Summary: Marcus is an American, recently discharged from the army, and living in London with his Uncle Aquila. He goes to work for his uncle's art packing and shipping company, currently contracted to pack and deliver ancient Roman statuary and other objects from London to a museum in New York. Esca, son of Uncle Aquila's former Scottish housekeeper, is an intriguing thorn in Marcus' side: intense, contradictory, oddly attractive…and quite possibly the worst-dressed person Marcus has ever known.

This fic has been illustrated by savagesnakes (AKA neonbuddha) in LJ, and the images can be found there on her "2012 Eagle Big Bang Illustration Masterlist." Thanks also to winterstorrm for the beta.

[The title and theme were inspired by the series of photographs entitled "Jamie Bell: What Not to Wear," posted in LJ's ninth_eagle community on August 14, by ninja_orange. The photos depict the evolution of Mr Bell's fashion sense, ranging from the really, truly awful to sleek stylishness and simple, well-chosen interview garb. Sources follow the last chapter.]


DRESSING ESCA

Chapter One

"Esca," said Marcus Aquila with exasperation. "That...that suit is a travesty."

He himself was soberly and stylishly dressed in a dark grey suit, white shirt, and powder blue tie, in preparation for a dinner Uncle Aquila was hosting for some elderly mates from his army days. They were due to arrive at any moment...and who should come walking into the entrance hall but Esca, wearing a dark jacket, white shirt, and black tie over a truly disgraceful pair of grey jeans, baggy, wrinkled, and perforated at the knees. Rumpled hair, a cross between chestnut-auburn and a blondish bronze, was all askew, calling attention to a pair of slightly unfortunate ears.

"You can't possibly be going out in that getup."

"You needn't worry that your uncle's guests will see this," Esca replied calmly. "And yes, I'm going out. I'm meeting friends at some new, upscale club, but I'll sneak out the back way so those geriatric, toffee-nosed colonels and generals don't have heart attacks at the sight of me."

"No upscale club is going to let you in looking like that."

"You'd be surprised," said Esca smugly as he turned smartly on his heel and headed for the back door.

Marcus snorted and then took a rapid look at his own reflection in the hallway mirror. His image looked back at him: tall and dark-haired, his broad-shouldered, athletic body neatly encased in his well-cut suit. Regular, chiseled features in a face most called handsome, hazel green eyes, and an undeniably sensual, full-lipped mouth. It was when Marcus moved that the image was, in his own estimation, marred, by the slight limp that materialized on damp, rainy days, or when the weather was particularly chilly. It was something he had grown accustomed to, over the past two years, and was far less noticeable now than it had been when he first moved from America to London to live with his Uncle Aquila. It might even—according to the doctors—go away, with the proper physical therapy and regular exercise. The limp—or the injury that had caused it—was courtesy of an IED overseas. To put it more accurately, the small, unsophisticated explosive device had destroyed a portion of the chassis of the jeep he'd been riding in. The vehicle had flipped over on top of him, and he had been lucky to escape with only a leg injury.

The disability had put an end to his military career, at any rate. The youngest in a long line of army officers—on both sides of the Atlantic—in the Aquila family, Marcus had never thought he would end up seeking employment as a junior manager and product designer at a London-based art packing company, of all things. He was a soldier, damn it all to hell; since childhood he had dreamed of becoming a good officer, a dedicated and inspiring leader; all his life he had wanted to be in the army. Well, under the circumstances, the army didn't seem to want him, which had left him in a difficult situation. He was a country boy by birth, and if this hadn't been the twenty-first century, he might have turned to farming to earn his living; but the times being what they were, and small farms not being as easy to come by or as profitable as one might like, he had to be grateful for his current job…as far removed from his lifelong aspirations as it might be.

Calleva Fine Arts was one of the most prestigious companies of art packers and shippers in the UK; with branches in France, Spain, and Italy, it worked for some of the largest museums and best private collections in Europe, and had recently opened an office in the States. Marcus had joined the UK staff with a mind filled with reservations and doubts; a month in hospital, and another gloomy six months hobbling about with crutches, had done little to renew his former physical self-confidence. Nonetheless, a year after his army discharge he had relocated to London, settled into the room that had been his when he visited his uncle as a child, and had begun learning the ropes of the art packing business. Eventually—after several more months spent in unmitigated gloom, during which Marcus saw a physical therapist almost daily, a psychotherapist weekly, and fought valiantly against the self-pity that threatened to engulf him—he had realized, albeit reluctantly, that he was well suited to the work. He was a good organizer, he knew how to direct and oversee Calleva's employees, from the men who measured the works of art to the men who packed them, not to mention the men who custom-built the crates and dealt with the transport. Why not be satisfied? After all, there was room to rise in the company, and he was still in his twenties, energetic, hard-working, and full of ideas.

