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By the gods Cynane hoped this was the right time! Two weeks ago, she had met a very lovely young woman from Britannia and they had actually gotten along rather well. So well that they wanted to see each other again. And they agreed to meet near her domus, two weeks later. Cynane had been a very good slave to her imperial mistress those weeks, she had not asked for any trips out on her own, but now she did it and it paid off. She was allowed. But at what hour was it she met Charis last time?

She believed it was afternoon, because she remembered Claudia having business during the morning hours and she had been resting later in the day, and that’s when Cynane went to the market. She could not ask for an entire day off, but she wanted to see Charis so badly. She didn’t know why, other than that she’d felt bad for the young woman and wanted to be her friend. And maybe that’s all the reason she needed?

Anyway, she was here now. Right where they’d left each other, but she had seen where Charis went afterwards so she continued up the hill to the domus. It didn’t look like the biggest place, but it wasn’t small either. She leaned against a wall opposite the domus where Charis lived and worked as a slave and she hoped Charis would actually appear. If she remembered their deal about meeting here and if she actually got the chance to leave. She hoped so.

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Charis had been flustered that day. The work she now did in the small internal garden was more enjoyable, but more time consuming than working with Rhoda in the kitchens, and it wasn't as if the older Greek slave had let her off lightly. Generally when she had finished her planting or pruning she would be pulled back to help prepare meals. It meant that she had even less time than when she had first arrived, even though she had gained surer footing in the household. Fortuitously (and she had chalked it up to her prayers to the Gods the night before), her Dominus was otherwise occupied that morning and there was little to do in the garden and kitchens. 

She had insisted to those that asked, that she needed to venture into the city to collect cuttings for a rarer form of rose. A complete fabrication, but she would simply feign ignorance - that she couldn't find a vendor that had any, or couldn't find one at all. Patiently, she waited until what she assumed was the right hour and spirited out of the smaller entrance to the domus, ducking her head to avoid any inquisitive questions from any of her fellow slaves. Not that they had been speaking to her much - since her change in fortune and new responsibilities, many of them had been openly irritated. Evidently it was rare for a slave to dictate their choice in job and they'd been aggrieved that she seemed to have managed it. 

Blinking into the early afternoon sun, and relieved that the weather was at least cooler today, she glanced around. It was left, wasn't it? She hadn't ventured to the markets since she had first run into Cinnia and bit her bottom lip in a momentary panic that she couldn't remember the way. Glancing around, the worry evaporated from her face as she spotted the tall blonde leaning casually across the way. Grinning a smile that stretched across her face she waved a hand in greeting and hurriedly crossed over to her. "You remembered!" She spoke in their shared dialect with amusement, "I'm flattered you didn't forget about me." Arching a brow, she glanced back over her shoulder to make sure nobody had followed her out of her domus and gestured with her head further down the road. She started walking as she spoke, "They think I'm going to the market, not meeting you." With abandon she reached down to squeeze the other woman's hand, "How are you?"

 

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Cynane felt she’d been waiting a good long while now, and Charis wasn’t here yet. Maybe she had forgotten. Or maybe her dominus wouldn’t let her have this time off. Maybe she had really come home too late that day they met, and now she wouldn’t be allowed out alone in a while. Cynane felt a little bad about it. She hadn’t been busy getting Charis home that day, because she’d enjoyed the younger woman’s company. Gods it wasn’t fair that they were slave and were not allowed to control what they did with their time! Or where they were, at all times, really!

Suddenly though, a small figure stepped out of the building Charis disappeared into that day. She looked around first, and then she saw Cynane and approached her, grinning and waving. Cynane laughed a little at her words, “You’re not that forgettable. Don’t ever think that.” Cynane said with a smile to her. She considered giving her a hug, but maybe that was too early… Charis seemed happy at least and they started walking. The other woman explained how she got out.

“So they just allowed you to go to the market again? You must be doing well.” She said, “I’m good. Nothing life-changing has happened though. Except of course for making a new friend.” She looked at Charis, “I hope life has been treating you well too. As well as the circumstances allow, anyway.” 

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Charis arched a brow, amused; "Well...I didn't really ask." Who was she supposed to ask, nobody had told her? "But I said to Rhoda, in the kitchens, and a few of the others that I needed to get to market and they didn't really seem to care." One of the benefits, it seemed, of having irritated her companions in the domus was that they were largely apathetic to her presence. It certainly made her life easier...if not more lonely. 

