Jeremiah wasn't entirely surprised to find Markus had set up shop in Jeremiah's own little house. It had guards out front, which was a clue, even though everyone else was still at the bonfire celebration for the Alliance victory.
Markus was sitting at the dining table, which had remarkably sprouted reports, and maps, as if he might intend to take over Jeremiah's place entirely. It had not sprouted food, Jeremiah noticed, only a glass of something amber. Markus glanced at him with vague curiosity, but no greeting before he turned back to what he was taking notes about.
“When’s the last time you ate?” Jeremiah asked, not reassured when Markus gave him a look like he didn’t know what language Jeremiah was speaking.
“Yes, Markus, food. The stuff you put in your mouth, and it gives you energy.”
“I ate,” Markus said, dismissively, and turned back to his papers on the table in front of him. Jeremiah was pretty sure he was lying, since Erin had told him that Markus had left the party without eating a thing. Maybe he meant yesterday. “Anyway, speaking of food, I’ve been trying to figure out logistics. And come to the inescapable conclusion either I let most of the army go to grow crops, or a whole lot of people are going to starve this winter. I don’t have the supplies to feed them all. But if they disperse for the summer, we’re vulnerable. We’ll have to garrison…, hmm, St. Louis for sure…”
It was kind of funny to watch Markus, who was looking at the reports before him, and practically see the numbers and maps inside his brain, as he shuffled the strategy around. Markus was absorbed in his work and barely remembered Jeremiah was there.
Jeremiah drew breath. “Why don’t you talk to Kurdy?”
“I will. But he was celebrating.”
“As you should’ve been,” Jeremiah said. “You were there, what, an hour?” Markus had very deliberately made sure he was seen, with Lee tagging along behind him, meeting both the surrendered former enemy and his own troops, to prevent anyone from claiming that he didn’t exist. But then he’d retreated to Jeremiah’s house and the dining table he’d claimed for work.
Markus shrugged. “Didn’t want my mood to bring anyone down.”
“We won, Markus.”
“We won a battle,” Markus corrected. “Not the war. It’s not over. In fact, I need you to set up a meeting with their commanders tomorrow. I want to talk to them. We need more intel.” He scrubbed a hand through his hair, and for a moment he looked pinched and pale, weary from all that weighed on him.
Jeremiah wandered closer to the table, resting both hands on the top. “Give it a rest, Markus, for tonight.”
Markus glanced down at the papers and smiled wryly. “I don’t think I know how. And probably shouldn’t, since it’s my job. My responsibility.” The smile vanished and his brow furrowed. He glanced at the door, to make sure it was closed, and shook his head. “My army.” He gave a bark of a laugh, bitter and sharp. “My army. I never wanted an army. I didn’t want to kill people, and yet here we are.”
Markus held up a hand to stop him. “I know, it’s on them. I do know that, Jeremiah, and I believe stopping them is best for everyone. That doesn’t mean I have to like it. I want to build things, I want things to be better, and all they want to do is rip it down and burn everything.” He shoved at the table, jarring it across the floor a few inches, but that didn’t seem to ease his temper. “They keep holding onto the past, and those ways of doing things ,and it makes me so mad. I am furious with Daniel and his people and their unending desire to fuck things up.”
He pushed his chair back and stood up, jaw clenched and eyes alight like Jeremiah had rarely seen. The pure rage radiated from him like a firecracker, unbridled and stunning how it illuminated the core of who Markus was and how so many people were willing to follow this quiet, clever, somewhat awkward nerd, into the jaws of death.
The passion, that was the only word for it, blazed as he glared at Jeremiah as if it were Jeremiah’s fault for how terrible Daniel’s faction was.
Everything inside Jeremiah went still in that moment, captured.
Jeremiah’s heart beat was slow and loud in his ears, as time came to a stop. The universe lifted up – paused – and returned in a new configuration, as realization slammed down on Jeremiah like a stone to the head.
Oh God. Markus.
His anger at Libby dissolved, curled up like the notes to his dad he put in the fire, turned to ash in this new understanding. She’d been faithless, she’d been a tool of their enemies, and it still hurt, but it turned to nothing.
This was faith, this was … more. This was bigger. This was desire rising up from where he’s shoved it a year ago, and suddenly catching fire in the glow of Markus’ passion.
“God, you’re beautiful when you’re like this.” The words fell out, crashing to the floor one by one, but Jeremiah couldn’t regret them, especially as Markus nearly swallowed his tongue in shock and stared at Jeremiah as if one of them had gone mad.
Maybe Jeremiah had. Maybe that was sort of understood. They were all a little mad to be trying to build a new country after the apocalypse, because this jerk with his grey sweater pushed up his forearms and the warm brown eyes, had decided it needed to be done.
Markus hesitated and his hands trembled on the papers in one hand. “What did you say?” he shook his head as if he doubted what he’d heard.
Jeremiah had to smile at the willful denial. He knew exactly what Jeremiah had said, and his brave attempt to ignore it, was adorable. It warmed cold places in Jeremiah’s heart, hearing it. He walked closer and said, “I meant it. I don’t say it to just anybody, you know, but you are beautiful.”
Markus blinked, still honestly confused by what had gotten into Jeremiah, and cleared his throat. “Uh, thank you. I guess. I was kind of hoping you had some thoughts about the troops and supplies, and maybe Millhaven could--”
Jeremiah took the papers from his hand. “Stop. Stop thinking about it.” He put the papers on the desk. “It’ll keep for a little while.”
