It was all Lockwood's fault really. That's what Dakin would have informed anybody who bothered to ask. Not that anyone had, but that didn't change the fact that the entire messy string of events that followed was completely down to him.
A week after their a level results had come in and still sitting complacently on a job well done, the two had agreed to meet for a drink at a pub between their two houses, prolonging the period of celebration for as long as possible before they were dragged once more into academia as the Oxbridge preparation began the following day. At least that had been the plan. However just over an hour later and some way into his second pint with still no sign of Lockwood, and Dakin could only assume that plans had changed.
Still, he was determined not to let the night go as a complete waste. Ironically, it was with that thought as he turned casually to glance around the pub for someone to flirt with, that he missed the arrival of the man who came to stand at the bar on his right. It was the complete lack of local colour in the voice which asked for "a pint of whatever they had on tap," which drew his attention back.
"Rookie error mate," Dakin couldn't help but comment once the landlady had moved away. "The locally brewed stuff is foul.”
As he turned to face him, Dakin raked his eyes up the man's slender figure, he was tall; taller than Dakin and would probably be more so if he untensed his shoulders and stood a little straighter. This seemed to be his most defining characteristic, which was strange in itself because it was a rare day when ordinary caught Dakin's eye.
"Is that so?" He replied before taking a swig of the drink in question.
Dakin couldn't help but chuckle as the grimace that followed confirmed his assessment of the beverage. It must be the voice, he decided. Clipped and carefully measured hinting at a crafted level of intelligence but somehow still warm. It was the kind of voice that kept you listening to the dull details usually best left out of anecdotes.
"Yes, well," he gave a small cough before eyeing the drink distrustfully. "You aren't wrong. Beer enthusiast, are you?"
"Just born and bred on the stuff, unfortunately."
At this eyebrows went up, "Local? You don't much fit the stereotype."
A genuine laugh startled out of him, Dakin held out a hand, "I'll take that as a compliment. Stuart Dakin."
Looking over Stuart's carefully selected outfit, his cocky grin and sculpted hair, Irwin couldn't resist echoing his laughter, "I thought you might," then taking the offered hand. "Tom Irwin."
"Tom," Dakin repeated, enjoying the way it curled over his customary smirk. Then gesturing to the remnants of his own Guinness, "This is safer, or there are a couple of bottled lagers which are okay."
"Well then, why don't you let me but you another, to thank you for the advice?"
It wasn't that Stuart had never considered men before. Considered here being used in a very specific context. But he'd definitely never been as vocal about it as he was of his appreciation of woman. Part of it was Posner. The other boy's puppy-like crush had dragged on longer than anyone was comfortable with and he was reluctant to do anything which might be considered as giving him hope. Most of it was him. He knew he wasn't gay, his interest in women was real enough. But Dakin knew that blokes that were as straight as he claimed to be didn't have thoughts like the ones he was currently having about Tom Irwin.
They'd moved away from the bar to a small table in the back which was now littered with bottles. Each had been delighted to discover the other an avid fan of history and had stayed on the subject for some time, although Dakin had certainly never worked so hard to fit so many innuendos into one of Tottie's essays. He'd been rewarded for his efforts though with both the knowledge that Tom's blush started at the tops of his ears and ran down his neck before disappearing into the collar of his shirt, and that he knew a great deal more dirty jokes about past monarchs than Stuart did.
It wasn't until the bell for last call rang that they were interrupted, Tom cursing as he checked his watch, "Bugger, I didn't mean to stay out this late. I'm starting a new job tomorrow."
Dakin considered asking about the new job to drag the conversation out a bit longer but didn't want to admit that come tomorrow morning he'd be back at his sixth form.
Besides the more pressing issue was ensuring he got another opportunity to find out how much further down Tom's blush extended. He didn't particularly fancy spending his evenings loitering in the pub in hopes of another 'chance' meeting, and in any case Stuart wasn't sure his ego could take it.
He's so far down the rabbit hole with this train of thought that it takes him a moment to realise he's completely missed Tom speaking, "I'm sorry?"
Tom gives a slightly more nervous smile than the one he'd previously been wearing, "I said I wonder if you'd like to get dinner some time?"
And apparently it was that easy.
Scrambling to regain some of him charm and trying not to look too pleased with the turn of events Stuart nods, "Tell you what, there's a good Chinese place near here. Why don't I pick some up and come by yours? Say Wednesday?"
With a small smirk of his own Tom nodded, “That sounds good, here,” writing his address on a piece of paper torn from the notebook in his pocket. “I’ll see you on Wednesday.”
“Wednesday,” Stuart agreed, watching the other man walk away with no small degree of enjoyment and anticipation.
Wednesday. He was actually doing this. He just had to get through three days of classes from Tottie, Hector, and whoever this rumoured new bloke turned out to be. Three days.
Christ, it was going to be a long three days.