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“No, no, no, no, no,” Martin is mumbling into his hands, “no no no no no,” into Jon’s shoulder, “you’re going to ruin everything,” refusing to look at Jon, but he is only barely struggling, not putting any sort of strength into it, so Jon hugs him tighter. Jon has always been selfish and it never stopped Martin liking him before; he has done so much worse than this, and none of it could stop Martin liking him.

“Jon, please, I have to do this,” Martin mutters, “it’s hard enough without —,” and there’s a strange sensation and for a heartbeat Jon thinks he flickers off — out —, before understanding that no, that’s not it: Martin is simply trembling. Jon can see it, and also feel it; Martin’s shoulders are there, physical, Jon can feel their movement, their warmth, the sharp angles of Martin’s bones, trace them with his eyes and hands.

When Martin says: “I missed you,” it is a sob. The sob is loud but the sentence is quiet, muffled, buried in Jon’s neck, defeated, as if ashamed, and Jon whispers back apologies into his hair: for going against his plans, for not respecting his decision, not trusting him to succeed, for rendering all his efforts null, making all his pain be for nothing —

but he does not apologise for the victory of holding Martin, could not say he feels bad about being able to perceive Martin’s tears soaking his shirt.

Chapter Text

It’s just better to be around people, for now. Grounding. Recalibrating.

Jon is a good choice, because although her mind and body remember that he has hurt her, Daisy, the real Daisy, the person Daisy is under the Hunt, knows that he won’t. Like, aside from considerations on whether he’d even be able to, physically. It’s a good way to tell apart what is Daisy and what is the Hunt: ignore the parts that bristle and weep and scream at his presence, keep the parts that feel warm at his awkwardness. It’s constant practice, relearning to be a person and stop thinking of people in terms of threat or prey.

She can still see: when he’s focusing too much, he stops blinking at all, and his eyes go far away, to some place that has nothing to do with human daydream. He keeps his voice in check and words his questions carefully and she hasn’t heard the hard, teeth-pulling reverb yet, but the eyes bit he hasn’t figured out yet.

He is a monster, Daisy can see that even without smelling it, even without picking up the stench of his blood. But he holds her hand when she needs to sleep and he lets her stay in his office when the thought of physical therapy makes her want to vomit, and he’s able to be in the room with her and forget she’s there, and when he does so he mumbles like a grumpy old man.

“Ah yes, groundbreaking,” he scoffs at his own notes, and when Daisy chortles from the corner of his office, he looks up and does blink, owlishly. Then he smiles. “Oh, stop with the ribbing, Daisy,” his tone entirely stern and his grin eating his face in smug, teenaged mischief, his eyes twinkling and maybe it doesn’t matter that much how much of it, how much of him, how much of them, is human and how much is monster, and Daisy just lets herself laugh like a little girl.

Chapter Text

Georgie emerges drowsily to gentle shaking, and a deep but soft voice whispering: “Your show is on in five minutes.”

She mumbles, twists around, slowly takes stock of her bearings: there’s a fleece throw laid out over her. A steaming mug on the coffee table, next to the radio and a box of tissues (harsh week, okay), aligned in incongruous parallelism.

“Biscuits?” he asks, and she yawns, “Nah, thanks,” reaches for the mug. It’s her favourite Assam. She can see the two sugar cubes at the bottom, slowly dissolving and crumbling.

She’s so sleepy, and it’s all so soft, so warm, so normal and lovely to have him around, that it’s only when Jon curls up with the Admiral in the armchair, instead of joining her on the couch, that she even remembers that they’re not a Thing™ anymore.

She can’t remember why.

(Then he opens his mouth and says “Seriously, though, especially as a professional podcaster yourself — The Archers, really?” and ah, right, that was it.)

Chapter Text

Martin is fussing, again. It would be tolerable — it had been tolerable for months — if it didn’t happen nearly every fucking day lately, and if Jon didn’t slam his door to Martin’s nose and hopeful teacup.

“Ah,” Martin mumbles to the office door. “Sorry.”

Tim’s had enough.

“Oh for God’s sake,” he groans, “if he’s not listening to you, he’s not worth your time.” Which is where he would normally stop, but Jon has been driving him insane in the other, sensible-person-with-non-shitty-tastes way and he might be a little wound up on top of genuinely pissed on Martin’s account, so he hears himself mutter on, incensed: “You’re too good for him, Martin, I’ll take you out and show you a good time, just forget about that dick, God.”

Across from him, one of Sasha’s eyebrow shoots up and she stares at him over her computer monitor and the rim of her glasses. Tim squints back at her, fuming.

