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It's always the gardener


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He thought she'd attend all of the festivals, she knew so many things, but she didn't attend them all. Apparently her grandfather would decide that. Lexus' life had always been more free, also with his mother. He could usually do as he pleased, attend festivals when he wanted to, but he didn't always. And he sometimes seemed to follow the pattern of his father - he went more for the sake of fun than for the actual meaning. He'd be with friends and look at everyone else attending the festival.

Lexus resumed to taking thorns off the roses, while Septima talked. He looked at her wreath as she weaved it and showed it to him, "It looks very good. I'm pretty sure you're better than me anyway." He said with a smile, but that smile suddenly turned into a frown with a curse, as he hadn't paid attention to what he was doing. A thorn on a rose had ripped one of his fingers and he dropped the knife while the blood was now dripping. He wanted to yell, but Septima sat right here... he looked at the finger, fingers always bled easily and this one did too. He folded a corner of his tunica around the fingertip, feeling embarrassed and uncertain of what to do or say now. It all happened in a matter of moments.

He should have this cleaned and wrapped. Else it would continue to bleed.

"Can... can you show me to the kitchens?" They'd have something to clean with there, surely... right?

@Chevi

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Septima looked up as Lexus winced and dropped the half-made wreath and wrapped his hand in the corner of his tunic. She tilted her head. Was he hurt? She noticed the red marks on the cloth, and the red drops on the flowers he had been working with.

"Can... can you show me to the kitchens?"

"Did you cut yourself?" she asked, concerned. He was definitely bleeding. "Let me see?"

@Atrice

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This was much more than a little prick from a needle or something, the thorn of the rose managed to go deep before he removed it. His tunic easily soaked as he tried to wrap his finger with it and he felt a bit embarrassed about it all. And that he had to ask for help. But Septima was only concerned and wanted to see. 

"It was the rose, I think." He said. Great, now the tunica would have to be washed. And Septima saw him make a fool of himself. Maybe he wouldn't be able to work here for long anyway, if it got out that he was so clumsy. But he unwrapped it and held it up to Septima, "I think it needs to be properly cleaned and wrapped." He said with a small sigh, not happy about the progress of the day. It was going so well! And now, not so much.

@Chevi

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Lexus held out his injured hand, looking sheepish. It was still bleeding, blood trickling in small ruby droplets from the cut. He was right, it needed to be cleaned and treated, or it was going to be a nuisance. It had already left a stain on his tunica.

"Come." she led him along, carefully holding his had so it didn't drip everywhere. They went to the garden fountain close by, and she held his hand under the trickling water. "Hold it." The water was cold and fresh, and hopefully would clean the would. Meanwhile she hurried off to the flowerbeds where her grandfather had been growing all kinds of herbs and plants. Ruffling around, she picked a few leaves and returned to the fountain with them. "Give me a moment." she said, before she stuffed the leaves into her mouth.

@Atrice

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He followed her when she told him to, trying to ignore the fact that she was right now holding his hand. It was just to help him though, it wasn't important. Was it? She was so sweet to him, she just wanted to help. They soon came to the fountain and she told him to hold his hand under the trickling water. Lexus did as told, unsure of what to do or say. It was so embarrassing, that he managed to rip his finger on a thorn from a rose. And he was supposed to be a gardener! 

Septima left his side again and he looked after her, she looked through the herbs and returned to him with some leaves. That she then stuffed into her mouth and began chewing. At first his eyes widened, but he'd seen some of the clever women in the streets do it too. Those you went to for medicine, when you could not afford a proper medicus. Was she making something for him? He'd never seen a woman or a girl of her class do such a thing.

"What did you pick?" He wondered, feeling awkward just standing there with his finger under the running water of the fountain.

@Chevi

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Septima felt a little awkward, applying medicine without having any qualifications to do so. She was not a medicus, or even a real scholar, or a midwife who knew such things. But this time, she was confident it would work, because she had used the cure on herself before.

"What did you pick?"

