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Horatia smiled although a little sigh left her lips. How were they already thinking about marriages for their daughter? Life sped up as one aged, she thought. Her childhood - roaming between the villa, Rome, and Hispania following her father around seemed to drag on to eternity but the last fifteen years or so, since her wedding, had passed in a blink of the eye.

She laughed at her husband's insistence that he didn't wish to know of his daughters silly teenage crushes; "Ah but what young woman hasn't fallen for the big, strong Gaul that works in next doors yard?" She grinned, teasing - although only slightly. Women of their rank, of course, were virginal upon their weddings but the men in their lives were fooling themselves if they thought they'd never been tempted or harboured a crush. Even somebody as eminently sensible as Horatia wasn't immune to teenage lusts although her good sense had come to the rescue and her own liaisons in her youth had never gone farther than a relatively chaste kiss at a party. 

"But I'll speak with her on it, and let you know. Your parents may have ideas of their own, as well." In the years of Aulus' absence she'd become close to her in-laws and Aulus' own father had filled the father shaped gap in her children lives. More so than just for traditions sake, she supposed Tiberius and Aurelia would like to have a say on their future grandson-in-law.

She considered her husband for a few moments before reaching out soft fingers to brush a way a strand of hair from his forehead, studying him intently. "You never answered my question," Ever the expert politician he may have done it without even realising, "About whether you think Titus is ready for the next step?" She dropped her hand from his forehead but kept it at the nape of his neck, lightly toying with the collar of his tunic. 

 

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"Well, she can stare at him but that's it." And doubtless his parents did have some ideas of their own - Tiberius was still the paterfamilias, after all, and might well like to cement ties with one or other of the senatorial families of Rome through the marriage of a daughter and son of those families. He'd definitely have to talk with his father and make his own opinions clear.

"Did I not? I'm sorry." He let out a breath of his own. "I think he is, though he may not agree with me. I didn't feel ready for it myself when it was my own time - though it will be a few years yet before he is ready to embark on the cursus honorum. It'll give him a chance to polish is oratory skills - and I will be able to talk with him more about what I do. He might well some decided opinions on things I should do as Consul, of course."

It was about time he started having more serious discussions about various matters and policies with his son. It had surely only been a few months ago that Titus had been so serious about showing his wooden sword to his father!

He found himself drinking in his wife's face, with the soft auburn hair done up in an artless fashion that must have taken half the morning to perfect. And those blue eyes - Calpurnia looked like her mother, and there was something of Horatia in Titus' own expressions sometimes, too.

 

@Sara

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Horatia smiled wryly, "You're so used to batting away irritating questions from political foes, you've brought the habit into the home with you." She chuckled but listened intently. Imagining that Titus was grown up enough to be a man perturbed her, but she supposed it was the natural order of things. He was growing less inclined to his old hobbies by the day and more interested in the gentler sex, if the way he gawped at one of the slave girls was anything to go by. It was just difficult, more difficult that she'd anticipated - to lose her children to adulthood. "You should speak to your father and set a date. It'll give Titus time to adjust to the thought." She offered, although suspected Aulus had already thought of it.

She glanced up, not realising she'd been staring at her spare hand on her lap, and met her husbands bright blue eyes. So much like her children's. She felt that familiar flutter in her chest - no less diminished after almost a decade and a half of marriage. "You had better stop staring, you'll make me blush." She smiled and leant back, withdrawing her hand from his neck with a deep sigh both in contentment (that the Tribune situation was behind them) and sadness (the conversation on the children had made her dwell on the passing of time). She leant back in her chair and turned her face towards the ceiling, sighing again and studying the shadows as they danced across the plaster, content in her introspective silence.

 

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"I suppose I have," Aulus said, wryly. "I'm sorry. It was unintentional - I would never brush you off like those dozy old senators, or consciously ignore you." He was very consciously doing the exact opposite of ignoring her right now, of course. "I, make a married mother of two blush? Surely that's impossible."

He was smiling, though, the gentle teasing coming easily to him.

She turned her face to the ceiling, her expression mixed contentment and sadness. He laced his fingers through hers.

"I'll tell you what. Now that the world has been put right, why don't you and I tell the slaves that we're not to be disturbed on any account whatsoever and, well..."

They weren't due to dine for at least three hours, by his calculation. Plenty of time to engage in more pleasurable activities, just between the two of them.

 

@Sara

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Horatia managed a coy smile and pulled her face back down from the ceiling as Aulus entwined his fingers in hers and made a very thinly veiled reference to other afternoon activities. "You think me a lady of leisure that has nothing better to do with her afternoon...?" She arched a brow, and let the silence settle for a few moments of challenge. 

Finally, she broke the silence with a sly laugh and pushed herself up from her seat, moving to bat his hand out of his lap. With an arched brow, she proceeded to sit gently on his knees with a sly smile. She didn't pander to him though and instead reached forward to shuffle papers around on her desk. "I've got far more important things to be doing, stocktakes, speaking to some of the slaves, planning things you know..." She reached out and pulled a scroll over and placed it between herself and Aulus. "Like this," She leant back so her back was against his chest and scanned the page, as if she was not the least bit interested by the proximity she had to her husband in this position, "Planning dates to visit friends and the list of party invitations I need to respond to. Fascinating stuff, no?" 

 

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"Utterly fascinating," Aulus said, peering over her shoulder. "I'm sure the house won't fall to pieces if it turns out we only have fifteen jars of olive oil rather than twenty." He kissed her on the head even as his hand found its way to her thigh. "Do the slaves really need speaking to, columbina mea?"

How was it that she still had as much power over him after more than ten years of marriage as she had had that afternoon in the garden of a rented house in Athens? Aulus couldn't say, but vowed (again) to offer a sacrifice to Venus in thanks for their meeting, and one to Juno in thanks for their marriage. And the two healthy children Horatia had borne.

