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July, 76 CE

It was high summer, and the nobility of Rome was fleeing the city in droves. Lucius would have left too to visit the estate, except Gaius wanted to keep a close watch on him until the ed of the year, the infamous deadline to figure out what he wanted to do with his life (and for his family). There was only one loophole in this situation: many young, unmarried men Lucius' age (a dwindling number but still there) organized parties at their villas outside the city, inviting each other along for some well deserved networking and debauchery. It was a loophole Lucius decided to take advantage of. Spending time with his peers and building connections? Gaius could not argue with that. Leaving the city and spending free time at a villa? Much better than July on the Quirinal. Maybe he should have been a lawyer.

This current party was in full swing, bordering on orgy. The cool night air freshened everyone up, the wine had been filled and refilled several times, there was music, and, obviously, there were men and women hired for entertainment. And still, with all the luxury and the spices, the party was still painfully boring, in Lucius' opinion. Conversations were bland (sliding into ridiculous as some held their liquor worse than others), drinking games got boring quick, and there was not much else to do. Lucius managed to slip away from the crowd, wandering around the gardens of the villa for a while, getting some fresh air. He came across the small bath building attached to the main house and peeked in, but someone was already... being occupied in there, so he backed out, and decided to return to the trees instead. Maybe there were a few apples left somewhere to pick. Pulling himself up into the lower branches of one promising tree, he looked around in the light of torches that filtered out into the garden.

@Sara

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Vibia had decided she was never working one of these parties again, or at least if she did she should be compensated much more handsomely for it. It was funny how, when she'd taken on the work at the Venus the idea of bedding middle aged, balding men made her recoil but now she vastly preferred them; better tippers, less ignorant and by far and away easier to deal with. A villa of rich, naive young men with a toy chest of men and women to play with was bound to be difficult to enjoy and finally her patience had worn down to nothing. 

She'd been here only a day, and had already developed a leach. This particular leach was twenty-one years old, blonde, rich and wouldn't take a hint. Vibia wasn't a slave, and therefore had free will over who she slept with - within reason of course, she still had a job to do. Her instructions had been fairly clear that she should aim for the best and brightest at the villa - no point wasting her time with idiots who would have her for five minutes and then never again enter through the Venus' doors. She needed the big fish, and her leach was not that - she doubted, despite his apparently impressive family name, whether he could rub two as' together, and she certainly didn't want his sticky, wine covered hands anywhere near her. 

So she'd attempted to get a moment of respite in the gardens. The leach was otherwise occupied with a friend of his, getting absolutely wasted on some truly vile but apparently expensive wine, and so she'd made her escape before he noticed her absence and came running to whine that all he wanted was two minutes of her time. Movement caught the corner of her eye and assuming it was a bird, she continued into the garden before the rustling became too loud to be any sort of pigeon. She glanced up, wrapping her arms over the gauzy, entirely impractical tunica she wore. She quirked an eyebrow at what greeted her when her eyes focused in the darkness. 

"Are you breaking in, or breaking out?" 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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"Are you breaking in, or breaking out?"

Lucius had entirely missed the appearance of one of the scantily clad girls in the gardens, as he was too occupied with his hunt for apples. He jumped when she spoke, rustling the branches as he grabbed for purchase just in time not to plummet to the ground.

"I'm not breaking anywhere" he replied, trying to seem nonchalant sitting in a tree "I just needed... some time away from the eloquent conversation going on in there. Too philosophical for my taste." As in, it was increasingly hard to carry a conversation with people who were losing the concept of subjects and verbs. "You?"

@Sara

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She grinned and tutted, moving to lean against the tree underneath him therefore giving him an excellent vantage point of her cleavage (one always had to be aware of their angles in her profession). "Sarcasm sir, really? Tsk." The men at the villa were largely all so far in their cups she'd be surprised if any of them managed to take advantage of her, or the other...pursuits open to them this evening. Not that she was complaining. And no doubt the leach would still try. 