Grinning as they walked, and cautiously avoiding the glances of citizens who looked pointedly at the pair of women, talking away in a foreign dialect, she smiled. "Nothing life changing?" She narrowed her gaze, "What about non-life changing things? Your mistress is well?" She tried to pull from the recesses of her mind the girl's name, but it escaped her. She did, however, remember that she was important and lived in a palace. 

Shrugging her shoulders, she offered a coy smile at her company. "It's...better...I'm not in the kitchens anymore," She shook her head, correcting herself, "Not all the time anyway, Rhoda - the kitchen slave - she drags me back sometimes." Much as Charis wished she didn't. A little awkwardly, she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear - a nervous habit - and spoke quietly, as if ashamed; "I...had a run in, or more of a chance encounter with my dominos...but it worked out for the best, he at least agreed for me to work in the gardens, where I want to."

 

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It was of course good that Charis was doing well in her household. Cynane wouldn’t want her to do get herself into trouble, so she was surprised to hear that the young woman had gone out without asking. She’d just told them and then she left. Well at least they knew she left, so hopefully that would be fine too. She just nodded, didn’t see the need to comment and then she’d told how her life was the same as always. Nothing life-changing here. Then the young woman asked if her mistress was doing well.

“Plenty of non-life changing things, I guess.” She said with a smile, she could see how that might sound amusing, “My mistress is as well as ever, too. Young, beautiful, noble… and no news of any husband for her, at least not that I’ve heard.” Cynane added thoughtfully. She would have thought that Caesar might want to marry off that young and pretty lady soon, but on the other hand, she wasn’t sure she was going to like it, when it happened. A new master might be difficult and Cynane might not get to tend to Claudia the way she did now.

Charis was doing well, apparently she was not in the kitchen so much anymore. Then she said she’d had an encounter with her master, who had then allowed her to work in the gardens. Cynane arched a brow though, looking at her, “A chance encounter… did he do anything to you? Since you… were allowed to do different work? Gardens sound nice though.” She couldn’t help but wonder if Charis had pleasured him, willing or not, and in return, he granted her work in the gardens, that she seemed happy with. Roman masters didn’t just do that, unless they had a very good reason. Especially not if Charis’ master was as difficult as she said last time.

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Charis grinned, "Good. I'm glad you have her undivided attention for now...men just complicate things." She waved her hand, but in good nature. She missed her husband deeply, but tried not to dwell on it. He'd be with the Gods now, if he had died and if he hadn't well...that was possibly even more painful. With curiosity, she glanced up at Cynane. "Did you have one? A man, I mean, back in Britannia?" She didn't know why, but she couldn't imagine it - the other woman was beautiful, to be sure, but she seemed to have a strength of character that Charis imagined men might be affronted by. 

Frowning, and with a small, uncomfortable laugh she shook her head. "No...not really." He had't really done anything. He just seemed to have an innate way to make her feel on edge. "He...found me praying, in the garden at night and he wanted me to sit with him and talk to him," She frowned, as if trying to pull out the memories that were already a little hazy after just a few weeks. "And he made me kneel in front of him and I thought, well..." She gave the other woman a pointed look, "But it wasn't that...but he was watching me so intently and I realised that maybe that could be useful." She shrugged and continued walking. She knew she was playing a dangerous game, but he was only watching her.

"So I said he could watch me...if I worked in the garden and now here I am." She gave her friend a grin, pleased with herself. "Men are very predictable. But from what I can tell he hasn't had a woman since his wife, and far prefers his body slave so all I need to do is smile and nod and I'll at least get the peace of working alone."

 

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Cynane nodded, she agreed it was nice to have Claudia as a mistress without a husband at the moment. And men most certainly complicated things, all the time. Then Charis wondered if Cynane had a man in Britannia, but she shook her head, “I was younger than you, when I fought and was captured by the Romans. There were… crushes, but never more than that.” Cynane explained. Sometimes it was odd seeing married couples around her and even lovers, knowing that she might never have a husband and there had never been a truly steady lover either. Maybe someday… but she didn’t know. It didn’t seem important.

Charis had also mentioned an encounter with her master, which resulted in him allowing her to work in the gardens. Cynane was naturally curious about what her master did, but apparently, he didn’t do much. They had talked and he’d made her kneel, but seemingly only to watch her. That was odd. But men were odd, sometimes. It was surprising he didn’t do anything more to Charis. And what a horrible world here, where a slave had to take advantage of her master watching her, to get what she wanted.

