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Martin knew the Magnus Theatre was definitely haunted. They were one of the oldest venues on the West End, and had been host to a number of curious and ill-fated productions. There’d been stage accidents, suicides, natural deaths and the one still-unsolved murder from the 1920s. It had almost completely burned down not long after it had been first built. The history was quite exciting, really. Throw in the still unsolved disappearance of Gertude Robinson, the previous Stage Manager, and working at the Magnus was honestly much spookier than any previous theatre postings.

 

Sure, all theatres are haunted. But they weren’t this haunted. 

 

Martin put ghostly thoughts to the back of his mind as he flew the presets for the evenings show. Jon hadn’t given him the call yet, but it was getting close to beginners and he liked to be all set before that. 

 

Jon had only been the stage manager for about three months. He was still getting used to the way Magnus ran. He’d worked here before, as an Assistant Stage Manager or in the production management department or - somewhere. Martin wasn’t sure. The mechanists didn’t have all that much interaction with the administrative and managerial staff. Working opposing hours did that. 

 

The short time Jon had been here was more than long enough for Martin to develop an embarrassingly strong crush on the man. In spite - or because? - of the fact that Jon seemed to find him incompetent. Which Martin wasn't, thank you very much. He was occasionally clumsy and had admittedly learnt everything he knew on the job - but he was hardly incompetent. He'd been a mechanist at the Magnus for years. If you make it that long without irreparably breaking something or killing someone then you were perfectly competent. 

 

Why did he like Jon so much then? Probably because the man was incredibly attractive. Martin had lost his breath when Elias had introduced the new stage manager, barely squeaking out a hello before running off back to the fly gallery. As well, his voice. Even over tinny comms, it made Martin go a little weak at the knees whenever he was directly addressed.

 

Martin, fly cues preset go.” Speaking of. There was Jon over comms. Martin grinned to himself, locking off the bar and pressing the call button on his own comm set.

 

“Already on it, boss.”

 

He tuned out the comms chatter as he finished his preset, losing himself in the heave of the hemp rope under his hands. He loved flying. Loved rope under his bare palms, the ebb and flow of weighted bars. 

 

You didn’t have to be big to fly - Sasha was proof of that, small but strong slip of a girl - but Martin often found himself glad he was a bit on the bigger side. It meant he could haul differently. Where most people would fly with their whole body, close to the rope and letting the movement flow right through them, Martin could just use his shoulders. Sure, it wasn’t the 'proper' way to fly, but he didn’t mind the broad muscles which had developed across his shoulder blades and upper arms a few months into the gig. 



Sasha gave him a thumbs up from the other side of the stage, and he returned it. They were good to go. The fly system at Magnus was split in two - odd bars prompt side, and even bars opposite. Sasha usually flew prompt. She was lucky. She had the haunted side.

 

Supposedly, some poor fly person way back when grabbed the wrong rope on a very very heavy bar. As the brake came off and the bar plummeted in, he went up. And up, and up, and up, hitting the roof before he finally let go and plummeted, much like the bar, 8 metres to the ground, head first. Now, anyone flying on that side would feel a sudden cool chill if something dangerous were about to occur. More than one life had been saved with this early warning system. 

 

Of course, Jon would dismiss it as superstitious nonsense, even though he had been present just last week when Martin bellowed “ CLEAR THE DECK” before an unweighted piece of scenery had crashed to the stage. He’d just blamed Martin for improper flying, but Martin knew he’d checked the chalkboard, he knew it shouldn’t have been that far out of weight. He’d felt the chill all around him and hadn’t questioned it. 

 

It appears Mr Bouchard is joining the audience for tonight's show. Let's make it a tight one then folks.”

 

A chorus of “ copy that” echoed on comms, and Martin looked at the great red house curtain, currently in at the front of the stage, and sighed. He hated when Mr Bouchard came to shows. It always meant notes, delivered if not via Jon the next day then through an anonymous slip of paper near where he left his bag in the tech office. It was creepy and unprofessional and they were always so nitpicky. Regular audience goers don’t notice when he flew in bar 14 before bar 12 because it was an easier balance. When a show runs for a while, crew would find these little short cuts. They made it easier, and overall smoother. Going back to book was the worst. 

 

And beginners everyone.”

 

Comms chatter died down with that, everyone awaiting the stand-by that would come in minutes time. Martin waiting, hand loosely gripping the rope of bar two - the house curtain. First cue.

 

LX 0.5, SX 1, Followspot 1, Flies 1 and Flies 2 standing by”

“LX standing by.”

“SX standing by”

“Follow standing by”

“Flies 1 standing by”

“Flies 2 standing by”

 

Martin and Sasha echoed each other as they responded. A thrill of electricity ran through Martin, the feeling he always got before a show, something he never got tired of. 

 

“LX and SX, go”

 

The chatter of the audience died down as the lights dimmed, and Martin clutched the rope tighter.

 

Flies, go”

 

The house curtain went flying up, revealing the stage beyond it. Actors preset, ready to go.

 

Followspot, go”

 

And so the show began.

 

***

Tim and Sasha were loitering in front of the tech office. Tim and Sasha loitering in front of the tech office was rarely good, especially not on a Friday.

 

“Martin, drinks tonight?” Tim grinned at him expectantly. 

 

“Course, the Clyde again?”

 

“Where else? Hey, Jon! Jon, you coming for a drink?”

 

Jon looked up from the depths of the tech office, blue in the light of the computer screen.

 

“Not today.”

 

“Oh come on, live a little. Celebrate a perfect show in front of Elias,” Tim said. 

 

Jon pursed his lips. “These notes I’m about to send out in my stage managers report suggest otherwise.”

 

“Why are you never any fun, huh?”

 

“I’m a stage manager, we don’t get the privilege of fun.” Jon replied drily. 

 

“Oh come on, one drink won’t kill you.” 

 

Jon didn’t respond, turning back to the computer in front of him.

 

“Well, more for us then.” Tim said, shouldering his backpack. 



***

 Everything was going wrong. It seemed like every second cue was going late no matter how on the ball Jon felt calling them. Add in incessant flirting by Tim with everyone on comms and Jon was about ready to snap. 

 

“...so, who's up for the Clyde huh?"

 

Jon had enough. "Tim it's a Tuesday night and we have a matinee tomorrow. Stop chatting up the entire crew over comms, it's not appropriate or appreciated. Flies 29, stand by."

 

" ....standing by." Martin responded.

 

There was icy silence outside of Jon's calls after that, and while most of him was thankful a part of Jon tugged and felt a little bad. Tim was good for morale, and morale was important in a long running show like this. If it had been any other night - a night where everything didn't go wrong. 

 

But it wasn’t any other night. 

 

The show came down and Jon barely registered the crew filtering out of the venue around him as he wrote his report. Lots of notes tonight - and how many of them would actually read it? Sure, it was part of their jobs - to read and react to the notes in a stage managers report. The show had been running for a while though - he knew by this point most would skim it at best, if they even opened the email. 

