There is everyone else in the world, and then there is Jonathan Sims.
Imagine the world has ended, like everyone is so convinced it’s going to, in a nuclear armageddon or some such nonsense. Imagine you’re the only person left alive in that horrid, irradiated wasteland of a world. To stave off the all-consuming boredom you might make stories out of the cockroaches that skitter all about the place. Maybe you feel a bit of paternal instinct towards the cockroaches that live nearby, you separate them out from the rest of the cockroaches, give them little cockroach names and begin to recognize them by distinct cockroach features. Maybe one has a half cut off antenna, another has little cockroach freckles, and perhaps another has markings all over its abdomen and you think humorously that they’re his cockroach tattoos.
You might watch them, follow the minute dramas of their lives, which has the most food or which is fucking which other, as some form of primitive entertainment. They’ll never be able to reciprocate as, of course, they are cockroaches, who can’t possibly conceive of the complexity of the human mind, whereas you can look down and see their whole lives laid out before you, but it is a far more enjoyable pastime than anything this dead world has to offer. You may even pick a favorite cockroach, root for him, enjoy hanging around and watching his struggles and triumphs. Maybe you drop him little bits of food, crush a few of his enemies, and he starts to recognize you, follow you around, because even his tiny brain can comprehend patterns, and you find it slightly charming. It’s almost like having a pet.
Now imagine you’re wandering the wasteland one day and you see another human. A man, a real person, walking towards you. And you lock eyes, and he speaks your language, and you finally, finally, are not alone. Tell me, would you now spare a thought for your favorite cockroach?
“You could have just said no,” says Peter.
“Fine then.” Elias taps the back of his pen against the top of his mahogany desk. “No, Peter, I’m not interested in continuing our relationship.
“So, a cockroach, huh.” Peter leans back in his chair and crosses his hands behind his head, not looking at all like he intends to leave after Elias’ rejection. “I like half of that. Am I the one with the little tattoos?”
“It was just a metaphor, Peter.” Elias presses a hand to his temple and pushes against the beginnings of a headache that is pulsing just below the skin. “Something to help you understand how unnecessary you are to me. I’ve found you do better when things are spelled out for you.”
Peter waves a hand, amiably. “No no, I get it. You’re happy with your little Archivist. I’m happy for you. Doesn’t seem like he’s on the same page though.”
Elias frowns. “I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.”
“Oh, I’m just saying, that it seems like your beloved Jon would rather fuck a certain freckled cockroach.” Elias fixes Peter with his coldest glare, but it’s never worked on him. Peter’s already frozen through.
“I am patient. He will come to me. He will realize I’m the only one who can ever truly understand him, connect with him—”
“Oh Christ, Elias, boring! Have you always been so boring?” Peter pushes himself to his feet and Elias tilts his chin just enough to maintain eye contact. He won’t give him the satisfaction. Peter paces forward and plants both his hands on Elias’ desk, leaning forward over it. “Why spend so much time torturing yourself when it’s so much more fun to let me do it?”
Peter leans forward even more until he is over Elias’ shoulder, whispering in his ear. “I know just how you like to be tortured.”
“You Lukases. Spoiled rich kids. Did no one ever teach you how to handle rejection?”
“Nope.” Peter grabs Elias’ chin in one hand, fingers pressing almost painfully into the fat of his cheeks. “And I always get what I want.”
Elias doesn’t have to fight to keep his expression disinterested. “I don’t have time for this, Peter. Some of us have jobs.”
“That’s the problem with cockroaches. Just can’t get rid of them.”
Elias rolls his eyes. He definitely picked the right metaphor. Damned persistent, that’s Peter.
“Let’s play a little game.”
“It’s a metaphor game. You’ll like it. And if you win, I’ll leave.” Peter lets go of Elias’ face and stands up straight, holding his hands up innocently. “No strings attached. You can focus all your attention on your darling Archivist.”
Elias sharpens his glare, trying to see through whatever ploy Peter is so clearly setting up. “I don’t think you know what a metaphor is.”
