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Late June, 75 AD

Charis had been allowed to do more and more, since their last proper conversation in the beginning of May. Now it was late in June and Charis was very visibly pregnant. It was impossible to not notice her, when he walked around the domus, although most of the time, they still didn’t interact with each other. She hadn’t done anything out of order though, since he let her out of the room and she was being a very good slave. She did as she was told and nothing else. So she was allowed longer trips to the market and the baths, just about as much freedom as the other slaves. She wasn’t spoiled like before. But she was also at the same level as the others.

He couldn’t help but sometimes watch her. Perhaps he still had a fondness for her, despite it all. And add to that the fact, that she carried his child! The first child he would have since Antonia was born. His third child. Teutus had been a mistake, back then, but today he was grateful for his son and still pleased with the fact that Teutus was now free and held his name. Any child Teutus would have, would carry on the family name. But there would be another child and Charis had been so certain it was a boy. Despite the fact that he now had Teutus written into the will as his heir, you never knew what could happen. A second son wouldn’t be bad.

He would have to talk to Charis again. Discuss her well-being and the child. Especially the child. What were her hopes – what did she think would happen? She had behaved so far and the idea of taking the child from her had faded along with his anger. He almost wanted to forgive her for her disobedience and her lies. And then he might actually accept the child and free it right away and name it his child. And let Charis be his son’s mother. But it all depended on how this conversation would go.

Tertius had the triclinium made ready for this talk. A bit of wine, a bit of water and he’d asked Rhoda what Charis preferred to eat these days; he recalled from his time with his wife, that she had certain cravings when she was pregnant. This would be the first time he would spoil Charis after she tried to kill herself and the child; and after her punishment. But all that was in the past now. Now he sat on one couch and another was ready for her. He sent a slave to fetch Charis.  Tertius was willing to move on… if she was.

@Sara

Edited by Atrice
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Charis wasn't in the gardens today. The heat was tiring on her, it had been since she first arrived in Rome over a year ago but with the pregnancy came hot flushes she couldn't shake and she divided her days now. She spent the mornings and afternoons when it was cooler in the gardens; planting and pruning and sweeping the fallen leaves away, and the midday in the coolness of the peristyle where she sat and arranged flowers to decorate the house. If Tertius or Teutus were displeased by her divided days, neither had mentioned it and so she carried on as she always did. 

It surprised her, therefore, to be summoned and she glanced up quizzically at Jocasta. She'd lost her right to privacy with what she'd foolishly attempted and lost her own room. Jocasta and one of the other girls had moved into the cubiculum with her, ostensibly to bring her down a peg or two but she suspected - now her mind had cleared - to keep an eye on her. Unfortunately  the closer proximity with the woman hadn't softened her to Charis and she tutted irritably. "He's waiting in the triclinium." That was all the prompting Charis needed and she gathered up the flowers she had been arranging and the vase and held it to her hip as she padded barefoot through the house. She was dressed simply in the coarse green tunica she had been given which fitted over her bump, and her hair was pulled away from her face in a long braid down her back.

She drew into the room, eyes downcast and still clutching the full vase. "Domine." She stated quietly. Even from where her eyes were lowered she could see the spread out on the tables and frowned. She didn't know her dominus was expecting guests today. Her eyes lingered for a moment on the peaches on the table. She'd never tasted one before her move to Rome and whilst at first she found them slimy and repulsive, now in her pregnancy they were addictive. She snapped herself out of it. "You asked to see me, domine?" 

 

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Charis appeared in the doorway to the triclinium with a vase on her one hip and flowers in her other hand. She was as pretty and pregnant as she’d been for a long while. The dress was simple, but it fit her with the bump and her hair was braided. Sometimes he kind of missed running his fingers through her long hair and over her soft and warm skin. But then he remembered the lies she told him and the truths she told him later and he didn’t miss it anymore. Not so much, anyway. But she was still pretty. A part of him still wanted her, despite it all, and he hated that.

She had her eyes lowered and wondered why he had asked to see her and he wondered if she noticed at all the treats on the table in front of her.

“I did. Put down your work and come sit. Or lie down, even, if you’d prefer that.” Tertius said with the most friendly voice he could muster, “Are you hungry?” He asked, while following her with his eyes and taking care to notice her expression and her posture, “I asked to see you because I want to know how you’re doing. It has been a while since we last talked. So… how are you? Both of you?” Meaning of course both her and the child. She might find this all strange, but he was reaching out to her. They used to be so close and they were now so far apart. Not that he was ready to trust her yet. But he was willing to build a bridge, but he’d need her help.

