It was one of those unnerving, silent moments, so I just watched him. He was toying with a scalpel like it was a coin, flipping it through his fingers, thinking, his eyes darting around in his visions and traps. Sometimes I would wonder how he truly felt. He was human, just like everyone else… Surely he had his own mistakes to pay for, but I would never dare to ask him.
"Mark," he grumbled suddenly. "Hand me that file."
I nodded obediently and turned in my seat, grabbing the file, sealed and the words 'CONFIDENTIAL' screaming at me, and casually handed it over. John took it from me almost awkwardly, shifting his hand round to the same side of mine, and it felt his cold skin brush on my fingers. He had been getting weaker and weaker each day; his hair thinner, his eyes lacking lustre, his speech more and more slurred.
I tried not to tremble as I turned away again, glancing over schematics and diagrams of devices I dare not mention. Something about his gentle fingertips, something about the way his voice was so soft and yet so powerful, always left me… confused? I guess that's the way to put it.
I had always been independent. The day I had found myself scrapped up in his workshop… well, I had realised something. There is a better way. There is a definite way of life – some people just need to be taught it.
"Killing is distasteful… to me."
The words still hung in my head, swinging loosely around as I studied them, and then left them. Turning back, I questioned his emotions once again. I had questioned my own when I had watched the first Game, seen the first body, captured the first victims… But now it all made sense. How had Jigsaw started? As with most killings, even the police wouldn't get to know about it, especially the way John cared for his captives, making sure they were safe from being found. Had he watched? Had he felt guilty? Had he cried as they screamed and wailed, or had he just… stood there?
Pushing his chair back with a screech I looked round.
"Ready?" he asked, and I too stood up, killing a flicker of a smile on my lips – another victim, another trap; not something I should find exciting.
Two test subjects – a doctor and a stalker. Everything was set up – the walls painted just the right way, the tools set out, the hints, the tapes… I watched John finishing his disguise and watched him inject himself, trying to make sense of where this was heading but in the end I knew the pieces would fit together. That was Jigsaw's way.
As I closed the door I glanced back at him. I could have sworn he winked.
Back behind monitors, I watched and waited. Of course they panicked, but they played the game. It was beginning to sicken me, how these people could be so selfish. If one of them freed themselves… or both of them… That's what made it hard to watch. Not the almost suicidal actions, or the spite and cruelty between players, but the sheer idiocy of them, like they couldn't believe it. Well, bad things happen.
Most of the time I was just watching my mentor. Perfectly still. Almost… dead…
Resting my forehead in my hands, I sighed. Maybe I needed to think this through or- or something. Ever since Amanda had been hanging around I had been tense, almost-
No, I told myself with a scoff. I can't be jealous. He chose me. She just happened to survive.
But as Dr Gordon pulled himself away, my possession roiled in my gut. If he survived, why wasn't he to join them, here, behind the monitors, behind the screens and cameras? Only Amanda had been brought back here, taken under his wing. But then again, I was the first.
It gave me a strange sense of pride to know that.
As the last of Adam's screams died out, John limped up behind me and put his hand on my shoulder, watching the images flicker before reaching over me to hit the off button. I held my breath, catching the scent of death and knowledge and almost craving understanding. He still hadn't let go of my shoulder, squeezing it slightly, leaving me frozen and tense, but in a good way, if that's possible.
"Will Lawrence survive?" I choked out, wanting to hear his voice, tell me he wasn't dead, that he wasn't a corpse on the floor of an old bathroom.
He almost chuckled, but didn't answer, just rubbed my shoulder a little, still staring at the blank screen, but then suddenly I felt his gaze turn on me. "How are you feeling?" he murmured, and I heard something that sounded like care in his voice.
"Why?" I asking, trying not to sound like I thought it was important, but my voice cracked and I ended up kind of yelping it.
"Because you're important," he responded, dead-tone, "to me."
I wanted to grin up at him, but instead I tried to remain calm and just nodded. He took this well, and ran his hand through my hair, stroking me, petting me. I almost leaned into it – his touch was so honest, so comforting, and I felt my eyes drifting shut. Who needed alcohol anyway?
"You seem tired, Hoffman."
I jolted myself upright, stopping my swaying. "I guess I'm just finding it easier to sleep lately."
I looked up at him for approval, and he offered me a proud smile, ruffling my hair again. "You're doing well. Perhaps you'd like to stay here tonight."
It wasn't a question as much as an assumption, and a correct one at that. Sure, the workshop was creepy and filled with sharp objects, but it was also home, much more than my apartment, littered with empty cans, and so much more than the station. Here, I had a friend. That was all that mattered.
The sofa back at the workshop was ragged and before I could even get anywhere near it I had to pull all the spears and spikes from it, and check it for hidden knives and whatever else could have been in there. Meanwhile, John slumped around, sorting and shuffling case files, his mind whirring so fast I could almost hear it. Crawling onto the sofa I looked around uncomfortable. Something about having him there, watching me, made me feel like I wasn't good enough and had to be respectable; it was almost like sleeping was a sin all of a sudden.
Lights flicked off one after another and lastly he gazed down at me, and although I was tired and half-asleep, as long as he needed me I was awake and ready. I sat up, and he rolled his eyes slightly, leaned forward, took me by the shoulders. My heart lurched and I found myself captivated by the glimmer in his eyes from the last table lamp beside me, but all the same I knew that he would tell me to get some rest. There would be another Game in a few days, and we needed to prepare and-
"Are you going to be alright here?" he asked, almost in a whisper, his hot breath grazing my cheeks.
"Yeah, of course, I mean… Yes," I stammered, unable to break his steady gaze, unable to look away, captured by his intensity.
"Don't lie to me," John hissed, but he was smiling. I blinked – what else could I do. The next thing I knew he was clasping one of my hands in both of his, interlacing our fingers while I just stared, baffled. "I know where you'll be more comfortable."
Confused and terrified but scarily hopeful, I allowed him to lead me around the benches and models and into a back room I had never entered before. The door edged open to reveal a sparsely decorated room, empty of all but a ragged bed. Everything I knew about him should have taught me to pull back, get away and fight against this, but something deep within my heart and, dare I mention, my body, persuaded me that this wasn't just right, it was… just what I wanted…
"Am I moving too fast?" he asked, although his lack of regard made me shudder as the door slammed shut behind us. There was silence ringing through my ears as though I was drunk, but I could taste and see and every scent was strong and vivid and oh so real. But before I could even understand the question I found myself on my back on his bed, eyes wide, my chin held up, our eyes forced to meet and I smiled a little.
But he drew back, almost nervously, and then glanced at me again. He tipped his head close, kissed my forehead, his tender lips soothing my mind and relaxing my soul, and ran his hands through my hair once more, hugging me close to him. I wrapped my arms around his thin back, wanting to pull him closer but not wanting to break the moment.
"Good night, Hoffman."
He let me go and turned to leave, and then turned back to me.
He smiled weakly. "You know you mean a lot to me," he admitted. "So get some rest. We have work to do tomorrow."
I nodded my head loyally, then wrapped myself in his duvet, and I never slept so well in my life.