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Early March, 77AD

Alexius had long since caught his breath after the night they caught Marcus Barbatius. He’d learned that was the name and that they had been right about their assumptions. The man was a barber. And now, he was behind bars and that made Alexius feel a little bit better about many things. For example, he helped catch the guy! And he wanted to tell it to people, but wasn’t quite sure if he could or should. And after he’d had a good sleep, he knew whom he really wanted to tell it to. Calpurnia. Only problem was… how?

 It really was an issue. That they’d caught the killer had at least distracted his mind a little, but now that it was all over and to be dealt with by other people, his mind had wandered back to a beautiful blonde woman with legs for days and the most contagious laugh. He couldn’t help but smile when she laughed. And even when he thought about it. He’d tried telling himself to get over her, he’d even gone out to find himself another distraction, but even after that, she was still on his mind. He wanted her again, he needed to be with her again. Fuck!

 So he was off to find the only person he felt he could talk to about this, someone he could even trust. Someone he thought of as a friend by now, someone who also cared too much for someone he was not supposed to care for at all. Lucius loved Ovinia, Alexius was quite sure of that. Even more after he saw them together at the library, how they would act around one another, how Lucius would look at her and how she was all flushed after they had been alone. How did Lucius deal with it? What thoughts did he have? And how on Earth did you live with the fact that you cared for a woman you weren't supposed to have? Sure, Alexius had slept with Patrician women before, and it had never been an issue before, but he’d done more than just sleep around with Calpurnia. It felt like more. It was more.

 At first he went to the castra where the vigiles had their headquarters, but they told him Lucius wasn’t there. He’d gained some injury (Ovinia cut him, duh!) and was to be found in his family home, which was on the Esquiline. Great, Alexius walked back again. Eventually he managed to track down the household of one Gaius Manius Victorius, Pater Familias to the family Lucius had been adopted into, when he left his Patrician rank behind to become a vigile. Alexius was allowed inside after stating his purpose – here to see his friend Lucius – and a slave led him through the lovely looking house to wherever Lucius was residing at the moment.

@Chevi

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After handing the killer over, reporting to Tiberius, and getting stitched up by Theo, Lucius was sent home from the castra for time off because of his injury. They assumed he had been wounded while apprehending the man, and he didn't correct them, for Ovinia's sake. The cut would heal just fine in a few days anyway.

He was not entirely surprised when he was told by a household slave that Alexius was looking for him. They had a lot to discuss these days. Lucius came out to greet him in the atrium with a friendly (albeit somewhat tired) smile.

"Alexius! Come on in" he invited him into the triclinium, which was empty at the moment; the other members of his adoptive family were out running various errands. One of the slaves hurried to bring refreshments from the kitchen. Lucius looked at Alexius with a bit of worry. "Is everything alright? You are not bringing bad news, are you?"

@Atrice

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Lucius came out to greet him with a friendly smile and Alexius was glad to see it. Lucius had been stitched up and bandaged after they'd spoken to Tiberius that night, but apparently he was still recovering. It must be something to recover from, a cut in the arm from the woman you loved! But Alexius could not imagine Lucius would be angry at Ovinia, it wasn't him she meant to cut, after all. She'd gone for the killer and her attacker, who was still safely tucked away behind bars, awaiting judgment. Which would hopefully be worse than anything the man could imagine.

But all that wasn't the reason why he was here... "Thanks." Alexius said with a smile back, while Lucius invited him to the triclinium. What a fancy looking house, he thought to himself. And a comfortable couch to relax upon, he thought as he took a seat there. Lucius could tell Alexius had something on his mind, but of course he didn't know what it was. Alexius chuckled though at the mention of bad news.

"That depends who you're asking I think." Because that was the truth of it. Alexius and Calpurnia were clearly both comfortable and happy. But her brother would think it was very bad news. Alexius wondered what Lucius would say.

"Everything's fine. But... I want to talk to you about a rather private matter. Very private, really. Can we be sure no one's eavesdropping here?" Alexius glanced to the entrance to the room, hoping there weren't any slaves standing by just around the corner. Slaves had ears too, slaves could gossip too. And although he was determined to not betray Calpurnia's trust and therefore not mention her name, he still didn't want this to get out. 

