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The early summer sun was out, brightening the city’s white columns and terracotta, and with good weather came the endless prospects the outside world had to offer. While Valeria was often content staying at home with her wax tablet and scrolls, she also found herself in need of stimulation and company outside her family. Because the high-end bathhouse was a place of both leisure and a cultural hotspot with the occasional theatre or music performance and a collection of literature housing reading rooms and a library with shelves for scrolls. Despite having the litter brought to the baths where she intended to enjoy a warm soaking and massage, Valeria was gowned – for the journey – as an artist would express herself: in bright colour, with a thick, styled wig, and kohl.

She made sure to have Horatia accompany her. “Think of the fun we’ll have,” she promised. After all, the weather, and an excursion anywhere put her in good spirits.  

As they left the heat of the sun in the front gardens of the bathhouse, they were welcomed by the coolness of the bathhouse interior. Although music or the projection of dramatic lines were not yet filling up the frescoed walls, the high domed ceiling compensated for it with the sounds of echoing footfall on marble and the flapping of birds that had found their way inside through the skylights.

“Oh, I was hoping they would be here,” Valeria gasped eagerly as her eyes caught the set-up of stalls near the entrance, each were brimming with colourful trinkets and perfumes. The woman made a quick beeline towards them, pressing her fingers with their polished and coloured nails here and there as she pulled one thing out after the other followed by a “how much?” before she put it back. It was never a question of money as it was that Valeria simply liked the victory of a good bargain.

After having some perfume sprayed on to her wrist, Valeria took a whiff before turning to Horatia, holding it out for the woman to smell. “What do you think? It doesn’t smell too much like a centurion’s sweaty ass, does it?”

 

@Sara

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Horatia was pleased to get out of the house, and even moreso to do it in Valeria's company. Their friendship extended back years, although neither one of them could pin point its exact origin as the trials of marriages and children had addled their minds. Her friend was a good opposite to her and made her feel more confident or outgoing by extension, although to see them would have made an amusing sight; Valeria beautiful and dressed up to the nines with her wig and makeup, and Horatia dressed well but simply, her natural auburn hair intricately braided up and with minimal cosmetics (it would all run off in the baths anyway, what was the point?). They couldn't have been more different if they tried.

Amused by her friend, she trailed behind her and half-heartedly looked at the trinkets, none of which were to her taste; she'd recently gotten into Dacian gold and had a mind to ask Valeria where if she had any good connections from her time there. An arm was thrust under her nose and she blinked, sniffing tentatively before recoiling. "It doesn't no," She said wryly with a small smirk, "It's perfectly suitable if you want to smell like you've just left your brothel and are heading to another client." The woman behind the counter tutted irritated, but she was hardly going to say anything to two obviously noble women. 

Horatia fiddled her fingers over some of the rings, trying on a few but almost immediately finding one or two of them itchy. She cast an eyebrow up at the stallholder and handed it to her, unamused; "This isn't solid gold, your supplier must have plated it." Some poor pleb would no doubt find it, buy it delighted at the price, only to have their finger swell up and break out in an ugly little rash at the metal lurking underneath the plating. She had the same reaction herself, which irritated her father no end when she could always tell fake jewellery from the genuine when she was a little girl eyeing up pretty wares at the market. 

She cast a sidelong glance at Valeria and gestured that they should head into the complex properly. The stalls were hardly going anywhere. "How long do you have this afternoon?" Horatia, herself, had no pressing matters to attend to and it was nice to actually enjoy being outside once more after a solid few weeks of being unable to leave the house after the...situation. A situation which had mercifully resolved itself. 

 

TAG: @Joaquin

Edited by Sara
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Valeria grinned and brought her wrist back under her nose to re-examine the smell. Now that Horatia mentioned it, there was both an overwhelming sweetness and overwhelming something else to the scent. The kind that now reminded her of Porcus – her brother – when he believed that fragrances perfectly substituted bathing, leaving his family to fall victim to the stench of ass and roses. Would it wash from her wrist?

Valeria sensed that Horatia wanted to be in the baths and she gave a disappointed sigh, the type of sigh that a friend gave when they were told ‘we have to go home’ while standing beside the bar. But luckily for Horatia, she did not have to pry Valeria’s stiff corpse from the stall, the excitement of the shopping was dulled by the now strengthening smell of the perfume on her arm, her friend’s observations regarding the gold, and by the growing realisation that what had looked endlessly interesting from afar was just a glorified display of junk. Rome was rife with charlatans looking for easy ways to make more coin, the crowds of the baths offered just that.

“Trying to be rid of me so soon, Horatia Justina?” Valeria said in feigned offence, while her hand picked up one of the gold-pieces curiously. “I have as long as Landicus’s long cock.” That meant ‘forever’ in other words. After all, the man’s cock reached Britannia and back, so his poems said. It must be hard, though, folding all that several times over under the toga. It was so long that people screamed about a snake at the bathhouse. Despite her joking, Valeria heeded her friend’s wishes. “Fine, I need to wash this off me before I faint anyways. Let’s get naked,” she said casually and turned to leave the stall behind them.

@Sara

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Horatia grinned, "Ah yes - I accepted the invite under the pretence of meeting a friend, but really all I want to do is float by myself surrounded by plebs." She chuckled and shook her head, about to continue when she was interrupted by a classic Valeria-ism that made her blush and made the stall holder snort in amusement. Horatia shot her a warning look and the girl turned her back to fluster with some merchandise. "Valeria!" She hissed, but couldn't disguise her amusement, "At least wait until we're actually in the baths before you start." She didn't mean it seriously, and just grinned. It was a good parallel, she'd give her friend that. She'd read enough Landicus (of course purely out if literary interest mind...of course...) to appreciate it. 

