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A Becoming

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Jon’s back itched.

 

More than that, it burned.

 

It was a horrible, rolling pain that started at his neck and spiked down his shoulder blades, settling in the small of his back. Jon had felt pain before, but that was all short term. Sure, it took a week or two for the burns to stop hurting, and sure, the worm holes took time to scab over, but this was different. This pain was deeper. With every wave of agony, his heart and stomach seized as well. It was a twisting living pain. He felt like there was something living under his skin, and he hated the memory of worms that were drawn to his mind.

 

Through hot and unbidden tears, the light on his clock was blurry and distant. He focused harder on the point, and the familiar static of Knowing filled his ears.

 

It’s 5 AM, he Knew.

 

He rolled up onto his elbows with a groan, the popping of his back bringing a new wave of pain that left him gasping. His vision bordered on flickering out, but he steadied his mind with a deep breath. Sliding out from underneath the covers was another chore entirely, one that left him damp and sticky with sweat.

 

He stumbled to the bathroom in a haze of static, not even bothering to turn on the light as he pulled his clothes over his head. The face that looked back at him in the mirror was bleary with tears, his eyebags sunken and dark. The grey streaks in his hair seemed more pronounced, somehow. Small, white scars mottled his cheeks and neck, and he shuddered at the memory of crawling, digging worms.

 

I’ll take a look at my back after I get myself clean, he thought, pulling himself into the shower. There’s no use trying while I’m half asleep.

 

The water came cold and fast, and the usually unbearable temperature was soothing on his burning skin. He let out a small, aching sigh, letting the water flow over him. The water ran clear with no sign of blood, which was always a good sign. He stood like that for an unknown amount of time, just letting the water soothe his pain.

 

When he stepped out of the shower, the sun was just barely peeking over the horizon. He flicked the light on, squinting at the fluorescent light now reflecting off the tiled floor. He padded to the mirror on cold, bare feet and bore his back to it with a sigh.

 

The skin was pink and irritated, a horrible mottling bruise spreading over his shoulder blades and upper back. When he tentatively pressed a hand into it, the pain was immediate and blinding. He forced himself to feel it further, tracing the circumference of the bruise.

 

What he found did not comfort him in the slightest.

 

Right below each shoulder blade was a small, hard lump. These spots were nearly twice as tender to touch as the rest of his back, and he left them alone after the pain made his vision flash with stars. Each… nub? Growth? ... was about the size of his fist. And they itched. The relief from the water was quickly wearing off, and Jon pulled his hand away from his back so as to not irritate it further.

 

He made eye contact with his reflection, who looked just as ragged as he felt. He steeled himself for what he knew he would have to do, watching the eyes in the mirror glow with a faint green light. He shut them tight and forced himself to Know.

 

A beat. And then two. He opened his eyes again, panic seeping into his mind.

 

How do I not Know? He thought, his inner voice frantic. I should be able to See what they are, why can’t I?

 

He sunk to his knees on the bathroom floor, pressing his hands to his face.

 

Jon. Take deep breaths. He inhaled for a few long, shaky seconds, and then let out the air with a gasping sigh. Think. Think, Jon. Use your brain that is perfectly functional without your inhuman Knowing. You are completely capable of figuring this out on your own.

 

He wasn’t.

 

By the time he had to leave for work, he had made absolutely no leeway. His “abilities” wouldn’t tell him about the growths, and no amount of research would help him with something that was so obviously supernatural. He resigned himself to going to work as usual, hoping that the pain wouldn’t strike up as harshly as it had in the morning.

 

I’ve endured worse pain than this on company time, he thought with a sigh. This is just as per usual in my line of work.

 

He pulled on an old, baggy sweater, reluctantly deciding that comfort trumped his all important steel Archivist reputation at this point in time. He tried in vain to get his hair to even resemble neatness, before giving up and tying it all up into a loose braid.

 

And, as he left the door, he had one last, begrudging thought. Perhaps I have no choice but to ask Elias about it. He dreaded the smug look on the bastard’s face, but he Knew with a certainty that the man would be the person to ask. If only anything was ever easy.




 

Jon’s back had begun to itch again by the time he had reached the Institute, and he was immediately thankful for the decision to wear a loose fitting shirt. Every brush against the fabric sent a horrible twinge down his spine, and he’d rather not wince in front of his co-workers. Best to not welcome unwarranted concern, he thought, frowning at the door to Martin’s office.

 

He pushed through the door of the archives with minimal pain, settling into his seat without so much as a peep from his assistants. That was helped, of course, by the fact that it was an hour before any of his workers got to work on a good day, but that wasn’t the point.

 

Maybe a nice statement will make me feel better, he thought, reaching for the pile of papers on his desk. 

 

He was interrupted, however, by a swift rap on the door to his office. Faint static filled his ears, unbiddenly supplying him with the name Elias. He stood but did not reach to open the door.

 

“Elias. Come in,” he said, a hint of impatience leaking into his tone. He had been looking forward to reading a statement, too. Bother.

 

The gangly man stepped through the door with detestable grace, a simpering smile already on his face. “Archivist. I believe you wanted to see me?” His voice was smooth and even, and the sound of it filled Jon with disgust.

 

Jon shot him a glare, pushing down his discomfort at being read so easily.

 

“Yes, I was going to go talk to you. After I had taken a statement first. A bit eager to see me, Elias? ” He pushed his disgust into the man’s name, enunciating it in three sharp syllables.

 

The man gave him another tight smile, closing the door behind him. “Why would I not be eager, Jonathan?” He took a step closer, already reaching a hand towards Jon’s back. “When you’re going through such an interesting development?”

 

Jon flinched from his touch, crossing his arms over his chest. “As it turns out, you seem to be the only one who can help me with my…” He paused. “ Problem. I assume whatever is happening is your doing?”

 

Elias laughed at that, a lilting and horrible noise that made Jon’s hair stand on end. “Why Archivist! You give me much too much credit. This is all the Beholding’s doing, of course!”

 

Jon grimaced. “Are you actually going to tell me, or is this another of those situations where I have to figure it out on my own? ” He said the last bit in a mockery of Elias’ tight accent, but the man seemed to not notice.

 

Jonathan. I’m sure you already Know how I am going to reply to that.” Elias gave him a condescending smile, and Jon desperately wanted to slap it off of his face.

 

“...I need to experience this on my own in order to grow stronger,” Jon groaned.

 

“Exactly, Archivist! Now, I do believe you had a statement to get to.” Elias left with a short clap, only turning back to give him a deep and pointed look that Jon could feel in his bones.

 

“Get out of my head, Elias. ” He slammed the door behind the man, returning to his desk with an aching sigh. This is going to be a very long day.

 


 

He was shaken from his work by a knock at the door, and he was shocked to realize that had nearly been an hour since he had first sat down at his desk. Static came unbidden to his ears, and he was saying, “Come in, Martin,” before he could even think.

 

Martin opened his door with a gentle click , balancing three mugs of tea in his other arm. “Um… Tea’s up, Jon,” he mumbled, shuffling the mugs around in his arms. His hands finally closed around Jon’s mug, a green one covered in eyes that Jon bought in a spurt of spontaneity that surprised even himself. He placed the steaming mug carefully next to Jon’s stack of statements, but hesitated by the door instead of immediately leaving like he usually did.

 

“Thank you, Martin.”  He looked up over his glasses at the man still in his doorway, putting down the statement he had been holding. “Do you need something?”

 

“Well! Um… it’s just that… um…” Martin stumbled over his words, fiddling with the mugs in his hands.

 

Spit it out, Martin.” Jon pushed a bit more compulsion into the words than he had meant to, and Martin’s eyes glazed over slightly as his words came unbidden from his throat.

 

“Tim, Sasha, and I are going out for… we’re going out for drinks after work. I wondered if… if you would want to join us,” He said flatly, before his hand sprang up to cover his mouth. “Oh! Um… yeah, sorry. I know it’s not usually your thing, but…” His face was red around his hand, and his words came muffled through his fingers. “I… We haven’t seen much of you lately. It’d be…. Nice.” He was already inching towards the door, clearly expecting to be told off by Jon.

 

Hmm. Perhaps I could use a break, Jon thought with a smile. He looked up at Martin and gave a slight nod. “Yes. I suppose I could spare some free time after work, if you will have me.”

 

Martin’s face split into a wide grin at that, and he backed out of the door with tea in hand. “That’s… That’s great, Jon! I’ll tell the others! Thank you!”

Jon sipped at his tea with a soft smile, returning to the documents in hand. He scratched at his back absentmindedly, wincing when his hand hit one of the lumps. Are they… getting bigger? He frowned, removing his hand from his back with a grimace. I’ll… Worry about it when I get home. No use risking my assistants getting involved.

 

Up in his office, Elias let his face break into a cold grin. This is going to be interesting.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

It was Tim that finally forced him out of his office. Jon had gotten so caught up in his work that he hadn’t even realized it was almost 8 pm until he Saw Tim outside his door. He lifted his eyes blearily, welcoming the man in before he even knocked.

 

“Come in, Tim.” His voice was slightly raspy from hours of disuse, but the man outside his door heard him loud and clear.

 

Tim stepped into the room, spring in his step despite the skeptical look he was shooting Jon. “You have to stop doing that, bossman.” His face split into a relaxed smirk, and he leaned against Jon’s desk. “We’re all completely capable of knocking.” To drive home his point, he rapped his knuckles lightly on the mahogany. “Anyway, it’s late. You gonna keep us waiting or what?”

 

Jon realized with a start that he had actually agreed to go drinking with them that night, and he stood up from his chair with a groan. His back made a sickening popping noise, and all at once a wave of pain shot up his spine that left him gasping. Tim was at his side in an instant.

 

“Whoa there, Johnny! You alright?” His voice was light and cheery, but there was a clear undercurrent of concern.

 

“I’m… quite alright, Tim,” Jon groaned, straightening back up. “My back is just still from sitting in the same position all day.” Not... quite a lie. The muscles on his back were indeed stiff, but the writhing, cracking pain in his shoulder blades was not from bad posture. 

 

“Just let me get my things together, I will join you in a moment.” He shot a pointed look at Tim, who got the memo and left the office without much fuss.

 

If that had been Martin, I wouldn’t have heard the last of it… he thought, offhandedly, as he shoved a handful of statements into his bag. Might as well bring some of these home with me. Who knows how much energy I’m going to need to get through whatever’s going on with my… 

 

He shook the thought away. Worry about it later, Jon. Try and actually have fun tonight, for once.

 


 

Jon found himself squeezed between two of his coworkers in a warm, bustling bar. Martin was a warm, soft figure on his right, and Sasha was an energetic and bony figure ( gods, those elbows- ) on his left. The woman in question was currently engaged in colorful conversation with Tim, who was, at this point, quite tipsy. Martin was watching the conversation with an amused look on his face, sipping at his drink in a measured fashion. And Jon was… painfully out of place.

 

Georgie and Melanie sat across from him, close together despite Tim leaving them plenty of room. Melanie was chattering to Georgie about her most recent ghost encounter and Georgie was watching her with a fond gaze, a soft smile on her face.

 

“And then… then! She pulled out a knife on me! And I said to her… I said to her this is a bit forward for our first date -”

 

Sasha shook with hearty laughter, waving her arms with reckless abandon as she wove her tale. Jon caught another elbow to the side and edged slightly further into Martin.

 

Georgie’s face broke into a mischievous grin, and she leaned forward onto the table. “Did I ever tell you about Jon and my first date? He actually asked me what books I had been reading . Like, who takes a girl to a bookshop on the first date?” 

 

She laughed, a bubbly sound that prompted laughter from the others around the table. Jon smiled stiffly at her statement, giving her a tight smile and a tense laugh. Melanie raised her eyebrows at Georgie, and then began to tell the table a very heartwarming story about how the two of them met, shooting exaggeratedly judgy glances at Jon.

 

He tuned her out, sliding down further into his seat.

 

Martin shot him a small look and an even smaller smile. “Are you doing okay, Jon?” His voice was nearly a whisper, but Jon Knew what he had said easily enough.

 

“I’m alright, Martin,” He replied, straightening in his seat. “I’m… not usually the type for social situations like this. I apologize if I’m boring you all.”

 

Sasha turned from her story to give Jon a hearty laugh and slap on the back, making him splutter on his drink.

 

“Not at all, boss! Honestly didn’t think you had it in ya to come with us!” She gave him a theatrical wink, and Jon realized just how many drinks she had had. Tim laughed at her antics, waving at her to calm down.

 

“Sasha, we should get you home. I think you’ve had a few too many, huh?” Tim said, repressing a giggle.

 

“I can take another!!” Sasha shouted, pumping a fist into the air. Melanie and Georgie laughed from where they had been leaning against each other, and the air grew warm and comfortable as Jon watched his co-workers banter.

 

He actually found himself… jealous of how well they got along. He had never been the type to socialize with his assistants outside of work, and as a result ended up being fairly left out of whatever conversation they were now having. So, as he often found himself doing these days, Jon resigned himself to watching. I won't capital-w Watch, he reminded himself. I’m just… curious about my assistants, that’s all.

 

He noted the way Melanie sunk into Georgie’s side, the two of them laughing and sharing their own private jokes. He saw the way Tim’s eyes gleamed when watching Sasha rant, and the way Sasha focused all of her stories on him. He noticed the way Martin watched the couples in longing, the way he didn’t contribute much to the conversation, the way he seemed to curl in on himself.

 

And Jon couldn’t stop the static filling his ears.

 

Martin’s mother dismissing him as he proudly held up a report card. Birthday invitations passed around a class to everyone but him. The backs of his friends as they talked in a tight-knit group, forgetting Martin was even there. The crushing loneliness once his mother was put into a nursing home, the caring Martin showed her that she never reciprocated. 

 

The scenes rushed through his head unbidden, and he couldn’t help but screw his eyes closed. Distantly, he could hear Martin asking him something with soft concern, but the images kept coming.

 

Martin waiting outside a house with flowers, standing there for hours as the flowers wilted in his grip. Martin crying alone in his room, holding polaroids of friends who never once reached out to him after highschool. Martin watching as his co-workers all hooked up. Martin’s hopelessness, how he was convinced he would never be a part of that group. Martin’s boss, dismissing him every morning after his delivery of tea and the yearning Martin-

 

Jon pushed as hard as he could, finally managing to dispel the thoughts before they revealed too much. The damage was done, though. The table had gone silent, all of its occupants staring at Jon with… concern? He realized that he had been holding his hands over his ears and lowered them slowly.

 

“I… um... sorry. It’s been… a busy week.”

 

That seemed to put them off well enough, and they went back to their chatter with gusto. Martin, on the other hand, was still fixing Jon with that horribly caring stare.

 

“Are you sure you’re alright, Jon?” His voice was soft, and Jon couldn’t help but think about the Loneliness he was hiding behind those eyes.

 

“I… yes. I’m alright, Martin.”

 

Martin didn’t seem to want to let it go, but he at least stopped looking at Jon with that aching stare. Jon felt guilt curl in his stomach, horrified at the unconscious use of his powers. I’m… I’m a monster, he thought bitterly. I’ve invaded Martin’s privacy without so much of a warning.

 

He reached for his drink absentmindedly, straining his shoulder slightly as it was further away on the table than he remembered.

 

And then, there was a horrible ripping of flesh.

 

The sound split the chatter like a hot knife. It was a horrible, wet, tearing sound, and Jon wasn’t quite sure if it were him or one of his co-workers that let out a pained gasp. His back erupted in sudden, burning pain, and he lurched to his feet.

 

“I have to go to the bathroom. Please excuse me.” His words were rough and rushed, and he was already dashing away when the first of his co-workers - Martin - stood up.

 

“Jon! Wait!” He wasn’t sure who had shouted, his mind going numb with the aching and twisting pain in his back.

 

He slammed the door of the bathroom shut behind him - single occupancy, thank gods - and slumped to the floor with a groan. The hand he had pressed to his back came away slick with blood, and he could feel a thin, boney something sticking out of both nubs on his back.

 

His spine rolled with pain again, and then his vision went dark.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

The table was silent, watching Jon’s bloody, receding back in shock. Martin could feel his legs wobbling from where he was standing at the table, his throat raw from shouting after Jon. It seemed too quiet, now. The comfortable feeling around the table had died, leaving a space where there should be something warm.

 

“That was… wow. Um… what should we do about that?” Tim was the first to break the silence, swiping a hand through his now sweaty hair.



“I’m going after him.” Martin’s voice was hard and steady, and, when nobody argued, he dashed off towards the bathrooms.

 

What is happening with Jon? He thought, brain whirling. First he gives me that… that Look at the table, then that horrible tearing? His mind spun with worry for his frie- for his boss. He reached the bathroom door with a few more strides, and he knocked on it without expecting an answer.

 

None came.

 

He braced himself, breathing in deep and holding it. You can do this, Martin. He made a movement to kick the door in, then thought better of himself and tried the handle.

 

It was unlocked.

 

Jon had apparently forgotten to lock the door behind him in his haste, and Martin breathed an unsteady sigh of relief.

 

The handle was slick with blood that struck a deep chord of worry in Martin, and it slid in his hand as he turned the handle. He opened the door carefully to find that the room was pitch black, motion activated lights already off from a lack of movement. That’s worrying. They flickered on as he stepped into the room, and his eyes immediately fell on the man at his feet.

 

Oh, Jon-

 

Jon lay in a pool of his own blood, his breath ragged but still, thankfully, there. His disheveled graying hair had partially slipped from its braid, the ends slowly staining red. His glasses lay on the ground next to him, the lenses cracked and bloodied. The back of Jon’s sweater was ripped and bloody, and underneath-

 

Oh God. Underneath. What is that? Martin thought, frantic.

 

He carefully lifted Jon’s sweater over the man’s limp head, his usual embarrassment forgotten in the rush of fear that overtook his heart. It came off slowly, the blood partially sticking it to… whatever was on his back. He put his hands gently on Jon’s back as soon as the sweater was all the way off, trying not to get distracted.

 

But.. oh. The long, thin scars curving from under his chest, the marks of worms dotting his arms… the jagged mark of a knife wound on his shoulder… let alone the swirling, peeling burn on his palm and the slice across his throat... Martin traced them all  with a gentle sigh. Jon has been through so much, hasn’t he?

 

He shook himself from the thoughts. Focus, Martin! Jon is in danger.

 

He ran a careful hand down Jon’s back, stopping when he came to the… the things coming out of his shoulder blades. They were thin and painfully bony, the skin around them a bright, aching red. They seemed to be growing even as Martin watched, twisting and cracking unnaturally as they grew new joints. Martin winced, pulling his hands from the painful-looking growths.

 

He wrapped gentle arms around Jon’s thin form, lifting him carefully into his lap. Jon weighed barely nothing, and Martin could easily lift him. He inspected Jon’s face next, looking for any new injuries. There were small, crescent shaped scars under his eyes and on his forehead, but Martin passed them off.

 

Those have always been there, I’m pretty sure. At least he didn’t hit his head or anything.

 

He rose to his feet, lifting Jon as carefully as possible. He lightly grabbed the man’s glasses and sweater as well, using the latter to cover Jon’s bare torso. Martin couldn’t help but stare at the thin scars arcing across his chest, and his face flushed as soon as he realized what he was doing. Right. Cover him up, Martin. When Jon was safely cradled in his arms, he began the painful process of moving Jon somewhere… anywhere else than the bathroom floor.

 

His co-workers were understandably surprised when he returned cradling their bloody boss in his arms. Georgie and Melanie had left at some point while he was checking on Jon, but Sasha and Tim were waiting for him with concerned looks on their faces.

 

“Oh my God, what happened to him?” Sasha’s voice was high and frantic, her previous joviality completely forgotten. Tim’s face mirrored Sasha’s fear, and he stepped haltingly up to Martin.

 

“Is he… okay?” Tim said, his voice small. Despite all the shit they gave Jon, Martin could tell that the two of them actually cared about their boss. The thought would’ve brought a smile to his face in any other circumstances, but right now he only had eyes for Jon.

 

“I… I think so? He’s still… still breathing, at least, and…” He trailed off, giving Tim and Sasha a tearful look. “I don’t know… what to do.”

 

Sasha put a comforting hand on his shoulder, her voice softening. “Just… take him back to your flat, Martin. I’m sure he’ll be alright.” Her voice shook on the last sentence, but her face remained strong. Tim gave him a tight nod, wringing his hands together.

 

“In… any other circumstances, I would tease you for… for bringing your crush back to your flat.” He looked down. “I don’t think… this is the right time. Let’s go, Sasha.” He paused, shooting him a worried look. “Are you going to be okay, Martin?”

 

Martin took a deep, shaking breath as Sasha threaded her hand into Tim’s.

“Yeah. Jon and I are going to be just fine. I… no, We … will hopefully see you at work Monday.” His voice was stronger than he felt, but he managed to hold himself together as Tim and Sasha left. He followed soon after, giving profuse apologies to the staff.

 

He desperately hoped that his words would ring true.

 


 

The sun filtering through the blinds was what finally woke Martin up. His back was stiff from sleeping in his armchair, but he couldn’t bring himself to leave Jon’s side. He stretched with a wide yawn, shooting sleep-bleary eyes towards the couch next to him.

 

Jon was still unconscious, but his once ragged breathing was calm and controlled. He seemed to simply be asleep now, and that thought alone sent a wave of relief though Martin’s tense body. Martin smiled fondly at Jon, whose features seemed so… gentle as he slept.

 

Martin rose with another yawn, trudging into the kitchen with tea on his mind. After this, he decided, retrieving two mugs from the cupboard, I’m going to try and wake Jon up. He needs to eat something.

 

The kettle shrieked, and Martin poured the water over the tea bags with practiced ease. Look at me, still making tea for Jon even on the weekend. His mouth quirked up on one side, and he spooned in the sugar carefully. He gave himself two spoonfuls and a generous pour of milk, leaving Jon’s black and bitter. I have no idea how he drinks it like that, he thought with a snort, placing the mugs carefully on his coffee table.

 

He next got to work on making some breakfast, cracking a couple of eggs into the skillet and popping some toast in the toaster. He scrambled the eggs easy enough, although the toast ended up a bit dark and smoky. Room filled with the smell of burnt toast, he found himself again at Jon’s side.

 

Okay. Deep breaths, Martin. He’s going to be fine.

 

He put the plates down with a clatter, careful to not jostle the table as he knelt next to Jon. He placed a large hand on Jon’s (still bare) shoulder and gave it a gentle shake. The smaller man groaned but did not wake, rolling slightly into Martin in his sleep.

 

Martin’s heart melted, but he knew he couldn’t leave the man asleep. He shook again, this time using both hands. Jon’s eyelids fluttered, his mouth opening and mumbling something Martin couldn’t quite make out. Then, all at once, his eyes shot open.

 

All five of them.

 


 

It was very bright when he woke up.

 

The dim lights in Martin’s flat - and he Knew he was in Martin’s flat - blinded him like tiny suns. And he could see… so much further than before. It’s very difficult to describe what a widening of the field of vision looks like, but Jon knew that he could see higher above him than he normally would be able to. Lower, as well… and there was a prickling in the back of his skull that told him he had more eyes than usual.

 

He shot up with a gasp, hand immediately raising to his face. And, with it, rose the disorienting feeling of being able to see things from it. As his palm moved up to his face, part of his vision rose as well. He turned his hand to find… oh gods, another eye, embedded in the back of his hand. The tilt of his wrist tilted his vision with it, and he was even further disorientated as he could now see himself.

 

And boy, did he look like a mess.

 

Through this strange, double vision, he could see the five eyes on his face blinking incredulously at the one on his palm. The two eyes in… ‘original position’ , he guessed, were his usual warm brown. The others however… they were inhuman. Their irises were an uncanny, glowing green, and his head spun with vertigo as he locked eyes with himself. He lowered his hand very quickly. He Knew without looking that he would find an eye mirrored on his other hand, so he left his hands dutifully in his lap.

 

A shifting next to him brought that intense gaze up to Martin, who flinched under his unconscious scrutiny. The man was staring in open shock at Jon, his mouth opening and closing without any words coming out.

 

“I… I um… I made some tea.”

 


 

Chapter Text


 

Breakfast was tense and quiet. Martin was adamantly trying his best to avoid staring at Jon, who was wearing one of Martin’s oversized, hand-knit sweaters. Jon, in turn, was trying his best to keep most of his eyes closed, wincing every time the ones on the backs of his hands blinked open.

 

Jon felt like shit, naturally. It’s a horrible feeling, getting used to seeing more. The field of vision from his hands was detached from the vision from his face, so, whenever those eyes blinked open, the world seemed to spin.

 

Also, his back hurt. The strange growths were now long enough to fold up against his back, although the feeling of them touching his bare skin might’ve even been worse than feeling them brush against the fabric of his sweater. He had some ability to move them now, but the sensory input from new eyes and new nerves combined was giving him a splitting headache.

 

He looked forlornly at the tattered remains of his previous sweatshirt, shuffling uncomfortably in the one he had to borrow from Martin. 