 

Taking the ring of keys out from where it sat heavy in his pocket, he began making the rounds to lock up. He had a rhythm to this now, knew it intimately. Locking up was his favourite part of the night. Being alone in the whole 400 seat theatre, no one else could bother him. He fell into the pattern, turn-key-check-door-turn-key-check-door, power-down, turn-key-check-door. Check the loos for stragglers. Front of House lights off. Now time for the stage. Lock the doors that open onto the auditorium, check the flies-

 

Footsteps. 

 

Jon could hear footsteps. He couldn’t tell where they were coming from, the heavy footfall echoing around the now-empty stage. He glanced around, shone his torch despite the stage working lights still being on. He couldn’t see anyone.

 

“H-Hello? I’m closing up now, you’ll have to go.”

 

The footsteps paused, as if considering what he had to say, and then continued, slowly pacing. 

 

“Who is it? Who’s there? You have to leave now. The venue is closed.”

 

Surely another crew member would respond. Was it an actor, then? Or a very lost member of the public? Jon began to approach the other side of stage - not that they seemed to be coming from there, because really they didn’t seem to be coming from anywhere, but if this person was on his side of the stage he would have surely spotted them by now. As he got closer, the footsteps ceased. Shining the torch back and forth into the crevices and nooks, Jon couldn’t see anyone.

 

“Must have been imagining things. That’s it, just my mind playing tricks on me,” he said to himself.

 

He finished the rest of the lock-up, going slower than he had since his first time doing it. He checked every spot someone could hide, peeked into all the dressing rooms twice, and finally shut the last lights off, flicked on the ghost light and hurried to the stage door. 

 

He’d begun to feel better by the end. He was definitely just imagining things. Too many long days with not enough sleep. He’d try to sleep better tonight. Maybe try the chamomile tea Georgie had foisted on him when she’d noticed the bags under his eyes hadn’t budged since taking on the new job. 

 

Then he noticed a bulky figure loitering in the alley that butted onto the stage door steps, flaming red hair identifying as none other than Martin. All of his worries about ghostly footsteps went away.

 

“Martin! What are you still doing here? Why didn’t you answer when I called out?”

 

“Oh, Jon! Hey! Having a breather before I get on the tube, just need a moment. Or, a few moments. You called out?” Martin’s eyes were shiny and red, as if he’d been crying and his phone was clutched in his hand, screen still on. Jon wasn’t privy to much of his subordinates' personal lives, and Martin was no exception. He’d decided not to pry.

 

“Well that was you in the venue just before? Stomping around on stage?”

 

“Me? No, I don’t have keys. I couldn’t get back in the venue after Rosie left; I’ve been out here the whole time.”

 

“But...surely...you were in the venue just before? I heard footsteps.”

 

“Footsteps? Wasn’t me. Sorry Jon. Most theatres have reports of ghostly footsteps though, so I wouldn’t be too worried if I were you.”

 

Jon sputtered. “It-It was not a bloody ghost, Martin, the Magnus isn’t haunted. Ghosts aren’t real.”

 

“Sure thing Jon.” Martin said, as if reassuring a child. Jon was incensed. First he was in the venue after hours, now having the audacity to lie about it and suggest that ghosts were responsible. It was nonsense. 

 

At that moment a clatter came from the mouth of the alley and Martin startled. He walked off with a wave. Jon didn’t bother saying goodbye, and he cradled his irritation with Martin on the tube home. It went beyond unprofessional and unnecessary to lie to his stage manager - it was rude. To blame the fact he’d been skulking in the venue after hours on ghosts was beyond absurd. 

 

Jon just didn’t understand the line of thinking that old theatres were haunted. Ghosts weren’t real, and everything attributable to them could be easily explained with science - or the regular facts of old buildings. Old buildings creaked, old buildings cracked, old buildings had improper and strange heating which tended to cause cold spots. There were inevitably vermin who would move things overnight. There were clumsy stage hands who broke into venues deliberately to mess with Jon.

 

See, all explainable.

 

Still, Jon couldn’t help but wonder if he should ask one of the assistant stage managers to stay behind the next night while he locked up. There were always a number of less savoury characters who tended to loiter in the alley behind the venue - it only made sense, for safety. 

 

***

Melanie, have you finished your pre-show plot yet?”

 

“Uh, not Melanie but the pre-show plot is done. Standing by for beginners.”

 

“Martin?”

 

“Yeah, it’s, uh, swing day, remember?”

 

Jon clicks his mic off. “Oh god.” He’d forgotten. Wednesday’s were swing day, and Martin swung for the stage management department. 

 

Well. Surely it couldn’t get worse than yesterday. 

 

Right, I remember now. Thank you Martin. Flies, how are we looking?”

 

***

 

Martin hated swing day. It was always a two show day, which meant a long day, which meant scoffing a microwave dinner in between post show tasks in the afternoon and pre-show tasks in the evening. 

 

And as ASM that meant scrubbing stage blood off a number of props. He hated stage blood. Not that it made him squeamish - rather it was incredibly sticky and would stain his hands red if he accidentally touched it. It always seemed to take longer to wash his hands afterwards than the props themselves.

 

Why the stage management team didn’t just have two sets for two-show days Martin would never know. Probably a budget thing. Elias was always such a tight-arse when it came to backstage. He was happy to pay through the nose for big name actors, dressing room refurbishments, renovating the foyer, sure. But do one thing to make the crews life easier? Not a chance. 

 

It was as he was scoffing the Tesco microwavable butter chicken in the tech office that Jon approached him. 

 

“Martin.” 

 

“Jon.” 

 

“I had rather anticipated asking this of Melanie, but since she’s dome opping I can’t. So it falls to you.”

 

“What falls to me?”

 

“Would you hang back while I run through the lock up? There’s been an increase in…”

 

“You mean the junkies in the alley?”

 

“Well, yes. Feel safer leaving if there’s two of us.”

 

“Sure thing,” Martin nodded. “I can wait for you on the deck. See if there’s any more footsteps.” Martin chuckled where Jon’s face soured. He left without another word and Martin finished his butter chicken feeling a little - void?

 

Did Jon really think he’d come back into the venue last night to mess with him? He’d been out having a cry the whole time. A phone call from his Mum almost as soon as the show came down had left him feeling shaky, and he just wanted to collect himself and avoid bawling on a stranger.  Not to mention that Rosie had left well before, and he couldn’t get back in without someone at the stage door. Didn’t Jon know that?

 

Well. Martin would be here tonight. He could listen out. And if they both heard the ghostly footsteps, then Jon would have to believe.

 

***

Martin never realised how long it took the public to leave. Usually he would bring the house curtain in, check that all the brakes were on and grab his stuff to go. Now he was loitering on the deck, well after most crew had buggered off, still waiting for the audience to get out.

 

The Magnus really needed pushier ushers.

