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He believed her, was the thing. Believed her when she had looked him in his eyes and told him that it wouldn't hurt.

Jonathan Sims only realized his mistake when he felt the heat of her handshake turn to pain , something terrible and nothing he'd ever experienced before-

He realizes shock must be dulling the nerves a bit as he screams, the few eyes in the park turning to look at them as Jude laughs and laughs (and how he knows that is something Jon will think about later, when he lies down finally, cradling a freshly if amaturely bandaged hand).

Jon watches, horrified, as the skin where her hand had touched his begins to swell and burn, inflamed and throbbing-

There's a siren in the distance, snapping him out of the trance of watching his flesh bubble and die, and Jon hastily pulls off his coat and wraps his hand in it, beginning to run far, far away from Jude's awful cackling.

The route back to Georgie’s didn’t seem as long as it did on his way to the small park where he had set up his meeting with Jude, but now, with his hand throbbing and searing with pain and his own pounding heart, it seemed to take hours and miles until he reached the building, shaking as he fumbled one handed for the key he had been given.

And, of course, this had to be the one day Georgie was home, staring at him as he practically fell through the door, only just remembering to pull his key from the lock.

“Jon? Are you alright?” she asks, eyes wide and alarmed, flicking down to look at how he cradled his arm, still wrapped in his worn jacket. “What’s wrong with your hand?”

A spike of panic drove through his chest, fear over not wanting to get Georgie involved in how absolutely fucked up his life had become, anxiety of not knowing what to do , of being found-

Jon swallows back a pained, scared groan that threatens to escape him, and turns and all but flees to Georgie’s spare room, locking the door behind him, ignoring her startled interrogations.

***

Martin Blackwood is Tired.

Well, more than he usually is since he started working at the Archives, that is. The job seems to come with a permanent state of exhaustion, moreso now more than ever with Jon gone and Tim being so angry and annoyed lately. Melanie is some help, but…

But everything is much, much harder without Jon around to keep everything in order with his almost obsessive organization. Even in the throes of extreme paranoia, his filing was kept immaculate , the more immediate ones a far cry from the state Gertrude had left them.

Tim doesn’t seem to care anymore, leaving a small pile of unlabeled tapes on Jon’s desk inbetween his abrupt disappearances, disorganized and haphazard in a way that he knows Jon would hate, and Martin doesn't trust Melanie to get the meticulous system right just yet, so her tapes and notes are piled on as well (admittedly in a much nicer and labeled pile) and on top of his other responsibilities, Martin just doesn't have the time to put more than a handful away at a time, much less than what's being placed there daily, and the thought of the eventual lecture stresses him out.

On top of that, Martin is worried, anxious with every day that goes by without Jon.

It's wrong , somehow, like Jon’s absence is a missing limb and Martin is having to relearn how to do the most basic of things without him.

Everyone but Elias (and really, Martin doesn’t even want to think about Elias being somewhat on his side, but the fact of the matter is that he’s the only one who acts like Jon is eventually coming back) is acting like it doesn’t matter, that Jon had in fact murdered that still unidentified man, and that this is how it was going to be for now on, but Martin refuses to go along with it, refuses to take any more space on Jon’s desk for his own work, knowing one day Jon would be back.

That hope is mostly what drives him into answering his phone when an unknown number calls on an innocuous afternoon in April.

“Hello, Martin Blackwood speaking.”

Oh thank god- ” a woman’s voice answered, rushed and panicked, and Martin immediately closes the folder he was leafing through absent-mindedly and snaps his head towards the door. “Sorry, oh god, I’m Georgie, I’m Jon’s friend, I don’t know what to do-”

“Jon?” Martin asks, unable to bring himself to be embarrassed at the way his voice cracks. “Do you-where is he? How is he?”

“Oh, right, you probably don’t-I don’t know , he won’t let me in and I know he’s hurt , and he won’t fucking talk to me , and he jumps at any hint of a siren, so I’m afraid he’ll jump out the goddamn window if I call an ambulance, besides, I don’t know if he’s hurt enough for the hospital-god, I’m sorry, I-I’m just worried , and he talks about you a lot, and you clearly know more than me about what’s going on because you work at that goddamn Institute so I thought you might be able to...to I don’t know, get him to unlock the door? I don’t know!”

