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The day that never was [M]


Chevi
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May, 77AD

It took Lucius a week or two to find a place that would be fit for a meeting with Ovinia again. She had said no hospitia and no brothels (as if he would have ever taken her to one of those...), and after their last encounter, small enclosed spaces were also out of the question. In the end, his work as a vigile led him to the solution. Patrolling with his cohort he discovered there were a few domi around the Esquiline and the Aventine that were locked down; the vigiles checked them for fire hazards and criminals from time to time, but otherwise they stood empty, waiting for buyers or investors. He visited a few of them, until he found one that seemed decent enough, recently closed down as its owner moved to another province on official business, leaving it to his clients to find a buyer for the house.

In the meantime, it was empty.

Lucius was not sure Ovinia would show up. She always did, but he was never sure. It was always possible she would come to her senses and just say no one day. After all, they had no chance to actually be together. But that did not make him love her any less. So today, he waited for her by the domus, in the hot hours of the early afternoon when everyone in the city seemed to be taking a break to nap. He hoped she would show up.

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Ovinia did show up. How could she not? After months of longing that had come to fruition the last time they had met - both in declarations of love and intimacy hitherto unknown to her - she had been on tenterhooks, waiting for a message. And then it came. And it was not what she was expecting. 'Meet at the corner of the Bakery of Auspikilion and the potter, Veritina. She frowned. That was in the Aventine. And not an area she knew well. She frowned to herself, trying to figure out a ruse to a) get her there unmolested and b) without her fathers or brothers suspicion. Fortunately, she needn't have worried. Everybody was out - her father at his work, his brothers at theirs or their own social calls. So she left - with Lucia and word she was seeing her friend and would be back for cena and set out on the long walk, arm in arm with her bodyslave. 

She was flushed and breathless by the time she made it and as she spied him, standing on the corner, she paused in the doorway to a shop - hurriedly running her fingers through her hair, straightening the palla that covered it and adjusting her chiton. She'd gone for red today - a deep tone that complimented her darker colouring. Of course, she could have been a little more conspicuous but she'd only considered that after she'd walked half the way here. She cleared her throat and shot Lucia an anxious glance which her bodyslave responded to with a small like. "You look lovely, domina. But..." She could see the hesitation on her face. She had covered for her time and time again now but...perhaps this one step too far. Ovinia urged her with a hand on her arm. "Are you...sure?" She exhaled. Yes. Yes she was sure. She shouldn't have been but she was. 

Nodding, Lucia relaxed a little and they crossed the street - joining Lucius. Ovinia arched a brow. "A bakery?" 

 

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Ovinia made an appearance, and Lucius smiled brightly at her. She looked wonderful; the dark red really was her color. Lucia on her part looked more hesitant, but... honestly, she had good reason to be.


"Not the bakery" he grinned at Ovinia's question, and nodded at the smaller street nearby, leading them to the side door of the domus. "It's a... more private household."

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Ovinia followed Lucius down the side alley, eyes narrowed suspiciously. Her look was mirrored in Lucia's own. As he drew to a stop outside the side door she arched a brow, glancing at it. Odd. 

"Who lives here?" she said, her voice hesitant. It was a little rundown perhaps, and not as grand as her fathers domus, but it was still enormous in comparison to the insulae rooms she'd visited when on the hunt for the barber, and after his capture. She shifted from foot to foot, demanding; "What is this?" Lucia glanced between the pair of them awkwardly.

 

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"Currently, no one" Lucius answered, opening the door. "The owner had moved to the provinces, and it has not been put to sale yet. The vigiles... make sure it is not a fire hazard. Or that no criminals move in." He added a little sheepishly. Lucia gave him a withering look. "I just... thought, since you can't exactly visit me for lunch at the barracks... well. This is a better place than the gardens?" Hopefully, Luciua would not beat him up for what he was suggesting.

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Ovinia blinked as he opened the door. She stepped through into the peristyle garden. In sore need of tending but not utterly hopeless. Her lips parted a little. A whole domus. Where they can be alone. "I..." She blinked. Lucia cleared her throat and Ovinia felt her slave's eyes burning the back of her head. She glanced over her shoulder at her. "You know what my father is like, he wouldn't approve of this friendship." the smallest of movements on Lucia's face gave away that she absolutely did not believe the word friendship. But she was too good  to say anything out loud. 

