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and wash our tracks away

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It's raining when they arrive.

A light drizzle had accompanied them all the way from the train station, the grey skies far more open than any Jon had seen in London. Something reminiscent of Bournemouth and the sea; something he hasn't seen in such a very long time. He can almost taste the salt in the air now, though he knows they're currently too far inland for it to be any more than a figment of his imagination. They're close enough for a visit though. Perhaps something they can do for a day trip.

Regardless. The rain had slowly, very slowly, increased from a heavy misting to a light drizzle as they walked through the village, and just a few hundred meters out from the cottage itself had opened suddenly into a torrential downpour.

It takes Martin a moment to fish the umbrella from his bag, and by then they're both thoroughly soaked, clothes and bags alike, the ground slick mud under their shoes. (Jon tries not to think about the damage to his perfectly fine Oxfords, Martin. They survived the bloody Unknowing somehow, surely they can handle a bit of mud?)

His eyes wander to the horizon again; with the village passed behind them, it's mostly open farmland and scrub, gentle rolling hills that are significantly less visible now that the rain is coming down proper. There's a moment where the path dips, and the ozone scent flashes stronger. He presses on.

"Christ," Martin mutters, quickening his pace slightly. Jon takes longer steps to match, and loops his arm through Martin's, leaning close and ducking down to share in the small space under the umbrella. "It couldn't have waited like, five minutes?"

"With our luck? I'm amazed it didn't start the moment we got off the train."

"Yeah, yeah. You've got the keys, right?"

"Mm. Somewhere."

"Jon."

Jon smirks, and makes a show of patting down both his trouser pockets, momentarily panics when he legitimately doesn't find the keys, then remembers he put them in his shirt pocket instead. Martin takes them with an eyeroll that ends up on the fond side of lovingly irritated, and Jon takes the opportunity to let his fingers linger on Martin's for a second longer than necessary.

He only stumbles over one particularly uneven patch on the path while not paying attention to his feet, catching himself on his cane so he doesn't tumble, so he counts that as a win overall.

Jon slows as they reach the porch, ducking out from under the umbrella and letting Martin carry on ahead. He closes his eyes, lets Martin's footsteps fade into the rushing noise. The rain washes over him again like a curtain, beating down on his face, running down his collar and soaking through the rest of his (well, Martin's) jumper, just cold enough to provide a refreshing, soothing weight.

He breathes in, and out. He still forgets to, sometimes. It helps to be mindful about it.

There are hunters after them. Police as well. Daisy, possibly. Magnus, most definitely, in some form or another, with his plans and his scheming that don't bode well for any of them. The Eye presses against his awareness, its hunger always present but less insistent, now he's fed it to some satisfaction. They aren't safe here, aren't safe anywhere. He can feel the pound of his heart as he runs through a forest, cowers in a car seat, flees through the tunnels with the rush of blood and a snarl close behind. The rain won't do anything to deter that chase, won't wash away any trail in the grass to keep their path hidden.

And yet. He breathes in the damp, heavy air, thick with petrichor and ozone and old wet earth, and leans his head back to bask in the downpour. There is something to be said about spring and renewal, about washing away one's worries, about starting fresh. There is something to be said about being in the moment.

Jon feels alive. It's something of a novel experience.

"Oy! You coming in or not?"

Jon opens his eyes to see Martin, sheltered by the awning over the porch, bags sat at his feet and the front door open a few inches to reveal a shadowy interior.

"Just enjoying the atmosphere," he half-yells back, matching Martin's volume to be heard over the pounding rain.

"You live in London, the rain's nothing new."

It's different, he thinks, peering through freshwater tears at the man on the porch, his glasses fogged and his grey suit wrinkled and his long dark hair plastered across his forehead. He's the most beautiful sight in the world.

He then remembers that he's allowed to say this now, and breaks into a grin.

"It's different. I'm in Scotland, with you."

Martin's eyes roll fondly as a smile tugs at the corner of his mouth.

"You're a hopeless romantic, you know that?"

"Says the poet. Come out here, it's wonderful."

"No, I'd very much like to be in the nice dry cabin, thanks," Martin responds, taking off and shaking his thoroughly soaked suit jacket for emphasis.

"Please?"

Martin points a finger at him with a proper severe expression, eyes narrowed.

"I'm not coming back out there."

Jon just grins, running his fingers through his hair to push the soaking curls out of his face, and gives the whole lot a quick shake, sending a cascade of tiny drops in every direction that quickly get swallowed up by the surrounding rain. He closes his eyes again.

"Jon, you're going to catch your death."

"Already died. Try again."

"Oh for the love of—"

Martin continues to mutter something that gets swallowed up by the downpour. Then there is the distinct sound of an exasperated sigh, followed by mud-slippery footsteps and a few light splashes.

They stop. Jon opens his eyes and looks down to see Martin directly in front of him, angling the umbrella so that he's sheltered and Jon is very much not.

