After so many years, skin contact still shocked the entire world into stillness.
There were a hundred eyes on Gellert Grindelwald, the new German President of the Wizarding Federation of Weimar Germany, but it seemed that Albus still held the power to be the sole focus for him in a room full of people. Gellert’s hands were so soft. Warm, dry, a tad smaller than his own, deft, crackling with magic where they touched. Sweeter still was the surprise on his face as he turned to Albus under the rain of camera flashes. What a dashing figure he cut in his grey suit; his hair was salt and pepper now, neatly styled without too much pomade as so many others wore it these days – damn him, his slow smile reached his eyes.
“Ah, Albus! You should have said that you’re in Berlin. I thought that was you I saw in the shadows as the results came in.”
The celebration was in full swing, left-right-left-right, swishing skirts, tip-tap tip-tap a hundred heels on the floor swivelled to the big band. Cameras. Cameras everywhere.
The lose grasp he had on Gellert’s wrist – stupid, stupid, what had he been thinking – became a handshake for the public. They could not know how loud his heart was beating.
“I meant to congratulate you on your success. You have come far.” Off the path of destruction, priorities re-organized, that age-old fire in Gellert now burned on a clearer path after having been given new direction – it was still politics, always politics with Gellert, and Albus might not understand where he took all that energy from, but he was glad. Merlin and Morgana, this could have gone wrong so easily – where was that rascal, Hitler’s wizard friend who meant to align the wizards of Germany with the NSDAP – did it matter, he thought, frantically trying to find his breath when Gellert’s presence was sucking all the air from the room.
Their hands fell apart. Not a second passed that he was bereft before he felt the smallest pressure of a familiar hand in his lower back. Gellert was warm. Always had run hot, restless, imagine what we could do together, and here they were.
Gods – stars – he should never have come. Expecting the worst, fearful of the result, shameful of hoping he had kept to the shadows with his hat tipped low into his face. Of course, it had not been enough to hide from Gellert.
“Your well-wishes are very welcome. Truth to be told, I half expected you here. Though you do understand this could have gotten ugly.”
“Yes,” Albus said, meaning fifteen different things. “I am well aware. But surely you have many more admirers lining up – I do not mean to take up your time.“
Take me somewhere private, he thought. Charged eye contact lasted for a few seconds longer than appropriate as there were, indeed, a gaggle of well-dressed, elegant people waiting within hearing distance for a chance to speak to the great Grindelwald. Albus felt laid bare. The point where Gellert’s hand was caressing the fabric of his lower back minutely burned.
Thirty years. The occasional tea on neutral ground, an evening at the pictures when they had been much younger, getting sloshed on expensive wine in a restaurant in Paris. Albus was living on scraps, on rations, breathing deeply every few years before he had to hold it all in again. He was starving. His rotten, traitorous heart tripped all over itself, and it must have been in his eyes, in the way they smiled each other, all genuine. Fucking hell, the Scamander brothers were trying not to get in trouble somewhere in this very room and he was distracted – What if this was only the beginning of the end; who could say that Gellert would not become exactly as bad as that Austrian swine who was gunning to crown himself through violence and trickery?
“Truth to be told, I am tired of standing around. It has been a long evening. Have you had anything from the buffet?”
His hand was still there. They were walking, dividing the masses. Something nearly drowned in the years of misery stretched, unravelling, so deeply inside Albus that he was sure it must have translated through their bon. Gellert’s focus kept jumping to his lips and a little lower where the silver chain sat warm on Albus’ neck, nearly hidden. Just out of sight.
“If I’m entirely honest-“
“It’s dreadful,” Gellert said quietly scrunching up his nose, “isn’t it?” His shaving water went straight to Albus’ head – he wouldn’t need any champagne tonight. A light bubble of laughter escaped him that he tried to stifle behind the back of his head. Leaning in, giving in. Letting go.
“I am sure that it was prepared for more delicate tastes than ours. We were not raised on caviar and Escoffier’s art.”
A half-step closer: their arms brushed. Albus was startled to recognize a slight tremor to Gellert’s free hand that he used to underline his words.
“The art of starving quite beautifully has certainly been brought to perfection in my honour. Would you care to find something real that a man can be sustained on?”
