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Is Anybody listening?


Atrice
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Mid-March, 74 AD - at the Temple of Apollo Sosianus

Helios stood quietly before the grand temple dedicated to Apollo Sosianus – or Apollo Medicus. He had with him a bunch of flowers, although they weren’t the prettiest. It was still cold and winter in Rome and Helios could not acquire better flowers than these at the moment. He’d also brought with him a honeycake he’d bought at a nearby marketplace and this was the best he felt he could do. It was his fault Marcus Calvunus, the bouncer and guard of the Domus Venus, had been badly injured and Helios would do all he could to help him. So as any good Roman, even if he was not born here, he would go and sacrifice and pray to the right god.

 The Campus Martius was an interesting place to be at and here in the Circus Flaminius there was a lot to look upon. Many temples, placed side by side… and right next to this one, dedicated to a god of healing, was a temple dedicated to Bellona, goddess of war. How… convenient, Helios thought to himself, although he was not much of a fighter and he’d been of no use when Calvunus was attacked by that hound.

 He climbed the steps and moved into the faint light inside the temple. There was a statue of the Greek god here, and he stopped for a moment, looked up at it. He glanced to see if anyone were watching him, but he couldn’t see anyone here. There were probably priests and slaves working here, but they were hiding.

 And so he stepped up to the altar and placed his flowers and the honeycake on said table, which was lit with candles and there were many other offerings besides his own. Then he looked up at the statue again, “Hear my words, Apollo, god of medicine. I know it’s not much… but if these gifts are appropriate… then please see that my friend Calvunus gains full recovery of his leg again. Let it heal right, let him be well again. That is all I ask. Please.” It had only been a day since that fateful night and the medicus could not yet promise Helios all would be well. So this was the best thing he could do. He could have asked something for himself too, something more. Apollo was much more than a god of medicine, after all. But Helios hadn't thought that far. His thoughts were on his friend, and he had to feel better again.

 There was a marble bench by a wall in the temple, and Helios went to sit down to think a bit. It was rare he was this gloomy and thoughtful, but seeing Calvunus hurt like that touched something in him; something that was rarely touched, since as a whore, Helios was not supposed to feel anything for anyone he served. But he had friends and people he cared about. And when they were hurt, he was worried. This time more than usual.

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It was a copper-haired young girl who was the next supplicant. She could only have been about nine or ten, and was attended by a young man several years her senior. The girl was obviously well-to-do, and the young man looked as though he were her pedagogus, the slave who would take her to and from school, carrying her wax writing tablet.

"Lift me up," she demanded, and the young man bent to oblige her, so that she could deposit her offering on the altar.

"You need to say a prayer, Antonia," he told her quietly, waiting as she arranged the slightly crushed flowers to her satisfaction.

"Domina, when we're in public, Teutus," she said imperiously, looking for all the world like a miniature Augusta. "What do I say?"

Teutus grinned. "O Apollo, god of medicine, please hear my words and heal... what's your friend's name?"

"Rufilla Salvia, Teutus - you know that!"

"I'd forgotten the second bit," Teutus said. "And heal Rufilla Salvia, let my offering be acceptable to you. And that's it."

"I'm slipping!"

Teutus hiked her a little higher, grinning.

"O 'Pollo, god of med'cine, hear my words an' heal Rufilla Salvia - she's my best friend, lives near us on the Quirinal - an' make her wrist better again where she hurted it. An' please like my flowers, they're picked special for you."

Teutus turned his head away at this irreverent, but utterly sincere prayer, and caught the eye of a man sitting on a bench at one side of the temple. Antonia Varia was wriggling in his arms, now, impatient to be put down, so he obliged her.

"Shall we sit down for a bit before we go home?" he asked, seeing that there was room on the bench, and knowing it was a long walk back up to the Quirinal from here.

"All right!"

He took her hand and they crossed to the bench. "May we join you, sir?"

 

@Atrice

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It was hard to ignore the little scene that played out by the altar, while Helios sat quietly to the side in the temple. The place had daylight coming in from the front opening of course, and was lit by torches and lamps, but the light was still somewhat faint. Yet it was easy to see the girl with the right red hair, and the man with her, trying his best to help her. Helios couldn’t quite figure them out, because on one hand, the young man appeared to be a slave, but they were talking and joking as if they were friendly too.