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Lucius arched an eyebrow. Alexius claimed there was nothing wrong, but he sounded serious. The slaves returned with wine, bread, cheese, and olives, then backed away to stand in the dooerway. Lucius waved then away.

"Leave, and close he door. And make sure no one loiters outside." He added with a look to one of them he knew he could trust. The slave nodded and left, pullingnthe door closed. Lucius picked up his cup and turned back to Alexius, lowering his voice.

"What happened?"

@Atrice

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There really wasn't anything wrong, the issue was that it wasn't right either. Everything was fine, but not everything was as it ought to be. Why did Rome have to be so fucked up that two people, who really liked each other and just wanted to spend some together... weren't able to do so, because society dictated it shouldn't be right. It was fucked up. But he couldn't help himself. The more he tried to not think about her, well the more he found that she was on his mind. And Lucius must know what that was like, right?

He sat silently as the salves left snacks and wine on the table. Lucius waved them away. So he was no longer a Patrician, but still high enough to have slaves under his command. Right, that wasn't the issue here today. Lucius told them to close the door and once that was done, Alexius too picked up his cup and downed a gulp.

"It's a bit weird... talking about this. Usually I never need to talk about this with anyone..." Alexius said, struggling to find the right words. This was why he should not be left to do the talking, but he had to, now. He had to talk to someone about it, someone who might understand... "So, here it is. I met a woman... and this one, she's out of the ordinary, Lucius, she's stunning. Extraordinary. She's everything and then some. And she seems to feel the same about me." He explained with a smile, which along with his tone made it obvious just how into her he was! But then the smile faded as he continued, "Problem is, she's way out of my league. Like way way out of my league! I shouldn't even be talking to her, I think! But there we are... and I thought... with you and Ovinia... it's kind of the same? I'm not sure what to do about this whole ordeal. I can't get her out of my mind." And that's just how it was. Would Lucius get it, what Alexius was trying to say? Maybe not. He didn't know how to talk about it. But every word was true, at least. He downed some more wine on that note.

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"It's a bit weird... talking about this. Usually I never need to talk about this with anyone..." 

Lucius arched an eyebrow. Now he was really curious. A private matter. He had confided in Alexius before, so it made sense the older man would confide in him too... but for the life of him he could not imagine what it would be about.

"So, here it is. I met a woman... and this one, she's out of the ordinary, Lucius, she's stunning. Extraordinary. She's everything and then some. And she seems to feel the same about me."

Ah. Lucius smiled a little. So it was that kind of private matter. And Alexius seemed completely smitten. Well, that was new.

"Problem is, she's way out of my league. Like way way out of my league! I shouldn't even be talking to her, I think! But there we are... and I thought... with you and Ovinia... it's kind of the same? I'm not sure what to do about this whole ordeal. I can't get her out of my mind."

Lucius' eyes widened. Oh. Well that... was unexpected. He knew enough about Alexius to know that he was very popular with women (and men) and never wanting for company. But this, according to him, was different, and just by his reaction, Lucius was inclined to agree. Someone unreachable... like Ovinia, for him.

"Patrician?" he ventured. A patrician woman, having a lover, that was not unheard of, as much as they liked to hush it up. "... tell me she's not an imperial." That might be too dangerous a gamble, even for Alexius.

"I... wish I had advice to give, but um..." he raised his bandaged arm with a smirk. "Can't say I'm an expert either... Is she married?"

@Atrice

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It was a very private matter. Alexius was completely smitten. And this was very new to him. Not that he'd never been in love or loved someone before, he had. There had been Oriana, a few years back, she was an Equite and wanted to marry up in society, yet she had loved him and he loved her. But there was no way they could give each other what they wanted in the long run and she'd let him go, even if he hadn't wanted it. And there had been Achillia, when he was still a gladiator and she a gladiatrix. She'd even been pregnant with his child. But as they were both slaves they never really had a chance either. And now Calpurnia... how come he always fell for the wrong women? Whenever he met someone and everything felt right with her... it wasn't. What the fuck did you do?

Lucius remained quiet while Alexius tried his best to explain the situation he was in and when he finished and downed some wine, Lucius' eyes widened. Alexius nodded when Lucius suggested she was a Patrician. Oh yes. They didn't come more Patrician than she! A former Vestal! But Lucius asked if she was imperial... he shook his head... "Not an imperial, but... yes, very Patrician." That was the best way to put it, without telling too much. Lucius had further questions then.

