You love Martin Blackwood.
It’s hard to say when it happened. Like anything regarding humans it was all too fast, one milestone blurring into the other until suddenly you were smitten. Love, you think, is like fear. There are no real distinctions to be made, no clear lines between this and that, before and after.
You had always known of him, as you know of everyone. But he and his lovely neuroses didn’t start to come into focus until he knocked on the door of your Institute, looking for a job.
He was beautiful to you then. Squirming in his seat. Trembling. Trying to hide behind his paper-thin lies. You turned your servant’s gaze on him and he burned underneath it.
“Hmm," you had your servant say. “Parapsychology? We certainly are in need of someone with such expertise, for sure. What do you think of the recent Pearson study on telekinesis?’’
You felt icy fear curl in his blood. The delicious fear of discovery. “W-well, I don’t—telekinesis wasn’t my...’’
“Oh, and you must have met Dr. Smith," your servant continued, barely hiding his grin. “He’s been teaching at your university for some years now. How is the old boy getting on?"
Oh, what a joy that whole interview was! You knew immediately you would keep him, how could you not? But still your servant Magnus kept him in that seat for an hour. Raking over that paper with all his lies. Lingering over every thin detail. Making up fake people and watching him stupidly nod along and pretend to know them. You reveled in it.
Was it love, then?
You kept Martin, and you Learned him, and you enjoyed him. Martin Blackwood burned when anyone looked at him, a burn that delighted you to no end. He recoiled from being Seen, from being Judged. It made him the perfect meal to have around, ready to play with and consume at your leisure.
In those early days, you would nudge Magnus to savor him. Magnus, ever obedient, performed such task admirably. Showing up when least wanted or expected. Standing over Martin. Leaning over his shoulder to see what was on his computer. Each new encounter bringing a new cascade of panic.
Oh god what if I haven’t been doing it right? What if I haven’t been doing it right and he sees?
Why is he still here? Did he see—
Oh no, he mentioned the resume. Is he going to fire me?
Please, please go away...
But Martin didn’t just hurt under your gaze, no. Instead, he was a human stuck in a paradox. He burned and hurt under the eyes of the people around him—but also ached and wasted away from being unseen. And so you got to taste something else, something almost new. Want.
Because Martin wanted to be seen. Wanted to be hurt, if it meant not being forgotten.
This drove you wild. Was that love? That delight when you could taste want mixed in with that fear? That urge to more fully sample it?
You remember the first time you had your servant Magnus touch him at one of those library meetings. Nothing untoward enough to draw attention. Just a hand on the shoulder. Squeezing. Just enough to make that fear alight in Martin, as he squirmed under the touch before going still.
What is he doing, why—
The other employees are looking please don’t—
“Rather tense, aren’t we?’’ your servant Magnus said. “Make sure you get enough rest.’’
And he held his hand there, because you wanted him to. Because Martin’s confusion and fear and terror sang right into his hands, and it made you ache with pure pleasure. Then, he let go and you got to feel that residual loss and confusion.
It couldn’t be—no, it was just a regular, friendly—
Yeah, right. Like anyone would want you like that, Martin. You wish.
“Martin?" your servant Magnus asked with faux confusion. “Are you quite alright?"
“Y-yeah.’’ Martin rubbed his shoulder, still afraid. Still burning. And yet amusingly wishing he were worthy of being hurt in the way he feared. “Just—tired."
“Take care of yourself," you had your servant say.
You didn’t repeat it too obviously, of course. You simply put the urge in your servant’s mind, had him slowly add more of those slight touches so you drink in his reactions. You loved to watch his face during those moments. That adorable uncertainty and discomfort. That conflict between terror and wishing that anyone would pay any kind of attention to him.
Was it love then? Reveling in that contact? Looking forward to any days you’d get to see him?
You didn’t have plans to do much more. Not when the set-up was already perfect as it was: him right in your Institute, ready for you to play with whenever you felt like it. But then, your servant assigned him to the Archives and a funny thing happened.
He fell in love with the Archivist.
Love mixed with fear turned out to be an intoxicating song. And not one you could resist. And was that when you fell in love? When you started to taste his own love mixed in with that fear you craved?
Or perhaps it was later—when he burned you back. When took bits of your treasured knowledge-self and destroyed them.
He hurt you, and it shook you to your core. For a moment you hated him. But perhaps that pain and anger and fear of your own only wanted to make you curl around him more. And oh, oh how beautiful his tears were after. How sweetly he shook in your servant’s hand as you branded his punishment into his psyche.
No, you think. It wasn’t a single one of those moments—and at the same time, it was all of them.
In a way, you fell in love with Martin Blackwood, but in another very real way, you were never not in love with him.
But perhaps the biggest turning point was when your Archivist fell into that deep sleep. Because then you got to hear your Martin weeping over him, begging.
“Please wake up,’’ he said. “If you have any power left—please.’’
You felt excitement curl in your deepest self, then. Because before, you had touched and felt Martin through a vessel he feared and hated. That had its own charm, of course—but what would it be like to puppet a vessel he loved? To see adoration in his eyes? To taste his fear while he lavished you with care?
And so, you called upon your sister of many strings and machinations to help you keep this Archivist. Then, when he woke up, you seized his brain and flooded it with your desire, your longing.
“Martin,’’ you said with his throat. “Martin—I have to see Martin.’’