Title: You Break It, You Bought It
Timeline/Spoilers: Set after the end of S1, massive spoilers for the finale. Assuming we get S2, this will become a speculative AU. If we don't get S2, this is definitely what happens :-)
Notes/Warnings: Dark themes, some knifeplay. Unbetaed: nitpicks & crit all welcome.
They're all very still, afterwards. The only movement comes from Ian Reed's blood, which is slowly spreading over the platform.
John hauls himself to his feet as the sound of sirens picks up in the distance. 'Now what? he says quietly.
Mark isn't quite sure if that's a rhetorical question, something along the lines of What more is life going to throw at me? or a genuine one. He hopes it isn't the latter, because he certainly doesn't have an answer.
It's Alice, of course, who does. She rolls her eyes at the pair of them and says, 'Now, it's time for phase 2: damage control. John, come over here, please. Yes, I know it hurts. Never mind.'
John staggers into the position she indicates, holding his side. 'Alice, what--'
'Reed threatened your life,' she says, cutting him off. 'And Mark's. In fact--' she pauses and shoots a thoughtful glance at Mark, then hefts the gun and cracks it hard into his temple. 'Reed had already attacked him, left him for dead.'
Bright sunflares go off behind Mark's eyes and his knees loosen, spilling him to the ground. He tastes blood, and realises he's bitten his tongue. He can also feel something warm and wet coursing down his cheek. More blood. So much blood.
He starts to get up, but Alice's boot stops him. 'Stay down and play dead,' she says. Her voice suddenly seems to be coming from a very great distance. 'Or do you need some more help with that?' The boot draws back, aimed at his kidneys.
'No,' he says, or tries to, around his rapidly swelling tongue. He lets himself fall back into a prone position.
'Good,' Alice says, sounding pleased. 'Now, John, take the gun.'
When he lifts his hand, it comes away bloody. 'Don't worry,' she says. 'The more blood, the better.'
He hesitates, but in the end he does as she says.
She strips off her heavy leather gloves and places them carefully into a little plastic bag; the kind you use for your fruit and vegetables in Sainsburys. Then bag and gloves disappear into one of the voluminous pockets of her coat.
'You fought,' Alice continues, 'and you managed to knock the gun away, but then he drew the knife and stabbed you. You were bleeding, Mark was down, and Reed was determined to finish you both off. You had no choice. You grabbed the gun and shot him, twice, in the chest.' She looks down at Reed's body with a critical eye. 'A shotgun does a lot of damage, as we can see. They'll never know both shots didn't happen at the same time.'
She cocks her head, listening as the sirens get louder. 'As long as you're quick. Now, John. Shoot.'
It seems to Mark that the blast doesn't sound as loud, as shocking, as before. His senses feel dulled, his thoughts slow. He hears John go down beside him, the gun clattering away. When he opens his eyes again, it's to see Alice's smile an inch from his face. He gives a little unmasculine shriek, and the smile widens.
'You understand what happened here, don't you, Mark,' she says. It's not a question.
He nods, and winces as pain shoots across the back of his neck.
'Good,' she says, straightening up and brushing off her hands. 'Well done, both of you. You make me very proud.'
John makes a sound at that, but Mark can't tell if it's a word, a groan or a cry of pain. By the time he realises it's actually a laugh, Alice is gone and what seems like a thousand uniformed men are swarming around them. He feels himself being turned, pulled, lifted. Fingers are jammed under his jaw to check for a pulse.
'Take it easy,' he's told. 'You're going to be fine.' The young man kneeling beside him looks up at the group clustered around what's left of Ian Reed, an enquiring expression on his face. He receives a swift head shake in response.
He looks back down at Mark. 'You're a lucky man.'
'Yeah,' Mark says. 'That's me. Lucky.' He finds that his own laugh doesn't sound any more recognisable than John's did.
He sticks to the story. He stammers, repeats himself, loses the thread and embarrasses himself by bursting into tears at least twice, but he sticks to the story.
Were you in fear for your life, Mr North?
Yes. Very much so.
That part, at least, is completely true. He doesn't add, And I still am.