Having perfected her craft over a number of years, Vibia had learned to affect different personalities depending on whose company she was keeping. Some men liked docile, dim blondes, some liked witty, fiery women, some just liked her silent and others well...others would rather be Helios but had been forced into her room by his friends. The problem was, of course, that she needed to see her client to be able to tell what he wanted and said client being halfway up a tree made that exceedingly challenging. Based on his answer thus far, she took a punt that he'd want 'sassy, snarky Vibia'. 

"Me? Oh just thought I'd come and smell the flowers," She rolled her eyes and shrugged, "Your friends don't entertain me, I'm afraid and so I was looking for a better prospect." And bingo - she thought she'd found one.

 

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"Sarcasm sir, really? Tsk." 

Well, she was not entirely dumb. Or entirely drunk. And definitely not too demure to call him out. Lucius was kind of surprised to meet someone like her at a party like this. He peered down from a tree, noting the way she leaned against it.

"Me? Oh just thought I'd come and smell the flowers. Your friends don't entertain me, I'm afraid and so I was looking for a better prospect." 

"My friends don't entertain anyone except each other." Lucius observed with a smirk. "I'm afraid I'm not really a prospect, though. But I found some apples if you'd like a bite?" Lucius liked women. He liked people, honestly, in general. He was not immune to attraction at all, but at parties like this, his contrarian nature usually took the better of him. What was the fun in being the 'prospect' of someone working the event?

@Sara

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"That suits me fine," She shrugged limply and glanced up through the branches at him, "I've already been paid for the weekend - which is really for the better because your friends are terrible tippers." He was a prospect though, and it didn't suit her fine. He didn't need to know that though - some men enjoyed being seduced even without realising it, and Vibia...well, she prided herself on her skills. 

"I prefer peaches," She chuckled and extended her arms up to catch one, "But why not? Although if we're going to have a conversation might I suggest you get down from that tree?" She studied him with those pale blue eyes, "Or invite me up?" 

 

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"That suits me fine. I've already been paid for the weekend - which is really for the better because your friends are terrible tippers." 

Oh good. She had her money, and if she spend time away from company, at least he could be the excuse to do so. Lucius did not want to imagine what it would be like to be hired to entertain that crowd of idiots in the villa for a whole weekend. Even though there were other women and men hired for the job too, it was probably the most obnoxious clientele they could get for that money.

"I prefer peaches. But why not? Although if we're going to have a conversation might I suggest you get down from that tree?... Or invite me up?" 

"Oh I don't think you are dressed for the climb" Lucius chuckled, tossing an apple down from the branches. "Here, catch." She was barely wearing anything, and if the anything caught on a branch... well, that was going to be awkward for everyone. "What's your name?"

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She grinned lasciviously; "Is that a wager?" She tipped her head to the side and studied the tree for a moment and would have carried on had an apple not glided past her face by whiskers. She managed to catch it - just - and shot him a glower in mock reproach before she smiled again. "Vibia, just Vibia." 

She looked again at the tree as she considered the best route up. She was markedly shorter - or at least assumed she was - than this man and therefore getting purchase and footholds would be more difficult. Not to mention the fact that she'd never climbed a tree in her life. "And your name?" She asked as she stared inquisitively at the branches and tentatively reached out a hand to try and start to climb, "And are your hobbies all this unusual, sir?" 

 

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"Is that a wager?"

"Not unless you want it to be" Lucius grinned, picking another apple for himself. She looked uncertain about climbing, and he was not going to make her. 

"Vibia, just Vibia. And your name? And are your hobbies all this unusual, sir?" 

Vibia. Was she a slave of the Venus? It was hard to tell, at events like this. But it was not unlikely.

"Lucius." he didn't bother to give his full name. If word got around that he was climbing trees with prostitutes, at least he had plausible deniability. That was a lawyer term he was beginning to learn. "And yes, apparently so. Picking your own apples seems to confuse a lot of people." She reached out a hand, looking like she intended to climb up after all. Lucius tilted his head, watching. Was she actually going to? "I can climb down."

