The Next Morning
It was dark when Evey awoke and she automatically got ready to sit up and turn on the lamp. But she was wrapped in a pair of strong, well-muscled arms. Breath, soft and warm, ruffled her curls. V.
While some of her female coworkers probably understood how to handle waking up with a strange man in their beds, Evey was not one of those women. She had promised not to look; that either meant she had to extract herself from V's warm embrace and leave, or stay and wait until he awoke. Thinking to herself, Evey knew which option she preferred; she'd stay wrapped in V's arms all day if she could, but the question was if V would be comfortable enough to wake up with her in his arms. Despite his suavity and gentlemanly manners, those were all used under cover of a mask and in near-complete anonymity. He was bare-faced and asleep; probably the most vulnerable he had been in years. Evey made the decision to remain where she was. When he woke, she would be there.
He had been having the most wonderful dream. He and Evey stood atop another building as Parliament went up in flames. She looked at him and carefully removed his mask; his face was as unharmed as a child's and she smiled at him. He smiled back as they watched their government burn.
Upon awakening, V was instantly aware that he wasn't in his own room. He tensed, realizing that his mask was gone.
Evey. Last night.
There she was in his arms; he had intended to go back to his own room once she fell asleep, but it seemed he too had given into slumber. Her voice, soft and careful, whispered through the darkness.
"I am here, sweet Eve." His voice lacked the smooth confidence it usually held; his whole body was tense and his fight or flight reflexes were firing all barrels off. Had she seen him? Had he said anything, done anything in his sleep? Was she repulsed by him now?
"I know. I was seeing if you were awake."
"It appears that I am." If she didn't know better, she would have thought his voice shook a little. Carefully, Evey rolled to face him, not leaving the circle of his arms.
"V. It's okay. I didn't look."
The tension didn't recede. She tried again.
"I slept through the whole night and I've been waiting for you to wake up."
"I didn't say anything, do anything?" He didn't recall having nightmares, but then again, with all the nightmares he had, he couldn't possibly remember all of them. He could have cried out in his sleep, frightened her. He could have kicked or snatched at her hair. She was so delicate, so fragile. His Eve.
She wanted to tease him, but with the rigidity of his body, it was clear that he wasn't prepared for that. She was gentle.
"You didn't wake me at all. And I wasn't cold at all," she smiled during the last part, "You're an excellent heat blanket."
He didn't respond, but some of the tension lessened. Evey ran a gentle finger down his cheek; he didn't know how beautiful she found him. Beauty from pain, joy from sorrow. He flinched, and she barely kept herself from pulling back, hurt.
How was he going to get out of this, get up and get on with the rest of his day? He was torn between shoving on that mask that protected him so well and staying, vulnerable and a little frightened, with his Evey. It was getting to be too much; he had to get away. Despite his emotions, the fight-or-flight reflex was urging him to move. He was too close, and though his heart argued, he had to go.
"Evey, I must go."
She did poorly at hiding the disappointment in her voice. "Okay."
There was a pause.
"I'll close my eyes and turn around."
It was dark, but somehow this made sense to V anyway. "Thank you."
She turned her back to him and he carefully pulled his arms from around her. Carefully groping for his mask on the bedside table, he located the metal shield, his protection, and placed it back over his face. His boots were near the foot of her bed, his cape atop them.
Silently he fled the room, leaving Evey alone in her bed once more, facing away from where he had been. She waited a few minutes before she turned on the lamp, squinting from the bright light.
"He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words," she whispered. Elbert Hubbard. She wanted to understand why he could kiss her and whisper sweet words and then wake up and say practically nothing. She was trying, but his silence made no sense.
Evey fixed the bedcovers and pulled on a robe, unwilling to get dressed just yet. She walked to the kitchen, hearing water from V's shower in the background. There was porridge; she didn't want the egg-in-the-basket from him just now. Petty though it was, she didn't want anything from him just now. She ate her porridge in silence.
After leaving Evey's room, V went straight to his training room. He didn't want the sharp hiss of blades, the flashing steel. He wanted to hit something. So he did, pounding his gloved fists into a punching bag over and over.
He didn't wear out easily and nor did his frustration, but after a few minutes, his self-loathing was under control. His clothes were mussed, his mask and wig askew. Stealing into his bedchambers, he closed the door and locked it, feeling safer with a barrier between him and the soft lips that had robbed him of his senses the previous evening.
