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My enemy is a friend of mine

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She thinks, perhaps, she’s always been a little broken. Not quite right in the head, some might say. (She hears it in an Irish accent, shakes her head to clear it.) Broken sounds... nicer. Like it’s not her fault. Like she hasn’t taken every step on this path under her own power.

Insane...” She murmurs, looking at herself in the mirror. Her hair is a frightful mess. Bruises are forming a choking necklace around her pale throat. She brings her stained hands up to curl over and cover them, pressing firmly. Harder… harder…

A heavy touch on her shoulders stops her just as her already-tortured lungs start to ache. A pair of hands curl over her ruined shirt, warm, bunching the material. She looks up into the eyes of her judge, her jury. Her executioner, almost.

A manic smile parts her lips before she can stop it. She pulls her hands away from her skin to tangle fingers with his. What a pair they make, framed in the mirror, his dark suit so stark against the pale blue walls.

“Insane is such a harsh word.” He says, squeezing his right hand and then bringing it up to brush her hair behind her ear. “Someone such as yourself deserves a more elegant term.”

Vera huffs and it’s almost a laugh. In another time, another place, it would be. In time perhaps she’ll find her humour once more. “What would you suggest?”

It’s Wargrave’s turn to smile now. The hand still in her hair tugs lightly.

“My dear. Even I would struggle to argue, should someone term you a sociopath.”

Vera bites her lip, regarding her face, trying to attribute the descriptor to the familiarity of her reflection. She rolls the word around in her head, wants to feel it across her tongue.

“Sociopath.”

She finds she likes it. It is elegant, in its way, as he says.

She repeats it and the utterance echoes. Out the window, around the house. Over the bodies, out to sea.

Wargrave nods, and she smiles once more.

-

It’s been six months since they were ‘rescued’ from Soldier Island.

Six months since she managed to convince him that saving her would be worth his time, would embellish his plan, not tarnish it.

Six months since she cried herself hoarse with crocodile tears, following a script written over a bottle of brandy and Marston’s leftover cocaine. (He finds it helps almost spectacularly with the pain. She finds it helps her forget.)

It’s been five months since camera bulbs flashed in her face as she arrived in London under Wargrave’s protective arm. A small slip of a thing, the papers would come to say. Timid and afraid. Broken, by their ordeal.

That word again…

She’s a celebrity, now, more and more famous as the months pass. Known once again for the outcome of a terrible tragedy, and just as guilty of playing her part in it. But the press don’t care about trifling things like fact-checking and accuracy. She becomes - they become - the talk of the town.

It takes a little time for society to raise them up. But oh, does it ever, once they receive their first invitation to dinner. They’re practically a scandal, a show in and of themselves. It doesn’t suit him at all, but she revels in it. In the dresses and the intrigue and the whispered gossip. In the life she should have had, if fate hadn’t intervened.

She overhears a conversation at one such party, words that were not for her ears. A hushed confession that she has a gleam to her eyes in certain moments that makes her look quite unhinged.

She’s entirely certain it shouldn’t have felt like a compliment.

Wargrave pulls her aside one evening, to the edge of a grand dining room in an uncommonly grand manor owned by some Lord or other. Not that their surroundings matter much. There are sinners everywhere.

His hand is scorching the skin of her lower back and she turns into him on instinct, feels his lips quirk against her hairline as he lowers his mouth closer to her ear. Not to be overheard, this conversation.

“You see that man, the one with the cigar.” His breath is warm, his words rumbling pleasantly down her spine. She looks where he’s indicating, recognises the something in the man’s bearing that drew Wargrave’s eye.

“I do.” She agrees, sipping her drink and trying not to stare.

“His favourite serving girl was found dead on his grounds recently, pregnant and throttled.” Wargrave dips his head further, the thick scent of brandy rising between them as he swirls his glass. “He succeeded in blaming it on the stable boy.”

Vera chuckles, finishing her champagne with a flourish. “Poison? Or… perhaps an unfortunate car accident?”

He smiles with such pride that she feels warm, flushed all over. He pats her hand and kisses her forehead and the whispers begin anew.

“Poison for this one, I think.”

-

She senses their already limited time passing like sand through an hourglass. Grain, after grain, after grain…

Lawrence awakens with a start, an almost instantaneous groan. Vera turns from her vanity with the cocaine already in hand, ready to insist should he fight. He rarely does, nowadays. The pain is too acute for simple medicine, and he has enough trouble keeping up with her as it is.

She wipes at his nose afterwards and blots her thumb on a handkerchief, smiles with genuine happiness when his arm winds around her waist and pulls her back into bed. He’s a generous lover, more so than any man she’s ever known. With age comes experience and even if his ability to participate can change from day to day, he never leaves her wanting.

But things are changing. She feels an oppressive nature to the air, as if the walls are slowly closing in on them. Perhaps they’ve been careless. Perhaps they’ve ridden their luck as far as it will take them.

Perhaps it is simply just his time, the cancer no longer willing to be ignored.

In the cabinet in their bathroom sits a bottle of sedative large enough to fell several men and still account for more. They will not leave anything to chance. When the time is right, Lawrence will let her know.

The thought of finally accounting for their sins is at once alarming and exciting. To walk arm in arm to their judgement and be found…?

Guilty.” She hums, as he kisses his way down her torso, inching her nightgown up as he goes.

He doesn’t see fit to correct her.

Perhaps that would be a lie too far.