“Aha!” William crowed, when the party reassembled in the bar. “Told you so.”
“Told him what?” Jonathan said.
“Nothing,” Grant said, too quickly. “Shut up, William.”
“Have you seen yourself?” William said, in what he evidently thought was a tactful aside. Christ, he was drunker than Grant had realized.
Grant glanced at his reflection in the huge ornate wall mirror. He wasn’t sure how he’d managed to get such a spectacular case of bedhead without lying down.
“See?” William said. “You look suspiciously well shagged, just saying.”
“So does Jonathan,” Bell said, with a wicked grin. “Your shirt’s buttoned wrong, by the way.”
This was true, and not surprising: they’d lost track of time until they heard the gong, and then scrambled to put their clothes to rights in the dark. They weren’t the only ones, by the looks of it. Emma’s hair had come down, Bell’s lipstick was smudged, and there was a love-bite on William’s neck that hadn’t been there at the start of the night. Childermass and Segundus, the last to reappear, had obviously been off doing their own version of the Time Warp somewhere.
“Bloody hell, it’s an orgy,” Grant said. “Doctor Frank-N-Furter would be proud.”
“OK, everyone, get on the coach,” Arthur ordered. “Time to go home.”
Grant had sat as far away as possible from Strange on the journey from Cambridge, irritably aware of his presence in spite of himself. Now they sat together, and Jonathan put his arm around him. Grant wasn’t one for public displays of affection normally but he was too tired and happy to resist. He leaned against Jonathan’s shoulder and closed his eyes.
“Are you falling asleep?” Jonathan murmured.
Grant shivered at the brush of his lips. “Not quite.”
Jonathan made a small sound of satisfaction, and blew gently in his ear.
“Oh,” Grant said. “Unfair.”
“You think?” Jonathan said, and nuzzled at his earlobe.
Grant moaned faintly, hoping that everyone was too wrapped up in their own concerns to notice.
“My housemates are away for the weekend,” Jonathan said. “D’you want to come back to my place?”
Fuck yeah. “Sure,” Grant said, trying to play it cool.
“Good,” said Jonathan, draping his coat over their laps. “I have serious plans for you.” He elaborated on these under his breath at some length, with his hand between Grant’s thighs.
“Oh god,” Grant said, helpless with arousal. This was going to get really embarrassing in a minute, but it felt so good that he didn’t want it to stop.
The last thing he was expecting was to be saved from imminent disgrace by William, who was obviously having a less interesting coach journey, and at this point began singing Rose Tint My World at the top of his voice. A chorus of protest greeted this development.
“You’re no fun,” William complained, and continued singing.
“Shut up, William, you’re pissed,” Grant said, out of sheer force of habit.
“I may be pissed,” William said huffily, “but I still look better than you in fishnets.”
“That’s a matter of opinion,” Jonathan said very quietly, and Grant laughed.
“Oh, thank god we’re here,” said Bell, as the coach pulled into Park Street. “William, if you don’t stop singing I will actually brain you.”
“Some people have no taste,” William announced loudly, and stalked down the aisle to the coach door. His grand exit would have been more effective if he’d remembered the coach steps.
“Fuck!” Grant said, scrambling to his feet. “Jesus, the stupid arsehole, is he all right?”
William lay sprawled in the gutter, apparently out for the count.
For a bunch of medical students, they dealt with this remarkably badly, though the absinthe cocktails were probably to blame. Grant kept his head better than most, being sober, and Jonathan flagged down a taxi to take them to Addenbrooke’s so that the now conscious William could be checked out for concussion. Arthur insisted on going with them, which was just as well, since Jonathan turned out to have left his wallet at home, and Grant had a grand total of £3.50 and his room key.
“You don’t have to stay,” Grant said, as they queued for triage in A&E. He’d been here often enough before with William, usually for some stupid sports injury.
“Don’t be absurd,” Jonathan said. “If you’re staying, I’m staying.”
