This was all Jon’s fault.
He should have known; he’d just brought about an apocalypse for christ’s sake! Of course it was too soon! Of course Martin would be upset at finding him rifling in the dark like an addict. What if there was something worse hiding away in another one and there he was, walking in on Jon pawing through the box for a goddamn snack?
But after the panic and questions and shouting at a sky that only looked on silent and steady, the shakiness was back. The ache. The draw that came from knowing they were here and whispering to him, beckoning to him, promising to ease the hurt building up in his bones as the Eye continued to take and take and take when the well had long since run dry.
And now Martin was alone. Holed up in the bedroom, their(?) bedroom, and it was Jon’s fault. He was alone again and it was because he was too selfish to think beyond feeding the monster he’d become. All because he couldn’t wait, couldn’t give him even a moment to try and forget about Jon’s dietary needs and the pain they caused. There was no way it was easy on Martin, knowing that Jon required.
Worse still was the disappointment, the devastation rolling over him like the rain laden clouds of a storm as he backed away, anguished betrayal pooling in his eyes, even as Jon reached for him, excuses pouring over his lips like ink from a pen.
The mug in his hand seemed like such a paltry offering. Martin deserved infinitely more than this and Jon would never be up for the task if he kept relying on his more monstrous half. Like his resolve, his hold on the ceramic tightened. If Martin wanted him to hold off, or, or prove that he was better than his thirst for fear, then he would give that to him.
Anything for him.
“M’Martin?” He called through the door rather than knock, holding his breath while the decision to let him in or not was made. He couldn’t help but count the seconds, forty seven, a small eternity. Jon fought the impulse to apologize again, Martin said he did that far too much, likely thought he didn’t truly mean it because he never seemed to fix his mistakes. Patience. Wait.
It was not his forte.
“Come in.” Good lord, Martin sounded so tired and when Jon stepped into the room he could see him curled up on the bed facing away from him, the slope of his shoulders defeated. The desire to express remorse all but choked him and he swallowed it down with difficulty. It wouldn’t be for Martin anyway, not really, just another selfish attempt to assuage his own guilt.
“I’m. I brought tea?” Another step closer, watching Martin sit up slowly, elbow rising up as he swiped at his eyes. “O’of course it, it could never hope to m’measure up to yours. I’m afraid I’I’ve never been a deft hand.” He was babbling, rounding the frame so fast that liquid splashed over his fingers. “Mm. B’but here? It’s warm?”
“Thank you, Jon.” It shouldn’t have mattered but the lack of an endearment he’d become so used to was like a blow. Still, he accepted the tea, taking a measured sip before setting it aside and glancing up with red rimmed eyes.
“I. I wasn’t thinking.” To prevent himself reaching for more, Jon plucked at the bottom hem of his, of Martin’s jumper, picking and pulling at the stray threads.
“I was. Surprised, I guess? That you could even look at--” He shook his head, “it’s not important.” And while Jon didn’t agree considering how insensitive he’d been, he welcomed Martin’s arms around him.
“Can’t it wait, Jon?”
As he tried to steal away up the stairs with his prize, all too aware of the inherent chicanery.
All too aware of the exasperation in Martin’s voice as he pinched the bridge of his nose.
Exasperation with him.
“I can’t exactly...avoid you in here.” He gestured absently to the small space of the cabin made smaller by fear of leaving and they both knew well there was no way Martin wouldn’t be able to hear him. It physically hurt to replace the yellowed paper back into its watermarked manila folder.
“S’sorry Martin. Of course it can wait.” But it was worse for having held it in his hands, for having been so close and the Eye was railing at him now, shouting in his mind for his denial and dizzying him with its volume. Instead Jon settled for stumbling over to the couch to burrow into Martin’s warmth, sighing when he draped a heavy arm across his aching shoulders and dropped a kiss into his messy hair. Beneath his ear Martin’s pulse beat loud, nearly drowning out the yammering want and sluggish and thick, Jon responded in a sleepy hum to Martin’s questions, sinking into a doze when he began to pet through his tangled curls.