 Once they had finished their act, they approached Helios on the bench and the young man asked if they could join him.

 “Of course you may…” Helios replied and moved a few inches towards one end of the bench, “There’s plenty of space here.” He had been sitting in here alone for a little while, he didn’t know for how long. It was hard to tell time when you sat inside a temple. He looked at the two others and had to admit he didn’t have much experience with kids… at least not as young and noble as her. Children of whores were quite different, and so were children who were slaves. This one seemed quite… complicated, almost.

 Yet Helios was curious, of course… “Did you bring him something good? I hope he pays attention today.” He said, looking up at the statue. It was rare he came at the temples at all, but today and this time was different. This time it really mattered – he wanted Calvunus’ leg to heal; didn’t want Calvunus’ wound to be infected and for the bouncer to die from it.

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"I brung him flowers," Antonia said, before she discovered her sense of shyness and put Teutus between herself and the blond man as they sat down.

"Very nice flowers, Domina. You picked them yourself, didn't you? I think he'll like them."

The shyness dissipated enough for Antonia to peek out. "Did you come to pray too?

"Hush, you can't ask things like that," Teutus said, and gave the other man an apologetic look.

"We're in a temple, I don't see why I can't," Antonia retorted, swinging her legs. "Anyway, he asked me a question, I was only askin' one back to be p'lite."

She shifted onto Teutus' lap, curious about the other man but wanting the security of someone she knew, as well. "If I can't ask that, what can I ask? Can I ask his name?"

Teutus thought it was supposed to be a whisper, but she'd gone for the ear nearest the other man simply by virtue of how she'd ended up sitting, and he thought the question was likely to be perfectly audible even before she actually spoke in a tone supposed to be heard.

"Yes, but you have to tell him yours, too," Teutus told her, not unreasonably.

"I'm Antonia Varia, and this's Teutus. He's my... brother."

"Slave," Teutus said, at the same moment, and shrugged. "Same father, different mothers," he added in explanation. "I'm sorry for this, when you just wanted some peace and quiet."

@Atrice

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The girl said she brought flowers to the god, and then she sat down. Her slave or whatever he was, commented on how nice they were and Helios smiled; he picked his own flowers too, but he didn’t get to tell her, because she was curious. The slave tried to tell her to not ask, and Helios was amused by their little conversation about whether to speak to him or not. She thought she was being quiet, but Helios could obviously hear it all. Helios found out the girl’s name and that the man was indeed a slave, but her brother at the same time.

 “Pleased to meet you both. I’m Helios.” Helios simply said, hoping it was clear enough with the short name and the clothes he wore that he was a slave. No need to mention it in Apollo’s temple. Hopefully the gods didn’t care whether you were wealthy or a slave, hopefully they’d listen to anyone who brought them gifts.

 “And I did come here to pray, Domina. I have a friend who’s injured and I hope he’ll be well again.” Helios then said, answering her first question, “You know, I picked my flowers for the god too. I don’t have the coin to buy the few flowers that are sold at the moment.” He then added, then thought that maybe he should have kept that to himself. Antonia Varia and her slave-brother Teutus… he wasn’t familiar with the names, but the girl must be the daughter of a senator. And well, Teutus must be the same, but possibly had a slave for a mother, because why else would he be enslaved and the girl not?

 “Did you both come here to pray, or just you… Domina?” Helios asked, trying to be polite. And it was only fair he returned the question, right?

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"The daughter of Senator Tertius Quinctilius Varus," Teutus added, seeing that Antonia's attention had wandered on to the next thing. Helios was obviously a slave like himself, the single name and garments that he wore could not be anything other than a slave's, and he could see how he'd received the name, too; even in the quiet cool dimness of the temple, the man's hair shone like a corona. Or the sun's rays.

Antonia's face was suffused with concern at the injury of the man's unknown friend. "I'm sure he'll like your flowers, if he likes mine. I come here to pray for a friend too, she hurt her wrist."

"A daughter of a neighbour's, she and my Domina are playmates," Teutus put in, in explanation.

"Teutus says that flowers you picked yourself are the very best sort to give," Antonia added confidingly, and leaned over awkwardly to pat Helios' knee, and repeated her reassurance. "I'm sure if 'Pollo likes my flowers, he'll like yours too. Is your friend very badly hurt?"

