It had been happening for months now, so much so that it could almost be called a relationship. Not that though, never that. Esca didn't do 'relationships' and certainly not with posh dicks like Marcus Aquila. If there was one thing he hated it was people born with silver spoons in their mouths, the type that had it all handed to them on a plate and had never had to work for anything.
Esca had worked for everything he had, and even now, that wasn't a fat lot. He lived in a shared house with two other blokes and one long suffering girl, Ingrid, who had resorted to making the lads pay her to do the cleaning because she threatened to move out if they didn't. It was worth the fiver a week for an easy life. If having two jobs and trying to maintain decent grades at uni could be called having an easy life. Esca wasn't sure about that, but it was his life, and he got on with it.
So when Esca laid eyes on Marcus Aquila for the second time and accidentally spilled a drink over him—not his fault by the way, but Marcus's—and was fired there and then from his well-paid job as a waiter at celebrity hot spot The Vine, Esca was livid. He'd worked there for over year, and his boss hadn't batted an eye over firing him.
Esca had waited outside for Marcus, fuming, leaning against the cold brick wall just out of sight of the doormen, certain that when the wanker left with his female dinner guest he wouldn't be met by a valet parked car but a chauffeur-driven limo. He wasn't wrong, though he was surprised that the woman left in a separate car.
"Hey, Aquila!" he'd called, stepping out of the shadows and placing himself in between Marcus and the limo door, his arms folded across his chest as he glared at him. If he'd still been working in the restaurant, he would have addressed him as 'Mr Aquila' but as he no longer had that job, he could dispense with such pleasantries.
Marcus paused, confused by Esca’s “civilian” look of skinny jeans and a plain black t-shirt under a black hoody. Then recognition seemed to slip into place. "Is there a problem?" he asked politely.
"Damn right there's a problem—you got me fired!"
Marcus's expression immediately morphed into surprise. He glanced over his shoulder to where two hulking bouncers were watching very closely. Not that Esca cared, he was already fired, and if they actually called the police he'd just leave before they got there.
"Let's take this discussion into the car," Marcus invited, gesturing towards the car where a bored chauffeur stood, holding the door open.
Esca was never sure afterwards why he simply obeyed and got into the car at Marcus's command. He'd scooted over to the far side, folded his arms and glared as Marcus joined him. He didn't notice the limo pulling away from the curb, just Marcus pressing the intercom and saying, "Just drive would you, Henry? I'll let you know when I want to go home."
Esca decided that as well as all his other failings, Marcus Aquila was a pompous prick. His feelings must have been evident on his face because Marcus smirked and said, "You don't like me very much do you?"
"Ohh, how could you tell?" Esca replied, suddenly noticing the exposed skin at Marcus's neck where he'd loosened his tie and having to look away. "Usually when someone causes me get the sack we become BFFs-"
"Look, I'm sorry about that. I didn't know they'd fire you for it. Do you want me to have a word with the manager?" Marcus looked expectantly at Esca, as if that was a viable option.
"I bet you think you can solve everything with your bloody celebrity don't you?" Esca spat. "You just drop your movie star name and people fall to their knees and do whatever you want."
He lifted his eyes again and found Marcus focused on his lips. When he saw Esca watching him he blinked and their eyes met. Bloody hell.
The air stilled, tension crackling as something exploded between them.
"Are you going to fall to you your knees and do whatever I want?" Marcus rasped, not taking his eyes off Esca.
"Ha, you wish!" Esca responded, trying to shake off the images that brought forth, realising that perhaps he'd lost control of this situation.
Marcus reached out and closed a hand around Esca's wrist. Esca knelt for no one, but something cracked at Marcus's touch.
"Maybe I do," Marcus said, searching Esca's face, the pad of his thumb running in circles on his wrist.
Everything else happened so fast that the memory was hazy. All he knew was he'd climbed into Marcus’s lap and ended up riding Marcus's cock there on the back seat, cut off from the rest of the world, unable to get enough of his skin, lips, and hands on his body. How he was certain he'd come harder than he had since he'd first discovered wanking as a boy.
The only thing that made any sense out of the entire bizarre encounter was his accepting a job offer—well, he needed the money and Marcus owed him—as Marcus's second limo driver.
