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Late August, 76AD - the day after I just called to say...

 Tertius sat alone in his bedroom. Hector had been there, but Tertius sent him away, he wasn’t in the mood for pampering and his body slave trying to make himself important to Tertius. He had a lot on his mind. Varinia had been here, yesterday. He had not seen her since his brother sold her, so many years ago. And now Teutus had apparently found her at a slave market, bought her and of course freed his mother. Seeing her again brought up old feelings in Tertius, but honestly he wasn’t quite sure what to do with those feelings. Especially after their conversations concerning marriage… and why he had not married again.

 Ever since his wife died, he’d thought that he should marry again. But it was difficult to find a woman as perfect for him as Antonia had been. Varinia could be perfect, he’d thought. Still beautiful, they had something together once, they even had a son… and he was sure that if he dared to take the step, there might be a spark there. But the more he thought about it, the more he thought it would be too weird for Charis and Peregrinus, if he married the slave he had a fling with, when he was so young? Then she would act like Peregrinus’ mother. And yet his actual mother would still live here, but as a slave. It felt wrong somehow. He couldn’t do that. Not to any of them. And his thoughts came to the point where he wondered, if he even could give Peregrinus another mother than the one, he already had.

 He couldn’t, could he? It wouldn’t be right. Which meant there was just one option left, one had considered before, then forgotten and now it came back to him again. But he would have to talk to Charis about it. Because if he picked that option… everything would change, for both of them. For the entire household, really. And he had to know that he could trust her.

 And so he went out in the hallway, where Hector was naturally lurking close by his own chamber… and he asked Hector to fetch Charis for him – without their son, if possible. Then Tertius went back into his bedroom and waited for her to show up.

@Sara

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Charis wasn't doing much of anything when Hector skulked into the room she shared with her son. Peregrinus was napping and Charis was curled up on the chair in the corner, next to his cot, weaving together six brightly coloured linen strips into a plait. It was something her mother had done to decorate their little home back in Britannia - brightly coloured scraps of material woven into rings which were then linked together. Tertius' domus was beautiful - even she could begrudgingly admit that - but even now after two and a bit years, it didn't feel like home. She'd already made four rings and was working on the fifth as Hector drew to a stop - casting a long shadow over the room. She blinked up and raised her finger to her lips to denote that her son was asleep. He merely scoffed and rolled his eyes, speaking at his usual volume, utterly uncaring. "Domine wants to see you. Don't dawdle." Mercifully, Peregrinus didn't wake and she quietly slipped from the room following Hector. She asked Eirene to check on the boy in an half an hour or so. 

Charis eyed the  back of Hector's head and asked quietly; "Do you know what this is about?" The man merely shrugged silently and Charis felt her anxiety flare. Varinia's visit yesterday had rattled her. Deeply. She had been dismissed with a flick of the wrist like any other slave in the house, like a piece of furniture or a pet. She had thought things were getting better between herself and Tertius, they had certainly seemed more settled in the year since her boys birth, but now...now it felt as if things were turning on an axis again and Charis - who loved to plan and think of solutions - was at a loss of what to do. She couldn't very well compete with a freewoman that Tertius had his eye on (she'd seen the way the two had looked at one another with dread in her stomach)...and then again, she didn't want to compete at all. It had been well over a year since he'd touched her and she'd almost had forgotten what it felt like; the sense of betrayal it evoked in her. She knew she was contemplating it for the prosperity of herself and therefore her son but...it didn't make herself feel any better. Every meek 'yes, domine' or 'no, domine' felt like another degradation. What had happened to her?

She didn't have a great deal of time to contemplate it as Hector drew to a stop outside of Tertius' room. Neatening her hair with her fingers and straightening the simple, scratchy, belted tunica she was wearing she stepped through into his room, head bowed and silent. "You called for me, domine." 

 

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There she stood, with her head bowed and her quiet words. Like Varinia might have done in the past. But Varinia was now free and it had given him a lot to think about. And most of it concerned his future and that of his son with Charis. Which meant it concerned Charis too. He couldn’t help but wonder what she’d say. And he knew he would not be able to beat around the bush for long, because he hated that. As Charis knew, he preferred they were open and honest with each other. And she had been that to him, for a long time now. So maybe that was a good sign.