Teutus was caught somewhere in the middle of wanting to say that you couldn't just pat random strangers, and being grateful that Antonia hadn't launched herself out of his lap to hug the man. She was sensible, for a nine-year-old, if extremely confident and sure of herself. Her father spoilt her, but she was generally nice to the people she met. It might be because her brother was a slave that she was conscious of that distinction between people. He just hoped that she would continue to be nice to people she met!

 

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Helios wasn’t familiar with that senator; he mostly knew senators who came in the brothel and those who spoke about others. Tertius’ name hadn’t been mentioned by any of his patrons, so he probably didn’t do anything outstanding. Of course though, Helios couldn’t help but wonder if the senator fancied men, but he couldn’t really ask his daughter that question – it wouldn’t be proper!

 “A senator’s daughter… I am in very noble company today.” He just said with a smile, and then the girl said she was certain the god would like their flowers. She explained about why she was here to pray and her brother and slave/chaperone elaborated for her. Helios nodded and then she went on, wondering if his friend was badly hurt. She even patted his knee, but he said nothing to it – he was used to being touched by strangers, after all, even if not by girls as young as Antonia. 

“He is… very badly hurt. A stray dog bit his leg. I hope it’ll be fully functional again and not infected. A medicus has been taking care of him, but I thought that coming here wouldn’t be the worst thing to do.” Because infected could lead do death. He’d seen it before, infected wounds were the worst and dogs that lived on the streets weren’t known to be the most clean creatures of all. He was glad that at least now the dog was dead. It wouldn’t bite anyone anymore.

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"I'm sure he'll be all right," Antonia said, though Teutus was not sure of anything of the sort - something like that might not be able to be made right. He could very well see why Helios had come to the temple to beg for divine aid.

Teutus wasn't sure what to say; meeting someone for the first time in the temple of Apollo Medicus generally meant people were worried about health problems, either their own or those of a friend or family member.

"I hope your friend recovers soon, with no more memory of it than a story to tell over a cup of wine," he said, tightening his hold on Antonia, who'd found something fascinating about the other's hair or clothing or something. "I've heard that wine poured over such wounds helps keep them from getting infected," he added neutrally, though presumably the medicus who'd treated him must have used that remedy, or something like it.

"What was he doing to get bitten by a dog?" Antonia wondered before Teutus could shush her - not that his instructions were entirely effective. He might be her older brother, but she knew he was a slave and treated slaves much as any free person did.

"I beg your pardon, you don't have to answer if you'd rather not," Teutus told their new acquaintance, vowing to tell Antonia why you couldn't ask questions like that of people who were worried about their friend's health.

 

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Helios really hoped the girl was right – and that Calvunus would turn out just fine in the end and that he’d return to his old self; even with a leg that would function and hopefully other parts of him did too. Helios was bound to him no matter what; this was the least he could do. He gave Antonia a smile, brushed a golden lock of hair behind his ear, “I hope you’re right.” He replied, before Teutus also said he hoped Helios’ friend would recover soon.

 He nodded when Teutus spoke of the wine; the medicus had done many things and using wine on the wound was common practice. Hopefully it would be good enough. Then Antonia suddenly barged in again, wondering how Calvunus to bit by a dog. Teutus said he didn’t have to answer, but Helios was already considering how.

 “It’s a long story but… we were in the streets at night and the dog suddenly attacked us. And since I’m useless in such matters, it was my friend who managed to stop the hound.” By killing it, but he wouldn’t mention that to a child; she might pity the dog more than the man who got bit… “… but before he managed to, the dog had bit him. I did what I could to help him after, but…” Sometimes, in rare cases, he apparently felt somewhat useless. Fighting and mending wounds were not among his skills.

 “Now there’s nothing more to do though. He has to heal. Just like your friend’s wrist.” Helios added in the end, attempting to change the subject. He’d rather not talk about himself too much.

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"He must be very brave, your friend," Antonia announced, before being diverted by mention of her own friend's misfortune. "Rufilla Salvia was playin' ball with me and Flavia Justina an' she caught the ball funny an' sprained her wrist."

Teutus didn't think that the girl's misfortune was as bad as Helios' friend's injury sounded, but young girls could blow anything up into a tragedy to rival anything by the Greek playwrights.