 

" Martin, the house is clear. I'm starting the front of house lock up. If you could bring the fire curtain in, that would be a help. Jon off comms."

 

"Copy. Martin off comms," he responded to empty air. 

 

The siren of the fire curtain coming down echoed through the empty theatre. After that there was...silence. Martin leaned up against the handrail separating the fly gallery from the stage, ears open for ghostly footsteps. He wondered whose ghost they could be.

 

Couldn’t be Gertrude - not that she’d necessarily died here, but after she’d disappeared there’d certainly been a certain presence in the antechamber that housed a grand piano she’d play occasionally. Martin had taken to greeting her whenever he passed through. It was only polite. It certainly lessened the slight feeling of dread that graced his neck whenever he used it as thoroughfare, though whether that was psychosomatic or legitimate he wasn’t sure. He wasn’t the only one that did - he’d gotten Tim and Sasha onto it, and he knew a few of the actors had picked it up as well. 

 

When working in a haunted theatre, it paid to be polite to your ghostly colleagues.

 

Martin doubted the footsteps belonged to the anonymous fly person - they only appeared when the flies were in use, and Martin had never heard footsteps before. There was supposedly an actress who’d either dropped dead on stage, or been crushed by a trapdoor - depending on who was telling the story - who might be the one. 

 

But Jon had believed they were Martin’s footsteps - and Martin, by no stretch of the imagination, would have footsteps sounding anything like an actress. Unless the actress happened to be wearing steel-capped boots upon her death. Which was admittedly unlikely, if he considered when steel-capped boots had probably been invented, and checked it against when she had supposedly died. 

 

No. Based on the facts he had available, this ghost was unknown, unseen, and only just revealing itself. How exciting. 

 

Martin was jarred out of his thoughts by a door slamming, and turned to spot a flustered Jon attempting to lock the door leading to the auditorium. His hands were trembling so hard he dropped his keys, muttering “ shit,” under his breath. 

 

“Do you want me to do that?”

 

Jon jumped again, startled, apparently forgetting that Martin was here. 

 

“Um, yes, I…”

 

Martin scooped the keys up and locked the door. “How about you point, and I’ll take care of the rest.”

 

“Okay, uh, start, start at the dressing rooms.”

 

Jon moved around the flies to stand on deck while Martin took care of the corridor of dressing rooms, when Martin heard a shriek.

 

“Martin, can you come back out here please.”

 

“Just a min-”

 

Now.”

 

Martin stepped back on stage. Jon held up a hand with a finger on his lips and then Martin heard it.

 

Heavy footsteps, clumping around from no discernible direction. 

 

And then, before Martin’s eyes, the brake on line seven unbraked itself. 

 

Line seven was permanently set. It had a white sash cord, knotted intricately over the brake so no one would accidentally fly it. Martin watched as invisible hands unknotted it, almost leisurely in their pace, and flung the cord over the handrail. 

 

And then the brake on line seven came down. 

 

Thank god it was in weight. The lights on the bar hung, swaying gently as if someone had knocked the rope. 

 

“Jon, could you put the brake back on please?”

 

“They were all on.”

 

“Not line seven.”

 

Jon turned to look. “How?” The footsteps grew louder, quicker. More aggressive. 

 

“Jon, just put the bloody brake on and let’s go.”

 

Jon heaved the brake back up with more force than was strictly necessary. “Agreed, I’m first one in so no one will notice so long as we make sure stage door is locked-” 

 

Martin was already grabbing his bag and beelining for the exit. As the stage door slammed behind him, it was like a heavy weight had been lifted off his shoulders and left inside the Magnus. 

 

Jon was talking to him. “...last person I’d usually ask but, could we grab a drink?” 

 

Martin’s heart leapt, ignoring the insult that had preceded the question. He took a breath - to get himself under control, this wasn’t a date, poor Jon’s just had his world view rocked by the irrefutable existence of ghosts, of course the man needs a drink. 

 

“The Clyde?”

 

“Will the others be there? I’d rather not get roped into socialising.” Jon said. 

 

“I didn’t hear about any plans tonight, but you never know with Tim.”

 

“There’s another place, a bit further down the road,” Jon said.

 

“Lead the way. 

 

They were halfway down the block when Jon turned to him, uncharacteristically shy, and said, “Does anyone actually read my notes, do you think?”

 

“I...think they do.”

 

“You didn’t read them, did you?”

 

“Today was swing day! I read Melanie’s!”

 

“A likely excuse.” Jon gave him a look, which honestly Martin felt was unjustified. The whole crew read different notes for swing day, it was just what they did. 

 

They kept walking, in not quite comfortable silence, until Jon pulled up at a bar. It was a hole-in-the-wall sort of place, all dim lighting and intimate seating. Martin was glad it was dark enough that Jon probably couldn’t tell he was blushing. Probably.

 

After ordering a pint for each of them, Jon led them down a narrow corridor into a smokers garden out the back. There was one table free and they snagged it. Martin wasn’t exceptionally pleased to be in the smokers, but he noticed the shake on Jon’s hand as he pulled out a cigarette and instantly made his peace with it.

 

“So,” Martin started.

 

“So.” Jon responded. He took a deep breath in. Opened his mouth to speak, stopped. Tried again. “I think someone is living in the theatre.”

 

Martin had not expected that conclusion. Then  -

 

“There’s no other rational conclusion.” There it was. Denial. 

 

“How about you tell me what you saw? Or heard. In detail. Don’t try to rationalise it yet, let's just get all the facts.” Because Martin had seen a fly line literally unbrake itself before his eyes. No hermit living in the roof could do that. 

 

“Well, I was locking up front of house as usual. Powered everything off, lights down. As I was about to leave the biobox I saw a torchlight out in the auditorium. At first I thought it was an usher, but all the ushers had left already. I made a call on comms - no response. Then, it was as if the torch bearer realised I was...there. It moved, ran, and the torch went off and the figure seemed to...vanish.  I called out to it, but the torch was already off so they must have already been gone - hiding or. Something. And then the footsteps on stage, you heard them. I must apologise.” Jon ran a hand through his hair. “It must not have been you last night after all.”

 

Did Jon Sims just apologise to him? 

 

“And the fly line - you said the brake had been on?” Jon said.

 

“Jon, I watched with my own two eyes as it took itself off the brake, no hands in sight. Flies don’t just do that.”

 

“Maybe it’s in need of a service.”

 

“The sash cord unknotted itself. That’s not in need of a service, that’s paranormal.”

 

“Well…” Jon took a long sip of his drink, brow furrowed. 

 

“There are twelve known ghosts that haunt the Magnus. Thirteen now, with this new one. Or very old. It could be either, really, sometimes ghosts lay dormant until something or someone wakes them up.”

 

“Twelve ghosts? Seriously?”

 

“Yeah. Well there’s Gertrude, she’s easy-”

 

“As in, my predecessor?”

