“I still can’t believe that Daisy has a secret house in Scotland that she never told us about,” Martin says as they step aboard the 9:30 train out of Euston Station, walking down the carriage in search of their seats. “I mean, you’ve known her for what, eight years now? And I’ve known her for at least three, which is a pretty long time to know someone without them telling you that they have a secret second house. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that she’s letting us stay there for a while, but still. You think it would’ve come up sooner.”
“Daisy’s a woman of many secrets,” Jon replies, trying not to catch himself on the ankles with his suitcase as he manoeuvres it down the just-too-narrow passageway between the rows of seats. “Sometimes I’m not even sure that her name is Daisy. I’m pretty sure she’s said before that we all just think that that’s her name.”
“We were literally at her wedding, Jon,” Martin replies. “We all heard it. Her name is definitely Daisy.”
“It might not be.”
“She kept an entire house secret from us for multiple years, Martin. That’s all I’m saying. If she’s capable of that, she’s capable of anything.”
“We already knew that she’s capable of anything,” Martin mutters, but Jon can hear the smile in his voice. “She can- she can- she can track down Michael at the theatre, and Helen! She can make Elias backtrack on changes that he thought were wise. She could make you take a break-”
“I take my own breaks now,” Jon interrupts quickly. “And I’m getting rather good at sensible time management, you know.”
“I know, Jon. I’m very proud of you,” Martin replies, his voice warm and honest. “Which is why what I was going to say is that Daisy was about the only person who could make you take a break before you started therapy. Which is pretty damn impressive, you’ve got to admit.”
“… It is somewhat impressive.”
“See? It proves my point – Daisy was always capable of anything, including cat-herding actors, and cat-herding you-”
“Oh, look, I think these are our seats!” Jon announces. He stops dead in his tracks, making Martin bump into his back and accidentally shove Jon’s suitcase into his ankles, but it’s worth it for the soft, fond, exasperated sigh that he hears Martin give. Jon turns, looking back over his shoulder, and smiles up at his boyfriend. “I don’t suppose you’d be willing to help me store the suitcases?”
“Give it here,” Martin says, reaching out. Jon passes his suitcase over to Martin, but before Martin can take it entirely, he darts in, pressing a quick kiss to Martin’s lips. He doesn’t explain himself, but he knows by now that he doesn’t have to; Martin knows just how affectionate he is. Martin knows how, sometimes, Jon just wants to kiss him, for no reason other than because he can, and because he loves Martin.
This is one of those times. It’s not a long kiss, and it’s not a heated one, but it’s sweet and light and loving all the same. When Jon draws back not even half a second later, Martin is smiling slightly, the corners of his lips tugged upwards as he leans after Jon’s lips. He doesn’t question the kiss, though. He doesn’t even comment on it. He just takes Jon’s suitcase, turns to one side, and starts hoisting it up onto the shelf above their seats as Jon prepares to pass him his own suitcase. It’s unspoken, and it’s easy, and soon both their suitcases are suitably stashed away, Martin stepping out of the way slightly so that Jon can take the window seat. He doesn’t need to ask Jon’s preference of seat. He knows what Jon’s like. Jon has gotten better at it over the years, but he still doesn’t like the idea of being seen, of having some stranger peeking over his shoulder even if he is just sat on a train, but Martin gets that. He understands. He’s more than willing to act as some degree of barrier between Jon and the rest of the world, making Jon feel more relaxed and at ease with his presence alone. It works for them, and Jon loves him for it.
“Apparently, the house used to be an old hunting lodge,” Jon mentions as Martin settles down into the seat next to him, swinging his backpack off his shoulder to drop it into the space between his feet. Jon turns slightly as Martin sits, not wanting to look away from him quite yet, and reaching out unthinkingly to take his hand. Martin tangles their fingers together without hesitation, the action as natural as though he’d done it a thousand times before. If he’s honest, Jon rather suspects that they passed one thousand hand-holds quite a while ago. “Daisy said that it can be a bit draughty at times,” he continues, “but apparently it’s got a fireplace and a woodstove and a supply of logs and kindling that we’re welcome to use, though she did warn that we may need to split some of the logs to get them to fit in the stove.”
“Yeah?” Martin asks. “Huh. I’ve never tried cutting wood before but I guess I can give it a shot.”
“I’m sure you’ll do just fine, love. You’ll definitely be better at it than me.”
“Oh? You think so?”
Jon smiles. “Need I remind you who willingly carries the heavy groceries?”
“Need I remind you who tries to carry the heavy groceries every time and then grumbles about having a sore shoulder an hour after they’re all packed away?”
“I’m just trying to be a good boyfriend,” Jon says, as loftily as he can.
