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When he was younger Jon had taken a brief foray into spy literature - le Carré and Forbes and Fleming - and read about espionage and subtle manipulations. He knew, in theory, how spies conducted themselves in hostile territory, coaxed detail from informants, strung together their web of hypotheses into credible theories and decisive action without ever being suspected of espionage themselves. Jon knew that even in infinite and multitudinous universes, there was not a single one where he was a passable spy.

He’d been doing his best, of course. Keeping close to the walls of the Archives, replicating Gertrude’s rather esoteric filing system for the statements he deemed important so that they’d stay hidden, utilising that loose floorboard in his office. He was keeping things hidden while he investigated, doing his utmost to feign normality. Alright, yes, he’d not been subtle enough judging by the way his assistants avoided his gaze, the looks he could feel burning on the back of his neck, but he wasn’t doing this to be friendly. If his assistants decided that he wasn’t worth the pretence of cordiality then so much the better - he wasn’t going to make nice with those that might be out to kill him, and he could search through the facade of hurt feelings for evidence of genuine malice. He was subtle where it counted, he liked to think, slow and methodical as he gathered his information and drew his conclusions, but today-

Today Tim had been shifty and restless. Jon had passed through the little office the assistants shared on his way to make a cup of coffee (ignoring, as was his habit these days, the cup of tea that Martin had left on his desk) and seen Tim’s leg bouncing under the desk. He was chewing his pen - the wrong end, too, moron, lips streaked dark blue with ink - kept shooting little glances at his phone where it seemed to be charging on his desk, tapping the fingers of his free hand restlessly against the desk. He looked like he was in danger of vibrating out of his skin and when Jon’s foot had caught a floorboard and made it creak he’d snapped his head around, suspicious and wary. Martin had looked up at that, glanced between them, asked Jon if he needed something. Jon had muttered some half-hearted refusal, tucked his head back down and hurried on his way. 

Tim’s reaction to a creak behind him, his twitchiness and his restless fidgeting, that could just be paranoia, of course. Perfectly reasonable in the aftermath of Prentiss’ attacks, and certainly Jon still felt shaken. He was still sleeping in the Archives since the cot was vacant now; Martin had a new flat, new-build too which had - so he’d told them - saved him the trouble of bleaching every surface and searching for infestations. Tim had looked down at his hands that Jon had only then noticed were a little rougher than he remembered them being, cracked and reddened and irritated. Was he scrubbing down his flat with caustic chemicals every night? Or was that just a convenient excuse for something else? There were lots of things that one could do with those sorts of supplies, and Jon shuddered to think what might be hiding-

What might be hiding anywhere. In the Archives, in the tunnels, in the statements as yet unread. In Tim’s flat, in Martin’s, in Elias’ office. Anywhere that he couldn’t see. At least wandering the literal darkness of the tunnels felt simpler than the blindness he was stumbling through every day, literally stumbling, limbs still unsteady and healing from whatever flesh and tendon and nerves Prentiss’ worms had seen fit to feast on. The scars itched, and he’d watched Tim brush the flats of his fingertips over the round, white marks against his darker skin, obviously trying to soothe the sensation without giving in to the urge to dig in his nails and tear in. Jon’s ignorance itched worse than any scar. He wanted to dig through it to the truth beneath no matter the pain and the blood and the noise, he needed to know. But he was operating blind with few credible leads, nothing but the overwhelming buzz in the back of his mind that told him that something was wrong

His assistants were the most obvious place to start. He told himself that it was because they’d come over with him, they each had their histories in the Archives but they all seemed benign enough, and so once he’d proven their innocence he could trust them and engage their assistance. The advantage of being at least one minor tier of management was that he had access to their CVs and their details, emergency contacts, where they went to university, could trawl social media for further corroborative detail in the small hours of the morning, black coffee making his tongue feel thick and awful in his mouth, silently cursing that he hadn’t asked Sasha for more instruction on this before she’d been a suspect

They were all suspects, of course, from Elias down. And logically Jon knew that constraining his suspicion to the Archives was absurd - why shouldn’t somebody in research or Artifact Storage have as much motive to murder Gertrude as an archival assistant? - but he had to start somewhere. At least for the illusion and comfort of feeling he was doing something of any use, he had to start somewhere. 

He watched Tim shift and fidget his way through the day, finding excuses to pass through the assistant’s office and note that, yes, Tim was still tense, still antsy. At the end of the day Martin left, and then Tim, and Jon was left waiting for Sasha. He couldn’t leave before her, that would be - out of the ordinary. Suspicious. She knocked on his door before she left and Jon scanned her face for any sign of wariness, but - no. The same cool, affable smile as ever. Reliable as always. Every time Jon spoke to her he felt ashamed of his suspicion. Something in her eyes seemed to know his doubt and judge him for it, find him wanting, leave him feeling childish and insolent. Of course she was innocent, it whispered, of course. What else would she be? Why would he doubt it? It made him conciliatory, scrubbing a hand over his face before bidding her goodnight with a little less sharpness than he’d been affecting with the others lately, feeling the scar tissue on his face catch strangely against his fingers. 

He wasn’t avoiding mirrors. He refused. He stared into the mirror in the men’s room, gripped the edge of the sink, mapped the new scars against his cheek and his neck and dared himself to look away. He wasn’t going to shrink away from his own face - that, at least, was going to be known to him. 

The plan - such as it was - was impulsive and idiotic. Jon knew it even as he conceived of it, grabbing his coat and patting his pockets to be sure he had everything, but the buzzing in his brain would not be dissuaded and if he could prove one point of normality or find a credible lead, then perhaps that would mute it enough for him to sleep. According to the personnel files Tim lived in Clapham, in what Google Maps and Zoopla told him was a one-bed flat in a larger building, down by the south side of the Common. Nice enough, a good area, and whilst it was probably expensive it wasn’t quite so expensive that somebody with a publishing background and a half-decent salary wouldn’t be able to manage it. Jon supposed it was too much to hope that Tim might have lived in a mansion he couldn’t have inherited, easy proof of some compensation package for the assassination of an Archivist. Worse luck. 

It was an easy enough journey from the Institute, a stroll over Vauxhall Bridge and then a bus. The sun was setting, catching pink on the edge of the green-glass SIS Building, and Jon watched the other late commuters on bikes and huddled in their coats, wondered how many of them might have been working for MI6, fellow spies. He hated himself for the thought immediately (stupid, self-indulgent, ridiculous) but there was no point pretending he hadn’t thought it. There it was. Jonathan Sims, amateur fucking detective, huddled on the lower deck of the bus and glowering at an abandoned cardboard box on the seat opposite him that had once held chicken and chips, grease-spattered paper flapping out of its side. How long had it been since he’d eaten? He’d lost track, was losing track. Food didn’t seem as important. Martin had a stash of biscuits in the kitchenette but Jon didn’t trust those anymore.

It was getting dark by the time the 88 dropped him at Clapham Common and Jon fished his phone out of his pocket, following the line of the park towards Tim’s road. He didn’t have a plan, really. Finding Tim’s address was easy, locating him in London easy, but then what? He wasn’t going to demand any manner of confrontation, wouldn’t dream of doing so without some manner of proof or at least a decent suspicion of motive, so - well, for now he’d satisfy himself with trying to ascertain the reason for Tim’s twitchiness. If he wasn’t home, Jon could wait somewhere until he was. There was a bar not too far from the corner of Tim’s street, it had outdoor tables, he could huddle there and smoke and wait for Tim to return, try to make his judgements on what he observed there. 

As it was, the lights were on, curtains open at the ground floor window showing a sofa and a television and no sign of Tim. Jon fumbled in his coat pocket for a cigarette and lit it, phone casting pale light upwards where he held it, able to shift his gaze to the screen if he needed to, for all the world someone caught out on a stroll, checking a text, checking their way home. Plausible deniability. He didn’t live in Clapham but he could be out to meet a friend at a bar if he were a different sort of person in a different sort of world. 

It took ten minutes of waiting before anything happened. In that time Jon had cooked up all manner of objections for himself, deconstructing his plan the way he tore apart statements - Tim might be on the second floor, or the third, might be out and have left the lights on (careless, flippant, he was like that sometimes, it was plausible), he might be elsewhere in his flat and Jon was staring through the ground-floor windows from across the street uselessly, wasting his time and his energy chasing a futile lead. He saw a shadow on the wall, Tim’s silhouette, tall and lean, chased into the room by the man himself. He’d changed, clearly, since getting home, was wearing soft grey sweatpants and a navy shirt that Jon was reasonably sure - couldn’t be certain from this distance - bore the Trinity College crest. University merch. Predictable. Jon was absolutely certain that if he were to confiscate Tim’s phone his lock screen would be some classic gap year shot, Tim shirtless and silhouetted against a sunset or a waterfall or the Chocolate fucking Hills. He was such a bloody cliché. 

Even here, alone, Tim still looked tense, shoulders hunched nearly up to his ears, casting his eyes around the room before his shoulders dropped briefly in what looked like a sigh. He turned to face the window and Jon scrambled backwards out of what he thought Tim’s likely eyeline might be, burrowed into his jacket, hiding half of his face behind his clenched hand as he took a drag of his cigarette (his second, burned down almost to the filter, acrid and burning at the back of his throat), just someone walking down the street. By the time he risked venturing into the line of sight again the curtains were closed but they were thin, light things, and Jon could make out Tim’s silhouette given the lights were on in the living room and the street was dark. There was sufficient contrast for him to at least see that Tim was still there.

That was enough, wasn’t it? Tim was at home, mooching around in his pyjamas. He still looked unhappy but there were any number of potential explanations for that. Perhaps he’d had bad news from home, perhaps some date had been cancelled, perhaps he was just stressed, God, Jon would understand that, they were all stressed. He was ready to turn and leave when he saw Tim move again, settle in front of where Jon thought the coffee table was and roll his shoulders back before - inexplicably - dropping down to his knees. Jon squinted, trying to see what Tim was doing - searching for something, perhaps? - but he remained maddeningly still, kneeling, arms apparently behind his back. 

Five minutes passed. Jon considered lighting another cigarette, decided against it, fiddled with his phone, watched Tim’s unmoving silhouette. His arms were definitely behind his back, clasped loosely at the small it seemed. Jon ran through a few ideas - prayer, perhaps? Did he have a camera that he was addressing? Meditation? Some sort of spinal exercise off the back of the physiotherapy he’d been sent for? - before there was movement and he shoved his phone in his pocket, cover forgotten. If one of the neighbours called the police on him for peeping at windows he’d cross that bridge when he got to it, but for now -

For now, there was somebody else in the room. Taller than Tim, broader, softer. Jon couldn’t see their face, just the contrast in tones that suggested that - like Tim - they were still clothed. Tim didn’t move when they walked in, crossed past the coffee table and stood next to him, reached out to run fingers through his hair. Jon could see the barest suggestion of movement that said they might have been speaking to one another and this-

Jon wasn’t naive. Not that naive. Tim kneeling in a room with the curtains drawn and somebody stroking his hair, Tim tilting sidelong to nuzzle into their hip, he could read between the lines of that well enough. He was unlikely to learn anything of practical use watching this; it was (of course) a gross invasion of privacy, something he oughtn’t see, something he didn’t need to know. 

Except, of course, for reasons that he couldn’t fully articulate to himself, he needed to know. There were mysteries here, unfamiliar faces, that strange tension in Tim’s shoulders, and Jon needed to know.

He didn’t leave. The curtains were closed, now, and he was quite sure that Tim and his mysterious guest would be occupied enough not to notice if he slipped closer, crossing the road to stand by Tim’s gate, watching as the stranger dragged their fingers through Tim’s hair rather more roughly this time, tugging his head back. Tim’s back arched and Jon’s scalp tingled in sympathy. Georgie had played with his hair sometimes, pulled his head into her lap when they were watching telly to comb her fingers through and leave him boneless and melting. More often than not she’d done it to shut him up when he was carrying on a fervent commentary on whatever they were watching, either its salience (rarely) or its idiocy (significantly more common). Sometimes she’d added a drag of nails over his scalp to make him shiver and, a few times, had tangled her fingers and pulled. The sensation had been absolutely singular, liquid heat rushing down his spine, making his knees weak and his jaw drop and from the looks of things it had a similar effect on Tim. That was - that was totally useless information. Still. Information, nonetheless. If he had to choose quantity over quality to make this evening’s excursion worthwhile then he would. 

Hovering at the gate he still couldn’t even begin to hear what might have been being said, but he could see the stranger tugging Tim up (by his hair, still) and giving him a little nudge backwards towards the wall. What had been there? Jon searched his memory until the answer threw itself up for him - a mantelpiece, he remembered, over a presumably now-defunct fireplaces, the whole thing scattered with nick-nacks and photographs and memorabilia. Now Tim had his back pressed to it and the stranger was - Jon couldn’t quite tell, at this distance, the silhouettes were blurry and he couldn’t tell where Tim’s body began and the stranger’s ended. If he had to guess at a structure for the amorphous blob against the curtains, though, judging by the angle of Tim’s head (that ridiculous hair of his providing a good idea of which way he was facing at any given time, quiffed and styled as it was) Jon would have guessed that the stranger had one hand at Tim’s jaw, holding quite tightly from the looks of things, and the other- 

And the other at his hip, maybe, curled and possessive. Perhaps at the small of his back, to pull them closer together. Perhaps toying with the waistband of his sweatpants, perhaps slipping within it to give Tim a stroke or a squeeze or rake nails across his thighs. The possibilities flashed through Jon’s head lightning fast, purely clinical - any of those things could be ongoing. Why was he still here ? Tim’s spine was bowed in a way that suggested whatever was being done to him he was enjoying it, head falling back when the stranger released his jaw (definitely his jaw, Jon could see the brief suggestion of fingers against the gauzy curtains), now staring at the ceiling. The stranger moved quickly and Jon watched as Tim’s shirt was tugged over his head, a clumsy mass of shapes that resolved themselves into his lean torso again. He was athletic, Jon remembered him mentioning something about gymnastics and diving before university, vividly remembered the last Christmas party when he’d demonstrated a backflip from a standing fucking start, landed it and then stumbled backwards nearly into the table with the punch on it. Jon’s breath caught and he swallowed thickly, staring at the gate for a second and then lifting the latch to slip through. 

The ground-floor window jutted out slightly from the brick walls of the house. Jon slipped to the side of it, looking in - the curtains were pulled in a shade too much, overlapping at the middle, leaving a tantalising sliver of uncovered glass, but he couldn’t see any faces, could only see the edge of Tim’s hand when he reached up to loop his arms around the stranger’s neck and kiss him. Tim wasn’t a small man but he looked small like this, crowded up to somebody else’s body. He looked smaller still when he was abruptly spun, arms caught behind his back again, and this close to the window Jon heard him laugh. He made some comment that apparently earned him a pinch to his arse, had him yelping as he was steered towards the sofa. The angle was awful here, forced Jon to move around the front of the damn window to watch from the other side and he didn’t know why he was watching, only that now he was here he felt intent upon it. 

He’d never cared for pornography. Watching strangers do acts that held limited appeal for Jon in his own life didn’t fill him with anything bar a detached sort of exasperation, thoughts like God, that countertop’s going to be ruined and I hope one of you is actually going to handle the plumbing after this because you’re definitely going to need to shower. Not conducive to any sort of relaxation. This was different. He wasn’t aroused but he felt hot and cold all over, breath stuttering in his throat as the stranger guided Tim to his knees, sat down on the sofa and unbuckled his trousers and slipped their cock into his mouth. Tim took it with almost nonchalant ease, arms still behind his back - had he been told to keep them there? Was he capable of doing as he was told? These weren’t the sort of games that Jon had expected from Tim. Not that he put much thought into it, just that Tim spent so much time flirting and preening that Jon had been forced to assume he was a lights-out-missionary sort of man and just felt the need to compensate. But here he was. On his knees and sucking somebody off and Jon could see the tension leaking out of his silhouetted shoulders like a miasma into the air.

He could hear the stranger letting out soft moans muffled through the glass, murmuring something. Tim pulled off to make some sort of response (of course he did) and the stranger laughed, bright and easy and so instantly familiar that Jon’s brain was halfway through the thought oh, shut up, Martin - before he could even process it properly, screeching to a halt mid eye-roll and blinking rapidly, mind fizzing and smoking like a broken computer.

Martin. Martin was here. Martin was steering Tim around with his arms behind his back and had him on his knees sucking him off and- and- 

And that was information so contrary to Jon’s view of Martin that it took him a moment to confirm that, yes, that was roughly Martin’s height and build and of course they knew each other, were friendly, and really it ought to have been Jon’s first assumption except Martin stammered and fussed and made tea and blushed at eye-contact, for fuck’s sake, he wasn’t the sort of man who put someone else on their knees. Except, apparently, he was. Not only that but he reached out to grip the back of Tim’s head and pull him forward again, tone gone chiding as he pushed his hips forward, rolling them in a slow rhythm that had Jon’s mouth gone dry. 

