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February 77AD (The day after The Night Shift)

Lucius took a deep breath as he walked up to the Ovinius Camillus household, trying to compose himself. He was wearing a clean vigiles uniform, signaling that he was here in an official capacity. Last time he'd crossed the threshold, he had been visiting Ovinia just after the attack; the time before that... had been the fire on Saturnalia. Maybe third time was the charm. At least, this time he had good news.

The doorman escorted him into the atrium, and reported his arrival to Ovinia's father. Lucius glanced around, but didn't see her anywhere. She already knew what had happened. She had been there, as the clean bandage on his arm attested. He had not seen her since; by the time he got back from Tiberius, she had gone home.

"Salve" he greeted the senator as he made an appearance. "I have news."

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Ovinia was sat curled up in a chair in one of the receiving rooms next to the gardens, her hydraulis lay abandoned after a few strokes. She couldn't conjure any energy to play it. She was exhausted, and looked exhausted. Mercifully she'd been able to get back into her rooms without being discovered but she'd barely slept. Thankfully the nightmares that often kept her awake were a good enough excuse to explain the bags that hung under her eyes. So she sat, curled, lost in thought until one of the slaves gently padded in, explaining her father was calling for her and they had a guest. 

She blinked and pushed herself up with a groan, wearily padding into the atrium. She stilled almost immediately, her face a picture and a raw mix of emotions as she saw Lucius standing there. Thankfully her incredibly observant fathers back was turned to her. She moved to stand next to him, placing a hand on his back to signal she was there. He clicked his tongue; "There you are. Where are your brothers?" He asked with limited patience. Praetor Camillus couldn't handle dilly-dallying at the best of times. "Gaius is out with Tertius - they went to the exhibition race, remember?" She prodded in a gentle voice. "Lucius is home, but I think he's with mother." Who was still abed, unwell. She cleared her throat and flicked dark eyes to the other Lucius in her life. "Vigile Roscianus. You have news?" Her father cleared his throat, and she watched him consider the man before them coolly. "He says so. Whether its of value remains to be seen."

 

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Mother was ill again, abed with the mysterious pains and fatigue that wracked her, yet unable to sleep in a way that gave much relief. But she seemed to take comfort from the presence of her recently returned son, so Lucius made time to sit with her and regale her with stories of Hispania (not the same ones he'd told his sister) and his various doings. Some days she was better, but this was not one of them, so he did what he could. 

In the near distance the domus' main door opened and closed. Was that someone going out or coming in? Surely his brothers weren't due back yet? Maybe father had gone out. But no, there was his voice. There you are. Where are your brothers? Lucius sighed without realised he'd done so, and his mother squeezed his hand. You'd better go. She said to him quietly, giving him a wan smile. Go help your father. He appreciates it when you're home. She added quietly. The words 'even though he'll never say so' hung unspoken in the air. Lucius nodded and leaned forward to kiss his mother on the forehead. "Get some rest. I'll bring you any gossip." He added with a wink, rising from her bedside as she made to shoo him.

There was someone in the atrium, along with father and Ovinia, but Lucius (Ovinius Camillus) wasn't expecting the person he found there. The vigile. The one with the good arms said his irreverent inner voice. Quietly he approached the little group and came to stand at his father's other side with a deliberate scuff of his boot, so that Gaius Major knew he was there. "Vigile." He nodded to Roscianus politely. Surely the man must be here with news of Ovinia's attacker?

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Lucius made an effort to keep his face straight as Ovinia made an appearance. Her own face spoke volumes. She already new what he came here to say, but she couldn't give it away, and neither could he. He could also see her glancing at the bandages on his arm. A reminder from the previous day. He had not spoken to her since. Lucius tried to focus on her father, and her brother, and the task ahead. At least it was the nicer brother that made an appearance.

Vigile Roscianus.

"Good news" he hurried to say, clearing his throat. "The attacker... the man we have been pursuing, has been apprehended last night. He is now locked up in the Tullianum."

