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08 December 2008 @ 02:20 am
Hadrian, Antinous, Cicero & Gaius: Dinner, Take Two  
Who: Emperor Hadrian, Antinous, Cicero and Gaius
Where: Hadrian's private atrium
When: A few hours after the last scene

"You really need to stop that," Gaius sighs, eyeing Antinous darkly as he hand-feeds Hadrian another almond.

"Stop what?" Antinous snaps, pouting over at him, pausing in reaching for another almond.

"Treating the Emperor like your pet parrot," Gaius says dispassionately, before his eyes flick to Hadrian. "No offense, sir."

Hadrian chuckles around the almond, his arm only tightening around Antinous' waist. They're sitting so close together on his couch, Antinous may as well have been sitting on his lap. "I think someone just wants to be fed some almonds too," says Hadrian in good humor, looking to Gaius teasingly. He's in much better spirits about this dinner now, with Gaius there. He feels like the field is a little more even. He gives Antinous' hip a loving pat, close to the curve of him. "We should probably wait for your guest though," he murmurs to Antinous, looking as if he's reproaching the boy, but the loving look on his face obviously negates it.

Gaius has to try not to gag, but it's probably just because he's bitter. Antinous nods, touching his hand to Hadrian's cheek and leaning in to touch an affectionate kiss to his lips, plucking and quick. He looks back to Gaius, looking a little smug. "Really I'm doing Rome a grand service. Making sure the Emperor is fed. It's a difficult job, you know."

"I don't know how he managed all these years without you," Gaius says in mock wonder, shaking his head.

Hadrian only laughs, enjoying the banter between the two, thinking it's only playful, like brothers. He sighs, very content, his hand smoothing over Antinous' side, feeling the curve of his hips. He looks around for a few moment, then frowns a bit. "You.. did tell him dinner, right?" he asks the blonde, looking displeased.

Antinous nods, pouting a little, sliding his arm across Hadrian's stomach. "I did. Give him a few more minutes, please?"

"Who are we waiting for, exactly?" Gaius asks, suddenly wary, realizing abruptly that the most likely person for them to be waiting for is Cicero.

Cicero himself arrives just a few seconds later, the door to the atrium pushing open. He comes in, a little out of breath, and a little tired looking around the eyes. He'd taken a nap before the dinner, hoping it might clear his head and soothe him a bit, but he'd only overslept, and now he's a mess and the Emperor must hate him more and Antinous will be upset. "Antinous, my liege, forgive me I..." He trails off, his eyes landing on the extra body in the room, heart jumping up to his throat.

Gaius is gaping as well, mouth actually hanging open. Antinous looks between them, eyeing that shock and slight panic. He feels like the densest boy in the world when it clicks. "No fucking way," he blurts out, sitting up, slapping a hand against Hadrian's thigh. "No fucking way!"

Hadrian jumps at the slap, eyes tearing from Gaius' expression to Antinous. He wraps a hand around the hand Antinous has still on his thigh, tugging. "Yes, that is your friend," he murmurs, wondering what he's on now. "He's only a few minutes late, what a surprise, yes."

"No, no, no," Antinous says quickly, looking to Hadrian. Gaius wants to reach out and put his hand over Antinous' mouth, or perhaps punch him in the face, because he knows what the little shit is about to say. He won't be able to reach Antinous in time, though, and he's still completely grounded by the sight of Cicero. "I was over Cissy's before and he got this great big fancy fur blanket in a crazy fancy box with this love letter-"

"It was not a love letter," Gaius finally interrupts defensively, glaring over at Antinous.

"Oh, it was," Antinous says seriously over his shoulder to Gaius, before he looks back to Hadrian and nods earnestly. "It was."

Antinous' words are only cut off with a sudden low groan from Cicero, whose hands have flown up to press against his eyes, hiding half of his pained expression. He knew he shouldn't have let Antinous read that letter, and now it's all coming back to bite him in the ass.