The beat before Martin turns around is just a little too long, he notices; Martin is looking at his rejected cup, then he looks up, fawn in headlights, blinking, entirely distracted. “Hmm? Sorry, Tim, I didn’t hear — you were saying?”

Tim opens his mouth, then considers his own words. Sasha says nothing, but her other eyebrow comes up, eloquent.

“Nothing, I guess,” Tim sighs, and goes back to his book on the history of commedia dell’arte and does not look at Martin’s adorable confused little moue.

“Hmmmmmmmmm,” Sasha concludes wisely.

Chapter Text

It’s the last night of Timothy Stoker’s life, if he can get it right, and it’s a crying shame, honestly, that he’s not spending it out in the city, laughing and dancing and kissing beautiful people, but that hasn’t been part of his character for months. He’s rightly paranoid of literally everyone else in the world, now, and he needs to be as sound of mind as he can tomorrow; so instead, he’s spending it squeezed into a double bed with a confirmed monster — but at least a monster he knows.

“Tim?” Jonathan Sims, The Fucking Archivist, whispers in his back.

Tim agreed to sharing the room with him. Not to small talk, nor to free therapy. He doesn’t move, and Jon exhales slowly. The digital clock blinks to thirteen minutes past midnight. Tim closes his eyes again, not expecting to fall asleep, but just in case.

“Tim,” Jon says again, quieter for some reason, and it isn’t a inquiring tone now. No point to it at all. Jon’s just saying his name in the dark, like it’s going to do anything.

Even quieter, Jon whispers: “I’m sorry.”

Tim considers rolling over and punching him in the throat. They will probably need him tomorrow, though.

“For, well — everything.” Tim refrains from snorting, but Jon, himself, doesn’t. There’s a pause, long enough that Tim think he’s done, thank God — but no, he suddenly exhales long and shuddering, and then he says: “I’m so sorry about Sasha,” and Tim’s ears start whistling. “Sasha,” he repeats, and there’s another pause with a very small sound Tim can only hear because they’re so close, like he’s swallowing, “I’m sorry.”

Tim hates him hates him hates him

“I hope” Tim hates him “we all make it” Tim hates him “please don’t die, Tim” Tim hates him “I don’t” his breath hitches and there’s a whimper, like he’s crying, as if he were capable of crying “I don’t want to die —”

God shut up,” Tim seethes, springing up as if on hot coals and rolling on him, barely seeing, barely seeing anything but Jon’s face, Jon’s wide eyes, Jon’s gaping mouth. Jon lets out another blubber, like he’s shocked, like he’s surprised Tim’s awake, as if he didn’t know Tim was awake, as if he's not a fully omniscient monster. “Shut up,” Tim hisses, near blind with fury, “stop sounding human.”

Jon inhales, sharp, maybe because of that, maybe because of Tim’s shifting and his knees digging into Jon’s flanks. “Tim, I —” he starts, and Tim absolutely can not hear whatever it is he wants to say, so he grabs Jon’s face and kisses him hard, and tells himself that the softness of Jon’s gasp under his mouth, the shaking of Jon’s hands, the gentleness of Jon’s fingers in his hair — none of that is a proof of humanity.

Chapter Text

It’s late, or early, or who knows; Jon’s wristwatch was smashed in the kidnapping and he hasn’t come out of his windowless office in hours. He is tired, but that doesn’t have much significance, nor any direct relation to the time of day. It’s outside office hours, though, probably, and he has been pouring over his haphazard notes on the last months of Gertrude Robinson’s life for much too long regardless, but he can’t seem to let it rest.

He knows it was murder; he knows the culprit, the location, the weapon — and still it tugs at him. There’s something in the story that doesn’t match, Jon knows. He can’t seem to put his finger on it, but it itches at the back of his brain like a physical discomfort. There is something wrong in the tale of Gertrude Robinson’s life and death, some piece he’s missing in order to understand and he needs it, he needs to, he needs to know.

It is a rather absurd situation, that he could simply go to Elias and ask, but he knows it wouldn’t likely lead to anything — if Elias has lied or concealed, he will simply do so again — and moreover, Jon pettily doesn’t want to.

So instead, he sighs, and he dives in, eyes open.

