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The Greatest Gift

Chapter Text

Marwan lifts his gaze and looks through the dancing flames of tonight’s campfire. It’s beginning to die down but there are still dancing slices of light, and on the other side of them, right across from where Marwan is sitting on one of those large, barky logs, is the man he loves.

Luca is sitting next to Ale, and they’re sitting so close to each other that they’re touching. Their entire bodies are lined up against each other, ankle to shoulder, and they’re leaning in even more, so much they must be able to feel the heat of each other’s skin, exchanging quiet words in Italian, their eyes glittering with the fire’s light, their faces glowing with the embers. Every now and then, they smile, and every now and then either of them reaches out to touch the other, the knee, the arm, the hand. Once, Ale reaches up and ruffles Luca’s hair, then smoothes it gently. Every now and then they take a swig from their beer bottles, and whenever Luca does, Ale’s eyes drop to Luca’s lips.

Occasionally, they even laugh quietly, but most of the time they look serious, almost somber. Marwan’s eyes narrow as he tries to read Luca’s face. He watches Luca tilt his head and smile at Ale, and he watches Ale’s face reflecting that smile, his eyes reflecting Luca’s like mirrors.

Luca chooses that exact moment to look up, and his and Marwan’s eyes meet across the fire. Marwan’s stomach drops, and he can’t help but smile when the corners of Luca’s mouth curl upward. Luca exhales deeply, slowly, and his face relaxes, his eyes filling with something Marwan can’t quite place. A question, Marwan thinks, and all he can do is hold Luca’s gaze and nod.

Ale looks up as well, and Marwan can feel his eyes on him, he can feel how Ale’s scrutinizing gaze scans his face, but when he breaks eye contact with Luca and turns his head a little, Ale’s staring into the fire, his eyes focused on something only he can see.

Later, when the fire has died down to mere embers, Luca, Ale and Marwan are the last to rise and make their way inside, back to their rooms. Marwan waits at the door to their suite, holding it open, while Luca and Ale say their goodbyes in the dimly lit corridor, Ale holding Luca’s hands in his, and Luca’s shoulders tense with thought. Their foreheads touch for a moment, and Marwan steps inside their suite then, still holding the door open but retreating from that sphere he doesn’t belong in. They deserve that space to be just for them, they deserve that small privacy.

Marwan closes his eyes and breathes as evenly as he can. His chest swells with love, and when Luca walks through the door, walks past him into their suite, when Luca’s hand comes to rest on his chest and Luca pauses for a moment, Marwan smiles.

“I need to talk to you,” Luca says, and Marwan nods, closing the door behind them. He switches the “Do not disturb” sign on and locks the door. They’re supposed to check out by eleven am tomorrow morning but he knows that the resort is holding the suits for the cast and crew for at least another week in case their schedule is delayed, so they can take their time.

“I know,” he says and leans back against the door for a second before he takes off his jacket and hangs it on the rack at the inside of the door. Luca’s already unlacing his shoes, and Marwan can feel himself smile again. “How about we talk in bed?”

Luca looks up, and his brow furrows briefly, but then he smiles and nods. “Okay,” he says, toeing out of his shoes. He runs his fingers through his hair and casts a look towards the bathroom. “Let me take a quick shower first, okay?”

“Can I join you?” Marwan asks. Luca has just pulled his pullover and shirt over his head, and his hair is sticking up in all directions. He looks ridiculously perfect.

“Yes, please,” Luca says, undoing his belt and buttons. “I would like that very much.”

They exchange gentle touches and tender kisses under the warm spray, their cocks half-hard and their bodies still bristling with the flames of the campfire. They don’t talk much during their shower nor when they dry each other off, just the occasional quiet turn around, the murmured here, and the softest brush of lips or fingertips against warm, glowing skin.

Marwan slips under the covers first and holds them up for Luca to join him. They’re both clad in soft, worn-out t-shirts and boxer shorts, and Luca feels warm and solid against Marwan’s side when he slots up there, resting one hand on Marwan’s chest.

“I need some time,” Luca says after a long pause, and Marwan’s chest tightens. Even though he has expected Luca’s words, has heard almost exactly the same words in his mind long before they are spoken, they startle him a bit.

“Away from me?”

“No,” Luca says, running his hand over Marwan’s chest, and Marwan can practically feel the frown on Luca’s face. “No, not that.”

“With him, then?” Marwan asks as calmly as he can. “With Ale?”

“Yeah.” Luca nods. “I want—I want to spend some time with him. Here,” he adds after another moment of silence. “Just with him. There are some things we need to…” He falls silent, and Marwan lets his eyes flutter shut. “There are some things that we need to say.”

“Do you love him?” Marwan asks and tries not to sound too apprehensive.

Luca nods again. “You know I do.”

And Luca is right, Marwan does know. Of course, he does. “More than me?” He tries to make the words sound light, like a tease, a joke, but he thinks they sound small and heavy nevertheless.

