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February, 74AD 

The Praetorium in Augusta Vindelicorum, Raetia 

The Praetorium was abnormally quiet. Well, it was never quiet, it was obviously far more vast than their family domus in Rome and her father-in-law's expansive villa in Baiae and so the Governor's palace hummed with the sounds of slaves diligently working or visitors going about their business. But her quarters - sequestered in the private space of the building, at least, were silent today.  Titus was at his lessons and Calpurnia was attending to some matter or another with her slave. Her daughter was no longer the sweet little girl she had once been, but her rapidly evolving interests in the arts and music were a balm for the creatively minded Horatia. Straining her ears she could vaguely make out the jarring notes of her flute. She hoped her daughter would find something a little more pleasing on the ears to learn soon. 

So she stood, quite alone in the rooms that made up her's and the children's quarters. It was too cold to sit in the gardens, she mused sullenly, winters in Raetia were harsher than Italia. She sighed and padded aimlessly until she ended up outside her husbands study. She would usually not disturb him in the day, but afternoon was well and truly on its way and his associates and men had left for the day. 

She considered, for a moment, going back to her own rooms to read or sew, or perhaps dedicate some time to planning whatever function Aulus was next required to host. The latter thought lit a smile on her face. She missed her husband when he was busy or absent, even if it was just for a few hours, and gently enquiring about an engagement she would be required to organise was a perfect excuse to linger in his study, was it not? She knocked on the doorframe and leant through, a light smile on her face. "Do you have some time to talk?" She queried gently. One never knew with Aulus; she suspected her husband would look as unmoving and unflappable as he ever did, even if there was some major crises occurring that she was not privy to. Stepping into the room and smoothing down her stola, she studied him, forgetting the purpose (and what a loose purpose it was) entirely. "You look tired, you work too much." She said with a wry smile.

 

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Aulus reflected that at least he did not get troubled by religious zealots or fanatical Druids here in Raetia. Just the usual cases and things that concerned other governors.

A knock on the wooden doorframe made him look up, and the sight of his wife standing there made him smile. "Of course," he told her. "You can sit down if you like, or I can join you in just a moment." He looked back down at the order his secretary had placed in front of him to sign, reread the neat Latin words on the papyrus and dipped a reed pen to sign the order for the execution of a group of recently captured German  rebels.

"Do I? The work of a Roman propraetor is never done," he said, setting the papyrus aside. "I'll look at the rest first thing tomorrow morning, Xanthos," he told his secretary. "You may seal that and see that it is delivered to the Tribune."

The Greek secretary murmured, "Yes, domine," gathered up the various signed orders and departed, leaving Aulus alone in the room with his wife.

"I am yours to command," he told her with a smile.

 

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Horatia smiled politely at her husband's secretary as he discretely left the room. She took the offered seat in front of his desk and laughed, "Oh I wouldn't know where to start with commands." She smiled wryly and shook her head, "Do I look like some sort of supplicant?" She asked with an arched brow, "Sat in your study as if I need something from the terribly important Governor?" She tapped a finger to her jaw as if in thought and glanced vivid blue eyes around his study with its reams and piles of paperwork. "I shall have to think of something to ask of you, to match everybody else who sits in this chair." She laughed a little and shook her head, placing her hands on her lap.

Ringing her fingers she shook her head and glanced back down at his desk with its stacks of work that he still must have to go through. She did not know the particulars of all of his duties, it was not her place to, but she had gleaned enough to know that the majority of the work still sat on his desk couldn't be considered fun by anybody's estimation. 

"It was nothing really. Just that I noted it's been a while since we last hosted the officers and their families here, and wondered if you wanted to do something, or host something at some point soon?" It was a weak excuse to visit and it sounded it. In truth, she had flourished more in Raetia than she had in Rome - she had a proper household to run here without the oversight of her mother in law - and she had a function to do, to be seen as the virtuous, emblematic wife of the charismatic young Governor. The latter she found more difficult, given she'd always preferred to remain on the periphery, in the shadows, but it was still more than she had in Rome. She found herself missing the city less and less as the years had gone by, but like any function or any role, there were still days where she found herself at a loose end. Her time was not nearly as precious as Aulus' and boredom had begun to creep in around the edges. Hence her purpose for a distracting visit to his study today, and of course, because she missed his company.

