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End of the year, 75AD

Calpurnia was accompanied by a procession of servants on her way to her brother's domus. She was glad that he'd agreed to host her, for the time being (which, if it was up to her, would be quite a long time). It was a day of firsts: the first time she was outside, wearing a civilian's stola rather than the Vestal veils. The first time she walked the streets as a Roman maiden (the thought made her smile) rather than a Vestal Virgin. The first time she would be visiting her brother with the intention to stay. The first time she would live with her family since she was nine years old.

It was a strange thought, after thirty years of service at the Vestal House, to return to society as a civilian woman. She wondered what her family would think now. On her part, she was feeling elated. Cheerful, even. She got out of the litter the moment the domus came into view, and walked up to the door herself, dressed in a sky-blue stola and a matching palla in a darker shade. Now that she was allowed to wear them, she planned on wearing a lot of colors.

"Tell my brother I am here" she told the slave at the doors. She needed no introduction.

@Sharpie @Sara

 

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Aulus was feeling slightly nervous, uncharacteristically so. It was one thing to have a sister who was one of the six Vestal Virgins and who spent her life in the Atrium Vestae... it was another to have his sister come to live under his roof, the first time they had lived in the same house since she was nine (and he was twelve - gods, was it really as long ago as that?!)

Horatia had been very sweet and as wonderful as ever, withdrawing to the sanctuary of her own study so that he could have these first few moments alone with his sister.

He was in the garden, his wife's favourite part of the house and a private family area, and told the slave to show Calpurnia through - she was going to live here, he was not going to receive her in the atrium or the tablinum as if she were merely a client. He hoped that they could reconnect properly, that they wouldn't be strangers to one another.

He couldn't help smiling as she stepped through the door - the stola she was wearing was a shade or two lighter than his own tunic. Apparently blue was a favourite colour for her, too - and of course as a Vestal she had been limited to white.

"Calpurnia! It is good to see you," he said, holding out his hands to her and kissing her cheeks.

 

@Chevi

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She was led right through the atrium and into the gardens. She was family, after all. She had visited the house, of course - less frequently as of late, while she was wrapping up her last years of teaching as a Vestal - but this time, it was different. His brother waited for her in the gardens, smiling, and her own face lit up in an equally bright smile too.

"Calpurnia! It is good to see you,"

"You too, brother" she laughed, kissing his cheeks, and then moving on to give him a tight hug. They had spent most of their childhood and young adult years apart, but she was very fond of her brother. "I hope you are prepared to have me around from now on. Because it's too late now to go back."

@Sharpie

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"If I wasn't prepared to have you, what sort of brother would you take me for?" he asked, indicating the seats nearby, with some food laid out on the table. "This is your home, especially now - and you may find that I am not around to get in your way as much you think."

His consulship was all but guaranteed and he had a lot of work to do to prepare for it, as well as overseeing the construction of his thermae.

What he was most nervous of - ridiculous though it might be! - was what to do if his wife and his sister didn't get along, especially now that Calpurnia was to live here. They were both independent women with their own thoughts and opinions, and of course Calpurnia had been one of a very small community that was revered and looked up to, and commanded respect simply by her presence. How was she going to adjust to the much smaller world of a Roman woman?

Although an ex-Vestal commanded as much respect as a current Vestal, and was considered to be emancipated in the same way a mother of three was, she would be entering a house run by her sister-in-law. Aulus was going to steer clear of any potential friction if he possibly could!

 

@Chevi ( @Sara )

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"If I wasn't prepared to have you, what sort of brother would you take me for?"

Calpurnia smiled, taking a seat as he indicated. Food and drinks. He really was prepared to host her. It felt like coming home - because that was what was happening. Even though the Vestal House was her home for most of her entire life, now she would get to spend time with family.

"This is your home, especially now - and you may find that I am not around to get in your way as much you think."

Calpurnia arched an eyebrow, reaching to pick up a glass of wine. "Your career taking up most of your time?" she ventured. "I hear you are having baths built. Good move for a prospective consul."

@Sharpie

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"Of course," he said, helping himself to a sprig of grapes and sitting back. "A good move for anyone, I should think - and I am all but guaranteed to be elected. Quintus Augustus has told me he will support me in my endeavour for the position."

