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August, 75 AD - the evening of Tricky Timing

Alexius was ready. He’d not been working much today… well not officially anyway. He did not bring home any extra coin for him and Lexus. Instead he’d lurked around the marketplace to keep an eye out for Didia, as well as having asked people about barbers and other people who’d carry around knives and flasks with scented oils. A slave from one of the brothels said there were girls at their brothel who were scared of this one patron, who always wanted to see blood before he took in their bodies to get release. But when Alexius asked the name of the brothel, they didn’t want to talk. As if they were scared. It wasn’t at all easy, this mystery!

In the evening he had a simple meal he brought back home to the insula and he told Lexus this morning he might not be home until it was dark out. Lexus wasn’t home yet while Alexius sat at his table, downing a bit of wine – a quite common thing for him to do – while he waited for Didia to show up. He was already dressed for the occasion, because when was he not? Short breeches and a thigh-long tunica and a belt that could easily be removed, so you could move easier. He wore his good boot-like sandals and had, just in case, also hidden a blade down a special sheath in said boot. Just in case.

At last there was a knock on the door in the otherwise silent flat and Alexius jumped up to answer it, expecting to find Didia outside, also ready to learn a bit about self-defense in Rome.

@Sara

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Didia waved a hand as her mother arched a brow; "And what exactly is Alexius going to be teaching you?" Didia scoffed, rolling her eyes, "To read - I've already told you." Her mothers gaze didn't waver, "And you need to be taught why, exactly? I never learnt, neither did your sister." Didia shrugged and wrapped a cloak around her shoulders, "Because sometimes Mama, people want to better themselves - and the library is apparently beautiful." She leant down to leave a kiss on her mothers cheek and then moved to leave. 

But unfortunately, her mother didn't let up and she stood with her daughter. Didia blinked as her mother swept passed her to the door, swinging it open and heading straight for Alexius' door. Shit! Didia followed hot on her heels and as her mother knocked on Alexius' door, she winced and sent a silent prayer up to the Gods that he'd a) be dressed, and b) could understand her miming. 

As the door swung open, Alexius would see a small, angry, middle-aged Hispanian woman and Didia stood behind her. Didia held up her hands and mimed reading a scrolll - out of her mothers sight. "So. Alexius. What exactly do you require my daughter for, this late in the evening?" Didia continued her mime and looked at him pleadingly. Oh please Gods, let him get it. 

 

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Alexius was at least dressed tonight – better than he’d been this morning, when he only had time to toss a tunica over his head before opening the door. This time he knew Didia was coming and he would teach her a little bit about how to defend herself against insane strangers in the night. That would cut her. Just for fun. And not do anything else. It was a mad world where there were people like that, wasn’t it?

When it finally knocked on the door he jumped up to open the door, expecting to find Didia there. And he did. Only she wasn’t alone. He’d seen the older woman before, he knew it was her mother, he could even see the resemblance... but Didia had cleverly advised him a while ago that he tried to avoid the woman and so he had. Yet there she stood, with Didia just behind her, making strange gestures while the older woman asked what Alexius required her daughter for.

Fuck. Well, it wasn’t that, even though he would mind that for a split-second. She’d barely have to ask. Right… what was Didia trying to signal to him? She was… writing on her hand? Why was she doing that? It was natural that Didia’s mother would prefer that her daughter did not sleep around with Alexius, which was apparently what she assumed (because who would not assume that?) - but he also couldn’t tell her the truth, because women were usually not taught about defending themselves too well. They were supposed to be submissive. He could not guess what Didia tried to do though, write a message or something? No... but he had to think fast, he could not spend too long wondering. So he would just have to enchant Didia's mother, wouldn’t he? 

Alexius offered the woman a charming and welcoming grin, dimples and all, “Greetings, lovely lady. I do not believe we’ve been introduced, although you seem to know my name? What did your sweet Didia tell you about me?”

@Sara

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Didia felt a little bit of her die inside as Alexius gave her a blank stare before turning the charm on max and looking at her mother and she had to immediately stop her miming as her mother glanced at her daughter with an arched brow before turning back to Alexius. She bit her lip hard to stop herself from groaning as her mother giggled a girlish laugh and grinned. Alexius had managed to work his charm on her mother! Of course! She wanted a to find a hole to die in. 

