Okay—I’ll admit it. My colleague was drunk and I was sleep deprived, but the conversation over post-graduation beers hasn’t left me alone.
The two main conspirators in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar have a relationship rife with subtext—and very little of it is platonic. Brutus’ introversion and Cassius’ sly venom have all the hallmarks of a dysfunctional romantic relationship—one that ends in a spectacular crash, replete with flames and a dramatic death sequence.
However, my colleague and I were not content with innuendo. He has the gutter-mind and I have the writing background to take this observation of our two heroes one step further, and to ask the age old question: Who would top?
It’s not as frivolous a question as it would seem.
Homosexual relationships were a given in the Roman aristocracy. The young up-and-(erm) comers were routinely rogered by the old guard—it was almost a rite of passage, and Caesar and Anthony were no exceptions. In fact, Caesar was frequently criticized for letting Pompey penetrate him during their adult relationship, and Antony was known as being quite the boy-slut and man-twinkie, even as he aged into his majority. Given these historical details, is it really too hard to imagine that Brutus, brooding, quiet, agonized and introspective, would be fair game for the handsome, strong, wily Cassius?
But the question remains—who would top?
My colleague maintained it would be Cassius—simply because he seemed to have all the power.
“Yes,” I replied, thinking hard, “but so did Lady MacBeth, and you can bet old man Mac wasn’t taking a night-stick in the sphincter when he could pound the shrilling harpy like badly aged beef!” (Okay, maybe I didn’t say this verbatim, but you get the picture.)
The fact is, it’s not always the character with the rogering-stick who’s got the power. Let’s face it—rogering-sticks are impressive and all, but how easy is it for the, uhm, rogering-stick-sheathe to grab a hold of that thing and drag its owner wherever the sheathe wishes him to go?
I mean, Lady MacBeth as a sterling example: Women have been doing it for years.
And Cassius used Lady Mac’s techniques—he started out with flattery and then that faux-honesty, and then he held up his victim/lover/top’s flaws and said, “With me as your back-up, as a mirror to your flaws, you can help me do this reprehensible thing to carve a shining future.”
And really, unless sex was involved, how would either MacBeth OR Brutus be that easily deluded?
I see it so clearly—I can hear Cassius’ tone of voice, picture Brutus’ agonized inner monologue… in fact, it’s so damned romantic text-book perfect, I can damned near see it.
And, well, you know…
M/M romance is my glitch, right?
So given that, I present to you,
The Seduction of Brutus
By Amy Lane
(This roughly follows the text of Act I, Scene II of Julius Caesar. The translation and stage directions are all mine:-)
Brutus watched the royal party go out towards the steps of the capitol with weary eyes.
Antony had his hand easily on Caesar’s thigh, and Caesar was covering it with his own, tough little hand.
Of course they were sleeping together. Calpurnia thought she had to worry about Cleopatra—HA!
It had been eating at him, gnawing at his stomach for months. He knew—he’d known about Pompey, he knew about Antony. Brutus had been beneath Caesar’s body, knew his insatiable drive, knew the power of his heart… Brutus had reveled in it.
It was lovely not to be the captain of your own vessel, even for those blissful few moments of sex. Caesar was so good at taking charge, so good at dominating, officiating, penetrating. He was even better at taking it, allowing his body to be pounded, penetrated, used—and then milking his dominator for every drop of vitality in his human body.
In either capacity, Marcus Brutus had been pleased to go along for the ride.
Now he watched the maddened throng chanting Caesar’s name, and he couldn’t seem to separate the lovemaking from the leadership.
Caesar had wanted Brutus, Caesar had courted Brutus, Caesar had left Brutus, bereft and hungering for one more touch, one more fawn, one more favor. Did Brutus think Caesar would do any better for their beloved country? How was it that Rome was so much greater in Caesar’s esteem than Brutus had been.
And Caesar claimed to love Brutus best of all!
Well, apparently not as much as he loved taking Marc Antony’s body into his pouty, lying mouth, now did he?
“Aren’t you going out to the capitol to play?”
Brutus looked up, surprised. Cassius. He’d been avoiding the man—after Caesar had thrown him over, Cassius had seemed to think Brutus was fair game.
“I am not gamesome,” Brutus said with a quirk of the lips for his own pun. “I do lack some of Antony’s quick spirit—but don’t let me get in your way, Cassius—go play to your heart’s content.”
There was something lush about Cassius, something female and willing, that suggested he’d enjoy those games very much.
