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The Senator and the Pizza Guy

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Thursday

 

“I’m hungry,” Octavian says, pulling at Julius’ sleeve.

 

“Yeah, I know, just give me a minute,” he replies, admittedly a little distracted. This is the second, maybe third time Octavian has asked? He feels bad for putting it off, but he knows there are snacks in the kitchen and that he’s almost done with what he’s working on.

 

“Dad,” Octavian persists, “I’m hungry .”

 

“Have a snack. There’s some poptarts in the cupboard, I think. You like poptarts, right?” Julius responds. Octavian huffs irritably, like he’s the one who has a busy schedule and little time.

Julius thinks nothing of it until there’s a ring at the doorbell. When he goes through the kitchen, Octavian is climbing up onto one of the chairs. Despite his struggle, Julius can see a smug glint in his eye. He’s been planning something. Julius knows those cunning genes are from his side of the family; his sister had them too.

 

When he opens the door, he knows three things. 1) He did not order pizza. 2) Octavian is hungry and absolutely capable of ordering pizza, despite being three years old.  3) The delivery guy is in a shirt that’s a bit too tight on the side of perfect and has sex hair (but natural looking?) and is generally kind of very hot.

 

“Hi,” the kind of very hot delivery guy says, “So, you ordered fifty pizzas, but I’m guessing that was a typo, so I brought five.” He’s a bit sheepish when he says this, but Julius can’t really tell because the pizzas have been shifted to in front of his face.

 

He considers telling the man that he didn’t order and pizza, but then he remembers Octavian’s devious smile and decides that it’s better to just take the pizzas.

 

“Also, the note for the delivery person was just, uh, key smashing? So I didn’t really do anything for that.”

 

Julius thinks about his life for a moment. “Yeah, that’s fair, I guess. How much do I owe you?”

 

The delivery guy awkwardly shifts the pizzas over to one arm so he can look at his paper. “$79.99,” he says, looking over Julius’ shoulder to where he evidently expects enough people to order 80 dollars worth of pizza. Julius hates this because he knows he won’t be able to punish Octavian because he is a weak, weak man.

 

“Okay,” Julius sighs, going back into his apartment and looking for his wallet. “Hi, Octavian,” he says flatly to the gleeful toddler sitting primed and ready at the kitchen table.

 

“Hi,” Octavian parrots back, smiling widely. Julius rolls his eyes.

 

When he gets back to the living room, the pizza guy has shuffled into the room, but still near the door.  He’s still holding the pizza, almost like it’s a lifeline. When the pizza guy notices Julius, he shoots him a too-wide smile and adjusts his grip on the pizzas. Poor guy - he must feel so out of place. Julius tries to smile back and the man’s face tinges pink.

 

“Is there any possibility you can take some of these back?” Julius suggests.

 

“Sorry, company policy,” the pizza guy says apologetically. Julius can tell he wants to ask what happened, but is holding his tongue. He’s actually pretty hungry; he gets lost in time when he works.

 

Julius nods at the answer, unsurprised. “My son has decided to order dinner. He’s three.” he says, taking the pizzas and revealing a name-tag that says “Antony.”  He can barely see Antony after taking the pizzas, however, so he decides to avoid that and call for the brat who started it all.

 

“Octavian!” he yells, startling Antony (if the tiny slip of his curly head is at all indicative of the rest of him). Octavian, though a child, carries himself with all the grace of an emperor and all the vanity of one. In his smart yellow sweater and comfy jeans, he logically shouldn’t be able to cut an imposing figure. Julius personally believes that Octavian is adorable one hundred percent of the time, which is probably why Octavian is able to get away with most things. But despite this, even Julius can’t deny that Octavian has a certain trademark smirk that is intimidating, even at the tender age of three.

 

Octavian enters the living room, having reluctantly relinquished his chair. “Hi!” he exclaims. “Hi” is his new favorite word; he says it at the beginning of every conversation (and sometimes at random intervals.)

 

“We will have words, before dinner,” Julius vows to the tiny boy before whisking off to the kitchen to put down the pizzas. The last he sees of Octavian before this is him flashing a predatory grin at Antony.

 

When he returns, Octavian is hugging Antony’s knees as the pizza man tries to gently shake him off, akin to a wild animal. Julius doesn’t blame him. What’s curious, though, is that Octavian seems to genuinely like the man. This is not the standard conclusion from this evidence, but this is what Julius knows: Octavian does not like new people. Octavian stared stonily into the distance while fiercely clutching Julius’ hand upon meeting Brutus. He kicked Cassius in the shin within minutes of meeting him. Octavian most definitely does not like Pompey - he bit his leg like a piranha and didn’t let go until Julius pulled him off. That was about when Pompey taught Octavian all the swear words he knew and when someone (Portia?) called the ambulance.  

 

What these anecdotes are to say is this: Octavian does not like people, especially new people. (The exception to these is a boy named Agrippa who is the son of one of Julius’ friends. However, when they met, Agrippa offered a gift of candy to Octavian. So maybe the trick is candy.) So when Octavian makes contact with a human being that is not to maim/brutally injure, it’s safe to say that he likes them. This doesn’t mean that Octavian’s grin isn’t predatory and that he’s not contemplating sinking his teeth into Antony’s leg (he likes biting, for some reason), but it’s better than the last babysitter.

 

Before Brutus and Portia reluctantly agreed to babysit Octavian on the rare occasion Julius absolutely could not bring the boy with him, there was a myriad of other babysitters to try and keep Octavian from having to stay in Julius’ office, where it was boring. It suffices to say that he did not like them.

 

“Hi!” Octavian squeals, resisting Antony’s attempts to remove him and clambering up his leg.

 

“Hi,” Antony says, glancing up at Julius and shrugging a little as if to say “What can you do?”

 

“Octavian, get off of him,” Julius commands (albeit halfheartedly) and the boy climbs back down his leg. “He really seems to like you,” he says, directed at Antony.

 

Antony stares at him and Octavian for a second, wavering between apologetic and gratified. “The pizza is $79.99,” he blurts.

 

“Um, right,” Julius says, taken aback and saying “um” for the first time since maybe high school. He gives Antony a handful of twenties and is about to say goodbye, but Octavian looks up at him with big, mournful, blue eyes and he panics.

 

“This is a lot of pizza,” he says, stating the obvious.

 

Antony nods.

 

“You should- Do you want to stay? It’s just the two of us- I mean, it’s just me and Octavian living here, we can’t eat all this.” Julius continues. It’s painfully awkward, but he thinks of Octavian.


“I-” Antony looks torn and Julius feels his stomach drop. Antony sighs and scratches his curly head. It’s a thick head of hair, black and it looks silky soft. “Actually, this is the end of my shift. So, I mean… I guess so.” he says, looking hopeful. Julius isn’t sure if he’s hoping he’ll change his mind or hoping he can stay. Octavian eyes Antony’s shaggy head like a cat eyes a mouse.

 

“Great!” Julius says, a little too loudly. Antony smiles tentatively and follows him into the kitchen.

 

“Did they have spears?” Octavian asks, tugging Antony’s sleeve. Ah, of course. The only thing Octavian could have bonded over would of course be violence. How fitting.

 

“Yes! In the Trojan War, a lot of the heroes fought with spears. Diomedes, for example, even wounds Aphrodite with his spear.” Antony replies. He glances up at Julius, who watches him knowingly. Violence. Of course. “Ah, I’m sorry if I’m not supposed to- if he’s not supposed to learn about war and stuff. I just asked him if he liked history and then he wanted to know about-”

 

“It’s fine,” Julius waves it away. “I’m just happy he’s this excited about something.” Octavian is practically vibrating in his seat now, the pizza nigh-forgotten.

 

“Who’s Dio- Dimo- Mee-? Is he cool?” Octavian asks, ignoring his pronunciation struggles in favor of asking his second question.

 

Antony glances quickly at Julius, as if for permission, before continuing. “Uh, yeah. He was one of the Greeks and was close friends with Odysseus…”

 

Julius isn’t overly fond of pizza. The only reason Octavian likes it so much is that whenever Brutus babysits him he orders it. (Octavian has since warmed up to Brutus.) He’ll eat it, though, when it’s a special occasion and Octavian really wants it. He thinks that this can count as a special occasion as he watches Octavian’s eyes widen in fascination as Antony describes how Diomedes fights the gods.

 

“So, are you a professor or something?” Julius asks when Paris is calling for an opponent to fight.

 

Antony’s attention to Octavian is broken; it’s almost as if he’d forgotten Julius was there. “No, I just- It’s a hobby,” he says reservedly. “When I’m not delivering pizza, I’m a bartender. Do you know Cicero’s?”

 

Julius makes a face before he can contain himself. “Unfortunately.”

 

Antony laughs, loud and boisterous and not at all as anxious as he’d seemed. “I know the feeling. He’s annoying as hell, but it pays the bills.”

 

“Oh, I know. We used to work together, in politics. He wrote speeches for a colleague of mine.” Julius replies, wincing. Cicero had always been on his nerves.

 

“Ugh, I would not like to hear any speech written by Cicero,” Antony moans.

 

“Sissy,” Octavian says seriously, shaking his head and frowning. The two adults burst into laughter.

 

“I-” Julius starts, but is cut off by his phone ringing. “Excuse me,” he says, stepping out of the room. As he leaves, he can hear Antony starting up conversation with Octavian, who is asking for more of the Iliad.

 

“Answer your fucking texts,” is what Cassius says as soon as Julius answers the phone.

 

“Hello to you too, Cassius,” Julius says, bemused. “Wait- Cassius, stop hyperventilating.”

“I can’t! And you know why? Because Gnaeus fucking Pompey is running for your seat in the senate! He’s on TV right now, look, I can see him, there he is, hi Pompey- God, he’s so fucking ugly-” Cassius says in a rush.

 

“Cassius,” Julius says, calmly, “Please calm down. Deep breaths.”

 

“DEEP BREATHS?! WHEN DOES THAT HELP ANY- Oh, hi Brutus.”

 

“Is that Brutus there? Give him the phone,” Julius says.

 

“No!- Hi Jules, It’s Brutus. Cassius is really freaking out. We’re gonna go calm down now, but he was trying to tell you that you need to be in D.C. now for meetings and stuff. It’s really stressing him out. Y’know, sometimes I wonder why he picked this job- IT’S BECAUSE IT MAKES GOOD MONEY, BRUTUS- but anyways, he wants you here as soon as possible- RIGHT NOW IMMEDIATELY JULIUS CAESAR- so you probably need someone to watch Octavian since I’m here too. Um, I’m pretty sure he’s not allowed in most places cause he’s a baby, but- I DON’T CARE! JUST GET HERE! I-”

 

Julius assumes that the call had been ended on account of the fighting over the phone between the two of them. Their antics are amusing, but the problem of Octavian remains.

 

“Ew, no, take that out of your mouth! No, it fell on the floor! Nonononono-” he hears Antony say from the kitchen. Disgust and worry he feels in equal amounts until they are outshined by an idea.

 

“Hey,” he says cautiously when he returns to the kitchen.

 

“Hey!” Antony says, pulling pizza out of his son’s mouth. It’s perfect.

 

“Look, I don’t really know you, and this feels a bit sudden, but-” he starts.

 

“Yes! Absolutely!” Antony says, face a little red, but grinning nonetheless.

 

Julius is slightly confused, but not put-off. “You’re gonna… you’re going to babysit Octavian while I’m out of town?” He must have heard the call, Julius reasons. How else would he know what he was going to ask?

 

Antony’s wide smile flickers, but remains present. “Yep! Absolutely. He’s… an absolute angel. Amazing. Great. How much will you be paying me?”

 

Julius mentally tries to calculate how much babysitters cost in his head. Brutus and Portia usually do it for free and he only vaguely remembers how much Octavian’s old babysitters had cost. It’s got to be a lot, right? He’s going to take care of Octavian for a week, like 24/7.


“$2000?” he says, but it comes out almost a question. It seems like the right answer, because Antony’s face lights up.

 

“Nice!” he says. “Okay!”

 

Julius is now realizing he doesn’t know how this is going to work because he’s never even had an overnight babysitter.

