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It was a very early morning in the baths. The sun had barely risen, but Helenus was up already, taking care of himself before he needed to take care of so many others. He left the sleeping quarters of the slaves and walked through the dark corridors, not yet lit for the new day… up towards the actual thermae, where he thought he might take a swim before anyone else woke. The baths were often nice and quiet this early and he liked that. Of course some Romans would be up early and he didn’t expect it would be quiet for very long, but right now… it was.

The nearest bath was the women’s section and it was entirely empty right now. He never ventured far into this area when the baths were open and people were flocking everywhere. Then Helenus would only walk to the end of the corridor from the slave quarters to peek into the area with all the shelves for clothing.

Right now, that was empty too and on bare feet he walked in. There was so much space here, when the baths were empty. He made a sound just for fun, to hear the echo and smiled by the sound of it. When he reached the big swimming pool, the natatio, he stopped for a moment, looking at the still water in it. Then he slipped out of his simple tunica and into the water. It was a bit cold at this hour, the ovens were not at their full heat right now, but it was fine, this was how it usually was for Helenus. The slaves who worked here didn’t get into the water when everyone else were. They’d have to do it before.

Helenus dived under the water for a moment and then swam a few times back and forth. Then he let his body float a bit, while he lay on his back, staring up into the decorated ceiling of the room. This was so nice. What a pity he’d have to stop soon. He stopped floating then and dived under the water again. Only to be startled when he came up to the surface and brushed water away from his eyelids. He wasn't alone anymore. And he was not in the men's section of the thermae... he blinked the water away, staring at the woman up there.

@Gothic

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It was rare for her to be inside the city centre. Instead she preferred the peace and quiet of her villa yet at the encouragement of her family, she decided to gradually get used to being inside Rome. It would never again feel like home to her. Home was her villa. At the urge of her husband, she would eventually take the time to travel to Britannia and see how the province had developed since she was there last. All of these things did not matter so much at the moment. Juliana had arranged to meet a childhood friend at the thermae to catch up on the local gossip, and to generally socialise. The part of the thermae was oddly quiet at this time. From what Juliana remembered, this was strange and heard sounds of splashing within the water. It had been many years since she and Arria had been able to meet like they had done so when the pair of them were children. It all felt like it was a lifetime ago before they grew up and became, well, the adults of their family. 

She smiled, and instantly thought it must have been Arria or another. 

"Arria! It has been too- Oh Gods!" She exclaimed at the sight of the nude, wet Helenus. Juliana folded her arms across her chest and raised an eyebrow down at him. It was more likely that a peeping tom would have tried to conceal themselves and yet, here was Helenus. Swimming in the women's section of the thermae. Clearly she was not amused by him being here. 

"Is there a reason why you were swimming in the women's side?" Juliana asked sharply. 

 

@Atrice

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He had spent too long here and now the first actual patron had showed up at the thermae. He wondered if any of the female capsarii had shown up yet to help her with her clothes and other items, but no matter what, somehow, she’d made it all the way in to where the swimming pool was in the women’s section of the baths and she was the first. Well except Helenus, who shouldn’t even be here.

He stayed in the water, to not expose her to his entire naked body, as she seemed very surprised to see him here and then she folded her arms and raised an eyebrow. Helenus would have cast his eyes down, but he was the water and below her, so he would have to look up at her to talk to her. She looked less than amused with his presence. This wasn’t good. No doubt his superiors might hear about this and they would punish him.

“I…” He trailed off, trying to formulate a sentence, “Apologies, Domina… the thermae was empty and I wanted to bathe before anyone else. I work here. I know it is no excuse. I’m very sorry. I am.” He said, feeling worse than bad for having embarrassed her by being at the wrong place at the wrong time. His tunica lay on the floor close to the baths and he hadn’t considered bringing a towel. He, a slave, would have to ask for her help, so that he could leave the bath without offending her further. And that would offend her, wouldn’t it? There was no way out of it…

“I should get up, Domina. My tunica is right there.” He said. He didn’t know how she’d feel about him coming out of the water in all his naked glory, but could he ask her to turn her back to him or close her eyes? That wouldn’t be right either. This was quite a dilemma and if she had come here, others would soon appear too. He really had to leave!

