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metamorphosis

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 “I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.”

― Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

 


 

He’s in the storage room the first time it happens – no, the first time he notices it. The first time his mind doesn’t just immediately discard the new change as the delusions of a recently resurfaced mind. He’s been out of the coma for less than a month, after all. He doesn’t remember most of it.

That’s also a lie. He wants to not remember, the explosion and the ash and the debris. The getting his leg stuck by a falling rock. The nightmares. But the truth is that his mind rarely does what he wants it to, not anymore, so he has no choice but to remember. Sleeping is difficult these days, to say the least. His eyes always seem to be open.

He’s looking for- looking for a statement. Particular one. No, that’s a lie as well, he has to stop doing that – he has looked for a statement. He Looked. Somehow, he knows it’s in there. Second box to the right, underneath two other statements as well as an old coffee mug someone had left behind, and no one had bothered to discard yet. There’s a stain, either from sweat or spit, he’s not sure. But he can see it, right there. His feet haven’t even fully hit the ground yet. His mind does that these days. Just Look without his permission, if he’s not careful. He tries to be careful; he doesn’t want to become – someone else. Someone like Elias.

Jon goes straight to the box without even closing the door, just lets it dangle open. It feels like there’s a hook attached to his left hand, leading him towards said box. Read me. Is that good or bad? He hasn’t decided yet. It certainly makes his job easier. It also makes the loneliness more bearable, if he can imagine the – the Eye there as well, conspiring with him.

Someone’s changed the lightbulbs since – since the last time he’s been here. Everything is in stark contrast, completely illuminated. He used to not be able to read a damned thing with the lightning in here, always bordering on too little no matter how many times they’d tried to change it. They – him, Sasha, Tim, Jon, and. And Martin. Sasha is hopefully dead, Tim is definitely dead, Martin is – Martin is alive but doesn’t want to see him; and Jon … Jon is alive, sure, though probably not in the traditional human sense. Funny how he still thinks of the staff as those four.

This is why, when Basira lightly knocks on the door, he’s almost surprised to see her. Almost wants to tell her that visitors aren’t allowed in, except she’s not a visitor, is she? Stupid brain. Sluggish coma response. Must keep up. His left hand is rested on the stacks of paper, stroking lightly. It’s convenient how much he favours it these days.

“Jon?” she asks, trying for concerned but missing the mark and ending up with conspiratorial instead. Doesn’t matter. They’re probably right in not trusting him. Martin has the best idea out of all of them. “What are you doing down here?” Right to the point.

“I do still work here, you know,” he replies in kind. He still tries to think of it like that in his mind as well, just a job, his profession. Nothing unusual. Nothing at all like the ribbon he feels being stretched from his heart all the way to the archives, drawing taut but never snapping. He can’t ever escape; he knows that now. Because he chose to live. “Just trying to get back into my usual routine.”

“That makes it sound like you went on vacation instead of being strapped to a hospital bed for six months. Take it slow, Jon. I’m serious.” She starts making her way towards the other side of the wall and he tracks her movement in the hanging mirror opposite. She tracks him as well. It’s a dance he knows well. “And don’t go fumbling around in the dark. You’ll trip and break your neck during your first week back.”

A part of him wants to respond immediately with ‘Pretty sure if I broke my neck in the Archives, I’d just respawn in my office like a game character’ but what he still struggles to comprehend is the – “Excuse me?”

She flips a switch, casting the room in a different glow than before. “Hate it in here. Can’t see a bloody thing.” The change is so sudden his eyes flinch involuntarily, but that doesn’t stop him from noticing it during the split second it happens. He swears it’s so small his denial wants to open its ugly mouth and cry foul, but something in him stops dead. He hopes, desperately hopes against all hope that Basira hasn’t seen it as well. He’s not sure if she wouldn’t have drawn her gun.

Because Jon looks at his reflection. In the mirror. And right after Basira switches the lights on, he swears he can see his eyes shift. He didn’t notice them before, because why would he? Why would he look at his eyes, the same unexciting brown ones he’s had all his life? Even when his pupils had been clearly dilated, and then switched instantaneously. For a second there, they’d looked like tiny slights before stark, before changing back to their original shape. They’d – they’d been shining. And they’d been big. Damn had they been big. Like the night vision of a mammal.

Basira audibly sighs in relief when the light switches from cold to warm, casting the room back into its usual useless glow. Jon’s eyes hurt a little from the strain. It takes his mind a long time to catch up with the scene he’s just been witness to, long after Basira makes her leave with a crude “I’ll be in my office if you need me”. It takes him even longer to realize that he honestly doesn’t remember flicking a light switch on during the entire day. Or even checking. He can’t recall the last time his fingers have come into contact with one.

There’s a slight tremor to the motions of his hand as he fetches the statement that his mind is somehow still forcing him to get. Jon’s not sure how he manages it, not sure who’s operating his body right now, but he manages to walk closer towards the mirror even in sheer panic and terror. He’s afraid to look. He has to look. In his mind he imagines Martin encouraging him because lord knows he needs them right now. He can’t – can’t do it. But he also can’t not. So he risks it.

Mundane brown is what greets him.

 


 

He looks it up at home the first chance he gets. Night vision – the ability to see in low-light conditions. Nocturnal hunters like owls and cats have pupils that, when open wide, cover the entire front of the eye. So do tree frogs, which have to be able to jump from branch to branch. In owls, eye size approaches the extreme: their eyes occupy over half the volume of their skulls. Some mammals possess a layer of tissue called the tapetum, behind the retina, which helps them make the most of small amounts of light. Light that passes through the retina is reflected off the tapetum, giving the retinal cells a second chance to sense it. This makes some animals’ eyes shine in the glare of car headlights, most typically seen in domesticated cats.

He knows all of this, of course, none of it’s new. But it’s still a shock to take the facts of bioscience and to describe it to oneself.

He doesn’t feel so well, sitting down in front of his laptop, reading all of that. He’s checked the light switch in his living room twice. His body feels hot, culminating sweat under his sweater, yet his fingers are cold and clammy. Jon feels – he feels like he’s about to have an honest to God panic attack. His breath is coming out in short, high octaves. He’s all alone. He’s all alone in his flat and his eyes are – they’re … Jesus. Jesus Christ. Fuck.

The wheezing sobs sound deafeningly pathetic in the empty room. He needs to stop this, needs to regain focus. He’s no longer a child. “Calm down, christ’s sake,” he wheezes out with all the disapproval of his grandmother’s voice. “It was one occurrence. Your mind might be playing tricks on you, you need to – need to investigate. Need to document.” Document... “Where’s my tape recorder?!”

There’s a medium crash as something is slammed to the floor by his feet. Tumbled out of his work bag, something he’s sure he hadn’t put there beforehand. He doesn’t usually like having them at ho– at his apartment. But he has to admit, now it’s useful at least.

He picks up the tape recorder with shaky hands, the left hand taking a hold of it more firmly than the other, as usual. It’s been recording this whole time. He wishes he could know for how many minutes. He wishes he could know anything.

Jon wheeze-coughs, composing himself. Closes his eyes for a few minutes, breathing in deeply, and pointedly doesn’t feel for any extra layer of skin while reopening them. He brings the tape recorder close towards his mouth.

“Supplemental,” he begins, and almost feels like he’s making a fool out of himself but, when doesn’t he? He’s well past the point of denial, knows by now that he needs the tape, needs them to keep him sane. That and – the others. God, he wishes Martin were here to bring him some tea.

He coughs again, tries to compose his voice back to his usual disapproving veneer. “Sup- Supplemental: I think I … I’m not sure, but … Well, let’s just say I hadn’t realized the Eye to be quite so… literal. Foolish me.”

CLICK

 


 

CLICK

“Supplemental: Well, that’s that then. That’s settled.” He laughs bitterly. “I went ahead and checked again in the bathroom. I want to, need to be able to document every step, every change, otherwise, I’m just going to go insane. And I …” A shaky breath. “I think I’ve got it now.”

“Should I – wait, should I go ahead and preface this with a -? Oh, what the hell. Might as well. Saying it might even bring me some perverse form of comfort, so: Statement of … Statement of Jonathan Sims, the Archivist, regarding a few noticeable changes to his appearance after a … a miraculous recovery from a six months coma, most likely aided by the Eye. Statement given straight from subject, in his… on his bathroom floor. August 12th … Or wait, was it 13th …?” He sighs, resigned. “2018. It- It’s a little late, almost 4 AM, so excuse my sloppy documentation. I’m sure you’ll survive, you bloody stupid piece of plastic.” He coughs again, trying to reign in his temper. It’s harder than he’d imagined, now that he’s thought of the recorders as an extension of the entity, of himself.

“Let’s start this off with the facts: My eyes are brown. They’ve always been brown, with the slightest of differences depending on the percentage of sunlight hitting my face. No dark brown, no almost black, no muddy-brown-that-could-be-almost-green, just … brown. Here’s another fact for you: They’re still brown. At least, right now, with the lights turned on their brightest setting. I’m directly looking at them, at myself in the mirror. I’ve-“ He laughs bitterly, almost hysterically. “I’ve still got a reflection thank god, I’m not one of those vampires Herbert’s been hunting. That’s another fact. So far, we’ve got three: My eyes are brown, currently are brown, and I’m not a vampire. That enough documentation for you, Elias?”

“I’m… I’m not a vampire, but I don’t think I’m human anymore, either. Not entirely. I wish I could tell you the exact percentage, the parts and pieces of me that remained the same before this job, before all of it, but I fear… I don’t want to think about it. And I’m tired. So I’ll keep this statement short. More to follow. Or maybe not. Maybe this will be the only change. Call me a pessimist, but I sincerely doubt that.”

“But before I recorded this, they hadn’t been brown. They hadn’t been mine, they’d been … God, so many variations. Hard to keep up. I’ll try.” Jon takes a second to compose himself, regard himself in the mirror again, focusing on those prominent eye bags hollowing out his cheeks. God, he looks knackered. He needs sleep. But he fears another sleepless night if he won’t finish this, so he takes a look at the scribbled mess he’d curtly written down before. “As far as I’m aware, this change only seems to happen during night-time, when most – when humans would struggle to differentiate bare shapes in the dark. During the day my eyes are painstakingly boring. But when I changed my bathroom lights, step by step, from the highest to the lowest to complete darkness, they’d changed as well. Adapted. I think it must be some kind of evolutionary protection mechanism. After all, how is one supposed to behold if one can’t even see in the dark? Simple.”

“Here’s what I wrote down: During the dim-lit moments, they’d been broad, then narrowed, like cats. Exactly like cats. Then the dimmer the lights, the broader the slit pupil became, until it… It reminded me of a goat, sort of. You know those blocky ones? Rectangular and vertical. Not in an instant, of course not, the transformation is barely noticeable but it’s there. It’s there. And it hurts as well, like seeing without your glasses. Or, or more like changing your prescription? A pressure on the eye as the change takes place naturally.”

“I, I read up a little on goats.” He laughs bitterly. “I read up a little on all these creatures. Since we seem to have so much in common now. Herbivores, they need to be able to protect themselves from predators. A broad line of sight, aided by wide, rectangular-shaped pupils, allows them to see danger approaching from their peripheral vision even in the dark. Their eyes possess 320-degree vision. Humans, in comparison, have a measly 120-degree. I checked. Strange to think I can see better in the dark now. I can see my entire bathroom, from the door all the way to the dirty clothes pile.”

“In complete pitch black, my eye sockets seem bigger almost, forward-facing. A hawk? Or an owl without the constant need for head movement. Hawks have both a central and a peripheral fovea, which gives them excellent binocular vision.  Humans only have a central one. The bioscience on hawks and birds of prey is a little complicated, a little too sophisticated for an Archivist like me. I’m not a zoologist, but I’m sure if you were really interested, you’d be able to check up on it. For now, just trust me on my word. That’s all, I swear. All the changes I’ve noticed. My eyes feel… fine. They don’t feel strange, or foreign. Just… aggravated. Put to good use, I guess. I’ve been in here for what feels like hours.”

“Anyway, I understand now. It’s just the eyes. That’s all there is to it, right? There won’t be any more changes, because this has been a precautious step to help me adapt to my new … my new Religion. It’s The Eye after all. If I repeat it often enough, maybe it will ring true. It's just my eyes."

"I’d say… about 80% human now. Those aren’t bad calculations.”

Jon sighs, stretching his painfully stiff legs and hoisting himself up with quite the huff. He’s exhausted. He’s tired. His thoughts are swimming away from him, like fish. He’ll be fine in the morning. Provided he can sleep. Which reminds him…

He picks the recorder back up, holds it in gentle fingers while massaging and trying to rub his forehead and browbone with his backhand. He’s so tired.

