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Memories Like Bullets/Cracking Me Open

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            In his post-orgasm haze, Gerry was snug and comfortable on top of the covers, and just then he barely noticed that Martin wasn’t curled around him as usual. In fact, he wasn’t touching Gerry at all. But Gerry was too sleepy and content to pay attention as he started fading into a proper nap. Then he heard the unmistakable sound of a hitched breath, the kind one might make when trying to hide that they were crying.

            Gerry’s eyes snapped open as he sat up, all tiredness gone as he turned to Martin. Martin, next to him in bed with his back turned and shaking. Leaning closer, Gerry could tell Martin was biting down on his fist to stay quiet, and the knot of worry in his stomach tightened.

            “Martin?” He put as much affection into the name as he could. “Sweetheart, what’s the matter?”

            The small sounds stopped instantly, and Gerry was sure Martin held his breath. He put a careful hand on Martin’s arm to let him know that there was no use pretending. Gerry didn’t want him to hide. At the touch, Martin let out the sob he'd been holding. He shook his head in two sharp, jerky movements.

            “You know I don’t believe it’s nothing,” Gerry said softly. “You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to, but if it has to do with what we just did, if you were uncomfortable or I crossed any boundary, we need to discuss it eventually to make sure it can't happen again.”

            He never wanted to make Martin uncomfortable, or push him into something he didn’t want. Gerry knew Martin’s relationship with sex was even more complicated than Jon’s; Jon knew for certain that he had no interest in sex and no desire to participate, though he wasn’t opposed to a purely voyeuristic role occasionally, if the right mood struck him.

            With Martin, it always went up and down; sometimes he was eager and up for pretty much anything; sometimes he enjoyed pleasuring Gerry but didn’t want to be touched in return; sometimes he didn’t want anything at all.

            Gerry made it clear as often as he could that any and all those things were okay, but he'd been certain that Martin had been enthusiastic today. They had exchanged some playful teasing on the couch that turned into making out that turned into Jon shooing them off to the bedroom if they “couldn’t behave themselves so he could concentrate on his book” – said with the utmost love and affection, of course, as Gerry and Martin practically sprinted to the room, laughing between kisses.

            Clearly something had changed between then and now.

            “N-no, Gerry, of course not!” Martin hurried to say through shuddering breaths. “You didn’t do anything wrong, I promise. It…i-it’s me. I’m the problem.”

            A loud sob wretched out of him, and the desperate hurt in Martin’s voice filled Gerry with pain. Martin probably wouldn't lie about Gerry not doing anything wrong, but there was more to this story, and whatever it was, Gerry hated that it made Martin talk about himself that way.

            “Can…Can I hold you?” Gerry offered. He wasn’t sure what else to do.

            It seemed like the right thing, though. Martin turned instantly and burrowed himself against Gerry’s chest. He cried into Gerry's t-shirt and stopped trying to stay quiet. Gerry wrapped his arms around his boyfriend and gently rubbed his hands up and down Martin's arm and back, helplessly trying to offer comfort.

            A careful knock on the bedroom door made Gerry look up from Martin’s red, tear-streaked face.

*

            “Is everything alright?” Jon pushed open the door to their bedroom. “I thought I heard–”

            His fears were confirmed as he took in the scene before him. Martin curled up against Gerry’s chest; Gerry looking lost and scared as he tried to comfort him. Gerry didn’t look like he knew what brought this on, and Jon wasn't surprised; barely ten minutes ago, he had smiled to himself as sounds of an entirely different nature reached him in the living room.

            It was quite common for someone to be crying in this apartment. Gerry still woke up from nightmares with tears running silently down his face, and Jon had his own breakdowns often enough. But to see Martin like this?

            Martin had as many struggles and ghosts as the rest of them, but Martin was a caretaker at heart. He tried so hard not to burden them with his problems, no matter how much they wanted him to. He was relentlessly there when they needed it, understanding them in those moments better than Jon or Gerry ever could. But without fail, he always tried to keep his own pain smaller, to be less “inconvenient”. No matter how hard they tried to convince him that he would never be a burden, he was still fairly succesful at keeping it to himself.

            Seeing him weeping openly like this, no attempts to hide or quiet himself, Jon felt like the air was knocked out of him. He barely noticed himself moving; he was just there on the bed, on the other side of Martin, whispering meaningless words of comfort into his ear and letting Martin grab one of his offered hands. He held on so tight it hurt. Jon didn’t care about his hand; he cared that Martin was in enough pain to let them see the full extent of it.

            “Shhh,” he murmured against Martin’s hair. “It’s alright. We’re here, we love you, you’re safe. It’s alright, let it out as much as you need to.”

            Jon's words were the only sound in the room except Martin’s cries, and soon those quieted down as the sobs slowed and his breathing returned steadily to normal. He was still trembling. Gerry and Jon continued to hold him between them for several minutes before Jon realized it was probably better if they spoke.

            “Martin, love, can I ask what happened?” he said softly. “We want to help you if we can. We'll listening to anything you're comfortable telling us. If you need us to leave you alone for a bit, we can do that, too.”

            Those last words hurt to say, because he wanted nothing less than to leave Martin alone right now. To his relief, Martin resumed clutching Jon's hand, his other fist clinging to Gerry's shirt.

            “Please stay." The whisper came out roughly, and Martin cleared his throat. “I just…Words aren't...”

            “No rush,” Gerry promised. “We’ll be here. Take your time, okay?”

            Martin nodded, and pressed a careful kiss to the wet stain on Gerry’s shirt, which made Gerry give a sad little smile. They waited patiently for Martin to find the words he wanted.

            “You really didn’t do anything wrong, Gerry, I swear,” he began, and Jon fought not to react. Of course Martin’s first priority was to assure Gerry.