 

“So… you can stay here because all of Octavian’s things are here. There’s no guest room, so you can stay in mine. I’ll reimburse you for any of the costs for food and stuff. There’s a list of things to know on the fridge from when my usual babysitters are here, his allergies are there too, oh, and he absolutely has to be in bed before eight or he’ll turn into a monster-”

 

“Got it,” Antony says, giving him a lopsided thumbs up. “I’ll call every night and put Octavian on - need your number, though.”

 

“My n- Right, my number.” Julius says. He’s admittedly a little frazzled at the moment. He recites his number and Antony dutifully writes it on his wrist. His phone rings again, and he answers it.

 

“I’ve booked a plane for you, it leaves in an hour. Chop-chop, asshole,” Cassius says, then hangs up. Julius hopes the “asshole” is affectionate.

 

“I’ve got to- I have to leave now,” Julius says. Octavian watches this exchange with interest and the entrepreneurial gleam of a nineteenth century oil magnate.

 

“Already?” Antony says, a hint of panic slipping into his voice, which had been even and calm before.

 

Julius is already rushing into his room to pack. He’s preoccupied with thoughts of Octavian and how he’ll fare during the week. There’s a little fear in the back of his mind that Antony will turn out to be some child-trafficking freak, or that he’s going to kidnap Octavian for a ransom, but this part of his brain is drowned out by trying to make sure he’s packed everything in ten minutes.

 

“Love you, kiddo,” Julius says, kissing Octavian on the forehead swiftly. “Good luck!” he calls as he rushes out the door.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

He’s used to the lights and cameras by now, but what he’ll never get used to is standing apart from Pompey. Pompey has never been anything but confident in the wash of the spotlights, has never had anything but a grin and wink for the cameras. Julius had always admired him.

 

“What an ugly bitch,” Cassius mutters from the wings.

 

The debate passes agonizingly slowly. Julius is tired from the flight and his mind constantly wanders, thinking about Octavian and Antony. Fortunately, Cassius had prepared his answers and sent them to him so he could go over them on the flight, so he wasn’t totally unprepared.

 

When it’s over, the news outlets call the winner “ambiguous,” but Julius knows he must’ve looked like crap on that stage. Cassius looks even more tired, so Julius assumes that he’s been doing work with Brutus as well. Cassius manages campaigns for both Julius and Brutus and runs himself ragged.

 

“Rough day?” he asks once the debate is over.

 

Cassius glares. “Fucking Pompey. Who announces they’re running for the senate at 7pm? And then demands a televised debate on the same day. Fucking Pompey, that’s who.” He yawns and rubs his eyes vigorously. “I fucking hate that guy.”

 

“Language,” Julius chides without much heat. They’re in public, but there’s no one else around, so Cassius can speak as he likes. Cassius ignores him in favor of checking his beloved planner.


“Right, did you get a babysitter for Octavian?” he asks.

 

“Actually, I did. Thanks so much for the warning,” he says, struggling to keep the bite out of his tone.

 

Cassius ignores this, too. “Well, the reminder is to check in with them. Do you want me to do that, or-”

 

“I can handle it, Cassius,” Julius says, “Get some sleep.”

 

“I’m not even going to protest that, which shows how tired I am.” Cassius answers.

 

Julius rolls his eyes, but pulls out his phone to call Antony.

 

“Hey,” he says, wishing he could just go to sleep.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“Hey there, uh, buddy,” Marc Antony says to the toddler. Yes, that’s his last name on the nametag. His manager says it’s not fair that he has two first names, so now he goes by Antony when he’s delivering pizza and Marc when bartending. His friends mostly call him Asshole.

 

He’s in this predicament because his mind had immediately labelled Julius Caesar as “hot dad!!!” and then decided to open his big, fat mouth. He’s not sure how “Yes, I would love to go on a date with you,” turned into “Of course I’ll babysit your son!” but here he is, Octavian sitting across from him and just… watching. Unnervingly. Sure, he seems sweet enough, but something about a 3-year-old who was able to order pizza freaks him out.

It’s not all bad, though. He finally has someone to ramble on about history and other obscure topics now. Cleo gave up when he got a little too excited about presidential assassinations. (McKinley was hilarious, you have to admit.) And she still doesn’t find the Jimmy Carter Rabbit Incident funny. It even has its own Wikipedia page! That aside, the two thousand dollars isn’t that bad either. Antony can’t count the number of things he can buy with that much money. He can fix the leaky sink in his apartment, buy some new clothes, get something for Cleo’s birthday, and still have money left over. It’s wild. Also, he gets to stay in the super-nice apartment. It’s huge; the only reason Julius doesn’t have a guest room is because there’s an office and a storage room. Everything smells like Febreeze with the faint hint of money.

 

Octavian hasn’t seemed too keen on his new babysitter ever since Antony stopped talking about the Trojan War and started discussing babysitter duties. He sits at the now-empty kitchen table and watches Antony with his keen blue-grey eyes. Antony drums his fingers on the kitchen table. The silence is agonizing.

 

“Let’s go get ice cream!” he says desperately. Kids like ice cream, right? This will get him in Octavian’s good books. Who cares that it’s getting late? He’s eaten ice cream (out of the carton) late at night more times than he can count. Octavian will be fine.

 

Octavian inclines his head at this (and this can’t help but remind Antony of Zeus’ world shaking nod to Thetis) and scrambles off of his chair. He reaches up to grab Antony’s hand and grips it tightly.

 

There’s an ice cream place a few minutes away and the line is short. Antony feels good about this. Things are going well with Octavian, he can feel it. Octavian points at the chocolate-peanut butter ice cream while Antony orders a blue moon. Yes, things are going well, Antony thinks, until Octavian bites into his ice cream and starts crying. He throws the ice cream to the ground and wails loud enough to shake the earth, kicking Antony in the shin when he tries to calm him down. It’s probably a brain freeze, Antony reasons, because he bit right into that.

 

“Nonononono, it’s okay, we’ll get you another one, okay? Octavian? It’s okay, buddy, come on-” Antony says frantically, wiping Octavian’s tears with his sleeve. The boy’s face is bright red. Too red. “Oh, shit .”

 

Octavian vomits on the floor. The tears stop abruptly. “Hi,” he says, miserably. “Wanna go home.”

 

“Okay, buddy,” Antony promises, throwing a $20 at the cashier for their troubles and pulling some napkins out of the dispenser to wipe Octavian off before going back to the apartment.  Bathtime goes on relatively more successful as Octavian is too miserable to do anything but sit there, watching the bubbles morosely.

 

The list on the fridge, as suspected, cites Octavian’s (many) allergies to include peanuts. Antony stares at it, slumped at the kitchen table in defeat. He can hear Octavian quietly playing with his legos, the faint crashing of colliding blocks. He’s shaken out of his failure induced stupor when his phone buzzes from its place on the table.

 

Cleo

where are u binch its movie night

 

Cleo

cant believe u missed. legally blonde its like ur fave

 

Me

aaaaaaaaaaaa i forgot!!!!! askdfhalksdhf sorry ill make it up to youuuu

 

Cleo

whomst are you with that made you forget legally blonde

 

Me

hhhhhh long story but i promise i’ll tell you

 

Cleo

u fuckign better

 

Cleo

bye i lov u bitch

 

Me

aint neva gonna stop lovin u bitch

 

Cleo

asdhfaklsdjfh shut up

 

Energized by contact with someone he actually knows, Antony finds the strength to take a shower. He hasn’t brought anything over yet, so he borrows some of Julius’ clothes for pajamas. He won’t mind, right? Antony’s living in his house; a shirt and some underwear probably isn’t a big deal. The shirt is incredibly comfy and so soft. He spots another one in the dresser. That one is even more comfortable than the previous. One thing leads to another, and Antony is in front of the mirror with Julius’ designer suit, admiring how it fits. A pile of other clothes sit on the bed.

 

“I could get used to this,” he says to himself. “God, my ass looks so good in this.”

 

Me

(attatched_image.jpg)

cleo look how good my ass looks

 

Cleo

ASDHFKAHSDFKL WHERE DID U GET THAT

 

Me

oh, you know,

 

Cleo

i forgive u now for skipping movie night. ur ass is truly blessed

 

Cleo

but ur telling me EVERYTHING tmrw

 

Cleo

or im killing myself by snakebite

 

Me

a fashionable way to die

 

Sadly changing from the suit and into pajamas, Antony goes to bed with both hope and fear. It’s just one bad day, right? Tomorrow will go better. Or at least, he hopes. Also, Julius can never know about the ice cream place incident. He’ll have to swear Octavian to secrecy on that one.  Speaking of Julius, the buzzing from his phone must be him.

 

“Hey,” he says, wishing he could just go to sleep.

 

“I’m sorry for dropping this on you so quickly, but I really want to thank you for watching Octavian for me. I know he seems like a lot at times, but he really is a good kid.” Julius says. Antony can hear him sigh on the other side of the line. “Is he in bed?”

 

“Yeah. He- Yeah, he’s fine.” Antony says, choosing not to trouble Octavian’s father with the ice cream incident. “I borrowed some of your clothes, is that okay?” Please say yes, please say yes-

 

“That’s fine. You can even keep some if you want- Think of it as my gratitude for watching Octavian.”

 

FUCK yes!!

 

“I- Thanks. Does Octavian have a daycare that he goes to?” Antony says, glad Julius can’t see his bright red face a thousand miles away. He can keep the clothes! He’s screaming internally, but trying to keep at least some semblance of cool.

 

“No, he’s always like staying with me throughout the day. You can bring him with you pretty much anywhere, as long as there’s a flat surface and he brings his legos. Keep an eye on him, though, because he’s liable to run off exploring at the first chance he gets.” Julius answers with the air of a tired, tired man who has dealt with this before.

“Nice, okay,” Antony replies. There’s a beat of silence. “Well, I’m going to bed now,” he continues, despite currently laying in bed.

 

“Bye,” Julius says, haltingly. He hangs up.

 

Antony is asleep as soon as he makes sure his phone is charging.

