Teutus had dressed in blue, a light blue tunic and darker blue pallium, the colour enhancing the blue of his eyes, although he hadn't chosen it specifically for that reason. His father didn't seem at all perturbed or nervous or anything of the sort - of course he wouldn't, he'd been born to his position.
He couldn't help wondering how long it would take before he stopped feeling like an imposter - slaves were freed all the time in Rome, it was hardly an unusual situation that he found himself in. It just felt strange, and peculiar, and he had to forcibly remind himself that that was in the past and it was the present that mattered now.
"Thank you, Father," he said, accepting the compliment for what it was, although he wondered if Tertius was talking to the same person Teutus had just seen in the mirror, or someone else. If he couldn't have confidence in himself yet, his father had confidence in him and Teutus would just have to try to live up to that until it rubbed off on him.
"Good evening, Caecina Tusca," he said, following his father's example in greeting their guest, although he did not feel he could be so forward as to offer her a kiss as his father had, not when they had only just met. He noted the slightly uncertain expression on her face. Tertius had told his son about Caecina, but it was easy enough to guess that he had not told Caecina about his son.
Why did Tertius always have to make things more complicated than they needed to be? That took some skill!
Teutus had vaguely expected something like this; he was a freedman but he was also the son and heir of a senator, and senators (or rather, their sons) generally did not generally arrange their own marriages - not that Tertius had admitted that he had such designs when he'd invited Caecina Tusca for dinner, but that possibility must be somewhere in his mind. Teutus would be the dutiful son and be as agreeable as he knew how, and acquiesce to his father's wishes (as he had done all his life, in fact).
He appeared promptly in the atrium, dressed for the occasion, and feeling more than a little nervous, although he could not quite pin down why he should be feeling nervous merely over a dinner - he was not the sort of person who'd embarrass his host at any sort of dinner whether said host was his father or someone else entirely.
"Good evening, Father," he said politely, noticing that Tertius had taken a commanding position in a chair from which he could see the entire atrium, more or less.
It wasn't the first time Teutus had ever been drunk. It was the first time he'd ever been drunk as a free man, and it was definitely the first time he'd been so drunk he'd ended up slumped in the street without even making it halfway home. He fumbled a hand to his head and groaned at the stab of sunlight that assailed him as he opened his eyes the barest crack.
He was just wearing his tunic, and must have looked like some poor sap too poor even to be worth robbing - that was the only explanation for the fact that he still had his new gold signet ring on that his muddied mind could conjure up.
He cracked his eyes open again. There was someone standing there, and Teutus took a chance. It was daylight, after all, and even here in wherever this was (the Porta Absidata, gods damn it, if he hadn't managed to get nearer home than he thought!) nobody was going to rob anyone in broad daylight on a public road.
He hoped it was a public road not some stinking back alleyway, anyway.
"Well, I didn't have time for a proper look and it will need a thorough inspection, Father," Teutus said. It was his father's money and therefore his authorisation that would be needed for any such repairs in any part of the house at all, of course. He honestly couldn't have cared less about Hector, but the enquiry showed willing, and Hector ran off (Teutus honestly thought that he would never bestir himself so eagerly for any other person in the house - perhaps even in Rome! - other than Tertius, but Tertius probably wouldn't realise that, which was fine.)
His father offered a hand to Charis before he could, to help her to her feet. If the truth were known, Teutus still felt a little odd having Charis address him as 'domine', although he'd grown used to it from the other slaves in the household - perhaps because there had always been something of a stiffness between him and everyone else, and he and Charis had been friends despite his better judgement, and their row over nothing.
He stood up himself, putting a hand on Antonia's shoulder to reassure her as he looked around. "I think everyone is here, except for Hector, and he's just gone to look at the house for you." He didn't think that anyone looked hurt, but the other kitchen girl looked somewhat shaken and there was blood on her cheek that Rhoda assured him was just from a scrape when he asked her.
"I think they're all right," Teutus said, wishing he could reassure her better - but he didn't know how bad the situation was, or how long the quake would last, either. At least he'd felt them before, he supposed.
"I don't know, Father; I don't think the whole thing came down." He wasn't going to hang around, just in case this was a big one - there would be plenty of time later to assess the damage. "I think my room's all right, just a bit of dust shaken loose - though I won't know until I check it out."
