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There was something that Aulus had been considering for a while now, but it would be unfair of him to put it off for any longer, especially as it was not about him, but involved someone close to him. It didn't involved his wife, either, at least not directly - but they had always discussed things with one another and this was no time to go changing that. He had long ago come to the conclusion that they were a highly unusual couple among all the married people of their status, but he was absolutely fine with that and saw no reason whatsoever to go changing that now.

His wife was taking advantage of the shade and slight breeze in the garden, and was there with a slave and their newest son. His expression softened at seeing the child and he held his arms out to the nurse so that he could take him, not wanting to miss out on the experience of being a father so early as he had with his daughter.

"I came to - Well, to be honest, I'm not sure whether I came to ask for your opinion, your advice or your forgiveness," he told Horatia before looking down at Quintus. "Who's a clever boy, Quintus? Yes, yes, you are!"

 

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Horatia was where Aulus knew she'd be found; the private little corner of the garden that she had her slaves lovingly tend. When not in her own office, most of the time - come rain or shine, she'd be found in the garden. The gentle breeze, buzzing of the insects, the sun on her skin calmed her in a way that was impossible to replicate anywhere else. She was determined that the youngest addition to their brood would take after his mother and likewise enjoy the serenity of the garden, so as she sat on a blanket with the nursemaid and Quintus led between them, she smiled softly. It only widened as she heard Aulus behind her.

She cast a glance over her shoulder at him, quirking a brow as he plucked Quintus up. It was a sight she'd missed when Calpurnia had been an infant and it tugged on her heart. Shuffling to face him, leaning her back against the leg of a chair she'd eschewed in favour of the blanket she chuckled. "Well that sounds promising. What's on your mind?" Knowing Aulus it could be anything from a new building project (the Gods have mercy), his sister, politics, war or anything in between.

 

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"Well, two things, really. One, I will probably have to speak with Titus Caesar about, in his role as Pontifex Maximus - I am thinking about rebuilding the temple of Juno Lucina - oh yes I am, Quintus, that's where you were born - because it really is unacceptable that there is nowhere suitable for a woman caught in... the predicament you were. There should be a trained midwife there at the bare minimum." He tucked his son into the crook of one arm and bent for the teething rattle - surely it was too early for teeth, but the jingling bells on it would keep the baby's attention.

"The second thing. I am going to free Felix, it's something I should probably have done years ago. I was thinking at a quiet family dinner, but make it official the day after. I'd want him to have proper citizenship, after all, and that can only happen in front of a magistrate. And you may have noticed from the distinct lack of lictors that I'm no longer a consul. Yes, Tata was a consul, Quintus, with far too many men following him around all the time, Mama didn't like that much. All those muddy sandals in her nice clean atrium..."

He smiled at his son, and glanced at Horatia, still smiling.

 

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Horatia's brows rose and she waved off the nurse with a flick of her wrist. The girl scurried away and the lady of the house stretched out her legs in front of her, crossing her ankles and hitching the simple tunica she wore at home so she could feel the sun on the skin of her legs. So she wasn't wrong. A new building project. She supressed a groan and instead offered a shake of her head, but her husband continued and moved onto Felix. That frown turned into a look of surprise and then a gentle smile. That was an idea she could get on board with.

"I see the need for forgiveness," She chuckled and reached a long arm up to stroke her son's downy head as he lay in Aulus' arms. "Not for Felix of course...I think that an excellent idea." She nodded, "He deserves it of course. Do you have a sense of what he'd want to do if freed?" She could see the gentle giant of a man with a family, a great enormous brood of children and a simple job that brought him pleasure. She knew both herself and her husband would do anything within their (fairly great) power to bring him any and all of that.

"The temple though..." She shook her head with a sigh, "The Temple of Juno Lucina is a place of solace for women," she chided him with a quirked brow, "I won't disagree that they need a midwife or perhaps a small building for women in my...predicament, but its quaintness is...comforting. As is the grove. I would not have a man," she glanced at him, "Even one I love, turning it into a construction site purely so his name could be above the doors. I would rather you put your money into the charitable endeavour myself and Calpurnia have been musing on...which I do also need to speak to you about." 

 

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Aulus felt that he was towering over his wife and sat in the chair she had eschewed. "I was not envisioning turning it into some grand temple to rival those of the Capitoline, and I would leave the grove itself entirely untouched. As for putting my name over the door, certainly not. Yours, perhaps." He was not at all above reminding the priestesses what had happened in their domain, after all. "I have enough money for a new temple and any charitable endeavours you might possibly scheme up with Calpurnia, or anyone else for that matter. As for Felix... I haven't the slightest idea. I'm hardly someone he would choose to confide in, after all."

