It was a surprisingly clear day in London when Jon set The Plan in motion. The sky was blue and bright as he left Martin’s flat, making him squint against the sun as he walked to the tube. Martin was still asleep when he left - bundled up in a blanket and looking so cute that Jon was tempted to stay - but Jon had Business to get to.
Today his wings were folded under his coat, both because of the now conspicuous nature of the Eyes within and to hide the fog still swirling up and around his shoulder blades. He found that, if he concentrated on the static just hard enough, he could keep Elias from seeing underneath his jacket.
And, of course, that too was all part of The Plan.
The tube ride was short and sweet, the cars pleasantly empty despite the early morning rush. The few people packing around Jon would muddle Elias’ Sight, he Knew, and they would keep the man from seeing even a glimpse of what he was planning.
Jon felt a new warm feeling budding in the back of his skull. It was not unlike the feeling he got when Elias Saw him but it was far kinder, almost doting in its comfort. Jon Knew now, without a shadow of a doubt, that he was favored by The Beholding. It whispered into the depths of his brain, in more images than words, that It didn’t need Elias anyways, no, Jon was the one It had always been after. Elias’ plans were just favorable to It at the time being, that was all.
And so, with the smug feeling of superiority brimming through his spine, Jon stepped through the doors of the office.
Martin woke slowly to a faint buzzing in the back of his head, and he rose with a groan to check the clock.
It’s 7:00 AM, Jon’s voice said, thrumming through his mind with a faint tinge of static. Good morning, love.
“Jon?” Martin said aloud, fumbling for his glasses. His cleared sight still brought him no sign of the man, and his hand began to shake ever so slightly against the nightstand. An eye blinked open, hovering, warm and green against the yellow of his walls.
Don’t panic, Jon said, voice soft. It’s a… er, spooky thing, Martin. He made a small humming sound, and Martin could picture the frustrated little look that Jon surely had on his face. Remember the field? How I, hm, projected my feelings, so to speak?
Martin smiled at that, coming to his feet. “Of course,” he replied, still feeling rather silly talking to himself in his quiet flat. “So,” he continued, padding to his closet to get out his work clothes. “Did you… need something?” He directed this question at the eye, which had flickered to join him at the mirror.
Today is the day, Jon said, a smile evident in his voice. The Plan, we’re carrying it out today.
Martin made a small sound of surprise as he buttoned up his shirt. “Already? Why didn’t you wake me when you left, Jon?” he asked, trying not to sound too disappointed.
Jon sighed, but there was no annoyance behind it. I needed to set things up, he said, after a moment. Couldn’t risk Elias Seeing in your head. I woke you up now, though, didn’t I?
He pulled a jumper over his button up with a chuckle at Jon’s bemused tone, turning to straighten his pants in the mirror. “I suppose you want me to message Tim and Sasha then, brief them a bit?”
That would be lovely, Martin, thank you, Jon breathed, voice flickering for a moment before coming back in with renewed vigor. I have got to get back to work now, see you soon. He paused, and then, after a beat, I love you.
“I love you too,” said Martin, smiling to himself in his empty flat. The eye blinked shut, and the feeling of being watched slowly drained out of the room.
Today was the day, and he had a job to do. He pulled his bag off its peg by the door and fumbled for his phone, pulling up the messaging app with clumsy fingers.
martinkartin [7:13 AM]
It’s time ;)
sishsash [7:14 AM]
Martin love what have we said about being ominous
Just because you’re dating spooky google doesn’t mean that you get spooky rights too
But yes, Tim and I are ready to wreck El*as’ shit
timmystonks [7:14 AM]
oh you bet your ass we are marto ;;;)
I’ve got the c4 locked and ready to go!!! hell yess arson time
martinkartin [7:15 AM]
gods tim what’d we do without you
omw to work now, see you guys soon
I’ve got The Things in my bag ;)
timmystonks [7:15 AM]
sishsash [7:15 AM]
martinkartin [7:16 AM]
I swear you two are a hivemind smh
but n e ways I’ve really got to go :( see you soon!
sishsash [7:16 AM]
See you soon Martini Mariney
timmystonks [7:16 AM]
sash I’m not even going to ask
but yes marto see you soon!!
When Martin stepped into the office at a crisp 7:30 AM, there was shouting coming from down the hall. One voice he recognized, fondly, as Jon’s - low and snarky and defensive, reminiscent of their early archive days. The other he recognized, shockingly, as Elias’, although he had never heard the man raise his voice before.
From years of working in the archives Martin knew it was best to keep his head down and keep walking. He couldn’t help himself, however, from overhearing some of their conversation as he strode past Elias’ door on his way to his desk;
“Peter Lukas is a valuable asset to the Institute-” He could hear Elias hissing, muffled as he was through the door.
“ Was, ” Jon corrected, and Martin could practically see the smug grin on his face.
“Oh you infuriating little- ”
Martin shuffled away from the door with a chuckle, speeding up to take his place at his desk. He swung his bag around into his lap but didn’t open it, instead straining his ears to hear if the muffled argument was petering out.
As if on cue, the door to Elias’ office slammed open and Jon stormed out, eyes flashing with barely restrained fury. His feathers were misaligned and standing on end, some even making their way into his long mess of hair. Wordlessly, Jon planted himself in Martin’s lap.
Martin immediately got a mouthful of feathers. “Why hello there!” He laughed, smiling down into Jon’s greying hair. “Didn’t hear you come in, ey?” He teased, earning a little huff from Jon.
“Gods, Martin, I forgot how hellishly despicable that man is! The little bastard!” Jon cried out, gesturing with his hands in a little annoyed flick. “I don’t even have to pretend to be angry around that little… that little… that little rat of a man!” He groaned, leaning back into Martin’s sweater.
“But… everything’s prepared?” Martin prompted.
Jon smiled up at him, frustration melting from his face. “Yeah. The, ah... he shouldn’t be Seeing anything in the archives for a bit.”
“How’d you manage that?”
