Author's Note: As always, thanks to the lovely Rouen French for beta. If you haven't read Vantage Point, go do it, as I have now officially adopted it.
When leaders act contrary to conscience, we must act contrary to leaders. Veterans Fast for Life
"You've been careless, Evey."
She whirled to face V, her cheeks burning, the news report on the television babbling on unwatched. He'd been completely absent for the first two weeks following his reappearance, so that she had nearly begun to believe herself hallucinating. She'd done everything in her power ot prove herself a diligent apprentice, but if he'd been watching, he'd chosen to ignore her. Now he'd come barging in, in the dead of night, chastising her from the moment he'd set foot inside the Gallery.
"You were recorded on countless surveillance cameras. The entire crowd saw you. You could have been followed."
"I had your mask on," protested Evey. "That was always good enough for you. And I took the back way in. I do know how to be careful." She sounded like a temperamental child again and knew it, but she couldn't help herself. He was being completely unfair to her, and she wasn't about to let it go. If he was going to be impossible, then she wouldn't let him have an inch. "And who are you to tell me about caution? You with your music and your bloody fireworks!"
"You are not ready to take those kinds of risks," said V, maddeningly patient as always.
"Really? Then I suppose all of England can just sit around waiting while I come of age," Evey snapped back.
"Careless leadership is far worse than none at all," said V. "One need only take a peek into the annals of history to know that."
"I'm not stupid!" Tears of rage were forming now, hot and acidic in her eyes.
How dare he? How fucking dare he.
"What am I supposed to do, sit around watching your roses grow while everything goes to hell up there? And where the bloody hell are you? Polishing your daggers while people die because of your revolution?" Evey had to fight the urge to run, flight always being her response when she'd adequately attacked her opponent. The momentary flash of clarity was gone, and suddenly her knees felt weak.
What had she just said to him? For the life of her she couldn't remember, but the mess of knots in her stomach told her it was certainly worthy of his total abandonment of her. Evey braced one hand on the back of the couch, awaiting his rebuttal, certain she would collapse if he responded with even the slightest anger.
"The wheels are turning," said V quietly. "They will come out right. They do not require direction."
"How can you be so sure?" asked Evey incredulously. "Have you looked up there recently? I mean obviously you have if you're so ready to tell me of my carelessness, but honestly! People are dying. And Dascomb's address? I don't think anyone's ever been so glad to see the rat before."
"I am quite sure," said V dismissively. He moved to stand in front of the couch, and Evey felt a sudden and inexplicable unease at his height and the way he was carrying himself.
"Are you sure you're all right?" she asked hesitantly, suddenly fearing that her words had cut deeper than she'd intended. If she'd attacked him when he was already down--
"Quite fine," he answered quickly, and then gestured at the television screen where the news was still prattling on, oblivious to the confrontation going on in front of it. A missing persons report scrolled across the screen, backed by photos of the riot at Dascomb's address. Evey's stomach clenched uncomfortably as she caught sight of her own masked figure, though the image had played every night for a week. Perhaps V did have a point, but she certainly wasn't ready to concede it.
"Where is the man you 'rescued'?" asked V, as though reading her thoughts.
Evey balked at answering him. She'd originally intended to use Lennox as a sort of trophy to prove to him both her aptitude and her loyalty. But if he was going to admonish her for her good deeds...well, she just wasn't going to stand for it.
"What makes you so certain he's down here?" said Evey stubbornly.
"If he is not down here then you have made an exceedingly stupid mistake and are most certainly doomed. However, as you have gotten on thus far, I assume that you are not so unintelligent and you do have your captive down." He crossed his arms over his chest, a gesture that suddenly seemed menacing to Evey. "It is time to end these meaningless games, Evey. Answer me straight--where is the man?"
"I would assume he's referring to me?"
Evey whirled to find Lennox standing behind the sofa, regarding them with something resembling amusement. She'd found his expressions exceedingly hard to read, whether it was the strange paleness of his eyes or the speed with which emotions seemed to flit across his features she could not say. He was fully dressed thought it was the middle of the night, almost as if he'd been expecting to find them out here. And she couldn't for the life of her figure out how he'd managed to sneak up on them so silently. Even V looked surprised in the tension of his movements, and she couldn't recall a time she'd ever seen him truly caught off-guard.
"I am," said V, and Evey was struck once more by the strange contrast of their voices.
"Then you should address me directly," said Lennox, a hint of danger in his voice. "Avoid unnecessary confusion."
