Martin wakes up feeling like he's about to die.
He doesn't have to wonder why, or what caused it. It's a routine part of his life, now. He'll go days, sometimes weeks without it happening, and then suddenly there will be a sound in the night - pipes creaking, or the building settling, or the distant sound of a car hitting a pothole, or maybe just his own goddamn imagination, he doesn't even know - and whatever it is, it sounds close enough to knock-knock-knock that he wakes up gasping with terror before he even realizes what's happening, feet halfway to the floor before he even manages to get his blanket all the way off, stumbling over it in his desperation to get away get away GET AWAY-
He'd never experienced this kind of fear, before Prentiss. Fear so strong it hits him like a physical illness, like a wave of nausea begging for an outlet, like his body is so desperate to get rid of this awful, overwhelming feeling that it doesn't know whether to make him scream or puke or piss himself. Panting, breathless fear, burning in his chest, squeezing his heart. He can feel his blood pressure in his jaw, a tension like he's clenching it even when he's not, and he has no idea what he would do if he ever had an actual heart attack, because he experiences the symptoms of one so often these days that it would be absurd to go to the hospital every single time it happened. He'd never fucking leave, if he did.
Martin's awareness returns in bits and pieces. The grit of the tile floor under his bare feet. The feeling of his sleep shirt sweat-sticky against his chest. He apparently made it all the way to the break room, somehow. It's dimly lit, at this time of night; Jon hates fluorescent lights, and always turns them off as soon as the others leave. The distant glow of streetlights from outside the windows paints everything in shades of yellow-orange.
Martin has no idea what he looks like right now, or what sounds he must have been making, but he suddenly registers that Jon is there, staring at him with an expression of alarm that borders on panic. His hands are raised placatingly, like he doesn't know whether he should reach out or get ready to shield himself from a blow. Martin hears Jon’s voice like it's coming from underwater, at first, before it slowly coalesces into words that Martin can understand. "Martin? Martin, it's okay, you're safe, can you- do you even understand me? Shit, shit, do I need to call someone-"
"No," Martin finally manages to choke out. His throat tries to close up around the words, and his voice comes out strange and thin. "No, no, no- it's okay- I- sorry- I just-"
Martin tries to explain, but he can't get enough air, can't get his lungs to inflate all the way. He keeps interrupting himself to gasp. Jon finally makes up his mind to lay his hands on Martin, one grabbing his shoulder, the other resting between Martin’s shoulder blades.
"Come on.” Jon says, and he guides Martin to the small, ratty couch that lives in one corner of the break room - another one of the strange odds and ends left over from the previous Head Archivist's tenure, same as the cot that Martin has been sleeping on for the past month and a half. Like most of the furniture down here, it looks like something someone scavenged from the side of the road. The fabric is rough and a little tacky, in both appearance and texture.
Jon gets Martin settled, then bustles away, leaving Martin feeling strangely bereft. Jon returns almost immediately with a tissue in his hand, which he all but shoves at Martin.
Martin becomes aware of the fact that he's leaking from his eyes and nose and mouth. His whole face is wet. He doesn't feel like he's been crying. It's more like he's just...oozing. He blows his nose and wads the tissue up in his fist.
Jon dithers a bit more, looking like he's looking for some other excuse to avoid the situation, before finally, reluctantly perching himself next to Martin. Martin isn't sure if this is better or worse. He really doesn't want to be alone right now, but Jon’s discomfort is practically a tangible presence in the air, and it's making Martin uncomfortable. He's trying to get himself together enough to decide what he should do when Jon suddenly speaks up.
"I have pills." Jon blurts out, and it's such a bizarre non-sequitur that Martin worries he really has lost it, for a minute. Martin stares at Jon uncomprehendingly as he continues, "That is, medication. For anxiety. If it would help."
Martin continues to stare for a moment, and then surprises himself by breaking out into a high, hysterical-sounding laugh. "You know what. Fine. Let's do drugs at work. Why not!" Martin’s voice sounds strange to his own ears, creaking and cracking like that one time he had laryngitis.
Jon rubs his temple, looking like he's already regretting the offer. "Oh, for god's- it's ativan, Martin, not cocaine."