Of course, this job would never have landed in his lap if it hadn't been for Uncle Aquila. His uncle was a partner in the business, and had put Marcus forward for the position, shortly after the young man took up full-time residence in his home. The pay wasn't bad; the hours might be long, and from time to time there was travel involved, but there was also no reason why he couldn't accumulate a tidy nest egg on what he was earning…if he was careful and didn't squander his income. Which he wasn't likely to do. Self-discipline came easily to him, after his years of military training, and really—what would he squander money on anyway?

No doubt he could have stayed in the US and worked at Calleva's new American facility. But the London office had offered him a better, more challenging position than he could have found there, and he genuinely enjoyed his uncle's company. Still…if everything worked out well, he might be able to go back home to the States someday, buy a house, a piece of land, settle down. Settle down with…?

"Who was that?" Uncle Aquila asked from the door to his study. Tall, massive in fact, like so many of the men in the Aquila family, with a thick head of white hair, piercing eyes, and a gently sardonic smile. At the moment, his eyebrows were raised and his mouth a little twisted at the sight of his nephew's exasperated expression.

"Esca," replied Marcus flatly, the corners of his mouth turning down.

"Gone out, has he? Well, I didn't suppose he'd want to spend time with a bunch of old army farts anyway. Even if Sassticca has made his favorite apple crumble with cream."

"You mean, yourfavorite apple crumble," Marcus said wryly, smiling. "No need to mention Esca! You wax poetic every time Sassticca serves it."

"It's our Italian ancestry, Marcus," Uncle Aquila said jokingly. "We're a passionate lot, don't you think? About almost everything."

Marcus shrugged a little uncomfortably and turned his eyes to the window, where rivulets of rain were streaking the windowpane with silver. A passionate lot, the Italians? Well, he had no desire to adhere to the stereotype. And passion seemed to have passed him by, or abandoned him after his injury cast him adrift into a civilian, rather than military, environment. Hmmph. And tonight he would be stuck listening to—what was it Esca had called them? A bunch of toffee-nosed, geriatric generals, or colonels, or whatever, bragging about their long-ago successful campaigns. And it was peeing with rain outside, for Chrissake. Why the Aquilas of several generations ago had left their warm, sunny homeland to come here, was slightly beyond his understanding. His own father had left England for a home on the Mississippi River, never coming back to London except on the occasional holiday visit. But he, Marcus, had to admit that in spite of the frequent rain and grey skies he loved this city, or at least found it fascinating, with its history, its idiosyncratic neighborhoods, its museums and libraries, its remnants of the fortresses and dwelling places of Romans, Saxons, Normans, medieval rulers and Elizabethans, and its increasingly diverse population. And he had spent so much time in London during his childhood—summer holidays, mostly—that it took very little getting used to, when he made his move from the States into his uncle's spacious residence. In many ways, it was almost like coming home, except—

"Everybody can tell you're an American," Esca had once said to him in a rather dismissive tone of voice, and Marcus could scarcely argue with him, even if he argued with him about almost everything else. He had never picked up any trace of a British accent, and in spite of his stint in the military academy at West Point, in New York State, his voice still held a few trace elements of what Esca sardonically called the "aw shucks, ma'am" speech of the American South.

"Did he say he'd be out all night?" Uncle Aquila asked, and Marcus wrenched his mind back to the present day. "I'll tell Sassticca to save him something to eat."

"He didn't say," Marcus muttered, grimacing. "But I expect he'll be back when he's hungry. Unless some poor, benighted girl, near-sighted enough not to notice his horrible excuse for clothing, decides to take him home and feed him."

His uncle gave an involuntary bark of laughter, but whatever he was on the verge of saying was interrupted by the peal of the doorbell. Drawing himself up to his full, impressive height, he went to answer it, still chuckling. This gave Marcus a moment to duck into the drawing room, and pour himself a hefty slug of whiskey from the decanter on the sideboard. Thus fortified, he felt he could face the occasional pitying look from one of Uncle Aquila's old comrades, and would only hope he wasn't in for a long evening of tall tales that he would find almost as boring as Esca did.

