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May, 75CE - After The Crush of the Crowd

Even after Aglaea's enjoyable conversation with Rufus, it was time to return home and tell Livia what had happened. The slave wasn't really afraid that Livia would be angry, and she was sure that between the two of them, they could smooth it over with Secundus, if he even found out. But Aglaea was still kicking herself. How could she have been so stupid? She'd been in Rome for fourteen years and never been pickpocketed - and now, the one day she doesn't tie her coin purse on tightly enough, someone in the crowd took advantage of her oversight. And now she had to confess. 

Aglaea took the back entrance into the domus, greeting a few friends in the kitchen before seeking out her mistress and finding her in the master bedroom. "Livia - could I speak with you for a moment?" She seemed alone, so she figured it was safe. "You sent me shopping this morning... I got what you asked for but I... I lost the rest of the coin." She bit her lip, trying to judge the woman's reaction. "It wasn't a lot of money, but... I figured you should know."

@Liv @Járnviðr

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With her trusted body slave sent away on an early morning errand, Livia took her sweet time getting ready to start her day, ready to blame it all on the inexperience of the young curly-haired slave that had stepped in to attend to her. Between sleeping in, getting dressed and coiffed and breaking her fast with some bread and olives, Livia was now well more than an hour or two behind her usual schedule; but she had no clients to receive nor guests to host, so who cared? 

She sat alone at her vanity, having dismissed the young slave, and tried to decide what jewellery to wear for the day as she put ring upon ring on her fingers and took them all off but two. A familiar figure stepped into the room, and Livia whirled round in her seat, greeting the dark-haired woman with a broad smile. Had they had an audience, Livia would have chastised Aglaea for the informal treatment, but seeing it as it was just the two of them, she forwent the customary 'domina' and instead nodded her acquiescence at her body slave. "Of course, Aglaea." She set down the jasper bracelet she was about to try on, giving the other woman her full attention.

As she listened, her brow furrowed, twin vertical lines appearing above her nose. "That is not like you," Livia chided gently, her otherwise neutral tone betraying a hint of disappointment - not at the material loss, which although regrettable was not significant for the household's coffers, but at the seeming lack of attention that had afflicted Aglaea for reasons yet unknown. She said she had lost the coin, not that it had been taken from her. The words suggested a degree of blame in the situation, but Livia would rather her slave explain what had gone wrong. "What happened?"

Hearing footsteps approach, she gave Aglaea a serious look and a tiny nod and sat up straighter, adopting a more rigid manner in both posture and speech. Play along, Aglaea, Livia tried to communicate with her gaze. "Were you robbed? Did they harm you?"

@Járnviðr @Echo

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Secundus had many important duties as a senator. They did not always require his full attention, this early in the morning. While he waited for his wife, he tried to entertain himself around the house. Unfortunately, slaves did not provide the kind of comfort he wanted. For that, he would need Livia. As the morning drew on, so too grew his impatience. What was taking her so long? His own grooming took time, although less than it once had; his time in Germania had inured him to feeling ugly and disgusting, and it was only public propriety that motivated him to take care of himself. Livia seemed to take more time to prepare every day. Eventually, patience wearing thin, he went to confront her. He could only tolerate so much insolence.

He paused as he approached the bedroom. Inside, he could hear both women's voices as they spoke. Secundus listened, curiously, wondering what his wife and her slave could be speaking of. It was unmanly, he thought, to wonder this much about women's talk. He continued to listen as he heard what they were talking about. Were you robbed? Robbed? When had this happened? Did they harm you? Who would dare? His temper flared in response. Whoever had touched his wife's body slave would face whatever punishment he commanded. His household, a target of common thieves! His father would never have allowed such an insult to stand. Secundus fantasize a moment about meting out the punishment personally, before he retreated from the violent imagery- this was civilization, not the land of barbarians. He continued to listen, just out of sight.

@Echo @Liv

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Aglaea winced slightly at her mistress's words. It wasn't like her to be so careless and she was ashamed of herself. Livia was right to chide her like this - she deserved it. "I know. I - I don't know what's wrong with me. But I was careless." She had barely realized how informal she'd been when she'd first entered the room, but upon hearing footsteps nearby, she tensed slightly and looked to the Roman woman for guidance. As she had expected, Livia assumed a new posture and formality, and Aglaea knew she should follow along, just by her expression. 

