You’re so many things.
The on-brand chill of London whips at her cheeks, thin urban oxygen clawing its way through petrol emissions, pedestrian cigarettes and late dining carried over the bridge on the tail of a breeze. Stinging eyes and dry lips, but under the woolen layers of false security, Eve’s heart pumps a manic, fiery sheen of sweat over the furnace of her skin.
It doesn’t feel like either of them moves, but Villanelle is getting closer, Eve registers the rails of the bridge passing through the corner of her eye, and the barest thread of time simply ticks, ticks backward.
She doesn’t hear herself say it until a curious, uncertain furrow replaces the blown pupils and fearful optimism that had beamed across Villanelle’s bright, beautiful, stupid features. They’re just as they were, just before she’d instructed Eve to turn around, just before Eve had entertained and promptly rejected the notion that this may very well be the last time she ever sees that face.
“You knew I’d turn around.”
Villanelle turns her head no, shaking loose the swell of tears. “Just hoped.”
Even at full height she looks small, suddenly, at the mercy of her wild heart that just might beat its way right through her ribcage. Cages have never managed to hold Villanelle, anyway.
“You can’t stop wanting something by walking away from it,” Eve says, half to herself.
“There is another way.”
“Kill each other?”
Villanelle makes a face. “I really am a bad influence on you.”
Villanelle stares at her like Eve must already know, and of course, she does.
“Stay until you hate me.”
Eve chokes gracelessly on her next gulp of air, trying to process the candor. Leave it to Villanelle to transcend vulnerability entirely and leap straight to martyrdom.
Eve tries to smile. “Familiarity breeds contempt?”
Eve studies her, scanning for clues somewhere deep, somewhere beyond the uncountable layers Villanelle has allowed Eve to pierce, but to what end? It’s impossible to know how many remain.
Villanelle swallows hard. “So what now?”
“I’m not giving up on the Twelve,” Eve barrels forward, desperate for a change in topic. “They’ve taken everything from us, and maybe she’s right, maybe it’s impossible to take them out but I’m not going down without a fight, I don’t wanna spend the rest of my life scared, watching my back, wondering when it’s my turn and doing nothing—do you?!”
Villanelle shakes her head, trying to process, to connect. “What do you want from me?”
It’s quite a fair question, but Eve is floored. There’s no point in competing confessions, because Villanelle would win. She already has and she always will.
“I don’t know,” Eve says truthfully. “I’m just… tired of pushing you away. What’s the point?”
“You’d be safer.”
“Fuck safe. My safe train has sailed.”
“Trains don’t sail, my love.”
“Left the station. Whatever.”
My love, my love, my love—raging in echo over the walls of Eve’s consciousness, a glaring red siren held at bay only by two sets of locked eyes, one begging to pretend it didn’t happen and the other aching for assurance that it did.
“I can’t protect you,” Villanelle deadpans.
“I’m not asking you to.”
“What are you asking?”
“I…” Eve splutters, considering, as if it can be broken down to mere fucking words. “I don’t want you to not be in my life.”
“I think we should work together.”
Villanelle smiles. “What else?”
“I don’t want to go back.”
“Back to what?”
“Any of it.”
“So let’s go forward.”
Eve nods, vague and breathless. “Forward.”
Villanelle takes the plunge to close the distance, but not as Eve expects—because of course it isn’t. The flat, warm planes of their foreheads meet, time stops, and Eve swears she can feel their heartbeats fighting to escape in the small, heated stretch of contact.
Somewhere below, Eve finds her ten fingers linked with ten more, stronger and warmer, intertwining and untangling and reconnecting intuitively, a liquid dance over invisible water.
This was never supposed to feel right, and has never felt anything but.
Eve closes her eyes. “I don’t think I could ever hate you.”
“You’d be the first.”
“Okay,” Eve says, and kisses her.
“If we all have monsters inside us, I suppose it stands to reason we all have a little normal inside us, too.”
Your lovely feedback has helped ease a soupçon of my 3x08 suffering; thank you.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It is a very good, so good, best-of-all-worlds kiss that instantly ruins Eve for anyone else’s kisses, not that that’s liable to happen considering the likelihood she’ll be murdered before she ever gets the chance.
Murder. That’s what soars through her mind as Villanelle’s perfect, searing tongue swipes against her own. How apt.
Mercifully, the thought floats away, leaving in its place the most beautiful emptiness. There is no space left for thinking in this private universe of sacred heat, eons of aching let loose after every last boundary had failed to contain it: distance, discipline, doubt. All transcended; all conquered—the exquisite alchemy of bitter agony turned sweet.
She had always imagined chaos in this moment, frantic hands tearing at burdensome clothing, a blind rush to satiate desire in a mutual bid for dominance—but it isn’t that, at all. This is simply them—here and now on Tower Bridge, cradled by the current of electricity that has bound their fates from the first skipped heartbeat: Eve and Villanelle, the inevitable.
She feels the pang of separation—long, long after—a rush of cool air between their parted lips as she crashes back to earth and begins to assess this new reality—to ponder what spell was cast in the scattered seconds that transported her from self-imposed heartbreak to the lingering taste of Villanelle on her tongue.
It’s a lot of new to take in—Villanelle’s arms secure around her body; strong fingers fisted into wind-whipped curls; Eve’s own hands cupped around Villanelle’s cheeks, now slippery wet beneath reddened, disbelieving eyes. She’s close enough to feel their breaths have synced, shallow but heavy.
“It’s okay,” Eve whispers, wiping drops away as they fall. “It’s okay.”
Heads dip, eyes shut, and foreheads press close, but nothing else moves. Whatever lies ahead is beyond any scope of their control, but this, this moment is theirs for the taking as long as they can sustain it.
“Kissing you is heaven,” Villanelle says in a wrecked voice, and Eve laughs at the pure, naked truth of it.
“Yeah,” she manages. “Should’ve done it a long time ago.”
“Shouldn’t have stabbed me.”
Eve can feel the rounding of cheeks as Villanelle smiles, but it fades, quick as it came.
“Everything is going to change now,” Villanelle says.
They breathe as one, chests rising and falling together, before Villanelle’s hands find Eve’s and squeeze tight between their bodies. Eve tries to memorize by touch: the smooth, dextrous length of those fingers, the space between knuckles, the intimate press of short nails against Eve’s palms. She’s never had the luxury of just—feeling—not outside the confines of time or the crushing weight of everything else. It makes her shiver.
“What happens tomorrow?” she asks.
“I don’t know.”
“What happens now?”
“I don’t know.”
Villanelle sighs heavily, and Eve opens her eyes. Villanelle is staring hard at her, like she’s making a decision.
“I would like to do something normal with you,” she announces.
“What, like buy me a drink?"
Eve blinks, accepting the absurdity, and smiles.
Villanelle steps away then, holds herself up tall, extends a hand. Nice to know a little snogging’s done nothing to quell her flair for the dramatic.
Eve allows herself to be led back across the bridge, side by side, like any other pair of lovers on a date. They pass several, and Eve realizes, to the rest of the world, they are indistinguishable.
New. All of it. At Eve’s point in life, you don’t often get a lot of new.
Villanelle’s fingers woven with her own. They’ve touched before, of course, even clasped hands, but this is different—this is more than a few seconds, more than a frantic scramble through the mess of Rome or a stolen brush of skin in the thick of chaos. New. She falls into step beside Villanelle, trying to match the broader strides of longer legs, then notices Villanelle has slowed down for her, doing the same. New.
They walk without words, but Eve keeps stealing glances at Villanelle’s profile, the shape of her features under streetlights, how calm they look without the mask of mystery or performance. Eve has never had the freedom or time to simply look, unabashed, and she consumes the chance hungrily.
Villanelle looks too, but she’s much smoother about it, and when Eve catches her, she doesn’t look away. She smiles, once. Winks, another time. Squeezes her hand when she knows Eve is staring.
Everything is going to change now.
A few blocks and a turn or two find them at the entrance of a posh but quiet-looking bar nestled into the base floor of an upscale hotel. Without a word, Villanelle holds the door for her, slides two barstools from beneath the counter and commands the young gentleman’s attention with a single glance.
For a ridiculous second, Eve is monumentally impressed with herself for managing to resist this woman as long as she did.
The thought makes her smile, and Villanelle smiles back. “What would you like?”
“Uh.” Eve stares dumbly at the bartender. She can feel Villanelle watching her, cataloging every reaction, every newly exposing detail. “Gin. Just. A lot of gin. Please.”
Villanelle raises an eyebrow, then turns to him. “I’ll have the same.”
She eyes Eve curiously with a mischievous curl in her lip, like she’s looking for clues.
“What is your favorite drink?” she asks.
Eve blinks, caught off guard. “Um. A… martini.”
Eve rolls her eyes. “Fine, strawberry daiquiri. You?”
“I’m Russian, what do you think?”
Eve smiles. “Does vodka just flow from the faucets?”
“Not the good kind.”
Eve laughs, wraps a hand around the glass that’s appeared in front of her, and takes a swig. It tastes like shit, but she feels like she could float.
“Where are you staying?” she asks.
Villanelle looks around sheepishly and shrinks in on herself a bit. “The ninth floor?”
“Oh.” Eve stares at her drink. “Is your room nice?”
“Do you have a mini bar?”
Villanelle nods, watching her closely. Eve nods back.
Then, out of nowhere, Villanelle snorts. “How did you ever manage to get laid?”
“Oh, fuck you.”
“See, that’s better.”
Eve chokes a little on her drink like the mature adult she is, and stares hard at the smudged, glossy wood of the bar.
“Um, I’m sorry, by the way,” she says suddenly. “About the bus.”
Eve looks up to find a shadow over Villanelle’s face, features etched with disappointment.
“Oh, no, not—I mean for headbutting you, not for—”
Villanelle softens. “Oh.”
For a hardened assassin, the woman is painfully sensitive.
“It was a pretty terrible first kiss, though, you should be more sorry about that.”
“Oh, well, excuse me, I was conflicted.”
“Are you now?”
Villanelle smiles. It is beautiful. It is contagious. It is everything.
“Would you like to see my mini bar?”
Elevator sex. That is Eve’s first coherent thought as they stand side by side, shoulders stiffly touching, up to the ninth floor. Worse, the entire compartment is mirrored, making it impossible not to look at each other without being obvious.
Eve hates everything, but most of all, she hates the shitty weak gin that didn’t give her enough nerve to go for it.
Granted, their first time probably shouldn’t take place on CCTV.
Villanelle’s room is elegant, clean, unremarkable. At least, Eve assumes. All she can see is the massive king bed.
Villanelle shrugs out of her mustard outerwear and drapes it over a chair, leaving herself in a black v-neck tank that is extremely problematic. She kicks off her shoes and Eve follows suit, losing them in a corner of the dark.
“It has a pretty good view,” she says absently, crossing to the window and tugging open the drapes. Indeed it does—a spectacular sight of the bridge that changed everything, fantastically lit against the bruise-colored backdrop of night sky.
“In Rome, when you told me you—”
Eve literally bites her tongue. It deserves it. Maybe that gin wasn’t so weak, after all.
Villanelle turns slowly around—a tall vision backlit against sparks of light dancing far beyond the glass.
Eve can’t very well back out now.
“I said you didn’t know what it meant,” she says in a rush. “I’m sorry.”
“Why?” Villanelle shrugs. “You were right. I didn’t.”
“Still. It was a shitty thing to say.”
Villanelle exhales and steps forward to fold herself back on the bed. Her back melts into the duvet, knees bent, endless legs stretched to the floor.
“In your defense, I did sort of make you kill someone.”
“I—I wouldn’t say—I mean. I understand, now. Why you did it.”
“It was still very manipulative.”
Villanelle’s head turns, and she’s smiling. “We’re not going to have a morality standoff, are we? Because I think we’d both lose.”
“Fuck, that’s sad.”
Villanelle huffs a small laugh. Eve does, too. Another layer of fear melts away, and Eve finds herself stepping forward until her knees hit the bed.
She turns, falls, and angles her head. Villanelle’s is already inclined toward her—the most agonizing deja vu.
“At least I would win at apologies,” Villanelle says. “I have hundreds.”
“I think we should skip apologies.”
Villanelle smiles, but it hides nothing. The weight of confession hangs heavy in the air, unspoken and unspeakable. Below, two fingers toy with a loose thread.
If it were anyone else, Eve would swear she was nervous.
“What?” Villanelle asks.
Eve shakes her head. “There are moments when you seem almost…”
“God, I hate that word.”
Villanelle shrugs. “If we all have monsters inside us, I guess it stands to reason we all have a little normal inside us, too.”
“Yeah. I guess so.”
