Title: The Soccer AU Part 5/12
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
They didn't touch him. Which surprised Esca. He was expecting to be jostled and shoved, for fists to be jammed into sensitive areas in order to quietly disable him.
But they didn't. If he tried to get away, maybe they would, but standing still kept them at bay. There was degree of caution in the way they'd arranged themselves, a couple clearly keeping an eye out for anyone who might see them, but otherwise it was a lazy semi circle. It didn't stop Esca from feeling threatened.
Placidus stepped forward until he was toe to toe with Esca and looked down on him. Esca glared up at him stoically. This was the guy that Marcus had called a bit of a dick. Team captain, pretty guy, good on the field and genuinely encouraging in a backhanded kind of way.
"So, Esca," he sounded friendly despite the sneer. "What's your play here? Why the transfer?"
Esca didn't say anything. He didn't have a play. He was just along for the ride because he was incapable of saying no to Marcus. Clearly Placidus was the type to have motive behind anything he did and believed everybody else to be the same.
Esca tried to think of something semi convincing that would satisfy Placidus and get him to back off, but it was probably easier to stay silent and let Placidus come up with something on his own. That way there would be less of a battle trying to convince him it was true.
"What's the bet? What dumb thing are you guys trying to do to Marcus now? What do you think you're even going to get out of it? Do you find it funny? Playing with him?"
Esca frowned, remembering what Marcus had said about the car crash he'd been in. Of course his team mates knew about that. Esca felt sick. It was a terrible idea coming here. Why had Marcus made it seem so reasonable?
Esca wanted to say something that would stop them from associating him with his old team but he didn't know what he could say.
Placidus leant in closer, clearly noticing Esca's discomfort and pushing his advantage. "I mean, we couldn't really think of anything that could possibly be worse than what you've already managed, yet here you are, taking advantage of him and his thing for you. What are you up to? How did you even get him to invite you to his house?"
Esca scowled, unable to answer that either. How did one explain that they'd been dragged inside like a lost puppy and not sound completely pathetic. Esca didn't want anyone finding out, ever. It was bad enough that Marcus knew.
It made him freeze inside. He struggled to say something. Anything. Ideally he would've liked to throw Placidus' accusations in his face and put him off guard. Wrong foot him in some way. But words never came to mind when Esca needed them and he knew that denying that he was up to something would get him nowhere.
And how the fuck did he know that Esca was staying with Marcus?
Placidus smirked and stepped closer again. The fact that he hadn't gotten anything at all out of Esca not worrying him in the least.
Unless he'd gotten exactly what he wanted.
Esca startled as Placidus grabbed him by the front of his shirt and pushed him up against the side of the car. He struggled bringing his arms up to defend himself, but Placidus didn't even acknowledge his flailing, just pushing in closer and pinning him. Twisting Esca's shirt until it edged upwards and Esca could feel the wind wafting across his exposed belly. He froze and hoped no one noticed the scars and dried blood.
Placidus tilted his head, leaning into Esca, looking him directly in the eye. Then he twisted the front of Esca's shirt a little more and casually glanced downwards.
At first Esca thought it was a come on. Hoped, maybe. But it wasn't. He saw the surprise, the puzzlement, the realisation, and the disgust roll across his face. Placidus could see the damage Esca had done to himself this morning. He knew. Or maybe suspected and had now just confirmed it.
"Well then." He whispered. "That's far more interesting than I thought."
Esca hadn't felt so terrified in a long, long time.
People weren't supposed to know. It was something he didn't want anybody to know. It was how he coped. How he managed to face the world. But it was the kind of thing that people got 'concerned' about. Or sent you off to the psychiatric ward for.
The kind of thing that made people think you were mad.
The kind of thing that people used against you.
Placidus shoved him as he stepped away. Esca could only stare at him in fear. Was he going to tell everyone? Did everyone already know?
He broke Placidus' gaze and glanced around at everybody else. They were glaring, a few people looking uncomfortable, but Placidus had been in pretty close. His body would've blocked Esca's tiny frame.