 “I did.” Tertius said with a smile to her, “Please, come inside… and sit.” He moved a bit to the side where he sat on the bed and gestured to the empty spot next to him, “We… need to talk. About yesterday, among other things. About yesterday, and about the future.” Tertius added. This was their present, he her Dominus and she his slave. But the future might be different.

@Sara

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Charis glanced up curiously at the bed as he suggested she sit. She could take instruction though and nodded silently, moving to sit next to him on his bed. When was the last  time she was here? At Peregrinus' birth? Gods, that had been a year and a week ago. Had it really been that long since she'd been in here? It must have been - he hadn't summoned her to his bed and she'd had no other reason to come in. When Tertius saw Peregrinus and doted on him, it always seemed to be in other parts of the house. She tried not to let the thought of all the shared history they had in this room, get to her, as she waited for him to speak. 

And then he spoke. In riddles. As usual. She tried very hard (and succeeded...just) not to frown. She felt the anxiety rear again in her chest and swallowed it down with a heavy gulp. What was there to say about that? She was sat on his bed because he'd instructed her to, because she was a slave. There was little future for her. Unless...unless he wanted to talk about Varinia and about her future. Charis felt herself grow more anxious and...more angry. He couldn't be thinking...he surely didn't mean to start something with that woman? She was beautiful but...no! It wouldn't be fair

"Yes domine," She swallowed and tried to keep her voice neutral as she stared down at her legs. Her feet didn't even reach the floor, sat on his bed like this. "Yesterday was...interesting. I-I was surprised the Lady came to the house." Was all she could say...but she added quickly (to get on his good side); "But she was very friendly, and kind." 

 

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She came to sit, as instructed, but somehow she seemed nervous. He could imagine why; she didn't know why he had called her here. All she knew was that Varinia was here yesterday and now he wanted to talk to Charis. And that it seemed serious. Or, he assumed she thought it seemed serious. Charis sat still, staring down and said that yesterday had been interesting and a surprise, but Varinia was friendly and kind.

"She was, both of those things. And much more." Tertius said, "But she's given me an almost sleepless night, Charis. Our conversation... lingers." Of course, Charis had not been there, so she didn't know what they talked about, "And it gave me reason to reconsider some things, that I have thought about before. Like... finding a new wife. I think everyone in this house thinks I ought to find one. Antonia needs a mother and a woman needs to run the household properly. And warm my bed instead of Hector." He added, because he was growing a bit bored with Hector lately. He slept with him because it felt good and he needed the release, but it wasn't the same kind of excitement as before. Hector must have been sensing it too, he thought. That Tertius was less caring towards him now. It all boiled down to the fact that he ought to remarry... "What do you think of that idea?" 

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Charis had no idea what they'd discussed after she'd been dismissed from the room, and none of the other slaves did either although gossip was rampant throughout the domus. She tried to ignore it but now she wished she'd paid closer attention. She felt as if her blood was going to boil in her veins she was so on edge. 

Like finding a new wife. 

The words were like a lead weight being strapped to her ankle before she was tossed into the river. She found her fingers curling into the luxurious sheets on his bed, blanching her knuckles. No. No, no, no, no. She barely heard what else he said even as she tried to focus on it. A wife would change everything - even one as seemingly kind as Varinia. She had worked so hard for her position in this household - even if most of that work had taken place on her back. She felt a shudder run the length of her spine. The utter, utter bastard. She had never hated him more than in that moment - not even when he'd locked her in her room for those months. He was torturing her. And now had the gall to ask what she thought. 

She couldn't help but glance up at him - her big, expressive eyes a mixture of clear anxiety and pain and...despite herself, anger. She looked back down at her legs firmly. I hate you. "I..." Her throat was dry. He liked honesty - not that she should have given a second thought to what he liked. "I...would be frightened, domine." That word tasted like ash in her mouth. "I can't imagine any woman - even one as kind as the lady from yesterday - would...be happy with me here after what...we have shared." She swallowed and strove to keep her tone neutral. What on earth could she do now? Charis always had a plan and she grasped for one now. "I'd be frightened that she'd want me out of the house and I couldn't bare to be away from Peregrinus...our son I...would be happy to help," She offered - her plan coming together, "I am obviously not a mother to Domina Antonia but I...I can help, if it pleases you...in the things that you need a woman to help with, if you don't take a wife." 

