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Two days after Saturnalia, 76AD

Winter was quiet, as far as business went. It was dangerous to sail from about November through to some time in February - it didn't mean that ships didn't sail in those months, just that those months were more prone to storms at sea and so the most prudent sailors preferred to winter in some port or other. Which was just fine by Teutus, who was well enough aware that he had built flexibility into his business plans. Winter was a time to ensure the warehouse was clean and tidy, ready for new stock to come in.

And right after Saturnalia was a very quiet time indeed, with no need for Teutus to leave the house for business purposes. Which meant that he was at home today, watching as his mother set up her new loom.

"I don't think I mentioned it earlier, Mama," he said quietly. "Charis came by over Saturnalia... I invited her to dinner in a week or so. Just her, and her baby."

 

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The quiet of winter had changed the household's routines due to the change in Teutus's business practices, but Varinia had adapted to it. In some ways the winter lull reminded her of the lifestyle growing up in northern Gaul, where snow would make many activities impossible in the winter, and the household spent much time inside. In some ways this felt much the same, and she actually enjoyed it. Plus it meant she had more time with her son. Their simple ientaculum of bread and oil had been cleared away, the morning chores seen to by herself and Persephone, the boys sent off on errands, mostly to get them out of the house. Olipor tended to gravitate as close to her cook fire as he dared because of the cold, so she'd given him a pot to stir.

All was well, and at last she had the opportunity to do something she'd really been looking forward to. Her first loom had arrived, a simple warp-weighted loom, which was a good way to start. She'd put in an order for a two-beam loom but had been told that there was a significant wait for the more complex item. In the meantime this would do nicely. She had skeins of wool all spun and ready, so she was now winding out the warp, which involved using a few items of furniture, and her son's arm, as points around which to wind the strands. They had to be a certain length for the cloth, plus the extra to tie to the loom beam and the weights, and in this small apartment that meant there was soon a maze of string around everything as she measured and wound. 

Sitting where he'd been told and keeping the tension taught, Teutus was watching her work and keeping her company. He spoke quietly as they chatted back and forth. 

Charis came by over Saturnalia... I invited her to dinner in a week or so. Just her, and her baby.

Varinia looked up and smiled. "It would be good to see them." She said warmly, before focusing on the wool in her hands again. "Let me know which day, and I'll get something special for cena." She told him, thinking that it would be nice to see Charis again, and her darling little boy of course. Being in much the same situation as Varinia had been, all those years ago, she had a lot of fellow feeling for the younger woman. 

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Teutus was watching the whole operation with interest - yes, it was women's work, but his late mistress had not lived long enough to set up a loom in her own house, and Tertius had had the money to simply buy ready-woven cloth and have it made up into clothing for his household, so Teutus had never really watched the process whereby spun thread (linen or wool) had been dyed and woven into cloth. There had been baskets and baskets of spun and dyed wool appearing throughout the small apartment over the past weeks, his mother busy with her spindle almost every time Teutus had seen her. And now she was eagerly measuring thread, leaving the main room looking as if it had been attacked by spiders with an interesting diet and choice of colours for their webs.

"Father freed her, you know." She probably didn't know that. "The only other slave he ever freed was me." He sighed, he had such a confusion where Charis was concerned, mostly around her child. Tertius had done it very neatly indeed, replacing Varinia and himself with Charis and her baby, although he seemed to care for Teutus. He just had a very odd way of showing it, sometimes.

 

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He could buy cloth, she knew. Could buy clothing, but that wasn't the point. This was women's work, and this tunic was being made with love. She'd bought the fleece, carded and spun the wool, dyed it in batches and Teutus had been terribly tolerant of the baskets taking over the living area and the dyed skeins hanging up to dry. Today was the day she started the big project, and she had it all planned out. She was even going to work some fancy patterning into the neckline.

And she was secretly pleased that Teutus was taking an interest in the project. It was what women were expected to do, but she was taking a delight in doing it for him. As she wound out another line of warp, they discussed plans for having Charis and Peregrinus to dinner, which would be something to look forward to. Charis seemed lovely, and her little boy was just adorable. Then Teutus dropped his bombshell.