“Differently,” Luca says, and Marwan draws in a deep, shaky breath. “Not more.”

Marwan reaches for Luca’s hand, takes his fingers in his, and holds them tight right above his heart. “How long do you need?” He asks, and he can feel how his heartbeat evens out. Whatever Luca needs, he’s not only willing but also prepared to give it to him.

“I don’t know. A couple of days? A week, maybe? I don’t know.”

Marwan nods. He has known the answer before he even asked the question.

“Will you come back to me, after?”

The silence that follows Marwan’s question wraps around them like a warm blanket, like the warmth radiating from the campfire’s dying embers.

“I want to,” Luca says, and his grip around Marwan’s fingers tightens.

Marwan buries his nose in Luca’s hair and inhales deeply.

“Good,” he says. “I’ll be there. You know where to find me, then.”

Earlier, Marwan had thought Luca would be too tired to make love, too worn out both physically and emotionally, but when Marwan has almost fallen asleep, his heartbeat low and his muscles lax and heavy, Luca’s fingers disentangle from his, and Luca’s hand slides underneath Marwan’s t-shirt at the same time Luca’s leg worms its way between Marwan’s.

It’s slow and deep, and when they reach their peak at the same time, their mutual release feels so intense it almost hurts.

Luca falls asleep first, a long time before Marwan, and Marwan’s fingertips keep running over Luca’s skin, tracing the lines of his shoulder and his clavicle, his jaw and his cheek, and Luca’s skin smells so good, so unbelievably good, and the thought of how lucky they are, of how lucky he is fills Marwan to the brim.

Luca’s deep, even breath eventually lull Marwan to sleep when the first sliver of dawn already kisses the edge of the horizon.

Chapter Text

Ale watches as Luca and Marwan say their goodbyes in front of the resort the following day. It’s a little after 1 pm, and the taxi that is going to take Marwan to Milan airport is already waiting with the trunk open. Marwan and Luca are still exchanging murmured words, soft touches and lingering kisses. When they finally break apart, they’re both smiling.

Luca walks over to Ale while Marwan throws his bag into the taxi’s trunk; he walks straight into Ale’s arms. He turns around there for a moment, so Ale wraps his arms around him from behind in a loose embrace, and Marwan waves at them after he has closed the trunk’s lid. Then, Luca turns halfway around again and buries his face against Ale’s neck, breathing hot against Ale’s skin.

Over Luca’s shoulder, Ale’s and Marwan’s eyes meet and they hold each other for a long moment before Marwan nods, his face unreadable, almost serene. Ale’s arm around Luca’s torso tightens its hold when Ale nods back. He can’t help but admire the man, admire him for leaving with eyes so kind and with Luca breathing against Ale’s throat like that. The trust and the confidence in them are touching, as is the love.

Luca is warm and solid against Ale’s side, and when the taxi’s door slams shut and the engine starts, Ale closes his eyes. He noses at Luca’s hair and inhales deeply.

Luca hums low in his throat, and his arms wrap around Ale’s waist as if it were nothing. “Hmmmmm,” Luca makes and shifts a little, aligning his body with Ale’s even more perfectly, as if that even is a possibility. Ale can smell how heavy and tired Luca feels, and he’s just about to open his mouth and say something, mumble a suggestion into Luca’s hair, when Luca raises his head a fraction, the coarse hair of his beard tickling Ale’s skin, and speaks.

“I want to lie down for a little bit,” he says, and his voice sounds a little slurred. He sounds exhausted. “I am tired.”

It feels easy, slipping back into Italian after Marwan’s gone, even though, of course, Ale and Luca have been speaking Italian most of the time anyway, with Marwan following their conversation remarkably well.

Ale nods. He remembers a warm, languid Luca on the sofa next to him or on the bed, cozied up against his side, fingers playing with his hair, back in the golden days of Ostia. Ostia lies in the past, though, a mythical place from a long time ago, and for a moment, Ale isn’t sure that this is what Luca has in mind.

“Do you want me to leave you alone for a while, then?” he asks running his lips over Luca’s forehead when Luca looks down. “So you can sleep a bit?”

“I do want to lie down,” Luca says, and then there’s a pause. “But I don’t want to be alone.” Luca’s biting his lips when he looks up again, and Ale’s chest expands with fondness. He reaches up and runs his fingertips over Luca’s lips gently until they relax.

“Okay,” he says. “If that’s what you want.”

“It is,” Luca murmurs against Ale’s fingers, and it tickles. Luca’s words tickle, and it’s such a delicate sensation it causes Ale’s stomach to lurch. “Can we go to your room?”

“Of course,” Ale says, and he’s glad Luca’s asking for that. And then he repeats: “If that’s what you want.”

