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Charis

Lost in the Moment

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September, 74AD

Charis frowned, glancing between the sweeping rush of the river and the Ponte Fabricius to her left and the Ponte Cestio*, a way off to her right. The little island she stood on wasn't wide, but already crowded with altars and an enormous (to her) temple at its stern. She had been directed to the river by those she crossed paths with, earlier in the afternoon. She hadn't known what to expect but it certainly wasn't this mass of rushing water, the volume of people and the odd little island. She had been intending to come out here, in the clear light of early afternoon to pray to Condatis and Nodens, gods of many things but united both by their ability to heal, and for their control of water. Yet she had been picturing a peaceful scene, serene waters and forests surrounding it. What she found had made prayers impossible, and so she had continued to walk until she had found herself on the island. 

She had found herself drawn into a small shrine. The name Vejovis hadn't meant much to her, but running her hands over the inscriptions left and with her rudimentary reading skills, she ascertained that this was a God (or Goddess, she couldn't be sure) of healing. It suited her needs, and she had spent some time in silent contemplation. Or as silent as one could be. Rome was busy, even on this little speck of land in the Tiber. 

But now she needed to leave. She had asked Tertius' permission to visit the baths, and then the market and he had assented before he had left for his castra and whilst it would probably still be some time before he returned home again, she didn't doubt that her absence would be noted. Her paenula cloak was held across her waist with her assorted votive goods still held in it (she didn't think it was right, to offer them to a Roman God, even if she took her prayers in their shrine). She blinked, glancing at the bridge to her left, suddenly feeling a degree of dread that she couldn't remember if this was the right way or not. Why did every bridge, street and temple look the same to her! It had taken an hour or so of meandered walking to get here and Gods only knew how long it would take her to get back if she went the wrong way. Everything, in the late afternoon sun, looked different and she bit her lip, glancing in both directions. After a few more moments of hesitation, she sighed in frustration to herself and seeing a man, well, a group of people at least, she approached cautiously; "Excuse me, dominus." She said, loud enough to catch their attention; "Do you know way back to the Esquiline Hill?"

 

TAG: @Atrice

*Charis is currently stood on Tiber Island.

Edited by Sara
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Alexius still had friends in Rome, of course. Some of them were former slaves, freedmen just like he and just like he, they had stayed with their former owner. His former owner had let him leave, but that didn’t happen every time. Sometimes they stayed until their owner died… and such had happened with some of his old friends from his time as a gladiator. With their former master dead, they sometimes found jobs and sometimes they were good and sometimes not. And a few of them he’d found out lived in the poorest district of Rome, across the Tiber. Still he went to see them, although he was much finer dressed than they.

To him it didn’t matter whether you were free or a slave or how you dressed. Why should it matter? He knew that slaves could be good or bad people and free Romans just the same. It didn’t matter with your rank. What mattered was who you were… that’s what he had learned. And so many in Rome tried to appear tougher than they were, because you had to be. That had been one of the topics of discussion this afternoon, while Oriana had been busy in her study and Alexius had come to see one of his friends over here. They had a bit of wine too and it had been a really nice day. Now the sun would set soon though and he had to head home.

Oriana’s home was not far from the bridges, but he still had to cross them and so he did. On his own, quietly, walking with his own thoughts until he heard a familiar voice nearby. He couldn’t put a face on this voice, but he looked in the direction and saw pretty Charis approaching another group of people. He didn’t hear what they said though and didn’t know why, but instantly wondered what she was doing here and if he shouldn’t walk her home… or something.

“Charis!” Alexius exclaimed with a cheerful smile as he approached her. He was in a good mood so far this day; he’d seen a friend and had some wine and now he just happened to run into a pretty girl he already knew, “It must be my lucky day, to find you here.”

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The men ignored her at first, until she spoke again and asked her question. She was met with a confused, conspiritoral glance between them before they started speaking hurried Latin - one man gestured to the Ponte Fabriciusand said "Oh, it's that way lovely domina!" and one of his friends swiftly interjected, gesturing with a grin, to the Ponte Cestio; "No no, it's that way!" Charis simply rolled her eyes, bored of their joke. If she wasn't quick then Tertius would be home before she knew it, and she still needed to de-thorn the roses in the garden before his return. And she was sure some of the other slaves wouldn't find it problematic to share that she'd been out of the house, alone, for hours and certainly not at the baths for that long. 

