A/N: Takes place right after Rebecca's death.
Max stands over her, clutching his hair like a madman. Somehow the grip actually helps. It helps him think, helps slow the spinning of his mind, helps him find reality again. He can hear his own breath, the black spots are gone from his vision, he knows that Rebecca is dead and that it is his fault. He knows everything.
Perhaps madmen are onto something.
He runs his hands over his head, stroking his sweaty bangs out of his eyes, raking his nails over his scalp because the sting helps him become sharper still. The body. I have to hide the body.
Hide the body. A phrase from bad detective novels, an absurd and ridiculous phrase, but somehow things have gone so absurdly wrong tonight that hide the body is exactly what he has to do. Where does one hide a body? Far away. If she's found at home everybody will know. Better to take her away, put her in a car and drive it somewhere, somewhere far away. Far away. The body cannot be found in Manderley.
He bends down to pick her up, and instead almost overbalances to fall on top of her. She's heavy! But how? Rebecca was always so fashionably thin…
He stands up straight, brushes his hair back, takes a deep breath. He can do this. He bends down, tries to scoop her up behind back and knees like a romantic hero, but he doesn't have the leverage to budge her that way. Instead, in the end he just hugs her with both arms and hauls her up against his shoulder as he kneels.
He shifts his arms to her waist, and she lolls backwards, almost dragging him down with her. He finds himself grimacing, showing teeth in what is almost a smile. Wouldn't it be ironic if he did trip, and fell down to crack his own skull too?
He gets his feet under him and manages to stand straight. A hot throbbing starts up in his back.
No matter; the door isn't far away. He drags Rebecca the few steps necessary, then balances her against him with one arm so that he can work the doorknob.
When the door opens his heart stops. Because there is someone there.
"Ben didn't see anything!" the halfwit shrieks at him, in terror.
Max loses his balance and lets go of the body. It crumples gracelessly to the floor, a disgusting hollow clunk when the head hits the threshold.
Max winces at that noise and then realizes he is grinning again. That was louder than the noise Rebecca made the first time she fell. Once more, with feeling.
Now he has to get ahold of himself, or he will be caught. Ben has seen everything. "Ben," Max snarls, savage. His head is pounding, his face feels hot. This feels like the impotent rage Rebecca always awakens in him, only this time he is not impotent. "Ben, come over here."
Ben backs away, shaking his head, hugging himself. "Ben can't go in the boathouse," he whimpers. Pleading. "Ben never, never goes in."
Max tries to catch his breath and think clearly. He has to frighten Ben out of his mind – except, Ben already is out of his mind. He almost can't think of what to say.
Right on cue, Ben prompts him with the answer. "Please don't send Ben to the asylum!"
"Yes." Max laughs, but when he hears the sound he realizes they may send him to the asylum right alongside. He tries to sober up. "The asylum. Ben, you don't want to go to the asylum, do you?"
"The asylum? No! No! Ben doesn't want to go, Ben's good, please don't-"
"Ben!" Max barks for his attention, gesturing at the body. "Listen. She, she wants to send you to the asylum. Do you understand me? Rebecca – Mrs. de Winter, devil take her, she, she wants to send you to the asylum. Yes."
"No! No, please! Ben's good, Ben-"
"Hush! Hush, shut up. Shut up, Ben, shut up or I'll send you to the asylum myself!" He kicks himself for that right away, because Ben breaks down, crying, hysterical. It's a while before Max can calm him. He pets and pets and murmurs shhh. Eventually it works.
When the snuffling has all died away Ben grabs for his hand. "You won't send Ben away, will you? Please? Ben's good."
Max strokes the trembling shoulders. "All right, all right, Ben, of course I won't send you away. But Mrs. de Winter, well… she wants to. We'll have to stop her, Ben, all right?"
Ben snorts in a nosefull of mucus and sits up. "S-stop her?"