She spat out the chewed leafs, and reached for Lexus' hand. "Yarrow. It stops bleeding." she said, covering the would with the leaves and wrapping her hand around his. "I... read it in a book. And tried it once when I cut my hand. Does it hurt much?"

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Once she spat out what she'd ben chewing, she reached for his hand and he let her. She explained that it was yarrow while she applied the chewed leaves to the wound. She wrapped her hand around his. Her hand was so warm and lovely to hold. But she was talking. He almost forgot it hurt, until she asked.

"Not so much now." He said with a light smile to her, "In gardens like these, yarrow is usually a weed. But maybe I should save a corner for it. In case this happens again." He chuckled and looked at her hand again, "Your hand is so soft." He wasn't used to holding anyone's hand. He could barely remember doing it with anyone except for his mother, when he was smaller. And Septima's hand wasn't worn and dry, like his mother's had been, it was soft and smooth. 

@Chevi

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The cut was cleaned, and yarrow was hopefully doing its work. Septima kept it in place, just in case. Once it was not actively bleeding, they could find something to bandage it. She hoped it didn't hurt.

"Not so much now. In gardens like these, yarrow is usually a weed. But maybe I should save a corner for it. In case this happens again."

"There are some herbs in the corner over there." Septima nodded "Grandfather started it, and I have been using it for study... I don't really know much yet, though." But at least the yarrow worked.

"Your hand is so soft." 

Septima blushed a deeper shade. She was good at knowing things like yarrow... she was not good at what she was supposed to say when someone like Lexus was holding her hand. She looked down at their intertwined hands as if she was seeing them for the first time. "Thank you?"

@Atrice

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It did still hurt a little, but he almost forgot about it, because she stood so close to him and had her hand wrapped around his, to keep the yarrow in place. Septima said where there were useful herbs, that she'd studied, but she didn't know much yet. She could learn then. She could come and spend time in the garden with Lexus, he'd love that. To spend time with her here.

But then all thoughts of herbs were forgotten, as he told her how soft her hand was and she blushed. She was so cute! She thanked him for his compliment. What would you say now? His father would know. 

"You're welcome?" He replied with a grin. There were thoughts in his head, a million thoughts, so many things he wanted to tell her. He had to decide, say something, before it became awkward to not do so!

"I wish we could be somewhere, alone. I have been thinking a lot about you." He had, he really had. They met a few times before and he couldn't get her out of his head. And now he'd told her. There was no way he could take it back. And she still held his hand.

@Chevi

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Septima had never been much interested in... men, before. She was happily enveloped in her little world of reading and study, and the gardens and the festivals, and whatever was Thalia was up to. She knew from her sister that flirtation and such things existed, but she never engaged in them much. But now, holding Lexus hand purely to help him with his injury, she suddenly realized that... she did not mind it much.

She also knew that if her sister walked in any moment, she was going to have a fit for the ages.

"I wish we could be somewhere, alone. I have been thinking a lot about you." 

All thoughts of trouble forgotten, her heart jumped as she looked up at him, eyes wide in surprise. Delight. "You have?" Why did it feel so good, that someone was thinking about her?... Not someone, Lexus in particular. He was sweet. Septima glanced around the gardens. Apart from the discarded flowers nearby, nothing was out of the oridnary peaceful sight. "We... are alone?"

@Atrice

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Lexus thought a lot about girls. Or maybe, not girls. But girl. This one in particular. Their first meeting had been fun and then he ran into her again. And then now. How could it be a coincidence, when they had such different lives, but they kept meeting like this? There had to be something. And she was so pretty and so gentle and he couldn't help but really like her. Really like her.

So he had to say something, now that they were here, almost holding hands. He dared to tell her what was on his mind. It's what his father would have advised him to do, right? Just be honest. Say what you feel. So he did. Her eyes widened in surprise at his words and he nodded. She glanced around, while he awkwardly waited for an answer. Then she said they were alone. But were they?

