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Felix

Outside, inside

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62CE, somewhere in Cappadocia, camp of Quintus Flavius Caesar Alexander Augustus

Felix was so far from home he was not even sure he would ever make it back alive. Honestly, he had not even been sure that he would make it here alive - and yet, here he was, in the camp of the Augustus himself, along with his master. They made it. They got out of Rome, trekked across Italia, got on a ship, and made the journey across the sea (Felix decided he liked the sea) all the way to the eastern provinces, where they endured rough travel and many dangers until they managed to find out where the camp was currently established, waiting for loyal refugees like Aulus. Gathering forces. This faraway bastion of loyalty and order welcomed the exiled noblemen with open arms, and finally, after weeks of living outside the law, things were restored to their proper place again.

Which meant that Felix was once again a mere slave with no particular importance.

Aulus was given a tent the moment he presented himself to his emperor. He deserved it, and more, for putting his life on the line for the cause. The tent was like any other military officer's (space was in high demand in the camp), but it was a home away from home, and more familiar to Aulus than it was to Felix. Felix, on his part, did his best to find his bearings, making sure to do what he could as a body slave for his master's comfort. He got food, got the supplies needed for the tent from the men responsible (even a new set of clothes for Aulus), and once everything was arranged to the best of his abilities, he found himself a blanket and a rug, and made himself a cot to sleep on outside the tent's door. Back in Rome, even a body slave would not have dreamed of sleeping in the same room as his master unless he was ordered to. He would sleep outside, close enough to be called on if needed. On the road here, there were not many rooms to speak of, and appearances to keep up as two traveling companions rather than nobleman and slave, although the farther they got from Rome the less that pretense was needed. Felix liked Aulus, but he did not have illusions about his place.

Besides, the nights in Cappadocia were comfortably warm. 

@Sharpie

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Aulus had spent hours closeted with his former commander, discussing the situation he'd left in Rome and what Quintus' next move should be. He returned to the tent he'd been assigned and nearly fell over the slave sleeping across the entrance.

"What in Hades.... Felix?"

Who else would it be, of course? And where else would he sleep; he'd come here as Aulus' sole attendant and therefore it was Aulus' responsibility to make sure he had somewhere to sleep. Naturally, unless ordered otherwise, he would position himself across the entrance of Aulus' tent, to be near his master and stop any unwanted intruders from getting to him.

@Chevi

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The cot was not exactly comfortable, but Felix had had worse, and he was exhausted enough not to care. They had had longer and rougher days on the road, but the arrival was a different kind of exhausting: relief, mostly, and also many, many new things to adjust to. The young slave was already asleep by the time Aulus got back from the commander's tent, and tripped over him. The jab in the ribs jolted Felix awake.

"What in Hades.... Felix?"

"Yes, domine" he scrambled, getting to his feet and tossing the blanket aside, trying to look as alert as a man freshly jolted from his first sleep could "I'm sorry, I must have dozed off. Do you need anything?"

@Sharpie

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"You can sleep inside; it's not always going to be this warm and dry," Aulus said, ducking into the tent and pulling his cloak off, flinging it aside. Naturally, he had left Rome without anything other than the clothes on his back, the knowledge in his head and the slave at his side. Somehow, Quintus' second in command had found him a uniform that fit, though he'd still have to see the cobbler about getting some decent footwear made - and for Felix, too.

"Is there any warm water to be had?" he enquired, though he'd spotted the food laid out, which made him ask, "And have you eaten?"

They had spent several weeks on the road and at sea in one another's company, and where Aulus ordinarily wouldn't trouble himself about his slaves, he'd dragged Felix all this way into a world that was totally foreign to him. Ensuring his slave had food to eat and somewhere to sleep was little enough.

 

@Chevi

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"You can sleep inside; it's not always going to be this warm and dry," 

"Thank you, dominus." Felix nodded, following Aulus inside, piling the blanket and the rug in the corner of the tent. He did not want to assume that his master still cared about his sleeping arrangements, but it was good to be allowed inside from the open elements. He took the cloak Aulus discarded and folded it to be placed aside. It gave him something to do other than stand around awkwardly. 

"Is there any warm water to be had? And have you eaten?"

"I had some bread" Felix nodded "And there was some hot water, but I'm afraid probably lukewarm by now." he nodded at the bronze basin set up for washing "I can go and get new water if you wish."