Hadrian's feeling a little overwhelmed, looking from Antinous to Cicero to Gaius to Antinous again. He shakes his head a bit, dazed. "What does this have to do with dinner?"

Antinous suddenly blurts out a laugh and throws his arms around Hadrian's shoulders, squeezing tight, feeling a giddy outpouring of affection that's even more pressing a matter than the very exciting Gaius-Cicero love letter. He presses a loud kiss to Hadrian's cheek, and then sits up to look suddenly very stern. "Nothing. You are not leaving my dinner, Cissy. Go sit with the sincere and also sexy kisser," Antinous commands, pointing towards Gaius' couch.

"Stop that, you are not helping," Cicero hisses, hands finally tearing away from his face so he can clench them at his sides instead. He looks to Hadrian then, expression melting into an appeasing one, humbling himself despite the bright flush on his cheeks. "My liege, I've already ruined dinner once, I would hate to ruin it again by taking up more space--"

"Nonsense," says Hadrian sternly, his brows lifted. "You made us wait this long, the least you could do is finally join us so we can start."

Cicero's expression cracks, and it's a full moment before he forces out a nervous laugh. He bows his head, embarrassed and reluctant. "Yes.. of course. Forgive me." He licks at his lips, inching towards Gaius' couch, noticeably slowly.

Gaius shifts to the far side of it, frowning to himself - not displeased, but certainly uncomfortable. He's glad to see Cicero, even if he shouldn't be - the boy is so damn </i>beautiful</i>, it's hard for him to not be glad at the sight of him. "Sorry, I didn't know you'd be here," Gaius says quietly as Cicero approaches, then drops his gaze away from the boy. "Sorry."

Cicero looks up at those words, eyes wide, surprised. His blush only deepens, and he remembers (much too vividly) Antinous' reading of the letter. He shakes his head a bit, slowly sinking down on the couch. "No, that's.. don't be." He looks away too, sitting stiffly, looking a little lost.

Hadrian eyes them suspiciously, then looks to Antinous. "Right," he says after a moment, after a long stretch of uncomfortable silence. "Shall we begin then?"

Antinous might be the only one who feels no bit of awkwardness. In fact, he's really quite pleased. Gaius might be a bitch, but he is handsome, and the letter he wrote Cicero truly seemed heartfelt. He primly reaches for a slice a bread, dragging it through a dip made of crushed beans and pepper, and then offering it to Hadrian with a smug little smile on his lips.

Hadrian smiles at Antinous, remembering the plan, though even without the plan he'd still be looking this fond, this tender. He leans forward, taking a bite, giving Antinous' hip a slight squeeze in thanks. He presses a kiss to Antinous' lips, whispering a gentle command to eat as well before drawing away.

Cicero looks to the couple, almost desperately, as if needing the distraction. What he sees only seems like a slap to his face, though, and he can still feel the sting. He tears his eyes away, looking to the display of bowls on the table before them. He leans forward, absently treating himself to a slice of peach.

Gaius reaches for an oyster, almost painfully aware of the boy beside him. He still stings from Cicero's rejection, and seeing the boy both makes it more bearable and even worse. He sneaks a glance at him, then looks away again, focusing on the food.

Antinous decides he doesn't like the silence, and as he sips from a cup of sweet wine he considers Gaius and Cicero. "Tonight is Cicero's last night at the Villa," he says conversationally. "He has to head back to Rome. Who knows how long it could be before he comes back." Antinous doesn't intend to let Cicero be away for very long at all, but he thinks it should motivate Gaius to quit being a pussy.

Cicero looks up from the asparagus he'd been chewing on, lips pursing around the green stem as he frowns at the blonde, wondering what he's trying to do. He gives his head the faintest of shakes anyway, sure that whatever it is, he doesn't want Antinous to be doing it.

"A shame," chimes in Hadrian, amiable mostly for Antinous' sake. "I hope you found Villa Adriana very welcoming."

Gaius gives Hadrian a dry look, not approving of the conversation either. Antinous smirks, turning his face to Hadrian's ear, whispering against it. "Cissy so owns him."