“That is a very elaborate way to ask me out for dinner, Gellert.” Albus was surprised by his own boldness, but his feet were moving down the marble stairs of the makeshift-stage in this grand ballroom of the German Ministry. His shoulders were practically tucked into Gellert’s broad chest now. Some age-old instinct screamed the rules of decency at him, even though here in Berlin other conventions applied than in ever-stuffy Britain. Gellert leaned in close as if he was whispering secrets to Albus with words polished to a shine for him only.
“That is a very sly way of saying yes, my love.”
A quick twirl of his free hand fetched a long black coat from the wardrobe by the doors where guards in uniform stood sentinel. He slung it over his arm as he searched the room with his gaze, exchanged some complicated sign with a woman elegant enough to be French on the other end of the grand hall and bowed his head in thanks at her before he quickened his strides to get Albus out of the stuffy ballroom, disappointing all his suitors.
The foyer was equally full of people who were hoping to get a glance at the election party going on inside. More guards held back the masses from grasping at Gellert like he held their wildest dreams, their more desperate hopes and the key to elevating all their despair. A deep winter night come early in mid-October made the air of Berlin’s streets frigid enough to cloud Albus’ rapid breaths, a pearl white fragile proof of his pulse deafening him to the world. Outside the doors, the grand street was thankfully empty. The concrete sparkled with frost.
Their steps were perfectly in synch. A comfortable silence settled around them before Gellert slung his thick woollen coat around Albus’ shoulders, more careful in his motions than Albus remembered him ever to be, and this, at last, felt significant in a way their rendezvous all over Europe hadn’t. This was a reunion, not the minimal hit of an addict needed to survive withdrawal.
“Bleeding gods, Gellert,” Albus muttered as his cheeks heated up. “Thank you.” He sparsely dared raising his gaze from the frozen ground lest he saw the joyful, cautious smile which Gellert had greeted him with again and confessed it all then and there. Still he grasped at the heavy fabric with both hands, revelled in the texture, the exquisite edge work of the lapels and the subtle smell of something so uniquely Gellert it made his knees feel weak.
“This is Berlin, not London, darling. Nobody bats an eye as long as we keep our privacy in public.”
He couldn’t help himself. The words of protection slipped out his lips before he could swallow them down. It had always been so easy to cast without a wand around Gellert; something about their compatibility erased the need for a focus tool, so he brushed the charms into the lapels before he lifted his hands, still dripping with magic, to caress Gellert’s stubbled cheek. There was a 5 ‘o clock shadow greying his chin line; he’d had to shave before Albus himself, he remembered, standing still under a streetlight as he released the spell.
“There.” Barely a whisper. “Berlin still is full of Nazis. I’ll not lose you to their cruelty.” He’d lost his voice. All his defences lay trampled on the ground where he was treading over them, cast off, lose now that the shackles he kept himself in check with were cracked open. The election, the frantic energy in the government building whipped ever higher into a fever pitch by the Nazi party candidate and his supporters on the one side, Gellert’s frenetic admirers in the middle and the Liberals to the left, blood-red, hungry as all of them for heads to roll, it all seemed so unreal in comparison to this – Albus was so sore from missing him that when he had Gellert next to him, he barely knew what to do with himself.
Gellert in turn was staring at him with an enquiring look that did not quite know what to expect either. The chasm between them was closing up by the second for all the wrong reasons: Their world, teetering on a cliff edge.
“Albus,” a prayer, a benediction. It was a starless, moonless night. “How was I ever able to let you turn back around to Scotland?”
“Well, to be fair, mostly it was you who left me first. But I should be able to divide my time more evenly now.” No years of silence anymore. Their hands brushed, tangled. October was robbing Albus of his balance.
“Because I won the election?”
“No. You stopped murdering Muggles, for one. I still think it was wrong of the international Wizengamot to absolve you of all your crimes, though after Anton has served his time as President now, you are the only one who still stands in the way of the Nazis.” There. This was easy: He still had principles. Albus might have been a weak man prone to temptation, but the years had made him humbler at least as his tolerant principles hardened. If there was one thing the world needed to be freed of, it was hate and bigotry.
“Per Du with Vogel, are you,” Gellert commented lightly with an air of jealousy that fit him like a glove. His love had always possessed teeth. It was rather embarrassing how desperate Albus was to cut himself on them.
“An old acquaintance. He’s your spitting image and a good man.”