 

~~~~~~

 

There’s a dark shadow over his bed and Antony’s heart is racing. He’s paralyzed; he can’t move and he can feel himself starting to sweat. The door is ajar, casting a sliver of light into the room. Something pokes his side again. He opens his mouth to reply, but it’s dry and all that comes out is a croak.

 

“Ant’ny?” comes the whisper, terrifyingly soft and from the side of the bed. “I can’ sleep without a story.”

 

The pieces click into place. Octavian. “Jesus, buddy, you scared me there,” Antony breathes, sitting up. “Turn the light on.” With the lights on, Antony confirms that it is indeed Octavian Caesar, droopy eyed and yawning.

 

“I need a story,” Octavian repeats, insistent. He pauses. “The one- the one from earlier.”

 

It takes a few moments for Antony’s sleep addled brain to compute this. “You want- you want the Iliad?” Octavian nods emphatically.

 

“Okay… I’m gonna have to do this by memory, so it might be a little off. So, there’s this guy Agamemnon, right? Well, he’s an as- he’s a jerk. And he’s got this girl, Chryseis…”

 

Whether he understands the story or not, Octavian is appeased by it and leaves the room after Antony gets to when Agamemnon decides to take Briseis from Achilles.

 

“This is my fucking life now,” Antony says to himself as he closes his eyes. Surprisingly, it’s not that bad.

 

 

 

 

 

@vicarious-ink on tumblr drew this art of marc antony as a pizza guy!!!!! i love it so much and its going to stay here forever

Chapter Text

Marc Antony squints open his eyes. The sun is right in his eyes, violently assaulting his senses as he wakes up. For a pretty rich guy, Julius Caesar’s bedroom still has a window directly in front of the bed. (Marc doesn’t know how being rich correlates to this, he just figures that if someone is rich enough, problems like this just eventually just go away.)

 

Grumbling, he paws at his phone. The morning alarm is going off, sadly. His mind struggles to clear the haze of waking up as he tries to remember yesterday.

 

“Oh fuck, Octavian. ” he groans to himself. Octavian isn’t going to want to wake up this early. Still, Marc doesn’t want to lose his job. Octavian can just nap in the car or something. Ah, wonderful, he still has his uniform from yesterday. Which is smelly.

 

He doesn’t know half the products in Julius’ bathroom. It turns out he’d accidentally used shampoo as body wash last night. He spends more time than he probably should snooping around the bathroom, trying out different products and figuring out what things do. He finds an array of face masks and delights in both trying one on and imagining the imposing politician whose home he’s in wearing one with his fancy suit. By the time he chooses a face mask, takes a shower with all the fancy products for good measure, and steps out to find breakfast, he’s already half an hour behind his usual schedule. Which is what he realizes when he sees the clock and he feels the blood drain out of his face.

 

“OCTAVIAN WAKE UP!” he screams, tripping over himself as he rushes to the boy’s room. Octavian cracks his eyes open, then also screams. Marc screams in response. Octavian shuts his mouth abruptly, prompting the adult to respond in the same. “Well, that’s just a lovely way to wake up.” Marc says. Octavian blinks.

 

“We have to go,” he continues, “Get dressed.”

 

Then he runs out to the kitchen, slipping and sliding in his socks. He supposes he must have been a scary sight to Octavian. First, he’s practically a stranger, and if Marc had trouble remembering the lucid dream that was yesterday, Octavian certainly did. Secondly, he forgot to take off his face mask, which was green. Actually, he was in quite the state of panicked half-dressed; pajama shirt and boxers, hair in a towel, face mask.

 

Octavian stumbles into the kitchen after him, still in pajamas. He ambles over to the fridge and looks Marc in the eyes while pouring the milk out on the floor.


“No cereal,” Octavian says.

 

“Oh, for fuck’s sake-” Marc groans, pulling a towel from by the sink and throwing it over the milk. “Fine! Fine. What do you want for breakfast, Octavian?”

 

Octavian shrugs, evidently not having got that far in his planning. Marc spots an apple among some assorted fruits. That’s healthy, right? Kids are supposed to eat healthy things, he thinks.

“Aha!” he exclaims, picking it up and rinsing it quickly. “Eat this!” he says, thrusting it at Octavian and then rushing back to Julius’ room to change. He’s got his shirt halfway on when he hears Octavian begin to cry. Running back, he slips on the tiled floor.

 

“FUCK!’

 

Fortunately, it’s mostly drowned out by Octavian’s wailing. “What?! What is it that you want now?” Marc demands desperately, pulling his shirt on.

 

“Slice. Daddy always slices it,” Octavian demands, pouting. Marc Antony closes his eyes and counts to ten and takes a deep breath.

 

“Okay. Where are the knives?” he says very calmly. Octavian shrugs. Sighing, Marc goes through all the drawers. Forks, butter knives, spoons, spatulas, soup spoons, wooden spoons, whisks - WHERE are the knives?!  He slams the drawers shut, one after another. Damn Caesar and his fancy kitchen.

 

Something glinting catches his eye - “Octavian, what is that?”

“A knife!”

 

“NO!”

 

Octavian giggles at this and waves the knife at Marc.

 

“Nice baby, give me the knife….” Marc cajoles, cautiously extending a hand to Octavian, who toddles over. “That’s it…”  Actually, that’s not it. Octavian is picking up speed and Marc is beginning to realize he’s going to have to move away if he doesn’t want to get stabbed.

 

“OctaviAN NO!” he screams, clambering up onto the kitchen island as Octavian waves the knife around. (Seriously, what is this? Is this marble? Unbelievable.) What timeline is this? How has his life progressed to the point where he’s scrambling to avoid a child with a knife? How is he actually fearing for his life on a babysitting job?

 

“Uh oh!” Octavian warbles, dropping the knife on the nice wooden floors. Marc makes an aborted choking noise in his throat. Regaining his senses, he slips off the island and grabs the knife as fast as he can.

 

“Aha!” he exclaims, sighing deeply in relief. “I can do this,” he mutters to himself and begins to cut the apple. Octavian mellows out while eating his apple, thankfully. Octavian. Does he have a car seat? Yes, it’s on the floor, among many other things, in the living room. Unfortunately, he has no idea how to put it in the car. Does he just stick it in there? Does he have to strap it down? He checks the clock. Too late to worry about that. He picks up a baby carrier from the ground as he rushes around the room (“Nice!”).

 

He grabs Octavian like a sack of potatoes and sticks him in the passenger seat, buckling him in (although the seat belt doesn’t fit him in the least). “Okay. Day one. I got this,” he says under his breath. Octavian looks up questioningly. “Oh! Right, you need this,” Marc says, pulling a pair of sunglasses out from the dashboard and placing them on Octavian’s face. “Perfect. You look so fucking cool.”

 

Marc pulls out of the driveway an hour late. “I hope there are no cops,” he mutters, watching Octavian rock precariously in his seat and hearing the tires skid.

 

“Hey, where the fuck did you get those clothes from last n- that is a real, live baby,” Cleopatra says with wide eyes when he stumbles through the door to Domino’s.

 

“He sure is,” Marc says. “Say hi, Octavian!” He picks up Octavian’s arm and waves it at Cleo. Octavian frowns. “Hey, did you cover for me?”

 

“Uh… I told Sulla you were puking into the toilet from a stomach bug,” Cleo says apologetically.

 

“We’ll just say I got better,” Marc answers, pushing Octavian’s arms down so he can grab a stack of boxes of pizza. “See you!”

“Wait! Antony, whose baby is that!” Cleo yells as Marc rushes out the door. “MARCUS ANTONIUS!”

 

“Gotta run!”

 

He’s backing out of his parking space a little too fast, but Cleo is running out into the parking lot, so he really needs to get out of there. He gives her an apologetic wave as he prepares to pull out of the lot… and promptly stops because the traffic light down the street just changed and now it’s impossible to get out.

 

Cleo marches over to his car. “Marcus Antonius, if you do not tell me why you have a baby, I’m telling Sulla you overslept again and he WILL fire you.” she demands.

 

“I’m kind of… babysitting?” he answers, except it comes out as more of a question.


Cleo folds her arms across her chest. “Explain.”

 

“He offered me $2000 for a week,” Marc blurts. Octavian beeps the horn. Marc unclips him and sets him down in the passenger seat.

 

“The baby offered you money?”

 

“No, his dad! His rich, hot dad!” Marc hisses. He covers Octavian’s ears.

 

“What are you doing.” Cleo says flatly.

 

“I feel like he shouldn’t hear me call his dad hot,” Marc explains.

 

Cleo takes a deep breath.

 

“Oh, would you look at that? I’m clear to make a right turn okay love you bye!”  he rushes, driving away. He can still see her in the rearview mirror, hands on her hips. He’ll tell her later.

 

Driving is mostly uneventful, if you can call it that. Octavian seems to like looking out the window, until he gets bored of it in a few minutes. They play “I Spy,” “Guess the Pizza,” “What’s Your Dad Like,” and “The Quiet Game.” Marc gets the idea to bring Octavian along with him to the door to get more tips, but it doesn’t quite work out. He’s accused of child abuse once, another time Octavian almost got kidnapped, and one time Octavian just flat out called an old woman ugly to her face. Also, he asked her when she was going to die because she was, “so so so so old!”

 

Cleo glares at him every time he goes back to the store, but she keeps her mouth shut because Sulla is there. Sulla, their manager, usually sits in his office and sleeps. He apparently used to be formidable in his day (they fought with the Jet’s Pizza nearby which was owned by a Gaius Marius; Marius ended up disappearing in the night. No one ever knew what happened to him except Sulla always seemed incredibly pleased and satisfied whenever anyone talked about it.) but he seems to have mellowed out. Sulla eats healthy sandwiches and talks about his kids nowadays, as well as his exercise routines. (Marc swears that one time he saw Sulla running when he was delivering pizza and Sulla kept pace with his car. It was the most terrifying ordeal of his life.) Sulla’s vision is going, but his ears remain sharp, which is why Cleo can’t say anything about the obvious baby Marc is carrying. Sulla might take Octavian out back and murder him, but he also might decide to keep him forever as a mascot for their store. Either option is horrifying.

 

“Wow, would you look at the time. Well, I’m going home see you later,” Marc says quickly to Cleo as he rushes out the door. He can see her purse her lips and she’s clearly bursting to ask about Octavian. She opens her mouth to speak, but Sulla briskly walks by, bumping into a table, then continuing on his way. She winces. Marc takes his opportunity and runs for it.

 

~~~

 

When they get home. Octavian staunchly refuses Marc’s offering of pizza for dinner. It seems as if the one day of “working” at the pizza store has him burnt out on the food. The only thing in the fridge is milk, (which he’s seriously doubting if it’s still good) leftovers of something , and a lot of vegetables Marc has no idea what to do with. But Octavian seems to like baby carrots, so Marc eats the pizza alone (hating it, because he’s worked there for years and pizza isn’t as good as it used to be when you’ve seen it fall on the floor and watch your life flash before your eyes.)

 

Squinting at the sheet on the fridge, Marc discovers that Octavian often watches TV around this time of day. Before Caesar had left, Marc had told him he could read the sheet on the fridge. He was terribly mistaken; the handwriting is loopy and whisper-thin, almost utterly unintelligible. (It’s pretty, though.) Not to mention, it’s in cursive. The allergy sheet behind it is printed, thankfully.

 

Marc will be damned if he’s going to watch Peppa Pig , so Octavian is just going to have to watch The Office .  Octavian doesn’t think it’s that funny. He strong-arms Marc into putting on Spongebob by crying. Watching Spongebob is surprisingly entertaining and they’re both riveted until Marc has to leave for his second job. What, you thought being a pizza guy was enough to get by? Not if he wants to keep up his lavish lifestyle (read: going shopping with Cleo once a month and spending all his money.)  

 

Cicero’s bar is not a place one wants to take a baby to. It’s dimly lit (baby could be kidnapped), full of alcohol (nobody wants to know what it does to a baby), and often houses creeps (hmm. Don’t like that). Marc cannot hide Octavian beneath his shirt and pretend he’s pregnant because he is not in possession of a vagina. He also can’t leave him at home because he’s the designated babysitter. This only leaves one option: the baby carrier.

 

So yes, the bartender tonight has a baby strapped to his front. Please don’t ask. Cleo, of course, has never been one to follow the rules and immediately asks.

 

“Antony, what’s with the fucking baby?” she hisses as soon as he arrives. Oh right, she works there, too. They’ve been friends ever since Marc came to this stupid town and he’s infinitely grateful for her. They’re ride or die for each other.

 

“I’m sorry,” he says, truthfully. Cleopatra is a certain kind of beautiful in the dim gold lights, curly hair forming a halo. She’s always had men leering over the counter to ask for her number, yellow teeth in the yellow lights of their yellowed eyes. They take her hand, they reach for her face, they never stop. It never goes away, but she’s never quit her job as a bartender. Marc knows it’s not all for him and that she needs a job, too, but he’s always been grateful to her for not leaving him alone, even though he doesn’t put up with half as much as she does. Cicero, while annoying most of the time, is decent enough to blacklist the men who go too far.

 

“Also, watch your language around the baby.” he continues, smirking.

 

She punches his shoulder lightly. “We’re in a bar, dumbass. There’s no language filter.”

“Dumbass!” Octavian repeats happily. Cleo snorts.

 

“Okay, so long story short: his dad was my last delivery last night and got a last minute business call. His babysitters were out of town and I was the only option and he offered me a lot of money, so I didn’t really think it through. His name is Octavian. Octavian, say hi!” Marc explains.

 

“Hi,” Octavian says with less enthusiasm than his previous word.

 

“The hot rich dad?” Cleo asks. “If you don’t snag him as a sugar daddy, I will. I’m not passing up any opportunities!”

 

“Cleo!” Marc says, mortified. “Baby ears!” He pauses. “Also, I just might.”

 

Cleo squeals. “Yay! More money for us! Marc, don’t forget me when you’re rich and famous!”

 

“Shut up,” he mutters, ears red. “Let’s get through this week and then we’ll talk.”

 

Cleo faux-salutes. “Aye aye, cap’n.”

 

“Can I please get a waffle?” someone shouts from the other end of the bar.

 

“Sir, are you aware this is a bar?” Cleo says, putting her elbows on the countertop and sliding down.

 

Marc scans the room, spotting a few regulars, a few newcomers, and some that come intermittently. He turns to the nearest customer, flashing a flirtatious grin. His heart’s not in it, though; he’s terrified of what Octavian will get up to. What if he holds a customer at gunpoint or something? Hey, it could happen.

 

The TVs play around the relatively large room and Octavian sees something he likes, squealing and pointing. Looking up, Marc sees that its turned to one of the national news channels and it shows a few men in suits, nothing out of the ordinary.

