A/N: Chapter two! Considerably longer (than even I thought it would be, and I've stopped earlier than planned as well). I think (hope) that chapters will be a steady once a week thing. Hopefully. Mega huge thanks to all those who reviewed the last chapter. Hope you enjoy this one. Let me know what you think!
Alone in the Dark
"I'm sorry?" Molly says. She thinks she knows what the Doctor just said, but she has to be mistaken. Either that or he's just as crazy as the bow tie and the too-short trousers suggest.
"You heard," the Doctor says coolly. There is another loud clang, and Molly flinches, her breath catching in her throat. The Doctor whirls around and fixes his gaze on her, ignoring the next clang that sounds.
"Are you scared?" he asks gently.
"Those lockers weren't banging until you came down here," she answers, looking past him at the steel.
"True," the Doctor says with a small smile. "But you weren't a threat to them. I am, so they're...well, getting rowdy.
Molly doesn't know what to say. What can she say? He's talking about corpses getting rowdy. The lockers clang again and Molly steps back towards the wall.
"What's your name?" the Doctor asks.
"Molly," she says quietly, "Molly Hooper." She flicks her gaze to meet his own, but quickly returns her attention to the storage units. The clangs are becoming more and more frequent, and yet she finds her eyes switching back to the Doctor's. There is something in them that reminds her of John, not just the colour, but in the way where it seems like those eyes have seen far too much. So much horror and yet still that glint of kindness, that spark of good, that runs right down to the heart.
"Well Molly Hooper," he says, his voice warm and steady, "Shall we get these things open?"
"Yeah," she says, swallowing the lump in her throat.
The Doctor blinks. "Really?"
"Yeah," Molly says breathily. "I can't cut up dead people with all that racket going on, can I?" She laughs nervously, and it's the sort of comment that Sherlock would give her a scathing look for.
The Doctor laughs, his arms spread wide as if he's congratulating her. "Of course! You're a science girl!" he says, "Of course you want to find out what's in there!"
Molly forces a smile. If she's being perfectly honest, she's rather be at home with the telly on and Toby curled up in her lap. But the fact is she's here, and her curiosity is nagging at her to just open the bloody locker and face what's inside.
The Doctor walks around the slab to meet her, and, close up, he is far less threatening than when he burst into the room brandishing his little gizmo and waffling about zombies.
No. Not zombies. He might be mad but she's the one who just used the z-word.
But, she thinks, what are the living dead if not zombies? No, her brain says again. Zombies were invented by comic books and horror films. They're not a thing, they're just a case of the imagination getting a little carried away with itself.
So where's the clanging coming from then?
"Hang on!" she blurts, as the Doctor reaches for the handle. He stops and whirls around, his metal gadget held aloft.
"If the dead are coming back to life, how come that one's so passive?" she gestures to the body bag on the slab and the Doctor lowers his gizmo.
"Good point," he says with a frown. He steps towards the slab and Molly moves to join him. She plucks a couple of latex glove from the dispenser and pulls them awkwardly onto her hands. As she reaches for the zip she can feel her heart hammering in her chest. Her fingers are steady, however, whether it is through years of practice, or the fact that she's done far scarier things than this (like opening the body bag with Sherlock inside, not knowing whether he would be alive or dead). She swallows down the memory and the Doctor's eyes meet her own. He gives her the smallest of nods.
Molly tugs the zip down sharply and inside is the pale cadaver of a young woman. Molly lets out a small sigh of relief, and her heart sits a little more comfortably in her chest. There are bruises around her throat, just as Molly had suspected, and her stomach clenches. The girl, for she is just a girl, has soft pretty features. She looks kind, and Molly can't help but take a moment to mourn the loss of such potential. The girl's brown eyes are staring at, but not seeing, the strip lighting overhead, and the Doctor slides his hand gently over her eyes, closing the lids with a heavy sigh.
"How can you get up in the morning and do this?" he asks. "Why subject yourself to it?"
"Because she's been subjected to worse," Molly murmurs. "And whoever did this will have messed it up somehow. They always do. It's up to me to exploit their mistakes so the police can find them."
The Doctor nods, his lips twisting into a faint smile, his eyes crinkling at the edges. "A worthy cause," he says, "and you know -" His sentence is cut short by a cry of surprise. There is a clatter as his gizmo falls from his hand and Molly looks up. Her scream doesn't even make it out of her mouth, and her eyes widen beyond what she had previously thought possible. She looks over to the storage locker door, which is hanging off of one hinge, the inside littered with dents.
