Title: "victor, meet spoils"
Fandom: Sherlock BBC
Characters: Molly Hooper/James Moriarty
Prompt: #29, Birth
Word Count: 3,583 words
Summary: Behind her there are feet fast with the intention of unholy things. She does not hasten her step.
Notes: First up for my Sherlock100 table over at LJ. And it's . . . well, it's . . . It's Molliarty. Shouldn't that explain it all? This is set two months after TGG, and is intended to be in the same verse that my "he kindly stopped for me" is set in, which assumes that Molly and Jim are still together for all sorts of fun and dastardly M&M-ness.
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, but for the words.
"I felt a funeral, in my brain,
and mourners to and fro,
kept treading – treading – til it seemed
the sense was breaking through."
She takes the long way home now, more often than not.
The hour was late, and the night air was black and thick before her. The streets were dead that late at night, as they often were after she took a graveyard shift, with not a soul to be seen. Before she would have hailed a cabbie, thinking it to be safer – even though further such cases have proven that to be for naught.
But that was before.
Now she walks, enjoying the chance to stretch her legs after standing in the same position all day. After the stench of the mortuary and the silence of her corpses, the cool night air was a welcome thing. Spring was upon them, the days just starting to warm while the nights remained chill - Persephone's presence was mourning on the night air, where no one could see her wish for winter once more. The breeze off of the river hummed with her lament, singing to the cobblestones under her feet as her plain work heels tapped a steady counterpoint to the silent song. The Themes was approaching just beyond, loitering unseen in the haze of the mist.
She slowed when she passed over the Blackfriar bridge, watching her breath mist on the air to join the never ending fog. In the distance, St. Paul's cathedral made a foggy silhouette against the swirl of gray and black around her – like ink lost on a watercolorists' palette.
Behind her, another set of footsteps paused, mirroring her exactly. She tilted her head at the sound, considering.
There had been a man following her for the last few blocks, she knew.
The thought was enough to make her pass her left hand over her purse in a gesture that could be interpreted as self consciousness; if one merely glanced, that was. She tugged her coat more tightly over her body, and started walking again. As she did, she looked back at the man following her in the reflections that the puddles and street signs offered. He was something half seen to her through the fog – something with the potential to be dangerous, sight not giving aide to the sense of something merely known instead of understood. It was a difference she was learning very well as of late, you see.
Deep in the pocket of her coat her right hand could feel cool metal, made warm by her touch, and a part of her stirred.
Molly continued to walk, her pace slow and careful.
When she crossed the street, her destination in sight, she felt the dim lamplight from above slide over her before being wrenched suddenly away.
There was a harsh grip on her upper arm, pushing her out of the greasy light, and into the shadows. Reflexively, she let out an eep of surprise at the movement - no matter how much she had prepared her mind. The breath left her lungs in a gasp when her back collided with the wall of the alleyway. The brick was cool behind her, catching against the black wool of her coat. Her left hand curled against the stone, his hold making her whole arm ache, whilst her other curled deeper into her pocket, seeking the solace of the warming metal there.
"Your wallet, miss," came the gruff voice, almost the polite request of a gentleman. His voice was coarse and nondescript, pitched lower to disguise it, and a part of her wanted to shake her head at his attempt.
The man was entirely too predictable. The light from the lamp beyond lit the sides of him like a halo, but her eyes had grown accustomed to seeing in the dark, so she drank in the clues and the details that she could.
He wore a ski mask; a dark shade that could have been gray or blue - or black, of course. The fabric was coarse and rough - and wet, she noted with distaste. She wasn't sure if that was from perspiration or from the condensation from the weather. Maybe it was both. Behind the mask, his eyes were a vague shade that could have been either gray or green; they were bloodshot.
("Second rule of attempting a misdeed: always do so sober." and here his voice held a grimace of distaste for those who even bothered to besmear his art with their inane inadequacies.)
