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Awkward is an understatement (Gaius, Ovinia)


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June 76 AD

"Dominus, you should not be in here. The guests could arrive in any minute." The old woman looked at Lucius half pleading, half displeased. She was used to him taking up space in the kitchen on most days, but when company was expected, she always got a bit nervous. She was a good-natured person, and she did not like the younger dominus getting into trouble with his brother.

"I know, I know. Give me a moment" Lucius protested, leaning over the table as the slowly dribbled honey on top of the savillum. It had to be done just right. The kitchen was often his refuge from the comings and goings in the house, and since he did not really like other patrician families making social visits, he was trying to stay in there as long as possibly could. Helping out with the cooking in the process. "There. Alright. I'm going. I'm going. Bless you" he grinned at the cook as she ushered him out, but she smiled anyway.

He could hear the front door opening as he made his way through the atrium. Uh-oh. Lucius ran a hand through his hair. He had been shaved earlier today at least, but there was still a streak of flour on his cheek, and he needed to put on a better tunic. Oh, Gaius was going to be mad. Lucius quickened his steps, hoping to duck out of sight before the guests walked in. 

This was going to be a long dinner...

@Sharpie @Sara

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Why Gaius had to stand right outside the door that led to the kitchen and the rest of the slaves' rooms was a question for the ages. Why his younger brother felt he needed to hang around and get in the way of slaves going about their daily chores was a question that could only be answered by Lucius, who finally appeared in the doorway, apparently trying to sneak back to his room without being spotted by Gaius.

"You have flour on your cheek," Gaius pointed out, wishing he did not have to so often take the role of the villain in Lucius' life. If only Lucius had a bit more decorum and a sense of what what right, they could be on the same side.

 

@Chevi

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"You have flour on your cheek," 

Of course Gaius had to be right there. Lucius reached up, rubbing his cheeks. There was probably flour everywhere. And his hands were sticky from the honey. Lucius could see the exasperation in his brother's face.

"Yes. Sorry. I'll go change." he said, maneuvering around his brother "But the savillum will be worth it, I swear."

There were voices from the front door as the gatekeeper slave opened it. Lucius glanced that way, then quickened his steps to get to his room and escape both his brother's lecture and the arriving guests.

"I'll only be a moment!"

@Sara @Sharpie

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Ovinia's face was thunderous as she sat in the litter. Every jolt made her jaw grit, every time she glimpsed a smiling face through the curtains she sighed audibly. Her mood was enough to make her half-brother - Tullus - get out of the litter halfway through their journey to walk. Occasionally he peered in when the slaves stopped for a cart or another litter with a; "Cheer up, you're not being marched to your death." To which Ovinia snapped back; "It certainly feels as if I am." 

This was the problem with half-siblings, the young woman had concluded; one could never keep track of them from such a distance. Tullus lived with his father, the ex-husband of Ovinia's mother whom she had divorced in lieu of better prospects with Gaius Ovinius Camillus Major. It meant that she saw her half-brother sparingly - at wider family functions and parties, certainly, and occasionally for a walk should his schedule - now he was a sitting senator - allow. But she found it much harder to keep track of his friends than with her three full brothers. It was why she had absolutely no idea that Tullus knew the Vispanius Roscius brothers. 

A match was being sought for her with more haste than before, enough so that her father had actually listened to the recommendations of Tullus. Gaius Vispanius Roscius was, by his estimation, a fine man and would make an excellent husband, yet all Ovinia could think of was the jowled, red-faced, venomous little man with a shock of grey hair that her immature mind had conjured up during her conversation with Lucius. Not that such things should matter to a prospective bride, of course. 

Nothing she could say could get her out of coming tonight, she had tried every tactic; citing feminine woes (which was unpicked by the slaves stating she was not on her bleed - traitors), a prior engagement with a friend (to be cancelled, according to her father)...she'd even raised Decimus again, although that had been a mistake as soon as his name left her mouth as it only raised her fathers ire more and cemented the fact that she would be going to meet Gaius Vispanius Roscius and she would be pleased about it. The former she had to do, the latter though? Well, she'd pout and glare all evening if she had to. 

