She did like him. A lot, apparently, and not just because he was a nice piece of man to look at. From what Aia gathered, he had been a patrician before he was a vigile. Which was, indeed, curious. But it also meant Ovinia would not marry him. Poor girl.
"Better make some good memories, then, huh" she noted with a soft smile. "I'm sorry, though. That, you know. You can't be together."
"You really trust those people" Aia observed. She loved Decimus and his loyalty; she trusted him, so by definition she trusted those he trusted. Even though she felt herself way more cynical than him. Romans and their laws, indeed. For now, she was content with sharing her bed with Decimus, being alive. "No one told me it would be this much more dangerous to be a woman around Rome. Maybe I should dress as a man again."
"Children are a blessing. And I think you do yourself a disservice. You have educated me far more than my own mother...I think you have it in you."
Aia grinned and chuckled, but somehow, Ovinia's words touched her. It was sad to think a mother would not tell these things to her daughter (provided she knew them at all). Maybe, she wouldn't be terrible at it.
"I know that type well. I have been flirted with, or groped even at too many parties to count. I think they see any woman as a challenge, no matter what she looks like. But I just...it is difficult. I had...been so set on a path. Everything in my life had been building to it - a husband, children, honour, duty. And...now I find myself adrift."
"Because you like him?" Aia ventured. Of course she did. She'd kissed him and everything. Poor baby girl. She had a crush, and no way of turning it into something decent on the long run.
The look in Aia's eyes softened as she smiled.
"I do want a family with him, I think. I just... never saw myself as the mothering type. Maybe it will take a few more years of living as a woman." Decimus would make a good father though. She already knew that.
"If it meant to be, you will find the time. And the place. Or he will." She chuckled. "He seemed to really care about you. That's precious. Some men just want the conquest and their own pleasure."
"But...I would still have to bare my body for him, would I not? I..."
"Yeah. You would." Aia nodded with an amused smile.
"I have been brought up to believe that such an honour is for my husband. It...feels wrong to think of doing such a thing with another...surely if the Gods intended for that to be the case, such knowledge would be more widespread? Or more women would..."
"I don't really think the gods have anything to do with it." Aia noted with a shrug. "Not with the spread of information, anyway. From what I can tell, many women... especially patrician women... don't really know any of this, even after getting married. And the lucky ones that do don't... movie in the same social circles." she gave Ovinia a pointed look. "I know I am lucky because I really have nothing to lose, by being with Decimus. And we can marry eventually. Although I'm not sold on the childbirth part yet." She shrugged again. "If you ask me, if one's entire life is chalked up to fulfilling her duties... a little fun doesn't hurt. As long as they are smart about it."
"Do yourself a favor, and try it." Aia said with an amused smile. "When you're alone. And obviously, you won't have to tell your husband about it." Men liked their blushing brides all innocent, for some reason. "But here's the thing. That place you touch... that can be touched, without anything entering your vagina. That means, it gives you pleasure, and leaves you a virgin." She chuckled. "If you get an excellent man, they can even kiss you there. And believe me, that's worth it."
"The two are not mutually exclusive. Men do it all the time." Aia smirked. "Besides, you are the one feeling the pleasure. You need to teach your... um, husband, what you like. If you let them guess, that's just bad for everyone involved." she chuckled. Granted, she had no idea what she was doing, her first time with Decimus either. Other than what she knew about herself. Luckily, Decimus was a very attentive man.
Aia looked up at the women; they didn't stop to linger, but they made Ovinia jumpy. They moved over to a secluded spot with a bench, which was good enough. These spots in baths were invented for conversations like this. Maybe exactly like this.
"Alright, good start." Aia thought about what, and how, she wanted to say things. She tried to imagine what she'd have wanted to say, as a girl like her. "Well. That... the whole, man inserting his penis in the vagina, that can be pleasurable too. For him, obviously, but for some women too. But it's not really needed when you're on your own. You just take your fingers, put them between your legs, and see what you like."
Oh, gods. Aia had more work than she'd expected. Because that question was a resounding no.
"Alright... So. Do you know what a woman and a man do together when they have sex?" Most maidens knew at least the basics; if from nothing else, then scribblings on the walls. Romans were not exactly shy about penises, and their many uses. Ovinia seemed sheltered, but she was not a Vestal.