@Sara

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"Lucius who likes picking apples." she narrowed her eyes and offered a feline smirk, "Mysterious.

She wasn't going to let him climb down. She needed an interesting event to have even a remotely enjoyable conversation, and this was it. She knew he was watching and figured this could go either way; either she'd try to climb and fail, in which case she'd pretend to fall (or maybe actually fall) and he could play the saviour to her injured damsel, or she'd succeed and then they'd be sheltered in the seclusion of the tree. She'd never had sex in a tree and as she glanced up, she pondered the logistics for a moment. She'd figure it out if the time came. 

Tentatively she gripped placed her foot in a convenient hole in the trunk and pushed herself up, gripping the tree as gracefully as she could; "I bet this is an alluring sight no?" She grinned mischievously, "Attempting not to fall? And tsk where is the chivalry these days, do I not get any help?" 

 

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"Lucius who likes picking apples. Mysterious." 

He really wasn't. He never intended to be, anyway, but for some reason doing normal people things was a whole lot of mystery for others in his social circles. She had to know he was one of the guests, not giving his full name. She was probably used to that too.

She started to climb, which was a fear in itself in the dress she was wearing.

"I bet this is an alluring sight no? Attempting not to fall? And tsk where is the chivalry these days, do I not get any help?" 

It was an alluring sight. Also, a bit curious. Was she playing with him, or this dedicated to her job?

"I don't know. What did we wager again?" he smirked, but then reached a hand out anyway, helping her up to the lower branches. At this point, it was a better option than letting her fall. The tree was not very big, but there was enough space among the foliage for the two of them to sit comfortable with some shifting. Her dress was probably not designed for this, though, so comfort was going to be relative.

@Sara

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As she was pulled up, she managed to seat herself with her back against the trunk, her legs crossed in front of her. She was breathless from the climb and grinned; "What do you have that's worth wagering I wonder?" She studied him now she had a better vantage point. Handsome. Her age, maybe a bit younger. Wealthy - presumably - if he'd been invited here because his accent (or lack thereof) and demeanour didn't suggest a slave or a freedman. 

Shifting a little so the cut of the dress fell juuust right on her chest she glanced down to the ground below. They really weren't very high up, but the foliage provided cover. It was only his movement that alerted her to him up here, so any poor sod that walked into the garden was likely to miss them entirely if they kept still and quiet enough. She swallowed, this was the perfect place to get information, information that might one day save her skin from being pushed dead into the Tiber by the Ceollegium given her use was very rapidly running out. "I bet you could hear half of Rome's secrets if you sat up here all night," She mused out loud before adding, "Or see half of its most eligible men fucking, judging by how the party is going." 

 

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"What do you have that's worth wagering I wonder?" 

"Sometimes I wonder that too" Lucius grinned, taking a bite of his apple. Now that he could see her better, he noted how pretty she was. Maybe intentionally so, the way she managed to sit on a branch with the same elegance as other Roman women sat on couches. Still, already better company than most of the guests.

"I bet you could hear half of Rome's secrets if you sat up here all night. Or see half of its most eligible men fucking, judging by how the party is going." 

"I can tell you right now, most of their secrets are extremely boring. And so is their fucking, probably." Lucius noted, peering down from the tree. No one else was outside in the gardens yet. Later at night, they would probably come out to play. Or throw up. "Unless they are fucking each other. But even that is really interesting if the family finds out."

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She laughed and then smiled slyly, tilting her head to the side as if talking to an infant or a very stupid adult; "You say that as if I wouldn't know what it's like to fuck them." 

She arched a brow, her face dead-pan for a beat before her smile widened and she chuckled. She wasn't ashamed of what she did - she was beautiful and young and...had made appalling decisions with a gang that had forced her hand. But she was free, not a slave, and well...she got paid well, and some of her clients were half-decent in bed. "And the same goes for the secrets, actually." She shrugged, "It's amazing what you hear when a man is relaxing after sex, you could ask him anything you want and he'd tell you the answer." She grinned again and then reached out to pluck an apple, her previous one discarded during her climb, "But I digress from what brought me up here, what is Lucius the Apple Farmer doing up a tree when every delight of the flesh is down on the earth below him?" She moved to take a bite and then stopped herself, "Besides the one in the tree with him, of course." 