“I am glad it worked out for you. He sounds sort of… I don’t know… strange?” Why would her master watch her and not take advantage of her? “Just be careful. I wouldn’t trust him.” But then, how many men did Cynane trust? Definitely close to zero! Decimus she might trust, but only because he’d treated her well so far. Most men didn’t. So most men, she didn’t trust. She gave Charis a look, “Is he the only male in your household?”

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Charis felt a little bad. At least she had had a glimpse of a life; a husband, a child on the way, before it was taken from her. At least she had those memories. She didn't know if it would be worse to have nothing. Still, not wanting to dwell on dark times, she arched an eyebrow at her company, a mischievous grin on her lips; "And anything more than crushes now?She didn't know whether slaves were allowed relationships, although she assumed they couldn't. Not that Charis was in any position to ask, love and passion were possibly as far from her mind as they could ever be, right now.

She nodded, however, at her company's words. "He is a bit strange." She shrugged. He was an enigma to her - which was rare. She'd always prided herself at being able to read people easily. 

Still, she drew to a stop at Cynane's wording and glanced up with a frown. "He honestly doesn't seem interested like that." She affirmed, more to herself than the other Briton. "He only has eyes for his body slave...I think I'm just a novelty." She knew she likely sounded naive, but she didn't want to admit to her friend (or herself, for that matter) that she'd been foolish and placed herself in his way without a thought of the consequences. She was pleased with her new work, but a discomfort lingered about how it may have changed the dynamic between herself and her master. "But I will...I'll be careful." She repeated hesitantly. Although if he does decide he wants to do more than look at me, what do I do? She wanted to ask, but felt too embarrassed.

With another nod, she slowly started walking again. "The only free man in the house, he has male slaves," She waved a hand, hating how dismissive she sounded, "Including his own son...he's older than me I think, Teutus." She liked the youth and was yet to keep her distance, like the others who only saw him as a future domine. For Charis, she believed she wouldn't be here long enough to see that day. 

 

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When they spoke of their past, free lives and whether Cynane had any husband or anything, she had to disappoint Charis. She had no one. Only crushes that never evolved, because well… Rome. Instead of dwelling on that fact though, the younger woman would know if Cynane had any crushes now. Sometimes she wish she had. But they weren’t there. Few men caught her interest. There was that man Lucius, whom she met at that tavern a while ago, she couldn’t him out of her head. No matter how irritating and arrogant he’d been. But luckily, she hadn’t seen him. Else it was mostly women that caught her gaze lately. Aia was very interesting. They had talked about seeing each other too, like Cynane and Charis did now. Maybe she should look more into that again.

 “Nothing more than crushes. And they don’t seem to lead anywhere.” Cynane said, hoping she didn’t sound too pessimistic, but this was how life was for her now. She doubted anyone would mind if she had a relationship with someone, but she didn’t.

 When talking about Charis’ owner, now that was a strange man. Peculiar, maybe even… creepy? But she didn’t word it like that. Charis only agreed he was strange, and again didn’t think her owner was interested in her ‘like that’. She did however promise she’d be careful, “Please do. I’d hate to find you bruised or docile next time I see you.” She’d seen it happen before, to other slaves, while she was a gladiatrix. Slaves could come in and they were all high and mighty to begin with, thinking they knew how to live this life. But one wrong step and their master had made sure they knew their place and wouldn’t forget it anytime soon. 

Charis said there was just the one master in the house, but male slaves and even one who was the son of her master. Cynane nodded, “That sounds peculiar. But not… extraordinary. Just like we had bastards running around, so do the Romans. One can wonder though, why your master has a grown son being a slave.” Again, Charis’ master was just strange, “I can see why you have a hard time figuring him out.”

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Charis bit her lip nervously but chuckled. "I'm plenty docile for him...which should save me any bruises." She said, although couldn't keep the concern from her voice. She hadn't seen Tertius beat his slaves, nor had she really heard anything to suggest he would, but she remembered how he made her kneel in the gardens and forced her eyes down at that first meeting. She definitely wouldn't put it past him to raise a hand to a nobody like her. "I'll work in the garden and smile when I need to and try not to grimace if he looks my way." She offered a wavering smile and reached down to squeeze the other woman's forearm. "Please don't worry about me, I'll be fine, I promise."

