Second Chances
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 adult content. The unedited NC-17 version may be found on my homepage. As always, constructive criticism and advice are always appreciated!

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Chapter 5: Epilogue

Officer Samuel MacLauren was anxious for his shift to end. He'd been assigned to watch over Evey Hammond at St. Thomas' Hospital and had endured a long, boring ten-hour shift... while all hell was breaking loose out in the city!

His radio had been alive with emergency dispatches following news of a series of explosions. And although he pitied the little lady what she'd suffered, it still was beyond him that anyone would go to any trouble to try and finish her off. The Inspector had reminded them all that she had once been the accomplice of code name V and they therefore all carried on with their assignment with a minimum of grumbling, but he still couldn't help but view it as something of a waste; he could be out on the street helping with explosions for God's sake!

Being a rookie definitely had its drawbacks; like pulling all the unwanted assignments.

Still, at least his turn was over. Now if only Murray would show his face so that they could switch off...

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Dr. Michael Cahill followed his usual routine, taking the road less traveled while on his way to visit his friend, Evey Hammond. Elevators came in handy now and then, but climbing the stairs was one method he used to help keep himself in shape.

Only thirty minutes ago, he'd heard the first news reports of a series of explosions across the area and felt in his bones that V had to be involved in some way. If Evey had seen the news, she'd be in a terrible state right now, especially since she had no one to confide in. If she hadn't seen it, if she didn't know... then she should.

Either way, it would be best if she had some company tonight.

Bounded up the steps two at a time, focused entirely upon the stairs directly in front of him, he got the surprise of his life when he rounded the landing between the forth and fifth floors.

Lying on the floor up ahead of him, just inside the fifth floor fire door, was a police officer.

With an exclamation, he bounded up the last few steps and quickly assessed the situation; the young man appeared to be dead, the victim of a stab wound through his back.

He was about to begin CPR on the off chance that the man could yet be saved, when the full picture hit him; this man had undoubtedly been assigned to watch over Evey!

Coming to his feet, he cracked open the fire door and peered cautiously down the corridor.

There was no guard outside Evey's room, but the nurses and medical staff appeared to be going about their business in the usual manner.

As quietly as he could, he stepped through and closed the door behind him. Step by step he slowly approached the room in question until he was right outside the doorway.

He glanced around the jam and spied another police officer, but something was decidedly very wrong with what he was seeing; the man should have remained stationed outside the door.

Instead, he was reaching for the IV line that ran from the pump to Evey's arm. As for Evey, she slumbered, unaware of her strange visitor.

Michael didn't think twice; he grabbed something out of the hallway crash cart and then stepped inside the room to confront the man.

"Here; what do you think you're doing?" he yelled rather loudly.

The officer spun towards him, a scowl appearing on his face as he placed something inside his jacket. "I'm her guard. Who the hell are you?" As he spoke, he drew his gun and began moving towards him.

Michael stood his ground and clutched the scalpel tightly behind his back in the hope that he might have a chance to use it.

And suddenly all hell seemed to break loose!

There was an explosive crash as glass shrapnel flew, then the room seemed to darken perceptively as black cloth billowed through the air. There came a strangled cry from the guard, followed by a silence broken only by the final tinkle of falling glass.

V stood over the fallen man, his knives already sheathed before his cloak settled about him.

"Phone Finch," was all he said to Michael before turning away to comfort a now awake and frightened Evey.

"V? What's happened?" she asked, struggling to sit up.

"Shhh... All is well," came V's reply as he sat on the bed beside her, deliberately turning his back to the doorway and hiding his masked face from the people who would undoubtedly be arriving.

Michael pulled out his cell phone as those very people: nurses and other staff began gathering in the room.

"We've got things in control here. Get the crash cart to stairwell one and see if you can save the officer there!" he barked.

Half the staff flew down the hall to the fire door while several assessed the officer V had dispatched, quickly declaring him beyond their help.

Two nurses went to check on Evey and recognizing her visitor, backed away with dumbfounded expressions.

At that point V seemed to accept that there was no further reason to hide his face and he looked back over his left shoulder, apparently taking in the room and any immediate threats.

