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The Lemons of Venice

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Albus had to remain in bed for three days to heal and to recover, his strength took a day or two more to be built up again properly. Soldier’s rationings were hardly appropriate for a grown man at all, let alone for one who had gone to such lengths as he had. Later, he would speak about this time as “that dreadful week in August”, the year being 1759, but seldom mentioned. As he had brought no food with him whatsoever on his hasty way to Venice, the only thing he was allowed to eat in those first days of dull bedrest was provided by the Prussian rations. A single load of rye bread, a handful of whatever meat they could get their hands on, a gallon of water, a pint of milk and some dried peas a day, that was it. That Gellert, a man of many fine tastes and curious cravings at odd times, swallowed those stale shortages of war without a single complaint but kicked up a fuss when it came to Albus having to recover on the exact same thing, the latter decided to leave out of their eager conversations for the time being. It was all he lived for until he would be allowed to see Gwythyr again, his rising sun in the morning a private, quiet smile reserved for him only, his last beam of light each night a kiss on the brow and the promise to return first thing tomorrow.

As he got used to the water of the Grand Canal sloshing against the wall deep beneath his single window, Albus grew restless. His tired limbs mostly felt heavy instead of broken now, his bruises were healing naturally while his larger injuries had been taken care of by some professionally brewed potions that a nurse had watched him drink a day after the battle over Venice. They had tasted as foul as if something furry had died on his tongue and he hadn’t been allowed any alcohol to wash the awful taste down, though in the end, he was grateful for them. The British General of His Majesty’s Dragon Korps Lord Abraxas portkeyed in the day he was up on his own two feet for the first time again, shook his hand with a grim face and delivered the promise of a decoration of honour as soon as Albus would be back home. About those news he spoke no less painfully than if he had been forced to bite into a lemon, or a rotten fish, perhaps. A majestic dragon carrier, a four-master, already was on its way to the Passage of Gibraltar to pick the heavily injured Gwythyr up – and Albus along with her, of course. It would take a month to get to the southern coast of Portugal. Gwythyr he didn’t even visit at all, neither had he the patience to listen to Albus’ subtle inquiries about the necessary developments of portkeys capable to transport a dragon along with a human being. In under 30 minutes, he was gone again, spotless waistcoat and all, and Albus collapsed right back into his borrowed bed. Politicians, he thought with an inward groan, plucked off his boots and fell asleep way too early with the prospect of finally going to the dragon camp the next day.

The creek of the door awakened him when the moon was full in the unobscured sky. Albus stirred, inhaling the foul stench of fish and algae in the summer heat. First he pressed his nose into the feather pillow, but if somebody wanted something from him, there was no escaping it. A candle carried by a clearly male hand at the door threw shadows into the tiny room.
“Awake,” he lied and sat up, rubbing his eyes. Heavens, what time was it? A silhouette wrapped in darkness stepped into the moonlight, pale, but smiling. His hair shone white and his cheeks showed the hollow signs of sleepless nights spent debating, winning shouting matches against numerous Sergeants and Generals. There was a crinkle in his eyes, he still wore his uniform and appeared strangely hesitant. Albus knew better than to swing his legs out of bed and meet him halfway although he bitterly felt like drowning out the world in Gellert’s arms.
“Forgive me for barging in on you in the middle of the night, but to seek sleep now would be entirely futile. I had to speak to you at once.”
“Speak right away, please,” Albus replied while making space on the bed as he had done so often now already, his heart was singing with pleasure to see Gellert at all, weary as they both might be.

The small circle of light from the candle was replaced by a white wand light, conjured without words. It illuminated Gellert’s sharp features even more prominently, shadows clung to his every movement. The flame was blown out silently, a single strand of smoke went up to the ceiling and filled the room with the smell of beeswax. He did not settle down.
“I was promoted and received the Pour le Merité for my services to Prussia,” he blurted, the words fell from his lips like a string of pearls, shaped in the German fashion. There was excitement in every syllabus. Albus reached out to him with a pulse too hard for the late hour, their fingers linked, the duvet slipped back to his lap.
“Gellert! That’s – that’s good news indeed, oh, it gladdens my heart to see your brilliance finally recognized. Come here, you wonderful man!”
Gellert sunk down onto the mattress smirking, made his wand float in mid air and lost no time to kiss Albus senseless. Instantly the latter buried his hands in those curls, neither blonde nor white in the moonlight. A moan dropped from his mouth like honey, and with his body waking up fully now, he felt every single day of loneliness in the past fifteen years like never before. There was no end to their deep kisses, to taking and giving and touching, pleasure sparking like the magic that danced between Albus’ fingertips. Finally, when Gellert went for his neck instead, never hard enough to leave a mark but with the intention clearly there, it dawned on him that this was farewell.