Without a dose of second hand fear it only became worse, to the point where his scars screamed out whenever he moved, breathed, and Jon found himself losing large tracts of time even when he wasn’t sleeping. The inside of his skull was stuffed full of candy floss and digging through any of it for a spare thought was far beyond his ken.
Martin didn’t leave anymore.
For very good reason, but Jon couldn’t find a moment alone to, to, to.
Even old and stale they would provide a reprieve.
“Martin.” His own voice sounded as though he were hearing it through the walls of a submarine, muffled and strained, and he wasn’t totally certain of his volume. “I. I need to read. To read a statement.”
The disbelief knitting Martin’s brow almost made him want to cry. It. He’d waited so long. Tried to sneak, be out of the way, to ask.
“The world just ended!” Martin avoided saying just who ended it but it was there in the set of his mouth and Jon winced irrationally at the volume; he wasn’t being yelled at, just about. “And you want to read a bloody statement now?” Incredulous, and at his tone, Jon folded himself into a small origami shape on his spot on the sofa, sharp at all his corners and hopefully harder to hit.
“No! I mean, I--”
“I don’t understand.” His voice was soft now, imploring. "Did you forget what caused this in the first place?" Oh, but he knew the answer to this question. It was good to know.
“M’me?” When Martin sighed, the disappointment captured in it stung.
“Yeah, I mean, no. It’s not your fault you were tricked into reading--look, I just think it’d be better if we waited. At least until we have a plan?” That made sense and he said so, words tripping up in a jumble on his tongue. “Jon, are you alright?”
No. He was hurting and upset and couldn't decide which was the greater ache.
“Yes. Just tired.”
“I’m ready for a kip after the staring contest I had with the sky earlier.” That would be nice. Martin was warm and soft and it didn’t all hurt so much when he was asleep.
His scars pulsed with a feverish ache, twisting, burning, smoldering embers in a body crying out for relief, thoughts disconnected, disoriented, disjointed, knotted up past, present.
He hated this. Hated himself, hated how nothing made sense anymore, all a vast landscape of, boiling, melted wax running together in a kaleidoscope of color.
Martin must hate what he is, hate that he ruined the world and want him to know it. Maybe once he’d learned to be more careful, more thoughtful Martin would let him have one. That's all, he just had to be patient. He still held him, kissed him, loved him, this was just a, a lesson. That's all. When he told him the right answers, when he figured them out, he’d be allowed to read and fill the emptiness eating him away from inside out.
He’d rather Martin than a statement any day.
Just a bit longer.
“Jon.” Martin left him in bed this equivalent to morning in hopes it would stave off whatever he’d come down with but enough was enough. “You can’t spend all day sleeping, love. We need to figure this out.” You can’t ignore what you’ve done and leave me to clean up your mess. Uncharitable, the thought came out of nowhere and Martin was thankful he’d kept his frustration to himself. He knew it wasn’t his fault. Breaking it down to blame wouldn’t help anybody, least of all the entire world. Magnus was old and he’d taken the time to plan this, manipulating them all into place, and asking Jon to carry the whole weight of that wasn’t fair. Fading in and out, thick and syrupy, Jon’s unsteady voice rose from the mountain of quilts.
“Nnn...n’feeling...very well.” He looked dreadful, flushed and fevered, and not for the first time Martin wondered if this was a leftover side effect of the ritual. “S’so cold…” Taking pity, Martin curled around his too thin and shivering frame where Jon panted harshly into his neck, the brush of overheated air humid at his throat.
“What’s wrong, darling?”
“Hur’s.” Worry flooded Martin’s chest, constricting and tight. There were no doctors here, no ambulance he could call on.
“Ss…” With difficulty he flexed his burned hand.
“Alright, I’m here.” Gently Martin ran a light hand along the seam of his spine in the hope it brought Jon some measure of comfort if nothing else.
It took him too long to put the pieces together. How big did a neon sign have to be before he could read it?
