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Early November, 75 AD

 Today was just yet another ordinary day in the life of Marcus Barbatius, one of countless professional barbers in Rome. Some just had their shops in the street, but Marcus had his very own shop and insula just above it. Quite a nice insula too. One bedroom for himself, another for all the slaves, a small cooking area, a tablinum and a triclinium. And a few spare rooms for storage and other things. Then there was the shop. Large enough to hold a chair for clients in the middle of the room and shelves and tables and many little pots and flasks with salves and oils and everything else he needed for the business.

 And then the box with all the knives and razors in it. The key hung steadily around his neck and Aculia would have to ask, if she needed a knife to cook with. He once had a slave cut his own throat, which he had absolutely no right to, so Marcus had to keep the knives locked up at all times, so it would not happen again. The slaves were his property. They had no right to take their own lives while he was their master.

 But luckily, that was already years ago and life went on. Even with what he did recently, to that girl. Yet that was also in the past now and all he had was the lingering memory of her and her blood. He was thinking about that when he opened the shop this morning, which put him in a good mood and he was even whistling when he opened the door.

 His head slave or favorite slave, Manus, was already busy getting the shop ready for the first client. Now all they had to do was wait for someone to walk in the door.

@Sains

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Had he been an optimist, Decimus might have thought that the city would receive some sunlight on the tail end of autumn. For the better part of the week the city had received naught but cloudy skies and a few brief showers of rain. One would think an eternity on an island cursed with fog and dreary days would have hardened him to the dull winters of the peninsula, but Decimus had never grown too fond of this type of environment. Yet, despite the oppressive grey skies, he was in a rather good mood.

Aia and he were seeing each other somewhat regularly and they'd decided to make some significant steps towards living with one another, though he knew it wouldn't be as easy as that. He'd had the opportunity to bring up the matter to Claudia a few times, but those brief moments never lasted for long. A slave would enter or she'd be speaking with someone and he'd always decide that the matter could be solved on another day. It was now, in one of these famous interludes of anxious avoidance, that he'd decided to walk the city to clear his head. 

Old habits died hard and if he couldn't walk through the forests of an unknown land, then the streets would have to do. Of course he'd been doing it for some time and the familiar sounds of an awakening city were now as well known to him as the singing of the robins had been back in Britannia. Generally his practice of wandering the city for exercise usually ended when he reached a wall or other sort of landmark, but today he'd decided to take a more relaxed approach and just... wander

This was how he came to be in front of the home of Marcus Barbatius, though he knew nothing of what that name meant or what deeds that man had performed. To Decimus, the sign that indicated that this was indeed some form of barber's shop was only an intriguing oddity. He'd never made use of them, for someone was always willing to cut the simple styles that would keep the Centurions away from him for a few pieces of copper. Shops like this had always seemed like a luxury when he'd seen them in Camulodunum, but as an older man with significantly more coin he was beginning to have an interest in these sorts of services that had been hitherto unknown to him. 

With casual interest he passed through the doorway and made himself known as his eyes adjusted to the interior of the shop. 

"Salve?.."

 

@Atrice  

 

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Marcus looked up when a man entered the shop and looked around. The man had brown hair and tanned skin, but otherwise looked rather nice. Although it was obvious that he did need a shave and perhaps even a haircut. Judging by his clothes, he wasn't a Senator, but he wasn't some ordinary, poor Plebian either. Somewhere in between, Marcus judged. So he'd be able to pay, but not as well as some of his clients. A little was better than nothing though, for a barber in Rome, so he turned towards the man with a friendly and welcoming smile on his face.

"Salve, Domine!" Marcus said, holding a hand out to let the man know he could come further inside. Since he had not seen the man before, a proper welcome was next, "Welcome to my shop! I am Marcus Barbatius. What can I help you with today? A shave and a haircut, perhaps? Please, take a seat." He said to the almost cautious-looking man and gestured to the only real chair in the room. Maybe they were around the same age or maybe the stranger was a little bit older than him, but he wasn't entirely sure. 

"Manus, fetch something to drink for our visitor." Marcus ordered the otherwise quiet slave, who left the shop to find a jar of watered wine and a cup for the client. 

