[identity profile] kat-lair.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] blacktulipfic
Title: and eat it too
Author: [livejournal.com profile] pushkin666 & [livejournal.com profile] kat_lair
Fandom: RPS, Masterchef (UK)
Pairing: John Torode/Gregg Wallace
Rating: PG-13
Word count: 4,808
Disclaimer: This is not a real story about real people. This is a fictional story about fictional representations of real people. Note the difference. None of the events described herein are true. No disrespect is meant and no profit made.

Summary: "Creamy puddings must be earned." – Or the one where John Torode is off balance and as a consequence ends up messing with the equilibrium between him and Gregg. With some interesting results.

[livejournal.com profile] pushkin666’s author notes: This started as a fic to cheer me up as I'd gotten home so late one night that I actually missed part of that day's episode of Masterchef and I wasn't happy.  Throughout the whole of the writing of this not!fic [livejournal.com profile] kat_lair was cursing me for making her care about John and Gregg :) I'm certainly not regretting this one little bit.

[livejournal.com profile] kat_lair’s author notes: LALALALA, THIS IS NOT HAPPENING *claps hands to ears and rocks back and forth in the corner*




It's the second week of the qualifying rounds. John has decided that in today's palate test he's going to make the chef wannabes cook BBQ because it's not yet summer and dammit he misses summer. England doesn't know how to do summer anyway. It may be that John is a little cranky.  And when he’s cranky he wants red meat that is so tender that it melts in his mouth, covered in some fucking ace sticky sauce, preferably with chilli that will make his toes curl. It’s been way too long since his toes curled from food.  Or anything else for that matter.  So BBQ it is.

John makes the competitors cook his version of Surf and Turf: fat pink prawns to go with the steak and zingy coleslaw on the side. This is then followed by a pudding of their choice, something that should complement the meat.

Gregg is grinning like a Cheshire cat, which doesn't surprise John. He knows how much Gregg likes a good steak. But as expected, the wannabees have no idea how to cook a good steak and John ends up being totally severe and scathing about people's efforts when they fall below his standards.  And somewhere along the line he gets on a little rant about how he likes his meat firm and succulent, and then about two minutes into that he looks around and finds people sniggering at him because apparently he's surrounded by children. And even Gregg is hiding his face in his hands and trying not to laugh.

John throws his hands up in the air.  "Oh my god, I'm working with teenagers," he says.

By this point, Gregg is bent over, arms wrapped around his stomach, unable to stop himself from laughing because John being completely bitchy is always hilarious. John has that look on his face that Gregg knows means he's about to pitch a fit, so he runs interferences and makes a loud comment: "Well,  you know after all that meat, don't you think it's time for creamy pudding?"

Everybody falls about laughing again but John just stares at him, skin flushing slightly before he strolls slowly over to where Gregg is standing and, leaning close, he says really low into Gregg's ear: "Creamy puddings must be earned."

The camera doesn't catch it luckily, but there’s a startled blush spreading over Gregg's face and John can actually feel the hotness of his skin, standing as close as he is and fuck, fuck, what the hell did he just do, in the middle of the competition as well! Not only did he just say it, but he said it like that, with a certain tone, too. It’s just... he’d been all wound up and flustered and he kind of snapped a little okay, and Gregg was there, he's always there, with his little compliments and little smile like he knows something and... Well.

John takes a step back with a mumbled “Fuck, sorry, I didn't...” and then devotes more attention to the competitors making puddings than he's ever done before which is kind of odd because John's not a pudding person.

Eventually, they've both tasted the BBQ and the puddings and picked the two people that are going to go through. The puddings were excellent but Gregg was restrained about his enjoyment of them which John figures is down to what he said.

Thankfully, they're both professional enough that they can get through it. Once the cameras have stopped rolling and they've made nice with the contestants they both head back to their separate dressing rooms.


****


John is still edgy while he changes out of his chef whites and heads into the shower. He didn't get any nice BBQ meat that day, no puns thanks very much, and also he'd been so wound up that he'd slipped and sort of come on to Gregg , which he’d promised himself never to do. They’ve known each other for years and he's had a thing for Gregg for a while now.  Kind of. Like not... not a thing thing. Really.  It's not as if he's been pining or anything. Just... you know, sometimes he thinks. About... stuff. And Gregg.

So John is dawdling in the dressing room, pretending to be busy while trying to avoid Gregg and possibly pacing a little in the process. He’s wondering what the fuck he's done and whether he should just head home and have one too many beers. He'll give it a few more minutes and then hopefully Gregg might have left before John tries to sneak out of the studio.


