The slim aperture of light that fell across one unblinking eye illuminated its retina a soft, peculiar green, pupil dilating in a raw attempt to Know, as if the narrow gap Basira created by opening the door to take her turn in checking on Jon could slip it something new. Some relief for the weakness, the hunger, the pain of not feeding his god. She couldn’t help the visceral shudder; he was creepy, inhuman, there was no way around it, and as soon as his pale lids closed so did the door, key turning in the lock with dull finality.
“How’s he?” She couldn’t help the way she jumped when Daisy’s voice seemed to echo in her ear.
“Alive.” Deftly, she pocketed the key. “You can bring him something to eat later.”
“A statement?” Daisy’s eyes narrowed.
“That would negate all the work he’s doing.” Before walking away she turned the handle a second time to make sure it was well and truly locked. He wanted this. He wanted to stop. More than that, he wanted to live and may have even found a reason. He was trying.
It didn’t stop her guilty disgust of him.
“Reheat the soup from yesterday.”
“He won’t, can’t, eat that.” Still not recovered fully from her stint in the Buried, Daisy was exerting herself to keep up with Basira’s quick and purposeful stride and when she stopped in the breakroom, bleak and empty despite the pair of them, she gulped down a glass of water.
“That’s not our fault.”
“Jon chose this. He chose to feed off the trauma and fear of other people and they had no choice.” She wasn’t being fair. Anyone could see the strain being an avatar put on their human host. “But he had a choice, Daisy.” And now he, because of the pair of them, he has incentive.
“Just give me the key.” Basira rolled her eyes and Daisy narrowed hers.
“Fine, lock me in there with him then.” She made tea, used a mug for the soup and didn’t bother with adding a spoon to the tray with the napkins. Slipping a chilled bottle of water into her back pocket she glanced at Basira expectantly.
Jon swore he could feel the pieces of him being eaten away. If you won’t feed me, I’ll feed on you. Take all you’ve got until there’s nothing but monster left and the more he tried to resist, curl up around that spark of himself that was left, the more it hurt when the Eye lashed out in his mind, howling with hunger and rage and wrath at being denied.
It was dark here. Lonely here. Tim would laugh were he alive to see his old boss crying for the comfort of another living thing in this place. Someone, something to anchor him, console him, make him feel like any of this was worth it. That he wasn’t the biggest disappointment London had ever known.
Even if he didn’t deserve it.
He wanted the Admiral.
A pang like a knife wound, he would know, ran him through the middle and he curled tightly into the jumper he’d found while rummaging in the early days when he had the strength to be bored. It hurt such that he found himself checking for the warmth and wetness of blood he was sure would be there.
He wanted Martin.
Daisy squeezed through the doorway and shut it with one hip, listening to the lock slide home before moving forward to set the tray on the desk and toss a spare shirt over the lamp. She hadn’t mentioned how easy it was for her to see in the dark to anyone yet. He was wrapped up in an unfamiliar jumper, shrouded in a familiar scent so faint she wasn’t sure he could smell it, and so oversized on him to the point he was nearly swallowed.
“Jon?” He never answered right away, taking at least a few moments to become aware of someone in the room with him since last week, but she warned him just the same. “Light’s coming on, Jon.” Settling beside the cot despite the pressure on her knees, she examined him in the dim. Despite the dark brown of his skin, he was pale and drawn. Diminished more each and every day without a statement. Withdrawal? Seemed more akin to starvation and she could relate. Daisy would need to discuss it with Basira. There wouldn’t be anything left if she let this continue.
“You’ve dropped a stone at least.” And was trembling. Gently she laid a hand against his neck, counting out his rapid pulse, taking note of his elevated temperature. “Feverish, too.” She mumbled. “Up you get.” It took some shoving and cajoling but she managed to get him propped against the wall with a mug of tea in his hands. Most days it was all he could stand. The sleeves of his stolen cable knit hung from wrists she could have held together in one hand.
“Ma’tin?” That was new. He’d recognized them up until now.
“No, but think of how cross he would be if you didn’t finish up your tea, hm?” She tapped the handle for emphasis but he didn’t seem to notice, blinking hard in an attempt to clear his vision.
“She is.” Cor, but he looked ill. “She’s not well pleased with your eating habits.” It was the wrong thing to say and immediately he folded in on himself, somehow becoming even smaller in a way she didn’t think was possible. “Hey, Jon, I didn’t mean--” It was eerily quiet, almost poetic. The tears scattering over his scarred, his marked hands, into the tea he gripped like a lifeline. “Alright, s’alright, Jon.” This wasn’t good for him. Locked down here all alone like an animal being taught a lesson it was helpless to learn. Awkwardly, Daisy patted his shoulder, wincing at the heat coming off him.
“Sorry.” He didn’t speak much anymore, too afraid of compelling either of them.
Weren’t they all. But at least Daisy had Basira. At least Melanie had Georgie. At least Martin was sure he was making the correct decision for the rest of them.