@Sains

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If Decimus appeared somewhat apprehensive it was for no other reason than the fact he'd never set foot in this sort of shop. Upon hearing a friendly voice he was content to come in and have a look around, and what he saw didn't disappoint him. He didn't know why, but for some reason he'd expected that these sorts of shops would be able to accommodate more than one chair. Indeed, he felt quite privileged that he could expect to receive the full attention of who he could only assume was the proper barber and not some apprentice or other servant. In military life a haircut was as simple as one of the slaves running a razor about your head a few times before you were sent back to man your post, though there were some among his number that did sport some impressive dos once in a while. 

"Oh... Thank you!" he'd manage, moving towards the seat.

It was a wonder, all the little bottles! There was quite a collection sitting on the table and one could only imagine all the different uses he might have for them. In the back of his mind he obviously expected that the majority were to be used on the hair of women. A man's hair, at least in his mind, was extraordinarily simple compared to the long locks that a woman would maintain. And among the finest and most impressive he'd seen came from women of status! Images of Flavia Juliana, and even Claudia came to mind as he made himself comfortable on the seat. 

A nod of thanks would accompany that order to Manus, though he hardly knew if he'd be greeted with water or wine. The barber himself was a handsome enough looking man. He seemed to be about the same age as Decimus, though one could hardly be sure of a thing like that on first glance. 

"I could do with both of those actually." 

 

@Atrice

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Sure a slave could do a shave and a haircut, but Marcus was a professional. He’d been trained in this from a young age and he knew what to do and when. He knew exactly which salves to use for the skin and he knew how to blend and how to cut the hair so it looked nice to your face and what you wanted others to see. And how you wanted others to see you. The stranger here seemed very curious about the shop and thanked Marcus for his warm welcome and sat down. In fact the stranger seemed utterly fascinated by the shop, looking around, now on the little flasks and vials and containers on the table and the shelves.

 Marcus catered mostly to men, he did women’s hair too of course, but he did focus on men. Women were just… not his usual clients here. In his head, he had a very clear idea of how everyone were ranked in society and women were beneath men. They could be useful, but were not quite as important.

 The stranger wanted both a shave and a haircut and Marcus nodded, circling him once to take in his hair and style. He tried to not consider what the man would like if he was bleeding. The client seemed nice enough so far, after all.

 “A shave and a haircut for you then. I think we will begin with the hair.” He said and his slave reappeared quietly, pouring a cup of watered wine for the client and then he stood still, waiting, “Is the water ready yet? Good. Bring it over.” Marcus said to the quiet slave, who fetched a bowl of water and Marcus looked at his client again, “Would you like any scents added? I don’t know your budget of course, but smelling good makes a man more appealing. Not that you’re not already, of course, but I thought you might like something. If you have a preferred scent?” Marcus said and fished a comb from the convenient belt he wore, where he could hold several items and easily fetch them. Sometimes scents were added to the water and he’d dip the comb in the water, brush it through the hair and then cut. That would add some scent.

@Sains

 

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Decimus sat patiently while Barbatius had the water brought forth, though he hardly knew what he might ask for in a scent. It wasn't because he was simple, or that he had never once thought of adding a scent to his body. He'd wager any sensible man wouldn't get very far in society if he took no care for his appearance or, indeed, the way that he smelled. Of course the common staple of all grooming in the camps had been oil as it was simply the easiest thing to get your hands on and most of them were well accustomed to that scent. He'd started out using oil on his skin and, eventually, had taken to dabbing it into his hair whenever he thought he might need to smell a little less like a barn when on the march. This practice had given way to taking advantage of various plants in the north that he'd thought smelled nice. Of course he didn't know what the bloody things were called and he'd never thought it so important that he should seek someone out for their proper name. At any rate, it wouldn't do him any favors to ask this professional for, 'Those blue flowers that grew by the pond near Causennis'.

"What have you got from up north?"

The question was certainly very open ended, but it was meant to be. He couldn't think of anything substantially unique about that territory in terms of smells, but he did know that Aia might well appreciate a smell from her past like that. Perhaps the needles of a northern pine? Maybe he'd surprise the poor girl by coming home smelling of bear fat. It all really depended on what Barbatius had in stock. 

