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Mid-December, 74AD

Longinus cast a disapproving glance to Titus and muttered; "Here? Really?" It was not that Longinus was a snob, and the middle-class suburbs were nothing overtly offensive, but the man was trying all he could to get out of this particular activity. He wasn't even overly attached to his beard, or his hair (both of which had been dutifully trimmed a month or so ago), but he was reluctant to admit that his friends or mother were right. The man was stubborn to a fault. 

Glancing at his friend again, he ran a hand over his beard for the (probably) the final time and sighed. "The things I do for women, eh?" He chuckled and moved to enter, but not before hesitating. 

"This bloke's supposed to be good, isn't he? I mean, he's not going to cut open my throat, is he?" He arched a brow at his friend, but with an amused glimmer in his eye, "I can't have survived the battlefields of Britannia to die bleeding in a barbers chair..." He snorted in amusement but with a heavy sigh, swung the door and blinked into the dim light of the man's shop. He'd not routinely employed the services of a barber for the past few months, and much as he enjoyed the company of his body slave, he didn't trust Attis as far as he could throw him when it came to razors near his throat. 

He coughed, to alert the man of his presence and rolled his eyes at Titus.

 

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Titus rolled his eyes right back at Longinus for good measure. "Yes, really. For the love of Juno, stop complaining! Is this how you're going to attract a new wife? She'll be wanting a divorce in no time if you're like this all the time." When had his friend become so whingy? It was known that people grew more set in their ways as they got older, but he wasn't expecting it to happen to Longinus this soon. The quicker he got himself a new companion, the better; the slaves couldn't have been happy about their peevish master either.

He gave the other patrician a rough shove between the shoulder blades, indicating that he should keep moving further into the shop. Titus followed right behind so as to block the path to door, making sure Longinus couldn't have a sudden change of heart and attempt to escape.

"He's good all right. He won't cut your throat open, though I may if you don't stop bitching. I can't have survived the battlefields of Britannia to die here listening to your gripes," he chided in a hushed tone. "Seriously though, look at me. See any new cuts or scars on my face?" Titus put on an artificial grin and turned his face left and right for Longinus to examine. "I said new. Nope, don't think so." 

Half-dragging his friend by the arm, Titus approached the barber with a slightly apologetic smile. "Good Barbatius, here's your new customer. Pardon his scepticism, you'll see it's justified given his current look."

 

@Atrice @Sara

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Marcus currently had a little bit of a break in the midst of day and one of his slaves had fetched a meal from the nearest thermopolia, so he sat in his kitchen eating that. He had a fine enough insula, but it wasn't so fancy that he had a kitchen of his own. Still the insula was much better and larger than those belonging to the poorest of Rome. He had several chambers to sleep in, there was a smal tablinum and triclinium and then of course at the front of the home, there was the barber shop.

One of his slaves kept watch by the door from the insula to the shop and said slave came running while Marcus was eating. There were two men in the shop, one was a returning client to Marcus, one certain Titus Sulpicius Rufus and the other was taller, and scruffier looking. Probably the one needing a shave. Marcus wiped his mouth, went to a basin to rinse his hands and then walked towards the shop.

The two were talking and he caught a bit of their conversation. The newcomer didn't want the shave or didn't trust the place, and Titus made sure his friend knew that Marcus would not cut his throat open. Not if he's friendly and pays well, Marcus thought to himself and then he entered the shop with a welcoming smile on his face.  The newecomer was indeed the tallest of the three men, but also clearly the one who was most scruffy of them.

"Senator Rufus, how good to see you here." Marcus said with the friendliest smile to Titus, "And I see you brought a new client for me today. Pleased to meet you, I am Marcus Barbatius and this is my place. And I promise that you are completely safe in my hands." He said to the other man and glanced over his shoulder. Two slaves lingered in the door. One would help him in the shop and the other was there to fetch things if needed. And if the first didn't carry out his orders well enough, of course. Always have a spare... "So, what can I do for you today, my good men?" 

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Longinus was about to offer a retort to Titus when the barber walked in and he instead, offered a broad (if not particularly convincing) smile in greeting. Evidently Titus was a frequent customer but to Longinus it was just so much...effort. He wasn't one of those men blessed with fair hair or the inability to grow a beard and so shaving would have to be a daily ritual if he were to get any semblance of decency here in Rome. And the thought of it, and the lost coin, made him groan internally. 