"She's not married... yet. But you know how it is with that sort of women. They are supposed to marry. Within their own layer of the cake." It was exactly the same with Ovinia. He doubted her father would ever let her marry a vigile, even if said vigile was once a Patrician. 

"I know it's bad, we both know." He sighed, they knew, he knew... and yet he couldn't make himself stop this longing to be near her... "I don't know how you manage, with Ovinia... how can you stand it? With all this fucking... etiquette and stuff..." 

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Very patrician. Well then. Even if she was not an imperial, Alexius had certainly set his sights high this time... Even if the woman liked him the same way, there was no good solution to this. Ironically, it would have been easier if she was married...

"She's not married... yet. But you know how it is with that sort of women. They are supposed to marry. Within their own layer of the cake." 

"Don't I know it" Lucius muttered, downing some wine. He had left his status as a patrician just when Ovinia came into his life...

"I know it's bad, we both know. I don't know how you manage, with Ovinia... how can you stand it? With all this fucking... etiquette and stuff..." 

Lucius scoffed, frowning at Alexius over his cup of wine. "I can't." he admitted "I drink, and I run into burning buildings." He wished he had something wiser, or more optimistic to say, but he really didn't. "Women like that, patrician girls, have to still be maidens when they marry. Ovinia has told me that, in no uncertain terms. So. There's that."

@Atrice

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It really wasn't on purpose, but he had literally fallen for her. Now he thought about it, it was the first thing he did. He fell for her and that's how it all started. But she had been so kind and sweet and her smile and her laugh so contagious, that he could not help but adore her. And after they met again, well it was hardly going to change now! Lucius paid attention to what Alexius explained, also about the part about her not being married yet, but she would.

See, he knew the pickle Alexius had landed himself in! So Alexius finally came down to the real question... how the fuck did you manage such a relationship? Being in love with such a woman? Lucius frowned and said he couldn't stand it. Alexius sighed at his response, it sounded like the only thing to do. So he drank some more too. But then Lucius went on about how the ladies must be maidens. Right, about that...

"There's that." Alexius said, biting his cheek a bit. This was never an issue, never! But now... "There's that... and then there's... me." 

@Chevi

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Roman society was never as strict as when it came to its patrician women. Lucius had been struggling with the same limitations; only meeting Ovinia occasionally for a few stolen minutes, her always being accompanied by a slave and a guard (even if that guard was Alexius), and most of all, her body being guarded like a treasure until she was married. Lucius knew she wanted him too, even if she didn't know what that meant yet. It was torture, falling for a woman like that.

And then there was Alexius.

The wine that Lucius was drinking went on a sudden detour through his nose, and caused him to cough.

"You didn't...!"

@Atrice

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When Alexius first met Calpurnia, he didn't know how deep he'd fall in with her, he had just known he wanted to see her again. And that he wanted her. But mostly he just wanted to be with her, somehow. And they found a way and they were together and it was better than expected. Just holding her felt so good. He'd told her he wished they could stop time and he kind of still did. Instead they were trapped in this world where time could not be stopped, and where idiotic rules stopped people who liked each other from being together. Like Ovinia and Lucius. And Alexius and Calpurnia. Sure he'd only met her twice now, and so what? It felt right. It was right. Except it wasn't.

But Lucius had more control over his own desires than Alexius had, it seemed. Alexius had never been good at controlling himself, when there was someone he wanted. And why should he? Pleasure was good, he told himself. When both partners wanted it, it was good and right. In this case though, where he'd gone as far as always, he knew more than anything how wrong it was. And yet he wanted her again.

Alexius told him what happened. Lucius could read between the lines. He'd get it. And he did. Almost choking on his drink. 

"I did." Alexius confirmed it, "You see the mess I've dug myself into? And it's not like I forced her, not that I ever would... she wanted it too. We both did. But it's a mess, it is..." He ran both hands through his hair, "I don't know what to do with it. This... thing... it's not like I didn't try to forget about her, I did try, but... how can I?" 

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He did.

Lucius stared, incredulous, at his friend. Alexius had gone and gotten himself into quite a dire situation. Sleeping with a married patrician woman was one thing... taking the virginity of a maiden was something else entirely.