Esca liked sex, considered it a necessity in fact, and was perfectly capable of compartmentalising boss Marcus with the guy he'd fucked in the back seat. Only as it turned out, that had only been the start of it, and now, many months down the line, they still couldn't keep their hands off each other and shagging in the limo was par for the course.
★ ★ ★
Tonight Marcus had been at the BAFTAs, his last movie was up for a couple of awards, and even though he'd only stopped into the after-party for half-an-hour, Esca had needed to drop off Marcus's date at her flat. Now it was way past midnight and Esca should say no—he still had to get back to his place which was a good twenty minute cycle ride away.
Their eyes met in the rear view mirror. "Love to," Esca replied—so much for the protests that were on the tip of his tongue. He pressed the button to close the divider between the driver and the rest of the car and then got out, his belly already twisting in anticipation of what he knew was to come. This job had its benefits—regular use of Marcus's fantastic body and cock for their mutual satisfaction being at the top of the list. Perfect fuck-buddies or, in this case, not-even-buddies…just the sex.
He followed Marcus inside the house, let him lead him by the hand up the stairs and into his bedroom. Esca hadn't been in here too often. Their encounters usually never made it out of the car. If they did actually manage to enter the house, they rarely got beyond the hallway.
They collapsed onto the bed, all limbs and heavy breathing. Clothes were discarded and the air was filled with the smell of arousal and sweat as they ground against one another, hands everywhere, possessive bruises appearing on Esca's pale neck as Marcus sucked his skin. It was hot, fast and, fuck, Esca had never wanted someone inside him as much as he wanted Marcus in that moment. When he finally had him, his own legs bracketing his head as Marcus pounded his arse, something warm and unsettling curled its way into his chest. He pushed it to one side, chasing his orgasm, concentrating on muttering filthy encouragement into Marcus's ear. There was no room for anything else.
The only thing that mattered was the climax.
★ ★ ★
"Stay," Marcus said, a warm hand curling around Esca's wrist—Marcus's signature move— and halting his half-hearted attempt at escape. "It's late."
Staying was crossing the line. It was what lovers did, not people who just fucked. That was all they were. Esca didn't even like Marcus. Yes, he liked his cock—he liked it in him, having it in his mouth… He liked his hole as well, loved rimming it, fucking it, having his fingers inside it. Marcus as a person though—never.
Still, the rejection died on his lips. He was so tired. He flopped back down and snuggled into Marcus's side. "'kay," he mumbled, his eyes drooping down as the sleep overtook him.
★ ★ ★
Esca hesitated. This staying overnight thing was new, they'd never had a morning together like this. Marcus looked so relaxed, happy even, as he held up the cafetiere with a smile. Their eyes met and Esca looked away quickly and considered lying and saying he had to run to get to class, but it had only just gone eight and his first class wasn't until ten and he was hungry... He pulled up a stool at the island and grabbed a piece of toast. Marcus poured him some black coffee and Esca breathed in deep. God, yes—this was what he needed. "Thanks."
Marcus sat opposite him and took a sip of his own coffee, watching Esca over the rim of his mug. "What classes do you have today?"
"Phonetics," Esca replied. He shrugged. "I can't believe I'm even thinking this, but I'm considering doing my PhD." At this rate he'd be one of those people that never left university.
Marcus regarded him silently for a long moment before replying, "What got you interested in linguistics in the first place?"
"My dad was a history nut, and he used to take us all over the country to see castles and ancient monuments. I don't know—I just got fascinated by thinking about how people would have communicated back then. I used to be a real geek about it. It escalated from there, and now look at me." He laughed at himself, suddenly uncomfortable. He and Marcus didn't talk that much outside of the limo unless they were fucking and that was less talking than grunting. Still, he found himself saying, "Why'd you become an actor?"
Marcus shot him an odd look, like 'don't you know?' Esca did know the public story. Marcus was the son of movie star Henry Aquila and had followed in his exalted footsteps, or at least, he was trying to. He had yet to achieve the heady heights of his father’s success.
"I always wanted to be like my dad," Marcus said. "He was my idol. My mum was never around much, and despite how busy he was and all the demands on his time, I always came first. When he died, I swore I'd win the Oscar that always eluded him… I've got a long way to go." He snorted. "A long way."