Selfish. Foolish. Stupid. And the one paying dearly for it was Jon.
“You need to come awake for me, love.” He’d already heaved him up once only for him to swoon and this time he bullied him to his feet where he stood swaying dangerously but Martin needed him to be awake, to get his blood moving and stay that way.
“Mma’tin…” agonized, breathless, what had he said earlier? About hurting, his scars? God, Martin, you just watched him fall apart in front of you and did nothing. Worse than nothing. “Sstop…”
“I’m sorry, sweetheart.” For so much, for not listening, for thinking ever that Jon would keep seeking out statements for anything other than necessity. “You’re doing so well, so, so well.” To think he nigh accused him of wanting to Know and nothing else; childish and angry. “But you need to wake up, you need to be able to listen.”
“Am...am.” Marble mouthed, dark lashes like strokes of ink fluttered, obscured the unnatural green glow always seeking. “Lis…” he broke off into a low, shaky moan, curling into himself, trying to sink to the floor, and Martin wanted to cry, worried that if he left him alone for even a moment he wouldn’t be able to wake him again. So he swept him into his arms instead, heart shattering when Jon bit off a sharp sob as his palm ghosted over the gap in his ribs, sore and sensitive and even so, he turned his face into Martin’s chest, twisted trembling fingers into wash-worn wool with a keening whine. He'd hurt him, accused him, berated him.
And Jon still turned to him as though he were the sun.
“Shh, soon now.” Shallow and short, Jon’s chest hitched as he pressed his fever hot forehead hard into his shoulder and swallowed with a wet click.
“Mmah…” around another convulsive swallow and it was barely warning enough to get him over the sink where he coughed up the tea Martin forced into him earlier. Strung tight and painfully wound, Jon exhaled in relief when Martin let him slide boneless down the cabinetry to the floor, cheek pillowed on the cool painted wood. Lifting his chin, Martin brushed back sweat soaked curls, pressed a promise into fiery skin.
“I’m going to fix this.” As quick as he could Martin ran to the closet and grabbed the whole box, returning to find Jon sprawled out on his back, limbs twisted and loose where he fell. “Oh, Jon.” There was no time to make him comfortable, not when for all Martin knew he was dying because he’d refused to see what was right in front of him, what Jon had been trying to tell him. Because it meant that Jon truly wasn’t human and clearly part of Martin wanted to ignore that.
“Jon, darling, please.” In his lap, listless deadweight, face turned unconsciously toward the statements. “Open your eyes, Jon, which ones haven’t you read?” Martin clawed through the folders, skimming titles, trying to remember if he’d heard any snippets, but no. He didn’t like listening to them, didn’t want to hear the horrors of others. If he’d stayed with him would he have been able to stop Magnus’ plan? “Jon!” Listing numbers, names, until the floor around them was tiled in paper. Hitching him higher, Martin kissed his pulsepoint when his head lolled, slow and sluggish. “Jon.” Which one?
“This one?” He read the first sentence, shuddering already at the chill running up his spine. “Jon?” Another paragraph and uncoordinated, his arm struck out, reaching blindly. “Okay, alright. Are you listening?” The tiniest nod, Martin wasn’t sure if he imagined it or not, but began to read, steady as he could, sick with himself when the tremors eased and tight, spasming muscles unspooled under his worried hand. When the tears came he had to force himself to keep on, beside himself that he couldn’t comfort him. With the great gasping breaths of a man half drowned, Jon swung his arms around Martin’s neck when the strength came back to his arms as it all drew to a close.
“Th’thank you.” Damp spread over his skin, his words tinged with desperate relief. “M’sorry, m’s’sorry.”
“For what?” He clutched him back, the sound of paper crumpling in his fist sharp in his ears and punctuated by Jon’s frantic apologies, his uneasy gratefulness.
“Th’thank you, Martin, thank y’you. Won’ a’a’ask again.”
“Can wait.” The quake in his voice was shivery and small and devastation pooled in Martin’ stomach.
