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Charis followed the other woman but wrapped her arms around herself, feeling the cold after the blissful warmth. This room was quieter, fortunately, with only a couple of other women milling about. Evidently midday at the baths was a tad too luxurious for ordinary women! Charis nodded at Cynane's instructions and pulled her waist length hair over her head and dunked it into the cold water. "Fuck! Fuck!" She exclaimed as she pulled her hair out of the basin and the freezing water touched her shoulders, "It's bloody freezing! And here I thought it would be bloody nice after this heat!" 

She was laughing though as she padded over to the benches and pulled her hair down her back. "I don't have a comb..." She remembered but surely a slave here would? 

With her back to Cynane she grinned to herself, "Did you always want to be a hairdresser, Cynane?" She laughed, trying to remember the Roman word for it but failing. She swore Teutus had told her, but Gods knew where that knowledge had gone in the recesses of her mind...Absently, to herself, she mused aloud; "Did you have sisters? At home? I used to do this...and braid my sisters hair, I always imagined I'd do it to my daughters one day."

 

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The frigidarium was cold compared to the other room, but that would just make it so much better to return to one of the heated rooms. Cynane thought maybe into one of the steam baths, so they could scrub clean after and then they might be done. She couldn’t help but laugh at Charis’ cursing when she made her hair wet in the cold water, “I think we should be glad your master is not here.” He might not want to hear such language from his pretty slave, whom he apparently took such good care of. She still felt bad that Charis had been punished, but on the other hand, to Cynane it sounded like Charis’ master was fonder of her than Charis wanted to believe. Many other slaves would take advantage of that; but Charis didn’t want it.

 Charis sat down on the bench and spoke about a comb – well they wouldn’t need it anyway until they were done. It was often impossible to comb and untangle long hair like this. She picked up the soap and scrubbed it into Charis’ hair, while the other joked about Cynane being a haidresser, “Honestly, it’s been awhile since I’ve done this.” Cynane replied and then Charis wondered if she had siblings and spoke of her own and then about a daughter she might have had.

 “Maybe you will have a daughter one day. You’re still quite young.” Cynane said, but moved on quickly, “I had two sisters. We’d do each others hair too back then, of course. I also had a brother.” She said, “But I don’t even know if they’re alive. I haven’t seen any of them since that battle, where I was captured.” She said. It would seem that somehow, they kept coming back to the less cheerful subjects. Cynane had tried to not think about her family since she came here – of course to begin with, but the journey to Rome was long and she didn’t see them or hear anything about them on the way. And once they reached Rome, the hope of seeing them again quickly faded. Cynane had been taken to the ludus right away to become a gladiatrix and had to focus on that.

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Charis smiled at the thought of a daughter, “I hope so, I’m only twenty...my mother had my younger sister when she was over double my age. I always wanted a big family...when things were more settled at home.” She mused aloud, “Lots of little sons and daughters running past my feet, although Immin would always laugh and say I’d look ridiculous being so small with an enormous great child bump.” She grinned at the thought and tried to put the nagging doubt that it might never happen in her current circumstance, out of her mind.

Instead she listened quietly as Cynane spoke as she worked. So Charis wasn’t alone in losing her loved ones - or not even losing, simply not knowing. In a way it was worse than knowing their fate.

After some quiet, she turned around despite the fact Cynane wasn’t finished. Tenderly, she reached and took the other woman’s hand. “Then I’ll pray for them. What are their names? But,” She squeezed the gladiatrix’s hand, “You have a sister in me.” She meant it sincerely, even if it sounded forced. With a satisfied smile, she turned back around so Cynane could finish her work and thought out loud, trying to move the conversation on to happier topics. “A game...if you were one of those women, in the baths, with all their finery and hold...what would you do?” Gods only imagine! 

 

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Cynane felt bad for Charis, when she spoke about how she'd always wanted a big family with sons and daughters. She could still have that, if her master would free her... or if he slept with her again and she turned pregnant. But there was no way of knowing this yet and she just smiled at Charis mentioning what her husband had thought of her being with child, "I think you'd be beautiful with it. Men don't get it." Cynane said, while she massaged the soap into Charis' hair until every strand was covered with the soft and foamy mass. Charis had then also asked if Cynane had any sisters and she spoke shortly of her siblings, but then went quiet after considering how she still had no idea what happened to them. But she tried to not think about it. She'd been broken plenty since she was enslaved... not as broken as some, she'd just learned when to stay quiet and when to talk and where and with whom you could speak. She wouldn't break down now, it was too late anyway.

