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A hair's breadth


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On that crisp morning, as Eos drove her chariot across the sky and painted it a pale pink that slowly turned into blue, Artemon had briefly admired his reflection on a still puddle of water as he made his way home after a long night of toil. This contemplation had allowed him to confirm what he had been suspecting for a few days now.

His hair was getting too long.

The problem with that was that it would soak up sweat like a sponge, leaving him to feel as though he had dunked his head in a mix of clay and oil. It made for very uncomfortable working and for a very unkempt appearance. And that would simply not do! Gallus would never increase his pay with him looking like that.

So he had gone home, taken a short nap, eaten some stale bread and collected a few coins from the literal hole in the wall where he kept a figurine of Sobek to guard his hard-earned savings, and with this money Artemon marched out again, keen on finding a barber that wouldn't scalp him. One of the men at the warehouse, Menenius or something equally uninspired his name was, had mentioned one a couple of weeks prior that he claimed to be happy with. 'Not cheap', Menenius had said, 'but when he's done you come out feeling like the emperor!'  And that was just what Artemon needed - a mood boost and looking like the shrewd businessman he was deep down.

Walking through the busy streets jogged his memory, and the young man found himself standing by the entrance to one Marcus Barbatius' shop. After a quick, nervous look at the contents of his money pouch followed by an equally quick and nervous prayer that it would be enough, Artemon entered the shop, announcing his presence with a greeting.

"Salve! I come to this establishment at a friend's recommendation." (Fine, Menenius was just a chatty coworker, but the barber didn't need to know that. Maybe he'd even give him a referral discount!) "As you can see, my hair is in need of being put back in its place." Artemon eyed the other man expectantly, like a puppy wondering if it's going to get a treat. "Could you take care of that now or should I come back later?"

@Atrice

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It was still morning, not noon yet, but the shop had been open for a while now. Marcus had had the door open and the shutters to the window open too and there had been a few clients in already. He was just busy cleansing a razor, while his trusted slave  Manus had been sent upstairs to fetch some more wine for himself and the clients. With his back to the door, he didn’t hear the next client until the younger man spoke – but then he also spoke for a long time!

 Marcus turned around, razor in his hand, facing the other. Clients were always welcome, but this one came barging in like he already owned the place. Yet judging by his clothes, he probably wasn’t that wealthy. But not a slave or a poor person either.

 He was young, or at least appeared to be, with such smooth skin, there was barely anything to shave there. But then the other didn’t want that, he wanted to get his hair done instead. Marcus nodded, “Welcome! I actually do have time now, so please, enter and have a seat.” He said with a friendly smile and tone, looking the other over more closely, “It is just the hair you want me to take a look at then?” As if it could be anything else. The other looked like a youth and almost acted like one too. Or at least he was reminded of some of the young Patricians who came here, who also had nothing to shave, but still thought the world was at their feet.

 But he said nothing about that. Instead went to the always locked chest, unlocked it and placed the razor back in its place and picked up a pair of scissors instead.

@Liv

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The gods were surely on Artemon's side that day, seeing it as this purportedly very skilled barber could in fact accommodate him then and there. He looked very professional, at any rate, holding his razor so confidently. Artemon felt more at ease almost immediately and smiled back at the other man, paying no mind to the scrutiny of his near-nonexistent facial hair.

"Yes, just the hair," he confirmed, taking the seat offered to him as the barber turned round to retrieve something. Who would have thought getting a haircut could be so exciting? He would definitely have to tell Iophon all about it when he went back! Overwhelmed by a surge of boldness come out of nowhere, Artemon made an unusual decision. "I usually cut my hair the same every time, but today I'll leave it to your expert judgement!" An experienced man like Barbatius had probably seen enough faces and hair types to know what fit one best.

It was perhaps unfortunate that Artemon didn't go in for a shave, as that would have kept him far quieter than a haircut could hope to achieve. "My friend who told me about you also works at a warehouse. Do you get many customers like us or is it more of a mixed bag?" If Marcus Barbatius had wealthy customers... and Artemon happened to come across one of them at the shop... and have the chance to discuss business... that might just be the lucky break he needed!