When the investigation -- inquiry, review, whatever they call a court martial in the police force -- is over, Teller is demoted and shipped off to some rural backwater to guard duckponds. Ripley fights like a cornered tiger until all the charges against him are dropped and he's fully reinstated, at which point he quits. That makes Mark smile. An ultimately empty gesture, but one he understands. Some people were born to tilt at windmills.
John, of course, is sacked. It's too much, this latest debacle, on top of everything else. He was proven right about Reed, he was innocent of Zoe's murder and he officially saved Mark's life, but he was also too insubordinate, too wild, too loose a cannon. After Madsen, after all the previous controversy and drama, this is just too much.
The Serious Crimes Unit is disbanded and written off as a bad idea. Reed is turned into a case study and filed away. The media find new stories, new victims.
The house stops being a crime scene and goes back to just being a house again. That's what they try to tell him, anyway. In reality, it isn't that easy.
Mark stays in hotels until the money starts to run out, and then he doesn't stay anywhere. Most nights, Alice finds him before he's on the street long enough end up mugged, arrested or frozen. She takes him home, and shrugs when he asks her why. 'You break it, you bought it,' is all she offers.
'Is that what you did, Alice? Break me?'
She smiles then. 'I do break most things. How else are you supposed to find out how they work?'
He hesitates to disagree with an acknowledged genius, but he can't help thinking she's way off with that one. If broken things were so easily understood, then he's sure he'd have a much better idea about what the fuck happened to his life.
If you pull the trigger on another human being, the responsibility is yours and yours alone.
Teller said that to him, but it's bullshit. Mark and John could both testify on that point.
Everything happens due to a long, complicated chain of events. It's never as simple as if only I hadn't done this, if only I hadn't done that, for any of them. The accumulation of decisions and actions in Ian Reed's own life put him where he ended up that day, and he bears a part, a large part, of the responsibility himself. Reed set it in motion, John brought it together, Mark lit the touchpaper. They're all responsible, and they're all in hell for it.
Apart from the one who actually did pull the trigger, of course, which really proves his point about the bullshit.
At first, he talks to John simply because there's nobody else. Other people don't understand, or don't care, or they think he should be moving on, letting it go. But John, John never gets tired of talking about it. About Reed. About Zoe. About love, and betrayal, and which hurts more.
It make sense, anyway. John's been part of his life since the moment he met Zoe, so why expect it to change now?
And, more than that, he wants to know -- wants to understand what it was that kept Zoe bound to this man against all reason and common sense, what kept her with him when it didn't make her happy, what kept her inexorably, fatally, drawn back into his orbit.
It's alien to Mark, that kind of passion. If something is that bad for him, that destructive, that irreparable, he walks away. He always has. It's the only sensible thing to do.
But sensible isn't a concept that applies to his life any more.
So he talks to John Luther because he wants to know what it felt like, how it was, for her. He talks to John Luther because Zoe loved him, and if there's any part of Zoe's love that still lingers in this world then he wants to be close to it. Wants to be able to take comfort from it, the way he takes comfort from her clothes, her perfume, the silky feel of her nightgown held against his skin.
She comes to him in his dreams; they both do, naked and magnificent, showing him what it was that he never understood, never experienced. Showing him just how seductive destruction can be. It always ends the same way: he wakes, reeling and gasping for air with his seed spilled across his stomach.
He often hears Alice moving quietly around the house as he lies there afterwards, and he wonders how much she hears, how much she guesses. He suspects it's a lot.
He catches her whispering to John one morning after, and she gives him a particularly fond smile. 'My boys,' she says, as she pats his shoulder.
John's expression is unreadable, and for once Mark's glad of it. He wonders what John would do, if he knew everything. If Mark went across to him, right now, and said I want to touch you. I want to do to you what she did.
He wonders if John would get up, slam him against the wall of Alice's kitchen and then push him down to his knees, giving him what he wants until it chokes him. Or if he would just kill him: say you disgust me with that intensity only John can manage, and simply put a bullet through his head.
He finds it hard to say which he thinks is more likely. Or more desirable.
Alice fucks him, sometimes, when the mood takes her. If she were anyone else he'd call the sex adventurous, but because it's Alice, experimental -- in the pure, scientific sense -- seems a much better term. She isn't looking for adventure so much as data.
