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Morning Rounds


Sara
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Early July, 75AD

Didia was saving the best until last today, despite her brothers grumbles as he pushed the cart up the hill towards their final stop. By virtue of being seen upwards of thrice of a week by some of the slaves, Didia had made enough friends in the households of the great and the good but certain friendships endured more than others. Certain homes were nicer than others as well, and the house of Octavius Flavius Alexander was by far the nicest she had been in. Although, to be fair to the others, all she'd seen of any of them was the kitchen. 

Finally at the slaves entrance, the cook bustled them in as usual and her brother set about the unenviable task of unloading great quantities of this and that, pre-ordered from her fathers business. Bunches of grapes were apparently in order in Octavius' house as poor Appius unloaded bunch after bunch, stomping through the kitchen and back to the cart. Didia helped where she could, with the lighter items, until the bulk of her work was done and she drew the cook over to make her mark on the scrap of papyrus (and it was a scrap, it cost an arm and a leg!) to prove the order had been completed without complaint. Poor Appius went on his way, back and forward whilst Didia gratefully accepted a cup of wine. 

She enjoyed the company of the slaves here, they were more refined (ergo - Romanised) than some of the others on her rounds, and the cook always made sure she sat and had at least a cup of watered wine before she left. Appius was content just for a break from the walking and mostly spent his time sat on the cart in the shade outside, trying to snatch a few minutes sleep free of screaming nephews or arguing parents, whilst his sister chatted. As she talked to the cook, a familiar face ducked through the curtain and a wide grin stretched across her face. "Rufus!" her grin settled into a gentle smile, "I thought you'd miss me today, you're busy?" The cook shuffled off to tend to this or that - barking orders at the younger slave girls to stash the food away, and leaving Didia and her friend to catch up. 

 

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Rufus ducked into the kitchen to fetch something, and smiled as he saw that it was obviously delivery day. He had made friends with Didia Nonia in the first few days he had been in this house, before his unexpected promotion, and looked forward to seeing her on her regular calls to stock up the pantry.

"Salve, Didia - it's good to see you," he said, stepping out of the way of a harried kitchen slave. "I suppose you must be as busy as ever. Have you both had a drink?"

It wasn't really his place to offer to give his master's wine away (even the cheaper stuff) but he was the master's body slave and therefore in some position of authority, and Didia and Appius were free people, even if they were plebs.

"I'm always busy, me," he added in response to her own question. "I've got a few minutes, though."

 

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Didia waved a hand and inclined her head to the cup she was holding. "Of course we have, we never leave here not watered or fed." She grinned and took a sip. It was the lora served to the slaves, but she wasn't fussy. "Appius is taking his sleep whenever he can snatch it so should your dominus find a young man sprawled on a cart out the back of his domus, do apologise on my behalf." She didn't know a great deal about the master of this house besides the fact that he was important and a brother (or was it a nephew?) of the current Emperor. Things such as senatorial familial ties and importance tended to pass one by when it made very little material difference to ones life. 

The cook and her girls flustered around her and Rufus and she diligently  tried to duck produce as it was harried here and there. She didn't like to be a nuisance, but it had been a long morning and the balls of her feet ached, so sitting even for a moment was a welcome relief. Rufus was just a bonus. 

"How have you been keeping?" She said and set the wooden cup down, "Your domus seems fairly unscathed after the tremble?" Granted, all she could see of it was the kitchen and there could well be great big looming cracks stretching the height of the building, or worse - rooms entirely caved in - that she couldn't see. "You should have seen some of the others we went to this morning, one of them had their whole culina gone - not that they sent word so we turned up with a cart full of food to be greeted by a nice spread of rubble." She grinned and reached into her bag, throwing over to Rufus a wrapped up parcel, "So I'm spreading their food. It's a couple of peaches, for you." 

 

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"I've been all right," Rufus said. "My master keeps me busy, though I can't complain. I'm not rushed off my feet all the time." Octavius was pretty decent,as masters went, and Rufus could easily have time to himself, if he worked it out right, though he was always alert for his master's voice in case he was wanted for something.

"The house wasn't too badly damaged - I think it was more cosmetic than anything, though I couldn't say for certain. How's your place, though? Some of the insulae down in the Subura got flattened, from what I've heard."

And whether that was the case or not, Didia was here attending to her job and not at home clearing up possible wreckage of her life.

