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Early July 74AD - Gardens of Sallust

Charis ran her fingers across the leaves of a blooming rosebush, inspecting them. She must have looked like she fitted right in amongst the slaves that tended to the bountiful, beautiful gardens of Sallust as she knelt there, examining the detail of the plants. She had yet to be allowed to work back in the peristylium at the domus, but it was surely imminent now as the bruises had faded to only the faintest shadow on the arch of her cheekbone. She had come here to get some perspective, and hopefully a little...help. Whilst she was pleased with her work, and had done better than she thought she might, she was still no professional. Most of the plants they grew at home were for practical use rather than beauty, and she was acutely aware that the challenges she faced (and thus far, weathered) in the peristylium were out of her skillset. She'd managed thus far, but as the weather grew hotter and the flowers started to wither she was worried she'd falter. 

Standing up and brushing down the debris from the front of her tunica she glanced around for one of the slaves that worked here. Frustratingly - there was nobody to find, and she supposed the midday sun had driven them away. With an impatient sigh she slowly moved off on one of the paths towards a shaded area and a bench perched beneath a tree a little way off. Despite her months of living here she'd not yet grown used to the unbearable heat and humidity of the city and frustrated as she was that she couldn't find anybody to question mercilessly about the behaviours of roses and other flowers, she did need the respite of the shade. 

She breathed deeply and folded her head in her hands as she sat down. This was her first visit to these gardens and even exhausted as she was, she couldn't help but appreciate their beauty. As she straightened up, she cast her eyes over the scene in front of her. A little girl was playing with her friend - she couldn't be much older than Antonia Varia - whilst a woman, perhaps her plebeian mother, or a slave, watched with an idle smile. She watched their game unfold in front of the majestic spread of plants and trees with a relaxed smile, and so distracted by the domesticity, she didn't notice somebody walking to join her.

 

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He’d made it to the gardens of Sullust today. It was a very hot day though and for once, he actually thought it would be nice with a bit of cold water. He found a fountain and splashed some water in his face and almost sat up on the edge to dip his feet into it too – but some people drank this water and he knew he shouldn’t do it. He should act well and work hard and he’d be treated with kindness. He would behave and not be disobedient. Maybe then one day he’d get a better job.

He continued walking and came by the lady with the child. The girl was deep in her own game and Helenus tried to walk around her – but she did not seeing the world around her and suddenly she ran right into Helenus’ chest. He stumbled backwards and the girl looked up at him with wide eyes and then ran back to the woman.

“You should watch where you’re going!” The woman said, “And don’t scare the children. What are you doing here anyway, don’t you have a job to do?” She said and Helenus sighed, not even here could he relax today, it seemed, “I’m sorry, Domina… I didn’t mean to. But the child… she should look where she’s going too.” He dared to actually stand up for himself and the woman gave him an angry look, “Disobedient! Watch your tongue or I’ll find your master and he’ll take care of it!” The woman replied, “Get out of here, now!” She then yelled and Helenus hurried to turn around and walk away fast before he’d say more stupid things. He shouldn’t have said that about the child, he shouldn’t. What if she did find his master and he’d have his tongue cut out? It really wasn’t fair though, it really wasn’t. And what about that woman who sat under the tree right in front of him… did she see the whole incident? But she didn’t intervene or anything. He looked at her, she was dressed as if she too was a slave and he had to get his frustration out somehow, so he spoke to her, “Watch what you’re doing here or you’ll be sent straight home too.” Helenus said to her as he walked by where she sat.

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Charis watched the unfolding scene with an impending feeling of dread. Definitely not a slave then. She thought to herself at the woman's outburst - sometimes the plebeians of Rome, she'd noticed, could be the cruelest of all to those enslaved. She supposed it was something to do with the fine line between their classes. She winced at the poor mans expense as the woman chided him but knew it was useless trying to intervene. She'd already been scolded (and worse) in her only other visit to the gardens of Rome and she was determined not to make a nuisance of herself this time. 

However, her bystander position didn't last long as the imposing figure of the other slave strode by her. She caught his words with a frown and glanced between him and the children, calling out to him before he could get too far out of earshot; "I be alright, I don't make habit of running into free children." She offered as a joke with a sly smile. 