 

There isn’t a thread to pull or a path to follow; it’s nothing so visual or tangible. Jon just
wonders

Jon questions
Jon thinks
Jon pursues

he pushes

and then he has found it, he sees, he

knows

He knows, entirely, intimately, his corporal vessel thrumming with the effort to contain it, his blood rushing with the certainty of it, his skin singing, he knows, he sees, he is

he is the Watcher, he is the murderer, he is the murdered, he is the murder, he is the Archivist, he is all the Archivists that have ever been and he will be all the Archivists that will ever be, he is the Eye’s eyes

it shines
it burns
it bursts

 

— he is torn out, it is torn out of him, slips away out of his brain out of his grasp out of his sight

he is

pulled

back


“Naughty,” a voice says, sharp, hot.

He comes to bit by bit, awareness trickling in slowly: he is alive. He is breathing. He has a body. He is in his office, in the Archives, in his Archives. His eyes are open; he doesn’t remember how to close them. There is something touching his face — he has his face — there is a mouth — there is someone — there is Elias. Elias has spoken; he is not speaking now.

Eventually, he pieces all the evidence together to reach the conclusion that Elias is kissing him. When he does, he needs a moment to find his hands, remember how to pull them up, to push Elias away; he does not remember yet how to gather the strength to put force into it. But Elias relents docilely, pulling apart, and he focuses on the shape of Elias’s mouth for a few seconds. A smile; fond, awed perhaps. Something is still on his face; it is a hand, Elias’s hand. It is warm and its thumb rubs the skin under his right eye, tracing the mass of his eyeball.

“But you look incredible when you do that,” Elias whispers, breathless, quietly elated, worshipping. “It brings out your eyes.”

Chapter Text

“Uhm, I’m actually no good at dancing,” Jon says, blinking. On his other side, Tim snickers, comments into his drink something about that not being, in fact, a surprise, which they all ignore.

“Oh, that’s quite all right,” Martin replies without missing a beat, “I am,” and Jon is so blindsided by this display of complete unselfconscious confidence from Martin Blackwood that he doesn’t recover in time to protest Martin tugging him along behind him. 

He forgets perhaps too often that Martin, meek, nervous Martin who hates conflict, can also be quite authoritative, stubborn as an entire barren of mules, and a veritable steamroller of understated enthusiasm. Martin doesn’t pull him nor does he force him, yet he still somehow strings Jon along all the way to the dance floor with only a, “Oh, it’ll be fun!”

“I do not think so,” Jon points out. He tries to tone down the biting edge; he is unsure whether he succeeds, but either way, Martin seems unaffected.

“I promise I’ll let you go if you tell me it’s really so terrible,” Martin obliges with an indulgent smile, and Jon doesn’t think he intended to manipulate Jon into a position where his only exit would be childish exaggeration, but that’s still the end result. “Okay, we can waltz to this, you should manage that. Hand higher!”

“Am I the woman here?” Jon ironises as Martin rearranges their position.

“Hm? No, we’re both men, aren’t we? But any lower is so inappropriate, sir,” Martin says, with such a straight face Jon isn’t quite sure he’s joking at first. Martin in his element is a strange thing, stranger than the fact that his element is apparently ballroom dancing at work holiday parties.

“Oh, my apologies,” Jon quips back cautiously. “I would not wish to cause a scandal, sir.”

Martin’s face cracks into a giddy grin and he squeezes their fingers. “Okay, just follow my lead. You’re going backwards! One, two-three —”

 And off they go.

Jon has an existential crisis and questions his entire worldview about once a week at least, at this point. It’s still quite the whiplash to find himself confidently led by his assistant teetering around a room to a tune by, according to Tim’s delighted hollering, Taylor Swift. Not that he can even blame that for his stumbling and stepping on Martin’s foot barely a few steps in.

He doesn’t think he owes any apologies, considering he did warn accordingly, but this seems like the sort of situation that warrants at least a comment, so he mutters over the cheery music: “In case I was too euphemistic: I am quite bad at dancing.”

“Yeah, you really are,” Martin replies, candidly, grinning, and just barely sweeping his foot from under Jon’s before he stomps on it. “But that’s fine, I can work with that, don’t worry. Plus it’s only about having fun!”

“Well, I —”

“Spin!”

Martin has straightened out of his usual stooping, and his full height, usually awkward, is ideal for spinning grown people under his arm. Jon almost trips himself over his own foot, but somehow doesn’t, and Martin keeps him from running into someone else — huh, Tim joined in, grabbed a very pink and laughing Rosie — and whirls him back to him smoothly.

“See?”

“Well,” Jon catches his breath, notices the surprise and the speed and the twirling got him smiling instinctively, “it’s all right.”

“How’s your back?”

“Pardon?”

“Will your back get stuck or hurt if I dip you?”

“Wha— uhm, I don’t think so —”

“Cool!”