Luca nods and takes a little step backward, smiling faintly. “I’m really a bit tired. I don’t know. Maybe I will sleep for a while.”

“As long as you like,” Ale smiles back and takes Luca’s hand in his. “Come on, then. Let’s get you horizontal.”

“Dirty,” Luca grins, and Ale can’t help but give Luca a playful shove towards the resort’s front door. His eyes drop to Luca’s ass, and he watches how Luca’s pants go tight over it as Luca walks towards the entrance. He inhales sharply and quickly shakes his head, trying to chase the thoughts and images away that don’t belong here anymore.

The clerks in the lobby politely nod at them as Ale and Luca pass them by, and Ale briefly wonders what they may be thinking. But then again, he doesn’t really care. All he cares about at the moment is getting Luca to a place where he can get some rest.

Ale closes the distance between them once they’re in the hallway that leads to his room and places a gentle hand on the small of Luca’s back. Luca’s muscles subtly move against his palm as he walks, and Ale’s mind is almost blown by how thin the fabric of Luca’s shirt is, by how close Luca’s skin feels to his own. When they’ve reached his room, Ale quickly opens the door and holds it open for Luca to step inside.

Once Luca is inside, he immediately toes off his shoes and reaches for the buckle of his belt. He makes his way to the bathroom without saying a word. He leaves the door open when he takes a leak, and after he’s washed his hands he runs his fingers through his hair to dry them off.

Ale smiles. “Make yourself comfortable,” he says, nodding in the general direction of the room. “I’ll be just a sec.” He uses the bathroom as well, and when he reemerges, Luca is lying on the bed, on top of the covers, curled up on his right side facing the windows. His hands are tucked underneath his cheek, and his eyes are closed.

“Want me to draw them?” Ale asks, walking over to the window and reaching for the curtains.

“A little,” Luca murmurs, his voice low and still slightly slurred. “So it’s like dusk.” He smacks his lips and readjusts his position a bit, tucking his hands a little further under his head. “I’d like that.”

“Okay,” Ale murmurs, and after he’s drawn the curtains a little more than halfway, he turns around, the cloth of the curtain still in his hand, and stills.

Luca looks good there on the bed with his hands like that and his eyes closed, and it takes Ale a moment to realize that he’s holding his breath and that his right hand is resting over his heart. He takes a slow, deep breath and lets go of the curtain. A few seconds later he walks around the bed and lies down behind Luca, scooting closer until Luca’s backside is lined up with his front.

Luca reaches behind himself until he’s found Ale’s hand, and he brings it to his chest, holding on to it as Ale holds his breath for a moment before he dares to breathe again.

They fit together perfectly like this, just as if no time has passed at all since Ostia. Luca still feels a little tense against Ale’s body, and maybe that’s why Ale is aware of his presence all the more. He’s already so aware of every centimeter they touch, of how the warmth radiating from his own body touches Luca, of how their breathing begins to synchronize, and with every heartbeat, they share he becomes even more aware, even more attuned to this physical presence next to his.

Despite his mind willing his body not to, or maybe just because of that, Ale can feel himself becoming aroused. His cock begins to stir and to harden, and his heartbeat accelerates. When Luca shifts a little, a spike of arousal surges through Ale, and he groans. It’s just a low and very small sound, and for a moment Ale thinks Luca has already fallen asleep and the reaction of Ale’s body has slipped him by, but then Luca chuckles.

“Sorry,” Ale whispers, and Luca shakes his head, adjusting his hold on Ale’s hand and the position of his body once more. Ale forces himself to keep still, resisting his body’s growing urge to move. After a couple of minutes, he can feel how Luca’s muscles become more and more relaxed and how his breathing gradually slows and deepens. He must have fallen asleep.

Ale bites his lips. He can’t stop thinking about how his cock is lined up with Luca’s crack so fucking perfectly, and about how warm Luca is right now and how pliant, how lax. He wants to run his fingers over the cheeks of Luca’s ass and reach around and cup him lightly but he doesn’t dare.

In Ostia, Luca would have let him. In Ostia, Luca would have let him do almost anything to him in his sleep, touch him, kiss him, enter him even, with a finger or two, and that thought makes Ale’s cock twitch. He bends his neck, and presses his forehead against the nape of Luca’s neck, fighting the ever-rising desire inside him.

They’re not in Ostia anymore, and Luca has given him no indication that he wants to return. Ale breathes through waves of growing arousal, willing them to ebb, but they only become stronger, mercilessly claiming ownership of his body and mind. He should stop thinking about this, he really should direct his mind elsewhere but he finds himself unable to. He licks his lips, almost able to taste Luca on them, his skin, his kiss, his come.

Ale can feel a moan rising in his chest, and he has to bite his lips to keep it in check. As quietly and as carefully as he can he disentangles his fingers from Luca’s and rolls onto his back. His eyes squeeze shut, and he bites his lips even harder. His cock is so hard it has begun to leak, and it’s throbbing in the confinements of his pants. It’s hard to remain silent sitting up and rising from the bed, even the smallest movement adding to his arousal.

