Elias would like to submit a formal complaint, thank you very much. But bullying doesn’t really cover it, he finds it unlikely that a sexual harassment claim is the right way to go. Also, he doubts very much that HR has time to deal with what apparently has very obviously become a body-snatching scenario.
He remembers being hit over the head, a very ungraceful way to go. He didn’t even have time to shriek. He thinks he’s been asleep for a very long time – it certainly feels that way.
And now he’s awake, and he very much wishes he wasn’t. He’s sitting at a mahogany desk, far too large and fancy to be practical, clad in a clothes that are so goddamn awful it makes him want to tear them off. There’s also the fact that he’s not the one controlling his limbs, but to be honest, he’s more preoccupied with the silk. Fucking silk.
Whoever made such an appalling fashion choice sighs, scratching his (their?) head. Elias decides on the spot that this person has a special place in hell for the amount of product they’re forced onto his hair. The world is still a blur and Elias suspects that even if he could wrestle control of his own head, the migraine wouldn’t be worth it.
Where the hell is he? What in the fresh fuck is going on?
The room is unfamiliar and dimly it, and even though he’s only been conscious of anything for about five minutes, he decides that it’s probably less because of an lighting issue and more because they person using his body is an overdramatic fuck. This is quickly confirmed when a knock comes from the door and it swings open, filling the room with bright light from the hallway outside.
“You asked for these files,” the woman who enters says, dumping a large pile onto the desk. Elias feels himself nod with a smile that even he can tell is creepy as hell.
“Thank you, Rosie. That is all.”
He feels his head look down without prompting (and isn’t that a whole lot to unpack), and out of the corner of his eyes Elias can see a large book, lying open on the first page. ‘Sleeping Beauty, and other assorted fairy tales,’ the title reads, next to a stamp that identifies it as belonging to a library, although he can’t read which from this position.
He takes a while to try and force his way into control of the situation, but quickly decides that it’s pretty pointless. The other guy isn’t budging. From the files that the woman, Rosie, delivered, he assumes that he’s still in the archives somewhere. Although why the office is so fancy and why the woman looked so apprehensive approaching him, Elias can’t explain.
“Hey, it’s okay,” he mentally mutters to himself. It’s not thinking, not really – he’s not sure that that’s even possible without a brain. “Maybe this guy is actually a pretty nice bloke?”
The guy is not, as it turns out, a nice bloke. Elias isn’t really all that surprised.
He watches with an incredibly ominous smile plastered on his face as someone who he thinks is named Martin flounders around after the new archivist. Both of them seem nice, even if they’re a little bit awkward around each other. The sort of smile that he can feel himself wearing is enough to let Elias know that something is about to happen, especially in the way his eyes are tracing Martin as he wonders around. He tries to force his face into something neutral, but it’s a lot like slapping a brick wall. It does a whole lot of fuck all.
“Are you okay?” comes an unimpressed voice from the side. There’s a tall, bored looking man staring at them, with a deadpan that Elias reads as ‘I don’t actually care, please just move.’
“Ah, Tim,” Elias hears himself say. “Pleasant as ever. I was just leaving.”
Elias rather likes this Tim guy. Whoever is currently piloting his body clearly disagrees. But still, the smile stays clearly fixed in place as he wanders back to his office. He can hear mutters behind him, who he assumes is Tim complaining to someone else. Her voice is softer but she sounds just as irritated.
“He’s creepy,” he hears the girl hiss before his body is out of the room. If anything, it only seems to spur the body-jacker on.
“Okay, well, I feel like I’ve wandered into the middle of an evil-mastermind situation,” Elias remarks to nobody but himself. His hands are currently sorting through files that contain what look like graphic descriptions of a murder, stolen from Jon’s box of ‘files that urgently need to be looked at’, all of which are currently being shredded.
“The hell did Jon do to you?” He doesn’t get an answer.
As the days pass, Elias is gaining his bearings rather well, he thinks. He’s learned to recognise the three assistants - Martin, Tim, and Sasha - by voice, and he knows really far too much about Jon for his own good. Honestly, he’s pretty worried about the guy - of all the people that could have taken control of his body like a fucking jaeger, he just had to get the stalker. He’s already seen enough of Jon to last a lifetime.