 

Not that it’s an uncomfortable sweater, he amended. This might actually be… the softest thing I’ve worn.

 

He looked up at Martin, trying his best to keep the discomfort off of his face. “Thank you, Martin. For… for everything.” He brushed a hand through his tangled hair. “You honestly didn’t have to bring me to your flat, I would’ve been… fine on my own.”

 

Martin slammed a hand down with a clatter, making Jon jump. “ Bullshit, Jon!” The curse surprised Jon even more than the anger on the man’s face.

 

“If you thought that I was the type of person to leave my… my friend laying in a puddle of his own blood on the bathroom floor, you are wrong.

 

Jon noticed with a start that Martin was crying now, and he unthinkingly reached out a hand to comfort the man. The eye on the back of it blinked open, and Martin flinched away with a grimace. Jon dropped his hand and his eyes from Martin, gripping his arm uncomfortably tight.

 

“...Sorry. I.. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. I understand if…  you don’t want to have a… a monster … in your home. I can leave.”

 

Martin’s head snapped up, his face still wet with tears. “ Jon. You aren’t a monster! ” He paused, giving Jon a concerned look. “Is that… what you think of yourself?”

 

Jon didn’t give an answer right away, instead gesturing at his face. His other eyes blinked open, all looking down at the floor.

 

“Does…. This look like a human to you, Martin?” He could feel the skin on his back crawling, yet another reminder of his monstrosity. “I’m… horrible. ” His vision grew blurry, and he came upon the realization that he was crying now, too. He barely saw Martin stand up from where he had been sitting, the man coming around the table to put his arms around Jon.

 

Jon. ” Martin’s voice was gentle, and Jon found himself sagging into the hug. “I honestly... Couldn’t care less what you are.” He pulled away to give Jon a bleary smile, sniffling through his own tears.  “You’re my friend . That’s all that matters.”

Jon finally let the dam break, his body shaking with slow, aching sobs. Martin’s hold on him was gentle, and the larger man was careful around his sensitive back. Jon was suddenly struck with the realization of how much Martin cared. That he had… Jon had friends that… cared about him .

 

And the static was more gentle this time, so Jon let it roll over him.

 

Martin bringing him tea every morning, always asking him about his day and giving him a bright smile. Tim joking with him and keeping him company, always quick to invite him along on one of their after-work hangouts. Sasha helping him organize papers after hours, always telling him a new story about what she had been working on or the cute things that her dog had been up to lately. Georgie sticking by his side even after their breakup, willing to be his friend after all that had happened. Melanie accepting him even after he had pulled a goddamn bullet out of her leg, tagging along with the others and laughing at their jokes.

 

They all cared so much about him.

 

And what had he done in return? Dismissing Martin every morning without so much as a thank you ... snarking at Tim to get back to work and stop telling jokes… asking Sasha to focus on work instead of her pets… He had always distanced himself from his co-workers thinking it was for their best, but what if it… wasn’t?

 

What if they honestly wanted to help him?

 

Jon sobbed into Martin’s sweater, whispering over and over into the wool. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Martin. I’m sorry about everything.” He took a deep, raking breath, and then continued. “I’ve never been nice to any of you, but you… you all honestly care about me . I’m sorry for… always putting up walls.” He tightened his arms around Martin as he spoke, the larger man just listening in shock.

 

“Jon… It’s fine. I forgive you.” Martin’s smile was soft, and he gently untangled Jon from his sweater. “And I’m sure,” he continued, “That if you apologize to the others, they’ll say the same thing. We care about you, Jon.”

 

Jon looked up at him, there on the floor of Martin’s flat, and knew he had never been more in love. Martin pulled him back into his arms, and Jon let himself be comforted. For the first time in years, he let himself cry.

 


 

Jon stared at himself in the mirror. He had untangled himself from Martin as soon as his back began to throb, heading towards the bathroom as fast as he could without raising suspicion. He had been trying to avoid looking at his back for awhile now, instead inspecting his new eyes.

The two underneath his… ‘original’ eyes were smaller than the originals, curved into gentle semicircles. The one on his forehead, however, was bigger than the others, wide and surprised-looking. The ones on the backs of his hands were the same as the one on his forehead, and he was thankful that he at least had none on his palms.

 

Time to stop delaying the inevitable , he thought with a sigh. He pulled the soft woolen sweater over his head, folding it carefully and placing it on the counter. He bared his back once again to the mirror, and what he saw there caught his breath in his throat.

 

The growths were now nearly as big as he was, fleshy and bony but beginning to fill in with more skin. He unfurled them experimentally and found that, when fully stretched out, they were a bit taller than he was. The joint was protruding unnaturally from the skin, and he flinched at the feeling of nerves that had not been there before. He inspected the skin next, noting the hundreds of tiny, dark holes covering it.

 

I look like a skinned chicken, he thought with a grimace, folding the growths flush against his back. Folded down, they reached just past his hips. He now had a sneaking suspicion of what was growing from his shoulders, and he was not looking forward to the next part. At least they don’t hurt as much anymore. They just… itch. A lot. I assume that will only get worse.

 

And finally, finally, his Sight provided him with something, albeit small. The whisper of static was faint, and he Saw a strong image of itching, ruffling feathers breaking through the skin- before it faded again. He reached for the sweater with a sigh, pulling it carefully back over his torso.

 

Yes. I am not looking forward to the next part.

 


 

The rest of the weekend passed in peaceful monotony. Jon went back to his flat soon after breakfast, taking with him multiple sweaters that Martin claimed he didn’t need. Jon was thankful for him, as none of his tighter clothing would hide the long… things on his back. (Wings. Jon made himself think of them as wings.)

 

On Sunday, the first of the feathers began to push through the skin. They itched even more badly than Jon had expected, and he spent most of the day in the shower with the water as hot as possible. The feeling was worse than anything he had ever felt. Most itches were surface level and easily relieved. This itch was below the skin, and it almost felt alive as it twinged through his back. He Knew that they would take a couple of days to grow in in full, and the thought made him groan.

 

Naturally, Jon did not get much sleep. The itching was unbearable, and it was horribly difficult to lay down with the new bones protruding from his back. As a result, he was getting up for work on Monday noticeably under the weather. He resigned himself to his fate, knowing he would have to face Tim and Sasha eventually. Martin had told him what had happened at the bar after he had passed out, and he knew they would have questions.

 

He was getting better at keeping his eyes shut, at least. They occasionally flicked open when he wasn’t thinking about it, and he was almost tempted to keep it from the assistants.

 

No. You have to trust them, Jon berated himself. Memories from his earlier Sight came back to him. He had decided soon after that he would try his best to take down his walls around his assistants ( friends , he corrected), and the best way to do that was to stop keeping secrets.


He just hoped they would accept him for who… or what he was.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

Jon was busy taking a pair of scissors to the back of one of Martin’s sweaters. He didn’t want to ruin the knitting, of course, but there was just no way he would be able to tuck his wings beneath the sweater anymore.

 

They had fledged fully at some point during the night, which was a painful and arduous process. He had dim memories of his back being on fire and then as cold as ice, and he got very little sleep as a result. The feathers were quite a nice color, though, and they were streaked with grey like his natural hair. They were still a bit ruffled and uncomfortable, but they at least didn’t itch anymore.

 

Jon Knew that to fix his feathers, he would need someone else’s help. His mind buzzed with the image of hands combing tenderly though his feathers, working out the wrinkles and knots… and he went red at the thought. He wanted to avoid that for as long as possible.

 

Satisfied with his work, Jon pulled the sweater over his head. It took a bit of pulling to get his wings through the holes, but they eventually emerged neatly through the slits at his back. He carefully folded them against his body, finding that movement of them felt much more natural now that they were fully grown.

 

He pulled his jacket over the wings, if only to avoid getting strange looks on the tube. He found that he was strangely nervous to face his co-workers, and his feathers automatically puffed up in agitation.

 

He pressed them right back down.

 


 

Jon was late.

 

Jon was never late. Tim guessed that it should be alright for most people to skip a day of work after… you, know, passing out in the bathroom of a bar, or something, but Jon was not most people. Jon worked like it was his lifeline, and the silence of the archives was making Tim antsy.

 

The door opened with a small click, and Tim found himself looking up in an embarrassingly eager fashion.

 

It was just Martin, though. He was wearing one of his usual soft sweaters, and he had a faint look of trepidation on his face.

 

“Jon… isn’t here yet?” Martin asked, voicing Tim’s concerns.

 

“I thought he’d come with you,” Tim replied, trying not to let worry sink into his voice. Why would he worry about Jon of all people? He was barely even human . He added on an insult very quickly; “Too scared to face us after getting absolutely shitfaced on Friday?”

 

Martin turned pale at that, and he buried his hands deep into the weaves of his sweater. “I’m sure he has his… reasons for being late,” he said, frowning.

 

Sasha lifted her head up from where she had been working, taking out her earbuds to join the conversation. “He probably got caught up in a book, or something nerdy like that.”

 

As if being summoned, the door swung open.

 

Jon stepped through stiffly, straightening in surprise when he was met with the intense gaze of all three of his assistants. He definitely looked worse for wear, his face streaked with wrinkles and his hair loose and frayed around his shoulders. When he spoke, his voice was tired and stained.

 

“Um.. good morning.”

 

Something else is different about him, Tim thought, examining his boss. He isn’t just tired. What is it?

 

And then Jon’s back seemed to shift , and something large and grey unfurled over his shoulders.

 

The trio stared in shock as Jon pulled off his jacket, revealing two arching, dignified wings. They were the same dusty brown as his hair, streaked with grey and silver feathers. Some shocked part of Tim’s mind provided that they looked like owl wings before it went completely blank.

 

Martin was the first to break the silence, and he exclaimed,“Oh, the feathers grew in!”

 

Tim and Sasha tore their eyes off of Jon’s wings to whirl on Martin with matching incredulous glares.

 

“You knew? ” Sasha crowed, gesturing at Jon. “And you didn’t think to tell us that our boss was, oh, I dunno… growing wings, or something?”

 

“To be fair, I just figured out Friday!” Martin yelped, raising his hands in surrender.

 

Tim stepped determinedly towards Jon, who flinched back from him. Without giving Jon a warning, he weaved his fingers around a feather and gave a sharp tug . It came off in his hands, long, dignified, and soft. Tim spun it between two fingers in wonder, watching the way it glistened in the fluorescent lights of the office.

 

Jon cried out in pain, the wing pushing Tim away with a flick. Martin also made a quiet sound of surprise, shooting Jon a look of concern. Jon immediately opened his mouth and snapped at Tim, his voice buzzing with pressure. 

 

What was that for, Tim?

 

 For some reason, the words filled Tim’s head with faint static, and he replied automatically. “I wanted to make sure they were real.” He paused, his hand flitting to his mouth. “ Jon ! You can’t just do that!”

 

Jon at least had the grace to look embarrassed, shuffling his wings behind him. “Of course they’re real. Why on Earth would I lie about something like this?” He gave what seemed to be his best attempt at a cheeky grin, which Tim would’ve made fun of in an instant if not for the fact that Jon had wings . “It’s not as though I ever participate in your… office pranks,” he continued, oblivious to the strained silence in the room.

 

Jon paused, taking in their faces. He immediately seemed to curl up into himself, his wings forming a half-cocoon around his shoulders. “I… really am sorry about this. I know you… well, at least you, Tim and Sasha... are uncomfortable about my inhumanity. This very obvious sign of it is probably causing some... duress, and I will try my best to not bother either of you.”

 

He made to turn around and head to his office, but was stopped by a firm hand on his wrist.

 

“Oh no you don’t,” Sasha hissed, pulling him back into the middle of the room. “You, Jonathan Sims, are going to actually talk to us for once. There’s no getting out of this one.

 


 

 

He shifted in his chair, refusing to make eye contact with the three assistants seated around him. They had laid claim to the break room, and had set up a practical therapy circle in the middle of it. The office chairs were not comfortable, and Jon’s already ruffled feathers were made more stiff by being shoved against wooden backing.

 

“So. Um. I have wings now,” he began, low and awkward.

 

“Yeah, I think we noticed, boss,” Tim joked, “You made quite the entrance this morning.”

 

“And,” Jon continued, “I also have… these.

 

He blinked open all five of his eyes, flashing the ones on the backs of his hands as well. The silence was profound as Sasha and Tim struggled for something to say and Martin fidgeted in his seat.

 

“Is this because of… the Institute?” Sasha hazarded to ask, less accusatory than Jon thought she would be.

 

“I… believe so, yes. Our symbol is the owl, in any case, so it would make sense for me to inherit some of its… physical features. And the eyes, well…” He waved a hand dismissively. “I suppose that’s obvious.”

 

Martin opened his mouth and then closed it again, before seemingly steeling himself to talk.

 

“When.. uh, when Jon first woke up in my flat… all of his eyes opened like that. Uh, the wings were sort of… bald, I guess? When he was at my place, which is why I was surprised to see… see the, uh, feathers this morning,” Martin said, stumbling over his words. He looked down at his feet, and Jon was overwhelmingly grateful for his decision to not tell about everything that had happened at his flat that morning.

 

Tim leaned back in his chair, putting his hands behind his head. “So… you’re some kind of weird owl monster now?”

 

Jon immediately went pale, his feathers sticking out haphazardly. “Oh.. I, um..”

 

Martin cut in. “Jon isn’t a monster ! He’s our friend. He’s still the same person as he always has been!” He seemed surprised at his own outburst, his face flushing in embarrassment as soon as the words left his mouth.


Jon gave him a soft and thankful smile. He felt… fondly of Martin, he realized with a jolt. He was stopped from thinking any further down this path by yet another outburst from Sasha.

 

“If he’s really our friend, then he’s going to have to act like it,” Sasha snapped, glowering at Jon. “And that means no more secrets. The next time something like this happens to you, tell us, alright?”

 

Jon gave her a nod, barely containing his smile. That actually went… well? He couldn’t help himself, and his face split into a grin.

 

“Thank you. I promise... I’ll be more open in the future.”

 


 

Chapter Text


 

“Um.. Jon. Do you… need help… y’know, preening your wings?”

 

Jon sat up with a start, staring at Martin with widened eyes. He Knew that the wings would need to be preened, but he hadn’t expected in the slightest that someone would actually offer to help.

 

Martin shuffled awkwardly in the doorway, running a hand through his hair.

 

“I just thought- um, that they looked pretty tangled? Ifyoudontneedmyhelpthatsfinebut-”

 

“Martin, slow down.” Jon stood, walking over to where Martin was squirming. “That would actually be… quite nice. If you’re okay with it, that is.” He tried his best to keep a level tone, but he couldn’t help but breathe an internal sigh of relief at the thought of having his feathers straightened out.

 

Martin immediately straightened up, flashing Jon one of those blinding grins that he had gotten so accustomed to.

 

“Really, you mean it?” Martin cried, the words fast and giddy. He caught himself with a blush, and his next words came out more subdued. “Well… um, come with me to the break room, then!”

 

Jon shot him a confused look, and Martin clarified, “Oh! Um, so you have room to stretch out your wings all the way.”

 

Have you done this before, Martin?” Jon asked, faint static buzzing behind the words.

 

“Yes! Actually, I took care of a bird that got injured outside my flat awhile back and-” He covered his mouth with his hand, giving Jon a theatrical glare. “Stop doing that!”

 

Jon paled slightly at the unintentional use of his abilities, but let himself be dragged into the break room by Martin without any protest.

 


 

Jon stretched his wings out to either side, reveling in the loosening of the joints that had been folded against his back all day. Feathers were already swirling loose around him in the air, landing softly on the floor next to where he sat in the break room. Martin was kneeling next to him, hands hovering but not yet working.

 

“Are you… sure it’s okay, Jon?”

 

Jon groaned, stretching his wings out even further. “Martin. Just… get it over with, alright? They itch.

 

Martin tentatively put a hand into one of his wings, and Jon nearly cried out at the feeling of someone touching nerves that he was not used to having. He let Martin sink his fingers in after some hesitation, realizing quickly that it felt incredible.

 

Martin’s hands were soft and gentle, and the way he carefully picked the tangles out of Jon’s feathers oozed with care. Jon relaxed into his touch, reveling in the feeling of his feathers being rearranged and straightened. The segments that Martin had already combed through were miraculously free of pain now, and Jon was deeply looking forward to not having that horrid itch anymore.

 

And, well… Martin was pretty close, wasn’t he?

 

Jon had very little time to appreciate the intimate situation before Tim and Sasha burst into the break room.

 

“Hey, Martin, how’s the tea coming-” Tim came to a complete stop in the doorway, his jaw opening and closing silently.

 

Sasha came up beside him, putting a hand on his shoulder. “...Boss? Martin? What’s going on here?” She had that familiar mischievous twinkle in her eye, and a pit of dread settled in Jon’s stomach.

 

Martin pulled his hands out of Jon’s wing (to Jon’s dismay) and gave the two an abashed look.

 

“Er… Jon’s wings were all tangled so I’m helping to… um… I’m preening them.”

 

Tim was silent for a few more seconds before breaking up into raunchous laughter, Sasha quickly joining him. Jon had to admit they must’ve been quite a sight, sitting on the break room floor and completely covered in feathers.

 

“Can I-” Tim could barely speak around his laughter, interrupting himself with another chuckle. “Can we join in?”

 

Sasha jumped on that idea in a heartbeat, fixing Jon with wide puppy-dog eyes. “Oh my God, please? I want to touch them!”

 

Jon let out a long-suffering sigh.

 

“Fine. It’ll get done faster with all three of you working on it, anyway.”

 

Tim and Sasha let out twin cheers, Tim pumping his arms in the air. They settled behind his other wing, disrupting the piles of feathers around them. Sasha already had feathers stuck in her hair, but none of them seemed to mind. The three assistants began working on his feathers again, Martin hesitant and Tim and Sasha with eager abandon.

 

Tim’s fingers were rough and calloused, and they worked out the wrinkles with a rough massage that Jon quite liked. Sasha’s fingers were thin and gentle, and she had a knack for reorganizing the ruffled feathers. Jon had to reluctantly admit that he appreciated the help as he sunk back into their touch.

 

He found himself drifting off, lulled to sleep by the gentle movements of hands in his feathers. He barely registered the amused looks of his assistants as he leaned onto Martin’s shoulder, quickly falling asleep.

 


 

Martin jumped at the sudden warmth on his shoulder, as well as the sudden snickers from Tim and Sasha. He turned carefully, his face flushing in shock when he realized what was leaning against him. Jon had his head pressed into Martin’s side, the man’s hair frazzled and falling out of its bun. He had feathers in his hair, and his now-neatened wings hung limp at his sides.

 

And... oh.

 

Jon looked so peaceful there, on his shoulder, with his long eyelashes and his relaxed posture. The little wrinkles between his eyebrows that Martin had gotten so used to had smoothened out, leaving Jon the most relaxed Martin had ever seen him. He was snoring softly, but it was a gentle sound that warmed Martin’s heart.

 

Martin felt something soft at his other shoulder, and he turned to find a big, grey wing draping over his arm. Jon was curling in on himself in his sleep, and his wings were wrapping around Martin as a result.

 

It was very cute.

 

Tim and Sasha were very obviously holding back laughs, thankfully keeping quiet so as not to wake Jon. Martin shot them an angry glare with zero heat behind it, wrapping a careful arm around Jon. The two assistants quietly stood, leaving the room and a trail of snickers behind them.

 

That just left the two of them.

 

The floor of the break room was not very comfortable, but Martin couldn’t exactly stand up. He shifted Jon’s head carefully into his lap, letting the wings drape gently over his shoulder. Jon is warmer than I thought he’d be, Martin thought, absentmindedly running a palm over Jon’s rough skin.

 

He traced careful fingers along Jon’s scars, eventually ending up with them twined into his hair. It was soft and less greasy than it looked, although it was clear Jon didn’t take very good care of it.

 

Martin found himself carefully fretting over Jon’s hair, pulling it into a delicate braid with practiced ease. He had done this before with little sisters, and the motions now were comfortingly familiar. He admired the way that the silver streaks in Jon’s hair spun through the braid, making little woven patterns through the dark brown. His wings were similar in that regard, streaked with grey and silver.

 

Martin brought his attention back to Jon’s wings, running a careful hand through the one draped over his shoulder. The feathers were the same texture as Jon’s hair, though not quite as dry. They shone with a pleasant sheen, and reflected light in a way that made it seem slightly… green.

 

Wait. Green?

 

He pushed aside the feathers around where he had seen the foregin color, carefully brushing away down from the spot. His hands found something tender and warm. He pressed into it as gently as possible, feeling the softness of the area.

 

And then it blinked open.

 

Martin’s hand shot back away from the feathers, and he stared in horror as eyes flickered open all along Jon’s wings.

 

They were the same bright green as the eyes on Jon’s face and hands, and the color stood out starkly against the dusty brown of the feathers. Each eye focused on Martin in turn, and his back crawled with the unsettling feeling of being watched.

 

He felt movement in his lap, and, as he looked down, Jon’s normal eyes fluttered open.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

When Jon woke up, the first thing he saw was Martin.

 

And then he saw… Martin. And Martin. And Martin.

 

He saw Martin’s curls falling gently over warm eyes, freckles dotting his pale skin. He saw Martin’s soft green sweater covering arms that wrapped around Jon.

 

He saw Martin’s curls again, but this time his eyes traced the way they sprung up around the back of his neck, the way his hair was too long over his ears. He saw Martin’s broad shoulders and back, bent forwards over Jon.

 

He saw Martin’s legs, tucked underneath him, and he saw Martin’s feet which, from what he could see, were behind Jon.

 

He saw Martin from angles that his normal eyes should, in all intents and purposes, not be able to see.

 

Jon’s head spun when he tried to sit up, and Martin let out a surprised yelp. His wings straightened with him, and… oh gods, he could see everything.

 

If he had thought having eyes on his hands was disorienting, this was ten times worse. He could simultaneously see every wall of the breakroom, as well as his own frightened face as he took it all in. He moved his wings again, and this time, he saw the eyes.

 

They dotted his wings, nestled among grey and brown feathers. They were a bright, inhuman green, and the color made his stomach curl.

 

Martin shifted under him, and he realized with a start that he was in Martin’s lap.

 

He sat up as fast as he could without passing out, instinctively curling his wings around himself. Martin edged away carefully.

 

“...Jon? Everything alright?” Martin asked, and Jon could hear the underlying panic in his voice.

 

Jon Knew that Martin was worried that Jon might hate him, and he refused to let Martin think that.

 

“I don’t hate you, Martin.” The words came out almost unbidden, and Martin flinched back.

 

“...How did you? Oh. Jon… please don’t do that.” Martin shrunk back again, his face growing warm and red.

 

“...Sorry.” Jon looked away, straining to shut the eyes on his wings. They finally blinked shut, and Jon looked back up. “And thank you.”

 

He opened his wings testily, and was pleased to note that they felt wonderful . “They feel wonderful. I owe you all one.”

 

Martin blanched at that. “No! Um, you don’t owe us anything, Jon. It was… no problem, really. We… do care about you, you know?”

 

And yes. Jon did Know.

 

“Where are Tim and Sasha? I would like to thank them, if that’s alright.” He straightened to his feet with a groan. His back was stiff from sleeping in such a position, and it popped when he stood up.

 

“Oh! They should be in the archives, somewhere… They left after you, um, after you fell asleep.” Martin flushed again, and Jon tried to ignore that he had been sleeping in Martin’s lap.

 

“I’ll, er…” Jon found himself at a sudden loss for words, and he shuffled towards the door. “...I’ll go find them. Thank you again, Martin.”

 


 

In his search for Tim and Sasha, Jon found someone else entirely.

 

Elias was waiting patiently outside of his office, leaning nonchalantly against the doorframe. He was dressed immaculately as always, his purple suit ironed and stiff. He was staring directly at Jon, a simpering little smile on his face.

 

Jon felt the man’s eyes trace slowly down his wings, and he couldn’t keep his feathers from standing on end. This made Elias chuckle, a horrible little sound , and Jon dearly wished he had encountered anyone else.

 

“Hello, Archivist,” Elias purred, straightening his jacket with a snap . “It’s nice to see you… developed well.” Jon shuddered in disgust at the man’s choice of words, carefully watching him approach.

 

The thin man took a step forward, and it took everything in Jon’s power not to step back. Instead, he let Elias walk up to him, keeping his eyes - (just his normal two, mind you, the others were closed) - on the man.

 

“What did you want, Elias? If you didn’t Know, I have places to be.” Jon kept his voice level and professional, refusing to let Elias get under his skin.

 

He failed the instant Elias touched his wings.

 

The man’s hands were cold and unpleasant, very professional in their assessment of his feathers. The stark contrast to Martin’s warm, gentle hands made Jon’s skin crawl. He somehow held himself from pulling back, refusing to give Elias any leeway.

 

Elias pressed harder into his wings, making Jon wince. The man was muttering something under his breath that he couldn’t quite catch and couldn’t Know. Thin, probing fingers ran through his feathers, seemingly searching for something.

 

Elias’ hands hit a tender part, and Jon couldn’t stop a yelp from leaving his lips.

