Chapter 33 - Sharp claws

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Four days earlier

Marcus*

*Me never doing what I say I am going to do. Bonny's pov will follow in the next chapter, unless she manages to bail on me again. I'll ask her to bring wool for your baby blanket, @DanGarrett.

The title reflects my current mood for bad jokes rather than the content of the chapter. Sorry.

Quintus's quarters were more elaborate than his own, with a private kitchen, washing room, sleeping quarters and an armour alcove each taking up a separate room. Marcus had his own sleeping quarters at the barracks, right next to Biancus's, which would make avoiding his friend close to impossible. Once Quintus's investigation into the whereabouts of his deserted soldier were finished, there would be no escaping him.

Florius and Decius, Vel and Plinius, they all knew. They had all known Anagallus for over four years and it was impossible not to know the guy was too gentle for a soldier's life, despite his flamboyant bluffs.

They didn't ask when Marcus returned to the barracks to meet them. They were glad not to be involved, probably. No one was involved, much to his relief. The sheer luck of having Anagallus on kitchen duty meant he had to rise earlier than his fellow Contubernium men, and his romance with Pimpernella had made him stealthy enough to escape the Castrum unseen. In fact, Anagallus hadn't needed any help in that department. The only thing he lacked, was a place to go.

They knew Marcus played a role in that. He could have feigned outrage, he could have feigned shock over his recruit's disappearance, but he didn't. Not for them, and not for his new recruits. Because if they thought Anagallus could escape his eye, they would think they themselves could too. He wanted them to know he had granted Anagallus his escape, and if Marcus managed to out-run his own superiors in the aftermath, it might well improve their cohesion for future missions.

If not, they at least would not share the penalties with him.

Marcus could see clear as day that Biancus was well past not asking questions when he spotted his friend from afar, and he was almost glad to find himself in front of Quintus's door before Biancus managed to catch up.

Marcus entered his Centurion's rectangular office, the narrow walls closing in on him as he walked up to Quintus, who was seated at his desk and watched him with obvious scrutiny. Despite the different setting, Marcus felt much like the day he had tried to convince the man he had stolen Goliath. Back in that spacey tent, stuffy from Massila's scorching hot summer afternoon, Quintus had seen through his lies with ease, even before Phyllis owned up for the theft.

Now, six years later, and with more time to prepare, the lies rolled of his tongue with ease and were more difficult to counter, but Quintus was still no fool. He had made himself at home here, in his freshly painted office that reflected the light from his new glass windows. The lower halves of the white walls were a deep currant red, and the colour was repeated in the foliage painted onto the wall behind Quintus's mahogany desk, accentuated with tones of orange and yellow.

It was the office of someone who had managed to uphold his post for many years, and while Marcus had never resented his superior for creating some luxury in his quarters, today he saw them in a different light. Quintus displayed his desire to stay stationed near Mesmer until his retirement. Marcus had created a similar spot for himself, admittedly not in the barracks, but under Mesmer's staircase, and he had always thought them on the same page. As much as he loved travelling, having a place to return to was really what made it attractive.

Did Quintus really prioritize Mesmer's safety over anything else? Or had he simply not deemed the coastal village, that had supplied them for years whenever Lutetia's trade lines fell short, worthy of being saved?

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