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A Little Game of Cat and Mouse

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Jonah Magnus smiled as he strolled down the streets of Edinburgh, his cane softly tapping against the cobblestone walkways. The gas street lamps did little to lessen the pervading darkness or the chill that seeped through his skin and down to his bones. On a night like this Jonah would more than likely take a carriage back home, but his townhouse was not far from his meeting with Smirke.

Jonah supposed that it was rather odd that he was so calm walking back in the dark despite just learning that the world was nothing more than a plaything to forces beyond his mortal comprehension. A normal man would be shaking in his boots, but Jonah knew long ago that he wasn’t what anyone would call just an average man. Ever since he was a young boy, Jonah was always fascinated by tales of ghouls and monsters his nursemaid would tell him over dim candlelight. As he grew older and gained access to his father’s study his hunger to learn and to understand and to see grew as well. 

It made sense, Jonah thought, that it was he who was destined to study these entities. 

And it was with this comfort Jonah found himself confidently striding and tapping his cane alongside the brick buildings, only to be yanked by the back of his collar into a neighboring alleyway and slammed against a wall. 

Jonah’s head bashed against the brick wall and he let out an undignified noise. His head throbbed in pain and spots clouded his vision as he felt the cold metallic barrel of a pistol press against his throat.

Jonah Magnus. ” The cloudy silhouette snarled as it’s hand clamped tightly around Jonah's ascot. That was indeed his name, but Jonah couldn’t begin to fathom what he did to have it spat out with such hatred. 

But nonetheless, Jonah was a gentleman and he would kindly address the angry figure as politely as possible, “Yes, and you are?”

“What?” The form spluttered as it slowly came into focus. Ah, yes. That probably wasn’t the proper response to being held at gunpoint by a random stranger. Must have been the blow to his head. 

“Never mind, that doesn’t matter.” The rapidly clearing figure snapped as he pressed the barrel of the gun into Jonah’s trachea causing him to gag, however, all that Jonah could think to do was to stare deep within the stranger’s eyes which seemed to glow in the darkness of the alleyway. The stranger spoke with the growing crescendo of insect wings and with the crackle of a raging fire of a power that Jonah did not understand "What do you know of the fears?"

Now, while Jonah Magnus has only just begun to learn about the supposed fears that Smirke claimed ruled the world, he was not so oblivious to fail to see the connection between those supernatural forces and the impossible man before him. The best plan of action, Jonah thought, would be to play ignorant to what he knows, and then hopefully the being would let him go. If he was lucky, perhaps he would even gain more knowledge from this encounter than he had before. With this plan instilled, he began to open his mouth with the intent to lie through his teeth but what came out instead was: 

“I first began to understand what the powers were through my connection with Robert Smirke, though why he chose to share this information with me, I am unaware. It was on a night just like this, nearly two months ago, when Mr. Smirke pulled me aside from a charity gala for an unremarkable academic institution to tell me that he knew of my keenness to the research of the esoteric and strange. I, of course, was hesitant to confirm Mr. Smirke’s suspicions due to the skeptical disposition of men in his station, but something in his eyes told me that he was sincere, but most of all frightened. It was then I decided that it might be interesting to play Mr. Smirke’s game, only to see if he could provide some entertainment from the, quite bluntly, boring gathering downstairs. It was then that he told me, that he met a strange man named Maxwell Rayner -”

That’s enough.” and then suddenly the words stopped. The buzzing cut off and the man before him expelled a sense of certainty and determination when before there was only frantic anger. 

The man scowled and looked Jonah up and down. Jonah might've been flattered and thought the strange man was admiring him if not for the click of the pistol’s safety sliding off. "It's too late now, if you've already talked to Smirke then there's no fixing you " the man sighed before placing the barrel against Jonah's forehead.  "I would say this wasn't personal, but that would be a lie. This for all of the suffering you’ve inflicted."

Jonah tried to move, to push the mad man away, but found that he was paralyzed. He tried to squeeze his eyes shut but found that he could not look away. He's barely begun to learn about this world and here he was about to be shot down by one of its monsters. 

Jonah braced for the bullet.

Click.

It never came.

Click. Click.

The man removed the gun from Jonah's head and looked at it in frustration. Jonah thought to shove the man while he was distracted, but the stranger glared at him " Don't move. " Jonah stood still.

With a hand still grasped onto Jonah's collar, the stranger slowly opened the magazine cartridge of his pistol and then quickly threw the entirety of his weapon away. 

As the gun flew through the air, Jonah could just make out hundreds of spiders falling out of the magazine. 

"You've got to be shitting me." The stranger gaped. Jonah might've laughed at the blatant misery in his assailant's eyes, if not for the fact that mere seconds ago he was about to be shot point-blank in the head. "I… I don't understand. Why would she send me here if not to-" 

"Might I ask whom you are referring to?" Jonah Interrupted. 

The man looked up at him in surprise, as if he just remembered where he was and what he was about to do, and then he scowled "That’s none of your business.”

“I’m pretty sure that whoever hired you to put a hit on me is certainly my business.”

For some reason, he looked offended by that remark, “I -I wasn’t hired to do this!”

That was interesting, thought Jonah. He had assumed that his would-be assassin was sent by a cult that worshiped the fears. Perhaps, they had learned of Smikre’s own little gathering and thought to eliminate them all before they knew too much. It would align with his assailant’s initial demand that Jonah tell him all that he knew about the fears, which was, admittedly, not much. 

"Oh?" Jonah quirked an eyebrow, fully knowing that the man holding him by his collar could see it in the night, "Then what is your reason for accosting a complete stranger in the night? Is this a hobby of yours or are you just here to make a fool of yourself?"

It's strange, Jonah thought as he watched the man splutter in indignation. Even though there's a high chance of him getting his brains splattered all over the wall, this is the most he has enjoyed himself in weeks. 

Unfortunately, his companion didn’t seem to share his sentiments.

“I didn’t come here because I wanted to! I’m doing this because it’s a necessity to prevent-” the man paused and something seemed to click because suddenly his expression turned severe and he gripped Jonah’s lapel with grave intent. “Listen here and listen well,” he ordered, “For the sake of all that is good do not get involved with-”

 Suddenly the man gagged and stumbled backward letting go of Jonah’s coat, bringing his hands up to his throat.

Jonah against his better judgment surged forward “Dear lord man, are you alright?”

The man now illuminated by gas street lamps held up what appeared to be an extremely scarred hand, “ Do not-” he retched between the ragged coughs that emerged from his throat, “serve the fears or-”

Suddenly his head jerked forward and hacked and gagged and spit out a long jumbled thin silver thread. As the strange man continued to cough, Jonah realized with a start that the material climbing out of the man’s throat was cobwebs.

Once his ragged coughs finally subsided the man looked down at the tangled bunch of cobwebs and blood in misery. "Annabelle Cane.." he ruefully chuckled. In the warm light of the street lamp, the man appeared to be on the verge of weeping.

Jonah has never been one for charity. He always thought it pointless to help others that had no connection to himself or to offer help to those that could give him nothing in return. But, this man… he knew things of the powers that Jonah, and maybe even Smirke, have never heard of. And not only that, it was clear that the haunted man before him was powerful.

What a strange character he made, thought Jonah as he finally took a good long look at the being. Covered in scars and dressed in strange attire, long hair unbound and streaked with strands of silver that did not match the young face of the man that wore it. He couldn’t have been much older or younger than Jonah himself, his face long beyond the features of boyhood yet still not quite old enough to form wrinkles hardened by age. 

But it was his eyes that caught Jonah’s attention. A bright green that still somehow impossibly glowed within the light. How could someone so young have such haunted eyes, Jonah thought, what had he seen? What has he experienced that made him so powerful? What has he witnessed that made him so weary? And why did he look upon Jonah with such hatred?

Jonah was keen to find out.

And so it was with more than some impulsivity that Jonah took a step into the light “Do you have anywhere you can go?” 

The man startled, letting the wad of cobwebs and blood slip from his fingertips. “Pardon?”

Jonah picked up his dropped walking stick and dusted it off. Turning it over in his hands Jonah reiterated “I asked if you had anywhere to go.” It was a rhetorical question, of course. The man looked to be in a particularly awful state. Judging by the state of his clothes he had probably been on the streets for a very long time. 

The scarred man looked at Jonah as if he couldn’t comprehend what he was hearing. Admittedly, It probably wasn’t what anyone would expect the person they just threatened with a gun to say, but Jonah wanted answers and this would be the simplest way to obtain them. “I have a townhouse just a few blocks north from here, If needed I will be able to provide you lodging.”

The stranger gaped at Jonah as if he had just grown two heads, “Are you out of your mind?”

“I’ve been needing an assistant.” Jonah shrugged.

“I literally just tried to kill you!” The man burst out, his expression bewildered but also, Jonah noted with amusement, exasperation. 

Jonah tilted his head and considered his words carefully, “Yes, you did, but as proven by your...” at this Jonah paused to glance down at the discarded gun, small spiders still crawling out of its magazine. “...Situation, it seems very unlikely that you will be able to carry through with assassinating me.”

His foiled assassin looked down at the bloody mess of cobwebs with disdain and… betrayal? “Is this just to gloat, Jonah?” he spat, “Another ploy to feed upon the pain of others?”

Jonah considered the angered man before him, how did this man act with such familiarity when Jonah had never met him before in the entirety of life. He needed to know. He needed to understand and to feed that hungry curiosity that cried out to not let the man get away, lest he lose him before he could fully devour all the mysteries that rested inside him.

“No,” Jonah stated as he took another step forward, close enough to the man to note the many scars curiously splattered around his face, “This is because I want answers, but also I want to keep an eye on you. What’s that old saying about keeping your enemies close?"

 The stranger stayed silent, eyes still brimming with distrust and repugnance, but the visceral hate-fueled anger was fading away, replaced by what Jonah could only describe as confusion. Jonah continued: “And if you really want to prevent me from doing whatever you think I’ll do, then it would be best that you keep a close eye on me as well.”

The man looked at Jonah with disbelief, “You’re insane.”

“No,” Jonah smirked, “I’m just practical.”

“I will see to it that you die screaming.” The man snarled, glaring into Jonah’s eyes

“Well then, you’ll have to be in my presence in order to see to that, won’t you?” Jonah smiled, offering a gloved hand out for the other man, “Now, do we have a deal?”

The stranger stared at Jonah’s hand for a moment or two seeming to weigh his options before reaching out his own hand towards Jonah’s. Jonah’s hand slid between the burnt scars grooved into the man’s hand that fit perfectly within his own. Like a key sliding into a lock, like a puzzle piece finally fitting into place. 

“I hate you so much.” The man spat, despite his hand still placed within Jonah’s.

“I can’t say the feeling is mutual.” Jonah smiles at his new houseguest to only be met with a frown in return. 

Oh yes, Jonah thought as he let the other man retract his hand, he is going to have an enjoyable time figuring this one out. But first things first, “Now then, since we are going to be living with each other, I believe it only proper we know each other’s names. I am aware that you already know mine, but I do not have the pleasure of knowing yours.”

The scarred man considers Jonah before frowning, “It’s Jon.”

An average name for someone so fascinating but Jonah wasn’t one to judge.“Jonathan who?”

“It’s… It’s just Jon.” Just Jon gritted out. 

Ah well, he’d get Jon to open up within time. “Well, ‘Just Jon’, shall we get going?” Jonah questioned offering the other man his arm.

Jon instead shot Jonah a disturbed look and stuffed both of his hands deep within his pockets. Ah, more’s the pity, but Jonah could be described as anything but an impatient man. He is more than willing to wait for Jon to be ready to participate in any acts of friendship.

With this in mind, Jonah turned and gave his companion a warm smile, “Come on then, let me show you the way home.”

And as Jonah watched Jon grit his teeth and begrudgingly follow after him, Jonah knew he was going to greatly enjoy the other man’s company.

Chapter Text

“Upstairs you will find the library, my study, and of course your chambers,” Magnus explained as he led Jon up the stairs, “When my grandfather used to own this estate, my siblings and I would often play up here. But now, since I came to be in ownership, it has remained mostly empty. Well, except for the library.” 

 

Magnus comes to a stop at the top of the stairs and gestures Jon forward with a grandiose sweep of his arm, “What I am getting at is that you will not have to worry about the furnishings of your room since they are already in place.”

 

Jon, like in every instance before in which Magnus prattled on about his townhouse, could only nod just before the other man moved on to another monologue.

 

The entire ridiculously long house tour has been like this. Magnus had enthusiastically dragged Jon through all the levels and rooms of the house, giving him unnecessary details about how he acquired the place and his family’s long history, all the while looking back at Jon as if he was some sort of oddity or some strange specimen to be studied. 

 

The entire affair was dreadfully annoying and Jon deeply regrets making a quip suggesting that Magnus had probably killed the family that lived in it before since there was obviously no other answer as to why it was so extravagantly furnished. Instead of Magnus taking offense to that, he used it as an excuse to tell Jon his entire backstory.

 

 The worst thing is Jon is pretty sure he didn’t even compel the other man. Magnus just shared all of this information with Jon because he wanted to. That’s what didn’t make any sense, the Jonah that Jon knew from his timeline reveled in hiding information away, not sharing it. This was obviously some ploy to make Jon lower his defenses, but Jon has learned through experience that nothing Jonah Magnus says should be trusted. Jon would play no part in his game.

 

Once he figures out what game Magnus is actually playing. 

 

The point is that Jon is very eager to get this entire thing over with, which is why once they finally arrive at the door of the guest room Jon nearly heaves a sigh of relief.

 

Magnus takes a few steps into the room and beckons Jon to follow. “As I was saying, here is where you’ll be staying,” he says with a flourish “You’ll find that there is a washroom just down the hall, and forgive my impertinence, but I might suggest that you draw yourself a bath to clean yourself of the...” Magnus makes a vague gesture towards Jon with his hand as if to remark upon the soot and grime covering him from head to toe. 

 

Jon grits his teeth. He’d like to see Magnus try to stay clean after wandering around a literal hellscape for months or try to remain unscathed after being buried underneath a burning building.

 

But Jon cannot say those things or else he’ll start coughing up spider webs or, God forbid, something even more horrific. So instead he holds his tongue and gives Magnus a curt nod.

 

“Oh!” Magnus claps his hands together, “In speaking of hygiene, would you excuse me for a moment?”

 

Jon raises a brow as Magnus swiftly exits the room and walks down the stairs to the first floor. He begins to hope for a foolish moment that Magnus has decided to leave him alone for the rest of the evening, but the man soon comes waltzing right back up the stairs with a stack of clothes.

