Notes: Okay, a quick introduction. RUSE is the story of detective Simon Archard--undeniably brilliant, far too full of himself, and more than a little detached emotionally--and his assistant--excuse me, his *partner* Emma Bishop, with whom Simon has many witty arguments and who has some peculiarities of her own that aren't really relevant here. Anyway, Simon also has a mysterious former partner named Malcolm Lightbourne, believed to be dead but recently revealed to be a ) alive and b) possessed of a major-league grudge against Simon. And therein, apparently, lies a fic... :) This isn't completely consistent with all the hints that have been dropped about Lightbourne, but oh well.
Continuity: Technically this takes place during issue #10, but lord knows you don't have to have read that to read this, especially since I'm working off a description myself.
Disclaimer: Not mine, all Crossgen's, and I suspect Simon prefers it that way.
Warning: This involves an abusive male/male relationship, with bondage and nonconsensual sex. It's also just not a nice piece in general. You Have Been Warned.
"Get down on your knees," Malcolm hisses, his eyes positively glowing. The triumph in his voice is nearly a solid thing, so thick is it. Almost as thick as the hatred. I can feel Emma's eyes on us, and I wonder what she makes of this scene, of this demand? Whatever conclusions she comes to on her own will have to sustain her; I don't plan on explaining later. Malcolm is still talking, but the general theme remains the same: he wants me to beg.
Beg. As I did so often in his company...
It wasn't something I was much given to before that. I was always very controlled, even as a child--it worried my parents, while they still lived--and I preferred to get the things I wanted in other ways.
But Malcolm Lightbourne was different; blindingly charismatic, immensely talented, and brilliant in a way I had already come to understand that few people are. I wanted him--his knowledge, his friendship, his simple presence--more than I had ever wanted anything in my life, and I would have done anything to have him.
I begged him to take me as an assistant, to teach me what he knew. He didn't want to; he liked working alone (so as not to have to share the spotlight, remarks a cold voice in my head) and he didn't want to have to drag an apprentice along. I promised him that I would be valuable, that I would never be a bother, that I would listen to him carefully and diligently; I threw in a great deal of flattery (almost all of which, I remember ruefully, was actually quite sincere); but he remained unconvinced until I abandoned argument and said, my voice full of heartfelt need and desperation, "Please, Mr. Lightbourne, *please* take me on."
He looked at me consideringly, then smiled. "All right," he said. "We'll start in the morning. And call me Malcolm."
I wonder, now, if he was really so reluctant as he seemed. Even back then, it was generally known that Simon Archard was--well, "too smart for his own good," was the way it was usually phrased, but still, I stood out, and I suspect Malcolm knew it. Certainly he showed no qualms about utilizing my abilities, something that delighted me at the time. Did he always intend to take me on, and simply enjoyed the feeling of power that my pleading gave him? With anyone else, I could consider the memory carefully, analyze it until I was certain of my conclusions. But as I keep telling Emma (not that she ever listens to me), passion is the enemy of deductive thought, and it clouds all my memories of Malcolm.
Passion there certainly was, the first time he took me to bed. I was elated that he wanted me, intoxicated by the feel of his hands on me. I'd never been with a man before, but I was more than willing and, as always, eager to learn...to a point. Malcolm, also as always, went past that point of safety. Pleasure turned to pain and fear, and I begged him to stop. He laughed, and kissed my neck, and promised that eventually I would thank him.
It still hurts to remember that he was right.
As I grew more experienced, the pain grew less, and Malcolm found other ways to amuse himself. One game he enjoyed was to restrain me, arouse me, and then...wait. A challenge, he called it; if I could escape from my bonds we could finish... "Hell of an incentive to learn all the tricks, hm?" he purred, eyes gleaming. Which, admittedly, it was. Of course, he didn't always use restraints I'd learned how to deal with, and even with the ones I had it sometimes took...quite some time. Sometimes, when I begged him to end the game and just come back, just keep touching me until frustration vanished under his expert hands...sometimes he would. But only sometimes.
My resentment of Malcolm was born there, in that bed, and it grew and strengthened as he persisted in taking credit for every case, long after my abilities had overshadowed his own. But the resentment lived side-by-side with a gratitude that never really faded, and--as much as I wish that I could deny it, could claim that it was only desire that possessed me--with love. And Malcolm was always good at being convincingly charming, at saying just the right thing in just the right way to make even his worst acts seem understandable. I suspect that's why I don't trust the words that Emma is so fond of: if I hadn't kept listening to Malcolm's words, if I had watched only his actions, I would have understood what he was much earlier.
Or maybe I wouldn't have; it's appallingly difficult to realize a thing that you truly don't want to know. When my skills began telling me what the desire for the Enigmatic Prism had done to Malcolm--what he had done *for* it, what he had used *me* to do for it--I didn't want to know. There was not a shadow of doubt; I have solved cases with considerably less evidence than I had of Malcolm's crimes. But I didn't want to know, and so I begged the God I don't really believe in that just this once I might be wrong, that the evidence was not what it looked like, that my partner and lover was not a cold-blooded killer.
When that last plea went unanswered, when Malcolm stood before me admitting what he'd done, utterly unrepentant, still with that old charming smile...that, I believe, is when the young man who would have done anything for Malcolm Lightbourne finally died completely.
The battle was long, and vicious, but in the end luck--an occasionally useful entity, though reliance on it is to be avoided at all costs--and Malcolm's own arrogance--which can, by contrast, be counted on with complete certainty--worked for me, and I stood looking down at him as he clutched desperately for purchase against the water trying to sweep him away.
"Simon!" he gasped. "Simon, give me your hand!"
I knelt down, to be closer. Leaned in toward him. And said, in a voice so cold and still I barely recognized it for my own: "Beg for it."
"For God's sake, Simon--!"
The hatred in his eyes was violent; if it were actually possible for a look to commit murder, I would doubtless have been in ashes at that moment. But I could see the fear, as well, rising up in him. His hand slipped a little; I didn't move. "All right!" he gasped. "Simon, please, I *beg* you, save me!"
I still didn't move.
I will remember, for the rest of my life, the way he looked at me in that moment. That gypsy chieftain was correct: Malcolm Lightbourne will hate me forever. Not even my death will really wipe out what that moment did to him, although I am sure that won't stop him from trying. For making him swallow his pride and abase himself, and then making the sacrifice pointless...he will never forgive me. Ever.
The truth is, I *was* planning to pull him up. Much as I hated him at that moment, outright murder would have seemed too much as if I was stamped in his mold. But I wanted him to suffer first, and so I waited--
--and in that moment, the current shifted, and he lost his grip. And was gone.
He's still right to blame me, I suppose. If I had pulled him up when he first asked, he would have been safe. And he also would have gone to jail and would not currently be threatening to flood the city of Partington. Emma is wrong, I'm right: it's a bad idea to let emotion get in the way.
Unfortunately, it's far too late to put that lesson into practice here. Malcolm is wrong, too: the water that parted us dissolved nothing that lay between us. All the old memories, all the old passions: they're still here, from the first day to the last moment. And as hard as I may try, I can no more be rid of them then he can.
I will fight you, Malcolm. And I will win. And I will never beg you for anything. Ever again.