Finally, she dares to look at the Doctor and his assailant properly. It is indeed Mrs Levoritch, sixty seven, kidney failure, but she has her pale bony hand secured tightly around the Doctor's throat. Her mouth is open wide, her teeth bared, and she is emitting a guttural growl as her teeth clamour for the Doctor's flesh. For a few moments that feel like they last a lifetime, Molly stands stock still, not knowing what to do, while the Doctor fruitlessly pushes at Mrs Levoritch's face. But then he starts to turn blue, and Molly does the only thing she can think of - she grabs the stainless steel tray by the side of the slab, scalpels and tweezers and clamps tumbling to the floor, and she smashes Mrs Levoritch over the head with it. Her grip on the Doctor's throat slackens, just enough for him to wheeze in a few atoms of oxygen. Mrs Levoritch doesn't relinquish her grip, and so Molly realises that she's going to have to take more drastic action. She tosses the tray away and drops to her knees, her eyes desperately searching the floor for her tools. Eventually, while feeling around the underside of the slab, her fingers brush against the handle of her scalpel.
There is a crash, and John turns away from his laptop to find the source. Laying on the floor by the mantelpiece is an ancient paperback. Laying next to it is Sherlock's skull, still rocking gently from its fall. Sherlock is scowling, his knees pulled up to his chest like a child, his jaw set in that stubborn way that John has grown used to.
"What's the matter now?" John sighs.
"It was Dunham. It's obvious."
John looks down at the crime thriller on the floor, and back at Sherlock. "How far did you get?"
John sighs again and turns back to his laptop.
"Well go for a walk then!"
"What good will a walk do?"
"It'll get you away from me for a start..." John mumbles.
"I heard that," Sherlock snaps. John rolls his eyes and returns to his blog, his patience wearing thin.
It's not easy, slicing through flesh when it's so active, but one by one Molly feels the ligaments strain and snap until Mrs Levoritch's hand drops from the Doctor's throat, useless. She falls backwards as the Doctor slides down the wall to the floor, his chest heaving as he pulls air into his lungs.
Molly takes a moment to catch her breath, trying desperately not to think about what's happening, because she knows that if she thinks, she'll panic, and panicking never did anyone any good. Mrs Levoritch stumbles around, and Molly ducks under her outstretched arm to reach the Doctor, kneeling down before him and pulling his hands away from his throat. His skin is marked with deep red welts, and splotches of purple are already spreading under his skin.
"You'll be fine," Molly says. There is a crash and Molly whirls around to see Mrs Levoritch sprawled on the slab, sinking her teeth into the shoulder of the nineteen year old girl.
"No!" Molly cries, and she springs to her feet. She grabs the nearest stool and with all the strength she can muster, swings it straight into Mrs Levoritch's face. The old woman falls back, but without a second thought, Molly raises the stool to cast another blow. The Doctor is shuffling around on the floor, but Molly pays him no attention and strikes Mrs Levoritch again and again until she lunges at Molly, her gnarled hands outstretched and itching to close around Molly's throat. Molly shrieks and throws the stool at her, but before Mrs Levoritch can get an inch closer, the Doctor pops up from behind her, grips her tightly by the shoulder, and presses a few buttons on his gizmo. He holds it up against her neck and after a moment of struggling, Mrs Levoritch slackens, and drops to the ground like a puppet whose strings have been cut.
Molly's breathing is rapid, and she presses a shaking hand to her heart, just to be sure it's still beating. The Doctor throws out a hand to her and pulls her up. She can feel the blood pumping through his veins, and frowns. His pulse is odd. Irregular. Far, far too fast, even after what they've just been through. She looks up at him, her mouth ajar, about to ask if he's all right, but he looks down at their hands, at Molly's fingertips resting against his wrist, and then breaks the contact. Her shoulders sag, just a little, and he steps over Mrs Levoritch's body to stand at the slab.
"She didn't damage her, did she?" Molly asks, hopping awkwardly between Mrs Levoritch's splayed legs. She reaches the slab and looks down at the girl, to see a deep gash in her shoulder. There is a small blue dot on her skin, glinting in the light, and the Doctor leans forward and picks up with a pair of tweezers, using a precision and delicacy that half the surgeons in the hospital would be envious of.