"Got it. Not a high enough level to unlock the good drugs." And Martin really needs to stop giggling, it's been going on for an awkwardly long time and he's starting to sound like he's having some kind of episode. Or like he’s about to burst into tears. But every time he looks at the scandalized expression on Jon's face it just. Keeps happening. God, maybe he does need drugs.
Now that the subject has been raised, Martin is actually kind of curious about where Jon is going to produce these pills from. The idea of Jon keeping prescription bottles rattling around in his desk drawer is a little hard for Martin to wrap his head around. Desperate for the distraction, Martin watches as Jon takes his wallet out of his back pocket and pulls out a thin plastic box slotted between his cards and cash. Jon clicks the box open, takes out two tiny white pills, and hands them to Martin. Martin isn't sure whether to take this as a commentary on his weight or his mental state, but he downs them both. They melt in his mouth, slightly sweet.
Then Jon sighs, shrugs in a "fuck it" sort of way, and pops one as well. He shoves his wallet back into his pocket and leans back against the back of the couch, like a deliberate attempt at relaxation. Martin imitates him.
Martin sits quietly, trying to focus on controlling his breathing, while he waits for something to happen. Then, slowly, so slowly, the tension starts to bleed out of him. The anxiety buzzing urgently in his stomach begins to quiet, and then goes silent, replaced by something soft and drowsy that wraps around his brain like a cozy hug. And he really shouldn't be thinking about cozy hugs, because Jon is warm at his side, and Martin’s inhibitions are not at their best right now.
"So. Emergency stash in the wallet, huh?" he eventually says, just to fill the silence. His voice sounds raw, but no longer strained. His throat isn’t tight anymore.
"I used to get panic attacks." Jon mumbles. "Well, still do, I suppose. I've just gotten better at heading them off early."
"Heh. Sounds like you picked the wrong place to work."
"You're one to talk."
The silence returns, and they sit through it, breathing slowly in and out. Martin isn't sure if it's a comfortable silence, or if he's just too sedated to feel properly nervous about it.
"...what was it?" says Jon, after an interminable amount of time has passed.
Martin doesn't have to ask what he means. "It's stupid. I just...thought I heard the sound of knocking. And then I woke up freaking out."
Something strange and intense flashes over Jon’s face, at that, and he says, with surprising vehemence, "It is not stupid."
"Wow. Okay." Martin turns his head to give Jon a curious look, kind of hoping for some elaboration, but Jon just looks away. Alright, then.
Another eternity passes. Then, in barely-perceptible increments, like the shifting of a glacier, Jon begins to move. He sort of...sags slowly sideways until he's leaning against Martin, like he's halfway to falling asleep and doesn't realize what he's doing. Martin feels like some kind of exotic butterfly just flew down and perched on him.
"What level do I have to be to unlock weed privileges?"
Jon actually chuckles at that, very quietly. Martin is pretty sure the floaty feeling he's experiencing is only partially due to the pills. "You'll need Tim for that, I'm afraid."
"Huh. Guess he's been holding out on me."
"He used to grow it, I think. I don't know if he still does."
"No kidding." Martin is learning all kinds of things about his coworkers today.
Martin isn’t really capable of feeling nervous, at the moment, but he’s aware, in a distant, hazy way, that what he’s about to do is something very delicate and dangerous. Feeling like he’s disarming a landmine while wearing oven mitts, Martin takes a deep breath and slowly, carefully moves to lean against Jon. There's a considering pause. Then, breaking plausible deniability, Jon shifts sideways to tuck himself more firmly against Martin’s side. He rests his head on Martin's shoulder. Martin’s cheek rests against Jon's hair.
Martin’s chest still aches. He still feels as tired and sweaty as if he just ran a mile. His eyes are still gritty and heavy with interrupted sleep.
But for now, right in this moment, everything is warm and safe and good.
Ever since The Curious Incident of the Panic Attack in the Nighttime, Martin has started thinking of daytime Jon and late night Jon as two different people. Daytime Jon is as stiff and prickly as ever - possibly even moreso, as if to compensate for the actions of late night Jon, who is a strange, awkward creature who does things like share his drugs and kinda-sorta cuddle with Martin on the couch while Martin is on the verge of a mental breakdown.
