“Need anything? I’m going to town,” Martin asked Jon, who was sitting at the kitchen table in Daisy’s safe house, organizing statements. Martin stood behind Jon and put his hand on his shoulder, and Jon reached up to cover it with his own.
“No thanks,” he replied. Martin started to leave, then something occurred to Jon. “Actually - could you get me some apples? Half a kilo - ones that are good for baking. Tart and firm. And some brown sugar, too. Oats? Butter?”
“You’ll have to write all that down, I’ll never remember,” Martin complained. Jon got a scrap of paper and started writing down a list of ingredients.
“It’ll be…a surprise,” Jon said shyly as he handed it over. “Take pictures of any good cows you see while you’re out there.”
“Always,” Martin said with a smile as he walked out the door.
Jon sighed happily. Never thought I’d be one to do anything happily, he thought to himself. He’d had, what…thirty-odd years of an existence with continuous if varying levels of pain and suffering, both of which had increased quite a bit lately. He knew he and Martin were probably in the eye of the storm right now, what with it being eerily calm, but he figured he was owed at least this much. He was owed a few weeks of contentment, Martin much more than that. He just hoped it could last. He wanted to fill what little time there was left of this with good memories. He’d need them later; they both would.
Thank God for Martin Blackwood. They’d spent several days hiding in Martin’s flat after he’d led them out of the Lonely, both basically in shock the entire time they were there. Basira had been a lifesaver, setting them up here in Scotland. Jon didn’t remember much of the transition; Martin had been the reasonable one, thinking to pack lots of changes of clothes and clearing out what food he had in his cupboards.
Martin reassured him it was fine; more than fine, really. “You came back for me. You saved me,” he’d said, after Jon had an out-of-character outburst of regret and started crying at his own ineptitude. That was one part of their hiding in the initial days after the incident that Jon did remember. He’d been on Martin’s couch, watching Martin start packing methodically, as though they were leaving on a long holiday and not trying to escape all of…THAT. He watched Martin pack towels, sheets (“I don’t know if she has sheets up there, and who knows the last time they were washed,” he’d said), clothes for the both of them, and he couldn’t keep his facade up any longer.
Jon was watching Martin go through his linen closet in the hallway when he lost it. “You can borrow my clothes for now, although they will be a bit la - Jon, are you alright?” Martin had rushed over to him, concerned at seeing Jon with his head in his hands. Martin sat next to him and touched his shoulder. “Jon, talk to me.”
Jon had let out a sob, and he felt Martin put his arm around him, somewhat hesitantly, as though he was expecting Jon to throw it off, but he didn’t. He leaned into Martin’s half-embrace, and didn’t know what to say; all he could do was cry. And Martin let him. They sat together on the couch for awhile without talking, with Jon eventually resting his head on Martin’s lap, and Martin stroking his hair. They’d never been this physically close before but it didn’t feel odd. It felt natural. Martin’s touch was the only thing that had made him feel better in ages.
After a few minutes, Jon said, “I don’t know what to do, Martin. For the first time, I really don’t know what to do.”
Martin kept stroking his hair and said softly, “You don’t have to, Jon.” He paused for a few moments before saying calmly, “What we’re going to do now is pack some essentials, take the train to the safe house in Scotland, buy some provisions, maybe some board games, and hunker down until we come up with a long-term plan. No use in worrying about that now.”
“I should help you,” Jon replied. He didn’t like being waited on.
“Jon. You ninny. You’ve already helped me…by coming for me and rescuing me out of The Lonely. That’s enough for one day, even, dare I say, several days.”
“Yes, ‘Oh,’” Martin said with a touch of a smile in his voice. “You numpty.”
Jon smiled for the first time in weeks, and found Martin’s unoccupied hand on the couch and held it with his. Martin gave him a soothing squeeze. They sat like that for awhile, until Jon felt warm and content, a tall order in light of what had just happened, what he knew was going to happen. He realized for the first time in that moment that Martin was an angel.
Jon came out of his reverie to the sound of Martin unlocking the front door, arms full with groceries. Jon got up to help him and bring them to the kitchen.
“I hope we get to stay here long enough for us to use all of these things,” Martin said as he unpacked a jar of oats and some cinnamon.
“Me, too,” added Jon, putting things away. “Now go occupy yourself with something not in the kitchen while I make your surprise.”
Martin put his hands up. “Alright, alright, I won’t get in your way,” he said as he backed out of the kitchen and closed the door.
Jon got to work. He turned on the oven and started washing, peeling and chopping all the apples. He mixed them in a bowl with brown sugar, cinnamon, a little flour and some salt, then spread them in a baking dish. He then put butter, flour, oats, more brown sugar, and more cinnamon in a bowl and made a crumble, then sprinkled it on top of the apples. He mentally thanked Daisy for providing some cookware and a decent knife in this safe house. He put the finished dish in the oven, and set a timer for an hour. Waiting would be the hardest part.
As he was washing up, Martin said from the sitting room, “Something smells good.”
Jon wiped his hands and opened the door. “It’ll need to cool for a bit, but we can have it for dessert.”
“Can’t wait. I’ll make dinner, since you made that.”
“Perfect,” Jon replied.
