Author: Petra LeMaitre
Email: petralemaitre at

Title: Matrices of half-tone dots
Recipient: Mattador
Rating: Sexual content
Notes: This takes place in the possible future first depicted in 'The Books of Magic' issue #5. The characters depicted here do not belong to me.
Summary: The only thing missing from the mansion Barbatos has made for Tim is Molly.

March 2012

The halls of Tim Hunter's new mansion are spacious and beautiful, decorated with antiques and thick with the scent of oil paintings. Barbatos takes care of him so well, with trinkets and new rooms added on every day, that he wants for nothing in the way of material goods except for Molly.

She is not a fixture in this place, though she has been in every house he can remember since he met her. The mornings without her, soft and warm against his back, are clammy and miserable. The nights are cold as the space between the stars, and without her to cushion him, it is hard to sleep.

He's not entirely sure what happened to the last one after she became such a prying wench. Did he kill her? Did he send her back to the Formatory where she belonged? He can't remember, exactly. There are so many things he doesn't remember, but most of the things he does remember have Molly somewhere in them. She is always supposed to be there for him, and she knows it. The last one must have been more flawed than he suspected, if she has let him be alone this long.

Without her, the mansion's vastness is wasted, and his voice echoes strangely. He fell out of the habit of talking to himself years ago, preferring instead to talk to Barbatos, or to Molly. She smiled at him, frowned at the difficult bits, and she always understood exactly the right amount of what he said. Except when she didn't.

He's not sure how to get to the Formatory from his new house. He aches for her wide, adoring eyes, the fond way she accepts everything he needs. It's been so long since he was without her, at some age, perfect or imperfect, that he keeps thinking he sees her out of the corner of his eye. That's not right, though. Barbatos shouldn't try making Molly again, not when she is perfect and waiting for him. If he could only get there, she would run to him, kiss him a thousand times and hold him so tightly.

Tim grimaces. Perhaps at first he could bear her effusive greetings. She is often grateful when he takes her from the Formatory, and then she calms down. If he brings her here, to this quiet, stately place, and she can't be tranquil and properly queenly for him, well, she can always go back. But even the nattering Molly would be better than no Molly.

He hates the word "lonely," and he is never, ever alone. Not with Barbatos there, impossible to dismiss even if he wanted to be alone.

But without Molly, he suspects that "lonely" is the only honest term for him.

After some number of empty days and nights, he hits upon the idea of asking for a seeming of Molly, just for a while. It would be so good to hear her voice again, provided she will shut up when he's tired of her. So good to let her kiss him and know that she wants him, needs him, loves him. It would be foolish to lose himself too much in the illusion. Better to bask in her for a little while, enough so that he can remember exactly where her dimples are, and the sound of her laugh when she is pleased with him. Then he can kill the seeming, as he tries to avoid killing her. With real Molly, it's gratuitous to spill her blood, sweet though it is, and dangerous to her. If someone else got hold of some, they might enslave her, make her someone else's sweet wife, over and over again. It would be unconscionable to see her on another man's arm, exploited in such a way.

Barbatos brings him Molly. She might be some urchin wearing a glamour, or she might be nothing, or she might be real. He is too entranced by the smell of her to look deeply. The soft sigh as he pulls her into his arms is just right. She says, "Oh, Tim," with just the right degree of awe, and he kisses her until she's breathless against him and he is reveling in the taste of her mouth, subtle and normal. How had he forgotten her? How had he lived without her?

The answer is there in the way she smiles at him. It's the angle he always demands of the ones from the Formatory. Vuall drills Molly so carefully that this becomes part of her. It's not exactly the same as the first memory he has, of the first Molly -- flawed, wicked girl that she was. This is the Molly who would never leave him for any reason. Any poor idiot could mark her skin, her soul, but she carries his mark in her smile. Another Molly, from another time, another world, would not smile like this. She is his, his, and he kisses her again and tells her so. It makes her shiver and cling to him.

It is as if she has never been away, which explains how he has borne the time without her. She was always waiting for him, around the right corner, in the place where she becomes his, again and again.

Before she was in his arms, he had resolved not to let her open his clothing and beg him to let her touch him. But with her there, he realizes how much he wants her. It is only Barbatos' doing in any case, and she is warm under his hands, pressing her soft breasts against him. It cannot hurt anything to carry her to the bedroom. It breaks the silence of the place to have her in the bed, their weight together making the mattress creak, her gasps and pleas the best sort of music in his ears. He has nothing to say to this seeming, but it does not quiet her, and he does not want her quiet. Let her cry out as he buries himself in her so-familiar warmth, let her cling to him and whimper as he comes. She asks for nothing for herself. Molly.

She smiles at him and kisses him again. "I love you," she says, and the earnestness makes his heart skip.

"Of course you do," he says. She beams at him and disappears, leaving only the scent of her hair and the warmth of her body in the bed. Only a seeming, after all. He will have to thank Barbatos. But now he can sleep in the warmth the false Molly made. Perhaps he will remember her in his dreams, and she will keep the demons that often stalk him there at bay for a little while.

Perhaps he will find the Formatory tomorrow, and bring her back to stay with him, really. The newest one seemed to have such potential. She might even manage to make this new home seem warm. He shivers, even with Molly's leftover warmth embracing him, and tries to fall asleep.