 

“Oh? Jonathan ! You’re further along than I realized!” The glee in Elias’ voice was detestable , and Jon bit back a curse as he further explored the spot with his awful little fingers .

 

The rest of Jon’s eyes popped open.

 

Elias gave a small, satisfied gasp, pulling his hands back. “Archivist, this is a most favorable development,” he purred, folding his hands behind his back. He gave Jon a pleased look, like a cat who had just eaten a fat canary. His eyes continued to rove down Jon’s wings, slowly and deliberately.

 

Jon hated it. Elias’ smile was a slimy little thing, and he had touched his wings, he had touched Jon with his thin and disgusting little fingers and Jon hated being touched and-

 

Jon shook the thoughts away, refusing to give Elias any more satisfaction.

 

“Is that all, Elias?” He asked, his tone flat and clipped.

 

“I suppose so,” Elias said, sounding very pleased with himself. “Good day, Jonathan.”

 

Jon watched him go, finally letting the disgust he felt be evident on his face. He shuffled his feathers, shuddering at the memory of those thin, cold fingers prodding his wings.

 

It would’ve surprised me more had Elias been pleasant, Jon mused, continuing down the hall to the archives. I shouldn’t let him bother me.

 


 

“Tim, did you see them?”

 

Her voice brimmed with glee, feet swinging from where she was perched on top of her desk. “I mean,” she continued, “They were practically drooling over each other!”

 

Tim gave a sigh from where he was sitting on the floor, leaning back against her desk to gaze forlornly at the ceiling. “You say this every time, Sash. They’ve had… what? Like, sixty-two mushy little moments like this? My money says another year, at least, before one of them actually grows the balls to confess.”

 

“Oh?” Sasha leaned forward, mischief glinting in her eyes. “You’re willing to bet on it then? My money says… hmm…. a month.”

 

Tim gave her an incredulous look. “A month? With those two idiots? You have to be kidding.”

 

“Hey!” She laughed, running a hand through her ponytail. “I really think this whole... ‘wing’ thing has sped things up! I mean - Jon passed out and Martin, uh, I don’t know, carried him to his flat? How romantic is that? If Jon doesn’t take him, I will!”

 

Tim snorted at that, reaching up to grab her hand. “Come on, Sash. You love me too much for that.”

 

“Okay, okay. I do love you, and I promise not to replace you with Martin.” She smiled down at him, entwining their fingers together.

 

The door to the archives opened.

 

Sasha looked up to watch Jon enter the room, pausing when he saw the two of them.

 

“Er, am I… interrupting something?” he asked, shuffling his feathers awkwardly.

 

Tim stood, maintaining his hold on Sasha’s hand. “Nope, bossman! Just us being sappy. Nothing to see here.” He yanked on her hand, pulling her to her feet. She elbowed him gently in the side, laughing again.

 

Jon looked very out of place.

 

“Actually, I, um, wanted to thank you two.”

 

Sasha’s head shot up, and she joined Tim in staring at their boss.

 

“You? Thanking us? Who are you, and what have you done with Jonathan Sims?” Tim choked out, incredulous. “We just barely got you to open up like, yesterday, and now you actually like us or something?”

 

Jon shuffled again, keeping a steady gaze downwards.

 

“It’s, well, er…. You two have always tried to be... somewhat nice to me, and I just wanted to thank you for… not treating me like a monster.” His voice was quiet, and Sasha could barely hear it over the buzz of the institute above.

 

“You’re… welcome? I mean, we care about you, Jon.” Sasha smiled at him warily, and he finally lifted his eyes. He seemed surprised at her words, blinking slowly.

 

“Oh! Um… I…” His next words were a mumble, but Sasha heard them loud and clear. “I care about you too.”

 

And he smiled.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

“Georgie, I think I might be... in love with Martin.”

 

The woman across from him coughed into her coffee, nearly spilling the steaming beverage into her lap. She put it down on the table, leaning forward onto her elbows to stare at him.

 

“You? Expressing your feelings? Who are you??? I thought the wings were new, but apparently you’re a whole different person! ” She choked out, her eyes wide.

 

Jon gave her a stormy look, crossing his arms over his chest. He ruffled his feathers behind him, annoyance clear in their placement. “I’m being serious, Georgie.”

 

His tough facade quickly crumbled, and he dropped his hands back to the table. His fingers found the edge of his mug, and he fiddled with the handle. 

 

“I just… he’s so kind, and he’s... really pretty... and I… mmrghgh…” he mumbled into his hands.

 

Georgie’s face softened, and she reached out to put a warm hand over Jon’s. 

 

“Jon.”

 

He looked up at her, face red. “I just don’t know what I’m doing, Georgie. How could anyone love me? ” His fingers twitched from where Georgie held them, but he didn’t pull away. Behind him, his feathers were mirroring the movement. “I just… need some advice.”

 

“Come on, Jon! I loved you, didn’t I? Hell, I still love you! Platonically, that is, but it’s still important. Plenty of people care about you, and I’m sure Martin makes no exception.”

 

The look in her eyes shifted into one of mischief, and she prodded a finger into Jon’s chest.

 

“We all saw what happened at the bar that night, Jon. He carried you home to his flat! There are sparks , Jon!”

 

He pulled back his hands to place his head in them, groaning at the table. “I’m just… You know I’m awful with emotions, Georgie.”

 

“You got that right!”

 

He gave her a pained look, and she broke into laughter. She took another sip of her coffee, smiling at him over the cup. By the time she had put it back down, Jon’s face had at least returned to a normal colour. He straightened his wings behind him, folding them flush against his back.

 

“...What do you suggest I do?” He asked, quietly.

 

“You’re gonna have to say it, Jon!”

 

He groaned, then began to speak reluctantly. “Georgie, you are the queen of relationships. I, Jonathan Sims, am awful at feelings and must… and must kneel to your expertise,” he said, monotone. “There. Happy?”

 

She gave him a blinding grin, sliding her now-empty cup back and forth between her hands. “Thank you, Jon! Now. Are you ready for the best advice you’ll ever receive?”

 

He leaned forwards despite himself, trying to keep the eager look off his face.

 

Just be yourself ,” she said, her smile wide and her eyes serious.

 

“Georgie! What is that supposed to mean?” He leaned back, huffing in disgust.

 

She tapped the side of her nose with one finger, winking at the look of chagrin on his face.

 

“It means exactly what I said! If Martin really likes you, and I think he does, then he likes you for you. Ask him to lunch or something! You’re a better person than you think you are.” She steepled her hands, leaning on them. “And if you guys hook up, you owe me one.”

 

“You… really think that’s going to work? What if I’m not ready for a relationship? What if I accidentally hurt him? I’m a monster, Georgie, I don’t deserve someone like him-” He was scratching at his hand now, long fingernails digging into the skin.

 

Jon.

 

His eyes shot up and were immediately met by an intense glare. Georgie grabbed his hand, pulling his fingers away from his arm.

 

“Don’t ever talk about yourself like that. You are a good person , Jonathan Sims. If I hear you talking like that again, I will expose your secret love for DnD to your co-workers and I will not be sorry.” Her words were playful, but the look on her face was dead serious. The hand clutching his squeezed almost uncomfortably tight.

 

“Okay, okay!” He pulled his hand away. “I’m sorry, Georgie.” He paused. “And… please don’t expose my embarrassing secrets to my assistants. They’ve already seen me pass out at a bar, don’t give them anything else to hold over me.”

 

She laughed, standing up from her seat.

 

“No promises! Go ask Martin to lunch, you skinny little softie!”

 

And, before he could demand her silence, she was gone.

 


 

Jon was the one shuffling outside of the office this time, and he would’ve laughed at his resemblance to Martin had he not been horribly nervous. He just had to walk in, come up to Martin’s desk, maybe give him some tea… 

 

Should I make Martin tea, or would that offend him? He pondered. I think… maybe it would mean something to him. I know his tea is always important to me, so…

 

A thought struck him, and he almost publicly face-palmed. None of your assistants are at work yet, idiot! There is nothing stopping you from entering the office.

 

Jon did just that, and the office was, predictably, empty.

 

He sighed in relief, shuffling towards the break room. What if I made them all tea?

 

The thought surprised even him, but, the more he thought about it, the more it seemed like a good idea. He set to gathering the materials together, the static buzzing in every so often to tell him where something was.

 

Now…. How do they take their tea?

 

He shut his eyes, forcing the static in. Martin first. Okay… two spoons of sugar - two spoons, really, Martin? - and a reasonable amount of milk.

 

He pulled his notebook out from his bag, jotting down the information in a quick chart.

 

Tim. The static rushed in, and it felt more natural this time. More controlled. One spoon of sugar, no milk. Tim is lactose intolerant.

 

The last fact took him by surprise, and he made sure to make a mental note of it. I guess I really… know nothing about my assistants.  

 

He shook the thoughts away, focusing his mind on the fuzzy feeling.

 

Sasha likes… a small amount of milk, one spoon sugar. He wrote that down as well, filling out his chart with a sense of satisfaction.

 

Jon liked charts. They were neat, organized, and never surprised you. They helped him focus his thoughts, and his notebook was full of them. He organized everything from the books in his flat to what he had for lunch for the past week, each chart varying in size and type. Graphs, boxes, and mind maps dissected the pages in neat, font-like handwriting.

 

He liked to think it kept him sane, organizing his life into strict little rectangles. His current charts were all filled with notes on wing growth, and he had been graphing the patterns on his feathers. It was interesting, the way feather placement correlated with how they were striped...

 

But back to tea.

 

He had just finished seeping the tea bags - Earl Grey, for anyone Watching - when the first of his assistants arrived.

 

Sasha always arrived first, and today she had Tim with her. Without seeing them, Jon Knew that they were holding hands, and the static told him-

 

No, no, NO shut up-

 

Jon did not want to see that. His face flushed, and he had to hold back his disgust. It wasn’t that he disapproved of their relationship, oh no, on the contrary. He was happy to see his assistants happy. It was just that… well, he had never been the type for that kind of... intimacy.

 

Anyways.

 

Martin arrived soon after, and he Saw the three settle into their seats. They were all chattering among themselves, and Jon felt a pang of… jealousy?

 

He placed the mugs carefully on the tray, organizing them so he wouldn’t mix up whose was whose.

 

Martin’s was light blue, patterned with kittens and clouds. Jon was quite fond of it, and he smiled at the small cats as he pushed the mug into place on the tray.

 

Tim’s was an obnoxious pink, emblazoned with the words ‘spill the TEA’ in bright yellow. It was Jon’s least favorite mug in the office, he even preferred Elias’ horrible one over Tim’s.

 

(He would not be thinking about Elias’ mug, in the same way he ignored the mug sitting next to it that he Knew to belong to someone named Peter Lukas.)

 

Sasha’s was more reasonable than Tim’s, but the colors were still very bright. It was striped with blue, pink, and yellow, which seemed very familiar to Jon, but he couldn’t quite place where he had seen it before.

 

But… enough about mugs. He lined them up carefully with the lines on the tray, then realized with a jolt that he was stalling.

 

He lifted the whole thing carefully, keeping a steady hand underneath it as he walked to the door.

 

The tray slipped. His hands had been shaking, and he wasn’t really watching where he was going, and it slipped.

 

Reflexively he shot out to catch it, and sighed in relief when the tray stopped its descent to the ground. He was gingerly turning to check on the mugs when he realized exactly how he had caught the tray.

 

It was balanced carefully on one wing, the feathers wrapping around the sides. The joint was stretched in a strange way, but it seemed like this range of motion was perfectly natural. He sighed again, pulling the tray into his hands.

 

This time, he managed to keep a hold on it.

 

He walked out into the office, clearing his throat cautiously.

 

“...Tea is... er, up.” He gingerly repeated the phrase he often heard Martin shouting, bringing the tray with him into the circle of desks.

 

His assistants each fixed them with varying looks of shock, watching him come in with the mugs.

 

He started at Sasha’s desk first, placing the mug carefully on the coaster she had put out. She caught his eye and gave him a questioning look.

 

“What’s this all about, Jon?” She asked, hesitant.

 

“I thought, well, Martin is always doing tea in the mornings so I… decided to save him some work and do it myself. I was in there anyway so…” He trailed off, gesturing at the mug on her desk. “I hope it's how you like it.”

 

He had reached Tim’s desk by the time she took a sip, and nearly dropped the tray again when she yelled.

 

“Jon! This is…”

 

He flinched, waiting for the insult.

 

“..nearly as good as Martin’s! How did you know how I like it?”

 

He blinked in shock, and it took him a second to realize that he had been asked a question.

 

“I… just Knew.”

 

Sasha shot him a suspicious glance before seemingly realizing something.

 

“Oh! Capital-K Knew?”

 

“..Yes. Monster stuff,” he joked, smiling. If anyone was surprised at the blatant mention of his inhumanity, nobody mentioned it.

 

He set the next mug on Tim’s desk just as carefully as before, and Tim immediately took a gulp.

 

“Sash was right, this is nearly Martin-tier, Jon! You’ll never replace our favorite tea boy, but you’re definitely in the running.”



Jon’s feathers puffed at the honest praise, and he very nearly beamed at Tim.

 

“Thank you, Tim.”

 

He reached Martin’s desk last, and was met with expecting hands and a smile.

 

“Trying to... replace me, Jon?” Martin laughed, taking the tea from Jon. Their fingers brushed against each other, and Jon found himself flushing at the touch.

 

“Oh! No, I-”

 

“Jon! Um, it was a joke, sorry!” Martin cut in, sheepish. He was also red, but Jon barely noticed over the pumping of blood in his ears.

 

“Martin, can I ask you something?” He said, quiet. He did not want Sasha and Tim to overhear this one.

 

Martin looked up, surprise clear on his face. “Um, sure, what is it?”

 

“Do you want to… get lunch with me Saturday?” Jon managed, shifting the tray in his hands.

 

Martin went silent, and Jon’s heart dropped. The quiet was horrible, and Jon was just about to apologize when he heard Martin’s quiet reply.

 

“I… I would love to, Jon.”

 

“Oh! Um, great! I… you already have my number, so… I’ll be getting back to you.”

 

He spun on his heels, desperately trying to hide his red face behind his wings. He barely registered Tim’s complaint of feathers in his tea before his office door was shut behind him and he was safe in his chair.

 

But… he did it.

 

And he had a date.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

There were many side effects of the new wings. Some, like his new ability to… catch things, were good. Others were… well, less than favorable.

 

He was suffering under one of those effects in particular this morning.

 

See, human beings do not have wings. Human beings have two eyes. And most human beings are not completely riddled with scars.

 

Jon knew, of course, that he was not a human being, but occasionally he wished to present as such. For instance, on the tube. And that was very difficult indeed when one had two massive, tawny wings arching from their shoulder blades.

 

He got his third strange look of the morning as he boarded the train, trying his best to keep from knocking anyone with his wings. He had gotten better at keeping them tucked against his back, but they were never truly hidden.

 

He had also gotten better at keeping his eyes shut, and he prayed to the Watcher’s Ceaseless Eyes that none of them popped open around more human company.

 

A little girl, maybe three or four (three and seven months), wrapped tiny, grubby hands into Jon’s feathers. Her hands were sticky with sugar, and Jon groaned inwardly at the thought of having to wash out his feathers all over again. But then, the child looked up at him with wide, unassuming eyes, and Jon felt his heart melt just a little.

 

“Where are your parents, er… little one?” He tried his best to keep his voice soft, but he was far out of his element. Jon was never good with kids, and it took all of his willpower not to flick this one away with his wing.

 

“Are dese real, mister?” The kid asked, starry eyed. Her clunky smile revealed gaps between teeth, and Jon softened a little bit more.

 

“...Sure they are.” He saw no harm in letting this kid believe in… bird people? For a little bit longer. It’s something I would’ve been obsessed with as a child, he thought with a smile. 

 

The kid seemed absolutely enamored with his wings, running her hands through the feathers much rougher than he might’ve liked. Still, the kid was pretty cute, and Jon could consider… maybe someday...

 

Jon felt a glare on his neck and shook his thoughts away. The kid’s mother had wandered over, and she gave Jon a harsh look as she pulled her child back over to their seat. So much for being nice.

 

The rest of the ride passed uneventfully, and Jon was even in a good mood by the time he got to his stop. Furthermore, he was anxious. His feathers were ruffled and uneven despite his best attempts at flattening them, and his palms were already damp with sweat.

 

In the end, Martin had picked the restaurant. It was some sort of sandwich place that Jon had never heard of, but it was close enough to the Institute that it wasn’t much of an issue. The tube ride was, thankfully, very short, and he managed to escape with only the one confrontation.

 

The shop itself seemed… very Martin. The storefront was laden in hanging baskets overflowing with ferns and vines, leaving a faint floral smell in the air. The wide windows on the front showed a warm, homey interior, fresh bread cooling on racks behind the counter. It was very quaint, and Jon could vividly imagine Martin sipping tea and eating a croissant at one of the checkerboarded tables.

 

Jon’s imagining of Martin gave way to the real Martin as the larger man arrived surprisingly on time. His face was flushed, and he had clearly been in a rush to make a good… impression? Jon could practically see the love coming from Martin… no, he could actually See it.

 

Images of Martin trying on different shirts in front of the mirror, trying to decide on one that Jon would like... Martin’s frantic fiddling with his hair on the tube, panicked scrolling down the menu to make sure that Jon would enjoy the food… Waking up far too early only to pace around his flat...

 

Jon’s heart was overflowing at this point, and he forced the images away with a shake of his head. He couldn’t judge, Jon was just as nervous. His stomach was rolling at this point, and he had no idea if he’d even be able to eat any lunch. His nerves stilled slightly as he watched Martin approach, the man finally reaching Jon with a huff.

 

“Jon!” He gasped, breathing heavily. “I hope you weren't… waiting… for too long. Whoo! I’m sorry I… just ran here… from the station… give me a second!” He doubled over, hands grasping his knees. After a few deep breaths he straightened up, giving Jon a nervous smile.

 

“Um… shall we?”

 


 

“So… let me get this straight. You met… Oliver Banks? The literal embodiment of the End?

 

“Well… not exactly met, per say. I was in a coma at the time…”

 

Jon found himself loosening up, his cold demeanor slowly slipping away as he nibbled on his sandwich. Martin was a good conversationalist, and he seemed like a completely different person out of work. The nervous energy that usually sloughed off him in waves was much more subdued, and Martin even seemed to be gaining confidence in himself.

 

“What, so you saw an avatar so hot you just… woke up from your comma?” Martin laughed, taking a big bite out of his sandwich. There was something behind his eyes though, almost like he was testing Jon.

 

“It wasn’t like that, Martin! I swear Oliver isn’t my type,” Jon sputtered. “Anyway, the End is a total turn off,” he added, uncharacteristically bold.

 

This seemed to be the right move, as something akin to relief filled Martin’s eyes. “You know,” he said, his voice quiet like the usual Office Martin, “I really am glad that you and Tim are okay. I was really worried when you went into that coma, and the explosion… You both could’ve died.

 

Jon blinked owlishly, his feathers shifting behind him. “Oh.. I…” He looked down at his feet. “Yes. I’m glad as well. I was afraid that Tim was going to…” He trailed off, refusing to even voice his worries.

 

“Well, I’m not exactly… human anymore, so we did lose something to the Unknowing.”

 

He flinched at sudden warmth on his hand and, when he looked up, saw that Martin was holding it. 

 

“Jon, you really worry too much about your ‘humanity’.” Martin began, doing air-quotes over the last word. “I… we... care about you for you , Jon. Feathers, eyes, I wouldn’t even care if you grew horns or something! You’re still the same Jon that I-”

 

He stopped, eyes widening at what he was saying. His face went red, and the last of his sentence came out as a whisper. “ You’re still the same Jon that I love.

 

Jon had no idea how to respond to that. His brain went completely blank, filled with Non-Beholding Related static. His face slowly began to heat as he processed the words, and the sandwich slipped from his fingers.

 

“I… um… want to go to a… secondary location?” He sputtered out, the words not coming out the way he wanted them to, but coming out nonetheless. “I had… a place in mind. For our uh... date? This is a date, right?” His usual eloquence had completely abandoned him, and he realized sardonically that the tables had truly turned on Martin and him.

 

“Y..yeah! God, Jon, I’m so sorry for saying that so… so out of the blue, I understand if it… if it made you uncomfortable.”

 

“No, Martin, it’s fine. It’s more than fine. I just… I’m not ready yet. I care about you so much , but I just… need some time. I’ve had…” He gestured to his wings. “A lot to deal with lately .

 

A floating feather landed in Martin’s hair, and Jon removed it gently. “I do want to continue to enjoy this date, though. Next place is my pick.”

 

Martin nodded, face still red. He called over the waitress to pay, his movements quick and jumpy. However, the smile that Martin fixed him with was heart meltingly tender.

 

“I would love to go to a… secondary location ,” he said, mocking Jon with a laugh.

 

And, in a streak of courage, Jon took Martin’s hand in his as they left the restaurant.

 


 

“Can I open my eyes now, Jon?”

 

“Go ahead, Martin.”

 

Martin peeled his hands away from his face, confusion quickly melting into wonder.

 

Jon ,” he breathed, turning with a smile. “It’s gorgeous!

 

Jon had discovered the park earlier that month when he had been looking for a place to unwind, and he had immediately known Martin would love it. The entire property was carpeted in thick, chartreuse grass, which filled the air with a gentle, leafy smell. Flowers adorned the fields in shining clusters, bees buzzing back and forth between the glimmering blooms. The sound of birds and cicadas filled the afternoon air, the rushing of wind adding whispering aspens to the symphony.

 

It was, simply put, a very good park.

 

The particular part that Jon had led Martin to was on the top of a hill that overlooked the entire property, giving a view of vivid blue sky contrasted against flowing yellow fields. A thin, wooden fence ran along the edge of the cliff, though it looked a bit too shabby to keep people from kareening over the ten foot drop into the park.

 

But Jon didn’t really think about the fence. Right then, he had eyes for Martin only.

 

Martin’s ginger curls waved in the wind, tracing over his soft green eyes and freckled skin. His green jumper looked hand-knit, the chords helping him blend into the green backdrop. His eyes were shining with reflected sky as he took in the park.

 

Jon, politely, couldn’t give a shit about the park. How could he focus on some grass with Martin in front of him? Martin, who was practically glowing ? Martin, who, despite all odds, liked him? So yeah, he wasn’t looking at the fields.

 

Martin looked distracted as well, and maybe that was what prompted him to approach the edge of the cliff. Jon followed with some amusement, enjoying Martin’s kid-in-a-candy-shop look. His amusement turned rancid, however, when Martin leaned against the fence.

 

He Knew that fence wouldn’t hold Martin’s weight. It wouldn’t hold anyone’s weight. So, when Martin leaned dreamily over the rotten wood, it gave out.

 

Things seemed to shift into slow motion as Jon saw the shock fill Martin’s eyes, as he watched Martin tumble over the edge. His curls flew up over his face as he fell, a cry tearing from his lips.

 

And Jon, against his better judgement, leaped after him. He was running off pure instincts, and his instincts said that he had to save Martin.

 

They met mid-air, Jon’s arms wrapping around Martin’s shoulders. Martin was soft and warm underneath him, and he was crying, and Jon could taste his fear and-

 

Jon screwed his eyes shut as his back erupted in pain.

 

And then… they weren’t falling anymore. Jon could feel wind pushing against him, and he could feel a strange strain in his shoulders, but he definitely didn’t feel dead. He had done that before, and this was nothing like it. Martin was still in his arms, though Jon was now supporting his full weight.

 

Jon opened his eyes.

 

And they were flying.

 

At some point during the fall, Jon had unfurled his wings, and, against all laws of physics, they were supporting his weight. The straining wasn’t harsh, and Jon found that the wind felt great amongst his feathers.

 

What didn’t feel great was Martin’s entire weight in his arms.

 

Martin had opened his eyes at this point, and was staring in open awe at Jon’s wings.

 

Jon ,” he breathed, eyes aglow, “You’re… we’re… flying.

 

“Yes, Martin. We are.” His voice came out strained, arms shaking under Martin’s weight. He angled his wings slowly and carefully, guiding them into a gentle slope downwards. (He had, of course, never flown before, but The Beholding is good for some things after all.)

 

He felt Martin’s arms wrap around his neck, secure and warm. After a few seconds of harrowing flight, Jon’s feet brushed the grass. As soon as both of them were on land, Jon fell to his knees, breathing out a sigh of relief.

 

His wings were still extended beside him, and they shook as he took deep, gulping breaths. Jon felt a gentle touch as Martin put a comforting hand on his back, pulling him close.

 

“Shh… shhh… Jon, it’s okay. We’re safe. You saved me.”

 

Jon hadn’t realized that he was hyperventilating until Martin began to speak, and he buried his face in the man’s jumper. His breath slowly evened out as he inhaled Martin’s warm and comforting scent. Martin smelled like pastries and flowers and the sun… and Jon found himself calming down.

