Art's had these encounters before with the man in possession. They always feel they have to show off how happy they are, to send the message He's with me now. He doesn't usually bother sending back I had him first, because it doesn't need saying. He knows he can leave a mark that won't wear out, that what the men who've been through his hands can get from anyone else is never going to be more than a shadow of what he did to them. He's got nothing to prove.
Grant looks surprisingly comfortable in civvies and not even particularly out of place in the club, which is mildly annoying. He rests his hand lightly at the base of Jonathan's spine, and the way Jonathan leans back into the touch gives Art a pang he wasn't expecting. It's for the best that he and Jonathan aren't together - it would have been a car crash - but he never thought to see J looking so contented to be publicly claimed, a sort of simmering happiness.
“I'll get this round,” Jonathan says, and leaves him and Grant face to face.
“Jonathan seems well,” Art says, carefully neutral.
Grant gives him a measuring look, evidently decides he's not taking the piss, and says “Thanks. Yes, he is.”
“It's nice to see him back,” Art says, watching J being charming to Robert, the new barman.
As if in response to his gaze, Jonathan turns and grins. He's getting served remarkably quickly; that much hasn't changed.
“Here you are,” he says, returning with the drinks.
It's neatly done, Art grudgingly admits: an act of service covering up the reality that Grant probably can't afford the prices here on whatever he's doing to make ends meet these days. Nothing like financial inequality to put a strain on a relationship: a few months of that and it won't take much more than a huff and a puff to blow the house down.
“Thank you,” Grant says, and gives J a look that says Good boy so loud, Art half expects to see him drop to his knees then and there. Which is unexpected, and distinctly irritating.
Art’s much too old a hand to let his irritation show. He smiles at William across the dance floor, an invitation for later, and William beams back at him, uncomplicatedly happy. He’s a pleasant distraction, in danger of becoming a habit, but Art can live with that.
This nonsense of Jonathan and Mission Man won’t last for ever; J’s bound to get bored, and when he does he’ll be back. It won’t be the same between them, obviously, after what happened at New Year, but there are still possibilities. If J’s very good, he might invite him to join him and William one evening, remind him what he’s missing. Tie him up and let him watch.