Esca, naturally, had managed to escape the whole thing, and was now no doubt dancing and drinking with a bevy of his mates from uni and their girlfriends. Biting his lip with a combination of envy and annoyance, Marcus glanced through the window at the rain-soaked garden behind the house, hoping to find gardening tools lying about, or some job or another left incomplete.

No such luck. Esca must have finished tidying up the flower beds (not that there were any flowers at this time of year), swept up fallen twigs, and put all of the tools away in their proper place. There was nothing to criticize him for, or take him to task over, when the wretched interloper finally did decide to show his face.

Marcus wasn't quite certain what it was about Esca, these days, that grated on his nerves so. It wasn't as though he disliked the young man; they might not be exactly what one could call friends, but Marcus had always had a certain degree of respect for him. It was silly as well to think of him as an interloper, since he had been living—on and off—in this house for some time, doing odd jobs for Uncle Aquila when he wasn't with his mates, or holed up in the library, or doing undergraduate, and then post graduate study, at uni. And that was actually Marcus's own doing; if it hadn't been for him, there would be no Esca thundering down staircases at all hours, singing in the shower, and reciting Latin verbs as he raked leaves at the bottom of the garden. It was he, Marcus, who had brought Esca here to begin with.

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He remembered the circumstances as vividly as if they were yesterday, although they had taken place when he was nearly seventeen, spending a summer with his uncle, as he often did, a welcome respite from the nailing heat of Mississippi in July. Uncle Aquila's Scottish housekeeper, the handsome, if intimidating, Mrs MacCunoval, had made something of a pet of him, mothering him furiously if he felt tired or under the weather, and making him massive breakfasts and mammoth fry-ups of the sort she felt were necessary for "a great, growing lad." She arrived every morning at half past seven and left around four (unless her services were required for a dinner party), occasionally bringing her youngest son, Esca, with her. The boy avoided members of the household like the plague, but Marcus grew used to seeing him zipping around corners in his faded tee shirts and grubby jeans, or lingering unobtrusively by the garden door. They rarely spoke, but from time to time Marcus caught the younger boy giving him a sidelong glance that mingled wary suspicion with curiosity, lips pressed together in a tight line, grey-blue eyes peering at him from a narrow face of planes and angles, straight eyebrows partly hidden by the wayward fringe of his russet brown hair, in which strands of foxy auburn, bronze, and blond always caught the light.

The Esca of those days looked much younger than his age, small, thin, and pale, and so the fair-minded athlete in Marcus' soul was outraged the day he heard shrill, raucous voices on the pavement and he opened the door to find the housekeeper's son being set upon by a group of local bullies. The boys were mostly, like Esca, around twelve years of age, but they were bigger, and there was a group of them, for pity's sake, at least six against one. The leader of the pack, an older, hefty youth about Marcus's age and height, had knocked Esca onto his back and was standing over him, laughing, as the boy glared back at him, chin lifted, in an admirable display of defiance in the face of defeat. The ringleader laughed again, and drew one foot back to kick. This struck Marcus as so ridiculously unfair that, without thinking twice, he had shouted and barreled down the front steps to confront them.

They outnumbered him, of course, and might have been able to take him down, but he was such a formidable sight, this angry, muscular, well-built outsider charging towards them with narrowed eyes and hands closed into fists, that they backed away, and, as Marcus roared at them to get the hell out, turned and ran. The ringleader, in spite of being Marcus's match in size, retreated at the last moment as Marcus jerked his elbow back in preparation for a good, solid punch. Panting with indignation and frustrated energy, Marcus had watched him go as Esca scrambled to his feet—dirty, bruised, and bleeding from a scraped brow and swollen lower lip, but otherwise intact—and walked slowly, but with a kind of dignity, into the house.

Mrs MacCunoval had practically smothered him with her gratitude after that, though how she found out about the incident was anybody's guess; it was doubtful that Esca had said anything about it. Certainly he never said anything about it to his rescuer, although he had mumbled an almost inaudible "Thanks," as he passed Marcus on his way into the house. A day later, Marcus had suggested to his uncle that he tell his housekeeper to bring the boy to work with her every day, and offer him a few hours of work per week.