“I brought soup? Think you could eat something?” Somehow he paled further, the sip he took from the cooling tea small and tentative and thankfully he kept it down, even finished close to half before swaying so abruptly she had to catch it out of his enervated fingers.
“Jus,’ could I.” He swallowed and Daisy recognized the effort to avoid a compulsion and it looked so borderline painful she almost told him to go ahead and ask but he gained control of his wayward tongue, words clumsy and slow. “Lay down.” Licked chapped lips. “Please.” She helped him lest he just collapse there, going so far as to settle his head in her lap.
“There we go.” He turned his face into her soft shirt while she scrolled through a playlist, turning the Archers on low and ignoring the moisture steadily soaking her skin. She hadn’t been able to coax any water into him, instead using it to wet the napkins so she could provide some type of relief. Gently, she followed the slope and curve of his too prominent collarbones, swept up the column of his throat to brush over hollow cheeks and a damp forehead. With her other hand she pet back his salt and pepper hair, overgrown and long and filled with tangles she teased out with dextrous fingers. She let him rest like that for a while before the pain in her body forced her to move. Taking a swig from the water bottle after stretching, she knelt to offer him some, concerned when he didn’t shift. Patting his cheek elicited no reaction, she could hear the pulse in his overheated blood, thready and so fast.
“Jon, Jon, I need you to open your eyes for me.” No change, not even when she shook him hard by his boney shoulders, yelled into his face. She stumbled upwards. “Basira!” Legs on fire with pins and needles, Daisy held herself up by the door, pounding on it and calling out for Basira only to be met with silence. “Basira!” Shit. There was no reception down here. She glanced behind her. Jon hadn’t moved, just as slack as before, closed eyes wrung with black shadows, mouth slightly parted and chest barely moving with the effort of breathing. So caught up, Daisy nearly toppled forward when the door was removed and replaced with Basira, gun in hand, fear scent wafting off her in roiling waves.
“No! No, Jon’s ill. I can’t wake him.” She pushed past, “I’m getting a statement.” Basira held her shoulder fast.
“Maybe this is a good thing?”
“What?” Daisy all but shouted, pawing at Basira for the keys.
“Wait, wait. He can’t hurt people like this, take statements, maybe can’t even hover around in victims’ dreams. The Beholding will keep him alive, right?” Daisy was shell shocked into stillness and couldn’t even find anything to be angry about, not really. Basira had a point. Maybe this would be easier on all of them, Jon included. But just as quickly the thought passed as she remembered him crawling into a coffin for her after having the Boneturner rip pieces out of him for nothing.
“Well I don’t want to test it!” Her partner was currently stronger than she was. If Basira didn’t want to give up the keys there was no way to make her. “Please.”
“I get it, I know. But he’s. Our friend is still in there, Basira.” Frustration made her eyes prickle with tears she refused to let fall. “He’s tried so hard to do as we asked. Are we really going to abandon him completely because it’s convenient?” She could see the shift in Basira’s face and knew she was victorious.
“He wanted this. He wanted to be stopped.”
“A short one. Wait here.”
The Dark was so heavy. Pressing in all around him, smothering, suffocating, strangling him. And he hurt. He was so hungry he hurt deep, deep, deep inside. Beyond the place where his ribs once were. Could he die like this? Would his god allow it?
What else was left to take?
The change was so slight he almost didn’t notice at first, almost didn’t hear. But the Eye did, searching, thirsting thing, hungrier than he could ever be for Knowing. And even this hurt, was agony after so long being deprived and if Jon were stronger, he’d be afraid of what would happen after. StabburnriptearremovecutslashwoundscarhealHURTKNOW
“Back with me?”
His eyes were open, staring, wide.
His head in someone’s lap. Martin’s jumper, warm, safe, soft. Martin. Martin.
“I’ll keep going then, shall I?” She didn’t wait for an answer, just let the words come slowly, evenly, like a morphine drip steadily taking the edge off the worst of it all with each and every glorious syllable.
Unbidden, he cried for even that slight bit of relief. Sharp, stabbing, harsh, now dulled as the Eye turned its attentions from him to the statement Daisy, Daisy was reading. The pounding agony of his head retreated enough to think. To notice her hand stroking his hair, wiping away the tears he couldn’t seem to stop until long after she stopped speaking. Still cradling him, still touching him carefully like he might break under the weight of her palm.
“Jon?” He felt drugged. The larger share of the throbbing discomfort distanced while the last of the latent fear was devoured. Somehow, he dredged up a smile, watery and wavering. Somewhere in the room a tape recorder switched itself off.
“Daisy.” She sighed, the tension slipping out of her bones, and set aside the statement to lay the backs of her fingers along his skin.
“Fever’s down. That’s a relief.” Despite himself, Jon was exhausted, could already feel the drowsiness chipping away at his fear of sleep. When his eyes opened he realized he hadn’t been aware they’d closed in the first place. His head was on the pillow, a warm weight lined his side and he tipped just far enough to see when an arm slung itself over his skinny waist. “Rest, Jon. M’not going anywhere quite yet.”