She was going to move to leave, glaring at the laughing men when another voice called out. She glanced over her shoulder but had to tilt her face up to see the man who approached, given his height. When she did recognise him, her face fell into relief and a gentle grin lit up her face. "Sir, it is good to see you!" Hadn't he asked her not to call him sir, last time they met? Potentially, but she couldn't remember it was better to err on the side of caution. 

She took a step back from the men with an irritated roll of her eyes, "Thank you gentlemen, you been...very helpful." She heard their loud laughs as they swayed, drunkenly to to their destination - leaving Alexius and Charis more alone. She sighed and glared after them, "I ask them for help to get back to Esquiline but they think it funny to tease." She sighed but there was a mischievous smile on her lips; "Do you know way? I may need saving...again." Although, thank the Gods, there was no irritating little Helios this time.

 

TAG: @Atrice

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He saw the men she spoke to looking at her and pointing and laughing, and it wasn’t a friendly laugh. They were having fun at her expense for some reason, weren’t they? Alexius rolled his eyes but kept his eyes on Charis, who now seemed to recognize him and gave him the most sweet and gentle grin and called him sir. Alexius smiled, “There’s still no reason to call me sir, unless you really insist. I do prefer Alexius.” He said with a wink and she turned back to the other men shortly, sarcastically telling them they’d been very helpful.

Had she asked for help and they just laughed? Did she need Alexius to beat someone up for her? He looked after them as they left and Charis explained the problem she had with them, and the problem she had with finding her way home.

“Of course I know the way. And I’ll happily be your hero and save you, if that’s what you need. Just ignore those guys, they clearly don’t have an inch of respect in them. Me however… that’s another story, at least when it comes to you.” He said with a charming grin to her, “You’re facing the right direction. I’m sure my mistress won’t mind me being home a bit later, I don’t think she has plans tonight.” And even if she did, she hadn’t told him – so he didn’t think he was needed. She didn’t always want him to escort her to parties or to be present when she threw one. Gods knew why, didn’t she always need protection? She did, if you asked Alexius, but Oriana was an independent woman who made her own decisions. Good thing someone else needed him, then, he thought, looking at Charis. Alexis did like feeling he was needed.

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"Alexius." She inclined her head, but a mischievous smile tugged at her lips. She was unused to familiarity anymore. 

Relief washed over her face as he said he knew the way and she laughed, "I don't like being in need of saving." She rolled her eyes. She had always prided herself on being fairly self-sufficient, but Rome had a way of testing people that Britannia did not. "But I grateful to you, again." She laughed lightly and set off to the bridge he had indicated. The water rushed beneath it - evidence of an early autumn storm that had passed a few days ago and she stood, looking over the side, as if she was in no hurry at all, but her voice was light and amused as she continued to speak to him - even as she peered down into the river below. "I don't want to get you in trouble with your mistress," She looked up at him with an arched brow, "Women can be difficult." 

She had grown in confidence over the last few months - probably as a direct result of being given more freedoms and opportunities, now she was Tertius' bedmate, loathed as she was to admit it. She had come out of her shell a little more, into the woman she used to be - confident and self-assured, although at times she had to temper it. And she remembered her place now, and respectfully lowered her eyes. "I came to pray, I thought...Tiber would be prettier than it is." She offered, to deflect from her earlier indiscrete comment.

 

TAG: @Atrice

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She repeated his name and he enjoyed the mischievous smile on her lips. Then she laughed at his comment about being her hero and she said she didn’t like being in need of saving, but of course she was grateful, “Don’t think about it… even if you don’t like being in need of saving, I do like being needed.” He said with a smile to her and did his best to slow his steps, so he wouldn’t walk ahead of her. His legs were longer than hers, after all.