Jon ruffled his wings behind him with a little smirk, fog twisting itself around his shoulders and up into his hair. “Let’s just say…. a little trick I, hm, learned from Lukas.”
Martin frowned at that, running one of his hands through Jon’s hair. “I don’t like you using the Lonely like that, y’know? I just…” He sighed, rolling possible words around in his mouth. “I don’t want to lose you again,” he settled.
Jon put his hand over Martin’s hand, warmth seeping from the touch. “I’ll be alright,” he said, certain. “Beholding won’t… nothing can take me anymore, Martin.”
Martin opened his mouth to ask what that meant but, before he could get anything out, the door to the archives burst open.
He was on the verge of shouting ‘ Who’s ready for some arson!!!’ as loud as he possibly could as he stepped into the archives, but Sasha’s hand on his shoulder gently pointed him towards Elias’ office and the words died in his throat. Instead he simply held his backpack aloft, wiggling his eyebrows at Jon and Martin as he entered the room.
Jon let out a breath of air from where he had been holding it, shooting Tim a glare. “Tim,” Jon said, simply. Tim got the impression that Jon knew exactly what he had been on the verge of doing, but he shrugged it off and shot his boss a patented Tim Stoker shit-eating grin, earning a sigh from the clearly exasperated man.
He slid his desk chair over to Martin’s desk and gave Jon a little smirk - Jon was still sitting in Martin’s lap, to Tim’s utmost delight. Sasha pulled her chair over to join them too, a fond smile spinning its way across her face.
Martin shot him a glance that was both incredibly excited and incredibly nervous. “So…” he began, lowering his voice to a conspiratory whisper, “You brought the goods then?”
“Indeed I did, Martarooni,” Tim replied with a chuckle, swinging his bag up onto Martin’s desk and dislodging a few loose notebooks in the process. “Dooon’t ask me how I got it,” he added, sending a wink the larger man’s way.
Sasha pulled out her own bag from where it had been slung around her hip, fiddling around in it before she pulled out a few walkie-talkies. “I know you didn’t want us getting anything out down here, Jon,” she said, stopping him mid-snark. “But I really don’t think Elias is going to mind a few walkie-talkies. ‘S he even looking?”
“...No,” Jon sighed, a begrudgingly fond look settling onto his face. He reached out and took one of the little radios, passing one to Martin as well. Martin slipped it into his bag, making very obvious care not to open the big main pocket on the front.
“And, er, thank you, Sasha. For the… walkie… talkies,” Jon finished. The words sounded strange coming out of his mouth, and he grimaced as he said them. “Is, um, there really no better name for them?”
“Absolutely not , bossman!” Tim cut in, swinging an arm around the woman beside him. “If you want help from the Tim-and-Sasha dynamic duo, you’re gonna have to make just a bit of a fool of yourself. For old time’s sake!”
Jon sighed, but he couldn't keep the warm little smile off of his face. “I’m… glad,” he said after a beat, his feathers shifting behind him. “That you’re all, er, here with me. That you don’t, you know… hate me.”
Sasha laughed at that, leaning back in her office chair. “Quite the low bar you’ve got there, Sims.” She paused, the teasing look on her face melting into something more sincere. “But yeah. We’re here for you, Jon.”
“Whether you like it or not!” Tim cut in, still half-snuggled into Sasha’s side.
Out of the corner of his eye Tim caught Martin reaching across his lap to put a warm hand on Jon’s, eyes unbearably sweet. The two of them shared a deep, meaningful look, and Tim felt the crawling sensation that he was intruding on something.
He cleared his throat rather loudly and stood, pulling both Sasha and his backpack up with him. “You need us to…” he waved a hand at the bag, “Yeah? Now is good?”
Jon nodded, tearing his eyes away from Martin to give the two of them a stiff little smile. “Good a time as any,” he replied, looking between the two of them. “Sasha?” He asked, quirking his eyebrow in an infuriatingly teasing manner.
“Don’t let Tim blow us all up,” he said, smirk on his lips. “Not yet, at least.”
Tim huffed, facade of anger only lasting a minute before melting into a fond grin. “Oh ye of little faith, bossman.” He hefted his bag in one hand and took Sasha’s hand in his other, giving Jon and Martin a little nod. “And, y’know. Stay safe, you crazy kids.”
He shot them a wink, and then he and Sasha headed off towards the tunnels.
Sasha tightened her grip on Tim’s hand, and he squeezed back reassuringly. The tunnels were cold and damp around her and the stench of something hung in the air, following them with every turn. Every so often her foot would catch on an old discarded crisps wrapper and the both of them would flinch, startled at the crinkle ringing out in the otherwise silent tunnels.
In her other hand she held aloft a page of Jon’s tight, scrabbled handwriting, detailing the paths through the tunnels and where to lay the c4. Tim had designated her the mapkeeper (“You’re the boss, babe! I’m pants with directions.”) so she was leading the way.
They came to the next small room, penultimate on their list, and Tim pulled another haphazardly wrapped clump of c4 out of his bag. He busied himself with setting it up in the corner while Sasha cast her gaze around the room, looking for any signs pointing to this space as opposed to the hundreds they had already walked past.
“Tim?” She said, aloud, her voice sounding strange in the silence.
“Yeah, Sash?” He responded, glancing up from his work. He wiped a dusty hand across his forehead, leaving a dirty little smudge on his tan skin.
She worked her lip between her teeth for a moment, fingers tracing the edges of the paper. “...Do you think this is going to work?” she asked, finally.
Tim paused, considering for a moment, before giving her a stunningly bright grin. “Yeah,” he said, voice full of confidence. “And y’know why?”
She shook her head, giving him a fond little smile. He stood from where he had been crouched and sauntered over to her, wrapping one hand around her waist and using the other to brush her hair out of her face.
“Because we’re all working on it together,” he continued with a soft laugh, spinning her curls through his dust-covered fingers. “And you all are the smartest people I know.”
“Your flattery won’t work on me,” she breathed back at him, but she could already feel her face growing hot. “But thank you anyways.”