And Martin sinks down — “Extend your free leg! I’ve got you” — and Jon is already halfway to the floor, staring at the ceiling over Martin’s shoulder, Martin’s hand firm on his back, and Jon doesn’t even have the time to mentally question whether he can trust Martin with that before he gets the clear answer.

Martin is grinning, not smug or even proud, just pure joy, and Jon doesn’t quite get the satisfaction of it, but the thrill of the movements and the absurd lightheartedness of it, yes, that’s easy enough.

Martin hoists him back up easy and fluid, though it’s still a disconcerting lurch and Jon grabs on to him to prevent getting launched into another spin. He goes along with the next one, though. Martin leads him skilfully into the steps and across the dance-floor, with subtle, barely-there pushes and tugs, the lightest of presses of his hand on Jon’s waist, the inclination of their torso, as though he were a master puppeteer getting the two of them through a carefully designed ensemble choreography and not just intuitively hurtling them into the flow of the messy crowd of dancing bodies. It is nearly hypnotising, once Jon manages to tune into it and let himself go; once he stops second-guessing every move he finds himself understanding and following Martin’s lead thoughtlessly, gliding, spinning. Martin is laughing, and he exclaims somewhere near Jon’s ear, “You got it!”, and all Jon can answer is “No?” because he really hasn’t, it’s just Martin making him go, but Martin only laughs again and for once Jon doesn’t mind not being understood.

Whoever has got their hands on the playlist abruptly cuts to a similarly poppy but much faster song and they falter to a halting stop. Martin takes a step back, face scrunching up in thought. “Hm, that’s going to be harder, can’t waltz to that.”

“What a loss,” Jon comments dryly, catching his breath.

Martin smiles, first beaming, then dimming a little, second-guessing. His shoulders lower and he loosens his hold on Jon’s hand and waist, the clutch suddenly newly awkward. These are the only points of contact between them now. “Sorry. Thank you? That wasn’t… too bad, was it?” 

Jon ponders; slowly lays his hand back on Martin's shoulder. “It was all right. Still, I think I’d prefer to keep with this anyway, rather than trying something faster. I don’t think I’m cut out for tango.”

Martin bursts out an absolutely inelegant chortle at the same time as he gracefully steps back into a proper embrace. The distance disappears again, easy, unremarked on. “No, you really aren’t. A waltz to the Spice Girls it is, then!”

A few yards away, Tim is definitely attempting a tango with a Rosie in stitches, so Jon wouldn’t need to worry about looking any more ridiculous than anyone else even if Martin weren’t ensuring that they do rather well, objectively speaking.

Chapter Text

Elias Bouchard has, of course, never met Peter Lukas. Prior to this — if you ask anyone else, rather unexpected — promotion, the little mister Bouchard was nowhere near the kind of Institute asset that would meet with sponsors. He needs to remember that. James Wright wasn’t the longest-lived of his hosts but it has nonetheless been over twenty years since his last relocation, and he hasn’t had to feign ignorance again in a while. He needs to keep in check the easy familiarity that comes with seeing Peter’s face.

He rises from his desk, allows a smile to make its way onto his mouth but forcibly grinds it down from wickedly flirtatious to distantly polite. Not that Peter looks at his face, anyway; he shakes the offered hand with a distracted nod and the usual avoidance of eye contact.

“Pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. Lukas. My name is —”

“James?”

That throws him off enough to make him blink.

Peter is also blinking, having, exceptionally, for some reason, looked up and taken to staring at his face, though the only expression readable on his own is one of polite curiosity.

“Or, perhaps not James either, then?” he says. 

Jonah reclines back into his seat. At least he doesn’t need to conceal how habituated he is to his own furniture. “… You noticed?”

“Of course.” Peter leans an elbow on Jonah’s desk to rest his cheek in his hand, and smiles, and it might be as cold as everything that has ever come from that family has ever been, but it is… luminous. It lights up his soft face and pale gaze with something that looks incredibly convincingly like affection. “You’ve kept the eyes.”

“Unfortunately,” he concedes. “I’m afraid the methods available to me aren’t quite as easy or elegant as some of the others floating around.”

“Oh, don’t be like that,” Peter chides, easily, the same way he started doing to James Wright within five minutes of their actual first meeting despite the age difference he was aware of. “I’m glad. They’re very nice ones.”

Jonah laughs. Elias Bouchard’s throat has quite a nice voice and a deep, rumbling laughter. Peter’s eyes twinkle at it.

“I think you are going to have to try a little bit harder than the beautiful eyes line,” Jonah says, and thinks it over and deliberately allows himself to add: “my dear.”

