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vixys

"pattycake, pattycake"

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Oct. 8th, 2011 | 04:54 pm

Title: pattycake, pattycake
Fandom: The Eagle.
Characters: Marcus&Esca.
Word Count: 2164.
Rating: 15.
Summary: Esca hasn’t been eating. Marcus has taken too long to notice. Marcus/Esca; some Marcus/Cottia.
Warnings: implied eating disorder; major character death
Notes: Written for the Fanmedia Challenge over at ninth_eagle, based on the image of bread. Short and not-so-sweet. ♥





pattycake, pattycake


Marcus sits down across the table from Esca, loaf of bread light in his hand.

For a moment, he says nothing, even though his heart is burning, simmering with suppression, and then he reaches out, tense and quiet and determined, and puts the bread down in front of Esca, puts it down where a plate should be, full of meat and cheese with maybe a cup of wine on the side, puts it down where there is only empty space.

He says, “Eat.”

There’s a hollowness to Esca’s cheeks. “Marcus,” he says. “Stop it.”

Marcus would sit back. He would sit back, lounge, be nonchalant, just to prove his point – but he can’t, not now, not like this, because he can’t be nonchalant with Esca’s life. He’s rigid on the edge of his chair; his fingers curl into fists on the tabletop. “Eat it,” he says, and tries not to let his voice shake. “Prove me wrong.”

For a moment, Esca sits still, frozen, gaze fixed on Marcus’ mealtime gift. The bread is fresh from the oven, warm and steaming and filling the air with the smell of the summer bakeries of Marcus’ childhood. The outside is crusty and thick; the inside soft and smooth. Its edges are slightly charred, burnt instead of wonderfully browned, but it doesn’t matter, not now, because Esca’s fingers are flat on the table instead of balled into fists, like he doesn’t care enough to be angry, like he’s too tired

Esca stands, pushes his chair back, leaves. The bread goes untouched.



It had started in Caledonia. There, there’d been no food, not really: raw rabbit and berries snatched from trees as they'd run, run, kept running until there was nothing left. They’d got used to the growl of an empty stomach, and if Marcus hadn’t noticed that when they got back, Esca’s stomach kept growling, well, he’d been just a little preoccupied with trying to shoulder his way back into the life he never thought he’d lead again, the life he never would lead again.

In times to come, he won’t like to think about that.

Their first meal back in Calleva, back under Sassticca’s mothering care, Marcus had stuffed himself full of pork and chicken and freshly-baked bread, just plucked from the ashes where it’d been keeping warm – stuffed himself so full, in fact, that he’d vomited half of it back up again in the middle of the night. Esca had just said, “You can’t go straight back to eating whatever you want, Marcus,” with something that wasn’t hate and wasn’t anger, and fetched him a cup of water and a damp cloth. Marcus hadn’t realised that Esca had barely touched the spread laid on for them – he’d been too concerned with himself.

The morning after, Esca had brought Marcus a bowl of porridge, hot and milky and honeyed, and only eaten half a slice of bread himself.



Marcus leaves the loaf on the table, follows Esca out the kitchen. “Esca,” he says, insistently, “don’t run away from me. You can’t just—”

Esca whirls round, whirls as much as he can with limbs that look like they might snap any moment and ribs pressing through his flesh, and spits, “Marcus, don’t.” If he had the energy to be angry, Marcus thinks, his eyes would be blazing with that fire that he used to have, the fire he’s lost.

Marcus is breathing so hard he feels dizzy. His hands smell of bread and baking and food, warm and delicious, and Esca stands in front of him with nothing but tiredness in his eyes. “Esca,” Marcus tries, and he’s not angry anymore, even though he’s been angry so many times before—how long does it take for anger to be replaced by fear?–and he says, “Please. Look at yourself. You can’t keep doing this; it’s killing you.”

Esca is quiet for a moment, and Marcus’ heart is quiet along with him – and then he laughs, just briefly, and it’s short and sharp and so weak. “Killing me?” he says, and Marcus feels cold. “No. It’s your arena that tried to do that; your soldiers who tried and failed.” – and there’s a flash in those quiet eyes, because Esca is still more firebrand than firewood, still vicious and angry and so full of resentment.

And Marcus breathes, breathes and pauses, and then says, “So why are you finishing the job for them?”



Days had passed, once they were back in Calleva, passed in apathy and boredom and straining at the leash. Marcus had been kept housebound once more, old wounds flaring up and keeping him awake through the nights – and, really, he hadn’t thought anything of it that Esca had stayed with him, through those nights, always ready with a quiet touch or a cup of water, cool and soothing.

Marcus had done little but eat; Esca little but watch him eat.

Once, Marcus had woken in the middle of the night to the sight of Esca standing in the doorway, looking out over the moonlight lake, and as he’d slipped back into dreamless sleep he’d thought, he hasn’t eaten for two days. When daylight had broken over the horizon, with Esca fast asleep in the doorway, half spilled out onto the path down to the lake with lips canted open by his upside down head, there’d been nothing of that realisation left.



