Four Times Antony Didn't Say It, And One Time He Did
Fandom: Shakespeare's Julius Caesar
Pairing: Marc Antony/Octavian
Warnings: Slash; some (consensual) sexual violence; possible consent issues.
Summary: Marc Antony's world has been shattered. A short time ago, he was Caesar's right-hand man; now, he's leading an army in hot pursuit of two former friends who betrayed and murdered his patron. Joining Antony's quest for revenge is Caesar's adopted son, Octavian, whom Antony finds infuriating - and distracting in all the worst ways.
Notes: This fic is set, for the most part, in the world of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar; the overall structure and setting come from the play. However, I've also drawn in details from different historical accounts here and there, notably Suetonius's The Twelve Caesars. Occasionally, one account may contradict the other. Any straight-up historical errors are, of course, my own.
Word Count: 2,562
Antony: And though we lay these honours on this man,
To ease ourselves of divers slanderous loads,
He shall but bear them as the ass bears gold,
To groan and sweat under the business,
Either led or driven, as we point the way;
And having brought our treasure where we will,
Then take we down his load, and turn him off,
Like to the empty ass, to shake his ears,
And graze in commons.
Octavius: You may do your will,
But he's a tried and valiant soldier.
Antony: So is my horse, Octavius, and for that
I do appoint him sotre of provender.
“My horse is saddled.”
“So is my horse, Octavius,” Marc Antony said pointedly.
“Octavian,” the boy answered automatically. It had become a reflex in the past few days: initially Octavian had drawn himself up every time and intoned frostily, “Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus,” and Antony had snorted and rolled his eyes and said something acid in response. Now they seemed to have reached a kind of détente – Octavian only insisted on the shortened form of the name, and Antony only ignored him.
After a moment, the boy cocked his head. “Why?”
“Because, Octavius, I will handle the negotiations with Brutus and Cassius myself.” Antony fidgeted as his slave tightened the leather strap above his hip and settled his breastplate more firmly in place. Octavian, he noted with some irritation, was already in armour, and the boy’s gold breastplate, with its sharply engraved flourishes and lions’ heads, fit him perfectly. Leave it to Octavian, thought Antony – wondering why he’d already started using the new name in his head – to be impeccably costumed for the role.
“That won’t be necessary. They’ll expect to meet with me.”
“Somehow I rather doubt that,” Antony muttered. “Look, I’ve fought alongside these men. We were friends for decades – since I was your age, in fact.” He smirked over his shoulder at Octavian, who gave him the barest of frowns. “I was there in the city when they murdered Caesar, I saw how they conducted themselves afterwards. I know them.” Antony gave his armour one last tug, causing a squawk of protest from the slave as he disturbed the careful folds of the tunic beneath, and strode out of the tent, making his way towards the pen where the horses were kept.
“So do I.”
“Little cub, just because Brutus used to pull coins out of your ear to make you laugh, and Cassius taught you how to swim, it doesn’t mean you know them. Not as men. You won’t be able to predict what they’ll do.”
“You will, of course,” said Octavian mildly as Antony took the reins and clucked reassuringly to his mare.
“Yes. I’ll report back everything they say, don’t worry.” Antony stroked the horse’s neck, then grabbed a handful of mane to swing himself up.
“Just as you predicted what they would do to Caesar.” Antony froze and stared at the boy, and Octavian smiled. “Oh, wait – I haven’t got that right, have I?”
“These men have already fooled you once – fooled you completely. I’ve heard you were walking arm-in-arm with Decius Brutus through the Forum, laughing, when my father –“
“Adopted,” Antony said in a low voice.
“ – when my father was being stabbed to death. And now you’d stake my life on your ability to predict what they’ll do? If I didn’t know better, Antony, I’d say you weren’t terribly concerned what happened to any of Caesar’s family.”
Antony’s hand darted reflexively to the hilt of his sword. He held it there, arm practically shaking with the effort of refraining, dark eyes searching the boy’s face.
“I said I knew better,” Octavian added softly.
The older man’s arm relaxed, but it was still a long moment before he turned away, and vaulted into the saddle; and even then, he stayed, watching Octavian.
“No.” The boy’s voice was suddenly light, as if he’d only just hit on the perfect solution. “I will deal with these two murderers; you’ll stay here. Don’t worry, Antony,” he called over his shoulder as he went to mount his own horse, “I’ll report back everything they say.”
Antony leaned from the saddle to bring his face close to Octavian’s. “Preening little idiot,” he sneered. “Do you honestly think they’ll bother to deal with you?”
“With Caesar’s heir?” Octavian returned icily as he swung himself into the saddle. “Wouldn’t you?”
“I thought you weren’t interested in my predictions.”
“You think they’ll refuse to see me?” The boy’s voice had lost its edge; it was grave now.