Wincing at her remark, realising he might not take it in the jesting way she intended she hurriedly stood and took a couple of paces towards him. "Sorry, she should not have scream at you." She said in her accented Latin, with an open face and apologetic eyes. It seemed in Rome a slave couldn't turn anywhere without either being ignored completely or scolded. She didn't know which was worse. Glancing up through the canopy of the tree to the white hot sun beating down she jerked her head to the bench, "It's hot, take some shade - show her you don't have to leave." There was a mischievous glint in her eye. It was surely not disrespectful to simply sit in a garden, and the girl was a little way off, back up and playing her game again - absolutely fine.

 

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It had been so nice to escape the moist air of the thermae and he had enjoyed being here in the garden, but that’s only until he tried walking around that child. He did see where he was walking and where he was going! It was the child who didn’t! But still he was the one to fault and blame for the incident and the woman had yelled at him and then told him to leave. Helenus didn’t want any trouble, so he hurried to leave and as he walked by a young woman – also appearing to be a slave – he told her to watch out, because he had to get his frustration out somehow.

And then she said she’d be fine and didn’t run into free children. What? As if he did it on purpose? It just really wasn’t his lucky day. He almost shivered with the humiliation and hurt he felt within, that another slave would also blame him. But he really didn’t want more trouble and he would just continue walking. Then he heard the other slave get up behind him and she spoke to him, said the other woman should not have screamed at him and she apologized.

He stopped walking and looked over his shoulder at her, “She has the right to. I just shouldn’t have walked that way at all. It was my mistake.” He just said, even though he felt a knot in his heart as if it didn’t feel right to say it, but he knew it was right. He sighed and then the pretty slavegirl suggested he came to rest in the shade and showed the other woman he didn’t have to leave.

“But she told me to leave.” Helenus replied to her, glancing over at where they were. The woman still looked in their direction. It would be nice to just rest in the shade here, but oh he shouldn’t. She told him to leave, the other woman did. He saw the mischievous spark in the slavegirls eye though and wondered if she was a troublemaker. He didn’t want to be one. But he didn’t seem to turn around and walk away either, Helenus considered his options, “I should leave.” But his words didn’t hold as much weight as they should. He wasn’t leaving, after all.

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She winced at the poor mans reaction and glanced between the woman - watching their interaction with narrowed eyes - and back at the slave. "You should but she don't own gardens." She said with a little shrug. The heat had always made Charis irritable back at home, but she'd found here in Rome it just made her defiant. 

With a little smile she jerked her head back towards the bench from which she'd stood and without waiting for him, returned to sit on it. She spoke low, so the woman and her child wouldn't hear her; "And she don't know your name or who your domine is. Who is she going to complain to?" She sincerely doubted any of the wealthy in the gardens would care to get involved in a spat between a slave and a pleb, particularly a woman. They had much better things to be doing (well...so did the slaves). 

Smoothing out her tunica over her legs she arched a brow at him, "You don't work here, do you?" She asked with a little hope in her voice - that was her whole reason for being here after all. She added; "My name Jocasta." She'd decided, pretty much instantly from finding out about Helios' treachery that until she had built deep trust with somebody, they weren't to know her name or whom she worked for. Finally her self-preservation instincts were kicking in. 

 

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The other slave pointed out that the plebian woman over there didn’t own the gardens. She didn’t seem to think that Helenus should leave, even if he had been told to leave. He belonged to the empire, he was an imperial slave… technically, he belonged to anyone and anyone had the right to tell him what to do. At least as far as he knew. It wouldn’t be right to be disobedient, would it? He had to be good and obedient and then he’d keep his tongue.

But the slavegirl also said the woman wouldn’t know who to complain to and he nodded, “I guess she doesn’t know. I doubt she’s going to see Caesar about it.” He said and maybe with a small smile too. He was an imperial slave and of course, all of them had one superior above them all and that was Caesar. Not that he ever met the man or saw him up close. The slavegirl then wondered if he worked here and said her name. He looked at her, she did seem nice and it would be nice to sit here with her and just relax. That’s really what he came here for.

“I’m Helenus and no, I don’t work here. I work at the thermae, I’m a capsarius. What about you, Jocasta?” He asked curiously and made up his mind about staying here finally, with a compromise, “Let’s go and sit… but not here. We can find another bit of shade I’m sure. If you want to.”