She fucks him as if she's compiling a spreadsheet -- calibrating parameters, evaluating responses, testing hypotheses. She has no boundaries, no limits she won't push. He wonders dispassionately if he was always a latent masochist, if it comes from a psychological need for punishment, or if it's just something she brings out in him.
He also wonders if she's sleeping with John, too -- if John fucks her after she's finished fucking him. He's not sure how likely it actually is but he'd like to think so, if only for the symmetry of it: the perfect, twisted ouroboros it would make.
She sells his house, puts the proceeds in his bank account and sets up a transfer to herself for expenses. He allows her full access to his finances without a qualm, because in this he trusts her implicitly. She'd kill him without a second thought, if she thought it was necessary -- or maybe just interesting -- but she wouldn't do it for his money.
It's always about drugs or money, he heard some TV cop state, once. Or maybe it was even a real cop, on the ten o'clock news. He's sure it's probably true, for most people.
But Alice isn't most people.
Sometimes, he wonders if Alice is actually people at all. He takes a knife to bed one night, hides it under his pillow until she falls asleep. He trails it down her skin, the fine, cold edge running between her breasts and down her abdomen. He wonders what it would find, this knife, if he allowed it to explore. Lizard skin, sawdust, cogs and wires?
She hurts him, afterwards, makes him pay for the transgression, but it's the only time he ever makes her come.
He hasn't been to work for a long time. He didn't officially resign, he just... never went back.
His old boss leaves a few messages, but Mark never returns her calls and eventually some official documents turn up in the post one morning, forwarded from his old address.
It's not that he doesn't think the work is important any more, or doesn't care. I'd be closer to say that he doesn't feel like he has the right to be doing it -- that he's unworthy, tainted. It wouldn't be right for him to be mixing with real victims or the people who are fighting, with unselfish intent, for the kind of justice that isn't meted out with a shotgun.
And even that thought is self-serving: it wasn't justice that was on his mind that day, it was retribution. He'd believed in the system, believed in the structures of law and process. But as soon as it became about his pain, his loss, his heart was revealed to contain nothing but anarchy.
At least John -- and Alice, in her way -- has never been a hypocrite. He sees the attraction of that, now, too.
Mark signs his dismissal paperwork without reading it, and sends it back.
Alice arrives home one night excited, laden with boxes of stationery: business cards, letterheads, pre-printed envelopes. 'It's time we got this show on the road,' she says handing out batches of the cards to Mark and John.
'LMN Facilitation Services,' Mark reads. 'What's that supposed to mean?'
'L,' she says with exaggerated patience, pointing first at John, then at her own chest, then at Mark himself, 'M, N.'
'Yes, I got that part, thanks. But what is it?'
'It's our business,' she says. 'A perfect use for our talents.'
'Our what? And what on Earth is a facilitation service?'
'Whatever the client wants it to be. To facilitate: to make easier or less difficult, to assist the progress or effectiveness of.' She inclines her head towards John. 'We have a trained detective who can provide investigation services, we have a trained lawyer to provide legal advice. And then we have me, to provide... well...' she pauses, and gives them a dazzling smile. 'Other things, as required.'
John stares at her. 'You're not suggesting -- you cannot seriously be suggesting--'
Alice's smile becomes the epitome of innocence. 'What? What, John?'
He shakes his head and throws his box of cards back down onto the kitchen table. 'This is insane, Alice. You're insane. Totally, fucking insane.'
She doesn't look perturbed. 'Well, yes. I rather thought we'd established that by now. But the idea's sound, you must see that. And what else are you going to do, John? You can't be a cop any more, and I can't see you down at the local call centre, selling car insurance. Can you? Can you, John?'
The last words are flung at his retreating back, as he slams out of the front door.
Alice sighs, then moves to the sink, where she starts filling the kettle. She looks back at Mark. 'Well, that was a little disappointing.'
Mark sits down at the table. 'He'll be back.'
Alice turns around, leans against the sink, and gives him one of her most brilliant smiles. 'He will, won't he?' She nods, the little spotlights in the ceiling catching the new highlights in her hair. 'So, Mark, what about you? Surely you can see the benefits of my little project?'
He takes one of the business cards out of the box, turns it over in his hands. Good quality: thick cream stock, embossed gold lettering. It looks good.
'I think you're insane,' he says, but he scoops out a batch of the cards and tucks them into his wallet anyway.