"You'll be able to patch her up," the Doctor replies, narrowing his eyes at the blue disc. He raises his gizmo to it and holds down a button. It lights up and buzzes and Molly stands, staring at it, her curiosity piqued.
"What is that?" she asks.
"Screwdriver," the Doctor says vaguely, his attention still focused on the blue disc.
"Why does it make that noise?" Molly asks.
"Because it's a sonic screwdriver," the Doctor says, turning to look at her as though she's an idiot.
"Obviously," Molly replies, shocking herself with her tone. The Doctor doesn't seem to hear her however, because he's speaking to the blue disc now.
"What are you?" he murmurs. "What are you?"
Molly glances down at Mrs Levoritch warily, and wonders whether she ought to get the Doctor to help her put the body back in storage.
"Aha!" the Doctor yells, and she almost jumps out of her skin. "It's a receiver!"
"Receiver of what?" Molly asks, all thoughts of restoring normality to the morgue vanishing from her mind. She steps closer to get a better look at the disc, and the Doctor lowers his sonic screwdriver.
"A signal, from a...base? A ship? I don't know, but we can trace it." He pops his screwdriver back into his breast pocket, and balances the disc on the tip of his index finger, his eyes fixed upon it as though it is the most important thing in the universe.
"But where did it come from?"
"You know how sharks have rows and rows of teeth?" he begins quickly, and Molly thinks he might even be able to give Sherlock a run for his money in the speed-talking championships. "And when one gets pulled out or broken or whatever, another comes forward?"
"Yeah, but -"
The Doctor leaps excitedly over the body of Mrs Levoritch, turns her over, and opens her mouth wide. "You see? The rows of these, hidden in the roof of the mouth?"
Molly kneels down, keeping a distance from the body, and she can indeed see a row of blue discs in the roof of her mouth. "But I did the autopsy," she says, her heart sinking. "And she did not have those then -"
"Of course she didn't," the Doctor says. "Which is why she didn't attack you. Something's happened since the autopsy. But, the point is, this is how they convert others. And it's not...zombies, or whatever you lot like to call them, it's a simple signal."
Molly feels slightly foolish for having used the z-word now, even in her own head. "But how can that make the dead come back to life?" she asks, trying to gain a little self respect by asking the right questions. "Surely it's harder to do that than control the living, isn't it?"
"Oh come on..." the Doctor says, his eyes meeting hers across the remains of Mrs Levoritch. "You're a pathologist. You should know that the dead aren't people anymore. Just as the car doesn't make the driver a different person, the body doesn't alter the soul...and when the soul's departed, the body is just...a body.."
"No it's not," Molly says quietly. "It's not at all."
"Well what is it then?"
"You can read my entire life from my body," she says. "If you look closely enough." She raises her hands, the tiny silver scars littered across her fingers glinting in the harsh light. "The first few years you cut yourself a lot, because you're terrified of the fact that you're cutting somebody else and you don't want to get it wrong. Only the surgeons have scars like me."
The Doctor doesn't interrupt, and so she continues.
"I wear contact lenses, because nights of reading everything I could get my hands on when I was younger did wonders for my brain, but not much for my eyes."
The Doctor smiles, and Molly pulls up her trouser leg. "When I was sixteen I went to my first proper party. After two Bacardi Breezers, I fell through a glass table, and this is the result." She gestures to a thin pink line on her knee, faded, but still easy to pick out.
"I've got the palest skin of anyone I know. And why is that? Because I work underground all day, and a lot of nights. And if you opened me up you'd find even more. So no, the body is not just transport, because you trade your car in, you get better ones, but when it comes to your body, you're stuck with what you've got and you've got to make the best of it, and people do, and they end up here. So don't tell me that it doesn't matter."
The Doctor's eyes are bright, his smile like that of an indulgent uncle at a school play, and he stands. He holds his hand out to Molly, and she takes it. He pulls her to her feet but does not let go of her hand.
"So why not the living?" Molly asks. "Why not put those discs in them?"
"Because it's easier to write in the margins of a finished book than it is to tell a writer what they should be doing with their story."
Molly can't help but smile at the altered analogy, and takes one last look at Mrs Levoritch.
"Who's doing it?"
"That's what I want to find out. You can help me though. Come with me." His eyes are fixed on hers, and for a moment, it feels as though time has slowed down.
Before Molly even considers the fact that she's leaving the morgue in a complete and utter mess, she utters two syllables.