 

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Didia glanced around; "As I say - it's better than a few I've seen." She smiled and inclined her head, "It's fine. Pater's up in arms about a crack or two on the lower levels he's convinced are growing but we're fine up on the fourth. It's made our neighbour to the left flee for the hills though, poor British lad that had never experienced one before so Pater has a mind to see if we can rent it and knock it through." She doubted they had the funds, especially given her eldest brothers recent drop-off of one of her nephews. 

She picked up her drink again and sipped, arching a brow at him; "For future reference Rufus generally people say thank you, when they're given a gift." She chided, but there was a twinkle of amusement in her eyes, and she gestured to the peaches she had thrown him. "You country sorts never learned your manners, did you? Where was it you said you were from again?" She lost track of all the various homes of all the slaves she spoke to. His Latin was flawless so somewhere in the civilised Empire at least...

 

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"Thank you, oh most noble and esteemed Didia Nonia," Rufus said with a grin, and bit into one of the peaches. "Mm - that's very nice! You could probably charge double your usual price for these, you know, if they're all as good as this one."

He wiped at a bit of juice running down his chin. "Campania. Yes, I know, I know - I look like some barbarian from the outer wastes of the Empire somewhere. But honestly, I'm from Campania. A town called Paestum, near the sea down there." He sighed. He'd never stop missing the place but it was useless to dwell on the past. And he might yet visit the area again, anyway.

He grinned at her, leaning back against the wall behind the bench they were sitting on. "Blame it on my barbarian roots? My lack of manners, I mean - should I address you as 'lady' or something? Miss?"

 

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Didia chuckled and ate one of her own peaches. Her father would never know. "Why thank you, loyal, patient Rufus, I'll be sure to put up the prices and direct all our grumbling clients firmly to your door." She grinned and took another bite. 

His hometown, which she vaguely remembered he had spoken out before, sounded idyllic. Quite removed from her own upbringing in her intense Hispanian town and then Rome. She had been brought up and grown into a woman in the backstreets of Rome with all its chaos and noise and couldn't imagine enjoying time spent in nature. Surely people would get so...bored? "Paestum." She repeated, as if trying it out for size. She leant her jaw on her palm and discarded the eaten peach and its stone in a bowl for scraps. "Was it terribly idyllic down there? Growing up running around the beaches and buildings forts?" Of course not, you idiot, he's a slave. She felt embarrassment colour her cheeks. 

"Lady?" She laughed genuinely - a light, bemused laugh and shook her head, "Don't be silly, I'm just Didia. I'll bet you have more saved up in your peculium than I have in my purse at home in any case, no need to be so formal." 

 

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"Well, only on the holidays. And kids sneak off all the time," Rufus said with a shrug. "I think you'd like it there - even just for a break. Lots of farms around there, fresh fruit and olives and - oh, all sorts." He grinned. "Domina."

He might have more saved in his peculium than she did in her meagre savings - but his was money saved towards his own purchase, she could spend her money on whatever she liked. He supposed even that might not be quite true - he didn't have to worry about buying food or clothing or paying rent, where she did. Was it better to be a slave in a rich household or a poor free person?

That was the sort of question only a fool would answer - surely, surely it would be better to be free?

"Maybe," he said. "But I know my worth down to the last quadrans, and you are priceless. Anyway, the world goes much nicer for everyone if people are polite to one another - and you must deal with far too many rude people in your line of work." He supposed that they could always refuse service to the rudest of them - another perk of freedom, although she might not see it that way and he wasn't going to point it out to her.

 

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Didia wrinkled her nose and shook her head; "I'd like it for their crops but I'd be bored out of my skull I'd think, all that...lounging around with nothing to do." She shook her head but swatted at his arm with a good natured grin at the use of domina. 

"Priceless?" She asked, bemused but with a slight blush, attempting to brush it off. Rufus was a sweetheart. "Oh you wouldn't believe. I had a woman come striding up to me at the stall a few days ago, red-head like you1 - maybe a relation?" She chuckled, "As cold as ice and exclaimed that the peach her slave had bought for her was rotten through and I should be ashamed." She rolled her eyes at the memory. The woman was an uppity so-and-so but Didia being Didia, had done everything she could to appease her. "She was dressed so fancy and people were looking so all I could do was beg her apology and offer a whole basket for free. My Pater was furious, but you try saying no to that sort - they expect to get whatever they want, whenever they want!" She exclaimed exasperated but shook her head, "But it worked out in the end, she was apologetic even - said sorry for causing a scene, she'd had a bad day so," She shrugged, "No great loss." Ever the optimist, Didia chose to see the good in people where she could - even when it was a struggle. 

