I can’t find it in myself to write canon Eagle of the Ninth either for the book OR the movie (I haven’t seen it yet but I’m sure my writing will be influenced somewhat by the little pieces I have seen) and I have thus far, failed to write anything worthy of posting (four attempts), so I decided to trot over to the h/c bingo board, steal their list of prompts and write as many of them as I can before my enthusiasm for this fandom runs out. I was hoping to start with something more fluffy, but random chance brought this one up first and they are hurt/comfort prompts so I can't really complain too much.
I apologise if it's awful, first fic in quite a while and I'm not in contact with any of my betas anymore, so feel free to tell me if you find anything particularly awful. Second chapter will be up in a couple of days.
Title: The Soccer AU Part 1/?
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.
Words: 4300 Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4
Esca wiped the blade clean on his shorts, hitched his shirt up to his chest, pressed the knife firmly against the skin just above his hip and paused. Biting his lower lip, he let his head fall back so he was staring up at the brownish watery stain on the ceiling. He could feel the cold smooth edge creating an indentation, knew that the simple act of breathing was causing the blade to dig into his stomach, but also knew that it would do him no real harm unless he actually moved the knife. One short, sharp jerk and he’d bleed. Not much, if he wanted to see blood he’d use a razor; an edge so thin that you could cut deep and barely feel it. Knives were for pain. And they looked cooler. And people asked less questions when they accidentally found them. Not that Esca had anyone to find his knives, everyone was gone and there was nobody else coming for him. Not anymore. No more foster care, no more social workers, no more government officials pretending they gave a damn.
He was alone in the world.
He jerked the knife, gasping at the sudden searing pain despite being ready for it. Blood welled from the cut, but he didn’t stop to watch it, he didn’t want to see today, just wanted the rush, the relief. Hands shaking, he tucked the blade back into his duffle and hauled it over his shoulder, gave one quick sweep of the room to make sure he wasn’t leaving anything behind, then left. Hello world,
he declared silently as he stepped out into the sun, please forget me.
He was walking down alongside the park, waiting for night to fall so he could duck in and make use of the rotunda for the night when half the school soccer team descended on him, greeting him far too enthusiastically for a group of guys who regularly attempted to humiliate him.
He dodged them warily, but was drawn into their circle by an arm around his shoulder that threatened to become an arm around his neck instead if he made to break away.
"Escaaa," the guy drawled. "My man, you up for a game tonight? We're down three players and we're up against Missindon. Not cool." The guys felt the need to expound upon how very uncool that was. "We have to win this one or there's no chance of getting to the semis. And no semis means no scouts. And no scouts means no uni. My dad would not be pleased if I told him I wasn't going to uni."
Esca stared stonily at the footpath, wishing he’d headed straight for the bus stop. He should’ve just starved for a couple of days and bought his ticket out of town. Now, whether he played or not, he was going to get a beating.
A beating from Pete and crew or from the Missindon players, which would be worse?
Elbowing Pete in the ribs, he shook his head and pulled himself loose, intending to leave the rowdy group to their pre-game celebrations and hoping to get away with minimal bruising, but one of the guys grabbed him around the middle and hauled him up and over his shoulder. Esca winced, feeling the cut on his stomach reopen.
“Let’s dump him in the pond, yeah?” The guys laughed and cheered. Esca fought the urge to struggle, hearing Pete’s protests.
“Nah, man. Put him down. He won’t be any good to us if he’s all wet and frozen.”
Grumbling, the guy twirled around then dropped Esca on the ground. Laughing when he stumbled and fell against Pete.
Pete laid a steadying hand on his shoulder. "Come on, Esca. I know none of it matters to you, but it'll be a bit of fun and you can't tell me you'd miss the opportunity to put one over the Missies."
The guys started jeering, proclaiming their hate of their rival team.
Pete hauled him in close while they were distracted, whispering directly into Esca's ear. "If you come play, you can sleep at mine tonight." He nodded at Esca knowingly. "You're running off. Bit stupid, really. Middle of winter and all that. But all it takes is one game, and my couch is yours for the night."
