Jon waits until Martin is asleep before he goes.
It’s raining outside the safehouse, a drizzling patter of drops that help lull Martin to sleep. Jon runs his fingers softly over Martin’s scalp, helping the process along. The hair is soft, despite the general grime of the safehouse, and it pains Jon that it is all bleached white, the color of fog, the color of the Lonely, but something about it makes Martin happy to see.
No, not something. Jon knows what it is that makes Martin happy about his hair, and he knows because Martin told him, which makes the knowledge not a theft but a gift; with his hair styled like this, he no longer looks like his father.
(Martin wonders if his mother would love him like this. Martin may like his hair better like this, but Jon does not. Jon hates it. It makes Martin think of his mother again, of trying again, and as far as Jon is concerned Martin’s mother can rot in hell; she is the one who hurt Martin so deeply that he carries the scars long after she died. And that is hypocritical, maybe, but he hates her all the same.)
But none of that fury carries to his fingers, because Jon keeps them intentionally gentle, tracing nonsense patterns through Martin’s hair. He takes a deep and thick sort of pride in how quickly Martin falls asleep, going lax, curled in his arms. He does not necessarily think that Martin should feel safe with him, but Martin has made it quite clear that what Jon thinks about the fear Martin should feel of him counts for very little, and that Jon makes him feel safe, and though Jon may not understand that, he will never, ever protest it.
It is a gift, to be able to make Martin feel safe, whether he deserves it or not. He will protect him for as long as he can.
Outside, the quiet patter of rain intensifies into a proper storm. Jon is grateful for it, as he slides carefully out from beneath Martin; Martin is not the only one Jon has to protect.
Jon leaves a kiss on his cheek as he goes. He shuts the door behind him, quiet, and after a moment’s consideration turns on the light in the hall, so that Martin will know that he left of his own free will.
The rain carries a distinct and cutting chill with it, and as Jon steps outside he is swellingly grateful for the thick knotted knit of Martin’s jumper, curling it tighter around himself. The sleeves are far too long on him and the hemline will not stay tucked into his belt no matter how hard Jon tries, but as far as he is concerned it is perfect, a faded once-bright blue thing that Martin no longer wears because he keeps as far from blues and grays as he can but that Jon carries with him like a good-luck charm.
As the wind and damp cuts through him, Jon’s hand strays to his pocket, where he keeps the lighter even still. But he does not open it. This is no business of the Web’s.
Jon glances inside the windows of the safehouse. It is strangely illuminated, the shadows of the kitchen cast long and stark with no light from the outside and the bulb of the hallway the only glaring source of light, but there is nothing strange about this dark, so Jon turns his attention to the outside world.
He peers into it, into the sky slashed through by stormclouds of dark purple, looming on the horizon. There is a larger storm rolling in, and within an hour or so there will be great crashing sweeps of rain and thunder overhead.
Perhaps, Jon thinks, he should leave this for another night—but no. He sweeps the thought aside impatiently. This is the day he has chosen, and if he puts this off he won’t ever muster the courage again. It has to be tonight. It has to be now.
(Jon told Martin he loved him before he fell asleep, clearly and in so many words as he so rarely does, and sealed it with a soft brush of lips to his temple. Just in case.)
His fingers spider along the inside of the sleeves of Martin’s jumper, curling in on the fabric that still clings stubbornly to the vestiges of warmth carried from the thick blanket adorning their bed. The meager overhang of the front porch provides little protection from the rain, and already Jon is soaked to the bone, shivering faintly, his right hand locking, but Jon shakes it out and ignores the cold.
He closes his eyes.
He thinks of Daisy’s knife against his neck. Thinks of Basira’s voice, conciliatory, and later the fear that she’d made her regret it. His heartbeat picks up and he leans into it, focusing and listening until all he can sense is the rush of blood in his ears. He remembers the awful weight of the Buried, the crush of a ribcage made delicate by the hands of another, remembers reaching out to a Hunter and receiving nothing in return but a handful of words and three pale fingers; remembers climbing back out of the Buried with a Hunter who’d marked him for death, and how those first two days after climbing from the Buried he’d been so tired, too exhausted for fear, wondering in distant terror if, away from the Buried, she’d change her mind and kill him after all.
