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Special Treatment


Atrice
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It had been a few weeks since Tertius discovered Charis’ nasty bruise on her face – and had decided to keep her out of sight for most of the household, but at the same time he would find another way to make her useful. So he’d been teaching her more about letters and reading and writing. She was doing quite well, she was a fast learner! He was almost surprised that a barbarian like Charis would get it so fast, that she could actually be taught, but it happened and she was already slowly helping him sort some of his scrolls and documents. So far only those that had to do with the household and mainly lists of things for the house and kitchen (she would find that most useful to learn, he thought), but still… she was being useful.

 He’d noticed the last few days that the bruise was fading quite a lot, revealing her beautiful skin underneath again. Luckily her headache hadn’t grown worse and she hadn’t fainted or felt more ill, so at least she didn’t have a concussion. But he still allowed her to sleep long enough, to eat well and get exercise and go to the baths on her own – in the daytime, where she hopefully wouldn’t run into any nasty bandits again.

 It was about time that she was allowed to work less in the kitchen and more in the garden again. But he was enjoying her usefulness in the office and he was enjoying spending time with her. She was actually not stupid at all and her own Latin was actually improving with the lessons, or so he thought. Charis had been nothing but a perfect and good slave these last few weeks. She deserved the work she liked the most and maybe she even deserved a reward. Tertius was becoming fond of her, so maybe he even thought about spoiling her a bit. He’d seen Hector’s eyes when Tertius told his body slave about the reward… and he knew Hector hated that Tertius spent time with any other slave than Hector. But Hector was not the master of this household. Tertius was. And he’d do as he pleased with his slaves.

 This afternoon, he waited for Charis to appear as usual – she would not be aware that anything would be different today. Tertius could barely wait with telling her and could only hope that she would be pleased and happy to hear that he’d spoil her so. It wasn’t like he did that for all of his slaves, after all.

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Charis dozed, her jaw in her palm as she sat at the bench in the smokey kitchen. Her vague dreams were intercut with mutters from Rhoda and laughs from a few other slaves that filled the room. Her days had seemed endless the last few weeks and the routine never changed.

She'd wake early, well before dawn to wash and dress before she'd go and tend to the garden in the dark. She might not have been officially working there, but the plants still needed tending and watering. Then she'd go to the kitchens to help Rhoda begin the days work as dawn came and spend the day there, whittling down the hours - before she inevitably was sent to the market, or she'd visit the baths. Then of course was time for her lesson with domine and after that and the work associated, she'd rejoin Rhoda and help prepare for supper. When that was all through she'd finally get some peace and once the inhabitants of the domus were largely retired to bed, she'd return to the gardens to work. Yet come midnight she was often still out there - practicing her letters, giving her prayers or just...thinking. By the time her new day started she was, well, exhausted. She was most decidedly looking forward to returning to her normal work now her face was healed. 

She was jolted out of her aimless dreaming by a nudge from one of the other girls that worked in the domus, "Shouldn't you be off to see him?" Charis blinked her eyes awake; "Hmm?" She yawned. "Domine - don't you usually see him now?" Charis mumbled, rubbing her eyes tiredly. She moved off her perch with no grace and bent to pick down the tablet she had been practicing with from the side - where she'd repeated lists of randomly assigned words. "Thank for the sleep." She grinned to Rhoda and the other woman offered a wink in return. They were all in this together, after all. 

Tiredly she moved through the domus to his tablinium. She didn't care for his company, but she appreciated the lesson he was teaching her. Reading (even if she wasn't particularly proficient) was opening up a whole new world for her. She knocked on the frame and moved in when bidden, dipping her head in greeting but keeping her eyes averted even as she stood in front of him - looking at his chest rather than his face. "Domine." She greeted, "I have been practicing." She offered a smile and held out the wax tablet for him.

 

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Had he known she only enjoy the lessons, but not his company, he might not have been so keen on teaching her. But from where he stood, it did seem as if Charis was enjoying herself and at least this might be even more important work than the rest. Well sure you needed to eat, but you could also eat out in the city. And the garden did need tending, but it wasn’t like he threw a ton of parties here anyway. He had no wife to be a perfect hostess. But paperwork was always important – it was always something you had to get done. And she was helping him while also learning a skill that most other slaves didn’t have.

Finally she appeared in his tablinum and held out her wax tablet to him, “That’s good.” Tertius said and took it and went over to sit on the edge of his desk to look at it, “Your hand is more steady now. You’ve improved a lot, Charis.” Tertius said and then looked at her while he put the tablet down onto the table. Then he approached her and moved the hair away from her face with both hands, until he could grasp it in one hand to hold it behind her head. It meant he stood quite close to her, but it didn’t matter to him, “And your face is healing very well too. It’s more or less gone now.” Tertius added with a smile, letting his free hand touch the area where the bruise had been. Soft and warm, he thought. And so pretty, again.