***


Gregg’s mind has been whirling whilst he’s getting showered and changed. He’s thinking about the tone of John's voice as he'd made the comment to him about creamy puddings, what it might have actually meant. If anything.

He finishes getting dressed and glances at his watch, frowning. Normally, John would have come and found him by now. They usually go out together after a show, more often now that they're both single again. Gregg has a flat in town and he likes to stay in London, rather than heading back to Kent during the week.

Rather than waiting for John, he picks up his jacket and other bits and heads to John's dressing room, which is just down the corridor from his own. He knocks on the door before walking in.  They don't act on ceremony around each other; have known each other way to long for that.  John is staring out of the window and he looks startled as he turns around. ‘Like a rabbit in the headlights', Gregg thinks, amused.

"Hey," he says, striding forward and clapping John on the shoulder. "So do you fancy going out for a steak?"

John wants to say no, he really does, and he can't stop himself from tensing at the touch and then has to deliberately make himself relax.  "Oh, well you know, I was going to head home..."

"Oh, come on John, don't be a spoilsport," Gregg answers. "You did mention about wanting some juicy red meat after all." He gives him a wide grin.

John grits his teeth a little.  He really doesn't want to go out, not right now, but Gregg would probably wonder what the hell was up if he refused.  "Fine, fine," he says, "but let's make it an early night, yeah?"

"Sure." Gregg throws his arm around John's shoulders, ignoring the tension in his body and guides him toward the door. "I know just the place."


***


They end up in a restaurant that they've both been to before and where the waiters know them but are happy to leave them alone to chat.

They both order steak; fillet for John, and rib-eye for Gregg, and a nice bottle of red to go with it.

John's quieter than he would normally be after a show. It's more common for them to discuss the contestants but tonight he's not really making eye contact with Gregg and the conversation is chit chat more than anything. Gregg takes a sip of his wine and contemplates his dinner companion, his friend, and wonders whether or not he actually imagined what John had said to him during the filming.

When John gets snappy or morose, usually Gregg is able to jolly him out of it but tonight is proving a little more difficult than normal.

Eventually, Gregg pushes his plate away with a satisfied sigh and leans back in his seat.

"So... do you think they'll have any creamy pudding," he asks John.  "And if so... What would I have to do to earn it?"

John is about to say something but then stops as the waiter comes to collect their empty plates. Despite Gregg's attempts to get the conversation going it's been one of their more uncomfortable evenings, and John almost wishes that he hadn't agreed to come out for food.  But... he needs to apologise to Gregg.  Doesn't want him to be weirded out by what he said earlier and it looks as though Gregg isn't going to let it drop.

John turns his glass around in his hands, not looking at Gregg when he says: "Look, Gregg, I’m sorry about... you know."

Gregg doesn't respond at first and John raises his gaze from the table to meet his eyes. Gregg's head is tilted a little, a contemplative look on his face.

John relaxes as Gregg reaches across the table and lightly punches his arm.  "Seriously mate, don't worry about it. I don't mind. But you know John, you still haven't answered my question: What would I have to do to earn it?"

Gregg keeps pushing it because he really does want an answer. He’d been surprised by John's words, but it had been the tone of John's voice more than anything that had made him want to brush his hand down the back of his neck – made him want to push up against John, if he’s honest. John is one of his closest friends and there's just something about his sharp tongue and sarcasm, his bossiness, that has always appealed to Gregg.

John doesn't give him an answer, simply shakes his head and laughs. "Honestly... I'm not going to answer that right now.  Just order your pudding.  You know you can't finish a meal without one.  Pudding Monster is the right description for you."

Gregg grins and makes a big deal of perusing the dessert menu, which the waiter had already kindly slipped onto the table knowing that Gregg would be ordering one.  In the end he orders a lemon syllabub with raspberries and homemade shortbread.

John doesn't really say anything whilst Gregg is slowly eating his pudding, just watches him. His gaze makes Gregg feel a little uncomfortable but also a little more daring as well, particularly the way that John's eyes darken as Gregg licks his spoon clean. Gregg has wondered before now about John; the way his gaze sometimes rests on Gregg when he thinks he's not being watched, but it's never been a big deal. They are friends and have been for a long time.

John has been snappy now for a week or so and Gregg knows it's because of the weather. Or at least, he thinks it’s that. He’s always made a habit of touching John, trying to jolly him out of the moods that he gets in - something he's usually pretty good at, but this time... Well, results aren’t in yet, Gregg thinks determinedly.


