Martin stared at the document in front of him, willing himself to process the sentence he had just read for the fourth time. He was the one who had insisted he help reevaluate the information they had on the Extinction in light of Dekker's final statement, after all. Had assured a skeptical Jon—always skeptical, Jon—that being useful would make him feel better.
Which it might, if he were actually managing it. If he were able to focus on the work, rather than how cold and vast and empty the office was growing around him.
No, it wasn’t. Of course it wasn’t. Jon’s office had always been tiny, and cramped, and he had only stepped away for a minute. He was just in the other room, checking on Basira. He hadn’t been gone that long. They would be fine, and Jon would be back soon, and he would be fine. He could wait. It hadn’t been that long.
He wasn’t sure when he had begun to shake. He wrapped his arms around himself, but it had nothing to do with the cold, not really. His breath was coming in short, shallow gasps. It hurt. How long had it been?
Relief washed over him as a familiar voice rang in his ears. And then Jon was hastening to set two mugs of tea on the desk, and placing a firm hand on his shoulder, and murmuring apologies.
“I’m sorry,” Jon said, “I didn’t mean to be gone so long. I only— Christ. It doesn’t matter. I’m so sorry,” he repeated, as he brought a hand up to Martin’s cheek, both words and touch almost painfully gentle. Even though he had no reason to apologize. Even though—
Even though he could have died.
Martin really didn't want to be crying against Jon's palm, just then. He had already cried on his shoulder, and into his jacket, and onto the only pillow on the hard cot in document storage, and into more than one of the cups of tea he had already received. When they'd returned from the Lonely, it was like a door had been flung wide in his heart, and all of the fear and grief and god-knows-what that he'd been keeping so firmly sealed away this past year had come rushing out, tripping over one another and getting all tangled up in their haste, and he didn't know how to stop it.
Jon stood there, letting him clutch at his sweater and occasionally giving his shoulder a squeeze. He shouldn’t have to. To put up with this, after he had already done so much more than Martin had asked him to, or had the courage to hope for. After everything, everything he had tried to keep Jon out of the Lonely…
The thing was, he really had thought he had succeeded after their last conversation. He hadn’t known whether what he was saying was right, but if it was, it should have been what Jon needed to hear to break his habit of impulsively embarking on suicide missions. And if it wasn’t...Jon should have at least had the sense to hate him for it. To not risk himself for Martin, when the time came.
He had, though. He had, and Martin wished he understood why. How it was that Jon had just...been there, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, offering to lead him home. Why he was still there, drying his tears and sleeping on the floor next to the cot and bringing tea at all hours. It was like it didn’t even register as a decision for him. Martin had asked, once, and Jon had only given him that look he reserved for people—fine, mostly Martin—who he had decided were being intentionally obtuse.
The tears had mostly stopped now, and as he went to wipe his eyes, Jon pulled away. He felt a moment of unjustified panic before he realized that he was only fetching his chair from the opposite side of the desk. He pulled it close and sat, their knees nearly touching, and extended a hand for Martin to take.
It...worked with Daisy, he had said, the first time. It helps.
God, that was on him, too. He couldn’t imagine why Daisy would have gone so far just to give Jon the chance to find him. They weren’t exactly friends—he had made sure of that—and one look at Jon’s face was enough to know that he hadn’t asked. And Basira....
Basira was enough of a mystery herself. For all she had said in the past, she seemed genuinely relieved that both he and Jon had made it back—before she had retreated to her books. He wanted to apologize, or say thank you, or...something, but he knew, deeply and intimately, that there was nothing he could say that would matter now. She had only nodded grimly when Jon had vowed we’ll find her.
He took a deep breath and another sip of tea to keep a fresh wave of tears at bay. Jon was looking at him with concern. He wished it wasn’t justified.
“Listen, Martin,” Jon began, clearly hesitant, “I know… I know what I said. In the Lonely.” He glanced down at their joined hands, “But I understand if it’s...too much. Being here. After everything.”
