A "V for Vendetta" story by Tina Price.
Preview: Life goes on, though all around may change. But how does a man go on when he has completely lost... himself? What shall be his purpose and can love truly conquer all?
Disclaimer: V for Vendetta and all characters therein are the property of Warner Brothers Entertainment Company and DC Comics.
Author's notes: This story is rated R (overall) for some mature content. As always, constructive criticism and advice are always appreciated!
It was just past two o'clock on a blustery, dreary day late in December when an attractive couple rose from their table at the Great Court Restaurant and readied themselves to leave.
He was a tall, attractively built fellow with piercing, wide set eyes and she a beautiful young lady with close-cropped hair and a winning smile...
Chapter 1: Deconstruction
Evey sighed happily as she watched V don his black, knee length wool coat.
He looked great in it.
She had just had the best meal out she could recall; excellent food, a full stomach and best of all the company of the one she loved above all others had made this a day to remember.
As he finished adjusting his coat, V caught her watching him and smiled. "Looks like you enjoyed this nearly as much as I did," he said.
"You're very observant," she replied dryly.
Throwing an arm around her, he pulled her against his side and gave her a slight shake before squeezing her shoulder reassuringly. "Tsk, tsk, love, sarcasm does not suit you." he mock chastised.
Together they made their way to the entrance, which led out into the great hall of the British Museum.
"What will you be doing now?" she asked.
He looked around. "Oh, I thought I would visit Russell Square Gardens for a bit while the weather held and then I plan on coming back here and checking out the exhibits until they let you out."
"And where shall I meet you?"
He looked down at her, amusement crinkling the skin around his eyes. "Don't worry, I'll find you."
With a dubious nod, she began to turn away, but his hand caught her arm and pulled her back for a quick kiss. "There now," he said, for her ears only. "Something to keep you thinking of me."
She laughed aloud then. "As if I could get my mind on something else!"
With a final nod and a quick squeeze of her arm, he headed straight ahead towards the main exit to Great Russell Street.
Evey watched him disappear from sight, unable to draw her eyes from his confident, yet graceful stride. So it was only after he exited the building that she turned and saw a co-worked standing nearby staring at her agog.
Audrey Barnell had been working in the cataloging department at the museum for a little more than a year. An outgoing, opinionated woman, she was twenty-seven years of age, tall, thin and completely hung up on her appearance. She had never had a relationship that lasted more than a few years and seemed unlikely ever to find a man perfect enough to suit her.
Evey tolerated her, but had trouble handling her shallow and self-centered nature for more than a half hour at a time. All-in-all Audrey was the last person she would have wanted catching her personal moment with V.
With a quick smile at Audrey, she headed for the escalators, hoping to avoid any discussions.
It didn't work.
Audrey quickly intercepted her and joined her for the ride up.
"Evey!" she gushed. "Who was that gorgeous fellow; your boyfriend?"
"Yes, he's my partner," she answered shortly.
"Partner, eh? So then it's serious?"
She nodded and shot the woman a very annoyed look. "Very!"
"Ah, too bad. Why must all the good ones be taken?" Audrey sighed.
"Like attracts like," was her quick reply as they reached the next floor. "Excuse me." Without waiting for Audrey to catch up or catch on, she headed directly for the elevators and made it in just as the doors closed behind her.
"Thank God," she breathed. Then she giggled at the irony of it all: that Audrey would be so hot for V, basing her entire perception of him on a false face... "He's definitely not her type, nor she his," she said aloud with another small laugh.
Thankfully Audrey must have stopped off somewhere to chat someone up, because she didn't return to their work area for a good long while.
And by then Evey had found something else to work on out at the displays.
Out on the street, V took a moment to enjoy the feel of the breeze. Even with a realistic mask covering most of his face, he still felt so much more than he did behind the Fawkes facade. The strangest sensation, not that he had all that much sensation on his face, was the feeling of coolness. He had become so used to having his scarred skin completely covered by the unyielding mask of old that he hadn't realized how much heat it held in.
Snapping out of his revelry, he turned left on Great Russell Street and walked towards the next intersection, where he made a left on Montague. It would take him straight on north to Russell Square Gardens.
As he walked, he thought back on the afternoon.
It had been very nice to surprise Evey, and even better to see the look on her face when she first set eyes on him. The best was yet to come, and biding the time until then would prove difficult. Best that he make good use of it and enjoy his reappearance in society.