She is dying to ask again, what happened—what tore Villanelle down to this quiet, controlled ball of angst from the wild animal Eve had known. She wants to know everything, still, more, all.
“Will you call me Oksana?”
In the air between them, the words are light—but behind is pitch black. Eve can see the depth in her eyes, the pleading for acceptance: will Eve still want her, once the mask is off?
Eve tries it out on her tongue. She’s said it before, but only in the stoicism of research, analysis. Clinical. Never to her—an acknowledgment of her humanity, her humanness.
“Look, I—” Eve starts, uselessly, “I don’t expect you to—I mean. I’m not asking, and you don’t owe me anything, but I want you to know—you can tell me whatever you want, and I won’t judge. I can’t promise I’ll understand, but… there’s nothing you could tell me that I can’t handle.”
“Except untimely confessions of love, apparently.”
Villanelle’s mouth twitches at the corner, and Eve stammers, unprepared.
“Kidding, don’t worry. I’m not going to say it.”
Eve wills her mouth shut, stumbling over her thoughts, unable to pluck a single coherent one from the trash heap.
“You want to know why I don’t want to kill anymore.”
“I will tell you another time.”
“You can tell me things too, if you want.”
They are close. They’ve gotten closer, somehow, because god only knows why— the universe wills it, or they’re impossibly horny for each other, or whatever.
Villanelle—Oksana—smiles. “I liked dancing with you.”
Villanelle peels herself off the bed, pulling Eve with her. They scarcely fall into position before Villanelle freezes, eyes wide.
“I’m sorry—I have been very rude. Let me get you a drink.”
Eve is too drained to think, to stop her, pull her back—but she gathers enough energy to follow across the room to the mini bar, sliding up behind her so close that when Villanelle turns, tiny bottle in each hand, Eve has effectively pinned her against the dresser.
Villanelle freezes. Her arms hang stiffly in the air as if, given the slightest invitation, they would submit, powerless, to a will of their own.
Eve pries the bottles from her fingers, gently, and sets them down.
“What are you waiting for?”
(Dear younger readers, don’t drink gin when you’re emotional. Actually… don’t drink gin. Sincerely, your local 30-something femslasher who drinks too much because lesbian angst. And quarantine.)
“We could just… talk. Or sleep.”
“Or be murdered tomorrow.”
I loathe writing sex; please forgive me.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“What are you waiting for?”
Villanelle looks at her like it’s obvious. “For you to choose.”
“I’m in your hotel room, what do you want? Runway lights on the mattress?”
“That’s not very romantic. How about a wax-sealed letter with a hint of your perfume?”
Eve laughs. Villanelle sulks.
“I don’t know,” she grumps defensively. “We could just… talk. Or sleep.”
“Or be murdered tomorrow.”
“Now that is romantic.”
Eve smiles but takes a few steps back. Breathing room. Villanelle accepts, loosens up and inhales roughly, detaches herself from the dresser and watches Eve like nothing else has ever existed. It’s clear she’s harnessing every last effort to control her breath, her movement, her instinct—and failing.
It’s hot. It is so very, very hot.
Without breaking eye contact, Eve takes the space to shrug off her jacket and toss it to the floor. Villanelle freezes—but Eve can see her eyes darken as they begin to drain of focus, glossing over with want.
In the storm of it all, Eve had forgotten how desperately she is wanted, how desperately she wants—no matter how desperately (and poorly) she’s tried to deny it. She’s never wanted or been wanted like this and it all hits at once, knocks the breath out of her—months and months of repressed ache now rushing back, drowning her, flooding her nerves before concentrating heavy and heated between her legs.
She really hopes Villanelle can take a hint.
Indeed, Villanelle smiles—a blissed out sort of haze, illegible.
Eve blinks. “What are you thinking?”
“Coup de foudre.”
“Google it,” Villanelle says, swoops forward, and they’re kissing.
It’s a mess of contradictions—release through consumption, a welcome end woven into a tremulous beginning. It’s the most foreign sensations that feel like coming home: another woman’s smooth skin and supple contours, the lines and curves Eve had long ago stamped into memory as Villanelle and only allowed herself to worship from a distance. The smells and sounds she’d scarcely ever had chance to savor, now literally at her fingertips, beneath her lips, around and inside her, overloading her senses, hell, her entire psyche.
Villanelle frees Eve of her turtleneck in one efficient swoop while Eve is still clawing at the black fabric of Villanelle’s shirt with unruly, overzealous hands. She finally gets hold of it and tugs upward, relishing in the small feat of success until she realizes two deft fingers have already unhooked her bra and she’s been smoothly maneuvered backward as her knees bump the mattress.
Fuck, the woman is suave as shit.
She’s on her back by the time she registers this thought, delirious and drowning under this solid, glorious weight of body and limbs—but even in the manic rush of their newfound pace, Eve doesn’t fail to notice that Villanelle’s touch is conscious, measured, just enough to avoid Eve’s afflicted shoulder.
Even now, with their brains lost to arousal, the woman who could snap her neck with one hand knows just how to touch her without causing pain.
Also, fuck, fuck she’s stronger than she looks, which of course Eve knew, but not like this.
Villanelle laughs against her throat but loosens her grip on the hand she’s got pinned above Eve’s head, and Eve realizes she’s started to think aloud.
Eve shakes her head and grabs a handful of blonde hair, tugging hard. “Not enough.”
Villanelle legit growls against her, presses her wrist harder into the mattress, squeezes Eve’s bare breast with her spare hand as she slides one knee between Eve’s legs, and Eve cannot possibly survive this.
She does dimly register that she’s the only one topless, which is grossly unfair, but on the other hand, Villanelle’s black lace bra is—in all irony—to die for.
They come up for air eventually and Villanelle lifts herself to straddle Eve’s hips, endless legs pressed tight against Eve’s waist as she drinks her in, eyes searing every inch of Eve’s exposed skin. With both hands freed, Eve takes the opportunity to reach up and touch, run her hands over warm, taut thighs, up the satin-smooth hourglass of her sides—until her fingertip trips on the raised flesh just above Villanelle’s left hip.
It seems to strike them both at once. Villanelle catches sight of the jagged line on Eve’s shoulder and reaches down to feel. Her brow is furrowed, her touch gentle, but nothing can hide the fascination in her eyes. There’s something else too, behind it, but Eve isn’t ready to dive that deep.
“Does it hurt?”
Villanelle looks at her like she wants to say something, but doesn’t—just leans down to press a light kiss to the mark, breasts brushing against Eve’s front, and Eve’s hands reach for them greedily, eliciting the tiniest, most obscene noise from Villanelle’s lips.
Eve wants to hear it again, hear more. She squeezes harder, snakes one hand around Villanelle’s back to pinch the clasp of her bra, presses a thigh up between her legs, dips her mouth into the curve of a shoulder, and bites.
“Okay,” Villanelle breathes into her neck. “I can take a hint.”
She makes quick work of Eve’s trousers, spares three hungry seconds to stare at Eve in nothing but a pair of dark purple panties, then slides them off with quick, purposeful intent. Eve is fussing frantically with the triple-button design of Villanelle’s fly, wondering why it dares to exist, when Villanelle covers her hands.
“Sorry,” she gasps, wriggling enough to pop them open herself. “These are my chastity jeans.”
Eve throws her head back and laughs, and Villanelle takes the invitation to sink her teeth into the flesh at the base of Eve’s neck, suckling hard. The pain shocks her nerves for one blissful moment before sinking to a deep, demanding pulse that jets straight to her core.
She’d been aching for the moment Villanelle would stop holding back, and it’s here. With bells on.
They tackle the jeans as a team in between manic, open-mouthed kisses ravaged with tongue and teeth, and Eve decides she can admire whatever jaw-dropping designer undergarments Villanelle chose some other time, because right now she needs there to be nothing between them for days.
When it’s finally skin on skin, Eve grabs hold of her biceps and pushes until Villanelle is seated atop Eve’s hips, allowing Eve to trail her hands over everything she can reach. The woman is a goddamn vision, naked and breathless, face flushed and hair wrecked, lips swollen, chest heaving. Her eyes are feral.
Eve thinks, I did that, and lets the surge of ego wash over her. She’s earned it.
“You are so fucking gorgeous,” Eve blurts out. She's been waiting to say that for a stupidly long time.
Villanelle’s movements slow to a halt as she opens her mouth to reply, but her voice catches like she’s run out of breath. Eve gives her a moment to find it, but Villanelle just breathes and stares, plants one hand in the center of Eve’s chest to lean in, lips ghosting over Eve’s ear.
“You have no idea how beautiful you are,” she whispers. (She’s right—Eve doesn’t.) “But I’m going to make you feel it.”
A strange, foreign sound escapes Eve’s throat. She is dizzy, and dying, probably, and Villanelle is breathing more words into her skin as she slides her entire body over Eve’s, unending and liquid in her movements, fingers and tongue and teeth coaxing pleasure from everywhere but the place Eve needs it most. She catches at least three distinct languages—admirations and praises and promises of pleasure that make her vision blur, and Villanelle hasn’t even touched her yet. She manages to hold out until she feels dripping wet heat from Villanelle’s core sliding along her thigh and can swear she sees stars.
Eve is impatient. She will never admit how many times she’s made herself come to a pathetic, inadequate fantasy of this moment, and assuming they don’t get murdered tomorrow, they have all the time in the world to savor nuances, explore desires, uncover secrets—for now, she wants, and needs, and needs.
She’s not prepared, at all.
She sneaks a hand between Villanelle’s legs from behind, gliding over the contours and dipping underneath into drenched, pulsing warmth, and Villanelle gasps right into her mouth.
“Oh. Shit. Fuck.” Eve is nothing if not eloquent when it counts.
This is nothing like her own, this is infinitely better, this is liquid satin set on fire, and for one wild moment that Eve swears to remember, Villanelle looks free. She halfway recovers in a heartbeat or less, looks down at Eve with absolute wickedness in her eyes and the most obnoxiously satisfied smirk, like somehow this is her win.
"Want me to show you how?”
Eve narrows her eyes. “I’m a fast learner.”
That breaks Villanelle a bit, blowing out her pupils under dark, heavy lids. She raises an eyebrow, and Eve can feel the muscles holding her down go limp.
Eve takes the bait and flips them over, landing on Villanelle’s lap less than gracefully but with the confidence to compensate. She knows it’s an illusion, that it wouldn’t have happened if Villanelle hadn’t allowed it, knows the woman could take back control at any moment and still have a free hand left over to fuck her senseless, but it doesn’t fucking matter because Eve is on top.
Emboldened with arousal, she slips her hand back into place and lets herself feel, never taking her eyes from Villanelle’s.
“What do you like?”
Villanelle shakes her head. “Everything. Anything. You.”
Eve smiles and slips a finger inside.
Eve is numb in parts of her body she didn’t know existed. Villanelle is still looking at her with a level of smug satisfaction Eve will never admit is warranted.
They talk, and they fuck, and they talk some more, always balancing on the knife’s edge between casual and catastrophic.
Some topics should not be broached in the sacred afterglow of firsts.
Sticky and sated beside the wall-to-wall window, they lie face to face, legs tangled beneath the sheets, fingertips tracing over hipbones under the dusty glow of London lights.
Eve stares at the mark. “Does it hurt?”
Villanelle glances down at her own belly and wrinkles her nose. “Not anymore.”
“You sound disappointed.”
“It made me feel like you were still with me.”
Eve grins. “You are so…”
“I thought you liked me.”
“I do, you fucking weirdo.”
“Weirdo who just gave you the best sex of your life.”
“I never said that.”
Villanelle smirks. “You didn’t have to.”
Eve gives Villanelle’s nipple a daring pinch, but it doesn’t exactly have the punitive effect she’d intended. Villanelle squeaks and presses closer, a grin simmering on her face.
She looks so different—it’s naive, but it feels like Eve managed to peel off an entire layer intact and cast it aside, never to return.
She looks happy.
“Why me?” Eve asks. Villanelle furrows. “What was it about me?”
Villanelle shrugs a bare shoulder against the sheet. “Coup de foudre.”
“We were both searching for something we were hiding from.”
Eve stares at her a long time, trying to complicate it, but there is a bold sort of completion in the simplicity.
“I have no idea how to be with anyone anymore.”
“Like this, I think.” Villanelle links their hands together.
“I have no idea how to love someone anymore.”
Villanelle swallows hard as the word hits the air.
“Could’ve fooled me.”
The dream carries them almost to dawn, side by side and half naked at the bathroom mirror, scrubbing sleepily at their teeth. Eve had unwrapped the shitty toothbrush in the complimentary packet of hotel toiletries, but Villanelle had first offered to share with no reservation whatsoever, and Eve’s heart had skipped a beat.