He paused, studying his sister. She had something of their mother about her, and something reminiscent of their father too. He wondered how alike Calpurnia and he were, especially after all these years and with such different lives.

"Do you have a body slave, at all? Or do you need one?"

If she had not brought a girl with her, there was probably some suitable slave somewhere among the household slaves.

 

@Chevi

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"Of course. A good move for anyone, I should think - and I am all but guaranteed to be elected. Quintus Augustus has told me he will support me in my endeavour for the position."

"Sounds like you are ready to rise to the challenge" Calpurnia smiled at her brother. She was excited to see what all he would accomplish in one year as consul. Her brother was hard-working, clever, and ambitious, so it was going to be a spectacular year, no doubt.

"Do you have a body slave, at all? Or do you need one?"

"I will probably need one. But I can pick my own, unless you have a suggestion." she stretched her legs, enjoying a sip of wine. "And of course I call first dibs on trying the new baths when they are ready."

@Sharpie

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It took merely a glance and brief gesture for a slave to step forward and pour a cup of wine for each of them. Aulus took his cup and sat back.

"I would hardly be worthy of the name if I couldn't rise to a challenge," he said. "Funding a building project and being elected consul are more enjoyable challenges than some I have faced, though, I can assure you of that."

Even over the last year or so, there had been direct threats to his family which he had addressed as coolly and calmly as he had anything, including making contingency plans for his wife and children that would place Horatia and Calpurnia Horatia under his sister's protection and his son Titus under the direct protection of Quintus Augustus.

Thankfully, those plans had not been required to be put into action and the man who had threatened them had been quietly dealt with. He hadn't even told his wife what he'd decided on - she would probably not have been pleased, though had they needed to enact that contingency plan, he was sure she would have acquiesced.

"Well, if you think any of the house slaves would be suitable, you may have them, or I will come with you to the market. Not because you need my advice or anything, but just because I'm your brother and would like to accompany you." She did not need a man to act on her behalf as an unemancipated woman did, she was an ex-Vestal and that came with certain freedoms and privileges that she would have been used to for the past thirty years.

Was it really so long?!

"You and Horatia will certainly be the first women to make use of the baths. There is also going to be a library attached - Horatia's idea."

 

@Chevi

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"Well, if you think any of the house slaves would be suitable, you may have them, or I will come with you to the market. Not because you need my advice or anything, but just because I'm your brother and would like to accompany you."

"I will consider it" Calpurnia nodded with an amused smile. She was used to being treated differently because she was one of the Vestals, but it still amused her that her own brother would pay such keen attention to her standing as an emancipated woman. And she did nope they would spend time together, although shopping for slaves was probably not her first choice.

"You and Horatia will certainly be the first women to make use of the baths. There is also going to be a library attached - Horatia's idea."

"I knew I like her for a reason" Calpurnia laughed. "I do enjoy a good library."

She also enjoyed the wine and the food, taking a moment to stay in comfortable silence with her brother. There were many things to talk about, some subjects more important than others.

"I do have to warn you... I plan on staying for quite a while. It is the emperor's task to offer me a suitable husband, but I doubt he will get around to it soon. And I won't guarantee I'll accept them."

@Sharpie

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Aulus let out a laugh. "The Emperor - the new Emperor - is only young and isn't married himself, yet. I don't think you have anything to worry about there, and I daresay you wouldn't be the first retired Vestal to veto a Pontifex Maximus' selection. I hope you do stay for a while, the house is quite big enough that we won't be falling over one another - and I promise you that I have no intention whatsoever of questioning you every time you want to go out, or going over your accounts. Although, if you do want a hand with your accounts, I can lend you Xanthos when I don't need him. And if you want anything else, you only have to ask."

Even with two women with patrician tastes, Aulus had more than enough money to satisfy their spending habits, especially as Horatia's expenditure was relatively modest, being mostly books and the occasional length of fabric for a stola or palla.

"Although if he chooses some vastly wealthy Senator who looks as if he's about to drop dead of exertion just by standing, I might have something to say about it," he added with a grin.

 

@Chevi

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"The Emperor - the new Emperor - is only young and isn't married himself, yet. I don't think you have anything to worry about there, and I daresay you wouldn't be the first retired Vestal to veto a Pontifex Maximus' selection."

