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Late April 75CE

Sestia picked up the polished brass mirror and looked at her blurred reflection for the hundredth time. She set it back down again, got up and started to pace the tablinum. She smoothed her chiton down, again for the hundredth time, before poking her head out into the atrium to satisfy herself that no one was approaching with a message. She sat down again. Immediately she wanted to start pacing. She grit her teeth in frustration and told herself to sit still. A watched pot never boils.

She felt sick in her stomach. It was nerves. A tight fist of anxiety sat in there, heavy as led and bitter as gall. She noticed that her hand, resting against the ivory-inlaid arm of the chair, was trembling. She bit at the corner of a nail, worrying at it to try and distract herself.

She did not want to do this but there was no way around it. She was confident of her personal situation. A doctor could confirm it in due course but she could hardly summon one now, could she? She had to rely on her intuition and that was speaking to her clearly right now.

She had sent a message, couched in the most formal of tones, to Lucius at his domus. No one who saw it could read anything into it. It was a simple, spartan invitation to talk, the very same that might be sent to anyone. She had provided a time and date for him to come and visit. From her knowledge of his habits and schedule that she had already developed she had ensured that the proposed time was not guaranteed to find him otherwise engaged. To compel his attendance in any more strenuous a way would have looked bizarre.

He must wonder why - after all their meetings in the sordid surroundings of the Suburra - she should now ask him to see her at home. In her mind the decision was clear. She knew she had to tell him. She could not avoid that. She worried, though, that his response would not be favourable. She was going to present him with the reality of a prospective bastard. It was a staple of morality tales, plays generally, and most forum gossip that men, when presented with such an unexpected "windfall" would get on the first horse out of the vicinity and never be seen again. In the expectation that she might receive such a rebuff she had decided it was better to face that indignity here. In her domus he could not stage a scene. He could not get angry with her and try and force some removal of the offending infant. He could not berate her for her foolishness. If he wished to leave all he had to do was nod his head, walk out the door and never come back. It would break her heart but her dignity would be less badly beaten.

She had already made some preliminary enquiries so, if she had to leave, it would not look sudden. She had decided on a venue, if she had to go. Her late husband had a number of palatial estates in southern Gaul, near Narbo. Masquerading under pretend doctor's orders to avoid the heat of Rome, she would vanish with only a handful of slaves to distant Narbo, leaving her sons under the care of the rest in Rome. There, alone, she would give birth to the child and - if it lived through those first, dangerous weeks - she would return, bearing the infant under the guise of its new protector, the original mother having died. No one ought to know.

It was the only way.

She heard movement in the distance. Footsteps approaching. She wondered if she could actually do this? She could just tell him she was leaving. He never had to know. She could say it was over. It had all been a mistake. Why didn't she just say that?

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Longinus was curious. Why meet at her domus? Why not at their pre-arranged meeting later in the week in the Suburra? He tugged on the neck of his tunic, sheathed under his pallium, to lessen his nerves. Things had been going so well - or at least so smoothly that he supposed he hadn't really considered that Sestia might not be quite so pleased with the arrangement as himself. Now he was striding towards the domus, Vitus trailing behind him breathlessly, he couldn't help but wonder. What if she had found somebody else? Or no longer wished to partake in, what was entirely illicit, their affair? What if somebody had found out? Oh Gods he hoped it wasn't the latter. 

He left his (temporary) body-slave to catch his breath outside the domus with a; "Wait for me here." And gave his name to the door porter. It wasn't long before he was admitted and blinked into the dimmer light of the atrium. The coolness was refreshing given the heat of the day now spring was well and truly with them. He replayed the formal words of her letter over again in his mind with confusion. It was a summons, but for what, he had absolutely no idea. 

He was shown to a seat in the garden and glanced around, wondering when she'd appear. He knew he had to be restrained here, no kiss on the lips, no gentle embrace, no hand on her hip as she sat down. He bit at his nails to ease the tension he felt work over his body. The domus, mercifully, at least was silent. He knew her sons had been granted tutelage with the imperial children so presumably that's where they were, but it did have an odd effect on the house; the quiet amplified the beating of his heart, the gentle rustle of the foliage around him. When she finally appeared he breathed easy and cracked a boyish grin, standing up to greet her with a customary kiss on her cheek. He lingered for a moment, relishing the closeness and the scent of her perfume before he withdrew. 

"You sent for me, my lady?" He asked with an easy air. 

 

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"Lucius, please, please take a seat," Sestia said, looking around to see if there were any slaves in immediate earshot. There were a few in the peripheries of the atrium because, after all, it would be unseemly for her to meet a man alone. She almost scoffed at that thought as it crossed her mind. It was a little late for that now! How strange the mind is. He looked so happy and eager. Would he be like that when he heard what she had to say? Would those features change? To anger? Disgust, maybe? Panic? She had visions of him sitting in stony silence, getting up and leaving, without a word.