"No, domina," she said more formally. "I was not harmed. But I think I must have been pickpocketed - I wouldn't have lost it otherwise." She hoped whoever had walked by a moment ago had walked on. This was not really a conversation she wanted to have in front of others. 

@Liv @Járnviðr

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The footsteps seemed to have grown quiet, but they could as well have been drowned out by their voices. Suddenly growing quiet to better hear them would just draw attention, so the best course of action was to carry on. Of course, it might just be a slave hesitant to interrupt, but Livia decided not to take any chances. She would not say anything that she could not have said out in Secundus' presence, and though she wanted to comfort Aglaea more than scold her, that would have to wait until later, when it was just the two of them away from prying eyes and ears.

The sigh of relief she let out at Aglaea's confirmation that she was well was both audible and genuine, but concern made Livia stand up and clumsily pat her body slave in the arms and shoulders, as if checking for scratches or bruises. "Were you distracted? Did someone accost you while the other cut your purse?" A questioning frown marred Livia's forehead as she pondered how it had happened. Aglaea was usually smart and careful enough to avoid the known traps of the big city. Either the thief had been very skilled, or the slave utterly inattentive.

A possibility popped into Livia's mind, but it was not one she should mention out loud: could it have been that odd fair-haired convert boy from the other time?! Was he the reason for Aglaea's distraction?! Her eyes widened comically and she cast Aglaea a suspicious glance, but said nothing. "Did you only notice when you got home? Well, I suppose it could have been worse, since you'd already been shopping..." Later she would have to find out and eventually replace it, in case somebody started asking questions. Later. So many things were set aside for later, when the two women would be able to speak as freely as they had grown used to in the past decade and a half. Hopefully later was only a few hours away that day, but it was never a certainty.

@Járnviðr @Echo

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Secundus's pulse boiled at the thought of this kind of carelessness. He supposed that the slave was the victim. His anger turned easily to fantasizing of cruelly punishing this pickpocket- he would need to ask her to describe her attacker. His heart swelled as Livia asked the appropriate questions: why had the slave fallen prey to such tactics? He supposed women were weaker, and even male plebians or slaves could target one. He would need to send male slaves to accompany her from now on, or not let her walk without her mistress. Two women, one of whom was a senator's wife, made a less appealing target.

He did agree with Livia that it was a failure of attention. He would need to teach Aglaea to remain more alert; it was a skill he found lacking even among patricians. Only warriors had presence of mind to observe potential threats in their environment. Secundus approached the entrance, eyes fluttering shut as he asked.

"I overheard what happened. No injuries? Have you examined her yet?"

He says this critically to Livia. His wife's mercy is admirable in the abstract, but gently probing the slave will not get them their answers quickly enough. This pickpocket will evade justice if they delay.

"How much was stolen?"

@Echo @Liv

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Aglaea smiled weakly at Livia's concern, allowing her to pat her to check for injuries. Her bodily autonomy had long since become obsolete as a slave, so this was of no concern. Really, there was nothing wrong with her, other than having had her master's money stolen. The only thing that could be considered wrong was her heart beating swiftly in fear at the thought of telling Secundus, which may or may not happen. Livia proceeded to ask if she had been accosted and Aglaea shook her head. "No. I cannot pinpoint when exactly I was stolen from... I just noticed that it was gone when I checked to see if it was there. And no, I noticed before I came home." Her voice shook slightly. 

Aglaea nearly jumped out of her skin at the appearance of her master, immediately bowing in respect to him with her eyes cast to the ground even more intently. As the first questions seemed to be directed to Livia, she remained silent. The second question, though, was to her. The slave was only grateful that it was not more, else she might have been on the chopping block. "It was three sestertii, dominus." She thought it would be pointless to beg for his forgiveness - he would give it or he wouldn't and it mattered little what she wanted. 

