Title: The Soccer AU Part 4/12
Fandom: Eagle of the Ninth
Characters: Marcus, Esca
First prompt: Self Harm
Summary: Esca wants to run away from the entire world, things keep getting in the way.
Warnings: Contains descriptions of self harm as per the prompt, might be a little triggery for some people.
Author note: Yeah, yeah, it's been ages. Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5
Esca laughed. "Are you serious? Come play for your team? The team I wiped the field with the other night? How do you think that's going to go, Marcus?" He opened the gate and walked out, but then he turned around and walked back in. "It would go badly." He couldn't leave. "My team hates your team, your team hates my team. Everybody hates my team! They're douchebags." He couldn't walk away from Marcus. "Playing for your guys isn't going to make them hate me any less!" He didn't want to abandon him. Though why it felt like abandonment he didn't know.
Marcus smiled at him crookedly. "My team is really nice." He shrugged, then frowned a little. "Except for maybe Placidus."
Esca glared him.
"But even he wouldn't lock you in the shower block with no clothes in the middle of winter." Marcus raised his hands placatingly.
Esca turned back to the gate angrily, pausing only when Marcus said his name again.
He could hear it being said in so many different ways, inexplicably. Had Marcus already found his way into Esca's dreams?
He could hear it said in greeting, in passing, exasperated, panicked. Soft, loud, in public and in private. He could hear it in ways that made his chest hurt and his body warm, in ways that made pleasure curl around his middle.
Esca reached for the gate and slowly pushed it closed. The sound of the latch falling back into place was like a cage door slamming. Only, Esca didn't know whether he was locking himself in or locking himself out.
Who was Marcus? Why was he doing this? Did he feel the same impossible connection that was binding Esca to him?
He sighed heavily and turned back to the house. "I'm blaming you if I get arrested." He snapped, pushing passed Marcus and marching up the path.
Esca went back to the guest room and refused to come out. He jammed the door shut with a broken chair that had been sitting behind the door and then sat down underneath the window sill.
Looking out onto another room as it did made Esca feel as if someone was suddenly going to appear on the other side of the glass to see what he was up to. It freaked him out. Made him feel like he was there for observation. The fact that he was stressed and anxious and couldn't handle being around people made it all the worse. He needed some time to calm down and deal with the situation.
He could hear Marcus and Aquila moving about the house throughout the morning. Aquila left and came back with someone new, who left shortly after Esca refused to come out and eat lunch.
By mid afternoon Esca was more worried about looking odd than dealing with Marcus though so he cut a bunch of tiny lines into the skin just below his waistline and wandered out into the house. It felt like he was escaping.
Marcus was in the lounge room with his text books spread all over the coffee table and a first person shooter paused on the television. Esca stood in the doorway, watching him. Afraid to interrupt.
It was interesting, seeing him when he thought he was alone. He looked more confident. And a little bit silly. He was writing a paper, pen in one hand, novel held open with the other. Silently reading out what he'd written and frowning at it. Changing the words around and then nodding at himself in approval.
It was like a performance. A very engaging one.
If Esca wasn't careful, Marcus watching would become his new favourite hobby.
A sound from up the hall startled Esca and he looked over to find Aquila watching him watch Marcus. He didn't say anything. It was kind of creepy. He just gave Esca a look and turned to go back into his office.
What did that mean?
Esca considered going back to the room, but before he could step away Marcus looked up and saw him.
"Hey! Did you sleep alright?" Marcus smiled brightly, then he seemed to realise he'd been caught miming out the words to his English paper and waved at his books, flustered. "I'm doing homework."
Esca dropped down onto the couch beside him. "Obviously." Marcus thought he'd been sleeping? He could go with that. He nodded to the books. "Drama?" He said slyly.
"What?" Marcus looked at his homework as if he was trying to figure out how Esca could make that mistake, then he realised he was being teased. "No! You!" He made an aborted attempt to shove Esca, realising at the last second that it was a bad idea. Esca could see it all in his face.
He tried not to react though, laughing to cover the way he'd automatically flinched.
Marcus dropped his pen onto the coffee table and slumped back into the couch. "Shut up, it helps me figure out if it flows."
Esca smiled. "Ok." They watched each other for a couple of seconds, waiting for the tension to break. Why wasn't Marcus saying anything? Esca fidgeted and then pointed to the game paused on the television. "So, homework, huh."
Marcus rolled his eyes. "That's incentive." He huffed and then pushed himself up again, heading for the kitchen. "You must be starving, come have some lunch."
Esca followed him.
Esca put off going back to the room as long as he possibly could, knowing that he was going to have trouble sleeping. There were too many new things, too many things to think about, too many ways everything could go wrong. Not knowing what was expected of him was also a problem. How could he plan for things if he didn't know what was going to happen?
