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Late September 77AD

 

It was nine days for a boy, but only eight for a girl, for reasons Attis found a complete mystery. He had lured the dog into an unused storeroom and shut the door on him - this was no time for the big thing to interrupt and cause who knew what insanity. He'd dressed in his best tunic (not that he had very many to choose from, only being a slave and all).

He had mixed feelings on the whole thing, but dealt with them the way he usually dealt with emotions. He flat-out ignored them and refused to admit their existence.

"Are you all right?" he asked Metella - he knew she'd had a hard time of the birth, though he didn't know the details and nor did he want to. Whether or not he was supposed to see her before it all happened was another thing he didn't know - but he wasn't the paterfamilias, it probably didn't matter. He hoped it didn't matter, anyway.

 

@Chevi @Sara

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Metella walked carefully alongside Attis; she wished she could lean on him, but her arms were cradling the baby. Their child. Her daughter. She was perfect, even though Metella had one shitshow of a time giving birth to her. She was still pale and worn, and walking was not a very fun activity. But eight days had passed, and customs existed for a reason.

"I'm fine." she muttered, glancing at the baby, who was making little fussy sounds. "He better behave himself." If Longinus decided to be extra about this whole ceremony, Metella might just slap him.

@Sharpie @Sara

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Longinus was in an excellent mood. His usual energy had been transformed into something bordering on ridiculous. For a man that had abandoned his own almost-newborn for a posting in Britannia, he nonetheless adored kids. Loved them. Even when they woke him up as the little bundle being shuffled towards him had done. He had a smile that stretched from ear to ear on his face but the look in his eyes softened as he beheld Metella. He knew the birth had been challenging and he'd felt wrung out throughout it. Metella and Attis were more than the furniture that many thought their slaves were. Far, far more to Longinus. 

"There they are..." He grinned and placed a steadying hand on Cassia's shoulder to keep her from running to see the little one. From what he could see from his distance a few paces away, the little one was adorable, pink and...tiny. Had his own daughter ever been that small? "You alright?" He glanced at Metella, his voice low for her and then at Attis with wariness. She still looked pale, and he'd seen friends' wives succumb to fevers weeks after their births. 

But then the baby was placed on the floor at his feet. He rolled his eyes at the rest of the assembled slaves, "Better get the poor woman a stool!" and he glanced down at the small bundle - all pink face, fussing noises and a perfect mix of her parents. Cassia squealed; "So cute!" Longinus was inclined to agree. He knew he shouldn't. He really, really shouldn't. But he couldn't help himself and with a grin, he bent down to scoop the little bundle up to him, grinning as she fussed against his broad chest. There was a ripple of utter confusion amongst his assembled slaves. "Cassia..." He smiled down at her...and then frowned and glanced at Attis and Metella, "Did you have a name picked out otherwise she's going to be Cassia Aes* given how big her lungs are at night...or Cassia Metella, which might get confusing." 

 

TAG: @Sharpie @Chevi

*Noisy

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Attis put his arm around Metella as she straightened; it hadn't been an easy birth, and while she was recovering, it was a process.

Even with their master's liking for children, he was absolutely unprepared for what Longinus did next: stoop to pick the child up and coo over her. He stood there, staring at his master in confused stupefaction, his mouth open. Of all the things he and Metella had discussed, the one thing that had not occurred to him that might happen was Longinus actually picking the baby up.

The only name that he'd really thought of was Melita, but that was very close to Metella, too, so probably equally unhelpful. He was too focussed on his daughter lying in his master's arms to recognise that Longinus had asked a question but it wasn't until he got a firm elbow in the side that he realised his brain had stopped working.

"Um. B...Beata," he managed, which hadn't been discussed with Metella at all and was likely to get him in trouble later on, but blessed seemed the only appropriate name he could come up with. If Metella didn't like it, he'd be in for a world of hurt later!

 

@Chevi @Sara

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No, she wasn't really alright. But she nodded anyway. Hopefully this would be over soon. Longinus looked... excited, with a bright smile, and Cassia was smilarly bouncing on her feet. Metella placed the baby on the ground, wincing slightly; someone brought her a stool and she sat down gingerly. Attis should have been the one to pick up the baby; he was the father. But he was not free. Also, the whole picking up thing was stupid. Babies were not mushrooms. Dumb Roman customs.

And then Longinus leaned down and picked the baby up.

Metella gaped, glancing up at Attis. Everyone seemed shocked. Didn't that mean...?

And then her daughter was almost named Noisy, and in the end named Beata.

What on earth was even fucking happening??

Metella stared at Longinus, and the little bundle in his arms.

"Wait does that...?"

