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Lost in translation


Érik
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July 75.

 

The markets were bustling with activity, as they always were, but Florus didn't care. They made him uneasy, most of the time. Too many people, and too many things going on at once. Sensations, colours, noises, smells... Eventually it all set him on edge. There was a reason why his only outings generally were restricted to the baths, and why he preferred to stay in the gardens when it was possible. There was no peace outside. Not with so many Romans around, that was for sure. Not to mention everything else...

Today his mind was focused on something else, however, as it had been for the past two weeks. Tranquillus. Oh, he'd been thinking about him for a long time, now, but it had been two weeks since they'd shared their first kiss and Florus' world had become that much more beautiful. The world made more sense now that he had an anchor. It had also been almost two weeks since Tranquillus had left, and Florus missed him enormously. He hadn't known that he could feel so happy and so sad at the same time. Just as he had been able to touch the body slave, he had been taken away. It was so difficult.

The only thing he could do was throw himself entirely into his work. He'd been a devoted, caring gardener before, but now he threw all his energy into it, working all the hours where there was sunlight, and barely stopping to eat. He didn't really notice a difference in the outcome yet, but that wouldn't stop him from working. It was that, or sit around the gardens feeling sorry for himself. That had never been his type.

So he'd had an idea to make the domus more flowery. Large clay pots, which he had found in storage, somewhere, could be used to host plants and put around the doors leading to the gardens. It would be beautiful. And he'd even found a smaller pot, which he thought he might use to put beside Tranquillus' bedroom door.

All he needed to do was shop for the plants that would go in that pot, now. The young gardener browsed the flower and plant merchants, occasionally stopping to smell them. Interested, he pointed at a very nice iris. The merchant told him the price, smugly, and Florus exhaled incredulously.

'Are you serious? That plant is not worth that price!' He was indignant, now, and found his Latin to be failing him, so he reverted to Britonnic. 'Do you take me for a moron? You're a thief, that's what you are!'

 

@Chevi

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The Emporium Magnum was always a place to behold. When Aia had free time, it was fun to walk around in, even if she didn't have money to spend. There was a lot to see (and a lot to smell), and to marvel at all the stuff the Romans decided to sell. (Well. To pilfer, transport, and then sell, most often). She had some time off today, so she was once again wandering aimlessly, looking at fabrics, shiny things, spices, and... greenery?

'Are you serious? That plant is not worth that price!' 

Aia smirked as she looked in the direction of the voice. Someone haggling over a plant? Fun! And just in that moment, the frustrated-looking young man switched languages. 

'Do you take me for a moron? You're a thief, that's what you are!'

Aia's eyebrows rose. She didn't hear Britonnic very often in Rome anymore. Not unless she was talking to Cynane or Erea. What were the odds?

"Speak Latin, barbarian!" the plant merchant snapped. Aia rolled her eyes as she walked closer. Might as well chime in.

"You know damn well what he's saying" she noted, glancing up a the young slave. She noted the tablet around his neck. She gave the merchant a glare "Do you know whose slave this is? Huh? You want your merchandise in that domus or not?" she folded her arms "You better be someone important" she muttered in Britonnic under her breath.

@Ejder

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Since his enslavement, Florus was not a very confrontational person. He knew what happened when you defied the Romans, and this man's reaction reminded him of it. He had forgotten himself, and that was a foolish thing. The merchant was yelling, and calling him a barbarian, and the young gardener reflexively recoiled. He didn't want to make a scene. He would just forget about the iris, and slowly slink away. Irises weren't even that nice, anyway. Not worthy of getting in trouble, at any rate. His plan was to just go back to the domus, and try again another day, when he didn't feel so overwhelmed.

And just like that, his plan was cut short. A woman, not much older than he was himself, had barged in. For a split second, he thought it meant he could slip away unnoticed, but then her words registered. She was talking about him. Taking his defense, sort of, and drawing all the attention to him. Supremely uneasy, Florus looked at his toes. 'I'm no one,' he muttered back at her, wishing he could disappear in the hot summer air. She seemed like she wanted to help, but she was going to get him crucified...

 

@Chevi

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Taken aback by the intervention, the merchant peered at the tablet.

'I'm no one,' 

Well, not you, your dominus, Aia wanted to say, but all she did was roll her eyes. The guy looked a little sheepish, with the merchant glaring at him. His tablet must have had a prominent name on it, though, or Aia's bluff really paid off, because in the end the man huffed, handing over the iris. For half the price. Aia just hoped that was good enough, because honestly she had no idea how much flowers cost in general. She'd let the Briton puzzle that out himself. 

