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What Little I Know [M]


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Three days after 'Everything's Changing', early March 77AD

Ovinia sank into the warm water, letting her eyes drift shut as it eased her sore muscles and soothed inflamed skin. She enjoyed the luxury of the Thermae Aventini, having used cheaper and more distant baths in the immediate aftermath of her injuries when they were still red raw and stitched. But now, nearing three months later, the two injuries - a long neat line down her scapula and a smaller, deeper puckered line on her hip bone were beginning to turn the softer pink of wounds healing. They were not white yet, but the medicus assured her that would come with time. And she had purposefully chosen a quieter time of day to attend so nobody would draw her into conversation and enquire about her provenance. The sun had set recently and it was the hour of cena but that didn't matter to her. It was also cheaper to attend now and a few of the women she could hear chattering had accents which suggested they weren't senatore. She tried her best to stave off irritation at them. 

She felt relaxed here, for the first time in days - the first time since that night in the insula - four nights ago now, where it had all happened. Her meeting with Tiberius was two days away on the nones and she had fitful slumber ahead of it. It was why she spent so much coin here - getting the skin of her face freshened with lotions, having her hair washed and braided and pinned up as she took in the warm bath with rosehip and her body smoothed with pumice as she did every month. She felt refreshed, and for once, content as she drifted close to the side, her eyes still shut, enjoying the lapping of the warm water and the soft sounds of a musician somewhere - her notes filtering over the chatter of the few women here. Maybe things would be okay. Just maybe. 

 

TAG: @Chevi

Edited by Sara
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It had been a couple of days now since her injury, and Aia felt like she needed a bath. Her would was stitched and healed well, but it was still too recent to soak in warm water for long. Instead, she took a quick bath - which felt divine nonetheless, and then wrapped herself in a towel, dangling her legs in the pool and enjoying the warmth of the baths. It was relaxing. She didn't even notice Ovinia at first; but once her eyes wandered that way, she recognized the young woman at once. From the insula (where she almost killed the barber, and managed to stab her... vigile instead), and from the baths before, when she'd asked about her scar. Small word.

Aia got up, padding over to Ovinia's side of the pool, and then settled down again on the edge.

"Hello there" she said softly. They had not exactly parted on good terms the first time; but since then, it turned out they shared quite a few things, and at least one big secret. "Is everything alright?"

@Sara

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Ovinia didn't register the greeting for a moment, presuming it was for somebody else. Whilst it wasn't busy, there were still a few women - chatting and giggling and she presumed the soft, accented words for one of those. It was only when the woman continued to speak that she fluttered her dark eyes open and glanced up to see the redhead. The one from the baths before. The one with the praetorian. The one from the insula who had been getting stitched. Who had voted against ending the barber's life.

She blinked, lips falling ajar and then cleared her throat, gently moving around in the water so she could face the side and peer up at Aia instead of turning her head. "Yes. Yes I'm fine. Thank you." She cleared her throat again and glanced around them. Nobody seemed to be paying them much attention. Now...what the fuck had she said her name was last time they were here?! She could remember the other woman's though - it was unusual. "It was Aia, wasn't it. I...didn't expect to see somebody I knew out here." Which was a polite way of saying; what the fuck are you doing here?

 

TAG: @Chevi

 

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"Aia" she nodded with a smirk. The girl had introduced herself as Nia last time, but she knew now her name was Ovinia. Not that she'd mention it. It was none of her business, and the lady was jumpy anyway.

"Yeah, I just... needed to get a bath, now that I'm healing" she shifted the edge of the towel to cover the stitched cut on her thigh. "Small city, I guess."

@Sara

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She glanced down before Aia covered her leg, looking at the wound. It didn't look infected, and much like her own injuries it was a straight, long line. At least - she thought somewhat darkly - Aia had other scars to match it. It wasn't as if it would blemish otherwise perfect skin. She snapped the judgemental thought from her mind and shook her head visibly, ever so slightly, to rid herself of it. 