It was. It was too much for any of them. But the only other option...
“...You think I should get out.”
“I think you should consider it.” Jon looked into his eyes, and it was clear that he knew the question Martin would ask. The question that he had to ask, even though he wasn’t sure he wanted the answer that would follow.
“Would you come with me?”
“Yes,” Jon replied without hesitation. For the love of...
“You could die.” That part he knew he’d been right about, because he had thought about this. Often.
“Yes,” Jon conceded, but then, hurriedly, “But you’d have Melanie. She’ll help, I’m certain she will, so long as you’re not part of this anymore. You wouldn’t be alone.”
Martin felt a twinge of guilt, as Jon clearly had been dwelling on this, but it was a foregone conclusion.
No matter how many times he turned it over in his mind, it always came to the same thing: he had given the right answer before. The only answer. The only difference was that now, he realized he’d given it for the wrong reasons.
“But it could be—”
“No,” he said again, “It’s not worth it. Not to me.” It never would be. “I’m not going on without you.” Jon opened his mouth as if to argue, so he hastened on, “And yes! It’s more than a little bit pathetic that my entire life revolves around you, not to mention that I never did manage to work up the courage to tell you I love you before nearly getting us both killed! I know! But, well…” he shrugged, “Tough.”
It was an awful lot to lay out all at once, and his face was hot with the embarrassing truth of it. But it needed to be said.
“...Loved,” muttered Jon.
“You said ‘loved,’” he insisted, oddly accusatory.
Oh god. Was that why Jon had been so... present? He’d given the impression that he was over his—what everyone thought of as his stupid crush, so Jon had felt able to comfort him without worrying that it might be misinterpreted? Only now he had made it weird, again, and Jon was probably going to...to run off and hide under a shelf, or something.
“I...thought I wasn’t coming back,” he replied honestly, “But I meant— I mean… I do. Love you. Sorry.” He suppressed the reflexive urge to cling to Jon’s hand and prevent him pulling it away. “I always have, and I don’t think I can—” No, that wasn’t right. “I’m not going to stop. But I don’t… You don’t need to worry about it.”
Martin fully expected Jon to brush off his words with a standoffish comment, and possibly bolt for the door. Instead, he made a noise of absent-minded acknowledgement, and Martin realized that he was frowning and staring at his knees in the way he did when he was hosting an intense internal debate of some kind.
“It’s not,” declared Jon, finally.
“It’s— You’re not pathetic,” he clarified. Then he sighed, “What would be pathetic is, after all of that, still not saying it.” He did take his hand back, now, and Martin watched it regretfully. But after all Jon had done for him, the least he could do was let him go.
The hand settled on Jon’s knee, where next to it the other was already curled into a near fist. He was biting his lip, now, and his whole body seemed to be going increasingly rigid. That really couldn’t be healthy.
“It’s fine, Jon,” Martin began, attempting a rescue, “I’m really—”
“No,” he shook his head, “Martin, I...I thought you—” he began, “And I didn’t want—” he added unhelpfully, “That is, if you already—” he once again cut himself off, “But…”
Even whilst trying to keep track of what the hell he was saying, Martin couldn’t help but notice that Jon’s face was growing increasingly red. This development was also not lost on the man himself, who scowled.
“Goddammit,” he snapped at last, meeting Martin’s eyes with an air of intense exasperation, “I love you.”
Martin took a moment to look, really look at the man he loved—who to all appearances was incredibly put out by this entire affair—and by the time he realized he was going to burst out laughing, it was far too late to stop it. Jon, of course, made a face of haughty offense, which only compounded the problem.
“Well, don’t look too happy about it,” he wheezed once he'd managed to regain some of the air in his lungs.
“Shut up, Martin,” Jon said, but he smirked as he stood, extending a hand once again. Taking it, Martin found himself pulled up and into a tight embrace, a wave of emotion he could fight no more than the others sweeping over him.
With Jon’s arms holding him up, though, he didn’t have to.