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Quiet in the library


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77AD, late February (a few days after Barbatius' capture)

Calpurnia liked to keep busy, and liked to be thorough. When she took on a new task - like the home for pregnant women he had discussed with Horatia - she liked to put a lot of effort into doing it right, understanding the details, and planning well so she did not have to plan twice. She liked having clear goals, and making them happen. So, on this sunny late winter day, she was on her way to the library in the Temple of Apollo on the Palatine. The best library in Rome. She was going to see if she could find any books on the work of midwifes, and women's medicine in general. 

Maybe even some information on avoiding pregnancy altogether.

Calpurnia's discipline was somewhat shaken by the memories she kept circling back to: the evening she'd spent with Alexius. It had been wonderful. And memorable. And she wanted to be with him again, if they could find a way to do it. Safely, in more ways than one. Calpurnia was mostly past childbearing age, but she still bled, and she did not like leaving things up to chance. Also, she did not want her lover to get killed by he family, either.

Walking up the steps to the library, dressed in a blue stola with her palla wrapped around her for warmth, Calpurnia only noticed the familiar figure when she finally looked up. Was he...?

@Atrice

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Alexius wasn't entirely sure why he was here. He had some time off work and his mind was very occupied with a lot of things at the moment. Most recently the capture of that Marcus Barbatius - now they knew the name at least - and on top of that, his fling with Calpurnia. Was it just a fling though? Was there any hope for them? Alexius was not worthy of her, not at all, he couldn't offer her anything and she had so much to offer him. He didn't usually have such bad self-esteem, not at all, but in this case, he knew he wasn't good enough for her. Yet she was on his mind and how could he ever forget the night he spent with her? It wasn't that he didn't try to forget her. He did. He did go out, he did try and throw his attention on other people and while that was as good as it always was, it was her he wanted to see in the morning. 

So he'd been walking and thinking and somehow ended up by the library... now he knew it better, since he came here with Ovinia and this was where they encountered Lucius. What they did while they were alone in there, he didn't know, but he certainly knew they weren't looking for books or just talking. There were many quiet corners in there, private corners. In a library! He never would have thought... 

He lingered a bit there, near the door, watching people come and go and then something blue came into his view. Something majestic too, something beautiful. What was she doing here? Right, this was a library. And obviously, she knew how to read. Was there anything she couldn't do?

How could he not approach her when he saw her? So he did... with a smile, for how could he not smile at such a sight? Did everyone else know they had a goddess walking among them? "Calpurnia... what a surprise... and delight... to see you." It had to be the fates. What else could it be?

@Chevi

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Calpurnia's heart skipped when she saw Alexius, smiling at her. It was a strange, giddy feeling. She smiled back, a bright, happy smile. What a surprise to see him here, at the library. She unconsciously smoothed down her dress as she walked the last few steps to the top of the stairs, stopping to greet him.

"Surprise indeed" she agreed with a chuckle, looking at him. He was still very handsome. "What brings you to the library?"

@Atrice

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Her smile was a rival to the sun, he briefly thought, at the sight of how her face just lit up when she saw him. It was like she was just gliding above the ground towards him, chuckling, greeting him. She asked what brought him here.

The fates. You, apparently?

"I was actually just taking a walk, and somehow ended up here." Alexius replied, because that didn't sound as far-fetched as the other ideas... he wanted to embrace her, place a kiss on her lovely lips and touch her hair, but this was a public place and he knew better than to endanger her reputation. Talking wasn't bad though, was it? "You?" 

@Chevi

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The gods really surprised people sometimes. Here Alexius was, completely by accident, in this entire great city... Calpurnia had no reason to doubt his answer, but she smiled anyway. She'd take the chance meeting, happy that she got to spend a little time in his company, even if it was in public.

"I came to look up some books, for... an idea I am working on, with my sister in law" she answered. "But I am glad to see you" she added with a small smile. "Would you like some company?"

@Atrice

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"I was just about to ask the same. You need an escort, don't you?" Alexius said with a grin, when she wondered if he'd like some company. He couldn't see anyone to accompany her, she had not even brought a slave with her. And escorting ladies, well, he could do that! He was already Ovinia's guard and had been with her on many occasions, also to this place. Although he failed pretty hard at guarding her once they met with Lucius. Guarding her reputation, anyway. He was quite certain she wasn't harmed.

