Jon's voice is soft when he invites Martin into his office for a chat.
Things have been tense with Jon back — not because of Jon, mind you, but because of the circumstances with Elias and his confession. It doesn't feel like they're allowed to be friends anymore, even if Martin desperately wants to find some comfort in his coworkers.
Jon inviting him to chat over tea, though, that had felt normal.
It felt normal until Jon started talking, anyway.
"I assume you're aware of the role I'm supposed to play as the Archivist, Martin?" he asks, no warning or lead-up.
"It's got something to do with the thing Elias serves, right? The... The Eye, or whatever?"
Jon nods, though he seems to be nodding to himself.
"I am to be some kind of pawn of 'the Beholding', yes," Jon confirms. "I already was, anyway, but I know it now," he mutters.
Jon is drumming his fingers on his desk in an anxious way. If Martin looks hard enough, he can see he's only keeping them moving so Martin might not see how bad they shake.
"I want to ask you some questions, Martin," Jon says suddenly, with renewed, sucked-it-up vigor. "I don't want you to be made uncomfortable, but I... I need to practice my insistence. Compulsion, whatever it's called. I was hoping you might let me practice on you, since you'll be a little more resilient."
"What do you mean?" Martin squints, though he has an uneasy feeling that he knows exactly what Jon means. "About being 'resilient'?"
"You recorded more statements than anyone else while I was gone," Jon says, almost in pity. "You remember the feeling, right? Reliving it, like you were there? Getting trapped in a statement and coming out of it gasping for air?"
After a quiet moment, Martin nods.
"That's the influence of the Beholding. It's similar to what I'd be doing to you, if you were alright with that."
Martin stares at him in horrified disbelief.
"Right," Jon snorts. "I thought not. That's fine, you can —"
"— No, wait, I'm not — I'm not saying 'no'," Martin interrupts. "But before I agree to it, I want to ask you something."
Jon raises his eyebrows, but gives him the silence as a stage.
"Why do you want to get better at these things?" Martin asks carefully. "You know what's going to happen, you won't... You won't be human anymore, right?"
Jon takes a moment to answer. There's conflict in his expressions, hiding something and wanting to tell Martin but deciding against it, and he finally sighs and runs a hand over his face.
"There is something going on," Jon admits. "If I can learn enough, do well enough, I'll be able to prevent one of the other entities from... I don't know, destroying the Earth or something."
"So you're not just throwing yourself into this. You're only doing it to save people?"
Jon, more or less, nods.
"Okay," Martin decides, sitting up straighter in his chair. "Then you can ask me any questions you'd like."
As over-eager and blundering as he can be, Jon thinks, Martin is a good man. He forgets that sometimes.
"Okay, we'll start with something simple. How are you?"
There's a faint pressure in the air, but it only succeeds in making Martin giggle a bit.
"I'm alright, Jon," he answers. "A little nervous, but I trust you. I think it needs to be more specific."
"Hm. What are your plans for today?"
Martin goes blank for a moment, like he's been paused, but then he answers, strained.
"I'm going to be continuing organizing Storage D most of today, and bringing you any files I think you'll find interesting. I always do, really, but I don't p-plan on it." Martin looks vaguely uncomfortable. "After work I'll probably go back to my flat and watch Netflix to avoid thinking about the whole situation."
The pressure eases, and both take deeper breaths than they would have been capable of moments earlier.
"Okay," Jon nods, considering Martin’s answer. "Now, would you have told me that if I hadn't been using my influence?"
There's no presence with the question this time.
"Probably not," Martin admits. "Maybe that I was organizing things, but not, um... The rest."
"Because it wouldn't have come to mind or because you would not have been comfortable divulging that information to me personally?"
"Both, I think?"
Jon nods again.
“Alright.” He thinks for a moment of every hypothetical and would-you-rather he heard float around at school or has heard in media. “Would you break up with your significant other for one million pounds?” he asks next.
“I don’t know,” Martin says. “If we hadn’t been together very long, maybe, but if it’s a serious relationship I don’t think I would.”
“Okay. Would you rather be unable to hear or unable to see?”
“Unable to hear,” Martin replies instantly. “I don’t like the dark anymore, and the quiet might be peaceful in comparison,” he explains.
Jon agrees; maybe he’s biased, of course, but being unable to see would interfere with his work. He nods.
He fumbles through a few more ‘would you rather’s off the top of his head, and Martin supplies him with a couple he’s heard as well. Martin would rather be abnormally short than abnormally tall, he prefers vanilla to chocolate, and he’d rather go out for a first date as opposed to staying in.
There's the unspoken ethical dilemma — if Jon truly wants to practice, he needs to be pulling out information that Martin doesn't want to share.