Still, she laughed. "He's impossible to figure out. I don't even think he does it on purpose." He was just an enigma. She only dared to imagine what his poor late wife must have felt. But then again, she wondered how close husbands and wives were over here. Political marriages were common in Britannia but only for those in the upper echelons of the tribe. Her own marriage had been made out of equal parts practicality and love. She wasn't sure if the latter even factored into the marriages here.

She sighed. "I do feel bad for Teutus though." She shook her head as they walked, "Not even able to look your father in the eye...never being able to even call him Father." it sounded barbaric to her, and before she could realise it, she let slip; "Immin and I spoke about it, with the baby...about whether it was right we were even bringing a child into the uncertainty at home but..." She realised what she had said and glanced up, big blue eyes blinking. She hadn't told anybody about it, not here. Quickly she shook her head and tried a smile, "It didn't last...don't worry. They didn't take my child off of me...that's one saving grace I suppose." 

 

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Cynane gave Charis a look, wondering if the younger woman knew just how docile the Romans wanted the women in their household to be… whores and slaves that weren’t their own, now those they liked to have spirit, but besides that, Romans seemed to like quiet women. She could only hope Charis was as quiet in the house, as she was outspoken here with Cynane. The other mentioned then how she’d work in the garden and smile at her owner, and she squeezed Cynane’s arm sand said she should not worry about her, “I’ll try not to worry. But I like you… which makes it hard to not be concerned for you.” She said with a smile to Charis. What a pity she was only a bodyguard to her mistress and couldn’t be there for Charis. But then she felt like that for many people she met.

Charis laughed when Cynane commented that Charis’ dominus was difficult to figure out – but the other said he didn’t do it on purpose, it was apparently just his nature. She continued about her master’s son, Teutus and how it would be like not being able to call your father by his title. She went on about what must be her husband from before slavery, for she mentioned a baby suddenly. Cynane looked at her and then she stopped, blinked with those pretty blue eyes of hers and then there was a forced smile as she said it didn’t last. What, the marriage or the baby? She was with child and she clearly had none now…

“I’m sorry to hear about all of that. It must be rough, having your life turned around so suddenly and…” She trailed off, it sounded so… terrible, loosing everything. It was a long while since Cynane experienced it and it wasn’t quite the same. She’d been in a battle, she knew the risk, although she would have preferred to die on the battlefield rather than becoming a slave. But she knew it could end like that. Still she held a grudge to the Romans for doing this to her; enslaving her and putting her through all they’d put her through. But Charis, she had a husband, she had a family, she could have had a child… her life was even more settled than Cynane’s, when she was ripped away from it.

She sighed, “I’m sorry, all this talk is making me all kinds of mad and sad at the same time. I wish you hadn’t gone through all that you’ve gone through lately.” Cynane said and lifted her chin a bit; her way of trying to ‘man up’ and pulling herself together, “The market is not far away now. Was it a honey-cake you wanted?”

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Charis visibly winced at the awkwardness. She hadn't realised she'd mentioned the child until it was too late, and it was in the open now. In truth, that loss seemed paler compared to the loss of her family and husband. She hadn't ever known being a mother, but she had known being a wife and a daughter and a sister. That didn't mean it didn't still distress her, but at the moment she was trying not to dwell. As the slaver had told her, a few days after it happened; 'You're young, you'll have more. Smile!'. She shuddered at the memory.

"No...I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make you morose." She offered a weak smile. Glancing at her friend she shrugged her shoulders, trying to act braver than she felt; "It's in the past now...I shouldn't dwell." That was the advice the other slaves had given her, a few days after she arrived in her masters house. At the time it had seemed almost...laughable, pathetic even. But in time she had come to understand that dredging up her upset and bitterness wouldn't serve her. She could still be angry about what happened, but she needed to be proactive in changing her circumstance now, and being upset didn't help. It was, however, easier said than done. 

Relieved at the change of topic, but still trying to shake off the awkwardness, she nodded. "Honey cakes sound good." It had been serendipitous to find a friend, especially one from her own country and she wasn't going to let a silly comment and awkwardness ruin it. Turning her face up she offered a more genuine smile. "I'm working on being allowed to go to the gardens soon, here, in Rome." She had heard they were beautiful...and a source of desperately needed shade for the fair-skinned Briton. "We should go. With honey cakes and wine, spend the afternoon gossiping..." The latter was perhaps a wistful dream, but she could hope. 