 

"I had almost forgotten. These should be able to accommodate you for tonight and for tomorrow," Jonah Magnus says as he hands Jon the neatly folded pile of garments “I am not sure if they will fit, considering your stature, but this is the best I can do for now.” 

 

In any other circumstance, Jon would thank anyone who would lend him their clothes and more than likely try to pay them back no matter how much they protested, but considering who the gift is coming from, Jon thinks he has the right to say nothing at all. So he pointedly stays silent as Magnus smiles down at him.

 

To Jon’s dismay, Magnus does not seem offended. In fact, he seems rather amused. Jon bites back the urge to give him the middle finger. 

 

That urge is exacerbated as Magnus decides to just continue to stare down at him.

 

When the silence grows too awkward, Jon finally relents, “What is it?”

 

The smile upon Magnus’s face grows far too familiar for Jon’s liking, “Jonathan, while I do not know who or what you are, I do believe you are at least aware of basic manners.”

 

Jon is not a violent man by any means. Sure, he may have incinerated a few creatures during his journey to the Panopticon, but as Martin explained it, it was justified vengeance against those who benefited from the suffering of others. Jonah Magnus may not have killed or tortured anyone yet, but Jon still thinks that punching the smug smile off of Magnus’s face would be completely justified.

 

But if Jon were to try to do that his arm would probably be pulled back by invisible spider strings, so instead Jon grits his teeth and bites out “Thanks.”

 

Magnus seems pleased enough with that response and passes by Jon to leave the room, but not before remarking, “Oh, and Jonathan? Do feel free to sleep as long as you’d like, it appears as if you need the rest.”

 

As if Jon can sleep anymore.

 

Magnus gives him what Jon thinks might be an attempt at a warm smile, but instead, it comes off as predatory and more than a bit hungry, “Good night, Jonathan. Sweet dreams.”

 

With the click of a door handle, Jon is left alone. He prefers it that way, in all honesty. The less time he has to be in the presence of the past version of his manipulative boss that made him start the literal apocalypse, the better. It also gives Jon some time to think and regroup.

 

Today… today hadn’t gone as planned. The plan was for Jon to be hurled back into Jonah Magnus’s past and to kill him off before he had any knowledge of the fears. Jon was then supposed to wait for the completion of Hill Top Road and then hitch a ride back to the newly created future with the help of The Web. That is what was supposed to happen. Instead, The Spider foiled Jon’s assassination attempt and now Jon is stuck in the 1800s with Jonah I-consider-bludgeoning-an-old-man-to-death-to-only-be-an-overreaction Magnus and has no way of getting home. 

 

If Jon was still able to drink he would’ve downed an entire bottle by now.

 

But now is not the time for drowning in regrets, Jon has work to do. 

 

Jon walks over to the desk in the corner of the room before sliding off his coat and laying it down across the bed. He sits down on the bed’s corner and concentrates for a moment, searching with his many eyes across the house. Magnus is downstairs in his personal chambers, writing in what appears to be a leatherbound notebook. 

 

Good, this means that Jon will not be disrupted. 

 

Jon closes his eyes and opens his physical ones and gets to work. He reaches within the confines of his coat and begins to search through the pockets that are distortedly larger on the inside thanks to the help of the Spiral. He shifts through and pulls out the many weapons that Annabelle had shoved into his arms right before she similarly shoved him through the crack of time and space.

 

He finds the tape recorder next to the cyanide. 

 

While Jon may not need to sleep anymore, he still needs to feed . It was disorienting, being transferred from one plane of existence filled to the brim with terror, so much terror and fear that even he couldn’t gorge himself on the entirety of it. He had to expel it out instead, to keep his sanity, that last bit of humanity he had left. But that was burned in the embers of the institute. 

 

Jon feels the panic and grief crawl up from his belly and into his throat but he couldn’t indulge in his emotions now. 

 

He had a job to do.

 

If he couldn’t kill Magnus right away and if he couldn’t just tell him what would happen, then he would have to play the long game. And to do that he would need to feed , no matter how nauseous it makes him, no matter how it makes him that much more like Elias. While he will try to limit the number of statements consumed and will try to lessen the pain of others, he has long ago resigned himself to the fact that he needs to feed the eye to survive and to protect the people that matter most to him. Even when it makes him sick.  Even when it would be easier to let himself waste away and let his damned god devour him whole. 

 

But, if he stays undeterred and succeeds, then maybe, just maybe he could return to a future where things would be better . He could see Martin again, and even if he didn’t recognize Jon, that wouldn’t matter. Because Jon would see him happy, and whole and alive.

 

That’s all that matters. Jon would do anything to make that happen. Even if that means playing house with some Georgian prick who literally ended the world.

 

Jon takes a few calming breaths and cradles the scorched tape recorder in his palms. It will all be worth it, thinks Jon, he can fix this. Time to lay out the ground plan.

 

He hits record.

 

“Statement of Jonathan Sims, The Archivist, regarding his mission to save the world. Statement recorded by subject, November 1st, 1817. Statement begins.”




 

When Jonah Magnus awakes he is pleasantly surprised to see that he has not been stabbed in his sleep. 

 

Jonah admits that while inviting his would-be-murderer into his home was not the most intelligent decision he has ever made, he is also willing to bet that the information that he can learn from this strange being is more than worth the danger.

 

Speaking of his new houseguest, he supposes that he might as well check on him. Jonah very well doubts that Jonathan would be up by this hour, it was barely even dawn and the other man looked so dreadfully tired. 

 

Still, Jonah believes that it couldn’t hurt to check and that as a host it was his responsibility to see that his guest was settled in alright.

 

So it was with this thought in mind, Jonah removed his dressing gown and changed himself into the proper dress shirt, trousers, and waistcoat that is required for men of his class. Once he ran a comb through his hair and felt ready for the day, Jonah headed up the stairs towards Jon’s room.

 

He knocked up Jon’s door, once, twice and after the third knock, Jonah opened the door as quietly as he could.

 

Jonathan wasn’t there.

 

That was concerning and more than that, Jonah wasn’t too keen on having his potential murderer roaming around his house unsupervised. 

 

Jonah closes the door and calls out into the silence of the house “Jon? Jonathan?”

 

Nothing answers him or makes itself known. Jonah frowns, it looks like breakfast would have to wait until he finds Jon. Technically, he could still go down to the basement kitchen and make something quick, but it would be rude of him to not invite his guest and Jonah Magnus was nothing but a gracious host.

 

It was due to his skills in hosting that Jonah had a small inkling of where Jon might be. In the showing of his townhouse, the one room that Jon did not look absolutely miserable in was the library. If his new houseguest would be anywhere, it would be there.

 

Jonah treads down the long wooden hall as quietly as he can, hoping to get a glimpse of the strange man without his knowing. When Jonah arrives at the open door of the library, he sees that as always, he was right.

 

Jon stood below a bookshelf that was about twice his height, staring wide-eyed and unblinking at the many books and tomes that occupied the shelf.

 

His long hair, now cleaned from the soot and dirt that clogged it before, was held back in a messy bun, seemingly applied for practicality and not fashion. While it is a strange look, and certainly not one Jonah has seen before on any man of his caliber, he cannot deny that it rather suits the odd character before him. Jonah is also pleased to see that he had changed into the clothes that Jonah had lent him.

 

Jon looked good there, he thinks, in Jonah’s library and in Jonah’s clothes. 

 

But Jon was not an art piece to be admired, no he was a book to be read, a specimen to be studied.

 

When the object of his musings still remained unstirred despite Jonah entering the room, Jonah opens his mouth, “Well, it appears as if you’ve found the library.”

 

Jonah was worried that his words might have startled his new companion, but instead, Jon looked up at Jonah like he was expecting him and more than slightly irritated that Jonah had interrupted his activity of longingly gazing up at the books. Jon frowns. “It wasn’t exactly hard to find.”

 

Jonah cannot help but let out a startled chuckle at that deadpan remark. Upon noticing Jon’s disturbed expression, Jonah feels the urge to continue on laughing which he delicately tries to cover by the sound of coughing. This only seems to add on to the other man’s growing horror and confusion. 

 

When Jonah’s discreetly covered laughter finally fades away and when he finally believes himself composed to look upon Jon again he is then overcome with the want to laugh again at the indignant face of his new companion.

 

Who is this amusing man that threatens his life at one moment and then at the next carelessly explores the home of that same man he threatened, but still impossibly has the gall to deadpan at him? Jonah would guess that this strange creature has no self-preservation skills if he didn’t expect that Jon had the power to squash anyone down to the ground like a bug. Well, expect Jonah himself, apparently.

 

Jonah supposes that’s why he really should have this conversation with him. Jonah clears his throat, “Pardon me, Jonathan. While I am pleased that you are so enamored with my library,” Jon’s face reddens a bit in embarrassment, a reaction Jonah finds deeply amusing “We probably should discuss your duties as my assistant. I believe having this conversation over breakfast would be agreeable, yes?”

 

Jon averts his gaze, “I- uh, don’t really eat.”

 

His new houseguest just keeps getting stranger and stranger, doesn’t he? “That’s quite alright, Jonathan. I, however, am quite famished. So I hope you will do me the honor of sitting at my table while we talk.”

 

Jonathan frowns, “It’s Jon.”

 

“Of course, Jonathan.” Jonah concedes as he holds the door open for Jon with a smile.

 

Jonah couldn’t help but feel incredibly endeared to his grumpy guest as Jon inches around him with a glare. As he passes by, Jonah notices that the clothes he lent to the other man seems to hang slightly. It was somewhat adorable to see Jon swimming in loose clothes, but it was clear that they would need to see a tailor. It wasn’t exactly… proper for Jon to be dressed in this way. At least outside the house, where other eyes can see him.

 

He leads Jon down towards the kitchen where Jonah makes himself a small meal and begins to boil water for his tea. “When my grandfather used to own this place,” Jonah explains as he removes a teacup and saucer from the cupboard, “The servants used to prepare meals like this. But they have all gone and I actually prefer the privacy.” 

 

Jon gives him a strange look at that but otherwise says nothing.

 

Jonah takes this as permission to continue on talking, “I understand that you said you do not eat, Jonathan, but may I ask why?”

 

Curiously, Jon flinches “I… I just don’t, alright?”

 

“Do not all creatures need sustenance to survive?” Jonah hums as he spreads some butter on to his toast, “I would assume that even a monstrous being like yourself would need to run on something.”

 

“I’m not a monster!” Jon snaps, “And in case if it hadn’t occurred to you, what I do to stay alive is my business! Not yours.”

 

Jonah turns to look at the angered man, “My apologies, Jonathan. I did not mean to upset you, I only wish to understand.” 

 

“I really wish you didn’t,” Jon answers him with a sneer.

 

Jonah crosses his arms and tilts his head, studying the strange man before him, “What kind of men are we if we do not try to understand all there is to know about the world? Your abilities seem to resemble a being that a colleague of mine describes as an entity of knowledge and seeing. I would suspect that you, of all people, would understand the draw towards knowing.”

 

Jon scowls, “Do you want to know what I understand and know? Well listen here, Magnus. ” he snarls as he glares into Jonah’s pupils, “That your relentless pursuit of seeing will lead to suffering. Endless and global-”  Suddenly his words catch in his throat and he grows silent but no less enraged.

 

“Ah,” Jonah realizes as he finally moves his plate to the table, “It’s your spider issue, am I correct? Very well then, we shall go on towards another topic. Shall we discuss your employment?”

 

Jon glares down at Jonah from his position against the wall as Jonah seats himself at the table, “What did you not just bring me here as some abnormality for you to study?”

 

“Of course not.” Jonah pleasantly smiles before pausing in thought, “Well, I suppose that was technically part of my motivation, but as a whole? No. What I am going to ask of you, Jonathan is for you to assist me in a little project of mine.”

 

Jon stares down at him.

 

“Aren’t you going to ask me what it is, Jonathan?”

 

Jon grimaces, “It’s just Jon, and I already know what you are going to say and I just want to state that I hate it.” 

 

“Fascinating. Is telepathy also one of your abilities?” Jonah questions as he leans forward in interest.

 

Jon stays silent.

 

“Oh, of course.” Jonah tilts his head, “Shall I just say what I am proposing to see if you got it correct?” Suddenly, the kettle lets out a shrill whistle. “It seems as if the tea is ready, Jonathan, since you are already up, would you do me the favor of grabbing it for me?”

 

Jon stares down at him before, surprisingly, actually moving towards the kettle. 

 

“Thank you, Jonathan. As I was saying, In recent years I have acquired quite a large collection of letters and books on the esoteric and occult, and I do believe that there might be enough to begin to form a library or if I am so lucky, an institute dedicated to studying the paranormal.” Jon places the kettle in the middle of the table before moving back to the wall. Jonah will choose not to be offended. “I hope to acquire your assistance in organizing the files, letters, and books that will be placed in the institute. You, of course, are welcome to decline my offer, but I believe that it will give you something else to do while you are trying to murder me.”

 

 Jon seems to consider Jonah for a long moment, “Why are you offering me this position, especially when you are aware of my desire to kill you?”

 

Jonah pours the tea into his cup and adds a few sugar cubes into the mix, “As I believe in being truthful,” Jonah chooses to ignore the sharp bark of laughter Jon lets out at that statement, “I fear, Jonathan, you are too interesting to let go of. By offering you this job, I am not only providing free lodging and clothes, but it also gives me the opportunity to not only keep an eye on you but also to learn how you tick.”

 

Jon frowns, “How do you know I won’t just trash your institute on purpose?”

 

“As you are a creature of knowledge, I highly doubt you will even be able to go through with disorganizing information let alone destroy it.  I also believe, judging from your clear fascination with my library, that you will not even want to.” Jonah theorizes.

 

Jon narrows his eyes, “Well, your beliefs are wrong.”

 

“Are you rejecting my offer, Jonathan?” Jonah questions.

 

Jon looks at Jonah for a moment before letting out a self-degrading and sarcastic huff of laughter, “As if I have a choice.”

 

Jonah frowns, “What a very strange thing for you to say. We all have choices, Jonathan, isn’t that the nature of the human spirit?”

 

Jon crosses his arms and gives Jonah a look filled with familiarity and loathing as if he could see into the deep recess of his soul and fears, “That’s easy for you to say, as someone who doesn’t even know what their choices mean.”

 

“And I suppose you have the pleasure of knowing the consequences of my decisions?”

 

Jon, as always, stays silent when Jonah asks about his abilities and knowledge.

 

“Well then,” Jonah grins as he lifts up his cup, “I suppose if you stay here and become my assistant, I will have to thank you for helping me make the right ones.”

 

At that, Jon gives Jonah a look of surprise and bewilderment, as if he couldn’t puzzle out Jonah’s motives.