He thumped Esca on the shoulder. "What do you say, hey? You in?" He grinned.
It wasn't really a question, Esca was going to say yes.
Esca’s borrowed shirt was bloody and his borrowed boots were caked with mud. He could feel the bruises blooming over his ribs and his cheekbone was tender from the knee in the face that one of the Missindon players had dealt out before half time. It had been a good game though, and the thrill of running circles around his opponents stayed with him all the way to the showers.
He kicked his cleats against the brick wall outside the locker room before toeing them off and tying the laces together, then hung them on the doorknob so their owner could reclaim them later. He wanted to grab his duffel and get out of there, but the prospect of being able to sleep inside a house rather than in the park was too good an opportunity to pass up, and it was probably better to shower here rather than at Pete’s place.
Retrieving his gear from the end of the room, he scooted past the rest of the team (who were still whooping and cheering a bit) and ducked into the showers. The stalls were all empty but Esca took the one on the very end anyway. There were only cement partitions separating the stalls, no doors nor shower curtains, and he didn’t want anyone walking past and catching sight of him. He’d seen people react to his scars before and he was a little bit more than scarred today. It would take to many lies to explain them away.
He stripped quickly and dumped his stuff on the little bench just beyond the reach of the water. He didn’t have a towel, but he figured one of his shirts would do. He could maybe convince Pete to let him wash his clothes. The guy might be feeling generous considering the awesome game they’d just played.
The water heated slowly and he was shivering violently well before it warmed enough to start defrosting his frozen skin. His injuries stung, particularly his face once he stopped feeling like an ice block, but the hot water was bliss. He sighed heavily as the water ran through his hair, over his chest and down his legs, washing away the mud and sweat. It was probably going to be a couple of days before he would have the opportunity to get this clean again.
He rinsed off the block of soap someone had left behind and scrubbed himself down. Lathering up his hands, he rubbed a bit through his hair as well, knowing it wouldn’t do much for it but thinking it was better than nothing. He took a moment to study the new gash on his stomach, making sure no dirt had gotten into it and that it was going to heal alright, and searched out all the bruises on his chest, both the healing and the newly forming, noting what to avoid for the next couple of days. He smiled grimly, it was so completely messed up. If child services saw him right now… Well, they’d do nothing, given that he was no longer a child, but they’d probably have something to say about it anyway.
He was feeling so relaxed standing under the heat of the water that it wasn’t until he turned it off that he realised that something was wrong. The sound of the spray had been enough to block out the low chatter coming from the locker room, so when it’d quietened down, he hadn’t noticed. Now it was silent except for the slow trickle of water gurgling it’s way down the drain.
Extremely aware of the fact that he was naked and feeling the weight of a horrible prank impending, Esca quickly shook himself off, wiping away as much of the water as he could before reaching for the shirt he’d set out to use as a towel.
He was too slow. An arm whipped around the corner of the stall, grabbing his gear, snatching it out of reach. He leaped for his bag, getting a hold of the leg of his jeans and wrenching backwards, but the floor was wet causing his feet to slip, sending him crashing to the floor.
He could hear the laughter echoing through the room as the guy tore off, sneakers squeaking on the tiles, and then the cheering as the team as they all ran out of the locker room and back to the field.
“Thanks for playing Esca!” Pete’s voice echoed off the cement. “Have a great night! Hope to never see you again, sucker!”
Esca winced as the lights switched off and he was plunged into darkness. Then the locker room door was slammed shut and he could hear the padlock being slid into place.
He swore quietly, letting his head fall back onto the floor as he clutched his jeans to his chest. He was screwed, so screwed. So very, very screwed.
He blinked away the burning sensation creeping into his eyes, taking a deep breath and levering himself to his feet. His back complained, not happy about the short sharp introduction to the floor, and a splitting pain passed through his head as he tried to shake off the sudden dizzyness.