She took another sip of her drink, drawing it out so she didn't get her cup refilled - she felt rude enough to take one cup, she didn't wish to be an imposition and ask for another. Jaw still cupped by her palm, she leant in conspiratorially, "You must see them even worse than that. Care to share, sweet Rufus?" 

 

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Horatia was not a fan of Didia's peach...

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"You'd like the sea and how changeable it is," Rufus said, sucking the peach pit clean and setting it down beside him; he'd dispose of it later. And if yelling was the worst Didia had to put up with, she got off lightly! Not that he was going to say as much, he didn't want to spoil her day completely.

"I don't think you want to know the sort of thing slaves have to deal with," he said lightly. "Let's just say... people can get physical, if they're not happy." At least the woman had apologised; he'd had people apologise to him perhaps as many as half-a-dozen times over his life. "A red-head? There aren't many redheads in Rome, not compared to folks with brown or black hair - though I've seen more than one with yellow hair recently, too."

He certainly wasn't related to anyone who would be likely to wear fancy clothes, unless something wonderful had happened to Bretta since he'd last seen her, although he didn't think it very likely.

"Did she take the basket?" He supposed she must have, if Didia's father had been so furious over the whole incident. It would have cost the family a fair proportion of their days' takings, probably.

 

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Didia sighed and winced, looking embarrassed; "Sorry, I spoke before I thought..." She nudged him under the table with her leg, "I'm a fool, as my father would say." She really had no idea what slaves endured besides seeing them at the markets and in the kitchens of their grand homes. It wasn't as if her own family had any, and so the tasks assigned to the slaves fell to them instead - on top of their full time jobs. She considered, briefly, whether it would be better to be a poor pleb or a rich man's slave and thought it probably nicer to be the latter. Not that she'd say as much to Rufus. 

Sipping her wine, she nodded; "Mhm - she did. I have no idea what she's going to do with a basket of peaches before they all rot but..." She shrugged her shoulders, "That's rich people for you. Too many things and too little sense." Grinning she set down her cup and narrowed her eyes at him, "What do you think it's like? To have so much money? I honestly don't know what they do all day." She frowned to herself. She supposed some of the men had jobs, but what did the women do? Surely they were bored to tears moments after they woke up, knowing they had precisely nothing to accomplish that day. 

 

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"It's all right," Rufus said. She hadn't meant any harm, and he wasn't one to take umbrage at something a friend said. "I don't think you're a fool at all. You just - haven't seen what people can be like when nobody's looking, and I'm glad you haven't."

He grinned and tipped his head back, thinking. "Oh, she'll probably have them made into something fancy for her high-class friends to eat when they come calling."

What did rich women do all day? They didn't clean or cook - they left that to their slaves. "Oh, they go shopping and spend their husbands' money, and go to the baths. And visit each other. I suppose some of the really old-fashioned women might do a bit of weaving - most of them seem to have a loom set up, but it's only for show, really. Maybe some sewing. Looking round the gardens, or the house, and deciding that the slaves should move the statue of Venus three inches to the left because it doesn't look quite centred - oh, no, now it's crooked. On second thoughts it's too far left now, it should go back a bit. So of course it ends up precisely where it started out two hours earlier."

 

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Didia listened to Rufus' suggestions of a rich woman's life with a wrinkled nose, and thinly veiled confusion. It sounded terrible. How did they not get so bored they offed themselves?! Didia couldn't recall having a day off, besides festivities, since she'd been old enough to be a help rather than a hinderance. She'd been afforded other luxuries, of course - such as reading and writing which she'd been taught slowly over the last year as her father came to the conclusion that his sons were as useless as a floppy cock and his daughter might as well learn how to keep the books. 

She grinned, laughing at Rufus' description and arched a brow; "So now I know what they're all uptight when they come to the markets and snap at me, they're so agitated that they just can't get that image of the statue placement out of their heads." She giggled and sipped her wine, "You know I'm surprised they have so few children - those upper class lots. You'd think with nothing better to do they'd jump into bed and start churning them out, just for some entertainment value." She was jesting, of course, she wasn't so cynical. Children were a blessing - a blessing she'd not yet been given, but prayed to Juno she'd one day have. For now her nieces and nephews sufficed. 

