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Leaving port (Sextus Crassus Ursus)
#1
Late January, 63 AD
Though technically but a shadow of his former self, things had gone well for Manius Cyprianus since his gambit for a second chance at public office by decree of the senate. As he had won that appeal, procuring at length a nomination for praetor Cappadociae, he had obtained the leeway he required to convince moneylenders to back him with the funds he required to maintain his station.  That taken into account, the opportunity was essentially a godsend, and so neither its relative lowliness, its imposed constraints or its unfortunate placement in the soon-to-be near vicinity of his nemesis had been cause for particular concern. Rather he was determined to make good on this his perhaps one and only opportunity, and so had set about preparing to leave for the far eastern parts of the empire as soon as his position had been ratified by the senate. 

He had meant to leave as soon as he had made adequate arrangements for his estate in the capital. However winter storms had left most ships in Ostia in need of repairs, whereas incoming vessels had been destroyed or delayed. He had therefore had had to wait a few days before a ship became available, and more yet again when the ship he eventually booked passage on announced they would not depart until weather and wind was favorable. The delay and resulting idleness had frustrated him greatly, and so it was with some measure of pleasure and relief that he made his way to the harbor settlement on the morning he had finally received as the date and time to take off. 

He had sold most of his slaves, and left behind the few he had kept as a skeleton staff for his domus in his absence. He therefore traveled alone and light, and had gotten established aboard the vessel in a heartbeat. That done he had ignored the Captain and crew members' attempts at smalltalk, to instead move to the stern of the ship. There he leaned against the side facing the sea and gazed out over the harbor, and the ocean beyond, as he waited for them to finally be off.
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#2
Sextus made his way onto the pier, the wind ruffling through his bear skin cloak. He inhaled deeply, relishing the smell of sea salt and the impending journey. His wife had sent him off with a long goodbye, one that lasted well into the night and met with a generous followup the next morning. Satisfied and anticipating the opportunities that lay in the East, he made the short trip to Ostia in good spirits. There were challenges that awaited his new governorship, but those did little to discourage him and did more to encourage him. In truth, leaving for the provinces invigorated him. He had been living in Rome for about a year and a half, and it seemed so long ago since he left Illyria. He had done well in Rome, and his recent palace life had its pleasures, but the dust and metal of the provinces suited him well. In Rome, it was a calculated dance to outmaneuver rival senators, but in the provinces he was law and judge. It was a different type of contest, freer, perhaps, and there would be power aplenty to yield. This time even much more than he had before.

His mood hardly dampened when he learned that only the one vessel would be departing that day. While he was bringing just a handful of slaves with him, most would follow behind on a separate voyage, as he was taking with him only a trunk full of his most essential belongings (specifically his armor and weapons), and of course his dogs.

He boarded the ship, accompanied by their barking and a slightly annoyed Arminius to restrain them all. The wolf was silent but visibly agitated, ears back and bearing its teeth to any of the crewmen who got too close. Sextus had only just stepped on deck and paused to cast a cursory look over the vessel when recognition hit him. The man’s back was mostly to him, but there was no mistaking his identity when he turned his head, even from a side profile. All at once, Sextus’ enthusiasm sank.

With a scowl, he rolled his eyes and turned swiftly away, stalking off to go below deck, ignoring the greetings of the crew. He settled in, but was quick to dismiss any attempts made to see to his comfort or initiate small talk. It did not prove difficult to be rid of unwanted company, for the crew had their jobs to do, and soon they would be embarking. Sextus took a swallow of water to have something to distract himself, but spat it out and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, unsatisfied with its natural lack of potency and tepidness. He could have asked for wine, but did not, simply pushing his cup away and resting his jaw against his knuckles as he stared off at nothing in particular, listening to the sounds of the crew working above deck and feeling the steady rocking of the ship.

It could have been arranged that they travel separately, but doing so would not only invite public scrutiny but would be a damn waste of time, the delay not worth waiting however long it would take to secure a second able ship. There was little choice but to tolerate the other’s presence. That and curse every god were he only the sort who took much faith in Fate. Of course, he was not above blasphemy for blasphemy’s sake.