 "Anything from Gaul?"

If he spoke any more he was sure that the man might think him a barbarian of some type, and the comment about compensation for the service had not left his mind since the man had reminded him of that integral part of their interaction. Luckily for Decimus, he never found himself light on coin these days. While Barbatius took the time to think of an answer, he'd pull a purse from his belt and give it a few shakes before letting it rest on his thigh.

"Don't worry for the coin either, friend." he'd offer with an amused smile, "Rome pays me handsomely but give's me no time to spend any of it." 

 

@Atrice

 

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Marcus didn’t know the man’s story or what he might like, but he sure did take his time to consider which scent he’d like to the water. Of course he did not have to have scent added, but it would up the cost of the treatment and even though money were not his main agenda in life, they were nice to have and he did have a shop and a home to run, after all. Little as he wanted to, fed slaves worked better and harder. Finally the client wondered if he had any scents from the North and then he narrowed it down to Gaul. Marcus smiled.

 “Depends which part of Gaul.” Marcus said, “I was born in Gaul myself, but the Southern and more civilized part of it, of course.” He explained, “I do not think there are many interesting scents from the Northern parts. But how about…” He went over to one of the rows of jars and vials, looking them over, “This one, perhaps?” He picked a vial of lavender scent oil and opened it and lifted it to the man’s nose to let him have the scent. The client said they didn’t have to worry about coin, because he was well-paid by Rome.

 “Rome is kind to you then, Domine! May I ask what you do for Rome, that ensures you such wealth?” The man did not look wealthy, after all. Not poor either, but he wasn’t a Senator… was he? He wasn’t dressed like one and didn’t behave like one. Most Senators Marcus met acted as if they were meant to the center of attention where they went.

@Sains

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Decimus watched with some interest while the man rooted through his various vials and jars for the right scent. When the vial was finally held to his nose he took in a short whiff to confirm that it wasn't something too obnoxious, but he recognized the familiar, if not rather simple, smell of lavender almost immediately. 

"That'll do fine." he'd comment, looking straight on as he supposed he ought to. 

He certainly wasn't dressed in any sort of fancy clothing. He wasn't going about in his toga, and the tunica draped about his person was certainly not the sort of rag that one would see a prole wandering about in. Plain white with a light blue trim about the edges made it one of his favored articles of clothing, but that certainly wouldn't have done much to indicate what he did for a living. 

"I serve Caesar as a Praetorian." he replied, still quite proud to say it. "I don't live like a Senator but it's better than hoofing it around Britannia for the regular rate." 

He'd joke about it, of course, but in all honesty it was quite a bit a better than what he'd been making in Britannia. Honestly when he'd gotten a look at his new rate in palace service he'd almost thought it had been a clerical error! Of course there was also the raw honor that came from the posting. Very few of his countrymen could ever hope to see Caesar up close, let alone work in his home. 

 

@Atrice

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The client agreed with the scent that Marcus picked for him and Marcus nodded and proceeded to add the scent to the water, and picked up a comb to run it through the client’s otherwise short hair. Meanwhile Marcus was also curious about what this man did in Rome, because he claimed to have wealth, but clearly wasn’t a Senator – he knew how they were often like! The client explained that he was a Praetorian and Marcus arched a brow. He better watch it then, with his one, because the Praetorians were most often trained professionals.  

“A Praetorian? I don’t think I had one like you in here before. And you’ve been to Britannia, Domine? I never went, I only came from Gaul to Rome.” He replied and soon deemed the hair combed enough. There was a light scent of the lavender now. Marcus went to the special chest of blades, removing the key from its place around his neck and then he unlocked it and picked a small pair of scissors.

 “Do you have any other wishes, regarding the haircut? Or will you let me decide on your appearance?”

@Sains

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Decimus truly hoped that he never sounded too pompous whenever he revealed his line of work. Of course it was no secret to anyone that the guard knew how to fight quite well, but he hoped that his pride wouldn't eventually turn into arrogance as time went on. He dreaded the thought that he might one day be a fat old quartermaster who boasted of his swordsmanship and high status to anyone that might care to listen. 

"Aren't too many of us," he'd begin, shrugging matter-of-factly, "Gaul's good country; mind you I've only ever walked the roads, though. The forests were nice." 