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Juliana frowned at him and listened to his answer. In fairness, he had been bathing and relaxing, so his story could have been true. Yet surely he understood how it must have looked? She glared at him for a moment to emphasise the point. He was in trouble, and the pair of them knew it. No doubt Arria would have found the whole situation hilarious and sent Helenus out with a fit of laughter. Still, it was not kind to permit a slave to have negative behaviour. It only set them up for harsher discipline down the road, and that was unfair in Juliana's opinion. 

She would be speaking to his superior about this little incident, and it may remind him to be more prompt in the future. Not to mention stay out of the women's areas unless he was requested to be here! Juliana cast a sideward glance towards the tunica and then back at Helenus. "Fetch your tunica now, and I will be speaking to your supervisor about this." She said sharply.

Juliana took a couple of steps backwards so her clothing nor sandals would not get too wet the process.  

"What is your name?" Juliana asked. 

 

@Atrice

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The fancy looking lady did not seem impressed by his apologies. Well that was bad. Maybe Helenus spent too little time around women and too much with men, considering he worked in the men’s section of the baths. He’d hoped he could sway her, he didn’t want to get in trouble, but she was not smiling or even just looking less than displeased. She just glared at him and then saw where his tunica was and said he could fetch his tunica.

“Thank you, Domina.” Helenus said and climbed out of the swimming pool, then moving in all his naked glory as quickly as he could - without falling on the floor with wet feet - over to his tunica and with his back turned to her, he quickly pulled it over his head, so that he at least looked somewhat proper again. His hair was luckily in a low ponytail and didn’t get in the way, although his back was naturally all wet now.

Helenus faced her again, folding his hands in front of her and meeting her eyes shortly, “I’m Helenus, Domina.” He said to her face and then cast his eyes down, as he should, “And please… sweet and beautiful Domina… don’t speak to my supervisor. I know I’ve wronged you but I won’t make this mistake again. I promise. Please Domina.” He said, he didn’t know what kind of punishment he would experience but he would surely be punished and he’d do anything to avoid that. 

@Gothic

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Juliana looked at his pleading and could not help but think that he resembled a drowned rat. Perhaps she should have commanded him to dry himself off before putting his tunica on? It must not have been pleasant to beg and plead. Her eyebrows narrowed in irritation, she exhaled slowly and put her hand up. Palm facing him in a gesture for him to stop what he was doing. 

"Flattery will not work on me, come now, you are only making this worse," She told him, clicked her fingers for him to follow and walked towards the room where the supervisor likely was. There were more people around now. Two of Helenus' colleagues saw him being chided, giggled and pointed their fingers at him. She paused at the doorway of the room and looked inside. Empty. A sight that she did not wish to see.

Juliana exhaled in irritation and had a feeling that Arria would find the story utterly hilarious. Arria always seemed to find a way to do so. 

"Hm, do you know where he is?" Juliana asked, guessed that his supervisor was male and waited for his answer. One little visit to the baths was proving to be far more busy than she ever intended. She fanned her face from the heat of the baths. 

@Atrice

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How did this go so wrong? He’d been swimming here so many times before and never before did he get caught, not by any visitor to the baths anyway. But today wasn’t his lucky day, it seemed and he could only hope to try and plead with the beautiful lady, who was apparently quite offended over finding him here. He would have to do something, he would have to find a way to get to her.

She held a hand up when he tried to plead with her though, and said she wouldn’t take the flattery. Apparently he was just making it worse. What? But they usually loved flattery and especially the women. Besides, was it really flattery when it was also truth? But she said it wouldn’t work and Helenus stared at his feet in front of him, with the water dripping from his hair and now wet tunica down to the floor.

“Apologies, Domina.” Helenus said more quietly this time and followed her when she gestured for him to do so. He saw his fellow slaves laugh at him, but didn’t pay them much attention. What would this turn out to become for him? The whip? A beating? The mines? The arena? Fuck this was bad! In his mind he saw several scenarios and didn’t know which was worse. Then they reached the doorway to his superior and no one were there. The lady wondered where he was.

“He’s probably not arrived yet. It is quite early, Domina.” Helenus said, “Is there nothing I can do or say that will please you enough to not tell my superior? I work hard, every day, this was a single incident. And it will not happen again. I am sorry I embarrassed and offended you. Please tell me, that I can do something to convince you. Anything, Domina.”

@Gothic

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Juliana did feel a measure of compassion for him. Yet spoiling a slave (or a child!) would only lead to more issues later on. It was kinder to discipline them early on and ensure their behaviour would lead to success later in life. Good behaviour usually meant that the slave would be rewarded or at least, would not suffer a grisly fate that many soon found themselves in. 