 

He carefully brought his wings up, wrapping them around Martin’s broad shoulders. The eyes on them peeled open curiously, letting him take in Martin - beautiful Martin, safe Martin - from every angle. Martin just laughed that bubbly laugh of his, letting the wings engulf him.

 

They were soon tented under a canopy of brown and grey, warmth from Jon’s feathers filling the tight space. Jon let all of his eyes open, glowing a faint green in the dark. Lighting up Martin’s face, Martin’s curls, Martin’s freckles… Jon took in all of Martin, and he Saw him. He saw every little mistake Martin had made, every little guilty pleasure he had indulged in when he thought nobody was looking, every dark moment he went through all on his own.

 

And Jon loved him for it.

 

He loved every flaw, every mistake, every little piece of the puzzle that was Martin.

 

The static flowed like sweet honey, and, this time, Jon pushed it outwards. He let it engulf Martin like his wings were, pouring all of his love into the man in front of him. Martin breathed out a tiny “Oh!”, eyes shining in Jon’s glow. 

 

Jon pushed harder, showing Martin his own flaws, his own mistakes… growing up with his grandmother, the way he would misbehave… the way he let his bully die in front of him, consumed by a Leitner… how he had been called a girl for so long, the way his body felt rigid and wrong on the worst days… the way he had cried and cried after Georgie broke up with him… the way he felt broken some days, like he would never be able to be loved because of his aversion to sex… the way a part of him relished in others’ fear, the way he felt his humanity slipping away….

 

He showed Martin all of it.

 

And he could feel Martin’s love for him, as plain as the clouds in the sky.

 

“Oh, Jon. This is…”

 

Jon suddenly realized what he was doing and pulled back in a flash, wings folding back and sunlight flooding in. He had to leave. He had to get out. Martin would hate him now, he was sure. Why wouldn’t he? He had seen everything and-

 

Jon!

 

Jon felt a hand at his elbow, gentle and tender and the furthest from hatred it could’ve possibly been.

 

“Jon... I love you. I don’t care about your… flaws, or anything. You saw mine, and if you can still stand to… to be around me after that, then… I want to love you. Every part of you. Please, don’t go.”

 

And then Jon was leaning over, and then Jon was whispering, “ I love you too, ” into Martin’s ear, and then they were so close and-

 

And then they were kissing.

 

Martin was warm and gentle like freshly baked bread, soft and not at all aggressive. Martin was overwhelmingly sweet, and Martin made his head spin. Jon threw his hands over Martin’s shoulders and his wings around Martin’s back, and then they were laughing and he had pulled away and they were embracing in a whirl of feathers…

 

And maybe things could be perfect. Maybe Jon did deserve love.

 

“I love you, Martin Blackwood.”

 

A pause. A giggle, like he was in highschool again.

 

“Will you be my boyfriend?” He asked, voice softer than it had ever been.

 

And Martin was giggling too, and they were both tangled in Jon’s wings. It felt like nothing else existed in the world at that moment, just warm, beautiful Martin who was overflowing with such tender love. Love for Jon .

 

Martin laughed, his reply ringing soft through the air.

 

“Did you even have to ask?”

 


 

Chapter Text


 

It was raining in London, today. Rain was common, but there was something about the heavy, summer rain that stirred something deep down in Martin’s heart. He leaned against his windowsill with a satisfied sigh, watching water droplets race down the glass.

 

It’s a good day to knit, he thought to himself.

 

Lightning arched through the sky, thunder shaking the foundation as it tended to do during heavier storms. Martin was accustomed to the London rain, but still flinched away at the loud sound, stepping back from the window.

 

The rain pattered against the road at a steady pace, the rhythmic sound soothing Martin’s beating heart. Petrichor filled the air, the high, clear smell making Martin smile. Rain always made him feel invigorated, motivating him to work on his knitting or pick up a book. After all, rainy days seemed so perfectly engineered for simple tasks, and Martin found himself yearning for them on those clear summer mornings that burned and steamed.

 

He busied himself with his yarn, sifting through various colors. His basket was overflowing at this point and, though he was loath to admit it, Martin was a bit of a hoarder. He couldn’t help the excitement he felt when spying a beautiful weave, the rush of serotonin when his eyes fell on a satisfying array of colors. His thoughts drifted idly to Jon as his hands drifted idly through threads, wondering what colors would go best on his… his boyfriend.

 

None of it felt real, really. Martin had been after Jon for years , and apparently all it took was nursing him back to life after he passed out in the bathroom. Who knew?

 

Martin’s mind became occupied very quickly on thoughts of Jon’s long, silky hair, woven with silver streaks like he himself was made of yarn. He thought of Jon’s warm, brown eyes and their dayglo counterparts, both charming in their own way. He thought of Jon’s tanned skin, run ragged and ridged with scars from the other avatars.

 

His thoughts turned angry, for a moment, cursing Jane Prentiss and Jude Perry and Jared Hopsworth and… really anyone who had harmed Jon. For all of his cold exterior, he was really quite fragile. He had always been one to isolate himself, and he really… never knew how to ask for help. Martin felt an overwhelming need to protect him as he remembered Jon’s thin, bony form.

 

He would not let Jon get hurt again.

 

His hands landed on a soft, woody green hank of yarn, and he ran it through his fingers. The green would go well with his skin tone, he thought, pulling it out of the hamper. Coaxing hands found glints of silver in the threads, and he noted with some satisfaction the resemblance to Jon’s hair.

 

All right, he decided. He would be making Jon a sweater. When I come in to work Monday, I can ask for his measurements.

 

He reached for his notebook, marking down the color of yarn. He had gotten into planning the pattern of the cables before he realized how domestic he was being, and he very quickly put his pen down.

 

Was this too much? They had only been on one date, what if Jon decided otherwise by Monday? Martin didn’t know what he would do if he was met by Jon’s familiarly strict demeanor when entering work.

 

Hey, have some faith in Jon.

 

He shook away the intrusive thoughts, heading towards his kitchen. A little tea would make him feel better. He would get Jon’s measurements on Monday, and then Jon could stop cutting holes in the backs of perfectly good sweaters.

 

After all, what was a boyfriend for if he couldn’t accommodate some wings?

 

Martin wasn’t really sure how he felt about the wings. They were lovely, arching things, their feathers soft and dusty. He recalled with some fondness the feeling of them between his fingers, the feathers themselves stiff but smooth to the touch.

 

But Martin saw how upset they made Jon, how they made him feel like a monster. If Martin had his way, Jon would never feel that way again.

 

Idly, he ran his hand across the counter, coming to a stop on his mug. It was a pretty little thing, he had snagged it at an antique shop a while back and was still proud over his luck. It was delicate pottery, seemingly hand-glazed in dandelion yellow. The color reminded him of the rolling fields he had loved at home, all golden and flowing in the wind like a sea of thread.

 

The simple task of preparing tea put Martin’s mind at ease just as well as the pounding rain. The thunder had let off, and Martin was feeling less on edge as he started the water going. The sound was quieter in the kitchen, thought the crackle of thunder rolled through every once in a while over the quieter rolling of the water in the kettle.

 

It really was a wonderful day to knit.

 


 

Jon used to love the rain.

 

He loved the sound it made hitting asphalt and concrete, and he loved the pitter-patter against the roof of his flat. He loved the rising smell of petrichor and the crisp, cool air that often rolled in with the storm. He loved the darkening skies and the rolling thunder, providing a moody backdrop to a horror movie or a good novel. Most of all, he loved the feeling of large, wet droplets striking gently across his face, the water weighing down his hair and making his clothes stick to his form.

 

What he didn’t like, however, was the feeling of the rain on his wings.

 

It made them slippery and heavy, and he could barely stand when they were fully weighed down with water. It was almost as if someone had grabbed him by the shoulders and dragged him down, wrenching his back and ruining his posture. His wings were waterproof, of course, but it was still an unpleasant feeling.

 

On rainy weekends, he would stay inside, turning to his small library and occupying himself with the pursuit of knowledge. He loved to sit by the window with a podcast and a mug of tea, watching the rain fall. He loved the way the rain painted the sky in blues and greens, and he often got lost in the swirl of the clouds.

 

On weekdays, he was forced to go out. This meant tucking his wings under his jacket which, in turn, meant that he had to wear the large, clunky raincoat that he had bought on a whim but had never fit right. He hated the way he had to hunch to fit into it, and he hated the way the sticky material clung to his neck and arms.

 

Of course, he should tuck his wings anyways, if he had any common sense. He just couldn’t stand the feeling of the fabric pressing against his wings, pushing them tight against his back. Some instinct deep inside of him longed to soar, and he just couldn’t bear to be restrained. 

 

His already churning fear of The Buried rose as he got more used to his wings, and he’d have the occasional nightmare of dark, wet mud clumping his feathers together and pressing him down into the earth… No, he hated having them held back. It just didn’t feel right.

 

So, on the sunny days, he resigned himself to getting odd looks. Gave the Institute more business, anyhow, and Tim and Sasha always got a laugh out of the statements that mentioned him. 

 

He recalled, notably, one Statement of Nicholas Reece, regarding a ‘bird-looking twink covered in eyes on a date with his teddy bear boyfriend.’ This one sent the assistants into hysterics, Martin going completely red at the comments about him while Jon just tuned the whole thing out.

 

He wasn’t looking forward to telling Tim and Sasha about their relationship.

 

...as long as Martin didn’t have second thoughts, that is.

 

Jon had a sneaking suspicion that Tim and Sasha were betting on them, and he didn’t even need to Know that one. He had seen them whispering more than once, and the looks Martin gave them did nothing but help that theory.

 

But anyways, the rain.

 

Jon turned his attention back to the window, watching the water hit the streets with a sigh. The wind picked up in a sudden gust, sending droplets hurtling across the front of his flat. A deep, primal part of him yearned to get caught up in that wind, to soar free in the updrafts.

 

He wondered if this was how Mike Crew felt, and was suddenly aware of the thrall held by The Vast. To be alone in the open sky… Jon had to admit, it stuck more chords than one. Oh, to feel the wind beneath his wings, pushing him higher and higher as he soared through the air…

 

But not today.

 

Jon Knew that the issue with the rain wasn’t really the water. His feathers were slick and watertight, as he had learned very quickly when trying to shower. He did not have a preen gland, as he was, thankfully, lacking a tail, but The Beholding had provided him with small, evenly dispersed glands under his upper feathers to help coat his wings.

 

This, of course, meant he had to preen them, which was a chore in amongst itself. It’s much better when Martin does it, anyway. Jon thought, but he did quite enjoy the feeling of running his own hands through his feathers, as humiliating as it may be.

 

Jon had observed his wings carefully the day after the feathers had fully come in, and his familiar drive for knowledge had bubbled up welcomingly. From the way the edges of his feathers separated, comb-like and curved, he knew that they were the feathers of an owl. 

 

Owls, he Knew, had a fringe-like edge on their primary feathers called flutings (or fimbriae, if he was feeling fancy). These edges let them fly silently by breaking down the turbulence and effectively muting the air as they flew through it, which was something Jon found very interesting. This was very quickly tested with a large, stiff flap, and really, he should’ve known better.

 

Since then, he has been more careful with his wings around ceramics.

 

But, no, the real issue with rain was the air . With the wings came a new, primal sense, and Jon could distinctly feel the way the pressure dropped when a storm rolled in. Low pressure systems always set his feathers on end, and he was quickly becoming a walking-talking weather predictor.

 

In addition to that horrid drop in pressure, the addition of water molecules through rain and humidity made the air less dense, leaving it almost useless to fly in. Birds - and, by extension, him - needed dense air for that aerodynamic lift that let them fly, and he could feel deep in his bones how wrong the air felt when it rained.

 

So, yes. Jon no longer liked the rain. It at least gave him an excuse to stay inside and avoid curious eyes, but there were only so many times you could reread the same books.

 

And Jon was hungry.

 

His appetite had increased tenfold after the addition of the wings, and he was jumping between three different explanations for why this was;

 

One, he had expended a lot of energy to grow the wings in. It would make sense for him to need to take more statements until his metaphorical tank was full again. 

 

Two, he was further from human than he had ever been, and it would stand to reason that his diet would now consist mostly of statements. 

 

And three, his least favorite option, was that birds had a much faster metabolism than humans, and ate nearly twice their weight in food every day.

 

Jon preferred the first option, though he had a sneaking suspicion that it was a mix of all three.

 

And so, begrudgingly, he found himself pulling on his coat to go to work on a weekend. His feathers were already on edge from the drop in air pressure, so he resigned himself to the fact that they would be getting wet. He refused to cover them up this time, feeling as ‘under the weather’ (ha ha) as he was.

 

He Knew that Elias had, “conveniently,” left the door to the institute unlocked. He also Knew that Elias was waiting for him, and Jon could do nothing about that. He was starving , and Elias knew it, the damn bastard.

 

So Jon pulled on his coat and went out into the rain, walking towards a conversation that he could not get out of.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

By the time Jon had reached the Archive, he was completely drenched. He had pulled a wing over his head to keep the water off, but it kept resolutely dripping off the tips of his primaries and onto his jacket.

 

As a result, he greeted Elias in a very unprofessional fashion.

 

The man was waiting for him outside of the archives, expensive umbrella overhead and not a drop of moisture on him. It was infuriating. His suit was clean and pressed, aubergine blending with the dark blue of the pouring sky. The streetlamps over him flickered, and every so often you could see flaring, yellow eyes hovering above him in the dark.

 

Elias straightened as he saw Jon approaching, face twisting into that familiar, simpering smile. The short man said nothing, simply gesturing for Jon to follow.

 

Jon Knew he really did not have a choice, so he followed Elias into the archives. His feathers were dripping long streams of water onto the shining floor tiles, and he felt a pang of embarrassment at the work he was causing for the janitorial team. He tried his best to shake them out, but really only succeeded in drenching both him and Elias.

 

This, at least, seemed to get some reaction out of the man, and Jon felt a deep satisfaction at the disgusted look Elias shot at his now-soaking suit.

 

“Jonathan. Was that really necessary?” Elias asked, tone patronizing as if he was scolding a vagabond child.

 

Jon did not respond. He simply followed Elias into his office, sitting in the chair provided with a small sigh.

 

He felt another pang of satisfaction at the ruining of Elias’ upholstery, but this was quickly dampened as Elias settled behind his desk. The next words that came out of his mouth made Jon’s stomach drop.

 

“Miss Tonner is alive.”

 

Elias’s face was lifted in a smug grin, and he crossed his arms professionally on the desk in front of him. His nameplate glinted in the light of the outside streetlamp, declaring Elias Bouchard in professional certainty.

 

Jon’s throat went dry, and he struggled to choke out a response.

 

“...Why are you telling me this?”

 

Elias leaned forward as though he was expecting the question, clicking his tongue in annoyance.

 

“It doesn’t do me any good to be missing valuable members of my team, now does it? Both the absence of Miss Tonner and the… reluctance of Miss Hussain is indeed detrimental to my work here at the institute.”

 

Elias leaned even closer forward, yellow eyes glinting in hunger.

 

“I want my job to be as efficient as possible,” he hissed, the cold air of it seeping into Jon’s face.

 

Jon flinched back, trying his best to keep his face steady.

 

“Is that why you killed Leither?” He asked, defiant.

 

Elias just smiled, settling back into his chair.

 

“I believe there is a delivery here for you and Miss Hussain to take.”

 

Static buzzed against the pouring rain, and Jon Saw Basira down in the archives, room dark and holding another, towering figure. He knew without Knowing that the being once known as Breekon was in his archives, and he silently cursed Elias for distracting him.

 

He stood, chair skidding behind him. He ignored the pleased look on Elias’ face, darting out of the office and down towards the archives.

 

He had a package to receive.

 


 

When Jon burst into the room, Basira whirled on him.

 

“Jon. Don’t turn on the light. Go get Melanie, quickly.”

 

Jon sighed, walking further into the darkness.

 

“Hello, Basira. First of all, it is a weekend, and I am the only one here.” Not entirely a lie, Elias wouldn’t be of any help. “Second of all, I know he’s here.”

 

He paused, looking her over. He could still See perfectly fine in the dark, and he saw the way she fidgeted and twisted her hands.

 

“It’s good to see you. It has… been awhile.”



“Yeah,” Basira snapped, dropping her hands. “I don’t usually go to visit monsters in the hospital, so I’m sorry if I haven’t been around.”

 

Jon dropped the subject, the room sliding into silence. Basira spoke again, voice still tight.

 

“So what are you doing?”

 

Jon clicked his tongue, turning to peer at the other figure.

 

“I imagine he’s here to deliver something. Thought it might need signing for.”

 

Breekon shuffled at that, moving into view with a slow, leaning lurch. Basira made a small sound of revoltion, stepping back a pace.

 

When the thing spoke, its voice was low and gravelly. “That’s right. Just wanted to - to drop off a package.” Its accent was thick, but the words were distinguishable in the silence of the archives. Jon’s feathers flicked in aggravation, causing Basira to stumble at the unexpected movement.

 

What was that, Jon?

 

“Don’t worry about it,” he sighed. He would explain later, when there wasn’t a dangerous entity in the archives.

 

Basira hesitantly reached out in the dark, her warm hand finding Jon’s arm.

 

“Right, look, what the hell is this? Did you bring him here? Is he… here for revenge?” Her voice was steady, impressive considering the way her hand shook against his skin.

 

“No, to the first question. And, for the second I… I don’t know. Ask him.”

 

Basira’s grip tightened on his arm, her voice coming out as a hiss.

 

“As if he’s going to answer to me.

 

Jon inhaled deeply, then let it out as slow as he could.

 

“Fine.”

 

He pressed the static into his voice then, directing it all at Breekon.

 

“Are you here for revenge?”



That finally prompted the… thing into speaking. It let out a low, chuckling laugh, again speaking in a heavy drawl.

 

“Yeah. Just like when we.. when I fed the copper to the pit.”

 

Basira hissed at that, nails digging into Jon’s skin. Jon placed a hand over hers, his voice going gentle.

 

“Easy, Basira.”

 

He turned back to Breekon, anger returning to rumble among the static in his voice.

 

What pit?” He hissed out, slow and harsh.

 

The thing turned to the coffin, knocking twice with a thick, meaty hand. The sound was hollow, as though it was much bigger inside as it appeared.

 

“In here,” it said, with something similar to a sigh in its voice. The thing continued, sounding as sad as a monster could ever hope to feel. “Realized I’m not tied- to it anymore. Not on my own. Thought you could have it. Pay your respects like…”

 

Basira interrupted it, voice thick with emotion.

 

“Daisy’s in there?”

 

The thing laughed again, making Jon’s feathers stand up at the sound. Basira flinched away from where they brushed her skin, but she stayed true to her word and ignored them.

 

“That’s its name? Then sure, ‘t’s in there, whatever’s left. Find out if you like.”

 

Jon finally snapped, tired of the charade. “Would you please drop that ridiculous voice?” He hissed.

 

When the thing next spoke, its voice was twisted in possibly the worst Russian accent Jon had ever heard.

 

“Apologies. Is preferred like so?”

 

Jon groaned, letting out a “Christ, that’s worse,” between his fingers.

 

The thing laughed, still in the accent. It was grating, and Jon was getting very tired. His next words came out tinged with static.

 

“What is your real voice?”

 

The thing continued to laugh, dropping the horrible accent. Its voice was lighter now, though, and it seemed as though his compulsion worked in… some way.

 

“Nikola said you were funny. Didn’t believe it,” Breekon said, voice gravelly.

 

Basira broke her silence, again spitting her words out with the ferocity of a cop.

 

“What do you want? Why are you here?”

 

The thing did not answer. Jon sighed, pulling up the static into his voice.

 

“Why are you here?”

 

The thing shifted, something akin to sadness crossing its face.

 

“Dunno.”

 

There was a pause as it considered its next words.

 

“...‘S not right, on my own. Not right. No point in doing it on my own. Don’t know what happens now.” It paused, as though waiting for something. “Thought I might kill you. Missed my chance. Thought I might just deliver something. So here’s a coffin.”

 

Breekon skidded the coffin closer, the wood screeching against the concrete.

 

“...In case you want... to join your friend.”

 

Basira took a hissing intake of breath, stepping forward with Jon’s arm in tow.

 

“Get out ,” She growled, venom in her tone.

 

When the thing did not respond, she turned to Jon.

 

“Basira-” He tried. He Knows something bad is about to happen, but she won’t stand down.

 

Get. Out.

 

The thing once known as Breekon took a step forward. A strange, musically hollow sound filled the air, the pressure rising to a crescendo in Jon’s ears.

 

Make me, ” the thing hissed, pressure bubbling up in its voice. Jon Knows he has to step in, or something is going to happen to Basira. To both of them. So he did, static hissing from his throat.

 

“Stop.”

 

All at once the hollow groaning cut out, replaced by the deep, hissing static coming from Jon’s throat. Breekon took a step back, now quaking under the pressure.

 

“What’re you doing?” The thing asked, shaky.

 

Jon did not reply.

 

“Jon. What are you doing?” Basira’s voice was tinged in concern, her warm hand leaving his arm with a jolt.

 

Breekon let out a choking gasp, stumbling backwards again.

 

“What are you… stop it.”

 

The static intensified, now filling the room with unbearable pressure. Breekon’s choking became more audible, its voice tinged with that horrible hollow sound.

 

“Stop it!”

 

Jon stepped forward again, eyes on his face peeling open. His wings flared out behind him, eyes upon eyes blinking open in their tawny depths. They glowed a harsh, dayglo green, filling the archives with sickly light. His feathers spread to their full wingspan, gently pushing Basira forward as they encircle the room.

 

Basira finally caught sight of him, and her breath died in her throat.

 

“No.” Jon’s voice had an air of finality among it, the static popping and screeching in a painful symphony.

 

Breekon began to make an uncomfortable choking sound, hands flying to its throat. Its eyes were blown wide and white, pupil lost in the vast expanse. Its next words hardly came out at all, wheezed through the static that it was choking on.

 

“E-Enough…  stop… looking at me-”

 

The static somehow grew again, feedback squealing through the sound. The pressure in the room was not unlike anything Jon had ever felt, and he loved it. He relished in the feeling of power that it brought him, and, now, all of that power was pushing on Breekon.

 

Breekon began to yell, a horrible sound that was ripped from his throat by the swirling static. The cry was quickly cut off as its throat snapped shut, eyes shaking in terror. Jon flicked his wings towards the door, and Breekon was thrown through the air with a cry.

 

The door slammed shut behind him.

 

Jon took a deep, aching breath, and the eyes on his wings slowly flickered shut. As he regained his senses the static fell, the room slowly becoming bearable again. He retracted his wings, folding them tight against his back. His chest shook in pain and fear as he realized what he had done. What… am I? Oh gods, I really am some kind of monster, I-

 

He was cut off by a shuffling at his side, and he finally realized that Basira was there. His heart dropped to his stomach. She hates me. She saw me like that and she hates me.

 

Basira’s voice was shaky, but surprisingly filled with concern.

 

“Jon?”

 

A Thought struck him immediately, and his hands began to shake. His mind filled with memories that weren’t his, and he barely managed to gasp out a response.

 

“I.. I’m fine. It’s fine. Bring me a pen.”

 

A pen was pressed into his palm, and he frantically began to write. The statement of Breekon streamed out of him and onto the paper, filling page after page with the story of their involvement in the fears. When he finished his chest shook, sobs racking his breath.

 

Basira placed a hand on his back and a mug at his side.

 

“...Was it worth it? And… what’s in the coffin?”

 

Jon sighed, taking the tea.

 

“...Yes. The Buried. And… and Daisy.”

 

They were silent for a moment, the only sound Jon’s feathers brushing against the floor where he knelt.

 

“Are you going in there?” Basira’s voice was smaller than he had ever heard it, tinged with worry.

 

“...I have to. Daisy’s in there.”

 

Basira sighed, pulling her hand from his back.

 

“I won’t stop you.”

 

He looked up in surprise, and she quickly added on to her statement.

 

“But we are going to talk first, about the… wings? And the eyes?”

 

Her voice went a bit frantic, but she calmed herself with a steady breath.

 

“...And you are not going down there without a plan.”

 

She gave him a strong smile, which he returned with a shaking laugh. She grabbed his hand, her palm warm against his clammy skin, and pulled him to his feet.

 

He breathed out, voice still shaky. 

 

“So… you want to talk?”

 


 

Chapter Text


 

“Everyone. I gathered you all here to… er, make a plan, of sorts.”

 

Jon leaned forward to plant his elbows on his knees, regarding the people around him.

 

Tim was twitching with pent-up energy, tank top and jeans already wrinkled from the movement. He was fixing Jon with an impatient stare, eyes roaming from Jon to the Coffin and back again. Every so often one of his hands would come up to scratch at the even, circular scars dotting his face before falling back into his lap.

 

Martin was tense and straight-backed in his chair, freckled hands balled up on his knees. His eyes swam in concern and were fixed on a point just above Jon’s head. He would occasionally drop his gaze to make eye contact and, when this happened, he would immediately go red and look away.

 

Sasha was sitting relaxed and comfortable, her face straight and serious. Her hands betrayed her, however, coming up to tangle in her ponytail and to adjust her glasses. She was sitting next to Tim, and he eventually took her hand in his.