"Well, my daughter tells me you're to teach her to read?" Didia nodded enthusiastically and shot Alexius a look, "He is Mama, I told you. We're going to one of the big libraries in the city." Suetonia scoffed and glanced back at Alexius, "Oh Didia please, I'm sure our lovely neighbour has more important things to do than teach you to read?" She grinned again at their neighbour and Didia rose a hand to her forehead, as she felt a headache brewing. Gods she just wanted the ground to swallow her up.

She looked pleadingly at Alexius and then her gaze changed to very firmly imply; 'Can we please move this along?'

 

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Edited by Sara
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Well he couldn’t just guess what Didia was trying to tell him, could he? She was acting as if she was trying to write or draw on her hand, but he honestly didn’t know what it meant. That he should have sent her a message or she should send him one? But he could barely write. And what should it be about? And what did it have to do with her mother being here? No, he didn’t understand anything, but it was obvious that Didia’s mother should not know what Alexius wanted with her daughter, so he’d have to find a way out. Alexius chose to charm her.

And it bloody worked! The older woman giggled in a girlish way, as if no guy had ever charmed her or treated her properly before. Actually it was kind of sweet. Alexius had given her the charming grin to, well, charm her, but now it stayed on because she was being so sweet. The mother said Didia had said he would teach her how to read and Didia nodded and agreed. So that’s what she tried to tell him with her body language! Well she’d have to work on that too! The two women spoke briefly and Didia’s mother grinned again, while Didia rose a hand to her forehead.

“In fact, I don’t think I do, right now. Since that was our plan.” Alexius said with a smile, “I promise you I will be nothing but good to her and treat her right – and teach her what she wants to know. Didia deserves nothing less.” Alexius promised her mother, while Didia mostly seemed to want to get on her way. Alexius glanced over his shoulder towards the window in the main room of the flat and then back at the mother.

“We really need to get going, before it gets too dark. But don’t worry, I’ll keep your lovely daughter safe and bring her back home in one piece.” Although maybe a bit bruised, depending on how rough the training would be. But it wasn’t wrong that he would teach Didia what she wanted to know and he’d keep her safe.

@Sara

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Suetonia tutted and then glanced back to her exasperated daughter and then back to Alexius. She seemed to mull it over for a moment before sighing and nodding, putting on a flattering smile. "As long as you're sure, that would be very kind and I'm sure Didia is most grateful." Her mother inclined her head at Alexius, "And you'll stop by so we can say thank you?" She smiled longingly at Alexius for a touch longer before turning back to Didia. For all her restraint earlier, she scoffed at her mother now. "I'll be sure to tell Pater all about your new friendship later Mama?" Her mother flushed and leant to kiss her daughters cheek, whispering "Don't you dare. Be good."  Before virtually skipping back to their own apartment. 

Didia groaned loudly as her mothers door finally shut and then quickly reached out to swipe out at Alexius, whispering; "How on earth did you not get that I was miming reading?!" She scoffed, but she was grinning - despite feeling as if she was dying of embarrassment. "Come on, come on, let's go before she gets suspicious." She was dressed in the most free-moving tunica which was a long red one with a thin linen belt she could remove so as to not constrict her movements, with a cloak thrown on top. Her little knife was tucked in a pouch at her waist and she couldn't see his but presumed he was prepared. She also had a couple of coins for his trouble and time, but she'd save them until the end so he couldn't refuse her. 

 

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Alexius could be quite the charmer if he wanted to be and needed to be – and with Didia’s mother, it seemed to be required. She seemed very nice, he thought and the way she responded to his smile and words just told him that her husband ought to care better for her. Women deserved that men treated them well – because too many men did not treat women well enough, after all. He’d seen that often enough. The older woman seemed pleased that he had promised he’d keep Didia safe and treat her right. Then she asked Alexius to stop by so they could say thank you to him and he grinned, “If you insist, there’s little I can do to resist, is there? Of course I’ll stop by if you want that.” He promised her, anything to please her so she’d not think the wrong thing. Then Didia intervened.

“Men and women can be friends, Didia. There’s no harm in that.” Alexius just said while Didia’s mother moved back to their apartment. Charis had taught him about how men should be able to be friends with women without expecting or hoping for more. No matter how hard that could be. But he tried his best. Even with Didia too! And well, a man was always allowed to hope anyway, right? 