He should go. Tim was making muffled whining noises, shoulders twitching - Jon didn’t think that his wrists were bound but perhaps he was struggling anyway, fidgeting, either because he wanted to touch Martin or to touch himself. He was still wearing his sweatpants and Jon found the sudden image of soft, grey fabric distended by Tim’s erection as vivid as it was startling. He’d never given any particular thought to how well-endowed Tim might be. He couldn’t stop himself from thinking about it now.  He was tingling like he’d been dipped in snow and boiling water, pins and needles rushing up the whole of him, blood roaring in his ears as Martin pulled himself from Tim’s mouth to let him catch his breath and murmured something else that had Tim standing, divesting himself of his sweatpants and - ah - Jon had his answer in the silhouette of Tim’s cock. Somehow that particular image was so obscene that it crossed into absurdity, almost slapstick, bouncing as Tim walked over to drape himself over the arm of the sofa. Jon bit down desperately on the back of his hand so he wouldn’t laugh. 

Martin had a hand on the small of Tim’s back and was passing it up and down in soft, soothing motions, slid it down to the curve of Tim’s arse and then reached and- God, reached and twisted and pulled and Tim groaned long and low as Martin slid what looked like a plug out of Tim. Jon’s cheeks felt so hot he swore they were steaming the air. Had that been in all day? Was that the source of Tim’s tension, something inside him shifting each time he moved, leaving him chewing his pen and fidgeting and waiting out the hours stretched and filled and open- 

Or perhaps that was a recent development but Tim had just been anticipating tonight, nervous for whatever this was with Martin. Perhaps the plug had gone in before Tim had entered the living room, kneeling for some sort of centering moment to collect his mind and breathe and feel-

Or perhaps tonight was a response to all of Tim’s tension, Martin helping him work out whatever was buzzing in his brain, giving him something else to focus on. 

Jon could understand wanting sensation. He didn’t feel especially physical these days, floating on tides of sleep-deprivation and hunger and stress. Every so often something would break through that cloud, steam from a mug of coffee on his face, a pen nestled snugly between finger and thumb. It had been clean sheets, last time he’d been home. Jon had stretched himself out on cool, fresh-smelling cotton and felt his skin do something that felt very much like shrinking before the world reoriented itself back to normal. He couldn’t imagine what the stretch of a plug would feel like, much less Martin’s fingers as he pressed them into Tim - he was making noise, now, hands tangled in his own hair, rocking forwards against the arm of the sofa until Martin put pay to that with a sharp slap to his hip that echoed even through the window. 

God, Tim was making a spectacle of himself, squirming and gasping, the noises he was making rising in pitch and desperation and Jon couldn’t breathe, couldn’t do anything but watch and listen and feel electricity under his skin, prickling like pins and needles. The minutes drew themselves out and Martin brought Tim up, right up to the edge, let him settle back, did it again, and each time the sounds Tim was making got more ragged. Martin’s voice was steady, soft murmurs of words Jon couldn’t make out, and why the hell was Martin so calm like this when he couldn’t handle a simple research report? If he was capable of coping with Tim (undeniably attractive, no sense ignoring that) bent over and begging - presumably begging, by now - for him with no obvious external strain, then why did his hands shake on mugs and biscuit tins and papers?

An act? A facade? Jon looked at Tim and Martin, thought the word partners , shook it off, replaced it with accomplices , felt bile rise in his throat. Tim was definitely begging now - Jon could hear his voice cracking a little, high and desperate, ‘please, please, I’ll do anything’ - and he huffed out a hard breath, blinked behind his glasses, wanted-

Oh. He wanted. That was - unusual. Not impossible, but unusual, especially now when he was weary and hungry and half out of his mind with fear. Jon wanted to see Tim come. Perhaps as a closure to this whole thing, something to release him from whatever mysterious urge kept him trapped here watching them. Perhaps just to see it. Martin’s voice was still steady, still light and teasing and mild even while he built Tim up to the point of distraction and Jon rather suspected that Martin could do this for hours, if he had to, if he wanted to, and Tim would probably let him. Tim said something else, tone a little sharper, and Martin laughed and delivered another sharp smack to his arse - whether it was a rebuke or encouragement Jon couldn’t guess but it was loud and he jumped at that, startled, lost his balance and stumbled and the sound of a ceramic flowerpot falling and shattering when his heel caught it was deafening and awful.

Tim and Martin stilled instantly. Jon felt icy, numb, frozen to the spot with fear, considered running but found that his legs wouldn’t move him, could only watch as Tim pushed himself upright and brushed past Martin, two quick steps from the sofa to the window to throw the curtains aside and meet Jon’s terrified eyes. Tim’s expression went from shock to confusion to alarm to fury all in one go, and in the tense and simmering silence, Jon could hear his heartbeat like gunshots. 

Jon opened his mouth to say something - anything - some excuse for why he was here lurking outside of Tim’s window, watching him with Martin - Martin who was relocating his clothes, apparently, something Tim didn’t seem overly concerned about, still staring at Jon like he might be some sort of apparition, like he couldn’t believe he was here, like he might kill him for it (oh, God, like he might kill him for it) and Jon could feel panic clawing its way up his spine. He was choking on it. His head snapped around at another noise, the click of a latch, and he met Martin’s eyes, expecting blushing or stammering or excuses, instead seeing something more like - resignation? He couldn’t tell. 

“Jon. Do you, ah- would you like to come in?” 

Jon stared at Martin. He’d thrown some clothes back on, shirt untucked and rumpled, buttons mismatched, cheeks still flushed and hair in disarray but he looked steady and sure and Jon didn’t have words, wanted to run, to hide, to pretend that none of this ever happened, to huddle back in the safety of the Archives and try not to think about how two of his assistants may well be cooperating to plot his death. That those two assistants were here, together, doing- doing things that made Jon react in ways to which he really wasn’t accustomed. 

“Jon?” Martin prompted quietly and Jon gave a jerky little nod, glancing at the window to see that Tim had left, apparently, slipped out of the room. Jon sucked in a sharp breath through his nose, huddled himself in his coat and followed Martin into the lion’s den. 


Chapter Text

Even in his current state Jon had to admit that Tim’s flat wasn’t what he’d imagined a murderer’s home might look like. It was all distressingly normal. Bookshelves full of a mixture of classics and newer volumes that Jon recognised from the Booker Prize’s shortlist in recent years. Had he been given them back in his old job? Perhaps he’d been expected to keep track of literary trends over the years. Either seemed plausible. Tim had some photos on the bookshelf too, which frankly spoke to how often he felt the need to access the books behind him. University pictures, mainly, a younger Tim laughing with his arm slung about the shoulders of two other men, flushed and elated with a medal around his neck, the hoodie he was wearing stamped with CUOGC.

Jon didn’t know what that stood for but he could see a pommel horse in the background of the shot. Gymnastics - right. He was just leaning closer to see what other detail he could glean when he heard a polite cough behind him, turned to see Martin standing in the doorway.

“D’you want to give me your coat?”


“Right.” Martin looked away, visibly pulled in a breath, looked back. “I’m going to have a word with Tim and try to make sure he doesn’t break your nose. Why don’t you sit down?”

Jon looked at the sofa. The paraphernalia around it - the plug, condoms, etcetera - had vanished, presumably snatched up by Tim on his way out of the living room to wherever he was now. He took a step backwards to perch on the edge of an armchair instead which seemed like safer territory. A clean line of sight from here to the corridor, less chance of being fenced in. Martin gave him a long look and then just nodded, disappearing out of the room again.

It felt like being at the bloody dentist’s office, waiting impatiently for something awful to come. Jon was just at the point of poking his head out of the room to say that actually he’d mind having a broken nose considerably less than all of this waiting when he heard footsteps from another room - kitchen, most likely - the low murmur of Martin’s voice, soothing and conciliatory.

Tim had thrown his clothes back on - that t-shirt of his did have his college crest - and he was looking more or less decent albeit his cheeks were still flushed, eyes bright with what could have been residual arousal or just plain fury. Probably both. He flung himself down onto the sofa, stretching an arm across the bank and tugging a knee to his chest, bare toes against the fabric. Martin sat down on the other side, carefully appropriate where Jon might have expected him to wrap his arm around Tim. Jon huddled into his coat, hands in the pockets. He could call the police if he had to, but he didn’t have anything suitable for a weapon and he had no doubt that either Martin or Tim would be capable of overpowering him on their own, let alone combined. He could feel himself shaking.

“Okay,” Martin spoke again - why was he speaking, this wasn’t his house - and Tim’s eyes didn’t leave Jon’s face for a moment, his expression one of carefully crafted nonchalance, never mind the fact that every muscle in his body seemed tense. “I think we’d better start with why it is you’re here, Jon.”

Right. Jon pushed his glasses up his face and pressed his fingertips against his eyes, watching green and gold burst in the darkness there, took them away to look back between Martin and Tim. “I- um-”

“Thought you’d catch a show before the weekend?” Tim interjected smoothly, tone too-bright like he was about to laugh, like he was sharing some sort of inside joke. Jon shook his head mutely. “So, to be clear, you weren’t hanging around my flat like Peeping fucking Tom to get a good look at us.”

“Of course I wasn’t,” Jon snapped back, irritable despite the alarm bells in his head, and Tim’s eyes flashed.

“Oh, you weren’t,” Tim leaned forward, a shark scenting blood, lip curling, “well, if you weren’t getting your jollies off being a voyeur then what, eh, boss? Social call?”


“Popping around to borrow a cup of sugar?”

“Tim.” That was Martin, shifting a little on the sofa to look at Tim properly. Tim’s jaw worked for a moment but he subsided, flopping back, the leg that wasn’t drawn to his chest bouncing rapidly. Martin’s eyes dropped to his hands and he pursed his lips, thoughtful, before looking back up at Jon. “Alright, let’s try this. You’ve been acting strange for a little while, now. Is there something we’ve done that makes you think we might want to hurt you?”

Direct. Shockingly direct from Martin and Jon blinked at him for a moment, stunned. “I- I’m not in a position to- I mean, there are myriad reasons why you might benefit from that.”

“Oh. Um- are there?” There was a look of what seemed like honest confusion on Martin’s face. It made Jon’s chest clench, hating that he could be so easily convinced into doubting this, all of this. If Martin was a liar then he was a good one, but then - well, maybe he was a good liar. He couldn’t trust any of this.

“Don’t be obtuse, Martin,” he snapped, falling back on familiar scorn, and watched Tim’s shoulders lock tight in his peripheral vision. “You’d not be the first subordinates to harbour those sorts of feelings. Whether for personal gain or other reasons, I-”

“Sorry-” Martin held his hands up, placating, brow creased in a frown. “I- sorry, Jon, just so I’m clear. You think that I- that we might want to hurt you. Or-” he paused, chewing his lower lip for a moment, “or kill you. You think we want to kill you.”

“I’m considering all possibilities,” Jon settled on. It was as honest as he felt he could be under the circumstances. Martin exhaled in a rush and leaned back, tilting his head back to look at the ceiling. Jon couldn’t read the expression on his face. That wasn’t unusual, faces were difficult, but given Martin’s default expression at work at least tended to be one of anxious appeasement it was notable.

“Well I can’t say it’s not tempting,” Tim said with that same brittle cheerfulness and Jon’s shoulders shot back up to his ears, eyes flicking to the door.

Tim,” Martin sighed, frustrated, paused for a second and then looked at Tim properly. “Tim - would you put the kettle on, please?” There was another long silence, Tim’s leg paused in its bouncing as he held Martin’s gaze, and then he rose abruptly from his seat. Jon shrank back against the armchair but Tim didn’t even look at him as he left the room again. Martin ran a hand through his hair, watching him go with another complicated expression, resignation and anxiety and exasperation all at once.

“Okay. I- okay.” Martin leaned forward, braced his elbows on his knees and looked up at Jon again. He looked surprisingly fragile. If he kept chewing his lip like that it was going to start bleeding soon. “You’re, um - you’re investigating us?”

“Not just you.” Jon wasn’t sure why he felt the need to clarify that, but it felt important. “Either of you, I- nobody’s an exception. Whomever it was that killed Gertrude knew about the tunnels, which implies a level of familiarity with the Archives. They shot her, which discounts any more paranormal causes, even if I were inclined to believe that some manner of spectre got her, which I’m not. I- you were both working at the Archives when she was Head Archivist. I don’t know what the motivation for murdering Gertrude was but I’m going to find out, and-” he couldn’t stop talking, apparently, and Martin’s face was growing paler, until he raised his hands again, shaking his head.

“Stop, Jon, please, just-”

“Don’t pretend you didn’t expect this, Martin, you’ve been awfully keen on asking me about my theories thus far and I’m not fooled by your lovable idiot routine, I’m-”

“That’s enough,Martin snapped and Jon’s jaws clenched shut so fast he felt his teeth click. He was shaking. He hadn’t meant to say half of that but it felt cathartic to get out, to stare Martin in the eyes and tell him that he knew what he was doing. At least this way he might get some answers, or possibly a bullet to the chest, but perhaps that would be its own sort of relief. At least that way, he’d know. Martin scrubbed a hand over his face and Jon noticed that his hands were trembling a little too. Fear at being caught out? Adrenaline? He certainly felt full enough of that, ready to vibrate out of his own skin, but when Martin spoke again his tone was back to gentle.

“Jon, when’s the last time you slept?”

“I- what?” Jon stared at Martin, startled by what seemed like an abrupt change of subject, but Martin ploughed on regardless.

“Really slept, I mean, not just a catnap at your desk, when’s the last time you went home?”


“Because you look like hell,” Martin said flatly. Jon scowled. That was - well, that was true, but it felt strangely self-conscious to hear it said out loud.

“I’m terribly sorry if fear for my life doesn’t set me up to win any beauty competitions, Martin,” he snapped back. Martin lifted his eyes for the ceiling like he was praying for patience, took another deep breath in, let out.

“You need to sleep. And eat something, ideally, I’m pretty sure you’ve been living on coffee and cigarettes.”

“Oh, and you’re so very concerned for my well-being, I’m sure. I’m sure you’d love to wrap me in cotton wool where I can’t investigate further.”

“I- right now, Jon, it doesn’t really matter what I want. At this rate you’re going to end up killing yourself before any would-be murderer has a chance.”

“Well, I’d hate to rob you of your chance,” Jon hissed, bolting to his feet and then blinking hard as the room spun around him as if he’d just smoked ten cigarettes on the go, blood rushing in his ears as his vision swam. He heard Martin call his name like it was coming from underwater, felt a hand at his elbow guiding him backwards. He struggled, of course, but after a moment he was back in the armchair and Martin was crouching next to it, naked concern on his face. It was a good expression. It looked almost real.

“Christ, Jon,” Martin sighed, not looking at him, “when is the last time you slept?”

Jon shrugged. The days were blurring, a bit. He kept track via when the assistants came in to work in the morning, there’d been a few of those. Perhaps that was why his head was pounding. He felt brittle, a violin strung much too tightly, in danger of fraying and snapping and breaking and he- he- he wasn’t thinking straight. He looked up at the sound of clinking mugs to see Tim standing in the doorway, eyes on Martin, face pinched.

“Cuppa?” he said, nodding towards the mugs, and Martin’s shoulders slumped. He stood, taking a couple of the mugs from Tim and setting them down on the table.

“Yeah. Thank you. Jon, would-”

“I’m not drinking that.”

“Right. No, of course not.” Martin sat back down on the sofa, watching Tim until he did the same and then leaning forwards to pick up his mug and cradle it to his chest. “Why don’t you take us through it from the beginning.”

“I-” Jon looked between them, uncertain, and Tim rolled his eyes.

“Let’s be clear, boss, if either of us wanted you dead we’d just kill you now. I mean, I’m guessing that nobody knows you’re here.”

Tim was right, of course. The thought had occurred, was occurring. “You might have a hard time hiding the body,” Jon mumbled, and Tim shrugged.

“Worth it. Point is, Jon, we’re not. Pretty sure you’re the most likely out of all of us to snap and kill someone.”


So. Why don’t you just do as Martin says and talk us through whatever batshit story you’ve cooked up in your head that would lead you to stalk and spy on your colleagues who, by the way, went through exactly the same shit you did, you absolute-”

Martin didn’t speak to interrupt Tim this time, just reached over to settle a hand on his knee. He wasn’t gripping it, Jon could see that, but Tim paused anyway, looking over at Martin with a grim set to his jaw.

