Tiberius had looked close to apolexy upon Mamercus' words. Mamercus had thought to himself that it was the most animated Tiberius had looked in a very long time.
"You fucking fool!" Tiberius had hissed. "Did I not warn you of stupid pursuits?"
Mamercus had rolled his eyes. "Love is not a stupid pursuit, and I will not be cowed by a coward's warnings." In hindsight, he regretted his harsh words, but Tiberius had infuriated him. His friend had looked beyond furious, but others were walking by and he did not speak again. Upon returning to his own workspace, Tiberius had looked sullen and angry, but kept his counsel.
That had been several hours ago, and now the sun began to descend toward the horizon, with Mamercus wandering home, ignoring the bustle around him. His mind could focus on nothing but Rutilia - her mind, her voice, her beautiful face and body. He knew it was unwise, for many different reasons, yet his heart wanted her, and only her.
Some of the women in the drinking hole he visited cast their lustful eyes upon him and in normal circumstances, Mamercus would have found comfortable in their arms, but they did not interest him. Only the wine in front of him held any solace. He hoped Rutilia would decide to contact him again. Perhaps she would at least desire physical contact again... though he wasn't sure that would be enough.
Anger was the emotion of the moment. The whispers that had reached the ears of Sextus Crispinus were more than just displeasing.
What he was about to attempt, as he marched toward the imposing Senate building, was more than a little risky, but risk was sometimes a necessary part of business. He certainly would not be undermined like this!
His white toga billowed out behind him as he strode purposefully past Senators and their servants, looking for a particular office. When found, he rapped his hand hard against the door.
He heard the sound of feet shuffling and knew his quarry was in there. He knocked again, despite - or perhaps because - it would rile the man inside.
The door opened, and the displeased brown eyes of Senator Metellus looked into his, but Crispinus was not in a compromising mood.
"Sextus, what impertinant attitude would bring you to my office, unannounced?" The soft voice betrayed the Senator's displeasure.
"I would break words. Why do I hear that you have chosen to consider other applications?"
Metellus glared at Crispinus. "I am duty-bound to consider other applications. This is a major venture Sextus, as you are aware. All of Rome will benefit, but all of Rome will pay for it if it does not go as planned. Care is the order of the day."
"We have an agreement!" Spat Crispinus.
"We have no such thing. I agreed I would consider your application for this contract, and that I would give it serious thought. I made no promises that I would award you the contract. Do not presume that our relationship guarantees you anything Sextus, and do not come to my office making demands of me."
Crispinus glowered and he leaned in closer. "You are well aware of the coin I have parted with to ensure your favour!"
"Yes Sextus, I am aware, and up until now this held you in great favour. However, you have jeopordised this with your reckless assumptions and aggressive posturing. I would advise you to reconsider your actions."
For a moment Crispinus stood there, on the edge of a decision. He averted his gaze for a few seconds, gathering his thoughts. When he returned his eyes to Metellus', they held resolve.
"I have worked hard to earn this contract Senator. I have done what you have asked of me. I feel it only fair that I receive it. You are powerful, I grant you, and you have my respect, but I feel you do not pay me due respect. I will be most... upset, if after all my efforts, I should somehow not curry favour."
Metellus continued to give Crispinus a withering stare. "I would not threaten me Sextus, nor even hint at such. I will make an informed decision, in my own time, and will not be threatened or bullied. It would most certainly end badly for you."
It was clear from the expression on Crispinus' face that he desired further argument, but smarter thinking prevailed.
"I mean no disrespect Senator. I am simply... worried. I have many competing pressures at present, and I have reacted badly to reasonable news. I hope you will accept my apology."
Metellus inclined his head slightly. "Consider it accepted Sextus. Now, if you will excuse me, I have business to attend to."
The morning began with Mamercus stirring from a pleasant dream; Rutilia's smiling, happy face was filling his vision, as was her songful voice. She whispered words of love and warmth, words that escaped his memory as the waking world claimed him.
Sunlight pierced the gloom of his bedroom and he opened his eyes as he prepared, wearily, to face another day of tedium and loneliness. Donning a simple white robe, Mamercus left his abode to make his way to the Senator's offices.