@Atrice

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Just the hair. As if the younger man had anything else that needed tending to. Perhaps his eyes. They were weird. But no need to mention that. The man sat down, then talked about how he usually cut his hair and now he’d leave it to Marcus, “I hope I won’t disappoint you then.” He said with a small smile and looked up to see Manus returning from upstairs with a jar of wine and freshly washed cups. He set it all down quietly and continued to, silently, prepare for this new client while Marcus gave the client his attention.

 “I usually tend to wealthier clients.” Marcus replied to his client's question, walking around the chair, looking at the man’s hair as if he really needed to consider what to do. The younger man didn’t seem to be the brightest of the bunch. Which might not be a bad thing, he thought to himself. He couldn’t help but also take in the man’s skin, it was so fair, almost like a perfect piece of parchment or a freshly made marble statue. So perfect that it was almost begging to be ruined… but he gave the client a smile instead, as he stopped in front of the chair, “So, before I touch your hair, I hope you have the coin to pay for it.”

@Liv

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Hah! So Marcus Barbatius had rich patrons; just the sort of thing Artemon liked to hear. He beamed at the other man, managing to look even dafter than usual. "Oh no, I have complete faith in your ability!" After all, if it was good enough for a prosperous clientele, it was certainly good enough for him. A brief interrogation floated through his mind - would Barbatius share the identity of some of his illustrious customers? Artemon's mouth opened to voice the thought, but he closed it again a second later. No, first he had to earn the barber's trust and then he could ask questions, maybe even form a successful business partnership. He sank into the chair, pleased with his reasoning.

The question caught him unaware, but Artemon quickly straightened up and nodded, grinning back at the man in hopes of seeming more trustworthy.

Here came the moment of truth. Fidgeting with his ratty money pouch, Artemon felt the coins through the worn leather before presenting it to Barbatius with a nervous motion. "You tell me!" What if the barber told him it wasn't enough? Well, at least there weren't any other customers around to witness Artemon's humiliation. And he would have a word with Menenius too - just how much was that sod getting paid if he could afford Barbatius' skills?

He glanced up at the barber, eyes bulging in expectation of his verdict. Hopefully his prices hadn't increased in the last few days.

@Atrice

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The other seemed so excited about everything - how could anyone live like that? But Marcus was good at being friendly and charming or at least appearing to do so, even if he didn't like his client. And he slowly came to the conclusion that he didn't. Still, work meant money and money was what he needed, always. He had to keep up appearances, after all. The other said he had faith in Marcus' abilities and Marcus revealed he had wealthy clients. The other easily produced his money pouch then, offering it Marcus, who took it and opened it to see what was inside. Not bad. Marcus set it down on the table next to him.

"It is just enough for the service you're asking for." Marcus replied. Really he was overcharging, but if he wasn't going to cut the man, he would have to do something else. Since the other didn't know the cost of Marcus' services and didn't know what exactly he was asking for, well, why not say he needed all that the other had? 

"Would you like your hair rinsed too? Scented, perhaps? I'm sure you're a ladies' man, and they enjoy nice scents." Marcus then continued, considering which scent he'd pick for the other. Maybe a poor one. Not the most expensive ones. Maybe something local and easy to produce. Like roses. He picked up a glass vial with a pink liquid inside, made from the flowers of roses. Very feminine. Perfect. He opened it and presented it to the client, "How about this?" 

@Liv

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Artemon's shoulders drooped with relief as the barber pronounced his funds sufficient, and a moment later he was retrieving his pouch with a nod of assent and a look reminiscent of a pleased cat. It wasn't by any means a paltry sum for him - yet there were times in life when you had to fake it till you made it. He therefore decided to frame this expensive haircut as an investment in his future.