“Soon you won’t be required to come here daily… unless you want to keep learning.” He said, still with a smile, “Today though, I thought we’d do something else. No lesson and no work for you, how does that sound?” Of course, technically, as long as she was with Tertius, she was ‘working’, because she was his slave, but it would feel less like work, he hoped.

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Charis smiled to herself at his compliment. She had improved a lot, but it was nice to hear it from somebody else - even if that somebody was him. "Thank you, domine." But as he took a step forward she blinked. She had managed to temper her impulses since that first time he had touched her and she managed not to flinch as he reached out to move her hair away, holding it behind her. It would almost be tender if it was somebody else. Whilst she didn't flinch and instead stood there like a pillar of stone, she had to swallow the lump in her throat as she spoke. "Yes, it much better. Does not hurt now." And it didn't, even as he brushed it with his hand. Gods though, she wished he wouldn't though. 

She kept her eyes firmly away from his face as he spoke though and only nodded with a mumbled; "I like...learning, like the lessons domine." but she knew it was his decision, as ever, about whether she'd be allowed to continue her practice. 

She didn't glance up but from the tone of his voice she could tell he was in a good mood, maybe he was even smiling (the rarity!) and she listened quietly. Oh gods what was he planning now?! Biting her lip she offered a light smile. She didn't like surprises at the best of the times but he was a man that enjoyed flattery, and evidently he wanted her to be impressed. "It sound...exciting." She breathed and swallowed, her mouth dry. "Can I ask what we do?" Oh Gods please let it be nice...please let this not be a trap. She'd worked so hard to impress him, she only hope his reward fitted her efforts...

 

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When he complimented on her improvement at the writing, Charis smiled and thanked him for it. He returned the smile and had then come closer to inspect her face, which did indeed look better. She didn’t look pained either when he touched her and she didn’t even flinch. She confirmed it didn’t hurt anymore, which must mean it was over and done with. Charis kept her gaze down and then said she liked the lessons, “Good. It seems like you are.” Teutus might be glad that Tertius wouldn’t teach her anymore, because that meant he could take over once more. Charis had been doing a few of the things that Teutus usually did, but of course Teutus was to be freed, so he should actually get used to not doing these things on his own. Maybe Tertius would continue to teach her, if she liked it so much.

Then he revealed that they would do something else today and she said it sounded exciting, but it didn’t sound like she meant it. And then she asked what they were doing.

“It sounds exciting, you say… yet you’re not smiling?” Tertius noted and stepped back to sit on the edge of his desk again, watching her. Perhaps she didn’t want the reward, perhaps she’d prefer to just work hard and never be rewarded if she did something good and right by Tertius?

“I thought we’d go to the marketplace together… to find fabric for a new chiton for you.” Tertius then said, he’d been looking forwards to telling her these things or at least taking her out, but her response just before killed his mood a little bit. He continued none the less, but the cheer from his voice had faded, “And then afterwards, we’ll see what we do. Perhaps grab a bite to eat or visit a temple or two, if you’d like to see them. I imagined a relaxing afternoon and evening. But of course, if you’d rather just get back to work, let me know.” He was trying to be nice to her here, he’d looked forwards to this, but it almost felt like she’d already ruined it. Gods, he’d never understand women and especially the foreign kind.

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As he spoke and stepped back she cautioned a glance up at him for a fleeting moment, noting his disappointment. Hurriedly, she tried to cover her tracks as she looked back down; "I not good with surprises, they worry me domine." She admitted - honestly, but with a little grin. It was true - back at home she hated when her husband tried to surprise her, or her family - she had a perpetual fear of the unknown, she was a planner and organised by nature after all. Not to mention, she imagined his idea of a surprise would be far less enjoyable than the ones she feared at home. 

Still, she let him speak and listened. As he mentioned new fabric and a dress she glanced down almost...selfconciously at what she was wearing. It was perfectly serviceable, long and plain and suited her needs fine. She was confused, but mostly by his desire to simply...spend time with her. She supposed she shouldn't have been, given how keen he had seemed on her lessons and her help in his administration but this man seemed worlds away from the imposing and distant domine she had come to know in her first few months. 

As he finished she smiled and swallowed, "No, I would like that domine, thank you." She said slowly - even though her accent was improving. She wouldn't like it, she wouldn't like it all - she'd have to be on her guard all day rather than just the few hours she spent in his tablinium usually. And the fact that she didn't like the business of Rome at the best of times, she far preferred the peace and solitude of the outdoors (which he would have understood if he had cared to understand her)...But what the domine wanted...Tucking her hair behind her ear she smoothed her hand over her tunica. "New fabric would be very kind, you very generous..." Careful, Charis... "Can I ask...what I done to deserve this surprise?"

 

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He was definitely disappointed at her reaction – he thought she might be happy to hear that she would not be working or having the lessons, but it didn’t sound like it when she said she was excited. She didn’t mean it. And it almost made him reconsider his plans. She claimed she was not good with surprises and only worried about them. Really? So no one could ever plan something good for her, because if she got the slightest idea, she’d be more worried than happy. That was quite difficult, he thought.