“Where?” Martin asks, and it’s not even a choice, not really, hasn’t been since he started working for the Institute and met this surly, idiot man who took his heart long ago.

Georgie makes a gasping sort of surprised sound, a wary sort of relief in her tone as she rattles off an address not too far off, and Martin thanks her before hanging up and beginning to run, out of Jon’s office, out of the Archives and out of the Institute, not bothering to tell anyone where he was going or even that he was leaving at all, thoughts a neverending repeat of: Jon needs help, Jon’s hurt, Jon, Jon, Jon-

His knock on this ‘Georgie’s’ door is more of a pounding as he wheezes, and he almost falls in when the door swings open almost violently.

Martin catches himself just in time, straightening up to see a woman standing in the doorway.

She’s...really pretty, Martin has to admit, kind face furrowed with anxiety that relaxes just a bit when she looks Martin up and down.

“Martin, right?” she asks, voice still as tight and anxious as it had been on the phone, and Martin nods, trying to stamp down the jealousy in his chest.

“Yes, ah-where’s-” he starts, and she nods before stepping aside, gesturing behind her.

“He’s down there, first door on the left. He’s locked it, and I can hear him cursing and making pained noises, and I’m just-I’m worried.” she tells him, following close behind as Martin makes his way across the apartment, and-

And then he’s in front of the door, and the woman (Georgie, he thinks she had said earlier on the phone, which both seems like it was seconds and years ago) was right, he can hear sounds of life behind it: a sharp intake of breath, like through gritted teeth, a muffled groan-like sob, a clattering noise and frantic mumbling, and the soothing, familiar noise of a tape recorder running.

“J-Jon?” Martin finds himself asking, fingers pressed to the worn wood of the door. “J-Jon, I-it’s me. Martin. From the Archives.”

Silence, for the longest moment, and Martin begins to panic, just a bit, that he’s caused Jon to run, that he’s caused something awful to happen, that Jon didn’t want to see him, and that’s why he’d left-

But then there’s a clattering, the sound of a tape being ejected and changed out, and then Martin’s own voice from behind the wood, a conversation he remembers better than anything else.

“-re you feverish? We should probably get you to a doctor, look there’s a walk-in centre nearby I ca-”

There’s a shaky exhale, breathless and a little like a laugh or maybe even a sob, and finally, finally, Jon .

Martin.

Martin almost sobs at the sound, relief flooding through the panicked, tense muscles of his body, trying desperately to stay composed as he replies, “ Yes . Yes, it’s me , are you alright-”

“...how did you know where I was?” Jon asks, still muffled by the wood between them, but closer, clearer.

“I called him.” Georgie pipes up from next to Martin, who startles, having forgotten she was there. “You wouldn’t tell me what was going on, and I know you’re hurt, so-”

Georgiana-

Jonathan -”

“Look, I don’t know what you two are on about but-but Jon, are you hurt?” Martin interrupts, and he can practically feel Jon’s startled annoyance through the door.

“I-it’s fine , Martin, I don’t want to bother-”

“You’re never a bother, Jon-”

“That’s a lie and you know it-”

Please , Jon.”

There’s silence then, and then the door clicks and swings open, and despite her sharp intake of breath, Martin forgets Georgie again.

Jon looks, for the most part, better than he had the last time Martin had seen him, less thin, less angry and at his wit’s end. He still looks exhausted, still sad and scared, and Martin wonders idly for a moment when he’d gotten so good at reading him.

Then his gaze drifts down, at the way Jon has his left arm cradled against his chest, at the swollen and blistered skin on the back of it, and Martin’s focus narrows.

Jon, your hand- ” he yelps, reaching out without thinking and pulling Jon’s arm away from his chest, examining it closely, hissing a breath through his teeth at the severity of the burn on his palm, and he takes a deep breath, centering himself, thanking his past self for knowing what to do.