 

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"No - you look like the Governor's terribly clever and beautiful wife," Aulus said, and gave in to the temptation to stretch. "I guess it has been a while - why not? Or for the local magistrates and officials and their wives? You could sit among them as Juno does among the goddesses, beautiful and aloof, with them all vying for your attention."

Except that Horatia was generally far happier to be on the periphery of such things than at the centre of attention - something Aulus could appreciate right now. She had blossomed here, away from the petty wives of the other Senators and with her own household to run - it ran with a military sort of precision that Aulus appreciated - every slave knew their duties and did them and none of them had required any discipline that Horatia was unable to administer, leaving Aulus free to attend to the hundred and one things that required his attention as Caesar's representative in this province of the Empire.

"When were you thinking of hosting this gathering?" he asked, smiling at the way her forehead creased a little in thought. He would never tell her so, but he loved all her tiny imperfections perhaps more than all her perfect features, because they made her unique and more than beautiful in his eyes. No statue of Venus ever had that darling little lopsided twist to her mouth, after all.

 

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Horatia laughed and arched a brow, but couldn't help the flush that coloured her cheeks. Whilst she might be more comfortable with herself as she'd reached and turned thirty last year, his compliments still fell uncomfortably on her shoulders.

His idea was better than hers though and she nodded thoughtfully; "That would work better. I don't want to host all of your military peers and see half of our home smashed up in drunken foolishness." She bit her lip and then bubbled a laugh, not meaning the jest completely. But she'd grown up around, and seen plenty of military men to know they were more likely to drink their wine cellars dry moreso than any fussy old magistrate and his crone of a wife. There were a few people in the capital around her own age, and fewer still that she actively enjoyed the company of - but there were a few and they were largely tied to the officials sent here as Aulus had been. Not that it mattered much, she was more than happy with her own company usually. 

"When do you have the time? I was thinking the first week of March," A month or so away, so plenty of time for a polite invitation to be extended and plenty of time to plan, "But I can adjust to suit your schedule." Which was undoubtedly much fuller than her own.

Her fingers moved to run over the edge of his desk as she thought and caught on the edge of a sheet of papyrus at a lopsided angle. Frowning, she set it straight. There, perfect. She was content to just be in his company and even if the reason for her visit had already been expended she made no move to leave. She set another piece of papyrus straight, finding the odd angles bothersome, and asked; "I hope Xanthos hasn't been giving you anything particularly taxing to look at?" Which was Horatia-speak for 'I hope everything is alright with work?' 

 

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"I can make time, particularly if you were thinking to do this in the afternoon or evening," he said - the courts closed at noon, and thus so did the Governor's office, at least for petitioners and the like. Paperwork went on into the afternoon, generally, although Aulus did his best to stop it from eating into his time with his family, or other relaxation time.

He could not hide a smile as Horatia straightened one of the piles of papyrus on his desk. Her unconscious neatness in everything she did was another of his small pleasures - it bled into how the house was presented, making the Praetorium feel like a lived-in home far more than the vast (well, relatively - it was nothing like the scale of the Imperial Palace in Rome after all!) palace that it was.

"Oh - here's something that might interest you," he said, extracting a sheet from another pile. "The new temple to Juno is nearly complete, so naturally I am invited to the dedication or commissioning or whatever it is for a temple, and the local dignitaries hoped that... here... It is our humble wish that your Excellency's most highly esteemed wife will partake in the ritual as the foremost lady in the province, in view of your Excellency's beneficence... gods, it does go on so. No doubt Calpurnia will be thrilled to see everything to do with dedicating a new temple, and one for Juno at that." He passed the letter over. "I haven't replied yet - I wanted to ask you. Besides, the oiliness of it nearly made me send for a slave with a strigil."

 

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She nodded; "It would be a dinner or a party - so an evening. I'll ask Xanthos which day works best." And already the wheels in her mind had started to turn about what and what would not be appropriate, who to invite and who to purposefully leave off the guest list. She would formulate said list and then discuss it with her husband, and the memory of doing so for that first small gathering when he had returned to Rome all those years ago made her smile to herself.

