There's a case missing at the London Police's headquarters.
They've stopped looking for it, and few even remember it, though it was quite famous in its day. Oficially, it's the murder of Jonah Bouchard, his brother James and wife Delilah, and the mysterious disappearance of their two sons.
But that's only where the story starts.
The child is skinny and shaking in his filth-muted gray t-shirt. Mother runs her long-fingered hand over his head, her impeccably varnished carmine nails clashing against the messy black of his hair. The only part of the child that doesn't look as if it has been dragged through the mud are his eyes, wide and dark and nailed to Elias' own with such intensity that Elias knows he will not move if the kid doesn't want him to.
"Mother? What is the meaning of this?" Elias asks. They love it when he's well-mannered -which is to say, they won't tolerate the slightest hint of disrespect, all of Elias' teenage rebellion pinned at the bad end of Father's cane-, and it's the best way to guarantee he'll get answers. For a family that prides itself on knowledge -Audio, Vigilio, Opperior , the words carved in the marble arch at the manor's entryway- they surely love to keep it just out of hand's reach.
"You have not been too cooperative in our efforts to train you to serve our patron, Elias," Mother says. Elias' eyes fix on her pearl necklace, as usual. He hates her eyes, the feeling that she's trying to riffle through his very thoughts in a twisted sort of lesson. "But your uncle James found this little one wandering the streets."
"You'll be pleased to know," Father's voice comes from behind him, and Elias flinches out of the way. "He seems to have much greater potential for Beholding than you. We can excuse your mediocrity no-"
"No!" Elias blurts out, and the room freezes. Mother and Father's heavy gazes fall on him, and Elias does his best to keep them out, but he can hardly hold his own against one of them during practice, and he doesn't stand a chance against both. They rack through his brain in tandem, tearing thoughts out of his brain and dropping their own inside.
Please, he's just a kid!
Waste of space.
Don't hurt him like you hurt me.
Not worthy. A stain upon the family name.
I'll do it!
Weak. Should prune the tree of rotten branches.
I'LL DO IT!!
Elias gasps for breath when the assault finally ceases, and he realizes he's dropped to the floor, his arms shaking to hold his weight. The child is still staring at him.
"Hm. Why do you feel so vehemently about it?" Mother asks. Elias doesn't have an answer, as he looks at the kid's dark eyes- he could Know his name, he's a shame of a Beholder but he could still extract a name out of a child's mind, only he doesn't want to, because he knows the feeling intimately well, and he won't put him through it.
"I just- please give me another chance, Father." Elias struggles a little, but he eventually climbs to his feet. "I will train harder, I will become as the Watcher needs of me. I swear." He tries his hardest to keep the tremor out of his voice.
"Very well. But we're keeping your new little brother. As an incentive ." Father says, and Elias can hear the smile in his voice.
"What's your name?" Elias asks that night, after his head has stopped pounding. The kid is curled at a corner of the room, still shaking, still in his ratty clothes. Elias knows he is expected to get him to look presentable by tomorrow, but for the life of him he has no idea how to do that when the child flinches every time he takes a step towards him. "I won't hurt you- I promise."
Silence, except for the low thrum of static tickling at Elias's ears. "I'm Jon." The child mumbles. His arms are wrapped tight around his knees and his eyes are piercing even in the semi-darkness of Elias' room. "You?"
"Elias. My name is Elias," he says, relieved. He'd been afraid that Jon couldn't speak. "How- where did Uncle find you?"
" 'was in the street." Jon's posture has begun to relax, and Elias slowly sits on the floor across him.
"Why were you on the street?" Elias asks. "Where are your parents?" he wouldn't put it past Uncle James to have killed them. Even Elias can See the Eye's power all over Jon, and Uncle James has never been a patient man.
"They're gone. I live with my gran," Jon shrugs. "But she fell down, and she didn't want to wake up."
"Did- did you call anyone Jon?"
"We didn't have a phone. I just waited, but she was sleeping real deep." Jon pulls at a thread in his dirty, torn pants. "I got hungry, and we didn't have any more cheese, only grown up food. So I went out."
Ok, he likes- he likes cheese. Gotta focus on the useful bits, on the bits he can use.
"Well- well, I'm going to be your big brother now, Jon." Elias' voice is a bit shaky again, but it's alright. Mother and Father aren't here, it's just him and Jon, and- "and nothing is ever going to happen to you again, alright?"
It's wet and it's cold, and Elias is trying his hardest not to think of how he can feel Jon dripping snot all over his neck as he makes his way through the woods behind his parents manor. His manor, now that they're dead probably, but with his current situation he somehow doubts he'll be sitting at any will reading anytime soon.
It was an accident, it really was. Jon didn't- Jon doesn't even know what he did, he's only six , for God's sake. He was just trying to help . If Elias had been stronger- it hadn't even been the worst of Uncle's trainings that he'd had to endure. Just blocking his presence, or he'd get thoughts of pain implanted in, just routine , he- he hadn't even meant to scream so loud.
By the time he realized Jon had opened the door to Father's study, it was too late. Mother had looked up from her crocheting, Father had turned back from the window where he'd been overlooking the grounds, and Elias will never forget how Jon looked right then.
Jon, tiny and skinny and dressed in expensive, elegant clothes made to be as uncomfortable as possible for a child, his normally dark eyes blazing like two emerald fires, the vague outline of a halo behind his head like the beholding angels in the paintings strewn all around the manor. Jon, who opened his mouth, and let out only static, but was still heard by everyone in the room.
"Leave. Elias. Alone! "
Elias shakes his head to clear his thoughts as he runs. It's useless, the memories won't get them to a safe place. Mother's eyes bleeding out of her skull, Father's tongue melting in his mouth, Uncle tearing at his ears until he ripped them out. The panic in Elias' stomach as he crawled over and dragged Jon away.
If anything, he's discovered he's good at thinking on his feet. Trashing his and Jon's room was an inspired move, breaking glass and bedframes and bookshelves with a fury he didn't know he had in him, before packing as much clothes and food as he could in two satchels and making a break for the living room.
The candles at the library hadn't been Elias' idea, but he'd Known to light them anyways. It's a bit unnerving to know that, at least in some way, he has the Watcher's blessing.
Now they're running, Elias has slipped on the mud thrice and they have to get to the train station before the fire dies down.
"Elias?" Jon asks in his ear.
"What?" Elias snaps. He can See the train coming to the station, they're not gonna make it, they're going to get caught.
" 'm sorry I hurt your parents. I just wanted them to stop hurting you." Jon's voice is small and fragile like that first night so many weeks ago, and it's enough to make Elias stop.
"You didn't do it." The words leave his mouth before he can really process them. "It wasn't you, Jon. I hurt them. Beh- Beholding didn't like what they were doing either. So it gave me the power to stop them."
"But then- then why are we running?" Jon asks, and Elias can just picture his confused frown. Jon hates not understanding things.
"We're- there's bad people. Some bad people that will think we're bad for protecting ourselves. They will want to separate us, so now- now we have to hide." His mind is going a mile a minute. The train will be at the station in less than an hour, and the fire won't burn much longer in the rain. "But we're going to be okay. I'm going to keep you safe."
"I know that." Jon's arms tighten around his neck almost to the point of choking, but it's the certainty in his voice what makes Elias crumble. He crouches to the ground, twisting and shifting so Jon is in his arms instead of at his back, and- Elias doesn't know when he started crying, but he can't stop now. Like the sky above them, like a child that saw his parents die.
Elias allows himself a moment to weep, to be scared and helpless, and hide his face in Jon's rain-soaked hair, before he climbs back to his feet and moves Jon to his back again.
They have a train to catch.