The room was long, beds lined in neat rows through the length of it. They were in bed when he stepped into the room, white lab coat buttoned over his pressed grey slacks and crisp shirt. He could hear them, dozens of deeply drawn breaths, a slow release of air, nearly synchronized even in their breathing. They broke into individuality beneath their covers, some sprawled out the entire width of their mattresses, others curled into tight balls. He knew that they weren't sleeping. Some of them barely required an hour's rest. Others would have stirred at the feel of a foreign presence amongst them. The meager amount of light spilling through the cracks in the door caught against opened, wary eyes, making them glint in the darkness.
The rubber soles of his shoes stuck and pulled against the floor, a squeaking, sucking sound with each unhurried step. He had been here before, placed small faces to the feel of the beds he passed. His last experiment had not made it into this night. They had brought Kip back to him with a deep gash cut through that slight child's throat -- rather like a jagged, bloody smile torn into dark flesh. The doctor had placed a hand against the boy's cool forehead, a travesty of tenderness. He had drawn eyelids closed over staring eyes. And then he had ordered an autopsy and stepped outside for a smoke.
He had stood outside puffing smoke and breath into the cool air. He had considered his options, anticipation colouring his thoughts, sending blood racing with excitement. A quick flicker through gathered profiles stored in his mind, careful consideration of each before he chose his next special project. Tall and slim with a sweet face he was sure would grow into beauty should she survive her education. He had watched her move with the grace of a dancer, artistry living in her movements. Muscles bunching in narrow calves before she lunged forward into a smooth tuck and roll and rose in dark-eyed determination.
The doctor stopped at the foot of her bed. He watched the rise and fall of her chest. Dark eyelashes flickering with dreams against her cheeks. Small mouth opened, sleep relaxing lips usually held tight and still. Her foot, long and narrow, was peeking out from beneath the cover. He rested his hand upon it, waited for his touch to shock her out of sleep. Her eyes snapped open, body turning tense and ready beneath his hand. She didn't cry out in surprise. They never cried out, silent obedience trained into them.
He gestured for her to rise. She took in his lab coat, the name tag clipped to the pocket. Her eyes flickered from side to side, looking through the darkness towards her own. She rose and padded after him as he moved towards the door. He took her hand and smiled into her uncomprehending face. She would work out fine, he decided, pleased with her, himself, the very world itself.
She hadn't even been looking for him.
Most of the time, she tried not to look backwards. Managed to focus on the here and now or long term goals most of the time. She had seen him making his way between rusted cars, white plastic grocery bags hanging from free swinging hands. Screamed back in time, and remembered laying naked and shivering on an examining room table as the white-coated doctor prodded at her.
She had stripped off his clothes, hands held steady by the force of her will. Neatly folded slacks and shirt and placed them to the side along with underwear, socks and shoes. Tied each foot to the leg of the chair she had placed his unconscious body on. Around and around, so tight with her anger that the flesh turned white around the rope. Bound his arms behind him before she stepped back to admire her work.
They had escaped before they had begun to learn "interrogation" techniques. She had been questioned enough in the past that she figured that she had a good idea as to how it worked.
She patted his face and watched as his eyes flickered open. He took in his position, the empty room around them, the strong young body standing before him. The doctor looked up and she smiled into his round face, suddenly leeched of colour. He choked on a frightened scream for help, flinching as his own voice was flung back at him, a wavering echo.
Dark hair tumbled about her shoulder as she cocked her head, pursed her lips, considering. His body had expanded, fat spreading out the width of stomach, arms and legs. Hair retreated from his forehead, clung fearfully to the crown of his head and crept back towards the base of his skull. She remembered staring at the birthmark beneath his chin as he worked above her.
That night she had been returned, a sudden stutter in a formerly smooth walk.
Please, he begged.
False comfort in the form of a soft brush of fingertips against his cheek. Always a dedicated student, she narrowed her lips, furrowed her brows and snapped her way up his legs. Howling scream above her head and she titled her head back, smiled at him: shush, calm down, we'll be done soon.
She exorcised her past against his flesh and bone.
He had called her his little dancer as he patted her hunched back and released her. She had danced once, out here, when she was short on cash and time. Wrapped her legs around a pole, leaned back, arched spine. What did he think of that, she asked, circling around and around his still form. Clucked her tongue when he bubbled blood and did not answer.
She had been forced to swallow her own blood, broken free from the inside of her cheek when she had bitten down hard, riding a sharp shot of agony. She wondered if he enjoyed the taste of his own pain against his tongue any more than had she.
She patted the back of his sweat slicked neck, her hand came away tinged red. Remembered the feel of his damp skin touching hers, cool and dry in frozen terror. She hadn't cried. Never cried. Felt him cut into her and screamed without sound until her mind cracked. He was sniffling, wet with snot and blood. White hot rage at his weakness, as he betrayed the image of strength to her helplessness.
Gasping with her leaking emotions. Neck snapped beneath her hands. Flopped forward in his bonds. Stumbled away from death claiming loose flesh, the scent of lost bodily control and terror. She hunched over beside a wall, heaved hot bitterness against the floor. Washed away in tears and hate and the killer she was. Tears died fast, reeled back in by cool consideration. Wiped at damp cheeks with the back of her hands and rocked back onto her heels.
She slipped his wedding band off his finger, rolled fake gold between thumb and forefinger. Remembered it glinting beside her head. She flipped through his wallet, pulled out the picture there of a smiling brunette and gapped-tooth boy. Took the cash. She'd mail it all to his family after she sunk his body out of sight, out of her mind.
She left for fresh territory the next day. Sat on a crowded bus, between a pregnant woman and a gum snapping child. Flipped through a magazine and whistled as they rumbled past dying brown vegetation lining the edges of the dusty road.