November the 5th
"I never told him that I loved him," she said softly.
Detective Finch looked at her. "Did you?"
"Oh, yes." Evey's eyes remained trained on the fires of Parliament. "I never saw his face and I never knew his real name. But I loved him more than I have ever loved anyone." She closed her eyes, feeling the burn of tears threatening. "I only told him I didn't want him to die. How...cold...of me. I doubt he ever heard a loving word from anyone, yet I loved him and he died without ever knowing." She turned her gaze to the man at her side. "Are you going to arrest me now, Inspector?"
He was looking at her, his dark gaze solemn as he sighed. "I'd be a bloody hypocrite if I did."
"A member of Parlament with morale. Perhaps V's dream had merit," Evey mused. She did not tell him that she had one of V's knives and had no intention of allowing imprisonment.
"You you have a place to go?" He asked.
Evey thought of the Shadow Gallery. Of returning there without V. Of what it would be like to submerse herself in a place that was so saturated with his essence. "No," she said finally, knowing it would be a while before she could face the Gallery again. "I suspect I'll be captured. And perhaps that isn't so bad. They'd make a martyr of me at least," Evey motioned to the crowd below. "This will go on. They don't need a hero anymore and they don't need me."
"Oh, I think they do." The inspector turned toward her. "I think he knew that they would. A martyr only lasts as long as a memory. And memories run short in times of war. These people will need a leader. One without blood on their hands." He fell silent, glancing back down at the people below. "I can help you find someplace safe. A place where someone who doesn't want to be found won't be."
She should have been surprised, but she was not. V hadn't believed in coincidence and she didn't either. Even in death, he was still protecting her. "Do you play with dice, Inspector?" Evey asked, a faint smirk on her lips.
"I never was much of a gambling man," he answered, eying her peculiarly.
"Of course you aren't," Evey looked back to the burning building. "God doesn't play dice, either. And coincidence is bullocks."
"Pardon, Miss Hammond?" Finch seemed to be looking for an injury that would explain her suddenly strange behavior.
"Never mind," Evey shrugged. "I'll go with you. But keep in mind, Inspector...I've learned more than just ideas from V."
"I'm certain you have," Finch said, putting a hand on her shoulder as he guided her toward the stairs. "That's why you're still here."
**Disclaimer** I own nothing in regards to the V for Vendetta franchise. The charachters and plot are property of their respective authors and directors.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
It hadn't changed. Not that it should; no one else knew the location of the Gallery. It should have felt desolate, even abandoned...it had been four months since she'd last stepped foot inside its walls. Yet when she closed the door behind her and cloaked herself in the darkness, she could still feel him. His presence was just as thick as it always had been...she swore she could even pick up his scent. V was dead, but the empty room did not tell that story. No, it spoke of mock sword fights against armored statues, breakfasts with real butter, black and white movies on the tele, and his arms around her as they danced.
Oh, how she missed him.
Evey moved through the inky blackness. She knew the layout of the room by heart and located the lamp with ease. Warm, subdued light flooded room. Evey squinted against it, letting out a shuddery breath. Everything was just as she'd left it, the only sign of her departure being the thin film of dust that coated the furnishings. Guilt flooded her. V had been a particular man. He would be appalled to see his former living quarters in a state of such neglect.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." She whispered as she took off her long coat and draped it over the back of the sofa. She immediately went to the kitchen, pulling out soap and rags. "I thought I could try...to let go. I should have known. All that you left to me, and see how I care for it? I'll never understand what you saw in me." She muttered under her breath as she got to work.
She worked in silence, numbing herself as she committed to the task of eliminating the abandoned appearance of the place. In the beginning, she'd spent a lot of time at the Shadow Gallery. Somehow being there had comforted her as she grieved, though it had been dangerous for her to venture out. The night that parliament had fallen had marked the true beginning of the revolution. There had been riots, scores of people filling the streets to battle against the military forces. There had been death and destruction unlike anything Evey had ever witnessed, and she had been at the very core of it all. The rebels had raised her up, glorifying her image as the Lady of the Revolution. And when they'd found out that V had died to take down the last remaining volatile members of the government, they had made a martyr of him. His face had been everywhere. His signature, the mark of hope amongst the people. And the fighting continued.
Eventually, organized groups had begun to form. Eric Finch had been been at the fore of it all, secretly taking lead of the rebel groups despite the knowledge it would make him a wanted for treason if discovered. But that wasn't the only risk that he had taken. Evey had been desperately wanted for aiding the martyr known as V, with rewards of large sums posted for her live capture. Even still, Eric had made good in his promise. He had been a constant in her life since the 5th. Initially, he had insisted that she allow him to help her find a secure location to live. She had reluctantly agreed, knowing that she wouldn't have been able to stay at the Gallery. V's ghost was too fresh and her emotions too raw.
"You know where it is," he'd said casually one night over tea when he'd stopped in to check on her.
"I do." She confirmed, not raising her gaze from her cup. She had known he would ask, eventually. Still, the question curdled her stomach.
"It would be of great benefit for us to be able to look..." he began.
"No." she said sharply. "He left it in my care and it is all I have. I'll hear no more about it, and you will not look. As far as anyone is concerned, it was destroyed with Parliament."
Erich never asked her for the location of V's lair again. She suspected he would be able to find it, the same as he had the platform, but he seemed to understand that it wasn't his to find. V's secrets, as far as Evey was concerned, had died with him and it was not her place or that of any other to resurrect them.
As things began to heat up and skirmished had intensified, Eric had insisted that she move from her quaint little flat so that he could more closely monitor her safety. She had denied him initially, but when her building was bombed, killing six and wounding twelve, Evey relented. That night, she had moved into a small room in the upstairs attic of Eric's flat. 10 weeks after that, she'd come to his bed.
He had been the perfect gentleman. There had been no hungry looks, no offhanded flirtatious remarks. He was simply a partner, a confidant, a welcome face in a sea of Guy Fawkes masks that pierced her every time she left the house. Her nightmares often kept her up at night, leaving her pacing the house in the early morning hours. And like V, she did not play with dice and she did not believe in coincidence. It was inevitable that on one of those restless nights she would find Eric awake in the sitting room. It was equally inevitable that after shared bourbon and an emotional conversation that her vulnerability would get the best of her. She sought comfort in Eric's arms, and later, found it in his bed.
There had been no pressure. If she came to him, he welcomed her. If she didn't, he didn't question it. Eventually, she moved out of the small room in the attic and into the main house. She shared his bed each night after.
Well, most nights.
She'd still visited the Gallery. It wasn't safe, but on those days when she'd missed V the most, it had helped her to spend time in the place he'd called home. She had never explored much, always telling herself she would when the pain had dulled. Mostly she'd sat up listening to his records or reading his vast collection of books. Oddly, when she was locked away in V's cavernous lair, it had been easy to pretend that England was not engaged in a civil war. It was easy to pretend that she was not, in fact, one of the key players leading the effort. She could pretend that it was all in V'a hands...and that he would swoop through the door at any moment quoting poetry at her in that charming way of his. There was peace in that pretend world, and sometimes she was lucky enough to fall asleep on the empty sofa. On those nights, there were no nightmares.
As the people grew stronger and the wounded government weaker, strongholds began to form. Rebels raided government buildings, took possession of classified files, and began to unearth just how corrupt and heinous the leadership had been. One evening, she and Eric had been woken in the middle of the night. Dominic Stone, who had also become one of the leaders in the rebel efforts, had stood in the entryway looking pale as sheet.
"You have to come. You...you have to see this." He'd said. And they had.
Two more camps similar to the one that V had been held in had been found. Eric and Evey had arrived amidst the chaos-people screaming, people crying, gunshots as the rebels fended off the opposition. The people within the cells were being guided out to freedom. Those that could walk hobbled past her, emaciated and covered in dirt and grime. Those that could not walk were rushed on makeshift stretchers to waiting trucks to be taken to the infirmary.
Evey had been horrified, watching through tear blurred eyes. She hadn't been aware she'd begun to move until she felt Eric's hand in her shoulder. She had wrenched away from him, powering through the crowd. Her need to help had become a feral thing, wild and desperate within her arching heart. The next couple of hours was spent finding victims, handing them off to the rebel soldiers, and going back for more. By the time she reached the last cell, Evey had been dirty, tired, and emotionally depleted...but she would not stop. Not until the very last subject was set free into caring hands.
Eric blocked her view. When she tried to push past him, he took her firmly by the shoulders and pressed her aside to let Dominick enter. "Evey, you don't want to see this."
"Bullocks! Let me past! I have to do this, Eric. I have to..." Her argument died on her lips as she skirted around him.
It had been Gordon. Or what was left of him.
Evey's knees had become weak, and she very nearly stumbled to the ground at the sight of Gordon's starved, dirty, and frail self. His face was gaunt, his eyes sunken and hollow, his thin body covered by a rag of a slip. Oozing sores weeped in the light of the lanterns. He looked like he was already dead, despite the fact that he was standing on his own two feet.
"Oh, Gordon..." she whispered, and went to her friend.
Evey had stayed at Gordon's side, helping him to walk the long corridor and out to freedom. Rebel medics swooped in and took him from her, loading him carefully into one of the trucks. When the doors closed, only then did Evey finally sink to the ground in tears, watching as it drove away.
"He was supposed to be dead. V told me he had been executed." She'd whispered to Eric, who had sat beside her in the mud and pulled her against his side.
"He couldn't have known, Evey. They announced the execution. But no one knew these camps were still in existence." Eric explained. "Even I didn't know."
Evey had spent a great deal of time at Gordon's bedside as he healed. He had explained that the chancellor had ordered testing on prisoners, that they had been modifying the very disease that had killed her brother so very long ago. The rebels had found documentation that confirmed this, mass graves where the failures had been buried, and vials of the serum locked away in one of the labs in Gordon's camp. Eric had given the order to burn it all, the serum included. Evey had stood at his side to watch the first flames begin, and that was when he'd given her the journal.
"It was Delia Surridge's. The work she did is documented thoroughly. Specifically, her work with V." He had told her. "I found it when V killed her, but it was taken to be destroyed. They recovered it from the camp Gordon was in."
"Have you read this?" She'd asked.
Eric eyed her closely. "It will be hard for you." He paused, his dark gaze dropping to the book in her hands. "And I suspect that you will be thankful that V...disposed...of Ms. Surridge."
Eric was nothing if not an honest man. Evey stared down at the red journal, the secrets it contained making it seem ten times it's slight weight. "Thank you," she said softly, tracing the frayed cover.
"Don't. Believe me, you won't thank me for that. But I think it's right that you should have it. That you should know." Eric shrugged. "I didn't know him. It doesn't seem fair that the only person who knows his story isn't someone who cared about him."
"No one else did," Evey said softly.
"That's why it should be you. I can't say he would have wanted you to read it. If it was me...I probably wouldn't want anyone to know either," Eric ran his hand through his hair, looking torn. "They did...they did some horrible things, Evey. But it might help you understand him. To see why he did what he did."
"I already do," she whispered. But you're right. Someone should know what they did to him. Someone should care. I owe him that much."
It had taken her many days to read the journal. She felt weak every time she set the weathered book aside, gasping as sibs racked her until she was sure she would split in to. She only had to read about the horrors V had been subjected to. He had had to live them. It was a fiercely tragic thing, to want to give comfort to someone who was dead. V would never know a gentle touch in his skin. He would never hear anyone say that he hadn't deserved what had been done to him. He would never watch a tear be shed on the behalf of his suffering. She wanted so desperately to hold him, to say that she was sorry for every pain he'd ever felt at the hands of those monsters, to let him feel tenderness for the first time. But her arms would forever remain empty...and her pillow made a poor substitute for the man in the mask.
Eric had always been able to tell when she had been reading. She was careful to do it when she was sure he would be gone for the day, but she was never quite able to feign her usual demeanor after stomaching a new chapter. Her eyes were always red, her nose raw, and there was simply no hiding that. On those nights, Eric kept his distance. On those nights, he did. It touch her. Perhaps he had known that it wouldn't be his hand she felt if he tried.
It had been a selfless gift, surely. That she could never love him was an unspoken and accepted truth between the two of them. His competition was a ghost in a game of love he could never win. Evey knew he handled it now. She also knew that it would not last forever. The day would come when he would leave in favor of someone capable of returning his affections. It was selfish of her to want him to stay, but she would take whatever time she get. Eric was a friend, an unexpected lover, and his touch was a welcome escape from reality.
Gordon recovered gradually, and it wasn't a surprise when he rallied with the rebels. He had seen first hand how corrupt their government was, and with his charismatic personality, the people took to him with gusto. It became his mission to work to replace the government, to construct democracy and freedom for all of England. He was Evey's best friend, and she rallied right along with him. They spent long nights talking, sometimes about the war, sometimes about the camp in which he'd been imprisoned, and often about V. Evey confided in Gordon the torture she'd received at V's hand, the feelings she had for the dead vigilante, and her desire to bring V's dream to life. Gordon let her weep, let her laugh, let her reminisce, and there was no judgement.
Evey's last trip to the Gallery had ended in an attack. She'd gone to listen to his records after a particularly emotional day. The rebels had erected a monument at Larkhill, just as they planned to do with the other camps. There had been a brief firefight, but the day had been otherwise empowering. She'd spent a few hours in the Gallery afterward, and it had been late when she'd finally left.
Three men had attacked her just a few blocks from home. It had been oddly reminiscent of another time and place, when she had been rescued by the man who would change her life forever. Except this time, he was gone, and these were no mere fingermen. They were members of the opposition, and she undoubtedly would have been killed if they had not pulled the shawl she had been using to shroud her appearance from her shoulders.
"Why, look at this. We got ourselves the lady revolution herself!" The burly one exclaimed, grabbing Evey by the hair.
"Jackpot..." the second one hissed in her ear as she began to twist and fight.
"Stop messing around. Get her to the car." The third said from somewhere in the alley.
Evey had clawed, bit, and wrestled. Her captors had found this humorous, right up until she'd managed to wrap her fingertips around the hilt of V's knife. She'd carried it always, and had made it her mission to know how to use it. The blade had sunk easily into the neck of the burly man, and then into the shoulder of the lanky one. The third had reeled in shock, and that was all the time Evey needed. She'd run, and for some reason the third man had not followed. She would never know that his demise was met by a very familiar face who never strayed too far.
Eric had been terrified, livid even, when she'd come into the house, covered in blood and bruises. The agreement had been made then that she would stay away from the Gallery until the war was won.
It had all led up to this moment. This day. They say when when the people of England would put Gordon into action as the interim Prime Minister. It was an unofficial victory, the beginning of the end of the war. There would be a grand celebration to follow, a true day of independence, change, and unity. And Evey would be expected to be at the head of it all.
Eric would undoubtedly be furious that she had risked going to the Gallery on this day of all days. It had been foolish, yes. But it had seemed only right that she right the speech she would be expected to deliver in the place where it all began, using a pen V's fingers had once touched, sitting on a sofa where he had once read, listening to the music he had once loved. It was his vision coming to life tonight, and being in the Gallery made him a part of it.
Presently, Evey put away the cleaning supplies. The Gallery finally looked better, now that it was dusted and scrubbed of its four month long abandonment. She smiled as she went to the Wurlitzer, peering at its contents thoughtfully as she scanned for her selection. She picked the song that she and V had danced to, closing her eyes as she remembered that moment. His strong, gloved hands guiding her steps. The low rumble of his voice. The spice of his scent. She'd give anything to go back to that time, to share that last dance just once more. If only she'd known then how the night would end.
"I miss you, V. I miss you so very much." She whispered.
She moved to his bedroom. It was not a place she visited often...though he'd left her the whole of his belongings, being in the room where he'd slept had somehow always felt like a violation of his privacy. Regardless, she opened his closet. His clothing was hung with meticulous care and order. She selected one of the shirts, her favorite gray colour. It had long since lost his scent, but she had other plans for that fabric now. Returning to the kitchen, she took out a pair of scissors and carefully cut away a piece of the fabric from the shirt. Evey raised the scrap to her lips and pressed a kiss to it. "You'll be my good luck charm today." She said to the empty room as she pocketed the square. She then collected a notepad and pen from the drawer and carried the items to the couch to begin her speech.
She had thought the composition of her speech would take vastly longer to write than it did. Once she put the pen to paper, the floodgates had opened and the words spilled forth, as if guided by her vigilante himself. An hour was lost at most when Evey finally set the pen down and wiped her damp eyes. "Damn you." She whispered. "I didn't want you to go. Why did you have to leave me like this?" She hugged the ruined shirt close as the tears began to fall.
When she had cried herself into hiccuping emptiness, Evey used the shirt to dry her face. She peered at the clock and sighed. She would be due at the administrative building within the hour to start preparations for the inauguration. Only a miracle would ease her puffy eyes, but she could delay no longer.
Evey got up and turned off the Wurlitzer. "I hope you're watching from where ever you are now, V. And I hope you know that I still love you." She said to the silent room. With watery sigh, she turned off the lights and left, locking the door behind her.
Ten minutes later, a shadowy figure followed.
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
She hadn't been to the Gallery in months. He should have expected that she might return today, but after the attack she'd suffered at her last visit, V had thought surely she would stay in the safe presence of Inspector Finch. He very well could have been caught, and his own foolishness grated at him. It would have destroyed her to see him standing in the foyer, alive and whole and well. Evey deserved better than that. She deserved to take on the new world she had helped to craft. She deserved to move on and find happiness. She deserved to forget him.
V rarely came to the Gallery. It no longer belonged to him, after all. He was content in his small loft in an abandoned bell tower. He had no need for the things he'd once collected. Yet sometimes, after he'd seen to it that Evey was safely home, he would not be able to help himself. It was the only way he could feel close to her anymore...to simply step into his old home, to breathe her fresh scent, and to remember the time he'd had with her.
It had been incredibly difficult in the beginning. He still did not know why or how he had come back from the brink of death. The initial memories of his reawakening were dim, confusing, and troublesome. He remembered pain and heat. He remembered crawling through rubble. He remembered trying to get back to her. And then it had all faded to black.
When he'd woken again, he'd been stronger. There had been pain, but he'd been able to fight against it and free himself from the wreckage of Parliament. It had been thankfully dark, and amongst the sea of Guy Fawkes masks riddling the street, he'd managed to steal away into an abandoned church without notice.
It had taken weeks for him to heal enough that even a few blocks walk didn't leave him winded and gasping in pain. The bullet wounds marred his flesh, but there was no infection. His body, it seemed, had regenerated quite nicely from the trauma.
He had known the inspector would take care of Evey. He had never intended to survive the 5th, after all. What he hadn't anticipated was just how well Eric Finch had cared for her. V had never intended to let her believe he was dead. When he woke in the rubble, his only wish had been to get back to her. To apologize for everything, to take her up on her offer. Yes, they could go away. The two of them. They could leave this place and find freedom in each other. She was what he wanted, and he'd been given a second chance. The only problem was that V simply could not find her. It was as if she'd vanished. If not for then footage he'd seen of her on the tele, he would have thought her captured.
It was Christmas Eve when he'd finally laid eyes on her again. She'd been dressed in a long green gown, her brown coat wrapped tightly around her to ward off the December wind. She'd looked like an angel, standing beneath the Christmas lights with snowflakes melting in her hair. It had grown since he'd last seen her, giving a softer edge to her features. V had stood motionless in the alley, swept up in her beauty, in his emotions, in the surreal reality that his Evey was before him once more.
And then, she had laughed.
He hadn't noticed Eric Finch at first. But when Evey tilted her head back and let out a true, musical laugh, V became aware of the other man. Of his hand on her back. Of the way her dark eyes sparkled when she looked up at him. It occurred to him that in all the time he had known Evey, V had never heard an actual laugh from her. He had never witnessed her unrefined happiness. She had never looked at him like she was looking at Finch. It was in that moment that V had decided that it was best for her to let go. It was best that she think him dead, that she explore this potential life she could shape with the inspector. He could offer her so much more than V ever had.
Despite his decision, V had watched over her carefully. The world was a dangerous place for her, and his Evey did not always take safety to heart. She visited the Gallery often, and he always followed to make sure she was safe from the opposition that threatened. He attended every speaking engagement that she was a part of, delighted in the fact that he'd been wrong about her friend Gordon. There was not a better man suited for the new government, and she needed a friend.
She'd hid her misery well. The first time he'd become aware of her mourning was when he'd stopped at the Gallery to collect a few necessities he'd known she wouldn't notice should they go missing. He'd nearly been caught that day as well, but she'd not been in an exploring mood. Instead, she'd put music on and curled herself on the couch, a red book in her hands.
It was a book he'd known well. Delia's journal. He'd left it for Finch, and he must have given it to her.
No pain he'd ever experienced amounted that he'd felt at her anguished sobs as she'd read. He could not imagine it was possible to feel more pain than he felt as he listened to her, as he watched her shake and tremble and beg the empty room for him to come back. V nearly had stepped out at just that very moment. It had taken all
of his strength to stay hidden, to let her cry herself dry and finally fall asleep on the sofa.
He always noticed her puffy eyes and red nose after that.
V had been unable to comprehend how she could mourn him so as the time went on. Her life with Inspector Finch was a safe one, and the man clearly cared for her deeply. V had thought she would get over him in time, but Evey showed no signs. Even after her last fateful visit to the Gallery.
He had almost been too late. V had been listening in at a rebel meeting, out of sight and undiscovered. Evey had gone to the home she shared with Finch, and he had thought she would stay in that night. As the meeting drew on, however, V began to grow uneasy. To satisfy his own intuition, he'd traveled to Evey's home. Nearly there, anyway...for she had come tearing out of an alley, bloodied with one of his knives in her hand. There had been two men lying in the alley and a third in pursuit. V dispatched of him quickly, and ensured the other two were dead before following after Evey.
She'd made it home, and had not visited the Gallery since.
V had only wanted to reminisce about his last day of life with her before going to administration building to watch for threats. Instead, he'd ended up watching her as she wrote in one of his old notepads, then cried into one of his old shirts. It broke his heart that it was still so hard for her. It had been a year, after all. But this day was the eve of a new era. He suspected that it would bring closure and healing to her when the day was done. And though it would kill him to see her move on completely, to commit him to memory and nothing more, he would also be happy to see her suffering come to a close.
Being stuck in the Gallery made him entirely behind schedule. V had wanted to explore the security surrounding the administration building. The chance was good that the opposition would try to attack, and while V trusted in Finch's abilities, one could simply not be too careful. Evey and Gordon would be an open target if the wrong people got enough leverage.
It was his late arrival that would ultimately be the undoing of it all.
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
The streets were already filled with people, and air of victory was thick in the good cheer on every face. Evey arrived at the administrative building a touch later than expected, and was thus whisked away to be prepared for the event. Eric burst into her dressing room just as she was sitting down for hair and makeup.
"Are you trying to give me a heart attack, Evey?" He asked, clearly breathless.