The rush of blood loudens, swells, and crushes all around it. He thinks he makes a little sound, the mortal terror of a knife gouged to his throat, perhaps, but then that fades too beneath the pounding of his own heartbeat.
When he opens his eyes, he is standing on a cobbled street of a town he does not know.
It is a small town, weeds sprouting between the uneven pavement that passes for roads, houses dotting the skyline, holding lights within that flicker like real flame. He looks up, and he can see the stars. Cardiff, the Beholding tells him, and Jon flinches so badly at the knowledge that he nearly stumbles, but rights himself, his heart pounding in his throat. He is used to terror, so it does not surprise him, but his heart sinks at the fresh thick wash of it, settling deep and heavy in his bones. His hands are shaking. He is so, so cold, even though the night here is clear and windless.
His heartbeat pounds in his ears, aggravatingly loud, but the rest of the night is quiet, for which he is grateful; there are three cats in the home just across the street from him, but they are all sleeping, and the dog in the one just beside it is awake, and it was barking just moments ago but quieted when Jon arrived. He is used to that, because when he is like this animals hate him, which he understands. He is not natural. He would hate him too.
It his not his Sight that pricks, but his hearing. There, at the peripheries, a trickle of water. Faint, beneath the wild distant terror of Jon’s own heart. He does not know what but there is something wrong, and it is not immediately obvious, what is amiss; there is only the faint prickling along Jon’s skin (because he still feels, unlike all the rest, he sits and he stews in it, the fear and the terror and the helpless, watching horror) and the water in the stream is too thick to be water, the glint of moonlight off the courses of the riverbanks too smooth and unblemished, and when he reaches the river’s edge the whole forest smells of iron. Thick, ropy strands jut out from the stream, which Jon would mistake for tree branches if they did not bend, smooth sinuous curves that knot and wind around on themselves like veins. Steam raises faintly from it, and it is not water in the river but blood, and as revulsion and fear and helpless horror rises in him, he Knows that this is the right place; this is the prison that the Hunt has made for its favored child.
“Daisy?” he calls, voice cracking with the fumes that burn down his throat. It does no good. Of course it does no good. So deep in the confines of another entity, she cannot hear him. His hands are shaking. His eyes, all of them, are wide, nearly white in the moonlight. The steam drifting from the river of boiling blood stinks of sulfur as it sears around the edges of his eyes and makes them wince, shudder, closing in turns. “Daisy?”
There are no humans in the village behind him. There are two cats, now, and the dog has gone feral and taken the third with it; the other two cower in the bedroom that once contained a hearth. There are now two living things for miles around, both kittens; Jon cannot count himself, or Daisy, in that number, though she is here. He Knows she is here.
He Knows exactly where she is, and he Knows exactly what he has to do.
With an ache in his chest that has nothing to do with the pressing dark around his eyes or the hiss and burble of the river before him as the bubbles on its surface slowly bloat and exhale a murky gas, Jon carefully removes Martin’s jumper and folds it on the bank, away from the splash and run of thick ropy water. His trousers next, his belt, his socks and shoes, all folded and tucked away, and he should be cold, he thinks, or perhaps very hot, but fear is good for one thing, and that is insulation; he cannot feel anything, staring down the running river of malice that wants to consume him, not hot or cold, not determination or grief, just abject terror.
The river is singing; the blood is calling to him. And he listens.
Jonathan Sims dives into the river.
Immediately he burns. Within moments his right hand locks and shrivels, and he chokes on a scream that fills his mouth with roiling liquid, scalding his tongue and the back and top of his mouth, and he can still hear his own heart pounding, quick and caged, and he pushes it all away, all of it, and focuses instead on the singing of the blood.
