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a gift; a promise

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“Elias. I want an assistant.”


“I’m sorry, Jon?”


The man on the other side of the door gives an impatient huff, and Martin commiserates. He's sick of Elias' bullshit too.


“I want an assistant. Maybe more than one, if you can spare them.”


There’s silence, and Martin can picture the amusement on Elias’ face. Of course the bastard can spare a few people. He’s kept Martin in this stupid tiny room for almost three days now, and certainly not complained of any drop in productivity. Martin doesn't regret burning a bunch of statements to distract from a Melanie Murder Attempt, but he does regret not bringing along a few more statements when Elias dragged him into the four by five foot quarters on Tuesday. Terror and boredom is the worst combination.


Anyway, Martin knows Tim’s not worked in weeks now, unable to quit but unwilling to help Elias in any way, shape or form. As for Melanie, well, she’s been actively unhelpful ever since Elias did That to her, the same thing he’s been doing every few hours to Martin. Trying to get him to break. Martin can’t say it’s not working, but it’s definitely not going to make him more useful to Elias’ cause in the long term.


Elias is talking again and Martin shuffles closer to hear him better. He doesn’t recognise this Jon fellow, but if he’s talking to Elias, there’s a good chance Martin hates him on principle.


“Why this sudden desire for help, Jon? I think you’re doing admirably. Your predecessor certainly functioned without assistants for the majority of her term, after all.”


There’s a moment of silence while the man must be thinking. Martin pities the guy, even if he does objectively resent him for being friendly with Elias.


“We both know full well that Gertrude kept a number of helpers during her first years as the archivist, many of whom performed… valuable tasks. You do want me to stop the Unknowing, correct? And any further Rituals?”


Elias laughs a little, soft and brief.


“Of course, Jon. And you know I can’t deny you anything.”


Martin gags a little at that, and oh god, is that rustle of clothes Elias touching this Jon fellow? Martin swears he hears a kiss- on the cheek maybe, not the lips, but still- and the nausea of imagining Elias showing affection to someone blends with terror as the door creaks open. Elias stands in the doorway, suit crisp and clean and blonde hair slicked back in a way that could be called handsome if he wasn’t so disgustingly, transparently sinister. Next to him is a slouched, bony figure of a man, and Martin feels a pang of annoyance at himself when he registers just how attractive he finds this man. The circular scars dotting his cheeks mirror Martin’s own, but paired with long, dark hair pulled into a messy ponytail and the silver cane he carries, they give him a well-worn, strangely handsome vibe.


Jon doesn’t react to how pathetic Martin must look and Martin’s vaguely thankful for it- there’s a toilet and basin in the corner of the room Elias dragged him into after Martin started burning statements, but he’s been wearing the same clothes since the most recent attempt to murder Elias, prompted by the discovery of Sasha a few days ago. Well, Not-Sasha.


The force of his grief and absolute rage at Elias hits Martin like a ton of bricks and he has to take a moment to tune out the others and breathe through the hurt and loss and fury. When he manages to find his way back to the present, both Elias and this Jon fellow are staring at him expectantly.


“Martin. Meet the Archivist.”


Elias looks at Martin like he’s just introduced to him to the messiah. Jon looks faintly embarrassed. Martin just laughs.


“Is that supposed to mean something to me?”


Martin knows that his voice borders on hysterical, but he can’t help the disbelief in his voice.


“You’re keeping me fucking prisoner and you didn't tell us that Sasha had been replaced by some sinister stranger monster but oh, wow, I’m supposed to fall over myself to meet some, some guy! Fuck off! Either you let me out of here, or do your spooky memory transfer bullshit and leave me alone!”


Elias sighs, impatient.


“Martin, quiet.”


He doesn’t have the power to make Martin do anything, not like Annabel Cane and her creepy spider minions, but Martin still shuts his mouth at the instruction. Elias is gazing at Jon now with a fondness bordering on reverence, and it’s creeping him all the way out.


“You can have him, and Tim and Melanie I suppose.”


Jon lets out a sigh of- victory? Relief? Something, and moves to go.


“Thank you, Elias-”


Elias tuts quietly, sending Jon a smug look that stops him in his tracks.


“But before I can let you do that, I need to know you’ll be able to control them. This one’s been… difficult.”


A sick sort of pride shoots through Martin at that. Then he remembers what being difficult entails and all of that pesky crying and shouting he's been doing, and he wilts a bit.


“Break him, and you can have the three of them. I’m sure they’ll be most helpful.”


Jon raises a single eyebrow.




Good god, Martin isn’t prepared for whatever bullshit this Archivist is going to throw at him. He just wants to go home, not like he even still has one after the Prentiss attack-


Play along.


It’s like Jon is whispering in Martin’s ear, warm breath against his cheek, but the Archivist hasn’t moved from his position across the room. It dawns upon Martin that Jon must have spooky bullshit powers like Elias.


And before you protest, remember that I can’t possibly be a worse boss than Elias.


Despite himself, Martin has to hide a laugh at that. That he could almost call the expression on Elias’ face a pout just makes it harder not to laugh.


“Jon, you know I hate it when you do that.”


So Elias can’t See what Jon telepathically dumps into Martin’s mind? Interesting. Martin would find it fascinating if he wasn’t so goddamn confused.


“Sorry, Elias. I’ll get started, then.”


When Elias puts things into Martin’s head, it doesn’t seem to trouble him at all. He doesn’t even have to be in the same room as Martin. Jon, on the other hand, stretches out a hand to touch Martin’s cheek, strangely intimate, and closes his eyes. Martin feels his own eyes snap shut.


Elias showed him many, many horrible things. His mother’s resentment, the graphic death of a childhood pet, the hatred of his ex-boyfriend, and the trauma of dozens of people he’s never met.


Jon shows him drinks after work.


A year back and half-remembered, the Christmas decorations on the walls of the pub bring back memories of the first time Tim tried eggnog and Sasha’s snarky comments about mistletoe and the hot new girl in Artefact Storage. Martin watches the three of them there, something churning deep in his gut. He’s confused for a second, and then it hits him. He doesn’t need Jon’s instructions to react.


He can’t hold back the gasping, heaving sobs that escape as he watches himself and Tim and a short, chubby black woman with soft curls and soft eyes laugh and joke together. She’s a world away from the slim, blandly pretty white woman he knew as Sasha, and he comes to the obvious conclusion with an audible “oh, God” he hopes Elias interprets as fearful.


A scar above her lip from a childhood incident with a stapler.


Messy eyeliner and bright, novelty earrings.


The warmest smile he’s ever known.


The gift Jon’s given him- Sasha, the real Sasha- hits Martin and he buckles at the knees, slumping against the wall and hitting the ground with a thud as he drinks it in and weeps. He throws in “please stop” and “don’t, please” a few times for good measure, but he thinks he’s put on a good enough show already. It’s her, the real Sasha the Not-Sasha took from them. Sasha. In the memory she shoves at his shoulder gently, smile wide and eyes kind and Martin remembers the way her friendship and affection felt.


It breaks him, but not in the way Elias wanted.


He can feel Elias’ quiet satisfaction as the bastard walks away, murmuring proud words to Jon before the door slams and it’s just Martin on the floor and Jon’s tentative hand on his shoulder. The scene before Martin fades away and he whimpers a little as Sasha slowly disappears. He keeps his eyes shut tight even as the memory disappears completely, even as he feels Jon crouch down next to him and gently grip his shoulders with both hands.


“I’m going to get you out of here, and the others, and we’re going to take Elias and these whole goddamn institutes down. I promise.”


Jon’s voice is low and sure. Martin believes him, and opens his eyes.