"You're a very good friend to help him an' to come an' pray for him," Antonia added after a moment, clearly expecting a similar compliment to be paid to her, in return.

Teutus tried not to roll his eyes. "And you're a very good girl to come down all the way from the Quirinal to pray for Rufilla Salvia," he said. Perhaps if he said it, Helios wouldn't feel the need to. Antonia was growing up to be every inch a true Roman patrician, expecting all those around her to bend to her will. It might be because she didn't have a mother and her father seemed to cave to the smallest wish she had - and there was nobody else in the house who could stand  up to her, not really. Teutus could sometimes, but only when she was in the mood to allow him to be her brother rather than simply a household slave.

"We should be going soon," he added, talking to the both of them. "I'm sure Helios doesn't want us to take his whole afternoon up."

Especially if he really was a slave, as Teutus suspected; free afternoons for slaves were rare indeed, when it wasn't some sort of holiday (Saturnalia...) and he surely wouldn't want to have to sit and listen to a girl's chatter for the whole time.

 

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Helios nodded when Antonia said his friend must be brave, but before he could say something, the girl was talking about her own friend who’d sprained her wrist. It would surely be fine. Her friend was surely a wealthy noble lady too, and they had good medics who’d tend to their every need – and they were probably much better than what they had at the brothel.

 “I guess we’re both good for considering our friends like this. So much that we ask the gods for help, when there’s nothing else we can do.” Helios commented, once Teutus also said she was a good girl for praying for her friend. Then silence fell and Teutus suggested going soon, so they wouldn’t make Helios spend his afternoon on them.

 “Don’t consider me, I'm not in a hurry to go home. My work… mostly takes place after sunset.” He said, that wasn’t saying too much, but Teutus might understand why Helios had plenty of time now and not later.

 “If you have somewhere to be though, you should get going. Do you know though… if one would also want to say a prayer to Fortuna somehow, where should I go?” Now he was at it, he might as well continue. His life wasn’t exactly going the way he wanted it to, right now. Not many nights ago, he wouldn’t have complained. But suddenly everything was so complicated. He hated that.

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Teutus couldn't help the inquisitive lift of one eyebrow as Helios mentioned his work taking place after sunset. He wasn't about to enquire about it, not with Antonia - bright, inquisitive Antonia! - within earshot. She was of an age where she reported the main events of her day to her father, and Teutus had no wish at all to be raked over the coals for letting his daughter consort in any way with a prostitute or any other disreputable sort. Nine-year-olds were not, in Teutus' admittedly limited experience, the very souls of discretion that older children might be.

"Fortuna? The temples of Fortuna and Fortuna Virilis in the Forum Boarium might be your best bet," he said, and shrugged. "We have nowhere in particular that we need to be. My Domina is as free as a bird this afternoon and where she goes, I go. Within reason, of course."

And wherever they ended up, Teutus had the coin for a carrying chair home for her; he could walk alongside if need be. Or save the coin and give her a piggy-back ride home, which would wear him out (tramping back up to the Quirinal was no joke!) but would doubtless be the highlight of her day after meeting Helios.

"Who's Fortuna?" Antonia demanded, determined not to be left out of the conversation, and not wishing the conversation to turn to boring grown-up sort of topics either.

 

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Helios saw Teutus’ lift of an eyebrow in the faint light, but it wasn’t like they could talk about it in front of such a young girl. She’d learn about that part of life soon enough and since she was no slave, there was no point in ruining her outlook on life. She seemed nice, curious, but nice. So instead Helios had thought about Fortuna and going to pray to her somewhere. But it wasn’t something he’d done before.

 Teutus knew where to go and Helios nodded, “Of course… I know where that is. It’s a bit of a walk, but worth it I’m sure.” Helios at least hoped it would be. Then Teutus said they didn’t have to be anywhere and he only followed his young Domina, who also just happened to be his sister. What a weird relationship, although of course it wasn’t that uncommon.

 Antonia wondered who Fortuna was then… “She’s the goddess of fortune, luck and fate. I suppose someone sick or injured would also want to be on her good side.” And someone who’d had some bad luck recently. Gods he hated to have a mood like this, it wasn’t like him at all. Something really had to change real soon, or his mistress would end up considering him bad for business and get rid of him one way or the other.