But he decided to tell her his plans anyway, but left it open. Would she really rather work than not? She said she would like to follow him for his plans for them today and she even thanked him. Tertius wasn’t sure he was buying it now. She went on, calling him generous for thinking of a new chiton for her and wondered then what she did to deserve it. Any other slave would have been thrilled at these plans. Hector would have kissed him for it and not asked questions. But Charis, she wasn’t like that at all.

“You don’t know?” Tertius was honestly a little surprised over this, “I told you a long time ago, that in this house, obedient and well-behaved slaves are rewarded. And you’ve been just that, lately. Plus you really have improved with your writing. I think you’ve deserved a time away from duties in this house. Perhaps you’d not want to go to a temple…” Tertius was thoughtful, he wanted to her to really think this was a reward, but where could he take her to make her happy? She did love the garden very much.

“I know what you’ll like.” Tertius then finally said with a small, secretive smile, “We’ll find the fabric first, at the market. Go and get your cloak, just in case. I’ll wait for you outside.” It was afternoon, they might not be back until the evening. He hoped she’d be a little less difficult for the rest of the afternoon or this might end up being a very long day.

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Was she truly being that well-behaved? Charis hadn't really thought about it. Certainly after he took her to bed, for those few weeks she had been so despondent and morose, and most definitely brow-beaten that she did as she was instructed with no complaints. But as the weeks had worn on, and especially since she had started seeing him more frequently after the incident with the thieves, she'd definitely regained some of her vigour and irreverence. He hadn't completely broken her yet. But no matter, he seemed to enjoy it and it was true she continued to do her duties without complaint but Charis couldn't help but note he didn't take Rhoda or any of the other household slaves for a tour of the sights and shopping for simply doing their jobs. She swallowed but found her mouth dry at the knowledge that he must be doing this because he liked her more than the others, as Cynane had suggested, but she didn't interrupt or say anything as he posited what they should do.

At his instruction, she nodded mutely but added; "Yes domine." and quickly turned and left. She made her way back to the slave quarters, avoiding the inquisitive eyes of the others in the kitchen. She removed the bundle that she had been using as a pillow which included her cloak and shook it out to remove some of the creases. Slipping her feet into her sandals, she sighed. This had not been the way she intended the rest of this day to go. 

When she was ready she left the domus by the slave entrance and walked around the side of the house to meet him at the front. Glancing around, she arched a brow; "Is Hector not joining us domine?" The irritating little man was Tertius' shadow but she didn't know if it was a blessing or a curse that he wasn't invited on this little outing. Smoothing her hands over her tunica she noticed a little rip over her thigh and offered a grin; "Fabric will need to be long-lasting, thorns on roses in the gardens don't care if I look nice, they just like to rip my dress." Unless of course, the chiton was for another occasion entirely. 

 

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He wouldn’t be very pleased to hear that he hadn’t broken her completely yet. If he knew she thought like that, he’d work harder on making sure it happened – that she was broken and as devoted to her master as a slave could be. She was so easy on the eyes with her soft skin, long and pretty hair, petite figure and pretty eyes. And she probably didn’t even see it, at least it didn’t seem so to him. But he still enjoyed looking at her and now that her face had healed, he would see more of her. And he would reward her for good work and improvement with his lessons. He did reward his other slaves. Just not like this. He couldn’t imagine taking Rhoda out like this! Hector he would, but Hector was plenty rewarded already. Charis was his new pet.

She left when he told her to get her cloak and then he had Hector fetch his own and his body-slave clasped it around his neck, “I hope you’ll have a fine day, Dominus. I’ll be waiting for you.” Hector promised Tertius, who smiled back, “I know you will.” And then he turned to go out and wait for Charis. Hector was perfect, but compared to Charis, almost too perfect. He said everything Tertius wanted to hear and though he enjoyed that and enjoyed their odd relationship, it was also nice with a little bit of opposition sometimes. Something to work with. He thought about that while he waited and soon enough, Charis appeared and wondered if Hector would join them.

“No, he won’t. It’ll just be us.” Tertius explained and Charis looked at her dress and noticed a rip over her thigh and spoke of how the roses didn’t care if she looked nice.

“Maybe you should keep that one for garden-work, then.” Tertius said and motioned for her to come with her, “And your new chiton will be for other purposes. Else I see you turning into quite the expensive slave.” He said with a grin and looked at her, “Don’t think about it though. It’s my job to make sure my slaves are dressed well enough and have what they need. And with your work lately… you deserve this. Charis…” Tertius stopped walking and turned to face her, placing a few fingers under her chin to make her look up at him, “You need to relax. Please… try to enjoy this day.”

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Confused by the lack of Hector she tried to wrack her brain to remember what exactly he did for their dominus. Besides bedding him, fetching his wine and food Charis really had no idea and she hoped Tertius wasn't expecting her to be a fully versed body slave for their outing. She equally didn't know how much the man talked or how open their relationship was. She didn't have much time to ponder though, as she examined her dress and Tertius commented.

