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Caffeine Is The Best Catalyst For Life Experience

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It was an accident, running into one another again. Stu had been in a hurry, darting into the café across the street for a takeaway coffee to keep him awake through his next lecture.

 

Shifting from foot to foot in the queue he glanced down the line to see what the hold up could be. His eyes lit on the somehow familiar slant of the shoulders in front of him. They were strong but held tight, slightly rounded, reminiscent of schoolboy fantasies (and later ones if he was honest).

 

Almost unconsciously his eyes slid down the blue-wool-covered spine to rest on a small, but no doubt exquisite, backside.

 

The line moved, the unwitting object of his appreciation moving to the front. Stuart was about to give up staring and dig his change out of his pocket; he’d already made himself late waiting here.

 

“I’ll have a cup of tea please”. That voice broke through his thoughts with an aching familiarity. Almost before he had even thought to do it he was shouldering his way past Irwin’s skinny frame to the counter.

 

“I’ll get this. And a black coffee please.”

 

Irwin was staring at him in blatant shock, blinking in that exaggerated nervous way that Stu remembered with a visceral thrill.

 

Stu ended up skipping the lecture, and the one after.

 

Irwin, it transpired, was in Oxford because of some new TV thing he worked at now.

 

“Television programmes? That seems like a bold move for you if you don’t mind my saying.”

 

That got a bit of an eye roll in response and Stu had to struggle not to smirk.

 

“Yeah, well I was on the hunt for a job and my brother in law works for the BBC, he sort of nudged me towards it.”

 

That was more like the Irwin he knew, thought Stu, too afraid to put himself out there, to reach out and take something for himself. He’d rather wait to be nudged into it.

 

“We didn’t put you off teaching, did we? I hope we didn’t.”

 

Irwin glanced down at his arms, folded on the table behind his teacup and eventually murmured, “It wasn’t for me”.

 

“Was it me?”

 

Eyes closed, Irwin gave a half shake of the head, his face still turned towards the tabletop.

 

Stu had no idea whether that was an answer or not.

 

“Was it Hector?”

 

Irwin seemed almost frozen for a long moment before taking a deep breath in through his nose and raising his head to look at Stuart. “Can we talk about something else?”

 

“What’s your name? I assume you have one.”

 

He didn’t expect that, Stu could tell. The blinking was back. “Tom.”

 

“Stuart.” He held out his hand for Tom to shake.

 

It felt oddly surreal, reminded Stu of one of those role playing games he’s heard of couples playing in order to inject some spice into their sex lives. Pretending to be strangers meeting in a bar.

 

It was nice though. ‘Tom’ turned out to be just as clever and as awkward as he remembered Irwin being, but he was also funny and hid less of himself. Gone was the holding back and the deer-in-the-headlights look, and Stu inwardly congratulated himself for helping Tom mentally shed the constraints of student and teacher.

 

Tom wasn’t nearly as arrogant as the Irwin of old either, whether it was because he no longer felt he had to prove himself as a teacher, or because Stu was arguably more intelligent (and they both knew it now), he wasn’t sure. Either way, the intellectual posturing was now replaced with a sweet self-deprecation that was new, and rather fetching, and entirely unconvincing.

 

Tom still liked him: that much was clear and he became gradually bolder in his flirting as the afternoon wore on. Hours flew by chatting about Henry VII and it occurred more than once to Stu how gorgeous Tom actually was when he really smiled. Not that wry, tight-lipped one or the nervous one, but when he was genuinely happy and animated and his whole face lit up and those enormous eyes sparkled behind his glasses. He wondered how he’d never noticed before that they were so green inside the iris before they blended into bright blue.

 

Stu rarely doubted himself and had never been happier to prove himself correct than as he realised that his attraction to Irwin had been as real as he remembered, and not some idiotic, misguided hero worship. Now, two years later, he wanted him as badly as ever and his belly flipped somersaults as he watched Tom talk excitedly about the long-term social significance of the Battle of Bosworth.

