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No Shame in these feelings

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Marcus finds himself staring at Esca with stealthy glances whenever he can. He cannot even begin to fathom his own mind, the images that flicker unwillingly into it, hot and intimate. He cannot pinpoint when his feelings had begun to change, but everyday Esca is becoming more and more attractive to Marcus. At first he had believed it to be a simple fascination with him; for he is so different, not just from Marcus but from anyone he has ever met. But then his eyes had begun to linger on Esca when they bathed together or when he worked topless in the field and he realised his feelings were something far deeper.

It is everything about Esca; the way he has to keep brushing his tousled light brown hair from his eyes as he works. His striking grey-blue eyes which seem to reflect a raging storm of emotion that his face always refuses to display. A strong jaw and shapely lips, that Marcus felt a strange urge to touch. To map them with his own; claiming and being claimed. They always look so soft... He shakes his head and goes back to carving his figurine under the shade of the large tree he rests against.

However his mind clearly has other plans than carving a figure and yet again begun to wander back to Esca. Despite that, in Rome two men together was nothing new by any imagination, Esca was neither a Roman nor a slave. He was a freeman, Marcus' equal and his treasured friend. Marcus refuses to do anything that would damage that. He would not bring shame to the honour of his friend by thinking such wanton thoughts. He allows himself one last look. Esca's back is facing him now and even beneath the wool of the tunic Marcus can see the sinewy muscles flexing under it. He watches the strong muscles of his shoulders ripple as he lifts the wood he is chopping from the pile. But then as if Esca senses a presence watching him, in that unearthly way of his, he turns his head towards Marcus. Marcus's breath catches in his throat as he meets with those wild eyes. Beautiful and fierce, just as they were when Marcus had first seen him in the arena. He curses himself for being caught and looks down continuing with his work, chipping at the wood furiously with a refreshed determination, earning him a raised eyebrow from Esca.

He nicks his finger with the blade, his attention elsewhere, and although it is not a deep wound it began bleeding profusely. He hisses a little at the sting in his finger and inspects the cut. Esca notices this and walks briskly over and grabs his hand to inspect it. Normally Marcus would have dismissed his friend and said it was nothing but having Esca hold his hand in his, even though it was whilst peering at the wound, is a rare opportunity.

"It isn't deep, just my own carelessness. No need to trouble yourself".

Marcus says with a steely determination to keep his voice calm and not convey the flow of emotions just beneath the surface. Esca observes it a little more and then slowly draws his tongue across the wound. The action of Esca's wet, warm tongue on his finger causes Marcus to stop breathing; he can feel his heart leap to his throat and his skin begin to warm. Esca looks at him after he is satisfied that it would not need stitching.

"Would you like me to fetch you something to wrap it?" He asks.

Marcus who has now forgotten how to talk merely shakes his head, perhaps a little too violently, causing himself to feel dizzy. He gets up keeping his eyes away from Esca.

"My leg is causing me some discomfort I am afraid. I'm going to go and lie down for a while. Please do not disturb me".

He says quietly and strides off. His finger tingles and burns, not from the pain of the cut, but from the intimate contact of Esca's tongue on his skin. Marcus imagines other things that Esca could lick and an immediate throbbing begins to make him ache. He lays himself on the bed desperate to contain himself and his wild thoughts.

Thinking of anything, desperately, to try and distract himself. He knows he should try to ignore it, he does not want to shame his friend but he can no longer control his desires. He withdraws himself from his tunic, almost ripping it off, and looks down to see himself so fully erect it is almost painful. Palming his member, he begins to work his shaft slowly at first but soon the tension is too much for him to bear. He looks at the finger Esca had licked and slowly draws his tongue across it, shuddering in the knowledge that Esca's tongue had been there. He begins to suck his finger more, adding another, lapping at them hungrily let his imagination take him to Esca and all the desire he held for his friend. He strokes himself harder and faster and with a low moan, finishes all over his chest and abdomen and a wordless 'Esca'. The only thing on his mind. He lets out a pleasurable sigh after finding release but his pleasure is soon replaced with shame. He covers his eyes with a thick arm and thinks about how he has just dishonoured his friend, unwanted tears sting his eyes.

Esca paces around the courtyard where Marcus had just left him. He cannot shake the feeling that it is very bizarre that Marcus' leg is hurting him despite it being early afternoon where he is often at his nimblest. He sets his mind and decides to make sure Marcus is well, despite the Roman's request to be left alone. If he is in pain he could be very stubborn and is never willing to burden others if he can help it. He walks into the house and makes his way to Marcus's room letting his mind wander to his current life. Esca has grown to enjoy life here and he believes that whilst Rome has taken everything away that he has loved it has also given him somewhere to belong to, beside Marcus. He smiles a little at the thought of his friend, the burly Roman with a soft smile and infectious laugh.

However his smile soon fades to a worried frown as he comes to the door hearing groans and panting. He listens closer only to become more confused as Marcus did not sound in pain. Unsure whether to simply walk in the room or leave him be. He settles for peeking through the keyhole and is almost bowled over by the sight before him. Marcus is lying naked on the bed; his muscular body gleaming with sweat as he frantically strokes his member. Esca's body suddenly becomes hotter and his breathing very rapid, it confuses him as he knows that men hold no arousal for him. Yet this is Marcus, his dear friend, who at this moment looks so very beautiful …He pulls his eyes away feeling shame for the thoughts he is having.

He is about to leave when Marcus does something that catches his attention. He raises the finger that he had cut earlier and began to suck on it slowly at first, letting his tongue caress his finger before putting it fully into his mouth following with others. His back arches and beads of sweat trickle down his body dipping into the contours of his muscles as they contract in pleasure. His moaning has become more impatient now and with a few strong jerks he releases himself, leaving a sticky mess on his stomach. Esca's heart feels like it is in his mouth, he is hard and uncomfortable against the wool of his tunic, the throbbing almost unbearable. He watches as Marcus looks at the finger again with a pained expression and then covers his eyes with his arm, his breathing beginning to steady. Esca gets up not wanting to be found in his state and shuts himself in his quarters. Was it a Roman thing to enjoy sucking fingers or cuts? He groans through clenched teeth as he remembers Marcus' beautiful tanned body, a stark contrast on the pale fabric beneath him and the sounds that the Roman was making...

Esca growls in frustration and grips himself firmly, leaning against the door and thinks of Marcus. He begins to stroke himself and imagines Marcus finger's being replaced by something else, something belonging intimately to Esca. It does not take him long before he comes. His teeth bite into his bottom lip suppressing his moan and bangs his head against the door with a shudder. It is enough but it is not as nearly satisfying as it would have been if it was Marcus touching him. He wipes himself off with a nearby rag; a single thought running through his mind. He wants to see Marcus like that again, he wants to make Marcus cry out like that, and he knows he wants to do it very soon.

Chapter Text

Marcus lies back on his bed, arms folded and tucked underneath his head. His thoughts are travelling to the exact moment when he had felt himself begin to change; when his feelings had begun to grow beyond friendship. It was after they had returned the Eagle and restored honour to his family, much to those snobbish politicians' surprise. He had to confess to a certain satisfaction when he saw those disbelieving faces.

When they walked out Esca had looked at him and asked "What should we do next?". He can recall the flutters he had felt in his stomach and the uncontrollable smile that tugged at his lips when he realised that, despite being a free man, Esca had no thoughts of leaving him. And so he had answered "You decide". Esca had smiled back so broadly, his emotions displayed so openly, it was in that moment Marcus knew he never wished to leave the company of this man. That moment he had fallen.

He mentally shakes himself out of the happy memories, gets dressed and makes his way to the kitchen for some breakfast. It is early and he hopes that he and Esca will not cross paths this morning. His attention slips towards his finger momentarily, it is healing now and he had promised himself that he will not dishonour his dearest companion again. He is planning to go to the market to retrieve some supplies leaving Esca behind and thus his guilt. Uncle Aquila had informed him they were in need of a few supplies and Marcus offered to go, eager for the opportunity to be away from Esca and give his heart a rest. He sits at the table and begins to wolf down his breakfast of bread and honey. He is eager to off as soon as possible. He drinks deeply from his cup and begins choking as Esca comes in and sits down opposite him with his own breakfast. His hair is fluffy and sticks up at various angles as if he sjust woken up which Marcus thinks is very endearing or he would have if he wasn't currently choking. Esca's lips twitch into a small smirk watching Marcus, who is clearly embarrassed, hurry to wipe the water that has dribbled out of his mouth from his chin.

"You must have been deep in thought for me to have surprised you like that, a rare occurrence for you…To be thinking that is." He teases a smile playing at the corners of his lips and his deep eyes twinkling mischievously.

Marcus grins back, feeling himself relax, although a red flush does spread across his cheeks as he chuckles.

"Better to be in deep thought on rare occasions than all the time my friend." He says pointedly with one eyebrow raised.

He smiles again and begins to finish the rest of his breakfast feeling far more relaxed in the company of his friend. Esca however does not touch his plate finding himself entranced by Marcus. He examines the features of his face that since last night have haunted his every thought. He would have never believed in a thousand years that he would have been in the situation he is in now. Attracted to a Roman...Marcus is a close companion, a brother even, someone who he believes to share a deep connection with but a lover?

He frowns a little at his thoughts and continues to stare even more intently. Marcus is indeed handsome, beautiful even. He has a strong masculine jaw, full rich lips, a proud straight Roman nose, dark beautiful eyes that are framed with thick black lashes and soft brown hair that touches the tips of his ears. Esca let his eyes trail down his body, mentally removing the tunic that he wears, seeing the image of yesterday afternoon. He can see a strong, powerful body, all thick muscle and mostly unmarked olive skin apart from the large scar on his leg. He has broad shoulders and a lean stomach where the muscle is shaped in a perfect v-shape between his jutted hips. The fine dark hair that begins at his bellybutton trails down to meet a soft tuft of dark hair which…

"Esca? Um…Esca? Is everything all right? Aren't you going to eat?" Marcus' voice interrupts the rather vivid images that had begun to blossom in his mind. Marcus tries not to appear too conscious of the Esca watching him. But the way Esca had been looking at him; it is almost as if he wanted…No. Marcus thinks to himself sternly, it is only wishful thinking, there is no way that was lust in his eyes.

Esca looks up at Marcus' face again; his dark eyes looking back at him full of concern and embarrassment. He seems aware of Esca's eyes watching him and is toying with his bottom lip between his white teeth. Esca finds this very distracting; he can feel his mouth going dry. Marcus is going to have to stop doing that if he didn't want Esca to jump him and take him there on the table.

He knew it isn't just Marcus' physical looks that draw him in, no matter how handsome they are, it is Marcus himself. The kind, stubborn fool who had respected Esca in that arena enough to save his life, who had trusted him enough to cross the wall with him and leave his life in Esca's hands. A man who cared for him enough to grant his freedom regardless of the costs to himself. That is who Esca wants, nothing else matters, not that he is a Roman or that he is his former master, only that he is Marcus. Esca clears his throat and shakes his head.

"Sorry, I was just wondering how you were feeling since you said your leg hurt you yesterday?" He asks, hoping that this is a good enough excuse for his prolonged stares.

Marcus' eyes widen momentarily as though he is recalling yesterday. He looks down at his food, his top and bottom lashes feather together and a blush spreads across his cheeks.

"I…I'm fine now…I'm sorry to have concerned you." He says in a slightly remorseful voice to which Esca nods.

He looks at him again who has now began to eat his breakfast and decides that avoiding Esca will only make matters worse, he is going to just have to learn how to deal with these feelings, he couldn't avoid Esca forever and it is not in his heart to do so.

"I'm going to the market today to fetch some things, would you care to join me?" He asks careful to keep his voice as nonchalant as possible, but lets eyes his flicker up to Esca's face to watch his almost always unreadable expression.

Esca seems to contemplate his decision before nodding his head. "I'll go with you, I have nothing else that requires my attention that cannot wait." He replies causing Marcus to smile and they finish their breakfasts quickly before getting ready to leave.

The ride their horses in silence, exchanging few words between them until they reach the market. It is busy as always, merchants stand in front of their stalls yelling out bargains in hopes of attracting customers and slaves follow their masters like ghosts carrying all that had been bought, luxuries that they themselves could never hope to own.

