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A mater et filius


Gothic
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March 74CE

(Four days after What the fates dragged in)

Juliana was seated with Quintus, his son was practically beaming with eager excitement and did not yet quite seem to grasp how unconventional this situation was. She smiled, her hand ran over his head and she looked down at him. Little Quintus was a happy and bright child, interested in the world around him and wanted to know everything. She was dressed simply, her clothing style was clean and serviceable. Long ago she had outgrown much of the vanity she had in her earlier years. Her hair was loosely curled, tied back and smiled. 

"Now, she will not be your only tutor, you will still have Titus who will teach you how to ride and swordplay, Aegidius will still teach you Greek and your letters," She reminded little Quintus. It was difficult not to mother him too much. It had taken a long time for her first living son to be born. The prayers and sacrifices had worked. She had truly been blessed. Sons would need to grow into strong men who would someday defend Rome from the barbarians, or others who would wish to bring Rome harm. 

"Yes Mater, I hope she will be nice," Quintus answered.

Juliana heard footsteps behind them and turned to look. Aia was brought with another of the household slaves. The new addition to the household looked quite different in a dress compared to the traveling clothes she had worn previously. 

"Quintus, this is Aia." She began the introduction. 

@Chevi

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It was strange, wearing women's clothes for the first time in more than a decade. A slave had to help her figure her way out into it, and even then, there was not much they could do about her short-cropped hair. In the end, they tied a scarf around her head with a few decorative knots. They also wanted to put some color on her face, but she was not quite comfortable enough to trust herself with not messing it up immediately, so she refused. 

Today was the day, after having arrived and settled in, to introduce herself to the boy she was going to be tutoring, as per the wishes of his illustrious father and patient mother. Aia had to admit that she was nervous; she had not dealt with children often, definitely not any that way outranked her in nobility. If it turned out that she had no talent for them, she would be out of her job faster than she got in.

The interprex tried for a friendly smile as she walked up to the mistress of the household, and looked at the boy.

"It is a pleasure to meet you, young master Quintus."

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Juliana looked up and saw Aia in her women's clothing. There was not much she could do about the hair so far. A wig was too expensive and elaborate to put on a tutor of the household. She hoped no-one would frown on Aia for having  short hair, it was not the norm for a woman in Rome and was a possible sign of a woman who had her hair shorn. Little Quintus on the other hand was oblivious to his mother's thoughts. He stared up at the red haired woman thoughtfully for a moment. His gaze moved to her hair, looked confused for a moment and dismissed it. He fiddled with his fingertips and felt his mother's elbow gently nudge him as a reminder to behave, and to have confidence. 

"You too," He said, stared up at her and this time with a mischievous grin. "Have you taught many boys before?" Quintus asked. His eyes were the colour and shape of his father's, however, already he looked like he would favour his mother more in features. He reached out with his arm and gestured for her to come sit with them, he patted the seat beside them and waited for her to sit. 

"Oh! And I have to introduce you to the horses and the other animals." Quintus said with all the authority of a young Dominus. 

@Chevi

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"You too. Have you taught many boys before?" 

I taught them not to touch me, does that count?

Aia could tell that the boy, despite his polite manners, was curious about her. It must have been the hair  - short and red -, or the strange foreign name. She doubted Juliana would have told the kid about where Aia really came from. Children were not great at keeping exciting secrets. Quintus seemed friendly, though, and Aia smiled as she took a seat next to him.

"Not many, no. But I'm looking forward to it."

"Oh! And I have to introduce you to the horses and the other animals."

The child was just the right age to have animal friends, or so Aia assumed. She was not squeamish about animals, as long as she did not have to take care of them in her current position.

"Sure" she nodded "Are you learning to ride?"

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Juliana remained quiet and let Quintus get to know Aia. 