The master of the house was the one with all the power, and even though his father was in the best of health, Tiberius was in Baiae which was not Rome, thus leaving Aulus to run the family affairs, for the most part.

"He could stay here, or I would quite happily set him up somewhere with funds for a business or any other enterprise he should choose to undertake," he added, shaking the rattle for his son.

He glanced slyly at Horatia. "To be honest, I was thinking of letting my architect talk with you - I have ideas, certainly, but as you say, it's a place for women, I think it should have a woman's hand in it."

 

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"It's not about the money..." She interjected with a sigh, but then he moved onto Felix and she followed the meandering curves of the conversation with him. "I would be happy to have him here, you know that, but perhaps he'd prefer some freedom? Literal," She chuckled, "And metaphorical. He was born here, spent his life here besides those years away with you, perhaps he'd like to see what else Rome has to offer?" She could see that perhaps that would be a frightening thing, but Felix deserved to spread his wings and see what else was out of his reach. 

She glanced up as he spoke, and noted the sly expression on her husbands face. "I would rather not have a hand in it, I would rather you not do it at all but alas," She quirked a brow at him, "You were right, you're not asking for my permission, you're asking for my forgiveness." Aulus had many admirable traits, but being headstrong was not always a positive. "Do the priestesses even want a new Temple? Did you ask them?" 

 

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"It would be an offer, if he would like to stay here - I have no intention of giving the man his freedom and promptly turning him out on the streets," Aulus said. "A room, for as much time, or as little, as he would like, with the freedom to come and go as he chooses, is more what I had in mind."

A patron had duties to his clients, after all, as a master had for his slaves, though the leash of a patron and clients was far looser than the control a master had over his slaves.

"To reiterate, I was not thinking something as grand as the temple of Juno Moneta or Jupiter Capitolinus. A temple that is bigger than the present one, with a private room for any woman who needs it, and a separate room, or house - quarters of some sort anyway - for a midwife."

He did not have a hand free to rest on his wife's shoulder. "The priestesses, from all I could gather, rather left you and Longinus' girl to get on with it, I am not entirely sure I trust them. And if not a whole new temple, what would you suggest - I'm rather under the impression you would not have had Quintus where you did if you'd had the strength to be anywhere else, even in the grounds."

 

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Horatia was grateful from his vantage point above her, her husband couldn't see the roll of her eyes that she gave him. Yes she had listened and yes she knew he wasn't planning some great grand temple, but that wasn't the point. The present one was perfectly serviceable and didn't need to be rebuilt on a whim. She could see his heart was in the right place and indeed, the project was likely born out of love but it was misguided to her. 

"I would suggest a smaller building, to the side. A few beds perhaps and a midwife in residence. Something simple and small. We shouldn't be encouraging women to give birth there, after all, which a larger temple and dedicated facilities might do. Then you could leave the Temple and grove untouched, and not risk irking the priestesses. They may not have been much use or help but I equally don't blame them for it. Many of them, I imagine, have devoted their lives to this. How could they know what to do when they've never born children?" She asked and tilted her head up. "Do you wish to know about our charitable project?" She asked and kept her hawkish gaze on her husband, "Mine and Calpurnia's?" Given he hadn't asked for any specifics, perhaps he was too distracted to countenance it.

 

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"I don't think they're required to be virgins as the Vestals are," he said and gave the rattle to his son to wave around, gently resting the newly-free hand on Horatia's shoulder. "I believe the only requirement is to be univiri, possibly mothers." He smiled at her. "I was certainly not suggesting some grand place given over solely to women in labour, just somewhere... more comfortable, and a bigger temple for the goddess."

He traced a twist of her hair. "You have put up with me describing my own projects at length, why should I object to hearing about yours? What amazing work do you and Calpurnia have planned - and how much should the men of the city be trembling in fear?"

 

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"Well perhaps I should consider joining their order if you continue to needle me or drone on?" She said with a lilt of amusement in her voice and a sharp glance in his direction. She loved her husband deeply, she truly did, but sometimes he couldn't help himself from being right. And sometimes, for a woman like Horatia, it grated. Deeply. "If you have plans, do not let me get in your way, I was merely giving you my opinion which you are welcome to do with as you wish." 