“What should I call you now? General Grindelwald? Are you quite comfortable, Sir?”
“Feldmarschall,” Gellert corrected in a husky voice into the space where his neck met his shoulder and bit down none too gently, turning him into a writhing mess. Albus inhaled sharply and tried not to cry, holding on, touching, reaching, kissing where he could. He was growing hard as a rock more rapidly than he cared to admit.
“So, you lead the Prussian Riders into battle while some stuck-up sixty years old General gets to cower on the ground, shouting his orders, aye? Show me your decorations,” he teased and put both hands onto Gellert’s warm chest so as to push him away gently, the fabric of his jacket was crinkled and crunched up in all the wrong places now, perspiration dampening the collar, and Gellert was positively glowing. On his shoulders rested the golden evidence of his ascend through the military ranks, skipping three positions at once, and on his right-sided lapel there was the Great Cross of his new decoration. Four crowned eagles, a tiny F at the top for the Prussian King Friedrich II. Even in the milky light shining through the window and the eerie glow from Gellert’s wand, the Pour le Merité stood out clearly against the grey wool of his uniform jacket.

Albus pretended to dust it off just to place a kiss on Gellert’s cheek and begin to open the silver buttons of his jacket from the top down with skilled fingers. A warm puff of air marked the end of a breath withheld.
“The last thing on my mind right now would be to dim this beautiful smile of yours, but I want to be honest with you. We are men of the military, you and I, Albus, and we’re at war. Duty waits where we bring our kingdoms glory.”
He paused, not yet willing to acknowledge the truth. Of course he knew what the appointment of such an honour meant.
“Your King calls you back to the front?”
“Urgently so, I’m afraid.” Gellert stood, slowly so, and bowed, both his hands offered in invitation. His wand flew back into his right hand to be tucked away. The mischief twinkling in his mismatched eyes didn’t quite manage to cover the sadness underneath which both of them chose not to address in silent agreement. Albus slipped out of the bed barefooted, taking the offer before he even knew where Gellert was going to take him.

“Now don’t tell me you have set up a small feast somewhere on the shore or drugged the guards at the dragon’s sick bay,” he joked only half in humour and whispered a word of enchantment to make himself presentable. He was pulled close into strong arms and promptly drowned in another kiss, the scent of the sea and a pleasure-filled city like Venice at night filled his nostrils. It made his head spin, his knees weak. Or maybe he wasn’t quite as recovered yet as he wished for. Gellert pressed a light kiss behind his left ear, burning his seductive smile into the curve of Albus’ neck.
“Better,” he breathed and loosened the band holding long auburn hair together. “As the one man only a step below a fully fledged General, I have been gifted with my very own chambers for tonight.” Albus ignored the implication behind that last word and let himself be drawn to the door. Getting out of the military hospital that had been hastily installed in a row of old renaissance houses near the Rialto bridge sounded like a dream come true early.

“Chambers,” he repeated in a fond, mocking tone with one eyebrow elegantly arched which made Gellert scowl.
“Fine, a large tent next to the camp. You could hear the dragons snoring before I sound-proofed it.” Had Albus not been won over days ago, that would have done the trick. He threw himself at Gellert’s neck chuckling helplessly, giddy with joy and too wound tight, so eager to be touched by the one he loved that he forcefully shoved down any bitterness about their parting tomorrow morning. And Gellert, spiteful as ever, picked him up seemingly without effort and spun him around to disapparate right on the spot.

How Albus might acquire his boots in the morning, he probably didn’t think about at all.