Father freed her, you know.

She hadn't known. She hadn't even expected it, and the shock made her pause in her winding as, for a moment, she felt stunned. Tertius had freed Charis. A little voice, the voice of a girl in love, protested but he never freed me! But of course he couldn't, he'd never owned Varinia. She'd never been his to free, except for in her heart. It was easy to draw parallels between her and Teutus, and Charis and Peregrinus. But there were also a lot of differences.

"That will be a good thing for her." She said carefully, continuing her winding. "I imagine she's pleased." She wound off the last of that particular ball of wool, before looking across at her son. He sighed. "You don't look too pleased though."She said, and her tone was all empathy, no judgement. "What are you thinking, Makki?"

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"She's his concubina," he continued. "There was a whole long list of conditions for her, of course." He didn't know what was on that list, though he could probably guess at some of them, not that he needed to. "

He looked up at his mother, whose expression was one of concern. "I suggested it, last year? Or was it the year before - no, it was last year, last Saturnalia." There was another sigh. "He invited me for dinner, and I turned up to find I wasn't the only guest."

This revelation might hurt his mother, as it had stung Teutus at the time. But better get it out in the open so they could at least acknowledge the hurt. "There was another man there, younger than me, who said he was named Wulfric, who had come from Germania. My half-brother."

Free but barbarian half-brother.

"It was rather a disaster, that dinner," he added with a slightly bitter laugh. "I ended up telling Father some home truths that I think might have taken him by surprise - and I told him he should free Charis because he wouldn't want his baby with her to end up like me."

It had almost been the last time he'd spoken with his father - a whole year... That wasn't right, he ought to do something about that. He just would prefer not to.

 

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She's his concubina.

Teutus continued to explain, and Varinia listened, focusing on carefully cutting the woolen threads so as not to leave room in her mind for jumping to conclusions or emotional reactions. Somewhere deep inside her a young woman - a girl really - was crying, but ever since she'd spoken to Tertius that day, the girl's internal voice had been dwindling. Varinia had known then that he wasn't for her.

Once the threads were cut Varinia carefully looped them up, untangling her son and their few pieces of furniture in the process, and carried them over to the loom. Teutus had given her a great deal to think about, all at once. But she was thinking about it. Best to start with the easy part. "That was good of you to speak up for Charis, and it is the right thing to do, both for her and Peregrinus." Even she existed in that relationship under strict conditions, it would still be more than she'd had before. "So your father listened to you." She glanced across at him and offered him a smile, before she started tying the warp strings onto the loom beam. "Not that I am surprised. I am certain that he thinks better of you than you think he does." He was just awkward, she'd realised. But she was determined to do what she could to gently heal things between her beloved son and the man she'd borne him to.

The other piece of news was rather more surprising, though perhaps it should not have been. "I didn't know that Tertius had another son. But I suppose you didn't either, until he arrived." Another glance in Teutus's direction, trying to gauge his thoughts. "What did you make of him?" What had it been like, finding he had a sibling? Varinia would have loved to have had more children, but after Tertius's father's response to finding out she was pregnant, it wasn't going to be with Tertius. And she feared what would happen if she had a child with another slave. Romans exposed children they didn't want, left them out for the Gods and the elements to decide their fate. She couldn't bear the thought of that, so she'd been careful not to conceive another. Now she was probably too old.

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"I'm surprised he didn't throw me out, the way I spoke to him," Teutus admitted with a shrug. "I didn't really think it would have any effect on him... he'd taken so long over freeing me that I stopped believing he ever would." The long and the short of it was that he no longer really believed his father when it came to the things he said or the promises he made.

"What does it matter, how well or badly he thinks of me, if he doesn't do the things he says he will - or come right and say why he can't do them instead of dragging things out for months - years, even."

He was bitter over it, perhaps he always would be, though he managed to muster a smile.

"I liked him. He's... he's far too nice and believing, to do at all well in Rome, especially when it comes to Father."

