No part of the raid had gone according to plan. Their target was now across the border, safe in Canada until they could put out an international warrant for his arrest. He would be untraceable by the time the Canadian aurors started their search.
As the Director of Magical Security this should have been more concerning to Percival Graves. However, he had no thoughts to spare on escaped suspects when he was busy trying to keep his friend (lover?) alive. Theseus Scamander was practically a deadweight with two broken legs, a concussion and possibly some internal bleeding. Percival needed to get him to medical attention as fast as possible.
“This is not how I envisioned our first trip to Niagara Falls,” Percival muttered as he positioned Theseus to sit up against a tree trunk. The falls roared behind them. They had just barely made it out of the rapids before passing the point of no return where the current would have swept them over the edge. Theseus had received his broken legs from the smuggler they had been chasing, but his concussion and the deep bruising on his torso were courtesy of the rocks he slammed into when they had been thrown off the boat into the water.
“Kinda romantic,” Theseus slurred. His small chuckle was cut off by a coughing fit. They had both swallowed a bit too much water. “You savin’ me. Is nice.”
“Stop talking,” Percival snapped. “Save your strength. I’m getting you out of here.”
Apparently he resorted to speaking in cliches in such a crisis. He firmly closed his mouth against any overly trite words about Theseus ‘not daring to die on him.’
“My hero,” Theseus said with a smile in complete disregard for Percival’s orders.
Percival didn’t spare the time to give him a glare. He crouched as low as he could and tried to pull Theseus up over his shoulders in something like a fireman’s carry. After three attempts Percival gave up. His friend was just too tall, too broad, too big to carry for someone notably smaller than him. Percival’s sprained wrist and his own bruises throbbed as he sank to his knees to catch his breath.
“M’too heavy. S’okay, Perce,” Theseus mumbled. His breathing was shallow and ragged. His eyes sought Percival, but did not focus properly. “You get help. S’okay.”
“I’m taking you with me one way or another,” Percival growled. If he left Theseus here the man would die before there was time to come back for him. That was not an option. They had been split up from the rest of the team. No doubt Percival’s aurors were conducting a search at this very moment, but two sides of the riverbank was a lot of ground to cover on a cloudy night. Plus, they would probably send a team out to check the rocks and river at the bottom of the waterfall for bodies. There weren’t that many aurors in the operation in the first place, they’d be stretched thin until back up came. It was up to Percival to get himself and Theseus to safety.
The ache of losing his wand was almost worse than the ache in his body. It was probably over the falls by now, smashed on the rock pile below. Theseus’ wand was too loyal to it’s wizard to let anyone else use it. Percival had not even been able to make sparks that could be sent up as a signal.
Percival took a deep breath. Alright, new plan. He would get them to the cliff’s edge, right there on the edge where all day the tourists stood in awe of the powerful waterfall roaring beside them. Even in the dark, even if he could only conjure a few sparks, Percival was certain that two men would be visible from there.
His overcoat was waterlogged. It had almost pulled him under as he tried to maneuver himself and Theseus to shore. Now he shrugged it off and lay it flat on the ground. With some effort and a bit of cathartic cursing he moved Theseus to lay on top of it. Theseus only grunted a little in pain as his fractured legs were jostled.
“Sorry, sorry,” Percival muttered between his own harsh breaths. It was going to hurt. There was no help for it. When Theseus was laid out on the coat he grabbed each sleeve and began to drag his friend down the river bank. They were in a wooded area where the pine needles and fallen leaves gave a bit of softness to the ground. Theseus let loose a pain fogged curse now and then, but for the most part he stayed quiet.
“Sorry, sorry,” Percival kept murmuring over every rock or tree root. As they came closer to the waterfall Percival stepped onto the tourist walking paths and followed them to the cliff’s edge. The trees became sparse. The sound of rushing water became louder. Percival was lurching steadily forward when someone shouted above him. Looking up made him dizzy, but he did so anyway. The aurors on broomsticks flew down to him with cries of relief. They quickly assessed Theseus and took him away for immediate medical attention. Percival was confused as people clamored around him, shining lights in his eyes and checking him over for damage. Someone began pulling his damp clothes off, but when he blearily protested he was hushed and wrapped in a warm blanket.
When he was able to think straight again he found himself in a hospital bed in the private ward of MACUSA. An impersonal nurse checked his pulse and his temperature, then gave him water to drink. She pointed to the wand set on the bedside table.
“Your aurors say they caught it just as it was flung out over Niagara Falls,” she told him with a hint of incredulity. Percival stared at his wand. They must have been watching for him to go over the falls and saw his wand instead. It was a ridiculous story made even more ridiculous because it was true.
“Don’t use it yet,” the nurse continued. “You’re still resting.”