As Michael dialed the Inspector, he could hear the remaining staff, as well as a few visitors, whispering in the background as they surveyed the scene.

"It's V!"

"No look, it's really him!"

"He saved that patient..."

"I think he knows her..."

"...Evey Hammond..."

"She was his accomplice, remember?"

Inwardly, Michael groaned. Keeping a lid on this was going to be very difficult.

"Yeah?" It was Finch answering.

"Inspector, Doctor Cahill here. There's been an... incident in Evey's room."

"Is she alright?" Finch immediately asked.

"Yeah, but it looks as though one of your men was trying to kill her. Fortunately for me V came in through the window and took care of him."

"Christ! How many people have seen this?"

"Quite a few."

"I'm on my way. Get V out of there before security arrives!"

Michael didn't have to be told twice. Clicking off his cell phone, he was about to call out V's name, then thought better of it and instead moved up to the man and gripped his arm.

V hissed, quickly pulling his arm away, then cursed softly under his breath as he cradled the arm in question. The mask turned to regard him, a few pained gasps escaping it.

"Finch is on his way. We have to get out of here," Michael informed him.

"Someone must stay here with Evey until he arrives," V managed to reply, having gained some control over his pain.

"The room is full of people; she won't be in any danger!" he said, his voice louder than he'd intended. "Besides, hospital security will be here any second; so unless you want this entire thing to end badly, you'll come along!"

"V, go with Michael!" Evey pleaded. "Please?"

The vigilante stood with a sigh. "Yes. Of course. I'll be back as soon as it's feasible..."

Michael grasped his other arm and tugged on him with little effect. The man was like an unmovable wall. But when Evey withdrew her hand and instead pushed at her lover, he turned and followed him out.

Quickly, Michael led him towards a second stairwell.

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Eric Finch arrived on the scene twenty minutes later, accompanied by four police officers. He'd had to leave Dominic behind to supervise the scene of the main explosion, something he would rather be doing himself, but Evey and V needed him and they were a higher priority.

As expected, hospital security had arrived well before him, but as luck would have it the charge nurse had managed to convince by-standers not to mention that the man who entered the window was V. She'd made them understand that any such mention of the vigilante would most likely result in an extended visit to New Scotland Yard, where they would more than likely be questioned the rest of the night.

It had worked like a charm; hospital security knew only that there'd been an intruder in a ski mask, who had for some reason killed the officer in the room and who had probably also killed the one in the stairwell.

Finch had immediately dismissed the hospital security detail and taken over the investigation.

What a night; would it ever end?

Thank goodness the charge nurse was one smart woman.

Finch found himself admiring her even more when she'd mentioned that the staff at least could be counted on to keep V's secrets. Of course a few of them had now surmised that the man who visited Evey daily was in fact V. Wild horses would not drag that information out of them.

She also informed him that the young doctor, Cahill had somehow convinced V to leave with him, half dragging him by an arm towards the other stairwell.

"Thank-you for your quick thinking," he commended her, pulling up Michael Cahill's number on his cell phone.

She nodded and wandered away as he waited for a connection.

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"Doctor, this is Inspector Finch."

"Ah, Inspector; I hope things are going well." As Michael spoke, V closed the distance between them and he couldn't help but feel intimidated by the way the taller man invaded his personal space, seeming to hover over him.

Gripping Michael's wrist, V brought it and the cell phone he held up so that it was suspended in the space between their ears, allowing him to listen in.

They could both hear Finch's next words. "Well, it won't be easy, but I think we can preserve our masked friend's identity thanks to the quick thinking of the charge nurse. I think I know what happened here, but I need a few questions answered before I can tell you with any real certainty." There was a slight pause. "Could you ask V why he was at the window when he was?"

V pulled the phone closer to his mask and spoke up. "I merely wished to check up on Evey and not having my street clothes, was forced to take the more difficult entrance."

"When I arrived at the window Michael had just confronted the officer, whom I was alarmed to see holding a syringe and reaching for Evey's IV line. As soon as he turned towards the good doctor and pulled his gun, I made my entrance, breaking the window to draw his attention from Michael to myself.

"Wouldn't you have had to break the window to see Evey anyway?" Finch asked, curiosity getting the better of him.

