Like Light and Cloud Shadow
A "V for Vendetta" short story by Tina Price.
Preview: V's life was forever changed the night he brought an unconscious Evey Hammond down to his home. Little had he realized that they would ultimately change each other's life... for the better.
Disclaimer: V for Vendetta and all characters therein are the property of Warner Brothers Entertainment Company and DC Comics.
Authors note: This story is rated R. Criticism and advice are always appreciated!
Chaper One: The end of the beginning
Evey picked up the backpack containing her few meager belongings and looked around her room for the last time. The large bed was almost completely surrounded by books which were stacked from the floor to the ceiling. So many books, she had thought the first time she had seen them. How many years had her host spent reading them? What kind of life had he led down here, all alone, just him, his books and music?
Aside from the books and the bed, the only other bit of furniture was an old dressing table and mirror which her host had brought in for her. She paused to run her fingers over the inscription on the mirror's bevel: "Vi Veri Veniversum Vivus Vici".
V had translated it for her the first time she had read it. "By the power of truth, I, while living, have conquered the universe", he had proclaimed.
She had teased him by asking him if it was his personal motto. He hadn't answered her question, but she was sadly aware that if he had a personal motto, this had to be it.
Again she swept the room with her eyes. It had been V's room before he had brought her down here to share the safety of his Shadow Gallery with her. How ironic that she couldn't remain in this secret, safe place any longer, no matter how much she might wish otherwise.
It was simple, really. This place wasn't entirely safe for her anymore.
Because of him.
If only he were just a man!
An ordinary man was something she could deal with... but V...
V was no mere man: Capable of moving and reacting with inhuman speed, he possessed muscle fibers which fired at an unholy rate. They were called fast-twitch muscle fibers to be exact. She had looked it up in one of the many books stacked in this very room. He not only had superior fibers, but he possessed them in abundance, having twice the human number in each muscle of his body.
Those same fast-twitch fibers made him stronger than a man twice his size. Velocity, after all, had much to do with force. She had seen him grasp a man by the wrist and effortlessly yank him completely into the air, smashing him into a brick wall eight feet away. During that fight, he had moved with a speed and agility that had astounded her. She had doubted her own eyes, thought that perhaps she had been in shock but then realized that time should have slowed, rather than sped up. That's what it always said in the books she had read, anyway.
Yes, right from the start, at that very first meeting, he had seemed both more and less than human.
To top it off, his speed and strength were balanced with a grace and smoothness of motion which, even now, never failed to astonish her. He used these abilities to his advantage, too, appearing at times to have stepped out of thin air. No sound, no visual cue proceeded him as he conjured himself out of the darkness to confront those he hunted.
But it wasn't his physical abilities that unnerved her.
It was his mind.
He was as unique in mind as he was in body. Although the most intelligent and learned man she had ever met, he was, for all that, not quite sane. The mental and physical tortures he had endured had given him his superhuman abilities, his intellect and even his charisma, but at the same time damaged his soul in a way for which there are no words. His was a genius born of that madness, making him both Angel and Demon in equal measure.
A living contradiction, he was both light and darkness, attractive and frightening, real and illusion, tender and deadly.
Yet none of that was why she was leaving. None of that was why she was no longer safe here.
The truth was, that despite everything he had done, she was in danger of loving him too much. It would be mad to remain here with him, to allow herself to feel even more for him... especially since last night.
And not when they both knew that it would end on November 5th.
Not when she had promised him that she would not try to deter him form his goal.
Evey shook her head and turning, left the small room. Moving slowly, and as quietly as possible, she entered the main gallery.
It didn't take her long to spot him. He had his back to her and was leaning over his antique jukebox, listening to a selection.
She paused for a moment and watched him, this one last time, while he seemed not to be aware of her. Her heart pounded painfully in her throat as she took in the wide shoulders and strong back, which tapered to a lean waist. His old fashioned Jacobean jacket was tailored perfectly to him and showed off, what seemed to her to be, the perfect male form. His britches and knee high boots likewise flattered his well proportioned legs.