Tullus didn't understand it. He'd seen his sister be happy, or at least indifferent, to meeting various candidates for her hand over the years and couldn't work out why she was so vehemently opposed to this man, whom she'd never met. When prompted, she merely stated that she'd met one of the brothers before and didn't much care for him, but refused to elaborate. Tullus' suspicions were raised, and as they pulled up to the Domus he made a mental note to dig a little deeper this evening. Helping his sister out the litter, he was unceremoniously whipped in the face as she readjusted her palla. 

Dressed to impress, although the mood she wore on her face said otherwise, she wore a dark blue tunica, belted to show off her slender waist. A gauzy palla of white was draped around her body and over her head. Earrings and bangles glittered on her wrists. "Smile." Tullus prompted with faint warning in his voice as they moved to the home, walking through the small fauces to the atrium, "He's a friend. Be polite." Tullus was in front of her, so she didn't see either man until he finished his greetings and moved to the side; "...my sister, Ovinia Camilla."

 

TAG: @Sharpie @Chevi

 

Edited by Sara
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"The slaves have no need for you to help them," Gaius pointed out and sighed as he heard the ostiarius open the door to their visitors. "We'll talk about this later," he added.

What perfect timing. As if Lucius had planned it. Gaius lifted his eyes beseechingly towards his family funeral masks - how any of his ancestors expected him to rein his brother in was beyond him. There was no time for anything else and he turned towards the new arrivals; Lucius would have to hurry up with getting changed. 

"Salvēte, Bantius Humilus, Ovinia Camilla. Welcome to my home - my brother will be with us shortly. Would you care for some wine?"

@Chevi @Sara

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"The slaves have no need for you to help them. We'll talk about this later," 

"I know!" Lucius agreed as he was hurrying away, getting out of the line of sight of the guests. He knew he was not going to get away without another stern talk. Even if the food he'd made was really good.

Lucius returned to his room and washed up in a hurry, making sure to eliminate flour and honey stains. He combed his hair, which did not do much in terms of taming the curls, and changed into the clean tunic that had already been prepared for him. Good enough. He did not want to leave Gaius alone with the guests for too long, whoever they were. That would just be added to his list of offenses.

Drinks and appetizers have been prepared in the peristylium. Lucius headed there from his room, following the voices of his brother and the guests. Some senator was making a visit with some family, that was all he knew (maybe Gaius had said more, but Lucius was only sort of listening at the time). Which is why his momentum came to a screeching halt when he turned the corner.

Next to his brother, and some young senator, there was a woman he'd hoped he'd never see again.

Oh, shit.

Lucius stared for a moment too long before clearing his throat. This evening had just gone straight to the dogs. 

@Sharpie @Sara

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Ovinia blinked and then immediately schooled her expression into a pleasant grin. Not what she had been expecting. Not what Lucius had insinuated. He was older than his brother by a good number of years but unlike some of his age and rank, didn't look horrifically careworn. She tried to affect an air of the dignified lady that she had been brought up to be - but she was only young and untested as an actress, and when the Senator made reference to his brother her face dropped a tad. Gods save them if Lucius had mentioned what happened. Maybe that's why he was late, trying to hide from his sins? 

She followed her brother, half-brother, and the Senator as they caught up, adding in a sympathetic 'mhmm' and a nod or a smile there, where required. She'd been through enough of these matchmaking exercises to know the ropes by now. 

Settling herself down on the chair that had been allocated to her, besides her brother, opposite from the Senator, she smoothed the rich dark blue fabric of her tunica over her knees. "You have a lovely home I-" She stopped mid sentence as another figure lurched and then stalled into view. Ah. So he wasn't hiding, and judging by the expression on his face, was not expecting this. She really should have said she had four brothers when they had conversed. Seizing the opportunity she stood and demurely inclined her head, "Lucius Vipsanius Rosciusa pleasure to see you again.She directed him a look which said 'keep quiet or so help me...'.

Returning to her seat, she took a sip of wine to give her a pause to concoct a story, "Your brother is quite the farmer, Senator Gaius." She chuckled, "I met him picking apples." He really shouldn't have told her the story, the last time they met, but it was a perfect. She looked quite the innocent party. 

 

TAG: @Sharpie @Chevi

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"Well, there's one traditional employment that my brother is good at, then," Gaius replied. Farming was one occupation that even Senators could turn to and not be looked down for, unlike most of Lucius' pastimes. Nobody had thought any less of Cincinnatus returning to the plough after serving Rome in time of need, after all - in fact, he was upheld as a great example for doing so rather than holding on to the title of Dictator for any longer than absolutely necessary.