Even sharing the tiny tube of travel toothpaste felt more intimate than anything they’d done for the past six hours.
Back in bed and halfway to sleep, she watches Villanelle rummage through a bag across the room. Eve sits bolt upright, eyes shooting open, as a gun appears in Villanelle’s hand.
Villanelle freezes at the reaction, turning back to her. “Sorry. I have to—”
She makes an awkward gesture toward her side of the bed before she returns, tucking the gun beneath her pillow. The action looks as natural as brushing her teeth.
Eve exhales shakily. A moment passes before she settles back into the bedding and Villanelle meets her eyes.
So this is it—not counting a non-consensual tour of her Paris flat, this is the first glimpse of Villanelle’s private life that Eve is accorded.
Wouldn’t have been her first choice.
Villanelle smiles dryly. “Reality bites, hm?”
Eve makes a noise of agreement.
“I can put it under yours if it makes you feel better.”
“No—no. Thank you.”
Villanelle crawls back into bed beside her and lays flatly on her side, mirroring Eve’s position. Without a word, Eve pulls her in until Villanelle is draped over her, head on Eve’s chest, one long arm curled around her waist.
Reality can wait.
Eve blinks, adjusting to the light. Villanelle’s bright, stunning face, wide awake in the mid-morning sun, is one hundred percent the most implausible thing Eve has ever woken up to.
Fucking hell, it really happened.
“It’s very cute, but you should probably get one of those nose things.”
Still working toward complete thoughts, she reaches for Villanelle without a word, pulling her down until their mouths crash, and Villanelle melts into her with a small, broken, desperately beautiful moan.
Eve smiles. “Good morning.”
“Apparently so. Are you hungry?”
Eve raises an eyebrow. Villanelle rolls her eyes.
“I ordered room service, you insatiable pervert.”
Eve smiles. “What did you get?”
“God, you’re perfect.”
“Hold that thought, I have to pee.”
Villanelle kisses her quickly and launches out of bed, disappearing into the bathroom. It’s only seconds before a knock raps at the door and Eve stiffens, scanning the room for cover.
Closest, the mustard wins. Eve doesn’t know quite how to wear it and it’s far too long on her, but it does the job well enough for her to flip open the deadbolt and pull.
Free Tangfastics if you can spot the line I stole from Frasier. Because I’m that old.
“We’d go crazy.”
"We’re already crazy.”
I finally have an outline for the rest of this trash heap, so... cheers? (Spoiler alert: there's a plot.)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“We have to stop running into each other like that. It’s not good for both of us.”
Eve’s body reacts first and holds her in place, a teetering statue grounded only by the voice in her palm. Her heartbeat snowballs into rapid-fire flutters that are of absolutely no use to her bloodstream, not that it matters. Villanelle has always been better than oxygen.
“I don’t think it counts as ‘running into’ if we’re actively seeking each other out.”
“You accosted me on a bus.”
“You kissed me.”
Embarrassment bubbles up, hot and fast. Regret is a quick second, but there’s no telling what for. It absolutely has nothing to do with the plunging lurch deep in her stomach at hearing Villanelle say the words “you kissed me” in a breathy, blissed out voice—and worse, the fact that it’s true.
“Why did you come looking for me?”
“Why did you come looking for me? I shot you.”
“Did you really? I’d forgotten.”
“Didn’t answer my question.”
“Didn’t answer mine.”
She can hear it, feel the fucking smile in Villanelle’s voice, and flatly refuses to engage. She’s too tired for this now. Too tired, too old, and too angry.
“I’m trying to find out who killed Kenny.”
“I know.” Eve sighs. “But you could find out.”
“That is… not a possibility right now.”
All pretense has drained from her voice, leaving something sinister in its wake. For someone who is painfully direct to the point of fury, this doesn’t sit right.
“What’s going on?” Eve asks.
She finds her footing and takes a step forward, another, one off-white tile at a time, making for the station exit. Each feels like a step closer to the voice in her ear, like Villanelle is waiting just around the corner.
Isn’t she always?
Villanelle doesn’t respond until Eve reaches the street, halts limply in front of the line of taxis and closes her eyes, waiting.
“There are so many things I want to tell you.”
The sunken ache in her voice pierces Eve’s flimsy walls, and her entire body dissolves.
“Will you meet me, Eve?”
“Yes,” Eve says, because the way she says her name would make Eve agree to anything.
Isn’t that how they landed in this hot fucking mess to begin with?
“I’ll text you.”
For a moment Eve thinks she’s hung up; then, out of nowhere—“It’s so good to hear your voice.”
Broken syllables, cracked—like the admission was lodged in her throat, instructed to stay there, and disobeyed.
Fuck your guilt, Eve doesn’t tell her.
It’s your fault you haven’t heard it, Eve doesn’t tell her.
You had my voice, my heart, my life in your hands, and you fucked it up, Eve doesn’t tell her.
It’s not that it isn’t true. It’s that there are many, many truths, and Eve chooses another.
Layered up as ever—trousers, sweater, and raincoat, and looking remarkably more awake than Eve feels, Carolyn’s already got her doubly beat.
“Hello,” Eve says stupidly.
“Is this a bad time?”
The bathroom door swings open brusquely and bounces on the rubber stopper by the baseboard. Villanelle has slipped into a thick, oversized white bathrobe with the hotel emblem emblazoned across a pocket, making her look even smaller as her eyes go big.
“I’m gone thirty seconds and you’re already bringing other women into the room.”
Eve bites her lip and retreats, slumping down onto the bed and praying for death.
“I can come back,” Carolyn offers.
Villanelle looks dubious but gestures her into the room, following closely behind and propping herself against the dresser with arms and ankles crossed.
Carolyn faces her calmly.
“Rhian was yours, yes?”
Villanelle swallows but says nothing.
“Who?” Eve ventures.
“Another one of the Twelve’s. Pushed onto the tracks on the underground.”
Eve looks at Villanelle, who sinks into herself and shrugs. “She was a threat."
“Not to worry,” Carolyn continues breezily. “She killed my assistant, so we’ve made it clear to the Twelve that her death was MI6’s way of… putting its foot down.”
“Why?” Villanelle studies her skeptically. “Why would you claim it?”
Carolyn purses her lips. “I would like to reconsider your proposal.”
“Because I can’t think of another way.”
Eve stares, lost for words. “What happened to cold turkey?”
“I’m afraid I felt rather… defeated in the moment. Now that I’ve had a proper night to toss and turn over it, I’ve become quite angry. Undefeatable or not, indirectly or not, the Twelve are responsible for my son’s death and I plan to, at the very least, uncover who was threatening him, and destroy everything they care about.”
Villanelle smiles manically. “That is hot.”
Eve raises an eyebrow, and the smile vanishes.
“Your work with the Ghost and with Peel were, I must admit, impressive. Social manipulation skills of that level are remarkably difficult to come by—to say the least.”
“I don’t want to kill anymore,” Villanelle says firmly.
“I won’t ask you to. What the Twelve ask of you, however, I can’t control.”
“So what do you want me to do?”
“Meet with Hélène. Tell her I’ve offered you a job and propose that you accept—under the promise, of course, that you will use your new position to benefit the Twelve.”
“Except it would be the opposite.”
Eve blinks, spluttering. “You want her to work as a double agent?”
Carolyn turns. “Is there a problem?”
“I mean—” Eve tosses her arms. “They don’t exactly have the highest life expectancy, do they?”
“You do realize the woman you spent the night with is an actual assassin, don’t you?”
Eve rolls her eyes.
“How do we convince them I’m still on their side?” Villanelle asks.
“Information, of course. Information is—”
“Everything,” Villanelle finishes glumly.
For a moment, they both stare at the wall with the same clouded expression. A moment has passed between them that is entirely lost on Eve, but if she were to hazard a guess—something akin to shared sadness.
“Yes,” Carolyn says at last, quietly. “I give you certain tidbits that would be of interest to them and you pass it along, thus bolstering your presumed loyalty.”
“Oh.” Villanelle’s eyes widen. “Oh my god, I’m Snape.”
“I mean, I am a Slytherin. But at least I didn’t join the dark side because I got friendzoned.”
Carolyn blinks. “Eve, what is she talking about?”
Eve bites her palm and stares at the floor. Laughter stings at her eyes, threatening escape, when a knock raps at the door.
“I’ll get it!”
Eve leaps from the bed and tumbles past them. A moment later, a cart piled with serving trays rolls inside, slow and heavy over the carpet. They nod greetings, Eve fumbles aimlessly about the flows of her mustard covering until Villanelle mouths pocket, and Eve extracts two crumpled bills to shove into the young man’s hand.
“You gave him two hundred euros,” Villanelle informs her when he’s gone, a smile playing at her lips.
Eve sinks silently onto the bed.
“All right, then.” Villanelle steps forward, reclaiming the room. “What’s in it for MI6? What’s in it for you?”
“Well, in order to make our sacrifice worthwhile, you will have to extract information from them in turn—without drawing suspicion.”
Villanelle barks out a laugh. “Easy peasy, right?”
“Not at all. It is of paramount importance that you convince her of your loyalty.”
“You just got promoted. Use it.”
She huffs. “It’s just a title. I’m middle management and everyone they give me is a fucking pridurok.”
Carolyn replies in Russian with something that sounds like agreement, and Villanelle smirks.
“You’re incredibly smart, Oksana. All that’s left is to get them to like you.”
Villanelle looks at her, offended. Carolyn shrugs.
“If your days of killing are behind you, this is quite literally your only option, unless you’d like to join Konstantin and his sociopathic daughter in America or take your chances on the run.”
“What about Eve?”
She looks at Eve then, her face instantly softening, and spares a small, secret smile, just for her: Trust me.
“What about her?” Carolyn asks.
“Do you want to be my sexy assistant?” Villanelle waggles her eyebrows at Eve.
“You don’t get an assistant. Besides, Eve no longer works for MI6 and has made it abundantly clear she isn’t interested in returning.”
They both turn.
“I mean.” Eve shrugs, sheepish. “If she’s doing it.”
“Very well,” Carolyn says. “If you’re willing to set aside your scrupulous reservations, your investigation skills would be more than welcome back.”
“Didn’t your higher-ups, like, ban you from any more operations like this?”
“Mm. As it would happen, I’ve managed to extract some of the evidence Mo uncovered of Paul’s involvement. Having exposed him as a traitor, I seem to have fallen back into their favor. Now that another one of their own has deflected, their interest in the Twelve has become... shall we say, personal.”
“So this would be… on the books,” Eve realizes. “Is that safe?”
“Was it ever?”
Eve and Villanelle look at each other, blank.
“It will be highly undercover, however, so you’ll be working out of a safe house outside the city. Might be a few days; we're running out of good ones.”
“I need a team,” Eve announces. “I need Bear and Jamie.”
Carolyn raises an eyebrow. “Are they as good as Kenny?”
“No one’s as good as Kenny.”
Carolyn watches her for a long moment. Something passes over her face, nearing the surface and shrinking back. A tightness catches in the back of Eve’s throat, and her eyes begin to sting.
“But they’re the next best thing,” she adds quietly.
“And we will need security.”
Carolyn turns to Villanelle. “I’d assumed that would fall under your duties.”
Eve sighs. “Didn’t help Kenny.”
“Kenny was good, but he was sloppy. Insecure mobile device—no more Androids. Probably used Tor to download data like a script kiddie—exit nodes see everything. We would need to use public networks, stay mobile, build our own tools and keep surveillance on any encrypted drives. It would take the Twelve five seconds to duplicate one and overwrite the MBR.”
Eve and Carolyn stare at her.
“The… what?” Eve ventures.
“The master boot record,” Villanelle shrugs like it’s obvious. “The only part that isn’t encrypted, which is why you’ve got to surveil the shit out of them. If someone from the Twelve got access to it, they could’ve duplicated it to an exact replica drive and written new data to install malicious software that would start tracking his activity when he plugged it back into his laptop—maybe even catch in-flight encryption keys to start brute-forcing the data.”
Eve turns slowly to Carolyn. “I think you just hired Mr. Robot.”
Villanelle slumps wearily. “I’ve had to do a lot of things for a lot of jobs.”
Carolyn studies her with an intense curiosity. “Why did you never mention this?”
“You told me I was useless unless I wanted to kill for you.”
The bitterness in her voice makes Eve proud. Proud, and protective—enough to shoot Carolyn a glare.
“I appear to have been mistaken,” Carolyn says simply.
“Um.” Eve clears her throat. “I think Bear can help set us up. Properly.”
“Right. You should also know that new identities are in order. If there’s a particular name you’d like, I’ll see what I can do.”
Eve loses her voice. This isn’t a desk job anymore. This is a beginning, and an end. The end of Eve Polastri, for one. Literally.