When the door had closed behind Didia’s mother, Didia scoffed at him, “Oh, so that’s what you were doing.” He said with a chuckle, “Well, what I did worked anyway, right? So…” He said with a wink and Didia wanted to get going.

“Of course. Let’s get going.” Alexius led the way down the stairs. The sun was still up, it wasn’t that late yet. He thought he’d take her to a nearby garden, one of the minor ones. Sometimes less honest people hung out there after nightfall, but it wasn’t night yet, so it should be fine. And no matter what, Alexius would be there. He looked at Didia, thinking about this morning and the reason why they were here. And he was actually genuinely concerned for Didia. Poor thing.

“How’s your day been? Did you get any chance to rest?”

@Sara

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"Yes that was what I was bloody doing!" She managed through a chuckle and a dramatic roll of her eyes. "And yes, it might have worked for now - but be careful what you wish for...she might have had four children but she's still got it," She smiled at her neighbour as they made their way down the stairs, "The next thing you know you'll open your door to her stark naked and you'll have nobody but yourself to blame." She didn't blame her mother, of course. Alexius was deeply charming and it had been years since her father had paid any real attention in years. 

She shrugged her cloak tighter around herself as they stepped out into the street. It wasn't even close to winter yet, but as the nights drew in the chill got to her. She sighed at his question and tipped her face up to his to glance at him as she answered. 

"A little. I explained to my family that it was woman's things," She waved a hand, "And my father didn't really ask any questions...but I do feel tired." She'd tossed and turned all night and had to stifle a yawn as they walked. "I just keep thinking how lucky I was...and what an idiot I was, of course." She sighed as they weaved through the jostling crowds of plebs, freedmen and slaves on their way home after work. Trying to divert the conversation she looked up at him again, "Where are we going anyway?" 

 

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She rolled her eyes when he confessed he’d been unable to tell what she tried to mime to him. He laughed with her… and anyway, the issue with her mother was solved anyway, thanks to his own charming smile that he knew he had. Of course, if her mother had been a different sort, it might not have worked, but she clearly longed for attention and Alexius was happy to give it, especially since it got both him and Didia out of trouble. Didia warned him to be careful about what he wished for and he chuckled.

“If you say so.” Alexius just said, all while thinking that opening his door to a stark naked woman standing outside might not be the worst thing in the world. Not even if the woman was older than he, because that had not always stopped him before anyway. Experienced women were interesting too. He’d rather have Didia, of course, but she didn’t seem to desire such attentions from him and right now, he didn’t think it would be  a good idea to flirt too much. Not after what she’d just gone through.

They stepped out into the street and Didia held her cloak tighter around her – and Alexius wondered if she had any chance to rest. She sighed and said she’d done a little and she felt tired too. Alexius sighed too, feeling sorry for her, while she called herself both lucky and an idiot.

“Don’t think about all that now. It won’t do you any good.” Alexius advised her. Bad experiences you’d had were to be learned from and used, not just remembered for the good (or bad) of making yourself feel worse. You’d never get anywhere if you thought like that. Didia wondered where they were going.

“There’s a small park not so far from here… you’ve lived here a while, maybe you know it?” Alexius turned down another street in the right direction and with a smile he added, “We should be able to be more or less alone there.”

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"Easier said than done." She commented with a little pout of annoyance. She knew she'd feel like an idiot for a good few weeks and months to come. She usually had such a sensible head on her shoulders! It was so embarrassing to have been such an idiot, especially when she was lucky it didn't cost her, her life. She let out a small sigh. She nodded as he mentioned a park. "I know it." She'd been there with her family a few time, and her siblings when she had been on baby sitting duty when they were younger and needed some fresh air. 

"What if the vigiles see us?" She arched a brow up at him. The last thing she bloody needed was to be holed up in a cell and go on trial for training with an offensive weapon in the city. They were a corrupt lot - always hassling the plebs and freedmen of the lower city whilst letting the senatore and equites get away with bloody murder (quite literally in some cases). She pulled her cloak tighter around herself as they moved through the crowds that filled the street, all heading home before the dark took hold. She tried to stifle a yawn again and failed. She'd barely slept and had woken herself up with nightmares when she did manage to snatch a few minutes. "Sometimes I wish I was a man." She commented out of the blue as they walked, mumbling to herself. "Then I could have taught him a lesson." 