The walk was short and few people were walking the streets as the sun continued its slow ascent. So wrapped up was Mamercus in thoughts and memories (how could he be so infatuated so quickly?!) that he nearly walked right past his place of work. Chuckling to himself, Mamercus stepped within the stone walls, noting that, as ever, Tiberius was present, already working ferverishly away.
"Good morning Mamercus." Tiberius remarked, without looking up from the parchment he studied. Mamercus wasn't sure, but the puffiness under his friend's eyes looked more pronounced. He had suspicions that Tiberius had spent the night here.
"Good morning Tiberius. What toils await us today?"
"The usual ones I suspect. The Senator shall be here presently, so I would at least appear to be working."
"Sound advice." Mamercus took his wooden seat and began to study the latest tax reports and ownership deeds on his desk. He sighed, already experiencing boredom having barely sat down.
"Are you still pursuing your foolish desires?" Tiberius asked bluntly.
"I would, if I believed she desired same."
Tiberius looked up. "She has not sought further encounter with your cock?"
Mamercus winced slightly. Though he was far from being a prude, to hear someone talk of Rutilia in such a manner was... distasteful. Tiberius chuckled.
"The other side of the coin is not a pleasant place to be."
"What do you prattle about Tiberius?" Snapped Mamercus.
"She did to you what you have done to many a woman. She used you for a night's pleasure and desires nothing further from you." Tiberius' voice held a trace of superiority in it.
"As you were not present for our conversations I would not speak of what you do not understand." Retorted Mamercus.
"I understand that you wet your cock with the first pretty lady to cross your path, and give no thought to them afterward. Now you have felt what your conquests have felt."
Mamercus turned eyes of fire upon Tiberius. "We spoke at length before any 'conquests' took place. This not some fling Tiberius."
"Did you not speak flowery words to your lovers before you bedded them? You have become a victim of your own methods." Mamercus could not believe that Tiberius was mocking him - him!
"When I speak with Rutilia again - and we will speak again - I do not believe she will be pleased that you compare her to my past methods."
"We shall see."
"We shall see about what Tiberius?" Asked the gentle voice of Senator Metellus as he stepped into his offices. A red sash hung over the old man's white robes and seemed, somehow, to give him greater height.
"We were discussing the upcoming games Senator, and considering a friendly wager on the outcome." Despite their argument, Mamercus was grateful for Tiberius' deception.
"I see. I was not aware you cared for such activities Tiberius."
"I enjoy the intensity of the combat Senator. It is... invigorating."
The Senator smiled. It was a ghastly, unpleasant sight. "I am sure it is. Mamercus..." Metellus turned his dangerous brown eyes to the young man. "I would have words, in private, regarding a sensitive matter." He strode into his own, secluded side-room. Mamercus and Tiberius exchanged glances before Mamercus followed him in.
The golden eagle that was emblazoned upon the floor seemed to shine brighter than usual. The marble floor had been polished recently, from the looks of it. The room however, did possess one small yet subtle change - a chair for Mamercus to sit in, if the Senator permitted it.
"Be seated young man." What did I do to deserve such an honour? "I have need of your connections." Metellus leaned back in his own chair, eyes fixed upon Mamercus.
"I do not understand Senator."
Metellus gave him that evil smile again. "As you are aware, I am usually... displeased, should anyone in my employment risk doing harm to my reputation. I am also aware that you have expressed an interest in the daughter of the businessman Sextus Crispinus. I would never approve of such a liaison; Crispinus is a powerful man who would almost certainly use any whisper of inappropriate behaviour to attack me."
Mamercus felt nervous, though he tried not to let it show. Did Metellus know of his night with Rutilia?
"I would never do anything to jeopordise your reputation Senator."
"I am sure you would not. As it happens, I am prepared to tolerate a closer relationship between yourself and Crispinus' daughter. I believe Crispinus is intending to take action against me and I wish to know what his plans are. If you can get close to his daughter, you will get close to him as well. What you learn, bring back to me."
Disbelief flowed through Mamercus. The Senator himself was condoning a relationship between himself and Rutilia! Only, he was not at all certain the Senator had Mamercus' love life - or that matter the good fortunes of Rutilia - in mind.
"I shall endeavour to learn what I can Senator. May I ask what you intend to do should Crispinus intend action against you?"
That nasty smile came out again. "I will punish Crispinus - severely."