Theo busied himself with clearing up some space on the table, and rustling up two chairs that were not covered in scrolls or bandages. Thanks to Astrius, and for medical purposes, there were always several pitchers of wine around, but Theo was having trouble locating two clean cups for drinking at the moment. He was trying his best, happy to spend time with Justinia.
"I'm not really the celebrating type. I wouldn't even know where to start!... What do you think about all of this celebration? I don't think I could get used to all the freedom that everyone has,"
"It's... kind of like a Bacchanalia." Theo noted with a smirk "I think... slaves are supposed to take over their households for the day. So, as Astrius tells me... for tonight, I'd be the servant, and you'd be the domina."
For a moment, Theo thought something was wrong. It was unexpected for Justinia to show up on his doorstep at the Ludus; the owners of Venus would not let one of their prized girls to wander off, especially not to a lace full of gladiators. For a second he thought she was in trouble, or had run away.
"Yeah, everything's fine. I just wanted to come and see you. I haven't seen you for a while so I thought that I might stop by."
"Oh." Theo smiled, relieved, and moved aside. "Come on in, then."
"Oh, I didn't mean to walk in on your work. I can always come back later! I'm so sorry."
"Nonsense" Theo shook his head; he almost reached out to catch her hand to keep her from leaving "It's not work if I don't have a patient. And it's Saturnalia. What better way to spend it than with a friend?... A friend I don't get to see often." he added a little sheepishly "Maybe this strange Roman holiday is good for something after all. Are you out celebrating?"
First time or a hundredth, getting one's skin and flesh stitched up was never a pleasant experience. Alexius cursed and drained his cup, and Felix put weight onto his shoulder, holding his arm steady. Even for a man with iron will, the body often reacted to pain on its own instinctive ways.
"How many... stitches will it be? You think?"
"Four or five should do it" Theodorus hummed, pulling the thread through "Keep steady, I'm working as fast as I can."
He really did. While the experience was far from pleasant, the medicus managed to seal the wound with four stitches well enough. Felix held his position, is hands resting on Alexius' shoulder. It was a strange place he'd not imagined his evening would go.
"Very well" Theo noted eventually, sitting back and admiring the stitched-up wound "There we go. I'll bandage it for you. Keep it clean, and you might want to come back in a day or two. Unless there is another medicus that can take care of it for you."
Theo was already half asleep when the guard knocked on his door. At first he thought one of his patients had taken a turn for the worse, but it soon turned out that was not the case at all: according to the guard, he had outside patients.
At this hour?
Blinking like an owl, Theo walked downstairs to the room where the guests were directed, carrying a lamp.
"Alexius, rigth?" he recognized the man who stopped by quite often to spar; even as an ex-gladiator, he was the talk of the Ludus. The other man was a slave. Did Alexius get himself a body slave? "What seems to be the problem?"
The games had been progressing amidst great excitement and much pageantry, which meant Theo was working a lot more than usual. Gladiators tended to be careful in training and smaller fights, but for an event like this, there were no punches pulled. Death in the arena was more carefully orchestrated than the spectators knew, but injury was rampant. Theo spent another long day setting bones, stitching cuts, and tending to dislocated limbs. In addition, the medicus community was on friendly terms even if their fighters were not; whatever free time Theo had left was soon consumed by helping out at the other ludii.
But not tonight.
Caught up on what needed to be done, and patients recovering steadily, Theo decided to take the night off. He badly needed to leave the Ludus, to get a break from Astrius, and clear his head with something that was not the medical profession. Apparently he was not the only one who thought so, because the tavern he wandered into was full of people, loudly discussing the fights of the day, on their merry was to alcohol-induced oblivion. Theo got a generous cup of wine, and headed to a corner where he glimpsed a free seat. Someone bumped into him, and some wine spilled on his tunic; Theo swore in Greek and hurried to get out of the way.
This was going to be an off night.
Saturnalia was one of the strange Roman customs Theo was still getting used to. The city was letting loose in ways that would have seemed quite dangerous to any normal person; Astrius had claimed the slaves' right to do whatever they wanted in these days, and promptly disappeared, probably to get shamefully drunk and set things on fire. Theo looked for him in a few popinas but soon had to give up the search. One couldn't even tell slaves from free men in the crowds. Besides, whatever Astrius did, at least in these few days it wasn't on him.
As for Theo, he was not a man of excess. He enjoyed good food and games, but even that became straining after a while, so he returned to the ludus, taking advantage of the relative peace and quiet (and the absence of Astrius). He reorganized his supplies, cleaned his tools, re-shelved his books, and gave himself some time to just muse and sit around.
That is, until a visitor arrived. Theo noted the woman's shape from the corner of his eyes as she appeared in the doorway.
"Domina, I'm afraid most of the gladiators are aw..."
The medicus turned, his eyes growing wide as he recognized the voice. For a moment, he was at a loss about how she could be here, the his brain caught up. Sautrnalia.
"Justinia!" his face lit up in a bright smile as he walked over to her "Happy Saturnalia! I didn't... expect to see you here? Is everything alright?"
It felt good to hold Justinia just for a moment. It felt like the only thing he could do to let her know that she was important, and that he cared about what was going to happen to her. It was foolish, and barely anything, but it was what he could do in the moment, so he did it.
“You are so kind. But do not do anything that would get you in trouble. I want you to be alive when I see you again. So promise me you will not get in trouble. If you did and it was because of me, I couldn’t bear it.”
"I promise I won't do anything foolish" Theo said, and he tried to mean it. There had to be a good, normal way to fix this. Something that had to do with honor. Or kindness. Or money. Or at least one of the three. He was going to figure it out. One way or another.
Even if he did get into trouble for it.
"Maybe one day I see theatre."
"You should" Theo smiled. The theater was not only good entertainment, but also a good way of learning about Rome, Greece, the world, and the people in it. And no one actually died on stage, save for a few accidents.
Theo finished up the bandages, and made sure they fit well.
"All good" he nodded with a smile "Try not to put too much weight onto your ankle for a day or two. I know it's probably difficult, with your training... but it will be better on the long run." he held out a hand to help Aeneas up "It has been a pleasure meeting you."
"Which Ludus do you work for?"
"The Ludus Magnus" Theo noted with a small smile. It impressed some people when he said that (unless they were hardline fans of another ludus), but Alaric did not seem like a person that easily impressed. "But I occasionally get called over to the other ludi to help out when they have a lot of injuries."
Even if there was a lot of rivalry for show, and a decent amount for personal reasons, Romans still knew how to run a good business, and a good medicus was a part of that. He assumed it would be the same for the races as well.
"A lot of coin involved in it. My wife sells horses to the racing team sometimes,"
"That's interesting" Theo arched an eyebrow "Seems like a wise investment. Are we going to see any of them in the race today?"
Hugging, in this case, was not only ironic, but also definitely counterproductive. And yet, Theo did not let go, and Justinia seemed to burrow into his arms to hide from the world of trouble they'd gotten themselves into, at least for a little while.
“I know. This is my life, dominus. I have nothing to my name. If I get in trouble for spending an hour with someone that actually cares, I don’t care what we do or what happens. All I want is for you to feel comfortable and not feel guilty because of my choices.”
It was not much to wish for. It was not a great ambition or a dangerous dream. It was so simple that it made it even more painful that it could not be fulfilled. Theo sighed, resting his chin on her head.
"They were both our choices." he noted "And you deserve to be treated better than that." It was easier to say that than do anything about it, but it needed to be said. "I'll figure out a way to fix this. One that doesn't involve you giving anything you don't want to give." Again, easier said than done. But he'd have to try.