 

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"You say that as if I wouldn't know what it's like to fuck them." 

So, she was a prostitute. Not a big surprise. Also probably not the worse job she could have been doing for this money, but definitely not the most fun either.

"And the same goes for the secrets, actually. It's amazing what you hear when a man is relaxing after sex, you could ask him anything you want and he'd tell you the answer."

"Noted." Lucius took another bite. Not that he had much to confess to anyone, after sex or otherwise. Maybe his life was a bit boring too.

"But I digress from what brought me up here, what is Lucius the Apple Farmer doing up a tree when every delight of the flesh is down on the earth below him?... Besides the one in the tree with him, of course." 

"Not overlooked, but far out of reach. So with all the best things." Lucius quoted Sappho's classic with a chuckle. Apples in trees, pretty ladies in trees. The reference fit well. "Didn't feel quite at home at the party." he added with a shrug.

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"Sappho was always good for a quip," She chuckled and then clarified how she knew, "I had a lover who used to lie on the bed, not touch me at all, and just read poetry all evening." It was mind numbingly boring. "I always preferred Landicus myself." She smiled flirtatiously and finally bit her apple. The tartness made her nose wrinkle but she swallowed it down. 

He didn't feel...at home? She frowned. "You can't invite a lady up a tree Lucius," He didn't, but the point was relevant here, "And then be dull." Sassy Vibia had worked on him this far, time to push it a little further - always a dangerous game but one of the guards from the Venus was currently in the kitchens fucking some poor slave no doubt, and could be summoned at any moment should any guests get too much to deal with. "You have to give me more than that, or I might be minded to climb back down and go and find a friend or two of yours." 

 

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"Sappho was always good for a quip... I had a lover who used to lie on the bed, not touch me at all, and just read poetry all evening. I always preferred Landicus myself." 

Alright, so some men were stranger than others. Why would someone hire a prostitute to read poetry too? It was probably easy money for her, but surely he could have found another kind of audience for reciting Sappho...?

"You can't invite a lady up a tree Lucius, and then be dull. You have to give me more than that, or I might be minded to climb back down and go and find a friend or two of yours." 

"Feel free" Lucius deadpanned. If she had already been paid for the weekend, right now she was making free money by this conversation. What more did she want to know?... He sighed and shrugged. "I grew up on an estate much like this. Farther out in the country. Growing up, I spent a lot of time with the servants and the slaves. Somehow, picking apples feels more natural than... whatever it is that's going on in there."

@Sara

 

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She waited for a breath after his 'feel free' and in three, two, one...there he went. She grinned and leant back again against the tree, settling in as he spoke. Few men surprised her, and this one was easy enough to read - tree and all - once she'd started probing he wouldn't stop, and he didn't. 

Quirking a brow she listened to him. A rich boy spending time with slaves? Not all that unusual, in her past life as a household slave she'd had the dominus' children often in her company. That was generally stopped though, when they grew past seven or eight and understood that slaves were for work, not fun. She looked at him quizzically and then glanced down. She couldn't really see the house from here, but could hear the laughter and singing? Terrible singing. "Singing and drinking and flirting doesn't feel natural to you?" She said with a flirtatious smile as she pulled her eyes back to him, "I can teach you all three, if you'd like?" 

 

TAG: @Chevi

Edited by Sara
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The look she gave him was flirtatious, but also... even in the half-darkness of the tree, he felt like she was studying him. Was it part of her work? Or was she just naturally curious about people the way he was? Hard to tell.

"Singing and drinking and flirting doesn't feel natural to you? I can teach you all three, if you'd like?" 

Yep, part of her work.

"Oh, I can do all three. I am just picky about who I do them with." Lucius shrugged again, smiling at her. "You don't have to do that. We can sit up here and I'll tip you anyway."