“Right.” he says, pleased that his voice doesn’t waver with this, with something important , “Where’s your bathroom? And your medical kit. We need to treat this now.

Georgie nudges Martin back, and he all but yanks a protesting Jon with him until his burned hand is held over the sink, which Martin starts a stream of cold water in.

“It’s not that bad, okay, I just-”

“I’ve got the basics here.” Georgie says, placing a metal tin on the counter opposite Jon. “Do we need anything specialized? I can run to the corner store.”

“No, this should be good.” Martin nods, and thrusts Jon’s hand under the stream of water.

Jon screams, desperately trying to pull his hand away, and Martin grits his teeth and does not relent, carefully maneuvering Jon’s hand around to rinse it before he got to the real work.

“May I have some gloves? And Jon, sit on the counter. You can squeeze my arm if you need to, I’m sorry, but this is going to hurt.”

***

It’s a strange, detached feeling, cleaning Jon’s wound.

Martin knew the steps all too well (clean the dead or dying skin away, antiseptic the newly exposed layer, wrap with gauze and a bandage to keep in place) feeling sympathetic pangs with every sharp intake of breath Jon made, every hiss and low moan as he worked, and he starts to mumble low encouragements, soft assurances that seemed to help, relax Jon's painful grip on his bicep.

Martin can’t help but note that the scar bears an uncanny resemblance to a hand, as if Jon had tried to shake hands with a flame.

A statement jumps to mind, a memory that sounds scarily familiar to this, but Martin pushes it aside. Now was not the time for questions. Not yet, anyway.

Finally, he fastens the wrap, smooths the wrinkles in the fabric with his thumb. “Alright? Not too tight?”

Jon huffs, and leans down, settling his head on Martin’s shoulder, long hair falling down in a curtain to cover his face, stuttering out, a little hoarsely, “I-ye-it’s fine.”

Martin has to resist the urge to lift his free arm around Jon’s shoulders and hold him, to press a kiss to his head. “Alright. Alright, I-d’ya want any pain medicine? Now that I’m not...y’know....it should help. Where is it, I’ll get it.”

Another huff. “I don’t know where Georgie keeps them.”

“O-oh. I-I’ll get h-”

Martin starts to pull away as he starts to speak, but Jon’s grip gets tighter again, the press of his forehead to Martin’s shoulder deeper.

“...give me a moment.” Jon says, voice barely louder than a whisper, and Martin is helpless to deny his request, like always.

So he stays, letting his (former?) boss lean on him, listening to his ragged breath begin to calm.

Martin can’t help it after a long moment, free hand coming up to brush Jon’s hair behind his ear, his face burning when Jon shifts, lifting his head to look at Martin quizzically, a softer expression than the one he usually had around the archives.

“Y-your hair’s gotten longer.” Martin offers as an explanation, and Jon exhales, looking away.

“Ah. Yes. I-I suppose it has.”

There’s a beat of silence, Jon still holding onto Martin’s arm like a lifeline, and it’s that connection, after all that time, that gives Martin the courage to ask, “What happened , Jon?”

Jon winces, grip momentarily tightening, and Martin continues.

“I-I mean, you...you said pretty much a goodbye to me and Tim, and then-and then we went into the tunnels after you and this thing that looked like Sasha but not really-”

“You followed me into the tunnels ?” Jon interrupts, that soft, hazy quality he’d had since Martin had arrived vanishing under the sharp wariness he carried in the Archives.

“Do you really blame us, Jon?” Martin argues, and Jon makes a face, opens his mouth to probably scold him, but there’s a rapping from nearby, and they both turn to see Georgie standing in the doorway.

Martin feels the hand on his arm fall away, and the moment is gone, just as soon as it had started.

“Oh! Wonderful, you’re all done in here.” Georgie chirps, holding up and wiggling her phone. “Was about to order us all something to eat. Any inputs, Martin?”

“Do I not get a say?” Jon grumbles.

“No. Not after this stunt.” Georgie says, glaring at him, and Jon has the decency to look a bit ashamed.