As quickly as possible, Ale makes his way to the bathroom, and as soon as he’s closed the door behind himself, his trembling fingers fumble with his belt and button, and he leans back against the door as his hand works its way into his pants.

The very first touch already feels like a relief, and he moans quietly as his fingers close around his cock. His eyes flutter shut, and he can already feel his orgasm building behind his lids. This isn’t going to take very long, and that’s a good thing. He can’t wait to lie down next to Luca again, to feel the rhythm of his breathing until he falls asleep as well.

The back of his head hits the door as he begins to stroke himself, his movements efficient and filled with purpose. It feels good to make himself come, even like this, and afterward, he quickly cleans himself and the mess he’s made on the bathroom’s floor as good as he can, his body still humming with residual climax.

When he returns to the room, Luca has rolled onto his back and seems to be fast asleep. His mouth is slightly open, and his features look utterly relaxed. He’s beautiful, and Ale can’t keep himself from watching him for a while before he joins him on the bed again.

Luca smacks his lips when Ale slides up to him, and he rolls onto his side once more, taking Ale’s hand in his, pulling Ale close against him even in his sleep. Following this irresistible pull is the easiest thing Ale has ever done.

Chapter Text

When they wake up it is still daylight outside but the color of the light and the way it streams into the room through the gap between the curtains have changed. It’s the afternoon, and Luca wakes first. When Ale opens his eyes, Luca’s propped up on one elbow and he’s looking down at Ale, smiling.

Ale’s eyes glance down at his chest for a second where his hand is holding Luca’s, and when he looks back up again, Luca’s smile has broadened.

“You were snoring,” Luca says and squeezes Ale’s fingers a little.

Ale’s heart flutters, and he can’t help but smile back. “I was not,” he says, trying to sound indignant but even to himself, all that his voice reflects is a profound, almost poignant fondness. He lets his eyes flutter shut for another moment and inhales deeply. He could stay like this forever, he thinks, as long as Luca’s and his fingers are entwined like this, a soft weight on his chest, and as long as Luca is smiling at him from above, his eyes already so much clearer after a few hours of sleep.

“You always snored,” Luca murmurs, giving Ale’s fingers another gentle squeeze. “Always.”

Ale’s chest constricts at the implications of what that word means. Always. His mind is cast back to Ostia again, to an afternoon just like this, the sunlight laced with silver from the nearby ocean, and Luca looking down at him almost the same way he is now. They had been naked, and their bodies were heavy with satisfaction, the sweat on their skin had barely dried, the come stains were already on the verge of becoming itchy. “You were snoring,” Luca had said, just like a few seconds ago, and he’d been much skinnier than he is now. The circles under his eyes had been much darker, but his eyes themselves had been gleaming with something that back then Ale had taken for happiness.

“Yeah,” he says, licking his lips. They had tasted like salt back then, as had Luca’s. They had tasted like the ocean, like Ostia. “I probably did.”

“Hey,” Luca says and gives Ale’s shoulder a slight nudge with his fist. “I thought I’d climb the wall a bit, go to the gym for an hour or so before dinner. Exercise. Want to come?”

“Yeah,” Ale nods, resisting the urge to pull Luca in for a kiss. For some reason, Luca’s lips have never looked more tempting. “Yeah, let’s.” He gives Luca’s hand a firm, decisive squeeze and sits up, maybe a little too quickly because he can feel his heart racing in his chest for a moment or two before his heartbeat settles again. He scoots off the bed and rises to his feet, running his fingers through his hair as he watches Luca rise as well.

Luca’s movements are still a little slow and languid with sleep, and his hair is a mess of epic proportions. Ale’s always wondered how even hair that short could look like that, and he has always loved it. His heart swells, and he can feel a huge smile spreading on his face.

“You look ridiculous.”

“Yeah,” Luca grins and runs his fingers through his hair a couple of times. “I know.” He stretches and walks around the bed, closing the distance between himself and Ale in just a few steps. It seems breathtakingly easy to just reach out and touch. “I’ll get changed. At the wall in ten?”

Ale nods, and his eyes flutter shut as Luca passes him by on the way to the door.

Luca is in his training gear when Ale joins him in the gym, and he’s just slinging his climbing harness around his waist, fastening it with now practiced hands. “I know we don’t have to anymore,” he says, looking up and locking eyes with Ale. “But I like it.” He shrugs, and Ale’s knees go a little weak when Luca hands him the loose end of the safety rope. “Here, hold me?”

