When Jon had said that Basira had told him that Daisy had a hold out, up past Dundee, and that they’d be safe there, or ‘she hopes so at least’, Martin hadn’t really known what to expect.
Truthfully he was really thinking much except that literally everything was happening at once, or it seemed like it, and it was a lot, really. Everything was bright and loud, and people kept looking at him, and he needed to pack if they were going away, and probably eat if they could stop somewhere. Jon couldn’t possibly drive all that way without stopping. They’d have to stop, if it was safe to stop. Thinking about safety was a weird thing to come back to all of a sudden. But that was the one thing they’d kept repeating as they made the journey. It’s safe, Jon had promised as they pulled the borrowed car onto the Orbital, indicating a bit frantically round a wobbling lorry.
But what exactly it would be beyond, apparently, safe had been a mystery. When they’d finally pulled in Martin had looked over the crumbling paint and old tiles and yo-yo’d between adorable and horrifying. This is either a dodgy old crack house, a sick spy operation, probably full of traps, or something out of a fairytale - is what he had thought. Jon had cleared out their throat with a familiar right as they went to push the door open, and Martin had worried for a second that there might be squatters, or something worse, waiting for them both.
Whatever he had expected, it certainly hadn’t been a CD collection that includes Sinatra, The Pet Shop Boys, The Killers, the soundtrack to Singing In The Rain, and ABBA. Somehow getting through all those other records still hadn’t prepared him for finding all of ABBA’s Greatest Hits albums at the bottom of the pile.
Now he’s stood over the dusty CD player - which also does cassettes and radio! - debating whether to play it. Either for a laugh or seriously.
It’s been nice recently. Cozy, almost. It’s nice here. The last couple of days have been peaceful in the little cabin that they’ve started referring to as home. There are plenty of quilts, and a working kettle, and no, it’s not the Ritz, but it’s theirs and it is, or it seems, safe.
Right now it’s the right kind of time for music. The sun is coming purple and orange through the tatty lace over the windows. There’s the soft sparkling of bubbles and the slosh of plates as Jon washes up from dinner.
They keep doing that. They’ve been cooking too. Just beans and soup and tuna at the start, making use of Daisy’s stockpiled larder. But since Martin managed to get down the shops they’ve really pulled their finger out. And they can cook, it turns out. Really tasting food is something Martin hadn’t even realised he missed, but the feeling of sharing something so good, that he watched Jon push round the frying pan for him, had burst on his tongue like nothing he’s eaten in years.
He’s offered to cook too, obviously, but Jon seems determined to let him sit down at any opportunity. It feels a bit shameful, but the sofa is one of those things in the cabin that’s properly cosy. And besides, Martin quite likes watching him shuffle about the kitchen. The old draw to watch Jon’s hips and wrists and little frowns and smiles is coming back to him just as materiality is.
Maybe music would be nice now. Some way of giving back? But Martin can’t really lie to himself, hasn’t been able to when it comes to Jon, since almost the beginning. He kind of wants to play something in a date way. He wants to dance round the kitchen in this soft light with Jon because he’s daydreamed about doing that for years and now is the closest he’s ever been. It wouldn’t be for a laugh, though laughing together would be nice.
It would be a bit of a play, wouldn’t it. Not a get into bed play, but a getting closer to you seeing you smile play.
So the question then, Martin shifts to overanalysing as his hand taps on the plastic cover of the CD box, is whether Jon would like that sort of... what. Move? Initiative? Or just like to do that.
They’ve been sharing the bed, but Martin's pretty sure it’s just for his sake. Or for Jon's sake in that they’re worried he’ll drift off in the night if he isn’t sandwiched between Jon and the wall and four blankets.
It’s... it is intimate, he can’t not feel something about it. But it’s still the come down from the panic and the danger and the relief that had made the first night a non-question. It hasn’t yet crossed into choosing territory. Well, from Martin's point of view it’s... it’s getting there. He’s feeling more and more himself every morning, and himself is someone who has, for a long time, thought about waking up with his head that close to Jon’s pillow.
Point is the bed doesn’t mean anything if he’s not going to be presumptuous. It might. It really might, with all the looks and the cooking and everything. But it’s not words and it’s not a kiss so better not to assume, right?
Better to test the waters?
Pressing play feels like a big decision, but actually when the music starts the analytics and anxiety over the subtext of ABBA goes right out of Martin’s head.