Martin smiles, ducking his head to kiss Jon quickly. It’s a kiss that Jon has received a thousand times before, but it still makes him melt. “You’re a marvellous boyfriend,” Martin says, and Jon melts just a little bit further.
“You- you’re also- you’re also a marvellous boyfriend,” he manages to say, feeling himself blushing slightly at the compliment. He should be accustomed to it by now, because it’s not like Martin holds back from telling him these sorts of things, but he isn’t. In a way, he hopes he never is.
Martin’s smile turns into a smirk. “Am I-” he starts, and Jon sighs immediately.
“Yes, Martin,” he says, as Martin’s smirk grows wider, “yes, you are very yes.”
“Just wanted to hear you say it.”
“Awful,” Jon mutters, and then he kisses Martin again anyway before settling down. “Anyway, I’m sure it won’t all be chopping wood and surviving out in the wilderness and all that. You’ve seen the photos that Daisy sent us of the lodge and nearby area – you can’t tell me the local village doesn’t appeal to your retro aesthetic.”
“It… might, maybe,” Martin admits slowly, “It is very cute.”
“And surrounded by highland cows, apparently.”
“Hey, you’re also excited about the highland cows!”
“I am, I am, I’m not denying that. I was just teasing, Martin,” Jon says fondly, squeezing Martin’s hand. Martin sighs, rolling his eyes.
“I can’t believe you still tease me,” he mutters, “even after all this time.”
“Yes, well, you decided to put up with the teasing and stay with me for three years, so that’s on you.”
“Shut up,” Martin says, but his voice is fond. He turns his head slightly, catching Jon’s eye with a slight smile, and Jon feels his breath catch, just for a moment. It’s a small smile, soft and gentle and familiar, and after three years of being together (and a decent amount of time spent living together) Jon feels that he should be accustomed to it, but he’s not. Martin’s smile never fails to catch him off-guard. It never fails to make his heart stop, just for a moment. It’s been years, and Jon still loves that little smile just as much as he did in the early days of their relationship. If anything, he loves it even more now. He loves how he knows all of Martin’s smiles, from the tired, sleepy, content one that he gives Jon when they first wake up on a weekend morning, cuddled up beneath the covers as the sun catches on the dust motes hanging suspended in the air, to the wide, bright, delighted one that he gives when he laughs at one of Jon’s unfailingly terrible jokes. He loves the little surprised smile that Martin gives when Jon presses a kiss to his temple as he passes him a cup of tea, as though the action still catches him unaware even after all this time. He loves the content, fond, very slightly distracted smile that Martin gives him when he’s been rambling on and on about whatever topic has caught his interested, dumping several Wikipedia’s worth of information onto Martin as Martin slowly rubs his thumb across the back of Jon’s hand, listening to him with no lack of delight and support. He loves how Martin smiles at pigeons, and at dogs, and at cats, and at babies who wave at him and then burble happily when he waves back. He loves Martin. He loves Martin so, so goddamn much, loves him so much that he doesn’t quite know what to do with it.
Well, that’s not entirely true. He has some ideas of what he would like to do with it.
“Georgie said she’d be alright to look after our plants, right?” Martin asks, breaking Jon’s train of thought. Jon blinks rapidly, quickly pulling himself back to the present and away from thoughts of the small, velvet box that’s stashed away inside his suitcase.
“What?” he asks. “Oh, yes, I- I think so. She and Melanie already have the spare keys. I’m sure the plants will be fine.”
“Oh, I know, I trust Georgie, I do, it’s just… look, this is the first real holiday I’ve been on in… well, ever, alright? I’m just- you know I’m a little bit worried.”
“I know, I know, I do,” Jon replies, rubbing his thumb over the back of Martin’s hand. “It’s going to be fine, Martin. Everything’s been organised, and Georgie and Melanie said they can look after the plants, and it’s all- it’s all going to be fine. Don’t worry; I’ve got everything we need. I know where we’re going.”
“I suppose that’s true,” Martin says, sighing softly before glancing at Jon with a smile. “Besides, you’ve got the whole thing just about planned out down to the minute, haven’t you?”
“I… not quite,” Jon says. “It’s- there’s space for flexibility. I just like to be prepared.”
“Oh, I know, I know you do, Jon, and it’s- honestly, I’m really glad for it. It’s nice knowing that everything’s organised in your ‘anniversary holiday’ folder.”
“It’s efficient. It means we don’t have to- well, that we don’t have to worry about losing track of anything.”
“It’s sweet is what it is,” Martin replies, his eyes sparkling as he smiles. Jon smiles back, leaning in to press a quick, fleeting kiss to Martin’s lips.
“You’re sweet,” he murmurs, kissing him once more before leaning back, rubbing his thumb against the back of Martin’s hand again. “Anyway, Georgie said she’d send up pictures of the plants to prove that they’re doing alright.”