“That’s all. Statement ends. For now. I’ve done what you asked, what you demanded of me, now can I please go to sleep? Please. I need to sleep. You may be an all-knowing, all-powerful omnipresence, but I’m not. I’m … Jon, just Jon. And Jons need unconsciousness every once in a while. So let. Me. Sleep. Please.” No answer, of course. Jon sighs bitterly, still feeling the tension lingering in the air. Trying to fall asleep will be fun. His body drags him towards his bedroom almost without his permission. His bed is unmade like it always is. He never bothers to anymore.

He’s so tired he almost sleeps with the recorder before thinking better of it and leaving it on the nightstand, gathering up just enough strength to end the bloody disk. The CLICK it makes satisfies him like nothing else as he rolls onto his side. The lights remain on – just for comfort.

“Bye. Just… need … ta sleep…”

He doesn’t hear but swears he can feel the defeating CLICK of the recorder vibrate around in his brain, even as he’s half-unconscious.

Chapter Text

Jon’s hand itches. That alone is nothing unusual, ever since he’s acquired his fair share of scars, skin abrasions have been a constant for him. Picking at his skin has become almost yet another compulsion of his, switching from habit to need. His nails are rarely not crusted with blood these days. Sometimes, he ends up accidentally smearing some onto the statements he reads, always resulting in disgusted reactions from the others. Jon doesn’t think his patron minds, though. What’s a little blood to a God?

Martin used to tell him to be careful not to get blood poisoning in that gentle insistence of his. But Martin isn’t here right now. Jon hasn’t seen him in 6 months, which to him feels like both a lifetime and nothing at all. Martin weighs constantly on his mind, after all. Like right now. How he’s doing. What he’s doing. Why he seems to hate Jon now.

Jon’s trying not to give in to the Eye’s commands these days, prefers to read old dust collectors than the freshly hand-picked statements that mysteriously land on his desk. He barely sees the others these days, but when he does, he’s acutely aware of not looking any of them in the eye. He’s scared what they’ll discover once they return the favour. So he isolates himself, more than the others already do it for him.

His hand itches a little at first, right in the centre of the back of his hand, which he guesses is just fine – it takes a long while for third-degree burns to scab and fade over, after all. So anyone can imagine his surprise when, the next time he manages to steal himself out of his office and walk the corridors in search of an operating tea kettle, he absentmindedly starts scratching only to realize that his hand has gotten bigger. Another thing that has eluded his mind: It’s not his notorious right hand that is causing him trouble, as previously thought. And it’s not his hand that’s gotten bigger, it’s – it’s a pimple? Is that a pimple? He hasn’t had acne since he was a snotty teenager.

But that seems to be the culprit at least, otherwise, he has no idea what it could be otherwise. It’s not red or swollen or anything, just a little mountain growing under his skin. The pimple is as big as… as his eye. That’s not reassuring. It’s soft to the touch. Squishy. Hurts. He has half the idea to go to a dermatologist before discarding the thought.

It’s just a pimple.

 


 

His composure doesn’t hold for long. One day, to be exact. One glorious, ignorant day. He even manages to suppress his urge to scratch or pop it open, however much he craves the sweet release of tearing open his flesh.

The next time he chances a look, it’s no longer just a mountain. No, it’s… it’s evolved, grown. It’s opened up

It’s an eyeball. Of course, it’s an eye.

He frightens himself so much that he manages to throw his half-drunk tea all over his desk. Sploshes of tea fall on his. On his new pair of eyelids. They’re closed, gracefully concealed. No eyelashes. He’s… not sure if what will be revealed if he opens them will be actual eyes but he has a sinking suspicion. He’s been sitting at his desk for 20 minutes, contemplating whether to throw up, pass out, or find a way to make it open. His tape recorder is on, the soft click and whirring of the machine feels like a command. Like it’s daring him to. But Jon has always been a coward. In his mind, he’s already thinking of ways to justify this, sudden mania perhaps. Hallucinations. All sorts of rational explanations to rationalize then discard the reality.

Open me.

“H-H… How…?” he asks into the empty air. “I mean, how should I…?”

Jon has no idea how he should go about opening them. Should he… just pry them open with his fingers? It’s his hand. He’s fairly certain there are no tutorials on ‘how to open your new third eye that’s grown out of your skin’ anywhere in the Archives. He wonders idly if Gertrude had had the same problem – probably not. It, it just doesn’t seem likely.

So he’s alone. Like he so often is. These days at least. God, if only…

He looks at his palm more clearly and just now notices that it seems almost as if the, the eyeball – or whatever it is that’s made a home out of his flesh – is … as if it’s moving … Like it’s having a dream or is panicking on what to do. Can eyes grow a consciousness?

Open me.

“I won’t do what you want me to,” he says to it with all the malice of an unhinged maniac. “You don’t get my obedience. After everything, after all the … All the bloodshed … No.” He grabs the nearest tape recorder with the right hand that’s also no longer his, claimed by another god. He clenches his damaged fingers so hard there’s sparks of pain shooting up his arm like lightning. He doesn’t even need to click it on anymore, it’s just always on. His life is the most interesting statement of all these days.

“Supplemental,” he punches out of his clenched teeth, tape recorder so close to his mouth it must catch his spit, “Fuck you.”

 


 

He wraps a bandage around it and tries to go on with the rest of his workweek as routinely as possible. Out of sight out of mind, right?

He hasn’t recorded any more supplementals other than his last very short, very crude additional note. Part of him fears that the more fear he shows, the more he feeds … it. The more he will grow. Like weeds in a garden.

It’s weird, almost. Weirder. Unless he directly looks upon his palm, it’s almost as if nothing’s amiss. He doesn’t notice it most of the time (that’s a lie, but a very self-reassuring one). Hah, funny. He thought it would have hurt more.

Jon has tried contacting … the prison. To find some answers, just for his peace of mind. But it turns out that getting a hold of Elias Bouchard, even when he’s behind bars, is a more difficult task than even getting Martin to talk to him.

He still sleeps with the lights on.

 


 

The others noticed. Of course, they have. Basira, Melanie, they’re not dumb. Thank God Martin’s avoiding him, otherwise, he would have seen right through him. It’s not like Basira especially isn’t still constantly tailing him and watching his every move. Jon tries not to be too upset, especially when he can see the hurt crawling all over her, ugly and red like a scar. She’s grieving, most likely blaming him. That’s fine. Who’s he to judge the coping mechanisms of others? He grew an extra eye and so far, has managed to ignore it so harshly and definite it reminds him of the first days on the job, back when his worst problems had been getting the statement filing back in order and gracefully dodging his co-worker’s attempts at invites to bars. Reminiscing just hurts these days. Like reopening a wound.

So yes, he’s aware that he’s been the odd one out around the office for a while. Hell, he even knows that his choice of wearing a bandage around his seemingly healthy left hand has raised a couple of suspicious brows. But he hadn’t believed that he would see the repercussions of that quite so early. So it comes as quite a surprise to him when; upon closing his office door after a long day, and all he wants to do is crawl in between his bedsheets and pretend to get some semblance of sleep for the next 6 hours; he’s immediately pushed back into the hardwood of the door with such force it rips his work bag out of his fingers. There’s the initial panic, the irritated ‘am I really being kidnapped again?’ thought, even a small dose of annoyance that he hadn’t seen it coming despite being the avatars of Seeing when he notices who it is. Jon’s unsure whether to quite relax or not yet, though.

He swallows thickly. “M-M-Melanie?” he asks voice wobbling after noticing the pure fury in her eyes. Like she can’t wait for him to make even the slightest mistake. “What- What … I, I mean, why are you…” He stammers, unsure of whether to try to escape or freeze.

“Shut up,” Melanie’s gruff voice cuts him off, terrifyingly calm even now. “You don’t get to talk unless I allow you to.”

“Oh- Okay…?”

Shut up!” Melanie’s grip starts pushing him harder into the door, the handle painfully jabbing into the small of his back. His palms are gripping the wood behind him, trying to act as non-threatening as possible. Something’s wrong. “Turn it off.”

He blinks. “I-I-I I don’t… W-What?”

Another shove. This time he barely suppresses the whimper trying to escape. There are dark circles under Melanie’s eyes, casting her face in a sickly glow. Something is very wrong. “I said,” she punches out through gritted teeth and then releases her claws from his shoulders. Jon’s legs feel like pudding, it’s a surprise he’s still standing upright. “Turn. It. Off. I know you’ve got a recorder running right now. And if you don’t want me to crush it with my bare hands, I suggest you shut the damn thing off yourself.”

Damn him, he probably does. Not like he collects them himself now. They just… have a habit of turning up close to him. So he scrambles to find the offender with shaking fingers, inspecting his bag. “Al-alright, Melanie. Just…”

There’s one in the back pocket of his trousers because of course there is. He fishes it out and then presses the OFF button right in front of his assailer’s face. She still doesn’t seem happy. There’s something there, underneath a film of sweat… Jon can’t quite seem to place it, but it doesn’t look good. Something tells him he’s not seeing it quite the way he’s supposed to. His left hand is tingling underneath the bandage.

Open me.

“Melanie, are you… are you okay?”

“What are you?”

The question freezes him dead cold, panic surging up his body and making him dizzy. Inside his mind, his pessimism is already preparing for the worst. He didn’t think he would get bludgeoned to death at work when he woke up this morning. But that’s just life.

“Melanie …” He doesn’t know what to say, how to buy time. He’s never had any affinity for hand to hand combat as well.

“Whatever woke up from that coma, you’re not Jon. At least not the one from before. I can see it, everyone can see it, but no one. Will. Do. Anything.” Melanie says, clenching her fists. “It makes me… God, it makes me so. Angry.

“Melanie, p-please, I …” He doesn’t know what to say. She’s not wrong, is the thing. He’s not even sure his calculations of 80% human are right anymore. He hasn’t redone the maths. “I don’t know… Don’t know what’s going on, or why you’re angry, but I… I swear, I’m. I’m me.”

There’s a weird voice inside his head, like a bad distortion of his thoughts, whispering back at him that he’s not just a me, anymore. He’s a we, too. Or he will be. Jon shudders.

“You, you know what I… You know how hard it’s been. How… draining. I won’t lie and say I’m the same I’ve always been, that I’m not… I haven’t grown … bad in some way. That I haven’t been influenced. But you know me, Melanie.” He’s grasping at straws here. “You know I wouldn’t succumb to it.”

“Hmmm,” she retorts, still not convinced. But slowly regaining whatever vaguely positive regard she held for him before, however slim. Or maybe she’s just restraining herself. “What’s that on your hand?”

Oh shit.

“What?”

“What are you trying to cover up?” Her hand is already flying towards his with acute speed, gripping his wrist in a death grip Jon is desperate to get out of. Shit shit shit.

“It, it’s nothing,” he lies, trying to free himself to no avail. Melanie meanwhile just makes to undo his many bandages, completely ignoring him. “It’s just a scratch, I swear, I- ”

“I’ve seen you wear that thing for days now, and not once have you given us any sort of explanation. So,” she’s holding the last wrap in between her fingers, looking up at his panicked face intently. She knows she’s got him. “Spill.”

“It’s embarrassing.”

“What is?” she says as her fingers steal his last defense, the last chance of denial. He cringes as she does so, willing himself not to look at it and try to convince himself he’s okay with getting choked to death by Melanie King on a Monday evening. His full-body tremors are giving him away though, violent and out of his control.

“Huh,” Melanie says, bewildered.

He almost wants to reply with ‘I know’, but chances to risk taking a look instead. He doesn’t know what he thought would greet him. Teeth, maybe. Glowing red irises. Blood, pus and insides. But instead… it’s his third eye. Jon knows how insane that sounds ‘Just the eye on my palm, nothing to see here’, but it … Somehow during the panic of being assaulted and cornered, he managed to override his fear and open it. That’s what he tries to tell himself happened anyway, because the alternative that the eye could have just opened itself, but instead chose not to, that it’s a sentient being, is just too terrifying for him to comprehend.

He still doesn’t hold power over it, not like he can see through it, but it’s… That’s … that’s his eye, alright. The same muddy brown he’s had all his life, bloodshot and opened wide. If anything, it reminds him more of his juvenile days, something about it makes him think of children’s eyes, big and so full of interest. Right now, it’s regarding their attacker with clear disinterest. It looks … bored. Like it doesn’t understand what the whole fuzz is about, why Jon – his host – is having a panic attack. How incredibly mundane this situation seems to be for it.

Jon just now realizes that his hand is – his hand is free. Melanie’s stopped gripping his wrist in favour of stepping back, seemingly in shock. Is he frightening her?

“I know, I-“

“Why do you have a bandage wrapped around your hand?”

Jon furrows his brow in confusion, looking up at a Melanie that looks pissed off more than the disgust he’d anticipated. “W-W-What do you mean?” The eye is looking at him in a sort of ‘See I told you’ way. It takes him a second to realize that she can’t see it. Another protection mechanism? Or maybe he did truly his marbles and is hallucinating. God, Jon hopes so. Any hallucinatory episodes spurned by mental illness are better than the prospect of being turned into an eldritch monster against his will.