 

“Yeah, she likes the piano in the little anteroom next to the stage, you know the one. Then there’s the flyman, obviously. The ghost in dressing room A, the gutless ghost, the critic in the foyer, the creepy director who only bothers the younger actresses, there’s Jonah Magnus who has a seat permanently bolted down so he can watch every show, there’s the ghost who turns the lights off - whenever someone blows a bubble, we blame them - the ghost that actors swallow, who makes them forget their lines. There’s a ghost who gets people lost in the dressing rooms. He’s interesting actually - apparently his name was Michael and he was one of the architects of the Magnus. He got lost backstage before they’d fully finished constructing it and he was bricked in, trapped and alone. He’s one of the full apparitions to have been reported - most are only cold spots, strange sounds or voices. There’s the almagalous mass of children outside Door Three - that one’s brutal, after the fire and stuff. Oh, and last there’s the ghost rats.”

 

“I’m sorry; did you say ghost rats?” 

 

“Yeah, ghost rats.”

 

Jon sits stunned, and Martin takes the opportunity to gulp his drink. His leg is bouncing anxiously, and he can’t help the low heat rolling through his stomach at being so close to Jon. They’re barely a foot apart, it wouldn’t take much to close the gap.

 

But no. He was only here with Jon because a new phantom was terrorising the poor stage manager, and it was up to them to get to the bottom of it. 

 

“Did you say amalgamous mass of crying orphans?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“That’s a ghost?”

 

“They’re the ghost of an amalgamous mass of crying orphans, yes. Outside door three.”

 

“What does it do?”

 

“What does what do?”

 

“The amalgamous mass of crying orphans.”

 

They mostly cry, really. Or whimper if the mood takes them.”

 

“Why are you insisting on a neutral pronoun here?”

 

“They’re plural, not non-binary you idiot. They’re not an it, they’re an-”

 

An amalgamous mass of crying orphans, yes thank you, I got it.” A beat passed. “All of these ghosts...they’ve been proven?”

 

“As much as you can prove a ghost. They’ve been reported more than once, with atmospheric indications that they exist. Or they’ve just been floating in the Magnus folklore long enough to be true.”

 

“And how do you know so much about them?”

 

“I make a point of being nosy about ghosts in whatever theatre I work at. I did a stint at Her Majesty’s for a month or so, I could tell you about those ghosts as well. No one else at Magnus is really interested beyond the ones which affect them - for crew it's mostly the flyman ghost. I think maybe Elias might know more than me. Maybe. And Melanie, she’s keen.”

 

Jon was smiling at him. Jon was actually smiling in Martin’s direction, and Martin’s heart could not take this. It was a small smile, existing as if in spite of itself. It married the expression on Jon's face, which if Martin didn't know any better he'd almost call fond. 

 

Martin drained his drink.

 

"What do I do then, Martin? I can't go to Elias with tales of a ghost, even if he does supposedly know the stories, I'd be laughed out of the job."

 

"I don't think you're replaceable Jon."

 

"While I appreciate the sentiment, I'm not sure Elias would see it that way. S.M.’s are a dime a dozen around here. I'm sure Melanie or even Basira from the office could fill in while he found someone suitable. Bottom line, I can't go to Elias with a ghost story." Jon paused. "You know, I'm not entirely convinced that there isn't someone secretly living in the venue."

 

"I highly doubt that as a possibility. Some theatres are easy to break into but trust me, Magnus isn't one. Don't we have loads of CCTV cameras? You could check them."

 

"Martin, that's a positively brilliant idea. I’ll speak to Elias about getting access. You know, I never thought I’d be grateful for grabbing a drink with you.”

 

“Well, stranger things have happened.” Martin gulped, cutting off the awkward, self-deprecating laugh that bubbled in his throat. Instead, he clung on to the positive bit of the backhanded compliment - Jon was glad he’d come out for a drink. Martin knew Jon didn’t return his feelings, but at least they’d finally moved beyond Jon thinking he was useless. 

 

Which, part of him bristled at the fact Jon had thought he was useless. He was a damn good flyman - whether or not Jon reconsigned it. 

 

Ah well. Tolerance was the first step towards love. 

 

Jon finished his drink and they left the pub together, parting ways at the nearby tube station. 

 

Martin’s heartbeat only returned to normal as he slotted the key in the door of his flat. This man was going to be the death of him.

 

***

 

Jon doesn’t know what to expect when he opens up the stage door the next morning. He’d left everything but the exterior unlocked but - he was first in. Surely it’ll be fine?

 

As soon as he notices the darkness of the stage, Jon feels on edge. The ghost light should have been on. Hell, most of the lights should have been on. He didn’t switch them off. He moved cautiously through the space, any obstacles a sight unforeseen until he reached the bank of switches on the wall opposite. 

 

He felt something cool and circular nudge his belly. Grabbing his phone torch out - should have done that in the first place, damn - he spies the culprit. An empty bar, hanging at waist height on stage.

 

Now that hadn’t been there when he’d left last night. 

 

He cautiously made his way over to the flys, pushing up his sleeves before hauling the bar back up to the grid. He’d mention this to Martin when he saw him today. Martin might have an idea.

 

Martin might suggest ghosts again, which Jon didn’t want to admit he was considering. Jon, the stage manager, king of logic and organisation in the theatre, considering that ghosts might be responsible for the unexplainable. It was. Absurd. But Elias wasn’t in tonight and so the CCTV was inaccessible, besides Jon still had to come up with a plausible reason to need the footage - a reason which wouldn’t result in him losing his job. 

 

But part of him couldn’t help but wander back to last night, with Martin reciting a laundry list of entities that supposedly haunted the venue.

 

Maybe if he could prove another of the spectres, then this one wouldn’t seem so absurd. For sure. He’d ask Martin to lock up with him again, and then he could take him through it. They could summon one - or something. It didn’t matter that Martin would be back on flies, he’d understand. Besides, he’d done it once. That was enough of an excuse. Already been inducted - no point going through it again with someone else.

 

Jon was surprised then, when he asked Martin and Martin refused. “Melanie knows more about the ghosts here than me. I have an interest, yes, but Melanie literally had a youtube show about it for a while. If you’re going to summon a ghost, she’s the one you want.”

 

Jon couldn’t help the mental whine he made. He wanted Martin not Melanie. He didn’t want to look too deeply into why exactly that whine was there. It was...inappropriate. 

 

“But Martin, you were here last night. I don’t want to induct Melanie into the new apparition if I don’t have to. Honestly, the less people that know, the better. Which means, by the way, please don’t tell anyone.”

 

“Fine, I won’t say anything. And I’ll lock up with you. But I still think Melanie’s a better choice.”

 

“I’ll take that into consideration. Say, do we need anything to summon a spirit?”

 

“There’s some electric candles in the prop store if you get a chance to grab them, otherwise we should be fine. Just our voices.”

 

The show seemed to drag on for hours, although in the end it actually ran five minutes quicker than usual. He wasn’t sure if Martin was trying harder than usual or if Jon was just noticing for the first time, but all his cues were spot on that night. No notes for flies. 