They didn't feel like siblings - Teutus had no real notion what it was supposed to feel like to have a sibling, anyway. Antonia Varia was much younger than him and had been a freeborn daughter while he had been a slave, that was probably a very different thing from having a brother of nearly the same age.

"I don't know what to think, about Father. He treats everyone so... shabbily."

 

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What does it matter, how well or badly he thinks of me, if he doesn't do the things he says he will...

"But it does matter. I can hear it in your voice." Varinia chided ever so gently, working her way slowly along the loom's main beam as she tied the bundles of warp threads. She shook her head gently as he spoke further, not making any excuses for the man who wasn't the youth she'd known, much as she believed she could still see that youth in him. 

She did smile when Teutus described his brother. "He sounds nice, if as you say, not safe to leave wandering around." No doubt his people's ways were quite different to Roman ones, if he was from Germania. "Did you want to invite him back here?"

I don't know what to think, about Father. He treats everyone so... shabbily.

It was still bothering her son, very much so. Varinia felt for him, but she also felt a little bit for the man who had fathered him. Tying off the last bundle of warp threads, she left her loom and came over to her son, putting a hand on Teutus's arm. "I don't know." She admitted. "But if I had to guess, I'd say that he doesn't know either." She said gently. "People should keep their words, and you have every right to be frustrated with him." She wouldn't begrudge her son that. She was frustrated in a way, not with Tertius but with his father. And his father was dead so that achieved nothing. She'd resolved long ago to enjoy what she had, not fret over what she hadn't. "But... I think that Tertius is walking a difficult path between what he wants, and what society says he should have and do, and doesn't always see what we think is the obvious, right path." This was of course only Varinia's thoughts on the subject, but it was something that she'd pondered for a long time.

She settled herself calmly next to him. "Tertius and I were young and foolish, and I loved him Teutus, as well as any slave can love their master. But because of that foolishness, I have the greatest joy in my life." She smiled at him warmly and patted his hand. "He couldn't acknowledge you as his son when you were born, his father would not permit it." She said simply, because that was the truth of it. "I... was afraid that Publius would demand you be exposed," she admitted with difficultly "but he let me keep you." Which had perhaps been the man's greatest charity towards her. "Your father was the third son; I'm sure you know this. He probably expected to have a life in the military. Now Publius Major and Minor are dead, and I understand he had a fight with Secundus. So suddenly he's managing his own household without guidance from a pater familias, and I don't actually think he knows what he's doing. He's human too." Much as it was easy, having been slaves, to see Romans as near god-like, Varinia knew from her younger years that wasn't the case.

She squeezed his fingers. "So you can blame some of your situation on your fool of a mother, for falling for a Roman, and some on your father, who's muddling through as best he can without the guidance he was supposed to have." She suggested, looking up at him, her wonderful son, who despite all that had made a great start in life. And it looked like things would only get better. 

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"Did you want to invite him back here?"i

"Yes, if he'll come. If he's still in Rome," he said. Tertius wouldn't see him, Teutus knew that much about his father from what little he'd seen of the two of them together that evening. Germania was many, many miles away, a long and dangerous journey, and Teutus couldn't imagine what it felt like to have made that journey and to practically have the door slammed in your face. And his father hadn't outright forbidden him from talking to his brother, although how Tertius would enforce it if he had was anyone's guess.

"Father's a Senator, a Praetor even, he ought to have some idea about treating the people around him." He let out a long breath. "Maybe if Antonia Justa had lived longer, he'd be better." Although if his mistress had lived longer, she might have borne a son, an actual freeborn male heir, in which case neither Teutus nor his mother would be here, now.

"If I've learned one thing over the years, it's that I don't ever want to promise anything to anyone if I can't be sure I can keep that promise," he said. Maybe that made him more honourable than his father, maybe it didn't. "And... His father died ten years ago and he still didn't do anything about my freedom. For eight whole years. Even if I couldn't be his heir, he could have done something instead of just saying he would."