***


John can't stop staring. What he'd really like to do right now is to tell Gregg to ‘stop, wait, ask for it,’ just as Gregg's bringing the spoon towards his mouth, but he doesn't.  There’s a part of him that would like to push it, to see whether or not Gregg would do as he's told. He’s so impatient at times, always hurrying people along, wanting to experience everything-now-more... Sometimes all John can think of is all the ways he could show him the benefits of waiting, of patience.

Eventually, after Gregg has finally finished his dessert, watching the way John has tracked movement, they get the bill. There is no filming the following day, for which they're both grateful.   Gregg suggests a nightcap at his flat, saying it would be nice to just chill there for a bit with a brandy – it’s not that far, after all.

John tells himself it’s a bad idea but he can't really refuse. Gregg is bound to ask why and then what he'll say? 'Oh I think I might lose my mind completely and try to lick the remnants of that pudding out of your mouth'? Yeah right, that would go down well...

So he agrees. They grab a taxi from outside the restaurant and are at Gregg’s in no time.


***


Gregg's flat is cosy and it's certainly nice to be out of the public eye. Despite his misgivings, John starts to relax. Gregg keeps up a constant chatter about the contestants and the restaurant and industry gossip and things start to feel a bit more normal.

Gregg too feels more comfortable in his own flat, able to relax. He leaves John sitting on the sofa and heads to the kitchen part of the room. He watches John from the corner of his eye whilst warming up the brandy; John would never forgive him if he gave him cold brandy. Gregg remembers the night that had happened in a restaurant and the way John had torn into the maître d.

He's not sure how he feels about John's comment from earlier. There has, for some years, been an underlying tension between them but neither of them has felt the need to act on it. That John has done this now is curious and Greggs not sure what to do about it, if anything.

Their friendship and working relationship is too important to fuck up for something that's just a one off and Gregg is no longer constrained by the physical urges of his younger days. He sighs quietly. He knows what John Torode is like though, knows that this will eat at John for days.

The brandy is warm enough now and he picks the glasses up, heading back and sitting down next to John on the sofa. John throws him a slightly startled glance and Gregg salutes him with the glass before taking a sip, closing his eyes as he lets the flavour and heat of the brandy explode on his tongue. John is still staring when he opens his eyes again.

Gregg stretches his legs out in front of him. "So..?" he asks.

John sighs, shifting a little. He’s surprised by Gregg sitting next to him instead of in the armchair opposite, when really, he shouldn’t be. It's not like they've never sat like this before, they have and it's not a big deal as such, but right now John would've preferred a bit more distance.

He could also pretend not to know what Gregg is getting at but that would only delay the inevitable. Gregg would only drag it out of him eventually and it would probably end up being even more embarrassing than it's bound to be now.

"So," John repeats and then plays for time by twirling the brandy in the glass and taking a slow measured sip. It's excellent, of course it is, but that only serves to highlight how well Gregg knows his likes and dislikes, and how willing he is to indulge them. John is leaning forward, elbows resting on his knees, the tumbler grasped between both hands. He knows his body language is probably screaming defensiveness but he can't help it right now.

"So," he continues, casting Gregg a quick glance before looking down again. "I owe you an apology. I was... off balance today and somehow that turned into me messing with the equilibrium between us. I'm sorry." It is a good balance, a good relationship the two of them have and John doesn't want to do anything to risk it.

Gregg automatically puts his hand out to reassuringly rub John's shoulder and then stops, pulling it back.  It's obvious what he's done but he can't help himself. He's always been very physical with John, pushing and nudging, slapping him on the back; something that John hasn't had a problem with but it almost feels like the wrong thing to do right now.

"There's nothing really to apologise for John," he tells him. "I've already told you that. It's just... Why now? I get that you were off balance but you've been off balance before. And you've never done this.  Never joked about things like this."

It's a good question. Too bad John doesn't have a good answer. "I don't know," he says honestly, shrugging a little. "I don't... I'm just..." He sighs and puts the glass onto the table, rubbing his face in frustration with both hands. "It's cold, it's always cold here but it seems worse this year... It's not just the weather either. It's the food, the competition... I feel worse this year, everything does, except..."

John makes himself turn his head around and look Gregg in the eye, it would be cowardly to do anything else. "Except you." It's true what he's saying, even though it's not really a proper reason. It's the best explanation that he can offer though.

There's something he can clarify though: "So I don't know why now, but I do know that I wasn't joking. I wouldn't joke about this, about us."

Oh. Gregg leans back in his seat, a little surprised at John's comment, that he's said it. Pleased though. He hadn't realised that John had been feeling so bad about things. Supposed it was to be expected really on the back of his marriage breakup, although it has been a while now since that actually happened. And Gregg had tried to give him as much support as he could at the time, as much as John had given him.  John is hunched up and this time Gregg doesn't stop himself from reaching out, rubs his hand over John's shoulder.  John's shoulders are tight and Gregg wonders when he actually last really relaxed.