“Right. Well. I...I’m going to change, then. Just. Please no Hungarian?” Jon sighs, sliding off the counter, and Georgie grins at him.

“It’s Martin’s choice.” she repeats in a sing-song voice, and Jon groans, looking over at Martin with an almost pleading expression.

“Oh! Before you change, painkillers.” Martin says, changing the subject, and Georgie nods, pointing under the sink.

“Under there, in the little bucket of meds. It’s the biggest one.”

Jon nods, both he and Martin starting to bend over for it, Martin straightening immediately with a blush as Jon tilts two tablets into his palm, swallowing them dry before getting up and nodding to the both of them before squeezing past Georgie and into the room across the hall, shutting the door behind him once more.

Georgie smiles pleasantly at Martin, and tilts her head back down the hall. “C’mon, we’ll wait for him in the living room. Also, I’ve got a lot of takeaway menus, if you’d like to take a look before deciding.”

“Ah. Right, food does sound brilliant right about now.” Martin admits, following her. “Speaking of, what’s this about Hungarian?”

Georgie throws her head back and laughs. “Oh, it’s a thing with me and my friends. I’m the only one who loves the stuff, so I’m always looking for an excuse to get some.”

“Oh. Well, I don’t mind it much?” Martin offers, hesitantly, and Georgie beams at him.

“Oh, I like you. So, what’re you feeling?” she asks.

They settle on pizza, and Martin glances back at Jon's room, worried that it seems to be taking him a while before he’s distracted by movement at the corner of his eye.

"I never properly introduced myself, did I?" Georgie asks, perching on the coffee table and holding out a hand to him. “Georgie Barker, host of a supernatural podcast called ‘What The Ghost’. Jon and I have known each other since uni, and I’m glad to know he’s got someone in that bloody archive looking out for him.”

“Oh! Well, I try to, at least.” Martin chuckles, nervously, before taking the offered hand. “Martin Blackwood. Archival assistant to the Magnus Institute. But you seem to know that already.”

Georgie shrugs. "Jon doesn’t talk much about the archives, but when he does, it’s almost always about you assistants. You two especially seem to be close.”

“...Really?” Martin asks, the same warm but disbelieving feeling he’d felt when Daisy had said the same blooming in his chest. “I-I mean, I...I don’t know about that-”

“Georgie, please don’t fluster my assistant.” Jon’s voice thankfully interrupts his stammering, and Martin turns again to see him shuffle into the room, stopping to look at the two of them with an eyebrow raised. "Or. Ah. Former, I guess, now-"

"No. You're still-well. I mean-Elias hasn't-"

Jon's face goes from amused to disbelief before settling into his usual scowl, flopping gracelessly on the other side of the couch from Martin.

" Why ?! He replaced Gertrude practically within the week why hasn't he-what is he up to-" he starts muttering, face in his one good palm, and Georgie gives Martin a Look before placing her hand on Jon's knee, getting his attention.

"I think," Georgie says, evenly. "it's time you tell me exactly what is going on here."

Jon winces. "Right. Right, I-yes, I-I...where do I even start?"

He closes his eyes, shudders a bit, and Martin can't help but reach out as well.

"S'okay, Jon. Start with Jane, yeah? Just like a statement."

Jon looks at Martin, and Martin sees the change in his gaze, just like the one when he'd confessed about his CV: a panicked, wild look, settling into relief, calm.

Jon takes a deep breath, sitting up and forward. "Right. Statement of Jonathan Sims and Martin Blackwood, regarding their employment at the Magnus Institute. Statement begins."

***

Supplemental:

georgie :): ugh how is it that with a second degree burn and nerve damage jons still good at mario kart

martin!: ?

georgie :): hes insanely good martin dont tell me you never got him to go to a game night ill give him a noogie for being antisocial

martin!: the few times we got him to come he always lost to me? like im not great but he was worse?

georgie :): ...are you kidding me

martin!: no?

georgie :): I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS

georgie :): OH MY GOD

martin!: ????