A short while later he entered the garden. It was becoming blustery and the temperature was dropping, rain threatening to fall at any time. As a result, he had the area all to himself. There wasn't really anything to see in the outdoor garden this time of year, but he had no wish to go inside just yet and so he sat upon a bench where he could observe the street beyond.
People bustled by, braving the weather and the traffic, each caught up in their own personal experience of the afternoon. Perhaps they were returning to work, perhaps running errands so that they could get dinner started. Maybe they were heading to the college down the street...
He watched their faces and wondered; 'Is that someone I once knew?' and 'What would I be doing now had I not been detained and sent to Larkhill?'
As usual the thoughts triggered a cascade of disturbing thoughts and emotions. Who had he been? Had he been different than he now was or did the 'he' of now retain the same basic personality and temperament as the original him? Had he loved? Was he married? Did he have children who missed him? Did anyone remember and miss him?
Would he ever be whole again?
A familiar chill began to creep into his bones, which had nothing at all to do with the weather. In the past he had endured it, reminding himself that he would rest soon enough...
But now he had someone else to think of; and she was perhaps the key to solving his dilemma. He loved her more than he loved himself, whoever he was, and he owed it to her to try to make a go of this.
He could be content with merely being, couldn't he? Did he have to label himself; couldn't he just consider the 'he' of the last twenty-plus years the original and forget the past? Couldn't Evey take the place of lost family and friends and become his anchor in this storm of the unknown?
He made himself take deep, slow breaths to calm the agitation threatening to consume him.
He had a new plan. He had a woman who loved him as he was. For now that was enough. He could continue on and try to keep some hope alive. After all, who knew what the future held? Some people woke from comas and yet others regained lost memories every day, didn't they?
Perhaps one day his nightmare would end; he would wake up.
He just had to tough it out long enough for it to happen…
Standing, he rubbed his arms and headed back towards the museum.
"Hey, Evey, there's someone here to see you," Martha announced with more than a little excitement. "I daresay that it's your man. Oh, but he seems to be as wonderful as you said he was! Talk about manners..." she sighed.
It brought a huge smile to Evey's face to see her co-worker so happy for her. Martha Wilerson was a very likable young lady about the same age as she. Not much taller than Evey, she was a bit pudgy and had long, sleek shiny black hair that reminded her of V's wig and which she envied. Martha displayed a great deal of empathy when interacting with others. Basically, she was a smart and caring woman and it was she who Evey had bonded with on the job. Martha had been working there only a few weeks longer than she had and had already managed to wheedle a good deal of her private life out of her.
"Thanks, dear," she replied, as she rose to her feet. "Would you like to meet him?"
Martha nudged her with an elbow and gave her a 'what are you, kidding?' look that made her laugh.
Taking a moment, Evey straightened up her work area and then collected her coat from the rack in the front of the room. With Martha trailing her, she stepped out the doorway to greet her lover.
Unfortunately, the sight that greeted her eyes twisted her stomach in a knot, for there was Audrey, perched on the edge of a desk and leaning suggestively towards V.
For his part, V was holding his ground, legs firmly planted in that no-nonsense attitude he often displayed, but all his body language instantly shifted from a guarding attitude to a very pleased one that gave Evey every bit of his attention when he saw her enter the small outer office.
In an instant he had crossed the room and taking her hands, planted a kiss on her cheek.
"V, I'd like to introduce you to my good friend, Martha," she said, stepping back so that they could meet. "Martha, this is V."
He stepped forward to greet her friend, bending to take her hand and touching his lips to it. "Martha, it is very good to meet you. I've heard so much about you that I feel as though I know you already," he crooned.
Martha looked about to swoon and literally stammered out a, "S-s-same here."
Meanwhile, Audrey's eyes shot daggers at them across the room.
"I'd introduce you to Audrey but I see you've already met," Evey added.
"Yes." It was V's sole remark, aside from a quick nod of his head in acknowledgment.
"Well, you two… have a good evening. See you in the morning, Evey." Martha wished them well and with a quick wave disappeared back into the inner cataloging room.
Still perched on the desk, Audrey managed a disgruntled, "Bye," and sniffed as they passed her.
Once down the hallway, V gave Evey a knowing glance. "I'm glad you showed when you did," he said. "In another moment I might have had to defend myself."
She laughed. "Yes, well... it's a good thing that I didn't end up having to jump into a fray; I would have had to seriously hurt her and think of the paperwork that would have been generated by that incident! The museum grapevine would have gone bonkers!"
It was his turn to laugh.