 

That’s all well enough, thinks Jonah, the two of them will have plenty of time to figure each other out. Jonah, himself, is looking forward to their partnership. He hopes Jon feels the same way, however much he seems to hate him.

 

Jonah begins to raise his cup to his lips until he gazes down and notices what is squirming and climbing and overflowing from the rim.

 

“Jonathan?”

 

Jon doesn’t answer him. Jonah sighs, “Jon?”

 

“... What?” 

 

“Did you poison my tea?”

 

“...No.”

 

“Then why is my cup full of spiders?”

 

Jon slowly turns his head to look upon the brimming cup of spiders and then walks over the wall and rests his forehead upon the surface, “Shit.”

 

Chapter Text

“I believe my duties as your assistant entailed helping you with organization, not accompanying you on walks,” Jon grumbles as he follows Magnus down the street.

 

“Nonsense, Jonathan.” Magnus chastises, “I have a few errands to run, and I doubt you would’ve enjoyed being locked up inside.”

 

Jon flinches “You’re mad if you think you can imprison me.”

 

Magnus blinks back at him as if he only just realised how messed up it was to say you would lock someone up inside your house. “Not what I was implying. Besides, I cannot complete these errands without you, no matter how ill-dressed you are for the occasion."

 

He wasn’t necessarily surprised to see that Elias’s obsession with dress code was always a trait of Jonah Magnus, but he would be lying if it didn’t grate on him. 

 

Jon had forgone wearing the garments Jonah had lent him in favour of wearing his own clothes that he brought with him from his timeline. Sure, they were partially burnt and did not help Jon blend in the 1800s, but Jon felt more comfortable knowing that he would not be defenceless in unknown territory. There was something about the weight of the tape recorder in his pocket that brought him security. While the manifestations of The Beholding still remind him of what he’s become, at least he understood them. Not like the weirdly chipper past version of his boss, who still hasn’t said where they were heading.

 

“You are lucky that the place we are visiting opens up early. If we were travelling in the rush hour I’m certain we would’ve had a mob on our hands due to your choice of garments.” huffs Magnus as he shakes his head disapprovingly. 

 

“And where is it that we are going exactly?” 

 

Magnus suddenly spins around and Jon has to recoil to avoid being whacked by the swish of his tailcoat and cane, “Jonathan, you are a creature of The Beholding, yes?” The way Magnus tilts his head as he says this reminds Jon all too much of a hawk studying its prey, a scientist all too willing to cut him open, “Can you not simply read my mind or predict the future?”

 

To Jon’s great despair, he could not. 

 

It wasn’t as if Jon liked the immense power of being the lynchpin of the new world ruled by The Fears, it was useful and it was to Jon’s great shame, more than a bit freeing to be on the top of the food chain, so Jon couldn’t deny that being cut off from the power of The Watcher’s Crown was deeply draining. So much so that only after a day he could already feel the hunger for a statement crawling like a parasite through his veins with want. To such an extent that he couldn’t even do the simple task of smiting the webs that bound him from looking in the head of Jonah Magnus. Fortunately, these restrictions only applied to the man standing in front of him, but it was still incredibly inconvenient and maddening. The emphasis on the maddening increases with every failed attempt to cut the strings that prevent him from blowing the look of insatiable curiosity off of Jonah Magnus’s face.

 

Jon scowls, “It doesn’t work that way.”

 

Magnus’s lips twist upwards, “Well, how does it work then, Jonathan?”

 

“From what I know of you, Magnus, divulging this information to you will only cause me unnecessary anguish.” Jon attempts to step around Magnus and to continue their journey but is stopped when the other man follows his direction, blocking his path. Jon attempts to go the other way but is met with the same result. Jon glowers up at the annoyance in his way, “What are you doing?”

 

Magnus tilts his head, “Goodness, there is really no need for the scowl. I am simply, graciously, awaiting your answer to my question.”

 

“Well, I am graciously declining to answer your question, because it is a stupid question and the answer is none of your business.” Jon goes to move around Magnus again but is once again cut off. At this moment in time, Jon begins to curse whatever beings gave Jonah Magnus the permission to be a head taller than him.

 

Magnus smiles down at him and Jon gets a distinct impression that he is being mocked, “Let me propose you a deal, you explain to me how your abilities work and in return, I will tell you where we are heading.”

 

“That is hardly a fair trade.” 

 

“I suppose I see your point, so let me present you another trade; I will inform you of our destination and pay for all expenses, in return, you will tell me if your gifts are the reason you have such an ill opinion of me.”

 

Jon scoffs, “They’re not gifts and I don’t need them to know you’re a right bastard.”

 

Magnus leans slightly forward into Jon’s space, he’s close enough to see the greys of Magnus’s eyes; brimming with eagerness, “That statement right there is what intrigues me, Jonathan. You say that you cannot read my mind or predict the future, but you are so certain of what I will do, or at least, what you believe I am going to do. How can you know that I am as terrible as you say if you cannot read my thoughts? I must say, I am dying to know what you think of me and my future choices.”

 

“Well, that’s fortunate for me, because you will be long dead before I’d ever tell you about my abilities. Besides, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I literally cannot tell you what I know you will do.” Jon snaps as Magnus finally lets Jon get around him.

 

“Ah-ah, I’m not asking you to tell me what I am going to do.” Magnus corrects as he falls in step beside Jon, “I am asking you what you think I am going to do. What are my motivations, my plans, my desires? I am certain that you have some ideas of how to avoid triggering your curse in that pretty little head of yours.”

 

Jon chooses to not focus on the latter part of that statement as he is far too exhausted to examine why Jonah Magnus would ever call him pretty , “You do know that what you are suggesting and what i’ve said will have the same outcome, right? What I think of your future choices and what I know are your future choices is the exact same thing.”

 

“Perhaps,” Magnus concedes, “But, humour me.”

 

It wasn’t that bad of an idea, Jon admits. It wasn’t as if he could mess up the timeline even more than he already had and perhaps if he says the right thing then maybe he can deter Magnus from getting involved with the entities altogether, but Jon should also be careful with what information he gives out. One wrong step and he could hasten the coming of the true Watcher’s Crown and make an even more disastrous future.

 

Jon looks up to try to gauge Magnus’s expression, the other man in return pleasantly smiles down at him, betraying nothing. Jon averts his eyes, “If I could tell you the information you seek, I fear what you'd do with it."

 

"And what would I do with the information, Jonathan?" Magnus asks softly.

 

"You would use it to your own advantage. You would manipulate it and warp it and consume it, all to feed your curiosity, your desire to see and know, but not to understand, never to understand.” Black spots start to gather in the corner of Jon’s eyes, and he begins to feel the fingers of bile and web crawling up his throat and sewing his lips shut. It doesn’t matter, he has to tell him. He has to stop him. “You wouldn’t care who you would hurt and maim and murder, because in your mind, in your nonexistent conscience, it would all be worth the cost, so long as you would never have to face the human fear of dying. But you would never extend that courtesy to others, you would leave them to suffer and writhe without the escape of death, just so you could watch. Just so you could feed upon the fear you will-” Jon begins to sway and he hazily notes the ground rising up to meet him. 

 

Steady arms catch him before he makes contact with the cobblestone. Jon would be relieved that he did not faceplant into the street like a fool, but then he realises that it is Magnus that had caught him and was now holding him. This was humiliating.

 

“Good Lord! Are you alright?” Magnus worries as he turns Jon around to clasp onto his shoulders as if to get a better look to see if he obtained any injuries.

 

“I’m fine,” grunts Jon, still trying to shake off the feeling of vertigo. Jon tries to take a step back away from the man grasping his shoulders but Magnus follows him, face unreadable. “Really, I’m fine. You can let go of me now.”

 

Magnus blinks and thins his lips before schooling his expression and stepping away, “My sincerest apologies, Jonathan. I did not realize that my question would have such an effect on you. Should we stop for a moment? You look awfully faint.”

 

“No. No, I’m alright. You don’t need to do this whole...” At this moment Jon makes a vague gesture towards the other man. Unsuccessfully attempting to formulate the strangeness of Magnus acting as if he cared for Jon’s wellbeing, “You can drop the whole ‘concerned’ charade, it’s incredibly unlike you. Just… just in the future try to prevent asking me about your future motivations and choices, and I’ll be alright.”

 

Magnus gives him a bemused look, “I must assert that my concern for your health is not as you’d put it, a ‘charade’. What kind of employer would I be if I did not inquire after the wellbeing of my assistant?”

 

“I haven’t even started working for you yet-”

 

“And currently, my responsibilities as your employer is to get you some proper clothes,” Magnus states as he begins to walk forward with a flourish.

 

Jon nearly trips as he blurts out an “Excuse me?”

 

"Well, I can't very well let my assistant roam around looking dishevelled, now can I?" Magnus gestures down at Jon’s attire.

 

First of all, rude. Second of all, Jon was very well put together for someone who just climbed out of the trenches of the literal end of the world, thank you very much. This doesn’t seem to matter to Magnus as he incessantly goes on about what Jon would need to acquire to fit into ‘proper society’. Jon in the meantime ponders the possibility of a carriage turning into spiders if he pushes Magnus into the street.

 

It’s not until Magnus taps him on the shoulder does Jon finally notice where they’ve arrived and does his blood turn cold.

 

There is an unremarkable dark wooden door attached to one of the brickwork buildings lining the street. The door was not important, instead, what immediately alarmed Jon was on the small iron plaque nailed to it.

Bennett & Co Tailors.

 

Magnus knocks upon the door thrice and Jon can hear a crash and that is then followed by footsteps. Suddenly the wooden door is swung open to reveal a cheery man, “Mr Magnus! It is very good to see you! I must say that I have not finished hemming your waistcoat, however, I should be able to finish the embroidery in the next day or so and I will send a letter of its completion to you, post haste.”

 

“That is quite alright Mr Bennett. I have not come to pick up my order, but instead, I have come to make a few purchases for my friend here. As you can see, he is much in need of a new wardrobe.” Magnus says as he gestures over to Jon.

 

The man who Jon now realises is Barnabas Bennett turns his head and greets Jon with a warm smile that spreads across his freckled cheeks that remind Jon all too much of the smell of freshly brewed tea, the soft touch of cows, and early mornings in the Scottish Highlands.  “Well, any friend of Mr Magnus is a friend of mine. Might I ask for your name?”

 

“His name is Jonathan.” Magnus answers for him.

 

Barnabas shoots Magnus a confused look, “Mr Jonathan… who?”

 

Magnus cuts in again, “He hasn’t informed me of his-”

 

“Sims,” Jon says without thinking, “It’s Jonathan Sims.” 

 

Barnabas grins and reaches out for Jon’s hand. “It’s wonderful to meet you, Mr Sims!” He announces as he shakes Jon’s hand vigorously, “I am very lucky to make your acquaintance, as any man that Jonah Magnus keeps in his company is a man of fine character.”

 

“Ah- you don’t have to call me mister-” Jon says while trying to extract his hand from Barnabas’s grip.

 

“Nonsense! A future customer is to be treated with respect, at least that’s what my father always told my brother and me.” A look of realization suddenly flashes over his face, “Oh! You’ll have to pardon me, I haven’t invited the two of you inside yet. Come inside please, it was very poor manners of me to leave you outside in the cold.” Barnabas exclaims as he fully opens the door and gestures them inside. 

 

Jon glances back at Magnus and has to do a double-take because if Jon didn’t know any better, he would say that the other man was… pouting? Once Magnus catches his gaze he closes his face into a countenance of affability.

 

Barnabas leads both up the stairs and walks them into a parlour with its walls filled with rolls of different patterns, colours and types of fabric. Tables lined the floor showing off shirts, breeches and hats of different makings and sizes. The entirety of the space was much more elegant than Jon would’ve expected considering the make of the sign on the door. Jon was never one for high fashion or interior decorating, he much preferred spending time surrounded by books in a cosy cottage or going through files safe in his office, but he couldn’t deny that the entire set up was rather impressive.

 

“Mr Bennett is the finest Tailor in all of Edinburgh.” Magnus proclaims causing Jon to startle, “Isn’t that right, Mr Bennett?”

 

“You flatter me too much, Mr Magnus!” Barnabas shouts from the closet he had buried himself in, “I am simply continuing my family’s trade, you must know all about that, sir.”

 

“Not particularly.” murmurs Magnus as Barnabas emerges with what seems to be a notebook and a long line of measuring tape.

 

“Now,” the tailor walks up to them, “How can I assist you today?”

 

Magnus circles around Jon and lands by Barnabas’s side, “Ah, yes. As you can see, Mr Bennett, my dear friend here-”

 

“Not your friend-”

 

“Is in need of a new wardrobe.” Magnus finishes by waving towards Jon’s outfit.

 

Barnabas looks between the two of them, expression openly confused, “Does this have anything to do with Mr Sims appearing as if he just came out of a fire?”

 

Magnus nods, “Precisely.” 

 

The tailor looks at Jon anxiously, “Sir, please tell me that this isn’t your only pair of clothes and that you haven’t literally just emerged from a fire.”

 

“Ah-” Jon begins eloquently right before Barnabas rushes towards him.

 

“Hang on, these scorch marks are new!” he exclaims, circling around Jon and examining his coat, “I must say, I don’t recognize the style or fabric, but I am certain that these were recently damaged!”

 

Magnus approaches Barnabas and begins hesitantly, “Mr Bennett-” 

 

Barnabas doesn’t acknowledge him and instead continues to fuss over the state of Jon’s attire, “Mr Sims, are you alright? Do you require any medical attention?” Barnabas looks him up and down, concern clearly written across his face, “Is this where these scars are from, no, that can’t be, these look old. And oh dear lord, your hand!”

 

Barnabas reaches forward as if to examine Jon’s hand but before he can Jon takes a step back and draws his hand towards his chest.

 

Realization flashes across the tailor’s face and he flushes, “Good heavens, you will have to forgive me. That was terribly unbecoming of me.”

 

“Ah- no. No, you are quite alright. I, ah- appreciate the concern?” Barnabas still looks distressed, so Jon brings up his burnt hand and rotates it and turns it over, “It’s an old scar, see? I’m alright. I’m not injured, so uh it’s fine. No need to apologize.”

 

There was something about Barnabas Bennett that reminded Jon so much of the man he loved back before he went on this suicide mission. The worried crease between the tailor’s eyebrows resembled Martin back when Jon was more reckless with his health and life. Something about Barnabas called for Jon to comfort and protect him. 

 

Jon stopped himself, the man before him was not Martin Blackwood. He was not the man he was risking everything to get back to. He wasn’t the man who Jon lost. He shouldn’t project these feelings onto a man two hundred years his senior who would disappear in the next ten years.

