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the island of conclusions

Narbo Martius (Marcus/Esca, R)

the island of conclusions

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Narbo Martius (Marcus/Esca, R)

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Esca back
Apologies to anyone who saw this go up in a mangled state on AO3 last night--I was trying to get it in under the [community profile] kink_bingo deadline...It's complete over there now, and this is a cleaned up version.

I was hoping this would be longer, and a satisfactory resolution to the events of "In Any Tongue," but I ran out of time, and it ended up being pretty much a piece of fluff. There may have to be one more fic in this series. Apologies also for the lack of historical detail. If there are any glaring historical errors, PM me.

Title: Narbo Martius
Rating: R
Pairing: Esca/Marcus
Warnings: Set after the end of the film; also, see notes.
Word Count: ~2K
Disclaimer: not mine, no profit.

a/n: for the "vehicular" square on my [community profile] kink_bingo card.
a/n: this fic follows In Any Tongue and With Our Arms Unbound --but I don't think it's necessary to have read those to read this one.
a/n: I've borrowed the Narbo Martius horse fair from Sutcliff's Sword at Sunset. The deleted scenes shows movie!Marcus to be as good a charioteer as book!Marcus. I've also used the alternate ending of the movie.

Summary: An old friend lets Marcus and Esca test his chariot team.



By nearly silent mutual agreement, they’d veered west to pass through Narbo Martius on their way to the land they’d purchased farther south.

The horse fair was in full swing, and Esca had to brace himself a bit against the crush of people after the loneliness of the road. Beside him, he could feel Marcus tense as well.

It seemed a long time since they’d had much intercourse with others. Husbanding their meager funds, they’d slept out most nights on their journey south. It was what they were used to, and, in a way, what they preferred. Cooking over a smoky fire, lying shoulder to shoulder under the overspreading stars, pack horses tethered beside them, it had been almost like being north of the Wall again. Except that here the wind was dry, not wet, the nights barely cooler than the days.

They did not speak of what had passed during their time with the Seal People. They did not touch more than one would during the ordinary course of a day. But Esca would see Marcus trace a finger along the small scar on his wrist sometimes, distractedly, as if he hardly knew what he was doing. He wondered what the gesture meant.

The heat had bothered Esca for a while—or rather the glare of the sun had. He’d felt like a bug caught on a griddle, the sweat baking off his face before it had a chance to fall. He’d panted and squinted and—judging by the number of sympathetic looks Marcus had thrown his way—must have looked entirely miserable at times.

One particularly stifling day, Marcus had pulled his horse up short and cocked his head.

“Come on,” he’d said, sliding down and leading the beast off the road.

Esca had followed, slowed a little by the heat. By the time he’d reached the stream, Marcus’s tunic lay in a pile on the bank and Marcus himself was knee-deep in the water, splashing like a boy.

Esca had let himself stare for a moment. The climate agreed with Marcus. The sun had turned his skin an even, golden brown, lightened his hair. He seemed taller, too, as if he’d always been a little hunched in Britain, pulling his shoulders in and his chin down, without Esca realizing it. Even the livid scars on his leg were starting to fade. He’d filled out, too, lost the pinched look he’d had since Esca had known him—a layer of plush flesh pillowing his muscles, smoothing out the long lines of his torso.

The bright sun had turned Marcus’s skin to satin, and Esca had bitten his lip against the desire to follow the water’s caress with his own.

Marcus had caught Esca looking and laughed.

“I grow fat,” he’d said, slapping his belly with a wet hand.

“You grow vain,” Esca had told him, and kicked a spray of water in his general direction.

He'd decided he could get used the heat.

+++

They would need to ready the property before they bought studs and brood mares, but they checked the available stock carefully all the same. They would have plenty of choice when the time came.

Duty done, they drifted towards the circle of beaten earth where chariot teams were being put through their paces.

They pushed their way to the front of the crowd and found several fine teams wheeling rapidly around the enclosure—all high-steeping, nervy, proud. Only one truly drew the eye, however: four perfectly matched blacks pulling a Roman-style chariot. A fair-haired youth drove them, from Gaul or somewhere farther north, though he wore the reins wrapped round his waist in the Roman style. Esca could tell he barely had to touch the horses guide them, in perfect unison, along the tight curve of the makeshift circus.

Next to him, Marcus sighed, and Esca turned to find a look on his face he rarely saw these days—a wistfulness so fierce the less charitable might call it envy. He felt a version of it himself, had to push away the memory of his father’s bays, the pride he’d had in training them before that world had been destroyed.