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Ovinia knew what he was going to say but it didn't prevent the maelstrom of emotions from churning in her chest, not even for a second. It was relief mixed with anger mixed with just pure distress. She spied her brother out of the corner of her eye - she had missed him joining the conversation and offered him a wavering smile as Lucius finished. She wondered how she should act - how her family expected her to react to such news if it was the first time she was hearing it. She just blinked, lips parting slightly and then she dropped her eyes to the ground and her sandals. Embarrassment probably suited her father fine. In any case, he gave her no room to speak, at least not at first.

"How many people know about this?" The praetor asked with the focus of a man who had spent his life climbing the greasy, slippery political ladder and didn't suffer fools. His voice was cold and unfeeling although she felt a hand on her shoulder - his way of offering some comfort. "You must have forgotten, vigile, that I asked you explicitly to handle this quietly. I don't foresee a lengthy trial in front of the plebs as being handled quietly. Do you?" It was the same argument she had made last night, although it had fallen on deaf ears. He huffed in frustration and threw up his hands. Ovinia swallowed. He hadn't even said thank you. 

"I-It's impressive that you caught him." She offered, still peering at the ground. When she did raise them her expression was inscrutable. "Thank you. What will happen now?" She asked, glancing at her father and her brother more than Lucius. She suspected they had a better grasp of the law in any case. 

 

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Lucius knew that Father Camillus was none too pleased about the news. He also knew why. Ovinia had (accidentally) stabbed him for the exact same reason the night before.

"How many people know about this? You must have forgotten, vigile, that I asked you explicitly to handle this quietly. I don't foresee a lengthy trial in front of the plebs as being handled quietly. Do you?" 

"He was apprehended in the middle of another attack. Luckily, someone was injured but no one died. But there were quite a few... witnesses." Lucius tried to keep a neutral face, glancing at Ovinia. She was doing a better job than him.

"I-It's impressive that you caught him. Thank you. What will happen now?" 

"Well, he's locked up. And I personally talked to Tiberius Claudius Sabucius, to make sure this would be handled discreetly. Very discreetly." Lucius took a deep breath.  He knew the next part would hurt. "But... he's a freeborn man. And the witnesses we have now might not be enough to make sure he is executed for his crimes. Tiberius said that he needs one patrician woman to come forward. To talk to him. To give him enough to deal with that man for good."

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Ovinia listened, keeping her eyes anywhere but his face. She studied the flowers behind him - she'd arranged them herself, she glanced to her brother and her father and she looked down at her sandalled feet. And then heard it. She choked and glanced up, eyes wide and horrified. Hers weren't the only ones. Her father interjected immediately, before she had a chance to; "What did you just say, boy?" She could feel the fury behind his words. She should be furious as well. But she wasn't, she was just horrified. 

Gaius Ovinius Camillus took a step toward their guest - his height imposing, even in his sixty-fifth year. Ovinia glanced at her brother and then to the back of her fathers head. She couldn't look at Lucius lest she cry. This is exactly what she wanted to avoid. This was exactly what she'd pleaded against last night. And it didn't matter. They should have let her slit his throat when she had the chance. 

"We ask you to handle this discretely. Then you tell me the man is imprisoned and you expect my daughter. My unmarried daughter, recount the sordid details of her violation to Caesar's brother?" He was clenching his fist. This was going appallingly. Finally, finally she dragged her eyes to Lucius' - pleading. "T-there are no other witnesses? Nobody?"

 

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"What did you just say, boy?" 

Lucius grit his teeth and stood his ground, holding the father's gaze as he tried to tower over him. He hated this, all of this, he hated what Ovinia was feeling. But it was the truth, the way Tiberius laid it out.

"We ask you to handle this discretely. Then you tell me the man is imprisoned and you expect my daughter. My unmarried daughter, recount the sordid details of her violation to Caesar's brother?"

"That is what he said it would take to condemn him." Lucius nodded tensely.

"T-there are no other witnesses? Nobody?"

"There are. But they are either slaves, or plebeian women." Lucius admitted. He knew she knew this. He could tell she was distressed.

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"So I risk losing everything, because they are not enough." She breathed and looked at him, her dark eyes burning with tears. If he had just listened to her. If any of them had just listened to her, beyond Alexius and the mute Sarmatian, this would not be happening and the man would be weighted down at the bottom of the Tiber by now - out of everybody's lives for good. 