Charis stopped for a moment on the bridge, mentioning she didn’t want him to get in trouble and said women could be difficult. He chuckled, “Oh I know. Not all women though… you don’t seem too difficult.” Alexius said, “But I doubt I’ll get in trouble… it’s not like I’m a slave, after all. And if she’d been in need of my skills tonight, she hasn’t told me.” Maybe later, but that was entirely different set of skills he’d need for what he had in mind, and that, she might actually need. That wasn’t something he wanted to think about now though, because then his mind would definitely turn South and he was already in the presence of another lovely woman. And what if he got tempted because he was already thinking about later… and see now he was already doing it. Sometimes he could just kick himself, or his head, for thinking like that.

She then said she’d come here to pray and had thought the Tiber would be prettier, “Oh… well not here in Rome. Maybe further out, outside of the walls, but not here. People use this river for anything; you wouldn’t even want to know half of it.” He added… sure people used it for washing clothes and bathing, but also for disposing bodies and other things. And a lot of dirt and disgusting stuff ended up in it when it rained and it almost just rained so… no, it wasn’t always so nice.

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Charis grinned and thought in her head, my husband would have probably disagreed with you, if you don't think I'm difficult but said nothing. As much as she was enjoying returning to her real, true personality she was still not the same woman that she had been a year ago. Immin probably wouldn't even recognise her now. "...Skills?" She arched a brow with a rueful grin before rolling her eyes, "Ah, yes you are bodyguard." For a moment she had thought that he'd fallen into the same line of work as nasty little Helios. He'd probably earn a fortune if he did, she thought slyly to herself but shook the thought from her mind as quickly as it had appeared. 

She grimaced at his words about the Tiber and wrinkling her nose, took a step back from the edge. She reshuffled the make-shift sack she'd made out of her cloak, its weight a bit of a strain as she resumed her leisurely pace. 

"And they say we barbarians," She rolled her eyes, "We keep our rivers nice and clean. No wonder I hear it floods," She laughed, "If people anger the river Gods by throwing dirt in his home." It was a mercy that they lived high on the Esquiline so she'd never have to worry about the rain. Glancing furtively across at him, although only reaching her gaze to his shoulders (which she still had to tilt her head for, given their difference in height), she asked; "What were you doing on the island, Alexius?" Waiting to save you, at the Gods direction it seemed to her...

 

TAG: @Atrice

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Lovely Charis definitely didn’t seem difficult to him, only a little bit careful and inexperienced with the life in Rome, but besides that… she was not difficult. He saw her grin at his comment, but she said nothing and then he went on to say he’d not get in trouble and his mistress hadn’t told him that she needed his skills tonight. First Charis arched a brow at that and then remembered he was a bodyguard. Oh? What was she thinking about…? Right, of course…

“Yes, I am a bodyguard. That’s of course not the only thing I’m good at though.” He said with a grin and another wink back at her, if she got his meaning and she probably did. When mentioning the Tiber though, she wrinkled her nose at what he told about it and she stepped away from it and closer to him. Then she began speaking about who the barbarians might be.

“The Romans say the Tiber is a god itself.” Alexius replied, “But I don’t know about that… I’d be a lot more angry if people did that sort of stuff to me.” He added with a smile. Charis then wondered what he was doing on the island where they met, “I was on my way home… on the other side…” He nodded in the direction behind them, “… is one of the poorest regions in Rome. But I know some people there, former slaves… not all of them do well after they’re set free. Still, friends are friends, right? Ranks shouldn’t matter. It’s what you do with your rank, that should matter more.” Yet they did, for some reason, they mattered a lot in Rome. There was a social ladder and it was insanely important to the Romans where they stood on that ladder. Yet some house slaves had better lives and living quarters than the poorest of Rome. And some of the wealthiest and most important men in Rome were disgusting people.

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Charis laughed, genuinely; "Ah yes, I sure you have many things you're good at." She rolled her eyes as they continued to walk. She didn't remember the last time she...flirted. It had been years, probably. The guilt outweighed the happiness it gave her, however, and she sighed. She should be in no mood for this sort of conversation, not after what had happened to Immin, and what she was doing now with her Dominus. But despite herself, she was enjoying his company. She had missed the levity that these unburdened interactions could have. 

She glanced over her shoulder as he mentioned where he had come from and surveyed it. She couldn't see much, however, with the ugly looming temple on the island in the way and returned to look ahead of them as they crossed the bridge. "Friends are friends." She repeated lightly. Gods she wished she had her friends from home. Her cousins and those in the village, Alaife and her little son. She missed them dearly - even if she could count on Cynane and Aia, and even Teutus as her newfound friends. 