Then they were heading down the stairs and she needed to rush just to keep up with him. "I guess that must be a pretty new experience for you..."
He gave her a glance and then slowed his forward momentum so that she could speak without panting. "I don't know... I recently had one very determined young lady of my acquaintance throw herself at me... and she was much better at it than Audrey."
She blushed. "Well at least I was very WELL acquainted with you at that point."
He threw her a wry smirk. "Yes, well I can't help but wonder what Audrey's reaction would have been if I had shown up without a mask of any sort." He shuddered.
Having reached the main floor, she took hold of his arm and stopped him, then moved to face him. "Love, I get judged by my looks all the time. Don't think on it so much. As cliché as it sounds, most of us wish to be judged on merit, not on our outward appearance."
"And who am I to merit any tender treatment?" he asked bitterly. "All I have done that I can recall is blow up the Old Bailey, kill people either for revenge or because they came between me and my goals, and set in motion the downfall of this government."
Evey was aghast at his words. "You saved me..." she protested. "You've saved others up on the street... haven't you?"
The look he turned on her made her insides shrivel. "No. You're the only one, and that only because I happened to be passing that way and hoping for some company on my big night."
"V... there's more to you than that. I've seen it. Trust in me if you won't trust in yourself; you ARE a worthy person. How could I love you if that weren't so?"
He sighed and relaxed, then took her hands. "I'm sorry, Evey. I didn't mean to distress you and especially tonight. I apologize for my predisposition to sudden mood swings and I can only hope you will forgive me for them."
"It's part of who you are and there's nothing to forgive. I just hope that one day you'll feel more comfortable with yourself." She squeezed his hands hard. "I wish only the best for you, my love."
He nodded and they stood there in silence for a moment.
"Come," he finally said. "The evening isn't getting any younger and we have much to do!" That said, he started towards the exit, still holding one of her hands and pulling her along with him.
V stopped in front of the corner shop and indicated the front with a wave of his hand. "What do you think? He asked. "Quite a nice little bookstore, ideally situated on a nice street not far from your place of employment..."
And it hadn't been a very long walk, she reflected. They had taken Bloomsbury to Shaftesbury Avenue and then turned down Charing Cross. A short while later he had steered her right on Newport Street, a very short street which suddenly forked into Lisle and New Port Place. The shop he indicated was situated right in that fork and faced Newport Street. You could easily see Charing Cross from where they stood.
She looked at the shop. It had a large front window with stained glass panels at the top and bottom. The shop's name appeared to be painted on the glass and read, "Westminster Books and Novelties". The building itself was an old brownstone, but seemed to have updated windows and doors. The shop's main entrance faced Newport Street.
"Yes, it is lovely, V..." she finally responded. "but..."
"Come along, we'd best go in; the owner is waiting for us," he urged, guiding her to the door ahead of himself, then opening it for her and indicating that she should enter.
No sooner had he entered the shop behind her then an elderly man with an amazingly thick, white mustache met them. "Well, good evening Mr. Hammond," he greeted V. "Is this the missus then?"
"She is indeed." V turned to her. "Evey, I'd like for you to meet Mr. Kenneth Gorren. This has been his bookstore for over fifty years." Then he turned to the shop's owner. "Mr. Gorren, this is my Evey."
The fellow took her hand. "Pleasure, Ma'am. Why don't you have a look around, eh? Don't mind me while I close up." With that, he headed for the door, which he locked, then he flipped the sign so it read "CLOSED" before heading to the register to secure it.
She turned to her companion. "V, what is going on here?"
"I've entered into negotiation to purchase this place," he announced. "I only await your approval."
"Are you serious?" She gaped at him.
"Very." He tilted his head at her. "Why? Don't you think it a fine way for me to make use of my talents?"
"I think it's a wonderful idea," she exclaimed. "It's just that it caught me off guard. You'd make a wonderful bookkeeper; with your knowledge and photographic memory, but..."
He held her away from him so he could look her in the eye. "But?" he prompted.
"I just have a hard time seeing you sitting still long enough to run a business like a bookstore," she replied honestly. "Are you certain it's something you want to do full time?"
He smiled then. "Who said anything about it being full time?" he chuckled. "That's what employees are for, Evey. I need only be the expert they consult for the difficult matters." He set her down and took her hand. "Besides it is merely a step in my plan, not the end all and be all. Still, there is even more to this purchase than you yet imagine, so come along, there's much to see before we discuss this further."
He toured her up and down the isles, commenting on the types of books he would barter in and where he would set each collection. She listened and made polite comments while she took it all in.
