The thing about soulmates is that when your life is as complicated as Martin’s, it doesn’t really matter if you’ve found yours.
That’s not true. Not exactly. It matters a great deal to Martin that the swirling name on his wrist matches the name of his boss, it’s just that it doesn’t change anything in Martin’s life at all.
Sure, Martin now spends his days endlessly pining, staring at Jon from a distance, trying not to drop everything in his arms whenever he sees him, but if he’s being honest, he would be doing that anyways.
Martin gets crushes pretty easily, even without destiny meddling. Besides, there’s no guarantee Jon is his romantic soulmate. They could be platonic (though Martin has doubts about this one, because of his almost immediate feelings for the man), or they could be enemies (Martin may be in love with Jon, but he wouldn’t be too surprised if Jon considered them enemies). Martin does think it’s romantic, though.
He’d really like to hold his soulmate’s hand.
And, to be fair, Martin knows he’s lucky, because there are unrequited soulmates and soulmates who end up hating each other and soulmates who never meet or who die shortly after meeting. Martin’s soulmate is right in front of him, and he’s wonderful. Jonathan Sims is intelligent, attractive, alive, not a bigot, and has the name Martin Blackwood on his wrist. Really, they should be a perfect match.
Except that he doesn’t know Martin’s name.
That’s not Jon’s fault, of course; it’s Martin’s. When Martin applied to the Magnus Institute, he had fabricated an entirely new life on his CV: an advanced degree, prior experience, references, and, most importantly, a new name.
So Jon doesn’t know Martin Blackwood, he only knows Martin Bennett, archival assistant at the Magnus Institute.
And he hates him.
Martin can hear it in the way Jon sounds when he talks about him- the disdain, the underlying irritation.
Martin supposes he’s glad that he’s getting an honest reaction. It means that Jon hasn’t fallen for him just because they’re soulmates. At least he never has to doubt that, because Jon could never fall for him at all.
Martin isn’t sure what Jon thinks about soulmates. He’s never mustered up the courage to ask him. On Jon’s first day as a research assistant, when he’d introduced himself to Martin, Martin had almost passed out because there was his soulmate right in front of him, and he couldn’t tell him. He couldn’t tell Jon that he was lying about his entire life because what kind of impression would that make?
So Martin spent the better part of the next two years pining and wishing that things were different but knowing that Jonathan Sims would likely never meet Martin Blackwood. Instead, Martin Bennett will continue to chase down leads on statements, write reports, and hear all about how he’s messing up.
So Martin doesn’t expect anything is out of the ordinary when Jon asks him to hunt down a lead on statement 0132806 and the book Ex Altiora.
“And see if you can find anything about Gerard Keay,” he tells Martin and Sasha, and Martin almost chokes on his tea because, well, that’s a name he recognizes.
Gerard Keay, Gerry to Martin, was someone that Martin Blackwood hadn’t seen in over a decade but who he used to know very well.
Martin’s father had left when Martin was young, and his mother wanted nothing to do with him after that. She got rid of every picture, forbade Martin from even mentioning him, and never brought him up again, with one exception.
His mother had never liked him, so it didn’t come as too much of a surprise when she sent him away for the summer. What was surprising was that she had sent him to live with his father’s cousin, a woman named Mary Keay. The entire summer, he only met the woman once. She was constantly travelling. Instead, she’d left him in the care of her son, Gerry.
It had been almost 20 years since that summer, so Martin didn’t remember the details, but he remembered following Gerry around like a lost puppy, something that must have been incredibly frustrating to the man, but Gerry was always kind to Martin.
Martin doesn’t remember Gerry doing anything that could have ended up in a statement, but he’d been pretty young at the time, maybe nine or ten. Mostly Gerry took him to the library or the playground and bought him ice cream and books.
That’s not to say Gerry had been normal , but he gave Martin the happiest summer of his childhood, so he overlooked the weird guests that came to the house well after midnight looking to trade books.
None of that, however, was paranormal in nature, so Martin doesn’t know why Jon is telling him to research Gerry.
Martin thinks for a moment that it might be a different Gerard Keay who happens to share his cousin’s name, but the description of a man with dyed black hair and a long leather coat is too similar to what Martin remembers for him to shake it off.
