The Meltdown
A "V for Vendetta" short story by Tina Price. A very bad day reveals a few surprises.

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 PG, for some adult language. It is based upon my own continuation of the V for Vendetta storyline following the events of the movie (refer to my homepage for previous stories). This story takes place a few days after my story, "The Piano". As always, constructive criticism and advice are always appreciated!


The Meltdown

Evey Hammond was having one of the worse days of her life.

Truly.

Nothing at all had gone right for her from the moment she'd kissed V good-bye that morning and gone on to work.

She'd been late because of a traffic snarl and had jumped off the bus in the hopes of walking the distance faster.

Then it had rained.

She'd had to explain her tardiness to her boss.

Ten minutes later she'd broken a newly arrived artifact while cleaning it. Her boss had nearly wet himself!

She'd thrown up in the hallway thirty minutes after lunch...

...right in front of the Museum director.

In shame, she'd hidden away in the back of the cataloging room and prayed to end the day without further incident.

No such luck; her final physical therapy session had ended on a sour note when she'd discovered that there had been an error made and her insurance was refusing to pay.

Then there'd been the phone call from her doctor... she'd cried over that in the ladies room for a good fifteen minutes before drying her eyes and heading home.

Home.

Thank-the-stars-above that she'd made it back in one piece.

Rather than unlocking the front door to the flat, she went in through the book shoppe entrance so that she could greet her lover.

Oh, how she needed a hug right now!


V was at a desk in the back stock room when he heard Terrance Neilsen, one of the two clerks he had working the evening shift tonight, greet Evey with a, "Good-evening Ms. Hammond."

"Hello, Terry," she responded. "Is Mr. Hammond about?"

"Yes, ma'am; in the back room."

"Thanks."

V immediately rose from his computer and moved a bit closer to the doorway, eager to greet his lover after so many hours apart. Still, he was somewhat surprised when she appeared and without a word, flung herself into his arms, burying her face in his shirt.

He held her close and kissed the top of her head, rocking her slightly in his embrace as long minutes passed.

Still, she maintained a death's grip on him.

"Is everything all right, my love?" he asked, deeply concerned.

"It is now," she sighed.

The continued tenseness of her form still troubled him and he tipped her chin up with a gloved hand so that she would meet his gaze. It was one of the perks of wearing a realistic mask; that she could see his eyes and some expression on his face.

"Had a bad day?" he asked softly.

"The worse," she grumped. "I hope you won't be working too much longer."

He froze. "Ah. About that..."

"Oh, V; you promised me that we could do take out and a movie tonight," she moaned.

"I'm so sorry," he said, as sincerely as he could. "I didn't forget; it's only that the missing shipment just arrived an hour ago and I've got to get it all in the inventory. People have been waiting for these for weeks."

She let him go and moved away from him far too quickly to lend conviction to her next words, "I understand."

Reaching out quickly, he snagged her hand and pulled her back to him. "We have two ways of doing this, love," he whispered near her ear, wrapping his arms around her in a comforting hug. "I can drop this and spend a few hours with you, then spend the rest of the night down here… or I can finish up here and be with you until tomorrow morning. Which shall it be, Hmmm?"

He felt her arms tighten around him. "I'm sorry," she said. "You're right; best that you finish up and then we can spend some quality time together."

He kissed the top of her head. "That's my Evey."

She looked up at him, giving him a half-hearted smile. "What do you want for dinner?"

"I'm glad you asked. I prepared a Shepherd's Pie for us. All it requires is baking. If that sounds good to you, would you mind popping it in the oven?"

She nodded. "Sounds great to me. Do you want a salad with it?"

"You know me so well." Releasing her, he gave her a gentle smack on the derrière. "Off you go. Call me for dinner. You can tell me all about your terrible day then."

He watched as she unlocked the back door to their flat and threw him a smile over her shoulder before disappearing.

After she'd gone, he smiled as well, delighted to have been able to cheer her, even if only enough to see her smile.


