A "V for Vendetta" story by Tina Price.
Preview: Who tends the doctor when he is ill? Moreover, as it is well known that doctors make the world's worst patients; why would they?
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 and takes place in my V for Vendetta story-verse. As always, constructive criticism and advice are always appreciated!
Tea and Sympathy
Doctor Michael Cahill gradually became aware of his surroundings and he was not at all happy with them.
He was lying in his foyer, on the cold tile, his arm outstretched and his cell phone in pieces just out of his reach.
He began to shiver violently.
How had this happened? Had he fallen? Wait! He'd been talking on the phone and then things had gotten hazy...
Good lord, he'd passed out.
With a groan and a chattering of teeth, he pushed himself into a more upright position and immediately felt the room spin again.
Low blood pressure; he was dehydrated and far worse than he had imagined. It was something he could deal with. He would make certain to drink plenty as soon as he could get himself on his feet.
Taking a few deep breaths and trying to stabilize his vertigo, his eyes came to rest on the ruins of his phone. He'd been talking to V...
"Wonderful..." he breathed. All he needed was someone showing up and fussing over him. He hated that.
Although, if Evey were to be his nurse... But no; that could not be and he swore it would not. His interaction with her would have to be cursory until he'd earned V's trust back.
Carefully, slowly, he rose to his feet and somehow made his way unsteadily into the kitchen. He snatched a bottle of sports drink out of the icebox and a bottle of Ibuprofen out of the cabinet and took them with him to the bedroom.
He collapsed on the bed and allowed himself a few minutes rest before sitting up and guzzling half the bottle along with a few pills. Then he pulled the comforter over himself and curled up, fully dressed. In a few minutes his shivering stopped and he drifted off to sleep...
...Only to awaken on the verge of vomiting.
Slamming a hand over his mouth, he shot from the bed and reeled into the bathroom, barely sinking to his knees in front of the loo before everything, including the ibuprofen, came back up in an explosive manner.
How long he knelt there, shivering and heaving, he didn't know, but the next thing he was aware of was a soft footfall behind him.
Turning, he wasn't surprised to see V outlined in the doorway, but he was surprised to see him in dressed in his vigilante outfit and mask.
"Physician, heal thyself," the man said softy, his deep voice reverberating slightly off the tiles. "Ah, Michael... if you were ill, you could have admitted it rather than ending our conversation in so spectacular a manner."
"Why are you dressed like that?" he asked, aware that his thoughts were too muddled to make sense of the situation.
"You gasped and the phone went dead, nor could I get up with you afterwards. I thought you'd been attacked, hence my manner of dress." V moved into the room and reached over to flush the loo. "It pays to be prepared. I've seen your phone out in the foyer and judging by your current predicament I would guess that you passed out. Tell me; are you injured and are you by any chance the victim of influenza?"
"I'm not hurt and I'll be right in a day or two," he answered. "Sorry to have dragged you out here."
The mask tilted. "Well, I'll take that as an affirmative with regards to the flu. Come along." With that, he stooped and half pulled Michael to his feet, then swept him up, carrying him back to his bed.
"Here now! No need for that!"
"My dear man, you could barely rise to your feet and now I have you I can feel that you are burning up with fever." He placed him gently on the bed and began tugging off his jacket. "Did you actually work your full shift at hospital like this? Please tell me you didn't!"
Michael protested the forceful disrobing by swatting at V's hands, but to no avail; the jacket came off anyway. Then the man tugged off his socks and moved on to the buttons of his shirt. "I stayed away from the patients and concentrated on paperwork," he answered. "Stop that! I can get that myself, dammit!"
"I will tear that bloody shirt right off you if you don't stop hindering me," V warned. "You are far too hot and if you do not cooperate I will retaliate by dousing you in the shower."
"I don't want you to catch this," Michael moaned, lying back and fighting another series of dry heaves as his friend made short work of the rest of his clothes.
"Nonsense! If I do catch it, I assure you that I will be over the worse of it in mere hours. I'm the best candidate for nursing you..." V froze as he finished pulling off Michaels trousers. "Ooh, red boxer briefs; how interesting to see that you can't make up your mind between the two," he quipped.