There’s also the matter of the fucking eyes. They’re everywhere, and often Elias will just be sitting back, doing his best to relax in the limited headspace he’s managed to carve out, when he’s jolted into somebody else’s body, looking out of their eyes - a girl walking down the road, an old man complaining to his doctor, a homeless man following a strange looking woman. He’s extremely worried about it, but substantially less so when he realises that the guy he’s rooming with is going with him. That means it’s more of a creepy evil thing, and less of an oh-shit-am-I-a-ghost-what-the-hell-is-happening thing. Which is kind of a relief.
Eye-snatching notwithstanding, the whole situation feels kind of like having a shitty roommate. One that won’t let you use your limbs, or brain, so a pretty bad one as roommates go, but he likes the analogy. Everywhere he looks, he’s surrounded by things that aren’t his and an inability to complain about it. As least, he hopes that they’re not his – the second he gets control of his body again he’s going to burn this guy’s suits and he’s going to dance on their fucking ashes. Who the hell has seventeen different ties? They’re not even fun ones, four of them are burgundy. He’s never felt more ashamed to see his own reflection.
Only, that’s assuming he ever gains back control, which is looking exceedingly unlikely. Still, Elias is a positive guy, and even if it takes him seventy years, he’s going to kick this particular shitty roommate out, and he’s going to get so high he can’t even walk without becoming a major safety hazard to himself and everyone around him. God, he misses weed.
He doubts that this guy even knows what weed is. He feels more like a white wine kind of guy.
He spends most of his time ruthlessly making fun of the guy who’s dragging him around. It might be his body but like fuck is he going to let that frankly appalling facial hair go un-mocked. Who the hell has a moustache like that in- kay, so Elias still might not know the actual year anymore, but unless he’s been kicked back to the 1830s he refuses to call that hair anything but a mistake.
Frankly, Elias is kind of shocked that he isn’t freaking out more. He blames Gertrude for that, and his extensive knowledge of all the freaky shit that goes down when artifact storage gets involved. Freaky shit that his headmate clearly knows about, considering his position as Head of the goddamn Institute. If Elias had a chair he would have fallen out of it when he realised, chanting a steady stream of ‘what the fuck, what the fuck, what the fuck?’
Mentally, he compiles a list of what he knows. A) His body has been hijacked by a man with appalling taste, who also happens to be the most important guy in this building. Which unfortunately means that the guy is apparently neck deep in the secrets of the archive, which apparently also means that Elias has zero chance of forcing his way back into his body. B) Said man frequently abuses his freaky eye-stealing powers to stalk his archivist. There’s not much to say on the topic, other than a heartfelt apology to Jon. The guy really doesn’t deserve this shit. Which brings him to C) The guy also happens to be evil as all fuck, as evidenced by all of the scheming slash destruction of helpful evidence. Once again, not much to say on that apart from ‘sorry, Jon’.
He pointedly doesn’t think about how much the archive has changed, or how he doesn’t recognise any of the staff. Obviously, he’ll have to put it all into words at some point, but Elias is happy to avoid that particular meltdown for now.
The assistants clearly don’t know about points B) or C), and he highly doubts that they’d give a shit about A). None of them know what they’re doing, and his headmate clearly delights in making their lives miserable over that fact. He seems to enjoy ordering them to fetch him very specific files, then watching as they search for hours to find the damn things, even though Elias knows that they won’t – his hands fed them through the shredder hours ago.
Not that they would ever be able to prove that. Regardless, Sasha is the most competent by far, and has the confidence to march into his office at the end of the day and tell him that they couldn’t find the files, meeting his eyes the whole time. Sometimes Tim does it instead, but never Martin. Elias can respect that decision.
It’s petty even by Elias’ standards, which is slightly worrying considering he’s happily lived his life as the pettiest bitch he knows. Judging by the suits and the dramatic lighting and the fake accent (and it is fake, as Elias is pretty sure he never used to sound like he’d swallowed an oxford fucking dictionary, thank you very much), he doesn’t seem like the type of person to settle for small torments. Paired with the satisfied smiles he keeps shooting Jon’s way, it’s pretty obvious that something is coming.