 

Not many notes across the board, thank god; Jon didn’t have the patience for a full stage managers report tonight. He was itching to meet this ghost. To figure out what was messing with his theatre. Asking Elias for CCTV was a forgotten thought in his mind, his usual skepticism giving way to indulgence in the paranormal. Besides, Martin seemed so sure. If nothing happened tonight, if there was no ghost to be summoned, then Jon would ask for the footage. 

 

***

It’s late when they finish up. Jon had insisted on going through the full proper lock up before attempting any kind of seance. In case it drove them out in a hurry again, Martin supposed. 

 

He felt proper silly, standing in the middle of the stage with nothing but the ghost light and a circle of electric candles around him. He’d only done a seance once, and it hadn’t even worked. He was working off pop-culture knowledge at this stage - a fact he decidedly didn’t reveal to Jon. Martin had suggested Melanie who knew way more about this sort of thing. He’d made a weak attempt at insisting, even. But Jon went on about inductions and, honestly, Martin couldn’t bring himself to protest too much at the thought of spending some time alone with Jon. 

 

It was kind of nice, seeing him outside of work. Well, inside of work, outside of work context. Jon seemed a little softer. Less guarded. The image of Jon’s hand shaking as he took a drag of his cigarette came to him unbidden in that moment. It felt secret, stolen. As if Martin weren’t supposed to have it but he did. 

 

“Martin, are you ready?” Jon’s voice calling out from the dressing room corridor snapped him out of his musings.

 

“Whenever you are.”

 

Jon joined him on stage, and they sat together in the ring of candles. “What show did we do that needed all these candles? Why do we still have them?”

 

Martin shrugged. “Some Shakespeare, but the lighting was a Leitner design and he always does weird things with prac lights. He was the one who lit a whole bloody show with torches, remember?”

 

Jon shuddered. “I remember changing the batteries. Now, what do we have to do?”

 

“Well, to start if I could take your han- yep there we go,” Jon’s hands were warm and soft under Martin’s, resting loosely in each other's grip. “So, I figure we first summon the ghost, and then I’ll banish it. Tomorrow I can give you some sage to smudge, so we can make sure this sucker’s really gone. So.”

 

“That’s great, I’ll make sure to do the, uh, smudging.”

 

Martin took a deep breath. Jon shut his eyes, and Martin took that as his cue. “I’m calling out to the ghost haunting the stage and auditorium of the Magnus Theatre. The new ghost, the ghost who hasn’t appeared to the theatre until recently. I invoke thee - show yourself.”

 

Nothing happened. Not even the heavy footsteps. Jon opened one eye cautiously and went suddenly pale.

 

Martin sighed. “The ghost is behind me, isn’t it?”

 

Jon nodded. Martin turned, slowly, bracing for the worst.

 

Appearing behind him was a hulking mass of two men. They were tall and broad and ghostly pale. Washed out, as if colour didn’t touch them. They were ghosts, so Martin supposed it didn’t. Then, as quickly as they must have appeared, they vanished into empty air. Literally, poof and gone. 

 

“Is this the part where you banish them?” Jon asked, terror in his voice. His hands were gripping Martin’s tightly, just a touch shy of cutting off circulation. 

 

“The ghost who appeared to us, I banish thee. I cleanse the Magnus of thee. Hear my voice, loud and clear, you are not welcome here. You are not welcomed here, and I pray thee head my voice, be banished. Goodbye.”

 

At the final word, all the candles went out. Which could have just been the ghost-who-liked-the-dark’s way of letting them know it was there. Or it could mean that the ghostly pair were unhappy. Or gone. Really it could have meant anything.

 

“So does that mean they’re gone?” Jon hadn’t released his hands yet. 

 

“Hopefully. That should have done the trick, but they looked...big. And vaguely corporeal. So definitely smudge the place tomorrow. Can we leave these candles in the tech office? I really don’t want to make the journey to prop storage in the dark and after... that.” 

 

Jon finally let go of Martin’s hands. 

 

“That should be fine, yes. I’ll put them away when I get in tomorrow. What's another thing on a stage manager’s pre show checklist anyway.” He chuckled to himself and Martin had to fight the smile that crept up his face. Jon outside of work was so nice. He laughed. 

They gathered the candles and left them in a pile, and Martin shouldered his bag. Using all the courage he could muster, he asked, “would you want to grab a drink? Decompress a little? Seeing your first corporeal ghost can be a bit earth-shattering.”

 

“What was your first?”

 

“I’ll tell you over a pint.”

 

“I suppose that's fair. Would you mind if we went to the same place as last time? I don’t want to run the risk of running into anyone.”

 

“A valid fear. Shall we?”

 

***

 

The ghost - or ghosts, really - had disappeared after Martin had banished them. Jon ‘smudged’ the venue, as it was called, just in case. And Martin still hung back to lock-up with him, just in case. But nothing had happened since. No footsteps, no odd lights, no cold spots. And Jon felt better.

 

Martin had started bringing him tea, before the show. It always tasted better than when Jon made it himself - probably because he didn’t leave it steeping for 10 minutes while he got distracted by some problem.

 

They would even go out for a drink at least once a week, usually after the Wednesday shows when Martin had been swinging in his department anyway. Martin said he could always do with a pint after a two show day, and Jon had to agree. Something about a cigarette in the back garden of the pub let him leave the theatre, actually disconnect himself from his work - a feeling which had become more and more rare since being appointed stage manager of the Magnus.

 

He found himself drawing closer to Martin in a way he hadn’t let himself get close to someone since, well...Georgie. Georgie was the last he could recall. 

 

But Georgie had been his girlfriend, and Martin wasn’t that - he was just a friend. 

 

Yet Jon felt himself drawn ever closer. He never thought he’d be interested in someone talking about ghosts of all things, but Martin’s recount of his first corporeal encounter - ectoplasm splattering and all, in the tiny amateaur black box he’d written plays for before moving into tech - had left him in stitches, and Jon felt himself craving more. More stories, more laughter, more casual touches. 

 

He tried not to look too deeply into the feelings, to box it up and cover it by smiling when Martin came into his office with a steaming mug. 




***

 

The crew were a rowdy lot, piling on the tube on the way to Tim’s flat. They always went to Tim’s flat - it was the closest, the biggest and had the most alcohol that he was willing to share. The current show had drawn the final curtain, and it was time to let loose.

 

In an uncharacteristic move, Jon was joining them. Sitting close to Martin and chatting quietly, the two of them were in their own little bubble. When it came time to jump off, Jon expected Martin to catch up with the others, to leave him behind. He was surprised - and quietly pleased - when he didn’t.

 

“Another show down, huh? I’ve lost track of how many I’ve seen come through the Magnus at this stage.” Martin said.

 

“Well, this was only my second, so you have me beat.” Jon responded.