How was she even supposed to bring this up? There is no set script for something like this.

How was she even meant to start? It would be ridiculous to be formal and ask after his day or the health of his family. However, she could hardly go to the other end of the extreme and chat merrily about the afternoon frolics in the Suburra and then, oops, just drop in the subject of her unexpected pregnancy. She was struck with a sudden panic that she didn't know what she should say. Maybe she just should say it was over. That she was leaving. Let him think her a cold, heartless bitch. She would almost rather he hated her than he left her in disgust at what she had done.

"I wrote to my father about your political hopes," she said, there being an edge of panic in her voice as she was frankly clutching at straws for things to say to deflect for as long as possible having to say the truth.

How hard it was to be honest about this one thing when, with this man, she had been at her most open and vulnerable in her entire life.

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He blinked at her greeting but like a good boy, did as he was bidden and took the seat. As she spoke he noted the edge to her voice, although he couldn't place which emotion it came from. Excitement, maybe? He frowned and then shook his head, remembering they were not alone and most certainly within earshot of somebody should they care to listen in. "I-right." He offered a smile, "And did your father have much to say in return?" He was confused, but supposed perhaps she was trying out this...whatever it was in a normal setting? As he'd proposed that first time all those weeks ago? 

A slave bustled in with a tray of drink and a few assorted snacks. Longinus paid them no heed, eyes on Sestia, although took an offered cup of, what he could assume was, very watered wine. The slave departed with a nod to Sestia and backed slowly out of the garden. It felt desolately quiet here now and if there were any other slaves about, they were so silent they could have been statues. Let's risk it. He thought to himself, although he was not such a fool as to grab her and take her in his arms right here and now. That would have to wait, he thought a touch sullenly. 

Instead, he slowly enquired, gently and quietly; "Are you alright?" It was a natural question to ask, but he still hushed his voice lest anybody be hiding behind pillars or lurking in the shadows. 

 

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Yes, in retrospect that had been a stupid thing to lead with because the answer was no. She wished she hadn't opened with that but it was too late now. "Well, umm, no not yet but I am sure he will, he is a slow correspondent."

Gods, how formal this was sounding! She realized she was toying with the edges of her shall, twisting the fabric round and round her finger until its tip went red, before she released it.

She didn't know if she could go through with this. He was looking at her so expectantly. How could she just say it? What if she was wrong? No, she wasn't wrong. She didn't have the confirmation but somehow she just knew. She tried to summon up her strength but she could feel that her resolve was failing her. She didn't know where to turn next.

"I am...I am...I am going to leave Rome. I thought I should let you know. I will be going to some of our estates in Narbonensis and will be gone for some time." Her voice was croaky and waivered throughout. Sometimes deliberately withholding the truth is as bad as deliberately falsifying it.

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Longinus felt himself crumple. He was never a man that hid his emotions - what was the point? A frown creased his brow and his hand - which had been wavering to reach out to her own, withdrew to the table where it fiddled with the stem of a wine cup. Hurt was evident his eyes and on his face and he had to glance away to clear his head. Leaving? Now? Why? She'd only been in Rome a few months, but he felt a rolling wave of guilt wash over him that his actions had been the cause of her hasty departure. Had he pushed her too far? He had thought she had consented (enthusiastically, he might add), but had he been too forward? Pushed her too far?

"Le...leaving?" He managed to stutter out, shaking his head and drawing his face back up to look at her but the frown of hurt and disappointment was still clear on his face. "If..." He spoke in a hushed voice but didn't care to see if any slaves were around listening in, "If I've done...something, tell me." He implored and couldn't look at her anymore, finding it too upsetting and he drew his eyes away to stare straight up at the sky. 

He let out a deep sigh and slumped back in his seat, face still skywards. He had been left by lots in his life, usually through death, although some voluntarily as well; his father, his mentor Decimus, his wife; his friends as they advanced on their careers. He felt the need to move all his life; escape the feeling of loss and loneliness. It was what had driven him to Britannia for so long. Yet he had finally felt some inner peace and had started seeing a brighter, happier future for himself in Rome. Sestia was very much a part, if not a driving force for that - and now she was going. He swallowed and said aloud, but mainly to himself. "I don't want you to go." 

 

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Sestia sat in silence for a moment. The silence felt like a lead weight and the very stillness seemed as deafening as a scream. "You haven't done anything."

He looked so forlorn it broke her heart. It was as if she was the bad person. She was the one who was going to go of her own volition. She knew of his feelings. They had spoken before - and he with great honesty - about those who had gone before. He was looking at her as if she was to be one of these as well. As if she was doing this because she wanted to. Oh, he didn't know and she couldn't judge him for that but what else could she do?