@Sara

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Charis nodded silently and placed the flowers in the vase, before setting them down on a side table. They had been for Antonia's room, but looked fine here. She did as she was instructed and went to sit on the sofa opposite of his own, eyes still down but her posture was relaxed, as if this wasn't a problem - as it had been when she had been good before her revelation with Alexius. "Yes, domine." She said and reached for a peach, already cut into segments - still attached by their fuzzy, odd skin - which she snapped off and ate as he spoke. 

Ah. So this was to be an interview of sorts. She kept her features neutral as she nibbled on her peach, before setting it down half-eaten on a plate. She smoothed her hands over her tunica to rid it of creases and mustered a genuine smile for the topic of conversation. "We're well, thank you dominus. The midwife is pleased with my progress and I feel fine. If a little tired sometimes." It sometimes felt as if her mind was in a fog and she'd pick up one thing and then entirely forget why she was holding it. One hand moved from her thigh to her bump where she could feel the baby fluttering and moving. "Thank you for thinking of us." Because she was thankful. This was more than he'd done for her in months.

 

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Tertius watched her carefully set down the flowers and the vase, before she came in and settled in the sofa opposite his own in the triclinium. There was still a distance between them… also physically, he thought to himself. He kind of missed the time where he believed in her words, the time when he could trust her. But that time had passed and while she’d been allowed more out and more freedom – as much as any other slave in the house – he still wouldn’t trust her with his life. Not at all.

She said she was hungry and picked up one of the perfectly ripe peaches on the table. She removed the skin and nibbled at the juicy fruit. Tertius tried ignore the sight of her lips wrapping around the pieces. Then she smiled and thanked him for his concern, before explaining that she felt fine, even if she was tired. And she thanked him for thinking about them.

“Of course… it is my child too, after all.” Tertius said to her and picked up a goblet of wine to drink from, “The tiredness is normal… I remember that from Antonia’s mother too. But I’m glad to hear you’re feeling fine, besides that.” He added with a smile, “And how are everyone else treating you now? I hope you’ll let them know, if some of the work is too heavy. I don’t want you to harm yourself or the child while you work.” He didn’t want her to harm herself or the child, period. She’d done that plenty already and there would not be another case of it.  He wouldn't lose the child now... or the mother. Despite everything.

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Charis nodded with a gentle smile. She wanted to say she remembered the tiredness from her last pregnancy, but stopped herself. It would only irritate him, she knew that. Although on the other hand maybe he'd enjoy the fact that he'd succeeded where her own husband at failed; her first child - living child - would be Roman, or at least half-Roman. 

"Everybody is pleasant to me, domine." She assured him as she picked up a handful of nuts, eating them one at a time from the cupped palm of her hand. Since her breakdown people had been cautious around her - largely giving her a wide berth, or outright ignoring her as Jocasta had taken to doing in recent days. "And I will," She nodded, dusting off her palm and placing her had unconsciously on her bump. "The only thing I struggle with now is moving the plants when I need to replant them." She glanced up at him before dropping her eyes back to his chest, respectfully. "Would I be able to get somebody to help me? They were too heavy before I was with child, but now..." She smiled and shrugged her shoulders. 

Realising she had complained, she quickly added; "But I enjoy the work, domine." 

 

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She was so pretty, even when pregnant and wearing a simple dress like what she wore today, he thought to himself, while she said everyone had been nice to her and then she picked up a handful of nuts. He made a mental note to make sure that the slaves would have peaches and nuts to eat… so she’d have them too. Charis then explained she’d make sure to tell if the work was too heavy and then added that she struggled with some of the work. She wanted help.

“I can see why that can be hard… you’re taking up a bit more space now.” He said, but with a friendly smile, he didn’t mean it in an offensive way. It was just a matter of fact.

“I’m sure we could get one of the other slaves to help you. Or I could fetch one from the countryside villa, they may know more about gardens and plants.” He then added thoughtfully. He wouldn’t want Charis to hurt herself while working, she had to take good care of the child. So of course he would find some help for her.

“Now… I need to know something else too. And be honest.” He added with a slightly firmer tone, watching her carefully. There had, after all, been quite a few issues with Charis and honesty before. She had promised to be honest, but lied about it… “What do you expect will happen, once our child has come?”