 

It wasn’t him.

 

“Now that you have calmed down slightly, Mr Bennet,” Magnus interjects, stepping between Jon and the tailor, “should we discuss business?”

 

Barnabas blinks and then readjusts his glasses, “Yes, of course. What will the two of you need?”

 

Magnus smiles, “Mr Bennet, we will require at least five outfits in total, which should include shirts, waistcoats trousers, breeches-” at this point Barnabas grabs his journal and begins to frantically scribble down all the items Magnus lists off. For someone who didn’t explain much in the twenty-first century, the Jonah Magnus of this time period sure did talk a lot. It’s not until Magnus lists twenty more items that Jon would apparently need, does he finally take a breath, “Oh, not to mention he will need a set of formal wear and of course he will need a great coat for the winter.”

 

Jon and Barnabas share a wary look and wait in bated silence.

 

“And, that should be all I believe.” Magnus finishes leaving the parlour in awkward silence. 

 

“Well,” Barnabas begins after a moment, “That is certainly… a lot. You will ah- have to excuse me, I need to retrieve some supplies from behind the counter.”

 

Jon and Magnus watch as Barnabas practically darts over the counter and into the closet.

 

“Magnus,” Jon hisses, “I don’t know if you haven’t noticed but I do not have the funds to pay for all this. I can’t just make this man make all of this without being able to pay him!”

 

Magnus turns his head and slowly blinks down at Jon, “Jonathan, do you not remember me telling you that I will pay for all expenses today?”

 

“Yes, but-”

 

“Besides Jonathan,” Magnus pleasantly smiles, “Money is of no consequence for this.”

 

Jon’s eye twitches. The nerve of this man to be so blase about being a rich white man in the 1800s. If Jon wasn’t so sure that any act of retribution would be restrained by The Web, he would have been very tempted to trip Magnus into one of the breakable wooden tables surrounding them.

 

Instead, Jon bluntly says “I would really prefer not to be in your debt.”

 

Magnus hums before locking eyes with him, “Then think of this as repayment for not killing me.”

 

Jon frowns, “I have tried to kill you at least two times already. You do realise that if everything didn’t keep turning into arachnids you would have been long dead by now, right?”

 

“Then think of it as repayment for being so entertaining,” Magnus grins.

 

“What does that even mean-”

 

A purposeful cough echoes through the room, “Excuse me, gentlemen.” Barnabas voices, looking between the two awkwardly. As soon as the both of them turn to stare at him in surprise, does the tailor pull out multiple lines of measuring tape, “Shall we get started?”

 


 

Jon may not be able to sleep like a human anymore, but he does get tired. He feels more than a bit tired when he finally walks into the room Magnus is lending him for the time being. Jon didn’t walk across any wastelands today, but he did have to put up with Jonah Magnus shoving different fabrics and clothes into his arms all the while going on and on about the standards of high fashion. Jon thinks that is far more draining than any apocalyptic landscape.

 

He didn’t even get to bring anything back for his efforts. They would have to return to the shop within the month to pick up the ordered garments. Jon wouldn’t mind visiting Barnabas Bennett again, he was nice enough and Jon would really like to get some information about his relationship with Mordechai Lukas so he could prevent the poor tailor from being abandoned in The Lonely.

 

If Jon is going to have to stay here for the long run he should try to save as many people from the entities as possible.

 

He will not allow apathy to turn him into a complete monster.

 

Jon sits on the bed and pulls out his tape recorder and a statement he stole from Magnus’s library. At least Magnus’s habit of collecting letters and books about the paranormal was good for something. 

 

Jon can tell that the statement in his hands will not be filling nor will it be able to sate him for long, but the less he has to feed upon the fear of the innocent the better

 

Jon is about to turn the tape recorder on before he notices that it is already running.

 

That is when he hears the ring of a Nokia.

Chapter Text

“Hello, Jon. Have you killed baby Bouchard yet?”

 

There is nothing that can make someone feel more unsettled and unnerved than when Annabelle Cane asks you a question. 

 

Annabelle Cane doesn’t ask questions, at least not true ones. No, Annabelle is a woman that will take your question and will lead you to whatever answer she wants you to find solace in. She is a being that has evolved past the need to bother herself with such simple things such as “whats” and “whys” and “have you’s”, so when Annabelle Cane asks you a question that is not rhetorical or a threat, you ought to be very, very afraid.

 

And that is what Jon would be if he had not just spent the last twenty-four hours in the presence of Jonah Magnus and dozens of unwanted spiders.

 

“No, Annabelle.” Jon snaps as he tries to overcome the urge to toss the Nokia out the window, “I have not been able to kill Jonah yet because your patron keeps turning all of my methods of assassination into spiders.”

 

There is a silence on the other end of the line and then Jon hears the scuttling of many legs, “Show me.”

 

“Annabelle, I swear if you send over one of your little monstrosities over I’ll- oh you’ve got to be kidding me.” Jon throws the Nokia down onto the bed as a small spider crawls out of the receiver. Amaurobius Similis The Eye provides. Jon tells his god to go shove it.

 

The little spider crawls down the phone and onto Jon’s pillow, allowing him to pick up the phone to hear Annabelle prompt, “Go on, Jon. Best not to make me wait all night.”

 

Jon rolls his eyes and balances the phone between his ear and shoulder as he rummages through his coat pockets, “As if the concept of time applies to you.”

 

“You’re no fun, Archivist. Helen was right, you really are a stick in the mud. You won’t even allow me to appreciate such a lovely night?” The spider waves one of its frontal legs to the window. The night sky showing a myriad of stars, not cloaked behind the smog of light pollution or the least of all eyes. “It’s been so long since the last time I saw the moon.”

 

“If you like the moon so much, why don’t you just bring it back? You certainly have the capability to do so.” Jon’s hand finds the grip of his pistol and slowly pulls it out and cautiously holds it away.

 

“I’d rather not risk dealing with Fairchild, he’s twice as annoying nowadays.” The spider inches towards the end of his pillow and leans in with interest, “This is what is troubling the oh so powerful Archivist? Open the chamber for me, will you?”

 

“You already know what’s going to happen,” 

 

“Seeing is believing, Jon. You’d know all about that.” Despite himself, Jon begins to open the magazine only for a river of arachnids to spill out from its confines. The spider on Jon’s pillow stays still for a good moment before flipping itself over and wiggling its legs. Through the receiver, Annabelle cackles.

 

Jon still holding the revolver by the tips of his fingers flings the wretched thing onto the desk in the corner, spiders still oozing from its chamber. “Yes, yes, I am overjoyed that you are taking such joy in my struggle. Real responsible of you, since it was you who sent me here after all.”

 

Annabelle still cackling wheezes, “I suspected that there would be some complications, but I wasn’t aware that they’d be that literal!”

 

“You knew that this would happen?!”

 

“I find it more surprising that you didn’t .” Annabelle counters, her laughter subsiding, “Though, I suppose that you have always had difficulty connecting the dots when you get emotional.”

 

Jon balls his fist and averts his eyes.

 

The little spider crawls up the short poster of his bed and begins to pull silk from its spinnerets, “Despite all your power, Jon, you are still so very human. Filled with human desires and limitations. Do you know how you were so easily led into being marked, each and every time? It wasn’t just Magnus who guided you into being what you are. Archivist, you made yourself susceptible to us, because, for an avatar so obsessed with knowledge, you never let yourself stop and think .”

 

The spider leaps from its perch on the bed poster to the corner of his desk chair and begins its web, “You charge into danger without care for your wellbeing, completely fuelled by your emotions, your fears, your desire for revenge.” The spider turns to Jon and rubs its pedipalps together, “Tell me, Jon. Why did you come here? You say that you want to create a better future, but do you really? You know that by killing Jonah Magnus at this stage in his life you will alter the timeline completely. Your friends, even if they still are somehow born, will never have an opportunity to meet you. Martin, well Martin wouldn’t even look at you, he wouldn’t even know you existed.”

 

“That doesn’t matter!” Jon snaps, “As long as they have a chance to live happily, that’s all I want. That’s all I need. What happens to me because of that doesn’t fit into the equation.”

 

The smile in Annabelle’s voice is obvious, “And that’s the problem, Archivist. You care so little about your well being that you allow yourself to be manipulated by others. I offered you a favour as a return for you giving me the throne, but you were the one who took this path. Did you really want a second chance, or did you just want an opportunity to punish yourself for the fire?”

 

“Stop it.”

 

“We both know that setting the Panopticon alight was the only way to take down Bouchard and we both knew what was going to happen.” The spider pauses in its weaving as if in consideration, “Well, at least the Mother did, you somehow deluded yourself you’d die along with it. I suppose that your theory made sense, even if it did cost your friend’s lives.”

 

“Shut up.” Jon pants, anger filling his mind with static, the cackling of the phone line echoing throughout the room “That’s not how it happened. You told us it was the only way and I knew that, but you didn’t say-”

 

“-that you would be the only one left standing? Oh Jon, why would the Mother of Puppets throw away her favourite helper?  You really do sell yourself short, though I suppose that’s part of your charm.” The spider swings between the bed frame and the chair and then to the fallen gun on the desk, “It’s always been entertaining to watch you struggle,” Annabelle sighs as the spider begins to wrap the revolver in white strands of web, “even now, when you already know that you have lost, you still desperately cling to that string of hope. I only wish I could have a front-row seat to watch you, it’s been quite dull without you around. Not much fun to watch puppets who don’t try to snap their own strings.”

 

The flow of spiders from the magazine comes to a stop. “What is your majesty, already bored with her new kingdom?” Jon snarls. 

 

“Oh, no need to be so dramatic Jon. You know as well as I do that only eusocial creatures are so primitive to have a queen and besides, it’s not just me who misses your presence. Helen is going mad without someone to bother. It would be helpful, Jon, to have someone else to help keep her in check. While rouge elements are always fun to break, the web could always use more eyes.”

 

Jon watches as the other arachnids that were birthed from the gun chamber rush back towards the revolver, biting and chewing the webbing trapping their comrades, only to get absorbed back into the white strings, squirming and pulsing through its veins. “I’m not interested,” he snaps, “Just tell me if you can remove the restrictions.”

 

Annabelle hums, “There’s only so much one spider can alter the entirety of the web, Jon. While I am the most versatile spider of the nest, you are asking me to alter another spider web altogether. If the Mother of this timeline does not wish for you to kill Jonah Magnus, then there’s not much I can do.”

 

"So, what? If you knew I couldn't do anything why did you send me back here, why all the weapons?” Annabelle Cane, what is your plan-" Static bursts through the strings attaching their dimensions, a question screaming to be answered- only to be halted by a wall.

 

“Don't try to compel me, Archivist. You are no longer the prince of this realm." The wall announces cooly, "Controlling the actions of others is the function of a spider. And you are not a spider." She pauses for a moment and while Jon could not see her through the strands that connected their universes, he could visualize lips pulling back to reveal sharp teeth, "But, maybe you could be. You certainly have enough eyes for it." 

 

Jon narrows his eyes, “What are you getting at?”

 

"You can't burn down the strands of fate Archivist, but you can certainly alter them, perhaps you might be able to weave your own if you have the craft for it."

 

Jon gazes at the small spider resting on the coated revolver, smug and gorged, having eaten its own kind and emerged victorious.

 

"Do you want to learn the secret, Archivist?"

 

The web shifts, tiny legs and arms desperately squirming to get free. 

 

Jon closes his eyes, "...yes."

 

Through the receiver, Annabelle grins, "Excellent, here is what you do."

 


 

There is something to be said about scribing late into the night. 

 

It wasn’t necessarily a new habit. Jonah could recall that his siblings and dorm mates were always more than slightly vexed at his insistence to continue writing when all the candles except for his went out. There was something calming about cataloguing his thoughts and discoveries of the day neatly within the confines of his journal, safe from prying eyes and judgement. Jonah finds that this habit will be increasingly useful in the coming days, as he needs to somehow document his findings on Jon without his knowledge.

 

However, Jonah would not be surprised if Jon could somehow see him writing right now. The man does seem to know quite a bit about him, even if he arrives at the wrong conclusions most of the time. Jonah scribbles himself a reminder to question into where Jon had obtained the belief that Jonah would somehow become a voyeuristic murderer. 

 

It is when Jonah closes his journal, that he sees a large spider scuttle across his desk. 

 

Jonah was used to spiders. They would often creep into his home to escape the cold outside but considering what he has seen in the past twenty-four hours, he felt slightly unsettled. He is half tempted to squash the creature, until it turns to stare at him. 

 

Jonah can swear it all eight of its beady eyes blink at him in slow succession.

 

It quickly turns away and then climbs down his desk and pauses next to his door that has begun to slowly creep open and Jonah knows that it is waiting for him.

 

Jonah knows it is foolish to follow creatures that beckon him into the dark. When he was a young boy he had memorised the rules his nursemaid would tell him about what grounds not to walk on and how to not show disrespect and insult the courts of the fae. Needless to say, he was educated long ago that chasing after an oddly intelligent spider through a supernaturally opened door would be a very bad idea indeed.

 

That’s why it was so strange that Jonah finds himself standing up and following the wretched thing down the hallway and up the stairs. Jonah can almost imagine a taut thread leading him, however, he is aware that what actually pulls him forward is his deep desire to know.

 

Jonah is not surprised when he finds himself at Jon’s door, the spiders do seem to be fond of him. Jonah is also not surprised when he sees his guide squeeze itself underneath the door frame. Was it inviting him in?

 

Jonah is about to knock on Jon’s door when he hears his new assistant speak, though not to him, “Annabelle, for goodness sake- why did you send another one in?”

 

A woman’s voice comes next, “That isn’t one of mine, Archivist. It appears that The Mother has plans for your friend outside.”

 

“He’s not my friend, Cane. I am literally trying to kill him.” It appears that Jonah was correct, there are others involved in Jon wanting him dead. He would have to watch out for this ‘Annabelle Cane’ character and whoever “The Mother” is.

 

The woman laughs, “Jon, don’t most of your friendships start out with them wanting to kill you ? I thought you would find this as a nice change of pace.”

 

“Oh right, being here is a lovely change of pace, really like how the literal point of being here keeps turning into your little scions-”

“Yes, yes, it is so terribly awful, Jon. While I would love to stay and watch your little struggle, I have other matters to tend to.”

 

“Annabelle don’t-”

 

“Say hello to baby Bouchard for me! Good luck, Archivist.” 

 

“Annabelle, don’t you dare turn the ph-” There is a crash and something much like the shifting of grains of sand fills Jonah’s ears. “Oh my god.”