 

They found themselves still talking when the clatter of coins and the scrape of chairs against the floor signalled closing time. Their table was now littered with empty mugs and the ashtray was choked with butts.

 

“We’d better head off.” Said Tom, stuffing his wallet and his fags back into his pocket. “This was nice. If you wanted to meet up again, I’m in town until Friday, I’m staying at the Randolph.”

 

He really would just get up and walk away, thought Stu. How this man had ever managed to have sex at all was a mystery. Never mind, no one had ever accused Stu of being afraid to take the initiative in these matters. He leaned across the table until he was right inside Tom’s personal space, making sure not to drop eye contact. “We could still do it. If you wanted to, that is. Why don’t you come back to my place?”

 

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” The old Irwin was suddenly back, all averted eyes and half smiles and Stu wanted to tear his hair out because what was the fucking issue now?

 

“What’s the matter? Don’t you want to?”

 

“It’s not a question of wanting to.”

 

“Well, what then?” Christ, he was so close he could feel Tom’s breath on his face, could smell the unique, half forgotten, smell of him that was turning him on just as much as it used to. His skin was tingling like it was electric and he just couldn’t for the life of him get his head around why Irwin (because he was back to being Irwin) was running scared now, when there was no reason; when he had just spent hours flirting with him for God’s sake!

 

Irwin started to speak a few times before he formed any actual words. “You’re so young.”

 

Stu only just stopped himself from laughing. Deciding to ignore the irony of that statement, he shot back “I might be younger than you but I’m a big boy.”

 

Tom swallowed thickly and looked at the table again.

 

It wouldn’t be hard to get him now, not when he so obviously wanted to be talked into it. Stu was so close he could taste it; all he had to do was wait him out. He stared, waiting for Tom to crack.

 

“I wouldn’t want to regret it later… I wouldn’t want you to regret it later… I couldn’t bear it.”

 

Oh, so that was it. “I don’t think that’ll be a problem. Actually, it turns out I’m a lot more flexible than I previously thought, in terms of inclination.”

 

Tom couldn’t have looked more surprised if the waiter had turned out to be the reincarnation of Cardinal Wolsey. Stu was very careful not to laugh at the incredulous smile that broke across his face.

 

“I’ve been experimenting, you see. They say uni’s for experimenting, don’t they?”

 

The waiter, apparently, was done waiting, or perhaps was uncomfortable about the turn of the conversation (he wasn’t even trying to hide the fact that he was listening in) and chose that moment to inform them that the café was now closed.

 

“Come on” Stuart said, and Tom nodded.

Chapter Text

Stu’s flat was a five minute walk away, he made sure to walk close enough that their shoulders brushed throughout. He couldn’t shake the irrational fear that Tom would suddenly run.

 

Stu led them to a slightly run down looking Georgian house, at one point a luxurious family home, now split up into student flats, like so many on the street. Once inside and up the stairs Stu grabbed Tom by the lapels and pushed him roughly up against the wall outside the door to his flat, driving the breath from him; biting and sucking at his lips. Tom opened his mouth with a groan and reached up to thread his hands into Stu’s hair and pull him closer thank fuck.

 

Tom’s teeth were sharp against his lips and his stubble grazed Stu’s jaw. Far be it from Stu to be smug, but it occurred to him, as he licked against Tom’s tongue, that things were progressing better than he’d hoped.

 

Winding his hands around Tom’s absurdly small waist he pulled his shirttails out enough to rest his hands against the hot bare skin of Tom’s back. Tracing up the length of Tom’s spine with his fingertips produced a deep moan, so he smoothed his palms down to the waistband and did it again. Tom pulled away from his mouth with a wet sound that went straight to Stu’s cock, long enough to growl “Inside.” And for a moment he felt almost too light headed from lust to obey.

 

Stuart alternated between frantic and sensual, one moment caressing and the next rough and urgent. The contrast unbalanced Tom and made him harder than he could ever remember being in his life. Unwilling to tear his lips from Stuart’s wet, biting kisses, he let himself be tugged across the room, Stuart pulling and shoving at his clothes as they went.