Stripping off his clothes, he tossed them in a hamper. His wig was set neatly on its bust of Shakespeare, and his hat perched on top of that. His mask, one of many, lay on the table beside his bed. Barefoot and naked, he walked into his bathroom, turned the knobs on the shower. Hot water streamed from the showerhead, and he stepped under it, carefully taking a bar of soap and a cloth. Gently, though the scar tissue rarely pained him anymore, he washed himself. Despite Evey's beliefs, he wasn't burned all over. His upper torso was the worst; the roof had collapsed and he'd clawed his way out, ever the survivor. His feet were equally scarred from walking barefoot on hot coals and ash. From about his solar plexus to his knees, the scarring was still horrific, but not nearly as bad as his hands, his face.
He was even a little proud of the few patches of skin that had been completely undamaged. A spot, wide as a hand, of perfect skin was on the small of his back. His inner thighs were only mildly scarred and his groin area had healed back to healthy normal skin, having been mostly untouched by the flames. Under his second rib area was a spot the size of a fist, clean and healthy. It seemed absurd to pride himself in the fact that he kept some of his skin, but with so few pleasures in life, he had to take pride in something. The fact that his manhood was intact was also a great relief to him; he hadn't had much intention of using it, but as a male, having it missing would have been a source of both embarrassment and shame.
No shaving was required; his hair follicles no longer functioned. It was probably better this way; razors were not designed for skin that was rippled and warped. He'd cut himself to ribbons before he could shave anyhow. After toweling off, he changed into his normal clothes. The wig. The cape. The ever-grinning mask. Now, protected and ready, he could face Evey once more.
She was sitting in front of a bowl of porridge, eating slowly without appearing to pay any attention to it. V was completely at odds once more; should he behave as usual? Should he greet her more informally? He didn't need to bother; Evey's voice floated to his ears, calm and quiet. Subdued.
"I can feel you staring."
V pulled on his suavity and character. Better to behave how he knew than to tread on the thin ice that seemed to ring Evey.
"How is it that you've come to acquire such skills, fair one?" He asked, striding with his usual confidence into the kitchen.
"Silence does that to a person." Evey sounded a little bitter; enough for him to turn and look at her.
"Is there a problem, Evey?"
She looked up at him, and he could swear that she could see right through the mask. He had an irrational urge to cover his face.
"No. None at all." She stared for a moment more, then abruptly left from the room.
Idiot. He cursed himself. He no longer had an appetite.
Should I go after her? Should I leave her be?
Torn and more than a little confused, V returned to his training room and began to punch the dummy. Hard, heavy punches that sunk into the sawdust-filled body. Could he do nothing right? Everything would have been better had he just said goodnight last evening and returned to his room.
Would it? A mocking little voice in his head asked. Would it really have been better to never kiss that soft mouth? Never hold her slender form against you? Never hear her moan your name against your lips?
To silence it, he redoubled his blows to the dummy, trying to beat out the little voice that told him he would never again be able to go without her.
Evey dressed, then rifled through the books stacked in her room, trying to find one that didn't have an inch of romance in it. Books lied about that sort of thing; her masked hero was no more a romantic debonair than she was a gorgeous heroine. Their story wasn't the kind you wrote about in books or watched on the telly; it was the kind that would spark and die. So she dug through the books, finally choosing Treasure Island, then setting it down in favor for Hamlet. At least he understood pain.
She chose the couch in the living room to read on. Despite the fact that she was angry with him, she didn't want to be alone. Somewhere back through the halls, she could hear the steady, rhythmic thudding of blows being landed. Probably practicing for another escapade. She opened the book.
You screwed it all up, the little voice sang. She gave you a chance and you blew it, you great burning failure. Even your mask mocks you!
V caught a reflection of the ever-grinning mask in the mirror, mocking him with its painted smile. Suddenly furious, he drew a shining blade and threw it at the mirror. After spinning end over end, the knife struck the mirror, shattering it in a rainbow of glass. A million tiny masked faces mocked him in the shattered bits of mirror.
Evey was standing in the doorway, barefoot and flushed.
"V? Are you all right?" She sounded a little panicked. He turned to face her, surrounded in glass fragments.