“Well, I’ll be in touch,” Carolyn says briskly. “Enjoy your post-coital feast.”
Eve watches the door click shut behind her. Her appetite has gone shaky. Villanelle is still perched tall and solemn against the dresser, staring intently at Eve.
Eve narrows her eyes. “Did you ever hack me?”
“Eve.” Villanelle tries to look scandalized. “How could you ask such a thing.”
“Oh my god, you creeper.”
“Says the woman who broke into my apartment.”
Eve smiles and moves closer; Villanelle reaches for her, intuitive. It’s bizarre how natural it feels to lean forward into the space between her legs, letting their hips bump as Villanelle’s arms circle her waist, Eve’s hanging loosely over Villanelle’s shoulders.
They hold onto the moment as long as they can—but in the rapt, ringing silence, the weight of reality begins to push back.
“‘Oksana’ was nice while it lasted.”
Villanelle fakes a smile.
“Are you sure about this? I thought you wanted out—like, out out.”
“I do.” She takes Eve by the hand and leads them to perch on the edge of the bed, flush from shoulder to knee. “But you don’t just... walk away from the Twelve. Not alive, anyway.”
“So… what’s the plan? This… double agent thing, is that your exit strategy?”
“I don’t know.”
“Eve, just because I don’t want to kill anymore doesn’t mean I’ll never have to. I can’t just hand in a letter of resignation and retire in Tuscany. One day they’re going to realize they have no more use for me, or that I am a liability, or that I’ve betrayed them, and when that happens, my only option will be to run.”
“His mistake was stealing money. He could have gone quietly, but he got greedy.”
“Why can’t we just run now?”
Villanelle smiles, but it’s weak. “Tropical island?”
“We’d go crazy.”
“We’re already crazy.”
“No, proper crazy: we’d get bored.”
“God, you’re right.”
“Running is always a last resort. Trust me.”
Eve looks down at their joined hands. Villanelle’s thumb brushes over her skin as their fingers move together, stroking whatever they can reach.
“Is it only a matter of time? Before you’ll have to run?”
“Unless I want to keep killing until it kills me? Yes.”
“Will you ever be safe?”
“We all die, Eve. And we don’t get to choose how, or when.”
Their eyes meet. Villanelle’s are beginning to pool over, glossy and dark. The weight of Eve’s choice is closing in on her, and she knows it’s palpable.
Villanelle swallows thickly, her breath coming in shallow clips.
“You don’t have to do this. You can still walk out the door and I won’t come after you—”
Eve kisses her. Kisses the life out of her. Kisses her with tongue and teeth, with hair in the way and hands clawing at fabric. Kisses her over and over between whispered fuck yous and I’m not going anywheres and shut the fuck ups.
Her head is swimming as they come down for breath, heads bent together. Eve closes her eyes.
Villanelle draws a ragged breath. Her eyes lift. The tears are gone, leaving nothing behind but fierce, ruthless conviction. She squeezes Eve’s hand.
“Now we fight back.”
Thanks to B, my cyber nerd, for the techie shit.
Thanks to Carolyn, as always, for being oodles of fun to write.
“What are we? What’s wrong with us? We’re insane.”
“It’s nice of you to say ‘we.’”
Hi, I promise I’m done upping the chapter count. I just keep getting drunken ideas for amazing plot twists. (At least, they sound amazing when I’m drunk.)
Oksana pushes the square, shitty prison chair onto its two back legs as far as they’ll go without tipping over. She lets it bounce a bit, back and forth, testing its limits, never breaking eye contact. He seems powerful, but not altogether evil. There might exist a twinkle in his eye, if you look close enough. Maybe there’s part of him that’s funny, or kind. He reminds her of—
“Well?” he asks. “Why should I take you over Nadia?”
“She is too soft.”
“And you’re not? You’re—what, cold-blooded killer, hm?”
There’s a smile in his voice when he says it, but it’s tinted more toward curiosity than sarcasm.
Oksana shrugs. “I am heartless.”
He laughs—a ridiculous, booming sound, like a cartoon—and waggles a finger at her.
“I don’t think you are.”
“Who gave you that?”
He stares hard at the cloth bracelet on her wrist. Instinctively, she shrugs a ragged blue sleeve down to hide Anna's initials woven into the threadbare strip.
“I’m not looking for heartless,” he says. “I’m looking for smart.”
Oksana smiles bitterly. “They are the same.”
“Why would MI6 want you?”
Villanelle ignores the emphasis on the last syllable. “Why do you?”
“Do we? You failed to complete your last job. We had to send a backup after him.”
Villanelle swallows hard. “I took care of Dasha for you. Isn’t that better?”
Hélène does chuckle a bit at that, but it’s dry, devoid of sentiment.
“You perform a very specific function for us. I don’t imagine MI6 will be asking the same of you.”
“They think I can get information from you.”
Hélène’s eyes narrow. “How optimistic.”
Villanelle tries to muster her most disarming smile. It’s difficult to fake it when she’s not getting paid.
Hélène paces slowly, each drop of her heels echoing off the creamy marble. “And I suppose your plan is to… extract intelligence from them in return?”
“You think I can’t?”
“What makes you think they’ll tell you anything we don’t already know?”
“Only one way to find out.”
Hélène watches her appraisingly. A curt, condescending smile contorts her lips.
“Why don’t you want to kill anymore?”
“Why don’t you?”
“Who says I don’t?”
Villanelle honors the warning for what it is and forces a twisted grin into shape.
“I was promised a promotion.”
“You killed your first charge.”
“He was useless.”
“Weren’t you, once?”
Hélène smirks tightly. The resounding if reluctant no is louder in the silence.
“So. Bored with the dirty work already?”
Villanelle shrugs. “The dirty work has… lost its thrill.”
“What would thrill you now, Villanelle?”
Villanelle takes a step forward, the reach of her gaze already penetrating Hélène’s personal space—eyes dark and jaw set, her very presence fraught with crackling energy.
“I want to take down the British government.”
Your new office, madam, Eve texts to Villanelle’s new burner phone, followed by an address.
Followed by, Let me know when your meeting is over.
Followed by, So I know you’re alive.
Does it sound casual enough? Does she still have to pretend to be apathetic? Probably not, after the number of orgasms they’ve exchanged in the past seventy-two hours.
When she finally gets a ping back, she drops her phone in the sink.
Their office is a stone cottage at the end of a long, wooded drive outside Hatfield with a single, spacious bedroom upstairs that Eve instantly claims—because seriously, fuck that tomb in New Malden.
“A watched pot never boils,” Jamie advises from the floor where he’s crouched beneath a desk, jamming plugs into power strips.
Eve turns from the window to glare at him. Villanelle is already seven minutes late, which is more than enough time to be killed at least twice.
“I’m sure she can take care of herself,” Carolyn says in a voice that appears to be going for empathy. Eve appreciates the effort.
“I’m sure she could ‘take care’ of all of us,” Bear grumbles from behind a pile of dusty cords, hard drives, and unopened flip phones.
Eve smiles. After a short-lived period of fanboy awe, he’d grown increasingly less enthused by the prospect of sharing a (“so-called”) safe house with an assassin, but watching him go slowly to pieces over it has been a lot more entertaining than trying to put him at ease.
The low bass of an obnoxious, rumbling motor echoes in the distance, growing louder by the second. Eve yanks back the curtain as three other heads crane for a peek at the jet-black Ferrari rolling to a stop along the strip of pine needles and gravel.
Carolyn fixes Eve with an uncompromising stare, as if this is somehow her fault.
Eve bites back a snort and shrugs. “You told her she could rent a car.”
To her credit, Villanelle is at least dressed like a civilian, per Carolyn’s strictest instructions—ripped jeans, Doc Martens, and an off-shoulder jumper that does nothing to hide the reddish-purple mark Eve had bestowed just above her collarbone the night before.
Her eyes go straight to Eve as the door opens, and a faint smile follows. “Hi.”
This is the first moment they’ve been around people since, since—and Eve doesn’t know whether to shake her hand or shove her tongue down her throat. She opts for “Can I take your coat?”—which is probably more awkward than either, and Villanelle smirks.
“Thank you, Agent Polastri,” she says very seriously in a very low, husky voice without the slightest drop of humor.
Eve rolls her eyes and curses her under her breath, throwing the coat in question unceremoniously over the closest chair as Villanelle takes in the room.
Eve tries to see it through her eyes, for a moment, remembering the first day Carolyn led her into a matchbox of an office with Villanelle’s kills strewn all over the wall.
Eve’s life is not real.
Jamie nods warily. Bear looks like he’s about to swallow his own tongue. Eve waits for a reaction, but Villanelle just looks tired. On edge. Wrong, somehow.
“Welcome,” Carolyn says, reappearing with a pot of tea that she sets down on a clunky walnut sideboard. “Shall we jump right in?”
Eve mouths What’s wrong? as Carolyn disappears in a pile of folders and paperwork, but Villanelle simply shakes her head.
“Right—here are your golden tickets, as it were.” Carolyn extracts four Ziploc bags filled with a potpourri of passports, IDs, and documentation. “Hopefully just a precaution.”
Bear and Jamie exchange wary looks, lost on her entirely.
“And here,” she adds, holding out a single thumb drive, “is our first priority.”
“What is it?” Eve asks.
“That’s what I’m hoping you’ll tell me, but it seems to be inaccessible. We suspect it may contain information about the Twelve’s structure, levels of organization, so forth—but it’s broken out into a number of languages and coded just enough to impede translation.”
She turns to Villanelle.
“How many languages do you speak?”
Villanelle shrugs. “Eleven, but my Arabic is still a bit rough.”
All eyes land on her, nonplussed.
“Right,” Carolyn nods to the rest of them. “She can help.”
Villanelle’s close on her heels as Carolyn heads to the door, and Eve follows, holding herself a few steps behind.
“Wait,” Villanelle stops Carolyn with a hand on her sleeve. “Do you have any contacts at the morgue?”
Carolyn blinks. “Whatever for?”
Eve watches the spark spring back to life in Villanelle’s eyes, a wicked smile spreading over her cheeks as she darts a glance back in Bear’s direction and lowers her voice.
“I need a penis to put in a jar.”
For six nights, Eve takes her to bed in the upstairs room of their stone cottage hideaway and holds onto her when she falls asleep, just in case Villanelle has any ideas about not staying the night.
For six mornings, Villanelle takes off after breakfast and returns at dinner with unexpected takeout that manages to please everyone before Jamie and Bear trek home.
Eve doesn’t know where she goes and isn’t about to ask. Judging by the suits, it could be anything from reporting to the Twelve to meetings at MI6 to shopping sprees on Oxford Street. It doesn’t matter because she comes home and she comes home to Eve, fattens her up with styrofoam feasts, and pores over pages of Japanese and Turkish while Eve digs into the bowels of research, all before stripping them both and climbing into bed. There’s been precious little time for much else.
Every day, Eve finds another possession of Villanelle’s scattered amongst her own—toiletries, perfume, socks. Language tapes. A thick, imposing volume on KGB history… underneath a Sudoku book.
Every day, she learns something new about Villanelle’s daily habits. On day one, she learned Villanelle wears reading glasses when it gets too dark, and that was hot.
On day two, she learned Villanelle leaves her towel bunched up on the rack so it never fully dries, and that was a crisis.
Are we living together? Villanelle had asked on day four. Eve didn’t know and said so, at which point Villanelle had decided they were.
On the sixth night, Villanelle hikes back upstairs after delivering her final translation to their downstairs counterparts, and collapses on the bed with a half empty bottle of vodka. (Technically it’s half full, she’d protested an hour ago. You are such a pessimist, Eve.)
Eve snaps her laptop shut and drains the last puddle of wine at the base of her glass, stretching her legs out on the worn, tufted rug.
“What did you do after Rome?”
Villanelle tilts her head and raises an eyebrow. “That is not the question I expected.”
“What did you expect?”
“Why did I shoot you.”
“I know why you shot me.”
“You couldn’t handle rejection. You dealt with it the only way that made sense to you.”
“That’s not why.”
Eve looks at her dubiously, and Villanelle rolls over onto her elbows.
“Okay. Maybe that too.”
“I knew you would keep coming back for me,” Villanelle says. “Keep looking, keep finding me. We would keep chasing each other and it would keep ending in disaster. I couldn’t handle it anymore.”
Eve swallows thickly and focuses on the nearest rip in her jeans. “Oh.”
“I am human, you know. I can only break so many times.”
“Why didn’t you check if I was dead?”
“I... couldn’t.” Her voice breaks, and she looks away. “I couldn’t.”
“So you regretted it.”