 

They stopped moving when Tom’s trousers around his ankles made it impossible to continue without injury. Stuart was muttering “Off. Off. Off.” against the underside of his jaw while yanking at his shirt, now caught at his wrists. Reluctantly he pulled his hands away from Stuart’s arse long enough to comply.

 

“Bedroom.” Stuart rasped. “Now.” He attacked Tom’s mouth again and steered him on.

 

The bed hitting the backs of his knees took Tom by surprise and he fell with a soft ‘oof’’, Stuart wasted no time in crawling up his body to nestle between his thighs and rain sharp nips and kisses on his collarbones.

 

It wasn’t that nobody ever found him attractive but he couldn’t recall anybody looking at him with such undisguised lust as Stuart now was. Tom knew he was thin, and pale and freckly, he’d never had that easy self-assurance he so admired in others, and sex often made him self-conscious. Not this time though.

 

Stuart’s harsh breaths in his ear and the dual sensations of leather and denim against his bare flesh left no room for nervousness. Their hips rolled together while hands clutched and grabbed, each trying to pull the other impossibly closer.

 

Tom was trembling and knew that if he was less turned on he’d be mortified by the incoherent, pleading noises he was making, but he was 30 seconds away from coming against Stuart’s jeans and couldn’t bring himself to care.

 

As such, he almost screamed when Stuart ceased his attack on his collarbones and knelt up. His lust-fogged brain was unable to make sense of the situation (even as Stuart began tearing off his own clothes) until Stu demanded. “Pants off. Dreadful glasses off. Everything off.”

 

At School Stu had found learning from Irwin turned him on, and the same desire made him thirsty for knowledge about Tom. He greedily took in every new fact, delighting in it and storing it away for later.

 

The first thing he learned was that, surprisingly, Tom’s eyes were just as big without his glasses on, that they were not, as he had always supposed, a trick of magnification. He learned that the adorable pink blush, which suffused his cheeks whenever he was embarrassed, crept up his chest as well; that the backs of his knees were ticklish; that his slight frame belied an unexpected strength; that he was self-conscious in bed and reluctant to make much noise but would, with the right persuasion. He was not surprised to learn that he was a proficient cocksucker, or that he was just as keen to be fucked by Stu, as Stu was to fuck him.

 

***

 

Pushing into him, Stu decided that Tom had been designed for this. His chest was flushed and heaving, his mouth open and smiling around panting breaths; sweat slicking his fringe off his forehead and long legs wrapped around Stu. Every so often his tongue would come out to wet his lips, in a seemingly unconscious gesture that made something ache in Stu’s gut.

 

***

 

They smoked after, Tom had asked for one and Stu was glad to have an excuse to keep him there, although he knew he’d pay for it the next day when his housemate smelled it. It was worth it anyway, just for the suggestive way that Tom’s cheeks hollowed whenever he took a deep drag off his.

 

Stu was confident in the knowledge his physical attractiveness: he had a handsome face, a buff body, and great hair and he took good care of all of them. Still, it was very flattering, and no small boost to his (already impressive) confidence, when Tom took advantage of the stillness of their shared smoke to push aside the duvet and give him a proper eyeing up. It even came with a bit of a leer. Another surprise there thought Stuart. Well, two can play at that game.

 

Leaving his cigarette to burn out in the ashtray by the bed, he shuffled down until he could take one of Tom’s ankles in his hand and kissed and licked his way slowly up one long leg until he reached his groin. Pausing to nibble at his hipbone, Stu inched his way back down the bed to begin again with the other leg.

 

“You bastard.” Tom chuckled up at the ceiling. His dick was perking up again but Stu ignored it in favour of following Tom’s arm up to his shoulder with his mouth. Inside his knees ticklish, but inside elbows not. Interesting.

 

Delicate fingers skimmed across Stu’s chest and stomach, running through his small patch of chest hair and toying with his nipples. Stu ballooned with pride as Tom traced the definition of his abs with an expression that bordered on reverence, making every hour he’d spent in the gym that term completely worth it.