"You know," She spoke with a furtive glance up at him, "I don't think you told me - last time, how you came to be bodyguard." She knew he had been a slave, a Gladiator, but that seemed a world apart from where he was now and curiosity got the better of her. "You could end up like your friends, that side of Tiber." She gestured with an incline of her head, back across the swollen river. "But you don't. Your Mistress must like you very much." Her lips twitched in a sly smile.

 

TAG: @Atrice

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He smirked when she commented on how many things he was good at, “You’re sure? You don’t want a demonstration at some point, maybe?” He asked playfully, no harm in that, right? Although he couldn’t help himself, he just couldn’t, she was too lovely and sweet to talk to. Then he’d explained why he was there on the island in the Tiber and she agreed that friends were friends... then continued to wonder how he had become a bodyguard and she thought his mistress must like him very much.

“She does… like me very much indeed.” Alexius replied with a little smile. Oh if only Charis knew how much his mistress liked him, although he supposed she could almost guess it by the way he said it. And if she had any idea of what kind of a person he was… well… it wouldn’t be hard to guess at all! Oriana liked him more than she ought to like a bodyguard, to be honest. But he also liked her more than he ought to, so they were both in an inconvenient spot.

Charis had however asked a question, “Well, you remember I told you I’d travelled to Germania and back? I had to do something in Rome and as a skilled gladiator, what I do best is fight. I considered becoming a gladiator again, but then I got myself a job as a guard for a nobleman, who was to travel to his villa in another province. Then it kind of just became known, that I’d take jobs as a bodyguard. Words travel fast and I’ve had many employers over the last many years. And now I have my current mistress here.” Although he didn’t know how long that would last. He’d hate leaving her, but if she married, he wasn’t sure he could stay in the house while she slept with another man she didn’t care for as she cared for him…

“I suppose I just got lucky and because I was already famous when I was freed, people knew my name and knew I really could fight as well as I said I could. So they’d trust me to protect them.” He said and gave her another roguish smile, “With you however, you can be sure my services are all free of charge. I’m simply your keen escort.”

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Charis couldn't help but laugh at his boldness, but only grinned ruefully. He reminded her a great deal of her late husband; his physicality, his mannerisms, his charm but easy going nature. Maybe that's why she wasn't biting her tongue as much as she should have been, and instead was flirting back. She only said, quietly with a little smile, to his offer of demonstration; "Perhaps in another life, Alexius." Because there was certainly no prospect of it in this one, given her position. 

She listened with interest to his story. He'd had such a life! She supposed that was the perk of being a man, one could wonder freely across the world and provinces. She doubted very much, even if she was freed, that she'd make it back to Britannia alone and unscathed. Let alone find a profession as he had managed to. She cautiously glanced up at his face and studied it as he spoke. 

"Well, thank you," She laughed, "Very generous." She bit on her lip as they walked and sighed, "I don't know what I would done if you not find me. I..." She winced, "Didn't tell domine I was coming here. If I'm much later he'll be back before me and know." There was candour and there was being naive. She was onlu telling the truth this time, unlike what she'd said to Helios. Besides, she couldn't remember mentioning Tertius' name to him last time. 

 

TAG: @Atrice

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Her laughter at his comments was like music to his ears, he enjoyed how much she was enjoying talking to him! But then it all faded when she turned down his offer of a demonstration of his so-called skills. In another life? But as far as he was concerned, this was all that they had and Alexius did his very best to get the most out of it, with the circumstances he found himself in. So he didn’t comment back on that, because he felt it was a little bit sad, that comment. Even if she said it with a smile.

Then she’d asked how he came to the job he had now and Alexius shared his continued story with her, how he became a bodyguard and ended up where he was now. And then of course he added that he’d not expect anything from her and he was only her keen escort. Very keen, maybe? Charis laughed again, calling him very generous and he chuckled, “Always.” He said before she sighed and confessed that she hadn’t told her master she’d come here.