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"No, that's fine," Aulus said, stripping off his neckcloth and dipping his hands in the basin to splash water over his face before reaching for a towel and dropping to sit on the edge of his camp cot.

"I don't suppose anyone's explained anything about how it'll work for you in a military camp," he said, noticing the plate of food set nearby and reaching for some bread himself. He stretched his legs out in front of him. It was good to finally sit down and relax into a routine he was familiar with. The tension and possibility of being caught and killed had receded further and further into the background as their distance from Rome had increased, although being with Quintus now, and Aulus' position with the Legions, had by no means diminished his need to make decisions. But in this camp, with Quintus in command, even that had disappeared for a short while, leaving Aulus with a bone-deep tiredness and a nagging ache that stemmed from the sort of need he would ordinarily turn to his wife for.

 

@Chevi

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Things were not perfect, and far from the comforts of Rome (as far as Aulus was involved anyway, a slave cot was a slave cot anywhere), but they were a vast improvement compared to being on the road. Felix handed a towel to Aulus and set the plate within reach for him, trying to act like he was practiced in the things body slaves would do.

"I don't suppose anyone's explained anything about how it'll work for you in a military camp," 

"I can't say they have. But I learn fast." Felix noted. It was something Aulus already knew, or he would not have dragged him all the way here. "Let me know what you need, domine, and I will figure out a way to find it. I know I have not been in a military camp before, but I know how to keep from being in the way."

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"The main thing is, if anyone tries to stop you carrying out an order, you're obeying me, and I'm one of the senior officers here," Aulus told him. "I won't give you orders that will conflict with the military side of things or that will be impossible for you to carry out because of that - or I will do my best not to. If for some reason you can't fulfil an order, I will want to know the reason - some excuse won't cut it."

That went for the soldiers under his command, too, of course.

He reached for the straps of his breastplate. Armour was familiar to him, and comforting, especially after weeks as a fugitive, but it would be nice just to relax in his tunic.

 

@Chevi

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Life as a body slave was somewhat new to Felix, but he was getting the hang of it. Life in a military camp, on the other hand, was definitely new, and if he did not want to make grievous mistakes, he would have to learn fast. At least Aulus knew this, and did not expect him to miraculously know everything immediately. He was a practical man, and Felix did not want to disappoint him.

"The main thing is, if anyone tries to stop you carrying out an order, you're obeying me, and I'm one of the senior officers here. I won't give you orders that will conflict with the military side of things or that will be impossible for you to carry out because of that - or I will do my best not to. If for some reason you can't fulfil an order, I will want to know the reason - some excuse won't cut it."

"Yes, dominus." Felix nodded. It sounded reasonable. "Would you like me to help with that?" he ventured, as Aulus started fiddling with his breastplate. He looked a lot more like the Roman nobleman he was, now that he was in a military outfit. Felix offered an apologetic smile "It is another thing I need to learn, isn't it."

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"Yes," Aulus replied, shifting so that his slave could access the buckles and straps that fastened his armour on. "I daresay the first few weeks will be full of things you need to learn." The breastplate set aside, Aulus stretched.

"If you have any questions about anything, you may ask, when we're alone like this," he added, picking up the goblet of wine that had been set with the plate of food. "You're not a house slave any longer, you're my body slave."

Which meant that Felix would be closer to Aulus than it was likely he'd been to any member of the family. He was probably going to have all sorts of questions and if answering those meant that he would be able to serve Aulus better, well, it was a small price to pay - and the slave had proven he had the tact and discretion required by his new role.

He found himself watching his slave over the rim of his wine-cup as he moved about the tent, setting things to rights.

 

@Chevi

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Undoing the clasps and fastenings of the breastplate was not easy, but Felix managed to figure it out with minimal fumbling. He was far from having the practiced movements of body slaves and soldiers, but that would come in time, and he'd have plenty of that to learn. He set the armor aside, as carefully as possible.

"I daresay the first few weeks will be full of things you need to learn." 

"Without a doubt." Felix nodded, for a moment speaking like he used to when they were on the road "But learning new things is always useful."

Especially for a slave, who was worth exactly as much as his useful abilities.

"If you have any questions about anything, you may ask, when we're alone like this. You're not a house slave any longer, you're my body slave."

Felix looked up. He'd been acting as a body slave for the road, but his role from this point on had not really been discussed in an official way. Body slaves were always carefully selected, since they were privy to things around their masters not many other people saw, or knew. It was a sign of deep trust to nominate a household slave like him to that position.

