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Saturnalia, December 76AD

"Theo!"

The sun had set, the western sky still glowed with pinks and purples, but already torches were lit along the main streets and outside the domii and insulae. The sounds of celebrations could be heard from various quarters as the citizens of Rome enjoyed the One Night of the Year when the rules were tossed aside and freedoms of all kinds prevailed.

Spurius always tried to run his stock of slaves down as low as possible as this night approached, but for those who remained he had thrown a lavish banquet, complete with wine and entertainers, and then thrown the doors of his warehouse for the night, locking only the inner store rooms. It said something of his confidence perhaps, or the way that he treated them, but virtually all would be back by morning and any that weren't were usually sleeping off a hangover somewhere, and trickled back eventually.

Once he'd served the banquet he'd left them to it, wandering off into the night with a jug of good wine in his hand. His own personal slaves were also out doing as they pleased, and once the warehouse was seen to he always felt somewhat at a loss on these nights. Perhaps it reflected the rest of his life; there was a certain emptiness. Most of his peers were wed with families of their own, or involved in politics, or other dealings, or had some vice to service. He had none of these things. He told himself that he was happy that way, though the vision of his once intended would occasionally float in the mind's eye. Her father had rejected him on his return, not wanting a cripple for his daughter. Never mind that he was set to establish a successful business, which he had. He was a cripple, and probably that was how most saw him. It was easier not to risk more rejection, if not the most fulfilling. He told himself he had plenty and was content.

Sometimes the greatest lies are the ones we tell ourselves.

What he had surprised himself to find was a certain camaraderie with another ex-legionnaire. He didn't know where the man lived, but he knew where Theo worked, and on impulse he headed that way, and found himself standing at the entrance of the ludus, calling out hopefully.

"Theo! Theodorus!"

@Chevi

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Theo was ready to pack it up for the night at the ludus when someone called his name. The gladiators and the staff were out; the former, at all kinds of parties, many of them at their sponsors' houses, the latter, lost in the general hustle and bustle of the festival. Some would tickle back in the morning with various ailments, most likely, so the medicus planned on returning the next day. In the meantime, a nice dinner at the insula...

But then, an unexpected guest appeared in the ludus doorway.

Theo poked his head out of his workroom, noting the familiar figure in the light of the torches.

"Spurius!" he smiled in surprise "Are you visiting, or looking for help? I hope there is no trouble..."

@Sarah

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"No trouble no, not at all." Spurius assured Theodorus, surprisingly delighted to see the man emerge from the Ludus. After their companionable chat during the races he'd realised how few friends he had outside of his work, and decided that, where he met individuals of such clear quality as Theo, that should be remedied. "At least, not yet." The oddly cheeky little smirk suggested that Spurius might actually be contemplating some trouble, or at least mischief, and also that he'd probably already drunk some of what was in the jug he carried. But then that might also explain why he was standing in the entrance to the Ludus, yelling.

"Are you still working?" He asked, hoping that the answer would be no. "I just felt like some excellent company and thought you might like to wander with me and see what men and Gods are up to this evening." Because it really could be anything. When he'd first been injured he'd been so frightened of being knocked over or falling that he'd spent Saturnalias at home, but now he was a sufficient combination of adept and resigned that he came out to celebrate as well.

At least this time if someone collecting him, he'd have a medicus with him.

@Chevi

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"No trouble no, not at all. At least, not yet." 

Theo noted the jug of wine Spurius was carrying, and chuckled. Io Saturnalia, indeed. Well, maybe it was time to pack it up for the evening anyway. He had no idea what a drunk Spurius would be like, but if he was going to spend the evening with a friend, the fellow veteran was not a bad option.

"Are you still working? I just felt like some excellent company and thought you might like to wander with me and see what men and Gods are up to this evening." 

"I am done for the night" Theo answered, ducking back into the room to grab his cloak and bag. Excellent company. It made him smile cheerfully. "But if we are going to drink, I am going to need to eat something too. Let's go." He locked up the room before they turned to head out. "Where do you usually celebrate?"

@Sarah

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Theo was done with work and happy to join him on this night of celebrations, all of which was good news.

"I usually just wander around, talk to people, see what's happening."  He admitted, leaving out the fact that until a few years ago he hadn't even done that. "I passed a series of Tabernae on the way down that looked to be doing brisk business."  And the main forms of business tonight were surely going to be food, drink and pleasure. In truth his plans hadn't gone much beyond finding Theo. He'd enjoyed the man's company and wanted to do so again.

"What about yourself?" He asked in turn. "Apart from working late, how do you celebrate Saturnalia?" Maybe Theo had more ideas, or was more of a party animal, than Spurius was. And if not, his company would still make the slaver's evening less empty than usual.

@Chevi

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"I usually just wander around, talk to people, see what's happening. I passed a series of Tabernae on the way down that looked to be doing brisk business." 

"Good enough" Theo nodded as they headed out. He knew most of the tabernae and popinae in the neighborhood, since he rarely ever cooked for himself. Hopefully they would find one that was not terribly crowded this time of the evening. Most people had moved on to drinking by now...

"What about yourself? Apart from working late, how do you celebrate Saturnalia?"

"I... it depends, really. With friends from my insula, if they are around. Any good company, really. I am not much of a gambler, though... watching people and enjoying the festivities, more likely. Do you gamble?"

@Sarah

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With friends from my insula.

The phrase sounded warm, cosy. More fun than him. Perhaps Theodorus would be generous enough to consider him good, or at least passable, company.