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Charis looked a little ashamed for a moment. What an indelicate way to put it! But then she merely blushed and placed her spare hand idly on her bump. She may be taking up more room, but it was for her son and she was absolutely fine with that. She'd never been particularly concerned by her looks - hell, she'd not really even seen what she looked like until she came to Rome and spied herself for the first time in one of the mirrors in the house. She had been pleasantly surprised by what she'd seen, but she was in no way a vain woman. 

"Thank you domine, I would appreciate that." Because honestly she would. She already had back pain and dragging plants around wasn't exactly helping to ease it. 

But he clearly had another reason for talking to her and as his tone became firmer, she sat up straighter - eyes still respectfully lowered to his chest, one hand cradling the life that flourished in her. She swallowed. That was not what she expected him to ask. Why on earth did he want her opinion? The Charis of old that was coming back slowly was furious - did he mean to taunt her with it? But the calmer side of her personality reasoned caution and her face only fell a little, a look of sadness filling her features. What did she honestly expect to happen? Well that was simple. "I...I expect him to be a slave, domine." She swallowed, the words feeling like ash in her mouth, "A...and for him to be taken from me, a...and I'll never see him." It had been what he had said, at least from what she could remember. Her mind was so addled during that conversation she did not remember the first part of that statement, where he had offered her a choice. It just dwelt on the bad bits. 

 

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Tertius didn’t know why Charis should be ashamed, that he commented on how she took up more space now. It was the truth, it was a matter of fact and all pregnant women were like that. Even petite women like Charis. But she blushed and touched the baby bump, where Tertius’ next son was hiding. Then she thanked him for his offer of more help for her in the garden. Of course. He wouldn’t want her to harm herself. In fact, she’d done that plenty already.

But now that all the pleasant talk was done, there was something else he wanted to talk about. The future of their child. He was no youth like back when he fathered Teutus – he’d learned a lot since then and his next child would have to get a better upbringing. He could do better, even with a slave child. First though, he wanted to know what Charis thought and expect. She stared at his chest, seeming a bit surprised by his question and he waited for her honesty. Not her hopes or her dreams, but what she expected. Then she spoke dryly of how she expected the child to be a slave and that he’d be taken from her. She seemed honest, he thought. She remembered what he said while she was still alone in her room... she'd not forgotten his words back then. Good.

“Is that what you think I’ll do?” Tertius asked and sipped his wine, then placed the cup back onto the table, “It is true, I said that… that I didn’t want my child to be raised by a deceiving and selfish mother, as you were a few months ago.” He then said, “But you have behaved, lately. And I do not think you are lying to me now either. So… it can be different, from what you expect. But it all comes down to you, Charis. If you keep on like you do right now, you may yet get to nurse your child.” He paused, looking at her face to study her, “Whether the child will be a slave or not… I still have to make a final decision on that. What if I chose to acknowledge him… what would you think, about your son being free while you are not?” Because he was definitely no way near any decision to free her, as it were right now. He’d not free a slave he didn’t trust.

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That was honestly what she thought he'd do. It's why, since her...awakening, she had been so good. It was no longer out of some mental illness or her breakdown, it was to serve a purpose for her child. Still - the change of reasoning wouldn't manifest to him. She was still being a good slave what did it matter the reason?

As he made the revelation that she may yet get to nurse and raise her child she glanced up at him, with a smile breaking on her lips before she could stop it. She had endured so much being stripped from her; her home, her family, her freedom - she couldn't cope if her son was taken from her too. She dropped her eyes down respectfully and tried to keep the smile from her face as he continued. His question was an interesting one and she considered it. She made no move to reach for the food or drink, she had completely lost her appetite. 

"I..." Honesty, Charis. He wants honesty. "I would be grateful, domine. It would be...a little hard," She swallowed, "To know he will have things I cannot but," She shook her head and swallowed the lump in her throat, "I only want what is best for him." She stroked her fingers across the swell of her bump, "And I would be...so happy, so grateful I..." She stopped, she was rambling. It would be painful of course, to imagine a world where her son might one day think of her just as resource - a slave whilst he enjoyed the romanised world, but if it saved him from a life of toil, a life like Teutus had endured, then it would be worth it - would it not be? Showing her youth, she frowned and ventured a question; "If...If that were to happen, would he...know I am his mother?" She didn't understand whether slave begotten children ever acknowledged their maternal side. Would she be called Mama? Or would she just be Charis, the slave girl, wasting away in his fathers domus?

