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Posted (edited)

March 77AD

It had been nearly two years since he'd lost his wife. Nearly a year and a half since he'd taken the Quaestorship in Achaea. He'd always been more of a military man than a political one, but suddenly Rome had become claustrophobic, and he needed to get away. Was it fate, fortune or his own nature that drew him back to Achaea, where he'd first met Lucia and fallen for her. It wasn't fashionable to be so in love with your wife, but if anyone understood it was his friend Aulus Calpurnius Praetextatus, whom he'd also met in Achaea, and who had ended up marrying his sister Horatia, and truly becoming a brother-in-law. And one in spirit, Publius had thought. Achaea had been the gateway to his truly stepping into adult life, to finding purpose and fulfillment, so perhaps it was natural that he'd been drawn back there.

This time had been different. This time he had a family. He'd ensured that his children had arrangements for their proper education and socialisation, then thrown himself into his work, finding ways to work with the local military commander despite his being there in a political role. His son had taken his toga in Achaea, much to his pride, but even that had felt a little hollow; Spurius's mother had not been there to see it. He'd hired a local woman, Agape, to maintain his household, and ended up taking her to his bed, out of simple needs than any great desire for her particularly. And she had comforted him. But the revelation of her pregnancy had thrown that slightly hollow contentment out of the window. He'd toyed briefly with the idea of marrying her, but discarded it as not appropriate for his family. His children needed a proper mother figure of the right class and breeding, and much as he wanted more children, to claim Agape's child would be to somehow reduce all that he and Lucia had in their children. The boy's birth had brought the hard realisation that he needed to do the right thing and return to Rome. He'd made arrangements for Agape and her son. They had a home and would receive a peculium, part of which was to be put towards Agapios's education. He would not live in poverty. 

Now they were back, and having settled into his father's domus once  more - to the quiet pleasure of the pater familias, Publius suspected - his first port of call was to visit his sister Horatia, the sibling with whom he'd always been closest, and his friend Aulus, if he was in. He'd sent word of their intended visit of course, and brought his children. Spurius was of an age with Titus and Lucia Justinia was only two years younger than Calpurnia Horatia; the cousins had previously been close. And it made sense for them to reconnect with family as well. So as they approached, Publius and Spurius in their togas and Lucia in her finest chiton and palla. A slave knocked on the door of the familiar domus. 

@Sara

Edited by Sarah
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Horatia cast her son an unimpressed glance as he finally appeared, breathless and flustered, practically skidding into the atrium from the street. All she had to do was quirk a brow and out came the apology; "I-I was just with Lucius Fadius and time ran away, really the slaves should have reminded me-" Horatia held up a finger and her son stopped his rambling, straightening out his tunica as Calpurnia smirked next to her. Teenagers. If they weren't running late then they were needling one another - even the sweet, well-mannered Calpurnia Horatia. She cast a glance to Quintus, asleep in his nurses arms and she briefly longed for all her children to be tiny, newborn sleep thieves. "You are lucky both your father and uncle aren't here yet." Aulus was in his tablinum, finishing up some business that was pressing and Publius was likely on his way. Titus, embarrassed, merely nodded and cleared his throat, mumbling an apology to his Mama.

And it was clearly Fortuna's bidding that he should have skidded into their domus when he did, as Publius was merely moments behind. The slave announced him and then, in a sea of fine white togas and beautifully coloured chitons, in walked her family. It was all she could do not to embrace him. Publius had been her solace growing up in their home, her favourite - that much had been obvious to all in the domus - and she had missed him more than words could say on his sojourn to Achaea. Instead, she stilled herself - ever the composed, perhaps austere woman - Horatia could hold her nerve. Her daughter and her son did likewise (she'd clearly moulded them in her own image) as they gave big beaming grins and inclined their heads to her brother. "Publius." She managed a laugh and then before any further talk, moved swiftly to lean up and kiss his cheek in familial greeting. She pulled back after a moment and swept her eyes over his children. So big! "Spurius, Lucia, I trust you remember your cousins? Although," She smiled wryly, "You have yet to meet your newest. Brother, this is Quintus." On cue the nursemaid stepped forward, the bundle in her arms.