"Lucius Cassius Longinus," He inclined his head in greeting before adding with a little boyish grin, "Yes, related to that Cassius." His family's history was ancient and he found being the great-great grandson of the man that orchestrated the plot against the divine Caesar amusing rather than a burden, now time had settled the dust. 

Casting a glance around the shop, and flexing his fingers to stop himself fidgeting or running a hand over the bottles and trinkets on display he shrugged; "According to good Titus here I'm apparently in need of a good shave and a haircut to make myself respectable after years in the Briton wilds." He neglected to mention he'd been back in Rome for over eighteen months now. Running a hand over the short beard he shrugged, "It was a mourning beard that keeps coming back." Because he never stuck to a proper routine..."So your expertise is appreciated.He did try hard not to sound sarcastic.

 

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The gods fuck him if he was going to let Longinus ruin his good relationship with Marcus Barbatius. Good barbers didn't grow on trees, and to have a skilled tonsor at a domus required money, time and a lot of trust that wasn't gained overnight. Better to have a fellow Roman citizen of good repute brandishing his blades by one's throat than a treacherous slave thinking that slicing it was the opportunity of a lifetime to get away. Besides, cultivating pleasant business relations with the plebs had never hurt anyone.

He cleared his throat after his friend finished his little introduction and decided to get straight to business. As much as he wanted to tease Longinus, it wouldn't exactly depict him as the mature well-grounded man he hoped to present himself as. "It's just as Longinus says, your expertise is much appreciated in making him look like a proper citizen again after his bereavement."

He eyed the other patrician with amusement and just a hint of mockery before taking a step back. "So please, do show him your skills, Barbatius, and pay no heed to his reluctance." With these words, he retreated towards the entrance door and casually leant against it with his arms folded over his chest.  "I can go after him." If Longinus thought he could take advantage of Titus being quietly sat with a sharp blade only a finger's width away from his face and make a run for it whilst still in possession of his facial hair, he was sorely mistaken.

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The new client, introducing himself as Lucius Cassius Longinus, smiled broadly at Marcus. Like a facade he put on. Just like Marcus did. Just like anyone did, really. Longinus mentioned he was related to a certain Cassius but Marcus just shrugged, "Here, you can leave relations behind." He said, relations did not matter that much, coin mattered more. Meanwhile the other took a few moments to glance around the shop, almost acting as if he was nervous of something. Marcus said nothing to it, while Longinus explained that his friend thought he needed a shave after having been in Britannia. And then tried to excuse his beard with it being a mourning beard.

Before he could reply to that though, Rufus cleared his throat and repeated his friend's words, stating how Marcus' services were appreciated and said Marcus should ignore the newcomer's reluctance.

"Well, we better get to work then. I hope my services can live up to your expectations, now." Marcus said with a smile and gestured towards a finely made chair, the only actual chair in the entire shop actually. Its back was high enough so you could rest against it, but also made so that your head and neck were free from it and with rounded corners, so that Marcus could reach the guest from all sides.

"Please, have a seat. A haircut and a shave. I do have some fine oils for your skin afterwards too. Do you have a favorite scent?" Marcus asked politely and glanced at the slave that was to help him. Said slave went to pick up a flask of almond oil and poured a little into a small wooden bowl. The slave carried the bowl to another table, where a scent could be mixed into the oil. The slave knew what to do. Marcus' attention returned to the two guests in the shop while he opened the chest he had with razors, "So, forgive me for asking, and ignore me if this is too personal... but why the sudden end of mourning and need of a shave?" 

@Sara @Liv
 

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Longinus watched Titus block the doorway with a roll of his eyes, but graciously took the offered seat and tried to relax into it. He'd never got in situations like this, he ended up talking too much and when he was a youth, his face would be covered in knicks and cuts where the tonsor - exasperated - would accidentally cut him. "A scent?" He blinked. He'd certainly never been offered this sort of service before. Most of his barbers were rough and ready men. "I..." He glanced towards Titus and made a face, shrugging, "I...don't have one. Your choice." He conceded with a little grin. 

As he settled back against the chair he chuckled, amused, at the man's question. It was a touch too personal but fortunately for Marcus Barbatius, Longinus was pretty much an open book. 