It leads him down. Even the beating of his heart against his cheeks seems to push down, so Jon shuts all of his eyes and swims blindly through the river, picking through knotted capillaries and the faint swelling of a tempo to the current that could be a heartbeat. He forces his eyes open, but the red is blinding, and his throat is raw, and the drumming of his heartbeat is being drowned out by a voice, something startlingly human, screaming. And as he goes he is thinking incessantly of—of the Archers, of boots on his desk that smelled permanently of wet earth no matter how they tried to clean them, of a bottle of whiskey cracked open and later two glasses to go with it, one with ginger and lime and one straight from the bottle (Jon’s with lime and ginger, he could never stand the taste of just whiskey but it was Daisy’s favorite so they made do, and she made horrible fun of him but it was just her way of thanking him); thinking of three fingers twined with his and earth crushing the breath from his lungs and the soft way she had told him one night listen to the quiet, Jon, and how she had asked him, toward the end, to kill her if she ever returned to the Hunt. But it was as laughable then as it is now, and he very nearly does—very nearly laughs as he strains ever closer to the bottom of the river where he Knows she is cocooned in the thick hide of congealed blood like the scab over a still-beating hear—as if he could ever willingly hurt her, his Daisy, his sister, who has pulled him out of his own hell just as surely as he dragged her from her coffin.
The stream leaves his eyes for last. Whether from the protective film of weeping or respect for the Beholding, he does not Know; but he watches his own charring, as the bits of him that can still twist surge through the stream, always Searching, until there is absolutely nothing left.
The cold that floods through him just as intense as the boiling blood.
Suddenly he is not swimming but hunched over, hands to his chest, utterly soaked in biting rain, and there is the sound of thunder not too far from here and a point of warmth on his chest that burns like fire, elongated strangely in five directions and Jon scrambles backward from the searing heat, head spinning, utterly blind, still reeling with Daisy, Daisy, he’d been so close he could feel her—
“Jon,” cuts a voice, a familiar voice, and Jon’s breath chokes up in his lungs because he knows that voice, and suddenly he’s aware that he’s shaking, his whole face wet with water and something else too thick to be the same, that his right hand is curled fetal and unmoving, and that the warmth on his chest is a hand, and that the hand belongs to Martin Blackwood, who is supposed to be sleeping, and who should not be out in the rain.
“Martin?” he manages, his boiled throat cracking all the way through the name. He reaches forward blindly, his eyes still sealed shut, something still trickling down his cheeks and his shoulders and his chest and everywhere his eyes once were before the Hunt burned them away. Every part of him hurts. “You—”
“What were you doing?” Martin demands, voice tight. There’s fear in that timbre, and Jon does not have to Know to recognize it. Martin was supposed to be sleeping. His hands tense around Jon’s shoulders. “Jon, it’s—it’s the middle of the night, it’s raining, what were you doing?”
Jon doesn’t mean to start laughing. He means to say Daisy, because he thinks Martin would understand that, but it’s funny, because he failed her, and there’s a part of him that doesn’t want to tell Martin at all.
He really doesn’t mean to start laughing. But then he just is.
Over his head, the thunder he spied some hour ago crashes over them. Great sweeping sheets of rain slam against them, and through his left hand Jon can feel Martin shaking. He should still be asleep. He must be freezing. He feels warm though, and Jon is cold, so he leans toward Martin, still laughing, like any of this is funny, like he wasn’t so fucking close to reaching her, and buries his face in Martin’s jumper, which feels like the worn green one that Martin was wearing when they both fell asleep, and laughs, and laughs.
When the laughing stops, so has the rain. Jon still can’t open his eyes but the air is warmer around him, and by his feet is the pointed heat that comes from a kindling flame. He casts around, his two eyes failing him, with Sight, and recoils with a choked whimper when the whole of his body where his eyes had been flame and start to char him from the outside in. “Stop that,” comes Martin’s voice, almost angry, and Jon stops trying to see and reaches out blindly. He slumps down when Martin takes one of his hands in both of his.
