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All roads lead to Rome [M]


Atrice
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Mid-April 77AD

Not much had changed since his conversation with Ovinia in March. Or, some things had changed, but not everything. Calpurnia was still unreachable to him. And while they would so far have to live with chance meetings, at least they had that. And he tried his hardest to go on during the days, aware that things were as they were and he couldn't do much. In that regard, he wasn't very Roman at all. Most Romans he knew, they would stop for nothing if there was something they wanted. But really, what could he do? A simple brute of a freedman with a rudis in his belt, who worked as a guard at a warehouse and often also as a private bodyguard? There was nothing. He might have a history of being famous, and people in Rome knew him, but that didn't mean he could just openly court a former Vestal and get away with it. 

And it wasn't like he had lived in celibacy since he met Calpurnia. Or since he slept with her. How was he supposed to do that? He wasn't married to her and she was probably going to marry someone else too. It was the same issue as with Oriana and that had not worked out in the long run. Who knew if it would this time? No matter what he felt. But he didn't sleep around as much as he used to. Because it just wasn't the same anymore. It usually happened when he got very drunk, yet not so drunk that he'd pass out on the steps to the Temple of Vesta again. But drunk enough to seek comfort and distraction in someone's arms. Not that he sought it out. But it happened. 

After all, who knew how the night would end, when you were nothing but a playing-piece in a game played by the gods above? Alexius had left work for the day, he'd been at the baths and he'd shared a meal with Lexus and then they parted ways for the night. Out he went on his usual tour, looking for a place to drink and hopefully something to look at. He walked by Melissa's thermopolia, but she appeared very busy, so he moved on and soon enough found himself in a tavern. A barmaid soon placed a cup of wine in front of him, "Getting drunk again are we?" She said, "At least you're not too far from home." She added with a grin and Alexius nodded with a smile to her, "Yes to both." He said and downed the wine. Looking over the edge of his cup as a blonde woman entered, wearing strangely foreign yet familiar clothes. He knew where he'd seen such a style of dress before. On his journey to Germania.

Some men by the table next to him pointed at her too and he heard them whisper and chuckle and he gave them a glare, wondering if he should tell them to share their fun story out loud or if they didn't dare. A brawl might be a nice change. Although then he might not be welcome here for a while at least. Decisions, decisions...

@Sara

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Hilda needed an escape. She loved her brother dearly but between him and the slaves of the villa she felt like she couldn't breathe. The latter were always nagging her - or she read it as such - can I get you anything domina? Would you like me to pin your hair domina? Would you like me to fetch a chiton for you domina? It was infuriating, and after the most recent episode - where the girl had tried to bundle Hilda's clothes away and offered her a Roman dress instead - she'd stormed out without much farewell to her brother or host, in search of other entertainments. 

She'd been in this tavern before - she'd been shown it on the walk to Melissa's and the bar staff were friendly and those that frequented it generally not too unruly. Not that she would have minded the latter, she was sure she could handle herself. And she was proved right as she walked in to points and laughs in her direction. She arched a brow at the men, who clearly didn't think they'd been overheard...or that she spoke Latin. She took a step forward with a feline grin and placed a hand in the curve between her waist and her hip. She leant down so her long blonde hair fell onto the table. "May I help you, gentlemen?" She arched a brow. They blinked and then one of them chuckled; "You speak good Latin for a-" Hilda's eyes narrowed, "Careful how you finish that sentence." The men bristled, one of them standing up to face her. 

 

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Before Alexius had a chance to decide what to do, the young blonde woman in the foreign looking clothes had walked straight over to the table next to him. Alexius set down his cup and watched the scene unfold, the woman leaning over the table with her long and lovely hair falling onto the table. She was unafraid. Instead she challenged them and they mocked her back. One of the younger men stood up to face her and Alexius arched a brow. Now this was getting interesting. She was interesting! Rarely did he see a Roman woman stand up to men like those, but clearly, this was no Roman woman. 

He shifted a bit in his seat to face the action better, while the guy who'd stood lifted his chin, "You speak good Latin for a Barbarian Bitch." The man dared and Alexius emptied his cup of wine, getting the feeling he might not have a chance to do that again. And then he'd rather drink it than spill it.