"Oh yes, that would be great!" he agreed, a cocky smile playing on his lips for a few seconds as he pondered the question. "Well, you're not wrong. They do like them." Maybe that was why Artemon had the worst luck with ladies: he didn't smell good enough. Fortunately Barbatius could help with that. Artemon leant forward to sniff the vial in front of him, recognising the scent right away. "To be honest, this isn't quite what I had in mind..." was his sheepish admission as he avoided eye contact. "Do you have something a bit..." 

A bit...

More masculine? Sharper? Crisper?

Now wasn't there something he had heard recently about a barber and lemons? Artemon squinted, trying to jog his memory. Of course! At Alexius' party! One of his guests was looking for their barber friend. Too bad Artemon hadn't caught the boy's name so he could ask Barbatius; he would have to try a different, subtler approach.

He looked up at the barber again, pretending to have thought hard about what he wanted. "A bit... fresher? You know, like lemons?"

@Atrice

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Marcus was surprised that his client accepted, that Marcus was just going to take all that was in the pouch. But on the other hand, it also confirmed his suspicions of the other. He wasn't the brightest of the bunch. It was almost amusing, that Marcus could say or do so many things and the other would not have a clue. Wouldn't he be surprised if Marcus suddenly took a slice of him? But, he acted politely, offering the other a scent for his hair and skin, way too feminine of course, but that was part of the fun. The other seemed thrilled about it, until he sniffed the vial and said it wasn't what he had in mind.

That displeased Marcus a bit. What was that, disagreeing with a professional like Marcus? He stepped back, waiting ever so patiently for the other to find the right words (it took a while), until the client finally came up with a scent.

"Lemons?" Marcus asked and put the vial with the rose scent back onto the shelf and picked one with lemon. He glanced at the client, wondering how he came up with that scent, he didn't seem like this was a regular thing he did, after all... "I do have this." He let the other inhale the fresh and slightly sweet scent of the lemon, before he pulled it back, meeting the other's eyes, "But... it would require more than what's in that purse." Maybe the client would have to pay... with blood? That was an idea. He felt eyes upon him and turned his head, seeing that his slave looked down the moment Marcus turned his head. Manus knew him too well. Maybe he'd need to be replaced soon.

@Liv

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Artemon bit his lip at the barber's hesitation, wondering if he'd said the wrong thing. Maybe this Barbatius fellow had that condition that made a person's skin break out in hives and rashes when they touched something. Fortunately, he was spared from supposing any further when the other man presented another vial for him to smell. Ah! There it was! He had never been rich enough to buy a lemon and know what it tasted like, but he recognised the scent. Before Artemon could squeal his approval, the vial disappeared from under his nose.

"Oh..." was his disappointed reply, although it hardly came as a surprise. The haircut was already pricey, of course any add-ons would be too. Artemon's eyes met the barber's and, sensing no openness to haggling, gave a resigned nod. "Er, what about pine?" Was that cheap enough? He had no idea. Trying to dissipate the awkwardness in the air, Artemon eagerly launched into small talk. "You know, lemons remind me of Alexandria. The people I worked for shipped mostly wheat, but every now and then we'd get other wares coming from the east. Have you ever been to Alexandria? It's really an amazing city!" he chatted away, casting a curious glance at the very quiet slave that was busy staring at the floor. Perhaps the poor lad wasn't allowed to speak - he need not be concerned, for Artemon would talk for the both of them.

@Atrice

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The client was clearly disappointed and he didn't even try to hide it. But Marcus didn't want to waste the lemon oil on this one, he had a purse with coin, but that was it. He clearly was not wealthy and clearly not quite right in the head either. Sadly, he didn't want to give more than what he'd already given, so instead he suggested another scent. Pine? It was easier to produce, not quite so expensive. But pine? No one asked for pine! Usually Marcus would mix it with other scents and then it would be nice, but not alone. Far too spicy in the nostrils and it certainly wasn't going to attract any ladies, if that's what his client was after. Even less so than the rose! 

But before he could answer, the other began talking about Alexandria and how amazing it was. That's until he stopped and looked at Manus, who knew the look Marcus gave him moments ago and knew better than to interfere.