Martin isn't sure which Jon it is that catches him standing on one of the toilets in the restroom after work hours, trying to blow smoke up the ceiling vent, so he tries not to look too much like a deer in the headlights while he tries to figure out how much trouble he's in.
"...I disavow all knowledge of drug use occurring on work premises, of course." says Jon, after a long pause.
Oh, good, it's the cool Jon. Martin smiles sheepishly as he peers down at Jon from over the stall door, shoulders dropping with relief. "Of course."
"I take it Tim was amenable?"
"Gave me an ounce as soon as I brought it up. I offered to pay him, but he just said I needed it more than him."
"Seriously. My new hero." It's probably the most expensive gift Martin has ever received. And all he had to do to earn it was become homeless after almost dying.
Jon hesitates, then clears his throat. "The, uh, windows in the break room open, you know. Probably easier than risking your life doing that."
"Ah. I did not know that."
Martin carefully climbs down off the toilet and clears out of the restroom so Jon can take care of his business in peace. It's a good thing Martin is tall, because he has to stand on his tip-toes to crack open one of the high, narrow basement windows in the break room. It opens with surprising ease, considering the amount of rust on the hinges. Martin wonders how often Jon has made use of it.
After a few minutes of standing around smoking like a guilty teenager, using a mug as a makeshift ashtray, Martin sees Jon peer in through the doorway. Martin sort of...waves awkwardly at him.
"Uh, do you wanna-?" says Martin, out of some misguided instinct towards politeness.
"Maybe later." says Jon, which is shocking enough. Even more shockingly, he then appears to immediately change his mind, and says, "Or, well, maybe just a bit."
To Martin’s fascinated surprise, Jon crosses the distance between them and accepts the joint, casual as you please. Martin feels an absurd urge to apologize for the fact that it's not exactly expertly rolled. Jon takes a few generous puffs, in a gesture that probably shouldn't be as hot as it is, as Martin carefully doesn’t think about how in a few minutes his mouth is going to be touching something that was in Jon's mouth.
Jon passes the joint back to Martin with a nod of thanks. Then he somewhat ruins the effect by coughing explosively into his elbow, which makes Martin feel a bit less self-conscious about the fact that his boss is apparently way cooler than Martin ever suspected. Determinedly avoiding eye contact, Jon retreats back into his office.
Ten minutes later, he re-emerges.
"God damn it." he says, sitting down next to Martin, who has since parked himself back on the break room's questionable couch. "I forgot how hard it is to read after I've smoked weed."
"Hit you harder than you expected?" says Martin, after giggling a little longer than that statement probably deserved.
"My tolerance isn't what it used to be." says Jon, a little indistinctly. "And I forgot that Tim favors strains that would serve better as surgical anaesthetic. I can't feel my limbs."
Martin very much knows what he means. This weed is not fucking around. "Heh. I wish they'd given me weed when I had surgery."
"Wouldn't have minded that when I got my tits cut off." Jon mutters, almost to himself.
There's a delayed reaction, and then a palpably awkward pause as they both try to determine whether or not this piece of information is new to Martin.
"Ah. Congratulations?" says Martin, a tad uncomfortably.
"Thanks." says Jon, equally uncomfortably.
"Okay, I don't wanna make it a thing-"
"You're making it a thing."
"-but I don't actually know if you know if I'm trans too, so I just wanna. Y'know. Lay that out on the table."
Martin watches Jon’s eyebrows raise as he processes this statement. Jon is looking at the information on the metaphorical table. Jon picking it up, examining it carefully, nodding in satisfaction, and then putting it in his back pocket.
"Ah, thanks. I...don't think I knew? Well, maybe I suspected. I knew you had some kind of vibe."
"Oh, a vibe." says Martin, making a limp-wristed sort of gesture. Jon laughs.
"You know what I meant."
Some wild part of Martin wants to say "hey, I'm also gay, y'know, just in case that's something you're ever interested in exploring, no pressure." Thankfully, he's able to restrain himself.
After a period of time that feels like it could be anywhere between two minutes and two hours, Martin speaks up again. "You wanna order some food?"
"God, yes. How do you feel about Chinese?"