Gaius Ovinius Camillus spared a look for his daughter, breaking his hard stare for their guest. She saw concern flash across his features - it was uncharacteristic. Ovinia herself reached for her brothers hand. She felt bile rise in her throat. She liked Tiberius. She trusted Tiberius. But that was not enough to quell the fear that some slave would be listening outside the room and soon enough her name and likeness would be painted on every street corner in Rome. She gulped in air. 

"You distress my daughter." Gaius said as he turned back to face Lucius. "And I promise that I blame nobody but you, Vigile Roscianus for the mess you have created for my family." She could see his jaw tense, almost as if she could see the cogs of his mind whirring, trying to plan, "And I promise you: I shall not forget it." The threat was barely veiled. Her fathers influence as one of the most prominent men in Rome stretched far beyond the wells of the law courts he controlled as Praetor. "I would have you seek assurance from Tiberius that this matter goes no further than his walls. And compensation." He smirked. "For injuries done for my daughters testimony." Of course he would try and extract something; money, a favour, anything. It was clever. He knew the risks of this for their reputation. He wanted something in turn. 

Gaius Ovinius Camillus shifted on his feet. "Of course, we need not necessarily go that far. I judged a case recently, in fact, of a collegia member. Slaughted another man awaiting trial in the Tullianum." He shrugged. "Perhaps that is something you should look into, Vigile Rosicanus." He would not dirty his own hands with such a thing, of course. It spooked Ovinia to think how similarly her mind worked compared to her fathers. 

 

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"So I risk losing everything, because they are not enough." 

Lucius bit his cheek, holding his ground as the father finally looked away from him. He wanted to be alone with Ovinia. To hold her and tell her things will be alright. To tell her she was brave. And she might have been right. But he couldn't, and it hurt.

 

"You distress my daughter. And I promise that I blame nobody but you, Vigile Roscianus for the mess you have created for my family. And I promise you: I shall not forget it."

"Understood." Lucius was not an idiot. He knew Camillus already hated him, even if he didn't know about... him and Ovinia. And he ever found out, it would be Lucius who ended up in the bottom of the Tiber.

"I would have you seek assurance from Tiberius that this matter goes no further than his walls. And compensation. For injuries done for my daughters testimony."

That one made Lucius' eyes darken. He almost forgot what kind of a man he was dealing with, for a moment. Camillus did not care about Ovinia. He cared about his own standing, and what he might gain through her.

"Of course, we need not necessarily go that far. I judged a case recently, in fact, of a collegia member. Slaughted another man awaiting trial in the Tullianum. Perhaps that is something you should look into, Vigile Rosicanus."

"That I can promise. The man will not walk free." He said simply. If Tiberius did not keep his word, or something went wrong, Lucius would personally make sure the killer died before he was freed. He had enough volunteers to help. "I shall convey your... worries to Tiberius, domine."

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"You misunderstand me." Ovinia's father said with a small, tight smile and narrowed eyes. He took a step forward, speaking low and close to Lucius' ear - enough that Ovinia couldn't hear what he said. Lucius would have though: "Perhaps this is a deed better done before Ovinia risks her standing in this Empire because you have not done your job as asked." He gave their guest a meaningful look before taking a step back and moved to clap Lucius on the shoulder. "But I leave that to your judgement. I trust I will not regret it." 

Ovinia watched the exchange with watery, anxious eyes. She was grateful for her brothers presence - his solidity was calming, even in silence. They both knew better than to interrupt or correct their father when he was speaking. It had been fairly well drummed into them from birth. 

Finally, when an awkward silence settled between the group she spoke - her voice quiet, almost hushed. Much of the colour had drained from her face. "When would Tiberius speak with me?" She swallowed and glanced down at herself. "I am not prepared t-" Her father held up a hand. "Not now. Give the girl some time to compose herself and think on what I've said, yes?" He asked Lucius. She glanced between the two men and then released her hand from her brothers, smoothing her palms over the chiton she was wearing. "Is there anything else we should know?" She asked.

 

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"You misunderstand me. Perhaps this is a deed better done before Ovinia risks her standing in this Empire because you have not done your job as asked. But I leave that to your judgement. I trust I will not regret it." 