“We better not be too long then. The sun will also set soon, so maybe it’s for the better, that I’m here with you.” Alexius said, although it would be a little while before they were back, it was quite a walk to the Esquiline Hill, “Will your master be angry, if you’re not back before him? Are you so… essential? Won’t the other slaves cover for you, maybe?” Unless they wanted to put her in a bad light, but surely, Charis being so sweet and gentle and all, how would anyone want to harm her? Well except for that man Helios he found her with last time, but he was history, right?

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She declined to mention the last time she was out after dark she had been attacked and only said, with a little smile; "I glad you're here then - my saviour." With a little laugh, but she picked up her pace. She hadn't realised how late in the day it was.

She shook her head with a little sigh, "No...not that essential." She wasn't Tertius' body slave, nor Antonia's, after all. Just a garden slave - albeit one who was frequently required after dark"But some other slaves are petty, they don't like me." Mainly aloof Jocasta - who she had been fairly close to up until her return from the Gardens of Sallust all those months ago. She understood it to be jealousy (although why they were jealous she didn't know). And whilst they weren't overt about it and were perfectly pleasant to her face, she didn't doubt the few who took offence to her new position would mention, casually, to Tertius that she'd been out hours. Unless she got home first.

"I just don't want to lie to him - he won't believe I been in baths, and he not angry often but...don't want to see him when he is." Lying to him about going out was different to being caught red-handed arriving home after dark, escorted by a strange man. And a handsome one at that. She winced as she glanced at him, "It times like this I wish I was taller so I could walk quicker." She laughed breathlessly as she hurried her pace.

 

TAG: @Atrice

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She called him her savior and how could he not enjoy such a name? “Any day, Charis… or night.” He added with a grin to her, but then she went back to the question he asked her about the other slaves covering for her. She said she wasn't that essential, but that some of the other slaves were petty and didn't like her.

“Aww, I’m sad to hear that. Well, if it makes it better… I like you.” Alexius replied and gave her a comforting smile, if she even saw it from way down there. She went on about how she wouldn’t lie to her master, who would not believe she’d been in the baths for this long. And she didn’t want to see him angry. That made sense, which slave would ever want to see their master angry? No one wanted to be punished, at least not as far as he knew.

Charis mentioned she wished she was taller so she could walk quicker, “I suppose that would make things easier…” Alexius said and well, he was tall and he could walk faster so… “Would you like for me to sweep you off your feet and carry you? That might be faster. It wouldn’t be a problem. And if people ask questions, we’ll just say you are injured or something.” Alexius was actually serious. That night when he and Oriana had that fight in the street and made out quite heatedly after, he’d carried her home afterwards. Her legs had been a bit... unsteady. While that wasn't the case here, he still thought Charis couldn't be heavier than Oriana. And he really wouldn’t mind.

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"You like me because you don't have to live in masters domus." She countered, amused. Although she suspected it was more jealousy than Charis' personality that made Jocasta and a couple of the others so stand-offish. At least she still had Teutus and Rhoda.

But at his suggestion Charis stopped and stared up at him wide-eyed, before she burst out laughing, loud enough for a couple - walking swiftly there way to side step them. Grinning, she shook her head and continued her fast pace, still laughing a little; "No...no, but thank you." She couldn't even imagine what would happen if somebody she knew saw, and even if they got away with the injury story in passing if somebody she knew saw her, what was she supposed to do - fake a limp for a week? It amused her greatly, and she grinned up at him; "Does that usually work on ladies, Alexius?" She arched a brow, "Offer to literally sweep them off their feet?" She narrowed her eyes, intrigued; "Did it work on your mistress?" She asked, teasingly.

 

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He chuckled at her comment on why he liked her, then he shook his head… “No, I don’t think that’s the case. Even if I lived there, I think I’d like you. How could I not like someone who’s both witty, friendly and attractive?” He asked and wagged his brows at the last addition. Then she’d complained about how she wished she was taller so she could walk faster. And what was more natural then (to Alexius, anyway) than suggesting that he’d carry her the rest of the way?

Apparently it wasn’t that natural to her. She laughed out loud and when she’d finished, she thanked him but declined the idea. Then wondered if that worked on ladies and if it worked on his mistress.