Their steps carried them down the street to the entrance of a hotel all aglow. People milled in and out of the crimson canopy in front of marble pillars, but the two of them were still shrouded in the night’s shadow. Aside from those gallantly dressed dinner guests, the unseasonable cold kept the street almost empty of pedestrians. They were hidden in plain sight. Gellert’s low voice washed over him; intimacy, at last; so he closed his eyes to weather it. He wanted a warm room, a bed, something to make him braver than he was, and time. That, most of all. He wanted time with the man whom he had spent the better part of thirty years avoiding.
“While murdering Muggles makes for bad press for the campaign, it might not always be so, Albus. War is coming. You have seen what they already did to this city. It was more lively, more colourful, and easier for our kind.”
“Our kind,” he repeated. “You make it sound like a medical condition.”
“Well, a famous Muggle doctor operating in the Tiergarten thinks so, and that is almost as radically liberal as the scantly clothed transvestite dance shows only two districts west from here.”
Gellert was looking at him as if he was imagining Albus in the midst of all that debauchery. It made him bold, let him speak his yearning heart before he could bite down on it.
“I would like to dance with you. You were good at it once.”
“As were you,” Gellert acknowledged inclining his head with a crinkling smile that deepened when Albus mirrored it. “Another time, my love, that is a promise I can give you. Only do not expect me to become a good man as well. Some things cannot be done by good men.”
They were almost in range of the hotel glow now, unacknowledged as long as they remained unrecognized, but that would change quickly. Albus’ heart was still in his throat, but the necessity of pulling away from the half-embrace gave him strength.
“I know who I love, Gellert, I have never been illusioned about that. Do not make me regret my choice to come to you. That is all I ask.” Then he pulled on the coat properly so that it did not quite look so much like he was being sheltered from the cold like a lady in a silken dress. Not waiting for a response, for he did not want to see Gellert flinch, he was the first to step into view of the concierge.
A half-step behind him, Gellert had to shake several hands before they were even able to get inside. Somehow, his charm was dialled up to a disarming degree as soon as there were eyes on him, and Albus was so damnably glad to be the only one to have ever seen the man disarmed by a protection charm under the streetlights.
They had what sorry excuse counted for tea in Berlin, cold salmon on salad with a white sauce as entrée, some variation of two perfectly roasted steaks on potatoes with another heavenly egg sauce, coffee, Kaiserschmarrn and vanilla sorbé for desert. A glass of wine each, the closeness of their hands lying less than an inch apart on the table decked with silver. For the new President, a separate dining room had hastily been cleared where they could talk freely (though nobody had to know about the sound barrier which Albus weaved around them light as air with his fingertips alone.)
From the politician unfolded the lover whom Albus could never have. They shared eye contact over the rim of their coffee cups in the easy academic discussions which they always fell into sooner or later and tangled their feet together underneath the table. On his way to the restroom, Gellert’s fingers brushed the back of Albus’ right hand. A spark, a sting. Bite and kiss.
“Do you have lodgings here in Berlin?” he asked while the vanilla ice crème melted on his spoon, licked off in languid, slow motions. He knew what his eye lashes did to Gellert when he looked at him from below just so.
Leaning back, giving in: the great cat stretched, visibly satisfied.
“The President has an entire suite near the Ministerium. I suppose I could give you the tour.”
They hotel servants gave the coat back to Albus of course, so he spent the whole way across half of the magical district of Berlin wrapped in Gellert’s scent once more. Something had changed in the hotel restaurant, subtly so, perhaps, but its rippling effect sent gooseflesh down his entire body. Gellert couldn’t seem to stop touching him, and Albus could no more stop himself from tipping into him than the sea could resist the moon. The election victory really sunk in for Gellert, visibly so, when Albus nodded up at the banners flying on the plaza in front of the Zaubereiministerium with his own face on it.
“You did it,” Albus smiled at him, meaning I’m so proud of you, and please never go back to who you were before. The look on Gellert’s face ranged somewhere in between smugness and apprehension.
“Well, you know what they say. The real work begins now. I’ll have to keep us all safe and do everything in my power to stop the war from happening.”
“Survive the next four years unscathed and there will be allies for you,” Albus said with his eyes on the man, not the banner, losing ground in the fight against his own pulse. He was flayed open, made of glass when Gellert turned his heavy gaze on him, wine-sweet and glowing with victory. His eyebrow was half a question.
“You are fearful for me.”