He wanted to be prepared.
It turned out that the guest they'd had over that morning had brought clothes and shoes and all sorts of things for Esca, including a secondhand uniform for Marcus' school. So he was going to school with Marcus, that was one thing. But Aquila had said they had things to sort out with the police. Was that happening tomorrow as well?
Esca couldn't shut his brain down and stop thinking about what Monday would bring.
He curled up under the covers and lay there with his eyes closed. But he was just as awake when Marcus knocked on his door at 7am as he'd been when he'd layed down at 11pm.
He felt alert, but that wouldn't last the day.
He folded some of his things - including his knife - into a shirt and buried it in the bottom of the new bag they'd given him. It was a bad idea to carry it, but he didn't want to leave it where it he couldn't access it. It was his. What if Aquila decided to snoop for it?
What if he needed it?
He thought about taking the razor blades instead and stashing the knife somewhere in the room. But razors were harder to explain away. He unstacked the boxes sitting up against the wall and dropped the razors and the rest of his stuff into one at the bottom, making sure to restack them just so to avoid anyone noticing that he'd moved them.
Then he dumped everything else they'd given him in a pile on the floor and arranged it so it was more difficult to tell what was there and what was not. That way he'd know if someone had rifled through it when he got back this evening. Not that he had any intention of doing anything about it if they did. He just wanted to know.
Marcus drove them to school, parking near the soccer fields which meant they had to walk all the way across the school to get to the main building so Esca could go to the Principal's office.
"We have soccer practice this afternoon." Marcus said, when Esca asked why they'd parked so far away. "This way I can stumble off the field and fall in."
That was fair enough. Esca wondered how much Marcus' leg actually affected his game. He'd seen him limp, but when he'd been on the field last game Esca hadn't noticed it.
If it was bad enough to be obvious when he was running though, he probably wouldn't be playing at all. Maybe he just had to warm up and warm down a little more conscientiously.
Esca let Marcus talk to the lady at reception and went and sat on the guest chairs across the room. There was even a convenient blind spot near the window behind a pot plant. A real plant.
Someone had just watered it.
And dusted it as well.
Far classier than the plastic monstrosities they'd had at his old school. Esca wondered who was paying for him to go here.
The place looked pretty swish. Plaques and trophies adorned the walls and the chairs had turned wooden legs with good padding. Comfy too. Esca leant back into the cushions and watched Marcus through the leaves of the fern.
He told himself there wasn't any harm in looking.
The fact that he hadn't slept all night was catching up with him far quicker than he thought it would and his eyes began to droop. He wondered why he felt like he could sleep right here, practically out in the open, when he couldn't manage it shut up in a room where nobody could get to him.
He followed the sway of Marcus' hips as he moved from foot to foot. Leaning up against the counter. Smiling at the receptionist. Flipping through paperwork he'd acquired from who knows where. Esca certainly hadn't given it to him.
He felt like he was being hypnotised.
Before he check out completely though, Marcus thanked the receptionist and turned around to locate Esca.
He seemed a little bemused for a moment when Esca wasn't right behind him, but when he saw him hiding in the corner he smiled.
He sauntered over. "You're all set, they'll interview you in a bit so you get to stay here. I have to go to class." He pulled cash out of his pocket and reached down to take hold of Esca's hand. "This is money from Aquila." He folded the notes into Esca's palm as if expecting Esca to refuse it. "It's for lunch." He gave Esca his hand back and smiled as he backed away.
Esca grimaced and slumped back into the chair. It was twenty bucks. For lunch! Who spent that much on lunch?
He nearly leapt out of his skin when Marcus came back around the plant. For a moment he thought he was going to take the money back because clearly it was a mistake. But he dropped an apple into Esca's lap instead. "And this is breakfast. Because you didn't get up in time." He disappeared again. "I'll see you at practice!"
Esca waited for the sound of the office door closing before he relaxed.
He sighed, shoving the money into his pocket. He was awake again. He cleaned the apple on his sleeve and bit into it.
Esca watched the stack of tiles slide off the edge of the roof knowing that if he leapt across to try and save them he'd just go straight over the side as well.
They made an unholy crashing noise as they hit the ground.
Esca winced. They were almost certainly broken. Damnit. It'd taken him long enough to set and fire that lot.
"Esca!" Marcus flung the door cottage door open so forcefully that it crashed against the wall. "Esca!"
Esca could hear him limping around the corner, so he layed down across the tiles and peaked over the edge. "I'm still up here."
Marcus glanced at the broken tiles, then looked up at Esca, his face sheet white. He sighed in relief, slumping against the wall. "I thought you'd fallen." He ran a hand over his face.
