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(End of the year, 76AD - after Winter walk)

Lucius was in a foul mood as he climbed the steps to Alexius' apartment. He should have been focusing on the search, on the information he had acquired about the barber and his victims. And yet, he could not stop thinking about Ovinia's parting words, the hurt look in her eyes. And even worse than that, he could not stop thinking about holding her and kissing her. He was going to drive himself mad, sooner than later.

He needed to talk to someone. Focus on the investigation, holding the plans together. Finding the killer. That was something straightforward he could work on, and drown his feelings. If that didn't work, he could always just get drunk. Alexius seemed to be a good partner for either of those.

"I hope you've got one, but if you don't, I've got money" he announced as he walked into the apartment. 

@Atrice

 

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Alexius had just been down to fetch a water bucket from the nearest well and fountain and was trying to clean up some of the cups and mugs he had. He liked that there were clean ones, for when he had guests. And you never knew when that might happen. He still had a few jars of wine, he'd bought some for the assembly not many days ago, but they had barely been touched. People had been so focused on the task and figuring out who was who and what could be done, to track down the monster that was hurting and killing people in Rome... and who had apparently been left free to do so, for years! He hadn't yet returned to the Elysium to find anything there, he hadn't had much time, it was barely a few days ago, after all. Of course it needed to happen. And it would happen. Maybe today he'd have time.

He was in his own thoughts, as the door suddenly opened behind him and he almost jumped, surprised. It wasn't Lexus, however... no, it was Lucius and he didn't look very happy. Fuck, had someone been hurt again?! Alexius really should have done something! But Lucius just immediately started talking and Alexius arched a brow at him.

"Got one what? Is something wrong? Did he hurt someone again?" That was right now the only reason he could think of why Lucius would come walking in here in a foul mood. The young Patrician turned vigile was handsome, but way too troubled. With good reason, of course, but still...

@Chevi

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"Wine." Lucius reiterated, realizing he had not been very clear. He needed at least a jar of wine to make this day hurt less. He walked over to sit at the table. The fact that he was behaving like he lived in this apartment was lost on him for the moment. Alexius did not seem to mind having people over. He did, however, seem worried about what was going on. "And no, no news from the barber. But I do have some new leads." He had been busy. "And I've gone to talk to Ovinia." It was clear from his expression that the meeting had not gone very well.

@Atrice

Edited by Chevi
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Wine? Of course he had wine! Alexius placed one of the newly cleaned mugs in front of Lucius and picked up a jar from the storage underneath the water basin. He filled the mug with wine and his own too, now he was at it. Meanwhile Lucius explained himself. He'd already sat down and he still seemed in a foul mood. Yet there was nothing new about the barber except for leads. And Ovinia. Alexius sat down too, looking at Lucius. He knew there was more to them knowing each other, he just didn't know what yet. But she was a gorgeous young woman and Lucius a quite handsome young man, who'd once been a Patrician. The fact that she might have married his brother could not be the only reason why he'd gone to see her again.

"Oh... how is she? Is she healing well enough? It must have been such a terrible experience for her." Poor girl, he thought, and downed a bit of his own wine. He knew how Didia had been right after she was attacked, but she did seem to feel better now. Still, she was also more used to the roughness of the streets of Rome. Ovinia was not.

@Chevi

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Lucius was grateful for the wine. He accepted the cup and downed most of it in one go. He knew he was acting like a madman, but he needed a few minutes, and possibly more wine, to get his head on straight. It did not help that Alexius was asking the obvious questions first. Not that it was any of his fault.

"She is... healing." he muttered, staring into his cup "Her father got her a slave to guard her and everything. Her stitches are coming out soon." He remembered her words about the scars, and sighed. "She is... hurt, though. More than just the wounds." And she would be, for a long time, maybe forever. He hated thinking about that. He downed the rest of the wine, reaching out for a refill. "She's going to need some people to support her."