He hadn’t known Gerry had been accused of murdering his mother, or that her body had been-
It makes Martin sick to his stomach to think about, but he’s sure Gerry didn’t do it.
As for finding him and bringing him in for a statement, Martin isn’t even sure how to go about doing that, despite his family connection. His mother still won’t talk about his father’s side of the family, and though Gerry gave him an address and a phone number to contact him at the end of the summer, it’s decades old and definitely isn’t going to work.
So, Martin researches Gerry like he would any other statement, turns up nothing, and hands in a report to Jon, accepting the disappointment like a knife to the gut. He gets the same reaction from the second statement that mentions Gerard Keay when, once again, he turns up nothing.
It’s fine , really, that Martin’s soulmate doesn’t love him.
At least, until Jane Prentiss locks him in his flat for two weeks. Something about being trapped in a small flat with no power surviving on canned peaches and listening to the taunting knocks of a woman made of worms added to the fact that Gerry keeps coming up in statements makes Martin frazzled, to say the least.
He moves into the archives and starts hiding fire extinguishers. He starts combing the archives for any statements involving Gerry, trying to figure out what his cousin’s role is.
One day when he’s researching a statement, Jon approaches and makes everything worse.
“Martin, I have another statement on Gerard Keay I need you to look into,” Jon says, dropping a file on Martin’s desk.
Martin sighs internally. Really, if Gerry was going to be involved in the paranormal happenings that get reported to the Magnus Institute, the least he could do is be less prolific. “Of course.”
“And see if you can find anything on this kid he had with him. The statement giver wasn’t sure of his name, Matthew or Marty?” Martin’s heart stops in his chest. “I know that’s vague but how many nine-year-olds can he really have hung out with in 1996?” Jon chuckles and Martin forces himself to match it.
“Y-yeah, can’t have been many,” Martin laughs. “I’ll- I’ll get right on that.”
If Jon notices Martin panicking, he doesn’t acknowledge it and walks back into his office. As soon as the door is closed, Martin flips open the folder, scans the statement, and gapes in horror.
In the middle of the trade, there was a noise, and a door opened in the hallway. To my surprise, a young boy with blonde hair and freckles walked out into the room. He was holding a stuffed bear with a sweater and fake glasses and rubbing his eyes. When the boy came into view, Gerard paled and turned towards him. He knelt in front of him and spoke to him softly. It was just quiet enough so I could barely hear it. I don’t remember the boy’s name, something with an M- Matthew, maybe, or Marty- but I do remember being surprised to see him there. Not only was it well past midnight at this point, but Gerard Keay certainly didn’t seem like a father figure, and the boy was much too young to be his little brother. Soon, though, Gerard managed to steer the boy back upstairs, and he returned as if nothing had happened.
Martin doesn’t remember this happening, specifically, but he does remember that bear. Gerry bought it for him the first week he was there. He might not remember that, but he remembers his mother taking the bear from him the second he was home at the end of the summer. He was heartbroken.
This poses another problem for Martin, because Jon is right, there are only so many nine-year-olds Gerry could have been hanging out with at his house, let alone all the additional details the statement giver added on.
Martin plans on pretending he can’t find anything, but Sasha beats him to it when she calls them all into Jon’s office with a full family tree and a big circle around the name Martin Blackwood.
Martin’s so shocked at this that he almost misses the way Jon freezes when he sees that name. Jon stutters mid-sentence, stares for longer than is comfortable, then continues without acknowledging it. Martin has an advantage that lets him know not to pry, but Sasha and Tim don’t have that same knowledge, so when they see Jon tense, they have no such reservations.
“You know him?” Sasha asks.
“ Blackwood,” she says, and Jon flinches. “You do know him.”
“No, I don’t,” Jon insists, but he’s flustered, almost blushing . Martin didn’t think that was possible but seeing it now, he can’t look away.
“Bad date?” Tim asks. “It’s alright, boss, we’ve all been there.” He puts a hand on Jon’s shoulder sympathetically, and Jon pulls away.
“Of course not. Don’t be ridiculous.”