Ale glances around. They’re alone in the gym. Guido, their climbing instructor, is nowhere to be seen. Of course, one of the first things they had been taught and had to practice when their training started was how to belay another climber, and Guido had always made sure that they never lost touch of that over the weeks of preparation and all the way through the shoot. So, technically, Ale knows how to do this, but his stomach lurches at the thought, nevertheless. “Are you sure?” Ale asks, looking up. It seems dangerously high right now, higher than usual, and Ale knows how it looks from above – almost like a ravine.

“Yeah,” Luca says, testing his harness’s fit with a couple of firm tugs. “I am. I won’t go for any of the difficult ones, so I probably won’t need this anyway—” He grabs hold of the security rope and gives it a little shake— “but you know. Rules are rules, so…”

“Okay,” Ale says and takes the rope in his hand. He ties the stopper knot while Luca ties the rope to his harness. He pushes the looped rope through the tube of the belay device Luca hands him and fastens the locking carabiner through the loop. When their hands brush during their mutual safety check, Luca’s fingers are warm and steady, and when Ale looks up from the knot Luca has tied into the rope and his eyes meet Luca’s Luca smiles. “All set,” Luca says and smiles. “Ready?”

“Ready,” Ale replies and takes a deep breath. He watches Luca dust his hands with chalk and stretch his arms over his head for a moment before he turns towards the wall and takes a few measured steps. “Going up,” he says before he touches the first hand hold on the way up.

Ale watches him raise his foot and place it on a foot hold a little over his knee. Then Luca turns around and looks at him over his shoulder. “I trust you,” he says, and the seriousness in his voice matches the serene look of concentration on his face. “You are not going to let me fall.”

“Never,” Ale murmurs but he thinks Luca can’t hear him anymore because he’s already begun to climb. Biting his lips, Ale watches how Luca climbs higher and higher, pulling the slack out of the rope along with Luca’s ascent, his right hand firmly around the rope. Ale remembers how Guido had put it just a few days earlier when Luca had done an almost flawless 6c with Marwan watching through the lobby’s large window: It looks as if Luca has truly understood the wall as well as his route up, his sentiero – his movements precise and confident. He rarely hesitates, the few pauses he makes to assert, analyse and think are brief, and he’s almost reached the very top of the wall when he reaches for a handhold high above his head, not using his legs enough Ale thinks for a moment, and then Luca’s hand slips.

Within a fraction of a second Ale’s blood turns to ice and all his muscles tense, ready to lean back into his harness to absorb the weight of the fall, his fingers now iron claws around the safety rope. He doesn’t know how many beats his heart has missed when it starts beating again so hard it feels as if it’s going to break his ribs. He thinks he may have yelled, a warning, Luca’s name, something, because his ears are ringing with sound when Luca’s hand finds the hold again, and Luca stills. Luca hasn’t indicated a fall, so he must have been sure he would be able to stay up there, but Ale’s gone into full safety mode, nevertheless. He thinks he can see Luca breathing up there, but it might just be a figment of his imagination kicked into immediate overdrive.

“I’m okay,” Luca’s voice seeps through the ringing noise in Ale’s ears, and Ale suddenly realises that his hands have begun to sweat. There’s cold sweat at the back of his neck, too, and he squeezes his eyes shut for a moment, but just the shortest one. “I got it.”

“Yeah,” Ale croaks, at least that’s what it sounds like to him, so he clears his throat and adjusts his hold on the rope. “I can see that. You’re doing great. Come down.”

“In a moment,” Luca replies, and there’s already concentration in his voice, determination, and focus. “I’ll just—”

It’s just a few more moves, just a few pulls and pushes until Luca has reached the top of the wall. “Whooooohoooooo,” Ale yells when Luca touches the edge of the wall, and it feels like a weight has been lifted from his shoulders as he tightens his grip around the rope again.

“Ready?” Luca asks, quickly glancing over his shoulder, and Ale nods. “Yeah,” he says, shifting his stance just like Guido has taught them very early in their training. “Come down.”

“Coming down,” Luca acknowledges, and Ale lets the rope slide through his hands and the belaying device until Luca safely touches the ground. Luca is beaming when he turns around and he holds his hands up as he jogs the few steps toward where Ale’s standing. A harsh huff falls from Ale’s lips, but then Luca is there, right there, and their hands meet, and Luca’s arms sling around Ale’s shoulders in a loose embrace, Luca’s other hand patting his back.

“You did great,” Ale says after another deep breath and pats Luca’s back, too, his knees still a little weak with receding tension. “You were right, you didn’t need me at all.”

“Might have,” Luca murmurs into Ale’s ear, and his lips flutter against Ale’s skin like a butterfly’s wings. “Thank you.”

They take it in turns climbing and belaying after that, Ale, who’s usually the better climber, almost falls twice on his first take, and after a little over ninety minutes, they’re both exhausted and drenched in sweat.

