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Late July, 75 AD It had been a good while since that evening at the Gardens of Sullust, where he had been caught off guard by a thunderstorm and had to seek shelter in one of the pavilions there. And on the same night, a lovely young lady, Caecina Tusca, daughter to the proconsul of Britannia, had done exactly the same. That is how he met her and he was plenty entertained by her wit, her charm and their conversation – and her own attractiveness of course. So much that he almost found it a pity that he was already in his mid-40’s. Of course other Senators might be happy to consider such a young woman a future wife of theirs, but Tertius didn’t like the idea… at least not of her as his wife. If he should have a wife, he would like for her to be more mature and not someone who was younger than his own son. That would be strange. There was someone however, who should be looking for a wife, and that was his son and his heir, Teutus. He was a freedman and he could not hold office or follow the course of honor, but any children he had, they could reach proper ranks once more. And Teutus did carry the Varus name name, so any children he had, would do the same. Teutus was the one who would carry on the family name. It was all on his shoulders, especially since Secundus had no children. He hoped Caecina would like Teutus and that he would like her as well, and that her father would deem it a proper match despite Teutus’ rank. An invitation had been sent to Caecina Tusca at the Palatine, not far from the palace, as she had explained to him. It was the end of July now, almost a month after that fateful morning of the earthquake and Tertius’ domus was more or less restored now. He had considered leaving Rome and inspecting the villa in the countryside, but decided against it, because he wanted to bring Charis and with how far her pregnancy was now… he didn’t know if it would be safe for her. So in Rome they remained. Maybe they would travel after the child was born. Right now though, there were other important matters. The triclinium had been made ready, Rhoda was busy cooking in the kitchens and Teutus had also been informed that he should attend dinner with Tertius tonight, because they were having a visitor. Tertius had of course told Teutus how he met the young lady and that he had merely invited her to thank her for her kindness on the night of the thunderstorm. She sent for a litter for him too, after all. Now he was resting in a chair by the atrium, waiting for the guest to arrive and hoping that Teutus would be able to entertain her too. @Sharpie @Echo
Early June, 75 AD It had been a few weeks since that day, when Marcus had a hangover and he and Caecina decided to go for a ride in the countryside near the villa there. And they ended up by that stream and a game of truth or dare turned into something else. They had not had a chance to be entirely alone since then and maybe it was for the best. At first they’d sent each other stolen glances, after the kiss, but one day turned into the next and soon they fell into the ordinary routine. Maybe it didn't mean anything after all; maybe it was just a foolish spur of the moment thing and she had already forgotten it. Marcus didn't know, he hadn't asked. But maybe today? And now they had a few days to stay in Rome with Juliana, although she was occupied with social visits much of the time. And Marcus? He had plans. He and Caecina had talked about visiting the Poppina Via Lata together and he would still show it to her. He had asked if she wanted to go to the market with him one afternoon and she agreed. They were of course followed by each their own body slave, Marcus with Silvanus and Caecina had her Astraea with her. There was also a guard somewhere, alert and on the lookout, but Marcus paid him little attention while they both settled in each their own litter to be taken away from the domus in the city. Marcus told himself it wasn't so bad taking her here; it wasn't even evening and things usually got a little bit wilder in the evenings Once they reached the Poppina, as he had instructed the slaves that carried the litters to take them to, he stepped out first and held a hand for Caecina to help her out. He had a kind of mischievous smile on his face as he looked at her when she stood, “So… maybe I lied a little. As you can see, this is not the marketplace. Remember the day we talked about the Poppina Via Lata?” As if she would forget; he kissed her that very same day! But here they were and they were not alone. The litters would be taken away for now and they were left with their body slaves and the guard. @Echo
Late June 75CE Titus hated shopping. Ordinarily he had little need to. If he required something he made his wishes known to one of his slaves and the wish was sorted by them. Let them fight with all the passers by and the throngs. If it was something of a higher order he sought then he was of a family wealthy enough to have tradesmen and merchants come to his family domus and present him with their wares. This was a far more refined way of doing business, he thought. The great shopping emporia of Rome were simply dreadful. You were as likely to catch a disease as you were to have your pocket picked. Your clothes would, by the end of it, be saturated with a disgusting mix of scents, from your own sweat to the heavy funk of cooked lamb or Gods knows what else the street stalls were serving up. He had no patience for queues. He had no time for money-grubbing plebian shopkeepers trying to foist their stuff on you at extortionate prices. There was, in short, almost nothing about the experience of shopping that in any way appealed to him. It was therefore with some surprise that you would today find Titus in one of those huge, soulless, expansive shopping emporia that he so hated. His duty for the day done at the Palace, he had turned his steps to the Emporia on a very specific mission. Well, these days he had so many specific missions that it probably bears to be, ourselves, more specific about this one. Like - again- so many of the other quests of his