Oh, now they were talking. Ovinia might have been shy, but she was curious. Aia grinned. She wished there was a career in this, like language tutoring. But for women. The would would be a better place.
"That's because most women are married off out of duty, to men they don't desire. And most men, accordingly, are shit at pleasing their women." she noted, keeping he voice low as she lay on the edge of the pool. "Then again, most women are also shit at pleasing themselves. Have you done that yet?"
Three days after 'Everything's Changing', early March 77AD
Ovinia sank into the warm water, letting her eyes drift shut as it eased her sore muscles and soothed inflamed skin. She enjoyed the luxury of the Thermae Aventini, having used cheaper and more distant baths in the immediate aftermath of her injuries when they were still red raw and stitched. But now, nearing three months later, the two injuries - a long neat line down her scapula and a smaller, deeper puckered line on her hip bone were beginning to turn the softer pink of wounds healing. They were not white yet, but the medicus assured her that would come with time. And she had purposefully chosen a quieter time of day to attend so nobody would draw her into conversation and enquire about her provenance. The sun had set recently and it was the hour of cena but that didn't matter to her. It was also cheaper to attend now and a few of the women she could hear chattering had accents which suggested they weren't senatore. She tried her best to stave off irritation at them.
She felt relaxed here, for the first time in days - the first time since that night in the insula - four nights ago now, where it had all happened. Her meeting with Tiberius was two days away on the nones and she had fitful slumber ahead of it. It was why she spent so much coin here - getting the skin of her face freshened with lotions, having her hair washed and braided and pinned up as she took in the warm bath with rosehip and her body smoothed with pumice as she did every month. She felt refreshed, and for once, content as she drifted close to the side, her eyes still shut, enjoying the lapping of the warm water and the soft sounds of a musician somewhere - her notes filtering over the chatter of the few women here. Maybe things would be okay. Just maybe.
February 77AD (after The Night Shift)
Aia was asleep by the time Decimus returned in the morning. It had been quite the long night, compounded with blood loss, so once everyone had gone home, she made her way to bed and fell into a deep sleep. Not so deep, however, that she would't wake up at the sound of the door opening. Old reflexes died hard. She rolled over, seeing Decimus enter, still in the outfid he'd come home in the night before, only to find a whole lot of strangers in their old apartment, a murderer, and Aia being stitched up by the medicus.
Yep. Quite the night.
Her wound still hurt, and Aia frowned as she sat up. Her hair was a sleepy mess, and she rand a hand through it as she blinked at Decimus. She was honestly relieved he was home. "Everything went alright?"
(Right after Whoever brings the night)
Aia was sitting on a chair in the apartment she and Decimus had only recently vacated. No one had moved into it yet, so it was mostly empty. And thus, and excellent place to stash the piece of shit they had just apprehended. While Aia would not have minded just stabbing him right in the alley, Alexius claimed he didn't deserve that. He deserved worse. She liked that idea.
It seemed that a whole lot of people had a bone to pick with this man. Everyone ran everywhere, carrying to news, leaving Aia to get patched up by Theodorus while the two of them waited for the rest to return. Aia had her largest kitchen knife at hand, just in case. And Theo was there to make sure she didn't just stab the man anyway.
Aia frowned, drinking from a cup of unwatered wine as Theo bandaged her wound. It was deep, but not serious; he stitched her up, which hurt like a bitch, and put her in a foul mood. The man on the ground was still unconscious, although he groaned sometimes. Alexius had done a thorough job tying him up like a prize hog, and Theo had helped gag him in case he woke up. He was not going anywhere anytime soon. Or maybe ever.
