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"And no more of that disgusting pomade." Rudolph's mouth grazed Mathias's ear. The curls artfully arranged beside it tickled his nose. He spoke quietly so only Mathias could hear, well aware that his batman and an entire army were on the other side of their canvas walls. "I promise I shall dispose of every jar you purchase. And no more early morningseverI swear it. We shall pay someone to stand guard outside our door and not rise until we have to."
Warmth generated between them everywhere they touched, skin and cloth. A moment stolen from days of marching and madness, a center of heat between them, in sharp contrast to the chill morning wind, which whuffed the canvas of the tent.
Mathias stirred, his arms locking more firmly behind Rudolph's back. "Tomorrow. Even now I can't quite believe it..."
"Believe it, and no more talk of it. Fate won't be tempted." Rudolph silenced any further discussion by kissing Mathias, deeply and thoroughly, rubbing his yet unshaven cheek against Mathias's smooth, morning-ready skin. A man in full uniform was not an easy armful.
The scent of sweat and horse rose up in the heat they generated. Concentrating on the unique taste and feel of Mathias's mouth, Rudolph swore to remember this moment throughout the day to come. When I'm cold from the death around me, or blazing with the thunder of the charge, I will remember thisthis moment. It is this that men fight forMathias is my reason to fight, my haven. My home.
Outside the tent, the sound of hooves and the jingle of harness could be heard. They froze, listening, as the horse's feet stopped, and conversation, unable to be fully heard over the noise of the wind, ensued beyond the canvas.
"Sir?" Goertz's voice sounded low and urgent from his guard post.
"I must go, anyway." Mathias pulled away, straightened his dolman and picked up his shako. "But"
Voices engaged in conversation outside the tent. Rudolph blocked them out, savoring these last moments. Moments which very well might be their last together.
"No." Rudolph kissed him again, swiftly and quietly. "No buts. Just fight. Then we resign. Then meet here. Then leave. No matter what." He watched Mathias pull the control over his features and take a deep breath. Fierce with pride at the deeply brave man his young friend had become, he smiled, catching Mathias's eye. "Say 'Yes, Rudolph.'"
Mathias looked down once then up, executing a knife-sharp salute with a click of his polished heels. "Yes, Rudolph!" Then he swung around and pushed his way through the tent flap.
It took Rudolph a moment or two to recover himself, then, suppressing his fond smile, he strode out into the misty dawn. "What is it, Goertz?"
As he surveyed the waking soldiers, sounds gathered strength. Sergeants shouted as sergeants were born to do, the ever-present jingle of harness sounded crisp and musical, and wheels of the carts and cannons gave an ominous backdrop to it all.
Goertz, his batman, jumped up from his chair, Rudolph's sabretache, gleaming fresh and shiny with polish, in his hand.