She laughed as he read it out, amused, and still a little bit confused that she would - by association with her husband - be considered anybody of any importance. She took the letter as he offered it and her eyes quickly flitted over the page. "Gods," She muttered as she finished it, "Do you think he realised how embarrassing this sounds after he sent out, and shivers to himself at night knowing it might produce a laugh?" She shook her head, amused, and then neatly set down the paper on one of her newly ordered stacks, laying it so it was perfectly in line with the others.

She cast a nervous glance up at him though with a minute creasing of her brow; "I've never been to a dedication before," She said, "What sort of ritual is it, do you know? If it's as tame as Matronalia then I can't see a problem although you might wish to check the details of what I'm agreeing to do before you reply," She smiled a little, "It's one thing to wear your hair loose and do the offerings with other women at the temple on the Esquiline for the festival, it's another to do so in front of the dignitaries of the province." She realised she'd been moving his things and retreated her hands, clasping them so she wouldn't continue her minute adjustments. The letter had amused her though and she grinned more widely now; "Have you had any others that are just as amusing? Letters or invitations that is." 

 

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"I believe it is quite dignified - Juno as Queen of Heaven is a very different personage from Juno the Mother of the Gods, goddess of motherhood and childbirth. I am sure that they would not wish to offend you - the author of this singular epistle would be mortified at the suggestion. Though it is not singular at all, I have had plenty of others just as effusive. I am glad I am not governor of one of the Eastern provinces..."

He got up and crossed to the shelves that stood at the side of the room, taking a moment to hunt through the labelled scrolls, obviously seeking one in particular. "Ah. Here we are," he said, pulling a slim rolled letter out. "To the most worthy and excellent Propraetor Calpurnius Praetextatus, representative of Almighty Quintus Flavius Alexander Caesar Augustus, your humble supplicant sends his most respectful greetings. He forgot 'abject'," he added in his normal voice, looking up. "I think he must have Eastern origins, or have spent some considerable time there or something. Quite half the letter is various fawning epithets - and I forget what the request was. Something completely innocuous and insignificant, that he should have done better to address to a local magistrate. And the Quintus Augustus I am familiar with would be beyond bemused at being described as 'almighty', that term being better suited to the Divine Augustus or any other deified emperor."

He held the scroll out for Horatia's inspection.

 

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Horatia chuckled as he read, shifting around in her chair so she was facing him as he stood before the rows and rows of shelves. She took the offered scroll and flitted her eyes over it, smiling to himself as she read. What a fool. Even as a woman and therefore unable to engage in legal matters, she could see the tone was all wrong. It irked her a little that foolish men, even ones with a quarter of a brain such as this evident idiot, still technically held more sway than the brightest woman in the Empire. But she said nothing of it and merely leaned to pass it back. 

"You should create a tally and a collection of all of the worst ones and share them with the Augustus when we are back in Rome." She smiled and shook her head, "I'm sure he'd find them just as amusing as you." Not that she had any desperate yearning to go back. She missed her family, and Aulus' parents, but that was about it. They'd been in Raetia for years now and it felt just as much a home as any she'd lived in before. 

She rested her arm on the armrest of the chair and leant her jaw into her palm, studying him as he stood there, a quizzical and an appraising look on her face. "It suits you," She commented lightly and then smiled that gentle, Horatia smile, "Being here I mean - being Propraetor. I'm glad for you, well, for all of us that the Augustus hasn't recalled you to Rome." She knew her husband was a man of action but she had been pleasantly surprised by how he'd taken to the administration of the province. She had been concerned, for a little while, that he might find the tasks dull or dry compared to what he was used to in Britannia or the Rhine. 

She held out her hand softly for him to take as she sat there, simply content to enjoy his company and his touch. They may have been married for over fourteen years but despite the wobble in the middle with his absence and abrupt return, she felt as if they were stronger than ever. Theirs was a marriage which had certainly not lost its magic.

 

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"I wonder if there would be some sort of market for a book compiled from some of these letters - the author's names naturally expunged to spare their blushes," Aulus said with a smile. "Even as an object lesson in how not to address a governor or magistrate - I must presume that the Augustus has a collection of his own, for he receives missives from all over the Empire, and doubtless beyond it, too. As I say, some of the Eastern potentates and tetrarchs use even more effusive language." He accepted the letter back, re-rolling it and filing it back among the other letters, before crossing to his wife and bending to put his arms around her from behind, resting his chin lightly on her shoulder.

