They walked towards the booksellers with their many scrolls and the smell of paper and ink. Felix wondered if Callista had books in mind already, or if they were going to browse. Or maybe ask. He had to admit, he was not sure what the domina normally liked to read.
"Plays, poetry, mythology, anything that I believe the domina might enjoy. She tends to read story's that somewhat mimic her life, the story of a hero who leaves for honorable reasons and then returns to his dutifully waiting wife, and when he returns there is celebration and they never part again."
Callista smiled, and Felix chuckled. She clearly had an affection for her domina, and the story she'd lived through. Maybe they had the kind of bond that Felix and Aulus shared. Either way, he turned his mind to the task, and he immediately had to admit that he was not an expert on books.
"So... the Odyssey?" he ventured with a smirk. He was fairly sure domina had already read that, but it was the classic story about waiting and return. His mother told him the story when he was little. Most of it, anyway.
“I bet you know, if you think about it.”
Oh, he knew. It was not that hard to get it, even without the amused laugh. Felix was just not sure where Alexius was going with all this. A good-looking, free man like him, an ex-gladiator even, had better places ti fish for attention than with someone like Felix.
“Your master… never asked you to massage him? Or to please him… in bed?”
Alexius probably did not realize he made a mistake until Felix's amused smile disappeared. Flirting was one thing; private information about his master's habits, that was quite another. Here, Felix knew exactly where his loyalties were.
"That is not a question you should ask." he said quietly, but firmly. No one faulted Roman men for taking their pleasure with their slaves, but it was still a private matter, and not something Felix would talk to a stranger about.
"Has he ever done anything particularly loyal, maybe during your flight or in Britannia, which I don't know about?"
Felix wanted to be useful to Horatia; her idea was good, and he knew Aulus would be impressed with the effort and caring she put into it. He sifted through his memories of the years he'd spent by Aulus' side. He knew his master way loyal, because he kept his given word to everyone, including Felix. But being good to a slave was probably not something someone his rank wanted to read on his list of main accomplishments.
"The flight was an act of loyalty, in a way." he noted. He was sure Horatia already had that on the list, though. He mused some more. "I once... saw him save a man, back in Britannia. We were crossing a river at high water, it was raining, and one of the soldiers lost his footing... Dominus went after him before anyone else, and just... got a hold of him until others got there to help. He earned a lot of respect from the men that day."
Felix never considered learning a trade, but it made sense that he would have to, if he was ever freed and sent from Aulus' household. Slaves with trade skills were more valuable, and had better treatment in most places; he was lucky that his loyalty and services were enough for his master. Then again, their life was not a usual one by any stretch.
"Yes, like a craftsman, perhaps. There are smiths, weavers, wood-workers, barbers and so on."
Felix wondered which one he could learn, and do well enough. He tried to imagine himself as a barber, or a baker, or a smith. The world of crafts was a whole different world, not one that usually came close to the Domus. He mused about the possibilities for a moment before he caught Alexius' playful look.
"You do seem to have good and strong hands, Felix. I bet you can do amazing things with those."
Now, Felix was not good at flirtation. Honestly, it had not been a part of his life. Aulus never flirted, just commanded, as a master would, even if he was a considerate one. Men and women approached him occasionally, either by trade or out of genuine interest, and in those cases Felix understood what they wanted he just... never really had the occasion, or the freedom, to respond. Even so, he noticed the innuendo in Alexius' comment. The man was good-looking and easy-going, but it still surprised Felix that he would waste his attention on someone else's slave. He glanced down at his own hands, then back at Alexius, tilting his head.
Callista accepted his explanation. In his mind, he really was along to keep her company, and keep her from being jostled by the crowds of the Forum too much. It was not as safe to be a woman, especially a slave woman, in Rome as it was for a man. And he had time to spare.
"Alright. Well thank you, I'm sure your presence alone will help."
Felix smiled a little, and pulled himself up a little taller. He knew his presence was usually enough to keep people away (not always, but at least in the daylight). They headed to the Forum, which was only a short walk away from the domus.
"I was planning on the Forum for books but for wool it all depends on quality and price, I imagine we'll have to do a bit of browsing"
"That's alright" Felix nodded. He had time, and there was always a lot to see on the Forum. He'd leave the wool thing up to Callista's expertise. As they got near the Forum the crowds grew. Felix marched along, his presence keeping people from crowding too close to them. For now. He directed his steps towards the Vicus Tuscus, where the booksellers had their wares. "What kind of books do you have in mind?"
