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The law of surprise


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End of the year, 76AD

Metella was feeling miserable. Saturnalia came and went, with feasts and merrymaking all around the house, everyone had slept off their hangovers and were back to their everyday work... except for her. Because she still felt sick. She would have blamed it on Longinus' cooking, but she knew better. She had not eaten any of that this year. And yet, here she was. Was she getting ill? It would be just her luck.

Leaving her room, Metella made a decent effort to start the day. She made it all the way to the atrium before she faltered, her stomach turning, and her face turning even paler than usual. Her breakfast was not sitting well at all. She wavered, catching herself against one of the columns of the atrium.

"Oh, sh..."

@Sharpie

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Attis was crossing the atrium with the basin of water his master had used for his morning ablutions when he spotted Metella. She did not appear to be her normal cheerful self. If anything, her face rivalled the paleness of the slightly moon-faced marble nymph pouring water from a sea-shell that was the main fountain in the garden.

"Is everything all right?" he asked, though it patently wasn't. "Look, you should maybe go back to bed - I'll get one of the other girls to look after Cassia, the master won't mind when he knows you're not well. Green suits you usually, but not when it's your face rather than your tunica that's green."

 

@Chevi

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"Is everything all right?"

Metella took a deep breath, trying to regain some control over the situation as Attis showed up, looking concerned. She faintly shook her head at his question. Metella was an independent kind of woman, but right now, even she had to admit that she was struggling.

"Look, you should maybe go back to bed - I'll get one of the other girls to look after Cassia, the master won't mind when he knows you're not well. Green suits you usually, but not when it's your face rather than your tunica that's green."

Too. Many. Words.

Metella felt her stomach lurch. For lack of a better option, she grabbed the basin from Attis' hands. It was still a better option than throwing up on one of the flowerbeds. Her breakfast came back with a vengeance.

Not a good start for the morning.

@Sharpie

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"I -" And then she'd snatched the basin out of his hands and emptied her breakfast into it.

"Oh. Merda!"

He didn't know what to do with a vomiting woman, but guessed it might be similar to looking after a hungover master, so he waited until she was done before rubbing her back gently. "Come on, let's get you tucked up, you'll feel better."

His room would be best, he thought. It wasn't much, but would be better than the shared slave quarters. Somewhere even vaguely private, where she could lie down and sleep if she needed to. With a clean basin in case of any further... upset. And a cup of water.

He'd have to tell the master and ask Mira to look after Cassia today. But first things first.

"You can use my bed, it'll be quieter there, and I'll get you some water to rinse your mouth with."

 

@Chevi

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Metella emptied her stomach while Attis patted her on the back. At least he had some experience, after dealing with the dominus on festival days.

"Come on, let's get you tucked up, you'll feel better."

Metella was too worn to fight him on that, so she just followed as he led the way to his room. The world was still very much spinning. Damn.

"You can use my bed, it'll be quieter there, and I'll get you some water to rinse your mouth with."

"Thank you." she muttered, making her way to the bed. Being horizontal was a blessing by the gods. "I don't think I'm ill, I don't have a fever... I didn't even drink or eat that much, and Saturnalia was days ago... must have been some spoiled food..."

@Sharpie

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"Well, whatever's caused it, I hope it doesn't affect the master too." A Longinus who was ill was a Longinus that nobody really wanted to be around, after all.

She sagged onto his bed and he bent to pull the blanket up over her. "You... Just stay right there, I'll sort things out for you," he told her.

A clean basin and a beaker of water were easy enough to procure. Mira seemed happy enough to exchange her usual chores for looking after Cassia for the day. The master was doing... whatever the master usually did first thing in the morning that didn't need Attis, who knocked quietly on the door in case Metella was asleep, or had a raging headache or otherwise didn't need to be disturbed.

"Are you feeling any better?"

 

@Chevi

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Attis tucked her into bed, and Metella curled up, trying to keep the world from spinning. In her miserable state, she was really grateful that he cared for her. She closed her eyes, her breathing slowly calming, and waited until he came back with some water and a clean basin.

"Are you feeling any better?"

