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Pressure, Poets, Priceless Smiles

Chapter Text

“You may introduce yourself to the students.”

“Jonathan Sims.”

There was a scrawny man sitting on the desk of the classroom. His long salt and pepper hair pulled back into a messy bun, some strands of hair popping out from places where they had come loose. He wore a green sweater, that was too big, over a white dress shirt, formal pants being held up by a brown belt. His look was one of someone not sure how to be a teacher, so he simply put together what he could find in the back of his closet. That’s exactly what happened. He forgot how it was to be professional. It had been a few years and a now fixed apocalypse that had been wiped from everyone’s memories since the last time he was in a professional situation. Cut him some slack, he’s trying his best.

Piercing glares from children burned into his skin. Looks of malicious intent. Small smirks pulling on their lips and they schemed and giggled to one another. Were they making fun of him? Most likely. Jon heard a few of them mocking his accent even though he had only spoke for a second or two. They giggled, their piercing eyes staring, knowing the gaze would unsettle the average person.

But Jon was unfazed.

“I am sure you all are aware why I am here. I will be your new teacher for the year.”

Yes, yes. Of course. The third teacher this year and it’s barely halfway. The teacher leaves, one comes, they leave, repeat. It had been this way at the school for years. It had always been a game to anyone in the theatre class on who can make the teacher resign the fastest. The class was never taken seriously. Nobody payed attention, nobody learned. Anyone had pity for the poor theatre teachers. The students didn’t have plans of stopping anytime soon.

The principal stood as the silence grew longer, the tension grew stronger. She rocked back and forth, thinking of anything she needed to add. She had already told Jon about the class’ games, and how she had attempted to stop it, but had been unsuccessful every year, letting him know exactly what he was getting himself into. Most of the teachers in the past had either declined the position, or had some sort of apprehension before continuing, but Jon had no sign of such. He accepted no questions, no problems, with a smile. Just as she was about to turn to excuse herself, he cut her off.

“I can take it from here. Feel free to leave, Ms. Peterson.” He smiled at her, and she wondered how he had no sign of regret or fear in his expression,

“Ah, of course. Off I go.” She smiled at him with a nervous chuckle, rushing out of the room without extra commentary or looking back. He turned back to the class.

He didn’t not notice the class’ obviously bad intentions, he just couldn’t care less. Sure, their eyes were definitely something to send shivers down the average person’s spine, but it’s nothing compared to Jonah’s eyes. Sure, their gaze burned into his skin, but it’s nothing compared to Jude’s burning hot waxed handshake. Sure, a difficult class was going to be an inconvenience on his original plans, but he’s been through the end of the world and more, he can take a few angsty teens.

“I have heard many things about you all.” He stared back at them with his own intimidating gaze, obviously not his strongest, for he would rather not kill these kids, but enough to get his point straight. “I hope you enjoyed kicking out your last teacher because I am not going anywhere.” He smiled and said his statement matter-of-factly. Confident, for he told no lies. The class took that as a challenge and Jon was well aware.

“You got a scary gaze for a such a small dude.” One girl spoke up, she smirked as she made her mild attempt at mocking his height, but Jon could see a little bit of hesitance in her eyes.

“Thank you.” He spoke genuinely, ignoring the jab at him. He was used to be called short. Granted, it was mainly from Martin as he playfully joked about how he was oh-so-much taller, but still.

She, Tracy, rolled her eyes. She didn’t expect a big reaction, but maybe a look of annoyance would have been nice.

“Now, before we move on. I will be doing roll call.” He smiled up at them, the class groaned.

Most kids obeyed and said “here” even if it was the most unenthusiastic thing ever, but it was better than the kids not answering at all. Some kids said the dumbest things in hopes to annoy Jon, such as an uncalled for scream or mocking his accent, but he simply laughed at their jokes and horrible senses of “humor”. They always replied with a groan.

Usually the teacher would already be in a bad mood by the end of roll call, but Jon either had a slight or sarcastic smile, or an unphased expressionless face. No signs of anger, regret, anything. This was gonna be harder than the rest, the class agreed to that in silence, but they liked challenges, so they weren’t planning to give up anytime soon.

“Does anyone have any questions? I will not teach a lesson today, so I suggest we find fun ways to waste your time until this period ends.” He sat on his desk instead of the chair all this time, and had now just moved to sit with his legs crossed, allowing himself to lean forward. Horrible posture, but it was comfortable, and Martin wasn’t here to scold him right now.

No hands were raised, just the same looks he was given the entire class. He sighed, rolling his eyes and lolling his head back as he tried talking again. “That’s getting tiring. If you want to be ominous instead of talking, at least do it correctly.” He propped his head back up, staring at the class who now had looks of confusion, annoyance, and surprise on their faces. He mentally smiled.

