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Chevi
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March 75 AD, following Science and Beauty

What an interesting day. Septima Minor made her way back home lost in thought. She had gone out for a walk in the gardens, and instead of observing caterpillars, she ended up swapping clothes with a young man, and then almost getting caught. She was wearing her own dress now, but her palla was far from well arranged, and as much as she'd tried to put her hair back up in a feminine hairdo, it did not quite survive from being pulled back to make her look like a boy. The palla covered it on the way home, so she made it to the house with her dignity intact. Now all she wanted was to get to her room and change, preferably without anyone noticing. Not that she felt ashamed or anything, but the last thing she wanted was for her afternoon walk to raise too many uncomfortable questions...

@Atrice

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Septima was a bit bored today – her sister had left the house, apparently unaccompanied and now Septima was left with little to do. Her cousin Gaius, whom she basically grew up with like a brother, was busy with boy stuff like fighting lessons and then she was pestered by her other cousin, young Urania, who wanted to play. Septima spent some time with her, but that also bored her and it was a warm day. Eventually she retreated to her own room and picked up a random scroll to read. Maybe she should go shopping or something, if she was allowed to. Why was it her sister could go out unattended but not both of them?

Then she heard footsteps through the open door and jumped up and who was it, none other than her twin sister, more or less sneaking in with her palla over her head. Finally someone to talk to though! She followed her and then stopped in the doorway to her sister’s room.

“Clio… that took quite a while.” She said with a hand on her hip, but also a grin on her face, “Found anything fun?”

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Clio made it to her room and breathed a sigh of relief, just when her sister made an appearance in the doorway, making her jump.

“Clio… that took quite a while. Found anything fun?”

Clio looked at her sister, hurrying to smooth down her dress and run her hands over her hair, trying to look less frazzled than she was. She had been climbing through flowerbeds, for one, and her dress had also been worn by Lexus, briefly. Her hair was definitely a mess.

"Um, no, not really" she said, blushing. She was a terrible liar, always had been. One of her cats, Thalassa, lifted her head from her nap on the bed covers, and gave her a disapproving look. Clio shrugged her palla off and sat on the bed, lifting Thalassa onto her lep, holding her as a shield. "Couldn't find any caterpillars. Maybe it was the wrong time of the day..."

@Atrice

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Thalia was just happy to see her sister and have someone proper to talk to again. Although Clio was the clever of the two, clearly, and way more into books and stuff like that, than Thalia… she still enjoyed spending time with her twin. Clio knew her best, after all. And now she would know why her sister had been gone for what seemed like all day… even if it wasn’t.

Her sister seemed surprised and she turned. Her dress was… slightly dirty? And Thalia noticed the hair when Clio removed the palla while trying to say she had not found anything fun.

“You must have found something since you’ve been crawling in the flowerbeds. And what happened with your hair?” She asked curiously and moved further into the room, thinking Clio was acting slightly off. After all, Clio knew her best in the world. And Thalia believed she knew Clio best too and she usually did not come home with a dirty dress or messy hair, even if she was the more curious of the two.

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Thalia noticed something was off. She must have. She had a keen eye for detail (not for studying, but for other things), and she knew her sister better than anyone. Clio knew she couldn't keep lying.

“You must have found something since you’ve been crawling in the flowerbeds. And what happened with your hair?” 

"I tied it up." she admitted, as if that had been the most scandalous part of her day. She pet the cat a little nervously. At least her dress was not in a bad enough condition to make anyone think she had been tumbling around in the grass.

(It did smell a little like Lexus, though. It was a garden smell and a boy smell.)

"I... met someone in the gardens."

@Atrice

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She sat down on the bed next to her sister, as she continued to be curious about Clio’s trip out of the house… alone and unaccompanied and then returning in such a state. They both had an eye for detail, just in each their own way and she knew Clio. While Clio didn’t care as much for clothes and hair as Thalia did, she never returned home like this before. Something was off.

First she claimed she tied up her hair and Thalia arched a brow. And why would she need to do that? She kept petting the cat, maybe a little more firmly than usual, as if it was important to do it. And then she said she met someone. What? Now Thalia was curious!