"You see the mess I've dug myself into? And it's not like I forced her, not that I ever would... she wanted it too. We both did. But it's a mess, it is... I don't know what to do with it. This... thing... it's not like I didn't try to forget about her, I did try, but... how can I?" 

Lucius knew the feeling. He knew the feeling all too well. He sighed.

"You love her." It was obvious, and there was no need to call it something else. If it had been lust, it would have been easier. "I really don't know what to say. But I know how you feel. Most nights, I can't even fall asleep... Forgetting is not an option." He sighed. "If it was just about her family... sure, I could deal with that. But she will get married eventually. And if she is not a maiden, there will be holy hell to pay. Not for us. For them." A woman disgraced like that... that was among the worst fates in Rome. Lucius frowned. "How old is she?"

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Posted (edited)

He saw the look Lucius gave him and it wasn't like Alexius hadn't known before, what a mess he was in, but with the way Lucius looked at him... well it didn't make it sound any better. And there wasn't one damn thing he could do about it, other than long for more of her while waiting for her to find a proper husband. Not him. He downed some more wine before Lucius stated that Alexius loved her.

Love? Did he love her? Could you love someone if you'd just met them twice? Alexius had no idea if that was the case. Lucius went on, saying what Alexius knew... that he knew exactly what Alexius was going through. But then Lucius made a deeper dive into the whole matter of Alexius sleeping with her. It was only his problem if someone found out it was him. But how would anyone know she wasn't a maiden? Lucius then asked for her age. Would it be too obvious who she was, if he said that much? It might be. He really wanted to be careful here!

"Her age doesn't matter, does it? I didn't ask her, I'm not stupid enough to ask that of a woman." But he was stupid enough to sleep with someone he shouldn't even be talking to... "But she's a good match for me. And she says she's not very busy about getting married." Although she would be quite the catch for any man. A former Vestal. Even if she might be too old to have children, she would still be quite the catch. Not that Alexius cared about that. He just cared about her. A little too much.

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Lucius arched an eyebrow. Alexius did not disclose the age of his newfound lover, but... she was a good match for him? By Lucius' estimation, Alexius was a good decade older than him. Which was, for Roman patrician women, way, way old to be a maiden. Curious. 

"Well, it's usually not up to them, is it." he noted, refilling their rapidly emptying cups of wine. Patrician maidens were married off by their families. "And women like them will never marry men like us. Ironic... there was a time when I could have married Ovinia. But back then, she was engaged to my brother. And I thought she hated my guts. And now it's too late." Way, way too late. Lucius sighed. "The best we can hope for is that they get married and keep us around." He arched an eyebrow at Alexius. "Unless you get her pregnant, in which case, my friend, you're dead."

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Alexius was glad to see his cup refilled with wine, he emptied it easily and fast and especially now. It just made him feel more at ease, as it always did. Lucius seemed to feel the same. He hadn't come here with the intention of getting drunk, but if he did... would it be so bad? Maybe it's just what he needed. Meanwhile Lucius mentioned that women couldn't decide about marriage and they'd never marry men like them, not the Patrician women. Alexius gave Lucius a sympathetic look, when the other sighed after speaking of Ovinia. Then Lucius hoped the woman would keep them around after marriage. So watch Calpurnia marry some prick of a Senator or something, think about her in his bed... and then Alexius would just be there on the side? See this was where it went wrong with Oriana too. He couldn't stand the thought. 

He widened his eyes when Lucius then suddenly spoke of pregnancy... Alexius had this hope that perhaps Calpurnia was too old for that stuff, but you never knew with the magical creatures that were women. The things their bodies were capable off... "Well I hope she won't be! I don't know how... productive I am, when it comes to that. The only kid I know I have, is Lexus. I may have more. I don't know." Alexius said, "At least you don't have that problem. You're far better at controlling yourself than I am." 

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Judging by Alexius' reaction, the former gladiator had... not considered that possibility? For all the omen around Alexius, it really was a bit strange that Lexus was the only kid he had. That he knew of. But that was not a guarantee for anything. Gods, the two of them were really in the pits here.

"At least you don't have that problem. You're far better at controlling yourself than I am." 

"I'm not. Ovinia's better at controlling me." Lucius admitted with a smirk, drinking from his cup. "Not like I want to put her in danger. But even the things that... would leave her a maiden, she told me it's not my place to do those. Which is true." As sad as it was. It was not his decision to make. "So we... agreed to meet at festivals, when we can get away with it unseen. But I doubt it will ever be more than that." He looked up at Alexius "How do you two even meet?"

