'So, you sing me a slow song,
And I'll drive you crazy,
–Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, The Gaslight Anthem
Some people – men – would call her a whore, enjoying taking her clothes off, but she called herself a woman. It's a woman's right to take pleasure in that moment of undressing, to revel in the expression that overcomes the features she's looking at. And now, she could imagine no other's face but his.
Even as she sat handcuffed to that chair with that man in front of her spitting insults and slapping her across the face again and again and again, she only thought of John.
"You his squeeze, huh? You his little whore? Y'know we could pull 'bout twenty other sluts all for bein' with Dillinger? You ain't special. Y'think he loves you, huh? Well, he don't, and he's lettin' you get screwed over. But then you like that, don'tcha? You like gettin' screwed!"
God, she wanted to hit him, spit at him, kick him, shoot him… She wanted a gun in her hand, the kind Johnny kept under his jacket, and she wanted to bury a bullet between his eyes. She settled for imagining it there with her ice-cold glare.
His eyebrows rose and dipped before settling in absolute fury. His mouth twisted, teeth bared, spit in the corners.
"Y'little bitch," he growled. "You'll talk."
He picked up the phonebook.
Fifteen minutes later, when Agent Reinecke ran from the CPD building with his team on false information, Dillinger was waiting.
Alone, he slid past the stragglers with his brim pulled low and into the foyer. Seeing the empty desk, he cast his gaze up the stairs and started towards them before he could stop himself. He could smell her perfume.
His footsteps were loud on the polished wood floors. A frosted glass door lay ahead.
When she heard the footfalls, she couldn't help but shrink back in fear. She was sure it was that man, back far too soon since he'd only just left and with something far heavier than a phonebook.
As it was, she couldn't see out of her right eye, and her hair was falling over her left, but she was sure she'd smell him – cheap booze and even cheaper company – before he got too close.
She knew the other agent, the quiet one who flinched when the other one hit her, was sitting just inside the room beside the door, trying not to look at her too closely. She could hear his shoes shuffling nervously. She knew he'd ignore her if she asked to go to the bathroom and clean herself up, like it was too much to pretend she actually existed and that, yes, he had seen his friend beating the everloving shit out of her.
The footfalls grew louder and closer.
The quiet man stood, shoes creaking, and opened the door with a soft scrape. "Hey, Harry? I think she's had enough. Why don't you let Doris–"
She felt the blood splatter across her dress before she heard the ringing shot. Her heartbeat thudded in her ears.
And then a voice, so quiet she didn't think it was hers at first, whispered, "Johnny?"
A footstep, two, and then a hand pushed the hair out of her eye. She looked into those dark-browns of Johnny's and she saw his whole body shake.
"Come on, sweetheart," he told her in that low, soothing drawl of his as he slipped open the cuffs. "Can you walk?"
She didn't know, didn't want to risk it, didn't think she could talk at all, and she was so overwhelmed by him and his tensing jaw. She just wanted to kiss him… She couldn't. They had to go.
She shook her head at him, the room spinning, and tasted blood in her mouth.
He picked her up like she weighed nothing, one arm beneath her legs and the other around her waist.
He put her head beneath his chin. "Don't look down."
She didn't. The quiet man, she knew, had his brains blown out across the floor. She heard Johnny treading in it.
His hands were warm through the silk of her dress. She'd forgotten how warm he was. But there was time for that later, when the bleeding in her mouth stopped and she could change out of the wet blue silk into something else.
Johnny's chest rose and fell evenly beneath her ear, though she could hear his heart thudding wildly. His fingers clenched and released her dress. His breath warmed the top of her head. His body was strong against hers. She felt safe.
Soon, his footsteps were echoing and she knew they were passing through the entrance hall. She stopped breathing. But there was no gunfire, no pain, no bullets rushing past her and into Johnny, and no shouting or screaming.
He walked out of the doors and down the steps, into the cool Chicago night air, and slid her into the back seat of a waiting car. The rough material grazed her cheek, making it sting, and she knew she was in worse shape than she'd previously thought.
Johnny's hands left her, the car door shutting behind him, and he climbed into the front. He started up the car and peeled out.
Dim streetlights flashed by every now and then as she dazedly gazed up from the back bench through the rain-marked window. Tall buildings passed by until they merged with road and trees, and then she didn't know where they were anymore.
Johnny's hand held hers through the gap in the seats as they drove on.
"Where are we?"
"In a cabin, out of the way."
His hands felt hot against her face as she blinked at him wearily.
She was lying on an old bed, the frame rusting in places, and the quilt she was wrapped up in smelt like mothballs and firewood. Johnny was sitting on the edge of the mattress, his shirtsleeves rolled up and blood splattered in some places. The room was dark apart from an old gas lamp on the bedside table.
His eyes shone in the gloom. "Baby… How d'you feel? You need somethin'?"
She searched his face, wondering when she had fallen asleep long enough for them to leave Chicago and for him to undress and redress her in clean clothes. She noticed his tense jaw wasn't tense anymore – it was shaking.
"I'm good, Johnny. I'm good…"
She was so tired, but she couldn't take her eye off him. He didn't let go of her face. His hands felt so good, so warm.
"Why did you come, Johnny?" She asked him.
His face cracked, before he leant forwards and brought those soft lips to hers for a short kiss.
