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Posted (edited)

Mid-May, 75 AD

There were plenty of villas in the countryside near Rome and this was just one of them. And it was the one he just happened to live in – because really, where else should he live, when his brother made sure they had no family home anymore? Not that life was bad here. There had been a social event – a party – at one of the other villas last night and Marcus had persuaded Caecina to come, explaining how important it was with the connections they’d make, although really he just didn’t want to go to the party alone. And she probably knew that. They’d lived together on and off since Flavia Juliana married Caecina’s father, after all.

Now it was the day after the party and Marcus had slept in and was woken, when one of the slaves came to clean up a little of the mess Marcus made last night, when he came home. The fine toga was dropped on the floor along with his sandals. He sighed and covered his face with his hands, he had a headache. Of course he did. He drank wine last night. And not just a little. He barely remembered the ride home in the carriage, but he remembered Caecina had been there too. He hadn't left her at the party. Or maybe it was her who didn't leave him behind, when she left? It was all a bit of a blur.

“Something to drink. Not wine.” Marcus waved at the slave without looking at them and they hurried to find what he wanted, leaving him alone for a bit too. He sat up in the bed and pushed the covers away. He’d passed out in his tunica and held up a bit of the sleeve… yes, he needed a clean one! When the slave returned, he asked for a clean tunica and that was fetched for him too. Soon he was somewhat dressed – just the tunica and a belt – and the slave got him some slippers too. With a cup of water in his hand, he wandered to the peristyle and found another sofa to lie down in. It was a warm morning and it was nice and quiet in the villa so far.

He closed his eyes, just a little bit… and then when he heard some footsteps approaching, he assumed it was another slave and didn’t even care to open his eyes when he made his next request, “Get me something to eat.”

@Echo

Edited by Atrice

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Caecina awoke early in the morning, feeling somewhat tired from the little amount of sleep she had gotten that night. But she was not nearly as bad off as Marcus, who had done quite a bit more drinking that Caecina had. When they had arrived at the social event last night, Caecina had seen that she would have to be the adult one of the two, and she had managed to keep Marcus alive as well as get him back to their villa. Now, she rose from her bed and dressed in a clean, white chiton, as well as a pale blue palla, washed her face, and brushed her hair. Feeling much more awake now, she went to the kitchen to eat a light morning meal. 

Marcus was like a brother to her and Caecina often wavered between wanting to get into mischief with him and wanting to be the mature one. She had been yelled at enough for one lifetime, and Marcus had a habit of getting into trouble and dragging her down with him. Not that she always minded, though. He was a lot of fun. Speaking of fun, she observed Marcus as he went to the peristyle and decided to follow him. 

"Get me something to eat."

Caecina gave a short laugh. "You have two legs that work perfectly fine, Marcus," she said, speaking loudly on purpose. He got so ornery when he was messed with while hungover, and Caecina had the advantage of not being hungover herself. She settled on a chaise lounge and sipped her watered wine. "I see you survived the night."

@Atrice

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Technically, Caecina was the adult of the two, wasn’t she? She was a year older than Marcus was and she was a girl (he hadn’t quite gotten around to think of her as a ‘woman’ yet), so it made sense she would drink less and make sure Marcus got home safely. Now he was just lying on the couch in the peristyle, relaxing and closing his eyes, when someone walked closer to him and naturally, assuming it was a slave, he asked for something to eat. But all he got as a response to that was a laugh and Caecina stating his legs worked fine. He opened his eyes with another sigh, looking at her as she settled on the couch near his and commented on how he was doing.

“Yes, I survived just fine. You should try it sometime. It’s fun while it lasts.” He said, a little bit annoyed that she teased him, but there was also a little smile on his lips.

“And I may have two legs that work fine, but I don’t have to use them, when I have people for that. Can’t you find someone who will get me something to eat? Maybe some bread and olive oil… oh and a smoked sausage, maybe. That sounds nice.” He said and rolled onto his side to face her . Look at Caecina, all fine and clean and dressed as if this was just another ordinary day. Just because she didn't drink as much wine as he did last night.

Marcus reached for his own cup of water to drink the last few drops, “See, now this is empty too. Where are all the slaves anyway?” As if they had time off, they just happened to not be near right now when he wanted them to be.