“I think we’ll all get most out of this if we can stay civil,” Martin said quietly, his hand still on Tim’s knee. Jon could see his thumb was rubbing soothing little circles against the fabric of his sweatpants. It seemed to ground Tim enough for him to take a gulp of his surely too-hot tea, and Martin gave a little nod. “Okay. Thank you. You - you do have a point, though. Jon, we went through this with you.”

Tim lifted his free hand to show off the circular scars, as if Jon had somehow forgotten they were there, and Jon grimaced. “Complications. I- whether or not Prentiss had anything to do with you, you could have-”

“Could have let the spooky worm lady kill you and do the job for us?” Tim suggested lightly.

“Perhaps you were trying to gain my trust.” His excuses were getting weaker by the moment, Jon could hear it, but his own voice was sounding a little dulled and fuzzy now. Martin’s concerned face was still spinning a little in his vision. He blinked again, hard, forced his eyes back to focus.

“Oh, well done us. Great job there, gold stars all round,” Tim replied, bitterness evident in his voice, and Jon could only shrug at that. “Why would we need to do that if we were going to kill you anyway?”

“Waiting for an opportune moment, perhaps, or I- look, I don’t know Tim, alright? I don’t know,” Jon aimed for a vicious sort of snap but it came out weaker than he’d meant it.

“Right.” Tim seemed almost pacified by that. The silence hung awkward and heavy around them and Jon looked between them before trying again, shaking his head a little. Now that it was in front of him he could really do with a cup of tea. He didn’t reach for it.

“There is very little about any of this that makes sense. Prentiss, and Gertrude’s body, and- all the rest of it. There will be a rational explanation for at least some of it, but in order to find it, nobody can be above suspicion. It’s not personal.”

“Feels pretty personal that you followed me to my house.”

“Well, if I’d known that you’d be engaged in-” Jon looked between Martin and Tim and against all odds Tim laughed, shaking his head, grinning in disbelief.

“What, you’d have waited for a more convenient time? At least you’re a considerate stalker.”

“I’m not a- look, I had no more desire to interrupt you than you did to be interrupted.”

“But you stayed and watched, didn’t you.”

Jon flushed, looking away. He had done that. He still couldn’t explain why. Tim’s smile was sharp and entirely without humour to it.

“Hey, I don’t blame you. We put on a good show,” he remarked, voice dropping into something like a purr as he slipped his arm around Martin’s shoulder and leaned into him ostentatiously. “If you’d wanted to watch something-”

“Tim, stop,” Martin snapped as he pulled away, that same sharp tone from earlier. “That’s not necessary. Just - drink your tea, please.” Tim retreated, both hands back on his mug. His leg was bouncing again, some sort of outlet for all of that nervous energy he’d been exhibiting all day, and Jon looked between them, cheeks flaming. He didn’t - he hadn’t set out to watch. That hadn’t been it. But Tim was right, he hadn’t left.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled, almost inaudible, but Tim’s head snapped up like he’d shouted it, genuinely surprised. “I didn’t- I didn’t have any intention of spying on you, or- look, I don’t know what I was setting out to do, I really don’t. It was obviously ill-advised, not to mention an invasion of your privacy and I - I apologise.” The words felt wrong in his mouth, rough-hewn and clacking against his teeth in uneven shapes as he forced them out, but he could see Tim softening a little at the edges.

“You’re a fucking mess,” was what Tim settled on, flat but not vicious. Jon just shrugged again. “Jesus Christ. I- look, if I’d wanted to kill you I’d have done it by now, back in research after you’d had me go through seventeen boxes of council tax records, for fuck’s sake.” Tim’s expression wasn’t flat, anymore. He was gripping his mug so hard that Jon was a little worried it might shatter, something tense and fragile in his eyes - hurt, maybe? Martin put his hand back against Tim’s knee.

“Okay. I can understand if you don’t trust either of us. We - we don’t want to kill you. Obviously. We’re all trying our best to deal with this, but it’s been hard on everyone, so. I get it, I think,” Martin sighed, eyes sharpening when Jon scoffed. “To put it another way, Jon, if you’re in the firing line then whatever murderer is out there probably isn’t going to see an assistant and think oops, no, couldn’t possibly kill them, that’s not allowed. If you’re in danger, then we all are.”

“That’s...logical. Yes.” Jon admitted reluctantly.

“We can talk about it tomorrow, okay? We can - I don’t know, go through theories, see what makes most sense. And if you don’t want either of us involved then that’s fine too. I mean, it’s not fine, but - well, there’s not really much I can do about it. But for tonight, anyway, you need to sleep.”

“Right.” Jon nodded slowly, placing his hands against the arms of the chair to push himself upright again even as Tim tilted his head and blinked at him.

“Um - where the fuck d’you think you’re going?”

“Er-” Jon stared at him, not really sure how to answer that. “Home?” Or the Archives, at any rate, which more or less counted for the same thing.

“Don’t be an idiot. You’re shaking like a leaf and you look like a stiff breeze would knock you over.”

“I don’t-”

“For fuck’s sake, Jon, nobody’s going to kill you in your sleep. Sit down.” Tim glared at Jon until he reluctantly lowered himself back into the armchair, only because he really didn’t feel like he could stand.

“You should eat something, too,” Martin added. Jon’s lips flattened into a line as he prepared to protest eating anything that either of them cooked for him and Tim threw up his hands, exasperated.

“Yeah, fine, fine. I’ll order a takeaway. Hope you like curry, it’s what we’re having,” he snapped, standing and all but flouncing across the room to rifle through a drawer of takeaway menus.

“I- I do, actually,” Jon mumbled. Apparently he couldn’t keep quiet tonight for the life of him. Tim’s shoulders tensed and Martin made an odd noise, like he was stifling a laugh, looking away with twitching lips.

“Well, that’s good,” he said quietly. “I’ll, ah- look, I’ll go get some blankets and pillows and things, alright, Tim?”

“Yeah, yeah. Fine.”

When Martin passed Tim to leave the room he settled a hand at the small of his back, just for a moment, and Jon stayed curled in the armchair as he watched Tim stare unseeingly at a bright orange leaflet in his hands.

“So, ah- you and Martin?”

“Mm? Oh. Yeah.” Tim shot him an irritable look as he returned to the sofa.

“How long?”

“A few months, maybe. We’re not - I mean, it’s not a relationship. Not like that, anyway.”

“Oh.” Jon looked at his hands, lips pursed. “I only meant - well, you two seem...close.”

“Yeah, well. Sometimes it’s good to have people to lean on, boss.” Jon didn’t appreciate the pointed tone to that at all but he settled for just glowering at Tim and leaving it at that, watching him roll his eyes, tearing little pieces off the edge of the menu. God. He was so fidgety.

“I am sorry I interrupted. You- I mean, that really wasn’t my intent.”

“I know. And in the morning, we can all pretend you didn’t see me get fingered over the arm of the couch, yeah?” Tim shot him a wide, bright grin that Jon was pretty sure was just gloating at this point, making light of his discomfort. Right. Jon felt something twist, sharp and uncomfortable inside him, edges pressed to his lungs and his throat. Tim clearly took his silence for something else, frowned, gave Jon a long and considering look. “Or - you know. Not. Up to you, really.” Casual. Too casual.

“Is it?” Jon ventured, feeling a bit like he was walking a tightrope into absolute darkness. At least anger was easier to navigate than whatever expression was on Tim’s face.

“More or less. I mean, I don’t really care who sees me because if they’re hanging about outside my house they deserve everything they get, but -” Tim looked back towards the living room door, frowning a bit. “Martin cares.”

“And you care about him.”

“Yeah. I do. And he cares about you.” There was something there, too - resentment, maybe? Not quite. “My point is, next time you want to watch us go at it, you can just ask.”

“I- um. I’ll keep that in mind?”

“Mmhm.” Jon fidgeted with his hands, trying to figure out what was safe to ask. Probably nothing. But the silence was getting uncomfortable the longer it went out. “Were you wearing that at work?”

“Wearing- what?” Tim looked down at his clothes, confused, and Jon rolled his eyes.

“No, not those, I- the-” he trailed off and Tim outright laughed when he seemed to catch his meaning, grinning.

Oh. Fuck, yeah, the- the plug? Yeah, no. Jesus, no.”


“I mean, not that I wouldn’t.”


“Not a bad idea, really, and if you’re suggesting it-”

“I’m definitely not suggesting it.”

Tim smirked at him and Jon could feel his cheeks reddening. Tim was attractive. Objectively so. And he flirted with everybody, easy as breathing, and Jon had been no exception to that rule when he was in research and he’d have been lying to say that he hadn’t considered what it might be like to kiss him and chase that damnable cheeky grin off his face. Tim’s smirk dropped abruptly and he looked away, shaking his head. “Jesus. You know the idea of you walking in on me and Martin could have been straight out of one of my fantasies. This really wasn’t what I had in mind.”

“Sorry to disappoint you,” Jon said numbly, because he didn’t know what to say to that. Tim just shrugged.

“Yeah, well. Nothing really ever works out like a fantasy anyway, does it. I mean-” before he could continue Martin came back in, arms loaded with blankets and pillows, blinking between the two of them.

“Right. What’d I miss?”

“Nothing much.” Tim stood so Martin could transform the sofa into some sort of bed, giving Jon another considering look before turning away. “I’ll order that curry.”

* * *

They left Jon sleeping downstairs as soon as the curry was cleared away. It had been a bizarre meal, all odd silences and awkward looks, but as far as Martin was concerned still a vast improvement on suspicious glances and skulking in dark corners. He was still shaken by the revelation that Jon had genuinely considered them capable of murder, quite likely still did, but that wasn’t the most important thing right now. He’d eaten, he’d sleep, they could talk rationally in the morning.

Tim threw himself down on the bed as soon as they were in the bedroom, wriggling out of his clothes and tossing them carelessly to the side before flopping down onto his back and extending an arm for Martin who was all too happy to sit down and undress as well, folding himself into the hug and letting out a long, shaky breath. “Bloody hell,” he mumbled into Tim’s chest and Tim nodded, combing his fingers through his hair, winding a few soft brown curls around his fingertips.

“Pretty much.”

“Are you alright?”

“Me?” Tim leaned back so he could blink down at Martin. “I’m fine. Are you alright?”

“Not really.” Martin admitted after a pause, pressing his lips to Tim’s chest. “I really thought you were going to go for him for a moment there.”

“Thought about it. But it was odds-on whether he’d burst into tears or tear my throat out if I did, and I don’t really want either of those things,” Tim replied, tone flippant and light as ever. Martin sighed, smoothing a hand along Tim’s side and curling it around his hips.

“Mmhm. Well, thank you anyway. I don’t think it would have helped.”

“Might’ve made me feel better.”

“I doubt that.”

“Yeah. Well.” Tim looked up at the ceiling, playing with the hair at the nape of Martin’s neck. “Gotta release the tension somehow.”

Ah - yeah. That. Martin snorted, looking up at Tim with his eyebrows raised. “Really? Jon’s having some sort of nervous breakdown downstairs and you’re worried about being interrupted?”

“I can multitask. Can worry about Jon and be sexually frustrated at the same time.”

“Aww, moje biedactwo, how you suffer,” Martin teased, but leaned up when Tim came in to kiss him, soft and sweet. “I’m not really sure I’m up to going back to where we were interrupted.”

“No, I know. That’s fine.” Tim sighed heavily. “I’ll never be able to shag in the living room again, honestly, I’ll be convinced he’ll just be out there, watching us.”

There was a bit of a- a tone shift, there. Exasperation, irritation, yes, but underneath it all- Martin frowned, rubbing little circles on the jut of Tim’s hipbones.



“Is it that much of a deterrent that you’ll be put off for life?”

Tim looked down at him, surprised, meeting Martin’s steady gaze for a moment before grinning and looking away and there it was. Even now in these least sexual of circumstances, Tim was still Tim. “I could learn to live with it.”

“Oh, I bet you could. As much as it pains me to break your heart, sweetheart, I don’t think he’s interested.”

“Worry about your heart, not mine. Every time we’re in the office your eyes follow him around like you’re a creepy painting in a haunted house.”

“Oh, stop it,” Martin batted at Tim’s chest ineffectually. “Behave yourself.”

Tim hummed, considering, pressing his lips to Martin’s forehead almost apologetically. “I’m just saying. Everyone and their mum knows you like him, Marto. Once upon a time I was pretty fond of the bastard myself. It’s - I- you know, I don’t really know what my point is.”

“Probably best that we leave it there, then.” Martin sighed, tilting his head up for another kiss and then squirming under the covers. “Come on, get in here before you freeze to death.”

“I don’t think I could with you in the bed, you’re always roasting. Like a furnace, you are. Hot water bottle.”

“Yes, well, if you dig your freezing cold toes into me in the middle of the night again I’ll have to tie you up.”


“Hush,” Martin tutted, wrapping Tim up in his arms and swatting his hip gently. “You’re incorrigible.”

“I encourage you to try and corrige me.”

“Tomorrow. We’ll deal with all of this tomorrow.” And he, in the meantime, would do his level best not to think about Jon’s wide startled eyes as he stared at them both, shining in the darkness, warm brown almost entirely consumed by his pupils.

Chapter Text

In the life and times of Timothy Alexander Stoker there were several points of absolute consistency. Left-handed. Allergic to strawberries. Physically incapable of turning down a dare and, every morning without fail since he was six years old, wide awake by seven at the latest. It had its advantages - Tim was quite fond of a morning run, or a lazy breakfast - but it was deeply inconvenient whenever he happened to be sharing a bed with somebody else. Particularly somebody like Martin who, given the opportunity, would quite happily burrow into the blankets and snooze til noon. Especially on a lazy Saturday with no other plans. Even with a scrawny little maniac dozing on the sofa downstairs.

For Tim’s part he was more than willing to bet that when they did finally venture downstairs he’d find the sofa abandoned and Jon long-since fled into the dawn, so he was in no hurry to go and find him. If he was still there, well - that was a good thing. Probably. He was still absolutely furious with him but he knew that Martin would want to talk and fix things and they had a far better chance of that downstairs than they would trying to catch Jon in the Archives. Like an eel, he was, slippery, scuttling away between the bookshelves to avoid unwanted conversations, and Tim wasn’t in the mood for Archivist-wrangling. Particularly not when he was already on edge enough without being suspected of the murder of an old woman by somebody he’d once considered a friend.

It was bizarre thinking about him like this. Once upon a time he’d just been fussy, irritable Jon, perfectionist, workaholic, absolutely unsuited to any sort of micromanagement. He was a prickly bastard but he could be persuaded to have a laugh from time to time, to be dragged out for a few drinks, to participate in “let’s bully Tim” hour which occurred on a weekly basis around 4pm on a Friday and featured Sasha teasing him relentlessly about whatever was on her mind. He was - had been - a friend. And then he’d been promoted over Sasha which was a travesty of justice in itself, albeit not strictly Jon’s fault, and he’d become defensive and paranoid and even after helping him limp through tunnels under threat of being eaten by worms together that, apparently, wasn’t enough for Jon to trust him. All of those interactions counted for nothing. It stung. And since being hurt about it wasn’t going to do anything Tim settled for being angry instead, but it was hard to be angry at a shell of a man with bags under his eyes and shaking hands. Tim wanted to punch him in the nose, yeah. But he also wanted to wrap him up in a blanket and hug him and tell him not to be such a silly bastard.

He rolled over with a sigh, squinting at the window to watch the beginnings of the sun peeking through the blinds. The alarm clock on Martin’s side of the bed (Martin’s side of the bed, when had that become so routine?) read seven thirty which meant he’d spent about forty-five minutes brooding and sulking, and that was more than enough of that. He slid his arm around Martin’s waist to cuddle closer, hips flush against his arse, pressing his lips to one freckled shoulder and grinning as Martin shifted a little in his hold. “Morning, gorgeous,”

“Hrngl,” Martin replied eloquently, nuzzling into the pillows and giving Tim’s hand a little pat where it rested against his stomach. “S’time?”

“Nearly ten.”

“Yeah?” Martin opened his eyes, blinking a few times and yawning as he sat up, settling against the headboard with a sigh. “Yeah, alright. Prob’ly time to- oh, you bastard.” He caught sight of the alarm clock and scowled as Tim shifted a little to rest his head in Martin’s lap, grinning up at him. “You’re a menace. What are you ruining my lie-in for?”

“Only good things,” Tim replied, closing his eyes as Martin dragged his fingers through his hair.

“Oh, I see.” Martin huffed, shaking his head a bit and giving Tim’s little hair a tug by way of a rebuke. Not a great effort at discouraging anything and Tim shivered, nuzzling into Martin’s hip. “Christ. Is this your way of saying you want me to tie you to the bed all night so you can’t wake me up at the crack of dawn?”