"I'm sorry, Eric. I lost track of time," She answered, watching apologetically as her hairdresser shifted uncomfortably.
"May I have a moment alone with Miss Hammond, Abby?" Eric could obviously sense the discomfort too.
"Of course," The young woman said, setting down the brush before exiting the room.
"I was ready to call out a search for you, you know," He said, leaning against the table as he watched her.
"I had to go, Eric. I'm sorry that I scared you, but I had to go." Evey refused to apologize for going the Gallery, but she was genuinely sorry she'd made him worry.
Eric studied her for a long moment before finally sighing. "I know," he said, reaching out to stroke some of her curls behind her ear. She'd let her hair grow out, and he always seemed to love running his fingers through it. "I'm just a bit tense about today. And to think of you being hurt..."
"I was safe. And I'm safe now. This is going to be a great day for our country. You've worked hard to ensure security. It will be fine and at the end of it all, we will be free again," Evey said, smiling as she took his hand. She pressed her lips to his knuckles, and any fight he had left seemed to melt away as he smiled.
"You are ravishing." He murmured, tracing her jaw with his fingertip. "The people will be glad to see you looking well."
"And you," she whispered, leaning in for a kiss. Eric's lips pressed to hers, his hand at the base of her neck. All the anxiety of the past year seemed to melt away in that kiss, and when they parted, Evey smiled at him.
"I'll see you at the podium, then." He murmured.
"I wouldn't miss it." Evey answered with a wink.
Eric headed for the door, then hesitated. He looked back at her. "Evey..."
"Yes?" She asked, one brow raised in inquiry.
"I..." he faltered, as if there was something he couldn't quite make himself say. "I wish you luck."
"Thank you, Eric," She said, trying to keep the smile on her face. There was something sad in those brown eyes of his. Something she just didn't want to acknowledge.
He nodded, faltered just a beat more, and then left the room. Abby returned, having obviously been waiting outside the door. "All ready, Miss Hammond?" She asked.
"Yes," Evey answered, and the work began.
Her hair was swept into an elegant updo, with a few curls left loose to frame her face. Makeup was applied, but only minimally at Evey's request. She had never been one to wear a thick amount, and it was important that she looked as much like herself as possible. Abby struggled some with the puffiness of her eyes, but the end result was astonishing. Evey thanked her as she got up to change into her outfit.
The ensemble selected for her was a deep purple skirt with a cream colored blouse and matching jacket. Evey dressed carefully, making sure each wrinkle was smoothed and each button was fastened. The woman staring back at her in the mirror looked cool, calm, and confident...but Evey felt anything but. She could hear the crowd outside, and the first real twinges of anxiety had begun to stab at her.
With shaky hand, Evey reached into the pocket of the pants she'd been wearing to retrieve the slice of fabric she'd cut. She stared down at it for a moment, remembering what it had looked like covering the chest of the man who'd made this all happen. "I hope I make you proud today." She whispered as she slipped the fabric into the pocket of her jacket.
"Miss Hammond?" Dominic Stone knocked on the door.
"Yes, Dom, hello." Evey slipped around the dressing curtain, smiling through her nervousness at the sight of her friend.
"Ah, you look stunning," He said, smiling brightly.
"You clean up quite well yourself, you know," Evey commented. "Is it time?"
Dominic nodded, extending his elbow for her to hold. "It's getting close. Gordon asked that I collect you a bit early. He'd like to see you before we begin."
"Ah," Evey said, taking his offering. Dominic and Gordon had been working closely together, and she had begun to suspect that maybe there was more to their relationship than just work. Both looked happy, and she was equally as happy for them if her suspicions were right. "I had hoped to see him. I was running a bit late."
Dominic escorted her down the hallway. "Yes, I know. Eric was in a frenzy."
"I should have let him know," Evey sighed.
"I think you're quite forgiven, Miss Hammond. Here we are," He opened the door to Gordon's office, smiling broadly as she stepped in.
Gordon looked like the man he'd been before his torture. He looked dashing in a grey suit, his hair combed back neatly and a kind smile on his lips. The sores of malnutrition had long since healed, and though he still suffered some ill effects, one would never know of his ordeal just by looking at him. Except for his eyes. His kind blue eyes had a harder edge, a haunted appeal that Evey knew would remain for the rest of his days. It was the same look in her own, after all.
"My goodness, Evey...you're a vision," Gordon said, stepping around his desk to wrap her in an embrace.
Evey smiled into his shoulder. "You look every bit the part of Prime Minister, Gordon," She murmured.
"Interim, Evey. Interim Prime Minister," He corrected her as he let her go.
"Close enough. The people love you. I have a feeling this will be a permanent thing for you," She said.
"We will see. For now, we have a big day to get through. Are you ready?" Gordon asked.
Evey nodded. "As ready as I'll ever be."
"I'm sorry if this will be hard for you, Evey. Being the 5th and all..." Gordon began.
"It's never been easy, Gordon. Not when he was alive and certainly not since he's passed. It'll never be easy and it'll never be completely alright. But I've come to terms with that long ago. We need to see this through. I need to see this through. Not just for V, but for us. For you, for me, for everyone. Today, the 5th stops being a day of mourning for me. Today, it'll be a day of rejoicing."
He smiled fondly at her, giving her shoulder a squeeze. "You've always been so very brave, my girl. You're right. Today marks a new era. And we'll step into it together. Shall we?"
Evey swallowed hard, nodding. "Yes," she said. "let's make you official."
She and Gordon were led out to the lobby. It was crowded with people taking photographs, security teams, and members of the rebel force. Evey shook hands and was given wishes of good luck. She posed for pictures, she answered questions, and soon, she and Gordon were being announced. He held her hand as they walked out onto the stage, steadying her when she grew dizzy at the vast sea of faces staring at her and the thunder of applause. V's face was everywhere...in masks, on signs being held up by supporters, even printed on shirts. For a horrifying moment, Evey thought she might break down into tears right there on stage...until she felt a familiar hand stroke her back. She looked up into Eric's warm, dark gaze and drew comfort from his touch and gentle smile. He believed in her. He always had. She would not let him down.
Evey slowly made her way the the podium. The crowd erupted into cheers and applause, and it was a few moments before they quieted enough for her to begin. Evey held her paper tightly, looking up at her people as she began.
"Two years ago, I was Evey Hammond, an low-tier employee of the BTN. I lived a quiet life. I obeyed the rules and I worked hard. I drifted, you might say. Until the night I met V. Overnight I became a wanted woman, a fugitive, a criminal. And for what? There was no evidence I had ever wronged our government. I was just an example to them, just as so many have been since the start."
Evey smiled out at her people. "I've forgotten how to be that drifting young woman. And that's good. That's so good, because we cannot drift any longer. We've been wronged. We've been abused. We had no rights. What kind of life is that? I for one would rather live out my days as a fugitive than exist like that even a moment longer. But I won't have to. And nor will you...for we have gathered. We've stood strong, and we've made a change.l"
Cheers and applause exploded from the crowd. Evey stood smiling, watching the people as they expressed their joy. "We stand now, united together, a part of something that has changed history. Our descendants will read about this day with pride and patriotism. The events that put this moment into motion will read like a horror story to them. What was once accepted freely will be vilified. We have paved the road of righteousness and it is my hope that they will never stray from the bricks laid by freedom, justice, and basic human rights. May they never take for granted the lives that were sacrificed for this day to come. Your brothers, your sisters, your sons and your daughters. Your mothers, your fathers, your aunts and your uncles. May they always remember the 5th of November...and the man that gave us the strength to change it all."
Evey paused, looking out over the crowd. There were so very many in Guy Fawkes masks, and though it hurt her heart, she was also glad to see they remembered. "When I think of my time with V, it sometimes feels as if it were a dream. People like him...they just don't exist in this world. But maybe that's why he had to leave it. He had dreams too big for this life, but he shared what he could with us. He gave us a gift, and I truly believe that he would be proud to see what we have done with it. I like to think that in a way, he is still here. Because through us, he will live on."
Evey put down her notes. She would not need a cue for what she had to say next. "I see you all now and it's hard to imagine that I could feel it was anything but real. I see his face in all of you...and if I could see him again, I know that I would see all of you in him. You were his dream. And by standing true for all that's right, you are also his legacy.
"V would have wanted you to remember him as an idea. Certainly, we should. We should remember his tenacity and dedication and his message of freedom. But I implore you to remember that he was more. He was a man. He enjoyed music and appreciated art. He loved literature and could paint a picture with mere words unlike anyone I've ever known. Would you believe that the man who started this revolution was capable of growing the most beautiful scarlet carsons? V could. He surrounded himself with beautiful things to keep the ugliness of what our world had become at bay."
Evey reached to brush away a tear that had begun to form despite her best effort to keep it at bay. "But there was a darkness to him, too. He hid himself away in every way that he could- his home, his habits, his very attire. He let no one in...even me. I often think of his self-imposed prison and feel it was tragic. But can I blame him? Can anyone? He was a man who was brutalized, who saw and suffered things we can't even imagine. V never told me what he went through at Larkhill. But if it was enough to inspire a man to singlehandedly revolt against his country, to die for the chance at change...it must have been indescribable."
Evey took a breath, steeling herself against her shaking hands as she looked out over the people. "Do not pity him. V never sought that. Honor him. That is what I ask of you. That is your job. Honor him always, and fight for what he's built. Do not give up. And when it's over...we must vow to learn from this. Learn and never, never let it happen again."
There was applause, there were hollers of encouragement. Evey let them calm before she continued. "You have spoken. Today marks the first day of a new government, and with it, a new interim leader. A leader who knows first hand what our country was capable of. A leader who would never let us fall that far again. It is my upmost pleasure to announce to you now, Interim Prime Minister Gordon Dietrich."
As she stepped back, applauding her friend as he moved toward the microphone, she heard the first scream. It played out like a scene on slow motion movie reel. Evey heard another cry, and could see the rebel soldiers rushing the podium. Her mouth fell open as she heard the report of an automatic weapon, and saw two soldiers drop in a bloody spray.
Gordon's gaze locked with hers, a moment that seemed to draw out for an eternity. There was so much held in that gaze...fear, sorrow, pain. She reached for him, though she knew she'd never cross the distance.
"Evey, get down!" Eric screamed, and she was hit with the full force of his weight. He took her to the ground and all the air escaped her lungs. She was powerless to do anything, to cry out, to even move.
Reality came back in a crushing wave, and Evey could hear people beginning to scream. More gunshots. Stampeding feet. Bodies rushing past her. And still, she could not move. She realized she was wet and wondered briefly if it had begun to rain. How strange. The sun had been shining.
"Eric, let me up! We have to help them!" She cried out when her lungs would finally cooperate.
She didn't hear his reply over the roar of the crowd. All she knew was his oppressive weight and the pain in her ribs from the hit she'd taken. Evey clawed herself forward, pushing out from beneath Eric.
"We need to get to Gordon!" She screamed, pulling at him. He did not respond, and the first twinges of real terror began to seep into her. "Eric?" She shook him, then screamed his name as she heaved him to his back.
It hadn't been rain. The sun was still shining, and she could tell because of the way it glinted off the blood seeping through Eric's jacket. "No, no...Eric..." She reached for him, and that was when the world exploded.
Evey was thrown backward, stunned and deafened by the ringing in her ears. Chunks of stone fell like rain around her. Feet stampeded by as people rushed to get to safety. She could smell acrid smoke, could feel heat from the nearby fires, but somehow she just couldn't make herself move. People were running, screaming, bleeding. Someone tripped over her leg, another person stepped on her hand. They were falling over Eric's lifeless form, stepping on him...and that was all it took to get her moving again. Evey screamed his name again, crawling across the concrete, dodging people as they ran.
And then, a second explosion rocked the pavilion. Evey hit the ground with a shriek of pain and confusion, and then knew only darkness when something solid hit her from above.
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
Evey was aware of a throbbing ache in her head long before she forced her eyes to open. And it wasn't just her head, either. Her entire body felt like she'd been tossed through a meat grinder. Fragments of her last memories began to force themselves together like mismatched puzzle pieces, disjointed and senseless. Evey burrowed deeper into the softness that surrounded her, trying to will herself back into the comforting blackness.
The sensation of down against her skin jarred her. The last thing she could remember was hot, hard concrete. And heat, infernal heat. Being suspended on something so soft was wrong, all wrong...
She opened her eyes and was greeted with blurred vision. Evey slowly sat up, reeling with a wave of dizziness as she rubbed at her face. When she steadied, she blinked at her surroundings. She recognized them immediately. The ornate decor, the antique furnishings. The books. It was her room in the Shadow Gallery, but that made no sense. No one had known the location of V's lair, not even Eric...and he had been wounded.
The memory of his blood soaked shirt was enough to jolt her clumsily to her feet. "Eric?" She called out weakly, fighting another wave of dizziness. Her hands went immediately to her blouse, seeking blood. Looking down at herself, she realized that her clothes had been changed. Eric. He must have woken up. He must have somehow found the Gallery and taken her to safety. It was the only explanation and though it wasn't logical, it was the only one exhausted mind could believe. Evey leaned against the wall as she made her way to the living room. "Eric? Eric!" She called out, squinting through the blurriness of her vision and the dimness of the lighting.
He was standing near the sink in the small kitchenette, his back to her. Evey knew immediately that the frame was all wrong to be Eric-too tall, too broad in the shoulders, too narrow of a waist. Yet her mind refused to accept that fact, and she took a shaky step forward. "Eric?"
The man turned slowly, and no matter the lighting, no matter her vision, there was no escaping the reality of his face. He was wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, the grinning white face like a ghost in the Gallery. He was even dressed like V, right down to the dark hat nestled on top of the long dark wig. Evey stumbled back with a muffled shriek, putting a hand up as if to ward him off. "Get back!" She yelled, just as if her command would stop him. "Don't come any closer!" Her dark gaze dipped left then right, looking for anything she could use as a weapon.
"Evey, it's alright." The man spoke, and it was enough to make her knees weaken and her head spin. His voice...oh, his voice..."I know you are confused, but you must be careful. You took a blow to the head and I fear you might be concussed."
"Who are you?" She gasped, leaning against the wall heavily. "Why are you doing this? Why..."
"It's me, Evey. If you'll let me explain..." He came closer.
Evey skirted around him, putting the distance of the living room between them. "How are you doing that? How do you sound like him? How do you know about this place?" She grabbed a bookend and raised it threateningly. The man stopped, one gloved hand stretched toward her.
"I never wanted it to end up like this. I never would have wanted you to find out this way." He said, the ever grinning face of Guy Fawkes betraying the deep remorse of that stabbing, familiar voice.
"Answer my bloody questions!" Evey spat, ready to strike at any provocation. It had to take a considerably sick mind to go to the lengths at which this man had to torture her. She wouldn't let him see his success.
"You may call me V, just as you always have." He said, letting his hand drop. "Just as I told you to do in an alley some time ago."
Evey startled. He couldn't possibly know about that unless..."You're one of them. You're one of the finger men!"
"No," he said, shaking his head. "None of them survived that night. You know this."
And she did know it. She had seen the blood, had watched the men fall. It wasn't possible. So someone else had witnessed her first meeting with V, then. "Listen, I want you out of here. V is dead and you...you're an imposter. A sick and twisted man!"
"You saved me." He persisted.. "It was the first time anyone had ever done something like that for me. I could not let them have you, so I took you to my home. You were very angry about that, and I did feel badly. But I could not leave you alone as you claimed you'd wanted."
Evey felt dangerously faint. It was no secret she'd been a captive of V's, but the details were too much. "You're a stalker. You...you're despicable!"
"I made you eggs in a basket the first morning after you stayed in the Gallery. You saw my hands, you wondered if I was alright." He inched closer.
"No..." she whispered, shaking her head. The bookend dropped from her slack fingers, tumbling across the floor.
"You didn't know it then, as I'm sure you don't now, but you were the first and the only to see my flesh uncovered." Closer. His voice, oh...how could anyone mimic that voice?
"Stop..." she whimpered.
He did stop advancing on her, but he was still not through making his point. "You sympathized with the heroine of the movie we took in together. You said there was tragedy in the way he cared more for revenge than her. And while I could not understand it then, I have since come to realize we were of the same struggle."
"It's not true. None of this can be true..." she groaned.
"You hid beneath the bed when Gordon's home was raided, just as you'd done in your parents home as a child. You had barely escaped the window when I caught you. For many nights, you were interrogated and tortured by my hand. You wept, sometimes. I always did. After..." His voice had thickened...there was pain in those deep tones. She'd heard it before. It was so similar.
"Stop it." She was firmer now. Demanding. She still couldn't make her eyes raise, but her fists clenched at her side.
The man stepped closer. "You told me you hated me. You called me a monster. I accepted those things, then watched at you found freedom in the rain. I have never watched a storm in quite the same way since."
"Enough!" Her head snapped up, her blurry gaze narrowing. "You're a liar and a sadist!"
He was close enough now that he could reach out and touch her if he wanted. He did not try. "You left me that night. I could not blame you, nor did I try to stop you. But I did weep for you, for that was the night I realized that I had fallen quite desperately in love with you."
Her hands rose to her ears, a soft, breathless moan of despair escaping her. "I don't want to hear this..."
Still, he pressed on. "But you made a promise, Evey, and it was that promise that I held close to my heart in the time that followed. I did not believe I would see you before my final hour, but you surprised me as you so typically do..."
"Enough!" She snarled, tearing her hands away from her ears as she charged forward, looking for an escape; a door, any door. But she did not get far. His arms captured her, pulling her tightly against him. With a shriek, she struggled...pushing, pounding, twisting. His words had to be lies...but God, how could his scent, his body be so right? "You're a liar! V is dead and you...you're a kidnapper! You..." Sobs choked her as she felt his hands rest upon her in the very same place he had when she had accepted his invitation to dance with him. The low rumble of his voice hummed the tune of the song.
"You let me hold you close..." His breath on her ear. His hand at her waist. Evey closed her eyes, tears streaming silently down her cheeks. "Just like this, just so. And we danced. We danced, Evey, and I knew the decision I'd made was right. You see, a forest needs the fire. It enriches the soil and makes room for new growth. But it is the rain that brings it to life. My fire had seeded the country, Evey. But what it needed was your cleansing rain to bring it to life."
"You died in my arms...you died..." She shook against him, weak and broken.
He hummed. He guided her. They danced.
"I did," he said finally. "You didn't want me to, but I couldn't help it. I'm sorry."
Evey slowly raised her head from his chest, peering up into the vacant holes of his mask. She had never seen the true face of the man she loved, but she realized she didn't have to. It was V...real and while and alive, just as if she hadn't watched him die. Just as if she hadn't loaded him into a car loaded with explosives. As if she hadn't watched those explosives detonate into the inferno he'd loved enough to leave her without him.
As if nothing had happened at all.
"How?" She choked.
"That is...still unclear to me. I only know that I woke to find myself in the burning rubble. The pain was...exquisite in its intensity. I'd thought I'd felt all there was to feel. I was wrong."
My fault. My fault. My fault. The mantra played like an unwelcome soundtrack in the back of her mind. She had been so sure, so damned sure that he'd died. How many times had she pressed her ear to his still chest, begging him to take a breath, praying for the sound of his heart? But there had been nothing. Nothing at all.
Yet he'd been alive. And she had sent him to what should have been his ultimate demise. Evey's knees buckled, her grief crashing into her with dizzying force. V caught her, supported her as they both went to the floor. He pulled her closer, and she was too weak to resist. She felt his gloved hand smooth back her hair, was vaguely aware of his heart beating beneath her ear as she rested her head in his broad chest.
He was alive. V was alive.
The reality of the moment swallowed her like a tide. This was not a dream. She was currently curled against the very man she mourned for an entire year. The man she'd thought was dead. The man who had let her believe he was dead. How many times had she begged for this? How many wishes had she made for him to come back to her? Countless, countless...
Evey pulled away just enough to be able to reach up with trembling hands. He made no move to stop her as she laid her palms on the heavy cheeks of Guy Fawkes. "It's you..." she croaked. "Oh V..." He cocked his head just slightly, leaning into her touch, and though she could not see them, she was sure his eyes were burning right into hers. "It's you. I wished so hard..." She swallowed back another sob. "I can't believe you're here."
A gloved hand reached up to rest against the side of her face. "I know you did, Evey. I know. And I wished, too. Oh, how I wished."
She couldn't help herself. Something inside of her seemed to break, and Evey leaned in and pressed her lips to the lifeless ones of Fawkes. V stiffened, his breath catching, but he did not pull away. His hand remained on her cheek, his thumb brushing away the tears that still streamed from behind her closed lids. She did not care in that moment that she could not feel if he was actually kissing her back. She did not care that he had left her in suffering for a year. She did not care that her head was spinning and her body aching. She cared only for the sensation of her lips on porcelain, the feel of his glove on her cheek, and the sheer reality of the life humming through his veins.
She pulled away only when she remembered to breathe. V's head was slightly lowered, watching her silently. "Damn you." She whispered. "Damn you, V. How could you let this happen? A whole year..."
"It is better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all," he murmured. "I had my chance, and I made my choice. It wouldn't have been right to interfere with your chance at happiness."
Evey started. "Eric?" She gasped, trying to struggle into a more upright position. "Where is Eric?" Swept up in the shock of V, she had callously forgotten Eric. The blood. His lifeless body.
V was quiet for a long moment. "I...I'm so sorry, Evey," He said softly. "He was already gone when I reached you. The bullet meant for you..."
The world fell away from her just then. She remembered the tenderness in his eyes when Eric had joined on the pavilion. The way he'd watched her in her dressing room. The way he'd loved her so selflessly, so patiently...even when he'd known she'd never be able to give him the same. "Oh god...oh god..." Evey choked. "Eric...no...."
V guided her back against him, rocking ever so slightly. "He was a brave man, Evey. A good man. I am sorry that you've lost him, and just as sorry for this country's loss at his death."
"G...Gordon?" She whispered through her tears.
"Alive. The rebels were able to remove him from the area almost immediately. I saw Dominic Stone with him as they left." V answered.
"How many people? How many died?" She asked, fearing the answer.
V took a deep breath. "I cannot answer that. My concern was getting to you. As soon as I had checked Inspector Finch and secured you, I left."
It was all too much to take. Eric was dead. He had been a fixture in her life, the solid foundation on which she had begun to rebuild. Because of him, she'd had a chance. Because of him, she'd never given up. And now? He'd given his life for her.
"He died for me." Evey said, self hatred descending on her. "He died for me! I gave him nothing and he died for me!"
"That's not true, Evey." V whispered. She could feel his breath against her ear. "You've always given your all."
"No!" She wailed, trying to break free of his hold. "No, I never did! And now...now it's too late and...and..." She could not speak any further. V's arms were strong around her, and for the first time since she'd known him, he did not let her go. He held her there on the cobblestone floor, letting her sob and curse at him until sleep finally, blessedly claimed her.
