by Kryss LaBryn
A/N: This was written expressly for the April Fool's festivities over at the Shadow Gallery (visit my profile for the link) and inspired by one of the Sunday night chats (in fact, the summary is lifted directly from my comment in that chat); it is somewhat different from my usual style, and is not silly at all. Please, if you feel anything at all but "Meh" at the end of it (heck, even if that IS all you feel), send me a review. Anonymous Reviews Now Accepted!
V never wore his gloves to cook.
If asked, he might casually mention the difficulty of cleaning grease from the leather, the effects upon the suppleness dried egg might have, the importance of not announcing his presence with a sudden whiff of onion. He would not mention the true reason.
V never wore his gloves to cook because he wore them to kill. It was not squeamishness that stopped him; it was instinct.
The sight of his gloved hand reaching for a weapon with the intent to kill had become so commonplace as to be second nature. Automatic.
He hoped that the sight of his naked hand reaching out instead would be enough to stop him. This time.
He did not want to kill Evey. He needed her. The other one… Well, his previous houseguest had been expendable.
As it ended up. Fortunately.
V had invested a lot of time in his "little revenge fantasy". His vendetta. Far, far longer than he ever thought it would take. Closer to twenty years than the five he had originally envisioned. But it was a lot of work, especially trying to do it all by himself.
Clearing out the bloody train tunnel had taken most of the time. He deeply resented having done away with his "friend", the bastard, but, long-term, that was probably for the best. He was… unreliable. But his absence still more than doubled his workload, made V have to take that much more time to get everything ready, made positioning all his dominoes that much harder.
Gave Norsefire that much more time to dig in.
He had been "resettled" not much more than a year after they took power. He had intended to burn them off what remained of the face of the Earth before the decade was out. But that was before his "partner" (and what a misnomer that was!), unreliable bastard that he was, had departed.
Metaphorically speaking, of course.
V couldn't have actually allowed him to leave; the risk was too great. The man was a blowhard, and a braggart, but even if he had somehow learnt discretion in the camps (of which V had yet to see proof), Norsefire had ways to loosen tongues. And that insufferable and unlovely person had sold his last inch many years before Sutler and his cronies had ever sought it.
He couldn't be trusted to go out on his own, to seek out the few speakeasies that had inevitably cropped up in the totalitarian regime's wake, and hold his damnable loose tongue. And there was no way that V could accompany him, not in those early days when his make-up kit was so bare, and the sight of Fingermen (or the party signs or the cameras or even a margarine delivery truck) would still send him into a panic; not when… No.
V couldn't accompany him; he couldn't be trusted on his own.
He did not often go out.
He did, however, complain. Bitterly.
He complained about the cold. He complained about the damp. He complained about the rats. He complained about the dark. No sacrifice was too small to escape his notice. No goal was lofty enough to justify their discomfort. Give him a pint of warm lager and a fat woman to fuck, and he would have been content. He was a small-minded little prick.
He was useful, in small ways. He had escaped his own confinement with far fewer physical scars than had V. Mentally, V wasn't sure. He had not known the man before; he had no idea if it was his recent experiences or if the man had always been so small-minded, so petty, so… lacking vision. So lacking gumption.
He was a gormless twat. V tried to persuade himself that he was a necessary evil.
He was able to move about, "upstairs," with relative freedom. He was useful in obtaining supplies, to a certain extent. He could usually be relied upon to spend no more than half of their meagre scrounged coins on the horse's piss he laughably called beer. He had a strong back.
He was an exemplary example of the unwashed masses.
He complained about the boredom. V obtained books. He didn't read them. He complained about the available facilities, or rather, the lack thereof. V suspected it wasn't only the rats pissing in the corners. He complained about the food, or rather, the lack thereof. Apparently he was too good to eat out of rubbish bins, although he was unable to offer any reasonable alternatives. He complained about the lack of beer. He complained about the lack of sex. He laughed off V's suggestion of self-administered intercourse. V was unamused. He had meant his suggestion that he go and fuck himself quite seriously.
In short, everything that V was: determined and committed, intelligent and well-read, tidy and considerate, he was not. He was a loud-mouthed, intolerable bore of, apparently, sub-par intelligence. He was crude. He was untidy. Worse, he was unhygienic; V certainly had no desire to experience another bout of dysentery because of his companion's filthy habits. If it weren't for his ability to walk about in broad daylight without arousing notice and to hump rubble, V would never have suggested the partnership in the first place.
He regretted it on a daily, all but hourly, basis. He began to have great upwellings of sympathy for the dowdy housewives with the haunted eyes he saw, with more and more regularity, as he was gradually able to move about in public with fewer constraints. But it wasn't until V managed to tap into the electrical lines still running through some of the lower tunnels that he really began to get cross.
Decent light, a proper working stove (and obtaining that had been no small task, let alone humping it down the stairs!); even if they didn't yet have running water, they could at least heat what they carried up from the water main so far below them; they could, at last, make tea. Heat the water in which they washed. Occasionally clean their clothes. Dry out and slightly warm the chill, dank air. Eat hot food.
V had expected it to make a difference. Heaven knew it did to him. Yet, to his uncompanionable companion, it seemed to simply be another source of annoyance. He complained about the way the lights would sometimes flicker. He complained about the lack of a telly, now that they had the means to run one. He complained about the water that V used to wash, even though he used less than a cupful to wash his hairless body. He bemoaned the very evaporation of the water from V's drying clothes, loudly and sarcastically wondering what the point in drying the place out was, if V was just going to go and make it all moist again?
He did not make much use of the water himself, beyond what he consumed. And V caught him pissing in a corner.
V needed him, more or less. He kept his head down and gritted his teeth.
Until (and the very gall of the man!) he criticized V's cooking.
