Title & Link: Rebound
Pairings & Rating: Janine Hawkins/Molly Hooper, T/E
Warnings/Content Notes: none
Pairings & Rating: Janine Hawkins/Molly Hooper, M/E
Warnings/Content Notes: non-con, dub-con, bdsm (implied), self-harm, mental abuse
Britpicker: (backchannel anon, ILU)
Summary: “You are afraid of something, which is unsurprising. All you people have pressure points.”
Molly keeps a spare set of keys on a hook on the kitchen island. Thus, Janine has a key to the door when she needs it, as she was afraid she might. Of the many things Janine doesn’t think about, Molly’s innocent trust and honest affection rank high at the moment.
“We’re going to have to stop,” she says, as she opens the door to the bedroom, pushing it softly through the place it scrapes the frame. The cat crowds past her and hops onto the bedcovers, dander everywhere. “I can’t get involved right now.” Tacky. Janine doesn’t think she can do this one easy, without tears and exposure, a revealing tussle, without letting something slip this time, some little piece of it, and no. Absolutely, no. There must and will be a way to get out clean, even if she has to be terrible.
Molly’s not especially prone to dusting. It is part of her charm, for reasons Janine will not contemplate. It’s also a problem right now, because Janine needs to page through the diary without arousing suspicion, and damn it, is that Molly home mid-day? Janine’s hand is reflexively on the little revolver at the bottom of her bag, and no, she will not, she would never. She withdraws her hand and sets the bag on the bedspread.
One flight up, the floorboards in the hall are loose and by some cheap architectural magic transmit their complaints just inside Molly’s entry door. Janine knows this – she has learned to sleep through it. She needs to relax.
She thumbs the switch on the lamp, lifts the little strap on the pink-bound book with one fingernail, and uses the cap of a stick pen to ease open the cover.
The most important rule she’s learned in life: never put anything in writing.
The best way to keep a secret is to forget you know it. But loneliness is a secret so common and tawdry that the path to its lair is an ancient highway worn deep into the turf. No one needs to remember the way, or to be told.
How could Janine be surprised, then, when Molly called? Had she made it so difficult? Had she not used her own number for the reservation? Hadn’t she spent all that time enjoying herself, encouraging the girl? And hadn’t she gone straight to her little friend for a chat when the target had hightailed it after the dancing started?
Some part of her wasn’t surprised at all – reflexive warmth, concern, her personality hastily pulling together its clothes (perhaps clothes that, honestly, she’d already laid out, knowing). As ever, the faintest flicker of an idea that this might be herself surfacing, rather than submerging, and then the question forgotten, the practiced and polished and easy, easy forgetting.
She swung her legs off the sofa and closed her laptop, curling her toes into the thick white rug, already thinking about shoes, reservations – no, maybe a casual pub. “Do you want to meet for a drink?”
The words felt inevitable. The first step on the path that she swore each time she would never take again. A sweetly curving trail, winding out of sight. Who knew how it would go, what turns it would take over what landscapes … before it ended in a flat grey stare and a shark’s thin smirk.
But he wasn’t here right now, and maybe … maybe Molly was a little bit different. It wasn’t as if it was sex this time, it wasn’t as if she couldn’t stay aloof, it wasn’t, thank God, as if she didn’t have time to tidy her thoughts and plans before tomorrow.
This wasn’t a step on a path – the accusing voice emerged from the background chatter in her head. It was a thrashing and grabbing in the dark, clutching at anyone who might be swimming past.
Janine’s heart was running hard, but no, it wasn’t fear or excitement. She wasn’t hooked. She was simply pleased, she replied to herself, pleased for a little diversion, pleased for a break in the routine. It had been a long time since she’d been out, she could be of some use, and what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt anyone for a while.
Perhaps the boss was only trying to rattle her the next afternoon, arbitrarily exercising his creativity, when he stopped close behind her work chair and leaned in, laying his hand heavily on her back and snuffling the air over her head.
“Someone,” he declared, “is happy today. Someone is looking forward to having company.”
She was stone. She was ice. She knew this game, but he was so, so much better at it than she was. She continued to type and writhed aside to smile up at him, a warm and natural sparkle in her eye.
“Just the usual – bottle of wine and a good book, unless something better comes up.”
“Oh, yes. A ‘good book’. And a bottle of wine. You do like your wine. Don’t let me keep you. Leave early, if you like.”