She grinned, genuinely and joked; "I would not mind being expensive slave." And hoped he took it with good nature. She really had no need for a nicer dress, they'd likely all get ruined in the gardens or kitchens but she wasn't one to question his whims and supposed she'd keep the nicer fabric for occasions where he wanted to show her off. The thought made her mood sour a little, but she didn't show it.

As he drew to a stop she did also and turned to face him. She wasn't anticipating him touching her and as he lifted her chin she blinked up at him - meeting his cool blue eyes for the first time in what felt like weeks. He wanted her to relax? Gods why was he so changeable! She offered a light smile and nodded, but didn't waver her gaze or look away - instead projecting strength that she probably shouldn't have. "Yes domine." She said with a small smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. If he wanted her to relax, so be it. She arched a brow at him, if this was supposed to be a relaxing afternoon then perhaps it could be a less formal one. "If we relax, can I speak...more free?" She asked with narrowed, mischievous eyes and continued, still meeting his gaze. "I...think it nice to know more about you." It mightn't be, but it would certainly be helpful.

 

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When she’d mentioned that her current dress was torn by the roses and garden-work, Tertius suggested she should keep that for working and the new fabric they’d buy today, to have a new dress made, would be for other than garden-work. He mentioned she’d be an expensive slave – if he had to buy clothes for her all the time – but then she joked back, saying she’d not mind that. Honestly that surprised him a bit. Hector was currently Tertius’ most ‘expensive’ slave… the one he spent most money on. Charis would like that too? That was... very interesting!

“We’ll see about that.” He just commented, but it honestly made him quite curious. Charis still seemed quite hesitant about the whole idea about leaving the house alone with Tertius and he’d pointed out that he thought she deserved it. But she really grasp what it meant, going out like this with him? He stopped, touched her chin and she met his eyes with her pretty ones – as he told her to relax and enjoy the day. She obediently agreed to do that and he let go of her, seeing that she was finally attempting a smile. Charis wondered if she could speak more freely and he arched a brow. She didn’t drop her gaze and said it was nice to know more about him. Or did she mean it would be nice to do that…

“I suppose you can, since it’s just the two of us.” Tertius replied and motioned that they could continue walking. With a hand gesture he let her know she could walk next to him instead of half a step behind him. As long as she didn’t forget her place with him, talking freely would be alright he thought, “What would you like to know?”

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Pleased that he agreed, Charis grinned and resumed walking behind him her eyes focusing on his back as she ran through a list of questions she had been eager to ask since her arrival, but had had no opportunity. Not that she could ask the majority of them now, there was a fine line to be walked with Tertius Quinctilius Varus and she wasn't about to push him over the edge with a question that he considered rude. 

As he gestured for her to walk with him she arched a brow and increased her pace until she was next to, but almost a foot below, him. "Hmm." She narrowed her eyes as if deep in thought as she considered what to say. Glancing up at him her face relaxed into a gentle but genuine smile but she arched a mischievous brow; "What did you think of Gaul, domine? And when did you go?" She looked away again after speaking. Hopefully he wouldn't be too put out by her irreverent choice of questioning. But she decided to start slow with topics that had already been mentioned in passing (although by whom - Teutus? Rhoda? She couldn't remember). 

She hoped this conversation, and potentially the whole afternoon would allow him to see her as more than just a figure for his pleasure and his service, and she equally hoped it would give her a better understanding of the motivations of the man she now called her master. She didn't anticipate liking him any more, but to see him as more human would be nice...and useful. If she knew who he was, staying out of his bad books (and his bed) might be easier. And who knew, maybe he'd be intrigued enough to actually engage her on on her own history too? Fat chance of that, she mused...

 

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Charis soon walked next to him and he wondered what she wished to know about him. His slaves usually didn’t ask to know anything about him, so it was quite interesting that she wanted to know. Perhaps her devotion was growing… she liked the lessons and now she said she’d like to be an expensive slave. And now she would know more about her master. It was very interesting indeed. First she went quiet after his question, but then she wondered what he thought of Gaul when he went there. It’s true, didn’t he tell her about Gaul when he looked at her bruise? He couldn’t remember, but that must have been when he told her.

No matter, he didn’t mind answering this, “It was definitely very different from Rome. It was my duty, of course, to serve the empire, but I couldn’t imagine settling down there. I mostly recall that it was very wet and very cold in the winters. The camp would be all muddy when the cold ended.” He explained, “It is almost twenty years since I came back; I spent about 4 years. It feels like a very long time ago. I had to return to Rome because my father grew sick and my brother went missing during a mission across the border to Germania.” Tertius said and looked at her, wondering if she thought it was interesting to hear about or very boring. Did she even know he had a brother? It’s not like he had a lot of contact with Secundus nowadays; there was a reason Tertius was so eager to get married when Secundus came, and it wasn’t just to gain an heir. He had to get out of the house. But it was a very long story and he didn’t think that’s what Charis asked for.