He turned the shower back on and rinsed himself off, then, holding his jeans carefully so as not to get them any wetter than they already were, he crept out of the shower room and started wandering up and down the lockers hoping someone had left something useful behind.
Finding nothing but a crumpled towel that was already too damp to be serviceable, Esca turned and slammed his foot into side of the locker. He kicked it a couple more times for good measure, then punched it as well. He was so stupid. This always happened. He’d trust someone just a tiny bit, get his hopes up just a little, and it always turned out wrong. He could never even have the smallest thing. Nothing ever went right. Growling and shivering, he shuffled back over to where he’d dropped his pants wondering if it’d be better to put them on now and get them wet, or wait until he air dried. He was going to be freezing all night long either way, did it really matter?
A sharp knock on the locker room door made the decision for him though and he struggled to get his feet down his trouser legs before whoever it was decided to open the door. If they could open the door. It was probably the grounds keeper or the referee, they’d have keys. He hitched his pants up and crossed his arms over his chest, ducking behind the nearest row of lockers trying to hide himself as much as possible. He didn’t want to be seen. People asked too many questions.
“Hello?” An unfamiliar voice called out hesitantly. “You ok in there?”
Esca frowned. Who was this moron? “The bloody thing locks from the outside, what do you think?” He yelled back.
He heard the guy laugh. “Well you’re an idiot, then, aren’t you. Hang on, I’ll get you out.”
Esca snorted crankily as he heard the guy jog away, coming back moments later with a key in hand to fumble with the lock.
The door swung open and the guy peered in, his face poorly lit by the small globe that was attached to the outside of the building.
Esca didn’t recognise him at first, he was wearing a beanie pulled low over his brow and the dim light didn’t help either. But when the guy stepped back expectantly, waiting for Esca to come out, he caught a glimpse of his Missinden jersey. Mark? Marcus? He was pretty sure this was the guy named The Eagle by his team mates.
Esca stayed behind the lockers.
"Well?” Marcus asked. “Are you coming out or staying in?” When Esca didn’t answer, Marcus moved back into the doorway, peering into the darkness, trying to figure out where Esca was.
Esca ducked his head around the side of the locker, squinting into the light.
“Ohhhh,” Marcus said understandingly. Esca sighed heavily. This was not cool. At least he had pants and wasn’t entirely naked as Marcus seemed to have assumed. He made no move to give up his hiding space though.
Marcus laughed a bit, ducking his head as he shrugged his hoody off, stepping into the locker room so he could pass it over. “Man, you must be freezing. Put this on. I’ve got some spare clothes in my…” He cut off mid-sentence as Esca reached out to take the hoody, his eyes locked on Esca’s arm.
Esca followed his gaze. Blood, a great long trail of it snaking down to his wrist. He snatched his arm back, twisting it around trying to find the injury. His arm was fine, it was coming from his shoulder? His neck? He ran his fingers up the back of his head, gasping when he felt the wet patch on the back of his head. He swore quietly, disappearing back behind the lockers.
“Whoa, hey man.” Marcus ducked back to the doorway, flicking the light on before following Esca around the corner. “What happened?!”
Esca squinted up at him, folding his arms across his chest again, trying to hide himself. Marcus was staring at him, or more specifically, at all his injuries, and his scars, and probably Esca’s scrawny, sticking out ribs. The fact that Esca was wearing pants apparently meant that it was perfectly reasonable to ogle at the rest of him. He looked a bit horrified.
Esca glared at him for a moment, then shrugged, trying to look nonchalant. “I fell down in the shower.”
Marcus snorted and held the hoody out again. Esca took it gingerly, knowing he was going to get blood all over it, but pulled it on anyway. Marcus wouldn’t stop looking at him.
“So,” Marcus glanced over in the direction of the showers. “Are there dead bodies we should be disposing of?”
“What?” Esca blinked up at him incredulously, folding the edges of his sleeves around his fingers and tucking his hands into his pockets. He could feel the cloth sticking to the blood on his back, but ignored it in favour of snuggling into the fluffy material. It was still warm from Marcus’ body, and oh so comfy.