"You can ask me worse things," Martin shrugs. "Since I don't need to worry about losing this job, I guess," he tries to joke.
Jon gives him a dry smile. He’s right, yeah, but…
“I don’t want to go too far outside your comfort zone as your… Friend. Regardless of whether something you said would put your employment at risk.”
Martin shrugs again and gives him another shy smile, as if to say try me.
"What makes you uncomfortable?" Jon sighs, pressing some of the compulsion into his voice.
"Elias," Martin answers immediately. "Scared, mostly, but uncomfortable too. And I don't like when people are mad at each other," he adds. "It's stressful watching people argue. Bees make me nervous, any stinging bug, but I know they’re more afraid of me than I am of them. Talking too much makes me uncomfortable, too, which is ironic, I guess, considering right now.”
“Alright, we seem to be getting somewhere, that’s good.”
He continues with the uncomfortable; his greatest fears, his embarrassed moments, asking Martin about the nightmares he’s had and pressing him to relive them despite his obvious discomfort. Once or twice, Jon thinks of a question that’d be uncomfortable but feels a little too invasive to ask, and awkward silence settles between them.
“You can ask me the dirty stuff,” Martin finally says, when the silence has stretched itself too thin and snaps. “About… Whatever. You need to try getting information I don’t want to give, right? I’ll sacrifice some privacy for the sake of not ending the world.”
“Are you sure that’s alright?” Jon asks, keeping it out of his voice.
“Alright,” he agrees. “Uh… Do you prefer the lights on or off?” Jon asks. That’s pretty mild for an ‘uncomfortable sex question’, right?
“On,” Martin answers. “I like watching everything,” he adds, dreamily, then covers his mouth with his hand. “Sorry, oh, I — I didn’t know I’d say that,” he laughs nervously.
“It’s alright,” Jon assures him, ignoring the flutter in his chest from broaching the topic. “No judgements, obviously. Is it alright if I keep going?”
Martin nods, though he is starting to look a little more worried than he’d been.
“Yeah, go ahead.”
“How old were you when you lost your virginity?”
“Twenty,” Martin answers, and looks somewhat relieved that the compulsion isn’t making him go into any detail.
“How did it go?”
"I met this guy while I was working at a book store who was still firmly in the closet and had really religious parents, so, not planning on coming out any time soon. He would have me sneak into his flat because he thought it'd be suspicious to... Have male friends, I guess? He wanted to try lots of things, but I didn't have any experience, and he kind of hated me for that. Not that he had any experience either, though, but I guess since I was out I was supposed to be some kind of gay almanac. It... It didn't go very well, is what I mean.”
“What in particular went badly?” Jon tries. A sixth (or seventh, maybe) sense seems to ping in his head that Martin isn’t telling him everything.
“H-He wanted me to fuck him, but he couldn't relax enough and I could only get two fingers in. Somehow that was my fault, though. He tried to fuck me instead, but he d-didn’t have the patience, and it just… Wasn’t good,” he laughs awkwardly.
“I’m sorry,” Jon finds himself saying, and meaning it. “I’m sure you deserved better than that, first time or not.”
Martin scoffs, and Jon gets an extra wave of memory with the sound, the face of some bratty-looking rich kid with no sense of reality and only the vaguest idea of what he wants. The thought is tinged with disgust and annoyance, and it sours Jon’s face, too.
“Yeah,” Martin agrees. “He dropped out to go ‘find himself’ in the States or something.”
Jon is not surprised by that.
"And your best?"
"What was your best sexual experience?"
There’s more resistance now, that seventh-sense-alarm clueing him in to how much Martin would like to not answer.
"I... I met a guy from Grindr. I know how that sounds, I know, but he was handsome and nearby and I'd had a rough week, and I just… Needed to fool around with someone and not think for a while."
The corner of Jon’s mouth quirks in a smile. He can understand that.
“What did the two of you do?”
“He — I’d never been — we tried something new,” Martin stutters. “I didn’t think I’d like it,” he laughs, “but God, he fucked me so dumb I ended up staying the night.”
Color is rising in Martin’s face as he speaks. He hasn’t been able to look Jon in the eye for a while, but now he’s glancing up to see if Jon wants him to stop; Jon’s expression is purposely as blank as he can manage, but he’s beginning to flush, too.
“What did he do to you?” Jon asks, a little more breathy than he probably should be.
Martin’s breath goes shaky.
“I’d rather not say,” he wavers.
Pain blooms in the base of Jon’s skull, but he resists the urge to flinch.
“What did he do?” he asks again. His voice doesn’t sound like his own, the vibration in his throat suddenly seeming foreign as he pushes his insistence further.
