Disclaimer: I do not own THE EAGLE.

He was obsessed, with the smile of a slave - his slave -; with Esca. It was wrong. He was Roman, that alone should have been deterrent enough. He was his Master, that should have put an end to the matter, but it did not. Every morn at the cockcrow he woke with desire hot in his veins, an unquenchable thirst he could not satiate.

Mithras knew, he'd tried.

Atia was, by any mans thinking, a beauty. She had the curves of Aphrodite, and the milk-soft hands of a noble lady. Her eyes were dark as spring-leaves, her mouth the perfect cupids bow that had the makings of a fine smile should ever she make one. He thought if only he saw one on a face as radiant as this his other wants would fade to something lesser.

They did not.

Atia writhing beneath him her hand clenching silken bed-sheets grinned as a siren might upon a sea-bound sailor. But if she was to be cast the siren, and he the sailor, he must be deaf. Her call - as her smile - did nothing to quench his hunger. He returned to his own cold bed alone. His other, heavier, want a steady pressure low in the belly.

He ignored it.

Esca slept with his pallet drawn across his masters' door and was possessed of both keen ears and knowing eyes. On the morrow those grey eyes would follow him about with a queer intensity that would leave an ache between the shoulder-blades that would takes a days time to pass.

His slave had no liking for Atia, comely as she was this surprised Marcus only a little, Esca liked no Roman - but Marcus begins to think he might like him. He allows the oddity of the thought to flow over him unquestioned. If he makes to much of it he might see that it should not matter; and he might realize it does.

To think, the beginnings of his trouble started with a smile and the becoming play of shadows across Esca's face! It would be the first time he'd think him attractive. But not the last, for once this was realized there was no unthinking it. Since then he noticed more keenly when the noblewomen, closeted behind their veils and down-turned eyes, halted in step to look a while when-so-ever they should pass. This was bearable, what harm was the gaze of a beautiful woman?

Esca hardly seemed to notice, head tucked down as he wove through the crowd a step behind Marcus.

It was the men with that heat in their eyes he disliked. That he recognized to well, for he bore it in his own. It was this that set his belly into a knot that would not be undone until they were away and done with their business, Esca tucked within his Uncles villa content in his tending of the stable horses - even Hyrax Marcus' own hot-blooded stallion had take to the Briton so keenly that now none else could tend to it. Not without consequence, certainly.

Marcus could not say with any clear certainty weather Esca noted any of this, or if he did what he made of all this fuss. Better to count the grains in the sand than guess the thoughts of his slave, both remained a mystery.

When it happened again, on this the second occasion, he was blind sided; like a javelin come from the periphery of his eye-sight. He can say with confidence that he did not stare as openly as the rest seemed wont to do. No, he retained some sense of decorum - dignity - in all this foolishness and made certain to look away before ever his gaze was felt.A fine feat this was, too! Esca seemed to all but have eyes at the back of his head; such was his habit of turning about when a stare held to long.

The third occasion was his own doing, Marcus would later boast with some pride. He'd been the cause of it, of Esca and his smile that made woman stare and men want. He'd made a fool of himself to do it but the result was worthwhile. Esca of the serious grey eyes smiled little but when he did Marcus made note of both it and the circumstance which caused it, all that he might tease out another at a later time.

It had become an obsession, but a harmless one at least.

Esca's eyes track him more often - and openly - than they did before but there is no heat, nor queer gleam in them anymore. What he sees, he thinks, is perhaps curiosity.

It is some time before the Briton begins to notice, or so Marcus would like to think, and he know this because the slave said to him - in a manner no slave would say - "What is it the Centurion stares at?" with obvious exasperation as horse-brushes are set aside that he might turn to face the Roman more fully. There's the glimpse of amusement hidden at the barest quirk of his lips, too.

"I was not staring, Esca, it was merely the direction to which my eyes were pointing." Esca snorts meeting his eyes directly, "If you were not my master, I might say you lie."

"Then it would be best if you refrained" he said, equally calm. Esca huffed quietly; foreign words spilling off his tongue. "If the Centurion has something to ask of me, let him speak plainly."

"The Centurion has noting to ask" he said wryly, but firmly, that the matter might die a quick death rather than this slow-drawn torture Esca seemed set on."But does Marcus?" were the words that slipped past Esca's lips, barely there and whisper soft even in the still quiet of noonday, as he stepped-around and out of the stables.