"You feel like you need a massage," he tells him.  "Seriously though John, why didn't you tell me that things were so bad. That you were feeling so crappy?"

John leans into the touch this time instead of flinching away, relieved beyond words that Gregg is still reaching out to him. It feels good and John groans a little, his head falling forward. "I didn't not tell you out of design or anything, just..." He'd shrug, except he doesn't want to dislodge Gregg's hand. "You've got enough things to deal with yourself. I didn't want to add to it."

"Idiot," Gregg tells him. "Honestly John. This is me. How long have we known each other?" He moves his hand and starts to knead the back of John's neck in earnest.  John groans a little and sags under his touch.

"Turn slightly," Gregg tells him, waiting until John is sitting sideways on the sofa, giving better access to his back.  Gregg takes a breath and then places his hands on John's shoulders before pressing his fingers in.

"Long time," John concedes. "But that's kind of the prob--" Then Gregg hits a particularly sore spot under his shoulder blades and John forgets about finishing his point in favour of groaning "Fuck, that's good," instead. And after that... well, after that all ability to form coherent sentences flies away for a while as Gregg's clever fingers systematically work to liquefy his back muscles one by one.

John is becoming more like putty under Gregg's hands and the noises he's making are going straight to Gregg's cock.  He shifts a little so that John can't feel what's happening and digs his thumbs harder into John's shoulders.  John swears softly and Gregg changes the pressure, instead starting to skim his fingers and nails lightly over John's neck.

He shouldn't, he knows he really shouldn't, but he can't stop himself from doing it. Can't stop himself from touching John.

The touch changes and instead of the pleasure-pain of a massage Gregg's fingers are evoking nothing but pleasure now, making John shiver and hiss. It feels really good, surreal too, like John can't believe that this is actually happening, but... it seems that Gregg, far from being upset over John's slip up earlier, has instead taken it as some sort of invitation. And John has no defences against that, not right now.

Gregg's hands stroke over his back and neck, down his arms and then back again, circling all the way around to skim over the open vee of John's shirt collar and the bare skin of his throat underneath. John gasps at the touch, his own hand flying up to still Gregg's without a conscious decision to do so. "Stop," he says, whispers really, voice unexpectedly rough. "Gregg... what...?"

John touching him brings Gregg back to himself and he realises just what it is that he's doing. He'd gotten caught up in the feel of John, being able to run his hands over him, to touch him.  "Sorry," he says pulling his hands away from John.  "I... I shouldn't have done that." He twists away from John and picks up his brandy glass, trying to find something to do with his hands rather than reach out again.

John turns around, following Gregg like his personal homing beacon. "No, that's not... Gregg." He reaches out, slides his hand over Gregg's shoulder and the back of his neck, mirroring his touch from just a moment's ago.

"That's not what I meant. I was just surprised, I didn't expect..." He watches his fingers skim the collar of Gregg's shirt and then the skin underneath, and it's almost like they're doing it on their own accord, like John isn't really in control of his own limbs. "What... are we...?"

Gregg shivers at the feel and his grip tightens on the brandy glass. "I don't know," he gasps. "I just... Fuck, John, what are we doing?"

This time John knows the answer, at least he thinks he does. "Messing with the equilibrium," he says and slides his hand up Gregg's arm and shoulder. "Changing the status quo," he says and the words roll off his tongue, slow and clumsy. He can see the way Gregg's eyes widen when John curls his fingers, cupping the back of his neck. "Unbalancing the balance..." It feels like he's free falling, his gaze dropping to Gregg's mouth involuntarily, revealing the final, truest answer he can give to the question asked.

Gregg sucks in a breath at the feel of John's fingers, the look in his eyes. A part of him thinks he should stop things now, should have stopped them even before the shoulder massage. But he can't.

Won't.

"Just so," he murmurs, leaning forward and brushing his lips against John’s.

For a heartbeat John is stock still but then he responds, hand tightening on the back of Gregg's neck pulling him in. Gregg makes an involuntary sound, mouth opening up under John's, hand reaching out and tightening on John’s hip.

The kiss starts almost chaste but they're both too hungry for this, for it to stay that way. John groans at the feel of Gregg's fingers digging in, his hips shifting restlessly on the sofa while his tongue slides over Gregg's. God, it shouldn't be this hot to kiss his best friend but somehow... Somehow the familiarity between them just magnifies everything. Every sigh and touch and sound in this context is new and John catalogues them all greedily, half exhilarated and half terrified he won't get another chance.