"Oh yes, I am going to be a better rider than all the Parthians," He said, raised his chin and grinned happily. Then paused, reached out and placed his hand on Aia's forearm in a supportive gesture. "Don't worry, I will teach you how to ride and, wait, what are you going to be teaching me about? You don't look anything like my other tutors." Little Quintus stated the obvious, a child's blunt innocence and looked up at her. Studied her fair skin, fairer than his family members and that red hair. He had seen other women with hair like hers, although they were few and far between. Many women had wigs using that hair colour though. 

Since little Quintus and Aia thus far had been getting along well. Juliana rose from her seat and address them both. "Now, be good," She addressed both of them in a parental tone, then smiled. Maybe this wasn't such a bad idea after all? "I will come to see how your meeting went." Juliana said, and left them to themselves. 

Little Quintus watched his mother leave and leaned in to whisper. "It's okay, I know," He said then winked. "How is Pater?" He asked, mischievous and like a child, tested the adults around him to see how they would behave. 

@Chevi

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It was hard not to like Quintus immediately. He seemed like a bright boy; it spoke to his mother's talents that he was well behaved, but he had a spark of spirit that made him more interesting than many other children. Not that Aia had met that many.

"Oh yes, I am going to be a better rider than all the Parthians. Don't worry, I will teach you how to ride and, wait, what are you going to be teaching me about? You don't look anything like my other tutors."

"I will be teaching you languages, to start" Aia responded with a chuckle. She imagined the boy teaching her how to ride. It was amusing idea, given that she dressed as a woman now. She had never been in the cavalry, but she knew how to ride a horse. It was just convenient, when one traveled a lot.

Juliana decided to leave them alone for now. Aia found that she was less nervous than she had been a few minutes ago. Maybe the boy would be easy to handle. Or maybe he would turn into a little monster the moment his mother was out of sight. 

"It's okay, I know. How is Pater?" 

Aia blinked at the conspiratory whisper. "Know wha..." she sighed, smiling at the boy. He knew she'd been sent by his father. That was nothing to worry about. "Your father was well, the last time I met him. Very busy with running a province."

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Quintus nodded, a gesture that was more mature than he behaved. He missed his father but knew that duty called. It was part of life and he frowned a little in frustration. "I imagine so, mater says that it is a busy job." He said, then went silent and soon the same jovial expression returned to his face. 

"Did you help or teach him about languages?" He asked brightly, stared up at her and seemed to study her pale features. Her pale eyes, skin, and that red hair absolutely stood out. Many women in Rome loved blonde or red haired wigs. Maybe that was where her hair went? He was itching with a child's curiousity to find out what had happened and how he could find out why without potentially causing offense. 

All these possibilites filled his mind then suddenly he burst out. 

"Why is your hair short?" He asked.

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"I imagine so, mater says that it is a busy job."

The child probably missed his father, and that was no wonder. Aia missed her father too, and he had been gone for more than a decade. Little Quintus had to grow up in a home where the pater familias was a distant figure. His mother did a great job keeping everything in hand, as far as Aia could tell, but for a child, it was still not quite enough.

"Did you help or teach him about languages?"

"Not him, no" Aia chuckled. That would have been a whole different story. "But some other people that work for him."

It was close enough for the truth, her having been an interpreter for the officers. She could tell there was another question coming, from the intent look on the boy's face, and by now she knew that it would be an interesting one for sure.

"Why is your hair short?" 

Aia laughed a little. Wasn't that just the obvious thing to ask? She knew the household talked about her arrival already, so she said the same thing she'd said to his mother.

"I had to travel all the way here from the frontier on my own. So I pretended to be a boy." she admitted with a mischievous smile. 

@Gothic

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Quintus nodded to the first response and picked at his cuticles with his fingertips. To him, it was not particularly exciting or anything of note. 

The second part was most interesting to him. A boy? He grinned and leaned closer in order to hear the story of why. His mischievous eyes twinkled with amusement. While he was mostly a good kid -- he was still cheeky and fascinated by stories of people's lives. Even if he came across as being rude sometimes. 

"As a boy!" He exclaimed, "Tell me what happened! Why were you on your own? Why didn't you travel with friends? Don't you have friends? Why were you dressed as a boy? Was it scary? What did you eat on the road?" Quintus asked the series of questions. One after another with no stops for breaths, and once he was done he gasped for breath and waited eagerly for the answers to all of the questions.