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Fortune was fickle, something Teutus was all too aware of from his own messed-up life - he was here, as a slave, with his free half-sister, if anybody needed proof of that! He could just hope that Fortuna might look with favour on Helios and his friend. Just because something stupid had happened... It was easy to blame oneself for something that was, really, out of your control. Teutus knew that, too, having spent more than one sleepless night wondering whether it was something he'd said or done that had meant his master hadn't fulfilled his promise to free him yet.

Most things were out of a slave's control; it was hardly remarkable that a slave should find he blamed himself for something that wasn't his fault (so many free people chose to blame their slaves for something that wasn't the slave's fault, was that so surprising?).

He found himself wanting to reassure the other man, although he didn't know what he could say - 'it wasn't your fault' was so trite and who knew the truth of whether it was or wasn't, anyway. But there was something about the slump of the other's shoulders that said, as plainly as any words, that he blamed himself. He was saved from trying to come up with something helpful by Antonia Varia. (Darling Antonia Varia!)

"I'm sure Fortuna will listen to you," the child said. "I could ask my Papa to ask her too, when he goes to the temple."

Or maybe not so helpful.

"There's more than one temple," he told her quietly. "Because there are so many gods."

And it wasn't as though Tertius Quinctilius Varus would be likely to pray for anyone outside of his immediate family (unless, perhaps, he might pray for the Emperor. Maybe.)

"But if there's lots of gods, Papa will know the very best ones to pray to," Antonia pointed out, absolutely certain her father would do so if she asked him to - she was probably right, too; she had her father wrapped around her little finger and knew it!

 

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Helios definitely blamed himself – and especially because he’d been so useless and not very helpful at all, when that stray dog attacked. He hadn’t done anything. and all he’d done after was help Calvunus home, but his friend was already hurt and he could not prevent it. And if he hadn’t been flirting so bad with Calvunus, more or less asking to be fucked by him, they wouldn’t have stopped where they did and none of it would have happened. And now he’d have Marcus Falco on his back, if he found out it was Helios’ fault and what about Calvunus’ wife? And Helios’ mistress? He definitely needed a word with Fortuna, unless he wanted to go straight to Hades. And he didn’t. Not today.

 A silence had fallen and Helios almost expected they’d be leaving any moment now, but then Antonia was sure Fortuna would listen and began talking about her father. Helios looked up, there was no way he could have this girl tell a high-ranked senator that a slave who worked after dark needed help from Fortuna… Teutus tried to get the idea out of her head and she kept talking about how her father knew the best ones. He felt bad for Teutus having to try and control this girl, who obviously had a good heart, but perhaps too good. And it was best for her if it stayed like that.

 “Please… don’t.” Helios then said, “I think it’s best your father does not know you met anyone here.” All while he talked he was thinking of an excuse he could use for the girl to not talk. Teutus would no doubt get in trouble and Helios couldn’t have that on his shoulders too!

 “I’m sure your father is very protective and wouldn’t want you to have encounters with strangers in places with faint light. It is best to not mention me.” This time Helios was the one who dared to touch her; he touched her arm, looked to meet her eyes; his own very firm, suddenly, “Please promise me to not talk to your father.”

 Since when was he so afraid of… everything?

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"If you're suure..." Antonia said, both the tone of her voice and the expression on her face eloquently telling of her doubt.

"He's sure, Domina," Teutus said quietly, wondering how to explain to her that not everybody wanted everyone to know every detail of their lives. Especially when the one person was a slave and the other a senator. He didn't think the senator in question would appreciate it, either, but he'd do it if it meant making his daughter happy.

"Alright, then, I won't," she said, leaning out of Teutus' arms again to pat the other man's shoulder.

"I apologise for my... Domina," Teutus said with a small smile. "She means well, though."

He thought the other would be able to see that, and hoped the whole interaction hadn't made things worse.

"I do hope your friend recovers," he added. "And I think we had best be going - I'm sorry if we interrupted your prayers or anything."

He lifted Antonia from his lap, setting her on her feet.

"Can we buy a pastry, Teutus, please?" she said, looking up at him, before looking back at the golden-haired man still sitting on the bench. In an act of childish innocence and audacity, she stepped over to him and craned up to give him a kiss on the cheek before skipping back to Teutus' side.