“Come,” Esca put a hand on Marcus’s elbow. “We should find a place for the night before it grows too late.”

They turned away, almost bumping into the swarthy giant of a man who’d come up behind them.

“Pardon, domine,” Esca said, but the man ignored him, clapping his hands on Marcus’s shoulders.

“Marcus,” he boomed. “Marcus Flavius Aquila. As I live and breathe. I thought that was you. I was just coming over to make sure.”

“Silenus?” Surprise turned to delight as Marcus returned the man’s embrace. “It’s been years. We served together in Judea,” he explained to Esca as he escaped Silenus’s embrace. “What are you doing here.”

“Transferred to Galicia.” Silenus shrugged. “I don’t mind. At least there’s a decent circus at this post—so I’ve splashed out and bought myself a team. Magnificent, aren’t they?”

“The blacks, they’re yours?”

“They are now.” Silenus beamed. “Though I’ll be going without new armor for a long time because of them.”

“They’re beautiful,” Marcus said, and it wouldn’t have taken an old comrade at arms to hear the longing in his voice.

“Tell you what.” Silenus was magnanimous with his new treasure. “Why don’t I get that stripling off them, and you take them for a turn—you’re a fine charioteer, I remember that.”

Marcus flinched. But he was nothing if not brave. “Not anymore,” he said, flicking the hem of his tunic aside to show the scars. Silenus sucked in a breath. “Put paid to my career in the Legions,” Marcus went on, “and it’s still apt to betray me at the worst of times. I daren’t risk losing control of your beauties.”

Silenus nodded, looking stricken. “I didn’t know.” He squeezed Marcus’s shoulder again—he seemed a man given to physical affection. Then he brightened. “I know. The chariot’ll take two, if they aren’t heavy. Why doesn’t your servant ride with you? If he knows his way around horses, that is?”

“My brother,” Marcus corrected. Silenus had the grace to take that in stride. “And he does know his way around horses—he’s a chieftain’s son of the Brigantes. Esca, meet my old comrade, Silenus.”

Esca bent his head, and took a kind of spiteful joy in Silenus’s visible struggle to contain his curiosity about this information.

“What say you, Esca?” Marcus continued. “Shall we take Silenus up on his generous offer and try the team?”

It was in Esca’s heart to say no. There are some kinds of pleasure that are worse than pain when you leave them behind. But the light in Marcus’s eyes overpowered him. It always did.

Silenus signaled to the driver to bring the team over to the edge of the circle and gestured to him to dismount. Wearing a grin like a challenge, Marcus took the reins and hopped into the chariot, light as a boy. He reached down a hand for Esca.

Esca knew Marcus was a fine horseman. Lugh knew they had spent enough time traveling, hunting, running for their lives for him to know that. But he had never seen him handle a team of trained horses. It stirred his heart strangely to see how Marcus gently tested them, found their mettle, the ways they liked to be led before he pushed them to any speed.

But when he did, the horses fairly flew beneath his whip. Esca caught his breath and steadied himself on the side of the chariot. He remembered this sensation, wind hitting his face, the chariot rocking like a boat beneath him. He stood behind him, and so couldn’t see Marcus’s face. But he could imagine what it looked like—eyes narrowed, lips parted enough to show his teeth, jaw forward like a ship’s prow. Esca’s skin tingled, as if all the blood in his body were rising to the surface.

They sped around the circus once, twice, Marcus expertly twitching the reins to avoid the other teams. On the third go round, however, he had to jerk the horses hard to the left to get them out of the way of a slow-moving pair of roans, and the movement threw him hard against the opposite side of the carriage.

Marcus grunted once, more frustration than pain, but the damage had been done. The jolt had knocked something out of alignment in his bad leg, and his balance was shot.

The horses slowed, moved out of unison, seemed about to get their feet tangled in each others’. But before that could happen, Esca stepped more firmly behind Marcus, and reached around him to take the reins still lashed around his waist.

“Lean back,” he hissed. “Let go and let me steer.

Marcus did, though Esca could tell it took something for him to do it. He was heavy, and they staggered for a moment before they could come to some kind of balance, Esca’s arms tight against Marcus’s sides, Marcus’s arse slotted just above Esca’s hipbones, letting Esca take some of the weight of his bad side.

And then it was surprisingly easy. They’d ridden like this before, of course, but then Marcus had been a dead weight that Esca could barely keep in the saddle. Now he was entirely alive, and he put his hands over Esca’s on the reins and moved with him, the two of them guiding the horses together, as if it were a dance they’d always known.