He pressed his lips together and let out another, shakier breath. He'd buried the hurt for a long time simply because he hadn't had anyone to tell - he could have said it to Charis but she hadn't even had the repeated reassurance of eventual freedom and he hadn't wanted to burden her.

"merda," he muttered. "Stupid to get upset over things that can't be changed, and we're here, now."

If there was one thing he could do, going forward, it would be to ensure that his own slaves never had to deal with all that uncertainty and pie-crust promises. He would make absolutely sure they could all be certain of their own futures.

 

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Yes, if he'll come. If he's still in Rome...

"Well, if you see him, invite him." She said simply. It would be easy enough to cater for another for a meal - well, she would make it easy. A half-brother was blood, and frankly Teutus could do with some good family relations, as his poor relationship with his father was clearly still hurting him. 

Father's a Senator, a Praetor even, he ought to have some idea about treating the people around him.

He wasn't wrong. Tertius was apparently a great political success. Varinia shrugged helplessly. "Maybe he finds it easier dealing with the law, or with other Patrician men." She said in a sad tone. She wished she had answers for him, and she didn't. Teutus felt strongly that Tertius had done badly by him, stringing him along with promised, and she couldn't see any way that he was wrong. "He could have done something." She agreed simply. And he hadn't, for some reason that she had no insight on, other than what she'd already voiced. 

"I'm sorry Makki." She put her arm around his shoulders and leaned her head on the nearer. "I wish you had the father you deserve. You're a good man, and you're my pride and joy." She hadn't been privy to the broken promises, but if they meant that Teutus was always a man of his word, that at least was something. She could feel him shaking as he let out a deep breath, feel how deeply the past had hurt him, and felt her own eyes grow hot with tears. Tertius had held in his hands the one thing she valued most in this world, and he didn't seem to understand what he had. 

After a moment Teutus seemed to pull himself together, muttering that there was no point in being upset over things that can't be changed. "I never found anything good in anger over the past." She murmured, having had a fair bit to be angry about. "But there is a lot of potential in the future." But the situation was niggling at her. It was Varinia's turn to sigh gustily. "I guess I just don't want you to burn your bridge with your father, and find out later that you want it." She admitted. Tertius was making his own life with Charis, and that was probably a very good thing. Perhaps Teutus could focus on his life, and maybe one day the two men could meet again on better terms. She hoped so. She had difficulty believing that there was any real malice in Tertius, which didn't mean that he wasn't a source of problems by omission or lack of action, because clearly he was. But it hurt her that he had hurt their son so, and there was nothing she could do about it.

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"I will," Teutus said, thouhg whether he'd see Wulfric again before he left Rome in the spring was anyone's guess. Wulfric knew where to find him anyway, and if Teutus wasn't at the warehouse, the staff knew where he lived. Whether Wulfric would want to see him again remained to be seen; he would probably not want to see any of his Roman relations again as they had been so determined not to have anything to do with him. Well, Tertius had, at any rate.

"And it isn't your fault, Mama," he said, snuggling a little bit toward her as he hadn't been able to do in many years. Their relative sizes made it more awkward now than if had been before and of course they hadn't had the chance to adapt as Teutus grew up. Her nickname for him made him smile; his father had never had a pet name for him. He wondered if he'd find one for Peregrinus, though he probably wouldn't. It wasn't the sort of thing he could imagine his father doing.

"I don't..." he sighed, again, a steadier release of air than the previous sigh. "He's tried, I suppose. Just... in all the wrong ways.." He leaned his head on Varinia's where she had tucked hers into his neck. "He wants me to be a son, I guess, just... I don't know. I can't be a senator's son, not legally, not in any way that really matters, and I don't know how to be that anyway. And it's not like he really treats me like a son anyway. It was like getting blood out of a stone to get him to admit he might be proud of what I've done with my business, even."

The only relationship he'd had with Tertius was that of a slave to his master, right up until two years ago, and it seemed that they still slipped into those roles more often than not, even if Teutus no longer had chores and duties in the house.