Food was still heavily rationed. Eggs weren't easy to obtain; a relatively important family could still usually only count on four eggs a week. Butter was unheard of. And the margarine trucks had been converted to darker purposes; what the factories were now processing was rather less cheap and unhealthy vegetable fat, and rather more bipedal. Factory furnaces were now fed undesirables; their smoke was greasy.
The three not-yet off eggs and bare half-ounce of oil V had come across were nothing short of a luxury, even for those who didn't plot the overthrow of an entire government. It was… Heaven. He considered keeping mum about them, thought quite seriously about simply hiding them away for a day or so until he could have them all to himself, but decided against it. True, his companion did occasionally spend money they had both scrounged for to spend on beer just for himself, instead of food they might both have eaten, but V didn't consider turn-about to necessarily be fair play. Besides, he would have smelt them, when he returned. And then complained.
The easiest way to divide them fairly then, V reasoned, would be to scramble them. It wouldn't be enough, it was never enough; but he wanted to be able to taste them. He could have simply mixed them in with a little flour and water; they would have been the same, nutritionally speaking. But the resulting fried not-bread, while more filling, would not have satisfied the way the warm, savoury taste of the eggs would. V set to work.
The pan they used for frying was given an extra wipe, to ensure no cross-contamination of flavours. Their tiny store of salt, carefully scrounged from old fast-food packets, was placed at hand. The pan, and the oil, was carefully heated, just so.
With a sense of almost-reverence and longing (why did such a small thing have to be such a luxury? Eggs—they were so damnably ordinary! It wasn't FAIR --) he carefully cracked the shells and dropped them, one, two, three, into the pan. A moment to quickly add a tiny sprinkle of salt, and he was breaking the yolks and beating them all together as best he could, considering the tools he had at hand. They would have been more even, more smooth, had he beaten them together before adding them to the pan, but he simply didn't have another container he could have used. Besides, if he were to be completely honest with himself, he rather liked them this way, pushed back and forth across the pan until they became almost ropey, the white veining the yellow with a pleasantly contrasting texture… Ideally he would be cooking them in bacon fat in a cast-iron frying pan instead of the dregs from a soya oil bottle and a tin pie-pan, but, well, beggars couldn't be choosers.
Back and forth he pushed the eggs, and occasionally round about, until they stiffened into moist and tender hills and valleys of wonderful, savoury, almost-fresh eggs.
…It was then that his "friend," his "partner," his sole ally and confidante came up behind him.
"Eggs?" he sneered, in that nasal gutter whine that so grated upon V's ears. " Eggs? You bleedin' rotter. You go out to scratch us up some tucker, and all you come up wif' is bleeding eggs? And then you go and scramble them? You right fuck. How could you ruin them like that? You could of at least fried them up like a civilized man! Didn't you bother to think that I might--"
He got no further. V recalled very little of what happened next, but rather suspected that he had hit him with the nearest weapon to hand: the pan. The coppery scent of blood mixed with the sear of burnt meat and the unpleasant stink of singed hair. Just when he had buried the paring knife in his temple, he wasn't sure. He didn't really care. The eggs were ruined.
Three eggs. Such a small thing. Three crappy almost-off eggs fried up in the almost-rancid oil he dug out of someone's rubbish bin, with a little damp salt from long-since discarded fast food bags blown behind fences and down disused stairwells, cooked up in a pie-tin someone had set up as a birdbath. Crap. Rare, luxurious, and absolute crap. Gone.
How had he sunk to this? His eggs were gone! He should have been feasting on steak, or at least eating more or less regularly in a comfortable, if small, flat; there should have been windows, and sunlight, and fresh breezes… There should have been hope! He shouldn't have to be sitting in a dank disused tunnel, hiding out from his own government, tortured and experimented upon and beaten and abused and all but destroyed, for no crime greater than being the wrong sort of person. Where was the justice? His eggs were gone..!
V sat in a puddle of blood and filth and eggs, angrily weeping, for a long time. He barely remembered to retrieve his paring knife before sending his useless, complaining, unpleasant companion off for a swim in the Thames with a final kick. His eggs were gone.
It was a long time before V had a chance to taste eggs again. It was even longer before regular meals became a reality instead of a not-dared-to-be-hoped-for dream, before the Shadow Gallery became a gallery in truth, and a home, and a refuge, instead of just cold and echoing corridors filled with filth. Abandoned. Like V, like Justice, like England herself. Discarded. Dead.
It was a long time before V had eggs again. It was even longer before he allowed a second person into what had become, almost by default, his home. And he never did cook without his gloves.
He needed to know that, if he reached for a weapon, it would be a man who did so, not the gloved and distant hand of an Idea.
He needed that small shock, of his own, naked hand stretching for the handle of a knife, of the heavy iron pan he now used, to be sure he would catch himself.
A man, after all, could be stopped.
A/N: As mentioned above, this was for the Anonymous April's Fool celebration over at the Shadow Gallery. You may have come across it there. If so, you would not have seen the final paragraph, which I left out as not echoing the same tone as the rest of the piece. However, during the aforementioned chat, Movie!V's apron was discussed, as a major difference between that version of the character, and the original GraphicNovel!V. We figured that the only reason GN!V would ever wear such an out-of-character garment would be to distract you, and then, while you were still stunned and reeling from the hideousness of it, kill you. LOL. In tribute to that chat, which in turn inspired this fic, I now bring you the final, never-seen-before paragraph of "Eggs":
On the night he brought his next houseguest home, he returned Above just long enough to snatch a perfectly ridiculously feminine flowered apron from a clothesline. He admired the reflection of his hideous glory in the brightly-polished kettle the next morning. Should the sight of his ruined hand not be enough to jolt him back to awareness, he reasoned, the merest glimpse of himself in any of the kitchen's reflective surfaces ought to do the trick.