Luca is in a good mood when they head for the showers, and they joke back and forth under the warm spray, almost giddy with physical exhaustion and that mental sense of relief that comes after a successful climb. Ale suspects that the same undercurrent of arousal is running through Luca’s body as it is running through his since he’s half-hard under the warm spray, just like Ale is himself. He watches as Luca’s fingers loosely and absentmindedly curl around his cock while he’s washing himself, and suddenly all he wants is to see how Luca touches himself, how he strokes himself to full hardness, and how he makes himself come. He wants that so bad that he has to turn around, has to turn the shower off, and all but flee the room, slinging his towel around his hips on his way out.

“Going to the jacuzzi,” he yells back at Luca, who’s still washing shampoo from his hair. “You coming, too?”

“In a minute,” Luca yells over the sound of the shower, and when Ale is almost through the door and looks back, he’s standing under the spray with his eyes closed, letting the water rain down on him just like that.

Even though Ale can’t tell how long it takes till Luca joins him in the outdoor hot tub he suspects it has been longer than a minute. He’s leaning back against the edge, eyes closed and muscles lax in the warm, bubbly water. The sun is sinking and it’s beginning to get dusky when he hears approaching footsteps followed by a faint ripple of water.

“Hey,” Luca says when Ale opens his eyes and their gazes lock. He’s smiling and wearing his swimming trunks, letting his fingers run through the water. He looks happy.

“Hey,” Ale says and sits up a little. “You’re coming in or what?”

“Yeah,” Luca nods and makes his way to the steps. He lowers himself into the water and finds a spot a little to Ale’s left. He leans back and closes his eyes, a small smile still playing around his lips. “Marwan says Hi,” he says after a short pause. “He said he’s glad we’re getting to have this,” he adds, and Ale leans back again as well. His eyes linger on Luca’s face, his wet hair, his closed eyelids, his cheeks, his beard, his lips. Luca’s still smiling, and there’s a tuck in Ale’s stomach that almost hurts.

“He loves you,” Ale says, and he watches Luca nod.

“I know,” Luca says, and the smile is audible in his voice. “I’m very lucky.”

“He’s very lucky, too,” Ale says, and Luca chuckles.

“Yeah, he is,” Luca says, and Ale knows what that means.

“I’m glad,” he says, and Luca chooses that exact moment to turn his head towards him and open his eyes.

“Thank you,” Luca says, and then he nods. This is so Luca, this nod, this look in his eyes, and Ale thinks that this is it, that life can’t possibly get any better than this. “So am I.”

“I wouldn’t trust me around you if I were him,” Ale says quietly after a long pause. He’s not sure Luca has actually heard him over the sound of the bubbling water because Luca doesn’t say anything for the longest time, and Ale almost begins to be relieved that he probably hasn’t when Luca finally speaks.

“He doesn’t have to,” is what he says, eyes closed and head resting on the edge of the pool. He looks utterly relaxed.

Oh.

For a moment, Ale’s chest feels too tight, and it feels as if the water is boiling, burning his skin, but then Ale exhales and nods. He knows Luca can’t see him but it’s not like Luca needs any confirmation anyway.

Chapter Text

They climb out of the whirlpool together, helping each other slip on the bathrobes lying on one of the benches next to it, and the touches they share are painfully tender and intimate. Luca runs his hand over Ale’s forehead, smoothing back the wet hair sticking to it, and Ale dares to reach up and brush his knuckles against the soft curls of Luca’s beard.

Luca chuckles. “We are wet Yeti,” he says, and Ale can’t help but smile in return. Luca looks like a wet Yeti, that’s for sure, and Ale is sure that he looks about the same.

“Those have to come off,” Ale says, taking a strand of Luca’s beard between his fingers and tugging gently. “We have to get rid of the mountains before we leave.”

“Yeah,” Luca murmurs, wrapping the bathrobe tighter around himself and pursing his lips before he speaks again, a weird note that sounds a little too much like forced cheerfulness for Ale’s taste swinging in his voice. “I’m hungry. Want to grab a bite before bed?”

It’s not very late yet but after the last few days of shooting, the series of goodbyes that followed and the day they’ve just had Ale feels worn out and tired. “Yeah,” he nods. “Come on. Let’s get changed and then go for and have dinner.” Usually, they’d go to the little inn in the village, but he can see that Luca doesn’t really feel like going out tonight. He remembers this look of exhaustion on Luca’s face, remembers it from when Luca had looked like that in Ostia. Ale would have made pasta for them then, and they’d have eaten it in silence after having vowed not to breathe a word about it to Claudio who had put them on a strict diet of raw vegetables and herbal tea.

Luca nods. He ties the robe’s belt around his waist and reaches for Ale’s sleeve. “Come on, then. Let’s put on some clothes and get something to eat.”

Since Luca says he’s not in the mood for the restaurant, they go to the brasserie instead and sit on the terrace overlooking the valley. The view is truly spectacular, and for a while, they just sit there in silence and take in the beauty of their surroundings.

