A/N: Hello, Readers. If you don't mind, I'd just like to give a quick explanation of the story itself before your read. "Assume Nothing" takes place within an alternate universe in which the events of Saw III and IV play out as in the films, but end very differently. Amanda Young, Daniel Rigg, Eric Matthews, Art Blank, Lynn Denlon and Jeff Reinhart survive their games. But have any of them learned anything?
We begin one week before Jeff's game and will continue through the timeline of Saw VII. The "romance" here will begin as rivalry, sexual tension, and even actual hate. It evolves after John's inevitable death when Hoffman and Amanda decide to continue setting up games, using John's unfinished work and some of their own designs.
The rating is for violence, language, and moderate sexual content. Chapters will be between 2,000 and 5,000 words. Updates will be unpredictable and I do apologize for that. This is my first Saw story. Please know that all reviews will be cherished.
Hoffman: You're assuming this is going to play out the way you want it to.
John: I assume nothing. I anticipate the possibilities and... I let the game play out. -Saw V
A sarcastic question: "Did you miss me?"
A cold, emotionless fact: "No."
Amanda rolls her eyes. "Then why the hell are you here?"
Mark smirks. "I don't have to report for another three hours. I could use a distraction from the case. I just thought I'd see how things are going here."
"Bullshit. You've come to screw up all my hard work, haven't you?"
He doesn't actually know if she's teasing or genuine now. He doesn't actually care.
"Where's John?" He changes the subject.
"Resting," she answers, trying too hard to seem apathetic.
"How is he?"
She sighs and shuts her eyes for a moment. "Better than yesterday."
Mark knows it's a lie, but he sees no reason to upset Amanda any further. Instead, he simply nods in response. "Good."
"Yeah." She turns her attention back to the trap she's been working on.
Mark observes it with some combination of approval and confusion. There is a double-barreled shotgun attached to several gears, metal plates, and what looks like a camera tripod. He takes a step closer and reaches a hand out. "How does this-"
"Don't touch!" Amanda smacks his hand away.
He obediently stands back, but he repeats his question. "How does it work?"
"What are you asking, Mark? How the device itself operates? Or how the game is supposed to play out?" She grins, fully aware of how much she sounds like John. "If all you want to know is-"
"The game," he interjects impatiently.
Amanda giggles before crossing to another table and locating her sketchbook. She debates not sharing this with Mark, after all, she knows that she's no artist. At least, she's not as good as John. She never bothers with outlines, shading, or showing the scene from multiple angles. She doesn't really see the point in those things. Her traps are detailed enough, but her victims are stick-figures. Her designs make much more sense in her own mind than they ever do on paper.
"If you laugh at this..." she warns. "I will kick your ass and never speak to you again."
"What a tragedy that would be," he retorts sarcastically. "You need my help to set this up anyway. You might as well risk my mockery."
"Oh, please! I could find someone else..." Regardless of this potentially true statement, she pages through the book, locating her best and most recent sketch and then shoving the book into the detective's hands.
His eyes widen.
She smiles again. "There's a room, empty except for the subject and this lovely device. It works like a roulette wheel. The gun is going to spin, settle at a random angle and shoot. It reloads automatically and turns in any direction. Every inch of the room is a possible target, it's just a matter of time."
"So, how does the subject...?"
"There's a key..." She begins then pauses.
He glares at her, "Where?"
"Guess." She's suddenly feeling playful and Hoffman is almost too easy to mess with.
"I don't know."
She curls her lips into an exaggerated pout. "Sure, you do," she teases. "It's your job. Try to anticipate the Jigsaw Killer's next move."
"Well, if I were you, I'd... Wait. Did you just call yourself...?"
She catches herself but attempts to brush it off like it's nothing. "You know what I meant. Anyway, the key is here..." she taps the sketchpad, unintentionally brushing Mark's right hand in the process.