Chapter 6: Chapter 6
V held her long after she had slipped into the refuge of sleep. His heart ached to see her so broken, so utterly shattered by the news of Eric's death. If he could have taken the bullet meant for Finch, he would have. But he'd simply been too late, too far away.
V had once thought he'd known fear. It had been a weapon used against him many times during his detainment at Larkhill. He'd even felt some alarm when Gordon's home had been raided, though he surely would have slaughtered every man in his path to get to Evey on that night. But nothing, nothing could ever compare to what he'd felt at the pavilion that day; the stark terror he'd felt when he'd realized that the danger had been overlooked, and she was out of reach.
He'd watched as the guns had been drawn. He'd yelled to draw attention, but the spray of bullets rained down and drowned him out completely. And then the crowd had begun to surge, panic stricken citizens scrambling to get to cover. V had been swept against the flood of people, struggling with all of his strength to get to the stage. He would never forget the sight of the militant raising his weapon, aimed straight for Evey...or the sickening knowledge that he was about to watch her die.
Eric must have seen it too, because in the next instant, he was driving Evey to the ground. V had not known if either of them had been hit, was still struggling to get to them when the bombs began to blow. The resulting chaos and confusion had stolen more precious moments, and V had dodged chunks of concrete and falling glass in his desperate attempts to get to the stage.
At first, he'd thought she'd been shot.
Evey's torso had been saturated with blood, and her hair was matted with it as well. She was unconscious, laying amidst the broken rubble. And in that moment, as he'd looked down upon his Evey, V had known true and unabated terror. If she were dead, there would be no reason for him to exist. He could have survived without her, so long as she was whole and well and happy...even if she wasn't his. But he could not survive a world without Evey in it.
He had very nearly broken down into tears of relief when he'd thrown himself to her side and found a strong pulse. He come close to scooping her up right then, his only desire to bring her to safety. But then, he'd remembered the inspector. V had gone to him, but it was clear as soon as he reached him that the man was dead. The bullet had found his chest, and there was no pulse when V felt for it. He gave him the dignity of closing his eyes of him, and had returned to Evey.
The chaos and his own knowledge of how to navigate the city had allowed him to escape without event. And when they were in the safety of the Gallery, V had finally been able to take the time to take inventory of her injuries. She was bruised and battered, but there were no bullet wounds. He had been wary of the bump to her head, and kept diligent watch over her until he was sure she would wake.
And now...now he held her. His whole world, safe right there in his arms.
And she had kissed him.
V traced a gloved finger over her plump lower lip. He wondered what that kiss would have felt like without the barrier of porcelain between them. How soft. How warm. V could not remember remember the last time he had actually had skin to skin contact with another human being. He had certainly never touched Evey without the protection of his gloves. She was too beautiful, too perfect. Exposing her to his marred, horrific flesh was akin to blasphemy. But he would always wonder.
V stroked her hair, and though he could not feel it's texture through his glove, he reveled in watching it slide through his fingers like spun silk. He remembered taking the razor those soft curls, a lifetime ago. He still hated himself for it, and supposed he always would. She whimpered in her sleep, then burrowed more deeply into the crook of his arm. All he could do was stare in awe at the miracle of having her there, nestled into him. He had dreamed of a moment like this since the day he'd met her. He knew the moment was fleeting. He knew it would not last. It couldn't, with all he'd done to her. It couldn't, because of who and what he was. But this moment, however brief, was his. It would be a memory he would cherish forever.
She mumbled softly in her sleep, and V recognized his name. A pang of guilt pierced him as he looked down at her angelic face. He realized then that he had been wrong to let her believe in his death. His intentions, however good, had been misguided. Evey had deserved the chance to choose her own path. And selfishly, once again he'd made that choice for her.
"I am so desperately sorry, my darling. For all I've done, for all you've suffered." He said softly, stoking her forehead. Thunderheads of emotion gathered in his chest as he lifted her, getting to his feet. It was time to let her rest comfortably.
V carried her to her room, laying her down gently. As he tucked the comforter around her, her hand tightened on his own. V, startled, looked down at her. Evey was peering at him through sleepy, half lidded eyes. "I'm afraid." She whispered.
V slowly lowered himself, sitting next to her. "You're safe, Evey. This I promise you." He whispered.
"I'm scared to wake up. When this dream is over, you'll be gone again. It's so hard, V. So hard...without you," her eyes had drifted closed again as she spoke. It was clear that she was still half asleep...and thought she was dreaming.
"Oh Evey," he murmured. "Not ever again."
"Mmm..." she squeezed his hand tighter. "Promise?"
"I do," he said, choked.
"Let me feel..." she said, reaching for him.
V watched like a man in a dream as her hand found his chest. She frowned, obviously unable to feel the thud of his heart through the fabric of his clothing. Holding his breath, he took her hand and guided it to his neck, where all that separated their flesh was the skin-like black neoprene sheath he wore. His pulse was hammering, and she almost immediately relaxed when she felt it. "I promise, Evey. I'll not leave you again."
She didn't answer, and after a moment her breaths became heavy with sleep. V held her hand just a moment longer before pulling away. He paused in the doorway, closing his eyes as he listened to her breathe. There was peace in that sound, a calm reassurance in every rise and fall of her chest. Eric Finch had been there for her in all the time that V couldn't...wouldn't. This day had been no different. The man had given his life so that she might live. V knew he would be grateful to him for all the rest of his days. Deeply humbled, V slipped away to afford Evey some uninterrupted rest.
Chapter 7: Chapter 7
Evey remained in bed long after she woke. She did not know how long she had slept, nor what the current hour was. She was vaguely aware of the still present throb of her head and the complaint of her battered muscles, but those things seemed very far away.
Her mind raced.
She did not question the reality of V. Her memory of collapsing against him was just as clear and fresh as the grief she felt knowing that when she returned home, Eric would not be there to greet her. Still, her eyes remained dry. Her heart remained hollow. And her mind, frantic.
V was dangerous. Not in a physical sense, of course. She knew he was capable of hurting her with his hands, but it was not them she worried about. V had proved that his revolution meant more to him than anything else. His vendetta might have ended, but the war was still engaged. He had sacrifieced himself once, though she had begged him not to. He would do it again if he thought for a moment that it would further his effort at a changed nation, of that she had no doubt. She also knew that she would never be able survive losing him a second time.
She could not trust him. Now that the initial shock of his being alive had dulled, Evey felt betrayed that he had not come back to her. That he had let a whole year pass letting her believe he was dead. She suspected there was a very real possibility that he simply did not really care about her. It wasn't a far fetched notion to consider that his admission of love had been nothing more than the blather of a deeply wounded man. Or worse, a bold faced lie, a tool he could use to manipulate her like his own personal pawn. It hurt to think about, but she was simply too depleted to cry. Instead, her dry eyes stared up at the ceiling, her heart heavy with the knowledge of what she knew must come next.
Time passed. Eventually, Evey willed herself to get up. She did it slowly, waiting for the dizziness to return. When it did not, she put her feet to the floor and slipped out of the room. She could hear music softly playing down the corridor, but she did not bother with that direction. She would face him soon enough, but her battered muscles needed the relief that a hot shower could provide.
Evey took her time, and though the water and soap hurt the small gash on her scalp, she continued to scrub at herself. Eric's blood had covered her, and though V must have taken care to remove the evidence, it was as if she could still feel the hot stickiness on her flesh. She tried to clear her mind, to pay attention only to the physical sensations around her. Hot water. Fragrant soap. Thick steam. It didn't help, but she kept right in trying. Only when the water began to run cold did Evey finally turn it off and wrap herself in a thick towel.
She dressed carefully, narrowing her focus severely on every step of the process to keep her mind from wandering to what she was about to do. Evey knew that if she allowed herself even a fraction of the chance to doubt herself, she could never carry through. And now, perhaps more than ever, she needed to be strong...and not for anyone else but herself.
When she was ready and there was no more reason to delay, Evey finally made her way to the main room of the Gallery. V was sitting on the sofa, a weathered book held between his gloved fingers. If he heard her approach, he showed no sign of it. So she simply watched him, taking the moment to appreciate his existence. The dim lighting of the room shimmered off the midnight strands of his wig. Guy Fawkes profile was seemed to glow in that light. She remembered a time when she had thought that visage to be strange, unnerving even. Now, she thought it was beautiful...just like the rest of him. V's shoulders were broad and strong, his chest barreled with muscle. She distinctly remembered feeling the strength that seemed to emanate from him when he'd held her the night before. He was such a powerful man, one simply wouldn't believe that he could be so tender. But Evey believed, because she had felt it. She wondered briefly what he looked like underneath all of the theatrics. Mostly, she wondered about his eyes. What color they might be. What shape. What she might see in them when she did what she had to do next.
She realized that she had been standing there for quite some time...and he had yet to turn the page of his book. Evey steeled herself, then spoke. "V?"
There was the slightest bit of hesitation before he lifted his head in her direction. She felt the weight of his gaze. "Evey...how are you feeling?" He asked, setting the book to his side.
"Sore. But better," she admitted.
He seemed to sigh, and his words were cautious when he spoke. "I should think you would be. And probably for days yet to come," He speculated as he got to his feet. "Can I get you anything? Are you hungry?"
"No, thank you," Evey murmured. She tried not to pay attention to the delicate way in which he cocked his head, as if he could sense the storm that was coming. She tried to ignore the strange way that she seemed to be drawn to him, and the knowledge that if she succumbed to that urge, it would be over before it started. But most of all, she tried to neglect the way she still loved him. "V, why were you at the event today?" She asked finally.
"It was a pivotal event for this country, made possible through the work that you so tirelessly did. It was a moment for you to be proud of, and I wanted to share in it, if only from afar." He answered. But somehow, she didn't think that he was being entirely truthful.
"So you came only to watch?" She pressed.
V hesitated, seeming unsure of where her questioning was headed. "I also took liberty to satisfy my worries about the security of the event. Clearly, I failed in that regard, and for that I will always be sorry."
Evey frowned. "This wasn't the first time you saw to my security, was it?"
V was motionless, and he did not answer.
"Tell me the truth, V. Did you follow me?" She demanded, her voice a sharp contrast against the soothing tones of music in the background.
V sighed, his broad shoulders slumping slightly. "Yes," he answered softly.
It was nothing she hadn't suspected. "A lot?"
"When Inspector Finch was not with you." His voice sounded raw, as if she were quite literally cutting the very truth right out of him.
"Did you..." Evey swallowed hard against the lump that had begun to form in her throat. "Did you intervene the night I was attacked?"
V lowered his head slightly, as if his gaze had fallen to the floor. "Yes," he admitted. "You killed the first. I finished the others."
She had suspected, as she'd laid staring at the ceiling in the bed just a short time ago, that this was the case. "Why?"
"It was important that you lived. I could afford no chances." V took a step toward her hesitantly. Evey countered with a step back, and though it was clear he hadn't finished speaking, she pressed on.
"It was never about me though, was it? It was always about your damned revolution. Even in death, you played me. I'm nothing more than a puppet to you. A thing to move and orchestrate at will." She didn't yell. Her voice remained steady. She was doing good, so good...she just had to keep strong.
"Evey, no. You mustn't think that. It was never that way..." he tried to come closer again, the soft baritone of his voice strained.
Evey took another step back, staring at him hard. "Would you have ever told me? Or did you just get off on watching me suffer?"
"Never, Evey, never have I enjoyed watching your pain!" He objected, his voice raising slightly. "You were happy..."
Something in her shifted just then, and Evey lost the cool demeanor she had been maintaining. "I wasn't, and you know it!" She interrupted. "If you followed me at all, then you know I wasn't anything close to happy! All I wanted was you! I wanted to be here, with you, right in this place! I wanted it to be you that held me, that touched me! I wanted it to be you and I felt so badly I couldn't change that for Eric. He's gone now and I'm going to have to carry this guilt forever! I wasted the last year of his life!" Her hand raised, covering her eyes as she squeezed them shut. "My god, what have you bloody done to me?"
"I am so very sorry, Evey. There...there are no words to measure the horrible thing I've done. I ask only that you realize that I did only what I thought was right. My intentions were sound, but my logic was flawed. I see that now and wish I could have seen it then, if only to spare you the pain." She hated the desperation in his voice. She hated the pain. She hated that she was causing it, but most of all she hated that there was more to come.
"Until the next time you think you're doing what's best for me, right? Or even better, what's best for this country?" Evey shook her head. "I will always be your Mercedes."
He flinched as if she'd struck out at him. "I meant it when I said my place in the war was over."
"Except it's not, V. You've just been fighting from the sidelines. You still have your agenda...and I'm just too tired to keep my place on it any longer. I've done what I can for you...but it's time now for me to move on." Evey's heart was racing, her eyes burning. There were no tears, but oh how she knew they'd come later.
His head dropped. "What does that mean?" He asked after a moment.
"It means I'm leaving, V." She spoke quickly, before the words could get lodged in the sob that was forming in her throat. "Right now."
He looked up at her, clearly alarmed. "Evey, you mustn't. Its more dangerous out there for you now than it ever was."
She stepped closer to the door. Close...so close. "I haven't known safety since the moment you walked into my life. There's always been danger. And the hardest part is that it'll never get easier. I'll always have to see your face. It'll be in every history book and every news feed in the tele. I'll never be able to just forget you, V. And that's the most dangerous thing of all...because I'm not sure I can stand it."
"Evey..." he said softy. There was a wound in his voice and it bled.
Just a little more, and it would be over. Evey tried to look collected as she spoke again, but her voice broke anyway. "I won't be coming back this time. You told me once there were no more locked doors for me here. But I'm asking you to lock it just one more time...with me on the outside. And never open it again."
"Oh Evey, no..." He reached for her.
She stumbled back. If she felt his touch, she would recant it all and she knew it. "I spent a year of my life trying to cope with losing you. Nothing you did to me in that cell...nothing you ever could have done to me...compared to what I went through thinking I had lost you. And you knew! You knew I was suffering and you let it happen! You'd tortured me twice, damn you. So let me go, V. I don't want to see you again." And with that, she started for the door.
"I never would have allowed this to happen if I had realized just how much pain you were in." He paused, sounding suddenly defeated. "I know I have done so much to you. I know I do not deserve a single thing from you. A man like me truly did not even deserve to meet you." She could feel his gaze when he brought it back to her, even from behind the black screens of Fawkes' eyes. "I do not want to lose you, Evey. But If you can tell me truthfully that you do not wish to keep company with me...that it is truly too late...I will accept that. Can you do that, Evey? "
She paused, then turned and wielded the sharpest emotional blade in her arsenal, striking him deep with the lie. "I don't love you, V. And I never have. I loved an idea. I understand that now."
How was it possible to see agony on the face of a masked man? He looked stricken, impaled on the razor edge of her words. Evey knew if she stared at him even a second longer, she would lose her nerve. It would be entirely too easy to go to him, to wrap her arms around his body and apologize or her lie. Entirely too easy to tell him the truth. Entirely too easy to melt into him, to hear his heart beat alive and while. Too easy to just let him hold her...and forget all the rest.
She left him staring after her in the dimness, letting the door latch behind her. She waited, her heart breaking, and after a moment, she heard the lock slowly slide home from the other side.
With the last of her strength, she left the man for whom she would always remember the 5th of November.
The man she loved.
Chapter 8: Chapter 8
She was met by rebel security the moment she came to the gate of Gordon's home.
"Stop right there...bloody hell, is that...?" A young soldier said, shining his light across her face.
"It's Evey Hammond!" The other exclaimed. "We thought you'd been captured...there are groups out combing the area for you as we speak!"
"Please...please let me see Gordon." She asked. She didn't know how much longer she could keep herself together.
"Yeah, of course...but are you okay? Do you need a medic?" Thenyoung one pressed.
"I'm fine...no medic necessary. I only need to speak to Gordon." Evey asked again, sharper than she intended.
They led her into the house. The first sight she greeted with was Dominic, standing in the foyer with a cell phone against his ear. When he saw her, his eyes bugged and his jaw dropped. "I'll call you back,"
He told the person on the other end of the line. The phone dropped from his fingers and clashed to the floor as he went to her. "Oh my god, Evey!" Dominic wrapped her into a fierce hug. "We were terrified that they had captured you. What happened? You don't look well!"
Evey closed her eyes, hugging her friend back as she fought tears. "It's...it's a long story, Dom."
"Evey..." Dominic released her, his strong hands remaining on her shoulders as his dark gaze peered into hers. She could read pain there. "There's...there's bad news."
"Eric." She nodded as a tear slipped free. "I know." Her voice quivered.
Dom looked mildly surprised. "How...?"
"Can we find Gordon?" She asked, brushing another tear away. "I don't think I can say what I need to say twice."
"Of course," Dominic said. His concern was evident in his drawn features, but he did not press further. Instead, he looked past her to the two onlooking guards. "Thank you. That'll be all for now."
He told them.
Dom guided her gently to Gordon's office. He knocked once, then opened the door. Gordon was seated as his desk, looking as if he hadn't slept in weeks. There were papers scattered on his desk...maps, she realized. Maps of the city. When he looked up, he did a double take that would have been comical in any other context. As it was, there was such a haunted look in his blue eyes, it broke her heart.
"Evey!" He cried, getting up so quickly that his chair tipped over backwards. Dom shut the door behind them as Gordon swept her into a hug.
And that was when she finally lost it. She had managed to keep herself together every step of the way when she had left the Gallery. But her strength had finally run out. Evey broke down in Gordon's arms, sobbing uncontrollably as he stroked her hair.
"Evey, what happened? My dear, what have they done to you?" Gordon whispered.
She could only shake her head, unable to speak.
"Come, darling. Come and sit down with me." Gordon said after a while. She let him guide her to the small sofa, curling against him when at beside her. Dom was busying himself at the makeshift bar, pouring thumbs of brandy into three tumblers.
Gordon let her cry against him for a long time. He did not press her to elaborate, though it must have been killing him to not immediately know what happened. Evey let it all pour out in braying sobs, every ounce of her despair until it felt she might split right in two.
Eventually, she calmed enough to accept Gordon's handkerchief, and then the tumbler that Dom offered her. Evey took a burning sip, letting the liquor heat her belly before taking a watery breath.
"What did they do to you, Evey?"
Gordon finally asked gently.
"The oppressors didn't capture me." She said. "V did."
Gordon reached to stroke her hair back, looking at the dark purple bruise that had formed on her hairline. "Perhaps we should have you see a medic, Evey..."
"I don't need a medic, Gordon. V is alive. I don't know how he survived that day, but it was him. V is alive."
Evey told them everything. It didn't take long...there was not much to tell, after all. And when it was over, both men were simply staring at her in shock.
"Do you..." Dom began, rubbing at his temples. "Do you realize what this could mean for the war? It could be over. We could end this thing."
"He didn't come out of the woodwork for a year. Why would you suspect he'd do anything to help us now?" Gordon asked.
"Because Eric's gone. V picked him. I was there the night he said it. He was waiting for a man like Finch to take the reins." Dom pressed. "He just never thought it would come to this. No one did."
"Dom, I left. He's not going to help...and I don't think I could handle it if he did." Evey said softly.
"Well, are we sure he would even have to help? If the people just knew that he was alive, it might raise morale, breathe some life into the fight." Dom persisted.
"Dominic," Gordon said gently. "This is not the time to be strategizing our efforts. Evey has been through a great deal in the past 24 hours."
Dominic sighed, nodding as he went back to the bar. He poured himself another drink. "You're right. Evey, I'm sorry. I really am. I just...I want the people responsible for Eric's death to pay. He was my partner...my brother, really."
"I understand," Evey said softly. "Believe me, I understand. I want those responsible for his death to be put to justice, too." She wiped at her eyes. "He died so senselessly. It should have been me. Eric was a good person. I..." she closed her eyes, biting hard on her lower lip. "He deserved better than me."
"Eric would tell you just what bullocks that is, Evey. He decided what he deserved, and that was you. He was happier with you than I've ever seen him, so don't say rubbish like that." Dom scolded her.
"Enough now. There's...much to do." Gordon said. "Dom, call in those assigned to the reconnaissance mission. Tell them there will be an official briefing later this evening, but that Evey has been recovered safely." He looked at Evey. "Would you like me to have someone go to your home to collect some things? I would feel much better if you were to stay here, at least until the dust settles."
"Please," she said. "I can't go back there right now. I just need some...some time."
"Very well. Dominic, send Reynolds on your way out." Gordon said.
Dominic finished his drink, setting the empty glass on the bar. He stopped before Evey, his dark eyes sad despite the smile he offered.
"I'm so glad you're alright, Evey. So very glad."
"Thank you, Dom." Evey said, giving his hand a squeeze. It was still hard to believe that they could be such friends after their relationship had started with her macing him years ago.
When they were alone, Gordon calmly took her glass and refilled it. "Are you alright, Evey? Truly." He asked, eying her carefully. "He didn't...hurt you, did he?"
"No. This time, I hurt him." She said, accepting the tumbler with shaky hands.
"I get the sense that you might be feeling a degree of guilt about that," Gordon commented, sitting down beside her once more. "All things considered, I'm not sure you should." Gordon was the only person she had ever told about V's torture chamber and the way she had suffered. It was clear he held some animosity about that.
"I just don't know what is right anymore, Gordon." She whispered.
"I know what I feel. I know what he's done. Logically, what I did was right. But it still feels so horridly wrong."
"Well, what's right is rarely what is easy." He said. "You've suffered many losses in your life. Your brother, your parents. Friends. V, once. And Eric." Gordon took a drink, gazing thoughtfully into the amber liquid. "If this war has taught me anything, Evey, it's that nothing need ever be permanent."
"This needs to be, Gordon." She said softly. "I can't trust him."
"Nor am I saying that you should," he answered. "I am only saying that a wounded soul needs time to heal. You've done so much for this country. It is time now for you to take time for yourself."
"What are you getting at, Gordon?" She asked, suspicious.
"I think it would be best for you to take a step back for some time. To collect yourself. I know you well enough to know you'll work yourself ragged to avoid facing these things that have happened."
"I won't back out now, Gordon,"
She said incredulously. "How can you even entertain such an idea?"
"Then at least focus on the arrangements for Eric's memorial. Take at least that much time. We can do a conference, and you can assure the people that you are alive and well. After that...just a few days, Evey. I know you will regret it if you do not have a hand in Eric's final arrangements."
He was right. She knew that in the end, if she did not see to Eric's funeral, she would feel as if she had truly never said goodbye. Never thanked him. "Alright." She said. "Until the funeral, then."
"Will you stay here?" Gordon asked.
"Yes," Evey said. "I no longer have anything that is my own anymore. I suppose that will remain until this war comes to an end."
"The Gallery?" Gordon inquired.
"He can have it back. I never wanted it in the first place. It was a tomb when he was gone...and it is a tomb now, as well. A tomb of memories I just cannot face," Her voice shook, and she swallowed the rest of her drink with a final gulp.
