. Martin stands, shivering as a sudden draft sweeps through the archives, invading every nook and cranny with its unnatural chill. Before him is Jon, eyes aflame with anger and a tape recorder clenched in one hand. Or at least, he thinks it is Jon. He... Really, really hopes it's Jon.
The way the Archivist sees it, Elias has been giving away his people and hurting them. Only the Archivist can direct their fates. And Jon, too, burns with a brilliant anger- how dare he.
Martin is his on many levels. More important than the average assistant. Closer to a servant, or acolyte. Jon's emotions muddle the mix; Jon sees the man he loves, overlayed with the Archivist's view of the one it cherishes. It confuses and directs the monster into possessiveness.
And this is what they mean by monster, this one drawn from it's human skin. It watches from those eyes and sees all, sees everything. It gazes too deep, into the mind and heart and soul, and yet it hungers. For vengeance, for retribution, for the satisfaction of ripping the petty, lonely man who considers himself its boss limb from bloody limb. Its anger is not directed at Martin, oh no, but beyond. At the invader to this place, the Archivist's nest.
There is a difference, you know, in being defended as a possession and being defended as a person. One implies a sort of taking, of the unwilling, unwanted transfer of ownership without a say. The other, a wretched and flaming love, the kind that stands up and says this cannot be just from the sheer pain of what were to happen if it actually was. It combines now, in the air around his beloved, in a way that screams possessiveness, the kind of love one has for their favorite toy, a precious gem that they can't help but clutch close and protect. How dare that petty man try to claim Martin as his own?
And, as Peter glares at him from across Elias' old, wooden desk, Martin finds himself almost glad of it.
The first word is soft, a command filled with as much power as can be mustered.
The Archivist stalks toward the desk, a towering figure for how scrawny the body is. It-Jon-Something-Between only has eyes for Peter. When he gets close to the desk, he pulls Martin behind him. A protective gesture, here in this office, to be in the Archivists' shadow.
"You are no longer welcome here. You, forsaken one, will leave me and mine alone. Leave my temple or die for your pride." The blue of his eyes is cold like flint as he scoffs, a smile pulling at his lips in a way that seems a little too forced to be real.
"I was invited Archivist. You can't remove me, not really, not now that I am here. You have left them alone, and now I get to pick up the pieces as is my due. You have no power over me!" Peter spits the words as if a curse, and Martin's eyes turn wide and frightened to his Jon, his...
The thought subsides as the situation dawns on him in horrible clarity. Right now, as the air crackles with unseen power, Jon is not his. Not really. Not as much as he'd like. The thing that is-was Jon clutches Martin's wrist, bruising and possessive, gaze still firmly in Peter. The weight of eyes- too many- creeps into the room, a pervasive crushing sensation.
"The Watcher may have invited you, but you have desecrated this space. It is mine. I was weaker then, than the Priest. But not now. His power has waned, thus has yours. But mine? Mine has not. Your place here, Forsaken, has been revoked."
The Archivist pulls itself to its full height and breathes, and the air around Martin shifts. Something in it, some lingering cold, is slipping away, and the smell of the archives is left in its place. It smells of paper-people-beds-tea and something more distinct, like the smell of dust or feathers. What feels like a kiss lingers on Martin's lips and eyes and forehead; a benediction from the Archivist and a whisper of words from something unseen near Martin's ear. A promise, a confession. Jon's voice.
More invisible eyes weigh on Peter, cutting off any chance of escape.
"My acolytes, my Assistants are still bound in golden chain, not your fog. Sleeping does not mean that they were discarded. Martin is still mine. The others are still mine."
The Archivist sounds disgusted by the assumption that he would dare throw away what was his so carelessly, with the lingering possessive note curled around Martin's name like a prayer. Jon's chin is raised, a clear warning to leave in his eyes. Martin's breath catches in his throat as the pressure intensifies, the weight of a thousand eyes bearing down on the room all at once, as if all too aware that something is about to happen. The Archivist's voice rings like a bell in the gloom, a sharp note of clarity against the fog.
"I name you Peter Lukas of the Lonely. I name you captain of a vessel built on rust and despair. I am name you friend-rival-lover of the man known to me as Elias." His eyes go wide as he realizes what is happening- Jon is classifying the Lonely man. Like a scientist with a rare bug and a pin, all too eager to capture it in every sense of the word.
Peter shrinks back against the piercing stare, the too-bright eyes, that warped and twisted voice that is Jon-and-Archivist speaking as one. "No! You cannot Know me, I am by definition unseen and unacknowledged. I am the Lonely! You can't do this, it's not possible."
Although Martin can't see it, the smile that crosses the Archivist's face is strangely kind, almost gentle in its wrongness, a blend of Jon and something distinctly other. "You are right. It should not be possible. But when has emotion ever been logical, Oceanum Viatorem, Ocean Traveler? Fear does not care what we think is true, but instead warps us through what isn't. It is profoundly irrational and with it I will do unto you as you deserve."