 

“Second as a stage manager, sure, but you worked crew for way longer.”

 

“Honestly from university to working here is a bit of a blur. I look back now and I can barely remember what it was like before. My life is so consumed with this job.”

 

“Well, I’m glad it’s not so consumed that you can’t come to the official crew after party. It’s tradition.”

 

“I’ve been before, Martin. Occasionally.”

 

Martin laughed. “I know, I know.”

 

Jon was so taken in by how soft Martin was. Soft in his way with people, unbearably kind, kindness brimming from him like water, spilling over and pouring out of a cup.  Jon wanted to hold him, hold all the parts of him, to take him in wholly and make Martin his.

 

But he couldn’t let Martin know that. It would be unprofessional. Nowhere in Jon’s mind dared entertain the idea that Martin returned his feelings. Not when he was this soft and fond with everyone on the team. The way he looked at Jon wasn’t special, or out of the ordinary. They were just friends. 

 

Jon felt lightning bolts shoot up his arm as his hand brushed Martin’s, electricity going straight to his core. He breathed deeply to steady himself, and felt the shocks again. Just an accident, it must be. But Jon didn’t make a move to put distance between them and neither did Martin. 

 

Once they arrived at Tim’s flat, things began to blur together. A strong mixed drink was put in his hand, and as he ended up on the couch sandwiched between Melanie and Martin he drank it down quickly, anything to dull the electric pulse that beat everywhere he touched Martin. The drink was gone too soon, but Tim, ever the dutiful host, refilled his cup without Jon having to move, and as the alcohol set in he felt himself leaning deeper and deeper into Martin’s shoulder. 

 

There was music playing somewhere, and half the crew were sprawled on the floor playing some kind of drinking game. Jon felt loose and a little hot, and so he stood up and moved to the floor. His side felt cold where Martin had been pressed, and he was more than a little pleased when Martin followed him down, sitting cross legged beside him. Their legs touched, pressed close in the heady crowd of the floor.

 

“Oi, we’re playing truth or dare. You gotta drink after whichever you choose. That’s the game. Sasha, truth or dare?” Tim looked at Sasha intently, drink in hand. 

 

“Truth.”

 

“If you could fire one person in this room, who would it be?”

 

“Oh, that's mean. Probably you Tim, for being such a pain all the time.” She drank with a laugh. “Okay, Martin, truth or dare?”

 

Martin looked nervous and took a sip from his drink. “Dare.”

 

Sasha looked absolutely gleeful and levelled a gaze at Jon as she spoke. “I dare you to kiss Jon on the lips.”

 

Martin immediately erupted in protest. Of course Martin wouldn’t want to kiss him. Martin didn’t see him like that. They were just friends. Static raised in his ears and he felt his face burn hot. There was a kerfuffle happening around him that he was deaf too, trying to keep his breathing even in his inebriated state. 

 

And then he heard Martin say, “Fine,” and there were lips on his and gone before he could react. Jon moved without thought, his arm shooting out to grip Martin’s shirt and pull him back, knocking their mouths together in a sloppy, drunken imitation of the kiss Martin had just pressed on his lips. Martin made a surprised noise, but didn’t pull away, and Jon enjoyed the kiss, flicking his tongue out and running it along Martin’s lower lip. 

 

He finally released his hold on Martin’s shirt and they drew apart, breathing heavily. The game of Truth or Dare had apparently stopped, in favour of staring in shocked silence at the pair. 

 

“Uh, Melanie, truth or dare?” Martin stuttered, sitting down again next to Jon, even closer than before. Like they hadn’t just practically made out in front of Jon’s entire crew.

 

“Truth.”

 

“Who’s your favourite Magnus Ghost?”

 

The game continued on around them, until eventually it came back around to Jon.

 

“Jon, truth or dare?” Tim asked, and even through the booze haze Jon could tell he had mischief in his eyes. 

 

“Dare.”

 

“Boss, I dare you to take Martin to my bedroom and work out whatever frustration you two have going on.”

 

“We do not-”

 

“Tim that’s not appropriate-” 

 

Martin and Jon cut each other off with their protests, but in the face and insistence of their friends ushering them into Tim’s bedroom, that’s where they found themselves. Martin seemed particularly distressed, and Jon tried not to feel hurt. He didn’t realise he’d been so horrible to Martin that being trapped in a room alone would be distressing. He’d, kind of hoped they were friends by now actually.

 

Tim’s bedroom was small, and even at opposite ends they were close, close enough that Jon couldn’t stop staring at Martin’s mouth. 

 

“I’m sorry about the kiss.” Martin said, head down and refusing the look Jon in the eye. “You know how after parties get, I just hoped no harm no foul you know. We can have a laugh about it tomorrow.”

 

“So you wouldn’t do it again?” Jon asked.

 

“Are you kidding, in a heartbeat I would.” Martin’s eyes went wide, as if he hadn’t meant to say that aloud.

 

Jon was on him in a second, hands cupping Martin’s cheek and pressing their lips together in frantic, desperate passion. Lightning was tingling in his lips, electricity coursing through his whole body as he pressed closed to Martin, their bodies meeting and pushing together. Jon pushed Martin back onto the bed, straddling his hips and moving to kiss down Martin’s neck, kissing and sucking at the hot, soft skin. Martin moaned under him and Jon felt his hips buck up, wanting and desperate.

 

And then he was pulling away, moving out from under Jon and Jon already missed the feeling of his lips.

 

“I’m sorry, this was a mistake, I shouldn’t have- you’re drunk. You’re drunk! I can’t do this.” Martin exited the room quickly, and by the time Jon came back to himself and ventured back out to the party Martin was gone. 



***

 

They don't talk about it the next day at work. Martin really wishes they would talk about it, because Jon kissed him back, but Martin fucked it up and left.

 

Jon is strictly professional over comms and in person as they bump in the new show, some Shakespeare. There’s a lot of flying involved, and Martin tries to ignore the feeling of being watched as he hauls scenery and lights in and out. He swears he catches Jon’s eye once, glancing away as soon as Martin meets it. He puts the feeling down the amount of CCTV in the building. 

 

When it hits nine, the crew begin to pack up for the night. Martin is surprised at a gentle hand on his shoulder, and turns to find Jon.

 

“Would you, uh, mind hanging back to lock up with me?” Jon said, not quite looking Martin in the face. 

 

“Just like usual then.”

 

“Much quicker this time, no waiting for the audience to clear. I know we got rid of the ghost but I still feel a bit...safer.”

 

“I’ll wait for you on deck.” 

 

Jon gave Martin a curt nod and scurried into the theatre, no doubt to power down front of house. Martin ignored the look on Tim’s face when he explained that yes, he was helping Jon lock up, so he would be late to the Clyde. 

 

“Have fun with the bossman,” Tim said, eyebrows waggling.

 

“Get your mind out of the gutter Stoker.”

 

“Just calling it like I see it. See you soon.”