 

Still, best not to feel too self-satisfied in bed (or so an ex-girlfriend had told him), so he sought to return the compliment. “You have great shoulders.” He mumbled against one of them. They had always been a favourite back at school, probably because they were the only part of Tom that was visible under those awful baggy clothes.

 

Tom rewarded him with a coy smile that was as pleased as it was embarrassed.

 

Stu mirrored Tom and ran his hands appreciatively over Tom’s abdomen and up to his chest, the hint of pectoral muscle there was just another in a long line of surprises.

 

“Who’d have thought you were so well filled out?”

 

A sardonic lift of eyebrow “Thanks.”

 

“Usually picked first for games at school were you?”

 

“Cheeky sod” Tom’s fingers immediately turned jabbing, probing Stu’s ribs for ticklish spots as he rolled them both over, leaning over Stu’s squirming form to extinguish his cigarette on the bedside table.

 

A bang from inside the flat sounded through Stu’s loud laughter and Tom nearly leapt out of his skin.

 

“Don’t worry it’s just my flatmate. He’s heard me dozens of times, besides he’ll be off out again soon. Now, I believe you were about to punish me for intimating that you’ve less meat on you than a butcher’s pencil.”

 

***

 

Stuart tasted of latex and sweat and come, sharp and bitter and cloying all at once and Tom lapped it up greedily, relishing every unpleasant flavour on his tongue because it meant that this was real.

 

Tom’s hair was longer than Stu remembered and he delighted in pulling it gently with both hands, watching it stand on end, dried sweat acting like gel. Judging from Tom’s moans of encouragement, he quite enjoyed it too.

 

Tom pulled off and licked his way down the length of Stu’s cock, sucking at each of his balls in turn and lapping into the space behind them.

 

With a scream of “Jesus Christ” Stu came, making no effort to keep quiet or to avoid getting come in Tom’s hair. In fact, he thought as he came down, the speckles of white set off Tom’s freckles quite artistically.

Chapter Text

When Scripps let himself into his and Dakin’s shared flat that evening, he had a banging headache and had discovered a hole in one of his shoes, thanks to a sudden downpour.

 

The front door didn’t serve to improve his mood, as it seemed to be caught on something, forcing him to slide into the flat sideways, resulting in him scraping his back on the frame. Once on inside, he ended up kicking aside a jacket that had wedged itself under the jamb. His friend wasn’t usually so careless with his clothing. Company then. As if on cue, a low laugh from the vicinity of Stu’s bedroom served to confirm his suspicions.

 

They had arranged to go down to the local for the pub quiz tonight. Briefly, he considered going by himself, he was bound to run into someone he knew from college. Going alone, however, meant he couldn’t coast along in Dakin’s wake and he would have to make conversation and be charming and interested in people, and he found he couldn’t be arsed. He stuck the kettle on instead. Either Stu would finish up and appear, slightly rumpled, ready to go at the appointed hour, bird or bloke in tow, or Scripps would have a well-deserved rest in front of the telly.

 

A deep voice that wasn’t his friend’s broke through the noise of the kettle boiling. A man then, rarer, though not exactly rare these days, though he supposed that should’ve been clear from the jacket (it hardly looked fashionable enough for Stu). He went to rummage in the bathroom for a couple of aspirin and a towel, finding himself torn between relief and irritation at the idea of a night alone on the settee.

 

Settling down with some reheated leftovers and a whole pot of tea to himself, he flipped on the tv. His eyes immediately lit on a man’s pair of trousers slung over the back of the settee. He wondered if it was anyone he’d recognise from around campus, the voice had sounded vaguely familiar. Stu hadn’t mentioned anyone lately (for at least a week) but then if living together had taught Scripps anything it was that his friend could move like greased lightning when someone caught his eye.

 

He tried to focus on whatever mindless shit was on the telly, to not imagine what was causing his friend to keep up the litany of “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck” he could just about hear. The programme had changed when he gave in to the urge to press down on his half hard cock through his trousers just to relieve a bit of the pressure. He counted slowly to 10, breathing deeply and then moved his hand away. That was something else he’d learned: it was much easier to keep a vow of chastity when one didn’t have Dakin providing a pornographic soundtrack at frequent intervals in the home.