Peter’s grin widens and he puts the other elbow on the desk, leans in a little more into Jonah’s space. “So I get to court you from scratch all over again? My, Elias, but you spoil me.”

Chapter Text

“Oh, that’s inventive.”

Gertrude startles. Her first impulse is to reach for the gun and book in her purse; her second impulse is to conceal that fact and paste a sweet oblivious senile smile on her face; eventually she just groans quietly at herself, because the man has clearly seen her trap a levitating woman-shaped monster inside a palm-sized box anyway.

“What’s that thing? Old Jurgen making toys now?” the man asks, sauntering over in a couple quick, wide strides. He is very thin but very tall, probably enough to physically overpower her if he wished to, and he has a very sharp sort of energy to him; too precise to call it frantic or frenzied, but still too intensely curious for Gertrude to be even slightly comfortable with.

She shoves the box into her purse and takes a step back. “Excuse me, a lady has her secrets,” she snaps.

He squints at her. She glares back. He frowns. “Oh, you’re not one of those Eye types, are you?”

“Excuse me.”

“Sorry, I meant to say great job you did here. Very clean.”

“Yes, I know,” she mutters, looking around for a way out that doesn’t involve showing him any more supernatural tricks.

He thrusts out a large, slim hand to her, nearly level with her face because he is so much taller than her. “Adelard Dekker,” he says. “Exorcist. Of sorts.”

She cranes her neck to stare at him. He waits, patiently, hand open.

She could do with an ally, she supposes. It’s been a… lonely couple decades. Urgh.

“Gertrude Robinson. I work at the Magnus Institute,” she admits.

His grip is firm and strong, reassuring, though carefully calculated to not be painful on her own frail hand.

Warm, as well, which is a slight surprise, for some reason.

“Excellent. Charmed. So, Gertie, that’s a really interesting —”

Absolutely not, Mr. Dekker.”

“Oh.” He grins, bright white teeth in his dark face. “‘Gertrude’, then?”

She glares at him again; clutches the strap of her heavily loaded purse, in thought, but eventually relents: “‘Gertrude’… may do.”

 “Got it.”

Chapter Text

It’s not all that different. More and sharper teeth, which make it a little difficult to fit their mouths together right, but they’re not fussy anyway. That’s about it. The mess, the heat, the rush, the anger, the roughness, the scratching fingernails and even the growl rising like thunder from the depth of Daisy’s throat, that’s nothing new, all of it has been par for the course at some point of the last few — what. Years. Almost a decade. She doesn’t remember the first time she grabbed Daisy by the hair and kissed her over a bloody body, or maybe Daisy slammed her up against a wall after a particularly close call, nor the first time they had oh-God-we’re-alive sex, or shit-that-was-a-good-one sex, though one of these was the first time they had sex at all, she’s pretty sure. Basira has a good memory and sense of chronology in general, but it feels like Daisy’s just… always been there, and you don’t remember firsts when they’re not supposed to be firsts of a series. You don’t know when something starts when it never becomes something, you don’t have an anniversary when you’re not together.

Point is, however long it’s been, or not been, it’s always been like this. When they genuinely thought it was just normal adrenaline rushes, and when they pretended to believe it, and when they stopped pretending. Daisy’s always been this intense and she’s always calmed down, eventually, after a deep kiss, or a good orgasm, or a long night of shuddering in Basira’s lap while Basira treaded her fingers through her short hair over and over and over.

They don’t have that kind of time, and as hot at it sounds in theory Basira’s not sure about letting those teeth between her legs in practice, so she just kisses Daisy, again, again, again, until it sticks, until it eventually sticks, because it has to, it always has, Daisy has always been like this and she’s always calmed down and Basira will love her through it as many times as it takes, God damn it, amor omnia vincit and all that shit, right?

Right?

“Basira,” Daisy grunts, “Basira,” she barks, “Basira,” she snarls against Basira’s lips because Basira’s not going to stop kissing her or loving her just because she’s turning into some beast.

Right?

“Basira,” Daisy hisses under her breath, her mouth deformed, her eyes closed tight, her breathing fast fast fast, “you have to go.”

Fucking useless lying Latin bullshit.

Chapter Text

They kiss at a party, at uni. Georgie is pretty drunk, and Melanie is not quite as much, but she pretends to be, because that’s easier in the morning when everyone is sober again and Georgie cleans up at the bathroom sink for a date with that weird occult nerd. Melanie helps her retouch her dark lipstick, and waits until Georgie is out the door before checking if there’s any of it left on her own lips.