He’s so relieved. He’s so goddamn relieved, he could cry. He might actually cry.

“Why would you bandage your normal, perfectly healthy hand with medical wrap like some kind of freak?” Melanie just looks annoyed.

“I, uh… I- I,” he sighs out in relief and then feels broken laughter being punched out of his stomach at the sheer absurdity of the situation. It probably sounds quite unhinged to normal bystanders. “I…,” he tries again, then keeps laughing. Melanie just looks at him like he’s nuts. “Uh …” He smiles tiredly and shrugs. “Fashion, I guess.”

Melanie gives him a Look, one that very clearly means she doesn’t buy it. “Fashion? Bullshit. I’m not stupid.” Jon just keeps laughing at that, clearly aggravating Melanie. “Are you making fun of me?!”

The very clear warning embedded in that tone of voice makes him reconsider, so he just frantically shakes his head in denial. “No, no, it’s not that, it’s just – it’s.” He breathes out the last of his completely bonkers laughter. “I sprained my wrist.”

Melanie’s eyebrows rise considerably. “You sprained your wrist?”

“Yes.”

“And that’s so embarrassing why exactly?” she asks in confusion, crossing her arms.

Oh. Oh, right. He’d blabbered on about his embarrassment panicked moments before, in the hopes that she’d take pity on him and leave it be. Truth is, he didn’t exactly think that far ahead as to come up with some kind of cover story for the bandage. He’d just hoped no one would notice or care if he came to work a little injured. His mind is scrambling for an appropriate answer. “Oh, it’s… It’s because of how I sustained it.” Think. “I … got it while … masturbating. Yes, that’s right. I masturbated. Ummm, yesterday. I ‘jerked off’?”

That seems to have been the exact right thing to say according to Melanie’s near-instantaneous repulsed withdrawal, embarrassment overpowering any other emotion she might have felt. She looks at him with more horror than if he had told her he grew a third eye on his palm, or that he has goat eyes if the light is just right. To be perfectly honest, he understands it. It’s not like, that … aspect of life is of any concern to him. To the outside world, it probably sounds like an infant had told them they’d bludgeoned a man to death.

“Oh, uh. Urgh. Oh, god. Jesus, why would you tell me that?!” she asks, enraged again but this time for a different reason.

“You asked.”

“Okay, uh, forget I asked. Ooff. What the hell. No wonder you seem different.” Melanie looks at him like she would want nothing else than to disappear into thin air right about now. He gets the feeling. “I’m, uhh…” she says, blinking. “I’m gonna go and … try to drown out that mental image in alcohol. Christ. Okay.” Melanie is already well on her way to the door, looking at him strangely on occasion. “Never thought I’d hear you utter the words jerk off in my life, Sims. Who knew you …? You know what, never mind. Forget this happened. I’m … I’m leaving, jep. Getting outta here.”

Jon watches her leave in silent amusement. But when he looks down, there it is again. That same damned stare, this time directed at him. He’d thought… never mind.

“Are you…” he whispers to his hand, thankful that everyone has already left and now it’s just him and that eye, lounged on a wall. “Are you real?”

Said eye just blinks up at him but remains otherwise impassive. He has to suppress the sudden urge to touch it, to squeeze. See how it felt. Let his thumb burrow its way into the squishy white and then into the eye socket. Would that work? Surely it couldn’t. His body is full of protection mechanisms, certainly, there’s a safety program implanted to make sure the Archivist doesn’t gouge his own eyes out. He doesn’t doubt that his patron doesn’t take lightly to blasphemy.

An experiment for another time. Right now, all he wants to do is take a shower and spend hours looking at every piece of skin on his body to look for more bumps. Later.

Chapter Text

“Supplem-“ There’s a wet coughing sound, the sound of something dripping onto the floor. “Supplemental.” Jon’s lying on his bathroom floor. His wet cold hair feels like pins on his head. His hair isn’t the only thing that’s dripping wet, though that’s beside the point.

Jon always prided himself on being a particularly skilled silent crier. His emotions shouldn’t interfere with his work, which is what he sees this as. Just work.

“Supplemental: I’m. I was – I was wrong. Before. I – “ Wet laughter. “I thought, God, I thought that maybe. Maybe it would stop there, you know? I’ve already succumbed once. I foolishly thought that’d satisfy it. But the more it changes me, the more I realize just how little of me belongs to myself, anymore. It’s – It’s like I’m one of the goddamned books.”

He closes his eyes and sighs loudly. He needs to focus. This will hardly be coherent if he lets his emotions seep through this much, it will have hardly been worth it. So he lets the sweet feeling of dissociation wash over him, a defence mechanism he’s used through the ages and one that’s never disappointed him. It feels a little like submerging himself into cold water. It’s not… pleasant, but it’s also not bad. It’s also considerably better than truly feeling his entire emotions.

Jon’s reminded of the time his parents died, watching the long limbs of something swallow his bully whole, his grandmother dying. Georgie taking her things with her while she left. It’s a collection of Jonathan Sims’ worst moments and he’s just added another moment to the list.

“I was in the shower,” he says out loud, eyes still closed. God, he hopes he speaks loud enough to understand. He’d hate to rerecord this segment. “I was… washing myself. Feeling the water on my skin.”

“It’s … so far, it’s only been my arms that have been affected. Not the marked parts of other Gods strangely, those are better left alone. The hand Jude Perry – the one I used to shake her hand, that one’s ugly as all sin, but it’s. It’s surprisingly barren. So are the scars from Jane Prentiss. Interesting. So, not those skin parts. Just… the – the other ones. I’ve,” He chuckles sadly. “I’ve got somewhat of a collection of eyes now. They’re all the same, right down to the iris and size. They’re mine, aesthetically they’re mine. But they … they don’t feel like they’re mine to use. They feel rented.”

Jon opens his eyes, the original pair, and looks at his reflection in the mirror. Still not a vampire. His face is surprisingly bare safe for his normal pair. Makes sense. What’s the evolutionary advantage of a third eye? Other than the spiritual aspect.

“I’m the only, the only one who sees them. Almost like it’s protecting itself, hiding its skin. I’m, I’m not exactly complaining. At least that’s one less worry I have to lose hairs over. Or it’s – it’s another matter entirely. I might, might be losing my mind. In that case, I …” He contemplates for a second. “Well. That one’s been a long time coming for me, hasn’t it? I’m surprised my psyche’s lasted this long.”

His newest addition of eyes are watching him curiously. It’s almost like they’re waiting for him to make a move, any move. He reciprocates the stare.

“It’s been 11 so far, as far as I can tell. Spread out all over my limbs, like dot work. Just my limbs. But in the shower, I – I found the twelfth. It’s - I was – Well, where do you think it is, Elias?” He practically spits out the name, with as much venom as he can muster for his former boss. Contacting him has still proven unsuccessful. It’s not that he’s outright refused any visitors, it’s just that, for some ungodly reason, he’s refusing one person in particular in his visitation rights. That person just so happens to be Jon. For some reason, he’s not that surprised.

“It’s on the back of my head. On my head. Jesus Christ. I, I – I don’t…” He gingerly touches his hair, he just needs to know, to be sure it’s still there. If it ever was. It takes him a little while of back and forth touching before he finds it again and inhales sharply as if that touch alone hurts. It doesn’t, of course, but he wishes it did.

There it is. The bump. Swollen and almost ripe, almost ready to- to open itself. Like a flower turning towards the sun.

He can’t deny the objective advantages to being able to see behind one’s back and has to admit it even has some sort of appeal there, with the way he can almost completely hide it with his overgrown hair. That doesn’t change the fact that touching it makes his breath hitch and come out in uncontrollable, panicked movements. For some reason he quite simply can’t even explain to himself, it’s – it’s worse. 11 additional eyes and yet this is the one that breaks him. He swallows.

“It feels like any of the others. Just a bump. It’s a small error. Extremely minor, in the grand scheme of things. Forgettable. So why am I –“ He swallows thickly. “Why do I feel like this?”

God, he wishes he could talk to anyone about this. He wishes he could talk to Martin. Or hell, even Melanie or Basira. But neither of them particularly feel like socializing with him after Melanie’d stabbed him. He guesses that’s what happens when one operates on someone while they’re unconscious. Things tend to not run as smoothly after, not that they ever did.

He has the vaguest idea that maybe, maybe it wants him to be lonely. Not Lonely lonely, but … isolated. Ready for the taking. And just brimming with potential and unused space.

 


 

“Huh. That’s a weird one,” Jared Hopworth says, juggling something in his hand that must most likely be – Jesus Christ, Jon’s rib. It’s smaller than he thought it’d be, but then again there’s a reason he didn’t study medicine in college.

“W-W-What?” Jon blinks, trying to orientate himself after that intense pain. He can’t seem to let go of the prominent stutter of fear. It’s just … Jesus, there are so many limbs on that man, it’s like looking at a centipede. One that’s twice the same as him.

“You’re different. Inside and out,” Jared unhelpfully replies. Jon must still look at him in puzzlement because he retorts: “Not sure I like it. Still. Mine now.” And with that, he takes the bone, Jon’s rib, and … inserts it into himself. He’s right. It truly doesn’t look like it hurts any for him.

Jon’s body still very much feels the aftereffects, even after the boneturner’s gone. He aches, but at least he got what he came here for. It’s only after he’s left the spiral and is back in his office that he has the idea to look at his rib bone. Inspects it.

Jared’s right. There is something wrong with it, though it takes Jon an embarrassing amount of time to pierce it together. Once he does, he has to suppress the urge to scream.

Eyes. Of course, it’s eyes. So small, tiny. Carved into the bone like the fine artwork of prehistoric humans. It’s not exactly live ones, so that’s something but that doesn’t quench the turmoil in Jon’s stomach. His bones … Is there even one part of himself, one molecule, that still belongs to himself and himself alone? Is his life’s worth the worship of a deity and nothing else? The sum of his parts?

Jon doesn’t want to know what his heart looks like. How much is he, is his body, allowed to change before he’s someone else? Before he’s no longer Jon? And how can he tell?

 


 

“Not alone, though.”

“No,” Daisy’s voice has a hint of warmness in it, underneath all that dirt and gravel and exhaustion. “Not alone.” She feels for his open hand in the dark and takes it. Her fingers brush over Jon’s eye as if in warning. It’s been closed so far, though he knows. He knows he could use them to guide them back. If only he could figure out how.

He smiles sadly to himself at the thought of using his powers to save them.

If you’d wanted to kill me before, you should see me now.

Chapter Text

Once Jon is back in his apartment and trying unsuccessfully to fall asleep, there’s a nagging thought in his mind. He hasn’t been home in 3 days. Hasn’t slept longer than that. His eye bags are so dark Daisy asked him if he’d put on grunge make up before rescuing her. He wants to sleep, needs to sleep. He even managed to read a statement before, hopefully, enough of a snack to sate himself. Even his lights are off, although that does little to shadow his room. All of it to no avail.

Still, there’s that bugging idea. Or rather a suggestion. One he’s 90% sure didn’t come from him. It prods and nags at his brain, applying pressure on his eyelids. Jon sighs, officially giving up sleep for the rest of the night and opens his bedroom drawer to reveal a tape recorder. Snaps it on with a loud CLICK.

“Supplemental,” he says, stopping only to yawn deeply and stretching his neck. “I think the eyes are talking to me. I’m not sure. Maybe. It’s,” he sighs again and rubs his dry eyes. “It’s hard to tell. I’m a little sleep-deprived, as well as short of 2 ribs. It’s been a couple of, heh – It, it’s been one hell of a week. So it might just … be that. Yeah. Most likely.”

Again that pressure applied behind his eyelids. Like something trying to claw its way inside. Or outside. Jon grimaces, the sensation bordering on painful. “I think … I think it wants me to try something. Experiment. Suffice it to say, I’m a little hesitant to try out any new – any powers I might possess.” Again. It is definitely painful now, clearly meant to be punishment for insubordination. “Stop that.”

No. There’s a new voice in his head. It’s him, it’s been there for a long time, maybe even before his coma, and yet it still feels new. It also feels forceful. Either he’s being possessed by – by the Eye, or … or this is him. The newest version of Jon.

Jon swallows thickly, clutches the recorder like a lifeline. He’s well aware that the voice is only in his head, so the documentation might just lead to him being branded as mad. Might as well. Who cares, right? He’s already lost everything, right down to his DNA. He might as well give up his mental health.

We are not mad; the voice sternly replies. It hurts. Listening to it exhausts him.

“Who- What are you?”

We’re you, Jon. We always have been. And we know you want to know. Want to see.

“I want to sleep,” Jon replies, even though he can taste the lie on his tongue like thick poison. He does want to see. There’s so much he can’t see in his stupid human form.

We want to see.

They’re right, he is right. He’s always been right, has been a fool for trying to curb his reach. He does want to see, to behold.

So he does. Jon opens his eyes.