Gaius is sure he does not like whatever Antinous is whispering about. He looks over at Cicero as if looking for an ally, but he looks away just as fast and holds out an oyster without looking at Cicero. "You want one of these?" he mumbles, panicking just a little.

Cicero looks from Gaius' profile to the oyster being offered to him. He feels his heart hammer against his chest, his anxiety picking up. "S-ure," he murmurs distractedly, and reaches out to take it. Their fingers brush, making Cicero bite down on his lip before he all but yanks the oyster from Gaius' hand, remembering too well how Gaius' hands had felt.

Hadrian's smile slips from his face, the two's odd behavior and Antinous' whisper suddenly clicking in his head. His lips press into a thin line, eyes narrowing. He clearly disapproves.

Antinous notices the shift in Hadrian, and he leans back, hand framing Hadrian's face. "What?" he frowns, voice a murmur.

Hadrian only shifts a bit, shaking his head faintly. "Nothing," he says, licking his lips slowly. He drags his eyes away from the other two to look at Antinous, leaning forward for a soft, soundless kiss. "Keep eating, carus."

Cicero, meanwhile, is fiddling with the oyster in his hand. He wishes he could just get up and leave, but he's not about to risk his neck or his friendship for that. He sighs, finally, a soft sound, and lifts the oyster to his lips. His lips purse around the narrow end of the shell, slowly sucking to get the meat.

The oyster was definitely a bad idea. Gaius looks over, and he can't look away. Cicero's full lips pursed against the shell make him shiver, and Gaius nearly groans, realizing this dinner is going to be even more difficult than he anticipated.

"Are you trying to fatten me up?" Antinous asks seriously, narrowing his eyes at Hadrian, leaning in until their noses practically touch. "You want to eat me," he accuses.

Hadrian's lips spread into a grin, rather wicked. "That's not proper dinner table conversation," he murmurs, lifting his brows meaningfully.

Cicero looks over then, catching that low murmur, and he makes a soft, pained noise, taking the empty shell away. He sets it down next to Gaius' empty one, idly licking the juices from his lips. He can hear the happy couple murmuring things to each other, likely just as dirty as the one before it. He looks to Gaius, leaning towards him slightly to whisper, "You're not the one in trouble. I bet he'd let you go, if you wanted. You don't have to suffer through this."

Gaius shrugs, looking down, reaching for his glass of wine. "He asked me to be here," Gaius says. "And if you have to suffer it, why should I not suffer with you?"

Cicero's lips press into a line, trying to keep his pout to himself. Gaius won't even look at him again. He shakes his had, straightening again. "Don't do me any favors," he murmurs, reaching for his own cup.

"I don't think I have to take orders from you," Gaius says simply, casually, still staring ahead, avoiding looking at Cicero at all costs. The problem is that when he looks at him, he can't look away.

Cicero's lips twist, his grip around the cup tightening. They're speaking in low, soft tones, much like the lovely couple not too far from them. "If it's not a love letter what is it?" he blurts out suddenly, determined not to look at Gaius either. He's worried, now, that Antinous had been making it all up.

Gaius scowls a little, taking a long gulp of his wine to hide it. He lowers his cup, staring down into it, and shakes his head. "A letter of apology and admiration," he says finally. "It cannot be a love letter if I do not love you, and I make no claims of love."

"Well," replies Cicero in short, snippy tones, "nice to have that all cleared up then." He grabs another oyster from the plate, a little more vicious in the handling of this one.

"What?" Gaius demands, finally looking over at Cicero, eyes narrowed slightly. "What about that statement offended you?"

"Who's offended," Cicero asks, turning to meet Gaius' hard glare with his own. "Not me. You're imagining things." He pokes at the oyster, using his fingers this time to eat it, sucking on them to get the juices off.

