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fic: Where Love Is

One last fic for 2017, this is chapter 10 of You Can Be Had: Extras; 1340 words, mostly unrepentant fluff, Grant and Jonathan's first Christmas together, with a visit from Bell:

Grant sits on the sofa between Jonathan and Bell after Christmas lunch, so tired he could almost fall asleep right here. Bell leans against his shoulder and sighs: she’s tired too, for similar reasons. However well they thought they were adjusting to civilian life, this first Christmas away from the Mission has been strange for both of them. Jonathan does his best to understand, but he doesn’t really get it – nobody does, Grant thinks, unless they’ve been there themselves. Still, it’s been a good day so far – better than he could have imagined, this time last year. Better than he could have hoped for, in almost every way.

Jonathan had wanted to spoil Grant today, give him a proper day off after the mad busy fortnight he’d had at the Menier with all the Christmas parties on top of the regular shows. He’d told Grant to sit still and not lift a finger because he was going to do everything. Grant had to explain to him gently but firmly that it felt weird and wrong not to be doing any of the work, and he’d actually be happier if Jonathan let him take a turn in the kitchen. Mercifully Jonathan knows enough by now to understand when he doesn’t understand, and to back off when Grant’s obviously uncomfortable about something. So they’d worked together harmoniously, preparing everything that could be prepared ahead, and then Grant had taken him to bed and shown his appreciation with proper thoroughness before Bell arrived.

It was good to have the afterglow of bed to see him through the call with his mother. The only thing you could say for that conversation was that it didn’t take long: she’d hung up on him again, after a brief venomous outburst. He’d cried a bit afterwards, out of weariness and exhaustion as much as unhappiness. As always, the lingering hope that something else could be possible made it worse. He should know by now that there’s no point even trying; there’s turning the other cheek and then there’s laying yourself open to abuse, right? He’s pretty sure Jonathan thinks it’s a lost cause, but he never says so. He’d held Grant and let him cry, told him how much he loved him, kissed him and stroked his back until the worst of the tension went out of him.

By the time Bell arrived Grant was feeling almost human again, though she could see he’d been crying. Once she’d have assumed it was Jonathan’s fault; now she said “Rough call with your mother?”

He nodded, and she hugged him indignantly. “That woman strains my Christian charity.”

Jonathan laughed, not unkindly. “Drink, Bell?”

“Coffee, please, if you’re making it. Oh, and I’ve brought this for mulling.”

She’d brought the oranges and spices as well as a good bottle of red, and she set about preparing it all, as matter-of-factly as she’d have done in the Mission kitchen. Except there it’d have been fruit juice, not wine.

“What else can I do?” she asked, as the smell of warming wine and spices filled the kitchen.

“You could just sit and drink your coffee,” Jonathan suggested. “But if you’re pining for a job you can do the sprouts.”

Almost like old times, working side by side with her, except for all the ways it wasn’t. Changes for the better, for both of them: Bell’s happy at art school, doing brilliantly as anyone could have told you she would, and Grant’s happier with Jonathan than he ever imagined he could be with a partner. The Menier’s great, too; he knows he’s found a good place, people he likes and respects and who value him and appreciate what he does. He wouldn’t go back to the Mission even if they’d have him, and nor would she. But it leaves a mark on you, in ways that nobody who hasn’t lived that life can really understand. He and Bell would be friends anyway, always, he hopes; but they cling to each other the more because each of them understands something about the other that nobody else can or ever will, no matter how much they love them.

It feels strange, this Christmas, so different from last year’s, and not just because he’s not at the Mission any more. Impossible not to remember how his heart leapt, getting that Christmas morning text from Jonathan that broke the angry silence between them after the row about Art’s New Year’s Eve invitation. He couldn’t have foreseen the unhappiness that lay ahead, or that so much of what he’d hoped for with Jonathan would come to pass afterwards. Strange times. A week from today will be their first anniversary: something to celebrate, for sure, but there’s still pain in the memory of that day. He knows Jonathan’s thinking about all that too, and that he’s more than usually tender with Grant because of it. It’s been good to be busy at work, not to have too much chance to think this time last year.

Some of the memories were uncomplicatedly happy, of course. They’d watched The Force Awakens again in preparation for seeing Rogue One, and he’d discovered just how little of the plot Jonathan had taken in when they saw it together in the cinema, and why. Grant enjoyed teasing him about that, holding his hand and stroking it until Jonathan groaned and hit the pause button for the DVD. They’d taken four hours to get through the rewatch, between one interruption and another, and Jonathan still probably wouldn’t pass a test on the storyline…

“What?” Jonathan says, catching the look on his face now.

“Nothing,” Grant lies unconvincingly.

Jonathan hauls him close for a lingering kiss, and it’s only Bell’s prompt action that saves the gravy from burning. She’s also the one who remembers to keep the water topped up for steaming the pudding, which is just as well; nobody wants buckled saucepans, scorched cloth and blaring smoke alarms on Christmas Day. The three of them make a good team in the kitchen, Grant thinks, and even if there are a few narrow squeaks everything turns out well.

Christmas lunch used to be his mother’s triumph, the high point of her culinary year, but it was a triumph that came at a cost in frayed tempers and high stress levels. Everything had to be perfect, including the family’s behaviour, or the day was spoiled. The Mission Christmas lunches were easier, even when the food wasn’t great. Looking after people was its own justification and reward. But this – this is different again. He could get used to this.

“That’s the nicest Christmas lunch I’ve ever had,” Bell says, as if in echo of his thought. She puts down her pudding spoon with a happy sigh.

Jonathan’s obviously on the point of making a crack about the Mission’s cooking, and possibly also the Woodhopes’, but thinks better of it. “Thank you very much,” he says, and sketches a slight bow that makes his paper hat go crooked. “You can come again.”

Bell laughs and blows a squeaker at him.

“I hope you will,” says Grant, and raises his glass to her. “It’s good to have you here.”

“It’s good to be here,” she says, a little misty-eyed.

Nobody suggests a toast to absent friends: the friends who matter most are right here in this room.

There’s a minor scuffle about who’s doing the dishes, which is what happens when you have a surfeit of volunteers, two of them ex-Mission types, but they get the table cleared and the dishwasher on, and the tea and coffee made, and settle down on the sofa, all three of them drowsy with food and wine and contentment. Grant puts an arm around each of them and holds them close, the two people he loves best in the world. He doesn’t know what the coming year will bring, but right here, right now, life feels good.

Also posted at https://fengirl88.dreamwidth.org/233840.html with comment count unavailable comments.


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