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feel the done days and you're pulling through

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Cutting off a part of himself was never going to be easy.

It's not literal, this time, but it isn't any less painful. He’s attempting to destroy that which brought him back to life once before, and the process feels like dying all over again - but slowly, this time, as shreds of himself are torn away by the cruel talons of a god that doesn't give anything for free. The Powers don't look kindly on the ones who chose to reject them, especially when they've embraced them so thoroughly in the past. The Eye will take and take until it's got everything it has ever given him back, and does not care if everything that's left once the Archivist is gone is an empty shell.

It's a choice Jon had to make, though, after the world had not ended. He couldn't justify keeping his status, after everything they've been through; the monster wasn't needed anymore. Perhaps dying would have been simpler then - and he'd tasted the same thing in Melanie's thoughts and side glances: we should just kill him.

But Martin had caught it too, and he had taken a sidestep closer to Jon, and glared at Melanie with such ferocious protectiveness Jon had felt his knees weaken.

And so he’s giving up on the monstrous part of himself. It feels like painstakingly picking shards of glass out of an old wound, like rooting out ivy from the old tree it's keeping together. They've locked him in Elias's old office; it isn’t the most agreeable place to spend his days and nights in, but it’s got a couch that's comfortable enough, and the others can check on him regularly. They bring him food, as well as books to keep him distracted, but it's like being offered vegetable scraps when what he craves is a five-courses meal. 

Daisy and Basira visit quite often, together or on their own, for mindless chatter - or companionable silence, as they each settle with a book and read quietly for a few hours. Melanie doesn't come unless she's on meal duty, and he supposes he should be grateful she agrees to do that at all. She seems to be warming up to him, though; he doubts she'll ever go as far as calling him a friend, but she sticks around for a bit, once, and tells him Georgie has been asking about him.

"And... what did you tell her?" he had tentatively asked, voice rough with disuse. Melanie had shrugged.

"I said you were trying."

Which is probably the most charitable way to describe his situation. There's not much he can actually do to help with the withdrawal process; he can only hold for dear life when the deprivation hits him badly, and hope he won't wake up outside of the Institute with several more victims on his conscience - and in his dreams.

The nightmares have never been a fun part of his night, but now, as he loses the favor of the Beholding, they are even less so. He stops being a silent witnesses, living instead through the terrors that happened to other people. Buried, hunted, haunted; he wakes up choking on a scream more than once, spending the rest of the night with all the lights turned on and his back to the wall.

He feels lonely. No one asks how he's doing in that fight against himself; the memory of the things he's done is still too raw for them to pity him the way they would a human being. It's unfair , and it hurts, and he hopes he can earn their forgiveness some day; in the meantime, he can only pretend he does not care when they find him huddled in a corner after a particularly bad attack, skin marred with bloody grooves and cheeks still wet with tears.

Jon misses Martin.

Martin visits a couple of times a week, mostly to bring him food, sometimes to tell him news from the outside. Jon shouldn't miss him; but even if they've won, even now that the distance isn't necessary anymore, he can't help but feel like Martin's avoiding him. He's avoiding his gaze, for sure - though Jon can't blame him for this. Martin talks about the weather as if it's the prelude for something bigger and more important, but then tells Jon to have a good day and disappears. Their meetings are a frustrating ballet of silent apologies and unsaid confessions.

Jon misses Martin.

He knows Martin is fighting battles on his own. On some days - the bad ones, when his Sight is particularly strong - he can still catch glimpses of the fog stuck to the sole of Martin’s shoes, or the gossamer threads of silk caught between his fingers - or the inhuman spark in his eyes, hungry and curious, mirroring Jon’s own. And it feels - silly, and counterproductive, to avoid addressing their common struggle as an attempt to normalcy. What they save in shared awkwardness they suffer in private anguish.

This is no way to heal.

When Jon finally decides to break the ice, it's more out of necessity than thanks to a spark of bravery. He's not been having a good day; the Archives are calling to him, promising knowledge and power and relief , and he's backed himself into a corner of the couch, frowning deeply at the book in his hands. He's been reading the same paragraph over and over again, unable to focus on the lines; he hungers for more than empty words.

He jumps when the key turns in the lock, but slightly relaxes when Martin slips through, holding a tray.

"Hey," Martin says, careful.