Jon makes the mistake of looking down at his hands, where his right is cupping his left wrist, and Sasha gasps. “Oh!”
Martin’s heart is pounding so hard he can feel it in his fingers. This is getting way too out of hand.
“Boss, why didn’t you say? You could have told us he was your soulmate,” Tim says. “Don’t worry, finding him is our number one priority.” Sasha nods. Great, Martin loves having two of the best researchers looking into him specifically.
“Your number one priority should be finding Jane Prentiss,” Jon says with a scowl on his face. “My soulmate is none of your business. ”
Sasha puts a hand on Tim’s arm. “Let him be. Soulmates are private, you know that.” Tim sighs and nods.
“Okay, but we do have to look into him because he’s definitely the kid from the statement. He’s Gerard Keay’s third cousin, he lives in the area, and he would have been around nine years old at the time.” Tim grins. “So if we find his number, I’ll make sure you get it.” He winks.
Jon sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose. “Anything else?”
“No, that’s all.”
“Then we should all get back to work.” Jon’s voice is final, and Martin follows Tim and Sasha out of the room, only looking back once to see Jon, who is staring at his wrist and tracing the name- Martin’s name- with his finger. The expression on his face is so gentle, something Martin has never seen before, and Martin blushes, feeling like he’s intruding on something private.
When Martin makes it back to his desk, he puts his head in his hands and groans.
Mercifully, nothing else comes from Sasha and Tim’s investigations. They manage to track down his mother at the home, but she won’t talk to them, and the staff refuse to give them Martin’s contact information.
Soon, it doesn’t matter anyways, because Jane Prentiss attacks the institute and Jon and Martin are forced to hide in a secluded part of the archives. Martin spends the whole time frustrated. He’s going to die in a basement, living a lie, his soulmate unknowingly by his side. It isn’t the end Martin has hoped for. Certainly, at the very least, he’d like to hold Jon’s hand as it was happening, but that isn’t an option, and he’d done it to himself.
In his frustration in himself, he takes it out on Jon. Martin channels all his anger at himself for ending up in this situation, all his fear of Prentiss, all the hurt from years of insults, into snapping at Jon for persistently ignoring the existence of the supernatural. He focuses on that because if he doesn’t he’ll screw up and scream about how unfair it is that his soulmate hates him.
Jon asks if he’s a ghost, which is honestly ridiculous enough that he almost starts laughing. Jon, however, seems to be intent on “doing a whole heart-to-heart thing,” and there’s a surprising amount of down time for that when you’re trapped in the basement hiding from a worm lady. So Jon’s personal questions continue, even if Martin doesn’t particularly want them to. He likes getting to know Jon, of course, but then-
“Did you get to meet your soulmate?”
Martin flinches. “Yes.” Because they’re being honest.
“Hm,” Jon says quietly. “I suppose they’ll miss you, then.”
“No, he won’t,” Martin is sure. Even if Jon somehow survives and Martin doesn’t, he won’t be missed. “It’s- we were never-“
“I see,” Jon interrupts his stammering. “I’m sorry."
Martin shrugs. He hates the way it turned out, but at least he got to know. “Did you want to meet your soulmate? Blackwood?” He asks, as if he isn’t personally invested.
Jon thinks for a moment. “I- I suppose. I always thought I was too difficult for a soulmate. Besides, if he’s wrapped up in all this supernatural nonsense, there’s every chance that we’re one of the enemy soulmates. I’m not sure he would have liked me.”
He likes you very much, Martin thinks, and decides then and there that if he’s going to die, he and Jon both deserve to die knowing the truth, even if Jon hates him for it. “Jon-“
There’s a banging on the wall and their conversation is cut off.
Later, after Tim smashes through the wall, Martin abandons them in the tunnels, and Gertrude Robinson’s body is uncovered, Martin is glad he didn’t get the chance to tell Jon his real name. First, because having a fake name and finding a body looks suspicious (he’s very glad the police didn’t care enough to look into his background), and second because telling someone you’re their soulmate then leaving them behind to be killed by a woman made of worms is a really bad impression.