Esca says, “Don’t you dare,” and it’s low and soft and so full of hate.

Sharply, Marcus thinks he should stop – and before, when they’ve had this conversation half a dozen times in moonlit evenings and sun-strewn middays, he has: closed his mouth and turned away. But not now, because this has gone far enough, and he doesn’t think he can see Esca’s cheeks hollow themselves into nothingness for a second longer. If he stops, Esca will die, and there’s some dark little part of his heart that knows it. “Stop it,” he says, and doesn’t realise that his hands are shaking. “Stop pretending. Stop trying to be something you’re not.”

“What,” Esca says bitterly, “Roman?” – and they both know what he means by that, because Marcus knows that Esca hates being here, hates the paved streets and the lofty walls and the books of history his uncle lines the walls with, and hates the food, the bread and the wine and the meat and the fruit, hates it so much he can’t stand to touch it, hates it so much he’d rather not have it at all, and now that’s a habit that’s just too hard to break.

To Esca, Calleva is poison, and so Esca can’t stay here because Esca can’t live here, and when Marcus says stop pretending, he knows he should say just leave.



The night had been cold, the first time they’d kissed.

Marcus’ leg had been throbbing in the chill, throbbing so strong it hurt to even think, and Esca’s touch had been hard and strong and healing. The pain had passed, after a while, and they’d talked as it faded, Marcus’ tongue loosened by wine, mixed weaker than usual.

Esca’s eyes had shimmered in the firelight. Marcus would remember that.

When they’d kissed, Esca’s throat full of laughter at this strange custom, this Roman habit, Marcus wrapped himself around Esca’s flesh, pulling him closer, warmer, and he hadn’t noticed the fact that Esca’s frame had been thinner than it had been that first time he’d seen him, resplendent and angry against the arena sands. Less muscled and more ridged, like mountaintops forcing their way into the sky, and, really, how could he have not noticed that?

Marcus is selfish, sometimes; Marcus is selfish, all the time.



And so Marcus says, “Yes,” and something inside him trembles.

Esca’s expression closes sharply, but for half a second he looks like Sassticca’s slapped him across the face. “Oh,” he says, and then, with hard eyes, “Well, if that’s what you want.”

“You know it’s not what I want,” Marcus feels himself growl, and then he’s stepping forward, stepping and not storming, and he reaches out, touches his palm to Esca’s shoulder. He always was so small in Marcus’ shadow, and now he’s frail, waiflike. Marcus doesn’t think he can do this, doesn’t think he can just send him away— But he has to, really. This moment was never going to be a choice.

He drops his touch, and says, “But that doesn’t change anything.” His eyes betray the lie.



Once, with autumn leaves thick on the ground, Marcus had said, so quietly, “My heart.”

Esca had looked at him with eyes wiser than the sun, and answered, “I know.”



The chill in Esca’s eyes becomes defiance, perhaps. “I’m not your slave, Marcus,” he says, “not anymore. You can’t just send me away. I have a life here.”

“No,” Marcus answers heavily, finally, because he’s had enough, he can’t keep doing this, “you don’t.” He pauses, then pushes on: “I have a life here; you wither.”

And the silence is louder than the rush of the sea.

Esca’s jaw is clenched. His knuckles are snow-white.

Marcus thinks of a loaf of bread, sitting hollow on the kitchen table, and says, “Esca.” It’s a plea, he knows, a plea for Esca to say something, anything to make this right. Right now, he wants empty promises, wants Esca to swear to move heaven and earth to make things okay, for them to tussle with the gods and come out on top, side by side. They defeated Caledonia, took her glens by storm and forged their way to each other, but there are still so many deaths that hang between them.

Esca’s eyes are quiet. “Marcus,” he says, and there’s a whisper in his voice that Marcus thinks might be begging exactly the same.

And Marcus thinks about loaves burnt around the edges, about things being not quite perfect and that being okay – but then he remembers snowy mountaintops violating the skies and the thinness of Esca’s chest as he chases ripples in the lake, and thinks that, maybe, he could have stopped this. But he didn’t. And now it’s too late.

Marcus says, “This is the only way, and I can’t watch you die.”



Sixteen years down the line, when Marcus is greyer around the temples and his leg only ever throbs in the deepest of winter snows, he will meet a woman named Cottia. Her hair will flame in the autumn evening, and he’ll watch as she traces patterns in the air with the end of a burning twig, leaving memories written in the cold. Children will dance around her feet, children that aren’t her own. She will bake him bread as fresh as the spring dew, warm as a summer’s morn, and it’s only after he marries her that he’ll realise there’s something of Esca in the way she holds herself, something of his fire in the way she laughs.