"Attached to the underside of the gun itself?" He shakes his head with some combination of disbelief and exasperation. "You really are a bitch."
She nods, realizing two things: Hoffman is not usually this inclined to voice his opinions, and she can't help her slight excitement at realizing her design is just that interesting. Or, maybe, he's just as bored as she was a few minutes ago... But, whatever the case, she is certainly more amused now.
"So...?" Mark asks, oblivious to her blissfully confused mental state. "Where's the keyhole?"
"Keyhole?" She repeats like it's a foreign work.
"Don't tell me there isn't one."
"Um..." she shrugs.
"There isn't... You know, you're really good at this false-hope thing."
Amanda nods. "I'm really good at a lot of things." She turns her back to him and pretends to be busy by toying with a wrench she doesn't actually need. She doesn't want to have this discussion now.
Mark sighs. He thinks of his own inescapable trap. The pendulum he can't tell Amanda about. But at least he had a reason for it. She seems to have no motivation for her games, no revenge or anything, except murder for the sake of murder. Her plans hold none of the personal touches or careful consideration of John's games. He doesn't understand her tests at all. He doesn't think she's learned anything. And he doesn't know why John puts so much faith in her...
Amanda sets the wrench down and picks up a screwdriver instead. She pretends she can't see the confused and disapproving look on Hoffman's face. Impulsively, she grips the handle tightly and forces the tool itself into the table, carving out a little star shape.
"Do you really have nothing better to do?" Mark embraces the chance to think about something else.
"Same question, back at ya," she counters. She adds a few curves to the design she's tracing, deciding that it's not a star, but a puzzle piece. When he says nothing after a few seconds, she elaborates. "What about that distraction you mentioned?"
"Distraction?" He moves to stand directly behind her. She's still leaning over the table, tracing her star-puzzle design. Before she can react, turn around, or move at all, Mark steps even closer and rests his hands on the table, on either side of her. He uses this deceptively gentle contact to hold her in place. "Are you implying…?" He breathes against her ear. "That your death-traps aren't distracting enough?"
"They're not death-traps, they're…" She trails off. What are they? John thinks of his inventions as tools: the equipment to save lives. So, her own designs would be…
"Execution devices?" Mark supplies spitefully. "'Death-trap' sounds better, somehow." He's more aware of his physical advantage than he is of this argument though. He lifts his right hand and teasingly brushes Amanda's elbow.
She pretends to be unconcerned if not entirely oblivious. She presses into the table more forcefully, sharpening the edges of her puzzle piece. After a momentary pause, he touches her again, this time halfway between the wrist and elbow of the arm holding her screwdriver. She glares futilely at the table and forces herself to not react, just keep tracing the same design over and over again.
Without warning, he grabs her wrist. She startles and her screwdriver makes a slash though her puzzle piece. She gives a cry of angry frustration. He smiles in spite of himself and squeezes her wrist until she drops the tool and holds it still until, finally, he earns a verbal reaction: "Let go!"
Smirking, he obliges. She spins to face him, suddenly realizing how close they are. She feigns disgust and takes a step backward, stupidly pinning herself against the table. Apparently amused, Hoffman raises an eyebrow with an unspoken challenge.
"You are such an ass," she says finally, using too much emotion and effort to be just stating a simple fact.
"Really? See, I was about to say you're a pain in the ass. Is that ironic or just…?"
He obligingly says nothing. But he does take a step closer to her. She hates him and she dreads where this is going. He has the audacity to stare like her disgust and discomfort are amusing somehow.
"Do you get some weird pleasure from pissing me off?" She demands.
"Uh huh." She rolls her eyes. "And you just love sabotaging my games."
"I haven't sabotaged anything."
He raises an eyebrow. She couldn't possibly know… He dismisses the thought and argues, "Why would I do that?"
"Because you can't stand that I'm better than you."
"Better? In what way, pray tell, would you say that I'm inferior to you?"