 

His lifting mood was worsened again by that fucking public information film about AIDS, breaking through his funk of sexual jealousy and mild guilt. He wondered for a moment if God was sending him a sign, or just laughing at him. Concern, more than guilt flashed through his mind. He tried to reassure himself that Stu was anything but stupid, but nobody could deny his friend could be reckless. Still, short of banging on the bedroom door and yelling at them that the telly had given him an important message to pass on about condoms, there really was nothing he could do. Instead, Scripps got up, changed the channel and fetched his bag then determinedly laid out all of the coursework he had planned to do over the weekend.

 

The cultured Oxford tones that Stu favoured in his conquests these days broke through the wall occasionally, interrupting his focus and drowning out University Challenge. Whoever said living with your best mate was easy?

 

A scream of “Jesus Christ” finally broke his patience and he stormed off to his room. It didn’t look like Dakin would be coming out anytime soon anyway.

 

***

 

“It’s late, I better get back to my hotel.”

 

“It’s not that late. Stay a bit.”

 

“No, I’ll fall asleep. I always do.”

 

“So?”

 

Stuart ran his hand up the length of Tom’s arm, over his shoulder, to curl around the back of his neck, gently drawing him down for a slow kiss.

 

When they pulled back Tom’s face remained an inch from Stu’s for a long moment, blue eyes drinking in the sight of the man who now lay underneath him, whom he had wanted for so long. He finally uttered a sigh and laid his head on Stuart’s shoulder.

 

Stu lay awake, trying not to feel as if he’d just won the lottery, and it came with a blowjob.

 

Relaxed in sleep, Tom’s face looked so absurdly young, his skin almost boyishly soft and smooth. Surely his eyelashes hadn’t always been that long? Stu thought, and had he always had that little cleft in his chin? He longed to touch, except that’d wake Tom up, so he just looked, mapping freckles and scars in the half light from the streetlight shining through the open curtains.

 

Tom shifted in his sleep to reveal a large purple mark that was emblazoned on his chest like a badge. Heat pooled in Stu’s groin as he remembered sucking it into the pale flesh while Tom rode him during round two, or was it three?

 

Stu’s heart sank as he realised he couldn’t imagine ever having enough of this man.

 

Chapter Text

Tom woke feeling disorientated, wondering firstly why he wasn’t at home, and secondly why he wasn’t at the hotel. An arm under his head and a not unfamiliar soreness served to remind him of the night before.

 

He really should have followed his instincts and left last night, he thought. That way he could have at least avoided doing the walk of shame from this grotty student house. He never was the one-night-stand type, always too anxious, and wasn’t that the story of his fucking life. Thanking his lucky stars he was accustomed to waking at six, no matter what, he decided on the necessity of a quick shower. If he didn’t dawdle it was fairly likely he could get out of there with most of his dignity intact and without Stuart noticing he’d been drooling all over his arm.

 

Luckily Stuart’s room was en suite so that removed the chance of running into any other occupants of the flat. He wavered for a few moments on the ethics of helping oneself to someone else’s toiletries uninvited, but his hair felt unmistakably sticky and stiff. Besides which, Stuart had just handed him a Kleenex last night, not even a wet wipe, for fuck’s sake. He picked the least musty smelling towel from the bathroom (and wasn’t that fun to find), and made do as best he could, finger combing his hair and gargling with mouthwash.

 

Glancing in the mirror just long enough to check he was vaguely presentable, he was shocked to catch sight of the bruises decorating his chest and collarbones. From an enormous dental implant above his right nipple to a trail of tiny purple smudges following the line of his left collarbone. A grin broke out at the memory of how erotic Stuart had seemed to find that part of him and the time he’d spent exploring it with his mouth. However, he didn’t expect to be this graphically reminded of it the next day. He could barely remember the last time he’d had a love bite and now he looked like he had some exotic disease. On that note, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d been so thoroughly and satisfyingly fucked, so he supposed he shouldn’t complain. He couldn’t remember sleeping so well in ages either, even if though it can’t have been for more than a very few hours. Shame I still look so fucking wrecked he mused, creeping into the bedroom and hoping he could slip out without being noticed.