She could not help but feel a little wicked when he was taken back by flattery. Surely he must have tried that before? She walked through the baths and fanned herself with her hand with the heat. Finally they came to an office, and Helenus was right. The boss was not here yet. She exhaled slowly in frustration, another issue with a simple visit to the baths! She leaned against the door frame briefly and turned to look at him when he began to ask his pleading. Her arms crossed and fingers tapped for a moment. It would not take long before Arria would arrive for their meeting. 

"Do you know when your supervisor is likely to arrive?" She asked, a raised eyebrow at his continued boldness to ask her to change her mind. This was the second time now. A promise was one thing yet when she was back home, away from the baths and the city of Rome itself. How would she know that he changed his behaviour? There was always a chance that he had behaved like this before. 

Juliana did not answer his questions, and waited for him to respond to hers. 

@Atrice

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Why would she not listen to him? Why would she not take pity on him? As if it wasn’t bad enough that he’d been born and bred as a slave and still lived as one, now she would have him punished for a tiny misdeed that he would now make sure would not happen again. And he did apologize and he did offer to do whatever she wanted him to do, if only she’d shut up… his voice was smooth and pleading, his eyes the same, but she didn’t respond to it at all. She was cold. Beautiful and cold.

She was displeased when she didn’t find Helenus’ superior at the office and wondered when he’d arrive. Helenus inhaled a deep breath and sighed, shook his head, “I don’t know, Domina. I don’t even see him every day. I just do what I’m told to do.” He said. Helenus never went to see his superior on his own. If his boss wanted to see him, he’d have him brought there, it was never the other way around. And Helenus didn’t come here from time to time just for fun. Why should he?

Why was she making this such a big issue anyway? It made no sense. But Helenus stayed quiet, cast his eyes down, she clearly wouldn’t listen and she did seem to be some kind of high and fancy lady. She probably had a lot of power and now he’d end up in the mines and die. And all because he’d wanted a quiet bath on his own before any patrons arrived.

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Juliana was not prepared to wait a long time in case the supervisor finally arrived. Especially when she was told that there was a chance he would not even come in today. She had already wasted enough time dealing with this. She exhaled slowly in irritation, and while the temptation to simply let him go was there. It would not do him any good in the long run. The longer the wait was the more determined she became to see it through. 

"I see, do you know his name?" Juliana asked. Surely the slave would know this piece of information. If need be, she would write to inform him of the slave's mishap and offer her own solution. It was strange no supervisor nor head slave was left here to ensure that things ran smoothly. Hopefully this would not occur again. While his gaze was lowered to the ground in servitude she took some time to observe him. He had the darker complexion held by people from the East, long dark hair and eyelashes and even skin. In her younger days she would have been flattered by the attention he gave her. 

She waited for his response, and perhaps, there was a chance he would be sold to her if the supervisor agreed. That could be a better alternative than having his broken damaged... and he was quite appealing to the eye. 

@Atrice

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Why would he see his supervisor every day, unless there was something very important going on? And there wasn’t always, this was just a thermae in Rome and Helenus was just a capsarii. True, a capsarii who was good at finding gems and other goods in the patron’s bundles of clothing, but still just a capsarii. And now he was one who annoyed a fine lady, just because he’d wanted a bath on his own and didn’t think anyone would come in this early. But she did, and now he was in trouble. He’d tried to act well to be treated well, but it seemed this was his unlucky day and he might be seeing Hades sometime soon.

Would she stop asking questions? Now she would know his supervisors name.

“I do, Domina. The one who comes here most often is Marcus Gavius.” There were a few supervisors, but not all of them came very often. The most common one was Gavius. He said nothing more though, kept his gaze down, didn’t see her inspecting him. He just wanted to go and do his job. But she wouldn’t let him go.

“What are you going to do, Domina?” He doubted she’d tell him, she seemed to be cold towards anything he had to say and she probably wouldn’t tell him whether she preferred to see him die in the arena or would have him sent to the mines to do an anonymous death there. Helenus naturally expected the worst. What else could he do?

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Juliana did not recognise the name although it was not normally her business. This was frustrating, and fortunately for Helenus the day was getting longer than it had been before. She looked in the direction where they had entered the room. No doubt Arria would be there by now. She did not wish to leave her friend waiting any longer than she had already done so. Yet... Helenus was not off the hook yet. Later she would need to speak with Marcus Gavius or another supervisor but she had an idea for how he could make it up to her. 