"I would have pried the frame away from the wall with a flat edge I keep in my boot, thus avoiding both broken glass and detection." V informed him.

Michael did a double take while the inspector merely let out a short, "Ah."

"I take it that the officer who was about to harm Evey was one of the two you suspect planted the explosives at the Yard?" V asked.

"He was. Apparently he volunteered to take watch tonight and of course the assigned officer saw no problem with that. As I'm certain you both already know, he likely killed Officer MacLauren and whatever is in that syringe, I'm quite certain it is not benign."

"So what now?" Michael asked, drawing the phone back towards himself.

"Now you get V out of here without him being recognized and I get my people to do damage control and keep our witnesses from blabbing about what they saw. Then I'm afraid that I'll need you down at the Yard for questioning. Have to keep it official, you know."

"One thing, detective," V broke in, again taking control of the phone.

"Yes?"

"I want you to take Evey into protective custody and then release her to me. It's the only way I can get her out of here and keep her safe."

"V, she isn't well enough yet!" Michael protested. "You won't find any physician willing to discharge her when she could still hemorrhage at any time. If it happens away from hospital, it will be a death sentence. Do you really want to take that risk?"

"At this point it is far more likely that she may be killed by another surviving PM member; the other suspect officer for example. I'm certain at this point that if he wasn't at the house when I blew it up, he has dropped under the radar," the vigilante replied.

"There won't be any further problems with Evey's security detail," Finch chimed in. "And we'll increase the detail to two men at any given time. I hope that will suffice; I've dealt with hospitals before and if the doctor is correct, the hospital will take legal action to prevent me removing her from the premises. Besides, Michael is right; anyone can see, just looking at her, that she should not be released."

"Very well." V released the phone, then stalked back towards the x-ray table.

"Good. Where are you two, anyway?"

"Down in the x-ray department," Michael replied. "V most likely has a broken arm. I'm just awaiting the x-ray results, then I'll treat it and get him out of here."

"How did that happen?"

"Bullet."

"I see. Is he still there?"

"He's wandered away for the moment," Michael said, giving V a glance.

"Well, have him phone me when he gets home."

"Will do."

Michael put his phone away and turned towards the man in question.

"Why don't you lay down on the table while I go fetch your films?"

With a sigh of exhaustion, V did just that.

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A short time later, V lay, dressed in surgical scrubs, on the cold table beneath the fluoroscope. He also wore a surgical cap and mask. His mask, wig, clothes and boots, along with his daggers, were bundled up in his cloak and sitting on the counter behind the doctor.

He grunted as Michael pulled gently on his hand and checked the alignment of his bones on the monitor. The pain was tremendous, but something he was quite capable of handling.

Apparently satisfied with his work, the doctor gently eased his arm down onto the table. "Don't move!" he instructed as he turned off the equipment and reached for the materials he would use to immobilize the damaged limb.

"You realize of course that I'll be removing that in a day or two," V informed him when he saw the doctor was intent upon making him an old-fashioned plaster cast.

"Yes, but at least you'll keep it on long enough," Michael replied as he worked. In a short time he had the arm covered in hardening plaster from the upper arm on down to below the elbow.

V let out a long-suffering sigh. "Was that really necessary?"

"Yes," the doctor snapped. "You cannot be subjecting that bone to the kind of pressure your muscles are capable of or you will have the ends completely apart again!" Then Michael took a deep breath and sighed. "Sorry. Didn't mean to scold," he said.

"Scold? Doctor, you nearly snapped my head off." V looked him over. "What's really troubling you?" he asked, his intuition at least as good as Evey's.

A long sigh was followed by a measuring look. "There's something I've been meaning to tell you... but with Evey in hospital and everything that's been happening, I just..." He sighed again and then stood up straighter. "Who am I kidding? The fact is that I've been putting this off, but I can't any longer."

V fixed him with a wary stare. "Go on."

"I'm very sorry to say that I didn't heed that bit of advice you gave me a while back," the physician said, then added. "I'm very sorry indeed. I only hope that you can forgive me."

V stopped breathing as he realized to which advice his friend was referring. It surprised him to realize that it was not anger he first felt wash over him, but rather a profound sadness.

