THESE ARE NOT MY CHARACTERS AND THIS IS NOT MY UNIVERSE. EVERYTHING BELONGS TO JIM BUTCHER!!!
Max was the first to admit he wasn’t the most introspective of men. He liked his women and his drink and thought it was his right to complain about anything that wasn’t those two things. That’s why Schulz snuck up on him so badly. First, the fish had accidentally almost killed him. Then, Schulz’d felt so guilty about, the poor kid had been following Max around for weeks trying to make it up to him. Somewhere along the line, Max had stopped being annoyed and didn’t even realize it.
He hadn’t seen much of Schulz in the last few days, apart from giving orders and the such. Tavi, the crowbegotten captain, was making some utterly stupid but possibly brilliant plan to defeat the hoard of 50,000 Canim clamoring just on the other side of the Elinarch. He’d promoted Max to Tribune Auxiliarus and made Schulz centurion in his place.
Max should be worrying about what he needed to do to prepare for the coming battle, perhaps thinking a little about his impending death, or at least sharpening his sword. But all that Max’s crowbegotten mind could think of was tracking down Schulz before the battle began.
The mud squelched under his boots as he double timed it down the road towards his –Schulz’s- spear’s barracks with the pretense of checking they were ready. When he arrived all his former spearmates were formed up and ready to leave for their post.
“Attention!” Max heard Schulz bellow when he came into view. Almost as a single entity, the men stood straight and saluted.
“At ease, fish. Get to your post.” Max turned to Schulz. “I need to speak with you for a moment. You can meet your men there in a few minutes.”
Schulz nodded briefly. “Sir.” Turning back towards his men, he shouted, “You heard the Tribune. Get your crowbegotten asses to your post.”
Max was grinning ear to ear when Schulz turned back towards him.
“What did you need, sir?”
Max’s grin turned into a lazy smile. “I think attempted murder gives you the right to use my name when we’re alone.”
Schulz blushed enough that Max could see it even in the dimmed fury light of the abandoned barracks. “Max,” he said quietly.
He looked down at his feet. “I’m scared.”
Max’s heart seized in his chest at Schulz’s admission. He took a step forward, crowding into Schulz’s space. “Furies above, man. We’re all scared.” He reached out and put his hands on Schulz’s shoulders. “The important thing is to get out there and defend the man on either side of you. The Captain may be young but I’ve seen more of his hair brained schemes work than I care to admit. If anyone can get us through this night, it’s him.”
Schulz lifted his head and looked Max right in the eyes. It was like a punch to the solar plexus. Somehow, amidst the danger and the pranks and the terror, this boy – no this man – in front of him had come to mean everything to Max.
Max was not one for deep thoughts or denying himself so it was no surprise what he did next. He leaned forward even more, crowding Schulz against the barracks wall and kissed him.
Schulz started so badly, Max had to jump back to avoid getting his nose broken.
It was Max’s turn to stare at his shoes. He wasn’t really sure what to do next and had almost decided on leaving without saying anything when he heard Schulz’s voice.
It sounded confused and hopeful and slightly quivery as he asked, “Sir?”
Max snapped his head up. “It’s Max.”
Something must have come together in Schulz’s mind, because in the next second, he responded with, “Max, then,” before grabbing the edges of Max’s legion issue breastplate and spinning him until his back hit the wall with a resounding thump.
In the next moment, Schulz’s lips had found his in a punishing kiss that drove all thought from his brain. Heat washed through him, stronger than any earth-crafting he had ever experienced and somewhere in the back of his mind he knew Schulz was no earth-crafter.
His fingers scrabbled over armor and cloth in a desperate attempt to find skin. Schulz growled in the back of his throat and grabbed Max’s hands in one of his and forced them above their heads and against the wall. Max was the stronger man and could have easily broken the hold, but Furies did it boil his blood that Schulz was gone enough to try to control him.
Somewhere in the distance Max heard a signal being sounded. Slowly, and against his will, the heat faded from between as Schulz also registered the signal.
He had a smirk on his face. “I’ve wanted to do that since you walked into camp weeks ago.” He paused. “It was even better than I imagined.”
Max couldn’t help but smile. “It was pretty good.”
The ready signal sounded a second time.
Max sighed, “It’s time.”
Schulz shook himself and Max could see the guise of confident, unshakeable centurion come over him in the space of a breath.
He grabbed the back of Schulz’s head and pulled him in for one final punishing kiss. Before he turned to leave, he locked eyes with Schulz, “Find me after.”
Schulz nodded simply, knowing what he was trying to say but couldn’t.