He had a gun out, and pointed at her. His hand on his weapon trembled, and Molly almost, almost felt sorry for him. He looked like he had never held a gun before pulling it out of his bedside stand earlier that evening, gazing at the weapon as if it was a serpent he had never thought to test the venom of before.
She herself didn't care for guns – they were loud and they were impersonal, and their bullets were hell for her to extract from the bodies later. Knife wounds were easier to piece a story together from, and bruises were a language of their own – bullets were all periods and exclamation points. Very bold exclamation points.
He was taller than her – which would make this tricky, and he was thick enough underneath the drab gray clothes he wore, but she doubted it was all muscle tone. His coat was long and black, and she couldn't see if he was armed past the gun he held. She didn't think so – but one did not assume in instances like these.
("Rule number fifteen: It is always safer to take for granted that an assailant – an enemy – is one up on you. It forces you to be two steps ahead in the game. For that is what this is, at its core – and what a great game it is that we play.")
She frowned, her eyes narrowing in distaste even as back, far in the recesses of her mind the slip of a girl she used to be, not too long ago, trembled uncomfortably. They never should have been out to begin with, she lamented. Now look what he'll make us do . . .
"Here's my purse," she said in a voice that only slightly trembled, throwing the bag to the ground (it was off brand anyway, simple and sturdy and made to look like more than it was). "There are only twenty pounds in there. You chose a lousy target."
The man gave a non-descriptive shrug. "You get lucky sometimes; sometimes not."
She raised a brow. "Really? You struck me as a first timer," her voice was soft on an uncomfortable little giggle, but this time it did not tremble. She has had worse things than guns leveled at her in the last three months.
He frowned. The safety on the gun clicked, loud in the black air. "You talk too much," he sneered, voice obscured by his mask. A pity, she'd quite like to see his face.
"I've been told that," she agreed.
("Rule number eighteen: Talk when you are in the weaker position. Keep them distracted while keeping your own mind focused. When you hold the upper hand, do not monologue more than necessary.")
She flicked her eyes over him. "You can take my twenty pounds and make a run for it," she offered, hopefully.
He was silent as he regarded her, as if trying to remember something. She frowned at his hesitation, feeling the unexpected way he was acting make her nervous in return. When he took a step closer to her, his weapon raising slightly, she started to withdraw her hand from her pocket.
He was looking her in the eyes – and for a moment she respected him for that, if it weren't for the bad taste his gaze left in her mouth – her body understanding a danger her mind couldn't. "I could," he agreed with her, voice soft and insidious.
He took another step . . .
Another step closer, and she moved.
There was a pressure point inside the crook of the elbow – which he was perfectly displaying for her. She drew her hand out of her pocket with the scalpel she always kept there, and jabbed it deep into that point. Automatically, his grip on the gun faltered and fell – the arm would be numb now, she knew, and his other arm would instinctively come over to hold that arm in support – leaving neither hand free, a rookie mistake showing a man who had never fought a day before in his life. Anticipating that he'd look down at the wound, she reached out to shove at the man's shoulders – pushing him down at the same time she sharply jerked her knee up to meet his nose.
She felt a satisfying crunch – just like she had practiced.
("Rule number forty-eight, only applies to those new to this. You will instinctively look to and hold an area of injury. Use this to further incapacitate your assailant. You are smaller and weaker than any man you will face – in body at any rate – so surprise him, my dear. Move fast, and move cruelly.")
Those sessions had been morbidly fascinating and enrapturing at the same time – him mirroring the moves behind her, hands soft and deadly against her own as he guided her. First mannequins, and then his own men facing her . . . The tear of skin and the splinter of plastic . . . And that look in his eye. That pleased, greedy look that drank in the whole of her down to her core . . .
She lived for that look.
("This is not a rule, but an observation," he said, his soft hands warm and gentle against the scalpel in her hand; curious and reverent. "You have had pass your way the results of human impropriety – learn from and use that knowledge.")