"And what exactly did you do, Michael?" he finally forced himself to ask, as he sat up and glared reproachfully at the man.

Michael picked up the remaining bits of plaster gauze and stepped away to the sink, no doubt to put more distance between them. "She was staying with me. She treated me so well… It seems I deluded myself into thinking that maybe, in light of the situation, that she was ready for a change; that she fancied me…"

"Ah... I see," the vigilante murmured, getting back on his feet while fighting the nausea that suddenly assailed him.

The doctor dried his hands and turned to face him while leaning on the counter. "I asked her to dress up and I took her out to dinner. We had a wonderful meal, laughed and joked together, remembering times we shared."

He rolled his eyes and V was surprised to see tears in them.

"When we got back in the car, I leaned over and kissed her."

Saddened at the betrayal or not, V literally saw red; something that had not happened to him on this scale since Larkhill. In the silence of the room, the sound of the edge of the metal exam table buckling under his grip was deafening.

Michael took a step back, all color draining from his face.

"And what," V asked, in a strained voice, "happened then?"

"Evey immediately pushed me away and took me to task," the doctor groaned. "She made it quite clear that she had no romantic feelings for anyone other than you and then stated that she'd be moving out after work the next day."

V relaxed slightly. "Oh, Michael," he breathed. "I had such high hopes that you would be my friend…"

"I am," the man answered anxiously. "I know that you don't believe it after… after hearing this, but you'll never know how much I regret my impulsiveness. I should have realized what I was risking when I chose to ignore your warning."

"And what exactly were you risking?"

"Something that might have otherwise grown to be my closest friendship… "

V was stunned; completely surprised that Michael thought that much of him and he remained silent for some time before speaking.

"You've destroyed my trust in you," he finally said. "On a night when I confronted the one person whose betrayal led me down this sad path I walk, I find that you've betrayed me as well. You've done the one thing I find very difficult to forgive and that I asked you not to do. I, too had high hopes for our friendship, but how am I ever to enjoy your company again?"

The doctor actually moved forward and closed the distance between them. "When I went to visit Evey, when I was there when she awoke," he began. "She didn't remember me at all… She just kept asking for you. Even now, although she seems to be remembering me, she does not remember that night: I know; I asked. If I had simply kept my mouth shut, you would never know I had betrayed your trust. No one but me would ever know. Yet, knowing the possible consequences, I still told you the truth because I do value you and respect you. Don't you see? I risked it all to set things right between us!"

"Yes, but I have to wonder if you would be so honest now had Evey responded to you that night," he replied, suddenly too tired to want to carry on the conversation.

"V, I told you the truth because I want to win back your trust. I want to be your friend," Michael pleaded.

"It seems more likely at this point that you wish to remain close to me so that you may remain close to Evey," he sighed, bowing his head and closing his eyes.

"I'm prepared to do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes… to convince you that is not true and I will continue to do so until you tell me there is no hope."

V walked to the counter and placed his things in a plastic hospital bag, then turned to fix the doctor with a sympathetic look. "There is always hope," he said as he reached for the door handle. "But you have to understand that from now on, when Evey kisses me, I will remember that you kissed her too… Whenever I see you, I will remember that as well. Whenever you are near Evey, I will always feel a deep suspicion and pang of jealousy."

"Don't you see? What you've done will forever color our relationship and that cannot be undone. After all the betrayals I have suffered, I do not know if your friendship is worth that price. For me, at least, it may be best to remember that you were once my friend and leave it at that."

Michael looked stricken.

With a final glance at him, V left the room.

Almost immediately, he had to step aside as a gurney was rushed past him, three people in scrubs fighting to keep the patient alive long enough to complete some task in the radiology department.

It was the smell that made him turn and follow them; that forced him to try to catch sight of the pitiful thing that lay on the gurney.

That was when the patient's arm flailed outwards and he saw what he had feared he would; an arm and hand with the skin literally falling off them.

He felt an overpowering desire to draw one of his daggers and end the poor sod's life. It would have been a mercy.

Then an ugly thought occurred to him. Had this person been caught in one of the explosions he himself had set? Was he responsible for this atrocity?

It brought him up short and he found himself leaning on the corridor wall as he fought down the powerful urge to retch.