"I am fine," he said shortly, but she had already rushed forward to check for herself. After a few steps, the gave a little cry and yanked her foot from the floor. A piece of glass, jagged and sharp, protruded from the bottom of her foot.
"Evey?" He hurried over to her and scooped her up easily as though she was a child, her legs draped over one arm and her arms around his neck. She could feel his heartbeat and it almost could make the burning pain in her foot subside. Almost. He carried her immediately through the halls and into his bedroom, placing her on the bed as he rushed into the bathroom to retrieve the medical supplies.
She didn't cry, but she wanted to. It stung like anything. Neither of them took any notice of the fact that they were in his bedroom; for the moment it was more important to fix her foot up.
V returned with an enormous chest, which he deposited on the floor. Flipping it open, he picked out the tools he needed from the neatly sorted supplies. Evey gaped—the box was like a miniature hospital between the painkillers, thread for stitched, and needled and tubes required for IVs.
"Did you raid a hospital?"
V frowned behind his mask, but she could hear it in his voice. "No."
"It's like an ambulance in here."
"Yes. It's not uncommon for me to need quite serious injuries treated."
He examined her foot.
"It's shaped a little like a hook…I can't pull this out, it'll tear your foot open."
"So…what are you going to so?" Evey asked a little fearfully.
"Well first I'm going to rinse it off. You're bleeding on my duvet, dearest."
"Sorry," she muttered.
"No problem; I've had much more blood on this duvet than you've given it so far. Occupational hazard."
He poured a bottle of something over her foot; it fizzed and burned. Her face twisted in pain. He had a strong urge to beg her forgiveness, but didn't. Couldn't. Wouldn't.
"It's the antiseptic, dear. Can't get all the bacteria out without a little burn."
She nodded tearfully as he selected a pair of tweezers. Looking her in the eye, he said,
"This is going to hurt."
She nodded again and seized his hand, clutching his leather-bound fingers. V adjusted his fingers so she could hold them better. After squeezing them for a moment, he let go.
"I need both hands for this, love. You'll have to hold something else."
She grabbed a pillow from his bed and held it to her chest, holding it as tightly as she could. He tilted his head at her in question. She nodded, squeezing the pillow tighter.
Holding her foot in one hand, he lit the tweezers onto the shard of glass protruding from his foot. He jiggled it and shifted the glass around in her foot, making it bleed freshly. Her knuckles were white as she held the pillow, suppressing the urge to cry out. Instead she stared at his mask, though he was too focused on her foot to notice. He pulled carefully at the glass, her foot twitched as it came out a little and it tore at her skin.
She let out a shriek and V twitched. He looked up at her.
"I'm sorry, my dear. We have to get it out."
She nodded and he pulled at the glass, sliding the shard neatly from her foot. She made a little yelping noise and he placed the bloody glass in a tray, then rinsed her foot again.
"I'll have to look for any more shards, just to insure that you don't have any more pieces lurking about."
"Can it wait a bit?" she asked, a little desperately, "I want to take a break."
V hesitated. "It's probably better if we remove it now; before your foot bleeds all over it again, then it'll be harder to see the glass."
She nodded slowly and he fished around under the bleeding skin flaps of her foot, seeking the tiny glass shards that could cause her more damage and pain. He removed three more little pieces before he deemed her foot free of foreign matter.
After cleaning off her foot, he looked up at her.
"This might need stitches."
Evey shook her head violently. "V, I don't want stitches. Please don't give me stitches."
V eyed the wound doubtfully. "I do suppose I could butterfly it…but stitches would be much better."
She looked at him mournfully, begging him with her big brown eyes. "Please, V."
He was as helpless as he had been the previous evening; he couldn't deny her this. Carefully he pulled out the butterfly bandages and fixed up her foot, wrapping it immediately after the skin had been made whole. She winced through the whole thing and afterwards he left to put away the medical kit and change his gloves—these were covered in blood. She remained on the bed, waiting. When he returned to the room, she was sitting in the same place, examining the bandages on her foot.
"What on earth made you run through that glass with no shoes on?" V demanded.
"I thought you were hurt," Evey confessed, "I wanted to make sure you were all right."
"Don't be so daft about it next time; I said I was fine."
"Which you also say when you've got bullet-holes in you and are bleeding all over the floor," Evey reminded him.
He frowned, though the mask remained smiling.
"I am quite capable of handling myself, Evey."
