Title: Let Slip the Dogs of War
Summary: Episode filler for 'Passover'. Before Brutus and his co-conspirators leave Rome, Antony corners him alone.
Disclaimer: HBO/BBC owns Rome
He felt Antony's grim, triumphant smile without having to look at him.
"You underestimated me, friend Brutus. Never underestimate me." Antony's voice was pure, deadly silk, and the word 'friend' curled tightly around Brutus' throat until he almost choked on it.
He laughed, a harsh and mirthless echo in the deserted room.
The absolute worst part of it was that Antony was wrong. Brutus felt no surprise at how Antony had outmanoeuvred him, cleverly backing him into a corner with no more than a few fervent words at the funeral. He'd expected this from the moment he felt Antony's lips on his cheek, breath brushing against his ear, and those cold dark eyes alit with deadly promise. He had seen this coming and, worse even, he knew that it wasn't the end; Antony wouldn't rest until each single one of Caesar's murderers was dead.
"No, I didn't," he said tiredly, when the laughter had died away and left him feeling wrung out and hollow. He didn't expect Antony to understand, but perhaps Antony did, because when Brutus raised his head to finally look at him, Antony was regarding him curiously, a frown narrowing his eyes.
It was as if the piercing stare urged him on, pulling words from his lips he had no intention of ever speaking, to anyone, but least of all to a man who was despite all pretence of friendship a sworn enemy hell-bent to bring him down.
"II know I did the right thing. It had to be done, for the good of the Republic. Caesar was out of control; he had to be stopped. And still, I wish it didn't have to be me. Do you have any idea how it felt, to watch them crowd him like hungry lions, to see him fall, he blood spilling all over the Senate floor? He looked at me and he tried to speak to me and his eyesIt was terrible. I wanted to turn and run, but Ibut I didn't. And now I see his face whenever I close my eyes. I washed my hands a hundred times since that morning, and yet they're still sticky with his blood. I cannot bear it. And no matter what you do me, it cannot be worse that what I'm going through." He abruptly stopped, out of breath and deeply ashamed by his words, unable to stand Antony's gaze any longer.
He looked away, but he couldn't escape the cruel sound of Antony's chuckle.
"You really believe this, do you? All that crap about killing Caesar for the good of the Republic? Let me tell you a secret, my friend." And suddenly, moving silently like a tiger, Antony was right beside him, too close, leaning down until his lips brushed the shell of Brutus' ear as he spoke; his voice dropped to a whisper. "You're the only one who believes that."
Brutus' head snapped back up, but Antony had already taken a step back, regarding him with amusement. "All your friends," he went on, "they all had their own reasons for wanting Caesar dead. Petty reasons: money, power, vengeance you name it. The Republic had very little to do with it."
Antony smiled unpleasantly. "They're laughing at you right now, with all your righteous talk of honour and the good of Rome. You're nothing but a boy playing a man's game, Brutus; and you shouldn't have, because it'll swallow you whole. And don't believe for a second that you're already suffering as badly as you will."
Trying to fight down the tears stinging in his eyes, Brutus tried to force his expression into a smile, but he knew it probably looked more like a grimace. Antony's words shouldn't have stung like that; he'd hardly spoken out anything that he, Brutus, hadn't realized long before. But still, it was different, privately knowing that he failed or having it thrown in his face, every word like a whiplash. It was all it took to make him remember the disgust in the faces of Cassius and his mother when he told them, 'We're leaving Rome'. They'd agreed, eventually, rushing off quickly to order their slaves to pack up. But it was hardly his words that had propelled them into action; Antony's gamble had merely left them no other option. Tonight, they would leave the gates of Rome behind them, and it would all have been in vain.
"Even so, I shall have the Gods and the law on my side." It sounded terrible even to his own ears: the weak, pathetic vindication of a man who'd already lost and desperately clung to the last sheds of his dignity. Anger welled up in him, hot and unpredictable, making him at least momentarily brave enough to add, "If you were only half the man Caesar was, you'd understand."
The eyebrow Antony raised was mocking him. "If I were anything like Caesar, though, I'd be dead now, wouldn't I? After all, that's why I lived: because you considered me a lesser man." He smiled. "A vulgar beast, wasn't it? Simpler, less loyal, less dangerous. You should have listened to your friend Cassius and killed me when you had the chance."
"I still could! I still could do it right now."
His anger only seemed to amuse Antony, who laughed loudly. "Why not? I am alone and unarmed. Do your worst and give it a try." He spread his arms, as if daring Brutus to attack. When Brutus made no move to get up, his smile widened. "Come on, I'll even let you have my knife." He produced a small dagger from his toga and held it out to Brutus, golden hilt first.
And even though he recognized the trap for what it was, it was as if the silky suggestiveness in Antony's voice alone had the power to move him as he rose and reached for the knife with a trembling hand.
It happened within the blink of an eye: one moment he was facing Antony, seizing the dagger, the next he found himself spun around with his back pressed flush to Antony's front and the knife a dangerous pressure at his throat. He could feel the hard muscles quivering against his body, and he could just about imagine how much self-restraint it took for Antony not to cut him open right there. Brutus tried to hold himself motionless, his whole body rigid with tension, like a bow tightly drawn. He hardly dared to breathe.
"But you won't kill me, will you?" Antony asked, almost conversationally, as if he wasn't just cutting off Brutus' air with the blade of a dagger. "Nor will you even try. You hardly could stomach the one murder you committed. You can't make yourself take another life, not even if it would save your own. It's pathetic!" Antony spat the words as if the were poison.
He drew the knife away, but not before allowing the blade to nick the tender skin under Brutus jaw. For a brief, fatalistic moment Brutus wished Antony had cut just a little deeper, just a little bit more to the right. But he hadn't; Brutus lived, for now, and he tried to be grateful for it.
They stayed like that for endless seconds, Brutus leaning heavily against Antony, unable to make himself move.
"Caesar's little boy," Antony said, close to his ear, and the rough sandpaper edge of his voice vibrated through Brutus' body like the onset of a storm. "It must kill you to know that he never loved you the way you loved him."
He laughed when Brutus jumped away from his body, as if the heat of the mock-embrace was scorching him. He didn't get very far before Antony's hand curved around his neck possessively, like a hungry snake, drawing him back in. He knew better than to struggle.
This time, the kiss aimed for his mouth, as different from the earlier rasped whisper of lips against his cheek as it could possibly have been, and yet similar in both intimacy and message. Antony's tongue mercilessly pried his lips apart, laying him open and taking everything. It was brutal and punishing and cruel, and it might as well have been a knife.
When Antony finally released him, Brutus felt light-headed and bruised and humiliated; and yet it was as if he could think clearly for the first time since that fatal morning in the Senate.
"To the victor the spoils, Antony?" he spat, his jaw clenched tightly and his eyes blazing hatred. "Then you'd better remember that you have not yet won."
His hands balled into fists, he tried to stare Antony down, but the damnable smile didn't waver, threat and dark promise all at once, and Brutus heard the unspoken 'soon' loud and clear.
Disclaimer:Characters (real and fictional) aren't mine, no money is made with these stories and history isn't changed. Damn.