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May 77AD

 

Attis had felt somewhat peckish and tried to resist giving in to the urge to find something to eat. He'd even managed to resist... for all of maybe half an hour, before giving up and going in search of sustenance.

He'd come away with three honey cakes, one of which he'd deposited in Metella's hands (along with a kiss on her cheek) before wandering along to Longinus' tablinum.

The relationship between the two was mostly repaired since the trip to Greece - repaired enough for Attis to slide back into old habits, though not quite so much that he'd walk straight in and deposit one of his acquisitions under his master's nose.

"Domine? Are you busy?" His tone implied that he rather hoped Longinus wasn't - or that, if he was, he wouldn't mind being interrupted.

 

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Longinus was, for once, not bored doing his paperwork. It was a rarity that set Vitus on edge; confused why his usually indolent master was actually taking an interest in his responsibilities as paterfamilias. It confused and concerned him so much so that Longinus had sent him away, tired of his fretting and questions and interference as he tried to concentrate on his accounts. He was, for some unknown reason, actually making money. Of course being in business was forbidden in the senate but his inherited estates and fames weren't strictly business - a middleman handled that - and all Longinus saw was profit. A lot of them. He had no idea why, and it had intrigued him like a puzzle needing to be unravelled.

He was frowning at his books when Attis walked in and he murmured a 'huh?' before glancing up, blinking tiredness out of his eyes. The dog had kept him awake and then the run this morning on his usual loop of the city had beaten out any remaining energy from his body. So when his eyes caught sight of the honey cake, he beamed a joyous grin. "You are a witch." He commented and extended a palm for the cake, "You can read my mind." 

 

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"I was hungry," Attis admitted with a shrug, neatly lifting one of the remaining honey cakes before plonking the earthenware plate with the last one on Longinus' desk, right on top of the scroll he'd been frowning at. "Figured you might be, too."

He bit into the stolen delicacy with a grin on his face.  "What's got you all hot and bothered today, Domine? You were frowning fit to bust a moment ago."

Longinus habitually scowled at any paperwork Vitus managed to put in front of him, but this particular one had seemed a more perplexed sort of scowl than the usual schoolboy who doesn't want to do his homework look.

 

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"You're always hungry, you're worse than the dog." Longinus muttered as he stifled a yawn on the back of his hand and then leaned down to give the dog himself a stroke on its wrinkly forehead. 

"Hmm?" He turned his attention back up to his bodyslave and then groaned, pushing the papers underneath the plate dejectedly. "My estates down near Pompeii, you know the ones that I hate to visit because you have to slog half-way up the side of the hill to be greeted by a derelict villa and a bunch of whining farmers?" He far preferred Formiae, even if it wasn't as fashionable as Baiae. "Well, as it turns out, the crops are doing much better than I was led to believe. Even with my clients obviously cutting out a chunk in the middle it's still..." He waved a hand, "A lot of new money." A very nice problem to have but for a man like Longinus with limited family and a fairly spartan, frugal existence, it was a conundrum. The taxes would be agonising as well. "Any ideas on what to spend it on?" He asked as he took a munch of the cake.

 

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Attis swallowed his mouthful; he'd rather not spray crumbs everywhere when answering his master's question. "Um? Rebuilding the derelict villa? Sponsoring games - no, you're not all that interested in a political career and that's the sort of thing career politicians do to win votes. A new litter and a set of matched slaves to carry it so that you  don't have to do the slogging? Redecorating the domus - I'm sure the atrium could look nice in the new style of artwork people are doing these days." Attis grinned and shrugged. "Must be a nice problem to have, though, Domine. You could always put it in trust for Cassia, just in case. Or for grandkids, when she marries."

Not that Cassia was anything near marrying age yet, at least according to the wisest of women, Metella.

 

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"Her trust is already close to bursting." He said, amused and leant back, propping his feet up on his desk as he ate.

Being a legate was a coveted position by many men of his rank for the simple fact it was incredibly lucrative. Times three stints as said legate in an up and coming, war ravaged province like Britannia - times that by the fact he was an only child with a small family to support and add in fairly limited expenditures and prospering business ventures and you were left with...a very, very wealthy man with no idea what to do with it all. 