"I mean... anyone can see us here." They had slaves here too, after all. They weren't entirely alone. And he'd be kicked out, he knew that. She was so far out of his league that he'd not even be near Rome, if it was about distance. But what did she think? Did she even think about him the way he thought about her? He felt nervous. But again... what would Alexius do? "Have you been thinking about me too?" 

@Chevi

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Lexus looked hesitant. Had she said something wrong?...

"I mean... anyone can see us here."

That... was true. Septima glanced around again. She did not let go of his hand, though. If anyone did see, she could claim she was helping with his injury. The injury that seemed mostly forgotten now, as Lexus kept his eyes on her.

"Have you been thinking about me too?" 

Septima swallowed. Yes, she had been. There had not been many men to think about in her life... or at all, really, but Lexus, she could not get him out of her head. Not in the wildly romantic, passionate way Thalia tended to feel about men she liked... but rather, as someone she wanted to be near. "I have." It was almost a whisper. Was she supposed to admit that? She wished she could ask her sister. But Thalia was not there and she needed to make decisions for herself.

"Come with me."

She led him by the hand across the gardens. She still tried to remember that they needed to find something to bandage his wound with. But also, some private place to... talk. At the far side of the garden, a series of smaller rooms opened, most of them used for storage. Her determination faltered as they got to the doors. She turned back to look at him, blushing again. "No one usually comes here, but... We should... find something here for your hand...?"

@Atrice

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Why did he feel so nervous suddenly? This was definitely a different kind of first day on the new job... meeting Septima here, then they were making wreaths together and he cut his hand and now... now his hand was in hers, but he'd almost forgotten about the pain. Besides, it wasn't a huge cut or jab, just a minor one. And she was being so friendly and so pretty and her hand was so soft. But he knew she was out of his league. That you weren't supposed to like someone above or beneath your rank for that matter. And she was above him. But he couldn't help it. He did think about her. And now she whispered that she'd thought about him too. Not that it made him feel less nervous. But he knew they couldn't stand out here, like this. 

She had an idea of where to go, leading him through the gardens with her hand on his. To keep the herbs in place, as they said. But he knew it wasn't just that, now. She'd been thinking about him too. 

He happily came and she led him into some smaller rooms in the other end of the gardens. Here she stopped, blushing, but suggested they found something for his hand.

"It's not so bad, not anymore." He said, "I think your yarrow helped." Or maybe he just didn't want to think about it anymore. He'd wanted to be alone with her. There was no going back now, it was too late. He had been thinking about her. And she about him. There was something here... more than that girl at that Saturnalia, a long time ago. He had not liked her the same way he liked Septima, he knew that now.

"Septima I... I like you. I really want to try and... and... kiss you." There, he said that! 

@Chevi

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"It's not so bad, not anymore. I think your yarrow helped." 

Septima looked down at the hand she was still holding, and examined it a little. The bleeding had stopped, and the injury did not look too bad now. That was good. She knew that they both had other things on their mind now, but she still worried for Lexus being alright. All the worry, however, disappeared in an instant when he spoke again.

"Septima I... I like you. I really want to try and... and... kiss you." 

Septima's heart jumped like it was trying to break out of her chest. She had never felt anything like that before. She looked up at Lexus again, wide-eyed. She knew she was supposed to say no. Any girl in her right mind was supposed to say no to something like that, because there was no way he could court her, and Grandfather would be furious. Even Thalia would have said it was a bad idea. She wasn't even supposed to be out alone in the garden like this. With him.

But at the same time, the thought of him kissing her made her heart race. She had never been kissed before. Let alone by anyone she liked. She felt torn, watching him, he was clearly waiting for an answer, just as nervously as she was.

"I've... never kissed anyone before" she admitted quietly. Was that bad? Someone was supposed to know what they were doing, and it clearly wasn't her. Did Lexus? She realized her words were not really an answer. She swallowed, blushing. Maybe, for once, she could break a rule. "You can kiss me. If you want."

