Clio could tell that her sister finally realized who Lexus was, because her expression immediately changed from open flirtation to keen assessment. Thalia was many things, but she was never the girl who would flirt with her sister's... interest.
“This is Lexus? I’ve heard about you, I’m glad to finally meet you!”
Clio blushed ever deeper. Now it sounded like she had been talking about him... which she had, but he didn't need to know that! Too late, Thalia was carrying the conversation.
“I’m her twin sister, in case you didn’t guess.”
It was obvious, but judging by Lexus' expression, he needed a moment to process anyway. It was always awkward when people gawked at how much alike the two of them looked.
“Salve, both of you. I’m… glad to meet you too. And you. I didn’t know if I’d see you again.”
"I... things happened" Clio admitted, not sure what to say "Family things. And then there was the earthquake, and then Grandfather sent us out of Rome for the summer, so..." so that they would not be around the chaos caused by the insulae collapsing and people being on the streets "... um. So, we just returned recently. I... didn't know if I'd see you either. Are you... alright?"
"That sounds like a good plan. I imagine you know what that statue is supposed to look like? He looks like he's in pain."
"It's the Dying Gaul" Clio specified with a smile. She liked sharing things she knew with her sister. Thalia was rarely interested in history or sciences, but she could listen when she wanted to. "It was carved after King Attalus of Pergamon's victory over the Gauls. And brought here after another King Attalus bequethed Pergamon to Rome in..."
Clio could tell she'd already lost Thalia's attention the moment she noticed a young man standing nearby. Young men were always more interesting to her than history. Clio chuckled, and was about to say something...
"Hello... I hope I didn't disturb you? But now I have your attention... would you mind helping us with something?"
... and then he turned to look, and Clio lost her train of thought.
It was Lexus.
Clio could feel herself grow red in the face, as she clutched her basket, trying to figure out what to say, as if she had not been chatting about kings just a moment before. Thalia already her her signature charming smile on her face.
"... Lexus." Clio cleared her throat "Salve."
“Of course, your studies. That’s the only reason you’d come here... I imagine it’s beautiful when there are not camps all over.”
Clio blushed a little at her sister's comment. She did value her studies, but she also hoped she would eventually meet Lexus again. The gardens had been a nice place. Now they sheltered people who needed help, but that did not really take away from their beauty.
“Should we give them some things? Come.”
Clio followed her sister, looking around for a place where they could set up their baskets to hand out what they had brought. Nearby she could see the statue of the Dying Gaul; it still stood, which made her smile. It was too good a piece of art to be destroyed by the earthquake.
"How about we set up over there?" she pointed, changing directions to walk over to the statue. As they came nearer, people were beginning to notice they were carrying things, and began to move closer too. Clio looked at her sister; she was the braver of the two when it came to dealing with strangers.
The gardens had changed a lot since she'd last been there. Clio followed her sister, stepping carefully and glancing around. There were people still camping out there, sleeping on blankets and under makeshift tents they hung on trees and bushes. It was not the same place where she conducted peaceful observations before. And they reminded him of someone she had not seen in a long time.
She had been planning on going back to meet Lexus again. Whatever Thalia might have thought, Clio took a liking to the young man. As a friend, and someone willing to participate in wild experiments with patience. Sure, she could not meet him alone again, but Thalia was willing to come along. But then family things happened, and then the earthquake hit, and then they left Rome... she had no way to send a message to Lexus about any of that. She wasn't even sure if he was still in Rome, or if he'd... been hurt in the earthquake. She felt a mix of guilt and regret about all of that.
And now they were here, to help those who needed it. It was good to do something useful like that. Not much of a young noblewoman's life ever felt useful to Clio, other than learning - but even that was only useful to her, not to others. She carried a large bundle of clothes as she walked alongside Thalia. She was a little shy about doing charity work herself, and she let her sister take the lead.
“Have you been here since the earthquake?”
"I haven't" Clio admitted. "It has... never been the right time for my studies..."
So much had happened since the spring, when Clio for the first time told her sister about the boy she met in the gardens. With whom she swapped clothes and wore boy’s clothes for a little while. And he wore hers! It was scandalous, really, but she had kept her promise and not told a single soul about it. They were twins, they’d always been together and Septima believed she would always love her sister and be loyal to her. They were very different apart from the fact that they looked almost exactly alike. But they were still sisters. Clio could trust her.
They’d talked about Clio going to see the boy again and Septima would come along, so it at least wouldn’t be the two of them meeting alone. And maybe she was also a little bit curious about this boy, Lexus. But time moved on and they had not gotten a chance during the first month after and then it was suddenly May and their birthday. And then summer came and parties and events and then an earthquake shattered Rome! While the damages in their home had been repaired, the twins had been sent to spend time with relatives outside of Rome.
And now it was suddenly fall and thoughts of the boy gardener Lexus were far away. The twins had other things to think about. After the earthquake, some people became homeless and some of them had settled in small camps the gardens in Rome - and it was decided in the family that the twins should go and hand out a little bit of food and clothes they had outgrown, to the homeless. Septima held a large sack with bread and fruit and her sister had the other sack with the clothes.
Together they ventured to the Gardens of Sullust to hand out their items. As they came nearer the gardens, she looked at Clio. They spent much time together, but not all time, of course, so she was curious about how it looked like behind the walls to the gardens. She wasn't even sure she'd ever been here at all, “Have you been here since the earthquake?”