 

TAG: @Sharpie @Sarah

 

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Aulus pressed his seal to the final document as the house's main door was opened to admit his brother-in-law, nephew and niece. He waved Xanthos away as the sound of greeting drifted on the air. "The rest will have to wait, I haven't seen my brother-in-law in a number of years. Put them on the top of the pile and I'll look at them first thing tomorrow - though if there's a bill from one of the bath contractors, make sure it's paid."

Xanthos nodded and Aulus set his pen aside, stretched and finally made his way into the atrium to greet his wife's brother.

"Publius! It's been too long! How are you?" He scrutinised the other man's face. "I was sorry to hear about Lucia."

It had been the thing he'd dreaded most when it came to Horatia - he had no idea how he could manage without her at his right hand should anything happen to her. She had delivered Quintus safely, and he hoped that the news wouldn't be too painful a reminder to his friend of his loss.

@Sarah @Sara

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The door swung open and there stood his sister, graceful and regal, a sight for sore eyes. She was the eldest of his siblings and had always been the closest; the twins were always thick as thieves. He was old enough to remember when she was born; he'd watched her grow up. Now she was a matron of her own household with children of her own. When had they grown so big? Likely she thought the same of his. For all that had happened, he felt his heart lift as she spoke his name and laughed her light, delighted laugh, whilst her children grinned, leaning down a little as she moved in swiftly to kiss his cheek, catching her briefly by the shoulders in the closest he would come to a hug. "Horatia." He returned warmly. 

Did the children remember their cousins? Of course they did, and their respectful nods were at odds with their broad smiles. They were happy to be here, and happy to be home in Rome. But what was this? Horatia suddenly wore a coy little smile. 

Brother, this is Quintus.

One of the slaves stepped forward, a bundle in her arms. An infant. They all looked the same to Publius, but the pride in his sister's tone was obvious. He peered at the little, sleeping face, a picture of health. She'd given Aulus another son. A strange mix of emotions washed over him. In many ways his family and Aulus's had echoed each other; two children, a boy and a girl, then no more. Lucia had lost pregnancy after pregnancy early, and he'd sort of assumed that Horatia had done the same, though of course he'd never ask and she'd never tell. Then Lucia had finally carried again, only to loose both the child and her own life. The thought that Horatia had risked the same chilled him, whilst at the same time there was both joy and a little jealousy that she'd bourne a healthy son at the end of it. He knew it was a woman's lot to risk life to bring forth life, but that was all well and good until it was his own wife who lost that gamble. And Horatia was still with Aulus, whilst he was alone. But his sorrow was none of her fault, and he would be forever grateful that his sister and her son were healthy; only sad that his own wife and son had been lost. 

"Quintus." He echoed. "For Quintus Augustus, I assume?" Please tell me she didn't lose two more children. For the name meant 'the fifth'. "Congratulations." He said warmly, and meant it. "I will make offerings to the Gods in thanks, for you and your son." For his tiny child was family. There were many dangers in a young life, so many children didn't make it, but Patrician families had the best of everything, and their other two were healthy, as were his. Let this one grow and bring joy to his parents' hearts as well. 

Movement in the atrium completed their little gathering, as his brother-in-law made his appearance. "Aulus. Too long indeed. I am well." Or well enough at least. He inclined his head at his friend's condolences. "Thank you." There'd been the cremation and interment and funerary rights of course, for both Lucia and their son, but he hadn't stayed in Rome long after that, finding it easier to leave than to be constantly reminded. Her ghost would always be in the corner of his eye, but today was not a day for mourning but for renewing family ties. "Allow me to offer my congratulations on your young son."

@Sara @Sharpie

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"For Quintus Augustus." She nodded, confirming and smiled softly, stroking a finger over her son's forehead in the nursemaid's arms. "And thank you, that's kind brother." She'd expect nothing less from her older brother of course, traditionalist as he was. The nursemaid dutifully moved to show the newest addition to her brood to her nephew and niece as Aulus arrived to greet her brother.