There’s a shifting as Martin sits beside him. Still sopping wet, still shivering faintly with the cold, Jon stays where he is. This is not how he wanted this to go.
Basira is in her flat, sleeping. He wanted to tell Daisy that. He wanted to tell her about the sale on Old Pulteney at the distillery down the street from her own flat. He wanted to tell her thank you for the safehouse, and for the happiest two weeks of his life.
(He’d promised himself, months ago, when Martin vanished from his sight for the third time in has many days: no one else would get hurt for him. He’d made himself a promise. He would walk into hell for daisy back, but even as a monster, even as less-and-more-than-human, he doesn’t even get that choice.)
When he left, he had hoped Martin would stay asleep. But Jon clears his throat and feels his own voice rubbed raw, and suspects that the screaming he heard was not Daisy’s, but his.
“You scared me,” Martin says. The anger is gone from his voice. It’s just…flat. There’s a shifting, and Jon thinks Martin turns to him, but he’s too tired to mirror the motion, so instead he just lets his head bow. “What were you doing?”
“Looking—” Jon clears his throat. He’s so tired. “Looking for Daisy.”
The disappointment, Jon decides, is the worst part. “I know.”
“You can’t do that,” Martin says. “She’s gone, Jon. You told me she—part of the Hunt. Besides, we’re trying to hide here, right? So pulling the Watcher’s gaze is sort of—well, it’s counterproductive, what were you—”
“—thinking?” Jon snaps. “I know you hate her, Martin, but I don’t. She’s gone because of me. I wanted her—” His voice breaks. Back, he means to say. He wanted her back. He misses her, an ever-present ache just left of center.
“That wasn’t your fault, Jon.”
“Wasn’t it?” He feels like laughing again. He turns toward Martin, blindly. “Wasn’t she trying to protect me? Didn’t I once call her for that exact purpose? Didn’t I pull her from the Hunt, make her some sort of prize? Didn’t I call the Hunters right to us? Explain this to me, Martin, explain to me how none of this is my fault. Explain it.”
“I’m listening!” Jon says, voice edging higher, crueler. “Because from where I’m sitting I can’t see how this isn’t on me!”
“From where you’re sitting you can’t see anything, Jon,” Martin says, with the thin patience of a very tired man, and Jon deflates all at once, curling up to rest his head on his knees. “Her decision to stop listening to the Hunt, Jon, that was her choice. Not yours. And the Institute was always going to be a prize for Hunters.”
“I asked her to protect me. From the—from the other Hunters.”
“You asked for help,” Martin says sharply, and Jon knows he’s touched yet another nerve. “That’s not your fault.”
“I get a lot of people killed.”
“Don’t do that.”
“Sorry. I’m—” Jon runs a hand through his hair. This isn’t how he wanted any of this to happen. “I’m sorry, Martin.”
“No, that’s….” Martin trails off, frustrated. He places his hand on Jon’s shoulder, gently, one finger, then two, then five, then his whole palm, and even sightless, Jon has plenty of time to move away. And for a moment he considers it; cold as it is outside, there is something right now appealing about the storm, not in the least that he could pretend that whatever is on his face is just water and nothing more, that the trails leading down his face are not dried blood. That he could pretend it were another cold day at the Institute, that he would have a smoke, and he would turn back inside and there would be Sasha, as she was, and Tim, unmarked, and Martin, with a cup of tea, his loneliness hidden behind smiles and offers of aid. “Thank you.”
Jon leans into him, bracing his head against Martin’s shoulder. “I almost found her,” he manages, voice choked off at a whisper. “She was—it’s keeping her in this, in a river. In the town she grew up in.” Jon laughs. “I don’t even know if it was real, or a metaphor, but I could hear her through the blood, Martin, she was whispering something and it sounded a little like the Archers, isn’t that—she was right there.” Jon runs a hand through his hair, tight enough to hurt. “She was right there. I couldn’t reach her.”