@Sharpie @Sara

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"Cassia Beata..." Longinus nodded with a grin down at the little girl fussing against his chest. He felt something tug deep within himself, some sort of yearning for one of his own. He pushed it down. Things had stalled with Sergia, but it wasn't to think about now. Not with the rest of the gasping, whispering slaves in his house looking on and Metella and Attis' own stupefied expressions. The latter seemed able to verbalise her confusion though and he nodded, his grin softening to a more gentle smile. 

"Cassia Beata is a full citizen of Rome, and has my patronage should she wish it, when she's older." He glanced at Metella and Attis in turn. He didn't know if that was usual, but somewhere in the back of his mind he thought it was right. Nothing about this was usual, after all. He jerked his head at the rest of the household, "The rest of you back to work...or whatever you do in my house that you think counts as work." He chuckled and then strode forward to meet Metella, "I suspect you want her back, loathed as I am to give her away." He smiled and gently rocked the fussing newborn before holding her out for one of his parents to take. "I couldn't resist." He gave them both a sheepish look.

 

TAG: @Sharpie @Chevi

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"Wait does that...?"

Judging from her confused question and the equally confused look on her face, Metella was in just about the same condition as he was. Attis nodded, still in a daze. "Yes."

How hadn't it occurred to him that Longinus might be as unpredictable and Longinus as he had been.  He was absolutely positive that not one of Longinus' friends would have done the same, so he hadn't thought, even for a moment, that Longinus might flout custom and every single solitary sign of sense he might have displayed even once.

He took the baby, carefully holding her in the crook of his arm - Metella was still not fully recovered and he didn't want her to risk herself or the baby or anything.

"I didn't... You didn't... Why?" he asked, looking from the baby's face to his master's, unable to piece together any real sensible reason, or even a cohesive intelligible question.

 

@Chevi @Sara

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"Cassia Beata is a full citizen of Rome, and has my patronage should she wish it, when she's older."

That's it. That was it. The thing she had decided not to use her one favor for, because Attis and she were not sure how two saves could raise a free child in Rome. Apparently, Longinus had no such concerns. And just like that, the little bundle became Cassia Beata. A free girl.

Attis took the baby, and Metella was grateful because she felt like she might just faint. Longinus seemed sheepish, but fully aware what he had done.

"What... does this mean?"

@Sharpie @Sara

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Attis' stuttering and Metella's face sprung a leak of guilt in his chest. Maybe he should have warned them, but he hadn't exactly settled on the idea before doing it - only considered it. It would have been cruel to suggest he might free their child and then not follow through, but the sight of the little bundle at his feet had cleaved his heart in two and he could do nothing put pick her up, and welcome her into his family. 

He chose to answer Metella's questions first. "Your daughter is a free girl, I've got her lunula in my tablinum...somewhere." He wrinkled his nose, it was probably buried under papers. "And when she gets older, she has my patronage, she'll be my client for whatever ventures she wants to take on. But for now, she'll have an allowance for whatever she needs." he shrugged, eyes moving from Metella to the little bundle in Attis' arms, smiling fondly at the sight that greeted him. He sighed and folded his arms across his chest. "And why?" He asked Attis and then shrugged, "You two have been instrumental in this household, in my life. Attis is aware that he is manumitted in my will, you will be as well Metella." As would Vitus and a couple of the others. "I...will free you both before then, but I...cannot free you now, I need you both in the roles you are in," He sighed, "But I can free your daughter and give her the benefits of my station." He gave them both a lopsided smile, "What's the point of being rich as Crassus if I can't spend it?" He arched a brow. It wasn't as if he had a large family of his own to dish out his wealth on. 

 

TAG: @Sharpie @Chevi

 

 

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"You planned this?" Attis managed, his voice quite likely a notch or two above its usual pitch. He must have planned it, if he had a lunula waiting for her already. The sneaky bastard; he hadn't had the faintest idea that might be in the wind.

And yes, he was vaguely aware of the promise he'd one day have his freedom, that nebulous concept that meant very little to him. He had no idea what he would do with it, which is why he didn't think about, it except when he was forced to, and then only for the duration of the duress.

And it wasn't as though it had cost Longinus any money to do what he'd done - and his money would go to Cassia anyway. Cassia Antonilla, that was. Their daughter - his and Metella's - would probably be in the ranks of the plebeians and would live quite happily on... whatever.

"Don't think we're not grateful, Domine. It's just... a shock, is all."

 

@Chevi@Sara

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Metella stared, incredulous. Not only had Longinus given their daughter freedom, he was also going to give her money and support as a free woman... and he had planned this. She shook her head. Attis was equally dumbstruck. 