Arthur looked at them both and raised his eyebrows. “No need for three of us. You two go back to Queen Edith’s Way and get some sleep or whatever you’re planning to do.”
One of the annoying things about Arthur was his apparently encyclopaedic knowledge of everyone’s movements. Grant suppressed the impulse to tell him to fuck off.
“Look, I’m his friend, I’ll stay with him –” he began.
“I want Arthur,” William said, leaning heavily against him.
“Oh,” Grant said. “All right, then. Call me if you need anything.”
“Don’t worry,” Arthur said, with his arms around William, “I’ll look after him.”
“Well!” Grant said, as he and Jonathan crossed the car park. None of William’s previous conquests would have done that, he was sure. It must be more serious than he thought.
“I expect he’ll be out tomorrow,” said Jonathan, slipping an arm round his waist. “And if he isn’t, we can go and see him.”
Jonathan appeared somewhat embarrassed. “Well, you, then. I thought you might want company.”
“Thank you,” said Grant, astonished.
“I hate hospitals,” Jonathan said.
“Don’t let Norrell hear you say that. Are you sure you’re in the right subject?”
“Bit late for that now. Christ, you’re gorgeous.” He kissed Grant, a quick fierce kiss that made him weak at the knees.
“Oh god, it’s fucking freezing out here,” Grant said. “I hope your heating’s not on the blink.”
“Don’t worry, I promise I’ll warm you up,” Jonathan said, smirking.
Grant rolled his eyes. “Are you always this suave on a first date?”
“Save your breath for walking,” said Jonathan. “The sooner we get home, the sooner I get you into bed.”
Grant laughed and smacked him on the arse, and they hurried through the frosty streets, hugging each other for warmth and trying not to fall over.
Jonathan’s house was warmer than the outside world, though that wasn’t saying much. He turned the heating up and put the kettle on for tea. Normally Grant would have said something sensible about caffeine last thing at night, but it wasn’t as if either of them was planning on getting much sleep.
“Let that brew for a bit,” Jonathan said, and kissed him.
Between all the kissing and the more-or-less still drinkable tea, they warmed up enough to shed their coats and move to the bedroom, though taking off more than their shoes still seemed like a bad idea. The last time Grant had got into bed with his clothes on was a friend’s birthday party at a lodge in the Highlands, where they’d slept in wooden cabins on the shore of the loch. Even thinking about it made him shiver.
“Come here,” Jonathan said, and pulled him into a hug.
“Mmm.” Grant snuggled close under the pile of blankets and duvets. Oh, this was nice, kissing and cuddling, Jonathan’s thigh pressed between his, Jonathan’s hands stroking his back and cupping his arse. He pushed against him appreciatively and licked his neck. Jonathan growled and rolled them over, pinning Grant to the mattress and kissing him breathless.
“Too hot,” Grant gasped, when they broke apart for air.
“Good,” said Jonathan, tugging his sweater over his head.
Undressing each other was a clumsy business, interspersed with fits of giggles, but at last they were naked in each other’s arms. Grant shivered again, with pleasure this time; he’d almost forgotten how good this felt.
“I want to suck you off,” Jonathan said thickly. “Please, can I?”
All those performances where he’d shut his eyes in the bedroom scene, trying not to imagine Jonathan’s head between his thighs, the tickle of his dark curls against the tender skin there –
“Christ, I’ve wanted this so much,” Jonathan said, kissing his way down Grant’s chest and stomach.
Whatever Grant might have said in reply turned into a long groan as Jonathan took him in his mouth.
Grant opened his eyes and squinted blearily around the room. If anyone had told him 24 hours ago that he'd be waking up in Jonathan Strange's bedroom this morning he'd have told them they were nuts. But here he was, a bit fuzzy in the head from a short and overactive night, aching very pleasantly in all the right places, and wondering what time it was and where the fuck he'd put his phone. Oh, there were his jeans on the floor by the bed.