"I...should have finished mourning last month, and I did shave but," He sighed, "It's an effort to keep up. And with this one," He thumbed to Titus standing a way off, "Nagging at me like a woman to look respectable I thought...no time like the present." The fact that he was soon to start engaging respectful gentlemen and their daughters and sisters about remarriage went unsaid. 

 

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Oh, this was going to be entertaining. The clueless look on Longinus' face at being asked what scent he preferred was just too funny, and Titus shrugged back in response as he bit the inside of his cheek to stifle a laugh. How was he supposed to know what smell his friend liked best? That was what a wife was for, and with any luck this grooming session was a step in the right direction towards finding one.

His first impulse at being compared to a woman was to give Longinus the finger, but that would have hardly been appropriate in the current setting and in Barbatius' presence. Instead he glared at the seated man with the  burning flames of looming vengeance in his gaze and brought up two extended fingers in a V shape, which he first pointed at his own eyes and then towards Longinus. 

"And not a moment too soon. Somebody needs to look after you if you won't," Titus mumbled as he chewed on a fingernail.

@Atrice @Sara

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The newcomer to his shop was very cautios, he almost seemed afraid of getting a shave. What was his problem, Marcus thought to himself, but he would carefully ask into that soon enough. First things first, Longinus would need a shave and a haircut. Maybe the hair first and then the shave, he thought. Meanwhile one of his slaves was mixing an oil for Longinus and now the Senator seemed perplexed that Marcus asked what his favorite scent was. Marcus made an effort out of not frowning at the other being so oblivious about such things. Luckily he was good at that.


"I think a tiny bit of orange will suit you." He said and looked at the slave, who nodded and continued working in complete silence. The slave didn't make any sound, other than when a stick was now being used to stir in the bowl of almond oil. If you did not look at the slave, it was as if he was barely present. Marcus liked it like that. 


Then Marcus dared to ask his personal question to Longinus, carefully doing it so it would not seem too nosy. Longinus chuckled then and then he said he had been shaved, but it was an effort to keep up and apparently Rufus wanted him to look respectable. Rufus commented that it was about time and he looked after Longinus. Marcus gave him a small smile, how lucky for Longinus he had such a good friend. 


"Well I hope I can make you respectable enough to satisfy your friend at least. And of course, you are always welcome to return the next time you need a shave." He said, "I will cut your hair first. You don't want it as short as his, I presume?" Marcus nodded to Rufus - and at the same time, when Marcus had uttered the words, his slave silently put down the bowl of oil and picked up another, larger bowl, which he filled with chamomile water from a pitcher. Marcus dipped a comb into the water and began combing Longinus hair carefully, dipping the comb between each stroke in the hair - thus making it a little bit wet.

@Liv @Sara

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"Orange then." He affirmed with a light shrug and all the decisiveness of a child. These sorts of things; grooming and faffing about with scents and lotions and oils was best left to women, in his opinion, and it was one of the few facets of Roman life he didn't quite understand or support. Such unnecessary bother and wasted coin, simply to look preened and primped. He didn't say as much though, so as not to offend the men in the room, but his dissatisfaction was plain on his face. 

He followed the mans hands as he began to comb his unruly hair and sighed, shooting a glance to Titus. "A bit longer," He flashed a boyish smile to his friend, "I don't want to look too much like him." And short hair didn't particularly suit him. Nor did being clean shaven, but it would likely only last a day or two before the stubble returned in force. Plenty of time to meet Senator Varus (given Longinus had received no resposnse from the elder, Secundus) and then settle back down to his ungroomed, un-Roman ways. 

 

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Orange was not too bad; it was fresh and fragrant and not too womanly. A shame that Barbatius took his job seriously, because it would have been so much funnier to see and smell Longinus doused in something dainty and elegant like rosewater. And, truth be told, as feminine as those oils and fragrances appeared to be, they elevated a good shave to a full experience of well-being. Silly Longinus hadn't probably felt his own jaw as smooth as a baby's skin in ages, but hopefully he'd see the error of his ways soon enough and return to the fold of Roman-looking Romans - if not permanently, then long enough to woo his possible future wife and her closest male relative.

"You couldn't look this good if you tried," Titus retorted without missing a beat, inspecting his half-bitten fingernail; now it was more or less the same size as its nine siblings. If he thought about how such displays of familiarity between friends might affect how the barber saw them, it didn't show on his posture. Marcus Barbatius was a skilled man, and a useful acquaintance, but he wasn't so important that Titus felt like he had to be all stiff and formal with Longinus in the plebeian's presence.