@Atrice

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Alexius had many good traits, but he also had a few flaws. Perhaps one of them was not considering that the woman he slept with might fall pregnant with his child. But again, it had never been an issue. No woman had come up to him months after they'd parted ways and told him their child was his too. The only one had been Ginevera, Lexus' mother. So if no one came to blame him for their pregnancy or child, why should he worry about it? But he liked Calpurnia. Not that he didn't like his other lovers he'd had since forever, but... he liked her more. A lot more. He didn't want her to end up in trouble. But he also didn't want to never see her again...

He pointed out how Lucius was better at controlling himself, but he said that one was on Ovinia. Oh. So Alexius had fallen for a woman who as bad at controlling her urges as he was. Not very smart at all. On the other hand, they both knew what they were doing. Alexius had told her he'd only go as far as she wanted. Which meant they could have stopped before any actual penetration happened. But they didn't. She had wanted it too. She chose it. Fuck. 

But then Lucius went on, said he and Ovinia would meet at festivals where they could get away unseen. It was sad, that it would never be more. Alexius knew they loved each other. Fucking Roman society. 

"We... well it was a chance meeting, the first time. But we agreed to meet again. I found a place, a nice hospitia... where I knew they'd be discreet and not ask questions, and you can be undisturbed. Such a place isn't cheap." He'd spent a lot of coin on that, for her. To be discreet, for her sake... but he was sure it wouldn't work every time. One time was fine, but eventually, they'd start talking... wondering who she was and all that. They couldn't use the same place twice.

"At least she came to me alone. But we don't know about next time. She spoke of some villa she has, but I don't know how I'd get there without it being suspicious. It's not like I'm unknown. So... I don't know. Festivals you say?" Alexius lifted his cup again, while looking at Lucius, interested in hearing what ideas he had. He was sure Calpurnia would be smiling at them talking like this. Ovinia would scold them. He smiled by the thought.

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A hospitia. That was really a dangerous game. Even if everyone was paid well for discretion, even if the slaves were all mute and blind, it was a risk for a patrician woman to spend time alone in a place like that with a man. Apparently, Alexius had found himself someone equally adventurous. Who also, by the way, had a villa somewhere. That was a lot to work with, if the will was there. Lucius doubted he could talk Ovinia into anything like that.

"We met at the Neptunalia" he smiled a little at the memory. "Outside the city, it was easier. And then during Saturnalia, with all the crowds and chaos... I think next, I'll have to wait till Anna Perenna. A picnic in the groves across the Tiber, maybe... "

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Alexius knew it wouldn't last, just seeing her occasionally at a new hospitia every time. Really whatever they had wasn't meant to last, as he was just a simple freedman and she a former Vestal, but there they were and they wanted each other. And to be with each other. Think that you could feel like that. She wasn't the first woman he'd wanted again, far from it. But it was just different. Maybe Lucius was right. And Lucius was clever too, which was why Alexius thought it right to speak to him. He spoke of meeting at festivals and Lucius explained they'd met at festivals already. He knew about the Saturnalia event, which was before she was assaulted by the insane barber. At least Saturnalia wasn't all bad memories to her, right? Although the bad might overshadow the good, unless Lucius could distract her thoughts.

Now he spoke of the Anna Perenna festival, which wasn't very far away. Alexius paid attention.

"That doesn't sound too bad." He said thoughtfully, sipping the wine as he let the idea linger in his mind... "How would you meet her there though? It's not really a festival for young maidens like Ovinia..." As far as he knew, people built little huts of branches and so on, just for the night, to drink and spend good times in. Alexius had attended it more than once too and it could sometimes be rather... wild. Especially with how people behaved after so much wine. Would Calpurnia go, he wondered... 

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None of the plans, or options they had was ever perfect. Lucius spent a whole lot of time trying to come up with ideas, possible scenarios that could work; but with the strict rules Roman women had to live by, it was near impossible to find a way to meet. Which, admittedly, was exactly what those rules were supposed to prevent. Damn Roman efficiency.

"Well, if she wants to meet me, she will find a way to come to the festival" Lucius sighed. "I think Lucia at this point knows everything anyway. But they might not let her go without a guard..." Lucius glanced over at Alexius. This was like the library, all over again. "How about your lady? Would she chance it?"