Her soul was in agony. She didn't want to leave but she could hardly stay. He had to be told. He wasn't stupid. What would he think if he saw her again - even just by chance - after her return? Wouldn't he put two and two together? Or what if he did but assumed the child was someone else's? She couldn't bear the thought of that. She looked at him again and she knew she couldn't cling to the stoic rock of silence anymore. He had to know the reason why she was going to leave. Gods, he might even support it. She didn't know how she would feel about that if he did...

"I...I...I don't want to go either," she said quietly, "but...but I can't stay in Rome soon. I just can't. I am having to go, Lucius."

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He frowned and slaves be damned, reached out under the table to clutch her hand as Sestia spoke. "Your father?" He squeezed her hand softly. Surely that was the only logical explanation for her being forced to leave Rome? His jaw grit and he shook his head, that wasn't right, it wasn't fair"Ignore him." He pleaded, even if it was outlandish and entirely impossible, and squeezed her hand again, "What's he going to do? Travel all the way back from Africa Proconsularis just to fetch you to Narbo?" He scoffed and shook his head. He still didn't release her hand. 

He used his spare hand to run through his hair, leaving strands poking up at odd angles. He couldn't be left behind again, he refused to let it happen. Few would call Longinus a stubborn man; his whims and moods changed on the wind it seemed, but about this he couldn't let go. "What can I do?" He asked imploringly. He was a decorated and exceptionally respected general, a friend of some of the most powerful Senators in Rome and with a name as old as the city itself. He wasn't giving up that easily. "Anything, name it and I can do it. I-I could write to him?" 

 

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She made no move to take her hand away although by rights she should have as they were in public. What did it matter, now, anyway? The damage was done. He was so intent. How could she keep up on this? She couldn't be cold. It was not as though she were a serial practitioner of this type of thing. A more seasoned veteran may have been able to spurn a man like this with cold, seasoned ease. She, on the other hand, just could not. It was bad enough that she had had to lie to all the world and sundry.

Her father, funnily enough, was one of the big problems but not for the reason Lucius probably thought. If he had any inkling that his daughter was "acting out" he would stop at nothing to prevent any real or imagined threat to his dignitas. Lucius might think the idea ludicrous but Sestia knew her father would go all the way to Persia, if needs be, to bring her to his perception of justice if he thought it necessary. Narbo, in those circumstances, was just a shortish hop across the Mare Nostrum on one of the Proconsular yachts.

"No, it isn't him...he doesn't know."

She began to cry. Soft, silent tears.

"I am pregnant, Lucius." She said. It came so naturally. As it should, being the truth, but she had still thought the announcement would have felt weightier or been accompanied by more fanfare. Instead it came out as a simple fact, almost an apology and she did not feel any burden easier off her soul be saying so.

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Her tears and then the proclamation caught him entirely off guard. He felt his jaw drop and he heard himself stutter for a moment. He felt like a deer facing off against an archer and as if the wind had been thoroughly and completely snatched from his body. His hand still lay on hers, clutching tightly as he took in the news. He was a dead man. There was no two ways about it. Murdered by her father, executed by his friends and well and truly slaughtered by his mother. But what surprised him was the complete lack of horror at the situation. Surprise? Certainly, but shame or anger? There wasn't a trace of it anywhere in his blood. What was there, was unabated joy. It shouldn't be there, but it was and he felt his heart leap into his throat. 

The surprise on his face lasted a few beats before a wide, genuinely elated smile spread across his face. He squeezed her hands tighter. "Sorry," He coughed trying to wipe the grin from his lips but found that try as he might (including biting down on his lip), he couldn't. "I...I know I shouldn't be," He winced, "But..." What? He was delighted? Over the moon? Thrilled? After years of creeping suspicion that his fertility was flawed, after only a few weeks with Sestia he had achieved what he had struggled to do with Antonia in a decade. It went without saying that he was equally delighted that this time it was with somebody he actually liked

Realising he had trailed off, he now took both her hands in his. "Is it selfish of me to be so happy?" He chuckled and then removed one hand from hers to her cheek, gently brushing away the falling tears. His thoughts, however, quickly turned to plan and he let his hand rest on the arch of her cheekbone as he spoke; "We can have a small wedding, and nobody knows yet. We don't have time to waste to ask your fathers permission but I can take the flack for that and I don't need a dowry from you," He shrugged, "And I'll go to him after, to apologise for the haste, in person so he..." He trailed off and blinked, colour suddenly filling his cheeks. He had gotten ahead of himself and winced, awkwardly; "That...that is if you want to...get married, that is." 

