"Hey." Jordan jumped at the sound of Greg's voice, and seemed more tense than he had before Greg had arrived, sitting on Pan's platform. He flashed a tense smile as Greg walked over to sit beside him, replying with a "hey" of his own.
Greg still wasn't sure why he had texted Jordan to meet him here. Last night's dream might have had something to do with it (although the memories were fading now, and he was left only with a faint impression and sticky sheets), but he knew he had to get out of the house and it wasn't something he wanted to talk to Faith – and certainly not to Gizzard – about.
"What's up?" Jordan was still guarded. The defences Greg had become used to seeing him without were raised again, and had been for the weeks (must be more than a month now, surely?) since their fight, although they still hung about at school. Maddy had seemed disappointed the first day Jordan had returned to his usual seat in English.
"Not much." Greg shrugged, staring at his feet dangling off the podium. It was cold; Jordan was bundled up in a bulky coat with a scarf wound tightly around his neck, with gloves and boots, and Greg himself was dressed similarly but was starting to shiver. It had been fine on his bike, the movement and exercise keeping in warm, but now he was sitting still the cold was infiltrating. What had made him think that the Shell House would be a good place to meet in November?
Jordan tipped his head back and sighed. Greg saw the cloud of his breath rise and disappear. The night was clear – which probably didn't help with the cold – and the stars were bright and shining from the gardens, with the nearest street lights a miles or so away. Greg looked over at Jordan's profile and felt the knot in his gut. He looked away from his friend, and followed his gaze.
"They're nice, aren't they?" He asked, wondering if he'd have the guts to keep on this line. "There's Orion." He pointed to the only constellation he could think of.
Jordan looked at him with a puzzled expression, and Greg returned the look with a shrug and a small smile.
"I thought you liked stargazing. Thought it would be a nice night for it." He lied, improvising as best he could. Jordan let out a soft laugh and shook his head.
"You could have warned me. I would have brought some hot chocolate or something." He turned to Greg, eyes twinkling. "Could maybe even have snuck some whiskey in it." He turned back to the sky. "Ursa Minor, the little dipper." He pointed up, and Greg leaned in to follow his finger, finding the rectangle of stars with a tail of three. He should have known that one. "Draco winds underneath it. See the head of the dragon and its body? Apparently Ursa Minor used to be the dragon's wing." Greg smiled and nodded, realising that it was nearly impossible to go anywhere with Jordan and not learn something.
"Is that a demotion? Dragon's wing to baby bear." Jordan shrugged beside him, his jacket rustling.
"I'm not sure, depends if you would rather be part of a powerful but mythical animal, or a whole real one. I think I'd rather be the bear, with the North Star for my tail."
"Yeah, me too." Greg answered after thinking about it for a moment. "I don't think I'd like to be flapped about by a dragon."
Jordan laughed again, and Greg started to feel warmer, despite the frozen rock of the platform penetrating his jeans and slowly turning his backside numb. He lay back, cushioning his head with his gloved hands and grateful for the hat his mother had pushed over his skull before he ran out the door. He felt Jordan's eyes on his body, caught them before the other boy looked away.
"Is this okay?" Jordan looked embarrassed and confused; embarrassed, Greg thought, at having been caught looking, and obviously confused by Greg's question.
"You were talking about watching the stars, that night with Dean." He watched the shock appear on Jordan's face, the defensiveness Greg had become so used to appearing again.
"Greg, if you're-" Greg cut him off before he could say anything.
"I mean, I know it's hardly warm, and it's not exactly a beach, but you can hear the lake if you try." He tried to make his voice soft, rather than the defensive tone he was about to use to counter Jordan's interruption. He sat up, and watched Jordan watching him for what felt like a good few minutes, though it could only have been a couple of seconds.
"What are you saying?" The words were careful, measured, not letting on to any sign of either hope or dread.