It was almost too much—the speed, the thunder of the horses’ hooves, the press of Marcus’s broad back, the smell of dust and horse and sweat in his nostrils. Esca fought to keep his head clear, but he couldn’t help himself from hardening as his cock rubbed against the cleft of Marcus’s arse.

He felt the blood fly to his cheeks—half-embarrassment, half-desire. Muttering an apology, he tried to put some distance between Marcus’s body and his own. But Marcus wouldn’t let him. With a laugh as free as any Esca had heard from him, he tilted his hips, rocking himself against Esca’s now aching cock. Esca groaned and tried to stop himself from biting into Marcus’s shoulder. The horses, as if sensing the confusion in the chariot’s basket, seemed to lengthen their stride, pull at their bits.

“We can’t,” Esca murmured, though his body seemed to disagree with him. “What about your friend’s chariot?”

Marcus made a sound Esca had never heard from him before. It might have been a giggle. Then he sighed and stilled his hips. “I suppose you’re right. Silenus has spent his hard-earned pay on it—it wouldn’t do to make a mess of it before he’d gotten the chance to enjoy it. You can let go now; I’ve found my balance.”

Esca stepped away. Marcus slowed the horses and took them on another circuit—to cool them down, and to let Esca quiet the erection that tented out the front of his tunic. Esca couldn’t tell for sure, but he though Marcus might have been faced with the same predicament.

At Marcus’s signal, the team came to a halt so instantaneously he might have cast a freezing spell.

“Well done, well done,” Silenus said as he handed them down. “Aren’t they gems? Worth all the gold I paid for them. Did you two good, too. You were a bit peaky when I first laid eyes on you, I can tell you now, but these beauties have put some color in your cheeks.” He clapped them both heartily on the back. “Come now, I think you owe me dinner for all that.”

They couldn’t very well refuse, but as they followed Silenus back into the crowded fair, Marcus gave Esca a conspiratorial grin and said to Silenus, “Of course, old friend, but I’m afraid we’ll need to retire early. We have many things to do on the morrow.”

  • Eeeeeeeee more fic from you! I cannot say I am disappointed by the prospect of #4. This is fabulous, wonderfully vivid and descriptive, and also unf, the inappropriate arousal = scorching.

    It was in Esca’s heart to say no. There are some kinds of pleasure that are worse than pain when you leave them behind. But the light in Marcus’s eyes overpowered him.

    Oh, ow. This is so perfect.

    Did you two good, too. You were a bit peaky when I first laid eyes on you, I can tell you now, but these beauties have put some color in your cheeks.

    Ahahahahaha!

    Eeeeeeee, fic. ♥
  • I love this story! it's a perfect follow-up for the previous ones and the direction in which they're heading made me squee really hard :)
    • Yay! I'm so glad you enjoyed it--and felt it went with the other ones. I like the direction they're heading, too--I just have to figure out how to get them there :)

      thanks for reading and commenting!
  • How fantastic, that the angst in the other two stories should have yielded up such delicious fluff! I love the hesitancy between them now, both of them thinking over what happened in Caledonia, but neither willing to speak of it. I loved how the chariot ride jolted them back into their own lives for a moment, and that Esca feared the pain of it, but relented for Marcus's sake. In the protected space of that moment, it made sense that Marcus would feel comfortable enough to acknowledge the sexual tension between them, even to tease a little. I just want to know what happens after they retire for the night! :P
    • Thank you so much for the lovely comment! I'm delighted you enjoyed the fic. I was happy, too, when it seemed that they'd gotten to a place where they could relax and play a bit--I love your phrase about the "protected space of the moment."

      I am thinking about how to give a sense of what happens next--though I doubt anything I write will live up to what we all can imagine.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!
  • Oh, I love this!! I can't quite put this into words, but you do a really nice job of describing their emotions in an understated yet vivid manner. Like this:

    But the light in Marcus’s eyes overpowered him. It always did.

    And this part, lol:

    Marcus made a sound Esca had never heard from him before. It might have been a giggle.

    Loved Esca admiring Marcus's body at the river, too! Mmmmm. And their exchange about Marcus being fat/vain was perfect. :)

    • Thank you so much for the lovely feedback! Describing emotions in a vivid but not OTT way is one of my main goals in all fic, so your comment makes me really happy.

      And it was fun to write a more relaxed Marcus, so I'm glad that worked.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting--I'm glad you enjoyed it!
  • Your stories make me so happy. I literally jumped in the chair when I saw this. I love how the two of them are able to take their respective pain at the very idea of a chariot ride, and turn it to something else when they are together - which is, for me, the best thing about the pairing, and you captured it perfectly with this scenario. I can practically feel the wind in their faces, and see the two of them pressed together. Also, HELLO COMPETENCE KINK, guh.