“Of course I regretted it.” She sits up, stiff and tense. “Do you know how many times I held that gun to my own head? Drank myself into blackouts? Puked my guts out in the street? I didn’t sleep for weeks. I don’t know how many women I took home pretending they were—”
“Okay. That’s. Okay.”
“Eve. I’ve regretted it every day. All of it.”
Eve looks hard at her. “Do you regret meeting me?”
“I could never.” Her face softens, then instantly morphs to concern. “Do you?”
“No, but you still haven’t answered my question.”
Villanelle spreads herself across the mattress. “I got married.”
She says it like an idle regret—like forgetting to pick up your dry cleaning.
“Not right away,” like that explains everything. “A few months after.”
“You—you got. Married.”
“It doesn’t matter, we didn’t make it past the wedding day.”
“Okay, I’m—I’m gonna need you to back up a little.”
Villanelle twists her head to look down. “You’re jealous.”
“Um, fuck off?”
She sighs dramatically. “I met a woman at the airport. She had kind eyes. And amazing Louboutins.”
Eve’s eyebrows shoot to the top of her forehead and stay there.
“I was trying to escape my life. Myself. My decisions. Everything. So I picked her.”
“You… picked her.”
“So, what, you can just… magically make any woman fall in love with you.”
“You know what, don’t answer that.”
Eve looks away, but she can feel Villanelle crawling off the bed, closing in on her until she’s kneeling between her legs and cupping Eve’s face in her hands.
“I didn’t want her. I just wanted… out.”
“No. But she loved me, and she had a nice life. Nice things. Nice family. I thought, maybe I could have that too.”
“So you left me for dead and literally married the first woman you met.”
Villanelle’s face scrunches into a strange, guilty grimace.
Eve sighs. “So what happened?”
Villanelle crawls off her but stays close, cross-legged and slouchy.
“Dasha crashed the reception.”
“So. If she hadn’t… you’d still…”
“You were dead. Remember.”
“Oh right, right. Because, y’know. You killed me.”
Villanelle’s face freezes, like a dog caught drinking out of the toilet, which is the absolute most ridiculous parallel, so Eve bursts out laughing and doesn’t stop.
“What are we? What’s wrong with us? We’re insane.”
“It’s nice of you to say ‘we.’”
“Well I’m with you, what does that say about me?”
“You keep trying to apply the rules of normal relationships to us. You should probably give up on that.”
Eve catches her breath and lets her head fall onto Villanelle’s lap, tucking her legs up under her; lets Villanelle stroke her hair and draw circles on her scalp, and she could die like this, it’s so good.
“Why do you always make sense?”
“I don’t,” Villanelle says. “You’re just a lightweight.”
A knock raps at their door before Eve can work up a comeback, and Bear’s head pokes through.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to… interrupt.”
Eve waves him off. “What’s up?”
“Um. We’re done. We used the translations to finish decrypting, but… none of it makes sense.”
“What do you mean?”
“All the files are just... more code. Not cyber code, proper code. Like, wartime shit.”
Villanelle’s eyes go big. “That is really cool.”
“Yeah, but…” Bear shrugs. “it’s useless.”
“Okay but—” Eve hauls herself up, catching her thoughts. “But MI6 has cryptographers, or cryptanalysts, or whatever, they can break it. They can do the rest.”
“Let’s hope. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight, Bear. Thank you.”
“Sleep tight,” Villanelle adds with a wink.
He turns ashen and all but flies down the stairs.
“Stop it,” Eve slaps her arm. “He already thinks you’re going to murder him in his sleep.”
“I’ve never murdered anybody in their sleep, Eve. What fun would that be?”
Carolyn gathers them around the oak pedestal table in the dining nook and drops a stack of papers in the middle. Five cups of tea sit steaming at each place, evenly spaced. With a little less light, Eve could swear they’re about to hold a séance.
“We've finished sorting the code,” Carolyn announces.
Four sets of eyes search across the table, scanning for clues before the next drop of words.
“We’ve uncovered some… new information. About the Twelve. Something rather… fundamental.”
“Awesome,” Eve pipes. “What is it?”
“Well—the name, for one. They’re not twelve… people. They’re twelve steps.”
“What, like AA?” Jamie half jokes.
“Then… for what?”
“In essence—unlimited political power. Not that that’s anything new, really.”
Bear gulps. “So… world domination.”
“So…” Eve shakes her head, trying to wrap her mind around it. “How many people are they?”
“We don’t know.”
“What step are they on now?”
“We don’t know.”
“So…” Villanelle prompts, “what do we know?”
Carolyn sighs, bracingly.
“We know they’re much more dangerous than we realized.”
“You will never look at me the same.”
They are shit at pillow talk and I deeply apologize on their behalf.
I’m also sorry for the other thing, later.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
That’s as much as Mama had told her. Away where they can help you, she’d said. Just for a little while.
Oksana was too young, too proud, and too hard-headed to protest. She was glad to get out, she’d screamed. Glad to get away from the monster who called herself Mama, she’d screamed. She would find a new family, she’d screamed. Someone who deserved her. Someone who loved her.
She didn’t believe it, but as long as the words stung, that’s all that mattered.
“You will go and get better," Mama had said. “If you don’t, no one will ever love you.”
That, she’d believed.
An embarrassment, Mama had called her. A danger to the family.
It was difficult to understand. Oksana had never hurt her family. Not badly. Pyotr had deserved every hit, and really, he didn’t even mind.
The physical had never made much of an impact on her. Words were the real weapons.
Still, she punched walls to punctuate her threats, ripped carpet out from the floor and trashed her bedroom. If she was to be sent away for her darkness, she was going to let it rage through her to the last drop.
How was she to know there could exist a place worse than home?
The drive burns into memory without her consent. She won’t know until she tries to forget it.
The stained, stale-smelling cloth seats of Mama’s car. The shitty news radio Mama never turned off—loud, stupid men talking shit about the other loud, stupid men who controlled the world. The barren expanse beyond the highway, mile after mile, January snowscapes interrupted by blackened trees, gnarled from winter stress. Oksana squinted at them from behind the brittle, weather-smudged glass of the passenger window. They looked dead, but free.
Maybe there isn’t a difference.
“One month," Mama says when the car stops. “I will come back, and we’ll see if you are ready.”
“You won’t come,” Oksana says. “And I won’t be ready.”
There are some sights Eve may never get over. The view from the bridge at Neuschwanstein in October. The scarred, cement-colored shark that brushed against her hand on the very first dive. And Villanelle, tangled in crisp white sheets, face flushed and lips swollen, panting as she lifts her head from between Eve’s legs.
“You’re so easy. Aren’t we supposed to be having serious discussions about our relationship?”
Eve laughs. It’s eight in the morning on a Saturday. Coherent sentences are at least one cup of coffee away.
“Serious discussions? Why, you sick of me already?”
Villanelle looks deeply offended. “Why would I be sick of you? Are you sick of me?”
“No! I’m... amazed, actually. Men usually lose a level of investment by this point.”
“Men are shit.” She crosses her arms over Eve’s legs, conclusively, and rests her chin on top. “I could never get tired of making you come.”
“Give it a few years.”
Villanelle stares at her like she’s blasphemed.
“Oh, come on!” Eve laughs. “Do you have any idea how boring a long-term relationship can get? When you learn everything there is to know about each other and can rattle off a list of all the shit about them that annoys you? Do you know how predictable it can get? When you find yourself eating the same meal together for the two hundredth time and think… is this it? Is anything new ever going to happen to me again?”
“Wow, you are really not a morning person.”
“Sorry, sorry, I’m shit.”
Eve tugs her up and kisses her deeply, trying to make it up to her. Villanelle sighs when they separate and tucks her head underneath Eve’s chin. Her long fingers trail across sleep-warm skin, the dip in the center of Eve’s chest, the curve of her breast, up to her collarbone and all the way down.
“It can’t be all bad,” she mumbles, deflated.
“It’s not!” Eve assures her. “That’s not what I… no, there’s a lot of good. I mean. If you can still make each other laugh… if you still respect each other… if you still want to fuck each other’s brains out… not as often as the beginning, sure, but… no. It’s not bad. Being with someone you trust, sharing your life with them, being a team… it can be great. But it changes. It gets… grayer. Passion gets quiet. It never stays the way it is in the beginning. You’re never gonna have another first kiss. Another first time.”
Eve shrugs, twisting a strand of blonde around her finger. “I just… want you to be prepared.”
“You mean you want you to be prepared. For something you don’t even know will happen.”
“Oksana… you’re going to get bored. Trust me.”
“You will get bored first.”
“I… highly doubt that.”
“No? You put me up on this glamorous, sexy assassin pedestal...”
“That’s—not a thing.”
“Sure it is. You’ve spent so long chasing an image of me that you built up in your head. What happens when you find out I’ve never seen Star Wars and I can’t cook for shit?”
“I mean. It’s kinda overrated—and I’ve seen you try to make coffee in the tea infuser, so I think that secret’s out.”
Villanelle smiles into her chest. Eve can feel the rounds of her cheeks pressing down against her, and never wants to leave this room.
“Boring is better than not being with you,” Villanelle says.
Eve might, possibly, entirely, melt. Just a bit.
“You forget how long I spent in prison. Aside from the work, or picking up women I never saw again, I’ve been alone most of my life. I am intimately acquainted with boredom.”
“Okay, okay, fine.”
“Besides, you said we’d never last long enough to worry about that.”
“I didn’t say that, I said we’d consume each other.”
“I quite like consuming you, actually.”
Eve laughs and flips her over.
It’s easy to let the moments slip in, fill the space in Eve’s head that should be thick with fear of the Twelve, of the work, of what’s coming next.
Moments sipping coffee next to Villanelle at the table before Jamie and Bear arrive, pointing out new birds that appear in the trees behind the kitchen window and listening to Villanelle name them.
(The saggy-breasted phallus pheasant, native to Canada. Jeez, Eve, look it up.)
Moments when they fight over how to load the dishwasher and Eve lets her win and none of the dishes get clean, so Villanelle tries to toss them in the trash.
Moments in the dark with the windows open, the crickets chirping, the sheets kicked off, and Villanelle tucked up behind her, telling Eve how beautiful she is, or how difficult it is to work with inhalational toxins and Breaking Bad made it look way too easy.
But then, there are the other moments that creep in, the moments and the hours and the heavy weight of the world outside, making it impossible to forget that this isn’t their life, quiet and secluded.
Quiet means hiding. Secluded means safety.
This is a mission. This is temporary. And this is wholly unpredictable.
It’s dark when Villanelle steps through the door on Friday night and stands there, empty-handed, struck with revelation.
“Fuck. I forgot dinner.”
Eve smiles. “It’s fine. We’ve got… pasta. Maybe. Something.”
Eve sticks her head into the pantry and starts idly naming packaged options, but Villanelle doesn’t seem to be listening. When she emerges, Villanelle is standing in the middle of the room, staring at the fireplace.
Eve takes a step forward. “What’s wrong?”
“Is that all?”
She doesn’t respond.
Eve gives her a few breaths’ time to change her mind, but finally retreats to the stove and grabs a pot to fill with water.
“I went to Bristol today,” she calls. “We followed that lead, but we lost track of the cell signal.”
Silence. Eve spills far too much salt into the water, curses to herself, and takes the plunge.
“Hey, you never told me how it went with Hélène. That first time. How did you get her to buy it? Working with us, I mean.”
“Do you really want to know?”
The voice is much closer than anticipated. When Eve looks up, Villanelle is towering in the kitchen doorway, one hand around the door frame, looking exceptionally tired beyond her years.
“You want me to show you how well I lie to people, Eve?”
Eve shrugs, helpless. “It just feels like—there’s a lot you’re not telling me. I mean—you don’t have to. But. We’re here. We’re doing this. We have to trust each other, right?”
“I do trust you. What do you want from me?”
“I just… want to understand. I want to know… what’s going on.”
“What do you think is going on?”
“I—I don’t know! I have no idea what you do all day, and all of a sudden you don’t want to kill anymore, I mean, people don’t just change overnight, you expect me not to have questions? How can I trust you when I don’t even know what happened?”
“Just because it seems sudden to you doesn’t mean it happened overnight.” Her eyes darken, face hardening. “You don’t know me, Eve. Not the way you think.”
“I’m trying to! Look, I know, this, us, we’re not—conventional—but. You have to let me in, at least a little. You have to give me something."
Villanelle looks suddenly, of all things, betrayed.
“I’ve given you more of myself than I’ve ever given anyone, Eve.”
“Then why do I still feel like I don’t know you at all?”
“You want to know everything about me? Hmm? What then? You’ll either be bored or so horrified you’ll never want to see me again.”
“That’s—no. That’s not true.”
“How do you know?”
“I don’t care how bad it is. I don’t care what you’ve done.”