He brushed a kiss across her forehead, and then stepped back, shouldering his pack. “Ready?” He asked, brown eyes flickering with laughter.
She grinned in response, stepping out to join him once more in the tunnels. She reached to take his hand once again but paused when her walkie-talkie began to fizzle in her bag, a voice coming through muffled by the thick fabric.
Tim paused mid-step and waited for her to fish it out, and she pressed it to her ear.
“Sorry about that,” she said, “What’s up? Over.”
Georgie’s voice crackled over the radio. “Hey Sash! Tim too,” she said warmly. “Just letting you two know that Melanie and I are here. Where do you want us? Over.”
“Meet Jon in his office, he’ll catch you up,” She responded, balancing the radio against her shoulder to free her other hand. “Have you heard from ‘Sira and Daisy yet? Over.”
Melanie cut in from what sounded like a distance away, her voice just barely audible over the bustling sounds of the Institute. “They’re all ready at the station!” She said, clearly very excited. “They’ll be the ones to answer when the police get called, so we’re all good here. Over!”
“Excellent,” Sasha said with a smile, again tracing the edge of the paper with one finger. “Keep us posted then, ladies! Over.”
“Let’s go lesbians, let’s go!!” Melanie shouted, and Georgie’s warm laughter could be heard against the radio. “Over,” Georgie added, fondness seeping into her voice. “And stay safe, you two.”
There was another flicker of static, and then the call disconnected.
“Well that’s good news!” Tim said, already walking again and pulling Sasha along beside him. “We’ve got all four power lesbians on our side… truly a Gays Against Elias mission, ay?”
Sasha laughed, pulling herself closer to him to press a kiss onto his temple.
“Gays Against Elias indeed.”
True to Sasha’s word, Jon was waiting for them in his office when she arrived. Melanie’s hand was clasped in hers, squeezing just a bit too tight, and the shorter woman had the biggest grin on her face that Georgie had ever seen. As they stepped through the door he rose to meet them, his ruffled wings betraying his nerves despite his outwardly calm demeanour.
Georgie was struck, then, by just how tired he looked - his eyes were dark and sunken, all five of them, and his hair was streaked not only with grey, but with white. His wings were in a similar state, saturated with fog as they were, and the eyes amongst his feathers flashed intermittently with pale blue.
Jon didn’t… he didn’t look very much human at all anymore, she thought, watching the tight curve of his spine, the way his fingers twitched in front of him, nails the slightest bit too sharp.
“Georgie,” he said, interrupting her thoughts.
She gave him the warmest smile she could manage, squeezing Melanie’s hand as she did so. “Jon,” she replied, watching from the corner of her eye as Melanie’s posture stiffened.
“You look… well,” Melanie said, forcing a grin. Her eyes, too, travelled down Jon’s face, and her disgust was thinner veiled than Georgie’s. “It’s been a bit, Sims.”
Jon sighed, leaning back against his desk. “It’s been… rough couple of days, Melanie.” He looked up to meet Georgie’s eyes, and for the first time she noticed that they were more green than brown at this point. “And you two?” He continued, oblivious to her staring, “How have you been? Moving in go alright?”
Melanie released Georgie’s hand to cross her arms, scowling at Jon. “I told you not to scrounge around in my head like that, Sims. ”
Georgie cut in with a placating smile, putting an arm around Melanie’s shoulders. “It’s been great, Jon. And I’m glad that... you and Martin seem to have worked everything out?”
The faintest bit of red crossed Jon’s face at that, and Georgie mentally tallied another point on her side of the board. He cleared his throat, embarrassment clear in the twitching of his wings, and straightened up from where he had been leaning.
“Well. Er, yes. Martin’s been… lovely. Fantastic. Anyways,” he stuttered out, forcing his feathers to stand down. “I’m sure you both know I called you here for a reason?”
Melanie’s grin returned at that. “Finally kicking the rat bastard’s ass, right?”
Jon let out a low chuckle, the tension finally draining from his shoulders. “In a sense.”
“What do you need us to do, Jon?” Georgie cut in, hand straying to the walkie-talkie in her pocket. “If you need us to contact Basira again I-”
Jon was already shaking his head. “No, no. For now I just need you two to make sure… everyone else, er, gets out of the Institute.”
Melanie visibly deflated. “So we don’t get to kick Bouchard’s ass?”
Jon grimaced, waving his hand in the air in a so-so gesture. “I mean…” he began, slowly, “You’ll be involved later it’s just…”
“This is most important now, yeah?” Georgie finished for him, stepping forward to take her girlfriend’s hand. “We’ll get them out for you, Jon. Nobody else gets hurt.”
Jon nodded, a somber look crossing his face. “It may be hard getting them all out without Elias noticing, can you manage it?”
“Can you block his creepy stalker vision or something?” Melanie asked, hands on her hips. At Jon’s reluctant nod, she grinned. “Then Georgie and I, the tech-savvy power couple we are, can rig the fire alarms to only go off on the upper floors. Keep Bitchard distracted for us, yeah?”
Jon smiled slightly at the nickname, cracking his knuckles slowly. Georgie startled, again, at the uncanny twisted shape of his fingers, just slightly too sharp to be normal. Jon continued talking, oblivious again to whatever thoughts were passing through her head.
“Yeah… yeah. That should work. My Archives are under enough cement so that… hm... yes, he won’t be able to hear the alarms.” He paused, a fond look settling onto his face. “And thank you. Both of you.”
Georgie didn’t have any time to ponder the way he had said My Archives , the way his eyes had flashed green - just for a moment - before Melanie was pulling her towards the door. “Stay safe, Jon,” she managed, smiling back at him as she was swept from his office. He grinned back, animalistic for a moment, before the door shut behind them.
Martin’s radio crackled where he had placed it on his desk, jolting him away from the poem he had been writing. Tim’s staticky voice could be heard faint from the other end, and he scrambled to place it to his ear.
“Sorry, Tim, what was that? Um, over.”