Honestly it was strange to think about the fact that he'd never truly gotten to experience the countryside of such a vast province. His lot had always been to travel through the great expanse of fields and forests towards the hotbeds of action that had dominated the news-reader's tablets in recent memory, though there were always rumors of uprisings in the lands tamed by Caesar. At any rate, he was still young. There'd be more than enough time to wander the world once he was out, or better yet, the state might pay him to do it as a bodyguard. 

"I think it's best that you surprise me. I'm sure you know what you're doing with those things, and I've no eye for fashion." 

This was exciting now! He could only imagine what the man might do that may be otherwise unexpected to him, but beings that he had cut his hair in the same way for most of his life it was quite reasonable to think that nearly any variation might impress him. 

"Why'd you leave Gaul then? Not enough customers?" 

 

@Atrice

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While Marcus picked a pair of small and sharp scissors from the chest, his client said that Gaul was a good country, but he only knew the roads and the forests. Marcus looked at him, “The roads are nothing compared to Rome.” He said, “I lived in a small town. The woods could be dense, sometimes.” Which was not bad, because that was useful when you had to hide a corpse and make sure it was never found. There weren’t many forests around Rome. And here in the city, you had to dispose of waste in different ways.

 The client would have Marcus decide how to cut his hair and he nodded, “A surprise it will be then.” He said with a small smile and approached the client with the scissors. He put a hand on his forehead to tilt the client’s head a little bit backwards, so all the hair wouldn’t end up on his clothes. He briefly eyed the client’s neck, which was now terribly exposed, but then he focused on the job while the client would know why he left Gaul.

 Marcus lifted his chin, “Personal reasons, Domine… family matters. I’d rather not discuss it.” He said, the smile had faded from his face and his voice, as he’d made it clear he did not wish to go there. And the client shouldn’t go there. It turned his mood sour. He didn’t need that. Carefully he began cutting the client’s hair… “You’re not used to having your hair cut from a proper barber, are you?” He said, because the hair certainly didn’t seem so. Not that the previous cut had been bad, but… Marcus could do it better.

@Sains

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Decimus would have pressed further if he were overly curious of the man's background, but in truth it was hardly something that he needed to know. In his own experience he'd found that many people, especially those from the provinces, had no interest in discussing their past. One could hardly be surprised when this was the case as picking up everything and moving to a land completely foreign to one's own was hardly a decision made lightly. Even with the financial incentives and political opportunities that waited for one in Roma the prospect of actually moving there would be daunting for anyone; god's knew it had been for him. 

"Well there's this Thessalian back in camp that usually doesn't nick you up too badly if you stay still.", he'd say, doing his best to limit his movements as Marcus set about snip-snaping away at his hair. He spoke with levity, though he'd never thought that Attikos had done a particularly bad job on him. He could only count one time that he'd been cut and that was probably because he'd moved in an unexpected way. Nevertheless, this was indeed a new experience for the veteran. 

"But no, you'd be the first. I don't know if it's much of an honor, but you have it." 

 

@Atrice

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He was pleased that the client did not ask more into why he left Gaul. He didn't need anyone asking about that. Not that he didn't have a reply ready, a reply that had nothing to do with his deceased family - deceased by his hands and blades, that is. He did have a reply ready for that, but he just really preferred they didn't go there at all. Maybe he had a tiny fear that he'd slip up. Say something that was just off. And then he'd get in trouble for giving people what they deserved. He didn't want that. Instead he carefully focused on cutting the hair and the client spoke of a Thessalian in his camp that did it well... if you sat still. Marcus smiled again and the other went on about Marcus being the first to properly cut it like this.

"It is my honor, Domine, make no mistake. I am happy with what I do and a job well done gives me more to do. So I am honored." He added, snipping away some more hair and then walking around to inspect the client from the front. The hair looked nice. Both sides were even and the top too. He was satisfied with it.

"The hair is done... now for the rest." He put away the pair of scissors and picked a razor, "Now, I too will require that you sit still. We can talk of course. If you'd like. It is your choice." He said and picked a proper oil for the face too, while waiting for the client to get ready too.

@Sains

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