 

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He knew it was hard to move on after such experiences and especially for a young woman like herself. Maybe she just shouldn’t be walking around after dark alone. Alexius wished he could help her more than what she’d already asked for. Maybe he should hook up with some old friends and acquaintances and have them help looking after her. Surely he could convince them with the right argumentation and methods…

 But they moved on and he explained where they were going. Didia said she knew the park they were going to, but then she worried about the vigiles. Alexius hadn’t thought that far, but did not need long to think about it either, “If they see us, we’re just a couple seeking some solitude. And what they thought they saw, is really something else.” He added with a little wink for her, hoping she would not mind such an explanation. The knife she had, he wasn’t so worried about that. It could easily be either hidden or tossed away and besides, he did not plan on teaching her much about the knife. Defending yourself without one sounded more useful anyway. What if she was unable to reach it or didn’t have time?

 Poor Didia yawned and mused about wishing she was a man. Alexius gave her another little smile, “Maybe… and maybe not. Believe it or not, Didia, but not even all men are capable of defending themselves. I’ve intervened in fights, beatings and… other things, more than once.” Alexius explained. Men had rough experiences too. Think if he hadn’t been there for Felix, or any of the other men he’d encountered like that. There was a boy called Alexandros once, whom he saved more than once. Some just had bad luck. Good thing they also had Alexius, at least.

@Sara

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Didia managed a laugh at his wink and rolled her eyes dramatically. "Ah yes, I imagine you've used that excuse a fair few times, hmm?" She didn't mind that Alexius was a lover of the many delightful men and women of Rome but she had absolutely no intention of becoming one of the notches on his bedpost. That wasn't to say he wasn't handsome, he was, but she was stubborn and enjoyed his friendship too much to spoil it with sex. 

"Really?" She arched a brow up at him as they walked and neared the park, "I mean...I know men are mugged and things, they found that poor boy's body down the street only last week, but still...I reckon if I was a head and a half taller and stronger I could have fought him off." It was naive, of course. The strongest man in the world would have probably struggled with a razor sharp knife to the throat and back against the wall. 

They rounded into the gardens as the sun was setting. A few couples and families passed them as they walked into the grounds, hurrying to get home before nightfall and the depraved side of Rome came out to play. As they walked deeper into the greenery she glanced up at Alexius and sighed, "Will here do?" The place was deserted around them, although she could hear the faint chatter of conversation from what sounded like adolescent boys. 

 

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Didia was sweet for laughing at his jokes and comments, but she also seemed to agree with the excuse he’d have ready, if anyone were to ask what they were doing. He chuckled at her words though, “I don’t know if the other times counts as only excuses… but yeah…” He replied and then he had told her about men also needing to be saved sometimes. Not all men could fight. She seemed surprised to hear it and believed that if she was larger she could have fought him off.

 “It would depend on your skills, no matter your size. It’s not always strength either, actually. It’s skill.” Alexius lectured her, “Which is why we’re here.” He added with a smile and they left the path to find a private spot. Didia seemed to like an open space that was otherwise deserted and Alexius looked around and nodded. It was still only dusk, but that also meant there was enough light to go by, at the moment.

 “It looks fine.” Alexius agreed, “So… what is it you have to defend yourself with?”

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"You can't laugh at me if I'm terrible at this," She chided back after he commented that skill, rather than strength, was critical. "I'm just a market girl, not some professional gladiatrix!" She scoffed. She'd be terrible in the arena, and not just on the account that she was petrified of blood. 

As they drew to the empty clearing and Alexius agreed it would do, she sheepishly looked round just to make sure there was nobody lurking in the shadows watching and waiting to haul them off for carrying weapons. When she was satisfied the coast was clear, she reached into the little pouch at her belt and withdrew the small knife. It was small enough that it could be concealed in the palm of her hand and dull enough that she doubted it'd cause much damage, even if she successfully managed to swipe at anybody. 

"Here..." She held it out for him to inspect, with a skittish look around her. "And...I presume with it I just...y'know," She made a stabbing motion down at the air followed by a little shrug. 