 

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When Tertius revealed he might free the child and that she might raise and nurse the child, Charis smiled. A small and genuine smile for once and he couldn’t help but enjoy seeing that on her face. He’d barely seen her smile in months… not since before she poisoned herself. But there she was, genuinely smiling at him because of his kindness. Then he asked how she’d feel with being a slave and her son a free Roman. She began talking, but trailed off before saying she’d be grateful even though it would be hard. But she wanted the best for her child. Then she said again how she’d be happy about it.

Tertius smiled at her, “I’m glad to hear that.” She did still seem honest, although really, which mother would not be honest about these things? On the other hand, she had tried to kill herself and the child, so there was that. She hadn’t wanted it at first. But now that it was to be born, she wanted it badly, it seemed. Of course she had more questions then and Tertius hadn’t thought that far. Teutus had known his mother, he was nursed and raised by her, but he was also a slave. This time might be different. Tertius more or less decided then, that he would not punish the child because of what its mother was like. He would free the child. It was his child too, after all.

“I hadn’t thought that far… to be honest.” Tertius said, eyeing her as he said those words, “I suppose he would know, I don’t see why not. He would ask questions one day anyway. It would depend though… I suppose if I were to marry again, my wife would be the mother of my children. But I don’t know if I will marry. Right now it’s not in the cards.” It was difficult to find the right woman. None would ever be as agreeable as his late wife, he thought. They had a perfect relationship, those few years it lasted. She understood him and he understood her. They were married, but gave each other space. What other wife could he find, that would be as good as she was? So Charis better hope he wouldn’t meet a woman he’d get along with. It was a pity she had betrayed him so. He could have freed her and married her. But he didn’t think he wanted that now. Not with their most recent history.

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Charis' jaw tightened as he talked. She was not placated by the fact the child would know who she was. What good would it do for a child to know who birthed them, but ran into the arms of another woman. Involuntarily her hand tightened on the coarse fabric of her tunica. This was also the first time he mentioned a wife, and she was intrigued. He'd seemed perfectly content - at least in the months before her great mistake - to have a male and a female lover, a freed son and a legitimate daughter.

"I understand, domine." She managed and swallowed the bile in her throat. She felt that wave of panic rise again, like it did that day with Alexius as the two sides of her fought and warred. You have to be a good girl, a good slave for him vs the other part; what an utter, utter prick. He'll take the baby from you, just in a roundabout way. She swallowed again, her cheeks flushing. "I..." He hadn't asked her to speak and so she glanced up to confirm she could continue talking. You see? She had picked up some good slave habits in her months of mental malaise. "I always wanted to be a mother," Her hand relaxed over her bump, "I cannot believe that in only three months I will be...I..." She now smiled a little, genuinely, "I..am a little worried, domine..." She admitted with a small, impish smile. She was actually being honest. "I don't really know anything about babies. Besides that they do not sleep." She had younger siblings, of course, but she was still an infant herself when they were born and barely remembered it. It occurred to her, sadly, that he may have more experience of children than herself. She felt ashamed for it, as if she was not a proper woman - whatever that meant. 

 

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She’d stopped eating; he kind of wished she hadn’t, it was enjoyable to watch her take delight in the little treats. He wished she’d relax more in his presence, like she seemed to do when she first came in here. But apparently the conversation was a bit too heavy for that. He explained his thoughts on her and the child, how the boy would know who his mother was, even if he married again. Although if he married, a wife would be known as the actual and official mother of all his children. He had never spoken of a wife before to her. And it was true, what she thought… he really was content with Hector and had been with her too. He didn’t feel he had a desire for a wife. He just knew he ought to have one.

She said she understood and then she went thoughtful for a moment, before she blushed and began to talk again. She spoke of her dreams of motherhood and that she could barely believe it was happening, but now she was worried.

“They do sleep, just at inconvenient times.” Tertius said with a small chuckle, he remembered the time Antonia was a baby. There had been people awake at odd hours and she’d cry when you least expected it, “Maybe you should ask Rhoda about it. She was here when Antonia was small, she knows. Else… my sister will know what it’s like. I could invite her over to talk to you.” He mused, that might actually not be a bad idea. He knew a little, but it hadn’t really been his job to care for the child and nurse it when it was so tiny. That was a woman’s job.

“Would you like that? Or would you prefer just talking to Rhoda? I’m sure you can find some help, if you need it.” He added with a smile and picked up a peach of his own. What a good thing, actually, that she did not lose the child. When she longed to be a mother.

