Like the Tide

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Like the Tide
by templemarker

Notes: First begun as a reponse to a prompt in [info]riventhorn‘s Happy Gay Farmers post last month, “a storm’s coming.” With grateful thanks to [personal profile] samjohnsson for uber beta skills.


The weather is changeable here.

Marcus, for all his years spent in the company of his soldiers and then his uncle, and of course now with Esca, has never grown used to how quickly the sky might turn from a watery blue and wispy clouds to the grey monotony of drizzled rain. He was raised with less variability, more heat than Britannia provides. Even after surviving all that was thrown at them in Caledonia, something in Marcus craves the sun and eschews the dark thrust of rainclouds every time they arrive unbidden.

Esca has no such inclination. He was born far north of here; only on their return from their adventure did he quietly point out the hills and hummocks of his childhood wanderings, before the Brigantes were subdued, before his family was lost. There the weather is even worse than here in the southern downs, though Marcus would never say so.

They have been plodding away at the small kale field near their cottage for most of the day. It’s late summer, and Marcus is already looking forward to the stew-pot being full of the green stuff. In the meantime, they hunt for the pot often as not, trading for grain until their early efforts at expanding their growing take off. They’ve lost their tunics in the bright summer day, sweat soaking through the fabric and making the cloth uncomfortable to work in. Esca was first, skimming out of his own, leaving only his braccae, and tossing his belt atop it on the ground. With a small, defiant smile he drew off his shoes and threw them alongside his other clothes.

Marcus watched with one eyebrow raised, feeling the sweat draw further down his back. “You uncouth barbarian,” he said wryly, Esca before him looking much as he did when Marcus first laid eyes upon him. He was older now, less desperately thin and without the flat look in his eyes. In the time since they returned and took their land from Marcus’ pension, they had both looked awful and gaunt; Marcus would sneak an extra spoonful of their shared meal onto Esca’s plate. With how quickly Marcus regained his own shape, he suspected Esca had been doing the same to him.

Esca ran a hand along his brow and flicked the sweat away with agile fingers. Marcus couldn’t help but follow the motion; he had never been one to look away from Esca.

With a seemingly careless motion, Marcus stripped the tunic from his own back and threw it atop Esca’s own, earning him an approving look and the quick dart of Esca’s tongue around the bow of his lips. Marcus didn’t remove his shoes, however; no Roman went unshod on his own land. Sighing, but smiling, he picked up his tool and began to till again. They needed to finish this work today, if they were to have a day of rest tomorrow.

Esca, tireless, hacked away as well, pulling at weeds and digging into the dark supple soil with his brown hands. Marcus couldn’t help but watch a bead of sweat drag along the column of Esca’s spine, slowly following its passage. It was as if Esca knew Marcus was looking at him, as if he bent and flexed with purpose to distract Marcus from his work and draw Marcus’ focus to the slope of Esca’s back, the spray of freckles across his shoulder. Marcus knew every part of him, from the frantic exploration atop a horse blanket in the hills of the North to the slow, fire-drenched coupling of their first days in their bothy, on their land, their home.

And yet, the man could catch him with no more than a flash of skin and a knowing look; Marcus shook his head free of lust and turned to his task again. He felt the late afternoon sun working on his back, brief respites as clouds passed overhead; he smelled the richness of fresh-turned earth; he felt a prickle on the back of his neck that meant Esca had turned his attention away from his work, and hid a smile of his own.

They worked until twilight, until the cool kiss and promise of the evening dew was light in the air. They kept a bucket of water by the door, and Marcus, whose turn it was to tend the fire that night, laid his hoe against the wattle and daub of their small home and drew the rag to his skin.

It felt so very good against his sun-burnished skin, warmed from being in the light all day. No big trees here, all cleared long ago and only a stump here or there remaining of whatever forest came before. He closed his eyes for a long moment, and when he opened them it was to the first pricking of the summer storm upon them. They came fast, in the summer, rolling in from the ocean winds to crest over the downs and into their quiet recluse. Marcus watched the clouds on the horizon, and turned to catch Esca, who was still stubbornly hacking away at a root-bed they’d been fighting to clear all season long.

“Esca,” he called, “leave it. The weather comes in.” He nodded backwards towards the oncoming rain, but Esca merely waved him off and continued the job. Marcus suppressed a sigh; there was little use in arguing with Esca when he put his mind to something, whether it be root-beds or Romans.

He busied himself with the household matters, exchanging his braccae for a well-worn tunic, stoking the small fire from cinder to flame. He put the water on, putting in a few handfuls of barley to swell. He took some of the herbs he and Esca had dried and gathered one fine spring morning and dropped a leaf or two into the porridge. There was coney, too, and the first small carrots of the summer. It would be a humble meal, but a fine one for all the work they’d put into making it their own.

All too soon Marcus heard the first drops of rain against the walls of the bothy, and stirred the pot while stretching out his sore muscles. No green legionnaire he, not any longer. As the time passed and the sun drew herself from the sky, Marcus realized Esca had not yet returned to him, to their shared porridge and warm-orange fire and the fine scent of thyme and sweat in the air. He turned, and didn’t see Esca in the doorway; Marcus went there himself to find his erstwhile companion.