"I told you, Billie," he said seriously, leaning close. "I told you I'd always look after you, and no one – no one – touches you. So, now you gotta tell me – who was it? Who touched you, sweetheart?"
She thought about the man with the phonebook, thought about the life he might yet have and the good he might do, and decided it still wasn't enough to undo what he'd already done to her. She didn't have that gun to shoot him with, but Johnny did.
She was so tired.
Johnny stroked her face where it didn't hurt that much. "That's real good, baby. You just go on and sleep now. I'll be here when you wake up."
The bar in the lodge nearby was empty, all surfaces covered in the night's booze, and the bartender took one look at Dillinger before pointing to an open door.
"Phone's out back."
It didn't take him long to get connected with Henderson.
"Yeah. You find Agent Reinecke at home and you teach him a lesson, you understand me? You don't kill him. You make sure he understands why he don't touch a woman the way he touched mine. You make him regret his own goddamn existence."
He put down the phone and ignored the bartender's glance as he left and walked back up the hill, through the trees, to the cabin where Billie was waiting.
When she woke up, the first thing she realised was that she could hardly move her face. Only when she felt cool wetness run over her earlobes did she realise tears were tracking down her cheeks. She was so numb.
She turned on her side underneath the quilt to see Johnny leaning in the doorframe of the bare sunlit room, watching her.
"Mornin'," he drawled softly, wiping his hands on a dish rag. "You come on down when you're ready. I got some things."
He waited until she'd sat up, slowly and painfully, and then disappeared downstairs as she swung her legs over the edge of the bed. Her toes brushed the cool floorboards. She noticed the bruises tracking down her calves as she shifted in the oversized men's pyjamas Johnny had dressed her in.
Her hair fell around her face as she grit her teeth and lopsidedly made it across the room. The stairs were trickier, making her aching hips twist awkwardly, but she was grateful it was Johnny's style to leave her to it. If he hadn't, if he'd treated her like she was sick or broken, she wouldn't've been able to look him in the eyes ever again.
She followed the sound of movement through a dim hallway and into a bright kitchen. Johnny stood beside a battered wooden dining table, frying bacon and eggs on an old stove.
He turned as the floorboards creaked beneath her weight, and he gave her that special crooked smile over his shoulder, nodding to a chair kicked out from the table.
She sat down in it slowly, minding her sore back and only barely glancing at her red wrists that were still marked from the loops of the handcuffs. There was a bowl of steaming water and a white rag already waiting on the table.
Johnny put the pan down on the table and passed her a fork. She ate the bacon with her fingers before she took the fork off him. She hadn't realised she was so hungry. She couldn't remember the last time she'd eaten – it might've even been with Johnny.
He sat down next to her and rolled up her sleeves as she ate, before soaking the rag and dabbing her cuts, washing yesterday from her skin. He didn't look at her face much, even as he cleaned it.
"How hideous is it?" She asked him.
"You will never be hideous," he said stonily, looking her right in the eye.
She was hideous.
Every woman loves her face, whether they are conceited about it or not, and Evelyn knew she wasn't conceited. Her features were just something she wanted to keep in the same order that they'd been in all her life.
"It was the phonebook," she said. "He beat me with the phonebook."
For a second, Johnny's face twisted in rage, the kind of rage she'd seen that time with that jerk asking for his coat back or when she'd been arrested by the cops while he stood by on State Street, except this was a different kind of rage, bigger and fiercer. Chilling. The look was chilling.
"What else did he do?" He asked, like only a part of him wanted to know.
"He hit me. He slapped me. He made me…" She shakily gestured to her lap. "He called me a whore, your whore, one of many apparently. He told me I liked getting screwed. He beat me with the phonebook, I fainted, and I woke up with," she licked her bottom lip, feeling a deep crusted split and tasting blood, "this."
"What did you tell him?"
At this, she smiled. Her lip split open at the pressure. "1148 Addison."
John frowned. "Where?"
Her smile was bloody and her laugh wasn't much better. "Exactly."
He wiped her cut lip and he kissed her. "I love you."
She sniffed, kissing him back as he held her face again in those warm hands. She loved him too, wouldn't lie for anyone else, wouldn't take so much of a damn beating for anyone but him, and she knew that even if he did have other women, she was his only girl.
"I love you," she breathed, wrapping her sore arms around his neck and letting him pull her onto his lap.
He kissed her like he always kissed her – so hard and soft and wonderful all at the same time – even though she knew her face looked terrible. And when they both pulled back an inch or so, he didn't hesitate to touch her cheek or look at her like he always had.
This was love, she thought – real love.
"We're gonna go away," he told her. "We're gonna find our paradise and we're gonna grow old together, you singin' that Paris song and me drivin' you crazy."
She hesitated. "What about the money? What about…"
His name was left unsaid.
Johnny smiled that special smile. "He's gettin' what's comin' to him, and I'm never leavin' you alone again, not for money, not for anythin'. I've got enough to get us to paradise."
He took in her bruised face, the lessening swell of her eye, the blood rolling down her chin from her lip, and he kissed her forehead.
"Never again, Billie," he told her, pressing the words against her skin. "Never again."
Author's Note: Obv. AU to reality because I see them riding off into the sunset in a black Buick, but I don't give one damn. Not one, I tell you! I love the movie, I love them… No damns given! Thanks for reading!