"We don't like your team, and we don't like you." Placidus nodded to the group and they headed off to their cars. "Don't screw us over." He came in close again, digging his thumb into Esca's hip and whispered in his ear. "It won't be a beating you get from us if you do, it'll be much, much worse."
Esca wanted to throw up. He could feel Placidus' hot breath on his neck, even after he'd gone. He folded his arms across his chest and willed the queasiness away.
When Marcus approached the car ten minutes later he seemed surprised and relieved to find Esca there. As if he wasn't expecting to find Esca there at all.
Esca studied him warily, wondering if he'd had anything to do with the group threat he'd just endured. He couldn't help it. He was too used to distrusting people. But then Marcus smiled at him and somehow Esca just knew that he wasn't hiding anything.
It was bizarre. Esca tried to second guess himself as he studied Marcus' face. He tried to convince himself that there was no way he could know Marcus well enough to interpret his expressions, but Marcus' face, the curve of cheek, the slope of his nose, the lilt to his mouth, the way he stood a little off kilter, it all seemed so familiar.
Esca ducked his head and looked at the ground fighting the urge to smile. He'd been standing there just staring at Marcus.
And Marcus had been staring back.
"Where were you?" Marcus unlocked the car but didn't move around to the driver's side until Esca opened the passenger side door. "I thought you'd decided to leave."
Esca rolled his eyes as he slumped into the car seat and shoved his bag down between his feet. Here, obviously. He was here. Here being bullied by a whole new set of people. People who now had more ammunition to fire at him than anyone he'd ever known.
He panicked again for a moment because what if they got him locked up? What if they thought he was insane for hurting himself? What if they told Marcus and Marcus decided that it was for Esca's own good that he get psychiatric help and they drugged him up and stuck him in some institution and he spent the rest of his life too high to realise that he was somewhere he never ever wanted to be. Because that's what good people who were trying to help did.
He wasn't insane. He didn't need help. He knew it wasn't right, what he did to himself. But he wasn't insane. He was just...coping. It was helping him cope. He was dealing with it. On his own. Like he dealt with everything.
Except he wasn't on his own. Not right now.
Esca watched Marcus circle the car, popping the boot so he could dump his stuff before hopping into the driver's seat.
He wasn't on his own because Marcus was dragging him around the place.
And it looked like he was going to keep him.
If Esca didn't do something stupid, or Marcus' team didn't interfere.
"I waited for you in the lockers," Marcus said as he started the car, but he dropped his hands into his lap and looked over at Esca instead of putting it in gear as if he'd just realised why Esca might've skipped out on the shower.
Esca pulled a face.
"Oh." Marcus turned to reverse out of the car space, then stopped again."You probably didn't want to...are you sure? Because we've got to go to the police station."
Esca scowled and shook his head.
He'd survive. If anything he hoped that they'd let him go faster if he was stinking up their interview room.
He was silent for the rest of the drive.
The police station was hell. The first officer he dealt with clearly thought he was some kind of delinquent and seeing himself in the mirror across from the desk he was sitting at, Esca really couldn't blame her.
His hair was sticking up all over the place making him look a bit like a cockatoo. He had bruising down the side of his face that was coming up nice and blue. And he'd quickly changed out of his soccer shirt before following Marcus into the station and was only now realising that it had blood around the hem from where it'd been tucked into his pants this morning and he couldn't tuck it into his soccer shorts to hide it.
They asked him about the items he'd been accused of stealing. They asked him why he'd run away. They asked him about his foster parents and changing schools and a whole tonne of things that Esca didn't think were at all relevant. They pressed him for answers and bullied him until he froze up and couldn't answer anything at all.
And when he stopped talking they left him there on his own until he started thinking they were just going to keep him until he gave in.
He hunched down in his chair, avoiding the mirror and hoping that Marcus hadn't given up on him. Had they sent him home or was he waiting outside? Esca got up and tried the door.
It was locked.
He sat down again, feeling sick.
He nearly jumped out of his skin when the door finally opened. An older officer bustled in, dumping paperwork on the desk and pulling a pen out of her pocket.
She looked about as tired as Esca felt.