Charis then turned to her and touched her hand, said she'd pray for her siblings and then added that Cynane had a sister in her, "Thank you... and you have one in me. My sisters were Briannon and Meredith... and my brothers name was Herne." She explained with a small smile, it's been so long since she last spoke their names, but at least they weren't forgotten. She just rarely thought of them. Charis then turned again to let Cynane finish, although Cynane took her time. It was kind of nice to do this for Charis, both because Cynane rarely had a chance to be tender with anyone or touch anyone. She did with Claudia, when she trained her to know how to defend herself, but those weren't gentle and kind touches. Not like this.

Silence fell again until Charis would play a game and wondered what Cynane would do, if she was one of those other fancier women in baths, "What I'd do? I don't know if I could just settle with going to social events and worry about what dress and jewelry to wear... I'm not really like that. I'd wonder if I'd ever find a husband who could put up with me. Maybe I'd be a spinster." She said with a laugh, "What about you?" 

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Charis committed the names of Cynane's siblings to memory but said no more than; "They have my prayers." as she hoped her siblings would be in Cynane's. It was an awful thing - the not knowing. And for poor Cynane, to have that doubt for ten years? Charis swallowed the lump in her throat. 

She reached a small hand to her hair and laughed at the halo of soap in it. As they chattered, she grinned at Cynane's description of that other, unknown life, but frowned and turned around. "Pfft, don't be an idiot." She rolled her eyes, "Men would do more than put up with you." She grinned and nudged her. "Plenty of men at home would have snapped you up if you let them." But Roman men were different, and from what she'd seen (which to be fair, was limited) they liked their women silent and docile. Poor chatty Antonia Varia would be in for a shock in her future, no doubt. She was going to tentatively, gently ask whether perhaps the other young Briton could have seen herself more with a woman than a man but was interrupted by Cynane's question. Shaking her head, she smiled and still faced her friend. "Much the same. I hate being bored and clothes and jewels..." She shrugged, "I would rather do with out. I just, like being useful," She cast a glance around at the few other women in this space; "And Roman men don't seem to want their women as anything more useful than mothers." 

Arching a brow she gestured with her head to the freezing basin on the other side, "Your turn - we have soap left."

 

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Cynane arched a brow when Charis looked at her and claimed that men would indeed put up with her and that men at home would have claimed her... well she wasn't at home in Britannia, was she? "They never got the chance though." Cynane simply replied. Most Roman men were definitely not in her interest. Most she'd met were not very kind to women like her; she was a slave, yet had rank of former gladiatrix and now a bodyguard. It meant she was strong, she carried weapons, she could fight. They didn't like strong women. There were few men in Rome whose presence she enjoyed or at least tolerated. Her fellow bodyguard Decimus wasn't too bad, compared to the other praetorians, and then there'd been that Senator in the tavern that night. But besides those, most Roman men weren't any good. She'd met Eppitacos here, their former warlord in Britannia, but even he was now a shade of what he used to be. Still good looking of course, but he'd been here so long too now... 

She mused about how she might be a spinster instead and then wondered how Charis would see herself, if she was a fancy Roman woman. And of course Charis was much like Cynane, she wouldn't just focus on what to wear and parties, but she liked being useful. Cynane nodded at her words, "Yeah... they see women as tools, daughters are to be married off for the sake of alliances and money and wives are there to produce heirs. Mostly, anyway." She was glad she was not any of those now. Sure marriage often functioned the same way in Britannia, but to her it had also seemed more genuine. Maybe it wasn't and maybe she was wrong, because she never got far enough to gain a husband, but still... she'd never be some Roman matron. The idea was laughable.

Charis then decided Cynane should have her hair washed too, "Alright, but I warn you... if it looks like a mess now, just wait until afterwards..." When she washed her hair, it tended to become very tangled. This was why she preferred her rather tight updo's, with braids and twists, to keep it in place and keep it from being in the way - and then it wouldn't tangle... but she went over to the basin too then, bent over and dipped her hair in, "Gods it is cold today!" She said, it was very obvious the weather was slowly turning colder again! She shivered when the hair was swung back again, and then sat down on the bench with a smile to Charis, "I'm ready. Do you have more game ideas?" 

@Sara

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Charis grinned at her friend, "I'll braid it after, when it's wet, don't worry." The practical braids and ties of home had been replaced with the Roman's hairstyles for Charis, although by mid-afternoon she often relented and tied her hair away. It amused her though, how her long hair never seemed to manage the soft waves favoured by the Roman's and stayed resolutely straight or tangled despite her efforts. 