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Charis laughed a little with him, genuinely. She didn't know how it was possible that she felt both such a vitriolic hatred for him, but equally didn't hate him at all. He'd given her a life, no matter how bad it was - it was better than other fates that could have awaited her. She swallowed back the thought of her family's disapproval of such a sentiment. 

The offer surprised her and she flushed, reaching out a hand to pick up a few roasted chickpeas. There was never such a variety of food for the slaves and especially not for her, given poor Rhoda still abided by his initial instruction to give her weak wine (if any at all) and plain food. "If...If you think she would be happy to speak to a slave, domine." She nibbled on the chickpeas. This had to be a good sign, surely? That he would invest time in getting his sister to speak to her? Surely that meant their child would be recognised? Gods above she dared not hope for it. "If you think so then I'd be very thankful domine." She added with a small smile up to him. 

"I cannot imagine Ant...little domina," She corrected herself, "Ever being so small as this one will be." She ran her hand across her belly, feeling a flip and a kick that made her adjust her position and wince a little. A true Roman son, she thought amused, already kicking his slaves. "What...what was she like? As a baby?" 

 

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She laughed then and he thought it was nice to hear her laugh. Just like it was nice to see her smile. He hated that he thought it was nice, after how she had betrayed him and he still apparently liked her, for some reason. But she laughed when he spoke of babies sleeping at inconvenient times and then she finally picked up something to eat again. So nuts, peaches and chickpeas. Rhoda would get to serve that to the slaves, so Charis could have some.

He had then suggested to ask his sister if she would talk to Charis about having children, since she knew nothing about it. He was certain Quinctilia wouldn’t mind leaving his brother’s house for such a reason, or any reason at all. He couldn’t recall how attentive she’d been to her children when they were small, but surely she knew more than he did.

“It never hurts to ask, to begin with. And she might.” Tertius said and she said she’d be thankful. Tertius wanted this child to have a good upbringing. He would not let the child grow up the same way Teutus had. Then Charis spoke of how she could not imagine Antonia being small and then asked what Antonia had been like. He noticed however that she also winced.

“Are you alright?” He asked, concerned for a moment, before he answered her question, “I… she definitely cried. But I think that’s what babies do. We haven’t had a lot of them in this house.” He then added, “But it was also so precious when she smiled at you. And when she learned how to laugh…” He smiled at the memory, it might not be so bad to have another child at all, “And she was everywhere when she learned how to walk! I remember how she loved walking into the water basin of the atrium and you could pick her up, place her far from it, and she’d find her way back in no time.” He said with a little laugh. He loved Antonia and of course he had many fond memories of her. Now he’d make new ones with his new son.

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She nodded and winced a little more; "He kicks harder now," She said with a little smile, "He likes hearing your voice I think." She doubted it was true, but it was easy enough to placate him with niceties. When he was happy, she was happy because he largely left her to her own devices and it served the benefit of her son growing within her. 

Hearing him speak of Antonia made her smile, genuinely. She wasn't sure she'd ever - in the year and a bit she'd been in this house  - heard him sound so...soft. It was sweet, almost. It would have been completely adorable, a doting father talking of his daughter, if she didn't know he'd left one son out in the cold and what he'd done to produce this one. Nonetheless, she smiled softly and joined him in a sweet, vibrant laugh - adjusting her position on the couch as her back ached and the baby kicked. "It does not surprise me she was a sweet baby, she is such a sweet girl now." Because she was. Spoiled, of course, but not mean spirited which was as much as she could really hope for from a ten year old mistress.

"She," She smiled softly again, "Asked about the baby the other day - this baby." She stroked her bump, "I know I am not supposed to speak with her domine, but she came into the garden looking for Teu...your son, and before her nurse could stop her she asked when it was coming and who its Tata was. I..." She hesitated, "I told her to ask yourself about it - I, didn't quite know what to say to her." 

 

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Tertius smiled, although it worried him a little when she winced. But she also said the child liked hearing his voice and that caused the smile, “I hope so.” He replied and then he’d told her a bit about how Antonia was like as a small child. The memories were nice, even if Antonia’s mother were barely part of them. She hadn’t been entirely well after the birth and in the end, he believed that’s what took her life. Tertius had to raise Antonia on his own, together with the female slaves of the house... and Teutus of course.

Charis laughed too when he did and wasn’t surprised to hear that Antonia was a sweet baby. And now she thought her a sweet girl. Then she suddenly said that Antonia had asked about the baby and wondered whose father it was.