"It looks neat. The medicus was good." She smiled awkwardly and nodded, glancing around the baths. "I suppose so. You..." She bobbed in the water and reached her fingers to grip onto the side. "You have heard what is it to happen from your Praetorian, I suppose?" 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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Aia nodded. "He told me they need witnesses, to tie him to the Senator's murder, and to other cases... I'm going to be one, but it might not be enough. He said they'd need a patrician woman." Aia tactfully did not ask if Ovinia would be said patrician woman. Judging from how she behaved at the meeting, she probably hated the idea. "Did your vigile tell you?"

@Sara

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Ovinia nodded, glancing down at the ripples in the water rather than the woman's face. That she'd be a witness was interesting. She shook her head. "I understood that they only needed patrician women, so you may well be spared." She said with a small smile and a shrug. The pretence of being a pleb was exhausting, and she doubted the woman in front of her really believed she was anyway but she felt more secure in the knowledge  that she tried to keep her status quiet. Then when it inevitably got out, she could hand on heart say to her father that she had done everything. 

She flicked her eyes up and nodded. "He is not my vigile. But yes, he came to see me the morning after. So I could...apologise, I suppose for my outburst." She cleared her throat. Stabbing Lucius in the arm was, perhaps, more than an outburst. "But we can pray to the Gods that it is almost over. That justice will actually be done." Although she truly doubted it would be. 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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Well, at least Ovinia was done pretending she was plebeian. Which was just as good, because she was really fooling exactly no one with her act.

"He is not my vigile. But yes, he came to see me the morning after. So I could...apologise, I suppose for my outburst. But we can pray to the Gods that it is almost over. That justice will actually be done."

"We can. We can also be assured that if someone high up fucks this trial over, Decimus and your vigile will personally quarter the fucker." Aia gave Ovinia a visious grin. She had been all for doing away with the guy, but she had been convinced by Decimus' better half enough to vote with him. "No apology needed on my part. I wouldn't have minded if you stabbed him."

@Sara

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"He's not my vigile." She murmured again with downcast eyes as she bobbed in the water. "And you're sure?" She arched a brow. "About your Praetorian?" She hadn't liked the man. The fact he got a vote irked her. The fact that anybody that hadn't personally been attacked got a vote, irked her. Who were they to cast judgement when they got restful nights sleeps without his image floating into view. 

She likewise kept a curious gaze at Aia as she told Ovinia she needn't apologise. "Oh? Is that why you voted for him to go to trial?" She rolled her eyes - an unsavoury habit she'd picked up when talking to somebody that irked her. She sighed, irritated at herself, mumbling. "Sorry...I'm not myself." 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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"He's the only thing in life I'm sure of" Aia said with a small smile. She trusted Decimus with everything she had. And she knew he'd make sure she was safe, whatever it took.

"Oh? Is that why you voted for him to go to trial? Sorry...I'm not myself." 

The eye roll was a bit much, but Aia couldn't exactly fault the girl. She had almost a decade on her. She'd learn.

"That's alright, you've had to put up with a lot of shit recently." Aia lay down at the edge of the pool, propping herself up on her elbow. "I voted with Decimus because I trust him. I love him, but more importantly, I fought with him." At this point, there was no need to play secrets.

@Sara

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Ovinia blinked, surprised, as the woman reclined next to her at the edge of the pool. She kept gripping the side, letting herself float in the warmth of the water. "It's no excuse, I am sorry." She murmured weakly. She was trying to be better but petulance and irritation came naturally to Ovinia. It was a struggle not to snap. 

The explanation made sense though and she blinked. "You said you got your scars when you were an interprex." She nodded with a soft smile. It didn't occur to Ovinia, as it didn't during their last conversation, that you couldn't have a female interprex. "You met in the legions? Fell in love?" She tilted her head to the side, her heart aching at the thought of such an...easy romance, even if she knew they couldn't marry whilst her man was in service. Although that struck up a whole other awkward thought in her head, from their last conversation. He's got some years left, but we are hoping for a special permission. So we can see if married sex is better than the other kind. Ovinia coughed. "Well...hopefully he can finish his term soon. So you can get some peace. And...I shall have to apologise to him, as well, for my outburst. Should we ever cross paths." 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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"You said you got your scars when you were an interprex. You met in the legions? Fell in love?"

"We met in the legions. Didn't really fall in love properly until after." Aia returned the soft smile. It was still strange to think about, those years a lifetime ago.