So, Martin keeps silent. For months. Months of Jon’s paranoia lead Martin to worry more and more that Jon will find out he’s lying. He writes to his mother about it, seeking consolation, but then throws the letter away before sending it, aware that his mother would only make him feel worse.
He doesn’t expect Jon to find the letter.
The confrontation starts off messy, when Jon accusing him of lying about Trevor Herbert, but then-
“You keep lying to me, Martin!”
“About what? ” Because he’s in this deep already, he may as well keep digging deeper.
“ I don’t know , but you are !” Jon smacks the letter on the table and Martin goes pale as he recognizes it.
“Where did you get that? Have you been going through the bin? ”
“It was in the old document room, just next to where you used to sleep. Your handwriting.” Martin has never seen Jon this angry. Sure, he’s been angry at Martin before, but this was something more . “’If the others find out I’ve been lying’,” Jon quotes, “Lying about what , Martin?”
“Look, just forget about it okay? Please, ” he begs. He really doesn’t want to tell Jon the truth, let alone while Jon’s angrier than he’s ever been.
“I can’t forget it. Everyone in this place has so many goddamn secrets and I can’t trust a word you say. Not about this and not about Trevor-“
“Jon-“ he interrupts.
“ Martin! ” Jon shouts and Martin caves.
“Okay, okay! Okay.” He breathes. “Just- promise you won’t fire me?” Martin had given up on Jon forgiving him for lying about the soulmarks, and on Jon ever loving him, but, eldritch monsters aside, he still needed a job.
“ Fire you? ” Jon scoffs. “Fine.”
Martin breathes in again. “I-“ He pauses. He doesn’t know where to start so he starts with the reasoning. “I lied on my CV.”
“I don’t have a master’s in parapsychology. I don’t even have a degree.” Jon isn’t yelling, so Martin presses on. “When I was 17, my mum, she had some problems and I ended up dropping out of school to support us. I tried everything but nowhere was hiring, so I just kind of started to lie on my application, sending them out to just about anywhere. For some reason my lie about parapsychology got me an interview with Elias and – and then a job here. But most of my employment details are made up.” He pauses again, breathes. “ Everything is made up, actually. I’m only 29, and-“
Jon is calmer now, a small smile on his face as he interrupts Martin’s rambling with a laugh. “Right. I- I believe you.”
“You’re- you’re smiling.” Martin is hesitant, because he knows he isn’t done, but maybe now that Jon is calmer, things will go over better.
“Yes, um-“ Another laugh. “I won’t mention it to Elias. Just between us.”
“Um,” Martin says, “That’s- that’s great, Jon, but- there’s something else, too.” Jon looks up at him, the smile not quite gone, but his eyes in focus. “Um, in- in order to be able to lie on my CV so that whenever HR did a background check I didn’t come up with no employment experience, I- well,” he bites his lip. “I- I also lied about-“
“Your name,” Jon realizes out loud. “You- your changed your name.”
“Yes.” Martin swallowed.
“And, uh, wh- what’s your real name?” Jon asks, nothing more than curious, no accusation in his tone.
“It’s still Martin, actually, but-“ Martin takes one last breath. “My last name is Blackwood. My- my name is-“
“ Martin Blackwood,” Jon cuts him off. “No,” he shakes his head. “You- you can’t be-“
Martin ignores the twisting in his gut. He has always known Jon would be disappointed if he ever learned the truth, no reason to get upset by it now. “I am,” he says, pushing his shirt sleeve up. Since working at the institute, Martin has taken to sweater paws, because they hide his soulmark better than any makeup that might rub off or wristband that might move. “I’m so sorry, Jon, I-“
“ Why didn’t you tell me? ” There’s something more in Jon’s voice, but Martin can’t think past the anger and hurt in his eyes to hear it.
“I- I wanted to, but by the time you joined the institute, I was already lying to everyone, and our first meeting didn’t go well, and I was worried you’d tell Elias and I’d get fired,” he rambles, his voice shaking and breaking as he feels himself start to cry. “I- I wanted to tell you, especially after I got to know you, but by then I knew you wouldn’t want it to be me anyways, and I thought-“
“You thought I wouldn’t want it to be you?” Jon asks. “Why- it doesn’t matter. Martin, you shouldn’t have lied to me.”
