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A Day of Culture


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Late January, 77AD
Outside the Temple of Fortuna, in the Forum Boarium 

Ovinia looked at the sky, trying to deduce the time as she stood on the steps leading into the Temple of Fortuna, with her slave girl and guard in tow. Was Alexius late, or was she early? She tried to focus on the feelings of annoyance at being left waiting and not at her deep discomfort at being outside of the domus. She pulled the palla which was over her hair, tighter about herself and crossed her arms under her chest. She had a very full day planned today and she hadn't expected to start it so late. They'd start at the Temple of Fortuna - for him - her guard leaving as soon as Alexius was in sight, and from there they'd walk to Temple of Hercules Victor, through the Forum - maybe taking in the markets - and then onto the Temple Apollo Palatinus and then the Library of Palatine Apollo, where she'd arranged to meet Lucius as well at sunset. Provided Alexius wasn't any later than he was already and they could fit it all in. 

She was dressed in typical Ovinia fashion - trying to mask her enormous lack of confidence in a confident display of her wealth. She was wearing a deep emerald silk chiton, belted tightly, with a paler green palla edged with gold disks that jangled melodically in the breeze that whipped up the Temple steps. She was freezing, but at least she looked nice. The chill also gave her a healthy, rosy flush which her mother had always said looked pretty, so there was that. Her slaves were equally eye-catching, laden with offerings as they were. She'd told Alexius she'd deal with that part of their trip, and so her poor slavegirl was saddled with two bags. In one, for this first trip, there was a glass jar filled with the mixture of honey, milk and floral petals that their good Goddess apparently enjoyed, and an enormous cake in the shape of a cart's wheel. There was gold as well, to pay the priests and priestesses and for incense. Ovinia never did things by halves. 

Finally spotting him working his way through the crowds (a benefit of his height!) she gave him a slightly bemused look, trying to bluster confidence she didn't feel; "Did you forget the hour of our meeting, Alexius? Or were you otherwise occupied?" 

 

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The date had been decided and everything else too and all Alexius had to do was wait. Even if he still felt kind of like a miserable, undeserving friend to Ovinia, after how he had betrayed her to Pinaria. But at least now he betrayed them both, so they were kind of even, right? And none of them would tell on the other or there would be a scandal no matter what. Alexius hoped he was safe. Only Rome was not safe. They had not caught the attacker, the barber, yet. There were too many fucking barbers in Rome! Why did people need so many haircuts and shavings of beards? It was like looking for a needle in a haystack, although he never tried that. So he had that to occupy his mind with. That and his job with Teutus and his son Lexus, who was growing more and more into a man rather than a boy. Those things occupied his mind. The rest of him was kept occupied too, but mostly by the usual random lovers he kept.

Last night had been no different and that's why he thought he might be late for Ovinia. But honestly, when did you ever sleep better than when you had your arms wrapped around another lovely and warm body... or two? Although it had just been the one and she had not been busy leaving in the morning. And Alexius was easy to persuade into letting her stay in his bed. Until he realized there was somewhere he had to be! So on with his clothes - breeches and a tunica and leg wrappings for the cold, and a cloak too. Then out he went, halfway running through Rome towards one of his favorite temples. And of course Ovinia was already there! Fuck

She seemed amused and asked why he was late... fuck, again? Well he did, technically... 

"Why and how could I ever be occupied with anything else but you, Ovinia?" Alexius said smoothly to her, adjusting the cloak a bit after the run here... "You look stunning, did you know that? And just for me?" Try and flatter her, distract her to make her think of something else than you apparently being slightly late... "I feel honored." 

@Sara

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"Mhmm." Ovinia arched a brow as he jogged up the steps to greet her. "And I did know, but no, it's not for you. It's for the God's. You've got to look nice and respectable for them to pay you any attention." She was also dressed up for somebody else. Somebody with a mop of dark hair and a teasing smirk. Alexius didn't need to know that though. She tossed her hair over her shoulder and readjusted her palla so it was covering it, before brandishing a wide, beaming smile - her annoyance disappearance from her face. "But thank you." she inclined her head. It was always nice to be appreciated. 

 "You look..." She stepped down a step so they were closer and gave him a look from the tip of his head down to his feet. "Like you haven't slept." Her smile was more wry now and she shrugged and then glanced to her companions. "Perses, you can go now that Alexius is here." The man merely nodded and stepped back a few paces before turning on his heel and departing. Ovinia waved a hand at her slave girl as she turned on her own heel and started up the steps; "Alexius, you remember my slave girl - Lucia." She was trying to feign the confidence she used to feel. Before...the incident she felt like she could walk any street in the city and have the deference of any pleb or slave or equite or patrician that crossed her path. Now...every time she walked she cast a glance over her shoulder with a hammering heart to make sure she wasn't being followed. She did so now, and inadvertently caught Alexius' eye as they made their way up to the entrance of the Temple. She bluffed it out; "Are you looking forward to our day of culture, Alexius?" 