Right then and there he swore that he'd blown up his last building.

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Days passed.

Evidence was gathered.

In the end the government made up a story about opposing extremist factions carrying out an all-out war in London. Nothing to fear, though; they took each other out and London's finest mopped up the rest of the lot...

Finch's explanation was that the evidence he and Dominic turned in had proved to be too embarrassing for the new government. There was no good way to explain away the fact that Sutler and his regime had been controlled by an elitist group, which, up until the day before had also been seizing control of the new government.

Such news would have caused wide-spread panic, re-elections and the like... No, best to simply bury the truth.

"I guess there really isn't such a thing as an honest government, " Finch said with no small amount of disgust. He threw the newspaper he'd been reading in the trash outside the cafe he and Dominic had just exited.

His partner backed up his sentiments by spitting on the sidewalk, then gave him a measuring look. "At least we now have one man high up who can be counted on to do the right thing. Isn't that right, Deputy Commissioner?"

"Yeah, and with any luck my hands won't be completely tied."

"Well, I thought that was where your new 'specialist' came in?"

Finch smiled; a rare thing for him. "That is exactly right, Dominic... exactly right."

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It was only two weeks later, on a cold, blustery late afternoon when V handed Evey gently into a waiting cab and then joined her in the back, giving the driver their destination.

With a quietly murmured, "Come here," he leaned back into the seat and with an arm around her shoulders, pulled her to him. Only once she was safely tucked against his side did he sigh heavily and finally seem to relax.

Evey stole a quick glance at him to see that he had his head tilted back to rest against the top of the seat and that his eyes were closed.

"Are you alright?" she asked softly, deeply concerned. He hadn't seemed to be himself lately and she supposed it was little wonder. After all, he'd suffered a broken arm and far worst than that; emotional trauma.

To have killed his own ex-wife; how horrible had that been? But to have had him admit to her that he felt both grief and joy at having done so... Now THAT had her concerned.

And there was more to it even than that. He'd had a fight of some sort with Michael that neither would talk about, but which had left them both miserable.

Then there was V's account of having seen that badly burned man in a hospital corridor. Somehow he was convinced that it was his fault and nothing she could tell him would convince him otherwise.

She'd asked him over and over again why he felt that way and he'd always replied that he knew the truth when he saw it. Obviously there was something else going on there that he refused to tell her...

"V?" she prompted again.

His eyes opened slightly and he regarded her almost demurely from beneath his lashes. "Oh, it has been a long haul, but I imagine that once I have you home I'll be right as rain," he replied.

She snuggled closer, wrapping her right arm about him and clutching a handful of his coat, rewarded when he kissed her forehead and rubbed his latex cheek against her head.

He smelled so good to her; always had, even when first they'd met in that dreary alley over a year ago. Didn't the scientists say that humans picked their mates partly by scent, whether they realized it or not? Even now, as she surreptitiously sniffed him, she heard him smelling her hair in turn and instantly felt such desire for him wash over her that she nearly cursed the traffic that was delaying their return home.

As he often did, V seemed to sense her sudden agitation and he brought his left hand up to stroke her cheek. "Shhhh, little one; we're nearly there."

Had she made some sound? How had he picked up on her mood so easily?

She looked up at him and found his blue gaze awaiting her. "How...?" she began.

A small smile tugged at his mouth. "Your legs grow restless and you start moving your feet a lot," he said with no small amount of humor.

"Oh."

He tightened his embrace. The air was chill and damp, but he was warm and comforting. She felt loved, protected... In his arms she knew she would never come to harm; the most horrible of calamities would befall any who tried to hurt her.

Despite herself, the motion of the cab and the feel of his embrace soon lulled her to sleep.

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V craned his neck and glanced down at Evey as the taxi turned onto their street, quickly realizing that she was fast asleep.

Was it any wonder, really? After all, she wasn't yet used to being out of bed for this long at a stretch, the medication she was taking for pain made her woozy and her body was still healing from what should have been a fatal injury.

He kissed the top of her head, paid the cab driver as they pulled up in front of the bookstore and then slid out while lifting Evey in his arms. Unlocking the front door to the flat, he wasted no time in entering, securing it behind him and climbing the stairs.