It is not one of Marcus' favourite places and he knows it is not Esca's, although despite this, he still had come with him. They buy what they need quickly and are about to leave. Esca tells Marcus he will catch up with him in a while after spotting a pair of young colts that looked of fine breeding in one of the nearby stables. Marcus had nodded in reply and let his feet wander around the market until he found himself deep within it. He stands in front of an inn that looks hospitable enough for him to wait for Esca and rest the cramp in his leg that is throbbing painfully. He sits at one of the tables and orders some wine kneading his leg with his thumbs trying to work out some of the more painful knots.

He looks up to see a Roman and his slave talking in Briton, something not often seen among these parts and notices a tattoo on the arm of the man that is strikingly similar to Esca's although it is closer to black than blue in colour. He has always wondered what Esca's tattoo meant. He looks more carefully at the Briton man. He stands slightly smaller than Esca though stockier in the shoulders with fiery red hair and pale green eyes which meets his own with a challenge. This causes his master to follow his slave's gaze, until he is also looking at Marcus. The man is older, perhaps in his 40s, with fine lines that crinkled the corners of his eyes which smoothed in recognition and he moves towards Marcus.

"Are you Marcus Flavius Aquila?" He asks with a note of excitement in his voice.

Marcus lips quirk, bemused by this exclamation, he did not think he is still so renowned after all this time but he nods for the man and his slave to join him at his table although only the older man sits down.

"I am indeed, and you are?" He replies.

"Oh, forgive me, I am Antonius Ursus Caius and this is my slave, Judoc." He adds motioning to his slave, when Marcus looks at Judoc eyebrow raised in question. Judoc bows his head and looks surprised as Antonius does, when Marcus motions for him to sit also and orders two more cups of wine. They both sit slightly uncomfortably which makes Marcus smile slightly; he always takes a secret pleasure in making Romans equal to their "slaves". Just because one is called 'master' and the other 'slave' does not make one lesser than the other. A fact he knew better than anyone and he enjoyed reminding his fellow Romans.

"So, Marcus Aquila, I would be honoured if you will regale me with the tale of your fearless journey to rescue the Eagle of the Ninth Legion." He says raising his wine in toast to him. Marcus sighs inwardly; he had thought his days of telling this story over. Once he had returned home he had been forced to attend many tedious parties held by politicians and noblemen all eager to hear the tale from his own lips. So he told them, in as little detail as possible, often missing out the part where he had been a slave to the Seal People or the more intimate moments of his and Esca's developing friendship.

Esca had always stood by his side, arms folded defensively, only speaking when someone addressed him or to Marcus, obvious in his disdain for the other Romans. He feels unsure at this moment whether he should tell them. They both lean forward in sincere eagerness and although Judoc tried to keep his face stoic; Marcus can see the interest that he has taken. He decides that he has nothing else better to do and obliges them in their request.

"Well...it would not have been possible if not for my friend Esca, to whom I owe my life, and Rome its Eagle standard." He watches them carefully as he says this, Judoc's face shows something unrecognisable for just a second before settling back into its blank formation.

He speaks quietly and politely although his eyes were fierce. "Was this man not your slave? So whether or not he came with you was not a choice, was it?"

Antonius looks shocked at his slaves black of propriety and his opens his mouth to scold Judoc but Marcus interrupts him smoothly. " You are correct, Judoc and the moment we crossed the Wall he could have killed me and escaped…But Esca is man of great honour and he kept his word to me…"

He begins to tell them of their adventure leaving out certain bits of information that were unnecessary, as he often did. Bringing back old memories such as when they had to huddle together under one blanket on nights that were particularly cold. He tries not to dwell on how he misses Esca laying beside him and continues until he reaches the moment in the river that is bright in his mind as if it is the day it had happened.

"I lay there and I knew I could go on no longer, all I was doing was holding Esca back. I would have got us both killed. I told him to take the Eagle and return without me. But he refused. He reminded me that he had sworn an oath of honour and he would only leave if I gave him his freedom." He pauses and looks at the pair of them who have slightly ruddy cheeks from the wine they have been drinking. They share an incredulous look at this part of the story, one that amuses him greatly.

"So I did, I returned his dagger to him and freed him. But as I tried to give him the Eagle he would not take it, instead he told me that he would return and then ran as fast as his legs would carry him." Marcus says smiling with pride and love for his dear friend.

Antonius speaks up for the first time in what seems forever. "How did you know he would not just run and leave you?" The question is also clear on Judoc's face but is left unspoken.

"I suppose I had no way of knowing for certain but I trusted Esca then as I do now. And when the sun rose the next day and I stood ready to die the Eagle in my hand, there was Esca…" He then continues to finish the tale quickly remembering with sadness the young Seal boy and Guern but also the happiness he had felt when he and Esca returned home.

Antonius and Judoc sit back in their seats looks of wonder on their faces "Surely, a grand adventure, young Marcus! Such friendship and honour! I should like to meet this Esca of yours!" He exclaims his face full of admiration and Marcus' stomach does strange flips at the way he had said 'Your Esca'. A possessive feeling shudders through his body at the thought.

He returns his smile and answers absently. "Oh, he is in the market somewhere I will be sure to introduce you both. But for the moment… there is something that I would like to ask you, Judoc?".

Antonius's slave looks up his eyes wary. "Your tattoos...are you Brigantes?" He questions curiously, he has never met any of Esca's tribe before. But to his disappointment Judoc shakes his head.

"No, but if I may be so bold what makes you ask?" Marcus motions to the tattoo on his arm. "It is very similar to Esca's. Does it have a special meaning?"

Judoc smiles slightly with what Marcus can distinguish as pride and perhaps a small touch of sadness.

"It is given to us when we become true warriors. It is a great honour…" He says carefully as if he does not want to give away too much of his lost culture, which Marcus understands nodding. "I can imagine. It is beautifully done." He compliments causing Judoc to smile even wider and bow his head.

"Thank you".

Marcus thinks about what it would be like if he got a tattoo, if he had been one of Esca's tribe, standing by his side. The Chieftain's son friend, brother and warrior. He is proud to be Roman that needn't be said. To have followed in his father's footsteps is a great honour. But part of Marcus wishes more than anything he could have been part of Esca's life before as he is now. He has such a desire to know Esca's life before he had entered Marcus'. His thoughts remind him that it has been some time since he has seen Esca. He decides it is time to go and look for Esca, who by now, he imagines will be wondering where Marcus has got to. However a familiar voice cuts in just as he is about to announce his departure.

"So this is where you are, Marcus" Esca's said in a voice that may appear to be steely and cold to anyone else. But to Marcus it hums with a relieved although annoyed tone. He sits down next to Marcus and looks between the two men quizzically before turning to look at him with an eyebrow raised, hinting at an introduction.

"Esca, this is Antonius Ursus Caius and his slave Judoc". He tells him motioning to the pair of them who are staring at Esca in awe and are making him feel very much like a prize bull on display. Uncomfortable and highly annoyed. Eager to escape.

Esca had came in just as Marcus was asking the Briton about his tattoo and had felt anger course through him. Marcus has never asked his tattoo before and for some reason that annoys him greatly. It makes him feel something he cannot quite explain. He looks at the two men in front of him. The older man has fine lines around his face and watery brown eyes. He appears to be very excited that Esca has joined them which is slightly unnerving. Whilst the slave who Marcus had introduced as Judoc largely ignores Esca and keeps flickering his eyes up towards Marcus.

Esca can see Judoc's interest in his friend but there is something more…he bites back an angry growl…want. Judoc wants Marcus. He resists the urge to roll his eyes as he looks at his friend. Marcus appears to be completely oblivious to Judoc's attempts to seduce him. It both angers and pleases him simultaneously. He wants to get Marcus as far away from here as possible. He looks away gripping the edge of his seat, his knuckles turning white and Marcus noticing the tension in him, places his hand on Esca's under the table giving him a searching look. Esca is painfully aware of the soft hand covering his own and feels too exposed. He removes his hand and shakes his head, Marcus looks at him for a moment and seems to understand that he does not wish to discuss it here and speaks to his other companions.

"Well I am afraid we must return now, it has been an honour to meet you both". He tells them and stands up, his bad leg shaking evidently. Esca can see the muscles in leg straining but Marcus keeps his face as calm as ever. Antonius shakes his hand apparently not noticing or at least has the courtesy to pretend that he hasn't.

"Pleasure to meet you my friend, I hope to see you again sometime in the future." He then also extends his hand to Esca. This surprises Esca, noting that this is more of a gesture than most Romans have ever shown him. He shakes the man's hand, keeping contact for as briefly as possible, and nods to the slave who does not try to hide his disappointment at Marcus' leaving.

Esca can feel his anger rising; he knows he is jealous. He hates the idea of any man or woman laying their hands on Marcus. He feels the need to possess Marcus, to make Judoc understand that Marcus is his. But that only causes him more pain because Marcus is not his. He has no right to make Judoc cease in his unspoken adoration towards Marcus.

However all of Esca's anger dissipates when he watches the strained steps that Marcus takes when they leave the inn, feeling only concern. Once they are out of sight in a nearby alley. Marcus leans against the wall panting and clutching at his bad leg. His face is twisted with pain.

"Gods!" he exclaims sliding a strained look to Esca, gritting his teeth in pain. He then looks away again clearly ashamed to be seen in such a vulnerable and weak state.

Esca tuts and merely takes his friend's arm pulling over it over his shoulder. He takes his weight with a grunt but manages easily enough to move. They make their way to their horses and Esca leans Marcus against the nearby fence. He does not speak a word and ties his horse to Marcus' ignoring the puzzled looks being shot in his direction. He then helps Marcus into the saddle and pulls himself up into the saddle in front of Marcus.

"Esca? I can ride by myself..." He says attempting to sound annoyed and uncomfortable at this arrangement between grunts of pain. But Esca shakes his head at his stubborn friend.

"Marcus, do not be foolish, now hold onto me, I wouldn't want you falling onto that bad leg of yours." He replies and Marcus nods reluctantly against Esca's back; clearly irritated at having to rely on him yet again.

He wraps his strong arms around Esca's waist, his chest is flush against Esca's back, the heat of which Esca can feel through the wool of his tunic, making his heart thump.

Esca urges the horses on and they ride back in almost complete silence, except from the painful gasping breaths that Marcus draws. Esca fights hard to keep his arousal at bay. He is too aware of the heat their bodies are generating at the physical contact between them. How Marcus's arms hug him tightly, tighter than he needs to and how he rests his slick forehead on the back of Esca's neck in an intimate gesture. His breath is hot down Esca's spine causing pleasant shivers to travel down his body, giving Esca hope that he may not be alone in his feelings after all.

Chapter Text

They got back after the sun had set and Esca had quickly helped Marcus into his room so he could get the weight of his leg, leaving the horses to the stable man. Marcus is lying on his bed, panting in pain, his face is shiny with sweat and he is muttering hushed curses in Latin. Not all of which Esca understands but some of them were rather colourful. He tries not to think of anything apart from the pain his friend is in. He ignores the sounds that he is making, so similar to those needy ones Esca had heard, now laced with a desperation that speaks of pain. He does not focus on the strong lines of his body that are being traced with delicate beads of sweat. He forces all those thoughts from his mind and moves his attention to the thigh in front of him that looks painfully tight.

He blows on his hands to warm them and slowly begins to massage Marcus' leg, moving his strong fingers in fluid motions across the smooth tanned skin of Marcus' thigh. He had often done this whenever Marcus's leg cramped severely in the past, as it is now but never before had he been so aware of his fingers on Marcus' leg. His leg has healed now for the most part and only cramped when he walked too far. He can still fight like any solider, better than any soldier for that matter. But to march again as a Roman solider is forever out of his reaches. Not that Esca can say he is sorry for that loss. He let his fingers find the largest knots and work them out in slow circles, causing Marcus to hiss, his teeth clenching at the uncomfortable pressure.

Marcus keeps his arm thrown over his eyes mostly because he doesn't want Esca to see his face, scrunched with pain and weak. However the other part of him, the larger part, is afraid of how he would react to see Esca looking at him whilst touching his so intimately. His leg feels like it is on fire, burning from the cramps tight in his leg but also from the heat that Esca's fingers are leaving behind as he moves his strong hands around on his thigh. Trailing ribbons of heat whenever he touches him.