“I see… and who did you meet, then?” Did her sister have a secret admirer somewhere, that she never told about before? Honestly she didn’t ever think her sister would find a husband, because she wasn’t at all eager. So how come she didn’t know this?

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Thalia took a seat, and it was clear she was not going to leave her sister alone anytime soon. This was her area of interest, and also her area of expertise. Maybe, Clio thought, if she did not get very upset about the story, she could even try to help.

“I see… and who did you meet, then?” 

It was clear Thalia knew her sister did not just... meet anyone. She ment someone, and there was more to the story. Clio sighed.

"This... this boy named Lexus." she admitted, blushing. "He helped me look for caterpillars. He works in gardens, I think. And we kind of swapped clothes a little bit." she added in a small and hurried voice, looking away.

@Atrice

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Oh she was definitely not going to leave Clio alone, this was interesting now... that Clio met someone, in the gardens. The gardens of Sullust? She had talked about going there. Thalia had been there too, but she'd also heard various things about those gardens. About how people met there in secret and that after nightfall it got... well... things went on there and she doubted it was smart to go there alone. But this was daytime, so it was probably fine. Now she sat waiting to hear what Clio had to tell about this someone she met. She could barely contain herself, it was both strange and exciting that Clio, of all people, met someone!

She said it was a boy called Lexus and he'd helped her and worked in the garden. And they... what? Swapped clothes?

"You did what?" She exclaimed surprised and then realized she should lower her voice, "Swapped clothes... with a boy? Have you met him before? Why on Earth would you do that? You wore his clothes?" And he wore hers? What kind of a strange boy was this? Gods it was thrilling! It was like listening to gossip, but this was her own sister and it was definitely real... she doubted Clio would lie about a thing like this!

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Thalia's reaction was about what she had expected. Clio blushed deeper and dipped her head, petting the cat nervously. 

"You did what?... Swapped clothes... with a boy? Have you met him before? Why on Earth would you do that? You wore his clothes?" 

After the first yell, thank the gods, Thalia lowered her voice. She was not going to let the whole household know what her sister had done just yet. Clio suspected she was curious to hear more about Lexus, and the whole encounter first.

"I did" she admitted sheepishly "It was... um. I was looking for caterpillars, and the dress is... not very good for observations like that. So he... said I could wear boy's clothes to move easier. And we wanted to see if that would work. So... we swapped. To see if I could pass as a boy."

As she was talking, it was dawning on Clio that this sounded a lot worse when told to someone else...

@Atrice

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Thalia definitely wanted to know all about this and it got more and more interesting. She was surprised that all these words came from Clio – she cared deeply about her sister and she knew they were very different, but that Clio should meet a boy and swap clothes with him, in what seemed to be a public area… in the gardens! Now that was something she had never expected her sister to do. What did it mean? Why? What was the boy like? She had a ton of questions and felt excited. She wanted to know everything!

Clio explained herself while petting the cat in her lap. Something with caterpillars and the dress being inconvenient and then this Lexus had suggested they swapped clothes. To see if she could pass as a boy? Seriously? Her jaw dropped a bit, but then she closed her mouth again.

She inhaled a deep breath, “So let me get this straight. You met a boy, who’s a gardener, and he suggested you wore his clothes. His! And he wore yours? So wait, you… undressed in front of him? Did anyone see you? And he wore your clothes? Gods, did you look at him?” She picked up the palla, how weird that a boy had worn that! The more Clio said and the more Thalia got to thinking, the more outrageous it sounded. As if any boys would just ask a girl to swap clothes with them and have pure intentions. Their grandmother would have fainted, if she’d been alive, bless her spirit! Thalia stood, it was too thrilling for her to sit down… “Wow, just… wow!”

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Thalia was left with her mouth hanging open as Clio told her the details of what happened. She always enjoyed a good story, but more so when it did not involve her sister, apparently. Clio knew how ridiculous she must have sounded just now. She bit her lips.

“So let me get this straight. You met a boy, who’s a gardener, and he suggested you wore his clothes. His! And he wore yours? So wait, you… undressed in front of him? Did anyone see you? And he wore your clothes? Gods, did you look at him?”