@Echo

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Caecina might have been older, but, like Marcus, she hardly considered herself a woman yet, even though she was more than qualified to be married now. She was still prone to her bouts of childish immaturity, even though she was good at hiding them. "And I am not convinced the fun is at all worth the morning after. You look terrible." She was enjoying this. Marcus then explained that while his legs did work, he shouldn't have to use them. He even sounded like he was trying to order her around and she scoffed. "I'm not your slave, bonehead." But then she laughed and gestured for Astraea. "Please go to the kitchen and get his royal highness some breakfast."

With Astraea gone, the young woman settled back on the couch and studied him. "It's a wonder I even managed to get you back home last night. You were all over the place."

@Atrice

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He rolled his eyes when she said the fun you had while drinking, wasn't worth it the morning after. She said he looked terrible, "You'd look terrible too with too little sleep and girls mocking you, when you have it bad enough already!" Marcus said and he could see she was having fun at his expense. Which really wasn't fair, why did she think it was fair, again? Just because she'd been more sensible. And he knew that Juliana worked hard to try and turn Caecina into a respectable young woman, but he knew Caecina better than that. He knew what she could be like, when Juliana and her father and that slave of hers weren't near. He knew she could be up to no good too, so why make fun of him? 

When she had finally told Astraea to go and fetch him some breakfast, he gave her a look for calling him bonehead and a royal highness. As if it was fun. Then she began talking about last night.

"I were? I guess I were... I hope I wasn't too difficult on the way home." He then said, "Did you have fun? Did you meet any potential husbands?" 

@Echo 

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Caecina rolled her eyes. "Okay, okay, I'll stop messing with you." She paused with a mischievous smile. "Even though you're fun to rile up." Astraea came back just then, followed by a kitchen slave who placed Marcus's breakfast on a table next to where he was seated. Caecina looked up as he continued talking. "You could barely walk." Caecina knew Marcus well enough to know that he knew she wasn't the pious, perfect princess she presented to her parents. Even Juliana wasn't completely fooled; she was too smart to know. At least with her stepmother, Caecina tried to actually act right, at least for the sake of her younger siblings. It was progress. 

Marcus then asked her if she had found any potential husbands and she laughed. "Oh, you know me. There are always options. But none have really caught my eye." She held out her cup for the kitchen slave and then drank a sip. "I did have fun, despite myself. You know how I love to stay home and weave, but I managed to entertain myself." Really, she quite enjoyed parties and had been entertaining herself with a sizable group of suitors who came to her like bees to a flower. 

"And did you find a wife? Before you were too drunk to know what was happening, that is."

@Atrice

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Oh she enjoyed mocking him, didn't she? Although now she promised she'd stop, but would she really? She said he was fun to rile up and he really wasn't in the mood for such fun right now, "It's only fun until someone's hurt." He bit back, just before her slave came back with something to eat for Marcus. Not that he would hurt her. But of course he didn't like her teasing him! He picked up a piece of bread, broke it into smaller bits to dip into the olive oil. The slaves had been clever enough to add a little bit of salt to the olive oil. It was nice. Meanwhile Caecina said he could barely walk on the way home. It was that bad? He really needed to learn how to stop before it got to that. Honestly it wasn't fun when everything was a blur the day after, but sometimes he just couldn't stop when it was fun. And then it became too much.

He tried to talk about something else but himself though, wondering if Caecina had fun and found a potential husband and she laughed, said there'd been options, but none had caught her eye, "Pity for them." He replied back. So maybe he didn't quite see her as a grown woman yet, but he definitely knew she was attractive enough. If he hadn't felt that she was almost like a sister, he'd hit on her too. But he knew her too well, didn't he? Caecina went on about how she had fun and joked about how she loved to stay home and just weave. As if she did that! She liked going out and they both knew it. Caecina wondered if he'd found anyone. 

Now it was Marcus' turn to laugh, "A wife? I don't think so, not yet." He was nowhere near a place in his life where he wanted a wife. He needed money and influence on the right people and a proper career... and his own home... before he could consider a wife. All that was long away in the future still, "But there were a few pretty girls. Besides you of course." He added with a wink and reached for a drink, "Maybe we should do it more often. You attract all the guys, who then forget about all the other girls and then they come to me." It was a nice idea, he thought.

