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Charis

New Beginnings?

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Three days after Special Treatment, 74AD

Charis was glad of the solitude in the peristylium. It was early morning and whilst everybody in the house, including its masters, were awake and going about their business few people disturbed her in the realm of the garden - at least not until later when Tertius would occasionally withdraw out here to speak to friends, or Antonia wanted to ask incessant questions about different flowers. The silence here gave her time to think, not that she particularly wanted to dwell, but the quiet almost forced her to. And so she spent her morning picking the thorns off of roses, watering the lilies and eventually she'd need to get around to repining the climbing plants all whilst poring over and over again the events of the last few days. 

Jocasta was still barely speaking to her, but rumours and whispers of what had happened on Tertius and her's little excursion was winding around the house. Although they had got most of the details wrong, she thought bitterly; they hadn't bothered to rent a room at a tavern, the Gardens of Sallust had done fine for the job. She had also avoided Teutus exceptionally well since she had arrived back, finding the whole situation impossibly...awkward. He was sweet, and she didn't want to put him in the middle of her moral quandary, especially when said moral quandary involved sex with his father. Gods, she groaned just thinking about the discomfort of attempting to have that conversation. At least she still had Rhoda.

And it was the middle aged cook who bumbled out into the bright morning sunlight now, as Charis was lost in her thoughts. "Domine wants us." Charis glanced over her shoulder at her, frowning; "Hm?" Rhoda only rolled her eyes and shifted her weight from one foot to the other, evidently trying to hurry the slip of a Briton along; "Domine wants to see us, all of us. Come on, come on." She reached out and took Charis' arm and virtually dragged her from her task back into the house and the Atrium - probably the only part of the domus that could house Tertius' collection of slaves in the same room. She glanced around and saw Teutus a little way off to her right. Silently, whilst they waited for Tertius, she slipped next to him and for the first time in days, actually ventured a conversation. She could use a friendly face today; "Do you know what this about?" Charis couldn't fathom why he'd want them all here, unless perhaps somebody had misbehaved? Or stolen something? She frowned and glanced up at the Dominus as he finally appeared. Well, he doesn't look angry...She sighed, what on the Gods earth was this about?

 

TAG: @Sharpie, @Atrice & @Joaquin

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Teutus had just been told to gather the other slaves in the household together in the atrium, with (predictably) no explanation as to why. He managed to evade or escape questions to the best of his ability until Charis found him. They hadn't spoken, for whatever reason, in several days.

"No idea. I know as much as you do," he told her. Chances we're good that even if he did know more, he'd be forbidden from saying anything, of course. "Your guess is as good as mine."

The whole thing between Hector (who didn't like him, for reasons!) and Charis, and his father, was just complicated and painful, with Teutus caught between his father and his fellow slaves in general, because he was a slave yet with the promise of freedom at some unspecified point in future. A promise none of the other slaves in the house had at all.

 

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It had now been a few days since his little trip out into Rome together with Charis. It had really been a lovely day and Tertius had enjoyed it very much – even despite all her odd questions about his life, but he hoped that it was because she wished to know him better. They did get along better now, he thought, although he hadn’t seen much of her since their day together. He had let her get on with her work and he got on with his and of course she came to his tablinium every day still, for her lessons into reading and writing. She was doing so well, she was such a willing student and Tertius could only admire her efforts. Meanwhile, he could also admire her sweet looks and the imagination of her body underneath the still worn chiton she wore.

Hopefully Jocasta would finish the new chiton for her soon enough. But that wasn’t why they were all here. Tertius had called together all of his household slaves – all those slaves residing here in his domus in Rome – for a proper announcement about the upcoming changes. He had already talked to Hector about it, of course, so it might not come as a huge surprise to him. It shouldn’t be a huge surprise to Charis either, after their day.

Tertius stood in the atrium of the house, waiting for all just about 20 slaves to appear. Antonia was resting on a couch behind him and held a scroll she was apparently reading. She didn't seem very interested in the gathering of slaves. Btu he had asked her to be present too, because she was soon to turn ten years old and was no small child anymore. No doubt she also heard and saw things here. It was better that she too knew from the start, rather than being surprised later on. She also needed to run a household someday, after all. Also, Charis had more than one new roll to fill and one of those roles involved Antonia.