She sank her head into his hand as he traced one of the twists of her simple-enough up do. It was moments like this she was glad of marriage; both for the practical sense (it really was so much cooler to keep her hair up off her neck) and for the joy of these simple moments. "They should be trembling deeply." She chuckled and shifted around so she was leant against his knees, "We wish to buy a small place, perhaps near Juno's Temple itself...for women..." She cleared her throat, "In trouble...pregnant, in need of help and few places left to turn. Plebs and freedwomen and such. It would be a place where they can learn skills; literacy, needlework, cooking, midwifery skills perhaps..." She glanced up at him. "I imagine few men will support such an endeavour, but we will need to frame it that if we do something like this now then we can help them...and their children so they do not turn to something darker." prostitution, crime etc. "I am not asking for your permission," She gave him a small smile, "Nor my fathers given I don't need that now and nor does Calpurnia...but I do need to use one of your clients, and trust you will support it?" 

 

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"Was I needling you? It wasn't deliberate, if I was," Aulus said, apologetically. "It was a thought, if you would rather I didn't do it, then I won't. If you're going to have somewhere nearby, then there will be a midwife within a short distance, who can be there as quickly as if she was within the sacred grove. I just thought that it seemed sensible to have somewhere comfortable for anyone who happened to find herself in the same situation you did. But I'm not a woman, what would I know about it - no, Quintus, please don't hit me with that, even if you do happen to agree with your mother, and think that Tata is a silly man who should keep to politics." He gently brushed his son's arm down from where he'd been waving the rattle dangerously close to Aulus' head.

"Which of my clients do you need to borrow, and does he know about it yet?" he asked, and shifted position so he could bounce his son on his knees.

It was certainly an interesting project - very like Horatia, he thought. She had set something up for the women of Augusta Vindelicorum while they had been in Raetia, though that had not been quite so obviously for the lower class women. He could see the pediment of the building in his mind's eye: For the women of Rome, Horatia Justina and Calpurnia Praetextata made me - the masons would be swearing as they carved the letters, he was sure. Too many round letters and two long names that couldn't be shortened.

 

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Horatia chuckled as her husband made his apologies in his own Aulus-type way. She pushed herself to kneel and then shuffled to turn herself round so she was facing, stretching her legs out next to the chair and leaning back on her palms. "You should never just keep to politics my love."

"And I think his name is Tiberius Calpurnius Arrius, he's the son of one of your freedmen clients - a clerk to an Aedile. We thought he might be useful in procuring a location and dealing with the city officials." As despite the fact that both herself and Calpurnia had the maximum amounts of freedoms a woman may enjoy in Rome, some things were still beyond even them. She sighed and narrowed her eyes at him. "But you do not object to the idea itself?"

 

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"Object to the idea itself? No - though I can see why some might. But I think a woman will do a great deal to avoid infamia, and your institution, or whatever you want to call it, will help."

It seemed very much along similar lines to the Augusta's proposed charity to help orphans of the civil war, although that was more for those who had lost their fathers in the rioting and in-fighting before Quintus' namesake had taken the purple and quelled the worst excesses of violence.

The thought made him ask, "And what of those women who have lost their fathers - who have no head of household to turn to? I presume you will have a place for them?"

There would be those, of course - but even they ought to have a cousin or brother or, in the very worst circumstances, a freedman who could act for them. There would be some few who had nobody, and he could see that the sort of thing Horatia was proposing would be a refuge for such women.

"I think very few would be able to object if you stressed it was for those women - and whoever else might need it would be incidental and need not be mentioned to those who would have a fit about it - oh yes, Quintus, Mama and Tata both know people like that!"

Quintus merely gurgled at him, waving the rattle around in ecstasy at having his father's attention.

 

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She smiled softly and nodded; "Exactly." He understood it perfectly. It would help women, genuinely help women but it would have the benefit of helping the state by keeping its women, its child bearers out of infamia. 

Turning to his question she sighed and led her head back against his knees; "Yes of course. Teach them a trade so they can start their own businesses perhaps? Find them a role?" She smiled a little. Not all trades were suited to slaves; nannies and such. 

She chuckled as he spoke to Quintus and murmured her agreement. "I trust you can handle them for me my love." Few people would be willing to cross Aulus even without the protection of Consulship. "I wonder if any Imperials would like to get involved." She mused, "You know I speak to Tiberius? I can perhaps ask if his twin is interested." 