The tent was larger on the inside, as expected, and resembled the bedroom of a king. A bed decidedly larger than necessary even for two people dominated the room, decked with furs and pelts instead of a straw mattress, carpets lay on either side of it. There was a round table with five chairs left to the entrance, the walls still looked like white tent fabric, though they were much harder to the touch than that. Gellert carried Albus right onto that ridiculously large bed and started undressing him immediately, all the while grinning at his half-hearted squirms and his ticklishness. They were laughing into eachother’s mouths, Albus felt like riding the high of a battle victory that was simply a bit late.
“Are you sure,” he gasped between slipping his vest off and fighting with the silver buttons of Gellert’s jacket, “That the generals didn’t give you their spare family tent?” The cool summer night’s air made him shiver, bare-chested, and he delighted in the way that Gellert’s mismatched eyes grew wide and hungry. On lifting his hips to get off the breeches, finally there was friction, falling and moaning and halting in all movements to stare into eachother’s very souls. Blonde curls framed Gellert’s angelic face, desire blew his pupils wide as the moon outside.

“Albus,” he growled and devoured him wholly in a kiss that made his toes curl, his legs fell open almost on their own accord. Where his own wand was, he had no idea, probably somewhere in that heap of fabric on the floor, so he snapped his fingers to remove the upper half of that fetching Prussian uniform and latched onto Gellert’s collarbones. From his neck dangled their blood troth, previously tucked away under the layers of his uniform, now it reflected the little firelight seeping through the tent from outside, the very tip touching Albus’ chest. It was warm, swirling with their blood.
“Lumos.” That whisper of a word sent a single source of light up into the pointed top of the tent where a pole held the whole construction upright. Spanning the expanse of Gellert’s broad back with both hands to map it anew, Albus choked on a high-pitched moan far from his decency when a sure hand touched his hardness, knowing exactly when to twist and change the rhythm of up and down, too cold for that long second before pleasure spiked somewhere deep inside of him. His grip tightened and all seemed lost until he got a hold of his self-control again. Breathe, he thought, relax. It had been so easy the first time, so long ago, he could do this again.

Their eyes locked, Albus smiled around cherry-shaped words of nonsense falling from his lips. Gellert watched him in awe as he settled his aching arms above his head and propped up one leg invitingly, his gaze soft and admiring at the same time.
“I can hear you thinking. Stop it, you brilliant, gorgeous man, just for tonight. Do whatever you desire most with me. I will not run away to Gwythyr until first light, and afterwards, I am staying with you as long as I can. Say yes, my love. Please.”
“Yes,” Gellert breathed, his fingers shaking ever so slightly. “Yes, heavens, I am not master of enough self-restraint to refuse you. Albus, my strong, brave Albus – I cannot tell you how glad I am that you survived that fall. Both of you. I would have carried you from the battlefield on my own arms, had I but the strength to do it at the time.” Albus chuckled into Gellert’s beautiful throat right beneath his Adam’s apple and kissed him there, lightheaded from the skilful hands sliding all over his naked skin. His wrists would have been pinned to the headboard already, were Gellert not so busy with being gentle due to his still healing body, more than he had been in their youth.
“You’re babbling, love. Do I make you nervous? Ah, that feels wonderful – may I help you with that ridiculous belt of yours? Is that a Prussian way to ensure a celibate among Riders?”
“Tease,” Gellert murmured affectionately and captured his lips in a kiss. “Riding sounds like a glorious idea indeed. We will take back Castle Nurmengard as soon as this tiresome war is finally over and then I’ll have you five times a day to make up for lost time. Push your hips up a notch for me, would you?”

He did, uttering a low moan when a blanket folded in half was placed under his arse to protect the pelts. It was a bit rough and cool, despite the temperature outside. Another kiss smothered all sounds between them, Gellert climbed off the bed to undress in a haste untypical for him while Albus stayed right where he was, rather comfortable. He stopped Gellert before he coated his own fingers with oil as soon as he was kneeling on the bed again, catching them in his left hand instead to place a light kiss there.
“Let me,” he asked and whispered a cleaning spell after he had received a wide-eyed nod.

The wandlight made his lover so very pale, almost otherworldly, it accentuated his hard planes of muscles and all his healing bruises from the battle. The typical sore spots, his inner thighs and palms, Albus caressed with one hand while busy stretching Gellert softly with the other. He had not seen a healer thus far, Albus realized, while he himself had got to laze in bed for three days straight. Now that just wouldn’t do.

With each soft touch of his thumb over a patch of sickly yellow and green skin, he murmured healing spells under his breath, trying not to lose the rhythm of it while Gellert stroked him steadily. Moaning, gasping without restraint, his head tipped back in pleasure and his hand occasionally stuttered when Albus applied the slightest bit of pressure to that sweet spot inside of him, he was the picture of a Greek statue. A body of marble, eyes like chiselled silver and onyx in the dark, free of fear, free of shame. When each and every bruise was faded away to leave behind only white perfection, he bowed down and devoured Albus in a kiss almost too hard for comfort.