"Yes. You and I, together, we can get rid of Rebecca de Winter once and for all. All right? And then she can't send you to the asylum. Understand? We have to get rid of Rebecca, right now. Can you help me get rid of her?"
Ben nods, frantically. "Yes! Yes yes, get rid, we can get rid of her. We can! I know. We can put her in the water, see? Because if you, if you go in the water, Mr. Frank says, if you go play in the water the sea will pull you under, forever, and you'll never come back!"
"Yes!" Max thinks, again, that sanity is overrated. He tries to act as if he has already had the same idea. "Exactly. Now listen, Ben. We put her in the boat and we sail it away and we sink it. The sea will take Rebecca and she'll never come back again. All right? Come pick up her feet. It's all right – just for tonight, it's all right; you can come in the boathouse now."
Ben does as he's told, still sniveling. Max bullies him into the boat and they sail.
Once he's filled the cursed little craft full of holes, though, it occurs to him that they are awfully far from shore, and Ben does not know how to swim. As the boat goes down Ben starts to flail, and scream, and he won't stop screaming and Max is so afraid someone will hear. The screaming has to be stopped.
Just when Max reaches out to do the unthinkable for the second time in a single evening, a life vest burbles up from the deep and he grabs it. Only one vest, of course. It wouldn't be like Rebecca to plan for the life of a passenger.
Max manages to get the vest onto Ben, who promptly stops screaming and begins laughing instead. He giggles emptily about how the sea can't pull him under and how the vest must be magic. Max, starting to tire now at this most inopportune of moments, kicks off his shoes and strips off his jacket. He grabs hold of the bobbing, babbling halfwit and kicks towards shore.
His mind is churning as he swims. When they reach the beach he drags Ben up it, then rips the life vest from him suddenly and ties it around himself. "Now I have the magic vest," he pants, exhausted as he has never been in his life. "What if I throw you back in the water now, Ben? You'll drown. The sea will…" He struggles to remember Ben's phrasing; the idiot will surely remember this better if Max can shape the threat in words he recognizes. "The sea will pull you under and you'll never come back again."
Ben backs away. "No!" he shouts, holding up his hands. "I won't go in! Ben's good! Don't throw Ben in the water! Don't send Ben to the asylum!"
The asylum again. Very well, if that resonates better then asylum it will be. "Yes, Ben, the asylum." Max approaches, slaps the flailing hands down, grabs the thin twitching shoulders. "They'll send you to the asylum, Ben, if anybody ever finds out. If anyone finds Rebecca, they will send you away!"
Ben shakes his head so hard that water flies. "She's under the sea now, she'll never come back. She's gone, she's gone, she'll never come back…" He's crying.
"That's right… that's right, she went under the sea," Max tries to make eye contact, but the boy's eyes are so blank he can't even read them. "Rebecca is gone, but if people find out what happened to her, then they will send us both to the asylum. Do you understand that, Ben? If anybody finds out we put Rebecca under the sea, they will take us away. If you ever even talk about who put Rebecca under the sea, they will take us away."
"Tell me that you understand, Ben. Explain to me about Rebecca."
Ben shakes his head, furiously.
"Will you tell anyone who put Rebecca under the sea?"
"No- no! No one! Ben didn't put Rebecca under the sea, Ben didn't see anything!"
Max nods, smiling as best he can. "Good boy, Ben, very good. That's right! Ben's good! Ben didn't see anything."
"Ben's good. Ben didn't see anything." Ben smiles back, tentative. "And… Ben won't go to the asylum?"
"Well, Ben, that depends…" He steps away. "What happened to Rebecca?" he snaps suddenly. Acid test.
Ben howls Noooo. He clasps his hands and begs , insisting that he's good, that he saw nothing, that he did nothing. Max is almost satisfied, but just in case, he torments the boy until he throws up.
He leaves Ben in a sobbing spastic heap on the sand – and he tells himself it's wrong, but his conscience is already so overburdened that he can't even bring himself to feel badly about it.
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