The class simply denied “Trying To Look Ominous” as Jon just stared. He could tell that they were already impatient from no reactions, and honestly found that funny, but didn’t plan to give in anytime soon. Allowing yourself to get bullied by angsty theatre teens after causing and fixing the literal end of the world? That’s just sad. He scoffed at himself to the thought, thinking about how Martin would laugh at him and give him a pep talk. “Kids?” He would laugh. “My god, Jon… You think you could take some children…”. Thankfully, Jon won’t succumb to the teen angst.

“Now. Are you all sure you don’t have any questions?” He stared at the silent class. He thought they would have some kind of questions. Where he was from… why he wanted the job… they couldn’t have been completely question-less. At this point, a “What’s your name again?” sounds like a relief.

One kid raises his hand. Daniel again. Jon pointed to him.

“What’s those marks on your face? Acne scars?” He sat in a relaxed position, almost as if he could sleep comfortably just how he was. Jon could tell what he was doing. Subconsciously making someone self-conscious and making it seem unintentional. Seen it too many times. The smirk on Daniel’s face is what made it obvious.

“Got eaten by worms.”

He replied with a shrug as if it was no big deal. Daniel’s eyes widened a bit as he tensed, though he quickly relaxed back down. A few kids simply raised their eyebrows. Not surprised by the fact themselves, but just how it was stated so naturally.

“Thank you for your contribution, Daniel.” Jon nodded at him.

“Sure. Call me Danny.”

“No, I don’t think I will. Now, anyone else?”

Hands immediately shot up, each one asking about a different scar. Jon spent the rest of the class period answering to their curiosity, enjoying their reactions of not fear, but amazement. He knew he could talk safely if just about small stories, because he Knew that these kids not only love violent stories, but also love to waste class time.

---

“I’m home!” He called out to the house, not expecting an answer. The grey cat rubbed up against him as he hung up his coat, a smile on his face. Extending his arms and bending his knees slightly, the cat hopped up into his hold, and he cradled the purring creature as he kicked off his shoes and went to the kitchen.

Cat now shifted to one arm, Jon turned on the tea kettle and got his mug, making his tea how he normally does. Of course, always dangling the teabag in front of the cat’s face and getting a laugh out of the feline swatting it before he put it in the water to steep. He made his way to the couch, moving the cat to his lap as he sat there to his thoughts. The warmth of the beverage flowed down his throat as the warmth of the cat warmed his hand, the soft fur brushing nicely against his rough palm. It was calm. Perfect.

Though the spot next to him was painfully empty.

Jon leaned forward, setting his mug down and holding his head in his hands with a sigh. He always kept glancing next to him, no matter where he was. There was supposed to be someone there. With him. And he knew that.

He tried tearing his mind from the thoughts that were always there, wiping away some of the salty tears that had begun stinging his eyes. He looked to the picture on the shelf. It was him and Martin in Scotland. There was a fluffy cow behind them, and all three looked happy to be there. He tore his eyes away.

Saving the world was hard.

Making the needed sacrifice was harder.

Chapter Text

“Archivist…” The lady spoke with a warning tone. One of not-yet-a-threat, but definitely stern and spoken through her teeth.

“I… I can’t! Just… just let me think…” He paid no attention to the crumbling world around him, brushing off Helen’s words as he grasped at his hair, a familiar warm hand on his shoulder.

“Jon please, we can’t do anything else.” Martin held Jon close, trying to talk before the time ran out. “It’s either take a most likely temporary problem, or one that will cause more suffering for the world.”

“You say it as if you don’t mind!” Jon turned to look at him, both men having tears streaming down their faces.

“Of course I mind! Do you think I want to forget everything? Lose my memory and become a blind spot to you? Of course not! God, Jon…” Jon could feel the weight of Martin’s words as they both crumbled to the ground of a decaying world.

“Tick tock…” Helen spoke, preparing to close her own yellow door.

“Jon, it’s going to be okay. We’ll find each other, and I’ll remember when I see you. Please, just… please…” Martin spoke through choked sobs, trying to ignore the heartbreak at the idea of possibly forgetting everything forever. Forgetting Jon, forgetting everything. Martin didn’t want to go back to being a pushover, a man who couldn’t defend himself. He needed to trust Jon.

“Jon, please!”

“Fine!”

And everything went white.

They just needed to find each other.
---

Jon caught the paper that was thrown his way. The class let out yet another groan at the waste of anticipation..