“Oh… she has not asked me yet.” Tertius said, a little surprised, “But I suppose she does need a proper explanation. Not that it’ll be hard to tell her the truth.” It was more how she’d react to his father having a child with Charis. Luckily Antonia liked Charis, even though she was as far removed from the role of a wife, as she could be. Besides having the child, she had no other duties that were close to those of a wife.

“I hope she’ll be a good sister to her sibling… just like Teutus has been a good brother to his sister. I hope…” He trailed off, sipping the wine as he seemed distant for a moment, “I hope they’ll all get along better than I have with my brother. I wouldn’t wish for them to be so… at odds with each other.” He paused for a moment, looking at her, “I don’t remember if you ever told me much about your siblings… and how you were like, together?”

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Charis nodded mutely and ate her chickpeas. It was not her place to tell Antonia, she knew that, but she was surprised her father would venture to tell his daughter the truth. Another positive sign? She hoped so. She did not comment on the fact that his daughter was rapidly growing up and would be forming opinions about his fathers treatment of the slaves, and of women when she persisted motherless. Again, it was not her place, but she knew before long poor Tertius would be landed with a teenager. And owing from experience of her own younger sister, she knew what trouble that wrought - she only imagined it would be worse with a girl sans mother, and as well...spoiled as Antonia.

She watched him carefully as he trailed off. Briefly, their eyes met as he glanced at her and she ducked her head to look down. He had told her of Secundus, but that conversation seemed as if it had taken place in a different life from the one she now led. She had scorned his intimacy, still did, because it was unwanted - but she hated to admit to herself that it had made things...easier for her. And now the child she grew would reap the consequences of her present lack of favour. 

Unsure of what to say, she ventured with; "I'm sorry, about your brother domine." It sounded weak but what more did he want her to say? It was not as if she were still the bed slave, high up on a pedestal and capable of having irreverent conversations that crossed the line. She was just a normal house slave now, worse than that even, given what she'd done and so she now was too respectful almost, in everything she said. It made her curious, therefore, when he asked about her siblings. They'd discussed it before - in bed that time, that evening after Saturnalia but not since. Was he trying to hark back to that moment of intimacy? Or was she being naive, and he had just forgotten?

She swallowed and set down a palmful of chickpeas on a plate. "We were very close, domine. I had two brothers and a sister," Well, she thought, you're going to have to remind him at some point"The one...in Senator Rufus' household." The one she'd not been allowed to meet, or even send word to since the incident. "My brothers were," She smiled a little, wryly, "...frustrating, sometimes. I advised against certain things and they did it anyway and..." She shrugged. Now she was here and her eldest brother was dead, her younger lost to slavery or worse. "But I was the oldest girl and so after my mother went away, I looked after them, loved them more fiercely than anything - no matter what." She sighed. She was not upset, not like the last time she spoke of them to him, but it was still uncomfortable. She ventured a glance up at him very briefly - letting her eyes linger on his face just for a moment before she reverted them back down to his chest. "But...they are in the past. I just hope he," She gestured to her bump, "Will get along with his siblings as Teutus and Antonia, or yourself and your sister." He had mentioned her earlier, she thought it a safe conversation topic. "You are close with her, domine?" 

 

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Tertius was full of surprises towards people who treated him with the respect he believed he deserved. If you’d be his friend and loyal to him, he would do the same for you. Betray him and you’d feel the exact opposite, as Charis had felt on her own body. Now she was being good though, and while he did not trust her completely yet, he had still decided that the child would not pay for its mothers actions. Besides, it was his child too, his son. And he would make sure to inform Antonia about Charis’ child soon enough. Still however, he couldn’t tell everything. Antonia would need a woman to tell her about… such things, at some point. She needed a mother, didn’t she? That would be the main purpose of Tertius marrying again… gaining a mother for Antonia.

Then he’d mused about what kind of a sister Antonia would be to her new brother, and he hoped that all of the siblings would get along. There was a huge age-span between them all, but between Teutus and Antonia, it hadn’t been a bad thing. So hopefully Antonia was mature enough to take on this new role with great care and hopefully it would be better than with Tertius and his brother. They used to be fine, as kids and as young men. But after Germania and after Secundus went missing for 6 years… everything changed.

