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31 December 2008 @ 12:50 am
Hadrian and Gaius: A Symposium  
Who: Emperor Hadrian and Gaius
Where: Hadrian's office
When: Around December 20th

Gaius thought his problems would finally be over when the boy was gone, but they've only seemed to have gotten worse. Antinous might have been annoying and dangerous, but at least Hadrian wasn't a miserable grump when he was around. Of course, it's still all Antinous' fault - Hadrian would have been fine if the boy never came along. All roads lead to Gaius hating Antinous, but the man is worried for his friend now. He makes his way to Hadrian's study, knowing there's no where else the man could possibly be. Luckily, Gaius has a slave carrying enough wine to down a horse.

Hadrian grunts when the door to his study opens. He looks up over the piles of scrolls littering his desk, looking haggard and ready to snap. He pauses when he sees it's Gaius, and seems to simmer down a bit, but he still looks annoyed. "I'm busy," he says, though if one were to glance over his shoulder, they'll see he's doing nothing more than idle, angry doodles.

"I have wine," Gaius says simply, turning to look at the pretty slave boy he has carrying his wine, flicking a hand towards Hadrian. The boy obediently pours the wine into the cups he's brought, carrying one to the Emperor with a bowed hed. Gaius welcomes himself in, sitting down on a couch near Hadrian's desk, lounging. "It's Saturnalia. No one is supposed to work during Saturnalia, sir."

"Well then I'm busy not working," gripes Hadrian, considerably snappier than he usually is. Still, he takes the offered cup, downing it almost as soon as it touches his hand. He sets the cup back on his desk with more force than he needs to, and the slave boy hastily starts to refill it.

Gaius sighs a little, sipping his own wine at a more leisurely pace. "What's your problem, man? Calm down. Are you still on about that boy? There are other boys, you know." Gaius gestures towards the boy pouring the wine as evidence. "You can have this boy."

Hadrian looks to the boy, but his look is far from considering. It's hard, almost repelling. "I don't want another boy," he says, lips pulled into a scowl. He only really wanted one boy, but he hadn't been good enough. The sting of it pushes him to down his drink again.

"So what, then?" Gaius says impatiently, pushing up onto his elbow to glare at Hadrian. "What are you going to do with yourself? You get over it, or you... take him back." That last suggestion makes Gaius' skin crawl, but the damage is already done. Hadrian has met Antinous, and Gaius is starting to wonder if perhaps Hadrian remaining with Antinous is the lesser of two evils. "You should be relieved, you know? That boy had you wrapped around his fat little finger. He was a brat, he was using you."

Hadrian shakes his head but says nothing, refusing to believe what's really so blatantly obvious. He doesn't know how he can explain to Gaius all those moments he and Antinous shared, where it was just the two of them that mattered... He makes a low, bitter sound around the rim of his refilled cup, thinking perhaps the school masters teach them to be better actors than he thought.

"You're better off without him," Gaius announces, as if now it's been decided. "After Saturnalia, new boys will come from the paedagogium. New boys that will respect you properly, not speak as if they're on level with you and boss you around. Should have that brat thrown in the pit for the way he talked to you."

Hadrian shakes his head, looking a little solemn. "Sometimes it was refreshing," he admits with a shrug, a slight wry turn of his lips. He sighs, running a hand through his hair, feeling that headache start to come back again. "I was better off as a workaholic," he mutters miserably.

Gaius nods in agreement, sighing and dropping back against the couch again. "I curse the day you laid eyes on that boy, sir," he says, quite honestly. "But what now? You're miserable, it's killing me. You can't stay like this."

Hadrian shakes his head, looking down to the sketches he'd been distractedly mulling over. Doodles of statues and dusts, messily detailing every curl of Antinous' hair, every perfect line of his face. "I'll get over it," he says after a moment, looking away from the sketches.

Gaius looks over his shoulder, lifting his brows at Hadrian a little. "I hope so," he says, though he's encouraged by those words. Maybe it is just a phase. "What do you need to get over it? A vacation? Take a trip or something. And let's get him out of the Villa."

Hadrian hesitates, then shakes his head. "No," he says, though he doesn't specify what he's refusing. Despite how angry and hurt he is, he hasn't yet turned Antinous away from the Villa. He can't help but hang on to that little bit of foolish hope in him.

Gaius sighs heavily, waving his boy over wordlessly and holding up his cup to be filled. "What do you need? Closure? Would that help?"

Hadrian looks up, brow knitting. He doesn't like the sound of that. "What do you mean?"

Gaius shrugs a little, sipping his refilled cup. He'd like to suggest crucifixion, but he doesn't think that's the sort of closure Hadrian needs. "I don't know. Something that ends it once and for all."

Hadrian glares at Gaius, practically threatening. "I'm not going to have him killed."

Gaius rolls his eyes a bit, but of course he'd expected as much. "So you won't send him away. You won't kill him. Sounds like you're hanging on to me, sir. You need to stop. I'll bet he isn't hanging on. He's milking it, is what he's doing. Probably buggering half the senate while he's at it, too."

Hadrian's look, if possible, only gets worse. There's a flicker of pain there too, but a resigned line to his lips, as if he'd been suspecting as much as well. He shakes his head, looking away.

"Do you need to see it for yourself?" Gaius asks, lifting his brows. "You need to hate him, sir. Take a look at who he really is. It would do you well."

Hadrian shakes his head again, unsure he can take that kind of pain again. But deep downhe knows Gaius is right. He can't continue on like he is. He needs his closure. He looks to Gaius, a little bare and lost. "What should I do?"

Gaius pushes up onto his elbow, considering. "Test him. See if he would take advantage of your hospitality, sleep with another man in your home. We'll hire someone to court him, see if he bites. If he does, then he'll never learn and he has no regret and no love for you."