As he placed her in their bed and pulled off her coat, she stirred, calling his name sleepily, her hand returning to grip his garment.

He sat next to her and brushed her cheek with the backs of his gloved fingers. "Rest now," he urged. "You're home."

With a smile, she settled down and drifted back off, her grip loosening enough that he was able to remove her hand from his coat, stand and then back away.

Although he didn't wish to leave her, even for a moment, his face was hurting; he needed to remove the latex appliances that made up his new visage, for he'd worn this mask too long and too often lately. The glue and latex combined were irritating his thin, scarred flesh. He would need to take a break from wearing it...

He took in the sight of Evey sleeping peacefully in his bed one more time and then, with a sigh, turned and made for his downstairs makeup room.

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Evey awoke to the feel of a hand stroking her head and opened her eyes to see V, back in his Fawksian mask and garb, sitting beside her.

"Well, hello there," he greeted her; in that husky tone she so loved.

"What time is it?" She rubbed her face, still groggy. Her medication controlled the non-stop headache and kept her cranial pressure down, but kept her either asleep or drowsy.

"It's going on eight," he replied, then added, "…that would be in the PM."

"Good lord! I'm so sorry, V… I didn't mean to abandon you like that…" She struggled to sit up, only to have him place a hand on her chest and effortlessly push her back down.

He chuckled. "Don't look so guilty, my dear. It's to be expected… and encouraged. If sleeping helps you to heal, then I'd just as soon have you sleep straight through tomorrow."

"I see," she said. "But you aren't seeing the big picture or you would realize that I don't want to sleep. I'm desperate to spend some time with you…" As she spoke, she ran her fingers up his left thigh, which was situated next to her and had the satisfaction of watching the mask tilt as he regarded her hand stroking him.

"Hmmm…" He had to stop to clear his throat. "Yes. A dreadful oversight on my part," he continued, obviously flustered. "After all, I certainly wouldn't want to deprive you in any way."

She again struggled to sit up and this time he helped her, an arm sliding behind her back and lifting.

Of course she ended up in his embrace and she quickly took advantage, burying her face in his doublet as her arms wound about his neck. She could hear him breathing unevenly, his breath meeting resistance from the mask...

"V?"

"Mmmm?"

"Why are you wearing your mask. Wouldn't you feel more comfortable without it?"

"Physically, perhaps..."

She drew back and stared up into the blank, obsidian eyes. "But, I've seen you... Have I ever given you reason to doubt me? I refuse to believe that I reacted badly when I first saw you!"

He shook his head. "No love and no again... But you do not remember my face and I choose to pick a better time to reveal myself; a time when you are no longer taking those medications."

She froze for a moment. The pain meds! He did have a point; they sometimes altered her perceptions and could therefore prove disastrous at so emotional a moment.

She sighed and returned to his eager embrace. "Yes. I suppose you're right. But why not wear the scarf instead?"

"Tomorrow I shall," he replied. In typical V fashion, he'd decided and put an end to that discussion.

Evey actually found it a refreshing trait. She always knew up front what could be negotiated and what could not. She respected that, but was determined to one day turn it back upon him.

"Are you hungry?" he asked softly. "You haven't eaten since this morning."

"Not hungry," she answered, her stomach instantly rebelling at the mere thought of food. Again, it was a side-effect of the medication.

He tsked softly. "Evey, you're far too thin... If I make you something bland will you at least have a few bites?"

"All right," she agreed, realizing that he was right to worry; she was looking wasted after her hospital stay.

"Good." As he stood, he reached down and scooped her up, then snatched the comforter off the bed.

A quick trip down the hallway and Evey soon found herself comfortably settled on the couch before the fireplace. V had apparently started a nice fire sometime while she slept and she found herself very appreciative of its warmth and relaxing glow.

Still, he hovered over her as though reluctant to move away.

"Would you like a book to read?" he asked. When she shook her head gingerly in the negative, he continued, "Something to drink?"

"I'm fine," she said with a smile.

He nodded and then retreated to the kitchen, where she soon heard him humming as he prepared her a meal.

She sighed with contentment at finally being with him in their new home.