She knew that the finder's fees he was paid for the recovery of each of the pieces from the Shadow Gallery was generous, but she hadn't realized they were large enough to enable him to purchase a shop.
And here she had been scraping together every penny so that they would have something to fall back on when they had to leave the Shadow Gallery behind...
Mr. Gorren reappeared just then and gave a set of keys to V. "Here you go. Just close up when you're through and put them through the mail slot, will you?"
He nodded to her and left.
Again she stared at V, her mouth open in surprise.
"What can I say? I showed up here on a day when some of the local boys were harassing him. Let's just say that he trusts me."
"I thought you said that you hadn't helped anyone but me?"
He shrugged. "I didn't count the unavoidable encounters."
She did a double take. "Right..." Then she grasped his arm as he started down an isle, so that he would turn back towards her. "Is this what you want? Are you certain you want to buy this shop?" she asked.
"My dear Evey, I'm not merely buying the shop. I'm buying the building." He seemed to relish watching the dumbfounded looks his words were generating on her face today. With a chuckle, he used a gloved finger to push her chin up, shutting her mouth and then he gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. "Don't look so shocked," he admonished. "Now will you hurry along and see the rest so that you can give me your honest opinion on it?"
With a nod, she followed him to the rear of the shop and then into the little stocking room at the back. There was a heavy door in the wall on the right that he unlocked and ushered her through.
On the other side was small foyer with a window to the rear of the building and a doorway. V opened the door and again indicated that she should enter first. As she stepped through, she found herself in a large, rectangular room without any windows.
"I thought this would make a perfect workout room," he said, as he walked out into the center of the room.
She nodded. "Yes, it's a good size and no windows, so there's plenty of privacy." Looking around she saw that at the far side of the room, in the same wall as the doorway they had entered through, was another doorway.
"Ah, yes," he said, noticing her interest and moving in that direction. That leads to the living area." Again he opened the door then made a gesture for her to precede him. "Shall we?"
Stepping through she saw that she was in another foyer, this one with a U-shaped staircase and a window that opened onto the street out front. The floor and stairs were of beautiful, new-looking hardwood.
"Wow…" was all she could say as she started up the stairs, V drifting along behind her.
At the top, the staircase opened out into a large open area. The flooring was of the same new wood. Directly ahead lay the dining area and on the other side of that, in a surrounded area, a kitchen. To her left lay a large reception area with windows opening out onto the street. If she walked towards them, the fireplace was in the wall to her left, while an area large enough for V's piano lay to her right. The ceilings were nine feet and she could see that the light would be great as the windows pointed, by her calculation, southeast.
She turned to look at V, who had hung back and was watching her with interest. "It's gorgeous!" she exclaimed.
"Yes, not what one would expect to find judging by the downstairs," he observed.
She ran up and threw her arms around him.
"There now," he laughed. You haven't even checked out the rest!"
Backtracking to the stairs, she moved into the hallway that would have been to her left as she entered the flat. It was covered in clean, dense, beige carpet. She was now walking towards the rear of the building.
On the right, just the other side of the kitchen and dining room wall, was the bathroom. She entered and sighed at the sight that met her eyes; a large garden tub, ceramic tile floors and plenty of room. A toilet and pedestal sink completed the picture.
"I thought you might like that tub," V observed from the doorway behind her.
"Yes I do… and can't you just picture me relaxing in a tub full of bubbles with a few candles set around it?"
He looked positively stunned and then recovered enough to give her an appreciative look. "You would grow tired of me finding excuses to continuously loiter in your vicinity."
With another chuckle, she squeezed past him and moved to the end of the hallway.
V indicated the doorway straight ahead. "That's the bedroom. The door on the right would make a nice office or second bedroom."
She checked out the spare room first. It was small, but would serve well in either of the capacities he had mentioned; besides, a child didn't need a huge room… Realizing the direction her thoughts had taken, she blushed and then moved quickly to the other room, hoping he lover hadn't noticed.
The bedroom was a roomy, L-shaped room with a closet to the right of the door. Windows were located on the back wall, and as with the hallway and the smaller room, the floor was covered in beige carpet.
She turned to face V, who was leaning on the doorjamb watching her, and beckoned with a crooked finger for him to come closer. When he did, she hugged him again and rained kisses over his face.
"It's amazing," she sighed. "I love it."
"So I see!" he chuckled.
"If it's what you want, then we're in perfect agreement on it."