 

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Tertius, ever watching her reaction to her words, as he always did… noticed how her fingers curled into his sheets while he spoke and for a moment, he wondered why. Why would that upset her? He was just trying to tell her why he wanted to see her and then he even asked for her opinion. Surely that was not bad? Then she looked up at him with big eyes, clearly anxious and there was a fire there, before she looked away. She was… upset?

 Then she began talking. Speaking of how she’d be frightened, she feared another woman would not be happy with her here and then the other woman would want her out of the house. Oh… she thought… he spoke about marrying someone else? But he never said that. Charis went on, said she’d happily help, if he’d be pleased.

 Tertius placed a hand on hers, gently stroking her with his thumb. He shifted a bit, so he was facing her on the bed, “I’m glad you’d be happy to help.” He said with a soft voice, looking at his hand on hers. Hers was so much smaller than his. Tertius then looked at her, “You see, I’ve been thinking about that a lot, as I said. I have had to reconsider it all, the thing with a wife and with Peregrinus and all that. And I could only come to one conclusion, Charis.” He paused, inhaling a small breath to brace himself, “I can’t see any other woman acting as Peregrinus’ mother either. And it would be unfair to you, to take another. And unfair to Peregrinus, to take you away from him. So…”

 Gods he felt like a youth, unable to say what was on the tip of his tongue, “I thought I could free you. And make you my wife. If you would.” There, he said it. He told her. Now he could not take it back. What would she say?

@Sara

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Charis didn't even flinch as he placed his hand on hers; she was that well trained and used to it now. She felt no comfort in his touch though, and bared it with neutrality and a downcast gaze as he started to speak. I could only come to one conclusion, Charis. She swallowed. That you'll take Varinia as your wife and I'll be back in the markets, after everything I've given you. Bastard. But he was still speaking, saying he knew such a plan would be unfair to her and their boy. She frowned to herself, confused. He was hesitating. She chanced a glance up to his face, right as he came out with it. 

Holy fuck. 

She choked, the sound audible in the quiet of the room and those big blue, expressive eyes were fixated on his face. "Your wife?" She stuttered out. He'd never before mentioned freedom - not even after the birth of their son. It had never even come to her as a possible idea, at least not this decade. And not just that - tied to him for the rest of her youth as his wife. His wife. A wife to the man that forced her into his bed, held her down, locked her in a dark room until she was broken, stripped her of her husbands bracelet...a husband. 

"Yes." She said with absolutely no hesitation. The thought made her sick to her bones and a tremble took on in her fingers, but it was freedom. It was the chance for a life. It gave her more opportunities; it gave her the chance to take her son far, far away from him. Legally. "Yes!" She choked and she couldn't help herself, she flew at him, wrapping her arms around his neck in a hug so tight she thought it might snap his neck. I hope it does. 

 

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When he finally came out with it, the words about her freedom and possible marriage to her, she looked at him and she choked with an audible sound. Was that a good thing? Was she just surprised? Tertius could not tell her feelings, as she looked at him in shock and he nodded at her words. His wife indeed. If she would. If he could trust her. Could he?

 Then before he knew it, she’d exclaimed a ‘yes’ and flung her arms around him and said it again. Tertius felt her tight hug and returned it briefly, then tried to pull away. He was a bit surprised by her response, to be honest. That she said ‘yes’ without considering it for long… he hadn’t expected that, so now he needed time to process it…

 “You’d really want that… even now? After everything that’s happened between us?” Tertius had not been sure. They’d had their ups and downs, mostly downs, but after Peregrinus had been born, things had improved between them again. He thought they might function fine, depending on what she thought and depending on that matter of trust. He still wasn’t sure about that. But again, he could not take back what he said. Not now.

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She felt him embrace her for the briefest of moments and then start to pull away and so she released him, a breathless smile on her face nonetheless. His words sent a chill straight through her bones though and she couldn't mask the confusion on her face. Of course. Of course Tertius, master of manipulation, creator of confusion, expert on mind games was now re-considering. She knew this would be the acid test and the biggest, perhaps only, moment that she had to make him commit. To make him believe. She steeled herself and reached for his hand, confusion still writ large on her face. She hoped it helped her look more sincere. 