He’s not actually listened to music, happy music with the purpose of dancing, singing, for a long time. And now he’s tapping his feet and smiling before he can think to.
He gets all though the first verse before he even thinks to turn around, realising the tap’s gone off. With his back to the CD player he sees Jon's also moved away from the sink. They’re leaning on the counter now, yellow gloved hands together, smiling a confused sort of smile.
Martin’s going to say something like I love this song or don't you like ABBA? but he decides, seeing that smile, that he’s not going to be embarrassed. Instead he sways into the centre of the room, curling his fingers into loose fists and bringing his elbows into his sides in a little dance. He opens his mouth to let the chorus come out.
And cringes a bit when the words don't all form right, but Jon actually snorts a laugh at his humming. It makes him splutter into giggling too.
Dance with me he wants to say, but that seems too forward and inorganic. Instead he sways a bit closer until he’s almost bumping Jon’s hip, still getting little huffs of laughter out of him.
Come on he teases with his eyes, having far more fun than he’s had in... well, ages. More than he’s had any right to have in longer. ‘The way that you kiss goodnight,’ he finds himself singing. Oh, this might be too much actually.
He hums the next line instead, and Jon tilts his head with a small frown.
‘You have a nice voice,’ he says, looking away quickly and then back again. ‘I mean, you sing, uh. Nicely.’
‘Thanks,’ Martin manages to mumble back.
The compliment is one thing, but the implication that Jon thought he’d stopped over an insecurity and wanted to encourage him is almost more. Stay on the ground girl, the CD croons. It seems impossible.
He focuses on his feet, shuffling back a few steps on rhythm so it seems smooth. Jon is still watching him, still smiling. Something must have changed. They used to be so flitty with their gaze, and the only steady eye contact Martin's really experienced with them was over panicked discussion about how neither of them needed eyes at all. He’s not used to this. Being looked at so freely.
It should feel thrilling. It sort of does, makes him almost trip as he tries a spin, giddy with the compliment and the music. But it also feels comfortable and easy and right.
It makes him think he can get away with something bold. Like Jon might even be waiting for him to.
So he puts his hand out.
Jon takes it without pausing long enough for Martin to worry over it, smiling shyly like he can’t believe it.
Martin walks backwards, still swaying a bit to keep the excuse alive, pulling them into the centre of the rug that covers the dodgy living room floor.
He’s going to let go, now that their arms are taught anymore, and just try and dance maybe a bit closer. But Jon doesn’t drop his hand. Instead, he swings it between them like it’s part of a routine, shuffling his feet in time.
When he sees Martin staring he scoffs. ‘What? I like this song too. Is that so surprising?’
The put-out little semi-joking pout that Martin’s already become familiar with seeing on their face, even from before, over teasing and a sandwich on special lunchtimes, is extremely endearing. It’s just one of the many expressions Martin hopes to one day soon kiss all over.
For now he settles on grinning and lifting his arm to turn Jon under it. Jon laughs and spins and catches himself on Martin's arm when he nearly trips and Martin can’t believe his own luck. Something warm and happy like the violins he’s hearing spreads through his chest, and doesn’t stop all through the rest of the song.
It only keeps spreading as Jon whirls them both around with both hands and hums along (they have a nice voice too). They throw their arm up as high as it will go, on tiptoe, so that Martin can duck under it in a turn, stepping off the thick rug to make it easier. By the time the song starts to fade out, his cheeks ache from grinning.
‘It’s nice to see you happy,’ Jon says genuinely, and they’re smiling too, like Martin's silly twirling them round to ABBA is something to smile over. Like his happiness is.
Martin scoffs quietly for want of anything to say, but he can’t keep his mouth from tugging up. He’s not sure he’s ever seen Jon smile and not followed suit. It was always infectious - partly because of the reward of rarity, but now it comes out far more easily it’s still just as beautiful.
‘Yeah,’ he replies, ‘well.’
He feels almost shy and stupid as the song changes into something slower. Probably too sad, or too weird for the moment, but skipping the track would mean walking back over to the CD player, which would mean leaving where he’s stood now, close enough that he can smell Jon’s soap. The soap they’ve been sharing. Jon’s hand is still loosely in his and he swings it awkwardly, watching the way their fingers tighten to hold on, listening to their breath of laughter.
‘Well,’ Jon says, amused, pointed.
He shuffles a bit closer, the rug giving him an extra half inch of height that’s stupidly suggestive. When Martin looks up at him again it’s like he’s already on tiptoe.