And it had been the fields not the kitchens from which he had been summoned. Why Lucius couldn't content himself with suitable pastimes was a question to which Gaius just did not have an answer.

He reached to help himself to some dates, signalling that his brother and their guests could begin eating.

 

@Chevi @Sara

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 "Lucius Vipsanius Roscius, a pleasure to see you again."

Ovinia behaved every bit like the polite Roman maiden she was supposed to be. Lucius returned her greeting. Apparently she had already told the men that she hat met him. Lucius wondered what else she'd mentioned. He gave her an amused smile.

"The pleasure is all mine."

 "Your brother is quite the farmer, Senator Gaius. I met him picking apples."

The smile on Lucius' face tightened. Oh no she didn't. 

"Well, there's one traditional employment that my brother is good at, then," 

"Well, it's the only way to get good quality produce around here." He said lightly, taking a seat. "You are her brother, I presume?" He turned to the young senator. "A pleasure to finally meet you. What brings you to our home?"

@Sara

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Ovinia couldn't hide the little frown on her face at Gaius retort. How...bland - barely acknowledging her or the statement. Her little story had the desired impact on Lucius though and she watched as his smile tightened and he offered a barbed retort. She sat in silence though, and let the men speak - relieved that the awkwardness was over for now at least. Or was it? She watched her half-brother blink at the question, direct as it was, and then glance between Ovinia and Gaius. 

"Ovinia is my half-sister," Tullius smiled tightly at Lucius, "We share our beloved mother. It is a pleasure - Ovinia had mentioned that you'd met, but not quite the story of how." Tullius shot a slight warning look at Ovinia and then an apologetic glance at Gaius as if to say; 'ignore this, she's a good girl really'. "And I've known your brother for some years now, back when he was a Quaestor. I thought it only right  to introduce him to my beautiful little sister." He raised his cup in toast and Ovinia followed suit and then took a deep sip of the sweet wine.

"And I'm delighted to do so. You're a sitting Senator, is that right, Gaius?" She asked, pointedly ignoring Lucius - determined not to let him rile her.

 

TAG: @Sharpie @Chevi

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"Indeed I am," Gaius said, with a smile. If Lucius was at all discomfited by Tullus and his sister and their presence in the house, that was probably his own fault, though Gaius was glad that Lucius hadn't been doing anything worse than picking apples when he'd met Ovinia Camilla.

Though something about the story didn't ring quite right - but he wasn't about to start picking it apart right then and there, not in front of their guests.

"I don't currently hold a magistracy, but I hope to be elected aedile next year," he added, not meeting his brother's eye - Lucius' lack of interest in pursuing a suitable political career was something the two brothers very much did not see eye-to-eye over. It wasn't as though Gaius was particularly ambitious, he would climb the ladder as high as he could but if he did not make it to the next rung, well, he would settle for the magistracy and career he had. Much like his mentor Lucius Cassius Longinus, he thought suddenly, though his patron's friend had made it to the dizzying height of Consul - perhaps he should ask Cassius Longinus for an introduction? What point was there in having friends-of-friends in high places if you couldn't actually claim a few minutes of their time to make an acquaintance, after all?

"I think the civil war set several political careers back a bit," he added, reaching for some olives to begin the meal as the slaves began bringing dishes in.

 

@Chevi @Sara

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Alright, so Gaius was definitely the target of this visit. That was good news: it meant Tullus was not here to have Lucius' head for embarrassing his little sister in public. Was this visit about politics, then? Lucius was already bored, so he reached for the olives too. If Gaius and Tullus were going to start talking cursus, he would have to excuse himself sooner or later. Ovinia would probably get bored to death, but she was probably too polite to show it.

"I think the civil war set several political careers back a bit,"

There you go Gaius, understatement of the year.

"Don't sell yourself short, Gaius" Lucius smiled at his brother before glancing at Tullus. "My brother takes the cursus very seriously."

He'd know.

@Sara @Sharpie

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Ovinia listened with a polite smile on her face as they spoke of careers. She vaguely knew what the positions meant; she had enough male relatives to have been schooled in that, at least passably, but it was for the most part an alien concept to her. Imagine that! An actual job to fill one's day! 