"A little?" Metella muttered. She pushed herself to sit up, and blinked. "Oof. Still spinning." What on earth was happening? "It's like... the bad kinda drunk. But I'm not drunk."

@Sharpie

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"Don't sit up, then," Attis said, worry etched across his face. Could she be ill? It wasn't impossible, of course, but surely it couldn't be serious - Cassia was perfectly fine and she was the one person in the house other than Attis who spent the most time with Metella.

"If you've got a headache, I can get you something for it," he added, keeping his voice low in case she did have a headache. He had no idea at all what else it could be, if she wasn't hungover - maybe she had eaten something dodgy recently, and if not that, then she must be actually ill.

 

@Chevi

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"No headache. Just... queasy." she muttered, reaching for the cup of water. She really needed to drink some. She had nothing to throw up anymore, but she was still feeling... upset in her stomach.

"No fever, no headache..." she sighed "Must have been the food. Is anyone else in the house feeling ill?"

Maybe it had been the Saturnalia cooking, after all...

@Sharpie

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"No," Attis said, somewhat uneasily. "You're the only one - you haven't eaten at any of the cauponae recently or anything, have you?" It might be grasping at straws but it was the only thing he could think of. There wasn't any other reason that it would only be Metella who was ill, not that he could think of, anyway.

He sat on the foot of the bed, his usual good humour buried under the weight of his concern.

 

@Chevi

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"No, I have been eating here. And Saturnalia was not as... wild as usual..." she muttered, with a deep sigh, sipping some more water. Because she had nothing better to do, she sat back on the bed, trying to run through what all she had done in the past week. Or weeks. She had no fever, no headache, no pains, she had not fallen, or noticed any p...

Her eyes suddenly went wide.

"Oh shit. Oh no."

@Sharpie

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Metella ran through the calendar in her mind. The past weeks had been busy... Saturnalia, before that, the preparations for Saturnalia, before that, all the errands she had to do, and... Attis. When...? She stared into space for a moment, her lips moving as she worked the weeks out. There were entirely too many of them. She turned paler than a moment before.

"Attis, you utter bastard!"

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"What the fuck did I do?"

He'd done plenty of things but nothing that would incapacitate someone by making them throw up like this. 

"I swear to the gods I didn't put anything in your food, if that's what you think!"

 

@Chevi

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"What the fuck did I do?... I swear to the gods I didn't put anything in your food, if that's what you think!"

Both of those sentences would have merited very witty comebacks, and it spoke to how distressed Metella suddenly was that she did not take up either chance. Instead, she threw her pillow at him. With more deadly force than playful banter.

"You did do something, you fucking idiot! I'm pregnant!"

@Sharpie

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His own pillow hit him in the face. "You're preg- that's...." He trailed off, it wasn't fantastic. "Oh.... cock."

Their master was probably going to murder him. Longinus didn't like kids, not particularly, and probably didn't want another slave who wouldn't be of any use for several years, and...

He was going to be a father. Oh, balls. He'd be worse than useless at that!

"Are you sure?"

 

@Chevi

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"You're preg- that's.... Oh.... cock."

"Yes. Yours. Bastard." Metella folded her arms, curling up on the opposite end of the bed. The more she thought about it, the more her situation made sense, and it was the one thing she had always wanted to avoid. How did it happen anyway? The gods were playing a cruel joke. Attis looked dumbfounded.

"Are you sure?"

"No." she frowned "I just figured it out, didn't I?... But it does make sense. I lost track of time. I have not bled in... two months?"

@Sharpie

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Attis had only the absolute vaguest idea of women's cycles and all their other mysteries, but even he knew they bled more often than that. He was still trying to figure it out when one thing made itself crystal clear. He set the pillow on his knees and clasped his hands on it.

"We have to tell the master."

He was going to be... Attis didn't have a clue what Longinus was going to be but 'pleased', 'happy', 'thrilled' and 'overjoyed' were not it. Probably the total opposite of it, in fact.

 

@Chevi

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"We have to tell the master."