“You say that! You don’t know. You don’t know—”
“Then tell me!”
“You will never look at me the same!”
“So what? I’ll still love you!”
Villanelle’s face transforms into something not quite—her. Like something new, crackling awake for the first time—both closed off and ripped wide open at once.
Eve doesn’t hesitate. She steps forward and cups Villanelle’s face, tear-damp cheeks under Eve’s warm palms.
“I don’t care what you’ve done. I love you.”
Villanelle’s face crumples up, releasing the fresh well of tears in her eyes. She shakes her head.
“Don’t say that,” she says softly. “Not until you’ll believe me when I say it back.”
The words choke to a halt in Eve’s throat. She’s speechless, stuck in time—in the lost, pained look on Villanelle’s face.
Her body springs to life, a spark of impulse, or instinct, or the impossibility of the moment—as she brings their lips together.
It’s a soft, wet, chaste kiss. She gives another. Another. Peppers them across Villanelle’s face and in her hair until Villanelle finds her voice on the path of a jagged inhale.
“I killed my mother.”
Eve pulls slowly back and stares at her, trying to gauge whether she misheard.
“Last month, I went to find my family. And I found her. Everyone thought she had changed… but she hadn’t. She had them all fooled.”
Eve remembers to breathe.
Villanelle shakes her head, squeezing back the tears. “She was hurting my little brother.”
“The way she hurt you?”
Eve begs herself to speak, but the thoughts evaporate before they can take shape.
“What if I was too late? What if he ends up like me?”
Eve opens her mouth to no avail. Her heart pulls at her throat, each equally tight and tense, locked together with a dense, aching lump.
“I’m not blaming her for who I am—I’m better than that,” Villanelle says, firm, with a rough sniffle. “But I couldn’t let her hurt someone else.”
“What’s your brother like?”
Villanelle smiles then—victory, however small—and swipes at her face to shake off the burst of emotion, clear away the evidence.
“Sweet,” she says. “Very bad at cooking, like me. Really, really obsessed with Elton John. We have very gay genes, apparently.”
The last sentence is amused, curious, tinted with the lightness and humor Eve recognizes.
Eve smiles. “If he ends up anything like you, he will be smart, and passionate, and will certainly be able to take care of himself.”
Villanelle watches her for a moment, like she’s confused anyone could possibly react this way, say such things, offer such acceptance—or any at all.
Eve’s hands slide back to her face, holding her close as their foreheads dip to meet.
“It will get easier,” Eve whispers. “The regret. It won’t always cut this deep.”
Suddenly, Eve is engulfed in long, wire-strong arms, one hand cupping her head and the other around her back, tugging her close. She reciprocates instinctively, squeezing as tight as she can; allows her face to nestle into the warm, velvet skin of Villanelle’s neck and inhale, over and over, the sweet scent she realizes has become as familiar as her own.
I love you, Eve breathes silently into her skin, and it’s enough for now.
Villanelle curls, loosens, re-curls her fingers around the mug steaming in front of her. She looks small in her slouched state, long but childlike—a gangling ball of fluffy socks, thick knitted jumper and loose joggers.
“What is your mother like?”
Eve laughs. “Oh, god.”
“I want to know everything about your childhood.”
“Wow. That will be... very dull.”
“No it won’t.”
Eve takes a sip of her tea, but it’s too hot—robbing her of diversion.
“She lives in Cornwall now. We talk sometimes, but… we’re not that close.”
Eve sighs heavily. “She was very… demanding.”
“Yeah. School stuff, not-school stuff, everything. She insisted that I be a doctor, but I didn’t want to.”
“That’s too bad. It would be really hot if I could call you Doctor Polastri in bed.”
“Gross. That’s Niko’s father.”
Villanelle makes a horrified face. Eve laughs.
“So,” Villanelle redirects, punctuating with wide, comical eyes. “We both have mommy issues.”
“Something like that.”
Villanelle winks at her. “Soulmates.”
It is a normal day, a good day—as normal and good as can be, given. There’s sun, crisp and fresh, enough even to zigzag its way through the trees and straight through the cottage windows, scattering across surfaces through the air in a laser trail of suspended dust particles.
We should really clean more, is Eve’s last thought before Villanelle steps through the front door and stands glued to the spot.
Eve might say something, she isn’t sure, but the look on Villanelle’s face swallows any noise that might’ve escaped, any high spirits or end-of-day relief.
She doesn’t look hurt. Not visibly. Not physically.
Eve steps closer. “What happened?”
Tell me, her eyes beg. Please.
Villanelle finally looks at her, trying to focus, but her eyes look far. Glassy and bottomless.
“I have an assignment.”
Eve swallows. “Can you… decline?”
Villanelle shakes her head.
“What… what is it?”
Villanelle’s face contorts, like the effort of keeping her anger at bay is taking up all her faculties.
“I think it’s a test.”
“Of loyalty. To the Twelve. I think they are starting to suspect.”
“What… what does that mean?”
“It means I have to kill someone I don’t want to see dead.”
Eve’s knees begin to wobble. She has no idea how she gets the question out:
Villanelle gnaws at her bottom lip. Her eyes cloud with tears. Her body is rigid, vibrating, a ticking bomb.
In a flash of movement, she grabs the nearest object—a small porcelain vase—and hurls it into the fireplace.
I should’ve mentioned the drunken plot twists weren’t necessarily good...
Her muscles are protesting in flames.
Every tendon is rigid, wire-tight—as if moments from snapping, falling limp into pieces like a broken rubber band.
Eight minutes and counting, balancing on her forearms and toes. She feels a new drop of weight press her down as another volume joins the growing stack of encyclopedias atop her back.
Straight as a line, or they’ll fall. And if they fall, she has to start over. And if she can’t, she won’t get cleared for assignments. And if she doesn’t get cleared in time, prison will be more than happy to take her back.
How are you doing? Konstantin had texted, hours ago. Days. Weeks? Years? Had she imagined it? She’s not working you too hard, is she?
Oksana would not respond. Not until she could prove she is everything he’d believed she could be.
It helps if she calls it torture. (Martyrdom, and all that.)
Dasha calls it precisely what she’ll need when she’s crawling through half a kilometer of air ducts, scaling the facade of a palazzo, heaving herself out of a stone well.
(What, you thought this would be fun and games? Drop through ceilings on a cable, wiggle through a few laser beams in a catsuit and your target will be waiting for you, prone and helpless on a pedestal?)
“Don’t forget,” Dasha hisses close to her ear, “they deserve it. Mm? Everyone you will kill, they would do the same to you. They would never care about you. They would never love you. No one will. Use that anger, Oksana. Let it burn you. Let it set you on fire. Fire is the most destructive force in nature. If you become fire, you become unstoppable.”
Oksana closes her eyes, but the hideous, off-color pattern of the rug beneath her palms has burned into her retinas, flashing in negative black and white. She waits for it to fade, but it leaps around the field of vision behind her eyes, threatening her balance.
Dasha is closer now. Villanelle can feel her—her breath, dry and sour; the heat of rage bouncing off sallow skin.
“Everything you feel now—you will make them feel worse.”
A high-pitched ringing emanates deep within, piercing through her ears from the inside out. It isn’t until her elbows give way and her chest hits the floor in a harsh, lung-draining thump that she recognizes the shrill call of the timer.
She registers a voice, far away, dimly impressed, but Oksana doesn’t care—not until ages later when the words return to her, scrambled; sink into her consciousness before rearranging themselves in the right order:
“Maybe you are ready.”
There is a heartbeat in the room, independent of their bodies. Not hers, nor Villanelle’s—belonging solely to the density of the admission itself.
Eve thinks she might say What? or make some hysteric noise, but all she can process is the explosion in waiting.
She’s seen a lot of sides to Villanelle, but whatever the hell she’d call this isn’t one of them. All her extremes before had felt controlled, visible, projected outward—but this is buried deep, concentrated and coiled tight—a chaotic universe in a single point, one blink from bursting into being.
Instinct pulls her closer, straight through the heavy fog of her own fear until she’s close enough to touch—and she does, curls her hands around Villanelle’s arms. The muscles tense, but nothing happens, and Eve moves higher, up over her shoulders, holding her firmly in place.
“Look at me.”
She scarcely recognizes the commanding tone, and neither does Villanelle, because she looks, and something aflame begins to diffuse.
Eve searches her eyes and slides her hands further to cup her face.
“You don’t have to hide. You can feel. With me. Remember?”
A piece of Villanelle begins to crack. Eve can feel her body tremble as her eyes press shut, pushing the tears over her cheeks.
“I can’t do it.”
“Tell them. This is what you’re good at, persuading—”
“Don’t you get it?” Villanelle’s eyes shoot open, wild. “Eve, this is a trap. They will kill me if I don’t. They will kill you.”
“What? Why me?”
“They know I’m with you! They might even know where we are!”
“How… how do you…”
“Because they know everything! And because the first thing she said to me was how’s Eve!”
Villanelle practically snarls as she wrenches herself from Eve’s touch.
“I am done playing everyone else’s pawn! I am done being their puppet! I want to make my own choices! I want to live for me—” She turns back, reaching for Eve’s hands. “I want to live for us.”
Eve squeezes tight, trying to wring the tension from those fucking beautiful fingers.
“Okay,” she says. “Okay. So. We run. Now. We just, go, and we’ll figure it out—”
“They will find us. They will always find us.”
The invisible heartbeat pounds harder, and the thought takes Eve’s mind somewhere worse.
“Do you think this place is bugged?”
That seems to snap Villanelle out of her rage, almost like a reassurance. She shakes her head.
Eve stares at her, processing. It hadn’t crossed her mind once all these weeks, to even consider it—let alone how—while Villanelle had made it a daily ritual just to keep them safe.
“Besides,” Villanelle shrugs, trying to force a smile, “if it were, we’d probably be dead.”
The smile warms up a bit, then, and Eve returns it with all she’s got. Fuck, it might be their last.
But it’s gone, quick as it came, and they’re left with the cold, steady pulse of second after silent second.
Eve splutters helplessly. “I mean—you can’t—do it, obviously. Right?”
“I mean—this is her operation, she’s the only one keeping us safe—the rest of MI6 probably want us dead anyway! We’d be on the run from the goddamn government, like—you don’t come back from that. You know? That’s it.”
“And then you’d, what, go back to doing their bidding? Stabbing mafia bosses with hairpins and—poisoning perfumes, and I’d—I’d be—”
“What? What the fuck are we supposed to do?”
Villanelle steps forward and looks at her, hard. Up close, Eve can see every line of a face that has seen too much, every muscle straining against the bones, taut with tension; the locked set of her jaw—resolute, but failing.
“If I do it, I’m out.”
“She told me, after it’s done… I can be done. ‘Retire,’ or whatever. No strings. We would have to leave the country, yes, but—then we would be free.”
“And you… believe her?”
“What other choice do I have?!”
It is a fair point—unfairly so—but Eve isn’t so easily defeated.
“What if—what if we just—faked her death?”
“...I think we might need her cooperation for that.”
“You don’t think she’d go for it? Between that and being murdered?”
“She’d have to go into witness protection.”
“We are talking about the same person, right? You really think she would give up her career to sit on a porch and plant cabbages in the middle of nowhere for the rest of her life? Would you?”
It isn’t supposed to make this much sense. Nothing is supposed to make sense in a world where the only viable option is to kill the one person in the world who’s given them a chance.
“The Twelve are not that stupid. They always tie up loose ends, check the bodies...”
Eve stares at her.
“They’ll do it anyway, won’t they? If you don’t. Someone else…”
Villanelle nods slowly. Eve closes her eyes, slumps back against the wall, buries her face in her hands. Her head is pounding, her knees weak, seconds from giving out—but Villanelle is there, swooping in on her with two strong hands on her waist. The buzzing-warm energy of her body draws Eve back to the present, eyes flung open and straight into the fierce, fiery realm of Villanelle’s being, every heartbeat ripe with tenacity.
“You don’t have to be part of this.”
She speaks carefully and slowly. Each word feels heavy, individually selected, impersonating an authenticity not even she can feign.
“Is that what you want?” Eve challenges.
“You don’t have to—” she repeats. Her voice is thinner. “You can still go. I will give you money, you can—”
“No, you stop. Think, Eve.”
“No. I’ve done nothing but think for an entire fucking year, where did it get me?”
Villanelle doesn’t try to counter, and Eve takes her chance. Her hands reach Villanelle’s face, coaxing the strain from every nerve.
“I’m in this. I’m with you. Tell me what to do.”
“Nothing,” Villanelle says softly. “You do nothing. Just be ready.”
“Stop. You want to make your own choices? So do I. I choose this.”