"I hope you weren't too badly impacted by it?" She ventured with a concerned look on her face and a soft little sigh, pointedly ignoring Lucius' barbed comment on his brother. He had inferred his brother was an ogre, and he really was anything but. "We lost my grandparents, but I was in Greece for it by and large." And young enough that she really didn't remember much of anything. She saw Tullus' quizzical look at her, as if to say 'why on earth are you dragging this back up?' and she cleared her throat with a sip of wine, "But being an aedile would be most impressive," Maybe? She really didn't know, "I wish you good luck. And if I could vote," She laughed, "I'm sure you'd have my vote. Unless your opponent was particularly charming." She jested and sipped her wine again. 

"My sister is blessed to have been born into a family with so many brothers," Tullus chuckled and glanced at Lucius suspiciously, "Forgive me Gaius, I can't recall ..is it just yourself and your brother in your familia?" 

 

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"Quite a number of families were affected by the civil war," Gaius said. He was not about to embarrass the girl by saying that yes actually they had been quite badly impacted by it as they had lost their father.

"Someone needs to take it seriously," he said to Lucius, and as his brother definitely wasn't going to do so, that only left Gaius.

"Well, I'm grateful for your support even if you can't vote for me," he said to Ovinia.  "And no, we have a sister, but she is married and with her husband elsewhere. I am sorry you won't be able to meet her today."

 

@Chevi @Sara

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What was it about nobility that made them want to drag up the civil war two seconds after sitting down for dinner? This was not the first time that had happened in Lucius' experience, and it never worked out well. It was an awkward topic for everyone, for various reasons. He sighed, and let Gaius handle it.

"I hope you weren't too badly impacted by it? We lost my grandparents, but I was in Greece for it by and large."

"Quite a number of families were affected by the civil war,"

Not too badly, no. Lucius looked at his brother. Other than losing their father and turning the entire family upside down? Nah, nothing worth mentioning. He almost cut in, but the conversation, thankfully, moved on to... similarly awkward, but different topics.

"Someone needs to take it seriously,"

Lucius turned his head to drink, and subtly rolled his eyes at his brother. They were not going to have this fight in front of the guests. Gaius would murder him later.

"But being an aedile would be most impressive. I wish you good luck. And if I could vote I'm sure you'd have my vote. Unless your opponent was particularly charming." 

Lucius almost choked on the wine in an attempt to hold back a laugh and a snarky comment at the same time. Damn, this conversation was just one low hanging fruit after another. He deserved a medal for not commenting on them. He quirked an eyebrow at Ovinia, though. Good thing you don't vote, then. Charming, indeed. 

"My sister is blessed to have been born into a family with so many brothers. Forgive me Gaius, I can't recall ..is it just yourself and your brother in your familia?" 

"Well, I'm grateful for your support even if you can't vote for me. And no, we have a sister, but she is married and with her husband elsewhere. I am sorry you won't be able to meet her today."

"Our mother lives on our estate in the country." Lucius supplied. "That's where our sister and I grew up. Upholding the great traditions of our ancestors." Oh, he was bullshitting now, but he managed to keep a straight face. Some Roman noble families were proud of their ancestors' connection to the land, even if they themselves had never seen a plow up close. Or picked an apple. 

@Sara @Sharpie

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She'd evidently hit a sore spot judging by the reaction of the two brothers, and she winced into her wine cup as she took a sip.

Tullus looked as flummoxed as she did by the short, sharp exchange between the pair and didn't interject - only offering an irritating laugh at Gaius' quip that he was grateful for her support. As if the support of an unmarried, nineteen year old woman mattered in the election of an aedile. She was beginning to get the impression that it didn't matter in this conversation either; Gaius, she found, was difficult to read (or was it merely the presence of his brother that rattled him)? Most men she met for these sorts of conversations fawned a little, or tried to act interested for her benefit. Gaius did not seem so inclined and she bit the inside of her cheek in annoyance.

"And what traditions were they?" She retorted to Lucius with one well-shaped brow raised in challenge. "Apple farming, perhaps?" She felt Tullus nudge her in warning and a fraction of a second later her face switched from deadpan at Lucius to a gentle grin directed at the prime object of her families intentions, Gaius; "Do you get out of the city much, Gaius Vipsanius? I hear Baiae is no longer fashionable," She rolled her eyes as if finding the whole thing utterly ludicrous, which it was, "Where are your estates?" 

 

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