He finds the statement tucked into the box in Elias's office, between more ancient letters and tapes by Gertrude. He feels it calling to him as soon as he opens the box which he's sure doesn't bode well for its content. It takes a moment for him to date the statement: the impeccably neat cursive print doesn't look like it was written recently but the paper is fairly new. It likely isn't more than a few years old. The handwriting isn't immediately familiar to him but from a casual glance over he Knows who it belongs to.
Jon leaves the other items in the box and returns it to its place. It's late and he thinks Elias's, or rather Peter's, assistants have gone home for the day. There's always a chance Peter may show up but Jon doesn't care to head back down to the Archive. The statement in his hand wants to be read.
He sits down in Elias's chair. Dimly, he notes the sound of a tape recorder being switched on. He glares at the tape recorder, sitting there on Elias's desk, before he returns his attention to the statement.
"Statement of Elias Bouchard," Jon says, the summary already forming in his mind, "regarding the night Jonathan Sims spent in his guest bedroom. Original statement given September 1st, 2017. Recording by Jonathan Sims, the Archivist. Statement begins.
"Do you know what made me know you'd make an excellent Archivist, Jon?" he asks. He feels himself taking on Elias's smug cadence. "It wasn't something I expected when we first met. Sure, you were curious enough in your work as a researcher but the marks the Spider left on you when you were a child made me wonder if your nature was more suited for manipulation and seduction than the observation that the Eye demands. Of course I quickly realized that neither of those were your forte. You weren't even a proper arachnophobe, like so many others that find themselves in the Spider's web, you'd just solidified your fear into an interest in the supernatural that you constantly underplayed.
"But a lack of affinity towards the first entity that marked you didn't mean the Eye would suit you. No, I didn't become convinced that you would become the Ceaseless Watcher's acolyte until I saw the way you reacted to Jane Prentiss's attack.
"Instinct is a funny thing. It fascinated me that your immediate reaction to having worms burrow into your flesh, before your wounds had even healed, was to get statements from the staff. You were exhausted and reeked of fear but still you were questioning, still you sought answers. And when the Stranger's influence washed over you and the paranoia began you so easily slipped into stalking your coworkers." He feels Elias’s chuckle leave his mouth. "I don't have to tell you that the Ceaseless Watcher is a big fan of that sort of thing, do I? Investigating, violating privacy, pursuing knowledge to your own detriment. You were spending your free time making offerings to our patron and you didn't even know it.
"It came as no surprise when your investigation eventually moved to me. I admit, as much as I enjoy learning your quirks there was something oddly charming about you following me around and trying to learn mine. For years I've cultivated an aura of mundanity about myself and while I know your attempts to see through it had more to do with your own paranoia than any particular interest in me, it was still deeply gratifying. Obviously I was aware of you going through my office and staking out my home, just as you did the others and not because of my clairvoyance. I'm sorry to say that you're awful at espionage, being neither a good liar, nor adept at stalking people with any degree of subtlety. You probably know by now that it was no more fruitful than following around Martin or Tim. Perhaps now, as you're reading this, you've grown powerful enough that you already know what I'm going to tell you. Or maybe you're as curious and helpless as ever and I've simply drawn your attention to this statement because I want to watch you read it—because I assure you that I am watching you read my words and enjoying it immensely. Regardless, a statement feels appropriate. And our watchful friend does love a good story.
"I'm sure you must remember the night I'm talking about, as uneventful as it was on your end. It was January 20th—I know this exactly because I made a note on my calendar in the event that I eventually made a statement. I know how much you hate statements that confuse dates and times. So yes, it was the 20th and around seven in the evening when I found you lurking outside my house.
"You were leaned against a neighbor's tree, which you imagined concealed your presence much better than it actually did, and had taken a break from the binoculars to Google fast food delivery on your phone. I'd just finished making dinner and decided to sacrifice my leftovers for a chance to see you.
"The look of panic on your face was a good enough gift on its own. As sleep deprived as you were, I'm impressed you were even able to stand. When I greeted you, you asked what I wanted. It took effort not to laugh. The nerve of you, asking that when you were stalking me. If I sounded annoyed it's only because a man isn't typically supposed to enjoy being stalked by their coworkers.