@Sharpie @Atrice @Sara@Sains
February 77 AD The night following Falling Apart and Crime scene investigations
It was far from the first time he’d killed someone. And it had felt so good when it happened, the feeling of the knife penetrating the flesh, the way the man had doubled over, forcing the knife deeper, all the way to the handle. The way the blood had run over Marcus’ fingers. The way the other man died, the way Marcus touched the wound and the warm blood. Until he realized he needed to flee. The man wore white robes; the man was a Senator of Rome. It was not good. But Marcus was sure it could not be traced back to him…
Or was he? Somehow, what happened tonight made him think to everything else that had happened, since he attacked that girl at Saturnalia. She’d been so afraid. Her blood had been so red and warm. He’d almost wanted to fuck her after he cut her, but then he didn’t, because he thought he killed her. But he didn’t. She lived and she was with a guy named Alexius, who also knew the Egyptian who came to his shop, who knew a mute boy. A mute boy that Marcus thought he'd met sometime. He couldn’t be sure it was the same, but maybe. It seemed like a puzzle, almost impossible to solve, but he knew he had the right pieces. He just had to finish it. If all of this really was connected… it was very bad for him. He knew how they treated murderers. They’d often end up in the arena against some beast of a gladiator and Marcus wouldn’t win such a fight. And he had no death-wish. All he wanted was to do what he’d always done.
The next morning he woke up in his bed. He hadn’t changed, he’d been thinking about the murder until he fell asleep. Then he yelled for Manus to come and help clean him, and his female slave could get him a fresh set of clothes. There was blood on his tunica from yesterday. He told Manus to burn it. Once he’d cleaned up and wore clean clothes, he went down to open the shop as usual. Pretending like nothing happened last night. But then people began coming into the shop to be shaved or have a haircut. And there was gossip. About the important Senator that was murdered in the street last night. And the Vigiles were looking for the murderer. Many people were looking for said murderer. Marcus worried more and more. So much that he felt distracted.
He closed the shop early, locked the chest with blades and once darkness fell, he put his cloak back on. And went out into the night. Towards the Esquiline Hill. He had to solve the puzzle. And he had to attempt removing the people he thought might know too much. He could start with Alexius. Or Artemon, whom he had already shaved once. Artemon might be easiest. Not that he had not killed bigger men before, but why take a risk when you could be safe?
He hid in a dark doorway near the insula, watching the area. Marcus didn’t know if he’d kill them tonight, a murder two nights in a row might not be the best idea. But he needed to see them and needed to think about what he'd do. Then he might at least threaten them. Hurt them. Silence them. Something. And so he waited.
Charis had absolutely no clue where to start. She had been a free woman for closing in on three months now and had still not mastered what that actually, practically meant. She had slipped into her new role fairly seamlessly in the house but pastimes still eluded her. She had been told that most women liked to shop, and fashion. Charis had never cared for such trivialities - not in Britannia when she was free, not when enslaved and not now. Still, she didn't wish to raise Tertius' ire by complaining of boredom so she had taken herself (and a full coin purse) out of the domus and into the markets to try and find something to buy.
The stall was full of overflowing fabrics from every corner of the empire and beyond. Vivid colours and impossible textures assaulted her senses as the trader tried his best to upsell her; "Won't you be needing more than one stola, domina? Or a few palla's for the changing seasons?" Charis didn't know. The clothes she'd been wearing for the last few months had been gifted to her. She didn't actually know what she needed, and didn't know what she liked. She frowned at a bolt of pink fabric. "Is this my colour?" She asked the stallholder, holding it up to see if it suited her complexion. Gods this was mind-numbing.
Early March, 77 CE One of the many, many Roman Walls
The sun was up, the birds chirped and the Roman city was bustling. Caturix had been sent out to find goods for the feast tonight, however, he had more than gotten sidetracked with the amount of people and noise that compared to his vague memories of the rolling hills of his tribe. He moved through, a confidence in his walk not pertaining to a slave, as the Roman citizens looked at him; both disgust and fear in their eyes as they hurried on past the Briton.
It was the scribbles on the walls which had caught his attention, his brow furrowing as he swept a stray strand of blond hair dropped in front of his face. He stepped closer, his head tilting to the side as he brought a finger up to trace the words. There was a lot of it, whatever it said. He knew them to be words, for his Master had tried to teach him enough to get by in the local marketplace aside from what his already learned 'cock' and 'balls' that a small child had pointed out.
February 77 CE
Aia surveyed the empty room with hands on her hips. This apartment was only slightly bigger than the one they had been living in (inside the same insula), but it definitely looked to be in better condition. Or it would be, once it had gotten some renovations done. Mainly, painting.
