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January 77AD

Charis fidgeted on the marble bench, trying to act cool, calm and collected when she felt nothing of the sort. She'd been unable to see her closest friend in Rome for close to two months now - their schedules hadn't aligned and their precious few days off were spent apart. She felt her anxiety increase as people shuffled past. The change felt monumental even now, after a couple of weeks.

She hadn't told Cynane of Tertius' plans - she still half-believed that it would never happen, right up until Saturnalia had rolled around and she'd been forced to wear that stupid hat for her manumission. She tried to make herself believe that she hadn't told her friend out of caution - why get her hopes up? But now she realised she had just been a coward. She didn't want to explain what the freedom was costing her to one of the only women in Rome she could count on. Anxiety and nausea seized her insides again and she gripped the bench with her fingers. 

It was frigid today and she'd tried her best to conceal the expensive stola she was wearing under a thick cloak, pulled up over her head. The winters were nothing compared to those back home in Britannia but the cloak served a duel purpose. She'd shoved the palla she had been wearing into the bag at her hip that also contained honey cakes she'd purloined from the kitchens before she'd left that morning. 

She heard sandals against the dusty track that led past the bench and looked up into the low winter sun to see her friend. She moved to embrace her immediately, forgetting about her worry just for a moment.

 

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It had been awhile since they last saw each other, as always. Cynane was often busy with Claudia or something else requiring her at the palace and Charis, well she was busy with her son and with her work in her master's house. But they did see each other from time to time and Cynane found she enjoyed it the most, when Charis brought her son with her. Cynane wasn't really jealous of her, that she had a child. She liked Peregrinus. And she wanted to do her best to be an aunt or something to him. Be there when he grew up. Teach him a few things she thought he needed to know. But she didn't know if Charis had her son with her today. She'd received the messenger and cleared with Claudia and it was fine that she went to see her friend. So she did.

Dressed in her usual manner with the breeches and tunica and a warm cloak around her, she made her way to the gardens. She would have to get used to coming here, which wasn't too bad. Jason's master, Claudia's sister, was moving to the old villa in the gardens, so she could come here and meet her blood-brother. Had she told Charis about him? She couldn't recall if she did, but well, she could always tell her today. She had not been very familiar with Jason for long, but she cared about him, like a big sister for her younger brother and she would look out for him, just like she did it with her friend Charis. She'd look out for them both the best she could anyway. They had other owners. She couldn't be with them always, even if she wanted to. Fucking Romans for enslaving them all. 

But she inhaled a breath, calming herself as she made her way towards their usual meeting place. And there Charis sat on a bench, wearing a thick cloak pulled over her head. It wasn't that cold, was it? Maybe it was. But Cynane always walked at a somewhat fast pace, so she never felt very cold.

Charis stood when she saw Cynane, who pulled her into a warm embrace, for the moment not considering what Charis was wearing. She was just happy to see her friend, "It's good to see you, Charis. How are you? And how's your son?"

@Sara

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Charis felt the same lurch in her stomach when she saw Cynane that she did when she saw Teutus, although in this case it was amplified significantly. Teutus was freed - he had a life to lead, Cynane was not. They had been in their enslavement together, could commiserate together and now...she blinked and tried to enjoy the embrace, pulling back with a smile. "He's well, he's well..." she exhaled and took her seat again, pulling her back up onto her thighs - partly to disguise the dress, partly to start delving in to find the honey cakes, "I can't believe he'll be a year and a half soon...it seems like just yesterday he was born." She turned to her friend and offered a soft smile. She would never forget the service Cynane had done for her that day in August when Peregrinus had come squalling into the world. 

She turned back to her bag, rummaging through until she pulled out the small box with two honey cakes stashed inside. She pulled it out and held it open for Cynane to take one; "Just like that first time we drank wine and ate these...although it was sunnier then," She chuckled, "And there are less evil, blonde prostitutes here." She took her own and fiddled with it between her fingers, not eating it yet. "I..." She cleared her throat, trying to summon her words. How did she even say it? She couldn't. She wasn't a coward, but in that moment words utterly failed her. "How have you been?" She asked instead.