"No!" Clio shook her head in defense. Gods, this was not going well. "It was my idea. To swap. To see if his idea would work. And he wore my dress because otherwise he would have been..." naked. "I didn't look! We changed in a pavilion, and we turned our backs. No one saw us..." except for that one man in the gardens.

“Wow, just… wow!”

"It was stupid, isn't it." Clio said with a defeated sigh.

@Atrice

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This was definitely more interesting and exciting than playing with her 10 year old cousin Urania. So much more! She had not expected all this when Clio came sneaking back after her trip out into the Roman streets and gardens. And now she was more than surprised, the more Clio said, the more surprised Thalia was. She never expected or imagined that her sister would do such things!

Clio bit her lip and when Thalia fired a ton of new questions at her, she said that swapping clothes had been her idea and of course he wore her clothes, or he’d have been naked. Thalia’s eyes widened for a moment, this was almost more than she could take in too. And Clio said she didn’t look and they’d turned their back to each other. Sure. Because boys didn’t want to look at girls, when they were mature enough to have feminine shapes like she and Clio had.

“I don’t know if it was stupid, it’s just… unexpected. And we definitely can’t tell anyone about this. They’d never let you out again!” Thalia said, “Are you sure he turned his back too?” She still didn’t trust the boy entirely. What if he told all his friends that Clio undressed? Even if he didn’t look, it was still so shocking! She sat down next to Clio too, suddenly realized how nervous she seemed, “I’m sorry… I’m just… so surprised. I never knew you’d do such a thing. You, of all people…” She gently stroked Clio’s arm, “Are you alright, though? You swear he didn’t… do anything to you?” She kind of wanted something to have happened and kind of didn’t. That would be more shocking… and Clio! Gods, if Clio got her first kiss before Thalia did…

@Chevi

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Clio felt an overwhelming sense of guilt about the whole thing now. She'd made a mistake, something so risky it could ruin her whole life it it came to light. Now she was scared her grandfather would find out, and be disappointed. Thalia must have sensed that too, because she sat next to her and adopted a calmer tone.

“I don’t know if it was stupid, it’s just… unexpected. And we definitely can’t tell anyone about this. They’d never let you out again!”

"I know!" Clio looked up with wide eyes "No one can know. Definitely not Grandfather..."

If he found out, she might die of shame.

“Are you sure he turned his back too?”

"Yes. He did." she nodded with conviction. Lexus was a good person. She trusted him, which made no sense, but he also did not deserve to get into trouble for this.

“I’m sorry… I’m just… so surprised. I never knew you’d do such a thing. You, of all people… Are you alright, though? You swear he didn’t… do anything to you?” 

"No!" Clio shook her head. Thalassa decided she had enough of the anxious petting, and jumped off her lap. "We just... had a nice talk. About plants, and... Egypt, and just... things. And we... took a short walk. It is so different to walk in a tunic!... But then we swapped back. It was just a few minutes."

@Atrice

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She tried to comfort Clio, who suddenly appeared very nervous. It was for certain they could not mention this to anyone and her sister agreed with wide eyes. Thalia nodded. Their grandfather could definitely not know about Clio’s adventure today! Then she wondered just how much this boy could be trusted; a girl undressing near him and he wouldn’t look? Somehow Thalia did not quite believe that. Just like she wasn’t sure she believed he had good intentions with his idea of her wearing boy’s clothes.

Clio however was sure he turned his back and Thalia explained how surprised she’d been and she still worried the boy had done something. She didn’t know what. But Clio’s clothes had been off and her hair wasn’t done right. Her sister however insisted that nothing happened. The cat jumped off her lap then, while Clio explained what happened.

“You took a short walk… in each other’s clothes? I can’t believe a boy wore this…” She said, looking at her sister’s dress, and then she got curious again, “Was he nice then? If he didn’t look and you say he didn’t do anything. Are you in love?” Thalia had no experience with such things, but she wanted to be in love sometime. She daydreamed about it sometimes. And now Clio got in front of her. She didn’t know if she was happy for her sister or maybe slightly jealous…

@Chevi

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Thalia still seemed suspicious, and with good reason. Clio was telling the truth, but she also knew that she would not believe her sister right away either, if things had been the other way around.