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Well...that was fucking rude. She would have nudged him in protest, but that risked him falling from the tree and well...she was a freedwoman but wasn't about to go kill a noble. Again. Instead she offered him a dead-pan look and rolled her eyes, chuckling, "Yeah yeah, you're too good, too picky for a prostitute, of course." She chuckled again. 'And I'm not doing it because I have to," She retorted with a roll of her eyes, "Have you looked at yourself in a mirror?" 

Total fucking lie - she had been paid, but the tips were generous she always found (especially if you conveniently mentioned how much their friend had tipped) and the Venus always wanted more clients and to do that you needed to y'know...let them have a test drive. But, fine, maybe it wasn't a total lie. He was handsome. 

 

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"Yeah yeah, you're too good, too picky for a prostitute, of course."

Lucius blinked. "That's not what I meant." Wow, sensitive much? He wasn't even talking about her. He had been talking about the parties in general, and not feeling at home in the middle of their style of... merrymaking. The phrasing might have been easy to misunderstand, though. Ouch.

"And I'm not doing it because I have to. Have you looked at yourself in a mirror?" 

This was exactly the problem with hired entertainment. Some of them were very good at their job. And one could never know when they were being honest, and when they were working. Most people didn't care. But Lucius did not like having conversations where one party was playing the other.

"I'm flattered" he smirked. They could play a while longer. "So... you work at the Venus?"

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She inclined her head and leant forward a bit (another flattering, more provocative angle) as if in a mock bow. "You're very welcome." She grinned and took another bite of the  bitter apple. Gods it was terrible. She tossed it unceremoniously and muttered, "Not worth the climb." under her breath. 

Nodding her head as she settled back into the trunk of the tree, "I do. I don't think I've seen you there, I'm sure I'd recognise you if you'd visited." another lie of course, they had all sorts come in - big, small, old, young, men, sometimes women, sometimes couples - every sort of person...as long as they were of extreme wealth. "But then you're picky about your company, aren't you?" She gave him a challenging grin, raising her brow.

 

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Lucius suspected she was trying to flatter him - and also that she was not crazy about the apple. She finally gave up pretending and tossed it, muttering about how it was not worth the climb. Lucius finished his in a few bites. It was sour, but he kind of liked that taste.

"I do. I don't think I've seen you there, I'm sure I'd recognise you if you'd visited. But then you're picky about your company, aren't you?"

"No, I can't say I have been there" Lucius noted, letting the snide comment slide. "It's not really about the company, I'm sure that's excellent. I just... like talking to interesting people, and I have been told a brothel is not the place for that." Taking up time from the actual clients, and whatnot. Borthel keepers did not want their slaves to get too chatty with the clients anyway.

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Vibia shrugged her shoulders and considered his words. "That might be true for some backdoor fuckhouse like the Elysium, but not the Venus." Her lips twitched in amusement. 

"After all, we're talking right now aren't we, Lucius?" she tilted her head to the side with a grin. She wasn't a particularly intellectual woman, but banter and back and forth she was good at. Shrugging again and she stifled a yawn with the back of her hand and. "We have all sorts that come in; your Sappho man is a good example, as long as he pays and enjoys our company, who are we to judge? You could come and visit and spend your time just talking to a slew of beautiful people, what's not to love?" The cost, of course.

 

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"That might be true for some backdoor fuckhouse like the Elysium, but not the Venus."

Lucius chuckled at the comment. He knew people who frequented both places (sometimes the same people), but the rivalry was famous among the men of Rome. Everyone found what fit their taste best. Granted, not many people paid high prices to prostitutes to just talk to them. And the ones who did, case in point: were kind of a joke.

"After all, we're talking right now aren't we, Lucius? We have all sorts that come in; your Sappho man is a good example, as long as he pays and enjoys our company, who are we to judge? You could come and visit and spend your time just talking to a slew of beautiful people, what's not to love?"

"I like honesty." Lucius noted. True. They were having a conversation, and it was kind of a game now, both of them trying to throw the other one off balance first. "So... what do you like?"

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