Jon was barely 3 shots in and the combination of xanax and alcohol – stupid, irresponsible – had significantly lessening the knot lodged in his chest. The light in his office had taken a hazy tinge. The bottle was cool under his fingers. He was just – there. At his desk, where he was supposed to be. Sort of. It was a bit late.
Georgie used to joke he was a cheap date. Slight stature aside, Jon was all too susceptible to a few drinks. Uni weekends developed a fuzzy filter in the intervening years; despite Tim and Sasha’s criticism, Jon had been one for an evening out. That was long before he started work at the Institute, before he knew what lurked in the dark. When a drink was an excuse to start a conversation, not a bid to escape.
Disappointment he should have been channeling towards today’s poor life choice was sloppily uprooted by the fourth sip Jon dragged from the bottle. He paused with the rim of the glass to his lips, focusing on the cool pressure, a point in reality he could hold still. Steady hands at odds with unstable thoughts. Stupid. Irresponsible.
Nobody to blame but his own lack of self preservation, he mused, eyeing the quiet blocks of files and books piled about the restlessly cramped room. Combining something so tiny – half a milligram about, the smaller half of the broken pill he brushed right back into the drawer - with a few gulps of whatever Tim stashed in the back cabinets wasn’t unprecedented. Just dumb. Jon hadn’t wanted the other kind of ending in a long time. But he could end the hopeless crater in his chest today, and he did. Had a problem and he solved it. If they didn’t want him to they shouldn't have written 'as needed' on the script.
He dragged his eyes towards the overlarge watch on his wrist. 23:42. There were probably plenty of metro options left if he cared to haul his disoriented body out into the cool March air. Might help him focus.
The very notion drew an involuntary, disgusted snort. Defeat of purpose, really. The last half hour was merging into a comforting blur of pondering failures without the need to scream and gradual disassociation. Paired with the occasional giggle at the ludicrous turn his life took last weekend. A murderous worm lady with a bad sense of humor was hunting his assistant while he blithely ignored warning signs. Typical day in the office by any standard. In the middle of one of these self deprecating laughing fits the door to his office opened and Jon’s heart fairly stopped.
Correlating pajama clad Martin with his assistant’s usual appearance of sweaters and khakis short-circuited what was left of Jon’s mental faculties. For half an unsteady second Jon considered shoving the rather incriminating bottle of whiskey he absconded from Tim’s discrete collection to the floor.
A memory of the Admiral batting a full glass off the coffee table fell neatly into place beside that thought, promptly absconding Jon’s limited awareness. Shoulders shaking, he failed spectacularly at suppressing another fit of laughter. Georgie had been grief stricken over the loss of her gin and tonic and the cat did not care a wit. Sat there meowing defiantly from back of the couch. Jon had joined in. Meow meow meow, until she threw a pillow at him.
Martin entered the office slowly, drawing his attention back. With any luck, Jon had fallen asleep and this "Martin" was part of an incredibly boring and uninspired dream. He could hope.
“Are you... okay?”
Jon startled. Martin had moved much closer than he expected in the last – well – however long it took to blink. If Martin wasn't real, his mind had conjured a very convincing expression of bewilderment and concern across his features. Still, figment of imagination or not, Jon supposed it was rude to leave him hovering and unanswered.
“Fine. I’m... fine.” Jon could taste the pathetic falsehood of his poorly delivered lie. Worst part was, he was better than fine – this was the best he had felt all week – but he was talking too slowly, could acutely feel how tight his thin fingers were curling around the neck of the whiskey bottle. A drink. That would help. He wasn’t sure why, but what an elegant solution.
What he did not expect was the quite-real Martin to catch the bottle as he scraped it across his empty desk.
“I think – I think you might’ve had enough.”
Jon’s head snapped up, making his neck crack audibly. With a soft exclamation Jon released his death grip to rub at his neck. Martin had the bottle away and out of sight before Jon could find any useful syllables to articulate his displeasure, leaving his mouth hanging open.
“That’s not yours – well,” Jon reconsidered. It wasn’t strictly his either.
“...to go home?” Marten was speaking. The high eyebrows of his bewilderment were gradually being entirely replaced with a concerned furrow. “Jon?”
“Mmh?” Jon said articulately. All at once a disconnect developed between ‘Martin’ and ‘nearly midnight’ and– “Why are you here?”
The words didn’t come out with half the accusatory bite he would have liked. Jon couldn’t pin down the shield of animosity he usually hid behind when faced with his stupidly cute assistant.
“Well you – we agreed it wasn’t safe last week. What with the worms?”
Answering a question with a question felt unfair, but that was beyond any recompense Jon could demand with his sloshing thoughts. Which was rather the point, but what point that was Jon long abandoned to staring blankly at Martin. Cute?
Martin cracked first. “Jon, I really think–”
His voice startled Jon out of his careful examination of Martin’s ruffled bedhead. “Right, yes.” With a deal of effort, Jon heaved his weight forward on the desk. The surface tilted precariously under his palms. “I’ll be off.”
