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Early August, 75 AD

Manius had finally found something, or so it would seem. He’d been contacted by a servant to Quintus Caecina Tuscus, a former bodyguard to his daughter, actually. The actual Quintus was far away from Rome, but in Rome and near Rome was his family and his servants. And since Manius used to know people a little higher up in ranks, back when he worked for Cyprianus, he was still well-known, even if he had just worked at the slave market for over ten years now. Not that he was the kind of man to hang out with his friends all the time, but they knew him. And Manius had of course let it be known, that he needed a job... although for a while, nothing happened. Until this bodyguard reached out to him and it was about time too. He had little less. The landlord had threatened with throwing him out soon.

At least it was something, he thought, even if it was good and probably more than what he deserved. He’d been bodyguard a few times before, both for Domitilla (whom he was so foolish to fall in love with) and to Cyprianus (who was also dead now), but at least he’d tried it before. He was told that the young girl was of the marriable age and that she might soon find herself a husband, but that she’d also lately landed herself in a few situations, where she ought to have a man looking closely after her. And after the earthquake, her old bodyguard had been injured and he was close to being retired anyway. So he reached out to Manius, who responded fast, because he really did need a job. He just hoped he really was able to keep her safe. He failed with Salacia, after all. Her too.

Manius had dressed in the finest outfit he had - he didn't know yet if they would offer him a home too in the domus, or if he would still stay in his own - and then he went to the right address at the Palatine. His hair was short and curly and he had actually visited a barber to remove the worst stubble on his face, which was needed after his most recent fall from grace. It had been his last money spent, so it was a good thing he was getting a new job, finally – and a proper job with a good pay even, for a Senatorial family! At least, he hoped they would want to keep him. He hoped they'd not change their minds about him.

A servant allowed him in and told him to wait in the atrium. So here he stood. Quietly, with his hands folded on his back, waiting to meet his new mistress. Hopefully it wouldn’t go wrong this time, but by now, he barely trusted his own thoughts on that. It always went wrong somehow.

@Echo

Edited by Atrice
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"Why should I need another bodyguard?" Caecina huffed, staring at her reflection in the mirror as Astraea styled her hair. "Old Setianus was good enough. And he could come back after he heals up a bit." It was no secret that Caecina was miffed about the whole situation. Firstly, she was upset that the old Egyptian who had watched over her for several years now had been injured - he was a kind soul and almost like a father figure, just as Astraea was like a mother. Secondly, she thought of herself as an enterprising young woman, able to take care of herself, and was annoyed that no one else thought so. No one had bothered upbraiding her about this attitude yet, reminding her of the danger of being labeled as a member of the senatorial class. 

"Setianus is a free man, and he was getting older. He was ready to retire. And he's passing on your protection." Astraea was the voice of reason, as always, and Caecina simmered into silence, which remained until she was dressed and ready. She had chosen a simple chiton and palla for this meeting, seeing as she wasn't in public, but it was nice enough to make a good impression. Finally, she walked downstairs, putting on a friendly smile as she saw the man before her. "Manius Gallus, I presume? Welcome to our home. Please, come sit." She gestured him into a sitting room and sat, arranging her skirts primly. 

@Atrice

Edited by Echo
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At last a young woman appeared – and the old bodyguard had said it would be a young woman, so this must be her. She was very pretty, in that way young women were. There was a glimpse in her eyes and she seemed confident, he thought to herself. That was all very well, but she could not defend herself if she was attacked in Rome. That’s why she needed Manius, who would hopefully not fail his new mistress. She welcomed him and asked him to sit.

“Manius Rutilius Gallus, but you can call me what you prefer.” He corrected her and hoped she would not be too offended. Before he was a slave, he had been Manius Gallus, but after he was freed, there had been another name added to his. It was only correct to use the full name. This was the daughter of the proconsul of Britannia and he knew that name, so he knew hers too. Caecina Tusca must be the name, as he had not been told of any other children of her age. He sat down as she bid him, while she did the same. He noted how she arranged her skirts. She wanted to look her best and suit her rank, he thought.

“I hope I did not keep you waiting for long, domina.” He was a freedman, but he was not here to be her friend or anything. He was here to guard her. He’d address her as he would a mistress, because that’s what she would be to him.

@Echo

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The man corrected her for calling him the wrong thing, and while her first reaction was to get her feathers ruffled at being corrected, she smoothed herself down before it could show on her face. "Manius Rutilius Gallus. My apologies. May I call you Manius?" She always thought it was a mouthful to call someone by their entire name, except at a formal meeting. She didn't consider this meeting to be overly formal. "I am Caecina Tusca - you may call me Caecina." She knew this man was a freedman, so she didn't seen any reason for him to treat her like she owned him. 