Just as Longinus didn't fancy his hair short, Titus didn't care to let his own grow much longer: it would tend to get wavy and stick up in random places and take even longer to dry and it just... didn't look right. 

He adjusted his position against the door and observed the barber's practised gestures. That he made it all look so easy and effortless was a testament to his prowess, and Titus found himself more interested in the whole process than he'd ever expected.

 

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Citrus and strong smells were often good for men - but not too sweet or fruity, on the other hand. That's why he chose orange. Gods forbid he would add roses or jasmine to a man's oils, oh no! That was for women and whores... and honestly, he served few whores and also few women, so those scents were rarely in use and it wasn't like Marcus had to impress any ladies anyway. He had no wife. No need for one, no longing for one.


Longinus still didn't seem too happy about being here, but Marcus went on with his work, as he should. As he had assumed, Longinus did not want his hair too short - else he would have had it already, Marcus thought. He nodded and the men joked about who was most good looking. He glanced at Rufus when he spoke up, "Now mind your words, Senator, don't make your friend regret he came here." He said, but with a smile, it was all just for fun.


He had to make Longinus enjoy this more though. Couldn't have a man here who didn't really want to be here, then surely he would not return another time! While Marcus continued to wet the man's hair, he looked over at the mousy looking female slave waiting in the doorway to the domus behind, "Aculia, fetch some wine." He said to the girl, who clearly hadn't understood yet how important this was, but she nodded just once and hurried out of sight to fetch the wine for the two guests, "Is there anything else I can offer you two, now that you are here?" He asked, finishing with the comb in Longinus' hair and then he picked up a well-made pair of scissors and cut the first of many strands of hair from Longinus' head. 

Meanwhile the slave returned with the wine and three cups. Without looking at any of them and barely making a sound, she poured wine into all three cups, hoping it was the right thing to do and that her master had wanted wine for himself too. Then she returned to her place from before.

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Longinus arched a brow at the man and had to stop himself from shaking his head - he didn't want to end up bald if he accidentally nudged the scissors in the man's hand. "I'm fine, wine is plenty." He smiled, "But Senator Rufus has more refined taste than me, he's been in a lovely relaxing province," His tone was pleasant and jovial to an outside observer, but to Titus it could be construed as mocking, "Whereas I've been back and forth from Britannia. Titus...what do you want to eat?" He asked as the man snipped at his hair. As much as he enjoyed Britannia their 'food' was not one of the highlights.

Knowing himself and how immature he could be perceived, he tried to steer the conversation away from ribbing Titus and instead flashed a winning smile at the barber. Odd fellow, but good (he hoped). 

"And how long have you been doing this Barbatius? You must have plenty of good stories to to tell two bored Senators..." Maybe he was reaching, but he hated silence and had always found thinned to fill it.

 

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Snip snip snip went Barbatius' scissors as locks of dark hair started littering the floor around his feet. The man worked at a leisurely pace, but each gesture was masterful and precise; fascinating, even. The barber's question snapped Titus out of his study, and he flashed the man an apologetic smile. "Pardon me, good Barbatius. I meant no offence to your skills, only to senator Longinus' face." Boom, arrows shot. 

Behind the joke, he shared Barbatius' wish that his friend wouldn't leave the shop dissatisfied; a poor experience would reflect as badly on the barber whose skills were deemed subpar as on the one who had introduced businessman and client. Titus nodded as Longinus couldn't and gratefully accepted the wine from the woman slave. "Just the wine is fine, thank you." He wasn't particularly peckish yet, and whatever delicacies Barbatius could offer them would almost definitely pale in comparison to what he could have in his own home - but he wouldn't be so rude as to disparage any bites if the barber offered.

His friend's description of Dacia made him chuckle, although he cast the sitting senator a look that could be described as intense or murderous, depending on the observer. "They have surprisingly good wine there, and the weather is generally fair. Compared to Britannia, it couldn't be anything but lovely." The one thing both provinces had in common was the resilience of their peoples, though they had no choice but to submit in the end... but Titus didn't think Marcus Barbatius was the type to relish tales of military feats.