 

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"It sounds admirable - and I shall handle whoever you need me to, my dove." Horatia knew that, of course. He lifted Quintus, trying to encourage his son to stand on Aulus' legs, with his father's hands holding him up. "If you have any women come to you who have no male relatives of age, and nobody else to speak for them, and nowhere else to turn, I will act on their behalf for whatever legal needs they have. Only please don't bring me fifty at once!"

He looked down at the top of his wife's head. Her hair was worn in a simple plait pinned up over her head, and the sunlight burnished it, making it gleam like a crown.

"Claudia Caesaris is still unmarried," he said thoughtfully. "You can ask, but I would keep her away from anything to do with the prostitutes who will inevitably turn up - I am not sure whether her head of house is her brother or Titus Augustus, but either of them will veto it if they hear she's mixed up in something they don't approve of. They're both good sensible young men, though, so I see no reason why they would veto it." Horatia was a sensible woman, as was Calpurnia Praetextata; they would present their cause in suitable terms such that neither young man would stop Claudia joining them if she wanted to.

 

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She smiled at her husband and reached up a hand to squeeze his thigh. "Thank you." It was more than she could expect from her husband, to offer his protection under the law for what was - undoubtedly - to be a gaggle of women with nowhere else to turn. Calpurnia and herself had freedoms given to very few women by virtue of the formers life as a Vestal and Horatia's three children, but it was still not enough. 

She nodded as he spoke, raising good points. "It's an idea, but not one we need to explore immediately. Calpurnia and I would like to do as much of it as we can without Imperial...or male sponsorship." She gave Aulus a wry smile, "But of course I shall come to you should I need help. As will your sister, no doubt, given this is likely to be her primary focus." Her eyes narrowed a little on her husband, "Has Caesar given any indication of a potential husband for her?" 

 

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He needed both hands to support his son, who was not interested in trying to put any weight at all on his feet, and couldn't clasp Horatia's hand. She hadn't asked such a thing of him - wouldn't have - yet it was such an easy thing to offer. He wondered momentarily how many women would take that offer up - approaching an ex-consul would be as much as most of them would dare. Although the women of the Aventine weren't exactly shrinking violets, and probably neither were women from anywhere else in the city.

"I would like to hear about the progression of your idea, even if you don't need advice," he told her, finally giving up and letting Quintus sit down, which meant he could spare a hand to squeeze Horatia's shoulder. "No, he hasn't - although I hope that, whoever she marries, she will have as happy a marriage as ours."

He wondered, for an instant, if he could maybe suggest Horatia's brother Publius as a prospective husband, although it might be a little soon for him to consider remarrying since the death of his wife in childbirth. Aulus did not have the words to express his thankfulness that Horatia had survived her own ordeal.

 

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"Of course." She smiled genuinely. "I will bore you with our progress, as you bored me with the progress of your baths." She chuckled, jesting. A little. She had been sick of hearing about them by the end - and not even her immutable love and affection for her husband could save the conversations that focused on architectural plans or the quality of different slave crews. 

"She will, I'm sure." She nodded firmly and shifted around to face him, sitting cross-legged on the grass. She raised her hand to stroke her son's back tenderly. "I'm sure she has ideas of her own, do you get a sense that Caesar will listen to them?" She asked, genuinely and then pre-empted his next question, "And no, I don't know who is on her shortlist - or if she even has one, but as you well know your sister is a woman of conviction so I suspect she has some plans or ideas at least." She chuckled. Calpurnia was a truly formidable woman - both in bearing and in personality. It still grieved Horatia that she was unlikely to ever be a mother, although it was not outside the realms of possibility, and resolved to encourage her two teenaged children to spend more time with their Aunt. 

 

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"I have the impression that Caesar will listen - he hasn't been dismissive of his concilium, after all. Any match should be for the advantage of both families concerned, and I think he would prefer her to be happy with her future husband. He is as aware as anyone that divorce is possible if neither party is particularly happy, after all."

Aulus wanted his sister to be happy in her marriage. Even if there were no children forthcoming due to her age as a retired Vestal, he saw no reason that Calpurnia could not have a husband as well suited to her as Aulus and Horatia were suited for one another.

"I think Father would like a say in it, too, although Caesar has superseded him as Calpurnia's paterfamilias because of his role as Pontifex Maximus," he said, and was interrupted by Quintus scrunching up his face to wail for his mother, or his nurse, or dinner, or something.

"I would be surprised if Calpurnia doesn't have some ideas about her own future - I will have to ask her about them. I don't think Caesar will want to make any sort of plans without having some idea as to what she would like herself." He might even ask her without needing Aulus to convey said ideas to him.

 

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