present, it was motivated by a woman. A woman who would not leave his thoughts. Again, you'll need to be more specific on that one. Apologies. In this case it was Marcella Laelia. Unlike the other woman, his thoughts on her were not a conflicting, seething mass of hate and lust. Instead, it was a more congenial mix of lust and admiration. He had not wanted to like her. Honestly, he thought he would never like a woman in that regard. He used them. He enjoyed using them but he never got attached. He was more likely to catch venereal disease than he was to catch feelings for one. The Gods were cruel and, with a look, his presumptions had been shattered like a cheap glass vase. Ironically probably like most of the mass produced glass rubbish sold in half of these shops. It was her for whom he was putting himself through this ordeal. Since their first encounter he had confessed to himself that she had injured him. She had cut him in such a way that the wound would not seem to heal. He did not want it to. They had met more times since and, with each new encounter, the wound was less and less likely to heal. It was only deepening. In what was perhaps the most worrying turn of events of all, he now found that he wanted to please her. He wanted to do something nice for her. If he had not known the root cause of this he would have gone to the medicus, presuming he had a fever of the brain. No, he knew what was wrong with him and, soon, he would need to admit it openly. So, sick of the sort of illness that one does not want to cure, he found himself getting progressively more angry as he browsed shop after shop trying to find something he could buy her as a present. What did women want? He thought of one crude, school boy answer and smirked to himself. Yes, that, but what else? He could not understand how women could do this for hours. They could come out and do this, happily not knowing what they were looking for and actually enjoy it. How? So many of these items looked the same. All jewelry looked alike. All dresses struck the eye the same way. Don't get him started on shoes! Reaching a point of despair he decided that a break was necessary. The city had not been built in a day. He could not rush this. Marcella was, after all, not the sort of girl he had known before. Trinkets would be nothing to her. He wanted to get her something she would want. What was wrong with him! He listened to the train of thoughts in his head and was, frankly, horrified. What had this woman done to him? He could, at least, hate the other one but he found it hard to treat her with the same level of detachment. Had the original Titus gone? Where was the man who had a different mistress in each posting? Furious at himself, he sat at a table of a cheap tavern, selling Falernian wine full of grit, and wondered where it had all gone wrong. To please himself, he sat back and watched the rushing, ever-changing sea of faces in front of him. Oh, now what was that? Looking at a shop across the way was a young lady, clearly of senatorial or at least very upper equestrian rank, to judge from her attire. She was stretching up on tip toes to inspect something on an upper shelf and, in the process, was inadvertently giving the most fantastic view of a majestic backside, the fabric of her clothing being now drawn tight against it by her position. The fact that it was so innocently done and seemingly completely unnoticed by her made it all the more pleasing in a sordid voyeuristic manner. Yes, this was more like it. This was the old Titus back in good form. He wasn't mooning now like some love-sick calf. This was an altogether more pleasant distraction, albeit perhaps verging on the uncomfortably pervy side of things that it might make even a seasoned old lecher like Ovid blush. Still, no man is perfect, are they? He couldn't finish the filth the tavern served here. He emptied the rest of the cup onto the floor, leaving a coin on the tabletop for payment and decided to go take a closer look of this nymph. @Echo
Mid-May, 75 AD There were plenty of villas in the countryside near Rome and this was just one of them. And it was the one he just happened to live in – because really, where else should he live, when his brother made sure they had no family home anymore? Not that life was bad here. There had been a social event – a party – at one of the other villas last night and Marcus had persuaded Caecina to come, explaining how important it was with the connections they’d make, although really he just didn’t want to go to the party alone. And she probably knew that. They’d lived together on and off since Flavia Juliana married Caecina’s father, after all. Now it was the day after the party and Marcus had slept in and was woken, when one of the slaves came to clean up a little of the mess Marcus made last night, when he came home. The fine toga was dropped on the floor along with his sandals. He sighed and covered his face with his hands, he had a headache. Of course he did. He drank wine last night. And not just a little. He barely remembered the ride home in the carriage, but he remembered Caecina had been there too. He hadn't left her at the party. Or maybe it was her who didn't leave him behind, when she left? It was all a bit of a blur. “Something to drink. Not wine.” Marcus waved at the slave without looking at them and they hurried to find what he wanted, leaving him alone for a bit too. He sat up in the bed and pushed the covers away. He’d passed out in his tunica and held up a bit of the sleeve… yes, he needed a clean one! When the slave returned, he asked for a clean tunica and that was fetched for him too. Soon he was somewhat dressed – just the tunica and a belt – and the slave got him some slippers too. With a cup of water in his hand, he wandered to the peristyle and found another sofa to lie down in. It was a warm morning and it was nice and quiet in the villa so far. He closed his eyes, just a little bit… and then when he heard some footsteps approaching, he assumed it was another slave and didn’t even care to open his eyes when he made his next request, “Get me something to eat.” @Echo