Titus sipped at his wine, pleasantly surprised by its quality. Barbatius seemed to aiming for a good impression, and decent drink always helped. Titus needed no further impressing since he was content with the man's skills as was, but Longinus might enjoy the liquid help to leave his preconceptions behind. Going by the way the latter was chattering, Titus got the feeling he wasn't quite at ease yet, but maybe Barbatius did have some good stories to tell. The divine Julius couldn't have been the only man who tried to hide a receding hairline...

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It was clear, that Marcus might share certain views on slaves versus not-slaves the same way as the two Senators... but besides that, he was still the lower class compared to them. They were here to get their hair cut and their faces shaved, but they were also here as two friends going out together. They might as well have gone to a brothel, he thought, and send jokes to each other there. Now they chose to do it here, which meant profit for Marcus. But he could not help but note the distance between Senator and Plebian here. Though of course he said nothing, while Longinus' locks fell to the floor.


They didn't want more than wine, any of them, and Longinus mentioned Britannia once more. Rufus then agreed that where he'd been, both wine and weather was better than Britannia. Marcus was born in Gaul, he knew all about how things varied in the world. He too had travelled. But not as a military man. Another difference... distance.
Then Longinus asked a few questions, and it seemed to be easiest to begin with the first one.


"It feels like I've been doing this my whole life. My father was a barber and so was my step-father after that. They taught me many things. After I came to Rome, I learned more." He added with a smile, "Now, good stories... there are plenty indeed, but which kind of story are you looking for? Something tragic, something funny or perhaps something more outrageous?" He said, glancing at both of them, "I imagine it is rare the two of you mingle much with anyone but me in this part of Rome." And then he looked at Longinus again, letting another lock of hair fall down from the sharp pair of scissors he held in his hand. He'd almost gone all the way around the man's head now and would soon move on to the shaving part of the experience. 

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"You weren't born in Rome?" Longinus arched a brow in surprise but tried to keep his face as still as possible given how precariously close the blades of the scissors were to his face. It wasn't unusual in the slightest, given Rome really was a melting pot of everybody from the Empire, but the man's Latin and behaviours seemed Roman through and through to him. Then again, with his own appearance, he doubted he could be a good judge of a true, upstanding Roman. 

He offered an encouraging smile and cast a sly glance to Titus; "Amusing or outrageous, your choice." We've all had a bit too much tragedy in our lives, thank you very much he thought to himself. Whilst he knew Titus enjoyed pretending to be the moralistic, upstanding Senator, Longinus knew the man's crotchety sense of humour and besides, this barber was hardly going to be telling the city that two Roman Senators were looking for outrageous gossip. Not unless he didn't want any repeat business, that was. 

But at his question Longinus shrugged, "Not often." Despite his relaxed take on his duties, he still very much adhered to the spoken and unspoken class system of Rome and didn't often find himself in conversation or company with plebeians, unless they happened to be his soldiers from a bygone era. He always had time for his men.

 

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Longinus' surprise at the barber's origins was mirrored by Titus' own, although he only opened his eyes wider and raised his eyebrows. There was no point in asking the same question, they would just sound like a duo of poor actors. He didn't recall Barbatius having mentioned it before, but between his rather recent patronage of the man and the state of utter blank-mind relaxation he entered under his skilled bladework, it could very well be the case that Titus just hadn't been listening. In one scarred ear and out the other healthy one - or maybe it was the other way round, whichever made more sense.

To Barbatius' credit, his Latin was impeccable and his manners likewise, even if it sounded like he had only come to Rome as a grown man. Still, Titus was curious, and he reckoned Longinus would also be itching to know. "Where are you originally from?" If he had to hazard a guess, one of the older, thoroughly Romanised provinces like Gallia Narbonensis or Hispania Tarraconensis would be his pick. The man might also have good stories from his time there.

He pretended to give a great deal of thought to the decision of what kind of stories he'd rather listen to by humming and chewing on his lower lip, but Titus' choice had been mind from the moment Barbatius had voiced the question. In truth he was itching to find out just how tragic a plebeian barber's tales could be (had any throats actually been cut?!), but Longinus had not entertained the option and Titus, for once, was not going to call him out on it. For all his easy grins and apparent bravado, the loss of his wife did appear to have taken its toll on him.