Ovinia cleared her throat. "Why don't you wait at the bakery? And Lucius and I can fetch you when we've finished lunch?" Lucia hesitated, and then flicked her eyes to Lucius. She stared at him hard for a long, long moment and Ovinia almost held her breath. "Yes domina. Please call for me if you need me." And with that she left the domus and Ovinia exhaled. What are you doing Ovinia. "I...was not expecting...this." 

 

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All three of them knew the truth, but they went through the motions anyway. Lucius could see Lucia hesitate; she wanted the best for her domina. So did he. "I'll be a perfect gentleman." He promised her. Well, maybe not a perfect one. But he had no intention of ruining Ovinia the way Lucia feared.

Once they were alone, he smiled, leading her to the triclinium that opened to the small garden. The doors were wide open to the warm spring afternoon, with couches and a low table set with some food and wine. "You said, somewhere more expensive." He reminded her.

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She rolled her eyes at Lucius' jibe but as they walked through into the triclinium her eyes widened a little and she turned on the spot, looking around. It was oddly...perfect. The fact that the owners were clearly wealthy enough not to need to pack all the furniture was a blessing. Unless...Lucius had decided to furnish it himself. Her smile softened as she saw the food and wine and with a contented sigh she moved to recline on one of the couches. 

"True, but I didn't think you'd find me a whole domus." She chuckled and moved for a cup - holding it out so he could pour some wine. Her look softened. "I missed you and..." She chuckled, glancing around. "This...is perfect. So long as we're not expecting any visits from the vigiles or the urban cohorts...?" She cleared her throat with a chuckle.

 

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Ovinia felt right at home, reclining on the couch. There was no trace of the panic she had had before. There were moments when Lucius worried she'd been scared of him, rather than the place... but it seemed far away now. He poured them both wine, and took the other couch. "No" he chuckled. "We are completely alone here." His look softened too. "I missed you too. How is Hop?"

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She pouted a little as he took the other couch, but their heads were close and she propped her jaw in her palm as she sipped her wine. Completely alone. With Lucius. Lucius who she'd been seeing in her dreams, her daydreams, every other thought it seemed like, for months now. She took another sip of wine and was grateful for the diversion in the conversation. 

 "Hop turned out to be a little girl and she is very well thank you very much." Tossing her hair over her shoulder she gave him a winning smile. "I had one of the slaves build her a little hutch and a run in the garden. If only to keep Typhon away from her. I think he's jealous." She chuckled and moved a hand to softly hold his, her fingers running over his index finger. "How is work?" Good. That was good. A normal topic of conversation. 

 

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"Good to hear" he smiled, thinking about Floralia, and Ovinia chasing bunnies in the gardens. One of his favorite memories of her. She held his hand and he let her, enjoying this moment. "Work is... never dull" he grinned. His hands and arms were sporting some new scrapes and scratches. "Put out a fire before it could spread on the Esquiline the other day. Some man insisted we were looting while we were trying to save his damn house. Go figure."

@Sara

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"The Esquiline?" She worked a brow, and tilted her head to study him. "Is that what all that racket was about?" She narrowed her eyes, an amused smile playing on her lips. "And did you loot me anything particularly precious, sweet Lucius? Perhaps you should have, taken it as payment in lieu." 

 

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"No." His look was more serious now. "I told my men anyone who steals anything will get lashed for it. The vigiles have a bad enough reputation. It will take a long time to improve it." And the gods knew it would take a lot of work on both sides. His men were not happy with the hard work he put them through. He lifted her hand to kiss it. "And as far as I remember... it is you who owes me a payment. For Hop."

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Ovinia blinked at his tone. It wasn't quite a snap, but it was more stern than she'd seen Lucius in months. Not since Barbatius. She swallowed and shook her head, "I'm sorry, I was joking." She grimaced. She understood it was serious. Vigiles had a terrible reputation - even amongst her own family, and even after their domus had been saved by vigiles. She gripped his hand a little tighter and offered a small smile. "I have faith that you'll improve things." Lucius had a heart of gold. Granted, it was wrapped in ego sometimes and a headstrong belief that he was inherently right...but...his core was solid. And good. 

As the moment passed in a heartbeat and he raised her knuckles to kiss she rolled her eyes and sunk lower on the couch, petulantly. "Let me drink my wine first. And you haven't given me any hints about what sort of song. A happy one? Sad? And it's more challenging with no accompaniment." She mumbled. 

 

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"See, I am a generous winner, and I'll let you choose what you would like to sing" he grinned. They had no accompaniment, that was for sure; he wanted to gift her a cithara, but those damn things were expensive, and he had yet to find a good one for a gift anyway. "Alas, I have no music for you. But a deal's a deal."

