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Miel sobre hojuelas

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“Why did you not tell me about these?” Strange demanded, when Grant returned from stabling their horses.

He took another bite of the leaf-shaped pastry, flavoured with anise and drenched in honey. There was a hint of something almost bitter under the sweetness, that he could not quite trace, but which put him in mind of the hillside in the sun where he and Grant had kissed for a long delicious hour the day before. Rosemary, was that it?

Grant sat down at the table outside the inn, and bit into one of the pastries with an air of lively interest.

“Mmm,” he said, and half-closed his eyes. Strange felt a shiver of desire go through him, remembering the last time he had seen Grant look so, which had not been for pastry.

“Merlin, I believe you have made a discovery all your own,” Grant said, and grinned.

“Really,” said Strange, unable to resist a touch of mockery. “I thought you were perfectly acquainted with all the delights Spain had to offer.”

“And yet here you are, introducing me to a new pleasure,” Grant said. “I must thank you properly for it later.”

Strange was grateful to be sitting down, or he might have staggered at that. Grant's teasing had not lost its power to make him hot and breathless at inconvenient moments.

The innkeeper's wife brought them out little glasses of spirits to drink with the pastries. Grant had some conversation with her, in which Strange was surprised to make out the word amor. He sipped at the liqueur, which had the flavour of anise in it too. When the woman was gone, he asked Grant what she had said.

“The pastries are called hojuelas - little leaves,” Grant said. “She said they have a proverb here, en amor no todo es miel sobre hojuelas: in love not all is honey on the leaves, not all goes smoothly.”

He smiled at Strange, but there was a twist of sadness in it, like the faint bitterness of rosemary in the honey. Strange wanted to make that look go away, to have Grant warm and happy and teasing again, but did not know how to bring this about.

“Have another pastry,” he said, a little stupidly.

“Sound advice, Merlin,” Grant said, and fell to with a will. When he had finished, he licked his lips and sighed with contentment, leaning back on the bench. The sun was warm, but not oppressive at this hour.

“In Aragon, they have little round fried cakes called tortitas,” Grant said. “ You eat them with warm honey poured over them.”

“I should like to pour warm honey over you,” Strange said, with a vehemence that surprised him, “and lick it off, very slowly.”

Grant flushed up to the roots of his hair. “Dear god, Merlin -”

“That place on your hip, first,” Strange pursued relentlessly, as Grant squirmed on the bench.

Grant gave a soft groan: they both knew the effect it had on him when Strange kissed him there.

It would be the perfect pleasure of the senses, Strange thought, with a pang of desire so fierce it almost doubled him up. The warmth of Grant's skin, the familiar scent and taste of it coming through the honey, the sounds he would make as Strange sucked and licked him clean -

“Shall we go?” he said, though in truth he was not sure he could stand up.

Grant breathed hard, as if he had been running. “Let me procure what we need,” he said, “and then I am yours for the afternoon, to do with as you will.”