But what can Elias do about it? Nothing, so he’s not going to waste his energy figuring that shit out. Well, okay, no, he definitely will because he’s bored as all shit and he does actually like Martin, but he’s not going to be enthusiastic about it. Besides, it’s not like he can help what he finds out, he just sees whatever the guy piloting his meat suit sees.
Elias isn’t having a very fun week. It’s never really taken much to make him miserable, but he figures that this time he’s earned the right to be just a little bit mad, as a treat. Spending your days getting shoved around from body to body, orchestrating what Elias is pretty damn sure is a straight up apocalypse gets old quickly.
There’s really only one thing keeping him sane right now. Back when Gertrude was the archivist she’d always made a point to keep the place in total disarray, but she’d never let it get dusty. Apparently whatever cleaners she’d had under her employ are long gone, because the archives are still a mess but now they’re a dirty mess. And, if there’s one thing Elias has discovered about the jackass wearing him like a cheap pair of socks, it’s that the guy hates dirt.
Specifically, the guy hates spiders. They’re everywhere now, and he can’t move more than a foot without noticing another one, and another, and another. Apparently being all-seeing has its drawbacks, a point that Elias takes note of with vicious satisfaction.
Elias rather enjoys the spiders. His feet stamp at them and his hands throw them into walls, but they always seem to keep coming back, and when they stare at him from their positions perched on the bookshelves, he can’t help but feel noticed. Clearly they’re looking at the guy who enjoys squishing them with his cassette tapes, not him, but he’ll take what he can get.
Martin also likes the spiders, he notes. Martin is quickly becoming his favourite. After Sasha, obviously, who he’s caught multiple times flipping him off. God, he wishes he could move his body, just for a second. He wants to punch himself so badly it hurts.
Actually, speaking of Martin, Elias is actually fairly worried. The man hasn’t been in work for a while now, which definitely isn’t an issue (it’s not like he had the perfect track record there, either), but he hasn’t been outside, either. As far as Elias can tell, Martin hasn’t left his apartment in four days.
His headmate knows that, obviously, and chooses to keep it to himself. Hell, sometimes he even finds himself staring out of Martin’s eyes and whatever’s happening, it’s definitely not fun. The guy is obviously scared shitless of something, and Elias feels a strong pang of sympathy. They had the same job for a long time – he’s been there before. Still, he might know that Martin isn’t safe, but there’s nothing he can do about it. The matter is solidly out of his hands.
There’s something utterly horrifying in being able to feel your limbs but not being able to move them. The body-snatcher couldn’t even do him the service of severing the connection. Why the hell should he be punished whenever the guy stubs his toe on the office table?
Somewhere in the corridor outside of the office, he hears Tim’s muffled voice cutting through the silence. “Hey Sash, have you seen Martin recently? I think we’ve run out of tea.”
Elias feels his head shake, fingers absently playing with the edge of a folder marked ‘Case #0142302 – Statement of Jane Prentiss, regarding a wasps’ nest in her attic.’ The feeling of muted dread he feels when his eyes settle on it is something he doesn’t quite understand.
Martin’s return is abrupt and it throws the place into disarray, but the worst part clearly isn’t the fear of Prentiss herself: it’s the waiting. Elias himself doesn’t feel it, because why the hell would it throw him off? He literally cannot move. But he can feel the way that his hijacker seems to float around in glee and it sets him firmly on edge.
Seriously, who the hell gets so excited over the idea of one of their employees sleeping in an office cupboard? Elias really, really finds himself hating this guy.
The week passes slowly, painfully so, but something quickly becomes obvious: there’s something under the archives. He knows that with a certainty that almost shocks him when he thinks about it, although he’ll put that down to the body-snatcher more than anything.
Worms don’t have eyes, and that’s a fact that makes them both nervous. Elias might not be the brightest but he isn’t stupid, it’s not too hard to connect Martin’s terrified ramblings to the girl in the tunnels who shrieks and flails whenever his headmate decides he wants to invade her mind for a while.