 

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It wasn't her fault, but sometimes she felt like it was. After all, she'd been more than willing to go to young Tertius's bed, quite infatuated with him, as only a teenage girl could be. But if she hadn't, she wouldn't have Teutus at all, and that didn't bear thinking about either. No, what they had was the best they probably could have, even if Teutus always felt that he could have had more. Tertius could have done more, but he hadn't, and she didn't want Teutus to be bitter about it forever. Not when there was so much more in his life, and most of it good. And perhaps Tertius had tried - Teutus seemed to think he had - but was just an awkward sod and had completely messed things up. That perhaps she could believe, though it painted the man as far more human and fallible than the echo of the young girl she had been wanted to acknowledge; but hadn't she just tried to tell her son that? Perhaps she too wished Tertius could be a little more of the man she wanted, and couldn't have, because he didn't quite exist. "I guess... we've both wanted to see things in him that might not have been there." She said quietly after a moment. 

He wants me to be a son, I guess, just... I don't know. I can't be a senator's son, not legally, not in any way that really matters, and I don't know how to be that anyway. And it's not like he really treats me like a son anyway. It was like getting blood out of a stone to get him to admit he might be proud of what I've done with my business, even.

It still seemed to her ears that Tertius didn't really know what to do with his son. Which was sad because he was a wonderful young man. "Just be yourself, Makki." She said warmly, turning to him and catching his face in her hands, like she would do when he was a child. Only now she had to reach up, not down. "You're already wonderful. Stop worrying about him and live your life, be the best you can be." She urged. "Maybe one day he'll see it, or understand, or find the right words." She really hoped he would. "But if he doesn't, don't let it ruin life for you. I see it. I know how wonderful you are. I love you. And I know others will too." She couldn't fix his father, at least not quickly, but he would always have the love and adoration of his mother. 

But she was still a mother, and after a moment her expression turned shrewd. "I think you need something else to focus on. We should find you a wife." Maybe if Teutus had a son of his own, he'd worry less about his own father.

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"Just be yourself, Makki."

"I guess that's what I'm finding difficult," Teutus said. "I mean, it's easy enough here, or at work. Just... not so much when I'm with him." Her hands were warm on his face and the expression in her eyes was indefinably sad somehow. There were crows' feet at the corners of her eyes where he couldn't recall seeing lines before.

"He's still the paterfamilias, what he thinks does matter. If he wanted to stop me from running a business, he could." Even Tertius hadn't tried that, though, maybe realising that Teutus did need to do something with his days.

He huffed a laugh that was little more than a puff of air. "I don't have any objection to marrying - just promise you won't try to find some senator's daughter."

That had been disastrous, in its own way, and had proven that Tertius really didn't have much idea what to do with his eldest son. He hadn't considered that Tertius might not have known what to do, though, and the realisation that his father might been fumbling in the dark was new. He felt sorry for his father in a way he hadn't before. It was a little uncomfortable.

"What about you, though? Wouldn't you like to marry, or are you planning to rule the roost even if I find a wife? When I find a wife."

 

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Perhaps it was hard for Teutus to be himself in front of his father because he was still trying to please Tertius, and didn't know how. She wished she had an answer for him, but she suspected that Tertius felt just as lost with Teutus. Two men who didn't know how to relate to each other. She was the link between them, the mother of one and erstwhile lover of the other; could she find some way to bring them together? She knew she would try, she couldn't not, but they had to want it. Only the Gods knew and time would tell.

He's still the paterfamilias, what he thinks does matter. If he wanted to stop me from running a business, he could.

"But he hasn't, has he?" She asked rhetorically. "And you said he gave you the money to set it up?" Which surely indicated some intent on Tertius's part. "I doubt he would. I think he might be more proud of you than he knows how to say." So he said it in ways like giving Teutus his freedom to leave the house and even money to set up his own life. After all; hadn't Tertius done the same, rather than staying in the family domus with his brother?