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"Helenus." She repeated with a smile. Compared to some names the Romans gave their slaves, that was mercifully an easy one. Although he had no accent, so she supposed he must have been born here - much like that sweet redheaded slave she met when she first arrived, or Teutus. "Just house slave." She shrugged, "Cleaning, tidying, helping at cena." Poor Jocasta - she might have been ten or so years older than Charis, but for now the young Briton was occupying her place in Tertius' household. It seemed it was safer to be somebody else for now. 

Glancing between him and the woman at his suggestion, she sighed. She was loathed to move, especially as it was a point of principle for her now (even if it was misguided or altogether foolish) but company was welcome after weeks being cloistered in the house. 

With a light smile she nodded and stood, moving to join him as they walked away from the bench and back into the white hot sunlight. She didn't miss the woman's laugh as they moved away. Bitch, Charis thought. Glancing at him as they walked she studied him but asked; "What brings you to gardens, Helenus?" 

 

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She spoke his name and smiled and he couldn’t help but smile back. Now that they’d talked and she apologized for blaming him for running into the girl… she actually seemed very nice. He explained what he did and she told him how she was a house slave. Helenus nodded, “It must be nice, being a house slave. I never tried it.” He said to her. An imperial slave got to work for everyone and while he showed little skills when it came to construction and his former superior moved on and let him get into the thermae… he never tried just working in a house. Not quite like that anyway. It would be nice to just have one master and one house to belong to. He thought Jocasta was very privileged. 

Jocasta didn’t seem too thrilled about going somewhere else to sit, but then she sighed and seemed to agree. They walked in the other direction of the path and he heard the plebian woman laugh behind them. The sound almost felt like a slap to the back of his head and closed his eyes for a brief moment, then he stared at the path before him. His new companion wondered why he came here though.

“I just wanted to relax and get away from all the people, now that I had the chance. And this is usually such a calm place.” But apparently not today, he thought. Helenus already had problems relaxing. There was so much he had to do and so many demands made of him… and then he came here to relax. And now he couldn’t even do that.

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"It...not always nice." She offered with a wince but a little smirk on her face. "Dominus' are sometimes very complicated and houses can be tense." Because they were. Especially, it seemed, if you were an attractive young man or woman. Or your domine was particularly complex, like her own. "Maybe I prefer to be owned by empire," She said with a little pause. She'd learned about the different types of slave at the market; imperial, personal, gladiators..."Work on nice farm somewhere quiet, meet nice man, be peaceful." It sounded heavenly compared to her current mess of a life. 

As he spoke, she arched a brow. Get away from all the people? She could understand that. 

"I can leave you alone? If you want? If you want some quiet?" She said conscientiously. She didn't want to feel like she was imposing. They were now far enough away from the woman and her child to have a little breathing room and she glanced around to find somewhere to sit.

 

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Of course it wasn’t always nice to be owned by a private household, he knew the masters and mistresses out there could be quite wicked, but it was still something different from what he tried in his lifetime. The slavegirl said that her Dominus was very complicated and the house was tense. Helenus nodded, “I guess you’re right.” He said and she suggested she might prefer to be owned by the empire and then revealed dreams she had.

“That does sound very peaceful… like a dream, almost.” Helenus replied, because that was what it sounded like. He’d love that too. A more quiet and relaxed and peaceful life, but he doubted he’d ever get that. One day he’d catch some disease in the baths and that would be the end of him. Even if he did have dreams that one day there’d be someone to pick him up and take him away, the older he grew, the less likely it seemed.

When he told her why he’d come here, Jocasta suggested to leave him alone, but he looked at her and shook his head, “Oh… no, that’s not what I meant. You’re alright. I more mean… all the people in the baths. The work. The… expectations. There’s always so much to do and so many people to please and… when I can, I like to leave it entirely behind. I don’t get to go out so much though.” Helenus said, “I don’t want to displease anyone.” He wasn’t very good at saying no, because he knew he shouldn’t. So when someone came and told him to get something done, he did it, no matter if he was actually supposed to take a break. He’d rather do that than being punished for misbehaving.

