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the island of conclusions

In Any Tongue (Marcus/Esca, NC-17)

the island of conclusions

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In Any Tongue (Marcus/Esca, NC-17)

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Title: In Any Tongue
Rating: NC-17
Pairing: Marcus/Esca
Word Count: ~2.5K
Warnings: public sex, forced coupling.
Disclaimer: Not mine, no profit, no offense.

a/n: Movie ‘verse. So much movie ‘verse. I feel like I owe book!Esca, book!Marcus and book!Liathan letters of apology. I’m sorry, guys—I love you!
a/n: Written for this prompt at the_eagle_kink, and first posted anonymously over there--but it turned out more fuck-or-die than dub-con. I’ve revised considerably for re-posting.
a/n: No—I can’t believe I wrote fuck-or-die!fic either….I’d blame certain flisties in other fandoms for showing me how interesting this trope was, but really, it’s all my fault.

Summary: Rome seemed very far away.

In Any Tongue

The mead of the seal-people was strong.

In truth, Esca thought, calling it mead was a kindness—the stuff was rough as tree bark and twice as acrid. But it set him reeling, nonetheless. They might have been burning something else to cloud the mind—some herb or oil—but such was the jumble of smells and smoke in the crowded hut that he couldn’t tell for sure.

The women had been banished to their own place, and the slaves to the outer edges of the room. The chief men of the tribe, Esca by courtesy among them, sprawled closer to the fire, passing a skin of the stuff between. Despite the cold outside, the humid heat of so many bodies had Esca lifting a wrist time and again to wipe his hot face.

“Your slave,” said Liathan, the chieftain’s son, fixing Esca with a bloodshot eye, “he’s a sullen one.”

Esca cast a quick, involuntary glance at Marcus, crouched on his heels at the edge of the circle, eyes almost black in this light, the skin under them bruised-looking. To an outsider’s eye he might indeed look sullen; Esca saw only wariness and exhaustion.

“The way he smiled at my sister, I do not think that he understands that fucking is forbidden for slaves,” Liathan continued. “Here, it is slaves who are fucked. It is in my heart to show him that myself.” He looked relaxed, propped lazily on both elbows, but Esca could find no trace of pleasantry in his eyes.

“No,” Esca blurted out, before he had time to think. Then, sucking in a breath, and wishing he had more of his wits about him, he said the first thing that sprang to mind. “He is my slave. His body is mine, to do with what I wish.”

“A jealous master, then?” Liathan laughed, an ugly sound. “It is hard to believe he submits so easily to your will. He is like the trunk of an oak—and you,” his eyes swept down Esca’s body scathingly, “are like the branches that bend in the wind. No. To believe this, I would see you claim him—see you teach him some humility.” And he smiled, like the fox that baits the goose.

Esca swallowed. What Liathan asked was not outside the bounds of custom. It was a time-honored manner of claiming captives among the tribes, and among the Romans too—mostly women, to be sure, but he had heard of it happening with men as well. And he had told them Marcus was his captive.

And yet his reluctance must have shown on his face, because Liathan licked his lips, his expression poisonous. “I should be glad to help you, should you require it. Stripling.”

The drink churned queasily in Esca’s belly. Liathan had declined the chance to kill Marcus outright, but he was asking a price for his sister’s honor all the same. The challenge was plain: if he—if they—failed to show Liathan what he wanted to see, they would be unmasked. And if their true reasons for being here became known, they would be gutted as quickly and easily as the fish drying outside on the lines.

“No,” Esca said, as firmly as he could. “You speak the truth. He should be taught his place, and I would do it, here, among my brethren.”

Liathan nodded, satisfied, and before Esca knew what was happening, two of his kinsmen had hauled Marcus to his feet and dragged him before the fire. The other men cleared a space for him, as if they had been listening all along.

“Esca?” Marcus said. The two men held his wrists, but he wasn’t struggling, just ducking his head slightly in the low ceiling of the place.

Looking at the bemusement, the near-innocence, of Marcus’s face, Esca felt a jolt of anger so strong it was almost hatred. If the Roman had ever bothered to learn more than a few words of British, had listened to the people around them, he would know what was going on, would know what was about to happen to him—would have spared Esca the pain of having to explain. He might never have violated custom in the first place.

Esca reached out and cuffed Marcus soundly across the face. “Kneel, slave,” he hissed in the northern tongue. Marcus looked briefly confused, and then furious. Esca hit him again. Slowly, Marcus sank to his knees, to the appreciative murmurs of the Seal People. Esca dug his fingers into the Roman’s short hair, pulled sharply so that Marcus had to twist his face upwards.