Peter shrugs, unbothered. The glee in his grin says he already knows Elias is going to say yes, and Elias hates that he’s right. A chance to finally get Peter off his back is one thing, but if the game has a winner then it’s going to be Elias. Elias doesn’t lose.
“Fine. What’s this game.” Elias crosses his arms.
“You invented it.” Fog begins to pour from the cracks in Peter’s smile, and a sinking feeling in Elias’ stomach whispers that he might have made something akin to a mistake. “I call it, ‘Imagine the world has ended’.”
Elias has more experience with the choking, endless expanse of the Lonely’s domain than most, but it has never felt so cold before. He’s been tossed into it once or twice, occasionally during one of Peter’s snits but more usually as some kind of sensory deprivation play, but Peter was always there contrasting the emptiness with sensation, the cold with his relative warmth. It has been a long time since Elias was trapped in the fog well and truly alone.
But Elias is no mere human victim who would run around like a chicken with its head cut off. He is powerful, and he is patient, and he knows Peter doesn’t have the authority in his family to get away with actually disappearing the Head of the Magnus Institute, so it’s merely a waiting game. He sits down on the ground he can’t see and ignores the coiling discomfort in his stomach over the fact that he cannot See anything. This is temporary. This is Peter. He always gets bored of his games too quickly, and he can’t ever hold off on bugging Elias for more than a day or two. In no time at all, he will come crawling back.
Five days later, Elias cannot feel his tongue. No matter how he wraps his arms around himself or burrows underneath his jacket he cannot get warm. He gave up on his meditative sitting days ago and took to pacing in tight, anxious circles. He cannot See Jon. He cannot See his Institute. Anything could be happening back there and he doesn’t know, can’t control it, can’t stop it. What if something got in he hadn’t intended. What if something Jon isn’t ready for attacks. Where in the goddamn hell is Peter Lukas. This is not a game, this is a kidnapping. A few days ago, Elias had screamed his name into the fog until his throat bled. Now, summoning the effort to speak seems impossible.
Two weeks later, Elias has cuts on his cheeks where his tears froze to his skin. Peter gripping his face in his office seems like an impossibly distant memory. Had it been warm? What did warm feel like? Elias tries to remember. The world has ended and he is alone.
“Well now, this is a sorry sight.” Elias can barely crane his head up to see Peter standing so impossibly far above him.
“Pe…ter?” he croaks out, tearing open his frozen throat to force the words through.
Peter crouches down beside Elias and smiles. “It’s me. Your favorite cockroach.”
The surge of anger in Elias’ chest is beaten out by sheer overwhelming relief.
“Are you ready to play the game?” Peter winks and Elias cannot respond, just stares up at him with naked horror at the fact that apparently they haven’t started yet. Peter seems almost giddy with anticipation. “Remind me again how unnecessary I am.”
Peter leans forward and presses his lips to Elias’ own. It is chaste, a schoolboy peck, and he pulls back immediately looking pleased with himself. Even just that tiny brush of contact spread like fire through Elias’ face. Someone else’s heat, someone else’s breath, it is almost overwhelming and he launches himself forward without hesitation, closing the space Peter put between them. He kisses hungrily into Peter’s mouth, chasing the warmth, wraps his hands around the back of his neck and feels the pulse points bright and vibrant under his fingers. It is like coming alive again and all he can think about is getting closer to Peter, deepening the kiss, sliding his frozen tongue against Peter’s burning one, wrapping his body around Peter’s like a thrall.
Peter pulls back out of the kiss, panting a bit, and they are back on the floor of Elias’ office. The sounds of the world flood in and Elias flinches a bit at the overstimulation. Peter kisses Elias’ jaw and sucks gently on the skin below his ear and Elias swears Peter’s mouth has never felt this good before.
“You lose,” says Peter.
“This doesn’t prove anything,” says Elias, but right now he cannot stand the thought of being anywhere that isn’t entangled with Peter Lukas.