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Attis had been woken by others' disturbed sleep and nightmares more than once in his life, but it had been a long time since he had been woken by his own nightmare.

Tonight's dream was vivid, though.

“Hold him down,” the Centurion was saying from somewhere out of sight above him and the two soldiers holding him tightened their grasp as another came to hold his head still. Attis' eyes were fixed on the sword that was being brought closer and closer to him, its tip glowing red-hot...

He woke with a gasp, sitting up, one hand going to his forehead even as he glanced over, hoping that he had not disturbed his master. The scar was still there, of course, but cool to the touch, painless now but still visible to everyone who looked his way – as it had been intended to be. Attis was lucky he hadn't simply been killed for his stubbornness, but the soldiers (whoever they were) had toyed with him as a cat did its prey – and that had been Attis' saving grace because they had no sooner completed branding him than another group of soldiers came riding up, giving Attis time to get away.

The room around him was pitch-black, it was still the middle of the night, and he threw back his blanket, finding that he was desperate for some air and to wet his throat, both of which could be found out in the garden, where he could slake his thirst at the fountain, hopefully without disturbing anyone.

As he straightened up from the fountain, a sound behind him made him turn. Obviously, he hadn't been as quiet as he had hoped.

“Domine! Did I wake you? I'm sorry, I didn't mean to.”

 

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"You didn't wake me, you woke him.Longinus indicated with a chuckle to his rapidly growing puppy Ragum who tottered out of the peristyle into the garden. His plans to have the dog sleep in his own room, or with the slaves, had been swiftly curtailed when the little ball of wrinkles had spent most of the first week in the domus whining outside his door until he'd been allowed in Longinus' cubiculum. Longinus hoped the dog was whining for him, but had swiftly come to realise the dogs attachment was to his body slave - which amused him more than wounded him. 

He'd been perfectly sound asleep, contented after a night with Attis in his bed, when Ragum had started his whining again. He'd nudged the empty space next to him - hoping to kick his body slave into action by taking the puppy to piss, to find his bed empty. Confused and unable to sleep with the dog continuing its odious whining for Attis, he'd grumbled and pulled on his discarded tunic, coaxing the dog out of the room and following the sound of Attis' footsteps. 

He watched in the shadows for a brief moment as his body slave, face flushed and obviously disquieted took his fill from the fountain. Whilst not the most observant man in the world, Longinus nonetheless could see something was troubling his slave. As he drew closer now, his presence now known to Attis, he could see it even more clearly. "What's wrong?" He asked, with no pretence as Ragum nipped at Attis' ankles.

 

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"Licky, stop it," Attis said to the dog which had seemingly been the cause of Longinus' getting up. He couldn't ignore his master, of course, and turned to look at him in the moonlight. He seemed concerned, but Attis wasn't about to presume anything, even after all the years they'd been together. Just look at what had happened the last time Attis had dared presume anything.

Still, there was a look of something in Longinus' face, and Attis sighed. "Just a bad dream, Domine."

Like any child would have.

"I didn't mean to wake you." Longinus had had enough broken nights, especially since his wife-to-be had vanished without a word of warning. Attis really hadn't meant to disturb him; he could do with a proper night's sleep, surely.

The dog plopped onto its hindquarters and pawed at Attis' knee, whining in the back of his throat.

"Oh, don't you start, too, Licky!"

 

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Longinus snorted in amusement at the name Attis had given the dog. He preferred Ragum - wrinkle - but judging by the way the little fat ball greeted his body slave, Licky was just as appropriate. His interest was piqued though at Attis' admission. "That's not like you," He countered with a frown, but didn't press for further information - not yet at least. Attis didn't often come into Longinus' bed, but when he had the dominus hadn't been disturbed by night terrors in the past, and he was a light enough sleeper that he thought he would have been roused more often if it was habitual. He'd also not heard any complaints from Metella. Speaking of which...