Martin takes his hand, and laces their fingers together, gently. Turns Jon’s palm over in his. Doesn’t say anything; but after a moment, Jon feels the brush of lips against the back of his hand.
“I’m sorry I Looked. I’m sorry I even…I let the Eye see us. That was stupid.”
“It already knew,” Martin says, thumb tracing patterns across Jon’s knuckles. In front of him, the crusted warmth of a growing fire laps up to his ankles, pushing away both the Scottish chill and the sting of a boiling blood. “You had to try.”
“I shouldn’t have.”
Martin laughs at that, a soft little thing. “That’s not in your nature,” he says, voice unbearably fond. “I’m sorry you couldn’t reach her.”
Jon nods, stiff, buries his face in Martin’s shoulder. Silly, stupid, that he would cry now, so long after he was pulled from his Watch of the Hunt’s domain. He laughed before this. God, he laughed.
Martin doesn’t say anything, for which Jon’s grateful. He doesn’t leave, for which Jon is even more so. He just runs his hands through Jon’s hair, as Jon had done some hours before, and lets Jon cry. He was so close. He could feel her there, trapped again. He was so close.
Part of him hopes that she heard him, that she knew he tried. Most of him hopes desperately that she had no clue he was there. He cannot reach her. He knows that now.
There is no one coming for her. Not this time.
“Come on,” Martin says softly, hands braced gently on shaking shoulders. He lifts Jon in one smooth movement, and Jon immediately buries his face in Martin’s chest. “Let’s go back to bed.”
Jon doesn’t have the energy to argue. It feels wrong, to be coddled when Daisy is burning and bleeding and suffering, but he’s so tired, and he lets himself be laid out on a bed that once belonged to her and tucked beneath blankets that are hers too and tries not to think about Daisy, given into the blood, heartbeat pounding in her ears just as it had in his, able to listen to nothing but the fear of her prey, and how much she had hated being the woman she was before the coffin, and how she had begged him to make sure that it never happened to her again—
“She only ever asked one thing of me,” Jon says, “did you know that?”
“I’m going to put out the fire,” Martin murmurs, touch soothing along Jon’s side. “I’ll be back in just a few minutes. Try to sleep.”
“Okay,” Jon says. “Okay.”
He listens as Martin moves around the safehouse. His footsteps are clear as the fireplace hisses and dies. He stays even after the sound of the fire chars into nothing, careful to kindle it down to the last ember, because Martin is meticulous and careful with things like that. With fire.
And it’s funny, in a way that isn’t funny at all, that over the sound of all of this, into the thick blackness of Jon’s own darkness, that he can so clearly hear his own heart beating.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers, into the darkness of a room that is empty save the singing of his own blood. Far away, he imagines she can hear him. His Daisy. His sister, who he left to burn. “I’m so sorry.”
The journey from Scotland took them weeks, but eventually, Jon and Martin arrived in London. The city became a hive for avatars after the world ended, so that’s where he and Martin work; talking, negotiating, and cutting deals with people who once wanted them dead.
There is a low fog over the streets today, grey and thin. Martin’s said he’s fine, but his fingers are tense where they’re laced with Jon’s, and Jon keeps close to his side, just in case.
Near the park, there’s an old black bench, curlicues wrought from the dark material. Jon Knows without meaning to that it appeals to Martin’s aesthetic, so he leads Martin over and they sit, wordless. In a way Jon is glad for the fog, or perhaps that is the sense of optimism of Martin’s rubbing off on him; at least in the fog, the wisp of steam that Jude Perry will become will be easier to see.
Belatedly, he thinks that perhaps Martin’s grip on his hands is less about the Lonely and more about the fire-scars ringing Jon’s fingers. An impossible swell of fondness fills Jon’s chest, and he squeezes their hands together, and from the tiny grin on Martin’s face he thinks Martin understands. They are just that way; Jon may be the one who Knows, but Martin was always the one who understood, who empathized, who knew what to do with what was given to him. The two of them are a formidable pair.