“I think you’ll be lucky if they only throw you out.”
“They wouldn’t dare.”
“The name of Caesar still –“
“They murdered him, Octavian!” The words burst out of Antony before he realised what he was saying; Octavian reined his horse up short, looking shocked, although whether he was more startled by Antony’s screaming or by the sudden use of his adopted name, Antony couldn’t tell. “They did it while praising the name of Caesar, and afterwards they eulogised him as if he’d been a father to each and every one of them, and buried him like a king of Persia. Even now, their faction in the Senate invokes his name when they vote to send troops against you and me. Oh, the name of Caesar still commands respect. And if you ride in there alone...” His voice dropped, but the words were no less venomous. “They’ve already killed a Caesar who was worth ten of you, Octavian. What makes you think you scare them?”
As Antony yelled, his horse tossed her head and skittered nervously closer to Octavian’s, until the two men’s legs were bumping against each other and Antony’s face was only inches away from the boy’s.
Octavian’s horse reacted just as skittishly, prancing delicately out of the way, which left only Octavian calm. The boy blinked wide, pale eyes and tilted his head in that way Antony had already learned to hate, studying the older man’s face in intent silence. Finally he said, “You’re right.” Antony opened his mouth, but Octavian wasn’t finished: “He was worth ten of me.”
He nudged his horse into a slow trot, and Antony followed. Ultimately, they rode to the conspirators’ camp so closely together that a stray slap of Octavian’s bridle caught Antony across the hand and the neck of Octavian’s horse was spattered with foam from the mouth of Antony’s.
The men roared their approval, beating their swords on their shields and stamping their feet.
He’d been worried – no, to be fair, “worried” wasn’t the word. If the boy couldn’t control his troops, that would have been a problem, but Antony had seen no unrest, as such, in them… and there was a wide gulf between soldiers who viewed their commander with some distaste, and those who were actually rebellious. It was a gulf the vast majority never bridged.
And a little distaste on the part of Octavian’s soldiers could work in Antony’s favour. If his own were enthusiastic and these were just a little reluctant…
Antony had been prepared for them to listen in silence, to tolerate their callow general, perhaps even to raise a good-natured cheer for him at the end. They couldn’t love him. A child of nineteen, whose armour was still stiff and dark from lack of use and had flecks of polish in the cracks; a spoilt little boy whose cool, cut-glass voice dug under Antony’s skin; a weakling who was forever racked by colds and fevers, and would sometimes conduct strategy meetings from his camp bed, sniffling and clutching a wool cloak around his slender shoulders.
And yet, as if by some unsettling alchemy, every word he spoke had the smell and feel and taste of the barracks to it. The men were lapping it up; even after Octavian, smiling slightly, managed to wave them into silence, the echo of their cheering took a long time to die away.
“You have a gift,” Antony murmured.
He wasn’t surprised that Octavian didn’t deign to look at him, keeping his eyes instead on the ranks of men in front of the platform. He was, however, taken aback by the sudden blush darkening the boy’s cool, delicate skin. “It’s nothing,” Octavian answered in an undertone. “It isn’t eloquence, or at least not your kind of eloquence. It’s just a question of knowing what they want and delivering it. The words they expect; the loot they require. They put up with me because I’m able to take them where they want to go.”
“So is my horse, Octavius,” Antony said to himself as the boy turned away. “No. This is something else.” It troubled him that he couldn’t say exactly what else; it was almost like an enchantment. It was not, and couldn’t be, love. These were veterans of the civil wars, some with thirty years’ service or more behind them; for them to love the boy would be as impossible as –
- as you loving him, Antony, a voice somewhere in the back of Antony’s mind interjected. It was the familiar voice, the calm, teasing, maddeningly knowing voice: the one that sounded like Caesar. Antony squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head violently, as if to clear it. Wrong this time, Imperator, he thought.
And lay awake long into the night, mechanically unpicking the purple embroidery at the edge of his blanket, before the wine finally did its work and he was able to sleep.
“At least I’m capable of going for a decent length of time, you drunken sot.” One sandal extended past the hem of Octavian’s impeccably turned-out toga and aimed a vicious kick at an empty wineskin on the floor.
Antony let out a bark of laughter, narrowing his red-rimmed eyes. “So is my horse, Octavius. It hardly makes him a satisfying fuck.”
One eyebrow lifted, and Octavian opened his mouth to say – Antony just knew – something along the lines of, “And you’ve tested this, have you?”
Antony cut him off before he had the chance. “Drunk or not, I can still make you come screaming.”
“You can’t even stand.”
“I don’t have to,” Antony growled, launching himself at the boy and dragging him to the ground.
Antony was the larger of the two, his body hardened by years on campaign, but the wine had made him warm and sluggish, and Octavian threw him easily. The boy straddled Antony’s chest; the older man clutched at Octavian’s bare thigh, where the toga had slipped, and tried to push him onto his back, but Octavian planted a knee firmly on either side of him and pinned Antony’s wrists to the ground.