"It'll keep him off the street and out of trouble," he remembered saying, reluctantly impressed with Esca's demeanor. "He's a scrappy kid." Uncle Aquila had obviously agreed with him, and Esca had done small jobs around the house and garden until the summer holiday was over. He was a poker-faced youngster, and his expression, more often than not, was rather sullen, but he was obviously intelligent, and before long Uncle Aquila offered him access to his library. When he wasn't working, he could be found hunched over a book in the kitchen, elbows propped on the table, a look of fierce concentration on that intense and angular face.

Marcus himself paid little attention to Esca for the remainder of that summer, having been preoccupied with other things. Foremost among these were thoughts of the big-breasted cheerleader, back home in the States, to whom he had lost his virginity at fifteen, and with whom he still enjoyed the occasional rambunctious shag (she was older than he, and away at university except for the midterm and summer holidays). Another thing that had nagged at the back of his mind was that, as much as he enjoyed his romps with the bodacious Kelly Ann, his eyes were also drawn to the buff, golden-haired quarterback of his football team at school. There had been one or two embarrassing moments when he found himself thinking of Bradley (and what he looked like naked in the shower after football practice) even as Kelly Ann clamped her moist and talented lips round his cock. Not the sort of thing he could let on about, to the other boys (certainly not to the magnificent Bradley), or even to his uncle, with whom he had always felt comfortable discussing any subject under the sun. And he was applying to West Point in the coming year—his last at high school—in the hope of someday becoming an officer, following in the footsteps of so many of his older relations.

So engrossed had Marcus been with all of these issues, especially after his return to Mississippi and school, that he had corresponded with his uncle less frequently than usual. It had taken him by surprise therefore, to learn, over the course of a telephone conversation, that the comely Mrs MacCunoval, her husband, and their two older sons, had met with a horrible, fatal accident on the motorway. They had been driving from Edinburgh down to London in a rainstorm, after a weekend with friends, Uncle Aquila explained, and Esca was now in temporary residence with an aunt.

"She lives somewhere north of London," his uncle said soberly. "And she's a well-meaning soul, but has neither the time nor the wherewithal to look after him. I've been wondering—"

"Why not have him to live with you?" Marcus had heard himself say. "You've talked about wanting to oversee his education. Mrs—his mother said he'd improved drastically in his studies, since you let him borrow your books and read in the library. And he can help out around the house until…until you find another housekeeper."

"Yes," Uncle Aquila had replied slowly, after a moment of silence. "That's quite a good idea. I think his aunt would be more than willing to hand over guardianship to me, for the present at any rate. You've no objection, I suppose, to sharing space with the boy when you're here on holiday. I expect…well, I expect you know how he's feeling at the moment."

Yes, Marcus did know, and no, he had no serious objection to Esca's presence. It wasn't as though the boy ever got in his way. And he was sorry, very sorry, for him. He knew, after all, what it was like to be orphaned.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

"Marcus!" Uncle Aquila called from the hall, and once again his nephew abandoned his memories and forced his mind back to the present. Respectful and dutiful, he straightened his jacket, adjusted his tie, and slid the empty whiskey glass back onto the sideboard. Taking a deep breath—it would be ungenerous to begrudge his uncle his dinner party—he squared his shoulders and stepped forward into the hallway. If things became too dreadful, or too boring, he could always plead fatigue from a long day at work, and retire to bed early.

As it transpired, the dinner was relatively painless, because his uncle's old friend and sparring partner of his Sandhurst days, Claud Something-or-other (it was a very long, Greek-sounding name, beginning with an H, that Marcus heard but promptly forgot), got quite drunk after the pudding, and left early, the other men going with him, in part to see him safely home. There had been no pitying remarks about Marcus's short-lived military career, and only one joking comment about his family's penchant for giving its sons Latin names.

"Marcus Flavius Aquila, eh?" Claud Whatsisname had muttered, grinning. "Should—hic!—go into law or politics with a name like that."

"No politics, thanks," replied Marcus, doing his best to sound polite, and everybody had laughed, to his great relief.

"Well, my boy," Uncle Aquila said placatingly, when the front door closed behind the last of his tipsy guests. "It was good of you to put up with us, when I'm sure you were dying to get away like our young friend Esca. Have you any plans for tomorrow?"

Marcus shrugged and shook his head; perhaps because of the rain, his bad leg ached, and he wanted nothing more than to get into bed and take an Ambien to help him sleep.