A Senator's daughter? Really? Well, that sounded exactly like something a proud but awkward Tertius would do. Seeking out what he thought was the best for his son, even though from a practical point of view it wasn't a good match. "I promise." She assured him. As a Freedman he should probably be looking for a Freedwoman or Plebian girl. At least he had a lot to offer compared to many men of the same class. "I'll keep an eye out for a suitable girl." She promised him. There was no need to rush him into an unsuitable match, and she would have to be a special girl to be worthy of Varinia's son.

His next question threw her a little off guard, even though Tertius had asked her the same thing when she'd visited him. She supposed that it was expected of women. "You might not want me ruling your roost forever." She teased back with a smile, before becoming more serious. "I wouldn't mind marrying, but having just got my freedom," a pat of his arm, "I'm not eager to come under another man's dominion for the sake of it." She said, putting her hesitancy into words. "He would have to be a good man." Someone she could trust, someone she could share a life with. She'd like that, but she didn't know how many men might want her. She was over forty, and whilst she still had her courses and might yet have children, she knew that the chances were much lower than if a man wed a young woman. She would love more children, but was also practical. Perhaps a widower...

"I'm happy to hear suggestions if you have them, but will you let me make the decision?" After all, as her son and the one who'd freed her Teutus had as much authority over her as Tertius had over him.

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"It always feels like guesswork, with Father. He won't come right out and say what he's thinking, or what he wants, or anything." Teutus shrugged. "I suppose I'm tired of it - it's exhausting. And then if you get it wrong, or not right enough..."

And he'd rather give things when Teutus would prefer time or words of approbation.

"Yes, he did." He might have wanted to make amends for Teutus' not being able to have the life and career Tertius had wanted for him, but the way he was going about it felt off in some indefinable way that Teutus couldn't quite put a name to. It was almost as if he was trying too hard with material things because that was all he knew, or something.

He twisted his head to look at his mother before relaxing again. "We haven't had each other for so long, I'd be quite happy for you run the house forever. At least, right now. Maybe if I marry that will change - but I will always have room in my house for you, Mama. I promise. And I'm not going to try to run your life for you - you can marry, or not, however and whoever you please."

 

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It always feels like guesswork, with Father.

Varinia nodded gently where she leaned against his shoulder, and sighed, thinking back to that first reunion with Tertius. 

It would be impossible to make such lovely sons without such lovely mothers.

Perhaps it had been a throwaway line, but Varinia had an inkling that there might have been more to it. "He does love you Makki, he told me so." She said earnestly, trying to think through both the present and the past, to find what it was that made things so difficult between the two men in her life. "There was a lot of pain around your birth, and not just mine." She tried to explain, remembering back across the years. "His father was furious. There was an argument. Then his father sent him and Secundus to Germania, either as punishment or prevention." That had hurt. There she was with a new baby, and the young man whom she loved and who was his father was gone. "When they came back, years later, you were already a boy running around, and Tertius carefully avoided us, probably on his father's orders." As pater familias, Marcus could have punished Tertius further. "Please don't think that he didn't want to be there for you." She liked to think that he had wanted that.

"He wasn't allowed to be a father to you; he almost had to pretend you didn't exist. So he never got to play with you when you were little, or sit you on his knee and tell you stories. And you never got to have a father in your life as a child." Which made her deeply sad, when she thought about it. Unbidden, a tear trickled down her cheek. What her younger self wouldn't have given to have Tertius hold his son. She drew a deep breath before she spoke again. "You were what, fifteen summers, when Tertius left and took you with him? I can only think that it's hard to suddenly start trying to be a father, when your son is already a man." As strongly as Teutus wanted that fatherly affection and understanding, Tertius seemed to struggle to suddenly provide it.

All because she'd been a fool and fallen for a Roman. But if she hadn't she would have no son. There was no right answer. And apparently there was no right answer, or no clear answer from Tertius. No indication as to what he really wanted, or was thinking "Have you asked him?" She asked curiously, looking up at her son. "I mean directly, just asked him outright." She added, in case she wasn't clear. "Call it a former slave's lack of finesse, but when I visited I just asked questions, and told him what I wanted, and I got answers." Had Teutus tried just being blunt with his father? Or was it that Tertius didn't have the answers, when it came to his son.