"Outrageous," he stated with a cheeky smile of his own after a few seconds.  With any luck, Barbatius would regale them with a tale or two worth repeating to Valeria, though her fertile imagination was enough source of inspiration. And yes, if pushed to admit it, Titus was curious about what sort of events had taken place under the barber's roof. Funny anecdotes could be heard anywhere, but outrageous ones were a different matter, and life with Landicus had left him jaded to those, like going back to bland puls after weeks of sumptuous meals.

Now that his unkempt mane of hair had been almost completely cut to a far more agreeable length, Longinus was beginning to look a lot more like the respectable Roman senator he purported to be. Titus nodded his appreciation at the barber, although the gesture could also be taken to mean his agreement with Longinus' admission. "Can't say I have a lot of business round here either."

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They both seemed surprised to learn that Marcus was not born in Rome and followed up with questions about where he was from then. Marcus smiled, "I was born in the city of Massalia in Gallia Narbonesis. I came to Rome almost seven years ago." He added, just to make sure they knew that he now felt at home here. Marcus so far was not planning on leaving, although circumstances could easily change, like they did at home.


And now, while he was taking care of Longinus' hair and beard, the men wanted stories and Marcus wondered what kind of stories. They somehow agreed on hearing something outrageous and Marcus arched a brow and only smiled, when they both confirmed that they rarely ventured into this part of Rome without coming to Marcus' shop. As he had assumed. Well they were both Senators, it seemed, so why should they mingle with the lower classes unless they had to? Marcus was at the higher end of the plebians though, he had gained a certain amount of wealth. Not having a wife and kids helped a lot! He just wanted to work, that's all, so he did.


"Outrageous stories..." He said and glanced to his slave in the doorway briefly, but then returned his gaze to his current job, "Outrageous comes in many forms. I could tell you plenty of stories about the patrons who come here, but many of them are wealthy or of your own rank even, so their stories probably won't mean much to two fine men such as yourselves." Marcus said, "However... I can tell you something else. Did you notice the fine chest I keep my razors in?" He nodded towards it - it had been unlocked, but now it was locked again and the key hung around his neck, "I have to keep them there." He added and then returned his gaze to Longinus' chin, cheeks and throat and slid his razor across the skin. There was silence from his side for a few moments, while he was certain the two were waiting for the story he was about to tell.


"You know how slaves are sometimes... less thrilled about their position in life. I had a slave, who was apparently so displeased with it, that he would steal one of my razors and then he slit his own throat. Took his own life." Marcus sighed, as if it was irritating, he paused and looked up at them both, "That is why I need to keep the blades locked up like that. Did you ever experience such a thing? They can be so ungrateful sometimes. The slaves, that is." 

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Longinus snorted in amusement and cast a knowing look to Titus; "Oh I don't know - most men of our rank have plenty of skeletons in their cupboards, and a few outrageous stories to boot." He knew full well that some of the goings on of the upper echelons of Rome would make even the hardiest of plebeians blush. Nonetheless, he let the man continue and his eyes  darted to the box on the side. His face was perfectly still so as not to let the razor slip and cut him, but his eyes lingered on the nondescript wooden box, with its heavy lock in full view next to the slave who stood silently. 

But he couldn't keep his expression still after Barbatius resumed his story and his eyes widened in shock, before snapping his eyes directly to Titus with a very clear; 'what kind of fucking place have you brought me to where his own bloody slaves cut their own bloody throats?!' look on his face. 

"I...can't say I have." He managed to stumble out as his eyes returned to Barbatius and he offered a slight smile. He'd had a slave or two attempt to run away, mostly newly acquired Britons from his campaigns, but they were always caught, branded and sold. And likewise, of course he disciplined them when they required it, but overall he was a fairly lax master. Attis' temperament and his ability to get away with saying pretty much anything, a testament to that. "Titus?" He offered a tight smile to his friend, hoping he'd step in to mediate some of the awkwardness, "Have you?" He felt the blade scrape across his throat. Oh Gods above. 

 

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This was not what he had signed up for when he'd requested outrageous tales. Titus had been expecting sordid stories of men deliberately wanting a shaved head to elude an angry mistress, or beards crusted in place by rests of porridge. Barbatius' razor chest was a fine piece, but the whole story behind it made Titus' eyes widen in silence as he listened to the barber's words.

Slaves so distressed they would kill themselves had been the furthest thing from his mind.