@Echo

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Marcus said that teasing was only fun until someone was hurt, but Caecina was not phased. Even if the slaves weren't there, she knew he was harmless to her. They might jab at each other and squabble, but at the end of the day, they were practically siblings. "Oh, I'm shaking," she said when he threatened her, crossing her arms. Caecina briefly wondered what might have happened had she not been there to get Marcus home after the party. She had been a little tipsy, too, but was well within her limits and still had had her wits about her. 

"Pity for them," Marcus said. Caecina shrugged. "More like pity for me, I swear I'll never get married at this rate." And what else was there in life for a young Roman woman? Marriage was the ultimate goal, and then children. Of course, Caecina felt a twinge of fear in her belly at the thought of bearing a child. But it was quickly gone; it was too fine of a day to be frightened by something that far in the future. 

"But there were a few pretty girls. Besides you of course."

Caecina rolled her eyes but was clearly pleased at the compliment, which were what she lived for. "That's not a bad idea. Perhaps we'll both find a match one of these days, if we work together." She laughed. "But I doubt you have any trouble attracting girls without my help, anyway. I see how the other girls look at you." Caecina could hardly fail to notice the good looks of the young man living in her home, even if they were like siblings.

"When's the next party?"

@Atrice

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Marcus was just upset that she was teasing him while he was hungover, so that’s why he snapped at her. Of course she knew he meant nothing by it, but still she crossed her arms and continued, “You should be.” He just said, clearly offended, but then they continued their talk about the party last night… and their potential future. He said it was a pity for the men at the party, that no one caught her eye, but she said it was more a pity for her.

“You still have plenty of time. I’ve met… women… in their twenties who weren’t married yet.” Marcus pointed out to her and had also commented on how there were other pretty girls than her. She seemed pleased with the compliment and liked his idea of them working together to find a match – although then she didn’t think he needed her help, because she’d seen how the other girls looked at him. He couldn’t help but smile at that comment, they did like him, didn’t they? But he tried hard to be good with them, they were girls from respectable families too and he should not cross any boundaries and risk the anger of their families. One could dream a little though. He nibbled at the bread and Caecina wanted to know when the next party would be.

“I don’t know… soon, I hope. there’s always something going on in Rome.” He leaned a little closer to her, he didn’t want the slaves to pay too much attention to his words, so they’d tell Juliana or someone else, “Next time we go there together, I’ll take you to the Poppina Via Lata. But don’t tell Juliana. I don’t think she’d like it.” He said and smiled at her, “But I think you would. Adventures are supposed to be good for the spirit, right?” His brother went on plenty of his own adventures, so why shouldn't Marcus try and get the best out of his life too? 

@Echo

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Marcus assured her she had time and she shrugged, not completely placated but willing to let the topic go. "If you say so." Caecina looked at him as he suggested her take her to the Poppina Via Lata and she raised her eyebrows. "No, Juliana would most certainly not like that," she said with a laugh. "But you're right, I would enjoy that. I could use a little adventure, that's for sure." Caecina's days were filled with a lot of monotony here in the villa, as much as Marcus and her siblings entertained her. The city was far more exciting and there were many more social events for her to attend. 

"What is the Poppina like?"

@Atrice

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Caecina, being the sensible one, still asked him when the next party would be. She might be sensible, but she did enjoy going out as much as Marcus did. And he enjoyed it a lot. It was better than just hanging around the villa doing practically nothing. Well there were the lessons with Aia, but she was a strange woman and sometimes he forgot to pay attention because he was more curious about her story and why her hair had been short when she first came to the household. Going out though, to parties and friends and to the baths of the city, that was more fun. He mentioned parties in Rome and then suggested taking Caecina to the Poppina Via Lata, although Juliana could not know about that. Caecina laughed, but seemed in on the idea.

"Nothing wrong with a little adventure." Marcus said with a grin and a wink to her. He was feeling a little better now he had something to eat and drink... and talking to Caecina was always nice. Besides her, there were only Juliana's smaller children here and they could be fun to play with sometimes, but not all the time. Caecina was closer to his age and more like-minded. She asked what the Poppina was like.