Every fibre of his being wants Esca to move his hands further up his leg and touch what is aching for him. But he tries to focus on the pain, letting it numb his other senses, other desires. He moans slightly between parted lips when one of the knots with the most tension is released and he can feel his leg loosen. Esca freezes when that sound reverberates in his ears. That sound has travelled right down his back and hit him in his groin. He knows he shouldn't be feeling like this, but that sound... a husky vulnerable moan makes Esca shudder with suppressed arousal. He takes a few deep breaths to try and calm his heart, his eyes darting around the room desperate to find a distraction, all too aware of their body contact. Marcus notices that has Esca stopped and peers out from his arm, with a curious look on his face.

"Esca…?" he questions into the silence but he wishes in that very instant he hadn't. Esca looks up into his eyes. They bore into him with such intensity he can feel his cheeks flush and his breathing falter. Esca hangs his head down and speaks quietly. But his voice has a threatening, low edge that makes his stomach tremble in a sickening way.

"Why have you never asked about my tattoos?" Esca asks keeping his head down, his focus on massaging the leg once again. Marcus is surprised by this and fails to hide it on his face. If he is honest with himself he had thought about them many times. But he has always felt it was too intimate to ask, like he would be crossing a boundary that lies between and one he had no right to. Esca is not a fan of disclosing his life in great detail or anything for that matter. Marcus was always afraid of being rejected for asking too much about Esca's life before he was a slave. Afraid that somehow it might hurt Esca to remember. He furrows his brows and wipes his forehead of the newly formed sweat caused by the tension that is now palpable in the air.

"I suppose I was afraid that it would be asking too much of you…I had no right to ask you. " Marcus replies softly, wanting to be honest, daring to look up once again to meet Esca's stormy blue eyes. Esca cocks his head slightly as if he is taking in what Marcus had said carefully, his eyes never leaving Marcus. He licks his dry lips and nods slowly. Esca has to admit that perhaps if Marcus had asked him, he would have rejected his request. The idea of opening himself up so completely to Marcus is a frightening concept and yet when he heard Marcus ask Judoc he had felt nothing but a jealous fury. He looks at Marcus who ss watching him warily from the bed. He can tell from his face he is concerned about what Esca is about say. His eyes in the candlelight look unbelievably dark like they can see right into his soul. The silence is tangible and for once Esca feels like breaking it.

"They represent my honour as a warrior of Brigantes Tribe. I got this one when I first became a warrior and the others represent my family. A proud son of Cunoval, my mother and sibling to my two brothers. Our unbreakable bonds." he says quietly, his throat tightening around a lump while he talks about his family and fingers idly touching his arm. He had loved them so much and still does. He misses them; they are a hole inside his heart. One that ironically Marcus is beginning to fill. Rome has taken everything from him. It had left him so alone; hating the life he had been given. He had been ready to die in the arena. And yet here he is sharing the deepest parts of himself with none other than a Roman. The Roman who had saved him. He wonders what his family would have thought. He imagines his father's stern face and wonders what he would have said. Marcus sits up at this point, breaking his thought process and tentatively lifts the sleeve of Esca's tunic to look at the closet tattoo. He shuffles closer so his legs are hanging of the bed and his body turned so he is facing Esca. He continues to watch Marcus carefully, guarded, suppressing a shiver as Marcus's fingers brush the blue skin on his bicep.

"It represents everything that's important to you, isn't it?" he whispers, covering his tattoo with his long olive fingers. Esca can only nod, the words refuse to escape his throat. "I'm sorry, I never asked, I…" he trails off wishing somehow to heal the wounds that are still open within his friend. Esca nods again, knowing Marcus has nothing to be sorry for. He wants to tell him that it wasn't everything, once it was but now...Now Marcus is the centre of his life. That the most important thing in his life is sat in front of him, touching his arm but feeling so far away.

Marcus feels an unexpected pain ripple through him as he watches Esca. For all that Esca has lost and for the pain he has suffered at the hands of Rome. In that instance he feels sick that he had, had any pride as a Roman. He studies his face, his eyes trailing over every angle and imperfection. His cheeks are flushed in contrast to the pale skin of his face. His lips arre pressed together in a thin, pink line, which he often did when he was trying to conceal that he was upset. Marcus not quite knowing why raises his hand to his face and gently rubs his thumb across Esca's cheek. Esca leans into Marcus' warm hand and slowly raised his hand to Marcus' face, to mimic the movement. As if by doing it, they can take away all the pain they both felt.

He can see the pain in Marcus's face; he is clearly upset for him. He gave him a small smile. Typical Marcus, he thinks, always so caring when it came to him. And yet as a warrior he could be more brutal and cold than he ever would be capable of. But never to Esca. He moves forward and leans his forehead against Marcus'. He lets his hand run down his smooth tanned neck. He can feel his pulse quicken under his fingers and his breath come quick and faltering. He knows...he can feel it. He knows that if Marcus lent forward and kissed him, that he would let him. Gods, he would let him. And he would kiss him back. He licks his lips thinking about what it would feel like. To have Marcus' lips press against his in the softest of kisses, quickly turning into something fevered and powerful. He can feel his own breath shorten and skin tingle with warmth.

Marcus inches his head closer and their breaths mingle. Esca wishes he had the courage to close the gap. To seal everything he feels towards Marcus between their lips, in some unbroken promise. But the screams of his family burn a bitter memory in his mind. He had already betrayed his people, forever, by helping Marcus honouring his debt. A Roman he cares for deeply and who he considered a friend. But to love him? A Roman? Esca, the last son of the slain chief of the Brigantes, Cunoval. He cannot let it go any further. He knows he loves Marcus but to love him, after everything his tribe fought for, his family died for. The last survivor of the Brigantes to live with a Roman, as a Roman and to love a Roman. It claws at the seams of his soul, he wants to but that bitter part of him full of hate and anger holds him in cold, resentful chains. He cannot do it.

With a quivering breath he pulls back and speaks gently. "You feel feverish, I'll get a cool cloth". Ignoring Marcus' evidently disappointed face; he gets up and makes his way to the basin in the corner of the room. He dips the cloth in, wrings it wordlessly, and returns to Marcus. He wipes his brow gently focusing on the task rather than the regret he feels or the torn look on his companion's face. He gets up to leave but is stopped by a strong hand that grabs tightly at his wrist. "Thank you, Esca" Marcus tells, giving him a tight smile and a small squeeze of his warm palm. He turns on his side as if he wishes to sleep. Esca nods and leaves the room, regret burrowing deep in both their stomachs.

The following days Esca avoids Marcus like he is diseased, using excuses like leaving to tend to the horses. Marcus does not know what to do. He had felt it last night, the lust that Esca felt as he had. The way their breathing had increased and their skin heated under their fingertips. But he had pulled away; the agony that Marcus felt in that instance was indescribable. The tantalising sensation of being so close to all his desires and yet now further away than ever before. He can feel it in his bones. Esca is avoiding him because he does not want to be with him the same way that Marcus does. Was he going to leave? The idea of separation to Marcus is something so unreal. But he knows however he feels, that if it is what Esca wants, he would not stop him. He has no right to. But he wants something to show how important Esca is to him.

The thought had been going round in his mind for some days now. He wants to show how he feels inside. He does not regret his past. He had been an honourable solider for Rome. But part of him, feels what Esca does. He himself does not understand why Rome still continued to expand and exterminate. All those needless deaths and many forced into slavery. He killed only to survive and he knew Esca had every right to hate Rome and to hate that part of Marcus. When Esca had pulled away from him, in that second he had hated that he was a Roman. That he had not been born as a Briton. He wants a way to prove that Esca is now a part of him. He wants to have something so that even if Esca left, Marcus would always have something to hold onto and have Esca's mark on his soul.

He takes his horse and leaves for the market early in the morning, grateful for once that Esca still is avoiding him so he can escape without notice. He feels exhausted after a long night's thinking and no sleep; his mind is now made. He makes his way to the same inn where he had met Antonius and Judoc. He goes inside, glad to be out of the freezing bite of the wind and let his eyes scan the room for a shock of red hair and a black tattoo. He finds them stood at the counter, Antonius appearing to argue with the innkeeper, and thanked the Gods that he had found them with little trouble. Marcus moves quickly, with purpose towards them and greets them. Judoc looks up in surprise and Antonius grins widely, clapping his arm against Marcus'.

"Marcus!" he exclaims happily. "How great it is to see you again, my friend." Marcus returns the smile and replied "And you my friend."

"Come, join me" he says patting a stool next to him but Marcus shakes his head. "I thank you, but I won't be able to stay. May I borrow Judoc for a moment? I have something of great importance that I need ask him." He asks politely. Judoc eyes widen for a moment and shifts his eyes away to the floor as if he is embarrassed. Antonius looks a bit surprised for a second but then laughs heartily.

"Why, of course. Just be sure to bring him back!" he answers and returns to his heated conversation with the innkeeper. Marcus thanks him and walks outside the inn with Judoc following him closely behind. Marcus clears his throat slightly and can feel himself blush. He wraps his cloak around him tighter and struggles to think of a way to phrase his request.

"Judoc I have a favour that I would ask of you, but you must swear that you will not tell anyone. Will you keep your word to me?" Judoc looks up at Marcus in confusion but nods slowly "Yes, of course".

Chapter Text

"Thank you. My favour is that I wish…" he stumbles over his words, he growls inwardly to himself, come on Marcus, you are not a girl, just say it!

"…I wish to know what the Briton custom is when…someone wishes to devote themselves to someone they love" he asks, feeling the heat rising from his neck to his cheeks. Judoc looks surprised at Marcus request but then smiles knowingly, his lips curving into a sly half-moon.

"Well as I'm sure you are aware when Britons marry, our hands are tied together in a knot representing the eternity of the love we share and we call this Hand fasting. In some tribes male warriors will also get the names of their loved ones etched onto their skin. This custom does vary from tribe to tribe, my tribe does not share the tradition of this particular custom but in tribes such as the Brigantes they wear such tattoos with pride and honour." He is hoping that this hint will let Marcus know that he knows that this is for Esca but he appears to be too deep in his thoughts to notice.

Marcus smiles thinking of how Esca always proudly displays the tattoos of his tribe. Idea's are flying into his head and some doubts also. He knows he is possibly being the biggest romantic, most pathetic fool that will ever live. But he needs this. He needs to impress Esca onto skin forever, a reminder of all that they have shared and in memory of what he will lose when Esca finally leaves him. He can feel his throat lump at that particular thought; he clears his throat, keenly aware of Judoc's intense observation.

"I want to get such a tattoo. Do you know of anyone who could…" he can feel his resolve falter, if he told Judoc that he wishes for someone who could replicate the Brigantes customs of tattoo, he knows Judoc would know immediately. He bites his lip, his eyes moving left and right with worry thinking of how to phrase it without giving himself away. Unfortunately for Marcus, Judoc is extremely sharp and within roughly 5 seconds of the conversation he had known that this is for Esca. He is no fool. He recognised the way Marcus looked at Esca, like a man who was dying of thirst stares at a cup of water that is just out of reach. He prays for the day that such want and love is directed at him.

But he wonders whether Marcus could see the possessive looks Esca gave him, can Marcus see that Esca returned his feelings? Judging from what Judoc has learned of Marcus he doubted it. He appears to be highly oblivious to such feelings, especially, when they are directed towards himself. Judoc should know after all, he had been sending Marcus some of his "looks" which to his dismay went completely unnoticed by Marcus although unfortunately not by Esca. So Esca had decided to return one of Judoc's "I want you" looks with his very own and very frightening "If you try it I'll rip off your dick and feed it to you" look. It had been...unnerving to say the least. His reputation as a fierce warrior apparently well-earned. Judoc sighs inwardly, looking up at the handsome, tall Roman that stands before him. He is wringing his hands and biting his lip, in a way that would have been very distracting if Judoc knew he had any chance, which he doesn't. He decides to put Marcus out of his misery by finishing his sentence for him.

"Someone who can give you a Brigantes tattoo. Am I correct?" Marcus flinches as if he had been whipped and gawks at him, his mouth hanging limply open and his cheeks burning. Had he been so obvious? He clamps his mouth shut into a tight line and rubbing the back of his neck in thought.

"Yes you were." Judoc laughs gently, understanding Marcus' body language. This earns him a highly confused and suspicious look from Marcus. Perhaps he is a man of magic...