Gaius looks away sharply, but the image is practically burned in his mind, becoming quickly the only thing he can see. Cicero's perfect mouth pursing around his fingertips, so irresistible and effortlessly sexual. "Then what? What's the problem? You want me to call it a love letter?" he asks through gritted teeth. "That would be insincere. I don't know you well enough to love you, but that doesn't make my passion for you any less."

Cicero's fingers slip out from between his lips with a soft popping sound. "I have enough passion, thank you," he murmurs, obviously intent to harm. He doesn't know why he's so angry, when the logical part of him realizes he should be relieved. He looks away, trying to breathe deeper, to regain his calm. "I can't accept the blanket," he says after a moment. "It would only get damaged or stolen if I take it back to--" the brothel he'd been about to say, but somehow saying it now makes him cringe. "--Rome."

"Then I will give you another," Gaius says simply. Still, it stings to the bone - another rejection from Cicero, the boy not even accepting his gift. "The weather is getting cooler. You should have it."

"Save your money," Cicero returns, almost desperately. He can feel more and more of his resolve slipping away he more Gaius pushes, and it frightens him. "What are you trying to prove with all this?"

"I don't want to prove anything. If you read my actions as being dishonest in the first place, I can never change that. I was myself, at my most honest and sincere, and to act any differently would be a lie. Clearly, then, I can never prove my affection," Gaius says quietly, very glad that Antinous and Hadrian don't seem to be paying attention. "So I intend to do whatever pleases me from now on. And to spoil you would please me. If you don't like it... well, you don't like me anyway, so what difference does it make?"

Cicero closes his mouth, unaware until then that he'd been gaping at the other. He shakes his head, looking away again. He's almost certain now that Gaius is just messing with his mind, because nobody just does that. But there's another, smaller part of himself that wants so badly to hope... "I never said I didn't like you," he whispers finally, looking embarrassed.

"Mm," Gaius says, not sounding convinced. "I'd just be... Choosing me would just be a waste," Gaius murmurs, throwing Cicero's words back at him bitterly. "Since I'm just like all your johns, right?" Gaius looks away, shaking his head. "You invited me to touch you, and then you punished me for it."

Cicero looks down at his hands, palms up on his lap. He's been trying to avoid laying the blame on himself for a while now, but now he can't help but feel guilt every way he turns. He'd been foolish, and weak, and opened up to Gaius. Then his fear got a hold of him, because he isn't Antinous, and Gaius isn't Hadrian, and they'll never have that. He'll never have it. Ever. "What am I supposed to do?" he asks quietly. "I thought I was strong enough, to settle for just a little bit of that," he says, eyes flying up to the loving couple on the couch beside them, completely lost in their own world. "But I'm not. I can't survive doing what I do if I'm stupid enough to get attached."

Gaius shrugs, choosing not to look towards Hadrian and Antinous, finding it a bit difficult himself. "Fine. You made your choice. I'm not asking you to change it. I'm not asking for anything from you. But if I want to give you something, I will. You can toss it in the trash if it pleases you. You do whatever pleases you."

Cicero's eyes slip towards Gaius, narrowing faintly, feeling his anger bubble in his gut. "I understand I may have greatly bruised your ego," he hisses, "but if you're going to punish me, have me thrown in jail. Don't give me gifts and mess with my mind."

"I'm not punishing you," Gaius says calmly, trying not to laugh at the very idea. "Clearly you have extremely low self esteem, considering you seem to think no one could possibly have honest affection for you, but that's fine. You're really not going to change my mind."

"I have perfectly fine self esteem," Cicero nearly shouts, his cheeks growing pink in his embarrassment. "My point it is doesn't matter whether your affections are honest or not," except it does, it really does, "there's no room for it in my life, not if I want to keep some peace of mind."

The rising of Cicero's voice catches Antinous' attention, but he says nothing, simply listening curiously, discreetly putting his hand over Hadrian's mouth as he pretends not to watch. Gaius looks just as unruffled as before, carefully controlled, and he finally shrugs, reaching to pour himself more wine. "As I said. You've made your decision, and I've made mine," he says simply, with an air of finality.

