Charis buried her neck in Cynane's, as if savouring every last moment of this embrace and her friend. She was still trying, determinedly, to think that everything would be fine and she would rid herself of the child and things could go back to 'normal' (whatever normal now was for her). Yet in her actions, her fear was evident. She couldn't stomach the thought of not seeing Cynane's face again or the poor woman hearing of her passing. What if she never saw Ardra again? Or was buried somewhere so far from home?
She tried to shake the thought from her mind as best as she could and hurriedly pulled away from the embrace. "Two weeks." She affirmed and raised her hand to stroke her friends cheek in a familial way. "Two weeks and this will all be over and we will have wine and grin and laugh again, I promise."
Before she got upset and the tears that were gathering in her eyes fell, she turned on her heel. By the time she reached the domus - some time later - Jocasta was waiting for her, arm on her hip and smirk on her face. Her absence had been noted, she said, but Charis only brushed past her. She needed to speak to Teutus, and she needed to do it now.
Charis swallowed and kept her eyes down at the floor, her hands softly stroking the imperceivable bump on her belly. Whether you want to or not. This was possibly the most epitomising moment of slavery so far for her; she had been raped and abused, shackled and chained but that had not broken her spirit. She felt she still had options after each. But this? To carry a child for nine months and endure the rigours and very real possibility of death in childbed, against her will? Nothing could have summed up just how little freedom she had, than that. Tertius likely didn't even realise it - he was a man of class, and a man full stop. He would never understand, but she was beginning to.
Her frown increased as he finished speaking and she glanced up at him - the fire dimmed in her eyes and pure confusion filling the void. "B-but it will be my child? How can I not see him?" She had a sense - an inkling that whatever grew inside her would be a boy. It was a foolish thing to think she could predict it, but it felt right.
If anybody who was allowed to see her - Tertius or the evil little witch Jocasta - cared to really examine her they would see the cogs on her mind begin to slow and falter. She had lashed out initially - a sign that she was not well mentally, but this creeping dread - the realisation that everything was so far out of her control now - was something else.
She sat in silence, hands over her stomach and frowning.
Charis listened with a fond smile on her face, relieved at the distraction of talking of something else. In her mind, after all the loyalty her friend had shown, surely she could not be kept enslaved for much longer? But Charis - despite her protestations - was naive, and didn't understand that enslaving somebody was the best way to keep said loyalty and skills for free.
"A pr...praetorian?" She frowned, unfamiliar with the word. Her Latin had improved immeasurably and she was now fluent after a year in Rome, but odd words still escaped her a lot of the time, especially when she flicked back and forth between her own language (which she was speaking now with Cynane) and Latin.
She laughed gently and shook her head at Cynane's words and offered her a weak grin; "I don't blame them, if I were ever in trouble I think ou are the person I would call on above any man." She knew full well Tertius and likely Teutus too would be shaking in their sandals at the sight of Cynane in her full battle regalia and she didn't blame them. Whilst the Parisii were not as open to female warriors, those she had seen - whether her own tribe or Brigantes - had terrified her. She understood more and more now, just why they would want a woman like Cynane; beautiful, skilled but respectful, in chains.
They drew to the centre of one of the paths where a great sundial lay. Charis had only just begun to learn to read them but knew from a quick glance what the shadows meant. "Shit..." She muttered and wiped a bead of sweat off her brow, "I...I thought I'd only been out a few moments." But she must have been sitting in the gardens for over an hour. Her lack of presence in the domus was surely to be noted. "I...I have to go."
I think I may wrap up if that's okay with you!
Charis frowned at his refusal to allow her even the basic request of getting a little exercise and shrugged thin shoulders. In truth, she was entirely apathetic to this whole situation presently- and an outside observer (one who was not as cruel or enraged as Tertius) might see that her faculties were not all there, as if her mind had slipped off kilter. As it was, she only shrugged and returned to sit on the bed, folding her legs up under herself.