Marcus had made another movie since the one he'd received the nomination for, one that in Esca's opinion was a step backwards.
"No, well, I don't suppose 'Rookies' was ever going to win anything other than 'Best Soundtrack'," Esca said, and Marcus's eyes widened before he threw back his head and laughed.
"You'll never be a member of my fan club will you, Esca?"
Esca certainly wouldn't if 'Rookies' was as good as it was going to get.
"Everyone has to start somewhere, don't they?" Marcus poured himself more coffee and stared down into his cup. "Besides, it's directing I'm really interested in, this is just a stepping stone. I'm in talks at the moment with Fox—this is between us though, okay? I haven't even told my uncle yet."
Esca nodded in surprise. "Of course."
"The details don't matter at this stage, but I've acquired the rights to the perfect book. We’ll just have to see what happens." He pinned Esca with a stare. "Besides, I'm a gay man still hiding in the closet, and I certainly don't intend to stay in there, it wouldn't be fair to-" Marcus paused and then added awkwardly, "The lead roles will dry up if I come out, and I need to get myself established as a director. I need that first film under my belt."
Esca squirmed. What did he care if Marcus was in or out of the closet? It wasn't as though he was his boyfriend and desperate to be acknowledged publicly. He checked his watch and climbed down from the stool. "I should get going," he announced. "Thanks for breakfast."
"No problem," Marcus said and standing, taking a step towards Esca. "Will I see you later?"
"You don't have any engagements tonight, so no—I'm going out with my housemates. Charlie's brother is down for the weekend, and we're taking him down to Legend." He picked up his bag from where he had chucked it on the floor the previous night and checked his watch. "I'll see you Monday?"
Marcus sighed and turned away, taking his dirty dishes to the sink. "Yeah, Monday."
Esca went out through the garage door and picked up his bike, his mind reeling with Marcus's words. Whom wouldn’t it be fair to if Marcus stayed in the closet? Marcus couldn't mean him; he knew that this was just casual. With that thought playing out in his head, he set out for the uni, annoyed that he couldn't get it out of his mind.
★ ★ ★
Esca briefly stilled his hand that was playing absently with Marcus's dark hair and said, "Congratulations. Is it the war film?" Marcus reclined back against him, his head on Esca's chest, luxuriating in the post-shag languor. Esca was thinking about going home again, half-hoping Marcus would suggest he stay.
Marcus nodded and tipped his head back to stare up at Esca. "Come with me."
Esca blinked. "Won't the studio provide you with a chauffeur?" Not that he wouldn't love to visit LA, take in all the sights and do the tourist thing. How far away was San Francisco? Wasn't that the gay capital of the world? That could be fun…
"No, I meant come with me as my-"
Esca froze. "I'm not your anything," he interrupted.
"Yes, well, don't okay?" He rolled out of bed, dislodging Marcus, and started to dress, not looking at him. "Thinking is dangerous."
From the corner of his eye, he saw Marcus get out of bed as well, but he busied himself putting on his socks. When Marcus stepped up behind him and put a hand on his arm, Esca closed his eyes briefly.
"What am I to you, Esca?" Marcus asked.
"You're the asshole who got me fired and gave me a job because he felt guilty about it. You're my boss. You're the guy I sometimes fuck." He shrugged, pushing away the guilt at his words. This was for the best. It was like Marcus had to pull off a plaster—do it really quick and the pain was over straight away and all that would be left was a stinging sensation. "Does that cover it or is there something you want to add?"
He turned then, facing Marcus head on. Marcus was staring at him as though he'd never seen him before. "Fine then," he said at last. "In which case, you’re fired. You can leave as soon as you’re ready." His face was impassive.
Esca nodded. It wasn’t like he hadn’t been expecting that. "Good luck then, Marcus."
He shoved his feet into his shoes and left without a backwards glance.
It's for the best, he told himself. For the best.
His heart had no business aching at the prospect of never seeing Marcus again. He could get sex any time he wanted; he'd never had a problem in that area before he met Marcus Aquila, and he doubted he would struggle now. It had only been seven months.