"You of course accepted my invitation for dinner instead of standing outside in the dark and having someone call the police on you. I'm sure you only did so with the intention of going through my things when I had my back turned but it's not as though I keep incriminating items laying around my home. I don't know when you'd had your last decent meal, but you didn't do a very good job of looking around before you started eating. I felt like I'd just let a stray dog into my house and you were convinced you'd have the time to dig once you were done. I think you got as far as awkwardly offering to help with the dishes before it kicked in.
"Would you believe me if I said I drugged you for your own good? And that things simply got a little out of hand?" Jon asks. Dread makes his palms sweat. "No, I don't imagine you would. And you shouldn't. The fact that you got a full eight hours of sleep was incidental. I know what severe sleep deprivation looks like and knew you'd believe you passed out on your own because of it. Once you started yawning and nearly tripped over your chair it took almost no effort to corral you into my guest room and convince you to spend the night. For once you were too tired to question my motives. You started undressing before I could leave the room for proprieties sake and then collapsed onto the bed after you'd kicked off your pants.
"Do you know what you're like when you're asleep, Jon?" His voice hardly strains as he struggles to put the statement down. "I know it's been years since you last shared your bed but I wonder if anyone has ever told you what peculiar noises you make. These odd little hums, these groans seemingly for no reason. Sometimes they correspond to your dreams but not always. If I'd observed you for long enough I might have grown to find them either annoying or endearing. But this encounter was a brief one.
"You fell asleep once at your desk a few weeks before this incident, when everyone else had already gone home for the evening. There was a statement pressed under your face and you still had a pen in your hand as though you'd simply passed out in the middle of a sentence. I watched you for a while, with my own eyes, standing beside you. The gentle push and pull of nightmares in the corridors of your thoughts. What truly caught my attention was when I put a hand on your shoulder and you actually relaxed for a moment: body sagging and facial muscles going lax. But then of course you started to wake and flinched like you'd been stabbed. You thanked me, rather tersely, for waking you and I found myself wanting to thank you instead.
"You were the same that night. I admit I thought what happened at your desk was a fluke and was shocked by how eager you were when I first touched you. I hardly did more than place a hand against your cheek and you grabbed it in your sleep and held it to your face like you were dying for it. When was the last time you'd let yourself be touched? A tipsy Sasha hugging you at Tim's birthday party and then apologizing for it? The bittersweet kiss on the cheek that Georgie gave you the day you broke up? Politely holding your grandmother's hand when she was on her deathbed? I'm afraid that's very much your own fault. No one can get close enough to touch you if you're always pushing them away.
"You know what you reminded me of? One of Harlow's monkeys. So isolated and starved for affection that you clung to the first soft touch that found you, regardless of the circumstances. It’d been so long for you and you were on guard with Georgie. You never told her how much you enjoy casual physical contact with your partners because you didn't want to share that vulnerability with someone you knew would eventually grow tired of you. More than the sexual aspects of your relationship you craved her hugging you in her sleep, or playing with your hair when you watched T.V. How lucky for you then that I don't need to ask you these things. That I could hear you pleading in your sleep, unconscious and unguarded against any potential fear of rejection or loss of pride. Begging desperately for warm physicality. Begging to be known.
"You're very agreeable in your sleep, Jon. As entertaining as rampant paranoia made you there was something very pleasant about seeing you calm. Not that you remained that way for long." Jon's throat is going dry but his voice remains steady and even in Elias's mocking tone. "You're horribly ticklish. A kiss to your tender throat and you squirmed away like a spoiled child. I would've done it only once but your reaction was so interesting. It took a good deal of effort to avoid leaving bruises on you but watching you wiggle around like a worm was worth drawing it out.
"It was so easy to undress you that I thought you must've been feigning sleep for a time but no, you were simply so desperate to be touched that you spread yourself out gratefully at the slightest prompting. Making these noises like you'd never been happier every time I stroked your skin or let a hand linger on your body. I've been sexually active for a very long time so it's always surprising when I manage to have a genuinely unique experience. And I've never seen someone unconsciously beg for it the way you did, moving into my hands like that. Someone who doesn't know you as well would mistake you for quite the slut.