Melanie was nearly as twitchy as Tim, blue hair bobbing with every bounce of her knee. Her hands were clasped firmly in her lap, and her index and thumb fiddled with one of the rings she was wearing.

 

Georgie was the least nervous of all of them, her expression tilting the scales towards concern.  She was relaxed in posture, but her mouth was drawn into a firm, hard line.

 

Basira was glowering. From the moment they had received the Coffin, her eyes had not left the mahogany surface. Her purple headscarf cast a shade over her face, and the rest of her expression was unreadable. Her posture was tense and stiff, hands kneading into her trousers.

 

Jon’s wings were as tightly pressed up against his back as he could have them, struggling against all odds to keep them from Basira’s sight. He had yet to explain them to her, and he often caught her staring at the tawny feathers.

 

He cleared his throat, and all eyes turned to him.

 

“So. As you can see, I’ve… brought in a coffin.”

 

Tim shot Jon an incredulous glance at that, mumbling what sounded like nah duh.

 

Jon continued haltingly, his assistants still fixing him with silent looks of inquisition.

 

“So. Daisy is in there, and I have to go get her.”

 

The silence broke at that, nearly every assistant sitting up to speak.

 

“She’s in the coffin?”

 

“Daisy’s alive?”

 

“Jon, this isn’t going to kill you, is it?”

 

The last words were from Martin, whose face was twisted in concern. His fingers had moved from his knees to twist together in his lap, thick and clumsy with worry.

 

“Martin I… I’m honestly not sure.”

 

Sasha lurched to her feet, chair clattering behind her. She stormed towards Jon, paying no mind to the emotions hanging thick in the air.

 

She stopped in front of him, looking down with brown eyes that swirled with anger.

 

“What did we say about risking your life, Jon?” She hissed, her voice quivering. “You matter just as much as any of us.”

 

Tim stood as well, stepping up to hover behind Sasha.

 

“We should put this to a vote, have someone else do it. No offense, bossman, but you aren’t exactly the strongest guy-”

 

“No!”

 

Jon stood with a twump of outstretched feathers, tawny and grey filling the room. His wings had gotten bigger since the Breekon accident, and they now encircled the walls of the break room like a set of thick curtains.

 

Sasha and Tim took an instinctual step back, and the rest of the assistants regarded Jon with various levels of shock. Basira was openly staring at the wings, her eyes tracing down the feathers as if they were a puzzle she could solve. Martin was staring at them with something more tender, eyes warm. Melanie was glaring at them as though they had insulted her in some way, and Georgie just looked amused.

 

“I have to be the one to do it,” Jon said, voice firm. The Eyes in his wings flickered open in an unintentional show of strength, bathing his back in a soft green glow.

 

“I… I have to be the one to… go in there . I’m sorry. If there was another way, I-”

 

Martin interrupted him, coming to his feet with a creak from the chair.

 

“Jon. Do you promise you’ll come back?” He asked, voice soft and firm.

 

“Martin I can’t-”

 

Jon, ” he said, firmer. “Do. You. Promise ?”

 

Jon let out a slow, aching sigh, settling back into his seat. His wings arched back behind him, braced uncomfortably against the cool metal.

 

“...To the best of my abilities, I will try to come back. It… wouldn’t help any of us if I died, and I understand that.”

 

Sasha and Tim returned to their seats, both seemingly satisfied with his promise. Martin still looked terribly worried, but he sat without complaint.

 

Jon fixed him with a look that he hoped conveyed ‘ we’ll talk about this later.’

 

“Er… Any other questions?”

 

Georgie raised her hand, arm stiff and straight. When met with silence, she cleared her throat.

 

“So. Jon. What’s the deal with this Coffin? You have to go in on your own, I take it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t come up with some sort of plan.”

 

Jon nodded, letting out the breath he had been holding.

 

“Yes. The Coffin… well, it houses the Buried. The Too-Close-I-Cannot-Breathe. Whatever you prefer to call it, it is unpleasant at best. To make it out of there I… I need some sort of Anchor.”

 

“An Anchor?” Melanie asked, narrowing her eyes, “What does that mean?”

 

“I need something to tie me to here, ” Jon said, gesturing around them. “It could be anything from an actual piece of me to something of sentimental value.” He looked at Martin again, clearing his throat. “We can... work that out later. I have something in mind.”

 

Basira raised her hand next before quickly dropping it, embarrassment at the childish gesture crossing her face.

 

“Sorry if this is off topic but… why do you have wings?”

 

It started with a snicker from Sasha, but soon both she and Tim were in hysterics. Even Martin shot Basira a small smile. The three of them earned a glare from the police officer, who was rigid in her seat.

 

“I’m serious. He comes back from his coma and, what? He’s some sort of monster now?”

 

Martin’s smile turned sour in a flash, the man spinning on Basira with eyes aflame.

 

“Jon. Is not. A monster. He is my perfectly lovely boyfriend and-”

 

His eyes went wide, a hand flying up to cover his mouth. His face went as red as his jumper, freckles standing out against flushed skin. It was too late, though, the damage was done.

 

The assistants, minus Basira, whirled on him and Martin in a heartbeat. It was Sasha who spoke first, voice loud and incredulous.

 

“You guys actually got together?”

 

And then Tim; “I thought you’d at least be another month, damn it!”

 

And then Melanie, snide; “You managed to score Martin? How??”

 

And finally, Georgie; “Oh, Jon, you actually did it! Congrats!”

 

Jon planted his face in his hands, a long and drawn-out groan wrenching itself from his mouth.

 

“You lot. Get. Out. We will talk about my relationship later, but I really do need to catch Basira up.”

 

This was met with groans from Tim and Sasha and a small embarrassed smile from Martin. Georgie and Melanie were the first to come to their feet.

 

“I’ll go and find statements relating to the Buried, is that alright, Jon?”

 

Face still buried in his hands, Jon nodded.

 

“Just… don’t read them all the way through. Thank you, Georgie.”

 

The two women left in the direction of the archives, shortly followed by Tim, Sasha, and a very red Martin. The former of the three had arms around Martin’s neck, and were already haggaring him for information about their relationship.

 

Assistants out of the way for now, he turned to Basira.

 

“So. The wings.”

 

He came to his feet, unfurling them so they brushed against the ground. He had gotten more used to the feeling of them touching other things, and barely flinched when Basira ran curious fingers through the feathers.

 

She now stood beside him, both hands exploring the feathers. Her fingers grazed a soft spot, and all at once his Eyes flickered open, green and glowing.

 

She pulled her hands back.

 

“And they’re… real?”

 

Jon scoffed. “Of course they’re real. Why in Beholdings Eyes would I joke about something like this?” He flicked his feathers to annunciate, soft down floating off and into the air.

 

Basira was quiet for a moment, appraising them with her eyes.

 

“So. You aren't human.”

 

It wasn’t a question. It was a simple statement of fact, and, although Jon knew it to be true, it still made him wince.

 

“I assure you I am… at least the same personality you know as Jon, if not exactly the same shape.”

 

He folded his wings back, looking at Basira with searching eyes.

 

There was a beat, and then she spoke again.

 

“Alright.”

 

“Wait. That’s it? You don’t… hate me?”

 

She laughed, high and loud.

 

“I wish I could, Jon. Really. But it’s hard to hate someone who has just pledged to risk their life to save your partner, isn’t it?”

 

She paused, her voice softening.

 

“Thank you. For saying you’ll bring Daisy back. It means a lot to me.”

 

Jon reeled in surprise, Eyes blinking in incredulous relief.

 

“...Oh.”

 

His shoulders and wings relaxed, feathers smoothing down.

 

“Oh. Er, thank you, I guess. For… not hating me.”

 

Basira smiled at him, eyes strong and fiery.

 

“Well… you have to earn it, Jon. Bring Daisy back.”

 


 

Chapter Text


 

“Ah, Martin, can I borrow you for a moment?”

 

Jon smiled brightly at Martin, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes.

 

“Of course, Jon, is everything… alright?” Martin asked, face pinching in concern.

 

“Yeah I just…” Jon waved an absent hand through the air. “...Need your help with something.”

 

Martin’s frown deepened, his eyes running over Jon’s rigid posture and twitching wings, but he compliently followed Jon into the dusty little back room that he called an office.

 

The desk and the floor and the shelves and the everything in the room was completely covered in papers, statements and tape recorders strewn across pages and pages of Jon’s cramped and frantic writing. The air floated with feathers and dust motes, swirling in the dim light of the single green lamp in a corner of the room. The books on the bookcase were haphazardly pulled out and pushed back in, and Martin had a distinct mental image of Jon’s thin, jittering fingers rifling through the pages. A feather caught the wind of a small desk fan, and it skittered past them out the door.

 

“Jon, are you sure everything is alright?” Martin asked, voice low.

 

Jon closed the door behind them, sending the room into near-darkness illuminated only by the lamp and Jon’s luminous eyes.

 

“I… no. No, Martin, I don’t…”

 

Jon’s voice cracked, and suddenly he was in Martin’s arms. His frame was thin and, in the faint light, the creases under his eyes were sunken and painfully dark. His arms were thin like a bird beneath Martin’s careful touch, and the man shook like a leaf. His feathers were ruffled up and, at this proximity, Martin could see little bits of paper and dust wedged in between them.

 

He itched to prune them for Jon, but settled for wrapping his arms around the smaller man, cooing wordlessly into his hair.

 

“What’s wrong, uh, l-love?” He asked, choking on the pet name but letting it out nonetheless. “You can… You can talk to me. Please talk to me, Jon !

 

Jon sighed, planting his face into Martin’s sweater.

 

“I’m… going into the Coffin.”

 

Martin went rigid but kept his arms around Jon, forcing himself to be strong for him. His throat dried up, but he managed to croak out a response.

 

“Oh, Jon… are you sure?” He asked.

 

Yes .”

 

Jon’s voice was firm, a stark comparison to his quivering arms and his jittery wings.

 

“I just need… I need an anchor, Martin. I need you to be my anchor.”

 

Martin blushed, flustered, and then pulled away from the hug just enough to look Jon in the eyes.

 

“Anything to… to keep you safe, Jon. I, uh... I care about you. We all do.”

 

Jon smiled then, shaky and hesitant but still there .

 

“Thank you… uh… thank you dear, ” Jon said, forcing the words out through rapidly approaching embarrassment. His wings poofed up, feathers floating away to settle on both of their heads.

 

Martin went fuschia in a heartbeat, already pulling away and stammering mindlessly. Jon steadid him with a cold hand, holding Martin’s wrist firmly despite his still-wavering composure.

 

“Here, this should… um, help me find you,” Jon said, reaching up and behind himself into one of those gorgeous, tawny wings.

 

He wrapped his fingers around a long, streaked feather and, screwing up his eyes, he yanked.

 

He pressed the feather into Martin’s palm with a faint grimace. The feather very quickly swirled in disorienting shades of yellow and blue, and then finally settled on a faintly glowing green. It was warm in Martin’s hand, almost unpleasantly so.

 

He looked up at Jon, a question in his eyes.

 

“It’ll help me, er… feel you. When I’m in the coffin. So I can find you, my anchor, and, uh, pull myself out,” Jon said, embarrassed.

 

The feather in his hand shifted, and an eye blinked open to look at him.

 

“Ah. And it lets me, uh, how should I say… keep an eye on you. If that’s alright! Because if you aren’t comfortable, I can find some other way-”

 

“Jon, it’s fine, ” Martin interrupted, smiling fondly at him. “I would… I would love to um, feel like you’re always there.”

 

Jon let out the breath he was holding slowly and shakily. His wings lost their tension, folding carefully against his back.

 

“Okay. Okay. I’m going to… go talk to the others. Get the plan together,” Jon said, voice high with nerves.

 

Martin just smiled down at him, grasping Jon’s cold fingers in his own, warm hand.

 

“You are going to come out of there alive, Jon, whether you like it or not.”

 


 

Jon pulled off the last of the chains with a heavy sigh, running a hand through his unkempt hair.

 

“You’re really gonna do this, boss?” Tim asked, voice quivering despite the resolute look on his face.

 

“I… I have to. For Daisy.”

 

Sasha put a hand on Jon’s shoulder, face tight. “Just. Please be safe, okay?”

 

Jon nodded solemnly, raising his head to look Martin in the eyes.

 

“I’ll try my best.”

 

He cleared his throat and pulled a tape from his pocket, slipping it to Sasha.

 

“Listen, Sasha… If I don’t make it back, you’ll be in charge, so-”

 

“Don’t.” Sasha said, firm. “You’re going to make it back.” 

 

She clutched the tape anyway, knuckles white against the flimsy plastic. The shaky writing on the white tape read out, in smeared back letters, ‘statement of Jonathan Sims.’

 

Jon smiled a tight-lipped smile at the rest of them, and he pushed open the coffin with a grunt. A puff of dust immediately rose from the inky depths, getting caught in Jon’s already-dusty feathers and hair. It was deep, deeper than it reasonably should’ve been, rough-hewn stone steps lowering themselves into the depths.

 

Jon let out one last heavy, aching breath, and then slipped into the darkness. He was visible for a few more moments, dusty and determined, and then the lid slammed behind him and he was gone.

 


 

It was suffocating. He was suffocating.

 

Everything was dark and dusty and pressing in, his throat didn’t feel right and his eyes were bleary with mud, his wings were pressed painfully to his back and already weighed down with choking dust… Jon felt like he was simultaneously feeling everything and feeling nothing all at once.

 

It was so hot, or was it cold? The temperature fluctuated between the two, always different and never pleasant. One minute, he was dripping with muddy sweat, and the next, it was freezing in his feathers and on his eyelids.

 

His hands scrambled blindlessly in the dark, brushing across rough, sharp stone. It cut open his palms and arms, quickly opening old scabs along his fingers as he dug. Every so often his hand would glance across something foreign - a skull? Some sort of creature? - and he would flinch back, sending a cascade of dirt down his shirt.

 

A tremor shook through the earth, and a falling rock hit him square in the back. He felt one of his brittle wings snap, the bone shifting painfully under the weight. He struggled forward out of the stones, trying and failing to keep the break straight against his shoulders.

 

His ears were clogged with mud, so he barely heard the first shout.

 

He definitely heard the next one, though, as close as it was. The distant, craggy voice of Daisy, pitched with fear and desperation. He pushed again against the weight pressing in, shoving himself towards the sound.

 

His wrists burned from the pressure he was putting on them but still he forced himself to move, following the fading shouts of his friend. Her voice was very quickly going raw, tired from the days - weeks, months, even - that she had spent trapped in this hellscape.

 

Daisy! ” He shouted, voice rough and throat clogged. “Please, hang in there! I’m… I’m coming!”

 

His mouth filled with dirt and he choked, coughing out the dust and sending painful tremors through his crooked wing.

 

Jon? JON! I’m here, oh my god, I’m here!” She shouted back, voice finally crackling with hope.

 

He felt a warm hand graze his arm, and he reached desperately towards the sensation. Her scarred fingers intertwined with his own, and he breathed out a shaky cry of relief.

 

“Daisy. Daisy. There you are,” He whispered tearily.

 

She pulled him closer, finding his other hand with hers. He couldn’t see her in the darkness - even the light from his eyes was choked out - but he could imagine every curve of her face, her boyish blonde hair, the jagged scar running along her cheek, her strong blue eyes… He couldn’t keep the tears back, and a raking sob shook his body.

 

“Oh Jon. You actually… you actually came for me? I thought I was going to-”

 

Shh,” he hushed her, pressing his palm harder into hers. “Let’s focus on getting out of here, okay?”

 

“Yeah, that would be…” She let out a hysterical, breathy laugh. “That would be… gods, Jon, how long have I been in here?”

 

“That doesn’t matter, Daisy. I’m… I’m getting you out. Basira is, she’s waiting for you, okay? Focus on Basira. Focus on your feelings for her, and, and let them anchor you.”

 

He heard her small sound of affirmation and screwed his eyes shut in concentration. He brought up images of Martin’s ginger hair… his warm brown eyes… his green, cabled jumper that he had let Jon borrow, that smelled like warm toast and fresh honey and the sea, that comforted Jon in the worst of times, huddled crying in his bed. He focused on Martin’s laugh, bubbling and light, and his poetry, oh his poetry, all those gorgeous words read out in Martin’s sweet, cautious voice, Martin’s lips against his, warm and kind and never pushing too much, always keeping Jon’s interest in mind…

 

And then he focused on the feather, that one little Eye, and he could See Martin. He could see his brown eyes, dark with worry, he could see that little wrinkle between his brows, he could see him worrying his lip between his teeth, he could see those ginger curls, unkempt from Martin’s wavering hands… and he could see the string connecting the two of them, shimmering with gold and green and blue.

 

He saw that string, and he tugged on it.

 

And then the surface above him wasn't stone anymore - it was wood. The rough, splintered wood of the coffin, scratched across with a multitude of claw marks from the frantic throes of other victims. He could still feel Daisy’s hands in his so he pushed with his shoulder, wincing at the shock of pain it sent through his wing.

 

But he pushed, and Daisy felt him doing it so she also pushed, and the wood rippled above them and then-

 

There was light. Bright, blinding light, streaming through the mud in Jon’s eyes and the dirt in Daisy’s hair. And, in front of it all, haloed by the light behind them, were Martin and Basira. Smiling, smiling their bright smiles.

 

Jon felt hands on his shoulders and saw hands on Daisy’s, and he watched with a detached gaze as Martin’s gentle hands pulled him up, up, out of the depths. Through bleary eyes he saw the creases in Martin’s face even out with relief, and the last thing he felt…

 

The last thing he felt was Martin’s lap beneath him before his eyes fluttered shut.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

“Jon? You awake?”

 

Martin’s voice was soft and laced with care, and his equally soft hands twitched where they were woven into Jon’s hair. 

 

His eyes flickered open, squinting at the light. They were still in the archives, although Jon Knew that a couple of hours had already passed. He tried to sit up only to be met with a wrenching pain in his wing and a gentle hand on his shoulder.

 

“Don’t try to sit up,” Martin said, still quiet. Jon’s eyes flickered to the side and saw Daisy and Basira, both tangled together and asleep on the couch. Martin continued, practically whispering in Jon’s ear to avoid waking the two of them. 

 

“Your wing is… it looks like it's broken. Couldn’t splint it with you laying on it like that so I was… I was waiting for you to wake up-” Martin’s voice shook, and Jon felt small droplets of water hit his face.

 

“I- I was so afraid that I was… I was gonna lose you, Jon,” Martin sobbed, his body shaking beneath Jon’s head.

 

Jon reached his arms up to the best of his ability and wrapped them around Martin’s shoulders, giving him a small, pained smile.

 

“I’m alright, Martin. I… I wouldn’t have gotten out if it wasn’t for…” He paused, searching for the words. “I love you, Martin.”

 

Martin let out a watery laugh, pressing a kiss into Jon’s forehead.

 

“I love you too, you reckless idiot. Now… let’s splint that wing, yeah?”

 

Jon groaned but let Martin help him sit up. He extended his wings back behind him, hissing at the sharp pain in his wing and the dull throbbing in his wrist. Martin shifted to reach for a first aid kit somewhere behind Jon, returning with a roll of gauze and a splint in his hands.

 

Martin’s fingers were gentle on Jon’s wings, carding through the feathers with the touch of someone who had experience caring for others. His hands came out bloody, and Martin let out a small cry of concern.

 

“Let’s get them washed up first, right? Is that okay?”

 

“Gods, I would love that,” Jon groaned, shaking the dust from his unbroken wing.

 

Martin carefully extracted himself from underneath Jon, shooting him a little comforting smile.

 

“I’ll just be a moment,” Martin said, standing and shaking the blood back into his legs. He stepped out of view and Jon heard water running from the other room. When he returned, he had a washtub and towel in his arms and a bottle of soap propped under his elbow.

 

Martin sat back behind Jon with a small groan, his knees popping in protest. He started with the wet towel and carefully worked warm water into the feathers, stopping every few moments to make sure Jon was alright.

 

Jon was more than alright. The feeling of Martin’s loving hands working the dust out of his feathers nearly made him cry out in delight, and he melted into the touch. He had only been in the Coffin for… a few hours? Minutes? But it felt like it had been forever since he had been clean. The dust caked in his hair and clothes still reminded him of the pressing dirt, the shaking stone, the suffocating darkness…

 

But he was alright now. He was with Martin, and he was safe.

 

Martin began to massage soap into his wings, hands gentle around where the injury was. Every time Jon winced it was followed by a stream of quiet apologies, which were followed immediately by affirmations from Jon. Jon’s eyes fluttered closed in pleasure, and he sunk further into Martin’s arms as the man carefully cleaned his feathers.

 

“Jon, I have to treat the break now, is that okay?” Martin whispered, carefully supporting one of Jon’s wings with his hand.

 

Jon sat up with a small nod, turning his head to look at Martin. “You have to, um, it isn’t treated like a normal broken bone,” he said. “Do you have vet tape? Or micropore?”

 

Martin immediately turned to rifle around in the medkit. He crowed triumphantly  when his hands hit a small roll of tape, and he lifted it above his head in victory. He turned back to Jon, and Jon’s heart melted at the satisfied glimmer in his eyes.

 

“Alright. What next?” Martin asked, returning his hands to Jon’s wing.

 

“He’re I’ll uh-” Jon grunted as he shifted the broken wing so it was folded against his back. “You have to… ow! You have to tape it down.”

 

Martin made a small sound of concern but did as he was told, wrapping the tape around the wing and then around Jon’s chest to support it. Jon let him know with a sharp nod when it was secure enough, giving Martin a reassuring smile.

 

“Very…” He took a deep, labored breath, coughing out a little bit of dust. “Very good, Martin.”

 

Martin continued to examine both wings, stopping at a deep cut on the right one that had just barely missed one of Jon’s eyes. He reached for the antibiotic ointment on impulse, but Jon very quickly grabbed his wrist.

 

“Don’t!” He said, eyes flickering green with Knowing. “Use hydrogen peroxide instead. The ointment will contaminate the… my feathers.”

 

Martin obeyed without complaint, rummaging around for the black bottle in the kit. He also pulled out the same gauze from earlier, placing it on the ground next to Jon’s wing. The peroxide stung but Jon refused to show any signs of it, knowing that it would just make Martin second-guess himself. The tenderness of Martin’s hands made Jon’s heart throb, and, in better circumstances, he would’ve kissed him.

 

“You’re doing very well, Martin,” he mumbled, leaning forward to reach into the medbox. With his abilities it didn’t take him very long at all to find what he was looking for, and he slipped the black brace over his sprained wrist with a quiet little sigh. “Have you done this before?” He asked, already knowing the answer.

 

“Yeah, um…” Martin’s face flushed, and he looked away in obvious embarrassment. “I had a, um, a pet bird. She never broke a wing so I didn’t know that about the tape but uh, I know about the… the preening and stuff.”

 

Jon chuckled and then coughed, more dust clouding up from his throat.

 

Martin finished treating the cuts and began to inspect the rest of Jon, his eyes landing on the wrist brace with a resigned sigh. Jon seemed to be otherwise mostly uninjured, so Martin let him off easy.

 

“Are you okay getting to the shower by yourself?” Martin asked, face red.

 

Jon stood with a groan, shaking on wobbly legs. “I think… I should be fine. I’ll grab one of Gertrude’s old canes, I... Know where they are.”

 

Martin stood as well, packing up the medkit with practiced hands. “Don’t hurt yourself, alright? Call if you need me?”

 

Jon smiled and, before he could overthink it, planted a kiss onto Martin’s cheek. “Of course,” he said. “Although I think I’d be hard-pressed to find a moment I didn’t need you, dear.”

 

He turned to head down to the archive showers, leaving a spluttering and red-faced Martin behind him.

 


 

The shower did wonders for Jon’s mood and, when he came out clean, he almost felt back to normal again.

 

Almost.

 

He was very quickly discovering that, although logically he knew he was alright, he began to panic when he was left alone for too long. The walls began to press in on him and his breath began to become thinner and thinner before he was wheezing on the floor, trying to regain his balance. He could still feel the dust on his skin although he had scrubbed it off like a madman, and the pressure on his back couldn’t have possibly just been from his wings.

 

Tim was the first one to find him, eventually, curled up and gasping on the floor of the archives. Jon couldn’t see anything and his hearing was muffled through the pounding of blood in his ears, but he distantly felt Tim’s calloused hands on his shoulder and he faintly heard Tim’s voice deepened in concern.

 

He let himself be pulled up and onto the couch in the breakroom, snuggling into Daisy and Basira without a second thought. Their warmth against his side brought him back to himself, and, slowly, he reopened his eyes.

 

Tim’s face was creased with worry, and Martin hovered behind him with a similar look. They both visibly relaxed when Jon opened his eyes.

 

“Sorry for carrying you, boss,” Tim said, frowning. “You were, uh, crying on the floor so I thought… anyway, you’re really light? Are your bones hollow or something?” He seemed to realize what he had said as soon as he said it, face reddening in embarrassment.