Evey felt a bit better after greeting V; he was always so good at calming her when her nerves were frazzled. Today they were more than frazzled; they were shot, yet he'd still made her feel better.

It was disappointing that he had to finish the inventory tonight; she'd been looking forward to curling up with him on the sofa, watching a good movie and talking a bit...

With a sigh, she put away her coat and kicked her shoes into the closet before donning her slippers.

Investigating the refrigerator, she found the Shepherd's Pie. It was a lovely one at that; possibly V's best effort with a meal that traditionally seemed to become the victim of some calamity each time he attempted to cook it.

Placing it on the counter top, she delved into the crisper only to realize that the lettuce she was counting on had wilted.

Damn! She would have to make a run down the street to the store. What else could possibly go wrong today?

Back to the bedroom she went in order to change from her dress into a pair of comfortable jeans and a sweatshirt. Then she threw on her jacket, a scarf and put on a pair of sneakers.

Rather than telling V where she was headed, she bypassed temptation and left through the front door. She wouldn't be gone very long, after all.


She didn't get back for over an hour!

The little grocery mart a few blocks away that she usually went to had closed early for some private reason. She'd been forced to hail a cab and travel several miles.

Upon arriving at the huge super-center she'd found it packed to the gills with shoppers. Apparently everyone and their mother had decided to do some major grocery shopping after work today. She'd been forced to wait in que for quite a long time for just a few simple items; and that was in the express que!

About the time she'd paid for her items, she'd realized that she'd forgotten to transfer her money from the dresser to the jeans she'd changed into. That meant that she hadn't enough money to take the taxi back; she'd had to catch a bus, which hadn't hit that pickup stop for a further twenty minutes.

So here she was; rushing in the front door dripping wet from another downpour and frustrated to the point of anger by her latest string of bad luck.

Flying up the stairs, she kicked off her shoes and made a bee-line for the oven, which she turned up on high to get it heating. Then she flung her coat over a dining chair, washed her hands and began cleaning the salad vegetables.

After that, she retrieved the Shepherd's Pie from the fridge and popped it in the oven, setting the timer before going back to fixing the salad.

As she worked, she again began to fret over how best to talk to V about her day and one particular bad bit of it...

"Oh!"

The exclamation was torn from her the moment her nervous system informed her that her inattention had led to an accident. Dumbfounded; not yet feeling any pain, she stared at the finger she'd cut even as the first stream of blood began to run from it.

She flew to the sink and thrust it beneath the tap, allowing the water to flow over it and wash the gore down the drain. Only then did she feel the sting and the throbbing pain of the injury setting in.

She cursed, angry with herself for having done this, as she assessed the damage. It could probably do with a stitch or two, but it wasn't bad enough to absolutely require them. She would bind it herself and go without rather than end up back at hospital.

It was later, as she finished taping her finger over the bathroom sink, that she finally broke down. As tears began running down her face, she sank to the floor and leaning against the tub, numbly stared at the bath mat while she cried silently.


Evey wasn't quite certain how much time went by, but the next thing she was aware of was V calling out her name.

"Evey? Evey!"

Sniffing, she tried to dry her eyes with the back of her hand and was about to stand up when he rounded the corner and let out a gasp.

"Dear Lord; what's the matter?" he asked, immediately falling to his knees beside her. Grasping her wrist, he pulled her arm up so that he could see her fingers. "You've cut yourself."

He pulled her to him and hugged her. "There now, looks like you took good care of it. Why are you so distraught? It has definitely been a bad day for you; that's a certainty, but tomorrow things will look better."

His words grated on her already unstable emotions. She knew he was only trying to comfort her and yet some part of her began to direct all her pent-up hostility towards him. How dare he act like this day was easy to shrug off; like she was over-reacting!

Then the smoke alarm went off!

"Oh my God!" she moaned, even as V literally disappeared from sight.

By the time she got to her feet and timidly approached the kitchen, he'd already removed the burned pie from the oven and was opening the kitchen window.