"It's fine," He waved a hand dismissively as Attis apologised again, "You know I don't sleep much anyway. But I shall have to apologise to the lovely Metella that I stole you tonight," He chuckled. He knew she was less sweet on him than the reverse, but their bickering reminded him of his late wife and their marriage (albeit somewhat less volatile) and it amused him whenever he saw it. Striding into the garden, he moved to take a seat on a bench opposite from the fountain where Attis was stood. 

 

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Attis' shoulders lifted in a brief shrug. "No, it's not."

There was nothing about last evening that Attis could point to that might explain why he'd had his nightmare tonight. He rarely dreamed, and it was even rarer that it was a bad dream, yet whenever he did have a bad dream, it was nearly always the same one, or a variation of it.

The evening had been fun, in fact - Attis liked sex, whether with his master or Metella or even (oddly) with Vitus. So what had caused him to flash back to that particular day over a decade earlier was beyond him!

He folded his hands in front of him as his master sat down on the marble bench across from where he was standing. "I know you don't, which is even more reason to apologise for waking you, however inadvertently. And Metella won't mind much, Domine. If nothing else, she'll appreciate the fact I woke you rather than her."

 

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Longinus eyed him cautiously. Whatever had woken him up had been enough to make him wary now, which was not like Attis. He'd seen a lot; you don't live with the legate of a legion in Britannia and not see the horrors of war up close and personal, although granted Attis had never been on the battlefield himself. But his body slave had never seemed particularly vexed by their experience in Britannia, or at the very least had never complained about it. There was something bothering him now though, and if it wasn't that then oblivious-Longinus was at a loss. 

Quirking a brow as he looked up at Attis he snorted, "Ever the charmer, that Metella. She was like that when my men found her, full of vim and wit, even young as she was." It's why he'd kept her in his own personal collection of trophies from Britannia. She'd probably have fetched a decent price, being young and pretty, and with her unusual colouring, but he'd found her amusing and so she'd stayed...and the rest was history. "And stop apologising," He wagged a finger at his slave, "You've apologised more in the last five minutes than you have done in the last five months," He gave his body slave a sardonic look which said; 'you're hardly one to be a respectful, apologetic slave usually', "What's gotten into you?"

 

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A smile came, unbidden, to Atti's mouth. "I'm sorry?" he said, a flash of his usual humour escaping before he sighed. "I don't often have bad dreams," he admitted. "And I don't think I've ever disturbed you in the middle of the night before."

He shrugged again. "I guess I'm just rattled by it."

He paused. He'd never spoken of what had happened all those years ago, and Longinus had never asked, not really. He must have been really rattled if he was acting so out of character that even his master was drawn to comment on it!

He dropped into a squat by his master's feet. Naturally, this put him at the dog's altitude, and he had to fend the wrinkly thing off, finding himself offering belly rubs a moment later. Now that he wasn't face to face with his master, he was able to add, "It was about how I got my scar. I don't even know why I had that dream tonight, I haven't had it for a while and there's nothing going on that would make me have nightmares."

 

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"You have with your snoring," He retorted with a sly grin, "Used to wake half the camp up - the amount of times I had to stop some centurion from running you through with his glades in the middle of the night so he could get some shuteye, well, there were too many to count." He chuckled, obviously jesting. 

Longinus watched Attis carefully. He was not the most observant man by nature, but he was able to see something was eating at his slave and it concerned him, and not only because an unhappy slave was an unhappy home - but because, in his own peculiar way he did care for Attis. Few people in his life had been such a constant, and made him laugh quite so much. He felt a pang of very uncharacteristic guilt that the man he valued so much was squatting at his feet, enslaved (and being harassed by his dog). He owed Attis a lot more than the position he found himself in, but he blinked it away. He'd made provision for the man in his will to be freed and set up - with Metella - with ample funds for a very comfortable life. He pushed down the nagging thought that his death might be decades off. 

He was surprised, however, as his slave spoke again and his brows rose on his forehead. He noticed the way his bodyslave didn't look up as he spoke, out of Longinus' eye line. "It happened in the civil war, didn't it?" he queried. He had honestly been so removed from the politics and chaos of the war by virtue of being in Britannia that he often forgot those who suffered at home. "Who did it?" He pressed with concern in his voice.