Longinus was equally alarmed going by the incredulous look he shot Titus, but all he could do to answer was give a minute shake of his head and turn a palm up. 'Do you think I'd have brought you here if I knew?!' (he definitely would have). 

"No, me neither," he concurred, wondering just how strict a master Marcus Barbatius really was. Had he learnt it from the barbarian Gauls in his native province, or was it something that Rome had brought out in the man? "I don't think I've ever had such... desperate slaves." It was the most politically correct way he could word it, but it really should have been 'miserable' instead of 'desperate'. Titus himself was moderately strict with his slaves, particularly in the beginning and until they learned to perform their tasks to his satisfaction, but once they'd proven themselves worthy they were mostly left to their own devices. The few that had been a wrong fit had been punished and then sold off, but all things considered, the slave turnover rate at his house was low and stable.

He tried to lighten the mood. "I find they're a bit like dogs, honestly. You have to train them first and some take longer than others, but in general they seem to respond better to praise and small rewards than punishment." A happy, well-fed dog would come running to its master with its tail wagging and even let its owner take prey right from its mouth, whereas a skinny mistreated dog would cower and growl and be ready to bite at any moment. "It also comes down to temperament. Some people are easier to tame than others."

@Atrice @Sara

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It was hard to make Marcus blush or feel embarrassed or ashamed or shy about anything. He had seen a lot in his life so far, and he had done even more than what he had seen others do, so he could easily imagine what the upper classes were like... especially with their inferiors. He saw how they treated the plebians. Ranks were important in Rome. Ranks and money... but if you had money enough, you could buy a rank. Maybe Marcus would, someday. 

He had then glanced at his poor slave Aculia, who stood waiting for further instructions in the doorway. She was still somewhat new and it might be good for her too to hear this story. The other slave helping in the shop was Manus, who had been with him the longest of those he had right now, and he knew it all. And he stayed silent, which was good. Else Marcus might have to replace him and it really would be a pity to have to replace such a good and hard-working slave. 

He told the story and noticed how Longinus' eyes widened at the tale of the slave who slit their own throat, and Longinus glanced to his friend and Rufus seemed surprised too! Really, they'd never experienced that? Apparently not. Longinus said he hadn't and wondered if his friend had experienced it. Meanwhile Marcus focused on the shaving again, running his blade over the oiled skin of Longinus' chin. Rufus then said he had not had any slaves kill themselves either, but then continued to compare slaves to dogs that you had to train. He claimed rewards were better than punishment for slaves. 

"Indeed they are a bit like dogs. Although I don't have the time or coin to just reward my slaves. I am not as well-born as you are, my lord. I am a working man and need them to work well as fast as possible." Marcus said, "I need to teach them how to behave quickly, so I do. And see what you get... my slaves know their place." He said with a satisfied smile, hoping the two high-born men had noticed how his slaves made as few sounds as possible and none of them had uttered a word while the guests were here. Marcus was very proud of how they acted, especially Manus, but Aculia also knew how, now. They were both tamed so far and he hoped it would last.

"Maybe one of you two would share a story? You mentioned skeletons in cupboards." He said to Longinus to keep them talking, as if the thing with the slave did not make him feel that much else but outrage... and that's how it was, "What's the worst you have heard about?" 

@Liv @Sara

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Longinus tried to ignore the feeling of vulnerability as the blade glided over his throat and chin. He was relieved that the conversation flowed again as Titus piped up, but couldn't keep the irritation from his mind. Why, of all barbers, did Titus like to frequent this one? Maybe he missed the sense of danger from being in the legions and this was the closest he could get...

Longinus flattered the man with a light smile; "They're impeccably well behaved." Although he, himself, found their complete silence a little eerie. 

His humour returned a touch at the ask for a story of their own and he arched a brow, gesturing with a thumb to Titus. "I'm not sure what he'll tell you, something dull and dry no doubt," He smirked, jesting at his friend's expense, "But when I was in Britannia the first time just after I was made legate," He winced - he knew his appointment at 21 was exceptional and very much a sore point for his good friend, "There was a big pitched battle against the Brigantes and we walked away with bloody hundreds of slaves. I got given one of their war chiefs, a big hulking man in his fifties who - at twenty one - I had absolutely no bloody idea what to do with...so I sent him back in chains for my parents as a trophy...apparently my mother screamed the house down and my father sold him the next day." He snorted in amusement. He had plenty of far more outlandish stories, but tried to keep the tone more jovial.