 

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Alexius was glad she seemed in the right mood too, with the way she responded to him. Although she claimed her nice looks were for the gods and you had to look respectable for them to pay you attention. Alexius arched a brow, “I must look respectable a lot of the time then.” He said with a wink, while she tossed her hair and thanked him. It would seem his little mishap was forgotten. Or not. As she said he looked as if he had not slept.

 “I have no idea what you’re talking about. I did sleep.” A little, at least. But probably not long enough. But he showed up! That was something, right? Although of course he’d show up for Ovinia’s sake. After what happened to her and how he betrayed her, he had a lot of making up to do. And since she would not let him do it the way he usually did, this was the next-best thing. Ovinia then dismissed her bodyguard and introduced her slavegirl. Alexius nodded, gave Lucia a smile, “I do remember her.” He said and then they were moving up the steps to the temple.

 While they walked up the stairs however, she glanced over her shoulder briefly, before looking at Alexius and wondering if he looked forwards to the day… “I look forwards to seeing what you’ll show me. I’m usually not… seeing so many temples and a library all in one day.” Usually not at all, maybe except for visiting one temple, but not like this… “What about you, are you looking forwards to it? Hoping you can teach me something?”  

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She chuckled, amused as Lucia actually blushed at Alexius' smile. She liked the girl - she was discrete and cautious and had a wry sense of humour when Ovinia chose to indulge it but seeing her practically fawn over her company for the day was amusing to say the least. She gave Alexius a conspiratorial smile and said din a hushed whisper; "She's been speaking of you since you last saw her. Indulge her a little today?" Lucia hadn't actually been talking about Alexius but it gave her an opportunity for later when another of Ovinia's more irreverent friend met them at the library, Alexius might be otherwise occupied by her slavegirl. 

"I don't think you have anything to learn, Alexius." She said with an amused little grin as they made their way into the temple. Ovinia raised the palla to cover her hair out of respect and nimbly moved through the throngs of people. Clearly Fortuna was a popular goddess to worship today. "But it's nice to get out of the house a little." And feel safe doing so. She hated leaving home now since...what had happened. Her burly guard wasn't much of a reassurance but her father still insisted that she show her face around Rome. Alexius' company made it a little easier though and she had missed her worship. 

Ovinia joined the queue to pay her respects, Lucia falling into step behind her with the bag of offerings. It was a slow-moving queue with lumbering stops and starts and she turned her face up to Alexius, curiosity writ on her features; "Can I ask you something?" She couldn't recall if she'd asked before but pressed on before he said yes or no, "If you don't worship or visit libraries and such..." She narrowed her eyes at him, "What do you spend your time doing? When you're not at work or the baths or Mellissa's?" Ovinia herself ran the household and visited friends and played her music and well...did exactly this. She couldn't fathom what Alexius did.

 

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Alexius couldn’t help but smile more, when sweet Lucia blushed at him. And then Ovinia whispered to him that she’d been talking about him and he should pay her more attention. Alexius arched a brow at Ovinia, she really wanted him to charm her slavegirl? And what if he charmed her so much that she’d want to spend more time with him… would she be alright with her slave doing that? But then again, she seemed to encourage it. So why not?

 “I’ll consider it. But I do have fine company right here too.” He said with a grin to her. And they’d moved up towards the temple, talking about their day. Ovinia for some reason did not think he had anything to learn and just thought it was nice to get out.

 “Of course. And you can trust me to keep you safe.” She really could. If something happened to her under his watch, he’d never forgive himself. He was more than her guard, he was her friend and he cared about her. Just the fact that she was already attacked once made his blood boil. But he had to keep himself steady for this day, so he inhaled a quiet breath to calm down. Once they stood in line to pay their respects by the alter, Ovinia looked up at him and wondered what he did all day, since he didn’t do what she did. Alexius let out a laugh and the lady in front of him gave him a look. Alexius shrugged and winked at her and she turned around with a huff.