Esca shuffled to the edge and dropped down, rolling as he landed.
Marcus gave him a dirty look and propped himself up on his crutch again. "Are you going to be scaring me half to death for our entire life?"
Esca smirked and sauntered closer, holding Marcus' arm as he took his crutch away. "I know you like watching me leap about the place."
Marcus tried to keep a hold of it, but Esca twisted it out of his grip and ducked under Marcus' arm instead.
Marcus reluctantly let his full weight rest across Esca's shoulders. "Not when I can't do anything to help you if you injure yourself. I can't even walk, how would I carry you like this."
Esca patted his chest and began walking them back towards the door. "Come on, let's get you back inside. We'll get your leg in order and you'll be running around by the afternoon."
"I don't think that's happening." Marcus said ruefully.
They both looked down at his leg.
It was always rougher in the colder months. Marcus' bones would ache and his muscles would seize. Some days the pain meant he couldn't even get out of bed.
But then summer would come and the pain would fade and he'd be up every morning at the same time as Esca.
He knew it still hurt Marcus' pride to have his body fail him so badly, but to Esca, that was just part of having Marcus.
"Let's have a go, yeah? And I'll wait until the neighbours come by before I go climbing on the roof again."
Marcus rolled his eyes. "There's plenty of rope, you know. You could've just used that. We don't have to just make do anymore."
Esca gave the arm across his shoulders a reassuring squeeze. "Ok."
"Stop placating me." Marcus snapped.
Esca smiled. "Ok."
They shuffled back inside and over to the couch.
Leaving Marcus sitting down with his leg propped up on the footstool, Esca retrieved the pot of salve from the kitchen and the hot rocks from beside the fireplace. He gently lifted Marcus' leg, taking a seat on the footstool and laying Marcus' leg across his own. Wrapping one of the rocks in cloth, he pressed it to Marcus' thigh.
Marcus let his head fall back, hissing in pain. "If I didn't know better I'd think you were torturing me." He said through clenched teeth.
Esca began trailing the fingers of his other hand along the underside of Marcus' knee. "Tell me of your uncle's plans."
Marcus let his head fall back against the cushions and tried not to flinch away from Esca's hands. "He's coming by at the end of this month."
Esca continued to work on the muscles of Marcus' thigh, using the rocks to get some heat into his leg, then using his fingers to knead the knots and tension out of it. He continued prompting Marcus to talk, distracting him from the pain.
Every day, he did this. Even when Marcus protested and said it wasn't needed.
Some days it didn't take long, some days Esca's hands and arms ached before he'd made any progress. But he chose to do it anyway.
At first because it was required of him, then because he wanted to help. Then there was that brief period where he thought it would be the only way he would ever be able to touch Marcus at all.
Now it was a part of their life, and a part of having Marcus. Though that didn't stop Esca from using it as an excuse to get his hands all over him.
They had too much work to do today for it to lead anywhere that morning, but Esca still laid a kiss on his hipbone as he finished, and then crawled on top of him so they could cuddle.
Marcus laced their fingers together and gently massaged the palms of Esca's hands.
"You need to wake up, Esca. You can't stay here all day."
Esca frowned. "I'm not even sleeping."
"Yes, you are."
Esca opened his eyes.
Marcus was gone.
Their cottage was gone.
Esca was sitting on a wooden chair, at a desk, surrounded by bizarrely dressed people, all of whom were listening to the woman standing up the front of the room who was gesturing to symbols on a board and speaking in a language Esca couldn't understand.
A siren wailed and Esca clapped his hands over his ears, leaping to his feet with the rest of the students and getting ready to fight.
He startled a couple of people and they looked at him oddly as they followed everyone else out the door. They didn't seem concerned about the alarm that had just been rung.
What was going on?
He swung around at the sound of his name. It was the woman. She rattled off a string of words. He stared at her blankly.
She sighed heavily and pointed to the books sitting on the table he'd left behind. She smiled at him before leaving.
All the rest of the tables were bare.
Esca sat down again.
He closed his eyes and concentrated. Taking a deep breath, he could smell chalk dust and new books. He looked down at the papers in front of him.
He was in English. School was over.
Marcus was on the soccer pitch and would be waiting for him.
Esca ignored the blackness that stole his vision when he stood up too fast. He held onto the edge of the desk while he waited for the dizziness to pass and then stuffed everything into his back pack and headed out.
The hallway was a cacophony of raised voices and slamming lockers. People pushed passed him when he didn't dodge around them fast enough.