 

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Sestia sniffed and continued to sob quietly for a few moments longer before she began to settle. His reaction had completely taken her aback. She had been prepared for many things: judgment, anger, hostility, separation but not this. She had given up all pretense now of not making a scene in front of the slaves. His hand was on her face, wiping the tears aside.

"Oh, Lucius, that is just so like you to say that but you don't mean it. Wouldn't you feel forever that you had been trapped? Resentful? You might think it is the honorable thing to do now - and I love you for that - but would you feel the same way a year or five down the line?"

She sighed and composed herself more. "I would not want to be a burden. I thought the whole point of...this...was that it was...hmmm...well, not supposed to be serious. I'm not going to be stupid and say this is hardly unexpected but I don't think either of us ever thought of this properly. Maybe we should have..."

"There's not just him to think about. What about your daughter? Your mother? My sons? You know that I would say yes, Lucius, but I don't know that you are asking for the right reasons. I think you think this is right but I want you to be sure you ask because you want to and not because you feel as if you have to. Just because of the child."

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"Trapped?" He scoffed, a frown of obvious confusion on his face, "With a beautiful, kind, clever woman and my child?" But he said no more and let her speak, his hand still softly stroking the arch of her cheek as she did. The thought that she would be a burden was laughable but he felt a tug of guilt in the pit of his stomach. This was never supposed to be serious, at least not at the start, but how selfish was that? He was a thirty-six year old man, not a sixteen year old boy bedding the slave girls for fun and determined not to be tied down. Perhaps their illicit rendezvous' were just him trying to hark back to his youth, or perhaps it was merely that he wanted to get to know her first, without all of the baggage that comes attached to a marriage. Whichever the reason, it was foolish and he felt shame flush his face. 

 As she finished he finally let his hand drop from her face, coming back to rest over her own hands. He sighed and shook his head; "Cassia..." Would what? She'd only lost her mother six months prior and had none of the complexities with her grief as Longinus had with Antonia's passing. "Cassia likes you, adores you in fact. And...I would be very clear to her that you are not her mother." She would understand, surely? Or was this just another of his selfish undertakings? 

"And my mother is my mother," He waved a hand, humour coming back to his face in a boyish grin, "She'll just have to grin and bare it, and it'd hardly be as if I'm marrying a pleb, is it? The daughter of the Proconsul of Africa is quite a coup - I'm sure she'll be delighted." His roguish grin softened into a gentle smile and he looked at her with wide, open eyes; "I want to marry you." and I need to"You're exactly the sort of woman I need." He smiled gently again and raised his hand back to her face, "Perfect." It was unfortunate, therefore, that Brysias chose that exact time to walk in. 

 

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The unexpected intrusion had a mollifying effect on Sestia. She appreciated the tableaux before her freedwoman's eyes would be surprising to say the least. Her mistress, crying, in the sole company of a man who had one had on her cheek and another on her hand. Maybe Sestia had, after all, reached some sort of catharsis from admitting to the situation out loud? That could be the only explanation for why she did not feel the urge to wrestle with the problem. Well, that or she had just run out of the energy to argue with Brysias for today.

She sighed, dabbed at her eyes and turned to her freedwoman. Lucius' hand had slipped from her cheek but she made no move to take her other hand from his grip.

"Brysias, please bring in the children and the chief household slaves."

She dabbed at her eyes again and felt more composed. More composed than she had been in quite a while.

"Lucius Cassius Longinus has asked for my hand in marriage. I have accepted."

Her Syrian freedwoman stared back at her blankly. If she had any thoughts - and, of course, she would have - she kept them to herself for the moment. If her mistress was indeed sure of this, then the man before her was shortly to become her de facto employer too and she was canny enough not to immediately get on his wrong side. She nodded her head and backed out, hurrying off to go find Gallus and Vaticanianus who had returned, several hours ago, from the Imperial school and had been busying themselves causing mischief somewhere else in the domus.

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Longinus wanted to place his hands aside her face, pull her in and kiss her until she almost ran out of breath but restrained himself just. He glanced sideways to Brysias as Sestia finished speaking, his spare hand toying with the items on the table in a nervous fidget. He couldn't read the woman at all but her complete lack of a visible reaction suggested that whatever she was thinking, she didn't want him to know. He suspected the woman had a vaguely unhealthy possessiveness of her mistress, but supposed that was the problem with employing freedmen and freedwomen rather than slaves. Not that he was about to point that out. 

As Brysias departed he raised her hand and kissed her fingers, his beard brushing against her skin. He really ought to shave. "I promise to make you happy." He peered up through his lashes at her with a wry grin. He was utterly at her command. 