“I don’t know, Brutus—I’ve been watching you.” Cassius came closer to Brutus as he sat in the council chamber—his walk could only be described as a saunter. “You used to enjoy my company—but now you look like you hate the world! Surely…”
Cassius got close enough to peer down into Brutus’ eyes as he sat, “surely you don’t hate me too?”
Oh Gods. Cassius was flirting with him. It figured—Caesar had never loved Cassius, had never hit on him, had never looked on him with kind eyes. Brutus used to tolerate him, look at him with pity, when Caesar shared his flesh.
It occurred to Brutus—violently—that now he and Cassius had something in common.
“No worries, Cassius—I’ve been pretty much buried in my own head lately. I’ve got… well, I’ve got some shit in my head that I need to keep there. It’s not you, man—it’s me. I’m so caught up in my own bullshit that I’m neglecting my friends, right?”
A naked sort of hope crossed Cassius’ pretty features, and Brutus felt bad. God, he only wanted to be loved—didn’t we all?
“Well, I’m glad it’s not me!” Cassius said in relief. “But you know, you’re probably not the only guy in the world with great thoughts! I mean, you can’t see yourself, right?”
Brutus smiled. It was an old joke, and old discussion between the men of the senate: other people are our only mirrors—but sometimes they are warped.
“Only if you have a mirror,” he said warmly.
“Well, I wish you had a mirror that showed you how awesome you are. Everyone in Rome loves you—all the senators are trying to suck up to you, everybody wants your respect—hell, the only one not trying to kiss your feet is Caesar!”
Brutus barely suppressed a wince. Of course Caesar wasn’t singing his praises. Caesar wasn’t fucking him anymore.
“What could you possibly want from me, Cassius? That is the biggest load of bullshit I’ve heard in my life!” He said it with a smile, but Cassius turned wide eyes to him—and took his leave to sit down next to Brutus on the marble bench that was currently threatening Brutus’ ass with some very uncomfortable consequences.
“No—seriously—here, let me tell you what I see. You know I’m not a fuck-up, I don’t say shit I don’t mean…” The ruckus outside from where Caesar was making love to a joyous public became truly outrageous, and Cassius shot an annoyed glare over his shoulder.
Brutus tried not to laugh—obviously this little tet-a-tet had been well planned. Then he heard what the people were shouting and swore.
“Christ—fucking Christ no! Goddammit—do you hear that?”
Cassius rolled his eyes. “Sounds like they’re making him king!” He held his hands out and shook them in mock fanfare. “Whoopee!”
“Huzzah,” Brutus echoed sourly, and Cassius turned a predatory eye on him. Oh crap—Brutus didn’t want to go into that—not with Cassius who was doing everything but sticking his ass in the air and wiggling it like a puppy.
“You don’t sound happy about it—what, aren’t you looking forward to kissing his ass in public? I know you used to kiss it in private, right?”
Brutus sucked in his breath. Well shit—apparently it was ‘bare-faced-honesty’ time, right?
“I don’t kiss his ass anymore,” Brutus said, feeling empty. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t love him either—either politically or personally, you feel me? But seriously—what’s on your mind? Are you here to talk about my pathetic love life, or did you want something a little more honorable. My love life notwithstanding, if it’s a choice between death and dishonor, I’m taking death, right?”
Cassius sighed and relaxed away from Brutus. Brutus had a moment to notice that the guy took care of himself—nice body, pretty face, his hair neatly back in a man-do. If you liked that sort of thing—and Brutus had his moments, witness the thing with Caesar, right? Cassius distracted this line of thought by raising a hand up to Brutus’ chest, spreading his fingers seemingly without thought.
“Look—I know you value honor more than your love life, Brutus—and that’s why I’m here. Listen to them out there—they’re gnawing on their own limbs for a chance to touch him. I don’t ever want to be in that sort of subservience, you know? You and me—we’re the same as he is. We were born free, we’ve served our time in the senate. The guy is not a god—it’s starting to bother me that the general public wants to line up to let him fuck them up the ass.”
Brutus fought the temptation to say, But he’s damned good at it, and listened to Cassius seriously, although Jesus the guy could talk!
“Do you remember that time the dumbshit challenged me to a race? I mean damn, Brutus—the Tiber was raging and the wind could have cut you in two, and he suddenly thinks he’s going to prove something to me and then he gets sucked under the current! I mean, I don’t want to bow to anything that’s not as tough as I am, you know? We’re supposed to equals in the senate—and he’s so not that big a fucking deal! He almost died in Spain of fever, he falls down and froths at the mouth. I don’t want to put all my faith in that weak a vessel, you know?”