 

“Yeah, see you. Have a pint for me!” Martin called out after him, and then he was alone in the venue with Jon and the Magnus’s ghosts. 

 

Martin paced around the stage, bored. He looked out into the auditorium, watching as Jon wandered from biobox to door to biobox, lights going out. 

 

That when Martin saw it. A dark shape, in a dark corner, near door three. Martin went to call out to Jon, but when he looked back the shape was gone. 

 

Martin knew there was a ghost at door three, but it was the heaving mass of orphans. Disgusting and disturbing, but not the slim dark shape Martin had just seen. He would mention it to Jon when they were on stage, rather than calling across the theatre. Martin had a distinct fear of being overheard, despite the fact they were alone. The feeling of being watched picked up again, prickling on the back of his neck. He wasn’t usually spooked by the Magnus, but all of a sudden the vaulting gothic curves in the architecture were terrifying, shadows hiding unknown horrors. 

 

He really wanted Jon to hurry up with his rounds and make it on stage. He wanted a pint, and his own bed, and to be out of the theatre. 

 

A door slammed, and Martin nearly had a heart attack, jumping at the sudden noise. 

 

“Jon don’t do that. I swear you need a bell or something.”

 

Martin peered around, and realised Jon wasn’t there. No one was there, the door was shut, and Martin fought hard to keep his breathing under control. The Magnus was haunted, but no one wanted to hurt a lonely flyman waiting on stage. None of the ghosts hurt crew members. 

 

A sudden clatter came from the catwalk opposite prompt, and Martin jumped again. He didn’t want to look, but he had to. Glancing up, he saw a dark shape, and then as quickly as it appeared it disappeared into thin air. Martin was having a harder time with his breathing now, panic creeping up his throat. This Magnus was not his home, and was not comforting. It was filled up with an unknown entity, and it felt so overtly sinister that Martin was ready to bolt.

 

Except.

 

He couldn’t leave without Jon.

 

“Hurry up Jon, hurry up already,” he muttered under his breath, jumping again when the door to the auditorium shut, much softer this time. He heard Jon’s footsteps, the familiar timbre and breathed a sigh of relief when he came into view.

 

“Jon, thank god, can we go?”

 

“Soon, Martin, have you checked the stage?”

 

“No I haven’t, but we need to go now. There’s something here.” Martin’s eyes moved to the catwalk, spotting the shape again, creeping slowly along the catwalk. Jon seemed to spot it too, eyes locking onto the shape in the air, unable to tear his eyes away.

 

Jon reached for this belt, grabbing a small torch and pointing it at the shape. Martin was going to kill the man if they made it out alive, he swore. As soon as the light hit the shape it vanished again.

 

“Hello?” Jon called out, “Who’s there?”

 

“It doesn’t feel good Jon. Can we please go? I have a really bad feeling about this. The ghost is back.”

 

“We can’t leave with some hermit living in the roof. We got rid of that other supposed ghost.”

 

“I’ve told you Jon it is a ghost.

 

“It can’t be. It all - it all stopped, meaning this isn’t a ghost, there is not another ghost, the ghost is not back.”

 

“Fine! Fine! Don’t believe me. See if I care. You’re on your own with this, I’m going. I’m done. Goodnight.” Martin cut across the stage, practically crawling out of his skin, ignoring Jon’s hurt look. He got to the stage door, gave it a push, but it wouldn’t open. Martin pushed harder - it was a crash door, it was meant to just open. He put his full weight behind it, his flymans shoulders, and shoved, but the door didn’t budge. 

 

This was the only way out on this side of the building. He’d have to go through the front doors. But like hell he was walking through the dark auditorium, even if Jon joined him. Martin was trapped in the Magnus.

 

“Jon, these doors won’t open?”

 

“What? They’re crash doors, you just have to push.”

 

“Trust me, I tried. Those doors won’t open. I think- I think the ghost won’t let me leave.”

 

“Let me try.” Jon walked over to the doors, incredulous. He pushed gently at first, then harder. He became frantic, eyes getting wilder by the second. “This isn’t possible, it’s, Martin, how?”

 

Martin shrugged. “I don’t think the ghost wants us to leave.” There was a beat of silence as Jon let that sink in. 

 

“What do we do?”

 

“That’s usually your call Jon. Stage Manager and all. I think I’ll settle on the couch in the tech office with a shaker of salt and try to survive tonight.”

 

“Salt?”

 

“Yeah, repels ghosts? Have you never watched Supernatural?”

 

“I...no.”

 

Martin turned heel and walked to the tech office, pointedly closing the door behind him. As if that would keep the spectre away. Jon was left feeling void, standing in the centre of the stage while a ghost in the venue was out to - hurt them? Kill them? He didn’t want to think about it. Jon let autopilot take over, running through the closing sequence without any trouble. He tried the door again - still jammed - and decided to leave one set of stage flood lights on. If he was going to be stuck in the venue overnight, it wouldn’t be in the dark. It was as the thought crossed his mind that the floods went out, bubbles blowing in six lights simultaneously.

 

Super normal occurrence. Totally. Must be a fuse, or something. Didn’t Martin say something about a ghost that likes the dark? Jon pushed the thought out of his mind, going for the ghost light. That one stayed on. In the low gloom, Jon made his way to the tech office. He knocked.

 

“Come in.” Martin’s voice came from inside. 

 

The light in the office was all backstage blues, the regular fluros left off. 

 

“I was going to try and sleep, and didn’t want to be in the dark. Backstage blues.” Martin answered the unasked question that had been on Jon’s lips. 

 

“The upper stage floods all blew. Who’s best to ask to get them changed?”

 

“Well, if we ever make it out of here, ask Tim. He knows his way around a flood light. Is the door still locked?”

 

“Since I last checked, yes.” Jon sat heavily on the couch, knocking into where Martin’s legs were resting. In spite of the fact they decidedly weren’t talking about last night, Jon couldn’t help but almost shiver at the electricity that came from contact.  

 

He’d been avoiding Martin all day. Jon had debated even asking him to hang back, but the part of him - now thoroughly vindicated - that felt uneasy being alone in the dark in his theatre won out. After last night, when Martin had just left him there. He obviously wasn’t interested, and Jon felt guilty for the pressure he’d put on him, alone in a bedroom. And here they were, stuck alone again.

 

At least the ghost had taken the edge off the awkwardness. Well, it had before. Close together in the tiny tech office in the dim blue light, sharp and hard awkwardness crept in, piercing at Jon from every angle. This was probably the last place in the world Martin would want to be. Trapped alone with Jon, who’d come onto him only the night before.

 

This was a disaster. Jon needed to give him space.

 

“Martin, which would you say is the least creepy dressing room?”

 

“Probably dressing room four. Too big and industrial for creepy. You’re not thinking of going are you? Stay, please.”

 

There was a huge bang from outside and hurried bootsteps. The pair froze. 