"After the child is born." She clarified. The words sounded strange to her now, as if she were in a dream. She had sincerely believed her plan would work - as any desperate creature is when they are backed into a corner and yet now here she was - pregnant with a child that could well suffer the after effects of her poison, forced to endure pregnancy and childbirth. It seemed laughable to her, that she should be here in this position and a little bubble of laughter left her lips at the absurdity. "I'm having a child..." She repeated quietly, obliviously, as if she were in a trance.
Her hand fluttered to her stomach and she frowned to herself. Cynane was right, perhaps Brigid was determined she should be a mother.
Charis glanced at the oils and lotions that littered the bed and then back up at Tertius, as if confused. Reluctantly and incredibly slowly she began to place them one by one into the little wooden box of Hector's that also sat on the bed. She took her time, arranging each one perfectly and spinning them around in their box until she was satisfied. When she was done, she closed the lid with a little snap and silently moved from the bed to hold it aloft for him to take.
"You know they say exercise is good for a child, domine." She said with a little apathetic shrug. She wasn't asking him to leave the room, only highlighting a potential flaw in his plan. She couldn't really care less one way or another, but she knew her mind would start to suffer eventually if she was locked in these four walls for much longer. She didn't have the sense, at that moment, to see her fragile mental health had already slipped.
Venturing further - and still standing before him - she tipped her head to the side to study his face. It looked familiar, but the irritation on it was evident - an expression she hadn't seen on him in months. She had been so careful for so long after all. "And may I ask what happens...after?" Her hand fell to her stomach, still flat but likely to begin showing over the next week or two - the medicus had said.
Charis chuckled and shook her head; "That would be perfect. Germania is where my dominus fought and where his brother went mad." She'd heard the stories on the grapevine from the other slaves in the house, "We could build our own little house by a river and spend all day teaching the locals all about Rome and how to fight them - or you could at least," She chuckled, "And I could mind the house." It was a pipe dream - obviously - and nothing more, but Charis, not for the first time, had thought that to run and make it that far would surely not be so difficult? She wasn't branded and her accent was lessening day by day. She thought with her diminutive size she could likely pass undetected and if she were stopped, claim she was a freedwoman. But sense told her it would be a mistake; the punishment should she be recovered didn't bare thinking about for herself, and her friends in the house and in Rome.
Glancing at her friend she sighed softly. "It will get better, one day, for both of us." She was never usually an optimist - she prided herself on being more sensible than that, but dark times called for drastic measures.
Still on the same train of thought, and deciding to distract herself from her woes as best she could, she studied her friend and ventured; "Have you thought of what you'd do if your domina freed you? I mean..." She didn't want to tempt fate, but surely Claudia Caesaris would reward her bodyguard for such bravery on the road eventually? Surely chains of slavery were no longer suitable for such a friend and confidant? "Your domina would be mad to keep you as you are..." Charis only wished she had such value to her dominus. She was acutely aware that the only thing she brought to the table for him was a pretty face and a youthful body.
Charis shrugged thin shoulders at his question and stayed silent for a while, working the cream into her hands with almost religious concentration. When she was done, she finally uncrossed her legs from under her and moved to stand. She was, despite being off the bed, still a good head and a bit shorter than him at her diminutive height. Nonetheless, the curiously blank expression on her face was enough to make even the tallest, broadest men cautious in her presence.
"You wished for me to be honest, domine." She shrugged again and stared him down - the distance between them not far at all, "And so I was. I will not change my mind on that - but I apologise if you were offended." Her lips worked into a wry smile. The fool's apology, her father had called it, when one apologised that another took offence without directly apologising for the words themselves.
Shrugging limply again, and as if bored, she turned her back to him and moved to sit on the edge of the bed - and resumed her examination of Hector's pots and vials.
Charis' face creased in upset. That stung. She knew Cynane had the sense to go digging if Charis did not turn up at their pre-arranged meeting, but she just hoped she learnt the truth. And what of Rufus? Aia? Were they to think she died, bleeding and alone in her bed? The thought briefly crossed her mind that Teutus would be able to do nothing to help her - even if he wished to - if she were confined to these four walls on his fathers instruction but she said nothing. Instead, as he turned to leave she only said; "I will see you in a week domine." and let him stride from the room with no further ceremony.