"Thank you!" she beamed at the merchant when it was all said and done. The man was still staring daggers at her.

@Ejder

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Florus blinked a couple times as the merchant's attitude dramatically changed towards him, handing him the iris for only half the price. His eyebrows raised, he handed the money over, and grabbed the plant, nervous that the man would change his mind. He held the iris to his chest, supremely satisfied. It was a beautiful variety, and he hoped Tranquillus would like it. He didn't have much money of his own, and he didn't spend it on anything other than the baths, but he still wanted to get the other man something. Why, he wasn't sure. He just knew that his heart was full, and he needed to get it out somehow. He wasn't very good with words, especially in a language that wasn't his own, but hopefully this plant would do some of the talking. Hadn't the white heather done just that?

Florus walked away from the merchant until he was behind the woman who had intervened. 'Gratitude,' he said. 'You didn't have to do that.'

 

@Chevi

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The flower was purchased, and the young man walked on. Aia strolled along, curious now about who he was and why he was buying flowers.

'Gratitude. You didn't have to do that.'

"Oh, I know" Aia grinned, speaking in the Britonnic dialect he'd talked in earlier "But it's not like I have anything better to do."

Aia was not technically a barbarian, having been born in the provinces, but she'd made friends with enough Britons recently to be interested in the young man's fate. Besides, she really did have nothing better to do at the moment, and she liked meeting interesting people.

"What's your name?"

@Ejder

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Florus looked at the woman seriously, though not unkindly. He seldom did smile, and not for strangers. HIs gardens and Tranquillus got his smiles. They were worth it.

He considered her for a moment. She had showed him kindness, and she spoke his language, albeit with an accent he was unfamiliar with. She spoke with assurance and the confidence that told him she was far from being a slave. What was someone who spoke Britonic doing here, out of their own free will? He certainly wouldn't be here of his own accord. But now that there was Tranquillus... Well, it was all very confusing, wasn't it?

'Florus,' he said, after a moment. 'And you are?' He should know better than to speak to a free person in that manner, but the common language brought out some familiarity within him.

 

@Chevi

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'Florus. And you are?' 

"Aia." Florus was probably not his real name, but she did not fault him with not trusting her with the real one right away. She knew a thing or two about living under a name that was not really your own, and she had never even been a slave, at the mercy of someone else. The man was probably a few years younger than her, and did not seem to be as overtly defiant as she'd seen with Cynane and Erea, and other "barbarians" freshly brought to Rome. Maybe he was born here from Briton parents? People all had their own stories... "Well, nice to meet you, Florus. Do you haggle for flowers often, or is it for a special someone?"

@Ejder

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'Aia,' he repeated. It wasn't a name he was immediately familiar with, and that, coupled with her accent, made him wonder where she was from. He had only once, since leaving Longinus' household, met a Briton in Rome, and that was Cinnia. He wondered if any of his tribe, the Silures, were wandering the city, enslaved as he was. Probably. He couldn't fathom being the only one left. It was a depressing thought, for one, but honestly it just seemed supremely unlikely. 'Where are you from, Aia?'

Aia's perceptiveness brought a pink tinge to Florus's cheeks. Or maybe it wasn't really perceptiveness, and the gardener just felt called out? He was, after all, totally arguing about the price of flowers, for his special someone. 'Erm...' Well, she certainly had her answer.

 

@Chevi

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'Aia. Where are you from, Aia?'

"Gaul" she answered with a smile. He could tell she was not a Briton, since she had an accent, but she was not really from Italia either. A lot of people had trouble placing her in a neat bracket, even now that she was dressing as a woman. She was used to it. "But I spent some time in Britannia."

On the wrong side of Briton swords and spears, but he did not need to know that just yet. Instead, she was curious how he ended up here, buying flowers.

'Erm...' 

"I see" Aia grinned "Well, it's a nice flower. I'm sure she'll appreciate it."

@Ejder

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Gaul. He'd heard about the Roman province, but he'd never met anyone from there. As always when he encountered people from new places, Florus examined her, expression still neutral. Yes, she looked like a regular person. People didn't tend to have the name of their country of origin stamped on their face. Except for the one slave he'd seen once at the market. He couldn't read, of course, at least not really, not yet, but he knew some letters, and he assumed the F on the man's forehead was short for wherever he was from. Thrace, maybe? No, F didn't make that sound.