“Oh I didn’t have to sweep her off her feet to get closer to her.” Alexius said with a grin. Actually, it turned out, all he had to do was ask her to share a bath with him, “And I don’t offer it to just anyone, you know. Maybe I’ll do it anyway, when you least expect it. I bet you’re even more charming up close.” He said and looked at her, If that is even possible, of course.” He added. Maybe he should stop flirting with her, but oh it was so much fun and what if it actually led somewhere? He searched his mind to see if he had any ideas for changing the subject and then it came to him.

“Anyway… you haven’t run into that wretched Helios since last time, have you? He’s not been giving you any problems since?”

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Charis only rolled her eyes at his mention of his mistress. Gods to be back in the throes of (wanted) passion. She felt a flutter in her chest as she remembered those brief years of her marriage, which was only intensified at his flirting. Gods, when was the last time she flirted and enjoyed it, before today? "Oh I swear to Esus* if you try..." She grinned as she said it though and arched her face up at him, "I'll have to scream kidnap and then you'll be back in the arena, poor Alexius." Well - that was probably merciful. She didn't dare imagine what Tertius would do if he thought another man had tried to pick her up and carry her off. Better not to think about it, she thought, and she took a respectful side step away from him to widen the distance. 

At his question she groaned audibly and shook her head; "No, thank the Gods. And Domine has gotten over it." By a country mile, actually. It seemed to her like he'd well and truly forgotten the incident. But his bringing it up made her anxious and she asked, carefully; "You haven't seen him, have you? I asked you not to go near him..." Because Gods, if Helios thought she wasn't abiding by their stalemate then she didn't know what he'd do. And her relationship with Tertius was unplayable enough now he liked her, she didn't want to go back to when he needed to punish her. 

 

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It was great to talk to Charis, although the more they spoke and flirted and the more he looked at her, the more attractive she became. She seemed to like it too; their flirting and his compliments to her. Then he said he might sweep her off her feet anyway, when she least expected it and Charis replied with a grin that she’d have to scream that she had been kidnapped.

“Oh you wouldn’t do that, would you? Besides, it wouldn’t be kidnapping if you’re willing to be in my arms, isn’t it.” He asked with another smile, but had then attempted to change the subject – asking if she’d seen Helios again, since he remembered that’s how they met. But she hadn’t and she said that her master had even gotten over it.

“That’s good to hear, at least.” Alexius replied, before she wondered if he’d seen Helios, “I have not gone near him; I keep my word, Charis. But I swear if I do lay eyes upon him, by chance… well he’s going to wish he never met you and caused you harm.” Alexius then promised and he’d keep that word too, “But I’m glad to hear he’s not caused you more problems than last time. Although if he had, I hope you’d have come to find me, like I said you should… because I honestly don’t think I’d mind a private visit from you.” And there he went again, but really, she was very sweet and easy on the eyes and they got along so well. In another life, she said. But this was all they had, so why not?

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She was relieved he hadn't crossed paths with the blonde bastard recently although she winced at his choice of words; "I wish you wouldn't." She added, before explaining herself; "People like that...they hate being crossed and you never know what he'll do if he's confronted." She looked him over surreptitiously  and arched a brow, "And I would not put past him to have secrets on you, or he make one up. No point getting in trouble for me." She shook her head, although didn't add the unspoken; because I'm just a slave

She laughed at his flirtation, and felt a heat coming to her cheeks. She raised a hand quickly to shield her blush, but as she walked she asked with a chuckle; "I would be flattered if I did not think you say that to every woman who cross your path." She looked amused as she spoke. She wasn't an easy woman to woo, back years ago at home, and had turned down plenty of men who she thought was beneath her. Still, she couldn't deny it was flattering. Smiling to herself as she walked, she asked him; "Your mistress would be fine with you saying sweet nothing to other young women, hmm?" She was not so naive to think a woman - who she imagined to be older (for some reason) - wouldn't appreciate the attentions of a man such as Alexius.

 

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Charis was apparently worried about what Alexius would do to Helios if he saw him. Why so worried? That urchin deserved nothing more than a good beating. But she was afraid what Helios would do if he was confronted and she thought he might even have secrets on Alexius… or he’d make one up… “Don’t say that.” Alexius said, when she said he shouldn’t get in trouble for her and he gave her a slightly worried look, “I’ve been through plenty myself.” Maybe he wasn’t quite ready to die yet, but he also knew that he’d stand up for his friends if they needed it. No matter what it lead to.