Tires squeal on pavement. It would be suitably dramatic if Jon did not Know it were unintentional. The fog, combined with the thin veneer of water on pavement, makes soundless driving nearly impossible.
Martin stands. Jon stands with him. Martin’s body is angled protectively in front of Jon’s.
He can see the hull of a perfectly nondescript black car in the gloom. There is the sound of a car door opening, and shutting, which echoes and amplifies strangely against the wall of water. Then, slowly, a figure materializes from the gloom, hunched oddly over. Martin’s grip on his hand tenses. Jon peers closer.
There is no wisp of steam around this figure.
When it materializes, the figure before them is not Jude Perry.
“Basira?” Martin calls, confused, and Jon’s gaze catches just to her left, and—
“Oh good Lord,” he mutters, breath catching on the inside of his throat, and is stumbling forward before he even realizes what he’s doing. His hands are on her shoulders, already, limbs moving before thoughts, eyes wide as he pats at her shoulders, her arms, her cheeks. She’s real. “D-Daisy?”
“Hey,” says Daisy Tonner, her grin lopsided, her voice fond. “Jonathan Sims. Never thought I’d see you again.”
“How—” There are scars marring the full left half of her face, three of her fingers crooked, and without meaning to he Knows that they were broken and set as best they could be Basira, that they’re still healing, that they’re immensely painful, that Daisy still itches to use them but cannot because for some reason she— “How?” He looks at Basira. He Knows his gaze is wild, frantic, and his grip on Daisy is firm. Looks back to Daisy. “How?”
“What, did you think we’d let you square off with Jude Perry alone?”
“I heard you, Jon,” Daisy says, softer this time, and somewhere at the edge of his consciousness—because his Knowing is very limited right now, very limited, his focus has tunneled down to just Daisy and all of his Eyes are closed save the two on his face, shuttered with shock—he notices Basira drift away, murmur a quiet word to Martin. Jon’s hands are shaking. “When you tried to find me. Thank you for that.”
“I didn’t want you to,” he says, because relief and shock have made this honesty palpable. He hastens to explain. “I couldn’t reach you. I tried, Daisy, I’m so—”
“Don’t,” she says, her raspy voice dangerous. She settles one hand with three clawed fingers on his shoulder and smiles. She looks so tired. Like all the vitality, the blood in her cheeks was drained, leaving her cheekbones nearly as sharp as his and her skin utterly pale, nearly translucent. “I know. I know you did. I was reaching for you too.”
“You were buried again,” he says, all in lowercase. “Boiling. In that river, Daisy, you were home but you weren’t, you—”
“I know.” She squeezes his shoulder in a clumsy attempt at reassurance. A lot of things about her are clumsy now. An old and familiar worry, born of the silence of the two of them focusing on not listening, rises in his chest. “It was, you know, sort of steamy in there. But I got out.”
Jon just stares at her. There is an ache in his chest, just left of center, that he’d thought was welded to the hollow space where two of his ribs should be, and it subsides at the sight of her. She’s solid beneath his hands. He scrambles for her shoulders, tough and roped with muscle, and pulls her to his chest.
“Good Lord,” he manages again, voice shaking.
“Not so eloquent anymore, are you?” she says, voice just as soft, and hugs him back.
Behind them, the tone of Basira and Martin’s mutterings turn to iron, tactical. There’s the click of something metallic that Jon Knows is a gun, but he doesn’t worry. He trusts Basira.
“Oh, reminds me. Sims,” Daisy says, bracing her forehead against his shoulder as she digs through her pockets. “Picked something up for you along the way.”
Curiosity has him pulling back, though his hands never leave her shoulders. Something inexplicably powerful is tugging at his chest, and it’s making it a little hard to breathe. “Oh?”
“Yeah,” she says, that fond amusement still laced with her tone, and from her overlarge jacket pockets, she hands him a root of ginger, and a single lime. “Whiskey’s on you.”