"How do you know she's more of a bitch than you?" Alexius said to the guy, still sitting in his own seat. Oh it had been a long while since he participated in a good fight. He looked up at the woman with a smile, he'd have her back if she chose to move on with this.

@Sara

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Fury flashed hot in Hilda's eyes and she smirked, ready to retort but another voice came in before she could. She frowned and glanced over her shoulder to see...well...a giant, in Rome anyway, perched on a stool smiling at her. She returned it with a smirk of her own. The man who had insulted her stuttered - evidently flustered at not just dealing with a lone woman, but now a man as well. A man he clearly knew, or knew of at least: "I...I meant no offence to your friend, Lexus." She frowned. Curious name.

The man sat down again. Not good enough. "So you respect this man, but you do not respect me?" She demanded and the men quietly shifted in their seats, looking between themselves. The man who had insulted her cleared his throat. "You are dressed like a barbarian." She smirked and leant closer. "That is because I am a barbarian. And I want a drink." And with that, she took his, snatching it from his table to go and sit at the bar next to the man that intervened. The other man blinked, at a loss over what to do. She smirked and sipped it. "I did not ask you to intervene." She told Alexius.

 

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The foreign woman, German by the looks of her dress and style, smirked at him when he intervened in the conversation - or whatever it was - that she had with the men who commented on her. The moment Alexius spoke though, the man seemed surprised and said he meant no offense. And sat down, leaving her be. Alexius arched a brow, surprised... that was a little too easy. Maybe he was also a bit disappointed. Wouldn't people fight him anymore, except for Thessala at the ludus? Meanwhile the woman was upset that the men would respect Alexius and not her and she stated that she was a barbarian. And stole the man's drink, before she sat down by Alexius.

The way she sat now sat there after she said her piece, smirking, halfway scolding Alexius... she was not like most Roman women. How could be not admire a woman such as her?

"Apologies, I didn't mean to upset you. Unlike them." Alexius said with a roll of his eyes. Pity that he finished his drink, now that there wouldn't be a fight. Well, he could another. Right now though, he was more interested in her than drink, "They got my name wrong by the way. I'm known as Alexius now."

 @Sara

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She smirked and sipped the drink. It was grim. Why Romans liked their wine as watered as piss she didn't know. "You didn't upset me." She replied with a chuckle, "And Alexius." She narrowed her eyes and then glanced back over her shoulder at the men who were muttering and glaring, "Why do they know your name?" 

He was impressive to look at, she'd give him that, but if he was famous why was he drinking here? Or...not drinking here, given his cup was very much empty. She pointed at it. "Are you angling for me to buy you a drink?" She arched a brow, grinning. 

 

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She had a confidence about her that was admirable. The way she smirked and sipped her drink and then looked at him. He was glad to hear he had not upset her. Who would want to upset a woman like her, who could clearly handle herself well enough? Now she would know how the men here knew his name, "I was a gladiator once. Popular too. I'm well known... in Rome and in here." He added with a smile. Mostly it felt like a blessing. 

He chuckled when she wondered if she should buy a drink for him, "I can afford my own, but thanks for offering. Unless of course you insist." He said with a grin, "I don't know how you usually do it, where you're from." Although the women from Germania and Britannia tended to be a bit more independent and strong-willed than the Roman ones. Mostly anyway.

@Sara

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"A gladiator." She gave a surprised, amused and impressed look all in one - pulling her brows up and nodding. "You must have been good, to still live. Or were you so terrible that you're infamous.Smirking she sipped the stolen drink, narrowing her eyes as she glanced around the bar. The men behind them were still muttering. "Ah you're famous in here too...so you spend your nights waiting here, without a drink, saving damsels like me?" She gave him an assessing look before smiling and gesturing to the barmaid. 

"I insist. In gratitude." Hilda didn't owe anybody anything. Every debt - even one like this - she settled. "Get the man what he wants." She waved to the woman and then laughed. "I'm from Germania." She replied, "But you don't look like you're from Rome." She assessed him again. Tall. Features that were vaguely familiar. "But you sound as if you are." Granted, his accent was more uncouth than the Patrician's that lived in Tiberius' villa. 