    Yep. You have made me very happy. :)

    • Aw, you are the sweetest! I'm so delighted this made you happy!

      I've never thought about it that way before, but you're right that the most wonderful thing about Esca and Marcus is that they don't allow each other to remain isolated in the pain and loss they've suffered--they transform it into something else in each other and themselves. It's very moving.

      My competence kink waves at yours!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!
  • (no subject) - ex_calamity172
    • lol! Well, I wrote that sex-in-the-backseat fic for H50, so I was worried I'd just repeat myself with car sex :)

      I'm glad you enjoyed this one!

      And yes--I finished that bingo *iz exhausted* it took me to some interesting places, but I'm glad this last fic was more playful and happy than the others--

      Thanks for reading!
  • This is great!

    I love the Esca POV and I love your description when the try out the Team. ♥

    I was so sad when they cut the chariot race scene out of the movie. :( It would have given a wonderful backstory later on in the movie when Marcus had to kill the charioteer...

    Thank you!
    • Thank you!

      I was sad the scene didn't make it into the movie, too--it was beautiful, and it would have made the battle and Marcus's injury that much more poignant. The description in the book is gorgeous too, and Marcus's charioteering skill is an interesting aspect of his character.

      I'm glad this little bit of charioteering worked for you, tho'--thanks for reading and commenting!
  • Great story. Loved the initial awareness of desire at the stream, and the thrill of racing. Loved the different wistfulness each of them felt separately, and the intoxication of competence. Loved "My brother". Loved the hot thrill of mutual desire mixing with the symultaneous thrill of satisfied competence. Loved all of it. Thank you.
    • You are very welcome! Thank you for the lovely, lovely comment! One of my favorite things about Marcus and Esca is how much they respect and enjoy each others' competence (this may be more true in the book than the movie, but I'm importing!)--so it was fun to show another area they are good at together. And turned on by ;)

      Thanks for reading--I'm so glad you enjoyed it!
  • This was gorgeous and a lovely continuation of the first two stories with the angst mellowing and both of them showing off more of their playful and relaxed side.

    Oh and there was chariot riding wheee!! and it was scorching hot!!! \o/ \o/
    • eee! look at your perfect icon!

      I'm so glad you enjoyed the fic--and that you felt like it followed on okay from the first two, even though it was mellower. It was kind of fun to find the playful side of their personalities--

      Thanks for reading and commenting!
  • (no subject) - seascribe
    • Yay! I'm so glad you enjoyed it, and felt like they were in character. And yeah, I have to admit that chariot scene was kind of fun to write ;)

      Thanks for reading and commenting!
  • That was gorgeous. :) It was a shame to have the chariot scene cut from the film, but thank goodness it was in the extras....

    But I digress! Lovely job here, and it made me smile. Marcus so wistful and happy, and ooooh, boys and horses and chariots, and Esca there to prop up Marcus when his leg goes wonky.

    *sigh*

    Perfect. I'm glad you're writing more Eagle fic!
    • Thank you! I was so glad they at least filmed the chariot scene and gave it to us in the extras. It's such an interior scene in the book, I can see why it wouldn't quite fit in the movie, but it's great context for the battle...

      But I'm so happy you enjoyed the fic! I wasn't quite planning it that way, but I was glad it turned out to more happy and playful than the other two.

      I'm happy to be writing Eagle fic, too--love these boys, and love Eagle fandom!

      Thanks for reading!
  • Holy Mother of God!!!
    A sequel PLEASE, you can't leave us hanging like that! It's pure torture...lol poor Esca. XD

    Ok, now seriously, while I was reading it, I almost felt like I was watching a film...it felt so vivid and real. One word: PERFECT!!
    • lol! I think Esca's doing okay, actually--it's just sad that we don't get to see what they're up to. I will try to find a way to put it in a fic :)

      I'm so glad you enjoyed this, though, especially that it came through vividly--thanks so much for reading and commenting!
  • Oh, chariots + naughtiness + happy boys = love!

    This is delightful...
  • Thanks for writing this - You're right; the chariot racing deserves more attention. It painted a clear picture in my head and was very enjoyable, especially - shallow person that I am - the notion of them pressed together.
    • You are very welcome--glad you enjoyed it! That mental picture pleased me too--and may have been the whole motivation to write the fic ;)

      Thanks for reading and commenting!
  • Great stuff! Wonderful imagery, and I like the way you incorporated the movement of the chariots with the growing sensations for the boys. Niiiice. *g*
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