“Hey Marto!” Tim said, grin clear in his voice, “The, ah, you-know-what is all placed and ready to go! Over.”
Martin sighed in relief, leaning back into his chair. “Everything go okay with the wiring? Over.” He asked, trying to not betray the nervousness buzzing like electricity through his legs.
“Yepperoni! Not to brag or anything but… my girlfriend is a genius,” Tim said fondly. “They’re all wired together and the switch even has a safety feature! Would ya look at that-”
Sasha cut in, laughing. “It’s to keep your backpack from killing us all, babe.”
Martin snorted, fiddling his pen between his fingers. “Melanie and Georgie look like they’ll be ready whenever,” he said, “So I guess... it’s up to Jon now. When we start, I mean. You two going to wait for us down there? Over.”
“Yeah,” Tim said, “Let us know when Jon gives you the mark to head down, kay? Over.”
Martin sighed, tapping his pen against the table. “Actually, Jon can probably give you the mark himself, huh? Over.”
Tim made a small noise of confusion, audible even over the radio. “How's that? He doesn’t have a talkie on him, does he? Ah, over.”
“No?” Martin said, confusion brimming in his voice. “He does that mind projecty thing, yeah? You didn’t… he didn’t tell you? ...Over.”
“He can what -”
“Hold up, Martin, let me get this straight,” Sasha cut it, drowning out Tim’s indignant shout. “Jon can… he’s telepathic or some shit? Over.”
Martin squirmed in his seat. “It’s more like… he plants his thoughts in your head? Like, you can see his emotions and stuff, um, he really…. hasn’t told you about this? Over.”
“First I’ve heard of our boss being a fucking X-Man, ” Tim began, but Sasha cut him off yet again.
“Has he always been able to do that?” She asked, suddenly serious. “Like, since when? Can he make you… y’know, think thoughts that aren’t, like… yours? Over.”
He… hadn’t thought of that, actually. But Jon wouldn’t do that.
“Jon would never do that,” he said aloud, “He’s only ever like… shown me how much he… ah… how much he... loves me.” Martin flushed, face burning. “And he used it this morning to wake me up and… tell me what the plan was? But he’s never made me think anything, promise. Over.”
Sasha was silent for a moment, and then her sigh could be heard over the radio. “I’m… a little bit scared, Martin.” She paused, and Martin could hear her scuff her shoe against the cement of the tunnel. “I mean, what happens to him when Elias, y’know… beefs it? Does he take his place? Jon’s just sort of been, ah, weird lately? Since the Lonely thing? And I mean, I’m sure he wouldn’t do anything but…”
“-Can we trust him,” Tim finished, voice grim. “I’d like to think so, but… what will killing Elias do to him? Like how we couldn’t quit before, yeah? Will it… mess him up or something?”
“Whoah, whoah, whoah, guys,” Martin said, anger seeping in. “You can’t seriously be… of course we can trust Jon! You saw how much he went through to, to save Daisy, and how he saved you, Tim, from the Unknowing? And Sasha, that, that Thing totally would have killed you if it wasn’t for him - I thought we were over this! He’s our friend! ” He let out a breath he hadn’t known he was holding, inhaling heavily.
Sasha and Tim were both silent for a moment.
“If you…” Tim began, hesitant. “If you think we can trust him, Martin. I believe you.”
“Same here,” Sasha said, quietly. “Yeah… yeah! It’s Jon, for chrissakes, twink couldn’t hurt a fly.” She laughed, stiffly at first and then slowly the tension eased from her voice. “Sorry for doubting him, Martin. It’s just… It’s been a week.”
Martin let out a long sigh of relief, leaning back in his chair. “Thank you. Thanks. Oh, ah! Over. Sorry I’ve been forgetting to-” He cut himself off, huffing out a laugh. “Yeah.”
“You know, Marto, you make a great boyfriend. I’d have to say I’m even a little bit jealous of Jon for this one,” Tim said, shaking off his stiffness with a chuckle. “Over and out, Marto. Tell Jon to Vulcan mind meld or whatever whenever he’s ready.”
“Will do,” he replied, relief seeping into his voice. “You two, stay safe down there! Over and, over and out?”
The walkie talkie clicked off in front of him, and he breathed out a third, long sigh. Jon… he thought, mind wandering to the way his eyes had glowed after the Lonely, the way his frame was just slightly too sharp when he had wrapped Martin in an embrace, the way he eyed people on the streets as if they were… as if they were…
Jon, he thought, You better know what you’re doing.
A big, green eye blinked open in the air in front of them, startling Tim out of the animated conversation he was having with Sasha.
The others are coming down, Jon’s voice said, flickering with static throughout the tunnel. Martin’s on his way already, Melanie and Georgie should… be there soon. He paused, feedback fuzzing in the silence. And I’ll be down-
“-About right now,” he finished, stepping out and around the corner. The eye blinked shut and then back open above him, joining the other eyes hovering around Jon’s head.
“Heeeey, boss,” Tim said, coming to his feet. “What have we said about, y’know, being spooky?”
Jon grimaced, feathers shuffling behind him. “ ‘S efficient,” he grumbled, joining the two of them in the room. Tim tried not to focus too hard on the eyes floating around them, but the mounting pressure in the room was already giving him a headache.
“Jon,” Sasha cut in, giving him a pointed look. “Whatever that is, could you cut it out?”
Jon started, a brief look of annoyance crossing his face before settling into embarrassment. “Sorry,” he said, his eyebrows furrowing in concentration. The eyes flickered shut around him, and, like a drain being pulled, the pressure ebbed out of the room. “Better?”
“Yeah, thanks,” Tim said, letting out the breath he had been holding. The silence very quickly became awkward, punctuated only by the faintest buzzing of static.
Sasha opened her mouth to say something, break the silence maybe, when Martin turned the bend.
“Hullo!” He said, smile on his face and lighter in his hand. In his other he held what appeared to be a full can of gasoline, which was dripping a thick trail behind him. “Gasoline’s all spread,” he said lightly, coming to stand at Jon’s side.
