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Evening, December 17th, 76AD

Lucius and the rest of his cohort finally made it back to the castrum. It had been a long, eventful patrol - including the part where Ovinia's kitchen almost burned down, and then Lucius somehow inexplicably ended up making out with her in an alley, and then the rest of the cohort carried food for her (and got some for themselves). Lucius knew he'd burned what little good will the others had for him as the weird rookie. Literally. And yet, for the rest of the patrol he had a goofy smile on his face (which probably pissed the others off even more).

The day was over, but that only meant a short break for rest. They would be up and about early again tomorrow morning. And yet, it was Saturnalia. Everyone celebrated in their own way. He knew he could not win all of them over at once, so he started with one person who deserved his apologies more than the others.

He caught up with Titus crossing the courtyard of the castrum. "Hey, Titus? I've got some wine... and food. And walnuts." he offered a little sheepishly. They didn't really had money to gamble with, but it was customary to gamble for walnuts on Saturnalia anyway. "I mean, if you are not too tired..."

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Titus was tired. Bone tired and in pain; muscles across his back and shoulders and legs protesting as he trudged back across the courtyard of the caster, intent on leaving the shithole to head home to the small room in the insulae he occasionally shared with his brother when he didn't have back to back shifts that required him in the barracks. He, of course, did have one of those tomorrow but it was also Saturnalia and Caius could probably do with some company. If he wasn't already out getting into mischief. 

A voice caught him though as he made his way towards the main gate and he slowed to a stop with a groan of effort and annoyance. He liked Lucius - or at least tolerated him most of the time - but he really had better things to do than pandering to a lonely Patrician on Saturnalia. Like pandering to his drunken younger brother. He arched a brow at the sheepish, earnest expression on the younger mans face. "I'm going home." He said gruffly with a little shrug and glanced at the gate and then back at Lucius, considering the man. He had expression on his face that Titus couldn't read. He also had food. He could take or leave the wine. "I can stay until the next watch goes out." He relented with a shrug, it'd be about an hour. 

He indicated with a hand to a few of the long benches laid out in the courtyard where men were gambling, drinking and cleaning tools. A days work never stopped. "This you trying to make amends?" he asked with a neutral face as he strode over.

 

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"I'm going home." 

Well, that was not what he'd expected. But he couldn't really argue after a long shift like that. "That's fair." It looked like Titus was leaving, but then he changed his mind.

"I can stay until the next watch goes out."  

"Also fair." Lucius nodded, a little relieved. They headed towards the nearest free bench. He set down the plate and the jug of wine, and the small bag that held the gambling kit.

"This you trying to make amends?" 

"Well... the first installment, anyway" he chuckled. "I know I was insufferable today."

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"You could say that again." He said as he sat down on the bench heavily, rolling his neck, trying to work out the knots in the muscles below. He was used to hard, manual labour but the toll it took on his body was never something that was easy to endure. 

Ripping a piece of the bread off of the loaf that sat on the plate, Titus eyed his company. He generally didn't enter into conversations or small talk but Lucius was trying, which called to the better part of him to try too. Even if it wasn't in his nature. "You're not the only person here who wants to help people," he commented mildly, saying his peace, "Nor are you the only man who has skills that are valuable. You're also the only one who wasn't or isn't a slave. Remember that the next time you try and tell us to go and fetch food for your woman. It brings back certain memories for a lot of us." He added the latter with a smirk and a shrug. He wasn't blocking Lucius, but he was trying to be fair. Titus was not an easy going man, but he had more sense and was less inclined to petty revenge than many here.  

"Any particular reason you were quite so insufferable today?" 

 

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"You could say that again." 

Titus didn't usually mince words. Lucius liked that about him. He was harsh, more often than not, but he could be trusted not to play games. They shared the food, and Lucius allowed him to say what was on his mind without interrupting.

"You're not the only person here who wants to help people. Nor are you the only man who has skills that are valuable."

Lucius nodded. That was fair. Because of where he had come from, he tended to barge into his new calling with full momentum.

"You're also the only one who wasn't or isn't a slave. Remember that the next time you try and tell us to go and fetch food for your woman. It brings back certain memories for a lot of us." 