She scowls. He keeps his expression stoic, but mentally laughs at her. After a pause, she finally settles for, "John chose me."
That's true. But it's only because she was the first of his subjects to survive. She understands John's methods though experience. She designs her own games and thinks they serve that same purpose. She's wrong. And she's the successor only because Mark never wanted the legacy in the first place.
Instead of telling her any of this, he takes another step closer. Her eyes widen with suspicion. He doesn't bother to inform her of her flaws or remind her of his physical and emotional superiority, because he has another advantage over her that he's only recently discovered.
"Amanda…" He whispers. His tone is not one of affection or threat, but she tenses anyway, as if expecting a combination of both. "What's wrong?"
"Stop doing that!"
"What?" He holds his arms out in a gesture of innocence and confusion.
"Stop talking like… stop looking at me like… Ugh! Just, stop!"
"Leave you alone?" He asks. "And let you resume carving a jigsaw puzzle out of the table? Or start building more death taps?"
She groans, obviously knowing it's not that simple. She resentfully decides to play along.
"Hoffman…" She mimics the tone he used saying her name a minute ago. It doesn't have the same effect on him, but it's progress. It's just another game, really: making Amanda think this is all her idea: all her fault.
When he gives no verbal or physical response, she sighs and tries another approach. "Mark…" There is no particular emphasis and it's voiced so awkwardly it might as well be a question, but it does get his attention.
"Amanda?" He repeats. It's a question and a challenge this time.
She doesn't know what to say. She mumbles something irrelevant about the game she's currently designing.
"When do we actually set it up?" He inquires. He's leaving it to her to bring the real point back into play, or continue with this useless tangent.
She leans back against the table. "After Jeff's game." She pauses and then elaborates. "John said I could."
"Really?" Mark isn't sure if he's more shocked that John knows about this plan or that he is allowing, even encouraging it.
"Mmm Hmm." She nods.
Silence settles between them. Neither of them wants to acknowledge the tension here, but they are not particularly interested in the current subject either.
After almost a full minute, Amanda smirks. "Detective?"
That's infuriating. She has so many names and titles to use with him, all with different significance. He calls her "Bitch" about as often as she calls him "Asshole," but she has always been just "Amanda" to him. "Young" sounds wrong somehow and possible hints at her occupation are laughable- the Torturer's Apprentice? Jigsaw Junior? -It's pathetic he can't even think up a decent insult for her. So, Amanda, it is. Amanda the bitch who makes "Detective" sound like "Traitor," usually. Right now though, it's voiced with an odd combination of interest, mockery, and flirtation.
He can't think of a clever response now because of the nickname issue. He unhappily settles for, "What?"
"How's the case coming?" She giggles. "Honestly, I think you have better things to waste your time with."
"Like what?" He challenges. Why does she always make things so complex?
"Like… anything else."
"Like what?" He repeats, knowing exactly where this is going.
"Like… helping me." She pauses and hastily clarifies. "With my games. Setting them up and shit like that." She glances at her shotgun trap, an excuse to look at something other than Hoffman's piercing gaze. "The base of that thing alone weighs about as much as I do."
No. She is not doing this again. He won't let her.
"Help you with what, now?" He asks, feigning confusion.
"Hoffman," She murmurs. "I just acknowledged that you're useful. That's the closest thing to a compliment you're going to get out of me. Ever. So you'd better savor it."
He chuckles. "I shall. And, now, I suppose you're going to demand I say something nice about you…"
"Nope," she replies. "Your obvious attraction is more than enough."
"My obvious attraction?"
"That's right," she nods, still avoiding his eyes.
"Amanda. I'm not the one leaning against a table for support. I'm not the one avoiding eye contact…" he smiles. "And I am not the one blushing now."
"I am not blushing. And… none of that proves anything." She forces herself to stand up straight and glare into Mark's eyes once more.
Hoffman's eyes, she corrects herself.
