“What are you thinking about?” asked Jon, giving their interlaced hands a small squeeze.
Martin turned to Jon. He was looking right back at him, his face so close Martin could feel his breathing, his eyes so kind and full of love it knocked the air right out of his chest. The light from the sunset they were watching perched on the bench behind their little cottage spilt onto Jon’s face, drawing his features out with orange and yellow and pink and red. He looked like a painting; he looked like the love of Martin’s life.
I want to kiss him, he thought . And then, a realization: I can.
And he did. Just a silly little peck. Just because he could.
Jon smiled and suddenly it was all worth it, all the pain and terror and loss they had been through. He raised his hand, the one Martin wasn’t holding; the one with the rough burn scar, and stroked the space between Martin’s brows. “When you’re thinking hard about something, you do this little thing with your brow, they, ah, get all furrowed.”
“Oh?” asked Martin, smiling back. “Do I, now?”
“Mhm,” he hummed. “Care to lift the mystery? Unless it’s something you prefer not to share. That’s alright too.”
“Oh, no, it’s not important,” said Martin. He laid his head on Jon’s shoulders, still holding on to his hand, and sighed: “It’s pretty silly.”
Martin was thinking of a poem. It’s name sat on the tip of his tongue, aching to get out. It was a lovely one, too: something about how life felt easy now, at peace; how the small things felt like everything, a poem about… the importance of the little moments.
These last few days had been like that, he thought. He couldn’t stop smiling to himself recently, and Jon even teased him about it sometimes, though he was hardly less giddy. Martin thought of the late mornings under the blankets of their shared bed, holding each other close, foreheads nestled against each other, eyes still closed; their walks to the village, how Jon interlaced Martin’s hand with his; shopping at the farmer’s market, buying fruit and tea and some herbs they could use to make pasta when they got home, maybe butter and sage, Jon had said; the way he’d tried to teach Martin how to dice onions when they got home, standing behind him, hand on top of his, but failed miserably because neither could stop laughing at how much it made their eyes water. He thought of the cattle grazing in the fields around their home, how Jon had laughed when Martin had first called them good cows, how it had become one of their first inside jokes, knowing smiles and laughter anytime either brought it up. He thought of the immense joy those little things brought him, the mugs of tea they made for each other, how he would lay in their bed late at night staring at the ceiling, his love nestled against his chest, overflowing with so much contentment and fondness he did not know what to make of himself.
There were hard moments, of course. There were times when Jon snapped at him and where Martin didn’t feel like being around anyone, when he just wanted to be alone. Times when guilt weighed on both their shoulders and there were nightmares and nights spent awake, times when Jon knew the unthinkable and didn’t want to , Martin his only protection against the infinite ocean of knowledge that threatened to drown him every second.
They were scared all the time, but the truth is, it didn’t matter; because for every moment they felt scared, there were a million others they felt safe, and loved, and held by each other. And that was what mattered; the love far outweighed the fear, now.
“I like silly,” said Jon, before chuckling a bit, very softly, “Plus, you have been frowning all afternoon, and although that’s an endearing look on you, I do think you should get worried about the development of premature wrinkles.”
Martin gasped, partly in genuine bewilderment and partly in feigned offence. “About what ?”
Jon laughed out loud this time, and Martin couldn’t help but laugh with him. He would never get tired of hearing that sound. “Nothing! Nothing at all,” he said between chuckles, and then took a deep breath to try and stop himself from laughing. “Now, now: tell me about your thought. And relax those brows!”
Martin did as he was told. “It’s… a poem? It’s been on my mind for a while, and I can’t figure out how it goes, it’s just- I know it’s good? It’s been bugging me, but I know it’s, it’s silly.”
“Hm,” Jon hummed thoughtfully. He gave another two little squeezes to Martin’s hand. “I think I could, uh, help? Do you have any idea of how it goes?”
“You? Poetry?” snickered Martin, tone playful. He turned to see Jon staring at him with curious satisfaction.
“Already forgotten I have all the knowledge of the world at my disposal?”
Martin felt his ears warm-up. “Oh. Yeah. That.”
