Heroes only get the girl in Hollywood.
What a cruel time for such a throwaway line to pop back to the surface, bobbing for attention.
Eve’s not a hero, though. Never has been. She’s barely managed to save herself, and that’s still pending.
What do massive wanking failures get?
She opens her eyes in that fast-forward dream of early morning as the quickest drops of light race in, impatient to shatter the night and claim their rightful place—those fractured moments where, if you close your eyes for just a few seconds, you miss the rebirth of the universe.
She’s not entirely passive, which gives her a twisted jolt of validation. Once she realizes what’s happened, she’s shooting toward the door and swinging it open, jerking her head back and forth between the two opposing stretches of hallway.
No one, no sound, no trace.
Even if she went after her now, Villanelle would always be half a dozen steps ahead, and Eve’s legs are beginning to give out as it is.
She doesn’t even remember the new addition to her hand until she’s shut the door and stumbled back to the bed on shaky knees.
At this point, she can’t even remember when she’d ditched her wedding ring, or where it was now. She’d been showering, or cooking, or cleaning—it got in the way, it always did, and that was it. She’d wriggled it off her finger and set it down, and she was free.
The new platinum band fits her perfectly. Of course it does. Snug enough to stay put, loose enough to slide off painlessly if needed—if, if, as if.
She does take it off, for a moment, to check the inscription, desperate for a clue, an excuse, a goddamn treasure map, anything—but there’s nothing, no matter how hard she squints, so she pushes it back on. The design is bare-bones simple, but elegant. Smooth, rounded edges frame the perfect width to complement the size and shape of her hand.
Less now. Eight, maybe. Somehow, Villanelle had thought this was enough time for Eve to panic, grieve, hop in a car with a stranger and take off into the abyss unknown all at once without losing her fucking mind.
Her luggage has been packed for her, toiletries and all. There’s a generous tip for housekeeping on the dresser next to the room keys. Eve checks the pad of stationery by the phone, just in case. Not even the imprint of a pen from an earlier sheet.
There isn’t the barest trace of her left in the room besides her scent, and that’ll fade, too, tipping the balance over the precipice between bone-deep saturation and non-existence.
Soon, it’ll be like she was never here at all.
Twelve minutes, eight, five now, maybe. Less.
What does it matter? Eve’s not going anywhere with anyone. None of this is happening.
She’s half sick to her stomach when she pads to the window and pushes back the curtain. There is a black car parked on the street, idling, shiny and clean. It sticks out like a sore thumb amid the ordinary, faded ones lining the hotel lot.
The five stages of something uglier than grief—twisted, curling—speed through her nerves in unison, snaking out into her bloodstream, flooding every organ all the way up to her brain where it finally settles, spins the wheel and lands squarely on rage.
Once again, Villanelle has robbed her of a choice. Once again, Eve’s life is not her own.
There’s no space left in her head to remember she’s made every decision that led them here, nor that this could very well be her only chance of making it out alive.
Her feet disengage from her brain and lead her from the room, suitcase rolling mutedly behind her over thin, hard carpeting. The passenger door and trunk pop open as she approaches, deposits the bag and slides into her seat.
It feels like watching herself from a distance. Someone else, living someone else’s life, making someone else’s decisions. Things she wouldn’t do. Thoughts she’s never had.
They’re full speed down the highway before Eve even looks at her driver: a woman in her late fifties, ish—a fine mane of silver hair and a rough, weatherbeaten face, but something kind in her eyes. Eve doesn’t have the first shred of energy required to work out her connection to Villanelle.
I trust her implicitly.
“That’s for you,” she says when she notices Eve watching, and jerks her head toward an unopened water bottle in the center console. “I’ll take you anywhere you want to go in two hours, but I’d recommend the station.”
Her accent is a bit of a stew. Eve’s no expert, but a few hints of English, German, maybe Italian break through.
“Station is fine,” Eve tries to say, only to find her voice cut down in her throat. She repeats herself.
Do not ask her any questions.
Eve’s always managed to find a way around the rules, anyway—and right now, she owes Villanelle jack shit.
“Tell me where she is.”
“I don’t know."
“And even if you did…”
“Wouldn’t tell you.”
“Or you’d have to kill me?”
Eve laughs, stupidly, hollow and humorless. Everyone Villanelle trusts is Konstantin, apparently.
The thought makes everything feel oddly comfortable—absence and the heart and all that.
When they reach the station, Eve has half a mind to ask if she can stay in the car and go wherever she’s going. She’s never minded being alone, but the prospect of free-soloing the absolute fucking unknown at this moment is unbearable.
A button pops her door open for her, and she hears the trunk thunk behind them.
“Go,” the woman says.
She pats down her jacket pockets, only to be waved off.
“You are covered.”
“Oh. Right. Thank you?”
Eve turns back, halfway out the door, holding her breath.
“Don’t be as stupid as you normally are, okay?”
Eve rolls her eyes and slams the door.
The liminality of trains has always drawn Eve into a closed sphere, peaceful. There is freedom in the grounding pull of the tracks, relinquishing control over your destiny for a handful of hours; watching one country blend into the next across invisible, arbitrary boundaries. You can transcend entire lives in the space of hours—come out on the other side of the world and everything has changed but you.
Or maybe you have, too.