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Charis listened to him with sympathy as she moved over to another secluded little area, and although there was no bench she took a seat on an upturned tree trunk that would presumably be disposed of imminently. "I'm sorry." She offered with a  little wince. She'd hate working in the thermae. Well, she hated being there most of the time given the views she got, but she'd hate to serve somebody at that...base level. It would be humiliating. 

"Let not talk about it then." She offered with a light smile, "If you want to leave behind you, we will." Nodding resolutely she narrowed her eyes in concentration, trying to pluck another topic of conversation out of thin air. She had never been particularly excellent at small talk and Rome was certainly testing her limited capabilities! 

With a dimpled, mischievous grin she arched a brow at him. "Here is something else to talk about," She narrowed her big blue eyes; "If you could go anywhere in world and nobody would stop you, where would you go?" Her answer was a little easier than his no doubt - she had a life before that she was yearning to revisit, but she always found it interesting talking to slaves; their dreams were often so varied.

 

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Helenus watched his current companion here sit down while she said she was sorry… sorry for what? For asking if she should leave him alone? Sorry to hear what he did? There was nothing to be sorry for, it wasn’t her fault and she couldn’t change it. It was just his current lot in life and that’s it. Helenus felt a bit awkward, but decided to take a seat next to her, “It’s alright.” He assured her with a small smile, and then Jocasta suggested talking about something else.

“That would be nice.” He said to her and soon after, she gave him the sweetest, mischievous grin and wondered where he’d go if he could go anywhere. Helenus looked at her, blinked… if he could go anywhere?

“I… don’t know. I grew up here, this is all I’ve ever known. It would be nice, I guess, but I have no idea where I’d go. I’m sorry, Jocasta… I can’t answer your question.” Helenus said with a small sigh, feeling a bit like a failure again. But since she asked, she must also have a good answer and it could only be better than his, couldn’t it? He looked at her again, “Where would you go?”

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Charis glanced at him with worry as he stumbled over his words. Gods! She had thought it was a harmless question, a bit of fun, she hadn't meant to upset him. Gently she placed a hand on his forearm as if soothing a child and offered a light smile, shaking her head; "No...no it's fine. I..." She hesitated for a fraction after his question, not wanting it to seem as if she had the answer to his question immediately - she'd already made him feel bad enough! 

"I would like to go home, back to Britannia. I only arrive," Careful Erea...You're Jocasta now! "Two years ago, and miss it still." There. Now if he tried to find a Jocasta who came from Britannia two years ago, he'd struggle to find the newly arrived Charis. That was better, safer, even if she felt a little twinge of guilt for lying to him. 

Trying to make it up, she flashed a sly grin; "I think you would like to go to Britannia." She nodded, "I answer question for you." She removed her hand from his arm and brushed hair from her face. "You must like, or can swim if you work in thermae and beautiful beaches in Britannia - even if Romans think they not. And, it nice and cool most of time which is change from baths here." She nodded, satisfied. "When I go back, I take you with me." She winked. Gods, if only...

 

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Oh he wished he had something clever to say to Jocasta’s question. She was being nice and her talking of going anywhere you’d like – that was clearly meant to cheer him up, but it didn’t work, because he didn’t know what to say. If he could go anywhere? Away from the baths and never look back, but he didn’t know where he’d go to. Maybe he should have said that, but he just felt bad. It was probably the plebian woman to blame for that, he’d come here in a fine mood and she made it drop by scolding him.

Jocasta smiled gently at him and touched his arm in a soothing way, saying it was fine and then she said where she’d go. She said she’d go back to Britannia, which she left two years ago. It sounded amazing to travel, but perhaps not as a slave. If she’d been captured and she most likely had, because her Latin was clearly not perfect, so she had not been speaking until maybe those two years ago or maybe she even learned it later than that. Then she said she thought he’d like Britannia and answered his question for him. She also removed her arm again, although it was nice. A comforting touch, instead of a demanding or rough touch.

She explained how the beaches were like in Britannia and said she’d take him with her, when she went back.

“Britannia does sound amazing. I can swim… I’ve never seen the sea or a beach though.” He said and looked at her, “You’re really going back to Britannia?” He had no reason to not trust her, she didn’t seem to have any hidden agenda. Maybe her master was now stationed in Britannia and his household would go with him. She was lucky, then, if she got to back there, he thought, “I’d love to come. But I don’t think I’ll be able to… unless you can afford cutting my bond from slavery. Or have your master purchase me…” Although it wasn’t likely that would happen.