"Fair enough. Make the whole of this house your own, Evey. But please...for your own sake, ask for company before you embark on any outings. Those that attacked us today are not yet through, and we would be wise to remember that." Gordon spoke gently, but it was clear that he'd given her an order. And she just didn't have the energy to fight him about it.
"I know." Evey said. "Oh Gordon, how did everything get so buggered up?" She asked, cradling her head in her hands.
"It will get better. It has to. I can't answer as to how. But just a short time ago, I thought I had lost two great friends. To have you back is a godsend. I am thankful to him for that."
Evey didn't trust herself to answer. Gordon seemed to sense this, and after he finished his drink, he escorted her to one of the spare bedrooms. She agreed to let one of the medics look her, and the verdict was as she'd suspected. She was bruised and battered; her head had taken quite a hit, but overall she was fine.
She joined Gordon and for an early dinner, over which they discussed the past 24 hours at length. There had been 2 resistors that had been killed, two more taken alive. The bombs that had been detonated had been relatively small, all thugs considered. There had been a larger one directly beneath the pavilion, but it had failed. Evey had shuddered at this revelation, wondering how security could have been breached so badly. Gordon's answer seemed to be an obvious one--there had to be insiders working for the resistors. Just how that was going to be handled was yet another matter altogether. Dominic was taking over security for the time being, and she was assured that she need not worry.
The traitors would be identified and dealt with accordingly.
Altogether, sixteen people had perished in the attack. Gordon assured her that a memorial service would be scheduled, but the country was undoubtedly feeling the loss in both grief and anger.
Evey excused herself to bed without eating much. She wanted only the reprieve of a thoughtless slumber, but even that was out of reach. She laid in her strange bed for a long, long time, staring out the window. She told herself that she wasn't hoping to see a dark figure melting into the shadows...but she knew she was.
Chapter 9: Chapter 9
The day was drizzly and cold, and though no snowflakes fell yet, the bloated sky above threatened flurries to come. The weather had a habit of matching the mood, V thought...and what better weather to have on the day of a funeral?
Erich Finch would be laid to rest that afternoon, and though Evey had made her desires clear nearly a week prior, V could not stay away from the funeral. It was, he reasoned, somehow bigger than both of them. It wasn't about his love for Evey, her lack of love for him, or the seas of pain that separated them. It was about a man who had knowingly betrayed his government to try to aid in the birth of country that would know no oppression. A man who had loved Evey, had given his everything that V would never have been able to provide. A man who had died in his service to cause.
V supposed a part of him would always envy Eric. He knew what it was like to feel Evey's lips on his own. He knew what her touch felt like on his skin. He had made her laugh and had never been the cause of her tears. And now, he knew true peace. True rest.
But still, he owed everything to Finch. It was his duty to say goodbye, if even from afar.
The city was quiet, as could be expected. It made things a bit more difficult for V, having to take extra care to remain unseen as he traveled. While he could not attend the service and remain unseen, he was fairly confident that he could watch the burial from afar. And that, he'd decided, would have to be good enough.
Hundreds of people had gathered in the large cemetery. V knew of the others that had perished on that fateful day, and the mourning of the crowd was an almost tangible thing. He watched for Evey, but did not immediately see her through the throngs of people and even thicker security. Only when he spotted the familiar face of Dominic Stone did he finally see her.
She was wearing a simple black dress that fell nearly to the ground. Her soft curls were swept back, a few pieces falling strategically over the yellowing bruise on her forehead. She hugged a thick shawl around her shoulders, clutching at it as if it were a lifeline. V wanted desperately to go to her, to wrap her in an embrace and offer the comfort she so desperately needed. But it was Dominic's arm she held as she walked slowly to the head of the casket.
Only then did he see the flower in her hand.
It was one of his scarlet carsons, vibrant and blooming. She laid it gingerly on the coffin, pausing with her hand over her mouth as she seemed to stifle her tears. Gordon came to her side, one hand resting lightly on her shoulder. And then, she was gone...swallowed by the crowd once more.
There had been pain when he'd been burned in the fire he created so many years ago. He would never forget the god awful scent of his own burning skin, the sound of sizzling flesh literally cooking in the blaze, nor the sheer agony of his recovery. There had been pain when he had taken so many bullets on the night of his revolution. But no pain he had ever known compared to that in which he'd felt when Evey left the Gallery. And there would be no healing from that pain...unlike his flesh, his soul would bleed over her for the rest of his days. Seeing her only exacerbated the condition...and V knew it would be a lonely night ahead.
He was, however, a master at functioning through dire circumstance. Though he felt hollow, broken, and utterly weakened by the permanent loss of his Evey, he still left the Gallery. He still patrolled for resistor groups. He still watched the people as they enjoyed new found freedoms. He still listened to records and read from his vast collection of books.
He maintained the illusion of life, though in all honesty, for the first time V was truly without direction. Without purpose. The revel potion did not need him. Evey did not want him. He had collected the debt of all the lives he'd aimed to take, and now? What next?
The priest was talking. V could not hear his words clearly, but his deep voice rang out over the silent crowd. V could see Evey again, standing between Dominic and Gordon. Every now and again her gaze would flick out, scanning the crowd. It was almost as if...
No. She could not possibly be looking for him. Danger, then. She was scanning for danger in the sea of faces around her.
Flakes of snow started to fall, the wind picking up in gusts. V watched as the sermon began to wind down, saying a silent thank you in his heart to the fallen man in the casket. V had seen something in him, all that time ago. Something good. Something that knew that change was a necessity. He wished that it would have ended differently for the man.
V decided to slip away before the crowd began to disburse. It would be difficult enough to navigate the streets without adding a few hundred more prying eyes. He stole one last glance at Evey. Oh, how sorry he was for every pain she'd ever felt. Every pain he'd ever caused. He wished only for the chance to tell her that...but it couldn't be so. He only hoped that in time, she would forgive him.
Chapter 10: Chapter 10
The week following Eric's funeral passed slowly and without event. Evey attended briefings, press
conferences, and even a full dinner where the most respected of the rebel party united. She played the part of spokeswoman quite well, and no one was the wiser to her whereabouts immediately following the inaugural attack.
But inside, she'd felt she were dying.
Everything was no more than a motion to Evey, something akin to breathing and eating. Necessary for life, but she had no true passion for it. She was operating on autopilot, doing what was expected of her and then finally collapsing into bed when there was nothing left for her to attend to, no more distraction for her wayward mind.
Gordon finally approached her one night. "We have no engagements tonight, Evey. Let us spend the evening in each other's company." He offered.
Evey had originally wanted to hide away, to resume her solitude in the spare bedroom off the west wing. It was were she suffered in relative silence, where she could bleed her emotional wounds with no one to be the wiser. But Gordon had been insistent, and Evey far too tired to do anything but give in to his request. They spent time talking of light matters, enjoying each other's company. But eventually, the conversation switched to V.
"You miss him," He remarked after he'd poured their third round of drinks.
"Should that be any surprise?" Evey asked, taking a swallow when he handed her the glass.
"No," Gordon swirled his own liquor in the tumbler, but did not drink. "No surprise at all."
Evey eyed her friend. "Something on your mind, Gordon?" She could see through his demeanor like a looking glass.
"I just worry over you, Evey. You've not been yourself. I understand that you are grieving, but I sense that this is more." Gordon said as he sat down.
"I'm still struggling to convince myself I've done the right thing," She said with a sigh, taking another healthy drink of her scotch.
"Evey...do you really love him?" Gordon asked pointedly.
She thought about lying. She really did. But she knew Gordon would see through that, too. "Hopelessly." She murmured.
"Despite everything? Do you really know this man, Evey?" Gordon pressed.
"I know him as well as he knows himself." She answered. "He's never been able to help what they made of him. If he was able, he would have shared more of himself with me. I believe that whole-heartedly."
"But he doesn't know. Do you think he's read the journal?"
Gordon asked, sipping his drink.
"He left it for Eric to find. I'd be surprised if he hadn't. It doesn't matter, anyway. There were no details on who he was before he gained Delia's interest." Evey said, unable to hide the plain disgust she felt for the woman who had tortured V so.
"Ah," Gordon murmured. "You know, Evey...these past few days I've given quite some thought to the topic of love."
"You hopeless romantic, you." Evey said, smiling. "I didn't think I was quite your taste."
Gordon chuckled as he watched her get up to fix herself another drink. "You've figured it out. Marry me, Evey...and we shall ride away into the sunset together!"
"Whatever will we tell the others?" Evey said, smiling as she poured. The scotch was going down quite smooth, and she was rather enjoying the welcome fuzziness it brought to her aching heart. "Alright, what's got you thinking about love, Gordon? I have to admit I'm curious," she commented as she seated herself back in the sofa, tucking her feet beneath her.
"I was thinking of how far we've come, actually." He said, his playful grin fading slightly. "It wasn't too long ago that people like me would have been killed for our desires. And now? It's becoming accepted. We are building a world of equality, Evey. And that is a beautiful thing."
"I very much agree," she told him, smiling. "It's been far too long. People should not be repressed...for any reason. It's a long road, but we'll get there."
"Indeed we will," he mused. "Can you believe it? A gay man, elected into a position of power. I lived a lie for many, many years. It feels wonderful to be free of that restraint."
"I'm sure it does. I can't imagine how hard it was for you, to hide behind a facade for so long. I'm sorry it was that way for you, Gordon. But I'm glad we're fixing it now. It feels good to see you happy." Evey said, and she meant every word deeply. Gordon had suffered much, and it was only right that he be allowed a life he could be proud of.
"Oh, I think you do know what that's like, Evey. You've been living something of a facade yourself. And I would give just about anything to see you happy. I don't think that's ever something I've witnessed," Gordon said quietly.
She tipped back her drink. "Sure you have," she said. "When I first realized you were going to survive after we found you, I was ecstatic."
"Not quite what I meant, darling," Gordon sighed. "I mean with life. You've always been missing someone."
"We've all lost, Gordon." Evey said.
"Yes. But what I mean is, I don't think you quite know how to allow yourself to be happy." He said finally after much deliberation.
Evey frowned. "Well what the bloody hell is that supposed to mean?"
He sighed, watching as she finished her drink and went to fix another. "I mean only that you find a way to keep yourself from love. With Eric, it was V that held you back. With V, it is the past."
"I think I'm damn well justified."
Evey snapped, glaring over the rim of her glass as she took a drink.
"I'm not arguing that, Evey. But is it truly what you want?" Gordon persisted. "We have seen just how much life can change in a mere instant. I realized that during the aftermath of the carnage at the inauguration. In fact, that event set these thoughts of mine in motion. I've come to realize that if we have a chance at love, we must not waste it." He sipped from his glass, eyeing her for a moment. "It is why I finally admitted my feelings to Dominick over dinner just two nights ago. It was unfair of me to make him wait as long as I did. But it's a decision I'll not regret."
The fight went out of Evey at that admission. She had known the two cared deeply for each other, and had not understood why they had not made their relationship official. "Oh Gordon. I'm so happy for you both." She said.
"Thank you. But I don't tell you this for your well wishes. I tell you this because I would like to see the same for you, Evey. You love V. For better or for worse, that is the truth of the matter. Not often are we offered a second chance...and when we are, we must hold onto it tightly. We must never let it go." Gordon's expression was severe as he watched her. "His final lie hurt you deeply. It'll take some time for that to heal. But perhaps...perhaps it would be better if you let him help mend it."
Evey stared at Gordon for a long moment, hardly able to believe she'd heard him correctly. He had just validated the very thing she wanted most, but wouldn't allow herself to have. "You truly think I should go back to him?" She asked finally.
"If that is what you want.
If your heart tells you this man is the one for you, you ought not deny yourself, Evey. This past year, you believed him dead and gone. He is alive, and you have another chance. Take it, if you so desire. Do not deny yourself based on principle. We all make mistakes. If your V truly is repentant, and you wish to have him, then follow that road. See where it leads. As I said...nothing need ever be permanent," Gordon said.
Evey dumped more booze into her glass. She paced for a few moments. Then she finally looked at him again. "I need to think, Gordon. I...I just need to think."
"Of course, my dear. Decisions made on scotch are not sound decisions, anyhow. I only thought I would say my piece and be done with it," Gordon said, waving a hand dismissively. "And now that I have, I'll say no more on the subject."
"Thank you," Evey said. Her mind felt thick and clouded, as it was like walking on air when she stepped close to brush a kiss against her friend's cheek. "I really am happy for you, Gordon. You deserve the very best."
"All these years you've known me, Evey, and still you think that." He said with a chuckle.
"And I always will," she said, smiling. "Goodnight, Gordon."
"Goodnight to you as well," he said as she left the room, taking her glass with her.
As it turned out, Evey did think. She thought a lot. Of the night V stepped from the shadows and into her life on that fateful evening years ago. Of how he looked at her, the weight of his heavy gaze behind the mask. Of how strong her felt when he let her collapse against him. Of how his voice shook when he had admitted that he loved her. Yes. Evey thought a lot. She also drank a lot. And eventually, she finally came to a rash conclusion, as we so typically do when those two factors combine.
She left a note on her door, and slipped out into the night.
Chapter 11: Chapter 10
It was getting late. V rarely had the need for sleep...whatever poison Larkhill had put into his veins had seen to that. Yet he had been avoiding it lately, despite the fact that his body was in desperate need of rest. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw Evey's face. He heard her words, he watched her leave all over again...and that was if he was lucky. On a particularly unlucky night, he would dream her back into his life. He would dream of her forgiveness, of dancing around the living space together, laughing like fools and being hopelessly, desperately in love. He dreamed of the second chance he'd never have, with the woman who would forever be out of reach. And those dreams, sweet at they were, were the true nightmares.
It was the exhaustion that made him wary of his own senses when he first heard the muted noises coming from the living quarters. He had been sitting in Evey's room, head cradled in his hands, attempting to talk himself into retiring. The cavern was old, and V was quite accustomed to hearing the place settle. However, the faint clicks and rustling he heard was not the normal sounds of the house. He raised his head, listening further. He heard the familiar click of the Wurlitzer, and only then did his nerves begin to hum.
If oppressors had found the Gallery, they would not take the time to add a soundtrack to their invasion. A vagrant, upon the lucky discovery of so many valuables, would not make the old machine their first stop in the search for goods. But Evey...Evey had always been fond of the Wurlitzer. It couldn't be...
V got up slowly. He knew he was awake, because his muscles protested the movement and his tired body resisted the idea of not simply climbing into bed. He moved slowly down the corridor, listening carefully despite the certainty that he was no longer alone. And when he finally stepped into the room, what he saw was enough to make dizziness a very real threat.
She was leaning against the Wurlitzer, her hands braced on the glass and her head bent as she observed the songs within. She was wearing a long coat, dotted with the dampness of the falling rain outside. How fitting that his Evey would return to him on a night where there was rain. His own black hat was nestled on her head, which was strangely alluring in its own right.
V halted in the entryway, afraid to even take a breath lest he shatter the illusion. She must have heard him however, for she turned to face him fully. "You should sit down."
She said. Her voice sounded rough, as if she hadn't slept in days. A pang of guilt pierced him.
"Evey, is everything all right?" He took a step forward.
"Sit down, V." She said again. The low light of the room shimmered off of the droplets of water in her hair. She looked like an angel incarnate.
"Alright." He said, though his apprehension had begun to mount. Something seemed off about her, but he could not place his finger on it. V moved for one of the dinette chairs.
"Not there." Evey interrupted. "On the sofa." She pointed to the one directly across from her.
V paused, looking at her for a moment as his concern grew. Her expression was unreadable, despite the fact that her dark gaze flicked to the couch and back to him impatiently. V straightened his jacket and did as she asked, lowering himself into the plushness of the sofa.
"Now Evey, what..." He began.
"Shush." She said, turning her back to him again. She pressed a button on the Wurlitzer and it whirred to life, retrieving her selection. A moment later, a sultry beat began to rumble from the old machine. It wasn't one V recognized, and he knew all of the songs in his collection. His gaze flicked to the loose record on the top of of the machine. Obviously, Evey had brought her own for him to hear.
He opened his mouth to speak, but that was when she began to move. His words died on his lips in a rush of expelled breath, and V lost all rational thought in the first sway of her hips.
"Baby take of your coat...
The gravelly tones of a man's voice began to sing, but it was Evey who had his attention. She still had her back to him, but he could tell when she slipped the knot on the coat's belt. The lapels opened wider, no longer hugging her tightly as she shrugged one bare shoulder out. She looked at him coyly over her shoulder, moving her hips in seductive circles as she danced.
"And take off your shoes
I'll take off your shoes..."
She mouthed the lyrics, letting the jacket fall lower down her bare back, twisting and moving with the beat. V, rendered utterly speechless, was unable to do anything that but watch.
"Baby take off your dress
Yes yes yes."
Evey chose that moment to turn, letting the jacket fall low on her arms, giving him a peek at the sleek black lace that cupped her chest. She dipped low, grinding her hips as she went, then rose like a wave on the ocean with just as much grace. Her eyes were locked firmly on his, and she took a sauntering step forward.
"You can leave your hat on,
You can leave your hat on,
You can leave your hat on..."
She tipped his hat at him at the exact moment that she let the jacket fall away completely. The air felt suddenly oppressively thick to V as he took her in, as if his lungs had simply forgotten their purpose. Evey was clad in a black lace bra that lifted her breasts so that the supple, creamy mounds looked like they might spill over into view. Her panties were black lace as well, riding high enough on the thigh to give an unrestricted view of the curve of her lower buttocks. Two garters held fishnet stockings alluringly at mid thigh, invoking thoughts of what it would be like to loosen those little clasps.
Evey sashayed toward the lamp, making sure to roll her hips as she went. She draped her leg around it, pulling it against her as she arched her back. One hand trailed up, turning on the switch with a faint click. The subdued lighting fell on her smooth skin in the most flattering of ways, creating interesting shadows and illuminating all the right places. In sultry tone, she sang with the artist.
"Go on over there,
Turn on the light,
No all the lights..."
Smirking, she stepped away from the lamp, dancing her way closer to him. She stopped when she drew near, turning her back to him once more as she shook her hips. V was powerless not to notice just how close her bare flesh was, or how it moved over her smooth muscle as she danced. He was desperately aware of the urge to put his hands on her backside, to pull her close and feel her grind against him. It would have been an appallingly dirty thought for his nature, but in the moment he was far too gone to notice.
She spun suddenly, placing her stillettoed foot between his legs on the sofa. The hat dropped into his lap, and V sat back, watching as she arched her back alluringly. She plunged her hands into her hair, which did interesting things to the view of her breasts.
"Come over here,
Stand on this chair.
Raise your arms up into the air...
Now shake 'em..."
And oh, did she ever shake them. V had no idea that she could move like that, so slow, so incredibly seductive. When she leaned forward, she braced her arms on the sofa, bringing her body mere inches from his own.
"You give me a reason to live,
You give me a reason to live,
You give me a reason to live,
You give me a reason to live,
Evey's lips hovered over the enamel ones of Guy Fawkes as she sang, but even as alluring as that was, it did not erase the first alarm bell that began to go off for V. He could smell the pungent odor of alcohol on her breath, and it's aroma brought instant clarity to her odd behavior.
Evey had been drinking. A lot.
His arousal curdled into shame. He should have known that she wasn't in her right mind. She had left hating him only weeks ago. He'd been a fool to think anything but copious amounts of alcohol could change that.
"Evey, no.." He said softly, reaching to take her arms with the intent of guiding her back as the music continued to play. She moved before he could grasp her, however...sliding her knees in either side of his thighs as she suddenly straddled him.
"Suspicious minds a talkin'...
Try'n' to tear us apart.
They don't believe
In this love of mine."
She ground against him, making it difficult to breathe, to think. He'd been so lonely for so long...it would be far too easy to give in, to let it be forgotten that she was not in her right mind. He was hard and he knew she had to feel it with nothing but the fabric of her panties and his own clothing separating their bodies. It was a natural reaction, but one that in the moment made him feel disgusted with himself.
"They don't know I love you.
They don't know what love is,
They don't know what love is,
They don't know what love is,
I know what love is,
They were lyrics that she sung, but the words themselves stabbed V worse than any blade ever could. It hurt because he knew that in the sober light of day, they would never be ones she spoke to him. She would regret even hinting at such things, and if there was one thing he never wanted to be to her, it was a regret.
She was leaning in to kiss him when he caught her by the shoulders and gently pushed her back. "Evey, you must stop. You're drunk." He murmured.
"Maybe a little." She agreed and thankfully her hips came to a rest. "But I just really, really love this song. I remember the first time I heard it. It was contraband, and my friend gave it to me for safe keeping. She never took it back, so I kept it. It made me feel...naughty." She purred softly, and tried to move again.
"How much did you drink tonight?" He asked, stilling her again.
Evey looked at him, clearly frustrated. "I had a few cocktails. I was spending time with Gordon." She gave gave him a sultry look. "Stop talking, V. Sometimes you are so insufferable." She took his hands, placing them at the small of her back as she tried to shimmy against him. V's grip tightened, steadying her wobbly movements and effectively thwarting her effort.
He frowned, though she couldn't see it. "What is all this about?"
"What does it look like its about?" She smiled and leaned forward, nipping at the cold surface of Guy Fawkes' bottom lip. "Stop trying to distract me."
V took her arms in his gloved hands and gently guided her from his lap. He met some resistance at first, but in her drunken state Evey toppled from her straddled position rather easily. V took the opportunity to rise, heading to the faucet.
"What are you doing? Can't you see I'm trying to dance for you?" She asked, stretching out on the sofa alluringly.
"Fetching you a glass of water."
He said as he retrieved a cup and filled it. It was difficult to keep himself from appreciating the view of her lithe frame, positioned so seductively on the sofa. He briefly wondered if it was possible for sexual tension to kill a man, and figured he'd find out soon enough if this charade continued.
"I don't want water. I want you to sit back down. I wasn't finished." She pouted, but she accepted the glass when he offered it. A new song was playing in the background, and V wandered to the Wurlitzer, putting some space between them.
"I've not heard this artist." He commented.
"He's American. Joe Cocker." She informed him.
"It's good." He said softly, watching as she sipped her water. "Do you feel alright?"
"I feel fabulous." She slurred, standing up as she discarded her water on the end table. "In fact, I haven't felt this good in a long time." She reached for his hands, pulling him closer to her. "Dance with me, V."
He pulled one hand away, gracefully swooping up her jacket from the floor. "Get dressed, Evey." He murmured as he handed it to her.
"What? You...you..." She stammered, frowning.
"As much as I admire your dancing, I have another idea in mind." He explained gently. "Please, Evey."
She let go of his hand and took the jacket, slowly putting it on. She cinched the belt, frowning up at him. "I had this all planned out in my head, you know. It was supposed to be perfect."
"And I have dared to dream, too. For even just one more moment." He said, guiding her toward the stairwell. "As alluring your performance was, I mean to make this moment count. There may not be another when your mind is sober. I can't take advantage of your body, Evey...but I'm afraid I'm not so virtuous as not to take advantage of your time."
