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imaginary destinations

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Jon no longer has a flat. Daisy no longer has a flat. It’s the only obvious course of action. (Except it’s not obvious. Nothing is obvious about getting a flat with someone who tried to kill you. Nothing is obvious about getting a flat with someone you almost killed yourself for.)

It’s not awkward, at first, but that’s mostly because neither of them actually uses it much. Jon stays late at the archives and Daisy wanders around between his office and Basira’s desk like she’s a ghost, and they both forget to leave. It’s only when Daisy falls asleep in her takeout and Jon nearly passes out and catches his head on the corner of his desk that they actually decide to spend the night in their new place.

That night is terribly awkward. They don’t know how to move around each other, don’t know the steps to the dance that is avoiding bumping into each other in the kitchen during dinner or in the bathroom while brushing their teeth. They go to bed at the same time without having built up enough of a routine to know who is supposed to turn out the light in the hallway at night.

The blankets are crushing. Even after piling them on the floor, the mere knowledge of their proximity is too much. Sleep is out of the question.

When Jon ventures into the living room, Daisy is sitting on the floor in front of the sofa. Jon just stands in the doorway until she notices him.

“Couldn’t sleep,” she offers as an explanation. “The blankets, and—and the dark…”

Jon nods. “Me, too.”

Daisy nods. Then, like she’s been granted permission to do something, moves the coffee table against the wall and stretches out on her back. “I’m sleeping on the floor.”

Jon watches as she closes her eyes and tucks her own jacket underneath her head like a pillow. When she is fully settled, he crawls onto the sofa. His left hand dangles, knuckles brushing the floor. He imagines that sometime during the night, one or both of them will reach out and link their pinkies together. But for now, they just close their eyes and try to sleep. (They leave the light on.)

Their flat is incredibly empty—empty of food, empty of clothes, empty of general daily necessities. So they go shopping.

Neither of them can drive, so they take it in small outings, only buying as much as they can carry. (Between Jon’s cane and Daisy’s atrophied muscles, this is not a lot.) They get necessities like toiletries squared away first, then the food. The food won’t last them the week, but they get takeout most nights, anyway.

The clothes, though… it takes them longer to get to that. They don’t think about why. They buy more clothes than anything else they bought for this flat—why not? They’re using an Institute credit card to pay for it, and it’s not like Elias is going to fire them for it. (They wish he would.)

So they make a whole day of it and go to several more stores than they first planned to. Their styles are more similar than either of them expected—Jon likes earthy tones and Daisy goes for pastels, yes, but they both gravitate towards the soft things. Sweaters with floppy sleeves and trousers with flannel linings and cardigans you want to rub your face on. They pay for the lot of it, dump it in the laundry, and spend an hour sorting and folding it.

As they sort and fold, Daisy notices Jon staring kind of longingly at one of the pieces she’d picked out. It’s a pale yellow off-the-shoulder sweater, and it’s got a tiny little strawberry stitched on one side.

“It’d probably fit you,” Daisy says, and he gives a little startle at being caught. “We’re probably about the same size.”

Jon nods hesitantly in agreement.

“D’you want to try it on?”

“I… yes.” He takes it from her delicately and steps into the bathroom to change.

It does fit. Jon wears it for the rest of the day. He plucks at the strawberry from time to time, but Daisy is fairly certain that it’s not because it bothers him. It just feels nice to have something to do with his fingers.

Soft is a good look on him. (Daisy thinks it’s a good look on herself, too.) But he never wears the strawberry sweater to the Institute, and Daisy finds herself relieved over this. The softness of the sweater wouldn’t fit the harsh, cold lines of their prison. Jon seems like he thinks his clothes are a prison, too. In his office he buttons and unbuttons his collar and picks at his slacks like they’re slowly killing him.

Daisy leaves early one day and goes shopping by herself. She goes to the same store she found the strawberry sweater at and wanders around until she finds a long, dark grey skirt. She rubs the material between her fingers. It’s soft.

When she gets home, Jon has already ordered takeaway for the both of them. He pats the couch cushion next to him and she sits down and holds out the shopping bag to him.

He takes it from her and peers inside then whips his gaze back up to her.

“Thought it would look good with your sweater,” she says. “It’s soft.”

He is squinting, scanning her face for any hint of a joke, wondering if she’s suddenly going to shout Gotch! right in his face. But she doesn’t.

The next day, Jon announces that he’s going to work from home, and he’s going to read nothing but fake statements all day. 

He’s wearing the sweater and the skirt. She was right—they do look good together. And when she settles in next to him on the couch, she can feel how soft they both are.

They start stealing each other’s clothes after that. They don’t really have to ask—one of them finds the other in their closet, holding up a piece and considering it, and they nod in approval or offer a better suggestion, and that’s the end of it.

But then all of the clothes end up scattered around the flat and neither of them can find anything, so they turn the storage closet in the hall into a regular closet and put all their clothes in there. (Aside from a few particular items. The grey skirt is exclusively Jon’s, but the strawberry sweater is not, which Daisy has given up on figuring out his reasoning behind. The sundress that was a gift from Basira is exclusively Daisy’s.)

Jon offers up a burgundy cardigan, with little golden beads stitched round the edges, and it becomes a staple in her wardrobe. (She can have a little darkness without being something that lurks in the dark.) She plucks the beads in much the same way Jon plucks at the strawberry. She plucks them right off, one day, and mourns the loss until Jon comes home and says he can sew them back on.

He is quick and efficient with his stitches, except for when he is a bit too quick and pricks his thumb with the needle. He waves off Daisy’s concern, says it’s already stopped bleeding and it’ll heal up quickly.

“Wish that was the case for everything,” Daisy mumbles.

Jon hums. “When I was younger, I used to think there would be a point where I could say I was healed. That I was no longer… traumatized.” He laughs softly, wryly. “When I could accept that I was traumatized at all. But I’ve started to realize I was walking toward an imaginary destination.”

Daisy leans on his shoulder. “I think this is one of those situations where the journey is the destination.”

“Yes. I think you’re right.”