Oh how she wanted to walk up behind him and run her hands over those shoulders, that back, those legs.. to feel again the movement of pure power beneath his flesh, of muscles which felt like steel.
Not for the first time, she found herself wishing that they had met under much different circumstances, that this was a world in which they could be together. She sighed. No use in even thinking it. They were who they were in the here and now.
With a heavy heart she moved forward and seeing him shift his stance ever so slightly, knew he was aware of her presence. Was that a sudden sag in his stance? Had his posture subtly shifted to one of defeat? Had she really become that good at reading his smallest movements?
There was no point in putting it off...
"V, I'm leaving," she said.
A new day was dawning as Evey emerged back into the real world.
How strange to think of it that way... but the world she had shared with V had never seemed quite real to her. It had been surreal, day and night passing there with no visual cue save that found in a clock's face. Even the night she had shared with him now seemed to have been nothing more than a dream.
Had it really only been last night?
She was surprised at the tears which began to sting her eyes at the mere remembrance, for remembering brought back the pain of knowing it wouldn't, couldn't happen again. It had been both the most wonderful and yet saddest night of her young life and just knowing that she could turn back, that she could even now throw herself into his arms...
Evey threw her back against the cold brick wall of a nearby building and sobbed uncontrollably. "Oh God, let me be strong", she prayed. And then, "How will I live with this decision? How? Am I to be left with nothing to console me but the promise of one last, very final meeting?"
After a few minutes, she wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, pushed herself away from the wall and hurried down the street. She had to find a place to live, had to start a new life. She would deal with the fallout of her decision after she ensured her survival.
Back in the Shadow Gallery, V shook himself out of a state of paralysis and forced himself to move his feet. He didn't care where he walked, only that he move from the spot he had been rooted to, the place where he had been standing when she disappeared from his life. Almost without being aware of what he was doing, he reached up and removed his mask as his feet continued to shuffle forward.
It was with both a start and a sense of dread that he eventually came back to himself to find that he had been wandering in the direction of his dressing mirror. "Of course", he thought bitterly, "Only I would be twisted enough to torture myself with the very thing I denied her just last night."
He didn't fight it, but looked up, looked directly into the mirror and at his own face, a face he had avoided viewing for a good three years now.
Any hope that the years had improved matters was quickly squashed. Slowly, he moved closer, forced himself to take it all in.
How could he inflict this upon her? How could he live, seeing the love in her eyes replaced with revulsion? Better to keep the mask, keep her respect and instead let her go. She deserved better than him; a man who had imprisoned her, tortured her... a man who could never live in her world, a man who had lived these twenty years with only one goal in mind, a goal which would, more than likely, be sealed with his death. Yet, what would be the point in living when he could never make her happy, when he couldn't even bring himself to show her his face?
He had known that she would leave him since last night. Yet he had not expected it to happen so soon. He had hoped... prayed for at least one more week. If only she had given him that, perhaps he could have found a solution... or failing that, he would at least have had a few more sweet memories to take to the grave with him.
In a fit of rage and agony, he slammed his mask into the mirror, seemingly smashing his reflection into bits. Then, overcome with emotion, he collapsed into the nearby chair.
"Evil may not be done that good may come of it," she had quoted once, while she had still been recovering from the torture and starvation he had inflicted upon her. At the time he had again been trying to ease his conscience by justifying it as a means to an end: that end being that she no longer lived in fear.
The remembrance of the look of pity and revulsion on her face when she had spoken still twisted his stomach.
He could never, ever risk seeing that look on her face again! Better that he let her go!
He hadn't even deserved what she had already given him; a memory to carry with him to the other side.
Dropping his face into his hands, he sobbed as he hadn't in over twenty years.
Next time: What lies Beneath
How should we be able to forget about those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses;
perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave.
Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.
So you must not be frightened... if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever seen; if a restiveness, like light and cloud shadow, passes over your hands and over all that you do.
You must think that something is taking place in you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall.
Excerpt: Letters To a Young Poet
-Ranier Maria Rilke