As far as Janine knew, he never bothered to have her watched. But what would be more obvious? To leave early or to leave late? What would give him more mean satisfaction? And would it be safer to satisfy him? She didn’t see him again that day – did he not care, or did he enjoy leaving her wondering? – so she gathered her things and left at a quarter to six.
She dithered in the supermarket, and walked across the park to a different store, and then another, and then a walk along the waterfront before, yes, of course. Of course she was going to do this. And now it was long past time to call Molly.
It was set up like a board game, or an elaborately cruel prank.
Janine had dressed with care, had her eyebrows and nails done and took pains with her foundation garments, but as she crossed the threshold into the outrageously understated modern office interior and confronted the Sphinxlike navy and emerald perfection of the receptionist, she felt that she’d plunged in so far over her head that all she could do was tread water and hope she washed up at the end with some of her dignity left.
She hadn’t quite understood why she’d been called for this meeting. She knew her CV didn’t show her to be qualified, though she’d been gearing herself up for a hard sell just in case she got the chance. But as the tiny woman ushered her through the airlock and into the presence of five suited figures, it all made a sick kind of sense.
Seated behind a broad expanse of tempered glass, palms down on the tabletop, artfully relaxed, the man from Saturday night.
“Back so soon?” He blinked twice, unsmiling. “Don’t think I’m going to fuck you again.”
Three of the others – a short black man, a bald white one, a woman with a tight blonde chignon and a military mien – were ranged around the enormous room, perched at their own sleek minimalist desks, focused on laptops, and did not appear to be listening. The fourth, another white man, middle aged, was seated near the door with his legs apart, hands on his knees, neutrally alert and professionally invisible. They all were probably bodyguards, at least. None of them was “Mark” from the club.
The man from Saturday night spoke again, very precise, his voice a shade louder than necessary.
“Given your willingness to come with my man the other night, you don’t much value your life. Your degree of intoxication” – he widened his eyes sarcastically – “hardly explains your carelessness.”
“Mark” had approached her at midnight and very briefly outlined the proposition. He dropped her back off at the club, just before dawn – a terrible location for public transport at that hour. She had not been so intoxicated by the end of the evening that she had missed the slimy stain on her skirt, positioned so that she could not quite cover it with her jacket or bag. She had walked a long way in her bare feet before she found a bus stop.
“The scars on your arms and belly speak to a need for extreme stimulation. In order to feel … justified? Perhaps simply in order to feel.”
It was funny that he should say that, just as she detached entirely.
“But you are afraid of something, which is unsurprising. All you people have pressure points.” He cocked his head and made a small affected magician's gesture, as if he were teasing a card from a file.
“Hmm. In care from the age of eleven. Something here about a diary … discovered by a teacher? A pastor. Well, well. I’ll just bet you’re still religious. And here, yes, the father. My goodness. My goodness.” He tutted and clucked as he looked from one hand to another.
The performance was fascinating simply for being so repellent. And maybe a little bit pathetic – the facts he laid out were in the public record. The naked aggression was shocking, but the content not as threatening as he seemed to imagine.
He looked up, pleasant and mild. “There are my cards on the table. What can you do for me?”
Janine glanced at the audience. The scene was surreal. They truly appeared to have no interest in the goings-on. If only they’d gawked, if even one of them had looked at her, or hidden a smile, or frowned, the spell might have broken and she could have walked out.
She fumbled with her briefcase, looked pointlessly for a seat. “My background may not seem quite as extensive as you might … my references,” she stammered, “are, are excellent.” She watched herself, fascinated that her body could, of its own accord, react with shock and humiliation, while she felt nothing at all.
He let her stand for some minutes as the sweat collected in her bra and her hair. She recited her accomplishments, trailed off. Started again. He interrupted just as she began to relax and feel her fingertips.
“Yes, fine. You’ll do what I say and you will get a lot of money to hang yourself with. Go with the receptionist – she has the various papers for you to sign all your various little rights away.”
“Oh. Well, thank you, I —”
“Go away. I don’t have any more time for you, Ms Hawkins.”
“It’s Donlevy,” she corrected, automatically. There was a moment of delay before a chill of understanding washed through her, then it was as if time split in two, every moment stuttering over itself as she tumbled into the pit.
