Actions

Work Header

abridged

Chapter Text

Words come in fits.

Jon has never had a particularly healthy relationship with words - the tongue he'd learned as a child he had so few of them stick that it's nearly useless, only a taste left on his palate, with no substance or context behind them. The one he's been maintaining for years - studying, listening to, intently deciphering - still has its own many boundaries. He tries again to place marks upon the paper and finds himself face-down in the book on the counter.

"Buy something or I kick you out."

Jon turns his head slightly, peeking a single eye up through the crumpled edges of his disrespected pages and his stained, rolled-up sleeve. He doesn't have to humour Tim with a word, only sends a scowl in the direction of his chest, at the shelf behind him, wherever will get the message across that he's not to be bothered with something as trivial as an exchange of coin. Tim, ever eloquent and perfectly social, sets his own head against the counter-top aside Jon's and gives him a pursed-lip look before starting again, "Why do you take it upon yourself to just...  sour  my existence?"

"You haven't seen me  sour  much of anything, yet." Jon finally says, and after a moment, the straight line of Tim's lips break and he barks a laugh. Jon follows his figure as he sits up and moves behind the counter - and finds those  words  bubbling up again.

Perhaps even that grants too much serenity to the feeling. It's a boil. His fingernails itch. He sets his pen in the middle of the book and closes it, hoping the blank pages having their piercing gaze interrupted by the leather cover will make him feel better. There's something about the low rumble of quickly-settling freezing rain from above the ceiling, something about the gradient of temperature from his toes to his face, something about the way Tim's figure moves in such predictable and satisfactory ways where he reaches for the shelves too high for most to reach, a budding sense of  foreignness  but  comfort , and --

Jon groans again and goes for setting his head between his arms this time, fingers curled in his hair. His critical eye has closed. This is it. This is the end of logical thought forever, here it comes, the fact that he can't lay his gaze upon anything without feeling his heart thump in his chest or without feeling so starkly and invariably aware of himself and his morality and the beauty of life and all of that absolute  shit  is a fact he must now live with until he dies. He unfolds his elbows in front of him in a pathetic display of his helplessness and is only perked back to life when Tim sets a mug in one of his open, pleading palms.

"Please, for the love of all that is holy, get a drink in you, will you? You're depressing me."

"It’ll only make it worse." Jon peers into the cup anyway, trying not to smell it. "Being content is the opposite of what I want, at the moment."

"Ah - I see how it is. Well, if you want, I can take the piss out of you while you chug, and maybe it'll take a little bit of an edge off of that lust for life."

Jon sets the edge of the cup against his lips with a sigh and watches the ripples before he takes a drink. He knows Tim's backed him into a corner of handing to him the change in his pocket, but there is a momentary reprieve, a second of hope, before his heart again runs together just the right rivers to make him lapse into vague, wordless feelings. Something something, old cliche about alcohol, something something. Instead of setting it down, he tips his head back.

"I wasn't ready yet!"

"If I'd waited until you were ready-" There's a quip on Jon’s tongue but his throat stings and he has to wave a hand in front of his face as his eyes fill with tears. If he were a good handful of years more experienced with alcohol, perhaps it'd be embarrassing how strong his reaction happens, but as it stands, he has no remorse for his fit, even though Tim has been spending his time giving Jon his full attention just to catch what is, apparently, an amusing incident.

"You'd have grown out of being such a child? Goodness, Jon, I don't think that day will ever come."

"I'm going to get you fired,” Jon croaks.

Tim raises a hand and gestures to the open floor, the wooden tables and carved stools, and the half-deteriorated candles standing at their best attention but still unable to keep the corners of the establishment lit against the gloom outside.

"Everyone here heard you tell me, 'Tim, why don't you bring me down a tad, I've come in again feeling too happy for my own good!'. They'll back me up." He places a wide palm on the cover of Jon's book and slides it toward himself after his flourish, and Jon allows him to do so, deciding to nurse the unpleasantly sweet, unpleasantly strong mead under his nose rather than cause his face to leak from whatever orifices it can declare its incompatibility to the drink with.

Jon sniffles and raises a hand and each flame sat atop the wicks like little peering eyes brightens, bringing the visibility in the room up significantly - and revealing that the many patrons that could feasibly have been hiding in the dim light do not actually exist. The pub is entirely empty except for Tim, behind the counter in very unprofessionally casual wear, and Jon, wiping tears from one of his cheeks. The former goes flipping from the beginning of the book and finds nothing but blank pages, one after the other.

"Your novel is coming along." He says, his voice taking a much different tone to it that Jon can't quite unravel.

"It keeps coming to me, and the moment I go to take it down, it goes."