He winced. He had... not quite considered that. The food issue was a mess, and he was trying to help, but to be honest, he was mostly trying to help Ovinia, so Titus, once again, was not wrong. "You're right. I'm sorry."

"Any particular reason you were quite so insufferable today?" 

"Well..." how much was he supposed to say? He trusted Titus, but this new... thing, this secret, it was something that could hurt someone other than him. "Ovinia's family and mine have history, and if you recall, she doesn't exactly approve of the vigiles..."

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"It is what it is." He shrugged. He'd been free for over a year now, nearly two actually and tried not to harbour resentment if he could help it. Which was more difficult than it should have been. 

He eyed Lucius as he started and then stopped, tearing off another chunk of bread and staying silent. He could do this all day, if he had to. "She doesn't approve of you if memory serves," He cocked an eyebrow, "I didn't hear her complaining about the vigiles as a whole last time she was yelling at you." Whatever this Patrician, petty, stupid drama was Titus wanted to stay well clear. But it was clearly laying on Lucius, or something was, and he couldn't afford for a colleague to be distracted. Especially not one with influence like the man sat across from him. "That it?" He said as he gulped down the bread, "She bollock you for slumming it with us, again? Some of the rich girls are insufferable. More insufferable than you, if you can believe it." 

 

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"She doesn't approve of you if memory serves. I didn't hear her complaining about the vigiles as a whole last time she was yelling at you."

Lucius chuckled. "True. She doesn't approve of my decision to be with the vigiles." And leaving the ranks of polite company. Which he was finally understanding for the first time. It made a lot more sense after... what had just happened.

"That it? She bollock you for slumming it with us, again? Some of the rich girls are insufferable. More insufferable than you, if you can believe it."

"Well... she is that." driving him mad, more like, but in a whole new unexpected way. Lucius shook his head, trying to shake the memories free. "But if she ran off and got lost or hurt on my watch, her whole family was going to come down on me. Or worse, my brother." he sighed. "I have no idea why the centurion thinks I can deal with these people. If anything, I'm just bait for them."

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"She's an adult." Titus shrugged with neutral face. "She can navigate a city..." He stopped himself right there and let out an uncharacteristic laugh and a smile. When was the last time he smiled - not smirked - actually smiled? "Scratch that. She's a fancy, rich lady. Of course she can't." 

He poured himself a small measure of the wine into a wooden cup and fiddled with it between his hands, eyeing Lucius as he sighed. "You can deal with them better than us. At least you know what to say. Most of us," He gestured to the vigiles that were milling around, "Don't know how to be polite now we have our freedom. Or don't want to be polite. You probably make them feel at ease," He smirked, "As if you have some common ground. Besides," He shrugged, "If you want to be the Tribune, you got to do the shitty stuff as well as the heroic stuff." 

 

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"She's an adult. She can navigate a city..."

Lucius couldn't help but chuckle, remembering the way Ovinia asked about where the poor streets were on the Esquiline. Titus must have read his thoughts, because he smiled too. His mood was getting better.

"Scratch that. She's a fancy, rich lady. Of course she can't." 

He was not going to argue the point.

"You can deal with them better than us. At least you know what to say. Most of us. Don't know how to be polite now we have our freedom. Or don't want to be polite. You probably make them feel at ease. As if you have some common ground.,"

That was true. For better or worse, Lucius had the upbringing of a patrician. He knew how to behave, even if no one expected him to play by the rules anymore. He did not like this part of the job... until today, when he realized it gave him a slight chance to see Ovinia again. Dammit.

"If you want to be the Tribune, you got to do the shitty stuff as well as the heroic stuff." 

"What?" Lucius grinned "I thought it was all glory and admiration!"

It wasn't. He chuckled, drinking some of the wine.

"So, how about you, Titus? Any woman making you insufferable lately?..."

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Titus shook his head with the most bemused expression crossing his face. "Ah yes. We have so much time for women in between shifts." He shook his head, as if the notion was ridiculous. He worked, he ate, he slept, he worked, he ate, he visited his brother and made sure he was keeping afloat...he worked, he ate, he slept. There was no time for romance or...even baser pleasures. 