Esca stopped dead in the middle of the kitchen. He hadn't had sex with anyone other than Marcus for seven months… What was more, he hadn’t felt any desire to search out someone else. Legs suddenly weak, he sank down to the floor with his back to the fridge, hands shaking. He lifted his right hand and held it aloft in front of this face; the same hand that just a few minutes ago had been running through Marcus's hair. Esca loved doing that, since that first time he'd done it a few weeks ago, probably the second time he stayed over. Marcus had such thick, soft hair.
He hadn't wanted anyone else for seven months.
Oh, God. How had he let it go on for so long? Why hadn't he stopped it sooner? What had he been waiting for?
"I can't be," he whispered to himself. "I can't."
He dropped his head to his knees and tried to collect himself, but all he saw were images flashing in and out of his head—his mother, his father, Mackenzie, Cara…Oliver—all dead.
He didn't notice Marcus walk in until someone squatted down beside him and said, "What are you still doing here?"
Esca raised his head and met worried brown eyes. "What am I to you?" he said quietly.
Marcus didn't reply for a long while, his eyes fixed on Esca's face. He dropped his gaze and said, "I'd hoped you were my boyfriend."
Boyfriend, boyfriend… Esca felt the panic rise up. He couldn't be someone's boyfriend. Even as he thought that, his right hand had started pushing the stray strands of hair back off Marcus' face, so soft… "I can't have a boyfriend," he said, and his voice came out hoarse, like he'd been shouting.
The words sounded so pathetic when spoken out loud. What the fuck was wrong with him? It was just a word. Same as mother, father, brother, sister…husband.
Marcus pushed back to his feet, turning his back on Esca and gripping the edge of the counter, his head bent. "I've got a flight to book and a suitcase to pack, so if you're done with whatever it is you're doing-"
Esca managed to push himself to his feet and grab his bag. "Have a good trip," he said, choking the words out, and left.
★ ★ ★
He missed Marcus, but just because of the sex. That was all. He'd be fine. If he wanted to get laid there was nothing to stop him heading on down to gay night at Legend or stopping round to see one of his old casual hook-ups on campus.
Three weeks after Marcus went to the States, Esca boarded the train to Manchester and got off at the village of Colwall just inside Herefordshire. He cycled to the church, where he tied his bike up by the front porch and knocked on the vicarage door.
It wasn't long before the door was opened to reveal his old friend James, now the vicar for this parish and the surrounding two as well. "Esca!" he said, surprised pleasure on his face. "Why didn't you tell me you were coming?"
Esca shrugged and said, "It's been four years, James, I wasn't sure I would be welcome."
James stepped off the stoop and pulled Esca into a bone crushing hug. "You're always welcome here. Always." He leant back and scanned Esca's face. "How long are you staying?"
★ ★ ★
He crouched in front of the gravestone and brushed away a couple of stray leaves before running his fingers over the engraving, his throat thick with tears. 'Here lies Oliver Hyde, much loved brother, son and partner. Gone but never forgotten.'
"I'm sorry I haven't been to see you," Esca whispered, lowering himself to sit cross-legged on the ground. "I couldn't face you. I knew James would look after you." He wiped his tears away with the back of his hand and cast his mind back nearly five years, to the day he'd become Esca Cunoval-Hyde. He'd never have thought that he'd have been the sort of person who would get married at eighteen, and being gay, he'd grown up thinking he'd never get married at all. All right, so it was a civil ceremony, not an actual wedding, but they'd had a private blessing at the church afterwards from James, just the two of them,, his parents and a couple of close friends.
He'd thought that he'd be with Oliver forever. Friends since they were four years old…the teenage trauma of falling in love with his best friend at fourteen when Oliver was happily dating his first girlfriend— moving in with the Hyde family when his parents and siblings had been killed in a car crash leaving him an orphan at fifteen… Finding out that Oliver felt the same way about him at sixteen—suffering Oliver’s parents’ initial disapproval… But they soon came around when they saw the devotion between the two boys, and they'd been one hundred percent supportive of the civil partnership, saying that they already thought of Esca as a second son, his marrying their son just made it official.
They'd been so happy together. They'd chosen a university they could both attend, found a place to live—and then Oliver had gotten a headache, a searing pain in the back of his head—and he'd been dead three days later from a brain tumour.