“What did I say about throwing things?” He tossed it perfectly in the bin, making direct eye contact at the little group it came from. Tracy, Daniel, and another boy. Eli, Jon remembered his name.

“How do you know what’s gonna happen even when you’re out of it as hell?” Daniel threw his arms up in the air in defeat.

“Not exactly what I asked, but thank you for actually answering.” Jon gave him a thumbs up, chuckling at the eyeroll he got in return. “Now if you are quite done, can you get back to your work please?”

“Research on lighting is boring. I would rather not.”

“Why would you take this class if you weren’t prepared to do the work?” Jon looked at Daniel, immediately putting up a hand of dismissal as he noticed the look he got. “Yes, yes, my apologies.” He sighed. “But this is my class now. I am not afraid of you.” He had a smug smile on his face. Daniel scoffed and turned back to his work.

---

The group of three stayed hush hush in the classroom even after the school day ended. They were whispering in a corner for a long while before walking up to Jon’s desk.

“Ah. Tracy, Eli, and Daniel it seems. You all are dismissed. You can go home for the day.” He looked at the kids before him, as it was just them in the class now. “Do you need anything?”

“Who are you?” Eli stared him down, his eyes attempting to pierce through the steel expression of Jonathan Sims.

“I’m sure you know that answer already. I’m Mr. Sims, your theatre teacher.” He stared at the kids, laughing mentally at the annoyed looks.

“Nuh uh. Something’s up with you.” Tracy began. “Who are you really?” She stared him down, and he shrugged.

“I already answered you. You can’t just think “something’s up” if I’m simply not bothered by your attempts to get me to resign.” He crossed his arms and leaned on the desk.

“Yeah we can. Nobody normal isn’t phased by us.” Daniel chimed in this time.

“Now you’re just full of yourselves.” Jon chuckled. “I just know how to handle angsty theatre teens.”

“We’re not just “angsty theatre teens”...” Tracy looked him in the eyes.

“That’s what I said as well, but take a guess what I used to be.” Jon shrugged again. He spoke casually, even chuckling a bit as if it was a joke. The kids looked in horror.

“No way.”
“You’re kidding.”
“You?”

Jon laughed at this. “Look at me and my job. You cannot deny that I was an angsty little theatre kid at one point in my life…” He watched as the kids painfully shrugged in agreement.

“Now, if you’ll excuse me from this interrogation, it is 3:57 on a Wednesday. I have a cat to keep from ripping up my furniture.” Tracy perked up.

“What’s the time and day?” She looked panicked. Jon looked down at his watch.

“3:57pm. Wednesday.” He looked back up at her, immediately a look of “good luck” on his face before she even yelled.

“SHIT, MY WORK SHIFT STARTS AT 4!” Running out of the class.

---

Tracy ran down the city streets, praying that her manager wouldn’t get too mad at her for being late. If you asked her, she would say she didn’t care, but she loved her job more than lots of things.

It was a small bookstore that had a coffee shop attached to it. Tracy mainly worked putting away any books, though she would occasionally be a waitress at the cafe, and she lived for it. The smell of coffee was a smell that she loved more than anything, not to mention how quiet the shop always was. It had a relaxing atmosphere overall, and her manager usually gave her a spare room in the back to work on any needed assignments.

The jingle of the bell rang as she stepped into the shop, looking down at her watch for a small time check. She was only 5 minutes late, and practically nobody was in the shop at the moment. She would be fine.

“Hi! Sorry for being late. My theatre teacher held the class back a little late.” Spitting out the small half-lie at the end, she looked up to see her manager talking to someone. It was a man who seemed to be in his early 30’s, despite the white hair. His glasses had red colored frames. Ones to catch attention, but not enough to hurt the eyes. He looked at her with a wave and a smile. She returned awkward ones back.

“Ah, Tracy! It’s quite alright. Your job will be a little different today.” She turned away from the man back to Tracy, gesturing towards him.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yes! You have a new co-worker starting today. I lined up your shifts, so he will be working at the cafe whenever you are and will be working with books with you as well. You can show him around.” She smiled up at Tracy, who gave a look of enthusiasm.

“Oh neato!” She walked up to the man, holding out his hand for a shake. Her manager turned to her, an excited look on her face.

“He will be a major helping hand around here! He has a degree in library science!” She spoke happily, and Tracy decided to ignore the automatic awkwardness from the man.

“Well! It’ll be a pleasure to show you the ropes, Mr…” She awaited an answer, putting her hands in her pockets.

“Ah!” He spoke for the first time. His voice was kind. “Blackwood. Martin Blackwood.”

Chapter Text

“Blackwood. Martin Blackwood.”

