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Cat and Mouse


Atrice
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April, 73 AD

His mother had become sick and that meant they couldn’t travel to Claudia Gaia’s villa outside of Rome on the day it was meant to be. Luckily Lexus’ mother wasn’t too sick though, but he still had to make sure they had some food in their house and he’d taken a job for some different shopkeepers in the area – running errands for them. They had to have some coin, after all, if they wanted some food and wanted to stay in Rome. Lexus liked it here and didn’t want to move again. He hoped they could stay for a while.

Two weeks had now passed since he met Gaia and his mother was finally doing better again. She dressed in a fine, light green dress and did all she could to look her best – Lexus wasn’t sure he’d seen his mother so beautiful before. She made sure he was dressed well too, it wasn’t every day you went to visit a former imperial’s widowed wife, after all. From a friend she'd borrowed a green tunica and even gained Lexus' first off-white toga virilis for him. Lexus never wore a toga before and thought he looked very mature in it. They travelled in a carriage together to the villa and Lexus stepped out first, helping his mother. 

Guards allowed them into the glorious villa, explaining the hostess was not quite ready yet, but they were welcome to explore the villa. Lexus’ mother, Ginevera, went to the peristyle and Lexus just stood looking at the entrance for a little while. And then he began exploring the insides of the villa. There were many beautiful things in here, he thought. The walls were painted and doorways were decorated and there were all signs that this home belonged to someone wealthy. And someone who knew his father, he then thought. 

Lexus stopped to look at a bust of some fancy old senator, but he then had that feeling as if someone watched him. The young man turned around to see a tall and very stunning looking young woman standing a bit behind him and remembered that Claudia Gaia had a daughter. Was this her? She was taller than her mother then, and she almost looked exotic. He gave her a small smile, “Domina… you surprised me.” 

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Corinthia had wondered whether her mother's sanity had finally left her. Once more the pair of charity cases had not come on the correct day. During the day she walked around and saw the youth standing near the statue of one of her paternal relatives. Her mother's ancestry were lost to time and completely beneath her notice. She stood and raised a dark brow at the sight of him. At least he had some manners. She smiled although it did not quite reach her eyes, she walked towards him and stood a respectable distance away. If her mother would have charity cases. Why couldn't she? 

"Luccus? Le-ah, you must be Lexus," She said, her hand reached out to rest on the top of the statue. Her long fingers tapped against his facial features as she continued to watch him. Her gesture would have sparked offense if he had of done it himself. Lexus, she had vague memories of the man who had shared her mother's bed more than once. Something that she could not blame the elder for, however, his son was a suitable candidate. 

Corinthia was garbed in a white chiton with the edges trimmed in golden thread. Her complexion highlighted by the contrast. A serpentine bracelet was around one wrist that went up to her elbow with ruby eyes. Her dark was curled, semi-loose and not in the elaborate styles worn by women. 

"And how are you finding the villa?" She asked. 

It was time to see what he was like --- and how much trouble she would get him in. 

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Gaia had warned him about his daughter, but so far, she just stood there, looking stunning and tall and every bit the young Domina of the house that she was. Lexus felt almost shy in her presence and gave her a small smile, stating how she surprised him. The young woman smiled strangely and came closer. Then she seemed to have forgotten his name, but recalled it. 

He nodded, “Yes, Domina, my name is Lexus. Lexus Naevius Gineverus. You must be Claudia Gaia’s daughter?” He replied, while she touched the statue he’d been looking at, but she kept watching him. His mother had said he might grow taller and he knew he was still growing – and that his father had been quite tall. He and the young woman, who had to be Corinthia, were almost the same height. She was tall for a woman, he thought. Tall and beautiful. She was naturally much better dressed than he was.

“The villa is beautiful, Domina. I don’t think I have visited such a beautiful villa before. It is an honor just to be here.” He said; he had his manners and he knew what to say. He had taken a few jobs as a servant for senator’s before, so he’d learned, but there was something special about this villa – where he assumed there was no Dominus, but only Gaia and her daughter. 

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Corinthia listened when he explained his name. Lexus, the name of a former gladiator and quirked an eyebrow. It should be obvious who she was. Slowly she exhaled at his tedious question yet was not persuaded from her goal. "I most certainly am," She answered, and one day, there would be no doubt about who she was. Everyone would know her name. Her memory would exist for a thousand years. 

"Yes... it would be an honour for you, wouldn't it?" She asked, a hint of condescension in her tone. Corin thia had only begun to visit the various villas and homes of the elite. Slowly but surely, envy began to creep up and she realised that her mother's villa was not as grand as it should have been. Someday.. the villa she would live in would be the grandest by far. She had no idea how long her mother wished to have her charity cases here, it was common for her to keep any strays she encountered -- and naturally, they were not staff nor did they offer coin for the privilege! 