She laughed loudly at Cynane's reaction. How must they have looked! Charis with a mass of soap in a halo around her head and Cynane protesting at the cold. The other women in here muttered and tutted, but fortunately ignored them for the most part. 

Charis moved to turn and pick up the soap, beginning to massage it into Cynane's long hair. She smirked to herself; "Okay - here's one." She narrowed her eyes at the back of her friends head as she worked, "If you had a whole week just for yourself - lets say you were free, but only for a week. What would you do?" It was a pipe dream, but hopefully Cynane wouldn't find it too depressing. She added with a laugh, "We can either play that game or rank the men we know about who we'd rather...you know." She grinned.

 

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Sometimes Volusa, Claudia’s other slave, would do her hair, but usually Cynane could take care of it herself and she also happily did that. She wouldn't mind letting Charis braid it though – and when she soon felt Charis massage the soap into her wet hair, she thought about how Charis had a very gentle touch. It would be nice having her braid the hair. She ignored the other women trying to glare discretely at them – and failing – and just focused on being here with Charis. She wondered if Charis had more ideas for games.

First Charis suggested you’d say what you’d do with a whole week to yourself… and then she laughed and spoke of ranking men they knew about.

“I don’t know a lot of men here personally and I don’t know if I’d… willingly… go with any of them.” Alright that might be half a lie, but she still didn’t know Lucius that well… now women, that was a whole other story, but that wasn’t what Charis asked about.

So instead she went for the other idea, “If I was free for a whole week… gods, that’s a lot of time, isn’t it?” She mused, “I don’t know. I guess I’d go to the countryside, into the wild and be alone for once. Nothing here is really wild, you know? Everything is man-made. And you’re never alone here in Rome. Think, to be alone, just for one day…” Cynane said, even when she slept, she didn’t have her own private quarters, but slept near the other slaves. And bathing facilities and even toilets here were very public. She looked up at Charis, "Not that I mind spending time with you though. It's nice."

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Charis smiled at her description of her week. Gods how similar they were! If Charis was freed tomorrow, for life, she'd return home in a heartbeat - walk, swim, beg, borrow, steal to get there it didn't matter. But a week? She'd immerse herself in solitude and nature. She was going to comment on their similarity but refrained and instead just listened as she finished soaping up the other woman's hair until all that remained of the bar were little fragments in her fingers. 

She laughed loudly, garrulously, "Good! I bloody hope it's nice and you're not another Helios, a snake in snake's clothing." She grinned and gestured with her head to the basins as she rubbed her soapy hands over her towel. 

"Come on, let's do it together and then we need to run to the hot baths because if I turn into a block of ice, by submerging my hair in that," She gestured with a flick of her head to the basins, "You'll have to explain it to my domine." Grinning, she stood and moved over, wincing as she dipped the ends of her long hair into the water. "One...two...three..." She submerged her whole head into the freezing water before coming up spluttering. "Fuck!" Nimble fingers worked to wash the suds out of her hair, "Gods why did I grow it so bloody long..." 

 

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Cynane mentioned to Charis how she’d spend just one week alone and the other had smiled at the answer and then continued to wash Cynane’s hair. When Cynane said that it was however nice to spend time with Charis, the other smiled and joked about Cynane hopefully not being like Helios. It was a joke, Cynane got that, but she couldn’t smile at it, “I’d not betray you, Charis. I’d never be a snake to you.” She promised, and then Charis had decided they should rinse the soap out of their hair and get back into the hot baths.

 She stood along with her friend and went over to the basins with fresh, cold water. Standing next to Charis she felt a bit awkward and it probably looked weird, but on Charis’ countdown, she too dipped her hair into the water and shivered by the feeling. She used her hands to wash out the soap and move the hair around in the water and smiled at Charis’ words, “The things we do to look nice…” She said and then pulled out of the water and took a step back, to swing all of the hair onto her back again.

 “Gods it’s freezing!” She yelled and picked up her towel that she’d lost while rinsing her hair, “Come.” She held out her hand to Charis and walking fast – it would be stupid to run on a wet and smooth surface like in here – they were soon back in the tepidarium and she shivered again, as the hot air met with her cold skin, “Well that was… different.” She said with a laugh to her friend.