 


 

It’s like being in a tunnel, like looking through a shattered kaleidoscope. There is so much to see he has a hard time focusing.

He is a breath of mist trying to invade any window he can see. Tapping against the glass. Wanting to be let in. If he lets himself think too hard about it, his mind might crack.

The first person that lets him in is not who he expects. He’d expected – well, truthfully, he’d expected nothing. He hadn’t foreseen any of this. But when he reaches out his fingers, or what should be his fingers under any other circumstances, for a mind in reach … It, it’s. It’s cold and dark like the ocean. There’s a loneliness there that’s hard to describe, not easy to feel. And grief. Mourning. All muddled and mixed together.

Jon blames his sleep deprivation for the fact that it takes him an embarrassing amount of time to realize which mind he is currently prodding. It clicks when he feels the special grief for a disapproving parental figure, something Jon is well versed in. His fingers recoil instantaneously.

No.

He can feel the Eye’s confusion - the Eyes’.

We wanted to see.

Not, not like this. No. This is private, we can’t just- we can’t. It’s an invasion of privacy.

This is what we want.

His entire being balks against the pressure trying to guide his finger back into Martin’s unconscious brain. It’s futile, he notices that fairly soon. He is no longer in control, maybe he never was. And what’s worse, he can feel Martin stir in his sleep while this- this being, this monster that Jon’s turned himself into – while it eats at him like a well-cooked steak. God, it must hurt being cracked open like this. It must hurt tremendously, like the worst sort of nightmare. Jon sends a thousand apologies his way. It’s just … There are so many stories to tell, so many statements. It wants them all.

Stop.

It heeds to his command, however begrudgingly. He doesn’t know how, or even why an omnipotent being currently using his body like a puppet would listen to him, but it does. Ever so slowly, like it’s unwilling to stop hooking its claws into Jon’s probably only friend these days. If he can even still … consider Martin his friend. He hopes so.

So they stop, stop invading him. They retreat but not before Jon has an idea of where he truly wants to go next. He’s surprised he didn’t think of it until now. And the path is surprisingly easy to find, like a beacon in the light. Two beings that seem to be linked, for whatever purpose. Maybe it’s just that they both worship the same God.

Jon tries reaching his fingers into Elias Bouchard’s mind and is met with impenetrable glass. Beyond it – nothing. He can’t even grasp the briefest of strands of Elias’s mind. It’s not cold, not painful. It’s just… nothing. Jon can almost imagine him annoyingly replying ‘That’s not for you I’m afraid’ and slamming the door on his face.

Whatever Elias has done, or is doing, to prevent any other Avatars from spying on him, it’s – it’s good. It’s damn sudden as well, like being thrown on his ass.

He wakes up with a shout and bloodshot eyes. There are 3 new eyes, already fully formed, that have sprouted just from that excursion alone. There’s one on his neck that he absentmindedly starts scratching. It doesn’t seem to mind.

 


 

“I would like to make a statement,” are the words coming out of that mouth, simple and plaintive. It’s a woman looking at him, a woman standing before him, waiting to be let in. Melanie’d brought her in.

But it’s not a woman’s eyes that stare at Jon when he moves to unlock his office. It’s barely even a human’s, eyes too big, filled with knowledge and yet curiously empty. He knows those eyes well. And that snippy grin even more. The eye at the back of his head opens its eyelids curiously.

“Elias,” he says as he closes the door on the two of them. He’s surprisingly calm despite the strange occasion. “Where did you find her?”

The woman makes a nonchalant gesture. “Martha? Oh, she’d been meaning to pay you a visit anyway. I just decided to hop a ride.” She is looking at the room as if the dust and books personally offend her. A rude comment is hanging in the air, though Elias is nice enough not to call him out on his chaos directly.

“Is she going to be alright after this? After you’ve left her?” He only asks out of courtesy, because it’s the right thing to do. Jon can’t find it in himself to care about it more than that, though. He doesn’t even care about the meal she could provide for him.

Elias grins even more in his new body. “Certainly. I’m only renting her out for the time being. I … Well, let’s just say I received your voicemail.”

Something bitter and vile rises in Jon’s throat. Voicemail. As if he hadn’t been trying to contact his former boss for weeks. That’s all it took for him to finally reappear? “Screw you,” he bites out, not offering Elias a chair as he crowds against him – her.

He wants to hurt him, wants to make him bleed in some profound way. Elias kept things from him – vital information. There’s no insult worse to a beholder than wilfully withholding information. All his eyes are trained on the body in front of him. His fist is clenched impossibly tight, trying to reign in its anger. Jon’s not sure anymore whether it is the one furious, or if it’s Jon. The edges have already started to blur together, and the eyes haven’t even completely covered his body yet.

“Now, now, no need to be crude,” Elias pacifies, holding up his one slender hand. The woman must be a little younger than Jon. She shows no signs of possession, none whatsoever. Not if you don’t know where to look. “I’m here to help. You’ll forgive me for not being here myself, but I was … indisposed. Speaking of, how’s Martin? Has he taken a liking to his new position yet?”

Elias’ eyes are glinting with glee as he watches his dagger hit its mark – Jon staggers. Just the sheer name, the reminder, has him containing his longing. There’s a painful weight atop his chest, pressing in through his lungs.

He wants to hurt Elias. The eyes on his body are yelling at him to place his mouth on Elias’ neck and to dig, to tear out his jugular vein with his teeth until he can’t hurt anyone ever again. Thinks his new teeth might be sharp enough for that. He still doesn’t know what Elias did to Martin during their decoy, but he knows it was bad. He knows it was traumatizing. Had tasted that fresh pain in his dream. So yes, suffice it to say, both Jon and his eyes are thinking of murder.

But more than anything he wants answers.

“Don’t,” he punches out. “Don’t you – Don’t ever talk about him. I know what you’re doing.”

Elias sighs impatiently, apparently defeated. “You’re right, of course, you’re right. I was only having fun. There’s so very little to be had of that in prison. Forgive me.”

“No.”

“I guess that ought to be expected. You don’t trust me.” Jon snorts loudly at the understatement of the century. Elias soldiers on, however: “But – would you believe me if I said I was here to offer my genuine advice?”

Another snort. “Get to the point already.” Jon knows he has one – he always does. Rarely anything Elias does isn’t thought through. He’s not just here taking a stroll, or to see how his former employees are doing. Self-serving bastard.

Elias looks at him pointedly like he’d heard that but chose to gracefully ignore it. He pushes a couple of golden strands out of his face. “Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? I know about your recent … transformation. I can see you.” He says this while looking him up and down, all over, and Jon suddenly feels incredibly naked and vulnerable. To be looked at in all his monstrosity, to no longer have the disguise of humanity – that stings. He prays that no recorder is currently on. “It’s beautiful.”

“You did this to me.”

Elias does a little Ts sound and shakes his head, smiling all the while. “You did this to yourself. Don’t you remember your little hospital visit? The dreams?” He does. Of course, he does. God, he wishes he didn’t. Elias smiles at him darkly as if he knows, and it makes Jon’s stomach feel uneasy. “Ah, yes. You were so adamant about not dying that you didn’t think to ask what that would entail, exactly. You opened the door in your mind, Jon. You. I didn’t even need to push; you were just that needy. Desperate to catch a few more sunrays? I understand. I truly do. But you opened the door and now you mustn’t be mad at me for your panicked decision.”

“I, I didn’t choose,” he lies through his teeth, the words lying heavy on his tongue. Even his own body knows. He still thinks it bears repeating. “I didn’t choose any of this.”

You did.

I know.

“There’s no refunds with Gods, Jon. You may be able to fool me, but you can never fool them. Especially not when the contract’s so crystal clear.” Elias reaches out, presumably to look at the thick eye protruding out of Jon’s neck. He flinches back as if hurt, suddenly realizing how hilarious it would have been if he’d let it continue. The first genuine human touch he’s felt in ages, at least one where he wasn’t entombed, and it’s from Elias of all people. He wants to laugh hysterically. Elias just looks at him sadly. “You dove in headfirst, didn’t you? Didn’t even think. Just let yourself be owned completely by your God. All because you were just deathly afraid of death, weren’t you? Not even I could have foreseen this. I, Well, I'm not even sure this has happened before. It's certainly a first for me. Complete surrender.”

“So did you,” Jon replies, but it’s weak. The words sting his eyes and hit him in the face like a punch. He did this to himself. Dug his own grave.

Now it’s Elias turn to laugh, the shrill female laughter filling the room. “Oh, oh no. I certainly did my homework before my communion. I knew the risks, the advantages. And in the end, I offered them my services. My eyes. I was to be their humble servant. But not my body. You, on the other hand,” there he goes again with that stare of his as if he can see Jon right through to his carved bones. “You told them to swallow you whole if only they kept you alive. And alive you are. Just not quite what you’d thought it would be, huh?”

He remembers now. Remembers being in his dreams, looking down at the world and seeing everything, how overwhelming it all had been. Feeling the creeping edges of death shadow his vision.

Floating in front of an eye, so big that he couldn’t even see where it ended. Remembers frantically chanting “take me use me eat me oh just do whatever you want but bring me back”, over and over, until it complied. And then he’d woken up.

Tears are stinging in his eyes and he doesn’t even care about crying in front of Elias. He feels defeated at the knowledge that he’d been the one to willingly spread his legs in front of a God, for Christ’s sake. He’d bowed down willingly, without a moment’s hesitation. And now he’s being possessed by fear itself.

Not possessed, a voice in his head replies. We are partnered. What is you is me. We’ve helped you before, we will help you again. We know you, Jon. We see you.

“My God,” Jon cry-wheezes, well aware of where he is. He can’t find it in himself to care. “I’ve turned myself into a monster.” The voice in his head is thankfully quiet at that. As if it knows the truth in that statement, choosing to let him have this moment of pathetic crying at his circumstances.

Elias, however, isn’t. He grins, drinking up Jon’s sorrow like fine wine. “Congratulations. And the first of your kind, too. Mesmerizing. Now, how should we celebrate?”

Chapter Text

He doesn’t think of what to say if Martin opens his door. He very rarely plans ahead these days and the hand on his hand itches in affirmation. Case in point.

He didn’t think Martin would open the door this fast. Or that he’d look at him like an unwanted stray trying to drag in a mutilated bird carcass into his apartment. Jon is used to scrutiny these days but seeing it reflected in Martin’s eyes still hurts more than he admits to himself.

Martin looks pissed, yes, but he also looks … ruffled. There’s a stray lock of hair hanging in his face, squished between his brow and his crooked glasses. He seems fine physically, although there’s a certain tiredness to him. His pyjamas are wrinkled in certain parts, indicating that Martin likes to sleep on his side, in the foetus position. Jon files that information away in his brain like it’s precious.

Jon tries hard to only see through his one, original pair of eyes. He doesn’t want to look at Martin any other way.

“J-Jon, what do you want?” Martin replies, clearly woken up from a surprisingly good night’s sleep. Jon would apologize if he wasn’t so happy to see him.

He lets out a shaky exhale, both fearful and relieved. “Hi,” he whispers into the space between them. Wants to say ‘Oh, there you are.’ ‘I finally found you.’ ‘Where have you been?’ ‘I missed you.’ ‘How are you?’ ‘Can I stay?’

He doesn’t say any of it, because he’s a coward and also doesn’t want to inconvenience Martin more than he already has done. So he swallows the words back down like bile.

Martin just looks at him like he’s crazy. “Jon, it’s five past 4 am,” he replies, clearly going for annoyed but missing the mark just a bit. He almost looks afraid. Jon idly thinks that it would be just his luck for Martin to see him as he is of all people.

Jon swallows thickly. Now that he’s here, gotten to this point, he’s at a loss for words. “H-Hi.”

“Hi?” It almost sounds like a question. “What are you –“ Martin sighs, catching himself. “You know what, never mind. How did you find my address?”

I accidentally peaked inside your mind without your consent, which I’m still incredibly sorry for by the way, and after that finding your home address wasn’t exactly hard.

“I… I go-googled. Asked around.”

“Hmm,” Martin says, clearly looking for something more from him.

“Yes,” he says, out of breath from running all the way here. Jon doesn’t know what to give him.

There’s a couple seconds of heavy silence, Martin shuffling awkwardly on his feet and looking around. “Was- Was there a reason you woke me up in the middle of the night? Or did you just… want to say ‘Hi’?”

Ah. Yes. That. “I … I wanted to see you,” he says, which isn’t false but it’s not the full truth. The truth is that he needs advice - on how to proceed next. Sound advice. After his talk with Elias, after he’d connected the dots, hinted at the way out of this horror, well… Suffice it to say Jon is intrigued.

(“Would it work?”

“Jon, I wouldn’t-“

Would it?”

“I…” A sigh. “I imagine it might. I honestly don’t know. As I’ve said, I’ve never been in your predicament, but it certainly sounds plausible. But it also sounds reckless. Throwing away your oh so gracefully gifted-”

“Will it kill me?”