 

Jon sat up, careful to avoid waking Basira and Daisy, and concentrated on the static in his head.

 

“Er… yes. I suppose they are,” he grumbled, feathers ruffling up despite their wrapping.

 

The room was awkwardly silent for a few moments before Martin broke it with a cough.

 

“So! Um, are you okay? What’s wrong?” He asked gently.

 

Jon sighed, looking down at his hands. “It’s just… whenever I’m alone, I… I can still feel the Buried and everything presses in… I’m fine physically, though. No need to worry.”

 

Martin scoffed, putting a hand on his hip. “Your mental health matters too!” He said in a loud whisper, shooting a glance at the sleeping women and then back down at Jon. “So you… can’t be alone?” He asked, quieter.

 

Jon turned away. “I’d… prefer not to be, but I… I don’t want to bother you-”

 

“Nonsense, Jon!”

 

Martin grabbed him gently by the shoulders, eyes ablaze.

 

“You are welcome at my flat anytime if you need it to feel safe.”

 

Jon met his eyes and, finally, smiled.

 

“Yeah, I… I think I’d like that. If it’s not too much to ask,” he said softly.

 

He met Tim’s eyes over Martin’s shoulder, and the man wiggled his eyebrows with a shit-eating grin plastered on his face.

 

 Just like that, the mood in the room lightened, and Martin was back to being a blushing mess.

 

“Tim! Not like that!” Martin cried, whirling around. Tim had already begun his escape, though, and Martin had to run to catch up to him. Jon watched this all fondly, a sappy smile worming its way onto his face.

 

If only things could stay like this forever.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

When Jon got home, there was someone in his flat.

 

The first thing he noticed was the doorknob. It was freezing to the touch, and he almost immediately flinched away from the cold metal. When he turned it he found it unlocked, which at first set off no red flags - he was forgetful on the best of days, surely forgetting to lock up was entirely plausible.

 

The next thing he noticed, though, was the mist. His entire flat swirled with it, grey and damp and cold as ice. It filled his head, too, blocking his Sight and dulling his senses. It would have been alarming had a sense of cold indifference not drifted over him as soon as he entered the flat, making his thoughts fuzzy and distant. It led him into the living room, already enveloping him in an unconscious haze.

 

There was a large man sitting on his couch in what could only be described as a sprawl, although he simultaneously appeared to be taking up no space whatsoever. His beard and hair were both thick and white, curling around his ears and obscuring his mouth from view. They blended into the mist around him, giving his face a blurry look.

 

He wore what appeared to be a captain’s hat of all things. The look was pulled together by a thick beige fisherman’s sweater, which made his body nearly as indistinguishable as his face. His eyes were a piercing blue, the color visible even through the fog.

 

Jon found himself seated next to the man, as far away from him as he could manage on the small couch. The worn leather was frigid against Jon’s jeans, and he had to fight back another shiver in the already nippy room. Jon Knew, without the man having to introduce himself, that this was Peter Lukas, avatar of the Lonely. He just… couldn’t bring himself to care.

 

The man - Peter - chuckled. At the opening of his mouth another wave of fog rolled through the room, swirling in invisible levees. The chill became damper still, mist making the edges of the room blurry. The fog dampened Jon’s rising dread, swirling it into a thick blanket of indifference.

 

“Hello, Archivist,” Peter said, blue eyes crinkling at the corners. “I would say it's a pleasure to meet you, but… well, we both know that isn’t true.” He placed a heavy hand on Jon’s shoulder, the cold radiating from it in waves.

 

Jon found himself sagging into the touch, curling up despite his frantic Knowledge that Archivist you need to straighten up and get out of there right now!

 

He was just… so tired.

 

Peter’s smile widened at Jon’s lack of response, and he continued noncommittally with his speech.

 

“How did your co-workers take it? The fact that you’re a monster, that is.”

 

Jon flinched back further into the hand now clasping his neck, wings flaring automatically at his sides. He tried to choke out something, anything, about how they cared about him, how Martin loved him, how they were his friends , but the words were choked out by the fog.

 

“Surely you can’t think that they accept you, Jon,” Peter continued, fog swirling from his mouth. “Of course they think you’re a monster. You should know that by now, Jon. After Tim’s encounters with The Stranger? And Sasha’s dealings with The Spiral? Martin’s issues with The Corruption, especially?”

 

Peter leaned in closer, his cold breath whispering against Jon’s neck.

 

They think you’re just like them. A monster. Something dangerous ,” he whispered. “They’re just waiting for the right moment to get rid of you.

 

Peter laughed again, a quiet and pitying sound that spun with mist. “Do them a favor, Jon. Distance yourself from them. Keep them safe. It’s for their own good, after all,” he said, a sad smile flickering across his face that didn’t at all match the hunger in his eyes.

 

Jon felt the heaviness of the cold sink over him, felt the soreness in his bones from the moisture in the air. He watched with quiet indifference as the fog sweeped in around him and curled in between his feathers. It wasn’t so cold anymore, he realized. The mist was... comforting as it embraced him.

 

Maybe… Peter is right. I’m just going to cause them pain anyway. I’m better off… gone.

 

He sighed, feeling the tension sag out of his shoulders as he slumped over into the couch. He could barely feel Peter’s hand on his neck through the fuzziness that washed over him, and his own thoughts grew dimmer by the second as fog curled around his ankles.

 

He just wanted to go away, for a little while, that was all. He was tired of being looked at, of being Looked at, of being pitied. Martin didn’t really love him, how could he? Jon was a monster. He didn’t belong with any of them, pulling them into danger and making them relive their nightmares night after night. He was just their charity case, someone for them to fix and pity. But they couldn’t fix him, he was rotten all the way through.

 

Jon felt the fog wisp through his nose, his mouth, his eyes, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. It felt good, actually, the thick blanket enveloping him like a shadow of his wings. Peter’s form in front of him grew blearier and blearier through the sea of mist, and the last thing Jon saw of him was a  small, satisfied grin.

 

Then the fog closed in, and all Jon could see was grey.

 


 

When Jon opened his eyes again, he was in a yellow house.

 

The house had no door, only an open frame worn brown from age. Wind blew through the open-plan rooms, swirling mist and sea breeze in from outdoors. All of the windows were open to a view of the sea on all sides, the water cloudy and grey to match the skies.

 

The yellow of the wallpaper was patchy and unsaturated, and it peeled in some places from moisture and age. The hardwood was frigid under Jon’s bare feet, and the carpet was no better - the salt had rendered it crispy and uncomfortable to the touch.

 

He was seated on a couch not unlike the one at his flat. The leather was thinner, older, but the color was the same -  a faded brownish-red with darker patches sewn on where holes had been worn from use. It was cold beneath him.

 

There was a box in his lap, carved carefully from mahogany and worn by the weather.

 

Jon could not for the life of him remember how he had gotten here - was this his house? Did he live here? He took a moment to breath in the salty air, letting the mist swirl around his… around his wings.

 

He had wings that he had no memories of growing, and his clothes were large and foreign on his frame. His hair brushed about mid-chest - had it always been that long? - and it was streaked with threads of stark blue-white. One of his hands was scarred but… he didn’t know how or why.

 

Now that he thought about it, what was his name again?

 

Another breath of wind swirled through the empty house, and he released his thoughts with relief. None of it really mattered, anyway, he supposed.

 

Oh, there was a box in his lap! Where had that come from?

 

He picked it up, running his scarred fingers over the carefully carved mahogany. There was a clasp on the front rusted from years of sitting in a damp house, and it turned to dust in his hands.

 

He opened the box carefully, setting it down on the table in front of him to look through its contents.

 

As he reached for the box, his hands flashed once again in front of his eyes, and he paused. One of his hands was scarred… had it always been like that?

 

He breathed a deep sigh and let go of the thought, letting it drift away into the fog.

 

There was an open box on the table in front of him. The clasp was missing and he had dust on his hands, but he couldn’t seem to remember opening it… But he reached to inspect its contents anyway.

 

The box was filled with polaroids, thin and delicate in his hands. He flipped to the first one, squinting at the people in the square.

 

He really needed his glasses… he did wear glasses, right?

 

Through hazy vision, he inspected the occupants of the photo. There were five people in the little square, all gathered around a table with a cake on it. The first four were seated while one stood in the background at the door, plate of cake in his hands and a smarmy smirk on his face.

 

Jon traced his fingers across the people at the table. A woman with light brown skin smiled up at him through her curtain of long, dark hair, arm thrown around the man next to her. He was also grinning broadly, showing off double dimples on his tanned and attractive face as he flashed a peace sign up at the camera. 

 

There was another man seated on the far side of the table with broad shoulders and a head full of ginger hair that curled around his ears. Instead of looking at the camera his eyes were focused dreamily on the other man next to him, and his red glasses were crooked on his face.

 

Jon’s finger reached the man sitting at the center of it all and he paused in hazy recognition. Something about the dark skin, the librarian glasses, the greying hair seemed familiar to him… but he couldn’t quite place it. This last man had a deep scowl on his face and a cartoonishly garish birthday hat strung on his head.

 

Jon lifted his hands from the photo to give it another cursory look, and it turned to fog in his hands.

 

He felt a strange, fleeting feeling of loss, and then it was gone.

 

He looked back down and- oh! There was a box on the table in front of him. It was already open and full of blurry polaroids, but Jon was sure they weren’t all that important. Besides, they were turning to fog anyway, swirling with the sea breeze blowing in from the open windows.

 

His wings twitched in the breeze and he wondered, through detached apathy, whose house this was.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

Jon didn’t come to work on Monday. This was concerning, but Martin figured - he could take a break every once in a while , right?

 

But when Jon didn’t show up on Tuesday either, without even sending Martin a text, he began to worry. By the time lunch break came around Martin was twitchy with worry, and he was completely unable to sit still at his desk.

 

He had to go check on Jon. Something was wrong, he could feel it. Memories of the Jane Prentiss incident rose unbidden to his mind and he shuddered, pulling to his feet and heading towards the doors to the archive.

 

Tim and Sasha didn’t even stop him on his way out, giving him twin knowing looks as he sped walked past their desks. Something in the back of his mind buzzed to the front with a hiss of static, and without even thinking about it, he snatched Jon’s feather from his bag.

 

The tube ride to Jon’s flat was awful, the pouring rain leaving the enclosed space sticky and humid against Martin’s thick jumper. He couldn’t stop twitching, running his hands through his hair, twisting the feather between his fingers, anything to keep his cool. 

 

He found himself running as soon as the doors hissed open, and he barely even registered the people he wove through as he ducked from the rain. His nice work shoes filled with water immediately after he left the tube but he couldn’t bring himself to care, the panic now rising in his chest as thick as bile.

 

Jon’s door was open when he got there.

 

Martin stood in the hall, chest heaving, and stared at the open door in front of him. He could barely see inside of the flat for all the… was that fog swirling through the air? The cold air was oppressive, clinging to the rain on Martin’s hair and the water in his shoes. 

 

He became painfully aware of how wet his socks were at the same moment he registered the man standing in Jon’s empty living room.

 

Martin stepped through the threshold of the door and into the flat, clutching tightly the feather in his pocket. It was warm and thrumming in his hand, grounding him with the overwhelming feeling of Jon.

 

The man stood from where he had been perched on a ratty brown sofa, spreading his arms in some horrible facsimile of welcome. The fog twirled around him like seabirds around a fishing boat, as if waiting for a meal.

 

Martin had a sneaking dread that he would be providing said meal.

 

Or maybe Jon already had?

 

The thought hit him like a sledgehammer, thrumming through his mind along with that strange warm static. He cast his eyes away from the man for a moment to frantically scan the flat, looking for any sign of Jon.

 

And then the man was in front of him, forcing Martin’s face up with one, frigid hand. Martin met his eyes and immediately felt smaller, held there by his piercing blue gaze that seemed so amiss in all that foggy white hair.

 

The man spoke, voice smug; “You must be Martin!” He cried with a chuckle, mist wisping out of his mouth to swirl in Martin’s hair. He could feel the fog burrowing into its roots, bleaching a strand as white as the mist.

 

He could feel his mind drifting into something that horribly reminded him of how he felt around his mother, like he didn’t mean anything to her, like she’d rather have someone else care for her, like he was just a pain in her-

 

The feather warmed in his palm and his mind filled with thoughts of Jon. Images of his smile chased away the memories of Martin’s mother, images of the crows-feet at the edges of Jon’s eyes burnt away the fog like the morning sun.

 

It took all his strength to pull away from the man but he managed, leveling him with his harshest glare.

 

“Who are you, and what have you done with J-” He paused, considering for a moment, and then continued with righteous satisfaction. “What have you done with my boyfriend ?”

 

The man almost seemed surprised for a moment, the mist pulling back into his coat as he stepped away from Martin. Then, he laughed again; a loud, jovial chuckle that had something cold behind it.

 

“Peter Lukas,” the man - Peter - said, tipping his captain’s hat with a sarcastic flourish. “I believe you’ve met my husband?”

 

Martin’s eyes flicked to the eye-embossed band on Peter’s fingers and nearly recoiled in horror at the realization. Elias and… ugh. I don’t even want to- He chased the thoughts away, tightening his grip on Jon’s feather and focusing on the issue at hand.

 

“Where. Is. Jon?” He hissed, batting away a cloud with his free hand. It was solid between his fingers for a second before the feather burned it away, and Martin had a very brief recollection of his mother’s frown before it faded.

 

Peter returned to his perch on the couch, crossing one heavy-booted leg over the other.

 

“The Archivist?” He asked, examining his nails in pointed disinterest. “Oh, fed ‘im to the Lonely days ago.” The fog swirled in satisfaction, pressing in cold on Martin’s back.

 

Martin’s stomach churned with poorly disguised hatred, and he took a step forward.

 

“How do I…” He clenched his jaw, willing himself to sound confident. “How do I get him out?”

 

“You don’t,” Peter said, simply, reaching out a thick hand for Martin to shake. “But you’re free to join him…”

 

Martin took his hand without a moment's hesitation, and the fog swirled in so quickly that he almost missed Peter’s final words:

 

“...If he even remembers you, that is.”

 


 

Martin blinked, and he was in a house. The walls were painted a peeling, unsaturated yellow and the hardwood was frigid even through his nice shoes, the paintings on the walls all had people in them but their features were blurry and blank.

 

Martin felt his memories slipping away from him; why was he here? Where is here? They swirled away into the fog and-

 

The feather glowed red-hot in Martin’s hand, and his mind cleared.

 

I am Martin Blackwood. I am in love. I am Martin Blackwood and I am in love and I will not forget that! My name is Martin Blackwood and I am in love with Jonathan Sims and I am going to find him!

 

He shook his head, ginger curls bouncing around his face. He saw out of the corner of his eye that, to his dismay, they were beginning to bleach at the roots, fog curling into his ginger hair to paint it a platinum blond.

 

The feather twitched in his hand and he nearly fell over, stumbling over the edge of the ratty pink carpet. When he straightened he was facing another empty doorway, leading into an identical room with three other doors. The feather pulled, almost incessantly, towards the entrance in the middle, and Martin followed obediently.

 

As he walked the mist around him parted, his memories of Jon burning away the fog like the beam of a lighthouse. The feather continued to pull him through room after identical room, getting warmer the further in Martin walked.

 

After a long time walking - how long exactly Martin wasn’t sure, time slipped away from him in this place - the feather stopped its shaking and lay still. Martin looked up at the door in front of him, twisting his mouth into a resolute line.

 

The door in front of him was painted a pale green, peeling at the edges. Blurry polaroids hung from twinkling strings of twine, and Martin noticed a few faint silhouettes that might’ve been Jon and one rounder shape that he supposed could’ve been Georgie - although both of their faces were blurred and indistinct. 

 

DO NOT ENTER was burned haphazardly into the wood, and Martin couldn’t stop a chuckle at the mental image of a teenage Jon defacing his door with that old webbed lighter.

 

The handle was cold to the touch but so was everything in the yellow house, and Martin pushed back a wince as he eased the door open.

 

The room was bright, brighter than he had expected, three of the walls sporting sprawling, open windows facing the sea on all sides. The ceiling was covered in old band posters and fairy lights, the posters peeling at the corners and the lights hanging loosely off nails. The grungy vibe of the decor - dark painted walls, newspaper-patterned bedsheets, a guitar in the corner and clothes on the floor - clashed tremendously with the airy blue light filtering in through the windows.

 

It seemed like a room that should’ve been dark, but it wasn’t. It seemed off in more ways than that, too, all of the posters blurry and all of the clothes faded and crispy with saltwater. It had the most mist in it than all the other rooms, and at first Martin couldn’t even see more than a few feet in front of him.

 

And then the feather throbbed in his hand, glowing with a warm green light, and the fog lifted.

 

There was a man sitting at the foot of the bed with his back to Martin. His form was swirling with fog and his features were hard to make out, but his hands were desperately clutched around a little wooden box that was filled with dozens and dozens of torn polaroids.

 

As Martin watched the man’s back shook with silent sobs, and the fog around his hair shifted to bring it into view. Martin recognized it immediately.

 

He recognized the texture from months of dragging his fingers through it, he recognized the chestnut brown that went so well with the green jumper he had knitted. He recognized the jumper that the man was wearing now that it was in view - a nice brown one that he had spent months getting the cording just right on. He was horrified (but not surprised, seeing his own hair) to see the bleached blue-white streaks in the man’s hair, blending in with those premature greys that Martin so loved.

 

Martin stepped forward hesitantly and held out the feather in front of him.

 

It began to gleam even brighter, becoming uncomfortably hot in Martin’s hand. The eye opened up in all its dayglo green glory, turning to focus on the man in front of him. Something on the man’s back twitched in response, and, slowly, the fog began to clear.

 

The man lurched, and Martin lunged forwards to catch him.

 

Jon was light, lighter than he had ever been even with the hollow bird bones. He felt like he was made of mist, like he could fall apart at any time.

 

He finally looked up at Martin, and what Martin saw made his blood run cold.

 

Jon’s eyes were a glazed blue, unfocused and misty. His face was pale and slack, stress lines gone but not at all in the way Martin wanted them to be. Confusion crossed Jon’s face, distantly, and he twitched again, his wings coming up to hide himself from view.

 

Jon’s wings were even harder for Martin to look at without crying.

 

A good number of the feathers were bleached a bright white and all the eyes were either closed or that same foggy blue color. The edges of his wings swirled with mist and a few of the feathers even seemed to be made of it. The temperature in the room dropped a few degrees as Jon curled in on himself, and Martin’s heart sunk.

 

“Jon?” He asked, quietly, trepidation staining his voice.

 

There was no spark of recognition, no hesitant smile, no crows-feet creases on the man’s face. He just shifted to look at Martin again with those horrible blank eyes, eyebrows twisted in sadness.

 

“H...Hullo,” Jon said, his voice just above a whisper. “Nice to meet you…. Sir?”

 

Martin flinched back, nearly dropping Jon. He could feel tears welling up in his eyes but he chased them away, instead grasping Jon by the shoulders to make eye contact with him. Jon tried to struggle out of his grip but Martin held true, careful not to hurt him but keeping firm.

 

“Jon,” He tried, voice firm, “You know me. It’s Martin. Please, Jon, talk to me.”

 

Finally recognition sparked, albeit dimly, and a faint tinge of brown returned to Jon’s eyes.

 

“Mar...tin? Why are you… Why are you here?” The little wrinkle between his eyebrows reappeared, the one Martin always desperately tried to smooth out, and Martin smiled softly.

 

“I’m here to get you out, Jon,” he said, brushing a lock of Jon’s hair out of his eyes as tenderly as possible. “Come on, let’s go together.”

 

Jon’s eyebrows knit even further together, the mist in his wings swirling cold around the both of them. “No, I…. I don’t think so.”

 

Martin shrunk back. “Jon? Wh-What do you mean?” He asked, trying and failing to keep his voice stern.

 

Jon gave him a little sad smile, eyes swirling with fog. “I feel like… I belong here. Can’t hurt… anyone here. I’m a monster, Martin, I… I’m better off here.”

 

Martin tightened his hands on Jon’s shoulders, pulling him closer. “ No, Jon! You don’t!” His voice shook, and he finally let his warm tears tip over down his cheeks. “You belong with me! You belong with Tim and Sasha and... and… you belong with me, Jon!” He pressed his forehead to Jon’s, breathing in through the mist. “Because...Because we love you.”

 

He looked up to meet Jon’s eyes, giving the man a soft little smile.

 

“We love you. All of us do.”

 

Jon’s eyes flickered at that, brown and green burning through the blue like a beacon in the fog.

 

“You…?” He muttered, fog ebbing. “You all…?”

 

And then he let out a low, deep chuckle that Martin felt through his body, and the fog ebbed a little more.

 

“You all love me.”

 

And Jon was smiling now, his eyes gleaming a warm brown.

 

You all love me!

 

The eyes in his wings lit up one by one in that familiar bright green, chasing the fog away with a hiss. Jon pulled back from Martin’s forehead for just a moment, recognition and laughter brimming in every muscle on his face.

 

Martin. I love you, Martin. How could I ever forget that?” He said, breathlessly.

 

And then Jon leaned in and kissed him, and all the fog faded away.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

When Martin’s eyes flickered open next he was back in the dim and frosty living room of Jon’s flat, the shorter man still wrapped shivering in his arms. He bent to press a careful kiss onto the crown of his head, smiling softly amongst the smell of bergamot that still clung to Jon’s hair.

 

Fog whispered against the bare skin of his neck, and he stiffened. Jon pulled away from him with a small grunt and he missed the warmth of the man immediately, straightening to watch as dozens of eyes flickered open up and down Jon’s arms.

 

He followed their line of sight and his gaze met Peter’s, the old captain still sturdy in his seat upon Jon’s faded futon. The man smiled at them both through crooked smoker’s teeth, fog whispering between the curls in his beard.

 

“Hello, Jon,” he said, ignoring Martin altogether. “Seems you got out of that one pretty fast, ey?”

 

Without warning Jon’s wings flicked open, filling the room with harsh green light and swirling the fog into a cyclone around them. His Eyes focused on Peter Lukas with an intensity Martin had never seen before, the blue ones flashing with icy fury and the green ones glinting with monstrous anger.

 

“I see you,” Jon said, in lieu of greeting. “I see you, Peter Lukas.”

 

The captain stiffened and slowly came to his feet, eyes fixed fiercely and desperately on Jon. Jon continued to speak with that strange lilted cadence, his voice brimming with static as he pushed closer towards the man in front of him.

 

“You were always alone as a child,” Jon began, a mean little smile toying across his lips. “It was just you and your dad but he was never truly proud of you, was he?” Jon took a step forward, and Martin suddenly got the sense that he was intruding on something he wasn’t meant to see. He backed up and out of the wall of feathers, retreating to a point just behind Jon’s shoulders. Neither man paid him any mind.

 

Peter’s eyes were glazed but still fixed on Jon’s, irises flickering to images that only he could see.

 

“You wanted to be like him,” Jon continued, satisfaction tainting his words. “So you took the boat out. Thought if maybe, just this once, you could pull in a good haul of fish, maybe he’d pat you on the back, tell you you did a good job.” He took another step forwards, wings twitching to encircle Peter in a wall of eyes.

 

“It was stormy, though. Stormier than you’d ever seen it. But you weren’t giving up, oh no - you could already see the proud look in your dear-old-pop’s eyes so you tightened the rigging and strung the sail, scooped up more nets than you’d ever need.” He smiled a vicious little smile then, the glow from his eyes painting his face in otherworldly light.

 

“When the storm hit, well… seems like your dad just wanted to protect you, keep you out of the sea, and the only way he knew how to do that was push you away,” Jon crooned, eyes flickering as Peter flinched backwards, loose hands scabbling for something, anything to hold on to.

 

But Jon showed no mercy, encircling his wings behind Peter so the man had no place to flee. “You went over,” Jon said, straight and to the point. “You went over into the sea and, for the first time in your life, it felt like you were a part of something. The fog and the waves and the salt and the fish and the mist and the breeze, that is who you are , Peter Lukas, that is where you belong.

 

He took one, final step forwards, regarding Peter with something close to pity in his eyes. “ Go back from whence you came, ” he said with finality.

 

Peter closed his eyes for a moment, a smile chasing its way across his face like a flickering school of fish, and then he was gone. His hair and beard faded into the fog behind him, and then his tanned skin and starched fisherman’s sweater, all whisked away until there was nothing left but a lonely tattered hat sat forgotten on the carpet.

 

Jon picked it up and twisted it between his thin, cold fingers, letting out a deep and aching sigh. His wings folded up behind them and the fog ebbed alongside them until the room was clear, just the barest peek of mist sliding through the cables of Jon’s jumper.

 

He turned around to look Martin in the eyes, and Martin relaxed at the sight of familiar hazel.

 

“We’ve got some business to attend to,” Jon said, and Martin didn’t even flinch at the hunger in his voice.

 


 

In the end Martin convinced Jon to wait before immediately parading off to “smite” Elias, persuading him with a cup of tea and an invitation to his flat. Jon had shivered in one full-body movement and Martin tacked on the promise of a hand-knit cardigan, sealing the deal.