"I have not been to Alexandria, no... I have never been so far south. But how lucky you are, to have travelled such a distance." Marcus said, "I do have pine, but I wouldn't recommend it. Maybe you are not a ladies' man after all. You prefer men? Maybe this would suit you..." He picked a vial of a strong basil scent, letting the other inhale that, "But I really do need to get started on your hair. Else we will discuss scents until the sun goes down." And I won't have another client today and you're not worth that much.

@Liv

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A smug grin blossomed on Artemon's lips at the barber's admission of not being well-travelled. "Indeed I am lucky! Not everybody has had the fortune of being an important part of a successful enterprise," he gloated in soft tones, bringing a cocky hand to his chest and patting it a few times. "I hope you are able to visit it in your lifetime, my friend," he added with heartfelt conviction. Everybody deserved to see that city so great, second only to Rome.

"Uh, I am a ladies' man!" he interjected, his feathers suddenly a little ruffled. "And a gentlemen's man!" Why miss out by restricting yourself to one or the other? Still peeved, Artemon sniffed at the new vial, taking a good whiff of the scent before proclaiming his acceptance of Barbatius' suggestion. "Yes, this one will do." It was a pleasant herby fragrance, although it faintly reminded him of food. 

No matter. He had come here to take care of his hair, like the barber pointed out. "Right. So I usually get it cut short, but not too short if you know what I mean?" Artemon tried to demonstrate with his hands, failing miserably at depicting anything beyond a toddler's attempt at invisible pottery. A new flash of brilliance struck him - maybe he could kill two birds with one stone... "There was this lad I met with hair just like how I want mine. I tried asking him about it, but he didn't really speak." This was one of the biggest lies Artemon had ever told, because that boy at Alexius' party had had an absolutely unappealing hairstyle. "Did he come to you, perhaps?" He got comfortable in his seat, waiting for Barbatius to start snipping away.

@Atrice

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He liked to boast, didn’t he? Patiently Marcus let him talk and then the other naturally hoped Marcus would also get the chance to visit Alexandria, “I hope so too. Who knows what the future may bring?” He replied, thinking it might be a place to go to, should things go wrong here in Rome. From what he knew, Alexandria was another large city in the Empire. One could hide there, as well as one could in Rome.

 They continued their odd conversation about scents and the other barely noticed how Marcus shot an insult his way. Instead he said he enjoyed both women and men. Of course he did. Marcus did too, but he didn’t enjoy them so much because he was attracted to both genders. Both bled the same blood. And both could satisfy him otherwise, give him the release he wanted. Gender did not matter so much. Beneath the surface, everyone bled the same.

 At least the other accepted the scent of basil and then they would move on to the hair. The client explained how he usually had his hair and Marcus nodded, listening… also as the other went on about how he met another guy, with hair how he wanted it. One who did not speak. Marcus tilted his head. You met people unable to speak, of course, but not that often. Marcus had met one. At the scene where he killed that girl. He looked up at the other, when he asked if the guy who didn’t speak, had come to him.

 “Perhaps.” Marcus replied thoughtfully, as he slipped a comb through the other man’s hair. The guy got away, that evening… “Is he younger than you? With dark hair, longer than yours? And… with a collar around his neck?” What a small world, if it was the same boy. Perhaps this was useful. Perhaps he could find the young man. And end him, so he wouldn’t somehow let someone know, that he’d encountered Marcus at the crime scene. Or maybe he already did, and that's how his client knew. He'd even come to see Marcus. He'd even been advised to come here, or so he said. Something wasn't right here, suddenly. Marcus finished combing the hair and went to unlock the chest of razors and scissors he had, while considering what to do, should his suspicions prove to be true.

@Liv

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Who knew but the gods? Artemon shrugged, completely oblivious to the effect the motion could have had on his haircut had Barbatius already begun. Well, maybe his witch employer had some spell to predict the future, but he hardly dared think about it - what if Sobek took offence and cast misfortune upon him? What if crocodiles appeared in the Tiber? Frightened at the things his brain was coming up with, Artemon shook his head and vowed never to tempt Tyche in such a way again.