Teutus had arrived in good time and he noticed how Charis placed herself next to Teutus. They were whispering together. What were they talking about? He arched a brow, but said nothing. Teutus role would also soon change. So there were quite a few announcements to make and he tried his best to be patient and not begin until everyone had arrived.

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Hector limply approached the throngs of slaves with instant notion of what this was to be about, ready to hear some of his most unfavourite words of all time to be uttered. He was not in the least bit happy, part of him felt as if it were a punishment for some inexplicable thing he had done. He had spent the days going between re-evaluating himself to anger, primarily directed towards Charis, who he both mistrusted as some conniving temptress and also believed (somehow) to be as intelligent as a rock with how she articulated in Roman. Nothing she did would ever be good enough for him. Whenever he was within in Tertius’ peripheral view, he was the same: sycophantic and subservient but perhaps now amped up to eleven. In his eyes, Tertius might as well have been capable of ejaculating gold and it was too difficult to feel any level of annoyance towards him, even if there were firsts for everything. He kept his distance far from Charis and Teutus.

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Hector finally appeared at the gathering too and Tertius looked them all over, counting them silently. It seemed as if they were all here, now. Of course the news mainly concerned two slaves in particular, but he would rather tell them all, so that everyone knew, rather than have them gossip in the corners. Which they probably did, anyway. It wasn’t always easy to control so many slaves at the same time, but he did his best at least.

“I think you’re all here now. So, greetings…” Tertius said, standing in front of the lines of slaves. It kind of felt good to have a rare glance at all of them together. Of course he had more slaves, but most of them worked in the villa outside of Rome, where there were courtyards and olive trees and fields to maintain. He didn’t go there so often, but had a supervisor to take care of them. So in Rome, he just had this bunch. Most of them he didn’t even see every day, but they were here and as long as they did their jobs well, there were no issues.

“As you may have heard or assumed, there are going to be some changes in this household. Most of you will not be affected by this, but I’d like for you all to know anyway. You know I dislike gossip and that I will not tolerate that anyone of you think they’re better than the rest. No slave in this house is above or beneath another and you have to understand that.” Tertius said and paused, to let that sink in. He glanced at Hector briefly and then Charis, “It is simply that you all have your jobs to perform here and all are important. Now, the changes… one of the empty cubiculums, that is currently used for storage, will be cleared and a bed will be set up there. It is a bed to be shared by two, but of course, you won’t be there the same time.” Tertius explained, “Some nights, Hector will be the one using that bed. Other nights, it will be Charis. It all depends on whomever is spending the night with me, of course. Charis will also be working less in the kitchen now. Rhoda, I know I originally promised you help in the kitchen, but maybe I will acquire another one for that. Charis will be working in the garden and also spend time with Antonia.” He looked at his daughter, still staring at the scroll on the bed behind him. He wasn’t sure if she even paid attention – but he had of course already told her, that Charis had been chosen to maybe become her personal slave. And Antonia was excited about going to the baths eventually, together with Charis. Hector would of course remain his body slave and was there for all tasks a body slave was supposed to be there for. Charis would not take his jobs besides some nights in Tertius’ bed. Overall, Tertius thought Hector ought to be pleased, because this meant a bit more free time. And all slaves wanted that, right?

He would pause again to let those words sink in, before he continued and looked at three slaves – two male and one female, “Athos, Parnes and Eirene, it will your job to empty the storage room and set up a bed. Then Hector and Charis can move their personal belongings into the room.” He added. All of his slaves had a little wooden chest that was their own, to keep their personal belongings. Maybe he should have some shelves set up in the room too? Tertius paused again though, letting these news sink in.

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Charis frowned at Teutus. He was closest, perhaps bar Hector, to Tertius and his equal confusion over this roll call was concerning. But Tertius didn't seem angry, although she did notice the way he glanced at his son and herself and it stayed her tongue from speaking again to her friend. Whatever he was about to announce would surely merit plenty of a discussion afterwards. 