There was Esca, not ten feet from their threshold, bare to the waist and still unshod as the torrent broke over the land. He was drenched, the dark swathe of his hair plastered to his face, his ruddy, tanned skin almost shining with the last pale threads of daylight. Marcus could make out the lines of his tattoo in the half-light, as if it were some other-worldly brand. Something in Marcus ached, the twin thoughts of lust and fear sudden and unbidden. He doubted even now, in his rational mind, that Esca would be moved to leave him; but there was always the faint thought, caught in the night between waking and sleeping, that Esca might want something more than Marcus could give him: a land that wasn’t his, a life of simple labor, a warm bed and a tended fire at the end of the day.

And that part was wholly subsumed beneath the rising tide of desire that came upon Marcus at the merest brush of Esca’s eyes against his skin, the whisper of a loving word said in a teasing lilt. Ah, Esca, Marcus thought, gripping the frame of the threshold, I do not know if you make me more or less of a man for wanting you all of the time.

At that moment, as if Esca had heard his thoughts, Esca turned. Some otherworldly creature, some pagan god, and yet he was coming towards Marcus and not escaping into the forest like the end of a mad singer’s tale.

“You’re wet,” Marcus managed, speaking a bit louder to be heard over the din of the rain against the ground.

Esca gifted him with a smile, transforming his face. This was what Marcus woke in the morning for, a glimpse of this next to him. “So dry me off, centurion,” he said, want shading his meaning into something made for the shared pine-boughs of their bedding.

Marcus reached out a hand and placed it to the join of Esca’s neck, squeezing lightly and feeling Esca shiver. “Mithras grant me the joy of you,” he said roughly, and drew him close to slant his mouth over Esca’s own.

Esca’s body was rain-slick against his own; his mouth tasted of salt-sweat and summer rain all at once. Marcus marveled again, as he had every day since they began this, at how solid Esca felt under his hands. Esca was generally a demanding lover, sparing no quarter for Marcus’ occasional hesitations. He drew his hands into Marcus’ overlong hair and licked into Marcus’ mouth. The sound Marcus made was one he’d flush to hear at any other time, but in the privacy of their home, with only hot breath between them, Marcus allowed himself the freedom to make noise.

Esca grinned, and Marcus felt it on his own lips. Esca’s hands ranged down the planes of Marcus’ back, then drew them up the sensitive backs of Marcus’ thighs to rest and squeeze at Marcus’ rear. Marcus could have laughed; demanding and forthright, that was Esca at the bedding. Instead he worked clumsy fingers against the ties of Esca’s sodden, sweat-ridden braccae, striving for some bare space between them to work the fastening loose.

He finally wrenched his mouth away from Esca’s, not missing how Esca chased the kiss, and nearly tore the stitching trying to divest Esca from his single remaining garment. Laughing, Esca pushed them down, stepping out of them and back into the reach of Marcus’ arms. He was wet everywhere, from his eyelashes to the fine hair on his stomach, and Marcus let his hands wander freely.

Esca steered them to the corner of the bothy that held their bedding and with a gentle shove pushed Marcus to lie back. Esca dropped atop him, sure of his landing. They kissed again, languorous heat twining between them, and Marcus let Esca arrange him as he wished.

Esca drew Marcus’ legs together, sparing a few swift strokes for Marcus’ cock that made him gasp and arch. Bracing above Marcus, Esca angled his cock into the space beneath Marcus’ balls, shoving in even as he kept Marcus’ thighs in place. Marcus felt the sweat begin to prickle as Esca fucked between his legs, occasionally swiping a hand against Marcus’ cock, sometimes ducking down for a kiss. It felt more intimate than when Esca entered him, perhaps because Marcus wasn’t blind with pleasure and drunk with passion and could see the flex and bend of Esca’s every motion. And he could watch Esca’s face, so hard to do when he was lost in sensation.

Esca’s proud face was drawn in a snarl of devotion, his arms rigid and locked in place, the pulse-beat in his neck wildly visible. Marcus ran his hands up and down Esca’s chest, skimming over a nipple, feeling the rain-damp skin turn to sweat as Esca kept on. Marcus held his legs tightly closed, clenching when Esca grazed sensitive skin and memorizing every gasp and shudder between them.

When Esca came, it slicked the way for his final few thrusts, and Esca held himself upright though his arms began to tremble. His eyes opened to slits, and Marcus met them soundly, cupping the side of Esca’s face and knowing his own more than gave away his heart.

Esca withdrew, and re-positioned himself so that Marcus was a veritable feast before him. He ran his hands over Marcus’ chest, dipping in between Marcus’ legs to draw some slickness forth, rubbing it between his fingers, taking Marcus’ nipples between thumb and forefinger. Marcus writhed beneath the treatment; he would let Esca do anything with him he wished, and sometimes Esca liked to be reminded of that fact.

Esca sat back, and with one hand he took Marcus’ chin in hand, keeping their gaze locked and steady. With the other, he took Marcus’ cock in hand and began to stroke with a punishing grip. Marcus arched and moaned, the picture of wantonness, but could not bring himself to care as he spilled over Esca’s hand and his own tunic.

He kept his eyes open through it, though it was difficult when the passion was on him.

When Esca fell, naked and shining, to lie supine next to Marcus, their hands naturally fell into a light clasp. Marcus smiled at the shadows dancing on the ceiling from the evening fire, hearing the rain still beat against the bothy, and said, “I think we’ve only succeeded in making the bedding wet, not getting you dry.”

Esca’s laugh was more felt than heard, and Esca squeezed his hand lightly. “You didn’t fail in your duty, centurion,” he said, fondness and lust clear in his voice. “I only gave you a greater task to accomplish.”

Marcus tugged, using his greater strength to pull Esca against him, and kissed him again. “Give me ever greater tasks,” he said. “I will not fail.”

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