“Just... are you sure?” Martin said, stepping hesitantly around the desk.
The pathetic spike of touch-starved wanting Jon felt when Martin reached to steady him overrode Jon’s last ditch attempt at normalcy. He flinched, badly.
Nobody touched him. He was nimble enough to avoid Tim’s joking grabs, made it awkwardly clear to Sasha her arm pats were not welcome because Jon didn’t need people. He was tipping over backwards and sad and medicated and inadvisably drunk for completely unrelated reasons. Obviously.
His violent backward jolt didn’t put him out of Martin’s 6’ 4’’ reach. Martin darted forward a step and barely managed to keep the head archivist from braining himself on an overstuffed bookcase.
Martin’s assistance cut the last thread of coordination Jon was clinging to. In an unsteady move to right himself, his uncooperative center of gravity deposited him face first into Martin.
“Oh! Sorry – sorry.” Martin said quickly, attempting to disentangle from Jon without success.
Jon’s first halfway coherent thought was uninterested in deciphering Martin’s rushed apology. He was busy dealing with the soft material of his assistant’s t shirt, now bunched in his fist. This was in contention with how incredibly sturdy Martin was compared to the rest of the spinning office. And he was cool. Jon’s face had been on fire since the whisky first burned a persuasive path down his throat. This was a nice contrast but – wait – if Martin was staying here and he was cold –
“Is’t warm nuff to sleep here?” Jon asked Martins shirt, gradually tipping his head up and up in an attempt to read Martin’s very tall reaction. Wait. Reactions couldn’t be tall. Could they? Jon’s forehead crinkled and Martin looked just as lost. Well, at least he was taking the question seriously. Not that he didn’t always. “You’re a good assistant.”
Jon nodded. Noticed he was so close that loose strands of his hair were static sticking to Martin’s shirt. He let go of the cool material to push the offending flyaways back.
“Whoa!” Marin exclaimed. “Okay, okay this is happening.”
Distracted as he was, Jon fussing with his hair gave his knees the chance they were waiting for to give out – leaving Martin supporting all of his weight in an awkward bear hug, Jon’s arms tucked between them. Jon took a moment to dismay that his legs were just as treacherous as the failing rubber band he deputized as a hair tie that morning.
The morning seemed very far away. He considered sharing this revelation but it would be rude to interrupt. Martin was talking, possibly rambling. An adorable habit Jon was consistently a bastard for interrupting. A self-aware bastard, but a bastard the same.
“...really not at all how I thought this was going to go but I can’t exactly leave you up here – god who would I even call? Why do you have to be so... cryptic about every part of your life.”
“Don’t have a life,” Jon mumbled. Martin had paused to chew at his lip, glanced down with wide eyes at his armful of archivist. “There isn’t...” Jon sighed. “Isn’t anyone to call.”
Nobody who would answer anyway, Jon amended privately. That depressing reality had no issue crystalizing between the rest of his discordant thoughts. Jon puffed out a second, heavier sigh, weight of isolation creeping back between his bones. It gave him the modicum of strength he needed to get his body functioning somewhat normally.
He managed to step on Martin’s foot twice in the process, but reached what could charitably be called standing over a moments struggle. Martin’s hands shifted to frame Jon’s narrow shoulders, negating some of his swaying.
Jon closed his eyes and pinched at the bridge of his nose, not ready to address the inadvertent sincerity he inflicted on Martin. “I should sleep. Here – here is fine.” He added hastily, vaguely recalling earlier protests. He tried to drop back into the hard edges of the wooden chair but was foiled by Martin tightening his grip.
“No you don’t. Well, yes – yes to sleep. But not in here, okay?” he paused. “Jon?”
Jon searched for an ounce of willpower or self respect to face his assistant, found none, and cracked an eye anyway. Martin was looking at him with an honest determination he rarely directed at Jon. The alcohol circulating Jon’s brain made a charming reappearance and supplied ‘that’s hot’. Jon bit his tongue to narrowly avoid the absolute chaos and ruination a comment like that would cost him.
“Hey.” Martin caught his attention, oblivious to Jon’s mental 12 car pileup. What might have been relief gave way to a small smile.
Jon couldn’t imagine how he looked to cause that reaction. Disheveled hair, rumpled clothes and a missing jacket – not to mention his glazed eyes and the dark circles at home beneath them – did not deserve anything but the cultivated contempt he saw when he failed to avoid reflective surfaces.
“Just listen for a minute, okay?”
Jon nodded, taking a vow of silence. There were so few things he could do to make the situation worse, keeping his mouth firmly shut was the least passible offense.
Martin took a breath, “I’m not comfortable with you leaving or sleeping in the office or, uh,” he hesitated, “or being alone right now. So,” he took another rallying breath. Jon felt guilty for enjoying the gentle, probably inadvertent squeeze Martin gave his shoulders. “We are going to my room- to the room.” Martin’s cheeks colored. “You are going to drink some water and go to sleep. I really think that’s for the best.”