She smiled at their warm embrace and arched a brow. "And no congratulations to your sister who bore him?" She jested and then gestured with her head to the garden; "We have wine and food laid out but Titus, why not show your cousins around the domus? Stay out of our offices, but I'm sure it's changed since they were last here."

Children safely escorted away she herself moved out into the soft light of the garden. It was shaping up to be a beautiful day and she drew to a stop, gesturing at the men to sit first on the couches that had been dragged out to fill the garden. Somewhere in the distance one of the fountains trickled. "How was Achaea, brother?"

 

TAG: @Sarah @Sharpie

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It was his children's turn to meet the newest addition to the family as Horatia watched him greet her husband and arch one eyebrow at him. 

And no congratulations to your sister who bore him?

He turned to look at her, given her a look that was both amused and confused. "I did congratulate you." He replied; he'd done that even before promising to make the appropriate offerings. Ah but she was likely still recovering; he remembered how birthing theirs had affected Lucia. "I'll buy you a new ear spoon." He teased with a good-humoured lift of his chin, meaning that she should clean her ears out so that she could hear him. 

Spurius and Luciua Justinia happily disappeared into the domus with their cousins once Horatia excused them, no doubt to have their own catch up after a year apart, and Publius followed his sister into the enclosed garden, with it's gentle light and pleasant greenery, the distant trickle of water helping to hide the sounds of the street outside. Waiting for his host to sit first, Publius then settled onto one of the couches that had been brought out. 

How was Achaea, brother?

It was a simple enough question, but it caused Publius to cast his mind back over the last year, what he'd been looking for and what he'd missed. "Not much changed, since we were there." He admitted. "The figs are still the best, and the retsina the worst, though that lovely taverna by the bay has changed hands and gone downhill, I'm afraid." He added whilst he gathered his thoughts. "It was interesting to be there as Quaestor rather than in a military role. But... it wasn't the same." He admitted, as he felt he couldn't to anyone else. "I'm not so young, and my favourite people weren't there." Not like when they'd all been young and relatively carefree, the four of them, enjoying the Greek summer with little in the way of responsibilities. This time had been lonely; the past had remained the past. 

"So it's good to be back." Even if being back meant facing the empty space in the domus where his wife had been. Time was healing wounds, but slowly. "So tell me, apart from the birth of your son, what else have I missed?"

@Sara @Sharpie

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"You missed my entire year of consulship," Aulus put in with a broad smile. "Anyone would think you'd arranged it deliberately - I daresay there are still one or two walls with graffiti decrying me as being the worst consul Rome's ever had, though most have seen my name painted over with that of one or other of this year's consuls."

What else had his favourite brother-in-law missed? He couldn't think of anything urgent that Publius needed to know about - he would already be aware of Quintus Augustus' decision to step down and hand the imperial reins to his son -  and looked at Horatia, who was bound to know more of what might interest her brother in the way of family news.

"None of us are as young as we used to be - have you had any thoughts about your next step in the cursus?" If Publius went for consul, he could rest assured of Aulus' full support there.

 

@Sara @Sarah

Edited by Sharpie
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She rolled her eyes. Her brother was much like their father, but she knew he would tolerate his sisters mocking even if he wouldn't tolerate it from others. "I shall look forward to your gift brother." She murmured with a smirk as they made their way into the gardens. After her husband and brother had seated themselves, she took her own seat, reclining on the couch with a contended sigh. 

Aulus came in swiftly after Publius' own question without missing a beat, but she noted the sadness in her brothers voice. My favourite people weren't there. Unconsciously, she laid a soft hand on her brothers forearm, but said no more about it. She was sure that he wouldn't appreciate her making a big song and dance over his late wife, but she made a mental note to make an offering for her memory all the same. 

"And besides that, Livia is happily cocooned in Tibur with her son - you'll be hard pressed to get an invitation though." She rolled her eyes, "And father..." She sighed and glanced at Aulus. "He has missed you." That was a discrete way of saying he was struggling, wasn't it? She glanced at Aulus at his question and nodded, turning to Publius. A distraction was probably for the best. "Mhmm. A praetorship?" A wife? 

 

TAG: @Sarah @Sharpie

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