(There isn’t; not a trace of it.)

A couple weeks later and the nerd is actually Georgie’s boyfriend, even though when Melanie will tell her she’s too good for him Georgie will sigh and agree (“but he cooks so well, Melanie!”).

 

They kiss again half a decade later, in the dark of Georgie’s flat. There’s a pack of sangria open on the wobbly coffee table but it’s not the alcohol that makes it happen this time, it’s the tears and terror and anger and Melanie desperately needing someone to hold her and Georgie being willing to. Melanie breathes through her nose and Georgie kisses her until she’s stopped shaking quite so much, and lets Melanie clutch her hands way too hard even after they’ve stopped kissing.

Then she says, very calmly: “I’m not doing this if I’m going to lose you, though.”

Which is — as unfair as anything Melanie has ever been told through her life, unfair unfair unfair how fucking cruel how fucking mean she doesn’t deserve any of this she deserves so much more than this — and then Melanie closes her eyes and breathes again and pummels the anger back down into her rib cage and, no, right, it’s fair, actually, that’s fair.

 

Months later, they’re holding hands in the tube and Melanie says, “What if you weren’t going to lose me?”

They don’t kiss then, though.

They kiss at the hospital. Melanie isn’t thinking about it, to be honest, kind of hard to think much at all from the pain and shock and meds combined. Georgie sits at her bedside in silence for so long that Melanie vaguely assumes she’s gone, until she says, deadly cold calm: “That was not what I was signing up for, you know.”

Melanie tries to understand what she means. But it’s hard to understand even the first, surface-level of her sentence, so she gives up, makes a little mumbling sound, and then Georgie says, “But it’s not losing you, so I can work with it,” and then there’s her mouth on Melanie’s mouth, and then Georgie pats her cheek and she says, “I’ll be back tomorrow,” and then she’s gone.

 

They kiss again, or, like, for real, when Melanie’s a little less out of it from the meds, and again when she’s discharged, and again in the middle of Georgie’s flat, their flat, and again after Melanie’s back from therapy and again after Georgie’s weird occult nerd ex-boyfriend visits and Georgie is so riled up but Melanie isn’t, so she kisses Georgie again, and she will do it again tomorrow, and again later, and again whenever she likes, because she has all the time in the world to decide how to start her life again this time around.

Chapter Text

After everything comes to an end, and the world is saved one more final time for this lifetime or so, and Jonah Magnus is dead and they are not, Jon’s hand scrabbles across the floor to find Martin’s through the rubble, squeezes, and Jon rolls to his side and says: “Martin, are you free tonight?”

Martin bursts out laughing. It’s breathless, slightly coughing, what with all the dust he’s inhaled in the collapse of the Institute building, and slightly high-pitched with nerves and disbelief, more of a shrieking giggle than a movie-worthy warm chuckle. Then again, none of Martin’s life has ever been very movie-worthy.

He catches his breath — Jon squeezes his hand while he waits — and says, “I guess? I didn’t exactly plan much for after the apocalypse,” and giggles again out of sheer reflexive reaction to the absurdity.

Jon nods and pulls himself up, painstakingly. Martin sighs, halfway between content and exhausted.

“I know a good restaurant, if you can handle seafood. Can you handle seafood? I don’t even know if you can handle seafood.“ Jon frowns at himself. The wrinkles of it leave tracks in the dust all over his face. Martin groans at the thought of moving, but makes himself sit up, just enough to reach out with his free arm and brush Jon’s face, with his equally dusty hand. Jon looks at him, blinking rapidly; his glasses broke at some point in the showdown so he’s having visible trouble focusing his sight right.

(Come to think of it, that is probably a good sign. Reassuring.)

"I can handle seafood,” Martin says, fondly, rubbing Jon’s cheek. “I mean, as far as I know. I’ve never had oysters?”

Jon catches the hand on his face, and then does nothing with it, just holds it. Martin strokes his thumb across his cheekbone again, just because he can. “Then perhaps we shouldn’t have you risk trying oysters this time. Maybe on our second date.”

He’s so serious and proper about it, with his dirty and singed hair sticking up, his face black with soot and white with stone dust and the small red cuts that are not closing (reassuring, too, hopeful, fantastic). Martin giggles again and this time it comes out as an ugly snort, and he doesn’t need to care and feel self-conscious about it because Jon’s face doesn’t even twitch.

“We don’t have to go tonight,” he says, and at that Jon blinks hard and then scowls with childish frustration.