"You're a right pain, kid. Why you can't just answer questions, I don't know." She dropped into the chair opposite Esca and smiled crookedly, chuckling at Esca's startled expression. "Don't look at me like that, I've had too much coffee. I should be home with my family not working. Damned Aquila. Let's hurry this up so we can both get out of here."
She guided Esca through the forms, made him sign his statements and got Esca to write down descriptions of the ‘stolen objects' so they could compare them to that of his foster parent's.
"Though it'd be helpful to have a picture of them if you've got any of them on you right now. That way we can catch them in the lie if they choose the wrong picture out of a bunch of them."
Esca thought about that for a moment before shaking his head. There was no way he was admitting to carrying a weapon to school.
The officer sighed heavily before nodding and picking up her papers. "Well, if you can get a photo to me as soon as possible it would be helpful." She tapped the folder on the desk, then indicated the door as she stood up. "Go. I think your friend is sick of waiting." She held the door open for Esca, nodding to the officer standing outside.
Esca scrambled to his feet. He kept his eyes lowered as he ducked past her and headed for the bench where he'd left Marcus. He could feel her watching him all the way down the hallway and glanced back just before he turned the corner. She was frowning at him.
What did it mean? Should he have handed his possessions over? Would they have given them back? Would they have just taken them away and then that would be that?
He had a feeling that she knew he'd been lying about not having his stuff with him. How badly would that hurt his chances of convincing them that he was in the right?
Marcus was slumped down in his chair, so fixated on the game he was playing on his phone that it took him a couple of seconds before he realised Esca was standing next to him.
"Esca!" He leapt to his feet, nearly dropping his phone as he stumbled, having to reach for the wall to steady himself. He hissed in pain and bit his bottom lip.
Esca took a step back, startled.
Marcus smiled tightly. "Are you done? Can we go?"
Esca nodded, waiting for Marcus to lead the way.
It was curious, watching the emotions play across Marcus face. Seeing him suddenly look so completely vulnerable, followed by determined, mild panic, and then acute embarrassment. Esca wanted to run, he didn't want to deal with this. But the realisation that he could read Marcus left Esca with such a warm, uplifting buzz in his mid section that the urge to smile was overwhelming, and the urge to move in closer even more so. How could he know Marcus so well already?
He didn't smile though. It would be inappropriate. "The leg?" He asked.
Marcus winced and nodded. "I didn't warm down properly." They stood there looking at each other awkwardly.
Esca fished around for something to say. "Do you want a hand?"
Marcus shook his head. "Nope, I'm good." He clearly wasn't.
Esca left it for a little longer and then decided to take a chance. He could feel his mouth drying up, and his skin getting hot. His face was probably turning bright red. His hands were sweating. He stepped in closer to Marcus.
"Let me help." Esca swallowed, tucking his shoulder under Marcus' arm and wrapping his hand around his waist.
He could feel Marcus looking down at him. Feel his surprise in the way held his body.
Esca couldn't look up. It was too intense. "Just don't lean on me too much. You're fucking heavy."
That at least broke the tension. Marcus laughed and relaxed into him. Esca had to stop himself from twisting around and moulding himself against Marcus' body though. He was warm, and the smell of him was so much stronger than what had been caught in the layers of clothes he'd been lent. It was almost like a hug. He could feel Marcus breathing. It was like the dreams that kept haunting him.
Esca dug his fingers into Marcus' hip a little, concentrating on getting them moving.
He could see it.
Bright white stone.
He could smell the garden and the animals and the freshly turned earth.
Any second now Marcus was going to lean in and kiss the side of his head.
Esca's lungs were burning and it took him a couple of seconds to realise he was holding his breath. He released it slowly, staring at the linoleum, the wooden door, the frosted glass.
Marcus didn't kiss him, he didn't even pull him in closer.
They passed their exit off as more of companionable shuffle than walking wounded and Esca was both desperate to get away and incredibly reluctant to let go of him when they made it to the car.
"Are you going to be ok to drive? Because I can't. I don't know how."
Marcus rolled his eyes and gave him a small shove as he released him. "I'm fine, I just had to walk it off." He unlocked the car and climbed in.