He probably would fail too at guarding Calpurnia's reputation. In fact he already had, as Lucius had pointed out to him. It was too late for that. 

"Lead the way, I'm sure you know this place better than me." Quite sure, considering he'd just been here once before and he didn't come here for reading.

@Chevi

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"It is way more respectable if I have a guard with me" Calpurnia smirked, and headed into the library. She had spent a lot of time there over the years; the Vestals had their own books, but Apollo's library was better. Had a wider range of topics, too. Calpurnia headed towards the sections of shelves that housed the books on medicine. There were a lot of them; they formed their own small labyrinth inside the library.

"So... how have you been?" Calpurnia asked, glancing at Alexius over her shoulder.

@Atrice

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Alexius nodded, "I agree. And since you're a respectable woman..." He said and gestured for her to lead the way inside. Alexius followed, half a step behind her, to appear more like a guard than her companion. This wasn't his first time here and it was hard to not notice him, considering his height and his size in general. Add to that Calpurnia, who more or less matched his height and was twice as impressive in her appearance. 

"I have been fine, I suppose. Busy, lately." Alexius said, wondering just how much he should tell her. Well the attacker and killer was caught, so really it shouldn't be an issue, should it? But how to tell her, without mentioning the ladies he knew who'd also been attacked. Right, the murder... "Did you hear about the Senator that was killed recently?" 

@Chevi

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"I heard" Calpurnia nodded, surprised that Alexius would bring up that topic. Was he worried she was in danger? Normally, she would not have thought twice about walking around the Palatine alone, where most people knew her at least by sight anyway. But maybe it was not such a good idea, only a few days after a senatr had been killed in the streets? "What about it?"

@Atrice

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He had been busy, doing what he did, since they last met. He'd worked, he'd tried to forget her divinity by distracting himself the way he often distracted others... and then the thing with the infamous attacker and killer in Rome happened. And that had occupied his mind pretty much the last few days. And he wanted to tell her. So he gently tried to ease into the topic. Calpurnia seemed surprised he brought up the Senator that was killed, but was curious about what Alexius had to say about it.

"Well... there's no need to worry about him anymore. He's behind bars now." Alexius said, no good at beating around the bush anyway, "I helped apprehend him." He then added, looking at her after. Did he seek her approval of his action, or her praise? Did he hope she'd be proud of him, say he did a good thing? Alexius usually didn't really seek out praise like that, but he kind of hoped she would at least admire his action. It was a big thing. If she knew what that man had done... 

@Chevi

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The killer was behind bars. Good. Anyone murdering a person in the streets like that had to be. Calpurnia had no illusions: killers who murdered plebeians were not usually apprehended this fast. She was a little surprised that the news was not all over the city yet.

Alexius told her he had helped catch the killer. She paused and turned, looking at him in surprise. Alexius worked as a guard, for private families; she wondered how he ended up participating in this case. "Really?" She asked, curiously. "That... sounds like quite the story. What happened?"

@Atrice

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When he mentioned that he helped catching the killer, it made Calpurnia stop and look at him. More with surprise than anything else, but he tried to not be too disappointed. Why was it important she felt anything else but that? Wouldn't that be anyone's reaction? Well he could probably go to the nearest tavern and tell the story to any random woman there and she'd be in awe that he did such a thing... but of course, Calpurnia wasn't any random woman. She was something else. She wanted more details.

"It is quite the story. Both the capture and... what went before." Alexius said and tried to remember where those couches were, that they'd sat on, while Ovinia would read for him... fuck it that the library was such a big and confusing place! "Do you want to hear it all?" Not everything, of course, there were details he'd leave out for the sake of those involved, but if she wanted to hear it, she should, he thought. She deserved to know.

@Chevi

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"Do I want to hear how you helped apprehend a notorious killer?" Calpurnia smiled at him. He was looking at her as if he was waiting to see her reaction. For a man his size and reputation, he almost looked sheepish. "Of course I do." She nodded, looking around. She knew there were couches to sit and read nearby, so she led the way to that corner. No one else was sitting there at the moment, so she took a seat on one of the couches, looking up at Alexius. "Tell me everything."