As he spoke the whispering between the household slaves stopped and she felt herself tense, her back becoming straighter but her eyes finding a position on the floor to focus on. Better that than show a visible reaction to whatever he was about to say. She listened passively to his words, until he mentioned a cubiculum to be shared and she frowned. Was he going to grant a relationship between two of his slaves? Ah. No. It seemed not. 

And then he explained, and despite herself she couldn't help but glance in shock at him, followed by an equally perplexed glance to Hector. Oh Gods. Not only would her time be split between the gardens, Antonia and being the dominus' new bed slave - the latter of which was bad enough, but she'd have to share a bed, a room with Hector?! She shut her mouth which had fallen open in shock and snapped her eyes back down. She must have looked pale as a ghost and she felt eyes burning in the back of her head, and heard the barely audible huff of irritation from Jocasta. Did they not understand she hadn't asked for this?

Desperately in need of some moral support - and perhaps selfishly not understanding how painful this obvious favouritism and 'reward' would be for Tertius' son who was still required to sleep in the dormitory - she reached down and squeezed his forearm. Fortunately being in the second line, the act was concealed from Tertius and she left her hand there - lightly shaking. She just wanted to disappear.

 

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Teutus fell silent as Tertius scanned the gathered household. He had no further answers for Charis, anyway, at this point in time.

He felt himself stiffen as Tertius made his announcement. So, they were all exactly equal, including himself - the lowest skivvy on a level with the son of the master, the master's secretary. He wasn't going to say anything but couldn't help thinking that Tertius had no real clue about running his household. 

And to top it all, Hector and Charis would be sleeping in one of the actual family rooms in the house, while he was still expected to remain in the slave dormitory. Hector wouldn't hesitate to rub his face in all of this, he was sure.

He didn't react, couldn't react, as Charis seized his arm, obviously seeking reassurance for herself. Reassurance that he needed himself and couldn't offer her.

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As Tertius indicated that no slave was above the other and looked to him, Hector become both temporarily deaf and blind. As his master continued to speak, Hector kept his head firmly forwards and his face stony, just in case any of the slaves assumed to gauge his thoughts from his expression. He was vain enough to assume they would look to him. It didn’t take an Aristotle to realise that his recent snappishness and prickliness might’ve have something to do with this news.

As he felt Charis’s bewildered look in his direction in the periphery of his vision, he felt himself rage. As always, she was playing dumb, which she was if anyone asked Hector though naturally no one was, but she was playing far dumber than she already was. He was already displeased with having to listen to this change once again except in front of everyone else, including Teutus, which added more humiliation to the hurt, and her even daring to look in his direction was like salt in a wound.

He heard Jocasta’s exhale and for once in his short life, he agreed with her.

From the back, Hector uttered a “yes, domine” quietly in the sunniest voice, ready to cheer Tertius on, at least when he was in the same space.

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Slaves were equal to each other. They just had different jobs, that’s all, but each of their jobs were important. And at the same time, they were still all slaves. They were owned by someone else – in this case by Tertius. So there was no reason for any of them to believe they were above the rest. That included Teutus of course, and Hector. They had maybe the most vital tasks in the household, but that didn’t mean one was better than the other. He relied on both of them and their respect and their obedience. That one just happened to be his devoted lover and the other his son, didn’t mean one was more free than the other.

No one commented on that part, of course. Why should they? This was how things were. Besides, Teutus wouldn’t be a slave for much longer. He knew he’d let down his son again and again, but it was going to happen. He was going to free him. That part would be mentioned later though, first someone had to be put to work to clearing a room for Charis and Hector. He wanted them both to always be well rested, so they had to have a bed where they could sleep well. Charis had many jobs now and Hector, well he had to stay well rested and well behaved and this was the best he could do, when Hector wasn’t always going to sleep in his bed anymore.