 

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Cynane hated how the Romans turned the British and so many other people into slaves. Sure they had slaves in Britannia too and sometimes they were captives from battles, but more often it was people unable to pay a debt or they had been traded between tribes as a token. Or they were just the lowest in the society… it wasn’t like here, where the Romans decided they had the right to be superior to everyone they conquered, and they decided who’d live and die and who would be free and who would be a slave. She felt so sorry for Charis.

The other woman apologized for making Cynane feel what she felt, and then she said how she should not dwell on the past… “Sometimes it’s hard to not dwell on the past. I still haven’t forgotten. If you forget what you had before… they have truly won.” She said to the younger woman, because that’s what she believed. They could own her body and give her orders, but her dreams and memories were hers and hers alone.

She changed the subject though, as they were going to the market for honey-cakes and she felt the mood wasn’t all too good now. Charis agreed how the honey cake sounded good, and then went on about how she hoped to go the gardens in Rome at some time. Cynane gave her a smile, “Maybe we have time today. If we hurry. Honey cakes and wine sounds so good…” She could not remember that she had a good time outside of a household like this, in Rome, at any given time. But now she had a chance… “Should we do it?”

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Charis swallowed, and nodded with a sigh. "Remembering it hurts though." She offered a weak smile. But Cynane was right - to forget was as awful as being complicit here. She was a free woman, a married woman and she should never forget the slight that had been inflicted on her. Waving a hand, as if trying to brush past it - because whilst she should remember, she shouldn't do so now - she offered a sigh and a shrug of her shoulders. "Let's not remember it right now...life is so miserable here, I don't want to make it any worse." And she meant it, dredging up the past now would serve them no good. 

She grinned then, as Cynane agreed to her plan. It had been a daydream, a fantasy (how simple her fantasies had become!) but at Cynane's affirmation, her smile beamed.  "Really?!" She laughed. Gods how she wished to watch the sun go down, drinking and laughing, joking and gossiping with a friend amongst nature. 

Glancing about, realising her exuberance had garnered her some stares from passers-by, she bit her lip to stop the smiling. They had neared the markets now and the amount of people was overwhelming. Quickly her hands went to the little coin purse hanging from her belt. It contained almost nothing, just enough to buy a honey-cake for each of them. She'd been saving. "I...can't afford to get wine." She winced and shrugged her shoulders, "But I can get you a honey-cake and we can still go to the gardens...? Nobody will miss me I'm sure." For some reason, she simply didn't care if they did.

 

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Charis mentioned how it hurt to remember what had been and what she’d lost, although Cynane was against the idea of forgetting all about it. She hoped Charis would not let the Romans take her mind. It was plenty they had her, such a stunning young woman, on the brink of a good life and she’d even been with child… and now here she was. It was terrible and unfair! But they had to find a lighter subject to talk about and Charis decided to not remember right now, as her current life was plenty miserable, “You’re right… let’s save it for another time.” Cynane agreed. When Charis had then dreamt of honey cakes and wine in a beautiful garden, Cynane thought they might have time for it…

That made the young woman brighten up in the most beautiful smile. She even laughed and it was contagious; Cynane chuckled too, “Really.” She confirmed and Charis attempted calming down. Then she checked how much coin she had, and said she could not afford any wine. Cynane looked thoughtful for a moment, “How about you spend your coin on honey-cakes. And then I’ll buy the wine? Cheap wine is wine too, after all.” She said with a smile and urged the other woman in direction of a shop that sold simple, baked goods – and here she’d wait for Charis to buy the cakes, before they’d move on to get the wine.

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Charis nodded and with a grin befitting a little girl who had been told she could have a treat, bounded off in the direction of the shop. She had been out of the domus so infrequently, and given she had been conversing her own language with Cynane had to repeat herself a few times to be understood. The shopkeeper rolled his eyes and packed two small cakes into a small parcel of fabric. Charis flashed a gentle grin. "Thank you Sir...it is treat for my Domina, I want surprise her...she is only eleven and so weak..." The shop keeper eyed the smiling young Briton and with a little sigh, unpacked the parcel and added in an extra cake. Charis paid and the man winked at her. A little lie never hurt anybody, she thought and was on a high from her dangerous little excursion. 

Rejoining Cynane she glanced around, switching back to their dialect. She liked the secrecy it gave them - few wound be able to understand the slaves' gossip. "Men are so easy...an extra one for us to share." She grinned. "Wine and to the gardens...? You'll have to direct me I'm afraid..." She couldn't help the hum of excitement in her chest about being somewhere other than her routine; domus, market, baths, domus, market, baths. Her Dominus had said the gardens were beautiful in Rome and she intended to see them for herself...with or without his permission. After all, what he didn't know couldn't hurt him?