Ah, now it was happening! His hair was thick, but the barber combed through it effortlessly; clearly he had done this many times before. Artemon hummed, pleased, before entering a state of slight panic at the questions Barbatius was now posing. So many of them! Clearing his throat to gain a few seconds and collect his thoughts, Artemon launched into his reply. "Yeah, he looked younger than me, although I couldn't tell you his age," he admitted, squinting as he recalled the young man's appearance. Definitely younger but not by more than a handful of years, he reckoned. "And yes, he had very dark hair. I suppose it was a bit longer than mine, now that I think about it." Terribly unfashionable it had been, too!

He hadn't noticed no collar, but then again, he had been more focused on his growling stomach at the time. "Don't remember if he had one." What master would let his slave wander off to a party, though? Perhaps the same who let the witch run her business. Somebody very clueless, obviously; Artemon's superior intellect could easily discern that. "Is he your friend, perhaps? Someone at the party said this boy had a barber friend. Of course, it could very well be someone else!" he chirruped, backtracking in case were not friends but rather sworn enemies.

The combing session was over, much to Artemon's disappointment. Oh well, it had been good while it had lasted. Now, the real action was about to begin! Artemon shuffled in his seat, as excited as though he were watching the races.

@Atrice

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Marcus picked a pair of scissors from the chest and locked it again, before hanging the key around his neck, as he always did. So that no slaves would get it and manage to open the chest and get a knife of their own. Aculia, who was his cook, among other things, was allowed a knife, for how else could she cut things for the food? But she was never to use it for anything else. Years ago, when that slave of his cut his own throat to escape slavery under Marcus Barbatius, he'd made sure to let the slaves know how to handle blades when owned by him. If Aculia did anything to herself or to Marcus, with her knife... one of his other slaves would suffer under it. And none of his slaves wanted that. So she behaved. And so did the rest.

He returned to his client, who answered his questions. The boy who didn't speak was younger than he, with very dark hair and longer than his client's hair. It might be the same. But the other did not know if the boy was a slave, it seemed. Well he had taken the collar off that night, to try and beat Marcus with it. Maybe he had not gained a new one. He said nothing, but listened, while he looked at the other man's face and hair to decide where to begin. Then the other said the boy had a barber friend.

"I don't have a lot of friends." Marcus simply replied and stood behind the client to cut hair from the back of his head first, "But I did meet a boy like that, once. He wasn't very friendly towards me. But he must have friends. You spoke of a party?" He said, snipping away little bits of hair. Did his client know something he was not supposed to know? That was not good. His head began to throb a bit, like it often did, when he was becoming agitated. 

@Liv

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What a bore life must be without friends! Artemon raised a sympathetic eyebrow and would have given the man a look full of pity if he had been able to see him, but people didn't have eyes in the back of their skulls and even if they did they would be obscured by hair anyway. Then again, it made sense for Barbatius not to have many friends - they would all want a free shave or haircut! Artemon was well familiar with these parasites: they had accosted him in Egypt and they still accosted him in Ostia and Rome, always looking for freebies.

The tangent his mind had gone off on was cut short by the barber's words, the rhythmical snip snip snip of the blade their background music. Not even the slightest tug! Artemon was impressed with Barbatius' skill. "Um, yes. So a few days ago I was looking for my brother, and when I went down to ask my neighbour Alexius if he'd seen him, he was throwing a party, so I decided to stay." He smiled at the memory; despite it being the shortest and most poorly supplied party he had ever attended, it had still been fun. Alexius was a good entertainer.

"There were quite a few people there! Some were our neighbours, like the fruit lady and that doctor, but the others I didn't know. I don't know how he and Alexius became acquainted, he's really not that good-looking," Artemon concluded with a frown. Sure, Alexius' reputation preceded him, but he could have his pick of the comely denizens of Rome! Why he would go for that scowling kid was beyond Artemon.

"If you would like to make more friends, maybe I can ask my neighbour when he's next throwing a party and tell you? And then you can come too?" he suggested, certain that nobody would mind an extra guest. After all, this Barbatius guy seemed quite alright.