Jon gave him a fond little smile, apparently enamored by his boyfriend’s arsonist tendencies. “Thank you, Martin,” he said, pressing a kiss to Martin’s cheek.
Sasha grinned at the two of them, planting her hands firmly on her hips. “Well look at you two lovebirds,” she teased, “Nothing more romantic than a can full of gasoline, yeah?”
Martin’s face burned pink and he averted his eyes, before straightening up fully. “Oh look! Georgie and Melanie!” He exclaimed, voice stretched in the manner of someone who is quite obviously changing the subject.
True to his word the couple rounded the corner, hand in hand. Melanie had a shit-eating grin on her face that rivaled Tim’s own, and Georgie was wearing a smug little smile.
“Everyone else is out,” Georgie said in leu of a greeting, stopping in front of them. “Jon, everything else’s set?”
Jon nodded, looking down at his watch rather unnecessarily. “Elias shouldn’t be down for another… half hour, if everything goes accordingly, so we’ve got just enough time to... get to the, ah, the Panopticon. Everyone ready?”
The group nodded, expressions around the circle darkening into various shades of grim. Tim took Sasha’s hand nearly on instinct, watching as Jon strode purposefully out into the tunnels. He turned, for a moment, to look back into the room, and his eyes flickered an uncanny green.
“Let’s go, then.”
Elias coughed discreetly into his fist, scowling up at the ceiling. Something had been interfering with his Sight today - something that felt painfully like… no, he put that behind him already. No use thinking about his lout of a husband, the way his beard was scratchy and uncomfortable when he kissed him, the way his fisherman’s sweater was starchy with salt water, the way he…
Beholding damn it all, Elias missed him.
But right now the entire Institute was foggy and indistinct even to him, and The Beholding was being completely, infuriatingly unresponsive. If he didn’t know better he would assume Peter was making a visit, his presence always seemed to leave the halls misty and vague even when his Sight was at its best.
Peter was gone, though.
His Archivist - his damned insufferable Archivist - had killed Peter, had killed his husband , and he really had better things to worry about right now, but he couldn’t get the thought of him out of his head. A lesser man would succumb to these feelings, these choking twisting feelings that might’ve been something like sadness… but Elias was not a lesser man, and these feelings were beneath him Eye damn it all -
A curl of fog swirled in from the crack under his door, and he froze.
“Peter?” he said, aloud, not able to mask the way his voice shook. He coughed again, shook his head, and came to his feet. “Is that you?” he tried, his words coming out firmer this time.
“I swear,” he began, crowding out his upset with anger, “This better not be one of your little office pranks, Mr. Stoker.” He took a tight, measured step forward and then, losing his composure, took another two quick jolting ones and flung open the door.
The hall was empty save for a lingering cloud of fog, leaving a dusting of moisture on everything it touched. A deep chord of unease struck through Elias’ heart and he took a few more steps, following the trail the mist made down deeper into the Archives.
He followed like that, dazed, paying no mind to the empty desks of his employees, paying no mind to the crushing silence of the Institute around him. He could smell, there, in the mist - something similar to Peter’s cologne? Perhaps the faintest hint of salt water and fish - before it was gone, and he found himself in front of the door to the tunnels.
It was laying open, which, on any other day, may have bothered him. It had been years since he had gone down in the tunnels but today he strode distantly down the steps, heart throbbing unfamiliarly in his chest. He saw the flash of something white - his husband’s beard? That ugly fisherman’s sweater that he insisted on wearing? - as he turned the corner, ignoring even the slick feeling of gasoline beneath his shoes.
“Peter?” he said again, weaker this time. His voice sounded faint even to his own ears, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. He took a step and then another, shaky, not even recognizing the familiar path, that wretched path he had weaved hundreds of times.
His head throbbed, from the lack of Beholding’s presence or from whatever strange emotion he was feeling he couldn’t tell. His throat grew thick with fog as it weighed around him, pressing in on all sides.
Peter is gone. That thought sent a spark of something deep into his stomach, and, in his stupor, he barely registered his eyes growing wet. Peter is gone, and you are alone. The fog swirled around him, pushing him forwards into the tunnel, sending him after the phantom smiles and crinkling eyes that he saw at every turn.
“I loved you,” Elias said aloud, talking to no one in particular. “I do think I actually loved you.” He paused, the words rolling around in his mouth along with that strange pressing feeling of fog. “You were… an anchor, I suppose, as horribly corny as that sounds. The only damn person I could trust in this Institute, and…” His throat grew thicker, whether with emotions or fog even he couldn’t tell.
“And you’re gone, ” he choked out, the final word echoing around in the mist, louder than it should have been.
All at once there was something green, searching, and familiar in the darkness, and the fog cleared around him with a hiss of static. He stopped automatically, held in place by the sudden overbearingly crushing feeling that he was being Watched, the pressure of hundreds and hundreds of eyes all locked on his body. Suddenly, Elias felt very very small here, in this cavernous room still swirling at the edges.
The rest of the fog cleared away, and then he was standing in front of the Panopticon.
His heart - or what was left of it - dropped down into his stomach, his throat growing dry. He could feel the empty pit in his head where The Beholding was - where The Beholding should have been - so much more clearly now, and the pressure only increased as he searched for that familiar static.
Jonathan - The Archivist, his Archivist - stepped out of the darkness, hundreds of eyes blazing in unbridled fury, and, for the first time in his life-
Elias Bouchard felt afraid.
The Panopticon made Martin feel… It made his skin crawl. No matter which way he turned he still felt eyes on his back, and he knew it wasn’t Jon, because Jon was focused on-
Martin followed the line of Jon’s eyes - did he have more than before? They covered his arms and neck now, following the circles of his scars like connect-the-dots. They were all focused on Elias, Elias Bouchard, stumbling into the Panopticon in a haze of fog.
Martin didn’t think he had ever seen Elias Bouchard stumble… and then the fog cleared, and Martin actually saw him blink tears from his eyes.