Setting down her cup again, she considered Rufus and asked, gently; "I hope you're not stuck rearranging statues here?" it was a roundabout way of asking 'I hope it's not too bad here', but given her earlier slip up - maybe thinly veiled references were for the best. 

 

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"Oh, no, not here - that was back in Paestum," he said. "I'm probably not supposed to call a free woman an interfering bossy old bat, am I?" He laughed quietly. "But here, I'm above all that, officially. I'm the one you'll see trailing my master out in the forum, or carrying his strigil and oil bottle to the baths for him, or whatever. I get to leave shifting statues to everyone else these days."

He patted her hand awkwardly. He thought she was more embarrassed by her earlier slip than he was. "It's not too bad here, at least for me. No shifting marble statues around, or rearranging drapes or anything. My job is my master, and he's not bad, for a senator - though I don't suppose you have much to do with senators, of course. I know I didn't, till I came here. Waiting for him can get boring at times, but tat just gives me time to look around and watch what's going on - Paestum's so much smaller than Rome is that I'm always amazed how many people just live in this one city."

Though Didia was always busy, of course. "I don't suppose you get any time to just sit and think, though - you've always got something you need to do. At least you don't have to find your own entertainment by making people rearrange furniture for no real reason."

 

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Didia chuckled. "Ahh, I have seen your type. You're a cut above the rest Rufus, most of them look like they've sat on a stick or are thirty years your senior." She inclined her head in the compliment. Whomever this Octavius was, he was lucky to have a man like Rufus. 

The pat on her hand was awkward, but sweet. She squeezed it quickly in return before withdrawing her hand back to her cup. She shook her head at his question; "I've spoken to a few. There were a drunk pair that came up to me, no idea how they were drunk at four in the afternoon, and offered to buy the stand and me for a very generous price." She grinned. They were drunken leches but overall, had amused rather than insulted her after she had retorted where they could stick their offer. Much like the cold, simple women she saw of their class - she had a rather dim view of the men as well whom she considered drunken louts for the most part, or far too serious. But she supposed if she had a job running the empire, she'd drink just to get to through the day, and tried not to judge them quite so harshly. 

"I...suppose I don't." She considered for a moment. She managed her time, but it fitted around the work and the work was endless. She wondered, for a brief moment, if Rufus with his exploring and his master had managed to see more of Rome in the few months he'd been here than she'd seen in over a lifetime. Surely not? "I work in the mornings - before dawn to load, and then deliveries until just before midday. Then I set up the stall until dark and then go home and look after the little ones," She looked almost embarrassed. It didn't sound like a particularly full life when she put it like that, but she loved her life. She wouldn't change a think. Well, maybe she'd have some new sandals but that was about it. "My brother put his newest little one with us a few months ago. A sweet little boy, apparently his mother didn't have the resources for him anymore and my brother obviously doesn't." She didn't mind. Having the little ones there was adorable for the most part, and she knew they brightened her parents days. 

"So, as I'm an uncultured girl, tell me what's the best place you've found on your travels in Rome? Where should I go, if I have time to stop and relax?" 

 

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"Most of the older ones probably started out being pedagogus1 to their master when the master was a boy," Rufus pointed out. "And I don't think you're uncultured at all. Where to go depends on what you like - and you probably know all the things I know, like the races or the games or the theatre. You definitely know the baths, of course." Even slaves could afford the entrance fee to the baths, on the whole - even the very biggest and grandest charged a flat fee of one as to use the facilities for as long as a person wanted.

"I like when my master goes to the Gardens of Sallust, or those of Lucullus, but there's a fee to go in." Of course there was, Rome was not exactly famed for its philanthropists. What else was there to do, that a plebian girl could enjoy? He (the slave of a senator, and a recent arrival in Rome) was rapidly drawing a blank.

"I think so far I've ended up people watching in the Forum, mostly, while waiting for my master," he said. "I have a theory that if you pick one spot and stay there long enough, you'll see everyone in the Empire walk past." He shrugged. "I know, it's stupid. But it seems like it would be possible - or at least, it ought to be. Though I've come from Paestum which is... I think there are more people living just on the Aventine than there are living in the whole town, and the farms around it."