@Liv @Járnviðr

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There were no wounds on Aglaea that Livia could discern from her cursory examination, and the body slave's account corroborated that impression. "Then there is not much to be done about it, is there?" It was clear from her tone that she expected no answer, and was read to drop the subject. Next time Aglaea would have to hide her purse better, that was all there was to it. Or spend all the coin, alternatively - Livia would not begrudge her if her if she bought herself something nice to eat before heading back.

Livia could not help but start slightly at her husband's entrance into the room, already trying to gauge his current mood by the tone of his voice and the purpose behind his step. She expected it to happen all the time, yet when it did she felt every bit as taken by surprise as the very first time. He did not seem irate - yet -, but she knew better than to delay answering his query.

"Only superficially, but Aglaea seems unharmed," she replied in a timid voice, letting her arms drop to waist height and lacing her fingers together with nervous, twitchy movements. She did not know whether she ought to be tense or relieved at Secundus' appearance, but took solace in the fact that she seemed to have asked the right questions whilst he allegedly overheard them (because senators, needless to say, did not eavesdrop). "It is a regrettable loss, naturally, but... there are many skilled pickpockets in Rome. I am glad that Aglaea is well," Livia piped up meekly, turning to face Secundus but not quite daring to make eye contact, instead choosing to focus her gaze on some fictional spot on his throat. Who cared about three miserable sestertii when her beloved companion's well-being was worth a hundred times that?

@Járnviðr @Echo

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His eyebrow twitched at the change in demeanor. Of course he wanted the slave to act her place, but seeing the shift in behavior upset him as well. For her to be so comfortable around her mistress and so uncomfortable around him- any slave of Livia's was surely his slave as well, and she should act like it. Three sestertii...that he could forgive, he thought, if she had been attacked, but as he listened to his wife's words, he reconsidered. Unharmed? No injuries at all. Secundus's temper flared at his wife's dismissal of the issue. The lost coin was important, but more important was teaching pickpockets not to target him and his.

"Very skilled indeed, to leave the slave unharmed," he said skeptically. "Where were you attacked? This could be more than simple robbery, if the pickpocket chose not to harm you. He may have targeted you to hurt me. I have countless enemies."

Secundus ignored Livia entirely. His focus was on the slave, who had been the one who lost the money and might at least be able to help him catch and punish her attacker. His heart raced at the thought that he could ask Rome to hunt down a deserving target and watch him suffer. There had been so few opportunities since returning to Rome for personal vengeance. He would happily enjoy this one.

@Liv  @Echo

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Aglaea couldn't help but be uncomfortable around Secundus - when he was around, and especially when they were both with Livia, all she could think of was the "arrangement" she and her master had come to two years prior. When she was just with Livia, she could ignore the guilt and moral questions that plagued her about Secundus bedding her. But not when she was in the presence of both of them. She thought the truth would be written all over her face and then how could she face Livia, who she had been with for years and was like family? 

Secundus was skeptical about the story, but it was the truth. Aglaea was not one to tell lies - she would omit things, when necessary, but when questioned directly, she usually proved to be forthwith and trustworthy. She was frustrated almost to tears, though, when Secundus asked where she had been attacked. "I wasn't directly attacked, dominus," she said, trying to keep the frustration out of her voice (though not entirely successfully). "I never noticed anyone taking the money and it could have been any number of places. I swear, I am telling the truth." 

@Járnviðr @Liv

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Livia flinched at the acidic edge to her husband's voice, lacing her fingers together tighter. Would he rather have Aglaea cut up or beaten up because of a confrontation with the thief? That would have sent Livia into a right state, not to mention the overall impact eventual injuries would have had on the household's routines - if Aglaea had been too bruised to do her usual tasks, some other less skilled slave would have had to step in, to unsatisfactory results. Surely Secundus could see how ineffective that would be?

Still she kept quiet, lowering her gaze to the floor as Secundus questioned her body slave. What an arrogant, self-absorbed man! Of course he had countless enemies, when he saw even his own shadow as one! If his suspicions had had any smattering of truth to it,, then Aglaea would have suffered worse than having her purse taking without her noticing. Barring a momentary lack of attention, she couldn't see how her slave was at fault, and so Livia gathered enough courage to defend the faithful Aglaea from Secundus' unreasonable scrutiny.