The first half of the week itself passed easily enough. The first few days - overcome with tiredness - she spent dozing in her bed, only woken up by visits from the medicus or Jocasta purposefully clattering her food down on the small table. It was only when she started to feel brighter, some five days after Tertius' visit, that the silence became deafening. Or, rather, the silence of her space coupled with the loudness of the rest of the house. She heard Antonia Varia's giggling as she skipped past the curtained doorway; she heard Teutus' voice in discussion with a slave and she heard the gossiping of Hector just out of the confines of her would-be cell. Inside the room, however, everything was deathly still.
She spent her time humming to herself, old songs she had learnt as a child, and rifling through Hector's belongings. Her fingers skirted the jars and pots of his various lotions and potions and briefly the thought crossed her mind that ingesting them might make this situation end. It was the same thought that occurred to her when she glanced at her dinner knife. But those musings left quickly enough - to take her life would be a victory for Tertius in a way, and she would not allow that. Besides - she'd only recently begun a relationship again with her sister and to end it all would be too painful for sweet Ardra to endure, she knew that.
When - at the end of her week of isolation - the curtain was drawn back, Charis glanced dispassionately up. She was better now - still pale, but almost recovered and looked healthier than she had previously. She was sat on her bed - but over the sheets, cross legged and applying some of Hector's creams to her hands. She'd neatly braided her hair into two plaits that fell to her waist and for the occasion - almost in mockery - had donned the exquisitely fine chiton Tertius had gifted her. She said nothing as he entered and instead went back to her task of rubbing the moisturising lotion into her hands.
Charis smiled wryly, "It seems there's plenty of Britons in Rome - maybe one of those will do for you." She's heard familiar accents and their words across the markets and the gardens upon occasion. It wasn't too far fetched to believe there must be freedmen amongst them that would be delighted at the prospect of taking Cynane for a wife, should the bodyguard ever earn her freedom, or be awarded it. The latter seeming much more likely - although she didn't say as much - given her domina's evident like of her.
But she listened in silence and with pain on her face as Cynane continued to speak and she felt a wave of guilt roll and crash over her like the sea in a storm. "I...I'm sorry..." She offered weakly. Here she was, upset - distraught - at having a child and Cynane might not ever be afforded such an opportunity. She tried to offer some comfort and glanced up at the taller woman; "Brigid works in mysterious ways...perhaps she thought those men not worthy of seeding Cinnia's child." It would make sense, she thought, but did that mean Brigid thought Tertius was worthy? She tried not to think of it.
Trying to be comforting, she continued; "And if it does not happen...then you just have to think of twenty years from now - when we are middle aged women, back home in Britannia in the warm summer with children - adopted or not running round our feet as we wished for a time without them." She could see the image clear as day in her mind, and knew she needed to keep onto that hope.
Charis kept her furious gaze on the ceiling, tears of frustration still running down her cheeks as she did. She listened to him, apathetic to the threat - or instruction rather, seeming as he seemed to have made his mind up. She scoffed, feeling utterly and completely unafraid. Did he not realise she'd been confined to a cage for months on her journey to Rome? Housed in a pen in the slave market? Confinement to a luxurious room (decorated to Hector's specifications no less) was hardly a hardship.
"I will see you in seven months then." She said with a little shrug, laughing hoarsely, "With your child in my arms and a grin on my face because I will not apologise." She swallowed and wiped away the tears with the back of her hand. She flicked her gaze dispassionately to him, a curious look in her eyes; one of deep resentment but unbridled peace. She felt free, even if she was about to be imprisoned in a room. Saying what she felt, not caring for her life was breathtakingly liberating.
She decided to push it further; "Or sell me, if you'd rather." She shrugged limply and turned her face back to the ceiling, watching the shadows again and picturing herself as a girl - awed by her fathers ability to make his hands appear as animals and monsters in the shadows. "I do not think you know, domine," She continued in a soft voice, "How little I care about what happens to me now." What was left unsaid, of course, was that she did deeply care about what happened to her child. The best scenario, for her, in that moment, was that the child did not live. Either of the other two options open to her right now; enslaved under Tertius or freed by him were unpalatable for their own distinct reasons.