Villanelle stares at her, overcome in a convoluted mix of anger, disbelief, and something Eve cannot yet name.
Eve pulls her closer. “I choose you.”
Eve had expected it to take longer. The note to Jamie and Bear, instructions to pack up and destroy everything. The bare-bones stuffing of their suitcases. The careful placement of cash and IDs, tucked safely into the inner pockets of their coats. The scant, mind-blowing hour it took Villanelle to hack into Carolyn’s diary and outline the plan, down to the five-minute mark.
Suicide, she’d decided quickly. Simplest, safest. The authorities will investigate regardless, figure out the truth eventually—but a clean, straightforward crime scene should buy them enough time. Trains to Prague, and from there—a blank page.
Eve had tried to speak, or swallow, or make a sound, but her tongue was heavy in her mouth, dry and imposing. It seems oddly cruel that her first inside look at Villanelle’s work is utterly devoid of thrill or flair—let alone the barest hint of pleasure.
When they finish, Eve finds her by the bedroom window, knees to chest in the overstuffed floral chair, staring out into the dead of night. Its hideous upholstery has offended Villanelle since the first moment she’d set foot in the house, and she’d remained committed to circumventing the atrocity at all costs.
Eve has the strangest urge to laugh.
She waits till it passes and sets her third glass of wine on the dresser, stepping forward and kneeling in front of the chair. Villanelle turns, untangles herself for Eve to lean in and take her hands.
Eve searches her eyes desperately—for anything, if answers are too grand a request—and silently begs Villanelle to understand.
Villanelle’s eyes are screaming, What if I fail, and Eve tries to assure her—you won’t.
What if, what if, what if…
(What if it goes wrong? What if Carolyn’s been warned? What if the whole thing is a trap—)
What if this is the last time?
The thought begins to consume her, but Villanelle is quick to take its place—rising with purpose from her seat, she draws Eve up with her, seals their mouths together, and begins to lead her back to the bed.
Eve allows herself to be devoured, body and soul—as if it had ever been a choice. Even if it were, she knows she’d choose it. Again, and again, and again.
Without a word, she invites Villanelle to take her, break her, possess her, over and over—fuck her senseless, make sure she feels it for days, weeks, forever—just in case. Just in case—
She won’t finish the thought, nor allow any others to take hold.
When Villanelle says I want to taste you forever, Eve says, “Shut up.” And then, “You will. You will,” and shuts out the space between them, swallowing any more words that threaten to leave her lips.
Villanelle stays inside her for hours, drawing her over the edge, down and back up again until Eve loses count, until neither can feel their bodies or tell whose is whose—until they’re both boneless and numb, covered in sweat and tears and all the rest of it, lost and found in each other’s arms.
When the first shade of daylight pours clear blue back into Villanelle’s restless red eyes, Eve closes her own, begging.
Eve sets a freshly opened flip phone into Villanelle’s open palm, allowing her touch to linger over soft, warm skin.
Deja vu is the last thing she needs.
“You’ll text me. As soon as…”
Villanelle nods. “Call a taxi. No Uber. No tracking—”
“Toss my phone out the window, text you from the new one. Yeah.”
“Straight to the station.”
“Two tickets, cash.”
“Out of sight. I know.”
They take a final moment in each other’s eyes. It would be easier, Eve knows, if the hours to come were the only hurdle in their path: the separation, the job, the reunion.
But it’s only the beginning.
After that, it’s a decade or four more of watching over their shoulders, silent prayers in the customs line, never spending more than a day in any metropolitan area.
A whole new existence—assuming they make it that far.
Villanelle squeezes her hands. “I will meet you there.”
Eve closes her eyes. It is suddenly too real, too surreal—but Villanelle squeezes harder.
Eve watches the car roll down the drive and out of sight, and that’s it. Good as done.
The first hour is easiest. Villanelle couldn’t have arrived yet, and it gives Eve time to breathe, to make tea and scroll through cat memes and pretend, pretend, religiously.
At ninety minutes, the nerves hit her like a truck. It could be any moment—this one, the last, the next—and she realizes the single word, Go, is minutes overdue. She stares obsessively at her phone, unable to tear her eyes from the screen.
At two hours, Eve’s stomach lurches, and her thumbs fly across the letters.
Are you okay?
Her first thought, pathetically, is she’s been abandoned—until she remembers Villanelle’s passport is securely in Eve’s care.
Her second thought is worse.
This thought sends another text, then another. Eve counts her heartbeats for the longest five minutes of her life, and rings for the cab.
She doesn’t go to the station.
There is a calm over Carolyn’s neighborhood, an unremarkable stillness that makes Eve nauseous, as if everything that came before had been a dream—everything. From Bill’s birthday to the driver now disappearing at the end of the street.
When the unlocked door pushes open without effort, Eve is wrenched violently back to reality.
The air is second to silent until Eve rounds the corner to the sitting room, and then the entire room may as well be screaming.
Carolyn is seated calmly but rigidly on her sofa, her face cool as ever, but with something amiss in her eyes.
Eve drags her unwilling feet a step further, and there is Villanelle—across the room, arm outstretched, gun pointed straight at Carolyn’s head.
Her eyes plead no and why and go, and Carolyn says simply, “Eve.”
Villanelle is approaching unrecognizable—the flushed skin of her face is wet and gleaming, her eyes swollen, endless yet empty. Her body is shaking but her aim remains steady—autopilot, instinct—no. Training. Conditioning. Brainwashing. Threats and fear and manipulation—everything that had killed Oksana to create Villanelle.
The only message Eve can read clearly is help.
Eve crosses the room, somehow, and extends an arm, never breaking eye contact. Villanelle allows the weapon to be prised from her fingers and immediately stumbles back, caught by the wall behind her, where she splays her palms flat against the paneling for support. Somewhere nearby, a photo rattles in a black wooden frame at the impact, returning to rest crooked on its nail.
Carolyn exhales and begins to shift in her seat, until Eve turns to face her, and freezes.
Two wet lines snake down Eve’s cheeks. The saltiness sneaks past her lips and onto her tongue, catching her off guard. Not entirely unlike the taste of blood, she realizes.
She squeezes her eyes shut, blinks hard until her vision clears, and locks eyes with Carolyn.
Before either can stop her, Eve steps forward and raises her arm.
“I’m sorry,” she says, and pulls the trigger.
I’m not sure how to say “thanks for reading even though I’m a dickswab.”
“Don’t be scared.”
“I’m not scared. I’m with you.”
Hi, no one else dies. 😐
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Would you kill for me?”
Anna’s hands fall still against Oksana’s body. The tension shoots out across every nerve before settling in her face, a condescending tableau of concern and repulsion.
As if she has any right to be morally offended—the married woman who’s fucking her underage student.
“Oksana,” she breathes. Her voice is still a wreck from the last pleasured scream Oksana had coaxed from her throat. “Don’t ask such horrible questions.”
“But would you?”
Anna shakes her head vaguely, not quite a no. “Killing is a sin.”
Oksana flips them, landing effortlessly on top, pins Anna’s wrists above her head to the delicious soundtrack of her soft, surprised gasps as eyelids flutter shut, hips cant upwards for relief, controversial confessions forgotten in the heady cloud of sweet, slick arousal.
“I would kill for you. I would do anything for you.”
“I would never ask you to.”
Oksana smiles. “You wouldn’t have to.”
The shot is anticlimactic. Eve hadn’t expected the silencer.
Of course she hadn’t. The fact that she’d known how to pull the trigger at all is a proper mindfuck. She was so far out of her depth she couldn’t see the goddamn shore.
Where else had she gone wrong in the last ninety seconds? She’d sent the cab away, for fuck’s sake—wouldn’t that have been safer than hopping back in the bright fucking blue Audi Villanelle had shown up in? The one Carolyn had provided? Eve had marched in, bare hand on the doorknob, no gloves—where else were her fingerprints now? Did Carolyn have security cameras? What’s the fucking chance an MI6 director wouldn’t have cameras?
She could ask her, of course, if Carolyn were alive.
The syllable pulls her back to the ground, where she realizes the shallow, clipped breaths are pumping erratically from her own lungs.
Self defense. No choice. The Twelve. Villanelle...
Villanelle is beside her, releasing the weapon from Eve’s limp fingers and guiding her to the nearest chair, into which Eve stiffly collapses.
“Eve, what did you do.”
Her voice is saturated with panic and something else Eve can’t pinpoint.
“What did you do, Eve?”
The panic is easy to clock—this was supposed to look like suicide. Eve is still in shock at the luck of her own aim, but there’s no way in hell it was the right angle, or distance, or anything. Only Villanelle could’ve pulled that off.
But when Villanelle crouches down in front of her, kneeling close between her knees, Eve finds something else in her eyes, something desperate as she fumbles for Eve’s hands.
“Why did you do that?”
Eve sees it then—not anger at Eve’s rash decision—but guilt that she’d had to make the decision at all.
Eve squeezes her hands. “So you wouldn’t have to.”
Villanelle’s eyes scrunch shut as her head drops into Eve’s lap, face pressed into soft thighs. Eve watches the blue denim darken to midnight under the rush of tears, and she wants to indulge, give her the time she needs, hold her for days and promise her it will be okay, but she can’t.
“Hey,” she says softly. “We have to go.”
“I’m sorry,” Villanelle pleads into her lap, muffled and hoarse, and holds tighter. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
“No, stop. It’s okay. You’re okay.”
Her head lifts quickly, scanning Eve’s face. “Are you?”
Eve nods. “Yeah.”
She takes a brief, manic moment to study Eve’s face. It must be convincing, because she nods and climbs to her feet, and Eve can scarcely process the rest of it.
She’s dimly aware of Villanelle scurrying about the room with expert efficiency, choking back sobs as she adjusts Carolyn’s position, tucks a pillow under her head that looks entirely unnecessary from an investigative standpoint. Eve sits uselessly, dumbfounded, as Villanelle grabs a cloth from her back pocket and mechanically proceeds to wipe down every surface they might’ve touched, right up to the doorknob as she takes Eve’s hand and back-tracks them out of the house.
Eve is still half dazed as she notices the car door being held open for her, tumbles herself inside, and waits for the other to shut.
They’re miles outside the city before her brain begins to catch up.
This feels nothing like Raymond. That is her first thought.
She doesn’t feel sick. There is no guilt. The agony wrecking through her is fueled only by the knowledge of who, not what. The who is what stings—the only thing that terrorizes her, that she knows will haunt her to her last breath—but the act itself felt and feels instinctual. Rational. Justified.
This wasn’t self preservation; fear of the Twelve. This was an act of protection.
This was about saving Oksana from Villanelle.
“There is some water in the back, if you’re thirsty.”
It’s the first thing Villanelle says to her in the car, and it’s very quiet. Testing out the waters of conversation.
It didn’t end so well last time Eve killed for her, after all.
“Thank you,” Eve says, and can’t think of another word. There are a thousand at the ready, but none of them seem to fit the obscure, shifting shape of present reality.
This was my choice, she wants to say. I did it because I…
“Eve, are you wearing your seatbelt?”
Eve turns to look at her. Villanelle’s voice and face are perfectly calm, but there is a fresh, searing tension in the profile of her jaw, her eyes hovering between the road ahead and the rearview mirror.
“Get down,” she says gently. “Below the window.”
Eve opens her mouth to say what, but Villanelle’s hand is on her shoulder pressing her into her seat at the same moment a sickening crack tears through the rear windshield. Eve is vaguely aware of Villanelle spitting out a curse but she can’t think, can’t move—
“Eve. Eve? Are you okay? Say something.”
“What the fu—”
Another shot, shattering the glass behind them, but this one grazes the center console, and Eve starts to unravel. She jerks her head behind them to catch a glimpse of the black sedan close on their heels, but Villanelle’s hand flies up to push her back.
“What the fuck?!”
“It’s them. It’s the Twelve.” She squints into the mirror and makes a face. “Looks like one of their bottom-tier lackeys. I should really be offended.”
“Why—is the Twelve—trying to kill us?”
“Seriously? That's the most shocking thing that's happened today?”
“You said—you said you were out. You said this was it, after you did it, you’d—”
“Apparently, they lied. Just like you thought.”
Eve stares. “Fuck.”
“Eloquently stated. Open the glove box.”
Eve does as she’s told, and a sleek, compact pistol tumbles down toward her. Villanelle leans over to snatch it.
“Take the wheel.”
“Jesus,” Eve chokes.
“I’m afraid he can’t help. Take the wheel, Eve. Now.”
Eve does, and just in time, as Villanelle buzzes the window open and twists herself around to stretch an arm out, peer behind them, and aim.