“Anything you like.” Tim laughed breathlessly as he felt another tug to his hair, a little harder this time.

“Anything I like, mm? How about another three hours of sleep?” Martin grumbled, rubbing his eyes. “Let me guess, you have a wonderful idea about how we could spend those three hours.”

“I might have a few suggestions,” Tim wriggled upright so he could slip an arm around Martin’s waist, nestling into his side.

“Mmhm,” Martin rolled his eyes, turning his head to press a sleep-soft kiss to Tim’s cheek, nuzzling into his hair. “S’Jon still here?” he asked after a moment and Tim shrugged, rather too busy with picking up Martin’s hand to press kisses to his fingertips to respond properly, feeling the tension in Martin’s shoulders where he was leaning against him. “We should check,” Martin prompted gently and Tim shrugged again, catching Martin’s thumb between his teeth, grinning when he felt sure fingers close around his jaw and force him to meet Martin’s eyes. “Tim.”

“Alright,Tim sighed, closing his eyes for the kiss Martin dropped on his forehead. “I’ll go check. You just relax, Marto, I’ll handle everything, don’t mind me.” He extricated himself from the covers with an aggrieved sigh and Martin huffed a laugh, already burrowing down in the covers and watching Tim tug on his sweatpants from the night before, not bothering with a shirt. It wasn’t like it was anything Jon hadn’t seen before, after all.

He crept downstairs like a child on Christmas morning, peering around the living room door into the darkness and squinting until he could make out the shape of blankets and pillows drawn tight around a scrawny figure. Still asleep, Tim thought, pursing his lips as he looked down at Jon. He looked so small. And he’d fallen asleep with his glasses still on, the idiot, must have just collapsed to the side as soon as they’d left. Tim hesitated in the doorway before taking a few steps forward, bare feet quiet against the carpet, crouching next to Jon’s face. Worst-case scenario Jon woke up to think he was being strangled and screamed bloody murder, but that was probably still better than rolling over and breaking his glasses.

Tim settled his fingertips gently against the frames, pulling back with all the delicacy of a man who’d spent most of his childhood playing insanely competitive games of Operation with his brother and his mum - a surgeon, to boot, which did nothing to mitigate the competitive nature of their games. If there was one thing he had, it was steady hands. Jon shifted in his sleep, frowning, mumbling something incomprehensible, but he didn’t wake, and Tim folded his glasses to put them on the coffee-table, retreating back into the kitchen to appease Martin with a cup of tea and black coffee for himself, carried upstairs and presented with a blinding smile in the mug he’d quickly designated as being Martin’s mug. It was one of the big Sports Direct ones, and it was about the only thing guaranteed to get Martin awake and ready to meet the day.

“Ta,” Martin mumbled, sitting up again so he could take the mug, beaming at the kiss to his cheek that came with it and taking a sip as Tim nestled himself back into bed next to Martin. “Is he still there?”

“Mmhm. Sleeping like a baby. Didn’t even wake up when I took his glasses off.”

“Oh. Well, that’s good.” Another sip of tea. Tim stared into his coffee and waited. “We, um - we should talk to him.”


Martin frowned, giving Tim a bemused look. “Last night, Tim.”

“Alright. Which part?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, are we talking about the bit where he watched you wreck me? Or the bit where he stalked me home because he thought I might have shot an old woman?”

Martin thought about that for a moment, taking another sip, looking up at the ceiling. “All of it, I suppose. I- probably not the sex. That seems sort of self-explanatory, doesn’t it? He saw us. That’s all that needs to be said, what else is there?”

“We-e-ll,” Tim rubbed his thumb against the edge of his mug where it was chipped, “there’s your overwhelming crush on him. Or the fact that he saw us and he chose to stay.” He didn’t look up but he could hear Martin sigh, the sound of his mug being placed on the bedside table, feel a warm hand sliding between his shoulderblades.

“You seem pretty focused on my crush on him.” It didn’t sound judgemental when Martin said it, that light tone that meant that Tim could tell him to back off and he’d do it. Tim made a face, tipped himself against Martin’s side again.

“S’too early in the morning to talk feelings,” he grumbled and Martin gave a little hum of agreement, kissed the top of his head and waited. “I miss him. He’s - he was a friend. And I liked him. I mean, you know me.”

“I do,” Tim could hear the smile in Martin’s voice as he reached out to pick his tea up again, his arm still close around him, rubbing his shoulder. “You like everybody.”

“Yeah. A bit.” It wasn’t a problem, really. He just fell in love fifteen times a day on the tube to work and was as entranced by Sasha’s easy wit as he was by Martin’s blushing and dealt with it by flirting furiously. It was a recent development. The root cause was as obvious to him and he was keen to ignore it; the effect was that he had few people in his life these days that he cared about, and he clung to them fiercely. Even if they shoved him away. Or, in this case, stalked him home and investigated him for murder. “S’fine. I just think he deserves something nice.”

“Mm,” Martin lifted the shoulder Tim wasn’t leaning against in a little shrug, “maybe, but - well, you do see how there’s a difference between being a shoulder to lean on and proposing a threesome. Especially when he won’t drink a cup of tea because he thinks we might have poisoned it.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

“You’re right, though - I do have a crush on him. I want him to be happy, and to be safe. But you talk about it like I’m going to pull out the full Casanova act and ride off into the sunset with him and leave you behind. I don’t think I want that. I’m not - I mean, look, you go on and on about the way I watch him all the time. I watch you too. You just don’t see it.”

Tim gave that due consideration, unpiecing the words and then putting them back together again in his head. Right. He’d - he’d have to think about that a little more later. For now he just finished his coffee and set his mug aside, burrowing a little further into Martin’s side. “I can’t imagine Jon on a horse.” It startled a laugh out of Martin and that made Tim grin, closing his eyes when he felt Martin’s lips at his temple, his cheek.

“M’not going anywhere. Except maybe to brush my teeth.”

Tim nodded. He wasn’t entirely sure he believed it, but Martin was so- Martin about it all. He didn’t think he’d lie about something like this. “Right, well c’mon then, let’s go do that.”

And obviously he made all the appropriate flirtatious noises when Martin bent over the sink to spit his toothpaste out, pressed close for a few minty kisses, let Martin guide him back towards the bed because that bit was the easy bit, soft hands and the noises Martin pulled out of him, much easier than thinking about how he wanted to wrap himself around him and Jon and Sasha and hold them all close against whatever else was waiting out there. It was selfish, probably. Unrealistic. Sasha had a new boyfriend and Tim wasn’t jealous, not that, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t mourn the loss of late nights in the Archives with her, pulling her out of her work to tease him, doing idiotic things to make her laugh, leaning in to steal a kiss when things got giddy and hazy.

Martin was an anchor, though, steady and warm, and if there was anyone in the world who could take him out of his own spiralling thoughts and settle him it was Martin. Maybe he knew it, too, indulged him in the way that he only shushed him a few times with nervous glances towards the bedroom door as if Jon was going to stumble in again, even as he settled his hands on Tim’s shoulders and guided him down between his legs.

“Mm - s’almost worth waking up early for,” he teased and Tim looked up from where he was pressing kisses to Martin’s thighs, flushed and indignant.

Almost? Oh, that’s very nice, that is, here I am working hard for you and it’s almost as good as being unconscious.”

“In my defence-” Martin shivered as Tim mouthed kisses along the side of his cock, fisting his hands in the duvet, “I have some very lovely dreams about you.”

“Yeah?” Tim nuzzled into Martin’s stomach, settling his hands against his hips. “Tell me about them?”

“I’ll show you if you’ll stop teasing, kochanie.”

Tim let out a soft noise and nodded. Martin didn’t really do orders, everything phrased gently, soft and polite. Which was- well. Tim wasn’t exactly new to the whole spectrum of submission, liked to find limits and push them to see what happened, liked being put in his place a bit. It was much a surprise to him as anyone else that Martin looking down at him with a hazy, adoring look and telling him how lovely he was seemed to be as effective as being tied up and wrecked when it came to making him behave. He wanted to be good for Martin. Maybe that was the differentiator.

And, more importantly, he wanted to find out about some of the lovely ideas in Martin’s head so he hurried things along a little, took Martin into his mouth and sucked gently around him, held still so Martin could roll his hips up gently against his mouth and let out a gorgeous, shuddering little moan.

“That’s lovely,” Martin whispered, smoothing Tim’s hair back from his face and smiling down at him. “So good for me, Tim, I - God,” his head fell back against the headboard and Tim was reminded all too quickly that they’d been interrupted last night, heat coiling down his spine as he pressed his nose into the soft curls at the base of Martin’s cock and swallowed around him to hear Martin’s voice crack a little on the next moan. He pushed his hips against the bed and groaned low in his throat at the friction only to feel a little tug at his hair.

“Mm?” He pulled back, nice and slow to see the way it made Martin’s eyes go glassy for a moment. “Comments? Feedback? Thoughts so far?”

“Cheeky,” Martin tutted, shaking his head fondly. “Keep your hips up, please, you know better than that.” There it was, even in the midst of a lazy Saturday morning blowjob, that thread of gentle control that made Tim melt. Or, in this case, push himself up to his knees and try not to whine at the loss of sensation. Worth it, though, for the way Martin slid his hand to the back of his head, not pressing him, just anchoring him while Tim lowered his head again.

It was probably for the best. Even when he was obviously trying to be quiet so as not to alert their unexpected guest, Martin sounded gorgeous. All sweet moans and soft murmurs of Tim’s name and Tim closed his eyes and just lost himself in the rhythm of it, the way Martin’s hips twitched against his hands. It was nothing fancy. It was just good. And by the time Martin was tense and shuddering against him, gasping helpless ah-ah noises into the air and spilling into his mouth, Tim felt absolutely boneless with it.

He nuzzled into Martin’s thighs while he caught his breath, eyes half-lidded, going easily when Martin guided him up to straddle his lap, bracing himself against his shoulders. The first firm stroke of Martin’s hand on him made him gasp, trembling as he felt soft lips on his neck, his jaw, Martin smiling against his skin.

“There you are,” Martin crooned, smoothing his free hand down Tim’s side and working him slowly. Left to his own devices Tim tended to chase pleasure as fast as he could, seeking the sharp rush of release, but Martin liked to take his time with things. He definitely seemed to like taking his time with Tim, anyway, rubbing his thumb gently under the head of his cock, rolling one of his nipples between his fingers and then pinching until Tim was arched and panting, tipped over with his face pressed into Martin’s neck, one hand braced against the headboard.

“Ffffuck,” Tim groaned, muffled by Martin’s shoulder, staring sightlessly into the darkness and breathing him in, “Fuck, Martin, I- oh- oh, God, let me- I-I need-”

“I know what you need,” Martin replied, low and soothing, keeping his pace just the same. “You’ll get it, sweetheart. Just like that- Christ, you look lovely like this, you really are so gorgeous. So good for me. Are you close?”

Tim nodded eagerly and Martin turned his head to press his lips to his cheek. He was grinning, Tim could feel it. That was probably a bad sign. He had just enough presence of mind to look up and see the mischief in Martin’s eyes, feel a sinking feeling in his stomach, no, not now, he was so close-

“You did lie to me this morning, that wasn’t very nice,” Martin said lightly, as casual as if he were discussing the fucking weather and Tim whined, pushing his hips forward against Martin’s hand only to find himself held still, that soft hand against his hip suddenly much firmer. “Perhaps I should make you wait a few hours, hm? What time did you tell me - nearly ten? You could wait until then for me, couldn’t you?”

Tim shook his head, breathless, almost panicked as Martin gave him a little squeeze at the base that had his eyes rolling back in his head. “I- please, please,” he bit out and Martin laughed, kept stroking him at the pace that had seemed all well and good when they’d just started but now felt positively glacial.

“You’re always so polite when you want something. Are you going to lie to me again?” Tim gave another shake of his head, near-frantic, toes curling as he felt Martin twist his wrist on the next stroke up in a way that had him shuddering. Martin Blackwood was magic, he was sure of it, blessed with some preternatural ability to get him right to the brink and then just hold him there.

“No, no, I’m sorry, I won’t, I- fuck, I’ll be good, Martin, please,” he gasped and Martin tilted his head, expression thoughtful, holding Tim in suspense for a few more seconds that ticked by like ice-ages until finally, finally-

“Alright. Come for me,” Martin said softly and Tim couldn’t have stopped it if he’d wanted to, not with Martin watching him like that, giving him a few more strokes that had Tim crying out, crumpling against Martin and breathing hard. God. He could feel Martin moving beneath him, one arm curling close around his waist, the other fumbling somewhere off to the side, presumably reaching for a tissue to clean them up with. When Tim felt ready to open his eyes Martin was stroking his hair with a fond look on his lovely face and Tim had no hesitation about pressing up for a kiss.

“And you call me a menace,” he huffed when he withdrew, laughing when Martin just pulled him back for another one and nipped his lower lip gently.

“You are a menace. If I were half the fiend you seem to think I am I’d have made you wait for it.”

Fair enough. Tim pouted, but it was hard to feel anything other than soft and hazy when he was held in Martin’s arms like this, curled more or less in his lap, not thinking about - well. Anything, really. It was a few more minutes before Martin stirred underneath him and tapped his hip gently, nudging him away. “C’mon, lovely. I’m going to shower.”

Tim hummed, rolling onto his back on the bed and stretching, yawning hugely. Right. Movement. God, a lie-in sounded bloody wonderful all of a sudden - it was tempting to just lie here and let a few more hours tick by. But he glanced sideways and caught sight of Martin standing up, all softness and curly hair and big brown eyes and - well. There were more important things than sleep.

* * *

Tim wasn’t quiet this time when he all but bounced downstairs, whistling cheerfully as he swung around the kitchen door and nearly bumped smack into Jon who jumped, physically flinched away from him and stared at him like he was a lunatic. He had the cupboard door open and the kettle heating and Tim looked from the array of mugs to Jon and back again, eyebrows raised.

“Er - morning, boss.” Right. Bright and breezy, that was probably the easiest way of getting through this. Not that he wasn’t still angry, just that after a hot shower and a series of increasingly indulgent kisses from Martin it was hard to summon up the spite needed to really act it. “You alright?”

Jon made a noncommittal noise. He’d found his glasses but his hair was beyond messy, sticking up at all angles, jumper rumpled now that he’d slept in it, standing in his socks in Tim’s kitchen. He looked lost. But he was a stubborn bastard so he collected himself quickly enough, clearly making a decision on the mug front and reaching for one, nodding when Tim handed him the coffee rather than just waiting for him to search through the cupboards for it. “Better, I think,” he said eventually. “I, um- sleep. Sleep’s good.”

“Certainly is.” Tim unwrapped the bread, slotting a couple of slices into the toaster. “Martin’s having toast. Want some?”

“Oh.” Jon looked at the toaster like it might up and bite him and this time Tim wasn’t inclined to let him out of it, leaning against the counter and just watching him patiently. “Fine. Yes. Thank you,” Jon said eventually and Tim nodded. That was alright, then.

But he never had been able to resist a chance to prod at something so as he reached back into the cupboards to retrieve the jam he shot Jon a mischievous look, eyebrows raised. “Not afraid I’m going to use the arsenic butter on you, then?”

“Shut up, Tim,” Jon sighed, long-suffering and exhausted and it was so familiar that it ached. “Look. I assume Martin’s going to try and force us to have a conversation about all of this. Can we not just say that I don’t feel myself to be in immediate danger and leave it at that?”

“We could,” Tim agreed slowly, taking stock of their relative positions and then a good step forwards, Jon stepping back instantly and freezing when he found himself backed against the fridge. “Are you sure you don’t think I’m a killer, Jon?”

“I-” Jon’s eyes flicked unnervingly to the drawer where Tim was keeping his cooking knives. Had he searched the kitchen while they’d been upstairs? Was he going to bolt for it? Just as he was preparing to step back and laugh it off Tim watched Jon suck in a sharp breath and square his shoulders, meeting his eyes with an irritable expression on his face. “I’ve never heard of a murderer with such an embarrassing collection of novelty fridge magnets.”

Huh. Tim braced a hand next to Jon’s head on the fridge, saw his eyes twitch, noted that this time he didn’t flinch. “Jon,” he said seriously, “you’re quite right. There is nothing fishy about my fridge magnets.” He withdrew his hand and held up the magnet he’d pulled with it, a blue tiled fish he’d got from Lisbon. He grinned. Jon stared at the magnet for a full second before he let out an exasperated sound, shoving bodily past Tim to get at the kettle. There was more strength in that scrawny body than Tim would have expected.

“You’re an idiot.”

“Maybe.” Tim took Jon’s place at the fridge, turning the magnet over in his hands. “Not a murderer, though.”