He found an exit and took. Too relieved to be outside and away from everyone to care that he'd come out on the wrong side and was going to have to walk all the way around the building to get back to the car park. When he finally found it, he jogged across the it, evading cars and impatient people who were far too ready to be gone. There were nearly as many milling about and wandering towards the sports fields though. Staying instead of going. Soccer apparently wasn't the only extra curricular held this afternoon.
There was a low fence separating the gravel car park from the grassy sports fields and Esca didn't bother to slow down as he approached, instead, hurdling over it and continuing over towards the soccer goals where the team was already gathered.
Esca could see Marcus warming up. He was a head taller than everybody else which made him easy to spot. If Marcus hadn't been there he didn't know whether he would've bothered to approach.
The grass had just been mown and the smell of it had Esca itching to get out there and start running around. He hadn't trained for a couple of weeks, even though he'd played games for his old team and he actually kind of missed it.
He was pleased to see all the cones set up for drills and two bags of soccer balls sitting off to the side. The coach didn't seem to be there yet though, the players were just standing around talking to each other and stretching.
Esca slowed to a walk as he approached, waiting for Marcus to notice him.
He recognised a lot of them, even if he didn't know their names. Centre forward, the goalie, the two strikers and the guy that always kicked the corner penalties. Some of them looked over at him warily, obviously recognising him but unable to identify him without the proper context.
He tried to smile, knowing that it was odd to get a new team member part way through the season. He didn't even know if the coach was going to let him play. Maybe he'd spend the first couple of games benched.
Esca nearly had a heart attack when a hand thumped down on his shoulder. He was pushed towards the crowd of guys, fingers wrapped around his collarbone. This guy was huge.
The owner of the hand gave him a bit a shake and then released him. "Esca MacCunoval!"
Esca stumbled away. He could hear some of the guys laughing at him and he very pointedly didn't acknowledge them. He stared up at the guy who'd grabbed him instead.
The man was basically a mountain. A big and hairy mountain. He didn't look like a soccer player at all. Football, maybe, but not soccer. Maybe he'd been slighter when he was younger. He was holding a clipboard and from the way he commanded attention from the group of boys, he was very clearly the team coach.
"You all remember Esca from last Friday?" The coach looked around at his team. "He was the one going for broke and leaving you lot in the dust."
Esca winced a bit. Did the guy want the team beating him up? Did he have no perception of how people tended to vent their frustration when somebody humiliated them?
"Thank fuck he's decided to come play for us."
The team laughed.
The coach glared at them. "None of you lot heard me say that. Now start running." He threw a shirt at Esca. "Go get changed up kid, ask Guern for a spare set of boots."
Esca threw himself into the training session, pushing himself until he fell into the rhythm of it and stopped feeling the weight of sleep pulling at his consciousness.
He partnered up with Marcus until the coach noticed Esca running circles around him every single time. Then he was forced to change it up every five minutes and he did his drills with guys who weren't afraid to check him or push him or ‘accidentally' hit him.
Esca shook it off. This was the game. He could handle it. He just put his head down and went for it. It was fun proving to them that he was better and faster than they were.
They finished up with a short game, running through plays, and matching Esca up with different people to see where he was going to be best. He made a point of not hogging the ball simply because any time he made a run with it the opposite side converged on him leaving the field open for whoever he passed it to.
It was not a very productive game.
The guys had warmed to him, especially some of the younger players who'd scored goal's when Esca set them up. But he still decided not to shower. He didn't want to strip in front of people while he was still so bruised. It made people look at him funny.
Then there were the scars across his stomach. There were a lot of them now and they were really obvious at the moment because he'd cut so many times recently. It would be better to wait until they'd healed up a bit.
And to wait until being trapped naked in a shower block was a hazier memory. Not that he thought that was going to happen again any time soon considering Marcus was right there and wouldn't let anything happen to him. If he could help it.
Esca was having reservations about Marcus' ability to judge a person's character though. He seemed to think replacing Esca's shitty team mates with his own was a good thing. Esca wondered if Marcus was one of those people who couldn't manage to spot the bad in anyone.
After five minutes spent leaning up against the side of Marcus car, out in the open with nobody else around, Esca started to feel a bit antsy. The air was cooling down fast, the sun was creeping towards the horizon and the idea of being somewhere cold and dark in a place he didn't know bothered him.
He considered heading back to the office so he could wait where there were other people, but that seemed kind of silly because Marcus couldn't seriously take too much longer. But a couple of minutes later he wished he had because then he wouldn't be sitting out there, alone in the car park, without Marcus.
A prime target for a bunch of pissed off guys in the mood for bullying.
His new team mates hemmed him in.
Why hadn't he run, again?
Oh, that's right, Marcus.
And where was he?
Esca glared at them.
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