Title: Three Times Marcus Failed to Pick Up Esca and One Time He Didn’t
Word Count: 3,559
Summary: Three times Marcus isn’t as smooth as he’d like to think he is and the one time he actually gets it right.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended; no profit is being made from this endeavour.
A/N: Written for tracy7307
-1. The Hill Sports Bar and Lounge New York, Present Day
Esca was glad he’d found a seat at the bar for the place was packed. It was a Friday night and he’d had a rough week. He just wanted a couple of beers before heading back to his apartment.
The bar tender handed him a bottle of Bud Light and then left him in peace. Esca let the sound of the crowd wash over him as he took a swig of his drink. He glanced at the American football game on the plasma screen above his head, dismissed it, and then turned his eyes to the bottle in his hand.
Esca figured now was as good a time as any to contemplate his life choices. He’d moved to New York from London 3 weeks ago to intern at a big fancy law firm. Everyone back home had told him this would be an amazing opportunity but he was having trouble seeing that at the moment. He was feeling increasingly home sick.
He was trying to figure out if he’d ever get used to the time change when he felt someone squeeze in next to him at the bar. Esca turned to his right and saw an extremely good looking bloke leaning on the bar and staring right at him. His green eyes were slightly glassy and his dark hair was mussed. His white button up shirt was untucked, the sleeves rolled up and the tie at his neck was hanging loose. He had an easy grin on his face that spoke of mischief.
Esca was immediately intrigued and fought to keep the blush off his face. The man leaned at little closer, smiled a little wider, and said, “Hey there. What’s your name?” His voice was deep and sensual; Esca knew he was in trouble.
The effect, however, was ruined when the man continued speaking without letting Esca answer. “My name is Marcus. Don’t forget because you’ll be screaming it later tonight.”
Esca choked on absolutely nothing and let the blush take over his features. So he was one of those blokes. “Is that the best you can come up with?” he managed to ask, once he’d regained his composure.
“Maybe. I’ve got lots more,” Marcus replied, with a slight slur to his words.
“I’m sure you do,” Esca started, “but I’m not really…”
“If I said you have a nice body,” Marcus interrupted, “would you hold it against me?”
Esca snorted. “Look,” he tried again, “I’ve had a shitty week and I’m just trying to relax here.”
“That’s nice,” Marcus seemed unfazed by Esca’s comment. “You’ve got 206 bones in your body. Want one more?”
This was getting kind of ridiculous, Esca decided. He put his beer down and stood up. “I think I’m gonna call it a night. If you’ll excuse me,” Esca said as he turned to leave. He was stopped by a warm hand circling his wrist.
Marcus’s other hand came up and toyed with the sleeve of his shirt. “You know,” he said while tugging Esca a little closer, “this shirt is very becoming on you. Of course, if I were on you, I’d be coming too.”
Esca laughed out loud at that. He decided to have a little fun with Marcus before leaving. He leaned even closer to the attractive, albeit obviously drunk man that still had a hold of his wrist. “So Marcus,” Esca started in what he hoped was a playful voice. “Will you play army men with me?”
Marcus looked confused for a moment, but replied, “Sure! Can I ask why though?”
Esca grinned. He leaned into Marcus and whispered in his ear, “So I can blow the hell out of you.” Esca felt Marcus’s breath hitch and his hand tighten on his wrist.
“Really?” Marcus stuttered out.
Esca laughed again and pulled away from Marcus. “No, not really.” Marcus looked slightly dejected as Esca turned to leave.
Esca took a step forward, stopped, thought for a moment, looked at Marcus over his shoulder, and said with a grin “Maybe next time.” With that, Esca turned and left the bar.
As the cool night air hit him in the face, Esca decided New York might not be so bad after all.
-2. The Wiltern Theater Los Angeles, October 27, 2005
The music was way too loud, there were entirely too many people crowded around him, and Marcus Aquila was not happy. He would much rather be back in his dorm room at UCLA studying for an upcoming test.
He’d been doing just that when his friends came in, ranting about the Nintendo Fusion Tour. They had an extra ticket and had forced Marcus to go with them. (“Come on dude! You need to live a little!”)
This brought Marcus to his current misery. He’d been forced to listen to, in his opinion, horrible music for the last hour and a half. His ears were ringing and it was getting entirely too stuffy in the small theater.