As soon as the car was started, Esca tucked his feet up under him and folded his hands into the sleeves of his jacket. He was cold again. Even more so now that he wasn't pressed up against Marcus' side.
Marcus glanced over at him, but didn't say anything. He flicked the heater on high though and turned the fan all the way up.
Esca could see him smiling every time he glanced over on the way home.
Esca couldn't sleep.
He'd nearly dropped off during the middle of dinner and had gone to bed early. But he still couldn't sleep.
Maybe it was the room.
Maybe it was because sleep brought confusion.
Maybe it was because it hurt too much to wake up.
He lay awake, listening to the sounds of the house, waiting for his eyes to droop and exhaustion to take him out. When his eyes burned, he closed them. But his mind didn't shut down.
He lay there, trapped, until Marcus came and knocked on his door at seven.
Esca smiled when Marcus made jokes about the dead rising. He ate his breakfast even though it tasted like dust and he could barely swallow. He stood around awkwardly as Marcus photographed his possessions and managed not to snatch them back when Marcus picked them up to hand them to him. And he stayed awake through the car ride to school even though it was the closest to falling asleep he'd managed since nearly falling face first into his potatoes the night before.
The day might've looked more daunting if he had more energy to worry about it. As it was, he had just enough concentration to misdirect Marcus' attentions and navigate his way to his first classroom.
He dozed through nearly all his classes, then escaped to the library for his study period and fell asleep in a corner of the reference section.
The air was warm and stuffy, clinging to his skin, getting caught in his nose and making it difficult to breathe. He could feel straw poking into his back, his boots were still on, and every few seconds he got a good whiff of compost.
Something was tugging gently at his hair. Brushing against his forehead. Pressing softly against his temple.
Esca cracked a bleary eye open. "Marcus?"
Mid morning sunlight was streaming through the window on the far side of the barn. The lamb curled up on the hay next to Esca's head gave his hair another taste test. Esca pushed it away, jumping slightly when it protested by baaing loudly in his ear.
He heard Marcus laughing.
"You are such an arse!" He tried to sit up, dislodging the lamb that had curled up in his lap last night. It rolled away and then stumbled to it's feet, tottering back towards him and joining in the cry for food. It's little hooves dug into his legs and it's tiny head butted up against his chest and hands. "I don't have milk, lambies." He turned them around and pushed them towards the ewe in the corner then crawled over to hold her head so she couldn't knock them away.
He got them situated at her udder and then leaned against the fence, watching their tails waggle back and forth as they drank their breakfast like it was the last meal they were ever going to get.
Marcus' feet scraped against the dirt floor as he walked past. "Is she still rejecting them?" He poured a bucket of water into the trough, then wandered over to rest against the fence behind Esca, reaching over and stroking the side of Esca's face where the lamb had been testing him for edibility.
"Yeah." Esca closed his eyes again. "They fed three times last night though." Marcus palm was warm against his cheek.
He stroked his thumb down Esca's nose. "You slept here?"
Esca grunted, yawning. "That wasn't exactly on purpose, and it's not like you were in bed anyway. Here was as good as anywhere." He reached up to twist his fingers into the bottom edge of Marcus shirt in case he had any thoughts about going away. "How'd the patrol go?"
Marcus shifted so he was standing on his good leg. "There have been raids further north, but nothing close enough for us to worry about. There'll be a lot of foxes this year."
Esca nodded. "We were expecting that. There were so many mice." He turned to the lambs. "You hear that, stay indoors or you'll get yourselves eaten."
Marcus laughed at him. "You're so tired." He dislodged Esca's fingers from his shirt and threaded their fingers together instead. "How about we get you inside to a real bed."
Esca smiled at him lazily. "You want me even after I've slept in the sheep pen. That's love."
Marcus hauled him to his feet and kissed him. "Yep."
Esca stretched his back out and then dropped his arms around Marcus neck, using him for leverage as he swung his leg up over the fence so he could climb over. Before he could drop down on the other side though, Marcus tucked his arm underneath Esca's knees and lifted him into his arms, cradling him against his chest.