He saw how Charis looked almost shocked at the news and she also glanced at Hector with an open mouth. How could this come as a shock to her? She knew what they’d talked about. It wasn’t like he kept it a secret from her, that he liked her and wanted more of her. He also noticed a few of the other slaves react as quietly as they could, but no one spoke up. No one but Hector uttered a cheerful promise that he’d understood. Tertius gave him a smile for that.

“So… that’s the first change I wanted to tell you all about. The second is, that in about a month, we will hold a small feast here. Not to celebrate these changes, that I already told you about, no…” Tertius paused to let them wonder for a moment. Gods he loved this part, telling them all what was on his mind and they had no idea yet. He couldn’t help but smile slyly and he looked at Teutus, “The feast will be held in honor of Teutus. As you all know well, there have been plans of his manumission for a long while.” A very long while! “It is finally going through and at the same time, he will be adopted as my true son and heir – and you are all going to treat him as his new title requires, when the manumission has been carried out.” Meaning that so far, he was just a slave like the rest. It was only when he was freed and his name had been changed and his title and rank too, that they should view him as a freedman and heir, and not before that. He stopped talking once more and glanced at Antonia, who had now put down her scroll and sat up. She looked positively thrilled that Teutus would be freed – her pretty face had lit up in the most beautiful, joyful smile. He hoped Teutus would be just as excited as his half-sister.

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She heard Hector's sycophantic 'yes, domine' and barely concealed her amusement. No doubt he was just as thrilled about this new arrangement as she was, albeit for very different reasons; he was getting a demotion, in essence, that he didn't want and Charis was getting a promotion she didn't want. And Tertius was oblivious to both. 

As their dominus continued to speak she lightly squeezed Teutus' arm although frowned a little that he didn't respond or react in any way. Was he that nonplussed about her feelings about this? So blinded by her own emotion, she failed to see how he would see it - being third in the pile. But evidently that wouldn't last as Tertius continued speaking. She felt the surprise on her face at the words adopted (she didn't understand the word manumission - it not being a necessary Latin word for her to use), but she did understand the gist. She was shocked. She had only been in the house five months and so had missed the build up to this. Nobody had mentioned Teutus' potential freedom in any serious way. 

She couldn't help but smile though. Despite herself and whatever she was feeling on her own circumstances, this was excellent for her friend. Although she couldn't help the nagging thought; Gods I hope he's a better master than his father. And I hope this doesn't change him. Nonetheless she squeezed his hand now, and beamed up at him. 

 

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Oh,this was just getting better and better! Yet another promise of freedom, this time in front of the entire rest of the household. Teutus had heard so much about it now that he no longer really believed it would happen - he would only believe it once he heard the magistrate pronounce him to be free.

And if Charis ended up pregnant - which was practically guaranteed, given that nobody wanted it to happen - what would that mean for him? And her, and the baby? Because if Tertius decided that it was too much trouble to free Teutus or didn't get around to it before the baby was born,and Charis had a boy, the only thing Tertius needed to do was pick the infant up in the tollere liberos for it to be free, and then he'd have his heir and Teutus could kiss goodbye to any hope of manumission.

He felt wrung out, like an old dishcloth, but squeezed Charis' hand back - obviously she hadn't worked all this out. Then again, she was still getting used to Rome and its customs and traditions, and probably wouldn't know any of the customs regarding slavery and freedom. He mustered a smile for Charis. None of this was her fault, after all.

 

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Hector hadn’t yet recovered from the entire ordeal with Charis, despite the amount of strength and energy it took to literally be his master’s only cheerleader in the room, before Tertius unexpectedly continued. Hector did not think matters could get any worse, but they could, they always managed to. Tertius had more news to get Hector’s blood pressure rising through the roof of the domus. As the manumission was mentioned, Hector’s head briefly turned in Teutus’s direction, forgetting in that moment, to conceal his surprise or annoyance, whichever you’d like to call it. He had never believed that Tertius would ever adopt him as his heir and truthfully, Hector didn’t want that, if only for what it meant between the two of them. It didn’t just confirm that Teutus was above him, it made him above him and for that, he felt annoyance. It felt that everyone was being given something save himself. 