Michael felt his face flush further. "Don't laugh; they're comfortable and the ladies love them. If that makes me an in-betweener, then so be it."
Thankfully, V said nothing further about his underwear, instead helping him under the one bed sheet he would allow, having yanked the comforter right off the bed and out of reach. "Where's your thermometer?" he asked. "I know you have one."
"Bathroom cabinet," he mumbled, trying to cocoon himself in the sheet in an effort to get warm.
V returned with the digital thermometer and wasted no time in sticking it in his ear. "Not good, Michael," he breathed just seconds later. "You're up to one hundred and four." His mask turned towards the drink and pills on the end table.
"I tried, but they came right back up," Michael informed him.
"Then I think we both know that you shall have to receive your fluids in a more direct manner."
"I can start my own IV," he replied.
V sighed and sat on the bed next to him, the mask watching him in a blank manner he found most unnerving. "You know very well that in your current state that you cannot," his friend said. "Why do you insist on refusing my help when we both know just how ill you are?"
"I... just don't like to be fussed over, is all," he muttered, suddenly feeling like a petulant child.
"That's yet one more thing we have in common," V replied. "However, one good turn deserves another; you saved my life not so long ago and now you'll have to let me help you in return."
V cut him off. "Unless you'd rather have me drop you at the emergency room?" he asked, his voice low and threatening.
"The rest of the medical supplies are in the top of my closet," he answered, giving up the fight.
"Very good," the masked man said, rising from the bed and moving in that direction.
A liter of normal saline and an IV dose of Phenergan later, Michael was able to take the ibuprofen and fell fast asleep shortly after.
V removed his mask, cloak and knife belt, carefully laying them on a bedroom chair and then retreated to the kitchen to brew some tea.
Putting the kettle on, a glance at the clock showed the time as nearly nine. Evey would begin to worry soon if he didn't get up with her.
He moved out into the foyer and collected the pieces of Michael's cell phone, taking them back to the kitchen table with him. It didn't look as bad as he'd first thought.
Sitting down, he removed a miniature tool kit from his jacket and went to work on the phone.
Michael awoke to find V sitting in the large armchair beside him, his feet propped up on the mattress. The man had removed his mask, but not the wig and appeared to be sleeping, eyes closed and chest rising and falling slowly and steadily beneath his crossed arms.
He took the opportunity to study his friend's face, for he rarely ever truly saw it.
It was then that V's eyelids cracked open sleepily. Seeing him, they opened fully, revealing large, wide-set eyes which were shockingly blue against the reddened and mottled background of his scarred face.
"Ah; you're awake," he murmured, rising to his feet. "How are you feeling?"
V snatched the thermometer off the end table and in the next instant Michael had it shoved back into his ear canal.
"Much better!" his would-be nurse exclaimed. "You're down to one hundred and two."
"Can I have my comforter back now? I'm freezing," he asked.
V nodded and began covering him as Michael glanced at his alarm clock, which showed the time as three in the morning.
"Good lord; was I really asleep that long?" he asked.
"And snoring as well," his friend snickered.
He smiled to hide his embarrassment. "Did you get any sleep?"
"All that I require," came the reply. "Would you care for some tea? I made myself some while you slept and I'm thinking about making some more."
"I'd like that," he replied, surprised at how settled his stomach remained at the thought.
With a nod, V headed for the kitchen, leaving him alone with a woozy head and some strange thoughts. He must have drifted off at some point because the next thing he knew, the sound of V placing the tea tray on the end table woke him.
Without a word, the man poured him a cup and fixed it just the way he liked it; with one cube of sugar and a dash of cream.
Michael scooted up in the bed as V helped arrange his pillows behind him and then handed over the tea. Then he sat in the arm chair and propped his feet back up on the bed.
"By the way; I fixed your cell phone while you slept," his caregiver said, after sipping some tea.
"Did you phone Evey?"he asked.
"I did, so now you shall have to put up with me as I am not expected back any time soon."
He nodded, but was distracted by V's feet, for he could clearly see the outline of his feet through the thin socks he wore and was unable to ignore the obvious twisting of one of his little toes. "Does it bother you much?" he asked, gesturing towards the digit in question.