Decimus and Aia had been living together at the insula for almost a year now (whenever Decimus was not staying at the Castra, that is). It was lovely, being together, surrounded by (mostly) friendly neighbors. But now that the opportunity arose to switch to a better apartment, they decided to take it. Moving up in the world, one small step at a time. Some of the neighbors made comments about starting a family, but Aia did not pay them much heed.
The walls of the new apartment were... not in the best condition. The paint was faded and chipped, and the previous owner apparently had a side business as a prostitute, with appropriate yet crude illustrations on one wall, drawn in chalk. Aia tilted her head, trying to make sense of some of them. They would be gone soon; she had the brushes and the whitewash and the paint to cover it all up. And then maybe decorate the walls with something better. Aia had no artistic training or talent whatsoever. But it was bound to be fun to try...
(End of the year, 76AD, after Winter walk)
Decimus was on duty, and Aia was out of work for the day, so it was a great time to spend a few hours at the baths. Living at the insula, Aia had grown to like the neighborhood, and wandered around the Esquiline hill until she found the best spots for everything. Best food, best markets, best views... and the best baths. Not the biggest or most fancy ones, but the ones that were clean, never overcrowded, smelled nice, and had good water.
As she walked from the tepidarium into the room with the hot water, she discarded her towel, and walked down the steps. Once upon a time, it would have been unthinkable for her to be naked like this around other people - back when everyone thought she was a boy. Sometimes, discarding her clothing still felt like a dangerous thing to do, even in a bath full of women. Not just because of her body, but also because of the scars. She didn't mind them anymore - and Decimus had given her ample reminders he did not mind anything about her body at all - but here in the city, far from the legions, they still got some curious looks from people. Mostly because it was clear there were cuts done by blades, not the usual lash marks of burns carried by slaves and freed people.
Still, she was used to it by now. Aia sighed a contented sigh, entering the hot water, letting her long red hair down.
Attis had grown used to the life of a Legate's personal slave with the Legions in Britannia. He was still growing used to the weather and the wet and the mud, but after that first time tripping over a grass hummock, he hadn't manage anything quite so ignominious again, certainly not where anyone could see. Oh, for paved roads again, though - they were building some outside the fort, but the fort itself was still a ditch, a wooden palisade and rows and rows of tents, with one or two more permanent structures like the bathhouse and the Praetorium and prison.
It hadn't taken him too long to find his way around, Roman army camps were laid out in nice neat straight lines with all the important buildings (or tents) in the middle and the less important ones outside of them and so on, right to the edges of the camp by the palisade. Which meant that at least his master's tent, one of the nice big ones, was near the middle of the camp.
Longinus was elsewhere at the moment, either on the parade square or in the Praetorium, and Attis wasn't needed, so once he'd finished his current chores, he ducked out of the tent for some air somewhere. He pulled his cloak around his shoulders; autumn here might be pretty but there was a chill in the air that he really wasn't used to, and he'd been told it would only get worse as winter wore on.
There was a familiar slight figure up ahead, the interprex Aius - Attis had seen him around, of course. Longinus didn't always dispense with Attis when he was doing Legion business, and occasionally had need of an interpreter while doing Legionary business.
"Salve," he said, stepping out of the way as Aius approached - Attis the slave was marginally beneath Aius the free peregrinus in the grand scheme of things. It seemed they were both going the same way, to the cookhouse for food. Of course.
The insula was definitely not as fancy a living space as a villa, but it was a step up from a military camp, and a lot less awkward than the Castra. After long months of meeting at taverns and hidden places, Aia and Decimus finally concluded that they needed their own place inside the city, even if neither of them could permanently move in just yet. Eventually, they would have a house. At least, Aia had her eyes set on a house now that she was to be a proper Roman wife. But for now, and insula apartment would have to do. And they found one for rent, in a place that was not horribly suspect.
Honestly they did not have a lot of stuff to move in. But Decimus had a day off from his praetorian duties, so Aia was excited to spend it together, exploring their new apartment. And hopefully making it more comfortable. Maybe breaking in the bed. Who knew.
The two of them stood at the bottom of the stairs of the building; Aia was carrying a basket of some pots and utensils and food, while she had passed on a larger bundle of bedding and cleaning supplies to Decimus. People were coming and going. Some of those people were likely their future neighbors.
"Well... let's see what it's like on the inside, shall we?"