 

TAG: @Liv @Atrice

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Until their mention by the barber, Titus had paid no mind to the slaves assisting their master. They were being quiet and unobtrusive, as they should, but just how much of that was loyalty and how much was fear was anyone's guess. Now that he peered at each of them, he found their expressions inscrutable. "You don't necessarily need lots of money," Titus countered. Sometimes a day off or the chance to earn a bit of coin for themselves was all it took. "But I do agree that time is a precious commodity for you." Barbatius certainly worked fast, though not at the expense of excellence. He was one of the few skilled workers who could manage both at the same time.

As Longinus started yapping about Britannia for the umpteenth time Titus couldn't help but sigh audibly and roll his eyes. Even in his deathbed the man would be reminiscing fondly about that bloody land, and it wouldn't surprise Titus if he had arranged in his will for his ashes to be scattered there. The mention of Longinus' first stint as a legate, on the other hand, rolled right off his back - or so he tried to make it look like. Now that he had had his turn too, the thorn in his side didn't dig as deeply as before... and Titus liked to think he had grown not only older but wiser and more worldly.

"Britannia, Britannia, Britannia. I know you're happy to have a fresh audience, but please, have mercy on me." He turned to Barbatius with a look halfway between amusement and annoyance. "This is the twenty-sixth time I've heard this story." In actuality it was only the third or fourth, but it would be a sin not to exaggerate. It was revenge for Longinus being right, because he did not have any strikingly juicy stories of his own nor was he a particularly gifted storyteller; that role fell to his better half.

"It's probably not what you're looking to hear, but in Dacia I walked in on one of my auxiliary prefects getting fellated by a legionary." He didn't know if Barbatius would understand just what was outrageous about such a story, but Longinus should be as shocked as Titus had been at the time. "It did not end well for them," he added with a hint of mystery, although it would be the obvious conclusion to the tale to anyone in the know.

@Atrice @Sara

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If she was shaking, it was barely visible as she stood rigid and tall. Her eyes were staring forwards, practically past the two male customers and her master. She held onto the jug of mug tightly, so tight that her knuckles were white and the muscles of her hands were growing tired. She did not dare look anywhere specific or say anything. Any little cough, sniffle or movement would annoy her master. Annoying her master meant the possibility of death. The men in the room had no idea what those hands were capable of, what she’d seen him do. As the the blade rested against one of the men’s neck, both men were oblivious as to what those hands had seen.  

She was zoning in and out, her attention was mystified and the world hazy. The mention of dogs made her snap into the real world, everything suddenly becoming material. She’d once dealt with dogs when hunting and had seen deer die by her arrows but seeing people die was different. The idea did come into her head of trying to get a quick word with one of the men for help but that was out of the question as intervention could go awry and be of more danger to her.

And so there she stood near to the door, glazed eyes staring unnervingly with a lost look in them. So quiet, so still, she was practically invisible.

@Liv @Sara @Atrice  (cameo as per requested by Atrice!)

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Marcus smiled when Longinus mentioned that he thought the slaves here very well behaved. Well they were! Meanwhile Rufus just piped in that you did not need a lot of money to reward your slaves well, but did of course agree that time was important too. Marcus thought Longinus was the more polite of them in this case, and then the man under the knife went on to tell a story and Marcus paused with the shaving while he spoke. He talked about Britannia and how he was given a chief after a battle and he sent the man to his family. 


Marcus just smiled, "Your father should have proved to your mother, that he could handle even such a massive barbarian." He said and then Rufus said that Longinus had told the story many times. Well if he enjoyed it so much... although had it been Marcus who had been given such a slave, it would have had a different outcome than just selling the man. Rufus then also wanted to tell a story and Marcus proceeded with the shaving after casting a glance to Aculia, who stood quietly in the doorway, and Manus, who had also finished mixing the scented oil and stood nearby, ready if he needed to be. Aculia seemed a bit unsteady though and he wondered why she kept holding the jug if it was so heavy for her. Surely she could put it down and then pick it up if need be. Sometimes slaves didn't know what was best for them.


Rufus had a more outrageous story to tell, from his time in Dacia (they were both well-travelled men, were they not?), but honestly the way he ended it just made Marcus more curious and he glanced shortly up at Rufus, "Do tell how it ended for them..." 

@Sara @Liv @Beauty

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