 

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Charis curled into her embrace a moment, before she pulled back and spoke of her son being well and how she could barely believe how old he was now. Cynane chuckled while Charis sat down again and rummaged through a bag she brought with her, "It does seem like that. I'll never forget that day." Cynane replied, while Charis looked through the bag. Cynane watched her and wondered if Charis' master had gifted her a new chiton or something, it looked better than anything she'd worn before. Then Charis produced a small package with honey cakes and Cynane picked one up while Charis took the other, speaking of the first time they shared honey cakes. The day they met Helios. The day that became such a turning point for Charis, because that bastard Helios sold Charis' stories to her master. He really should be glad Cynane had not run into him since.

Why was she so easily angered all the time? While Charis seemed in a fine mood and chuckled... "We need none of those. Just the two of us." Cynane replied and then Charis seemed a little... nervous? Like she had something on her mind, but she trailed off, cleared her voice and asked how Cynane had been.

"I've been good, not much new with me I guess... oh except... I can't remember if I told you about Tirañes? Or Jason, as the Romans call him. He's body slave to Claudia's brother." Cynane looked at her, when did they last see each other? A few months ago at least, she thought. And it was in the fall that she caught up with Jason in a courtyard at the palace and they spoke. And mixed their blood. Maybe she should do the same with Charis. If she would.

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"Just the two of us." She affirmed with a wavering smile and a lump in her throat. Cynane was her closest friend here and had been since her arrival. What  had happened felt like a betrayal even though she practically had no choice. Slavery was not a life she wanted to lead...but why was it so hard to summon the courage to tell her friend? She bit into the honey cake to keep her mouth full so she couldn't physically talk. 

At her friends words she looked at the blonde curiously, shaking her head. Tirañes. Nope. Didn't ring a bell, and the name didn't sound Latin either, nor Brittonic. A softer smile was on her face as she nudged Cynane. "You've not told me about him...is there something to tell?" She quirked a brow. Her friend had never mentioned any lovers or really anything of that nature...she was curious as to just who this man was to her friend, although was already firmly of the belief he wasn't good enough for her. Besides, talking about Tirañes meant she didn't have to speak about herself. "What's he like? Where's he from?" 

 

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Something was definitely off about Charis, but she could not put her finger on what it was yet. Hopefully Charis would tell her at some point, else Cynane would have to ask and she hated to do that. She didn't want to sound like she thought anything was wrong her friend, or imply that she acted strangely, but she did. But Charis asked how Cynane was doing and she answered, she had news of her own too and mentioned Tirañes. Charis did not seem to know about him, so she hadn't mentioned him. Then Charis nudged her with a smile and wondered what there was to tell about Tirañes. Cynane arched a brow at her friend. Just because she mentioned a man she'd met didn't mean she considered him a lover. Were all women supposed to just fall onto their knees for any man showing them the tiniest bit of kindness? Cynane didn't think they had any right to expect that. And she certainly would not. Luckily, it was different with her blood-brother. He did not seem to think like other men and he respected her for who she was. 

"There is something to tell, but not what you seem to think." Cynane replied, "He's from Sarmatia and was enslaved just a few years ago. He's very nice, very easy to talk to... I've rarely met any men in Rome as easy to talk to as he is." She said with a smile, "And he seemed to think the same, the first time we really talked. So we... decided to become family. He is my blood-brother, as I am his sister." She looked at Charis, hoping she understood that explanation. And hoping she wouldn't feel left out, "I've thought that perhaps we should do the same. Although you already are like a sister to me, Charis. Erea." She added with a warm smile, she cared for her friend and would happily take her in as her sister in Rome. She had no other family here, but she had apparently begun building one.

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Charis noted the unimpressed look on her friends face, judging by the arched brow. Okay. Not a boyfriend then. She hadn't intended to annoy Cynane but she was clearly already souring  the mood and she had absolutely no idea how her closest friend would react when she did tell her the actual news. She smothered down her anxiety and instead concentrated on what Cynane was saying. Sarmatian...she had no idea where Sarmatia was. Her eyebrows rose when she said she was his blood-sister, and had she been able to read Cynane's thought she would have agreed with her, she did feel left out.