There's no give with John and Gregg likes that. Likes that he could physically push back against John and John would just take it. Gregg could stay here all night, but eventually he slows the kiss and brings his hand up and rests it against John's chest.  It takes John a minute but then he pulls back as well. His eyes are dark and they track the way Gregg licks his lips, chasing the taste.

John stops himself from following the invitation of Gregg's mouth, assuming that it is most likely involuntary, though tempting. He finds Gregg's hand and grabs hold of it, his head slumping forward to rest against Gregg's shoulder. They're both breathing hard and John takes solace in that.

It takes him a couple of attempts before he can form words. "That was... Tell me we didn't just fuck up."

Gregg brings his other hand up until he's clasping the back of John’s neck, fingers curling into his hair. "No, we..." His voice is rough, words hard to shape, to release. Everything is just focused on John right now. "We didn't fuck up. We can't let it. This, us, our friendship is too important. I..." His voice drops a little. "I don't want us to lose each other over this, John."

John nods, taking a deep breath. They've already crossed the line but he needs to know if this was a temporary detour or...

"No, I don't want that either," he says, lifting his head. "But I do want to... to do this again." He risks brushing quick fingers over Gregg's lips before putting more distance between them. "Can we...?" He huffs in laughter, putting his hopes in words Gregg is bound to understand: "Do you think we can have our cake and eat it too?"

Gregg tilts his head a little and looks at John through narrowed eyes. There's still time to move back from this and to relegate it to a 'one-off', 'a might have been,' but he realises that he doesn't want that. Would like to see where this takes them. And even though John is laughing, Gregg knows him well enough to see that he's nervous. That this is as important to him as it is to Gregg.

"Well, you know me John. I've never been one to refuse cake of any sort, and even though it’s not normally your thing perhaps you can make a change. Just for this. After all," he grins at him, waggling his eyebrows to lighten the mood, "you did say I needed to earn my creamy pudding, didn't you?"

John slumps in relief, the tension of the evening melting into delicious sense of anticipation and new possibilities. "Oh, I think the change has already happened, long ago," he says, smiling wryly.

The creamy pudding comment though makes him want to face-palm. "I still can't believe I said that..." John shakes his head a little but flirtatious Gregg is impossible to resist, "...but if you're interested I'm sure I can come up with a few things to tempt you into all sorts." He grins, rising to his feet. "But perhaps another night."

Gregg laughs out loud, John is a little pink and he kind of wants to see what would really make him blush.  "Honestly..." he shakes his head.  "I can't really believe that you said that either. But yeah, I'd like to see what you could come up to tempt me with, although..." he looks John up and down slowly, "I'd say you're pretty tempting on your own.  But yes on another night.  I do like to take my time over things. Sometimes"

Well now, there are all kinds of things John would like to take his time over certainly, but he lets the comments pass with only a nod, holding Gregg's gaze in his. This is not something to be hurried and John is pleased that in this Gregg appears willing to exercise some patience.

"I'll bid goodbye then. And good night," John says, reaching to squeeze Gregg's shoulder briefly before grabbing his jacket and heading toward the door. "See you soon."

Gregg pushes up from the sofa and follows John out to the corridor. He feels a bit like a teenager, but John's 'see you soon' seemed a little too casual.  "John, we're not filming again until next week. Do you want to meet up before then?"

John's isn't surprised by the suggestion but he is by the slight anxious undertone in Gregg's voice. He turns around to find him hovering in the hallway entrance. "Yes," John says, smiling. "That would probably be the best actually." He thinks for a moment and then the perfect solution comes to him. "Why don't you come to mine one night? I believe I promised you cake. After a proper meal of course."

"You're going to make me cake?" Gregg presses his hand to his chest. "This from the man who doesn't do desserts. Be still my beating heart. I'm not sure I can cope with the excitement of it all."  But even though he's joking he feels more relaxed at John's suggestion, relieved too.

"That would be good," he answers. "I haven't seen your new flat yet and I'm never going to turn down a meal cooked by you.  So maybe Saturday night, unless you've already got something on?"

John grins and lifts his eyebrows. "I believe I have a date," he says. "With you." It's cheesy as hell but it makes Gregg laugh which is the main thing. John raises a hand in a goodbye before opening the door and walking out... while he still can.

Gregg closes the door behind John and then leans his forehead against it; eyes closed and breath releasing slowly.

"Fuck," he mutters. "Just fuck." He still can't really believe what's happened tonight, what now looks as though will happen later in the week.  He has a date.  With John Torode!  He's not unhappy about it, the opposite in fact. Gregg grins and pushes himself away from the door.  There's still brandy to finish.




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