"And I'm not, not interested in a political career." He corrected his bodyslave with an amused smile, "I've still got to beat Titus to a Praetorship. But games..." He shrugged, bored of the thought already. "If you had all the money in the world, what would you do?" He asked, jabbing a finger in his slave's direction.

 

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"Me?" It was not a question Attis had ever thought about, hypothetically or... hypothetically; there wasn't an 'otherwise' for a slave like him, after all.

"I don't know. I don't know what I'd be good at, even, outside of making sure you're dressed for polite company and everything. A new tunic or several couldn't hurt, some of yours are... well, past their very best." He took another bite of his liberated snack, to give himself time to think.

"I've heard rumours that your friend the Consul's wife - or was it his sister? - is thinking about setting up some sort of charity or something to look after orphaned kids, the ones who haven't found themselves sold as slaves. Maybe she'd appreciate some money to help with that?" Slaves' rumours; one day people would figure out that slaves talked among themselves, when fetching water, or when out shopping... rumours in Rome spread almost as fast as fire did.

"I suppose you could go travelling, see some more of the Empire - though you might end up as governor of some interesting place or other afterwards, if you get to be Praetor."

Cassius Longinus with a retinue of lictors would be something to behold, even if Praetors didn't have as many as Consuls did it was still a number greater than none, which was what he had right now.

 

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Longinus frowned, deeply unimpressed. "...Tunics? If you had all the money in the world, you'd buy yourself some...tunics?" He snorted and shook his head, "You see, freedom would be wasted on you." That was perhaps an unfair comment but he was generally bemused...but then again Longinus himself didn't have any bright ideas, so who was he to judge?

"A charity? I suppose I could. I can't leave Cassia for a tour right now," He shook his head, "And I'll go out in service again eventually, I'm sure." He'd be summoned into the provinces for some reason or another, if only in an advisory capacity. He still heard regularly from the men he served with, after all. "Maybe I'll drop in our esteemed prior Consul, see what I can do for his wife or sister." He smirked conspiratorially at Attis and then cleared his throat, finishing the cake. "Do we need anymore slaves?" He asked, curious, "I could use some on that - properly staff up the place, if you think it'd be useful?" 

 

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It took as much self-control as Attis had in order not to spray crumbs everywhere at his master's misconception. Apparently his thought process was quicker than his master's and he'd managed to get a step ahead of him, or something.

"I hadn't meant me," he managed once he stopped coughing. "You're the one with the money, I meant you."

Anyway, if he did somehow end up in possession of that kind of money, he'd buy himself - and Metella - and probably go on a long trip to see places he'd barely heard of, just for the fun of it.

"Take Cassia with you," he said. "Why wouldn't she like to see some of those places too, even if she is a girl - that's not her fault, after all, and she's older now. I'm sure she'd like to spend time with you."

He ate the last of his own cake in peace, taking a moment to think. "I don't know. The way you live right now, I don't think you do need any more slaves. But if you're planning to start hosting parties or gatherings of any description, you will need more - the place isn't exactly bursting at the seams." He shrugged. "And pardon me for saying so, Domine, but you're not exactly Marcus Crassus to want to boast about being so rich you have a slave whose only job is to fold your blue tunics, and you've got another one just to fold your red tunics, or some idiocy like that."

 

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It was not a half-bad idea but he gave his bodyslave a look; "If things progress with Sergia then it's not much of an introduction to married life to spirit her out of Italia...or abandon her whilst I take my daughter on holiday." He chuckled and shifted in his seat. Who knew what would happen with Sergia, mind. He was rapidly losing faith in the men of the Vari to actually get their act together. 

"I'll need somebody to replace Metella whilst she's dealing with the hellion you've given her." He gave his bodyslave a smirk and shook his head, "And maybe if I'll marry my bride will bring in an army of her own." He chuckled and then leant back, sinking lower in his seat. "What about a new temple? Any of the Gods feeling particularly hard done by with their current spaces, you reckon?" Longinus wasn't known for being particularly pious, but he was rapidly running out of ideas. "Or!" He grinned, "Why don't I buy some boats? There's always grain shortages when they lose the boats, I could swoop in and be a saviour with a fleet of my own." 