"You told me once not to think of the past." He was, of course, referring to her dead husband when he said it but still...she squeezed his fingers with her amusingly small hand, "I...I live by that." She shrugged and shifted on the bed to look at him, "We-we've had issues...I didn't know my place, I was new to Rome, new to slavery, new to Latin even..." She smiled a little and gave him a concerned glance, "I don't...blame you, for what you did." Yes she did - with every fibre of her being, "I don't think of it. We have a son...that's all that matters. And why would I not wish to marry the man that gave him to me?" She shook her head, as if she was bemused and then withdrew her hand. She cast him a sidelong glance, irritated, "But you now don't wish to marry me?" He seemed to always have a love-hate relationship with the fiery part of her personality and it had been so long since he'd last seen it. She was gambling on him enjoying it now.

 

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Her very abrupt way of accepting his almost-proposal took him by surprise. After everything that had happened between them, some of it quite rough, to say it mildly... he did not expect she'd jump into his arms like that. They had not slept together since they found out that she was pregnant with Peregrinus and she had attempted to remove the child from herself and thereby also almost killing herself. Tertius believed they'd grown closer, despite that. Not intimately, but their time spent together with their son, and the fact that he'd begun teaching her writing and reading again and that they got along so well... that had to be good, right? But he was still not convinced he could trust her. So her answer surprised him and he suddenly wasn't sure he could trust it. 

Charis took his hand and spoke of how he told her to not think of the past. And she claimed she didn't blame him for what he'd done. Really? She'd really put it behind her? But then she withdrew her hand and gave him an irritated look, wondering if he wouldn't wish to marry her after all.

"I didn't say that." Tertius replied, a bit firmly. She was putting words in his mouth and he didn't like that, "I didn't expect you'd react the way you did. I wasn't sure it was what you wanted. Of course I know you wish for freedom..." Which slave didn't? "But one thing is to simply free you, another is to make you my wife. What I want most is for our son to have us both, after all. So that Peregrinus will not grow up with one parent being free, and the other a slave." Tertius explained. It was Teutus who sparked the idea, long ago, at that dinner where Wulfric left... but back then, Tertius had not wanted to toy with it. Yet, it remained there, the idea. And now he'd told Charis about it.

"I've already studied the law on this matter, of course. There are some possibilities for us to be man and wife. There will be terms, of course. But I want you to be sure." He wanted to trust her so badly, but just in case she betrayed him again, he should describe some terms. That she'd have to agree to. It would be a strange marriage, where one party would never fully trust the other. But despite her reaction just before, he still wasn't sure she trusted him either. So it was mutual. Was this a disaster he shouldn't entertain further after all?

@Sara

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She cast her eyes down and withdrew her hand from his at his words and the tone he took with them. Perhaps that had been the wrong track to take, but she couldn't help it, it was classic Tertius to offer something so freely and then snatch it away without a second thought. She ground her jaw together, tension rippling off of her. Still, she played the part of the dutiful slave listening to her master much as she'd like to wring his neck. She felt the opportunity was slipping out of her fingers but she wasn't sure how to claw it back so she'd listen and wait, and choose her words carefully. Very carefully.

"I am sure." She said with a tone just as firm as his before, but she kept her eyes down at her legs. She hated him all the more in this moment, but didn't show it. Of course he'd make her practically beg for it. "It's in Peregrinus' interest, and the interests of any more that may come..." Now she looked up at him with a sidelong glance. "I'm only twenty-two and have been with child twice. Should you..." She swallowed and demurely glanced back down at her legs, "Choose to take me to your bed again if I'm a slave, another child may come, another bastard. It was only five months after we bedded that I fell pregnant, after all." If she could not convince him of her fidelity then the risk of another love child with a slave might turn his attentions. She couldn't let him think she wasn't interested; "And...I..." She gave an awkward little shrug and a small, half-smile, "I've enjoyed our time together, with him and in my lessons." She cautioned one more glance up at his face, "That is not such a bad foundation to build on for a marriage, is it?" she met his eyes very briefly before lowering her own properly. She remembered their first meeting, when he'd taken her chin and forced her gaze to the ground. "What would be your terms, may I ask domine?" 

 

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She kept her eyes down, but he wasn’t stupid. He saw the way she tensed up, the way she held her jaw, as if she had to force herself to not speak up. What was this? She said she was sure, with a firm tone, then went on to say it was in their son’s interest and more that might come. Tertius looked at her. More children, with her? Of course, there was that part of the law… the one known as the jus trium liberorum, which said that if a woman could act independently and even inherit her husband, if she gave him three children. Was that what she was aiming for?

 No, perhaps not. She didn’t know that, did she? What he heard was that she didn’t want anymore bastards and she easily became pregnant. Charis also said she enjoyed their time together.

