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Don't forget whose shoes you're filling

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He takes the pots of leftovers from the fridge and fills two plates with them - there's enough food for dinner later and even for the next day. His mom is used to make food for more people, but the two of them always end up not eating much and the leftovers sometimes last for even a week.

Over the balcony, the microwave is almost at his eye level now. One second before the machine beeps as a signal that the plates have been there for one whole minute, Martin opens it and takes them out - more time than that and glass explodes, less time and the food stays lukewarm, uncomfortably soggy.

Frying a pair of eggs doesn’t sound like a bad idea. He's ten, he knows how to do it and how to cook lots of other stuff too but eggs are the easiest on his list. What he likes making the most, though, is tea - and he is unbelievably good at finding out exactly how each person likes it, his grandma who he had helped with the kettle before her passing away two years ago had said so.

The thing is, his mom usually eats even less when he makes food, so he prefers not to risk it.

She's having a crisis right now, unable to do anything but to alternate between crying on the bed and crying on the floor, getting a little bit louder every time she so much as looks at him. He's not sure which sickness decided to attack this time, the autoimmune one, the one that's just "pain everywhere for no reason", the depression that she has struggled with for as long as Martin can remember (though it surely had become harsher in recent years), or some sort of combination of those. The most probable is the last, but there's something different about the whole thing this time.

Martin was not dumb. His father’s pictures had all disappeared in one go but his had been slowly thrown away from the house in impulsive bunches and pieces - it was hard to shake the feeling it was a countdown for something way too unclear for Martin to get a grasp of.

Since his father left, his mother hasn't looked at Martin the same way. Her eyes became different a little bit before it, Martin was not sure why. She had convinced him to try a new haircut - shaved on both sides, a mop of curls on top. It seemed to make her happy at first and, consequently, it also made him happy, but the side curls eventually grew back, covering his ears and framing his face. With each centimeter, her eyes grew colder.

Well, a buzzcut it was then. He tried to do it himself using the clipper his father had forgotten to take with him.

Bad choice.

Besides making his mom mad, it took a long time to grow too: the tips of new curls still reflect on the microwave when he opens it to retrieve the hot plates, always careful not to let them fall on the floor and make a bigger mess out of everything. Cleaning broken glass mixed with food was hell, the glass splinters always ended up cutting him, no matter how careful he was.

Back in the bedroom, he fills the nothing she is looking at with a plate and spoon, sits cross-legged across from her with his own plate. The curled up figure on the floor looks up at him without making a sound. Martin is about to start eating when he feels the eyes on him and looks back to the two little abysses in the center of blue irises.

When he looks at his plate again, hand still clutching a spoon half-filled with food, he almost feels embarrassed.

"... Sorry."

He shoves the plate gently to the side, sits on the warmth it has left on the cold floor, picks up food from his mother's plate and lifts the spoon until it touches her lips. He doesn't want to look because she doesn't like being looked at when this happens - when she needs him like that. She doesn't get like that too often, Martin is sure this is the worst he'd ever seen her crisis get.

She doesn't open her mouth.

He looks back and sure she is still staring at him as if he is holding a pointed sharp knife to her throat, and it's not new, but it's also not the same dark fire as always. He is not even sure if she's looking at him exactly, but what else could she be looking at?

"C'mon mum..."

At that, she blinks. Slowly opens her mouth. While he feeds her, he looks in her direction no more than it's strictly needed - just as much as she looks at him from then on.

He's not sure he wants to eat anymore after her plate is empty. He is hungry - he almost always is nowadays - but he doesn't really like eating alone. It’s only the knowledge that he has to eat to survive that convinces him to eat, but he does as far as possible from her.

Martin remembers exactly the moment he grew up. Not the moment he found himself calling himself an adult, or a man instead of a boy, no. It was just the moment he realized he couldn't be just a kid anymore, that he had to live, to be a human and - most importantly - to survive.

And his mother had too.

And she needed him for it.

His mother was slowly dying and it was not anyone's fault (even though years later some parts of him still felt like he was the one to blame for it).

It scared him somewhere he was not quite tall enough to reach just yet, only brush with his fingertips.

At this moment, eating the cold food he didn't bother enough about to heat up again, he grows up.


Jon was on the only bedroom of Daisy's safe house, curled up on the floor. He had been like that for some time now. After he stopped crying, Martin had left a comforter over his shoulders and went to the kitchen, trying to cook in a daze. When he cut the few vegetables, the knife was faster, heavier in his hand than the one he was given by Peter Lukas - that one now forgotten on the Millbank Prison tunnels. He could remember thinking that sinking into old, undying, putrefied flesh would be a terrible misuse of such a good knife.

How wrong he had been.

They really didn't have much food to work with, but it was enough to make simple soup - enough to make more than what they needed since Jon didn't actually have to eat real food anymore.

He still brought a bowl to Jon, sat by his side with one of his own and put one spoon in his hand.

Jon looked at the soup without really looking at it, and drank some of it without really tasting it when Martin had done the same - his eyes glowing, and lost, and unblinking, two dark pits now close to the color of the monstrous sky itself.

Martin had never felt more aware of his own fear as in that moment.

The world was dying. He knew it to be no one's fault but Jonah Magnus. Still, he couldn't help but wonder if he really was the one to be blamed for that.