 “When I’m not at work or the baths or eating…” He didn’t spend all his time with Melissa, in fact he’d just been with her a few times, but they got along just fine. What else did he do? Well he knew what he did… “I work most of the day. Sometimes I work the evenings, or nights even. And I suppose when I don’t do any of the things you mentioned… I go out. I like the arena, as you know. But else, I suppose I settle down in a good popina, have a drink or many… find some good company.” He then said, that wasn’t saying too much and by now, she must be able to fill in the blanks herself… “Why do you ask?”

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"You must be exhausted." Ovinia commented with the experience of a woman who had never 'worked' a day in her life. She saw the way the plebs and slaves exhaustedly wound their way up the street past her home as evening drew in. She couldn't imagine the bone-tiredness of that. She consoled herself that she wasn't meant for such things, and her work - running the household when her mother was incapacitated and attending social events - was to serve a different purpose than those who toiled away in warehouses or market stalls. 

"I was just curious." She said with a little shrug and a contemplative look, "I've been meeting more and more people of my class who wish to get to know the..." Poor"Variety of people in the city. I spoke with the Emperor's brother and he is minded to understand the plebs and freedmen and slaves of the city, as far as I can tell." She shrugged again and shuffled up in the line, "I suppose I thought I should see what I'm missing in my fine domus with all of my silks." She chuckled. "Besides, I did have fun when we went to the games." Even if she really shouldn't have done. A light flush coloured her cheeks as she remembered what they spoke of...which didn't seem appropriate to think of in a holy place like this. 

"I've invited another friend to join us at the library, by the way, I hope that's alright?" She tried to sound casual as she said it and shuffled closer in the snake-like queue towards the altar. 

 

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Sure he was a bit tired after work sometimes, but not that tired. And very rarely so tired that he just went back home to sleep in his own bed, alone. Alexius slept best with another warm body in his bed, he slept best when he really felt exhausted, on all levels… but he just smiled at her comment and didn’t add anything to it. Instead he answered her question about what he did do with his time, ignoring the way the lady in front of them glanced back, when he spoke of finding good company when he went out.

 Naturally, he wondered why Ovinia asked and she claimed she was just curious. She said she’d met several people of her class that wanted to get to know the ‘variety of people in the city’. So the common people. Alexius arched a brow at her mention of their Caesar’s brother, that was interesting. Meanwhile Ovinia wondered what she was missing out on. 

“I’ll be happy to take you out to see all that next time. If you will. Last time was me taking you to the arena, this time you’re showing me temples and libraries, so it must be my turn again next time.” He said with a grin. Ovinia then mentioned she’d invited another friend to join them later.

 “Oh? I suppose that is alright. Even if I do enjoy having you to myself.” He smiled and leaned closer to her. Alexius was naturally curious and forgot all about proper public behavior in a place like this., “Is your friend as cultured as you? And is it someone I know?”

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Ovinia let out a laugh with a grin that lit up her face. "Ah, but the only reason you've come here with me was because I won a bet." She considered him, tilting her head and glancing up, "So it follows that for me to go anywhere else with you, you shall have to win a bet. Otherwise next time we'll be back coming to more temples." She smiled to herself, satisfied, and wound an arm around her waist as they shuffled ever closer to the altar. The queue was moving quickly if nothing else. "So do you see anything to bet on, Alexius?" She didn't make a habit of gambling, it was unbecoming for men to do it and even moreso for a woman but she had to admit - with Alexius, Silanus and Lucius - there was a thrill in pushing things a little out of her comfort zone. A little.

She chuckled and cast a purposeful glance over her shoulder to where her slave was pretending not to listen in. "You never have me completely to myself, Alexius." She gave him a slightly firmer look. Her reputation was everything to her, to her family and to society. Not even a friendship with somebody as irreverent as Alexius could or should shake. She took a slight step further away as he drew nearer. Just half a step, to put some respectful distance between them. She kept her voice low though. "He is not." She said with an unladylike chuckle and shook her head, having the grace to look sheepish at least. "It's the vigile you know, Lucius. We have...repaired our acquaintance." The last time she had met Alexius she had hated him, but that moment in the alley...both moments in the alley; the kiss and the explanation was seared into her memory. "I suppose you've seen much of him in the course of your investigation?" Her voice was quieter now. "It's the elephant in the room...I might as well ask how it goes?" 

 

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Alexius had almost forgotten they came here today, because she won a bet – that day in the arena. It was so long ago now and so much had happened, that betting had not really been on his mind at all. But now that she laughed and mentioned it, while they moved closer to the altar in the queue, he remembered it all. And of course she had to wonder if he saw anything he wanted to bet on. Alexius glanced around and his eyes fell upon her body slave for a moment, but then, was that too much? Maybe it would be more interesting to find anything elsewhere. Besides, he didn’t want to offend the sweet Lucia… “Not here, I think. But I’ll consider it and let you know.” Alexius then said.