“They have no idea how powerful you really are, do they?” The question tasted like the sweetest berries washed down with fresh milk. Recognition from someone other than his loyal Gwythyr.
“None,” he replied calmly and removed his fingers from Gellert’s twitching entrance to line himself up with it, not once taking his eyes from the wonder in those mismatched eyes. “It would only make me more of a target. Besides, I’m not some general ordering around infantry regiments, am I now?”
Gellert moaned long and low on sinking down, his entire torso was a bow-string, the picture of him pressing down again and again and again temptation incarnate. If Albus had thought that he had known longing before, oh, he had been so wrong. Not to take those narrow hips and make Gellert scream with the pleasure of being taken hard felt like holding his breath before a rush of flames descended on the ground. They were one now, so much more than allies, soon to be ripped apart again -

Albus gripped the headboard to reign in his self-control. Of course Gellert understood, securing his wrists there with a flash of his eyes before he started riding Albus in earnest. Slowly at first, his powerful thighs flexing on each ascend, they both felt every inch of friction so clearly that only spells could have silenced them. The slap of skin on skin filled the room, sweat coated Gellert’s toned body and his eyes were half-way closed in ecstasy. He, too, had denied himself, Albus realized in that haze of lust filling him so completely that he feared to burst from it way too early. Their rhythm picked up speed on the silently shared need of more, oh, Merlin, more of this, and on a sinking motion of that rolling arse he canted his hips up with a breathless laugh as Gellert yelled his pleasure into the night. There was no holding back anymore now. Albus did in fact not need his hands to impale him on his entire length repeatedly, both of his legs propped up now, and he doubled his efforts when his lover started to touch himself frantically.

“Albus- Albus!”
Gellert’s eyes were blown wide, sweat gathered over his pale brows, his curls were a mess of their own and he all but fell over with the force of their hips connecting in the most intimate way. Blue sparks flew between his fingers spread wide on Albus’ chest and he was holding on, holding on only just, dragging it all out until he exploded. He came like a wave crashing, dripping fluid and sweat and magic all alike, his groans without end turning into a high whine as overstimulation set in. But he didn’t beg Albus to slow down, quite the opposite. His arms shook visibly while Albus himself trembled with the pleasure, the friction, with the need to touch-
“Free my hands, love,” he pleaded breathlessly and slowed, turning the thrusts from hard and fast into deep and toe-curlingly slow. Gellert covered his wrists with his own fingers, staring down on him, an entirely satisfied smirk settled into his lips. Something snapped loose, and there it was, the freedom that Albus needed so badly right now. He left his fingerprints on Gellert’s hips, pistoned up again and drowned his scream of release in the perfect curve of that throat of marble. A white noise washed over him as they both collapsed into and over one another.

When Albus had the strength to look around again, the table and the chairs lay scattered on the ground like dice.
“I wonder when your Prussian King will realize that you could blast an entire fleet of those horrible Horntails out of the sky all on your own,” he mumbled and threw a quiet “Scourgify” into the room with a wishing motion of his left hand. His right palm was still resting at Gellert’s left side, trembling with laughter. There was mirth in those mismatched eyes, a birthmark of great power, and he threw his locks back in a motion rich with satisfaction.
“Albus, my Albus… Merlin help us the day that the Muggles decide to put a wizard on their uncomfortable thrones. You would make a formidable king, I think.”
“Me! A king!” he barked and hissed as Gellert lifted himself off his sore length to cast another cleaning charm before slumping down into the furs next to him. There he lay in all his naked glory, his hair tussled until he raked a hand filled with magic through it. Silence stretched between them like a blanket of soft linen, comfortable, the trust they once more held in each other obvious as a visible thing. Their fingers linked, slotting into one another’s hollows perfectly.