"If the thief intended to hurt you through Aglaea, husband, I daresay he would have been bolder than this. If Aglaea did not notice when it happened, then she cannot say who might have done it or where." Livia swallowed, exchanging a quick look with Aglaea for reassurance. Secundus would most likely take issue with her words, as Livia did not usually take the risks that came with contradicting him, but she drew the line at letting Aglaea be harassed more than what the situation justified.

In hopes of avoiding an argument, she manoeuvred the exchange into a tangent. "Aglaea," she turned her head to face the body slave, "do you remember when you last had the purse on you? Perhaps we can retrace your steps..."

@Járnviðr @Echo

 

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Secundus looked through Aglaea. He imagined a vast network of enemies, working together to reverse his fortune. It was unlike Aglaea to be so inattentive. It could only be that he was being targeted. She would have no way of knowing who had engineering her situation, though. He would need to subtly determine which senator's ambition had led to intrigue. Let the women believe that it was more innocent than that; a beggar and pickpocket, desperate for money. He nodded slowly at Aglaea's words.

"The truth is mightier than the sword, but heavier, too. You wield it well."

His wife's words were emptier. As always, she protected her slave rather than support him. Livia would never undermine his authority, his wishes, and his household in public, but in private, she often spoke however she wished. Secundus wondered why she always counseled mercy for her body slave. Surely the personal attachment could not be that great? Slaves naturally felt devotion to their masters, but he found her deep loyalty perplexing. He would let her lead the inquisition for now, though. For once, his wife was intent on pursuing his goals. Having an ally in this soothed some of his doubts. If they could retrace Aglaea's steps, they might find further clues to the identity of his adversary.

@Echo  @Liv

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Aglaea felt her frustration subside a bit, realizing she was just a little upset and frightened at the thought of being reprimanded. A reprimand - certainly not something a slave her age couldn't handle, after all. Even if she had resented it every time due to her excellent training and success at her occupation. She needed to be the calm one here, buffer Secundus's apparently murderous aspirations and Livia's concerns. Taking a deep breath, she folded her hands once more in that classic pose of the subservient and trained her eyes on the ground. 

"The last purchase I made was at the jeweler. I had the sense not to place your jewelry in the coin purse, naturally. After that, I thought to purchase a honey cake with my own wages, but I did not. I do not remember seeing the purse at that time. Then I took a walk to the Forum to take a break, as it was hot outside and I needed a rest. After sitting for a moment, I noticed that the purse was missing." She paused and thought. That seemed to sum it up - she would tell Livia about Rufus later, as she expected her to tell her of every man she met now. 

@Járnviðr @Liv

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Secundus frowned. She had lost her purse in the forum, of all places! He had believed her somewhat intelligent, for a slave, but he had misjudged her in the past. He lowered his estimation of her practicality. She had been a body slave, and perhaps allowing her so much freedom outside of the house had strained her faculties. He would need to discuss that with Livia, a conversation he already found himself dreading. He wondered if it might be best to discuss that out of sight of Aglaea. Slaves could become inconsolable if he criticized their failings in their presence. He nodded to Aglaea to show that he had been listening, as he realized he'd fallen silent for too long.

"Pickpockets in the forum. Hardly enough to find whoever stole the purse. Did you speak with anyone there, or see anyone you recognized?"

He also gave Livia a glance, to see how she was reacting to this. Livia had always been too soft with her body slave, but it had never caused problems before. Secundus needed to ask her how she would discipline her, so that he could know whether he would need to take charge of doling out the punishment instead. For other reasons, he found the prospect of punishing Aglaea discomfiting.

@Echo @Liv

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The story seemed straightforward enough - and thank Juno Aglaea had had the sense not to stash the jewellery away together with the money. That would have been disastrous, and Livia wasn't sure she would have been able to forgive such inattentiveness for weeks. She wrung her hands, anxious about Secundus' reaction, but when it came it was much more reasonable than what she had expected. His theory happened to match Livia's own thoughts, and she hurried to agree with him with an emphatic nod. "Yes, I too think it's as you say. Pickpockets abound in the forum." If Aglaea had bought the honey cake, perhaps the whole situation would have been averted, but there was no use crying over spilt milk.