 

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Alexius didn't like hearing Didia have such bad confidence in her own skills - now she even tried to compare herself to a gladiatrix and there was really no need or reason to do that... so instead he just gave her another smile, "You know, even gladiatrixes lose sometimes. I'm sure you can learn something." Alexius told her and then they had reached their destination - a patch of grass, a clearing in the park, a bit away from curious bystanders. He then wanted to see her knife and Didia carefully looked around before she showed it to him. It was very small and she told him she mostly imagined to stab people with it.

"That's definitely what it does best. But see... if I may..." Alexius took the knife from her, "You can stab with it. And slice..." He made motions in the air, "And if it's turning the wrong way somehow, never forget that even the blunt part can do some damage. Like an extra hard knuckle." He explained, making a gesture as if he'd punch someone with the handle sticking out at the other side of the hand. Then he gave it back to her. 

"But it may not do much, this knife. You can do more. And your size is to your advantage, actually." Alexius smiled again, "See, if I were to attack you from behind. You can stomp on my foot and jab your elbows into me at the same time. And kick backwards towards my shin or if you dare, aim much higher." He added with a wink, sure she'd understand, "Do you want to try? Not the last aim though." Alexius said with a laugh.

@Sara

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Didia passed him the knife and took a step back, folding her arms across her chest. She looked uneasy as he explained made his motions. She thought, for a moment, that he might be mocking her with his motions but then realised he was just trying to be helpful. It just seemed so foolish! The other night had shown her just how little chance she had against somebody else with a weapon. A weapon she shouldn't be carrying in the first place!

She did manage a chuckle though, as he made a veiled reference and she wiggled her eyebrows. "Don't worry, I won't maim your baby makers." She chuckled and swallowed the lump in her throat, and agreed to practice. "Okay, like this?" She turned her back to him and began to walk away very slowly, waiting for him to come up behind her. She felt her heart drum faster, and her chest fill with nerves. She didn't know if she liked this, not whilst it was all still so fresh. 

 

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Alexius was definitely not mocking Didia - he had promised to teach her a thing or two and that's what he planned to do. First she stood, while he showed her a few moves with the knife, with her arms across her chest. Then he stopped and explained what she could do to escape without a weapon. She chuckled when he suggested she tried his idea, but of course without kicking his balls, please. She promised she would not and then seemed to agree. 

"Exactly like that." Alexius replied, but tried to make his voice sound less friendly, so she'd feel the situation better. Not that he wanted her to feel bad at all, but this was not a real situation right now, they were pretending. They were acting. And he would play his part if she played hers, as they just agreed. She walked away from him, with her back to him and Alexius watched her. She really was quite short and it would be easy for any attacker to get the best of her. Inwardly he sighed, feeling bad for her, but then he went on with the plan.

He attacked her. Grabbed her shoulder with one hand and slid the other around her waist in a fast move, while hoping she'd do as he suggested and fight back. He could stand it, after all.

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Didia felt her heart beat faster, a low thud thud thud thud against her ribs until it was almost painful. Her hands shook and she blinked tears back from her eyes, this was a mistake, it was too soon and she felt genuinely afraid even if her rational mind knew it was just sweet Alexius. She was just about to turn around and tell him to stop, that she wasn't ready when she felt a hard yank on her shoulder and a hand slid round her waist, pulling her back. She let out a scream and before she could stop herself - she had forgotten everything he had told her, and simply...panicked. 

She kicked out at him and thrashed around against his arm until she managed to land one solid blow to somewhere she promised she wouldn't - square in his balls. She felt the hands go limp around her and pulled away breathlessly, crying as she fell to the floor. She felt pathetic. He was only trying to help but she couldn't help it. As soon as she had turned her back, vivid images of last night came back to her and wouldn't stop. She panted on the ground, trying to catch her breath. When her heart had settled into a normal rhythm she glanced across at her friend and felt mortified. "I'm...I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to I...panicked." She swallowed, "A-are you okay?" 

 

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Alexius already felt bad about her before he touched her, but this was for her own good and he was trying to teach her how to defend herself. He hated seeing people he cared about, hurt. Or hearing about them being hurt. Alexius had no issues with beating up some idiots he didn’t know, who were hurting people who could not defend themselves or who wanted to hurt someone he was meant to protect… but people he cared about should just never be hurt, period.