He stares back until her glare softens into an expression only slightly more threatening than a pout.
"Amanda," he says finally. "We can hate it all we want, but we both know where this is going." He steps forward again. He barely has to lean forward and he could kiss her- if he wanted to.
She coyly regresses to leaning back against the table, resting her palms there for potentially necessary extra support. "Detective Hoffman?" She inquires after a brief pause, using an accusatory tone that contradicts her defensive position. "Are you trying to seduce me?"
He grins. "No, Ms. Young. I am actually trying to distract you."
"From… your death traps."
"Oh," she smirks. "That's a good point. Well, in that case, you can feel free to keep yourself busy attempting to keep me unfocused."
"To keep your mind off the case. You're getting too close to discovering the real Jigsaw. We can't have that."
Mark leans forward, placing his hands over hers and boldly letting their faces almost touch. "Are you sure you don't want me to get any closer?"
"You can't!" Amanda's flirtatious tone has vanished; she's defensive again. "You'll ruin everything."
She's fucking bi-polar!
Mark sighs. "I wasn't talking about the case, Amanda."
"I know." She turns her head to the side so she doesn't have to look at him. He's too close. He should leave. She should make him leave. She sighs too. "It's not about the case, and I wasn't talking about our fucked-up little family here with John either."
"Then what…?" He demands.
Amanda bites her lower lip and hesitantly turns to face him again. "I mean it, Hoffman. If you come any closer, you'll ruin everything!" She tries to pull her hands out from under his, tries to push him away, but she can't. Instead, she creates distance where she can: she pulls herself up into a seated position on the edge of the table.
She's trying to get away. Mark wonders briefly if she knows that she's actually in a more vulnerable position now than before. He has a delayed reaction to the fact that she's wearing a skirt: plain black denim, the fringed hem of it barely grazes the tops of her knees.
... Not that he notices how Amanda dresses. Not that he cares.
"What?" Hoffman repeats tauntingly. "…Amanda, I swear! If you don't have a reasonable verbal protest in the next ten seconds, I'm going to-"
He doesn't get to finish that threat. Telling herself that it's just to make him shut up, Amanda closes the distance between them and crushes her lips against his.
This is not their first kiss, though the conversation leading up to it would certainly create that impression. But, no: it's not even their tenth kiss. Their attraction is strictly physical and they give into it more than either of them would like to admit. The first time their lips met was after a particularly vicious argument that had ended in headaches, sore throats, and a black eye for each of them. The aftermath of that, somehow, had lead to even more violence: Amanda's tongue and Mark's lower lip bleeding for no discernable reason. Neither of them knows who initiated that first step and neither would admit to it if they did.
This is not the first time they've used this particular method to cure boredom or remedy the frustration they've inflicted upon each other. This is not even the first time Amanda has found herself in this particular position on this very table…
She doesn't think there's anyone she hates quite as much as she hates him. She knows there is no person she would rather torment. He's so cocky yet so stupid, so obnoxious yet so quiet... She thinks she'd like to kill him, if that were an option.
Smirking against her lips, Mark adjusts slightly: one hand now supporting her back and the other slowly tracing her left thigh. Amanda knows she hates this as much as she likes it. She wants to push him away more than pull him closer, but she does the opposite anyway. Because she's bored. And if he's going to annoy her, she might as well get some excitement out of it.
She has a delayed reaction to the fact that her hands are free now. Her first move is to pull away from the kiss, peel the detective's hand off her back, and a-little-too-enthusiastically tear off her own shirt, leaving the striped bikini top she decided would be more practical than a bra today, for some reason she can't recall.
"Shut up!" She hisses at Mark's raised eyebrow. "I'm…"
"Bored," he finishes for her with an amused nod. His free hand fists in her hair and the other inches further up her thigh. He does notice her legs parting slightly at this touch and her tiny mew of approval when his lips return to attack hers, but he chooses not to comment. Knowing she hates herself for these reactions is more than enough satisfaction for now.