Percival nodded and resigned himself to laying back and being bored. When he glanced around the ward he saw that Theseus was recovering a few beds away. It made something inside Percival hurt to see his friend lying so still and so pale. He focused on the rise and fall of the sheet that covered Theseus’ chest.
Theseus could have died. Could have died. He wasn’t even supposed to be part of that operation. He was just in town for a friendly visit. When Percival decided that the operation was sensitive enough to need the head of the DMLE leading it, Theseus had strong-armed his way onto the team. He always loved being part of the action. He could have died. And Percival blamed himself.
“Do you need more painkillers, Mr. Graves?” The soft voice startled him out of his thoughts. He turned his head away from Theseus and saw a different gray-haired nurse at his bedside. She held a little tray with a bottle and syringe.
“No. I’m fine,” Percival answered. The nurse frowned at him and set the tray down on the small bedside table. He watched in confusion as she brought her hand to his cheek and ran gentle fingers over his skin. He could feel the wet tracks as she brushed his tears away. He hadn’t even realized he had been crying.
“No need to be stoic in front of me,” the nurse told him. “If you’re hurting I can take the pain away.”
“It’s not that kind of pain,” Percival whispered. The nurse glanced at Theseus then returned her attention to Percival.
“Your friend is going to be fine,” she assured him. She tucked the blankets more securely around him and patted his shoulder with a smile. “You just worry about yourself for now. Get some more rest. We’ll take care of everything else.”
Theseus was fine. When he woke he laughed at Percival’s misplaced guilt. He returned to England to finish his recovery before Percival could work up the nerve to tell him something important.
“Ugh, what are they making this stuff out of?” Theseus complained as he slammed his glass onto the table in disgust.
“You said you wanted to try moonshine,” Percival answered with a shrug.
“I didn’t think it would be bad enough to kill me.”
It was three months after the failed raid that had almost gotten Theseus killed. The incident haunted Percival, but Theseus thought nothing of it. His joking words made Percival flinch. He covered his moment of weakness by taking a gulp of subpar firewhiskey. This wasn’t the best of speakeasies. They should have found a place with better quality liquor.
“Sorry, Perce,” Theseus touched his friend’s arm. He had noticed the flinch. “But really it’s not your fault.”
“The raid was my call and my responsibility. Any screw-ups fall on me. You shouldn’t have gotten hurt.”
“It happens in our line of work. And anyway, you saved me.”
Theseus considered his drink for a long moment. He lifted it to his lips, but then thought better of it and set the glass down. He took a deep breath. “Look, it’s not your fault you couldn’t carry me. I’m way above average in the height department. I know you’re strong, but I’m also really heavy. It’s all this muscle.”
Theseus flexed his arm extravagantly to prove his point. Still Percival didn’t smile.
“Hopping hippogriffs, Perce! Quit moping. I’m an auror. I willingly put myself in danger for the greater good. Of course I could get hurt once in a while.”
“I’ve just never been confronted with the truth of that before.” Percival sighed. He took another sip of his drink and made a face at it. “I’ve got better stuff at home.”
“Thank Merlin,” Theseus grinned. “Let’s get out of here.”
They threw some money on the table and stepped out to the nearest apparation point. Inside Percival’s apartment Theseus went straight to the liquor cabinet and started pouring out two glasses. Percival had something else in mind. He went to his bedroom to grab the shirt he had stolen three months previous. It was Theseus’ shirt. Percival had taken it from his luggage when he went to collect a few personal items Theseus had requested during his stay at the hospital. The shirt hadn’t been laundered so at the time it still had that Theseus scent. The scent had faded, but Percival had a better use for it now that it’s owner was recovered and standing in his apartment.
Percival often wore Theseus’ shirts. They were far too large for him, but Theseus got a kick out of it. Percival always kept his underwear on underneath and never actually took the shirt off. Despite their closeness, despite Theseus’ clear desire, despite the softening of Percival’s heart and his enthusiasm for kissing, he had never allowed this final intimacy. He was too obsessively private, too uncertain of his own feelings.
But three months ago Theseus could have died. And now it was time for Percival to face facts. The facts were that Theseus was not one of those furtive, guilty, one-night-stands from his past. Theseus would never use their relationship for blackmail or for his own advancement. Percival trusted Theseus. Now he was ready to admit that he loved him too.
When Percival emerged from his bedroom wearing only the shirt, Theseus nearly choked on his drink.
“Didn’t know the night was progressing that fast,” Theseus grinned through his coughing fit. Percival waited until he was sufficiently breathing again before pulling his head down for a kiss.
“Where’d you get my shirt?” Theseus asked when they broke apart.
“I’ve been saving it for a special occasion.”
“Yeah?” The corners of Theseus’ eyes crinkled gaily at the ends of his wide smile. “What’s so special about tonight?”