"Does it? There is a vast overlap between running a legion and running a province - our system of political advancement calls for both military prowess and skill in the courtroom, but they both boil down to leadership. I have no doubt that I will be recalled to Rome at some point - I might be given some proconsular position without actually being a consul, but that does not happen so often these days." He pressed a kiss to the soft skin under her ear. "I hope that you haven't found it too much of a strain - I know you are a private person and prefer your books to making inane small talk with people you care nothing for. But I very much appreciate your advice and wisdom - you have insights that I do not."

Theirs was very much a marriage based on teamwork; Aulus did not see her as a lesser being than himself, despite the fact that she was a woman. She was a Roman woman, and only a Roman woman could give birth to Roman children - the Empire was as much Livia's creation as the Divine Augustus', after all, and it would be a fool who did not acknowledge that.

 

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Horatia smiled as he wound his arms around her shoulder, feeling his breath on her bare skin. She turned her head back over so she could look at him as he spoke, her nose accidentally nudging his own as he rested his jaw in the hollow of her collarbone. "Well from what I can see you are doing an excellent job, so I wouldn't rule out a Pronconsular appointment." She smiled and stroked her fingers over his face softly. He had been in his twenties when they had married and now he was the other side of forty, but to her he looked as handsome and youthful as he ever had done. It was funny, how one never really saw age when one had spent a lifetime staring into the same face. 

"Do you prefer it? This role I mean, to being in the legion?" She queried, genuinely intrigued. She knew he had a particular skill in the military world but supposed she'd never really asked his preference. The fact he asked hers made her smile, however and she arched a brow with a little laugh. "I don't mind the small talk, or...well," She considered it, "I suffer it as necessary." And she was excellent at it - years of maintaining her position as a dutiful Roman matron meant that she could happily chatter nine to the dozen about any given conversation topic, but it was not in her nature to do it. It warmed her heart that Aulus recognised that. 

"But it's not been a strain," She shook her head, "If anything I suspect I'll be sad to go back to Rome. It's...peaceful here, even in the city. Although I do miss my family. I've barely spoken to Livia since her wedding last year, and Publius' plans to visit keep falling through." She sighed and then leant to leave a gentle kiss on his cheek before retreating. A Governor's Palace was never a private place and she couldn't be quite as unrestrained as she might be back in their domus in Rome.

Trying to lighten the mood after her omission she arched a brow and twitched her lips in amusement. "So you don't wish to go East? If you could pick any province to lead, which one do you suppose it would be?" 

 

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Aulus had to think. "I don't know. There is a great deal to be said for a military posting, of course - soldiers are on the whole a great deal more direct in their manners. Ave, Legatus, I wish to report that the foxes have got into the coop and half the sacred chickens are dead and the rest off their feed is a deal more understandable than a letter from a fellow who buries his one very short request in the middle of a thousand abject and obsequious observations about a man's position, flattering as they may be. Or rather, flattering as the writer wishes to be."

He turned his head again and stared unseeing at the wall opposite. "I suppose I would prefer another such post as this - I very much like the military postings I have had, but even a legate cannot realistically take his family with him, whereas a governor can - and even a governor may have the necessity of leading his own troops. As to where... Perhaps a province that offers more of a challenge than somewhere like Raetia. There are all sorts of religious zealots in Judea, which must be quite the headache to deal with - they only have one God, can you imagine that? The poor things. Britannia... well. I have been there - it is mostly civilised now, and there are some fine towns being built in the south. I think you might like that, even though it is colder even than here. And far wetter."

He thought that Horatia might like to see a place that had been the backbone of Aulus' military service and done so much to make him the sort of man he now was. On the other hand, she might prefer somewhere warmer and more temperate - Judea would fit that bill and prove a challenge for him. Syria was more peaceful. Any of the provinces in Hispania though - but it all depended on the Augustus, and making any sort of plans would be pointless. He would go where Quintus Augustus wished him to go, and if he could take his family too, that would be what he preferred above all. The place was secondary to that, really.