"We are grateful" she nodded. It was... a lot to take in. But Longinus seemed very pleased with himself. He would also free her and Attis when he died... whenever that would be. She would, eventually, be a free woman. Like when she was born.

Yeah, it was a lot.

The baby now named Cassia Beata made some fussing sounds, and Metella reached out to take her.

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Longinus gave his slaves a puzzled expression. He was picturing shock, and outright delight...not...the utter confusion on both of their faces. He grimaced, giving them a sheepish look each, trying to find the words. He was never much good with words...actions, decisive, brilliant actions were his forte. As was evident with this. 

"She's still your daughter." He offered, "Nothing will change in that regard, obviously." He heaved a sigh and glanced between the pair of them again and little Beata in Metella's arms. "...if you want to call me a bastard, you can and I won't send you off to Titus in the East...but at least explain to me why you both look like you want to punch me in the face and call me said bastard?" 

 

TAG: @Chevi @Sharpie

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Nothing would change... Except that it had, and indefinably so. Longinus' expression had changed to one of confusion and bewilderment... he looked like a kicked puppy, which was about a thousand miles from his usual expression and was making Attis feel like a shit. Beata was fussing in his arms and Metella reached to take her - she probably wanted a feed or something, and Attis handed her over.

"Because... We talked about it, Metella and me, what to ask for, from your friend the Consul's wife." And of course now that he wasn't holding the baby, he didn't know what to do with his hands. "And we weren't going to ask... What do we know about bringing up a free child, really?" He poked at the mosaic floor with the toe of his sandal.

It had just closed in on him, maybe for real, that he was utterly, utterly unprepared to be any sort of father at all, and had no idea where to start - and even less idea now that his daughter was a free citizen. He managed to crack a smile at Longinus' attempt at a joke.

 

@Chevi @Sara

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Metella wrapped her daughter in her arms. She was a tiny miracle, and every time she held her, she felt a flood of love. She was perfect, red wisps of hair and all (even though she'd wrecked Metella's body on the way out). And she deserved everything good. Especially freedom.

"We didn't want to ask" she noted, seeing that Attis was not doing great with the explanation, although he was telling the truth. "Because asking for freedom is one thing... but we didn't want to assume everything that comes with it." The allowance, the patronage. Luckily, Longinus offered by his own free will. It was better that way. "You are more than generous."

@Sharpie @Sara

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He quirked an eyebrow at his bodyslave, moving to lean against a pillar with a sigh, arms still crossed over his chest. "What do you know? More than me. Metella raised my daughter, into a lovely young woman I might add." He chuckled and then drifted off with a heavy sigh as both of them explained. Well...shit. He didn't think about that. Like many things in his life, he acted far in advance of thought. He raised a hand to run over his short beard, grimacing. 

"Just..." he sighed again with a shrug, "Let me know what you need." He meant it sincerely and he hoped his look at both of them conveyed that. The light in his eyes blinked out though as he took in the bundle in Metella's arms. "You caught me at a good time though, I suppose. I fucked up with Cassia," By abandoning her for Britannia, "And Sestia..." He huffed with a shake of his head. He hadn't admitted it out loud, hadn't trusted anybody with that information before. Ever. But the two people in front of him...well...he trusted them more than anybody else. "She was with child. My child...and lost it. I found out via a letter." He glanced at Attis, pain on his face, hoping his self-imposed exile made sense now. "I loved her. Deeply. Sergia and I...it doesn't look like it's going to come through either so I suppose..." He heaved a sigh and folded his arms back over his chest, "It's just nice to be in a house with a happy family again. You two will make excellent parents, even if you're both perennial pains in my neck." 

 

TAG: @Sharpie @Chevi

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And now Longinus looked like a wet kicked puppy left out in the cold and Attis felt like more of a turd than ever. And couldn't hold back the involuntary, "Oh, no," that came to his lips as Longinus continued. He had had no idea that Sestia had been pregnant - no wonder Longinus had ended up so depressed when she'd gone.

It wasn't quite so much the being parents thing as being slave parents to a free child - but Attis wasn't about to wish slavery on his daughter. He'd spent his whole life as property to someone else, and even with a master like Longinus, slavery was slavery. That he and Metella had thought about asking and decided against it didn't mean that they wouldn't accept the offer.

There had to be someone in Rome who would be a good wife for Longinus. If only he had any idea at all how to find such a woman - or how to get Longinus to meet her.

"Shit, I didn't mean to... Thank you, Domine."

They would just have to make sure that Longinus spent time with Beata - Attis had rarely seen him so happy as when he'd been holding her, even though it had been such a brief moment. He just wanted his master to be happy again, the kicked puppy look and the sad expression on his face didn't suit him and pain in the neck or not, he was going to do is best to make sure Longinus didn't look like that again.