There was a long pause before she whispered,
"Why did you leave, V?"
He was so startled, all he could do was blurt,
She blinked at him, slowly, waiting for him to make the connection.
"This morning…oh." He concluded somewhat lamely.
She again, said nothing.
"Evey I…I have no excuses."
Her eyes were teary and it was breaking him to see her so sad; especially knowing he caused it.
"Make some. Say something…anything…to explain why you left."
"I can't, Evey. I just…I can't let my guard down. I have my Vendetta."
"You can't let your guard down? Even to this?"
She was kissing the lips of his cold metal mask, caressing them the way that she caressed his real lips the night before. His mouth was pushing against the metal, aching to reach hers. She pulled her lips away, only to lift the edge of his wig and kiss his scarred neck, trace her lips up his throat and along his jaw line. He stood before her as she sat on his bed, stretching to kiss any bare skin. He lowered himself to his knees to allow her easier access to his face. She ran cool fingers under the hair of his wig, along the bumps at the top of his spine. He shivered.
As she kissed him, slowly, carefully, he inched closer to her, stroking her hair, her spine, tracing the outlines of the ribs along her sides. Anything to touch her. Her lips slipped closer and closer to his face, trying to fit beneath the mask. She kissed the outline of it, from one side of his face, down to the underside of his chin, back up the other side of his face.
"Evey," his voice shook. He wanted to take the mask off, but his face…he couldn't risk it just yet.
"V…" she whispered back. Her fingers traced the outline of the ever-beaming Fawkes. She wanted that mask off, so she could show him that she didn't care how he looked; she was kissing a man in a mask for crying out loud! She reached to pull it off, slid her fingers under the edges, and V froze, seized her wrists again; a replay of last night.
It is not a no…so Evey waited as he got up, shut the door, and switched off the lamp before returning to her. Tenderly, though she was eager, she pulled off the mask, sets it aside. His lips are misshapen, almost ribbed in texture, but it's a new sort of sensation. Other men she kissed had lips all the same. He was different. Special. Hers. She pulled off the wig with the same tenderness, stroking the bald head as his gloved fingers slip behind her neck and cradle her head. He kissed back and she seized his hands, pulled off the gloves, whispering,
"I want to feel your skin on mine."
He ran his fingers over the back of her neck, stroked her hair, cradled her face in his hands as their lips touched again and again.
She leaned back a little and he pulled forward to meet her, climbing onto the bed, following her. She leaned back and he bore her down onto the pillows, straddling her middle for better access to her mouth, kissing her with a fervor he only felt for his vendetta…no…she was his only…his vendetta could wait until he was finished.
She found where his trousers and his shirt met and slid her hands up onto his bare chest. He gave a soft little moan.
She pulled his hands up under her shirt, onto her stomach. He pulled them out, cradling her face.
"No, Evey," he whispered. "I want you."
"What?" she whispered back, confused.
"I know what you want right now. And I will not give in."
"V I want you. And you want me."
"Woman, you have no idea how much I want you."
"So give it to me."
He smiled against her mouth. "I am a gentleman, Evey. I will not take it. Not now."
"The gentleman who's straddling me on his bed? Who's playing with the hem of my blouse?"
He carefully got off of her, continuing to kiss her sweet lips.
"Darling Eve…I don't want to take your innocence…I want to love you."
"So love me," Evey ran her fingers over his belt buckle.
"No, dear one. Not yet."
"What am I waiting for?" she demanded. She could have been properly annoyed with him, only he was kissing her and his hands on her hair were so gentle, so soft.
"Wait and see."
Somehow she knew that he didn't mean wait until tonight or next week. He meant wait for him…
Does he want to marry me?
The question sprang to mind, but his kisses, the soft caresses, tender and slow, erased it for the time. For now, he was kissing her, whispering in her ears the words of poets and kings, beautiful words. After a long, slow, kiss, he whispered to her,
"Dearest Evey…my heart is ever at your service."
She knows it is Shakespeare, but merely kisses him again. He is hers and she is his and for the moment, that is enough.
Well this is the conclusion to my little twoshot. It took place sort of AU, but storyline-wise, I'd go with pre-torture and a sort of 'what if she didn't run when she met the bishop' sort of time…if that makes sense. Hope you liked it. REVIEWS=LIFEEEEE!