 “I suppose not.” Tertius replied, when she said all of these things were not bad foundations for marriage. But then she asked about the terms.

 “I have not written them down yet, as I wanted to speak to you first.” And although he wanted to trust her so badly, he just could never be sure, after she’d betrayed him several times. Her freedom and the marriage was for the sake of their son. And he did like her. He just… could never be sure if he could trust her or not.

 “But I will require you to stay in Rome, with me and with our son. Or sons, if we have more.” He said with a small smile, entertained by that idea, “You will be a Roman, once you’re free. My name will be part of yours.” Tertius explained, “It will change this whole household, if I free you. You know I don’t make a habit of doing such things. Freeing Teutus was special. Freeing you will be too. The slaves here will look at you differently. And Hector…” He trailed off. If he freed Charis to make her his wife, he might have to sell Hector. His body slave was far too fond of Tertius and of his own place in the household, to ever be reduced to something else again. Then Tertius would rather sell him and purchase someone new… “I’ll have to deal with him too.”

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She listened patiently, eyes down at her legs - her feet barely scraped the floor from where she sat. His terms were as she had predicted in the interim few moments since he'd asked her to be his wife. She couldn't leave, she would take his name and...that was it. It was odd - she had expected more; a requirement to have more children, a requirement never to pursue divorce or something but his terms seemed fair. And not hard to work around, if she was careful and clever about it. Hector was...another matter altogether.

"He would surely respect me if I became his domina?" She asked neutrally. She doubted he would but even with the hell he'd wrought on her life since she'd arrived here in Rome she couldn't stomach the thought of him being shipped off. She tried to console herself - maybe he'd end up somewhere better? A house slave to somebody kinder or...at least, easier to manage than Tertius. Then again, given his looks and his skills it wasn't beyond the realms of possibility that he'd be destined for a brothel. She sighed and glanced across at him. "I want you to be happy with your choice," She moved a hand softly to rest on his hand. "What can I do to make you believe I want this? That you can trust me?" 

 

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He had not decided on all the terms if he was to free her and make her live as his wife, but he had some idea on some of the terms for their understanding. But he could not yet explain how it was all going to be like, because he was a Praetor and he knew the law. He'd judged matters of husbands and wives before and he knew what was looked well upon and what people did not like. Because there was the law. And the public eye. And even if he made her live as his wife, they could never legally wed. That's why he needed to state all of the terms for their relationship and why she had to agree to it, before it could happen. Else it wouldn't matter at all. But all those thoughts were some he'd write down and consider carefully. No matter how much he wanted to trust her, he just couldn't completely do so and he'd fear she would take Peregrinus away from him. She was smart, she'd look for a loophole. So there couldn't be any.

But the marriage was one thing. It meant she'd come and sleep in his bed. Hector would be removed from that position. And it would feel odd keeping him as Tertius' body slave, when Hector would no longer service him in bed. Charis seemed to think Hector would respect her. Tertius gave her a look, "I'm not so sure. I know you didn't get along well, last time. And me freeing you and calling you my wife will make him feel threatened. I may have to remove him entirely." Which was also something he very rarely did - sold his slaves. But he wouldn't kill Hector and he didn't want to free him either. So he'd be sold. Charis then said she wanted Tertius to be happy and wanted him to believe she could be trusted.

"I do believe you want to be free. And that you will be my wife, if that's what it takes." Tertius said. She'd do anything to be free like her son, wouldn't she? And why shouldn't she want to do anything... she was a mother, after all... "Trust is hard to earn, you know that. You know me well enough to know that. It is not that I don't want to trust you, Charis. But I don't know what you can do to prove I can. Do you have an idea?" You have betrayed me too often to make me believe it again...

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She sighed and nodded, unsure what to say. She felt an unfamiliar, confusing feeling of guilt well up inside of her. She hated Hector, he was every sort of man that she loathed but...his fate was in her palm. Or Tertius', she supposed, but inextricably tied to hers no matter. 