Charis said she was sorry about his brother and he nodded, “I am too… but there’s not much to do.” He added distantly, as if they hadn’t just locked eyes for a brief moment. Why did things always have to go sour? Both between him and his brother and now with Charis. Everything had been fine. Until it wasn’t at all and now it was impossible to go back. But then he asked about her siblings, vaguely remembering her mentioning them before, but it must be a long time ago. And he was a bit drunk at Saturnalia when it happened. He had indeed just… forgotten. Charis then set down her chickpeas and said she’d been close with her brother and sister and he nodded, he did remember she had a sister in Rufus’ household!

“Right… I remember that now.” Tertius said thoughtfully, but let her continue. She spoke about frustrating brothers that she had to take care of, after their mother went away. She’d loved them anyway, of course. If she hadn’t been taken for a slave… but she had and none of that was Tertius’ fault. He just bought her and now she was his, just like that. She’d even been here more than a year now and he hoped that now, she would learn to adapt. After the incident.

Charis then glanced up at him shortly again, meeting his eyes once more and then said they were all in the past and that she hoped their son would get along with everyone, including Tertius and his sister.

“I used to be… and I still enjoy her company, when we find the time to see each other. I used to be close with all of my siblings. We were four, you know. But our older brother was barely a man when he died.” He said, remembering Publius for a short moment there, but that too, was in a distant past now… so he shook those thoughts away and tilted his head, looking at her. Gods he was stupid for wanting to do something for her again, wasn’t he? He really shouldn’t, she didn’t deserve it, but what if he brought her together with her sister again? Would she then be loyal once more… and trustworthy? “You haven’t had a chance to see your sister, have you?”

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She shook her head with a quiet; "I didn't know that. I'm sorry, domine." She wondered if he'd lost his brother in similar circumstances to her own lost Calpornus. She blinked away the image of him, bent over the forge, bloodied and cold to the touch. "It is hard, to lose your eldest sibling. I was," She frowned, "Eighteen when my eldest brother died, he would have been," She frowned again - trying to work out the dates in the Roman system, "Twenty? Twenty-one?" She rarely spoke of her eldest sibling, given the painful memories. For a brief moment she supposed that her and Tertius actually had something in common. "But it's in the past now." She concluded, and picked up her chickpeas once again. 

His question was a natural one, and she'd prepared for it since the conversation took this turn. Her faculties had slowly been returning, although she no longer schemed for her own benefit. She was a pragmatist at heart. She missed Ardra every day and craved to see her again, but she would not risk souring his mood by asking to see her - not when said sour mood could impact the fate of her child. 

"No domine, I haven't." She said mildly. He didn't need reminding why. She had been due to go over there and visit with her only two days after she had taken that wicked poison which had almost cost her, her life. She swallowed and fidgeted with the chickpeas in her palm; "I try not to dwell on her domine, I know I," She winced, "I let you down, and I cannot see her." 

 

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When Charis had asked about his relationship with his sister, Quinctilia, he also mentioned how there had been four siblings now, instead of the three Charis now knew about. But his oldest brother had died and that was probably the reason for the current way the family functioned… or didn’t function, really. If Publius had still been alive, he would have been the Pater Familias and Tertius and Secundus would never have ended up in this odd feud about it. But he was dead and here they were, now. Charis said she was sorry to hear it and then that she knew about it too, that she had lost her brother a few years ago too.

“I was just a boy… Publius was 15 years old, I think…” He said, almost ready to tell her more about what happened then, but he didn’t know how much he ought to tell her just yet. He wanted to trust her, he wanted to talk to her, like they used to do. But a part of him still felt betrayed. Charis said her brother’s death was in the past now, however, for her it wasn’t such a distant past yet. Just like the thing with her sister, that she just brought up. Tertius wasn’t sure if she had seen her sister, she hadn’t mentioned it, but she had been allowed out for a little while now. And they didn’t really talk anymore, so she could have met with her sister without his knowledge. He didn’t know what Charis did when she left the domus. A bit… disconcerting, actually.

She seemed a bit surprised at the question and it took her a few moments, before she said she had not seen her sister. And then she said she tried not to think about it, because she knew why she couldn’t see her sister. She tried hard to not seem too upset, but he could tell by her expression and her body language. 

“You did let me down… but we’re past that now.” Or most of it. He still didn’t trust her. But he wanted to move on… however, maybe it would be safest if she met with her sister at either of their households and he thought he would surprise her, “Maybe it is time you see her. We could invite her to come here. You have been acting better, lately.”