“How come you’re so curious? None of the other slaves ask into such matters.” Tertius then said. From his point of view, it seemed like Charis was interested in him and becoming more than what she was in the household now. And he might consider it. It almost amused him to consider how annoyed Hector would be, if he was reduced to a body slave without the benefits every night. If Charis took over some of his duties and privileges. But perhaps it would be good for Hector, he knew that slave had gained perhaps a bit more confidence than a slave should.

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Charis listened to his description with genuine interest. From her own travels on the slave trail she hadn't found Gaul too different from her own home; cold, damp but gorgeous - even if she had been in no mood to appreciate the beauty at the time. "Twenty years..." She breathed almost in surprise. She really had no concept of how old he was, besides that he was older than her. But she knew she was twenty, twenty-one this month she thought and it was almost...odd to consider he'd lived two of her lives over. But as he mentioned his brother she arched a brow at him, adding after he was finished; "I did not know you had sibling, domine. Just brother?" It was odd that nobody had mentioned it, not even the other slaves. 

When he asked why she was interested she grinned and shrugged her shoulders, glancing up but not at his face. "I...just think it nice to know who I work for. I just know you as domine, nothing but that." She smiled. Not that knowing he didn't like Gaul was much, but it was more than she knew ten minutes ago. 

They continued to walk and the streets were getting busier as they drew away from the residential streets around the domus and closer to the markets, and she took half a step closer to him to keep from being jostled by the crowds. She'd never been out with him before, and didn't know what to expect but she hoped being in the company of a senator would mean there was less likelihood of being abjectly ignored by stallholders like she usually was due to her sex and status. Still, hoping to keep the conversation alive she glanced up at him with a mischievous grin, "Can I keep ask questions please domine?"

 

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He hadn’t even thought much about it, when he said it, but when she repeated the twenty years he looked at her. Yes, he was probably already up there, grown and fighting and defending Rome’s border and she had barely been born. She was quite a lot younger than he, wasn’t she? But that just added to how pure he felt she was to him and how fresh. Refreshing, even, compared to so many other things he had now. Tertius really could just sit down and be content with life, he had everything. But that would be boring in the long run. Maybe that’s why he adored her so? Not that he would tell her that, of course.

Charis was the curious about his sibling, “We don’t get along well. We were actually three brothers. But my eldest brother, Publius, died before he was grown, and my brother Secundus… it’s a long story about him and us.” And maybe one for another time, because it did need a lot of explaining. Instead he wondered why she was so curious about his life, and she said she thought it would just be nice to know him as something else than just her master. He nodded, that was a very fine answer. As they came closer to the market, he noticed how she drew closer to him and she wondered if she could ask him more questions.

“I see no harm in that.” He decided, since she did seem genuinely interested, even if he wasn’t used to slaves being that curious. Hector was barely this curious! All he wanted was to please Tertius and Tertius’ history didn’t seem to matter to him. But to Charis, it did.

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She arched a brow. Didn't get along very well? Well that was something to hold for later. Maybe she'd ask Teutus - given he'd been in the household for as long as he lived, surely he'd have a good sense of exactly what had happened without needing to pry from Tertius. She didn't want to push him too far, after all. She only said; "I am sorry for your loss, domine. And...I know family often complicated." She added with a tentative smile, "I did not get along with my brother, older brother, very well." She shrugged lightly. Her and Calpornus had often butted heads being the most forthright members of their family. Of course, now he was long since buried and dead she would give anything for another argument but...hopefully her little snippet of information comforted him that he wasn't alone. Not that she quite understood why she wanted to comfort him. 

As they continued to walk she narrowed her eyes, trying to think of a good question. She had about a hundred she wanted to ask, but many crossed the line into impertinence and he was finally treating her with a modicum of respect and she didn't wish to lose that by overstepping the boundaries of their relationship. 

After a while she grinned, satisfied with her question, "Here is question...two questions actually, I cannot decide between." She glanced up at him with a mischievous look in her eye before averting her face quickly. They were in public, after all. "First...what is your favourite place in Rome? And second," She laughed a little before speaking, "How much to buy me? Was I cheap slave?" The streets were busier now and she craned her neck a little to talk to him amongst the loudness and bustle. "I don't know how expensive slave are and," She shrugged her shoulders, "I...intrigued how much I worth."

The first question was designed to flatter him, to make it appear she was interested in his passions - the second was for herself. She had no idea what the going rate was for a chalk-foot Briton was and for some reason, she just needed to hear it.

 

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Most of the time, he preferred to not talk about Secundus. The situation with his brother was frustrating and upsetting and honestly also a little bit depressing. He wished he had a brother he got along with and he didn’t recall things had been bad when they were children or young men or even before his brother disappeared in Germania. But after he came back, it was like he was a different person and not in the good way. They had plenty of fights before Tertius finally married and left that house for good. Charis said she knew family could be complicated and mentioned that she had also not gotten along well with her older brother.