He blinked again, twice, a shade too slow. She realized this was a tell. Behind his flat stare, his slightly pursed lips, he was howling with demonic glee.
From day to day, he mostly left her alone. (“You’re useful, but not much fun.”) Janine accomplished many hours of legitimate work in close contact with him but without interference. She discovered that she was in fact very talented at the less savory aspects of the job, despite occasionally having some feelings about it, easily quelled. She was paid magnificently.
“Here is something to start with. You won’t be allowed in here again bundled up like the last day of a sale at H&M.”
She chose a tailor, and a flat, and a new phone, and added some private cab services to her contacts. Clothing aside, it was amazing what a girl could drink with that kind of dosh.
THE FATAL ERROR
It hadn’t occurred to her that “Mark”’s real name might be Mark, until he introduced himself to Molly.
Her heart plunged when she saw him at the bar, with “Aiden” and a stranger, a ginger who looked like someone she might have known a decade ago. She was not being followed, and she was fairly sure she wasn’t being threatened, unless something had changed drastically since she’d last seen the boss. No, Mark seemed as surprised as Janine was, and maybe that was worse. She made a bad decision. It was either that, or bolt, which would definitely pique his interest.
She turned away from him and watched Molly sip, a smart, cute little smile around the straw in her negroni.
There was a chill wind at Janine’s back. She had forgotten. No, she had lied to herself that she had forgotten, because she hadn’t understood how much she might want this and that she might do what she had to do to get it without even planning ahead – and now it was this delicate thing unfurling and expanding and she had only the roughest idea how to keep it alive. She had a friend. This was like playing together with grownup drinks, and grownup dresses, and grownup ex-fiances – a great lark, with someone sweet and fun who actually liked her.
She knew the moves, but they were all moves toward sex or, briefly, drugs or, earlier, access to razor blades and privacy. They were refinements of gross motor spasms – she’d learned to keep her head up and land where she looked and to look like she’d meant to do that. That, or they were social lubricant, a little rubdown, sincerely kind but with a purpose, administered before the boss pounced. It was good manners to make people comfortable (so said her Da, rest his evil soul, and then Peter), even if you were going to hurt them later. All very useful knowledge in its place, but here she was seated across from a nice girl with no agenda but to have fun with Janine. Her own playmate. Anything but the impersonal sadists and victims for whom she’d practiced.
Speaking of whom, she was having no trouble flirting with “Aiden”. She did fancy him a little - she'd figured him out months ago, and thought she could control the outcome. If his uncouth friend here, Bill, had some of the same tastes, then maybe something in a supervised club space, some other night.
But if she’d thought for a moment she could trust Mark to entertain Molly, simply because he seemed to catch Janine’s signals without too much nodding and gesturing, she knew better when he threw her a knowing, predatory look over Molly's shoulder, one corner of his mean little mouth turned up.
With a surge of fury, she disentangled herself from Bill and Aiden, took a breath, and ever so gently took Molly by the arm, from behind. “Moll, would you help me in the loo? I’ve snagged a thread on the back of this top.” She turned to Mark, sugary with contempt. “Sorry to break you up. We’ll be back in just a bit.”
She realized she was angry with Molly, too. That worried her.
Molly followed her into the lobby of the toilets, let the door close behind her, stood with both hands meekly on her little purse, the blue of her dress both saucy and innocent , the velvet at her neck likewise. She so very clearly didn't know what kind of sickness she was rubbing up against.
Janine was angry with Molly's vulnerability, angry that Mark had been here to make the facts so ugly and stark. She fussed at her hair, giving herself some space. It had been so lovely with Molly, it would probably go on being lovely for a while, but a deep bell tolled far off. Foreboding.
The kiss when it came was, fast, deep and real. A flash flood. Molly could not have done anything more stupid if she'd ambushed her with a needle full of the sweetest, cleanest dope.
She is towed with sluggish jerks through an infinite black ocean, grasping the tail of a small black cat. Above, an infinite dark grey dome. Soundless ripples lap around her neck, a sharp warm smell of sex. The soft motion of breathing. Long ago, their direction was lost, and she knows the cat is failing. Bitter sadness taints the water around them.
The white cat swims by; the decision is made; the decision was made already, the betrayal complete before it was accomplished. She takes the white tail, she drops the tail of the black cat. Bitter sadness, sinking behind. Brief sorrow. Brief shame. Alone, far away, then gone.