"I'll say. Where's it go?"

Jon gives a miserable sigh and shrugs.

"Thought you weren't much for fiction."

Bits of Tim always make Jon stutter and stop. His ears are more astute than he lets on, but the moment Jon begins to expect things from him, he fails in every capacity.

"It isn't fiction." What an awful accusation to have made against oneself.

Tim gives a disapproving hum and takes the pen from the centre of the book and sets the tip against the paper. Jon watches him like a hawk. Peter had given him that - well, no, that's not entirely true. It does belong to Peter, but it's such a trivial item to him that Jon's not sure he'd miss it if Jon took another, but he doesn't want to test the hypothesis. Tim flips it back and forth, evidently amused by its compartmentalized ink and determined to shake it all out. Jon clears his throat and waves an arm. Tim’s fingers stop trying to break open the ornate little thing which does not belong to him.

Daisy makes sure to inform Jon regularly that the guard has a story all their own about Jon and Peter. She still won't say what but does give him that downward-turned look whenever he prods. Not just her lips, but her brows, her eyes, all take on a sharp edge when he mentions the possibility of hearing it from her. What story she has behind her clenched teeth, she doesn't tell him. He'll extract it, eventually, but it's not the most interesting one he's heard. Some sort of political conspiracy? Perhaps he has a bias, but he rather enjoys the stories that involve nefarious deeds and dark magic, rather than ones about wandering witches and little  love stories,  or whatever it is that Elias and Peter are doing. 

The  massacre  sticks in his mind. She told him once, before looking odd and frustrated and clamming up, that Jon and Elias hadn’t lived within the city walls until a few months after it. The word comes to his lips each time he sees Daisy's face.  Massacre . He has to restrain himself from simply saying it when she gives him that look - but that's what she gives him. That's what his heart sifts up to the top.

Whether or not Peter gives a damn about Jon’s safety, he certainly appears to have a spot somewhat softer for Elias - if it gets Jon a lodging on occasion, new clothes when he needs them, and whatever fancy pen he desires, he’ll let the guard think what they like. Including Daisy. He just will also hear what they have to think, whether they enjoy the song and dance he takes to get there or not.

Really, the only thing of worth that Peter ever lets Jon interact with of his is Martin, and even the amount of  worth  in Martin is questionable.

"Okay, okay. What's so hard, then?" Tim begins to write.

Jon knows for a fact that Tim can not write. Or read, for that matter, so this act surprises him - until he switches his gaze from Tim's intent face, complete with tongue filed professionally between his lips in a display of absolute concentration - and finds that he's drawing, instead. The round shape of some sort of animal flows from the pen, making wet puddles on the page where Tim has obviously not handled an implement of this sort before. A triangle on one end, a long, swirling line on the other. He goes to draw another. Jon is entrained just long enough to make the silence between them just so long that Tim tries to look up into his eyes to stoke him into speaking again.

"If I knew, I would help you fix it, y’know?"

Tim sets the pen down and turns the book around, triumphantly, for Jon to see. It is quite obviously a rat, holding a poorly drawn mug between its hands. A splotch of ink makes it look like the rat has just spilt something dark and oily down its front.

"...Right." Jon mutters, waving a hand over the page to get it to dry before he closes it back up.

"I would! If this were about anything you knew a lot about, you'd have it done already, wouldn't you? Like making candles go bonkers or making really annoying noises."

"I suppose."

"Must be something terribly boring, then. Something pitifully plebeian."

"Exactly so."

"In which case, we all should be experts on coaching you in the ways of the whimsies of the everyday folk, shouldn't we?"

"Certainly follows."

Tim stares. Jon takes a breath and looks wherever else he can.

"I think you just don't want my help."

"What in the world gives you that idea." 

Jon shakes his head suddenly and snaps his jaw shut. His eyes flutter closed and a mumble comes to his throat, indecipherable at first but mounting in volume, as something buzzes. It starts the way most messages do - a chill at the very top of his head like someone’s spilt something on him - and then it takes control of the voice in his head and tailors it to exactly how Elias desires. The reverberation in his head thrums so hard that the sound in his head starts to bleed into the voice of his body, and:

“Jjjjjjjon,”  He tilts his head,

“If socialisation is your prerogative, you know where I'd prefer you ...sssspend your time. You can bring your friends to the castle if it suits you. I... trust your judgement.”  The longer Elias speaks, the easier it becomes for him to receive.

“Your wandering back to the temple in the dark worries me. I'm coming to pick you up.”

Tim sighs, mourning the loss of a moment of possibly fruitful banter and, knowing full well how little aware Jon is of his surroundings while Elias uses his voice, lifts the mead from his hand and takes a swig off the top before setting it back down beside Jon's book.