He spoke again, hoping that he didn't keep her waiting. She waved her hand. "Not at all, I'm sure I kept you waiting instead." She shifted awkwardly, unsure of what to talk about, so, she just decided to get down to business. "So, I understand that you are here to replace my old bodyguard, Setianus. Do you have experience as a bodyguard?"

@Atrice

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She apologized kindly for not mentioning his full name when she first came to see him. And then asked if she could call him Manius, to which he nodded, "Manius is fine, yes. People usually call me that or Gallus." He explained. As a freeborn plebian, he had been Manius Gallus. Gallus had been his name as a slave, since his master's name was also Manius and it would be too confusing to use the same name for both. And now he had three names. It was more than what he started with. He watched his new mistress though, telling him her name and what he could call her. Manius nodded once more, she didn't want him to call her domina, which was fine. He was here to do her bidding. Manius was not a slave, but a servant. To him, the difference wasn't that great though.

Caecina said he had not kept her waiting and he watched how she shifted and then asked about his experience, "I have some. As a slave, I had several owners and in two of those cases, I served as bodyguard. The first of those was a noble lady, like yourself, where I was to look out for her and her daughter. The second... was a senator in need of a sparring partner and bodyguard." Manius explained to her and inhaled a breath. He mentioned no names, but if you cared to think about it, you'd easily guess whom the one freeing him was, judging by his own name. Manius looked at Caecina, wondering if he should ask into those troublesome situations he'd heard about. Or maybe he should wait a little, see how friendly she'd be towards him. He didn't wish to upset her on his first day.

@Echo

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Caecina took a mental note about his name and nodded. "Very well." Her annoyance was drifting away, in the way that many teenage rages came and went swiftly. Now, she was curious to learn more about this man and why he had been chosen to guard her. He explained that he did have experience as a bodyguard, listing his former employers. His last statement was interesting, and she had wondered, due to his name... but it would be rude to ask. 

"I'm glad you are experienced. You met Setianus, correct? He was a good bodyguard, but older. It was time he retired." She looked him up and down once more. "I don't think I'm being given any choice in the matter, but since we are meeting, I will say that I am glad to hire you." Even if I've never actually needed a bodyguard, she thought privately. "Setianus was free, but he lived in the domus all the same. Do you have a place in the city? Or would you like a room here instead?"

@Atrice

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He sat quietly while the young woman spoke of how she was glad he was experienced and she mentioned her old bodyguard. Manius nodded, “I met him, yes.” He replied, noting how she seemed to look him over and then she said she had no choice when it came to having a bodyguard. So she did not think she needed one? Manius would disagree. Setanius had mentioned the situations where he should have been there, and besides, she was young and beautiful. Any man would love to take advantage of such a woman. He thought about his conversation with Didia and how she said men always controlled women. Manius would take good care of his new mistress.

Meanwhile she kept talking, saying her former bodyguard lived in the domus with the family.

“I have a home, but since it’s just me… I could sell it, if you would prefer I lived in the domus. Maybe that would make it easier.” Manius replied to her, looking at her, “I hope you will be glad to have hired me. I promise I will do my utmost to not let you down, dom… Caecina.” And if he failed, well… no, he wouldn’t go that way. He had to keep his promise. He had to keep her safe - and he would have to keep an eye out for her. The old bodyguard mentioned how she and her step-brother once ran away from him and their slaves here in Rome. That would not happen on Manius' watch. And he would be watching her. It was his job to keep her safe, so he would. No matter what she did or said.

@Echo

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Caecina nodded as he said that he had met Setianus. The girl was loath to give up her old bodyguard - all the members of her retinue became like family to her - but since he was free, she couldn't stop him from leaving and being replaced by this younger man. Not that Caecina minded - it wouldn't be a bad thing to have to look at his handsome self all the time. She shook away that thought and returned her focus to him. 

Manius was talking about selling his home and coming to live in the domus with the family, suggesting that it might make things easier. She supposed that was true - her bodyguards kept watch over her day and night, so remaining in the house where she lived made that simpler. "It makes no difference to me, but we have plenty of extra room in the domus for you to stay here if you choose. We can make arrangements as soon as you decide." Then Manius spoke again, hoping that she would be glad she hired him and promising not to let her down. Despite her contempt at the situation as a whole, who could be flippant to such an earnest man? Her gaze softened and she smiled. "I am thankful for your willingness to keep me safe, Manius. And I am sure I will be glad." 