 

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She stroked the side of his face as he turned to stare at the wall, in thought. That he was considering what career advancement would look like in conjunction with his family life was a treasure to her. Those almost six years apart had almost done irreparable damage to their marriage, and she never wished to live through loneliness like that again. That he seemed to feel likewise was a balm. 

"It doesn't matter so much what I'd like," She said with a smile - even though it was just lip service because they both knew neither of their feelings were particularly relevant to wherever Quintus Augustus would send him next, "But for what it's worth I'd enjoy Britannia I think. I remember reading lots about it when you were there; and despite the locals apparently it's quite beautiful. Besides, you know Titus would be ecstatic to be in the province his father served in." She chuckled. Their boy was rapidly approaching the perils of being a teenager and therefore suitably determined to impress his father. It would be sweet, she thought, if he wasn't so invested in things she considered dangerous.

Gently, she moved her fingers to his face to nudge it back round to look at her. She offered an easy smile and continued the gentle stroking over his cheek. "Do you remember when you first got home, and we went to the villa for those weeks alone?" She asked, after no particular prompting, "For some reason it feels like that again, here. All this space, all this time...perhaps it's because the children don't need me so much anymore and are off doing their own things...They don't need their Mama anymore." Her smile fell a fraction. It was odd to go from being heavily involved in the everyday lives and rearing of her children to feeling a little...removed. She supposed that was the problem when one stopped having children and those one already had grew up. 

 

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"I could always find some young child of some poor plebeian family to adopt if you're feeling broody," Aulus said lightly, allowing her to turn his head towards her again, blue eyes meeting blue from mere inches apart. "I promise you, regardless of what Titus may say, every boy needs his mother, even when they are young men entering public life for the first time. He wants you to be pleased with him, as much as he wants me to be proud of him."

He could imagine his wife and daughter in Britannia - Calpurnia would love the greenness of it, and all the stories of the wild gods and goddesses. Titus would love it if only from its association with his father's military past, and Horatia... Horatia would be pleased to go wherever Aulus was, but surely she would like to see the place she had read about, and that was where Aulus had spent all those years he'd been away from her?

He would ask the Augustus, if he could, for a post he could take his family, but they would all have to be prepared for a negative reply, of course. That was life, after all, and they would not have to think of that for a while yet, anyway.

"Are you feeling forgotten or neglected, my dove," he asked, brushing her nose with his.

 

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She laughed, her voice light and for once she spoke without thinking; "You would rather adopt a child than have your own?" She flushed, and regretted the words as soon as they left her mouth. She did not want another child, no matter how broody she might be feeling (which was an astute observation on Aulus' part, she'd grant him that). She was only thirty-one and had a good few years of childbearing ahead of her if she hadn't been secretly taking quite the amount of silphium she was. After what had happened with Calpurnia, and the very unexpected miscarriage only a few years ago, she might have been delighted with an enormous brood of children. Yet she couldn't face that again, no matter how much she might long to hold a sweet newborn in her arms again. "Forget I said that." She smiled a little and ducked her head.

The colour faded from her cheeks, pleased to skip over her un-thought out words and she shook her head with a little smile, "Oh never forgotten or neglected." Well, perhaps a little, but that was the same for women the world over when their children grew and their husbands had work to attend to, "Just that I've been thinking of what petition I can draw up so I can visit you in the mornings?" She smiled wryly, "I was thinking about petitioning our most excellent and esteemed Governor here in Raetia for an annexe to be added to the Palace for an indoor garden so his wife does not have to freeze her fingers off when she sits outside in the winter." She chuckled, obviously jesting, "Or how about a petition for some new baths? With a dedicated women's area?" She stroked his cheek, "I think the Governor will find I'm quite persuasive when I need to, I expect I will leave his office with agreement for both." 

 

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"The Governor would not be averse to either or both," Aulus replied with a laugh. "Pray tell, how does an indoor garden work - I am no gardener, but plants need light. You are more than welcome to whichever room you like and as many pot plants as it will hold. Perhaps it will become the new fashion?"

He wanted his wife to be happy, though, whatever it took - and a provincial governor had power enough to command anything, within reason, that he could desire.