 So he wanted her to learn. The moment he touched her though, he felt her tense up for a moment and then everything happened quickly. The moment he held her, she was suddenly screaming, thrashing around in his arms, kicking him and then there was that insane, indescribable pain in his crotch that made him bend over and let go of her! Alexius let out a yell and a “FUCK!” too, while Didia was suddenly crying on the ground and his hands were protecting his balls – too late, of course, but it was just pure instinct. Didn’t she just promise to not kick him there?

 He tried to breathe deeply in order to relax, Alexius could stand a lot of pain during a fight, but a kick right at his balls was dreadful for any man! Fuck! Somewhere in his mind he knew he should take care of Didia, but right now, his own pain was bad enough too.

 Didia spoke up first, apologizing and saying she panicked. She still sat on the ground. Alexius sighed deeply, trying to regain his ability to talk.

 “How… does it… look like?” He managed through his breath. She had been crying. And screaming. It was too soon for her, obviously, and it was his fault that he was now in physical pain and she had felt it otherwise. His own damn fault! Apparently this was one friend he couldn’t treat right.

 “How are you?” Alexius then said, attempting to think straight to try and make it better again, “I’m sorry, I didn’t want to make you… feel like that. At least… you got free. It worked, didn’t it?”

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Oh Gods. For a heart stopping moment she genuinely thought she had killed him. He looked pale and in utter agony. And people said childbirth was worse than that! Gods above! She abided his snapping back to her, it was fair enough really, even if she hadn't been able to help it all and peered at him with wide green-hazel eyes filled with tears. 

"I'm...I-I'm fine," She struggled as her heart rate settled and she felt the ability to breathe again, "I'm fine, I feel so terrible, I'm so sorry..." Her own apology was interrupted by his and she silenced herself, sitting back on her heels in the grass. "Don't be sorry, don't be sorry, It was my fault I just...I didn't know what to do, I just felt sick and panicked and...Gods..." She managed a very hoarse laugh, "but it did work, I suppose. Even if I've crippled you." 

She tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear and sighed, "When...you can can walk, we can try again or...try something with the knife...or something. I do want to learn but just...not like that." 

 

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She had definitely not killed him - if you were dead, you could not feel such insane pain as he did! It did wear off a bit, but when they spoke again, he was still not doing too great. He wanted to kick something. Or someone. Not Didia of course, he knew she didn't mean it, she panicked, but it still hurt like fucking Hades! Meanwhile she sat there, with teary eyes and he wanted to comfort her... but how could you comfort anyone, when you felt like this? Still he tried to show it at least, asking how she was doing and pointed out that at least her actions got her attacker off of her. 

Didia said she was fine, but she didn't look fine. She apologized again and said he should not be sorry, because it was his fault. Alexius shook his head, how was this her fault? Was it her fault she was attacked and was now suffering within because of it? And that's why she lashed out at Alexius? In his world, it was not her fault! 

"Not crippled, I'll be ok... I hope this guy will too..." He nodded downwards, she knew what he meant. He still held a hand over his crotch as they spoke, odd how you felt so protective once it was hurt! Didia suggested they tried again, said she did want to learn, but not like they just did.

"Listen, Didia... it is not your fault that you lashed out. It's that sick asshole's fault!" He added and sighed, ran his free hand through his hair as he had a tendency to do, when he needed to relax, "Are you sure you're ready to try again? I don't want to make you feel... like that. That's not what I do..." 

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Didia winced. "He'll be fine, I'm sure..." She swallowed the upset and the anxiety and tried to focus. The fact that their situation would be vaguely comical to an outside observer made it slightly better and she offered a slight smile, "And if he's not and is irreparably damaged then I'll have to learn to write so I can write apology letters to all the men and women of Rome who would otherwise of enjoyed his company." She chuckled and lightly nudged his leg to try and produce a smile or a laugh. Alexius' nocturnal antics didn't bother her in the slightest, she wasn't a prude, but she had no intention of becoming one of his number. She enjoyed his company as a friend. 

"I know, I know...and I also know you didn't mean for that to happen I just...when you touched me," She swallowed and ran a hand over the back of her neck, "I just thought of him and I..." She sighed and dropped her hand to her lap, twiddling the fabric of her dress between her thumb and forefinger, "I'll get over it. I promise. And I'll stop being so pathetic soon - plenty of worse things happen in Rome every day, don't they?" She shrugged and then added with a little smile, "Like getting kicked in the balls?" 