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She groaned. "You are not going to give up are you?" She wrinkled her nose and pushed herself to sit up, turning to face him on the couch. She was pouting and sighed heavily. Dramatically. "What if I bat my eyelashes at you? Or offer you a kiss instead?" She tilted her head, watching him deeply and she had a slow, sly smile unfurling on her face. "Or what if I ask very nicely?" 

 

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"Oh, that is so not fair." Lucius breathed, looking up at her. She was beautiful. And alluring. And she knew it. He was very tempted to just give her whatever she wished for. Always. "You know I thought about wagering a kiss, back then" he admitted, watching her from the couch. He was playful, but he meant it. "But then I thought... whatever kisses you give me, I want them to be given freely."

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She groaned and fell back on the couch, moving to stretch her legs out onto the low table, now she was properly pouting. The fact her calves were visible from where her chiton had ridden up was entirely incidental. "You mask it in politeness and sweet words but you're still going to make me sing for you, aren't you?" She huffed and took a deep sip of her wine. She was watching his face closely though. "You never said you enjoyed it. When I did that first time, the day we met. Why do you want to hear me sing now?"

 

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Lucius watched her huff and pout. He knew her moods by now; he also knew that the chiton sliding up her legs was not incidental. It distracted him anyway; the smooth skin and the arch of her calves. He did consider her question though, glancing up at her. "Because... you said you enjoy singing. And I like seeing you do things you enjoy. When there is no one watching."

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If there was a double meaning behind his words, even now Ovinia was too naive to grasp it. Instead she flushed a little and mumbled something incomprehensible to herself before she took another deep sip of wine. It was not half bad. With a pointed glare in his direction, although there was very little actual heat in it, she pushed herself to stand up and moved to face him, her back to the garden. She cleared her throat. 

"There's a Greek one I like." She offered and smoother a hand nervously over the fine fabric of the chiton as she unwound her palla and tossed it at him; the gauzy silk covering his face for a moment. "It's quite melancholy though, so if it puts a damper on the whole afternoon you have nobody to blame but yourself." It had been a song her slave, her nanny, had sung to her when she was a girl and - before she lost her nerve - she started; somewhat quietly at first, but her tune was excellent, her voice clear and the pitch perfect as she sang through the tale; of a family, torn by love but brought together in the end. She watched him closely as she sang. 

 

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She tossed the palla at him and Lucius grinned, pulling the fabric off his face and running it gently through his hands. She would make fun of him for wrinkling it, but it did smell just like her. He watched her as she sang. She was gorgeous, as always... but she was also shining, as she sang the song, her voice sweet and clear and carrying the emotions that when with the words. It was enchanting. Lucius watched her with a look of pure admiration.

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It...was not a short song and by the time she finished, carrying the final, solemn note, her cheeks were flushed and she was breathless. It reminded her of home. Not her home, but a warm, gentle place - like the love her slave had shown her when she was a girl, before she'd been sold when her arthritis had gotten too bad. She sighed and then gave Lucius a shy smile. Most unlike the smiles she usually gave. 

And then she tried to bluster her way through it, dipping into a mock bow, sweeping low before rising with a smile. She was embarrassed and she didn't know why. She knew she wasn't terrible but it was still...intimate. Oddly so. She cleared her throat. "Consider the debt repaid?" 

 

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"Absolutely." He smiled softly, sitting up to reach out to her. He knew why he liked to see her sing. She was herself then, in a way she rarely showed otherwise. "Thank you. That was... worth the wait." She was blushing, although he was not sure why. Her performance had been perfect. He took her hand and kissed it. "Beautiful."

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She looked awkward. Shy. And his compliments didn't help. It felt different than when she was paid compliments by her family. This was...different. And more thrilling, but also unnerving in its own way. She gave him an awkward little smile. She mumbled as he took her hand and kissed it. "You are a flatterer." she chuckled and cleared her throat. "And look at that...?" She chuckled, her awkwardness dissipating a touch, "I'm not running away like last time." She moved her hand to cup his cheek. 

 

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"I was told I should compliment you more" he reminded her, tilting his cheek up as she touched it. He looked up at her. It felt different... to be alone with her like this. Not a stolen moment, or a portico, or a garden. Properly alone. He stood up, hands brushing along her sides. "I am glad you are not running away." He smiled softly, kissing her forehead before he looked down at her. "But you need to know... I want you to feel safe. Whatever you want, or don't want... tell me. It's up to you."

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