"I have done my job." Lucius said quietly. "I am sorry I could not also do you a favor, domine. But I think as long as the vigiles are not running around making their own judgment of people... we are all safer in this city." It was simply stated, but it carried weight. The last time the vigiles decided to take matters into their own hands... no one wanted that again.

Camillus stepped back, and the tense moment was broken, although Lucius could see the barely contained fury in his eyes. "I will do my best, domine." He added, speaking louder so the others could hear too.

"When would Tiberius speak with me? I am not prepared t-"

"Not now. Give the girl some time to compose herself and think on what I've said, yes?"

"Is there anything else we should know?" 

"You have some time, domina." Lucius told Ovinia, and his look softened as he turned to her. "But the sooner the better... for everyone's sake. I shouldn't be telling you this... but Tibeius will do the right thing. He just needs enough help to do it properly."

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Ovinia couldn't hear what her father and their guest were speaking of, but whatever Lucius had said set her fathers spine to straighten, the muscles of his arms, his fingers tensing. She could see from his profile the way he ground down on his jaw. She held her breath for a moment. But her father was far too calculating, far too clever to do something as foolish as lash out at an equite in full view of his daughter and son. She exhaled as he stepped away. 

Domina. 

She swallowed and glanced away, down at her feet as she saw the softer look in his eyes. She added quietly though, to appease her father; "I can go tomorrow." He shook his head. "At the nones of March. You are needed for my clients tomorrow." She swallowed and nodded. The ides were five days away. 

She continued;  "The nones. And we have reason for me to go to the Villa - the gifts he sent, and his letters," She explained and her father nodded, "It would be prudent to send something in return. And return the scrolls." Whether she'd told Lucius of her burgeoning friendship with Tiberius she couldn't remember, but it wasn't important now beyond that it provided cover. Although she suspected perhaps it was not solely friendship on his part, unless he was a particularly doting friend. Any thought of that though was quickly gone though. She would likely not be welcome again, once he heard her story. "Should anybody ask why I was there or was seen there without you, I can simply say that. And Vigile Roscianus can accompany me - he is also a friend of Tiberius." Her father stiffened. "You will take proper guard. I do not wish your reputation further compromised." She stiffened at that. As if it was her fault it hang by a thread as it was. She nodded. "Yes father." 

"You can leave now." He turned his attentions back to their guest. "Send word to Tiberius. And attend to collect Ovinia in the morning on the ides. After my Salutatio, if that timing works for Caesar's esteemed brother." 

Ovinia panicked and glanced at Lucius and then glanced at the slave door, as if trying to communicate for him to wait.

 

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Five days. Lucius opened his mouth but then closed it. Ovinia needed to fight that fight. At least she had a good excuse to go see Tiberius... although the mention of gifts made him feel uncomfortable. Was Tiberius sending gifts to Ovinia...? Camillus probably liked that better that Lucius being around. Was that why he hated the idea of her being a witness so much? Worry that Tiberius would find out something about her that would ruin... whatever was going on?

There was a world where Ovinia married Tiberius.

Lucius hated that idea.

"As you wish, domine. I will talk to Tiberius." he nodded. He caught Ovinia's eyes one last time, and noticed her glance towards the slave door at the back of the house. Where they had met, after the fire during Saturnalia. He couldn't nod to her, but he tied to give her a look to let her know he understood.

Lucius said his polite goodbyes and left. He walked away from the domus, and the circled back around the next corner, lingering at the alley by the slave door, in the cover of the overhanging bushes across from the steps. Would Ovinia really show, or did he just imagine the look?... He'd have to wait and see.

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Ovinia was left to deal with some of the aftermath of her fathers fury, before quietly excusing herself. Lucius - her brother Lucius - was more likely to be listened to in any case, and her father seemed to want to vent. She was utterly not in the mood to listen to it. It was almost as if the violations inflicted on her had happened to him the way he raged. Then again, she supposed legally her body was his and any slight on her was likewise a slight against his authority as paterfamilias. That thought was discomfiting. Like many thoughts had been recently. 