The sound of footsteps signalled that he should restrain himself and he reluctantly let go of her hands as her sons approached, moving to stand. The younger of her sons looked at him with a mix of curiosity and pleasure to see him. He liked that one. The elder looked at him with thinly veiled suspicion and then glanced back at his mother with that impetuousness that comes with being an heir and being a teenager. "Gentlemen." Longinus inclined his head with a grin and was met with a chorus of 'Ave, Senator Longinus'' The slaves drew around, eyes cast down and he glanced sideways to Sestia. He offered her a reassuring smile. This was for her to say, not him. But he did lean in to speak to her quietly; "June the 1st?" Marriages in May were forbidden, and June was only a few weeks away. But it gave them enough cover and they could wed before his father heard...and then he'd just have to travel and apologise profusely after the act. But that was to think on later.

 

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She should feel reassured and, of course, she did. What she was missing at present was a sense of relief. Instead, she felt as if she had traded one set of problems for another. The reality of her decision had not yet even properly sunk in. She had just agreed to get married. True, in this circumstance the cart had been set before the horse so many of the intimacies you might agonize over with a new husband had already been tried, tested and welcomed. That was just the physical aspect of it but there was so much more! Whose house were they to live in? What roles would he take with her sons? Presumably his family and hers would be joined for habitation purposes but how would they get on? What about the household staff? They wouldn't need all these slaves so would some need to be sold off or freed? Then there was the ever present specter looming over in the desert of her father.

These questions swarmed in her mind as her sons and the main household slaves gathered. She smiled at his whispered words. She hoped that he would try and do so and she thought he would actually try. Most Roman husbands wouldn't even bother so his promise to give it a shot was already a positive indicator! She could not quite believe still that she had agreed to marry him. Not because she didn't want to just...just...it all didn't seem quite real.

Soon the small gathering was assembled. She wondered how best to address them. It was probably best to sell the matter as a done deal. Her eldest would most likely assume that he had a right to be consulted and would be put out by failure to do so. She didn't feel much concern for her youngest's possible reaction. He had such a warm and open manner that few things phased him.

"Everyone, please be aware that Lucius Cassius Longinus here and I have agreed to marry." Urgh, it sounded so formal. Still, she was addressing a crowd of dependents, not inviting debate in the Senate.

"We plan to do so on 1 June because of its auspicious date and all the necessary arrangements will need to be made to facilitate that. I trust you will all do your utmost to follow whatever necessary orders you will receive regarding this."

The slaves nodded. Naturally their thoughts would be like hers - or, rather, she assumed they would be. Self-preservation was always seemingly at the forefront of a slave's mind and they may well wonder how their positions would continue in a changed household. If they decided to read anymore into her unexpected announcement they would naturally only open up about their in the safety of their own quarters.

"Boys," she said, addressing her sons, "come up and greet Lucius Cassius as a father. He, of course, in no way replaces your dear father but will, out of love for me and you, do his best to act as a father to you both."

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He saw the slight tension in the elder's jaw and the way he glanced at Longinus with a mix of apprehension he was trying to hide (he'd seen much the same look in plenty of lads in his military camps) and displeasure. His own daughter was young enough to be fairly compliant, but Sestia didn't have the same luck with her boys nearing or on the cusp of adulthood. At Sestia's order to her sons, Gaius bounded forward with an amiable enough smile on his face but Lucius hovered behind his brother. "I will in no way be your father." He clarified as he clasped the forearm of each boy in turn, "But I'm useful enough for advice and the like." The older one looked a little appeased, and the younger only nodded.

He'd never really dealt with teenagers before, young men certainly but not actual teenagers unless you counted his friends children - and even then they were largely kept at arms length. He made a mental note to ask Aulus and Titus about their progenies who were both in those fickle years as the boys stepped back and an awkward silence descended on the room. 

It was broken, only by the assertion (it couldn't rightfully be called a question from his tone) of Sestia's eldest; "Does this mean we have to move out?" He looked warily between Sestia and Longinus, "This is my fathers home." Such technical details hadn't even really occurred to him, but now that it had been raised, he glanced across at Sestia before interceding with a wave of his hand, "Of course, we've not discussed such things yet but I'm a man of practicalities not precedent or tradition." He waved to his short beard, a twinkle of mirth in his eyes, "So I'm sure we'll find an agreeable solution." In his head it would surely make more sense for him to move in here with Cassia, and leave his mother to enjoy his domus alone given the fortune Sestia had spent on renovating this place. Then again, was that presumptive? Perhaps her eldest should live here alone and Sestia could set her mind to refurbishing is own house? Gah! 

The boys fidgeted and glanced between their mother and her betrothed. He winced as he asked; "Any more questions?" 

 

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It was perhaps best not to encourage any more questions at the moment, Sestia thought. Not least because she didn't think she had any ready answers. The slaves would do as they were told and stood silently. The good thing was that most would be so worried about losing their places and positions that for the next few days, at least, they would be perfectly pliant and overly helpful and submissive. It would wear off but she would enjoy it whilst it lasted.