Tracy took notice of the man’s accent, immediately being reminded of Mr. Sims. The more she thought about it, the more he seemed similar to him. She noticed the sweater he was wearing. It was the same style that Mr. Sims wore, except it fit this man. Mr Sims’ sweaters were always too big for him. The sweaters both he and Jon wore seemed to be the same size…

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Blackwood.” Tracy nodded her head in acknowledgement. “Do you want to work the cafe first or the library?”

“Ah, I have no preference, and you can just call me Martin.” He smiled at her. Tracy allowed herself to examine the man a little more. He seemed nervous, fidgety, and overall awkward. From the smile on his face to the way he ran his fingers across his sleeves, she could tell he was a man with little to no confidence in himself. She normally wouldn’t be surprised, because that’s what a lot of people are like, but something just wasn’t sitting right with her...

It was as if he wasn’t meant to be like this…

“Right! So, Martin, I suppose you don’t mind if I start with the cafe?” She kept her thoughts to herself, deciding against bringing up how he seemed out of place in his own body, for that would just be awkward.

“Of course!”

She smiled at him, waving at her manager politely before walking to the cafe portion. The walk wasn’t long, but she decided that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to strike up some conversation.

“The cafe is my favorite part. The smell of the coffee is amazing. Are you a coffee drinker?” She walked with her hands in her pockets, a relaxed and pleased smile on her face.

“Ah, no. Tannins are a proven headache trigger. I’m more of a tea person myself.” He waved away the idea with a slight chuckle. Tracy looked up at him.

“You know that there’s a lot of tannin in tea as well?”

Martin stopped.

“Martin? Are you alright?” Tracy simply looked over to him, a worried expression displayed on her face.

“Er… yeah. Uh… just…” He chuckled. “You know that… thing? That weird feeling of familiarness- gah! What’s it called?” He snapped his fingers for a second in thought. “Right! Déjà Vu!”

“Ah. Interesting… Well! I still gotta show you around. Let’s get a move on!” She began walking again, ignoring the strange nagging that was at the back of her mind.

---

“That’s about it here. The library is pretty self explanatory. You put away books yada yada, I can show you that when it comes to it.” She leaned against the counter with her arm supporting her. “Any questions?”

“I don’t think so!”

“Alright. Well, that’s about it, then. There seems to still be some extra time…” She looked at her watch. “Yep! I usually hang out in the back to finish schoolwork on days like these. You can hang around if you like?” She started walking slowly from the cafe, waiting to see if he would tag along.

“Oh. Sure, why not.” He let out a small surprised chuckle, following her to the library portion. Tracy smiled as he looked in awe at the beautiful display of the books.

“It really is nice here. The books are always a great read. Though my favorites are always the poems.” She pointed towards a section as they walked past it.

“Oh? You like poetry?” Martin looked at her, an obvious excitement to his voice. Tracy replied with her own.

“Yes! Do you?”

“I write some from time to time.”

“Me too!” She shook her hands in excitement. “All my friends say poetry is boring.” She let out a sigh. “Maybe I can actually talk about it now.”

“Who’s your favorite poet?”

“Oh where do I start…”

They spoke about poetry as they walked through the shelves of books, discussing their favorite poets and styles, genres, and how they like to write the most. Some recurring themes in their poems, such as how Tracy mentioned a lot of Greek mythology figures, or how Martin wrote about sea and fog. They only stopped talking slightly once they sat down in one of the rooms in the back. It was when Tracy let out a sigh that the conversation shifted entirely.

“You alright?” Martin stopped what he was saying to look at her, a confused and worried expression on his face.

“Yeah, just… I suck at lighting design.” She gripped her hair in her hands, looking back to her paper.

“What class is that for?” He looked down at her paper, as if that would help any.

“My theatre class.” She leaned back in her chair, allowing her head to loll over the edge.

“Ah, I couldn’t help you. I never really liked theatre.” He scratched the back of his head, an apologetic chuckle escaping his throat.

“Honestly, me either, but a few weeks ago we got a new teacher and he er… he makes the class pretty interesting.” She looked over to him, her face warping as she tried to think for the right words.

“Really? That’s good.”

“Sort of. I mean he’s a total weirdo. Kind of reminds me of you, actually.”

“Ouch…” Martin put on a fake hurt expression.

“Not in the weird way!” She sat back up. “Just that both of you guys are here from London and have practically the same style. Do you know him?”

“Probably not. I moved here alone.”

“You sure? His name is er… Jonathan Sims, you have got to know him.”

Martin sat for a bit, his eyes trailing to the ceiling in thought. Jonathan Sims… the name was one he felt he should know, but decided that that feeling was only there because of Tracy’s pressure.