It’s been weeks and he’s still no closer to identifying whoever’s piloting his body, but even without their name he’s come to know them pretty fucking well. You don’t shower with a guy without knowing some pretty intimate things about him – even if he has no idea you’re there, and even if it is still technically your body. The guy is happy. No, scratch that, he’s closer to ecstatic, and it makes Elias want to shove his head through a window.
He might not know the guys name but he knows he’s a fucking prick.
The assistants call him Elias. He supposes it makes sense, since he worked here as one of them for so long – surely, someone would have noticed if he’d suddenly changed his name – but it still makes him want to scream.
When it comes down to it, Elias thinks he’s a pretty simple person. All he really wants to do is lie down and get drunk off cheap vodka. By this point he’s convinced he’d happily set someone on fire no-questions-asked if it meant he’d be able to sit down and binge watch a season of The Bachelor.
He did not sign up for this bullshit.
But alas, the bullshit is an inevitability, and it’s not long before the infestation of worms grows so large that the walls can barely contain it, surrounding the archives in a mass of writhing, eyeless flesh. A couple of the archive spiders take it upon themselves to catch the stragglers and Elias loves them for it – at least they’re doing something.
It’s not too long before a scream cuts through the air and Elias’ body relaxes, settling in to watch the show. From his place in that chair he can see it all: the abrupt terror on Jon’s face, Martin’s scream, and Sasha, brave as ever, running off after Tim. The stillness of the archives, like the calm before the storm, has been broken, and suddenly the worms are everywhere. Well, almost everywhere: they refuse to even come near Elias’s office, creating a neat ring around the perimeter.
There’s something else here too. It has eyes but even his headmate can’t see through them. Not easily, anyway – it fills his mind with static and the scent of petrol whenever they try.
“The Stranger,” he hears himself sigh. “Well, I suppose if it were easy, it’d just be boring.”
Somewhere in the distance Jon grabs Tim and they run to wherever they think will bring safety, and Sasha sets off on her own mission with a ferocity that, he can’t lie, is impressive.
It’s no surprise when she finally bursts in, eyes wide. “Elias! Did you change the fire suppression system like Jon asked?” She’s sucking in air in gasps, clearly winded, and her face is red.
His face doesn’t change one bit. “I did. I suppose this has something to do with Jane Prentiss, then?” He hears himself ask, like the prick didn’t already know. He’d half-heartedly changed the system the week before, after Jon had approached him about it. “Well, there’s a catch. It needs to be done manually, you see, since there isn’t actually a fire.”
Sasha looks ready to punch him, a sentiment that Elias has been echoing for weeks now, but she nods frantically anyway. “I have to go get Tim.” She looks torn.
His head shakes. “I’ll take care of the system. I know where the activation switch is, go and take care of the others.” He’s already on his feet by this point, and Sasha wastes no time before dashing out. His eyes linger on her as she goes, and if he’s learned anything, it’s that the level of apprehension that instils in him is probably for a good reason.
Getting to the manual switch isn’t exactly hard. The worms refuse to go near him and he doubts that Jane Prentiss willingly would, either. Elias would be content to just clock out and leave the jackass currently jaeger-ing him to deal with it, if it weren’t for the fact that he’d feel the pain of burrowing worms, too. And isn’t that just fucking marvellous.
His hands don’t pull the switch immediately. Instead he finds himself catapulted into Jon’s head, watching as the worms crawl into his skin. He doesn’t feel the pain, he never does when he looks out of somebody else’s eyes, but the sight alone is enough to make him nauseous. The body-snatcher clearly doesn’t agree, because he insists on staying there, radiating satisfaction as they push further and further in.
It’s only when Jon’s shrieks of pain become loud enough to deafen that he turns the fire suppression system on.
Elias gets the feeling that it’s not often that his body-snatcher gets caught off guard. He feels the look of shock pass on his face and the way he pulls back, staring in shock at Sasha when he sees her standing at the institute entrance, watching the ambulance.
Well, not at Sasha – more at the woman behind her.
“She saved my life!” Sasha gushes at him as he gets closer, either not noticing or, more likely, not caring about the strange cocktail of emotions written on his face. “I thought I was a goner, but she stopped that thing in the tunnels from skinning me alive, so she’s good in my book!”