"Now do not fret your secret is safe with me and safe from Esca" he says smirking at the blush at the mention of Esca that, if it is possible, appears to be glowing from his face like the embers of fire.

"I do know of someone. His name is Drust; he is from the Carvetii tribe, which was one of the smaller tribes under rule of the Brigantes before ..." Marcus mentally finishes the next part of that sentence, before Rome came and brutally murdered them. Judoc however, perhaps for the benefit of Marcus, continues as if nothing has bothered him.

"He is a blacksmith and a very skilled tattoo artist in his tribe and has been my friend for many years. He may be able to help you, although how pleased he will be that a Roman wishes for a Brigantes tattoo is something not even I can predict".

Marcus cannot still quite recover his shock that Judoc could see his feelings for Esca. But his stomach is doing funny jumps at the thought that even if he cannot tell Esca his feelings, this is a way he could keep Esca close to him always. A silent declaration of his affection. To make his feelings tangible and although they would remain unspoken; would not fade even if the ink did. He already knows what he wants. He was eager to finish what he had set out to do before doubts could begin to settle in his mind.

"Where can I find him?" Judoc smiles at Marcus' conviction and at how much Marcus must care for Esca. He ignores the sharp tang of jealously that floods his tongue and focuses on Marcus' blinding smile.

"After some years servitude his was released from his slavery and now runs his own blacksmith and does the occasional tattoo on the side although not for a light price. Tell him that I sent you." Marcus smiles happily and nods, clasping Judoc's shoulder with his hand.

"Thank you my friend, could you show me?" Judoc places his hand on top of Marcus's in a friendly gesture, squeezing slightly hoping to reassure Marcus. He smiles at the excitement that is clearly seeping through in Marcus's voice.

"Of course, follow me" He tells him and leads Marcus through the market.

Esca releases his breath in a sharp, angry snarl as he watches Marcus and Judoc walk off together through the market. He leans against a wall, arms folded to stop himself from hitting something, ignoring the odd looks he is receiving from passersby.

Despite the fact he has been avoiding Marcus he has always made sure to be aware of where he was. He knows it is unfair to Marcus to ignore him, it is not his fault. But he did not know any other way. He needs to get his feelings in order; he cannot give the love Marcus deserves whilst a part of him, a large part, still hates everything that Marcus stood for. He knows Marcus feels something for him although now he is unsure of how deep his affections went. He hates the uncertainty that creates within him.

This morning when he heard Marcus leave earlier than usual, it had caught his attention and he had decided to follow him. Marcus, of course, had no idea he was being followed. As skilled as he was as warrior, he did not always see what Esca did which in this case turned out to be an advantage. He had kept close enough to see them but could not hear their conversation.

But he had seen the way Marcus had blushed deeply, biting at his full bottom lip in that infuriatingly sexy way and had wrung his hands as if he was nervous to be in Judoc's presence. His thoughts had travelled back to that night. The way Marcus had looked at him, the way his hands had trembled and were hot at the base of Esca's neck. His breathing had been shallow and he had tilted his head, still pressed to Esca's forehead, ever so softly to the side with lips that were parted and wet with perspiration. Esca leans his head back against the wall, he is such a fool, he knows what he wants. Why could he have not kissed him there and then?

But then a sickening thought enters his mind. Perhaps all those actions were misunderstood. Perhaps Marcus likes Judoc and Esca reminded Marcus of him. The thought leaves a bitter taste in his mouth; images are now running through his head fuelling the raging fire in his stomach.

Marcus and Judoc are kissing, hands running all over each other falling onto a bed, clothes strewn everywhere, their naked bodies pressing together...although now it is Esca who was kissing Marcus. Biting at his neck, his hands moving down to stroke Marcus roughly, who is surging with pleasure beneath him. Marcus grips him as well and both are bucking and jutting their hips against each other desperate for more closeness; more friction, more of each other.

He shakes his head fiercely before his thoughts got too out of hand and exhales forcefully though his nose. He debates whether or not he should follow them. He thinks of Marcus' happy smile directed at Judoc, happier than he had seen him recently, especially when he had been around Esca. He grits his teeth, feeling physical pain at the thought of what Judoc and Marcus could be doing together as he stands there. Dejected he returns to his horse and rides as hard as he can back home.

If Marcus wants to be with Judoc then it is none of his business he rationalises, desperate to ignore the fact that as he thinks this, every fibre of his being wants to turn around, find them and beat Judoc within an inch of his life. Then after dragging Marcus home, show every desire and emotion he holds for Marcus until they can both no longer move. He is unsure of what he will do when Marcus comes home but Esca hopes that his jealous rage will cool down before that, although he highly doubts it.

Marcus stands outside Drust's house, with a steely determination in his mind that he will not leave until he gets what he wants, no…needs. He knows it is only a matter time before Esca leavest. He needs this. He lifts his hand up to the beaten wooden door, hesitating a little before knocking soundly, trying to keep himself calm as he waits. The door swings open violently causing Marcus to step back slightly and a man with deep black hair that is streaked with grey and has piercing blue eyes which bear down on Marcus stand in front of him.

Marcus has to admit he had not expected to be looking up at the man. Although he knows they are many Briton's who were just as tall as Marcus there were seldom few who he really had to make an effort to look up to make eye contact. Drust, however is staring at him, with an expectant expression and Marcus realises that whilst he had been thinking this, he had not actually said anything to the giant who is now inspecting him with a steely gaze.

"My name is Marcus Flavius Aquila, I was told by my friend Judoc that you were the man to see about getting a tattoo?" he asks letting out a tense breath he had been holding while he had been speaking. Drust raises an eyebrow at the mention of Judoc's name but does not show any other sign of acknowledgement to Marcus.

He grunts and moves aside, holding the door open for Marcus to come in. Marcus nods to him in thanks and steps inside, careful not to step on Drust's huge feet as he goes down the narrow corridor that continues into a large room. The room is decorated with many finely made weapons which hang from the walls illuminated by a huge fire that bellows in a stone fireplace. He looks back at Drust who quickly moves past him and sits at the table. He stares at him for a few more moments before speaking in an accent that is almost identical to Esca's although much gruffer.

"And what would a Roman…" he looks at the way Marcus holds himself pointedly before speaking again "solider no less, want with a tattoo?"

Marcus stills slightly when he had said solider, but resists the urge to correct him that he is no longer one. He smiles slightly instead, Drust is direct, a trait that is common in many Britons and one that he admires, especially in Esca. He tries to think of a way of tactfully saying "I want a tattoo because I'm in love with my male ex-slave and best friend and I want it so I have something to treasure of him when he leaves me"…unfortunately nothing of any use comes to Marcus so he settles for a hazy honesty.

"There is someone that I'm in love…but they are a Briton, I do not hold any hopes that they feel the same" He says smiling sadly "I am a Roman, my people took away everything they love. Despite this, they are the greatest friend anyone could ever want. I cannot hope for anything more than that. However I still wish to honour my feelings for them, as is custom their tribe, The Brigantes, with a tattoo" he finishes softness in his voice but also with an iron will that tells Drust that he will be giving Marcus what he wants.

Marcus hates pouring out his emotions, to a stranger no less, but he can tell that Drust would not have accepted anything less than the truth. Marcus stands before him staying as still and as calm as he can, the only movement is the muscle of his jaw clenching. Desperate not to shame himself with any more displays of emotion. Marcus feels as if all his emotions are flickering like an ember under his skin, hot and unyielding. After a moment of silence Drust finally leans back in his chair and shakes his head slightly, his faced upturned into a bemused grin.

"A Roman, going against everything he knows and is, following a Brigantes custom because of his love for a Briton. I do believe this is the most interesting thing I have heard for some time. I will give what you want Marcus… for I have the strangest feeling that you will not leave until you do." He smilies, shaking his head again and stands up to lead Marcus to the room where he works. Marcus smiles broadly, thinking of how correct Drust was in his assumption.

"Thank you for your understanding" he replies and began to fish out his pouch of denarii to pay Drust for his services. But Drust holds up his hand, gesturing for Marcus to stop.

"If I took that from you, a man with such a pure intention, Judoc would make me feel far too guilty, just tell him he owes me a favour" he grins wryly and gestures for Marcus to enter his workroom.

Drust sits at his desk and draws him some beautiful designs that Brigantes warriors often had inked onto their skin. After looking at them, Marcus knew immediately which one he wanted. He picks a particular design that to him represents perfectly how he feels and adjusts the design so it is unique to him. He is glad when Drust tactfully ignores the fact that the name Marcus had given him, Esca, is a male's name and quietly prepares the ink. Marcus lays back on the bed, feeling after the initial excitement, how nervous he really is.

"Alright, I'm sure I don't need to tell you that this will hurt?" Drust asks smirking. Marcus returns his smirk "I can handle it, I assure you". His mind flickering back to when the surgeon had removed the pieces of metal from his leg all that time ago, Esca's face hovering inches from his. He relaxes, as Drust nods and begins his work. Ignoring the sharp pain in his chest, he lets his thoughts travel back to Esca and wonders if he is missing Marcus' as much as Marcus is missing him.

Chapter Text

Marcus sits up as Drust finishes and looks down at his chest. What he sees is so perfect, it is so beautiful. To see Esca's name there, imprinted in his skin. The feelings that coarse through him while he stares at Esca's name over his heart, causes a dull ache in his chest. He is filled with joy and dread. Esca's true name is there, a symbol of how much he means to Marcus yet it also of symbol him of all things he must not hope for. Should not dare to dream of. Drust gently rubs some ointment over the sore skin, giving him an apologetic look as Marcus hisses slightly through his teeth and wrapping his chest in a bandage. Drust then gives him a broad grin, displaying an unexpected fine set of white teeth and gives him the ointment.

"Apply this once every day and be sure to change your bandages regularly. Believe me when I say you do not what to get it infected." He tells him with a exaggeratedly stern voice and then ads somewhat ominously, with a twinkle in his eye.

"Good luck".

Marcus raises an eyebrow at him but nods regardless, his manners taking over.

"Of course, thank you."

He climbs down and holds out his hand to Drust, who accepts it warmly. He feels like a weight has been lifted off his heart. He knows he will have to confront Esca as to why he has been avoiding him although he feels like he already knows the answer. But perhaps now he has the strength to accept whatever may happen. He tugs his tunic over his head, being careful of his chest and leaves Drust's house. As he rides home, he tries not to touch his chest, although every time he does a small smile creeps onto his face as he thinks of the beautiful design that lies underneath his tunic. It is sore and he has a strong urge to itch at it but he has never been happier.

Esca sits on Marcus' bed, his face as blank as a sculpture masking his anger and his insecurity at today's earlier events. He tries to control his breath so it is steadier, pressing his palms into his eyes and chiding himself for his rash thoughts. Anger has always been easy to succumb to for him. He knows he is being irrational. He knows Marcus like no one else. He knows Marcus has more self-respect than to run off from a market in the middle of the day to sleep with a man that he had just met. In all the time he has known Marcus he has never known him to take a lover...male or female.

He knows there will be some other reasonable explanation. But the looks Judoc had sent Marcus and the mere image of them in his mind. The thoughts drive him beyond madness, beyond anything he has felt before. It has set off a possessive fire in Esca; he knows that if a time came where Marcus did wish to be with anyone. To love anyone, he does not know if he could take second place. Standing by and watching, seeing someone else have what he wants more than anything.

It tastes like burning, a hot, bitter ash that refuses to leave his mouth no matter what he eats or drinks. He wants Marcus. All of him. Rome be damned for all he cares. Marcus cannot help who he is or where he was born any more than Esca can. He wishes so much that he hadn't been so foolish. He had denied himself a true happiness because of…what? Pride? Love and honour for his family? No matter how much he loves them or how much he hates Rome, neither would bring him joy. That can only be found by Marcus' side. Of that he is sure.

His mind is resolved, he will tell Marcus how he feels and hopes that Marcus will return his feelings. He knows being just his friend, his brother, is no longer an option. He cannot be as selfless as that. To watch while Marcus loved another, being happy that he was just by his side…he could not. He will not.

He starts when he hears the door open and watches Marcus enter, who is unable to mask the surprise on his face that Esca is there waiting for him...sitting on his bed.