“You took a short walk… in each other’s clothes? I can’t believe a boy wore this…”

Clio nodded. Leave it to Thalia to grasp the detail of Clio wearing a dress that had been worn by a boy. Twice, actually, since they swapped. She wondered if Lexus' tunic smelled like her too. She wondered if someone was questioning him right now. She wondered if he'd keep the secret.

“Was he nice then? If he didn’t look and you say he didn’t do anything. Are you in love?”

"What?!" Clio looked up in genuine shock "No! Why would... it's not like that." It wasn't, and it couldn't be. "He's nice. But he's a gardener."

@Atrice

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Of course she was still suspicious, this was all so strange and new to her. Clio, of all people, met a boy, who convinced her to swap clothes and he wore hers! As if the idea of Clio wearing boy’s clothes wasn’t strange enough, a boy wearing her clothes was even stranger. Clio seemed to agree that it was all odd and then came the next curious questions… was the boy nice then, if Clio really was fine? And more importantly… was he so nice that Clio had fallen in love?

This surprised her sister, she said it was not like that and the boy was a gardener. Thalia fought the urge to drop her jaw again. A gardener! No, grandfather could never know!

“A gardener! So… he’s a slave?” As far as she knew, most gardeners in Rome were slaves. It was dirty and hard work outdoors, so why would any free Roman do it, unless it required a certain set of skills, but then it was different. And they were talking about a boy here. A slave boy. Who swapped clothes with her sister. She bit her lip, it was almost too much.

@Chevi

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Thalia's jew dropped once more. Clio felt like the more she told her the more scandalous it all sounded to her sister. She was just glad she could trust her not to run to Grandfather.

“A gardener! So… he’s a slave?” 

There was pure shock in Thalia's voice. As much as she was a romantic, who liked flirting and watching handsome men on the streets, Thalia never crossed a line into flirting with someone who was wholly inappropriate for her standing. Not that Clio had done any flirting at all. At least she didn't think so.

"No!" Clio hurried to clarify, her cheeks red. "His... mother was freed."

Oh gods, this was sounding a lot worse than it actually had been. Would she ever see Lexus again? Did she just get him into trouble...?

@Atrice

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It was like that. That the more Clio told her, the more scandalous it sounded! At first, she just met someone and it was a boy. And then they swapped clothes. And now he was just a gardener! The first thing Thalia thought, was that the boy was a slave, since he was a gardener, but Clio hurried and said he was not a slave. But then came the next bit from her blushing twin sister... the boy's mother was freed. So his mother was a slave? The boy was some kind of a bastard born by a former slave...

"You meet the strangest people sometimes, sister!" Thalia said first, "But he wasn't a slave then, at least? Still though..." Quite low ranked in society, if he was the son of a former slave and Clio didn't mention his father. His father could be a freeborn Roman citizen who fathered a child with a slave. It had happened before, Thalia knew this. And no matter what, it sounded like the boy was a bastard.

"It... it's almost too much. You don't plan seeing him again, do you? Or... do you?" If she liked him, she probably wanted to see him again. But was it a good idea? It was a little bit exciting too. Clio had an adventure... 

@Chevi

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"You meet the strangest people sometimes, sister! But he wasn't a slave then, at least? Still though..." 

"I know, I know" Septima sighed. It had been risky, and irresponsible of her to play that game at the gardens. She felt like she could trust Lexus, but talking about it now, it sounded increasingly stupid to just... think so. She trusted so easy, for a girl her age. Thalia surely wouldn't have.

No, Lexus was not a slave. He was a free man, but only barely. Not anywhere near the kind of people she would be allowed t publicly associate with.

"It... it's almost too much. You don't plan seeing him again, do you? Or... do you?"

"No, I..." Septima sighed again, looking at her sister. "I... may have told him... I'd see him around sometime..."