@Atrice

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They were at least a bit more alone now than before, and Lexus thought he should just say what he was thinking. It was like it had been so calm just before, but after she put her hand around his, it all changed. It felt so nice and he had to know if she thought about him too. And she did. So he dared it, he told her the truth, what he wanted. Even if he probably shouldn't, because there was no way her family would ever let her marry someone like him. But maybe? If he worked hard and proved his worth. And no matter what, at least he wanted to know what it felt like. To kiss someone he liked.

She seemed so surprised and he was afraid she'd turn him down. She probably would. Septima was smart, she knew better than to fool around with him, didn't she? But then she said she had never kissed anyone before. Lexus had, but it hadn't been so good. And his father clearly loved it. So you just had to kiss the right one... right? She blushed then and he couldn't help but think her so sweet. And then she said he could. Lexus smiled, feeling a bit awkward and silly. His father would probably just have kissed the girl without asking. But Lexus didn't want to kiss her, in case she didn't want him to. But she did.

"I do." He said and inhaled a small breath, feeling his heart beat real fast. He'd only really been kissed that once, by the girl that night on the town with Phaedo. But he was drunk and so was she. She practically forced the kiss onto him. Now it was different. He leaned in and pressed a brief kiss to her lips. They were soft, warm. She had a sweet smell to her. He pulled back, feeling a bit of heat in his cheeks too... what did you do next?

@Chevi

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Septima caught her breath as Lexus leaned in to kiss her. She did not know what to expect. He pressed his lips to hers; they were soft and warm. The kiss was brief; almost as soon as she felt the touch, it was over. Opening her eyes (she did not realize she had closed them), Septima saw Lexus blushing as he looked back at her.

Wait, that was it...? He brow furrowed. That was not in line with what her sister had told her about kissing. In theory.

"Did I... do something wrong?"

@Atrice

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He was way behind, he knew that. He was almost 18 years old and here he was, kissing a girl way out of his league and then blushing and feeling awkward afterwards. At this age, his father was probably already an experienced charmer when it came to ladies and men, but Lexus didn't know a thing. And now they stood there, looking at each other and Septima was the first to speak.

"No!" Lexus exclaimed and coughed, "I mean... no... not wrong at all." He said and then smiled, "It was nice." Lexus said and wondered what she thought. She didn't look like she hated it. He leaned closer to kiss her again, his hand unconsciously moving to gently touch her side, as if he wanted to keep her close. 

@Chevi

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"No! I mean... no... not wrong at all. It was nice." 

"Oh." At least she had not done something she didn't know was a mistake. Granted, she had barely done anything, the kiss had been so brief... "Alright then."

He leaned in again. Her heart jumped again. This time, his hand was on her waist, and she leaned forward too, determined to explore the kissing a little more. Her hand found his shoulder as they pressed their lips together, and this time, she kissed him back, parting her lips slightly as her eyes fluttered closed.

Oh.

Oh.

@Atrice

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It was definitely no mistake, Lexus understood that much. And it was so much nicer than that girl at that festival ages ago, that had not been good. But Septima, he liked her. And he liked the feeling of her. So he leaned in again to kiss her once more, even touching her this time, because it felt right. It was like it was natural, that when you kissed someone, you'd also touch them. Gently, but his hand was there. And then he felt her returned the kiss and she touched him too. His eyes closed too and it's like he didn't want to let go of her.

Inside he felt so happy, in a way he'd never felt it before. 

But he needed a breath and pulled back, opening his eyes, "That... was even better." He said with a grin, having gained some confidence now. He could just stand here kissing her all day, couldn't he? And who was going to stop him? "More?" 

@Chevi

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Alright, so kissing was good. Now that she was a bit more bold about it, it was actually great. Lexus seemed to think the same, and they kissed for a while, feeling all warm and fuzzy as they held each other gently. Eventually, they did have to come up for air. Septima was flushed and smiling, and Lexus looked happy too.

"That... was even better. More?" 

"More" she giggled, feeling light-headed. If she had known it was this good, she would have kissed him a lot sooner.

