania had not been told yet about the reasons for the adoption. That explained a lot, her thinking he was here to take up some kind of position in the family. Her laugh, mocking as it was, was also telling. It was not the first time Lucius had encountered this reaction recently.

"To join the vigiles?! To rescue plebeians and drunkards from burning buildings?! You gave it all up for that?! By Jupiter, you're even dumber than I had thought."

"Believe it or not, you are not the first woman to tell me that" Lucius smirked. He had deliberately made the decision to make a fool of himself by following his dreams, so now he might as well embrace the reactions to it.

"What about your own father, then? The one you had before you were adopted, I mean. I, for one, know my father would be deeply ashamed if Primus or Cassius even considered doing something this asinine."

Lucius sighed. This was not as amusing as the other topic.

"My father died in the civil was when I was nine. My brother, Gaius has been paterfamilias since then. I think he's long given up on me going the way he did and becoming a senator. Hence, his permission for me to be adopted. I think he knew it's easier for both of us."

@David

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