"Sorry, I'm not trying to lecture. I just want to fix everything for you." She bumped against his shoulder again. "Call it a mother's instinct." Yes she wanted to meddle and make everything right. "Perhaps we both need to accept that some things can't be fixed, and hope that they can come right with time." She suggested. "After all, we did." And she was eternally grateful for that.

He seemed as happy to have her with him, as they discussed the possibility of future marriages, and how that might shape the household. "I'm in no hurry to wed." She'd told Tertius the same thing. "Just promise me that we can always talk Makki. If you find a girl and want me to move out, or want something different, just say so, and we'll talk it through and work it out. I promise I'll always listen." She smiled at him. Communication was key, and if he couldn't communicate effectively with his father, she could at least give him the assurance that he wouldn't have the same problem with her.

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He let his mother talk. She paused at one point to draw a shaky breath, which made him twist to look at her, feeling a pang as he saw the tears in her eyes. He reached to wipe them away.

"I've upset you, I'm sorry," he said, only to fall silent again as she continued talking.

"I did tell him, once," he said, once she finished and silence fell again. "At least, I said a lot of things, only... I was rather upset at the time." He tried to think back to recall exactly what he'd said at that disastrous dinner, once Wulfric and Charis had made their exits. "I don't think you want to know what I said," he confessed. "I think I told him that he still treats me like a slave and makes me guess what he wants. I did say I wanted him to be proud of me, not just just what I do." He shrugged. "I don't think he knows how, though. Well. That's not true."

He sighed again.

"I was there when he took Charis' baby up, you know. And he - he's never looked at me the way he looks at Peregrinus." He twisted a bit to see his mother's face. "I think that's what hurt, more than anything. But I've got you, now."

At least he had one person, now, who cared about him for his own self rather than the value of the work he did.

 

@Sarah

 

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The words came tumbling out, all the pain she'd held in for so many years. The difficult reality that served as harsh contrast to the dreamed of ideal. She, Tertius and Teutus would never be a family, Teutus woud never have a father like that. She hurt for him, and she hurt for herself. For all that they might have had, if things had been different. But she shook her head when he said he'd upset her. "No, Makki.She assured him affectionately. "I'm upset, but it's not your fault. It was never your fault. I just..." she drew in a breath and let it out, "I guess, like you, I've held that pain for a long time. Wishing for what couldn't be." She shrugged, as though it were nothing. It wasn't nothing, but it wasn't everything either. "That's why I try to focus on the present, on the future; both are much brighter." Which explained an awful lot of Varinia's outlook. 

The words were spent, and Varinia fell silent, listening as Teutus said that he'd told his father, or tried to, tried to communicate with him. She hadn't known that he'd been there when Tertius took up Peregrinus; she couldn't imagine how much that must of hurt him, which his words only confirmed. Her poor son. Such a man to be proud of. Tertius didn't know what he had. 

"You do have me." She confirmed with a smile. "And I have you; the greatest love of my life." At last, her baby boy was back. "And we both have our freedom. That means from here we get to shape our own futures." And in her mind's eye their futures were looking brighter. 

"Now, I'd better finish warping this loom or I'll never get your tunic finished. Thank you for helping to measure the wool."

@Sharpie

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He couldn't help smiling; his mother had always been optimistic, always trying to see the best in people and in situations. He had missed that - maybe that's what had drawn him to Charis when she had first entered Tertius' household. Perhaps that similarity between Charis and Varinia was what had drawn Tertius to Charis too, but he wasn't going to think about that.

"You're right, you're always right," he said, tightening his arm around her for a moment. He had missed having someone with that optimism ever since the rift had developed between himself and Charis, even though the British girl was not his mother and couldn't replace her. He had never really thought he might find his mother again, let alone have her back in his daily life.

"Mama, I promise - I promise - that I will always listen and talk it through." He wished he could fix things for her, too. He was only slowly beginning to realise that maybe he'd already begun to do so. "And I'll try to, I don't know, not to try to make Father into something he's not."

 

@Sarah

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