She knew . . . knew how much pressure it took for skin to bruise, and how deep incisions should go for superficial wounds and those more deadly. She knew the weak spots of the body and those tender . . . the strong and the infallible. The body in all of its intimate glory was her knowledge and her life's work. After all, she has studied the canvases of others for so long that her work now is merely an imitation of a master's. In some ways, she was as much of a detective as Sherlock Holmes. The body was a crime scene in of itself, and one whose secrets she could never be bored of unraveling.
She remembered one victim from a few months back that had crossed her table – and like she was a painter remembering Michelangelo or Da Vinci, she struck against the aching man, twisting her blade at the end of her strike with a flourish, watching how the skin split and molted over the mark.
The man fell heavily, the might of a glacier claimed by the persistence of the sea, clutching his throat with the arm that wasn't bleeding. He was sniveling and cursing her as he cried – calling her names that she had heard before from cruel kids, and harsh adults the whole of her life through – and she didn't blink at it.
She kicked his gun away from where it had fallen, just beyond reach of his fingers. It skipped across the stones, lost to the fog beyond.
"He said that this would be an easy job," he said, coughing against the pressure on his throat that wouldn't let him speak easily. "It was supposed to just be an easy job . . ." .
His words gave her pause. She raised a brow. " . . . him?" she asked slowly.
"Him," the man repeated on a hiss. She didn't ask for the man's name, didn't ask because somewhere deep inside she already knew, and she both flew and sank with the knowledge. So many different implications could be taken, and she wasn't sure which one to select. So many different meanings . . . trust in her growth, or a simple way to dispatch what wasn't growing quickly enough . . . Such a fine line that they tread together . . . A dangerous game that he played with her.
The man's voice faded to whimpers and soft sobs, falling against the ground at her feet like rain. He'd need medical attention, and soon, she knew.
"Stop your whinging," she finally snapped, annoyance seeping into her voice in a direct imitation of his. "You wouldn't have let me alone if I had cried," she whispered, circling around him. Her flat working heels didn't click against the ground the way she would have wished them too – but they had a sturdier make, perfect for when she kicked him – once where he'd remember it, and once in the head, careful to apply just enough force to sink him into the land of unconsciousness.
"You wouldn't have cared . . ." she repeated on a murmur.
She circled him once, twice; made sure he was well and truly out (one could never be too careful), before kneeling to check his pulse. She had no desire to place herself in the land of those with blood on their hands, no matter how closely she was playing that line by guilt of association. Not yet, if she couldn't help it.
He was still alive, she wasn't sure if she should be feeling relief or annoyance; so she settles for both.
She walked the few feet to where she had dropped her purse, and pulled out her mobile to dial 999. While waiting for the authorities, she took off her flowery blouse, adjusting her jacket over the cami she wore underneath for modesty's sake.
She was able to tear the fabric into strips, and knot them together to form makeshift bandages over his wounds until help arrived. When the paramedics took the man away, she was ushered to be looked over herself, a shock blanket held tight around her thin shoulders, and a warm mug of tea warming her hands. There was a detective sent, as well, and he asked her the routine questions.
At the end, he took a moment to lean towards her as if he shared understanding of her plight. "It's amazing how low the human race can sink, isn't it?" he says to her, his smile sympathetic, and maybe even a little bit flirty; a perfect play of sir knight before lady damsel. Before, the attention would have made her warm inside, and she would have smiled back, tucking her hair behind her ears and fumbling awkwardly.
Now, she stops herself from saying that a little foiled robbery isn't even a tenth of what human depravity can sink to, and instead inclines her head, and mutters, "Simply horrid," into her mug of tea.
When he turns away, she watches the paramedics until the doors shut, and the flashing lights were swallowed by the fog and the night.