“Maybe? It’s certainly going to hurt. They won’t be happy.” Jon can’t find it in himself to care much about the risks. He’s trying to keep his eyes closed at the moment, though it’s hard. Like swimming in the tide. Somewhere in his head, he’s curious about why Elias would willingly give up information that could kill him, but that somewhere is far, far away.

His biggest thought is Martin. What he would think about this.)

“See me about what?” Martin asks, ripping Jon out of his little trip down memory lane. They’re still standing there in the cold, Jon wrapping his arms around himself as if to stave off the freeze. Martin barely seems to mind, which is alarming. “We’re – We’re really not supposed to talk. You need to leave. Soon.”

Soon. So Martin will hear him out first. Jon smiles in earnest at that, grateful. “I – Thank you. I know I – I know I… it hasn’t exactly been easy.”

“No, it hasn’t,” Martin just says, and nothing else. There’s pain edged in that word, as well as secrecy. His- his other eyes perk up at the undertone. They’re eager to see what he’s hiding, eager to see. Jon is panicking suddenly, trying to keep them at bay as best as he can. The eyes don’t seem to understand his hesitation upon not trying to eat his by now probably only friend. Or eat his trauma, at least. And what’s worse, he feels the urge as if it’s his own.

No.

He’s hiding something from us, the other Jon voice replies, furious. Hidden information is seemingly the worst offense.

I know.

We could make him tell us. He’s been touched by many other Gods. We want to see what he’s seen.

“Tough,” Jon punches out, panting for air after metaphorically wrestling with his demons. He hates looking at Martin as if he’s a tasty five-course meal, instead of – instead of Martin. It’s harder than he’d imagined, especially considering he also wants to know the truth himself. Even if he would never push him. God, he just doesn’t want to be lied to for once. He wants to be invited inside, wants to be asked for some tea. He wants things back to how they used to be.

Martin doesn’t see any of this. He just looks offended, to him that probably sounded like Jon was mocking his secretive work. “Well, excuse me-”

Jon quickly pulls away, trying to save face. “No, no, not you-“ he frantically stammers out, holding his hands up in surrender. “No, I, I didn’t mean it like that. I swear. I just …”

The urge to see is so strong like he’s starving. He’s famished and weak, and he needs this. Wants this. Martin is a beacon of hope, a well to drink from. If only he could crane his neck enough to drink…

No.

“Never mind, you- you know what,” he hurriedly punches out, taking a couple steps back. “I –“ He laughs bitterly. “I lied, before. I didn’t need your advice on anything, I didn’t even – I found your address through your files at work.”

Martin looks alarmed at that, as well as annoyed. “You- You went through Peter Lukas’ office? Do you even know what he’s like?” He sounds genuinely pissed off. “Did you stop to think that that would deter all of my plans? That he could ki- hurt you. Send you into the Lonely.”

Jon doesn’t miss the first syllable of the word ‘kill’ and almost has to laugh. He would welcome the blow if it ever came, but something tells him Peter Lukas couldn’t kill him if he tried for a hundred years. He may be an Avatar of the Lonely, yes, but he’s not the vessel of one. Not like Jon is now.

“No. No, I didn’t think,” Jon murmurs. “I just …” I just need help. I’m scared, Martin. I don’t know who- what I am anymore. I shouldn’t have woken up from that coma.

He doesn’t say any of that, even though he desperately wants to. What he says instead is this: “I just wanted to see you. I missed you.” Which is also not untrue. But Martin reacts to that statement like it hurts him, exhaling sharply and looking at Jon as if he’d just punched him in the gut. He looks even angrier now as if that’s even possible. Jon doesn’t fault him for it.

“You- You. Wanted to see me?” Martin sounds like he doesn’t believe what he’s hearing. He spits his next words out like they’re venomous. “Let, let me guess, you were lonely and decided that what? ‘Martin’s always free anyway, he won’t mind’? That it was either me or Basira, or Melanie, or Daisy now that she’s back?” He whispers the next words, but Jon can hear them just as clearly: “Of course, it’s always that with you. Just lonely.”

He is hiding from us.

Let him.

Jon wants to deny it, wants to retort that if he could choose anyone in the world to see it would be Martin, every time. That even when he pretended to not like him, he’d always look forward to seeing him at work. That he’s just emotionally crippled and doesn’t know how to handle affection very well. There’s a reason he can’t keep friendships for the life of him.

But admitting to all that would defeat the purpose. He wants Martin to be angry at him, just for the moment. Just so he can leave, so he can stop looking at him with… with hunger in his eyes. That hunger scares him more than anything else, even more than Peter Lukas or The Lonely or the freaking Apocalypse. He doesn’t want to hurt Martin, doesn’t want to – to use him like that. The Eye doesn’t understand, can hardly comprehend it.

Jon tries to say “I’m sorry” just as Martin utters out, “I think… Jon, I think you should leave” with eyes that are completely closed off and cold.

He doesn’t need to be told twice. So he makes to leave, but just as he’s resigned himself to his fate he turns back around and says: “Martin, I’m really sorry. For everything.” He doesn’t know exactly what he’s apologizing for, maybe the dream incident. From his face, it seems like Martin’s remembering a specific instance, and grimaces painfully. Again with the unnecessary pain. Jon keeps doing that.

“Jon, just leave,” Martin sighs, clearly tired. So Jon complies.

 


 

“Supplemental,” his voice is shaking however much he tries to keep it under control. “I’ve decided… I’ve decided to try it. I know to anyone else it might be complete idiocy, might be suicide, but to me … To me it feels like a way out. One I’m desperate to walk on, no matter where it takes me.”

He sighs, knife and spoon feeling heavy in his hands. He’s back in his apartment. “I’m following up on a statement from earlier. One that, that. That said that removal of the eyes would be … possible. They’re just eyes, after all. Human eyes. I’m sure humans have blinded themselves many times through the centuries, and it’s always worked out – well, not fine, but seemingly alright for them. I’ve done some research.”

His spoon clinks loudly. “I’m not sure how well a spoon will do, but I thought. It might be like an egg, you know. Just spool it out. The nerve is the trickiest part, but I’ve got reinforcements for that.” He laughs. “No painkillers. I want this to hurt.”

“If this turns out to be fatal, then – I don’t really want to voice any famous last words. Don’t want to jinx it. But if it is, then I’m sorry. Truly. For any and everyone I’ve hurt. God, it’s… it’s quite a list. And I wanted to thank everyone… You’ve really –“ He cuts himself off, cringing. “God, I can’t do this. Sorry. Just take whatever you want from this. Let it be a lesson to the poor bastard that might become the newest Archivist. Never give in. Leave if you can.”

He coughs. “I’m… I’m keeping it under control right now. Barely. It’s like, like I’m in the ocean and the water is trying to push me underwater. It’s suffocating. And angry. God, it’s angry. But I can, I can keep it at bay. I know I can. Just have to… to close my eyes. Well, the additional ones, anyway. And to ignore the voice currently yelling into my brain.”

“I checked again before I’d made my decision. It’s 14 now. 14 eyes. Some of them are smaller, placed at the oddest- Never mind. It’s of no use to you where my – my eyes are located. But there they are. Yet. The hardest to remove will be the one on the back of my head – have to be, to be careful not to damage my brain. Or the ones on my back. I’ll find a way. I have to.”

He contemplates something for a second. “I wanted to start with – with the one on my hand. Might as well. For old times sake. So… here we go.” He opens that one eye, looks at it looking at him, all curious and sleepy. Like an infant. He places the spoon just next to the left tear duct, inhales. Exhales. Tries to calm his nerves.

The first push in is always the hardest.

The next sound the tape recorder picks out, aside from the wet plop of an organ bursting and then spilling onto the floor, is the sound of Jon’s screaming. Low, utterly inhuman. Pained. Furious.

The screaming doesn’t stop. (The tape is two hours and thirty-five minutes long – that’s how long it took, in between Jon’s fainting and vomiting.)

Chapter Text

He doesn’t… doesn’t remember when he woke back up. Doesn’t remember if he’s yet alive or not – or whatever can be seen as alive in his case. All he knows is that he can’t see.

He can’t see and there’s dirt under his feet. There’s ground – concrete. Is he… Is he walking?

Why is he walking?

Jon wants to say something, anything wants to ask what’s going on and why he can’t feel his limbs even though he can clearly feel his feet touching the ground. Wants to ask why his head feels like there are a thousand needles eagerly waiting to dig themselves into his brain matter, why it’s all foggy. But instead of all that what comes out of his mouth, clear as day, is: “Hungry.”

But God, he is hungry. He’s positively famished. He hadn’t noticed until now. When was the last time he’d read a statement? He honestly can’t remember. He can’t remember much in this state, just … just that …

That he’s injured, he’s scared, he can’t see and he’s hungry.

His feet are bare, but they’re dragging him from one place to the next, slouching as they go. He must look positively zombified if he could look at himself. Jon doesn’t know where he is, due to his aforementioned current blindness, but he guesses it must be somewhere next to a river. He can smell the fish. And the bodies vegetating next to them.

He doesn’t want bodies, or fishes, to eat. He desires something else entirely.

Hungry hungry hungry hungry god I’m so hungry

We’re so hungry

We? Who is we? Who else is there with him, who else… who else is controlling his limbs right now? It doesn’t matter, not really, so long as they don’t stop supporting him and driving him forwards. Driving him towards a food source.

It takes Jon a while of said walking to realize that he’s dripping wet. Wet with blood, presumably, oozing out of huge holes littered all over his body. Has he been shot? His body feels like one gigantic wound. He must look just dreadful right now, walking around blind, completely covered in blood. Dragging his feet like a zombie. Not that he believes those exist.

It doesn’t take him that long to find what he’s looking for. To find a victim. He doesn’t know how, or why, but he can sense it. Can sense the man standing there in the shadows, cigarette lit in one hand with the other loosely hanging to his side. It feels … parasitic. The corruption. (How does he know that?)

He still can’t see, but that doesn’t deter him from slouching his way towards the man. His perfume hits him like a truck. Maggots. This man is infected, and quite fatally so. Close to death, although he tries to deny it. Almost ripe.

Jon licks his lips. They taste copper, his tongue feels thick, and he briefly wonders if he bit on it earlier before discarding the thought. He’s so close now.

The man finally seems to notice him. “Hey,” he says, completely relaxed in a way only a large privileged man in a big city can be. “Hey, dude, you need some help? What’s up?”

He does need some help, thank you very much. Forming syllables on his tongue has proven to be difficult though, so he leaves it be. Chooses instead to grunt out the same rhetoric from earlier: “Hungry” It gets the point across just fine.

Jon can feel the man wrinkle his nose in disgust, probably thinking he’s a drunkard. “Yo, do I look like a fucking snack bar?” Yes. “Get lost, man.”

The man doesn’t understand, how could he possibly understand the hunger that is coursing through Jon’s veins. Like he’s caught fire. Humans aren’t meant to contain this much emotion. It’s not his fault.

So he tries again. “Hungry.”

The man still won’t listen. Pity. “Did you not hear me?! Get. Lost. Go find a kebab store or something.” The man has started walking towards them, presumably to push them or to drag them away, but that’s when he seems to notice the blood oozing out of them. (Them or him? Is he alone? Who else is there?) (Doesn’t matter right now.)

The inhale his victim lets out is sharp and loud. He’s scared. “Is… is that blood?” Being in such close proximity to fear, and to be the aggressor of it, it feels … it feels good. It feels like home. Jon sighs happily. “Oh, oh God, that’s – that’s blood. You – you. Fuck, this is… this is fucked up, man.”

There’s something else he wants to say, something about statements. It’s hard to decipher the thoughts, hard to translate them to text and to fit those words into his mouth. He wants to say it, needs to say it, can feel the power thrumming through his body while he’s merely thinking about it, but. No dice. Yet.

Doesn’t matter though, because the man takes that moment of Jon’s confusion to make his exit. Or at least he tries, tries to slowly, oh so slowly, to turn back on his heel. Jon may be blind at the moment, but he’s not stupid. He can feel the vibrations those boots make on the concrete just fine. So he creeps back forward, faster this time.

“Stay… Stay back! Freak!” the man shouts, trying for bravado, but he’s just a child. He’s just a child, deep down. And with every sharp inhale, with every shutter of his body, with every increased heartbeat, Jon can feel himself grow stronger with it. Like it feeds him, as well. He feels grateful. So grateful for all this glutamate running through his system and energizing him.

When he’s within reaching distance Jon pounces, takes a hold of the man’s left arm and twists, pushes him towards his own bloody and bruised body. The man screams out in pain, but pain doesn’t taste nearly as sweet on his tongue as fear does. Neither does blood.

He finally found what he’d wanted to say earlier. There it is. So he slurs: “I want your statement.”