Teutus didn't even have time to blink, it was so fast. She would never treat any of the slaves at home so, he was sure, but this was outside the home, she was not always certain of propriety - and she hadn't realised that the other was a slave anyway, most likely.

"We are certainly not telling your father about that," he said quietly. "Yes, we can buy a pastry," he added, a little louder, hoping the bribe would mean the finer details of this encounter would slip her mind later.

 

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Helios really thought it would be a bad idea to have this young lady tell her father about their meeting… and then ask her father to pray for a prostitute. Of course, her father might enjoy men and decide to find out more about Helios’ skills, but it could also end very badly and Helios just didn’t need more things ending badly at the moment. Antonia seemed not entirely sure if she’d not tell her father, but Teutus made her reconsider.

 Then Teutus apologized again, “I’m sure she does.” Helios said with a smile, before the girl decided they should get going and also apologized, this time for interrupting Helios, “You didn’t interrupt anything. There is no need to apologize for that. I hope your friend recovers too.” He told her politely. Even a whore could have manners. He’d just been sitting here in his own thoughts when they arrived and he didn’t mind them talking to him. Teutus seemed nice and the girl did too, although she did seem spoiled and her own mind.

 Antonia then began talking about pastries and Helios thought to leave them alone, but then she suddenly move over to him and placed a kiss on his cheek. Helios gave her a surprised look and Teutus thought they’d not tell her father about her kissing Helios.

 “You better not.” He said, but with a cheerful tone, although still not sure what to feel about the girl kissing his cheek. He stood, deciding he should leave too and find that other temple… but then he looked to Teutus and thought another new acquaintance and contact wasn’t bad to have, especially not when they were sons of senators – even slavesons, “If you ever want to talk, I’m mostly found close to our goddess of love.” He said to Teutus – discretely telling him it was at the Domus Venus he could be found, but so that the girl thought it might be a temple rather than a brothel.  

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Teutus was able to take a hint. The other man's clothing and bearing pointed to his occupation making him a less-than-suitable companion for a Senator's daughter (of any age, never mind for one of Antonia's tender years) and he was thus able to take the provided information and parse that Helios meant, presumably, the House of Venus, the Domus Venus, rather than any of her temples. Even prostitutes could be decent people.

"Please pardon my sister," he said. "She is young, and has a good heart. I am afraid her father spoils her rather." Antonia's father was also Teutus', of course, but that was a whole mess of tangled emotions. Tertius Quinctilius Varus was not the only member of the household who spoilt her; Teutus was known to, at times - but then Teutus also said 'no' to her on occasions, and was listened to.

"I will see if I can come to see you, but I'm sure you understand that my time isn't my own." Teutus shrugged. A slave's time naturally belonged to his master, as the slave did. Teutus perhaps had more leeway than some slaves, being the son of his master and having his freedom promised to him, but that didn't mean very much.

"It was nice to meet you," Antonia said, suddenly shy at Helios' height, tucking her hand into Teutus' and looking up at the blond man. "P'raps your friend might like a pastry?"

"We're not buying him a pastry, Antonia - I haven't enough money," Teutus said, giving her about the only excuse she might accept as to why they couldn't buy the unknown friend a pastry (and maybe deliver it too, gods forbid!).

 

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Thank the gods that a child like Antonia was easily distracted and didn’t pay attention to all of their conversations. Teutus excused Antonia again, then said her father spoiled her. Helios nodded, he could imagine that. How odd must it be for Teutus to have the same father, but be a slave and not spoiled like his sister. It must be strange.

 Then the other man added he’d see if he could come and see him, “I understand. I’m in the same position, most of the time.” Other times he was in other positions… he smiled, enjoying the little joke although he couldn’t tell it to anyone, “But I had time for this and if I don’t have time for you if you do come and visit… my time at least can be purchased.” He lowered his voice and added a wink afterwards. Then Antonia returned to them, saying it was nice to meet Helios and suggested he’d like a pastry.

 “I’m good, but thanks for considering me.” Helios said with a smile to the girl, “We can walk together on the way out?” He gestured for the other two to get moving first and then he’d follow.

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Teutus nodded, still smiling. Well, that confirmed his suspicions, at least - the other was a prostitute at one of the more famous (infamous?) brothels in Rome. He had no idea how he might afford to pay for Helios' time - he was a slave himself and despite everything, every promise his father had ever made, he was still treated the same as the other slaves in his father's household. His friend was probably also a prostitute, and there was no way at all that Teutus wanted to take Antonia there to meet the unknown man and sympathise with him over his injury. She'd be much better off calling on Rufilla Salvia! At least her father didn't mind that friendship.