“As soon as I had you naked you caught onto my sleeve like you were scared I'd run away and leave you. Sweet thing. I took pity on you and slipped a reassurance into the faceless little dream you were having. Nothing dramatic, just the knowledge that I wouldn't leave until after I'd taken what I wanted from you. It certainly relaxed you.
"Your neediness was charming, if a little pathetic. You were hard before I even got you out of your boxers and leaking over my hand by the first stroke. I'd have been flattered if I thought it had anything to do with me specifically instead of being a side effect of how rarely you get off.
"As soon as I put my mouth on you you nearly started hyperventilating. I thought you were going to come the second I started sucking you off for all that you shook in my hands. That's not to say I'm not very good at it, but I think someone with considerably less skill could've made you come almost as easily. I'll leave you to guess whether I let you do so in my mouth or just cleaned you up afterwards.
"If I thought I could get away with it I would've fucked you that night, but I didn't trust myself to be gentle with you. Make no mistake, I will at some point but you'll be awake for it. I do worry that you won't let yourself be nearly as vocal if you're conscious.
"Have I already fucked you, Jon? If I haven't then you should know how the thought of doing so colors every conversation we have. I had another meeting with you a few days after your visit about the obsessive behavior you've been showing around your coworkers and I don't know how I got through it. All I could think about was holding you down while you tried to fuck my face in your sleep. I hardly retained a word you said because I could hear how much sweeter your voice sounds in pleasure.
"I'm sure you could tell in the morning that there was something different in your body but you attributed the lightness you felt to a good night's sleep on a bed with a decent thread count instead of the release I'd given you. Thank you by the way for making your bed and cleaning up after yourself. You were an excellent guest. And I'm very glad you weren't too embarrassed to follow me around again the next day. Those Archivist instincts of yours, perhaps.
"You should know, there was a tape recorder by your bedside. I didn't put it there and didn't even see it until afterwards when I was tucking you in. Unfortunately for you, along with the written record I have a recording of those obscene little noises you made while I sucked you off. Being the one who'll more properly appreciate it I think I'll be keeping that one to myself. Even if it's a very short tape. You know, you shouldn't neglect your own needs so much, Jon. Take the edge off every now and then. I'd hate to have you come so fast the next time I have you."
"Jesus fucking Christ, end statement!" Jon gasps, Elias's smile slipping from his face. He all but collapses forward onto the desk, body shaking and the statement crinkling in his hands.
He hardly remembered that night: he'd been so frightened, and sleep deprived that having dinner in Elias's house with the man he was supposedly stalking had felt like a dream. In the morning he'd been groggy but also lucid and embarrassed. He remembered refusing Elias's offer of breakfast and leaving the house as quickly as he could.
"Fuck," he gasps. He balls the statement up and feels a sharp stab of pain in his side. A cramp at him daring to damage the Institute's property.
Ignoring the pain, Jon pulls out his lighter and presses a wrinkled corner of the statement to the flame. It catches quickly and Jon watches it burn for several painful seconds before he drops it into Elias's empty trash can.
"Fuck," he says again to the office, face buried in his hands. He knows how reading these statements works: when he'd read Jane Prentiss's statement he'd felt her fear and her rapturous joy. With Annabelle Cane he'd felt curiosity and smugness, cold with her manipulations. He knew these feelings weren't his own.
Jon rubs at his eyes, thighs clenching in discomfort. Elias's arousal is so powerful that he must've been hard the entire time he wrote the statement. Jon's nauseous but also knows he'd barely have to touch himself to get off right there at Elias's desk. His endurance is terrible. If the statement had been a little longer he might've come in his pants.
Jon presses harder against his eyes with the heels of his hands and tries to control his breathing. He's certain Elias is touching himself. No, he Knows Elias is with the Watcher's awful certainty and can feel the prickle of his attention like ants on his skin.
The tape recording is still running, perched like a carrion bird in the corner.
"Go to hell," he says wearily. He hits the off switch.