She tried not to let it show on her face but couldn't help..."You swapped blood on your first conversation with him?" It sound snappy the moment she said and she tried to correct with; "He must be special. I'd like to meet him." She already disliked the notion of him, out of jealousy more than anything else. When Cynane made the offer to her Charis tried to squash thoughts of; how nice to think of me, an after thought. The rationale part of her mind knew that wasn't what this was, that she wanted to share her family, but Charis couldn't help be hurt..."I'd like that, of course I would. I already consider you my sister, Peregrinus' aunt." She reached out to squeeze Cynane's hand, a new gold bracelet jangling on her wrist as she did so. "How did you do it?" Any cuts or scars she'd have to explain away to Tertius, but she could deal with that later...for now she was trying to salvage this afternoon and shake the jealousy out of her head.

 

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Tirañes was definitely not a lover or a boyfriend to her. Although if she should pick anyone, he might so far be one of the few men in Rome worthy of such a thing. But they shared blood now and they agreed they were brother and sister. And she cared for him like that, and not in any other way. Charis seemed to understand and then Cynane began telling about Tirañes and about how they shared blood. She could hear the bitterness in Charis' voice though... but didn't quite know why Charis would be upset over that, it wasn't like Cynane spoke fondly of every man she met. So should her friend not be pleased that Cynane had finally met one of the male gender that she didn't hate? 

"He is, very special. It was his idea, that we shared blood. It felt like the right thing to do." She said with a soft smile and then she'd mentioned that Charis and Cynane could share blood too, even if Charis was already like a sister to her. They didn't need to share blood, they'd shared crucial experiences. Cynane was there for Peregrinus' birth. That was quite something. She'd been honored to be a part of it. Charis squeezed her hand, saying she'd like to share blood with Cynane too. Cynane squeezed Charis' hand back, still a bit surprised about Charis' reaction, even though her words were kind. But it takes a bee to collect honey. She tried to push it aside though.

"We both made a tiny cut here." She showed her wrist; the cut had long since healed and sadly, there wasn't even a scar... "And then we brought it together. And he called upon a goddess of his to witness it." Cynane said and took Charis' hand in hers, turning it around so the underside of the wrist faced upwards. Upon doing so, she noticed the golden bracelet. Cynane arched a brow but then she smiled, "Looks like you've got your own tale to tell me... an admirer? Or lover?" She added with a wink to her friend, curious to learn what secrets Charis had not told her. 

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His idea indeed. She made a mental note to ask Tertius where exactly Sarmatia was and who its people were. She'd have asked Cynane but she didn't particularly want to keep talking about the man, this Tirañes much more. She was not a naturally jealous person and found happiness when her friends found others, particularly Cynane who she was most fond of. But something sat uneasily about the way Cynane spoke of him, of this sudden closeness. It probably had more to do with the fact that she was worried she was drifting further and further away from the only person she really felt she could trust in Rome, and somebody was waiting in the wings to replace her. She didn't say anything and merely nodded at Cynane's explanation and watched as her friend showed her wrist.

She let her hand be taken by her friend and the jangling of the bracelet startled her. She should have taken it off. Idiot. She blinked at her friends words and wink and swallowed deeply. To say nothing would be the same as a lie but the moment had already been somewhat soured by Charis' reaction to Tirañes and she felt her heart start beating faster, her pulse quickening beneath Cynane's fingertips. She should have thought about what to say...but then again she had been trying to rationalise for most of the walk here, that surely Cynane would be happy for her? She would have been happy had Claudia freed her and taken her as a lover. Of course, their two masters were very different, but that hadn't occurred to Charis until she sat here, stumbling for something to say.

"Tertius." She admitted in a quieter voice and shifted round, moving her hand back over to hold Cynane's tightly in her own fingers. "I...I wanted to write to tell you but it seemed better to tell you in person..." She regretted that now, "He...freed me, at Saturnalia." She exhaled a deep breath knowing that that wasn't the biggest news, "He's made me his wife...well...his wort of wife. I don't understand it but apparently men like him can't marry freedwomen but..." She squeezed Cynane's hand tighter, "It doesn't change anything. It doesn't change our friendship." 

 

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She was very interested in this development, she’d never seen such a bracelet on her friend’s wrist, not even back when she was the steady bedmate to her master. She wondered if said master knew about this, but Charis probably kept it a secret. She wasn’t stupid. But then Cynane blinked as Charis said a name. Tertius? Not the Tertius? Her master? He’d given her a golden bracelet? Because she was the mother of his son. That had to be it. Cynane could not imagine Charis willingly becoming his lover again, after how he’d treated her while she was pregnant. All those thoughts managed to shift through her mind, until Charis continued.