The look her husband cast her sent a wave of apprehension rushing through Livia.What did he expect of her? To be stern and merciless towards Aglaea, whose only sin had been to fall prey to something that could happen to anyone, slave and senator alike? Or to console her so she would be more pliable to interrogation? How was Livia to know? The inner turmoil showed in the twitching of her fingers, but instead of asking Secundus for clarification she directed her focus to her slave once more.

"Or... did somebody sit next to you, perhaps? Or brush past you?" Gods, how entirely futile this exercise was. They would never catch the thief or learn his identity, and the stolen sum was a pittance in the grand scheme of things. Who cared?! Nobody but Secundus. Fighting the urge to sigh, Livia dared to voice a suggestion. "Secundus..." she started timidly, "maybe you could inquire with the urban cohorts if such incidents have been on the rise, when you next are in Rome...?" They would ignore it, most likely, but there might be one bored and obsessive soldier amongst them, like that dreadful tribune that had fortunately slunk back to wherever he came from.

@Echo @Járnviðr

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Of course, the pair had to ask that question - had she met anyone or sat with anyone. Aglaea had been intending to avoid that part of the story, simply because she didn't want to give Livia suspicions that she had found a partner, or Secundus someone to go out and murder. Rufus didn't deserve that. But her honest nature won out - she had been asked a direct question, and really, she knew Rufus hadn't done anything wrong. Briefly, she gazed at Livia with a reassuring glance, trying to communicate that she would protect her should Secundus's wrath be turned on her for whatever reason. She'd been in such a position in the past. 

"I did meet someone. Another slave. However," she said quickly, before anyone else could jump in, "I only met him after I had discovered that I was missing the money. He actually helped me look around a little to see if it had simply become dislodged from my belt." 

@Liv @Járnviðr

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Secundus frowned disapprovingly as Livia probed Aglaea gently. If it was simply an innocent mistake, then he supposed she could be left alone for now. There were greater priorities. At his wife's question, he thought about some possible contacts he could reach out to in Rome. There were other, official matters to discuss, but there was always some time to bring up personal issues such as this one. He could move alongside allies against this greedy pickpocket, and see him punished for his crime. He started to consider the appropriate conversational approach. Different men responded to different appeals. For some, an impassioned speech about protecting his household; for others, a disdainful complaint about the foibles of women and slaves.

At Aglaea's words, though, he clenched his jaw. Another slave! Secundus relaxed slightly as she anticipated his next question, and he let out a slight sigh of relief. If the other slave had been helpful, then he might still prove useful. He would need to involve this slave in his search. He paused, trying to control his temper. After all, Aglaea was not known for her irresponsibility. She had always served faithfully and competently to both of them. He would stay his judgment here. There was a thief to catch.

"Do you remember the route you took to the forum? Perhaps retracing your steps would help us narrow down the search. I will bring the subject to my friends in Rome when I next return."

@Echo @Liv

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The look exchanged between Aglaea and her gave Livia a modicum of courage; if her slave was brave enough to shoulder any blame, rightfully or not, then the least she could do was try to divert Secundus' attention away from any small mistakes Aglaea might have made. However, she was taken aback at the slave's admission of having encountered another slave, and stood there with her mouth agape for an instant as she processed the information. A male slave, to make things worse. Livia would not pry for the time being, but the frown that appeared promised interrogation when it was just the two women again.

She closed her mouth and cast her husband a vacant glance. To go through so much trouble for such a small loss... But if Livia made her opinion known, it would either be disregarded or the cause of an argument. Instead she nodded without much enthusiasm - the forum was so big and crowded that finding the culprit would be an impossible task. "The jeweller's shop is off a side street close to the lower section of the Via Lata. It's not terribly far away, but still enough of a distance for a thief to act unnoticed," she explained to Secundus, again choosing to focus her gaze slightly below his eyes. Any minute now and he would probably shift the blame onto her, accusing her of frivolous purchases and how this never would have happened if Aglaea hadn't been sent to the merchant's.