 

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Alexius arched a brow when she joked he might have been a terrible gladiator, "If I was terrible, I don't think I'd still live. I wasn't." He added with a smile and then chuckled when she wondered why he was famous in this tavern too, "Usually I do have a drink. I had one just before. But you know, it's like those cups have way too little in them." The rest was kind of true though, he liked to spend his nights drinking and finding someone to spend time with. Not necessarily save though. Just... company. But was there really any point to explaining that? Especially considering how he'd been the last few months, after he met Calpurnia? Now he mostly just came to drink anyway. 

The lovely woman then insisted on getting him a drink and then shared that she was from Germania and that he didn't look Roman either, "I was born there. In Germania. But came here when I was still a child, as a slave. I've spent most of my life here." Alexius explained and gave the barmaid a sweet smile when she refilled is cup, knowing what he wanted, "I thought you looked like you were from the North. What's your name?" 

@Sara

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"Too little and too much of this shit at the same time." She wrinkled her nose, sniffing her wine. She'd never get used to it, or understand why people chose to drink it when there was the drinks of her homeland on offer. Strange people. Who seemed permanently drunk...she knew they watered their wine, but they lacked the clear steams of her home and the idea of drinking water by itself. She always got funny looks when she asked for it, and she remembered the illness she suffered when she drank the water from that cheap tavern down by the Tiber. 

But she was soon distracted. Her brows rose and her lips parted. Germania. Home. A slave. The look of surprise was swiftly replaced by one of fury. "You were born free? And yet they took you?" She spat, glaring around the bar. Bastards. "Hilda." She managed to force out through her anger. "From the Chatti. You know it? How old were you when you came here?" She asked him, an urgency in her voice. 

 

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He smiled when she not very subtly complained about the wine, "You've clearly not had enough. Some places also have ale though. It's good." Alexius said, wondering if he should show her such a place, if she didn't like the wine so much. People who had recently come from the North and who grew up there, rarely liked the wine much. They thought it too sour. Alexius was fine. He grew up here and it was all he knew.

When she asked where he was from, Alexius easily revealed it, but also that he barely knew it. Now she seemed surprised and the next moment upset, because he'd been born free. Alexius sipped his drink and nodded, Hilda, a foreign name, but at least it was easy to pronounce. But she went on and now he arched a brow. The Chatti? He didn't remember much from his childhood, but one thing he did recall was listening to their elders telling stories in the evenings, about the battles of the past. And how proud their people, the Chatti, were. He'd returned to them but wasn't welcome there. Alexius downed some more wine.

"I know the Chatti." Alexius said, almost in a formal tone, before continued to tell his story, "I was born free... and I am free now too. I think I was seven, back then? Very young. It wasn't the Romans who took us, it was some other tribe, they attacked our village. And they collected slaves to sell to the Romans. My sister and I were taken. And sold." He explained, trying to stay composed. Of course he felt hurt, because he'd been freed and had actually returned to Germania, but it wasn't the home he hoped to find. Instead he found a people who didn't welcome him back. That had hurt. He didn't think about it so often anymore, but now Hilda was here... he wondered if she would be as hostile as the Chatti people he met, had been, if he told her. Fuck.

@Sara

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He knew the Chatti. Interesting. And as he continued to speak she felt a wrench in her chest. He had a whole life snatched from him. Sure he might be free now but how many years did he have in bondage in the interim? Her jaw ground down as she thought about it, the muscles in her neck tensing. Another tribe. Unlikely to be the Tencteri  the tribe she had married into - but it could well have been. It could have equally been her own people, the Chatti could have sold him if he was from other tribe. Scum. 

She reached out a hand across the bar, her eyes hard and her nostrils flaring. She was furious, but obviously not at him. "I am sorry, Alexius." She meant it. She would do anything within her power to ensure her people - her grandfather's people - never came under the shackles of slavery. And if the Romans got close, she knew she had the mettle to take her own life before such a situation could arise for her. A child, however, would have no such instinct. She gripped his forearm, her eyes flashing. "Do you never feel you wish to go back? Take revenge on the people that have wronged you?"

 

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Alexius did indeed have many years of his life snatched from him. He went from being a carefree child to being a slave... one who had to work, while also trying to look out for his sister, for as long as he was able to. He hated it when they were sold to different owners. He'd met women later, that he thought might be her, but he was never sure. And it was all a very long time ago now. At least he was free. At least he did survive in the arena long enough to gain his freedom, as it had been his goal. And he was still here. But not where he thought he'd be. Not Germania. 