 

“Aw, Octavian, what is it?” he asks, scrutinizing the screen. Yep, just a few politicians shaking hands -

 

Wait.

 

“Daddy!” Octavian exclaims as one of the men turns around to face the camera. Julius Caesar has a smile for the cameras and an effortless wave as he follows Pompey off the stage. Cleo turns her attention towards them from her end of the bar and he can see her disbelief. She marches over to them.


“Are you fucking serious?” she whisper-yells.

 

“...Yes?” he answers.

 

She takes a deep breath. “Good luck,” she says, after a pause. She gently squeezes his arm. “You- You’ll be alright. He trusts you, and so do I.” she says before walking back to her post. Marc watches her with a small smile. Cleo’s just good like that.

 

Marc turns to attend to his own customers, grinning when he sees a regular. Aeneas is a hot blonde with a heart of gold and an open wallet.  He usually has a story to tell, with his life being epically tragic. Marc loves listening to it; it’s like watching a trainwreck from a safe distance.

 

“Hey, how did it go with Dido?” Marc asks as Aeneas sits down. It’s been a bumpy road for Aeneas, as Marc discovered after Aeneas’ first few drinks on his first visit. He’s very much a sad drunk.

 

“Not.. good,” Aeneas mumbles, sitting down as Marc pours a drink. He usually doesn’t open up until after a few drinks. He worries his lip, plays with his hands, then makes up his mind and downs 3 shots. He’s like that. A few minutes later…

 

“Terrible. When I told her we had to break up, she sobbed for hours. Then she tried to claw my eyes out. Marc, I feel so bad! Oh, she cried so much. I couldn’t leave, I had to comfort her until Anna kicked me out. I broke her heart, I feel- I feel horrible ,” Aeneas explains emphatically

 

“Oh, and Ascanius was so sad he would never see her again - you should have seen his little baby eyes! Like a baby deer.. A very sad baby deer.”  he continues, “Maybe I should go to Europe with her… I can get a new job, I bet, and Ascanius can go to a new school and-”

 

“Buddy, I’m gonna stop you right there,” Marc says quickly before Aeneas could make up a new life in Europe, “First of all, Ascanius is 14 and does not look like a baby deer. Secondly, you’ve known Dido for 2 weeks. Please don’t uproot your life for her. I’m sure you’ll find someone else.”

 

“You’re such a good friend…” Aeneas mumbles, eyes glassy. “And I…. Is that a baby?!”

 

“Haha, a baby? Where?” Marc says weakly.

 

“Aww, he’s so cute,” Aeneas gushes. “I…”  He chokes up. “I love him so much.”

“You don’t even know his name,” Marc says exasperatedly. Octavian makes grabby hands for Aeneas’ glass and Marc backs up. Aeneas lets out a choked noise and reaches for Octavian’s tiny hands.

 

“He loves me,” Aeneas gasps. Octavian finally grabs an empty shot glass and gleefully hurls it at the counter, laughing as it shatters. Aeneas bursts into tears.

 

“Excuse me for one second,” Marc says, flustered as he tries to manage Octavian and also clean up broken glass. Cleo looks up at the sound and rolls her eyes as she makes her way towards him.

 

“I’ll get it,” she says, watching Octavian.

 

“Thank you thank you thank you,” Marc gushes, running off to find something to contain the baby. He needs to somehow restrain his arms to his sides so he can’t touch anything dangerous again. Octavian is surprisingly strong, breaking the reinforced toilet paper bondage that attempts to hold him. He is intent on breaking as much glass as possible and by god, nothing will stop him, not even a commandeered belt, which doesn’t take well to being tied in knots. Marc steps out behind the bar for a breath of fresh air when he sees it.

 

Its sneaky little feet, its beady eyes, its bandit mask, its teeth for ruining everything. The raccoon scrambles off of the garbage can at the sudden movement as Marc opens the door, but he can see its puffy duster tail vanish into the darkness.

 

“Perfect,” he mutters, pulling the straps off of the garbage can. The raccoons will feast tonight, but Marc will restrain the baby. The straps keep the garbage can closed in the event of a raccoon tip-over, but they work wonderfully repurposed to keep Octavian from grabbing any expensive glasses or god forbid, alcohol.

 

When he slides back behind the bar, rescuing a harried Cleo from covering for him, he’s got a grin a mile wide. Sure, Octavian had resisted the straps and almost fallen out of the carrier, but it works. No dangerous objects for this baby! Of course, he made it loose enough for him to breathe and not too tight that it would be painful.

 

“Where did you find that?” Cleo asks, raising an eyebrow.

 

“Raccoons,” Marc responds happily.

“I’m not even going to ask,” Cleo deadpans.

 

Marc steamrolls over her and continues, “It’s those garbage can straps, I’m a genius!”

Cleo rolls her eyes, a common occurrence given her choice of friends. “Okay, genius. And how does baby Octavian feel about that?”

“It’s for his own good,” Marc insists as Octavian glares stonily at Cleo.

 

“Don’ like,” Octavian states his case.

 

“It’s just not a good environment for him in general if you have to tie him up,” Cleo says, crossing her arms. “Just take the week off; say it’s a family emergency or some shit.”

 

“My parents have disowned me and you know it,” Marc says frostily.

 

“Does Sissy know that?” Cleo asks, referring to their boss. “Ah, speak of the devil.”

 

Cicero has always hated Marc’s guts and vice versa, which means he also hates Cleopatra by extension. The day they met,  Marc’s hands were sticky (from jam! He ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch!) when they shook hands. They had locked eyes and Marc had nervously laughed, which sounds like a choking donkey. Cicero had dropped his hand and continued the interview, occasionally glancing up in slightly veiled apprehension. Afterwards, he had informed Marc that he hated a) his posture, b) his voice, c) his opinion on literally everything from politics to music, d) his laugh, e) his haircut, and proceeded to fill the whole alphabet. It also turned out that no one else had applied for a job at the dinky little bar. Right, this was before Cicero’s had really blown up and become popular. So Marc had gotten the job and Cicero had introduced him to his new colleague, Cleopatra. He was devastated when they revealed they already new each other.

 

So yes, they don’t like each other. But they stay professional, or on the verge of it. For Marc, it’s only so that Cicero won’t be able to fire him. But only barely.

 

“Did Cleopatra forget to take her morning after pills?” Cicero says nastily as he walks in. “Or did you get someone else pregnant?”

 

“As hard as it is for you to believe, not everyone is irresistibly attracted to me and has the urge to sleep with me on sight,” Marc snarks back.

 

“Ha! Self burn,” Cicero crows.

 

“What?”

 

“Shut up,” Cicero mutters.

 

“Wh- No, I’m babysitting. Is that dramatic enough for you?” Marc answers.

 

“Hm, I don’t know. I feel like babies shouldn’t be in bars, also your story doesn’t check out and I think you’re lying and you’ve got someone pregnant years and years ago and now you have custody of the baby, am I right?” Cicero says with the air of a TV detective.

 

“I literally just said I was babysitting,” Marc says.

 

“And I literally just said babies shouldn’t be in bars, hm? Maybe your illegitimate son should wait in the car,” Cicero presses.

 

“It’s… July,” Marc says slowly.

 

“And?”

 

“He- He’s gonna actually die.”

 

“Ha! Yeah right. You just want an excuse to keep the baby here and sabotage my whole operation, well you’re wrong, and you can give the baby back to whoever you bought it off of!” Cicero yells.

 

“Okay, what the fuck.” Marc says.

“Seriously, what the fuck,” Cleo adds.

 

“I can’t put the baby in the car, that’s murder,” Marc says, emphasizing the last word to get his point across.

 

“He can’t stay here!” Cicero counters. “That’s not my problem! You need to find some place for him to go.”

 

“He can’t go to the car!”

 

“HE CAN’T STAY HERE!”

 

“I DON’T HAVE ANYWHERE TO PUT HIM!”

 

“THEN MAYBE YOU SHOULD LEAVE!”

 

“THEN MAYBE I WILL!” Marc screams. He takes in the silence around him as the bar patrons all watch their argument. He grinds his teeth. “Then maybe I will,” he says quietly, walking around the counter to leave.

 

Cleopatra makes to follow him but he shakes his head at her. He doesn’t want Cleo to lose her job, too.

 

He slams the door as he leaves and walks off into the night. He thinks it would have looked a lot more badass if he didn’t have a baby strapped to his chest.