 

Jon let out a laugh laced with discomfort. “I was going to go, but it appears our ghostly friend might not want me too. I didn’t - I don’t want to make you uncomfortable.”

 

Ironically, Martin looked even more uncomfortable now than before Jon had mentioned it. Then Jon felt fingers on his, and Martin was holding his hand.

 

Why was Martin holding his hand?

 

“See, that’s really funny Jon. I was worried about making you uncomfortable. You could barely look me in the eye today, I thought… I thought I’d really messed it up.”

 

“I couldn’t look you in the eye because I thought I’d pressured you into something you weren’t comfortable with. Besides, I’m your boss. Ostensibly. Day-to-day. What could you have possibly messed up?”

 

Martin took a deep breath, and sat up. Their faces were suddenly much closer, so close Jon could feel Martin’s breath brushing on his lips. 

 

“This,” Martin said, and then he was kissing him, soft and hot and Jon brought his hands up to Martin’s cheeks, holding him and pressing as close as he could. Jon was kissing him back, deepening the kiss, swallowing Martin’s surprised little noises and he darted his tongue out. 

 

Martin was laying down again, now with Jon on top, still joined at the lips. Martin pulled away, trying to get words out but quickly distracted by Jon kissing along his jaw and down his neck, words turning into little whimpers instead. 

 

“Do you know how long I’ve dreamed about this?” Martin managed to get out, laughing a little breathily. “I’ve had a crush on you since you’ve been stage manager.” 

 

This gave Jon pause, levelling his gaze with Martin. He noticed how wide and blown Martin’s eyes were, deep and dark and gorgeous. “I’m glad. I like you too, in case that isn’t obvious.” And Jon went back to kissing, hungrily pressing against Martin’s mouth. 

 

All thoughts of the ghosts trapping them there were forgotten in favour of each other, right there right now, bodies pressed close together.

 

Jon could feel Martin’s cock pressing insistently on his thigh. He slid a hand down, palming it tentatively through Martin’s jeans and was rewarded with a moan, throaty and guttural and one of the most beautiful things ever to come from Martin’s mouth. 

 

“Jon, please,” Martin said, breathy with desire. Jon wanted in turn, but before -

 

“I want to get you off Martin, but I don’t want you to reciprocate. I don’t - I have a different relationship with sex to most people.” 

 

Martin looked up at him, cheeks flushed. “Thats, that’s fine Jon, if that’s what you want. We don’t have to do anything at all, if you’re more comfortable, and I mean we are in the tech office-”

 

“Martin I swear with every part of my being that the only thing to stop me from sucking you off on this couch would be you saying no.”

 

“O-Oh okay. Yes, it’s, it’s an enthusiastic yes. Please.”

 

Jon made quick work of Martin’s zipper, roughly pulling his jeans and underwear down in one quick motion. Martin’s cock was flush and hard before him and Jon took it into his mouth, eager and wanting. He sucked greedily at the tip, eliciting a moan from Martin, before taking his whole length into his mouth. Martin’s fingers tangled in Jon’s hair, the gentlest of pressure keeping him in place and Jon moaned for it, lips stretched taut around Martin’s cock. 

 

Jon picked up the pace, sucking hard and soft in turn while Martin thrust his hips, little movements at first and then getting bolder. 

 

All too soon, Martin groaned. “Jon, I’m going to come-” And Jon nodded, taking Martin’s length to the back of his throat. Martin groaned one more time, something in the shape of, “Oh, fuck,” and he was coming in hot bursts down Jon’s throat.

 

Jon pulled off with a wet noise, swallowing the come before leaning up to give Martin a long, languid kiss.

 

The tech office didn’t have windows, but if it did they would be steaming. Jon lay on Martin’s chest, content, and they talked in low voices while Jon played with Martin’s hair. 

 

“Hey, the ghost hasn’t made any noise for a while. Maybe we should try the door again?” Martin suggested, and immediately wanted to take it back as the light left Jon’s eyes. “I’d just - I think I’d rather take you home, then try and sleep in the tech office, y’know? I’m not exactly small.”

 

“Take me home?”

 

“To my home. Jon, would you come home with me?”

 

“Yes Martin, I think I will. Lets try the doors.”

 

They gathered their things and made their way out into the gloom. This time the doors opened as soon as Martin touched the push bar - if not a moment before - and he couldn’t help but whoop in glee.

 

“No overnights in the theatre! Woo!”

 

“Good thing too, because it technically voids our insurance. Wait, do you think…”

 

“Think what? Think what Jon?”

 

“Did the ghost trap us here to...to get us together?” 

 

“Surely not. I don’t - I don’t want to even think about a ghostly force trying to hook us up. That’s, that’s too much, even for me. Come on, let's head off before they change their mind.”

 

Jon nodded in agreement and locked the stage door behind him, slipping his hand into Martin’s for the walk to the tube. 

 

***

 

It became obvious very quickly that Jon and Martin were an item. For one thing, Martin requested to stop swinging in the SM department - it would just be awkward to have his boyfriend as his direct supervisor. They’d never get any work done. 

 

For another, the two were joined at the hip every Friday night at the Clyde. Martin had finally convinced Jon to come along, and the pair were always touching, leaning into each other, just sitting far too close for friends. 

 

When they’d officially told the others, not a single one of them had the decency to act surprised. 

 

“Come on, there was enough tension between you two you could cut it with a knife. Besides, the after party? You weren’t fooling anyone,” Sasha had said to Martin. Martin didn’t know how to respond, sputtering, and turning quickly back to his fly lines. “Anyway, I’m glad he finally got his act together. You’re a catch - you could’ve been snapped up under his nose!”

 

“Yeah, sure, maybe the creepy director ghost would’ve taken an interest in me.” Martin replied, dripping sarcasm.

 

“You never know.”

 

The kettle went off in the tech office and Martin hurried over to make Jon the regular pre-show cup of tea, enjoying the ritual of it. 

 

Jon beamed at him when he placed it on his desk, and Martin felt warmth creep up his chest. He was never going to get sick of that man's smile. Martin dropped a kiss on Jon’s forehead, before hurrying out again.

 

“Go preset, we’re only 10 minutes from beginners,” Jon called out after him.

 

“Where do you think I’m going? Love you,” Martin called back.

 

“Love you too! Get back on comms!” Martin laughed to himself as he made his way back to the fly gallery, putting the bulky headset on.

 

Flies 1 preset, Jon. A whole 5 minutes early.”

 

“Don’t sass me where everyone can hear.”

 

“Yeah, save it for the bedroom you two,” Tim’s voice chimed in.

 

Stoker, are you even in the dome tower? I can’t see you,” Jon said.

 

“I’m getting there, I’m getting there. We can’t all be five-minute-early wunderkinds like Mr Blackwood.”

 

Martin clicked off his mic to laugh, and leaned back on the handrail. This was going to be a good show. And afterwards, he’d lock up with Jon, and they’d greet the twin ghosts as was polite, and then they’d head home together. Martin was happy. This was good.