"I will have to ask Xanthos to clear a day for me to spend with you and the children, I think," he added, and straightened up, pulling her up with him, and stepping around the seat she had been sitting on so that he could put his arms right around her without the strain on his lower back - he was definitely not as young as he used to be!

 

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Horatia frowned to herself, "I...don't know but there must be a way. Some of these slaves are bright, they'll figure it out." She said with an amused smile. She wasn't a woman that didn't appreciate the intelligence of her slaves, some of them were incredibly astute. She did, however, draw the line at considering freedom a worthy gift for said intelligence. There were just some things that should stay simple; and the Patricians owning slaves was one of them. Why ruin the order of things?

She smiled to herself as he slung his arms around her and glanced up at him. Even at a statuesque five foot six her husband still dwarfed her. She shook her head, however, and said lightly; "There's no need, I know you're busy." She moved her hands to rest flat on his shoulders, "But how about just an evening?" Her lips twitched mischievously and most uncharacteristically, "You know in the three years I've been here I've barely explored the city." Not that it could really be called a city compared to Rome. "We could...go out?" very strange proposal from a woman who lived her life rigorously by the code set up to largely keep women in their domus', "A good Governor needs to see his province, does he not? And that includes the city where he resides. The children, I'm sure, can do without ignoring us over dinner as they usually do, for one night." 

She didn't know why but the prospect of entering the city under some cloak of anonymity (and how much there would be, would largely be dependent on Aulus' views on the matter) secretly thrilled her a little. Whilst the Palace was spacious, the domestic quarters were in close proximity to one another and she increasingly felt as if getting any sort of privacy with her husband, away from her rapidly maturing children, was a lost cause. 

 

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"How in Jupiter's name have you not gone out?" Aulus asked. "Of course we can! I hope you do not mind being accompanied by half-a-dozen lictors, though I suppose they could come in handy to carry your shopping for you." He managed to keep his voice completely serious, the amused gleam in his eyes the only hint that he might actually be joking. "I'm no Greek, to insist that you remain at home, unseen by anyone at all apart from your husband."

It would doubtless give his tribune a headache to learn that Aulus and his wife planned a stroll about the city, incognito, but the young man could do with a headache now and then, and this wasn't Judea, where Aulus would risk his dignity or life to do the same.

"I shall refrain from replying to the invitation to the dedication of Juno's new temple until you have seen it, then - shall we say tomorrow evening?"

 

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Horatia rolled her eyes dramatically, "I have been out, I've not been holed up in here for three years." She moved one of her hands from his shoulder and gestured around the place, "I meant I've not explored properly. I..." Gods above how sad was this, "I mainly go to the markets and the baths and a temple or two. And it's rarely been with you." One couldn't really claim quality time now they were no longer careless newlyweds, unburdened by children or life's endless admin, but she could try. She made no comment on the lictors, sensing the joke, only smiling amused. Augusta Vindelicorum was not Rome, and thus there were likely to be less places of interest, but equally she doubted there would be great swathes of it too dangerous to walk around. 

She nodded her head, genuinely delighted at the prospect. "Tomorrow evening." She would have to find something inconspicuous to wear. Then again, she supposed, she'd never been one for flashy trends; she knew what suited her colouring and her unusual hair, and so most of her wardrobe would suffice. Gently, she prized his hands from her slender waist and leaned up on her toes to leave a lingering kiss on his cheek before she retook her seat. 

She smiled slyly at him. Her mood had been buoyed and he seemed to have time to spare. She glanced around the room before gesturing that he should retake his seat behind his desk. "Can I ask...what you spend your time doing in here?" Her husband had always indulged her in discussing his work, which pleased her as she sometimes - in her rare sullen moods - felt her mind was wasted on the feminine arts of weaving and the like. "I know you have petitioners and invitations to respond to but...I suppose I get curious," She hoped he'd indulge her this time, "About what it's actually...like, what you actually do." 

 

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"Well, that oversight must be corrected, then," Aulus replied. "I had not meant to suggest that you had not gone out at all - but yes, trips to the market or baths can hardly count as exploring the place properly." And no, he had not accompanied her to either (well, it was hardly a man's place to go to the women's bath-house, especially when the man was the Governor of the province!).