"So it's the woman herself making you insufferable?" He arched a brow, wondering if Lucius had realised he'd revealed so much in a single sentence. "You like her then? And have fucked it by slumming it here?" As if on cue, a man emptied a waste water bucket out of a window a hundred yards to their left. Yes. Really slumming it.

 

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"Ah yes. We have so much time for women in between shifts." 

That was a no, then. Too bad. Maybe Titus would have been in generally a better mood if he had someone to court, or even sleep with. Not that Lucius had any moral high ground on that topic. Also, he realized a moment too late he had given away too much with his question. Dammit.

"So it's the woman herself making you insufferable?"

"Huh?" he tried to look innocent.

"You like her then? And have fucked it by slumming it here?" 

Dammit. Titus was just too smart for his own good.

"I am... starting to think, maybe... that I do?" he ventured, staring into his cup.

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Titus snorted. Lucius. Oh Lucius. He shook his head and took a sip of his own wine. "You're not going to get over her by looking in there." He jerked his head at Lucius' wine cup. "But it'll probably make you feel better for about an hour." 

He'd never been in love, or really liked anybody. There'd been women at the farms, and the usual flirtation that came with being a guy not unattractive but that was it. He'd never really needed to get over anybody. Lucius clearly did. He also needed some tough love. "Well you've fucked it. You can't have her." He shook his head, "There's plenty of nice plebeian girls you know. Kitchen slave has been making eyes at you, ever since you roamed in." Why was he being so generous? 

 

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"You're not going to get over her by looking in there. But it'll probably make you feel better for about an hour." 

Lucius knew that if Titus had thought him a fool before, he was definitely thinking he was a fool now. Throwing away his birthright to join the vigiles, and then... liking a woman he could not even go near anymore. Yep, wine was probably the best available solution. Lucius snorted too, and drank.

"Well you've fucked it. You can't have her."

"I know." Except, well, he had just shoved her up against the wall and kissed her like they were dying. So, there was that. Probably a one-time thing.

"There's plenty of nice plebeian girls you know. Kitchen maid has been making eyes at you, ever since you roamed in." 

"And here I was she was looking at you." Lucius chuckled. "Or maybe she looks at everyone. Hey, it seems like not everyone hates out guts then after all, huh?" he grinned, and drank from his cup.

@Sara

 

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Well, at least he was honest with himself judging by the resigned 'I know'. He was still a monumental fool though. 

"She is forced to work here," He smirked, "She's a slave, it doesn't count. She's got to have some entertainment in her days and..." He cast a glance at the men around them; mostly young and fit, "I can imagine this is a more entertaining view than a mine or a farm." Although he wasn't quite so sure about the latter. He'd worked his fingers bloody on farms during his enslavement. The summer harvest was a sight to behold, and not just for the wheat. 

"Don't let your pining distract you," He waved a hand as if it was the easiest thing in the world, "Give it a couple of weeks and the fact you're so bone tired will be distraction enough." 

 

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"She is forced to work here. She's a slave, it doesn't count. She's got to have some entertainment in her days and... I can imagine this is a more entertaining view than a mine or a farm." 

Lucius was still wise enough, despite the wine, to swallow his comment about farms. He had quite liked living at the villa, but he was beginning to realize that sometimes helping out with the harvest was probably a very different experience than what the slaves had gone through. And Titus had had enough scoffing for one night.

"Don't let your pining distract you. Give it a couple of weeks and the fact you're so bone tired will be distraction enough."

"I am beginning to see that" Lucius agreed, taking a bite of bread before he decided it was time to change the topic. "So... fancy some games?"

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Titus chuckled and set his wine cup back on the table, fingers toying with it, smirk on his face. He was going to make a comment that Lucius had clearly not been used to hard, manual labour but decided against it. Truth be told, Titus knew very little of his life beyond that he'd been a rich man and had decided to jack it all in. For all Titus knew, he had been an elite athlete before. Seemed unlikely but he couldn't be sure, much in the same way he supposed Lucius knew precisely nothing about him.

"You'll have to teach me the rules." Was his only comment, but he dutifully swept the space between them clear, moving the wine and food out of the way. He'd never been one for gambling, unlike his brother. Then again, he'd never been one for socialising much at all. "What are the stakes?" He arched a brow. "Walnuts," He held one up with a frown, "Don't make it particularly exciting...then again, you're supposed to be apologising to me, so I hope you're rigging this in my favour." 