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A few hours later, Evey found herself enjoying a nice soak in the tub. She was also well-fed, for she'd suddenly felt hungry upon smelling the porridge V had set out in front of her, sprinkled with brown sugar and topped with blueberries. She'd somehow managed to finish the entire bowl.

With a sigh, she sank down further beneath the bubbles and remembered how tenderly he'd run his gloved fingers over the nape of her neck and her back as she'd eaten, his chair drawn close to her own. He'd whispered encouragement as she ate and mentioned how much progress she'd made in her recovery.

"In many ways, you are like me," he'd remarked. "You're a survivor, Evey, not a victim." Then the mask had tilted ever so slightly, a sure indication that something had occurred to him.

"What is it?" she'd asked.

The mask moved closer, until the dark voids that hid his eyes were right in front of her; until she could see nothing but their dark depths.

"I just had a flash of memory; a sudden playback of all the events that have brought us to this point; this place in time where we find ourselves sitting together in our new home..."

She'd felt his hands upon her shoulders then, squeezing and kneading them.

"And I realized that this was meant to be. We were meant to be here with each other. Not even mortal injuries could prevent it from happening."

"Then let's consider ourselves blessed and not tempt fate any more than necessary," she'd answered.

"We won't. I won't," he'd promised her. "But Evey, my love..."

"V?"

"I'm beginning to believe."

"In what? She'd asked, puzzled.

"In happy endings."

They'd stared at each other for a few seconds more before she'd found herself caught in his embrace and lifted onto his lap for a good long cuddle.

After a time, he'd reluctantly stood and placed her back on her chair so that he might prepare the bath for her... and here she was, as content as she could be considering her state of health.

She thought back on what he'd said about them being fated to reach this point.

Did she believe in happy endings? Could she after all she'd suffered in her short life? If V could begin to believe despite all he'd suffered, then why couldn't she? Why did she feel as though some cruel event was waiting to occur; that their happy ending would be snatched away from her the moment she truly believed in it?

She'd had happy moments snatched away from her during her life; V had not... or at least, he couldn't remember it. Perhaps that was why this was harder for her despite that her life had been easer than his had.

Just then there was a light knock on the door and his voice called out, "May I come in?"

She looked down at her disappearing bubbles and blushed slightly. She might as well invite him in; it wasn't as though he'd never seen her naked before.

"Evey?"he called again.

"Come in," she replied, forcing herself to relax.

And there he was. "I come bearing warm gifts," he said, holding a large towel up. "Are you ready to come out?"

She nodded. "Yeah. The water is getting a bit cool."

Before she could struggle to her feet, his hand was on her arm, helping her up and then she found herself wrapped in warmth.

"Mmmm. What did you do; put it in the oven?" she asked, indicating the terrycloth.

"I did." He hugged her tightly for a moment and then took hold of the towel and actually began drying her off.

She giggled when he wrapped her arms around his neck and then lifted her right leg so that he might dry it from thigh on down to toes.

With a small chuckle of his own, he repeated the process with her left leg.

"There now; all done!" he announced as he wrapped the towel around her once more and then scooped her up in his arms.

"V, you've barely let me walk anywhere on my own tonight!" she protested as he carried her out the door and towards the bedroom.

"That, my love, is because I am using your recovery as an excuse to hold you close at every turn." So saying, he placed her in the bed and then snatched the towel away.

The small trill that escaped him as he regarded her lying there naked did unspeakable things to her body, despite the continued pain in her head.

She wanted him very badly.

"Turn out the lights and come to bed," she coaxed in a husky tone.

It seemed to break him out of his rapt state. He suddenly covered her with the comforter and then sat next to her on the bed. "First you must take your medication," he reminded her, reaching for the pills and the glass of water he'd placed on the nightstand.

Sitting up, she sighed. "How unromantic of you…"

With a small chuckle, he selected the required number of pills and held them out to her along with the water.

She waited until he returned the half-empty glass to the nightstand and then caught his uninjured arm. "Come to bed…" she again coaxed.

"Oh, I plan to…" he breathed, standing suddenly.

She watched avidly as he moved towards the door and flipped off the light switch, leaving the room illuminated only by a small lamp on the dresser. It was with some surprise that she saw him cover the remaining light source with one of her scarves. It darkened the room further and gave it a soft, warm glow, yet still left him perfectly visible.