“Nope. I’ve never met anyone by that name before.”

Tracy sighed, leaning back in her chair, allowing her head to hang off the edge again. Damn, she really thought she did something there.

“Alright then.” She kicked her legs, trying to find another source of conversation. “Oh! I’ve been wanting to ask something, if that’s alright with you.” She shot up, looking right at Martin, even startling him a little bit.

“Oh. Go for it!”

“If your hair dyed? I’ve never seen anyone’s hair that white before.” She immediately started fidgeting at Martin’s weird look. “Oh! I’m sorry, that was a weird question. You don’t have to answer.”

“No, no, it’s alright, It’s just that… I don’t know! I fell asleep one night, and woke up the next morning with my hair all white. It’s been growing out that way ever since…” He grabbed a little bit of his hair and tried looking at it with a shrug.

“Oh. That’s… really weird…”

“Very…”

---

“I dunno! I thought they would know each other…”

“Working on your classwork I assume?” Mr. Sims walked up to the group of kids that he quickly became familiar with. He looked downwards at the group being awkwardly secretive today. They sat down and didn’t even make an attempt to bother him. Suspicious.

“Mr. Sims! Do you like poetry?” Tracy looked up at him, a smile on her face.

“Ah. Well...” He thought for a second. Weird question, but not the worst. “I used to hate it, but now I enjoy reading from time to time.” He reached into his pocket to pull out a little journal, the initials “M.B” on the front of it. “These are what I usually read. They were written by…” He paused for a second, a quick look of sadness on his face. “Someone I know… They mean a lot to me.” He handed the journal down to Tracy, Eli and Daniel peeking over her shoulder as she flipped through the pages. She stopped longer on some of them than others, taking the time to read some instead of skimming. Sometime during her reading session, Jon had caught a pencil flying his way, immediately tossing it back to the thrower with no problem.

“This writing is beautiful. Who’s the poet?” Tracy had a tone of genuinity to her voice. Jon smiled, taking back the journal and storing it back into his pocket.

“Just someone I know. Trying to get in touch with him again, actually.” He crossed his arms in a relaxed way and smiled.

“He writes a lot about oceans…” Eli had pointed out. Tracy had a look of thought, immediately brushing it off as a coincidence. A lot of poets wrote about the sea.

“Oh yes, he did. He has many more journals of poetry, though I am pained to admit that those are now lost…” He had a look of sadness on his face. “But when I get back in touch with him, I’ll be able to read what he has written in the time we were apart.”

“Geez, you’re speaking like he’s your boyfriend or something.” Daniel let out a small scoff.

“He is.” Jon said it confidently, dodging the diss with ease. Daniel just let out a small “oh…” and zipped his lips. Jon just chuckled.

“Is?” Tracy looked up at him, obviously confused at the wording.

“Ah… er… It’s hard to explain.” Jon fidgeted with the loose string on his sweater sleeve.

“We still have…” Tracy looked down at her watch. “Like 30 minutes. I doubt it’ll take long.”

“No, I mean that it is actually quite hard to explain. It’s really nothing for you kids to worry about. Carry on, now.” He spoke with an uncomfortable tone to his voice, now walking back to his desk, swatting away another pencil.

“Well.” Tracy began. “That seems weird as usual.” She looked back at her friends. “You thinking what I’m thinking?”

“You know it.” The boys said in unison.

---

The group sat down in the spare room of the book shop. The boys never really came to Tracy’s workplace, but she had provided them with some coffee she brewed herself, and her manager allowed her to take the spare room once more for “School work.”

“Alright. How do we dig into Sims?” Tracy slammed her hands down on the table, mocking a serious conversation. The boys pondered for a second.

“I say we start with rummaging through his desk.”

“Eli, you are too cliché…”

“Well what do you want us to do?”

Tracy and Eli had started bickering, quite loudly. Daniel simply sat by, sipping his coffee as they fought, every once in a while waving his hand to tell them to lower the volume. That’s when he heard a slight knocking on the door. He shushed Tracy and Eli, going over to open the door. He was met with a white-haired man.

“Is everything okay in here?” He stood with some books in his arm, a confused and worried expression on his face. “I was about to leave, but I heard some yelling…” Tracy spoke before anyone.

“Hi, Martin. Eli here is just being a little dumb. Would you like to join us?” She smiled at him, ignoring Eli’s pout.

“What might this be for?” He walked in the room, closing the door behind him and waving a hello to Daniel as he took his seat back.

“We’re trying to figure out the secret to our theatre teacher!” Tracy hopped proudly.

“Is this that Jonathan you compared me to?” Martin set down the books, taking a seat of his own. “Maybe he’s just a strange man.”