Esca almost faltered at the sight of it. Marcus’s lips were chapped and cracked, his skin reddened by the endless wind and cold, his brow creased by new lines--the damage wrought by harsh weather on one born to a gentler clime.

But he couldn’t gentle the blow, couldn’t say too much, not without raising suspicion. “Follow my lead,” he growled, the Latin words like river pebbles on his tongue, “or we will both die.” He pushed Marcus back towards the men who had held him. “Ready him.”

Marcus struggled as the men stripped him of his tunic and trousers, already guessing what would happen next. But they paid him no heed, disrobing him with ruthless efficiency, jeering at his pale, unmarked skin. Esca tried to watch impassively. He had seen Marcus’s broad shoulders, his thick sex, his scarred thigh every day for months, and sometimes, yes, had gazed on them with desire. And if he’d sometimes dreamed of what it would be like to act upon that desire, those dreams had never been anything like the nightmare that was about to unfold.

But when the Roman was on all fours in front of him, bare flesh goose-pimpling even in stifling air of the hut, Esca forced himself to remember that this was only what Marcus’s people had done to his own, what they would have done to his mother, had she lived. He told himself that the fire in the hut was the leaping flames of that awful night, the blood pounding in his ears the shrieks and cries of the Brigante.

He would not have thought one’s sex could harden from anger and bitter memories alone, but so it was. Or perhaps whatever drug laced the fume-choked air stoked his blood, fueled its wildness. With a guttural sound somewhere between pain and arousal, Esca shoved down his own trousers, stood erect and exposed before the Seal People.

“Not such a stripling after all,” leered Liathan.

Ignoring him, Esca knelt behind Marcus, gasping a little as his cock slid into the cleft of Marcus’s arse, surprised at how good it felt, how right. Marcus shifted uneasily against him, as if he were still considering fighting his way out of the situation, and damn the consequences. The tiny movements were like a bramble-brush, a goad on Esca’s overheated flesh. Esca put his hands on Marcus’s hips, and felt a sudden, shameful thrill at having that powerful body under his command.

Taking a man like this was not something Esca had ever done, but he knew how it was supposed to go—from whispered tales, from rude pictures scratched on Roman walls. It would be better to be quick, he supposed, to rip and tear his way in, and disregard Marcus’s pain, as long as he proved the point.

But now that he was this close, he could hear the ragged in-and-out of Marcus’s breathing, feel the chill of his skin, even in the hot hut. Esca’s vision of the conqueror, the enemy dissolved, and it was only Marcus beneath him—not quite master, not quite friend, but one with whom he had hunted, with whom he had shared a lonely fire and meager food—one whom he had fed and bathed with his own hands during his long illness.

He paused, unsure, felt himself begin to soften against Marcus’s back. The guttering fire cast fragments of light across the room, briefly illuminating bits of faces and bodies before dropping them back into the dark. The play of color and shadow dizzied him.

Against him, Marcus stilled, drew a long breath, as if coming to a decision. “Esca.” Marcus pitched his voice for Esca’s ears alone. “Wet your fingers in your mouth. Use them to open me first.” The Roman’s voice shook a bit, but was surprisingly level, as if he were giving instructions on a desperate battlefield. As perhaps he was. “Do it, Esca—it will make things easier for us both.”

The familiar voice anchored him, let Esca claw his way back to himself. He did as Marcus said, dipped two fingers into his dry mouth, tried to conjure up enough spit to cover them. He would be ridiculed, he knew, for showing even this much kindness to a slave, but there was no help for that. He knew now he could not let Marcus suffer any more than necessary. He found Marcus’s opening, eased one finger through the tight ring of muscle. It was strange, but he could feel, actually feel, Marcus working to relax, and that collaboration, that comradeship, went straight to his loins.

“I have heard the Brigante were as soft-hearted as women,” shouted someone, to a roar of laughter. “And now I see it with my own eyes.”

But Esca didn’t care. He added another finger, pushed in deeper, experimented with the angle. And he must have done something right, because Marcus made a sound that had nothing to do with pain, and bucked his hips back against Esca’s hands.

“Now,” Marcus gasped. “Do it now.”

Esca took his own heavy cock in one hand, gripped Marcus’s hip hard with the other, and plunged in. And was lost to the outer world. He could still hear the mutter and rustle of the crowd around him, dimly sense the myriad eyes trained on them, feel the tickle of sweat and other men’s arousal in his nostrils, but it all faded next to the sensation of Marcus’s body, tight, so tight, around him. There was nothing in Esca now but the need to get deeper, to get farther in. Without thinking, he dug his fingers into Marcus’s hips, dragged him back hard as he thrust in again, felt a deep shudder go through the other man, his breath come fast.