“Family can be very complicated indeed.” Tertius replied, looking at her again, “It’s good to know you know what it’s like. Although the situation with Secundus is hard to explain. Perhaps another time, but not today.” He added, because she was curious he thought he might actually tell her about it, but this was supposed to be a nice day out with her. He didn’t want to ruin it by thinking about his vile brother. Instead he allowed Charis to ask more questions and she said she had two. It surprised him again that she actually had questions at all, but he let her. She would know his favorite place in Rome and she would know her own price.

“My favorite place in Rome… that is a good question. Hmm…” He trailed off, thinking. He might say it was his own home, but if he had to choose another place. He did like the arena and watching the gladiators, but that wasn't a place suited for Charis, he thought. There were other good places in Rome though... “Maybe Porticus Liviae, it’s a very pretty and relaxed place. I could show it to you, if you’d like?” He suggested then, since she probably didn’t even know what the place was. The portico included gardens, walking space, and works of art such as paintings. It was a luxurious and leisurely area of Rome that he rather liked. 

Now for the other question… “Why are you curious about your own price? You want to buy your freedom, perhaps?” Tertius said, glancing at her, “It shouldn’t matter. You weren’t very expensive… but I’d say that you’re more valuable now, than when I bought you. I remember when I saw you at the market. The slaver didn’t have high thoughts about you. But I knew you had to be mine. And I don’t regret it, Charis.” Tertius said and looked up, as they entered the area for the market and the particular dealer of cloths and textile that he wanted to visit. She’d been a bit difficult at first, but not much compared to other slaves he’d bought. And by now, he was quite pleased that he bought her.  

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Surprised that he asked her approval, she nodded and offered a slight smile. "I'd like to see it, I never heard of it." Then again, she'd never heard of most places in Rome. She'd been in the city for six months or so now but in that time she'd seen the grand total of; two sets of public gardens, three different baths, the domus and the market. Everybody continued to tell her how beautiful and magnificent Rome was, and whilst she didn't disagree considering it was incomparable to almost everything in her homeland, she really had no sense of its grandeur at all. 

She couldn't help but laugh a little at his own question back at her though and shrugged lightly - feeling relaxed. "Doesn't every slave want to buy their freedom?" She challenged back, letting silence fall for a beat before shaking her head and continuing; "But no...I just...interested." It was true, although she imagined he wouldn't believe her. But she knew that given the peculium Tertius doled out, she'd never be able to afford to buy her freedom - at least not in his lifetime. No, she'd learned that the only way to gain freedom was buy his hand, although she hadn't quite figured out the all important bit of how she was going to coax him into giving it to her. "I never thought I would have price so was just interested as to what it was. But, I glad you don't regret it domine." She smiled. She genuinely was; it meant he was passed his anger over her interaction with Helios if nothing else. 

But their conversation came to a natural lull as they entered the market area. Looking up as they drew near to a stall, Charis' eyes widened. The man - presumably the trader - was busy helping other customers and it allowed the young Briton a chance to examine his wares alone for a few moments. She had never seen such colours! And fabrics! Without hesitation she moved to run her fingers over a beautiful blue fabric, the colour of the ocean and soft like she had never felt, with neat embroidered darker blue squares adorning the edges. Evidently the stall holder who had now finished his business failed to equate Tertius with Charis and presumed her there on her mistresses errand. He snapped at her, pulling the fabric back from her fingers, making her jump; "Don't touch what you can't afford girl! How much did your domina give you to spend?"

 

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After he told her of the Porticus Liviae, she agreed to go and see it. She said she never even heard of it. Of course she didn’t. It was usually a place for the higher and wealthier classes; the ladies would take a walk and the men would also meet to form alliances and friendships. Many marriages had been arranged and secret alliances had been made under the porticus or around the fountain. But it was also just a nice place to take a walk and look at people. Slaves would mostly come if they came along with their masters or mistresses. So today, Charis could see it at least. Even if she might never come on her own.

“We may go there after buying the fabric, then.” Tertius said to her and then she’d wondered about how much he paid for her, when he bought her… and he answered, although rather vaguely when it came to the price. He had no intentions of selling her after all and he certainly wouldn’t set her free just now – she was his and he liked that. A lot. Charis joked about how every slave would want to buy their own freedom and then saved it by saying she was merely interested. Well Tertius knew a few who never mentioned it. Hector for example, he’d never spoken of freedom, not once while he was with Tertius at least. But he left that part out. Then Charis went on about how it was odd to have a price and she was glad he didn’t regret buying her, “I don’t.” He confirmed, “In fact, I’m becoming more and more satisfied with you.” Tertius added with a smile to her and then they’d arrived at the right market stall.

Charis seemed to forget everything about their conversation as she admired the fabrics. Tertius took a look too, but in a more casual way than she. The trader was busy with other costumers, so they had time to look without being forced to bargain. Suddenly though, Tertius heard the trader speak behind him and saw the man practically yell at Charis. Tertius inhaled a breath and turned to stand behind her, putting a hand on her shoulder, “She’s here with her Dominus and I can afford it.” Tertius said with a certain tone to his voice, but looked at the fabric. Blue would suit her well, but blue was also quite expensive and he didn’t plan on spending that much on a new dress for her. It was very blue, very clear in the color. But she liked that? “Do you perhaps have a lighter shade… in a less deep blue color? She needs a better dress for when she’s not doing hard work.” Tertius then added, looking at the man with a firm gaze and decided to add one final demand, which would surely make the man cooperate, “Unless of course we should find another tradesman and you don’t do business with Senators?”