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It wasn’t up to the slaves to decide what happened in this household – Tertius was their master and he had every right to do as he pleased with every one of them. He would take two bed slaves, if that’s what he wanted… and he would free his son, of course, as promised. In a month, he would make a proper feast and all slaves of the household would of course help. They would prepare the most exquisite dishes, maybe he would even get the gourmet Apicius to help him out (he had once, almost, been engaged to his daughter after all), although the man was getting older. And he would invite his friends to meet his son and now official heir, of course. Teutus would be properly introduced to the wealthy society of Rome, no longer as an unofficial slave-son, but as the actual heir to the fortune.

He watched their reactions. Most seemed surprised, but Charis, she smiled. Hector looked at Teutus with surprise too, although he didn’t seem pleased. The only one who did not seem to react at all, was Teutus… which was a disappointment, since this was for him. Really? Was he not pleased? Didn't he want it?

“Alright, I hope you all paid attention. These news won’t affect most of you, but since you all live here, you are now aware. I will let you all know, of course, when we will start preparing for the feast. I want the house to be shining and the food to be the best of the best.” Tertius explained to all of them, “Now… go back to your duties. Athos, Parnes and Eirene, you can begin preparing the chamber. Hector, Charis and Teutus, please join me in the tablinum.” He clapped his hands to let them know that this event was over and then Tertius went to the tablinum first, sitting down behind his desk and waited for the three slaves to join him.

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She nodded at Tertius' instruction, although what more he had to say she didn't know. But as always, he'd have his way one way or another and she dutifully began to move to the tablinum. 

Before she entered, however, she glanced up at Tertius with a little frown, "I thought you be happier?" She queried. His face had been as unmoving as a stone when Tertius had given his announcement. She offered a wan, half-smile: "You should be happy. One of us deserves some good news." She meant it in jest, but there was the faintest edge of bitterness in her voice. She failed to understand, because she hadn't been informed, that this had been promised for years and to her his lack of reaction just seemed like ingratitude. Apathy. She had received instruction that she was now to be formally Tertius' bed slave, and had weathered it. Teutus had been informed he'd be a free man and he had as much happiness on his face as she had on hers. It was dumbfounding to her. 

She let go of his hand and moved into Tertius' study. She still came here for lessons, every day - although now those lessons included more abstract conversations as well. Quietly she stood in front of the desk as Teutus and Hector joined her, and waited with her hands folded and eyes downcast.

 

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Teutus couldn't celebrate the announcement - from his expression, it seemed that Tertius expected him to, though. Doubtless, if Tertius had received as many broken or delayed promises as Teutus, he'd have just as little reaction to yet another one.

"He's been promising it for years and it hasn't happened yet," Teutus muttered to Charis in answer to her question. He wouldn't honestly be surprised if the next month passed with no change to his status in the household - right now, he wouldn't be surprised if he was standing here next year with his freedom just as out of reach as ever. 

He glanced at Hector. Out of all of them, he'd received the most unwelcome news (well, on the surface of it; Teutus knew that her own change in status was just as unwelcome to Charis). He didn't particularly like his father's bed slave, but that was more to do with Hector himself than anything - but even Hector didn't deserve to be summarily demoted in front of everyone.

 

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Momentarily, he was able to be distracted by the talk on the preparations of the feast. It would be his time to shine, to hover over the other slaves and point mistakes while citing how they were failing to live up to Tertius’s vision. While soldiers were death’s emissary, Hector would gladly be Tertius’s, even when it garnered groans and eye-rolls. 

Hector had assumed that the announcements would be over but for whatever reason, the gods needed to play their tricks and have this drag along for a bit longer with a gathering in the tablinum. It felt almost akin to torture after everything to be made to share the same room as Charis or even Teutus for that matter. He didn’t exactly evade the slave’s annoyance. As Tertius left first, Hector skipped after him, though the nosey part of him did wonder what Teutus and Charis were whispering between themselves, if only because the recent events were morphing him into a cross grandmother.