Her first shot is much louder than the others, up close—Eve’s ears are still ringing, pierced, when the second one fires—but whatever’s happening is beyond the scope of her vision. Her knuckles are frozen white on the steering wheel by the time a third crack from behind them rattles through her veins, only this one is followed by a sharp cry and—
She’s hurt. Villanelle is hit. Fuck. No.
Eve can’t see, can’t speak, can’t safely pull her eyes from the increasingly narrow, winding road long enough to know what the fuck is going on—but after a final blast from her own weapon, Villanelle tumbles back inside and reclaims the wheel in one rough, collapsing heap.
Eve whips around to catch sight of the car, just in time to watch it spin out over a newly blown tire—a full 360, then straight over the guardrail to a dead plunge down the cliff.
Her shock keeps hold of her for a long moment, until a rhythm of new, jagged breaths pulls her back to awareness.
Blood. There’s always blood, why the fuck is there always blood?
It’s on Villanelle, now, so that means it’s hers—on her shirt, on the inside of the car door, on the steering wheel—
“You’re bleeding,” Eve says stupidly, flailing her shaking hands vaguely towards Villanelle. “Oh my god. You’re shot—”
“Not shot. Skimmed. Barely.”
“You have to go to hospital—”
“No, I really don’t.”
“Oksana, you’re bleeding.”
“Not the first time, won’t be the last. Give me my coat.”
Eve fumbles blindly in the back seat and produces the wad of fabric, which Villanelle grabs to wrap a sleeve clumsily around her afflicted arm, which is still somehow—incredibly—guiding the wheel. Eve reaches out to help, but her hand is quickly batted away, leaving her nothing to do but watch.
When she’s done, Villanelle spares her a glance, a quick flash of wild eyes and a forced smile.
“See? It’s fine.”
“Fine,” Eve echoes, lifeless.
Her eyes drift to the road ahead, the unfamiliar surroundings. She spends a timeless spell absorbing nothing at all, processing little but the hum of the engine and the roar of tires over pavement.
They’ve long passed the turnoff for the station, leaving only a vastness of empty, open country spread out before them.
“Where are we going?” Eve asks.
Villanelle’s uninjured arm stretches across the seat for Eve’s hand, wrapping their fingers tight.
“No,” Eve says gently. “Don’t be sorry.”
“Then don’t be scared. I will take care of you. I promise.”
“I’m not scared.” Eve squeezes her hand. “I’m with you.”
(Eve is a dumb romantic and should totally be scared; they’re being chased by the international murder association™ ffs.)
“You planning on killing me?”
“I never make the same mistake twice.”
Would’ve had this done sooner, but I blame everyone who’s encouraged the cursed Sandra/Jodie catastrophe that’s currently 3,400 words long...
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Papa nods in encouragement and splays his large, solid hands out in front of him as he crouches closer to Oksana’s seven-year-old height.
Her small, spirited body lunges forward and shoots out an arm toward his hand, delivering the hardest punch she can muster, perfectly timed (or so she thinks) with a strategically measured kick to the knee.
Papa’s arm flips deftly around her, and in the quickest breath, Oksana is knocked to the ground.
“Vot eto pizdets!” she spits as Papa laughs and takes another swig from his bottle.
Oksana has been trying to count, ever since he and Mama began fighting over the bottles. This is his third, she thinks—or maybe fourth, today. She thinks the bottles make him funny, make him teach her the best swears and let her play poker with his friends, but Mama has quite a few other things to say about it.
“What did you forget, zaychik?”
“I didn’t brace.”
“No. I am bad at it. Let them beat me up.”
Papa hunches down to meet her, eye to eye. “That sounds like giving up.”
He reaches out and envelopes her small, fisted hand in his.
“You can be afraid, Oksana. You will be afraid. But never let them see it. Keep the fear out of your eyes. Empty them. And never, ever, ever give up. Not until you are dead.”
Time spills into a black hole, obliterated and unexisting.
Eve can’t remember when they left or how long they’ve been driving, but Villanelle doesn’t stop until they reach a middle-of-nowhere town with two inns. She parks beside one of them, as hidden from the main road as possible, and together, they lug the feeble wheels of their carry-ons seven blocks over bubbly cobblestone and broken concrete to reach the other.
Just in case, Villanelle tells her as casually as possible.
The room is homey and unremarkable, which comforts Eve, somehow. Makes it easier to pretend they’re visiting family. On holiday. A humble, romantic mini-break.
What if they could?
Will they ever get that chance?
(For all Villanelle pretends not to feel or need anything, Eve’s lost count of how many times she’s heard the word normal escape her lips in that soft, longing tone.)
Eve digs the first-aid kit out of Villanelle’s luggage and sits her down on the lid of the toilet. She was right, mostly—it was just a graze, but it’s left a quarter-sized gash on the side of her tricep, and Eve busies herself with cleaning and dressing to the best of her ability. It feels good to have a purpose, something to do. Something else to focus on. Something to wrench her mind away from the what-ifs .
(If the bullet had been six inches higher or lower… where would it have hit? Head or heart?)
Silent and still, Villanelle tolerates Eve’s ministrations without comment or resistance. Even at the sting of disinfectant, she doesn’t flinch. In the moments Eve sneaks a glance at her face, she looks exceptionally far away.
Eve caps the disinfectant and begins unrolling the gauze. “Do you think they’ll find us?”
“The next five minutes, Eve.”
Villanelle shifts in her seat, pulling herself out of a slouch, and raises her arm for better access.
“When a job goes wrong, and you don’t know what’s coming tomorrow, or an hour from now—you plan for the next five minutes. You do the best possible thing you can do in that time.”
“Oh,” Eve says, and continues in silence.
Five minutes, she can do.
“I am sorry for Rome,” Villanelle says.
“All of it.”
“I’m sorry, too.”
“For what? Running into my bullet?”
Eve rolls her eyes. “I misled you. I… gave you false ideas. About so many things. I didn’t know what I wanted. I wanted... everything. And we can’t have everything.”
“I only want you.”
Eve looks down. Villanelle is gazing up at her with no pretense, no walls—nothing but raw, unfiltered trust.
Eve leans down and kisses her, deep and gentle, before returning to the task at hand. She rolls layer after layer around Villanelle’s arm, careful not to wrap it too tight or too loose.
“How did you cope? After Raymond?”
“I should have been there for you.”
“I walked away.”
“I drove you away, Eve.”
“Yeah, you know what?” Eve crouches down beside her and takes Villanelle’s face in her hands. “It doesn’t matter now.”
The hardness set into Villanelle’s face begins to dissipate, softening her jaw, the shape of her eyes, all of it.
“Thank you,” she says.
“You don’t have to thank me.”
“I don’t deserve anything you’ve given me.”
“No one ‘deserves’ anything, honestly.”
Eve scoffs. “I really don’t.”
“You deserve to be loved by someone better than me.”
“You’d be better off. Admit it.”
She turns away, but Eve is quick to hold her face and guide her back.
“I don’t want to be better,” she says, firm. “I want to be… alive.”
“So you decided to run away with an assassin.”
“Mhm. You planning on killing me?”
Villanelle smiles. “I never make the same mistake twice.”
They get dinner to-go from the hole-in-the-wall downstairs and eat in the room. A bottle of cheap Cab disappears between them in twenty minutes.
Together, parallel and motionless beneath the cracked ceiling, they lay side by side on their backs atop the duvet, hands clasped at their hips. There’s nowhere to look but the white expanse above their heads, as Eve is sure one glance to her side would lead her to tears.
Will it ever be anything but this?
Will they ever be able to just—be?
She swallows into a dry, sour throat, coated with the sticky aftertaste of bad wine.
“What happens tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow.” Villanelle shrugs her shoulder against Eve’s. “Tomorrow happens.”
Then, before Eve can debate this—
“What did you want to be when you grew up?”
Eve snorts. “An astronaut.”
“Yeah. But I always puked on roller coasters, so that dream was dead before it had a chance.”
Out of the corner of her eye, she can see Villanelle smile.
“I wanted to be a pirate.”
“Why not? Liquor, sword fighting, concertinas. Beautiful women at every port. What’s not to like?”
“Do you even know how to sail?”
Villanelle turns to her and smirks. “I can steer anything.”
Eve grins and faces back to the ceiling. “We should get a boat. Someday.”
Villanelle says nothing. After a minute, she squeezes Eve’s hand.
Eve doesn’t remember falling asleep.
Somewhere within the thin slice of time between night and day, Eve stumbles awake.
There’s just enough light to see Villanelle folded on the floor, sorting through their luggage. Eve can make out several piles around her, clothes and essentials and a few dark, blurry shapes in the soft break of morning.
Eve sits up on her elbows and blinks several times. “What are you doing?”
Villanelle turns around, deer in the headlights—briefly, until she softens and crawls back to the bed, settling close to Eve and taking her hands. She presses their lips together for a second, an acknowledgment, a greeting.
“It’s time to get up.”
Villanelle sighs and releases her, back to the luggage. Eve can begin to decipher some of the piles, paperwork and identification. Clothes, neatly separated by hers and hers, where before they’d been thrown together without method between the two bags.
“They’re after me,” Villanelle says without looking up. “But if you stand in their way, or if they can use you to get to me… they will not hesitate.”
Eve stares at her. It’s too much, too early.
“You can go anywhere, of course,” Villanelle says, “but I would advise far, and quickly.”
“What the fuck.”
“No, what the fuck.”
Eve is bolt upright now, legs hanging stiffly over the edge of the bed, shoulders square and breath coming up short. Villanelle moves back toward her, crouching at her feet, eyes pleading wildly.
“If we are together, I will die trying to protect you—and then they will kill you too.”
Eve presses her eyes shut. If there’s a chance she can start over, wake up again, reset—
“Eve.” Villanelle reaches for her hands. “We have to admit when we’ve lost.”
“What—no. I don’t want to lose. I don’t want to lose you!”
Villanelle is held captive to her gaze for another moment, eyes wide and wet before she releases Eve and turns back to packing.
“I would advise at least an hour’s drive from any metropolitan area.”
“Don’t tell me where. Just… keep out of cities.”
“What are you talking about? I’m going with you.”
“No, you’re not.”
Eve drags herself unsteadily to her feet, voiceless.
“There is a driver coming for you in twelve minutes. She will wait outside for ten and take you to the nearest station. Do not ask her any questions—I trust her implicitly and she will get you there safely.”
“Oh.” Eve’s voice has dulled. She’s filled in the blanks—confident, stubborn, and closed for comment. “I see.”
“Of course. I’m a liability. You’re safer alone.”
Villanelle shoots to her feet, thrown. “What are you talking about? This isn’t about me, this is about you! This is about your life, Eve! I’ve had a target on my back since we met and I am not going to put one on yours too!”
“Oh, come, on. This was never safe, and I was fine with that. I’ve always chosen you over safety and you’ve never tried to stop me before!”
“It is different now!”
“Because now I am actually in love with you!”
The words hit in slow motion, a cannon’s echo in the death of silence.
“That’s what it is, right?” Villanelle prompts, eyes magnified beneath the well of tears. “Not the obsession, the possession, the craving. It’s this. Breaking your own heart to do what’s best for someone else. Isn’t it?”
Eve has no answer. She simply aches, every goddamn inch of her.
“Yes,” she chokes, “but—”
Villanelle nods curtly, satisfied, and turns away, rummaging through her belongings, darting about the room to shove random items into pockets and compartments until Eve lunges forward and stops her, spins her around with a firm hand on her forearm.
“What if you’re what’s best for me?”
Villanelle’s pained smile will haunt her to her death.
“We both know that’s not true.”
“I don’t care.” Eve shakes her head, furious. “I would rather die with you than live without you. That’s not on you, that’s my decision.”
Slowly, Villanelle turns her head, shaking loose the tears. “I don’t accept your decision.”
She scurries back to her bag and extracts something small before leading Eve, paralyzed, backward to the bed, where her knees give way to deposit her on the edge.
Villanelle kneels between her legs and takes both her hands, forcing the smile back on her face. “We’ll get bored of each other, remember?”
Eve shakes her head.
“Close your eyes.”
Eve shakes her head.
“Close your eyes,” Villanelle repeats, and closes her own.
A force beyond her tugs her eyelids shut, and Eve forgets to breathe.
She hears a shuffle, brief—lips at her ear, a whisper—Wait for me—then, a pair of hands gently spreading hers apart to slide a cool, metal band over her left ring finger.
It isn’t until long after the click of the door, long after Eve’s opened her eyes, that she realizes—
She never said it back.
Thank you for putting up with this mess so far—one more to go!
Heroes only get the girl in Hollywood.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
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.”
Thank you, everyone, for your amazing feedback and support—it most definitely kept me going! I’ve got a couple other plot bunnies in mind, so fingers crossed. ❤️
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