He watched how she reacted to his words, the change of expression and then she said she was sorry to hear it. Alexius nodded, so was he. Even if she now appeared to be one of his own people; the people that turned him away. And then of course she had to pose her next questions.

"I don't know who they were, the other tribe. And they just took me. The Romans... that's who kept me enslaved for years." The tribe that took him, he never held much ill will towards them. Of course he'd rather not have been taken and sold, but... the Romans, they bought him and his sister. The Romans mistreated him, punished him, violated him, made him kill others for their entertainment. It wasn't that roaming tribe who did that. Right, back to her other question.

"I did go back." Alexius then said, "But I wasn't welcome there. They didn't want me. I had become too Roman." He said, inhaling another breath, "So here I am." Getting drunk in Rome with a woman like her. She was impressive, outstanding, interesting. Which meant it was such a pity she was a Chatti. But how could he tell her? Alexius emptied his cup of wine. Second one tonight.

@Sara

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Hilda's brows rose in surprise as he said he went back but wasn't welcome. She could picture it, clearly, that sort of reaction. She was likely to subject somebody  to that sort of reaction herself. She despised the trading that took place between her in-laws and the forts nearby. She hated their customs, and their language, and their dress and the way they looked down on her - as if she was stupid or dumb, purely because of her accent and her dress. She suspected that had Alexius come back to his people - dressed as he was - with his Latin - they would have been...frosty to say the least. 

She sighed and rested a hand on his forearm as he drained the cup. "Fuck them, then." She nodded and pulled back. "Though I am not buying you another drink." She smirked, trying to lighten the mood. "Do you still speak any Germanic?" She asked, curious. If he was taken when he was a young lad then maybe he'd forgotten it. It was a sad thing to picture - a boy so stripped of culture. But then again, that was exactly what the Romans wanted. Bastards.

 

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When in Rome, it was so easy to say you wished to return to your own lands and people, should you ever be freed from slavery. But returning wasn't that simple, as he had learned. He'd dreamed of doing it, ever since he was taken. He had wanted to go home. And then he did go home. But they didn't want him. Alexius now had plenty of friends in Rome and plenty to make him feel comfortable, but there were times when he was reminded that he didn't fit in anywhere. In Rome, he was a freedman, a former slave born in Germania. And in Germania, he was a Romanized freedman and not welcome either. Right now was such a time. He hated thinking about it. Better to get drunk, then.

He felt her hand on his arm again, this time gentler than before. 

"Fuck everyone, right?" That's what he was known for doing anyway. Gods, was it going to be a night like that? "I can afford my own drink." He said and waved to the barmaid, then pointed at his cup. She came to refill it, but gave him a look. Not that she said anything. He downed a gulp and looked at Hilda again.

"Not a single word. I don't even remember their gods. I grew up here. My forefathers fought the Romans to rid the lands of them, yet I was still brought here and grew up here." Alexius told her. Gods this was... depressing talk! And what women wanted to listen to a man talk about his depressing past? How was that interesting or entertaining to anyone?

"What about you? I suppose you weren't forced to come here. No offense, but... why are you here?" 

@Sara

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Hilda nodded. "Fuck everyone." She agreed with a feline grin, but she listened to him all he same - watching like a hawk as he downed a gulp of his wine. Clearly this was a painful topic, and she regretted pressing him on it. "Ah I can teach you some." She chuckled, trying to lighten the mood. "Then you can swear and your employer won't know what you've said." Smirking, she sipped her own drink and then laughed - a loud, garrulous sound at his question. So direct! Maybe he'd retained some of his Germanic features after all.

"For my brother." She explained. "He came here and I needed to get away from my shit of a husband...or his people at least, fucker bought it." She smirked and shrugged. "So I came here to see what he'd made of himself and well...lay low I guess." She tilted her head to study him. "Why? What do you think I was doing? What did you think when you first saw me walk in?" 

 

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It was a painful topic and not one he discussed very often. Alexius preferred talking about better times, like his years as a gladiator. He was a slave, he was made to kill other slaves, but at least he did well. He survived. He was popular. He was famous. And he kind of still was, even if it was now more than a decade ago that he was freed. Hilda at least agreed on his comments and then suggested she could teach him some of his birth language. 