Jon stepped forward, wings snapping open with a whirl of fog and a hiss of static, making the pressure in the room increase tenfold until it was nearly unbearable. Elias flinched back at that, and Martin thought he might even see fear in the lines of Elias’ face.
“You can feel it, can’t you?” Jon asked Elias, voice brimming with a sick sort of ecstasy.
Elias tightened up at that, setting his shoulders and forming his face into a hard mask. He couldn’t hide the way his hands quivered, however, thin and wiry fingers twitching against the purple of his suit pants.
“The Beholding doesn’t want you anymore,” Jon crooned, voice thick with static. “You feel it now, the emptiness in your head, the pressure on your shoulders - the fear of being watched twisting in your gut like a maggot .” Eyes flickered into view above his head, one after the other, until the circular walls of the Panopticon were teeming with green.
Martin took a step back. Tim and Sasha were grim beside him, occasionally shooting glances at the body of Jonah Magnus - the original Jonah Magnus - which lie behind him on the floor, dilapidated and dusty in the green glow of the eyes. Melanie had a hungry look on her face, eyes fixed on Elias’ face, and Georgie just looked... sad. Her eyes were set on Jon’s back and they swam with pity, tracing the too-sharp curve of his shoulders and the twitching masses of feathers arching from them.
Elias opened his mouth to say something but all that came out was a thin whine of feedback, lost in the static of the room. This is when the fear finally began to show on his face, amber eyes flickering along the walls and up to meet Jon’s green and unyielding glare.
“ Elias Bouchard, ” Jon continued, his words crackling and spitting. “You are expendable. I have seen the sky and it is full of Eyes and there is no place for you in it, the pages of the journal will not write of you nor will you ever see what is written within.” The cadence of his voice dipped up and down, carrying with it the weight of a statement as the eyes flickered overhead.
“You have been a pawn ever since you came to the Institute and you will continue to be after you leave,” he hissed, the words no longer his own. “You have been a prop in its play, you have brought me to fruition and The Eye approved of that but you have gone too far and now you must be punished .”
Jon’s wings encompassed the room, completely blocking the two of them from sight for a moment, before dipping down again to flap once, twice, three times. The wind from them whistled through the room, tousling Martin’s hair around his ears. Jon lifted, steadily, into the air with one more steady flap, hovering just high enough to give them a view of the horror painted on Elias’ face.
“ Elias Bouchard,” Jon said again, cruelly. Elias flinched back but was held in place by the weight that now pressed down on all of them, blanketing the room in static. Jon took a deep inhale of breath, and then met Elias’ eyes with all of his own. The ones on the walls, the ceiling, his arms and neck, the ones hovering amongst the waves of his hair - they all turned to focus on the man in the center of it all, and Elias was afraid.
When Jon began to speak next, it was with a somber finality.
“ You who watch and know and understand none. You who listen and hear and will not comprehend. You who wait and wait and drink in all that is not yours by right.”
Elias began to scrabble at his throat, yellow eyes wide and frantic.
“ Come to us in your wholeness. Come to us in your perfection. ”
The weight in the room pushed Elias to his knees, Martin and his friends beside him mirroring the movement as the feeling of being watched settled over them in waves.
“ Turn your gaze on this wretched man and bring with it all of your glory, all of your knowledge, all of the fear that you sow that none but I can comprehend - Bring to him the same terror that he wrought on those who crawl, those who stride, and those who leap. Bring to him the crushing weight of your Eyes, bring to him the knowledge that he is Seen in his entirety.”
Jon looked at Elias, really and truly Looked at him. There was pity on Jon’s face, just for a moment, and then it twisted into cruel satisfaction. Elias looked up at him with the eyes of a man who had nothing, with the eyes of a man who was begging silently, silently for mercy. Martin watched Elias silently mouth, tears running down his face, for Jon to please, don’t do this-
“ Elias Bouchard, ” he said again, landing in front of the man with a thump and a swirling of feathers.
“ I cast my Gaze, ” Jon said, a triumphant grin on his face, “and you are seen. ”
Nothing happened, for one blissful, silent moment, and then Elias’ eyes blew wide.
He began to scream like Martin had never heard anyone scream before, the words ripped from his throat with the popping and hissing of recorder feedback. He threw out a hand in a last-ditch attempt to grab for Jon but already his fingers were unraveling, starting from the fingertips and working its way down. Slowly, his arms unfurled into thin, twisting and dripping piles of tape, lines already working their way up and across his chest as he continued to shriek.
The unraveling reached his throat and he choked, his screams replaced by the ear-splitting hiss of static. Martin couldn’t tear his eyes away and he watched, in stunned silence, as Elias Bouchard was peeled from the outside in. Elias’ eyes met Martin’s for one, horrible, desperate moment, and then he was curling, tearing apart until all that remained was a bloody pile of film.
Jon knelt, wings folded behind him, with something akin to reverence on his face. He reached into the curve of his wing and produced a tape recorder, wheels empty of film. With a cold, cynical expression he reached down into the bloody mess, grabbing the edge and carefully, precisely, feeding it into the recorder. He crouched like that, for what must’ve been less than a minute but felt to Martin like hours, winding the tape methodically around the wheels.
He straightened up, blood on his trouser legs, and Elias Bouchard was no more. Jon slipped the tape somewhere back into his wings and turned to Martin, green eyes steely.
Martin couldn’t help but flinch back, just for a second, before he registered the nod that Jon was giving him. He took a deep breath and turned around, facing the body behind him. It was shifting, now, twisting and writhing subtly against the cement flooring.
He lifted his leg, took another, shaky inhale, and then drove his foot through the skull of Jonah Magnus. It crumbled easily under his boot as if this was the way it was meant to be destroyed, the rest of the body quickly disintegrating after it.
Georgie cried out, the sound amiss in the quiet room, and Martin whirled back around.
Jon was doubled over behind him, wings twitching above his shaking shoulders. The eyes in them flickered open and shut, cycling through a spectrum of colours that left Martin reeling.