Her sons were the greatest problem. She did not think her youngest would cause much trouble. She liked to think she could read them both and saw in him only mild interest and certainly no sort of resentment. Then again, how can you make a window into someone's soul? She would have to talk to them both individually. Still, he had been perfectly polite and she breathed a sigh of relief that he had not kicked off or shown any cheek. Neither was unknown. It was her eldest who - quite as she suspected - showed an element of defiance. Legally, this was his home and he might perhaps feel aggrieved if another man was to take residence in it and make it his own. He was also of an age - taking the toga virilis next year - that mean he felt a possessory right over the goings on in his family. The way to handle him would be to give him something else to think about. To make it feel as if his own life milestones were coming up on the horizon. A betrothal, perhaps? Together with some hints about seeing whether her father, or maybe even some contact of Lucius', would take him on in some unofficial capacity before he was old enough for running for the vigintiviri.

"Very well then," she said, dismissing the group. "I will speak to you boys later," she said as they turned to leave, looking like they were about to slope off and talk in a clandestine fashion themselves.

As they left she turned to Lucius and her shoulders slumped. "That was my fault. I suppose it was stupid to think that those sorts of questions wouldn't be on people's lips. Do we even have answers to them?"

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As the boys skulked off, Longinus exhaled a sigh of relief. He glanced across at Sestia as she spoke and bit at his lip. An engagement should be a happy occasion, and it was for him, but she seemed anything but pleased by their decision judging by her words and her slumped posture. He felt a wave of nervousness wash over him (was this all wrong? Did she even want him?) but put it to one side for now. Instead, he strode the few paces that divided them and wrapped his arms around her until she was against his chest. It was an act not proper for even a betrothed couple, but what would people do? Say they were being scandalous? A bit late for that!

His hand stroked her back and he nodded; "We'll find answers." He withdrew and peered down at her from his great height, a gentle and soft smile on his face. "And we can start with where we'll live?" He withdrew and gestured that they should sit down again. He did so first and stretched out his legs, taking a sip of the wine. He shrugged lightly, trying to keep his tone jovial to cheer her mood. "I honestly don't mind." He really didn't. "I think at the actual wedding we'll have to do the procession to my domus," He waved his hand, "But the next day? Whose to stop us moving?" He grinned and an idea struck him. He glanced at Sestia with an arched brow, "And you know I've never been hugely fond of my father's house. It's a bit..." Dark? Drab? Odd? "And there's space enough around here. I don't want your sons to think I'm taking over their father's house but if we were to move in down the street..." Either purchasing one of the domi that laid vacant, or constructing a new one... "It could be a good compromise?" That was the thing about Longinus, he desperately wanted to try and find solutions. And yet even then, he didn't consider how his mother would feel about leaving her marital home, nor Cassia. 

 

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She moved closer and leant her head on his shoulder.

"I don't mean to sound difficult, Lucius, please believe me. It just seems like each answer just raises at least three new questions. I am happy, honestly. I just...just...want it to seem as if everything was planned? I know this is rushed and there are reasons for it but...I don't know...I just wonder if we can get it all sorted in the time?"

Her first wedding had taken months of preparation. She had had very little - none, in fact - of a hand in it. However, others had worked for weeks to make sure everything was just so. Legal arrangements made. Plans laid for the ceremony. For the banquet. For the move out of her father's house. She was grown now and should be able to exert control over affairs but - now faced with the full scope of everything which needed consideration - she realized the scale of what there was to be done and resolve. She wished she could just give herself a few days' off worrying for once. After all this was such good news! And she was happy! Very much so!

Well, it would have to be as it was. There was one thing to take the utmost consideration of at present and, as of today, one great weight had been lifted from her shoulders, even if she did not necessarily feel it!

@Sara

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Longinus sighed. He had thought it had been a good idea, too! But perhaps she was not in the mood to discuss such intricate details at this stage. Instead, he stroked her hand gently. "We can." He asserted, even if he had no real clue about what he did need to do for a wedding. He knew the basics, of course, but not about seating arrangements, floral decorations, the food and the like. 

"We should think of the biggest problems first and work our way back." He nodded sagely. He was a planner by nature, even if it didn't seem so most of the time (one isn't appointed a legate thrice over without an innate skill in planning!) "The foremost of which is your families permission. But, in times like this it seems asking for forgiveness rather than permission is the best route forward. We can claim we have sent letters to Carthage should anybody ask, or that your brother acquiesced. I'll go," He didn't look at her and instead stared down the innards of the cup, "To Carthage after the wedding to make amends to your father in person." He did now glance up with her, a roguish smile on his face; "It'd probably be for the best if you didn't come lest he tries to instigate a divorce or takes a swipe at me." But Longinus was a persuasive man with an ancient family name, plenty of money and a glittering military career - all things that would surely warm him to old Vaticanus? Of course the offence to his dignities would be substantial, and he'd have to make amends, but it was not impossible.