"I don't know why I'd swear with my employer. He's nice." Alexius replied, honestly he didn't have just one quarrel with Teutus. Or any other employer for that matter. Besides, Teutus knew his language by now - and how he'd swear if he felt it right. He never minded. No one did. But enough about him, what about Hilda? She laughed at his question and said she'd come here for her brother and to get away from her husband and his people. Then she wondered what he thought of him. Alexius held up a hand in his own defense.

"I don't know, I swear! I didn't have any ideas on why you were here!" He said and tried to think back to the moment she came in, "I did think you interesting, when you first walked in. And then you spoke to those idiots." He nodded at the men at the other table while he sipped his wine and then leaned closer to her, "That just made you more interesting." 

@Sara

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She laughed loudly at his protestations that he had no opinion of her when she first walked in. "Liar." She smirked, narrowing her eyes and then she cast a glance over her shoulder at the aforementioned idiots. One of them flicked his eyes up awkwardly to meet hers and she offered him a wave and a smug smile. He dropped his eyes back down. 

"I'm an interesting woman, what can I say." She grinned at Alexius before wrinkling her nose. "I imagine I seem very different to Roman women? People keep telling me I am. And not just because of the hair." Which was long and blonde and a rarity in the city - even with the huge amounts of slaves. She'd already been cornered and asked if she'd sell it for a wig more than once. Weird.

 

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Well his only opinion of her when she first walked in, was that she was interesting and clearly not Roman. He thought she thought that he thought she was some kind of whore or up to something, which he didn't think! But she smirked and called him a liar. Alexius shook his head, "I don't usually do that, so... no." He replied, he had absolutely no reason to lie to someone like her. She could clearly fend for herself, she'd proven that much already. Maybe she could even actually fight, which wasn't very common for women to do in Rome, unless they were gladiatrices or unless Alexius took his time to teach them a thing or two, like he'd done with Didia. 

But he explained what he thought of her, all while the third cup of wine went down and she agreed that she was interesting. She did sure have confidence in herself too. Gods, he could almost see himself in her. Or his sister, maybe. What his sister would be, today. Like her. He wouldn't mind that, if his sister had grown into a beautiful, fierce and interesting woman like Hilda. Meanwhile she explained she might be different to the Roman women.

"Ah, but Roman women are actually more... diverse than you think. Although I suppose the general thing is, they're supposed to be inferior and quiet. Not that all of them are." He said with a small smile, "And trust me when I say that I know." Alexius continued with a wink, "You're definitely not that, though. Inferior and quiet. I suppose your hair just adds to your personality? Which isn't a bad thing. You're very desirable." 

@Sara

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Hilda quirked a brow and then narrowed her eyes, studying him as she sipped her wine. She had almost drained her cup by now. "Oh?" She  tilted her head to the side. "You see I have been looking in the wrong places then, I have only met the inferior and quiet ones." She chuckled. "Besides a thermopolia worker, she was good." and a friend. But  the rest of them? Charis? And the slaves in Tiberius' palaces? Weak. They were the epitome of weak. 

But she grinned broadly, a devilish grin and laughed. "Desirable." She repeated in a drawl with accented Latin. "Oh Alexius," She chuckled, shaking her head as she downed the rest of the wine - pushing the empty cup to be refilled and leaving a few coins on the bar. "You think it is so easy to win over a woman like me?" she quirked a brow, amused at this game. "You'll have to try a little harder my sweet." 

 

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Posted (edited)

Alexius chuckled when she said she'd only met the inferior and quiet Roman women, "Clearly you've not been alone with enough of them yet." He said, sure many of the women gave the right impression when they were out and about, but when you were alone with them, they changed and became wonderful muses and alluring goddesses to men like Alexius. And they were certainly not always quiet. He smiled at the thought, unaware that he also knew the thermopolia worker she just mentioned. Instead he went on to praise how Hilda was not inferior and quiet and her hair just gave her personality. And he considered her desirable. Which he did. She was lovely. Very lovely. As laughed at his words and wanted more wine, Alexius emptied his cup and pushed it forwards too, leaving a coin of his own too. The barmaid might as well fill both cups now she was here.