"Later, I am going to speak to him. Depending on how you behave I will either give him a glowing report of your conduct or I will tell him what had taken place," She said. Turned on her heel and clicked her fingers for him to follow her back the way they had come. As she had predicted, a rather confused looking Arria looked from Juliana to the slave who followed her in confusion. Both women embraced and kissed each other on the cheeks in a greeting. 

"Juliana! It is good to see you! But... who is this?" 

Juliana turned her head towards Helenus and smiled at him. "This is Helenus, a rather over eager capsarii who happened to be in the women's section earlier." 

"Oh, my goodness." Arria exclaimed, then winked at Juliana. "He is handsome though......" 

@Atrice

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Helenus feared the worst, when he asked what she was going to do, once she had the chance to speak to his superior. How stupid he was, but the women’s baths were closer to the slave quarters than the men’s and usually there weren’t anyone here this early. More were coming in though now and he even saw some of his fellow slaves – female, of course – who looked at him while he stood there in front of the Domina, with his eyes cast down like a dog getting a scolding from its owner. Apparently he wasn’t worth more than that.

The Domina said she’d speak to his superior and then spoke of how it all depended on his behavior. But hadn’t he already misbehaved? Was there a chance he could win her over, still? He didn’t think so. And now she turned on her heal and demanded he follow her. He just wanted to go to the men’s section of the baths and get to proper work, but he would have to follow her orders. It was lucky he was just a slave; most of the female patrons here looked his way and then ignored him. He wasn’t supposed to be here, among so many less-than-properly-dressed women.

They arrived at where the lady’s friend was and he stood still, watching them embrace oh so sweetly, before her friend introduced him to Helenus. He didn’t look at them while they talked about him as if he couldn’t hear them. The other one called him handsome and he wished she’d been the one to come and find him. Her, he might have been able to sway.

He hadn’t been asked to talk though and he was being careful around the woman who discovered him in here. He didn’t want to upset her further, so he kept his gaze down and stood there silently, wondering why she had wanted him to come.

@Gothic

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Suddenly Helenus was silent. A sharp comparison to what happened before.

Juliana frowned at him and Arria answered with a giggle at her friend's hostile frown. Her eyes narrowed playfully before she smirked at Arria.  Slowly the thermae was beginning to become busier with women coming for social matters, all the enjoy and pamper themselves. Arria's dimples showed as she tried to hide a smile at her friend's face. Juliana had an idea, and it was on the cards. There was a chance that it would not occur regardless... but it was entertaining to tease them both. Her interest in bathing here was lessened. The expensive and wealthy homes would give her a chance to bathe without the worry of having someone walk in. She regretted her attempt at trying to be social. 

Now.. to drop her secret possible plan. 

"I may purchase him," She stated. Her chin lifted, her green eyes moved steadily from her friend towards the thermae slave and waited to see the reaction from either of them. Arria's jaw instantly dropped. "Buy him?! Juliana.... please... why buy him just to prove a point?!" 

@Atrice

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Of course he was silent. She’d said that it all depended on how he behaved, what she’d tell his superior. So he better behave well and not speak unless spoken to or asked to speak. Instead he had followed the lady quietly to find her friend and now he learned her name was Juliana – the woman he had offended, that is. But that didn’t change anything. He stayed silent while they spoke about him, as if he meant nothing (and he didn’t) and just stared at the floor.

He heard Juliana’s friend giggle and there was a strange silence, before Juliana suddenly said she might purchase Helenus. His eyes widened but he didn’t look up. Why would she want to buy him? So that she could punish him further at her home? She’d probably have him whipped or worse for being disobedient. He hadn’t been able to sway her and she hadn’t wanted to treat him very well, despite how he’d been since she saw him. He had done everything to please her, but now he feared the worst.

Juliana’s friend was also stunned about the idea and wondered why she’d buy him to prove a point. Yes, why? Couldn’t she just… leave him be and get on with her day? Why all this? Still he remained silent so he wouldn’t upset her further. Who he belonged to wasn’t his choice, after all. It might be nice to have a single master or mistress – actually it had often been something he hoped and dreamed about… but if that person was going to be cruel to him, perhaps the thermae was better anyway.

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