 

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"I don't snore!" Attis protested, looking up, and caught the humour in his master's face - he was being teased, again. If he did snore, he wouldn't be summoned to his master's bed half as often as he was - or at least, he'd be kicked out of it once the sex was done rather than being allowed to sleep there. He turned his attention back to the dog, which seemed to be enjoying the belly rub.

"Yes," he replied in answer to his master's question, and sighed. "I don't know - I never knew. It was a group of soldiers, I don't even know what legion they were from. Sadistic bastards, whoever they were. They wanted something - supplies or just to ransack the place - and decided to have some fun. They'd just finished it and gods know what they were going to do next, only another bunch of soldiers came riding up and I managed to get away."

How Attis, and the other slaves, had been supposed to protect the villa against armed and trained soldiers had been beyond them all at the time, even. He didn't even know if the second group were on the same side as the first ones or not.

How he hadn't ended up dead was a question he still didn't know the answer to.

 

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Longinus jaw worked as he ground his teeth. He felt for his slave, the wound would have been excruciating he had no doubt. Longinus had suffered enough wounds that had to be cauterised to remember the pain with bile in his throat, and that had only been a fleeting press with a hot blade - not a purposeful act of malice on his forehead. He reached out a hand to squeeze Attis' shoulder in uncharacteristic comfort for a moment, before he withdrew it. 

"Some soldiers need to get strung up by their toenails and left to rot in the sun," He had no patience for men like that - he'd certainly put a stop to such outlandishly cruel behaviour in his own legion, unless it was sanctioned by himself or the Governor. He blinked though, realising something and he glanced around the gardens; "Did it happen...here? Or at the villa?" Truth being told he hadn't paid Attis much attention prior to appointing him his bodyslave, out of a need to fill a gap more than anything. It had been a gamble that had paid off and then some. "Where did you go after?" Surely there would have been hundreds of slaves that would have taken the chaos of the war for granted and fled, to blend in anonymously as a pleb. After all, after so much chaos and pillaging, most would assume a lone slave had been dead or kidnapped.

 

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"You shouldn't grind your teeth, domine, it's bad for them," Attis pointed out mildly, and had to swallow a sudden and unwanted lump in his throat as his master squeezed his shoulder. The dog whined as Attis paused in petting him to deal with the unexpected emotion.

"At the villa - they didn't get in. I was outside doing - something - and they come up being all... as soldiers are." He shrugged again. "They weren't happy with the way things were going, or the answers I gave to their questions, or something. Whatever. It doesn't even matter now." He took a breath. "They hung around for a bit, cut down a couple of olive trees, messed round with the winepress, pinched or spoilt what they could, tried to get in the villa - it wasn't a big group of them, just a scouting party, I think. Once they were distracted, I nipped round the corner in through the kitchen. We barred the doors, but they didn't hang round for long."

He'd passed out at some point and didn't really know what was going on anyway. Why bother telling the slaves what all the infighting was about, after all?

"It was all about a thousand years ago anyway," he added, wishing that it was and didn't still make him shake when he thought about it. Why weren't good memories as easy to recall?

 

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Longinus listened with patience that he usually didn't posses. It was curious how, if Attis had been a British villager or slave, the former-legate probably wouldn't have batted an eye at the tale, but this was different. Attis was born and bred in Italia, he was Longinus' property, and more to the point - and try as he might to not - he cared about the man. "Just because it was long ago it doesn't make it any less haunting." He said after a moment of contemplative silence and sighed. 

"It shouldn't have happened, and I'm sorry." Much as the slaves were property - they were also his  and by default it was his responsibility to ensure their welfare as much as their punishment. Granted he couldn't really have done much from Britannia, but his mother should have taken up that mantle, or at least appointed a freeman to. 

"Valerian root helps," He said after another pause. "Some of the British enlightened me on it. You dry it and grind it into a powder and it sends you straight off." When Longinus was particularly troubled, which seemed more nights than not at the moment, he dosed himself up on it and it generally saw him sleeping through. "Ask one of the kitchen girls, they have some for me which you are welcome to, if it happens again." But trying as he was to offer solutions, Longinus was not an especially sentimental man and much preferred levity to deep, serious conversations. Trying to lighten the mood, he made an ill-timed and poorly thought out joke; "I guess it has one positive, you can say to the ladies that you got it in battle...?"

