"Dinner-gong is at seven-thirty," Aunt Deb had said, earlier that evening. As she had said for the first time – when? With a scarcely-suppressed sigh, Harry undid his uniform buttons, shrugged the jacket off and folded it carefully over the bed-foot rail. In the dark, only a few feet away, Manfred von Richthofen was doing the same.
They had kissed each other, when they came into the upper room of the Temple of Aeolus, as they had every night: lightly, intensely, hands touching the other's shoulders, and never any more, or any closer, or –
Richthofen's bedcovers were pulled back, linen sliding on linen. Harry, barefoot and naked, hesitated, and then stepped back instead of forwards, towards the other bed. "Shove over," he said. "I've had enough of this."
"What?" Richthofen was across the far side of his own bed. "I mean ... enough of what?"
"How long have we been sharing this room?"
There was a brief silence; did Richthofen really have to calculate the days? "One week," he said.
"We're not exactly in the guest bedroom any more."
"It was you who said this would do, Manfred."
"I know." A brief, harsh sigh. "I thought it would."
Harry swallowed. "Then ... won't it?" He reached out. "Oh, if you don't want to fall out of your own bed, then for heaven's sake come here."
The only answer was another heave of linen and blankets as Richthofen sat on the edge of the bed, with his back to Harry. A slow gleam of moonshine through the skylight edged across the thin body, shadowing ribs and spine and the scar of the wound from his last crash. Harry ran his finger down it, and Richthofen's body quivered.
"I'm sorry – did that hurt?"
"You startled me." Richthofen was silent for a while, then said, "What do you think, Harry?"
"You know what I think! Also what I wanted – and I thought you wanted it, too." His throat aching, Harry said, "You're the hunter. You said so. I'm only the poor bloody hawk."
Another long, long silence. Richthofen said, "The hunter does not hunt the hawk. He hunts with him."
The moonlight moved slowly across the room. If it had had a noise, it would have been the creaking of ice, or the whisper of snow. In the dimness, the painted clouds on the ceiling seemed to shift and drift and turn on the curved dome.
"Are you afraid?" Richthofen said.
"No." Harry shifted, digging himself deeper under the bed-covers; the night air was cold on bare skin. "I don't think so, that is." After a moment he asked, "Are you?"
"Not exactly. But – if I – if you – if we do this ... " Richthofen drew in another harsh breath. "I shall never be able to be alone again. Not even inside my head."
"Oh God," Harry said. "I see."
"You do understand?" There was a gleam of movement; Richthofen turning his head towards Harry, at last.
"I know how I'd feel, if you wanted me to stop flying."
"Yes," Richthofen said. "Yes, that is it. Exactly."
Harry nodded, although Richthofen would most likely not see him, in the dark. "All right, then." He sat up. "Goodnight – Manfred."
From behind him, a quick noise of dissent. "Harry – "
"No ... lie down ... please." Another of those breaths. "It may be that – having you in my life ... is worth losing solitude for. If you understand me."
"I think I do." Harry did as he was asked, and smiled into the darkness. "I could do with less of the 'may be', mind."
And then Richthofen was no longer sitting on the edge of the bed; he was straddling Harry, his hair and his eyes catching the moonlight. Harry locked his arms over Richthofen's back, and pulled him down.
In the darkness there was hardly a sound; they moved so quietly, and breathed so carefully, and murmured each other's names so very softly. All Harry's skin was tingling from contact with the body along his, but that was nothing compared to where, between his legs – he slid his hand downwards, and his questing fingers met Manfred's, doing the same. With a hitch of their breath, they moved impossibly closer.
Some time later, Harry said, "Flying."
"Yes." Manfred laid his head on Harry's shoulder. "I never thought ... that two could fly together so well."
"Mm." Words were singing through Harry's memory. Where had he heard them? "Who maketh the clouds his chariot," he said. "Who walketh upon the wings of the wind."
"Aahh," Richthofen replied, as if the words had quenched his thirst; then his breath caught, and the fingers of his other hand dug into Harry's back. Presently Harry's breath also caught, and he sighed, and murmured something into the smooth fair hair of the head so close to his.
Slowly, like a leaf lilting earthwards on the breeze, they settled to sleep.