SUMMARY: After the fight at the river, Marcus is sick from injury and hypothermia and they have to recuperate with the Selgovae before continuing south to Eburacum. Marcus and Esca have Unstated Feelings at each other.
PAIRING: Gen like the book
NOTES: For round one of the fanmedia challenge at ninth_eagle on livejournal, inspired by the photograph of the dirt track. Yes, this is a complete vignette; I am not planning on continuing it directly. Thanks to Sineala for the beta.
I am only posting some of my fanfiction to this site, due to FFN's content restrictions; the rest can be found at archiveofourown DOT org SLASH users SLASH Carmarthen. Also, if anyone here is looking for more Eagle or Eagle of the Ninth fanfiction, ninth-eagle DOT livejournal DOT com is Ninth Eagle, where there is a whole lot of stuff by a whole lot of people.
When the Tide Turns
Marcus was nearly falling out of the saddle. Since the battle in the river he had hardly been able to stop shivering, his vision blurring and going dark between brief patches of sharp clarity that were nearly incomprehensible in their brightness. He barely even noticed the discomfort of riding double, only the hard strength of Esca's arm around his waist holding him up. "Only a little further," Esca murmured, the soft tones of his British-accented voice oddly comforting. They should remind him of something else, he thought faintly. He should be afraid. But he wasn't, not with Esca's warmth at his back.
"I'm fine," Marcus slurred, even as a flash of heat went through him, followed by another fit of shivering.
He woke in the close dimness of a building that smelled like smoke and fresh hay and damp, and for a moment he thrashed wildly, desperate to escape. "Hush," came Esca's voice, still slow and gentle, although Marcus could not see his face well in the flickering firelight. "We are with the Selgovae, Guern's people." And slowly Marcus came to himself, the frantic beat of his heart slowing; he was only tangled in blankets, not bound. The Seal People were far behind them.
"How long have I slept?" he asked, suddenly aware that every muscle in his body ached and his throat felt as dry as the sands of Syria Palaestina.
"A few days." Esca pressed a hand to Marcus's forehead. It felt blessedly cool, and Marcus closed his eyes. "Your fever broke this morning, but we thought to let you sleep. Their healing-woman cleaned and dressed your wound, and it does not look so bad today."
It did not feel as bad, either, Marcus realized; if it was not well, it was also not the hot iron bar of pain it had been during their flight south, either. "Thank you," he said, uncomfortably aware that he owed his life to Esca yet again. Thrice over now at least, he thought, and yet the scales between them were not in balance.
He fumbled about in the blankets, but someone had taken his belt and dagger, as well as most of his clothing; he wore only his tunic. "Where is my dagger?"
Esca frowned briefly, but disappeared into the darkness outside the firelight for a moment. "Here," he said, pressing it into Marcus's hand, "I don't know why-"
Marcus closed Esca's fingers back around the hilt, willing Esca to understand. It was not his father's dagger, nor even from his time as a soldier, just a nondescript thing he had taken from a dead Epidii warrior, who had likely himself taken it from a defeated enemy. It could have been made by anyone, Roman or British. But it was all he had to offer.
"Marcus," Esca said, and there was something choked in his voice.
"Take it," Marcus said. "Please."
Esca leaned forward, almost close enough for Marcus to see his expression, almost as close as he had been that day in the rain, when Marcus had been certain he would die and wished for all the things he could not have.
And at that moment someone ducked into the hut, letting in a gust of rain-scented cold air; a British woman as tall and straight as a willow withy, with hair the same color as the firelight, carrying a jar of water. A rangy hound darted past her legs and ran to sniff at Marcus and Esca, tail waving fiercely as it thrust its cold nose into Marcus's arm, and the moment was past.
But as Esca turned to leave he reached out and quietly pressed his hand against Marcus's before tucking the dagger into his belt.