 

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"Maybe the lady would like to see some of those places, too, though?" Surely she wouldn't want to be left behind in stuffy old Rome - when had he started thinking that way about Rome anyway?! - if she had the chance to go anywhere else with Longinus. From what he'd seen of her, she seemed fairly young and sheltered, and with a family he was fairly sure she'd like to get away from for a while, especially if it meant seeing more interesting places. And if Longinus stuck with places he hadn't seen either, they might have the chance of ending up somewhere even half as civilised as Rome, which meant it'd be twice as civilised as Britannia.

Longinus' train of thought made Attis catch his lip between his teeth (a preferable result to sucking in a breath). "You - you're not going to replace her permanently, are you?"

It was always a possibility, of course, and Longinus had every right to do so, even if he'd promised not to - Attis didn't think any citizen really thought a promise given to a slave would be in any way binding - and Longinus has teased him often enough over the years with the threat of selling him that it was entirely possible he might just replace Metella because that would be the easy way out.

And then back to the previous topic - anyone else dealing with Longinus would get whiplash. Attis was used to it.

"Your friend the Consul's built his baths. What about building a theatre or something, domine?" Surely Rome had enough temples - more than enough, unless Longinus wanted to dedicate one to Sulis Minerva, or some other British equivalent of any of the Roman pantheon. He wouldn't put it past his master to do that, somehow.

 

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"No I'm not going to replace her permanently." He rolled his eyes and gave his bodyslave a befuddled, slightly offended look. "I told you I'm not going to sell either of you, or your child." And he kept his word, he always had. "Have I done something recently to make you think the very worst of me, Attis?" He was curious. Maybe it was paternal instincts coming out already. Truth be told, he liked Metella - it's why he'd picked up the wild-haired girl in Britannia and spirited her back to Rome. She was amusing and diligent and a good woman. He'd also technically had her longer than he'd had Attis. 

"A theatre, maybe." He shrugged apathetically, sinking lower on his seat. "But then I'd have to go and most theatre is terrible." He was sure many would consider him uncultured for that but he didn't care one iota. "How about..." he tapped a finger to his jaw, considering it. What did he enjoy? The idea struck him with a grin, "A Palaestra? Don't have to build baths as well but some sort of exercise facility..." He narrowed his eyes, finding the idea intriguing already. "And then you wouldn't have to come on runs with me, I'd just drag you there." 

 

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"Thank you, Domine," Attis said, meaning it sincerely. It was one less thing to worry about, although no slave could ever quite dismiss that fear from the back of their mind, and Longinus joked entirely too often for comfort about selling Attis, or otherwise getting rid of him from the household permanently. Though they both knew he'd be lost without Attis to ensure he was scrubbed and turned out properly. Metella didn't even have that sort of assurance, not really, although she was gradually beginning to fill the role of body-slave to Cassia Antonilla rather than merely her nurse.

What role she would have once she had a baby to care for was anyone's guess.

"If all theatre is drivel, Domine, maybe you should sponsor some writers to come up with something that isn't pure drivel - that would help empty a strongbox or two." The idea of a palaestra was... it was a good one, in fact. "That sounds perfect. I'm sure your friend the Consul probably scouted several sites when he was considering where to put his baths, one of those might be a good place for a palaestra."

And probably the big hulking Dacian, Celsus, would prefer to throw medicine balls at their master than to go running half around the city before the break of dawn. Attis certainly would!

 

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Longinus wrinkled his nose at the prospect of engaging with writers. No thank you. He'd leave the flowery nonsense to men far better suited to it, although he had half a mind to send some up and coming young thing with awful prose and a matching, irritating personality to Titus out of pure devilment to see the old fucker groan and seethe. Yes, that was a very good plan. Although not quite as good as the Palaestra. 

"Excellent." He grinned and slapped his thighs, moving to stand. "Why don't we go and pay him a visit and ask?" He knew Aulus was likely busy with other things but it was a perfect excuse to leave all of his unfinished paperwork behind. Besides, if he wasn't busy, it had been far too long since he'd seen his friend.

 

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Posted (edited)

"What, now? Right now this instant?!" Attis hadn't expected that his words would produce quite so sudden a decision... although Longinus had been doing paperwork and had never once, to Attis' recollection, passed up an opportunity however meagre of sliding out of tackling said paperwork. He couldn't help wondering whether Vitus might really be only in his thirties despite appearing easily a decade or more older. He'd have to ask the next time they had a moment to talk.