 

1. pedagogus - the slave who escorted a boy to school and helped with his homework

 

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Didia smiled to herself. People watching in the Forum seemed a very...Rufus thing to do, but she couldn't quite figure out why. It was sweet, and she shook her head; "It's not stupid." She intoned. All of what he'd said she'd done before, although she supposed it'd been a while since she'd taken a walk in the gardens. It wasn't as if she could spare the time, and if she could then traipsing up to them seemed like a colossal waste of it when she could be doing something far more fun. She supposed having grown up in a city, she found the serenity of the gardens mildly unnerving. 

"You know when I was a teenager one of my favourite things to do was go up the Aventine; there used to be a baker there that put out his cakes to cool - knowing full well they'd be robbed blind, which they were of course - I was never going to turn down free cake," She grinned, "And then I remember a friend and I found an abandoned domus; it was all shut up from the front but the slave entrance was bolted in a way that if you contorted yourself right, you could slip in." She sipped her wine again, "It mustn't have been touched for twenty or so years - it was almost as if somebody just...forgot about it. The gardens were so overgrown but it was beautiful, and all the glassware was still there - and all the book scrolls, but everything was covered in dust." It had been a magical wonderland to her; full of exciting things to explore and find. Whomever had lived there hadn't even taken their clothes with them, although (much to her disappointment) they were all moth eaten in the intervening years. 

She set down her now empty cup - but covered it with her palm so nobody would pour her another. "Sorry," she winced, "You have to stop me if I chatter away. I was just thinking that going there might be the most cultured thing I did in Rome..." She chuckled and shook her head, "I wonder if it's still there? Still just as untouched?" 

 

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"I can't imagine you stealing cakes," he told her, wondering if the baker did it deliberately for them to be taken (surely not!) or just hoped that this time, they wouldn't be. Which was the definition of madness: doing the same thing time after time and expecting a different result. 

"Why would anyone just abandon a domus in Rome?" he wondered. "Though it must have been interesting to explore. Not like your home at all." Not that he knew where she lived - it must be an insula, but he'd never been in one of those and the world of living surrounded by people above and below was a foreign one to him. 

"You can chatter as much as you like," he told her. "I'm not one for talking, much. Old habit, with me." Habit, and the demands of various masters who expected their slaves to serve quietly without drawing attention to themselves.

 

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"I have a wicked side when I want to," She retorted with a roll of her eyes - obviously jesting. She'd quickly grown out of such youthful follies. Hard work did that. And she shook her head, leaning back in her seat; "I have no idea - the owner died, perhaps? Or," She frowned to herself, trying to count back on her fingers - "When was the Civil War again?" It had passed her by - as it did with most plebs she imagined, "Fifteen or so years ago? That would make sense, I suppose the owner might have left it for his son or something - if said son was elsewhere in the empire and then during the civil war he..." She drew her finger across her throat with a wince, "And it remained abandoned after that? I must have been fourteen or fifteen when we found it so it figures." 

She mused silently to herself for a minute and then glanced up at Rufus with a mischievous twinkle in her eye. "Does your dominus ever give you time to yourself? We could go and see if it was still there?" It would afford her the chance to relieve her youth a little, and escape the sometimes endless drudgery that came with working every day. She didn't realise quite how it sounded though, it had not been meant as a proposition, and instead she just smiled at him - musing to herself that out of all the friends she'd made from the slaves she visited, she liked Rufus the best. Sweet boy. 

 

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"Thirteen years ago?" Rufus hazarded, though it had passed him by, too - he hadn't even witnessed the sort of rioting he had heard happened in Rome at some point during the civil war. "But that does make sense."

He smiled at her. Didia was refreshing; a free person who didn't see slaves as simply objects that could be commanded. He doubted that she would stop short of describing him as a vīr, though - or maybe the distinction wouldn't occur to her. He couldn't remember if her family had slaves or not.

"He does - that might be fun," he said. Surely just looking at an abandoned house could not hurt anyone, or get anyone in trouble. "It's sweet of you to want to share something of your childhood with me."

He wasn't sure he would feel so comfortable sharing some of his own secret spots with her if they found themselves near his old master's farm - but after this, he thought he might. 

"You're very sweet," he added, smiling at her.

 

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Didia shrugged and offered a light smile; "It's nothing - I just need to show a provincial boy some proper Roman culture, that's all." Her grin widened. Rufus was neither provincial, nor uncultured she imagined (what did rich men do all day besides indulge in culture with their body slaves in tow?) but it amused her to tease him. 