 

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"It wasn't your fault," Attis pointed out. He must have let his feelings into his hand or something because the dog whined and batted at his arm, leaving a scratch. At least dogs' claws were blunt, unlike cats' claws.

He wasn't entirely sure what to do with the knowledge that his master had just apologised to him, a slave, and elected to ignore it at least for now. He was glad that his master couldn't see him roll his eyes, though. He knew all about the efficacies of valerian root for sleeplessness; being the good slave he was, he'd been the one to procure it in the first place for his master (who'd seemed less than appreciative of it at the time - he was the same way with the willow bark concoctions for headaches). He was not about to use any, even with permission, he simply did not have sleepless nights with any sort of regularity.

"It doesn't happen all that often, anyway. I'm just sorry it was tonight and I ended up disturbing you." If he hadn't been in his master's bed tonight, Longinus would still be in blissful ignorance that his body slave knew what a negative memory looked like. Damn.

He looked up at his master, who was wearing a more concerned expression than Attis could recall seeing on his face, certainly a more concerned expression than he'd ever worn before when looking at Attis. "I would have thought you'd appreciate that I don't go spreading it around outside the household, though, domine?"

He didn't even spread it around within the household all that much, the only people he slept with with any regularity were Metella, Vitus (and him only occasionally) and Longinus himself.

 

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Longinus reached out and laid out a swot on Attis' head, but not hard enough to actually hurt - more of a jesting warning. "I swear if you apologise one more time Attis I'm going to demote you to permanent Ragum-guardian." He scoffed and rolled his eyes imitating a conversation between slaves; "'Oh you used to be the Dominus' body slave? What happened?' 'Oh, you know, I wouldn't listen to him and kept apologising and so he demoted me to watch after his dog all day every day instead'"

As if on cue Ragum sat back on his hind legs and presented his wrinkled face for a stroke from Longinus, who obliged. It was irresistibly cute really, Titus had done well. "I don't keep you around because you're a sycophant." He reminded Attis for the final time, with only a hint of warning in his voice. 

To many, he suspected, he was an impossible master. He wanted his slaves respectful, he wanted them to know their place but equally he couldn't abide his favourites from playing the meek, docile sort that many of his contemporaries seemed to want. If Longinus had been gifted Aulus' Felix, or Titus' Transquillus, he would have been bored to tears. 

"Spreading what?" He said with a frown as he continued to pet Ragum who had now flopped onto his side, "Spreading the stories of what happened to you, or spreading your cock outside the house?" He grinned and shrugged. He knew slaves had relationships, but thought his body slave had it bad for Metella and wasn't looking outside of the house. 

 

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Attis reached up to rub his head where his master's hand had connected - it hadn't been a hard swipe by any means, but even so! "Do you mean, if I apologise one more time tonight, or one more time, ever, domine?" he enquired, somehow feeling a bit more like his usual self. He couldn't believe he'd off-loaded all that stuff onto his master (well, to be fair, Longinus had asked, and more than once, so what did he expect?).

"Either. Both. Well, I actually meant, I would have thought you'd appreciate that I don't go sleeping around with people outside the house. The only other people who know about this -" he indicated his forehead "- are some of the other slaves who were there at the time." He hadn't told anyone in the family, ever, until now. What could they have done about it, after all, and it wasn't as though Attis was one of the slaves at the domus in Rome at the time, anyway. He found that he was mildly astonished that he hadn't been summarily sold, though the confusion of the civil war had no doubt put paid to any ideas of that that the old master might have had.

Longinus was therefore the only other person who really knew how Attis had got his scar and quite what he would do with that knowledge was anyone's guess. He couldn't quite believe he'd told his master, and with very little persuasion.

