Balancing on the Knife's Edge
Summary: Druitt headspace fic. His daughter has been stolen and his warring natures conflict over what to do about it. John Druitt, minor Will presence.
Rating: R for violence
Spoilers: "The Five" and "Revelations"
Timeline: immediately post-Revelations
Author's Note: for alchemistseraph over at Livejournal
Balancing on the Knife's Edge
William had helpfully mentioned that the roof of the North Tower was a good place to go when you needed to think. Perhaps he would have hesitated if he had known what manner of thoughts one of the Sanctuary's newest visitors had to turn over.
Montague had been a kind and gentle man, a schoolteacher and a good friend and a solicitous lover to Helen Magnus and James Watson, the only two who mattered. His students had adored him and his teammates had considered him vital to victory on the cricket pitch or hockey rink. His family had always called him in on difficult legal cases. And everyone had loved him without reservation. Or, at least, everyone who counted. Those had been good years.
John had come later, a child of the Source. The gifts had been manifold, the curses subtle and slow to present themselves. He'd felt so alive at first, so full of power and vitality and passion. Less timid, more confident. Finally able to see in himself what others always had. The other members of the Five, even Nikola at first, had celebrated the change in him. God forgive him, he'd celebrated it himself.
The Ripper came later, an amplification of everything that had ever been wrong about him. He'd been right to fear his own nature before. He realized this during his lucid moments, probably should have before. Momentary impulses, doubts and fears and insecurities that he'd suffered in the past and been able to suppress, suddenly reasserted themselves with a vengeance. The freak of nature, the devil…
The first killing had been impulsive, motivated by a defensive need to assert his own masculinity. It was a relief to see her already dead but still bleeding by his hand, a reminder of the man the Source had made him: confident and in-control. If subsequent killings had escalated in brutality, it was only because it had taken more to remind himself that he was, in fact, adequate.
Listening to James bemoan his inability to solve the crimes had been painful from the outset. He'd inured himself to that at first but it became harder later. Maybe it was his newfound confidence in other venues, or the ever-increasing love and support between every member of the Five but the killings stopped seeming so necessary. At least at other times. In the moment he committed them, nothing made more sense than to rip the life from those women. But it grew progressively less satisfying and, ultimately, stopped being anything but sickening. He'd continued to kill, but only for relief from that gnawing anxiety and sense of inadequacy.
Pain had been next, more than a hundred years later.
Nikola, of all people, nursing him back to health as if they'd never competed for the love of the same woman. A tender hand and gentle words and a reminder of the affinity they'd once shared, how they'd been connected, even when at odds. He'd been foolish enough at the time to believe all of it, to be grateful. Then came the requests, disguised first as subtle hints and then delivered with more insistence as he started to recover.
When he'd realized what was being asked of him, refused outright instead of just offering vague evasions, the torture had come. Electricity, an almost-pleasant tingle at first. Then the burning, searing, agonizing screaming of nerves pushed beyond their limits. His entire body convulsing, sometimes so hard his body ached for days.
And, somehow, everything had seemed clear after the second or third session. The rage and defensiveness past, he'd realized that he'd only ever been angry and disgusted with himself, not others. And he'd resolved never to kill again, felt good about that resolution.
He'd used his newfound sanity to save Helen's life. With the help of their daughter.
Ashley Victoria Magnus.
So young and beautiful and strong and bright and so very full of potential. So wasted, being as much of a killer as her father. He liked to think he'd made her stop and think the day she'd helped him rescue Helen from Nikola, that she might still grow to be more than he had been.
And then the Cabal had robbed him of her, robbed Helen of her…
And so he found himself on the roof of the Sanctuary, stories above where Helen no doubt sat with her wide-eyed protégé discussing ways to bring Ashley home. They could plan to repair the situation; his own thoughts were not so forward-thinking. Not when the Cabal had claimed his only child.
They would bleed for their transgression. He would see to that. After all, MJ Druitt, Ripper, was no amateur. Oh, no. He was practiced in the game, an expert. He could eviscerate scores without needing a blade. Which was rather satisfying to consider where the Cabal was concerned. A Race War was one thing, distasteful but nothing he could not avoid. But when they involved his daughter, broke Helen's heart, then it became personal.
He knew where Ashley had been held with her protean friend. Easy enough for a teleporter to bring himself there and kill everyone he ran across with varying degrees of brutality and malice. To have his hands once more slick with blood, to hear pleas for mercy ringing in his ears…
He stared down at the hands in question, long fingers that had once soothed the fears of frightened children, that had since held the entrails of men and women still alive and whimpering for mercy or relief or some combination of the two. He would use those strong hands, those long and skillful fingers, to rip apart the people responsible for taking his child from him.