"It's a place where you go to look at people, I guess... and to be seen. There are two buildings. One for the lower classes and one for people with a little more wealth, like us. Not that they'd turn us away in the place for the lower classes, but I do think they serve better wine at the other one. It's really not the worst place to go, at least as long as it is not too late in the evening. All kinds of people come there. I've been a few times myself, when I'm in the city." He explained, "Maybe we should go soon?" 

@Echo

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Marcus explained that the Poppina was where you went to watch people and be seen, as well as the layout of the building. She briefly considered what Juliana would think of a respectable young woman going to a place like that - even in the upper class portion, but decided she didn't care. She spent most of her life worrying about Juliana's opinion when she rarely considered what she wanted to do. Other than getting married, she wanted adventure. And Marcus was just the person to give her the opportunity. 

"That sounds like a good time. We just have to be sure Juliana isn't aware of it." And, somehow, she had to get Astraea off her back so she could enjoy herself without the Greek's disapproving stare boring into her back. "Are you feeling any better? I was thinking I might go for a ride in the fields today. Would you like to join me?" 

@Atrice

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Marcus continued to nibble at his bread with olive oil and drank the water, while Caecina considered his idea with going to the Poppina Via Lata. It was a fun place, at times. Of course it could be pretty calm during the early hours of the day, but the later in the day you came, the more interesting it got. People ate and drank and there was sometimes entertainment and if you were bored, you'd just make something be fun. Or you would ask for it. Caecina said it sounded like the place would indeed be a good time and also didn't want Juliana to know about it.

"We have to be very sure of that." Marcus replied, wondering how they could do it. Maybe if they went to the palace sometime, without Juliana, but just with the slaves... and a few guards... and then they could sneak out. Maybe some of the young people at the palace would come too. It could be fun. Meanwhile Caecina now wondered if he felt better and wanted to go for a ride in the fields. Well he had nothing better to do, did he? Luckily Aia had not shown up yet to talk about foreign languages and he didn't feel like practising any fighting skills today. A ride sounded better. 

"Sure, I'd like that. As long as we don't encounter bandits... like the princess did." It was in the fall when Claudia Caesaris and her company (including Aia) had shown up on the doorstep, the princess all kinds of bloody and her fierce Briton bodyguard was painted in the face like the true barbarian she was. There was something oddly attractive about her though... but Marcus had not interfered with that a lot. He had of course paid attention to the slaves talking. Not that he had ever encountered bandits out here, but you could be unlucky. He didn't think they would be though.

"I'll go and get better dressed for it, then you can have someone get the horses ready and I'll meet you there?" He said and finally sat up on the couch and downed the rest of his drink.

@Echo

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Caecina rose gracefully from the couch, adjusting her palla. "I'm sure it will be alright. I'll make sure we have a couple of guards." She brushed her hair off her shoulder as he explained what he would be doing. "Alright, meet me in the stables." With not another word, the girl left the room for her preparations. 

Ten minutes later, dressed in a less expensive chiton and palla, she strode to the stables to find her horse already tacked and ready to go. She stroked the beast's nose as she waited for Marcus to arrive. 

@Atrice

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Marcus did have some skills when it came to fighting - he was a man, after all... and he had his fair share of lessons in using weapons and also how to fight without them. He would need those if he were to serve in the military, like it was tradition for his family - and he would do that, eventually. For now though, he did not feel like encountering bandits on the road outside their home and Caecina ensured him they would have guards following them. Marcus nodded, that sounded good enough for him. And off she were and off he was too. Marcus went to his own room, where he put on a pair of breeches under the tunica... but he left the toga for now, that wouldn't be useful when riding. 

He soon found Caecina in the stables, where she'd changed to other clothes too. She was very pretty. Sometimes he thought that if he could not find another proper wife in the future, he could always hope she would not be married either. On the other hand, would it be weird to marry someone you'd known since you were a kid? He shook his head to get rid of the thoughts and gave her a smile.

"All ready I see." He said, entering the stables and approached his own horse. The slave holding the reins led it out and held the horse while Marcus mounted the handsome beast and he looked at Caecina, "Ready?" 