 She seemed nervous again, holding Cynane’s hand tightly and then said she’d been freed. Cynane’s eyes widened. She was… freed? She felt her heart beat faster, shocked and surprised and stunned at the same time. This was… but there was more… Cynane had to tear her eyes from Charis’ face, or she feared she’d just never move. This was much. So much! Charis was freed and had become the wife to her violator, the man who had treated her so viciously. A man who was cruel all the way through, if you asked Cynane. How… why? She didn’t know what to say. Of course she should be happy her friend had been freed, but it shouldn’t be like this…

 Charis said it didn’t change anything, but Cynane was not so sure.

 “It doesn’t change anything? I'm glad you're free, I am, but... I… I’m sorry, I’m just trying to understand…” She said and inhaled a deep breath, “I just… can’t. Has it been long since it happened? Why?” Why everything Charis just said? Why was she freed, why was she now to act like the wife to such a man? And why… why had she not told Cynane sooner? She felt startled all the way through. In a way she’d almost not felt at all since she came to Rome.

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Charis had been preparing for Cynane to be upset, or angry even but her confusion felt like more of a wrench than either of those and she tried to cling onto her hand, squeezing her tighter. She shifted on the bench to be closer, desperately  trying to catch the blondes eyes. "I...didn't  understand either, not at first, not after everything." She swallowed. Cynane knew exactly what she was referring to. 

"I..." She winced. That was perhaps the worst of it, but Charis had her reasons for not telling her sooner. How could she have sent word with a messenger boy? What would Cynane have thought then?! "Saturnalia. He did it at Saturnalia. I...it happened quickly." she gulped down the lump in her throat, "He came to me to ask what I thought after Teutus' mother visited...I think, I think he realised that Peregrinus needed a mother not in irons...I had to. I...it's an opportunity to be there for my son properly, Cinnia, you understand don't you?" 

 

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Cynane should be happy for her friend, and she was also happy that Charis was free, but at what cost? Being the wife to a man who had violated her and kept her locked up and done so many awful things to her... was that really freedom, if you accepted a life with such a man? Cynane didn't like it at all. Charis clung to her hand, as if she feared Cynane would leave, and she inched closer too, but Cynane could not look at her right now. Not while she was still struggling to understand how Charis had just said this, just like that, that she had been freed and was with Tertius as his wife. Charis said it had happened at Saturnalia. So it wasn't even just yesterday. It had been a while. She claimed it happened quickly and that Tertius just wanted a mother for Peregrinus who was not a slave. She tried to say it was for her son.

"I understand the freedom. And Peregrinus... you must be with him, of course, but..." She inhaled a breath, it did not sit well with her, this. She understood the logics, but behind all that there were a number of things she did not understand. Cynane had to tear her hand from Charis, it turned into a fist the moment it was free. She clenched and unclenched it, finally looking up at Charis, "But him? You're his wife? Willingly?" That, she failed to understand. How could any woman willingly marry a man who had wronged in so many ways? In what world would that ever be the right thing to do?

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Charis switched to their own language, as she often did when she was upset or anxious and tried to cling onto Cynane's hand as she wrenched it away. She felt something else bubble up though, alongside the anguish at her friends despair...she could feel the weight of Cyanne's judgement on her like a cowl and it made her angry. How could she possibly judge her for something she knew nothing about? How could she think she'd do anything different if their circumstances had been switched? 

"What else was I going to do?!" She snapped with a choke, frowning deeply. "Stay a slave and watch him remarry somebody else? Wacth somebody else mother my son?" She shook her head hard and tried to still the resentment that was bubbling up in her chest. "Not all of us can have masters as pleasant as yours," She folded her arms across her chest defensively and exhaled sharply  through her nose, "And it's different now, he's different he...seems to care for me. And he's good to Peregrinus." How was she in argument where she was actually defending Tertius?