He closed the tablinum’s doors and approached the desk, standing in a way that made it clear that he was ready as ever to do anything for Tertius. He would even grab a writing pin and hand it to his master, so he didn’t even need to reach across the table for it.  He pretended to not feel any eyes that fell his way once again, partly out pride, and instead worked hard to keep his face looking pleasant now that he was in a more intimate environment.

 

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It didn’t take long for the three slaves to turn up in the tablinum. First Hector appeared, obedient as ever, never failing his master – as he had promised – and then Teutus and Charis close together. Tertius arched a brow at the sight, but then Charis dutifully cast her eyes down and Teutus was alert as always. Tertius looked them over, as they stood there. Each had a special meaning to him, but it was not the same.

“Right… so you three… I know that neither of you enjoyed having these news told in front of everyone, but I also dislike gossip. And hopefully now, there will be none of that. Everyone knows what is happening.” Tertius explained to them. Hector was the only one he’d spoken to beforehand, for Teutus and Charis, the announcements were fresh… “Now, I hope you will all get along. I’m of course especially talking about you two, Charis and Hector.” He looked at the two, “You are both valuable to me and for that reason, you are going to share the same chamber. Charis has more different duties now than anyone now, and I really want both of you to always be well rested, no matter where you spent the night. I hope you understand, both of you, that I am doing this for your own good too. Is this clear? And do you have anything to add?” He asked and paused, waiting for their response. His eyes also landed on Teutus too, trying to spy his reaction to everything. What did he think? He was going to be free soon, after all. And yet he stood there, by Charis and they were whispering in the atrium. Tertius wasn’t sure what to make of that.

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Getting on with Hector? Did Tertius expect pigs to fly next? She'd successfully avoided the young man mostly in her months here, but his contempt had been obvious from the morning after Tertius' 'punishment' those weeks ago. Still - she'd try her best. She wasn't the sure the same could be said for the blonde to her right though. Sharing a room was never going to end well, but as always, Tertius was wilfully oblivious. 

She couldn't help the little smirk over the remark about well-rested, but managed to wipe it off her face before she laughed. Both of her intimate encounters with him had been brief - the first given he seemed intent on making it humiliating as a punishment and the second given it was...well, in public. Still, his remark made her wonder how much stock he put in himself as a lover if he expected his two bed slaves to be 'well-rested' after a night of passion. Small amusements kept her going in times like this. 

"I understand domine." She said quietly with a little nod and arched a brow at him as he asked if they had anything to add. She had about a thousand questions, but decided on just one: "I spend more time with Antonia, I understand, but I know she enjoy lessons with Teutus." She glanced across at the brunette slave, "And I not any sort of teacher...so, just want to check she will still get her lessons?" She wanted the girl to do well, and reading and writing seemed critical here - unlike at home.

 

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Did Tertius expect Teutus to be over the moon about yet another promise to free him soon - this one in front of the entire household - when he'd so far failed to keep every previous iteration of the same promise? Teutus could not drag up the will to fake ecstasy over the news - it was old news by now, and he'd believe it when he had his manumission in his hand and the pileus on his head. (At least Tertius had actually bestirred himself to purchase a pileus, he supposed. One tiny step closer to actually fulfilling the promise of a lifetime.)

He managed to summon enough care from somewhere to smile at his master, though the expression didn't reach his eyes. Tertius seemed almost wilfully blind where other people's thoughts and emotions were concerned - and Teutus had neither the standing nor the desire to enlighten him as to what anyone else felt or thought about any of this. How he expected anyone to get along with Hector when Hector seemed to delight in not getting along with anyone else was something only Jupiter knew, and he wasn't telling Teutus (well, 'anyone else' who was Teutus, anyway, he conceded, begrudgingly; he seemed to get on all right with Rhoda - maybe because Rhoda had access to all the tasty things in this house!).

He'd been caught whispering to Charis, too, Hades take it. He made sure that he wasn't standing too close to Charis, and took up the position of the well-trained, docile secretary that was the role he'd played for the last... however many years it had been. If he had to be the perfect slave in order to  win his freedom, he'd do it. He just hoped that he would win his freedom, and hoped that 'eventually' didn't mean in another ten years.