Two texts from William. A&e say i have 2 stay o/nite wankers, the first read. Sent at 3 a.m., no wonder he'd missed it, well into the second round by then... The second, sent at 7 a.m., said Bstards woke meup bored now. What time was it now? 7.10. Typical bloody William, if he was awake, bored and probably hungover, he was going to make sure everyone else had to suffer too. No wonder Grant was awake so early.
Not as early as Jonathan, though, he realized: the other side of the bed was still warm, so he couldn't have been gone long. If they'd been in Grant's bed, he'd have assumed Jonathan had pissed off home after getting what he wanted - wham, bam, forget about thank you, ma'am. But this was Jonathan's house, and that was Jonathan singing on the stairs. Sounding very pleased with life, as well he might be after last night. Maybe he'd be up for another shag before he kicked Grant out. That'd be nice, Grant thought, wriggling luxuriously.
“How do you like your eggs in the morning?” Jonathan sang, “I like mine with a kiss. Boiled or fried, I'm satisfied, as long as I get my kiss.”
Grant added Sings stupid songs in the morning to his growing list of Unexpected Facts About Jonathan Strange.
“Morning,” Jonathan said, coming in with two large mugs of tea. Grant noticed the tea before the ridiculously flashy silk dressing-gown (no surprise that he'd be peacocking around the house in that). It suited him.
“Mmm, tea in bed,” said Grant blissfully.
“I think you earned it,” Jonathan said, grinning. He handed Grant a mug and perched on the edge of the bed, watching him as he drank.
Grant wouldn't have thought anything could make him blush after last night, but the intensity of Jonathan's gaze did. Jonathan kept smiling over his mug, and looking alternately as if he couldn't quite believe Grant was real and as if he was trying to memorize him for an exam.
“William's still in Addenbrooke's,” Grant said, gesturing at his phone. “I should go and see him.”
“OK,” said Jonathan. “We don't have to go just yet, though, do we?”
He'd meant it, then; that was nice, and also a bit unexpected.
“Visiting hours don't start till 12, and I thought maybe -” Jonathan broke off, apparently embarrassed. “How's the tea?”
“It's fine,” Grant said. “It's just right, it's perfect, it's the best morning-after tea I've ever had. Oh fuck, I'm babbling.”
Jonathan laughed, and went on staring at him.
“I can't think if you look at me like that,” Grant said feebly. “God, I think you may actually have fucked my brains out.”
“Not yet,” Jonathan said, with a glint in his eye that made Grant feel dizzy. “But we've got the rest of the weekend to work on it.”
Grant just about managed not to whimper, but it was a close call.
“That is, if you want to stay,” Jonathan said, sounding so unexpectedly diffident that Grant wanted to hug him.
“Do you even have to ask?” Grant said, incredulous. “Yes, I want to.”
“All right then,” Jonathan said. He put the empty mugs on the floor, took Grant in his arms and began kissing his neck.
“Oh fuck,” Grant said, helpless again. “Look, I need a piss and I - aah - haven't cleaned my teeth and I should - oh god - probably shower first -”
“OK,” said Jonathan, with a grin. “I'll give you five minutes, and not a second more.”
Grant's phone pinged again: hows fckg fraknfurter
“His timing's getting worse,” Jonathan said.
“Yeah,” Grant said. “He's bored. 'Scuse me.” He texted back good, more l8r and switched off his phone. “Five minutes, right?”
“Four and a half, or I'm going to start without you,” Jonathan said, letting his dressing-gown fall open to show Grant what he'd be missing.
“Christ,” Grant said. “All right, I'll hurry.”
He was never going to hear the end of this from William and the rest of them, after all the things he'd said about Strange being an annoying tosser. He'd be teased rotten about it, for sure. But even if it turned out to be just a weekend shag - and Grant was surprised to find how much he was hoping it might be something more - it would still be worth it.