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Early August, 76AD

Ovinia frowned, studying the inscriptions as she roamed the halls of the Mausoleum. Her father had chosen the venue for this meeting and had agonised over the location; he wanted somewhere formal enough that she didn't seem a silly young girl, but not stuffy. He wanted it to be in public so - despite her retinue of two slaves - no rumours of impropriety would follow her, but he didn't want somewhere crowded. Eventually he'd settled on the Mausoleum, and Ovinia had begrudgingly agreed and trekked (in her litter) halfway across the city to the venue.

She was fashionably early and the crowds of tourists and such from the morning had departed, leaving a handful of clustered families and acquaintances wandering the halls. She numbered among them, with her bodyslave and a male household slave following behind her a few paces back. 

She wasn't sure what she was expecting from this meeting. The dinner definitely hadn't been a disaster but nor had it gone as well as some previous meetings with potential partners. She couldn't read Gaius much at all, and despite Tullus' firm words that he was a good, kind, pleasant man, Ovinia hadn't been able to get much of a read on him beyond the pleasantries they'd exchanged. She blamed his brother for that, and the awkwardness that had pervaded the evening. Hence - this time, they were alone. Or as alone as was proper.

She shrugged her palla closer around her shoulders as she moved through the draughty halls. Despite it being the height of summer and roasting outside in here she was feeling the chill and regretted wearing such a thin chiton, ornate and expensive though it was. She cast a glance around the halls, eyes narrowed and trying to spot him before moving on to the next inscription. 

 

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The Mausoleum wasn't a place that Gaius would have picked for a romantic meeting for two. On the other hand, it wasn't supposed to be a romantic meeting per se, and on the third hand Gaius wouldn't be able to come up with anywhere as good for a private meeting that couldn't have even a hint of impropriety about it.

He supposed it was a wonder that Ovinia Camilla had agreed to a second meeting (or that her brother hadn't put her father off wanting one) - the dinner had only narrowly avoided being a disaster, after all.

"Remind me not to have any more private dinners with Lucius around unless there's more than two other guests," he said, allowing Cassander to fuss with his pallium until it was arranged to their mutual satisfaction. The deep terracotta colour of his tunic and the dark green of the pallium that Cassander had finally finished arranging both demonstrated his wealth in the evenness of the dye and the saturation of the colour. The sand colour of Cassander's tunic was a perfect counterpoint.

The walk from the Piscina Publica to the Campus Martius to their arranged meeting-point took the pair of them through some of the busiest parts of the city, and Gaius would not have been surprised to have found his brother at any of the stalls they passed, turning his hand to being a leather-worker or date seller or something equally as plebeian and embarrassing.

It was not to be, thank all the gods - either Lucius had developed some sense, or he was at a stall in another part of the city.

And now to wander around the Mausoleum, taking in inscriptions to past and divine Emperors until he ran into Ovinia. Hopefully not literally...

"Domine," Cassander said from behind his right shoulder - at least he could trust someone in his house to be where they were supposed to be, doing what they were expected to do. He turned, enough to see his body slave indicate a lady with two slaves following her, and nodded in acknowledgement before directing his steps to intercept her.

"Lady Ovinia, what a pleasant surprise to meet you here," he said, once he was close enough to talk.

 

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Ovinia feigned surprise and blinked, glancing up to see Gaius. She flourished him with a wide smile and inclined her head, chuckling. "Yes, such a surprise." Stop being sarcastic, you idiot. 

Folding her hands in front of her waist, she surveyed him just for the briefest of moments. He was dressed to impress and judging by the well turned out slave behind his shoulder, he wasn't going to brook anything improper. Which was a relief. Her heart rate had only really just settled after her moment of madness at Neptunalia a week or so prior. No, what she needed was a nice, normal, uncomplicated, proper conversation with a proper Roman man. She just...had to figure out what to say. Usually these sorts of meetings followed a pre-determined script, but she'd half-gotten that out of the way at their awkward dinner. She'd never really had to do this before and she hesitated for a moment, before turning her attention back to the inscription. 

"Am I a very poor Roman woman given that this is the first time I've been here?" She shot him a sly smile, "I'm sure things like visiting the Augustus' mausoleum is some sort of requirement for citizens..." 

 

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"I hope it isn't," Gaius managed, startled, and managed a smile of his own. "I mean, I've been to the Campus Martius plenty of times, but this is the first time I've been here, I think."

If he was supposed to come right out with some impressive fact about this tomb or that inscription, he'd just blown it. He could practically hear Cassander rolling his eyes - and if Lucius heard about this, he'd never live it down.

