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the ups and downs (and in betweens)

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“I need you to do something for me.”

“Didn’t we just?” Jon’s voice was monotone, even as he was drying his fingers on the handful of tissues plucked from the bedside table.

“Ha. Ha.” A barrel of laughs. Why did he keep him around again? Tim curled further into his pillows, resisting the urge to put his face into them yet. He had to get the words out now, or he’d regret it later. “Seriously.”

“Yeah?” Martin asked, amidst a yawn. He tapped three fingers on Tim’s shoulder, a staccato rhythm of exhaustion, or contemplation, both. Or neither. He still managed to surprise him. But he shifted his head to look at him. “What’s up?”

“I need both of you to stay in bed a while. Especially you,” he added, tilting his head towards Jon. “Don’t run off.”

“Why?”

“Need you to stroke my ego,” he muttered.

“Again, didn’t we just do that.”

“No, you stroked my dick, Jon, not my ego. Did you forget already?”

Jon scoffed, but perched himself on the edge of the bed. “Right. This is about what, then?”

“I’m just gonna… feel weird if you don’t.” He shifted over. That was a reason. Jon wouldn’t understand otherwise, and Tim didn’t feel like explaining. “I’ll feel shitty later. I always feel shitty later.”

“From what?”

Tim waved a hand, to the room, to either of the other two, to anything. Encapsulating everything in a vague hand motion, and following it up with “this” out loud as well. Now he could bury his face in the pillows.

“… you drop?” Martin asked suddenly. Oh. See? Surprise.

Tim pointed without looking up. “Bingo.”

“You didn’t tell us you dropped.” Martin’s tone was only slightly accusatory. Mostly, it was quiet and soft, and this time, his hand settled on Tim’s arm and stayed there. That was nice. “You should have told us beforehand.”

“And let you back out?” Tim snorted softly. “Yeah, right.”

“I’m sorry,” Jon said suddenly. “I have no idea what we’re talking about, but I’m clearly missing something important.”

“Sub drop,” Martin said. “Or, er, there’s dom drop, too, but that’s not the case right now… it’s like, when you drop out of the high of sex? Usually like a scene, but not… not necessarily? So sex obviously messes up the chemicals in your body and it can make you feel really crap for a while afterwards. That’s… sorta it.”

“Oh.”

“It’s a bad description, but it’s really… not good, to experience.” But then he perked up, slipping his arm from Tim’s to around his waist. “But don’t worry, I’m really good with aftercare.”

“I know,” Tim mumbled. Aftercare. Pre-care. Martin was good at all of that. “Doin’ the Lord’s work.”

“Are you sure…” Jon shifted, mattress creaking beneath the movement. “I mean, I’m clearly no good at this, do you really want me to–”

“Yes,” Tim interrupted.

“… ah. Right. So…”

“Just cuddle me, Jon,” Tim said. It was a toss-up of exasperation or exhaustion, but it was to the point. To the point always worked best with Jon.

“Right,” Jon repeated, and slid beneath the covers.

“I’ll make tea,” Martin said. “D’you want tea?”

“Yeah…”

“Jon? You, too?”

“Sure.”

“Right! On it. Back in a flash.” He ruffled Tim’s hair. “Don’t doze off yet, sleepy. You– uh, oh. You need some ice?” He slipped his hand down to Tim’s wrist, fingers gentle against his skin. It almost tickled, at this juncture.

“No.”

“You sure?”

He shifted his wrist experimentally. The ache was already there, although whether it would bruise was probably still up in the air. “… no,” he admitted.

“I’ll get some ice.”

“Thanks," Tim murmured, and then, once Martin had shifted himself out of the bed, put his mental processes into rolling over to face Jon instead.

"Alright?" Jon asked.

"More or less." He wrapped his arms around him, pulling him in to tuck up under his chin.

"I– uh, thought I was supposed to cuddle you." Still, he didn't make to pull out of the hug, which was nice, and instead squirmed until he could get his arms around Tim. Best he could, anyway.

"I'm not little spoon."

"Yes, I'm the 'little spoon' in every variation of this relationship, I've been told." Jon huffed a breath against Tim's collarbone, and tentatively rubbed his thumb along a shoulder blade.

"Can't help it," Tim muttered. "You're the smallest."

"So I can't do much by way of actually comforting you–"

"You're doing fine," Tim interrupted again. "This is fine. Good, really. Don't need to keep worrying about it." Jon doing his overanalyzing bullshit right now was going to make the headache worse.

"… if you say so," Jon murmured, and then relaxed in a bit further. "Tell me if you need me to do something."

"Sure. I'm just gonna– I'm not gonna say this again, probably, but just. Be yourself, for now," Tim said, breathing into Jon's hair.

"Harder and harder to do these days…"

"Jon."

"Sorry."

“No spooky talk in my bedroom, goddammit.”

“Sorry.”

Tim breathed out slowly, except it all came out in a rush, and Jon’s hand at his back stilled before continuing, a little more determined. It was endearing, in Jon’s awkward way, but Tim wasn’t going to say that.

“You were… tonight was interesting,” Jon continued.

Tim opened an eye. “Mm?”

“Martin taking you apart.”

“You helped,” he reminded, a little idle. Stretched the ache in his spine and then curled a little more around Jon. So he felt a little underdressed since Jon was still wearing literally everything he’d walked in with, sans shoes, but it was warm. So that was nice.

“Martin did the hard part.”

Tim snickered. Couldn’t help it.

Jon’s noise in reply was disgusted, but… fond. He thought. “Don’t make a joke about your erection.”

“Don’t say erection in my bedroom.”

“Boner,” Jon intoned, and–

“Who’s got a boner?” Martin’s voice asked, amused over the gentle clink of what had to be their mugs of tea.