"I supposed the list of friends and party invitations must fill the entire rest of that scroll?" he enquired, straight-faced.

 

@Sara

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Horatia quirked an eyebrow and glanced over her shoulder at him as his hand found its way to her thigh. She shifted her body slightly on his lap with a coy smile. "And this is why men should stick to war and politics. None of you have any notion of how disastrous a lack of oil could be." She was jesting of course, but continued on; "What if we have a party, or a need for one very suddenly? What if we keep the stocks low and then come Saturnalia when everybody is drunk out of their minds, there's no chance to order more, hmm?" She moved her fingers to brush over his jaw. "What a foolish man you are Aulus." 

She glanced back down at the scroll as he made his joking little jibe. "Actually yes, but they're all my friends." 

She set it down and turned her body to face his, draping both of her arms around his shoulders in a loop - her fingers playing with the neckline of his tunic. "I love you." She said simply. She had never expected to love her husband, back when she was being courted by all sorts. Love just wasn't something that was factored into matches, and she was honest enough to admit that she hadn't loved Aulus at first, it had built slowly. She distinctly remembered liking him, but it wasn't until she saw him hold her son after his birth - just a few months shy of a year of marriage when she felt the first stirrings of love. Of course it  had taken a battering during his absence (as it would any marriage) but she was immensely proud they had rebuilt their relationship after those awkward first few months after his return. She suspected many couples would not have weathered the storm and instead sought divorce. 

 

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"I love you, too," he told her, blue eyes meeting blue. "I could never have expected to be as fortunate in my wife as I have been."

They had come close, so close, to it not lasting at all, especially with the civil war coming when it had and pulling them apart for so many years. It had taken time and effort to come back from that, but come back they had. 

A slave timidly poked his head around the door, to be met with a stern, "Later!" from his master.

"I am so very proud to be able to call you my wife," he said to Horatia as the slave gulped, turned and fled.

 

@Sara

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"You'd better whisper," She teased with a sly smile, "You don't want the slaves to see you being so soft hearted." Her husband wasn't known for his gentleness after all. He wouldn't have ascended so high if he was tender all the time. And as if on cue, one of the younger, newer slaves in the house poked his head around her study door and was firmly batted away again with just one word from her husband. She had been due to discuss his infatuation with one of the cooks assistants (to the detriment of his work) with his domina, but Aulus' word was final and he scurried away. It was nothing that couldn't wait, anyway. 

She flushed a little at his compliment and moved her arms from around his neck until her hands were either side of his face, holding his jaw and cheeks. "And I'm so very proud of you." It would have been nauseatingly sweet had it come from somebody else. "And I don't expect you to let me down now, Aulus Calpurnius Praetextatus." She was not an easy woman to please, she had high standards for herself and her family and expected nothing but the best. Which is what he had delivered, consistently, time and time again. That he'd be a Consul in the new year was only further proof of that. 

Gently, she silenced an response from him with finger against his lips and then leaned in to kiss him. 

 

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"If the slaves think they will get away with... whatever they want to get away with, they'll find they're very much mistaken," Aulus told her. His love and pride in his wife did not mean that he had grown soft-hearted to everyone around him - Rome was not a place where soft-hearted people thrived, at least if they had any political aspirations. Aulus knew how to be merciful and how to be severe, and when to be each (at least, he hoped he had the wisdom to know when each was applicable).

"I would not dream of letting you down, little fox," he told her. She cold be just as ruthless and ambitious in her own way, although it was perhaps less evident in Horatia. She was not known for being the vicious catty sort of woman who would thrust her way to the top, dragging her husband along whether he wanted or not. Horatia Justina had her own aspirations for herself and her family, and that they were aligned with Aulus' just made the pair of them more potent. Neither of them had aspirations to the purple; they had seen enough bloodshed and instability to satisfy anyone and Quintus Augustus had their whole-hearted support. Naked ambition was not something that Aulus would be known for.

 

@Sara

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She smiled a little and eyed him quizzically; "We tolerate a lot," Her smile widened slyly, "They're only human. And a well-kept slave is better behaved than one cowering in fear." They were property and required to work on whichever task herself or Aulus (or his parents) dictated, but by in large they were decent sorts. Over the years there had been some troublemakers but they'd been quickly dispatched from the house. Little niggles popped up every now and again, such as the slave boy fantasising about the kitchen assistant and her need to speak to him, but by and large they weren't dramatic problems. Which is why they were under her purview rather than Aulus'. She mastered the home and familia after all - looked after it and kept it ordered, whilst he tended to his career and issues she was not permitted to deal in, given her sex. 

She tugged one of his hands free from her waist and laid a gentle kiss on his knuckles. "Good." She said as she pulled away, her sly smile merging into one of wry amusement. "Because there's plenty more fish in the sea for me, if you do let me down." It was a joke of course. The thought of divorce - even back then, during their separation when it wouldn't have been the least bit scandalous - sickened her. She returned his hand to her waist and leant in to leave a gentle kiss on his lips, murmuring against them as she pulled back: "And how much do you love me? You soft-hearted, sweet, gentle man?"

 

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"I'll let you deal with the slaves," Aulus said, and nuzzled a little into his wife's neck. He liked the scent she used. "How much do I love you? All the way to Britannia and back - I shall proclaim it in the Forum, in the Curia, oh most beautiful of women."

He smiled into her hair. "Just don't let everyone know I'm so soft-hearted, I'm sure my reputation won't stand for it. As far as anyone else knows, I rule my household with a rod of iron, much as I ran my legion or the province I had governorship of."

 

@Sara

 

Edited by Sharpie
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