The current band (something to do with Boys in Fallout, or whatever) was up and they were, hopefully, on their last song (bedposts, earlier rounds, sugar, and loaded God complexes… what?!). But Marcus just couldn’t take anymore.
Marcus didn’t even bother to get his friend Guern’s attention before he turned around and headed toward the lobby. They had some new games on display, which were bound to be a better way to waste his time.
The lobby was blessedly cool and quite. The game consoles were along the far wall and were occupied by only one person. Making his way over, Marcus realized the player was a blond boy, no older than himself. He seemed to be playing some new version of Super Smash Bros.
Marcus observed the game play for a moment before saying, “So, is it any good?”
The player’s hands jerked on the controller (Marcus really needed to work on announcing his presence) and he sighed as “Game Over” flashed across the screen.
“It was,” a British accent (Marcus was a total sucker for accents) replied. Cool blue eyes gave him a pointed stare then flicked back to the screen. “Care to go a round?” (And there went his brain, right to the gutter.)
Clearing his suddenly dry throat, Marcus replied, “Sure.”
He grabbed the extra controller as the British boy returned the game to the main menu and started setting up the new round. He picked “multiplayer”, then “free-for-all”, and finally choose Luigi and Mario as the computer players. Marcus looked over the playable characters and decided on Link. The other boy picked Yoshi then hit the start game button.
As the game started, Marcus couldn’t help himself. “Yoshi, huh? That’s an odd choice.”
The guys lips quirked as he said, “Yeah, I know. Everyone knows Yoshi is awesome to ride, but he’s surprisingly good at fighting.”
Just then, loud screams erupted from the theater, signifying the end of the concert. Marcus knew he was going to run out of time. Taking a deep breath, he made up his mind.
As the theater doors opened and people poured into the lobby, Marcus leaned closer to the other boy and said, “You know, I’d rather ride you than Yoshi any day.”
The boy sputtered, dropped his controller, and turned a faint shade of pink. He turned to fully face Marcus, blue eyes alight with amusement. He opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted by an arm being thrown around his shoulders.
“Esca! You missed a hell of a show!” the intruder shouted above the noise around them. “Come on,” he continued as he pulled his arm away, “the rest of the guys are starving. We’re gonna hit In-N-Out.”
“Right,” Esca (even his name did funny things to Marcus) replied. He started to leave with the intruder, but turned to face Marcus once more.
“Nice try, big boy,” Esca said with a wink, then he was gone in the crowd.
“Damn,” Marcus muttered while running a hand through his hair. He really needed to get back to his dorm to take care of some business.
-3. Juno Beach Normandy, June 6, 1944
Esca Mac Cunoval of the No. 48 Royal Marine Commandos heaved a sigh as he observed his surroundings. He was sitting on a beach that might have been beautiful if not for the bodies littered everywhere. There was more blood than he’d ever wanted to see. It had been a long, gory, horrifying morning.
The Commandos’ LCA had landed on Juno Beach at 0900. The beach was supposed to have been cleared, but things had gone wrong with the Canadian forces that landed before them. The 8th Brigade’s, including the Le Régiment de la Chaudière and The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada, forces were crippled by land mines and heavy gunfire from the Germans.
No one had been prepared for the devastation that occurred. There had been 400 Commandos that morning, their numbers dropped to 260 within seconds of landing on the beach. Esca was trying very hard to ignore just how many friends and acquaintances had been killed that morning.
A groan brought his attention to the man on the ground before him. Marcus Aquila, infantryman in Le Régiment de la Chaudière, had been one of the first men on Juno Beach.
Esca had met Marcus back in London, just days before they had been shipped across the English Channel, bound for Normandy. The Commandos were enjoying one last night at the pub when a rowdy group of, if their uniforms were anything to go by, Canadian soldiers came through the door.
The Canadians spotted the Commandos, approached their table, introduced themselves, and offered to buy the next round of drinks. Esca had taken an immediate liking to the tall, broad Marcus. There was something open and honest about his face, something that drew Esca in. They talked for several hours, realizing they had many of the same interests, like football (“We don’t call it soccer in London, mate!”), and both of them would rather have been doing anything than getting ready to go fight a war.
After that night, Esca managed to see Marcus several more times. They were able to chat for a few moments before being called away to attend duties. Finally the day came when they received their orders to ship out. They would be leaving from Portsmouth at 2000 on June 5th.
They had managed to see each other the afternoon of their departure. Esca knew Marcus’s infantry would be in one of the first LCAs to land on Juno Beach and he had felt very ill-at-ease about it.