Calpurnia smiled. She knew the process would take a while. A retired Vestal was a huge honor for a family, but she was somewhat past her prime child-bearing age, so whoever married her would have to be a widower at least. And most older senators that would fit the bill did not interest her at all. Sometimes Calpurnia wondered if she would ever get married, and found that she would probably be content either way.

"I hope you do stay for a while, the house is quite big enough that we won't be falling over one another - and I promise you that I have no intention whatsoever of questioning you every time you want to go out, or going over your accounts. Although, if you do want a hand with your accounts, I can lend you Xanthos when I don't need him. And if you want anything else, you only have to ask."

"I appreciate that." she nodded with a smile. She could do her accounts, but it didn't hurt to delegate whenever one had the chance.

"Although if he chooses some vastly wealthy Senator who looks as if he's about to drop dead of exertion just by standing, I might have something to say about it,"

"Brother!" she raised her eyebrows in mock surprise "Surely you are not saying I should wish for my darling husband's death for monetary gain?"

@Sharpie

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"Oh Juno, no - I merely meant that you don't deserve to marry some ancient decrepit Senator who's a breath away from his funeral pyre," Aulus said, unable to keep from laughing. "Unless you particularly want to marry said ancient Senator, and inherit everything, in which case, who am I to stop you Though in that case, he probably has sons who will dispute the will, which will drag everything through the law courts for a decade or more to come and leave you with nothing but a few quadrantes and a couple of ancient arthritic slaves."

It felt good to be able to relax with his sister, and to tease her in the fashion that older brothers are wont to do.

"So, do you have any plans for your retirement, other than fending off unsuitable suitors foisted on you by our esteemed Titus Augustus when he gets around to it?"

 

@Chevi

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"Oh Juno, no - I merely meant that you don't deserve to marry some ancient decrepit Senator who's a breath away from his funeral pyre,"

"That I agree with" she grinned, raising her glass and splashing a few drops out in libation. If she did marry, the husband was going to be to her liking.

"Unless you particularly want to marry said ancient Senator, and inherit everything, in which case, who am I to stop you Though in that case, he probably has sons who will dispute the will, which will drag everything through the law courts for a decade or more to come and leave you with nothing but a few quadrantes and a couple of ancient arthritic slaves."

They both laughed. Calpurnia was happy to be in her brother's company; they shared the same kind of humor.

"You" Calpurnia arched an amused eyebrow at her brother "Have really put some thought into this."

Roman law was never easy to navigate.

"So, do you have any plans for your retirement, other than fending off unsuitable suitors foisted on you by our esteemed Titus Augustus when he gets around to it?"

"No particular plans" she shrugged "I am just... looking forward to things I have never gotten around to. Socializing more... maybe a bit of travel... Wearing colors." She grinned. "I am sure I'll find something to occupy myself. I could always just buy another barbarian chieftain and free them, if things get boring..." That scandal was still making the rounds in some parts of Roman society.

@Sharpie

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"You have really put some thought into this."

Aulus gave an apologetic one-shouldered shrug. "I'd be a poor sort of politician if I didn't think of scenarios and plan for them, however likely or unlikely they are to come to pass. And I know what lawyers are like, bleeding estates dry for their own gain and damn the heirs."

He nodded as she made mention of her own plans. "I daresay you will want to travel down to Baiae to visit Mother and Father - though I think Father will want to come up to Rome to see Titus take his toga virilis. As for colours, you look very fetching in blue. I shall array you in all the colours of the rainbow if you wish, you have only to ask. Find yourself a body slave and take her shopping with you. I expect you to return laden with fabric in as many colours as you can find." He could empathise with her, but only to a degree; Senators likewise had a uniform of sorts, the white tunic and toga with their broad purple stripes, though they could wear whatever they wished in their day-to-day lives.

"How is your barbarian chieftain working out, anyway? Something Calpurnius Eppitacus, isn't it?"

 

@Chevi

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"I'd be a poor sort of politician if I didn't think of scenarios and plan for them, however likely or unlikely they are to come to pass. And I know what lawyers are like, bleeding estates dry for their own gain and damn the heirs."

Calpurnia chuckled. Her brother really was consul material. He planned for everything, he was shrewd and clever, and he was not going to take any bullshit from anyone. She was lucky he was on her side, in this whole marriage issue. Otherwise, he could have been a formidable opponent to deal with.

