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fading back

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Something about the light makes his hair look strange.

Or, maybe, he thinks, it’s just that he’s been so disconnected from himself these past few months that he barely even recognizes himself anymore. So maybe it’s just his own, biased opinion as he looks at himself in the mirror. Jon hasn’t mentioned anything. So it’s probably just the lighting, or his wild imagination.

But it just looks… he doesn’t know? There’s spots, just streaks and roots, that catch in the artificial light in the cabin and look… lighter? A bit faded, maybe, coppery instead of his usual ginger. But that’s dumb, because they barely get water pressure here as it is and it isn’t like he’s been out in the sun long enough to bleach his hair. (And it’s October, for God’s sake. If the sun were that bright, he would have been burnt to a crisp days ago.)

Martin pinches a bit of his hair between his fingers, and frowns at it as it curls, drying after his shower.

No, he’s sure he’s seeing things.


There’s a knock on the bathroom door, and Martin jumps, hand sliding to clutch a little tighter at his towel. He knows it’s just Jon– although therein still lay in the problem, standing here in nothing but the towel– but it still manages to surprise him in ways he hopes he’s able to get over, eventually. He hopes he can stop jumping at every noise again, but it all seems so loud after… after The Lonely.


“There’s… er, breakfast is ready. If you want.”

“Oh.” He breathes out, and is eager to start toweling off because food sounds so good, and breakfast with Jon sounds even better. “Okay. I’ll be right out.”


Jon’s footsteps get distant, and Martin hurries to finish up and go after him.

He thought there’d be a point where he’d just get used to eyes staring at him, but… active versus passive. Jon watching him was making him squirm.

“Something on my face…?” he ventures, even though he knows there isn’t. Or if there is, it's been there since lunch so he really hopes that isn't the case. 

“No,” Jon says, although he doesn't look exactly sheepish at being called out on staring or anything. “It’s just, you look different.”

He blinks, and then has to lock down on the urge to put his own hands to his hair. “What do you mean, I look different?”

“I’m not sure?” Jon shrugs, a little, but his brows are still furrowed like whatever this is is a complex problem he can’t figure out. Which doesn’t exactly soothe Martin’s nerves, here. 

“Well, I don’t know.” Great, he’s going to have to worry about that the rest of the night now. And he’s going to have to check his roots again, convinced there’s something there that he just… doesn’t understand. “Is it good or bad?”

Jon considers, and then shakes his head. “Neither. You look… fine,” he says, and then reaches for his phone. “Maybe I’m just… not used to being able to look at you.”

Martin swallows, at the pang in his chest and the way Jon’s eyes are just a little softer than usual. He doesn’t know what to do with that, and Jon’s already getting interesting in reading again, anyway. But his gaze does linger just a minute longer, and Martin tries not to worry, and fails.

Jon’s just waking up, sleep clumsy as he slips his fingers into Martin’s hair.

Martin’s still half asleep, too. It’s easy to relax into the weight of the blankets and the press of Jon’s warmth in the bed next to him, and even more to the hand in his hair. He closes his eyes again. Maybe he’ll just… doze back off. They don’t have responsibilities, here, right now. He’ll have to place a call to London later today, but, for now… 

Jon speaks. “It’s white.”

For a moment, it’s so non-sequitur that Martin doesn’t really… get it. And then he puts it together: Jon’s hand in his hair and the mention, and the dread makes his stomach drop to his feet. He kicks the blankets away and practically sprints for the bathroom, for the mirror, terrified for no other reason than no one’s hair went white this fast.

But it is. It has. Martin stares into the mirror and there’s silver highlighting his hair like he’s had it forever, like he’s so much older than he is now and like it’s had time to grow that way. But it hasn’t. It hasn’t, because he absolutely would have noticed if his hair had started going gray, especially like this, streaks winding down past his jaw. It’s not just the one strand. It’s several. This hadn’t started since he’d come here, and this– this was just a house, this was just– just Scotland– this was normal– they were safe– 


“What’s happening to me?” He doesn’t mean to blurt it out like that, panicked and, well, already somewhere near tears. Things had been good, things had been so good the past two weeks and now– now something they can’t explain– god dammit, it’s penance, isn’t it, because they can’t have anything nice– 

Jon tilts his head, still half asleep and only a little concerned. Then, “I think it’s The Lonely,” he says, and looks a little surprised after he’s said it.

“The Lonely?” He tries not to panic. He really, really does. But association with the Entities never seem to end where they end, and… Martin had gone to The Lonely. He’d chosen to himself, so if there were repercussions, he had no one to blame but himself, but… Christ, was it killing him even though he’d made it out? Was there no making it out? This– had these past two weeks just been… had they just been wishful thinking– “What do you mean, The Lonely??”

“I don’t know.” Jon’s face clears, and he looks abashed for having said it. “It just… came to me. But I don’t think you’re in danger.”

“Aren’t I?” It comes out a little derisive. A lot. But he can’t help it. God. Jon had… Jon had come for him. He’d helped him find his way back out. He’d made him want to. And it was… following him. Following him as much as the hunger was following Jon, no matter how much Jon was trying to shrug that off. But this… 

He was tired, that was all. He wanted them to be free of this, even if just for now. 

“I don’t think The Beholding–” Martin scowls in the mirror, and Jon tries again. “I think you’re fine, Martin. I wouldn’t… I wouldn’t risk it if I didn’t think you weren’t.”

“I…” He wants to think that’s true. He does think that’s true. “Okay… Christ, though.” He runs his hands through his hair, and… is it selfish to hate how it's managed to manifest within him? There’s so many worse things, so many, he knows, but… “This looks terrible.” He wonders if he should head it off by grabbing some hair dye or… wait and see what else it does.

“No worse than mine.” Jon steps up behind him, looking over his shoulder at their reflections.

Oh, right. They match, now, don’t they?

“… at least yours looks nice,” he mutters. Jon’s hair does look nice with the silver. Dark hair went with white, yeah? Ginger and white? Not so much.

Jon shrugs, reaching to pluck at one of the graying strands. “I don’t know. I like it,” he says, offhand, and Martin stares into the mirror when Jon kisses that piece of hair.

For all of the… newly romantic things they’ve managed to explore in the past two weeks, he thinks this one flusters him the most.

“Oh,” he says. Says it out loud, even, and then has to clear his throat to keep going since he’s already started talking. “You– You think?”

“I’ve gotten used to seeing silver in the mirror.” Jon doesn’t move his lips from Martin’s hair, and Martin burns hotter.

“Oh, um. That’s– I’m…”

“And now I’m not so much of an outlier,” Jon continues, and smiles languidly at him. “We match.”

We match.

“We do,” Martin manages, and has to swallow back the tears again.