Don’t be ridiculous, was what Albus wanted to reply, duck, avert his eyes, busy himself with his black leather gloves. But he had not come to Berlin to lie to him.
“Every day. Every… cold, lonely night even while you murdered your merry way across Europe, amassed followers and manipulated them into thinking you would bring salvation. I could have wept when I read the announcement of the German Candidates for the Presidency. In the photo of you they used for that article, you were wearing a brooch-“
“A jewelled bee, yes,” Gellert said, steering them away from the plaza where he would be recognized as soon as the light hit his devastating cheekbones. “It dies when it stings. I thought it fitting for the devotion I bring to this position.”
“So that was not at all about me or my family crest?” Albus flung back a fraction of the bitterness he still felt. This was too easy, too good to be true. He was falling head-first into something he would never, ever recover from again. To look at Gellert in that moment was possibly the hardest thing he had ever done precisely because they were finally together again in a way that mattered. If this would be the last time; if he would have to clean himself of shame afterwards by locking it up with all the rest, he wanted to savour Gellert’s full attention at least. “Not all muggles are Nazis, Gellert, just as not all wizards are old-fashioned, pompous pigs who think themselves better than me because my mother was a so-called half-blood, never mind that she was a better woman than any of high society’s ladies could ever hope to be.” The cold robbed him of breath. Only Gellert’s hand in his lower back was a solid point of warmth. The world stood still: this was it, at last. “Hitler and his violent, drunken bullyboys, as well as the high-born, well-groomed assholes he calls his associates look down on Jews as less than human, not to mention that they would kill any homosexual man or woman without a second thought. This is not about magic, it’s about perceived purity by the people in power. Tell me you’re better.”
They were standing on the corner of a street between two streetlights in the middle of people bustling by. The rare car rushed past them blinding, contourless until the light got a grasp of it, gone in a few heartbeats. Albus’ hands were sweating. He was surprised his own voice remained as strong as it did even though he felt like breaking all over again. The silence which Gellert regarded him with, unreadable all of a sudden, cut him open. Laid him bare, his beating heart, stripped away the ideologies to leave behind only the plea buried underneath all that fury.
“You heard my speech during and after the votes were counted.”
Promises of protection for the wizarding people of Germany; a nation standing strong against the tide of change. Oh yes, Albus had heard his own rhetoric parroted back at himself.
“We all know what eventually becomes of election promises. If you are looking to stand strong against the Nazis within our own community and the Muggle Nazi party, I am all yours. I know of your visions, and I’ve enough experience with the British Ministry to make them take a long, hard look at an emergency in front of their own doorstep. I have resources you want, people you would like to meet, contacts to the leaders of our world. But if all you are looking for is an excuse to suppress muggle-born people or go about spouting your talk of a glorious rule over the Muggle world – who outnumber us in the billions –“
Gellert regarded him carefully with the minute attention of a silver blade. Nothing could be concealed from him. There, on the corner of a night café in sight of the German Ministry entrance in magical Berlin, Albus flung his heart on the ground and waited for Gellert to step on it. At least it would be done and over with then. Knowing what he was dealing with would be better (so much worse) than waiting with baited breath, choking on his desire, for them to collide and tear him apart again.
Gellert’s hands ghosted so close to Albus’ clothed arms he could almost feel their warmth.
“You mean to stand by my side or against me? You would leave your tower in Scotland where I cannot reach you?”
There it was, the cliff. If there was a single chance that Albus could keep him – that he could drag him back into seeing reason – His jaw ached from how hard he was clenching it. His hands were buried in the pockets of Gellert’s coat.
“I already have.”
He did not know when it had begun to snow, only that the flakes settled in Gellert’s silver hair. There was something molten soft in his mismatched eyes over the steel underneath.
“Know that I never intended to make you my adversary, Albus, and that I am not proud of the things I did or ordered others to do to get here. I pitched myself as a candidate knowing that to prevent the coming war, meddling in Muggle politics will be essential. You would call it diplomacy.” That sly little smile: he wasn’t looking forward to this part, but he was president now. Albus scarcely dared to breathe. “I do mean stand firm, as you phrase it, firm as a fucking tree in the path of the NSDAP rising to power. May they break their teeth in trying to take a bite out of me. The statute of secrecy is still the worst thing that could have ever happened to us in the long run, even though it was necessary at the time, but we passed that point with the Great War at the latest.”