@Sara

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Charis had to keep herself steady so as not to overreact. It had been well over a year since she'd last set eyes on her sweet little sister, and despite thinking her dominus (that brief time she had met him) was not an awful sort, it hadn't assuaged her nerves that her innocent sibling had been subjected to something similar to herself. What if she saw that beautiful blonde face and found her with child? Or worse? She swallowed the nerves, it was just her general anxiety, not helped by the fact she had really no idea what sort of footing she was on with her dominus.

She smiled though, despite the nerves. "I...I would be so grateful, domine." Because she would be. He didn't have to let her see Ardra, not at all, but that he would let her was a positive sign again (their conversation had been full of them, it seemed!) She continued, trying to keep the happiness out of her voice (and failing) - she didn't want him to think sh was some foolish, naive girl. "Ardra is very sweet, and a good girl. You would like her, I think." She undoubtedly fitted better in enslavement than Charis herself; Ardra was predisposed to optimism and a need to please people in a way her older sister wasn't. 

But Charis was more pragmatic than her sister, and understood that favours were very rarely done out of the goodness of peoples hearts. She ventured, gently; "What can I do to say thank you?" 

 

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Tertius could be full of surprises and kindness towards people, who were kind to him too and showed him the proper respect. Charis had become so well-behaved these last few months, after he let her out of her room again. Perhaps he should have done it to begin with, maybe then she would have been more cooperative from the start. But here they were now and he watched her intently after he said that Charis should see her sister. She smiled and said she would be grateful and he smiled back, “I hope you will be.” He added and she continued telling him what a sweet and good girl her sister was.

“Ardra? Didn’t she have another name now… I think she does.” Just like Charis had a different name now. He could easily imagine her sister to be good and sweet, she was younger than Charis and perhaps not quite as fierce as Charis had once been. He hated to admit he’d kind of enjoyed having something to work with, when it came to this slave. Charis hadn’t just given in and had forced him to show his supremacy to her… which he liked showing. But still, she had to learn how to submit and now she had.

Charis wanted to know what she could do to thank him. Oh he could imagine a great many things, but she was with child and she had betrayed him… he eyed her, watching her carefully as he spoke up again, “You can continue to be as honest with me, as you have been today. You can continue to respect me, as you have done these past few months. As I once told you, I reward those who obey the rules. I used to reward you, but you paid me back with betrayal. If that is truly over, if you prove that to me… that will be enough gratitude.”

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"Oh." She frowned to herself and nodded slowly, "Yes...Yes it was Nymphias, I think?" At the time Rufus' letter arrived she hadn't a clue what a nymph was but over the past few months, particularly with her devotion to the Roman Gods as of late, she'd come to understand it. She had to admit, the name fitted her pretty blonde sister perfectly - whoever had come up with it, however, evidently lacked the imagination of her own Dominus. 

As he spoke, she nodded silently. All very simple things - things he'd reiterated time and time before but she'd never paid attention, not until her breakdown at least. But now she listened, and now she understood. She'd obey, and submit, and be the slave he wanted her to be. She'd do whatever he asked without complaint because that was the way she won her childs freedom. Her own dream of seeing her own lands again was dead and buried, she'd come to realise she'd never likely be free of this place or this man, but such a life was not what she wanted for the life that grew within her. So she'd be good. 

"Yes domine, thank you. I understand." She looked suitably embarrassed by his reference to her indiscretion but kept her eyes respectfully lowered. "Thank you for...giving me a second chance." 

 

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It seemed Charis had forgotten that her sister was also a slave here in Rome and had another name. It escaped Tertius, but she remembered it after all. He nodded, “Yes, I think it was. Does it fit her, you think?” He briefly wondered if her sister was as pretty as her, but she had to be. How could Charis’ sister not be pretty too, although she’d be younger. It felt like a lifetime ago that he purchased Charis at the market, but really it was just a little more than a year ago. So much had happened since she arrived here.

And now she might see her sister again. She wondered how she could show her gratitude and Tertius knew exactly how… she could be a good slave. That’s all he had ever wanted from her; her loyalty and her respect. And he never got it, until now. Sometimes he missed things from before he learned how she betrayed him. He even taught her how to read and write, but even that had not been enough for her. And in the end, he had to go in the opposite direction to make her submit. Well it worked. She listened quietly to his words now and said she understood. Then she even thanked him for giving her a second chance.

“I feel it’s not even the second chance. I feel I’ve given you many. So maybe…” Tertius trailed off, sitting a bit more up, “This is the last one. But if you understand as you say you do, then it should not be an issue, right? You will be honest. You will show me respect. And you will be a mother to your son…” He paused, “… to our son.”

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