“Bastard,” Octavian sneered.
Antony twisted in Octavian’s grip, throwing his head back. Octavian held on grimly, but as the other man writhed, his hip brushed between the boy’s legs. Octavian hissed between his teeth, and Antony’s eyes flew open.
“Well,” he whispered.
Octavian bit his lip, his gaze hot. Antony tilted his head back slowly; pushed his wrists up against Octavian’s fingers, but weakly, almost gently; and moaned deliberately as he let his body arch, thrusting his hips up between the boy’s thighs.
The younger man shifted, trying to keep Antony pressed to the floor with his weight, but only managed to push their hips closer together. The heat of Antony’s cock rubbing against his own through the thin, rough folds of fabric drew a choked gasp from Octavian, and Antony let out a deep groan, far less calculated this time.
“You… wretched…” Octavian ground out, as Antony’s body rocked up against his.
“Oh Jupiter,” Antony panted. Even with his eyes closed, he could feel Octavian’s gaze raking over the arc of his body – the bared throat, the toga shoved wantonly aside, the tunic now roughly pushed up around Antony’s chest, the exposed curve of the stomach, and the desperate thrust of Antony’s hips. Antony let out a whimper, and felt Octavian shiver above him.
“You… you think… oh gods… it’s that easy…” Octavian’s breath was coming laboured and fast. Antony felt him shift his weight, and then the bruising pressure on his left wrist was lifted. Antony opened his eyes, and found the boy, sweat-soaked and tousle-haired as he was, staring down at him. The wide, startled eyes were starting to narrow again in disdain, and one hand was braced next to Antony’s body; even in his current state, the boy was ready to stand up and walk away.
Antony lowered his lashes and fixed melting dark eyes on Octavian’s face as, slowly, he brought his free wrist against the other, insinuating it under Octavian’s fingers, so the boy had both Antony’s hands shackled in his grip.
The faint curl of the boy’s lip faded, and he swallowed. Antony arched his body once more, vulnerable, begging.
And the boy lifted his free hand and hit him hard across the face.
Antony’s eyes widened in shock. It hadn’t been the slap of a scorned lover, or the kind of smack he himself often dispensed in bed; this was more like the cuff a centurion might give a recalcitrant soldier. Octavian’s face was blank, but his eyes were burning.
“It seems it is that easy,” Antony whispered into the sudden silence. “Isn’t it, cub?”
And he began to move against the boy again, harder. Octavian’s eyes shut, and his breathing grew ragged. Once more – this time the force split his lip – Antony tasted blood – and the insistent rock of Octavian’s hips was growing frantic, but his expression was still far too controlled. And Antony was close, too close, dammit, he would not let the boy win this.
With a sudden yank he twisted free of Octavian’s now-token grip, and reached for the boy: clawing at his thighs, leaving bloodied streaks, pulling back his hair until tears started in Octavian’s eyes. The boy cried out suddenly, and then –
“Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it?” Antony sing-songed mockingly, stroking the bare, soaked skin of the boy’s arm.
Octavian stood, still trembling slightly, carefully arranging the folds of his toga so that they once more covered that arm. He looked down at Antony, still flushed and hard and sprawled out on the floor.
“I congratulate you, Antony. That time was just about adequate.” The sneer in the boy’s voice was unsteady, and his eyes were wide, the pupils huge and dark.
Antony stretched out a hand; Octavian, raising his eyes deliberately away from the man on the floor, turned and left, the purple hem of his toga snaking around the door after him.
Antony remained still for a long moment, before curling into a ball and, eyes squeezed shut, bringing himself off with hands still damp from Octavian’s skin.
The abandoned forester’s hut had seemed like such a good idea – far away from the impressionable eyes of the soldiers, and far from Lepidus’s leers and winks. It seemed that the third triumvir was finally, if belatedly, catching on.
However, the further they got from camp, the closer they were to the borders of Cisalpine Gaul, and to the dispossessed Gallic tribes who made a living stealing and scavenging from Roman settlements.
And somehow, Antony had neglected to pay attention to whether his cloak and armour had been tossed inside or outside the hut the night before. Even now, all he could remember of those few moments was the feel of rough, eager fingers sliding underneath the leather stays and ripping them open…
“Am I to understand,” Octavian drawled, reclining on the bed with the kind of composure that a naked and freshly fucked man should not have been able to pull off, “that all our clothes are gone?”
Antony, peering cautiously outside the door, winced and sighed. “So is my horse, Octavius.”
“You may do your will, but he’s a tried and valiant soldier.”
“So is my horse, Octavius.”
Antony’s hand lingered on the boy’s shoulder for a moment, and was gone.