@Atrice

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Alexius didn't fail to notice how Lucius downed almost all of the wine he was just given. It almost reminded him of how he met Teutus... sad and drunk. Lucius must be going through something, so that he came to Alexius for wine and company could only be a compliment, right? He trusted Alexius enough to handle him in this state. Then Lucius explained himself about Ovinia, how she was healing and there was a slave to guard her and the stitches were coming out. Well that was how she was, what everyone else could see. But what about her

He nodded quietly at first, when Lucius said she was hurt and needed support. 

"She knows she has my support." Alexius said, noting how quickly Lucius filled the cup with wine again... "And yours? You seem to care for her." 

@Chevi

Edited by Atrice
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Alexius refilled the cup without asking. For someone who made a living from fighting, he sure had a knack for reading people. Lucius had ideas about plans and steps and logistics, but Alexius was holding the mismatched group together. Including, as things stood right now, Lucius himself. 

He winced, then Alexius said he cared for Ovinia. He was too upset to flat-out deny out. So he drank some more.

"I do. Even though she clearly doesn't want me to."

@Atrice

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Alexius just happened to like people. And he'd known a lot of them, both as friends and more intimately. And when you knew so many people in their most private moments when they gave into what they just felt... you grew better at reading them. Or, that's how he might excuse his odd skills, if he was ever asked. But he wasn't, he was just there for someone who clearly needed him... and wine. Of course wine. 

Lucius admitted that he cared about Ovinia and thought she didn't want him to. Really? If there was one thing, among many. That Alexius knew about women, it was that you should never take what they said for granted. Look at them instead, notice them, and you'd know what they really felt. But it was hard to explain such a thing and right now, Lucius spoke of Ovinia needing support. While it seemed he needed it too.

"How do you know she doesn't want you to?" Clearly it wasn't right, he was no longer a Patrician and Ovinia was, but if they liked each other... then fuck all those rules in society about whom was allowed to be with whom... "Have you told her?"

@Chevi

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"How do you know she doesn't want you to? Have you told her?"

"Have I told..." Lucius scoffed, shaking his head with a sad smile. All of it was a mess. He didn't even know how to explain it. He drank, and looked up at Alexius, seeing the genuine interest in his face. He sighed.

"If I tell you, you have to swear on Dis you will never tell anyone. Because if you do, the barber's gonna be the least of our problems, because Ovinia will murder the both of us. She's capable." She had chosen violence more than once, dealing with Lucius. He waited for Alexius' confirmation before he went on. "I've kissed her." It sounded so foolish now.

@Atrice

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There were other issues that did require far more of their attention, but they were hardly going to get anywhere with their investigation, if they were drunk. Alexius knew himself well enough to know, that his attention on such matters might falter when he was drunk. But he had not even emptied his first cup and Lucius was on his second one. At first he pretended it was a stupid question Alexius asked, but then he went on.

"I'll keep your secret, no worries. You know where I live anyway." Alexius added with a smile, but then Lucius' admission came. They had kissed? Ovinia, kissing someone? Well if it had to be anyone, he could understand why it had to be Lucius. He cared for her, he was nice and he was good looking. Who wouldn't want to kiss such a person? But it weighed on poor Lucius, because he cared for her, he kissed her and now she'd been attacked. And he was not her husband and actually out of her league. Ovinia's father might kill Lucius if he knew. Poor guy. And he couldn't do shit about it, because he wasn't Alexius. 

"Just one kiss? You don't seem the type to force kisses on young ladies. So she wanted the kiss?" He then asked, because that was the key to everything here. If she'd slapped him and run away, like Charis did once, then she might not want it. Of course women were fickle like that, because Charis had actually come to him on another occasion. Meaning she did want it, just not at that time. But Ovinia... she'd surely also let Lucius know if she wanted to be kissed or not. She might be young and in many ways innocent, but she wasn't stupid.

@Chevi

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Alexius would keep his secret. Somehow, he knew that. He was bodyguard to Ovinia, so it was his entire job to protect her. From harm, of any kind.

He also did not seem very shocked by Lucius' admission.