@Atrice

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Vertumnalia was going to happen soon and she knew her sister had gone to the gardens, to begin making wreaths. She enjoyed that, Clio did. And Thalia did too, but she also looked forwards to the festival itself. So while Clio would make the wreaths, Thalia would decide what they'd wear. Maybe something light for herself and some more colorful for her sister? That would do her good, she was reading far too much lately. So she picked a peach-pink chiton for herself and a green for Clio. That would suit her well, with her making the wreaths too. After spending an amount of time thinking about clothes and then going to the kitchens to find a little something to eat, she decided it was about time she found her sister. She must be near finished with the wreaths now.

So Thalia picked an apple for her sister too and off she went towards the gardens. And she was confused, because at first glance, the garden seemed completely empty. But maybe her sister was just buried in a flowerbed or something. She went further in to look and then she saw it. Clio and a... a boy! Kissing! In the garden! Who was he? Why were they kissing? Thalia had not even been kissed like that before! What was going on?! She looked around, there were no one else here. It couldn't be a prank. 

She felt it would not be right to startle them or alert them, because this could not be good. The boy was not a suitor, judging by what he wore. She snuck closer to them and then coughed, "Uhm... Clio?" 

@Chevi

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Kissing Lexus was marvelous. This time Septima wound her arms around his shoulders and rose to her tiptoes, trusting him to hold her steady. She was quite lost in the experience, until the moment when someone coughed next to them.

"Uhm... Clio?" 

The illusion crumbled immediately. Clio jumped, letting go of Lexus, turning bright read as she turned around. As if she could hide Lexus behind her back, despite him being taller. "Thalia!"

Oh no. This was not going to be good.

@Atrice

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Lexus felt pretty good kissing Septima too. This was so much better than that girl at the festival! This was what he imagined it would be like. And it didn't grow worse, when she put her arms around his shoulders. He embraced her too, holding her close, keeping her steady when she reached up towards him. It didn't matter that he worked here and she was too good for him, because it felt good and he just forgot about the time and the place and all he thought about was her. His eyes had closed too, there was nothing else but Septima. And the more they kissed, the better it became. Learning by doing. 

That's until someone suddenly coughed and spoke and Lexus' eyes opened and saw a copy of Septima there. Her sister. Septima jumped too, blushing deeply and stood between Lexus and the other girl. Fuck. Wasn't that what his father would have said? Fuck! 

"Hello... this is... uhm.... a surprise?" Lexus said, because he couldn't come up with anything better to say. And he felt stupid and foolish now. A moment ago, there was nothing but Septima in the world. And now they'd been seen. By her sister. This was not good! He'd be fired on the first day of the new job! 

@Chevi

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Thalia was still trying to figure out what was going on here. Why her sister was kissing a boy, that she only recognized after she spoke and they stopped kissing. Wasn't that the boy from the gardens? Back when they were out to help the homeless, after the earthquake? The boy that Clio liked? And now he was here and they were kissing. Had Clio been keeping secrets from her? Maybe she'd been kissing him much more often than Thalia knew. They looked so comfortable before they knew she was there! She was surprised, flabbergasted... and maybe a little jealous. 

"A surprise? Really?!" A surprise that she was here, clearly! They didn't think anyone would see them here? "What are you doing Clio? How did he get in here?" She asked, she didn't know they were to have a new gardener today, so all she could assume was that Clio had snuck him in here and now she was... snogging him. Should she tell their grandfather? She didn't want to put her sister in a bad light, but on the other hand... this wasn't right.

@Chevi

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"Hello... this is... uhm.... a surprise?" 

Clio did not know what to say. She knew she had done something wrong, potentially ruinous to her and her family's reputation... even if it did not feel like that big of a deal. Thalia had warned her about this before. And now she looked properly angry.

"A surprise? Really?! What are you doing Clio? How did he get in here?" 

"He... works here." Clio said shyly, her cheeks still burning. "He is the new gardener. It's just..."

@Atrice

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