Her thoughts continued on and she sighed, lifted her arm off the shoulder. Casually she draped it around his shoulder in a friendly manner, she took a step and implied she wished for him to walk with her. "It must be a treat for you to be here. Tell me, how did you meet my mother?" She asked, gave him a slightly strained smile and her nose remained wrinkled in distaste.
 

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He could only assume this was Gaia’s daughter – but he had never met her, so how could he be certain? She was beautiful though, like Gaia, although taller. It was rare that he met such tall women, his own mother was not tall either. She confirmed she was Gaia’s daughter though, and then he had made sure to praise the villa she lived in. She might think it was not grand enough; Lexus had not seen its likes before!

She then pointed out how it must be an honor for him to be here, although her tone was a bit strange. Lexus only nodded though, “It certainly is.” He agreed again. Then she shifted and draped her arm over his shoulder, as if they were friends, and she began walking. Lexus followed, thinking he should probably do as she wished, as he didn’t wish to offend her. And he realized he might never have been so close to a woman before, one that was not his mother at least. He inhaled a silent breath and Corinthia wondered how he met her mother.

“I was serving at a party… but some of the men thought…” He trailed off, perhaps he should leave that part out, unless she had already guessed. He moved on quickly, “…anyway, I needed a break, and that’s when I met your mother. She was very kind to me and offered me and my mother to come and work here, if we would. That’s why we have come now.” Lexus seemed to miss her strained smile, as he was busy talking and trying to tell her what she wanted to hear. 

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Her mother would have no doubt worried for him. Corinthia had no concerns for his welfare when it came to working. That was what his class were for. She wrinkled her nose when he said that he needed a drink. Why were the lower classes so lazy? Not that she had truly worked a day in her life, something she would never, ever have admitted. 

"Ah, so you will be here more often?" She asked, at least they were here to work rather than be a charity case. Corinthia led him through the home and into the extensive gardens of the villa. There was a larger pond, filled with lily pads and aquatic plant life. Underneath the surface of the water there was movement from the various kinds of fish that resided in the water. 

"I wonder how many parties she will be having here," She murmured quietly to herself. The pair of them looked over the body of water. No doubt he would be instructed to do the easier chores around the home. Corinthia smiled, she had yet to meet the mother and see what kind of a person she would be. Perhaps she was speaking with Gaia right at this moment? Either way, it would be a good idea for Lexus to learn what his new duties would be in the home. 

"Do you like the pond? Luc-oh pardon, Lexus?" 

 

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Lexus had explained to Corinthia how he met her mother, all while they were walking with her arm around his shoulder, as if they were best friends. He had not put his arm around her though, didn’t know if he could or should. She was clearly older than he, old enough to marry, but she treated him like a friend. Yet there was something off… but he said nothing and when she asked if he’d be here more often, he looked at her, “Maybe, if we can agree on how it might work. But I guess it’s up to our mothers to decide.” Lexus then explained, looking at the beautiful garden then and the pond. 

He’d never lived in a place that had its own pond before. It was all very magnificent! Meanwhile Crinthia wondered if her mother would have many parties and if Lexus liked the pond. However, she almost said his name wrong… again. 

“I do like the pond, yes. It’s beautiful.” He said, “Would you prefer I had another name, domina? Is it so hard to remember it?” Not that he had any plan to change it, but he wondered why she kept saying it wrong. 

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Corinthia was not particularly listening to him when spoke about it being their mother's decision. She still hated how much control her dim-witted mother had over her life. She gave him a condescending smile then gave a snort of laughter at his comment about his name. "Oh no, it is a lovely name." She blatantly lied. Although surely she would clearly remember a name of someone she valued. Corinthia's hands moved him closer to the pond, she smiled and leaned close towards him. 

"Do you see the different kinds of fish in the water?" She asked, smiled and reached out with her hand, wiggled her fingertips and her reflection mimicked her as she did so. The rings on her fingers jingled against each other. This pond had the prettier fish, the harmless ones who would easily take food from your hand -- the other pond had the eels. They were always hungry. Not that Gaia knew about the latter, they were her addition and one she was secretly quite proud of. 

"Do you like them?" Corinthia asked. It was strange, while she originally wanted to pick on him he was friendly and respectful. Maybe it would not be so bad to have him work for her mother after all? 