"I don't gamble as a rule, unless I can't gracefully avoid it." Spurius answered his friend's question. "I'm afraid I'm a grumpy old bastard and generally boring as sod, but I'm prepared to make an exception tonight." He smirked at Theo. Why not? It had been several years now since he'd returned to Rome injured, and he'd done well for himself. He couldn't sulk forever. Well, he could, but it was starting to seem like a waste. Perhaps his humours were starting to right themselves at last.

"I guess like yourself I tend to be more of a spectator." He admitted. "Perhaps we can find somewhere to eat, drink and watch people." At least they could amuse themselves that way, unless they say something that looked more interesting.

@Chevi

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"Aren't we all just grumpy old bastards with some good days in between?" Theo chuckled as they walked on. Spurius was different from him in many ways, and yet he found that he enjoyed his company.

"I know just the place. Let's grab some food" he added. The popina he thought of nearby was mercifully not full; running low on drinks, but still had pastries and buns made for the revelers to line their stomachs with. Theo made sure they purchased enough to fill his bag, and then he led the way further, circling back to the ludus. "Have you been to the games at the Amphitheater before?"

@Sarah

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Aren't we all just grumpy old bastards with some good days in between?

"All too true I fear." He laughed in spite of himself. It felt good to talk to someone who understood. Yes they were different in many ways, but they'd also had some of the same experiences, and were of a similar age. He hadn't felt that level of comradeship for some time.

Theo claimed to know a place that served food, and soon they had a bag of pastries and buns that smelled decidedly good. He had a feeling it would be a good evening.

Have you been to the games at the Amphitheater before?

"I have." He said mildly. "I go sometimes, though I can't say I follow any particular gladiator closely. Much the same as the races." But it was a nice day out and didn't tax his leg. "Actually, I bumped into a gladiatrix the other day." Quite literally. "Well, ex-gladiatrix. Now an Imperial bodyguard for one of the Princesses apparently." Which had resulted in a surprisingly interesting conversation. "She was quite the Amazon but I suppose that's the expected look." All blonde braids and leather armour. He still wasn't quite certain what he made of her, but then he supposed he didn't have to make anything. She just was. "I suppose you must treat them as well." It was interesting, thinking about the workings of the ludus rather than just watching the fighting mindlessly.

@Chevi

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"I have. I go sometimes, though I can't say I follow any particular gladiator closely. Much the same as the races." 

"Honestly, I only watch the games because of my work" Theo shrugged, heading back to the ludus. "But the Amphitheater itself... it's one of the marvels of Rome. Even better when empty" he added with a grin.

"Actually, I bumped into a gladiatrix the other day. Well, ex-gladiatrix. Now an Imperial bodyguard for one of the Princesses apparently. She was quite the Amazon but I suppose that's the expected look.  I suppose you must treat them as well." 

"Cynane? She's quite the legend" Theo grinned. Who wouldn't know the gladiatrix who'd made it all the way to the Palatine? "Yes, I treat the gladiatrices too. They tend to be tougher than some of the men." He glanced over at his friend. "You like her?"

@Sarah

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"I suppose you need to keep tabs on which gladiators might have got injured during a fight." Spurius mused as he hobbled his way up the street. Some people took a great deal of interest and enjoyment from the bloodsports, but whilst he sold quite a few slaves to the ludii, he'd always viewed the way so many of them were killed as a waste. Still, it kept him in business.

Theo's point about the amphitheatre made Spurius smile faintly though. "It is, isn't it?" He said, as though only just coming to this realisation. "I guess, having grown up in Rome, I take much of that sort of thing for granted." Even though he had been abroad - all the way to Britannia - Rome was just home and  almost everything in it had been there since he'd been a child old enough to run around the streets, scrawl things on walls of ancient stone and play games in the shadows of other men's monuments to immortality. For a moment he looked around them at the buildings in the light of the torches, the sky shading pink to purple overhead, trying to imagine what it was like to see them for the first time. "Perhaps it's good to see the place with new eyes."

The woman he'd randomly met - literally bumped into, or rather been bumped into by - was clearly quite the singular individual, if Theodorus recognised her by that description alone. And he knew her. 

You like her?

Spurius snorted. "'Like' might be too strong a word." He said dryly. "You'll forgive me for having a habitual dislike of Britons." Even if it was mostly habit by now. "But she was surprisingly interesting to talk to. Smarter than I would have guessed, but I supposed you need brains as well as brawn to be a good gladiator." And you'd need to be tough, which Theodorus assured him the gladiatrices generally were. "I've watched them often enough, but I don't think I've ever really spoke to one. I might have to rethink some of my preconceptions." Again that dry tone. Spurius had no problems recognising the irony. 

"Do you know her?" Clearly Theo knew of her, but Spurius wondered whether he actually knew the woman personally.

@Chevi

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"It's quite impressive. I still remember the first time I saw it" Theo nodded as they walked back to the ludus. Theo led the way, to the doors that opened to the tunnel towards the Amphitheater. They were usually closed and guarded, but for Saturnalia, the rules were different. When they emerged, it was clear that some people must have had the same idea from various ludii: smaller groups sat here and there in the seats, with wine and food and lanterns, and some were playing music and dancing down in the arena. Theo smiled, heading to the seats. "Looks like others had the same idea."

He shook his head at Spurius' question. "I don't know her personally, but I've heard about her. She sounds remarkable. Gladiator or gladiarix, the best ones are always more clever than people give them credit for..."

@Sarah

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