And here’s the last part of the full scene from The City War, my new novella from Riptide Press!
“Your new horse-boy. Aristus implied he was offering more than his services as a groom. He’s handsome. Thinking of throwing me over?”
“For a horse-boy?” Brutus laughed. “I think not. I felt bad for him, that’s all. His father fought in the civil war. For the other side,” he added, and nudged Cassius’s thigh with his knee.
Cassius snorted. “You’d have thrown in with Caesar too, if you weren’t so damned ambitious.”
There was something testing in his tone, some question there that Brutus couldn’t name. Different from their usual banter.
He sighed. Cassius would come to it in his own time, he supposed. “It wasn’t ambition. I fought for Pompey because I thought he was best for Rome. So did you.”
Cassius’s eyes were dark. “I fought for Pompey because you did, Marcus.”
“That’s not true,” Brutus said, though he’d worried for some time that it was. “You know we’re responsible for the welfare of Rome.”
“Maybe, but you can’t deny Caesar was more charismatic.”
“But he was attacking Rome. I knew I’d have to defend her from him.”
“Caesar likes you.”
“And he’s Princeps, so I’ll follow him, because I’m better than he was.”
“Yes, you are. If you spoke out more—”
“I’m not interested in being Princeps, Cassius.” Brutus studied him. “Or in buying his mistrust when I’ve done nothing to earn it. You’re not as loyal to him as you could be, you know. Or you don’t come off as loyal as you could, anyway.”
“I’m loyal to you,” Cassius said softly, settling down, voice vibrating against his shoulder. He sounded disappointed.
“I don’t ask for loyalty.”
“You don’t have to.”
It was hard to tell, with Cassius, where speaking stopped and kissing began. He liked to talk into Brutus’s skin, into his mouth. The movements of his lips could sometimes be taken for whispered supplications, words Brutus couldn’t hear. Cassius spoke prayers into his body and he never knew what they were.
Of course, that was the least of what Cassius could do, he thought as the scratch of the other man’s jaw rubbed the sensitive skin above his collarbone, distracting him.
“We’ll talk more tomorrow,” Cassius said, body going lax against his.
“Talk more about what?”
“Nothing. I have to— Nothing we need to talk about tonight. Sleep now. Should I go?”
“There’s no reason. Stay and keep me warm.”
“Well, if the Senator insists.” Cassius’s eyes closed. Brutus watched for a few moments and then relaxed as well, drifting into sleep.