Martin looked at him for a second and said, “I didn’t peg you as a baking type.”
“The apples. Didn’t know you had any food-making skills.”
Jon got a little bashful. “Oh, it’s nothing, just something I remember making when I was young.” He started backing away into the kitchen. “I’m, uh, I’m going to record a statement while it cools.”
He took the apple crumble out of the oven and set it on the stove to cool - it was bubbly and golden brown. He then went to what he called his statement room - it was private and rather quiet. He lost himself in recording one of the statements he’d brought with him, which was a good distraction from the crumble, and from the world.
After he finished he heard Martin trying to be quiet in the kitchen, and realized he was pretty hungry. “I’m all finished; are you starting dinner?”
Martin looked up, “Oh, yes - hope I wasn’t too loud. Shouldn’t take long for this to be ready.”
Jon smiled. “No no, you were fine. Um, thanks, for um, making dinner.”
Martin practically beamed. “My pleasure.”
Jon read his book in the sitting room until dinner was ready. He heard Martin shuffling around, the sound of ceramic on wood, pots and pans banging together, Martin evidently hurting himself and swearing under his breath. Sometimes Jon had to shake his head and remember that they weren’t just roommates or…whatever…but that we’re in hiding, as he reminded himself. Though he wished they could just live this life, without the nagging feeling that it could come to a brutal end at any moment. All the more reason to show Martin his appreciation.
“Ready!” Martin called out as he opened the door to the kitchen.
Jon stepped into the kitchen and stopped short. The kitchen table had been set with a tablecloth he hadn’t seen before, a vase with some flowers, and two lit candles in candleholders. There were two place settings with plates of spaghetti and lettuce salad, and a plate of garlic bread in between. There were also glasses of red wine. He looked over at Martin, who was standing awkwardly by the stove, fiddling with his hands, looking at Jon for a reaction. “Erm, dinner’s ready?”
“Martin I - you said you’d packed some essentials, but I didn’t know you packed this much!” Jon said. “I don’t know what to say. It’s - thank you, it’s beautiful. You didn’t need to go to all this trouble.”
Martin smiled. “I wanted to surprise you, too.”
“Let’s, uh, let’s eat before it gets cold.”
They tucked in, Jon sneaking glances at Martin through the flowers when he thought Martin wasn’t looking (most of the time he was right). A nicely-set table, candles, dinner - no one had ever done all this for him before. He honestly probably hadn’t deserved it before.
As they were finishing, Jon got up and took his and Martin’s plates away, scooped out some apple crumble into two small dishes, and brought them over to the table along with some vanilla ice cream.
“I, uh, made apple crumble; one of the few happy memories I have of my grandmother is watching her make it; she let me peel the apples when I got older. It’s, uh, good with ice cream,” he said awkwardly as he placed a dish in front of Martin.
Martin tried some right away. “Mmm, this is delicious! And it’s still warm. This is perfect, Jon.”
Jon smiled shyly and felt himself starting to blush as he looked at the floor. “Th-thanks, Martin, thank you for this. For everything.”
He looked up to see Martin looking at him, with a strange expression on his face. “You-you’re welcome,” he almost whispered. “I - let’s eat this before the ice cream melts.”
They each finished their dessert, and Jon had to admit that it was quite delicious. They cleaned up together and put the dishes away, then went to the sitting room couch, wordlessly gravitating toward each other.
Jon got out the book he’d been reading and put it on his lap, but didn’t open it. He could practically feel Martin’s brain silently churning right next to him, and he was thinking hard, too. He started. “You didn’t need to do all that for me,” he said softly.
“I wanted to,” Martin said, just as soft. “I - I know our time here is probably short, and we don’t know what will happen, but - I. I just want to show you how much I…appreciate you.”
Jon looked up and into Martin’s eyes, blue and shining just for him. His voice broke as he said, “I - I appreciate you, too, Martin. Very much.” He reached for Martin’s hand and squeezed it, and felt Martin stroke his with his thumb.
Their faces were inches apart. Jon watched Martin’s thumb, caressing his hand. He heard Martin whisper, “Jon?”
He looked up. “Yes?” he whispered back.
Martin licked his lips. In the softest voice, and with the kindest eyes he asked, “Can I - can I kiss you?”
Jon swallowed hard. He looked at Martin’s lips, soft and pink and waiting, and his eyes, expectant and nervous. Instead of responding with words, Jon extricated his hand from Martin’s and reached for his face, stroking his cheeks, causing Martin to close his eyes and lean into Jon’s touch. His cheeks were so soft, and getting a bit red, Jon noticed. They both had stopped breathing.
Jon finally closed the gap between them, and lightly pressed his lips onto Martin’s, who instantly leaned into the gentle kiss with relief. Martin put his hands on Jon’s shoulders, gently nudging him closer, and Jon moved his hands from Martin’s face to around his middle, wanting more closeness himself. The slow and gentle tension that had been building between them since The Lonely had finally reached a breaking point, and the kiss provided much-needed relief. Jon wasn’t very experienced with kissing, but Martin’s lips felt good. Very good, he thought. He felt so warm and safe, in spite of everything. They had each other then, and that was enough.