She leaned against his side as he put an arm around her, giving support as they ascended the stairs. "Damn you, V. I really want to be angry at you for rejecting me. Why do you make things so difficult?"
"I'm not rejecting you. I'm respecting you." He countered, opening the door that lead to the rooftop.
The last time Evey had been there was in the evening of her rebirth. If that thought gave her any anxiety, the alcohol she'd consumed hid it well. She immediately tipped her head toward the sky, gazing up at the muted stars above. A few clouds swirled, and the rain that had been falling from them earlier had turned to light snow. "I forget to take the time to look at them."
"You've been busy." He said softly. "Doing amazing things for our people."
"Real amazing." She snorted. "People are getting killed and the cells are gaining strength again."
V guided her to the bench that overlooked the city, sitting next to her. He was silent for a long while, watching the lights and listening to the cars. It was still strange to hear motors at night, with the curfew lifted. "The resistors are heaving a dying breath, Evey. The war will end soon. You will be victorious."
"We." She said, stifling a yawn as she snuggled up under his arm. "We will be victorious. All of us, and you."
"I'm sorry I let you suffer." He said, fearing if he did not say what was on his heart he never would. "I did try to return to you. Once. But I saw you laughing with Mr. Finch. I had never seen you laugh before, Evey. And I knew then that he could give you a world that I never could. A world you deserve."
"I will miss him the rest of my days." She said with a sigh, looking up at the falling snow. "And I'll always feel badly that I could never love him."
V started at that. "You were not in love with him?"
"I cared for him deeply. But I couldn't give that piece away. That one little inch. He knew it. I'll never know why he stayed." She responded, her gaze downcast as if she were deeply ashamed.
"Because it was you, Evey." He said, his deep voice barely a whisper. "It was you."
Suddenly, they were bathed in light. Red, green, gold...it illuminated the rooftop with such suddenness that Evey gasped in alarmed shock. Only when he steadied her against him did she seem to realize what she was looking at.
"Christmas lights," she breathed. "Oh V, they're beautiful."
He hadn't believed she'd ever come home to him. Even still, he had dreamed of her that evening a year past, watching her beneath the glow of holiday lights. She had looked so beautiful, so vibrant...a part of him had yearned to recreate that here, at the Gallery. No, he hadn't thought she would ever come back to him...and he still doubted she would stay. But he had hoped that maybe, just maybe, she'd walk past on the street one day and see. See that he had tried to add beauty to a place that held so many dark memories for her.
"I have them timed to go on each evening. I had hoped you would enjoy them, even if from afar," he told her softly. "The time I saw you laugh, it was beneath lights much like these. I never thought I'd see you up close beneath them again."
She looked at the lights for a long while. "I forgot Christmas was coming." She mumbled softly. The snow had begun to fall harder, and he thought he felt her shiver. "Have you ever celebrated it, V?"
"Never," he answered truthfully.
Evey frowned. "That's sad. It used to be my favorite time of the year. Mum used to bake all kinds of goodies, and pop would take us out to the countryside to pick a tree." She slurred. "We had a grand time singing and decorating."
"They sound like beautiful memories," V commented, holding his breath as she snuggled deeper beneath his arm. A part of him was still afraid that he would break the moment, or wake from this most splendid dream.
"Mmm," she hummed. "Yes. It wasn't quite the same after my brother died, though."
V frowned beneath his mask. "Things rarely are in the face of tragedy."
Evey shivered again, her half lidded gaze still locked on the lights. "I'm quite drunk," she murmured. "Oops."
V smiled faintly, nodding. "Yes, I know." He didn't want to let go of the moment, but it was cold and she was tired. "Would you like me to escort you home?"
She looked up at him, her beautiful eyes reflecting the lights that shone around them. "Can't I stay here?" She asked.
V could have melted at the earnestly in that simple request. "Oh, Evey. Of course you may." He gently guided her to her feet, letting her linger to catch her balance before helping her towards the lift. "This place will always be for you."
"For us," she murmured, and V could find no way to speak. He simply didn't trust his voice, or the desperate hope that threatened to cloud all judgement.
He got her inside and offered her a change of clothes. Evey seemed to barely notice, taking off her jacket with no second thought of modesty. V averted his gaze as she stumbled on those sky high stilettos to her dresser, yanking free one of the shirts of his she had squirreled away during his absence. She was chattering something about his eggs in a basket being better than Gordon's, and how she expected a whole plate of it in the morning for breakfast. V could barely focus, however, standing awkwardly in the doorway to her claimed room.
"I don't suppose there's any way we could get croissants, is there?" She was asking as she fumbled with the buttons on the shirt. "I heard there were shipments coming in from France."
"If you want them," he said, risking a glance at her. She had finally managed to fasten the top button, and was seated on the bed as she yanked off her shoes.
"Wonderful." She sighed, kicking back the sheets. She paused, looking at him. "Are you sure I can't finish dancing for you?"
V groaned inwardly. Was the woman trying to kill him, right there as he stood? "Quite sure, Evey. You're unsteady, and a trip to the medic would be a less than desirable way to end a perfectly good evening," He said.
"I'll probably need a medic in the morning," she sighed, laying down. "I can already feel the headache coming on."
V turned to leave. "I'll fetch you some aspirin."
"No. I don't want you to go,"
She said, reaching out her arms. "I want you to stay with me."
V looked at her. Everything he ever wanted was right there, arms outstretched, asking for him. Hours ago, he never would have believed it. "Evey," he said finally. "I can't. Not tonight." Oh, what sweet, indescribable torture.
"I'll behave," she promised. "I only want you to sleep by me. When you were gone, I used to sleep in your shirts just so I could feel close to you. You're here now. So please...please just be close to me."
He knew he shouldn't. He knew he should deny her and continue on his way. He was a strong man...stronger, he presumed, than many. But even V could not find a way to walk away from that request. Like a man in a dream, he went to her beside. Evey smiled up at him as she took his gloved hand, pulling him down next to her. V laid back against the pillows awkwardly, quite unsure of what to do next when Evey solved that problem effectively by curling herself against him.
He relaxed slightly, putting his arm around her so she could snuggle in deeper. He could smell the fresh scent of her hair, could feel the soft curves of her body against the hard plains of his own. It was a waking dream. "Thank you," she murmured.
"Of course," he said gently. After a moment's pause, he pressed further. "Evey?"
"Hmm?" Her sleepy voice responded.
V faltered. He knew what he must say, but oh...how did he even begin? "When the morning comes, it is my hope..."
"Shut up, V." She said. She didn't sound angry, though. In fact, it sounded like she might be smiling.
So he did. And they slept.
**Author Note** The song referenced in this chapter is not my own. It belongs solely to Joe Cocker and any producers associated.
Chapter 12: Chapter 12
Evey had been right to fear a hangover. She woke to a throbbing head, a cottony mouth, and a confusingly empty bed. The sheets had even been smoothed, and if she didn't have the foggy recollection of being curled against V through the night, there would be no proof that he'd even been there at all.
Evey sat up, thankful for being in a windowless cavern room. She was quite sure the light from the sun would split her aching head right in two. Groaning to herself, Evey turned to get out of bed. She paused, however, when she saw two white pills and a tall glass of water resting on the night stand. A thoughtful gesture from her masked Vigilante, no doubt. Evey popped the aspirin into her mouth and swallowed them down thirstily with the water. It was cool and fresh, and she drank it all.
She supposed there would be no harm in letting the medicine do its work before forcing herself to face the day. Evey laid back, closing her eyes. As drunk as she been the night before, she still had a solid recollection of what she'd done. What had possessed her to think a striptease would be the perfect way to reunite with V? She was mortified at her brazen antic, but she found that the sentiment of her drunken mind had been sound. She had wanted him to take her bed. She had wanted to feel his touch on her skin, to feel the love he'd confessed to her in tunnel. And she'd wanted him to feel, too. To feel the lie she had told, to know that she loved him with every stroke of her hand. She still wanted those things in the sober light of day, but Evey now realized that V was not that kind of man. She was used to men being perfectly willing to jump into bed with her. It was an entirely different matter with V. She knew he was ashamed of how he looked...he had never let him see his face. But she didn't think that was the entirety of the matter, either. V was very set in his ways, and she knew he would not step over any of his self imposed boundaries. But that was alright. She could be patient.
Evey waited until the ache of her head subsided to a manageable level before digging an outfit out of the bureau. She carried it to the bathroom and showered. The intention had been a quick clean up, but the warm water and cleansing soap held her attention for longer than she expected. By the end of it, she was feeling exponentially better, despite the persistent hungry rumble of her belly.
Evey could smell warm butter frying in a pan as she made her way down the corridor. V was standing with his back to her, that comical floral apron strung around his muscled form as he cooked. On the table was a plate of croissants, a bowl of red jam set enticingly next to them. Next to V was a plate of eggs in a basket. All of the things her drunken stomach had wanted the night before.
"Good morning Evey," he said, though he did not turn around. Evey startled slightly...it was hard to get used to his uncanny ability to hear almost everything.
"Good morning V," she answered. "It smells wonderful in here."
"Good," he murmured. "I'll just finish this last slice, and pack everything up for you."
Evey frowned. "Are you kicking me out, V?" She asked, taking a step forward. "I know my behavior was a bit crude last night, but I wouldn't believe it to be so utterly deplorable that you'd not have my company."
That got him to turn around, and rather quickly. "No!" He said a touch too loudly, his stoic composure rocked. He cleared his throat, straightening his ugly apron. "No, Evey." He said, softer this time. "I am most certainly not requesting your absence. I only assumed that you'd have a change of heart this morning."
"I was drunk, V." She said. "I wasn't fully incapacitated. In fact, I remember everything. Even if I might not...particularity want all the details."
"Oh," he said, looking awkward with a spatula in one gloved hand, the other resting on the counter.
Even watched him for a long moment, expecting more. When he simply stared back at her, she nodded to the pan. "I think your toast is burning," she commented.
Evey hid a smirk as her oh-so-stoic warrior startled and said a very uncharacteristic curse under his breath as he tended to the charring bread and eggs. "Well, that one is no good," he muttered. "Why don't you have a seat, Evey? You must be famished."
"I am," she agreed. "But I think we've got some things to talk about first, don't you?"
V turned the burner off, but even then she could see his body grow tense. He reached back and untied to apron, slipping it off and draping it over the back of the chair before he directed his full attention on her. "If you like," he said cautiously. Clearly the way she had left him had effected him deeply. He seemed quite content to believe the worst. "What is on your mind?"
Evey frowned. "My drunken behavior aside, I would say there's quite an elephant in the room, wouldn't you agree?"
V clasped his hands behind his back, seeming to consider her question for far longer than was required of such a statement. "I do," he said finally, thoughtfully. "In fact, I would venture there are more than a few proverbial pachyderms sharing the space between us. Communication has never been our strength. A fault more of mine than of yours."
Evey resisted the urge to smack her own forehead in frustration. He was artfully dancing around the subject at hand. "Yes, I can't argue you there. But I am not talking about our past, V. I'm talking about our recent...disagreement."
"Ah," he said. Guy Fawkes continued to smile, and she was utterly clueless what was going on behind that porcelain visage. "Yes. That elephant."
Like the flick of a switch, nervousness flooded through her. Evey had stood in front of thousands of people, had given speeches and led rallies for freedom. She had taken the risk of death with every public appearance that she had made, and never once had she ever balked. But somehow, facing V in the quietness of the Gallery, knowing she had to admit her feelings seemed more daunting than anything she'd ever faced. It was possible it was too late. It was possible that the damage had been done, that there really was nothing left for them.
But he still deserved to know. She'd failed him in that once. She could not do that again.
"I lied to you, V," she said softly. Funny how her voice could sound so steady when her heart was galloping so wildly in her chest. Her gaze fell, focusing on the garishly patterned apron draped over the chair.
His head cocked slightly, curiously. "Did you?"
Evey, too concerned with what she needed to say, did not notice his inquiry. She forced herself to look right into the vacant, screened eyes of Fawkes. She forced herself to pretend she could see past that, that she could be looking into his true gaze when she spoke. "I wanted to hurt you. I wanted so badly to hurt you just as badly as you hurt me. And I don't mean in the cell, V. I mean after. Something weak died inside of me when you tortured me. I didn't mind losing that. But losing you was...was like losing the strongest piece of myself. It felt like a piece of who I am was ripped away. I never felt pain like that before, V. And I wanted you to feel even a fraction of what that was like."
"If it is any consolation to you, you were wildly successful in that endeavor," V answered softly. There was no hostility, no resentment in his words. He said it like a man simply commenting on the weather. It hurt her heart.
Evey took a small step forward, frowning. V did not move, but she could feel the weight of his gaze as he studied her. "I was too foolish to realize that in hurting you, I'd also be hurting myself. You're a part of me. Damnit, you've always been a part of me," she said, finally tearing her gaze from his as she rubbed at her eyes. They were dry but oh how they burned.
When she finally looked back up at him, V was simply staring at her, his thoughts hidden by the mask. He didn't speak, didn't even seem to be breathing.
"Are you hearing me, V? I said I lied. You asked me to look you in the eye and tell you it was too late. I did, and it was a lie," Evey said, exasperated. She hated that she couldn't see his face, read his expression, have even an inkling as to what he might be thinking.
"Yes, Evey. I've heard you," he answered. The rich tenor of his voice was soft, gentle. "Confession of a lie usually results in the revealing of a truth."
"You...what?" She blinked at him.
"There is no sight more beautiful in all the world than to watch the freedom in your eyes when you stand for what you believe in. I've always thought it to be so, even when the words were not ones I wanted to hear," V explained as he stepped closer. "Say it, Evey. Speak your truth."
"I..." She faltered. He waited.
Evey took a deep breath, and finally let the dam of emotion break. "I love you. Damn you, V! I love you! Since the moment in the alley and every moment since. It isn't too late. It never was...it never could be. You're everything I never thought I'd find and I'm so tired of being without you. I should have told you in the tunnel. I should have told you a million times since. I can't...I couldn't go any longer letting you believe it wasn't true."
Whatever he had thought her confession would be, it certainly couldn't have been that. She heard the sharp exhale of his breath, saw the shift in his strong physique. His hands unclasped from behind him, and his arms fell at his sides. The still, Fawkes grinned.
"V?" She asked meekly. Oh God. Here it came...he was going to tell her that it couldn't be...that it was too late...
Suddenly, his arms were around her and she swept against his chest. "Oh Evey...oh, my Evey." V's voice was thick, her hearing muffled against the broad wall of his muscled chest. Even stunned, Evey could not help but melt against him. Her arms came up to circle him, bringing back memories of the night before and how strong and safe he'd felt as she'd laid next to him. She could hear his heart beating, constant and strong, could hear every breath he drew. He was so blissfully alive and whole and...hers.
"You had me scared that it was too late," she murmured.
"Never, Evey. It could never be too late for you. I would have waited a lifetime for just one moment with you in my arms again," V whispered. She could feel his breath through her hair. "I'm sorry that I caused you to think that. I've never...no one has ever said those words to me before. I...I did not think that they could be said for a man like me. I was...I am stunned."
Evey's heart clenched painfully. She could not imagine what it would have been like for him. To never have been loved. "It should be been said, she whispered. "I should have said it sooner. I'm sorry that I didn't."
V held her for a long while. Neither of them spoke, and she could sense that he was struggling to gain control over his emotions. She let him, simply breathing him in, feeling him, reveling in his nearness. When he slowly pulled back, Evey looked up at him. His gloved hands rose, and he took her face between them.
"I know what I did to you was wrong, Evey," he began.
"V, we don't have to revisit this..." she interjected, trying to shake her head. His grip tightened slightly, stilling her movement.
"Please. I...I have waited so long to say this. I must." His voice was tight, the plea behind it naked and raw.
"Okay, V. Alright." She whispered.
"Evey, I was so narrow minded, so focused on my goal that I couldn't see just how heinous it truly was. What was done to me was hideous...but what I did to you was worse, because I cared for you. I was nothing to them, just a body to experiment on. You...you were everything to me, and I hurt you so." V said in a rush, as if he feared she might disappear before he could lay out what was weighing so heavily on his heart.
"V, I've forgiven it. You're a man who's been through things that can cloud your logic. You wanted me to be free. And I am," she told him.
"There...there could have been another way. I will forever hate myself for putting you through those days. And your freedom was not quite the only reason behind my actions," He whispered.
"Then why?" Evey asked. "What was it, V?"
"I knew I would not be with you in the end. I needed to know you could live through what they would do to you if you were captured,"
He murmured. "It was selfish of me to plan to leave you, when all along I could have stayed to protect you instead."
Evey watched him for a long moment. "V, what would you on have done if I hadn't come to you that night? Would you have still pulled the lever?"
"Yes," he said flatly.
"Would you have gotten off of the train?" She pressed.
"No." He admitted.
"Then why did you save yourself after all? Why did you find safety?" To think, she had almost failed to make good on her promise. She had almost not gone to him that night. One decision, like a domino, tipping to put all the rest into motion.
"Knowing that you cared if I lived did astounding things for my self preservation." V explained softly. "Eric Finch did a very admirable job of hiding you from the resistors. I did not find you until that night, shortly before Christmas. I knew you were alive, of course. Your image was everywhere. But even with my skill, you were lost to me."
"I didn't know, V. I would have never put you on that train if I had known you were alive," Evey told him gently. "I'm sorry for that. For any pain I caused..."
"You mustn't think that, Evey," he said sharply. "Even I am not sure how I was able to survive. I recall very little of those moments."
She fell silent, looking up into the face of Fawkes. She tried to imagine what could have been done to him. What treatments, what heartless experiments, that had made him more than human.
But no. That was wrong. Those are Larkhill had done unspeakable acts. They had tortured him, changed him. But V was still human. He still felt pain, still felt emotion. They had not robbed him of that. She knew by the stroke of his gloved hand on her cheek, the shaky breaths he took. For all that he was, V was a man. A broken one, whose pieces might never fit right again, but a man. Not a monster.
"I'll always hate what they did to you," she said softly. "But I'll never hate that somehow, it brought you back to me."
They held each other for a long while. Neither spoke, and neither needed to. There was peace in confession, and they both reveled in its sweetness. Eventually, however, Evey's empty stomach made its presence known. With laugh, V had guided her gently to the table. Ravenous, Evey had delighted in his cooking just as she had the first time he'd fed her. V, of course, took no nourishment. She guessed that to eat, he would have to remove his mask--something he would never do.
They spoke of light topics for a while after she finished, but there was no way to deny the inevitable. The hour was late and Gordon would be worried.
"I need to go back to Gordon, V." She said softly.
He nodded, and she thought she could hear a sigh escape him. "I know."
"He knows where I am. But he will worry if I haven't contacted him." She added.
"And rightly so," V agreed.
"I would very much like it if you went with me, V." She stated. "Gordon and Dom know you're alive. I can ring them first to let them know we're coming so they can keep the others away."
He didn't answer for a long time.
"Evey...you must understand that I am not a particularly social man," he said slowly. "I do not blame you for telling them that I'm alive. But I'm not sure that I can do what you're asking of me."
"V, I understand your apprehension. I do. But I'm not asking for blood...only you to come and talk to them. I expect I'll be spending a bit of time with you, and I know that it will ease Gordon's mind if he just met you," Evey explained. "I wouldn't ask if I didn't think it was important."
V's broad chest rose and fell with a deep sigh. "Alright. I'll argue you no further, Evey. But my visit must be brief. Please," he said finally. "Are you sure you would not want blood? I would give that freely."
Evey rolled her eyes, chuckling lightly at him. "Such theatrics. We'll stay no longer than you're comfortable with. I have to collect a few things and figure out what's next," Evey said softly. She went to him, bending to brush a kiss against his porcelain cheek.
V stiffened, and Evey thought she heard his breath hitch. She could not hide the small smile that curved her lips. His head tilted up, and she could feel the weight of his gaze on her. "Your lips could convince me to most anything. Let us go then, and have done with it." He said finally.
"Thank you, V." Though the urge to curl back into his arms was strong, Evey knew if she allowed that to happen they would never be on their way. So instead, she took his hand, and together they made their way toward the world above.
Chapter 13: Chapter 13
Though their route was careful, designed by V himself so many years ago to provide concealment, it was not entirely successful. The rebels successes had been many, but there was still danger in the city... and that danger had had its eyes on Evey for a very long time in the form of a man dressed in blue.
She had thwarted him on many occasions. Heavily guarded, getting close to her was nearly impossible. The inaugural attack had been designed to kill, to shake up the rebel's faith in their leaders. It had also been the avenue in which the man in blue had hoped would lead to Evey Hammond's live capture. He had been close, so close to getting her in his grip.
And then, the unthinkable had happened. The unbelievable.
A man in black, wearing the face of Fawkes, had swooped in. His speed had been frighteningly fast, unnatural, and effective. Though the man in blue had followed, Fawkes had been faster. He had disappeared into an alley, but his direction was unmistakable. He'd been headed to the Tunnels...the very place it had been rumored that the terrorist V had occupied.
And so, he'd waited. And eventually, waiting had paid off. Evey Hammond had returned to her friend Gordon, and though she'd been out of reach, the man in blue hadn't minded. The possibility of the terrorist being alive and well was just too enticing, too perfect to risk. Evey, once the target, was now simply a means to an end if his suspicion about V was correct.
He'd followed her on her drunken path all the way to the terrorist's front door. It had been stupidly easy, and if he had been an impatient man, he would have simply grabbed her along her way. But waiting paid off.
The terrorist, the one that had ruined everything, was alive.
The man in blue had figured as much when she entered the cavern. It was confirmed, however, when he saw both of them emerge the next day, cautious but hand in hand. How sweet, he thought. Enjoy it while you can.
The man in blue smiled broadly. The Boss would be mighty happy with this conclusion, and it seemed things were finally going in their favor. He turned back the way he came, thinking of the praise he would get and the eventual victory that would surely follow.
Chapter 14: Chapter 14
Traveling to Gordon's residence took longer than necessary, but was uneventful. V was quite sure that they had not been spotted, or at least, recognized for who they were. When they arrived, the grounds were quiet...a strange appearance, but it proved Gordon had made well on his promise to keep their arrival as secret as possible. V felt a surge of uncertainty as Evey led him around the back, feeling exposed and vulnerable. They entered through the back, stepping into a deserted kitchen. Evey shut and latched the door, then motioned for V to follow her.
They were being watched. V could feel it, despite the vacancy of their surroundings. Cameras, he surmised, but even those he could not see without further study.
"It's alright, V." Evey said softly, as if she could sense his apprehension.
Eventually they came to stop in front of a door, which Evey tapped lightly before opening. Inside, Dominic Stone was seated on a plush chair in the corner of the room. As they entered, he rose, smiling broadly. Gordon was behind his desk, a handful of papers gripped between his fingers. The moment he saw them, the papers were abandoned into a pile. Gordon stood, immediately stepping around his desk to engulf Evey in a tight embrace. "Oh Evey, how I worried for you!" His voice was muffled against her hair, but V could very much hear the relief in his voice. "You should have let me give you a lift, you crazy woman!"