“What about you?” Jon did not mean to open his mouth, made the decision not half a minute ago. But the words tumbled out like loose change, gaining speed and momentum. “That’s not fair. This is my fault, so you shouldn’t have to – its not – not – I did this.” Jon said vehemently. “I act like – and you put up with me being – shit.”
Jon folded and sat heavily, weight of his actions driving him down. It was as much a surprise to him as Martin, who lost his grip at Jon’s abrupt descent. Landing on the chair hurt, but wasn’t enough to jar any sense back into him. If anything his garbled confession spilled faster.
“I’m not even nice to you. You’re... new to the department and you work hard and I call you useless when you’re not, and I almost got you killed when Prentiss – she,”
Every paralyzing fear from hearing Martin’s statement last week absconded with the last vestige of Jon’s self control without him noticing.
“She could have killed you! But in the name of due diligence – what the hell does that even mean? What was I talking about? – You went down there. You shouldn’t have to break into buildings, I mean, we all lie to get information... but you didn’t want to go into the basement. That should count for something. Doesn’t matter its your job, you can’t – shouldn’t put yourself at risk like that!”
Jon was painfully aware he was saying too much, too fast, and making it frighteningly clear he had listened to Martin’s statement more than once.
“The way you said I – I’m skeptical and dismissive and,” Jon fisted a hand in his hair, “that was the reason you lost your phone, to take a damn picture because of me – what if in the basement you hadn’t –”
It was getting increasingly difficult to breathe. Jon couldn’t stop. What he felt didn’t matter, it never did, and Martin needed to know. “You were gone for two weeks and I didn’t do anything, kept leaving you stupid mean voice messages, that’s – that’s nothing, I should have – I could have – I didn’t –”
Air had become a pressing need. Jon couldn’t force words out of his constricting throat, was reduced to ragged gasping. Ah. Panic Attack. What was the point of taking pills if his autonomic nervous system could override the dosage with enough adrenaline?
“Hey – hey Jon, look at me?”
He couldn’t. Couldn’t handle whatever Martin, foolish, kind, caring Martin would say in response to his unhinged confession.
“Umm okay. Jon, can I touch you?”
Jon could barely hear over the blood rushing in his ears but the question was so far afield he couldn’t dismiss it either. There wasn’t air for affirmation or a reason to allow it. Jon gave an unconvincing shoulder shrug.
Martin took ahold of one limp hand, grip careful. He guided Jon’s numb, buzzing fingers to his own chest, the soft material creasing under Jon’s shaking hand.
“Breathe with me.” There wasn’t room for argument in Martins direct instruction.
Jon tried. He really, really did, a pitchy gasp catching on his inhalation. Martin let out a lungful of air for Jon to poorly match. Then again. And again.
Forever. Jon would have sworn up and down on pain of re-living the entire night that it took an eternity and a half to get his breathing under any semblance of control. By the tailing end he could barely keep his eyes open.
At some point his head had slumped forward and found a home on Martin’s shoulder. Martin had a light hand on the side of his neck to keep Jon from sliding off. Jon may or may not have been leaning into it. Eventually, time took to passing in a more traditional manner, but Jon didn’t have the energy to say so. It was all so much, and he was so very tired.
His entire mouth felt thick, uncooperative. “Umm, yeah. Sorry.”
It very much was not.
“I think bed now.”
Jon didn’t have a reason to protest, aside from everything he had said and done to Martin over the course of taking his position of Head Archivist. He said nothing. Nodded, with an embarrassing half-formed wish he wouldn’t remember any of this. With the xanax, it was a possibility.
Moving from his office to the make shift home Martin established in the spare filing room blurred between Jon’s stumble steps and Martin’s arm around his shoulders.
The cot was in the same place Jon left it, with a new collection of blankets. A suitcase had taken residence by the door, tucked neatly corner to corner with a dusty cabinet. All illuminated by the bare blub swimming lazily overhead.
Martin deposited Jon on the cot, the next thing Jon could track was a water bottle in his hands, a drink, being nudged to lie down. Jon protested briefly, got shushed and that was that. He nodded off before Martin carefully cut the rubber band from his tangled hair, snored right though the untying of his shoes and when his glasses were removed from where he smashed his face into the pillow.
And when he woke up in the storage room the next day without the first clue as to how he got there, why he hadn’t gone home after work – well. Martin’s stammered insistence he found Jon sleeping at his desk and didn’t want him to ruin his back filled the gap uneasily. Jon knew peripherally the story was incomplete, but was too rushed by the late morning to give it any real consideration.
It wasn’t until a giggly confession in a cabin, years later, Jon was subjected to Marin’s re-telling of his antics with unapologetic glee. There remained weak contention over what factually transpired, but Jon refused to Know. Sometimes it was best to let things be. Martin was smug as he could be and laughing and if that as what it took to keep him smiling, then Jon could accept the story as it was.
But he really doubted he meowed at Martin.