It sounded too much as though--
“Oh darling, oh no, no. I.” He had to pause, to swallow the tangle of emotion clotting up his throat and gathered him closer. “I didn’t understand. That’s all. I would. Jon.” Gently he shifted him to get a look at his tear streaked and exhausted face, swiping at his own eyes before cupping his cheek and drawing his thumb over the too-prominent bone there. “Never, I would never h’hurt, or punish--I didn’t know. I didn’t listen.” The first statement’s reprieve was wearing thin and Martin settled Jon against his chest where he laid still, head resting on his shoulder as he reached for another envelope.
The light never changed, no matter the time, but it was softer now. Here.
Pastel behind his eyelids as if swimming through a twilight consciousness into the soft sensations of waking. The knit strands of Martin’s cardigan threaded between his tangled fingers and he shifted closer, so warm, the fever chills he’d suffered for days a thing of the not too distant past. Jon wanted to collect this feeling, this safety, bottle it up for when Martin finally figured out that the only thing he knew how to do was take. Holding his breath, he tried to stay in this moment and absorb the feeling of Martin’s body pressed against his own, slotted perfectly together like a pair of puzzle pieces, the heat generated beneath the quilt comforting, intoxicating.
Even though Jon could tell you more than most that stealing scraps of affection never amounted to enough.
Soft kisses rained over his skin, over every scar, because he’d been unable to cry quietly enough to leave Martin undisturbed. He pulled away, scrubbed his face with the heel of his scarred hands.
“Please, don’t be.” And he wanted to believe him, that he could have this even with what he was. That he wouldn’t ruin Martin like he’d already ruined so much. “Come here, love.” Patient. Martin was so patient with him even when the uncertainty had to show in his face. “It’s alright.” And Jon dove back in, hands not so much brushing against each other as colliding when he reached for more, more, more, taking, taking, taking. Hiccuping with sobs, burrowing close, closer, the closest he could be, where Martin’s kiss was a soft promise pressed between them, told to his mouth rather than his ear but a message of love and protection and tenderness all the same. Tears he forgot he’d been crying were thumbed gently away, so carefully it was as though Martin worried he would break under the weight of his touch.
Sated, the Beholding a murmur lost in the rhythm of Martin’s heart, Jon allowed himself to be lost, to let someone else, someone he loved and who loved him in return, carry it all just for a little while.
“How’re you feeling?” He approached with a cup of tea, inadequate though it was for an apology, passing it off to Jon’s eager, steady hands. His color was better, the flush faded, and he’d stopped moving like there were needles wedged in every joint.
“Much better, thank you, Martin.” Whyever would he thank him? But here he was, eyes closed in appreciation of the first sip, patting the cushion next to him in open invitation.
“Why didn’t you say anything?” After a beat of silence Jon set aside the mug and folded his hands in his lap.
“I thought you knew.” His fingers flexed and Jon forced himself to look Martin in the eye. “I thought it was what you, what you wanted.” And the confusion in his expression, that he had possibly miscalculated, was painful. But isn’t that what he’d learned time and time again? Tim, Basira, Melanie, Daisy, even Martin himself! That when he made mistakes, made wrong choices, when he’d done something they didn’t approve of he’d been yelled at, ridiculed, threatened, terrified, hurt, abandoned. He laughed, a bitter, deprecating huff. "I did end the world after all. You've a right to be upset."
“Wha--no! Jon, no! If I’d--” speechless, that Jon just accepted so easily being hurt this way, accepted that Martin, even accidentally, wanted to see him punished for his part in bringing about Magnus’ plan.
“When I, I asked. I. It made you so angry.”
"Jon. No matter how angry I am, I never want to hurt you or punish you. That’s not okay."
“I should have never made you feel--” He grit his teeth, calmed his voice. There was no part of him that wanted Jon to interpret his anger at himself as anger pointed towards him. “Please, if I do this again. Please, love.” For a moment Jon looked like he wanted to argue and Martin tugged him into an embrace, overjoyed when it was returned, his response muffled in his jumper.