Jon scoffed, busying himself with the coffee before holding out a hand towards Tim, presumably in need of milk. Tim raised an eyebrow. “Jon? Not a murderer, though?”

Alright. You’re not a murderer, just a moron. Give me the bloody milk.”

“So bossy,” Tim sighed but did as he was asked, sliding past Jon when Martin’s toast popped up and setting to buttering it. “Martin’s not either, incidentally.”

“No. I know,” Jon sighed. “I’m-”

Tim held up a hand, shaking his head a bit. “Nope. Save it for Martin. He’ll want to hear it more than I do.”

“Oh.” Jon sounded almost peeved by that, indignant. “Do you not want to hear it?”

“Not particularly. Sorry I thought you had it in you to kill someone doesn’t really sit well with me. But, you know. It’ll mean a lot to him.”

“Right.” Jon frowned, looking up at the sound of more footsteps on the stairs, Martin poking his head into the kitchen.

“Tim, are you- oh. Morning, Jon.” It was amazing how swiftly Martin’s tone changed, casual cheerfulness dropping straight into something gentler, like Jon might shatter at the wrong word. Tim handed him his toast wordlessly and picked up his coffee, looking between them.

“Good morning,” Jon replied. His hands were tight on his mug. The kitchen was small anyway but it felt cramped all of a sudden. Tim made a face and nudged Martin gently to the side so he could slip past him, coffee in hand.

“You two coming?” he called over his shoulder loud enough to be heard from the living room, shoving some of the blankets on the sofa aside so he could sit down. His leg was bouncing again. “Conversation, communication, et-ce-te-ra,” he over-enunciated it, shooting out teasing words to see what stuck. Martin was all over that sort of thing, communication, articulating complicated feelings in simple words, building bridges with commonalities and understanding. Tim stared at Jon’s shoes by the sofa and tried not to think too much about drowning.

Chapter Text

Nothing about talking was ever easy. Jon had words enough for it, of course - words were tools. Tiny, precise chisels that he had long-since learned to use to pry at the walls between himself and other people where he couldn’t summon easy smiles or gestures or any of the other ways that people seemed to use to connect. None of his words seemed fit this situation quite right.

There was not a word to explain to Martin’s earnest, worried face why Jon still couldn’t bring himself to trust anything he said or did. Martin’s arguments were rational enough, but they were built on a foundation of what must have seemed to him to be a natural predicate: that he, Martin Blackwood, would never, could never do a thing like that. It wasn’t easy to argue against. It was nearly impossible to take on faith.

Tim was a little more pointed. For the most part he kept out of the discussion, watching the back-and-forth with a complicated expression. When he did interject Jon could feel the weight of four years of almost-friendship loaded behind each syllable. Hurt feelings - right. Easy to recognise, easier to dismiss. Jon would save his guilt about that for if he ever found out who the killer really was, but for now it didn’t spare Tim from suspicion.

The facts of the matter, in the cold light of day, were harder to ignore. He’d come into Tim’s house dizzy and terrified and undoubtedly a trespasser. He’d passed a night curled on the sofa and now he was drinking coffee and he was not dead. That seemed relevant. It wasn’t helped by the fact that Jon wanted to believe them - that was the most dangerous thing of all.

Under the circumstances, Jon would have expected to talk in circles for hours, perhaps replicating the way that he felt like he’d been thinking in circles for weeks, but Martin was surprisingly patient with him. They’d reach an impasse and Martin would try another angle, coax out more information, straighten the tangled weave of Jon’s thoughts into something that seemed a little simpler. It made Jon’s skin prickle, hugging his mug to his chest and examining each and every word Martin spoke for fear that he’d find a manipulation, a half-truth, a deliberate misapprehension. Martin was not a frightening man but Jon was so, so afraid. Something about being confronted with that calmness and certainty felt deeply uncomfortable.

“Are you investigating other departments?” Tim asked, busy pulling a loose thread in the fabric of the sofa. He was going to unravel the whole thing at that rate.

“Such as?”

“I don’t know. Storage? The others down in Research? Legal?”

“I- not yet,” Jon said slowly. He could see that it was the wrong answer, Tim’s expression flickering into something pointed again. Tim at work seemed quite different, all easy confidence and flirty remarks, a little ray of sunshine with bright and blinding smiles. Maybe he lit himself up like that to distract from all of his sharp edges.

“Any of them could have as much motivation to murder an Archivist, to know about the tunnels and go exploring, to do any of the things you’re investigating us of,” Tim replied, counting the points off on his fingers, and - yes, alright, that was probably a fair point. Jon pursed his lips.

“I have to start somewhere.”

“You started by following me home, Jon. This isn’t the - God, what would you call it? The preliminary stages of an investigation? Seems to me that the main reason you’re suspecting us at all is because we’re closest to you, and you’re scared. It’s easier to pin your fear on us than look for anyone else.”

“That’s - no, that’s not-” Jon started to protest but Tim stood before he could finish, levering himself upright from the sofa and grabbing Martin’s crumb-covered plate, both of their mugs.

“I,” he announced, tone right back to cheerfulness again, “am going to clean the kitchen a bit. You’ll be alright, yeah, Marto?”

“Of course.” Martin looked about as bemused as Jon felt, watching him go and then calling, “wear gloves this time, please!” after him.

“Gloves?” Jon raised an eyebrow at Martin and he shrugged, spreading his hands in a helpless little gesture.

“He, um - it’s- I mean kitchen spray’s fine, but sometimes he uses bleach,” he said finally. “Tim says gloves don’t let him get close enough, whatever that means, but he’s going to wreck his hands like that.”

“Oh. Was he always-”

“I don’t think so.”

“Right.” Jon looked down at his own hands, the pale scars sitting there against his skin. Bleach, then. He’d been a little more sensitive to infestations in his own flat when he went back there, but he could understand the appeal of scouring a surface until nothing could live there, no worm or ant or any other creeping thing. “I probably ought to apologise. None of this is personal. If I can’t trust in scepticism and what makes sense, then I can’t trust anything. Anybody.”

Martin just nodded, as if this made perfect sense. “I know, Jon. I’m not having a go at you, not really. And if rifling through my sock drawer in search of a gun is going to make you feel better then you can come around anytime you like, but I don’t think evidence is the problem here.”

“No. Probably not.” Paranoia was rarely assuaged by evidence. Jon didn’t want to apply the term paranoia to any of the fear rattling around his skull and deafening him but there didn’t seem to be a more fitting word. Everything made more sense in the Archives. Laying out his thinking to Martin’s calm inquiry made it seem knotted and unsteady and that was uncomfortable. If he couldn’t trust his own mind-

“Is there anything I can do to help?” Martin interrupted his thoughts, and he still looked so open. Jon went to shake his head, to dismiss the thought out of hand, and then paused. What would help?

“Why aren’t you afraid?” he asked finally, trying to clamp down on the instant answers that came to mind - that Martin was too naive to fully consider that there might be a killer amongst them, that Martin wasn’t scared because he was that killer.

“Oh, I- I am. I don’t go home as much. I mean, I’ve got a new flat, but it feels safer not to be alone. And every statement that you have us researching could be the next thing to target any one of us. I know that I didn’t get hurt in the same way that you or Tim did but I’m still scared.”

“Alone is the safest thing you could be,” Jon muttered, reaching for his coat on the floor and digging through the pockets for his cigarettes.

“I don’t think so,” Martin replied. “I understand why you’d think that but - well, look, when Jane Prentiss had me trapped I didn’t think I was going to see anybody ever again. Being alone, like that, it-” he broke off, shuddering. “Anyway. My point is, it helps to talk about it, sometimes. We all deal with things differently and that’s okay too. Tim works himself up until he can scarcely speak and he won’t talk about it unless he’s made to, and that’s- I mean, we’re all trying to cope, Jon. As best we can. I don’t think any of us are getting it right, necessarily, but it’s easier to deal with getting it wrong when there’s somebody else there.”

Jon turned his lighter over in his hands, thinking about that for a while. “If I get this wrong then I might die. Or - you might. Or Tim, or any of us.”

“I think we’re all in danger, probably,” Martin agreed, “and there’s a lot of things to be afraid of. But even supposing you’re right, and there is a murderer amongst us, I don’t think pushing everyone away is going to help. Any one of us could have killed you by now. In the tunnels, in your office, last night. And if you’re wrong, and Prentiss was a freak accident and nothing bad ever happens again, are you going to spend the rest of your life like this?”

“I….I don’t know.” Jon flicked the lighter and sighed, standing up. “I’m going for a cigarette.” Martin nodded and Jon shrugged his coat on, hesitating by the living room door. “You can- you can come. If you like.”

“Oh.” Martin looked startled by that but not displeased, nodding and standing up as well, hunting around for his shoes. “Yeah, alright.”

It was cold outside, steam from Martin’s breath mingling with the smoke from Jon’s cigarette, and Jon hunched into his coat, sitting down on the low wall that ran between Tim’s flat and the street. “So, you and Tim.”

“Mm? What about us?”

“How long?” He’d asked Tim this too, but he wanted to hear what Martin might say. To see if their stories lined up, perhaps.

“It, um - let me think. May? While I was living in the Archives, definitely. Tim took me out for a drink and-” Martin shrugged. “One thing led to another. I don’t think either of us really intended for it to happen again but you know Tim. Too charming for his own good. Initially I think he wanted to give me something else to think about, to be honest, but it’s worked out pretty well so far.” Martin tugged at the hem of his jumper, glancing over at Jon and then rolling his eyes, sudden enough to make Jon blink in surprise. “And now you’re thinking that if you were a murderer in our midst you’d be keen to establish a relationship to make sure your roots ran deep and divert suspicion, yeah?”

“Well- yes,” Jon admitted. No sense in denying it. The thought was there, now, in the air between them. Martin gave him an exasperated look and shook his head.

“Tim’s not- I don’t think Tim has it in him to kill someone.”

“Don’t you?” Jon leaned back a little on the wall, thinking about it carefully. Tim with a knife or a gun or a cricket bat, put in a desperate situation, what would he do? “He’s impulsive. And he has a temper. I think if someone he cared about was at risk, he’d find it in himself to do what he felt he had to.”

“Oh. Maybe.” Martin didn’t seem overly concerned by that.

“He certainly looked willing to kill me when I insulted you,” Jon added, meaning it like a sort of joke, a teasing sweep of his hands at their situation. Look at how ridiculous this all is. We can joke about this, can’t we? That’ll disperse the doubt.

“You were quite rude,” Martin was smiling as he said it, though, almost indulgent. “But it’s not the first time you’ve been rude to me, Jon, I’m big enough and ugly enough to deal with that on my own.’

“Hm.” It wasn’t easy to argue with that. “You’ve been significantly more competent lately, when you haven’t been fussing over me or trying to make me tea or generally asking how I am or- the rest of it.”

“Thanks? I think?” Martin was looking exasperated again. Jon took another drag of his cigarette. “You really do pick the weirdest times for a review.”

“It’s not a review. I’m just saying - there’s been a marked improvement.”

He could feel Martin watching him. He wasn’t going to get more of an apology than that, not for the heinous crime of snapping at him when he misfiled things or wrote sub-par reports. He had bigger things to apologise for. Eventually Martin let out a little breath, slipping his hands into his pockets.

“Alright. Then thank you.”

* * *

When they returned indoors Tim was in the living room again, the blankets on the sofa nowhere to be seen, the place set back to order. There was a strong smell of bleach in the air and Jon curled himself back into the armchair, watching as Martin left and returned with a little tub of moisturiser, drawing Tim down onto the sofa with him and taking his hands, carefully rubbing it in where the skin was cracked and reddened. Tim’s eyes flicked to Jon, watching him watching, expression caught halfway between sheepish and defiant.

Martin let Tim’s hands go and Tim leaned back against the sofa a bit, hands still held outstretched, eyebrows raised.

“You normally kiss it better, Martin,” he teased. He didn’t look over at Jon but that was alright, Jon knew full well that the comment was directed at him somehow - just not why. Martin blinked at him, taken aback, and Jon stayed just where he was, frozen, not sure what Tim’s game was.

“Tim-” Martin began quietly, looking over at Jon as if somehow Tim hadn’t noticed he was there, and Jon swallowed, looked away, shrugged.

“I don’t mind,” he put in, feigning nonchalance. “In the grand scheme of everything I’ve seen a kiss on the hand is- look, I’m the one sitting in your bloody flat, do what you like.”

Martin looked like he was going to protest that for a moment, but a second later he just sighed, catching Tim’s hands again and turning them over so he could kiss his palms, achingly soft even as he lifted his eyes to give Tim a stern look.

“There. Stop whinging.”

“Mmhm. I’m satisfied,” Tim replied, and Martin scoffed, retreating back to his side of the sofa with an irritated expression, cheeks flushed red.

“You’re never bloody satisfied.”

“Oh, Martin. Don’t sell yourself short,” Tim grinned, leaning in to follow Martin, cackling when Martin planted a hand against his shoulder and shoved him off the sofa altogether. “Alright, alright. No need to be like that.” He stayed where he was, sprawled on the floor and turning his head a little bit to take in Jon, curled in place within the safety of the armchair, watching the scene. “Alright there, boss?”

There was something in that question. Jon’s eyes narrowed a little as he tried to figure out just what. Something strange and fragile in that brittle smile, the wary look in Martin’s eyes as he watched them.

“Yes, I- yes. I’m fine.”

“Good.” Tim pillowed his head on his folded arms, sighing heavily. “Well, feel free to stick around. Not like we’ve got plans.”

“I’m reasonably sure I interrupted your plans,” Jon muttered before he could stop himself, and Tim snorted from the floor.

“True. Only by breaking a flowerpot, though. Don’t do that again and we’ll be grand,” he replied easily, like it was something casual, rather than what sounded almost like some sort of lewd invitation. Martin looked pale, torn somewhere between irritation and fear and worry all at once, and Jon opened and closed his mouth a few times while he tried to figure out how on Earth to start responding to that.

Because the problem, really, was that every time he looked at Tim he could see him silhouetted against the curtains, kneeling, begging, and that wasn’t normal. He couldn’t simply forget what he’d seen anymore than he could forget any of the rest of this entire situation.

“Tim, that’s enough.” Martin sounded firmer, now, an edge to his tone that had Tim looking back at him over his shoulder, utterly uncompromising. He held Martin’s gaze for a moment before settling his head back on his arms, sighing.

“Mm’kay. Just saying. I didn’t mind.”

Jon wasn’t sure he believed that, necessarily, but it didn’t much matter either way. He could feel his cheeks flaming again, absolutely blindsided by the idea that Tim didn’t mind him watching, perhaps wanted him to watch again. He swallowed hard, forcing down the feeling that whispered that this was some sort of trap, had to be. Tim was bold, yes, but he hadn’t been this bold before. And he was still watching him.

“Persistent, aren’t you?” he said eventually, sounding a little strained even to his own ears. Tim laughed, delighted, rolling onto his side and settling an elbow against the floor, propping his head up.

“Always am. C’mon, you can’t tell me you’ve forgotten that,” he purred.

He hadn’t forgotten that. The way Tim would flirt with him back in research, drag him out for drinks with the others, press a little closer than was appropriate and look down at his lips and Jon would think about pulling him closer, about what might happen if he kissed some of that damn smugness off Tim’s pretty face.

“No,” he said finally, quietly. “I- no. I haven’t forgotten. I’m sure Martin has his work cut out for him.”

Martin snorted and then blinked like he was surprised by his own reaction, grimacing a little. “Sorry. Sorry, I- Christ, Tim.”

Tim was grinning. Utterly unrepentant and God, Jon wanted to do something to wipe that look off his face somehow. Maybe it was the giddiness of his first night’s sleep in Christ only knew how long or the fact that Martin’s blushing was actually quite funny, but he found himself leaning back in the armchair a little, fixing Tim with a hard stare.

“Mm. Well. You didn’t sound half so confident when you were begging last night.”

“Oh?” Tim’s eyebrows shot up. “Heard that, did you?”

“Hard not to.”

“I’ll bet it was.” There was something overbright in Tim’s eyes, tension threaded between them all. It would shatter - had to - at the wrong move, the wrong words. Jon held his breath and kept himself still, looked up sharply as Martin leaned forwards a little on the sofa, resting his elbows on his knees.

“Is this really how you two want to have this conversation?” he asked coolly, and Jon watched the shiver trace its way along Tim’s spine. Incorrigible.

“What conversation would that be, Martin?” Tim asked, pushing himself upright to sit back against the sofa, resting his head against Martin’s knee and looking up at him with a guileless expression, eyes wide and innocent. Martin met his eyes flatly and then looked up at Jon, sighing.