"Then it shall be ours," he whispered, squeezing her tightly.
They entered the Shadow Gallery a short time later and Evey made straight for the kitchen with their take-out food while V stopped to remove his coat and headed for his dressing area.
He had grown quiet and introspective on the walk back and although it was nothing out of the ordinary for him… she still had an unsettling feeling that something was increasingly troubling him.
When he had excused himself and headed towards his dressing area, she hadn't asked, but felt certain that he was taking off the realistic mask and exchanging it for a scarf. Even now, weeks after having finally removed the mask in the light and revealing himself fully to her, he still preferred to cover his face, never going without unless she expressly asking him to. She had meant what she said those weeks ago; that she wanted him to do what he felt comfortable with, yet she had hoped...
One thing that did disturb her was his propensity for sitting before his vanity and staring at the Fawkesian mask reflected before him. Sometimes he would slowly brush the hair of the wig, as though it were his own hair, while contemplating his reflection. He could easily lose himself like that for twenty minutes at a time. Whatever could he be thinking?
Usually she would give him his privacy and stay away, afraid that if she disturbed him, he might simply do such things while she was away or asleep, rather than trusting her to give him space.
But now, when she stepped out of the kitchen, took a peak and saw him at it; again wearing the wig and Fawkes mask rather than the scarf, she decided that she had to finally say something.
She moved slowly, but from an angle where her approaching reflection would be clearly visible to him and stopped behind him. Bending down, she put her face atop his right shoulder and stared into the mirror with him.
"What is it you see, V?" she asked quietly, as she gently wrapped her arms about his shoulders.
He put the brush down and covered her arms with his own, yet never took his gaze from the mirror. "Sometimes, when I stare long enough, I get the feeling that a memory has surfaced that is just out of my reach," he answered. "It's like forgetting a word and having it at the tip of your tongue; there, but somehow hidden from your mind. It's maddening, yet I feel compelled to pursue it."
She nodded and hugged him again. "Will you come away and eat?"
"Yes, love." He began to retrieve a scarf from where it hung over the side of his mirror.
"Would you mind going without, tonight?" she dared to ask. "It would really make the perfect ending to what's been a wonderful day of surprises," she pleaded.
His gaze shifted from his own reflection to hers. "Yes, if you'll lower the lights and put a candle on the table. I've told you that you need only ask me. I meant that, Evey."
She smiled, nodded, kissed his ear through the wig and hurried off to the kitchen.
Generally, V didn't care for take out food, much preferring to cook something up with his own hands, but they had both agreed that tonight getting it to go would allow them more time together.
Sutler's narrow minded and bigoted version of London had all but eradicated every decent ethnic restaurant in the city, but since his party's collapse a few very good such restaurants had opened.
Their good friend, Michael, had recommended one of those restaurants; a Jamaican one, which was just a few blocks away from the bookstore. He had even recommended the items they should order, which was good, as neither of them had ever had Jamaican cuisine before.
It turned out that Michael had been a major accomplice in helping V locate just the right book shop.
"I still can't believe that Michael knew about your plan before I did," Evey teased, as she savored another bite of her beef patty.
"But, love," he protested. "He was invaluable in directing me to the right neighborhoods and helping me to understand what type of place you might like." He ate another forkful of curried chicken. "And remind me to thank him for the restaurant recommendation. This is... very tasty," he admitted.
Not for the first time, she wished she could eat like him and not gain any weight.
"You did very, very well," she laughed. "Goodness, with the two of you conspiring behind my back, I fear what the next surprise may be," she joked.
"And well you should," he answered in a serious tone, though the twinkle in his eye made her think he might be joking.
She was pleased with the way the meal had gone, having feared that his strange mood would linger or that he would not be comfortable enough without a mask to enjoy the food. Truth be told, he had seemed somewhat staid and uncomfortable, but that had vanished the moment she had pretended to getup for something and then hugged him from behind and soundly kissed his cheek and nibbled the ruin of his left ear.
He had actually chuckled then and raised his shoulder in an attempt to keep her mouth from tormenting him; apparently the sensation both tickled and delighted.
That of course had made her try harder... and in the next moment he had pushed away from the table and pulled her down into his lap, where he cradled her like a baby and returned the ear nibbling two fold. And he had kept it up until she had breathlessly begged him to stop.
As she caught her breath, she reached up to him and pulled him down so that she could kiss him.
"You really do see with other eyes," he had said, wonderingly after he lifted his head.
"Yes, I do," she had replied and pulled him back for another kiss.