Eventually, he heard and felt that they were under way, and he waited before breaking from his seclusion. Finally, he did, after rolling his thoughts around his mind a while. When he ventured up on deck, it was deliberate, not wanting to face it, yet having had time to chew on matters since their last encounter, and thus knowing that they could not ignore each other the entire voyage. Their inevitable acknowledgement of each other ought to come sooner than later, and it would be better were it done at his own initiative.

“Salve, Manius,” he greeted to catch the other’s attention as he stood behind him. He waited only a moment before continuing with a biting remark, “It seems the empire is not big enough to allow us separate vessels. If you weren’t so damned dignified, I would think you’d mean to stay up here and ignore me.”

The Italian coast shrinking behind them, he stepped forward to stand beside Cyprianus. If this was to be a spitting match between them, another back-and-forth exchange of bitter blows, then his followup statement and posture at once offset his initial orneriness. He rested his forearms against the rail and leaned forward to look out across the open sea. “You should know I never intended to sacrifice her to Clemens or Cotta.” His tone was calmer, spoken softly enough to be heard only by the other but not so low as to be muffled by the wind. It was a direct continuation of their last several encounters, both which seemed far away. He could have left things unexplained between them, but after the months between them, the revelation seemed almost a natural admittance. His candid demeanor and honesty hinted that some amount of reflection had transpired since they had spoken last.

“It should put it into perspective that we were already married, and had done so in secret.”

Knowing Manius well enough to anticipate what might be coming, Sextus cut him off before he could say anything, rolling his eyes with a snarl, “Oh, spare me your admonishments! She was a risk worth taking—one you could have enjoyed yourself had you the initiative and were not so damn cautious.” Frankly, he did not regret having stolen Claudia Livia from Cyprianus. If he had to repeat it, he would do so just to have that woman and the treasures she brought him as his own.
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#3
Manius had noted Sextus Ursus' arrival, but had forcefully subdued his dismay at the discovery the moment it arose. Granted, it would be greatly discomforting to share a vessel with his proverbial nemesis. However it was also more nuisance than obstacle, and if he was to shy away from such things there would be no getting around the more substantial challenges that lay ahead. He had therefore remained where he was, and abstained from reacting to the unfortunate twist of fate beyond silently wondering what he had done to deserve it--something which in turn had prompted answers that left him pondering right up until the moment Sextus Crassus sought him out.

“Salve, Manius,”

"Salve, my jailer," He responded, without turning to face the other. The term was a subtle jab at the other's presumed hand in placing them in the same corner of the widespread Roman empire. He might have followed up on its use if the other had given him opportunity to, but it seemed Crassus had no intention to cede his turn of the conversation. So instead he listened..

“It seems the empire is not big enough to allow us separate vessels. If you weren’t so damned dignified, I would think you’d mean to stay up here and ignore me.”

.. and at length turned to face Sextus, as the comment in passing pointed out a fact. The ship had departed in the time that had passed since Crassus' arrival on the vessel, but pretending that the rapidly changing scenery beyond it was the reason he had chosen not to look at the other was ridiculous. That too constituted escapism of sorts, and such tendecies were best avoided if he was to succeed with his long-term aspirations.

“You should know I never intended to sacrifice her to Clemens or Cotta." "It should put it into perspective that we were already married, and had done so in secret.”

He quirked a brow at that..

“Oh, spare me your admonishments! She was a risk worth taking—one you could have enjoyed yourself had you the initiative and were not so damn cautious."

.. and the expression did not fade as Sextus preceded him with at least part of his critique. He was correct, of course, to assume that Manius would have admonished him for his carelessness. There was more to the matter than that however, as grounded in his knowledge of the other as the other's comment had been in his knowledge of him.

"You choose a curious timing for such an admission--," He started matter-of-factly. "-- and so you will excuse my doubting you'd hold marriage so sacred as to hold you back, had the outcome been different. All the same I congratulate you to your..," He hesitated. He had been about to say victory, but the term was imprudent in the context of what he sought to convey. ".. win. I do hope you do not squander what you've gained by your proverbial dice throw by thinking fortuna will favor you every time you gamble,"
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#4
There was no mistaking the meaning behind the jab by which Cyprianus greeted him; Sextus had been the one to see him spend time in prison, was responsible for setting limitations on his return to public office, and perhaps the other had correctly deduced that it was he who persuaded Caesar to place him within his jurisdiction. Certainly, that role would not alter in the months to come, champion of Rome that he was.