What was a Gaul doing in Britannia, he wondered. Then again, merchants existed, and he supposed they had to learn each other's languages in order to do their merchant stuff. Maybe she was part of a merchant fleet? She seemed to be a free woman, at any rate. Florus closed his curiosity up in a box. It wasn't his place to wonder about other people. All he really wanted to worry about was his plants, and a certain special someone.

His cheeks were still quite pink, but as she incorrectly assumed his someone was a woman, he raised his eyes to meet hers, somewhat defiantly, though his expression remained altogether polite. 'I like irises. I hope he does too.'

 

@Chevi

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'I like irises. I hope he does too.'

Oh. 

Aia was not new to the concept of men liking men, although in Rome it seemed less about romance and more about... well, other things. As far as she knew. But as someone who had lived as a man for years, she was not really in any position to judge. And looking at the blush, the young man seemed kind of cute, bright eyed and bushy tailed. Ah, young love.

"I'm sure he will." she reiterated with a cheerful smile "Is that what you do then? Gardening?... Or is your name just a coincidence?"

@Ejder

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Aia's reassurance brought the twitching inkling of a smile to Florus' mouth. Hopefully Tranquillus would indeed. There was not much he knew about the other man, come to think about it. He knew his eyes, his smell, his lips... He knew the body slave was a great kisser, he was patient, kind, steadfast and attractive... But he didn't know what his favourite flower was. Or if Tranquillus cared enough about flowers to actually have a favourite. There was so much they had to learn about one another.

'I am a gardener,' he confirmed. 'That's why I was named thus.' He resisted the urge to tell her Florus wasn't his name. It was someone else's, that had been bestowed upon him because the Romans didn't even care enough to learn his actual name. He was more guarded than when he had met Cinnia, though, and wasn't about to share information that could potentially get him in trouble. 'And what is it that you do?'

 

@Chevi

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'I am a gardener. That's why I was named thus.'

Not a coincidence, then. Gardening was not a bad job, as far as Aia understood, and it could be rewarding if someone found enjoyment in it. The way Florus looked at the flower he'd just picked, he seemed to have an eye for it. Still, she wondered what his real name was.

'And what is it that you do?'

"Oh. I teach languages to wealthy children." she grinned "Some of them might become officers in the legions one day, and they might want to know what the enemy is yelling at them."

@Ejder

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Florus peered at Aia, still curious, but still fighting to keep his questions in a box inside his mind. Most things weren't any of his business. And most business he didn't want anything to do with. He knew what he cared about, and generally it was not about other people's matters.

He analysed her words, pensive. So it meant the Britons were the enemy, then. That wasn't a thought he enjoyed. But then again, if she was teaching Roman children, of course they would see his people as the enemy. Romans saw everyone else as the enemy. Maybe because they turned everyone into their enemy.

'Wouldn't it be better to teach them languages to make them diplomats, instead of warriors?' Quickly he erased his defiant expression from his face. His words, though, were impossible to take back. Sure, count on him to speak too much.

 

@Chevi

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'Wouldn't it be better to teach them languages to make them diplomats, instead of warriors?' 

Aia let out a laugh; she did not expect such outright defiance from the friendly-looking young gardener. He looked a little sheepish about himself, too. 

"If they raised diplomats instead of warriors we would be in Achaea" she noted with a grin "Romans will sit down to negotiate only when they have thoroughly kicked your ass. Trust me I... um. Know." She had been there, and seen it. Both parts. Survived the latter, and translated for the former. Romans could actually be pretty good diplomats when they made an effort, since they liked to keep their resources tidy. But even in the legions, some leaders were just idiots.

@Ejder

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His words only made Aia laugh, and he was relieved. He didn't know to what extent he ought to trust her, but he was fairly certain that, even if she was a traitor -though was she really a traitor to the Britons if she wasn't a Briton to begin with? That raised complicated issues- she wouldn't turn him in just for speaking out of turn. She seemed a bit more free than he was. Probably literally, too. As much as he liked to think he had free run of his gardens, at the end of the day, they were not his, and he didn't have any freedom whatsoever. The only liberty he had was one he'd reached out for himself, almost accidentally. Tranquillus. The Roman could never know.

'Achaea? I don't know what that is,' he said. He didn't know a lot of things, he'd come to realize the second he left his village. Back there, he knew all he needed to know about nature and crops, and everything. Out here, everything was new and everything was a distraction he had to ignore to better focus his energies on his plants.

'Did the Romans kick your ass, then?' He thought his question might be too bold, but judging by her use of language, he thought he might still have a bit of leeway.