Jonathan Sims does not burst into tears, because he’s not actually sure he can, what with all of his eyes. But it is a very close thing.
He means to say something witty. Say, there’s a sale down the street, or we can go for a round after this, or have we ever actually all shared a drink? But what comes out for which he entirely blames Martin, Martin who has made him honest, is simply: “I missed you.”
He takes the ginger and the lime, because her crooked fingers are starting to shake. His hands tremble to match. He can’t stop smiling. She pats his cheek stiffly, then laces their fingers together, one at a time, and says, a little awkward, “Me too.”
He turns to Basira and Martin, shoulder-to-shoulder by the bench. Belatedly he realizes that neither of them should have known where to find him or Martin, and belatedly he notices swelling beneath the sleeves of Basira’s shirt, painful and blistered across her arms (and it is familiar, the scarring that blood thoroughly boiled leaves on skin). “How?”
“Not everything is about cutting out eyes,” Basira says, sharp and wry. “The Lonely was about connection. Confessions of a sort.” Martin buries a snicker in his fist, and amusement glints in Basira’s gaze at the sound. “The Hunt is about—hunting. Daisy gave up her gun.”
“And everything else too.” There’s something sour in her tone now. “Pacifist from here on out, I’m afraid.”
“You’re not useless,” Basira says, voice sharp and pointed. “Daisy.”
“I know, I know.”
“So Jude Perry,” Daisy says leadingly, and Jon considers not answering, because whatever just happened between Basira and Daisy needs to keep happening as far as he’s concerned, but a very selfish little part of him wants to keep Daisy beside him for as long as possible.
“We need help,” Jon says. “As much as we can get. Jude Perry, Manuela Dominguez, Jared Hopworth, Oliver Banks, they all want the Institute a crisp as much as we do. We’ll have to—negotiate,” he says, the word vile in his mouth, “but we need the help.”
“Jared Hopworth too, huh,” Daisy murmurs. “How many more of those ribs can you spare?”
“Oh,” Jon says, “spare ribs. Ha.”
“I didn’t—” Daisy stumbles, then smiles a little, pleased. “Didn’t even notice.”
“Jude’s to meet us here,” Jon says, as Daisy tucks her head against his shoulder. “We’re not sure what she wants. But we do…need her. Help.”
Basira raises an eyebrow. “Still making deals with the devil?”
Jon flinches a little. “Yes. You don’t have to…this is mine. Ours, to deal with.”
“Oh, stuff it, Jon,” Daisy grumbles. Basira rolls her eyes and loads her gun. “Tends to be a disaster when you try going out on your own.”
“Yeah, being Lonely’s not the best thing,” Martin adds, which gets the wry snicker from Basira he was angling for. He sits on the bench, never mind that it’s wet and cold. He pats the spot beside him, something glinting in his eyes. After a moment and a long, unamused look, Basira joins him.
“She’s dangerous,” Jon says, quiet as he can. Daisy lifts her head off his shoulder. “There’s no shame in—”
“I said stuff it.”
Jon stuffs it.
Daisy moves toward the bench, and Jon follows. Their fingers are still laced. She perches on the little handrest, curlicued with old dark iron, and Jon takes up a place behind them, his free elbow resting over the back of the bench, one hand draping gently over Martin’s shoulder.
“Can you see her?” Daisy asks, eyes narrowed into the fog, and Jon closes his eyes, and opens the rest.
She settles into view, like a burning itch trickling along the back of his hand. “She’s close,” he says, and opens his eyes. “A few moments at most.”
When Jude Perry emerges from the fog, the steam wisps around her like a stream of smoke from a candle. She grins when she sees Jon, and frowns when she sees Basira and Daisy, sitting there, waiting on the bench.
“Hi, Jude,” Daisy says, surprising them all by speaking first. She stands, tugging Jon to his feet—their fingers, like in the Buried, still laced—and smiles a grin that looks like a snarl. “Let’s talk.”