"Just one kiss? You don't seem the type to force kisses on young ladies. So she wanted the kiss?"

"She..." 

All I want to do is for you to kiss me again.

Lucius squeezed his eyes shut, frowning. These memories needed to stop.

"Yes. We... yes. She did. At the time anyway." he sighed. "It was Saturnalia. But I didn't kiss her because of that. Not really. But now... now she thinks I did."

@Atrice

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It didn't come as a huge shock. He did suspect Ovinia had someone she liked, after their trip to the arena. And Lucius clearly cared for her, that much was obvious right from the start. So this almost seemed natural. Alexius could easily understand them both. He'd not mind kissing any of them. But this wasn't about him, so he tried to dig a little deeper, because Lucius was deep in anyway. At first he seemed unsure of what to say, but then admitted she did want the kiss. But it was for Saturnalia and she thought that was the only reason.

It made sense... kissing someone you cared for, for the first time, at Saturnalia... where everyone kissed everyone... might not be the smartest move in history.

"But she did not hate the kiss and that matters, Lucius. So, I think she does like you, but..." He tried to find the right words... "Maybe it's because she knows she shouldn't like you? She is very aware of her own status and what her duty is, to her family. It's hard to make her admit she has any other hopes for her future. Trust me, I talked to her too." Alexius added with a smile, but then it faded. He understood Lucius' mood now... "Question is, how much do you want her?" 

@Chevi

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Did it really matter? Saturnalia had been a different time. Everything was possible during Saturnalia. And now they were back to normal, and Ovinia was angry at him for some mysterious reason. Well, that was kind of normal too. Alexius had a different point of view.

"But she did not hate the kiss and that matters, Lucius. So, I think she does like you, but... Maybe it's because she knows she shouldn't like you? She is very aware of her own status and what her duty is, to her family. It's hard to make her admit she has any other hopes for her future. Trust me, I talked to her too."

Lucius smiled a sad smile, and drank some more. Ovinia was not wrong, to resist having hopes and dreams. In her position, most of them would never come true anyway. Including... whatever they had together. Alexius knew her well.

"Question is, how much do you want her?" 

"Apparently, more than I thought." Lucius sighed. He had not really admitted that to himself either. "It's not... it's not that I want her. Well, not just that. When she was attacked... it scared me. I want her to be safe. And cared for... The woman drives me up the walls, more times than not, but today, she sent me away like I've done something wrong and I just can't... I don't want that." None of it made sense, but hey, he was two cups of wine in.

@Atrice

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Alexius got around, everyone knew that. And once they knew him, they also knew he was more than just a body, all about the action. He wasn't afraid to speak his mind, especially after he had been freed, and he'd come to a point where he just really didn't care much. He was who he was. That's just it. And he'd be as honest with Lucius as he had been with Ovinia. It was never amusing to see someone you liked so low, after all. So he had to figure out if he could at least try and help Lucius... and Ovinia, if she wanted to be helped more. Right now what she needed most was not kisses, but someone who would hold her. He just bet her family didn't. Fucking Romans. 

Lucius smiled sadly, when Alexius spoke of why Ovinia might pretend to not like Lucius, because she knew she should not. But... how much did Lucius care? How far was he willing to go? He said he wanted her much, but it was more than just that. Alexius nodded, patting Lucius' hand, "No man wants a woman he likes to send him away." He said with a little smile and glanced at Lucius' cup, already close to being empty again. He wanted to help Lucius somehow, he clearly needed it, but he was getting drunk and that was never useful when you wanted to think straight. 

"I don't think we're going to solve this issue with wine though." He said and drank a bit of his own, "So... what else?" He took his hand back from Lucius' to tap his chin, "Oh, you talked about leads! On the beast we're hunting?" 

@Chevi

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"No man wants a woman he likes to send him away." 

Well, he could say that again. Lucius frowned. There was nothing much he could do about this, if she decided she did not want to see him again. But holding her, just before that, still haunted him... Alexius decided to drag him back to reality.