@Atrice

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Caecina said it was basically up to Manius, where he wanted to live, but that they did have plenty of room on the domus. Manius nodded, "I will definitely consider it." Then he could watch over this eligible young lady day and night, or at least he would be close, should she need it. He continued by saying he hoped she'd be glad to have him and that he would try to not let her down. Or, he would not try. He had to not let her down. If he did that, if anything happened to her or her family... he would have failed again and certainly deserved death above anything. As he already did. Yet here he was. She gave him a smile and said she was thankful for him and was sure she'd be glad to have him.

"Well we do want that, don't we? For you to be glad." He said, a small hint of a smile on his face there. She seemed a bit... unfamiliar with this situation though and Manius felt that maybe he should help her. She had probably never greeted a bodyguard like this, the former one had been there for years and it was probably someone else greeting him, back then. Not Caecina, who would have been much younger.

"Maybe you can show me around the domus? And on the way tell me where you like to go... so I'll know what to look out for.

@Echo

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Caecina dipped her head as Manius said he would consider it. "Good. Let's decide in three days, alright?" She figured that was a fair time frame, and it was really only for the decision. She would give him more time to arrange his affairs if he decided to move into the domus. Manius then spoke again and said that they wanted her to be glad, to which she chuckled. "Well, I prefer being glad," she laughed at her own joke. Then Manius asked for her to show him around the domus and tell him about where she liked to go. How good he was, to guide her gently through this unfamiliar situation. 

"That's a wonderful idea. And we can have some wine as we walk too - Astraea, if you will?" She looked to her body servant who poured each of them a cup and handed them to them. Caecina took a delicate sip and then stood, making her way around the ground floor. She pointed out spare rooms, some of which were decorated more lavishly as they were meant for noble guests, and others which were more sparsely filled, meant for servants. She then returned to his earlier question as they climbed to the upper story, where her chambers were. "I often go shopping in the emporium magnum. I also visit friends and other noble families, and visit the temples too."

@Atrice

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He nodded at her decision - Manius would inform her in three days time, if he would stay at his own home or here with her. He thought it might be the latter though, there was nothing in his home that made him want to stay. Nothing but memories of his wife and their life together and he'd rather not be reminded all the time. He'd rather be here and focus on his new job. It wasn't like it was the first time he lost a wife. He knew what to do. And right now, that was working with protecting this young lady. She laughed when he said he did want her to be glad, when she'd said she was glad that he was so willing to protect her. She had a sweet laugh, youthful, he thought to himself. He bet she had plenty of men wanting her hand in marriage... and her body too. He would make sure she remained untouched until whomever she would marry would have her. 

He suggested then a tour of the house, trying to help her in this odd situation. And then she could tell him where else she went, so he'd know what to look out for. Caecina liked his idea and asked her slave for wine. Manius took it and followed her around the beautiful and large domus. It was obvious they had wealth, this family of hers. Manius had worked in such homes before. But he could never reach for such a rank. Then they moved towards her own chambers and she explained that she went shopping, visited friends and nobles and temples.

"Those are all good places. You have to be careful when you shop though. Pickpockets are everywhere." Manius said to her while they walked and then he looked at her, to make sure she paid attention for his next comment, "Your former guard also told me something about a trip to the Poppina Via Lata." He wondered if she would explain that or if he'd have to explain to her how that sort of thing would not happen under his watch. The guard had explained how Caecina and her step-brother had run away from their slaves and the guard and had not been seen for a very long time. Maybe he should have a chat with the brother too.

@Echo

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Caecina had a growing curiosity about how far his limits would stretch, or in other words, how much she could get away with with him watching over her. Setianus had been older, less prone to believing her stories and innocent teasing, and yet it had been easy to twist his arm to get what she wanted. Between him and Astraea, the pair had become like parents to Caecina, and had also managed to keep the girl out of serious trouble. But Caecina enjoyed a little trouble sometimes and certainly didn't want to be cooped up by another guard. So, the question remained - how much would he let her get away with? She was sure to find out in due time. 

Manius responded to her answer about where she liked to go, reminding her to be careful about pickpockets. "Oh, yes, I know that. I have avoided being pickpocketed thus far." She had a level head about her and always kept a hand on her coin purse - if she lost money, her father was sure to punish her by not giving her more. And then how could she follow the latest fashion trends? It wasn't worth it. 

Caecina put on a neutral look as Manius questioned her about the trip to the Poppina, leaning up against the hallway outside of her chambers and taking a sip of wine. Of course Setianus would mention that day. He had given her a very harsh speaking-to afterwards and then had threatened to tell Juliana in order to make her stay in her room the whole next day. Caecina had felt like a scolded child, sent to bed without dinner, afterwards. What all did Manius know? "Yes, my stepbrother and I took a trip there. It was an enjoyable day." She was almost goading him to question further, not willing to broach the topic entirely. 