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Charis eyed him with a mixture of sadness but hope. "I...not for now." She sighed with a shake of her head and a little laugh, "I have to get free first - and then back to Britannia." But she didn't forget what that Alexius had said, that when he had finally made it home it was beyond recognition. Already she suspected her home had been burnt, her settlement gone - temples would be being constructed, slaves taken, farmland doled out. It had been a few months but it would no doubt already be slipping through her fingers. 

She squeezed his arm again, gently and studied him; "I just as poor as you are," She said with a wince, "And my master," She shook her head, "You would not like to work for him." She wouldn't wish anybody to come into the Varus household right now with its confusing, complicated relationships and tension. "But you should save, as much as you can, and then maybe one day you take trip to beach." She smiled softly, "I think you'd like it."

 

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She looked a bit sad after he asked if she was really going back to Britannia. She said she’d have to be freed first and then she would go back. He nodded. So her master was not stationed there and she was not going like that. He gave her a smile, “I’m sure it’ll happen for you someday, if you’re that eager to go back.” He said, hoping it would really happen for her. But she said she was as poor as he was and that he’d not like to work for her master.

Helenus didn’t quite know what to say to that. He was used to being a very obedient slave and trying hard to please others, but Jocasta here was a bit difficult to read for him. Helenus didn’t quite know how to please her. Of course he had certain skills, but he wasn’t at the baths here and he shouldn’t have to try and charm someone to make them feel happy. Although maybe he should. She seemed so nice. And now she said he should save his money so he could one day take a trip to the beach.

“I hope I can someday. I don’t have a lot to save though, I don’t get much. Most of what I… get my hands on, I have to give it away.” When he stole as a capsarii, it wasn’t for himself, it was for the gang that unofficially controlled the thermae. And it wasn’t that he wanted to steal or wanted to call himself a thief. But he did take some. Yet it wasn’t for him, most of it. It was for them.

Maybe he should change the subject, to something nicer… “Anyway, we shouldn’t talk about work, right? This is your free time too, isn’t it? Did you just plan on sitting here all day or was there something you wanted to do here?”

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She appreciated the change in their topic of conversation. Poor Helenus seemed so downtrodden if she had been free (and Gods how she wished she was, again!) she would have strode over to that woman and her little girl and given her a piece of her mind, and tongue. It would not be unheard of. Back at home her family knew well to her her space when she was irritated or aggrieved, and she'd never been shy about letting people know what they thought of her. Unfortunately, her forthrightness was one of many things she'd lost since she'd arrived in Rome, and for that she had Tertius to thank. 

"I work in gardens mainly, at domus." She clarified, "And I heard here is beautiful - which it is - and want to speak to one of slaves that work here about what to do with roses, mine are dying in the heat." Despite her best efforts. 

But she shrugged lightly, with an easy smile and continued; "But speaking with you just as good company, Helenus. And at least I don't have to think about work." She arched a brow at him though, "Although...which thermae do you work at? I go a little, but fortunately no casparii has ever stolen from me." She grinned at him, teasing, "I suppose my clothes are not nice enough for you, hmm?"

 

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Helenus tried to change the subject, asking her what she came to do here, since it was her free time. She explained how she worked in the gardens at her masters house and she came here, because it was beautiful… and she would speak with a slave who worked here about roses. Helenus nodded, “Hopefully someone will show up then.” He said and wondered which slaves worked in the gardens here. Imperial slaves? Maybe he could work here instead, that would be a very nice change…

But while he sat there daydreaming about other jobs, Jocasta said Helenus was good company and then for some reason turned to talk about the thermae again and she knew what the capsarii did, it seemed. Well who didn’t know? And yet, because that part was run by gangs, no one did anything to stop it. She seemed to be teasing him, but to Helenus, this was a kind of tricky matter to discuss.

“I mostly work at the Thermae Aventini.” Helenus said and sighed, “You know, it’s not something I want to do. And we don’t… take from slaves. Or I don’t, at least. Unless they’re wealthy slaves, but most aren’t.” He pointed out, looking at her, “I hope no one ever steals from you… it wouldn’t be fair.” Was it fair to steal from the wealthy? He supposed it wasn’t. On the other hand, they had plenty of everything and surely they could spare a little. If only then those who stole actually got to keep what they took. But they didn’t. 