 

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Always easily angered it seemed, this situation was no different from so many others. She didn't think it was fair. Not to Charis, that her master, who had done so many cruel things to her, had to make her his wife. Hadn't he done enough? Didn't he see it? All she wished was the best for her friend and she understood the yearning for freedom better than anyone, she thought, but despite that, she found that the cost of Charis' freedom was too high. Even if she had to be with Peregrinus, which she could also understand, it was still not right. And that made her feel angry. Charis replied in their own language then, snapping at Cynane, frowning. And she had every right to be angry, of course she did. This... it was happening to her, this injustice. Cynane felt she could see this from both sides, she understood the reason why Charis had to be wife to her master, but she did not understand how it could be entirely willing from Charis' side. 

Cynane's eyes snapped up at her though when Charis brought Claudia into the discussion. That was no comparison at all! Cynane's mistress was young and a woman and not even married. Charis' was a man, an arrogant and cruel Roman man, who seemed to want nothing more but to keep women submissive under his hand. How dare she mention Claudia? She inhaled a sharp breath as Charis crossed her arms and said her master cared for her and for Peregrinus.

"And you don't think that the moment you fail to live up to his expectations, he won't tear it all away from you again?" She replied, "I... I just fear for you, Erea. I fear you've paid too high a price. I fear you'll lose it all if you don't please him. And with the way he's treated you before... how do you know he won't suddenly change his mind?" The thing was Charis didn't know, did she? And what if her so-called husband did change his mind and decided to marry a real Roman lady and get rid of Charis? You couldn't trust a Roman. Or, you could trust very few of them. And Charis' master was not one of the trustworthy ones. 

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Cynane was angry. She was angry. This was already descending into chaos and Charis was finding it very hard to control herself...primarily because she knew that her friend was right. They had signed terms, but they had all been in his favour. She had not felt confident enough to add her own terms, thinking it might make him second guess his choice and that could be catastrophic. It meant, as Cynane had astutely inferred though, that he could change his mind without fear of consequence, but she could not. 

"I won't let that happen." She said sternly, finding it difficult to stay sitting when she was this irate. She pushed herself to stand, folding her arms over her chest and pacing in small steps near the bench. "I'll please him. I'll be his perfect little wife, I'll have his children if it means I can see my son grow old and not call me slave or Charis, if he can call me mama instead." She shook her head, "Why are you trying to upset me? It's too late for that now. It's done." She choked.

 

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It was odd to think about Charis' mild reaction to Cynane telling her about her new blood-brother... and then to this, which was nowhere near mild with any of them. Cynane was easily angered and she was upset now. She did wish the best for her friend, did want her to have her freedom and did want her to be with her son. It wasn't that! It was more... the whole meaning behind it all. Charis becoming the wife to a man who had done so many awful things. In what world was that the right move? But Cynane of course never had children, so she would not understand the bond a mother had with a child. She knew it was there. She just didn't know what it was like.

She tried to point out that Tertius might change his mind and Charis just said she would not let that happen. Then she stood and continued to speak about how she'd please him and do anything, as long as she was not a slave and her son would know her as his mother. Then she said Cynane was trying to upset her! 

"I am not trying to upset you, I'm trying to understand." Cynane said followed by a deep sigh, "I would not trust him. Not after what he did to you before." She said, looking up at Charis again, "And you, you are free... but the way you speak of how you'll act... that does not sound very free to me." And that was another truth, wasn't it? Charis' master and husband could not be trusted and Charis would not ever really be free, not if she would do anything to please her husband like she just said. She didn't want to upset Charis! But she didn't understand. She really didn't.

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Charis' eyes threatened to water and she exhaled, turning her cheek to Cynane and staring at the lush winter gardens beyond, trying to focus on something else than the truths her friend was sharing. She knew all of it. It didn't change what she'd been forced to do for the good of her son. For her. She exhaled sharply and shook her head. 

"Do you think I don't remember what he did?" She choked with a glare in Cynane's direction. A few people gave the two women odd glances as they hurried past but Charis paid them no heed, too lost in this argument. "It's better than nothing." she swallowed and shook her head, "Better than worrying I'm going to be separated from Peregrinus or sold...besides, besides..." She exhaled again, trying to still the hammering of her heart against her ribs, "If I'm good to him then maybe he'll relax the terms. He's...he's been better recently. Good to me. Good to us." She finally dragged her eyes back to her friends. "I wanted you to be happy for me. Not judge me. I'm not just his slut, I'm his wife. It means something." 