It sounds like the punchline of a joke, but Jon does legitimately mellow out a bit once he and Martin make a semi-regular habit of smoking together. It's not, like, an every single day kind of thing, but it's often enough that Martin is starting to feel like he's getting to know Jon-the-person, rather than Jon-the-weird-mean-boss, or Jon-the-hot-guy-who-Martin-is-sort-of-intimidated-by.
Now, Martin is on increasingly good terms with Jon-who-used-to-be-the-lead-singer-in-the-nerdiest-band-Martin-has-ever-heard-of. Jon-who-likes-cats-but-can't-own-one-because-he-works-too-much-and-wouldn't-want-the-cat-to-be-lonely. Jon-who-is-in-fact-single-not-that-it's-any-of-Martin's-business.
So, when Jon-who-is-sort-of-Martin's-friend walks into the break room and is greeted by the sight of Martin sitting at the rickety table in his sweatpants, scrolling on his phone while he sips a tall can of something cheap and fruity and mildly alcoholic, Martin doesn't immediately jump out of his skin. (Well, not much, anyway.)
"Martin. It's six PM on a Tuesday." says Jon-who-sometimes-sends-some-very-mixed-messages-about-appropriate-workplace-behavior.
Martin shrugs, lifting his can in a "cheers" sort of way. "Tuesday again? No problem."
Jon makes his "disgruntled about hearing a meme" face, which is subtly different from his "disgruntled about hearing a pun" face. Then he gives Martin a considering look.
"Do you have any more of those?" says Jon-who-is-a-real-bloody-hypocrite-sometimes.
Martin waves a hand at the fridge. Jon walks over and opens it, and then spends a few moments squinting in confusion.
"In the Tesco bag." Martin doesn't know why he felt like he had to hide it. It's not like any of the people he works with would care. Martin isn't sure he likes what it says about him, the fact that he sometimes just gets the urge to lie about stuff for no reason.
"Ah. Subtle." says Jon, reaching in with a crinkle of plastic and withdrawing a can of sugary spiked soda, because Martin has never really gotten around to developing a taste for grown up alcohol.
"That's me. Master of subterfuge." And haha, oh, wow, this conversation just got a little too real, abort, abort.
Luckily, it doesn't seem to occur to Jon to pursue the topic of just what else Martin might be hiding, as he pulls up another chair and sits down with a creaky grumble that sounds like it ought to belong to a much older man. He pops the tab, and Martin is sort of excited to see if it knocks him flat. Jon is about half Martin’s weight, and he eats basically nothing. Martin wouldn't be surprised if he passed out from the fumes alone.
Martin has been learning a lot about the various faces of Jon, these past few months. Normal Jon is a sharp-edged bundle of nerves wrapped around a carefully concealed caramel center of kindness and decency. Benzo Jon is soft and peaceful and tactile. Weed Jon is a bit silly, and has an astounding capacity for devouring spring rolls.
Drinking Jon, it turns out, is chatty. And talks with his hands. And has an earnest desire to educate Martin about the finer points of the Golden Age of Piracy, circa the 18th century, despite his slowly decreasing ability to pronounce polysyllabic words.
“- anyway, after the War of the Spanish sush- sussheshi- succesh- god damn it, what's wrong with me," Jon growls, because Jon is as stubborn as he is pedantic, so of course he'd rather struggle to pronounce the same word five times than give up and pick some slightly less precise alternative. Martin snickers uncontrollably.
"It's the grape. It's Dionysus." And Martin really hopes Jon doesn't recognize that reference, because the accompanying line - "I want to take my pants off, and kiss" - is a little too spot on for comfort right now. Martin’s face is very warm.
"I very much doubt that there are grapes in WKD." says Jon, with very deliberate enunciation.
"I think they might have a grape flavored one? Or at least a purple one."
"Yeah. Tastes like cough syrup."
"Did I ever tell you about the grape vine we had in our backyard when I was a kid?" says Jon, somewhat tangentially. And then he launches into a rambling anecdote about how he would spend hours in the backyard picking grapes, which were almost too sour to eat, but could be boiled for juice, which he would then use to make the tartest, most perfect grape gelatin. Martin listens with half an ear as Jon’s gestures slowly become more and more exaggerated.
And so, over the next few hours of conversation, Martin has the privilege of watching his stuffy, dignified boss get stumbling drunk off of a few cans of beverage barely more alcoholic than apple juice. It's truly a sight to behold.