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"Thermae Aventini." She repeated with a nod, but supposed even if she frequented it she doubted she'd see him. Almost all the male slaves were kept away from the women's baths, unless specifically requested  to attend a domina. And she'd only seen that once, with a rather portly older woman and a very handsome young slave with wandering hands...

She couldn't help but grin at him at his explanation. "Well that good to  know." She had nothing worth stealing anyway. What would they take? A plain tunica? Her empty coin purse? Her battered wooden sandals? Unlikely, especially given the sheer wealth of some of the other patrons there. But it did pique her interest a little. "Tell me then, Helenus - if I visit with my domina," As the young Antonia Varia had suggested she should, some weeks ago, "How I keep her belongings safe? She only eight, nine actually, I think but her father wealthy and she has nice clothes." Far nicer than anything Charis herself could afford or dream of wearing. And she didn't doubt she'd be on the receiving end of Tertius' anger if she let it be stolen. Then again, she'd have to ask him to visit with Antonia in the first place which she imagined would be a firm no...

 

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It wasn’t fair to steal and it certainly wasn’t fair to steal from anyone as poor as yourself – and slaves were rarely very wealthy, or else they wouldn’t be slaves… right? She grinned when he told her that he didn’t steal from slaves, she said it was good to know. And then she wondered what to do if she visited the baths with her apparently very young Domina, who had a wealthy father.

“You keep them with you. When she goes into the bathing areas, you make sure to pack the clothes and belongings into a bundle that is easy to carry around. And don’t lose sight of it.” Helenus said, the last bit added a little firmly, “It would be mean to steal from such a young child, wouldn’t it? But if you leave the clothes at the apodyterium, you can almost be sure that someone will go through them.” He was no stranger to that at all and sometimes he’d even been in the women’s apodyterium to fetch an extraordinarily good find from the belongings of the wealthy.

“I’m sorry it’s like that, Jocasta. It’s… so stupid. Everyone knows, you know. But nothing’s changed about it… the stealing, I mean. And we have no say in it. It really isn’t fair.” Helenus had never felt at ease with the stealing, he could do it and it wasn’t hard, but it didn’t feel right to him. He hated stealing. And he hated that he couldn’t do anything about it. But that’s just how it was.

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Charis listened to his instruction but frowned; "I...I'm not sure she can swim, my domina. Should I not go in water with her? But then I cannot guard her things..." Gods it would be so complicated! Maybe she shouldn't suggest it to Tertius, even if sweet Antonia Varia had asked her, all those weeks ago. 

But then she listened to his explanation, about the thieving, and arched an amused brow. When he finally finished, she stayed silent for a moment, considering her next words carefully. 

"You have...no say in it?" That was interesting. She'd always assumed that the casparii stole for their own personal gain, but perhaps not? "Who make you do it then? Your dominus?" Not understanding the intricacies of slavery in the empire, she didn't realise Helenus didn't have a singular dominus but was owned by the empire. There were many things she didn't understand about her current life, and gangs were most definitely one of them. She had no concept of them, she'd never come across them at home in Britannia from her peaceful little village, and certainly hadn't in Rome. "Why do you do it then? If not for you?" She summed up, finally.

 

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It would be difficult with such a young domina in the baths, he could see that… “Maybe tell her to not go into the deeper water. And stay near the edges. You could go in… but keep the bundle of clothes near and again, make sure you watch it.” He added. He simply didn’t trust it. Honestly if she left it out of sight for a moment… the capsarii were trained well, they were good pickpockets. Helenus was too. He’d learned to be, because he didn’t want to get punished for being bad at it.

Then he’d apologized to her, for the capsarii doing what they did even though everyone knew and it wasn’t fair, because they couldn’t say no. Sure, some of them probably enjoyed it, but Helenus was not one of them. He worked hard so he’d not be mistreated, that’s all. That’s how he saw it anyway. Jocasta seemed surprised though and wondered who made him steal and why he did it.