Antonia came over, looking pale but compose, and he held out his arm to her. "I know Charis is a slave, but I think she would like a cuddle. She's never felt an earthquake before."
Hopefully that would allow his sister to receive a bit of motherly comfort herself, as well as offering some. He really wasn't any good at the soft, sensitive things in life, but it couldn't really do any harm for his sister to get some mothering from Charis. And it might help Charis, a little.
"How's Hector?" he asked, looking behind his father to the sheet-clad body slave. He didn't particularly like Hector, but that was no reason not to ask after him - especially considering his father's relationship with him.
Teutus helped Charis tear two strips from her tunica - it was still longer than his afterwards - and went to wrap her arms as Tertius approached, Antonia's hand in his, and Hector trailing behind clad in nothing but a bed-sheet.
He rubbed her shoulder soothingly. "Well, you're fine apart from that? No other injuries or anything?"
He was still somewhat shaky himself; he'd experienced earthquakes before but nothing on this sort of scale. "Let's have a look at your arms, then," he said, carefully taking her hand in his and pulling gently to encourage her to stretch her arm out so that he could see.
"I don't think it's too bad," he said and looked up. "It's mostly just scrapes, I think the ceiling of her room came down, Father."
Teutus hadn't expected a gift of any description, much less a ring - and of such exquisite workmanship. It must have cost his aunt a decent amount - and he couldn't think that Uncle Secundus had had anything to do with it. The intaglio was smooth, without anything engraved into it, which was fine with Teutus; he could get something engraved into it if he needed to (and if he was going to be honest with himself, he would need to - every citizen had their own seal, after all).
"It is a very fine gift. I thank you, very much," he said, slipping it onto his finger, a little surprised at his thoughts and how unslave-like they had become. It felt odd on his finger; naturally, he had never worn a ring before, but he would probably soon grow used to it. As he would doubtless grow used to being a free man rather than a slave - and a ring was the mark of a free man. So perhaps wearing a ring would serve to remind him of his new status should he ever forget himself and revert to old habits.
"She is very pleased," he said. It hadn't changed all that much between the two of them, although he had had to remind her, once or twice, that he didn't need to call her 'domina' any more. Old habits died hard, even for people as young as Antonia. Perhaps especially for people as young as Antonia.
"Earthquake," Teutus said shortly, grabbing at Chris' wrist. "We'll be safer in the garden, come on."
He didn't even know if she knew the Latin for 'earthquake', let alone what it felt like. He pulled her into the garden and saw Tertius with his arms around Antonia, so they were safe. There were slaves milling around, some looking shaken and some resigned - you could tell who'd gone through earthquakes before, he thought, absentmindedly, as he began to count to see who was missing.
He looked down at Charis, who was nursing her bump with bloodied arms. "What happened to you?"
Teutus didn't register the first tremor, but the next startled him awake and he sat up, throwing the bedclothes aside. He reached for the tunic he had worn yesterday and pulled it over his head as he left the room, braving himself against the shaking of the floor. His father was already on his way to Antonia's room to get her and Teutus turned to wake Charis and make sure she got to the garden safely - being out from under the roof would save lives if, gods forbid, anything collapsed.
"Charis! Outside, now - it's safe there," he said, entering her room, prepared to drag or carry her out if he needed to.
Teutus was caught between two worlds when it came to Charis, as he had always known he would be should his manumission come to pass.
"A paterfamilias' word is law within his own household, for his children as much as his slaves," he pointed out - the woman looked like a gladiatrix rather than the sort of domestic slave Charis was. "She is... not herself, and takes very little interest in things now, and I doubt that anything I can say to her, or to my father, will change that. They are as stubborn as one another, but of course my father has the upper hand."
Rightly so - but the way he used his authority was not necessarily something Teutus agreed with. There was precious little he could do or say that would alter Tertius' approach, especially after all these years. He did not have that much influence over his father, after all. The only person who did was Antonia, and Teutus was not about to drag his sister, a child, into this particular mess. It would only upset her.
"I will let her know you came, though Mercury knows how." Or how he would get any message back to her - and gods dammit, he was not going to play message-boy between two female slaves!