Lucia followed her back to the room she had been in and glanced at her domina. She knew her better than anybody. She also owed Ovinia her life - her father had been keen to strip her of it the day she had been attacked, for Lucia had walked ahead of her and not seen when she'd been snatched. Ovinia had intervened. "I can tell him you will slip away when you can." Ovinia glanced up, dark eyes wide. She nodded dumbly and without another word Lucia slipped from the domus via the slaves entrance to find Lucius. She saw him almost immediately and hurried over, speaking in hushed words. "Her father has not yet left for the courts. She will be at least half an hour. Can you wait?" Ovinia sat dumbly in her room as that conversation happened outside of the walls and it wasn't until she heard their front door open and then close with a groan as her father exited for the day that she felt able to uncurl herself from the bed. Lucia was waiting for her and nodded. 

Careful to be quiet, she moved through the house - slipping past her mothers and Lucius' rooms until she slipped through the cracked slave door. She saw him and her heart skipped and then stuttered. She didn't know what to say and so she just stared at him, helplessly. 

 

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The slave girl appeared first, telling him to wait. He nodded. He knew he could trust Lucia. And he was going to wait as long as he needed. Minutes, maybe hours ticked by, until the slave entrance opened again, and he saw Ovinia moving hesitantly closer to him. She gave him a look that was... distressed.

"I'm sorry" he said quietly, stepping back so she could walk closer to the shade. "I'm really sorry..."

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I'm sorry. I'm really sorry. 

She choked. She was furious. And devastated. And ashamed and everything all at once. He stepped back and she stepped forward until her arms were securely wound around his shoulders and she'd buried her face into his neck, hidden in the half light of the shade. The lemon tree. She remembered the scent from Saturnalia. She choked against his skin. 

"I am so a-angry," She choked, fingers gripping into his arms, "And I am so sorry." She swallowed and only then, reluctantly, did she pull away, dropping her fingers to his arm so she could see it. The damage she'd done when she'd lost all of her wits...and then some. "Your arm. Is it bad?" she swallowed. It had to have been stitched by the medicus. It must have been bad. 

 

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She moved forward until she was holding him, and Lucius wrapped his arms around her. It was dangerous, out here in the open, but for a moment he didn't care. He could feel how tense her body was, how she was shaking as she held on to him.

"Shhh" he muttered, stroking her hair. "I know. I know." The anger, and the guilt, and the fear, and probably a dozen other things she was feeling. He blinked as she turned her attention to his bandages. "It'll be fine. Theo stitched it up."

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She murmured into his neck as he stroked her hair. This was not as familiar as they’d ever been but it certainly felt as intimate as others. Albeit in an entirely different way. Only when they broke apart, although her fingers were still on his arm, that she felt like she could breathe again.

“Because of me.” She swallowed, turning his arm over between her palms. “I shouldn’t have…done it.” She exhaled and then moved dark, watery eyes to his face. “But you should have listened. Because now…” It was all on her. At least it seemed so. “I can’t do this…not alone. It’s not fair.”

 

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"I know. I know you didn't mean to." He gave her a small smile. "Didn't meant to hurt me, anyway." She most definitely wanted to hurt the other man. And while he still knew he'd made the right decision at the time, now he was not sure it was the right decision for her. She looked at him, desperate, and all he could do was reach for her hand.

"I'm so sorry. We tried. We told Tiberius what a woman would be risking if she came forward... but he needs enough to execute him, otherwise he'll... or his brother, will be accused of being a tyrant. I'm sorry. I know it shouldn't be you. I'll talk to Pinaria too..."

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She swallowed and stared at his arm. He was right, she didn't meant to hurt him, but she was absolutely hell bent on hurting the man they'd had in their grips. And to think - had she been quick enough, or skilled enough, or more determined the man would be dead. And Lucius and the others would hate her for it but they would now all have peace. Instead, it felt like this saga was never going to end. She swallowed and moved her fingers from his arm but he gripped them instead, prompting her to glance up at him.