"But..." she stammered, "I set the timer!"

He gave her an odd look. "Yes, well, you also set the oven at five hundred degrees."

She dropped bonelessly into a dining room chair. She'd forgotten to lower the oven before popping the pie in.

"Evey," he sighed. "What were you thinking? This really isn't like you at all."

She hung her head, ashamed at having destroyed yet another of his Shepherd Pie attempts.

He clicked his tongue as he went about scraping the ruined meal into the garbage. "My poor little pie..." he lamented.

And Evey suddenly saw red.

Coming to her feet, she confronted him and the look on her face must have been most unpleasant, for he froze and recoiled in alarm before she even spoke.

"You stuck-up, smug, uncaring bastard!" she yelled. "I'm sorry that I'm not as brilliant as you, not as resilient as you; that I've never gone through the pain you endured and that I've not been maimed for life... You could still at least have the decency to acknowledge that I have every right to feel horrible over the day I've been having!" She batted the pie dish right out of his hand.

Fortunately he caught it out of the air with his other; it was made of tempered glass and would otherwise have broken.

Somehow that infuriated her further.

"I'm so sorry to have ruined your precious pie!" she hissed. Then she turned and ran off down the hallway towards the bathroom, intent on escaping him, on locking herself in.

Yet, his reflexes, his speed were too much for her. He caught her arm before she reached the doorway.

"Let go of me you freak!"

The moment the words were out she froze in horror. There was dead silence except for the sound of his suddenly indrawn breath.

With dread, she lifted her eyes to his face.

He looked as though she had struck him. Slowly he released her arm and started to back away...


V felt the blood drain from his face. That she, of all people, should call him that... was almost unbearable.

Without hardly realizing he was doing it, he began to back away from her, literally distancing himself.

She could not have said that; not his Evey... She would never have said... or meant that...

He stopped his retreat, willing himself to stay and see this through.

Again he came back to the thought that Evey would never have said such a thing, and therefore this was not she, not his lover... This was a woman in extreme emotional distress; or was it the brain damage she'd suffered?

A very real fear began to overtake him even as Evey suddenly collapsed to the ground with a wail.

"I'm sorry," she cried. "Please don't leave."

Instantly he was on the floor beside her. "I'm not going anywhere," he reassured her.

She sobbed even louder. "I didn't mean it! I didn't! I don't know why I said that! Please... please... forgive me!"

"There is nothing to forgive. I know it wasn't you that said that." He wrapped his arms around her, but she still held herself away from his embrace; not returning it but rather remaining huddled around herself.

"You'll never be able to forget that I said that! I've ruined everything... "

He held her tighter. "I've already forgotten it. Come now; your bad day is over now; you'll see. Dry your eyes and stop feeling blue. I'll take you out for dinner or pick up some take out. We'll have a nice evening together and you can somehow make this up to me; you like doing that, don't you?"

His attempt at humor was completely ignored. She sobbed even harder, her entire body shaking.

"Evey…" he entreated, his voice low, but close to breaking, he had such a lump in his throat. "Love…" he tried again, nearly beside himself over her great distress.

Still she sobbed, leaving him quite at a loss as to what to do.

Looking around him, desperate for some idea on how best to comfort her, his eyes fell upon his piano.

Should he? Did he dare?

Yes, he would; he'd dare anything if it would ease her pain.

Standing abruptly, with Evey still in his arms, he strode to the piano and after hooking the bench out with a foot, plopped himself down upon it.

The sudden change of venue had caused his lover to take a deep breath and interrupted her sobbing. Now she looked about her in a startled manner, hiccuping as tears still ran down her face.

He placed her on the bench beside him and turned his attention to his beloved piano.

"Now then," he said, as his fingers played over the keys, coaxing a melody from them. "It would seem, given your refusal to listen to me, that you've left me with little alternative…" he said as his fingers danced on the keyboard, "but to convince you of my sincerity…" Again he coaxed his piano into filling the room with a beautiful melody. "by singing to you."