He had no questions about his master's arrangements in the bedroom, and would really rather not know anything at all about them - the man was his father, after all, whether or not Teutus was free! He had absolutely no clue why he'd been dragged into this, unless it was to be hauled over the coals for telling Charis the tiny insignificant fact that he'd had promise after promise made to him so far, and not seen any sign of it being kept, yet.

He was not about to display his ignorance in front of Hector, though, and remained silent.

 

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Despite the eager nod at ‘get along’, if it hadn’t been for Tertius being in close proximity, Hector would have made gargling sounds of pain, but instead kept silent, patient and attentive.

Of course, she had to speak. It must’ve been a part of her act, ignore that slaves never had anything to add, play coy, redirect Tertius’s attentions back to her, and reap the rewards.  

And for all he wanted to condescendingly say “yes” simply to make Charis feel dense, truthfully, he didn’t know what Tertius wanted out the arrangement with Antonia except perhaps to have Charis even closer to him which was how he interpreted it. He was so displeased with everything that he took every decision as slight after slight against him. Admittedly, he’d have thought Teutus would have demonstrated more… energy given the announcements. At least, if he had been in his place, he would have been sauntering and bouncing with his steps.

@Atrice @Sharpie @Sara

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Teutus of course had nothing to add to the situation, since the current words had little to do with him. That one time he brought Teutus with him to the baths, because Hector had been sick… it had been a little bit weird, to be honest. He could imagine Teutus didn’t care much for what Tertius did with his bed slaves. Now he looked at them to hear if they had anything to add. Hector didn’t, he had simply nodded when Tertius asked them to get along. Charis however, she spoke up, of course she did. It was a habit of hers now, he knew that and he even allowed it.

Her concern was not even for herself, it was for Antonia and Tertius smiled at her caring question, “Of course she will still get her lessons with Teutus. But you will also take care of her and there are things Teutus and I can’t teach her.” Women things… feminine things. He had no wife and there were older siblings to Antonia. Of course he had his sister and her daughter, who was grown now too, but they lived with Secundus and he would do what he could to avoid his brother coming near his daughter.

“I am glad you are all so cooperative.” Tertius then said with a smile, looking over all three of them and then his eyes landed on Teutus, “And you are to be freed soon and there will be a feast. By Saturnalia, you will no longer be a slave, my son.” He said to Teutus, who had not seemed very impressed by the news. Teutus had nothing to add before though, so he doubted his son did now. Teutus was very alert and very cautious and rarely spoke up a lot around Tertius… as if he feared his own father, which was stupid. Tertius had never been cruel to him in any way. No matter, the youth would be freed soon and everything would change and it would be good. Really he should see to finding a wife for Teutus too… he was of the proper age for that sort of thing now. Maybe then Teutus wouldn’t be so oddly friendly with Charis, which honestly irked him a little.

“I suppose that was it. Teutus and Charis, you can go back to your duties. Hector, stay a little longer.” He had a very important task for Hector, but he didn’t want the other two to know about it, of course.

@Joaquin @Sharpie @Sara

Edited by Atrice
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Charis bit her cheek to stop from laughing and to mask her humour, which she managed to some success. Of course - that was why she was being given this new addition to her jobs, because when poor Antonia started her monthly flux they'd need a woman to deal with it. She half wanted to ask how the mighty Rome managed to sustain itself if such things were completely out of the realm of propriety for men to deal with. It hadn't been such in Britannia, but then again she supposed men and women lived in closer quarters, and in much less pomp and circumstance than here. She only added a: "Yes domine, I understand." Poor Antonia. 

At Tertius' instruction she only nodded, and quietly padded from the room. When outside the tablinum she jerked her head to Tertius and stepped through into the garden where at least it was quiet. Although she could hear the other slaves muttering and clattering as they began to empty one of the rooms for her and Hector. 