As they walked through the entrance hall, their slave girls trailing behind her Horatia glanced down at her friend. "No Sulpicia today?" She queried gently. She liked Valeria's eldest; she was eminently sensible (whose disposition she took after, Horatia couldn't actually tell) and she was unflappably polite. The mention of daughters made her glad she'd done this as she sighed; "I think Calpurnia is about to start her monthly bleeds - poor girl has been in bed most months out of the last few complaining her stomach won't stop cramping." She sighed as she unwound her hair, and tried to throw back her memory. She must have been eleven or twelve when she started her own, so it made sense she supposed. How on earth she had a daughter so nearly a woman, she didn't know. "Any advice for telling a poor husband that his little girl is growing up is most welcome, I don't want to give Aulus a heart attack." She laughed softly. Poor Aulus. 

As she was disrobed by her attendant, she slipped off the stola and tunica and then carefully unwound her strophium and untied her undergarment until she was in the nude. She'd worked hard, in a very Horatia-esque way (everything had to be perfect, not a single hair out of place) to regain as much of a youthfu, slim figure as she could after two children, and had no qualms showing it off. She glanced sideways to Valeria; "Ready?" 

 

TAG: @Joaquin

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“Poor little pear,” Valeria offered with a sympathetic tut. She was a late bloomer, but it still felt as if it were a wave good-bye to the carefreeness of childhood and a welcoming gift into the pains of adulthood. “Sulpicia had a prior engagement with a girl friend of hers, unfortunately.” That was Valeria’s go-to answer whenever she did not feel like diving into a ‘well, my adolescent daughter is going through one of her inexplicably strange moods and it’s best not to take her out of the house’. Besides, it was freeing to be her own person without having to stop and remember ‘did I feed the child?’ “But I remember when Sulpicia was that age,” she mused, moving her body to ease the battle of removing her clothes for the slaves. But gods, did she feel old saying that. It sometimes amazed her that it was possible for her to be a grandmother.

She peered at her friend who was already fully undressed. “Are you this quick with Aulus? Anyway,” she said, returning to their original lovely conversation. “I believe I kept it quiet it from him for a while but detailing shocking news to husbands always requires a little diplomatic expertise. A little word foreplay to get him ready, some lubrication to soften it, then you go in with full force with it. Titus has not broken into a traumatic sweat in the middle of the night… yet.” The marriage of their daughter was an inevitable future and that was one area that Valeria could not jest about.

Finally, free of her clothes, Valeria sauntered towards her friend. “Ready,” she confirmed, giving Horatia an approving slap on the ass. It deserved a poem.

 

@Sara

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Horatia chuckled and despite herself, couldn't help but retort; "You know my husband; plain speaking, straight to business...of course I'm this quick." Obviously a jest, but she wasn't about to become catty and reply  that unlike her friend she wasn't dressed to the nines and wearing another humans hair upon her head, or a full face of makeup and so disrobing wasn't quite the chore for her. She bit her tongue - Gods Valeria brought out a different side to her. 

She noted the woman's advice in the back of her mind, although it was quickly lost as she felt a hand slap her. She choked and managed only a slight glare to the back of the woman's head as she sauntered off to the baths. She tried to dredge her memory for how on earth she had become friends with a woman so utterly different to herself, and failed. It worked, however, and she found herself smiling despite herself. She slipped a couple of coins to her slave, in turn to pass on to the capsarii to ensure her clothes were still bloody there at the end of their session - it was one of the other reasons she hadn't dressed up today; she was in no mood to be robbed. 

She walked quickly to follow and glanced at the doors; one to the tepidarium and another to the frigidarium. She took the lead this time and headed into the tepidarium where a few women lazed around; including a couple of positively ancient matrons sat gossiping on one of the benches. She chuckled as she glanced at them; "Will that be us in thirty years? Lamenting the middle aged beauties?" She dipped her toe into the water and then slowly descended the steps. She needed to relax; the last few months of stress had taken their toll and she closed her eyes in bliss, gasping a contented little sound. "We really should do this more often. No screaming children or nagging teenagers. Perfection." She smiled ruefully to herself, eyes still shut and taking in the warmth.

 

TAG: @Joaquin

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Valeria’s feet crossed the warm floor of the tepidarium as her eyes crossed to the older women that Horatia referenced with a smile tugging at the corner of lips in amusement. They were deep in their conversation. Their expressions, the shake of their heads, and occasionally audible “oh, nooo” made clear how much they enjoyed feeding off one another’s energy as they shared the confused details of some scandalous occurrence or other. “I’m already lamenting the middle-age beauties. Everything has begun to sag,” Valeria jested with a loud laugh that made a few heads turn and a solitary distant tut in disapproval could be heard. She did not dread age, by now she had come to terms that one day, it would certainly be her and she hoped that if that were the case, it would be Horatia there with her just as those matrons had each other. “Though I am in the right mood to be just as outraged by some gossip as they are. Here, let me start, there’s talk of a gladiator with three cocks.”

As she broke the water surface and slowly lowered, feeling how the warm water eased the stresses in her muscles, she understood Horatia’s contentedness in the time away from home. “Let us not forget the drunken men who sleep on the floor of our domus,” Valeria added with a chuckle, but she agreed. Being a mother and being a person were two things that women like them often had to balance. “Then we must make plans for the next week and leave our husbands wondering if we’ve finally set them aside for each other as much as we do with them and the little triumvirate they have arranged with themselves and Longinus.”

@Sara

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