@Echo

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Caecina turned as she heard footsteps approaching and smiled at Marcus. "I am." Following suit, another stable slave held Caecina's horse as she mounted. She discretely adjusted her clothing, then urged her horse forward with a click of her tongue. The horse was very well-trained and gentle, so it barely needed urging. As they proceeded to the road, Caecina considered Marcus. No matter how much she liked teasing him, she did enjoy his company. It didn't hurt that he was very handsome. She had considered making a match with him before, but she had a hard time thinking of him as a man, rather than the boy she had spent her childhood with. 

"So, you will have to join the military soon. What do you think about that?" She had occasionally observed him practicing his fighting skills, to some amusement. But he was skilled and that was impressive to her, who had barely even touched a weapon before, let alone swung a sword. 

@Atrice

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Caecina was of course ready too and it didn't take long before they were both mounted on a horse and on their way away from the countryside villa. It was always interesting to look at a woman riding a horse, with the long skirts and yet still straddling the horse, so that you could see more of her leg. Right, this was Caecina! He really should stop thinking about that. They came out to the road and rode slowly to begin with, warming up the horses and she wondered what his thoughts were about the military. They were talking about that, now? 

"I know I'll have to. But not right now." Marcus replied, he didn't want to think about his future right now. but Caecina brought it up... "What should I think about it? I'll try and have a career, a good one too. I'll make a name of myself, somehow. I hope." He added thoughtfully, "Why do you ask?" Girls didn't join the military, after all. The only women who fought in Rome, were the gladiatrices. And Claudia Caesaris' bodyguard of course. He could not imagine Caecina with a sword in her hand.

@Echo

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Caecina glanced at him from the corner of her eye and noticed him looking at her leg. She blushed and adjusted her palla so that it covered what little was showing, but discretely so that it wouldn't embarrass him that she had noticed. The conversation continued, with Marcus explaining that he wanted to make a name for himself. "I'm sure that your name will go down in history," she said, genuine for once. She hoped he would find success wherever he went. He had already had a hard enough time in life. Marcus asked why Caecina had asked and she shrugged. "I suppose I'm just curious. Though I don't envy you having to go to the military." She couldn't imagine changing her life at all, let alone going into the field and getting dirty... it sounded like a nightmare to the girl. 

"Do you have anywhere in particular you'd like to go? I would like to do some traveling myself, but certainly not anywhere barbaric."

@Atrice

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He was probably still a bit hungover after the party last night, that had to be why he kept looking at her like that. Not that he hadn't done it before, but he'd be a stupid man if he didn't think she was attractive and admitted it. Still, she was like a sister to him. It was kind of messed up, but not much to do about that. They still rode slowly and he smiled when she said his name would go down in history, "I hope so." He said with a grin and then he had wondered why she was curious about his military career. She said that was just it and she didn't envy him. Marcus didn't envy him either. He knew it was brave and it was what men did, especially in the senatorial classes of the Roman society, but that didn't mean he looked forward to wearing all the heavy gear and living in a less-than-luxurious camp. Caecina wondered where he would go, if he had the choice.

"I guess it could be interesting to return to Britannia... that's where I was born. But I haven't been there since I was tiny. I can't remember it at all." He said, because that's how it was. He knew he was born in a faraway country, but he had no memory of it. He was still very young when he left with Flavia Juliana and his siblings. 

"I heard Britannia isn't as bad as it once were. It's part of the Empire now, after all. I'd like to go to Greece too. Where would you like to go... if you could decide?" She was a girl, so she couldn't decide for herself where she went. It was up to her parents. He didn't envy her, that she was a girl and had more rules to follow than he did. 

@Echo

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Caecina hadn't remembered that he was born in Britannia, but it made sense he would want to return there. But she laughed. "I don't think Britannia is for me. It's too cold there!" Caecina considered his question. If she had the chance, she would like to travel to many parts of the empire. "I think Hispania might be nice. They have lovely vineyards there that would be nice to visit. Maybe Britannia, if it isn't so savage now."

@Atrice

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She laughed when he mentioned Britannia and she didn't think it would be for her, because it might be cold. Well you'd have to get used to that if you were stationed somewhere with the military, then you didn't have much of a choice. In that case, she was the lucky one. If she would travel, she probably would not have to go somewhere cold... unless she married a man and had to follow him. But that was different. She thought she would like Hispania and he smiled when she mentioned the vineyards. Then Caecina considered Britannia again.