Brutus wanted to open his mouth and defend his old lover—it was as simple as that. Sometimes greatness wasn’t physical. Sometimes greatness was the fire that attracted brave men to councils of war and insects to their death. Which one are we? Brutus wondered, and then the shouts of the crowd distracted them both again.
“Oh yay…” Brutus said with a faint smile. Even the populace knew that godhood wasn’t locked inside the physical body… but not Cassius. Cassius was still feeling up his chest.
“God—he’s all set like Colossus, straddling Rome. What’s he expect us to do, teabag him while his junk’s all hanging over our heads and flapping in the breeze?”
Brutus grunted. “Nice,” he muttered—and his hard-on stirred, making him a liar with the truth. Cassius spotted the little tent in the toga and rubbed a daring, lazy circle on Brutus’ thigh.
“It’s not fate that puts us under him, you know that, right? It’s us. If someone comes up and begs for it, it’s not the gods that make his ass sore, right?”
Brutus’ cock throbbed, and Cassius flicked at it under the white cloth with a lazy smile.
“C’mon, Brutus—why should the whole world be lined up to lick Caesar’s balls? Why shouldn’t they be licking yours? Your name,” and this coupled with a whisper-soft stroke of the thing that was not Brutus’ name, “is as fair as Caesar’s. Sound them both out…B-r-u-t-u-s,” Cassius’ mouth moved slowly, his lips puffy and round, as though he knew very well what Brutus would do with that mouth in private, if Cassius but lined up to lick his balls. “See? Just the same. Weigh those…names.” His hand, ever so sly and now very daring, snuck under Brutus’ toga, and Cassius kept eye contact while he weighted Brutus’ ‘name’ in his cool, stroking hand. “They’re just as heavy together, right?”
Brutus took in a deep breath and tried very hard not to think with his dick anymore. Carefully, so as not to offend Cassius or wound his rather tender feelings, he seized Cassius wrist and pulled that grasping, petting, fawning hand away from the ‘bearers of his name’.
Cassius made a little moue of disappointment and went back to stroking Brutus through his toga instead of under it. “Now don’t tell me your ‘spirit’ isn’t as great as his, Brutus. You both eat the same ‘meat’, right?”
“Yes,” Brutus said darkly, standing up, “but I think it’s a very different meat than you feed upon.” Crap—his hard-on wasn’t going down. It had been long—so long—since his ‘name’ had been stroked with quite so much determination.
And Cassius seemed to know it. He followed Brutus, pulled up behind him. Cassius was as big and strong as he bragged about—he was a few inches taller than Brutus, and his body, flush against Brutus’ back was both seductive and overpowering.
“It would be a sorry age,” he said softly, breathing into Brutus’ ear, “if the only worthy man in all of Rome was Caesar.”
His hands traveled slowly down Brutus’ chest, and Brutus shivered. Ah, gods…it felt so good to be touched. Cassius would take everything he had—every anger, every frustration—Cassius would give in to it. And what did he ask? What was his price for giving Brutus a place to grieve the loss of Caesar?
Ah gods. Brutus didn’t want to think about it. Losing Caesar once was hard… losing him again, for real, to Brutus’ betrayal? Brutus wasn’t sure he could…
Cassius moved those hands to Brutus’ thighs and stroked up, under the toga, and Brutus made a strangled noise. Ah, gods…what would he do, what would he pay, to not have to miss Caesar in his bed again?
“Okay, fine, you want me,” he panted. “I get it—I don’t doubt that…but…” Cassius grabbed his erection then and gave a sure and gentle pull. “I know where you’re going with this, dammit! Look, we can talk later… Please, Cassius, if you love me…”
“I do,” Cassius murmured. “I always have…”
“Well then,” Brutus grunted, jerking away from that grasping hand with his dignity barely intact, “give me some space to think!”
“Well, my weak words seemed to have had a strong effect,” Cassius smirked, and Brutus got angry. Dammit—that wasn’t fair.
“Look—I’d rather be a peasant knee deep in cow-shit than a senator knee deep in this king bullshit, okay? If he’s a king, that goes against everything we’ve ever believed in!”
Oh thank God. It was possible to think with something besides his prick—wasn’t that a nice change?
“I hear you,” Cassius said mildly, that superior smirk still in place as he held out his splayed hand and licked his fingers one by one. “But make sure the returning throngs don’t, right? They might be surprised to find you don’t love Caesar like they think you do.”
Brutus closed his eyes, hearing the thrill of the crowd’s return. He did love Caesar, he thought in something like despair. Brutus loved his old lover enough to kill him, just to carve Caesar out of his broken heart.