 Ovinia then mentioned she had invited someone else to join them later, and he joked about having her to himself, but she gave him a firm look. She seemed to be in on it, but the look she gave him gave her away. It was true, she was never his, not like that anyway. Even if he had offered it to her before, but of course, she was a proper lady. At least outwardly. After all, she cared for someone else. Alexius was sure that she had some very inappropriate thoughts concerning Lucius, after what he told Alexius about her. But he said nothing. Instead, she brought Lucius into the conversation, by explaining he was the one they were meeting later. Oh. Oh… trust her to confirm his assumptions. Why were they meeting him, of all people, if not because she wanted to see him? He knew that they had repaired their acquaintance, which was one way to put it. If she knew that Alexius knew, the repair might fall into disrepair. He’d have to be careful now. Watch his tongue. If he could.

 “I have seen him quite a few times, yes… during our investigation. We’re getting along well.” Alexius replied, because they were. Just the fact that Lucius came to him when he was depressed because of Ovinia… they were more than just partners because of the investigation. And he’d support his friends, no matter what. Although it was kind of hard to both support Ovinia, and Lucius. And he was seeing both of them today, it seemed. This was a twist.

 “We have not come that much further yet. Rome is a huge city and we’re looking for a needle in a haystack. We believe we kind of know what kind of a man we’re looking for, so that narrows it down. We’re doing all that we can, I promise you. We all want this to end.” The attacks, the murders, the pain the attacker caused… “I’m sorry I don’t have anything more useful to tell you.” Alexius looked at her, “But you’ll be the first to know, once we do have anything.”

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Ovinia smiled genuinely, almost...grateful that Alexius should consider him a friend. She found the dark-haired vigile utterly infuriating but she liked him. As a friend (she reminded herself), and it was pleasing to hear others sharing her enjoyment of his company. "Good. Good, he's an...irreverent choice of a friend for me," She cleared her throat, "Which is why I agreed to meet him in the library. Few people I know go there and...whilst obviously nothing inappropriate is there at all," She gave him a firm look, "I would still be judged speaking to a man like him. So...I thought I could kill two birds with one stone and have our day and then we can all visit the library and if anybody sees him, or you, you can say he is your friend, perhaps." She didn't wish to use Alexius, and given that they were friends anyway, it didn't feel like that but she needed to cover her back. And she trusted Alexius; "I trust you." 

And then as they shuffled to almost the very front of the queue, conversation turned to something much darker. She wrapped the palla tighter around herself and shuffled foot to foot, nodding mutely. "Thank you." She cleared her throat, trying desperately not to think about the man still at large - the utter lack of progress, and that he could be here, now watching her...no, Ovinia! She tried to snap herself out of it as the people in front of her cleared and they were finally at the front before the altar. She gave Alexius a small smile; "Lucia has the offerings." She clicked her fingers at the girl who produced the cake and the honey, milk and flower mixture. Ovinia moved to kneel down in front of the altar - brushing some of the other offerings out of the way and holding out her hand for the drink whilst directing Lucia to give Alexius the cake. "What...do you usually say to her? To give you favour?" 

 

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If it wasn't for Ovinia's current situation and Lucius' too, Alexius would almost have found it amusing, that Ovinia came with such a long explanation for why they were meeting Lucius at the library. After all, if he was just a friend - although perhaps not the perfect choice for a woman like Ovinia (but then again, was Alexius?) - why did she have to make such an explanation and excuse for seeing him? She said she'd be judged for speaking to him and since he was Alexius' friend too, it was all fine. He had to hold his tongue. She looked at him and said he trusted her. 

"And you can, Ovinia. I promised you last time... I will not betray your trust again." He said in all honesty, because that's just how it was. He'd been so stupid when he told Pinaria her name, and Ovinia had been so upset over it, but perhaps that's what you got when you made friends with a brute of a freedman like Alexius. He didn't know how anyone else thought of him, but he always believed he was better at using his body than his mind. He wasn't a great thinker. But he was a great... many things, with his body.

And they were looking for Ovinia's attacker, but it was hard. He noticed how she wrapped her palla tighter around her and wanted nothing more but to help her and comfort her, but it wouldn't be proper. After how she just spoke of Lucius and how she'd be judged for speaking to him... Alexius comforting her would be even more wrong. As they stood now, he could still appear as if he was just her bodyguard, escorting her. And he was. Keeping her safe. Guarding her as a caring friend would.