She placed her hands on her hips and sighed deeply, with a shake of her head. "Hector is going to kill me." She shook her head, not upset but evidently very frustrated. She wanted to scream but knew it wouldn't do any good. She offered a half-smile to him, "At least, if dominus actually does it this time and frees you, Hector can't kill you.She sighed and moved to push her hair out of her face. "Maybe I should practice fetching you water and wine and calling you domine just in case, and you can start not looking horrified if you see me in your fathers bed." Probably an unnecessary, close to the bone comment, but she was irritated and miserable. 

 

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By Saturnalia. That was about the most concrete promise he'd ever been given. He managed a smile and a "Thank you, domine."

Probably Tertius was puzzled or bemused or something that he hadn't been more exuberant - but exuberance was not a Roman virtue in the first place, and by this point Teutus had nearly stopped believing that it would ever happen, in the second place. He had no sort of seniority over any of the other slaves, that had been made abundantly clear, even if he was Antonia's tutor and trusted with knowledge of Tertius' business dealings and everything. And as a sign of that lack of seniority, he was still expected to live in the slave dormitory with everyone else.

Everyone else who wasn't Charis and Hector, anyway. He'd miss Charis, but he wouldn't notice Hector's absence because he'd spent pretty much every night until now in Tertius' room, in Tertius' bed.

At least Antonia had seemed happy for him - she didn't appreciate that it had been promised to him since she was born, near enough - well, since it had become obvious that her mother was not going to have another child, anyway.

"Hector isn't going to kill you. He wants the master's favour too much," Teutus said to Charis. "He could make your life unpleasant, though. I'm sorry."

He shrugged. her last statement cut, as it was probably intended to. "I don't go anywhere near my father's room - why would I? I don't want to know what he gets up to with Hector. Or you. It's just... I'd rather not think about it, that's all."

Saturnalia, though. That was two and a half months away. If Tertus did, finally, keep this promise, he'd be free even if Charis had a baby - and adopted, as Tertius' legal son and heir. And Roman adoption could not be reversed. Even if Charis had a son and Tertius claimed it as free, that would be after Teutus' own legal adoption. He'd be safe, finally. If. If Tertius actually followed through.

It was a slender hope, but that's all Teutus had, all he'd ever really had.

 

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“He’s happy,” Hector stated with inexplicable enthusiasm once Teutus and Charis were clean of the door. He felt that perhaps Tertius wanted to hear that, being almost like a parrot on his master’s shoulder repeating everything that was desired, but genuinely, he assumed Teutus would feel happiness. It also didn’t help that ‘Hector, stay a little longer’ had revived him well enough from his self-pitying and gave him a sense of value. He paraded towards the doors and closed them, feeling more secure now that the suffocating discomfort had passed. He had been watching the other two as they left with a studious expression, only because he had recognised their trading of whispers back and forth as they entered and wondered if it would continue now that they were dismissed. The most he had caught from his angle was Charis’s gesture and that was the end of it. Now the doors were closed and he was back at his master’s side, fingers clasped, and eager to ‘stay a little longer’. 

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When Teutus and Charis had left the tablinum and closed the curtains behind them, Tertius was left alone with Hector, who instantly said that ‘he’s happy’. He had to mean Teutus of course, but Tertius arched a brow and stood from his chair, came around the desk to lean against the edge of it in front of Hector, “Is he though? He didn’t seem very thrilled. Do you think he has stopped believing me? It’s not my fault something always gets in the way of my plans concerning his freedom.” Tertius complained and then sighed, “He is my son, but as long as he is not free, I can not treat him as if he were. It would not be fair to all the others.” Meaning the other slaves, of course. Not Hector. He kind of sometimes treated Hector as if he was just a lover who happened to work for him, and not a slave.

“About Teutus, by the way… that’s why I asked you to stay. Do you know anything about how he is getting alone with Charis? They seem very friendly with each other. I saw them whispering in the atrium. I didn’t see him do that with any of the others.” And Tertius was not too fond of that. Charis was his and going to sleep with Tertius on a more regular basis and he had not planned for Teutus to take an interest in her. Not like that, anyway. She was his prized possession and he didn’t want anyone else touching her.

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