 

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Longinus chuckled; "Let's just say tonight and tomorrow. I still want you to apologise when you swear at me or do something else utterly foolish." Longinus' brows rose in warning. He cut Attis an enormous amount of slack, but the situation that had rendered his body slave shipped off to Titus' had been a step too far. Fortunately the man seemed to have learned his lesson on the matter but pleasingly hadn't lost his snark, which had endeared Longinus to him in the first place. 

Shrugging limply and moving his hand from Ragum - which elicited a whine from the puppy - Longinus considered the thought. For many of the slaves he owned their personal lives was as interesting to him as discussions with Aulus on his building project; which was to say not at all. But certain slaves; Attis, Vitus and Metella included by virtue of their positions as secretaries, bodyslaves and nurses had a larger impression on the familia. They were equally required to be more present in Longinus' own life in comparison to somebody like one one of the kitchen girls or hypocaust slaves. 

"I don't object to the principle," He said after further thought, "But I don't see how it'd be practicable. You'd only be able to slink off for a quickie when I don't need you -" And whilst Longinus didn't want Attis trailing round after him, he was nonetheless required more than he was allowed free time, "-although I suppose some of the senate meetings do drag on, so maybe not a quickie in those cases." He chuckled. "In any case, what if you got lovesick with some girl or man from another house and then their owner decides to sell them? I'd not  have you moping around the house over it." He added with a sad smile, knowing what that pain felt like himself.

 

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"It does happen," Attis said mildly. It would be harder for him, of course; he spent the majority of his time dancing attendance on his master. That wasn't to say it would be impossible - but he preferred to keep his attention within the household. Anyway, Metella and Vitus were more than enough for him, he didn't need to find a way to make anything work with someone from next door or wherever. He shrugged. "That could happen anyway, domine, whether or not the person is from another household or this one."

Longinus was unlikely to sell Metella or Vitus - or Attis himself - but that did not mean that it was not a possibility, however unlikely. Attis had to concede that perhaps Metella had a point when she refused to be considered contubernales with him; it was possible for a slave marriage to exist across two household, but such an arrangement only existed thanks to the generosity of the slaves' masters.

"I'm in no danger of moping around the house, domine," he said, striving to sound more cheerful than he had so far in this conversation.

 

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Longinus studied Attis. Well that was pointed. "I'm not going to sell you." He said with emphasis. "Nor do I have any intention of selling any of my others, for that matter." 

The rag-tag group of slaves he had weren't worth much and he knew it, besides Vitus probably. Attis would have been worth more were it not for the scar on his forehead, of course. He liked those he had - they were all genuinely hard workers - any that weren't were quickly rotated out to the villa or returned to the market - so those that he was left with were likely in it for the long haul. In his estimation he was a generous master giving his property free reign in numerous areas of their lives, and rarely dishing out punishment (and when he did he considered it very much warranted). 

"You seem like you're moping already, and I can't work out why." He frowned quizzically at his bodyslave. The conversation had moved on since their talk of his injury, surely it couldn't be that weighing on him. 

 

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"I didn't mean to suggest you would, domine," Attis replied. He couldn't be entirely comfortable, there was always the possibility of sale, however slim, but Longinus was a good enough master - Attis could have ended up in a far worse situation than where he was, and he knew it. His master indulged him - witness their present conversation for one thing - and didn't mind his flashes of sarcasm and dark humour.

"I have been expressly ordered not to say I'm sorry," he continued. "So I won't. I didn't mean to give the impression I'm moping, though. Do you have any plans for tomorrow - today, I mean? Apart from trying not to yawn in the senate later, that is. Perhaps you should try to picture everyone in their underwear if the meetings are as boring as all that?" He grinned up at his master. "On the other hand, maybe not - I'm fairly sure you've shared baths with some of them, after all."

 

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Longinus snorted, "Have you seen my fellow Senators? Besides a select few, I'd rather not imagine them in anything less than full toga." He chuckled and then added a fake dramatic shiver, as if horrified by the thought. 

"And no, no real plans. I'm inviting Sergia round though," He tried to look nonchalant, "Next week. And Vitus is reminding me of all the things that come with hosting a dinner for important guests," Not that he considered Secundus Quinctilius Varus particularly important. His brother, perhaps, but not the paterfamilias himself, "So...I suspect I'm going to be sequestered away planning a party this morning." He could only slightly disguise the loathing in his voice. 

