Jon is sleeping less now.
Basira sends statements and they sustain him, not in the way he wants to be sustained, but people don’t get to choose what keeps them going. It gets harder to manage, the itching under his skin like if he could sink his fingers into something satisfying he would feel less savage and desperate. The statements taste stale, and the countryside, though less riddled with horror than grey London, has more savory meals to offer. He does not partake in them.
It does not escape Martin’s notice. Jon can’t sleep but he loves to hold Martin and watch through the night. It should be boring. He’s promised to stay out of Martin’s head and so he is not even entertained by the firing nerves and whatever charges Martin’s dreams. Sometimes they seem like good dreams, his love relaxed into him and breathing deep. Jon wonders if a version of him lives in Martin’s subconscious, there with him in dreams even if the real Jon cannot be. Sometimes he knows they are nightmares, and he wrenches Martin from them, gasping and sweating, and holds him even as he holds back and does not Behold .
To see and be seen. It is less romantic when it comes from unspeakable eldritch entities.
He learns more about Martin in a few days now than he had in years (years spent trying , quietly, filing information away that he was sure to never use). Learns that sometimes Martin wishes to be held and sometimes he does not and sometimes he is very deeply conflicted about this, and Jon waits and reaches and tries and listens. Learns what Martin sounds like when he’s trying to rationalize away his feelings, the way his mouth pulls when he sets his own needs aside for someone else (for him , it’s always been for him). Learns how to share space, comfortable now that they’re allowed to touch each other, coexisting in bed and in the kitchen and in the shower, and how different it feels from the static tension that used to hover with a desk between them. Learns, finally, how Martin takes his tea.
Jon watches, careful not to Behold. Martin watches him too and does not have to restrain himself so much. Sometimes he tries to apologize to Jon for having the privilege of just being a human, just being a person who does not have to tread so carefully to avoid invading the privacy of people’s minds. Jon kisses his apologies away, he cannot abide them. None of this has ever been Martin’s fault.
Martin watches Jon clean some dishes and presses a kiss to his neck, watches Jon organize the files Basira sent and touches his hair, soothes the heavy weight of being watched with the softest touches. Jon still arches into every caress like a cat, like he’s forgotten they’re free to just do this now.
Then he remembers. And they kiss so much.
Sometimes he kisses Martin because he feels the green static rising in him and he needs a good reason to close his eyes, to feel and not to see. Sometimes he kisses Martin because the threat of Elias hangs over them and they are not going to have much longer. Sometimes he kisses him because they could have this, a very long life together, and that would be enough.
It chokes him, that thought. This would be enough.
He wishes loving and being loved could sustain him. He wishes he could not feel the rolling wave of terror rising over the country and the eye at the center of it. The storm is coming for him and he cannot pretend to be ignorant to it. But this.
The less human Jon becomes the more he clings to it, chopping garlic when Martin comes up behind and reaches over him to grab something from a cupboard. Dancing around the kitchen in the refrigerator light. Wet ginger curls in the tiny shower. Martin reads poetry to him and Jon can’t nap, isn’t really capable of sleeping anymore but he comes as close as is probably possible to dozing off, curled up on Martin’s chest.
Martin hands him a cup of earl grey. It is suddenly, blindingly stupid to Jon that he accepted this gesture for years without taking Martin’s lovely hand in his, thumb to pulse point and lips pressed to knuckles. Then lips pressed elsewhere. Martin's mouth tastes like bergamot so often.
Martin comes in from a walk to see the cows, face flushed bright from the cold and Jon is at him, chasing the warmth under his skin. His freckles are a lovelier foil to Jon’s own many circular scars and he worships them.
Jon washes his face and Martin nudges him out of the way to grab something and Jon checks his hip into Martin’s side and kisses his face. Thinks about the soft spot on the side of a man’s skull and how deeply kissable it is and how apt that such a place is called a temple. If he offers enough devotion here he can forget that some stranger and much more terrifying entity already commands him.
This could have all been enough.
“You alright, love?” Martin looks at him with mild concern, not yet growing to deep worry. Just the little crease between his eyebrows, then.
Jon’s gone quiet in the middle of the supermarket. There’s a woman at the end of the aisle, trying to make a decision about what pasta she should buy. Her hair is dark and she wears mud-stained boots and carries herself with tired resignation. Once upon a time she’d gone to visit her in-laws up in Edinburgh and a writhing mass of shadow had swallowed a stranger in front of her and no one had ever believed her. She settles on a box of penne and moves on with her shopping and Jon blinks and lets her go, though the yawning darkness within him aches for a story to feast on.
He looks back at Martin. “Lost myself for a second there,” he admits. It’s true. He should not have looked at that woman and known .
When dawn pours through the window, it lights Martin’s red hair like fire, burns into Jon’s mind. The upside of never sleeping is he never has to stop running his fingers in gentle circles across Martin’s skin, his face and his broad shoulders and freckled arms, and he knows Martin likes that. If he were human, he’d eventually tire of repeating the motions. It’s a different kind of Knowing. The way he sees with his fingertips is its own science, holding its own against the way he sees with the Beholding. Was there ever an entity for affection? For anything good? He supposes every entity he’s met had professed devotional love in some way, strange and inhuman and incomprehensible but not loveless.
He does not know what to do with these thoughts. It hardly matters. The Beholding sustains him but it doesn’t move him the way Martin does when he slices an apple and pushes a piece into Jon’s fingers. I don’t need to really eat, he thinks but never says. He still cooks dinner for both of them most nights, and even if he doesn’t need to eat it, he feels the ritual of it bind him a little more to Martin and to humanity.
Martin holds his gaze as Jon lifts the slice of apple to his lips, feels the sticky sweetness of it before he even bites. Then Martin is kissing him and Jon closes his eyes so that only warm light seeps through his eyelids, bright red and divine. This would all be enough.