Martin's face is soft, his eyes warm. Embarrassment evident in the hunch of his shoulders, and the dip of his head. He’s smiling, softly, eyes peering up from under his brow.
Jon stares and then, thinking perhaps Martin has forgotten why he had hastily dragged him into the nearest storage closet, prompts, “What's this about Martin?”
Martin almost flinches, a soft shiver or a reactive twitch, “Uh, well, I just- I wanted to say...that I'm in love with you?”
It comes out a question.
Jon's first thought is, rather eloquently ‘Oh fuck.’
His second thought, is that the storage closet had gotten rather a lot colder.
“That's nice.” He squeaks. Then his brain catches up with his mouth and he feels a little...or a lot like dying.
“Uh, is it?” Martin asks, some of the embarrassment giving way to confusion.
Jon eakes out a noise that could be called an affirmation, were the listener being particularly generous. Martin watches him, apprehension making form and frost on his face again. The sudden settling understanding of the situation beginning to dawn on both them.
There are layers to the situation, Jon knows. His understanding suggests people don't make confessions of any sort of romantic inclination if they expect to be rejected. He thinks, in a way, it's cruel, to place that expectation of return on someone. He knows logically Humans are a pack species, they flock to connections and to romance, and he certainly can't blame Martin for feeling that way about him, and, probably, Jon's not- he's not right. He's broken, he thinks, he lacks some intrinsic drive, some need to make that connection. Not for lack of trying, but, it's just not there.
Jon knows he can't reciprocate. He's supposed to, he thinks. That's- they have the setup, they've reached the climax, the expected outcome is his espousing or returned feelings, but there's nothing there.
He needs to- he should say something. Probably. That's likely the intended reaction. That's- he should say something.
“Uh, Jon?” Martin prompts.
“Sorry?” Jon replies, automatic and disparate to his whirling thoughts. Somehow his turmoil makes no appearance in his voice.
“I- what are your thoughts...on that?”
“On ...you being in love with me?” It's harsher, more incredulous then he intends. He's uncertain. Three steps to the left of himself and thrown for a loop. He can't quite work out how to respond. It's like being held underwater and told you'll be judged for your ability to sprint. None of the actions he can take feel correct. Feel applicable.
“Yeah. I- Do you feel the same?” Martin's asks, eyes wide, any fear is written well beneath the incredulity and embarrassment of the situation.
Jon stares. He's not sure what to do, how to act. His disdain of Martin was fairly obvious when they began working together, and now things have changed as they have, he's, not sure why Martin would love him. When did that start? He wonders. How long has Martin known? Is it a recent thing? He doesn't think Martin's behaviour has changed noticeably. Was it love at first sight? Oh god, is that actually a thing?
“Jon?” Martin prompts again.
Jon blinks, takes a breath. Settles into himself a little more, “I- No. I don't feel the same way Martin.”
There is devastation on Martin's face, he takes a quiet breath, an intake of air like a reaction to a wound, “Oh.”
Shame collapses against Jon's innards and the space is all too claustrophobic, “I'm sorry.”
It's an offer, and a sort of repentance.
“Uh no it's- I should've expected that, really- you're not- I'm not-” Martin starts, stammering out justifications and limitations. Ways to fade out the rising shame and disappointment.
Jon should do something to help, he knows. Say something reassuring.
“This isn't about you.”
That's not reassuring.
Martin's stammering fades out as he reacts to the unintentional anger. Shrinking in on himself.
Jon pinches the bridge of his nose, sighs, “That's...not what I meant. I-It's not your fault-” he considers his words carefully, more cautious of enunciation and elaboration then he'd usually bother with, but even he can tell this is a delicate problem, and it's his fault, he's the one in the wrong. The one who is wrong, “-It's- I don't feel that way about people. Ever. I- I've dated, in the past but, the expected romance never developed. I- Georgie could tell I didn't reciprocate as I'd said I had, and we broke it off. So, it's not- it's not your fault. I'm just-”
“Asexual?” Martin says, something else in his expression.
Jon stumbles, tongue tripping on the midst of his apology/explanation/self-rumination.
“You're asexual? I didn't realise, uh, well, that- that does actually make me feel a little better.” Martin laughs, it's not as sincere as he tries to make it out to be, “I genuinely didn't have a chance.”
Jon narrows his eyes. He's not certain if he's just been insulted, or what conclusion Martin has come to, precisely. He's not sure when they started talking about bacteria.
“I don't- I don't follow.” He admits.
Martin's smile, thin and breakable as it is, falters a little, “You're saying you don't do relationships, and- and you know, sex stuff, I'd assume. That's asexuality, and aromanticism. You don't experience certain attractions.”
“...I don't believe aromanticism is a word?” Jon interjects, a little lost.
It is Martin's turn to blink in confusion. The steam trailing out of the lead up to his excited rambling.
“Wait,” he says, “You haven't heard about this?”
Jon shakes his head, “I've heard of asexual reproduction.”
“This isn't that.”
“...I worked that one out, actually.”
Martin looks down, shuffles his feet, “This is maybe not a conversation to have in a storage closet.”
“There might be some irony in it.” Jon offers, pretty sure his statement is halfway adjacent to a joke and determined to try and nail it.
Martin sends him a quirk of the lips and an expression touched just barely with amusement.
They slip out of the storage closet, Jon pondering, and Martin noticeably quiet. The kind of quiet that puts a weight into the air.
“We could- should go for drinks sometime.” He says, then realising the implication there, he backtracks, flustered, “Uh, not as a date, just to maybe talk about some stuff. This. If you want to? I- I know a bit, though, obviously, not- I can't talk to the particulars of the aro-ace experience, but, I might still be able to help, and- and I'd like to help. So, yeah, not- not as a date.”
Jon considers. There's slang, apparently, so, looking into this, finding words for what- who he is, might be a whole manner of an endeavour, and one it might be nice to have some assistance in. He nods once, decisively, “I'd appreciate that.”
Martin's face lights up, and he almost immediately trips into a rambling discussion on the various coffee shops nearby, and though Jon does, admittedly, have work he should get to, he doesn't stop him, just listens. Elias can deal with one day of subpar performance, he's sure.