 

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"Hence why it would be pretty funny to imagine them in their underwear... or nude." He glanced up at his master, judging the man's mood, and gave a suggestive wriggle of his little finger, hinting that some of Longinus' fellow Senators might be hung like mice. Probably Titus Sulpicius Rufus was - it would explain why the man was so uptight and all, never summoning any of his slaves to his room, barely sleeping with his wife...

"Vitus has good ideas and suggestions - he's got one of those nice neat organised minds, likes everything to be just so. He's there to make your life easier. You could do a lot worse than listen to him, you know." He shrugged. He didn't particularly understand the way Vitus thought, either, if the truth were known - but Attis and Longinus probably gave Vitus conniptions on a daily basis. It couldn't be easy to be secretary to a man like Longinus, after all.

"How many people are coming to this party, domine?"

 

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Longinus let out a garrulous laugh and did another, more dramatic mock shudder of disgust. "Smaller." He made a fake wrenching sound and then looked visibly disturbed for a second. Those poor men. Their poor wives

"Yes I know, I know." He waved a hand. His secretary really was incredibly fastidious and scarily efficient, it was also why he was so permanently irritated and outraged; nobody else in the house, his dominus included, took things quite as seriously as Vitus. Besides, perhaps, Vita in the kitchens. Hence her new name. "And the four of us, I think. Sergia, myself, and then Secundus," The name produced an eye roll, "And his wife. Though I was thinking about inviting the Praetor, Secundus' brother. He's better company by a league."

 

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"'Four of us', domine? Sergia and Secundus - I don't think I know their other names, domine, don't scold me! - and you... that's just three. Four if you're counting Secundus' wife, five with the Praetor." He scratched the back of his neck. "Doesn't the Praetor have a son? Unless I'm thinking of the wrong Praetor, which would be just like me."

It sounded like it would be a jolly time. Jolly miserable, probably, but Attis was not about to say that. At least Longinus had laughed at his joke, bad though it was. It was hard to tell, sometimes, what would make Longinus laugh and what would earn Attis a sharp scolding. He guessed right more often than not, but there were times when he misjudged his master's mood.

"How fancy are you thinking this should be? I mean, do I need to look at hiring a foreign cook for this?"

 

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"Four; Sergia, myself, Secundus and his wife...Livia, I think her name is." The Romans were an unimaginative lot with their naming conventions, "Tertius was just a musing I had. Secundus seems stayed by him, and...given what we've heard about Secundus, that's for the better. So five of us." 

Longinus frowned, trying to dredge back through the conversation they'd had the last time he had met the man, and stories he'd heard from Rome's Queen of gossip - his mother, "I think he has two - with different slaves, both freed." His eyebrows rose on his forehead, "One of them newborn the other I think is old enough. I suppose he could be invited, show of family unity and all that from their side." He grinned but said no more. Slave sons were a somewhat sore subject for Longinus given he'd still not found Pelias, his son who his mother had sold without his consent and knowledge. He thought he'd got close - tracking him down to a farm outside Napoli, but that had been a dead end. 

"And..." He frowned, "I Donn't care about fancy...you know that," He had the tasted of a Plebeian, by and large, "But I am trying to impress her, I suppose. You have suggestions, Attis?" He grinned.

 

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"I don't know what would impress a patrician lady, domine." Seeing as he was in every respect the exact opposite, Attis could maybe make a guess, but that was all it would be. "Maybe put some of your more outrageous collection of objects into storage?"

He shrugged; the eclectic nature of his master's collection was what it was; he did not think that the terms 'elegant and refined' could be attached to his master with any truth, but it made the house individual and unique, and perhaps better that the lady knew about the random weirdness from the beginning than if she found out later.

"The best wine and the best food will go a long way towards making them appreciate your wealth, of course. Surely the lady would like to learn that you can keep her in style?" And of course the nature of Longinus' collection of things from everywhere would also serve to show his military background - to have things from as far away as Britannia was not something that everyone could boast of, after all.

 

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