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Charis visibly jumped as the man snapped at her and she blinked at him. She had come to be used to the brusque manner with which the free treated slaves in Rome, but she'd certainly never experienced it with her domine so close by. She was about to protest when said dominus did so on her behalf. She glanced at his hand on her shoulder and swallowed. It was odd - he was acting almost...protectively. Then again, she supposed she shouldn't read too much into it, he could well have been just protecting a financial asset. But there was something in the way he touched her and spoke than made her glance up at his face, a little perplexed by this sudden show of concern. 

She looked away from him quickly and saw the mans eyes widen and a flush colour his cheeks. "M-my sincere apologies sir," She saw the lump in his throat and couldn't help the little smirk on her lips. Good! Let him get his comeuppance! "I...just have to be careful, some slaves are not as...well trained as yours, I've had fabric taken from right under my nose!" He tried to laugh and pass off the exchange as a joke but the atmosphere was tense and Charis only rolled her eyes silently. 

"Of course, of course I'd be honoured by your custom sir - boy!" The man gestured to a slave stood a little way off who Charis imagined couldn't be older than twelve or so, "Fetch some more from the back - blues and pinks," He glanced at Charis dismissively before looking back at Tertius, "To suit her colouring." After some moments whilst the slaveboy struggled with a load of fabrics which he deposited in front of Charis and her dominus, the man stood back and allowed them to inspect them in silence. Charis glanced between them and looked up to Tertius as if asking for permission to touch them. Letting her fingers run over the material - far nicer than the wool she wore, she smiled to herself. She had never been one for fashions but the fabrics were beautiful. Her fingers hesitated over a pale blue piece in linen with white bands around the edges. She glanced up at Tertius again with a little grin, "It's pretty domine." She knew it wasn't really her decision though, of course, like everything else. "It's a good price as well," The man interrupted, "Or how about a yellow?" Without asking the man held up a strip of gaudy yellow fabric to Charis' face to show her dominus.

 

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Who in the name of Hades was this trader, talking down to another man’s slave like that and while her owner was near! Now he might speak down to her sometimes, but he was her master and he was actually enjoying being out with her like this… having her all to himself. And then this trader just had to intervene with a sour mood, yelling at Charis who had literally jumped at the man’s reaction. Tertius put a hand on her shoulder and she didn’t move away. He stood behind her in almost a protective manner and explained their business and then of course suggested they could go elsewhere if they had to.

The trader of course apologized and Tertius couldn’t help but smirk at his sudden humiliation before him. Perhaps it wasn’t right for a Senator, but he did enjoy having some power over people. The trader claimed he’d had fabric stolen from right under his nose and Tertius managed to stop himself before telling the man that maybe he wasn’t clever enough to be a tradesman then. They did have to buy the fabric, after all.

“Good. I’m glad we’ll be able to do business.” Tertius said to the man and soon enough, more fabrics had been fetched by the traders slaveboy. Tertius let go of his grip on Charis’ shoulder, and noticed how she smiled as she now inspected the fabrics once more. She hadn’t seemed to dislike how he stood up for her and the smile on her face now… was more than enough thanks. She did seem very fond of the blue fabric, he thought. Even the pale blue and then she looked at him and said she thought it was pretty. The tradesman then suggested yellow, but Tertius wrinkled his nose and shook his head, “No… not yellow.” That wouldn’t suit her fine skin at all. The blue would go well with her eyes. He reached out to touch the pale blue linen too, to test its quality and he was satisfied with it, “I think this is very suitable.” Tertius then said and looked at Charis, “But it will be for special occasions… not for working in the garden or the kitchen.” He told her, just to make sure she understood she couldn’t wear such fine clothes every day, “We’ll take this. Can you measure how much is needed for a proper chiton for her? Then have it sent to my residence where they’ll take care of the payment.”

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Charis glanced at him as he agreed, pleased. "Yes domine, I won't wear it until you say I can." She still didn't quite understand its point - if she couldn't wear it to work in, and it wasn't as if she attended social occasions that would call for such a fine dress. Still - it wasn't in her to argue with him over the practicalities of it; it was making him happy to gift it to her and she most definitely didn't want him in a sour mood. 

The man only nodded and clicked his fingers at the slaveboy who immediately grabbed a piece of string and pulled at her hand to guide her around so he could measure her. She laughed a little at the sensation as the boy wrapped it around her waist and knotted the string to know her measurement. She glanced to the tradesman and Tertius as the former asked; "And whose domus may I bring it to, sir? Your name?" The boy smiled mutely at her as he stretched another piece to measure from her shoulder to her feet and knotted it. The tradesman glanced over with a grin; "And it'll be a good price sir, for a slip of a girl like her." Charis only glowered back and once the slaveboy had finished and scurried back to begin to cut the fabric, she stepped back to rejoin Tertius. 