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He wondered why she kept saying his name wrong – it wasn’t a hard name to remember, he thought. His father had been a famous gladiator, after all, but it might have been way before Corinthia here also knew about such things. So of course she wouldn’t know. She commented that it was a lovely name and Lexus nodded, “Gratitude, for saying that. I hope you’ll learn it better then.” He said, but still thought it was odd she didn’t remember. Meanwhile though, she looked at the pond and moved them closer to it and spoke about the fish.

“Yes, Domina.” He replied simply, watching her pretty hand and the rings on her hand. He never even had one ring and she had so many. It was very obvious they came from different lives, but that’s just how it was. Lexus never knew another life, after all. Corinthia then wondered if he liked the fish.

“I suppose. I don’t know much about fish, but they are pretty. They do fit this house well.” He added and looked up at her. So Corinthia liked pretty things; he was glad he went to a bathhouse before they came and that his mother made sure they were both well dressed. Lexus wanted to make a good impression, even if he wasn’t sure yet what to think of Corinthia. He would honor his mother though. 

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She raised an eyebrow at his impudence about her not knowing his name. Corinthia certainly knew it. She was going to reply hotly, although managed, "I suggest you be polite about encouraging members of the nobility to learn your name," Corinthia responded. Yet... there was a reason for her fake friendliness, and the ultimate goal was more important to her than a momentary jab at him. Yet.. he may not have realised the insult she had been giving him. 

Corinthia listened to him when he answered her. He did not smell as bad as she imagined when he approached her. Perhaps he had not of heard of the lampreys? She smiled, "So, you have not learned how to clean ponds of the aristocracy?" She asked, a hint of the task she had in store for him. 

In truth, this little Lexus as her mother called him was not as bad as she first thought. He slipped a little, otherwise he was perfectly fine and it made her wonder more about him. Why did he suddenly find his way to her mother's home? Sure, Gaia was known to bring strays and people into her home when she felt they needed one. She had not yet forgotten the time she was nearly assassinated at the Circus Maximus. There could have been other reasons. As her thoughts raced, her facial expressions began to briefly darken, and she brought it back to a friendly, cordial smile. 

"Perhaps you could demonstrate your skills?"

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Lexus looked at her, when she pointed out he should be more polite regarding his name. Wasn’t it she who forgot his name or did she say it wrong intentionally? And he had been polite, at least he thought so. He hadn’t said it harshly, he just said it. But he decided to stay quiet for now, she was clearly a special kind of woman and Lexus didn’t know much about them in the first round.

Then they were talking about the pond and he explained he didn’t know much about fish and she wondered if he had learned to clean ponds. And wondered if he’d demonstrate his skills. Lexus looked at the pond and decided it might not be a good idea.

“I could, if I had any, Domina. But I do not have any skills concerning ponds.” He explained, “Besides, I am here to have dinner with your mother and mine… we have not agreed about any work yet.” He added, hoping she’d not be mad about that, but it was true. And he didn’t want to get wet or dirty before the dinner, so he better just not touch that pond at all. 
 

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Corinthia had to rethink her plan. It was true, and made perfect sense as to why he would wish to remain dry and presentable. A job with her mother would have been an excellent deal, especially since she treated her workers like family. What absolute nonsense. There were a reason why they were servants. What happened if a servant thought her mother was soft due to Gaia's own position in the past? Something Corinthia purposely chose not to think about. She could not be kind and expect to be treated the same way.

He seemed like a compassionate sort. A perfect way to use it to her advantage, she swiftly hid the smirk that threatened to appear and loosened one of the expensive rings on her fingers. When he looked elsewhere she flicked it into the water with a loud plopping sound. 

"Gods! Noo!" She shrieked and pointed to the water. "My ring! No! It was a gift from my late father!" Corinthia exclaimed, her eyes panicked as she peered into the water and she could not find it. It was not untrue. The ring was a gift from her late father when she was a babe. Although it was not the only gift that he had to given to his child. 

"Lexus! Could you help me?" She asked. Finally getting his name correct. 

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Lexus was beginning to feel that this odd talk and audition with Corinthia ought to be over soon. She was stunning to look at; he didn’t know if he’d seen such a beauty before, but there was also something about her and he had this odd feeling that she might be trouble. So he hoped that when he told her he had no skills concerning ponds and that he was here to have dinner, he hoped she’d accept that. She was silent for a while, but then suddenly there was a plopping sound – something had fell into the water.

Corinthia was practically screaming, talking about her ring that fell into the water. How did it do that? And then she wanted help. Gods he didn’t want his hands into that water with those odd fish and looked around. A slave was looking from around a corner; he’d clearly heard her too. Lexus tried to catch his eyes, but then the slave hid. Didn’t want to help his Domina? That was weird… 

“Oh I don’t know… what to do.” Lexus said, sounded bewildered. The only way he could imagine getting that ring or going into that water was if the fish were gone… but killing them wouldn’t look good either and he wasn’t sure he could. Oh he ought to be a man, but right now he felt more like a boy…

“I think we need to go and get help from someone who knows the pond and the… I can’t remember their names. I’ll be right back!” And before she could stop him, he was running in the direction where he’d seen the slave. And quite right, there were actually a few of them, women and men, apparently hiding out of sight from Corinthia… what was that all about?