@Atrice

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He did not consider his life boring at all and he didn’t really need friends. People who were close to him were also at a risk of finding out secrets they should never learn about… secrets that might just turn life very sour for Marcus. No, he didn’t want that. He wanted to keep on living like he’d done ever since he came to Rome. Shave people, cut their hair, pamper them… during the bright hours of the day. And when the sun set, he’d make them bleed for his own pleasure and satisfaction. That’s all he wanted. And as long as he had no friends besides Titus, who knew about this, everything was fine.

 So it was a problem, that there might be some who knew. And who’d told his current client to come here to see him. But Marcus played along, claiming the mute might be his friend – although not friendly - and asked more into how his client met him. The other easily answered. Spoke of the party and his neighbor Alexius. That rang a bell somehow, he’d heard that name before. Not because he was a client, but there was something else… the name was not unknown to him. He would have to find out more. Meanwhile he cut the man’s hair quietly, and the man continued to talk. A fruit lady? A doctor? This was all very worrying!

 Then suddenly he was halfway invited to a party and he shook his head, “I don’t really like… parties.” He said in almost a hiss, while he snipped another piece of hair away… in his mind imagining it was something else. He kept cutting the hair though. He let the cold steel of the scissors run over the client’s ear and then closed his eyes briefly, tried to collect himself. There was something very much off here! And if he hurt the man, the conversation might turn out differently. Right now, he just wanted to know more… “Where does your partying friend live? And what… is your name?”

@Liv

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The barber did not like parties, he said. Artemon gasped as his eyebrows shot up and nearly disappeared into the curls Barbatius hadn't got round to yet. How could one not like parties?! Where there was - most of the time - food, drink and merriment?! He started to shake his head in disapproval, stopping as the cool metal of the scissors touched his skin and he remembered where he was and why he was there. It would be foolish to ruin this very expensive haircut with a thoughtless motion.

"Maybe you haven't been to a good one yet!" he countered gaily, eager to change the other man's mind. "Tell you what, I will check with Alexius when the next party will be and then I'll come and invite you and we can go together," Artemon explained without so much as a pause for air. "And then when other guests ask you who you are, you can just say 'ah, I came with Artemon!" And then Barbatius would see for himself that parties could be really fun. "We live in an insula on the Esquiline. I live at the very top with my brother and Alexius lives downstairs with his son. It's a nice place!" Sure, it was a bit shabby here and there, but it wasn't like he and Iophon could afford much else. "Not as nice as this, of course," he waved his hand in a sweeping motion, "but it's cosy! People are nice and there haven't been any fires yet!" Yes, that clinched it; his new friend Barbatius should really come and visit.

@Atrice

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It was true, that he didn’t like parties. He never really did. Too many people, too many irritating people, getting on his nerves, making him want to hurt them all. It was better to just avoid such situations. Because of course he knew that society didn’t want him to hurt people. He didn’t know anyone who did that or who might enjoy it, besides Titus at the brothel. Marcus was alone with his strange addiction, he knew that. So he steered clear of parties. Just to stay safe. And his business here kept him safe, so far. But something wasn’t right.

 The other suddenly began shaking his head, so that Marcus almost cut him without planning to, but the sharp side of the scissors only grazed the skin, before the other also realized what he was doing. Then he began rambling about parties. How Marcus had not bene to a good one. He would invite Marcus to one and apparently, his name was Artemon. What a strange name. But then again, the man was strange. He continued to share where he and this Alexius lived and that Alexius had a son. Marcus stayed quiet, continued cutting the hair and listened intently to remember everything.

 “It sounds like you enjoy it there.” Marcus said, “But, I don’t think it’s a place for people like me. No offense.” He moved to stand in front of Artemon, to cut the sides and the bangs, to make sure everything was even… but as he stood there, he thought that it would be so easy to just get rid of this person, so he wouldn’t tell anyone about Marcus… “If you close your eyes, you’ll avoid hair in them.” He then suggested and waited for it to happen. Inhaling a small breath. He could feel Manus’ eyes on him from the doorway to the stairs. His slave never said anything out loud, but Marcus knew that he did not approve of Marcus’ obsessions either. On the other hand, he never told anyone. Marcus gave his slave a look and then nodded towards the door. Wanting Manus to close it. Silently the slave moved to do as he was ordered, he was a very understanding one.