 

Jon’s bones ached like they had never ached before and he couldn’t quite get all the way warm. He Knew without having to think about it that, if left alone, he would drift right back off into the Lonely, whether he wanted to or not. His thoughts flickered, for a moment, back to that yellow house, and another shudder worked its way down his spine.

 

Martin’s flat was warm and bright like the man himself, each surface covered in potted plants and little knick-knacks that shone in the pale yellow light filtering in through the windows. His furniture was cheap but well loved and Jon ran his hands over it as they walked through, smiling at the tea stains left in the fabric.

 

He watched fondly as Martin bustled into the kitchen, rummaging through his cupboards to find the mug that he had bought especially for Jon. Jon remembered the day he had bought that mug and he remembered the warmth it shot through his heart, having a physical reminder that he had a place here, in Martin’s flat.

 

Jon knew, reasonably, that Martin had only been gone for a couple of minutes to fix the tea, but in his mind it felt like hours. He could feel the remaining mist in his feathers begin to twist and squirm against his back and then-

 

Martin pushed out of the kitchen with two mugs in his hands, and Jon relaxed.

 

He was hurried over to the couch with the mug of tea pressed into his hands, and soon something warm and smelling of Martin was being draped over his shoulders. The man hesitated for a moment but must’ve seen the desperation in Jon’s eyes, before settling in beside him on the couch.

 

Martin was warm. He was like an oven, like the mantle of a fireplace, like a freshly baked loaf of bread. Jon immediately found himself burrowing into Martin’s side, breathing in the smell of sunflowers and earl grey that clung to his jumper. Martin made a soft little gasping sound but carefully put his arm around Jon, pulling the man practically into his lap.

 

Jon carefully folded his wings so the bones wouldn’t press into Martin’s legs, settling down against Martin’s stomach with a happy little hum. He barely had the place of mind to set aside his mug of tea on the coffee table before he was drifting off, letting the excitement of the day catch up with him.

 

Martin smiled down at him and, when he was sure Jon was asleep, carefully pressed a kiss onto the crown of his head.

 


 

Chapter Text

 

It was a surprisingly clear day in London when Jon set The Plan in motion. The sky was blue and bright as he left Martin’s flat, making him squint against the sun as he walked to the tube. Martin was still asleep when he left - bundled up in a blanket and looking so cute that Jon was tempted to stay - but Jon had Business to get to.

 

Today his wings were folded under his coat, both because of the now conspicuous nature of the Eyes within and to hide the fog still swirling up and around his shoulder blades. He found that, if he concentrated on the static just hard enough, he could keep Elias from seeing underneath his jacket.

 

And, of course, that too was all part of The Plan.

 

The tube ride was short and sweet, the cars pleasantly empty despite the early morning rush. The few people packing around Jon would muddle Elias’ Sight, he Knew, and they would keep the man from seeing even a glimpse of what he was planning.

 

Jon felt a new warm feeling budding in the back of his skull. It was not unlike the feeling he got when Elias Saw him but it was far kinder, almost doting in its comfort. Jon Knew now, without a shadow of a doubt, that he was favored by The Beholding. It whispered into the depths of his brain, in more images than words, that It didn’t need Elias anyways, no, Jon was the one It had always been after. Elias’ plans were just favorable to It at the time being, that was all.

 

And so, with the smug feeling of superiority brimming through his spine, Jon stepped through the doors of the office.

 


 

Martin woke slowly to a faint buzzing in the back of his head, and he rose with a groan to check the clock.

 

It’s 7:00 AM, Jon’s voice said, thrumming through his mind with a faint tinge of static. Good morning, love.

 

“Jon?” Martin said aloud, fumbling for his glasses. His cleared sight still brought him no sign of the man, and his hand began to shake ever so slightly against the nightstand. An eye blinked open, hovering, warm and green against the yellow of his walls.

 

Don’t panic, Jon said, voice soft. It’s a… er, spooky thing, Martin. He made a small humming sound, and Martin could picture the frustrated little look that Jon surely had on his face. Remember the field? How I, hm, projected my feelings, so to speak?

 

Martin smiled at that, coming to his feet. “Of course,” he replied, still feeling rather silly talking to himself in his quiet flat. “So,” he continued, padding to his closet to get out his work clothes. “Did you… need something?” He directed this question at the eye, which had flickered to join him at the mirror.

 

Today is the day, Jon said, a smile evident in his voice. The Plan, we’re carrying it out today.

 

Martin made a small sound of surprise as he buttoned up his shirt. “Already? Why didn’t you wake me when you left, Jon?” he asked, trying not to sound too disappointed.

 

Jon sighed, but there was no annoyance behind it. I needed to set things up, he said, after a moment. Couldn’t risk Elias Seeing in your head. I woke you up now, though, didn’t I?

 

He pulled a jumper over his button up with a chuckle at Jon’s bemused tone, turning to straighten his pants in the mirror. “I suppose you want me to message Tim and Sasha then, brief them a bit?”

 

That would be lovely, Martin, thank you, Jon breathed, voice flickering for a moment before coming back in with renewed vigor. I have got to get back to work now, see you soon. He paused, and then, after a beat, I love you.

 

“I love you too,” said Martin, smiling to himself in his empty flat. The eye blinked shut, and the feeling of being watched slowly drained out of the room.

 

Today was the day, and he had a job to do. He pulled his bag off its peg by the door and fumbled for his phone, pulling up the messaging app with clumsy fingers.



Archival ASSistants

 

martinkartin [7:13 AM]

It’s time ;)

sishsash [7:14 AM]

Martin love what have we said about being ominous

Just because you’re dating spooky google doesn’t mean that you get spooky rights too

But yes, Tim and I are ready to wreck El*as’ shit

 

timmystonks [7:14 AM]

oh you bet your ass we are marto ;;;)

I’ve got the c4 locked and ready to go!!! hell yess arson time

martinkartin [7:15 AM]

gods tim what’d we do without you

omw to work now, see you guys soon

I’ve got The Things in my bag ;)

timmystonks [7:15 AM]

ominous

 

sishsash [7:15 AM]

Ominous

Haha jinx

martinkartin [7:16 AM]

I swear you two are a hivemind smh

but n e ways I’ve really got to go :( see you soon!

sishsash [7:16 AM]

See you soon Martini Mariney

 

timmystonks [7:16 AM]

sash I’m not even going to ask

but yes marto see you soon!!

 


 

When Martin stepped into the office at a crisp 7:30 AM, there was shouting coming from down the hall. One voice he recognized, fondly, as Jon’s - low and snarky and defensive, reminiscent of their early archive days. The other he recognized, shockingly, as Elias’, although he had never heard the man raise his voice before. 

 

From years of working in the archives Martin knew it was best to keep his head down and keep walking. He couldn’t help himself, however, from overhearing some of their conversation as he strode past Elias’ door on his way to his desk;

 

“Peter Lukas is a valuable asset to the Institute-” He could hear Elias hissing, muffled as he was through the door.

 

Was, ” Jon corrected, and Martin could practically see the smug grin on his face. 

 

“Oh you infuriating little-

 

Martin shuffled away from the door with a chuckle, speeding up to take his place at his desk. He swung his bag around into his lap but didn’t open it, instead straining his ears to hear if the muffled argument was petering out.

 

As if on cue, the door to Elias’ office slammed open and Jon stormed out, eyes flashing with barely restrained fury. His feathers were misaligned and standing on end, some even making their way into his long mess of hair. Wordlessly, Jon planted himself in Martin’s lap.

 

Martin immediately got a mouthful of feathers. “Why hello there!” He laughed, smiling down into Jon’s greying hair. “Didn’t hear you come in, ey?” He teased, earning a little huff from Jon. 

 

“Gods, Martin, I forgot how hellishly despicable that man is! The little bastard!” Jon cried out, gesturing with his hands in a little annoyed flick. “I don’t even have to pretend to be angry around that little… that little… that little rat of a man!” He groaned, leaning back into Martin’s sweater.

 

“But… everything’s prepared?” Martin prompted.

 

Jon smiled up at him, frustration melting from his face. “Yeah. The, ah... he shouldn’t be Seeing anything in the archives for a bit.”

 

“How’d you manage that?”

 

Jon ruffled his wings behind him with a little smirk, fog twisting itself around his shoulders and up into his hair. “Let’s just say…. a little trick I, hm, learned from Lukas.”

 

Martin frowned at that, running one of his hands through Jon’s hair. “I don’t like you using the Lonely like that, y’know? I just…” He sighed, rolling possible words around in his mouth. “I don’t want to lose you again,” he settled.

 

Jon put his hand over Martin’s hand, warmth seeping from the touch. “I’ll be alright,” he said, certain. “Beholding won’t… nothing can take me anymore, Martin.”

 

Martin opened his mouth to ask what that meant but, before he could get anything out, the door to the archives burst open.

 


 

He was on the verge of shouting ‘ Who’s ready for some arson!!!’ as loud as he possibly could as he stepped into the archives, but Sasha’s hand on his shoulder gently pointed him towards Elias’ office and the words died in his throat. Instead he simply held his backpack aloft, wiggling his eyebrows at Jon and Martin as he entered the room.

 

Jon let out a breath of air from where he had been holding it, shooting Tim a glare. “Tim,” Jon said, simply. Tim got the impression that Jon knew exactly what he had been on the verge of doing, but he shrugged it off and shot his boss a patented Tim Stoker shit-eating grin, earning a sigh from the clearly exasperated man.

 

He slid his desk chair over to Martin’s desk and gave Jon a little smirk - Jon was still sitting in Martin’s lap, to Tim’s utmost delight. Sasha pulled her chair over to join them too, a fond smile spinning its way across her face. 

 

Martin shot him a glance that was both incredibly excited and incredibly nervous. “So…” he began, lowering his voice to a conspiratory whisper, “You brought the goods then?”

 

“Indeed I did, Martarooni,” Tim replied with a chuckle, swinging his bag up onto Martin’s desk and dislodging a few loose notebooks in the process. “Dooon’t ask me how I got it,” he added, sending a wink the larger man’s way.

 

Sasha pulled out her own bag from where it had been slung around her hip, fiddling around in it before she pulled out a few walkie-talkies. “I know you didn’t want us getting anything out down here, Jon,” she said, stopping him mid-snark. “But I really don’t think Elias is going to mind a few walkie-talkies. ‘S he even looking?”

 

“...No,” Jon sighed, a begrudgingly fond look settling onto his face. He reached out and took one of the little radios, passing one to Martin as well. Martin slipped it into his bag, making very obvious care not to open the big main pocket on the front.

 

“And, er, thank you, Sasha. For the… walkie… talkies,” Jon finished. The words sounded strange coming out of his mouth, and he grimaced as he said them. “Is, um, there really no better name for them?”

 

“Absolutely not , bossman!” Tim cut in, swinging an arm around the woman beside him. “If you want help from the Tim-and-Sasha dynamic duo, you’re gonna have to make just a bit of a fool of yourself. For old time’s sake!”

 

Jon sighed, but he couldn't keep the warm little smile off of his face. “I’m… glad,” he said after a beat, his feathers shifting behind him. “That you’re all, er, here with me. That you don’t, you know… hate me.”

 

Sasha laughed at that, leaning back in her office chair. “Quite the low bar you’ve got there, Sims.” She paused, the teasing look on her face melting into something more sincere. “But yeah. We’re here for you, Jon.”

 

“Whether you like it or not!” Tim cut in, still half-snuggled into Sasha’s side.

 

Out of the corner of his eye Tim caught Martin reaching across his lap to put a warm hand on Jon’s, eyes unbearably sweet. The two of them shared a deep, meaningful look, and Tim felt the crawling sensation that he was intruding on something.

 

He cleared his throat rather loudly and stood, pulling both Sasha and his backpack up with him. “You need us to…” he waved a hand at the bag, “Yeah? Now is good?”

 

Jon nodded, tearing his eyes away from Martin to give the two of them a stiff little smile. “Good a time as any,” he replied, looking between the two of them. “Sasha?” He asked, quirking his eyebrow in an infuriatingly teasing manner.

 

“Yeah, Jon?”

 

“Don’t let Tim blow us all up,” he said, smirk on his lips. “Not yet, at least.”

 

Tim huffed, facade of anger only lasting a minute before melting into a fond grin. “Oh ye of little faith, bossman.” He hefted his bag in one hand and took Sasha’s hand in his other, giving Jon and Martin a little nod. “And, y’know. Stay safe, you crazy kids.”

 

He shot them a wink, and then he and Sasha headed off towards the tunnels.

 


 

Sasha tightened her grip on Tim’s hand, and he squeezed back reassuringly. The tunnels were cold and damp around her and the stench of something hung in the air, following them with every turn. Every so often her foot would catch on an old discarded crisps wrapper and the both of them would flinch, startled at the crinkle ringing out in the otherwise silent tunnels.

 

In her other hand she held aloft a page of Jon’s tight, scrabbled handwriting, detailing the paths through the tunnels and where to lay the c4. Tim had designated her the mapkeeper (“You’re the boss, babe! I’m pants with directions.”) so she was leading the way.

 

They came to the next small room, penultimate on their list, and Tim pulled another haphazardly wrapped clump of c4 out of his bag. He busied himself with setting it up in the corner while Sasha cast her gaze around the room, looking for any signs pointing to this space as opposed to the hundreds they had already walked past.

 

“Tim?” She said, aloud, her voice sounding strange in the silence.

 

“Yeah, Sash?” He responded, glancing up from his work. He wiped a dusty hand across his forehead, leaving a dirty little smudge on his tan skin.

 

She worked her lip between her teeth for a moment, fingers tracing the edges of the paper. “...Do you think this is going to work?” she asked, finally.

 

Tim paused, considering for a moment, before giving her a stunningly bright grin. “Yeah,” he said, voice full of confidence. “And y’know why?”

 

She shook her head, giving him a fond little smile. He stood from where he had been crouched and sauntered over to her, wrapping one hand around her waist and using the other to brush her hair out of her face.

 

“Because we’re all working on it together,” he continued with a soft laugh, spinning her curls through his dust-covered fingers. “And you all are the smartest people I know.”

 

“Your flattery won’t work on me,” she breathed back at him, but she could already feel her face growing hot. “But thank you anyways.”

 

He brushed a kiss across her forehead, and then stepped back, shouldering his pack. “Ready?” He asked, brown eyes flickering with laughter.

 

She grinned in response, stepping out to join him once more in the tunnels. She reached to take his hand once again but paused when her walkie-talkie began to fizzle in her bag, a voice coming through muffled by the thick fabric.

 

Tim paused mid-step and waited for her to fish it out, and she pressed it to her ear.

 

“Sorry about that,” she said, “What’s up? Over.”

 

Georgie’s voice crackled over the radio. “Hey Sash! Tim too,” she said warmly. “Just letting you two know that Melanie and I are here. Where do you want us? Over.”

 

“Meet Jon in his office, he’ll catch you up,” She responded, balancing the radio against her shoulder to free her other hand. “Have you heard from ‘Sira and Daisy yet? Over.”

 

Melanie cut in from what sounded like a distance away, her voice just barely audible over the bustling sounds of the Institute. “They’re all ready at the station!” She said, clearly very excited. “They’ll be the ones to answer when the police get called, so we’re all good here. Over!”

 

“Excellent,” Sasha said with a smile, again tracing the edge of the paper with one finger. “Keep us posted then, ladies! Over.”

 

“Let’s go lesbians, let’s go!!” Melanie shouted, and Georgie’s warm laughter could be heard against the radio. “Over,” Georgie added, fondness seeping into her voice. “And stay safe, you two.”

 

There was another flicker of static, and then the call disconnected.

 

“Well that’s good news!” Tim said, already walking again and pulling Sasha along beside him. “We’ve got all four power lesbians on our side… truly a Gays Against Elias mission, ay?”

 

Sasha laughed, pulling herself closer to him to press a kiss onto his temple.

 

“Gays Against Elias indeed.”

 


 

True to Sasha’s word, Jon was waiting for them in his office when she arrived. Melanie’s hand was clasped in hers, squeezing just a bit too tight, and the shorter woman had the biggest grin on her face that Georgie had ever seen. As they stepped through the door he rose to meet them, his ruffled wings betraying his nerves despite his outwardly calm demeanour.

 

Georgie was struck, then, by just how tired he looked - his eyes were dark and sunken, all five of them, and his hair was streaked not only with grey, but with white. His wings were in a similar state, saturated with fog as they were, and the eyes amongst his feathers flashed intermittently with pale blue.

 

Jon didn’t… he didn’t look very much human at all anymore, she thought, watching the tight curve of his spine, the way his fingers twitched in front of him, nails the slightest bit too sharp.

 

“Georgie,” he said, interrupting her thoughts.

 

She gave him the warmest smile she could manage, squeezing Melanie’s hand as she did so. “Jon,” she replied, watching from the corner of her eye as Melanie’s posture stiffened.

 

“You look… well,” Melanie said, forcing a grin. Her eyes, too, travelled down Jon’s face, and her disgust was thinner veiled than Georgie’s. “It’s been a bit, Sims.”

 

Jon sighed, leaning back against his desk. “It’s been… rough couple of days, Melanie.” He looked up to meet Georgie’s eyes, and for the first time she noticed that they were more green than brown at this point. “And you two?” He continued, oblivious to her staring, “How have you been? Moving in go alright?”

 

Melanie released Georgie’s hand to cross her arms, scowling at Jon. “I told you not to scrounge around in my head like that, Sims.

 

Georgie cut in with a placating smile, putting an arm around Melanie’s shoulders. “It’s been great, Jon. And I’m glad that... you and Martin seem to have worked everything out?”

 

The faintest bit of red crossed Jon’s face at that, and Georgie mentally tallied another point on her side of the board. He cleared his throat, embarrassment clear in the twitching of his wings, and straightened up from where he had been leaning.

 

“Well. Er, yes. Martin’s been… lovely. Fantastic. Anyways,” he stuttered out, forcing his feathers to stand down. “I’m sure you both know I called you here for a reason?”

 

Melanie’s grin returned at that. “Finally kicking the rat bastard’s ass, right?”

 

Jon let out a low chuckle, the tension finally draining from his shoulders. “In a sense.”

 

“What do you need us to do, Jon?” Georgie cut in, hand straying to the walkie-talkie in her pocket. “If you need us to contact Basira again I-”

 

Jon was already shaking his head. “No, no. For now I just need you two to make sure… everyone else, er, gets out of the Institute.”

 

Melanie visibly deflated. “So we don’t get to kick Bouchard’s ass?”

 

Jon grimaced, waving his hand in the air in a so-so gesture. “I mean…” he began, slowly, “You’ll be involved later it’s just…”

 

“This is most important now, yeah?” Georgie finished for him, stepping forward to take her girlfriend’s hand. “We’ll get them out for you, Jon. Nobody else gets hurt.”

 

Jon nodded, a somber look crossing his face. “It may be hard getting them all out without Elias noticing, can you manage it?”

 

“Can you block his creepy stalker vision or something?” Melanie asked, hands on her hips. At Jon’s reluctant nod, she grinned. “Then Georgie and I, the tech-savvy power couple we are, can rig the fire alarms to only go off on the upper floors. Keep Bitchard distracted for us, yeah?”

 

Jon smiled slightly at the nickname, cracking his knuckles slowly. Georgie startled, again, at the uncanny twisted shape of his fingers, just slightly too sharp to be normal. Jon continued talking, oblivious again to whatever thoughts were passing through her head.

 

“Yeah… yeah. That should work. My Archives are under enough cement so that… hm... yes, he won’t be able to hear the alarms.” He paused, a fond look settling onto his face. “And thank you. Both of you.”

 

Georgie didn’t have any time to ponder the way he had said My Archives , the way his eyes had flashed green - just for a moment - before Melanie was pulling her towards the door. “Stay safe, Jon,” she managed, smiling back at him as she was swept from his office. He grinned back, animalistic for a moment, before the door shut behind them.

 


 

Martin’s radio crackled where he had placed it on his desk, jolting him away from the poem he had been writing. Tim’s staticky voice could be heard faint from the other end, and he scrambled to place it to his ear.

 

“Sorry, Tim, what was that? Um, over.”

 

“Hey Marto!” Tim said, grin clear in his voice, “The, ah, you-know-what is all placed and ready to go! Over.”

 

Martin sighed in relief, leaning back into his chair. “Everything go okay with the wiring? Over.” He asked, trying to not betray the nervousness buzzing like electricity through his legs.

 

“Yepperoni! Not to brag or anything but… my girlfriend is a genius, Tim said fondly. “They’re all wired together and the switch even has a safety feature! Would ya look at that-”

 

Sasha cut in, laughing. “It’s to keep your backpack from killing us all, babe.”

 

Martin snorted, fiddling his pen between his fingers. “Melanie and Georgie look like they’ll be ready whenever,” he said, “So I guess... it’s up to Jon now. When we start, I mean. You two going to wait for us down there? Over.”

 

“Yeah,” Tim said, “Let us know when Jon gives you the mark to head down, kay? Over.”

 

Martin sighed, tapping his pen against the table. “Actually, Jon can probably give you the mark himself, huh? Over.”

 

Tim made a small noise of confusion, audible even over the radio. “How's that? He doesn’t have a talkie on him, does he? Ah, over.”

 

“No?” Martin said, confusion brimming in his voice. “He does that mind projecty thing, yeah? You didn’t… he didn’t tell you? ...Over.”

 

“He can what -”

 

“Hold up, Martin, let me get this straight,” Sasha cut it, drowning out Tim’s indignant shout. “Jon can… he’s telepathic or some shit? Over.”

 

Martin squirmed in his seat. “It’s more like… he plants his thoughts in your head? Like, you can see his emotions and stuff, um, he really…. hasn’t told you about this? Over.”

 

“First I’ve heard of our boss being a fucking X-Man, ” Tim began, but Sasha cut him off yet again.

 

“Has he always been able to do that?” She asked, suddenly serious. “Like, since when? Can he make you… y’know, think thoughts that aren’t, like… yours? Over.”

 

He… hadn’t thought of that, actually. But Jon wouldn’t do that. 

 

“Jon would never do that,” he said aloud, “He’s only ever like… shown me how much he… ah… how much he... loves me.” Martin flushed, face burning. “And he used it this morning to wake me up and… tell me what the plan was? But he’s never made me think anything, promise. Over.”

 

Sasha was silent for a moment, and then her sigh could be heard over the radio. “I’m… a little bit scared, Martin.” She paused, and Martin could hear her scuff her shoe against the cement of the tunnel. “I mean, what happens to him when Elias, y’know… beefs it? Does he take his place? Jon’s just sort of been, ah, weird lately? Since the Lonely thing? And I mean, I’m sure he wouldn’t do anything but…”

 

“-Can we trust him,” Tim finished, voice grim. “I’d like to think so, but… what will killing Elias do to him? Like how we couldn’t quit before, yeah? Will it… mess him up or something?”

 

“Whoah, whoah, whoah, guys,” Martin said, anger seeping in. “You can’t seriously be… of course we can trust Jon! You saw how much he went through to, to save Daisy, and how he saved you, Tim, from the Unknowing? And Sasha, that, that Thing totally would have killed you if it wasn’t for him - I thought we were over this! He’s our friend! ” He let out a breath he hadn’t known he was holding, inhaling heavily.

 

Sasha and Tim were both silent for a moment.

 

“If you…” Tim began, hesitant. “If you think we can trust him, Martin. I believe you.”

 

“Same here,” Sasha said, quietly. “Yeah… yeah! It’s Jon, for chrissakes, twink couldn’t hurt a fly.” She laughed, stiffly at first and then slowly the tension eased from her voice. “Sorry for doubting him, Martin. It’s just… It’s been a week.”

 

Martin let out a long sigh of relief, leaning back in his chair. “Thank you. Thanks. Oh, ah! Over. Sorry I’ve been forgetting to-” He cut himself off, huffing out a laugh. “Yeah.”

 

“You know, Marto, you make a great boyfriend. I’d have to say I’m even a little bit jealous of Jon for this one,” Tim said, shaking off his stiffness with a chuckle. “Over and out, Marto. Tell Jon to Vulcan mind meld or whatever whenever he’s ready.”

 

“Will do,” he replied, relief seeping into his voice. “You two, stay safe down there! Over and, over and out?”

 

The walkie talkie clicked off in front of him, and he breathed out a third, long sigh. Jon… he thought, mind wandering to the way his eyes had glowed after the Lonely, the way his frame was just slightly too sharp when he had wrapped Martin in an embrace, the way he eyed people on the streets as if they were… as if they were… 

 

Jon, he thought, You better know what you’re doing.

 


 

A big, green eye blinked open in the air in front of them, startling Tim out of the animated conversation he was having with Sasha.

 

The others are coming down, Jon’s voice said, flickering with static throughout the tunnel. Martin’s on his way already, Melanie and Georgie should… be there soon. He paused, feedback fuzzing in the silence. And I’ll be down-

 

“-About right now,” he finished, stepping out and around the corner. The eye blinked shut and then back open above him, joining the other eyes hovering around Jon’s head.