@Atrice

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Her smile made everything better and she looked around and easily found a place for them to sit. Of course she did. She was probably very familiar with this place, clever woman that she was. She sat down first and while Alexius wanted nothing more but sit right next to her, with his arm around her back, he knew better. He sat down on the couch closest to her and thought about how to start.

"Well, it all started years ago. A friend of mine was attacked one evening. Hurt. I promised to help her look for her attacker, so I did. And I found out others had been hurt too, most likely by the same man. It seemed he'd even killed someone." Alexius said and inhaled a breath, just thinking of what he'd done upset him a bit. He looked at his hands that had not strangled him when he'd caught the man... "He seemed impossible to find. I didn't have much to go by. Then, just months ago, another friend of mine was hurt. Badly. Same pattern though. It had to be him. Then he murdered that Senator... and my friend, that he hurt years ago, live near me. And he was suddenly there, the night after the murder. I don't know why. But my friend, she called for help. And I came. He's behind bars now, not dead. It's what he deserves though. Very much. For what he's done." He explained, his voice almost turning darker, while he was still looking at his hands. If they didn't take care of it properly, those in charge of sentencing the man to pain and death, well, Alexius would take care of it. Properly.

@Chevi

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Calpurnia listened intently as Alexius told her his story. It started years ago... just how long had this killer been loose in the city? How many people were hurt?... She tried to imagine, Alexius knowing about a person like that for years, trying to find a trace of him. Until the killer showed up on his own. And tried to attack his friend. And Alexius ran to the rescue... Calpurnia could picture that. And now the man was apprehended and behind bars. Awaiting a sentence, no doubt a severe one, fur murdering a senator. And others. Calpurnia nodded, impressed.

"Your friend... is very lucky you were nearby to help. It's horrible to think a man like that walked the streets for years..."

@Atrice

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Alexius' mind had once again turned to what he would have preferred to do to the attacker and killer, now behind bars, but it was too late for those wishes just now. And if they could not give him a proper sentence, Alexius would have to find a way to make sure it was carried out anyway. What he had in mind. It was rare his mind turned towards such dark thoughts, but Marcus Barbatius did that to him. Fucking maniac! 

Calpurnia's voice brought him back to the library, clearly still surprised to hear all this. Alexius nodded, looking up at her, "It is, isn't it?" He said, "It's horrible, everything he's done. He's sick." He deserved nothing less but a painful death. Alexius inhaled another breath, tried to sit up more straight on his couch, "I don't know if I'll be able to relax properly, until he's gone for good." Alexius said then and all those thoughts made him, well, thoughtful... and a bit concerned... was he too rough for Calpurnia? Would it be too much for her? She was the last person he wanted to upset! "I hope you don't think less of me for that." 

@Chevi

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Calpurnia tried not to think about other men like that killer walking the streets of Rome. She had lived her life in safety, in the guarded house of the Vestals, in her patrician family home. It was rare for her to walk outside without a guard, or the company of a body slave. But she still felt a sense of dread at the idea that some people just wanted to... kill, without rhyme or reason. Alexius seemed to think the same; he would not relax either, until the man was dead.

"I hope you don't think less of me for that." 

Calpurnia looked up, a little surprised, and smiled softly. She wanted to hold his hand, but she didn't dare. "Of course not. He hurt people who are important to you... you faced him in person. It's natural that you want to rid the city of him." She looked Alexius over. "You were not hurt, were you?"

@Atrice

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He didn't want to lose her again. It's not like he actually had her, he couldn't even embrace her here in public without people suspecting things... but still, he couldn't lose her or her respect. So he feared that he might, because he was so upset, felt so much anger towards the attacker he caught... but she looked up at him, smiling softly and said 'of course not'. And then she was concerned about him. Which made him let out a little laugh.

"Me, no." He said after, "It was no big deal for me. I've fought worse. He managed to cut one of the others who helped catch him, but... not me." Alexius added with a smile, "I made sure he was knocked out, bound and gagged and unable to run." Meaning taking every opportunity he could get to knock the man out. 

@Chevi

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Alexius laughed at the idea of being injured. There was no bravado in it, just genuine surprise. Calpurnia knew he was not the kind of man who would boast about his exploits and his strength. Even now, that he was telling her he had helped apprehend a killer, he was worried she'd think less of him. What a strange, rare kind of man. She smiled as he explained how they secured the criminal.

