He knew Cynane, or at least knew of her, and his opinion was clear from his tone. Aia smirked. She liked Cynane, and if Longinus didn't, it was his loss. Cynane probably didn't like him very much either.
"I am a Senator, polite society is all I have."
"My condolences" Aia grinned. She knew she was pushing the boundaries of propriety (from the wrong side), but it was too much fun not to tease since he'd made some jabs about polite society first.
"But I'm reconnecting with old friends who aren't quite as dull as they first appear... Speaking of old friends, I better leave you to your duties. I have better things to do than chastise you. I'll be seeing you around I'm sure Aia."
Aia caught the apple and grinned back, waving with her free hand.
"I am sure you will. It has been nice seeing you again, sir."
And with that, now there were three people in the City of Rome who knew her secret.
"Oh? I'm surprised the lovely domina is giving you enough free time to make friends."
"I'm a tutor." Aia reiterated. The 'not a slave' part went unspoken. Sure, Flavia Juliana kept a tight schedule in her household, but Aia, given her position, had more free time than many others.
Anybody I'd know? Anybody who knows about what you've been up to? Polite society isn't always particularly welcoming."
She smirked at the question. She knew where Longinus was headed, but she had no intention of letting him win this one.
"Only my best friends know what I have been up to" she noted with a smirk "I have met quite a few interesting people in the city... a woman who runs a popina, for example, can you imagine? Some women who work in the baths. Oh, and a Briton gladiatrix. She's a personal bodyguard to the princess. Making friends with a Briton, who would have thought... How about you? Making any friends in polite society?"
"Yes and the moment men learn to control themselves after being separated from women for years, then I'll get you your post back."
"Hey, it's not my fault your men can't control themselves. That sounds like a you problem." Aia grinned back. She had never been quite this cheeky with an officer, back when she was serving in the legions. Keeping her head down was key to survival. Burt right now, he was someone who had no power over her anymore, and also someone who shared a past with her. And he was already frustrated about the whole thing anyway.
"Do you miss it? Britannia?"
She thought about that for a moment. Did she?
"I don't miss the place. Or the crazy stark naked blue people." she said finally "But I do miss the legion, in a way... even as interprex, I had more freedom when I was a man. And... more friends. Although I am starting to make some new ones now." she added with a smirk.
"Gods you must be bored shitless."
Aia chuckled at the comment. At least Longinus was not railing at her anymore, and he was not awkwardly trying to treat her as a woman either. It was refreshing. Wrong, since she did not mind being bored occasionally, but definitely refreshing. Besides, it was not like she could enlighten him about all the clandestine meetings she had been having, and bandits she had been fighting since she came to Rome.
"And that's the plan now then, hm? Be a languages tutor, grow your hair, Have a few kids, retire? You were talented. It's a waste."
"D'aww" Aia grinned at him. Going soft, was he? "Yes on the hair, undecided on the kids. I'd need to hook a lucrative husband first... But I appreciate the sentiment. The moment the legions decide to judge people based on their abilities rather than what's between their legs, I promise I will go back to serving. How is that?"
Aia could still scarcely believe that they had survived the attack. It had been a close call. Too close. Some god must have guided Cynane's hand, because if the gladiatrix had missed her one shot when she threw her weapon, all of them would have been dead by now, or dragged into slavery. As things stood, they were still pretty much screwed.
The horses had run away, but they slowly wandered back once the danger was gone. Still, there was no way they were going to make it back to Rome before dark, not injured and worn as they were. Decimus still had the arrow in his shoulder; there was a chance he would bleed out if they tried to remove it on the roadside. Aia had shredded her already torn palla, and made a sling for his arm, and some bandages. But they needed to find shelter, and fast.
The last place she wanted to go was Flavia Juliana's villa. But it was also the closest place to go where they would find shelter. Juliana was her domina, and related to Claudia, so while she was likely to explode like the Vesuvius when she found out about this little adventure, she was also the most likely to help. They could make it there together, with the help of the horses, keeping an eye out for danger. Luckily (Fortuna was in a good mood today), they did not meet anyone on the road. Just as well; Aia could imagine what they looked like when they showed up at the villa's door: Claudia drenched in blood, Cynane wearing victorious war paint, Aia covered in dirt with one eye swelled shut, and Decimus with an arrow in him and supported by the rest of them.
The slave at the door took one look, and ran yelling for Flavia Juliana like the building was on fire.