It doesn’t feel like that now.
Eve doesn’t remember where she’s going. The name of the city was long, unfamiliar, the first ride heading away from London and she took it. Her luggage sits jammed into the space in front of her knees, but it’s an hour before she thinks to look inside.
She spreads it out on the empty row across, unzips and throws back the top. Her new life—some recognizable, some new—occupies the four corners in neat, curated cubes, expertly folded.
She finds the money at the bottom where they’d agreed upon, but it’s not half—it’s everything.
Tens of thousands upon thousands.
Villanelle must have more. Millions. She must have it stashed all over accounts from Cayman to Switzerland. There’s no other explanation.
There’s no chance she’d hand it all over to Eve unless—
There’s no chance.
There’s a laptop Eve’s never seen before, at least a dozen SIM cards, all her documentation, chargers, toiletries for weeks. Tampons. Tylenol. Hand sanitizer and a goddamn Kindle.
She pries open the laptop and stops breathing.
Dressed in unambiguous scrawl, a bright pink sticky note sits flat beside the trackpad.
She reads it a dozen times. Peels it off, searches the back. Runs her fingers over the ink, begging it to bleed into her skin, leave a mark, stay with her.
It’s dry and smudge-proof and the last of its kind, she realizes as she rips apart pristine piles to search, unsuccessfully, for more.
The laptop lets her in without incident and instantly prompts her to create a literal thousand passwords. Encrypted logins, two-factor, a LastPass subscription—like a script in steps, written just for Eve.
She swipes at the tears and slams it shut.
The first twenty-four hours are easier than the second.
The first layer of numbing shock dissolves after the jetlag and the bad sandwich in Vienna send her over the edge.
Spite, taking shape below defiance, spurs her to dial Villanelle’s most recent number.
She tries a few others from memory, each deader than the last, as the third (fourth?) train shoots through the dark. It’s satisfying, in a way—every This number is not in service a sharp blow to justify her anger, feed her resolve not to turn back to London and pretend nothing’s happened.
The sandwich comes back up somewhere outside Budapest, and Eve stays by the toilet for an hour and a half because it feels closest to home.
At the second pass, a tiny vial of Villanelle’s perfume tumbles into her palm as she tugs out a jumper.
Three hours of sleep spread over thirty-eight. She could be hallucinating.
She spills a drop onto each wrist, pats them together, dabs at her neck. It doesn’t smell like Villanelle. It smells like a poor imitation of Villanelle tainted by the stale reek of station grime and fast food that has sunk into every thread of Eve’s clothes, every pore of her skin.
She keeps the luggage shut. There’s no telling how long before all the familiar smells drain out, leaving nothing but an anonymous stack of clothes to cover the anonymous shell of whomever Eve decides to become.
Larissa Station feels like a different planet, or maybe that’s Eve.
Regardless, it’s all she’s wanted for the past two days, twenty-nine hours, eight minutes, and she’ll fucking take it.
Hell if she knows what day it is, let alone the time, but her first steps onto solid ground hint at those last precious moments somewhere in the dusky preface to sunset, when you’re granted one last shot at hope before you’ve got to cut your losses and postpone fate another day.
The very first thing she sees is her.
If she wasn’t hallucinating before, what a way to start.
Leaning against the edge of a square column, poorly camouflaged beneath a straw hat and mirrored aviators, stands every inch of her. Long limbs disappear into khaki shorts and a white t-shirt, hiking boots crossed at the ankles, hair tied loosely back, arms crossed.
Her whole body jerks to life as Eve breaches her line of sight. She pushes off, one step forward, two, plants herself in the center of the crowd and stares.
It is not. It is not possible.
They are inches apart before Eve can finally smell her, and if she’s still imagining, she couldn’t care less.
“I should’ve stabbed you harder.”
A whole world comes to life on Villanelle’s face, like she’s aching to smile but won’t allow it.
“I can disappear if you want,” she says. “Quick as that.”
She snaps her fingers.
If you want.
“How?” Eve demands.
Villanelle reaches down for her hand, holds it between them and gives the ring a gentle twist. Eve’s mouth goes arid.
“Are you fucking kidding me.”
Eve stares down at their hands, then back into Villanelle’s eyes, and absolutely nothing is real.
“You really couldn’t have fucking told me?”
“Imagine if you were expecting to see me again and never did.”
Eve shakes her head. “What?”
“I wasn’t sure I would make it.”
Eve blinks at her through two sets of tears, only just noticing the bruise above her left eyebrow, the cut on the back of her hand, god knows what else beneath, and before she’s given herself permission, she’s wrapped herself around Villanelle and is wrapped into her in turn, held and holding as tight as their stupid, perishable human bodies will allow.
“If you ever leave me again I will kill you myself.”
Villanelle smiles into her hair.
“Don’t think I won’t,” Eve adds.
“I love you.”
Villanelle pulls back and smiles. “Say it again.”
Eve holds her face in her hands and looks her straight in the eye. “I love you.”
“I love you more.”
“Like hell you do, asshole.”
Around them, nothing stops. The world spins. The gears turn. The sun sets.
There is no black car at the end of the block, no armed agents racing around the corner.
They are free.
“Now we walk,” Villanelle says, linking their hands together. “And we never look back.”