“Jon?” he asked, dread pooling in his stomach. “Are you… You alright?” He took a shaky step forward, hand reaching out but hesitating to actually touch the man (?) in front of him.
It was silent, for a moment, static still popping in the shadows.
And then Jon began to scream.
The pain rolled through him all at once, a horrible pulsating thing that started in his head and filled his body. He felt like a doll overfilled with stuffing, like his skin was too tight against what was inside, like whatever dark emptiness used to hover in the back of his skull had expanded and poured him full like a tall glass of dark, writhing ink.
Distantly, he could hear those people yelling - his friends? - but his head, too, was submerging itself in thick, bubbling static and his ears throbbed with the buzz of it. Something was in Elias and then suddenly it was in him too, jumping from the spool of tape to curl inside the cavity where Jon’s organs should have been. It whispered to him with that familiar hum of recorder feedback, that deep purr of Knowing, that he belonged to It, now, and didn’t it feel nice? Belonging to something, Archivist, belonging to It, belonging to the Eye-
He could feel the thing inside him swirling, buzzing, hissing, popping, shifting his innards and organs and bones into something that was new, something that Belonged. It thrummed through his wings like electricity and burned through the eyes popping open - down his arms, his throat, his legs… His hair hung damp in the sweat of his face and still the Beholding ripped him open from the inside, stealing his breath as he breathed it in, deep and gasping and desperate. He felt a warm hand on his shoulder and the thing in him hummed, greedy with the Knowing of it all.
No, Jon thought, pushing back against it as hard as he could manage, not Martin, not him, please, he’s all I have left-
And the thing in him paused, pensive. He felt it, then, the thing that was warm and sharp and wrong and right, settle in him, curling like a cat somewhere deep in his chest. He could see it smile, rows and rows of boxy teeth, glistening white amongst all that dark static.
It twitched once more and then melted into him, filling the cavity underneath his skin with something warm, comfortable and thrumming.
Jon had the sudden, uncontestable feeling that this is what he was meant to be. The Beholding whispered to him again, promising power and a shifting, twisting, lovely new body-
No, Jon thought again, smiling this time. I’m… fine like this.
If the thing inside him contested this it had no words to express so, the black mass shifting once again into things resembling bones, muscles, organs, tendons, shifting back into that scrawny and wonderful body with those broad, arching wings. It filled him again but kindly this time, and slowly he could feel his fingers, and then his arms, and then the rest of him, numbness to pins-and-needles to the warm and familiar grip of Martin’s hand in his.
He looked up, his green eyes meeting Martin’s worried blue, and he smiled.
It took him a moment to regain his footing but then he was standing, wiping the thin trail of inky black blood from where it had dripped down from his nose. Martin and the others were staring at him, wary and afraid, so he turned to them, his face softening into something warm and fond.
“It’s…” His voice came out hoarse and he coughed, once, then tried again. “It’s done.” And then again, as if he couldn’t believe it, “It’s done. It’s, It’s… it’s done. It’s all over.”
The worry on Martin’s face was replaced by a crashing wave of relief, and he swept Jon up into his arms. Jon felt his shoulders relax, not-muscles and not-tendons loosening under the warmth of Martin’s shaking, throbbing chest. He buried his face in it, reveling at the sound of a beating heart. “It’s done,” he whispered, carefully, into the wool of Martin’s jumper. “We… we’re all free from it. From him.”
And then he was set back down on the floor as he laughed, laughed, laughed, disbelief shaking him to the core. Martin’s voice joined his in a deep, rumbling chuckle and then the rest of them followed suit, filling the Panopticon with the most joy it had heard in years.
“Let’s go home,” he said, bringing his hand to Martin’s cheek to wipe away the tears there.
“Yeah,” Martin breathed, smiling down at him.
“Let’s go home.”
“Martin? I’m heading out!” Jon called, the sounds of him pulling on his coat echoing through the flat.
Martin lifted his head from his writing, smiling in the direction of the door. “Have a good day at work, love!” he responded, setting down his pen.
Jon stepped back into the room and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, green eyes flickering in the low light of morning. “Of course. Best of luck job hunting, dear,” he said, smiling down at Martin through a veil of lightly curled grey hair. Martin kissed him back warmly, and then settled in his chair to watch Jon stride purposefully out into the morning mist of central London.
It had been a few months since they torched the Institute, Tim’s c4 and Martin’s gasoline doing a spectacular job of burning it to the ground. Since then, Martin had never been happier. He and Jon had bought a flat together, a two-bedroom cozy thing that already felt like home. Tim and Sasha lived just a few tube stops away, the two of them moving into Sasha’s old flat.
Jon had, out of some miraculous stroke of luck, gotten a job at the nearby library, and he fit right in amongst all the shelving and organization of books. He was still shaken from the incident, of course, they all were, but Jon hid it the best of all of them, crying those inky tears of his behind the closed door of his office when he thought Martin wasn’t around.
Ah, Jon’s office.
When they had first found the flat it had a little guest room off the main area, smaller than the other bedroom and with no windows set into the brick walls. Martin and Jon had already agreed to share the main bedroom, which was airier and nicer anyways, so the guest room quickly became Jon’s study - for the first few weeks Martin watched as Jon set up a desk, a bookshelf, normal office things to make use of the space.
And then, about a month in, Jon shut the door.
Martin hasn’t seen in there since, both out of a respect for Jon’s privacy and out of a lack of the key needed to get it open. It didn’t bother him at first - if Jon was embarrassed of his clutter and wanted to keep the door shut, Martin full heartedly understood. But it had been months, and, every time Jon left, he always surreptitiously locked the room as he slipped out from its depths.
Martin was normally a patient man, of course he was, and he respected Jon - he really did! But he was also a curious mind and, after months of waiting, he knew he could sit by no longer.
So today he watched Jon leave for work, kissed him goodbye, and, while his boyfriend wasn’t looking, stole the key out of his pocket.