Marcus stood in silence for a long while mulling over what the man could have possibly meant before giving up, it was not his to know the mind of Esca.

Life carried on much as it had before and there was no strangeness between them, he and Esca. It had become ritual to split portions when Marcus broke fast in his rooms, he saved the honeyed-cakes for Esca. In the spring he bought a fare share of the seasons apples with his own coin even as Uncle Aquila looked on with an inscrutable gleam in his eye - Marcus had no taste for apples. Esca did. So it was often they'd sit silently, for hours watching the noon sky darken, Esca eating his apple while Marcus carved into the wood whatever image had stuck in his head.

Woken one night by the cat-soft padding of feet across the room, Marcus called out for Esca. There were none among the household who could walk as quiet at that but he. What was wrong that he was here in the dead of night? "Esca?" he called out, again, careful of his tone. No need to walk all the household.

No sound but the slip of garments being undone, and with this so to was Marcus, for at the foot of the bed stood Esca stripped bare without an ounce of shame. Marcus will grant he had no need of it, for he was finely built and long limbed with tightly roped muscle over a taunt belly who owned a fine thatching of hairs leading downward…His mind in a muddled fog, " what are you doing?" was all he could strangle out past suddenly parched lips.

"Do you enjoy the rest of me as much as my smile, Centurion?" Esca asked his mouth quirked in amusement that made his eyes like quicksilver beneath the paleness of the moonlit room.

Lost for words Marcus nodded, sharp jerky movements, not at all as graceful as the Briton who closed the distance between. He came to his senses when hands - cool from the night breeze - lit against the fever hotness that was his skin. "Wait, no, Esca" he said sharply jerking back, away, even sleep-addled he knew something of this was wrong. "This would not be right."

"No Roman would find anything wrong with a slave warming his masters bed."

This was not hurtfully said, a fact only, and one that was not wrong. Everything in him shouted to take what was offered the consequences of tomorrow be damned, but his conscience refused. He had never bedded a slave, he would not start with Esca. His regard for him was to much to allow it."That is not the way between us, I would never ask what you would feel compelled to give, you know this…surely?"

Esca looked at him curiously, something softening about his eyes as he put his hand across Marcus' shoulder. "This I know, you may be a Roman, Centurion, but you are an honorable one." Esca leaned closer as he spoke his warmth sinking into Marcus where they touched and his world began to narrow down to this and only this. Esca warm and willing, his scent heavy with woods and leather and something other that is beyond his to define.

Yes, he thinks, even as his conscience baulks. He is not so honorable as Esca imagines; for a large portion of him wants for nothing more than to take Esca to his bed and while away the long hours of night, and do so again every night thereafter. But no, he is honorable - will be honorable if it takes all the rigid discipline leaned marching in the Legion - he will not.

The Briton sees something of this written in his eyes for his own narrow, gone dark and mercurial as the northern skies. "I did not think you to need so many words Centurion," he growled nipping at Marcus' ear, "but here they are, you are not the only one whose eyes have been wandering and lingering over long."

"And what is it you see?" he asked, desperate to know what this is to Esca. "I see a man that makes a fool of himself to make I, a slave, smile." Esca his voice a low rumble along his ear says, "I see a man who buys apples for no purpose save that I favor them" here a faint color rises along his ears and face and Marcus thinks it charming, or maybe he's in the mood to be charmed.

"I see a man who had he not been Roman I might have considered dear upon first meeting."

"I am Roman, Esca, and that I cannot change. Not even for you." Esca cocks his head, tilted much as a hounds upon hearing nonsense words might do. "I would not ask it, it seems in the end to matter little, you could be of Hadrian himself for all I care now."

Laid bare in both body and soul Esca waited with becoming patience, asking, "will you have me now?" and standing there in the dark backlit by the moon he smiled as sure in the Centurions answer as the tides of the moon.

It was this that proved Marcus' undoing.

His voice low and rough with want he said "repeatedly, and as often as you are willing" even as he reached for Esca across the way and what distance between them remained was swept aside. Esca laughed, letting himself be pulled, and in that moment Marcus could read his thoughts as though they'd been written across his face.