@Liv

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Artemon had just begun nodding in response when he caught himself again. The problem with being a naturally very expressive person was that it was hard to remember not to act his usual way whilst sitting in a chair with a barber's blades mere millimetres from his flesh. "No problem!" he chirped, trying to sit very still as Barbatius' body came into view - he did not want to leave the shop with lopsided hair. "What would happen to the Reds if everyone liked the Whites, eh?" For once Artemon managed to stop a shrug in time, and he beamed with pride before acknowledging his new barber friend was probably not used to socialising with the, ah, not wealthy or comfortable. "I understand. You prefer to make friends with people of higher station and heavier purses. From one businessman to another, I cannot fault you for it!" His blue eyes shone with seriousness and he would have clasped Barbatius' hands for emphasis had they been free rather than about to snuff the life out of his stubborn and overgrown curls.

He was good at obeying, and so he closed his eyes like the other man suggested. Ending up with an eyelash in your eye was painful enough that he had no desire to find out if it would be any worse with hair. "Speaking of business, it must have taken you some time to build your clientele. How long have you been established here?" Hopefully this line of questioning would segue into an opportunity to enquire about patronage and investments; yet before Artemon could formulate the next question in his head, a voice coming from outside interrupted his thoughts unceremoniously. 

"Hello? Is this the barbershop of Marcus Barbatius?"

Great. Now it wasn't just Artemon's thoughts that had been interrupted - his chance to conduct self-serving research was most likely gone. Unable to stifle a disappointed sigh, he opened his eyes again, barely registering that the quiet slave had moved towards the door. "It seems like your skills are in high demand today," Artemon commented in a sulky tone, knowing perfectly well this was to be expected  but wanting to feel all posh and special for just a little longer.

@Atrice

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Artemon, as the client was called, didn’t even know what was going on. He didn’t have the slightest idea. It would barely even be satisfying, Marcus thought to himself, but he wanted to do it anyway. And for once, he knew he had to. If Artemon left the shop and told his friends about Marcus, they would be smarter than he was and put two and two together. He could not let this one leave his shop alive! Marcus had stopped in front of him and asked him to close his eyes. And when he did as demanded, Marcus almost smiled. Maybe it would be a little satisfying after all. Maybe it would feel good. But he knew it would. Artemon could bleed like anyone else. Just beneath his skin, was the blood…

 The idiot in his chair wondered for how long Marcus had been here, “Long enough.” And that’s all he’d ever know. He ignored Manus’ eyes at him. He’d seen his master do this before anyway. He turned the scissors in his hand, to stab Artemon’s throat while his eyes were closed, and then… just as Manus was about to close the door and just as Marcus was about to kill someone, there was a voice from outside, asking for him.

 Marcus hissed, unable to hide his annoyance, quickly pulling the scissors back and Artemon opened his eyes with a sigh too. Equally annoyed that he’d not die today? He should be. Marcus would have to find him. At least he knew where he lived. Meanwhile, his slave welcomed the next client and artemon spoke.

 “It seems they are. At least you had your hair cut… Artemon.” Marcus said, “Manus will take your payment.” He looked at his slave, “I’ll be back in a moment.” And then, before anyone could say any more to him, Marcus had left the shop through the staircase in the back. Up in his own apartment, he leaned against the wall, clutching the scissors in his hands. His heart was hammering and his head was throbbing. He’d been so close! If only he had a few more moments, he had killed Artemon and the next client would be dismissed and the day would be fine. Now it was fucked instead! One of his other slaves came running to see what was going on, and Marcus stared at the slave. Oh someone else would receive a mark today! He glared, inhaled a breath, brushing his front side and went down into the shop to take care of the next client. As if everything was fine. But it was not.

@Liv

 

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