She listened to him and felt unease eat at her. He was not professing his love or wrapping her in fantasies of married bliss, he was testing her, cautiously, as he did with most of his slaves. But this time there was far more riding on his good impression of her than just a few more hours of freedom, or extra peculium. She raised her eyes, meeting his gaze evenly, as an equal might do. It was a bold move, but she needed him to see her as more than a slave, as more than a plaything to toss about and then discard. "I think we should build it slowly." She said and the irrational part of her mind was cursing her, wanting to be free now. But she knew that wouldn't work, and said as much; "I could...throw myself at you now and you could take me to bed," Her lips twitched in a smile, "But I don't think you'd believe I was genuine, even though I would be..." She shook her head, "So instead perhaps we should be cautious until you feel ready? I could spend more time alone with Antonia, perhaps?" Because she knew the little girl had Tertius wrapped around her finger and if she could get on her good side, she'd get on his. She gave him an encouraging look.

 

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Tertius didn't believe he was in love with Charis. But there had always been something in him for her, ever since that first time he encountered her in the garden by night. He cared for her and she got under his skin in a way no other women had done it. Not even Varinia or his late wife. Charis was something else. So it wasn't that he didn't want to trust her, because he really did want to do that. But how could he? Here was a woman that he practically owned, and she had his child and he cared for her. But the very same woman had betrayed his trust again and again. Things had become better between them, since Peregrinus was born, but it still wasn't perfect. And he didn't know if it would ever be. That wasn't why he wished to free her and marry her. That was more to give Peregrinus the mother he deserved. 

After he'd spoken, she met his eyes and spoke of building things slowly between them. And then she admitted what she could do, but that he wouldn't trust such actions from her. So instead they should take it slowly. And she suggested spending more time with Antonia too. 

"That is probably the best way to do it." The question was if they should build things slowly between them before or after freeing her... "Antonia has always liked you, you are very welcome to spend more time with her." Tertius then added, looking at her. So lovely, wasn't she? And maybe she was honest... "I'm glad we can speak like this, Charis. And I'm glad it seems we understand each other? You know that your honesty with me means everything." He said with a smile, because it was so. It did mean everything. Her being honest with him meant he might be able to trust her, after all. And that was the first step towards them having a better relationship and being husband and wife. It made him consider the conversation with Varinia yesterday, again. How she'd asked what he looked for in a wife... 

"You know, my late wife and I... I know don't speak much of her. But we had an understanding. We respected each other. And we worked together, because we wanted the same. Yet we also gave each other space. I think both you and I would thrive from the same kind of relationship." Tertius looked at her, hoping she might like such an idea. Not that she could ever replace the mother of his first child. He'd yet to meet a woman he understood as well as her. But if Charis and he could work together the same way, it would a good start.

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She smiled as he agreed that she could spend more time with his daughter. The little girl was rapidly growing up but had a fascination with her baby brother that Charis wanted to nurture. She could be stroppy and demanding, as all rich girls her age likely were, but she had a good heart. It occurred to Charis she must have gotten that from her mother. "I know Teutus used to take her to the temples, perhaps I could do that?" She asked with an earnest look at him, "With guards of course, but she's said before that she wishes for me to understand your Gods. It might be a pleasant day, and give us time to talk, as women." She knew it wouldn't be that long before the girl became a woman and she undoubtedly had questions that she wouldn't dare broach with Tertius. That much was only implied by her words.

And Then Tertius turned the conversation in a direction she'd never really heard before. The ghost of his late wife lingered around the house - in hushed whispers and muted conversations but Charis had never really got the measure of the woman. Tertius' words intrigued her and she nodded slowly, with a softer smile. "Yes, domine." She nodded. "I...don't think I'm the sort of woman to interfere in your doings." She chuckled and shook her head, "But...when you say space, what do you mean?" Separate beds? Separate houses? One could only hope!

 

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Tertius nodded when Charis suggested taking Antonia to see temples, that was a good idea. Antonia missed her brother, he knew that, and the things they used to do together. But it was Teutus’ choice to move out and Tertius had to allow it. He didn’t want his son to resent him for that too. He clearly had enough issues as it was. Charis continued to add that they’d bring guards and she wanted to understand the Roman gods. And they could talk as women. Right. That was another good reason for living with someone as his wife. Antonia needed a mother, especially now that she was becoming a woman.

 “That is a very good idea. I think she will appreciate it.” Tertius replied and then he had begun talking about the relationship he had with his late wife. It was more than ten years ago since she passed away, but he still missed her, sometimes. Or more, he missed the wife she’d been. It had been perfect, for both of them. So he tried to explain how it had been with her and that he hoped it might be like that with Charis too. Charis seemed unsure of what he meant.