They had finally reached the altar then and the slavegirl came with the offerings for the goddess. Alexius took the cake Lucia handed him, giving her a smile and letting his hand touch hers, before he took it and Ovinia knelt down.

"I ask for it from within. I thank her, for what she's done for me. And I ask for her continued blessing and support. For myself and others, if needed. My fate is in her hands, so... I am, too." Alexius said, thinking that sounded so serious and very deep, much more than it did when he was alone here, "I think... that my business with any god or goddess is mine alone. I don't usually speak it out loud. So..." He knelt down, placed the cake by the altar and sent his hopes and prayers to the goddess. Along with a wish for good luck and fortune for Ovinia of course, because she deserved and needed it. Let the wheel turn in her favor. And then he stood and waited for Ovinia, so that he could escort her out again.

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Ovinia nodded as he spoke, narrowing her eyes and trying to fashion her own prayer in her mind. She opened her mouth to question him but he shut that down and she felt awkwardness wrap around herself like a palla. Oh. She hadn't considered that Alexius might take this as seriously as she took her own devotions and she felt a little embarrassed. She tried to smooth over it but shutting her eyes and pouring a few drop of the mixture out on the altar, silently working through her own prayer. She asked for blessing for herself and her family, for her friends - who she listed by name in her mind, and then good fortune for the man kneeling next to her. 

She heard shuffling and cracked her eye to see Alexius' calf as he stood waiting for her. She also heard mutters from the women behind her, grumbling about having to wait. She ignored them, clamping her eyes shut again and offered a final spin of the wheel to the Goddess for the city of Rome and their young Caesar, before pushing herself to stand. She took her time, picking the dust off her chiton deliberately (spitefully) to make the women behind her wait some more. She gave them a smug grin as she turned to face Alexius and inclined her head that they could leave.

"To the Forum we go," She grinned as she moved gracefully through the thronging crowds and back towards the sunlight streaming down on the steps - "Maybe to look at the stalls on the way to the Temple of Hercules, and then Apollo and then the library." very full day of activities, but Ovinia - even now - still hated to be idle. "Are you in the market to buy anything, Alexius? A treat on me, perhaps?" 

 

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The gods deserved respect, he knew that much. Sometimes it felt like he, along with everyone else, were just little pieces in a grand game that the gods were playing... and yet, here he was, living life the best he could. And just like anyone else (he assumed) he feared that the gods might play his piece differently, should he not respect them enough. So he did, it was as simple as that. He didn't know what Ovinia imagined, when she asked him what he said to the goddess, but he told her what he did and what he felt and that was that. Then there was silence as they both silently sent their thoughts to the goddess. When he was done, he stood and waited for Ovinia. She didn't hurry to get up, but when she did, she brushed her chiton and he saw how she grinned at the other women behind them. Oh, so that's what was wrong. She often tried to appear so mature and all that, but sometimes, she was still just a grown girl. He smiled at that. It was sweet.

Then they moved outwards and she spoke of the Forum and other temples they'd go to. Alexius nodded, "Well it's up to you where we go next." He simply said and she then suggested going to shop at the market. He arched a brow, "I don't know, I'll... have to think on that. I don't go shopping for fun very often. I buy things when I need them." And mostly he bought wine and food, because that's what he needed the most. He'd worn some of his nicest clothes today, but even they were nothing compared to lovely Ovinia. It must be strange to her, that some people did not go shopping simply for fun.

"How about... you decide on a treat you think I need?" Alexius then suggested with a wink to her. That should be interesting.

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Alexius was absolutely right, it was strange to Ovinia that he didn't just simply shop for fun. She felt a wave of embarrassment creep over her. She could walk into the Forum and - within reason - buy anything she'd like and her father would pay the invoice when it arrived at their domus; new cloth, jewellery, slaves, animals, food, wine...anything. It was peculiar to her that most didn't have that luxury, and she resolved to - in her own sort of way - make it up to him by bankrolling his expenditure today. She'd have to explain it to her father, but he had been delighted to meet the ex-Gladiator, so suspected he wouldn't mind much. 