"You-- oooooohhhh." If looks could kill, Gaius would have been six feet under ten times over by then. Cicero's shaking his head, eyes narrowed at the other man's profile; he's never felt so angry in his life-- and his best friend is Antinous! His eyes snap to Hadrian and Antinous suddenly, his hand rising to get their attention. "May I be excused?"

Antinous lifts his brows a little, not sure he likes that idea. His legs are crossed over Hadrian's lap now, his arms around the man's shoulders. He frowns a bit, looking a bit pleadingly at Cicero. "But the main course hasn't even come out yet, and for dessert we ordered your favorite..."

"It's fine," Gaius says calmly, standing, setting down his cup, drained in a few gulps. "I'm going. Sorry sir." Gaius doesn't wait for approval before he heads towards the door, back stiff and jaw clenched.

Cicero's eyes burn at Gaius' back, his anger only growing now that Gaius has left him alone to deal with the damage. A part of him realizes his irrationality, but anger and bitterness has always been his default emotion, and right now it's hitting him harder than it ever has. "Stop him," he says, to himself first, then he looks to Antinous. "Stop him."

Antinous knows he has no authority to do it, so he looks to Hadrian, lifting his brows and tapping his shoulder. "Tell him to stop, moro mou."

But Hadrian doesn't, simply lifting up a shoulder. "If he wants to leave, let him leave," he says. His eyes flick towards Cicero, full of flame, only thinly veiled.

"Hadrian," Antinous says quietly, putting a hand on the man's cheek, turning him to face Antinous instead. "Please? For me?"

Hadrian meets Antinous' eyes levelly. He hesitates for a moment, but eventually shakes his head. "He's my friend," he murmurs. "I'm doing him a favor."

Antinous pauses a beat, just staring at Hadrian, not sure he really heard right. Finally his brows lift, eyes searching Hadrian's. "Excuse me?"

Hadrian doesn't lose his resolve, despite the growing dread in him. "You heard me," he says, rather calm despite the slightly desperate tightening of his hand around Antinous' hip. "He doesn't need that."

Antinous stares at Hadrian, anger and fear both winding in him. "Doesn't need what?" he asks quietly, darkly.

"He's already nearly poisoned you," Hadrian replies frankly. "Nearly drove you away from me. And now he's gotten to Gaius."

Cicero's gone quiet since Hadrian spoke, and now he can't remember how to speak, fear and panic slowly winding inside him. Oh the irony, he thinks. That he and Gaius had grown close with the intention of breaking Hadrian and Antinous up, and now it's happening, because Cicero had driven Gaius away.

"Poisoned me?" Antinous hisses, anger winning over instantly at those words. "This is my best friend you're talking about, Hadrian. He said that stuff because he was nervous, not because he wanted to hurt me. He would never hurt me." Antinous is already disentangling himself from Hadrian, pulling his legs from his lap and moving off the couch. "You know what... fuck you," Antinous snaps, getting more angry by the second. "He's been with me way longer than you have, and he will be with me long after you're done with me."

Cicero's head starts to shake, his eyes widening in panic. It's as if someone suddenly held up a mirror and showed himself all the evil things he'd done, and he finds himself nearly choking from it all. "No," he whispers softly. He swallows past his heart, head shaking more fervently. "No, Antinous." He looks to the blonde, his eyes wide, fearful, but honest. "I wanted to hurt you."

"What," says Hadrian sharply, his dark eyes snapping towards Cicero, one hand still around Antinous' wrist to keep him from drawing away.

Cicero licks at his lips, feeling his breathing grow ragged. "I wanted to hurt you. So.. So I bribed that senator to flirt with you, because I know how you can't resist, and I wanted you two to break up. I was.. I was angry," he nods. "And jealous. And petty. So. So I came up with that plan. I'm sorry."