"Well...hopefully he can finish his term soon. So you can get some peace. And...I shall have to apologise to him, as well, for my outburst. Should we ever cross paths." 

"Oh I'm sure you will. Seems like we share friends" Aia pointed out. Alexius, among them. "Did you apologize to the guy you cut?" She asked, arching an eyebrow. Alright, so maybe she was feeling a bit challenging. "Your vigile?"

@Sara

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She nodded and moved to place her arms on the side, folding them over one another so she could prop her chin on them, letting her legs float aimlessly beneath her. "I am happy for you, Aia." And she meant it. Despite parting at the other baths on bad terms, she had apprehended Ovinia's tormentor. She owed her more than an eye roll for that. 

The thought of sharing friends was...odd though. "I suppose. Alexius is friends with most people though." She chuckled, bobbing in the water, flushed face titled to the side to study Aia as she spoke. Fortunately the flush from the heat hid her blush. She nodded. "Yes, as I said, he came to visit me to tell me and I apologised. The medicus stitched him up I said. He...understood. Like you did. I was not myself." She cleared her throat and then rolled her eyes. "But he is not my vigile. As I've said. I barely know him. He's an equite, so I hear. And I am not." Because she was a patrician, although she hoped Aia would interpret that as her being a pleb.

 

TAG: @Chevi

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"I suppose. Alexius is friends with most people though."

"He really does get around." Aia snorted with a chuckle. Alexius was Alexius, and they all loved him that way.

"Yes, as I said, he came to visit me to tell me and I apologised. The medicus stitched him up I said. He...understood. Like you did. I was not myself." But he is not my vigile. As I've said. I barely know him. He's an equite, so I hear. And I am not." 

Did no one teach Patrician girls how to lie properly? Like, not even I-am-a-man level lying, just... not being obvious? Aia gave Ovinia an amused look.

"Girl. That man jumped in front of a knife for you. I'm not blind."

@Sara

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Ovinia flushed again and looked down into the water for a brief moment. Was she such a terrible liar? Clearly. 

"He did that to ensure I did not kill the barber, if you recall. Not out of any loyalty to me." She shrugged and dropped her arms back down so she could float in the water. So much for a relaxing soak. Turning back around so her profile was to Aia, she shrugged. "As I said, I am a pleb and he is an equite. We barley know one another. And once this...situation has resolved itself when the man is put to death, we won't have any need to interact again." 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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Now it was Aia's turn to roll her eyes. Children and their games. She'd never felt so old in her life. Then again, she'd never been a patrician either.

"Fine. Alright, I'll play. So, is there, by any chance, theoreticallyanother very handsome, clearly devoted plebeian man in your life that you feel like talking about?" She chuckled.

@Sara

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"I..." She was momentarily stunned into silence both by how easy she was to read, and by  the forthrightness of Aia's words. He is very handsome. Not the fucking point Ovinia. 

"No...no don't trouble yourself, I am sure you would rather do anything than hear about a perfect strangers love life." She bluffed, moving to readjust the pins that held her freshly washed hair out of the water as she soaked. She glanced around. Nobody was paying them any attention at all, which was for the best really because just having Aia's attentions on her was awkward enough, let alone anybody elses. "A-and my name really is Nia. And I really am plebeian." She protested weakly.

 

TAG: @Chevi

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"Alright, first off. There are only a few things in this city more fun than a perfect stranger's love life." Aia grinned, rolling onto her stomach to tick her point off on her fingers. "And second, you're talking to someone who served years in the legions as a man named Aius. I know this game." She held up her third finger. "But third, I don't really care. You can call yourself whatever you want, you know I'm not gonna tell on you. You really need a massage. Your shoulders look very tense."