“Why not? It’s finally over, we’ve waited long enough to be able to have a proper date, I think,” and he leans in still frowning and kisses Martin with spite, and Martin is giggling and snorting again against his mouth before his brain fully catches up, fully processes, fully grasps what this means, for the two of them, now, all the things they’re going to be able to do, together, now that the world isn’t ending and neither are they.

His giggle turns into a gasp and he squeezes Jon’s hand, clutches Jon’s face, trying not to shake at the enormity of the thought, and as though he’s heard the penny drop in Martin’s head (but he can’t, now, he can’t do that anymore), Jon kisses him again, softer, sweeter, warmer, movie-worthy.

Chapter Text

Tim was ready for this. More than ready, excited. He expected a lot: weird kinks, secret diagnoses, college shenanigans, childhood bullying sob stories, legit supernatural trauma. His uptight boss was bound to have a lot of shameful dark secrets, and Tim would love to know them.

Not on the list of things he ever expected, though:

  1. Jon actually humouring him and willingly imparting some of that dark knowledge;
  2. Jon kissing him, much less out of nowhere and without provocation, not to mention in the middle of the archives where anyone could walk in on them, never mind this deeply (2.a Jonathan Sims, Head Nerd of the Magnus Institute, London, being a good kisser at all);
  3. the fleeting but absolutely unmistakable feeling of a tiny nub of metal in the tongue lapping at his.

Oh my god,” is all Tim’s brain can muster when Jon breaks away, but in his opinion he is absolutely warranted a fucking break in these circumstances.

Jon immediately takes a step back, which is more in line with his character, but then he looks at Tim and honest-to-God licks his lips. “I had a short-lived rebellious phase at uni,” he supplies, and shrugs.

Tim’s throat is dry and he can’t tear his gaze from his weird fucking cryptid of a boss, nor even blink. “Why are you telling me this?” he gasps, still reeling.

Jon looks at him, and leans in again, close. Puts a hand on his shoulder, and squeezes. His warm breath blowing on Tim’s ear, he whispers: “Because no one…”, and he’s fucking dropped his voice even lower and deeper than it usually is and Tim’s heart is tap-dancing wildly in his chest.

A background part of Tim’s brain notes distantly that he’s lucky that the pure shock is currently keeping on the down-low exactly how turned on he is, though that will absolutely be a problem he’ll need to confront later.

“… will ever believe you.”

Jon steps back away, still looking Tim right in the eye, dead serious. It takes Tim a good second to process enough to just drop his jaw.

“… You sick son of a bitch.”

Chapter Text

“Oh, come off it,” Elias Bouchard laughs, and the voice and mouth are different but the pattern of the laughter is familiar, and it crinkles no lines around the eyes of his youthful face but his irises are the same, “if anyone here were allowed to feel vexed it ought to be me. Two weeks dead and you are already kissing the next pretty young thing, ten years together and you don’t recognise me?”

There’s no point in reminding him of who’s been doing the seducing this time again, and it isn’t like Peter minds. All he bothers to mutter is, “You know how very much I dislike eye contact,” and closes his own to kiss him a second (thousandth) time.

Chapter Text

It’s two in the afternoon and the scary butch and her weird silver fox are already back again, without their sensible leash-holder this time, and consequently already drunk off their arses. Bettie weighs the pros and cons of another weeping mess versus the hefty apologetic tip.

“Heeeey,” the woman drawls, slightly cross-eyed and her hand with her nails way too long and way too close to Bettie’s arm, “bring us another round and some bloody, bloody steak, love, yeah?”

“Daisy, down,” the bloke mutters, as if to a mutt, and Bettie half expects her to bite his head off for it but instead it works and she curls up in the corner of the booth with a childish pout, grumpily licking her teeth.

“Sorry, Elzbieta, just another two beers please,” he adds, wiping a stream of tears from his eyes without blinking, even though her tag reads ‘Bettie’ and not even her coworkers know her full name and you know what, she’s seen a lot, but he better leave an ever bigger tip than last time.

Chapter Text

They don’t much, really. Which isn’t a surprise: anyone who has observed him for five minutes knows Jonathan Sims is rather averse to touch, and Martin had been watching him for a very long time.

And that’s fine. The way Jon loves him comes through so many other conduits; a quip, a huff, a quick glance and a reflexive smile, a long silent gaze, an inside joke, a secret, a whisper, a walk out to see the cows, a studious read through a clumsy first draft and harsh but helpful criticism, the last of the chocolate biscuits, lending and borrowing scarves and ill-fitting sweaters, a warm meal, a warm cup of tea, the warmth and weight of his body in the bed close enough to feel without touching, walking over from the kitchen table to sit on the decrepit sofa with Martin instead, without touching but with.