Hesperus, the cat, swimming strongly. Hesperus, a long bright stream, a line of light across the water, a promise of joy towing her westward to the Hesperides.
She woke very warm, nameless and boneless, formlessly happy in darkness. A small blue glow lighting a corner, a small table. The shape breathing, still air resolving into the smell of a bed, a small body shifting, rising, a thump. The cat. Molly. Hesperus.
Hesperus, did that make any sense? It sounded nice. Hesperides, bright and true. Janine turned over, moved a leg against Molly’s, and breathed again into sleep.
THE NEAR MISS
One of the candles on the mantel guttered out, and Janine asked Molly to look in her bag for a lighter.
“What, you don’t smoke! Believe me, I would know.” Molly flipped on the kitchen light, dug into the bag, produced rolling papers. She stared at Janine in disbelief.
“A simple tool with many uses,” Janine retorted. She nabbed the packet from Molly’s fingers, pulled out a paper, licked it and stuck it on Molly’s forehead. Molly tugged it off, folded into quarters and stuffed it unthinkingly into her jeans pocket, which Janine had seen her do with gum wrappers, sticky notes, receipts from chip-and-pin machines. She’d also seen her empty the same items, washed and dried, into the trash as she got dressed in the morning.
“Lighter, please.” Janine fished into the candle holder for the end of the wick, lost in the wax. A silence stretched out and Janine paused. She knew there wasn’t a lighter in that bag.
“Is this what I think it is?”
No, thought Janine, looking up at Molly’s wide-eyed, serious face. It is so much more than that. You have no idea.
“It’s okay,” said Molly, and a smile crept across her face. “I’m not going to ask to shoot it.”
Janine couldn’t suppress a laugh, as something terrible welled up inside her – warmth, liking, a hideous urge to confide. It was so much safer to be dead. When she was alive, the blood moved inside her, toxins were excreted and perhaps detected. Springs rose to the surface and secret sources were revealed.
“I wouldn’t let you shoot it anyway – it’s incredibly inaccurate. You could only count on it if you put it right up against your head.” Molly stopped smiling.
Oh, love, thought Janine. The truth is ugly. “You can scare people with it, that’s about all. But I’ll show you something neat.”
She sat down at the dining table and opened the gun. At her request Molly brought a small pair of pliers. She pulled one of the bullets from its casing and handed the cylinder to Molly, who tipped it out into her cupped palm and brought it to her face, unconsciously sniffing a bit.
“A baby tooth. Front lower incisor.”
If at that point Molly had asked, Janine might have told her. She stood there sweet and open, warm eyed, understanding, a friend. One crack, a little seep, and then the dam. But the moment passed. Molly tipped her palmful into Janine’s open hand.
“You couldn’t hide anything there if you were worried about someone stealing it, though,” said Molly. “Wouldn’t they just take the gun with everything else?”
“It all depends on who you’re hiding it from.”
Janine reassembled the dummy and reloaded the gun, which she handed to Molly because she was obviously curious.
“Be careful, though. One of the bullets is live.”
Janine was impatient for lunch. She'd hustled Molly out this morning, barely put herself together, and hadn't had anything for breakfast. She couldn't do anything about it right now, because the boss was taking his time over this meeting with Umbrella Man, the second meeting in as many days.
At last, the man left the meeting room, accepted his umbrella and satchel from Aiden, who stood by, and saw himself to the door.
“Ta!” Janine called out as she waved, unacknowledged. The boss might have something to hand off to her, and then she could eat.
Aiden bounced on the balls of his feet. “He sure looked grim. Wonder what the old man has on him.”
“The ‘old man,’” the boss called out as he sauntered in, “is quite the happy camper. And you should be more worried about what he has on you.”
Aiden nodded and moved as if to leave the room, but the boss put up an arresting hand. The other stayed deep in his pocket, where Janine could see that he was toying lightly with his hard penis. “No need to go anywhere, I’ll just be a moment and then you two can attend to your social bonds over a short lunch break.”
It must have been a very good meeting. Janine’s heart sank as he turned to her. It was going to be one of those days.
“Ms … Donlevy.” He hesitated ostentatiously over her name. He strode around to her side of the desk – it was going to be one of those days – crowded up beside her and opened his trousers with his free hand. She sat very still as he leaned hard on her shoulder and masturbated to completion over her keyboard. She reached for a tissue to hand to him, but he tucked himself in without care.
