It was freezing outside. A few snowflakes were beginning to fall and twirl in the air, and would no doubt grow worse in the coming hour. The temperature seemed to be dropping like a stone.
So why on earth was Christopher Denning sitting outside on a park bench, smoking a cigarette?
That is exactly what he was thinking on this crisp, February evening. The sun had set almost ten minutes ago, and the chill was really starting to set in and sink into his bones.
"You always draw the short straw, don't you Chris?" He mumbled to himself while he puffed out some cigarette smoke.
He took another long drag before glancing over at the building across the street. It was the building where Eric Finch lived, and Chris drew the evening shift to case the joint. He had been there for over an hour, and his shift was mercifully drawing to a close. Only half an hour longer.
Things had started moving quickly for Christopher after the last meeting. Charles Betancourt had begun assigning different tasks to different members, and asking for volunteers. Naturally Christopher wanted a more prestigious role, but it didn't surprise him when he had ended up on reconnaissance duty. But still, he knew that it was better than nothing and every role was important to bringing down the revolution.
Chris took another glance up at the building, this time focusing on the windows in Eric Finch's flat. Almost ten minutes in to his shift, Chris had watched as a black town car pulled up and Finch stepped out of the car. A rather burly man escorted him to the door where they exchanged a few words, a nod, and then parted ways. He had a guard, at least during his transport. That was something Chris had noticed the last few days of his watch.
Every night after Finch arrived, Chris noted that it took him a minute and a half to get from the bottom floor to his flat, which was on the fourth floor. The lights would go on one by one, and stay on for the remainder of his shift.
Off to his left, Christopher saw a young man hop out of a running car, carrying a bag of what he assumed was food for delivery. He watched as the man was buzzed into the building. He was gone for nearly a minute, and then suddenly Eric Finch could be seen walking past one of his windows, and returning a few seconds later. Another minute later, the delivery boy was leaving the building. As the car drove by, Chris caught the name of the restaurant: China Star Chinese Cuisine. Chris made sure to write it down with his other observations.
"Christopher, I see you're hard at work."
Christopher jumped at the voice behind him, and was shocked to see none other than Charles Betancourt himself standing there.
"Mr. Betancourt, I…uh…"
Betancourt interrupted him, "Please, Christopher. Mr. Betancourt was my father. Call me Charles."
"Right…uh, Charles. What's going on, has something changed?" He asked, unsure as to why the leader of the rebellion would be talking to him on a routine stakeout.
"No, no. I just wanted to come by and see how things were going for you. I wanted to see if you had anything to report," Charles explained.
Chris handed him his notes, "This is what I have for the shifts I've taken. I know he has a guard escort him home every night, but as far as I know he's alone and unguarded in his flat. I think that might be a good way to get to him."
Charles let out a sharp laugh, making Chris immediately regret suggest something in the first place.
"I appreciate the idea. But we have something much better in mind. We can't kill him somewhere so private, where the maid will find him in a few days. It has to be public," he explained. "But I like the initiative you've been taking. Walk with me, Jimmy will be here to relieve you any minute anyway."
Christopher took one last drag on his cigarette before dropping it and stomping it out. They began to walk away from the bench and Finch's flat. Chris lit another cigarette, and offered Charles one who politely shook his head to decline.
"I've noticed your passion for this movement, Christopher. It impresses me. Some of the other people we have simply have lost sight of our mission, and don't have this drive that you do," Charles began. "It's disgusting, really. People like you and me, who have the motivation to do what needs to be done, even if it isn't glamorous or exciting, we're the real rebels. We're the people who really make this rebellion what it is."
Christopher was shocked to hear this, especially coming from his idol. He didn't think Charles even knew who he was, let alone thought of his a true rebel.
"I mean just take yourself, for example. Everyone jumped on the more exciting jobs for this mission. You wanted any one of them, I could tell. Just being a part of this is more meaningful, am I right Christopher?"
Chris could barely manage a nod before choking out, "Yes, that's right."
"Of course it's right. Most of these morons don't even pay attention on these stake outs. But you, Christopher, you actually think it matters. And it does."
Although Christopher really did enjoy receiving such high praise, he was beginning to feel slightly uncomfortable. He wanted to know what the actual point of this conversation was, because he had a feeling it wasn't just to compliment him.