 

~~~

 

Octavian is blessedly quiet on the ride home, possibly because the trash covers were removed from his arms and subsequently thrown back at the general direction of Cicero’s. Marc’s phone dings with a message:

 

Cicero

ur fired lmao

bye

 

He very carefully pulls Octavian out of the car and sets him down in the parking lot. Then he screams and kicks the tires of his car repeatedly. Octavian bursts into tears. Marc chokes down another scream and takes a deep breath, feeling his eyes sting.

 

“Octavian, I- I’m sorry,” he says, kneeling down to address the toddler. “I’m just- I’m just a little overwhelmed right now.” Octavian continues to cry and it punches Marc in the gut because god, why would he do that in front of the kid?

 

“Hey, hey it’s gonna- I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry,” Marc mumbles as he pulls Octavian into his arms. He can feel the wetness of his tears seeping through his shirt and pats Octavian’s head softly. Marc blinks back his own tears at the sudden sting of guilt that he feels for frightening Octavian. He’s so tiny, so fragile, and Marc forgets that Octavian is vulnerable and a child and a person just like him when he’s waving a knife around or smashing glasses.

 

He lifts the tiny boy off the ground and feels a surge of protectiveness as Octavian rubs his red eyes and yawns. “Hey,” he says, rocking him a bit, “Why don’t we go inside and you take a bath? Then we can get you some hot cocoa.”

 

Octavian nods slightly. “Yeah,” he says, his voice small and timid.

 

So Octavian has a bath, which cheers him up immensely because Marc uses all the expensive shampoo as bubble bath. Marc makes them hot cocoa and they sit on the couch and they watch Peppa Pig until Octavian’s eyes are drooping and the hot cocoa mugs are empty.

 

He rests his head against Marc’s shoulder and sleepily says, “What happened next? In th’ story?”

 

Oh. The Iliad. Marc had thought Octavian asleep or not listening for most of it. Hearing him mention it now fills him with a fondness for the boy.

 

“Well, Achilles was not happy, let me tell you. So he promised to not fight for the Greeks until the fire reached their ships…” he narrates as he scoops up Octavian and carries him to bed. Octavian listens intently until his head becomes  too heavy and he falls asleep. Marc pulls the covers over the boy. He’s so… he’s so tiny. Marc wavers over the bedside, then leans over to press a kiss to Octavian’s forehead.

 

“Night, lil buddy,” he whispers, then walks back to his own (Julius’) room. It’s only then that he remembers he still doesn’t have any of his own clothes, so it’s back to rummaging through the politician’s drawers again. He’s so bone tired that he doesn’t even attempt to shower. He just lays in bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to push down the despair he feels. He lost his job. He’s definitely going to need to tighten up, so he lists the things in his mind he can go without. It’s not much. He rubs his eyes, pushing the tears back. Suddenly, he desperately wants to be home, in his own apartment, somewhere safe and comfortable. The sheets are too soft, too unfamiliar, so he kicks them off. His phone vibrates again; it’s been vibrating since his shift would have ended, when Cleo would have gotten off.

 

Cleo

are you okay

 

Cleo

?

 

Cleo

no nvm that’s stupid of course you’re not okay

 

Cleo

talk to me

 

Cleo

cicero’s a bitch and i’m gonna make his life hell for that

 

Cleo

dude please

 

Cleo

if it’s too much i can take the kid for a bit

 

Cleo

let’s go out this weekend to get your mind off things

 

Marc sighs. She’s great, really. But he doesn’t know if company is really what he wants right now.

 

Me

i’m fine. obviously i got fired but im dealing

 

Me

i’m handling octavian right now

 

Me

i’ll come see you this weekend, i promise

 

Cleo

okay i love you

 

Me

i love you too

 

Cleo

(long string of heart emojis) i’m there for u!!!!

 

Marc smiles at that. Another buzz from his phone reminds him to call Julius tonight. He feels a wave of fatigue wash over him and he groans. That’s the last thing he wants to be doing right now, but he did promise. He presses call and stares up at the ceiling.

 

“Hello, this is Sneator Caesar- *ahem* Senator Caesar-” the voice on the other end of the line says, stumbling. Marc snorts.

 

“Hey, this is Marc Antony, your babysitter?” he says, feeling a smile creep onto his face.

“Oh! Yes, hello. How is Octavian? How did he take to you? Is he in bed now? How-” Julius says emphatically.

 

“He’s fine,” Marc cuts him off, amused by the obvious enthusiasm, “He’s uh, he’s… a creative kid. But… I like him.” With a small jolt of surprise, Marc realizes that it’s true; he does like Octavian. “He’s in bed now; just wanted to hear a story.”

 

“I’m surprised to hear that; he usually only watches TV before bed.” comes the reply.

“Oh, it was, uh,” Marc fumbles, and then he’s telling Julius the story of the Iliad as well. He tells Julius about the parts Octavian liked, too, and then the conversation shifts to Octavian. Marc edits the tales to remove parts like Octavian chasing him with a knife and restraining him with trash can ties, but Julius thinks it’s hilarious when he tells him about Octavian calling an old woman ugly and asking when she was going to die.  

 

“Yeah, he just smashed a glass on the table. You should’ve seen the guy’s face, he started crying right there.”

 

“Was he drunk?”

 

“Yeah, he’d had a few drinks already.”

“Your boss must be mad at you,” Julius remarks and Marc internally curses him.

 

“Um.. yeah he was.”

 

“Was?”

 

“Is! I mean, is. Well, he was mad at me at the time but also he is mad at me right now because he is still my boss.”

 

There’s the silence, that awkward silence that’s killing him.

 

“Antony, did you get fired?”

 

Fuck.

 

“No! Noooooo, of course not!”

 

“...”

 

“Yes. But it wasn't just that! It was other things. And also he just hates my guts.”

 

So then Marc is pouring out his woeful tale and Julius is a surprisingly good listener. He offers indignation and sorrow at the right moments and listens to him bitch about his whole experience at the job. Julius is witty and sharp, even at ass o’clock in the morning and makes incessant fun of Cicero. The knot of unease and despair in Marc’s chest eases and he’s smiling up at the ceiling as they chat.

 

“Antony, I’ll double your pay,” he says out of the blue. “And you can be the regular babysitter from now on.”

 

“Holy shit,” Marc says, because he has no verbal filter and it’s a wonder he’s gotten this far in life, “Uh, thanks!” What he’s not gonna do is have a moral crisis over “working for it.” He’s a poor bitch in a fucked system, he’ll take what he can get from the rich, thanks. Julius doesn’t say anything about the language, so that’s something.

 

“Also, call me Marc. Antony is my last name,” he adds quickly, before he can lose his resolve. There’s a chance he was already aware of that, but he also doesn’t want to go by his last name more than he has to.

 

“Okay, Marc,” Julius says, and it gives Marc a warm fuzzy feeling.

 

“It’s… pretty late, I’m gonna turn in,” Marc says, because he’s scared of falling asleep on the phone and the exhaustion is sinking in again.

 

“Okay. Goodnight,” Julius says.

 

“‘Night,” Marc replies, smiling faintly as he hangs up. Things… things aren’t so bad.

 

Chapter Text

“So kind of you to invite us here for dinner, Gnaeus,” Julius says in velvet tones, tipping his wine glass to his host. Cassius and Brutus flank him on both sides, generals in the army facing off against Pompey.

 

“Oh, my pleasure,” Pompey says, but his voice gives a hint that it is anything but. No one but someone well trained in the art of politics would notice the slight crack in his porcelain exterior implying his absolute distaste at the man in front of him.

 

The whole gang is here: Julius can see notable figures strung along down the banquet table. Some he vaguely knows: Sertorius, Spartacus, Mithridates, and others. Pompey is the one he’s most intimately acquainted with. It’s the reason why he hates his guts; no one who truly knows Pompey likes him.

 

“So, how’s your son?” Pompey asks casually like he doesn’t know exactly what he’s doing. Actually, he doesn’t, because Pompey doesn’t care about anyone but himself. “Still no mother?”

“How’s your dick? Still to small to measure?” Julius responds airily. Pompey’s face twists in disgust.

 

“Crass as ever, I see,” he huffs.

 

Julius returns the expression, then turns to Cassius to make quiet small talk and, more importantly, ignore Pompey. But as Cassius smiles and nods, his eyes become unfocused every so often and slip to something behind Julius. He feels a little bad for him; it’s probably sleep deprivation. Spartacus, the grassroots politician they’re all secretly making fun of mentions something to Cassius, so Julius turns to Brutus instead, only to find Brutus staring at the back of Cassius’ head so intensely he could be staring a hole into it. Julius is caught between feeling amused and irritated. It’s true if an affair between his most trusted advisors comes out, it’ll be hard to salvage, but oh if it isn’t so amusing to see them struggle around this.

 

Cassius taps his foot irritably against the ground, smacking Julius more than once. His fingers drum on the table as the salad course comes out and his other hand fiddles with his tie.

 

“Stop that,” Julius mutters, “You look like you have to pee.”

 

“Shut up,” Cassius mumbles. “I don’t- It’s nothing,”

“I didn’t say it was anything,” Julius replies, rather miffed. “What about you, Brutus? You’re awfully quiet.” He knows he shouldn’t play his own people like this, but he still can’t believe Brutus became a politician, what with his terrible lying skills.

 

“I have to pee,” Brutus says abruptly, standing up and leaving.

 

“Uh, me too,” Cassius says quickly, following suit.

 

“Are you serious?” Julius asks in not quite fake offense, “Right in front of my salad?”

 

“Julius!” Cassius hisses.

 

“Aww, Caesar’s friends desert him once again,” Pompey croons.

 

“I actually do have to pee,” Brutus says apologetically.

 

“Like all your friends deserted you? Oh wait, it’s because they were all my friends first.” Julius snaps. He hears Sertorius mutter, “Jesus Christ,” 3 seats down.

 

“Yes, all our friends eventually chose you,” Pompey concedes, then grins nastily, “But I believe Julia chose me.”

 

Julius grinds his teeth. After all these years, and Pompey was still gloating over it. “But she’s dead now and can’t be here to listen to you use her name for petty arguments,” he says coldly and internally cheers vindictively when Pompey’s mouth presses itself into a thin line.

 

Pompey’s mouth twists itself into a hateful sneer and he’s about to spew vitriol in reply when the next course comes out and he can simply steam in anger across from Julius as the latter digs happily into his meal.

 

As the minutes pass, Brutus returns, followed by Cassius precisely 3 minutes later.

 

“Ah, Brutus. You’ve returned,” Julius remarks, feeling a little vengeful for the time alone with Pompey, “Now tell me, how is Portia?”

 

The deer in headlights look is all Julius needs to know. Idiots , he thinks, not without affection.

 

“Doing well,” Brutus says, and Julius is proud that his voice is neutral and even.

 

“Good,” Julius says silkily. They will have words, but later. “Now, I believe we were discussing Gnaeus’ platform? Very unsturdy, if you ask me.”

 

“I didn’t,” Pompey snaps. Brutus relaxes ever so slightly.

 

It’s always been like this between them. They used to be almost brothers, growing up together and practically forced into friendship by their parents. Two trust fund babies, coming to adulthood in a sheltered town. They may not have always been enemies, but certainly always competitors. A memory Julius feels encompasses their strange relationship is of prom, junior year of high school.

 

Pompey had been infatuated, nay, in love he claimed, with a girl named Calpurnia. Honey blonde hair, curled like Christmas ribbons, and a jaw sculpted by Aphrodite, he claimed. Julius had brushed it off at first, first amused, then annoyed, but Pompey was quite taken with her. So he looked at her; really looked at her. He still doesn’t know if his love for her was borne of his rivalry with Pompey or naturally. After months of Pompey claiming he would make a move, Julius got fed up and asked her to prom himself with a bouquet of flowers that Pompey had told him were her favorite. They were prom king and queen that year, to his surprise. Maybe it makes him cruel, but the best part of it was seeing Pompey grit his teeth as they placed the crown upon his head.

 

It wasn’t that he felt nothing for Calpurnia; he’d truly believed he’d loved her, or at least partly, when they’d dated. All through high school, marrying in college. Evidently, it was too soon, as they divorced shortly after graduation. Calpurnia hadn’t been ready to raise Octavian with him and had confessed that she felt their relationship was going stale. Julius could do nothing to refute this fact and had complied with the divorce.

 

He still lies awake at night sometimes, wondering if he’d really loved her. If he could have put more effort, would she still be here? Does he want her to be? It wasn’t like the divorce ruined her life; Calpurnia is now a successful political consultant whom he still keeps in touch with. If he had tried harder, would Octavian have two parents?

 

As for Pompey, he’d gotten over his infatuation with Calpurnia fairly quick. Next, to Julius’ horror, he’d fallen for Julius’ sister, Julia. (Their parents were not creative.)

 

“Your turn is over. I’m going to win this,” Pompey hisses at him as the silence stretches on.

 

Julius fixes him with an unfazed stare, “Go back to the little town we grew up in and keep playing mayor.” He leans back in his chair and grins. If Marc Antony could see him now, he would note the eerie similarities between this particular smile and the one Octavian dons when bargaining for ice cream. “You’re playing with the big boys now.”

 

“Jules, we have to go. I promised Portia I’d watch the dog while she goes out with friends and I have to be home in fifteen minutes,” Brutus whispers. Julius thinks that if Brutus wasn’t a brilliantly believable politician when he hits the stage and well-versed in current issues, as well as incredibly popular, he would just hit him over the head with the nearest object and be done with it. “Also, you’re my ride.”

 