Hadrian looks down at his hands, feeling a little sick at the thought of resorting to such low tactics. But Gaius is right-- he needs to know for sure. He nods, reaching to rub tiredly at his eyes. "See to it," he says, trusting his best friend to settle all the arrangements.

Gaius nods, satisfied. There's no doubt in his mind that Antinous will fall to the temptation, and Gaius wants this all to be Done With. "It's a shame he'll take that boy with him when he goes, though," Gaius sighs. "Cicero. Such a pretty thing."

Hadrian looks up, his expression dry. "The whore?" he asks, bluntly. His dislike for the boy is still obvious, despite how right the boy might have been about Antinous. "With a friend like that, it's no doubt Antinous turned out like he has."

Gaius gives Hadrian a bit of a glare, unable to help it. "The boy is nothing like your pup," he informs Hadrian darkly. "He's smart, and he has some dignity."

Hadrian lifts a brow, more curious than insulted. "They all do, if it gets them somewhere," he replies, certainly pessimistic now since Antinous' burn.

Gaius shakes his head, looking away from Hadrian. "The boy pushes me away at every turn. I doubt he is trying to get anything from me. It's for the best he goes, though. If I were to ever love a boy, it would be a boy like him." Gaius looks over to Hadrian again, lifting his brows. "And I can't afford that."

Hadrian furrows his brows, looking over his friend almost pityingly. "I'll never understand this fear you have for love," he says, head shaking in wonder. "I'm in a more vulnerable position than you, and even I yearn for it."

"Yes well... your soul is full of poetry and whatnot," Gaius sighs, rolling his eyes a little. "I'm concerned with more practical matters. Like self-preservation."

Hadrian lifts his brows, looking genuinely surprised. "You think love is poison?"

Gaius scoffs a little, giving Hadrian a significant look. "Look at you, brother. Heartache, and for what? Plus, there is no ignoring that love for a boy is doomed. He will become a man, and then what? And though a woman is nice to look at, once you've had a boy they never quite do the trick, do they?"

Hadrian shakes his head, a deep frown working his lips. "We're not immortal," he says. "You could die as easily as I can today, the next day, the day after that." He grows quiet for a moment, thinking on it. "When a man dies, the Greeks only ask one question: Did he have passion? Can you really tell me you're fine dying without ever experiencing love?"

Gaius looks away from Hadrian, knowing how easily the other man reads him. He shrugs his shoulders, trying to dismiss it. "I could never keep it, anyway. Better to never have it at all. To find love - to feel passion, and then have it stolen away..." Gaius shakes his head, finally looking back to Hadrian. "I am weak, brother. I couldn't live after I have lost true love."

Hadrian's lips turn up in a faint, wry little smile. "It's certainly a way to go, though."

Gaius laughs, shaking his head, hardly able to understand how Hadrian can condone love in the very midst of his heartbreak. "Look at you, man! Don't you wish you had never seen that creature?"

Hadrian closes his eyes, sighing heavily. He sags against his seat, weary against the high back of his chair. "When I was with him... I was the happiest man in the world. Certainly the happiest I'd ever been. It.. hurts, that I hadn't been able to make him feel the way he made me feel, but I would never take those moments back. If nothing else, I can always look back on those memories and remember there's more beyond this heartache." He shrugs. He certainly can't afford to think any other way.

Gaius frowns at those words, suddenly feeling regretful that his friend no longer has that happiness. He shakes his head, studying Hadrian. "Caesar... what about another boy? A good-hearted boy. Please, there must be another. Someone to give you happiness, who will be obedient and loving. Certainly there could be another?"

Hadrian meets Gaius' eyes, the depths of his own giving the other man answer enough. But he shrugs, as if to give Gaius peace of mind. "Perhaps," he says, though anyone can tell he's lying. "But I don't think I will be looking for a while." He sits up in his seat, giving Gaius a thoughtful look. "There are some of us who might benefit from actually starting."

Gaius looks away, wrinkling his nose in response to that. "I have my playthings. They amuse me well enough." Gaius looks to the boy standing with the jug of wine, pretty with green eyes and curling copper hair. "Better when they don't talk."

"Oh yes," says Hadrian with a roll of his eyes, his words dripping with sarcasm. "The lifeless ones are definitely the best. How exciting, when they just lay there! Sometimes, you get lucky, and they whimper."

Gaius smirks to himself, shaking his head and glancing towards Hadrian. "I have one slave boy... scrap of a thing, but quite a tongue on him. Rotten brat, but he makes a lot of noise. Isn't it sweet, when they moan like little whores?"

Hadrian's expression flattens, his eyes dull. "Whores who've no care for who their johns are," he replies, suddenly not in a very joking mood anymore.

Gaius sighs a little, shaking his head. "We'll see to that, sir," he says, to try to comfort Hadrian. "Once and for all. I'll make the arrangements. How would you like it, a report from me or a report from the man I hire?"

Hadrian shakes his head, looking to a spot on his desk. "I want to see it for myself."

Gaius looks over to Hadrian, frowning. It seems to him like a needless torture. "Are you sure?" he asks, skeptical. "Sir, is it something you really want to... see?"

Hadrian nods, resigned. "I need to," he says, meeting Gaius' eyes again. "Closure, right? It needs to end."

Gaius sighs, but he knows Hadrian won't be dissuaded, and it isn't his place to argue with the emperor. "Very well," he says, nodding. "Tomorrow night, so we can put this to rest."

Hadrian nods again, but refrains from saying more. He reaches up, wearily rubbing at his eyes. "In the meantime," he murmurs, reaching for his cup again. "More wine would be nice."