"Well, that's good, then. Good that you were nearby to help." she nodded. "I don't doubt he will be punished accordingly, but I will put in a word with my brother if I have the chance."

@Atrice

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Alexius was also glad that he was at home that night and that he didn't have any company with him. Else the whole ordeal might have been very different. But he came as soon as he heard and helped out, even though Aia had already been injured when he got there. Almost too late. But not too late. They caught him. He did something good for once, something right. Instead of just being the former gladiator, getting drunk, telling stories about his time in the arena and then going home with a lovely thing or two to his bed... he did something more than that. Something that really mattered.

Calpurnia praised him for it and promised she'd have a word with her brother about it, if she had the chance. 

"Just... make sure to not mention you heard it from me." Alexius said, cautious the instant she mentioned her brother, her powerful brother, her brother that would surely have his head on a spike if he knew what he'd done with Calpurnia... no matter what else he'd done... he looked at her, he wanted her so much, wanted to be with her, but there was no way to ever make it official, was there? It almost made him feel sad. Fuck.

@Chevi

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"Sure" Calpurnia nodded, though she was not sure why Alexius would not want his name mentioned. The city should be praising him for what he had done, for bringing a murderer to justice. And yet, he seemed cautious about being associated with the event. Or maybe being associated with her? She saw the look he gave her. The intensity in his eyes reminded her of the evening they spent together, and she felt a shiver run through her body. She hated that he could not even tough her in public.

"I... need to go find a few books" she said finally, standing up and smoothing down her dress. "Would you like to help me?"

@Atrice

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Alexius was the problem here, he felt, not her. Surely her own brother would not punish her for sleeping with Alexius. She was far too important to harm. And if anyone did harm her... but no, it was he, who was the problem. It was he, who'd face punishment for sleeping not only with an unmarried Patrician lady, but even one who was a former Vestal. Then it didn't matter what good deeds he'd done. One bad deed could be enough, he knew that. She promised to not mention his name, but seemed puzzled about it. Meanwhile Alexius was inwardly cursing the whole situation and fucking system of Rome. And cursing himself too, because he fell for her, because he couldn't stay away from her that night. And she had wanted him just as much. 

Then she suddenly stood and mentioned the books he came for. Briefly he thought this was it, she would go and leave him behind, but then she offered he could help her. 

"Of course." Alexius said and stood too, "Not that I know much about books. But you can ask for my help anytime." He added with a little smile, happy to stand and feel at least a little closer to her. 

@Chevi

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Calpurnia smiled as Alexius stood up, eager to follow her. She knew he'd have followed her anywhere if she asked. He said he didn't know much about books, but that was alright; looking for books was only a part of why she wanted to walk away now. "That's alright" she smiled, heading into the labyrinth of the shelves. "I am looking for books on medicine." She explained, pointing at the scrolls piled on the shelves. Each one came with a little tag that noted the title and the author. The shelves also had tags that noted the topics of the books. "There are quite a few of these aisles..."

@Atrice

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Of course he was eager to follow her, he shouldn't be, but he was. He should just let her go, but how could he? It felt almost like a privilege, that he was the only one who saw that she was the most extraordinary woman in all of Rome. He came with her, she didn't think it was an issue that he didn't know a lot about books. Alexius followed and she spoke of books on medicine - there were books on medicine? - and she pointed down some of the aisles. Alexius looked at her. Recalling what happened last time he was here and someone went down among the aisles of books alone, just the two of them...

"Well I'll take your word for it." Alexius then said, "Lead the way, Calpurnia." But he wasn't looking the way they were going, his eyes were on her. Stunningly beautiful, that's what she was. That hair, those legs, those lips. Gods he wanted to beat himself up over this. It was so stupid. But he couldn't help himself. His mind didn't stop.

@Chevi

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Calpurnia led the way along the aisles of shelves, housing hundreds of books. She read the labels, but the was aware of Alexius' eyes on her. He was clearly more interested in her than in any books of medicine. Calpurnia smiled to herself. Her fingers traced the shelves and scrolls as she turned another dimly lit corner. She was only half paying attention to her search.

"You'd think that among these hundreds of books, there would be more on women's medicine" she mused, checking some labels.

@Atrice

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