“If you’ll excuse us,” Julius says with as much dignity as he can muster as Pompey smothers a laugh. He rises from the chair, beckoning Cassius to follow him.

 

“Sorry,” Brutus says apologetically, “It’s just that I promised and Titinius doesn’t like to be alone.”

 

“I’m literally going to kill you,” Julius says calmly.

 

“He did promise,” Cassius points out.

 

“You are kept alive for Titinius’ sake,” Julius proclaims. “Also, I can’t believe neither of you are able to drive right now. We look like high schoolers.”

 

“I flew here on a plane and I don’t have a car at this house,” Brutus defends himself.

 

“You don’t pay me enough for another car,” Cassius says.

 

“Cassius, that’s because you have 2 cars at your actual house, and you live alone. For fuck’s sake-  Just get in the damn car.”

 

Addresses are exchanged and Julius finds himself chauffeuring the senator from Michigan and their mutual campaign manager to their respective places of residence. The upside to this is that he is welcomed by Titinius the border collie and he has to admit, if only to himself, that he’s quite fond of the dog.

 

All in all, he’s tired by the end of the night and doesn’t want to think about Pompey or Calpurnia or whatever the hell Brutus and Cassius have going on. He’s blessedly, finally sinking into the soft pillows when his phone rings.

 

“Mmghggh,” he moans. The ringing continues. He blindly reaches out the nightstand and answers the call. “Hello?” he says, rough and scratchy. “This is Sneator Caesar,” he realizes his mistake and clears his throat. He hopes to god this isn’t Pompey. “Ahem, Senator Caesar.”

 

“Hey, it’s Marc Antony, the babysitter?” the hesitant voice says from the speaker. All of Julius’ fatigue evaporates and a jolt of terror runs down his spine. Was Octavian well? Did something happen?

 

“Oh! Yes, hello. How is Octavian? How did he take to you? Is he in bed now? How-” Julius asks frantically, practically rigid with terror.

 

“He’s fine,” Antony says with a hint of laughter in his voice. Julius releases a small sigh of relief. The babysitter’s voice is naturally loud and friendly, so Julius makes idle conversation with him. He asks after Octavian’s activities during the day and is surprised when it turns out he’s done something other than watching TV.

 

“Yeah, he’s really interesting in hearing about the Iliad,” Antony says bashfully.

 

“I think I read that in a high school English class, but I can’t remember anything about it,” Julius admits.

 

“Oh! Well, it starts in media res with the men of the Achaean king Agamemnon dying of sickness, and it turns out that the god Apollo is angry at them,” Antony explains easily, pulling Julius in until he’s hanging on his every word just like Octavian had probably been earlier.

 

Antony makes sure to mention where Octavian’s favorite parts, and the conversation turns to Octavian’s day. Antony’s laugh is something that’s bright and clear, so loud that it crackles over the phone. It’s a welcome change from whispered insults and Pompey’s low toned sneers, Cassius’ quiet irritation and Brutus’ aura of discomfort. Julius finds himself smiling along with it. Maybe it’s the bliss that comes with sinking into bed at the end of the day or the absolute lethargy that washes over him as he allows himself to relax, but he feels a sense of peace in this moment. A brief respite from the troubles of the day, a little oasis. Knowing that Octavian is okay and happy allows him to let go of his worries.



Finding out that Antony lost his job over Octavian makes Julius more than a little guilty. He’s quite familiar with Cicero’s… stubbornness. He lets Antony vent to him over the phone despite his tiredness. He knows he’ll be exhausted in the morning, but he normally is, so what’s the difference? Julius’ indignation isn’t fake; he really does hate Cicero. Even so, he’s half an hour in when he realizes he hasn’t looked at the clock once. It’s at that moment, on a sudden whim based on a gut feeling, that he offers Antony a permanent job and more pay. Antony’s nervous stuttering is oddly endearing, especially as it’s a change from his normal personality. Marc , Julius corrects himself, remembering the request to call him by his first name. Julius is prideful in many things and this is yet another thing to add to his hubris. He makes a note to himself to call the babysitter by his first name at their next conversation, feeling both a little confused as to why he didn’t use it in the first place and victorious over his new permission to use it.

 

With his worries over Octavian now eased and the call with Marc Antony ended, Julius allows himself to finally sleep, losing consciousness barely seconds after he closes his eyes. Somehow, it’s better than he’s had in ages.

Chapter Text

“Okay, what’s in the fridge,” Marc Antony mutters as he rubs his eyes. Octavian likes to wake up at a reasonable time even on the weekends, sadly. “What- what the fuck is kale. Peppers? Does he eat them straight up or something? What are those, are those carrots? Why are they so small?” He checks the list on the fridge. No, he doesn’t know what a quiche is and he’s afraid to ask. “How do you even say that? Quickie?”

 

He closes the fridge. He doesn’t know why he even checked, anyways. Figures they’d have some assortment of weird healthy food. “Octavian! We’re going shopping!” he yells. Then quieter: “Oh shit. I forgot to dress him yesterday.” He’d been wondering why his clothes looked like pajamas. Well, that explained it. They have time today, anyways. He’s got to go in for work at the pizza place at 2, but they’ve got most of the morning to do whatever.

 

“Nevermind,” he says when Octavian trots into the kitchen. “Octavian, what do you say to finding the coolest outfit you own?”

 

Octavian sticks his tongue out and grimaces.

 

“Alright! Let’s go,” Marc announces and walks into Octavian’s room with the toddler trailing behind him. “What’s in here- Hey, we should do a theme. What about- what’s your favorite color?” Octavian shrugs. “What? Don’t all kids have a favorite color?”

 

“Purble,” Octavian says quietly. There is a sad lack of purple in his closet.

 

“Aw, Octavian. That’s okay! We’ll-”

Purble ,” Octavian says forcefully. His little fists curl up and Marc can feel a storm brewing.

 

“Purple,” he promises and Octavian relaxes. Marc manages to find a purple button-up shirt in the closet (shockingly extensive for such a small child) and comfortable looking jeans. To Marc’s delight (but probably not Octavian’s) there is a baby sized leather jacket which goes well with the purple shirt. Octavian is surprisingly well behaved during the outfit-picking process and Marc cooes over him while he takes pictures in various poses.

 

“Yeah, okay! You look like a designer baby. Not like those genetic ones but like if babies were manufactured you would be Gucci or something. You know what, nevermind.”

 

He texts the best pictures to Julius, because he feels like he should share this adorable-ness. Also, he needs money for groceries so he asks for cash or something. The baby pictures must have worked, because the response is “Look in the third from the left drawer in the kitchen. Don’t worry about it. Use the PIN ****” There’s a whole ass debit card in there, shiny and new. (the **** are numbers but i dont want to put numbers in case thats someones actual pin yknow. use your imagination)

 

“Yes!” he cheers. Octavian stops messing with his collar and looks up questioningly. “Let’s go to Walmart!”

 

Today, he’s got the car seat all figured out and he glows with pride when Octavian fits neatly in the seat and is clipped in easily. He lets Octavian tap around on his phone until some music plays and they blare Africa by Toto until they pull into the Taco Bell driveway.

 

“Wal mart?” Octavian asks quietly.

 

“Nope, we’re getting breakfast!” Marc says cheerfully.

 

“Hi, how can I help you today?” the employee says.

 

“Hi, Quintus. Did you know that I cope with bad situations by pretending to be in a good mood until it comes true? Fake it til you make it, haha! I’ll have two breakfast burritos, please.”

 

“Two breakfast burritos coming right up,” Quintus mutters, casting suspicious glances his way when he arrives at the window. What, hasn’t he earned a familiarity with him? He’s been getting breakfast burritos here for years. Some people.

 

Octavian munches on his burrito while Marc drives them to his own apartment. It really does look depressing after spending so much time at Julius’ nice fancy one. He sighs.

 

“Don’t look, Octavian, you’re going to get germs,” he says miserably, kicking his dirty underwear aside. His bedroom really is appalling. A smidge of sunlight leaks in from the small window, covered with a sheet. Dirty clothes lie in piles across the room and the bed is full of crumbs and wrappers. Marc wrinkles his nose and checks his own fridge. Rotten takeout, flat soda, and a Hershey’s bar. He takes the chocolate and gives a piece to Octavian, chewing absentmindedly.

 

“Aw, nice, a Poptart,” he says, pulling out the chrome packaged treat from underneath an unused laundry basket. “Oh, hey buddy.” he says to the mouse that flees the premises once he spots it. He’ll be back.

 

“Haha, doesn’t it look like I’m robbing myself?” Marc asks Octavian as he tosses random things into his garbage bag. Yeah, he’ll need a phone charger, the Poptarts box, shoes (maybe), a hairbrush (he full-on snorted when he realized that Julius Caesar had no need of a hairbrush), his lucky action figure of Spiderman (the only respectable Marvel superhero), annnnnnnd…. Oh, right. Clothes. He throws those in with the toaster. (He doesn’t know how to work a toaster oven, which is what Caesar has. Why not just have a toaster and an oven, separately? What’s the point of a fusion? They’re for different things!)

 

He stands before the entrance to his room for a while, taking it all in. This is what he has to come back to after the week is done. This is his future. It feels like his stomach has dropped out and he suddenly feels sick. This is… all he has.

 

“Ant’ny, d’you have deppreshun?” Octavian pipes up. His arms are crossed and he looks around warily. “Uncle Bootus says it’s when you’re vewy, vewy, sad.”

 

Marc laughs hysterically and buries his face in his hands. He laughs and laughs and laughs until he’s full blown sobbing into his hands. He stops abruptly and wipes his eyes with his sleeve. Octavian’s mouth is hanging open in shock.

“Nope! No depression here! Let’s go to Walmart,” Marc says quickly, stuffing the last of the clothes he wants into a garbage bag along with his turbulent emotional state and tosses it into the backseat of the car. “Come on, Octavian.” He resolutely does not thing about his feelings on the way to Walmart, because they first thing they teach you in driver’s ed is to not drive distracted. Well, his teacher taught him to do figure eights in the parking lot because he thought it would be funny, but that’s beside the point. That man got his teaching license revoked long ago, or at least should have.

 

When he’s parked in the Walmart parking lot, he slumps back against the seat and lets out a long sigh and rubs his eyes. He honestly does not know why everything feels so hopeless right now. Yes, he got fired from his main source of income, but he’s still got the pizza job (hopefully) and now he’s got this babysitting thing, which is actually kind of fun if he ignores the heart attacks Octavian gives him every so often. He doesn’t have to worry about money if he can keep this job. Maybe he can even give in and let Cleo redesign his apartment like she keeps bugging him to do. It makes no sense.

 

“Alright,” he breathes, and unlocks the car. Some shopping should clear his head, especially if he doesn’t have to worry about money.

 

In his defense, it wasn’t even a full minute until he remembered to go back for the baby.

 

~~

 

“Let’s start with the essentials. What kinda microwave meals do you like?” Marc asks the baby on his hip. Octavian has been examining his surroundings wide-eyed and still uncharacteristically silent. “What about spaghetti?”

 

He sets the baby down and decides to just get whatever he points at. Octavian slaps his hands against the freezer doors in the frozen food aisle and Marc shrugs and picks out the alfredo. They end up getting pizza rolls, too, and corn dogs and whatever takes their fancy. Pot pies? Don’t mind if they do. Ice cream? Cartons upon cartons. Sushi? Why not!

 

Marc soon realizes their folly at starting in the frozen section, but ignores his sense of reasonability to push their cart towards the snacks aisle (and away from the produce section.) Octavian seems to have gained some energy and pulls things at random off the shelves and hands them to Marc to put in the cart. Marc thought Octavian would have wanted to ride in the cart, but Octavian has been zooming through the various aisles like a mongoose. It takes a huge weight off Marc’s chest when he spots Octavian viciously ripping a bag of chips out of the hands of a girl who looks to be about eight.

 

Okay, it’s not because of the obvious distress on her face or anything like that, it’s just that… Octavian has been so well behaved all day and it’s been freaking him out. He’s barely said anything, hasn’t screamed at all , and hasn’t demanded anything. But Octavian seems to be in the peak of health as the girl begins to cry and Octavian runs out of the aisle to appear behind Marc with the coveted Doritos bag, holding it proudly like a battle trophy. Marc is too relieved to even lecture Octavian on sharing and manners, so he just puts the Doritos in the cart.

 

They travel through home goods with little event, but Octavian gets a gleam in his eye upon spotting the toy department. It’s not unlike the Grinch when his mouth curls upwards; it gives that same squeamish feeling. Then Octavian glances upwards at him and the gleam fades. His little mouth is pressed into a thin line and he balls his hands up into fists. Then, with herculean strength, he turns away from the toy department.

 

“Octavian?” Marc asks questioningly, “Don’t you want some toys? I’m sure your dad won’t mind.”

 

Octavian shakes his head resolutely, but his eyes fill with tears.

 

“Uh oh, oh no, no, don’t cry- We don’t have to get you toys if you don’t want them?” Marc says frantically, mind whirling in confusion.

 