“Let go of me, oh God, please just-“

There’s a voice in his head, telling him to put a little more force into those words. To put them on his hands and push them into this man’s body, into his brain, right down to his cells. He imagine that must hurt, but the voice doesn’t offer him any evidence pointing towards that. He thanks it for its suggestion.

“You, you can have whatever you want, you can have my watch, my wallet, man, take my weed-” The man is still blabbering on, even now. Even as he’s pressed bodily against Jon, even as Jon wrestles them to the nearest brick wall, slides them down towards the floor. This way he can’t run as easily.

“I want your statement.”

This time his voice is so loud it vibrates and ping pongs around both of their skulls. It’s not exactly pleasant for him either, but the man is the one that starts screaming as if he’s scraping out his insides. Jon wants to go ‘wait, why are we hurting him?’ but that’s when he realizes he’s only half in control of his body, and that’s when he truly panics.

The other half of his body lets the torture go on.

Why are we hurting him? What’s happening? Why can’t I – Why can’t I stop.

The other part of him, the stronger one, just pushes his conscience down and away, like an unwanted bug. Or a misbehaving pet. For all the talk of partnership earlier, now he realizes how well and truly screwed he is. Because the thing is angry. And not at the man. It’s livid.

And it’s going to eat.

So the man tells them, or tries to, tries to talk of the time he got jumped by a woman in red, the time he woke up buried, but it’s incoherent and he’s stuttering. This clearly enrages the thing inside Jon more, because if there’s one thing it hates it’s an unreliable narrator.

There’s a sudden, almost hysterical thought in both their heads of cracking this man’s skull and taking a look inside themselves. Of spooling up all that brain tissue, and the eyes, and placing them on their tongue. Letting it dissolve in their stomach. Absorbing this man’s knowledge. But then, will that be guaranteed to reveal all secrets? Or will it just bring them a perverse sort of cannibalistic satisfaction? Jon tries hard not to let his mouth salivate at the thought of it, though. That power.

In the end, it decides against eating the man’s brains. Instead, it just takes his head in between Jon’s wet, slippery fingers, one arm mangled and scarred. And it pushes. Pries its way inside metaphorically, kicks the door down that is the human mind and has a look around itself. You can never rely on anyone these days.

Jon knows the procedure hurts. He can feel the maggots slipping out of the man’s tear ducts, slithering down towards the floor and his lap. He knows that, and he knows he wants to stop, and yet – he can’t. He can’t. Stop.

Let him go. What are you doing? Let him go! You’ve seen enough.

The answer that greets him is nothing short of a slap in his face, metaphorically speaking. It knocks him out for several minutes and when he comes back to, mind significantly less cloudy, and finally able to look through his eyes again. Finally able to see. He wishes he couldn‘t.

Because the sight that greets him is a man on his knees, weeping maggots and clearly dying. And looking at Jon with all the hatred and fear in the world. Mostly fear. God, there’s so much fear in those eyes, but to Jon it doesn’t give him any of the kicks it did before. He feels sated yes, but he also feels ill. Like he might throw up.

“I’m-“ he wants to say, now that he’s back in control of his voice. Sorry is what’s supposed to follow that.

The man cuts him off with a cry, shielding his face half-heartedly. He seems to be in worse shape than he was. The sun has started to rise, so he must have been feeding for a few hours. God. What has he done?

“P-P-Please,” the man whimpers, clearly exhausted. Jon doesn’t think he could support his body if he wanted to, and he almost makes to help him up before stopping at the deer in headlights vision the man gives him. Like he’s afraid Jon will bite off his head. God, and what’s worse, a few hours, he – he might have. What a rush, that power.

“Please just… don’t. I have nothing left. Please.”

Jon doesn’t know what to say to that, feeling at once bad and incredibly awkward. “O-Okay…” he stammers out. “I’m … sorry?”

“Why would you do that to me?” The man just starts sobbing harder, and harder. He just won’t stop. And the maggots won’t stop falling down his cheeks, burrowing themselves back into his skin like a hive, like an endless circle of decay and rot and rebirth. It reminds Jon of Jane Prentiss, although he somehow distinctively knows that this is different. This man is not destined to be an Avatar. This man is destined to be food. Cannon fodder.

Jon doesn’t know what to say. The voice in his head has been quiet this long, until now, when it suddenly very coldly suggests amnesia to him. Just make the man forget. He will be none the wiser, and significantly less traumatized. He’s already destined to die a gruesome, drawn-out death, what’s the harm then in a few peaceful days spent in denial? To Jon that doesn’t sound like such a bad bargain.

So he does. He makes sure to keep his voice to a medium volume, though. He can see the dried blood splatters decorating the man’s ears and neck. “I want you to forget this ever happened. Forget about the woman in red. Go home. Try to sleep.”

Jon doesn’t wait for the man to make his staggering way back home, because he beats him to it. His legs feel like jelly and he’s distinctively aware that he’s still completely covered in blood. He’s not sure if the Eye will conceal that as well, at least not with the way it’s angry at him. And besides his ratty shirt and pyjamas he’s surprisingly barren and exposed to the cold. Jon doesn’t want to make headlines in any tabloid magazine, so he avoids particularly crowded streets and keeps to the dark.

The Eye is silent the entire way home, obviously meant as punishment. It’s only when Jon reaches the threshold of his home, breathing out in stark, exhausted relief, that it raises its voice again. He wishes it wouldn’t. He’d almost forgotten.

If you do that to us again, we will find your friend and make you consume his eyes. Whosoever is left in this world you love we will find, and then we will eat them too.

We will eat and eat and eat until there’s nothing left to him but an empty shell of a human, and then we will fill that shell with something else.

Feed us, or we will feed on him. And then on you.

 


 

It only occurs to him later, when he’s at home and sitting on his shower floor and rocking himself back and forth. He realizes then that his … his eyes are almost all back to normal. Back to its usual health, after… after the incident. Some are still clearly regrowing, but he can feel them. It hurts. Maybe he’d been spared the pain before, a God trying to appease to his vessel. No more.

Jon hates it, but he spends the next few weeks out hunting. Not like before, not if he can help it, but he’s realized by now that this thing inside him will be fed either way. Either he lets it run wild again, or he takes control of the steering wheel and appeases it as best as he can. Tries to do some form of damage control. His… victims probably wouldn’t agree with him. Neither do his co-workers, it turns out.

He considers it a miracle and a half that of all of them, it’s the Scottish girl that had decided to form a complaint. Not the little girl in that train station, when he’d been so full of hunger he’d blacked out and had almost gotten his head bashed in by her father (he hadn’t… touched her. Hadn’t taken her statement. No matter how much the beast in him was clawing at his muscles, trying to turn him into motion). Not… Not the man from the river. Jon idly wonders if he’s dead already, or if he’s still hanging on to his last threads of life. He can’t find it in himself to care.

He’s just terrified of the fact that Martin once again had to be the one taking Jon’s hit, having to take that statement. It’s…. He wants to apologize, god he always wants to apologize, but the thing holding his tongue in place won’t let him. Or maybe it’s just his pride or the fear that if he meets Martin again, he will… he will look at him differently. He will see.

The hunger never truly leaves him these days. He’s not sure anymore whether it’s his or the Eye’s. Not sure if the distinction is worth noting at this stage.

 


 

“I want to destroy these monsters

But devastating them

destroys a part of myself

I feel more alive in the shadow

than the light

I prefer the creaking hollow in my bones

to the noise of people, the static, the show

I have been violated

by poisons from hidden valleys

I have been stung by leaking ink

dripping dark words from unconscious levies

Sometimes my body is just a floating

Trying to contain century’s memories

Between my legs the monsters crawl

Trying to perforate every part of me

And I was only just becoming used to this skin

Now it’s filled with punctures and slits

Fingers of devils play piano on my spine

I don’t believe in hell anymore

Because now I believe in me”

Scorpio, C.

Chapter Text

“Martin,” he says, shaking. “Martin, look at me. Look at me and tell me what you see.”

“I see… I see you, Jon.” A bitter laugh. A warm embrace. “I see you.” There’s hesitation in his voice as he adds: “J-Jon… Jon, what is that? What are those?”

“Don’t worry about it. Come on, let’s go. I know the way home.”

 

--

 

He’s been gone for maybe ten minutes. That’s all. That’s what he tells himself, to try to convince himself it wasn’t his fault Jon is currently crouched on the floor like a feral animal, snarling. Martin had just gone outside for a walk. There’s no way he could have known. That doesn’t stop the guilt from forming in his throat.

They’ve been at the safe house for a little over a week now. Jon’s been… well, he hasn’t been great, but he’s been okay. The lack of statements eating at him. Martin’s depression, a beast that’s always been there, if passive most of the time, has also been eating at him. Martin and Jon have been pierced by two very different traumas, and yet they’ve tried. Tried to hold each other through the worst of it. To make this work.

Jon hasn’t told him anything about the eyes yet, the ones he’d seen back when- back when Jon had saved his life. God, all those eyes. They were everywhere. But just as soon as he’d caught a glimpse, they were gone. Concealed. What had Jon said? ‘Don’t worry about it.’ It’s not that, not that Martin worries, worries about his safety. It’s not that he’s disgusted or frightened. He’s just sad because he knew this would happen eventually. Sooner rather than later. He always had his worries but hoped against all hope that maybe he’d be wrong. That maybe Jon would be afforded a break.

He’s wrong yet again, looking at the mess of a man on his floor. “Jon…” he breathes out, trying to decipher whatever is happening. “J-Jon, what’s wrong?” There’s a part of him that aches to touch, to comfort him and just wrap him up. Maybe if he manages to shield Jon with his entire body, completely engulf him, then the world will stop hurting him. Hurting them.

He tries just that, tries reaching out a hand that’s violently rebuffed. Jon flinches away from him as if hit, and yeah, that stings. Martin tries not to take it personally.

“D-Don’t,” Jon stammers out and Martin has to crane his ears to hear him it’s so faint. He sounds like he’s trying to hold in something, is he sick? “D-Don’t touch me… Ma-Martin, j-just don’t… Please…”

“I don’t understand.” He doesn’t. Jon was fine before. A little irritated maybe, sleep-deprived absolutely. But not this famished mess in front of him – or had he been just acting okay? Had Martin been this oblivious that he couldn’t even spot Jon’s wellbeing anymore in his own lonely fuelled depressive fog? God, he’s so stupid. Why didn’t he see this?

“Please, just… just leave,” Jon wheezes out. He’s very strategically shielding his body, but Martin can see the eye on his shoulder staring at him, regarding him hungrily. And the other one, being obscured by his curly hair. Jesus. “I, I don’t want. Want to hurt you.”

Oh. Oh.

Oh well. Martin’s never really cared much about his wellbeing, and he cares even less if the people he loves are involved. So the decision to crouch down next to Jon comes fairly easily. “You’re hungry, aren’t you?” He supplies and Jon whimpers as if the sheer utterance of that word will make him lose it. “You’re weakened. Let me help.”

“M-Martin,” Jon punches out, and there he is. He’s finally started to turn and look at him, look at him with all his eyes. They’re distinctly Jon’s and Martin has the baffling thought of kissing them, kissing the closed eyelids. They’re strangely beautiful, even as feral looking as they do right now. How far gone is he? “You- You don’t understand. Last time, I was- I was this hungry, I assaulted someone in an alley. I… almost killed him. Lost control.”

That should phase Martin way more than it currently does, but fear is hard to feel after you’ve been stuck in a desolate barren wasteland. Completely void of anything real. Especially not fear directed at the person who’d pulled you back out, who’d come back for you. So, Martin just replies with: “But you didn’t.”

Jon just exhales as if he’s physically hurt him. Martin aches to hold him or to at least touch him in some way. Hold his hand. Anything. “You- It attacked you!” Martin blinks at that, confused. “When I, when I was, was testing to… to see how far my reach could go, it… it smelt you and latched onto you in your sleep like a leech. It… I barely, I had to-“ Jon is hyperventilating, or starting to. Martin knows the feeling well, that oppressive weight on your chest, threatening to burst with every shuddered breath. He chooses to ignore that last comment because currently, it doesn’t make any sense to him whatsoever.

“Jon, it’s okay,” he tries to reassure him just as there’s a change, like a click of the tape recorder. It’s subtle, but Martin is leaned so far into Jon’s space he notices it immediately and shudders.

Because… Because the eyes staring back up at him, huge and dark like the ocean, are not Jon’s eyes anymore. They’re someone else.

“Hungry,” it punches out with Jon’s tongue. With Jon’s mouth. But it’s not… Jon. It’s not. Martin realizes that sooner rather than later, because never in a million years would he have foreseen Jonathan Sims pouncing on him. But this Jon does. Clambering up and over his body like a cat, all agile, sitting on his stomach with both of his thighs reigning him in. The movement barely takes a second. It’s… not comfortable, not in this context, but. Martin can’t help but push out a soft “oh” at the weight pressing down on him, blush forming from his ears all the way to his neck.