Glancing up at him again she offered a sweet, dimpled smile; "Thank you domine, I like it very much." Well, this had been not altogether unpleasant...And Gods, the afternoon had only just begun, what else did he have in store for her?

 

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Of course she agreed to not wear the dress until he allowed her to, but he’d make sure she knew when. He just wanted her to look pretty. Hadn’t he said that almost right from the beginning, that he liked looking at her? And now they’d been spending more time together because of the lessons he gave her, he’d had more time to look at her. Now her bruise was gone, he thought she deserved a reward for being a good slave… so it was both a reward and to please himself. She would look very pretty in a dress made of that fabric, he thought. Very pretty. Maybe even so pretty that he would have to try hard to not want to take it off her… he thought about that while he quietly watched as the slaveboy measured her for the fabric.

Then the trader interrupted of course and he looked at the man, who was now being very cooperative, but Tertius was still not too impressed by him… “Bring it to the Esquilinae to the home of Tertius Quinctilius Varus.” Tertius said and then the trader commented on Charis’ size. Well he supposed the man was right, it wasn’t like she was very tall, but the way he said it… and judging by the look on Charis’ face, she also didn’t like the way he spoke to her. She came back to stand by Tertius, “I’m sure it will be a very good price.” He replied, his tone still firm, as if he was silently telling the man that if the price wasn’t good, they surely wouldn’t come back here. He also wanted to say something about how size didn’t matter in the case of Charis, but he also didn’t want to seem like he was infatuated with his slavegirl. So he didn’t mention it. 

Charis gave him a small and sweet smile then and thanked him again, “I’m glad you do. It’ll suit you very well.” He assumed she could sew the dress herself or else one of the other female slaves in the house could help her, “We’ll get going again then. If the price is as good as you say, we may need your services another time.” He told the trader and placed a hand on the small of Charis’ back to guide her out again. Soon they were out in the busy marketplace again and away from the little shop they’d just been in, “Well, he was rude, wasn’t he?” Tertius then said, because he thought the trader was very rude. It was clear he was not raised as well as Tertius or had the same rank in society. He was more crude and unpolished. “Let’s get our minds off of that and maybe find something to eat… are you hungry?”

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Charis glanced up at him at the hand on the small of her back but did as she was bidden and moved away from the trader into the throng of people in the market. As they reached the quiet she smiled mischievously as he spoke and let out a little laugh; “Mhmm. What most are like with slaves, until their dominus stands up for them.” She shrugged to herself and kept her eyes off him but there was unspoken thanks in her voice. She wasn’t sure if he had been so protective out of a genuine concern for her, or a maligned irritation that he should be the only man that spoke down to his slave. Either way, she was still grateful. 

Was she hungry? Not particularly. She’s never had much of an appetite, hence her very slim frame, and especially with the over-seasoned Roman food. “Not very hungry domine.” She admitted, but added, “But people talk of little shops that sells food which I never visited so...” She shrugged, “And I like honey cakes.” She had Cynane to thank for that, she remembered with a grin. She was about to offer to fetch him food but decided against it. He asked her to relax and if he wanted an attentive, diligent slave, he should have brought Hector with him. 

Instead, she grinned up at him; “But to take our minds of it...I have more question.” She hadn’t forgotten he’d given her license to interrogate him. “First,” She arched a brow to herself not looking at him, “What else do you want to do this afternoon domine?”

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He’d mentioned how rude the tradesman was and Charis only laughed and said most were like that with slaves. Well it made sense, although Tertius couldn’t see himself treating another person’s slave like that. But perhaps it was because the tradesman was a plebian… a lower class. Closer to that of the slaves, yet still higher. They probably sought to distance themselves even more from slaves, because they knew they could easily end up like one. Charis however also mentioned how Tertius stood up for her and he gave her a smile, although she glanced away, “Well of course… he has no right to mess with you – or any potential buyer, really. But he spoke down to you in a way he shouldn’t have.” Not while Tertius was there anyway.

Tertius had then wondered if Charis was hungry, and she said she wasn’t very hungry, then mentioned food and how she liked honey cakes. He smiled, of course she liked honey cakes! Who didn’t? He’d buy them some, then. They moved on and she apparently had more questions. Really? He was quite surprised, again! Now she would know what they’d do for the rest of the afternoon.

“Well we’ll go to the Porticus Liviae, if you wish. Or maybe one of the temples… you don’t know our gods so well, do you? You still worship your own?” Tertius asked, looking at her. He knew she was up late in the garden still, like that night he happened to find her there… gods, just thinking about that night, with her in her simple shift, her long hair loose and she on her knees before him… Tertius quickly tried to change the subject, “Why, are you worried I’ll take you somewhere horrible?” He said with a playful smile, but it was just a joke.

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