“Up up,” Octavian says, and Marc scoops him up into his arms. Octavian puts sticky hands (why are they sticky?) on Marc’s cheek and leans up to whisper into his ear. “Sorry,” he says, “‘s my fault. You’re sad.” He says the words slowly and carefully, obviously putting the utmost effort into pronouncing them. It’s quite a feat for a three year old. He leans back and spreads his empty hands in the air. “No money,” he says sadly.

 

“Aw-” Marc says, and then hangs his head and laughs. “You’re the best baby in the world, you know that? Yes you are, yes you are!” He squeezes the baby’s cheeks and grins. “It’s not your fault, Octavian. Besides, I have your dad’s money! So you can buy all the toys you want.”

 

At “It’s not your fault,” Octavian had looked up hopefully. At “all the toys you want,” the gleam was back in his eye and he wiggled to be put down. The moment he touched the ground, he shot off like a rocket into one of the toy aisles. Marc laughs, feeling lighter than air. He examines the bicycles until Octavian shoots back out with an armful of toys. It fills their cart to the brim, crushing the chips bags. Marc doesn’t quite care.

 

After a not-so-brief detour to the toiletries section and buying haircare, skincare, and a bag of bath bombs, Marc pushes their wobbling cart to the checkout lane while Octavian grabs candy. Is Julius going to be mad? Maybe. Is it worth it? Probably not, but Marc is going to eat those Skittles on the way back anyways. The checkout person raises an eyebrow at the man who looks homeless and the stylish toddler buying- holy shit, $500 worth of groceries? Okay, the total is $465.69 but it’s still a lot. Please don’t decline, please don’t decline , Marc prays to himself as he slides the card. Debit or credit ? Debit. Signature? He’s sure the cashier can see him sweating. He presses the X. PIN? **** Thanks for shopping at Walmart! Marc sighs in relief. The cashier quickly looks away as he grabs his bags.

 

“Have a nice day, sir,” she says.

 

“Hi,” Octavian says and waves. Then he begins to rub his eyes and thus begins the race against time to get him into the car and asleep before the waterworks begin. Marc pushes their towering cart of goods to the car while Octavian clings to his back like a parasite, but he can feel his grip slipping and they arrive to the car just in time. Octavian conks out in his car seat, snoring softly the whole way back. He briefly wakes to stare Marc in the eye through the rearview mirror, somehow, and demand his legions back, whatever that means. He falls asleep again immediately afterwards. They’re almost there when Octavian wakes again, demanding food.

 

“Hungry,” he insists.

 

“Don’t you want some of the food we got from Walmart?”

 

“Want Taco Bell,” Octavian says firmly. Marc glances back and sees that his lower lip is wobbling, so he makes a U-turn that’s probably illegal and they go to the Taco Bell drive-thru again.

 

“Hi, Quintus.” Marc says flatly as he pulls up again. “Can I have a combo 7 and uh,” he glances back at Octavian who says “Taco!” emphatically, “A couple tacos.”

 

“Hello, Antony,” he says grudgingly.

 

“Aha! You called me by name!”

 

“I’ve seen it on the credit card,” Quintus says, unamused. “This one has a different name, by the way. Just letting you know.”

 

“Yeah, well, I read it off your name tag,” Marc says, “Anyways, I had a minor breakdown earlier but I think I’m good? What about you? How’s your mental health?”

“So, one combo 7 and two tacos? Do you want a drink with the tacos?” Quintus says.

 

“A small sprite,” Marc answers, cowed.

 

Quintus purses his lips and widens his eyes when Marc pulls up to the window this time. He hands him the bag without comment.

 

“Thanks!” Marc says sunnily.

 

He checks the time as he goes and curses, then curses again for cursing in front of Octavian, then apologizes to Octavian. There’s no way he’s going to make it in time for his shift at Sulla’s Domino’s. He calls Cleo.

 

“Hey,” he says, trying to sound positive and likeable.

 

“Oh no,” Cleo says, “What did you do?”

“Whaaat? I didn’t do anything!” Marc says.

 

“You sound like someone is holding you at gunpoint and telling you to speak in the highest pitch possible,” Cleo tells him.

 

“Well,” Marc says to that, “I may have gone out to do groceries and underestimated how much time I would take to do them.”

“You went depression shopping,” Cleo accuses. “You blew all your money because you got fired!”

 

“No, no,” Marc says hurriedly, “It’s not my money.”

 

“Oh, well, that’s okay then,” Cleo says. “Hey, really though, how are you doing? Any better?”

 

“Since I know you’re dying to ask, Caesar gave me a credit- uh debit- card- I always mix those up- and Octavian and I went to Walmart, right Octavian?” Marc says, holding the phone back to Octavian at the last bit.

 

“Walmart!” Octavian says gleefully. Marc pulls the phone back up to his ear.

 

“Uh, right. So are you coming in today or…?” Cleo asks, “It’s fine if you wanna stay home. I know last night was rough. I can just say you’re sick again. You know Sulla’s going senile. If he says you were sick yesterday, I’ll just tell him it was today and I told him five minutes ago.”

 

“I…. yeah. That would be great,” Marc says softly. “You’re great. Thanks, Cleo.”

 

“Don’t mention it,” she says wryly. “But I expect you to make it up to me later!”

 

“Yeah, of course,” Marc promises. “Here, is this convincing enough?” He coughs weakly a couple times, “I’m sick.”


“Boo, you whore,” Cleo says, and hangs up. Marc laughs.

 

Once they arrive at the Caesar residence, Marc still has a child to care for and entertain and he’s not sure if he’d prefer childcare or pizza delivery.

 

“Hey buddy,” he says to Octavian, who’s ripping toys out of grocery bags with the intense focus and fervor of a badger. I say this because badgers are formidable and vicious creatures and also because I need some variety. “What do you do for fun around here?”

 

“Kill,” Octavian says. He points to the TV and Marc is half expecting an assassin to jump out and just murder him on the spot. The amount of primal fear that rushed through his veins in that moment is indescribable. Octavian toddles over to the TV stand and rummages through the drawers until he pulls out a disc with a picture of a man with a gun on it. Marc exhales in relief. Video games.

 

“Okay, cool. I played Mario Kart before, how hard can this be?” Marc says, mostly to himself. It was hard. Octavian’s stubby fingers somehow managed to maneuver around the controls with lightning speed. It’s nothing like fucking Mario Kart. Marc keeps dying (he thinks?) while Octavian’s character moves so quickly he has a hard time following it with his eyes. Octavian cackles gleefully as his character does a backflip and words flash across the screen announcing his victory. Again. Octavian pouts at Marc, apparently for losing, and flips through the menu until they’re in a multiplayer PVP match, which Marc promptly loses and Octavian somehow kills 50 other players.

 

“Okay, how about we play something a little… different?” Marc suggests when Octavian’s annoyance mounts at his caretaker’s inadequacy.

 

“Incompetent,” Octavian huffs. Marc laughs, albeit a little frightened.

 

“Where did you pick up that word?” he asks.

 

Octavian shrugs. “Daddy,” he says. Of course. Marc snorts as he imagines Caesar in an impeccable suit, dusting off his shoulders and lazily eyeing some grovelling employee and casually calling them incompetent as he fires them. Octavian echoes the sentiment, perched on his hip like a gothic gargoyle, face twisted in a sneer.

 

Real life Octavian does not sneer, but his mouth twists in a dissatisfied frown. He bangs his fists on the couch that they’re sitting on in frustration. “Get betterer,” he insists.

 

“Why don’t we pick a different game?” Marc suggests. He slides away to look through the video games and sighs in relief when he sees a familiar face. It’s at the bottom of the pile, still in the packaging; likely an unwanted gift. “Octavian! Let’s play Mario Kart!”

 

Octavian looks intrigued, fists uncurling and lifting his aristocratic nose to look down at Marc and see what he holds in his hands. Marc waves the game enticingly before unpackaging it and sliding this disc into the dusty Wii hidden behind the Xbox.

 

“Mario Kart-- WII!!!!! ” the TV booms and Octavian shrieks in surprise.

“Sh sh sh sh!” Marc says frantically, searching for the remote as the theme song blares. As the volume sinks, he sighs in relief. Octavian studies the screen, flinty grey eyes darting to each shiny aspect like a dragon in his hold. Marc relaxes back into the couch and taps through the starting screens.

 

“Look, Octavian! Pick your character. See?” Marc picks Birdo. She’s always had a certain call to him. He just relates to her for some reason. Octavian hmms and maneuvers over to pick… Baby Peach?

“Oh, that’s… nice.”

 

“Me,” Octavian insists, pointing at her. Marc looks back and forth between the two of them. Short blonde hair, bright eyes (hey, blue is close enough to grey, right?), and the baby’s cherub face. Yeah, he sees it.

 

“Uh, okay. That’s fair, I guess. Okay, pick your car! Or bike.”

 

Marc picks the mach bike. Bikes are sexy, okay?

 

Octavian picks the “tiny titan” with the huge wheels. He giggles.

 

They both pick automatic drift on Marc’s instructions. He never did figure out how to drift. He quickly teaches Octavian the basic controls, to which he catches on quickly. Marc figures they’ll start with something easy, like Yoshi Falls.

Ready

 

Set

 

GO!

 

Octavian mashes the buttons and takes off at surprising speed. Marc momentarily forgets to watch his own screen as Baby Peach careens into the NPCs haphazardly as she makes her way around the circuit. Marc’s Birdo stays away from the others and pulls ahead. He grins and pops a wheelie only to wobble as Baby Peach appears and knocks him over.

 

“Geez, Octavian,” he mutters as he recovers. Although his bike is faster than Octavian’s cart, Octavian keeps bumping him out of the way of the special cubes and away from the speed-ups. In fact, Octavian is in the lead until Marc hears that sweet sound and drops back to watch as the blue shell annihilates him. Octavian watches the screen in shock and then crumbles into tears and throws his controller across the room.

 

Yesterday, Marc would have been panicking and desperately trying to calm him. Now, he sighs and turns off the TV before retrieving the controller and finally coming to deal with the sobbing toddler. Octavian has buried his face in the couch cushions and is hammering his furious fists on the brown fabric as he screams in frustration. Marc sits beside him, staring down at him. Octavian continues to sob and Marc pats his head absentmindedly, looking at their reflection in the inert TV. There he sits, his mirror counterpart. Dead eyes and their droopy bags, curls lost their bounce. He has a breakout on his forehead and there’s a sauce stain on his shirt. He knows the stain is permanent.

 

One time, his uncle took him fishing, down by the pier. It was ass o’clock in the morning and everything smelled like fish, that putrid smell that never comes out of clothes and somehow is never even close to what the sea really smells like. He had climbed aboard the little white boat as it shifted in the waves and crossed his arms and stared out at the sea, wanting nothing more than to go home. They had extended their fishing poles out over the water, waiting for what seemed like hours for a measly fish. Marc had almost fallen asleep when his uncle jerked into life and pulled something up out of the water. The fish was silver and slimy, dripping water onto the boat. His uncle crowed in triumph and held out the fish for Marc to inspect. Its eyes were terrifyingly large, darting around, seeking an escape path that did not exist. Its huge black pupils met with Marc’s for a second. He stood there, riveted to the spot, staring into the eyes of the doomed fish. Oddly, he felt a sort of connection. It was one of the scariest moments of his life, even though he’d never admit it. The sense of foreboding and entropy that suddenly stabbed through him had felt like some sort of black omen and he hadn’t been able to stop looking even after his uncle had put the fish in the freezer box.

 

When he looks into the TV now, he stares right back into those fish eyes and it scares him like he’s never been scared before. Just like before, he’s transfixed. He can’t move, can’t do anything but spiral into those fish eyes.

 

A sniffle comes from beside him, faint and far-off, and the head beneath his hand shifts as Octavian sits up.

 

“Marc Antony,” he says very clearly and tugs at his arm. Marc tears his gaze away and looks down to the child at his side. Octavian is, inherently, very bright. A commanding presence even at a tender age, Octavian tugs at his arm again and demands his full attention. He frowns, dissatisfied with the results of his labor.

 

“Hi, Octavian. Feeling better?” Marc asks faintly. Octavian rolls his eyes. Idiot is implied.

 

“Tell me a story,” Octavian orders. “A new one.”

 

Marc swallows down the odd feeling of despair that had been incited by his reflection and casts around in his memory for a good story.

 

“Um, okay, well… Once upon a time… “ Octavian snuggles into the crook of his arm and the struggling feeling in his chest feels as if someone has placed a blanket over it. “There was an emperor named Augustus. He was a very powerful emperor and he ruled the whole world. He had a faithful second-in-command at his side and his people loved him.”

 

Octavian lets out a pleased hmm at this. He resembles a cat in that he makes sounds comparable to purring whenever pleased and will scratch and maim when he is displeased.

 

Marc continues to tell him of Augustus’ different trials and tribulations, of difficulties on the battlefield and of the senate house, and of the daily life of an emperor, until Octavian begins to stretch and yawn.

 

“Yay,” Octavian says quietly when he finishes the story. Marc laughs softly. Octavian yawns and Marc scoops him up into his arms to carry him to bed. “You’re so smart,” Octavian says.

 

Marc holds back the response of “If I were so smart, I wouldn’t be here, now would I?” and presses a kiss to Octavian’s forehead instead. “Actually, I was a history nerd in high school. I would’ve been a history major in college. I had my top colleges all picked out and everything.” He continues to ramble about his high school aspirations as he tucks Octavian into bed. It’s only 4:00pm, so he assumes Octavian will wake later.

 