"Sir, er-I mean Charles, I hate to interrupt. But what exactly are you trying to say?" He asked, deathly afraid he would offend the man walking next to him.
"That's what I mean. You're a man who wants to get to the point and know what's really going on. And that is what I'm here to tell you. I've decided to let you in on the plans. Sort of the 'inner-circle' of information, if you will," Charles looked at Christ to catch his reaction.
"That's quite an honor," Chris said, barely able to contain his euphoria.
"It's what you've earned. It's obvious that you clearly care about the success of our rebellion," Charles paused and turned to face Chris. "Our plans are accelerating. We've received new intel, and have decided to move up the attack."
"When? Where?" Chris asked, breathless. Things were certainly moving quickly now, and he wanted to make them happen.
Charles looked around, "It's not safe to talk here. We're having a meeting. Just the higher ups. Tomorrow night, be there at 8. Same place as usual."
Before Christopher even had a chance to ask anything, Charles Betancourt was already walking down the street and around the corner, leaving him alone. He stood confused for a few moments. Was this a joke? Had that really happened? He couldn't believe what had just transpired.
A cold blast of wind stirred Christopher from his thoughts, and reminded him of the warmth of his waiting flat. He pulled his scarf around him tighter and secured his cap before shoving his hands in his pocket. Another smile of disbelief lit up his face as he quickly walked down the street.
Things were finally looking up for Christopher Denning.
The fire was roaring in Gordon and Philip's study, keeping the winter air at bay. The mixture of the fire's warmth and the wine that Evey had consumed at dinner was beginning to take its toll on Evey, who was resting her head on V's sturdy shoulder. Evey looked up and smiled at V, who was deep in conversation with Gordon. She was so incredibly happy that he was there with all of them, enjoying the company of an old friend.
The couple had been debating for weeks about whether or not to come to Gordon and Philip's estate. Gordon had sent Evey a lovely invitation in the mail, inviting the couple over for dinner. When Evey had initially shown it to V, his reaction was to instantly refuse. He said that it was incredibly dangerous and risky, and furthermore rude to have to sit at the dinner table and not eat anything. As the weeks dragged on, Evey continued to deplore V to at least consider it. She reasoned that Gordon and Philip were completely understanding about his situation and would not think it rude at all. She also told V that she would drive them there after dark on small side streets, to ensure that no one saw him. She even assured him that her windows were tinted, and if V wanted he could even wear his disguise again.
Eventually, Evey's begging and pleading and reasoning wore down V's resolve, and he told Evey to send their acceptance to Gordon's request. Evey was thrilled, but Gordon and Philip were even more so. They coordinated with Evey almost immediately to try and figure out the logistics of the evening to ensure that V was both safe and comfortable in their home.
Evey was roused from her drowsy state when she heard V and Gordon both raise their voices. She lifted her head off of V's shoulder, startled by the sudden change in tone. V noticed her move, and apologized.
"My apologies, love. I didn't mean to wake you," he said.
Evey shrugged, "You didn't wake me, I was just resting. What on earth are you two so riled up about?"
It was Gordon's turn to speak, "Well, your masked man here seems to think himself an expert on Shakespeare. When I corrected him on a point he was clearly wrong about, he took great offence."
"Gordon, do you know what I did for the last twenty years when I wasn't training or trying to topple the regime?" V asked, clearly annoyed.
"Do tell, old chap," Gordon rolled his eyes.
"I read Shakespeare. All of his works, in fact. And I'll have you know that I read them several times each," came the rather indignant reply.
Evey had to chuckle softly. Certainly Gordon had no idea what he was getting himself into when it came to debating V, especially when it came to Shakespeare.
"Gordon, I don't think it's a good idea to test V," Evey warned.
This only set Gordon into another rant, which V quickly tried to cut off. Evey glanced around the room to see Philip sitting silently by the fire, looking rather amused. Philip certainly seemed to have the right idea, Evey thought. Finally, Evey heard Gordon proclaim that he had a copy of the very play they were arguing about in the library. And with that, both men left in a flurry, their loud voices carrying all the back to the study on their way to the library.
Evey stood up to stretch, and heard Philip laugh.
