Aia chuckled. She could tell that Erea did not miss the cheer in her voice, but she was not going to jump straight into bragging about how well she'd been doing. It was probably not nice, compared to anyone who was not free. Like Erea and her family.
"No...not yet. But my sister. She's a slave in another Senators house in Rome and my dominus is going to allow me to see her tomorrow."
"That's amazing!" Aia noted with an honest smile "Well... not the slave part. But you found her!"
Silver linings. At least the girl was alive. She hoped the brother was, too. He had been overly protective, but not a bad person.
"A-and what have you been doing? To get used to living as a Roman woman?"
"I'm... starting to like it." Aia grinned "Still not as cool as being a Roman man, but oh well. It has its perks."
'I like irises. I hope he does too.'
Aia was not new to the concept of men liking men, although in Rome it seemed less about romance and more about... well, other things. As far as she knew. But as someone who had lived as a man for years, she was not really in any position to judge. And looking at the blush, the young man seemed kind of cute, bright eyed and bushy tailed. Ah, young love.
"I'm sure he will." she reiterated with a cheerful smile "Is that what you do then? Gardening?... Or is your name just a coincidence?"
'Aia. Where are you from, Aia?'
"Gaul" she answered with a smile. He could tell she was not a Briton, since she had an accent, but she was not really from Italia either. A lot of people had trouble placing her in a neat bracket, even now that she was dressing as a woman. She was used to it. "But I spent some time in Britannia."
On the wrong side of Briton swords and spears, but he did not need to know that just yet. Instead, she was curious how he ended up here, buying flowers.
"I see" Aia grinned "Well, it's a nice flower. I'm sure she'll appreciate it."
'Florus. And you are?'
"Aia." Florus was probably not his real name, but she did not fault him with not trusting her with the real one right away. She knew a thing or two about living under a name that was not really your own, and she had never even been a slave, at the mercy of someone else. The man was probably a few years younger than her, and did not seem to be as overtly defiant as she'd seen with Cynane and Erea, and other "barbarians" freshly brought to Rome. Maybe he was born here from Briton parents? People all had their own stories... "Well, nice to meet you, Florus. Do you haggle for flowers often, or is it for a special someone?"
The flower was purchased, and the young man walked on. Aia strolled along, curious now about who he was and why he was buying flowers.
'Gratitude. You didn't have to do that.'
"Oh, I know" Aia grinned, speaking in the Britonnic dialect he'd talked in earlier "But it's not like I have anything better to do."
Aia was not technically a barbarian, having been born in the provinces, but she'd made friends with enough Britons recently to be interested in the young man's fate. Besides, she really did have nothing better to do at the moment, and she liked meeting interesting people.
"What's your name?"
Taken aback by the intervention, the merchant peered at the tablet.
'I'm no one,'
Well, not you, your dominus, Aia wanted to say, but all she did was roll her eyes. The guy looked a little sheepish, with the merchant glaring at him. His tablet must have had a prominent name on it, though, or Aia's bluff really paid off, because in the end the man huffed, handing over the iris. For half the price. Aia just hoped that was good enough, because honestly she had no idea how much flowers cost in general. She'd let the Briton puzzle that out himself.
"Thank you!" she beamed at the merchant when it was all said and done. The man was still staring daggers at her.
The Emporium Magnum was always a place to behold. When Aia had free time, it was fun to walk around in, even if she didn't have money to spend. There was a lot to see (and a lot to smell), and to marvel at all the stuff the Romans decided to sell. (Well. To pilfer, transport, and then sell, most often). She had some time off today, so she was once again wandering aimlessly, looking at fabrics, shiny things, spices, and... greenery?
'Are you serious? That plant is not worth that price!'
Aia smirked as she looked in the direction of the voice. Someone haggling over a plant? Fun! And just in that moment, the frustrated-looking young man switched languages.
'Do you take me for a moron? You're a thief, that's what you are!'
Aia's eyebrows rose. She didn't hear Britonnic very often in Rome anymore. Not unless she was talking to Cynane or Erea. What were the odds?
"Speak Latin, barbarian!" the plant merchant snapped. Aia rolled her eyes as she walked closer. Might as well chime in.
"You know damn well what he's saying" she noted, glancing up a the young slave. She noted the tablet around his neck. She gave the merchant a glare "Do you know whose slave this is? Huh? You want your merchandise in that domus or not?" she folded her arms "You better be someone important" she muttered in Britonnic under her breath.
"I-I'm fine I..."
Erea burst out laughing. Aia blinked in surprise; she'd genuinely asked if she was about to drop a baby by the fountain, because fuck if she knew how these things worked (she should probably find out, though, a small voice said in the back of her mind). At least she was laughing now, and looked a lot less pale and dizzy. Aia smiled too.
"No...no not for a while, not for another couple of months at least. I just felt sick, that's all. It happens less now but spices set me off... So...you have my news...how have you been?"
Oh, good. No dropping babies just yet. Aia chuckled and leaned back, placing her basket on the ground.
"I have been... well. Pretty good, actually." she tried to remember all that had happened since their last meeting. It was a lot. And mostly called Decimus. "Getting used to living as a Roman woman, I guess." she tilted her head at Erea "Did you ever... get news of your brother?"
Erea - Charis? - recognized her, and Aia smiled. Last time they had met at the baths, and talked about their past, but then they lost touch for a long while and... well, things had apparently changed. Erea was not standing up, so Aia took a seat next to her on the edge of the fountain.
"It is a small world. What...what are you doing here?"
"Shopping" Aia answered, it was kind of a non-answer, but the obvious one, given where they were sitting. "Are you... feeling alright? You are looking a little pale... wait, are you about to have a baby?" The thought just occurred to Aia, and she was not entirely sure what she would do if the answer was yes.
Aia was about to greet Charis, but the woman brushed past her without stopping and hurried to the fountain. She looked pale... and also heavier than she had before. Aia followed her with her gaze, staring in surprise, watching as she splashed water on her face. Was she feeling sick?... The reality only dawned on her when Charis turned around and leaned against the fountain, her belly suddenly obvious.
Aia walked over, ignoring the looks some people were giving to the pregnant woman. Get a life, idiots.
"Erea" she smiled in greeting "Fancy seeing you again!"