@Atrice

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Manius would rather prefer to not let Caecina get away with anything. She was his to guard and keep safe and he would guard her with his life, because that's what he was here to do. He was here to watch over her anytime she left the house and she would soon learn that you did not play games with Manius. He took his job seriously, no matter what it was. Now he'd asked her where she liked to go and when she mentioned the marketplace, he commented about pickpockets and she said she'd avoided them so far. Manius nodded, this was good. They continued their tour of the house and Manius decided to ask more into her troublesome nature, that he had been told about by her former bodyguard. He asked about that certain trip to the Poppina and she leaned against a wall, sipping her wine. Was she trying to charm him?

She admitted that her stepbrother and her had taken a trip and that it was an enjoyable day. Manius arched a brow, coming closer to her, "An enjoyable day? Escaping your slaves and your guard? You know it's a bad idea. You've probably been told already." Manius said to her, but despite those words he continued, because really, what was she thinking? "What if something had happened? Could your stepbrother defend you like an experienced bodyguard?" He shook his head, meeting her eyes. He had not yet met her stepbrother but he really doubted a young man had the skills her former bodyguard or Manius had, "Know that such detours are not going to happen while I am here. My job is to keep you safe at all costs... and I will." 

@Echo

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Caecina raised her eyebrows at the man as he came closer, challenging her earlier statement that the day was enjoyable. It seemed he was taking his guarding duties seriously, despite having been hired only minutes before. This was an interesting challenge. Manius said that it had been an idea and a cool expression fell on her face as she set her jaw and met his eyes squarely. She couldn't be intimidated by this man - not much intimidated her. She'd never been afraid of snakes or spiders, even when boys tried to chase her around with them at the villa. And she'd once fallen off of Aurelia and broken a rib and never even cried. What could Manius do to her? 

What if something had happened that day? Well, nothing had. They'd been fine on their own - it wasn't like Briton insurgents were going to capture them in the Gardens of Sullust. There was no reason to be so afraid of the world. The common-sense part of her brain did acknowledge he had a point where Marcus was concerned, though. She had seen him spar before - he wasn't bad. Probably not as good as an older man like Manius. But then the man said such detours would not happen under his watch and she crossed her arms casually. Well, they'd just see, wouldn't they? Caecina had her tricks. 

"A trip to the Gardens of Sullust is hardly the most dangerous thing in the world, Manius," she said with a sarcastic tone. "And I won't be herded like some - like some lost child." Her tone was obstinate but carried a tinge of hurt pride and childish vanity. Why should she be so afraid of the world? She couldn't experience anything if she was constantly afraid. 

@Atrice

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He had just been hired, yes, but he did indeed take his job seriously and she would soon learn that. Not that Manius wished to be the controlling kind of man or anything like that, he just wanted to do his job and keep her safe. He would not fail her or her father or her family. She arched her brows when he came closer and she met his eyes when he looked at her. She wasn't afraid, was she? Her old bodyguard was right. This girl was very independent and it might lead to her fall from grace. If she fell before she was married, that would be a bad thing both for her and for her family. And her father was proconsul of Britannia, he wasn't exactly a nobody. Manius was definitely determined to look out for her, while her father was so far away. And he doubted her step-brother she spoke of could defend her like he could.

She seemed to be thinking before she spoke, claiming a trip to the Gardens of Sullust wasn't dangerous. So that's where they went. Manius had experiences with that place, mostly with his now missing wife. There was a statue of Venus they had met by. And he knew that many people used the gardens as a secret meeting place. Caecina went on, saying she'd not be herded like some lost child.

"You say that now, but there are people in Rome that will have the wrong intentions when they meet a young woman like you." Manius said, "Would you risk your own honor and that of your family for a bit of fun? I am not saying you are a child... but I will guard and protect you, because that is what I am here to do. And I can't do that if  you run away from me." 

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Of course, there was a ring of truth to everything Manius said. Caecina couldn't deny that. But when had she ever been in real danger? It wasn't like she lived in Britannia and had to be fearful of woad-painted warriors snatching her from her bed. This was Rome, and it was safer than most other places. She was already chafing under the apparently iron-clad rule of Manius and was not looking forward to his reign. 

"Honor," she repeated softly, the end of the word almost turning into a scoff. She'd never risked her honor - well, not terribly risked, anyway. Caecina gazed at him as he finished his statement, her jaw set stubbornly. "I won't run away from you if you don't keep me cooped up." And it was true - she didn't intend to run away again if he was reasonable and let her do the things she wanted to do, like spend time with Marcus. But if he didn't...