Sitting in his LCA a mile off the beach, listening to gunfire and explosions, screams of men wounded and dying, Esca started feeling nauseous. Of course, Marcus had tried to make Esca feel better about the situation.
“Don’t worry Esca! I’ll make sure the beach is safe for you,” he’d said, with that easy grin, carefree and full of life.
Now, on a bloody and battle torn beach, Esca was having a hard time seeing that same spark of life in the man before him. The combat medic had done everything he could for Marcus, but Esca was afraid it wouldn’t be enough.
Marcus groaned again as his eyelids fluttered open. Esca gently held Marcus’s damaged red-stained hand between his own. Marcus’s pained eyes found Esca’s as he tried to smile. The smile quickly turned into a grimace.
“It’s alright, mate,” Esca said tenderly. “I’m here. I’ve got you.”
Marcus’s face relaxed a little, his eyes looking a touch glassy. “I’m sorry,” he gave Esca’s hand a squeeze. “I didn’t make the beach safe.”
“Don’t be daft,” Esca replied. “Does it hurt much?” he ended with a whisper.
Marcus squeezed his eyes shut for a moment. When he opened them, his eyes were glistening. “Not as much as before. Not with you here,” he croaked. “And to think, I had all these plans for when this damn war was over,” Marcus’s voice cracked. “I was going to invite you to dinner. Make you come see me in Canada.” His eyes fluttered closed and his breath stuttered.
Esca felt his throat constrict and his eyes start to burn. “I wish there was something I could do, something to make this all better,” he choked out.
Marcus managed a small smile, but didn’t open his eyes. “Being here is enough,” he whispered. A tear rolled down his face as he heaved a sigh. His chest didn’t rise again.
“Marcus?” Esca questioned while giving his hand a shake. He got no response. “Marcus, open your eyes. Please Marcus! Don’t leave me” Esca was pleading. The tears he’d been holding back fell freely down his cheeks.
Esca slumped forward, forehead resting on his friends still, battered chest. He sobbed quietly, visions of missed opportunities flashing through his mind, dreams that would never be realized.
+1. Near Calleva, 142 AD
Marcus Flavius Aquila couldn’t stop the smile that spread across his face. His life was very different than it had been two years ago and he could honestly say that he was happy.
While watching the Eagle melt and burn on Guern’s funeral pyre, Marcus had felt a sense of calm wash over him, like he could finally be at peace with his father’s death. He knew Esca had felt the same about his own father.
After they said their goodbyes to the remaining members of the Ninth Legion, he and Esca began the long journey back to the wall. The going was tough; his leg pained him more than he’d care to admit. Having Esca with him helped ease the ache.
As they finally neared the wall, Marcus asked Esca what he was planning to do with his life now that he was a free man. They hadn’t discussed it, but Marcus had to know if Esca would be staying in the north or crossing Hadrian’s Wall to return to Calleva with him.
“So,” Marcus began. “What will you do now?”
Esca looked confused. “What do you mean?”
“You are a free man,” Marcus replied. “You could stay.” The thought made him slightly nervous.
Esca gave Marcus a searching look. “Nothing to keep me here,” he said with a smirk as he began walking again. Marcus smiled for the first time in a long time.
“What about you?” Esca had asked.
“I’ve always wanted to return to Rome, buy my father’s house back,” Marcus replied. “But not now.” Things had changed for Marcus. He felt like he could now move on from his past; start anew.
Marcus said he’d like to get land of his own, build a farm. Esca had looked amused.
“Hunting maybe,” Esca had suggested.
“I can’t hunt all my life!”
“Horse breeding’s quite an honorable profession,” Esca tried again.
“Hor-, breeding horses?” Marcus asked, incredulous.
Esca laughed. “Well, there’s good money in it.”
“What about Spain? A farm in Spain,” Marcus joked.
“A farm, with horses, in Spain,” Esca was set on the horses.
And they did get a farm, with horses. Once they’d made it back to Calleva, they rested and Marcus got his leg attended by a physician, again. Then he took all the money he had saved from being a centurion and they bought a piece of land, just outside Calleva’s borders.
They had worked long and hard on their new home. When they had finished, Marcus got started on his farm and Esca had purchased some fine purebreds.