 

Jonah is certain that Jon can handle himself, but he finds himself barging into the room anyways. “Jonathan! Are you-” he stops himself at the sight of dozens of spiders crawling on the floor and over his assistant who is irritatedly brushing them off, “...was this another attempt at my assassination?”

 

Jon looks taken aback not just at Jonah busting into his room but also at the insulation that he had attempted to murder someone again, “No? How could I kill you from up here- wait why are you-”

 

Jonah doesn’t let him finish, “Did you attempt to murder the woman who was just up here?”

 

“There was no woman up here, Magnus.” Jon gives Jonah a strange look as if he were the one making ridiculous assertions while covered in arachnids. 

 

“Really,” Jonah arches a brow, “then who were you speaking with?”

 

“A pest,” Jon answers as he flings the rest of the creatures off of his arms.

 

“That pest being a spider.”

 

“...Yes.”

 

Jonah sighs and studies the man before him, who is now unlatching Jonah’s window and directing the horde of crawling things outside. What would be the best way to approach this situation? It was obvious that Jon was hiding something from him, but Jonah did not have enough information as to propose what. He chooses his words carefully, “I would say that a spider wouldn’t be able to speak, but then again my world view has greatly changed since I have met your acquaintance yesterday.” Jon gives him another one of his frowns and furrows his brows, fortunately, this time it’s not an angry look, just bewildered. Jonah continues, “Now, did the object you tried to kill the beast with turn into spiders as you tried to kill it? Or did it multiply itself as a means of protection?”

 

“What? No, I-” the other man grimaces, “I have stopped trying to kill them a long time ago. No matter what I did, they never died.”

 

Well… that’s disconcerting. It doesn’t really surprise Jonah that Jon had apparently gone on fruitless homicidal ventures before, but there is always something to be said about confirmation. It’s best not to mention it. For now. “If you did not attempt to kill anyone, then why are there over four dozen spiders climbing out my window?”

 

Jon looks at the window then back at Jonah, “Sometimes things just turn into spiders or other unpleasant… matter.”

 

“Without prompting?”

 

“As with most things in life, yes.” Jon averts his eyes and looks painfully awkward as he seems to realize Jonah is looking for a more extensive answer, “You get used to it.”

 

Jonah chooses not to be too let down about Jon’s non-answer, instead, he decides to take this opportunity to ask a question that has been probing at his mind all day, “What sort of life have you lived that you have become so accustomed to such strange occurrences?” Jonah tests with pointed sympathy in his tone, perhaps if he approaches the subject delicately with empathy, Jon might warm up to him, “It appears as if it was a life filled with struggle,” at that remark Jonah regards the strange circular scars dotting his assistant’s face and arms.

 

Jon notices his gaze and quickly pushes the strange woollen fabric back down his arms and wraps them close to his torso protectively, “Wouldn’t you like to know?” He heatedly snaps, though behind the anger Jonah can see deep seated fear behind his eyes.

 

How strange that a man as strong as he would be afraid of a man like Jonah. If Jonah were a less determined man he might have backed down, but Jon did just volunteer to let him know about his experiences, “Yes, I would like to know, Jonathan. Thank you for asking.”

 

Jon blinks and a tint of bewilderment colours his ever permanent frown, at least the fear is gone from his face, “That- that isn’t what I meant.”

 

“What was your intended meaning, Jonathan?” Jonah gives Jon a patient smile, unfortunately, that only seems to put Jon more on edge. Pity.

 

“My intention is that I am not telling you about my life nor will I answer your questions.”

 

“That is disappointing, Jonathan.” Jonah frowns, “How will I accomplish my goal of figuring you out? It rather defeats the purpose of you being here.”

 

“I thought my purpose here was to assist you in archiving.” Jon scowls as he finally unfurls his arms and goes back to being bewildered and irritated again, does this man have any other emotions? Jonah’s mind goes back to Mr Bennett’s shop and then immediately crosses out Jon’s embarrassed and worried expressions. Those don’t count in this situation, obviously.

 

“Well, yes you are here to assist me with the formation of my institute, but I’d much rather learn all I can from you while doing so.” Jonah pleasantly states.

 

Jon narrows his eyes, “That’s not going to happen.”

 

Jonah sighs, he can see that his companion will be quite the hard nut to crack, but perhaps he will soften with time, “Very well, I shall have to break your defences in another way.”

 

“Excuse me, what-”

 

“But, in mentioning your position as my assistant, I believe we should begin work tomorrow. We can start in the library before moving onto other institutions, at least until Mr Bennett finishes your order.” 

 

Jon blinks at the sudden change of topic but recovers soon enough, “That’s- alright, that is fine with me, but what did you mean by-”

 

“We have a long day ahead of tomorrow, Jonathan. I’d suggest you get some rest,” Jonah interrupts as he exits Jon’s room before turning back, “Oh, and I’d suggest you close that window, I shouldn’t have to say that it becomes awfully cold at night this time of year.”

 

“Jonah Magnus,” Jon begins his eyes glowing slightly more green than they were before. It looks like it’s time Jonah retires for the night “tell me what you meant by-”

 

“Sleep well, Jonathan,” Jonah says as he quickly closes the door, “Remember to shut the window!”

 

When Jonah’s ears pick up the delightful sound of a muffled scream of frustration, he laughs and decides he needs to update his observation journal on his new friend.

 

Chapter Text

Jonah was first and foremost, a scholar at heart. Much to the chagrin of his family, his passions always led him to be more interested in books and research than the affairs of the family estate and business. Fortunately, as the youngest son to a family of great wealth, he was sent to a highly esteemed academy and then promptly forgotten, allowing him to study under the greatest of minds while having the freedom to apply his lessons to his own passing fascinations and studies. One of the most important rules of academia, Jonah had learned, was that rigorous note-taking was absolutely integral to any scientific study. A scholar’s duty was to observe and record anything of importance to human affairs and to the natural world.

 

And there has been no subject of greater importance than Mr Jonathan Sims.

 

The man in question was shifting through one of Jonah’s many journals. His unruly hair accentuating the displeased crease between his brows as he looked at the book resentfully.

 

Jonah would have thought that Jonathan would have appreciated the care Jonah had put into organizing his notes and observations of the supernatural, that he might have seen that Jonah was of a respectable calibre, worthy of learning his secrets. Perhaps he was afraid of Jonah’s capabilities? His assistant was incredibly tight-lipped about any useful information, he clearly had things to hide, things he didn't want Jonah to note.

 

Jonah would clearly have to be careful about making sure that Jon doesn't know that he is keeping a log on him. Another important rule about the scientific method is that his data remained unbiased and impartial. If Jon were to learn that he was under such meticulous study, he would certainly throw a wrench into Jonah's observational materials.

 

It would certainly be better for not only the accuracy of the study but also for Jonah if Jon would continue to be unaware of Jonah's notes. 

 

A sigh draws Jonah’s attention and he looks up from his own book to see Jon massaging the bridge of his nose in frustration. 

 

“Is something the matter, Jonathan?” 

 

The other man held up the journal he was browsing through and gave Jonah a look of utter contempt, “Magnus, I knew the majority of your collection would be redundant, but please tell me that all of them are not just thinly-veiled love letters with no actual evidence of the paranormal.”

 

Jonah blinks. That certainly was one way of interpreting Jonah’s correspondence with his compatriots, but Jon shouldn’t have been so blatant with his assumptions. You could get in trouble with such assertions, even a creature like Jon should know this. Jonah would hold off correcting him for now, Jon was certainly in no danger with a man such as he and Jonah would rather concentrate on the latter part of Jon’s statement, “Is there a reason I should not trust the words of my peers? How do you know that their experiences are hoaxes?”

 

Observational Note number four: Jonathan Sims can tell the accuracy and synopsis of a statement before reading said statement.

 

Jon rolls his eyes and grabs a loose letter from the book and holds it up, not even giving it a glance, “Statement of Hugh Baxter, regarding a woman who he believes to have been a witch, simply because she rejected his advances and had advanced knowledge in apothecary.” Jon stands up and plucks out another journal and flips open to a seemingly random page and lets out a scoff,  “Statement of Professor Charles Gibbon, who hallucinated and thought he saw the ghost of his late apprentice.” Jon turns the page, “Statement of Lavina Skinner, regarding a- hm, no, this one involves an avatar of the hunt.” He turns the page again, “Statement of-”

 

“Yes, yes, I get your point,” Jonah interrupts, holding up a hand, “I suppose I will have to be more sceptical of the stories I document in the future. After all, I only want the most concrete evidence of the esoteric in my institute, though I suppose we could create a discredited section,” Jonah muses with a wry smile aimed towards Jon before noticing the other man isn’t looking at him at all. 

 

Instead, He is staring down at the journal in his hands with rapt attention as he flicks a page back with his thumb. That wouldn’t do, it was awfully rude to ignore your superior, but at least it was a step above attempted murder, “Jonathan,” at the mention of his name; Jon’s head snaps up, eyes seeming to be cleared of some sort of daze, “While your skills are certainly useful, there is still much I would like to know. I am quite aware that you are quite adamant about not disclosing any information to me, but I must ask how you can tell the validity of these, what did you call them... statements?”

 

Jon rubs his eyes and grimaces, “I just can.”

 

Well, at least that was something of an answer. “Do you care to elaborate?”

 

“Not particularly.”

 

“Hm.” Jonah rises out of his own chair and stops by Jon, who not so subtly inches away. “Now, would you mind handing over Ms Skinner’s letter?” Jonah holds out his palm and watches with amusement as Jon’s grip ever so slightly tightens around the edge of the journal, his eyes gleaming with suspicion. Has Jon already been so taken with Jonah’s collection that he’s become possessive of his things? “I would like us to document all of these accounts accurately. However, I believe with your abilities and skill we will be able to sort through these rather quickly.”

 

Jon seems to be uncertain as if he is considering his options. What Jonah wouldn’t give to see what made him look so nervous about handing over a simple page of paper. But, for now, he will have to make do with simple persuasion, “It would be incredibly helpful if you were to assist me in this endeavour.”

 

“... You want me to be helpful?”

 

“Yes, that would be wonderful.” Jonah is incredibly pleased to see Jon slide the letter out of the journal which he tosses back onto the table.

 

“Ah, I see.” Jon's expression hardens as he pulls out a strange metal contraption, Jonah is about to ask what it is and then he sees a small flame emerge from its tip.  

 

“Jonathan, please do not light my library on fire-”

 

But it seems that Jonah did not have to worry because suddenly the metal box starts to rattle and the flame goes out. Jon frowns and flicks the wheel on the top of the tool, a strange grinding noise emits from the wheel and what comes out instead of a flame is a winding thread.

 

There is a pause and then Jon silently and begrudgingly hands Jonah the still intact letter.

 

“I assume that it’s not supposed to do that.”

 

Jon doesn’t answer him and instead grabs another journal from the shelf and extends his middle finger towards him- whatever that means.

 

Jonah allows his assistant to brood. He is quite fortunate that his mysterious protection also extends to Jonah’s possessions. As amusing as Jon’s undignified petulance is, Jonah would rather not have to replace any furnishings due to his acts of rebellion.

 

Observational Note number five: Jonathan Sims cannot destroy any “statements” without being thwarted by his curse.

 


 

It's not too long until they received a letter summoning them back to Bennett & Co Tailors.

 

As Jonah had told Jon, Mr Bennett was, indeed, the finest tailor in Edinburgh. He is incredibly quick in his creations, but doesn’t let speed ruin the quality of his works. Jonah would be worried that Bennett spent too much time in his shop instead of establishing himself into some sort of social circle, but he seems happy enough and Jonah would never be one to deprive himself of taking advantage of the tailor's fine labour.

This is the event that leads him and Jon to walk down the street leading to Bennett’s shop, Jonah with dignified purpose and Jon with a nervous and awkward step, looking incredibly uncomfortable in Jonah’s oversized coat. Jonah supposes that finally getting Jon some proper attire will do them both some good. Jon’s small frame in his clothes has made work somewhat… distracting for Jonah. 

 

There were certain rules that were to be followed in keeping up appearances and well, Jonah certainly wasn't a prude, but he still finds himself thinking about his assistant's bare scarred arms or the peak of an exposed collar bone when one of Jonah’s older shirts unevenly falls to the side. 

 

It was natural for an employer to be concerned about the respectability of those underneath his charge. Obviously that was the reason he found himself gazing at the other man's unbound hair. He was just concerned about the dignity of his companion. 

 

Obviously.

 

"Magnus." A voice breaks Jonah's musings. He turns to see that Jon is staring wide-eyed across the street. 

 

Jonah tries to follow his gaze to spot anything strange, but can only spot a young man reading a book on a stair leading up to one of the butchery shops. Jonah frowns, "Jonathan, what-"

 

"Stay there." Jon flatly states as he steps on to the road, "I don't want to deal with anything unnecessary today."

 

At this, Jon begins to walk across the cobbled road with purpose in his step, despite how carelessly he treats the very real risk of being run over by a carriage or two. 

 

Jonah is about to chase after the reckless man, but then Jon glares back at him, and despite only having two eyes, Jonah feels as if he is pinned by a thousand more, and he stands still.

 

Jon approaches the young man, who is now standing tense as if he is about to run. Jon shakes his head and says something. Jonah can not hear what it is, but judging by the boy's expression of fear, it must have been dreadful.

 

Shaking, the young man hands Jon his book, before scrambling down from his stair and out into the crowd. 

 

Jonah is not sure what he feels when Jon returns to his side, but he does know that he immediately feels absolutely repulsed by the book in his assistant's hands.

 

Or more accurately he is disgusted by the blood that is oozing out of its pages and onto his nice coat.

 

"Jonathan, do you care to explain what that thing is?"

 

Jon grimaces, "Not particularly, I don't want to even imagine what you would do if you were to become an avatar of The Flesh. That would be rather gross."

 

"I have no idea what you are talking about, but I feel that I have to insist that I am very opposed to associating myself with whatever being is involved with that." At this, the cover of the book seems to shift, and Jonah realises with discomfort that the bindings are made of skin. “Why did you feel the need to go pick this up- how did you even know that it was there-”

 

“-I don’t want to see another life ruined by one of these things, especially with a victim that young, and I just knew, that’s all.” Jon brushes past Jonah and heads into an unmarked alleyway, “I’m going to go get rid of this, feel free to stay out here and save me a headache.”

 

Despite Jonah’s better judgement, he follows Jon off the path.

 

Observational Note number ten: Jonathan Sims can immediately “know” if something of paranormal origin is in the area

 

Observational Note number eleven: Jonathan Sims is protective of normal people and is against the entities harming them

 





While Jon’s detour only costs them an hour, it feels much longer for Jonah. As fascinating as it was to watch the book burn alive, he cannot help but feel slightly off-centred as the creature’s screams echo in his head.