Had Alexius been inferring anything with his wink, it passed over her naive young head completely as they wound their way into the markets. The sights and smells were always overwhelming and she took a breath, letting her eyes scan over the stalls and waving a hand to dismiss the hawkers that approached her. She felt unease settle on her shoulders. She used to love crowds, even in places like this, but now they made her afraid. She didn't know who was lurking in the shadows, watching her, waiting...She parted her lips and drew in a steadying breath. "Well," She glanced up at Alexius, "If we make our days out a regular thing, you shall need a new tunica. Come," She gestured for him to follow her to the perimeter where a cloth stand stood - her favourite. It had everything; Assyrian silk as gauzy and sheer as water, deep jewel toned silk and wool and furs from across the empire. She beamed up at Alexius. "What do you like?" Ovinia didn't consider this charity...just good sense, if Alexius was to continue to accompany her then he'd need to look the part...right?

 

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Alexius didn't mean to make her feel embarrassed, but sometimes she did need to learn that not all people were as privileged as she was. Alexius certainly wasn't. He didn't live in a large and fancy domus with a ton of slaves and plenty of coin to buy whatever you please. And so much spare time. No, he was a working man who did his best to earn a bit so that he and Lexus could live in their flat and get something to eat every day. He bought something extra for them, if they needed it, but he didn't go around spending money on things for fun. Other than wine of course. Plenty of wine. But besides that, he didn't go shopping like she did. Yet she wanted to buy something for him and he honestly wasn't sure what he wanted to shop for. So instead he suggested she decided what to get him. They stood still a moment, looking at the markets and he glanced at her, waiting for Ovinia to lead the way. She drew in a breath. Alexius had to remind himself what happened to her and that she probably wasn't alright yet, after the attack on her. He'd have to watch her more closely.

But then she decided on what to do and said he'd need a new tunica. Alexius followed her, a bit surprised by her choice, but alright, he supposed he did need a new tunica. Even if he wore his best one today, it wasn't exactly new. They arrived at a shop with every kind of fabric you could imagine. Alexius looked at all. And Ovinia looked up at him with a beaming smile, as if this was all kinds of ordinary.

"I... am not sure." Alexius said with an awkward grin, "This is not exactly what I know most about, Ovinia. And it's you who want me to have a new tunica. Tell me what you think would be good for that, for me." He added with a smile, although feeling a bit like a fish out of water here. It was unusual for him to feel like this, but this was a new kind of situation. She must feel good though, he thought. Women liked it when men allowed them to be in charge.

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If Alexius looked awkward, Ovinia didn't notice...or care to notice, as she instead waved off the smallholder who tried to approach her and began to rifle through the fabrics. "I don't want you to have a new tunica." She rolled her eyes and cast him an amused look, "It's supposed to be a gift." Besides, if she was to see him again and if he was to become her escort, he'd need more than the clothes he was currently wearing which she had a suspicion were his nicest clothes. 

Her fingers caught on a dark green heft of fabric and she yanked it from the pile, arching a brow and then moving to Alexius. She held it up against his face. "No...no this one is too pale for your colouring." She could waste hours of her time in these stalls, finding the very perfect shade of a silk to compliment her skin tone, or fiddling with the silks to find the exact right gauziness for a palla. She deposited the fabric back down haphazardly, not bothering to fold it and went to the bolts of fabric hung up at the back of the stall. She found a deeper green one and grinned, pulling it close to Alexius; "Linen?" She called to the stallholder who shook his head, "Cotton, domina, from the East." She arched a brow, impressed and pushed it to Alexius to feel; "It's so soft. What do you think? A tunic in this and then breeches in the grey over there." She nodded to another fabric further back.

 

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Right, a gift. A tunica, as a gift. But it was still her choice, a thing she thought he needed, and clearly she had more experience with these things than he had. There was so much fabric here, so many colors and so many textures and all that, that he barely knew where to begin. So he just smiled when she told him it was a gift and then she went through the fabrics. Finally picked up a dark green and held it up against him. Alexius stood still. A fish out of water indeed! And then she judged it was too pale and picked something else. It was also green… she thought that a good color for him? He never really considered it, but maybe she was right.

 He'd not really said anything until she finally wanted Alexius to feel the fabric. He wrapped his fingers around it to feel it. It was soft. He didn’t think he’d ever worn anything that soft. Usually he went with wool or linen. This was different. The only time he’d felt fabric like this, was when he helped undress someone. Or slept in their bed. Which had nice sheets and pillows covered with expensive fabrics.

 “It does feel nice.” Alexius said with a smile to her, looking at her. She seemed to enjoy being here, at least. He could imagine it was something she often had spent her time with before, so it was safe and relaxing for her. Well then he’d support her, because he wanted her to feel good… “Will they sew the clothes for me then? I can mend it myself, but I am not that good with a needle.” He added with a grin to her. Oh he could do fine works with his hands, but not with needles.