“Yes, but we learned that he has a secret poet boyfriend that Cannot Be Spoken Of! Weird, right?”

“I think that may just be personal…”

“There’s more to it, it… it’s just hard to explain. Something is up with him, and we are going to figure it out! We’re starting by-” Tracy got cut off by the sound of a door slamming. Everyone instinctively turned their head to where the door was. Hold on. Wait was that where the door was?

It was just a blank wall.

“Uh… there was a door there, right?”
“Apparently not…”
“Where did it go?”
“Wait, look.”

Martin pointed to the other side of the room. There was a door there. An ominous yellow door.

“That’s totally not suspicious…” Daniel stated, an obvious sarcasm to his voice. He tensed along with everyone else when it started to creak open painfully slow.

After a minute, there stood a woman. She was overall normal looking. Her skin was dark, and her outfit was quite colorful. Blazer and pencil skirt. She looked businessy, but in a colorful way. She was quite tall.

“Hello, there. Do you work here?” She pointed to Tracy, who looked behind herself before looking back. For a split second, she swore she saw the woman change. She seemed to be inhumanly tall, with huge hands, sharp fingers accompanying them. She shook it off as paranoia.

“Oh, uh… He and I do…” She pointed her finger to Martin, and took note of the way the woman looked at him. She seemed to hold her breath, and didn’t speak until he did.

“Who are you…?” He was hesitant.

“I’m Helen!” She was holding her breath again.

“O...kay…? Do you need anything, Helen?” He shrugged at her weird behavior. She had an indescribable look on her face. Defeat, perhaps?

“Right! I need some help looking around for… a book.” She paused. “It was going to be a poetry book but it seems that it’s not quite the right time yet. Any book will do.” The looks she gave Martin were alarming.

“What are you looking for?” He was getting nervous, his voice shaky as he spoke.

“Show me your favorite.” She moved to the side, gesturing for him to go through the door. He wearily began walking, though Tracy cut in.

“We’re going to tag along, if you don’t mind.” Daniel and Eli gave her looks of “Are you serious?” but she brushed them off quick. Helen’s smile grew.

“Of course! I need many recommendations.” And she once again gestured. The group walked through the door, their palms sweaty and shaky. They turned around to see her close the door, and turned back forwards.

To the city streets ahead of them.

Frantically, they looked back. There was no door, no Helen, no library. They were on the city streets, and there were people walking around them.

“What the hell…?” Tracy grabbed onto Daniel, who simply just stood there. “Alright. That was weird.”

“Very.”
“For sure.”
“...”

Tracy glanced at her watch, gasping a bit.

“What’s wrong?” Daniel looked over at her.

“How the hell did a whole hour and a half pass?” She gripped her hair again. The others grimaced as they thought about the possibilities. They weren’t good.

“Did you see how she was talking to me?” Martin looked horrified. “It’s like she wanted me to notice her…” He sighed.

“Yeah, that was weird. You should go home. The work shift is way over anyway.” Tracy patted his shoulder, and he nodded with another sigh.

“Yeah, probably…” He rubbed his eyes before waving at the kids goodbye. “See you soon.” And he walked off. The kids waved back, feeling bad for how he was targeted like that.

The second he was gone from view, Eli yelped at the impact of someone hitting him. The “Sorry!”s that came from the person were familiar.

“Mr. Sims?” He turned around, and they were met with the familiar frail man.

“Oh! Hello, kids. I’m sorry for running into you like that. I was lost in thought…” He smiled awkwardly at them, putting his hands up in apology. They waved him off.

“It’s alright. We were also out of it.” Daniel smiled sympathetically.

“Oh?”

“Weird strangers.” Eli chimed in.

“Ah, I know that feeling. Well, I would love to chat but I must go back home. I will see you all tomorrow.” He left with no other words. He seemed to be in a rush.

They stood there for a little bit. Tracy and Daniel were about to begin walking home when Eli spoke.

“Guys hold on.”

They followed his eyes to the concrete sidewalk. There was a small journal there with a name printed on the front that was barely legible.

“Jonathan Sims.”

Chapter Text

Tracy scooped up the small journal, flipping open the cover silently, and looking over the unreadable bullet points and scribbles. She managed to make out a few doodles, a knife, a crossed out eye, a candle, and what seemed to be a door. She shrugged with a small hum. Strange, but not alarming.

“Think that’s his diary?” Daniel chuckled, snatching it from her hand and flipping through the pages. She hit his shoulder with a whap!