A few he had admittedly began to forgot that he had already asked. 

@Chevi

 

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Oh boy, she'd done it now. Quintus' face lit up with the pure curiosity children his age seemed to have. Surely, this was much more interesting to him than learning languages from some strange lady who had just joined the household. Aia laughed at the reaction of excitement, trying to find her way through the flood of questions and back to some semblance of a tutor-pupil relationship. 

"As a boy! Tell me what happened! Why were you on your own? Why didn't you travel with friends? Don't you have friends? Why were you dressed as a boy? Was it scary? What did you eat on the road?" 

"Whoa, whoa, one question at a time!" Aia held up a hand, laughing "I'll forget half of them before you take a breath. Yes, I traveled as a boy, but not always alone. Sometimes with other travelers. But it is much safer to travel as a boy than as a girl, you see. And much easier to ride a horse. So when your pater told me to come here to Rome, I decided to dress up as a boy." she smiled "And I did have friends, they just did not come here with me." Or know that I was a woman.

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He listened to her answer and rolled his eyes when she complained about him going too fast.

Why couldn't old people keep up?

"Ohh.... did you like the people that you traveled with? Did you make any new friends or acquaintances?" Quintus asked, paused and took a deep breath before he continued with his typical bombardment of questions. His eyes lit up, bright and cheerful as he continued.  "Do you want to travel again? Do you want to see my horses? Will you take me out the next time that you go?" He said, bounced on the spot and grinned with excitement of the possibility. Aia was so different from his mother or the other women that he saw regularly. If she rode that meant that she could ride with him! They could go on an adventure. 

And maybe go racing or something. 

@Chevi

 

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The boy had more questions than air in his lungs, and he was clearly impatient about letting Aia even attempt to answer all of them. The interprex smiled. It was much more fun to teach a bright child, even if he was a handful, than a dull one.

"Ohh.... did you like the people that you traveled with? Did you make any new friends or acquaintances?" 

Aia paused, seeing an opportunity.

"Yes, I made some. I met people whose language I spoke, and we became friends as we traveled together..."

"Do you want to travel again? Do you want to see my horses? Will you take me out the next time that you go?" 

"That is entirely up to your mother" Aia said, truthfully. "But we can't really go traveling far until I make sure you can talk to at least some of the people we meet..."

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Little Quintus sighed and waved off her concerns in the arrogance of childhood ignorance of the dangers outside. 

"Yes, yes, don't worry she will be fine," Quintus answered, oblivious to what his mother might actually think and it was unlikely that he would truly get in trouble. He grinned at her, cheeky and happy to have someone new to talk to. No doubt Aia would end up hearing all about the horses the family owned, their backstories, what they liked to eat for breakfast and every little minute detail. Much like every adult visitor who visited the family home, and got to hear about everything.

And no doubt any stranger they end up talking to would end up getting their ears talked off as well. 

He was uncharacteristically quiet for a moment. However that did not last long before he asked.  

"Do you have a boyfriend or a husband?" He asked inquisitively, then leaned in closer to whisper, "Or are you like Sappho?" 

 

@Chevi

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The boy seemed more than confident in his mother's forgiving nature. Aia was not so sure about how far Flavia Juliana would allow her precious son to venture, especially accompanied by someone like her, but for now, there was a lot of learning to cover before horse-riding adventures were even an option. She was sure that in time Quintus would become a young man of enthusiasm and curiosity. If he managed to sit still for more than five seconds, and learn some languages, he would no doubt put them to good use.

"Do you have a boyfriend or a husband? Or are you like Sappho?" 

Aia blinked, staring at the boy who was just full of surprises.

"You know Sappho?" that did not seem like something a child would be interested in... Aia shook her head with a chuckle. "No, I do not have a husband or a boyfriend. I have friends who are boys, if that's what you are asking. Do you have a girl friend?"

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