"What about the next ides? I can ask my pater to get Appius to do deliveries solo and for Publius to cover the stall. Layabout has been too happy in his content little bubble with his wife, it'd do him some good to work hard for a change." She loved her middle brother as much as Appius, but the man didn't have any sense of urgency or really cared about much at present besides his happy little family. "Though to give him his credit, he's better than bloody Lucius." She added the latter as a mutter and deeply wished she'd brought her own wine. Her eldest sibling was a constant source of anxiety and irritation to her, and his mere name meant she wished to settle her nerves. 

She glanced at him with a frown, a thought occurring to her; "I don't remember if you said whether you had any siblings yourself?" 

 

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Rufus elbowed his friend. "Provincial? Is there someone nice who's just moved in next door to you all the way from Gaul?"

Italia hardly counted as 'provincial' but he could recognise teasing, and tease back. He sobered a moment later and gave her a sympathetic look. "Brothers being a nuisance? That's what boys do best - and I should know, I am one. I'm a brother, too," he added, in answer to her question. "I've got a sister, somewhere, though I haven't seen her in a while."

He was not going to spell out the reason why, not to sweet friendly Didia, who would never have to deal with the same reality that Rufus did. "Bretta - people say I look like her. Same hair and eyes."

He had never been able to ascertain the truth of that, not properly, although he was aware of the colour of his hair, and hers - but he'd never been able to see properly what colour his eyes were. A polished bronze mirror could only show so much, and the reflection in still water rather less than a mirror. He still hadn't heard anything about her, but with friends like Didia, if his sister was in Rome, surely he'd hear something someday.

"I'm sorry your brothers are idiots, though," he added, and indicated her cup. "Would you like some more wine?"

 

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"Bretta." She repeated the name with a soft smile on her lips but understood the intention behind his words and felt a pit of guilt in her stomach. She knew why siblings, when slaves, couldn't see one another. She just hoped that sweet Rufus' sister was somewhere good; the alternative wasn't worth thinking about. Didia also resolved to keep an ear to the ground about a Bretta with red hair and green eyes. She saw all sorts in her line of works and delivered to the houses of the high and noble as well as an assortment of popina's and not to mention where she lived. She really did see every side to Rome. 

She laughed a genuine laugh, but shook her head at the offer of more wine. "Oh no, I don't want to be stumbling drunk when we try and get the cart home before the daily restriction." She chuckled and shook her head, "And it's just Lucius that's the idiot really. I never understood the phrase waste of good air until I grew older and realised that's exactly what my lovely eldest brother is." She rolled her eyes, and only hoped that the man wasn't planning on coming home any time soon to rifle through their belongings in search of money to pay this debt or that, or to dump another child on them. 

She heard a whistle through the bustle of the kitchen and glanced around to see her youngest brother blinking at the two of them, sleep still in his eyes. Poor sod. "I should go." She said with a faux pout but reached out to squeeze Rufus' hand in a good natured way. "But next ides? For the abandoned house tour?" She asked excited as she stood and dusted down her tunica. "Don't forget to ask your dominus, you know I'll be back in three days for the next delivery and'll demand an answer." She chuckled and ignored Appius' sullen and pointed coughing to try and get her to leave.

 

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Nearly wrapped?

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He felt Didia stiffen a little next to him and glanced at her face to see the guilty look. "It's all right, it happens," he said to her, speaking quietly. "It's not your fault, either, is it?"

It was just life - a particularly shitty aspect of life, but just life. He could only hope that Bretta had ended up somewhere halfway decent, though as a female slave and a pretty one, that might be a lot to hope for.

"You'd be hard pressed to get drunk with this stuff," he added lightly, indicating his own cup. The cheap stuff wasn't conducive to getting anyone drunk unless they were most of the way there already, but he could understand her not wanting to drink any more of it; it tasted more of vinegar than wine (even the very best masters weren't going to let their slaves have the best wine, after all! The stuff from the last pressings f the grapes was perfectly adequate for slaves, even in the household of Octavius Flavius Alexander!)

"I suppose you ought to go - and I'll ask him. I'll let you know, but he's all right. He probably won't say no." Well, Rufus hoped he wouldn't, at any rate, but you could never be sure.

"It's always good to see you, Didia Nonia," he told her as they stood up. "And tell your brother he should get to bed earlier if he doesn't want to be asleep on his feet while he's working."

 

@Sara

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