Meawhile Hilda presented him with a challenge, "Who said I'm trying to win you over?" He said, arching a brow, but that turned into a charming grin, "You're still talking to me. You must find me interesting too. Not that I'm half as interesting as a foreign woman like you." Even if she was a Chatti, but she was friendly towards him so far. She was interesting and desirable, he was not going to take that back. Even if in the back of his mind, there was the image of another blonde woman, even more lovely than Hilda, at least to him. But she wasn't here and he had not seen her since that day at the library. And didn't know when he would, again. 

He had to focus on the present, rather than what might never be, even if he wanted it more than anything... and so he picked up his newly filled cup of wine, "I am curious though. What do you think a man should do, to win over someone like you?" 

@Sara

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"Ohhhh," she grinned, amused. She crossed one leg over the other as she sat at the bar and placed her jaw in her palm, eyes narrowed on him. "So you're not interested at all? I see, I see..." She grinned. "I never said I wasn't interested.She was smirking, a wry movement of her lips that quirked up the edges and dimpled her cheeks. "But I want to see what your intentions are first...and whether it would be worth my time. Else...I can find somebody else." She smirked and cast a glance around the bar. Slim pickings. Very, slim pickings. 

Narrowing her eyes again on him she sipped her wine, silent for a moment as she contemplated his question. She'd had a handful of lovers since her marriage and during it. She had no shame in it - even if half the men had been useless in bed, it was still both one up on her husband and a release of energy. And usually it was fun. "I think they should tell me why they want me." She finally said with a smirk, "I think they should explain exactly what they want from me as well, so I can make a decision." 

 

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He chuckled again when she teased him, as if he wasn't worth her time and she could find someone else in here. But she was interested, then? And so was he, she should know that. Else he would not be teasing her too, "I doubt you'll find anyone here, who can keep up with you as well as me." He said, "After all, we're both from the same... place, far from Rome." He added, not wanting to reveal to her that her tribe had once been his too. Decades ago. Before she was even born, probably. She looked young. Not as young as Charis, but certainly not near his own age either. 

But he asked her how a man should win her over, and she wanted to know a few things. Alexius smirked.

"How do you want me to describe it? Maybe not too... detailed, in a place like this." He said with a grin, sipping more wine, "It's easy though. I thought I already told you... you're interesting and not inferior and quiet. Independent. I like that in women. And you're easy on the eyes too. It's not just the hair." He said, looking her over and then he leaned closer to whisper to her, both because it was a fun way to flirt and to let his warm breath brush her skin as he did it, "What I'd want from you, is... well... it's easier to show than tell, isn't it?" 

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She tilted her head, a smirk playing on her lips as he spoke. Easy, he said. Was it so easy? Certainly not all men she'd been with had found it easy. This one, however, certainly had plenty of courage in his own abilities. Curious. Either he was an arrogant fool who had only been with compliant women who lied through their teeth about how he satisfied them...or he was genuinely good. Curious. And it had been a while for her...since before she left Germania. 

He leant in and, despite herself, she shuddered at the feeling of his  breath against her neck. Dammit. She hadn't wanted to give him the satisfaction. Her smirk widened into a feline grin. She turned her head so her cheek nudged his and she could look into his eyes. Challenge was alive in hers. "All this boasting...but I still don't know what you'd want and no," She breathed with a smirk, "I don't want you to show me here. Where do you live?" She couldn't exactly take him back to Tiberius' palace.

 

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It was easy, he thought, to describe why he should want a woman like her. She had it all. All the right parts in all the right places and she was easy on the eyes, fierce, independent, interesting. How could he not want her? How could anyone look at a woman like her and not want her? Well apparently many could and just because she wasn't a Roman woman dressed in proper Roman clothes. But he just thought it added to her charm. Hilda smirked while he spoke and then he leaned closer to whisper to her. His action causing her to shudder and he couldn't help but smile.

Hilda nudged him a bit away and met his eyes, thought it was just boasting from him. And yet she asked where he lived.

"It's not far." Alexius said and downed the rest of his latest cup of wine, that he almost just began. It seemed right, to finish it now. Then he looked at her again with a grin, "I thought I just made it clear what I want? You." He said, "And maybe then I want to show you that it's not just boasting." 

@Sara

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  • Atrice changed the title to All roads lead to Rome [M]

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