 “I mean… we lived together as man and wife. We both needed that. And I needed an heir. So… we worked towards that.” Sadly Antonia was a girl, and his wife never got the chance to give him more, but they tried… “We had a good relationship at home. But she had her interests and I had mine and we kept it like that. And in public, of course we kept appearances up. What I’m saying is, you’ll have freedom to do what you like, as long as you stick to the terms I’ll set up. You’ll have space to pursue your own interests here in Rome.” As long as she remained a faithful and good wife, as long as she did not leave Rome, as long as she did not attempt to take Peregrinus away from him... Tertius would try and not hold her back too much. He hoped he could keep that promise.

@Sara

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Charis nodded as he spoke. It sounded most unlike her marriage. She had been intimately involved in almost every aspect of Immin's life, and the business they ran together after her father passed. She couldn't imagine a marriage not so entwined, but then she had never imagined being married to a man like Tertius. She swallowed back the shame and guilt she felt at entertaining the idea of a marriage with him as Immin drifted through her thoughts. Tertius still had the bracelet he made her, locked away in his desk. She tried to keep the smile on her face. 

"I would be happy with such a marriage," She said and then managed a small laugh with a frown. "But I don't know what my own interests would be..." She risked a glance at him and studied his face for a fraction of a second. "What do...most free women do in Rome?" She doubted he knew, but she didn't either. She was a slave and had been since she stepped foot in this city. "I can't garden if I'm free I suppose...?" She asked, knowing the answer already and she frowned, pulling her knees up to her chest and resting her jaw on them as she considered it, "I used to run my family's business but I imagine you do not want a wife in business, domine." Again, she suspected she knew the answer. "I shall have to...find hobbies, to keep myself entertained and out of your hair." She chuckled. 

 

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It had probably been a very unlikely marriage even here in Rome, the one Tertius had with his late wife. But they got along from the beginning and she had been so good to him, after they got married. They both needed the marriage and Tertius needed and heir. They needed each other. So they supported each other, but besides that, they allowed each other their freedoms. Antonia had preferred women in her bed, after all. Not that she seemed to dislike Tertius either, but she enjoyed the women. And Tertius... well he'd had a male body slave he was fond of back then too, so he and Antonia did not spend every night together. Still though, he did not think he'd enjoy it if Charis began sleeping around. Just the thought of it stirred a jealous sting inside of him, so he would not suggest they did exactly what he and Antonia had done back then. But he could allow her a little freedom.

Charis smiled and said she'd be happy with such a marriage, although she didn't know what to do with her own interests. She wondered what free women in Rome did and didn't think she could garden.

"If you enjoy it, I don't see any problem with it. And you do keep the garden well." Tertius replied with a smile, watching her pull her knees up and seeming thoughtful. She'd run her family's business before. Tertius grew thoughtful too, looking at her. They did do well together when they worked together, didn't they? And he had taught her an awful lot of things...

"You can't help me much in my position as praetor in Rome." Tertius said, "But... I suppose there wouldn't be anything wrong with you helping out with keeping the household. You've seen me with my paperwork and you know how to read and write. And you know arithmetic too." So why should she not put it to good use? He'd not really gained a new secretary after Teutus was freed and left the house, but if Charis wanted to aid him with all of that, she was very welcome to.

"Besides that, I know women keep hobbies like reading and also weaving. Or they play instruments. Oh and they partake in charities. That might also interest you." He looked at her, hoping his words would cause her to worry less. If he was to free her and live with her as man and wife, he had to make sure to keep her happy and entertained too. He hoped she understood this would benefit them both as well as their son. And he hoped that the honesty she seemed to show him right now, was something she'd stick to.

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Well...this was shaping up better than she expected and she looked at him, surprised and pleased - a smile on her lips and her face earnest and open. Imagine having the freedom to choose what to do...imagine Tertius agreeing to it. It was an odd turn of events and one she couldn't quite understand. The highs with Tertius had been high indeed - he'd given her a son, and the lows had been...unspeakable. But they were at a middle ground now, and she could feel it - discomfiting though it was. 

"Gardening and helping to run the household." She nodded resolutely, "I'd enjoy both of those...and watching Peregrinus grow," She winced, "He's growing so quickly it's difficult to imagine him as the little bundle in my arms...I miss it." She chuckled. He'd certainly slept better when he was a newborn. Sleep seemed somewhat of a foreign concept for her, even now. Turning back to his list she nodded and considered them carefully; "I like to be...useful. Practical. I'm not sure I'm very musical," She ducked her head, amused. "I'd be more than satisfied with running a home - one as large as yours is almost a business in itself...and having my garden, and having my son," She glanced at him, "And my husband." The word felt foreign, weighty and made her prickle. The man sat next to her, a husband.