“Did she promise pictures of The Admiral and The Captain, too?”
“I think so. I’m just glad The Admiral and The Captain seem to be getting on,” Jon remarks, absently dropping his head to Martin’s shoulder as the train starts to rattle and move. “I figured The Captain would be fine, what with how he’s a trained guide dog and all, but it’s still good to know that Georgie and Melanie won’t have to break up any screaming animal fights.”
“The Admiral never struck me as the type to start a screaming animal fight. He’s always seemed rather… I don’t know, rather chill.”
“Oh, he is, he’s normally very relaxed, but I was just… I was just concerned. A lot changed in that flat in not a very long period of time, and I- I just want everyone to be alright. That’s all.”
“I know you do,” Martin replies and Jon hums back, shifting slightly to get his head positioned comfortably on Martin’s shoulder, Martin’s scarf brushing up against his face. It’s a nice scarf, the scarf that Martin’s wearing. Jon would know. It’s thick, and warm, and made from just about the softest yarn that he could find that was also available in a colourway that he thought Martin would like. It’s significantly nicer than the scarf he made himself a year or so earlier, seeing how it has some degree of detailing and a distinct lack of dropped stitches and tension issues, and he’s remarkably happy with it, even a year on from when he first gifted it to Martin. More than that; he’s constantly happy about how happy Martin is about it. He takes it out almost the moment it gets cold enough to wear scarves at all, wrapping it around his neck before he leaves the flat on his way to the hospital, and he’d been practically beaming when he’d got back from work on his first day of wearing it to proudly inform Jon that Nico and Iris and Angus and Kerry were all rather jealous that they didn’t have their own Jon-knitted scarves. It’s a good scarf. It’s got a lot of very good thoughts attached to it.
It also, completely coincidentally, makes for a rather lovely pillow.
Jon shifts in his seat, settling down and twisting around so that his head is resting comfortably against Martin’s shoulder, the scarf bundled up as a pillow between him and Martin’s jacket. Martin ducks his head, pressing a kiss to Jon’s forehead that’s made just a little bit awkward by the angle, and then reaches down as carefully as he can to pick up his backpack without disturbing Jon.
“Do you want your book?” he asks, unzipping the bag and removing the book that he’d packed for himself to help while away the long hours up to Glasgow. “Or are you going to cuddle my shoulder for a bit longer?”
Jon snorts, feeling himself colouring slightly. “I can do both, Martin,” he replies, taking the book that Martin’s holding out to him. Just for a moment, their fingers brush. They’re definitely not living in Pride And Prejudice (2005), but Jon can’t help but think about it anyway. They’d watched it the previous movie night, curled up on the sofa together, and parts of it still linger in his mind. How much of it actually stuck with him he’s not entirely sure, because he spent a rather embarrassing amount of time watching Martin’s face instead of the film, but he thinks that it was worth it. He knows how much Martin loves the film, and it had definitely been a pleasant way to spend the evening. Pretty much anything to do with Martin is a pleasant way to spend the evening.
“I’m sure you can,” Martin replies, dropping the backpack back into place. “I’m going to have to let go of your hand to read, by the way. Just giving you a heads up so that you don’t pout at me for it.”
Jon sighs. “I’m sure I’ll live without you holding my hand, Martin.”
“Well, you say that now.”
“Are you implying something about my, ah, my affectionate nature, Martin?”
Martin smiles. “I might be. Why? Am I wrong?”
In response, Jon merely glowers. Or, rather, he tries to glower, but he gets the impression that it’s not a very effective glower, primarily because he’s trying to glower at Martin, and he’s never been very good at that. Martin just smiles back at him, lifting his now-free hand to tuck some loose strands of hair back behind Jon’s ear, only to pause in the action with a slight frown.
“Jon?” he asks.
Jon hums. “Mm?”
“Your osteopath’s not going to be happy with what you’re doing to your spine.”
“Would you rather I move?”
Jon smiles. “Then I won’t.” He opens his book, twisting himself further to achieve what passes for a comfortable position in the cramped confines of the train seat. “Besides, I’ve been remembering to do my stretches most days, and if need be, I can always stretch again once we get to the cabin.”
“You told me it was a lodge.”
“It’s an old hunting lodge that is now called a cabin,” Jon elaborates. “Which, I will admit, does rather annoy me, but it’s not my house and this is supposed to be a nice, relaxing, Christmas-and-also-anniversary trip for us, so I’m going to let it slide.” He glances up, smiling to himself when he sees that, just as he expected, Martin is raising a dubious eyebrow at him.
“Really?” Martin asks slowly, his voice touched with amusement. “You’re really going to let an inaccurate name slide?”