"Thank you, dominus." Felix nodded, with honest gratefulness in his voice. Aulus picked up a cup, and his dinner was already set out on a place. "Is there anything else you would like me to do?"

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Aulus eased his shoulder once the breastplate was removed. He'd arrived here without a shred of uniform or equipment to  his name, and had been found enough to stand up in, that fit relatively well, as well as being assigned to a tent of his own (for which he was more grateful than Quintus Caesar probably realised), yet he was unused to wearing armour, or he'd grown unused to it over the last few short months.

"I don't suppose you're any good at massaging stiff shoulders?" he asked, setting the goblet down and tearing off a piece of bread and suddenly discovering that he was ravenous. Felix seemed to be pretty handy at most things, or was quick to learn things he'd never had to do before. Aulus hoped he'd be able to offer a decent neck-rub, but wouldn't be too surprised if he'd found the first thing Felix couldn't do.

"I daresay you'll learn from the other slaves in camp, too," he added, swallowing his mouthful and helping himself to more. He didn't somehow think that Felix would turn out to be the gossipy type, but Aulus wouldn't begrudge him friendships among the other slaves, having dragged him away with no warning  from the friends he must have had in the Calpurnius household.

 

@Chevi

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"I don't suppose you're any good at massaging stiff shoulders?" 

Felix blinked, trying to assess if his master meant the comment, or was making a joke. Not that it would have been outside the realm or normalcy for a master to ask their body slave for a massage after a long day - it was just one of those things that body slaves did that did not really occur to either of them while on the run. 

"I daresay you'll learn from the other slaves in camp, too,"

It had been a long day for the both of them, and one full of changes. Felix was proud of himself for pulling together a decent meal and setting up the tent with the comforts he could muster up. They had done the near impossible, getting all the way here from Rome. 

"I can try" he noted, stepping up behind Aulus "May I, domine?" Once he had permission, he would rub his master's shoulders. He was not exactly trained the way bath slaves were, or even practiced, but he was willing to make an attempt. Sore muscles was nothing new to him from his house slave days and the long days on the road. "I don't really... have experience in doing this, so let me know if it is not to your liking."

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"Yes," Aulus said, shifting to pull his tunic off to make it easier, before reaching for the rest of the bread as he leaned forward. "You don't have to be perfect. Pretty sure anything will be better than nothing."

Felix had done incredibly well in his new role so far, even before he'd realised this was his new role, probably - certainly Aulus had only just confirmed it for him, anyway, and he'd set the tent up with pretty much everything Aulus could possibly require, at least for now. He leaned forward to make it possible for his slave to get to his shoulders. Even the worst massage in the world would be better than the stiffness that had set in over the last few hours of poring over maps and plans - it had maybe even set in over the last few weeks, or longer, with all the tension. It wasn't as though he'd been able to go to a bathhouse and make use of the services provided there, after all, not once he'd been forced to leave Rome.

Truly, Felix had been well-named. He had absolutely hit the jackpot when he'd selected the man to come with him, and would have to remember to sacrifice something to Fortuna to show how grateful he was to her. Felix was proving to be worth his weight in gold, though Aulus wouldn't sell him even were he offered such a price.

 

@Chevi

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"Yes. You don't have to be perfect. Pretty sure anything will be better than nothing."

Felix waited for Aulus to take off his tunic before he placed his hands on his shoulders. It had been a strange journey, going from house slave who looked at his feet when the master passed by, to traveling companions on the road through life-or-death adventures, to becoming a trusted body slave to a military officer. Aulus was an exceptional man, someone who was determined, brave, but never cruel or proud. There were moments on the road where they talked and behaved almost as if there had not been a wall of privilege between the two of them. Felix respected his master, but he also cared for the man he'd traveled with this far.

Aulus' shoulders were tense. He had been without most of the luxuries of Roman life for weeks, and now he was wearing armor again, preparing for another kind of fight. Felix massaged the sore muscles, pushing his thumbs into them, trying to guess at the appropriate force that was not painful, but relaxing enough. He had seen other slaves do this, but never gave a thought in his old life, since he was never going to enjoy such luxuries, and he was not supposed to do work like this either. But now things had changed, and Aulus deserved to have a comfortable night, with decent food for once, and no sore shoulders.

@Sharpie

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