He was correct in his assumption that the other had his criticisms to offer, and so his returned quip was not surprising. Cyprianus’ expressed doubt was a true estimate of his character, thus eliciting a small smile from those thin, self-serving lips. It remained in place as the chastisement concluded, equal parts annoyed as much as he was amused. He actually liked their spar of words, and in that moment was reminded of this rarity of enjoyment that came from the exchange of wit between them, something he had noted in times past and in their well acted displays in the senate. In spite of the irritation—or perhaps because of it—there was in effect some humor laced in his tone as he pushed back.

“Your concern is heartening, as touching as your honesty.

A noble, reformed Cyprianus was as laughable as it was doubtful. Refined, as dignified as that man was, he remained the artful manipulator, candid admonishments or not. A snake may shed its skin, but was still a snake.

Meeting the other’s eye, he continued, “Some gambles are necessary to take. Not every desired outcome can be produced completely by careful calculation alone—not without risk.” He planned, he weighed, he measured, and he combed meticulously over pertinent details, yet all the planning and processing in the world amounted to little without the guts or drive to take the leap to see them fulfilled.

“But, yes, I have much to lose,” he conceded, refraining from divulging too deeply on his own reflections. He looked away once more out at the sea, an annoyed frown on his face. “Enough of your goddamn lectures already; I’m not going to listen to your criticisms the whole fucking voyage.” His enjoyment of wit did not detract from that he found the other’s critiques wearisome in addition to the fact that there was something else on his mind, one which bothered him more.

For a moment, he said nothing, letting a momentary silence close heavy around them as he thought. Already, there was a shift in tone between them, so that when he did resume speaking it was with greater candidness. “I think you just might keep your word… but I have no illusions on that you have your own agenda or that it won’t be in harmony with my own, different path though you claim you’ll take.” There just might be some truth of the other’s claim to being a man of his word, but even then Sextus could not fully bring himself to trust that one promise kept would mean a cessation of their opposition, nor did he honestly expect that to change between them ever.

“If you think I resent you for that, then you are mistaken. It is what we do, you and I. There’s no changing that.” It was a statement of fact, and was not the first time admitted between them. Their personal ambitions had always come first.

“I’ve had no regrets. Never. But…” Sextus hesitated, his expression contorting with distaste. The moment was as uncomfortable, as foreign and as difficult as when Antonia Vitellia had discovered and exposed his buried grief for his dead child. “…I now know that not to be true.”
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#5
“Your concern is heartening, as touching as your honesty.”

That prompted a snort..

“Some gambles are necessary to take. Not every desired outcome can be produced completely by careful calculation alone—not without risk.” 

.. as did the next comment, a matter on which Sextus preached to the choir. He'd taken plenty of risks, a fact the other knew more of than most people. Except the more one gained by such risk-taking, the more one--

“But, yes, I have much to lose,” Exactly. Cue some manner of satisfaction, vary though he was of expressing it. All for good reason, as the other's next statement would exemplify. “Enough of your goddamn lectures already; I’m not going to listen to your criticisms the whole fucking voyage.”

He obliged the other, but kept his gaze on his face even as it wasn't reciprocated. It was grounded in a sense of that there more to come..

“I think you just might keep your word… but I have no illusions on that you have your own agenda or that it won’t be in harmony with my own, different path though you claim you’ll take.”

.. and that whatever it was, it wasn't more banter. 

“If you think I resent you for that, then you are mistaken. It is what we do, you and I. There’s no changing that.” “I’ve had no regrets. Never. But…” 

He smirked at that, improper though it might have been in the context. However it had sprung out of recognition with what the other had said, and so hadn't been intended as a derogative response to the other's discomfort.

“…I now know that not to be true.”

"A healthy realization, I should think," He responded, choosing to comment on what had been shared over inquiring into details. Chances were that would be ill-received, something that probably was best avoided considering the amount of time they were to be stuck with each others' company. "One we are also alike in, though I had cause to arrive at it earlier," He shrugged as he continued. "Uncomfortable, is it not? However I have come to think that suffering the doubts is a necessary aspect of learning from one's mistakes,"
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