"I suppose that means we ought to do our duty and explore to fulfil our obligation, then?" he said. "We can't have anyone thinking that you aren't the very best example of Roman womanhood, can we?"

 

@Sara

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Ovinia was relieved she hadn't completely put her foot in it and laughed, nodding. "Precisely. At least we're not meeting at Livia's portico, now there's a Roman woman nobody can live up to..." 

The mausoleum was arranged in a circle that meandered its way to the golden urns at its centre. She started at a leisurely pace, her slaves now falling into step with his own, behind them. "Thank you for agreeing to meet," She offered as they walked, glancing up at him, "Sorry - we can keep the pretence of this being a spontaneous meeting if you'd rather..." she chuckled.

 

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"Why pretend when we both know it was arranged?" Gaius said, consciously having to shorten his stride to keep from outpacing her. "I must apologise for my brother, the other day," he added, very aware that she probably thought the worst of him despite this second meeting, just because of Lucius' outlandish behaviour.

"He means well, but..." He shrugged. "I don't think he quite knows when to stop - he seems to have got stuck at the age of fifteen or so, permanently."

If she had refused to see either of them again after that dinner, Gaius honestly wouldn't have blamed her for it.

 

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Ovinia couldn't hide the surprise on her face as Gaius mentioned his brother. She blinked and tried very hard to school her expression into one of neutrality. "Oh..." She swallowed, "You don't need to apologise." She said after a pregnant pause, shaking her head. 

"I met him before our dinner, and saw him briefly at Neptunalia," and that was all that would be said about the latter, "He is very...irreverant," She chuckled, trying to put the man next to her at ease, "But he speaks very highly of you. And given I myself was a teenager not so long ago," And still was, technically, "If you think he's as mature as a fifteen year old and is still praising you?" She grinned, "Then you must be quite someone indeed." She hoped the flattery would distract from the way her cheeks coloured slightly. 

"It must have been hard," She offered - trying to turn the conversation back onto himself, "To have to leave him and your sister for Britannia?"

 

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"It's never easy to leave people you love, especially when you know you're going to be away for a year or more," Gaius confessed. This conversation seemed already so much easier than that dinner had been. 

"Irreverent is a... very good description, actually. I daresay he means well, but there's no gravitas to him." Gaius sighed. That was, perhaps, the biggest issue.

It was nice to hear that Lucius thought well of him, though he would never have guessed it.

"And do any of your brothers act so... Irreverently? I would guess not, but do you have a younger brother, or are they all older than you?" He didn't know how to discover whether they had anything in common - rolling their eyes over Lucius would only work for so long, after all.

 

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Gravitas was important to Gaius. Noted. She liked to consider herself a serious person and not beleaguered with the same childish and girlish pastimes as some of her contemporaries...but if her performance at Neptunalia was anything to go by, she hadn't quite shaken off her youth. That was to be expected though, she supposed, given she was the youngest in her family and the only daughter.

She chuckled at his comment, shaking her head. "Not quite like your own, but several of them have had their youthful follies...much as they try and claim they've always been serious, decent men." She flashed a smile at Gaius, amused. "They're all older. Tullus, you know, is my half-brother on my mothers side...then I have Gaius who's thirty, Lucius who is approaching thirty and Tertius, who's twenty..." She frowned, trying to remember his birth year, "Twenty-four, I want to say?" She smiled again, "And then me at nineteen. I think I was a bit of a surprise." She chuckled. And a wanted one, she knew that much. Sons were expensive and not all of them could go into the senate...daughters, despite their cost, were useful for marriages - as her father had said. 

 

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"I would say, you have my commiserations, but I'm the eldest and can't empathise at all," Gaius told her. "Or is it sympathise? Well, I can feel sorry for you without completely understanding what it's like to have older siblings, whichever way round it is. He smiled. "And you see - I am not totally serious myself all the time. I hope you weren't expecting some hoary decrepit old Senator when you accepted my invitation the other day."

Though he probably seemed ancient and decrepit when compared to Lucius. Not that he didn't love his brother, he just wished they were a little more similar with more in common than they seemed to have.

She was nineteen, though... That made him nearly twice her age. Now, there was something almost guaranteed to make him feel ancient and decrepit!

"In my family, it's just me at thirty-five, my married sister who's thirty and Lucius who's twenty-three according to the calendar, even if he acts eight years younger."