This Jon pins Martin's hands to the wooden floor with nails that feel distinctively like claws. They’re both panting, one in surprise and … something else. And the other in hunger.

“O-Oh,” Martin stammers out, experimentally shifting his hips to see if he’s got any leeway. There isn’t. He’s stuck. A thousand eyes staring down at him, regarding at him like they’re curious to see what he will do next. He breathes out, trying to calm himself. “O-Okay…?”

“I want your statement,” this Jon says, voice all normal, but there’s something in the way he says it that gives it away. It sounds like a record like it’s rewinding something Jon’s said before. Martin shudders, and this time it truly is in fear. “We want to see.”

“Al-Alright,” he swallows thickly. “You can have it. You, you can see all you want. I won’t fight you. But, but – You have to promise me something.” The Jon on top of him crooks his head to the side in curiosity. Martin takes that as permission to keep going. “You … You have to promise to bring him back in one piece. Jon. Jonathan Sims? The man you’re- you’re living inside of right now. He’s… He’s important to me. He’s important to a lot of people.”

“We are Jon,” the thing says, all mechanical, and Martin almost has to laugh. He barely restrains himself. “We became Jon, Jon became us.”

“S-S-Sure,” Martin stammers out. Now that the reality of the situation’s kicked in, it feels a whole less threatening. He’s just helping out Jon. “But- But the Jon from before? The one from, ummm, five minutes ago? That Jon? I would like him back, please. He’s important to me.”

“He’s important to us.”

‘Oh please,’ Martin wants to angrily retort. ‘He’s as important to you as a finely tailored suit is to a businessman. You wouldn’t give a damn if you ruined it, tore him away at the seams. You’d just get another.’

But he doesn’t have a death wish. At least not anymore.

“A-Alright then,” is what he says instead, trying to appease to a God. To fear itself. It feels surreal, but when is his life not? “That’s – Glad we got that settled. Ummm, so he’s important to both of us. That’s good… I, I would still like him back, please.”

The Jon on top of him just grunts in annoyance. He still hasn’t moved an inch, Martin’s not sure he’s even breathing. He’s still as a statue, back completely straight. God, Jon, what happened to you…

Martin tries to go for boldness. “I, I won’t give you my statement, my memories, if you don’t promise. Promise me, okay? You leave him alone. Just for a bit. You let him be. After… After I’ve fed you.”

He expects a snarl, expects claws tearing at his flesh, taking what they want even without his consent, because this is a God, for Christ’s sake. What does a weak human promise mean to the Eye? Absolutely nothing. Martin seems probable more like an ant to this, to this thing than anything remotely worth listening to. This entity that’s decided to shove itself into the tiny body of a human, just to see how it would feel to walk in this skin. So that’s what he expects, what he prepares himself for.

He doesn’t expect the Eye to nod. “We promise.”

Martin exhales in relief. “Alright… Where do we begin?”

 

--

 

The first thing he realizes after waking up is that there’s no longer a weight sitting on his lap. The next is that his head is hammering like someone’s jabbed an ice pick in it, which ought to be expected. He did just … suffer through whatever the hell that had been. It hadn’t been… entirely unpleasant, but it at times also had felt like being peeled like an onion. Being probed and prodded, and not in the- not in any pleasant way. His neck is also incredibly stiff, and he’s cold. Lying on a wooden floor isn’t as fun as he’d pictured it.

The very last thing he hears is the crying. It takes him even longer to figure out where it comes from.

“Jon,” Martin exhales in relief, looking at the man sat down next to him. He’s shuffled away from him, but still close enough to touch if necessary. His tears barely make a sound, but just the fact that his eyes aren’t as large as life as they had been before fills him with relief. The other eyes are also gone. It’s just Jon now, the Jon he knows. Martin smiles a genuine, albeit tired, smile. “You came back.”

“Why-Why would you do that?” Jon asks, looking at Martin as if he’s made a mistake. He looks good though, or at least not hungry anymore, which Martin counts as a win for himself. He understands where the anger is coming from. “A-Are you insane?

Martin shrugs. “Don’t think so.”

“Wh-What – I, I mean … What?” Poor him, Jon looks more out of the loop than Martin is. He’s surprisingly calm considering. His face won’t stop smiling for some dumb reason. “I could have- could have killed you, I-“ Martin just takes his hand, the left one, the one that he knows aches less, and considers that his answer. That shuts him up, Jon freezing like a deer caught in headlights. Martin isn’t holding it, not yet, or intertwining their fingers, even though he really, really wants to. For now, he just places his palm on Jon’s and wills his warmth to flow through to him. His fingers are freezing.

“It’s okay,” he says, because he feels like it needs saying. “Truly, it, it is. It… It wasn’t all that bad.” He snorts, feeling a little lightheaded. “It… it tickled.”

“What?” Jon asks but doesn’t recoil or free his hand. Martin scoots closer, just so he doesn’t have to stretch his arm out that much. He’s stopped crying. Martin desperately wants to wipe his tears away, though he knows they’re not that far yet. If they ever will be. Martin hopes so.

Martin shrugs again in explanation. “It felt… It felt excited. I don’t, don’t know how to explain it. Yeah, it wasn’t great, but there was a certain… a kind of giddiness to it.” He smiles weakly. “Reminded me of a kid in a park… Okay, you know how you feel when your parents took you to the carnival for the first time?” Jon just blinks at him, perplexed. Must be a no, then. Martin stores that information away for later. “That’s what it felt like. Excitement. Eagerness to learn, to try out all the roller coasters. I think the Eye’s quite new to this.” He laughs again. Can’t help it. “I didn’t even have to tell my story, it just … opened up my brain and gently collected the threads of it for me. It was honestly probably the better experience I’ve had with. With the Gods.” He wonders how much gentleness, how much care not to hurt him, had come from Jon and not the Eye. Quite a lot, most likely.

“Huh,” Jon just says, as if he didn’t quite hear him.

He’s suddenly acutely aware of two things: 1. Jon knows his entire life story now, or at least the supernatural parts, and 2. His foot has started falling asleep and it feels a little like ants are walking under his skin. Martin starts blushing furiously from ear to ear. “Umm, Jon?” He starts, clearing his throat but not yet letting go of his hand. “Could we- Do you think we… Can you stand?”

Jon widens his eyes in all the ways that make him Jon, scrambling up on his feet. “Of- Of course, I, I’m sorry, I… Your neck must be, must be cramping up. I, uh…” He almost trips. It’s endearing as all hell.

Martin just smiles and follows him back to his feet. It feels weird to stand after such a long time spent lying on the floor. With someone, someone else on top of him … Martin shakes the thought away hastily.

“Martin… How are you feeling?”

How is he feeling? Hmm. “I feel … fine. Not worse off than before. I mean… Yeah. That’s how I feel.” He laughs but accidentally starts coughing. Okay, maybe a little worse for wear. “I,” he wheezes, and Jon is looking at him as if he might die at any moment from a scratchy throat. “I might need a glass of water.”

Jon’s answer is faster than lightning speed. Martin barely has time to blink before a full glass of pure, cold tap water is thrust in his hands, almost a little too enthusiastically.

“H-Here,” Jon says, panting. From the looks of him, he could also use a glass, though Martin doesn’t push.

“… Thanks.” He drinks and the water feels like heaven sliding down his throat. He hadn’t had to talk before, but it feels like he did. Like he’d been monologuing for ages and now his body’s spent. Jon looks at him drinking the water all the while, probably follows the movement his Adam’s apple makes with his eyes. His one pair. It’s… it’s not unwelcome. He finishes the glass in one go, decides to hold it in his hands just so he has something to do with them. Jon isn’t saying anything, just looking at him curiously, which makes Martin … not nervous, but uncomfortable. Just a little. “So…” He starts, just so he has something to say. He doesn’t finish his sentence though, just lets it hang in the air.

Jon picks up the strand. “Why aren’t you running?”

Martin blinks dumbly. “What? Why on earth would I do that?” Why should he ever feel the need to run? From Jon? It doesn’t make any sense in his mind.

Jon just looks at him like he can’t believe what he’s seeing like he’s not real. It’s an intense stare that almost drives Martin to back away a little. Almost. He stays rooted right where he is.

“It’s… Look, it’s not like I hadn’t had my suspicions. I understand why you, why you didn’t come to me, though, I mean. It’s not like I gave you any reason to, to want to confide in me these last few months. And I’m sorry about that. But I did see what- how you got us out. I just… I didn’t want to pressure you, and then we spent all this time crammed together on that train, and then we arrived here and there was only one bed, and then we had to buy groceries, and then.” He’s rambling. He tends to do that. “It just never came up.”

“Me being a horrifying monster never came up?”

“You’re not a monster, Jon,” he replies, walking closer. He needs him to hear this, needs this to get through his thick skull. “That wasn’t you. That was- that was the Eye.”

“You don’t know that,” Jon whispers. He looks close to crying again.

“You’re right, I don’t. But if, if it was? Then that’d be alright, too. We’ll deal with it.”

What he doesn’t say is that he finds the whole transformation quite… beautiful. In a grotesque sort of way. Martin’s always liked Jon’s eyes, the colour of them, the shape. And now he has more of them to look at. Yes, it might be … unorthodox, but. Nothing makes sense in the world they occupy, not anymore. Jon just has more eyes now. That’s okay. Why on earth would that bother him?

Jon looks as if he heard all that. “Martin,” he whispers, tentatively. Gently. There’s a hint of fear in his voice. “Can I- Can I kiss you?”

Oh.

Martin doesn’t know what to say. Not, it’s not like they haven’t… they haven’t kissed. They have. It’s just been… sparse. In the confines of their bedroom, when one of them had had a nightmare and could barely breathe. When Martin woke up with burning loneliness etched down to his very bones, shivering all over, Jon would engulf him like a blanket and kiss his entire body, whispering “It’s okay, you’re okay, I’m here, we’re fine” over and over. And yes, sometimes he would kiss his lips, but… He’s not exactly sure how they even agreed on this method of comfort, it just happened organically, not that he’s complaining. It’s just … when he gets like this, it’s hard to feel anything as real. To be present in the moment. It’s like there’s a fog surrounding him, and Jon is merely kissing the air.

He hasn’t consciously felt Jon’s lips on his own. And that’s new. Does he want to, though? Abso fucking lutely. But Martin is also acutely aware that, that he tends to have bad breath and that he, he hasn’t brushed his teeth in over… What? 7 hours? He hasn’t even got a mint. So his breath must reek.

“Oh,” Martin exhales, red as a tomato. Jon is still patiently waiting for him, for his answer. Like he’s been doing for the last few months. God, he loves this man. “I … I mean, y-yes, if, if you want to?”

That’s all the answer Jon needs apparently, lunging forward and grabbing Martin by the cheeks and kissing him. All the air leaves Martin’s lungs. He lets the glass fall, though he can’t hear it shatter on the ground. Too focused on… on the warm lips pressing down on his own. They’re a little bigger than his own, Jon’s upper lip is in between Martin’s. He’s half kissing his chin. Or well, it’s not so much a kiss as it is … it is Jon pressing his lips to Martin’s, not moving. The pressure is almost a little too much accompanied by the death grip Jon has on his head. Like he wants Martin to know. To thank him. However awkward and stilted it is at first. Both of them still have their eyes open, looking cross-eyed at each other.

They stand like that for a few seconds, just pressing their lips together. It should be awkward, but it isn’t. It isn’t.

It’s probably the best kiss Martin’s ever had, just because it’s Jon. He hasn’t had that many. Jon’s not the only one out of practice between the two of them. But that doesn’t mean he’s not willing to learn. So he gently, praying that his breath doesn’t taste nearly as bad as he fears, opens his mouth and starts nibbling on Jon’s upper lip. Starts sucking. Easing some of the pressure.

The reaction is instantaneous, Jon melts around him like butter. His lips reply a second later. Not letting go of his cheeks, but… stroking them a little. Cusping Martin’s head as if it’s precious. As if he’s precious. It’s so sweet, so gentle, that Martin almost wants to fall back down to the floor. He grabs Jon’s shoulders, holding on for dear life, then lets his fingers travel down until they’ve found his waist and squeeze. God, his waist is so – It’s. It’s interesting. If Jon lets go of him now, stops kissing him, he is going to fall on his ass and will die of embarrassment.

But Jon doesn’t stop kissing him. He just creeps closer, moves along with Martin’s hands like a cat, craning to get more in his space. It’s only when their bellies start pressing together that they realize. Just how good this feels. How right. Martin isn’t sure who it is, but one of them sighs into the kiss like they’ve been waiting for this for ages. It’s Jon. It must have been Jon. Because when Martin starts moving next, starts repositioning their lips, he suddenly has a little more room to work with. Because Jon’s mouth is hanging open slightly like he’s waiting for him what to do. It’s almost a question.

Martin smiles into the kiss and decides to answer. He’s … He’s not very good at French kissing, he’ll admit. But he has enthusiasm and patience, which should make up for it. So he puts Jon’s bottom lip in between his own and pulls. Jon follows his command immediately, grunting very quietly.