“I could paint you like this. Make this night a memory in a pensieve, to sit at your side for hours, with your eyes on me and unaware of me watching you all the same, sketching your rosy cheekbones, each of your rips protuberant like this, the slope of your waist…” Gellert touched those spaces while speaking, softly like a feather. Albus shivered and coloured, he knew, his face grew warm and his smile not quite embarrassed enough. “Maybe I would put Gwythyr in the background, sleeping. To paint you without her would be a crime indeed.”
“Flatterer,” he breathed without the accusatory edge to it, their blood troth caught his gaze for only a heartbeat. That it was still intact after all these years, cherished instead of having been hidden away in some commode… It made his pulse thump away in his veins, filled to the brim with a forbidden love, with something so wrong that he couldn’t help but be afraid of the consequences, should anyone ever find out. Gellert enveloped him wholly, drew him into his waiting arms, into the heat radiating from his chest where their pendant lay, glowing. It hadn’t done that before.

The kisses they exchanged so tangled in eachother, not a hair’s width of space left between them anymore, made Albus keen and arch into every touch. Gellert still was a wildfire, a force to be reckoned with, addictive, mischievous and gorgeous, confident, always striving for new horizons. And oh, Albus drowned. Their parting had torn his whole world apart once before and he was afraid, deathly so, to fall into that dark pit again. Kisses turning desperate, he soon had Gellert trapped underneath him, panting, gripping Albus’ shoulders almost too tightly.

“You will leave tomorrow, won’t you? For tonight, you said. You have no reason to stay in Venice.”
“And we will meet again soon,” Gellert promised not half as calm as he made it look like, his voice trembled as did the hand caressing Albus’ left cheek. “Have you heard of Chatêau Sanssouci? Near the city of Potsdam, if that’s more of a name to you.”
Albus kissed every one of those calloused fingers as he paid attention to the details of his lover’s expressive face. Normally as neutral as if carved in stone, it showed the beginnings of a plan set in motion now. Perplexed, Albus gave a small nod.
“King Friedrich has created his own personal heaven there, where men can love one another without shame. Rumour has it that he takes lowly soldiers into his own bed precisely for fifteen minutes after tea in the afternoon.” Albus snorted, shaking his head disbelievingly. Merlin help him, he could listen to that silky voice all night long.
“The king himself! You must be joking.”

Gellert relaxed into the cushions and let his left arm fall above his head, he stared up to the ceiling as one would to the clouds. His words turned into shapes, bleeding colour, a field of flowers parted by a wide staircase that led to a castle built after the French idols.
“It is Versailles, my love, but better, a place of intellectual debate without any woman on the entire grounds, the servants are all boys. The best of Europe’s poets long for an invitation, Voltaire lived there with the king for some years before the current war.”
“A musician, a poet on the throne of Prussia…” Albus mused and sighed, smiling despite himself at the figures that Gellert blew into the heated air above them. All was silent, the night outside the tent only a distant memory through the help of soundproofing spells. He had heard other rumours about that king, too. That he was easy to anger and easier to disappoint, that he had a tendency to ignore all his advisors, traumatized by the dictating nature of his late father, the former king. Albus shoved those thoughts far away. It was not his place to judge the kings and queens of this world at war.

“In your new position, you’re likely to be invited,” he stated the one fact standing clearly in the chaos of his tired mind. Gellert nodded silently, his eyes were shining.
“And given time, if I sing enough praise on your bravery on the battlefield… I could get you pulled away from the front for a week or two.” For the span of a few loud heartbeats, Albus held his gaze, drowning in adoration. His hair had slipped over his shoulder onto his chest, a dark scarlet in the twilight against his milky skin. Like a stream of blood on a white sheet. Gellert twirled it around his finger to draw him into another kiss which gave Albus the courage to voice his answer.
“Let us reconsider that thought about me as a king, shall we? You are born to lead. And I am so proud of you and glad, from the bottom of my heart, that you finally got the recognition you deserve.”

For what, he wondered, was he himself made, what was his destiny if his closest friend, the love of his life climbed the ranks of a foreign military now? That question Gellert drove out of his head masterfully with a bruising kiss, one that Albus returned just as fiercely. For better or for worse, Gellert and him had decided their paths long ago. Tomorrow he would go to Gwythyr, shower her with care and praise, wash her scales, re-arrange all the bandages she might have and explain to her why he would spend the next few weeks mooning over an Austrian man who had to fly off to Prussia way sooner than either of them had anticipated.

“Sleep, my love, I will wake you before I pack my things so that you can slip out unobserved,” Gellert murmured into his hair and placed a kiss at the very top of his head. What better end to this summer night’s dream than to fall asleep cradled in a strong embrace with the promise of meeting again on the horizon?