“What are you doing? Are you drunk?” Markus asked, frowning at him. His frown deepened when Jeremiah chuckled at the questions. “I have work to do, and if you’re drunk or feverish, you should bother someone else.”
“I feel fine. Never better, actually. Because I realized something.”
Markus’ eyes stared into his, and he visibly forced himself to ask, despite some reluctance to hear the answer, “Realized what?”
“How much you need to be kissed.” Jeremiah laid it out. That wasn’t all he’d reailzed, but he’d start there.
It was gratifying enough to see Markus’ eyes flare and drop to Jeremiah’s lips in the most unconscious give-away of pure desire Jeremiah had ever seen. Then he forced a short laugh. “With all my copious free time, I’ll get right on that.”
“How about you get on me?” Jeremiah asked and had the satisfaction of seeing Markus stunned into silence by the question. “Or I can get on you. Not picky. “
“Jeremiah...” he started, in objection or confusion, but his voice died off into silence as Jeremiah’s hand curled around his neck. In a softer voice he started, “But--”
“You can’t do all this alone,” Jeremiah murmured. Markus’ skin was soft, and his finger caressed the short hair at his nape as he shivered beneath the touch. “You can’t pretend you don’t need connection, Markus. That you don’t need touch. Because I know better. You denied yourself when Meaghan was alive, but she’s dead, Markus. I’m sorry, but she’s dead, and you’re alive. And you need someone to remind you, you don’t have to give everything to the Alliance. You can put it aside for an hour and live.”
Markus was still, not trying to pull away, but not really consenting either, wary and watching Jeremiah’s face as if he was some wild cat loose in the room.
“Where’s this coming from?” Markus asked finally. “You don’t even like me.”
“Sometimes, that’s true.” Jeremiah shrugged. “Sometimes you’re an annoying, secretive, arrogant jerk. You think you know everything, and it irritates the shit out of me. But the rest of the time? You’re the first person since the world died who gave me hope it would live again.”
Markus’ lips parted, but nothing came out. Jeremiah decided that meant he needed to be kissed, so tightening his grip on Markus’ neck, he leaned in, closed his eyes at the last second, and touched his lips to Markus’.
Markus’ hand came up between them and pushed at Jeremiah back. “I have things to do. I can’t waste--”
Jeremiah didn’t want to hear it. Because those lips were soft and warm and sweet, and kissing him felt like kissing the future. So he leaned in again
Markus didn’t pull away, this time, instead he pushed closer. He groaned into Jeremiah’s mouth, with a sudden unleashed desire, Jeremiah felt it surge in his groin with arousal.
Jeremiah grabbed Markus sweater and shirt, pulling them out of his pants to get at his skin underneath. But a little proved not enough and soon Jeremiah was throwing Markus’ shirt to the floor and letting his hands roam all over that smooth skin. “God, how are you so amazing,” he murmured into Markus’ neck, tugging his earlobe with his lips.
Markus shoved a hand down the back of Jeremiah’s trousers with a startling boldness. “Jesus!”
“I don’t think Jesus has much to do with it,” Markus retorted, and his mouth returned to Jeremiah’s as his fingers moved to the front. And God, Jeremiah was going to have to take back every single thought he’d ever had about Markus being a monkish nerd because his touch wasn’t monkish at all.
Jeremiah had to push his hand away, and yank himself back from that mouth. “Wait, no, let’s go find the bed. Do this properly.”
“This?” Markus asked, raising his brows, and his voice turning all gravelly made Jeremiah hotter. “Do what properly?”
Jeremiah got up in his face and said very precisely, “Fuck your brains out. So you forget the war, forget everything else, except begging me to come.”
Markus froze, his lips parted and his eyes turned pale. He shuddered, before he licked his lips and retorted in a voice more breathless than he probably wanted it to be, “Promises, promises.”
“Damn right it’s a promise. I mean to make up for all that time I wasted.”
Markus’ eyes slid toward to the reports on the table-- how was he still thinking of those fucking things? Jeremiah slid a hand right down the front of his trousers to cup him – the gasp he let out was amazingly full of lust.
Jeremiah moved his hand until Markus’ breath turned ragged. “Are you paying attention? Obviously we need to move somewhere else, or you’re just going to keep using that brain on Alliance bullshit, so let’s go. Bedroom.”
He moved back a step, tugging lightly on the grip he had in Markus’ groin. Markus’ eyes flared. “Jeremiah!”
“Move, Markus.” He tugged again, until Markus shuffled forward. “Very good,” Jeremiah said and couldn’t resist adding, “Good boy.”
Markus’ eyes narrowed. “Fuck you.”
“Nope, I'm fucking you. But only if you move your ass to the bedroom. Come on,” he tugged again, not missing how Markus glanced down at the grip Jeremiah had on the front of the trousers. And certainly not missing how what he was feeling got firmer and fuller.
“Oh yes, you love it, don’t you?” Having discovered this secret, Jeremiah used it mercilessly to get Markus into the bedroom.
By the time Jeremiah finished with him, he knew Markus hadn’t thought of the war once. When he basically passed out from fucked-out bliss, Jeremiah smirked at him, very proud of himself, before settling down to sleep himself.