 

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Cynane waited quietly while Charis bought the cakes, smiling sweetly to the shopkeeper and somehow she managed to get another cake for them. Cynane looked a bit surprised, never guessing Charis would be cunning like that, but she didn’t mind. It would seem this young Briton was full of surprises and they were not all bad. Once they were leaving again, Charis mused about how easy men were sometimes, “You’re full of surprises.” Cynane said with a friendly smile and nodded, “Yes, let’s get the wine. And get away from here.” She led the way to another place that sold drinks and after purchasing a jar of cheap wine, she motioned for Charis to come with her.

There were actually quite a few public gardens in Rome, some were famous and others were less so, but they were there. There was a garden not so far from the marketplace and soon they walked through the gate and past the wall around this little garden. There were a few areas with grass, there were trees, a large fountain and even a few statues of Roman deities. Cynane looked around, wishing she’d brought her cloak so they could sit on it, but she didn’t… then she eyed a bench not far from the fountain.

“Here’s a good place.” She said with a smile, feeling relaxed already. She sat down and broke the seal on the jar of wine and handed it to Charis, “I’ll let you have the first taste. I doubt its very good, but better than nothing…”

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Charis only responded with a grin at Cynane's surprise. She wondered briefly what her family would say if they saw her now; the pragmatic, sarcastic, bold young woman now shy and docile. She felt slowly, however, that she was coming back in drips - a little flirtation or banter here, a small lie there and she was returning to her former self. And she was sure Cynane would appreciate the old Charis more than the quiet, door-mouse little slave girl she now presented. 

Now they had the wine and moved into the gardens, Charis' eyes widened in wonder. It might not have been one of the grandest, or even one of the best maintained but to her it was...beautiful. She didn't even hear Cynane as she moved over to a bench. Instead, the young Briton woman moved to run her hand through the flowers that sprung up between the trees and surrounded the fountain. "It's beautiful..." She murmured to herself. But glancing around, when she finally moved from her reverie, she realised Cynane had sat a little way off and she moved to join her. 

"Hmm?" She asked, distracted but gratefully accepted the wine. Taking a deep breath, she moved it to her lips and took a deep sip. Charis had never been one for drink - given her stature it affected her more quickly and readily then a lot of her friends, and loosened her tongue. But she needed the fuzziness it provided now. She couldn't, however, help the wrinkle in her nose and the wince as she handed the jug back to Cynane. "Gods that's foul...but I can feel it warming my chest." Deftly, she moved to unpack the little parcel of cakes and set them about between them, talking distractedly. "I don't know why I like the gardens so much, in the domus and here I mean...we didn't really have anything like them at home - not besides herb gardens and crops...I suppose," She cast a wistful look around - noticing a few people milling about near the Britons, "It just reminds me of the nature of home...even if its more manicured, more...fake. It's still beautiful." she offered a cake to Cynane.

 

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Cynane was often almost masculine in her appearance and also the way she acted. She was confident, alert and resilient and she had to be. Else she would never have made it as a gladiatrix and not as a bodyguard at the palace, as the only woman among male guards. Charis was the complete opposite from her point of view. She was quite feminine and that also came to show now, in the gardens. While Cynane focused on finding a place to drink and breaking the seal of the wine, Charis admired the flowers and the scenery.

Finally Charis joined her and Cynane laughed when the other made a face at the wine. Cynane drank too, “It’s foul, but it does make you relax too.” She said with a smile after. Then Charis mused about why she liked gardens so much and Cynane watched her with great interest. It wasn’t something she had ever considered, what Charis said, but she supposed the other woman was right.

“Nature is still nature, even if it is tended to like this. A flower is beautiful no matter where you place it.” She said, but was looking more at Charis than the flowers around them. The same could really be said about Charis; in Rome, she was out of her natural surroundings, but she was still beautiful, even after what they’d done to her and her life. Cynane didn’t say it though; Charis didn’t appear to be attracted to women and she wouldn’t want to intrude or assume something wrong again. Instead she picked up the cake, “How is the garden you’re tending to now?” She wondered curiously; well they had to talk about something, right?