They continue like this: with lust, hate, and resentful desperation. Mark's lips are suddenly at her throat. She bites her lip to suppress any sounds that might encourage his already ridiculous ego. But she unintentionally lets out a gasp when he bites. She's torn between reminding Hoffman that she is not his property to mark this way and demanding that he bite her again. Harder.
Mark knows he's enjoying this a little too much. But he justifies it: this has nothing to do with Amanda. He doesn't care about her. She could die for all he cares. No, this is about a hate-fueled hookup: the perfect balance of physical and emotional release. He's standing between her spread legs now, his tongue tracing the pulse in her neck. She shivers. He grins and moves to kiss her lips again. His mouth and his lips freeze, however, when his hand teasing her left thigh suddenly brushes an area of her skin not quite as smooth as the rest of her leg.
He pulls away from the kiss. She gives a tiny cry of protest. He ignores it as well as the sound she makes when he forcefully pulls her skirt up and glares at the scar tissue and a much-too-recently-formed scab. He growls, "You said you quit that!"
"God dammit, Amanda!" He exclaims. "Why do you do this shit?"
She blinks, confused and more than a little alarmed. "Why the hell do you care?" She demands, pulling her skirt up farther. "Look! There's nothing on my other leg! You can feel up that one instead, if it really bothers you so much."
"That's not the fucking point and you know it! You were supposed to stop hurting yourself!"
"Why do you care?" She repeats, suddenly hating him more than ever.
"I don't!" He snaps. It might be a lie. He quickly covers it. "But … but, what would John say?"
"John? ... John is never going to look at the insides of my legs."
"Maybe not..." Mark concedes. "But I could tell him."
"You could," Amanda nods. "But you won't..." She trails off, attempting to formulate a sufficient threat.
"You're right," Mark sighs. "I won't."
"What?" She's shocked. "Why not? Are you gonna try to blackmail me or something?"
"He's dying, Amanda!"
She pulls away as if he slapped her. The emotion on her face regresses to her earlier display of sadness and anger. "He's..."
Mark ignores whatever she's trying to say. "You're enough of a disappointment already!"
"He's on his fucking death bed, Amanda!" Mark shouts, the emotions he so rarely expresses getting the best of him. "Do you get that? The absolute last thing he needs is to learn that his first surviving test subject, his precious apprentice, the life he saved... might as well be dead."
"Fuck you, Hoffman! At least I can-"
"Can WHAT?" He demands sarcastically. "Design elaborate traps to glamorize your murders? Torture those who are already suffering? Mutilate your own body? I'm sure John's so proud of you. Bet your family would be too."
There is a different kind of tension now. The mood has changed completely, but neither of them has physically moved out of position. Apparently forgetting that Hoffman is still standing between her legs, Amanda screams and lashes out. She tries to punch him but he catches her wrist and then her other hand. He leans forward, forcing her back until she's lying flat on the table. He holds her hands in place above her head and glares down at her.
"You haven't learned anything," he growls.
"Yeah? Well, what have you learned?" She snaps. "You weren't even tested! He chose me, not you! So, apparently, I'm doing something right."
"You're wrong…" He stares at her with an expression halfway between pity and revulsion. "You're the one who's going to ruin everything."
With that, he stands and lets her go. He doesn't acknowledge her shriek of protest when he starts walking away and he barely flinches when he feels her screwdriver collide with his shoulder.
A/N: I'd like to give a quick shout-out to Helen Young who almost-literally forced me into liking the Hoffman/Amanda pairing. She's helped me more than she realizes and I can't say enough good things about her. To Riss313 because she kept me sane via facebook during my multiple edits and "I'm too nervous to post" stages. Also, to the 2001 North Carolina state quarter that was used in the coin-toss that determined if I should post the "long" or "short" version of the first chapter. (It was heads, which supported the "long" version you see here). Thank you and please review.