When Marcus realises what he’s done, he won’t eat for six days. He’ll think that might be ironic.



Esca takes Marcus’ hand, and his touch is firm and warm and so very slender. “Then don’t,” he says, and there’s so much in his voice that Marcus feels his head spin.

They go to the kitchen, to the table, and Esca picks up that loaf of bread, so warm and fresh, and tears it apart with his teeth, savages it like an animal. He eats it, the whole thing, and Marcus can see the sickness in his eyes—you can’t go straight back to eating whatever you want, Marcus—but Esca doesn’t stop. He eats the bread. He eats it, and there’s a flush in his cheeks when he’s done.

Something burns in Marcus’ heart. He thinks it might be hope.

“I can live here,” Esca says, tight as the winter cold, “if you let me.”

Marcus wets his lips, and says, “You can try.”

Anger flickers in Esca’s eyes, just briefly, and he says, “I will, Marcus. You’ve trusted me before; trust me now. I’ve given up too much for you to stop now, you understand? This is my home; I have no other, not anymore. You are my home.”

Marcus’ breath shudders in his throat, and then they’re kissing, hard and wet and desperate in their hurt, and Esca’s hands might be bonethin and colder than anyone’s hands should ever be, but they hold as tight as they ever did. Marcus allows himself to think in a place buried deep in his heart that, maybe, things might turn out okay – and when Esca pulls away, his hands twisted in Marcus’ hair, and breathes, “I will live for you, Roman,” Marcus might even trust him.



Cottia will find the gravestele, one afternoon, buried deep in a copse in the woods. She will kneel, brush away the snow, and say, with a thoughtful innocence in her voice, “Who was Esca?”

Marcus will stand quiet for a moment, and then say, “Someone who tried.”


finis

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Comments {16}

meggington

from: poziomeczka
date: Oct. 8th, 2011 04:19 pm (UTC)
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I SOUNDED THE SQUEE ALARM.

and god, you're not really tired of breaking out hearts, are you?
this was so stunningly sad and so beautiful.

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Oct. 8th, 2011 05:46 pm (UTC)
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I TRIED TO MAKE IT HAPPY. IT WAS GOING TO BE HAPPY. Then everything went horribly wrong. :( ♥ Although, your icon is severely distracting.

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coeurdesoleil

from: coeurdesoleil
date: Oct. 8th, 2011 05:09 pm (UTC)
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Oh god you seem determined to make me cry my heart out every time you post a new fic ;_;

Your prose is stunning, as always, and the story is beautiful, haunting, heartbreaking.

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Oct. 8th, 2011 05:46 pm (UTC)
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Sorry, sorry, sorry. ♥ And thank you.

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riventhorn

from: riventhorn
date: Oct. 8th, 2011 05:11 pm (UTC)
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Oh, that was heartbreaking! Such strong emotions, and the dialogue was excellent. It expressed their feelings in a way that felt natural in that awkward, fumbling way that I think is so typical of real conversations about difficult things.

Victory is almost yours--only one more round to go!! :D

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Oct. 8th, 2011 05:47 pm (UTC)
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felt natural in that awkward, fumbling way Thank you. ♥

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aeroport_art

from: aeroport_art
date: Oct. 8th, 2011 07:16 pm (UTC)
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OH MY GOD. BROKEN HEART. Thanks a lot.

No but really, what magnificent writing. Every sentence is full of hurt and yearning and hopelessness. Great stuff.

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Oct. 8th, 2011 07:57 pm (UTC)
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Thank you. ♥

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Babydracky

from: babydracky
date: Oct. 8th, 2011 07:26 pm (UTC)
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;o;
That was really beautiful, really, but... *cries*

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Oct. 8th, 2011 07:57 pm (UTC)
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Thank you. ♥

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ideserveyou

from: ideserveyou
date: Oct. 8th, 2011 08:14 pm (UTC)
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That was so beautiful, and like Marcus I went on hoping against hope that it would all be all right in the end... but of course it wasn't... *sobs*

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Oct. 8th, 2011 11:17 pm (UTC)
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Thank you. ♥♥

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take it away, saxophone sheep!

from: citruses
date: Oct. 9th, 2011 12:57 pm (UTC)
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This was so, so heartbreaking. Wonderfully done. I feel like I've been hit, wow, oh god.

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Oct. 9th, 2011 01:07 pm (UTC)
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Thank you. ♥♥

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sistermine

from: sistermine
date: Oct. 13th, 2011 08:54 pm (UTC)
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Oh, now I am poised on the edge of tears.

I enjoy your writing - the quality of your prose and the crispness of your characterisations. I sort of enjoy the emotional charge you create too, tho' at the moment the grieving is a little too real.

It's too good to give it a miss, even tho' I know it's going to hurt.

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Oct. 14th, 2011 09:33 am (UTC)
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the quality of your prose and the crispness of your characterisations Thank you. ♥♥

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