Metella had not even gotten that far in her thought process. Now that Attis said it, she froze. Longinus... was a very patient master, but not exactly one that suffered children. And he was under no obligation to put up with theirs. Hers. Whatever Attis thought about the child, he was not stuck with it. And she was no use as a nurse if she was... actually nursing.

Metella stared at her hands.

"You think he will sell me?"

@Sharpie

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"Shit - no. No, I don't think that, at all." He dropped the pillow, twisting to grab Metella's hands. Attis would probably do something really stupid if Longinus did that, but saying as much wouldn't help. "He's not that sort of master, really."

He might bury it very deeply, but he wasn't the sort of soulless thoughtless uncaring master that would do that - he hadn't whipped Attis for swearing at him, that time, after all.

"He's not a monster!"

 

@Chevi

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"Shit - no. No, I don't think that, at all. He's not that sort of master, really."

Attis reached out to hold her hands. Metella was still very angry at him, or at the world in general which was wholly unfair to women, and especially enslaved women, but she did not pull back from his touch. She felt alone, but if anyone was going to convince her otherwise, it was probably Attis. Who looked shocked that she would ask that question.

"He's not a monster!"

"Maybe." Masters sometimes were good until they weren't. Metella was a lot less trusting than Attis. She sighed. "... what in Tartarus am I supposed to do with a baby?..."

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Attis managed a slightly choked laugh. "What does anyone do with a baby? Fuss over it, fall in love with it, clean up after it." He shrugged. "Cassia will be delighted."

And if Cassia was going to be delighted, then Longinus would have to relent, wouldn't he.

Not that Attis particularly wanted to be a father, much less have his child follow in his footsteps as a slave, but things being what they were, he'd do his best to be a good father.

"He can learn to ride Ragum when he's big enough," he added, though chances were it would be a girl. "We need to tell the master, there's no point putting it off and imagining what he'll say when we can just find out, after all."

 

@Chevi

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"What does anyone do with a baby? Fuss over it, fall in love with it, clean up after it."

Metella rolled her eyes. Attis made it sound so easy. Out of the two of them, she was the one with experience in caring for a child. And yet, having her own baby, on top of her household duties, was going to be a whole different thing.

"Cassia will be delighted."

"Maybe I will get lucky and dominus' new wife gets pregnant quick. They can keep me as a wet nurse." she frowned.

"He can learn to ride Ragum when he's big enough,"

She leveled a glare at Attis. That damn dog.

"We need to tell the master, there's no point putting it off and imagining what he'll say when we can just find out, after all."

He was not wrong, it was just... wrong. Metella frowned again.

"Sure, let's go. You can tell him you knocked me up, I'm sure he'd rather hear it from you."

@Sharpie

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"If you think for one moment that I'm one of those..." he swallowed the extremely rude derogatory word that was his initial description "... men who'd go swanning off and leave you holding the baby, I'm not."

It didn't actually occur to him that their master could be accused of having done that very thing when Cassia was small.

"For one thing, I'd really rather not have fugitivus added to this," he indicated the scar on his forehead. "And for another, I've never heard of a woman getting pregnant all by herself. Whatever else I might be, I'm not a complete bastard."

He moved to throw the pillow back at her and reconsidered. When he next spoke, it was in a far more level speaking tone. "I said, we should tell him, didn't I? You're stuck with me unless you decide otherwise - like I've been trying to persuade you for gods know how long."

 

@Chevi

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"If you think for one moment that I'm one of those... men who'd go swanning off and leave you holding the baby, I'm not. For one thing, I'd really rather not have fugitivus added to this. And for another, I've never heard of a woman getting pregnant all by herself. Whatever else I might be, I'm not a complete bastard."

"You wouldn't get far anyway." she rolled her eyes. They would catch a fugitive slave, for sure, but she would probably beat them to the punch. Still, deep down, she knew Attis was not that kind of a man. And it wasn't like he could avoid her much either, since they lived in the same household...

"I said, we should tell him, didn't I? You're stuck with me unless you decide otherwise - like I've been trying to persuade you for gods know how long."

She quirked an eyebrow at him.

"Is that your poetic was of asking me to marry you again? Because I don't plan on adding marriage to this disaster..."

@Sharpie

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