"I don't think we're going to solve this issue with wine though. So... what else? Oh, you talked about leads! On the beast we're hunting?" 

"True. This needs water." he sighed, raising his cup. He could not keep downing thick wine if they wanted to get work done. And he was grateful for the distraction. "Yes. Leads. I went to the vigiles offices in the other regios, and found some more attacks. One of them is a noble woman. And I actually know her." He frowned. He had not been aware that Pinaria Gaia had been attacked, too.

@Atrice

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Alexius chuckled when Lucius then suddenly wanted water, just because they wouldn't solve the issue with Ovinia with wine, "Oh I didn't mean we should stop drinking. Here." Alexius refilled Lucius' cup and finally emptied his own, filling it again the moment after. Sometimes, drowning your sorrows and thinking about something else was a good thing. And so Alexius changed the subject, to that of the attacker they were trying to find. Lucius explained that he'd found out about more attacks, one on a noble woman... that he knew.

Alexius smiled, "You get around too, don't you?" He said with a grin, but then tried to be serious again, "How was she... I mean... is she alright? This other noble woman?" If Ovinia wasn't, then there was a good chance this other woman also wasn't doing too well.

@Chevi

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"Oh I didn't mean we should stop drinking. Here." 

Alexius refilled the cup and Lucius accepted it, but he held off from drinking for a little while. With all the pain that he was feeling, they still had a murderer to catch. And he could not just come around to Alexius' place to mope.

"You get around too, don't you? How was she... I mean... is she alright? This other noble woman?"

"I don't know yet" Lucius sighed. He was a little amused at Alexius' comment. "A friend set me up... with her, back when I was still a patrician. He was trying to find me a wife. It wasn't a good match, but she's a clever, kind woman... a widow. I'll have to go see her. There was no official information on her attack, probably for the same reason we are keeping Ovinia a secret. But someone from that regio told me in confidence."

@Atrice

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At first Lucius didn't deny that he got around and he didn't know yet if this other noble woman he knew, was alright. He said he'd been set up with her, apparently as a potential wife. Obviously it didn't work out. Clever, kind and a widow though? Alexius wondered to himself if she was good looking too. Because then he should perhaps escort Lucius to a visit with her. Lucius went on though, speaking about how there was no official information on the attack on her.

"It sounds like you do need to go and see her. Maybe she knows or saw something the others missed?" They really needed to talk to anyone they could find, who knew anything about the attacker. The longer they went without finding him, the more risk there was for more people to get attacked. Or killed. He tilted his head, "Do you know where she lives?" If they were to talk to her, they needed to know her whereabouts. Alexius still wasn't sure Lucius only knew her briefly, he was a good looking young man after all. And the woman had been a widow, apparently. Why wouldn't she want a handsome young guy like Lucius, even if they weren't going to marry?

@Chevi

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"It sounds like you do need to go and see her. Maybe she knows or saw something the others missed?"

"I should. And make sure she is alright. She... might not have told anyone, even if she's not." If she was anything like Ovinia, she was probably suffering alone. No one deserved that. Lucius was suddenly determined to visit her, ask her questions, but most importantly, let her know that she was not alone.

"Do you know where she lives?" 

"I... have an idea." he nodded. After their one date, he had walked Pinaria back to her neighborhood. It wouldn't be too hard to find the domus where she lived. Lucius looked up at Alexius. "We should go."

@Atrice

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Lucius really was the type of guy who'd wear the weight of the world's troubles on his shoulders, wasn't he? It sounded like he felt bad for not knowing about the other noble woman before... and now all he wanted was to make sure she was alright. Of course Alexius wanted to know that too, but he didn't know her and so he was more focused on finding any clues towards the attacker. And meeting her, of course. That would be important too. He downed a bit more wine and wondered if Lucius knew where she lived. He spoke of an idea and said they should go.

"You want to go and talk to her now?" He asked, a bit surprised. That wasn't what he had in mind, but if Lucius thought that the best idea, then... why not? Still though... "You still have wine in your cup, it would be a pity to let it go to waste. Or are we coming back here after? We can." He added with a smile, only happy to invite Lucius in for more wine and moping later. Maybe he could even find other ways to distract Lucius from his troubled mind.