Evey was smiling. "I know, Gordon. I'm sorry I scared you. I wasn't thinking too clearly."
Gordon released her, shaking his head as his gaze shifted to V. "If you have liquor in your home, best hide it. 'Not thinking clearly,' she says! As if she hadn't drank herself silly."
V shifted uncomfortably. How peculiar that he should feel so comfortable in the company of those he intended to kill, but in friendly circumstance, he was at a loss.
Dominic stepped forward, reaching out a hand. "Hello V. We've met...sort of...but unofficially, and in the wrong sides. I'm Dominic."
V reached and took Dom's hand in a firm shake. Yes, yes they had met. And if not for Evey, Dom very well might have stopped the whole thing before it had begun. V admired him. "Yes, I do remember. Good to meet you, Dominic."
Evey patted Dom on the back. "I already apologized for that little smack on the back of the head," she said, grinning.
"I'd not anger her too badly if I were you," Dom said with a chuckle. "At least, when she has a weapon."
"Noted," V said, a faint grin hidden behind the ever laughing face of Fawkes.
Gordon extended his hand. V took it with his own gloved one, peering inquisitively at the man who was now the country's leader. V thought there could not have been a better choice made by the people, had thought that from the start. Who better to lead a country than a man that knew the true horrors of the reign before him? Who better to never let it happen again?
"V," Gordon said softly. "I had always wished to meet you, and despaired when I had learned of your...demise. How wonderful it is that I now have this chance, for I wish to thank you. For beginning the revolution, for putting the war in motion. I shall never forget when I first saw your broadcast. It was the first time, I think, that I had felt hope in all of my adult life. Hope for a new life. For a new beginning. So thank you, V...for everything."
V, a great lover of language and of words, found himself with an utter lack following such heartfelt gratitude. Gordon was thanking him...but it was Gordon himself who deserved the praise. He had suffered, sacrificed, and rose above it all to lead the country. He had been there for Evey when V couldn't...wouldn't. V had never had much cause for gratitude, but he did feel it for Gordon, the same as he felt it for Eric Finch.
"I'm sorry I could not save you the night they came for you," he said finally. "It is I who must thank you. You've done wondrous things for this country...and you have kept Evey safe. It is a debt that cannot be repaid."
Gordon released his hand, smiling warmly. "Think nothing of it, friend."
The awkwardness of the visit melted away after that. The four of them went to the lounge, where Gordon served champagne and small sandwiches. V respectfully declined, unable to consume anything with his mask on. He did not hunger and was not thirsty, anyway. A long time ago, he had noticed that he did not require nourishment quite as frequently as others. Just another piece of his humanity that Larkhill had stolen.
The conversation was light, and drew on deep into the afternoon. V found he was actually enjoying himself in the company of these two good men. It was a good feeling, albeit strange. Further, Evey looked so happy...V was certain he would do anything she wanted, so long as she looked just as happy as she did, right there in that moment.
Eventually, and quite understandably, talk turned toward the revolution. "We must keep pushing," Gordon said. "They mustn't think their attack has weakened our resolve. Our militia forces are strengthening, but people are scared."
"Can you blame them? After all they've been through?" Evey sighed. "It won't help to have them see militarization. They've seen that their whole lives."
"But it would help to see unity," Dom said quietly.
"We have help from neighboring countries. We've been transparent about our humanitarian aids to America's crisis and our plans at establishing a fair government," Gordon said. "They must know we are here for them."
"Yes, we've been transparent about most things," Dominic agreed. "But not all things." His gaze came to a rest on V.
V shook his head. "My part in the public eye came to an end a year ago, Dominic."
"Just think about it, V! If they knew you were alive, it would renew their hope. You made them fearless, you are the very face of the revolution!" Dom persisted.
"No," V said quietly. "Evey is, since my demise."
Evey shook her head. "I made a poor substitute for you, V." She looked at him, frowning. "I don't want you to have to take the spotlight again...but in a way, Dom has a point. If the people hear that you're alive from anyone else but us, they'll feel lied to. Betrayed. It will make us look no different than the others."
"Minus the torture and insane laws," Gordon mumbled. "It is a good point, however."
V was frowning deeply behind the mask of Fawkes. He could see the logic, but he had sworn he was done with his mission. What he'd been willing to do to Evey in the name of the revolution had awoken him to just how ruthless he'd been about his beliefs. He'd been willing to stop at nothing...nothing...ensure his success. If he got back into the war, he feared the old rage, the old drive for revenge would take him over completely again.
Evey, he knew, would be at risk.
"Please," he said finally. "I do understand the point you've all made. But I...I can be dangerous. Even when I might not mean to be. It's best that I have no influence on the government you are building."
Gordon was frowning. "V, what danger could you possibly be? You've gotten your revenge. There is no longer anyone left that could possibly be at risk."
"He means me." Evey said softly. "Don't you, V?"
V stared at her. If she could see his eyes-his true eyes- she would see just how scared for her he was. He never wanted to hurt her...never, but he couldn't guarantee that he wouldn't, could he? "Yes," he said simply.
"We'll see to it that she's protected," Dom promised. "You must know we'd do everything to keep Evey safe. It's been our priority since the beginning."
He could never tell them the truth. That it wasn't the resistors that he feared harming her...but himself. He couldn't tell that Larkhill had created a monster, just as Evey had said so long ago. And while he'd conquered much, something so simple as relationships was foreign to him. Before Evey, he'd been nothing more than a seething mess of hatred. That had been resolved...but he was still the man that had tortured her. He hated himself for it...and he scared himself, too. But these things were not something V knew how to give voice to...especially to two men he did not know very well.
"Please think about it, V. It would give our people so much hope." Evey said gently, placing her hand on his knee.
V remained silent for a long while, before finally looking up at her. Her beautiful eyes were trained on him, and there was a gentle smile resting on her lips. Oh, his Evey...his trusting, hopeful Evey. "I must think," V said finally. "Let this rest until after the holiday. Christmas is not far away, and I expect if I choose to reveal myself, there will be a backlash from the resistors. Let our people enjoy these next weeks. I will provide you an answer by the dawn of the new year."
Dom let out a sigh of relief, as if the matter was already closed and V had agreed. Clearly, he thought the odds of V going through with it were good.
Gordon nodded, as if that's what he expected. "That is a fair request. We must be careful, however, that the wrong person does not lay eyes on you in that time."
V shrugged the wide berth of his shoulders. "Luck would have it that I am not a particularly social man." He said, not unkindly. "I will stay as concealed as possible."
"Good," Gordon said with a smile.
The evening drew closer, and when Gordon eventually asked if they would like to dine with them at supper, he and Evey decided to take their leave. Evey hugged both men, and V shook their hands.
"It was good to meet you, V." Dom said with a smile.
"Ah, much better than good. It was great to finally shake the hand of the man who put all of this in motion." Gordon chimed in.
"Thank you both. Thank you for everything," V said, and he meant every word.
That evening, V cooked a dinner of scallops simmered in a creamy butter sauce, pasta, and side of thick toasted garlic bread. Evey had raved about the meal, begging him to try some. V simply told her he would take his meal later, and that he enjoyed watching her enjoy herself. Evey had stopped pressing the issue, but he could clearly see it aggravated her that he refused to remove his mask in front of her. He was sorry for that, but it was just how things needed to be.
"Where did you learn to cook like this?" She asked after she had emptied her plate.
"I have always been a man with much time on my hands, Evey. Revenge, you could say was my job, but I have many hobbies. Cooking is just one of them," he told her.
She was smiling. "So mysterious," she said. "Cooking, dancing, gardening, fencing...and yet, there's more? You do know how to keep yourself busy."
V shrugged. "When you have little need for sleep, there are many vacant hours to fill."
"It sounds wonderful...and yet...lonely, too." She remarked.
"Yes," V agreed. "Quite lonely. You are the only person who has ever been inside these walls...and your company has always been a blessing."
Evey reached out and squeezed his gloved hand. "Well, those lonely days are over, I think." With a smile, she rose and collected her plate. "I'll clean up. It's only fair after you cooked such a delightful meal."
V rose as well. "Normally, I would protest...yet I do need to shower."
Evey put her plate in the sink, then picked up the one she had made up for him. "And eat." She said sternly, pushing it into his hands.
"Yes...yes, I will eat as well." V promised. "You'll be alright?"
Evey simply stood on her tip toes, pressing her lips against the smooth ones of Fawkes. "Of course," she murmured. "Don't worry so much."
Though she couldn't see it, V was smiling as well. He took leave of her, traveling back to his quarters with his plate in hand. After removing his mask, he took his plate and sat on the edge of the bed to eat. The food was still warm, and he ate it all. Refreshed, he made his way to the bathroom that adjoined his quarters to undress.
There were no mirrors in this room, not overlooked but unwanted. V was not fond of reminding himself of his looks; seeing his own scarred flesh in the shower was plenty to remind him that he looked less human than he felt. He undressed, careful of the last few compression layers he wore to sooth his damaged skin. Nude, he started the shower and the ritual of his cares.
As V rubbed his specialized soap over his flame ravaged body, he couldn't help but wonder what Evey would think if she ever saw him in such a way. The thick, knotted scar tissue, the angry marks where the fire had burned clear to the bone. Where the burns had been lesser, his flesh was shiny and taut. Even his hands lacked normal lines and fingerprints. Some of his flesh was deadened to touch, the nerves destroyed. Other parts suffered hypersensitivity, where even the slightest pressure brought on a wince of a pain. There was no part of him that had been spared. His was not the body of a normal man, and the sight of it repulsed him. Evey did not deserve such a monstrous appearance...she deserved to be able to look upon her partner with attraction. V knew intimacy was a natural part of any relationship, but it was not something he thought he would be able to offer.
Best not to think of that. He could already feel his anxiety over the matter blooming, and now was not the time to engage in that.
When he was finished showering, V began to apply the creams and lotions that made wearing such ruined flesh more comfortable. There was a faint medicinal scent, and V immediately felt the cooling sensation beginning to seep into his pores. When he was finished, he dressed quickly, wanting to rid himself of the sight of his own body. His mask and wig were fixed back into place, concealing the rest of him. When he emerged, he found Evey curled on the couch, watching the Count of Monte Cristo. He had not watched it since he'd seen it with her. Oh, how much had changed since that day.
"Welcome back," Evey said, smiling at him. "I thought we'd have ourselves a movie night. I know we've both already seen it...but I wanted to make a better memory."
V faltered, stricken by her beauty, her reality, and the moment. That he didn't deserve her was a mantra that played in his heart.
"V?" She asked, her smile fading. "Are you alright?"
Giving himself a mental shake, V nodded. "Yes, yes. Quite fine, actually." He moved to the couch, taking a seat next to her. "I haven't watched this since the last time...with you."
"I watched it while we were apart. I have a feeling it won't make me feel sad this time, though." She said.
V nodded. "Those days are over, Evey. Regardless of the conversation we had today, I have faith that things will continue to progress until this country is healed. I will not succumb to my previous ways." It was a promise just as much to himself as it was to her. He could not risk hurting her, not ever again. No matter what that entailed.
"I trust you, V." She murmured.
"I've never deserved your trust, Evey. But thank you. I'll not betray it this time." He told her.
Evey shook her head. "You've deserved a lot better than you've ever gotten. Eventually, you'll realize that." She curled against his side, burrowing her way under his arm. V stiffened momentarily...it was a strange sensation, to have someone so close to him...but then allowed himself to wrap his arm around her slim waist.
"You have no idea how many nights I laid awake, wishing for just this," Evey said on the tail of a happy sigh.
"Yes, I do." He murmured. Her hair shone against the dull light. V allowed himself to touch a strand, watching fascinated as the curl coiled around his finger. "For I have dreamt the same."
She looked up at him, a dreamy little smile on her face. "Will you sleep next to me tonight, V?"
He thought of the night before...of Evey's head on his chest, her arm draped over his stomach. She had looked like an angel, peaceful and perfect and utterly untouchable. He remembered the fresh scent of her hair, and how badly he wanted to stroke his fingers through those curls. He'd been able to feel her curves pressed against his side, soft and foreign in contrast with his own hard and angular figure. V had been ready for sleep, needed it in fact...but it had not come easy. He'd been far too lost in the reality of her presence to want to close his eyes. Eventually, exhaustion had won, and he'd known a couple of hours of rest.
"I slept some last night," he said. "I don't sleep quite as much as I used to. But I would be happy to try," he answered. Though being next to Evey, with her body curled around him, gave him lustful thoughts, he simply wasn't strong enough to deny her request."Thank you," she said.
"Gratitude is never needed when it involves being close to you," he told her truthfully.
She didn't make it to the end of the movie, dozing instead with her head on his chest. V remained still for hours after, simply watching her as she slept. He wondered what she dreamt of. He wondered how a man such as him could be allowed such an angel. Most of all, he wondered if it would last...if it could last.
Chapter 15: Chapter 15
The weeks to follow were quiet enough, with no offensive attacks from the resistors. The general mood of the public lightened in preparation of the coming holiday, and for once, life seemed good. Dominic was cautious, feeling that the resistors might simply be regrouping. Evey and Gordon agreed, but secretly, she was optimistic that they had seen the worst.
V had said nothing more of Dominic's suggestion, and she had not pressed him. It was a decision he alone could make, and she would support whatever he chose. Instead, she simply enjoyed his company and the time they spent together in the Shadow Gallery. Every day had been magical, from their long conversations to dancing to the music from the Wurlitzer. Though he'd seemed strained at first, V had seemed to relax as he grew accustomed to having her living with him of her own free will.
With Christmas fast approaching, Evey had been spending more time with Dominic, trying desperately to find information on just who V had been when he'd been taken into custody at Larkhill. She thought that his identity would make the perfect gift, but the more she sifted through the documents recovered from various detention centers, the more discouraged she became.
"It's very likely they destroyed all of it," Dominic had said one evening as she'd sat cross legged amidst a pile of weathered papers.
"But they had considered V a success. They would have wanted to recreate that, Dom." Evey said, frustrated.
"He did a pretty good job of blowing the place up. Maybe what they had was destroyed," Dom suggested. "Eric did search pretty heavily. There was nothing, and no one wanted to talk."
Evey shook her head. "There had to have been backup documents. They were cruel, but they weren't stupid."
"Have you thought that perhaps V wouldn't like to know?" Dom asked. "He's been who he is for a lot of years. A new identity might be kind of...shocking."
"Wouldn't you want to know?" She asked.
"I don't think I would." Dom responded, shrugging. "Whoever he was is gone. Seeing it on paper won't bring that back."
Evey had had to admit that Dom was right about that. Though she hadn't given up the search, Evey had resigned herself to instead making V's first Christmas that he wasn't alone a memorable one. It was hard enough to do, considering the Gallery still needed to be hidden, but piece by piece she managed to smuggle in enough decorations to make the place cheery. She surprised him one afternoon when he returned from one of his rare outings, the entire living quarters lit up with lights and garland. It had been impossible to get a large Christmas tree inside while remaining inconspicuous, so she had opted for a small 3 foot artificial one instead. She'd left it undecorated, waiting anxiously for his return.
When he walked into the room, he stopped cold in his tracks. His mask tilted upward as he looked at all of the sparkling lights, and then shifted when he looked at her.
"Do you like it?" She asked, suddenly feeling self conscious about the whole thing.
V was silent as he walked to her. All apprehension melted away, however, when his strong arms wrapped around her and he whispered fiercely in her ear, "I love it."
The rest of the evening was spent listening to Christmas music as they decorated their tiny tree, baked cookies, and cuddled together with the lights down low, simply watching the Christmas lights sparkle in the dimness.
"This has been one of the best nights of my life," V said quietly.
"Mine too," Evey agreed. "I loved Christmas as a child. After I lost my family...it was never a big deal. Until now. I'm glad to be sharing it with you, V."
"As am I. Thank you, Evey. You've given me a priceless gift tonight." V responded. He was stroking her hair gently, his voice thoughtful.
"You never celebrated?" She asked, watching the way the lights played against the pale features of Fawkes.
He shook his head. "Never. It was another day for me, and nothing more."
That hurt her heart. She hated to think of V alone on Christmas, hidden away in the Gallery. "Well, this Christmas will be one to remember. I'll make my mother's yams, and roast a goose. It was my fathers favorite." She planned, her excitement growing.
V's hand stilled against her hair. "What would you like as a gift this holiday, Evey?"
She looked up at him, feeling his own mysterious gaze directed at her. What did she want? She wanted only him. It was not lost on Evey that since her confession of love, V had never said those words in return. She suspected it was true anyway, for he certainly acted like he did...but it would be nice to hear anyway. To be sure that his confession had not simply been that of a dying man. Moreover...she wanted him. Yearned for him, even. They had shared kisses, yes, but she wanted him completely. She had fantasized about what it would be like to have his hands- his bare hands- on her skin, his true lips on hers. She wanted to be able to make him feel how much she loved him, to touch and be touched and show him what it was to feel pleasure after all of his pain.
She shifted, aware of his curiosity as he watched her. Evey straddled his lap, her arms looped loosely around his neck. "Just you," she said softly. "Only you." Her lips pressed against the cold, unfeeling ones of his mask.
She heard his breath hitch, but he did not try to stop her. In fact, his hands rose to grasp her waist, gloved fingertips drawing small circles on her sides. Encouraged, Evey trailed her kisses to his neck, where only a think layer of black compression fabric separated them. Her body was pressed tightly against his, and the feel of his muscled frame delighted her. He was such a powerful man...and yet, he touched her so gently.
V's hands trailed up her sides, and creating heated little shivers down her spine. Evey let out a breathy moan, arching into his touch. Her hips moved of their own accord it seemed, rubbing against the hardness of his arousal down below. V moaned, one hand tentatively coming around to cup her breast. Evey groaned his name, arching her back as she felt his fingers find the bud of her nipple through her shirt.
"I want you," she gasped, her hand reaching to rest against the one that cupped her breast. "Please V."
His motion stilled. She could feel his stare, burning from behind the obscure screen of his mask. "I can't," he said finally. His breath was harsh, and judging from the swell she felt pushing instantly between her thighs, she thought he very much could.
"You mean you won't," she said.
V took his hand from her breast, cupping her cheek instead. "Evey, you must know I would give you all the world if you asked. But this..." he paused, letting out a deep breath. "This is something I cannot. You don't know what you are asking for."
"I do," she argued. "I know exactly what I'm asking for. I want to share this with you, V."
"I'll not soil you with such an experience," he muttered.
"Soil me? Soil me? Is that what you think it would be?" He had looked away, but Evey grasped the chin of Fawkes and forced him to look at her. "I don't care what you look like under there, and I have a feeling the reality of it is much better than you seem to think. I didn't fall in love with your face, or your body. I fell in love with your tenacity, your strength, your sensitivity. I fell in love with you, V...and that means all of you."
He was silent for a long time. Long enough that she almost got up and went to her room in a huff because she just couldn't get through to him. "I need time," he said finally. "I desire you, Evey. I always have. But you must understand...they made me a monster, from the inside out. I could not bear to...to see revulsion on your pretty face." His index finger stroked her cheek. "I hear what you say. Just give me time to believe it myself."
"You are not a monster," she whispered. "And I would never be repulsed. Nothing between us could ever be anything more than beautiful." Evey pulled him close, hugging him. "But I can wait for you, V."
His muscled arms circled her, returning the embrace. "Thank you," he breathed.
Evey simply held him. She hated that he thought she could ever be repulsed by him, that he thought himself too ravaged for her affection. But she would be patient, and try to guide him toward the knowledge that no part of him could ever be ugly to her.
Another insistent part of her mind, the part that would keep her up late into the night even as he held her, wondered if the problem wasn't quite what he said. That maybe it was her. Was he having second thoughts? Was his confession of love not entirely truthful? Yes, he let her stay with him. Yes, he seemed to enjoy her company. And yes, he had given her some of his unfeeling kisses. He was a complicated man, but surely if he saw no future with her he would have said so.
Or so she hoped.
Chapter 16: Chapter 16
Three days before Christmas Eve, V found himself wondering about Evey as he prepared a thick red wine sauce for the pasta they would have for dinner. The change in her moods had not been dramatic, would have been barely noticeable if V was not simply so in tune to her. Her eyes didn't seem quite as bright, almost sad sometimes when she looked at him. Though she still smiled often, it didn't quite meet her eyes. Her appetite suffered, and though she still raved over his cooking, she pushed more food around her plate than she ate.
At first, he thought it may be the stress of her social position, combined with the ever constant threat of attack. But those things had been present from the beginning, so it was not likely. What then could be bothering her? Was it that Christmas was coming, and Eric Finch was gone? That was plausible, he supposed...but that didn't seem quite right, either. She had mourned him in front of V before...why now would be begin to withdraw to do it? Was it nostalgia over her lost family? Also possible, but they had been gone a long time. With most things what bothered her, Evey reached out to him. Now, it seemed, she was keeping him mildly at arm's length.
He thought of the night they had watched the Count of Monte Christo...when she had straddled his lap, and let him touch her. That moment had felt like a dream to V...to feel her lips, so close to her skin. To feel her touch. To feel her thighs pinning his own, her hips bearing down on the inevitable arousal she had stirred. The effort it took to deny her had been monumental; if not for his shame, he would have taken her right there on the sofa. He had hated taking his hands off of her, and had never wished so much in his life that he looked like a normal man. Evey had seemed to understand his reluctance, and she had still asked him to sleep next to her each night.
Was it possible, then, that she may be having second thoughts? V knew he was not an easy man to accept, let alone to love. He was emotionally and physically guarded, and the baggage he carried was a burden for even he to bear. Perhaps Evey had come to realize that she didn't want a life with a broken recluse whom she could not even touch Who would not even touch her.
He wanted to touch her. He wanted to let go, to give in, to let his need for her take over and to forget all the rest. But to V, Evey was the picture of perfection. She was radiant, pristine...so beautiful, it almost hurt to look at her. He felt that touching her would be like a tarnish on that perfection. She deserved so much more.
Troubled, V turned down the heat on the stove to let the sauce simmer. Of all the likely problems, the last seemed most probable. Could he stand to lose her again? V suspected he could, if only because he must. Evey's health and happiness meant everything to him. If she had come to her senses and decided she did not want him, he knew he could never blame her. He'd let her go...though his heart would remain hers for all the rest of his days.
Earlier, Evey had claimed fatigue and had headed to her room for a nap. V had promised to wake her for dinner, and thought perhaps it would be the right time to open discussion on the change of her moods. To let her know that if she wanted to leave, that it was alright. She did not need to feel obligation toward him. The thought of that conversation was unpleasant at best, so V thought perhaps a shower might be in order to help ease some of his tension.