“Jon, I- you can ignore every word he says, Christ knows I should do that more often,” he started, sounding soft and apologetic, and Jon laughed before he could help himself.

“Martin, I’ve been handling Tim’s flirting for longer than you have. It’s fine, it’s-” he shook his head, flopping back and shoving his glasses up, pushing his fingertips against his eyes. “Frankly a bit of Tim being a shit to me is probably the least I deserve given what I was watching.”

“Please, keep talking about me like I’m not here, love that,” Tim drawled, yelping when Martin gave his hair a tug.

“You’re a nightmare today, honestly.”

“You could do something about that.”

No.” Tim’s expression shuttered at the stark refusal and he pursed his lips, looking away as Martin continued. “This isn’t a- we’re not doing this. Not like this, anyway. If this is something you’re- God, I don’t know, interested in, Jon, we can explore it. But we’re not diving into a bloody scene in the living room with no prior negotiation. No. It’s not happening.” Martin looked back up at Jon stifling a sigh. “I- it almost seems like a silly question at this point, but are you interested in this?”

“I don’t know,” Jon replied honestly. “I’m- curious, I think.”

“Oh. I- right. Right! Okay. Then I- Christ. First things first, then, we don’t have to talk about this now. I know this is a bit spur of the moment. We can do this another time.”

Jon nodded. It was tempting. He’d be lying if he said that a bit of breathing space didn’t sound good. But this felt like a strange and fragile opportunity and he was wary of losing it, of losing his own nerve and avoiding the two of them until they all forgot that it had ever been on the table at all.

“If I- let’s say I was interested. What would happen then?”

“Well, we’d talk about it,” Martin replied simply. “What specifically interests you. What you might want to do, what you wouldn’t. And the same for the both of us - nothing’s going to happen unless all three of us are comfortable with it. Regardless, I’m going to say right now that nothing’s going to happen tonight. Any sort of arrangement like this needs trust, even more so if we’re going to go into half of the ideas that I’m sure Tim’s cooking up. You don’t trust us right now.”

It sounded harsher said out loud like that. Jon frowned.

“It’s not that, as such, I-”

“Jon, last night you were willing to believe that we were murderers. You don’t trust us,” Martin replied firmly. “And that’s - that’s fine. That’s okay. But it does put an inherent limit on the sort of thing we could do in any sort of safe way. I’m not trying to fence you in. I’m just trying to be realistic about what’s healthy here.”

“Right,” Jon muttered. That was sensible enough. He couldn’t help but think that if he’d just gone out with Tim and got shitfaced he wouldn’t have had to deal with any of this communication, and there was a faintly mutinous set to Tim’s jaw that suggested the same thing, but - there was a logic there. He could understand that. “So, we - we talk. And plan, presumably.”

“That’s right.”

“And then-”

“And then we can talk about logistics.”


“So?” Tim leaned back, resting one of his elbows against the sofa, still pointedly casual. “Interested?”

“I- Christ, Tim, I’m- why are you interested?” Jon sighed, burying his head in his hands. “This is absurd.”

“Because I like you. Idiot.” Jon lifted his head to see Tim grinning at him, that dazzling smile that seemed so genuine even if Jon knew he could flick it on and off like a lightswitch. He looked at Martin again and Martin just nodded, carding his fingers through Tim’s hair.

“We like you. We care about you, more to the point. I know that- well, remember what I said about feeling safer with other people? I like taking care of people. Whether that be a cup of tea or something more, um - extreme, I suppose - I like taking caring of people. And Tim-”

“I like being taken out of my own head,” Tim said simply. “Martin’s very good at that. Stopping me thinking myself in circles, calming me down. It’s a sort of stress relief, really.”

“Stress relief,” Jon repeated numbly. “I- I see.” Given the endorphins that would be inevitable after an encounter like that that made sense, certainly. Whether he could see himself partaking was a mystery to him, but he couldn’t deny that he was curious. God, he was curious. They were two undeniably attractive individuals and a bit of connection, human contact, all of it was tempting. Not to mention the undeniable thrill of knowledge, something new. “I think I’d like to talk about it, at least.”

Martin took a deep breath and let it out, nodding slowly. “Okay. Well. I’d better put the kettle on, then.”

* * *

In the end, it was more than a few conversations. They talked, had another cup of tea, and Jon left Tim’s flat feeling heavier and lighter all at once, head full of strange and unfamiliar thoughts that weighed him down all the way home. Tim texted him on Sunday for the first time in weeks, just checking in. On Monday Martin set a cup of tea on his desk and smiled at him and Jon gritted his teeth against the impulse to flinch away, forced himself to thank him and remind himself that this was a decision. He couldn’t calm his mind but he could decide to trust them. That was something.

There was another talk a few days later, in the break-room well after hours (neutral ground, Jon appreciated that), Tim leaning against the counter and watching as Martin talked Jon through the logistics of what sort of thing he might be interested in. Watching, so far, and tentatively a little else besides. A few kisses perhaps. Tim settled his hand on his shoulder before he left and the touch spread warmth through him, rooting him to the sofa for a good few minutes after they’d gone.

In the middle of the week, Tim turned up in his office with two sandwiches, sat himself down like he belonged there and stayed until he'd eaten it, chatting about whatever thoughts entered his idiotic, gorgeous head and blatantly ignoring all of Jon's hints that yes, Tim, this was all very lovely, but he did have quite a lot of work to be getting on with. It felt like old times. The nostalgia was fierce and aching and when Tim finally left the silence was deafening, so much so that Jon found himself leaving his office a few hours later for a cup of tea, placing a file on Tim's desk for follow-up and exchanging a few casual words with Martin, and the smiles they gave him were nearly blinding. Sasha looked between the three of them like they'd all gone mad, Tim and Martin grinning like idiots at a discussion about the printer being out of ink again, and it was a struggle not to smile back, not to sink into easy, casual friendship as if nothing had ever changed. Everything had changed, was changing, but this felt like something that Jon could almost get used to.

The worry was that they’d want something more. Tim made no secret of the fact that he was attracted to Jon, was so blatant about it that Jon wondered how this hadn’t come up before, the way Tim leaned against his desk in too-tight trousers, met his eyes over his coffee mug and murmured yes, boss in a way that should have conveyed respect and absolutely didn’t. Martin looked at him like he was something new and precious and delicate, and Jon was strangely afraid of disappointing either of them. Which was absurd. He’d never given a shit about Martin’s opinion before, not really, why should this have been so different?

It was different, though. Very. And Jon had made it clear that he didn’t really tend to do much of anything in the bedroom, that he hadn’t done anything at all since Georgie, and even then it had been sporadic. Sex was - fine. Messy. More trouble than it seemed to be worth. As keen as he might have been to watch - and he was, the more he thought about it, the more they talked, the more Tim teased at one idea or another that made Jon prickle all over with heat - he didn’t know if he wanted anything else, if he’d ever want anything else. Tim and Martin had agreed to that but the fear was still there.

He swallowed it down all week until it was Friday night again. Sasha left but Martin and Tim lingered in their little office, both leaning back against Martin’s desk, his arm around Tim’s waist as they waited for Jon to leave. Finishing a statement, he said. And he had finished a statement, but if he needed a few more moments to gather his nerve, that was his own business. Finally, though, he stood, grabbing his coat and squaring his shoulders, trying to be comforted by the way Martin beamed at him when he finally emerged.

“Right. Shall we?”

“After you, boss.” Tim rested his hand against his shoulder again, leaned in just a little, enough for Jon to feel the warmth of him against his side, and then back again just as swiftly, holding open the door and grinning. “After you.”

Chapter Text

On Vauxhall bridge, Tim slipped his hand into Martin’s and put their joined hands into Martin’s coat pocket, leaning into his side. Jon lit a cigarette and watched the clouds turn dusky pink and grey.

On the 88, Tim headed straight to the back of the top deck like the overgrown teenager he was, all three of them sitting in the back row. Martin’s knee brushed against Jon’s leg. Jon watched Vauxhall turn to Stockwell turn to Clapham and wondered where in that mass of newsagents and chicken shops and Portugese restaurants Martin made his home.

On the walk past the Common Tim imitated one of their statement-givers, a rather strident woman who had ended half of her sentences with you know what I mean, though, right? and talked with her hands fluttering around her face, into her hair, tugging at her earrings. Martin made a few soft, chiding noises, sympathetic to a fault. Jon watched Tim’s hands, and wondered, and waited.

The armchair felt like the natural place to go when they got back to Tim’s. Martin took his coat from him, steady and reassuring, and Jon realised that it had been a week since he’d heard him do much in the way of stammering. Was that all it took to settle him at work, a confrontation and an interrogation? Had things changed so dramatically? Tim was antsy again, shifting from foot to foot, and Martin’s hand on his shoulder failed to steady him at all. He bounced up onto the balls of his feet and down again, stretching his arms over his head, far too much energy simmering under his skin. Jon toed off his shoes and brought his knees up to his chest, watching Martin hang up the coats.

“Right. Cup of tea, Jon?” Martin asked brightly, and Tim snorted a bit, flinging himself down on the sofa, stretched out on his back.

“I’ve got things other than tea, too. Can have a beer, if you like. I think I’ve got some rum and some coke somewhere,” he offered, and Jon shook his head.

“No, ah- tea’s fine. Thanks. Probably best to be sober,” he replied, and didn’t think too hard about how Martin’s approving nod as he left made his stomach drop like vertigo, giddy and terrifying. Tim turned his head to grin at Jon, foot still bouncing where it rested on the arm of the sofa, arms folded behind his head.

“Alright there?” It sounded casual enough but Jon had spent enough time being corralled into eating lunch this week to recognise the underlying concern, there, a genuine line of inquiry. He nodded, taking off his glasses to clean them on his shirt.

“I think so, yes. Just- curious. Nervous, perhaps. All that bouncing of yours isn’t helping.”

“Sorry,” Tim replied, sounding entirely unrepentant, “I can’t help it, honestly. I’m excited.”

“Mm. For whatever Martin’s going to do to you? Or the fact that I’ll be watching?” Jon asked, unsure quite where he’d dredged up the boldness for that from, but not regretting the question once he’d asked it because Tim looked delighted.

“Both. S’like - waiting in the wings before going onstage, or the night before a competition. Bit of adrenaline.”

“I suppose it is a show, of sorts.”

“Right. And I want to put on a good show for you.” Tim’s face was so open. Jon watched him and wondered where he found the courage to be so earnest about this, putting on a show for him, not just with him there. It felt distractingly intimate. Jon opened his mouth and then closed it again, giving a little shrug and putting his glasses back on, blinking at Tim now in focus, his pretty face all sharp-edged again. It was a relief when Martin came back with tea, another warm mug to anchor himself with, someone else to take control of the room.

God. Martin taking control of anything. It would have been unthinkable a week ago and yet here he was, waiting for Tim to swing his legs up a bit so he could settle down on the sofa, one hand curled over Tim’s ankle, comforting, possessive.

“So, are we- doing this down here?” Jon asked, glancing to the window despite himself. Tim laughed, bright and sudden, and Jon felt his cheeks prickling with heat.

“We can move to the bedroom if you’d be more comfortable,” Martin offers, “but down here will be a better view for you. Which would you rather?”

“I don’t, um- here’s fine.”

“Okay.” Martin smiled. “And you’re comfortable with everything that we’ve discussed?”

“Yes, I think so. I meant to ask, do we have, um- I know that there are words, sometimes, for this sort of thing.”

“You’ve been doing some reading?” It could have been so judgemental, scornful even, but Martin sounded warm and pleased and affectionate. “For the purposes of tonight I think stop and wait will do. We won’t be doing anything too fancy. And if Tim’s cheeky enough that he needs something to quiet him down, we’ll do fingersnaps. I will say that those words go for you too, Jon - if anything gets too much, if you want to stop, if you just need a moment or want to discuss something else or anything changes, just speak up. You’re as much a part of this as any of us.”

And there it was. As much a part as any of them. Jon took a sip of tea and felt it warm him right through to the bones.

“That’s sorted, then,” Tim shifted his socked feet in Martin’s lap, wriggling a bit, obviously impatient. “Shall we get on?”

“When everyone’s ready,” Martin agreed calmly. “We’ve got all night. Let Jon drink his tea in peace.”

“We can start,” Jon shrugged. “I don’t mind. I think- I think if we don’t Tim might squirm his way out of his skin and none of us want that.”

“He’ll wait,” Martin smiled, and Jon watched the words settle like a weight on Tim, making his eyes slip half-lidded, all of his fidgeting stilled for just a moment. “But if you’re sure.” He gave Tim’s ankle another little squeeze, nudging his feet gently off his lap. “Go and get undressed, please.”

“Sir, yes, sir!” Tim clearly didn’t need telling twice, bouncing upright. “Want me to bring anything down?”

“Mmhm. I think you might as well bring the bag, we can do a bit of an inventory.”

That was for his benefit, Jon was sure of it. He’d made his lack of experience quite clear and, yes, whilst he’d spent the week reading up on some of the basics (late nights in the Archives, pushing aside statements in favour of the basic tenets of BDSM, an onslaught of unfamiliar terminology) he’d said he wanted to learn more. This might as well be a learning opportunity as much as anything else, even if the anything else was vast and terrifying and fascinating on its own.

Tim disappeared and Jon could hear his eager footsteps on the stairs, could imagine him halfway through tugging off his shirt by the time he reached the bedroom door. He focused on his breathing - in and out - and looked back at Martin.

“Still okay?” Martin asked him gently.

“Fine. I’m fine, I’m hardly going to be doing anything strenuous. Just watching.”

“Mm. I don’t think there’s any just about watching, really. And you know you don’t have to stay there silent, you can interject, ask questions, get involved - whatever you want. Both of us want you here.”

“I know. You’ve both made that clear.”

“Good. I hope so.” Martin’s gaze was steady and sure. Jon watched his shoulders move as he breathed and matched his own breathing to it, struck with the absurd urge to look away. He got his opportunity when Tim returned, unabashedly naked, dropping what looked like a sports bag on the ground. He was already half-hard, and he grinned when he caught Jon’s eye, dropping him a wink.

“Like what you see, boss?”

“I don’t think you need me to stroke your ego, Tim,” Jon replied. “You already know what you look like.”

“Tell me anyway.”

“That’s enough out of you for a moment,” Martin interjected, but he sounded soft and fond, standing up to move the coffee table well out of the way. It left an arena, of sorts, a little performance area between the sofa and the armchair and the window, and Tim - obviously - stepped straight to the centre, watching Martin unzip the sports bag and place a few obvious items - lube, condoms - to the side before making his way behind Tim, just smoothing his hands down his arms. “Hush, now. Are you going to be good for us, Tim?”

Us. Jon felt his breath catch in his throat. Tim tipped his head back, shivering when Martin pressed a kiss to his neck.

“Could do,” he breathed, and Martin chuckled.

“Oh, I see. Or are you going to show off now that we have company?”

“Could do that too,” Tim agreed, and Martin gave a little hum.

“Well, thank you for your honesty. Let’s see if we can’t preempt that a little bit.” He pulled a strip of cloth out of the bag - a blindfold - and reached to tie it carefully around Tim’s eyes. “There. Not too tight? Can you see?”

“No and no,” Tim replied, voice gone a little shaky with excitement, and Martin pressed another kiss to his shoulder.

“Good. You can wear that for a little while until you’re settled.”

“Why?” Jon cut in, unable to help the question, and his voice sounded rough even to his own ears. Tim’s head snapped towards him even blindfolded but Martin didn’t miss a beat, curling his hand around Tim’s hip and giving a squeeze.

“Because Tim likes to show off. And if he knows that there’s somebody to show off too, he’ll push his luck. This will make him think less about who’s here, let him focus a bit more on being good for us.”

Jon nodded, wondering how Tim felt about being spoken about like he wasn’t here. Judging by the blissful expression on his face he didn’t mind it much. He was still fidgeting a bit, shifting his weight, bare toes curled against the carpet. “Alright. And what happens when he pushes his luck?”

Tim laughed at that, pressing his lips together to catch it halfway when Martin gave his hip a pinch. “Good question. Tim, why don’t you tell Jon what happens?”

“Depends. Sometimes Martin will just make me wait, put me down on my knees until I’m ready to be good. Sometimes, he’ll use some of the other things in that bag. There’s a flogger in there, a crop. Sometimes he’ll make me wait to come, or not let me at all.”

“I see,” Jon said quietly. It felt good, picking this apart, analysing the pieces to see what made it work, it was sufficiently cerebral to stop him spiralling into some sort of panic about this entire situation. “Do you like those things?”

“Sometimes.” Tim grinned. “It’s all in the context, boss.”