@Sara

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Helios had time off every now and then, and he tended to wander away from the Domus Venus. He actually liked being outside and getting a little bit of a tan to his skin. It made his hair appear more blonde and golden, his blue eyes more striking and his skin would also almost gain a gold-like shimmer in the right light. For that purpose – gaining a tan – he liked to visit some of the many gardens in Rome, and that’s why he was in this garden here today. He had laid his cloak down on a space away from the path, and there he removed his tunica and rested in the sunshine.

Laughs from women woke him up though, and he realized he ought to move to the shade. He wanted the golden shimmer; he didn’t want a red glow to his skin! Helios picked up the cloak and his tunica and moved over to the fountain to splash some water in his face, ignoring any of those Romans glaring at his naked torso here in the garden. Would they compare him to one of the statues here? He wouldn’t mind. Helios gave a man walking by a secret smile, but then he looked at the cheerful women on a stone bench not far away. They were enjoying a jar of wine and relaxed conversation, it seemed. And they were pretty… maybe they had room for one more?

Helios casually moved closer to them and he looked at the bench when close enough, then to them. One of the women looked rather fierce, with a short tunica and breeches and quite the hair. The other appeared more delicate in her appearance and he smiled to her, “It would seem I find my favorite spot occupied today. Not that I can complain, when such deities decide to bless a simple bench of stone.” He said elegantly to the two, smiling at both, although it would seem he mostly focused on the shorter and younger of the women.

@Sara

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Charis took another deep sip of the wine at Cynane's comment, studying her for a moment, trying to figure out her meaning. Although if there was innuendo in there, she was oblivious. "The garden is fine but whomever was working there before was useless..." She rolled her eyes and took another sip, feeling the warmth spread down her chest. "I've had to replant several of the flowers, they were dying, but it's better than working in the kitchens." Rhoda had initially continued to call for her to help, but that had slowly tailed off. She now only worked with the older Greek cook should the Dominus have guests or an elaborate meal was being prepared. Most of the rest of the time she was free to tend to the garden; planting and pruning and planning any new additions. 

She was about to start on a story of her garden at home, back in Britannia, when they were suddenly shaded by the appearance of a tall man blocking out the sun. Blinking, Charis turned wine-flushed cheeks to look at him, and the colour deepened in her cheeks at his state of undress and...appearance. It took her a moment to realise he was speaking Latin and to follow his words. Glancing cautiously back at Cynane before she answered him, she asked in their language; "Friend of yours?" She couldn't help the little grin.

Turning her attention back to the man she arched a brow, speaking in accented Latin (which had improved immeasurably in the two or so months she'd been in Rome); "Too kind, sir." She didn't know if this one was a slave, better safe than sorry and be deferential. Noticing she was still clutching the wine, she took a sip and handed it back to Cynane. Her head felt a little fuzzy, and she felt more relaxed. She didn't realise how tense she had been - as if she was storing all of the pent up anxiety and sadness since her arrival. "I sorry...we only have wine for two, maybe other ladies have some for you." She turned back to Cynane with a  grin, but didn't ask him to leave. It was sometimes nice to be flattered. "You come here often?"

 

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Since they were talking about beautiful flowers and gardens, Cynane decided to ask Charis more about her current work. Both to not make her think too much about the past, since she seemed to not want to do that, and because apparently thinking about and talking about gardens brought out a genuine smile and glow in her eyes. Quietly she listened to Charis talk about the garden, how it was dying out, but she brought it back and it was better than to work in the kitchens, “It does sound like the right place and work for you.” Cynane said with a smile and took the wine jar to drink another sip.

They were then interrupted, by a dashing male with golden hair and quite the spark in his eyes. He spoke about this being his favorite spot and how they had blessed the bench by sitting there. He certainly knew how to turn on the charm, this one. Add to that, that he carried most of his clothing in his arms and he did not seem shy with being almost naked in public. He must be used to it, she thought. Cynane couldn’t help but always pay attention to details; she was so used to it that she didn’t even think about not doing it. Charis leaned closer and wondered if he was Cynane’s friend, but shook her head, “I have never seen him before.” She said in their own language, while watching how Charis was visibly blushing in his presence. That only made her more alert with this male here. He might by dashing, but was he trustworthy? Doubtfully!