"What's our second biggest problem?" He pondered out loud.

 

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You could never forget that Lucius was, by nature as well as profession, a soldier. His mind was ruthlessly problem-solving orientated. List the issues. List solutions. Pick the one with the least chance of casualties or collateral damage. It was something she very much admired as she, by nature, had a tendency to flap when things all seemed too much.

The sad and mildly amusing thing was that the Lex Julia concerning marriage conferred on women who had borne three children the right of freedom from patriarchal authority and would mean, in a situation like this, that no permissions would be needed. She had two children and - ironically - was carrying a third. On the birth of this one (if Gods allowed such to happen) then she would be legally emancipated. She had to smile at that because it seemed so ridiculous. Silly or not, it did not change the circumstance. It was not unknown for unions to proceed without permission. Or to have such permission sought later. Worst case scenario, her father could sue Lucius and seek to have the wedding dissolved and claim damages. Her father might think that but whether he would actually go through with it or not she wasn't sure. The problem with him and his drinking was that he was...erratic. One moment effusively loving, the next frothing at the mouth with rage. There was simply no second guessing. The idea of Lucius going to meet him in person unnerved her but knew it was perhaps the only way to placate his anger once he found out.

"You should probably know now - if you don't already - that my father is not...is not...is not quite well. He..." she paused. "He drinks too much. It affects his mind. He can be fine one moment but completely different the next. He is not the person he once was. He has a lot of resentment against career politicians and, well, anyone who he decides to take a dislike to..."

He was, however, a through and through soldier and, in many ways, was quite like Lucius. By rights he should be enamoured with him as a son in law for not only having rank, good prospects but also for being a decorated commander in his own right. There was a lot of emphasis on that should.

"There may be some way around it just to be careful...we could talk to a friend of my family. He is a senator and has done his time in the Courts. He is usually the person my father goes to with legal problems. We could approach him? For an opinion?*"

Second problem? Bah! Where to start.

"Oh Lucius, don't you think that that one alone is enough to be getting on with!" She laughed. It all was quite silly when you thought about it.

"You can leave me to arrange the more procedural details with your mother, if you like. That may be as fine a chance as any to try and get to know her?"

@Sara

 

 

(*OOC: This would be the new character I have that is pending approval)

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He listened and nodded his head, not willing to be flippant or witty this time. He hadn't realised, but had suspected - his mother had alluded to similar in the past (evidently there was some familial closeness, generations past and Aurelia enjoyed keeping up on the gossip mill). "I am most assuredly not a career politician," He offered an encouraging smile, "And am charming enough to convince his beautiful daughter to marry me, so I back my chances." It would be fraught though, he knew that. Still - that was one problem deferred for now as he nodded his head and murmured a "Yes, yes that's a good idea. Can you arrange it for this week?" He was fully aware that as a woman, Sestia could not resolve legal disputes without a male guardian or stand-in. But that didn't really matter. This situation was so out of the bounds of normality that what was a little more irreverence? 

He grinned and shook his head, splaying his free hand, "I prefer to see all my problems and take them one by one. If I leave them or ignore them then I often forget about them and..." He chuckled, "It doesn't end well." 

The idea of his mother having any hand in his wedding was mildly horrifying, but the prospect of an argument with her if he were to refuse her aid was even more so. He was an only child, and suspected that when he was younger she had doted on him far more than she should have. It's what gave her the sense of entitlement that she should be involved in every aspect of his life, and what would crush her when she found out he had not consulted her. He felt that flip of nervousness again in his stomach but tried to squash it. He nodded his head, "Are you sure? I'm sure she'd be delighted to help but..." He winced, "Can be a little intense. But!" He grinned, "Cassia, I'm sure, would be delighted to help pick fabrics and foods and that sort of things. I thinks he misses that from Antonia - she used to take her shopping and teach her to sew tunics and things." Things which he obviously had no idea how to do. 

He nodded, pleased at the progress they were already making; "So we'll speak to your family friend, you, my mother and Cassia can plan the intricacies...I will write to some of my friends which will no doubt get the word spread round half of Rome." He chuckled, "We'll decide living arrangements later," He waved his hand, "And I'll visit Carthage afterwards to apologise. What are we forgetting?" He sunk back in his chair and withdrew his hand from hers as he pondered, "A dowry and things," He waved his hands dismissively, "Isn't necessary..."

 

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"I will see what I can do. Faustus acts for my father a lot but he is generally the sort of person who will talk to anyone about anything. He is a little...eccentric...and it would be best that you go too because he is far too old fashioned to speak with me alone. Let me see what I can do and I will let you know."