Which isn't to say that Martin keeps it together perfectly, either. He may have the weight advantage, but he doesn't really drink often enough to have much of a tolerance, and it's not long before he's pleasantly tipsy. He at least retains enough presence of mind to flat-out refuse to let Jon walk home in his state, once the sun sets; he doesn't think his conscience would have allowed that even if they weren't all currently being stalked by a murderous worm zombie. All sorts of things can happen in the city after dark.
Hilariously, when Martin informs Jon that he is not, in fact, permitted to go out and wander the streets of London in a blackout until he gets stabbed by a mugger, Jon actually has the wherewithal to get belligerent at him. In a totally different way from his normal belligerence. From now on, whenever Jon scolds him for something, Martin is going to flash back to the image of a decidedly wobbly Jon pointing an unsteady finger in Martin’s face and declaring that he is the Head Ar-chi-vist, and that he will not tolerate such disrespect, now do as he says and stop blocking the doorway, you big bloody ox.
Rather than indulge Jon’s apparent desire to get into a fistfight with a man who has at least half a head of height on him, Martin decides to neutralize the situation by wrapping Jon in a bear hug that pins his arms to his sides. Martin also lifts him slightly off the ground, in case Jon gets any bright ideas about kicking him in the shins or something.
The outcome of this is...surprising. Martin expects some wriggling and cursing before Jon calms down and gives up. What he doesn't expect is for Jon to go limp almost immediately. At first he suspects that Jon is playing possum, or possibly ragdolling like a toddler throwing a tantrum, but, when he checks, nope - Jon really did conk out that quickly. Wow. Okay.
That would be fucking adorable if not for the worrying implications about Jon's level of sleep deprivation.
So Martin just kind of...stands there, a while, and rocks gently back and forth while he listens to Jon snoring softly into his neck, because Martin doesn't know if he's ever going to get another opportunity to cradle Jon in his arms like a sleepy puppy, and tipsy Martin does not always make the best ethical decisions.
Finally, once the voice of guilt in his mind becomes loud enough to overpower the part of him that just wants to keep doing this forever, Martin readjusts Jon more securely in his arms and carefully makes his way back to document storage. Martin deposits Jon on the cot, takes his shoes off, and covers him with a blanket, with some vague idea that he might sober up a bit in a few hours and make it home in time to get at least some rest in his own bed.
Jon does not wake.
Martin procrastinates dealing with the situation as long as he can. He lingers in the archives’ restroom as he flosses and brushes his teeth. He goes through the now-routine motions of washing his hair and bird-bathing out of the sink. Hell, he even shaves, even though his scruff isn’t really noticeable enough to be worth the effort, right now. Then he returns to document storage, puts on his sleep clothes, and just sort of...stands in front of the cot, gazing blearily down at Jon. Jon continues to snore away, blissfully oblivious to the moral dilemma he is currently inflicting on Martin.
And, in the end, well...Martin is sleepy, and what else is he going to do? Kick Jon out? Sleep on the floor? Martin has principles, but they don't stretch quite that far.
So, feeling vaguely scummy about it, Martin nudges Jon out of his way, crawls onto the cot, and lays down facing the opposite direction. It's a tight squeeze, and they end up pretty much pressed bodily against each other. Martin assures himself uneasily that it doesn't count as non-consensually cuddling your unconscious boss if only your backs and butts are touching, and then promptly passes out.
At some point during the night, Martin wakes to the awareness that Jon has hooked an arm and a leg over Martin’s body, attaching himself to Martin’s back in the manner of a jetpack. Martin smiles and falls back asleep.
When Martin wakes up at a slightly more reasonable hour, he feels fuzzy-headed but mostly unscathed. Judging by the groan of misery originating from somewhere in the vicinity of Martin’s neck, Jon does not agree. Martin carefully tips Jon off of his chest, rolls out of bed, and goes to fetch Jon some tea and painkillers.
Martin is starting to wish the doctors had given Jon some stronger painkillers for his worm wounds. The really good shit. The knock-you-out-so-you-stay-the-fuck-home-and-rest kind of shit. Unfortunately, it seems that they only gave him the drag-your-woozy-arse-to-the-office-and-sit-behind-your-desk-in-a-stupor-all-day caliber drugs. Because Jon, naturally, equates 'not currently in agonizing pain' with '100% okay to work.'