“Finish him,” someone called, shrill enough to cut through the roar of Esca’s own blood. “Finish him.”

And the world crashed in again. Esca threw his head up, looking feverishly for the voice. But, as if the words had cast him adrift in time and space, he could see only that muddy arena in Calleva, hear only the taunts and jeers of Roman crowd. Like an ocean wave, he felt the same despair wash over him, the same fierce wish for darkness and escape. He froze—the rhythm broken.

“Esca.” Marcus’s voice had lost its levelness, was close to desperate now, raw. “Whatever they said, it doesn’t matter. Esca—“ The broken words were a plea. “Touch me. See how much I need you. Touch me. Esca--”

Jolted back to himself by the sound, Esca did, sliding his hand around Marcus’s hip to touch his sex. He was tentative at first, not sure what he would find. But Marcus’s cock already hard and leaking. At the possibility that there was more to this for Marcus than punishment and humiliation—that the dreams might not have been Esca's alone--something broke wide open in his chest. He grasped more firmly, the hot length under his hand reigniting his own desire.

With an anguished cry of determination and desire, he thrust into Marcus once more, twice, and came, as clear and bright as a spear throw through sunlight. A moment later, Marcus spilled his seed over Esca’s fist.

And then Marcus’s leg gave out, sending them both tumbling ungainly to the packed dirt floor. Esca disentangled himself, and reached out, but Marcus, his face tight with pain, shoved him away.

Before he could pursue the issue, Liathan clapped a heavy hand on his shoulder and pressed a skin of mead into his hand. “Well done, my brother,” he said, with only a trace of resentment. “It is a fine thing to see such a submissive slave.”

Esca nodded, stupidly, his eyes fixed on Marcus as he gathered up his clothes and made his halting way towards the door of the hut. His leg dragged behind him, but no one raised a hand to either help or hinder him as he went out into the night.

Dazedly, Esca pulled on his own trousers and drank long and deep of the bitter mead. But the drink seemed to have lost its power to touch him. He stared wide-eyed into nothing until the fire had burnt down to its embers, and the men of the Seal People had subsided into snores and sighs.

Then he took a half-full skin and picked his way through the bodies to the door. The damp, cold wind off the loch felt good after the fetid hut, and it was clear night, awash in moonlight. Esca tried to believe that the fresh air would scour the shame off his spirit as he made his way to slaves’ quarters.

He thought he might have trouble finding Marcus, but the Roman had settled himself near the doorway. He was curled on his side, head pillowed on his arm, wide awake—Esca could see his eyes glint in the moonlight as he pushed aside the door hangings.

Silently, Esca crouched beside him and offered him the skin—put a steadying hand behind his head as he drank.

“Not exactly Rhenish wine,” he murmured in Latin, as Marcus choked a bit on the harsh stuff. “Are you—?“ Esca had to stop, his throat too tight to go any further.

“Yes. I’m alright.” Marcus started to turn onto his back, but winced. “A little sore, but nothing worse.”

“It is in my heart to tell you I am sorry.” Esca got the words out in a rush; they sounded strangled even to his own ears.

“Don’t be. It is over now. We are alive.” But there was something bleak in Marcus’s voice, and he looked past Esca to the dark space beyond the door. “There are some among my people—many—who would have thought death the better choice. And I—for myself—perhaps—yes. But I—I couldn’t--“ His whisper cracked on the words. “I couldn’t let you die. And then—and then I found I wanted you more than I wanted honor.”

Marcus turned back towards Esca and curled a cold hand around his neck. He drew him down. “Rome seems very far away,” he said.

They were close enough that Esca felt the words brush along his skin, and Marcus sounded so forlorn, so lost, that on instinct Esca closed the tiny space between, dared to turn it into a kiss

“Marcus,” he breathed into the Roman’s mouth, and thought he felt the answering breath in his own.

And he could not have told in which tongue they spoke their names.


  • &hearts &hearts &hearts

  • (no subject) -
    • Cool--I'm glad you found things to read you enjoyed!

      I'm glad you liked the bit you pulled out--as you know, the language thing in the movie bugged me, so I was interested in thinking about what it would do to their relationship.

      And I realized what I like about this trope (cliche) is that sense of making a connection under horrible duress--so I'm glad it worked out.