He has to admit he has had many fantasies that started with an uncanny similarity to this one. But the dull ache in his chest reminds him he is awake and that this is the real Esca looking at him. His eye's are heavy with an unreadable intent. Esca stares carefully at his friend for any clues, any signs that will tell him what he has been doing. Marcus looks flushed, his eyes seem slightly red around the rims and are darting around the floor as if to avoid Esca. His hand keeps absent-mindedly going to his chest, rubbing gently as if he has a bruise there and is trying to soothe the pain.

"I have not seen you for a few days where…" Marcus trails off, keeping his eyes to the floor. He closes the door and leans against the wall opposite to Esca. Esca can see, practically feel, how tense Marcus is, his neck, his shoulders, his jaw all looked tight and defensive as he waited for Esca to answer. His long neck is tilted back, the column of his throat looks smooth and temptingly vulnerable, distracting him for a moment until he feels guilt bubble in the pit of his stomach. It overshadows any happiness he experiences that his absence had such an effect on Marcus.

"I am sorry, I have been working on something…" He answers, realising how pathetic an excuse that sounds, even to him. Marcus looks at Esca, his eyes reflecting the emotions that are fluttering across his face moving from questioning, to disbelieving and then they finally scrunched up slightly as if he is trying to hide his hurt at Esca's obvious lie. He hates feeling this awkward around Esca and that Esca feels the need to lie to him hurts. The tattoo seems to burn even more hotly, now that he is stood opposite the man he has it done for. His hand gathers his tunic unconsciously in his hand as if to protect the tattoo from Esca's eyes that always see through him.

"Where did you go? You have been away almost all day." Esca asks trying to keep his voice casual although he can feel the undercurrent of hurt and anger that he cannot stop seep into his voice. Marcus eyes dart around the room, as if determined not to let them rest on Esca, trying to ignore the pain in Esca's voice. He cannot tell Esca where he really was but he doesn't really want to lie to him either…

He coughs nervously under Esca's intense observation.

"I was at the market" He answers, knowing it's vague. Esca's earlier rage begins to make an appearance. Why is he darting around the subject? But he keeps his eyes on Marcus and decides to give him another opportunity.

"Really, for that long? What did you do? You meet with anyone? ". Marcus feels a slight ripple of fear and anger course through him. Esca is the one who has been avoiding him. Not the other way around! What right did he have to ask him what he has been doing? He cannot understand his motivations. He know that Esca is angry, more than angry, it is the kind of rage he had seen when the Seal Prince had killed the young boy. It keeps flickering across his face and his voice is sharp and cold like the edge of a blade.

"No…I was just looking around. It was nice to be outside and I suppose I just lost track of time…" Marcus can feel his cheeks heat up as Esca levels him with a single look and an icy word that stings Marcus like a slap across his cheek.

"Liar."

Marcus tries to stay calm and stare Esca down with an indignant and seriously livid expression. But Esca's stare bores into him, the look on his face is practically predatory and Marcus can feel his face twitch with an obvious nervousness that so often occurs when he lies.

Esca leaps off the bed and pins him with a powerful arm pressing into Marcus' jugular and his face inches from his own. His eyes are stormy and shining; the blue of his iris' looking more vibrant and evocative than Marcus has ever seen them.

"I saw you… do no lie to me. I saw you in the market with…Judoc. You say we are friends…equals and yet you stand there. You lie right to my face" he spits, his face contorts with rage, his body trembling with it. Marcus is about to shout back when a thought springs into his mind. How did Esca know?

He grits his teeth, his voice course and incensed.

"Do not talk to me about lying and of friendship! Because we both know you have been avoiding me. And we both know you are lying. Did you…did you follow me?". His voice wavers and he hates himself for letting his emotions get the better of him. He can feel the pain in his chest sear where Esca is pressing the line of his arm into his tattoo. His head throbs from sheer rage and struggles with the urge to tackle his friend to the floor.

Esca loosens his grip on Marcus at his words, his flickering his eyes away for a second with what seems like shame, his lips pressed into a thin line and that is all he needs to grab Esca's tunic and shove him into the wall opposite them.

"Why? You have spent so much effort in avoiding me? Why would you follow me?".

He demands, almost yelling into Esca's face; his breath quivering and his dark brown eyes that has specks of green and gold in them watering uncontrollably. He waits for an answer but Esca just stares into his face, like he is lost, not just for words, just lost. Marcus can feel his stomach sink in that sickening way as he knows why Esca looks like that.

"I know…I know what you want."

This causes Esca to jolt as if those words snap him back to this reality. Did he? Esca wonders…does Marcus understand why he followed him? Why he is angry? Why he has avoided him and most of all what he wants? He searches Marcus' face for answers but he gives nothing away. Just pain written across his handsome features. Pain he tries not to shame himself with by exposing it. He begins to speak again, softly, his brow furrowed in that serious way of his.

"I know you care for me but I also understand that you hate me...how can you not? I am Roman and I accept that. But what I cannot accept is that you would hide instead of just tell me the truth…I will not stop you. If you wish to leave…if it is what you want…I cannot imagine what it must be like for you to live in this place with me...so often reminded of what you have lost". He breaks off with a sad smile that consists of tight, false lines as if he is trying to reassure himself that everything will be alright.

He loses all the anger in his voice and lets go of Esca, standing in front of him. Raw. Exposed. Wounded. He is looking at the ceiling as if that will force the tears in his eyes to go back into his body, his hands are clenching by his sides; trembling slightly. Esca can feel his own eyes water. This is what he has led Marcus to believe? Marcus who has always treated him kindly and as an equal; he believes that Esca hates him and wants to leave him. He blinks slowly, everything falling into place. All of Marcus' actions, looks...all except where he had gone today.

Esca reaches his hand up little by little, treating Marcus as he would a frightened colt, and gently places his fingers at his neck, his fingers brushing the short hair softly. He can feel Marcus tremble and shake his head, looking down as if he refused to believe in his touch although he presses his neck into Esca's hand.

They both moved forward at the same time, Marcus imitating Esca's hand and leaning his head against Esca's just as he had done that night. He can feel fear in his muscles. What if he is right? Was Esca saying goodbye? Will he pull away again? Esca looks up into Marcus' eyes and fixes him with a look that is anything but innocent and without meaning. It is dark, filled with want and need. He pulls Marcus closer so that he can taste his breath, sweet like honey on his tongue and utters a whisper that he hopes will quell all of Marcus' fears and pain.

"You, Marcus, are a fool". He puffs out with a gravelly voice and a small smile playing on his lips. Marcus replies by releasing a stuttering breath he has been holding and gently pushes his head against Esca's. His strong, thick fingers which tightening slightly at the base of Esca's neck.

"I could never leave you". He whispers, his voice is deep, harsh and stony as if trying to scare the thought right out of Marcus' head. Heat blazes from his fingertips onto Marcus' neck and without another word Esca places his other hand on his cheek, pulls him down, closing the last few inches between them and presses his lips softly against Marcus'. They are softer and fuller than he could have ever imagined. He moves his lips in slow and cautious movements, Marcus replying with similar soft kisses. The kind of kiss that only happens when two people cross that line for the first time. That perfect yet terrifying moment. Everything feels warm and so perfect.

Marcus cannot believe what is happening. He has dreamed of it so many times. But the reality of the kiss is so much more than anything his imagination could have created. He is drowning in desire; sending wave after wave of liquid pleasure straight to his groin. He pushes his mouth more firmly against Esca's and turns his head to deepen the kiss.

Esca sucks gently on his bottom lip, biting just shy of painful until Marcus responds by pressing the length of his body against Esca's. Marcus' hands are griping his hips and he slides his tongue, hot and slick against Esca's swallowing the hoarse gasps that come from his throat and responding with his own muffled moans.

It becomes much more frantic now. They are both hard and aching, grinding against each other, desperate for as much friction as they can get. Unable to wait any longer, Esca moves first, tugging at Marcus' tunic until he gets the hint and lifts his thick arms above his head; his eyes never leaving Esca's. He lifts the tunic until just the bottom of bandage peeks out before Marcus realises with a gasp what he was about to reveal and wrenches his tunic back down. He takes a step back; his cock painfully hard, mirroring Esca's which is having difficulty staying inside his breeches. It is large and as hard as stone and Marcus wants nothing more than to press himself back against it and feel that pleasurable ache course through him. Esca eyes him suspiciously for a moment before stepping back into Marcus' space, tilting his chin up and squaring his shoulders in that quiet, defiant way of Esca's. He asks him in a voice that demands nothing less than total honesty.

"Are you hurt? Marcus, what happened today? Did…did Judoc do that to you?". He pushes, knowing he is unreasonable and that it most likely wasn't Judoc. But he also knows Marcus is keeping something from him. And by his face, he knows it is important. Marcus replies by shaking his head and covering his chest with a flat palm pressed against it, his breaths coming quick and deep. His posture defensive and yet somehow reverent.

"No…". He says his voice barely audible over their strained breaths. Esca's face is blank. Pinched and indecipherable, only the barest of emotions showing in his expression. Despite what has occurred between them, Marcus is still frightened of Esca knowing. It is a path that neither can go back down. Their kiss could be shrugged off as a friendly experimentation or confusion but if Esca sees the tattoo he will understand how deeply Marcus feels for him. How much he needs him, so much so that he had to mark his name into his skin to keep with him always. Did he have any right to bind Esca to him like that? Or worse, if Esca rejected him, if he could not return his feelings or was disgusted with Marcus for following the traditions of his tribe whilst he is a Roman. Marcus does not know what he would do. He is desperate to escape and yet he hopes...He cannot move from beneath Esca's eyes, he is hopeful that despite his fears, despite what he thinks will happen, he prays to the gods that he is wrong.

"No? Show me." He commands, the tone of his voice leaving no room for argument but when Marcus does not move. Esca quickly grabs the cuff of his tunic, manoeuvring backwards and pushes him backwards with such force, that Marcus falls onto the bed unable to stop himself. If Marcus did not want to show him then Esca will just have to look for himself. He stands over Marcus, his lips upturned into that playful smirk he only gets when he is triumphant, an expression often seen after their sparring matches. Just as Marcus with a low curse is about to get up again, he climbs on top of Marcus so that one leg is pressed into the bed either side of Marcus' body.

He can feel Marcus' hard length pressing into the inside of his thigh, the heat from it distracts him momentarily until he focuses on Marcus whose face seems to be torn between fear and absolute want. He grabs the front of his tunic with both hands and Marcus panics, moving to stop him. But Esca grabs both his wrists and tugs them down placing under them his knees so that Marcus is pinned to the bed.

His eyes flash with surprise before darkening, pressing himself slightly into Esca's thigh. He knows Marcus is used to being in control, being in command, but then so is Esca and the fact that Esca is the one who has him pinned down; excites him. Esca wastes no time tearing Marcus' tunic so that it is barely hanging on, on his right shoulder. Marcus is breathing heavily now, Esca can feel resistance in his strong arms where he has pinned him with his knees. Now just the bandage is exposed to Esca, he growls and pushes harder.

Marcus cannot think, reacting on pure instinct, he wants to throw Esca off but part of him is desperate to see how the tattoo will affect him. His chest is rising and falling quickly, tiny beads of sweat are trickling down his strong neck meeting with the bandage on his chest. Esca smooths his hand over the bandage and taking a knife from the inside of his boot. Slowly cuts through the bandage, he can feel Marcus panicking more now, his name coming out in a low growl, full of threat and warning.

"Esca.."

Marcus' jaw is tight, the muscles clenching tightly and he is stubbornly avoiding eye contact. His arms straining to be free. Esca can feel his own heartbeat thumping against his ribs as he pulls the bandage open, tossing the knife to the floor and looks at the black inky mark engraved on Marcus' chest. He cannot breathe. His mind is a mess. Time just seems to slow and halt as his brain struggles to register what he is staring at. It's a tattoo. Dark blue almost black ink embedded with red, sore edges into Marcus' smooth olive skin. He looks closer as if he cannot be certain at what he is looking at is real. It is an eternity knot of the Brigantes tribe... his tribe. It has two intricate paths coming towards each other, twining together and connecting into a name. His name.

Why doees Marcus have this? He can feel his eyes water, it is so very beautiful, it was as if one of his tribe had come back from the dead and had carved it themselves. It is just like the ones he had seen on the chests of warriors in his tribe, names of loved ones etched onto their skin. He feels like he needs to be certain although he is almost sure that Marcus knew the meaning of this when he got it.