“Agreed,” Albus hummed without thinking twice about it. Something in him was floating off the frozen ground as he idled down the street to the left, away from the brightly lit government building. “It will get increasingly difficult to uphold, especially considering that you have enough Nazis in your opposition to warrant another twenty spells I would like to layer on your naked skin until you are entirely impenetrable. To put nationalism above our international community when we are so few spells disaster. It is absurd, is it not?”
Gellert’s hand fit into the crook of his arm like it belonged there. Their shadows lengthened and shortened until they disappeared entirely under the streetlamps, and the later it got, the lonelier the streets became.
“Having to uphold the very thing I swore to tear down certainly is one of the biggest sacrifices I am making. But if it earns me you in the process – if I get to make eye-contact with you across the halls of that dreadful building every so often – Albus, you must know that I loved you all along.”
And for some reason, finally hearing the words spoken out loud which had always been so crystal clear, though silent between them, made Albus’ heart flip clean over. His breath hitched.
The last of his self-control he used to step right into the personal space of Gellert. Neither of them could be seen kissing a man, so they would not be seen.
“You promised me a bed and my morning classes are covered. I haven’t had you in years. Don’t make me wait any longer.”
They landed in front of a grand townhouse which he barely paid any heed to because he was too busy stumbling after Gellert over the threshold with their hands linked together. The lobby, for that it was with more marble and more useless statues standing sentinel in the shadowed corners, smelled of dust and a generous helping of cleaning charms as though its last inhabitant had moved out a while ago in preparation for being replaced in office. There was a gigantic stained-glass window depicting some mythological scene which Albus was sure he should have been able to recognize above the grand stairs, rooms to the right and the left, hallways higher and darker than the outside had indicated.
Merin, he didn’t care. It was another nest Gellert had settled into comfortably, and all that counted, all that his wildly beating heart was expanding for until he couldn’t breathe was the fact that he was here. In arm’s reach.
Gellert slammed him backwards against a dark green pillar mottled with gold.
“I do see what you are doing to me, you minx,” he mumbled into the arch of Albus’ neck, and while his hands were as sure all over him as ever, he could feel them tremble. “You seduced me into being a better man. Batted your pretty fucking eyes at me until I couldn’t tell up from down.”
“You became President Candidate of Germany to make me listen,” Albus quipped back smiling so wide his cheeks hurt, burying both his hands in Gellert’s silver hair. Alive, alive. He was burning.
A necklace of kisses was laced around his throat until the chain of their troth fell out –
“Stop me,” Gellert asked him, his pupils blown wide as the moon, and Albus only tipped his head back for better access.
It was a fever dream after that – they lost their shoes in that grand hall, Albus gained himself parallel red stripes on his back where Gellert had him tipped to the staircase with his stupid red carpet made to stay in place with those stupid golden weights in the creases. His borrowed coat was left behind there.
They still fit together like puzzle pieces. Albus felt like he was dying from being kissed so thoroughly it made his head spin, and as he gave as good as he got, Gellert above him made a noise like he was being strangled before he tugged Albus back to his feet. They hurried up the stairs as if they were still teenagers, stupid with eagerness. For the first time in forever, Albus let himself be led by the hand into a master bedroom deserving of a King – he glimpsed at a rich green tapestry in the upstairs hallway – Gellert was punch-drunk on victory, and knowing he was the reason for that more than the solid 64% of votes after the count had been finished went straight to his head quicker than champagne.
At the edge of the bed, Albus hooked one leg around Gellert’s backside just so he could feel more than hear the latter groan into a searing kiss.
“Goddammit, Albus, curse you, wicked creature, I missed you. How often I wished not to be who I am you cannot begin to fathom. Thirty years of fantasies never lived up to the reality of having you, every time you kept driving me insane-“
“Do you think I fared any better?”
“I did my best for a lasting impression,” Gellert confessed only half humorous, started, stopped, cursed when Albus caught his wandering hand to lay it at the base of his own throat where a dull sort of pain already made him ache with the love bites of tomorrow morning.
“If you must know how much of a lasting impression you made last time-“
Fuck, he wanted to hear that word spoken so low in Gellert’s pitch more often. Playing at a coy smile, Albus twirled his fingers holding onto Gellert only with his crooked leg now.
“Last time – you do know that I love Luxor. I had Antony and Cleopatra with me; call me predictable, it is one of my favourites of Shakespeare’s dramas. When I woke up, you were gone in the morning as usual-“
“I am sorry about that among many other things.”