“I have to.” He said and tried to consider how he could explain it, because she clearly didn’t know. And maybe the ordinary Romans weren’t supposed to know this information, but no one had ever told him it was confidential… “The thermae belong to the empire and officially, I belong to the Empire of Rome too. But there are… layers, if that makes sense?” Helenus tried at least, “And officially, that’s how it is. But there would be too many problematic people in the thermae, if the collegia didn’t take care of it. And they do. But then they also make us work for them. If I don’t do as they say, I don’t know what they’ll do. They’ll punish me, maybe kill me? I don’t know. I just don’t want it to happen.” Helenus explained and hoped she understood, “Does your dominus never make you do things you don’t want to, but you have to?” She said he was complicated, so there had to be something there.

@Sara

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Charis listened, trying to understand. Even though her Latin had improved, her grasp on concepts of Roman society was much weaker. "Collegia?" She asked quietly, with a frown, "They gangs?" They must be - although the name didn't mean much of anything to her. She sighed and reached out a light hand to soothe him, placing it on his shoulder. But his question threw her, and she blinked - a flush coming to her cheeks. "I..." She stuttered, "Yes, he has. I...know what you mean." Although she wondered if poor Helenus had been subjected to that indignity as well? It seemed everything in Rome was about sex and power, and the two were often intricately linked. 

Smoothing her long tunica over her legs she sighed, feeling guilty she had raised such a topic - evidently one uncomfortable for Helenus. Trying to lighten the mood, she glanced around at the bright gardens with their array of beautiful flowers and trees. 

Quickly, she stood up and extended a hand to help him - not that he needed it, from the look of him. "Come on, let clear our heads and go for walk. I'll pick you pretty flowers too." She grinned, and hoped she wouldn't be flogged for stealing them. But they were so beautiful - they deserved to be taken!

 

TAG: @Atrice

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Apparently she didn’t know about the collegia and Helenus thought it over shortly, how to describe it to her? “They’re kind of gangs… but more organized. Gangs on a higher level. I think at the very top, they’re controlled by Senators, in fact. But I’m not at the top… at all.” Helenus explained. Rome wouldn’t be the largest city in the world without slaves and without the collegia. They controlled things. Sure they were basically criminals, but they also maintained peace in the streets. They just also did all the illegal stuff too.

He tried to explain his position with them, as a slave who belonged to anyone in Rome and how he couldn’t not do as he was told to do. Then he wondered if she, as a slave, never did things she was told to do but didn’t really want to do. She seemed surprised and a bit distressed over the question; she blushed and said her dominus did such things and she knew what Helenus was talking about. Helenus nodded, “Then you understand why I have to steal… even from good people.” He said to her.

Silence fell for a little while and she smoothed her tunica again. Helenus looked at her. She was very pretty and now she seemed a little… uncomfortable, maybe? Jocasta then looked up and around and said they should go for a walk and she’d pick him pretty flowers. She extended her hand and he smiled and took it, “Alright.” He said and stood and didn’t let go of her hand. Somehow, the touch… her touch… it felt so nice. So gentle and soothing and not demanding. Just like he thought about earlier.

“You seem to really like the flowers. Were there many beautiful ones in Britannia? Did you have a favorite flower?” Helenus asked curiously, while they walked together, hand in hand. He wasn’t used to holding hands with people, but it felt so pleasant.

@Sara

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She squeezed his hand as he took it to stand, as she would her brother or sister when they were younger. That he didn't let it go, surprised her as they moved to look at some of the flowers that filled the gardens but his words distracted her and she breathed, smiling. She hadn't realised how much she enjoyed the nature of her home until she had been brought to this sprawling city filled with its monstrous buildings. 

Tentatively she wiggled her hand from his, noting they weren't alone in this garden and she didn't want anything to be misconstrued as over familiar. "Many beautiful ones at home, yes, but our forests were what I loved most." A light smile as she dragged through her memories, lit her face. "They stretched for miles and miles and were so quiet, so peaceful, so green." She shook her head, "There nothing like it in Rome." Even here, in these gardens, the sun had parched the ground dry. 

But back to reality, she shook her head. "I like thrifts, they grew on cliffs near the sea. And bluebells, in the woods in the summer." Her fingers trailed over the pruned, perfect roses and clematis' that grew here. Tentatively she reached to a wall and plucked off two bright pink clematis flowers. Offering one to him, she smiled. "To brighten your day." Gods she hoped nobody that worked here, saw that! She tucked her own behind her ear.

 

TAG: @Atrice

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