"I daresay you will want to travel down to Baiae to visit Mother and Father - though I think Father will want to come up to Rome to see Titus take his toga virilis."

"I am looking forward to his visit, then" Calpunia noted lightly. That was one trip she was not necessarily looking forward to. She would have to, eventually, but she had always gotten along with her brother better.

"As for colours, you look very fetching in blue. I shall array you in all the colours of the rainbow if you wish, you have only to ask. Find yourself a body slave and take her shopping with you. I expect you to return laden with fabric in as many colours as you can find." 

"I will definitely take you up on that" she grinned. Oh, that trip she was looking forward to. She had thirty years of fashion to catch up on. She would have to pick a body slave that kept up.

"How is your barbarian chieftain working out, anyway? Something Calpurnius Eppitacus, isn't it?"

"That man would have been wasted as a slave" Calpurnia nodded with a smirk. She did not regret her controversial decision. "I have not seen much of him lately, but we keep in touch. He is becoming fond of some of the finer things in Rome." She waved a hand. She had done what she had done because she recognized character, and did not like the way he had been treated. Even if he had been an enemy. "If you become consul... what are your plans for after? Would you move out of Rome again?"

@Sharpie

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"That man would have been wasted as a slave"

Aulus raised an eyebrow. "I'm not sure Quintus Augustus thought so - but then, I think his value was probably more in the symbolism than in his intrinsic value in the marketplace."

"If I become consul... Well, I have Quintus Augustus' support so it's almost a given, Jupiter willing. As for my plans for afterwards, a great deal depends on the security of various of our border provinces, and on what the Augustus has in mind. A proconsular appointment somewhere is not beyond the realm of possibility, after all, and I have held a propraetor governorship recently."

There was no real upward progression after consul, but ex-consuls went on to govern some of the more troublesome provinces, and often returned for subsequent consulships. But so much depended on the will of the emperor, and Aulus was grateful, again, that Quintus had reassured him that his loyalty was known and unquestioned. He had no reason to ever be disloyal to Quintus, especially after that reassurance.

"And what are your own plans now - apart from arraying yourself in all the colours of the rainbow like Iris?" he asked lightly, reaching for some olives from the provided refreshments.

 

@Chevi

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"I'm not sure Quintus Augustus thought so - but then, I think his value was probably more in the symbolism than in his intrinsic value in the marketplace."

Calpurnia knew that releasing Eppitacus from slavery had not earned her a lot of good will - but her standing as a Vestal at the time had protected her from the harsher criticisms. And in retrospect, her decision did not bring about any great catastrophe. The man had been a lot smarter than that. She smiled at her brother over the edge of her cup.

"If I become consul... Well, I have Quintus Augustus' support so it's almost a given, Jupiter willing. As for my plans for afterwards, a great deal depends on the security of various of our border provinces, and on what the Augustus has in mind. A proconsular appointment somewhere is not beyond the realm of possibility, after all, and I have held a propraetor governorship recently."

A border province. Politically advantageous, but as for a personal life, not exactly the best choice. Calpurnia nodded. It was too early to go into any details about what he would do if he was sent to Britannia, or Judea, or Libya. Would he take his children and wife along? For how long? It was no use musing about it until something materialized. 

"And what are your own plans now - apart from arraying yourself in all the colours of the rainbow like Iris?" 

Calpurnia grinned at her brother. "Maybe I'll govern a province too. I think I'd be good at it." No one would disobey a Vestal anyway... "Or I'll go make use of your library. Maybe find myself some charity work to do."

@Sharpie

 

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"There's a reason they don't allow women to take part in politics. You'd probably be terrifyingly efficient at it," Aulus returned, lifting his winecup in a silent toast to his sister. "You are more than welcome to make use of my library - and when you've exhausted that, doubtless Horatia will be happy to share hers with you as well."

Though he didn't dare to think what Calpurnia would make of the military treatises Aulus had (and had a sneaking suspicion that Horatia had too).

"Charity work of some sort might be good - if you have any need for anything, even if it's to stop over-zealous Senators from interfering, just let me know." He was about to ask what sort of thing she had in mind but didn't think she really had an idea yet. That would come, in time - for now, she had only just left the Atrium Vestae, there was no need to have everything planned out in meticulous detail just yet.