Then somehow they went back to flirting as he said he’d not mind a private visit from her, but she thought he said that to every woman who crossed his path, “It’s not every woman.” He argued with a smile, only those most deserving, right? Although he never had a female visit to his chamber at Oriana’s house, because well, she was there. And they got together almost shortly after he came to work for her, and she had so far satisfied him so well, that when he at last admitted he might care a little too much for her, he had not slept with others in the meantime.

Charis of course wondered what his mistress would think, if she would be fine with it, “She might be a little jealous. But you know, if she marries, that leaves me out of balance.” He said, “But… we’re just talking, aren’t we?” Were they? Or would it lead to more? He couldn’t help but maybe actually want that, although it made him feel bad when he thought of Oriana, but gods, Charis was so sweet and dazzling in her own way. He bit his bottom lip a bit in thought, as he imagined what it would be like to kiss her and touch her.

@Sara

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"Jealous of me?" She laughed and rolled her eyes, "Is she that hideous she'd be threatened by slave?" She narrowed her eyes and smiled a little, "What she like? Your mistress?" She was intrigued. The way he mentioned her marrying, the tone of his voice and that he had considered the ramifications suggested to the astute Charis that this was something deeper than met the eye. She wondered what sort of woman was capable of taming a great, hulking former Gladiator? She didn't know why it intrigued her, but it did. 

At his sly question she smiled, but didn't fail to notice the way he bit at his lip. She had enjoyed the flirting, it had made her feel alive again after so many months of going through the motions, but she knew it wouldn't serve her well, and everything she was doing now was for her own survival. You've got to shut this down Erea. 

"Just talking." She confirmed, but her tone was less warm and she stopped smiling. "But we shouldn't even talk." She sighed and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. They were near the Forum of Augustus and the streets were busier now, as they wound their way towards the Esquiline. Instead, she tried to deflect the conversation to safer pastures; "Go on then, tell me of your Mistress." She repeated. 

 

TAG: @Atrice

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Why was Charis surprised that he thought Oriana might be jealous? And then she joked about his mistress being hideous and wondered what she was like. Charis confirmed then that they were just talking and then said they shouldn’t even do that. Her sigh didn’t help, actually. He wanted to comfort her, make her forget her life for just a few moments and just live in ecstasy. Life was so unfair sometimes, wasn’t it?

Charis then asked him again to tell about his mistress…

“I think she’d be jealous of anyone else I might consider. She’s definitely far from hideous.” He added, “She’s… quite different from you. She lives with her father, but he’s old and often sick, so she manages most of his things and the household. So she's very independent and has a will and a mind of her own. And she’s not married… yet.” But it would happen someday, he knew it. And although they’d daydreamed about her just giving it all up and marrying Alexius, he doubted it was going to happen. Besides, he’d been married before and look who ended up hurting his wife because he couldn’t stay true to her? Oriana didn’t deserve that either. She deserved a man who’d always be good to her.

Anyway, he had so far been good to her too and with Charis… they were just talking, right? As she said. And thoughts and dreams were free, no one could blame you for what you thought, no one could read your mind. Which was probably good, because Alexius’ had in a while now been heading down somewhere quite naughty.

@Sara

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"You don't think I independent? I've not got mind or will of my own?" She asked with narrowed eyes, but jest in her voice. She supposed it must have seemed such, she was a slave after all and by definition at the wills and whims of others. But to any of her friends at home that would have been laughable. She had always been known as forthright, loud, extroverted and stubborn to a fault. Still, she pondered a moment about the nature of the woman he mentioned. Beautiful, free spirited and single? Gods he'd got a lucky! 

She mentioned, off-handedly; "You don't have to say marriage so angrily." She rolled her eyes, "Marriage can be good. I know you said yours was not but," She was stumbling over her words a little now; "I had happy marriage." But a cloud of dispassion fell over her face. She had thought it had been happy. They'd had their differences like any couple, but she had thought they had trust. Yet as the months rolled on and she came to the conclusion it was likely he had done something, or been involved in something that had cost her her freedom, she had began to look back on her time with Immin with a different view. His frequent absences from home, his hushed words with friends not for her ears...she sighed as she thought of it and tucked her hair behind her ear. 

