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Absence Would Make the Heart Grow Fonder (If Only I Could Leave You Alone)

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Maximus is a great believer in honor. He tries to live his life with honor, and he plans to give it with honor, when the time comes for him to die in the line of duty.

What he doesn’t expect is for the line of duty to lead him to the most undutiful, undisciplined, indecent braggart of a human being he has ever had the displeasure of suffering to ride upon his back.

What he doesn’t expect is to betray his own comrades—willingly—for said braggart.

And for it to not feel like a betrayal, at all.

“Yo, Max,” slurs Flynn, sleepily. (Drunkenly? Dear god, his breath smells like apple wine—not that Maximus is paying attention, or that Maximus is any more partial to apples than any horse can reasonably expect to be.) “We made it, huh?”

They have, indeed. The princess is safe, returned to her doting parents, and Maximus’s duty—such as it was—is discharged. It is only to be expected that he is as unwelcome among the Royal Guard as Flynn is, and thus, Maximus has been forced to join Flynn in ignominious outlawhood. He finds himself less appalled by this state of affairs than he ought to be. Confound it.

“Hey,” says Flynn, blinking those ridiculously wide brown eyes of his. “You listenin’?”

Maximus huffs irritably; it stirs Flynn’s hair. They’re settled by a campfire in the forest just outside the city, and Flynn is slumped against Maximus’s flank with absolutely no regard for personal space or social propriety. Maximus does his best to nudge Flynn off (gently, lest Flynn concuss himself; the daft idiot hardly needs any further damage to his brain), but somehow, Flynn only ends up sliding down until he’s prone, boneless and loose-limbed, stretched across Maximus’s forelegs with his face directly under Maximus’s.

“Wow,” Flynn mumbles, all apple-scent and heat against Maximus’s mouth. “If I was you and I was a girl, I’d totally be kissing me, right now.” Flynn’s brow wrinkles. “Wait. I mean, if I was you and I had a girl lying under me like I’m lying under you right now, I’d—”

Maximus licks him.

He—he doesn’t mean to. It just happens, like so much just ‘happens’ when Flynn Rider is around.

Maximus stops immediately, of course—apple-taste and soft lips be damned—but after a surprised chortle, Flynn just grins and grabs him by the head and licks him right back.

“I may be more drunk than I usually am,” Flynn laughs, dizzily, when Maximus tenses and pulls away. Somehow. “’Cause I’d almost think that what happened actually happened.”

Maximus shakes his head. Violently. That does dislodge Flynn, finally, but Flynn just rolls onto the grass, arms flat on either side of him, managing to look both beatifically smug and mildly startled.

“Why’d you do that?” Flynn pouts. Pouts, the little… “We were gettin’ along great. Except that we weren’t, ’cause it didn’t happen, yeah? Gotcha.” He winks.

A pout followed by a wink.

That’s—

Maximus heaves himself up, oddly unsteady on his normally-strong legs, and retreats—no, marches—to the shadows at the edge of the clearing.

He’s standing watch. He’s…

It’s what he has to do, that’s all. While Flynn ‘I’m So Drunk I Might As Well Kiss a Horse’ Rider lolls uselessly on the forest floor with his legs spread equally uselessly, following Maximus’s retreat—no, repositioning, his utterly tactical repositioning—with a warm, heavy-lidded gaze and an infuriatingly knowing smirk.

Damn him.

“Gonna keep me safe, soldier?” Flynn calls out to him, but Maximus refuses to answer.

Instead, he looks away, sternly eyeing the skyline, as if gargoyles and gryphons might drop out of the sky at any moment, bristling with fangs and claws.

Well. They might. This is a magical kingdom, after all.

Eventually, Flynn falls asleep, and it’s only when he starts shivering—only then—that Maximus makes his quiet way back into the clearing, and resumes his place—not that it is his place, the very thought is ludicrous—by Flynn’s side.

It’s only to share his body’s heat.

It’s only to keep the fool alive.

 


fin.