Oh, there would be consequences.
@Gothic @Atrice @Sains @Jenn
Aia was quiet for a while after Priscilla's words. She knew a lot of people like her had a lot of practice in saying exactly what the customer wanted to hear... but damn, it almost worked. Did she have buried emotions somewhere? How would she even know? And what kind of a good change should she be expecting?...
"So... I guess you won't give me any suggestions for suitable brides, huh." she smirked finally "Maybe I'll have to work on bringing the man himself here after all. Maybe you can tell him he has hidden emotions too."
"I don't blame myself, Aius...Aia. I blame my pissing juniors who should have seen straight through you, I didn't spend enough time with you, that wasn't my job."
Well, that was one way to explain the embarrassment away. Aia kept herself from pointing out that some of his juniors did notice; there was no use getting Decimus into trouble as well. And she had already pointed out that she was pretty good at passing as a man.
Longinus huffed and puffed and eventually ran out of anger. Aia had no doubt her domina was going to hear about this, but at least he was not dragging her to the judges right now.
"And how is being a woman treating you? Missing the legions already, I suspect?"
"Not really." she shrugged with a smirk "Being a woman and having my own job is pretty comfortable. The dresses are annoying, and there is less freedom than when I was a man... but my skills are the same. And there are less barbarians trying to murder me on a daily basis."
Longinus was not taking the news particularly well, but at least he was not trying to punch her just yet. The fact that her domina knew the truth took the venom out of his threats for sure.
"Of course Tuscus decided to promptly send you home without even a reprimand,"
"Oh, I was reprimanded." the Proconsul had been furious, in fact, just like Longinus. But also out of better options.
"And you think the men that found out haven't spread it round the legions? Spreading dissent?"
"I know for a fact they haven't. But that's the Proconsul's story to tell."
"Why didn't you just cross ranks and join the bloody Britons as a warrior woman if you were so bloody keen to fight, Aius?"
"I wasn't trying to fight, I was trying to survive. You think I should have done that and treason?" she tilted her head. Longinus was a threatening person when angered, but he wasn't her superior anymore.
"Gods you...how can... And Flavia knows?"
"She does." Aia sighed "She was not happy about it, but I'm doing a decent job of being a tutor so far. And a woman. I don't plan on being anything else anytime soon." she paused "Don't blame yourself too much. I was raised to pass as a boy from an early age."
"You've still not explained how you are now in the employ of one of most important families in the Empire."
Fortuna has the hots for me.
Aia sighed. This conversation was not going well. Longinus might not have been the cleverest of people, but even he was not dumb enough to believe her pretense. The thing with passing for a man... once they saw the truth, it was hard to unsee. Longinus kept on pacing, obviously missing the nuance of what she was trying to say.
"I will give you one more chance to explain before I write to the Governor, or better yet, wait until your domina returns and I'll ask her - lay out my suspicions. There'll be punishment plenty from one of them, if not both, I'm sure."
Well then. Aia smirked. She was sure she'd be punished if Longinus went to the domina... just not for the thing he thought. She kept quiet for a while, weighing her options.
"Some people knew, you know." she said finally with a sigh "One because he saved my life when I got stabbed in a raid. And four because they tired to beat me up. The case went all the way to the Proconsul, and he decided to take the lesser of two disasters, and sent me here. Because the other option would have been for everyone to find out a woman had been serving in the legions for years. Not that I had much of a choice."
"Lice?... Don't tempt me."
Was she getting away with this? Longinus was becoming more and more frustrated. He even started throwing things. Aia hoped Flavia Juliana was not going to arrive home early, because it would have been hard to explain how she managed to upset a guest so badly he was doing damage to the property. But at least he didn't actually ask her to show her tits like some Greek prostitute on trial.
"I think your lying. And I think you know who I am and I think three years ago we were in Britannia and I sent you to Petuaria to go and get intelligence on their insurrections. And I want to know - if your Aius' twin sister, how on earth you ended up in the employ of one of the Imperials? His connections weren't that good."
That... actually was a very good question.
"Well... he sent me away from Britannia because he wanted me to be safe." she answered tactfully, still holding Longinus' gaze. This was not really about lying anymore as much as plausible deniability. "Since we look a lot alike, it would have been... a problem, if someone somehow got the idea that there was a woman in the legions. It would have been very embarrassing for the officers to... make that kinda mistake."