"You can ask to see your friend's new baby, too, Domine," he added. Metella would like to know how the baby was doing, probably, and it was always amusing to see his master going gooey over other people's children. Not that it happened very often, but there was some sort of proprietary link to this particular one.

He shrugged and turned to go and find his master's outdoor shoes; he wouldn't want to go even the short distance from his house to the ex-Consul's in his indoor slippers, after all.

 

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Longinus barked out a laugh at Attis' bemusement and grinned as he jumped to his feet. "Have something better to do? And I shall, little baby Quintus." He chuckled as he rifled through the paperwork to put them in neat piles of 'done' and 'not done' so Vitus wouldn't murder him later. Unfortunately, the 'not done' pile was far taller than the 'done'. Ah well, at least he'd tried.

As Attis returned with his shoes he slipped them on himself, waving off offers of help by muttering he wasn't an invalid quite yet and then without further prompting, move to stride out the front door of his house. Vitus was waiting for them and Longinus just called back; "This afternoon I'll do it, I promise!" The door slammed shut to the sound of Vitus calling, exasperated, "Domine!" 

The spring sun was glorious and he grinned at Attis, setting in the direction of Aulus' domus only a few streets away (convenient). "Did I tell you Aulus' wife wrote to me about Metella? I passed you the letter for her, but she wrote to me as well." 

 

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"You always tell him it'll be this afternoon, or tomorrow, Domine," Attis pointed out, running both hands through his hair to attempt to make it look vaguely presentable - he hadn't expected his master to be going anywhere today and certainly not quite so precipitately. He was lucky that he'd put on a clean tunic that morning and people didn't pay much attention to other people's slaves anyway.

"Um, no, you didn't, Domine," he said. "What did she say - if I can ask, that is."

How had it managed to not get buried in the rest of his unread correspondence and paperwork?!

 

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"And he loves it. If I was a master who did as Vitus said he'd expire of boredom." that was generally how Longinus assuaged his guilt over running his slaves ragged and being a general nightmare most days. At least he was just slightly forgetful and stubborn and not outright cruel.

"We exchanged a couple of letters back and forth," He explained as he strode ahead keeping a quick pace as he habitually did, "The first one was when she gave me to give to Metella those gifts and a note for her. I presume you read that aloud for her?" As far as he could tell Metella couldn't read or write...then again, he'd never thought to ask if she could... "She's almost painfully grateful to her. Wanted me to remember and reiterate that as far as the lovely Consul's...ex-Consul's wife is concerned, Metella has free access to whatever favours she may want." And if that involved securing her freedom, and freedom for her child and if Aulus or Horatia asked him directly to do that then he wouldn't refuse. "Powerful thing for her to have." 

 

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"He'd have a lot less grey hair, Domine," Attis pointed out cheerfully. He wouldn't know what had happened if Longinus decided, for once, to leave his 'to do' pile vastly smaller than his 'done' pile - well, no. He'd probably call a medicus in a tearing hurry, convinced the master was sickening for something dreadful!

He wondered if he could persuade Longinus to do it, just once, just to see what the outcome really would be.

"She told me - Metella, not the ex-Consul's lady wife, Domine! - that the priestesses were completely unhelpful, so much so that she thought they'd disappeared completely off the earth at one point. She's not a trained midwife, either." And agreed with his master that yes, being able to ask for any favour at all from the lady was a powerful thing, if she only knew it.

He rather suspected that the only thing she'd want to ask for would be completely outside Horatia Justina's power to grant: an easy birth for her own child.

 

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"She did very well." Longinus confirmed with a nod of his head, "I always thought she'd be useful. Knew that the moment my legionaries dragged her back into the camp, read hair a tangle, cheeks burning, and I don't think she realised I speak a little Brittonic and understood that she was telling me where I could go..." He chuckled at the memory. 

"You'll let me know if there's something she needs which she doesn't have? I've explained to Cassia as well, why she might sometimes be absent and she understands." Looking after his daughter wasn't the easiest of tasks and as her pregnancy advanced she might well want to take a step back but Cassia was sweet and adored the red-headed woman, besides, Longinus thought Metella would prefer to look after his daughter than be shoved away in some back room sweeping or dusting. 

 

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Attis grinned. She hadn't changed much, then, not really, except she was rather less likely to tell Longinus where he could go, or what he could do with himself in the meantime.