“Would be suspiciously convenient if it was. Just looks like notes to me.” She crossed her arms, watching over his shoulder as he flipped through the pages of bullet points and doodles. There was the occasional paragraph or page that looked like it could be a journal entry, but the handwriting was too messy to read. “About what? Couldn’t tell you, but we probably shouldn’t be snooping.” She grabbed the journal from his grasp. He swatted for it back.

“Come on! This could be important to discover what's up with him!” He scoffed, reaching for the journal, though Tracy was taller, and held it above him.

“Yeah, that’s the point. It could be dangerous if this is “helpful”. Way too convenient. Timing is suspicious.”

“How much do you wanna bet she’s overthinking things, Eli?” Daniel glared at the other boy, who was leaning against a nearby wall.

“I’m not involved here!” He avoided eye contact. Getting involved with Tracy and Daniel’s arguments were never fun.

“You’re overthinking things, Tracy.” Daniel repeated, attempting another swat. He missed.

“Better safe than sorry!” She gave him a smug smile as he scoffed. Her smile turned into one of satisfaction quickly before she looked at her watch. It was getting late, she was reminded.

“I gotta go home before my parents get worried. Watch this for me?” Tracy tossed the journal to Eli, who caught it hesitantly.

“What? Why me?” He debated whether or not he should put it in his bag.

“I have an appointment tomorrow morning, and would rather that gets back to Mr. Sims as fast as possible, I don’t trust Danny with it, so you’re up to drop it off before class!” She shrugged, an “It is what it is.” look on her face.

“But-”

“Thank you! Don’t let Danny get a hold of it!” And she skipped off, no other words as she turned the corner. Daniel and Eli stood for a second in silence.

“Can I…”

“Nope. You know how scary Tracy can get.” And he shoved the journal in his bag.

---

It was late at night. Eli had lost homework time due to the inconvenience of the earlier day, so he had stayed up way later than usual to finish up his assignments. With a cup of coffee and his music playlist, he focused on his work at hand, ignoring the curious nagging he had towards the journal that was on his desk.

A scoff was made at the thought. He shouldn’t be snooping around someone’s journals, especially not his teacher’s journal. Could it help them figure out what’s going on with him? Maybe. Might it be something to keep him occupied? Also maybe. But it was an invasion of privacy, and Eli didn’t plan to invade Mr. Sims' privacy.

He thought.

Until his curiosity got the best of him, and he began flipping through the pages. It was uninteresting to say the least. His handwriting was messy and panicked, Eli could only make out a few words that he picked up the patterned scribbles on. “Eye” was mentioned a lot, along with “Jonah”.

“Why is this guy so obsessed with eyes…”

He scanned the lines, making sure to try his hardest to decipher any words aside from the two that he had picked up. He didn’t have much luck, until he got to the page that he assumed had the current date on it in the corner. He was scanning through the lines, and he could make out one new word.

“Helen.”

He immediately jumped for his phone. Helen. The name of the strange door woman they saw today. If it was mentioned any other day, he would have written it off as a coincidence, but to be written on the same day that they had seen her? Suspicious.

E: hey guys…

danny;): dude its so late.

E: i know, i know. i just need to share something important

tray: you looked at the journal, didn’t you?

E: don't be mad

tray: i’ll try my best.

E: it's important. like mega important

danny;): well r u gonna say something orrr…?

tray: ^^

E: you guys are well aware of what happened today, right

danny;): yah.

tray: this can’t be good. yes.

E: do you guys remember the weird lady’s name

tray: helen, i believe?

danny;): yah.

E: well her name is written right here, on a page that was written today

tray: no way… send a pic.

E: [Image Attachment(1)]

tray: i can barely see it, but it’s there.

danny;): great. now what.

tray: dig deeper, obviously. i don’t know why we didn’t think of google earlier, but we can use that. don’t do anything tonight. we’ll do it in class tomorrow so we can be together for it.

danny;); ur so insistent on the research thing. wat if we just… ask him… about helen or whatever her name is...

tray: nope. we have to be stealthy. he can’t know that we know.

E: you wanna be a detective so bad, don’t you

tray: leave me alone. it’s not like he would actually tell us, anyway.

danny;): u never kno.

tray: i think i do here. im gonna rest up now. do your homework, drink some water, and get some sleep, guys. see you tomorrow! <3

E: gonna hop off too. see you guys :)

---

Eli walked into the school campus a little early so he could have time to drop off the journal. He hadn’t touched it since he made the discovery, and didn’t plan to touch it ever again. Not that it would be any significance, he couldn’t even read the damn thing, but the vow was still there. He sighed as he made his way to Mr. Sims’ classroom, but stopped and peeked into the open door when he heard talking.

“I don’t know why it’s so sudden.”