 

However, Jonah’s disquiet pales in comparison to the absolute mortification Barnabas Bennett displays as soon as he and Jon walk through his door.

 

“Mr Sims- what, what in the devil happened to you?”

 

“Accident with a book.” 

 

“W-with a book?” Mr Bennett gesticulates, “How- no- is that blood?

 

“... Maybe?”

 

Poor Mr Bennett begins to look quite faint so Jonah decides that he should step in, “Mr Bennett, the state of Mr Sims is not of concern.” Jonah placates as Bennett whips his head towards him with a look that clearly says what the other man thought of that statement, “Are his garments finished? It might be best if he were to be rid of that coat.”

 

The tailor looks between the two of them, his expression aggrieved and full of barefaced confusion, but then he calms himself and takes a deep breath, “Yes, yes of course. I’ll be just a moment,” but before Mr Bennett rushes into his backroom he leads a thoroughly bewildered Jon to a chair and places him there, “Mr Sims; please rest here for the time being-”

 

“-what no, I swear to you I am perfectly well, there’s no need for-”

 

“-Mr Sims this is the second time you’ve come into my shop looking like you had just come out of a war, I shan’t let you exert yourself on my watch.”

 

“This is really unnecessary, I appreciate the concern, but this is no big deal- I’ve been worse-”

 

Observational Note number twelve: Jonathan Sims has apparently looked worse than being covered in unearthly book blood

 

Mr Bennet nearly trips over himself, “Sir! That statement just makes this whole affair worse!” the tailor rights himself and runs a hand through his already messy hair, “Please, for the sake of your constitution and for the sake of my nerves, please rest for a moment.”

 

Jon opens his mouth and then closes it, seemingly reconsidering his words. He looks lost as if he was not accustomed to someone being so openly concerned about his own wellbeing, “Alright, and ah- thank you.” He mutters, “for your concern.”

 

Seemingly satisfied, the tailor nods to himself and announces that he would return shortly before swiftly moving towards the back of the store, leaving Jonah and Jon alone.

 

“You certainly do have a way of establishing yourself as an interesting person, wouldn’t you agree? I must say, I have never seen Mr Bennett so winded.” Jonah muses tapping the head of his walking stick.

 

Jon’s eye twitches but he doesn’t say a word.

 

Jonah waits and when it becomes apparent that the silence will not be filled with anything but the shifting of fabrics from the other room, he continues, “I do wonder why you would go after that book whilst we were out on our errand, especially when it would create such a mess.”

 

There is a pause and then there is a confession, “If I were to just sit back and watch someone suffer when I knew it was going to happen, I would be no different than any other abomination.” 

Abomination

 

That is a very severe term for a man seemingly so small and fragile. What sins and what travesties has the man next to him committed to use such an awful word so freely?

 

“Jonathan is it not correct that you are a creature that thrives on watching? How could it be shameful to partake in your own nature? How could it be any more atrocious than when I am to eat and drink, as what is in my nature?”

 

Jon sneers, eyes coated in thinly veiled disgust “I refuse to be anything like you.” 

 

Jonah thinks that was rather unwarranted, while Jonah wouldn’t consider himself a good man, he certainly wasn’t one deserving of such repugnance, “Why would it be so terrible to be similar to me?”

 

Jon’s face is filled with incredibility and then careful consideration as if Jonah was a puzzle that he couldn’t solve, “ What would have you done if you were in my position today?”

 

The words escape before Jonah could process them, “I would have waited and watched all that I could, so that I would know what it was and so I could see all that it could do.”

 

Jon scoffs, “Of course you would.”

 

Jonah presses a hand to his throat and cannot help but feel as if he failed some sort of test.

 

That is when Mr Bennett re-enters the room carrying a neatly folded pile of clothes in his arms, “My apologies for the wait, gentlemen.” he announces as he sets the pile down a table lined up against the wall and extends a long dressing screen to cover it, “Now, Mr Sims, would be so kind as to dress behind here? While I do believe I crafted these correctly to your measurements, I just want to be certain that they will fit.”

 

“Oh, uh- alright.” Jon complies while awkwardly standing up from his chair and moving behind the screen.

 

It is slightly aggravating, Jonah admits, that Jon acts so agreeable to a man like Barnabas Bennett and yet is so cold to Jonah.

 

“Mr Magnus,” Jonah turns to find Mr Bennett standing next to him with a nervous and yet somehow firm look in his eyes, “I hope that it’s not too presumptuous of me to inquire, but who really is this man that you are associating yourself with?”

 

Jonah raises his eyebrows in surprise, it was unlike Mr Bennett to ask questions like this. Normally, the man is very meek and is always respectful of their differences in class, but Jonah supposes that having a man walk into your store absolutely covered in blood erases those boundaries quite a bit.

 

But what to tell him? Jonah is also not very certain to who his mysterious new charge is, that was the reason Jonah let him into his home, after all. He was beginning to understand a slight inkling of Jonathan’s nature, but he hardly knew anything about the man himself, besides that he was powerful and really hated Jonah for some reason he did not understand or know of.

 

He couldn’t very well tell the tailor that he met Jon with a gun to his throat so he decides on this; “Mr Sims is an assistant that I have hired for a project of mine.”

 

Bennett swallows, “Have you perhaps become a butcher, Mr Magnus?”

 

“Do you remember what I discussed with you and Mr Lukas not too long ago? About the establishment of an institute dedicated to the paranormal? Mr Sims is assisting me in this endeavour.”

 

The tailor grows pale, “So the blood really is from-”

 

“-A book, yes.” Jonah nods, “But, as you saw, my assistant is not fazed very easily. He is quite durable, that one.”

 

Silence grows between the both of them before Mr Bennett demurely breaks it, “Mr Magnus, would you perchance grant me a favour?”

 

The man really was full of surprises today wasn’t he? “If it is in my power; of course.”

 

Bennett anxiously wrings his hands and looks at the dressing screen, “Have I told you much about my brother? I don’t believe I have, but there is much of Mr Sims that reminds me of him. I know I have only met him twice now, but his eyes , Mr Magnus.” he turns to Jonah with a look of worry, “You do not have such deep eyes without seeing great horrors. I do not know what caused those scars on your friend, but something happens when a person goes through that much trauma. My brother turned to drink, but I fear something much more sinister is haunting that poor man.”

 

Jonah knew that Mr Bennett was one prone to bursts of sympathy, but to think that it was rooted so deeply within him, “What would you ask of me?”

 

“Would you look after him? I trust that Mr Sims can very well take care of himself, but ah- as I’ve learned, when someone faces these trials alone...things do not tend to go so well. I would like to request this of you as a-” a light pink dusts Mr Bennett’s cheeks, “-as a friend” he mutters.

 

Wasn’t this a lovely sight before him. How could he possibly decline? “If you are asking me as a friend , Mr Bennett, then how could I ever say no?” Jonah tilts his head, “But I must inform you, all of my friends do call me, Jonah.”

 

Mr Bennett’s blush spreads, “As, as your friend, Jonah , would it be alright, if I were to request this of you?”

 

“But of course, Mr Bennett, it would be my pleasure-”

 

Jonah hears the sound of footsteps and turns to Jon who is exiting the barrier of the dressing screen while adjusting his ascot. He glances between Jonah and the tailor and a sudden look of understanding blooms on his face, “Oh- ah, am I interrupting?”

 

Jonah gets a feeling that Jon has entirely misunderstood the situation once again.

 

“No, no! You are not intruding on anything here, Mr Sims!” Mr Bennett bursts out and flusteredly hurries over to Jon’s side, “Now, Mr Sims, would you mind if I were to check the measurements of your coat?”

 

Jonah takes the opportunity to examine Jon’s outfits while the tailor is fussing over the measurements of his clothes and Jonah comes to a conclusion.

 

Observational Note number thirteen: Jonathan Sims wears well-fitted attire very handsomely

 


 

It takes two weeks for the letter to arrive. 

 

On the very first night he had met Jon, Jonah sent a letter to Robert Smirke. Since then he has sent the man two more letters, detailing some of his findings on his new assistant. Jonah was, at first, hesitant to tell Mr Smirke of his acquaintance with Jon, but the older man was something of a mentor figure for him, at least in regards to the dread powers. 

 

Mr Smirke’s reply was quite predictable; he first expressed concern over the state of Jonah’s safety (and sanity, which Jonah feels was not very well-merited), then interest in his findings, but then, rather unexpectedly, an invitation to a dinner party; for both Jonah and Jon.

 

Of course, it was all under the pretense that Smirke wanted to keep close supervision of the monster in their midst, but Jonah knew that underneath, what called to Smirke was that unquenchable desire to know.

 

But, the question was, did Jonah want to share Jon? 

There was so much that he didn’t know about his companion and he would be rather displeased if someone else were to crack the case of Jonathan Sims before Jonah could even get past his walls. 

 

Jonah would not deny that he has always been a bit… possessive of his belongings, and while he was beginning to recognize that Jonathan Sims was still very human, there was another problem at hand. He has always been rather possessive of his friends as well.

 

As per usual, Robert Smirke would be in attendance and so would Barnabas Bennett, who Jon seems to already be fond of, but Lukas and Scott? It is with great dread that Jonah thinks of his assistant meeting them .

 

To organize his thoughts, Jonah decides to walk his house. The creak of the floorboards underneath his feet and the dim candlelight pervading in the dark, bring a calm to Jonah that he wouldn’t be able to achieve if he were still.

 

When Jonah comes to the stairway, he hears a quiet voice echo down from the second floor. There’s only one person who it could be and as Jonah remembers from the second night of Jon’s stay; it would be highly informative if Jonah were to listen in.

 

But it is as Jonah gets closer to Jon’s voice does he begin to realise that it sounds somewhat off .

 

Jonah has become very well acquainted with the various tones and intonations of Jon’s speech, he knows what it sounds like when he is angry or exasperated or very rarely; vulnerable, but he knows that the voice coming from Jon’s throat is not his own, no matter how much Jonah’s mind insists that it is.

 

Jonah reaches the library door, standing tall with old spirals engraved into its wood, and Jonah knows that it is not Jon who is saying those words in such a frightened inflection.

 

“...I swore to it that I would never tell another soul, that I would carry it’s secrets to my grave…”

 

Jonah can see him through the crack in the door. Sitting there in the old wooden chair by the desk, a torn page in one hand and a strange box in the other.

 

“...but the Spider didn’t listen …”

 

Jonah knows this story. He knows it from the pages of his dorm mate’s journal that he would occasionally read through. He knows it from the entry that he stole.

 

“...the demon used her lips to pull and show me all of her teeth and gums and tongue and used her voice to whisper to me…”

 

Jonah never considered that stealing that page would lead to Godwin disappearing, It was the end of the term and Jonah’s other peers never wrote to him after the year was done but-

 

“... I know that it’s madness to write this down but I have to . I cannot keep it in. The words keep trying to crawl out of my throat despite what would happen if I were to confess. So I am writing it here, in hopes that it will stop the thing that is compelling me to speak…”

 

And now Jonah can see the jaw unhinge-

 

“... so that it can eat my heart…”

 

And he can hear Godwin’s finance’s screams-

 

“... just like it did to Isabella…”

 

And Jonah wants to know more.

 

Then, suddenly, it stops.

 

It is quiet and still and through the crack, Jonah can see the expression on Jon’s face is most certainly shamed satisfaction and Jonah all of a sudden feels slightly ill.

 

He knows, without a doubt, that this is how Jon eats .

 

That is when the spiral in the door opens and a vibrant green eye stares back at him.

 

“How much did you hear?” There is no crackle, no tug at his throat this time. Just weariness, just resignation.

 

Jonah composes himself and speaks through the door, “I suspect that it was just the end.” 

 

The eye shifts in its hue and looks away before closing altogether. Jonah knocks on the spot it used to be, “May I enter?”

 

“... If you must.”

 

Jonah slowly enters the room and now in the light of the candles, can see how exhausted Jon really is.

 

His vest slightly unbuttoned, cravat loose and hair unbound falling off his shoulders in waves of black and silver. 

 

The box is gone. He decides not to comment on it.

 

Jonah averts his eyes. “Are you alright?”

 

“Am- am I alright?” Jon blurts out incredulously, “After being subjected to that , that is all you have to say?”

 

A small seedling of warmth grows in Jonah’s chest, “Jonathan, are you concerned about me?”

 

Jon looks aghast, “What- no!”

 

“Are you quite certain? Because I believe I detected a fragment of fret in your tone and there is no shame in admitting-”

 

“I have absolutely no concern over your wellbeing, Magnus.” Jon puts his head in his hands, perhaps in aggravation or, perhaps more fortunately, embarrassment “Do remember that my main goal is to kill you.”

 

Jonah cannot help the amusement that creeps into his tone, “Of course, Jonathan. I shan’t forget that when you are so adequate at assassinating me.”

 

Though it is muffled, Jonah can hear Jon gripe out “I hate you.”

 

“Quite,” There is a pause and when it is clear that Jon has no intention of lifting his head, Jonah peers down at him and notices that despite being so powerful and monstrous, he really does look rather small for his role, “I wouldn’t mind if you were to read your ‘statements’ aloud with me in the room. It is more efficient than you reciting monologues to yourself in the dead of night.”

 

Jon finally raises his head, “That is a very bad idea.”

 

“Perhaps,” Jonah concedes, “but you do have a lovely voice, Jonathan. I wouldn’t mind listening to horrors if you were the one telling me them.”

 

“Excuse me-”

 

“Ah, I have just remembered.” Jonah interrupts before Jon can continue on that line of questioning, “The reason I have found you so late in the night is due to the fact that I have been propositioned with a dilemma, would you care to hear it?”

 

Jon’s baffled expression is all the permission that Jonah needs, “Very well then. As you know, I have struck up a working relationship with a man named Robert Smikre, and Mr Smirke has extended an invitation for a dinner party to both of us. I am aware that you are not very… sociable to men of my calibre, but I believe this might be an opportunity for you to be integrated into a group of our peers who are also studying the Fears.”

 

Jon gains a dark look, “Who is going to be there?”

 

Jonah is not certain that it would be in the best interests of the others invited to give Jon a guest list, but he does know that whatever Jon has planned would make the occasion much more interesting, “I believe those in attendance would include, Mr Bennett, Mr Scott, Mr Roberts, Mr Lukas-”

 

“Mordechai Lukas?” 

 

Jonah blinks, “Yes, do you know him?”

 

“Not exactly.” 

 

“Then why did you ask-”

 

“I’ll go.” Jon states firmly, “I’ll go to your gathering.”

 

Jonah frowns, “Are you certain, Jonathan?”