"I've heard it is less savage now than it used to be. We could always ask Aia, I think she's been there. Mother too, of course, but I think Aia has been there more recently." He added. That was like one of the few things he would be curious about, with their teacher. She was nice enough, but she was also kind of strange. Her background interested him though, because it was never really spoken about.

"Enough about travels though. We're here, now. Where should we ride to? There's a small forest not too far from here, if you want to go exploring there." Marcus suggested, he didn't want to think too much about his future when he had a hangover like today. Hopefully Caecina would follow.

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Marcus mentioned that they could ask Aia about Britannia and she brightened up. "Yes, that's a good idea. She's such an interesting woman. She's seen so much!" Caecina found Aia fascinating, even if her lessons were boring. Aia couldn't help that her student barely thought of her own education past what would get her married! Marcus seemed to grow tired of talking about traveling and she grinned as he asked where she wanted to ride to. Without a word, the girl nudged her horse up to a gallop and zipped past Marcus, heading to the forest he spoke about. As she went past, she said, "Race you there!"

@Atrice

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Aia had seen a lot more than they had. Marcus had travelled a lot in his life too, but he only barely recalled some of it. He had no memory of the place where he was born and he knew he'd been to Aegyptus too, but he also only had faint memories of that. He remembered sand and tanned people and white clothes, because of the heat. But then they were brought to Rome and his mother met Caecina's father... and here they were, now. He didn't want to think about the future of his life right now though, even if Caecina seemed to like to dream about it. So instead he wondered where to go and mention the little forest nearby. He'd like to go there. And even if the roads could be dangerous, he'd like to put a little bit of distance between them and the guards. They could speak more freely then.

Caecina agreed to go, but without a word - instead she nudged her horse into a gallop and raced past him. Marcus laughed and set his horse in motion too, soon catching up with her. She was a good rider, despite being a girl. And as she rode, her skirts fluttered around her. He smiled by the sight and then looked at the road ahead, he could see the trees, just a little bit longer. There was a stream in the forest where he'd often taken a break when he was out on his own, maybe he should show it to Caecina. They reached the edge of the forest more or less at the same time and he stopped his horse, out of breath from holding it too, "That was fun!" He exclaimed, "Do you know the stream in here? Else I'll show you." He looked behind her, the guards were coming, but at a distance. 

@Echo

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Caecina's mood was instantly lifted as she urged the horse into a gallop, and saw Marcus was following at the same pace. She wasn't ready to be a matron by any means. When could she ride horses this freely when she had a husband to please and a house to maintain and children to raise? She wasn't ready to stop being a girl, young and full of life and energy. She loved her freedom. 

Soon enough, they reached the forest and Caecina pulled the horse to a trot, then a walk, breathing hard. Her face was flushed and her cheeks rosy from the exertion and she laughed. "That was fun!" She paused a moment to catch her breath. "No, I don't think I've seen it! Will you show me?"

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It was fun riding fast together with Caecina and she seemed to think so too. When they stopped the horses, just walking near each other, she was breathing hard, but she was also laughing and her face was flushed. How nice to see some color on her face, he thought. Women of their class often avoided the sun, because else they might look like some working plebian woman and they didn't want that. He liked her rosy cheeks. She agreed it was fun and wanted to see the stream. 

"Of course I'll show you. Follow me." He said, letting his horse follow the path into the forest. Soon they were surrounded by trees and shadows and flickers of light coming through from above. It was really nice he thought, on such a warm day, to come in here. And then together with Caecina! They would follow the path a little longer, before he would reach a certain large tree and he steered the horse off the path there. Carefully he led it forwards among trees and overgrowth and looked over his shoulder for Caecina, "Be careful, it can be soft some places." He called out to her and then finally, after a little while, he stopped his horse. They had reached a stream, not quite a river but still more than just a tiny flow of water.

"We should have brought something to eat and drink. This is such a nice spot." Marcus said and got off his horse. He couldn't see the guards, maybe they were waiting by the path? Well, Caecina would be safe with him... "Do you need a hand to get down here?" 

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