“Is that why you’re so cheeky all the time?” Martin teased, settling his hands on Tim’s shoulders to walk him back a little, pressing down until he went down to his knees with an audible sigh of relief, settling himself comfortably and then straightening his spine, shoulders back, hands clasped loosely. The same position Jon had seen him in through the window. He swallowed, mouth gone dry, scanning the long lines of Tim’s body. Was that position just something that was expected? Had it been practiced, trained into him? The image of Martin sitting in front of Tim, correcting his posture, was sudden and startling. As it was Martin just looked achingly tender now that Tim was blindfolded, running a gentle hand through his hair. “That’s lovely. Stay nice and quiet for me for a few minutes, now, hm?” he murmured, turning back to Jon with a smile. “Right. Let’s see what we’ve got.”

We again. Jon didn’t think that he could have felt like a passive onlooker if he tried, and now that he’d voiced one question it was easier to articulate others, watching Martin draw the aforementioned crop out of the bag, a gag, a little box full of toys, a pair of suede-lined cuffs.

“Those look soft,” Jon remarked and Martin nodded, handing them out towards him.

“They are. Would you like to feel?”

“I- yeah. Yes.” Jon took them, brushing his thumb one way up the suede and then the other, imagining what they might feel like against Tim’s wrists. Against his wrists. “This isn’t what I expected,” he confessed, still holding onto the cuffs, watching Tim silent and still kneeling next to the sofa. He was breathing shallowly and Jon could see that his cheeks were flushed. Even now, not doing anything, this was exciting for him.

“Which part?”

“It’s so- I don’t know. Steady.” Reading about this had felt a bit like being plunged into deep water, the interplay of pleasure and submission and pain, all the formalities and observations, well-established rituals and personal preferences. This felt like being led into warm shallows, safe and easy, tides lapping around his ankles. Martin just nodded.

“There’s nothing wrong with a slow start. This is stress-relief, remember. I could pin him to the wall and work him up past the point of speaking in a few minutes, but this is more effective for both of us.” Tim shifted a little where he knelt, lips parting minutely like he might say something before clearly thinking better of it. “Anyway,” Martin added a moment later, “I like looking at him like this.”

“Yes. I can understand that.” Tim shivered, cock twitching a little against his thigh. Still listening, certainly, and Jon considered elaborating. Tim looked gorgeous like this, cast in half-light with only the one lamp on, stark shadows and bright spots over his skin. It highlighted some of the scars, little sun-spots on his arms, his chest, his neck. Jon wanted to touch them, to feel the contrast between smooth skin and scar tissue. He wanted to see what might happen if he said any of that, how Tim might react to it. He wanted. “What are you going to use tonight?”

“Those, for a start,” Martin nodded to the cuffs, “and this,” he held up a curved vibrator. “Possibly-” he indicated the crop with a smile. “Is there anything you’d like to see?”

“Oh,” Jon blinked down at the bag. “Any of it, really.” He put the cuffs in his lap and reached forwards, wrapping his fingers around the slim handle of the crop, rubbing his thumb against the leather. “Whatever you think best to-” he broke off, shrugging, and Martin laughed.

“To take him apart?”


“Alright.” Martin gestured to the cuffs, eyebrows raised. “Would you like to put those on him?”

Jon hesitated, not sure how he felt about being so overtly a part of this. Wrapping his fingers around Tim’s wrists, feeling the warmth of them, close enough behind him to touch, to press his lips to his neck the way Martin had done. Tim was tense, utterly still, apparently holding his breath as he listened for the answer. “I- would that be alright?”

“I think so. Tim? Would you like Jon to cuff you?”

God, yes,” the answer exploded from Tim in a rush of breath. Jon nodded slowly and Martin stood, crossing the room to settle a hand against Tim’s shoulder, waiting for Jon to follow. He did, setting the crop down and holding the cuffs in both hands like a sacrifice, some sort of offering, crouching next to Tim and watching him move his head to follow the sound of movement. He was close enough to hear him breathing, a little unsteady, hitching as Jon undid the clasp on the cuffs to open them up.

“Where?” he asked Martin quietly and Martin crouched as well, positioning Tim’s hands at the small of his back and holding them there while Jon settled the soft cuffs around them, dark skin against pale suede, pulling them closed and watching the muscles in Tim’s shoulders flex a bit as he tested the give. “Not too tight?”

“No. S’perfect,” Tim replied immediately. His hands were curled into loose fists and Jon couldn’t stop himself from reaching out, placing the tips of his fingers against Tim’s, unhooking his hands. Tim drew in a sharp breath but clamped his fingers back down before Jon could retreat, keeping his hands there, trapped, holding on. Jon froze, eyes slipping over to Martin, and Martin just watched them as Jon relaxed slowly, letting his fingers curl a little to give Tim’s hands a squeeze. “Christ, Jon,” Tim whispered, and Jon swallowed thickly, mouth gone abruptly dry. How long had it been since he’d touched somebody with any intent? Was this allowed? Was this alright?

“What do you want, Tim?” Martin asked, and Tim’s head fell back a bit, turning in Martin’s direction.

“Touch me?” he asked, and Martin laughed.

“Yes, sweetheart. How?”

“Anything,” another quick reply, and Jon ached with how fond Martin looked, the way he reached out to slide his fingers over Tim’s jaw, his cheek, brushing against the edges of the blindfold. “Anything you want.” Martin’s thumb lingered over Tim’s lower lip and Tim kissed it, parting his lips when Martin pressed down a little, catching it between his teeth.

“You’ll have to be more specific than that,” Martin replied, and Jon could hear the sigh building in Tim’s chest before he let it out.

“What does Jon want?” he asked, Martin dropping his hand so that Tim could speak clearly, and Jon held onto Tim’s hands like an anchor, like a buoy in the sea, like if he let go he might be cast adrift.

“I want to see you,” he replied quietly, felt more confident about it once it was voiced. He wanted to see him. “I want you to tell me how you’re feeling, what you want. I want to hear what you want Martin to do to you.”

“Kiss me?” Tim asked, quieter still, and Martin gave a little hum.

“Which one of us?”

“I- either. Both. Kiss me.”

Jon looked at Martin and Martin gave a little shrug, nodding towards Tim as if to say if you like, and Jon had to think for a moment. Did he want that? He wasn’t a stranger to kissing, obviously, had some very fond memories of lazy evenings with Georgie, curled close in the darkness, trading slow kisses. It was warm and comforting and familiar and God, nothing felt familiar about this, but a kiss- yes. Alright. He could manage a kiss.

“I’ll have to let go of your hands,” he remarked, somehow managing a dry tone, and whilst he did let go of Tim’s hands so he could move around him and crouch down in front of him he kept close, skimming his fingertips over Tim’s arm, his shoulder, his collarbone, feeling Tim tremble with the effort to stay still, not to lean in and chase the touch. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah,” Tim nodded, “God, Jon, I’ve wanted- ever since sodding research I’ve- yeah. I’m sure.”

“Alright then.” It felt peculiar to be crouched like this, fully-clothed, with Tim naked and cuffed and blindfolded and turning his head towards the sound of his voice, a plant turning to seek the sun. “You’re different like this,” Jon sighed. “Quiet, I mean. Docile.”

Docile?” Tim laughed, and there was that bright grin of his, absolutely infectious. “If I’m being too well-behaved you just say the word, boss, I’ll make things a bit more interesting.”

“Don’t you dare,” Jon huffed, and Tim did lean closer, then, tilting his head into Jon’s hand when he slid it into his hair. He opened his mouth like he was going to say something else so Jon leaned in before he could get the chance, pressing his lips to Tim’s, swallowing the startled sound he made before he kissed back. It was- nice. Warm. Tim felt so pliant against him, kissing him like he could spend hours doing it - and knowing Tim, he probably could. He sighed when Jon drew back, nuzzling into the palm of his hand and out of everything that was what felt most vulnerable, Jon caught frozen with Tim’s lips on the heel of his hand, the inside of his wrist.

“Alright?” Martin asked softly from behind Tim and Jon nodded, words thoroughly stolen away, pulling away despite Tim’s whine of disappointment and perching himself on the sofa instead. “Alright,” Martin repeated, leaning in to steal a kiss from Tim as well and placing his hands on his shoulders, coaxing him to stand. “There we are- Jon, would you pass me that, please?” He nodded towards the crop and Jon reached over to retrieve it, handing it to Martin who smiled at him cheerfully, like he’d asked for nothing more exciting than a pen. “Thank you.”

He ran the crop gently up Tim’s thigh and Jon could see him tense, held absolutely still. Martin gave a little hum of what sounded like satisfaction, his other hand on Tim’s shoulder as he guided him over to the armchair, settled him on his knees, bent forwards with his cheek against the cushion. “Knees a little further apart for me?” he asked, giving the inside of Tim’s thighs a little tap with the crop, and Tim obeyed with a little groan, back arched, utterly exposed. It was- vulnerable. Intimate. Jon curled and uncurled his hands against his trousers, waiting until he was sure his voice would be steady before he spoke again.

“He’s pushed his luck, then?”

Martin laughed, shaking his head even as he delivered a swift tap to the curve of Tim’s arse that had him sucking in a breath. “Not tonight he hasn’t. We’ve a few grievances stored up, mind,” he said warmly, rubbing the leather of the crop over the mark he’d left behind. “But sometimes Tim likes to be hurt. Don’t you, sweetheart?”

“Mmhm,” Tim hummed, arching his back a little more. “Yeah. Fuck, Martin-”

“Shh. I want you to count for me,” Martin bent to settle his hand against the nape of Tim’s neck, curling soft, squeezing for a second before he pulled away and gave Tim a considering look. He was holding himself steady, knees against the carpet, exposed and vulnerable, hands curled into fists against his spine. “Sometimes,” Martin murmured, trailing the crop over Tim’s side, down his arm, “Tim works himself up a bit. This helps to relax him.”

“He seems pretty relaxed to me.”

“He is,” Martin laughed, “but it’s also a lovely show. And you’ll see what he’s like when we’re finished.”

“How-” Jon cleared his throat, tried again. He couldn’t drag his eyes away from the crop, from how Tim’s hips were shifting minutely, like if he had anything underneath him he’d be rubbing against it the way he had over the arm of the sofa. “How many will you give him?”

“Enough,” Martin replied simply, paused and drew away to give Jon a considering look. For the first time, he didn’t look entirely sure of himself. “You can, um- I mean, feel free to- if you want to touch. Tim, I mean, or- o-or yourself. You can.”

“Oh.” Jon looked away. He could. Christ, he was certainly interested, and now that he was paying attention to anything other than the scene in front of him he could feel himself aching. “Perhaps,” he settled on. Martin nodded and let it drop, turning back to Tim.

“Count for me, sweetheart,” he reminded him, and the next tap sounded sharper, a whip of air and the blunt impact, Tim’s sharp intake of breath, exhaling on a moan.

“Mmph. One,” he breathed. Martin painted marks over Tim’s arse, his thighs, and with each one his voice got less steady, the movement of his hips more pronounced, and Jon watched with wide eyes as he squirmed against the crop. He couldn’t tell whether Tim was squirming away or towards it - he wondered if Tim really knew. His knees had slid further apart and Jon shivered as he watched Martin slide the crop between them, stroking over Tim’s cock, saw Tim press his hips down firmly against what must have been a tease and a threat all at once.

“How many is that?” Martin prompted with another swift hit to Tim’s left thigh, and Tim muffled what sounded like a sob in the cushion of the armchair, laughing breathlessly when Martin lifted the crop to tap it oh-so-gently against his cheek instead. “Tim?”

“S’twenty,” he mumbled, “God, Martin, touch me, I want-”

“I think you can ask a bit more nicely than that, sweetheart,” Martin teased, crouching to run his palm over Tim’s arse, examining the marks he’d left behind and nodding, apparently satisfied. He looked up at Tim and then smacked his backside, hard, Tim yelping into the cushion. “No? Not yet?”

Please,” Tim gasped, and Martin gave him another firm smack before he pulled back, reaching for the lube. The snap of the cap was loud and Jon pressed his palms down hard against his thighs, curling his fingers for the blunt pressure of his nails. Tim looked wrecked. Jon could see his back moving as he panted, catching his breath, and as he watched he saw something catch the light in the shadow underneath Tim’s body, what had to be him- God, dripping onto the carpet, it should have been revolting, it was, and still he wanted to reach out and touch him.

Martin looked as close to smug as Jon had ever seen him, slicking up his fingers carefully and then settling to his knees next to Tim, one hand against his spine, the other pressing a finger into him.

“How are you feeling?” Martin asked, and Tim turned his head, still seeking out Martin’s voice. His cheeks were flushed dark against the blindfold and Jon could see his thighs tensing, relaxing, the way he was pressing back into Martin’s touch.

“Good, so good, I’m- mmph, don’t tease me, please, please Martin.”

“You always ask me that,” Martin gave a rueful little sigh, grinning over his shoulder at Jon conspiratorially, like it was an inside joke between the two of them, “and yet you beg so beautifully when I do it. You’re being so good for me.” He added another finger, crooked them in a way that had Tim whimpering, biting down hard on his lower lip as if that would do anything to muffle the sounds he was making. “How about you, Jon?”

Jon jumped at the sound of his name and nodded, eyes still fixed on Tim, the way Martin’s fingers disappeared into him. “I’m- yes, I’m alright,” he almost whispered it, reverent, afraid to break whatever this little moment between Tim and Martin was. It occurred to him that Martin was still fully-clothed as well, as yet untouched, and Jon wondered if that was for his benefit. “You know you can, um- too. It’s not just Tim I’m watching,” he said slowly, awkwardly, and Martin turned an absurdly affectionate smile onto him.

“I know,” he said gently. “Thank you. Don’t worry, I’ll fuck Tim in good time, provided you’re sure you’re comfortable seeing that.”

“All of it. Anything. I- you two look so good together,” Jon sighed. “Would you...I mean, I’d like to see Tim’s face.”

“Who wouldn’t,” Martin teased, curling his free hand around the cuffs to guide Tim up onto his knees again, two fingers still buried inside him. “Of course, just a moment. Eyes closed, Tim,” he tugged the blindfold off and Jon watched Tim’s closed eyes screw up at the sudden light, watched him open them slowly and blink, dazed, as Martin withdrew his fingers and turned him around until he was kneeling facing Jon, looking hazy and flushed and altogether a little undone.

“Oh, hey, boss,” Tim mumbled, giving him a crooked grin. “Fancy seeing you here.”

“Where else would I be?” Jon muttered, and Tim snorted.

“Still so prickly. C’mere and kiss me.”

“Tim-” Martin rolled his eyes. “Honestly, and you were being so good. If you can’t stay quiet on your own I’ll have to gag you.”

“Bet you’ve got something lovely to gag me on, eh, Martin?” Tim wriggled his eyebrows and Martin gave him an unimpressed look, sighing as he reached back to the bag, fingers hovering over the contents before he settled on a toy that was small but curved, looking like it was designed for - at Jon’s best guess - prostate massage. Martin slicked it up with a few practiced little twists of his wrist, sliding his hand around to splay across Tim’s chest and tugging him back into a gentle arch, holding him steady as he pressed the toy into him.

“If you want something, Tim,” he sighed, and Jon could hear the muffled buzzing as he flicked the toy on, see the way Tim’s eyes snapped wide and then squeezed tightly shut. It was instant, electric, and Tim let out a little cry as Martin wrapped a hand firmly around him, gave him a few long strokes, “then you can ask for it nicely.”

“Nnngh- fuck, oh my God, Martin-” Tim gasped, shuddering as Martin moved to kneel behind him properly, one arm pulling him flush to his chest and holding him there while he stroked him in earnest, pressing his lips against his neck and then grinning - outright grinning at Jon before he sank his teeth into the soft skin there, sucking until Tim went boneless and lax against his chest. That was absolutely going to leave a mark.

“Might not be up to the dress code come Monday, I’m afraid,” Martin remarked, “but I don’t think Jon’ll mind, will you?”

Jon shook his head mutely, listening to Tim’s moans ramp up a pitch, increasingly ragged as he tried to buck his hips forward into Martin’s touch.

“Fffffuck, Martin, m’gonna- God, let me-”

“You’re going to come?” Martin inquired lightly, like they were discussing the bloody weather, and Tim gave a frantic nod, drawn taut and tense like a bowstring for one more second before Martin let go of him, both hands steady on his shoulders so he didn’t crumple. “No, I don’t think so,” he said over Tim’s cry of disappointment. “Not if you can't be polite about it.”

Tim whined low in his chest, eyes still screwed shut as he heaved a few deep breaths in and out, toes curled tightly. The toy was still buzzing in him and Jon could see the tension held in Tim’s shoulders, his neck. “Please,” Tim breathed, and Martin just shook his head.