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Charis yelped as she tried to wash the suds out of her hair in the freezing water. It was intolerable, but despite herself she was laughing. Gods she missed having fun! When Cynane held out her hand the little Briton gratefully took it and gasped as her hair met her bare back again. She hurried as quickly as she dared on the wet floor back to the tepidarium and without hesitating, dropped her towel and sunk back into the warmth of the water. Her skin was tingling at the sensation of freezing to warm and her cheeks took on a flush. 

She grinned at her friend, "I think we've suitably irritated all the fine ladies in here with our outlandish, barbarian ways." Judging by the tutting they were receiving at least. "Thank you, for the soap. And for waiting," She sighed. She didn't like to dwell but her friend had left a lasting impact, "To make sure I was alright. Not many people would do that on their hours off...and, I appreciate it." And she genuinely did. Here in Rome, they were excellent at making slaves feel as if they didn't matter, but she mattered seemingly to Cynane and that was heartwarming, and of course reciprocated. 

Relaxing back into the warm water she sighed in contempt and let her eyes drift shut. Gods she felt like she could sleep for an eternity! 

 

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Soon enough they were back in the warm room and the warm bath and Charis was quick to drop her towel this time and get back into the water. Cynane followed with a smile, this felt nice and it was fun being here with Charis. Charis joked about how they’d irritated all the fine ladies and she nodded, “We probably have. Well, it’s not our problem.” Not today anyway. Then Charis got a bit more serious and thanked Cynane for the soap and for waiting for her and spending her hours off looking for her.

“What else are friends for, if we don’t look out for each other?” Cynane asked with a warm smile, although then she wondered if Charis would do the same for her – although maybe she’d not even be able to, her master seemed to be very strict and Charis’ life as a slave was certainly not much like Cynane’s life at the moment. It didn’t matter though, even if it was just a one-way thing, she still wanted to look out for Charis. It kind of felt right... that she had to do it. Charis still had a lot to learn about Rome.

“We should probably get finished… and hope the capsarii didn’t take too good care of our clothes.” She added and dived her head under the water one last time. Then she got out of the water once more and reached for her towel and the soap bar that she’d held in her other hand. There was still a bit left of that and it hadn’t been free, after all. She thought it might be best to keep it and use the rest another time. Cynane were many things and one of those things was practical and realistic in her outlook on life.

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Charis smiled, eyes still shut as she floated in the warm water. "Ugh, I wish I could just float here forever." But Cynane was right and she still had the list from Rhoda i her mind that she needed to pick up at the market. Gingerly, she cracked open an eye and smiled at her friend. "Come on - let's go dress and then I'll braid your hair. I promised, after all." Her own would do just being left loose and in the infernal heat of the city would no doubt be dry almost immediately. 

Tentatively she moved up and out of the water, hastily grabbing her towel to cover herself. Padding gently back to the apodyterium she was relieved to see her clothes still on the hooks where she left them. Quickly she dried herself before wrapping her hair in her towel and putting her tunica back on. She hated the feeling of being stared at and re-dressing made her feel far more confident. 

"Sit." She grinned and instructed her friend, indicating to a place in front of her so she could begin an intricate braid in her beautiful blonde hair.

 

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Cynane hadn't even known she'd see Charis when she went out today. But she went to her street anyway, just to see if she'd show up and to her great surprise Charis was there! And now they'd gone to the baths, which hadn't been planned by Cynane at all, but it was always nice. She had no idea how long they'd been in here though and thought that they ought to leave, because she had to get back to her princess. Charis agreed to go and get dressed and she would braid Cynane's hair. Soon they were both on their way back to the apodyterium and found their clothes again. Cynane attempted to dry herself first and then her hair, before she dropped the towel to at least put on some clothes. Then Charis ordered her to sit, "As you will, Domina." She said jokingly, and sat down on the bench in front of Charis.

It felt nice to have Charis' fingers in her hair and she closed her eyes, "I hope you remember how to do it on others. One of my mistress' other slaves will sometimes do my hair... but she's very Roman and grew up as a slave. Her hairstyles are nice, but you know, just not really... me?" She said, "I still prefer the braids and twirls I grew up with. Getting the hair out of my face so I can see what I'm doing is best. I have to always be alert and ready as a bodyguard." She continued, unable to just sit quietly while Charis worked on her hair. She really couldn't imagine living the life of a Roman matron with nothing special to do other than have her hair done and think about parties and marriages.

"If you could have another job here in Rome, than what you're doing now... what would you do? Even here, slaves can have many different tasks." Cynane wondered curiously. 