 

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Cynane cared for her friend and Charis had been through so much, during the brief time she'd been in Rome. Compared to Cynane, she had not been here for long. But she'd been violated and abused, impregnated, kept locked up and now she was free and acting as the wife of the man who did all these things to her. What was going to be next? And why would Charis even agree to do it, that's what she could not understand. Charis looked away and then said she did remember what he'd done to her. But still she accepted his terms, she accepted how things were now. Said it was better than nothing and now she didn't have to worry about her or her son.

If she was good to him, he would relax his terms. It was still Charis, who had to do something first. What did her husband do for her? Apparently he had just been good to them. And what did that even mean, when it was a man like Tertius? Cynane had met him. She had not been impressed. But Charis said it meant something to be his wife. Something good.

"Of course you're not his slut... his whore. I didn't say that." Cynane said with a sigh, "And I want to be happy for you, but don't you see why that's hard?" She stood, took Charis' hands in hers, looked at her. There was the difference in their heights, but it mattered little, "I just... I care for you, Erea. I am honored to be your friend. I just don't understand." She said and blinked, suddenly feeling the tears and she was unable to stop them. Cynane never cried. Never... but now she was trembling within, "Please forgive me." 

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"You implied it." Charis retorted, even though Cynane hadn't and she was feeling fragile and defensive and reading into her friends words what she herself heard. She called herself a slut more than any other person would. The conflicting feelings of joy at being free, and terror at being under Tertius' thumb still and shame at allowing herself to be used so completely came crashing down around her. Just as Cynane pleaded and took her hand. She nodded silently, lips pressed in a thin line, at her question. She did understand why it was hard. 

And then Cynane cried. Charis' eyes widened. She'd never seen her friend upset, never. Angry, of course, amused, absolutely, and in awe, yes but never upset. Not like this. She let out a choke. She had nothing to forgive. Quickly, before Cynane could react Charis was reaching for her to pull her into a hug so tight she didn't ever wish to let go. "I'm sorry..." She choked again, her own tears clouding her eyes, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry I don't...I didn't know what else to do. I-I don't want it to change anything." she pulled back for a moment, big blue eyes watery and cheeks flushed. "You're my closest friend." She sniffed, "I don't-I don't want you to judge me. That's all. I need you." 

 

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Cynane could not recall implying that Charis was some kind of slut or whore, not at all. She just didn't get why or how Charis would basically still act as a slave with a man, who'd treated her like she had, all for the sake of freedom. But she hated to see her friend like this, hated that Charis had to do what she did and she felt she was failing as a friend. And as a sister. She didn't lie earlier, when they spoke about such matters. Charis was like a sister to her, blood-bound or no. She wanted to be happy for Charis. But she couldn't. So she asked for her friend's forgiveness, even as she felt herself trembling within and the tears pressing to leave her eyes and she couldn't stop them. This was so... devastating. More than anything else she'd experienced. Was she losing the best friend she'd had since she came to Rome?

Then suddenly Charis pulled her into a tight hug and now she was apologizing and didn't want her new status to change anything. But it did change things. Charis was a freedwoman. A citizen of Rome. Probably even had a Roman name now. She could have slaves. She could order Cynane around. Not that she would, but she could. And she was still bound to the man who owned her before and in Cynane's eyes, still owned her. 

Charis sniffed too and Cynane returned the tight embrace, but then Charis pulled back. Said she needed Cynane.

"I hope that'll never change. I'll be here for you. Even if I... fail you." Almost the only family she had in Rome, besides Tirañes, and she had failed her... "I really am sorry. I've just..." She trailed off, felt it would be impossible to explain it all to Charis. She wouldn't understand, would she? Especially not now. How Cynane had been here for so long, a slave all the time, never even close to freedom. They'd done so much to her here. But even though they kept her as a slave, she was still not broken. She was still a Brigantes and always would be. No matter the cost, it seemed.

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Charis was swallowing a gulp of air with every breath as they separated. She wanted to raise her fingers to wipe the tears of her friends cheeks but didn't. She felt adrift and confused about the friendship they'd shared now seemingly lying in tatters at their feet. And it was all Tertius' fault. As usual. Charis couldn't stomach looking at her own faults even though they were just as plain. 