“Not yet, Tim. Settle down.”

Settle down. Christ. Jon pressed the heel of his hand between his legs, unable to help himself, the momentary pressure taking a brief edge off of his arousal as he watched Tim claw himself back from the edge. He looked up to meet Martin’s eyes, just a thin ring of brown around the pupil. He was flushed underneath his freckles, and whilst Jon didn’t know how he was still half so composed, how he could resist Tim asking him to come like that, it was almost a relief to know that he wasn’t entirely unaffected.

“I think half the reason he’s so cheeky is because he likes having something in his mouth to quiet him down,” Martin said eventually, almost nonchalant about it as he pressed two fingers to Tim’s lips, watched him open his mouth and suck on them without hesitation, eyes still screwed shut.

Was that an offer? Jon dropped his eyes to Tim’s lips, looked back up, allowed himself to consider what it would be like to have those lips stretched around him, the sounds that Tim might make. He could say no, of course. He could just touch himself, try to take the edge off this himself, slump back against the sofa and watch the show play out, or he could- God. Take part. More so than he had already, mind. It was hardly as if he’d arrived intending to touch Tim, to kiss him, and yet-

He found himself nodding. Martin withdrew his fingers from Tim’s mouth, kissed his neck again. “Eyes open for me, Tim,” he coaxed gently and Tim obeyed, though Jon wasn’t sure how clearly he was seeing anything. “Would you like to show Jon how good you can be?”

“I- God. Really?” Tim breathed, and for a moment Jon thought that was scornful, was about to demur and back away. Then Tim looked at him properly and he looked starstruck, adoring, staring at Jon like he wasn’t sure he was allowed. That made two of them, then. “Fuck, yes. Please.”

“I’ll have to undo these,” Martin said, reaching for the cuffs around Tim’s wrists, “I’m sure it goes without saying, love, but if you touch yourself, I’ll-”

“I know, I know, you’ll edge me until I actually lose my mind,” Tim cut in impatiently and Martin gave him an exasperated little sigh, planting two sharp smacks against his arse that made Tim clench around the toy, crying out.

“If you’d rather just wait until you’re feeling more polite,” he said casually, letting it hang threateningly in the air until Tim shook his head, still grinning.

“Nonono, I’m- mmph, I’m sorry. I’ll be good,” he promised, and Martin gave a disbelieving scoff but uncuffed his wrists, rubbing them gently for a moment before releasing them. He slipped the toy out of him and Tim groaned, clenching around nothing, subsiding into grumbles when Martin pressed a kiss to the nape of his neck.

“Shh. You need to focus. Go on.” He watched as Tim shuffled over to Jon, settling himself between his legs, reaching up with shaky hands to touch his knees.

“You sure, boss?” Tim asked gently. Jon nodded mutely, reached out to slip his hands into Tim’s hair.

“I’m sure. You’re so gorgeous like this,” he said softly, watched Tim’s expression slip into something warm and open, waited for that moment to tangle his hands against his hair and pull. Tim arched, groaning low in his throat, squeezing his eyes shut, and Jon saw his cock twitch. Martin glanced up from where he seemed to be cleaning the massager, an amused look in his eyes.

“Oh, hello. You’ve been paying attention,” he teased, and Jon shrugged, leaning in to press his lips to Tim’s forehead and just centre himself for a moment.

Fuck,” Tim breathed, breath hot against his jaw. “Jon, let me suck you off, please, I want to-”

“Yes, yes,” Jon kissed him just to shut him up for a second, fumbling with his trousers with sudden urgency, unzipping and unbuttoning and swallowing down a groan when he finally got his hand around himself. Christ. He felt Tim’s hands on his, pulled away from the kiss to see that quick flash of Tim’s grin before he tugged impatiently at his underwear, freeing him and leaning in to close his mouth around him and- God.

Jon fell back against the sofa cushions, one hand in Tim’s hair as Tim apparently set to driving him mad with swirls of his tongue and moans against his skin. He was eager, wasting no time in taking him down to the root, nuzzling against his stomach and Jon was almost insulted that it was apparently that easy for him until he saw Tim’s eyes watering, felt him groan in his chest, the vibrations travelling all the way up and settling in his spine. Martin settled behind Tim, slipping two fingers back into him almost absently, eyes on Jon and he- no, he couldn’t summon anything witty to say for this. He was breathless with it, holding onto Tim’s hair and arching underneath him.

How long had it been since something like this had happened? Not for quite some time, a few fumbles after university, drunk and alone in a new city far from Oxford, far from Bournemouth, seeking out a connection. It felt good, satisfying, but he didn’t reach for it like cigarettes or coffee or anything else that he marked the hours by. Then again, Tim was suckling on the head of his cock and swirling his tongue down the length of him and perhaps Jon could see his way clear to indulging a bit more frequently if it was going to be this urgent, this absolutely all-consuming.

Christ, Tim,” he whispered, still holding his breath, biting back his groans for fear that he might break whatever fantasy he’d wandered into. He hadn’t expected this, he hadn’t set out to follow Tim home for this but now that he was here, now that it was happening, he couldn’t stop himself from wanting to touch Tim’s hair, his ribs, to see him come. “You- nnngh-” he gave up on talking, pressed his lips together and watched Martin add a third finger, Tim’s grip almost too-tight against his thighs, white knuckled as he held himself steady. Was Martin going to fuck him like this, a living bridge between the two of them? Martin was apparently considering the same question, looking up at Jon with an expression of polite inquiry, and it was so incongruous that Jon laughed, running a hand over his face.

“Don’t - ah - d-don’t look at me like that, just- whatever you want, Martin,” he stammered, and Martin blushed, apparently embarrassed, glancing away quickly even as he gave his fingers a little twist that made Tim whimper.

“I’d like to kiss you,” he replied, almost hesitantly, and Jon was nodding before he’d even finished the sentence.

“Yes, yes, come here, then-” and it should have been absurd, really, should have been embarrassing because Tim was Tim, wasn’t he, gorgeous and flirty and cheeky and there were probably very few people in the Institute who hadn’t thought about kissing Tim at one point or another, but Martin - Jon didn’t know what to think about Martin. Martin who’d fussed over him even when he was met with nothing but naked suspicion, who’d sat him down and made him tea and talked him gently through a spiral of paranoia and even now looked at him like he would quite understand if Jon said no, like he expected it. Jon wasn’t used to feeling so utterly affectionate. He’d question that later.

He sat up a bit and leaned in, Martin rising to meet him with three fingers still crooked inside Tim, Tim’s mouth still on him and Jon’s hand in his hair. The whole thing was frantic and urgent and heated but Martin’s kiss was tender and lingering, like he was savouring Jon, making the very most of this moment. His lips were soft. When Jon pulled away Martin looked starry-eyed, reverent, and he mumbled something that Jon couldn’t quite hear.

“I - s-sorry, what?” he asked, more than a little distracted by the way that Tim was swallowing around him, just showing off now apparently, and Martin blushed crimson, looked away.

“Oh! I, um - jesteś taki piękny - never mind, Jon. Just thinking out loud,” he replied, too cheerful, and Jon was about to press the matter further when Martin did something that made Tim moan, and the vibrations of that were almost more than Jon could handle, had him slumping back against the sofa again. “Alright. I- Jesus,” Martin laughed, shaking his head. “You two are much too distracting, you know that? Be with you in a moment, Tim.”

He pulled back, wasting no time in shrugging off his shirt, undoing his trousers, all pale, freckled skin, flushed right down to his chest. Tim pulled his mouth off Jon, hands flat against his hips, looking up at him with reddened lips and faintly watering eyes. Jon lifted a hand to stroke his cheek gently, one eyebrow raised.

“What? Something to say?”

“Ha! I couldn’t- mm, couldn’t say anything if I wanted to, not ‘nough brain power left, try again later,” Tim mumbled, mouthing kisses across Jon’s hip. “Martin?”

“Yes, sweetheart?” Martin, naked now, settled himself back behind Tim with his hands against his hips, just rubbing little circles with his thumbs. “Something you’d like?”

“Fuck me,” Tim whispered, “please, Martin, please fuck me. I want you to make me come.”

“Well, now,” Martin was back to sounding smug again, “that’s much better. Not ‘til I say - and certainly not until after Jon.” He leaned over to press his lips to Tim’s shoulderblade, reaching for a condom and slicking himself up with a few firm strokes. It occurred to Jon that this was the first he’d been touched at all, and it was surprisingly compelling to watch Martin shiver, biting his lower lip at that first bit of friction.

He lined himself up with Tim, both hands back against his hips, watching as Tim opened his mouth and dragged his tongue up the length of Jon before taking him in again, sucking and bobbing his head in a way that had Jon groaning, eyes closed and face turned up to the ceiling, holding onto Tim’s hair like he might drift away otherwise. Martin pressed in slowly and Tim moaned into Jon’s skin, sounding thoroughly desperate even with his mouth full, arching as Martin set to moving, brisk, firm thrusts.

He didn’t seem to be teasing now, his grip white-knuckled against Tim’s hips in a way that was almost certainly going to leave bruises, and Tim sounded ecstatic, no longer bothering to moderate anything, panting every time he drew away to catch his breath, curling his hand around the base of Jon’s cock and swallowing him down. He wasn't touching himself and Jon caught Martin’s eye, unable to resist a few final questions now he was here, even if he barely had the coherence required to voice them properly.

“Could he- God, Tim - c-could he come like that?”

Martin lifted one shoulder in a little shrug, slowed himself down to answer, deep grinds of his hips that made Tim shudder against him. “He hasn’t before, but - mm, Tim? What d’you think?”

Tim shook his head and pulled away to rest his cheek on Jon’s thigh. “No, no, I- I can’t, I- hnng, please touch me, please,”

“When you’ve made Jon come,” Martin replied softly, soothingly, though his own voice was tight with exertion, motion gone a little jerky as he gave Tim’s arse another little slap, apparently to encourage him to get back to the job at hand, which - yes, yep, that was fine by him. Jon wasn’t going to last much longer at this rate anyway, not with Tim apparently using any and every trick in what must have been a considerable roster to send sparks up his spine and under his skin, to draw everything in him tight and taut and ready until he was gasping, helpless little noises caught in his throat.

“Fuck, I- I’m going-” he breathed and Tim just groaned encouragement around him. In the midst of it all Jon found Martin’s eyes and Martin blinked at him, momentarily startled into stillness. Jon watched the motion of his throat as he swallowed and then forced himself to speak.

“I- God, Jon, yeah. Go on,” he whispered, like he wasn’t sure what he was supposed to be saying, but that was alright, that was enough. Jon arched, one hand clenched in Tim’s hair, pulling, spiralling downwards, upwards, shaking utterly apart. He heard Martin let out a shaky breath and though his eyes were closed he could hear Tim’s moans picking up pace, hear the slap of skin on skin as Martin fucked Tim in earnest, thrusting into him fast and deep until he stilled, trembling, draped over Tim’s back and biting down on his shoulder to muffle whatever he might have said.

Tim’s breath was rattling out of him like he’d run a marathon and Jon forced his eyes open to see Martin wrap his arm around him again, pull him upright, pressing feverish kisses to his neck. “There we are, sweetheart, God, so good for us,” he whispered, and the us made Jon’s heart flip-flop impossibly between his ribs, battering at them like it might break out. He watched wide-eyed as Martin set to stroking Tim again, Tim’s begging reaching an utterly desperate peak until it was just pleasepleaseplease and Martin nodded, hushing him.

“Yes, sweetheart, go on, you’ve been so good, come for us,” he urged softly. Tim cried out, crumpling against Martin’s chest a little as he shuddered and spilled against his hand, chest heaving. Jon couldn’t blame him. He felt exerted himself, felt drained, like he might curl up and sleep and never wake up. For a moment, there was just the sound of panting in the room. Jon let his eyes slip closed. He could hear movement around him - the warm rasp of skin on skin,, footsteps out of the room and then back in, a few hushed murmurs. When he opened his eyes again it was to Martin’s hand against his cheek, feather-light.

“Oh! You’re awake. Hi,” he said softly and Jon nodded, shoving his glasses up to rub at his eyes.

“Yes, I’m- yes. God. That was…” He trailed off, shaking his head a bit, and Martin smiled.

“Alright, though?”

Jon nodded again, not confident in his ability to put words to any of this, looking up at the tender expression on Martin’s face, the way his fingertips hovered just above his skin like he wasn’t sure if he was still allowed to touch. Jon sighed and blinked around the room, noticed that Martin seemed to be wearing pyjama bottoms now, that Tim was nowhere to be seen. “Oh. Where’s-”

“He’ll be back in a second, he’s just getting some water and putting everything away,” Martin replied, settling on the sofa next to Jon and glancing away tactfully while Jon pulled himself back together, trousers re-zipped and buttoned. “I- I’m sorry if I overstepped, asking for a kiss, that was-”

“Shut up, Martin,” Jon sighed, exasperated, snorting at the startled look on Martin’s face. “Look, just-” he leaned in again, pressed a firm kiss to his lips, felt Martin tense and relax all at once, a warm arm sliding around his waist. That was nice. God, he had missed kissing. “This is good,” he said when he pulled away, let himself lean into Martin’s chest, soft and stable and secure, felt the sharp little intake of breath and how Martin let it out slow and steady before he hugged him close.

“I don’t want to intrude,” he added a moment later, worried about giving the wrong impression, and he’d have looked up to make his point a little more clearly except Martin was threading his fingers gently through his hair and Jon wasn’t so sure he had the muscular control needed to hold his neck up like that. “I mean, I’m hardly inviting myself into whatever you have with Tim, but I-”

“We both like you,” Martin said firmly, almost blurted it out before coughing and moderating his tone, “we, um - w-we’ve discussed it. Not with a view to proposing anything, but on the offchance that you were interested, we- well at a minimum, if you ever wanted this to happen again?”

“I could- yes. I could do that,” Jon mumbled into Martin’s chest.

“We’ll talk again in the morning when you’re a bit less sleepy,” Martin added, amused, and Jon rolled his eyes.

Sleepy,” he mimicked. “Piss off.”

“Yeah, you tell him, boss.” Jon huffed as he felt the sofa dip with what was obviously Tim flinging himself down behind him, stealing a kiss from Martin and then wrapping his arms around them both, breath smelling like mint when he ducked in to kiss Jon’s cheek too. “Sticking around for the night? I’ve got some spare pyjamas.”

“Oh. I, um - I assumed I’d be on-”

“Yeah, you would have been on the sofa, but then I sucked your dick,” Tim replied brightly. “So you’re coming to bed. If you want, I mean. I’d recommend it, Martin is a truly world-class cuddler.”

“Thanks for that ringing endorsement,” Martin muttered, and Jon could hear the eye-roll in his voice. “S’another thing about Tim, he’s all lovely and soft in the afterglow, but that only lasts about thirty seconds before he’s off again.”

“Such a trial for you, I’m sure,” Tim sighed dramatically, “having someone all energetic to do the clean-up, how you suffer.”

“Should’ve hit him a bit harder,” Jon said dryly and Tim grinned, sliding his arms around Jon’s waist from behind and kissing his neck until he squirmed.

“Yeah, well, feel free to give it a go yourself next time. On either end of things, I mean.”

Next time. Hm. Jon glanced up at Martin, squirmed a bit to see Tim’s beaming face, thought back to being pressed against the window in the cold, afraid, alone. He was still afraid. But not of this, of them. That felt like it mattered.

“Maybe,” he said softly. “Maybe. First, bed.”

“Jonathan Sims wilfully advocating for sleep, what is the world coming to?” Tim teased, standing up and extending a hand to Jon to help him up, pulling him against his chest with one strong arm and pressing a kiss to the top of his head. “Must be the end of the world, eh?”

“You’re exhausting,” Jon replied flatly, let Martin guide them both upstairs with a hand at the small of his back, let Tim give him spare pyjamas to wriggle into, let the two of them bracket him under the duvet, Tim trailing gentle fingers down his spine.

“Martin?” Jon asked quietly, heard Martin shift in the darkness to curl a hand around his hip and kiss the nape of his neck.


“What was it you said, earlier?”

Martin made a reluctant sound behind him and nuzzled into his neck. “I’ll tell you in the morning, serduszko.”

“Uh-oh. You’ve dragged the Polish out of him, now you’re never allowed to leave,” Tim drawled, and Jon heard him yelp when Martin leaned across to poke him in the ribs, felt him squirm away. “No! We agreed that tickling was cruel and unusual punishment!”

“Well, you’re a cruel and unusual man,” Jon said reasonably, grinning at Tim’s little squawk of outrage and Martin’s surprised laughter, the way Tim chose to take his recompense in kisses and - yes. In the morning. The morning seemed like a good place to start.