V passed by her bedroom, hesitating briefly. He thought about checking on her, but ultimately decided against it. It would be best not to disturb her...her sleep had been restless during the night. Silently, he passed down the hallway and into his own room.
V's senses had been heightened since the experiments at Larkhill. He relied on them heavily, and very little escaped his notice. As it was, V was too submersed in his own dark thoughts to notice anything out of place when he shut the door behind him and headed to the bathroom to undress.
Only then did he finally realize he was not alone.
Evey was in the bathtub, sunk into frothy bubbles up to her shoulders. Her eyes flew open, and her lips formed the perfect 'o' of surprise.
Startled, V immediately turned away, giving her his back. "I...I apologize, Evey. I was not aware this room was occupied." He could feel his face blazing with heat.
He heard water shift as she moved. "No...V, you don't have to go. I'm covered, and besides...you've seen me anyway," She let out a rueful little chuckle. "I'm sorry I used your tub. I felt like soaking, and my room only has a shower. I was...I was just thinking. And I wanted to talk to you."
That hurt. Yes, he had seen her nude. But there had never been anything sexual in undressing her for torture. His mind had been so focused on the mission, he simply had not seen her body as Evey. He had seen her how he had once been...a prisoner. "We can have a conversation when you are clothed. This is hardly the place," V tried to sound stern, but failed miserably.
"Just...just sit with me awhile, okay?" Evey asked. Her voice shook, and though his back was turned, V knew she was very close to crying. "I promise you won't see anything."
Torn, V hesistated. "It cannot wait until you've finished bathing?" He asked finally.
She acted as if she hadn't heard him. "Was it a lie?" Her voice sounded very soft, and it broke at the end. Tears. V had witnessed her cry due to his very own hand often enough that he could hear them in her words.
He closed his eyes tightly, resisting the urge to simply flee the room. "I've told you to more lies, Evey."
"That's...that's not what I mean..." She sounded like she was fighting hard against those tears, but they still shook her voice.
"What, then? What lie are you accusing me of?" He asked, completely bewildered.
"In the station," she said. "After you were shot. Was it a lie?"
He didn't have to ask what she meant. He remembered that moment with vivid clarity. The pain of the many bullets that had torn through him had paled in comparison to knowing that he was never going to see Evey again. It had seemed wrong to exit the world with his truth unspoken, but would he have given it voice if he'd known he would somehow survive?
He knew he wouldn't have. The risk of rejection was simply too high of a cost.
But it was not a lie. Not then, and certainly not now. Was it any wonder that she would eventually bring up that moment? He should have been expecting it, but it still rocked him to the core.
"Evey..." he began.
"It's okay if it was. I know people say things when...well, it was an emotionally charged moment. I swear I can take it...I just...I just need to know, okay V? Please?" She said in a rushed, miserable voice.
All the fight came out of him at the sound of her pain. V turned. She was staring at him, her dark eyes brimming, her lips trembling. Her hair was wet and hung in loose coils around her face. Her body was covered, yes, but it was far too easy to imagine the soft and slippery flesh that the bubbles concealed.
But V did not stop.
He walked to the side of the tub and sat down on the edge, next to her. Evey stared up at him questioningly.
"Is that what this has been about?" He asked gently. "You've withdrawn some. I had become quite sure you've changed your mind about the partner you've chosen."
Her eyes widened, as if in shock. "You think I've changed my mind? V, I poured my heart out to you...and you...you said nothing in return! You won't even touch me! If anyone's changed their mind, it's you!" She exclaimed. A single tear escaped, trekking down her cheek.
V could not stand the sight of her pain. He knew she was right. He knew he had remained guarded, and that it was a cowardly thing. He had been so focused on preserving his own emotions that he had failed to see how it was hurting hers. She had given herself to him in whole, and he had only offered a fraction in return. It was time for that to come to an end.
Before be could talk himself out of it, V removed one glove. He let it fall to the floor, and resisted the urge to immediately retrieve it. Slowly, so slowly he moved, raising his bare hand to her cheek. Evey's eyes remained trained on his mask, never once straying. V laid his bare palm against her cheek as if he were touching the world's most delicate treasure...and to his astonishment, she did not flinch. She did not shy away. V stroked his thumb across her skin, brushing away the fallen tear, sure, so sure that the feel of his rough scars would cause her to pull back. Instead, she did something he never would have expected...she put her own hand over his, nuzzling into his palm as her eyes closed. She let out a sigh-a happy sigh, instead of a gasp of horror.
"I've dreamt of you touching me," she whispered. "This is so much better."
"I am sorry I've made you doubt me," he said softly. "I've dreamt of this too. More than you can imagine."
Evey's eyes drifted open. V lowered , pressing the unfeeling lips of Fawkes against hers. He could feel pressure as Evey returned it, and then became aware that she was moving his hand. His rough skin moved down the column of her throat, past her collarbone, and into the bubbles that concealed her. V gasped when she pressed her naked breast into his palm, offering herself to him openly. It was so soft, slickened by the soap and water, and so warm. She arched her back as if pleading him to explore her further...and tentatively, he did. He kneaded her gently, his thumb making slow circles around her nipple. He drew closer and closer until finally the rough pad of his thumb traced over her pebbled bud. She made a soft sound of pleasure, her eyes drifting closed.
"Lower," she pled. "I want you to feel how much I want you."
V did not have to ask for clarification. He watched her for a long moment, reeling with disbelief. Finally, slowly, V slipped his hand beneath the water. His sleeve became soaked...but he did not notice.
Evey bit her bottom lip as her thighs fell open in invitation. "I wish I could see you," she whispered, reaching up to touch the cheek of his mask.
"You do. More clearly than anyone," he murmured as his fingers found her folds. Her flesh was slippery and softer than he ever could have dreamed. She cried out the moment he nudged into her seam, causing him to flinch. Surely his touch, his bare touch, must be grotesque on such exquisite suppleness...
She caught his wrist. "Don't stop," she said, holding him against her.
Like a man in a dream, V relaxed. That she would crave his touch was hard to believe, but when he parted her, he found her bud eager and waiting. He had never touched a woman in this way, at least not in his retrievable memory. Just how he knew what to do was a mystery; he let the instinct guide him, trusting that her soft gasps and moans meant he was doing just right.
He lavished attention on her most sensitive spot until she was actually writhing in the water, moaning his name and begging him to join her. "I need you, V. Please come in." She gasped.
While he simply could not give her that, V did take her invitation by slipping two fingers deep within her depths. Evey cried out, her desire laden voice echoing off the cavernous walls. "As you wish," he murmured against her ear, lightly thrusting into her eager body.
"Not what I...oh God, V..." she panted.
He curled his fingers forward, pushing her off the edge. Her body siezed on his questing fingers, spasming hard as her head fell back. She moaned his name again and again as she came, and only when she had been reduced to soft whimpers did he lean in close, nuzzling the wet strands of her hair. "Did that feel like a lie?" He murmured, no longer moving within her, only filling her.
The only sound was her soft, rapid breaths and the ripple of the water as she trembled.
"I have loved you from the moment I came upon you in a dark alley, a lifetime ago," He continued. "From that moment, and every moment on...I have been for you. I am sorry I have not conveyed it as I should...but rest assured, I love you. You are everything...everything."
V removed his fingers from her body, earning another whimper from her at his exit. A weaker man might have stripped away his clothing and joined her amidst the bubbles, would have taken what she had begged to give. But V's shame was stronger than his lust, and he knew he could not do such a thing.
When he looked at Evey again, he was mortified to see that there were silent tears streaming down her face. "Oh, Evey..." he stammered. "I am so sorry..." He leaned to retrieve his glove, certain that the sight of his grotesque hand was the issue.
She placed her hand on his forearm, shaking her head. "They are happy tears, V." She smiled, and her words rang true. "What you said was beautiful...and feeling you...really feeling you...was more perfect than I could have imagined. I love you too, V. And I'll never change my mind."
V paused, staring into her soft brown eyes. He did not know how he had deserved such an angel in his life...but oh, how he cherished her. "Nor will I," he said. "Though I dare say I have the better bargain." He slipped his glove back on, though he knew he would end up changing it shortly. His shirt as well, now that it was soaked up to the elbow. "Finish up when it pleases you. Dinner will be finished when you are done."
"Thank you," she said.
"No, Evey. Thank you. I shall try to be a better lover to you going forward. I am...still learning." He confessed as he stood.
"Well...I'm happy to teach," she replied with a smile.
V left her to finish her soak, knowing that the heated memory of her bath would follow him for much time to come.
Chapter 17: Chapter 17
V hummed quietly in the very early hours of Christmas Eve as he added the final details to Evey's gift. He wasn't entirely sure of the hour, but expected that she would be waking soon. He dipped his brush into the paint and added one last stroke to the canvas, then stood back to survey the piece. It was done, weeks of work brought finally to fruition. Finding a gift for Evey had proven to be difficult. V was not well versed in the art of gift giving, and Evey herself was not typical in what she wanted. Her tastes were simple, and while she appreciated the collections of fine art, jewels, and other things the Gallery held...she didn't fancy them for herself. V knew he would need to provide her with something more heartfelt than an expensive piece of jewelry or fine clothing...and so, he had turned to his own talents. The arts had always been a passion of his, be it theatrics, literature, music or art. He'd had many hours to perfect his skills, and painting had filled many lonely hours in his many years of solitude. He used this talent to craft what would hopefully be a gift that Evey would adore. He was surprisingly nervous that she wouldn't, of course...but he suspected that was normal enough when attempting to gift the love of one's life. After all, nothing he gave her would ever compare to the gift she'd given him when she offered him her heart.
V forced himself to set about the task of cleaning his brushes, knowing if he he didn't he would be compelled to agonize over the piece. He could not afford that time, for Christmas Eve was here and he and Evey had plans to spend the day with Dominic and Gordon. They would enjoy a meal together and spend time in each other's company without the involvement of politics. Afterward, he and Evey planned to watch old Christmas movies beneath the glowing lights of their modest Christmas tree. Excitement for a holiday was an entirely new experience for V, and he was thoroughly grateful to Evey for instilling it in him.
When his supplies were cleaned, V set about the task of getting himself ready for the day. He showered, then tended to his many scars with the various lotions that made wearing his skin less painful. He did his best to keep his mind from focusing on the wreckage of his body, but when he caught a glimpse of his unclothed frame in the mirror, he paused.
How could he offer the horrid landscape that was his body to someone as pristine, as utterly perfect, as Evey? Gnarled scars wound over almost every inch of his skin. The muscles beneath were hard and well-formed, but they did not compare to the horror of the angry red flesh that covered them. His face was a mere whisper of the the man he used to be, the only thing recognizable to him being the strong jawline and the color of his eyes. He didn't even look human...and that, he supposed, was fair. V was no longer human in the traditional sense. He looked every bit the monster that he fought so hard not to be.
Shamed, he dressed quickly. When his mask was firmly in place, he made his way to the kitchen, pushing thoughts of his unworthiness away in favor of thoughts of Evey. She had looked like an angel, curled up in his arms as she slept. Every ounce of torture he had ever sustained was worth those stolen moments in the dark with her. He would, in fact, relive each agonizing moment if he had to, so long as he knew in the end she would be his.
V was still in disbelief over the way their relationship had evolved in the recent days. Since the intimacy they'd shared the day he'd accidentally interrupted her bath, the nature of their nighttime routine had shifted. There was no way he could simply lie next to her in the dark without thinking of the heat between them, and every night she had reached for him. He still couldn't believe that she allowed him to touch her so intimately, but he was always eager to oblige. When she wished to offer pleasure in return, however...V had not been able to allow it. His clothes remained firmly in place, held there by the weight of shame. He knew it frustrated Evey to be on the receiving end without being allowed to express her own passion, and he hated himself for denying her. Yet each time he saw his naked reflection, it drove home the fact that he would never be the man she deserved. Not physically. The wreckage of his flesh was horrifying, and though he trusted her to the core, he could not find the courage to be naked in the truest sense in her presence.
V gathered the ingredients for waffles and began to cook, intent on providing his love with a hot breakfast. She was still getting used to real cooking, with fresh eggs and fresh milk and real butter. He had obtained real maple syrup for this event, and was looking forward to her reaction when she tried it. It was a hard ingredient to obtain, even for him...a special treat for a special day.
V had hoped the food would be done before she woke so that he could give her breakfast in bed, but Evey surprised him. She emerged from the hall wrapped tightly in a thick robe, rubbing at her eyes and yawning. When she saw him, a smile lit it up her features. "Merry Christmas Eve, V!" She exclaimed, coming over to wrap her arms around his waist. He leaned down to offer Fawkes' unmoving lips for her to kiss as he pulled her close.
"And a Merry Christmas Eve to you as well my darling," he murmured. It felt like a dream, saying those words with her held close in his arms. "How I've dreamt of mornings such as these."
"Mmm," she sighed. "Me too, V. This holiday is my favorite one to date." She grinned up at him, planting a kiss on the chin of his mask. "I can't say there's ever been a Christmas that I woke to such a delicious smell in the air."
V let her go so she could peer at his creation, sizzling alluringly in the waffle maker. "A special day should start out with a good meal," he commented. "Waffles, with all of the fixings."
Evey's eyes widened. "Waffles?" There was surprise in her voice. "I don't believe I've ever tried them."
"Ah, then you are in for a treat," V assured her. "They are similar to flapjacks, I suppose. But these are made with the freshest ingredients, all from scratch."
"You are far too good to me," Evey told him as she pulled a mug down from the cabinet. Tea was warmed in the pot on the stove, and she poured herself a cup. She'd finally stopped asking if she could pour him one too, understanding his need to keep his mask firmly in place.
The morning passed sweetly. Evey was just as enthralled with the syrup as he'd suspected she'd be, and when she'd finished eating, they moved to the sofa to watch the various Christmas specials being run on the telly. As usual, they paid little attention to the programs, instead enjoying each other's company with tender words and careless laughter. Eventually, Evey made her way to the bathtub in order to prepare for the festivities of the day. V did not require her gentle coaxing to follow him, and her bath took much longer than necessary as he kneeled at the side of the basin to explore her willing body. As before, she begged him to join her. As before, he declined but watched with eager rapture as she climbed the peak of pleasure at his fingertips.
"Will you ever realize that I want you...all of you?" She asked, when it was over.
"I realize that you think so," he answered. "And I also know you do not know what you are asking for."
Evey shook her head, sending water droplet splashing from her wet curls. "We'll fight about it later," she said, a faint smirk on her lips.
It was an argument they had often enough that she no longer looked at his refusal as as rejection. How he loved her and her forgiving spirit. "Indeed, we've got somewhere to be." He agreed. V left her to finish her bath in favor of readying the things they would need for their time with Gordon and Dominic.
Evey emerged a short while later, and the sight of her made V stop in his tracks. She was clothed in the very same green gown she had worn the night he'd watched her laugh beneath the lights with Eric Finch the year before. Her brown curls where swept up, pinned neatly by a pearl clasp. A dainty locket was strung around her neck, dancing at the divot of her collarbone. She had applied a bit of makeup, using it to enhance her beautiful features without appearing overdone. She was, in a word, exquisite.
V let out the breath he hadn't been aware he'd been holding. "My god, Evey..." he whispered. "You are a dream."
Color blossomed high on her cheeks, her smile demure and modest. "You are far too kind," she told him.
V stepped closer, watching the light of the room play upon the silken coils of her hair. She was so truly angelic. "No words could ever be kind enough for you," he assured her. "You look utterly ravishing...far too good for the likes of the Gallery. Shall we allow Gordon and Dominic the opportunity to appreciate you as well?"
Evey rolled her eyes, soft laughter escaping her glossed lips. "You really should think of seeing an eye doctor, V." She said as she shrugged into her coat. "But yes, I suppose we should be on our way. We wouldn't want to be late."
V picked up the bag that contained the packages for their friends, then offered his elbow to Evey. "Never, on both counts." He commented, a smile hidden beneath the mask as he led her to the door.
Chapter 18: Chapter 18
Supplied with a vehicle that had dark tinted windows, the trip to Gordon's was much less treacherous than traveling on foot. V was not entirely comfortable riding in a car, but it was a necessary evil with the many people milling about on the streets. He was in awe of the smiling faces and good cheer he saw, so unlike the days of oppression just a year ago. He had desperately hoped that his plan would bring change to the lives of many, but to see the fruitfulness of the endeavor was precious to him.
They were met at Gordon's door by security personnel and were ushered inside quickly to avoid detection. The foyer was artfully decorated, sparkling with festive lights and an impressive Christmas tree. Evey was smiling as she took it all in, and her happiness eased his tension. V followed her as they were led into the sitting room, where Gordon and Dominic were sipping drinks in front of a blazing fireplace.
"My friends!" Gordon exclaimed merrily, rising to engulf Evey in an embrace. "Happiest of holidays to you both!"
"And to you," V said when Gordon shifted to shake his hand. "Where shall I put these?"
Dominic looked at the sack of gifts they had brought, shaking his head. "You two didn't need to do that," he told them.
"I must agree...it is enough of a gift to spend this time together," Gordon commented, then pointed to small tree in the corner. "But over there, beneath that tree will be just fine."
The time passed with laughter and good cheer and Evey sipped drinks with Gordon and Dominic. V found himself more comfortable than he'd been at the last meeting, conversing freely and feeling like a normal man for the first time in his remembered life. Just a regular man, enjoying a holiday with his lover and his friends...what a wonder that was!
Eventually, they retired to the dining room, where an extravagant meal of roast goose and all of the fixings waited for them. V did not eat, nor was he inclined to, but he very much enjoyed the meal anyhow. The company was wonderful, and Evey looked radiantly happy to have this time with their friends without the pressing matters of her job. He learned much of Gordon and Dominic, and could plainly see the depth of their love for one another as they spoke. V could not help but feel a fierce pride that he had helped shape a world where their relationship could finally be accepted and possible.
When dinner was over, they returned to the sitting room for gifts. Gordon took the honor of passing them out, and V found himself shocked to have a neatly wrapped package set into his lap. He could not remember his life before Larkhill, but he knew that since that time, he had never received an actual, physical gift. He had never wanted for anything other than Evey herself, but the thought behind the decorative package touched him deeply.
He could feel Evey's eyes on him, and looked at her. There were tears shining brightly in her eyes, but she was smiling. She reached over and grasped his hand, giving it a squeeze. Clearly, she could see his astonishment, and was letting him know that it was alright. He wished she could see his answering smile, the happiness he felt...but all he could offer was the ever-present grin of Guy Fawkes.
"Evey, why don't you go first?" Gordon asked, beaming ragging impishly.
"Alright," she said. Her slender fingers neatly removed the colorful foiled wrapping from the box in her lap. She removed the lid curiously, and then her lips parted in a perfect expression of surprise.
"My goodness, is this..." she whispered in awe, then stopped, clearly choked up. Her chocolate gaze lifted to peer at Gordon.
V leaned curiously closer, peering in the box. It was a sweater, folded neatly. "What is it, Evey?" He asked.
"It is," Gordon conformed.
"It's my mother's sweater. She wore it every Christmas..." Evey said, removing the item from the box. She buried her face in the fabric, inhaling deeply. "My god, it still smells like her. How did you...?"
"It was stored away," Dominic answered. "There are more things. I've had them loaded into your car. The home was cleared after their...capture. There are many stores of possessions from those that were captured, though few were labeled as the years passed. Your mother and father were captured so early the process of filing was still in place. We uncovered a warehouse not long ago with many, many possessions. We've been trying to disperse the labeled items to their rightful families. It was quite a surprise to find your surname in all of that."
A crystalline year trekked down Evey's cheek. V reached to wipe it away with a gloved finger. "Thank you," she whispered. "Oh, thank you both so very much."
Gordon smiled. "They were rightfully yours," he told her. "I wish it could have been her giving it to you."
V was deeply moved by what they had given her. It was not just a gift, but a treasure. He felt warm gratitude to these men for giving her back a piece of who she was, a piece of those whom had loved her. "It is perfect," he said softly.
Evey cleared her throat, still clutching the sweater tightly as she visibly fought to get control of her emotions. "Okay, Gordon. Your turn."
V watched with interest as Gordon unwrapped his gift. He himself had found this particular item, a piece he'd thought perfect for Gordon's eccentric flare for the arts. It was an original painting done from George Quaintance, an American artist that had been well-known for his depictions of the male body in a time when homosexuality was demonized. It was a piece that would fit in well amongst Gordon's collection, and V was happy to see the man's excitement when he gazed upon his gift.
"You've no idea how long I've searched for an original Quaintance piece!" He exclaimed, turning it around so that Dominic could see. "It's perfect. Thank you both!"
"V was able to find it," Evey said, smiling proudly. "I just gave him the idea."
Dominic raised a brow. "You'll have to show me your ways of finding these things, V. Birthdays and Christmas would be so much easier if I had better access to appropriate shopping!"
V chuckled. "Let's leave the black market activity to the 'dead man', I suppose."
Dominic seemed to be about to answer that, perhaps with another bout of encouragement that V should announce himself to the public...but Gordon stopped him. "Dom, lets see what you have there."
Dominic's gift was an envelope, which he opened after a moment's hesitation. Evey appeared relieved that he did not press the matter, reluctantly adhering to the agreement to keep politics off of the table for the holiday. Dom pulled two tickets from the envelope, and as he read them, his eyes lit up. "Tickets to Macbeth?" He exclaimed. "I've been watching for these to go on sale! They aren't being released for another month!"
Evey chuckled softly. "When you used to work with the director, things are a bit easier." She said with a wink.
Dominic, clearly overjoyed, showed Gordon. "Front row! Thank you both!"
V chuckled, nodding. "Evey was quite sure you both were due for a date night."
"She's right about that, all things considered." Gordon said with a grin. "Alright, V...it's your turn."
V found himself a bit apprehensive as he looked at the package in his lap. He felt...unworthy. A man who had done all of the things he'd done did not deserve good friends. Did not deserve the love of a good woman. And yet, he had both of these things...he truly did not deserve more! But they had thought of him, regardless. It was incredible. "Thank you," he murmured.
"Usually, you say that after." Dominic said with a chuckle.
"I mean, thank you for thinking of me. I appreciate the gesture more than you could know." V clarified.
Even reached out, giving his knee an excoriating squeeze. "Go ahead, V. Open it."
He hesitated another moment, and then slowly removed the paper from the box. He set the wrapping carefully at his feet, then opened the box. Inside was a book...a photo album, it appeared. He lifted it out curiously, and opened the cover. The pictures inside were of people being released from internment camps. Families being reunited. Testing facilities being demolished. Former inmates and their families. V felt a lump grow heavy in his throat as he flipped the pages slowly, memorizing every face, every moment that had been eternalized in each photo.
"We were not sure what to give the man who has given us back the world," Gordon said. "So we thought that perhaps in seeing how your actions saved so many...perhaps we could offer you peace. This piece of history was possible only because of you, V. We'd like you to own that."