"I'm saying I was a dick. That night we went to the hospital, and the next day. I know I've apologised, and I shouldn't have said about sleeping with Tanya, not in that way anyway. But that night, it was like…
"Everywhere I went people were calling me gay and whatever, and it was getting to me. I was having all these thoughts about, well, mainly about you, and I was just so confused. I still like girls, but it was like, you were coming out to me, and I still wasn't sure about myself, but you were saying we could give it a shot and that your parents knew and they liked me. I hadn't had time to get used to the idea, to figure out who I was or anything and I panicked and I ran, and I shouldn't have. And all the stuff with Dean and his bitch of a mother was going on, and… I don't know. I was just so confused about everything."
He swallowed, and looked back up at Jordan (when had he looked down at his feet?) to see the boy biting his lip. His hand lifted to push his hair back (a habit that had formed now he had gone too long without a haircut) but brushed his hat instead, skewing it and making his shaggy hair stand out at angles. Greg smiled slightly at the sight.
"I'm saying that, if you still want to, we could give it a try, and I'll try to stop being such a dick." Jordan sighed, straightening his hat and pushing the stray strands of hair away from his face before looking directly at Greg with that piercing gaze. His face was guarded, and Greg had the uneasy premonition that he was about to be knocked back.
"Why should I? Why shouldn't I just brag to you about the fit guy from the Cambridge team?" Greg could feel the jealousy burning in his chest, wanted to tell Jordan to shut up already if he'd got over Greg, but he knew he deserved this.
"There's a guy?" Jordan shrugged and was trying too hard to look indifferent.
"There was. A couple of weeks ago, at the Regionals." Greg nodded. He remembered Jordan missing a couple of days of school for the competition. "We went out for a drink after our heats and ended up going back to his room." The fire in Greg's chest was roaring now, and he bit his lip to stop himself interrupting. Jordan needed this, he knew it.
"So, did you...?" Jordan looked at him defiantly, but then deflated with a sigh and shook his head.
"No. We were kissing and… stuff, but I couldn't. It wasn't what I wanted, it wasn't-" he cut himself off quickly and sighed again, shaking his head and looking over towards London, the glow of the city visible from here. "It wasn't you."
Greg had been so busy not trying to visualise an image of Jordan writhing on a bed with some faceless, broad-shouldered stranger he nearly missed the last bit, but as soon as it filtered through the fire in his chest was extinguished with his heart swelling. He tried not to grin, not to jump to the conclusion that Jordan would still accept him.
Jordan turned to look at him once more, eyes bright in the starlight, and Greg briefly wondered if he'd looked towards the orange glow of London to stop himself crying.
Looking back, Greg would wonder how he hadn't seen the kiss coming. There had been plenty of time for Jordan to move closer to him, to lean forward, his arm touching Greg's, and for them both to move their faces together, angling to avoid a clash of noses or cheeks. The move to the kiss had been gradual, but at the time it had seemed as sudden as a crack of thunder.
It was awkward, neither of them sure how far to take it, but they settled into a slow rhythm of open mouths and a little tongue. Jordan's face was rough with stubble (he clearly hadn't shaved since the morning) and Greg found it off-putting for a moment, but he realised he liked the roughness. It was awkward, but nowhere near as awkward as his kiss with Faith, and far more enjoyable than any sloppy, drunken clinches he had shared with Tanya.
Greg moved his hand to rest on Jordan's neck, and Jordan's settled on his hip while the glove on his other hand gripped the fabric of Greg's hat, nearly pulling it off. The cold to his scalp shocked Greg and he jerked, bumping his nose against Jordan's. They both pulled back laughing, both of them trying to fix Greg's hat but only making it worse. Greg toppled back onto the platform, and Jordan laid back alongside him, still laughing, but then their mouths were together again and suddenly it wasn't as funny, with Jordan pressed close to him and the kiss heating up, making Greg forget the cold of the November night as his hands held Jordan's face and wishing he wasn't wearing his gloves so he could touch the other boy's skin.
"Are you sure?" Jordan asked the question a while later, when they had separated and lay beside each other breathing heavily, legs tangled together. Greg nodded.
"Are you?" Jordan smiled and returned the nod, and Greg wondered why it had taken him so long to realise that this wasn't such a horrible idea.