‘ Are you happy?’
‘Yes. Yes, I’m happy.’
The song swells into a chorus and Martin swears he can see both their chests rising with it. This definitely is not just a comfort thing, is it? It feels so much that something’s going to happen that when Jon asks ‘Martin?’ quietly he answers far too quickly.
Jon coughs, slowing down again and Martin curses his keenness. He just hopes the awkward stammering gets them somewhere.
‘This is... this is what you want, still, then?’ Jon presses gently. ‘That is, I mean...’ Their eyes slip shyly from Martin's face to their joined hands. ‘I wasn’t sure.’
‘Yeah,’ Martin tells him quietly, slowly, trying not to spook what he’s feeling is fast becoming a moment. ‘Yeah, it is.’
‘Right. Only, I-I was wondering-’
‘Um,’ Jon says, looking up and faltering, ‘I, just-‘
‘I still love you,’ Martin says, pulling his bottom lip into his mouth to resist the temptation of smiling as he says it. ‘If that’s what you were wondering.’
He hadn’t meant it to sound so teasing, but after everything it seems like that’s alright with them. Jon huffs a bit and smiles back at their hands.
‘Right. I see. So-’
‘So?’ Martin goads, and he’s holding in his smile with baited breath now, knowing it all depends on the answer he’s teasing out.
Jon looks up at him. ‘Can I kiss you then?’
The inorganic nature of it is somehow the sweetest thing about it. Martin feels his eyebrows go soft in disbelief and love. His cheeks resist their schooling and pull up into the start of a grin unfettered, but he’s kissing Jon before he can properly smile, before he can answer.
When Martin's unmistakable footsteps come through the door Jon can already hear he’s tired and has some bullshit story from the office he’ll want to ignore and later bitch about. He trudges into the kitchen looking like his face hasn’t moved from its downtrodden, empty scowl for the entire commute. It only moves to quirk a small hi .
Jon tuts and pulls him down to kiss his mouth, then his forehead gently.
The smile gets a little bigger as Martin leans back against the counter, looking into the pan, then Jon’s face.
‘Hi,’ he says again, tired but not resentful.
‘How was work?’ Jon tries, and tries not to quirk a smile at the way Martin raises his eyebrows and clicks his tongue. Not quite ready to pull complaints out of him in a laughing way, and knowing he won’t want to actually talk about it seriously, Jon squeezes his hand and hands him the spatula. ‘Here,’ they say, ‘mind the onions.’
They cross from the small corner kitchen into the living room, and cross that to the record player Martin had bought them both as a moving present. Jon listens for the scrape of wood on non-stick before rummaging through the records, wanting to keep the perfect song a surprise.
His eyes fall on one in particular - a smile coming to his face and a lump to his throat as the memories come back. Of holding Martin's hand and laughing and their first kiss on Daisy's rug. Of dancing together and not being able to stop grinning like idiots.
The first line of the song makes Martin turn around, his shoulders sagging with happy emotion. He sighs out a smile that turns into a laugh when Jon sways up to him, humming.
‘You remembered.’ Martin says softly, laying down the spatula.
‘Course I did,’ Jon tells him, shaking their head. ‘How could I forget?’ They lean forward to flick off the stove, taking both of Martin’s hands. ‘You were singing and I was utterly in love with you.’
Martin does that thing where he beams like a lighthouse and nearly wells up. He pulls Jon into a tight hug, lifting their heels off the floor as he leans back and sways. Jon laughs into his neck and plants a couple of kisses there for good measure.
‘Will you sing now?’ they ask, directly into Martin’s ear, because he’ll get shy otherwise and because the little shiver he does when he’s tickled there is adorable.
Martin hums and squeezes even tighter, hauling Jon away from the counter, to exasperated giggles, and only setting them down when they’re back in the living room.
‘If you dance with me,’ he says, offering his hand in an overly Victorian fashion that doesn’t fit with his swaying hips.
Jon grins, taking it and ducking under it as fast as he had all those years ago, twirling with the same feeling of safety. Martin laughs at his eagerness and holds his hand up high as he starts to sing. Jon is as familiar with his voice now as he is with his cooking, his tread up the stairs, the grooves of his fingers. But it is as beautifully piercing and warm in their London flat as it was that first time in Scotland.
Dinner doesn’t come till after the needle has finished the final chords of the album.