"Sometimes it's just the thing you feel most satisfied doing... I worked with horses before I became a gladiator. I guess that's why they picked me, because I was good with beasts? And I did always want to fight, since I was a kid. I just never imagined I'd fight for other people's pleasure, but that's how it went..."
Felix wondered as they walked: what did he feel the most satisfied doing? A day's tasks done well were always a satisfaction; being useful for the household, and serving Aulus well. Beyond that... he did not have favorite pastimes that he could think of. Certainly none that could be an occupation for a free man. Alexius was good with horses and beast, and liked to fight, so he became a gladiator, and continued to be a guard for hire after he earned his freedom.
"Maybe you're good at working with your hands?"
Felix arched an eyebrow, considering the question that he found a little amusing. "You mean... like a craftsman? Or something else?" Slaves usually gave massages, at the baths and to their masters in the household. But that was hardly an occupation for a free man either...
"wool, for spinning, and any books I think she may enjoy"
Felix nodded, acknowledging the shopping list. Wool he did not know much about, but he was intrigued that the domina trusted Callista enough to send her out for buying books. And not even specific ones. Felix did not shop for books often, but he was curious to participate in the search.
"Do you know why you were asked to accompany me?... not that I mind you being here, I just am curious if there is a specific reason"
Felix paused for a moment. He suspected what the real reason was, but it would have been a grave mistake to mention that to Callista. Especially without any proof of the dominus' reasons. So he tried to make his best alternative guess. Felix did not like to lie.
"Well... he didn't really say. But the last time I accompanied the domina to the market, the crowd was fairly... hard to manage, occasionally. I guess dominus thought I could be of help. To get around easier." he shrugged "I don't know about wool, but I know there are good booksellers on the Forum. Do you have a plan for which way to go?"
@Laria (don't forget to tag me like this so I can see when you post 😉 )
If Callista had said no to his company, Felix would have let the whole idea go. His dominus told him to accompany her, but he could keep her safe just as well from a distance, without bothering her with conversation. She seemed like a woman who did not mind keeping her own company. Still, he hoped they could go together. It seemed unfair not to know much about Callista after spending so much time in the same household.
"It's alright, your company is more than welcome. shall we?"
Felix nodded with a smile and fell into step next to her as they left the house.
"You are running errands for the domina, right? What are we looking to buy?"
Aulus was nothing if not pragmatic. He put his money where his mouth was, and never passed up an opportunity when it presented itself. He also never forgot a promise he'd made, even to a slave. In this case, it had been more of a good-natured suggestion, but still, it was more than a little conspicuous that he decided to send Felix on this errand in particular.
The body slave waited in the vestibulum of the house for Callista to show up. She was going to the market to run errands for her domina, and Aulus, in a moment of matter-of-fact inspiration, had instructed Felix to accompany her. Claiming that he could keep Callista safe while also keeping her company (and carrying things she might buy), Aulus waved Felix off for the afternoon.
Honestly, Felix did not know much about Callista. They lived and worked in the same household, her serving the domina, and him being Aulus' shadow. Neither of them was very chatty or open, so apart from the occasional short, polite conversation, they never really spent time together before today. Felix was curious about the secretive young woman, but he had no idea what to expect from being sent out together like this. He just hoped she didn't think it was too much of a bother.
"Callista" he greeted her with a nod when she finally showed up, on her way out "Dominus told me to accompany you to the market. I hope that's alright."
"I certainly didn't! But I may be a bad example, it seems I'm unable to settle down at all."
Some people lucked into a happy, content marriage. Aulus certainly did, which is why he seemed to think marriage was the reason for happiness and not the other way around. Alexius seemed to have other opinions on the whole thing, but Felix decided not to ask.
"If you're no fighter and also no scholar... what would you say you are, then?"
Felix paused, thinking about the question. It did not sound hard to answer... and yet it was. What was he, if he was not Aulus' body slave? If he wasn't a fighter or a scholar or a businessman?...
"I... am honestly not sure." he admitted with a half-hearted chuckle "I don't even know how to go about finding out. I'm just... me?"