She sniffed and stared at him in confusion.

"Yes, well… you've brought this upon yourself love," he admonished. "So don't complain if I offend your ears."

"What…?"

"Right then, here we go…"

And he began to do something he had never done before; sing to an audience. Yes, an audience of one, to be sure, but he'd never sung to anyone but himself and his Shadow Gallery before.

"It´s hard for me to say the things

I want to say sometimes.

There´s no one here but you and me

And that broken old street light..."


Evey sat beside V at the piano and stared at him as though she'd only just met him for the first time; that was how surprised she was that he had begun singing to her.

She'd heard him play his beloved piano before; on many, many occasions and his abilities at the keyboard were quite spectacular, yet never before had he added his own voice to the melody; at least not while she was there.

His singing voice was beautiful, better even than his speaking voice; deep, but with a good range, it resonated through her.

Or perhaps it was merely because it was the voice she loved best in the world?

But why now; why was he singing to her for the first time ever, after she'd treated him so poorly?

She sniffed and tried to control her hiccuping so that she could concentrate on what he was singing.

"I never knew I had a dream

Until that dream was you...

When I look into your eyes

The sky´s a different blue.

Cross my heart

I wear no disguise

If I tried, you´d make believe

That you believed my lies."

She stared at him dumbfounded. Was he singing her a love song?

His eyes met her own then and he held her gaze as he sang,

"Thank you for loving me;

For being my eyes

When I couldn't see,

For parting my lips

When I couldn't breathe.

Thank you for loving me."


It was working; she'd stopped crying and was listening to him; listening to his words, even though they were also another's and although tears still trailed down her face, her eyes were beginning to smile at him. She'd even moved closer to him on the bench, her leg pressed against his own.

He bent and moved his face even closer to her own, lowering his voice and lightening up on the keys as he finished:

"You pick me up when I fall down.

You ring the bell before they count me out.

If I was drowning you would part the sea

And risk your own life to rescue me..."

"Lock the doors;

We´ll leave the world outside.

All I've got to give to you

Are these five words when I

Thank you for loving me..."

He leaned even closer then, his lips brushing hers as he sang the last line, "Oh, for loving me..." And then he kissed her, bringing his hands off the piano to gently gather her into his embrace.

After long moments of murmuring endearments in her ear, he held her away from him and dried her eyes with the back of his fingers.

"There now; you see that I'm not angry with you and that you haven't driven me off."

"You shouldn't forgive me so easily for such cruelty," she sniffed. "You deserve better than to be treated in such a way. You've faced far too much cruelty already to accept it from me as well. There wasn't any good excuse for my behavior... I've never been like that, acted like that before… unless…"

He shook his head. "You've been through so much and you've put up with so much from me; how could I not understand and forgive you for having a little meltdown today, apparently one of the worse days you've ever had?"

"You're quite the gentleman, referring to my insanity a moment ago as just a little meltdown," she sighed.

"I do my best," he said with a rueful smile.

A strange look suddenly clouded Evey's face. "Hormonal?" she breathed. "Oh please…"

"Pardon?" he asked, somewhat startled by her sudden nonsensical comment.

She met his gaze then and shook her head. "Uh… I think this is all going to become much clearer to you in a moment." She leaned closer and pulled him to her for another kiss before standing up. "Wait right there. I need to go get something."

Then she wandered back down the hallway.


Evey felt her heart hammering in her chest in dreaded anticipation of what she was about to reveal. Still, she retrieved the overnight bag from the back of the armoire and forced her feet to carry her back to the front room and V.

"Here," she said, handing the bag over to him.

He took it and looked at her in confusion. "This is the bag Michael brought to hospital; the one he filled with the possessions you left at his place after you were shot..."

"Yes."

"You haven't unpacked it?"

"No. I've left it so that I could show it to you; let's unpack it now." At his very puzzled look, she continued. "I want you to see what's in it, V."

He still looked confused. "How do you want me to do this?"