The door clicked shut behind Jon after a few more moments of the man bustling around - getting his bag together and that sort of thing - and Martin immediately sprung to his feet. He went to peer out the window to make sure Jon was really, truly gone for the day and, at the sight of his boyfriend’s receding back, he turned to regard the door to the office.
It was the same as all the other doors in the flat, old dark wood worn with age. He couldn’t help but swallow nervously as he approached it, key in hand. What would Jon hide from him? He thought, pausing before it. Maybe it’s nothing, maybe I’m just being nosy, maybe…
He reached out and slit the key into the lock.
It turned easily, and the door swung open. It creaked as it did so, as if out of some horror movie cliche, and Martin stepped forward to fumble for the light switch on the wall. It flicked on and, for a moment, Martin had to blink to get his eyes used to the light.
Then, his eyes focused on what was inside the room, and his heart rose to his throat.
He remembered watching as Jon had set up a desk, a bookshelf, a filing cabinet… none of these things were visible anymore. On every surface, covering every single dusty square inch of the little room were papers, hundreds of them, all scribbled in Jon’s favorite blue ink. The majority of them were all piled up in the center in what Martin couldn’t help but see as some sort of haphazard bird’s nest, the center hollowed out in the rough size of a man.
The shelves that were visible were stacked with tape recorder after tape recorder, each an uncanny shade of red and labelled with a different name. His eyes ran across one marked Elias Bouchard and he shuddered, horror wedging itself somewhere deep in his chest.
Feathers, too, were scattered across the floor, piled up in the center of this nest and all of them flickering with eyes. Martin picked one up almost out of habit, watching as the brown and grey slowly turned to green as an eye opened to look at him.
He dropped it in surprise, wincing as all the eyes on the feathers turned to focus on him.
He took another step forwards, reaching down to pick up a paper. His eyes widened further as he skimmed the words and he reached for another, and then another, all of them sending his heart deeper and deeper down his throat;
Statement of Nicholas Reston regarding a series of imaginary people. Statement of Vincent Košmrlj Dobršek regarding a startlingly empty ocean. Statement of Karin Barašin regarding an infestation of roaches. Statement of Cara Crowley regarding a night with no day.
They were all statements, each and every one of them - some written in a frantic, scrawling hand, others written in tight, precise script. Some were even written in a flowing cursive that he knew Jon didn’t possess. A few were splattered with ink, almost illegible, but Martin caught a few words about a man with wings and far too many eyes as he flicked through the stacks.
He startled backwards as an eye flickered into existence in the air above him, day-glo green and hissing with static. He frantically dropped the papers he was holding, trying to school his face into something not-guilty and not-terrified of the fact that somehow, Jon was still taking statements. He stepped, slowly, backwards, socked feet crunching on the pages as he padded towards the door. He maintained steady eye contact with the eye as he moved, careful to not make any sudden movements, and-
A hand fell on his shoulder, making an involuntary screech spill out of his mouth.
He was gently pulled backwards into the hallway, light turning off after him, by the person behind him, and he watched through a dazed film of fear as the sharp fingers reached over his shoulder to lock the door back. He felt a pressure in his head, horrible and writhing, as if somewhere, a recorder was whirring in a barely-audible feedback loop.
The hand turned him around and he forced himself not to screw his eyes shut, a cold sweat breaking out across the back of his neck.
He turned to meet a tight frown, grey hair, and a very familiar thin face.
The fear in his stomach didn’t vanish even as Jon’s face softened, even as he apologised for the mess in the office. The sick feeling stuck with him as Jon explained he had the day off, as his boyfriend busily prepared Martin’s favorite tea without even asking how he took it.
“Jon?” he asked, quietly, wrapping his hands around the warm mug as it was passed to him.
Jon hummed in response, turning to lean back against the counter and regard Martin with eyes that should have been familiar and lovely. The green just made him feel sicker, now.
“Why are you… still taking statements?” He questioned, frowning softly into his tea.
Jon’s face fell, and, for a moment, something black and viscous flickered behind his eyes. He tapped a too-long fingernail against the ceramic of his mug, deep in thought, his wings rustling behind him against the tile.
“I..” Jon breathed, letting the words come out slowly and purposefully, as if he had been rehearsing it. “I need to. If I don’t… take the statements, Martin, The Beholding, it’ll - you have to believe me, if I could stop I would.”
“What happens to the people?” Martin asked, although he thought he might already know.
Jon’s jaw snapped shut, and the not-muscles tensed in his cheeks. A little crack worked its way across the mug in his hand, splitting a cartoony eye in half as it blinked up at him. Jon sighed, looking down at his feet, before glancing back up to meet Martin’s eyes with his.
“The, ah,” Jon sighed again. “They... become the tapes. Same as, as Elias.”
Martin swallowed, back crawling with memories of unravelling fingers and that horrible staticky scream-
He cleared his throat, squared his shoulders, and looked up at Jon. Jon was regarding him with poorly disguised anxiety, fingers still clicking unnaturally against the porcelain.
“Okay,” Martin said, after a beat. “That’s… I won’t lie Jon, that’s pretty bad. But I…”
He met Jon’s eyes and smiled softly.
“I’ll support you anyways. No matter how much… how far from human you get, Jon I… I love you. And I’m here for you.”
He reached across and took Jon’s shaking hands in his, carefully extracting the cracked mug from his grip. Jon finally smiled, a relieved little thing that made his face look so much younger. They both let out the breath they had been holding, the tension slowly easing out of the room.
“Now what do you say we actually get your statements organized?” He asked, cracking an uncertain grin.
Jon laughed, high and unnatural, and pulled him in to plant a kiss on his forehead.
“Yes, I… do suppose they’re a bit of a mess. I’d quite like that.”
And Martin felt, suddenly, that, even if things wouldn’t quite ever be normal again, they could at least… be okay. Here, and now, with his not-quite human boyfriend and his not-quite sane set of motley friends, he thought maybe, just maybe, they could end up happy after all.