“I’m finished with these pants. Now, when Sherlock Holmes crosses your path and attempts to seduce you, you should take him up on it.”
“Sherlock Holmes?” She hoped he was almost finished. She could still have a keyboard delivered for use this afternoon. “I’m not sure I can —”
“Of course you can, you whore.” He pushed the side of her head as he stepped away from her, headed toward his inner sanctum, then appeared to hesitate. He turned on his heel, awkwardly close to Aiden, so that he was calling out across the young man’s wincing face. How she hated him.
“Oh, and Janine. You may recall a recent spectacular trial, in which the accused was acquitted despite a mountain of evidence that made many a newspaperman cry into his beer.”
“And of all the little mice that you have been whoring around with, Janine, which little mouse do you suppose gave some of that evidence?”
He waited. There was a small wet spot by his flies. She closed her eyes and licked her lips, her breath tight in her throat. “Molly Hooper?”
“There is more evidence. Perhaps she knows more than she thinks she does. She’s just the sort to write it down. Get it.”
He popped his lips, turned away and shut the door behind himself.
Janine sat with her hands in her lap for twenty minutes, then threw away the keyboard and pulled out her phone to start an order for another one. She would work through lunch.
She is floating in an infinite silvery ocean. Below, the infinite grey deep. Massive white forms loom up beneath her, and descend. Slow, smooth and indifferent, sinking into the dark. Two, she thinks. Three. Many.
One rises far away – she hears it breach and blow. That sort don’t hunt, they only react. She begins a slow, careful breast stroke. She is safe enough as long as she doesn’t attract attention.
On its first pass, it brushes her ankle. She gasps and flails and almost sinks. Rights herself and treads water with the tiniest terrified motions. She has begin to breathe normally when it shoves itself crudely between her legs, lifting her, its dorsal fin scraping her, rubbery weird as it passes. She yells and it is gone, sinking swiftly away. She breathes in half-moaning gasps, thrashing, staring wildly for some sign of where it has gone, and she sees it some way off, turning back and gathering way again as it skims toward her, unbelievably fast, just below the surface.
Someone was shaking her, rolling her shoulder back and forth. She could hear herself groaning out loud in the early grey light, and she turned toward Molly with her mouth still open, rolling onto her body, straddling her leg, mouth against mouth until the response came. Her hand between her own legs, a quick painful spasm, and she needed more. She tugged roughly at the bedclothes, inhaling, seeking down Molly’s hot narrow flanks like a blind animal until her mouth was on her sex, licking and breathing through the shuddering response, Molly’s thighs tight and secure over her ears, little mermaid hands soothing her. When Janine came again it was loud and too long, and she was still gasping when she rose to close herself in the loo.
Later, it looked like Molly had fallen asleep sitting up for her, the bedclothes rearranged and tidied, invitingly folded back on Janine’s side of the bed.
Janine leaned over to kiss her head, pulled the covers over her, and let herself out.
Something nice, she thought. She should do something really nice for Molly before it was too late.
Janine photographs each page of Molly’s diary, careful not to spread the unbroken spine too wide. There isn't much written in the book, and she doubts there is anything of use in there, but she can’t bring herself to read it.
She goes to the dining table and takes a pencil and the packet of rolling papers from her bag. She takes out the pistol and checks each chamber, then lays it down, prepares a rolling paper, and lifts her pencil. Her heartbeat is pounding in her fingertips, and she thinks she might tear the little note.
Where can she even begin? One secret leads to another. One justification on top of another on top of another is only a bigger pile of shit at the end. Where would she even stop?
Finally, she writes:
I pay a man to look in on my
mum. If ever you forgive me,
call the number in the gun.
Ask for Kay.
She returns to the bedroom and tucks the gun deep under the mattress. Molly changes her linens but never flips the bed. Then she lifts the diary open again, almost to the back, licks a tiny spot on the edge of the rolling paper, and slips it between the pages.
Off to the zoo, she thinks, and then probably some kind of fight to cap it off. She owes Molly at least that much. And then she will find a way out of this, all of this, and disappear.
At the threshold, she suffers a moment of indecision about the little tooth under the bed. She wavers, then goes on. She's left it in good hands.
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