 

@Chevi @Sara

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Metella's look softened as Longinus admitted that he had not been fortunate with family. It seemed like he really meant it, when he made the decision to free their child. He was a kind-hearted man in his own way.

"Thank you, domine." She nodded. Beata would have a good start in life. Better than her parents, anyway. "For what it's worth... you didn't fuck up with Cassia. She looks up to you, and you are giving her a good life. And... you are doing the same for Beata." It still sounded strange to call her that. "Any woman would be fortunate to join this household. One will be."

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Both of his slaves looked at him with such softness in their expressions that if he were a more emotional man he might have been moved to tears. Instead, he just gave them both an awkward smile and ducked his head. For all of his transparency in other areas of his life, his personal life was difficult to think about let alone talk about with his slaves, trusted though they might be. 

He merely gave a sigh and a deep shrug of his shoulders. "We can hope so." He hoped so. He didn't know what he'd do if he had to spend another thirty something  years of his life alone. He tried too cast the thoughts from his mind and made a shooing motion; "Now both of you back to your bubble of happiness. I...have work to do. Apparently." He grimaced and heard Vitus clear his throat from a few corridors away. 

 

TAG: @Sharpie @Chevi

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They'd obviously hit a raw spot if Longinus was using work as an excuse to get away from them. Attis merely nodded, though, he wasn't about to try making things any more uncomfortable than they were already - although something had to be done, somehow.

What that something was, though, Attis couldn't begin to say.

He offered a somewhat concerned smile to his master before putting his arm around Metella's shoulders - that dismissal had been as clear as anything, though he'd been mixed up: most masters would dismiss the slaves back to work while taking his own time for his enjoyment.

"We'll bring her back to visit you," he said - Longinus and Cassia would be the only people in the house who could possibly help her grow up as a free person, she couldn't live confined in the slave quarters. Something else they'd have to factor in, for her future.

 

@Chevi @Sara

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Metella sighed once Longinus left, getting up from her seat with some difficulty. Beata was fussing, she needed to be fed, but she was not about to whip her (swollen and aching) breast out in front of the dominus. She looked at her husband.

"That man needs a wife. And a good one." she stated as they headed back to their room.

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"You're not joking..." Attis ran a hand though his hair, making it stand up all every-which-way. "Everything he's tried so far has just not happened or fallen through or... something." He sighed. "I'm out of ideas - what he needs is someone who can take him in hand."

The master's mother was no help, not really; Attis didn't think she understood the nuances of Longinus' character and what he needed. What he needed, in Attis' considered opinion, was someone he could be friends with, first and foremost. Someone who could make him smile again.

"Do you think Venus would mind if turned up at her temple with... I don't even know what I could take as an offering."

 

@Chevi

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"How about a picture of dominus?" Metella smirked, swaying the baby in her arms. "So that women who go to Venus for the same reason could see it..." He really was not a bad-looking man, if that mattered to anyone. Patricians getting married was a whole game, with rules and everything. As they made it back to their room, Metella settled on the bed with the baby. "So... Beata, huh?"

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"Dominus isn't the sort to have made any handy statues of himself that could be lugged to the Temple of Venus and plonked there for admiring young patrician ladies to gawp at," Attis returned. "He keeps getting shafted and it's really not his fault."

He smiled at his womenfolk before pulling off his tunic; he'd worn his best one for the brief ceremony and didn't need to risk it getting stained or dirty (or more stained or dirty) in the course of his usual working day. The expression on his face as he emerged from the replacement was rueful. "Um. It means blessed, or happy, or fortunate - and you can't say she's not. I'm sorry?" He bent to kiss Metella's forehead.

 

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Blessed and fortunate. Metella clicked his tongue, as she undid one shoulder of her dress to let the baby feed. She latched on well; at least the little shit was good at that. Attis kissed her and she gave him a look. "I don't hate it." It was a good name, and a lucky one, if this day was any indication. "It's just... I guessed I never thought of my daughter... with a Roman name." And now she was called Cassia Beata. Still better than Noisy.

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"I'm sorry." Attis gave Metella a rueful look. "If it helps, there's a spice called cassia - it's not just the female form of dominus' nomen." He shrugged; he didn't really know how British naming conventions worked, if it was that that Metella was objecting to. "She'll be Roman, too, but she needs to know about your people because that's part of who she is. Or who she'll grow up to be."

And of course there was the added complication that slaves weren't considered to have a past or a heritage or what-have-you, but of course free people did, which meant their daughter did, which meant... oh, that was going to be a whole tangle and a half.

"Dominus startled me, is all. It's all I could come up with - what would you have liked to call her?"

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