With that, she pushed herself to stand on wobbling legs and moved over, offering a hand to rise himself. "I'd try again...if you can stand?" 

 

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Alexius was glad that Didia managed to joke even in this odd and awkward situation – he chuckled at her idea about writing apology letters to Rome, “Hopefully it won’t come to that.” He replied, almost adding that she should apologize to him for not wanting to enjoy said little guy’s company, but this was not the right situation for such a joke. He still felt bad about making her feel so bad, that she lashed out the way she did. It helped getting her pretending attacker away from her, but he knew she didn’t mean to punch him there. It wasn’t part of what they planned.

 Still, it was not her fault, it was all in his court and he felt bad. He could hurt people, sure, but that was to protect others and not to just… make people feel awful. It really was not what he did. Didia said she knew and then tried to explain herself further. She seemed so insecure. This really was not like her at all.

 “I don’t get kicked in the balls every day, but sure.” He replied with a grin and got on his feet too, stretching his back the best he could, “And Didia, you are not pathetic. It is not your fault. You have to stop saying such things. It isn’t you.” Alexius then said, “I don’t know if it’s a good idea to continue though. Besides, you got your attacker off, now. If that nutcase ever comes after you again, just kick his balls. That’ll work. Why don’t I buy you a drink instead, to calm your nerves?”

@Sara

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Didia sighed, and pushed her hair out of her face, feeling the cold sweat that had enveloped her on the back of her hand. "You see?" She said with a wavering smile, "You're a good man, you're concerned about me." She sighed and wound her arms around her waist. "Maybe...maybe a drink would be better. My legs feel all wobbly and next time I might panic even more and properly maim you, and I don't want that." She said, joking although it wasn't completely a jest. She'd never felt like that before - so completely overwhelmed with panic and fear, she wouldn't have cared in that moment if it was her best friend or her worst enemy, she just wanted them off. Gods, she needed to pull herself together! 

"But maybe next week?" She said as she tucked the little knife away into a pouch at her belt, "Maybe I'll feel better by then and it'd do me good to get out of the insula for a bit, and I feel safe with you." She added the latter few words with a soft smile. "You really do have a heart of gold, Alexius." She sighed and then moved closer to him to give his arm a friendly squeeze. "Who'd have thought such a big, brooding ex-gladiator could be so nice, eh?" 

She chuckled and took a step back, waving her arm at the expanse of the Gardens around them. "So where to, for a drink? And just one mind, I've got work tomorrow before dawn and don't want to be steaming drunk..." Even if she felt at  that moment, that was exactly what she needed. 

 

TAG: @Atrice

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How could he not be concerned about a nice and pretty woman such as Didia? And one who had just too recently experienced something very bad. That man was sick, Alexius already knew that. And he’d try to find him and there was no knowing what he’d do, if he did find the sick bastard. You should not treat women like that! Or anyone for that matter. Didia commented with a smile how concerned he was and that maybe a drink would be better indeed. She also didn’t want to maim him worse.

 “Yeah we don’t want that. I prefer fights that are fair in some way.” He said, but with a grin, as if she was better than him, but she kind of was, because he had just pretended to attack her and see how bad that went for him. What would happen if it was real? Didia sure was strong when she was afraid. Maybe that was a good thing. She suggested they tried this again next week when she felt better and felt safer too – although she felt safe with him, which was nice to hear. Alexius nodded and before he could say more, she continued to compliment him in a way he’d rarely heard before.

 “You’re too kind, Didia. I only do what I feel is right. I don’t like bastards treating others like they are trash. I’ve been there. And… no, nevermind…” He trailed off, he was thinking about his sister. What if it was her, treated so badly? He would want someone to look out for her. Maybe it was for her he did it. But Didia didn’t know all that about him yet. She thought she knew him but she’d barely begun… Didia interrupted his thoughts, wondering where to go for a drink.

 “Just one, you’re the boss.” Alexius winked at her, it was up to her how many she drank, he wasn’t one to force someone into drinking, “There are many great places, but we probably want something local and laid back... unless we should go to mine or your insula for a drink. Would you feel safer there?” It was all about how she felt. He didn’t want her to feel afraid.

@Sara

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