"Why? Why do you have that? Do you know what this means?" He asks desperately, eyes wet from thoughts of home and something else, deep and memorising. The greatest one could offer in his tribe. Marcus can feel his throat close involuntarily at the intensity of Esca's voice he swallows heavily and opens his eyes to look at Esca. He is shaking, his lips pressed together trying not to give anything away.

He replies, trembling, crossing that last boundary that lay between them.

"When you saw me with Judoc. I was…I was asking him if he knew someone who could give me a Brigantes tattoo, he led me there and I got it done…" he replies his voice low, his eyes focusing on Esca's chest that is taking shallow, quick breaths.

"That does not answer my question. Why do you have this? Do you understand what it means in my tribe?". Esca asks, relentless and his voice practically a growl.

Marcus stares at Esca, his eyes unfathomably deep, the shine of liquid causing his brown eyes to practically glow and he slowly nods, unable to trust his voice.

Esca cannot shake the shock from his body that Marcus had done this, that he feels…

"Marcus, you in love with me?". He asks his blunt voice cutting through Marcus like a knife.

It makes him smile slightly, always so direct…but his uncertainty and fears taking hold. He looks into Esca's face, all of his former arousal forgotten. Marcus cannot bring himself to deny it, he wants to, with all his might. He wants defy Esca's looks and questions until the end but one thing he is not is a coward. He is not about to start being one now.

"Yes, forgive me…". He implores, hoping he could make Esca understand.

" I can't stop...I...". He shakes his head and when he speaks again, it's almost to himself rather than to Esca.

"So foolish… I didn't want to shame. To tell how my feelings towards you had changed, the thoughts I had been having...to dishonour you, to expect…when I am…". He breaks off unable to finish his sentence. But Esca finishea it mentally for him "Roman…".

He takes in what Marcus has said, digesting it slowly and then his face splits into one of the broadest smiles Marcus has ever seen. He laughs gently and shakes his head, causing Marcus' eyes to widen in confusion. He places a finger gently on the tattoo tracing the outline of the knots that weave throughout his name. He face furrowed with concentration.

"I hate Rome". He begins causing Marcus to flinch slightly and his face to tighten anxiously, his teeth biting into his bottom lip. Esca's voice comes out strong and calm as if he has never been certain of anything in his life until now.

"I also hate that you are a part of it, but more than anything…I hate…that I allowed that to stop me from having something that I have never wanted more in my life."

Marcus cannot believe he is referring to him.

"I thought that you and Judoc were…" Esca adds, causing a disbelieving chuckle to escape Marcus' throat.

"Yes, I know it was ridiculous, but the thought of you loving some else... not being with me…I thought I would go mad with rage". He finishes with a growl and presses his length against Marcus' as if to emphasise his point. Marcus barely has time to register what he means as Esca kisses him fiercely causing him to gasp into the heat of his mouth. He traces the outlined of Marcus' jaw with his lips biting at the muscle of his neck and shoulder sending pleasurable shivers to Marcus' cock. He moans and ruts up into Esca's hips, driving into his hardness.

He is desperate to touch him, pulling at his arms until Esca understands and moves so he is lying flush on top of Marcus, leaving his arms free. He runs them down Esca's back, sliding them under his tunic feeling the powerful muscles of Esca's back move under his large hands. He slides his hands further down under his breeches and grabs Esca's cheeks, relishing in the fluctuation between soft and hard of his muscles under his fingertips as Esca grinds his cock against his. He moans, raspy and uncontrollable. He can feel his face heat at the sounds he is making, although they didn't seem to bother Esca, if anything they seemed to excite him further.

Growling, utterly primal, he tugs at Marcus' hair so he can pull his head back and suck more firmly at his throat, leaving red, bruised marks from his jaw to his collarbone. He shivers as Marcus' fingers dig deeper into the flesh of his arse and kisses him, Marcus' mouth hot and slippery against his. He presses a hand against the bed and pushed himself up, breaking their contact, so he can look at Marcus. His lips are swollen and wet, open in a red O sucking in air in desperate, ragged breaths. His eyes are intense as he stares back at Esca. He lets his eyes trail down his wet, bruised throat down his chest to the tattoo. His name over Marcus' heart, the sight of which arouses him beyond anything he has ever known. His name there, an unspoken bond, a symbol of love which caused a possessive heat within his body.

A small smile tugs at the corners of Marcus' lips as Esca covers hungrily once again. Their tongues slide against each other and Esca removes his tunic with a quick tug so that their chest are pressed against one another, although he is careful not to put too much pressure on Marcus' tattoo, not that Marcus notices or cares. He put a hand between them and in a swift movement wrenches Marcus' breeches down, taking his and Marcus' cock in his hand; gripping them tightly. They both moan as Esca begins pumping their cocks against each other. Both of them shuddering with pleasure at the immense heat and hardness of their lengths pressed against one another.

They move their hips, gyrating with hurried and frantic bucks and Marcus' hand joined Esca's moving with his hand, enclosing them both fully. Increasing the intense feeling of heat and tightness around their hard members. Their kissing is now messy and their hands are squeezing tight and pumping fast, Marcus' thumb slicking their leaking juices over the heads of their cocks and with a few last urgent strokes they both come, hitting them in the spine and moaning each other's names. Esca falls limp onto Marcus, their stomachs and hands sticky with their release, breathing heavily and pressing soft, lingering kisses against each other's skin. Marcus gropes around for his torn tunic, wiping himself and Esca down before tossing it to the floor and they both climb into bed.

Still in his pleasurable haze Marcus murmurs softly into the back of Esca's neck. "So I take this to mean, that it pleases you?" He asks smiling and shuffling his arm around Esca's hip so he can pressed his body more fully against Esca, tucking himself around the smaller but no less powerful frame. Esca chuckles softly, sleep starting to take hold.

"I'm sure you may be already aware...Very much". He replies with a low rumble that vibrates through his chest into Marcus'. Then as if he remembers something important, he turns his head and kisses Marcus one last time, his eyes boring into his face.

"I love you". He tells him in a gentle voice surprising them both and Marcus would swear he can see a hint of pink tinge Esca's cheeks. They are unused to being so open with their emotions; they look at each other, studying each other with wonder and intensity. Marcus smiles, the corners of his eyes crinkling in the first truly happy smile Esca has seen for a long time. He places another kiss against Esca's lips and then without another word let a content sleep take them over.

Chapter Text

Marcus lay in bed after Esca had left him to attend to the horses in the stable, his mind buzzing with so many different thoughts and feelings they were hard to arrange. Since that night nothing much had changed between them, a few stolen kisses during the day and at night they lay in one of their beds kissing and stroking one another until they were satisfied. They would fall asleep pressed closely against each other. However they had never gone any further than this.

Neither Esca nor Marcus had been with another man before and although of course they were aware of how it was done. It was something that neither one wanted to rush into. Marcus felt he was more nervous than Esca. He could feel that power and dominating passion that Esca possessed in every kiss and touch. He put it into every action he did, particularly with Marcus.

He can recall the feel of Esca's eyes on him trailing over him as if they were hot fingers on his skin. He wants more than anything to feel Esca, to be inside him and to allow Esca the same privilege. Every time he thinks about what it would be like to give himself to Esca, simultaneous feelings course through him. It makes him feel excited and happy and yet there is a small part of him that is ever the Roman. Ever resilient. That reminds him that no free Roman man should submit, else he is considered weak and dishonourable. But to simply take Esca as if he is a … a slave and not allow him the rights of any free man. That would be the utmost insult and one he has no wish to ever inflict on Esca.

He rubs his face in exasperation, letting his fingers smooth out the worry lines of his face, wondering if Esca is feeling the same as him. Is he as nervous as Marcus? Did he also feel as if time would not go quick enough until that moment when they would become connected; more closely than either of them could have imagined. He groans loudly at his thoughts, he couldn't care less about Rome and its politics or what they considered shameful but there is that small part of his pride that refuses to submit. Whether it is the Roman within him feeling shame or fear of being so utterly vulnerable he is unsure but it exists all the same. He gets out of bed and walks out of the door out into the courtyard, looking up at the blue sky. It is a beautiful day in Briton, not a drop of rain in sight, the sun basking all of the country's inhabitants in it's warm glow.

He tilts his face up into the sunlight, letting its warmth soothe away his worry and feels the light work its way through his entire body. He sighs contentedly and mentally decides that instead of his usual silent brooding approach towards matters it may be better just to try and talk to Esca about it. Although he has no idea how he will broach such a subject. He opens his eyes slowly and looks towards the stables, feeling a thrilling shudder tingle down his spine when he sees Esca is watching him. He is just wearing his breeches due to the heat and his toned chest is gleaming where the sunlight is hitting it. He has a brush in one hand and the other is clenched into a tight fist. Despite the fact that they are lovers now Marcus honestly believes he will never be able to get used to those eyes. Beautiful stormy blue eyes which are able to transmit such raw and powerful emotions with a single glance. Eyes which are now fully focused on Marcus. He offers a small although somewhat nervous smile and goes back inside remembering that he also is only wearing his breeches. He goes back inside letting out the breathe he had been holding and goes to find his clothes.

Esca takes a few deep breathes and returns to brushing Marcus's horse; Aeton. Images of himself tackling Marcus to the ground and devouring him right there are now running wildly through his head. He is happy... Happier than he had ever thought were possible, to be by Marcus's side and yet he wants something that he is certain Marcus did not. He wanted to become one with him, to love him but he knows that the idea of submission to Marcus or any Roman man is one of great shame. He relishes in how he can kiss Marcus whenever he wants. That he can touch him, bringing him to the brink of ecstasy and when Marcus is unable to take anymore, push him over the edge knowing he is the reason. But he longs for something more. He knows that if Marcus wanted to take him he will let him. He cannot see how love could be dishonourable or how it made him any less of man. But he did not wish to be treated as if he was lesser man for it.

His thoughts travel back to when he had caught Marcus stepping outside into the sun. He had found that he was staring before he could stop himself. Marcus's powerful tanned body in the sun was so beautiful. The way he tilted his head up into the sun, eyes closed, long eyelashes, strong jaw but shapely, soft lips painted in sunlight. The way he looked when he caught Esca watching him. His chest moving up and down more rapidly with quickening breathing. His tattoo, which was now fully healed, seemed even more prominent in the light of the sun. His name etched into Marcus's skin reminding him of how Marcus feels for him and all the nights they had spent together since that night. The thoughts cause him to brush Aeton a little more forcefully than the stallion liked making him stomp his hooves angrily jolting Esca from his mind. He mutters an apology in Briton, trying to release the thoughts from his mind for the time. He would have to talk to Marcus tonight.

Marcus relaxes further into the bath after washing himself, the heat slowly loosening all of the tight aching muscles from his body after working all day. He watches the steam slowly rise as he waits for Esca. He smiles slightly as the smaller man appears in the room and removes his clothing without any sense of embarrassment and slide into the water next to Marcus.

"Hello". Marcus says, the corners of his mouth quirking up slightly. Esca returns his smile and shifted closer so that the sides of their bodies are flushed against each other causing Marcus to jump at the contact before pressing back slightly.

"Hello Marcus." Esca answers, his eyes glinting with amusement at Marcus before they harden slightly studying his face and then travel down to the water. He grabs a cloth from the side and proceeds to wash himself without another word. His body is slightly turned away from Marcus. The muscles in his back are tight and tense. Wordlessly Marcus reaches out and smoothes his hand up Esca's spine in an attempt to ease some of the tension. Esca stiffens at the contact but then relaxes and allows Marcus to wash and massage his back; little puffs of air escaping his lips whenever Marcus finds just the right spots to rub.

Watching Esca's back, the muscles slowly relax, the soft bare skin under his fingertips sends an almost unbearable heat through Marcus's body. He watches the beads of water slowly trickle down Esca's back and acts on instinct alone. He moves closer and runs his tongue up Esca's back catching the droplets on his tongue. Esca shudders at the rough feel of Marcus's tongue tracing up his spine and his warm hands stroking reverently at his arms and back.

Esca's erection is now bobbing on the surface of the water and he turns around to see Marcus in the same state. The heat from the bath and their own arousal causing them both to flush; their skins darkening and their breathing becoming more elevated. They stare at one another for a breath and then simultaneously grab at one another, roughly grinding and kissing; the water creating a wonderful slippery friction between their hard bodies.