"You've never failed me." She shook her head vehemently and growing exasperated, exhaled sharply, pushing her fingers through her head; "Fuck I...I don't know what to do. I don't know what to do." She looked at Cynane. "We'll still be friends. You'll never not be my sister and...and if you can get time off from Claudia we can do things. Proper things and he can't say anything." She offered her friend a half-smile. She was sure Tertius would say something if she spent all of her time with slaves. "I...I haven't ruined things, have I?" 

 

tag: @Atrice

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She had failed her friend, because she failed in being happy for her. She should be happy for Charis. She was free! And she had gained status and wealth in Rome. She wasn't a simple slave anymore, like Cynane still was. But the cost, she could not forget that. She wished she could, but she had failed. She'd upset Charis, who was most likely happy about her new rank, but now unable to feel that, because Cynane didn't understand how you could give in like Charis had done it. So she had failed, no matter what Charis said. And she said Cynane had not failed and pulled back, shaking her head, saying she didn't know what to do.

Cynane didn't either. And she always knew what to do. And she never cried. Now she blinked a tear away again, feeling it coming again. She'd looked forwards to seeing Charis today and look at her now... Charis said they would still be friends and they could do things. And she hoped she'd not ruined things.

"You have only done what was right for you. How could you do anything else?" She asked and paused, "You are free... it's not your fault that your master... sorry, husband, is an idiot." Cynane said with a sigh. Charis was free and her master and owner was now her husband. It was so messed up... it would take time getting used to all that, the husband, the freedom, the fact that Charis held the rank of freedwoman... "We can still do things, but... you're free and I... am still wearing this." She pointed to the slave-tag she wore around her neck. It wasn't big and bold, like some she'd seen, it was nice and made out of metal and not crude and cheap. But it was there. A constant reminder of her own rank in Rome among Romans. A constant reminder of her rank next to her best friend, who no longer wore it. And people who saw them together, would think that Cynane was Charis' slave. It would never be the same, would it?

@Sara

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Charis managed a hoarse laugh, it sounded strangled and weak. "He's more than idiot." She agreed as she swotted the tears from her cheeks with the back of her hand. He was occasionally a good man, occasionally a monster. He oscillated between the two with such ease that it often confused her, left her on the back foot. She was not surprised he'd risen so high in politics - she doubted even the most astute political leaders would be able to get a read on him.

She sighed as Cynane articulated their ranks. She knew it - that was why she had that sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach that she couldn't shake but...seeing her friends upset made it all the more real. She swallowed and raised her fingers to brush over the slave tag Cynane wore, not unlike the one she'd discarded a few weeks earlier. Her fingers traced the letters with soft sadness. "There is hope." She nodded and flicked her eyes to her friend. "A year ago I never would have thought I'd be here but things change, people change. And...and Claudia loves you." At least from what she understood, "There's hope." She swallowed and let her fingers drop, trying to force a smile on her face. "And one day, you, Peregrinus and I will be sat in a beautiful green field back, at home, and this will all feel like a dream." Or a nightmare.

 

TAG: @Atrice

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Cynane could only agree that saying that Charis' master and husband was an idiot... was an understatement. But there it was. Along with the fact that her best friend in Rome was now free, yet claimed they could still do things together. But they had different ranks now and that meant it would not be quite the same as before. Charis touched Cynane's slave tag, which felt oddly intimate, while she said there was still hope for Cynane. Speaking of how she had not thought this would happen to herself, but it did. It was a sweet dream, but Cynane had spent almost half of her life here now, as a slave. She didn't want to give up. But she also wasn't sure if it would ever change. Charis said that Claudia loved her. Which was the issue here, really. She cared too much. She wouldn't let Cynane go.

"Let's hope your dream will come true." Cynane said to her friend, looking up at her face. Dreams and hopes were nice, but her hopes had been shattered more than once and she had to face reality instead. She already felt drained by it. She almost felt tired.

"But for now, things are as they are. And I..." She trailed off, picked up Charis' hand in her own, "I think I... need time to let all this sink in. It doesn't mean we're not still friends. We are. And you know where to find me." Unlike Charis, Cynane was still bound to her home. She knew nothing of the many terms Charis' husband had set up for her. For now, she needed to think it all through and figure out her place in their friendship now. Charis said she didn't want things to be changed between them, but they were.

@Sara

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