“He ate me out,” Martin spills with a shiver. “He laid me on my stomach and spread me open for his tongue, and once I was… Wet enough, he slid his fingers in, too. He made me cum like that, just making me a mess, and then he fucked me after just for good measure.”
Jon squirms subtley in his seat at that. Something hot boils in him like bitter longing — he hasn’t had anything but quick one-night-stands since he began at the Archives, too busy with work, and he finds himself suddenly aching to be touched like that, too. Then there’s something else, low and dizzying as he pushes back envy of the man from Grindr.
“Are you —” Jon starts, but has to clear the cracking from his throat. “Do you still see him?”
“God, I wish,” Martin sighs. “He was travelling for work and wasn’t in town very long. I still thought about him every time I jerked off until —”
Martin’s focus seems to fizzle.
“...Until?” Jon asks.
Martin resists again. Jon imagines he can almost feel it, like sinking a knife into a balloon and watching it stretch impossibly inward before it pops.
“Until I started working here,” he finishes.
The charm of his compulsion begins to fade, the question only requiring information on his ‘best sexual experience’, but Martin is still generally under the spell.
"May I keep going?" Jon asks. He keeps the influence in his voice to make sure Martin isn't going along with anything for Jon's sake. They're approaching some kind of line; they won't be able to go back once it's been crossed, but Jon doesn't know exactly when they're going to cross it.
"Yes," Martin says. "I've always been kind of an exhibitionist, actually," he admits, then adds an embarrassed Jesus Christ under his breath.
As Martin's employer, technically his boss, he shouldn't be pushing this. He should be putting a stop to this, apologizing, and letting Martin go on his way.
"Do you want me to stop asking questions?"
"For my own personal dignity, yeah, but not — not because I'm not getting off on it."
Jon swallows. This is more honesty than he was expecting, and more pornographic than he was expecting, but he can’t say he’s opposed to seeing Martin like this. It suits him; Martin’s pink-dusted cheeks and bitten lip frame themselves well in the tall chair across from him, and there’s something uniquely exciting about seeing a side of Martin he’s never been shown.
"Do you want me to continue?"
“If you — if you’re not bothered hearing it, I don’t mind.”
"Are you sure?" Jon asks again, putting all his energy into the compulsion.
"Yeah, please, Jon. I'd — I would definitely like to continue."
Jon takes a deep breath. He's exhausting himself, the compulsion like an unstretched, unstrengthened muscle, but he can keep going.
“You said you stopped fantasizing about him when you began working here,” Jon reminds him. “What did your fantasies become once you joined the Institute?”
“They were about Tim, at first,” he admits. “He’s attractive, y’know? But once I met you, I was… It was over.”
Jon goes cold.
“Yeah. You’re cute in that bookish way, and everything about you is just sharp. I tried not to think about it, about you, but I couldn’t keep you off my mind.”
There it is. The line. Martin is confessing that he’s had explicit fantasies about him, his boss and his friend, and it’s Jon’s responsibility to put a stop to it for the sake of their relationship. A relationship that doesn’t include Jon knowing what Martin thinks about them doing when he touches himself, or Martin being forced to go into detail about the vulgar things he thinks about a coworker.
“Martin, do you want to stop?” he asks instead.
“No,” Martin says with absolute confidence. And then, to Jon’s horror, he continues. “When you talk too much I think about kissing you to shut you up, or pushing you down to your knees to give your mouth something better to do. I’d never have the nerve to try it, obviously, but I like imagining how you’d kiss me back like you’re grateful for m-making you stop talking.”
He laughs, a little hysterically.
“I think about sucking you off at your desk a lot. I used to wonder if you’d even notice, you’re so involved with the statements, but now I just think about keeping you from recording them at all. You cum down my throat and let me jerk myself off from the floor while you’re still hard in my mouth.”
Martin huffs and rubs a shaky hand over the front of his pants, glancing up at Jon to dare him to stop, but Jon can only lick his dry lips and keep watching in silence. He shouldn’t let Martin do this, but Martin’s enjoying himself, obviously, and God knows he’s hard in his slacks, too, and what would he even say now?
“I’ve thought about fucking you over your desk. Have you ever noticed it’d be the perfect height for you to get bent over? You leaned over it to take a paper from me once and I had dreams about getting you pinned on it.”
Martin makes another desperate noise before looking up properly, his hand grabbing at his thigh to keep himself from shaking or going any further.
“Sorry, ‘m sorry, I — I should go,” he breathes, though he makes no move to leave.
Jon gulps quietly.
“Do you want to keep touching yourself?” he asks, voice shaky.