Tentatively, she reached out to brush her fingers over his before she lost her nerve. "Thank you, domine." 

 

TAG: @Atrice

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She gave him such a surprised look - not unhappy, but as if she was surprised to hear him say these things. Well he'd always told her that he would reward good behavior and honesty, hadn't he? And wasn't that what was going on right now? Besides, he wanted this to work out. Even if Rome might never see them as official husband and wife, he still wanted a proper mother for his son and if he took Charis out to dinner parties and such, she would be by his side and not behind him as a slave. She would function as his wife. And she'd get something to do. Tertius wasn't against the idea of her helping with running the household, she was bright and she'd learned quite a lot since she came to Rome. She had always been a dutiful student during their proper lessons.

Charis then said she'd enjoy both the gardening and running the household, and of course watching their son grow. Tertius smiled at her words about Peregrinus, "Motherhood does suit you." He said fondly to her. Maybe they'd have another child. Maybe she wouldn't be against the idea. Tertius certainly wasn't, but Peregrinus was also good. More sons was better of course. Even if he was growing older. Charis then said she liked to be practical and make herself useful and she'd be satisfied with running the home and taking care of the garden. Then she looked at him. Adding him to the things she'd be satisfied with having.

Tertius wrapped his hand around hers, when she touched his, "Soon you will no longer have to call me that." Tertius said and brought her hand up to his lips and kissed it, he couldn't help it. At first the conversation had almost seemed to spin out of control, but now... now everything was much better. 

"I think we will do well together, Charis. I will take a look at the practicalities for your manumission soon." He then promised her and let go of her hand. Yes, if they could continue to speak together like this, they would do well together.

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Motherhood did suit her. She loved it, and it came naturally to her. She had wished it had happened in different circumstances but she would never not be grateful for her son and the joy and the love he'd brought into her life. She smiled at him, almost embarrassed at the compliment. 

The kiss on her knuckles surprised her and she inhaled a little, softly, surprised. He had never been violent to her, not really, not in the way she might have expected but the tenderness was...new. They'd shared Saturnalia, the night she assumed Peregrinus was conceived but this was different. He was almost...soft with her. It was a side to him she had never seen and she studied his face carefully. Vulnerable, almost. She couldn't help but smile softly at him. It had started as a game, as something she needed to endure to ensure her own survival but the look he gave her, the softness of his touch for a moment...it rattled her.

She kept her hand laying where it was when he dropped her fingers and nodded dumbly as he said he would look into it soon. Ah. Back to reality then. 'Soon' for Teutus had been years. Perhaps he'd learned his lesson? She nodded and gently moved to stand, "Thank you, domine. I...don't know how to thank you enough. You won't be sorry." She offered him a small smile. "Would you like me to leave you?" 

 

TAG: @Atrice

 

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It would be something to get used to. Her addressing him as her husband, and not her domine. It would take time for both of them to adjust, which was why it was probably a good thing, that he had to set things in motion and make decisions before he could free her and name her his wife. But the more he spoke with her now, after the first little issue in their conversation, the more he was looking forwards to it. The more he knew it was the right decision he'd made. Tertius picked up her hand then, kissed her knuckles and he noticed how she appeared surprised, but not startled. As if she enjoyed the gentle affection he was showing her. And then she smiled. Tertius returned the smile and said he'd look into the whole manumission business soon. 

Then she moved to stand and thanked him and promised he'd not be sorry.

Tertius reached out for her hand again, as he sat there still, looking up at her, "I really hope I won't be." He said and she wondered if she should leave. Tertius felt he didn't really want her to, but she had other duties and then there was Peregrinus. But he felt a need rise in him again, after this conversation and now that it had been decided, what would happen next between them... "You can leave now. But... it would please me very much, if you were to return here. Tonight." It wasn't really an order, but a request. However, a request he'd very much like that she followed. Tertius did want her. It had been long since he slept with her, not since before he learned that she was pregnant with Peregrinus. But now, Charis was to be his wife. Sleep in his bed. Why not start now? If she wanted to prove herself to him, this would be a very good way of doing that.

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