 

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"You'll have to teach me the rules."

Lucius blinked in surprised, then swallowed another comment. Gambling was generally frowned upon, except for Saturnalia. And slaves didn't often have something to gamble with. He was learning to double check his assumptions. "Sure."

"What are the stakes? Walnuts. Don't make it particularly exciting...then again, you're supposed to be apologising to me, so I hope you're rigging this in my favour." 

"Wouldn't that be a little patronizing?" Lucius shot back with a smirk. He opened a small bag, fishing out a handful of dice. "There are a number of ways to play... all of them fairly easy. It's more about the stakes than the throws." He fished around for the cup used for dice rolls. He put the dice in, shook them, then turned the cup upside down on the bench. "For example. We roll the dice, and then we both guess the number. Whoever is closer, wins. And if you don't like walnuts..." he smirked "Whoever loses empties his cup of wine. And answers one question with the truth."

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Titus' lips curled ever so slightly in a smile but he didn't say anything. Yes he'd find it patronising. Good on Lucius for noticing. 

"I'm not getting drunk." He said with an amused lilt in his voice. It would be dawn before they knew it and time for another shift. "But I'll take a sip." He proposed as a compromise with a shrug. He said nothing on the other proposal. His life was wholly uninteresting, he would be happy to answer. He was more intrigued about Lucius' though, so that was good fortune. "And winner gets a walnut as well." He munched one to make the point before gesturing to Lucius' cup. "Six." 

 

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"I'm not getting drunk. But I'll take a sip. And winner gets a walnut as well." 

"Fair." Lucius was not planning on getting blind drunk either. He did have the shift in the morning. And honestly, he was more interested in the game. Maybe it would get Titus to trust him more... He refilled the wine cups and rolled the dice.

"Six." 

"Eight."

He revealed the roll. It was a five. Lucius smirked, drinking from his cup. "Ask away."

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Titus blinked. "I thought dice only had six sides." He looked as the cup was lifted. There were two dice. Ah. 

Taking a walnut he smirked. "How rich were you? Before you joined us?" It was a question he didn't want to ask, but simultaneously needed to know. He'd dealt with plenty of rich people in his life, his former owners amongst them, but there were varying degrees of wealth. The woman who Lucius was pining over was far, far, far richer judging by her domus than those who owned him on the farm. 

He scooped up the dice and cup and shook them, planting it back on the table. "Your guess first." 

 

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"How rich were you? Before you joined us?" 

Lucius chuckled. He'd expected the question. He had not revealed much about himself other than the obvious, and he was sure Titus wanted to know more. Which was why he'd offered this game in the first place. He emptied his cup and refilled it, as per the rules of the game.

"I am from a patrician family, so... rich, by most people's standards? But we were not one of the wealthiest. My father died when I was a kid, and my brother was just starting his career, so... moderately rich?" he chuckled. It was still more than most people ever had.

They rolled again.

"Your guess first." 

"Seven."

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Titus showed little emotion on his face at the best of times, but now he managed a small, wry smile. "Moderately rich." He repeated with a shake of his head, his smile broadening a little. "I presume you lived in of the rich houses on the hills?" He held a  hand up, "No answer necessary. Moderately rich.He repeated, chuckling to himself as he sipped his wine. Lucius would get a black eye for talk like that. Moderately rich to many men in the vigiles was a roof over your head and enough coin for a jug of wine. Moderately rich wasn't a domus and slaves of your own. 

"Eleven." He smirked and revealed the dice. Six. He shifted uncomfortably on the bench and extended his hand, as if gesturing for Lucius to ask his question. He was a man of few words.

 

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Lucius was telling the truth, but it was clearly not sitting well with Titus. Who would have thought that being rich in Rome would one day be a downside to something?...

"Moderately rich. I presume you lived in of the rich houses on the hills?"

"I..."

"No answer necessary. Moderately rich." 

Lucius sighed. The next roll came up in his favor, so now he had a question to ask. He considered it for a moment. He wanted to ask real things, serious things, but he was not sure it wouldn't set Titus off.

"What would you do if you were rich?"

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