Making it to the safehouse is a whirlwind of hastily-packed suitcases, train rides, and one rather long cab ride from the last train stop to the small Scottish village. Jon and Martin don’t speak much, traveling in comfortable silence, hands always intertwined. Neither is sure who initiated it, both grateful for the grounding warmth.
As the cabbie drives off, Jon puts down his luggage and heads behind the cottage to pull a key from inside the wooden birdhouse hanging from an oak tree, rotting with age. Or rather, he would, if he could reach the damn thing. The birdhouse teases as he extends his reach, falling a few centimeters short.
“Daisy must have used a step ladder to set this up,” he grumbles, glancing toward the padlocked shed. “Martin?” he calls out.
Martin rounds the corner of the cottage to see Jon on his toes, still reaching uselessly for the birdhouse. More than a full head taller, Martin smiles, places a hand on Jon’s shoulder and with the other, easily removes the birdhouse from the hook embedded in the tree's bark. “A shame T doesn’t come with a height boost, eh?” Jon jokes.
He huffs when Martin hands him the birdhouse, but there’s no malice in the action. They walk back round to the front of the cottage while Jon shakes the birdhouse until the key falls out of the small hole and into his hand. The cottage exterior is a faded white wood, paint chipping. The windows are frosted, making it impossible to see anything inside.
He unlocks and opens the door, coughing after inhaling the thin layer of dust coating the inside. Stepping inside, Jon fumbles for the light switch then takes a moment to consider the space. The cottage isn’t large, resembling what one might use for a hunting cabin. “Or a Hunting cabin,” he thinks, rolling his eyes at his own dumb joke.
The door opens into a living room, sparsely decorated with a couch, armchair, and coffee table. A few nondescript decorations hang on the walls, likely left by the previous owner. No wall to separate the kitchen, appliances, and counter space lining the back wall of the cottage. A short hallway to the left leads to a bedroom, where they set down their suitcases and bags, and an attached bathroom.
“Well… where should we start, do you think?” Jon asks, swiping an index finger across the dusty nightstand, then examining it with disgust. “Seems we have some cleaning to do.”
“I think,” Martin starts with bravado, “we should start right here. We’ve earned it.”
As he speaks, Martin falls backward onto the duvet, releasing a puff of dust that sends both of them into coughing fits. Finished coughing, Jon grants him a small smile and says, “Perhaps not just yet. Should probably get these sheets washed, for starters.”
Martin groans, laying the back of his hand against his forehead, resembling a fainting maiden. “If this house doesn’t have a washing machine the End might as well take me now.”
Jon laughs, a full laugh, surprised at himself and at Martin for being able to joke about the Entities so lightly.
Martin resolves to do everything he can to hear Jon laugh again.
Jon reaches a hand out to help Martin up. Martin takes his hand, and before he can decide the action is too forward, brings Jon’s hand to his mouth, and places a quick, delicate kiss on the back of Jon’s hand before standing up.
Even on Jon’s dark skin, his blush is visible. “Right, yes, well--I think that--uh, if we--” he stammers, and interlocks his fingers with Martin’s.
Fortunately, there is a small washing machine and dryer set on the floor of the hallway closet. They resolve to get the sheets washed and take stock of the kitchen before claiming their well-earned rest.
The sun is starting to set as the sheets and duvet are put in the dryer. Martin plugs in the radio stationed in the living room. He spends a few minutes fiddling with the outdated machine until he finds a station, clearer than most but still a bit static-y. 70s and 80s hits fill the otherwise quiet cottage, and Jon beckons him to sit on the recently-dusted couch. They sit side-by-side in silence, too tired to communicate.
A few songs play, and Jon leans his head on Martin’s shoulder. Jon feels Martin tense and is about to move back when he relaxes, then lifts his arm to place around Jon’s shoulder.
“Is this alright?” Jon asks, barely more than a mumble. “I don’t want to make you feel--”
“Yes, Jon,” Martin replies softly. “More than alright. I”m just… getting used to touch. After so long avoiding it.”
Another song plays on the radio. In his sleepy, relaxed state, Jon partially hums, partially sings along.
“If you’re so smart, tell me why are you still so afraid...”
Martin just smiles, content, and nuzzles against Jon. “Didn’t know you were a big Billy Joel fan.”
“You can’t deny he writes emotional and moving songs. He touches hearts.” Jon states with an air of playful defense.
“I wasn’t denying! Just surprised is all.”
“Too bad but it’s the life you lead, you’re so ahead of yourself that you forgot what you need…” Jon returns to his half-singing along. “You can see when you’re wrong, you can’t always see it when you’re right.”
“You’ve got a lovely voice, you know.”
Jon falls asleep on Martin’s shoulder. Martin would be happy to stay like that forever, but he knows they should probably move to the bed. The sheets finished some time ago, so he gently lowers Jon down onto the couch, placing a kiss to the crown of his head before retrieving the sheets from the dryer. He sets the bed, then returns to the living room. He shuts the radio off, now playing some Hall & Oates tune.
He lifts Jon from the couch with ease’ the small, thin man nearly weightless in his arms. Jon stirs but doesn’t wake as Martin deposits him in the bed. Martin climbs into the bed on the other side and lifts the duvet over them. He leaves space between them, not wanting to cross Jon’s boundaries, especially with him already asleep.
It turns out not to matter, as Martin wakes up the following morning in what could only be described as a spider monkey hold. In the night, Jon had wrapped himself completely against Martin’s back, hands dangling on Martin’s chest and one leg over his side. Martin contemplates waking Jon but decides instead to enjoy the warmth and closeness of the smaller man. Since the Lonely, he’s felt cold, cold all over and cold on the inside as well. Jon radiates heat in a way that truly shouldn’t be possible for a man of his size and warms Martin inside and out.
Martin lies awake, enjoying the embrace for some time before Jon wakes naturally.
“Martin?” Jon whispers as he comes to. “Martin, my goodness--I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean--” Jon starts to move away, slightly panicked.
Martin grabs and holds onto his hands before Jon can retreat. “It’s okay,” he says gently. “Stay. I want you to stay.”
“Oh. Alright.” Jon relaxes, returns to being flush with Martin’s back. Martin intertwines his fingers with Jon’s.
“We don’t have to go anywhere. We’re safe here.” Martin says, as much to himself as to Jon. “I’m safe with you.”
“You’re safe with me,” Jon affirms.
A few moments of comfortable cuddling pass. “Hey,” Jon says.
Martin turns over to face Jon, letting go of his hands to do so.
“Hey,” Martin says, smiling as he looks into Jon’s eyes.
“We’re safe here.”
“We’re safe here,” Martin echoes.
Jon places a hand on Martin’s cheek and wriggles closer to him.
“Thank you for taking care of me, Martin. Always.” Jon hooks his ankle around Martin’s.
Martin smiles. “You said…” Jon continues, “you said in the Lonely. You said that you lo--you used the past tense. Is that--?”
“Not past tense, Jon. Always.” Martin says, with confidence. Neither says it. They don’t need to, right now. It’s clear, in their eyes, their actions, their hearts.
“Can I--?” Jon leans closer to Martin’s face, lips nearly brushing as they speak.
“Always,” Martin whispers, and Jon closes the gap. Lips brush gently, conveying words and emotions, and all the things still unsaid. The apologies and the histories, the “I forgive you”s and “I will rescue you”s and the “always.”