He finds his way back to the couch and flips through the channels apathetically. He hasn’t thought about college in years. He used to think about it every day as he flipped burgers or mopped floors or expertly twirled the Quizno’s sign, but it faded into a dream passed by and he stopped saying “When I go to college…” to himself after breaking the bank too many times.

 

Octavian wakes up in time for dinner through some sixth sense (seventh?) and is introduced to the wonders of mac’n’cheese and popsicles for dessert. This proves to be a bad decision as Octavian practically vibrates with sugar energy and zips around like a cat at 3:00am. The tale of Augustus has apparently inspired him, and he wants to recreate some battles, which keeps Marc on his feet until the late hours of the night. Surprisingly, he starts to enjoy it. (It’s not just the joy of hitting someone with a stick; he knows better than to hit too hard.) Octavian’s battle scenarios are… creative and like a dream in that he doesn’t know what’s going on and nothing makes sense, but he’s hopelessly immersed in it.

 

Marc chases Octavian through the rooms as Octavian shrieks in laughter, red-faced and panting. When he finally catches him, Marc subjects him to a terrible tickling. Octavian laughs until he can’t anymore. Caught in the spirit of the moment, Marc pulls out his phone and snaps a picture of the two of them. He sits back to look at it. The fish eyes are gone. It feels as if a giant weight has been lifted from his chest and on a whim, he sends it to Julius. He watches the blue bar zip across the screen until the image says “Sent” and then he snaps back to the present.

 

“Oh no, oh no,” he mutters, “Why did I- Why would I do that?” The bubbles pop up, indicating the pending response. Marc’s fingers sweat and he almost drops the phone. Octavian clambers up his back and hangs around his neck to watch the phone screen curiously. The bubbles disappear. Marc hurriedly stuffs the phone in his pocket.

 

“Octavian, I don’t know how you’re still alive, because I’m so fu- fudging stupid.” Marc confesses. Octavian climbs to sit on his shoulders. Then he whacks his head and slips back down to run away. Marc sighs and resigns himself to chasing a hyper toddler around for the night.

 

It’s a little after midnight when Marc gets Octavian to finally go to sleep. Afterwards, he tumbles onto the couch and stares at his phone until he can summon the courage to text Julius. Then he stares some more until he figures out what to say.

 

Me

so octavian was generally pretty good today

 

Me

he’s never had mac n cheese before i guess???

 

Marc sighs and hits his head against the back of the couch. Yes, because that’s what you say just out of the blue. Mac’n’cheese. God, he’s going to kill himself.

 

Julius

 

Haha. I usually try to feed him healthy food, but if he likes it, then it’s fine.

 

Marc winces. So, he’s fucked up the baby’s diet. Good to know.

 

Julius

 

Can I call you?

 

Marc fumbles with the phone and it falls out of his hands. Fuck, okay. He doesn’t know why it’s making him so nervous. He’s glad they’re not Facetiming because he’s sure he’s ugly as hell right now.

 

Me

 

yea sure

 

Oh, and he’s just realizing he should probably text with proper grammar like Julius so he doesn’t think he’s a total dumbass. Oh well, too late. He wouldn’t want to lie to him, anyways.

 

Sure enough, his phone rings and the caller ID confirms that it is, in fact, Octavian’s father. He takes a deep breath before answering, but the weird squirmy thing his insides are doing doesn’t fade away.

 

The rich and confident voice of Julius Caesar answers with a wry tone: “So, he liked the mac’n’cheese?”

 

Marc laughs wheezily, caught in a terrible embarrassment and also genuinely amused. Somewhere within that general frame of reference. Marc tells him about Octavian’s day, and Julius lets him ramble for a while.

 

“What about you, though? How’s it been over there?” Marc asks afterwards, feeling more than a little awkward and intrusive.

 

Julius sighs over the phone, and it sounds like a gust of warm air. “Today… hasn’t been the best,” he admits.

 

So Marc makes himself comfortable on the couch and takes his turn to listen. He gives advice when he can, but he feels woefully inadequate. Julius’ voice feels like the warm tones of a cello to his ears, musical and full of long, legato, bow strokes as he slows down into the ritardando of the late night. Marc falls asleep on the couch after they finally hang up, and his dreams are filled with fish eyes and a golden voice.

Chapter Text

Interlude

 

The rose petals have dried.

 

That’s the first thing he notices as he enters the Senate house. There’s a bush just outside; small, hardly noticeable, but the recent heat has curdled those petals into dry husks that tumble to the ground. Antony hesitates slightly before pushing it aside to enter. It’s the usual nonsensical hubbub that accompanies the joining of Rome’s finest and he suppresses a scoff. They part in his way, folding like stalks of grain in the Italian breeze, and it sends a spark of satisfaction through him that he can part them like the seas. It’s a testament to how far he’s come; he’s not some little soldier boy anymore and he’s nobody’s lackey. He stands tall, doesn’t flinch at the odd stares and the occasional sneer. He knows he’s got their grudging respect and what’s more: their fear.

 

He thinks nothing of the roses as he exits, brushing them aside carelessly. What does he care for roses?

 

Late that night, like the fragrant countryside breeze, he blows into Caesar’s estate. The slaves are used to his presence and cause no stir. The distant son of Venus lies lazily stretched across the couch. He knew Antony was coming. His heritage is evident in the sharp intelligent eyes, the gently curved lip, the regal nose. A breathing tableau, the art made flesh. Antony inclines his head to show deference, but cannot keep a sly smile off his lips.

 

“Marcus… Antonius,” Julius drawls slowly, leaning further backwards. The hooked grin knows the catch has already been made and reels him in further.

 

“I am yours to command,” Antony vows, but the flick of his eyes upwards sparks of playfulness. Julius rolls his eyes.

 

“Enough posturing.” He lifts one arm and beckons Antony forward. Antony, of course, cannot resist the call of one born of Venus; he falls effortlessly to join the great Caesar on the couch. Antony sinks into the cushions, stares up at his leader. He tips his chin up to stare him in the eyes, throat exposed.

 

“What do you wish of me, sir?” He asks, cocky grin in place. Caesar answers.



Later, Antony walks through the garden. The saccharine smell catches his attention and he turns his gaze upon the rose bush outside the window. He reaches up to feel the crunch of petals between his fingers. They leave behind a sticky residue that smells of death. He wipes it on his skirt. The marks are a fading red.

 

“Antony. Stop bothering the flowers.” Julius says exasperatedly from the door frame where he leans, silhouetted in the candlelight. The warm flickering light beckons and Antony steps out of the moonlight.

 

“My apologies, Caesar,” he murmurs, leaning up to kiss behind Julius’ ear. The marks from earlier have not faded. His lips curve into a smile against the warm skin. Bruises. His grin fades as he steps back. “However, I do have business to report on.”

 

“Oh?” Caesar asks. His soft skin hardens to marble once more and he solidifies back into the place of commanding officer.

 

“There have been rumors of a plot against you,” Antony informs him. He never was one for tact. “Cassius and Casca have been identified as some of the main antagonizers, and their plan is spreading. They might make a move soon.”

The great Caesar scoffs. “Cassius should be more than grateful to me, the wretch. And Casca?  I doubt he will be able to find his way to the Senate house.” The surety with which he states this helps to ease Antony’s fears as the strong voice always does. But not enough.

 

“This is a serious threat,” Antony warns lightly. He is still close enough to feel Julius’ breath on his cheek, to feel the heat from his body.

 

“I appreciate your concern, but a couple of disgruntled senators does not a murder plot make,” Caesar chastises. He draws back, turning to go inside.

 

“I just think you should be more careful,” Antony insists, drawn to him like a moth to a flame.

 

Caesar pauses. “You just think?” he asks dangerously. “And your “just thinking” is enough to challenge my judgement?”

 

Antony freezes. He sets his jaw. He studies the golden brown hair in the light. He clenches his fists until the nails dig into his palms.

 

He unclenches them.

 

“No. Of course not,” he says softly.

 

Julius turns to him, stone-carved features wavering like a mirage in the desert. “Antony. You are the only one I trust to have by my side. I cannot have you doubting me now.”

 

“I would never,” Antony vows, and he knows it’s the truth. He would never-- Not in any way that counts, anyway.

 

Julius nods, appeased. He leans in and looks up at Antony expectantly. Antony obediently leans in for a brief kiss.

 

“Goodnight, Julius,” Antony says quietly as Julius retreats to the warm house. Antony stares up at the night sky and feels a lingering stickiness on his fingers. When he looks down, they are clean.



When the morning dawns, he feels an empty cavern in his chest, tomblike. He walks with Caesar on the road to the Senate, feeling a strange displacement in his body.

 

“Halt!” a voice cries and Antony spots Artemidorus in the crowd, waving a paper wildly. The man struggles through the crowd, ebbing and pushing like the tides. There is wildfire in his eyes and an animal-like desperation in his movements. “Please, read this-- Great Caesar--”

 

“Present your petition to the Senate with the others,” Caesar chides gently, inclining his head (and thus the world trembles.)

 

“But please-- it is of grave importance,” the man insists. Caesar passes by like some evasive sprite of the forest. Artemidorus turns his fervor towards Antony now; dropping back to plead with the man in the footsteps of his greater.

 

“Antonius,” he says, trembling, “Make him aware-- There is a-”

 

“Antony,” Caesar calls, “Join me.”

“I must go,” Antony tells Artemidorus. There he goes once more, pulled as if attached by an invisible rope; a ghostly handfasting.

 

Artemidorus grips his robes, and something crunches. Antony feels a sickly feeling in his gut as he looks down to find Artemidorus pressing those dead and decayed floral harbingers into his palm. The red pigment reflects into Artemidorus’ eyes, and Antony feels a sudden fear spike through him as Artemidorus pleads the forgotten words, the ones slumbering at the back of his mind, the ones from yesterday:

 

Beware the Ides of March

 

He withdraws his hand quickly, as if bitten by a viper, and regains his place by Caesar’s side. They fall into step together, but Antony cannot help but wonder: Is this-?

 

Is he the same?

The crushed petals disintegrate between his fingers, leaving a fine dusty trail behind them as they walk. Antony memorizes his face, the features he knows so well: the stately nose, the sharp jaw, the way his eyes crinkle. The morning is cloudy with pieces of sun peeking through, the air damp with the promise of rain, and Antony loves to watch the sun move in patterns across Caesar’s face. Antony compares this image with the others: Julius, illuminated by the lonely moon in a far province of Gaul (here Antony remembers seeing his profile and being struck with a tremendous aching and a fierce loyalty). Julius, gleaming like the strongest bronze, burnished by the brazen sun, grinning with the confidence of a god as they stood before the Rubicon. The pale light of morning and the regality he exuded when Antony knelt before him and offered him a crown, offered him his sword, offered him his heart and everything that came with it (ah, but the last one he offered behind closed doors, and this one even Julius could not refuse, for this was given away against Caesar’s wishes.). The way his face softens whenever they lie together, the mask falling away just for him.

 

The way he had looked last night, standing in the doorway. Not the golden-blooded messenger of the gods, sent to welcome Antony to Elysium, the ichorous hyperbole that he was during the day. The tired man with an empire to build and a populace to appease and a passionate heart and a flinty-eyed stare and coarse hands even Neptune’s waters could not smooth.

 

“I was beginning to wonder if you would follow,” Caesar remarks lightly, eyes ahead.

 

“You know I would follow you anywhere,” Antony confesses, watching the cloudy skies darken. He feels the words heavy in his mouth like lead as his arm is pulled yet again.

 

“There is something I most urgently need to discuss with you,” Trebonius promises as they near the Senate. Antony looks to Caesar. Caesar’s mouth quirks upwards slightly and he gives a small nod.

 

“What are you, Caesar’s dog?” Trebonius sneers, but the taunt holds a certain question to it. Antony finds that he could not answer even if it was genuine.

 

Trebonius takes him to a side room, talking the whole while. Antony cannot hear a word he says, cannot focus long enough to distract from the terrible apprehension that fills him. He focuses on his hands, inspecting his fingernails and following the veins. He turns them over.

 

His palms are coated with a dusky powder, red and sticky. His vision blurs, the world turns. He understands.

 

“Don’t--” he chokes out, snapping his gaze upwards. Marc Antony stands before him, grinning readily. His eyes are red as roses and his heart is full of Hades. His horrific doppelganger laughs, and blood drips from his teeth.

 

Antony backs away, wiping his hands furiously on his robes. CaesarCaesarCaesarImustgetto-

 

“Aw, missing poor Julius?” the devil asks. “You’re too late. Just like you were with

Me.”

 

And then it becomes apparent as the creature shifts into the familiar mottled greens and browns, changing from the armor of one era to that of another. Lepidus shrugs as his dog tags slip through his fingers, an abhorrent intrusion from the waking world into this one. He reaches out and passes through the center of Antony, pale hands reaching into the heart of him. His eyes bore into Antony, bleached and red and dead dead dead--





Marc sits up, breathing heavily. The dream fades quickly and soon, all he can remember is red. He lies back down, eyes burning into the ceiling in the dark and dares not to close his eyes for fear of remembering.