To avoid that, Livia  backtracked a little on the conversation - if it could be called one. "This other slave you spoke of, Aglaea... are you quite sure he was an innocent passerby? Even if it wasn't him who stole from you, could he have been employed to distract you while the criminal ran away undetected?"

@Echo @Járnviðr

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Aglaea couldn't fail to notice the way that Livia's brow puckered at the mention of a male slave. Really, she had been a fool to mention his sex at all, knowing Livia's aversion to the idea of her slave taking on a companion in the past, as well as her dogged pursuit of any sign of disloyalty, but she felt a bolt of annoyance at the reaction all the same. Hadn't Aglaea proven herself time and time again? Even when Livia wasn't there to police her behavior, Aglaea's first thought was always how her mistress would react or want her slave to react. And Rufus was so young! Like the blonde Christian that Livia had met, Rufus was far too young for Aglaea to have her head turned by him. And she felt like they could have been friends - just friends. 

Secundus asked her to disclose the route she had taken and, with Livia's help, she described it to her masters. Then, Livia asked whether she thought Rufus had truly been an innocent passerby. This was what Aglaea had been afraid of - Rufus being blamed for her oversight. "Of course, domina. This was purely the work of a passing pickpocket and the result of my misjudgment as to the security of my purse." She turned to Secundus. "Though I did not ask for someone to take the money from me, I am solely to blame for not being more careful. I am prepared to accept any punishment you see fit, dominus." 

@Liv @Járnviðr

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Secundus rubbed his temples. He preferred to leave disciplining Aglaea to her mistress; despite their marriage, he often thought of Aglaea as Livia's slave, and not his. Livia had treated this matter with the appropriate gravity, something which surprised him. The woman knew how to be deferential, but very rarely was she practical or helpful. This was a welcome exception, he thought gratefully. Perhaps he had been wrong about her relationship with Aglaea; the two improved each other.

"I will make inquiries. I will visit both the jeweler and this slave, and we will do what we can to find your purse, Livia."

Secundus addressed the comment to his wife, well aware that his sudden desperation to catch this pickpocket was a product of his own anger and not a favor to her. His mind already raced with the necessary next steps. With that, he placed a hand on Livia's shoulder to offer some comfort; she seemed quite shaken by the entire situation. He would need to leave soon, so as not to waste time.

"Tell me what you know of this male slave, and I will be on my way," he said to Aglaea.

@Liv @Echo

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While Livia was naturally suspicious (or even jealous, an outsider might say) of any unfamiliar men that crossed Aglaea's path, this time her doubts rested more with the circumstances than the serendipitous slave's intentions. She made a mental note to clarify what she really meant later, when they were left alone. "Very well, I believe you" she acquiesced, dropping the subject. Any more probing and even patient Aglaea would grow weary.

The thought of having her body slave was a disturbing one, and Livia shook her head almost imperceptibly to signal to Aglaea that she should not bring it up again, lest Secundus actually decided to follow up on that. "I appreciate your concern for my belongings, Secundus," she dipped her head towards him. If he chose to interpret her words as counting Aglaea as one of said belongings, legally he would not be wrong, but Livia saw her companion as more than property: nobody grew as reliant on a chair or stola as they did a slave.

She flinched at the sudden touch, but forced herself to steady her nerves; unfortunately, this meant she turned stiff as a board as her muscles tensed, unsure of what was to come next. So far he had reacted better than Livia had expected - was he in a good mood after all, brought on by the prospect of vengeance? "It's very kind of you to care so." Kinder than most of what she had witnessed from him, and it merited a small forced smile of encouragement. Ideally Livia would have had the mental fortitude to reach up with a hand and place it over his to signal a united front, but she found herself incapable of doing it.

"We will discuss your punishment later, Aglaea," Livia stated coolly, hoping the detached tone was enough to mask her true intentions to do no such thing. She was more than a little interested in learning more about the male slave, though, and relaxed her body a fraction as she listened, full of curiosity.

@Echo @Járnviðr

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Aglaea held back a sigh, concerned with Rufus's well-being. She had no idea what Secundus intended to do, if he still thought that the slave she had met was responsible for the disappearance of the money. But she knew reemphasizing that point was simply dangerous for her, and resolved to reassure herself that Rufus had done nothing wrong and that Secundus would spare his wrath once he understood the truth. 