Was he setting "the mood"? She certainly hoped so!

He quickly removed his jacket, then laid it on the chair in the corner of the room before moving back to the foot of the bed. There, he turned to face her and slowly began to unbutton his shirt, seeming all the while to be watching her; judging her reaction, perhaps?

He shucked his gloves next, tossing them across the room to land on the dresser, then pulled his shirt from his britches and shrugged out of it, allowing it to fall to the floor.

And still he watched her.

Evey swallowed with an audible gulp and the mask tilted slightly. She had no doubt that he was probably laughing at her beneath it, but at that point she hardly minded. The sight of his wide shoulders, his strong chest and lean waist had her breathing rapidly.

As for his scars...

They were nothing.

Nothing.

She barely even noticed.

Apparently satisfied with her reaction to him, he made that little sound of his; that little noise that could be so many things but which seemed right now to express pleasure. Without further adieu, he reached down to the side closure of his britches and undid it.

And again he was watching her as he stripped off both britches and boxers and stepped of of them..

Evey felt her face and chest flush as she took in his lean hips, strong lean legs and obviously awakening manhood. It was suddenly hard to breathe and her heart was racing.

Holding out her arms she whispered his name and it came out more as a plea than a summons.

Bending forward, his hands contacting the bed, he leaned his weight on his arms and stalking her on all fours, as graceful as a jungle cat, his muscles clearly defined and rippling beneath his damaged skin. Slowly he moved towards her, over her...

She whimpered, overcome with need...

...and suddenly felt as though her skull was coming apart.

Clutching her head, she rolled onto her side, her whimper becoming a gasp of pain.

And he was instantly there, hovering over her. "Love? What is it?"

"I'll be alright," she gasped, holding her head and rocking. "Just give me a minute."

A strong hand pushed her onto her back, holding her still while the other hand came up to settle gently on her neck. "Your blood pressure is up," he observed.

"You think?" she managed to squint up at him took a few deep breaths before laughing. "I can't imagine how that happened..."

He removed his hands to the bed on either side of her and went back to crouching over her. His head dipped down low to nuzzle her neck.

"There now; that will teach you to stare at me with those beautiful brown eyes and think such lascivious things," he whispered near her ear, his voice raising her desire to an even higher level despite the pain in her skull.

Despite herself, she moaned when the lips of his mask grazed her ear.

"If you were feeling better I would have to chastise you for your lustful thoughts," he admonished teasingly. "Do you think this body is merely your plaything?"

"Uh… no?" she answered, unsure of where this was going.

"I do wish you'd reconsider that answer, love," he sighed, sounding disappointed.

She found herself giggling, then reached up and ran her hands down his chest as he began to sit up. "You're my favorite playmate, not my plaything," she breathed, already feeling better.

As she made to move her hands further down his body, he groaned and caught them in his own.

"As you are mine; my only one and the only playmate I shall ever need," he husked. "But for tonight and until you are well enough, you shall instead be my love and bedmate."

"But... I'm feeling better," she protested.

Leaning forward, he nuzzled her with the mask's nose. "Only because you've calmed a bit and although I do relish the thought of incapacitating you with my irresistible charm, I would far rather have you sleeping peacefully in my arms than wincing in agony beneath me."

So saying, he bounded off the bed and turned off the lamp. In the darkness she felt the mattress move, then he crawled in beside her and pulled her into his arms.

His lips met her own, kissing her soundly, his mask apparently left behind after the light was put out.

After a few delightful moments, he rolled onto his back and tucked her against his side with her head resting on his shoulder.

"V?"

"Yes, love?"

"Do you really believe in happy endings?"

There was a long pause, then he kissed her forehead. "Oh yes. I do believe in them. There are happy endings. Occasionally you even hear about them in the news or read about them in the papers... or in books."

"But for us; do you believe in a happy ending for us?" she pressed.

He hugged her tightly for a moment. "I have to believe, Evey. The alternative is something I cannot imagine or live through... We must all have something to hope for in this life. So yes, I do believe; I believe that a tree is waiting for both of us; together."

"I love you," she whispered.

"Not half so much as you are loved," he breathed.

Fin