Esca buried his face in his shoulder, laughing. He was so, so very tired. He could stay like this forever. He inhaled deeply, smelling the leather, sweat and horse that clung to Marcus' shirt and skin. They should probably bathe. It was a good bet he smelled much worse than Marcus did, since he was the one that had spent the night with the animals.
Marcus swayed a little, nosing at the top of Esca's head.
Esca smiled. "This is fun and all, but you can't walk anywhere with me like this."
"I can try." Marcus dug his fingers into Esca's ribs, making him squirm.
Esca laughed again. "Please don't. I can't even lift you. I'd have to drape you over my shoulder, or roll you."
Marcus kissed him.
They both needed a shave. Esca scratched the underside of Marcus' chin letting the stubble catch beneath his fingernails.
It made Marcus shiver. "I'm going to put you down now." He murmured. "And we're going to pretend I carried you all the way to the house." He kissed Esca again. "And all the way to our bed." He pulled Esca tight against him. "And I'm going to make love to you."
"Whatever you like, love." Esca trailed his fingers down the side of Marcus' neck. "Only can we not pretend that last bit and instead do it for real."
Marcus nearly dropped him, trying not to laugh. He let go of Esca's legs so he could wrap both arms around Esca's chest instead. "Yeah. We can do that."
Esca opened his eyes and saw the ceiling of their house.
He opened his eyes and saw Marcus.
He opened his eyes and saw someone who was not.
Then there wasn't anybody.
He could hear voices discussing Esca this, Esca that. He wondered if he was sick. Delirium. He felt sick. His head felt like a rock. The back of his head was throbbing. He reached up to run his fingers over it, it was tender to the touch. Had someone attacked him?
"Marcus, somebody hit me."
Warm hands wrapped around his wrists pulling his hands back down. Marcus was back. "Here, let me see." He gently turned Esca's head to the side. "It's from the other night, Esca. Did you bump it again?"
"I don't remember. I don't feel well."
Somebody else was standing behind him. They snorted. "Well, at least he's speaking English now. Are you sure he didn't have a concussion? He's pretty out of it."
"What did he say when you woke him up?" Marcus hauled Esca to his feet.
Esca leaned into him, but instead of arms enfolding him, he got a hand on the shoulder, steadying him, but pushing him away. Esca looked around himself, bewildered.
"No idea. Where's he from? Scotland? Maybe it was Gaelic." It was a male voice. "Are you sure he isn't just really sick? I asked my dad about the bruises and he said Esca didn't say anything to the police about it, he didn't react to any of the questions they asked him. You should take him to a doctor."
"He's not sick." Marcus passed Esca a bag. His bag. With Esca's things in it. "He can run circles around our whole soccer team and just looks more energetic afterwards."
"He wouldn't be running circles around you if his fucking team hadn't fucked you over." He hissed, pulling Marcus away.
It was Placidus. There was something wrong with that.
Esca watched them argue, trying to hold onto the words. They were so slippery. And sounded so strange. They didn't sit right in his head. The rhythm was wrong.
"I don't get you." Placidus was angry. "Why are you so determined to believe he didn't have any part in it?"
"Because he didn't." Marcus said. "There were four guys in that truck and none of them were Esca. There's no way I wouldn't have recognised him."
"Oh, I know." Placidus smiled grimly. "I bet he was cheering just the same as them when he heard though."
Marcus shook his head. "He didn't even know. Not until I told him."
"And what did he do when you did? Run away?" Placidus rolled his eyes.
Marcus lowered his head. "You didn't see him, Placidus. They locked him in the shower block in the middle of winter with nothing. He would've frozen to death. Who does that?"
Placidus glanced over at Esca, biting his lip. "You saw how scarred up he was then?"
"Scars? He'd just been attacked. He was bleeding."
Esca glared. Marcus shouldn't be talking to Placidus. He knew things Esca didn't want Marcus to know. He moved closer, startling Marcus into looking up.
Placidus glared back.
"Is féidir linn dul abhaile."
They both looked at him blankly. Placidus turned back to Marcus. "He's broken again."
Marcus pushed him out of the way. "C'mon Esca." Previous