The next time their upper lips connect, Jon’s is still hanging open considerably. If it were anyone else, Martin would feel bad for taking control, gingerly placing his tongue inside and giving his upper lip a little flick. It’s not anyone else though, and Jon actually moans at that. Which is… not expected, but entirely welcome. The sound makes his own body run hot, like a current. He hugs Jon closer towards his body, almost completely engulfs him in a bear hug. It’s still not enough, he wishes he could crawl inside and make his home in Jon’s warm skin, however creepy that sounds. Jon doesn’t find it creepy apparently, because he slides his one hand down towards the nape of Martin’s neck and squeezes just as hard. Takes hold of his neck hair and pulls a little.

Martin almost yelps, just narrowly missing it by pushing his tongue back inside Jon’s mouth. God, he hopes that Jon didn’t hear that, but judging from the smug grin he can feel, he most certainly did. Jon snickers in between breaths. Martin just starts sucking on his lip again, telepathically telling him to shut up.

Jon follows his command. God, the hand on his neck is so warm. Jon is so warm, it’s intoxicating. For all his scars, which they both share enough of, he is incredibly soft. He wishes Jon didn’t wear a stupid shirt though, because that leaves him with precious little exposed skin. He doesn’t even feel sorry for the bastard when he decides to let his hands snake its way under his shirt, making Jon yelp visibly. Serves him right for that move earlier.

Jon separates them just a breath, just enough to whisper “You’re cold” into Martin’s lip that has already taken a hold of his again. Yes, he is. Martin Blackwood has always run cold, especially his hands. If he didn’t know any better, he’d say he was a vampire. ‘Cold hands warm heart’ his grandmother always used to say. He just thinks it’s got something to do with his blood circulation, that’s all. Not some secrete metaphor about his empathy.

Martin just grunts, annoyed, and places his hands more firmly on Jon’s exposed, warm skin. The touch feels like it burns but in a good way. “Deal with it.”

Jon laughs and starts wrapping his arms securely around Martin’s neck. “I,” he says in between shallow kisses and grins, “I think-“

“Shut up,” Martin pants, and meaning it. “Or I’ll put my hands worse places.”

That hadn’t meant to be a turn on, it’d been meant as a joke truthfully. Martin wouldn’t do that. But Jon responds to that statement like fire, widening his eyes a little and going back in like his life depends on it. He honest to God moans again, which Martin wants to hear again, over and over, until his ears fall off. They’re both a little overwhelmed.

Jon pushes his fingers into the neckline of Martin’s shirt, feeling for his shoulder bone, just as he reciprocates the French kissing from earlier and licks Martin’s lower lip, warm and fast, just for a second, before he retreats. Both of those moves combined have Martin losing his mind and he’s positive he might never get over this. A small part of his conscience also thinks ‘God, I hope I don’t have anymore back acne’ and he almost wants to laugh. He doesn’t.

His hands land on something on Jon’s skin underneath his shirt, where his shoulder blade should be. It’s… a little bump. Like a pimple, but bigger. Now that he feels it, he can feel the other bumps as well, littered all over Jon’s body. His closed eyes. Martin opens his eyes, coming to a halt. He’s trying to gauge Jon’s reaction, trying to see if he’s embarrassed or scared. He doesn’t want to do anything Jon doesn’t want to do, and he feels like this is different from just regular making out.

Jon’s eyes in his head open wide, along with the ones located on his neck. The eye Martin is currently cupping with his hand is mercifully closed, he doesn’t want to jab his eye or anything. Its eyelids flutter inconspicuously, though. Like it doesn’t know what is happening. Jon looks mortified. “I’m, I’m sorry…” he stammers out, trying to untangle his arms from Martin’s neck. Martin doesn’t let him, just closes the gap between them and gently connecting their foreheads, nuzzling closer to him like a cat.

“Don’t be,” Martin whispers into the space between them. He means it. “You have nothing to apologize for.”

“It …” Jon exhales shakily. “It must seem … grotesque.”

Martin smiles and through a spout of bravery, decides to gently rub circles into the closed eyelid. Jon’s owns flutter shut for a moment in ecstasy, just a second before he’s back again, which he takes as a good thing. “It’s a little,” he admits, then smiles harder. “But I like it.”

“What?” Jon looks at him as if he’s speaking in tongues.

Martin grins. “Jon, I … Surely I’ve told you this, but… I’ve always liked your eyes. Your eye colour. And this… this doesn’t have to change anything. Not if you don’t want it to.” It could if Jon said anything. Martin would just leave the room to wait for him to compose himself and then return. And it’d be like nothing ever happened. But he wants him to know that it doesn’t have to be like that.

“Well, then…” Jon looks conflicted, but not scared. That’s a good thing. “It saddens me to tell you that you have abysmal taste. My eye colour is incredibly boring.”

Martin laughs loudly in response to that. It is true. His taste has never been the best to hold up under scrutiny. “I like you.”

“Case in point.”

They both grin and smile at each other, like a couple of teenagers. The eyes on Jon’s neck blink at him, which prompts Martin to ask: “Do you… I mean, do you think that … it will want to… participate?”

Jon gives him a Look. “Are you asking me if you think The Eye will want to possess me again to snog the living hell out of you?” Well, if he put it like that. Martin winces. “The answer’s no. No, it won’t. I think…” Jon snorts. “I think I’ll be able to restrain its raging crush on you at the moment.”

Martin smiles warmly down at him, back to nuzzling his head. God, Jon’s so warm all over. It’s incredibly intoxicating, and Martin never wants to stop. “Good,” he says. “Because I’m probably the single most monogamous person you will ever meet.”

Jon just laughs harder at that.

 


 

It’s only after when they’re both enjoying the quiet of the cabin while wrapped around each other on the frankly less than stellar couch, that Martin dares to address what’s been bugging him for a while. Jon’s hair is still ruffled, as is his shirt, and his lips are red and slightly swollen. He’s smiling, as well, while reading his book about ancient mummification (seriously? Out of all the books in the cabin?). It’s a good look on him. Martin muses he must look the same, although his tongue is also swollen from Jon accidentally biting down on it during their… their kissing. Martin had just wanted to deepen the kiss, and Jon had. Well. He’d apologized profusely for it, “just instincts”, which in turn had just made Martin laugh harder. He might have a slight lisp now but detecting errors in one’s voice is always incredibly hard. He doesn’t care either way.

Jon’s legs have been positioned on Martin’s lap and he’s absentmindedly stroking his left ankle while reading. He’s only half interested in this copy of Louise Glück’s Meadowlands, though. He has something else on his mind.

“Jon?”

“Hmm?” Jon’s expression is so open now, all the time. It makes Martin’s heart swell uncontrollably as if he might combust.

“I …” God, how does he say this? Where does he start? “I just… I wanted. I wanted to… to apologize.”

“Oh,” Jon exhales, perplex. “For what?”

Martin sighs forcefully. “I – I wasn’t there for you when all this… first took place. I know that, that you don’t need me to hold your hand or anything, but… I’m just sad I wasn’t able to be there for you.”

“Oh,” he repeats, clearly at a loss. “That’s… That’s alright. I mean, you couldn’t have known.”

That thought doesn’t comfort him. “Still. You deserved people who were there for you.”

“So did you. And actually…” Jon laughs bitterly, suddenly remembering something. “I wasn’t completely alone. Elias was there for me.” That name is filled with bitterness and Martin knows something happened there, knows that it was bad.

“What did he do?” he asks, clenching his teeth. Elias is still a sore spot for him, as it is for Jon. No matter how many months he’s rotted in prison now.

Jon coughs looks down at his hands. “He… He paid me a visit. Clarified a few things for me, how… how I came to be… this. It’s almost, almost as if he took credit for it as if I was his property.” Martin clenches his fist. “Then he let me down a less than admirable route. Should have known, but I … I didn’t think. I was desperate.” He’s gotten quieter with every word, another indication that whatever it had been, it had been bad. Had it been that one statement, the one with the girl in the café? Martin knows, he knows now how hard it’d been, so…

“It wasn’t your fault,” he replies, almost automatically.

Jon just snorts bitterly. “I think self-mutilation counts as mistakes entirely born out of my bad decisions, Martin. No one put the knife in my hand.”

Wait, hold up. Back the bloody hell up. “You- You what?” Jon is quiet, awfully quiet, and doesn’t respond even when Martin squeezes his ankle in a silent question. Martin looks at him, really looks, scans his entire body for scars, for anything that might require medical attention. “Why, how could you?”

“With breaks in between,” Jon replies sarcastically. “I kept passing out.”

Martin makes to stand up, but he can’t because of the weight on his lap. So he chooses instead to glare him from this position. “This isn’t funny, Jon. What. Did. You. Do.”

Jon doesn’t reply straight away, apparently battling for words. His face has started to ashen as if the sheer memory is enough to bring him to his knees. That’s something, at least. Remorse. “It’s surprisingly easy to spool out your eye out of your socket, did you know that?”

He… What… Oh. Oh, God. He’s… He’s getting nauseous just thinking about it. “Oh, Jesus-“

“Don’t worry, the Eye punished me plenty for it. I’ve learned my lesson.”

Martin shakes his head feverishly, trying to banish the image out of his head. He doesn’t want to think about how low Jon must have felt, how … Oh. Oh. Shit. Shit.

“You came to me before, didn’t you?” Jon doesn’t answer, which is reply enough. “My God, Jon, I-“ He couldn’t have known. Couldn’t have. So why is he still feeling like he failed, all this time? Like all his scheming had been for nothing? What’s the point of working for Peter Lukas if Jon suffered, nonetheless?

“You mustn’t,” Jon stammers out, seemingly backtracking from his earlier statements. “You couldn’t have known! And anyway, I- It all healed, see! All the damn eyes grew back all the same, so I didn’t even bother with a second try.”

Martin shudders. As if that’s what he’s upset about. “That’s not the point.”

“Martin, please, it’s not-“

“If you say you carving out your own eyes was no big deal, or that I needn’t have bothered, then I swear to god, Jon, I will push you off this couch! Christ!” Jon is quiet after that, looking at him with big eyes. “It’s not about punishment! Or what the Eye wants, or, or Elias!” He’s gesturing wildly, well aware he’s screaming. “It’s about you endangering your life thinking no one would care, time and time again, just to what? To make a point?”

“I wasn’t-“

“Did you not think of what would happen if you hadn’t woken up? After I … I swear to God, Jonathan Sims, you are insufferable.”

“I’m sorry-“

“I’ve lost you once already. You were lying dead in a hospital room for six months, and now that you- you…” Martin needs to calm down, his voice keeps shaking suspiciously. He doesn’t want to cry right now; he’s always hated being the first one to bawl during fights. It defeats his whole argument.

He pushes Jon’s legs off his lap and, accompanied by Jon’s surprised yelp, scoots closer to cup his face in his hands urgently. Jon looks at him like… like he can’t believe what he’s seeing. Martin is angry, but not really. Mostly he’s just terrified, terrified of Jonathan Sims’ callousness for his own life. It’s something he’s had a problem with for a while. “Jon,” he exhales urgently, trying to make him see. “Don’t you realize how important you are to a whole lot of people? To me?”

Jon’s voice is shaking. “I…”

Martin laughs out an exhale, shaking his head. “For such a smart person, you really are stupid sometimes. It’s not about any repercussions with your deity, it’s about me not wanting to see you hurt. Hurt yourself. Because you don’t deserve it, you don’t.” He nuzzles his cheek against Jon’s, closing his eyes while Jon’s remain open and wide-eyed. “Please don’t mess with your eyes again, alright? For me.”

Jon swallows thickly, and when he speaks it’s clear that he’s trying not to cry: “I didn’t… didn’t realize you liked them this much.”

Martin laughs wetly, wiping his own wet cheek with his sleeves. “Told you,” he sniffles. “They hold a certain charm.”

“Martin,” Jon whispers, separating their faces if only to look him in the eyes. Jon’s eyes are suspiciously wet, and Martin swears he can almost pinpoint the exact locations his other eyes had occupied earlier. He wants to trace the spots with his lips now that they’re vacant, wants to see if they’ll reveal themselves for him yet again. Later. “I… Martin.” It’s clear what he wants to say, both of them know it, and yet. Yet. It’s not that easy, at least not to Jon, who is clinging to words that fly away from him as soon as he tries to put them in his mouth. “Martin.” Martin smiles.

“Yeah,” Martin replies, sniffling. He laughs. “Yeah.”

He reconnects their foreheads, willing Jon to understand, and lets their unspoken words fall over them like waves in the tide. They’ll catch them someday. He’s sure they will.

They’ve got time.

 


 

"I’ll give you my heart to make a place

for it to happen, evidence of a love that transcends hunger.

Is that too much to expect? That I would name the stars

for you? That I would take you there?"

Snow and Dirty Rain, Richard Siken