Jon winced minutely, hands seizing around Tim. “Not me,” he muttered, embarrassed now instead of when he’d had his hand wrapped around Tim’s cock, and Tim really couldn’t help but laugh.

“Not me,” he echoed, and briefly nuzzled into the tousled mess of Jon’s hair before preparing to sit up again. “But gimme the tea and a nap, and maybe,” he joked, settling against the headboard.

“No,” Martin said, carefully holding out one of the mugs. “Not today. Don’t push yourself, alright?”

He gave a faint smile, weary even as he reached to curl his hands around the mug. “I was mostly joking, Martin.”

“Good. No, you don’t get to–”

Jon gestured to the nightstand when Martin offered him his mug. “I’ll have it in a minute." He was still mostly laying next to Tim, although he’d accommodated to rest his hand on his thigh now instead.

“– look at me like that when you’ve asked for us to look after you,” Martin continued, setting it down. Looking back at Tim, “so, for now–”

“I know, I know. I’m not really complaining.” He patted the free spot on the bed next to him. “C’mon, get back in here if you’re keen on the aftercare.”

“Yeah, yeah. I’m coming.”

“Heh.”

“Tim–”

“You said that earlier,” he muttered into his tea.

“God.” Now it was Martin’s turn to be flustered, even as Jon groaned and abandoned both of them to turn over and collect his tea. “Stop that,” Martin chastised lightly, even as he crawled in to nestle against Tim’s side. “You’re incorrigible.”

“That’s me.”

“I mean, we all are, really… give me your wrist?”

He relinquished one hand to Martin. He was expecting the ice, but still hissed as it pressed flush against his skin, still red and faintly aching. Martin was probably right to have brought it.

“Sorry.”

“It’s fine.” He leaned a little into Martin’s shoulder, smiling when Martin turned his head to distract him with a kiss. It was a lot warmer than the ice. “Good distraction,” he muttered against his mouth.

“Oh, good!” Martin grinned. “Just like you.”

So Martin had picked that up, too. Tim ignored the little flush prickling at his body and kissed him back with a little more determination. “Call me good again.”

“Good, you’re good.” Then, a little lower and slightly more hesitant, “good boy…?”

Christ, that was it. Good. Jon choked a little at his side, and Tim blindly held out his own mug towards him. “Jon. Jon, take my tea.”

“No,” Martin laughed, pulling back. “Tim…”

“Kidding. Mostly.” There was still a shudder trembling at the base of his spine, but something for later. He couldn’t get it up right now if he wanted to, anyway. “I like that, though.”

“I noticed, a bit. Next time,” Martin promised, and Tim leaned against his shoulder again. Next time, he mouthed, and Martin flushed his own shade of pink again.

“Right…” Jon cleared his throat. He’d already set his own mug aside, face a mottled mixture between being uncomfortable and… intrigued, maybe? Or Tim was seeing shit. Which was debatable, at this point.

“Embarrassed or aroused?”

“Huh?”

“Jon.”

“What?”

“I can’t tell if you’re embarrassed or hot over that.” Tim tilted his head. Took one last drink of his tea and handed it over to set aside. “But you’d probably rather chastise me instead. Unless you like the praise kink.”

“I…” Jon frowned. “I don’t know. I don’t know, I don’t want to think about it, really.” He looked between him and Martin. “Aren’t we supposed to be comforting you? Or is aftercare about tormenting the people you’re having sex with?”

“It’s making me happy,” Tim joked, shrugging a shoulder. “This is… I dunno, good, though. It’s normal. You want to be normal after being tied up.”

“I want things to be normal, and I haven’t even been tied up,” Jon murmured, and then, raising his voice, “sorry, shop talk again.” He settled in against Tim’s side, resting his head on Tim’s shoulder. “Carry on.”

He wouldn’t hold that one against him. Wanted things to be normal. Tim laughed. Humorless. “Yeah. Gotcha.”

“This is good, though,” Martin said.

“It’s not bad.”

“Mm.”

“It’s good,” Tim clarified. “This bit. So good that I’m gonna nap now, actually, budge down.”

“Right.”

“Sure.”

“Give me the other hand.”

“Just a– yeah, there. Christ, that’s cold.”

“Sorry.”

Things could be worse, though. Things could be a lot worse than Martin balancing the ice pack on Tim’s bruising wrist, and instead slipping his hand into Tim’s. Or Jon settled half against his chest, watching Martin and Tim’s hands for a moment before reaching over to hesitantly touch his fingertips to Tim’s hand, too.

Things would be a lot worse. But right now, not so much. They were away from the goddamn Institute and Martin and Jon were good. Being good, when Tim had let himself… when he had given himself over to them, he guessed. But he’d done that awhile ago, even with Jon. This was just on a larger scale. This was just being more vulnerable.

He settled his free hand over the top of their conjoined ones, and closed his eyes. “Thank you for this. Both of you.”

“Thank you,” Martin said. “You’re the one who, um, had to go through it. I hope I wasn’t, I don’t know, doing things wrong–”

“You were fine. You were both fine. Even you,” he added, shifting his head towards Jon.

“Shut up,” Jon muttered, but his eyes were closed and they didn’t reopen, and Tim didn’t imagine the tiny little smile settled at his lips there.

“A direct order. Right.” Tim closed his eyes. “Sleeping a bit, then.”

“Good. You too, Martin.”

“Wh–”

“You’re not going anywhere, either,” Tim said quickly, nudging Jon’s hand. “Take it easy, dammit. Submissive’s request.”

That got some kind of noise of amusement, but Jon relented. That was all that mattered. Falling asleep next to them. Waking up next to them. Pretending all three of them were okay and not as fucked up as the Institute had made them. That was the good stuff, the stuff Tim wanted to dream about.

So Tim kept his eyes closed, and dozed. For now, everything really was okay.