 

“Heeeey, boss,” Tim said, coming to his feet. “What have we said about, y’know, being spooky?”

 

Jon grimaced, feathers shuffling behind him. “ ‘S efficient,” he grumbled, joining the two of them in the room. Tim tried not to focus too hard on the eyes floating around them, but the mounting pressure in the room was already giving him a headache.

 

“Jon,” Sasha cut in, giving him a pointed look. “Whatever that is, could you cut it out?”

 

Jon started, a brief look of annoyance crossing his face before settling into embarrassment. “Sorry,” he said, his eyebrows furrowing in concentration. The eyes flickered shut around him, and, like a drain being pulled, the pressure ebbed out of the room. “Better?”

 

“Yeah, thanks,” Tim said, letting out the breath he had been holding. The silence very quickly became awkward, punctuated only by the faintest buzzing of static.

 

Sasha opened her mouth to say something, break the silence maybe, when Martin turned the bend.

 

“Hullo!” He said, smile on his face and lighter in his hand. In his other he held what appeared to be a full can of gasoline, which was dripping a thick trail behind him. “Gasoline’s all spread,” he said lightly, coming to stand at Jon’s side.

 

Jon gave him a fond little smile, apparently enamored by his boyfriend’s arsonist tendencies. “Thank you, Martin,” he said, pressing a kiss to Martin’s cheek.

 

Sasha grinned at the two of them, planting her hands firmly on her hips. “Well look at you two lovebirds,” she teased, “Nothing more romantic than a can full of gasoline, yeah?”

 

Martin’s face burned pink and he averted his eyes, before straightening up fully. “Oh look! Georgie and Melanie!” He exclaimed, voice stretched in the manner of someone who is quite obviously changing the subject.

 

True to his word the couple rounded the corner, hand in hand. Melanie had a shit-eating grin on her face that rivaled Tim’s own, and Georgie was wearing a smug little smile.

 

“Everyone else is out,” Georgie said in leu of a greeting, stopping in front of them. “Jon, everything else’s set?”

 

Jon nodded, looking down at his watch rather unnecessarily. “Elias shouldn’t be down for another… half hour, if everything goes accordingly, so we’ve got just enough time to... get to the, ah, the Panopticon. Everyone ready?”

 

The group nodded, expressions around the circle darkening into various shades of grim. Tim took Sasha’s hand nearly on instinct, watching as Jon strode purposefully out into the tunnels. He turned, for a moment, to look back into the room, and his eyes flickered an uncanny green.

 

“Let’s go, then.”

 


 

Elias coughed discreetly into his fist, scowling up at the ceiling. Something had been interfering with his Sight today - something that felt painfully like… no, he put that behind him already. No use thinking about his lout of a husband, the way his beard was scratchy and uncomfortable when he kissed him, the way his fisherman’s sweater was starchy with salt water, the way he…

 

Beholding damn it all, Elias missed him.

 

But right now the entire Institute was foggy and indistinct even to him, and The Beholding was being completely, infuriatingly unresponsive. If he didn’t know better he would assume Peter was making a visit, his presence always seemed to leave the halls misty and vague even when his Sight was at its best.

 

Peter was gone, though.

 

His Archivist - his damned insufferable Archivist - had killed Peter, had killed his husband , and he really had better things to worry about right now, but he couldn’t get the thought of him out of his head. A lesser man would succumb to these feelings, these choking twisting feelings that might’ve been something like sadness… but Elias was not a lesser man, and these feelings were beneath him Eye damn it all -

 

A curl of fog swirled in from the crack under his door, and he froze.

 

“Peter?” he said, aloud, not able to mask the way his voice shook. He coughed again, shook his head, and came to his feet. “Is that you?” he tried, his words coming out firmer this time.

 

No response.

 

“I swear,” he began, crowding out his upset with anger, “This better not be one of your little office pranks, Mr. Stoker.” He took a tight, measured step forward and then, losing his composure, took another two quick jolting ones and flung open the door.

 

The hall was empty save for a lingering cloud of fog, leaving a dusting of moisture on everything it touched. A deep chord of unease struck through Elias’ heart and he took a few more steps, following the trail the mist made down deeper into the Archives.

 

He followed like that, dazed, paying no mind to the empty desks of his employees, paying no mind to the crushing silence of the Institute around him. He could smell, there, in the mist - something similar to Peter’s cologne? Perhaps the faintest hint of salt water and fish - before it was gone, and he found himself in front of the door to the tunnels.

 

It was laying open, which, on any other day, may have bothered him. It had been years since he had gone down in the tunnels but today he strode distantly down the steps, heart throbbing unfamiliarly in his chest. He saw the flash of something white - his husband’s beard? That ugly fisherman’s sweater that he insisted on wearing? - as he turned the corner, ignoring even the slick feeling of gasoline beneath his shoes.

 

“Peter?” he said again, weaker this time. His voice sounded faint even to his own ears, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. He took a step and then another, shaky, not even recognizing the familiar path, that wretched path he had weaved hundreds of times.

 

His head throbbed, from the lack of Beholding’s presence or from whatever strange emotion he was feeling he couldn’t tell. His throat grew thick with fog as it weighed around him, pressing in on all sides.

 

Peter is gone. That thought sent a spark of something deep into his stomach, and, in his stupor, he barely registered his eyes growing wet. Peter is gone, and you are alone. The fog swirled around him, pushing him forwards into the tunnel, sending him after the phantom smiles and crinkling eyes that he saw at every turn.

 

“I loved you,” Elias said aloud, talking to no one in particular. “I do think I actually loved you.” He paused, the words rolling around in his mouth along with that strange pressing feeling of fog. “You were… an anchor, I suppose, as horribly corny as that sounds. The only damn person I could trust in this Institute, and…” His throat grew thicker, whether with emotions or fog even he couldn’t tell.

 

“And you’re gone, ” he choked out, the final word echoing around in the mist, louder than it should have been.

 

All at once there was something green, searching, and familiar in the darkness, and the fog cleared around him with a hiss of static. He stopped automatically, held in place by the sudden overbearingly crushing feeling that he was being Watched, the pressure of hundreds and hundreds of eyes all locked on his body. Suddenly, Elias felt very very small here, in this cavernous room still swirling at the edges.

 

The rest of the fog cleared away, and then he was standing in front of the Panopticon.

 

His heart - or what was left of it - dropped down into his stomach, his throat growing dry. He could feel the empty pit in his head where The Beholding was - where The Beholding should have been - so much more clearly now, and the pressure only increased as he searched for that familiar static.

 

Jonathan - The Archivist, his Archivist - stepped out of the darkness, hundreds of eyes blazing in unbridled fury, and, for the first time in his life-

 

Elias Bouchard felt afraid.

 


 

The Panopticon made Martin feel… It made his skin crawl. No matter which way he turned he still felt eyes on his back, and he knew it wasn’t Jon, because Jon was focused on-

 

Oh.

 

Martin followed the line of Jon’s eyes - did he have more than before? They covered his arms and neck now, following the circles of his scars like connect-the-dots. They were all focused on Elias, Elias Bouchard, stumbling into the Panopticon in a haze of fog.

 

Martin didn’t think he had ever seen Elias Bouchard stumble… and then the fog cleared, and Martin actually saw him blink tears from his eyes.

 

Jon stepped forward, wings snapping open with a whirl of fog and a hiss of static, making the pressure in the room increase tenfold until it was nearly unbearable. Elias flinched back at that, and Martin thought he might even see fear in the lines of Elias’ face.

 

“You can feel it, can’t you?” Jon asked Elias, voice brimming with a sick sort of ecstasy. 

 

Elias tightened up at that, setting his shoulders and forming his face into a hard mask. He couldn’t hide the way his hands quivered, however, thin and wiry fingers twitching against the purple of his suit pants.

 

“The Beholding doesn’t want you anymore,” Jon crooned, voice thick with static. “You feel it now, the emptiness in your head, the pressure on your shoulders - the fear of being watched twisting in your gut like a maggot .” Eyes flickered into view above his head, one after the other, until the circular walls of the Panopticon were teeming with green.

 

Martin took a step back. Tim and Sasha were grim beside him, occasionally shooting glances at the body of Jonah Magnus - the original Jonah Magnus - which lie behind him on the floor, dilapidated and dusty in the green glow of the eyes. Melanie had a hungry look on her face, eyes fixed on Elias’ face, and Georgie just looked... sad. Her eyes were set on Jon’s back and they swam with pity, tracing the too-sharp curve of his shoulders and the twitching masses of feathers arching from them.

 

Elias opened his mouth to say something but all that came out was a thin whine of feedback, lost in the static of the room. This is when the fear finally began to show on his face, amber eyes flickering along the walls and up to meet Jon’s green and unyielding glare.

 

Elias Bouchard, ” Jon continued, his words crackling and spitting. “You are expendable. I have seen the sky and it is full of Eyes and there is no place for you in it, the pages of the journal will not write of you nor will you ever see what is written within.” The cadence of his voice dipped up and down, carrying with it the weight of a statement as the eyes flickered overhead.

 

“You have been a pawn ever since you came to the Institute and you will continue to be after you leave,” he hissed, the words no longer his own. “You have been a prop in its play, you have brought me to fruition and The Eye approved of that but you have gone too far and now you must be punished .” 

 

Jon’s wings encompassed the room, completely blocking the two of them from sight for a moment, before dipping down again to flap once, twice, three times. The wind from them whistled through the room, tousling Martin’s hair around his ears. Jon lifted, steadily, into the air with one more steady flap, hovering just high enough to give them a view of the horror painted on Elias’ face.

 

Elias Bouchard,” Jon said again, cruelly. Elias flinched back but was held in place by the weight that now pressed down on all of them, blanketing the room in static. Jon took a deep inhale of breath, and then met Elias’ eyes with all of his own. The ones on the walls, the ceiling, his arms and neck, the ones hovering amongst the waves of his hair - they all turned to focus on the man in the center of it all, and Elias was afraid.

 

When Jon began to speak next, it was with a somber finality.

 

You who watch and know and understand none. You who listen and hear and will not comprehend. You who wait and wait and drink in all that is not yours by right.”

 

Elias began to scrabble at his throat, yellow eyes wide and frantic.

 

Come to us in your wholeness. Come to us in your perfection.

 

The weight in the room pushed Elias to his knees, Martin and his friends beside him mirroring the movement as the feeling of being watched settled over them in waves.

 

Turn your gaze on this wretched man and bring with it all of your glory, all of your knowledge, all of the fear that you sow that none but I can comprehend - Bring to him the same terror that he wrought on those who crawl, those who stride, and those who leap. Bring to him the crushing weight of your Eyes, bring to him the knowledge that he is Seen in his entirety.”

 

Jon looked at Elias, really and truly Looked at him. There was pity on Jon’s face, just for a moment, and then it twisted into cruel satisfaction. Elias looked up at him with the eyes of a man who had nothing, with the eyes of a man who was begging silently, silently for mercy. Martin watched Elias silently mouth, tears running down his face, for Jon to please, don’t do this-

 

Jon smiled.

 

Elias Bouchard, ” he said again, landing in front of the man with a thump and a swirling of feathers.

 

I cast my Gaze, Jon said, a triumphant grin on his face, “and you are seen.

 

Nothing happened, for one blissful, silent moment, and then Elias’ eyes blew wide.

 

He began to scream like Martin had never heard anyone scream before, the words ripped from his throat with the popping and hissing of recorder feedback. He threw out a hand in a last-ditch attempt to grab for Jon but already his fingers were unraveling, starting from the fingertips and working its way down. Slowly, his arms unfurled into thin, twisting and dripping piles of tape, lines already working their way up and across his chest as he continued to shriek.

 

The unraveling reached his throat and he choked, his screams replaced by the ear-splitting hiss of static. Martin couldn’t tear his eyes away and he watched, in stunned silence, as Elias Bouchard was peeled from the outside in. Elias’ eyes met Martin’s for one, horrible, desperate moment, and then he was curling, tearing apart until all that remained was a bloody pile of film.

 

Jon knelt, wings folded behind him, with something akin to reverence on his face. He reached into the curve of his wing and produced a tape recorder, wheels empty of film. With a cold, cynical expression he reached down into the bloody mess, grabbing the edge and carefully, precisely, feeding it into the recorder. He crouched like that, for what must’ve been less than a minute but felt to Martin like hours, winding the tape methodically around the wheels.

 

He straightened up, blood on his trouser legs, and Elias Bouchard was no more. Jon slipped the tape somewhere back into his wings and turned to Martin, green eyes steely.

 

Martin couldn’t help but flinch back, just for a second, before he registered the nod that Jon was giving him. He took a deep breath and turned around, facing the body behind him. It was shifting, now, twisting and writhing subtly against the cement flooring.

 

He lifted his leg, took another, shaky inhale, and then drove his foot through the skull of Jonah Magnus. It crumbled easily under his boot as if this was the way it was meant to be destroyed, the rest of the body quickly disintegrating after it.

 

Georgie cried out, the sound amiss in the quiet room, and Martin whirled back around.

 

Jon was doubled over behind him, wings twitching above his shaking shoulders. The eyes in them flickered open and shut, cycling through a spectrum of colours that left Martin reeling.

 

“Jon?” he asked, dread pooling in his stomach. “Are you… You alright?” He took a shaky step forward, hand reaching out but hesitating to actually touch the man (?) in front of him.

 

It was silent, for a moment, static still popping in the shadows.

 

And then Jon began to scream.

 


 

The pain rolled through him all at once, a horrible pulsating thing that started in his head and filled his body. He felt like a doll overfilled with stuffing, like his skin was too tight against what was inside, like whatever dark emptiness used to hover in the back of his skull had expanded and poured him full like a tall glass of dark, writhing ink.

 

Distantly, he could hear those people yelling - his friends? - but his head, too, was submerging itself in thick, bubbling static and his ears throbbed with the buzz of it. Something was in Elias and then suddenly it was in him too, jumping from the spool of tape to curl inside the cavity where Jon’s organs should have been. It whispered to him with that familiar hum of recorder feedback, that deep purr of Knowing, that he belonged to It, now, and didn’t it feel nice? Belonging to something, Archivist, belonging to It, belonging to the Eye-

 

He could feel the thing inside him swirling, buzzing, hissing, popping, shifting his innards and organs and bones into something that was new, something that Belonged. It thrummed through his wings like electricity and burned through the eyes popping open - down his arms, his throat, his legs… His hair hung damp in the sweat of his face and still the Beholding ripped him open from the inside, stealing his breath as he breathed it in, deep and gasping and desperate. He felt a warm hand on his shoulder and the thing in him hummed, greedy with the Knowing of it all. 

 

No, Jon thought, pushing back against it as hard as he could manage, not Martin, not him, please, he’s all I have left-

 

And the thing in him paused, pensive. He felt it, then, the thing that was warm and sharp and wrong and right, settle in him, curling like a cat somewhere deep in his chest. He could see it smile, rows and rows of boxy teeth, glistening white amongst all that dark static.

 

It twitched once more and then melted into him, filling the cavity underneath his skin with something warm, comfortable and thrumming.

 

Jon had the sudden, uncontestable feeling that this is what he was meant to be. The Beholding whispered to him again, promising power and a shifting, twisting, lovely new body-

 

No, Jon thought again, smiling this time. I’m… fine like this.

 

If the thing inside him contested this it had no words to express so, the black mass shifting once again into things resembling bones, muscles, organs, tendons, shifting back into that scrawny and wonderful body with those broad, arching wings. It filled him again but kindly this time, and slowly he could feel his fingers, and then his arms, and then the rest of him, numbness to pins-and-needles to the warm and familiar grip of Martin’s hand in his.

 

He looked up, his green eyes meeting Martin’s worried blue, and he smiled.

 

It took him a moment to regain his footing but then he was standing, wiping the thin trail of inky black blood from where it had dripped down from his nose. Martin and the others were staring at him, wary and afraid, so he turned to them, his face softening into something warm and fond.

 

“It’s…” His voice came out hoarse and he coughed, once, then tried again. “It’s done.” And then again, as if he couldn’t believe it, “It’s done. It’s, It’s… it’s done. It’s all over.”

 

The worry on Martin’s face was replaced by a crashing wave of relief, and he swept Jon up into his arms. Jon felt his shoulders relax, not-muscles and not-tendons loosening under the warmth of Martin’s shaking, throbbing chest. He buried his face in it, reveling at the sound of a beating heart. “It’s done,” he whispered, carefully, into the wool of Martin’s jumper. “We… we’re all free from it. From him.”

 

And then he was set back down on the floor as he laughed, laughed, laughed, disbelief shaking him to the core. Martin’s voice joined his in a deep, rumbling chuckle and then the rest of them followed suit, filling the Panopticon with the most joy it had heard in years.

 

“Let’s go home,” he said, bringing his hand to Martin’s cheek to wipe away the tears there.

 

“Yeah,” Martin breathed, smiling down at him.

 

“Let’s go home.”

 


 

“Martin? I’m heading out!” Jon called, the sounds of him pulling on his coat echoing through the flat.

 

Martin lifted his head from his writing, smiling in the direction of the door. “Have a good day at work, love!” he responded, setting down his pen.

 

Jon stepped back into the room and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, green eyes flickering in the low light of morning. “Of course. Best of luck job hunting, dear,” he said, smiling down at Martin through a veil of lightly curled grey hair. Martin kissed him back warmly, and then settled in his chair to watch Jon stride purposefully out into the morning mist of central London.

 

It had been a few months since they torched the Institute, Tim’s c4 and Martin’s gasoline doing a spectacular job of burning it to the ground. Since then, Martin had never been happier. He and Jon had bought a flat together, a two-bedroom cozy thing that already felt like home. Tim and Sasha lived just a few tube stops away, the two of them moving into Sasha’s old flat.

 

Jon had, out of some miraculous stroke of luck, gotten a job at the nearby library, and he fit right in amongst all the shelving and organization of books. He was still shaken from the incident, of course, they all were, but Jon hid it the best of all of them, crying those inky tears of his behind the closed door of his office when he thought Martin wasn’t around.

 

Ah, Jon’s office.

 

When they had first found the flat it had a little guest room off the main area, smaller than the other bedroom and with no windows set into the brick walls. Martin and Jon had already agreed to share the main bedroom, which was airier and nicer anyways, so the guest room quickly became Jon’s study - for the first few weeks Martin watched as Jon set up a desk, a bookshelf, normal office things to make use of the space.

 

And then, about a month in, Jon shut the door.

 

Martin hasn’t seen in there since, both out of a respect for Jon’s privacy and out of a lack of the key needed to get it open. It didn’t bother him at first - if Jon was embarrassed of his clutter and wanted to keep the door shut, Martin full heartedly understood. But it had been months, and, every time Jon left, he always surreptitiously locked the room as he slipped out from its depths.

 

Martin was normally a patient man, of course he was, and he respected Jon - he really did! But he was also a curious mind and, after months of waiting, he knew he could sit by no longer.

 

So today he watched Jon leave for work, kissed him goodbye, and, while his boyfriend wasn’t looking, stole the key out of his pocket.

 

The door clicked shut behind Jon after a few more moments of the man bustling around - getting his bag together and that sort of thing - and Martin immediately sprung to his feet. He went to peer out the window to make sure Jon was really, truly gone for the day and, at the sight of his boyfriend’s receding back, he turned to regard the door to the office.

 

It was the same as all the other doors in the flat, old dark wood worn with age. He couldn’t help but swallow nervously as he approached it, key in hand. What would Jon hide from him? He thought, pausing before it. Maybe it’s nothing, maybe I’m just being nosy, maybe…

 

He reached out and slit the key into the lock.

 

It turned easily, and the door swung open. It creaked as it did so, as if out of some horror movie cliche, and Martin stepped forward to fumble for the light switch on the wall. It flicked on and, for a moment, Martin had to blink to get his eyes used to the light.

 

Then, his eyes focused on what was inside the room, and his heart rose to his throat.

 

He remembered watching as Jon had set up a desk, a bookshelf, a filing cabinet… none of these things were visible anymore. On every surface, covering every single dusty square inch of the little room were papers, hundreds of them, all scribbled in Jon’s favorite blue ink. The majority of them were all piled up in the center in what Martin couldn’t help but see as some sort of haphazard bird’s nest, the center hollowed out in the rough size of a man. 

 

The shelves that were visible were stacked with tape recorder after tape recorder, each an uncanny shade of red and labelled with a different name. His eyes ran across one marked Elias Bouchard and he shuddered, horror wedging itself somewhere deep in his chest.

 

Feathers, too, were scattered across the floor, piled up in the center of this nest and all of them flickering with eyes. Martin picked one up almost out of habit, watching as the brown and grey slowly turned to green as an eye opened to look at him.

 

He dropped it in surprise, wincing as all the eyes on the feathers turned to focus on him.

 

He took another step forwards, reaching down to pick up a paper. His eyes widened further as he skimmed the words and he reached for another, and then another, all of them sending his heart deeper and deeper down his throat;

 

Statement of Nicholas Reston regarding a series of imaginary people. Statement of Vincent Košmrlj Dobršek regarding a startlingly empty ocean. Statement of Karin Barašin regarding an infestation of roaches. Statement of Cara Crowley regarding a night with no day.

 

They were all statements, each and every one of them - some written in a frantic, scrawling hand, others written in tight, precise script. Some were even written in a flowing cursive that he knew Jon didn’t possess. A few were splattered with ink, almost illegible, but Martin caught a few words about a man with wings and far too many eyes as he flicked through the stacks.

 

He startled backwards as an eye flickered into existence in the air above him, day-glo green and hissing with static. He frantically dropped the papers he was holding, trying to school his face into something not-guilty and not-terrified of the fact that somehow, Jon was still taking statements. He stepped, slowly, backwards, socked feet crunching on the pages as he padded towards the door. He maintained steady eye contact with the eye as he moved, careful to not make any sudden movements, and-

 

A hand fell on his shoulder, making an involuntary screech spill out of his mouth.

 

He was gently pulled backwards into the hallway, light turning off after him, by the person behind him, and he watched through a dazed film of fear as the sharp fingers reached over his shoulder to lock the door back. He felt a pressure in his head, horrible and writhing, as if somewhere, a recorder was whirring in a barely-audible feedback loop.

 

The hand turned him around and he forced himself not to screw his eyes shut, a cold sweat breaking out across the back of his neck.

 

He turned to meet a tight frown, grey hair, and a very familiar thin face.

 

The fear in his stomach didn’t vanish even as Jon’s face softened, even as he apologised for the mess in the office. The sick feeling stuck with him as Jon explained he had the day off, as his boyfriend busily prepared Martin’s favorite tea without even asking how he took it. 

 

“Jon?” he asked, quietly, wrapping his hands around the warm mug as it was passed to him.

 

Jon hummed in response, turning to lean back against the counter and regard Martin with eyes that should have been familiar and lovely. The green just made him feel sicker, now.

 

“Why are you… still taking statements?” He questioned, frowning softly into his tea.

 

Jon’s face fell, and, for a moment, something black and viscous flickered behind his eyes. He tapped a too-long fingernail against the ceramic of his mug, deep in thought, his wings rustling behind him against the tile.

 

“I..” Jon breathed, letting the words come out slowly and purposefully, as if he had been rehearsing it. “I need to. If I don’t… take the statements, Martin, The Beholding, it’ll - you have to believe me, if I could stop I would.”

 

“What happens to the people?” Martin asked, although he thought he might already know.

 

Jon’s jaw snapped shut, and the not-muscles tensed in his cheeks. A little crack worked its way across the mug in his hand, splitting a cartoony eye in half as it blinked up at him. Jon sighed, looking down at his feet, before glancing back up to meet Martin’s eyes with his.

 

“The, ah,” Jon sighed again. “They... become the tapes. Same as, as Elias.”

 

Martin swallowed, back crawling with memories of unravelling fingers and that horrible staticky scream-

 

He cleared his throat, squared his shoulders, and looked up at Jon. Jon was regarding him with poorly disguised anxiety, fingers still clicking unnaturally against the porcelain.

 

“Okay,” Martin said, after a beat. “That’s… I won’t lie Jon, that’s pretty bad. But I…”

 

He met Jon’s eyes and smiled softly.

 

“I’ll support you anyways. No matter how much… how far from human you get, Jon I… I love you. And I’m here for you.”

 

He reached across and took Jon’s shaking hands in his, carefully extracting the cracked mug from his grip. Jon finally smiled, a relieved little thing that made his face look so much younger. They both let out the breath they had been holding, the tension slowly easing out of the room.

 

“Now what do you say we actually get your statements organized?” He asked, cracking an uncertain grin.

 

Jon laughed, high and unnatural, and pulled him in to plant a kiss on his forehead.

 

“Yes, I… do suppose they’re a bit of a mess. I’d quite like that.”

 

And Martin felt, suddenly, that, even if things wouldn’t quite ever be normal again, they could at least… be okay. Here, and now, with his not-quite human boyfriend and his not-quite sane set of motley friends, he thought maybe, just maybe, they could end up happy after all.