Christiane's head was in a spin for the rest of the day; oh, she noticed things, wasn't completely unaware, just wasn't in control any more; she saw a frosted spider's web on a bush, she saw – or heard – a deer watching them from a safe distance, she saw a smile playing around Marcus' lips: oh! those lips, his tongue, oh! she wasn't a foolish virgin, of course she wasn't, she was a mature woman, who had been around the block a few times – or whatever the Roman equivalent was, been around the Circus Maximus more times than she could remember, perhaps – and then the thought struck her: "am I truly not a virgin?" not that it really mattered in the technical sense, she had experienced a greater variety of sexual adventures than most, or so she supposed, but there it was again, that little bit of doubt, she supposed, but that was before, that was then, that was there, that was that! it was as if she had been born again, in a physically different form – well, not strictly true, when she looked in a glass it was still her own face, and her body had the same curves, the same shape, except, down there! down there it was entirely different; and all of this and other scattered thoughts chased themselves through Christiane's mind as she walked back with Marcus, in the gloamin, with a Roman! she laughed out loud and surprised both of them: "what are you laughing at?" he asked, still smiling, but broader now, a definite grin; she smiled back at him, a wide beaming smile which illuminated her face, she shook her head and tried to explain the song, the pun, but it didn't work in Latin and they both laughed and he held her close and kissed her again, and she felt herself melt and mould to his body, she really liked this man though she hardly knew him, and felt like one of those birds or animals that as soon as they were born, or hatched or whatever it was, identified the first living creature it saw as it's mother, it's protector, and Marcus had been the one who found her on the hillside, he was the first person she saw and she felt herself irresistibly drawn to him: he was handsome, kind, gentle, caring, he was all the things she wanted, needed, and if this wasn't love, it was pretty damned powerful, like a drug or a force of nature, and she was happy to accept it and go along with it, and it seemed that he felt the same about her and right now, that was all that mattered; could she, would she be happy here, or wherever Marcus was posted next, would he take her with him? so many questions – she knew something of the Ancient Romans, of the procrustean authority and powers of the Emperors, but little of the two Emperors currently sharing power, although clearly the pro domino system of slavery was a major feature of everyday life, one which she would find it difficult if not impossible to become a part of, she knew that the practice of what might be called (in the twentieth century and ever after) McCarthyism flourished, and anyone could be denounced (gosh, it was still practised in Italy in her own time, hah! that was a laugh, this was now her time) and the accusation was all that was needed to bring an end to their lives – and no answers: "tell me about your home and your family," she said, wanting to know all about him: "my father is also Marcus, and my mother is Olivia, she is a distant cousin of the Emperor, and we live right down in the south to the east of Pompeii, on an estate with farms and villages, we grow olives and tomatoes, have many sheep and a large herd of cattle. and thank the Gods we are well away from the Ash!" he said this vehemently and it stirred something in Christiane's stomach, for she remembered reading Mary Beard's book, 'Pompeii – The Life of a Roman Town' and being very moved by her descriptions of the remains of the people who had suddenly lost their lives there: "that was about 85 years ago," said Christiane, " were any members of your family caught in it?" she asked, gently, and he nodded: "my own great-grandfather and my grandfather's brother were there on business when it happened, the only reason my grandfather wasn't there was he had an illness and was unable to travel – or I probably wouldn't be here with you, now; you know, we never heard of them again, so can only think that they lie there still, buried under the ash and boulders, never laid to rest" he sounded very sombre and Christiane held his hands, gazing up into his face, before asking: "do you have any brothers or sisters, Marcus?" and he nodded, his face brightening at the thought, "yes," he replied, "one brother, Sergius and two sisters. Penelope and Claudia, I am the elder, and Sergius the youngest, just a year after Claudia – they are little imps, you would expect them to have grown up a bit by now, she is fifteen and he fourteen, but they still cause havoc! and you?" she quickly looked away for a moment, then turned her face back: "I had a twin brother," she lied, "we were very close, inseparable when we were little, but seemed to gradually grow apart at school, he died when we were 16, quite suddenly, and to be honest, this is the first time in a while that I've looked back and wondered what he would have become if he had lived, if I had died in his place," which was when Marcus placed his hands on her shoulders, brought her face close to his, and said: "then I would never have met you, known a little about you, wanted to know everything, what you like and don't like, what you think about, what you dream about, to explore you – and for you to come with me over the next two weeks, I have received a commission from the Emperor and am commanded to make a small tour, see the land, perhaps meet the natives, learn something about this land's potential for the Empire, and I only will agree, if you agree to come too!" and she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him fiercely, voraciously, and when they paused to breathe she said: "of course I'll come with you, you daft lump, I want to go with you wherever you are sent, for the rest of my life," and their kiss, as they stood on a sward, though the grass was hidden by snow, was so intensely passionate and went on for such a long time, that even the little children who were watching them grew bored and wandered back to their own home and a much less soppy game of knuckle-bones!