"You told me 'perhaps the old boy is losing his taste for the sport,'" a familiar male voice rang in his head, making him spin around, searching for its source.
"James?" he panted, staring frantically around the empty roof.
"Well, did you?"
"You did or you didn't, John. Do you honestly believe this is what Helen wants from you?"
"She was my child, too," he answered harshly. "I have a right to be angry."
Then it was Helen's voice in his head. "John! This ends here."
"No." He shook his head. "Not yet. I can't." His fingers curled around the stone of the parapet. "She is my child!"
"Let the insanity fly."
"Yes," he agreed in a low voice. "Did your mother never tell you? You are mine, child, and I will take you back."
He spun, startled to be confronted by an actual person instead of just another voice.
"William," he greeted the boy. "I thought you'd be with Helen."
"I finally talked her into getting some sleep."
"Good lad." Druitt nodded his approval. "Someone must care for her the way she cares for everyone else in the world."
"I've started to see that," Will agreed. "I just wanted to make sure you were okay before I turned in."
He considered the young man before him, calculating, almost leering. "There is something I could use, but I doubt it's anything you're willing to offer to a strange man." He smiled at the young man's uneasy look. "Nothing I can't seek elsewhere, I assure you. Good night, William."
He started to turn, then stopped. "I'm sorry about Watson," he whispered. "And I hope it goes without saying that I'll do everything in my power to help bring Ashley home."
"Naturally. Now turn in, lad. You look as fatigued as I feel. I shan't be far behind." He smiled and patted him on the shoulder before making a shooing gesture.
"You have my cell number, right? Call if you need anything."
"I won't hesitate to," he assured him. Smiling, he gestured for the young man to leave.
Alone again, he turned his gaze back out over the city that Helen had spent so many years protecting. Disgusting ingrates, the lot of them.
Rage built in him as he considered the men and women down there, human and abnormal. The division between them.
Once more, just to wet his hands. After that, he could stop again. Helen and James would have been so disappointed but he couldn't quite bring himself to care about them. The Cabal had his daughter! They were going to use her, make her more of a killer than she'd ever been under her mother!
He found himself in that computer lab again without conscious thought. There was just grief at having never been able to get to know Ashley and rage at the idea of her becoming like him and then he was in the dark wind tunnel between here and there and then he was in the computer lab he had extracted her and her friend from.
From there, his course seemed clear.
The first time was unsettling, ripping that poor young man open with his bare hands. He had, presumably, not even known what he was becoming involved in when he agreed to be a security guard for this facility. Certainly death at the hands of Jack the Ripper hadn't been on his radar. He'd let out a strangled cry at the first intrusion of hand into torso and then slumped to the ground, wide-eyed and too shocked to speak as the life drained from him. He stared up at his attacker with wide eyes and a hopelessly confused expression, mouth moving soundlessly. Druitt watched until he stilled, smiling bitterly.
He didn't bother wiping his hands clean. They would only get bloody again. Besides, his one semester of medical training reminded him of what introducing large quantities of another blood-type could do to a person. Popular misconceptions aside, evisceration was a slow way to die. A person could survive for hours with their insides on the outside. They needed to bleed for death to be quick, or to suffer some kind of toxicity. And then it was not just relatively quick, it was agonizing. Which worked just fine for him.
After the first killing, it became easy. Security guards, soldiers, scientists. The 'who' didn't matter nearly as much as the satisfaction of that stifled whimper and the feel of hot, seething flesh in his hands. He lost count at twenty, kept going for some time after, and finally returned himself to the Sanctuary, exhausted but not sated.
He teleported himself directly to his guestroom, bathing thoroughly and changing into fresh clothes as he had too many times in the past. The soiled clothes found their way onto a moldering pile of fabric in the jungle of Borneo. And, as in the past, when he greeted others as the sun rose, there was nothing to suggest anything about him other than complete innocence.
With 'the Big Guy' still unwell, William had taken over breakfast duties and he looked up as Druitt entered.
"You look better this morning," he noted.
"Worlds better, thank you." He smiled. "Quite refreshed. You were right. That rooftop is an excellent place to go when one requires a sense of perspective."
William smiled and gestured to where coffee, tea, and orange juice had all been laid out. "Food'll be done in a minute. The others are on their way. We're going to work while we eat, find a way to make the Cabal suffer."
Druitt let out a low chuckle as he helped himself to a glass of juice. "My boy, that is a plan I can get behind."