 

A quick rummage around the room revealed a serious deficit of clothing. He was crouching down to peer under the bed when he remembered Stuart energetically stripping him before they reached the bedroom. “Fuck.” He breathed.

 

“Morning to you too. You all right under there?”

 

Tom straightened up, pulling on a sock whilst trying to maintain a vestige of dignity and hoping his blush wasn’t as bright as it felt. “Just looking for my trousers. I think they’re in your living room.”

 

“No one’ll be up yet anyway.” Tom could feel the smirk on him as Stuart’s eyes roved across his chest, taking in his protectively crossed arms with lascivious amusement. “You weren’t going to leave without saying goodbye I hope?” His indignant tone perfectly setting off the innocent look in his eyes, that Tom just knew was fake, but for some reason couldn’t refuse anyway.

 

“I thought it would be less awkward that way.”

 

“What’s awkward? Unless you mean the bit about you standing on ceremony while I’m left hanging.” Stuart kicked the duvet down as he spoke to reveal his cock, hard and heavy looking against his stomach. He began to slowly stroke up the length of it, his tongue darting out to lick his lips, maintaining fierce eye contact all the while.

 

Shit. He must practice this stuff in the mirror. Tom thought. “I just showered.”

 

“Don’t worry, I’m sure we can think of some way of containing any mess.” Tom let himself be pulled onto the bed without a struggle. “You’ll have to take your socks off though,” Stuart lifted Tom’s glasses off his nose. “and sit on my face.”

 

As Stuart took in the whole length of his cock, Tom’s last coherent thought was that he had been telling the truth in the café about broadening his horizons, because he had most definitely done this before.

 

***

 

“What time is it?”

 

Tom lifted his head from its position on Stuart’s thigh to squint at his watch

 

“About twenty past six.” He made himself think about moving and reached for his glasses. “Did you have to bite so much? What if one of your friends sees me?”

 

“You can borrow my t-shirt if you want. That way you can pretend we spent the night discussing Henry VIII.” Without waiting for an answer, Stuart chucked his shirt from the day before at Tom’s face and scrambled out of bed. “Ugh, I s’pose I better get up. I’ve got a lecture this morning, I wish we could lie around here for a while instead.” At least, that was what Tom thought he said, the last part having been a bit muffled through the bathroom door, which Stuart unapologetically shut in his face mid-sentence, the thump of the shower already going from inside.

 

“I should really be on my way.”

 

“What? I can’t hear you. Stick the kettle on, would you? I won’t be long.” Stu yelled at him from the shower.

 

Fucking Typical. Tom shook his head and tried not to grin. Clad in boxers, socks and the borrowed t-shirt, glasses in place, Tom emerged into the flat’s main room, on the hunt for his trousers.

Chapter Text

The sound of the ancient shower in Stu’s bathroom wakes him after what feels like ten minutes sleep. His first thought is to roll over and catch another few hours but the pipes go through his wall and the noise ensures he’s completely awake by the time it stops. Emerging from his own shower minutes later the phrase ‘sit on my face’ comes clearly through the wall and he decides he really needs tea.

 

With the caffeine working its way nicely into his system he begins to compile a mental list of all the things he’s going to yell at Stu later. It helps.

 

At least until Stu’s friend from last night walks through the door.

 

His first thought is that he’s had some sort of stroke in the night, or maybe it wasn’t aspirin he took for his headache after all but some strange hallucinogenic that somehow found its way into the bathroom cabinet.

 

“Ah. Fuck.”

 

And he’d known that fucking voice was familiar! It all falls into place with a clang like the slamming of a cell door.

 

Irwin is standing in his kitchen, unshaven with damp hair, pink cheeks and a half grin that he’s clearly trying to control, wearing one of Dakin’s t-shirts, skinny legs bare below his shorts. The smile is by far the most obscene thing about the whole bizarre tableau.