“Yeah,” Martin nods. “I want you to watch me and know I’m getting off because of you,” he adds, then mutters another ‘fuck, sorry’ as his cheeks flush an even darker scarlet.
“I — Martin, I’m going to stop for a moment, okay?” Jon sits back in his chair — he hadn’t even realized he’d leaned so far forward, hypnotized by Martin squirming in place across from him. “I’m not going to ask you any more questions for a minute, so I just want you to breathe and clear your head.”
Martin squeezes his eyes shut and nods.
Jon doesn’t know how long the compulsion hovers, but it hasn’t been very long in the past; Georgie realized what she’d admitted in seconds, but he’s had Martin compelled for much longer than her slip of the tongue.
Martin’s breathing gets a little more even and he finally dares to open his eyes again. He still looks guilty, like Jon hadn’t talked him through everything he’s just admitted to.
“Sorry,” he finally says, trying to cover his lap as much as a crossed leg and crowded-in arms will allow. “Would you like me to go?”
“If you’d like to leave, you can,” Jon says carefully. He’s not thinking about using his influence, but he doesn’t want it to slip into any questions on accident either. “If you’d like to stay, and… Continue, that would also be… Fine.”
Martin raises his eyebrows at him.
“I don’t want to make things weird,” he shrugs. “I’m not — I wouldn’t have ever said any of that, y’know? I’m not some — some office pervert,” he laughs.
Jon laughs too, feeling lighter without the immediate worry that he’s making Martin do something he doesn’t want to.
“I understand,” Jon nods. “You were being influenced by the Beholding and I know that any underlying desires don’t necessarily reflect words or actions you’d make in your daily life.”
Martin nods along with him, some tension gone from his shoulders but not all.
“But,” Jon continues, “I also understand not wanting to take the risk of admitting certain feelings to coworkers or friends.” He doesn’t look at Martin as he speaks, instead studying the wood grain of his desk. “However, if it was brought out in the open, as it were, and both parties showed interest, and both parties were, say, in a private meeting in one party’s office…”
Jon shrugs, trailing off. His cheeks are turning redder to match Martin’s blush.
“Really?” Martin asks hopefully. “Is — do you…?”
Jon hesitates, but… Nods.
“Fuck,” Martin groans, equal parts relieved and excited. “Jesus, Jon, I’ve been… Wow,” he laughs.
“I’m not saying it’s a good idea,” Jon says quickly. “It’d be a terrible idea to get involved, especially in the middle of all of this.”
Martin looks like Jon’s just hung the moon.
“You want to be ’involved’?” he says in disbelief. “Wow,” he sighs again.
Jon opens his mouth to say something, but can’t think of anything to say that’s not more incriminating, so he just shuts it again as his face gets even hotter.
Martin laughs again, but this time he reaches across the desk and pulls Jon’s face forward for a kiss. Despite how filthily Martin had been speaking, his mouth presses soft and warm to Jon's lips like honey.
Jon can’t even remember how long it’s been since he was kissed. He hasn’t really dated since university, only had occasional flings to satisfy cravings, but he’s not sure he’s ever been kissed with so much fondness. It bleeds into the slow movement as Martin kisses him again, and something like a memory tickles the back of his mind; pining, longing from Martin, so heavy on his mind that it’s like floating to have it off.
He pulls back to gasp for air.
“I didn’t —” he says shakily. “I didn’t know you felt like that.”
Martin laughs, still so close it makes his mouth buzz.
“I think you’re the only one in the office that didn’t,” he scoffs. “I thought you were supposed to be all-knowing now, huh?”
Jon laughs too, ducking his head down against Martin’s cheek.
“Not yet, I guess.”
Easy silence settles between them as they enjoy each other’s presence.
"Do you want to do something? Go somewhere?" Martin asks suddenly. "After work, I mean. If we’re going to be involved."
Jon grins lopsided and obscene.
"I could treat you to dinner and you could finish your little show for me after,” he suggests. “If you’d like to.”
Martin’s breath catches.
“Yeah?” Martin tries to make it sound seductive, but the excitement and earnest desire in it warp the tone. “I’d like to.”
Martin uses the hold he’s kept on Jon’s face to kiss him again, more heated than the first but still shockingly restrained considering what he’s been talking about doing to him, and finally pulls away to sit up straight again.
“Do you want to keep practicing?” Martin asks. “I might not be the best test subject now.”
Jon’s suggestive smile fades into something more schooled and suitable for work.
“No, that’s fine. It’s got me exhausted, honestly.”
Martin nods — it’s not the exact same as the post-statement fatigue, but he knows the general mental tax of tapping into the Eye’s influence.
“Sure. I’ll… See you later, then?”
Jon nods back with warmth in his chest.
“It’s a date.”