"Hi," answers Jon. He closes the book, not bothering to hold it at the right page, and watches as Martin deposit the tray on Elias' desk.

Martin shuffles in place, uncomfortable but unwilling to leave so soon; Jon finds himself smiling - longing.

"So. How was" Martin asks, putting on an interested face.

Jon chuckles, makes a show of thinking about it for a second.

"Oh, you know. Been doing some light reading, mostly? Not much else to do around."

Martin winces. "Right." He doesn't let the short answer stop him, though. "Is it any good?"

Jon looks down on the ornate leather cover. He's actually not even sure what it is about at all. He shrugs.

"Hard to tell. Did you know there still are two different letters from Adelard Dekker down in the Archives?"

Martin's optimistic attitude doesn't withstand this particular blow; he sighs, leans his hip against the desk as he crosses his arms. He's deadly serious, suddenly, and Jon is reminded once again of how much he's changed.

"You know you can’t ever see those, right?”

Jon slumps, feeling like a chided child.

“Right. Of course, I know. But I also know they're here, and I want -” He cuts himself with a frustrated sign. He knows he has to take responsibility for his actions, but the yearning that lives in his chest isn't his. Not entirely. “It wants to know, and I can't stop thinking about it, and I swear I've been trying -”

The last few words are lost as he chokes on a sob. He swallows hard, tries to blink frustrated tears from his eyes as he looks away. He feels pitiful - the miserable shell of a man, about to crumple on itself if he doesn't find anything else to fill him soon.

The couch dips when Martin sits next to him, and it takes all of Jon’s frayed will not to shuffle closer to his heat, both metaphorical and literal.

On his lap, Martin’s fingers are fiddling with the fabric of his pants; his hesitation is almost palpable in the silence of the office. Jon can taste his decisiveness on his tongue a split second before he speaks up:

“Alright, come here.”

Jon looks at him, bewildered. Martin has opened his arms for a hug and is staring at him expectantly, resolution in the slope of his eyebrow but apprehension in the set of his mouth. It takes a beat more for Jon to understand what he means, and that he means it, and then he’s closing the distance between them and letting himself being wrapped in an embrace that instantly loosen the knot in his throat.

It occurs to him he's never hugged Martin before. Slowly, his movements jerky and unsure, he raises his arms - closes them around Martin’s middle and lets his face fall into the crook of Martin's neck, breathing in deeply.

“You - are you alright, Jon?” Martin asks after a moment. “Or rather, is there anything I can do to help?”

One of his hands has started rubbing soothingly the back of Jon’s head, and with each scrape of fingers in his hair his mind strays further from the hunger in his chest.

“Don't leave, please,” he mumbles into Martin's collar.

“I'll - I can stay with you for a bit. Of course.”

“Thank you.”

Martin hums and keeps petting him, and the tension Jon has been feeling for so long starts to fade. He closes his eyes.

“Do you mind if we - This isn't the best position,” Martin says, half-pulling away. Jon is confused until he understands what Martin in trying to do. They rearrange themselves until they're sitting side by side, Jon's head on Martin's shoulder, Martin’s fingers still running through Jon’s hair.

“Not that I'm complaining about what we're doing right now,” Martin chuckles, “but is there anything else I can do?”

“I -” Jon hesitates. There's an idea forming in his mind, something that might satisfy his hunger without having him giving up on his control. A parody of a statement, something for himself instead of for the Eye. He licks his lips, but in nervousness more that anticipation. “I don't think I know you well yet, and I think it's a shame, because we - because I, uh,” missed you love you want you to stay here with me for as long as possible, “care about you, you know? So I was thinking - can you tell me about yourself?”

Martin blinks at him in surprise, then squints.

“This isn't - like, Beholding-related, right? Because you know I can't do that.”

“No! Not at all. I just - I truly want to know you. What brings you joy. What makes you happy. That sort of thing. Tell me - tell me a nice memory.”

“A reverse-statement, huh?” Martin smiles, and Jon thinks the sight alone might be enough to bring him back to humanity. “Okay, I can do that. Give me a second.”

Martin thinks for a bit, and Jon closes his eyes again, letting himself enjoy the scrapping of nails against his scalp. When Martin starts speaking again, he is Jon’s only focus.

“So there was that one time, when my dad was still around…”