Genre: Romance, Horror
Time Frame: Post TGG, my M&M!verse
Characters: Molly Hooper/James Moriarty
Summary: "There is a head in the fridge," she says calmly, as calmly as she can.
Notes: Because it has been too long since I have written for these two crazy kids. That, and then there was a horror/romance challenge at another site, and such a combination demanded nothing less than a Molly and Moriarty mix. I do hope you enjoy the latest twist to their tale.
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, but for the words.
And here, Molly Hooper often found herself reflecting, was how a woman was grown from the ground up.
One did not need flame, crucible, or forge. One only needed potters clay and fertile ground. Each had been presented – available and willing, and so with bloodied hands there had been a press. A pinch and a pull. A caress and a molding. There had been no smoke, no fire or ashen sky – just papercuts and careful roots sunk deep. Ordinary convictions, strengths, set in low and covered with shadows – presented to the world with polite smiles. Nothing had changed. Blank eyes. After all, one never showed teeth unless there was something to prove.
Less and less did she feel as if she had something to show to the world around her. Months pass, and she felt herself trade and exchange little pieces of herself for those brilliant and new. The world was a greyscale, the spectrum of morality something that rarely ever showed bright and incandescent and pure.
She found now, that the places behind her eyes ached during the day. The months pass, as they often do. She passes them much as ever, with the corpses cold on her table and her nights quiet and without fanfare. Except, if she has found something to fill her evening hours with – the decay and the rot of the city from its roots up, like termites – then no one around her was wiser to it. Jill from the ER still invited her to lunch every now and again as was her wont, and Murray the man with the mail cart still had that soft grin that he saved just for her. He was getting on in age now, and there was something soft in the weathered crags of him that Molly appreciated.
If she were to notice a smile there, a wave here that she would have passed before, then that was all part of the passage of time as well. She can feel finger prints upon her – marks from her molder. She no longer needed those glances – those anchors with those around her. Once, for this she would have thrived, and now . . .
There was a man who worked the floor above her. A doctor with kind eyes and a healer's heart. He complimented her hair once, a week or so before. Said how the dark cast of it suited her. He liked it when she let it down in the cafeteria, free from the constrains of the health code she adhered to with her bodies.
He bought her coffee one morning, sat with her through lunch that day, and when asked for motive, he simply said that he was offering her a little more conversation than she would find with her corpses in the morgue below. Molly had smiled politely at that – all polished about the seams – and didn't bother to counter him. If he didn't already know, then he never would. The dead had everything to say where the living had only smokescreens and asides and trivialities on their lips day after day. Truth was her fingers on bruising flesh, pressing into still organic matter – absent of life, but full of its meaning even though lungs did not raise and hearts did not pump as she held them in her hands.
The day after, the same doctor left M&Ms on her desk – a note saying how he was saving her a trip to the vending machine for that day. She opened the bag of candies, and put her hair up in a sloppy bun, held in place by her pencil when she did so. It felt right, that way.
When, the next week, he asked her to a small cafe that had been opened up a block away from the hospital, Molly finally politely declined. He was charming and all – everything she would have swooned and smiled over before, but he was no longer her type. She wasn't interested in pursuing a relationship at that point, at least, that is what she said to him – the old line, .
"Married to your work?" the doctor had said, balming his pride with teasing words, quickly spoken.
"You have no idea," she had said in a soft tone, half smiling until it felt carved into her face.
Married to her work . . . Indeed.
That evening, when Moriarty asked where she wanted to eat, she said that there was a cafe just opened right around from the hospital. They should go. And so they did.
She was pulling apart her bread with careful hands when Jim asked her how she had found this place. The question was neutral – any conversation for any a day, and Molly turned in towards it, looking up to stare at him rather than her meal upon answering. "A recommendation. From work."
"Ah," was his only reply to her words. Once upon a time, he could have made her feel small from that tone alone. That look. Made her stammer and then hold her head up high in order to fill in every inch of his gaze. There had been such a sense of potential in the air. One she breathed in with starving lungs.
Her chest was full now as she stabbed her food with her fork.
Jim, who just a moment ago, had been enjoying his meal, put down his own fork. If she hadn't known better, she'd say that he was put out. His face was carefully blank, it betrayed nothing, but there was a glaze to his eyes he got only when looking at his blueprints or his schemes. His mind was not all quiet, no matter what his mouth would say.
Intrigued, Molly speared another bite of her meal, and kept her eyes down – as if anything and everything from him didn't matter at all.
He never took to eating again, he simply signaled for their check, and then stood to leave - whether she was done or not did not mater. A brow raised, she sat those few seconds longer she needed while Jim stood, cold as he watched her. She could not tell if he was pleased or displeased by her disregard for him, and only once his back was to her did she bite her lip. Her eyes followed him, and wondered who he would choose to be that evening.
No one, it would seem. She was left at her doorstep without even an acknowledgment. Just a parting. Molly watched as the black of him faded into the night for a moment. Two. And then she too turned. A half of a smile was turning at her lips – wondering if her little game had struck a mark. Hit a nerve. Wondered if he even realized that she was playing at all.
Of course. She should have known. Then . . .