 

@Chevi

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"There's a reason they don't allow women to take part in politics. You'd probably be terrifyingly efficient at it. You are more than welcome to make use of my library - and when you've exhausted that, doubtless Horatia will be happy to share hers with you as well."

Calpurnia raised her own cup too with an amused look. It was good to have a brother who appreciated her talent, and her desire for learning. He just as easily could have dismissed it. But he knew better, and he had married well. Calpurnia would add her own library to the collection soon.

"Charity work of some sort might be good - if you have any need for anything, even if it's to stop over-zealous Senators from interfering, just let me know."

"I will." she nodded "And if you hear of a cause worth of attention... maybe something that is not yet in fashion among the senators, please let me know."

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"The only cause I know of right now is the Augusta's plan to build some sort of orphanage or home for the children left orphaned by the civil war," Aulus said. "Admittedly, the youngest of them would be twelve or so now, so I think the plan might expand to cover any and all orphans in the city, which is not an insignificant number."

He wondered, idly, how many of them might have found themselves sold as slaves - might still do so - if there was no relative to claim them.

"I can certainly pass on word that you might be interested in helping, if that is the case. Or maybe you have your own ideas?"

If she did not, no doubt she and Horatia would put their heads together and be able to cook something up between them. Gods knew there were enough potential causes within the city to furnish both of them with enough work for a decade or more!

 

@Chevi

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"The only cause I know of right now is the Augusta's plan to build some sort of orphanage or home for the children left orphaned by the civil war,"

"Really?" Calpurnia arched an eyebrow. She was a quick thinker, especially with numbers. The civil war had been a while ago. Those children...

"Admittedly, the youngest of them would be twelve or so now, so I think the plan might expand to cover any and all orphans in the city, which is not an insignificant number."

"That makes sense." She nodded with a chuckle. Aulus had landed on the same conclusion she had. Rome had no shortage of poverty, and in poverty, children often got left alone. Calpurnia had no experience with them at all - to be expected from a Vestal - but she liked the idea. "That sounds like a worthy cause."

"I can certainly pass on word that you might be interested in helping, if that is the case. Or maybe you have your own ideas?"

"Well... I like the idea of helping those that are the most vulnerable. Orphans, widows... maybe girls pregnant out of wedlock?" Wouldn't that be a thing to see, a Vestal doing that?

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"Well, that would be an interesting choice for an ex-Vestal," Aulus said dryly. "I can see how that might appeal to you, though - and I don't think that is an area the Augusta has considered." He crossed one leg over the other, leaning back in his seat. "What sort of thing would you consider doing for them?"

And what sort of future would the children have, born out of wedlock and with no paterfamilias willing to take them up, he wondered, recalling the moment he had first held his own son Titus, thus bestowing on him all the rights of a Roman citizen. He had been unable to do the same for his daughter Calpurnia, although he knew that his father had done so as the paterfamilias - really, it should have been Tiberius who took Titus up, but Tiberius and Aurelia spent their days at the villa at Baiae, only coming to Rome for very special occasions - they had come back when Aulus had returned from Britannia, and again when the family had returned from Raetia. He suspected that Tiberius would make the journey to see Aulus take his seat as Consul, and when Titus took his toga virilis.

"I don't expect you to have a fully-hatched plan right now, but if you want advice or help that I can give, you have first claim on my time after Horatia."

And if she needed funds for anything, he would help there, too.

 

@Chevi

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"Well, that would be an interesting choice for an ex-Vestal. I can see how that might appeal to you, though - and I don't think that is an area the Augusta has considered. What sort of thing would you consider doing for them?"

"I don't know" Calpurnia admitted; the thought had just occurred to her. "Shelter, maybe?" It depended on who the girls were, and how angry their families would be with them. Some of them would probably be plebes who could learn a trade of their own. She'd have to think more about it. She knew it was an outrageous idea, judging from her brother's mild-mannered reaction. She liked it.

"I don't expect you to have a fully-hatched plan right now, but if you want advice or help that I can give, you have first claim on my time after Horatia."

"I really appreciate it, brother" she nodded with a smile. "I know I have said this before, and it was not a given... but it's good to be home."

The rest, she had time to figure out.

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