When Jon opens his eyes his fist is clenched around nothing and Tim has his back to him, whistling pleasantly while he sets about to calculating a total for Jon's expenses. If he didn't know better, it would seem as if Tim knows exactly what he's doing.

"You need to learn to mumble all your messages to yourself. One of these days, Elias is going to send you something like, 'You insufferable little brat, get your arse home, or I'll turn you into a toad where you stand', and you'll belt it out at the top of your lungs and scare everyone right out of the building," Tim pauses, "...He's not really coming to pick you up, is he?"

"Not if I have anything to do about it, no." Jon is already shoving his book under his coat and looking sadly into his glass before sliding it down a few seats. He procures exact change, which makes Tim's nose wrinkle - and then sets a few more copper pieces atop the counter. The look remains. Jon rolls his eyes.

"Okay. It would just look bad, is all," Tim prods.

"Oh, I'm aware."

"Not that you don't already make us look bad."

"I am  aware , Tim."

Tim flashes him a grin and takes the drink and finishes it off, gives it a swing to get the last drops out and onto the floor, and then sets it up with the rest of the empty cups. "Don't come back a toad, or Sasha will have my head."

"As if I could stop him."

"I think sheer force of will could keep me from becoming a toad." Tim looks at him, purses his lips thoughtfully, and nods. "Right, then. Get rained on."

Jon doesn’t give the comment the dignity of response and instead, offended, he kicks the stool he’d been sitting at.

He storms outside with just as much intensity as the weather does as he shoves the heavy doors open. The streets are dark, any mundane light snuffed by the downpour. Even under the awnings, puddles encroach over the cobbles in inky rivers. Leather-rotting, horseshit-gathering, extremity-freezing little rivers. Jon steps over them as well as he can, raising a hand and snapping his fingers. Between the skin of his digits, a light blooms and settles under his skin, crawls up his arm under his sleeve It gives him enough light to walk by and blurs his shape against the reflective, harsh droplets that pelt the streets. As incredibly much as he desires to do anything but cut Elias off before he can reach the pub, he knows how most of the townsfolk think of him, and he’d rather go the same way home he always does - give the old man a way to find him before having to go around asking after him.

Tim may be a shithead, but he doesn't deserve the complications that come along with Elias' presence - at least, he hadn't quite earned it tonight. The possibility still remains that someday, Jon will grow to hate him so much, that he'll just get drunk and wallow until Elias comes to drag him back to the temple.

As silly and cliche as it sounds, he would actually be fairly horrified if Elias were to turn anyone into any sort of small animal, including Tim. Could he ever possibly hate a man so much as to subject himself to the torture of watching that person be contorted into a tiny, ugly, groaning creature? Maybe. His disgust at the thought, though, does provoke the question in him he’s heard many times, each by someone different, in tones of fear and disgust and incredulity and even reverence: ...  Can Elias do that?

Jon certainly can't, but there are a number of spells that Elias keeps from him. With the amount of grave respect and backstabbing gossip spread evenly among the people of the kingdom in regards to Elias Bouchard, the little show tricks that he's let Jon grasp and wrestle with can't be the extent of his power.

The rumours that surround his guardian are the same that surround any witch. This should be fine, but a number of those rumours happen to include Jonathan as well, much to his chagrin. The leading theory around the castle, as reported by Martin one day, is that Jon is an illusion acting as a figurehead for Elias to set his eyes where they don't belong. Jon doesn't entirely doubt the validity of part of the statement but also resents the idea that so many somewhat educated people believe that he's simply not human. He grasps so desperately to the same humanity that everyone around him shares, it's not his fault that his hands miss the holds.

He's nearly to the third turn - there's a right into the alley, a left to avoid a dead end, and another right to exit the tight space - when his lit forearm raised above his head suddenly grows cold as dark tendrils begin to curl around his wrist. 

Jon yelps and turns to wrench away, but he's already firmly in the grip. He opens his mouth to yell, being so near to the empty street, but a voice comes over the top of his own and only serves to shut his brain off completely as a dread even colder than the initial one sets into his stomach.

" Jon ." Elias' voice hisses against him. Elias releases Jon's wrist. Really, it's no miracle or wonder of Elias' size that he is able to reach all the way around one of Jon's arms with a single hand, but the gesture goes quite a distance to making Jon feel small. "I told you I was coming to get you. Why won't you just let me walk you home?" Jon can feel Elias' eyes searching him in the dark, despite his own still adjusting to the darkness. "What have you spilt all over yourself?"

Jon sputters.

"Well, then?"