Mr. Sims sounded distressed. He was on the phone, Eli noticed, and thanked his good hearing and Mr. Sims’ blasting of the volume for letting him hear what the other person was saying.

“That is a very her thing to do…” It was a woman. She sounded familiar to Eli, but he couldn’t tell who over the quality of the volume.

“Maybe, but I’m sure she did something to the kids.”

“Your students?”

“Yes. I bumped into them yesterday, and her presence was still noticeable. Not to mention that they said they had something weird happen to them. They looked very shaken. My mind was all over the place, so it didn’t even occur to me to ask…”

There was something that was in between a scoff and a growl.

“She didn’t show up anymore after that?”

“No. I can’t even Know where she is at the moment.”

“Weird. This is the first time she’s left London in a while.”

“If only she would have told me why...”

The woman was silent for a second.

“Jon… you don’t think she…”

“No. No, we all know that’s impossible.”

“But she can see anyone who has gone through, right? What if she got a glimpse… for even just a second… I would go as soon as possible if that happened to me!”

“There’s a blind spot. Nobody can See, not even me.”

“But you Know you’re close. Despite being in America of all places, you Know you’re close.”

“Maybe, but it’s different from actually Seeing him.” His voice quivered. “I just don’t get how you guys remembered-”

“Jon, we’ve been over this-”

“Which means that we are on common ground with knowing that The Beholding is bullshit-”

“But still. Exists, Jon.” She paused, calming herself. “The corridors barely saved The Distortion, I had cut off my ties to The Beholding long before that, and Georgie was technically under my shield.”

“But it doesn’t. Make. Sense.”

“Not everything does, Jon! Does it make sense that there are others who remember? The ones that the media are labeling as lunatics and cult members? You can’t erase it from everyone, Jon. Just be lucky there’s actual reasons for us.”

“...”

She sighed.

“You’ll find him, Jon. You’re already close, aren’t you? You’ve found each other once, you can do it again. I know you can.”

“Right. Thank you, Melanie. It means a lot.” He sniffed, and Eli could see a small smile on his face.

“Of course, Jon. Come visit sometime, okay? Even if it’s just yourself for a getaway, we miss you. The Admiral misses you.”

“Oh! Say hello for me, will you? To The Admiral and Georgie.”

“Will do. Call me back when you get the chance. See ya.”

“Talk to you later.”

He hung up the phone with a sigh, running his hand through his messy hair. He let out a few sniffs, and Eli decided to interrupt before he could start crying.

“Mr. Sims?”

He looked at him, fast. Eli thought he saw a small tint of green to his eyes for a second, but it was still early, so he just brushed it off as his eyes playing tricks on him.

“Eli? What are you doing here? It’s early…”

“Right. Uh.” He reached for his bag, and pulled out the journal. “You dropped this… yesterday.”

“Oh!” He grabbed the small book, the sadness that was previously there turned to relief. “I was worried that I lost this forever. Thank you.” Eli simply gave an awkward nod as Mr. Sims tucked the book away. He then paused, as if something just registered. “You didn’t… read this… did you?” He looked at Eli.

“Couldn’t! Handwriting is too messy.”

“Even so, you shouldn’t be snooping.”

“Speaking of snooping, who was that on the phone?”

Mr. Sims gave a look of “Really?” before leaning on his desk, arms crossed.

“Friend of mine.”

“She sounded familiar.”

“Do you listen to What The Ghost?”

“That spooky podcast? We listen to it all the time...” He thought for a second, name and voice of the woman repeating to see what familiarity he could get. “Wait. No way… Melanie King?” Mr. Sims hummed in response. “You know Melanie King?! Do you know Georgie Barker too?”

“She’s an… old friend.”

Eli gasped. Unknown to him, all of his attention towards the strange conversation he just heard was now out the window.

---

“No way!”

“Really!”

“That’s insane… Our teacher knowing THE Georgie Barker and Melanie King?”

They huddled in the back of the classroom, where they always were when all hush-hush. There was a laptop there, an abandoned empty tab that had been opened for far too long displayed.

“Think that’s worth writing down?” Eli asked.

“Could be useful!” Daniel answered.

Tracy had grabbed the laptop at this point, the clicking of the keys under her fingers.

“As fun as that is, we still have research to do. Just google full name?”

“Yeah. See where that gets us.” Eli had scooted over so he could see the screen. Daniel did the same.

Tracy typed “Jonathan Sims” into the search bar, and pressed enter. There were a fair amount of results, but they didn’t even have to do much scrolling or digging before opening a link that gave them some… important…? Information.

“Oh. My. God.”

”The Mechanisms?”