"Pinaria should not do it in my stead." She swallowed and shook her head. "We...said we were here for one another. Perhaps we can do it together. Perhaps the words of both of us will be enough." She moved to release his hand and sit upon the boxes as she had done at Saturnalia. Her voice was low and quiet and she stared at him, the tears drying to be replaced with a look of distress and anger. "If Tiberius chooses to tell somebody...if one of his slaves overhears and spreads it around the city, do you know what will happen to me?" she swallowed the lump in her throat and gave him a pleading look. "It doesn't matter that he didn't rape me, I-I told you, my father told you that nobody will believe that. A-and who would marry me then?" She shook her head, too upset, too furious to look at him. She snapped her eyes to her fingers. Which were shaking. "Why didn't you listen to me?" She pleaded.

 

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"Pinaria should not do it in my stead. We...said we were here for one another. Perhaps we can do it together. Perhaps the words of both of us will be enough."

Lucius held her hand as they sat down. It felt like centuries ago, that other day during Saturnalia. "I will talk to Pinaria" he nodded. Maybe if the two of them went together, they would feel safer.

"If Tiberius chooses to tell somebody...if one of his slaves overhears and spreads it around the city, do you know what will happen to me? It doesn't matter that he didn't rape me, I-I told you, my father told you that nobody will believe that. A-and who would marry me then? Why didn't you listen to me?" 

I would. I would marry you.

"You know why." Lucius said quietly. It had been an impossible choice, but that didn't mean he chose wrong. There were other victims out there who needed to know they were safe now. "Tiberius knows what is at stake. More than most people, I promise. He will make sure to keep your secret." He squeezed his hand. "I know this is... more daunting than anything I've had to face. I can't imagine what it feels like. And I really am sorry."

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"I don't know why!She choked, indignant, glaring at him but removing her hand from his grasp. "You voted to take him to trial so that what? His other victims who are desperately trying to forget no doubt, can forget. So we can all move on and forget?" She shook her head, "It will be hard to move on as I replay in detail what he did to me, where he cut me, where he touched me to Caesar's brother, my friend." She swallowed and pushed dark hair from her face. She'd been curled up trying her hydraulis and hadn't bothered to braid or style her long hair.

"If you were sorry you would not be making me do this." She added quietly when her fury had settled back to distress, and she shook her head. "Tiberius will see me differently, even if he chooses to keep my secret." She added, swallowing the lump in her throat. She trusted the man but still...her heart ached at the prospect of everything going wrong. Which it so very easily could. "You should have taken a woman with you last night." She said, finally looking at him. "Somebody who understood the risks you are asking us to take...rather than a group of men who wanted to play the hero." 

 

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Lucius winced at her anger. It was justified, but that it did not make him feel any less guilty about what she was going through. If he had known Tiberius was a friend of hers... friend, in a way, maybe he would have made a different decision. Maybe Ovinia was not thinking all that differently from her father.

"Tiberius is a good man. And a kind man. He won't judge you for any of this." Lucius was sure of that. He didn't know much, but he was good at knowing people. And Tiberius was honorable. "I know this... all of this is wrong. And a lot of it is my fault, and I'm sorry. But I'm here. I just... I'm here for you."

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"He is still a Roman man." She retorted, shaking her head. "You cannot guarantee what he will do." This was her irrationality talking of course, but she already longed for the easiness of life before this. Before all of this. When she'd first met Tiberius it had been on the steps to a temple and they'd talked and joked and jested about philosophy and life plans and such. That friendship would be soured now, forever, with the images of what the man had done to her. She swallowed and gripped her chiton between her fingers.

She let silence swell as he finished speaking, trying to pick her words carefully. She swallowed and then let out a deep sigh, moving her fingers to wipe at the wet patches on her cheeks as she spoke; "And you will...be here if it goes wrong? If the city thinks I'm a whore and I'm shipped off to some island to get away from scandal?" She chuckled mirthlessly, joking, shaking her head. "I blame you." She admitted quietly, "And the Praetorian, and Jason and the others who voted to ignore what we were saying." She felt he deserved her  honesty, painful as it might be to hear. She flicked her eyes up to him. "But if you take responsibility for that, if you understand how much it has hurt me and you are sorry..." She sighed and rolled her head back to the wall, staring up at the lemon tree above them. "I don't want you to think I hate you." 

 

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