@Chevi

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"You want to go and talk to her now?"

"Why not? If it can help us catch the killer sooner..." It was worth risking the social awkwardness in exchange for another clue. A monster was still on the loose, after all.

"You still have wine in your cup, it would be a pity to let it go to waste. Or are we coming back here after? We can." 

"We can come back and plan some more." Lucius drained the rest of his third cup of wine. He felt the kick of the alcohol - it had been unwatered, after all - but he also felt the need to go and get things done. And maybe distract himself in the process. "Shall we?"

@Atrice

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Lucius just wanted to catch the killer. So that's what they called him now. Alexius wasn't sure that word was right, because he had killed, but he didn't kill every time. And who even did things like that? That's why he preferred something that didn't refer to some kind of human being. Beast, monster, animal... that fit much better. But even a lion would not kill unless hungry or agitated. This beast was different. Worse. 

Alexius spoke of the wine and Lucius thought they could indeed return. Together they emptied their wine... Alexius' his second cup and Lucius the third.

"Of course, lead the way... does she have a name by the way, this noble lady? I don't want to seem like a fool when you introduce us." He said, because really he didn't. And he was very curious about meeting her. 

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"Her name is Pinaria Gaia." Lucius told Alexius as they headed out. His head was a little heavy from the unwatered wine, but he was sure a brisk walk was going to clear it right up.

It mostly did.

It only took asking a few people, once they got to the neighborhood where he had last seen Pinaria, to find the right domus. Lucius knew that showing up unannounced was going to be... unconventional, but it was for a good reason. Pinaria Gaia was a clever woman. She'd understand. He told the slave at the door his name, and that they had something urgent to talk with Pinaria Gaia about.

@Atrice

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Pinaria was just relaxing and not doing anything special, when a slave showed up in her chamber to announce that she had visitors. One Lucius Vipsanius Roscius accompanied by a man who seemed like some sort of guard. She was surprised to hear that Lucius would show up in her life again, she had not really expected him. It had been pleasant, the day they met, but it seemed obvious to them both that they were never going to be even betrothed. Which was a pity, because he was a man of a good family and reputation and he was still young and handsome. Of course she heard the stories the months that followed. About how he'd been adopted by a lower class family - lower than his own anyway - and that he now had a job, that wasn't really commendable for someone of his original rank and status. But was he happy, that he'd gone down that path? She hoped so. But she still had not expected to see him again.

She told the slave to escort the guests into a triclinium of their home and bring some refreshments. Then she stood and allowed her servant, Gaia Lucia, to freshen her up for the visitors. There was barely any trace of the small scar she'd had on her throat and the one on her upper arm was hidden by her palla, that she wrapped around her. She wore a green woolen chiton today, it wasn't a very warm day. And her hair was half up, half down. She had been married, after all, but wasn't now. Not by choice though, she was just unfortunate that her husband had died.

Soon she moved towards the triclinium to greet the guests. Lucius seemed... different, somehow. Unhappy. That worried her a bit. The other man was tall and looked like he could be something of a brute, but he had a friendly smile on his face and that settled her a little.

"Lucius, how good to see you." She said as she approached him to greet him with a light embrace and a kiss on his cheek, "What brings you and your... friend? Here?" 

@Chevi

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They were led into the triclinium of the house, where Pinaria Gaia met them. So fa, so good; she was under no obligation to admit either of them, given the scandal Lucius had managed to stir up. But she seemed friendly when she did join them, and even greeted Lucius as if they had still moved in the same social circles. He returned her smile.

"Lucius, how good to see you. What brings you and your... friend? Here?" 

"This is Alexius. He is a friend. We are... working on something together." Lucius waited till they all took their seats and got their refreshments from the slaves, before broaching the subject. "I am sorry we showed up here unannounced, but this matter is... fairly serious."

@Atrice

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