V followed his gaze and took a long moment to reply, "Yes, quite often."
"Why don't you consider the surgeries I've mentioned. Releasing the worse of your contracted scar tissue will do much to ease your discomfort."
"I'll think about it, Michael," he replied, then sipped his tea.
They remained silent for a time, but the tea and the buzzing in his head were lulling him back to sleep and Michael wanted desperately to learn a bit more about his friend. If he were well, he might not have ventured to ask so much, but he was well aware that in his current state, V would be more likely to forgive him if he ventured into hostile territory.
"What was it like; the St. Mary's virus?" he asked before he lost his nerve.
The teacup and saucer began to shake audibly in V's hands and he hastily propped them against his thigh. Then those blue eyes appraised him through slightly narrowed lids rather than displaying any anger or affront at his question.
"It was... like hell, Michael," he said, frankly. "Imagine a killer strain of the influenza that is currently afflicting you, with all the symptoms that entails and yet also accompanied by the feeling that your insides are being turned to jelly."
Michael shook his head. "I cannot even conceive of a medical doctor doing such a thing to people under his care..."
"The doctor in charge was a she... and she had no problem whatsoever in carrying out the atrocity, for she had convinced herself that our sacrifice was well worth the possibility of developing a cure that might save the entire population."
V's eyes seemed to lose focus and stared right through him then, obviously seeing the past. "At one point I was bleeding from every orifice and in such agony that I beat my head against my cell wall in the hopes of inducing a fatal hemorrhage, for I knew that at that point it wouldn't take much..."
His eyes focused back on Michael's face, suddenly looking vulnerable in a way that made him ache. "She had me placed in a straight jacket and bound to a chair for three days... and she still administered the next dose of virus as scheduled," he spat.
Michael felt a tremendous anger well up within him. "Where is she now? What became of her?" he asked.
V settled back into his chair and suddenly relaxed. "Gone. I killed her," he breathed, sipping his tea.
"Good, because if you didn't, I certainly would!" he exclaimed.
V actually laughed then. "You couldn't harm anyone, Michael. It isn't in your nature, nor would I want you to. You are a healer. It is who you are inside and out. But I do thank you for being so outraged on my behalf."
Taking their teacups, he fixed them another round, then picked up his own and handed Michael his. "What else would you like to know?" he asked. "Now is as good a time as any to ask."
"Tell me more about the virus," he dared.
V's eyes raked him appraisingly. "Aren't you going to ask about my burns?"
"Perhaps another time," he replied. "It is too much to ask all at once and I have an interest in viruses at the moment."
"Understandable, given the circumstances," V breathed. "Yet I am all amazement that you have never once asked me how I came to be this way. There is, I think, a simple explanation. Who is it Michael; who do you know who was burned as I was?"
It was his turn to steady his teacup on his thigh as he felt sweat begin to bead up around his hairline, something that always happened when he remembered...
V rescued his teacup just before it began to drop from his nerveless fingers, placed it on the end table and fixed him with a sympathetic look. "You need not answer that question," he said, laying the back of his hand against Michael's forehead to check his temperature. Apparently satisfied that he wasn't too warm, he sat back in his chair.
"No... it's only fair and right that I tell you," he replied weakly. "Would you mind bringing me the photo album you'll find in my top dresser drawer?"
V did as he'd requested, returning with the album and sitting on the bed beside him when he moved to make room.
Michael opened it, revealing the truth to V on the very first page, for there, for him to see, was a picture of two babies and elegant script beneath that read, "Michael Joseph and Anthony Edward Cahill." Beneath that was the record of their birth date and times as well as their weight.
V's eyes slid over to his, expressing shock and dismay. "Your brother; your twin..."
"Yes," he breathed. "My identical twin and I killed him..." As V made to say something, he snapped, "Don't!" He was in no mood to hear polite denials. "Let me tell you before you judge me."
He turned the pages slowly, allowing his friend to take them in; pictures of the two of them doing the usual things boys did down through the years until he reached a page to which an obituary from the local paper had been affixed.
He let V read that as well.
"We were twelve years of age," he began, looking down at the album, yet seeing the past. "It was my idea; to make a Molotov cocktail..."