Percival answered without words. He took Theseus’ hand and placed it on his thigh. Theseus’ breathing sped up as Percival slowly guided his hand upward under his shirt. Skin met more skin. Percival’s body felt hot, his skin soft and electrified at his lover’s touch. Theseus’ hand trembled in excitement as he understood the implications.
“You’re not wearing anything under my shirt,” he breathed.
“This isn’t going to be just one of our necking sessions.”
“And we’re ready to move past the groping stage.”
“Oh, yes.” Percival drew out the words as he nodded.
“Sweet Merlin, Percival Graves! I am so ready!” Theseus grabbed the bare backs of Percival’s thighs with his huge hands and hefted him up onto his toes. Percival threw his arms around Theseus’ neck for balance. They were flush against each other, chests heaving in the same rhythm, arousals meeting through fabric.
“You can stop waiting now,” Percival murmured against Theseus’ jaw.
“I’d wait as long as you needed,” Theseus said. “But I’m really glad I don’t have to anymore.”
Percival leaned away and gently broke out of Theseus’ grip. He shuffled back just far enough to cup his hands over Theseus’ face and pull the man down to eye level. Theseus bent easily and waited. He knew that whatever this was it was important.
“I trust you, Theseus,” Percival told him firmly and without hesitation. “I love you, Theseus.”
“And I love you too, Perce. Thank Merlin I can finally say it!” Theseus pulled them together into a tight hug. “Bed now?”
“Can I carry you there?”
Theseus shed much of his clothing on the short stumble from the sitting room to the bedroom. The more skin he revealed the more impatient Percival became. He had been waiting for this too. It was just that he had to be absolutely certain before he allowed it to happen. When they finally made it onto the bed Theseus got all sentimental.
“You’re so perfect,” he said as he gently unbuttoned the shirt Percival wore. Percival started to shrug it off his shoulders but Theseus stopped him.
“No, leave it on. It’s adorable and sexy. I don’t know how you manage to be both at the same time.”
Percival wasn’t sure that he wanted to be called adorable during sex, but Theseus was grinning foolishly at him so he let it go. He made himself comfortable between Theseus’ long legs. Theseus’ hands skated softly over his sides and his chest before settling lightly on his hips.
“You’re not going to break me,” Percival chuckled at Theseus’ tentative touches. “I’m sure I’m not as small as the women you’ve slept with.”
“I never let any of them wear my shirts,” Theseus told him in a quiet but heartfelt declaration. Percival lay his head on Theseus’ shoulder and smiled.
“Let’s make love.”
Percival had gotten used to waking with a giant British colleague wrapped around him. There was something comforting in it. He didn’t usually want people to touch him, but Theseus was allowed to do quite a few things that others were not allowed. Touching, kissing, teasing, and using nicknames were all strictly prohibited to anyone who was not six foot five and answered to the name of Theseus Scamander. Now sex could be added to that list too.
Percival turned his head so that he could smush his face into his pillow. He wanted to go back to sleep, but the sun was up and peeking around the shade to light the room. His body was tingly and a happy kind of sore from last night’s activities. He had slept extremely well and was not at all tired. It was very unlikely he would be able to doze off again. Which meant that he was now going to lie here in his lover’s arms and overthink things.
The pressure to be perfect still weighed on him. The pressure to present himself in public as strong, independent and morally spotless overwhelmed him at times. He knew there was nothing wrong with taking Theseus as a lover, but he didn’t want to face the gossip and the conjecture. He didn't want to face people picking apart and judging his relationship. His personal life had been a secret for so long that any hints of it that were leaked to the public caused a media frenzy.
“You worry too much,” Theseus said suddenly.
“What do you mean?” Percival asked. Then, “How long have you been awake?”
“Long enough to feel you tensing up in my arms.”
Percival took a deep breath and tried to relax.
“The light hasn’t dimmed after last night, if that’s what you’re worried about,” Theseus burrowed his nose in Percival’s hair. “I still love you.” His soft exhalation warmed the back of Percival’s neck.
“That’s not an issue.”
“Then what is?”
Percival hesitated. He took hold of Theseus’ hands and clasped them securely across his stomach. “Everyone thinks we're just friends, and I’m not sure I can go public with this. Not the romance bit.”
The small laugh that Theseus let out ruffled Percival’s hair. “No one’s asking you to. The entire nature of our relationship hasn’t changed since last night. We still live on different continents. We’ll still only see each other a few times a year and when we do we’ll still go out drinking.”
“You don’t mind keeping it a secret?”
“Perce, our romance has been a secret for two years already. This doesn’t change anything.”
Percival rolled his hips backward. With a surprised gasp Theseus jerked forward to meet him in response.
“Alright, it does change something,” Theseus amended. “After the drinking and the kissing we’re now allowed to take our clothes off before falling into bed.”
“For appearance’s sake you still have to get a hotel room when you come visit.”
“But I don’t have to stay there, do I?”
“Good. I’d much rather be here with you.”