That had been the day Esca had died inside too. First his family left him, then Oliver. Everyone he loved…
Only now there was a new ache in his chest. and it wasn't from the huge gap his family had left, or from Oliver. The loss of Oliver sat beneath his heart at all times, reminding him that he was cursed, that he would have to live the rest of his life without his soul mate. No, this was a new pain, a clamp around his heart that sometimes hurt so badly it squeezed the breath out of him.
"I met someone," he told Oliver now. "I never meant to, and now I've lost him." He had talked a long time with James last night, something he'd needed more than he'd even realised. His in-laws had come round and berated him for not being in touch, but they'd understood; they loved him. He wasn't alone. He didn't have to be.
The gravestone glinted in the early morning sun, cold and silent.
"I think you'd like him. He's a posh git, bloody loaded in fact, but he works hard and he cares, you know? He doesn't put up with my shit just like you never used to. Do you think it's possible to have more than one soul mate?" The band around his heart squeezed the breath out of him again. Marcus. He missed him. How had he not seen what was right in front of him?
"I bet you're thinking, 'what the hell, Esca ignores me for years and then comes to tell me he's met someone else,' aren't you?" He wiped his tears away with the back of his hand. "Or are you wondering what he's like, and whether he's hot? Because, Ol, he's amazing. I've really fucked it up."
Esca pulled his knees up under his chin and buried his face in his legs. "What should I do?"
His only reply was the whistling of the wind in the trees above his head and the birdsong. In his head he imagined he could hear Oliver. Stop being such a prat, Esca, call him… Tell him how you feel, life's too short. Only Oliver would say something like that, make a joke about his own demise.
Eventually, he lifted his head, fumbled around for his phone and sent a text message: I hope filming is going well. E.
"Happy now?" he said out loud, his words floating off into the ether. "He won't reply you know, he's done with me." He fancied he felt Oliver's hand on his face, touching his cheekbone. I love you.
"Why'd you have to die, Oliver?" Esca asked and buried his head back into his knees, his heart aching two-fold now.
★ ★ ★
He'd been so alone, but he knew now he didn't need to be. He did have family and despite it all they still loved him and wanted him in their life. They had not abandoned him.
Esca though, he had abandoned them, and he had abandoned Marcus. He could only hope that Marcus would give him another chance.
★ ★ ★
The rain didn't let up, and Esca decided to walk instead of cycle. He was halfway home again when a limo pulled up beside him. The window wound down to frame Marcus. "Get in," he ordered and slid across the seat to make room for Esca.
In a parody of their first meeting, it didn't occur to Esca to refuse. He climbed in beside Marcus and closed the door, and the car immediately pulled back into the traffic.
They stared at each other in awkward silence, Esca unable to find his voice as his heart sped up out of control. He hadn't expected this. He'd planned on sitting on Marcus's doorstep, hoping that Marcus would give him a few minutes of his time.
"I've just been into uni to hand in my dissertation," he managed eventually as it occurred to him that this was the first time he'd been in the back of this limo and not been fucking Marcus. He shifted uncomfortably at the memories, folding his hands in his lap to keep from reaching out to Marcus.
Marcus watched the movement and flushed, leaning forward to press the intercom. "Bob, can you take us back to the house please?" He released the button and scanned Esca's face, his own face impassive. He cleared his throat and said, "How have you been, Esca?"
I missed you. "Busy," Esca said. "How was America?"
"The movie wrapped on time but it was touch and go for a while. I think—I hope—this could be the one."
Marcus turned his head away and stared out of the window at the passing traffic. "I got the director gig. I'll have to move to LA for at least a year once the schedule is up."
Esca watched Marcus's profile against the backdrop of the sodden streets outside the window. His heart ached. Marcus would go to America without him, this time for much longer. Esca would be left alone again.
A voice in his head screamed, tell him, tell him. "I missed you," Esca said, knowing it was now or never. "And I'm sorry."
The car ground to a halt; they had arrived at Marcus's house.
"Let's talk inside," Marcus said as Bob appeared at the car door and opened it for Marcus to get out.
Esca followed Marcus, eyeing the stiff set of his shoulders as he walked. He had to get this right, this was his reprieve. If he blew it now that'd be it.