Punish. Undo. See the everything and nothing that is Peter Lukas. See the beast of fog shredded and seen and known to his very core. Something never meant for one so tied to the Lonely. There is nothing to stop the Archivist and his anger. No Watcher-Elias to still his hand and tongue. Both have interfered too much to have any sway now, to have any sway from so far away.
And Martin-Acolyte won't. He's held tight, flesh hand gripping the wrist still, a band and brand to keep him silent and still. The air fills with the smell of salt and metal and rust, like blood or the sea, Martin cannot tell. The shadows in the corners of the room disappear and the edges of the desk, the walls, and the planes of Peter's face sharpen and brighten until they are almost painful to look at. Even now, he finds himself unable to look away. Blinking is an impossibility long forgotten, an afterthought as their god manifests in a shrunken, fettered form of its glory.
It is enough.
The weight of a thousand eyes crushes the breath from their lungs, and with it comes a dizzying clarity, as if his brain has been filled with glass and every fragment is a shattered piece of the Lukas' soul. The-Jon-That-Is-Not-His-Jon grins, all bloody, brilliant mockery as he begins to put words to the jagged, cutting shards, the story falling from his lips until the entirety that is Peter lays crumpled, slumped upon the floor.
The Jon-inside-the-Archivist feels vindicated and terrified at the Sight of his-their god and can only imagine a world remade. And it is beautiful, sharp and filled to the brim with, with everything. Everything needed to feed a hungry Archivist and a hungrier God.
It doesn't matter though, in this moment amidst the thousand shards of a gaping cold lonely monster of a man. The Archivist-Jon eats, hungry like it never has been, the words better then anything flesh ever could be. Nothing flesh can truly understand this.
The words spill to a hundred whirring tape recorders, listening to the story of a man too tragic and a monster too old and yet too human- all born of the ocean's loneliest parts.
The Archivist has no such feelings, born of something too old and too young both, a bird that grew and shifted in the chest of Jonathan Sims.
He-it also pays no mind to Martin, despite the fact that he's pulled the still too-human man to his side to properly clutch him now.
Feed feed feed, his instincts scream, consume and speak and weave a story out of cold and silk and the lingering golden chains that bind him to the man who calls himself Elias.
Parts feel raw on his lips, like a broken crystal glass and barbed wire. Others feel like sea water and blood, dark and salty-slick. Captured moments feel like stolen devotion, or the closest someone Peter could feel to such a thing, and they strike the Archivist in unexpected ways.
The ending tastes like fear and apologies and a strange, stark relief of an end not sought but wanted. It's the sweetest thing Jon-Archivist-Monster has tasted, the final and complete destruction of a man-shaped monster. The Archivist finally feels satisfied.
Martin, however, does not.
Trembling in a grip too tight and with a headache forming as the cacophony whirls around him, he can't help but wish for a moment of reprieve, a spare second in which he can just blink, to escape the crushing, all consuming knowing. It's not even directed at him, and it's still too much! And yet.
And yet a secret little part of his hear smiles in satisfaction, a dark and creeping sort of vindicated joy. In the arms of his Not-Lover-But-Close-Enough, he is safe, and there is a sense of power in knowing that Jon has done this to protect him. A sort of shadowed love for the monster who has given unto him its full devotion. Immediately, however, his mind cringes from the thought, the very idea of ever taking advantage of such a thing is sickening. He is too human, too compassionate, to ever take joy in another's suffering as his god would so like him to do.
As the recorders click off one by one, and that horrible, grasping, Watching presence leaves the room, Jon-Archivist-Other turns to face him. His-its-their eyes are filled with a kind of patient, possessive affection and immediately Martin is filled with a sense of wonder-terror at the sight. It's devotion, or a twisted parody of it. It's love, but both more and less. It's Jon-and-Archivist as one, tired and satisfied, staring, seeing into the man that they've fought tooth and nail for. That Jon gave in to the last bit of monster left unembraced inside his chest for.
It's Jon-just-Jon for a second, body trembling and weak, and voice stripped raw and rough. "I-Mine. You're mine, lovelovelovelove you. Monster-Archivist lovesyou."
There are no eyes around then, not Elias, not the Beholding, not even that piece within Jon. Just Martin and what-ever-Jon is.
His body gives in and drops, worn and tired and safe in the arms of Acolyte-Love-Martin. With a gasp of shock turned sigh of relief, Martin gathers up his love, loose-limbed and compliant, and smooths away the creases in his forehead with his thumb. It's reminiscent of all those late nights in the archives, of tea and cots and a silly, stubborn man who cares so hard he works himself to exhaustion. In the sudden quiet of Elias' office, Martin takes comfort from the familiarity and pulls His-Jon into his lap, Archivist pushed aside for the moment, if not forgotten.
This, at least, he knows how to do. Tomorrow there will be kisses, tears and impassioned arguments, justifications and platitudes and promises. If he is lucky, perhaps even a rule or two, or some new protections that don't involve stripping someone bare of their very self. But for now, as the night draws to a close and a hush descends over the archives, Martin carries Jon to bed.