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Charis slapped her friends arm as she called her domina, grinning. Gods could only imagine! Still, as she sat down Charis ran her fingers through the other woman long blonde hair pulling it apart and untangling knots with nimble skill. It felt like she'd been doing this for years as she began to section off the other woman's hair into three distinct braids from her forehead to keep the hair from her face. At Cynane's words, she laughed; "I know...I've seen some of their hairstyles when I've been in the market, Gods it looks ridiculous. How they tempt their husbands with great enormous helmets of hair on their heads I don't know..." The practical braids and twists of their homeland was much simpler and more practical. Arching a brow at the back of Cynane's head, a thought occurred to her; "Have you ever had to fight somebody? As a bodyguard for her?"

She continued on, intricately twisting and braiding until she had three braids from the top of her friends head. She then began to twist the bottom of her hair. At Cynane's question she smiled and sighed; "Gods what would I do..." It was a difficult question and one she hadn't considered before. She worked as she thought before saying, after some quiet; "I'm not sure. There's lots of things...I always liked children, so maybe looking after some rich woman's child who's he doesn't care for." She laughed, "Or a midwife. My friend, at home, had me with her for her birth of her baby and it was magical..." If a little terrifying that women had to go through that. "But I like the gardens, it makes me happy. I feel useful and I'm outside in the sun." She smiled, satisfied. "Essentially, I think I'd be happy with anything but the kitchens or prostituting myself." She laughed.

She drew the linen strip she used on her own hair from her belongings and satisfied she'd finished, tied Cynane's hair back. "There." She grinned. "Finished."

 

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Cynane laughed at Charis’ reaction to being called domina, well it was all just for fun, wasn’t it? It was so nice to be together with someone you could just have fun with, she thought. They spoke a bit about braids an hairstyles and Charis definitely thought the Roman hairstyles on women were strange. But then she wondered if Cynane had ever fought anyone for her mistress… “Luckily, no… but it could still happen. She’s of high rank and it could easily happen that she’s attacked. I have to stay alert and ready. I wouldn’t let anything happen to her.” It was rare she really considered how much she’d do to keep Claudia safe and alive, but she would do a lot. Although she had this thing with that… well… she wouldn’t die for her mistress. Some slaves might think that odd, when she cared so much. But really, how could she protect Claudia if she was dead? No, she’d kill for her. Again and again, if she had to. As long as Claudia was safe.

Then Cynane had continued their little game of dreams of other lives and wondered what Charis would do in Rome, if she could decide. Meanwhile Cynane was patient with the braids, sat still and didn’t complain once even if Charis tugged a little hard at her hair. The other said she liked children, or she could be a midwife or work in gardens. It was a bit bittersweet, when she mentioned she’d like to do anything but work in the kitchens or be a prostitute. Her master had after all already bedded her. And didn’t she also work in the kitchens? Cynane wished so hard she could do something to improve Charis’ life, but didn’t know what.

“It sounds like you’re quite skilled at many things. That’s good.” She just replied with a smile then, not wanting to kill the mood. Then Charis was finished with Cynane’s hair and she moved a hand up to gently touch the hair, “Thanks. I’m sure it looks great.” She said and went to put on the rest of her things – her belt with her simple purse and other small belongings that didn’t matter to anyone but her, “I’ll walk you home if you’d like that. Or were you going somewhere else?” It had been so nice in the baths that she almost forgot where Charis was actually headed to, when they met today.

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"Not skilled," She laughed, "I just like lots of things. I swear I'm paranoid I'm going to wake up one morning and I'll have accidentally ruined the gardens or poisoned the flowers." It had been a steep learning curve for her and thus far she'd managed an admirable job, but she knew there was little room for error. 

She smiled as Cynane touched her hair, and finished dressing herself. Charis did likewise and tied the thin leather belt around her waist, securing the little coin purse to it. She cracked it open and was relieved to see the same number in there. The capsarii really didn't care about them it seemed! Her hair was still dripping wet, however, and she wrung it out as Cynane spoke. "Hm?" She asked, before realising what her friend had said. 

"Rhoda's sending me on a mission to the markets unfortunately," She sighed, "And she told me to hurry." She grinned, mischievously. They'd been dawdling and revelling in the pleasure of the baths for a little while and she imagined the little Greek woman would be more than a little irritated at her absence. "But,She continued as she nimbly plaited her hair into a simple braid - a task she'd done a thousand times over and required no concentration, "Now I'm allowed out again I will see you again sooner than six weeks, I promise." Satisfied that she was ready she moved to leave the baths with a reluctant sigh. "We should come here again next time, it's nice being a lady of leisure with you." She grinned.

 

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I think we're nearly done!

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