“I’m definitely going to come back here,” Ale says, and from the corner of his eyes, he can see how Luca nods, slowly and lost in thought. “This is a good place to be.”

When they pick up the menus, Ale tries to talk Luca into sharing a platter of oysters as their antipasto, but Luca just shakes his head with a slightly disgusted expression on his face.

Instead, they both have the Ravioli with wild herbs as their first course, and Luca chooses the turbot for his secondo while Ale opts for the red tuna. Their conversation revolves mainly around the movie’s post-production at first, and they talk about how it’s probably going to be running in competition at Cannes.

Ale jokes and teases about how Luca is going to love all the photocalls and red carpet appearances they’re going to have to do so much, and Luca winces. Which, of course, directs their thoughts back to another festival they’ve been guests at together while presenting “Non essere cattivo”, Venice seven years ago.

Remember? is a word that passes between them again and again like a melancholic whisper. Ricordi?

Ricordi?

They carefully avoid talking about how the night after the premiere had been the last night they’d spent together, though, or about how, even though they never lost sight or track of one another, they’ve never returned there again. At least Ale does that, and he thinks maybe Luca has let the entire thing slip from his mind just like he had let Ale slip from his body that night, with a lazy sigh hovering on the verge of a moan and a sleepy smack of his lips, rolling onto his back afterward with an arm thrown over his eyes to shield them from the world.

When Luca reaches across the table and places his hand over Ale’s during one of their many recollections, Ale’s stomach drops. He misses the summer in Ostia more than he can say and the man he had been blessed enough to have shared it with.

He smiles as he turns his hand around underneath Luca’s and takes Luca’s in his. “Luca,” he says, running his thumb over the back of Luca’s hand and tapping his fingertips against the sensitive skin at the underside of Luca’s wrist. Luca likes to be touched there; Ale remembers that even though they’ve never talked about it in the years between Ostia and here. “Luca…”

They skip cheese and desserts, and they take drinks from the Boulder Bar with them to Ale’s room, the ice cubes softly clanking against the glass on their way up.

Ale watches Luca make himself comfortable on the sofa, and for a moment, he sees him on another sofa, on his sofa in Rome, relaxed and happy, sipping on his drink and smiling that little smile of his.

“I want to go for a hike tomorrow,” Luca says around the rim of his glass before he takes a small sip. “Go up to the alpeggio for the day, yes?”

“Yeah,” Ale says and sits down on the sofa as well, at the other end. He leans back into the corner and stretches his legs, crossing them at the ankles. His feet nearly touch Luca’s like this, and Ale thinks this is so much better than nothing. “Yeah, of course. Let’s.”

“We could even stay there overnight,” Luca muses, letting his drink swirl around in his glass. “Take some supplies with us. And then go up to the baita the day after. Stay there for a while, maybe swim in the lake. What do you think?”

“That would be great,” Ale says after a short pause and tilts his feet to the right a bit, touching his shoe to Luca’s. “The weather’s going to be good, too, so yeah, why not?”

Luca nods and nudges Ale back with the tip of his shoe; then he takes another sip from his drink and leans back, sliding down a little in his seat, the glass still in his hand.

Ale watches him bringing his drink to his lips again, pausing, taking a sip, and then licking his lips. He watches him resting his head against the edge of the cushion behind his back, closing his eyes. He watches his Adam’s apple bobbing as he swallows. His gaze travels down and then back up Luca’s relaxed figure and over his face, his profile, and he just can’t stop looking. In his mind, he can taste Luca, his lips, his skin. He remembers those things exactly – not just Luca’s taste but also his texture and his touch.

“I can hear you thinking,” Luca murmurs, a tired smile on his lips. His eyelids flutter open, and he blinks, once, twice, three times, before he turns his head to look at Ale. “Can I sleep here, with you?”

Ale nods. “Of course,” he says, and Luca nods back at him, closing his eyes once more. Even though Ale is not entirely sure if this really is the best idea, if they really should do this, he says yes. Of course, he says yes. He can’t even imagine a world in which he wouldn’t, even though he knows it’s probably going to hurt like fuck to let Luca go again after this.

A few minutes later, they’ve finished their drinks, their glasses left next to each other on the low coffee table, and they strip down to their t-shirts and underwear before both taking a quick trip to the bathroom, relieving themselves, brushing their teeth and washing their faces.

Ale is waiting for Luca on his bed, the covers only drawn up to his waist and his hands folded underneath his head. He can still smell the whirlpool’s water on his arms, and when Luca joins him a few moments later, he finds the same smell on Luca’s skin.

“You smell like the summer,” he says, and Luca smiles, scooting up next to him, slotting up to his side, and settling comfortably in his arm.

“Yeah,” Luca nods, smiling against Ale’s shoulder. “You, too. Hmmm…”

When Ale wakes up next, Luca is lying on his side, head propped up on his hand, and he’s looking at him with dark, twinkling eyes. He still smells like the summer but there’s something else in his scent now as well. A hint of lingering sleepiness and an unmistakable note of desire.