"We may have to have some sort of armed guards with us - though I'll tell them to keep their distance." Being the Emperor's representative meant that Aulus (and thus his family) required protection as the Emperor did, although perhaps not to quite the same degree. There were always disgruntled people about who might carry a grudge that the Governor had not settled their complaints the way they felt he should have, after all.

"What do I spend my time doing in here?" He clasped his hands on the table-top, almost as if his wife were, in fact, one of those petitioners allowed access to him to state her case. "Well, I read and reply to my correspondence and the reports I am sent from our military garrisons, and write my own reports for Quintus Augustus. I compose the edicts he directs, or that I find are required. I listen to various petitioners - the majority of them have been passed to me from lower magistrates or otherwise are entitled to present their cases directly to me, although I hear the majority of those, like the various court cases, in the audience hall." There were occasions where he heard them under the colonnade outside, if it was an important enough case, although he did not get very many of those.

He leant back and grinned at her. "I daresay it's all deadly dull, especially enumerated like that."

 

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Horatia listened with pleasure, her face focused and absorbing every word. She read enough and was learned enough to know what Governors did - she was not that ignorant, but hearing her husbands daily rituals was something else...something else much more illuminating and pleasurable. "It's not dull to me." She intoned warmly and leant back in her own chair, relaxing her posture for once. 

With a genial smile, she arched a brow and studied him; "My husband the Governor..." She said as if she didn't believe it, "The man I dreamed I'd marry when all those other young men turned me down." in favour of much more vivacious, curvaceous, gregarious women. The thought did occur to her that young men dreamt of greatness and young women - at least those with sense - dreamt of marrying greatness. It was odd and amusing in its own way, but she forewent commenting on it. Of course, given her comment, there had been a time in her life - between her sixteenth and seventeenth birthday when she was convinced she was destined for a life of loneliness or a spouse so aged or otherwise unsuitable that she would be ashamed. The Gods had blessed her when they'd sent Aulus, but cursed her for making her wait and worry. 

Her little moment of reverie over, she arched a sly brow at him; "And when we do go into the town tomorrow night, besides the temple, what does the great Governor of Raetia have in mind for his most highly esteemed wife?" She chuckled, repeating the words of the earlier correspondent. She didn't remember the last time Aulus and herself had had a full evening alone, let alone one where every opportunity to explore was open to them. 

 

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"Your husband the Governor," Aulus repeated, the words tinged with amusement. "Is that so hard to believe, my dove? And none of those young men were worthy of you - I am still surprised sometimes that you chose to accept me, though I thank Juno that you did." There were more vivacious, outgoing women than Horatia Justina, it was true, but something about her quiet strength and calmness of spirit had drawn him to her, like a moth to a flame (although with rather less fatal results).

"We could go in the afternoon, rather than the evening, and wander round the market - Vindelicorum doesn't have the tourist attractions that Rome does, or Athens. It's altogether a more... homey sort of place. The temples, and the Praetorium, are the most touristy places it has, I believe. The Forum is nice enough to look at, of course - but we shall wander as we please, and doubtless give the guards conniptions." They could use some shaking up, in Aulus' opinion - if everything always remained precisely the same, it dulled men's abilities to act and react.

"I should make plans to tour the province at some point, too," he said - it would not be the first time, of course; he was conscientious in everything and would not run a province without setting foot outside its main town. That merely encouraged dishonesty in those who reported to him, after all.

 

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Horatia smiled, genuinely amused and shook her head; "It's unfathomable really, a man so ill-suited to this sort of work now the Governor...it's a miracle Raetia, the whole province, hasn't burnt to the ground." She smiled that wry smile of hers, obviously jesting. 

"I suppose one can never predict where one will end up." She mused more to herself, in answer to his statement about previous suitors - not that any were serious, not besides Lucius Ranius Latus to whom she had been engaged before the painful dissolution of the betrothal. She had thought when their families had exchanged contracts that her life was settled, sorted; married to the second son of an ageing Senator who was perfectly affable if a little lacking in ambition and drive. Not that Aulus needed to hear anything about her previous affairs of the heart, but it did give her cause to ponder and she said lightly; "I could have never dreamed I'd be in Raetia, with you, back when I was sixteen and flustering that I'd never get married." It wasn't the disinterest of men in her physically that caused her concern, of course - she'd had plenty of comments on her physical beauty as a young woman, it was more - in true Horatia style - the weight of the shame she felt that she might let her father down should she not find an eligible bachelor that had hurt her.