"You know, you ought to get out more," his uncle said, almost chidingly, as Marcus headed for the stairs. "There are plenty of things, in London, to keep a young man entertained. "I don't know much about the nightclubs, and so on, at my age, but you might ask Esca, or Cottia—"

"I think I'm a bit beyond the club-hopping stage," Marcus said abruptly, but then he smiled at his uncle to soften the harshness of his tone. After all, he had only meant to be kind, and had no idea how the thought of mingling in the partially strobe-lit, crowded and overheated dimness of a club, surrounded by sweaty youths and girls in glossy, abbreviated garments, as the pounding beat of the latest pop hits blasted at everybody's eardrums, made his nephew cringe within.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

The Ambien worked its usual magic, and Marcus slept soundly until shortly past seven, awakening to a loud thump somewhere on the floor above. He groaned and pulled the pillow over his head.

Another, louder, thump brought him wide awake, and he half sat up, realizing that the noises were coming from the general vicinity of Esca's room. The upper floor had been used for servant's quarters, in the days of Uncle Aquila's parents, but Uncle Aquila himself had never had a live-in housekeeper or cook. Sassticca, Mrs MacCunoval's replacement, lived fifteen minutes away and came to work by bus, and the tiny rooms on the top floor had long ago been opened up to form two comfortable guest bedrooms and Esca's own lair.

Another earthshattering thump, and Marcus wrenched open his bedroom door and stuck his head out. "Esca! What the fu—" He heard Uncle Aquila on the landing below, and continued, "What in blazes are you doing up there?"

Esca's pale face and rumpled hair appeared over the stair railing. "Packing, of course. Easter term starts this week."

"Well, do it quietly, will you?" grumbled Marcus. "I didn't realize you'd come home last night."

"I'll take the trunk downstairs later," Esca replied, as though he hadn't heard. "Lee's giving me a lift tomorrow morning."

Lee—Liathan—was Esca's fellow sufferer at Cambridge, a handsome, dark-haired, academically stellar French boy whose family seemed to have a great deal of money, not to mention land somewhere around Avignon. Liathan himself harbored a proprietary attitude toward young Mr MacCunoval that Marcus found baffling, and would have been annoyed by if it hadn't seemed so silly. Esca had spent the Christmas holidays with him and thought him clever and amusing, although Marcus, who had met him several times, considered him to be neither.

"Don't wait until midnight to do it," Marcus snapped, scowling. "If you're planning to drag that trunk down the stairs. Some of us have to go to work tomorrow."

"Right," murmured Esca, raising his eyebrows. "Your wish is my command, dominus. I'll be quiet as a mouse."

He took several steps down the stairs, and Marcus saw that he was wearing faded grey jeans, loose and shredding at the ankles, a ribbon belt, and a white shirt, open at the collar and emblazoned all over with blue hearts.

"What?" said Esca, a little defensively, when Marcus closed his eyes as if in pain. "I didn't wake you when I came in last night, did I?"

"No," replied Marcus, opening his eyes again. "But what you've got on would give anybody nightmares. Tell me you're not going out of the house looking like that."

"What's wrong with me?" Esca asked, running fingers through his hair until it stood on end.

"Where do you want me to start?" Marcus said in a weary voice. "Though I admit the shirt's marginally better than that hairy sweater vest you wore last weekend."

"Excuse me, Beau Brummell," Esca said dryly, shoving his thoroughly disheveled hair back from his brow. "Your pardon, sir. Now, where did I put that bloody cravat?"

With both hands, he mimed knotting an elaborate neck cloth and settling a hat atop his unruly locks.

"Sorry," said Marcus, smiling in spite of himself. "What you wear is none of my business. How was the club last night? Do women actually condescend to dance with you when you're dressed like that?"

"Yeah, they do, mate," said Esca, grinning cheerfully as he descended the stairs to Marcus' level. "Plenty of women. Blokes as well. They might even condescend to dance with you, if you lowered yourself to come out with us. Cottia says her friends from uni all want to meet you."

"Really," muttered Marcus in withering tones.

"Of course it's just because you're pretty," Esca went on, unwithered. "And not because of how you dress."

"You're joking," said Marcus, looking at Esca's shapeless jeans with distaste. "And I am not pretty, if you don't mind. Well, to each his own."

"Suum cuique," Esca responded coolly, still smiling. "Or, de gustibus non est disputandum."

"What the hell can anybody do with Latin in this day and age?" Marcus asked curiously, as Esca continued down the stairs.