“Hey, I really need help! Your Domina dropped a ring into the water and I don’t know how to get it back to her. Please help…” Lexus asked, his eyes pleading, because he could see they didn’t want to, but they had to, “If not for her, then for me… then I promise I’ll help you some other time. Please!” He begged and finally one of the young women stepped up and said she’d do it. Lexus took her hand and led her back to the pond.

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This was not going to plan. 

This was absolutely not going to plan. 

She pointed towards the water when he said that he did not know what to do. Speechless that he did not get into the water and fetch it out himself.. Was it not obvious?! Her mouth opened and closed, similar to the dumbstruck look that fish had and stood in surprise as Lexus disappeared in search of help. When he left she she growled and let out a yell of frustration. The whites of her knuckles showed as she dug her nails into her her palms, her fists clenched that tight and sighed to herself. Now she had to try to rely on little Lexus to find a slave who could help her. 

No doubt her mother would see him as being an angel who helped her. 

This was not going to plan in the slightest. 

She breathed to calm herself down. Tears of anger and frustration began to sting at her eyes. Her mother had warned her of people who would get so angry that the Gods would find a way to strike them down. Finally, Lexus returned with a slave girl in tow, she was a little surprised at them holding hands and pointed to the water. 

"It fell in there," Corinthia said, the slave girl winced and reached down into the water. Fishing around for the missing ring, and the slave girl kept an eye on the water for signs of the fish. 

Corinthia knew she should say something to Lexus. 

"Thank you for finding assistance so quickly." She said, although her eyes were focused on the water and the slave girl attempting to find the ring. 

@Atrice

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Lexus was so not going into that water to fetch the ring for Corinthia. It just wasn’t happening – it wasn’t why he came and he didn’t really like the thought of it. Maybe the strange fish-like things just didn’t look like something you wanted to get too close to, if you were not even familiar with fish in the first round… so he had hurried away before she could stop him, trying to find help elsewhere. He had persuaded a young female slave to help him, and took her hand.

 It didn’t matter to him what Corinthia thought – he could see the slave wasn’t happy about this and holding her hand might help a little and make her feel better and safer, because he would be there too. That was the least he could do.

 When they reached Corinthia, she had her hands clenched and a tight appearance to her face, but Lexus tried and ignore it while she cave orders. The slavegirl still wasn’t happy about the job and he thought he had to do something really good for her sometime. It wasn’t her fault she was a slave, probably. She didn’t even seem to want to be here, poor girl.

 When Corinthia looked at him again, she thanked him for finding assistance.

 “Of course, it seemed urgent.” Lexus simply replied, “I think we should find our mothers when you have your ring. Maybe the food is ready for us.” He said, trying to sound friendly, although honestly, he wasn’t sure if Corinthia thought it worked. She was hard to please. So beautiful and so hard to please, it seemed.

@Gothic

Edited by Atrice
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She did not answer him at first. Her gaze was solely focused on the slave girl in the process of retrieving her ring, she lifted her finger up to her lips and tapped it idly. Half of her lips rose in a smirk, watching and waiting for it to strike. Thus far, the lampreys had been relatively peaceful and had not tried to take a bite out of her. Not yet. 

"Quickly girl! I do not wish for it to get lost!" She exclaimed hotly, and hoped that the girl's increased movements would arouse the lampreys into bloodlust. The girl rushed in the water, feeling around and hurried. The girl smiled once she found the ring, lifted it up in her fingers and smiled. Happy to find both Corinthia's ring and hoped that she would be out of the water. One of the lampreys swam forward and bit her on the leg, as others swam forward and joined in while the girl squealed, rushed out of the water and offered Corinthia the ring. 

Corinthia took it. Oblivious to the pain the girl felt and slid it back onto her finger, it was nice and snug. There was no way it would drop off unless she pulled it off. 

"Go to the medicus, girl," Corinthia said, flicked her ringed hand dismissively to the girl who had bled in order to get her ring back. The girl nodded her head and turned to leave in order to get helped. Corinthia smiled, gazed down at her ring and looked at the ring on her finger, admiring it. She offered her arm for little Lexus to take. "And excellent idea, Lexus, it will be interesting to tell my mother all about how you helped me." She said, waited for him to take her arm. 

@Atrice

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