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Alexius never had any issues before when it came to meeting ladies, not even Patrician ones. But those of course were often chance meetings and they weren't planned. Like that time with Rutiliana in the dark hallways underneath the arena. Or that time he met the always lovely Gaia, while he was actually still in chains, but she was so very sweet to him none the less. Like those times and so many others. But now it was different, because it would never again be a chance meeting with Calpurnia. He didn't think so at least. Think if it could be though? At a festival, like Lucius said.

The Anna Perenna festival was a good idea, although he wondered how the ladies would get there. For Lucius it was of course in particular Ovinia he wondered about. Lucius was certain she'd find a way if she wanted to come, and her slave Lucia knew everything anyway. Oh yes she did. Alexius knew that. And he knew what Lucius meant, when he glanced at Alexius and spoke of a guard. Again? He knew now they had it planned last time, when Ovinia showed him the library and just happened to have planned to meet Lucius there. With her guard Alexius in tow... Alexius who knew and wouldn't speak, because he was just as scandalous himself. Lucius then wondered if Alexius' lady would go there...

"She might." He said as he thought about it. He thought she would chance it and she could do it too... "She's a very esteemed lady, so I think she could go more or less anywhere and people wouldn't ask questions." Alexius said and sipped his wine again, then leaned a bit forwards looking at Lucius, "Are you saying we could do this...?" Not should, but could...

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"A very esteemed lady" Lucius echoed. He did not want to make fun on Alexius, who was clearly very serious about this woman, but it was also a little amusing that he'd managed to get himself tanged up with a very high born patrician woman. Who went and slept with him. Esteemed indeed. Lucius had to admit, he was curious about this very esteemed lady now. Who would probably come to Anna Perenna to mingle with the masses. Or one mess in particular.

"Are you saying we could do this...?"

Lucius looked at Alexius. Neither of them was making a very wise decision at the moment. And yet... "We could. It's risky... but we could. I know I want to."

@Atrice

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Alexius just nodded when Lucius echoed his words. Gods it was hard talking about the perfect woman and being unable to talk too much about her! But he really could not dare to risk it with her, anyone finding out who she was. Not even Lucius. What if he got drunk and stupid like Alexius did sometimes, and spoke without thinking. He was smarter than Alexius though, he probably wouldn't do that, but still... no, for her sake, he would be careful.

And now making a careful plan to see her again. At a festival. See her and give Lucius and Ovinia an opportunity to see each other too. Gods and he came here to find out how Lucius dealt with caring for such a woman and here they were, making plans... 

"It's very risky." Alexius agreed and downed the rest of his wine in one gulp, but only to then lean back on his couch and stare up into the ceiling, "I want it too! Damn..." He turned to look at Lucius with a grin, "Would have been so much easier if we had just fallen for each other, wouldn't it? But no, it has to be them. Women eh?" 

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"So much easier." Lucius scoffed and grinned at Alexius' joke. Alexius  was an attractive man, and he was certainly popular with both sexes, as far as Lucius could tell. Which is why it was so jarring to see him this smitten with a woman. She really had to be exceptional.

"I mean... some risks are worth taking. And it sounds like yours is not an entirely lost cause." Not in the sense that his lady might just appreciate time spent together, and a secret affair they shared. Ovinia, on the other hand... that was truly never going to happen now, no matter how many festivals they spent together.

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Calpurnia was indeed a very exceptional woman, at least according to Alexius. Most women weren't like her. Not that most women were difficult, no, they were lovely and wonderful too, but she was just all of that and more. Still, it wasn't going to be the easiest thing ever, if he was going to chase this further. It would be easier if he'd fallen for someone like Lucius. But despite the fact that he did enjoy both genders, he'd never been in love with a man. Only women. Strong women, of course. Lucius was amused at his joke, but then turned more serious again, speaking of risks worth taking and Alexius didn't have an entirely lost cause before him.

He arched a brow, "It's not an entirely lost cause? I'm a freedman. I was a gladiator. She's... so far removed from such a life and such things as one can be." She was as close to being divine as a woman could be. So far away from him in the social hierarchy of Rome, that it was incredible they even met. And he was certain her family would sent a mercenary to kill him if they found out. How was it not a lost cause then?

@Chevi

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