Antinous turns towards Cicero, staring at him with wide eyes, absolutely gaping. Cicero's words sink in slowly, stinging and slicing all the way down like poisoned barbs. Antinous had tried to figure it all out, had managed to convince himself that Cicero only was nervous around the Emperor, which was why he said such stupid things at lunch. He refused to believe otherwise, and he never in a million years thought Cicero had anything to do with the senator flirting with him. He shakes his head, stunned and stung to the core, his heart suddenly aching. "...Why?" he whispers, the thing he truly can't understand. He can't even begin to imagine why his best friend would hurt him.

Cicero bites down on his lip, as if that might be enough to keep his tears to himself. He can't look away from the hurt and betrayal in Antinous' eyes, knowing all this pain he's feeling is well deserved. He shakes his head a bit, not even sure where to begin. He's so selfish. And petty. And bitter. And the only real thing that pushed him to confess, even now, is because he knows if Hadrian and Antinous broke up because of him, directly because of him, he knows he'd feel so guilty about it. And here he is, being selfish enough to try and avoid that. He shrugs, not even sure how he could convey all that. "I'm poison, Annie... I'm so sorry."

"Get out," comes Hadrian's voice, low and dangerous. His dislike for the boy has only intensified, and right now he can't even stand to look at him.

Antinous shakes his head, glancing back to Hadrian, though his eyes return to Cicero. "No, I..." He shakes his head again, words caught in his throat. He drags in a shuddering breath, betraying how close he is to tears, and turns away from Cicero finally, falling onto the couch and hiding his face against Hadrian's shoulder, not wanting Cicero to see his tears.

Hadrian's arms come around Antinous instantly, cradling the boy close to him. His eyes close, cheek pressed against the top of Antinous' head, looking as if nothing else mattered in the world.

Cicero chokes on a breath, tears finally falling from his eyes. He stands, moving to go to Antinous, but the Emperor suddenly opens his eyes, delivering a sharp glare to the other boy. "Leave," he murmurs darkly, not about to tell him again.

Cicero licks at his lips, looking from Hadrian to Antinous. "I'm so sorry, Annie," he whispers one last time, before hurrying away, not about to push his luck any longer.

Antinous tries hard to swallow down his tears, but he's so crushed by his friend's betrayal that it feels impossible not to cry. His hands fist in the fabric of Hadrian's toga, clinging as Antinous weeps, shaking his head as if still trying to deny Cicero's claims.

Hadrian passes a hand over the back of Antinous' head, gently shushing him. He isn't pleased that he had been right all along about Cicero, but he is glad that at least now Cicero can't harm Antinous any further. "It'll be okay," he whispers against the side of Antinous' head, pulling him closer.

Antinous shakes his head again, lifting his face, bringing his gaze to Hadrian's. His eyes are washed silvery light, tears caught in his eyelashes, his nose and cheeks turning red from crying. "How could he do that? How could he tell me he loves me and then try to hurt me?"

Hadrian runs a hand down the side of Antinous' face, his fingertips soft, grazing. "People lie sometimes, carus. I've been Emperor long enough to know that some people.. can only just think of themselves."

Antinous shakes his head, gasping in an unsteady breath. "If he hates me..." Just the sentence brings a sob out of Antinous, anguished at the thought of Cicero hating him, such a foreign concept so suddenly thrust on him. "If he hates me, why did he stay with me?"

Hadrian's shaking his head, reaching up to cup the boy's cheek. "I don't think he hates you," he murmurs, hasty to get rid of the idea that seems to tear the boy up so bad. "I just think he loved himself more."

Antinous nods, then curls in to rest against Hadrian again, feeling sick to his stomach, his entire body unsettled by the thought of Cicero no longer being his friend. "I want to go to bed," he murmurs, and trusts Hadrian will take care of him.

Hadrian nods, pressing his cheek against Antinous' head, the blonde curls tickling his chin. He rearranges his arms around Antinous so that when he rises, Antinous is safe and snug in his arms. He moves out of the atrium, straight towards his bedroom, leaving the servants to clean up after them. He gets Antinous straight to bed, not even leaving his side for longer than a second before he's curling up against him again, holding him tight.