The room is dark when Marcus opens his eyes, the candles having been extinguished at some point while he was asleep. Only a few remain to illuminate the corners, and prevent the villa from being plunged into total darkness. It takes Marcus's eyes a moment to adjust, but even before they do, he can sense another person in the room. The shuffle of feet against the floor and the quiet huff of exhaled air give the other man away, though he cannot tell who it is until the figure steps close to one of the candles and sees that it is Esca.
His throat aches- he'd shouted himself hoarse during the surgery, and even the rush of air as he breathes in and out is painful. He knows there must be water nearby- he was given some to drink after the surgeon was finished, which he suspects was laced with some sort of drug. But he cannot see a cup, and he fears knocking something over and bringing Uncle Aquila or the surgeon running if he tries to reach out and grasp it. If he is to lie useless in bed, unable to fulfill the simplest of his needs, he would prefer to do so with no witnesses.
Regardless, he needs the water. And short of having it magically appear by his side, he needs someone to fetch it for him. That means Esca. He clears his throat- what little sound that emerges is more like a croak- and attempts the slave's name "Es-"
The sibilant hiss of the s burns his throat as though he'd scraped it with a blade, and he silently chokes on the rest of the name. He takes a deep breath and tries again, this time getting no further than the first syllable before his voice dies in a weak hiss. Esca is still creeping quietly around the room like a restless cat, apparently unaware of Marcus struggling silently on the bed. He takes a deep breath, and musters his strength for another effort. "You."
His voice is weak, but it at least gets Esca's attention. He comes to his master's side- quickly, Marcus notes. No sullen slave, this one. He stands like a soldier, knees apart, hands clasped behind his back. "What is your will?"
Marcus has neither the inclination nor the breath to compose a request, though it galls him to beg in single words, as though he cannot speak. "Water."
Silently, methodically, Esca picks up a waterskin from the side table, and holds it to Marcus's mouth. He gulps it eagerly, too thankful for the relief to feel much shame at being hand-fed like an orphaned pup. He gestures with one hand when he's had his fill, and Esca sets the waterskin back down, turning to go.
"Wait." Marcus reaches out and grabs for the slave's wrist. He misses his aim, and instead grasps Esca's fingers in his. They are more slender than he would have expected, though there is strength in them. These are hands that could easily wring a chicken's neck, or wield a knife to cut his master's throat as he lies sleeping. There are calluses there, ones Marcus recognizes as earned from hours of practiced swordplay. Did he gain them while training for the ring? Or are they from a time further in the past, when Esca and his people trained to slaughter Romans where they stood? Had such hands cut down the Ninth?
Esca makes no move to pull away as Marcus loses himself in thought, but after a few moments of silence, he asks "Was there anything else?"
Marcus shakes his head, trying to rid himself of the sudden, unwelcome onslaught of thoughts. "No. You can go."
A sharp nod is his answer, and Esca moves off into the shadows. Marcus lets his head drop back against the pallet. His throat no longer burns, and the pain has receded into the back of his mind. Nevertheless, he knows he will have no more rest tonight.