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"Of course they'll sew them for you," she grinned and waved her hand at one of the workers who hurried forward with balls of string to take his measurements - his height, around the chest, waist, thigh...Ovinia smirked to herself as the girl doing so grinned up at Alexius. Why she was quite so immune to his charms when everybody else succumbed was a mystery to her. She shook her head, amused and started to filter through the fabrics herself, for something she'd like. Pinks and yellows didn't suit her skintone, but she had so many blue outfits it was a pain.

"I wish we could have purple," She chuckled under her breath and then glanced at Alexius as she held up a deep red fabric, wrapping it around her waist and throwing it over her shoulder to imitate a dress. "What do you think? With some gold jewellery and perhaps a gold palla? Or a lighter red?" The owner hurried off to find such colours of silks as Ovinia studied Alexius' reaction. Her lips twisted in a faint smile and she placed a hand on the curve of her hip. "This is deeply boring to you, isn't it?" 

 

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Alexius wasn't exactly used at having people do things for him. Usually he was the one who did things for other people, or he just did things for himself. Alexius had been a freedman in more than a decade now, but he had never owned any slaves and never would. Unless of course you counted his brief career as lanista, but everything he had then, had been given to him as part of the job. And it wasn't for him after all. Alexius could sew, but he preferred buying clothes that had already been made and they were never too expensive. Unless he had some wealthy lover who demanded to pay for something better... which happened. And then there was Ovinia. Who was not a lover of his, but who would still pay for new clothes for him. He smiled when she said that they'd sew his new clothes for him and he nodded, "That's very good." Alexius replied and then she continued to look through the fabrics. It was very feminine, Alexius thought to himself. Of her to do that. Very sweet. She looked at home here. This was her water.

She said something about purple then and held up a beautiful red fabric, wondering how it would look like on her. Alexius chuckled, looking at her as he tried to imagine what she said, "If the palla is gold, you'll look like an Augusta. Or perhaps a goddess. Aphrodite in the flesh!" Alexius suggested with a smile, he was being honest though, "Red suits your dark hair." He added and then she suddenly exclaimed how boring this must be for him.

"I wouldn't call it boring, but... maybe not something I'd have chosen to do. But, it's your day." Alexius said, watching her with a warmth in his expression and in his voice, "And this... you enjoy it so much, I can tell. And I wish only for you to be happy, Ovinia." 

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"An Augusta?" She arched a brow with a smirk toying on her lips, "I suppose our Caesar is single..." She joked and ran her fingers over the fine weave of the fabric. She was absolutely not in line for a match with an Imperial, she was too old for them she imagined. Not that she minded; she envisaged that a life in the Palace would be even more cloistered than hers in her fathers domus. No thank you.

His expression was warm and she found herself smiling genuinely too, a little embarrassed. She glanced down at the fabric in her hand. She didn't know how much it cost, it was immaterial to her. It might well have been a few month's wages for somebody like Alexius. Whoops. She cleared her throat and her voice was gentle, soft; "I am...thank you." She waved the slaves away who were fussing around the pair of them and drew closer to her guard, her voice lower. "I...haven't felt comfortable going out, not properly. For the first time in...a while I didn't think about it. Him." She softly squeezed Alexius' forearm out of view of the people milling about. "Thank you." She gave him a reassuring look. He'd helped, more than he knew. 

She stepped back after a few moments and cleared her throat, calling out for the stall-holder who dutifully reappeared. "We'll take that outfit for Alexius, and bolts of red, gold and blue for me. You know where to deliver it?" The man nodded hurriedly, almost in a half bow and she grinned to Alexius. "Some food perhaps, on the way to the Temple of Hercules and then Apollo, and then the library?" 

 

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Alexius had a vivid imagination, so when Ovinia described an outfit, it wasn't that for him to come up with how it might look like on her. And what he imagined was stunning. Ovinia was beautiful to begin with, and then add red and gold to her? Quite the Augusta indeed. She seemed to like the compliment and continued joking and Alexius chuckled, "He is, isn't he?" But he was also very young, Alexius knew that. Not ready to marry yet. The last time an Imperial, a Caesar even, had married at a very young age, it had turned out quite ugly, with an assassination and all that. Perhaps it was better for the Caesar to wait a bit this time. And Ovinia probably wasn't going to marry into that line anyway. He knew her father had other plans for her, and well, she did too. On top of the plans she didn't have, or rather, shouldn't have. Alexius knew. But he didn't mention it.