After that, he had been much more at ease and with great satisfaction she had noticed the glimmer of the tears he fought back as he placed her back on her feet.
She jumped as he called her name.
"You were a million miles away just now," he observed. "Are you alright?"
"Yes," she replied. "I was just remembering how you kissed me a short while ago."
He seemed puzzled. "Anything you'd like to share?"
"Aside from how much I liked not having to fight a scarf?" She smiled.
He blinked and cleared his throat before going back to his meal, giving her the impression that he was deeply touched.
They spent the rest of the meal nibbling and making plans for their relocation, finally coming around to the subject of her current flat.
V had asked her to keep it temporarily and now she knew why... no sense in her moving all her things to the Shadow Gallery and then turning right around an moving them back out. He had known that there would soon be a new place she could move her things to.
"Here you are taking me to task for conspiring with Dr. Cahill behind your back," he groused, "and yet, he's seen your flat and I have not!" He leaned towards her and fixed her with a stern look. "I'm the one who should be complaining," he chastised her.
She laughed. "All right. You win. How about meeting me after work tomorrow and we can go on over and start packing up?"
"Now there's a good plan," he replied.
By the time ten o'clock rolled around, Evey was feeling extremely tired, yet just one glance at V, who was pacing the restlessly through the gallery, was enough for her to know that he wouldn't be sleeping any time soon.
It happened that way sometimes, though, lately the frequency had begun to increase. All her attempts at trying to discover what was bothering him had met with failure.
V was still, in many ways, a mystery even unto himself.
She sighed and stood up. No, he wouldn't be sleeping, but maybe she could get him to come to bed for just a while. It always did them both a lot of good.
He had paused in front of his piano and that's where she approached him.
"Are you alright?" she inquired, as she moved into his arms.
He hugged her. "Just a bit manic."
"Anything I can do to help?"
The mask tipped to regard her and she had a feeling that he was wearing a small smile behind it. "Not tonight, but the thought is much appreciated."
"Will you come to bed for just a while?"
He nodded slowly. "Would you like me to play with your hair until you sleep?" When she nodded eagerly, he continued, "Go on and get ready. I'll wait for you."
With a final squeeze, she stepped back and turned towards the bathroom. Then stopped and stared at the piano as though seeing it for the first time. Swinging back around, she looked at him, finding that his mask was tilted in an attitude of expectation.
"V... However did you get the piano in here by yourself?" she asked in amazement.
A heartfelt laugh escaped him. "I've been waiting for you to ask, but, my dear, that is a story for some other time, not for when you're trying to get to sleep."
After Evey headed off to the washroom, V moved to his dressing area, sat and removed his boots, which he placed neatly, side by side next to the coat stand. Stretching like a cat, he arched his back, fingers laced together and arms over his head.
Truth be told, he was feeling particularly anxious tonight, though he could not fathom exactly why. Everything had gone just as he had hoped it would, so why was he so wound up?
Shucking his silk shirt, he threw it in the laundry hamper, then stood and regarded himself in the full-length mirror.
He had to admit that it was very strange seeing himself in the Fawkes mask and regular street clothes. That morning, after applying his new mask and dressing, he had regarded himself in the same mirror and had a strange sensation of deja vu. A normal face stared back at him, and he had to imagine that it was similar enough to his own lost face that some recognition had been triggered in his subconscious mind. Somehow everything about his image then had seemed… right, even down to the clothes he had chosen.
And that had triggered so many other questions in his mind:
Was he the same person he had been… before Larkhill? No, that could not be. For one thing, he had become a killer, for whatever the reason and he very much doubted that he had been such before…
Was he exhibiting the same patterns of behavior as he had… before? He wondered. By the time people became adults, over seventy percent chose blue as their favorite color, yet his favorite was red. Had it always been so?
Did he care about Evey because she reminded him of someone he had once loved… before? He certainly could not account for the sudden feeling of recognition that had jolted him the night they first met. Nor could he explain the empathy and attraction he had felt for her from that first moment. Or was it that there really was such a thing as love at first sight?
He laughed bitterly; that meant she could never have experienced the same with regards to him!
Right now, looking at himself in the mirror, he wanted to snatch the mask off and just be… himself. That's all he really wanted, to know who he was and to just take comfort in… being.
With a sigh, he pulled the gray shirt over his head and tossed it in the hamper, then removed the items from his pockets and placed them on top of his chest of drawers. Unfastening his black jeans, he removed them and his socks and then added them to the laundry.