"I'll tell her, Domine," he said, not sure whether to be amused or impressed that Longinus was apparently willing to do anything for her. He wondered how far that 'anything' might extend, and whether Metella would request anything she didn't already have.

It was easier to picture Metella as a mother than to visualise himself as a father; she had always been a motherly sort, and had been more of a mother to Cassia in her own way than her Cassia's grandmother, Longinus' mother. Attis was not ready, in any way, shape, or form to be a father, and wasn't entirely sure how he felt about having a child in slavery. Too late for regrets, though, and he would at least make a good attempt at being a father.

"How do you feel about it, Domine?" he asked, wishing he knew Longinus' thoughts about it all - he had his master's reassurance that the three of them would be able to be a family, but he still didn't really have a reading on what his master actually thought about it all.

 

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Longinus glanced down at Attis, surprised at the question. "A bit miffed you thought I was going to sell you, or her, or the child." He snorted. Generally Longinus didn't care if people liked him - if it was a concern of his he wouldn't have done half the things in his life that he had - but his slaves who had been with him for decades, particularly his bodyslave were a different kettle of fish entirely. 

"But I'm pleased for you." He watched Attis' reaction carefully. "And a little jealous truth be told." He added with a half-smirk. It was no secret that Longinus had a yearning for a son, or even another daughter. He had almost had it - he had almost had everything before fates and a crusty Senator in Africa snatched it away, along with the fates. He exhaled in a sigh. "You don't look so enthused about the prospect of fatherhood though?" 

 

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"I'm sorry," he returned, with a shrug. "It's not usually a good idea for a slave to assume anything - and you joke about selling me often enough, after all." Not that those were anything but jokes, yet there was always that ring of truth to them - Longinus could do it if he chose to, after all. He had every right, as Attis' master. Something that a slave forgot at their peril.

"And I'm not sure I'm going to be very good as a father," he added. "I mean... Well, you know me, Domine. I'm going to be a terrible example for a child to follow."

Especially a child who had to learn to navigate the cruel and unfair world of being a slave in a Roman household, however benevolent the master was. And Longinus didn't have a cruel bone in his body, not when it came to those close to him... even on his pessimistic days, Attis knew that it wasn't wishful thinking or mere sycophancy to think that he was close to his master. There was probably nobody else anywhere who had seen Longinus in every temper and every state.

"You'll find a nice wife and get yourself a whole gaggle of Senatorial brats for us all to chase after, just you see if you don't," he added.

 

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Longinus glanced quizzically down at Attis just for a moment. He'd never seriously considered selling his body salve, even during their fraught moments (including the exile to Titus' house), and his jokes were jokes to him...it hadn't occurred to him that it might have a somewhat different effect on the man to his left. 

"You'll be no worse than me...which, granted, given I've been a terrible father isn't a very high bar but..." He shrugged, "My advice? Just be present for your kid. Don't fuck off to Britannia because you can't cope with it." He snorted and shook his head. At the time he'd been furious at Antonia's lack of warmth when he'd returned...now he understood it entirely. 

He waved his hand as Attis tried to placate him. Things with Sergia were moving at a glacial pace and he didn't particularly want to consider an alternative and risk the wrath of the brothers Vari. Not yet anyway. He turned the conversation back to Attis. "What's worrying you in particular? I'll see if I have anymore sage advice up my sleeve...or I'll ask Aulus," He snorted, "He's probably better for it than I am." 

 

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"May I point out that I'm supposed to be wherever you are, Domine," Attis said. "And I doubt you'll want to have Metella and a baby in tow if you get posted back to Britannia, or anywhere else." It was highly likely that Cassia would be left in Rome, again, and as Metella was in that limbo somewhere between being Cassia's nurse and her body slave, she would be where Cassia was, and of course the baby would be with Metella.

"If I fucked off anywhere just because I couldn't cope, I'd probably have a slave catcher or bounty hunter on my tail before I was halfway anywhere - and it's not like I have anywhere to go. Metella would kill me even if you didn't, too."

What was worrying him? Everything, and there were some things no senatorial patrician would be able to advise on. Like, how to ensure a child didn't make itself too known to people to whom slaves were part of the furnishings. Well. Not that Longinus was really one of those, especially when it came to Attis and (probably) Metella, but it was never wise to risk it.

 

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