            “Alright,” Gerry said carefully. “If you say it, I believe you. I trust you.”

            Gerry threw Jon a nervous look, searching for reassurance that he'd said the right thing. Jon wasn’t any more of an expert than Gerry, but he nodded, and the approval seemed to calm him a little.

            “Would it be easier if I asked some questions?” Jon offered after watching Martin opening and closing his mouth several times, struggling for words. "Not Ask-ask, just to try and help you get started?"

            Martin considered, and nodded. “Maybe, yeah. J-just to get me started.”

            “Alright.” Jon pressed a kiss to Martin’s hair. “Did something happen while you were with Gerry, something in your mind? Something triggering?”

            Martin shook his head. “Not during. A-after.”

            “Okay.” Jon's thumb made little circles on Martin’s arm.

            “You’re doing really well, Martin,” Gerry told him. “We’re right here. We’re not going anywhere.”

            “Is it something that has happened before, that we know about?” Jon asked. “After sex?”

            Martin shook his head again, and he almost sounded angry when he replied. “N-no. This is…new.”

             “Do you know where this new thing came from?”

            “Therapy,” Martin said so low they almost missed it. “We’ve been working on…”

            He trailed off, and Jon and Gerry’s eyes met over their boyfriend's messy curls. Martin had told them a little about what he was currently working on in therapy, so they could understand why his moods might be unpredictable after his sessions. But he hadn’t brought it up in the months since he first told them.

            “We understand, Martin, you don’t have to say it,” Jon reassured him. Martin had struggled so much to get out the words childhood sexual abuse the first time, and Jon didn’t want to make him say it again if he wasn't comfortable.

            Martin nodded, and that small kindness and understanding seemed to help him form the rest of the words.

            “It’s been…The more I try to process and deal with it, the more I remember. The more confusing and hard everything feels…” Martin swallowed. “I didn’t expect it to change things like this.” His breath hitched, but he kept going. “It was after, Gerry. I really did want it and I really enjoyed it, but th-that...moment after, when it’s quiet? You know, when everything is all n-nice and soft and the good chemicals are still flooding your brain?”

            “Yeah?”

            “It didn’t feel like that this time.” Martin’s voice was small and timid, choking out the words like they were caught in his throat. “I just felt…sick, and disgusting and used. And I promise it had nothing to do with you and I don’t understand why it had to change like that. It doesn’t seem fair! It feels like being punished for trying to deal with all this stuff in a healthy way and I hate it.” His words gained strength and volume. The pain and anger forced its way out the way his tears had. “I feel so pathetic, you know? It’s like…like I’m giving him more power over me. Like I’m letting the memories change me and it makes me feel weak and gross and I hate that I’m still letting him take things away from me.”

            When Martin ran out of words, Gerry’s eyes met Jon’s. They reflected the same aching pain Jon felt for Martin’s suffering. Speaking felt hard, like breaking the silence that hung over them would be disrespectful, but they couldn't just stay quiet forever. Jon was the first to say something.

            “I’m proud of you for telling us that, Martin. If you need us to stop touching you or give you space–”

            “No,” Martin said quickly. He turned looked up at Jon with brown, bloodshot eyes. “I…I feel safe here? This is, it’s helping me feel less of that gross feeling, you know?”

            “Alright.” Jon pressed the softest possible kiss to Martin’s forehead. “Then we’re not going anywhere, are we, Gerry?”

            “Never.” Gerry’s arms tightened around Martin and he buried his face in his curls. “I’m really glad you told us. And, you’re right; it isn’t fair. It isn’t fair at all that a monster from your past gets to take things from you when you’re trying so hard to do the right thing.”

            Jon leaned his head on top of Gerry’s where it rested on Martin. “But just because it it’s unfair doesn’t mean it isn’t valid, do you understand?” Jon asked. “There is nothing wrong with you for feeling this way. You’re not weak; you’re the strongest person I’ve ever met. Boundaries change sometimes, whether we want them to or not. They’re still valid.”

            “He’s right. Things change, and being unhappy about it doesn’t mean we won’t respect it. And just in case you have any doubts; even if you never want to have sex again, it doesn't change anything between us. I hope you know that.”

            “It’s true,” Jon echoed. “Gerry has never once made me feel guilty for not wanting sex, or made me feel pressured or like I’m not enough.”

            “I never want either of you to feel that way,” Gerry said. “I love you both, and that has nothing to do with sex.”

            “I know,” Martin muttered. “I don’t…know if I’ll keep feeling like this. I love when we can be together like that, Gerry, I don't want to lose it. But this feeling, it didn’t feel…good. I-I’m scared that it’ll feel that way every time.”

            “I understand.” Gerry leaned back, forcing Jon to lift his head again, and Gerry moved so he could put a hand on Martin’s cheek and meet his eyes. “Know that whatever you want or don’t want in the future, I love you, alright? I will always support and respect you, no matter what. Okay?”

            Martin’s blotchy, tired face lifted into a tired but genuine smile. “Okay. Yeah, I…I know. I love you, too.”

            Jon took the opportunity to wrap his arms around Martin, hugging him from behind and resting his chin on Martin’s soft shoulder. The embrace surprised a delightful giggle out of Martin that warmed some of the ache in all their chests.

            “Yes, I love you, too, you needy house cat,” Martin teased, and turned enough to press a little kiss to Jon’s nose.

            “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Jon huffed. “But I love you.”

*

            The three of them sunk back down on the bed, Martin cushioned between his boyfriends whom he loved more than he could say. He could feel how much they loved him, too, as much as it still filled him with wonder and awe.

            Traces of that sick, disgusting feeling still lingered beneath his skin, but between Jon and Gerry, Martin felt safe and valued and loved. No matter what happened from here, that, at least, gave him hope that maybe eventually he could be okay. They could all be okay.