Ale blinks and raises his head a little, drawn to Luca’s dark, glistening lips as if by a magnet. His eyes drop to Luca’s mouth at the exact moment Luca’s tongue darts out and runs over those lips, and it feels as if Ale can smell how turned on Luca is. When he looks up again and their eyes meet, Ale suddenly realises how incredibly hard he is himself, his entire body humming with want.

A gasp falls from Luca’s lips when Ale’s hand finds its way to the nape of Luca’s neck and into his hair, and when Ale leans in a little closer, Luca pulls his lower lip between his teeth and lets his eyelids flutter shut.

Luca’s beard tickles against Ale’s lips when they brush over Luca’s, just the hint of a touch, and smelling Luca’s breath and skin sends a shiver of arousal down Ale’s spine, causing his cock to swell even more.

Luca’s lips move, and Ale can’t tell if words or kisses ghost over his, so he lets the tip of his tongue dart out to check, and when it touches Luca’s lips, Luca’s mouth falls open a little, and that has to be the most arousing thing Ale has ever experienced.

Their almost-kiss goes on and on, the soft short strands of Luca’s hair a constant tease between Ale’s fingers, and every now and then their eyes meet in the semi-darkness of the room, and every time that happens both Ale’s and Luca’s breathing hitches in a way that goes straight to Ale’s groin.

He remembers their very first kiss back in Ostia, outside Luca’s building in the pouring rain, and how natural it had felt, how right, and how long they had both been waiting for it to happen. He remembers how Luca had tasted, a mixture of rain and sweat and cigarette smoke on his lips, how he had smiled into their kiss, and how everything had seemed so very clear and open.

Ale can feel Luca’s hand on his arm now, a little below his shoulder and how it pulls him towards Luca so gently it’s barely there, but the next moment they’re kissing for real, all tongue and lips and moans, and it becomes so intense so quickly it causes Ale’s head to spin.

Their legs entwine, catching the covers between them for a moment, their hips begin to roll, and Luca is just as hard as Ale is. Luca’s hand is at the small of Ale’s back now, his fingers splayed out over the rise of Ale’s cheeks, and the friction of their cloth-clad erections against each other feels so good it’s almost unbearable.

It seems as if they can’t get close enough to each other, neither with their bodies nor with their kisses. Ale’s fingers are fisting into Luca’s hair now, and the way Luca’s hand guides the roll of Ale’s hips against his own, the way Luca fucks back against Ale’s groin with this slowly growing urgency is taking Ale’s breath away.

They’re both covered in sweat now, desperate for completion, and Ale can already taste Luca’s imminent climax in their kiss. He knows he’s going to come soon as well, his entire body straining for release, and he tries to communicate that to Luca somehow, moaning and nodding and squeezing his eyes shut as tightly as he can, and when he can feel Luca nod back at him, when Luca’s answering moans reverberate down his spine, Ale can feel his orgasm building somewhere so deep inside him it almost hurts.

It spreads and spreads until it is everywhere, and it transforms into a white-hot explosion when it finally crests. Luca is shuddering against him, spending himself in Ale’s arms, coming apart, and Ale can feel each twitch of Luca’s cock against his, each spurt of come, and it becomes impossible to tell if it is Luca’s climax he’s feeling or his own.

When Luca collapses onto the pillow, their kiss breaks but only for a moment because Ale can’t help but chase Luca’s lips, seek them again, their hips still rolling and the waves of orgasm still washing over them. Ale’s cock slides against the fabric of his come-stained boxers, his spend mixing with Luca’s, hot and sticky and so exquisite Ale’s eyes begin to prickle.

And there it is again, Luca’s smile against Ale’s lips, that allows his fingers’ grip on Luca’s hair to loosen a bit and that coaxes Ale’s lips into a smile of his own.

The sound of their heavy breathing and their quieting moans fills the air around them, and their kiss becomes less urgent and more unhurried, languid, and sated.

“We should get a shower,” Ale murmurs when he can form coherent thoughts again, and Luca nods, letting his lips brush over Ale’s again and again. But instead of rising, Luca settles against Ale’s side once more, his leg hooked over Ale’s, and Ale pulls him close and buries his nose in his hair.

“You feel good,” Ale says, taking a long, deep breath. His body begins to feel heavy, and he knows they should get up and into the shower, but this is just too lovely to cut short. “This feels so good,” he adds, listening to their slowing heartbeats.

“Yeah,” Luca nods. “It does.”

A few minutes later, they rise and shower together, cleaning each other with soft, lingering touches under the warm spray. When they climb back into bed again, naked this time, and Ale pulls the covers over them, Luca’s skin feels soft and smooth when he settles against Ale’s side and closes his eyes.