Then she'd mentioned how boring this must be for him, but while he didn't find it as entertaining as she did, he was still here, because this was her day and she clearly needed it. She needed things she enjoyed, so she could put the incident at Saturnalia with the attacker behind her. Suddenly his tone was warm and his words were more than honest and she cleared her throat and drew closer to him. Admitting she had not felt comfortable to go out, but now she almost forgot about what happened. Alexius smiled at her and the way she squeezed his arm, "Anytime, Ovinia." Alexius said and then she stepped back and called out for the stall-holder about what she'd buy. So she was going with the red and gold. Alexius thought he'd like to see that, see if it was as pretty as he imagined it. Ovinia quickly went on though, about what to do next.

"Food sounds good." He said and followed her away from the little shop, "Also... I'll escort you to the party where you're showing that red and golden outfit off. Whenever it's going to be." He added and without thinking further about the words that left his mouth, he continued, "Now lead the way, what are you hungry for today?" 

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"Who said it's for a party?" She grinned at him and then chuckled as she nimbly ducked and wove through the crowds assembled in the Forum. It really was the centre of the city which meant it was filled with pretty much every sort of person one could imagine. Which was not always ideal as Ovinia dodged a drunken, ranting man and a woman tugging along a stream of screaming infants. "But now Tiberius and Marcus Junius have moved into their villa, I suspect they'll be hosting something sooner rather than later," she glanced up at Alexius, "I think you'd collect a whole raft of new fans if you escorted me." Probably in equal measure from the men and women in attendance. 

"Some pastries maybe? Or fruit?" Never a woman known for gluttony, something small and sweet would suit her fine. She glanced at Alexius with a rueful smirk on her lips, "But would you perhaps like something a little more substantial? I imagine for all the work you do, an apple is not going to cut it. And it's my treat." She gestured to a thermopolia at one edge of the Forum with benches laid out next door, spilling into the street leading off from it. People were out drinking and talking and enjoying the early spring sun. "A cup of wine and stew on me?" She glanced over her shoulder to her slave girl who nodded in agreement. "And you can tell me how you've been filling your days since we last spoke." 

 

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Alexius arched a brow when she joked the outfit she considered might not be for a party. What then? A special dinner with Lucius perhaps? Well no matter what, Alexius would like to see it. See if she'd really look like the goddess he imagined in red and gold. Ovinia went on though, about some of the Patrician young men she knew moving into their own villa and they'd host something. Tiberius? Would that be Caesar's brother? Marcus Junius he didn't know of, at least he didn't think so. He chuckled when she said he'd gain new fans if he escorted her, "I'd be happy to escort you... especially if the bodyguard is also offered a drink or two." Alexius said with a wink, "I don't think you've mentioned these names to me before, are they close friends?" Alexius was just interested in knowing whom she spent her time with and hoped this Tiberius and Marcus would understand if she wasn't the same as she'd always been. Ovinia was good at pretending though. And if you didn't know, you might not guess something happened to her. Alexius just hoped they'd be nice.

Ovinia suggested they got some pastries, but then changed her mind and thought of a more proper meal.

"A cup of wine and stew sounds perfect." Alexius said and drew towards the thermopolia she seemed to consider... "I think by now you know how I spend my days, mostly. I lead a very different life than yours though. As you know." He added with a smile, "Pick a seat and I'll get the meal for us? Or would you prefer I stay near you?" 

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"Not especially close," She commented with a shake of her head, her dark hair moving in ripples down her back, "Tiberius is an Imperial Prince, so...very much on a different level although he's studious, almost, sweet. Marcus Junius is..." She chuckled, "A typical Patrician boy. I'm sure he'll grow out of his immaturity...maybe. One day. But for now he is at least amusing." She got to spar with so few people and fending off Marcus' flirtations was an amusing pastime, although she'd still not quite forgiven him for inviting a whore to Tiberius' party. The idiot.

They drew to the thermopolia and she cast a glance up at him. "Oh..." She blinked. She could sit in public unguarded. She had her slave, she'd be fine. But still, she couldn't help but cast a desperate look around the crowded Forum. There were hundreds of people milling around and shadows across the place. Who was lurking in them? She hesitated for another moment, eyes flicking between columns and pillars, trying to find one face..."I can find us a place." She confirmed with a breathless, weak smile. He's not here, don't be a fool in front of Alexius. "I have Lucia and here..." She held her hand to her slavegirl who dutifully deposited some coins in her palm before she held them out to Alexius; "As I said, today is on me." With an impish smile and not taking no for an answer, she swept away to take a seat on a long bench, devoid of any other customers. A few curious people glanced up at the expensively dressed young woman sitting alone but her glare alone made them keep their distance.

 

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