Reasoning that Jon dozing in his office is at least probably better than Jon fretting alone in his flat all day, Martin makes an executive decision to completely ignore his work in favor of keeping a close eye on Jon, in case he decides to faint or something. And regularly bringing Jon drinks and small healthy snacks, because he wouldn't put it past Jon to take whatever he's taking on an empty stomach, doctor's orders be damned.
It's a testament to Jon's current mental state that he doesn't make a fuss over any of it. He mindlessly eats and drinks whatever Martin puts in front of him, and doesn't comment on the frequency of Martin’s visits. Martin suspects that his sense of time probably isn't the best right now. Not that it ever is.
It's Martin’s fifth or sixth check in when Jon finally speaks the first complete sentence Martin has heard from him all day.
“Do you remember that time we got drunk in the break room?” he says, apropos of nothing.
"...you mean the time you threatened to deck me and then passed out?" The time I learned that all it takes is one good, tight hug to knock you out like a Vulcan nerve pinch? Yes, I remember. The knowledge will literally never leave me.
"I ought to deck you now." Jon grumbles, startling a laugh out of Martin.
"I'd like to see you try." And oops, shit, that came out sounding way more flirtatious than intended, dial it back, Martin.
Thankfully, Jon doesn't seem to notice. He's looking at Martin with a kind of foggy intensity, like it's taking all of his concentration to piece his words together. "Could you...do that thing?"
"Deck you?" says Martin, wrinkling his nose.
"No," says Jon, irritably enough that he almost sounds like his old self. "The...like you did before. You know."
And then Martin stands and stares at Jon, feeling the gears turning inside his head. He is slowly reaching the realization that he is maybe, possibly, currently on the receiving end of the world's most oblique request for a hug. That's. Um. Hm.
Martin really, really isn't sure what the protocol is, for this situation. It's not like they haven't gotten a bit touchy before, once or twice, but it's never been...like this. Something deliberate, instead of something that just sort of happens sometimes. Something that they've sort of mutually agreed to ignore, because confronting it out loud feels like it would be opening a can of worms. (Ha.)
On the other hand, they have both had an absolute hell of a week, and Martin does not blame Jon one bit for wanting a bit of innocent comfort. Hell, Martin lives in a more or less constant state of wishing someone would hug him.
(Martin knows Jon well enough now to know that Jon doesn't really have anyone. Martin thinks he should have someone. Not even Martin in particular, if it really comes down to it. He just...doesn't want Jon to be alone. Being alone sucks.)
(But of course Martin wishes it could be him in particular. He's not that deep in denial.)
Not at all certain that what he's about to do is the right decision, ethically speaking, Martin sort of hesitantly holds his arms open and says, "What, like..?"
Jon stands up, makes his somewhat unsteady way around to Martin’s side of the desk, and doesn’t so much step forward as fall forward into Martin.
Martin had sort of thought that the ragdoll act was just a drunk Jon thing. Now he’s starting to suspect that it’s a Jon-in-general thing, because Martin wraps his arms tightly around Jon, and suddenly Jon is boneless. The man has no bones in him. It's like hugging a bag of jelly. Martin is pretty sure that, if Martin stopped supporting his weight, Jon would collapse to the floor like overcooked pasta.
And then, like opening Pandora’s box, every stupid, inadvisable, lovey-dovey emotion that Martin has been carefully compartmentalizing over the past few months suddenly resurfaces all at once, because apparently one of the side effects of not getting hugged often enough is losing your fucking mind as soon as the deficit is corrected. He just feels really...happy and bubbly and affectionate, okay, and Jon is so warm and relaxed in his arms, and Martin gets kind of, you know, caught up in the moment? Anyway, one thing leads to another, and before he really knows what he's doing, he finds himself pressing a smooch to the top of Jon’s head.
Martin is in the process of trying to determine how badly he's just fucked up when he feels Jon sort of...nudge his face into Martin’s chest, very deliberately, in a manner that Martin can only interpret as "yes, more of that, please."
Everything is kind of shit right now, honestly. But, on the bright side, Martin is now officially on kissing terms with Jonathan Sims. That has to count for something.