Now his reflection showed him a man in a Guy Fawkes mask and black silk boxers, whose body was a patchwork of pale skin and red, thickened scar tissue. Shaking his head, he turned away from the mirror. How Evey could possibly find THAT attractive, was beyond him.
He quickly donned a fresh black silk shirt and his usual britches and then headed for the bedroom. Once there, he settled himself between the covers, then took the book he was currently reading from the nightstand and opened it.
Five minutes later, Evey entered the room, shivering in the short white robe she wore and made a beeline for him.
As she reached the bed and dropped the robe, he pulled back the covers for her and shifted so that she could curl up in the area he had warmed with his body heat. Tucking the covers back around her, he held her close to his side as she sighed and stopped shivering.
A moment later she relaxed completely and eased down in the bed so that she could lay her head just below his chest and wrap her arms around his torso; one of her favorite positions with him.
He went back to reading his book as he began running the fingers of his free hand through her hair. In truth, he enjoyed this as much as she did. He found that it calmed and focused him, occupied his mind… and he enjoyed lulling her to sleep. It was at least a small repayment for all her many kindnesses to him.
Within fifteen minutes she was asleep, her breath shallow and even.
He watched her fondly for a minute and then carefully eased her off of him, onto the sheets he had warmed, as he slid to the side. Removing his mask, he planted a loving kiss on her forehead and brushed back her hair one last time before putting out the light and quietly leaving the room.
Chief Inspector Eric Finch ran down the hallway to the office he shared with his partner, Dominic Stone and flung himself through the door.
"Quick, get your things; it's happening!" he yelled, collecting his own coat from the coat rack. Then he was out the door, without even waiting to see if his partner was behind him. He knew he would be.
"When?" Dominic asked, as he drew alongside him in the narrow corridor.
"I got word not five minutes ago." He shot his partner a disgusted look. "Three weeks of hard work and the son of a bitch ignores the bait and takes two kids instead!"
Dominic's face was grim. "You just watch; no matter what we come up with, some bleeding heart friend of his will get him off… He knows too many people in high places, Erik. You'll see I'm right."
Finch didn't answer. He didn't have to. Dominic had no idea just how bad the situation was.
V had wandered about the Shadow Gallery for a long while, trying to find something to occupy himself. He really wanted to work out, but the noise would wake Evey. Same for watching the telly or a film. That meant that the jukebox wasn't an option, either...
He rounded a corner and spied his hat and cloak on the coat rack in his dressing area. He stopped in his tracks, his eyes shifting towards the end of the gallery where the bedroom was.
Would she be upset?
He immediately dismissed the thought from his mind. He was going out no matter what.
...because he had to.
Either that or go mad.
"So tell me what you've got," Dominic asked, anxiously as he drove them towards the Mayfair address Finch had given him.
Sometime around twenty-two seventeen hours our boy somehow manages to get out a second floor window at home and into a tree, where he waits until one of our undercover guys walks by...
"I see," Dominic spoke up.
"Yeah. Then not an hour later, we get a frantic phone call from a Wanda Terrance, who happens to be the head housekeeper for none other than William T. Burroughs."
Dominic nearly lost control of the car. "THE William T Burroughs?"
"The very one," he replied grimly. "Do you know where he lives?"
His partner nodded. "No, but you're going to tell me."
"He lives not five blocks from our boy, Scanlan." Hearing the stream of curses that ran from his partner's mouth he continued, "The housekeeper thought she heard something and came out of her quarters to find the nanny unconscious in the kitchen. Looks like she was brained with a golf club."
"And the kids?"
Finch sighed. "You guessed right; they're both missing. A boy, Timothy, age eleven and a girl, Terri, age nine."
"Son of a bitch, Eric... do you believe the balls on this guy? Do you know what this means, him going after his political rival's children?"
Finch swallowed the bile in his throat. Of course he knew, had known since getting the call, but he said it aloud anyway.
"Yeah, it means he feels he has nothing to lose. He'll rape, torture and kill them along with anyone who crosses his path."
"And even if we find him..."
Finch swallowed. "He'll kill them before we even have a chance."
Evey awoke in the darkened bedroom and immediately realized that she wasn't alone. Sometime during the night, V had joined her and was now sleeping quite soundly, taking up more than his fair share of the bed... and sprawled half atop her to boot.
A smile lit her face as she took in the clean smell of soap with just a lingering hint of leather. He must have showered before dropping into bed and judging by still-strong soap smell, she guessed that he hadn't been in bed for very long before she awoke.