Marcus led him into a small sitting room Esca hadn't been in before. A safe place that had no memories attached. Marcus turned to face him. "Did you mean that Esca, that you're sorry? Because this is your last chance, and I almost talked myself out of this on the plane home, but I asked Bob to drive round this way—I didn't plan to but-"
"Sit down, Marcus, there's a lot I want to tell you, and if you'll still have me after that then, yes, I'll come to LA with you." He had to tell Marcus about Oliver, about his family. He itched to take a step closer, wrap his arms around Marcus, bury his face in his neck. He couldn't do that yet though, not without telling him the truth about himself.
Marcus did as Esca asked, perching uncomfortably on the end of the sofa, watching him as he began to pace the rug in front of the fireplace. Where to start?
"I used to be married," he blurted, stopping and watching Marcus for a reaction. Shock—that was to be expected—curiosity—jealousy—concern… "Oliver died four years ago."
"Um, God—I'm so sorry," Marcus said quietly, his eyes locked on Esca's. "What happened?"
"He was my best friend, we grew up together. His family took me in when mine were killed." He ran a shaky hand through his hair and continued, "We fell in love, got married on his eighteenth birthday, had everything planned out – where we would go to uni, where we would live, what would do afterwards, places we would travel- We found out about the tumour and he was dead before we had chance to say goodbye." Esca felt a huge fat tear escape and wind its way down his cheek and dashed it angrily away.
Marcus was there then, arms around Esca, pulling him tight against his chest. "I can't even begin to imagine what that was like for you," he said gently, threading a hand into the hair at the nape of Esca's neck. "The thought of losing—How did you cope with that?"
"I didn't. Not really. I stuck around for Oliver's funeral and I ran, never looking behind me. I transferred to a different uni, found a place to live, got on with it by myself, made studying my life—found a couple of jobs," he snorted, remembering how he'd met Marcus. He pulled back, looking up into Marcus's face. "I fucked around a lot and none of it mattered because I was just one huge mass of anger and pain. Sex made it better."
Marcus blinked. "Is that all I was to you, just someone to mask your grief?" He looked as though the world was ending. Perhaps it was.
Esca chewed his lip, he had to be honest, and Marcus deserved that. "Maybe—at least at first. I never thought I'd care for anyone else again; I always believed Oliver was it for me." He cupped Marcus's cheek and pulled him down into a brief, almost chaste, kiss, before stepping out of Marcus's embrace and saying, "I was wrong."
"What are you saying?" Marcus reached out to him before seeming to think twice and retracting his hand.
"If Oliver hadn't died I know for a certainty we would have grown old together, but he did, and fate saw fit to throw us together. Oliver is probably up there somewhere screaming at me to stop being such an arse, grab you with both hands and never let you go." He smiled sadly.
Marcus swallowed and looked away again, seeming to gather himself before turning back and saying, "The problem is, Esca, that I've got a thing for you and try as I might, I can't get you out of my head—I want you to be the one by my side when I tell the world the truth about me. I want the fairy-tale." He took a deep breath. "These last six weeks have been hell, and I can't go through that again. I need to know that you mean it when you say you're sorry, when you tell me you care for me and that this has been more than just sex—“
Oh God, this was what he'd hoped for, but he couldn't let himself reach out and grab it, not yet. "I mean it. This stopped being about sex months ago, I just didn't realise it until it was almost too late."
"Will you come to the States with me, Esca?" Marcus's expression was blank, but his eyes reflected his fear of rejection, even now.
"You know this won't be easy though, right? I'm still me. I might be in love with you but—" He was cut off by Marcus's lips closing over his, arms going around his waist, twisting around and falling onto the sofa, Esca in his lap.
"I'm a patient man." His large hands closed over Esca's hipbones. "I've a feeling it's a quality I'll need in abundance with you. It's a good thing I'm in love with you, too."
Esca, straddled across Marcus, buried his face in his neck, his hands seeking Marcus's hair and threading his fingers into it happily. If he was honest, the hair thing had been a huge warning sign he'd ignored. More intimate than sex, it told him everything he hadn't realised about his feelings for the man in his arms.
Marcus’s arms tightened around him, and for the first time in four years, Esca felt as though he was home.