She winced though and drew to a stop, flexing her foot. These horrible wooden sandals were murdering her feet and the pace they were walking wasn't helping. Setting her little bundle down on the wall she breathed, cheeks flushed with exertion. "Can we pause minute?" She was fit, she walked miles at home and here, but the pace was wearing on her. "I not a trained gladiator like you, give me a moment to catch my breath."

 

TAG: @Atrice

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Alexius had only known Charis the slave and never the free woman she’d once been. To him, it seemed as if Oriana and Charis were two quite different women and he enjoyed spending time with both of them, honestly. Although Charis he’d not been intimate with… she interrupted his thoughts though, wondering what he thought of her compared to Oriana and Alexius looked at her and blinked, he hadn’t realized it would come out like that… sure he heard the jest in her voice, but he didn’t mean to make her feel inferior or anything!

“Oh… no, I didn’t mean that. I bet you do, it’s just not… quite the same was with her? I didn’t mean to insult you, Charis. You’re just very different women. But both lovely.” He added with a smile, hoping he saved that one. Then Charis scolded him for speaking about marriage the way he did, she said it could be good and she had a happy marriage. So he screwed up twice in one sentence, did he?

“My marriage wasn’t bad. It was just not good in the end. And I know it can be happy, and I hope hers will be. I suppose the thing I don’t like here, that when she marries, she won’t be mine anymore.” And although he cared for her, he wouldn’t want to ruin her marriage. And he didn’t want to see her kissing someone else or listen to her moans in another chamber with another man. He knew she didn’t want to let him go, but Alexius wasn’t sure he could keep their affair a secret when she married. He’d be too jealous… even if he also slept around. He knew it was unfair, but that’s just how it was.

Suddenly Charis winced and stopped and Alexius naturally stopped too, looked at her, wondering what this was all about. She set down her bundle and asked for a pause and joked about not being a trained gladiator. Alexius smiled, “It’s been awhile since I was a trained gladiator. But I do like to stay in shape.” He added and drew closer to her again, as she stood there by the wall. On the tip of his tongue were a ton of things he’d like to say… for example that now, she was not that out of breath, he could easily make her even more breathless. He could still suggest to carry her and hold her close.

There were so many things he could say and so many things he could do. Gods, he felt his heart beat faster suddenly and he quickly decided it would be useless to resist. He’d always been a man of action anyway… Alexius was taller, but he was very used to being with women shorter than he. He leaned closer to her, down towards her and without asking, he dared to catch her lips in a kiss, just for one moment.

@Sara

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Charis only rolled her eyes, shaking her head to herself at his explanation. Men really were fools. Although really, she supposed she couldn't really blame him for his estimation of her. She wasn't exactly shouting from the rooftops with confidence and vigour anymore, was she? Maybe, once upon a time, she would have continued to chide him and prove him wrong about how he saw her, but she'd changed and instead she just sulked to herself. 

Still, she was relieved when he stopped with her. The ridiculous number of hills in Rome were keeping her fit, but she was unused to walking at such a pace and she smiled a little smile at his assertion that he liked to keep in shape. I noticed, she thought to herself but said nothing - just taking deep breaths to try and regain her heart rate. 

What he did next, however, caught her completely off guard. She didn't realise he was close until his face was on hers and he left a gentle, but lingering kiss on her lips. She blinked, shocked enough to not be able to fully react for a second. She forgot where she was, just for the briefest of moments and allowed unbridled attraction to rule her as she did't pull away from the kiss for a heartbeat. When she did react, however, she immediately bolted back from him and before she could stop herself the palm of her hand connected with his cheek in a very hard, very audible slap. "Wh-What are you doing?!" She choked with shock, her eyes glistening with anger. She was angry at him, she was angry at herself for forgetting herself she was just...furious! 

Glaring at him, she moved past him and hurriedly began walking away, her cloak and bundle abandoned on the wall in the heat of the moment. She spoke loud enough for him as she left, venom dripping from every word; "You just as bad as Roman men, you hate them? You act like them!"

 

TAG: @Atrice

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