She goes to work Monday morning, and it is a morning like any other. She makes a cup of truly horrid coffee from the cafeteria – the burnt weakness of it something routine and familiar in its vulgarity. She unlocks the mortuary, and thumbs on the bright and unforgiving florescent lights. She hums to herself upon seeing that she is alone, tapping her shoes against the ground in a silly cadence. There is a list of new additions to her collection waiting for her, and she reads the name of her first puzzle somewhat eagerly..
Jason Hopkins, thirty-eight years of age, Caucasian male. Found dead in his hospital bed, and most decidedly not of natural causes . . .
She wrinkled her nose on the way over to the freezer, knowing that this would be a messy one. She placed her coffee down next to her tools, and snaps her gloves on her hands as if she were a mad scientist getting ready to play with her corpses.
She thumbed in the combination for the body, and with a hiss of pressurized air, the compartment opened . . .
To reveal the man from Friday night.
To her credit, she did not scream – but she did jump back, a curse of "bloody hell!" on her lips in a vocalization of the surprise coursing through her in waves. Her heart was hammering in her ribcage, making a sharp and overwhelming sound that filled her ears. She held her hands up childishly before her eyes, as if by doing so she could hide form the sight before her.
When she hesitantly looked over at the man, she her throat felt thick and burning.
He was . . .
He was . . . dead?
How was that possible? The wounds she dealt to him had been superficial at best, and hardly life-threatening at worse. Merely painful . . .
She took a step closer, needing to solve the riddle in her mind. Her eyes easily sought out her own inflicted wounds on the man's skin – the sewn line at his throat, and the already healing puncture wound at his arm. There were old bruises – from falling, from her kicking him . . . old bruises, along side those new.
Those new . . .
She felt bile rise up in her throat when she recognized that a weapon not quite unlike her own scalpel had carved an intricate pattern into the man's chest. The pattern was looping and graceful, and when it was done the red lines and the greenish purple stains of bruises almost looked like a bouquet of flowers – beautiful and disgusting to her eyes as most abstract art often was.
Morbidly fascinated, she hesitantly reached out one hand, as if to accept the gift . . .
And then her mobile went off.
She actually jumped guiltily at the sudden sound, and her fingers shook as she reached into the pocket of her lab coat to take out her phone.
There was a text message waiting for her.
For you, darling.
To the victor, goes the spoils.
Her knuckles were white from her grip over the phone, her eyes read the words over and over and over again as if trying to make sure of the conclusion that her mind had reached was indeed correct.
For her . . .
He had killed for her . . .
He had dirtied his hands (either directly, or indirectly), and had killed for her . . .
She felt something inside of her, equally repulsed and breathless, shake at that. The weight of that. So many thoughts were running chaotically through her mind – the idea that he was proud of her, that he saw something worthy in her, that he bloody saw her at all – mixed with the idea that she had indirectly ended a man's life . . . She felt like hyperventilating, and the room swam drunkenly around her. Without thinking, she reached out and grasped the table for support, her hand a whisper away from the dead man's.
Her phone beeped again, and she flipped it open without thinking.
You should be proud of yourself, my dear.
You did beautifully.
Proud of herself . . .
Her mind spun curiously at the thought. Pride. For a very long time, she had forgotten how to . . . she had . . .
She shut her eyes, and tried to get her mind to calm, to relax enough so that she could think and process . . .
Biting her lip, and squaring her jaw, she made herself look down at the body again – seeing the beauty of the death wounds and the perfection of their execution. Holding her breath, she reached out to touch the bruised flesh, feeling it cold and lifeless under her touch. Her skin tingled as if after a caress, and she snatched her hand back as if burned by a live wire.
Another beep, and she looked down.
For a long time she left the reply space blank.
When she finally did so, her fingers hardly shook.
Thank-you for the lovely gift.
And she does not mean the gift of the dead man.
Almost mechanically, she picked her coffee up again, and started to fill out her report as if this were any other day with any other body. Cause of death, and time of death . . . Her answers were routine, and yet her mind was far away with the whole of them.
When her eyes once again found the pattern the kill made, she found it hard to look away for a long, long time.