 

His second thought is that God is clearly wetting himself laughing.

 

It’s obvious the exact moment Irwin recognizes him. It would be funny if it wasn’t so fucking awkward. The pinkish blush turns distinctly red and it looks like his eyes might pop out of his head. Still, at least it takes care of that fucking smile.

 

The silence is so uncomfortable he says the first thing that enters his head.

“Glad to see you’ve been keeping busy, Sir.”

 

He doesn’t mean it to be cruel, but it’s worth it for the way Irwin looks like he might faint. His mouth is moving but he seems unable to form words and it’s hilarious, but Scripps has always been too soft for his own good and takes pity on the poor sod.

 

“Cup of tea?” He pours one out without waiting for an answer “I believe your trousers are over the back of the settee.”

 

Irwin gives a funny sort of squeak and Scripps turns away to grab the jacket he’d kicked aside last night. This serves the dual purpose of giving Irwin some privacy and buying himself a few moments to try and hide the fact that he’s trying not to laugh.

 

By the time Scripps turns back to him with his jacket, Irwin has finished pulling on his trousers. He croaks out a small “thank you”, his eyes flitting over to the front door like a trapped animal looking for an exit. As borderline disturbing as Scripps finds the idea, he is aware that to Dakin, at least, Irwin represents the Holy Grail of sexual conquests, and there is no way he is going to let Irwin pull a vanishing act on Stu. Not on his watch.

 

“Take a seat. I’ll put some toast on. He’ll be about a decade in the bathroom.” He plonks tea on the breakfast bar. “You can’t run out on him, so you may as well sit down and have some breakfast.”

 

Irwin snorts a laugh and does as he’s told, thankfully, and lights a fag.

 

Scripps pretends not to notice how gingerly he sits down. Talk about scarred for life.

 

“I’d really rather you didn’t smoke in the house, sir. If you don’t mind.”

 

“Of course, sorry. I just assumed, because Stuart… sorry.”

 

Stuart is it? Thinks Scripps, as Irwin carefully crushes the lit end of his ciggie into a proffered ashtray. Although it’d be pretty weird going at it with someone you weren’t on first name terms with, I suppose.

 

His thoughts must show on his face because Irwin says “Incidentally, I’d rather you didn’t call me ‘sir’, it’s a bit…” He doesn’t seem sure how to finish the sentence, but that’s ok, he doesn’t have to.

 

“Yeah.” Scripps agrees. “I’m Scripps to half my mates though, so no need to feel uncomfortable about that.” He doesn’t ask Irwin’s Christian name, he knows far too much about him already, thanks very much.

 

Neither Irwin’s nervous grin nor the popping of the toaster does much to break the strained atmosphere.

 

“Sorry this is so awkward” tries Scripps. “Only we never covered correct etiquette for the morning after your history teacher has a one night stand with your best mate. The downside of a state education I suppose.”

 

The look of hurt that passes across Irwin’s face makes him feel bad, but really it’s best that he knows what to expect. He passes him a plate of toast by way of an apology.

 

“I didn’t expect to see you either. What sort of students are awake at half past six?” He clearly means it as a joke but Scripps is sleep deprived so he replies “The sort with noisy flatmates.”

 

Irwin has the good grace to look abashed and addresses his mug of tea when he next speaks.

 

“Stu mentioned a flatmate but he never said – I didn’t realise it’d be anyone I knew.”

 

It looks to Scripps almost as if the thought of having breakfast with one of his ex-students is somehow more embarrassing to Irwin than spending half the night having noisy sex with another of them. Perhaps, to him, it is, perhaps it entirely depends on the ex-student in question. He and Irwin never struck up a close relationship after all.

 

Scripps gives a shrug. “Best mates since we started school, it made sense. Got to share with someone.”

 

The conversation turns to the relatively safe topic of how Scripps was finding university and life down south. Which passes the next six and half minutes (but hey, who’s counting?) until Dakin emerges from his room.

 

“Is there coffee? Morning Scrippsy. Didn’t think you’d be up and about yet.”