“Hush, dear, you ordered me breakfast in bed, I’m not complaining. Stretching out the aches and pains of our night together, I opened it at random and ended up in act two, scene two at the Nile. Now Antony must leave her utterly. I thought I was going to -” And there, finally, his bravery gave out. He let his leg drop with his gaze. His senses were so full of Gellert he could barely think straight. “Either way, I haven’t picked it up ever since.”
To go with the motions of being pushed onto the bed backwards was the easiest thing in the world. Albus had lost all sense of time, his walls were crumbling faster than the ruins of Thebes. He lifted his arms above his head when Gellert rucked up his navy-blue jumper, crawling over him with narrowed, predatory eyes as he kissed a line of promises into Albus’ naked chest.
“Never, he will not: Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale Her infinite variety. Other women cloy The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry Where most she satisfies.”
A spark jumped from his fingers, and just like that, gone was every layer between them. Albus arched up into him as though electrocuted. Every inch, every edge and hollow space was covered by the heat they shared. Kissing Gellert felt like the most natural, the realest thing he had ever done. Once the bars on his inner cage were released, his restraints did not outlast their necessity.
“I cannot believe you,” he huffed into the space where his pain used to sit well-polished with tears. “When did you learn Antony and Cleopatra by heart?”
“Around the time I noticed that Coriolanus was no longer your favourite drama because I ruined it for you. Do we still agree on that it is one of Shakespeare’s most underrated masterpieces?”
“Oh, yes,” Albus nodded whole-heartedly, stretching his arms up, up until he could see the white in Gellert’s left eye darken almost entirely with hunger. “Now kiss me some more, I don’t intend to feel my legs at the end of this.”
Like this, Gellert had always given Albus exactly what he wanted and enjoyed it immensely. It was the one thing in which Albus had been able to pretend within his own mind that they were indeed still one, that he had nothing to hold back and everything to give. This, right here, felt different because it had suddenly become true. He could allow himself to become distracted from his iron self-control; the hold he had on himself was slipping, obvious in the sparks that he accidentally rained into Gellert’s hair when he buried his hands on it as Gellert slid ever further down above him. First, he drove Albus out of his busy mind with kisses just this side of painful, then he went back to work at the purple marks on his throat, layered his collarbones with teeth marks, wound his fingers around the silver chain of their troth with his eyes fluttering closed. The connection was instantaneous.
All defences torn down – the gates to his mind flung wide open –
“Bleeding Gods,” Albus gasped, panting, suddenly himself again. The touch of Gellert to the bottom of his soul was something more addicting than he knew how to handle. Gellert still felt the same to him after all those years: that silver quickfire attention from which nothing could be concealed, the prickling heat of burning his fingers on a candleflame. In thirty years it had never been this easy to give himself over entirely to the tangle of limbs and a thin sheen of sweat that covered both of them within minutes. He was gasping for air into more of those deep kisses; they were pressed together from head to toes, Gellert had a knee between his legs that he couldn’t help but push into.
“You consume me, Albus. The things that I want to do to you…”
“We’ve got all night,” he murmured letting his legs fall further open, “though I would like to ride you eventually, you can start with tying me up like you’ve been wanting to do it for years. Tell me I’m wrong.”
Gellert momentarily hung his head like he couldn’t stand being so thoroughly laid open, but his shoulders were shaking with silent laughter. His grip was gentle and sure as it wandered up Albus’ arms until he had a heavy hand on both of Albus’ wrists.
“I never dared to ask,” he confessed lowly, followed up by a whispered word in Latin which made a silken rope snake around Albus’ hands tied loosely to the headboard, “considering that our time to touch was always so very limited. It seemed rude to me to disable you from satisfying your own desire to get your usually so curious hands all over me when you were laid out like a feast for me.”
Albus could have kicked him. All that wasted time spent dancing around each other even when they were within arm’s reach –
“You damned gentleman,” he sighed, though the exasperation got lost on the way from his heart into his throat so that all which fell from his lips was something akin to thanks. Their next kiss was softer. Tugging a little at his constraints made him smile, and to see that mirrored on Gellert’s stubbled face was almost as beautiful as the feeling of beard burn blooming red on his pale chest. It wouldn’t be the only evidence he carried of that night in the morning when he would roll over in bed, right into his arms, no longer alone.