“I know . I’m so sorry, Jon,” Martin pleads.
“It’s not-“ Jon stops himself. “You know what? It doesn’t even matter. It would never have worked out anyways.”
“ Jon- “
But Jon has turned to walk out the door. He turns back for a moment. “Get back to work, Martin.”
The second Jon closes the door behind him, Martin crumbles at his desk in sobs. He stays there for who knows how long, unable to hold himself still, until eventually he catches a breath. He doesn’t stop crying, but he does wipe the tears from his face with his sleeve and open up his laptop. He may have failed Jon as his soulmate and as his friend, but Martin will be damned if he fails as his employee as well.
Things between Jon and Martin aren’t the same after Jon learns the truth. Martin didn’t know something could hurt worse than Jon insulting him or his constant paranoia, but Jon’s new insistence on avoiding Martin stung worse than anything ever had. Martin has no one but himself to blame, he knows, but that doesn’t make him feel better.
Tim scoffs about Jon’s increasing paranoia and disrespect and Martin doesn’t have the heart to tell him that this time it’s on him. If Sasha notices, she doesn’t say anything.
Jon grows more and more distant from them and when another body turns up dead in the archives, this time with Jon on the run and Tim and the police sure of the culprit, Martin feels like his world is collapsing.
He knows Jon didn’t do it. No matter how angry or paranoid or scared Jon is, killing a man in cold blood with a pipe isn’t him. Martin tells the police this over and over, but Daisy doesn’t seem to care, and more and more he worries about Jon, hopes he’s somewhere safe.
Part of him wants to beg Jon to come back to the institute, plead that they could figure it out together, get Jon out of whatever this mess is together . They’re soulmates , they’re supposed to handle the problems the world throws at them as a team.
But by then Martin knows that it doesn’t work like that for them, and it will never be that way. Any chance they had Martin ruined by lying for two years.
Eventually, Jon does come back. Not to Martin, but to the institute. He’s dragged back by Detective Tonner with two wounds and a terrified look on his face that turns into anger as they get closer to Elias’s office.
Martin could never have seen what he learns in that office coming.
He certainly doesn’t expect his boss to be a murderer, or for his soulmate to get kidnapped twice.
In all the chaos, Martin doesn’t have another chance to apologize to Jon, not for the next few months. It’s months of Martin endlessly worrying about Jon. Every encounter sees Jon with a new injury or problem, and Martin grows sick thinking about the danger he’s in.
The few snippets of conversation they do have alone are less hostile than they were before Leitner was killed, at least. Martin knows this has more to do with the fact that Jon has bigger problems than any possible forgiveness, but he relishes in it anyways.
He isn’t expecting Jon to approach him, and he isn’t prepared for how unguarded Jon seems. He’s sure it’s just because Jon is exhausted, but it’s the most open Martin has seen him since they were trapped in the basement hiding from Prentiss, so he relishes in the moment of vulnerability, and it’s all he can do not to wrap Jon in a blanket and promise to keep him safe from the evil kidnappers of the world.
Jon asks how Martin is doing, and seems genuinely interested in the answer, and worried about how the statements are affecting him.
“I’m, I’m sorry, Martin. We haven’t... I know we haven’t talked much since... Sasha and- and since you told me-“ Jon cuts himself off but the fact that he brought it up at all surprises Martin more than anything. He’d been grateful that Jon was talking to him in a way that wasn’t clipped or openly hostile, and was planned to settle for whatever modicum of forgiveness Jon had found that let him be friendly towards Martin.
“I- I didn’t think you’d want to talk about it,” Martin stammers, unsure.
“Of course I want to talk about it,” Jon says. “I know I said some things the last time we- but…” He trails off then scans Martin’s face, looking for something. Martin’s not sure what he finds, but something makes him stand a bit straighter and look into Martin’s eyes. “I’m sorry for what I said before. I feel like we don’t have any time to talk, what with me being away from the institute so much. I wish we could have gotten lunch or something.”
“Well,” Martin says, hope blooming in his chest. “It’s not too late, y’know.” A wry smile. “Unless the world ends.”