The woman smiles, a delicate thing, and introduces herself as Annabelle Cane. “It’s good to meet you at last, Elias. I’ve heard a lot about you.” She laughs as his extended hand recoils from the spiders hanging off her own.
“I’m sure my reputation precedes me, although I can’t say I’ve heard of you,” his own voice replies.
Annabelle sighs disappointedly. “No, not you. I couldn’t care less about your reputation.” The larger spiders taking up residence in her bleached white hair scuttle around excitedly. “I’m talking to my Elias.”
She meets his eyes again, and this time Elias knows that her smile is meant for him and him alone. The body-snatcher’s confusion is obvious but she waves her hand dismissively, turning back to Sasha. “I have to go, but I’ll be back. I’d hate to say goodbye so soon, after all.” Elias feels his hand dart out to grab her by the shirt, but she’s quicker. She seizes his hand and pulls him in close, ignoring Sasha’s yelp. The amusement in her expression is paper thin and as he gets closer, he can clearly see the threat written on her face. “For your own good, don’t try that.”
“You have no business near my institute,” he warns darkly, but it does nothing to deter the spiders that scuttle from her body onto his.
“In fact, I think you’ll find that I do. What kind of person can’t keep their employees safe within his own halls? I mean really, you’d willingly leave The Stranger running around unchecked?” She scoffs, then lets him go and spins around, winking at Sasha who’s still clearly trying to process the woman threatening her boss. “Besides, you can’t go getting upset at me! I’m not the only spider roaming these halls, after all.” She waltzes out of the door without a second look. “Bye, Elias! I’ll see you soon!” She calls out behind her, and he knows that she’s talking to him.
The door slams and a heavy silence settles over the room.
“Do you… know her?” Sasha eventually asks, and receives a dark glare for her efforts.
“She isn’t allowed on institute grounds. If you see her again, kindly escort her out.” And that’s that.
So maybe, Elias has something to admit to himself. It’s not like he’s ever been too deeply involved in the darker machinations of the archives, but he worked with Gertrude, for fucks’ sake. He knows all about the tricks that the fears will play.
Specifically, he knows about the Web. Once upon a time he’d caught Michael staring at the scar that runs down his chest, eyes alight with curiosity. That kid always asked too many questions for his own good. He hopes to god that he made it out okay. He knows that the kid almost definitely didn’t.
He shoves that thought from his mind. He’s done one hell of a job avoiding thinking about his friends so far, and he’s not about to ruin that now.
The Web first caught him when he was thirteen, staying the weekend at his grandfather’s house. He didn’t hate it, per say, but the place had always freaked him out. The halls were long and dark and filled with shadows, and the floorboards creaked with every step, but the worst part about the place by far was the shed. Elias still remembers the way his grandfather would stammer and make excuses whenever he had to go in there, shaken by a fear that he’d never understood. Well, he understood it well enough when he opened the door to see dozens of spiders the size of cats and several pieces of what looked like cloth on the floor, but that squished and wept with blood when he stood on them.
He doesn’t like to dwell too much on what happened after that, but his grandfather lit that shed alight the following day, and neither of them spoke of it again.
It found him again four years after that at a house party, with bedrooms filled with cobwebs and a very traumatic weekend-at-Bernie’s style discovery about the family that lived there that led to the deep scar running down his torso. But somehow, despite it all, he’s never hated spiders. No, he’ll go as far as to say that he’s unwillingly fond of the things, even if he probably shouldn’t be.
He made sure to never fall prey to the Web in any other way. No, Elias has always been careful to stay far, far away from any of those fucking fears, even from the Eye. He didn’t spend four years of his life wearing sunglasses without a reason. And sure, maybe they didn’t stop the Eye from invading anyway, but they sure made him feel a whole lot better about the whole being forced into doing his job thing, and he can’t deny that they made him feel cooler, even if Eric always laughed at him for it.
The one thing he can say with certainty is that he’s never met Annabelle Cane before. But he wouldn’t exactly be opposed to meeting her again. After all, what’s she going to do? Kill him? It’s not like he’d really consider that a travesty.