He really hadn’t meant to follow her inside. To be honest, he hadn’t meant to follow her at all, but he really really hadn’t meant to. He hadn’t! Surely, he hadn’t! It was only that he was already out, already itching to just go somewhere.
He’d meant to go to the park. Honestly. He’d meant to relax by the fountain, and listen to its gentle burbling. A lovely fountain, that one, in a solitary, frequently visited section of the park. He’d always found it odd that they put a fountain so close to the lake, but it was a charming sort of odd. Yes, it was charming to sit on the ridge of the fountain and feel the morning fog twist softly around his ankles, and to know that while it comes from the pond, it has the appearance of hailing from the fountain.
A simple, sturdy fountain, it was, a slight bit taller than him, and a pale, bleached white. It must have been painted a light blue, at some point, because there were always little blue chips left behind on its surface. The water was always freezing cold, no matter the time of year. It was, honestly, no wonder why nobody payed it a visit beyond him.
He’s never wanted to admit it, but the fountain always reminds him of Martin. Which is absurd, because they look nothing alike, one being a fountain, and one being Martin, yet the resemblance is honestly uncanny.
Yes, that’s where he’d meant to go. The park, and the fountain that looked like Martin. However absurd that is.
Except it isn’t where he’d went, and it isn’t where he wanted to go, because if he’d really wanted to, he would have gone there. Right? He’d have sat down beside that lonely fountain with his basket, and he would have had his coffee and his sandwich, which would have been cold, but it wouldn't have mattered. He’s found that no matter the warmth of the food, it becomes cold very quickly in proximity to the fountain, and he can always see his breath there, puffed into little clouds. He swears he’s seen it form words, but he knows that would be silly.
But he didn’t want to go there, because if he did, he wouldn't have put his basket, with his still-warm coffee and his still-warm sandwich down on the park bench and left it there as he walked in the opposite direction from the fountain. He wouldn't have walked right out of the park, exactly the way that he’d came, following a woman. A perfectly normal thing for a man who likes women. And prefers to be creepy about it. Not exactly a normal thing for him to be doing, but he wasn’t exactly thinking about that.
She was fairly pretty, sure, in that standard way that most women look to him. Not women like Melanie, or Daisy, of course, but…background women. Normal women. Women who don’t carry the same strange air as his coworkers. Women who haven’t been obviously…No. No, if this woman hadn’t been obvious , he wouldn’t have followed her. It’s only that this obvious wasn’t present in her appearance, or her face, which he couldn't quite see anyway.
And though it wasn’t obvious at first, it certainly was when he thought a bit harder about it, the odd limp to her step, the defense in her posture, the wary way that she’d look back and forth. Yet none of these things were what he had noticed first, because it wasn’t something he’d seen , but more like a feeling. Like that intuition a cat seems to have, when they hear the kibble can rattling and know to come trotting over.
It was that intuition that made him abandon his lunch in the park as she passed.
He really didn’t mean to! He’d only gone to visit the lonely fountain and enjoy his sandwich, and that was all! There was nothing more to it at all. Nothing. He hadn’t already been on the prowl , as he has heard Basira say. He was just going to eat his sandwich and long for Martin’s company. That was all.
He honestly didn’t mean to walk into the cafe. It was because he had abandoned his coffee, and he was still thirsty! For coffee! It was coffee he…wanted. Definitely coffee. He was thirsty. For coffee .
Yet clearly he wasn’t, because if he had wanted coffee, he would have walked up to the counter and ordered some. He would not have walked straight past the counter and seated himself at an empty table in the corner, and he would not have ignored the barista’s concerned glance in his direction, which would be related to the fact that he looks exhausted and far too thin. Yet, this is what he did. So certainly, it was not coffee he had wanted.
He had just…wanted a nice place. That was all. He was tired of being cooped up in his office. He was tired in general, but he didn’t care about that. He wanted a change of scenery, although he didn’t get this from the park, where he could have had scenery and coffee and the imagined company of Martin.
There wasn’t company in the cafe beyond the barista and the woman, who he Knew was named Jess Tyrell, although he did not want to know this, because he did not want to know anything about her. No, he did not care about her at all, and that is why he had followed her inside and sat so he could see her at a good angle.
And there was nothing odd about it! Clearly! Because if there was, she would have noticed, and she would have given him a concerned, disgusted look, and maybe said something about it. But there was nothing odd about it at all, and the concerned, disgusted looks she kept sending in his direction had nothing to do with him, clearly!
He was there for…He was there for…He honestly didn’t know, because he was too tired to think! And that must have been it. He was tired . Because he hasn’t slept well in ages, and would much prefer doing work to dreaming anyways. Though his work isn’t much better.
Work? Perhaps he was there for a work related reason. That was it! She was…She was adjacent to the Institute in some way!
He would have known if she was. She was not.
Yes, he almost stood and walked over to her, but it was for a purely innocent reason. Yes! Innocent! He didn’t…He didn’t stop himself only because some other man had already moved to sit with her. No, he wasn’t going to do anything! He was simply…so disoriented. That was it! He was tired! It didn’t feel like tired , but he was tired ! That’s what it was. Nothing else.
And yet, if it was only that, he wouldn’t have sat, staring vividly into her as she ate. He would have left, perhaps gone back for his coffee and sandwich and fountain. But he stayed, and he stared at her until that other man left, and he Knew that she knew he was doing it.
If it was innocent, if it was only that, he wouldn’t have walked over to her, and he wouldn’t have asked his question to her. And he wouldn’t have walked back to find his coffee and sandwich gone, and not cared, because a coffee and sandwich wouldn’t have covered it like they used to anyway, and it’s silly to pretend a fountain is Martin, and wanting after Martin wasn’t even useful, because there would be no way that someone like Martin could like something like Him.
And the tired wouldn't have gone away unless it wasn’t tired anyway, even though it did go away, and therefore had to have been something else.
No, if he didn’t want to be tired, he would have gone home and gone to bed, because it was getting late anyway, and he felt oddly heavy and softer than usual, even though he hadn’t had his coffee because he had left it in the park.
Except he didn’t go home, and he didn’t fall asleep in his bed. Instead, he walked to the Institute, and he fell asleep at his desk. It wasn’t because it felt more like home to him than his flat. It wasn’t! It was simply…closer. Closer, if the maps were all upside down and backwards, like a directory seen through a funhouse mirror. But it was not Helen giving him the directions, and his flat was honestly closer.
So perhaps, yes, his office felt more like home , and he never needed the coffee, and he hadn’t followed Jess Tyrell for innocent reasons, and it wasn’t tired to begin with.
But if he wasn’t tired , how was it that he collapsed the moment he was safe in his chair?
And if Martin couldn’t like him, he wouldn’t have woken up with a fog-soft blanket placed gently over his shoulders, that same pretty light blue as the fountain used to be. Right?