"Happy?" he asks.

"Quite," Jon responds.

"Good."

"Good."

They lock eyes. A moment passes. Then both of them burst into giggles, Jon's head tipping forward to touch Martin's, the both of them dripping wet under the umbrella's meager cover.

"This is ridiculous," Martin says, all smiles and laughter. "We're literally just standing here. It's miserable out."

"It's a lovely view."

"Ah yes. The rain. Lovely."

"You know what I mean."

Martin's expression falters slightly. From this angle, Jon has a better view of his eyes behind the foggy glasses. They're quite greyer than Jon remembers from before. Almost faded. Far, far more weary, despite his almost forcibly cheerful demeanor since they left the Lonely.

Martin looks away.

"Ah, Jon... J-just to confirm, when you said with me—"

"No, Martin, I pulled you out of the physical manifestation of loneliness with the power of sheer bull-headed stubbornness."

"Okay, but I wouldn't put that past you—"

Jon shifts to press their foreheads together properly, touching noses and smiling, because Martin is a ridiculous man and he loves him very, very much. He can feel Martin relax beneath him, and they stay there, the moment wonderfully still despite the torrent around them.

A peal of thunder rings out, causing Jon to start and slip on the muddy ground. Martin quickly catches his arm, steadying him, and Jon winds up more or less leaning on Martin, his shoes sliding slightly in the muck without purchase and his other arm splayed at an awkward angle over Martin's shoulder. It could generously pass as a dip.

"Hi there," Martin smiles, his face now inches from Jon's.

"Hi."

"Shall we head in?"

"I'm rather enjoying myself, actually."

Regardless, he does stand, finding his own balance after a moment. The rain is starting to lose its novelty, and there's a chill starting to slowly sink into his nerves, a proper ache settling in his leg. He is absolutely going to feel this tomorrow. It was worth every moment.

Martin offers his arm. They head inside with their hands clasped, and once there, start to peel off their outer layers, placing them in a pile by the door, to be dealt with once they find the bath. He rests the cane against the sofa. Daisy doesn't have a separate mat for shoes, so Jon places both his and Martin's back outside on the porch, despite Martin's protests. They're sheltered from the rain, Martin, it'll be fine.

The safehouse is dark in the storm, dim blue-grey light filtering in through the open door and faded curtains of a singular window, but light has long since stopped being a factor in how well Jon can see. He takes stock of the ratty sofa, the dusty surfaces, the doorway opening to the small kitchen, the hallway leading to a few other doors. The quiet simplicity. The clear-cut readiness; the expectation of a Hunt lingering in the bones of the place.

Jon is dragged from his thoughts by the sound of Martin swearing under his breath as he rifles through his pack.

"Of course the bloody towels got soaked through..."

After a moment of quiet grumbling, Martin manages to find a couple of reasonably dry shirts, and starts using one to towel off his hair. Jon stretches, an alarming number of cracks and pops sounding from his abused spine, before getting to work slowly patting dry and attempting to finger comb his own curls. It'll take ages to dry regardless, but it is something to do with his hands. It's long enough to properly braid now, and he does so, his fingers quickly remembering the motions. It's been over a year since he impulse cut it, and he still doesn't like it short, has been growing it out ever since. The small wet braid is a comforting and familiar weight against his neck.

"Unpacking tomorrow?" Martin asks, casting a weary look over the piles of dampened clothing and hastily packed possessions that are now spread out around the general entrance area.

"Unpacking tomorrow," Jon agrees. "I could sleep for a week."

"Jonathan Sims, sleep? Must be the end of the world."

Jon idly flicks his braid, coincidentally causing a few droplets of water to land on Martin, who responds with a resounding oy! before throwing his improvised towel directly in Jon's face. They're both still smiling as they walk around the safehouse, leaning into each other.

It doesn't take long to discover there's only one small bed. It also doesn't take long to decide that's not a problem, and any extended conversations regarding the matter can be had at a later time. Jon unearths some musty sheets from a dusty storage cupboard, Martin manages to find a second pillow, and they collapse into a mess of limbs and blankets and still damp hair. The storm lulls them into sleep.

When Jon wakes, the last vestiges of dream fog pulling at the edge of his awareness, it's still dark. The faintest deep night glow is just visible through the curtains, and the warm shape of Martin is comfortably nestled against him, sleeping soundly in his arms.

It hits him then that he can have this. That he has this. That they can have soft mornings in a shared bed, cups of tea at the little kitchen table, banter over damp clothes and proper placement of shoes, a thousand meaningless conversations that matter more than life itself.

He closes his eyes, and presses his face back into Martin's hair. The nightmares still linger in the back of his mind. They're not safe. Not here, not anywhere. They can't be, not with what Jon is, with what's chasing them.

The rain drums gently outside. This won't last forever. He knows that.

He holds Martin tighter. And for now, that's all he needs.

For now, he'll take this.