"I might do that," he said in a low voice, replying to the other's offer. "When I can, of course."

Who knew when that might be, though. It would be nice to have a friend, even one whose favours were sold. This was not one of those times, at least; Teutus was pretty sure the offer of friendship was genuine - and if it wasn't, well, no harm done.

"Of course we can," Antonia put in, imperiously, as the only free person in the place and one who knew it, too. Or at least, expected people like Helios to fall in line and defer to her, whether they were free or not.

Teutus wondered, sometimes, how she would react to being made to defer to her father's acquaintances if they stopped being charmed with her and simply pulled rank. They wouldn't, not so rudely, not to Tertius' daughter - and anyway, she would be with her father on such occasions and would just fall in with what he said and did.

She slipped her hand free of Teutus' and led the way out of the temple, giving her brother no choice but to follow, which he did, giving Helios a rueful look as the two men followed her, shoulder to shoulder, Antonia's own private entourage until it was time to part ways.

 

@Atrice

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Teutus seemed very understanding and easy to talk to – and even friendly too. Helios liked him so far and thought he’d be a good acquaintance and contact to have… perhaps even either (or?) a patron or a friend, who knew? When he had a senator for a father, who knew what Teutus might be able to do and what knowledge had access to. Helios offer was both genuine but also with an agenda. For a slave like Helios, there was almost always an agenda.

 His new acquaintance or what he was – Helios didn’t know yet, didn’t know if he would actually come and see him – only said he might come and might purchase his time. When he could. That could be anytime or never. Meanwhile Antonia also had her agenda, and now that she couldn’t get Helios a pastry, she agreed they could walk together out of the temple. She walked first then and the two slaves followed behind her. She seemed sweet, but she was a child and even a senator’s daughter. She was not exactly someone who should be seen with a prostitute.

 The sun was shining brightly outside the temple, but it was still early spring and the air was still somewhat cold. Helios pulled his cloak tighter around him and thought of how cold it had been that night with Calvunus, where they ended up in that alley after all and then the incident with the dog had happened. He cast a glance over his shoulder to the temple and hoped Apollo would listen. Then they made their way down the steps outside.

 “So I suppose this is it.” Helios said, once they were there, looking at the odd couple of siblings – one a spoiled child, the other a humble slave, “It’s been a pleasure meeting you both.”

@Sharpie

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Teutus blinked as they emerged from the cool dimness of the temple into the brightness of the Roman sun. The man beside him pulled his cloak tighter around him, as Teutus did the same. The other's hair looked like spun gold in the sun - he could see why he'd been given the name Helios, whether that was a birth-name or one given later. 'Flavius' - Blondie - would have been too common a name for one whose hair was so bright.

"I suppose it is," he said, catching hold of Antonia's hand before she went dancing down the temple steps and got herself lost in the crowd.

"I will try to visit you," he added, giving a firmer promise than that of mere moments ago. "It has been a pleasure to meet with you, likewise."

He offered his arm, in the manner of the free; they were both equals, for the moment at least. Perhaps Helios wouldn't mind a fuck, if Teutus did come for a visit - the man had all but said he was a prostitute, but Teutus didn't want to take advantage of that if the other would merely prefer to talk.

"I do hope your friend gets better soon," Antonia said, determined not to be left out of the conversation going on over her head. "If Teutus does visit you, I'd like to come, to meet your friend."

Teutus could tell from her tone that it was wishful thinking, that she could tell she wouldn't be allowed to, and didn't like the implication of being left out. He gave the other a slight shake of the head, she wouldn't come, wouldn't be allowed anywhere near the place (even if she thought it was a temple) but he might be sent with something for Helios and his friend - if Antonia remembered to, in  few days from now.

"We have to go. Shall we see if Marta has your favourite almond pastries today?" he said to Antonia, once they were partway down the steps. The prospect of Marta and almond pastries did the trick, as he'd hoped, and she burst into bright childish chatter about her friend (a freedwoman wife of one of Tertius' plebeian clients) and the kittens their cat was expecting.

 

@Atrice

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