 

@Chevi

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'Achaea? I don't know what that is,' 

"Hellas. Greece." she said it in Greek and then in Briton, hoping to give a general idea. He might not know the place even as a name, but she did not want to underestimate his knowledge of geography. The Romans tended to think barbarians knew little of the world they'd conquered, but Aia was not so sure. "Romans like the place because Greek literature makes them sound sophisticated."

'Did the Romans kick your ass, then?' 

Aia chuckled at the question. "No... not really. I was an interpreter for them in Britannia." she skipped the part about being disguised as a man, for now.

@Ejder

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Florus nodded. Greece. Yes, he thought he'd heard that word before. Where it was, though, that was entirely beyond him, and he didn't care enough to extend his knowledge of the topic. What good would it do him? He had an interest in plants and in Tranquillus, and, slavery aside, things were fine just the way they were, thank you very much.

'Ah, yes, I see,' he said. He did not see. What he did see, though, was that she had been on the wrong side of the war. She had been with the bad people. 'Why did you fight on their side?' She wasn't a Roman; he couldn't imagine a world where there'd be any reason to be loyal to the Romans.

 

@Chevi

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'Why did you fight on their side?'

"I didn't fight." Aia clarified, tilting her head. She totally had, but she was not about to tell that to a stranger. Kind of hard to explain how the Romans could have let a woman fight for them. That was usually more of a Briton thing. Lucky bitches. "And I was born in Gaul. It's part of the empire." She was a Gaul, but she was also descended from merchants who had been working their trade within the empire for generations. She couldn't exactly go fight for the other side.

"I don't hate the Britons, though" she added, giving him a glance "I don't have reason to. And your people put up one hell of a fight."

@Ejder

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Florus pursed his lips and nodded. It was high time for him to stop asking impertinent questions. That was how he would get in trouble, he was sure of it. He always acted irreproachably, and he was gradually learning to hide the expressions of defiance in his eyes, but he really needed to learn to keep his tongue in check. He had heard of people who'd had their tongues ripped out because they'd said things that weren't to the Romans' liking. If he wasn't more careful... Well, suffice it to say, he had no plans on having it be his fate. Nope. He wanted his fate to be something good, with Tranquillus.

He nodded to concede her point. Part of the empire, sure. Did it mean she had to act like the Romans and side with them? He needed to agree to disagree. It was the wisest path here. 'Of course we do,' he said, a glint of defiance in his eyes. 'We're Britons.'

Florus cleared his throat. He desperately needed to stop while he was ahead. Somewhat confusedly, he grasped at the first topic that entered his mind. 'Do you live in a palace?'

 

@Chevi

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'Of course we do. We're Britons.'

Aia chuckled at the flash of pride, but in a good-natured way. The young man did not seem like a trained warrior. Probably a merchant or a farmer then, before he had been enslaved. That did not mean he couldn't claim the victories of his people to ease the struggle of his day.

'Do you live in a palace?'

Aia laughed at the question, again with good humor, and shook her head.

"No, I don't. I live at the villa of the woman who employs me. How about you?"

@Ejder

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'Oh, so you're like a tutor, then!' Florus exclaimed excitedly, already connecting some dots. 'My, er, um... I know a man in my domus who was a tutor.' The smallest of smiles found its way on the young Briton's face. He couldn't help it, even mentioning Tranquillus made his heart soar and beat more fondly.

'I'm a gardener in a domus,' he said, though she probably wouldn't have needed the explanation. His disheveled hair and dirt-caked hands spoke for themselves. Not to mention the fact he'd already mentioned the first part before. He got a bit light-headed when Tranquillus came to mind. Couldn't help it. 'I live in the villa too, but I don't have my own quarters.' Like Tranquillus did. Undoubtedly she did too, since she wasn't a slave.

'You wouldn't think it, though, because no one in the room thought to wake me up when the earthquake started.' Except Tranquillus. Wonderful, amazing Tranquillus. Fat lot of good the other slaves were, really. If the body slave hadn't had the presence of mind, and the gigantic crush...

 

@Chevi

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'Oh, so you're like a tutor, then! My, er, um... I know a man in my domus who was a tutor.' 

The flowers were for the tutor, then. Aia chuckled. Sweet kid.

'I'm a gardener in a domus. I live in the villa too, but I don't have my own quarters. You wouldn't think it, though, because no one in the room thought to wake me up when the earthquake started.' 

"Well... that is not kind of them" Aia noted. The earthquake had been bad. She got through it alright, but many others didn't. At least Florus looked unhurt too. "Are you... shopping for anything else? For your... tutor?" she added with a mischievous grin.

@Ejder

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