 

@Sara

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Ovinia laughed, her hair falling over her shoulder as she did. She flashed him a grin as it settled into chuckles, shaking her head. "I don't know what I was expecting," She admitted, "But I can confidently say you are not it." She did know what she was expecting before the dinner - a goaty, angry little man who badgered his brother into submission. The relief that Gaius appeared to be the farthest thing possible from that could not be underestimated. "And that's a compliment." She added for good measure. 

She arched a brow and studied him as he ran through his family. Thirty-five appeared to be the average age of most of her suitors - poor Teutus being the exception - and so that didn't phase her. That there was twelve years between him and his brother though was interesting. She was going to ask if Lucius was as much an accident as herself, but decided fairly promptly that that was most definitely not the sort of question you asked in polite company. 

"With the gap in your ages I imagine it sometimes feels less like he's your brother and more like he's your responsibility?" She ventured with an arched brow, "At least that's how Tullus has described me in moments of irritation." She chuckled. "But I suppose we're not here to talk about your brother," She ventured forth with confidence, "Is there anything in particular you wish to learn about me?" She'd had these sorts of meetings what felt like a million times, and in her experience it was better to get the basics out of the way at the start. 

 

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"Oh, that is a very good way of putting it! Yes, I do feel that he's my responsibility rather than my brother, though he doesn't exactly help that. I sometimes think he feels I'm an antagonist rather than a brother, or something." He turned to look at her - perfectly turned out, expensively dressed... "I don't know how your brother comes to the same conclusion about you, though, unless it's simply the differences between men and women that he can't fathom." Gods knew there were enough of those to keep anyone puzzled.

"What do you like to do? Stay in, go out, go shopping, go sightseeing?"

How in the world were men and women supposed to negotiate this tangle of their very different spheres enough to build a solid marriage? Gaius supposed that was why the majority of marriages in their social stratum were arranged by the parents.

 

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"Such is the lot of parents and elder siblings...or so I'm told." She chuckled. Gaius certainly didn't seem like an antagonist to her. Caring, and honest. That's what she'd got from their two short conversations thus far. But also proper. She liked it - it suited her own sense of propriety and need for things to be just so, but she could see why Lucius railed against it with his odd quirks and irritating charisma. "And yes," She let out a melodic little laugh, "Let's say it's that, and nothing more." In truth she always got on with her brothers and her parents. She was a good girl after all. But intrigue was a trick she'd picked up from her friends who had husbands; always leave them guessing about you...

"A little of both," She answered honestly as they walked on, "But I like music." She offered a smile, "More than shopping or sightseeing. There's performers at Livia's Portico I like to go and watch, or in the markets. There's something quite evocative about listening to a singer or a musician as the world moves around you..." She glanced up at him to gauge his reaction and offered an easy smile. "Simple pleasures. Beyond that - I...suppose I like what every woman my age likes...I'd like to travel, if my future allows that I do. I like to see friends and the games..." She shrugged with a wry smile, "I suppose I'm  not that interesting. And you?" She tilted her head to the side, coming to pause in front of an inscription, "What does a man like you enjoy, Gaius?" 

 

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"Music is a great pleasure, isn't it?" he said. To listen good singer or musician was a very enjoyable experience, after all, and one he did not get to indulge as often as he might have liked.

"You would like to travel?" he said, looking down at her. "Is there anywhere in particular you would like to see, or does the place not matter so much as the journey there?" He couldn't help shrugging at her question. "Politics is work, of course. I like reading, or listening to someone else read, if they can do it well. I would quite like to see some more of the Empire - places like Ephesus and Antioch would be interesting, I think, and Alexandria, although senators aren't allowed to go to Egypt ever since Mark Antony went and set himself up with Cleopatra."

 Mark Antony probably wasn't the best subject to mention even in passing, not in this place dedicated to Augustus and his descendants, and Gaius gave the inscription an apologetic look.

 

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Ovinia looked delighted for a moment, that he should seem to share her interest in music. Most men merely grunted or said something akin to 'how nice'. Even if Gaius was being polite and didn't actually care a fig, at least he was engaging her in a topic of conversation of her choosing. She nodded; "It is. I sing myself some," She swallowed a lump in her throat, "Privately, of course." Unless your brother goads me into doing so in public. 

Nodding as they walked on, "Not the journey - the destination. I've only ever been to Greece, during the Civil War and I was just a girl - I don't remember it much." She sighed, "I suppose I'd like to see anywhere different. Hispania, perhaps. I have relatives there, or so I'm told." She glanced across hopefully at him. "And fear not, I have no interest in Egypt." She added with a wry, flirtatious smile. 

 

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