(Which isn’t to say Martin doesn’t also appreciate the rare occasions of physical contact, such as Jon walking into the kitchen in the morning, a barely awake zombie staring into the distance with a frown, hazy-eyed and non-verbal, pressing his face against Martin’s sweater-covered right shoulder blade and breathing there warmly for exactly two seconds, before scuttling off like a temperamental cat to have a shower.)

Chapter Text

It’s not the greatest job, between the hot humid stuffy and badly-lit basement office and the grumpy boss who has no idea what he’s doing but is doing it with a vengeance, but it’s not all bad, either.

Six months in, Martin has been driven out of his own flat by a creepy dead woman and Jon has them come in at seven in the morning to finish up with the details of the Silvana case before Sasha’s appointment at the London Metropolitan Archives about the Reform Club and Tim’s… appointment… at the local police station about the murder, which sucks, except Sasha picked up fresh pastries from the bakery next to her house and Martin, still in the slightly too small pyjamas Tim lent him, makes a pot of energy tea for all of them and they have breakfast all together. Jon looks like he hasn’t slept and has been pretending he doesn’t eat for the past week, but he sits around Sasha’s desk with them and accepts a kitty-print mug and grabs a harrowingly sugar-glazed cinnamon roll when he thinks none of them is looking, and makes the funniest of judging faces and snide quips but doesn’t interrupt while Tim regales them all with the tales of why he has, himself, definitely not slept last night.

So, yes, it could be less stressful and weird and involve less worms, but when it’s nice, it’s really nice. Bit like a little family.

Chapter Text

Martin hasn’t written anything in over a year and it’s hard to shake the cobwebs and rust from his brain and fingers; he’s been trying, little by little, and he’s let Jon have a couple looks, but it’ll be a while yet before he’s happy enough with anything to call a piece finished. He’s not sure he’ll record it. He’ll see about that when the time comes.

So he doesn’t read his own poetry; but there’s a bookstore in the village, next to the baker’s, a dusty old thing of a place with a dusty old thing of an owner and endless piles of crumbling yellowing books, and for five pounds and a smile from your grumpy lad!, they carry home an entire wicker-basket of Penguin paperbacks, and when Martin sits down on the beat-up loveseat with a mug of tea and Shakespeare’s sonnets and finds himself mouthing the words along under his breath, Jon folds himself down next to him and lays his head on his thigh and closes his eyes, listening.

Chapter Text

Forty-five seconds past midnight on January 1st, 2015, Tim has two beers and half a bottle of champagne in him and has snogged about half of the gathered Institute staff, including his rumoured heterosexual and known grumpy pants desk neighbour; Jon bats him off with annoyance but gives no further protest, so hell yeah, Tim will have money to collect on that office debate (when he’s done kissing the rest of the staff).

 

2016 is a calmer, smaller affair, and Tim is slightly less drunk, enough so that he does hesitate on kissing Jon now that he’s his boss; but hey, it’s not like he hasn’t done it before, and besides he’s kissed Sasha and Martin, he’s got to be fair and complete the set. When Tim turns to him with a sheepish grin, Jon just rolls his eyes, steals and finishes his flute of champagne with one hand, grabs him by the necktie with the other, and plants a loud and sparkling one on him, so that’s definitely one of the best ways to start the year.

 

On the eve of the new year 2017, Jon is in his office and Tim is ferociously partying in a club full of strangers, so the next time they are both drunk in the same space is in the bitter silence of two in the morning on the small balcony of their bed-and-breakfast room in Great Yarmouth. They sit side by side and wordlessly pass a single bottle back and forth between the two of them, until Jon lets himself slant sideways and presses his mouth to Tim’s, slow and tired and disheartened; then pulls away, slurs, “Should get rest, before tomorrow,” and retires inside, and Tim licks his lips and finishes the bottle alone.

Chapter Text

Helen’s body twists up around a leg of Jon’s desk, an elbow settling in his empty mug and its enormous smile hovering a few inches left of its face. “Tea?” it asks, pleasantly, jerking around a porcelain pot in halting jostles; the liquid sloshes out of the spout and right back in without ever spilling down on Jon’s papers, flickering in the artificial light a rainbow of neon purples and radioactive greens.

It could be anything, from tea to something that has never existed to deadly poison.

“Sure,” Jon sighs, and Helen grimaces and grins and curls an arm around his neck to pour, giggling into his ear.

It doesn’t taste of anything.