Esca turned and narrowed his eyes at him. They were as clear a grey-blue as they had been in his childhood, and disconcertingly sharp.

"You can read it. You studied it."

"I had no choice," Marcus replied, frowning. "At school. But you've kept on with it, at university. Why punish yourself?"

"I like it," said Esca simply. Marcus rolled his own eyes towards the ceiling and retreated to his bedroom, where he rummaged among his clothes for a clean shirt. He himself had never bothered with fashion or followed the trends in male apparel, but honestly, what could Esca be thinking when he opened his wardrobe door in the morning?

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"What is it, exactly, that you're planning to study for your doctorate?" Marcus asked Esca over breakfast, as his yawning uncle slathered spoonfuls of cherry preserves onto his toast and Sassticca, clucking, deposited a freshly replenished coffee pot on the table.

He had only recently learned that Esca, having received his Bachelor's degree, intended to pursue post-graduate study. He would, he promised Uncle Aquila, continue to do the gardening and odd jobs in the house during the summer months, and was even earning a little extra money with part-time work for a publishing company, checking printed texts for typos and other errors, what he described grimly as "slave labor."

"I'll be reading Romano-British history, basically," he replied, upon Marcus's prodding. "With an emphasis on the material culture of the Celts."

Marcus snorted, but he knew well enough that Esca was clever, was good with languages, bright enough to merit a scholarship at Cambridge. He now spoke and read several Gaelic languages as well as Latin, and he and Marcus (whose prep school years had given him a decent grounding in the latter) occasionally hurled insults at each other in the mother tongue of Julius Caesar.

"Sounds boring," Marcus said, frowning, but Uncle Aquila obviously disagreed, launching into a one-sided discussion of recently-excavated relics of siege warfare from Roman Britain, to which Esca contributed the occasional comment. He was fiddling with the unfastened top button of his ridiculous shirt, and Marcus was startled, and not a little disconcerted, to find that he had been staring at the smooth, creamy pallor of the skin below Esca's prominent collarbones.

Somewhat to his relief, Marcus saw little of Esca after breakfast, although he was amazed to find the trunk sitting neatly in the front hall well before the dinner hour. Either the young man had been, indeed, as quiet as a mouse, or he himself had been too deeply engrossed in reviewing his design for a crate meant to hold heavy marble sculpture to notice any thumping on the stairs. Either that, or his iPod headphones had drowned out the noise. Later that evening, however, he emerged, laptop under his arm, from his small study—across the hall from Uncle Aquila's much larger one—to find a mess of boots, trainers, unmatched socks, and unsavory-looking jumpers piled on the floor next to the trunk.

"Good lord," he muttered, looking helplessly at the mess. "What—?"

"Oh, it's Esca's, of course," Uncle Aquila said calmly from his own study door. "He's sworn to tidy up the lot before he goes to bed."

"He'd better," Marcus retorted with an exasperated look, as he set his laptop down on a side table and flipped it open. "Or somebody will trip over it and break his neck. If this stuff were mine, I'd simply throw it in the dustbin."

Above them came a clatter of bottles being dumped into a bag, followed by a loud thudding of feet on the stairway.

"Where's me cleanser?" Esca bellowed from the top of the stairs. "I've lost me cleanser."*

"That boy is a train wreck waiting to happen," Marcus muttered from behind his laptop.

"Boy?" said Uncle Aquila, raising his eyebrows. "He's not all that much younger than you are…four, five years at the most. And his academic resumé's impressive. I was looking at it only this afternoon."

Marcus' only response was a histrionic shrug.

"Yo, Marcus!" Esca shouted again, doing a credible imitation of an American accent. "I'm talkin' ta you, man!" And then, dropping back into his normal speech: "Have you seen me cleanser?"

"Will you shut up!" Marcus roared in the direction of the stairs. "Nobody's seen your bloody cleanser. If you leave this mess on the floor all night, and I trip over it, I will personally beat you to within an inch of your life."

"Sounds kinky," said Esca, and disappeared.

Marcus scowled and put his headphones back on, to drown out the sounds of Esca's packing and Uncle Aquila's dry chuckle as he returned to his study.


*The "where's me cleanser" bit was taken from behind-the-scenes extras on the DVD of Jamie Bell's film "Hallam Foe" (released in the US as "Mister Foe"). It can also be seen on youtube.