 

Jon nods his head resolutely and leaves the room without saying a word. When he passed by Jonah to use the door, his eyes had murderous intent.

 

Observational Note number twenty-four: Jonathan Sims “eats” by reading the trauma of others.

 

Observational Note number twenty-five: A strange contraption appears when Jonathan Sims is “eating”. Additional research may be required.

 

Chapter Text

The ride to Haddington was relatively short. With the roads surprisingly lacking in any form of ice or snow, which Jonah noted was rather unusual for early December, they were able to arrive at Robert Smirke’s temporary estate within six hours. It wasn’t a particularly eventful journey, with Jonah’s wealth he was able to procure a relatively handsome, but simple coach for the expedition, that protected him and his assistant from the chill outside.

 

Jonah was hoping for a chance to have a lengthy conversation with Jon, uninhibited by the presence of their work, but his companion did not respond to any of his attempts. Jonah was initially displeased at Jon’s behaviour until he realised with surprise that the other man appeared to be sleeping.

 

Or at least, the closest state to sleep that Jon could manage.

 

Jonah would claim the other man to be a statue if not for the slightest of movement underneath his assistant’s eyelids emitting the slightest glow of green beneath his lashes, barely noticeable in the afternoon light. The scene was picturesque, in an odd sort of way. Jon was no Endymion, but there was something to be said about the beauty of dualism. The contrast between the tense posture of his shoulders and the familiar crease between his brows, somehow still present in his state of rest, added with his head carelessly resting against the wall of the coach, spilling loose hairs from his carefully maintained braid, made this image of Jon incredibly endearing.

 

When it became clear that Jon would not respond or wake from his slumber at command, Jonah silently took his journal and a pencil from his inner coat pocket and began to sketch. 

 

Jonah may not be a student of the arts, but he could certainly appreciate aesthetics. He’s sure Jonathan wouldn’t mind.

 

The carriage stops when he is midway through his third study of his muse. Jonah looks through the coach’s windows and notes that the sun was nearly completely down, but more importantly, they have arrived at Smirke’s Haddington estate.

 

The man had come up from London to see the completion of his work on the Whittingehame house. Jonah thought that was quite fortunate since he was not looking forward to a four-day journey trapped in a carriage. 

 

Jonah turns to attempt to awake his companion but finds that Jon is already righting himself and smoothing his hair back into a dignified order. He catches Jonah looking and frowns, “What?”

 

“Good morning, Jonathan.” Jonah grins at the faint blush of embarrassment that graces Jon’s cheeks, “I am grateful to see that you’ve awoken at an apt time. Though it makes me wonder if you were perhaps feigning your sleep the entire trip?” That was a lie, of course. Jonah knows that in the current state of their relationship, Jonathan would never consciously wear such a relaxed expression in Jonah's presence.

 

Jon brushes a stray hair back into place and nearly looks insulted by the unruly thing, “I set an alarm-”

 

“- A what?”

 

“- and I don’t sleep , I was conserving my energy and preparing. I would have been conscious the moment I needed to be.”

 

“And what event is it that you were preparing for, Jonathan?” Jonah questions while exiting the stagecoach. 

 

Jon does not answer and instead thanks the coachman holding the door for them. It wasn’t exactly proper for Jon to do so and definitely not normal judging by the look of bemusement upon the coach man’s face, but if Jonah was correct about Jon’s original station then there was no need to interfere.

 

Jonah holds out a gloved hand for the other man to take to help with his departure from the carriage, but Jon either doesn’t see the offered hand or completely ignores it and lands softly on the dirt road unceremoniously. 

 

Disappointing, but now that Jonah thinks on it, Jon's refusal was appropriate, especially in the presence of others. Jonah has been finding himself slipping recently. Perhaps being around Jon has loosened his inhibitions about the natural order of things. What would the rest of society think of his assistant if Jonah were to offer him his hand as if Jon were a gentle lady exiting a carriage? 

 

There were appearances to keep up, though Jonah couldn't help but feel as if their importance was lessened when the man next to him reminded Jonah how vast the world really was.

 

It was a strange world as well, Jonah notes when he sees the most powerful man he knows shifting awkwardly before the grand wooden door to the party within, “Do we just head in or are we supposed to knock?”

 

Jonah is hit with a not so surprising certainty that Jon has never been to an event like this before. Perhaps Jonah should have questioned Jon on this matter before, but well, there were other more pressing questions he desperately wants the answers to. Besides, Jon's inexperience might bring some amusement to what Jonah is certain, a very boring gathering inside, "No need to worry, Jonathan. Just follow my lead and everything will go just fine."

 

Jon grumbles a bit at that but Jonah pays him no heed as he uses the knocker thrice upon the door. 

 

There was not much of a difference between Robert Smirke’s meeting and the average dinner party. Much like anywhere else, once Jonah presented the footman with the written invitation, he and Jon were led into the estate by a footman into a parlour submerged in smoke and conversation. The footman cleared his throat and announced their arrival, “Gentlemen, a Mr Magnus and a Mr Sims.”

 

The weight of the room turns upon Jonah and Jon while the servant bows and makes his departure. The doors close behind them with a click and the chatter in the room withers into a slated silence. Someone coughs and Jonah’s eye is drawn towards the corner of the parlour where George Scott whispers into Mordechai Lukas’s ear who leers at Jonah across the room.

 

Jonah begins to question whether attending this event was a wise choice because judging by the tense atmosphere and the unease in his peers’ eyes, Smirke had apparently neglected to keep the identity of Jonah’s companion confidential. 

 

In different circumstances, Jonah might have revelled in this amount of attention. He always had a desire to be recognised as a man worthwhile, and to be centre of gossip was always better than to be not talked about at all, but something about their eyes set him on edge. Or to be more precise, the way that the other men were looking at Jon as if he were a rabid dog made Jonah particularly irate. He was never fond of disdain inflicted upon him due to whom he kept in his company.

 

At least the catalyst of his associates’ ire is seemingly unaffected. In fact, Jon appears to not even register the many glares sent his way and instead is sending one of his own towards the smiling Lukas.

 

Jonah thought he was the only one who could make Jon have such an expression. 

 

“Mr Magnus! Mr Sims!” Jonah turns to meet a friendly face, yes this was much better “I’m pleased to see you have arrived safely. Oh- and I also wanted to give you my thanks once again for the opportunity to come here, I haven’t been able to attend many gatherings like this in the past.”

 

“Think nothing of it, Mr Bennett,” Jonah smiles, “Besides, I fear without your presence this meeting would have been rather dull. But, might I ask how you have arrived here? I seem to recall offering you my carriage but your reply only said that you had made other preparations.” 

 

“My apologies, I must have forgotten to inform you properly. Mr Lukas offered me to ride with him in his coach, it was very generous of him don’t you think?”

 

Beside him, Jon snaps to attention, “You were alone with Mordechai Lukas?”

 

The tailor blinks, “Why, yes. We had arrived here together not only an hour ago, why? Is something the matter Mr Sims?”

 

Jon’s manner grows severe, “Did he try to do anything to you or make you any deals or -ah did the air around him seem wrong?”

 

Goodness, the way Jon is speaking about him makes Lukas sound like the devil. Well- now that Jonah thinks about it, the comparison isn’t too far off. Mr Bennett seems to disagree, “I am afraid I don’t quite catch your meaning, sir. Mr Lukas is a man of dignified character. I am not certain of what rumours you have heard about the man but I assure you, there is no reason to fear Mr Lukas.” Bennett’s brows furrow in thought for a quick moment before he relaxes, “There is only one solution to this Mr Sims: you simply must meet the man yourself.”

 

Oh no, this is not the direction this event should be going. The way Jon looks now, Jonah is sure Mordechai Lukas would be nothing but blood splatters by the end of the night and Jonah would really not prefer to have his assistant thrown in the gaol before Jonah can learn all he can from him. “I am not sure that is the wisest course of action, Mr Bennett. Might I suggest-”

 

“The simplest way to rectify any misconceptions is to go directly to the source. Wouldn’t you agree, Mr Sims?” Bennett states as he offers Jon his elbow.

 

“Jonathan, I must ask that seriously think over your choices before you do anything… drastic.”

 

Bennett chuckles, “Come now, Mr Magnus. You are acting as if our friend here will kill the poor man on the spot.”

 

What an astute observation Barnabas, that is exactly what he is worried about. “Of course not, I only worry that my assistant might not be ready to meet a man of Mr Lukas’s stature.”

 

“There’s no need to speak for me, Magnus.” Jon rolls his eyes and locks arms with Bennett “I am quite capable of making my own decisions.”

 

“Jonathan, you know that’s not what this is about.”

 

Jon turns his back toward him, “Mr Bennett, I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to be introduced to Mr Lukas.”

 

Bennett’s eyes grow wide and his smile is blinding “It would be my honour to acquaint the two of you.”

 

The beginning of a headache begins to manifest inside of Jonah’s head, “Jonathan.”

 

Jon’s voice steeps with barely contained contempt, “Magnus, do try not to follow.”

 

And with that, the two of them stroll over to what Jonah is certain will be a bloodbath, if Jonathan gets his way.

 

Across the room, Scott waves him over to where he can see Lukas bend down and kiss the top of Jon’s hand who looks like he is about to burst an artery. As much as it would be satisfying to see Jon attempt to slit Lukas’s throat, and perhaps well-deserved; something about the other man touching his assistant made Jonah very displeased, Jonah concludes that he should join their conversation to prevent any blood from being spilt. It would be difficult to find another patron as wealthy as Lukas for his institute, and really, it would be unfair to make Smirke’s staff clean up the resulting mess. It would also be troublesome if another blood splatter was to ruin Jon’s nice clothes that Jonah bought with Lukas’s money. 

 

His benefactor wouldn’t exactly be pleased if he were to learn that a good portion of his donations was spent in such a way, but technically it related to institute employee essentials, so Jonah didn’t believe it was too much of a misuse. But, it would be hindersome if funds were to dry up without such a large patron. 

 

Another reason why Jonah should prevent the inevitable confrontation.

 

His advances were stopped by a firm hand upon his shoulder, “Mr Magnus, I see you have decided to grace us with your presence.”

 

Jonah turns and is met with a familiar face, "Good Evening, Mr Smirke. I do hope my arrival was not too late, I do believe the event was stated to begin at six, correct?"

 

Smirke laughs, "My dear boy, do not fret so. I was only jesting, your manners are more than adequate." 

 

"Ha."

 

Now, Jonah Magnus did not dislike Robert Smirke, no, he looked upon Smirke with admiration not only for his craft but also for his diligence in studying the Dread Powers that be. The man was only half a decade older than himself, but there was something in his air that spoke of wisdom beyond his years. It was hard to find a mind that kept up with Jonah’s own, and before he met Jon, Smirke was the only one who seemed up to the task. In any other circumstance, Jonah would be eager to discuss his theories with Smirke immediately, but there were more pressing matters to attend to. Mainly, preventing his assistant from committing first-degree homicide.

 

Jonah is about to make his excuses and perhaps go fetch Jonathan and introduce him to his friend, but Smirke seems set on continuing the conversation, “It has been rather long since I have last seen you, hasn’t it? That’s the issue of being absorbed inside your craft, time seems to just slip away without your notice. Whittingehame has certainly devoured my sense of time this past month, but enough about me.” Robert states, his eyes growing eager, “I hear you have acquired a very unusual man in your company.”

 

As Jonah had expected, Robert Smirke was not immune to that pull in his chest, that urge to know and to understand the unknowable, “I would hope so, considering you were the one who invited him here this evening. But, yes, as you have no doubt read from my letters; I have met the most unearthly man-”

 

“Yes, yes but did you bring him?”

 

Jonah frowns, “Jonathan has accompanied me here, yes.”

 

Smirke’s eyes gleam, “Well, where is he then? Let me meet this astonishing creature that has you so fascinated!”

 

That wasn’t the word Jonah would have used to describe Jon, he was much more of a man than a monster, but perhaps Smirke hadn’t realised that by Jonah’s correspondence. He did have the tendency to be rather vague, after all. Jonah gestured to a very uncomfortable looking Jon “My friend is right over there, the man in the dark green coat, sat next to Mr Bennett?”

 

Smirke squints his eyes and then widens them in surprise, "Him? Why he looks rather normal for a being of his kind- well he's obviously not from around these parts that's for certain, but if I didn't know any better I would have assumed him to be completely human."

 

What was Smirke expecting? A being made entirely from eyes? Of course, Jon would appear as nothing but the charming man he is. "Why would he come off as anything less, Mr Smirke?" 

 

"I would have expected him to appear as anything but human. These creatures have tells, you see, to their true nature." Jonah is not certain he likes the look of contempt within the architect's eyes, but he lets him continue nonetheless,  “A creature of the I-Do-Not-Know-You can give the impression of being mortal but there is always something just slightly wrong there. The Deceitful will twist, The Dark will be empty and The Hunters will grow teeth and claws and fangs. None can truly hide their nature, none can truly appear as anything but a monster."

 

A weight settles within Jonah's jaw and his fingers twitch slightly, "Mr Smirke, I believe there was a misunderstanding in our communication. Jonathan Sims is still very much a man, a human one, outside of his … specialised abilities."

 

Smirke pauses and while Jonah does not have Jon's ability to read minds, he can tell that Smirke is searching for something. A flaw, a tell, “Jonah- would you mind if I were to be perfectly candid?"

 

Smirke has only addressed him by his given name behind the closed doors of his private library, on grounds when both were on equal grounds and both equally comfortable in the other’s presence. Having his name spoken so publicly, in a setting where Jonah cannot utter the other man’s name without looking like a fool, to be talked down to, as if he were a mere disciple- it’s aggravating, it’s insulting , but most of all it’s demeaning . A strategic play with the classes, a reference to their differences in station. A plot to make Jonah small and he feels utterly exposed. 

 

He could get angry- not a fit of volatile and hot anger, but perhaps a colder more calculated wrath. While Smirke may be leagues above him in wealth and reputation, Jonah was still technically the son of a gentleman, even if he was the youngest son and not actually in possession of his unprofitable estate. 

 

However, his yet to be realised institute depended upon the architect’s cooperation and funding for its success. Not to mention Robert Smirke was on the direct path to be granted a knighthood for his services and everybody knew it. 

 

So Jonah holds his tongue and acquiesces, “Of course.”

