SUMMARY: Esca wants things he should not want, for too many reasons to count. Set during Marcus's recovery at Calleva, kinkmeme fill for a prompt about Esca masturbating.
RATING: M/R for sexual content
NOTES: The title is paraphrased from Catullus 99; I recommend the translation at Everything2 rather than the weirdly censored version at VROMA.
For more Eagle and Eagle of the Ninth stories, I recommend the ninth_eagle community on Livejournal: livejournal DOT com SLASH community SLASH ninth_eagle. My own Eagle fiction (including many more stories than I have posted here, since most of what I've written in this fandom is sexually explicit and I don't really post to FFN anymore anyway) can be found at archiveofourown DOT org SLASH users SLASH Carmarthen.
More Bitter Than Hellebore
As the younger Aquila recovers, he commands Esca to wrestle with him and spar with wooden swords. He is grimly determined to regain his strength, and Esca cannot help but grudgingly admire him for it.
And he cannot help but find a shred of bitter satisfaction in sending Marcus Aquila sprawling on his Roman arse in the dust of the practice yard, in dealing out bruises to warn him to guard his right better, for Aquila is favoring his bad side and leaving the other open.
Aquila never seems upset at these repeated losses, although he is a head taller than Esca and surely stronger, before his injury. He accepts every fall and bruise with good grace, stopping only when his leg will no longer permit him to stand. He smiles at Esca sometimes, and thanks him, as if he sees a man rather than a slave. Esca hates him for it.
They wrestle in the Greek style, going to the ground, and here Aquila—even weak from surgery and illness—has the advantage due to his greater weight and experience. Aquila allows him to keep his loincloth, for which Esca is grateful, because too often he finds himself panting from more than exertion at the end of a match.
The first time he ignores it, stubbornly. It is only his body, he tells himself, not his heart. It would happen with any man, and if Aquila were not a Roman and a soldier, it would not matter.
The second time he ignores it.
The third, he mumbles something about needing to see to one of the horses, pulls on his clothing, and rushes off to the stable. He shuts himself in an empty stall and leans against the door, shoving his braccae down to his thighs so he can grab his half-hard cock. It has been a long time since Esca has done this; there is little privacy in the slave quarters, and the only time he is ever alone is in the stables. The first touch is a shock, and he's fully hard almost instantly, thinking of Aquila smiling up at him from the dirt, the way Aquila's strong thighs look below the hem of his tunic when he goes without braccae in the Roman manner on warm days.
The calluses on his hand are rough against his sensitive skin and he spits in his palm to slick himself. It's better this way, and he bites his lip to keep silent as he moves his hand faster, pleasure coiling hot in his belly. He does not wish to draw this out, or to do it at all, or to think of Aquila kneeling before him, looking at him with those dark eyes.
Esca comes with an intensity near to pain, bent over and swallowing a cry. His legs are unsteady as he he rights his clothing.
Afterwards he wipes his hand clean in the fresh straw, feeling unsettled. Aquila may be Roman, and an enemy, but he has not used Esca as masters so often use their slaves, nor shown any sign of wishing to do so. For this Esca is grateful, and hates that he is grateful, for if he were a free man he would have the right to defend himself.
Hate and respect are twined together in Esca's heart, and he feels oddly ashamed to dishonor Aquila even in his thoughts.
He will not do it again, he tells himself.
When he attends Aquila in the bath that afternoon, Aquila asks if he is hurt.
"No, domine," Esca says, eyes downcast. Normally he refuses to keep his eyes down as a slave should, but today he dares not meet Aquila's eyes for fear of what Aquila might see in his own.
"Good," Aquila says, with one of his disturbingly kind smiles. "I don't wish to hurt you."
Something twists painfully in Esca's chest, but he says nothing as he goes to pour oil over Aquila's back and scrape it off with the strigil.
He will not do it again.