She listened to his plans and only nodded. She'd be content to spend an hour alone with her husband in the drabness of a cell, so any of his plans for tomorrow evening - or afternoon - would suit her fine. Her interest was piqued at his suggestion he might have to tour the Province though, and she quirked an eyebrow. "Oh?" She inquired gently. The last time he had left on a tour of the whole of Raetia, she had been ill - or recovering - but either way in no fit state to go with him. Whether he knew of the secret miscarriage which had caused said illness, or suspected, she didn't know but he didn't comment if he did. "Would you go alone?" which was Horatia-speak for 'am I invited' or 'is it too dangerous for me to join you?'. 

 

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"I think we've been successful enough at keeping the Germans on their side of the Danuvius," Aulus said with a laugh. "Of course I shall not go alone - it will do the local good to see that their governor is a family man, I think, and Titus and Calpurnia will enjoy seeing the different parts of the province - and they can hardly go without you, can they, my sweet? There must be some advantage in being the wife of the governor, after all - although when it comes to touring along the border itself, I daresay you can do without me for a week or so. You will not like the military camps and there is nowhere else safe enough to stay in." To say nothing of the threats of incursion that was ever present in that part of the province, his domain in the name of Quintus Augustus. And military garrisons were no place for a well brought up patrician's daughter, who would not appreciate the ribaldry of the troops.

"Were it a province such as Britannia, newly conquered, or Judea where there are riots almost daily, I should not dream of taking you on a tour of the place, but here? Apart from the very border itself, there is no real threat - in Britannia and Judea, the threat is internal, from the native inhabitants. Here, the threat is from those outside the Empire, and there is a legion  along that frontier as well as the river, and the forts that are being built or improved upon - and I shall want to inspect those fortifications. Titus might like that, but I am certain you would be bored half to death after the second day."

He smiled at her. "Where did you think you would be now, when you were sixteen?" he asked, curious. He would have been... twenty-five or so, he thought. Seven years into his first military post, as tribune under Legate Quintus Flavius Alexander. It had only been two years later that he had met and married Horatia. Who would have thought that their lives would have turned out the way they had, back then!

 

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Horatia smiled, evident pleasure on her face at his assertion that of course she should come. She was not about to presume it, and so teased it out of him in her own way; a conversation style she had honed through years of delicate practice.

She did, however, wrinkle her nose and nod in agreement; "No I suspect I wouldn't enjoy a military camp." She'd be outnumbered, for one, and given the only other women that tended to stay within them were the camp followers, she didn't doubt eyes would follow her. The thought made her uncomfortable and she tried to brush it off, "But if you can spare an hour or two, and you think it safe enough, you know Titus would be so happy he would burst." She chuckled. Her son was growing up and that meant he was, in most respects, trying to emulate his father. The stance, the manner of speaking, the measured way he considered things (although she supposed he got that from her as well as her husband). He'd be first to burst if he thought his father wanted his company on said inspections. 

His question threw her, however, and she quirked an eyebrow up, thinking deeply. "I...I don't know." She glanced from his face to his row of scrolls and then out of the door, musing on the question. The honest answer was one she shouldn't say; surrounded by an enormous brood of children, at least not wholly, but she could say a little of it; "Married to a man my father approves of - check." She grinned and made a tick motion with her finger, "With children - again, check. Although I suppose I thought I'd end up staying in Rome. The men that were interested before you weren't exactly...career types," She chuckled and smiled wryly, "So I suppose I thought I'd be tied to a man that I didn't particularly care for, going through the motions of rearing children and throwing parties." Not having a husband so invested in his career he was absent for almost six years, again, it was not worth saying. 

She tapped her finger to her chin as she mused some more, before flicking those bright blue eyes back to her husband's face; "What about you? Where did you think you'd be when you were a young...er man?" She smiled impishly. 

 

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