 

Smirke wets his lip, a nervous tick Jonah has come to notice, “You appear to be forgetting an important aspect of what you told me in your letters; the first encounter you’ve had with that crea- hm, man, he tried to kill you. ” 

 

“We have moved past that in regards to our partnership. Besides, Jonathan is unable to harm me due to the-”

 

“The involvement of his methods of disposal turning into spiders, which is not the blessing you seem to think it is. That is evidence of him being involved in not one, but two entities together. Him being of The Eye is enough, but to be involved with the Corruption or the Web?” The architect shifts his eyes rapidly as if he is afraid that Jon or some other incomprehensible being was listening. Smirke continues in a low raspy voice, an attempt to conceal a conversation that Jonah has no doubt Jon can hear, “Jonah, have you not realized that you placed yourself in a very dangerous position! One entity is enough- but two? You don’t even know if he has involved himself with the other powers- he certainly looks tattered enough for it!”

 

Tattered, Jonah seethes, he calls the most useful piece of information we have, tattered. “But what if that’s a good thing? We now have a man who has experience with these powers, not just knowledge from old tomes. He’s powerful, he could protect us-”

 

“You think that he would protect you? Jonah, he’d sooner feed off of you!” Smirke hisses, “You seem to forget what kind of being he is and the reason you have allowed him in your company. You told me you kept him nearby to study him, not to be employed as some sort of bodyguard!”

 

“Assistant.” Jonah interjects quietly, “He’s my assistant.”

 

“This is what worries me- you are letting his outward appearance fool you into thinking he is not a threat. You have been too lenient, Jonah. A creature such as he cannot be trusted, let alone be allowed to handle or organize important information that is essential to our understanding of the dangers he himself presents!”

 

Jon is a being of knowledge, why would he tamper with the documentation he is so fussy over. For goodness sake, the man doesn’t even allow statements about separate entities to even touch each other. “Why did you invite him if you had these fears, Mr Smirke?”

 

 The other man gives Jonah a look that was entirely too indulgent for the lecture he had just unleashed, “The very same reason I had stated in my letter; to assess the danger he poses to us. And he is dangerous, Jonah. I hope you do realize that.”

 

Jonah thinks about curly hair that is too endearing, and dark skin covered in scars and soft grumbles and late-night reading, “Yes, I understand.”

 

“Good,” Smirke lets out a sigh that Jonah can only assume is relief, “I’m glad we are in agreement. You do know how I fret over you.”

 

“Yes.”

 

Jonah hopes that Jon is having a more enjoyable evening than himself.

 


 

Jon is not having a good time.

 

He was never a big fan of parties, to be fair he never thought he would have to be stuck in a parlour with men two hundred years his senior who think a ‘vulgar mushroom’ is a scathing insult. But it was the principle of the thing, for these to be men at the front line of ‘protecting’ humanity from the Dread Powers they really didn’t seem to take the responsibility seriously.

 

Actually, the whole affair was reminiscent of a ridiculously posh university party, except you would replace the college kids with thirty to forty something-year-old bureaucrats claiming to be professionals and the overabundance of weed with cigar smoke. Both categories give him a headache and both categories make him want to escape to somewhere secluded and quiet.

 

But that wasn’t the main problem (though if he hears one more sexist comment he’s going to have an ulcer), the main issue at hand is that he somehow ended up sandwiched between Barnabas Bennett and a very talkative George Gilbert Scott, and across from Mordechai Lukas, who wouldn’t stop staring .

 

He’s supposed to be a scion of The Forsaken, why is he boring his eyes into Jon? 

 

Jon has peered into Lukas’s head, and he seems to be following whatever conversation is going on, but there is nothing about why he is looking at Jon like he is a- god, Jon doesn’t even know what this is supposed to be. 

 

How is he supposed to kill him or prevent him from becoming an avatar of The Lonely if he can’t read whatever is going through his head?

 

“I have to say, Mr Sims,” Scott interjects into Jon’s panicked musing, “you have certainly shielded us from our compatriots. They look like they think if they come over here you’ll bite their head off.”

 

Wow. What wonderful insight Mr Scott. If only Lukas was as easy to read.

 

"Mr Scott!" Bennett scolds, "There's no need to be so rude to good Mr Sims here!" 

 

Honestly, what is Lukas's deal? The man has barely spoken two words to anyone after he made that ridiculous introduction of his.

 

"Oh come off it, Mr Bennett. This is a place of free ideas, after all. I'm sure our friend here does not mind my honesty. Right, Mr Sims?"

 

Wait, was Mordechai Lukas feeding off of his discomfort? Is that why there is such a large girth between their small gathering and the rest of the party?

 

"Mr Sims, do not mind whatever words are coming out of this simple man's mouth. He's just jealous that you are more welcome here than he is."

 

If Lukas is already starting to manifest then it is imperative to stop him in his tracks now

 

"Hey!"

 

But how is Jon to deal with him? He can't very well kill him here with such a large crowd and Jon Knows that he is not strong enough in this timeline to subtly fry Lukas's brains out. 

 

He could try to do what he did to Peter Lukas, but there is no telling if Mordechai would resist his questioning. 

 

Jon should have come up with a better plan. He thought doing it Basira's way would be much more practical, but now he can see that he does not have her luck or her skill set to twist the tides into her favour without rigorous planning.

 

If only he could consult Basira or Daisy or Martin , they would know what -

 

"Excuse me? Am I interrupting?" 

 

Bennett and Scott stop their bickering and greet the newcomer enthusiastically.

 

But that’s not what matters.

 

What matters is Francis Mullens has a statement.

 

The Archivist has done well to sustain himself entirely on the written statements he had found in Jonah Magnus’s library, but now with a story that’s there right in front of him, fresh, new, still dripping with half repressed terror, it takes all of The Archivist’s effort to keep silent. To keep the questions locked away in his throat.

 

Don’t listen to the blood , he and Daisy would whisper to each other when the cravings (to rip; tear; claw, to watch; stalk; gorge) became too much to bear, Listen to the quiet.

 

But how can he listen to the quiet when everything is but quiet? When he can hear the fearful thump thump thump of Smirke’s heart across the room and hear the whisperings of horror from a man he knows does not deserve to be fed upon.

 

“Mr Sims?”

 

His name is Francis Mullens- there were strings around his hands- his father left but he didn’t know what it meant- and strings around his heart that just craved for one bit of- his mother wasn’t really there, too heartbroken over the loss of- Francis is bound and he cannot move or love who he wants because- His name was Jack and he was different - too many eyes and too many legs and too many threads-

 

A hand upon his shoulder, “Mr Sims are you alright?”

 

His mouth is dry, it feels like paper, “Y-Yes I’m fine, just a little tired.”

 

Jack once told Francis they would see the world but the money was too short- too many hairs and- If it was for the money he had no choice but to- and spindles and fat pocketbooks and teeth-

 

It’s Mordechai Lukas who speaks, “Nothing a bit of fresh air can’t fix, come along Mr Sims. The view from the balcony is rather impressive.”

 

The Archivist wordlessly follows the man he came here to kill out onto the balcony. The air is frigid and The Archivist can see his short puffs of air as clearly as the smoke from Lukas’s pipe drifting into the night sky and into the stars.

 

What a phenomenon, stars. Gigantic masses of plasma held together by gravity, so far away from the world to look at them is to look back into your own past. It was strange to see so many stars without constant light pollution.

 

It was strange to see stars at all. Strange to see a world not yet ruled by the Eye.

 

The Archivist is beginning to sympathize with Fairchild’s fascination with the sky. It’s so vast that you can begin to forget your problems, your ties, the insatiable pull to feed.

 

The Archivist continues to look to the stars and breathe in the cold until he can feel the tips of his fingers, and then his wrists and arms and legs until he can feel his heartbeat in his chest and he can remember his own name.

 

His name is Jonathan Sims. He is thirty-one years old. Two years ago (One hundred and ninety-nine years in the future) he was promoted to the Head Archivist of the Magnus Institute. He has ended the world, he has come back to fix it. He is out on a balcony. He is next to a man, what has he come here for?

 

Lukas!

 

“It appears you have come back to yourself,” Mordechai Lukas comments as he takes another drag from his pipe, “Did the crowds get to you?”

 

“...Yes.”

 

“Hm.” Mordechai nods and seemingly goes back to his own quiet contemplation of the night.

 

It wasn’t hard to see the resemblance between Mordechai Lukas and his descendent. Both he and Peter were broad-shouldered, tall and had very large presences for men who didn’t want to be seen at all. If one were to look closer, however, you could easily spot the differences in the bridges of their noses and in the set of their jaw, and in the differences behind their eyes. 

 

The younger; colder and forsaken from birth, centuries of family tradition dimming that last bit of spark until there was nothing left behind. However, In the elder’s eyes; there was still that undeniable presence of humanity, dim, but still, present all the same.

Jon shook himself from his thoughts. It doesn’t matter how similar or different they look- both men were not to be trusted.

 

It is with that truth Jon inhales and breathes out power into his voice, “ Why have you brought me out here? What are you planning?

 

“It looked like you needed to escape so I’ve offered you a route out and now I am planning to just wait out here until Smirke forces us back in again.” Lukas reports and then his eyes widen and he brings a gloved hand to his lip in shock before frowning down at Jon, “Well that was rather rude wasn’t it?” 

 

Lukas crosses his arms and tilts his head slightly to the left in consideration, “Smirke had mentioned you were a rather strange one with even stranger abilities, but to think you would use them on a perfectly kind gentleman like myself. To be quite frank, Mr Sims, I’m a little hurt.” 

 

Jon briefly brushes into the pouting man’s mind and he can plainly see that Lukas is not offended at all, in fact, he is emitting waves of amusement and Jon would prefer to go back inside now. He cannot handle another one, he cannot deal with another one. Jon’s eye twitches, “Smirke has talked about me?”

 

“Of course he has, you’re the most fascinating person that has ever graced our humble gathering. He only spoke well of you, I assure you, but he couldn’t help but include a few more interesting details about your capabilities. I was quite looking forward to seeing if you matched up with the stories, and I must say that you do not disappoint.” Lukas steps forward and brushes a knuckle underneath Jon’s chin, “I would go so far as to conclude you are even more captivating in person.”

 

That’s it. He has to die. 

 

Jon pushes away Lukas’s hand, who just leans steps back and leans against the railing and laughs.

 

But how is he to dispose of him? Needless to say, Lukas was much larger than himself, so it would be difficult to overcome him in terms of physical strength. He could try to push him off of the balcony, but the sound of the impact would draw unwanted attention towards his location, it would also be very obvious that Jon would’ve been the one who killed him. Being thrown in jail would disable him from taking down Magnus. He couldn’t risk that chance, not when the fate of the world was hanging in the balance. 

 

There was only one logical solution. He would have to draw upon the power of the Eye to dispose of Lukas, but would that even work? 

 

With how affable Mordechai Lukas is behaving, Jon doubts he would resist any sort of questioning.

 

“Did I startle you that much Mr Sims?” 

 

For the love of- “Will you please just-”

 

Oh. 

 

“There’s a spider on your hand Mr Lukas.”

 

Jon should really have a discussion with Annabelle to stop interfering in his plans in such dramatic ways. Honestly, it really wouldn’t be hard for her to just call and tell him that Mordechai Lukas was ‘off-limits’. But why now, there wasn't any problem before, so why?

 

The man in question visibly pales and moves to swat the menace off of his hand but the spider beats him to it and leaps onto Jon’s arm.

 

Jon lifts his arm and watches as the little thing scurries across the fabric of his coat and across his wrist buttons and onto the back of his hand. It raises its front two appendages and wiggles their tips and Jon knows what it is telling him to do.

 

Lukas looks disgusted and shivers, “I’ve always disliked those things .”

 

It wasn’t warning him off, it was sending him a reminder.

 

Jon hates many things about being The Archivist. Gaining joy and feeding off of the suffering of others, knowing every little secret that someone would want private, ending the world - all make him entirely disgusted. He hates the parts about him that are similar to Elias even more. 

 

He would do anything to stop himself from being even more like the man who ruined his life- but then he remembers Naomi and Barnabas and Martin and so many countless others and he steels himself.

 

“You dislike lots of things, don’t you Mr Lukas?” he begins, lowering his hand to the rail so the little spider can go on their way.

 

Mordechai Lukas furrows his brows, “What do you mean?”

 

"You dislike conversation, especially when it's long-winded, and you dislike the rules that come with your position, especially when the majority of those standards are only there to make socialization that more tiring, but most of all, Mr Lukas, you hate people . You hate how they surround you and pester you, just so they can try to matchmake, or to propose business deals, or to ask for the smallest of loans, just to rise above their stations- just to improve their life’s just the slightest bit.”

 

Mordechai turns to leave but finds himself rooted to the floor. Eyes, upon eyes upon eyes staring, probing, searching- he feels sick.

 

“But you never cared about helping your fellow kind, no it would be better off for them to just leave you alone. Why would you want the swarm around you if they would just abandon ship once all your money dries up, no, no, it’s best to distance yourself.  But how to do it? You can’t very well leave high society; isolation is one thing but ostracization would drain your wealth, after all, who would want to make business with someone who doesn’t have connections. But you came up with a very simple answer; you just needed to make yourself unapproachable. It’s easy to be a jackass, no one would bother you that way, and everyone knows that a man can be as vulgar, and rude and slimy as he wants as long as he has the pocketbook to back it up. Much more practical to show the worst sides of a mask than to show the slightest bit of anxiety or the fear of being known, even if deep that you want to be. And that’s a very lonely thing, isn’t Mr Lukas?

 

But Mr Lukas here is the thing, I See You . I know every little thing you hide behind your mask and I know every possible sin you could commit. Would you like to know your future?

 

Jon draws from within himself and from the vast knowledge of the Eye, and he pushes it all into the head of Mordechai Lukas. Images of long empty hallways, and weeping figures, and silent rooms and forsaken ships sacrificing even more forsaken passengers and thousands upon thousands of lonely people all being fed to the hungry god at its centre; devouring and hollowing out the insides of its victims until there is nothing left behind but broken memories and empty hearts.

 

The head of the Lukas family did not fizzle out of existence but is instead silently crying in pain and to Jon’s great surprise; in empathy . The man who had seemed so large only a moment ago shudders, “Why did you show me this?”

 

This didn’t feel any better, it just makes Jon feel worse, but it had to be done, “To make a point, but perhaps I went too far.” Jon hesitates but then takes a step forward, “Should I take it back?”

 

Mordechai remains silent and Jon is struck by how strange it was that this was the man who would feed an innocent man to his God in less than a decade. People can change remarkably fast, this Jon knows better than most.

 

“Knowledge cannot be entirely stripped away, but it can be moved. I can move these memories to the back of your mind, only to resurface when you are in direct contact with the Lonely.” Jon raises his burnt hand and covers Mordechai’s eyes with his palm, “If you attempt to feed your god I will make you remember and feel the pain you are experiencing today, are we clear ?”

 

Mordechai Lukas nods his head just once and Jon begins his work.