"I have no control over whether you are hired, so this conversation is an exercise in futility. You may not be saying that I am a child, but everyone else thinks I am. Juliana and father... well, I'm not a child and I don't intend to be treated like one."

@Atrice

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Manius did not think Rome was safer than anywhere else. If Rome was safe, how come his wife and son had been murdered in broad daylight in the middle of Rome? And no one noticed but Manius when he came home from the job that day? Rome was not safe at all. And especially not for eligible young women and ladies like Caecina. He could not see any good reason why she'd run away from her guard. It just put her in a bad position, really. And gave her a bad reputation. Sure he'd never been the father to a daughter of her age, but since her father was not present, she'd have to make do with Manius now. And he would not let her slip away like her former guard. She didn't like it though when he mentioned how she was risking her honor, but then she promised to not run away if he did not keep her cooped up.

"I don't plan to. You have your... plans and you have me, now, to watch over you." Manius replied and he'd tried to explain to her that he was here to guard her, that's all he was here to do. He wasn't saying she was a child - although she kind of was - he was just saying she should be more careful and pay attention. She was smart though, saying this conversation was useless, because he was hired anyway. She mentioned that everyone treated her like a child and she didn't seem to like it. Of course she didn't, no one did.

"Well I don't plan on doing that... unless you force me to. But I will do my part to make sure we get along, Caecina. I want us to get along. And I want you to know you can trust me." 

@Echo

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Caecina was confident that no one had seen her or Marcus that day, so she wasn't particularly concerned with her reputation. If her guards had let it leak that she had done such a thing and ruined her reputation, she would have asked her father to fire them and replace them. She didn't understand Manius at all - all she saw was a man trying to stop her from living her life the way she wanted to, a symbol of her status as a child and a weakling. She hated that feeling. She felt a little bad for taking out her frustration on him, but then her anger flared again and she sighed heavily. 

Her guilt took over again, though as he said he wanted them to get along and that he wanted her to trust him. She gazed at him for a long moment, trying to determine any truth to his statements through his eyes. But she wasn't a good judge of character and she wasn't sure she could trust him - not yet. Finally, she sighed again and uncrossed her arms, taking her weight off of the wall that she had been leaning on. "Alright, Manius. I want to get along with you too. And I'm... sorry."

@Atrice

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Manius certainly didn't plan to keep her cooped up inside the house - that was not his job. He wasn't her nanny or her jailer. He was simply her bodyguard and if she would leave the house, well Manius came with her to make sure nothing happened outside of the house. Caecina might not be a princess, but her father's domus here was on the Palatine. She could marry someone of a higher rank and she had to keep her honor and good reputation until then. And as far as he understood from the former bodyguard, she really ought to watch it. She sighed after his words about watching over her and protecting her, but then he tried to make amends... he wouldn't treat her as a child unless he had to and he did want them to get along. She needed to know that she could trust him. She sighed and uncrossed her arms finally, saying that she did want to get along and then she apologized.

"You're... sorry?" Manius said, unsure what it was for... "Why are you sorry?" She had nothing to apologize for, he thought. Her reaction was only natural, but of course, she was young and less experienced than he. 

@Echo

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Caecina put on her best professional attitude and answered. "I behaved like a child and treated you unfairly. For that, I am sorry." Of course, she wasn't sorry for her opinions that everyone treated her like a child - if it was true, why should she be sorry? But Manius didn't deserve that, they had barely spoken for ten minutes at this point and hadn't even had a chance to treat her anyway other than professionally. 

She gazed at him for a minute. "I believe that I will retire to my room for a nap. Perhaps later we can go out and visit the marketplace."

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His new mistress explained that she was sorry for behaving like a child and treating him unfairly. He had offended her though, clearly, but he had also tried to make amends and it seemed that at least now, they were on the same page. Manius nodded, "Don't think about it. You don't know me so well yet." Manius said and then she said she wanted to retire to her room for a nap and wanted to visit the marketplace later. 

"That sounds good, Caecina. I'll take a look at the rest of the house while you do that. If I'm not here when you're ready, you can send someone to find me." He wouldn't leave the house just yet. At some point, he'd go to his own home and gather his most important belongings. And then he would talk to the landlord about rent and about moving out of the place. It had been his father's home too, but Manius wouldn't miss it so much. It would actually not be so bad, not having that home anymore. He would be away from the memories and he'd gain some more coin. There was nothing else to do for him now, than to serve Caecina.

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