"Well, any way you'd like..." she replied, sitting down beside him on the bench. "You can dump it out and sort through it or pull things out one at a time; I leave it up to you."

"What is this about, Evey?" he asked, reaching into the bag and pulling out a tube of toothpaste.

"It will all become clear, just examine the clues, Sherlock."

He actually chuckled at that and then let out a pleased sound at the sight of the white, lacy thong he pulled out of the bag next. "I don't think I've seen you in this one yet..." he hinted. At her raised eyebrow, he continued on with his task.

One by one he continued to empty items from the bag until he finally pulled out a flat plastic case.

"Open it," she commanded.

He did. Then he did a double-take and gave her an odd look. "Love, aren't these your..."

"Yes?" she asked innocently.

"Aren't these your birth control pills?" he asked, suddenly looking uncomfortable.

"They are." She offered no further information, knowing as she did just how intelligent he was; he was certain to figure it out on his own.

"These were left at Michaels." It was a statement, not a question.

She still nodded in answer.

"They were left there because you were shot..."

Again she nodded.

"Thirteen pills are missing."

"Yes. And as you can guess, no one at hospital offered me any while I was unconscious or even when I was recovering."

His hand was shaking as he put the item down on the piano. "We... we... last made love two days before you were shot..."

"Yeah," she sighed. At his stare she added, "I suffered a brain injury, remember? I certainly didn't remember to take these... nor did I remember even being on them or when we last..." She blushed. "You get the picture."

"Evey... it's been four weeks since you were nearly taken from me." He gently grasped her chin and tipped it up so that she would meet his gaze. "Are you trying to tell me..."

"Yes. I am."

He blinked. "You're pregnant?"

"My doctor called me this afternoon to confirm it." She sniffed as the tears began again, despite her best efforts to keep from crying. "I'm sorry, V... I know that you wanted to wait, to have the genetic testing done..."

She suddenly found herself gathered up in his arms and held tightly.

"Sshhh…shhhhh," he soothed as he rocked her gently against him. "I'm not upset, I'm not angry and I'm not disappointed; terrified, amazed and hopeful, yes, but certainly not upset."

"I'm pretty terrified myself," she admitted. "And I'm afraid to hope that this baby will be all right."

He actually laughed then. "Well here's something that you and I seem to be very good at accomplishing," he tittered. "If we're not careful we'll soon have a house overflowing with children!

"You seem to be taking this very well," she breathed.

He kissed her forehead and gave her a squeeze. "Just the fact that you conceived so easily despite the genetic questions as well as the fact that you should have died from that gunshot, but didn't… makes me very hopeful that all will be well. There are no coincidences, remember?"

"Yeah," she sniffed. "You're OK with this; really?"

"Yeah." He kissed her. "Still, we'll go see Michael tomorrow and see what he suggests we do." He studied her face. "Why do I have the feeling that you need further assurance? Do I have to sing to you again?" he asked.

"That's hardly a threat."

"It is if I sing a certain Paul Anka song to you," he countered.

"Akk!" She began laughing despite herself. "No, that won't be necessary."

"Good. If I'm to subject you to my singing, I can at least show some taste in my selection of music."

"V!" she exclaimed, suddenly serious. "You have a wonderful singing voice! Why ever would you think that you don't?"

He hugged her tightly. "Because I've never before had anyone there to hear me. One's perceptions of self become very distorted in those circumstances, Evey. I meant every bit of what I sang to you tonight. Don't you ever doubt it, love."

She sighed as he kissed her, then answered truthfully, "I won't."

"To think that I, who was once so alone, shall soon have yet another person to share my home; it is something which I once thought merely an impossible dream."

"And you could teach them piano," she added. "But in the meantime you'll have your hands full baby-proofing this residence. No explosives! No booby-traps! Definitely no knives left laying about!"

"Evey, love… you'll reduce me to being your average bloke!" he joked.

"That, my love is something you will never be," she laughed.

Finis


Appendix:

Song: "Thank You For Loving Me" by Jon Bon Jovi