Charis answered him, saying he was too kind and speaking about the wine and wondered if he came here often. Meanwhile Cynane decided he must be a slave of sorts, maybe a body slave, for he was very confident, it was almost radiating off him, like heat. His eyes seemed to mostly be on Charis too, for some reason. Why? Maybe she'd find out. Now he spoke up again and she kept her eyes on him, “Lucky I don’t need wine to have a good time.” Helios said - mostly to Charis, it seemed - with a grin, “And there is no need to call me anything but my name… I am Helios, and you two? I do come here sometimes… I always enjoy the gardens. Would you mind if I join you?” Helios said, and Cynane noticed how he eyed the three honey-cakes, still placed on their cheap cloth between the ladies. Well maybe it wouldn't hurt, this once, to have a little fun with a man. Not that Cynane trusted him, but the men she trusted could be counted on one hand anyway.

"You may join us. I am Cynane and this is Charis... Helios." Cynane said, "Charis... should we give him the third honey-cake?" 

@Sara

* Helios' words are in bold italics, Cynane just bold

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Charis followed Cynane's lead and inclined her head that he could join them. She was still not used to the visible nudity the Romans seemed to revel in. Back at home a man would think hard before stripping off like this one did! Then again, Britannia was cold and drizzly almost all of the time...and few men she knew had physiques to compare even slightly to Helios. She cursed herself for her blush. 

Glancing down to the little package between them, she grinned slyly. "No...I had to barter for these and Dominus so cheap with giving us peculium...sorry Helios...you should bring own next time." She laughed and broke a quarter off of one for herself. She'd never had a big appetite and it showed in her delicate frame, but the wine was making her peckish. Glancing between Cynane and Helios, she felt...bad. They had intended for this to be a relaxing afternoon, and a man had now encroached. But Cynane didn't seem to mind, so she tried to shake off the feeling that she should drive him away. 

"You slave then Helios?" She asked the man, eyeing him and relieved to feel the warmth from her cheek dissipate. She was feeling more forward, more confident having had a few mouthfuls of wine. "Cynane is bodyguard..." She gestured her head as if in warning to the man not to overstep any boundaries, "I not that impressive." She laughed. 

 

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Cynane had lived here long enough to care less about how dressed or undressed people were in Rome. Well most of the time, people were dressed, but nudity wasn’t such a big deal here. And the man here was certainly not shy about his body, which made her wonder what he did for a living. He had introduced himself as Helios, which sounded like a slave’s name to her. He had to be a slave, out and about, just like she and Charis. She decided he could join them and wondered if they should share their honeycakes with him.

But Charis was not ready to do that and answered with a sly grin to Helios, “Maybe I will. Next time.” Helios said with a playful wink at her, as if they’d already decided there would be a next time. Cynane watched Charis break off a bit of a cake for herself, half surprised that Charis would not share with him. Full of surprises. She eyed Helios, whom Charis was now more curious about. He folded out his cloak and sat down on the ground next to where Charis sat. Charis said what they did for a living and Cynane arched a brow, “Don’t talk like that about yourself.” Cynane said with a smile; she thought Charis had some good qualities about her.

“I’m sure your friend is right.” Helios said, “From this perspective, you look impressive enough to me. And yes, I am a slave too. What do you do, since you don’t find yourself very remarkable?” He gave Cynane a short look, as if he just noted she was a bodyguard and Cynane was almost pleased that Charis told that part. Now he knew to watch out, right? If he was improper towards Charis in any way… Cynane was right here.

@Sara

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Charis rolled her eyes at Cynane's chiding. She had always had a very distinct style of self-deprecating humour, but it often didn't translate well. Besides, it was no hardship to admit that Cynane - with her imperial mistress and defined position, was more important than a brand new house slave in the domus of a miscellaneous senator. She laughed at Helios' compliment as well. Impressive was not a word she'd ever use to describe herself. 

"Just house slave." She shrugged her shoulders and took another deep sip of the wine before handing it back to Cynane with the mischievous glint in her eye of somebody that's tipsy. Her frame and the months without any real alcohol had made her an easier target for drunkeness. "I do work in gardens now, they sold me to work in kitchens but I'm no good and Dominus didn't want me there." She laughed, well that wasn't entirely true. "Or I didn't want to be there." She grinned at Helios and Cynane and broke off another corner of cake. 

Perhaps this interruption wasn't so bad? She'd met very few slaves since she'd been in Rome; Cynane and her own household, obviously, and a couple from the domus next door but she had no sense of the scale or diversity of the jobs the slaves in Rome did. Glancing at the golden-haired man she smiled warmly, "What you do? Cynane important bodyguard, I house slave to Senator," The senator bit was another, inadvertent revelation, "What you do, Helios?"

 

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