With a low growl in his chest Marcus grabs Esca's hair and pulls his head back, exposing the soft, flushed skin of his neck and places soft kisses and gentle bites along the jaw working his way down to the shoulder. Esca tips his head back even further allowing Marcus more access to his skin; hissing with pleasure every time he feels Marcus's teeth graze his skin. He reaches a hand between them and languidly begins to stroke Marcus, drawing out low moans and frantic bucks from him. He leads Marcus to the edge of the bath letting his occupied hand steer him while biting at the hard muscles of his chest and abdomen. Marcus leans back lost in the motions of Esca's hand and mouth. Esca steps between Marcus thighs placing kissing on the soft flesh, gradually getting higher causing some of Marcus's earlier nerves to appear once again. With a gasp he sits up as Esca sucks particularly soft part of his leg on the inside of his thigh.

"Esca…perhaps we should move to somewhere else?" he asks hoping that the fear he feels didn't show on his face. Esca places his hands either side of Marcus on the edge of the bath and moves close so they are barely an inch apart anywhere on their bodies. So close that he can taste Esca's breath on his tongue.

"Marcus…you are a good man and a fierce warrior. However when it come to matters of subtlety or I'm afraid tp put it plainly, you lack it. Won't you tell me what's bothering you?"

Marcus grins slightly, ignoring the question that Esca posed.

"I am subtle!"

This earns him a raised eyebrow and a look that quite clearly says 'Oh really?'

"I see…so perhaps it was not you I saw sprinting into the middle of the Seal tribe after the Eagle?" he retorts causing Marcus to look somewhat sheepish.

"Alright you may have a point on that occasion but that is not the case all the time " Esca's eyebrow yet again decides to make a standing ovation at Marcus's attempts of defending of his less developed skills.

"Oh really? When?" he asks looking him in the eye as if he is daring Marcus to lie, his most beautiful smile gracing his face.

Marcus huffs in feigned annoyance causing Esca to laugh and nuzzle his face into Marcus's neck in apology.

"Shall we go now?" he asks and with a nod from Marcus they both climb out of the bath. They help each dry off and move quickly to Esca's bedroom after successfully avoiding everyone in the villa. Once inside Esca grabs Marcus by the arm and forces him to sit down on the bed opposite him.

Esca shifts slightly in his seating position as if he is uncomfortable with what he is about to say although Marcus already has a feeling he knows what it concerns. He takes a deep breath and decides that it's now or never, Gods help him.

"I have never been with a man before" he blurts out feeling rather foolish at the rather obvious statement although Esca reassures him by answering him and meets his gaze.

"Neither have I". Marcus nods and continues, his eyes travelling down to where his hands are clasped together.

"In Rome it is considered…when two men are together…" he struggles for a way to finish what he wants to say without causing Esca any pain or make him feel like Marcus does not want him. But before he can gather his thoughts Esca's voice interrupts him.

"It is considered shameful and weak for a Roman man to submit…" he says although Marcus cannot be sure if it is a question or a statement he nods in acknowledgement anyway.

Esca stares at Marcus intently and shifts closer, his head tilted slightly to one side.

"And do you also find it shameful?" he asks unable to keep the course edge he gets whenever he speaks about Rome out of his voice. Marcus considers the question carefully, all his earlier thoughts running through his mind. His body tight with tension reflecting the state of his thoughts. Until he comes to a resolution.

"No". He wants Esca, in every way and he knew that Esca felt the same way. He tilts his head up and looks into Esca's eyes, the gaze full of determination and affection.

"There was a small part of me that felt that way… But now there is no doubt in my mind of what I want" he answers his voice lowering uncontrollably to a husky yet powerful whisper. His body trembling slightly at the strength of his conviction.

"We are equals. We always have been. We live as equals, fight as equals and we will love as equals. As it should be. As I want it to be…"

Esca smiles that same smile the day that they returned the Eagle, walking out of those doors and without another word launches himself on top of Marcus. He stays there looking down at Marcus, lying flush against his body; his elbows pressing into the bed so he can look at Marcus's face.

"Tha gaol agam ort" he says softly, his mother language vibrating off his tongue with ease as he strokes the side of Marcus's face. Marcus reaches out to stroke Esca's face as well and replies in an accent, heavy with the natural Latin resonance.

"Tha gaol agam ort-fhèin" and seals it with a soft kiss which Esca returns. They move their mouths in slow, teasing movements. Their tongues slide against each other and their hands move to grip at each other's hair. Esca grinds down into Marcus who bucks up to meet him relishing in the delicious heat that is being caused between them. They make quick work of their clothes and are soon frantically grinding their naked bodies into each other.

Esca breaks the contact with Marcus lips which are now red and swollen from kissing and begins to kiss his chest. He lets his lips find Marcus's nipples alternating between sucking and drawing his tongue slowly across the tender skin; causing Marcus to bite his bottom lip and furrow his brow in an attempt at self-control. Esca grins impishly and continues his assault lower letting his tongue dip in between the muscles of his abdomen and bellybutton. He lifts his head up slightly allowing his breath to ghost over Marcus's hard member enjoying the shiver of pleasure and slight moan of protest that comes from Marcus. He draws his tongue along the thick vein up to his swollen head, swirling his tongue before letting it slide into his mouth. Although he is inexperienced he takes confidence from Marcus's frantic bucks and grunts of pleasure from what he is doing and began to slide up and down with increasing speed, his hands stroking his inner thigh gently.

Marcus is unsure of how long he will last; the heat and wetness of Esca's mouth around his cock are almost unbearably pleasurable. Esca's hand has now joined his mouth alternating between twisting and squeezing along with his mouth; threatening to push him over the edge.

"Esca…" he gasps grabbing at his hair in warning and with a low moan he comes; pleasurable jolts shooting through his body before they finally stutter to a halt. Esca wipes his mouth and looks down at Marcus, enjoying the aftermath of his efforts. His body is now covered in a thin sheen of sweat causing his olive body to glitter in the dim light. His chest rising and falling rapidly, his delicious lips parted and his eyes closed in a pleasurable haze. Esca leans down and kisses Marcus who returns it contentedly and reaches for the bottle of oil on the table next to them.

"Are you sure?" Esca asks, his eyes searching Marcus's face for any signs of doubt or fear. Marcus smiles and hands him the little bottle placing another kiss to his lips. Esca sits up on his heels and watches Marcus opening his legs; his half hard penis laying on his stomach, hands beside his head on the pillow and his head tilted up to look up at Esca. It was the most erotic sight Esca has ever witnessed causing him to throb painfully and his breathing to increase.

He opens the bottle and drenches two tremling fingers in oil. Placing his weight on one arm he kisses Marcus and let the other find the soft flesh between his thighs, circling it gently but not pushing inside just yet. Instead he is content to kiss Marcus into a frenzy, releasing all of his want through his kisses and before slowly pushing a finger inside. Marcus hisses slightly and squirms unused to the strange new sensation. He presses his forehead against Esca's, taking quick shallow breaths as Esca began to move his finger in and out of Marcus, helping adjust to the sensation. He quickly adds another finger causing Marcus to jump in surprise and in pain. The burning stretch countered when Esca's strong fingers brush that spot inside him that made him feel liquid with pleasure. He groans as Esca continues to find that spot curling his fingers, stretching and teasing him until he cannot bear anymore.

"Esca…" he groans quietly letting him know he is ready. He feels a sudden rush as the fingers are removed and his legs are being opened more. He gasps as he feels Esca push inside him; large and hard and so incredibly hot. He winces inwardly at the pain and tries to breathe calmly to relax his muscles. The feeling of Esca utterly overwhelming. Esca groans with pleasure as he pushes inside as slowly as possible conscious of Marcus strained breathing and pained expression. The heat and tightness make it almost impossible for Esca to keep hold of the barely controlled restraint.

His heart is swelling with something that can only be described as completion. After so many years of unhappiness and repression, in this moment he has everything he could ever want. He pulls back slowly and pushes back in trying to get Marcus used to him. Small intakes of breath and repressed groans coming from Marcus every time Esca pushes back in and hits that spot. Marcus pulls him down kissing him, the pain forgotten, urging him to move faster. The sharp slap of flesh echoing in the room as their bodies meet at an increasing pace. Marcus bites at Esca's bottom lip with a husky moan as Esca begins to drive into him with increasingly frantic speed. Marcus begins to stroke himself in time with Esca's powerful thrusts lost in the intense feeling of it. With a few frantic tugs and thrusts they both come, strangled shouts escaping both of them. Esca pulls out of Marcus, causing him to wince slightly at the sore burning sensation and relaxes in the afterglow of their satisfaction. They lie side by side listening to one another try to regain their breaths; a pair of hands joined between them.

Marcus smiles mischievously thinking of all the things he was going to do to Esca; feeling reenergised.

"My turn" he growls playfully and attempts to roll on top of Esca but stops suddenly due to the sharp throbbing at the base of his spine and a sore ache eve lower. He hisses causing to Esca to laugh slightly with an apologetic look on his face.

"Next time" he says sealing the promise with a gentle kiss, Marcus knows he means it.

"For now I think you need some rest." He adds smirking earning him a playful shove which nearly causes him to fall out of bed. They both curl up against each other, basking in the soft heat of each other's skin, relishing in what they just shared and in the thoughts of all the things that are yet to come.

Chapter Text

Marcus lay in bed after Esca had left him to attend to the horses in the stable, his mind buzzing with so many different thoughts and feelings they were hard to arrange. Since that night nothing much had changed between them, a few stolen kisses during the day and at night they lay in one of their beds kissing and stroking one another until they were satisfied. They would fall asleep pressed closely against each other. However they had never gone any further than this.

Neither Esca nor Marcus had been with another man before and although of course they were aware of how it was done. It was something that neither one wanted to rush into. Marcus felt he was more nervous than Esca. He could feel that power and dominating passion that Esca possessed in every kiss and touch. He put it into every action he did, particularly with Marcus.

He can recall the feel of Esca's eyes on him trailing over him as if they were hot fingers on his skin. He wants more than anything to feel Esca, to be inside him and to allow Esca the same privilege. Every time he thinks about what it would be like to give himself to Esca, simultaneous feelings course through him. It makes him feel excited and happy and yet there is a small part of him that is ever the Roman. Ever resilient. That reminds him that no free Roman man should submit, else he is considered weak and dishonourable. But to simply take Esca as if he is a … a slave and not allow him the rights of any free man. That would be the utmost insult and one he has no wish to ever inflict on Esca.

He rubs his face in exasperation, letting his fingers smooth out the worry lines of his face, wondering if Esca is feeling the same as him. Is he as nervous as Marcus? Did he also feel as if time would not go quick enough until that moment when they would become connected; more closely than either of them could have imagined. He groans loudly at his thoughts, he couldn't care less about Rome and its politics or what they considered shameful but there is that small part of his pride that refuses to submit. Whether it is the Roman within him feeling shame or fear of being so utterly vulnerable he is unsure but it exists all the same. He gets out of bed and walks out of the door out into the courtyard, looking up at the blue sky. It is a beautiful day in Briton, not a drop of rain in sight, the sun basking all of the country's inhabitants in it's warm glow.

He tilts his face up into the sunlight, letting its warmth soothe away his worry and feels the light work its way through his entire body. He sighs contentedly and mentally decides that instead of his usual silent brooding approach towards matters it may be better just to try and talk to Esca about it. Although he has no idea how he will broach such a subject. He opens his eyes slowly and looks towards the stables, feeling a thrilling shudder tingle down his spine when he sees Esca is watching him. He is just wearing his breeches due to the heat and his toned chest is gleaming where the sunlight is hitting it. He has a brush in one hand and the other is clenched into a tight fist. Despite the fact that they are lovers now Marcus honestly believes he will never be able to get used to those eyes. Beautiful stormy blue eyes which are able to transmit such raw and powerful emotions with a single glance. Eyes which are now fully focused on Marcus. He offers a small although somewhat nervous smile and goes back inside remembering that he also is only wearing his breeches. He goes back inside letting out the breathe he had been holding and goes to find his clothes.