 

“No, for some reason I didn’t sleep well. My head was banging.” He knows he should save the teasing until after Irwin leaves but his eyes widen comically and his cheeks go bright pink again and it’s too much fun to pass up. He deserves a little revenge, after all, he reasons.

 

“Maybe it’s because I spent the evening pounding out essays.”

 

“I thought you were out last night?”

 

“No, I got dumped by my shit mate so I thought I’d –“

 

“Stay in and listen?” Stu turns to Irwin “Scrippsy is chronically sexually frustrated.”

 

Irwin is tomato red by this point and Scripps is getting an abdominal workout from trying to hold in his amusement.

 

“Told you off for smoking, did he? Bad luck.”

 

“It’s very dangerous for you, and it makes the house smell like a working men’s club.”

 

Stu rolls his eyes at Irwin and proceeds to steal toast off Scripps’ plate.

 

“Oi!”

 

“What? I’m bloody starved!”

 

At this Irwin makes a high-pitched breathy sound, which Scripps interprets as being something between a sigh and a panic attack. Scripps turns to see him blinking heavily while he looks anywhere but at the two friends. It is suddenly the funniest thing Scripps has ever seen.

 

Stu chooses this moment to loudly exclaim “Oh look there’s your shirt!” and proceeds to go and fish it out from under the sofa and hold it aloft. He is clearly making some misguided attempt to give Irwin a respite from Scripps’ mockery (this makes it ten times funnier, in Scripps’ eyes), but then he always was an insensitive clot.

 

It would be hard to tell at this stage, who is redder, himself or Irwin, Scripps thinks, only in his case it’s from trying to hold in laughter of truly gut-busting proportions. It will be a miracle if he manages to avoid a hernia.

 

As soon as Irwin scuttles back into the bedroom to change, Scripps can’t help but splutter with laughter. Stu is smirking his most insufferable smirk at him from across the breakfast bar, which only makes things worse.

 

“Jealous?”

 

“No.” he manages to choke out.

 

“I would be, if I were you.”

 

“Of course you think that, you smug git. You used precautions, I hope?”

 

“Of course. Mine are even in date. What about that coffee?”

 

The change of subject, Scripps supposes, is for the benefit of Irwin, who comes back in looking a good deal more put together in his usual ill-fitting teacher garb. However, if Stu is under any illusions about the sound proof qualities of their walls, Scripps can soon disabuse him of them.

 

“I should be going, they need me at work soon and I need to run back to the hotel and change first.”

 

Stuart gives the plate of half eaten toast a sceptical look. “You have to eat anyway, you may as well eat here.” Amazing the situations in which he manages to sound affronted.

 

“I can never get much down me in the mornings.” Dakin’s eyebrow flies towards his hairline and Irwin goes pink again and purses his lips.

Scripps takes a moment to wonder if the kitchen cupboards would swallow him up if he only leans back on them far enough. He nearly loses his own breakfast when Stu hooks two of his fingers into the open neck of Irwin’s shirt and tugs him closer to murmur something that sounds like “No wonder you’re so skinny” against Irwin’s lips.

Turning his back and staring at the toaster sadly does nothing to block out the wet kissing sounds that follow and he doesn’t dare do anything to draw attention to himself. The awkwardness is reaching record-breaking levels already.

 

Irwin’s huffed “fuck off” and Stu’s answering chuckle reach his ears with unfortunate clarity, as do promises to call on both sides and the details of Irwin’s hotel (the note of desperation in Stu’s voice as he insists on getting that is just another detail of this he wishes he weren’t privy to).

 

“Nice to see you again, Scripps” Irwin says in a tone that doesn’t make any attempt at sincerity and he catches himself before he audibly sighs with relief.

 

He is looking forward to laughing about the weirdness of the whole thing with Stu and getting some of the sordid (as opposed to graphic) details as per, when his friend calls out “hang on I’ll walk out with you” and runs after Irwin. Leaving Scripps standing alone in the kitchen with the bang of the door reverberating around the flat.

 

“Well fuck.”