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In a Blink of The Eye

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Elias’ office has a wall of floor to ceiling windows that overlook the entrance to the Archives. Martin supposes he shouldn’t be surprised, considering Elias’ penchant for watching. They suit him, though. Now that it’s his office. Sometimes he can catch a glimpse of Jon moving in or out, keep an eye on him, assure himself he’s still alive. Sometimes he wonders what Jon would think if he looked up and caught Martin staring. Would he be happy? Would he be scared?

Jon never looks up.

“Still pining, eh?”

Martin stumbles back from the window like a child caught up after bedtime. He turns back to the room where Peter is smiling in that distant friendly manner of his. “You didn’t say I couldn’t look at him.”

“Oh no, I’m not angry, Martin. In fact it’s a rather good sign. I encourage it.” Peter steps closer to Martin and settles into existence like a cool breeze. “Nothing lonelier than being in love.”

Martin looks back out the window, but Jon is gone, hurrying off to some dramatic rendezvous or seeking out some dangerous research. “Like you would know.”

“Oh but I would. I’ve loved with the best of them. Properly dramatic and bodice ripping, I assure you. I’d put Harry Met Sally to shame.”

Martin feels like he should be surprised by Peter’s references, but he’s just tired. He can’t help the curling jealousy in his gut. Why can Peter do it so easily, distance himself, be so flippant. Martin would give anything to be able to just enjoy his life and stop caring so much. It’s never brought him anything but pain.

“You know,” Peter says, lowering his voice conspiratorially, “I said you can’t talk to him. I never said you can’t date him.”

Martin leans forward until his forehead bumps into the cool glass of the window. “Peter, can you please just leave me alone?”

“I’m being serious. Plenty of perfectly lovely relationships don’t contain any communication at all.”

Peter rests a hand on Martin’s shoulder and the cold sinks into him, settling in his stomach and leaving his fingertips numb. Peter’s words bounce hollowly in his chest.

“What is that Jon of yours? More than anything else.”

“Smart?” Martin says, not really trying. Peter laughs and for a moment Martin thinks he will leave it there.

“No. He’s curious. That’s the way with all those eye types.”

“He’s driven.”

“Towards learning, yes.” Peter pushes a bit on Martin’s shoulder, forcing him to turn away from the window and look him in the eyes. “Tell me, Martin. Why do you think he’s interested in you now? Why all of a sudden does he miss you, when he’s never even thought of you before?”

So Peter was watching. Martin closes his eyes but he can’t shut out the cold. “You’re punishing me for talking to him?”

“Nonsense. I’m simply trying to help. Offer some friendly advice from when I was in your shoes.”

“In my shoes?”

“In love with a watcher.”

Martin’s eyes fly open. Peter is smiling almost wistfully, and Martin’s mouth moves without sound for a moment before everything falls together. “Elias?”

“Have you heard of leaving someone on read? A wonderful invention, I wonder if my patron didn’t have a hand in it.” Peter chuckles. “That always drives Elias crazy.”

“I’m sorry,” Martin leans back against the window and shakes his head, “can you slow down a second?”

“You see, Martin, Jon doesn’t actually like you.” The hit, when it comes, doesn’t hurt as much as Martin thought it would. The upside to spending so long telling himself that Jon will never love him. An upside to knowing it’s true. “What he likes is a puzzle he hasn’t figured out yet. The one thing he can’t have.”

“So what?” Martin laughs, cold and empty. “You’re telling me to play hard to get?”

“Precisely. If you were to give yourself to him perhaps you’d have a few days of happiness, but once he learns all there is to know he’d get bored and move on.” Peter takes his hand off Martin’s shoulder and taps him on the chest twice, over where Martin knows his heart is. “But keep him guessing, keep him wanting more, and he’ll always be chasing you. You’ll have all the power. And you’ll have him. For as long as you want him, that is.”

Martin knows he should be arguing, but he cannot find the strength. Everything Peter has said is hauntingly possible. It turns Martin’s stomach and he just wants to leave, to get away from Peter and pretend he never heard the words that are burrowing into his brain and sprouting doubt and hatred.

“Is that all, Peter? Because I really need to get back to work.”

“Buck up, Martin. This is good news!”

“How is this good news?”

“You can have Jon and still fulfill our purpose.” Peter shrugs. “I figured you’d be happy.”

“Yeah. Thrilled.”

Peter laughs and pats Martin on the shoulder again before turning away. “You’re so hard to please.”

Martin turns back to the window, but Jon isn’t there. The entrance to the archives looks so small from here, and so far away.

“Oh, and Martin? One more piece of advice.” Martin doesn’t turn around, just presses his fingertips to the cold glass of the window. “Don’t let him bring a recorder into the bedroom.”