"Michael," V breathed, "You don't have to..."
"Yes, I do," he said quickly. "You get the idea, though. I suggested it and he took it from there. We didn't have any alcohol to use, so Anthony suggested that we use the kerosene from the old heater down in the basement. We tossed a coin to decide who would get the honor of trying it out. He won."
He took a few shuddering breaths, barely feeling the tears on his face, because he was elsewhere; reliving the nightmare as though it were only just happening.
"We were careful in choosing our target; it was an old wooden play fort in a nearby park. We sneaked out of the house after dinner, while it was dark. Because we lived outside the city at the time, surveillance was not an issue, not at the park, anyway."
"Since I lost the toss, it was my task to film our triumph, so I moved back far enough to allow my small camera room to frame both Anthony and the fort. He looked right at me and flicked the lighter, then put it to the rag..."
"And..." He couldn't continue; words failed him as he saw the horror unfold again. He choked and retched, then leaned over the bed and vomited in the wastebasket V had placed there, only dimly aware of the strong hands that rubbed his back and supported him as he leaned over.
When his stomach was empty, he sat back up and wiped his mouth on the napkin V offered him. "You can guess what happened," he said in a small voice.
"Yes," V answered simply.
"I was just out of harms way when it exploded," he said, forcing himself to continue; knowing that he deserved to feel the pain the memories brought. "Anthony went up like a torch, but the explosion had knocked him out. He sank slowly to his knees and simply keeled over... That was when I dropped the camera and ran to him. I tried so hard to put him out: I even removed my shirt and pants and used them and any dirt I could throw on him to smother them... but the flames wouldn't stop completely. The most I could do was smother the ones on his head and chest."
V's hands remained on his shoulders, but now he felt the man shaking even as he was. "Michael... Oh, Michael..." he breathed brokenly.
"I was screaming for help and eventually it arrived. I don't remember how long it took, but it felt like forever... And when the paramedics were treating Anthony, shocked to discover him still alive and breathing... he woke up."
He began to shake violently then as he forced himself to gasp, "And he began to scream... and scream... It was inhuman; it sounded like an animal being butchered..."
V pulled him to him then, wrapping him in a bear hug as he began to sob and V's own voice whispered brokenly above his shoulder, "Enough, Michael... Stop, I beg you..."
And he did, for he could do little but cry and it felt as it always did when he thought about it; it felt as though his heart were breaking all over again, as though he would die of grief. Yet this time it was a little more bearable, because he wasn't alone...
V held him patiently, reassuring him that he was there and when Michael pulled away, he was surprised to see tears on his friend's face.
"Michael," V said, choosing his words with care. "What I am about to say has nothing to do with pity and everything to do with caring; I am very sorry for you. I'll not insult your intelligence by trying to tell you that you weren't responsible, that it wasn't your fault. I know that so long as you perceive it that way, then that is your truth."
He squeezed his shoulders, coercing him into meeting his sincere blue gaze. "All I can say is what you already know; that Anthony would not have blamed you, your fates could just as easily have been reversed. And although it was your idea to make the Molotov, it was his to use the kerosene. Again, things could easily have been reversed. He would want you to remember that. He would want you to simply move on and continue honoring him as you have; by saving others."
Michael nodded his head. "It is what I have tried to do."
"And it led you to save me."
"And am I not your brother now?"
With a sharp intake of air, he looked up to see V nodding at him.
"I think I am," his friend answered when he found himself at a loss for words.
Then V stood and began clearing away the tea and the tissues. "It's been a long night for you," he said. "And I daresay that we could both use some sleep. I'll be out on the couch if you need anything."
"V..." he called, as the man made to leave the room. "Thank you."
"No, it is I who must thank you, Michael. I am honored to have a man like you as my friend."
With that, he turned out the light and closed the door so that it remained slightly ajar.
Michael sank down under the covers, amazed that he had actually told V his darkest secret and even more amazed by what he had gained that day...
... for, in having the courage to offer up a piece of his soul in the telling of his tale, he had gained a brother.
He closed his eyes, sighing as he heard V settle onto the couch outside and then fell instantly asleep.