Their lives settled into a comfortable routine. They woke in the morning and had breakfast together. Then they went their separate ways for the day, Marcus to his fields and Esca to the horse pasture. After a long days’ work, they would make dinner and enjoy the evening by the fire. They even had a wolf cub, simply named Cub, that Esca had brought home one evening after he’d been out hunting.
Now, nearly a year later, Marcus sat before the fire, watching Esca play on the floor with Cub. His fair hair was lit golden from the fire, face filled with joy as he scratched Cub’s belly. Marcus’s heart clenched at the sight.
Back when they’d first talked about the future, Marcus had said he’d get a wife, have children. How wrong he had been. Marcus was now sure that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Esca, the man who had joined him on an adventure that was practically suicidal, the man who had saved his life numerous times, the man who brought joy and light to his life.
Esca was his best friend; that much was clear. Marcus wanted more. He knew he was in love with Esca, probably had been from the beginning. Marcus didn’t know why it had taken him so long to realize it. He knew Roman men kept male concubines. But Marcus wanted something different with Esca. He wanted Esca, only Esca, for the rest of his days.
Marcus twisted his father’s golden ring, retrieved from the Chief of the Seal People, around his little finger. The ring was important to him, but he wanted Esca to know that he was even more so. Marcus knew he was about to take a huge risk, but he knew he had to try.
Marcus slid from the chair to the floor next to Esca and cleared his throat. Esca stopped scratching Cub to look expectantly at Marcus.
“I’d like to tell you something,” Marcus began.
“I gathered as much,” Esca said with a grin.
“Right,” Marcus took a deep breath. “I want you to have this,” he said while sliding his father’s ring from his finger.
“Marcus I can’t-” Esca began to protest but was stopped by Marcus’s hand over his mouth.
“No. Esca, please. I need you to listen,” Marcus said a little desperately. “I know what I’m about to say is going to change everything, for better or worse. But I have to say it.”
Esca’s eyes were wide, full of apprehension. He nodded once and Marcus lowered his hand. Esca opened his mouth, closed it, then nodded again. Taking that as a sign to continue, Marcus tried again.
“This ring was my father’s. It’s the last remembrance I have of him. It’s very important to me. I want you to have it,” Marcus said the last part with conviction. Esca’s eyes widened a fraction more.
Marcus took another deep breath and trudged ahead. “I want you to have it because you are more important to me than my father’s memory. You are more important to me than my past.” He felt his face heating up, but he continued on. “You are my best friend, Esca, and I trust you with my life. I’d like to trust you with my heart.”
Marcus had watched Esca’s face throughout his confession. Esca had first looked startled. But that quickly changed to joy. Now however, he looked slightly doubtful. Marcus knew that couldn’t be a good sign.
“Marcus, I-,” Esca paused. He seemed to be fighting with himself, trying to find the right words to say. Marcus held his breath, waiting for the rejection he just knew was coming.
“Marcus,” Esca said again. “Are you saying that you’re in love with me?” He still looked unsure, but his eyes held hope.
Marcus released the breath he’d been holding. “Yes. Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.” He knew he started this and now he had no choice but to finish it. “I’m in love with you. I have been for a long time. You’re all I think about. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I just-.”
Marcus was cut off when a pair of lips smashed against his own. He was startled for a moment, long enough for Esca to start to pull away. But Marcus wasn’t stupid. He finally had Esca right were he wanted him. Marcus wrapped a hand around Esca’s neck, keeping him in place. He felt Esca smile against his lips. They kissed a while longer before the need for air broke them apart.
Esca’s face was flushed, hair mussed, and eyes alight with joy. It was a good look on him, Marcus decided.
“So,” Marcus said somewhat breathlessly. “Does that mean you like me as well?”
“No, Marcus,” Esca replied. Marcus felt his heart drop. He made a move to get up, but stopped when Esca lunged at him, wrapping his arms around Marcus’s neck.
“That means I love you too,” Esca whispered in Marcus’s ear.
Marcus laughed in relief as he wrapped his arms around Esca’s back. “You could have just said that first.”
“But where would the fun have been in that?” Esca laughed as he pulled back, just far enough to look Marcus in the eye. “I love you Marcus Flavius Aquila. I would be more than happy to spend the rest of my life with you.”
Marcus felt his heart swell with joy. He released Esca to snatch the fallen ring from the floor. Marcus took Esca’s hand in his own and slid the ring into place on his middle finger.
Esca’s smile was huge, his face radiating happiness. Marcus reveled in the knowledge that he would get to see that beautiful face for the rest of his years.