      Thanks for reading! (friended you back)
  • We could debate like civilized people about whether this is fuck-or-die or aliens-made-them-do-it. You know, for the sake of academia ;-P

    (in any case Well Done, ma'am. Love exploring the unbalanced power in relationships)
    • ahahaha! I see a dissertation in it! Or at least a conference panel! Inquiring minds want to know the difference between fuck-or-die and aliens-made-them-do-it (I've always thought of aliens-made-them-do-it as being closer to sex-pollen, but, see? that's why we need the panel).

      Actually, I think aliens might have made me write the fic -- the joy of slash for me is usually relationships that are as close to equal as possible. But, apparently not for these two....

      Thanks for reading, tho'--glad you enjoyed it!

    But no, really, fff I loved this. Totally hot and then unexpectedly sweet.
  • This is really amazing, I love it.

    Also, there's a kink meme? That's kind of awesome.
  • It is in my heart to show him that myself

    It is also in my heart, seal person.

    He is like the trunk of an oak—and you,” his eyes swept down Esca’s body scathingly, “are like the branches that bend in the wind. No. To believe this, I would see you claim him

    I agree with this dude more and more.

    Esca put his hands on Marcus’s hips, and felt a sudden, shameful thrill at having that powerful body under his command.

    Um, ugn?

    “Esca.” Marcus’s voice had lost its levelness, was close to desperate now, raw. “Whatever they said, it doesn’t matter. Esca—“ The broken words were a plea. “Touch me. See how much I need you. Touch me. Esca--”

    Oh man. That is...hot.

    as clear and bright as a spear throw through sunlight.

    And that is BEAUTIFUL.

    and then I found I wanted you more than I wanted honor.

    That is PERFECT. That is EXACTLY what I think of Marcus!

    I loved this. AUGH. SO GOOD! I hope you will write more!
    • omg, awesome comment is awesome--thank you!

      Sutcliff uses that "it is in my heart" locution all the time for the Britons -- I have no idea where she got it, or if she made it up, but it cracks me up, and I also love it. I put it in twice, I think!

      And I know, I love that Marcus is pretty much ready to do anything for Esca by the end of the movie! These guys are so delicious, I expect I will write more. And you too--you write more!!
  • Oh man, that last line kills me. I love it!
    • I'm so glad! That's the main reason I wanted to re-post from the anon meme--to change the ending a bit, and get that last line in.

      Thanks for reading!
  • I loved this on the kink meme, but the changes you made made the story so perfect. It was hot and sweet and kid of sad, so good.
    • I'm so glad you enjoyed it--and thought the changes worked! I wanted to make it so that Marcus wasn't quite so "la-di-da" at the end, especially--make it a little sadder--

      Thanks for reading and commenting!
  • UNFFF. This is absolutely wonderful. I love the flow, it was PERFECT. Angsty and deliciouslly hot. <3
  • I really really liked this!
  • '“Marcus,” he breathed into the Roman’s mouth, and thought he felt the answering breath in his own.

    And he could not have told in which tongue they spoke their names.'

    These two last lines are simply brilliant!
    Ok, I think I'm officially hooked.
    • I'm glad you liked those lines! That's the main reason I wanted to re-post from the anon meme -- to change the end a bit, and get those last lines in there --

      Thanks for reading -- glad you enjoyed it!
  • Beautiful!
  • Oh god, this is great. The progression of Esca's feelings is really well done and you just really feel like you're there. Beautiful. The end - *clutches heart*. Plus, er, I happen to love that trope. That was one of the more interesting twists in the movie, making Marcus Esca's "slave" for that part of the story.
    • I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I'm totally digging the trope now, too. It suddenly dawned on me that it's about people making an intense connection in situations of horrible stress, and I completely understood what people were into it!

      And since the slave/master role switching is canon for the movie, it's a good fit (er, so to speak *g*) -- and I agree, it was an interesting thing about the movie (slave!Marcus was kind of hot)

      Thanks for reading--I'm glad you enjoyed it!

  • I love this so much and I haven't even seen the movie yet!
  • "And then—and then I found I wanted you more than I wanted honor."

    My reaction to this is limited pretty much to Guh!

    Dark and powerful and lovely. (And yes, I've decided I will go and see the film.)
    • Yay! I'm so glad you enjoyed this -- especially since your H50 fuck-or-die fic was one of the main things that convinced me of how hot and emotionally interesting this trope is(people bonding under duress, obviously a big kink of mine *g*)

      I hope you don't find the movie too horrible -- I'll be interesting to hear what you think --

      thanks for reading!
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