Esca takes a few deep breathes and returns to brushing Marcus's horse; Aeton. Images of himself tackling Marcus to the ground and devouring him right there are now running wildly through his head. He is happy... Happier than he had ever thought were possible, to be by Marcus's side and yet he wants something that he is certain Marcus did not. He wanted to become one with him, to love him but he knows that the idea of submission to Marcus or any Roman man is one of great shame. He relishes in how he can kiss Marcus whenever he wants. That he can touch him, bringing him to the brink of ecstasy and when Marcus is unable to take anymore, push him over the edge knowing he is the reason. But he longs for something more. He knows that if Marcus wanted to take him he will let him. He cannot see how love could be dishonourable or how it made him any less of man. But he did not wish to be treated as if he was lesser man for it.

His thoughts travel back to when he had caught Marcus stepping outside into the sun. He had found that he was staring before he could stop himself. Marcus's powerful tanned body in the sun was so beautiful. The way he tilted his head up into the sun, eyes closed, long eyelashes, strong jaw but shapely, soft lips painted in sunlight. The way he looked when he caught Esca watching him. His chest moving up and down more rapidly with quickening breathing. His tattoo, which was now fully healed, seemed even more prominent in the light of the sun. His name etched into Marcus's skin reminding him of how Marcus feels for him and all the nights they had spent together since that night. The thoughts cause him to brush Aeton a little more forcefully than the stallion liked making him stomp his hooves angrily jolting Esca from his mind. He mutters an apology in Briton, trying to release the thoughts from his mind for the time. He would have to talk to Marcus tonight.

Marcus relaxes further into the bath after washing himself, the heat slowly loosening all of the tight aching muscles from his body after working all day. He watches the steam slowly rise as he waits for Esca. He smiles slightly as the smaller man appears in the room and removes his clothing without any sense of embarrassment and slide into the water next to Marcus.

"Hello". Marcus says, the corners of his mouth quirking up slightly. Esca returns his smile and shifted closer so that the sides of their bodies are flushed against each other causing Marcus to jump at the contact before pressing back slightly.

"Hello Marcus." Esca answers, his eyes glinting with amusement at Marcus before they harden slightly studying his face and then travel down to the water. He grabs a cloth from the side and proceeds to wash himself without another word. His body is slightly turned away from Marcus. The muscles in his back are tight and tense. Wordlessly Marcus reaches out and smoothes his hand up Esca's spine in an attempt to ease some of the tension. Esca stiffens at the contact but then relaxes and allows Marcus to wash and massage his back; little puffs of air escaping his lips whenever Marcus finds just the right spots to rub.

Watching Esca's back, the muscles slowly relax, the soft bare skin under his fingertips sends an almost unbearable heat through Marcus's body. He watches the beads of water slowly trickle down Esca's back and acts on instinct alone. He moves closer and runs his tongue up Esca's back catching the droplets on his tongue. Esca shudders at the rough feel of Marcus's tongue tracing up his spine and his warm hands stroking reverently at his arms and back.

Esca's erection is now bobbing on the surface of the water and he turns around to see Marcus in the same state. The heat from the bath and their own arousal causing them both to flush; their skins darkening and their breathing becoming more elevated. They stare at one another for a breath and then simultaneously grab at one another, roughly grinding and kissing; the water creating a wonderful slippery friction between their hard bodies.

With a low growl in his chest Marcus grabs Esca's hair and pulls his head back, exposing the soft, flushed skin of his neck and places soft kisses and gentle bites along the jaw working his way down to the shoulder. Esca tips his head back even further allowing Marcus more access to his skin; hissing with pleasure every time he feels Marcus's teeth graze his skin. He reaches a hand between them and languidly begins to stroke Marcus, drawing out low moans and frantic bucks from him. He leads Marcus to the edge of the bath letting his occupied hand steer him while biting at the hard muscles of his chest and abdomen. Marcus leans back lost in the motions of Esca's hand and mouth. Esca steps between Marcus thighs placing kissing on the soft flesh, gradually getting higher causing some of Marcus's earlier nerves to appear once again. With a gasp he sits up as Esca sucks particularly soft part of his leg on the inside of his thigh.

"Esca…perhaps we should move to somewhere else?" he asks hoping that the fear he feels didn't show on his face. Esca places his hands either side of Marcus on the edge of the bath and moves close so they are barely an inch apart anywhere on their bodies. So close that he can taste Esca's breath on his tongue.

"Marcus…you are a good man and a fierce warrior. However when it come to matters of subtlety or I'm afraid tp put it plainly, you lack it. Won't you tell me what's bothering you?"

Marcus grins slightly, ignoring the question that Esca posed.

"I am subtle!"

This earns him a raised eyebrow and a look that quite clearly says 'Oh really?'

"I see…so perhaps it was not you I saw sprinting into the middle of the Seal tribe after the Eagle?" he retorts causing Marcus to look somewhat sheepish.

"Alright you may have a point on that occasion but that is not the case all the time " Esca's eyebrow yet again decides to make a standing ovation at Marcus's attempts of defending of his less developed skills.

"Oh really? When?" he asks looking him in the eye as if he is daring Marcus to lie, his most beautiful smile gracing his face.

Marcus huffs in feigned annoyance causing Esca to laugh and nuzzle his face into Marcus's neck in apology.

"Shall we go now?" he asks and with a nod from Marcus they both climb out of the bath. They help each dry off and move quickly to Esca's bedroom after successfully avoiding everyone in the villa. Once inside Esca grabs Marcus by the arm and forces him to sit down on the bed opposite him.

Esca shifts slightly in his seating position as if he is uncomfortable with what he is about to say although Marcus already has a feeling he knows what it concerns. He takes a deep breath and decides that it's now or never, Gods help him.

"I have never been with a man before" he blurts out feeling rather foolish at the rather obvious statement although Esca reassures him by answering him and meets his gaze.

"Neither have I". Marcus nods and continues, his eyes travelling down to where his hands are clasped together.

"In Rome it is considered…when two men are together…" he struggles for a way to finish what he wants to say without causing Esca any pain or make him feel like Marcus does not want him. But before he can gather his thoughts Esca's voice interrupts him.

"It is considered shameful and weak for a Roman man to submit…" he says although Marcus cannot be sure if it is a question or a statement he nods in acknowledgement anyway.

Esca stares at Marcus intently and shifts closer, his head tilted slightly to one side.

"And do you also find it shameful?" he asks unable to keep the course edge he gets whenever he speaks about Rome out of his voice. Marcus considers the question carefully, all his earlier thoughts running through his mind. His body tight with tension reflecting the state of his thoughts. Until he comes to a resolution.

"No". He wants Esca, in every way and he knew that Esca felt the same way. He tilts his head up and looks into Esca's eyes, the gaze full of determination and affection.

"There was a small part of me that felt that way… But now there is no doubt in my mind of what I want" he answers his voice lowering uncontrollably to a husky yet powerful whisper. His body trembling slightly at the strength of his conviction.

"We are equals. We always have been. We live as equals, fight as equals and we will love as equals. As it should be. As I want it to be…"

Esca smiles that same smile the day that they returned the Eagle, walking out of those doors and without another word launches himself on top of Marcus. He stays there looking down at Marcus, lying flush against his body; his elbows pressing into the bed so he can look at Marcus's face.

"Tha gaol agam ort" he says softly, his mother language vibrating off his tongue with ease as he strokes the side of Marcus's face. Marcus reaches out to stroke Esca's face as well and replies in an accent, heavy with the natural Latin resonance.

"Tha gaol agam ort-fhèin" and seals it with a soft kiss which Esca returns. They move their mouths in slow, teasing movements. Their tongues slide against each other and their hands move to grip at each other's hair. Esca grinds down into Marcus who bucks up to meet him relishing in the delicious heat that is being caused between them. They make quick work of their clothes and are soon frantically grinding their naked bodies into each other.

Esca breaks the contact with Marcus lips which are now red and swollen from kissing and begins to kiss his chest. He lets his lips find Marcus's nipples alternating between sucking and drawing his tongue slowly across the tender skin; causing Marcus to bite his bottom lip and furrow his brow in an attempt at self-control. Esca grins impishly and continues his assault lower letting his tongue dip in between the muscles of his abdomen and bellybutton. He lifts his head up slightly allowing his breath to ghost over Marcus's hard member enjoying the shiver of pleasure and slight moan of protest that comes from Marcus. He draws his tongue along the thick vein up to his swollen head, swirling his tongue before letting it slide into his mouth. Although he is inexperienced he takes confidence from Marcus's frantic bucks and grunts of pleasure from what he is doing and began to slide up and down with increasing speed, his hands stroking his inner thigh gently.

Marcus is unsure of how long he will last; the heat and wetness of Esca's mouth around his cock are almost unbearably pleasurable. Esca's hand has now joined his mouth alternating between twisting and squeezing along with his mouth; threatening to push him over the edge.

Growling he grabs Esca by the shoulders and flips them over; feverishly attacking Esca's mouth with his. He grinds his hips down on Esca's relishing in the feel bare skin on skin and the slide of each other's hardness. His hot tongue caresses Esca's swallowing each strangled grunt and gasp that tries to escape his mouth. He pulls away so their faces are inches away from each other's, both are panting and sucking deep breathes. Esca's stormy eyes are glazed with lust and never leave Marcus's as he reaches for the bottle of oil on the stand. He hands it to Marcus who accepts it giving Esca a questioning look.

"But I thought that you wanted…" he trails off but Esca shakes his head.

"The fact that you are willing is more than enough for me. I will not rush you in this and tonight this is what I want. If you are willing give it" he answers his voice rough and broken with need.

Marcus's heart hammers in his chest as he stares down at Esca, arms propped himself up either side of his face, letting the full mean of Esca's words wash over him. With a small smile he kisses his way down Esca's toned chest, lingering on the pink nubs on his pectorals drawing soft groans and tiny bucks before moving down and taking Esca's hardened shaft in his mouth. His other hand now wet with oil follows the crease of his bottom before finding the delicate ring of flesh. His tongue flicks and teases Esca's shaft as he slowly pushes in a thick digit and begins pumping and stretching him. Esca tenses at first but becomes distracted by Marcus's hot mouth and tongue doing ridiculously good things to his body and adjusts to the new feeling. Quickly one digit becomes 3 and Esca is bucking into Marcus's mouth desperate for release. He pulls away taking pleasure in the small groan of protest at the loss from Esca and covers himself in oil. He sits up and hooks both of his thick muscular arms under Esca's knees.

His tanned olive skin contrasts against Esca's pale milky skin as Marcus pushes carefully inside, his body trembling with the amount of effort it takes to move slowly and not pound his way into the tight body below him. Esca however is not as patient and locks his strong thighs around Marcus's waist, he pushes against Marcus's lower back with such force that it causes Marcus to sink all at once into him wrenching broken groans from both men. Marcus lowers himself onto Esca's body and begins to rock gently into him. Esca grabs hold of Marcus's neck with one hand and begins to bite and nip at every bit of skin he can get at while his other hand explores the muscular planes of Marcus's back. It's too much and yet not enough, their stomachs create a slow, tantalizing friction on his cock matching the teasing grazes at that spot inside him that Marcus is gently caressing. He needs more…He needs more of Marcus…pulling on Marcus's lobe with his teeth he breathes out

"Marcus…I am not going to break so move now…please". With a groan that is half a growl Marcus pulls almost completely out and rams back in.

His powerful body begins a intense onslaught, pounding into Esca who is gripping Marcus's body so hard he is sure it will bruise. The only sound in the room is their harsh breathing and the sharp slap of their bodies connecting over and over. Their bellies are rubbing together now as Esca rises to meet every thrust Marcus makes, their bodies melding in heat and sweat as they both lose control. Esca cries out as he can no longer contain himself, coming more intensely than he has ever done with a strangled shout, coating both their stomach and chest in a sticky mess. Marcus follows with one last deep thrust, pouring himself into Esca and a moan escaping his beautiful lips.

Marcus finally lifts himself off Esca and they look at each other; no words needing to be said. They lie next to each other listening to each other's breathes, hands linked and satisfied smiles on both of their faces with no energy to move. They don't even bother to clean themselves off before they curl up against one another. Esca's face buried into Marcus's broad chest, arms wrapped around his waist and Marcus's chin rests gently on Esca's head. They fall asleep like that, content and peaceful, relishing in the touch and smell of one another and what they have just done, knowing that every day can be just like this one.