“Ok, maybe not.” Marcus muttered. He switched the light off again and led the way out of the building, turning to lock the door behind them. “I just figured, given the obvious superiority you displayed on the field tonight, that if anyone was going to take you down they’d at least be limping away from the fight.”
Esca frowned, trying to determine whether or not that was supposed to be a compliment or a dig at his potentially violent nature. He didn’t think he’d injured anyone during the game.
Marcus shifted from foot to foot for a moment, then held up the keys like he’d suddenly remembered he had them. “I’m just going to take these back. Wait here.”
Esca shivered, staring after him, trying not to think about how bizarre his rescuer was.
Well at least he wasn’t trapped in the stupid locker room for the night, that was a bonus.
Esca felt a bit silly as they made their way across the soccer field to the car park. He’d started out at a jog, hoping to warm himself up a bit, but now that he’d noticed the injury, his head was throbbing and each step made it pound a whole lot worse, so he’d settled for walking. Or tiptoeing, rather, the ground was so freaking cold that his feet had gone numb. It seemed to be amusing Marcus.
In a matter of hours he’d managed to lose all his gear and damage himself to the point where it would be dangerous to leave it unattended. He didn’t really want to think about the consequences of accepting help from this strange friendly person. It would no doubt cause him endless trouble, but he was too cold and miserable at this point to worry about it too much. He really just wanted to sleep.
Marcus wandered along beside him, watching him carefully. Making a few very lame attempts to start up a conversation. Esca pretended not to notice, pulling his hood up and trying to avoid his gaze. He seemed overly concerned for having just met. Although, considering they’d been on opposing soccer teams for most of high school he supposed they’d technically known each other for years, but that still didn’t warrant such familiarity.
When they got to the car, Marcus climbed in and started it up, turning the heat on full. Then he hopped back out again and went around to the boot to retrieve the clothes he’d promised. When he came back, Esca had his feet shoved into the vents underneath the dash and his hands pressed against the vent near the door, the warm air billowing up the sleeves of his jumper. Marcus chuckled, tossing him a pair of fluffy socks and a jacket.
“So, where do you reckon they dumped your gear?” he asked.
Esca sighed heavily he as struggled into the jacket. “Probably in the pond at Bently Park.” He mumbled. They probably had, now that he thought about it. He’d figured it was all gone for good anyway, he’d never gotten any of his other stuff back. He just hoped they didn’t look in the bag before dumping it, his knife was in there and it probably still had blood on it from this afternoon.
“What? Why?” Marcus said, surprised. “Wouldn’t they at least put it somewhere where you could get it back?”
Esca shook his head. “I’m sure they think it’s funny, and they’ll probably assume I’ll end up at the park anyway, so I would get it back.”
“Oh.” Marcus fiddled with the heating for a moment, looking nervous. “Did you want to go check?”
Esca unrolled the socks and tucked his knees up to his chest so he could pull them on. “Not particularly,” he grunted. He didn’t want to be wet again tonight and if they went to the park there was a good chance the team would still be hanging around on the off chance that he’d turn up. Then they’d throw him in the pond. He’d already gone far enough out of his way to avoid that tonight.
He twiddled his toes in the socks - somewhat bemused by Marcus’ choice of lurid orange - then shoved his feet back against the vent. Folding his arms back across his chest, he sat back in his seat, and looked over at Marcus who, for the first time that night, wasn’t trying to catch his eye.
He seemed conflicted.
Esca frowned. This guy was weird. “What is it?”
Marcus glanced at him for a moment before turning to stare back out the driver side window. He began fiddling with a piece of loose cotton from the seat cover.
“Sorry, it’s just…I thought…aren’t you like…” He waved a hand vaguely. “You’re the best player on your team! How come they’re…” he glanced down at Esca’s chest and touched the back of his own head to indicate Esca’s head wound. “Attacking you and stealing your stuff?”