She was on her back, he on his stomach, with an arm and a leg thrown protectively over her. His chin leaned against her left shoulder and he was snoring very softly. Somehow he was dead center of the bed while she had been nudged to the edge. Rather than upsetting her, she always found his possessive sleep habits endearing.
And she was glad that he had not only been able to sleep, but that he was sleeping better than he had in weeks.
A glance at the alarm showed the time as four o'clock. That meant she had another three hours of quality sheet time. She gave him a quick peck on the cheek and was almost immediately asleep.
Chief Inspector Eric Finch stood next to his partner, Detective Dominic Stone, as they both tried to make sense of the situation.
They hadn't even made it to Mayfair before he received a cell phone call informing him that the children had been recovered none the worse for the situation.
"Come again?" he had asked, thinking that he had to have misheard.
The voice on the line, another detective under his command, had provided more details, including the information that the suspect was dead and that he and the kids had been recovered at the Old Tottenham Court tube station.
And that was where he and Dominic now stood; at the tube entranceway. The children had already been hustled off to Scotland Yard to be reunited with their parents and the forensics team was working the crime scene.
What was the most puzzling of many things in the unexpected happy ending, was the criminologist's preliminary findings that Scanlan had been killed elsewhere and he and the children transported to this location, and that he had been killed with a large knife.
Which was in keeping with the boy's assertion that their rescuer had been none other than the vigilante known only as V.
"It can't be him, can it inspector," Dominic asked. "You said that you saw him dead."
He shrugged. "I saw a body on that train and the train was blown apart. That does not necessarily mean that it was him, or that he was dead when the train left."
"But Miss Hammond wouldn't lie to you about it, would she?" Dominic looked scandalized by the notion, despite the thousands of people who lied to him yearly.
Finch knew that he had a serious crush on Evey, not that he could blame the man; he was half besotted with her himself.
"Dominic, given a strong enough motive, even a saint would be hard-pressed not to lie. What if Miss Hammond felt that she was doing the right thing in misleading me? She never actually said he was dead."
"So you think she was protecting him?"
He spat on the ground. "Dom, we don't even know that it was him. It could have been almost anyone at this point. Lets get back and see what the children can tell us and then go from there."
Evey was awakened not by her alarm clock, but by her lover.
He was nibbling her ear lobe and whispering, "Awake, awake.. breakfast awaits."
Sleepily, she pushed him away and then protested half-heartedly when he threw back the covers and scooped her bodily out of bed.
Throwing her arms around his neck to stabilize herself, she blinked her eyes and finally focused blurredly on her surroundings.
V was fully dressed, even to wearing his Guy Fawkes mask and he was carrying her through the gallery towards the bathroom.
"What time is it?" she yawned.
"What? You know I don't need to be up until seven!"
He chuckled. "But I missed your company and I did so want to have breakfast with you before I must away." Having reached the bathroom, he set her on her feet outside the door.
"Where are you off to?" she asked, puzzled.
"Oh I've errands to run, a building to purchase and the like," he replied with some amusement.
"Well then, off you go." He smacked her fanny, causing her to squeal and run into the small room.
Closing the door behind her, she heard him sigh and then wander towards the kitchen, humming all the way.
She smiled, his good mood becoming infectious, and hurried to clean up.
Her good mood vanished at precisely eight forty five in the morning, on the street just outside the steps to the British Museum.
She had been rushing past a series of newspaper vending machines, when something on the front page caught her eye; a large letter V.
Stopping, she had read the headline with a growing anxiety:
'V for vigilante? Guy Fawkes masked vigilante saves Councilman Burroughs' children, kills captor.'
"Oh God..." she breathed, suddenly feeling ill.
Feeding the machine several coins, she snatched a paper out and started reading in earnest. When she reached the part where the little boy swore that he recognized the man's voice and his daggers, she started shaking. After she read that the child stated that their rescuer had moved as fast as Superman, she folded the paper and dropped down on one of the museum steps in a daze.
Now she knew why Detective Finch had left a cryptic voice mail message for her to phone him... Should she?
She flashed back to the night before; V in a manic mood, but later sleeping soundly... his good mood at breakfast...
"Oh God," she repeated to herself. "It was him."
The big questions now were, 'How had he gotten mixed up in this?' and 'Why?'
It was a long time before her legs were strong enough to allow her to stand and enter her place of work. By then she was fifteen minutes late and was soundly reprimanded for it.
Next time: Chapter 2: Upheaval