Although it seemed as though their plan of action were already mapped out, it would not hurt to speak with Faustus Cornelius. He had a tendency to think outside the box although, having said that, his legal career had been dogged with dispute and acrimony for years so it may be that his ideas had to be taken with a pinch of salt.

"Oh, Cassia of course can be in charge of all that," she said with a laugh. Lucius had spoken of his mother on almost all occasions with a mixture of affection and an almost sense of dread that it had already instilled in Sestia a deep nervousness about meeting her and dealing with her. This was amplified a hundredfold by the necessities of the current situation which had meant that this rather large step had been taken presumably without any reference to her whatsoever. If she was indeed the difficult harridan that she was being painted as (really or impliedly) then, yes, it was something Sestia did not want to do but could scarcely put off any longer. She would just have to face it but, after all, had she not faced enough demons this past week? Adding another to the list should be run of the mill now.

She smiled. A dowry would not be necessary. She still carried over her original dowry from her marriage to Lucius Afinius which had been kept separate and as property in her own right. She was by no means a plutocrat but was respectably wealthy herself - so much so that she need not been seen as a fortune hunter. Her sons' property was all safely tied up in legalities that no one - hardly even they! - could lay their hands on it. Lucius Cassius was hardly a poor man. His family was both old and rich so these sorts of quibbles were purely academic and not in the least of practical concern. They would, between them, have sufficient resources to operate both city homes as well as their network of provincial villas and the like.

She sat down herself, this time full of relief, unlike how she had been when she had risen from it the first time. "well, if we are leaving the rest to sort itself out in time perhaps we can now take a moment and appreciate what has just happened. A rather momentous decision which I don't think you probably even contemplated when you set foot in here earlier. Are you always so quick with your life decisions?"

@Sara

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He grinned at her. A full, beaming smile. He was getting married. His mind had, he supposed, but clouded with the how's and the what's and the Oh Gods above that he hadn't really  taken the opportunity to stop and think. He was getting married (again). "We're getting married..." He repeated out loud this time, his voice on the edge between bemused and overjoyed. "We are getting married!" 

His smile stretched ear to ear, "A-and no, not always quite so rash, as I'm sure you'll learn." Which was a lie. He was very much a person that relied on gut instinct to guide him. It had been right (largely) about most things in his life, and he trusted it now. Impulsively, he leant across the table to take her hands and laid a soft kiss on each one before looking up at her through his lashes. "I'm going to get to wake up next to you every morning and go to bed with you every night," a mischievous smirk settled on his face, "I must have done a very good sacrifice or two this year to make them," He released her hand and gestured upwards, "Bless me so." 

His thumb stroked across her skin and the mischievousness dissipated from his smile, just leaving it soft and kind. "Who'd have thought it when I interrupted you so rudely in that mausoleum, eh? Sestia Vaticana my wife.

 

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She smiled and, despite all the intimacy which had already been shared, she felt herself blushing. She had thought about re-marriage, truth be told, since she had first married. She had wondered what it would be like. Who to? Someone the world different from Lucius Afinius. She could almost laugh. She hadn't expected it to be like this. With someone like Lucius Cassius, of course, yes! But not so rushed. A spur of the moment decision, driven by necessity. It was all quite ludicrous, really? But perhaps that is what the Gods wanted? They moved in mysterious ways.

His boyish enthusiasm was something which had won her round from the very start. It was infectious and made her smile all the more. "No, I don't suppose I would have guessed it then. What happy circumstances!"

Her hands dropped to her stomach which, of course, as yet still betrayed no hint of a child. She was going to be a mother again - if the Gods allowed it. That was something she would have to sacrifice towards. It was exciting and joyous but also terrifying. Her past two pregnancies had not been as bad as some. Nor had she suffered particularly from the labours. She had been fortunate - so very fortunate -in that although they were painful, they had been short and there had been no undue complications. She had not slipped into the grim netherworld, betwixt life and death, in which the delivery hung on a knife's edge. Two lives in immediate peril with survival of one, other or both, solely in the hands of the midwife and the will of the Fates. Girls she had grown up with now lay in stone urns on the Via Appia, their lives cut short by the dangers of childbirth. Each time a woman delivered she rolled the dice. For all the excitement and joy, deep down she knew that there was a chance - a real chance - that this could be her end. The idea of that, when all else was seemingly changing so well for the best, terrified her. But what could be done? She could only hope and pray.

"I have a proven track record with boys. My grandfather was a twin and it has been long since the Gods touched our family with another set. I worry, what with what I'm feeling already, that they may have chosen now as the time. I haven't felt like this when I was carrying Gallus or Vaticanianus."

@Sara

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