V was quiet for a very long time. He did not trust his voice to remain stable when he spoke, did not trust his emotions to remain in check. He stared at the smiling faces, the joyful reunions, the end of misery in all of the pictures. He stared at them, and he was thankful...so very thankful...that the end of suffering had been facilitated for these hundred...thousands...millions of people. "Thank you..." he said finally, on the heels of a shuddering sigh. "Thank you, for allowing me to see this. It is one thing to dream, but entirely another to witness a dream become reality."
"There's more," Evey said softly.
V was reluctant to let go of the album, but handed it to Evey's waiting hands. He dug into the colorful paper that was in the box until his gloved fingers wrapped the additional item. He pulled it out, and for a moment, barely recognized what he was staring at.
"My knives?" He asked, surprised. They were organized in a holster, not unlike the one he'd used the night he'd killed Creedy and his men.
"Eric found them," Dominic explained. "I'd tried to give them to Evey...after. She couldn't take them...so I kept them. I thought perhaps they'd do well in a museum someday. But...when we found out you were still here, we knew they'd look better if they were with you."
V touched the blades with tenderness. He'd missed them, and had never tried to replace them. They were a part of him in a way, and no duplicate would have sufficed. "Thank you," he said. "Truly, I thank you. What you've given me...it is more than I deserve. I am truly a blessed man."
"And we are blessed in return. You've helped to provide us with a new world. One where we don't have to worry our love will get us killed," Gordon said. "And for that, we thank you."
Chapter 19: Chapter 19
Eventually, their visit with Gordon and Dom concluded. Hands were shaken, hugs given, and Merry Christmas was wished all around. Evey felt so happy her might burst, and couldn’t quite stop smiling as she drove them back to the Gallery. V seemed to be in just as good of spirits, riding with his hand gently resting on her knee and pointing out various lights displays along the journey.
“I’ve seen Christmas lights and festivities many times,” V said softly. “But they’ve never meant a thing to me until now. Until you.”
Evey couldn’t help but risk a glance at him, giving him a touched little smile. “They finally mean something to me again,” she said. “Because of you.”
When the car was tucked away and they were safely back inside the Gallery, V carefully set the box containing her family’s possessions beneath the tree. “Would you like to open this tonight?” He asked as he turned to help her out of her coat.
She did, desperately...but she also knew that the emotions those items would invoke would be hard. The night ahead should be a joyous one, not one with tears or nostalgia or negativity. “No,” she said, watching as he hung her coat up. Evey moved to him, wrapping her arms around his muscled frame as she gazed up at him lovingly. “No. Tonight, all I’d like to do is change into some pajamas, make ourselves a fluffy bed of blankets beneath the tree, and spend the rest of the evening curled up with you.” She leaned up to brush a kiss against his cheek.
“Your wish is my command, my love.” He said. She thought she could hear a smile in his voice. “I can think of no other way I’d rather spend my evening. Go ahead and find your pajamas, and I shall gather the fluffy blankets. Deal?”
Evey nodded with a grin. “Very much a deal!” As she made her way toward her bedroom, Evey was astounded at the way he made her feel like a love-struck teen. She had never been one for that kind of thing when she was younger...had never been in love before he’d come into her life. She hadn’t known that such happiness could exist, that her soul could know so much peace. Evey had never felt that she was an incomplete person, so to say that he completed her was inaccurate. What V did was more than that. He enhanced her, in every way possible. He was what she had waited for her whole life...whether she’d known it or not.
Evey quickly stripped herself of the green dress, rummaging a pair of silken red pajama bottoms and a form-fitting black knit top from her drawer. As she dressed, she found herself wondering if V would touch her again. If he might, perhaps, even do so without her initiating. She so badly wanted to be close to him, to offer him the same pleasures his expert touch gave her. She understood his reluctance, but oh, how hard it was to be patient. Being close to him was never quite close enough, and Evey truly wondered if there would ever come a day when her hunger for him would be satiated. When she was done dressing. she took a quick peek at her reflection, taking a moment to smooth her hair. Satisfied, she all but bounced back out to the living room.
God, did that man move fast.
V had constructed a cozy nest of blankets and pillows on the floor beneath the tree. The lights had been dimmed, and the glow of the television was frozen in the opening scene of It’s a Wonderful Life. V was standing near the tree, admiring one of the ornaments hanging cheerfully from one of the branches. He was still dressed in his day clothing, though he had removed his boots and set them neatly by the door. “My goodness, this is perfect!” Evey stepped onto the blankets, beaming happily.
V turned to her. “Ah, Evey. Only you could make something so simple as pajamas look radiant.”
“Flattery will get you everywhere,” Evey joked as she plopped herself down on the blankets. “Will you join me?” She reached out to him, smiling.
V sank to the blankets, and together they situated themselves beneath the covers, propped on the many pillows V had pulled from the linen closest. Evey instantly molded herself against his side, and V wrapped his arm around her to hold her close. He used the remote to start the movie, and Evey descended into the bliss of the moment. Her V, so warm and so whole and so real...a true dream come to life. She would never want for anything, so long as she had him at her side. Evey knew very well what a life without him was like, and would never taken a single moment of his presence for granted.
The two of them watched the movie happily cradled in one another’s arms. “Would you fancy a glass of wine?” V asked, idly playing with her hair.
Evey stretched languidly, then nodded. “Mmm...perhaps some wine and a Christmas record on the Wurlitzer?”
V rose, and she was instantly aware of the chill in the room without his heated body next to her. “A marvelous idea,” he said as he went to the kitchen. Evey watched him, appreciating the masculinity of his form. From his broad shoulders to his lean waist, he was the picture of strength and agility...of perfection. “I’ve got just the record.”
V poured a glass of what was undoubtedly a very pricey wine, handing it to her before firing up the Wurlitzer. Evey took a sip, groaning at the exquisite flavor. “You have extremely good wine for a man that eats and drinks very little,” she commented.
“I like to ensure you have only the best...as you deserve.” V told her as he pressed some buttons.
“I always do. I have you,” Evey told him. She set her glass down as the soulful sound of Nat King Cole began to play the machine. She got up, moving to take his outstretched hand.
“I don’t believe I will ever understand why you think that,” V murmured. “But I am eternally grateful that you do. Would you care for a dance?
Evey let him pull her close, watching mesmerized as the lights of the tree casted beautifully against the white enamel of his mask. “But of course,”’ she said with a smile. “A Christmas without dancing is a Christmas not worth having.”
V chuckled at her twist on words he’d said long go, his arms tight around her as they began to sway to the music. Evey let the moment swallow her entirely...the music, his closeness, her love. She remembered the dance they’d shared on the night she’d lost him. She thought of how the world had changed since then. How they had changed. She thought of how easily their meeting could have never occurred, if V had never made it out of Larkhill. Evey thought of fate and of chance, of coincidences she no longer believed in. She thought of evil and of righteousness, of wounding and of healing. She remembered nights alone in the Gallery, reading the callous words from Delia’s diary that described the horrible things V had gone through. She remembered with stark clarity how badly she’d wanted a moment just like the present one, where she could hold him and let him feel what it was like to be loved.
“You’ve felt so much pain, V.” She said softly, trailing her hand across the plains and valleys of his chest. She could feel the heat of his body through his clothing, the gentle beat of his heart. How she treasured it, knowing that once she had believed it would be still forever. “Have you ever felt a touch that wasn’t designed to hurt you?”
“Yes,” he answered solemnly. The mask turned ever slowly slightly in her direction. “Yours.”
Evey frowned, not wanting to believe that something so simple and comforting as a human touch had been beyond him. “Before me,” she whispered, her hand tracing a bit lower. She could feel ridges of muscle beneath the fabric of his shirt, and she delighted in the hitch of breath she was rewarded with as he responded to her exploration.
“I do not remember,” he answered. He seemed to be watching her hand as she touched him. “I’ve no memory of my life before Larkhill...and have been close to no one after my escape.”
“That seems terribly lonely,” Evey murmured. Her fingertips brushed the waist of his trousers, but did not travel lower. The muscles of his abdomen twitched beneath her hand when it stilled. “Haven’t you wanted for a woman?”
V trembled once. Only once. “No. I did not want for anything besides my vengeance. Anything else was a weakness I could not afford,” he told her. After a pause, his gloved fingers rose to brush her curls behind her ear. “Or so I thought.”
Evey’s heart had begun to pick up speed, nervous butterflies flitting about her stomach. She had suspected that V had remained alone entombed in the Gallery. Even still, she found she desperately needed that confirmation. “You haven’t...” Evey trailed off, trying to find the courage to continue. The last thing she wanted was for him to feel badly. “No one, V? Not in all those years?”
“No,” V said softly. The honesty and rawness in that single word tore into her. “If I’d had the urge to take a lover, what woman would want such wreckage?”
How could he think such a thing? He was strong and virtuous, so deeply complex and incredibly intelligent. It simply didn’t matter what he looked like under all of the theatrics. He was a complicated man, but he was easy to love. “This woman,” Evey said softly. “I want you, V.” She leaned in close, approximating where his ear would be beneath the strands of his wig. “I see no wreckage. Only an incredible man who had the strength and determination to pave the way to lead his people from the darkness. A man who sacrificed everything. A man that has been alone for far too long.”
His muscles were rigid beneath her hand, his silence prolonged. There was only his breath in the quiet as the Wurlitzer paused to change songs, muffled and slightly elevated. “You are the woman I was meant to wait for,” he whispered.
There was a certain degree of heat in his voice, raw and unguarded. For all the mystery the man was to her, he was hiding nothing now. Evey drew confidence from that clarity, her hand delving lower to trace the astonishingly large bulge she found there. V’s hips jerked and low hiss escaped him.
“I want to feel you, V.” Evey whispered as she ran her fingertips along that rigid length. “And I want you to feel me too. All around you...” she squeezed gently at his tip, encouraging another shudder from him. “Every inch. Make love to me.”
V took her hand, not guiding it away but stilling her stroking motion. He seemed to be staring at their joined hands for a long moment before he spoke. “A stronger man would refuse, you know. If I were righteous I would be unwilling to stain you with such an experience. But I admit, you have always been a great challenge to my self control...and I have never claimed to be a righteous man.”
A second later, Evey was swept from the ground, carried like a bride as he made his way back to their pile of blankets. Evey had no sense of direction, no sense beyond the feel of her lips on his cool, hard mask and his heart thundering beneath her clenched hand. Only when she sank against the softness of their makeshift bed did her eyes flutter open, meeting the dark depths of his own behind the mask. He was braced in his palms, the length of his body hovering over hers, barely touching. She could hear each elevated breath, could feel the heat of it against her skin. But he was still.
It was as if she could read his hesitation. “It’s alright.” She murmured, stroking the cheek of his mask. “You are not your flesh, remember? Any more than I am mine.”
He watched her. “I suspect you will find my body unpleasant,” he said finally. She could hear his frown in his voice. “Deeply so.”
“I will find it beautiful, just as I find the man within it to be.” She reached for the fastens of his mask, but he stopped her.
“Not that,” he said softly. “I will deny you only that. Please leave it. I am...just not ready.”
It had to have taken a profound amount of courage to reveal that vulnerability at such an intimate moment. Evey, at a loss of words, only nodded, letting her fingers drop away afrom the mask. Only then did he move, drawing back on his knees.
Evey sat up. Slowly, she reached for his hand, pulling one glove off and then the other. She kissed his palm, before her fingers rose to the buttons on his shirt. He did not stop her as she undid them, one by one. She guided it open, and he shifted his broad shoulders to allow the garment to fall away. Her gaze drifted, past the mask to the exposed flesh beneath. His body was perfectly conditioned, each muscle sculpted and smooth beneath the network of extensive scars that marred him. Despite the color of his flesh, it strangely did not look painful. The wounds were long healed, and kitted white edges of where his skin had sealed was oddly beautiful, like lace.
She slowly reached for him. She could feel his tension as he seemed to hold his breath, awaiting her touch. Gingerly, she traced the raised edge of one of the scars, the one over his heart. He shivered.
“Am I hurting you?” She asked uncertainly.
“Quite the opposite.” He answered.
“Does it ever hurt?” She pressed.
“Yes,” he said. “I’ve grown used to it.” He studied her fingers as she trailed them down a winding, gnarled trail of scar tissue.
“They aren’t unpleasant,” she said finally, smiling up at him as her hand splayed against the taut surface of his abdomen. “They’re a beautiful reminder of the strength of the man that wears them.”
“A man undeserving of such a flawless creature,” he said softly, trailing his bare hand along her cheek.
“And here I thought you were such a smart man,” Evey responded. “You haven’t deserved most of the things love has brought to you. But love? You absolutely deserve that.” Her hand remained on him, and she wished she could see his face and read whatever expression he might be wearing. “Is this too much?”
V was quiet for a long time. His hands came to a rest on her forearms, where he held her gently. She could not tell if he was looking at her or away, the masked was tipped just right to make the determination impossible. Her nerves hummed like miniature livewires beneath her skin, her stomach stirring anxiously. She wanted badly to ask him if he was okay, but she knew he was still working his answer out in his head. Nothing would ever be easy when it came to V. He was a fiercely complicated man whose pieces did not always fit together and who would never be conventional. But he was hers and he was worth it; she would take only what he could give.
“It is intense,” he said finally, lifting his head so that she was at least marginally sure his gaze was on hers. “And yes, probably too much.” Her disappointment must have shown, because he placed a finger beneath her chin and guided her gaze back to him. “But that does not mean I don’t want this. There is nothing I want more in the world, in fact. I will never feel comfortable in my skin and I know that you deserve an undamaged man. I will never understand why, after everything, you’ve chosen me. But I’ll be forever grateful that you have.”
“I don’t want flawless,” Evey said, reaching her place her hands on the smooth enabled cheeks of his mask. “I want you, V. Every piece. Good and bad and everything in between.”
“Tonight, and every night of my existence, I am yours.” he whispered.
Evey let a soft smile curve her lips. She said nothing more as she slowly guided her shirt from her body. V’s hands were still at his sides, but the broad, muscled expanse of his chest rose and fell more quickly. Encouraged, Evey reached back to unclasp her bra. The fabric fell away with a whisper, baring her flesh to him completely.
V had seen her nude before, but never in such a raw moment, never like he was looking upon her then. She took his hand, kissed the scarred flesh of his palm, and laid it to her left breast. “I’m yours too, you know.” She murmured. “For just as long.”
V exhaled a shuddering breath, his fingers tracing lightly over her flesh. He touched her gingerly at first, as if he was sure she would change her mind and pull away. Eventually, his other hand rose to capture her other breast. Evey closed her eyes, sighing blissfully as his thumbs worked their magic, sending electric tingles throughout her body. She arched into his touch, entranced by the sensation of his scars moving against her. He had assumed it would be unpleasant for her to feel his touch...but it was absolutely splendid. She loved him for the man that he was and not for his face or his flesh...and she would prove it to him.
“Take the rest of your clothes off, V.” She murmured.
V was still for a moment, his head slightly lowered. “Evey,” he said softly. There was a certain hoarseness in his voice, a hint of breathlessness. “Before I do, you must know that I will not be offended if what you see changes your mind...”
She did not let him finish. She raised a finger and pressed it to the lips of his mask. “Shhh. None of that,” she whispered. She then rose to her knees, her fingers slipping beneath the fabric of her silky pajama bottoms. She shimmied out of them, casting them aside thoughtlessly. Clad only in the whisper of fabric that served as her panties, she fixed her gaze at V. She could feel the weight of his stare on her newly exposed flesh, could nearly feel the heat in the eyes she could not see. Encouraged, Evey hooked her fingers beneath the lacy material around her hips and drew it slowly down, pushing it past her thighs and finally off, leaving her completely nude before him.
V’s breath had quickened, she could hear it beneath the mask as she went back to her knees in front of him. Slowly, his fingers came up to undo the clasp of his black pants. He drew the zipper down, a whisper of sound against Nat King Cole’s song in the background. He then rose to his feet, and Evey was again taken aback by the grace of his movements. He was so large, so powerful...and yet he moved so beautifully. Soon, she would feel him moving within her. The thought gave her a shiver of desire.
V lowered his pants, stepping out of them carefully, before also removing his socks. Evey’s gaze shifted, traveling down the long length of his body. He wore only a tight fitting pair of boxer briefs that were black in color and did nothing to hide the arousal they concealed. V’s legs were just as scarred as the rest of him, but they were long and thickly muscled. She smiled up at him, admiring the way the Christmas lights played off his skin and danced across the dips and curves of muscle. He was breathtaking, scars and all. V seemed to be waiting for her to change her mind...but when she said nothing, she saw his broad chest rise and fall with a deep exhale. His hands rose and he slowly peeled the last layer off, baring his body fully to her hungry gaze.
The fire had left no part of him untouched. Even his length showed signs of scarring, but it was still very much recognizable and very much functional. There was a secret pride in knowing she was responsible for his arousal, that she had made him so fiercely hard.
Evey rose, moving to stand before him. “V,”
she whispered softly. “I think you’re beautiful.” Her hands rose to splay against his chest as she leaned up to kiss his unmoving lips.
V shivered. One hand reached up to grasp her waist tentatively. Evey sighed, looking up at him. “Nothing, nothing could compare to the sight of you,” he murmured.
Evey trailed her fingertips down his torso, tracing scars as she kissed his chest. She then wrapped the rigid, stony hard length of him in her hand. V hissed in a breath of air, a low groan escaping on his exhale. “I’ve wanted so badly to give you the pleasure you deserve,” she murmured, stroking him firmly. V shuddered, his grip on her hip tightening. She passed her thumb lightly over his tip, testing the eager moisture beading there. V gasped softly, and she resumed her slow, steady strokes. “Tell me what you want, V.”
“You,” he moaned. “Only you, Evey.” He trembled with each pass of her hand.
Evey nodded, releasing her grip in favor of taking his hands in her own. Together, they sank to their makeshift bed beneath the tree. Evey gently guided him back against the soft mound of pillows as her lips met that of Fawkes, flesh to flesh, heart to heart.
Chapter 20: Chapter 20
V’s hands slid down the length of her body, tracing the curve of her bottom before he grasped it tightly. His length was like stone between them, hot and urgently pressing against her lower belly. V made no move to enter her, however...he seemed perfectly content to explore her body for the moment.
Evey broke the kiss, leaning back so that she could watch her hands as they traveled over his flesh. The man had chiseled himself perfectly, had trained his body to peak condition. Even his scars could not take away the beauty of such muscle, of such power. V’s fingertips glider over her hip, causing her a shiver of delight. He paused there, though...hesitant.
“It’s alright, V.” She whispered. “Touch me. I’ll always want you to to touch me.”
His head lowered slightly, an indication that he was watching his own hand as it moved along her skin. V was trembling ever so slightly...though whether it was from nerves or anticipation, she could not tell. He caressed her inner thigh, gently nudging her legs apart. Evey moaned softly when he found her folds, his fingers gentle as he parted her. Though he had done this to her before, it had always been in the bath or in the darkness of the bedroom. The fact that she was open for his hungry gaze to explore added a certain heat to the moment, and she found she could not look away from him.
V’s attention was focused on what his fingers were doing, teasing her with whisper-light strokes that very nearly made her dizzy with need. She let her legs fall open wider, a silent invitation.
V’s finger brushed her opening, drawing another low moan from her lips. Encouraged, he inserted a finger, slowly...so achingly slow. Evey arched into his touch as he teased her, gasping his name. Her hand found his length, stroking him in tandem with each thrust he made into her body. He gasped her name, thrilling her to the core at the unmasked need in his voice.
Her desire for him was so great that Evey was already dangerously close to the edge. When she shattered tonight, she wanted it to be with him buried deep within her. She reached down to still his hand.
“My apologizes, Evey...I got carried away...” he instantly began to apologize as he pulled away.
Evey took his face between her hands, forcing him to stop and and look at her. “You are always so ready to believe that I don’t want you,” she whispered. “I’m only stopping you because I want you to be inside of me when I prove to you how untrue that will forever be.”
V trembled harder. “Do you want me too, V?” She asked.
He nodded, his voice thick when he spoke. “So badly...” He admitted. He took a deep breath, then lifted his head to look at her. “Though I fear I will disappoint you.”
Vulnerability and V did not seem right in the same sentence, but if Evey could have described him in that moment, it would have been the word she chose. For the first time, she knew something that he was not familiar with. For the first time, he would be learning from her.
And what a willing teacher she was.
Evey straddled him, shivering at the feel of his moistened tip when it brushed her opening. “Look at me, V.” She said softly.
The chin of his mask raised, and though she could not see his eyes, she knew they were burning into hers from behind the obscure screens. “This is me wanting you.” She said. “This is me wanting the man instead of the idea. And this,” she said, rolling her hips forward, taking him inside of her to the hilt. V cried out huskily. “This is me loving you. Every piece.” She said on the tail of a breathy moan. The urge to move, to buck wildly against him was strong. But she was not through making her point. She leaned forward to brush her lips against one of the raised edges of flesh on his shoulder. “And every scar. Just you, V. Always you, just as you are.”
He was still for a beat. Perhaps even two. And then, his hands tangled in her curls, roughly pulling her down against the mask in one of his unfeeling kisses. She heard her name, muffled behind the enamel of Guy Fawkes, a moan cloaked in the rich tenor of his voice. That sound was her undoing.
She straightened, placing her hands on his lower abdomen as she began to move. His body was the music to which she danced, rising and falling with a rhythmic grace she hadn’t been aware she was capable of in the throes of such desire.
V placed his hands on her backside, the toughness of his flesh sending delicious little shivers down her spine. His thickness was overhhelming, stretching and filling her, the friction of his many scars drawing her higher and higher with every pass of her hips. V’s hands moved to boldly cup her breasts, the rough pads of his thumbs teasing her nipples in to achingly hard buds. Evey threw her head back, raising her hands above her head as she closed her eyes, pressing herself more fully into his caress. V’s moans, husky and deep, rang out to join her own desperate ones.
“Evey, oh my Evey...”
She looked down at him through her half lidded gaze, watching his own head fall back in pleasure. “Can you feel it, V?” She gasped, reaching to cup hands over his. “This is love.” Her fingers entwined with his. She could feel her ascent beginning to build, and as it did she surrendered to the sensation. She rose and fell, faster and harder, riding the storm of passion until they were both screaming from the pleasure.
“Evey, I’m...oh god...” he gasped.
She held his hand tightly, grasped close to her chest so he could feel the racing of her heart. “It’s okay, V. Together, it’ll be together.”
V suddenly cried out, his body arching into hers with such force that it knocked her fully into the climax she had been rapidly approaching. Even as she shuddered around him, she could feel the hot bloom of his rapture deep within her. She was powerless to do anything but ride the waves of bliss, crying out his name as he cried hers too.
It was not the lovemaking she had expected...for there simply was no way to expect something so powerful, so raw, so consuming. It transcended every fantasy and every dream, was truly beautiful beyond any comprehension. It was, like the man with whom she’d shared it, absolute perfection.