@Atrice

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She wasn’t sure what to think. She was a bit excited for her sister, but at the same time, this just really didn’t look very good. Septima, hanging out with the son of a freed slave and swapping clothes with him, basically in public. It looked so bad, so scandalous. But she did want her sister to be happy. Gods it was… a dilemma!

Clio sighed and Thalia went on about how it was almost too much to take in and then wondered if her sister would see him again. And first she said no and Thalia opened her mouth to reply that it was good, but then Clio changed her answer… she would see him again? Maybe she was in love… with this plebian son who was the son of a freedwoman. So wrong… but so fascinating! Not that she should show that, she should try and remain sensible here, but… think of Clio with a broken heart! She would bury herself in her books and never come out again.

“So… are you going to do that? See him again?”

@Chevi

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“So… are you going to do that? See him again?”

That was the question, wasn't it. Clio sighed. She felt tired now, after the adventure of the day, and more and more guilty as it dawned on her what she'd gotten herself into. 

"I... don't know" she admitted with a sigh, laying down to rest her head in her sister's lap. "I shouldn't, right? It's a bad idea. I shouldn't have even told him I would."

Thalia was somehow better versed in matters of the heart than her sister. Clio would listen to her advice gladly, if she had any to offer right now...

@Atrice

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She shouldn't encourage this; it was wrong on so many levels, but the thought of her sister with a broken heart was unbearable. Maybe Thalia was a little bit jealous, but at the same time, she loved her sister like nothing else and she only wanted her to be happy. Which was both a reason to encourage seeing the both and to tell her to not do it. Grandfather would be angry; the whole family might. It wasn't right. But was it right to break hearts when you didn't have to? And maybe the boy wasn't so bad, when Clio said so. Maybe they would just be friends.

Clio sighed and didn't know if she would see him and then said she shouldn't do it.

"But do you want to? If you want to see him and don't... you may be unhappy." Thalia said, it was quite a dilemma, "Besides, you made a promise to see him again, right?" 

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Clio wished someone would tell her what to do. Or not do. It would have been easier. If her sister told her to forget the whole thing, or threatened to tell their grandfather, Clio would have given up the whole idea without feeling too bad about it.

"But do you want to? If you want to see him and don't... you may be unhappy."

Would she? Clio wondered. She liked Lexus, he was friendly and kind. Would she be unhappy if she couldn't meet him again?...

"Besides, you made a promise to see him again, right?" 

"Sort of..." Clio trailed off, looking up at her sister from where she was lying. "He said he would help with my observations..."

@Atrice

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She should probably tell Clio to forget about the whole thing. She knew she'd not tell their grandfather, he wouldn't be very happy and she didn't want her sister to get into trouble. But she should be more clever, she should not encourage Clio befriending a boy of such a low rank. On the other hand, she enjoyed spending time with him, that much was clear. And if she was falling in love, Thalia would not want to see her sister unhappy. So she kind of hinted to the fact that Clio promised to see him again.

She said it was only 'sort of' and then said the boy wanted to help her with the observations.

"Maybe, if it's just that... it's not so bad." Thalia suggested, but she was thoughtful. How to do this without it being too scandalous? Oh, she had an idea!

"If you go to see him again, I could come with you. But keep a distance. Just so you're not alone with him? Then I can also tell better what he's up to..." She didn't know if Clio would like that idea, but it was in between not seeing him and seeing him with a kind of a chaperone. 

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"Maybe, if it's just that... it's not so bad." 

Maybe it wasn't? It wasn't like Clio had... done anything inappropriate with Lexus. Well, other than swapping clothes. But he had not touched her (other than tumbling, but that was not his fault), and made no attempt to... do anything he was not supposed to do. He was friendly, and helpful. Clio liked the time she'd spent with him. But no, apart from the clothes, it was not as bad as it sounded. Maybe.

"If you go to see him again, I could come with you. But keep a distance. Just so you're not alone with him? Then I can also tell better what he's up to..." 

"You would?" Clio looked up at her sister. That was... a good idea. She would not be alone with Lexus. And she trusted Thalia with her judgment of people. "That... I think that would be good." she nodded "I just... can't really go dressed as a boy, can I."

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