In the hard light of the full moon the whole scenery looked much harsher than in the daylight. Everything was divided into almost white surfaces and deep shadows. Albrecht strained his eyes in the surrounding darkness, but nobody seemed to chase after them, even though the dogs were still barking in the distance.
"You think she saw us?" he panted quietly, trying to flatten himself against the uneven castle wall. The protruding stones dug painfully into his skinny back, and Albrecht shifted closer to his partner in crime.
"No, or we'd have the guards on our backs by now." Friedrich was still catching his breath, his warm arm pressed against Albrecht's, a nice counterpoint to the cold wall behind them. Suddenly, the young perpetrator of this whole commotion didn't want to move from the spot.
Friedrich leaned toward him slightly. "Why did you drop me, anyway?"
It didn't sound angry, yet Albrecht didn't answer at once. He couldn't tell the truth, admit to the absurd jealousy that had struck him when he had felt Friedrich trying to clamber higher, apparently to have a better view at that wench. He had cursed himself for ever proposing this escapade.
Watching the steam that rose from Friedrich's mouth dispersing in the cold, late autumn air, he stared right ahead. When he felt sure that neither his voice nor his face would betray him, he turned his head to his companion.
He wasn't prepared for the intensity of Friedrich's stare, the genuine interest in his eyes, his undivided attention. A very pleasant, warm feeling spread in his stomach, and colour rose in his face. Grateful for the darkness, he pressed both palms against the wall, splaying his fingers, anchoring himself in reality.
"I heard the dogs," he finally said, which was a lie, but not outrageous. Everything had happened so fast.
"They started to bark after you'd dropped me and we tumbled down, you dolt, not before." The invective was spoken very softly, sounded more like an endorsement. Friedrich was amused, and his eyes flicked over Albrecht's face, looking for something. Whatever he saw there, it brought a slow smile to his face, his eyes crinkling in the corners, his lips stretching over his white teeth.
Albrecht compulsively smiled back, for no reason at all. To draw this moment longer, he asked the first question that came to his mind.
"Did you see anything?"
Still smiling, Friedrich replied dismissively, "Not much. She was walking to and fro, disappearing behind the door, and just when I wanted to shift to get a better angle—you dropped me."
His eyes were sparkling with mirth, and something else, but that, that, would have been too much. Albrecht turned his eyes away, not daring to believe it, but at the same time not able to dismiss the thought. The smile wasn't leaving his face.
Friedrich punched him playfully in the arm and, with a sudden intake of breath, Albrecht lost his purchase on the loose pebbles covering the castle slope. The blond lurched after him, trying to catch him, but instead slid down with him a few feet. Balancing wildly with their bodies, they managed to halt their downfall. In the silence of the night, the rocks rolling in their wake sounded like gunshots. The dogs started to bark vehemently again, and this time men's shouts could also be heard.
"Let's get back before they catch us here." Friedrich adjusted his grip on Albrecht's arm and hauled him upwards, to the walls of the castle, where merciful shadows hid their silhouettes.
They ran along the castle's outline with light hearts, doubled up, bursting with inexplicable joy.
Once inside, they navigated the corridors without a word, in silent understanding, managing to slip into their dormitory without meeting anyone or waking their dorm mates.
Already lying down, Albrecht realised something. Friedrich had dropped him down in very similar circumstances. Albrecht had shifted, trying to get a better view at the waitress and—
A broad smile split his face, and he turned his head sharply.
"Friedrich?" he breathed in a barely audible whisper.
"Yes?" Smiling, Friedrich turned his face towards him, his brow risen up provocatively.
"How did you know she was there?"
Friedrich didn't answer at once. He took his time watching the blanket and only after a minute his gaze returned to Albrecht, his eyes mischievous.
"Because you suddenly stopped breathing."
They both grinned, and Albrecht looked away to the ceiling, his chest swelling with unknown happiness. Nothing was set in stone, but it was a promise.