“You’re not going to go off about the etymology of it at unexpected times.”
“I… probably won’t.”
“Hm. Well, in that case, I look forward to your inevitable explanation of the minute differences between a lodge and a cabin,” Martin says, smiling.
“Oh? Do you now?”
“Are you sure about that?”
“…It’s going to be a very boring explanation, Martin,” Jon warns, but Martin just smiles wider.
“And I’ll enjoy every second of it,” he says, every word a promise, and Jon feels the now-familiar sunlight all the way down to his marrow. “I think it could make for quite a nice educational-romantic evening. I like it when you teach me things. You know that.”
“Martin,” Jon says. It’s all he can think to say.
Martin smiles wider. “Jon,” he replies.
“…I love you.”
“I love you too.” Martin twists in his seat, bending down to catch Jon’s lips in a quick kiss. “Tell me all about the differences between lodges and cabins when we arrive, alright? After dinner?”
Jon smiles, soft and lovestruck and just as completely, utterly, entirely smitten as ever. “Alright,” he replies quietly. Martin kisses him again, his lips soft against Jon’s, and then turns back to his book, his lips turned up in a calm, content smile.
Jon, though, doesn’t turn back to his own book. He can’t. He can’t look away from Martin as the train rumbles on, the sunlight flickering across his boyfriend’s face, gilding his freckles and tracing his hair with gold and shining on the frame of his glasses. Martin looks beautiful. He always looks beautiful. He always looks beautiful, and handsome, and wonderful, and he is beautiful, and handsome, and wonderful, and Jon loves him so, so, so damn much. He can’t look away. He doesn’t want to look away. He loves Martin. It’s a fact in his life, as definite and as sure and as inescapable as gravity. He loves Martin. He loves Martin more than he knows how to handle.
He wants to marry him.
At that thought, Jon can’t help but smile. He’s been turning it over for a while now, this thought of proposing to Martin. It’s something they’ve discussed already, because Jon didn’t want to propose to him only to find out that Martin was the kind of person who wasn’t that keen on marriage (which Jon would have understood and respected), and they’re both contentedly aware that they will likely get married at some point, but Jon doesn’t want it to be a ‘at some point’ anymore. He wants it to be a definite. He loves Martin. He wants to marry him. And he thinks that Martin wants to marry him, too, and that thought is one that still keeps him awake at night from the sheer giddy, incredulous, shocked joy of it. They’ve discussed marriage, and Martin hadn’t dismissed it. More than that – Martin had actually wanted to get married to Jon, or at least he’d said that he liked the idea of it. Either way, he’d confirmed that he wants to be with Jon for life, or at least for as long as possible. He loves Jon. Jon loves him. Jon has a ring box in his suitcase holding a ring that he’d spent far, far too much time agonising over, and he has absolutely no proposal plan in place, and he’s bizarrely okay with that. He’s got vague plans for it, has loose thoughts of dropping to one knee before the crackling log fire that they may or may not bother to light, having just cooked and served Martin a wonderful dinner of his favourite food and then snuggled with him for several hours, but he has no idea if it’ll actually happen like that. He’s had other thoughts in mind too, other daydreams of proposing to Martin during a hike in the beautiful (if nippy) highlands, after a day of watching Martin smile and listening to him laugh with delight as large, fluffy highland cows try to lick his hand. He’s had many thoughts of just proposing to him at home, when they’re getting ready for bed and Martin says or does literally anything and it’s all Jon can do to stop himself from blurting out ‘marry me’ right then and there. He’s had a lot of thoughts about proposing to Martin. He doesn’t know which one of them will be the closest to reality. He doesn’t know if any of them will be.
He doesn’t know if he cares.
What he cares about, what he knows is that it will happen. Everything else, he will figure out from there.
There’s still plenty of unknowns in his life. There’s still Elias, and his absurd requests and demands at the theatre; there’s still Martin’s job, and the sudden, unexpected changes that can crop up at any time when treating patients; there’s still life in general, where the tube might be cancelled, or their wifi might go down, or the prick who lives two floors beneath them might choose to once again chain his bike to the part of the bike rack that is very clearly designated for their flat. Any of those things might happen. Many other things might happen. They might happen, and Jon would have no way of knowing that they were going to until they do. He cannot predict the future, or somehow see and know things through some supernatural means. The world isn’t like that. His life isn’t like that. There’s so much that he doesn’t know, and so much more beyond that that he never will. But he doesn’t mind. He’s alright with not knowing everything. He’s content with what he does know.
Because what he does know, Jon thinks to himself as the train winds its way further and further north, is that, of all the unknowns in his life, his love for Martin isn’t one of them.
And, just as importantly, Martin’s love for him isn’t one, either.