Jim was silent for the rest of the week. Every day when she returned home to her little flat, he would already be there, his papers spread out across her kitchen table as he scribbled in blue pen across maps and blueprint and ledgers. On her floor there were numerous balled up pieces of paper – slaughtered from the weight of his imagination, and the ones who did escape that particular fate suffered through his glower and his grumbles under his breath as he wrote.
He didn't talk to her. Not even once. She sat in the room – ready to listen to his ideas, his plans, as she often did. She rarely spoke then either – she just made it easier for him to think, to channel his thoughts into something that was containable. Something tangible rather than trapped in the web of his mind. Colonel, Moriarty's men had often called her for her support so to him. The word had started as a derogatory term. Now, it was given with respect. Colonel Moran, Moriarty's right hand.
Even still, no matter how deep she may have thought her roots were set, there were still moments when she blinked at the feeling of the ground shaking around her.
That next Monday she came home from work and stepped cautiously through the threshold. Jim was where he had been every day since the cafe, still scribbling away at his plans. Only, today the floor was not littered with paper. He did not mutter under his breath. His eyes watched her rather than the words he crafted before her.
Molly noticed this, but changed nothing about her own routine. She rambled on about the bodies she had dressed and conversed with during the day. Shared their secrets to an appreciating ear equal to her own.
She shrugged off her lab coat, and said, "I am making coffee, and you should have some too. Your opinion on my caffeine intake aside, I owe it to the criminal underworld to at least give them a fighting chance."
There was a tune under her breath as she scooped out the beans. Heated the water. Set out her mugs.
When she went to the refrigerator to get her creamer, she was almost convinced that everything was well between them.
And then she saw it.
. . . it had once been a him? She wondered over the proper terminology in her mind, as her mouth opened and then closed. Once, then twice.
"There is a head in the fridge," she said calmly, as calmly as she could.
"Indeed there is." The first words she had heard from him in over a week.
She closed the fridge door. Opened it again, despite herself. This time, she let herself look – truly look, and found something sharp lodge itself into her chest when she recognized the poor doctor who had made the mistake of finding her smile disarming. He had had kind eyes, she remembered as she stared at them again – perfectly preserved in death. His stare eternal, his grin set upon his lips forever to stay. She bit her lip, and continued to stare.
"He was distracting me," Jim said, his voice tight. "Now, he is silent, and I am not distracted."
There was no balled up paper on the floor, she recalled. Beyond her the coffee maker went off. She jumped at the sound.
One harmless man with a harmless interest in dinner with her had been enough to put James Moriarty off his schemes for over a week? The thought crossed through her mind, pausing and hitting everything high and low within her. Soon, the idea of it intrigued her, fought away the horror of so simple a death. So unfeeling a murder.
"One little old doctor was such a distraction?" she chose her words carefully, like a child who wished to poke a panther at the zoo.
"Enough of one," Moriarty's voice was silken. Dangerous.
And Molly squared her shoulders. "You were jealous," she finally came out and said, something lifting in the words. "You were jealous – that's why you could not eat that day. Why you haven't been able to work."
"Hardly," his voice was a sneer. But his face wore a pout. She'd wager that the whole idea of jealousy had been as frustrating to him as the emotion itself. How very vexing, to feel so. Care so.
The thought was heady, and she felt oddly light. The room around her was detached, gravity meant nothing in that moment.
"Why else would you go to such lengths?" she said, her voice a whisper. It slithered past her smile – caught on the corners of her eyes as she stared at him in wonder.
"I did not like the way you smiled at him," he said calmly. Coldly. Let her wonder what lengths he would go to silence someone as close to him as he would allow when he would do so to a complete stranger. A stranger who posed no threat.
"I did smile," she agreed. "It was the polite thing to do."
"He bought you candy. You ate them." His voice was carefully measured – as if trying to explain to himself the reason for him feeling so. She already understood – even more than him, she would wager. She had been part of the living. She understood feeling so. In that way, he found a completion in her. A match she would dare to say – in the sunlight, in the comfort of her own mind where she still had secrets that were her own.
"And yet, I did not put my hair down." It was now. Moriarty had the same preferences as the doctor. It had grown in the last few months – it curled, dark as the soil after the rain about her shoulders after being bound so all day.
He snorted, his eyes were very dark – his pupils wide enough to take up the whole of his gaze. "He did not know that."
"No," her eyes frank on her own. She stood oddly tall, feeling oddly safe with his ire – oddly powerful as she stood before him, him looking up to meet her eyes. How very little her branches swayed in the wind of him. How very much like ivy, choking and snaring he was to her as she set her roots in deep. The potter's pride, she hope he saw.
She turned from him only to make her coffee. She made a mug for him too. When she turned to him again, she left the fridge door open. (He would keep the dead man, later – saying that he needed someone to talk to when she was not around, and the severed head was as good as any.)
She sat down next to Moriarty instead of across from him. Her shoulder touched his, her knee as well. He was very warm, and someday she would cease being surprised by that. There was an intimacy to the way she curved towards him, waiting to bend to the will of him. A closeness that she had long since stopped trying to understand. Merely accept.
"Now, tell me what you are working on," she said, her voice soft as she inclined her head towards him.
His eyes were a shadow in his face, for a moment they stared. And then he started to speak. Molly listened; rooted herself beneath the sun of him. And she grew. He molded.
And beyond them, the dead man continued to grin.