Esca huffed, scrunching himself up in the chair, trying to determine whether it was better to lie, or make a joke of it. He was feeling a bit creeped out by the fact that Marcus seemed to know who he was and had obviously been paying attention to him. Sort of, anyway. His view of Esca was a bit skewed, so maybe he knew as much about Esca as Esca knew about him. He smiled grimly.
“Oh well, last game for me anyway. Their way of saying goodbye, maybe.”
Marcus looked at him incredulously. “What do you mean ‘last game’, it’s the middle of the season! You’re…I thought you’d be…you know. Aren’t you going to university. Are you moving?”
Esca stared at him. Now if that wasn’t the most bizarre reaction ever.
Marcus seemed to realise it too. “Sorry,” he slumped back and put the car in gear, easing out of the parking spot. “It’s just, you’re a great player. Why would you quit? I thought you really liked it.”
Esca turned away, wondering whether or not he could explain himself, whether he wanted to explain himself. Of course he liked it. He loved it; nothing beat the rush he got from tearing around the field and annihilating the oppositions defences. On the field he could ignore the world. Out there, he was King. But a kid like him could never make a career of it, not like Marcus seemed to think he could. There were too many things against him. His classmates, for one. He hated dealing with them. They were nice to him when it suited them, but were a genuinely horrible bunch otherwise. And he was crap at determining when people were going to screw him over so things always ended badly when he trusted them.
Then there was the fact that he couldn’t really afford soccer anyway. He’d never been an official member of the team and always had to scab gear off someone when he played. There were a whole lot of fees he should’ve been paying but never had and the only reason he’d gotten away with that was because he was so bloody good on field that the coach was willing to turn a blind eye.
People let him do things, begrudgingly, if he could manage it. But there was no one around to hold him up if he started falling.
“It’s not a matter of what I want, really.” Esca sighed. If he could just disappear, go somewhere where nobody knew him. Maybe then he would feel free.
Marcus had wanted to take him to the hospital, but it didn’t take too much convincing to get him to drop him in the main street instead. He’d given Esca his phone number, then, realising that Esca obviously no longer had a phone, left him his address as well. Esca tucked both into his pocket. He took the old pair of sneakers Marcus offered and smiled as he waved goodbye. He wasn’t going to be able to pay the guy back and he should’ve told him as much. But for some strange reason he couldn’t stand to have him know that he had nowhere to go and that the only thing he owned right at that moment were the trousers he was wearing.
He was used to not having stuff, so it wasn’t shame, exactly. It was, well, Marcus had seen him in a pretty terrible state what with the being half naked and bleeding thing and still managed to carry on the delusion that Esca was the star soccer player for his school team. He’d seemed a bit rattled to discover that it wasn’t quite true, but it was apparently only a minor misconception. If Esca told him that he was a homeless orphan who was dropping out of school to go find work in another city to avoid being beaten up by everyone he knew, well, that might be a bit much for Marcus’ middle class head to take in. And then he’d pity him, and probably see him as a charity case. And quite possibly not be so free about lending him things, and Esca really needed the shoes.
His few borrowed clothes weren’t enough to keep him warm for the night though, not if he was sleeping outside. He contemplated breaking into the garage of his old home, but he wasn’t sure he could manage it anymore. They’d changed the locks about a month ago when his foster father had bought a new car and they’d never let him own keys - not that they’d be any use to him if he had’ve had the privilege, they’d be with the rest of his gear wherever the hell that was.
His foster parents would probably call the cops on him as well, if he were found out.
He dawdled around the streets for an hour or so, waiting for the shops to close up and people to go home, eventually ducking into a late night coffee shop and hunkering down in one of the booths up the back. He’d be kicked out at closing, or if they noticed him since he wasn’t buying anything. But the one person manning the coffee machine hadn’t seen him come in so he felt safe enough.
It might’ve been the blood loss, or just the fact that the coffee shop was nice and warm and he was tired, but it took less than ten minutes before Esca fell asleep at the table, his head cradled in his arms. Next