"You are not frightened by me?" asked V. His voice sounded strange, though unreadable, and Evey felt sick at the prospect of a confrontation between the two of them. She sensed that Lennox was considerably more formidable than he'd appeared at the riot. He'd been skulking about the Gallery for the past week behind a poorly constructed façade of placidity. Biding his time, Evey was sure.
"No," said Lennox simply.
"Yet you do fear my successor." V gestured to Evey. "Or else what are you still doing down here?"
"It is considerably more comfortable here than it is topside. And my motivations have nothing to do with fear," said Lennox. "That is all you need to know."
"So you do have an agenda then," said V.
"You could say that." Lennox laughed, and Evey felt a chill run through her. She had the sudden feeling that she'd fallen into one of V's old horror movies, the kind she'd never cared to watch but that he'd insisted were an essential part of cultural history.
"May I ask exactly what you plan to do?" said V.
"No," said Lennox again. He was the only person Evey had ever seen refuse V without dying on the spot. She felt the need to intervene, but wasn't sure at this point which of them to support. She'd been in a bad spot either way, and so instead she simply kept quiet. "You may simply know that you will approve."
"And how may I be sure of that?" asked V, though there was a strange sound in his voice.
Fear? thought Evey. She'd never seen him afraid before, not even when he'd looked death in the face. A wave of shame caught her off-guard, shame for him.
"You can't be," said Lennox, and took a step closer to them. Evey felt every muscle in her body tense, and sensed that V had reacted similarly. But she sensed nothing of the power from him that she'd seen before in times of danger. Tonight he seemed more geared to fly than fight, and she wondered for what seemed the hundredth time just how badly he'd been injured by the bullets.
In one fluid motion, Lennox had taken the sword from the suit of armor that stood off to the side and behind the couch. Evey caught her breath; she'd barely registered that he'd moved before he was standing in front of the television, sword in easy range of either one of them.
"I have no time for this," said V contemptuously. With a ridiculous flourish of his cloak, he took off toward the lift.
"Sod off, old man," called Lennox after him.
Evey gaped, unable to believe that V would fail to retaliate. She'd half expected him to dart out and bend the sword in half. Instead he was going to retreat, leaving her with her rebelling captive? She fought the animalistic urge to spit at him; if he was so damn determined to abandon her, then she didn't want him around.
"What the bloody hell do you think you're doing?" Suddenly feeling reckless, Evey whirled on Lennox. His eyes glinted dangerously in the light, and as she heard the clank of the lift returning to the level of the Gallery, her mind registered that he had not yet put down the sword. Perhaps he didn't mean to at all.
"Teaching you a lesson," said Lennox simply, taking another step toward her.
"Come near me with that thing and I'll—I'll—" Evey groped at her waistband, realizing she'd failed to take the dagger belt she'd been carrying off her bedside table in her haste to greet V.
"You'll do what, exactly?" He advanced another step, testing her she was sure. "Run?"
"I will not run," said Evey stubbornly. Even through the fear churning her stomach, she couldn't believe he was really about to kill her. It would, after all, have been much simpler to murder her in her sleep at some point over the past week.
"Then you are as rash as the old man suggested," said Lennox, still coming slowly closer.
"Stop calling him that," snapped Evey. "And you're not doing anything that I need to run from."
"No?" Very deliberately, he extended the sword to brush against the skin of her throat. "What if I did this? Then what would you do?"
The sting of pain and the shock of cold metal startled Evey, sending her catapulting backwards over the arm of the couch. She landed painfully on the thinly carpeted floor, and for a moment her vision was obscured by black spots. When she looked up again, Lennox was standing over her, sword once more outstretched.
"You find yourself in a very poor situation, Evey Hammond." Lennox laughed, and bent down, looping an arm roughly about her waist and pulling her unceremoniously back to her feet. She swayed there as he let go, hoping the onslaught was over, but the sword came back up a moment later, advancing toward her once more. "Now will you retreat?"
"I'd be stupid not to," gasped Evey, backing slowly away, her gaze glued to the floor as her cheeks burned with a combination of fear and shame.
"Very good," said Lennox, though he did not show any sign of relenting. "You've learned your first lesson then."
"I'm a quick study," gasped Evey, struggling to keep her balance as she moved blindly backwards.
"Pride is the downfall of every hero," said Lennox, a bizarre smile twisting his features. He looked strangely macabre in the low light, and Evey shuddered, wondering what it was that had evoked such a look. He looked like a hawk about to come in for the kill.
"Checkmate," said Lennox, and extended the sword as Evey's shoulder-blades hit the wall.