"I-"

Elias sighs and pulls an arm over Jon's shoulder, easily enveloping him completely. There's an odd slather of emotions that comes with it, and Jon entirely expects his fingernails to itch again, but the feeling under his skin has subsided. "I was visiting friends.”

Despite the nerves under his tongue, his voice maintains its bite.

"I know," Elias says, sounding vaguely disappointed, but mostly distant. Jon nearly trips over something that Elias steps over but is saved by the guiding arm over him.

"I didn't know it was going to rain." The excuse feels lame the moment it leaves him, but Jon sticks to it, trying to force his eyes to see the road ahead of him. Elias takes familiar turns. Jon blinks against the water running into his eyes.

"If you went up to the castle to play with your friends, you could have stayed inside all night."

"I'm not- I'm not  playing  with them."

"Visiting, yes. Excuse the invalid verb, I'm frustrated."

"I was able to see until you turned my light off."

"You were able to see, and the whole town was able to see you."

"The difference is that they put up   with me."

Elias laughs. Jon frowns and turns until he's drying his face on Elias' side. Ought to teach him.

The leading theory among the townsfolk, according to Sasha, is that Jon is a complicated familiar made to look like a human boy as a show of Elias' magical power, to confuse the townspeople, and to gain the sympathy of the king. As Jon shoves his wet face into Elias' warm flank as a cat might, he sees himself lending credibility to this theory. He certainly feels like a beast on occasion, but if he was nothing but a spirit meant to serve Elias, well - Elias has done a poor job of tethering him and made a grave mistake of giving him enough of his own will to refuse a variety of requests, despite being told plainly to do them and vice-versa. Aside from this, the idea that Elias would create him in such an image doesn't sit well. Why in the world would he mould Jon into this - both to confuse and intimidate? Jon is confusing, sure, but far from intimidating, and assuming the average peasant would gaze upon him and immediately be reverent to Elias’ power is absurd and something that has never once happened, as far as Jon is aware.

"It's been days, Jon. Is it so bad I want you to be at the temple by the time the sun sets?"

"Considering each fairytale witch I've read about curses people by phases of the moon or the position of the sun and what-have-you, I think so, yes." Jon’s voice is muffled by Elias’ shirt.

"I only want you home before the sun in the winter. People die out here, you know."

"It's not winter."

"It could snow at any time. That’s my definition of winter."

Jon grunts in vague disagreement. If Elias catches the disingenuous sound of acknowledgement, he doesn't say anything about it.

He's not even particularly intelligent. People seem to think that Elias is some sort of genius, or that he's terrifying, or that he's cruel. It's been nearly two decades and Jon, despite gaps, remembers very little heavy-handedness in Elias' techniques on keeping a child under his control. That small amount of kindness lent to him isn’t meant to speak to his overall good nature. He is, also, very easy to manipulate. His intelligence is lacking. Jon has never once been caught before or in the midst of sneaking out - only after he’s gone has Elias ever sent him any message or shown him any frustration.

Jon's eyes are just beginning to adjust when he catches the outline of the temple's doors with torchlight flickering behind them. It’s eerie in the dark and rain, but the heavy grey glow of the clouds in the sky lets its silhouette sit stark in its stonework. The shape means many things, but warm and dry are at the top of Jon’s list at the moment.

Elias leads him inside, raising a hand and touching the doors and then watching as they bow and open on their own. Jon doesn't intend on sticking around him much more than necessary, but Elias follows him in and to the stairs on the flank of the room filled with its benches and shallow stairs. He only quits trailing him when he goes to wash, apparently afraid that Jon will be gone when he comes back for him. Jon lights the candles in the hallway on the second floor. His room, centred above the altar holding the font, has its own wet trail led to and from it as he retrieves a set of clothes.

His room in the temple is bare bones. It’s beautiful in its own sort of way, but it’s not meant to be a room for a child to stay, necessarily. The bed is ill-fitting against a window with leaking wooden shutters stuffed with cloth to keep the cold out, which would lead him to complain about its placement if it didn’t take up all of the space left after his desk.

His desk, with its carefully filed books and scrolls and parchments of all sizes and scraps and his delicate writing implements, and now houses his change, journal, and pen. He’d rather not have any of that exposed to the elements. His dresser is also one of his few cherished things. He doesn’t have a preference for what he looks like, really, but changing into clothes that aren’t soaked through or covered in mould is one of a few things he takes genuine pleasure in.

He holds all of his clothes at arm’s length to keep them from getting wet as he heads back down to send himself through the wash. The rain has done an alright job of keeping him clean, but he does get a bucket to rinse off his front. His shirt and chest smell like mead, though he can't remember spilling it.

While he washes up, there is a knock. Jon kicks the door. Elias doesn’t try again.