The man asked her for a description of the slave and she nodded. "He was young, early twenties. I believe he said that he was of Briton origin. He has red hair and his name is Rufus. He did not disclose his master's name." As Livia said that they would discuss her punishment, Aglaea nodded humbly, though she was really thinking that the discussion would likely be about the young man doubling as a decompression session from the tension of the situation. "Yes, domina. Thank you."

@Liv @Járnviðr

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Secundus inclined his head at Livia's words. He was glad of her cooperation in this matter. He was used to a wife who spent her days listlessly floating through life, but in recent months, Livia had seemed almost like any other woman. He wondered if Aglaea had been right all along; perhaps she would be ready soon to discuss the prospect of children. They still slept together rarely. Livia was so rarely in the right frame of mind to tolerate his advances, and so he did not ask when he did not want to ruin his mood. He put the thought out of his mind; focusing on this pickpocket gave him renewed fervor. The hunt was on.

The fantasy of vengeance distracted him from his wife's frigid rejection of his touch. She was not willing to entertain his passions today, but that was alright. There was Aglaea for that, or one of the women at Domus Venus. Already, he could see the next steps before him. He would contact some of his fellow senators- ones that he could trust. He would find this slave, Rufus, and speak with him. Aglaea described the male slave, Rufus, in some more detail. He would track him down and confront him, asking for more details about what he had seen. Surely, whatever Livia's slave believed, this other slave had seen something that they could use. If not, then he might have some other leads which Secundus could pursue.

"I will you to administer punishment as you see fit, domina," he said teasingly. Secundus seemed bouyed by the conversation, distractedly looking into the middle distance. "I will speak to this Rufus, and ensure that this pickpocket learns not to cross the Varus family." With that, he left the women to continue their conversation in private.

@Liv @Echo

Edited by Járnviðr
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All things considered, this ordeal seemed to have turned out a lot better than Livia could have hoped for. Aglaea hadn't tasted the sting of the whip, Secundus hadn't been visibly consumed by rage, and she herself hadn't been the target of any reproach. Surprised at their collective maturity, Livia allowed herself to wonder if this was the start of a new era - one where they could learn to tolerate one another instead of just pretending. The thought was short-lived; she did not dare to hope for improvement. 

"I appreciate your trust in me," Livia nodded to her husband, her tone entirely serious; she did not feel comfortable teasing back (would she ever?) for fear the meaning of her words be turned on her. Fortunately Secundus did not stick around to see just what kind of punishment she had in mind, and after he was out of sight and presumably earshot, Livia let out a quiet yet deep sigh, as if her soul was being released from Hades.

She reached out and put her hand on Aglaea's arm, leading them towards a small couch decorated with embroidered cushions and taking a seat. She exchanged a look of relief with her body slave, then cleared her throat. "So, this Rufus. Is he really innocent or is there more to this story?" Livia's words were blunt, but not spoken unkindly.

@Echo @Járnviðr

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Aglaea observed the interaction between husband and wife, tense as ever as she tried to anticipate how it would end. It seemed, though, that Secundus was in a better mood at the thought of some revenge, so he actually spoke kindly to Livia. She frowned slightly to herself - could this be a tipping point? She could only hope that her lapse in judgement would lead to better times in their household; it was desperately needed by everyone in the house. 

The body slave relaxed slightly as Secundus departed, though not entirely as she now had to face Livia and her myriad of questions about poor Rufus. Since meeting Aglaea's fellow Christian in passing, Livia had made her slave promise to disclose any man she met, and she had - including that suave and handsome charioteer, Bassus, with whom Aglaea had shared a cake. It was better to be honest with Livia than have her find out later and be angry. 

As Livia led her to the couch, Aglaea braced herself for the conversation, giving Livia an encouraging look. "That could have gone worse," she commented flatly, as she considered how to answer her mistress's question. "That really is all there is to it. He was a kind young man, helped me find my courage to come back and tell you. I thought being honest was the best course of action." She studied Livia's face before continuing. "And there was nothing else. We just... talked for a little while until I felt better. I'd never met him before."

@Liv 

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