@Sara

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For the second time in as many minutes, Ovinia was utterly stunned and just swivelled in the water to blink...or rather gawp at the woman. "You served as a man?" She choked, "Named...Aius?" She blinked - giving the woman a once over - difficult to do with her lying down but she could tell even from that, she wasn't looking at a man. "How? Why?!" She blinked. It was absolutely not what Aia wanted to talk about, nor Ovinia if she was being honest, but it was too fascinating not to ask the question. 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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"Yep" Aia grinned. At least Ovinia was paying attention now. "Joined up after my father died and I was left to fend for myself. It helped that he raised me as a boy because that made easier to travel. And also that I was like fifteen at the time. I didn't go on the front lines, I was an inteprex... but I did see fighting. Even got captured once." She shrugged. "Decimus found out eventually when I got injured. He never told on me though. Poor guy is kind to a fault." She tilted her head, smiling at Ovinia. "Your turn."

@Sara

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Ovinia's mouth gaped open as she listened, utterly awestruck. She knew somewhat about the legions from her brothers and her fathers service. They'd undoubtedly be horrified of the thought that there was a woman hiding in their ranks. As opposed to women they used and lingered around the camps, as her brothers had so delicately described. "How...how did you live around so many men for so many years and not get discovered?" She pressed, "Was there really no alternative?" She shook her head, wrinkling her nose, drawing back to the side to rest her head on her arms, "It is my idea of torture, I think." 

And then Aia pressed for her own story and her lips fell ajar, as she thought. She would be in a world of pain, an utter, utter world of pain if anybody found out what they'd done. Granted, this girl did not know her name (as far as she knew) but it wouldn't be hard to figure out. She stuttered to a start. She didn't know why she spoke despite the risk, perhaps it was because of the weight that sat on her chest that she couldn't get out. She hadn't even told Alexius. Not really. "I...I...suppose I like him." She swallowed. "But it won't work. Because he's an equite and I am not and...I have to marry eventually. That is the sum of it." 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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"How...how did you live around so many men for so many years and not get discovered? Was there really no alternative?It is my idea of torture, I think." 

"It took some finesse for sure. But honesty, the idea that a woman would serve in the legions is so far out of Roman men's imagination that I don't think they even thought to suspect" Aia chucled. "I'm glad I'm done with it though."

She could tell her question threw Ovinia off; she could see the wheels turning as she was trying to decide what to share.

"I...I...suppose I like him."

There it is.

"But it won't work. Because he's an equite and I am not and...I have to marry eventually. That is the sum of it." 

"Yeah. That blows." Aia noted, giving her a sympathetic look. "But until you do marry...?"

@Sara

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"Yeah." She commiserated with an uncharacteristically shy smile, "It does blow." 

But Aia was pressing on and she gave her a confused look, shifting  her position, gripping onto the side, to look at her curiously. Her head tilted and she stuttered, shrugging. "Until I marry...nothing. I...mean..." She shrugged again, her shoulders rising out of the water as she did. "I mean I...we..." She swallowed. She shouldn't. She wanted to. She wanted to tell. She shouldn't. She was fighting a war inside of herself. She had told nobody. Absolutely nobody. "We've kissed. Twice. but..." She trailed off, awkwardly. She didn't feel as guilty as she should have done, for admitting  that. 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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Aia smiled, a more genuine smile, at Ovinia's hesitant admission. Bless this child. Roman rules about romance and marriage were kind of shit, especially when it came to patrician girls, as far as Aia understood. While no one gave a fig about what Aia did with her body, life, or reputation, they sure cared a whole lot about what Ovinia did with them. Especially her family, probably. And no, she will not marry the vigile. But at least they got to make out. Good.

"But?" she tilted her head. "He's bad at it?"

@Sara

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Ovinia reasoned to herself that if this woman ever told anybody she'd a) deny it and b) extract all the vengeance she could, courtesy of her fathers heavy coin purse. Not that she hoped to need to. Aia seemed genuinely interested. And honest.

"No!" She blurted out, grateful that the flush from the warmth of the water hid the blush of embarrassment. It was a knee jerk reaction at the memory of their shared kisses. She cleared her throat and lowered her voice. "No...no he's not bad at it but...we haven't kissed since before...the barber was caught and it's more difficult now...to see him." She was about to admit her guards and then blinked, shaking her head. Pleb, Ovinia, you're a pleb. "I...work a lot. And live with my family. There's nowhere to meet even If I wanted too." She admitted quietly. "but no...the kisses weren't bad." She added with a slightly more sly smile.

 

TAG: @Chevi

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