Jon smiled at him, though Martin knew it wasn’t completely genuine. He didn’t like to talk about his powers, or the institute, or the Beholding or anything of the kind if he could avoid. “That, indeed,” Jon said, his voice slightly strained.
Martin sighed. “ Alright , it’s- it’s pretty short?”
“I am sorry to inform you’re going to have to be a bit more specific than that, Martin, or even my all-knowing capabilities will not be of much use,” he was grinning very wide, and it did a strange little thing to Martin’s chest.
Martin turned away, now certainly blushing more than it was justified. “Oh, sorry,” he took a deep breath to still himself. “It’s- it’s about contentment? And the little things which bring us joy, and- and simplicity. Pretty sure there’s something about sharing, sharing something? There’s something about laughter, and, and gratitude for being here, for being alive, and-”
He turned to see Jon on a blend of frowning and smiling as the familiar sound of static embraced them both. “Ah. That’s a really- really lovely one, actually. Are you thinking about The Orange, by Wendy Cope?”
Martin perked up, feeling himself grin. “Yeah! Yeah, that’s the one,” he said, and then paused. “You wouldn’t know how the verses go, right? I- I thought I would remember with the title, but it seems that’s not the case.”
“ In fact , I do,” Jon paused too, squeezing their hands once again. “Would you like me to say it out loud for you?”
“Oh! I think- I think I would like that, actually. If it’s not a bother. I know you don’t favour poetry too much.”
Jon chuckled a little bit. “Not before I met you. Everything is different now.”
“Oh,” sighed Martin, because what do you say to that? What do you say when the person you most love in the world steals the words right out of your mouth?
Martin kissed Jon on the cheek and smiled. “Go on, then.”
Jon closed his eyes, as if to focus, to remember a memory that was not his; around him, static gathered and rose in intensity. It was a sight Martin had gotten used to, but this time different: he was beaming all through it, and when he opened his mouth to recite the poem, his voice was entirely Jon’s, devoid of any static.
At lunchtime I bought a huge orange—
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I had a half.
And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.
The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
“ I love you. I’m glad I exist ,” finished both Jon and Martin at the same time.
They were looking at each other now. Jon reached and touched their foreheads, hands in Martin’s hair, and they closed their eyes, just breathing against each other, two people in love. They had fought and been through so much to have this, Martin thought, feeling himself sigh. He held Jon closer and they stayed like that for a while, basking in each other’s warmth.
Jon was the one who retreated first, looking Martin’s eyes, and taking both of his hands in his. He smiled against the sunset and Martin’s heart hurt in his chest, so much fondness and gratitude and joy it could burst at any moment.
Jon sighed. “Martin, I-”
“I love you too, Jon.”
Jon widened his eyes, and for a very scary moment, Martin thought he had rushed things and made it awkward and that he was wrong about all this.
And then Jon chuckled, and with a voice feigning upset: “I was going to say it first!”
Martin laughed, and rested his head between Jon’s shoulders and his neck. “Seems like you’re just going to have to say it more times to compensate from now on, hm?”
“Yes. Might have to do that indeed,” he said, and his hand was stroking Martin’s hair.
“I love you, Martin. And I’m- I’m glad I exist.”
And it all made sense, for Martin, at that moment. He thought about how Jon’s burned hand was stroking his hair, a juxtaposition of pain and love, and thought of all the scars that Jon had to carry with him; about the cut in his neck which was just below Martin’s nose right now, how he could just reach over and kiss it, place tenderness into an old wound. He thought about the rough white spots distributed on Jon’s body and face, how the different texture felt under his thumb when he stroked them. He thought of the less physical scars, of all the suffering and pain and loss both of them had been put through; of waking up crying from a nightmare and being greeted by soothing whispers and a warm embrace. Those were all wounds they would have to carry, and no matter how much tenderness they placed on it, the scars would never fade away.
He thought about how hard it was to live like this, haunted by old wounds and scars.
And he thought of how grateful he was for all of them, anyway. Because that meant he could have this.
And he wouldn’t trade this for anything.