"Oh Evey, I have absolutely no idea how we put up with them," Philip said letting out a sigh.
Evey laughed, "Truly one of the world's greater mysteries."
He stood as well so that he could refill his class of scotch, and offered Evey another glass of wine. She refused, saying that she already felt drowsy enough as it was and wanted to be sure she could drive home safely.
Once they were both settled back in, they stayed silent for a moment so that they could hear the voices of V and Gordon above them. They couldn't make out any words, but the tone still sounded quite urgent.
"Evey I'm so glad you both could be here, you know that it means so much to me and Gordon," Philip said, breaking the silence.
"This means a lot to me to, and I'm sure it does to V. I'm glad to see how much he has grown since the night we met," Evey said. "You know, I was actually on my way to meet Gordon that very night now that I think back on it."
Philip nodded, "I remember him telling me that."
Evey laughed a little nervously, "Of course, at the time I had thought his intentions were much different. He had quite a reputation at the BTN amongst all of the young women."
"Yes, I can certainly see why you would have thought so," Philip agreed. "But of course, it was just a very clever way to try and keep his lifestyle a secret. Gordon was of course the utmost gentleman to all of the ladies he had over for dinner. And most of the girls simply lied about anything that ever happened for prestige."
"I knew that Jessica Dervish from accounting was lying!" Evey laughed.
Philip and Evey continued to sit in the warmth of the study, laughing at the shared stories they had of Gordon from their time at the BTN. All the times that Evey brought "Daddy Dietrich" his afternoon tea while he flirted with her and all the other girls, and all the times that Gordon and Philip made up excuses to see each other on the job. Eventually they were left laughing so hard they were almost in tears.
It was then that Gordon and V returned to the study in a flourish, Gordon looking angry and flustered, while V's mask betrayed no emotion. Evey stared hard at V for a moment, able to pick up on the cues in his body language that only she could decipher. She could easily pick up on the relaxed slant of his shoulders, the slight bend in the knees, the gentle tilt of the mask that said he was looking at her. He was relaxed, but Evey could sense the wicked smile from behind the mask: V had won this argument, there was no doubt about it.
"What are you two in such a tizzy about?" Gordon asked, almost snappy. Philip gave Evey a small smile and roll of his eyes before he got up to comfort his beau.
"Simply sharing some memories of you, dear. Did you two come to an agreement about Shakespeare or whatever it was?" Philip slipped his arm around Gordon's shoulder while pouring himself another glass of wine.
Gordon scowled at Philip's question, but V answered before he could, "Oh, yes. We did both come to the agreement that I was correct, beyond any doubt. It was quite a compelling argument on Gordon's part, but the evidence was clear as day in the Master's own words."
Evey giggled at the smug tone in V's voice. She peeled herself off of the couch, and wobbled slightly from the wine. Before she could even make her way over to V from across the room, he was at her side steadying her.
"Now V, don't wound the man's ego more than you already have," she scolded, flashing V a wink.
Philip snorted, "No, please do. I dare say the man needs it. It certainly wouldn't hurt to have that big head of yours deflated a little bit."
This caused Gordon to shrug off Philip's arm and move over to the large arm chair by the fire. His face was twisted into a glorious pout, and Evey couldn't tell if he was genuinely this upset or if he was putting on a show for everyone's benefit.
Evey watched as V glanced at the large clock that hung above the fire place. Although V had made it clear to Evey that he was very excited to go to dinner with Gordon and Philip, Evey could sense that V was beginning to get anxious. After spending so much time above ground, in a vulnerable position, V was more than ready to return to the Shadow Gallery to recharge.
Sensing this, Evey let out a large yawn and stretch. She rose from the couch and walked to V's side, where he instinctively wrapped an arm around her. Evey smiled up at V, and then looked to Gordon and Philip.
"Gordon, it's getting awfully late and I have so much work that I need to get a start on tomorrow. V and I had better get going," Evey said.
"Evey, my darling, it was wonderful to have you and V over!" Philip exclaimed. "We absolutely must do it again. It was our pleasure to host."
Gordon nodded and moved to shake V's hand and give Evey a hug, saying "Oh please, let's do this again soon. Although your dearest V is certainly insufferable about his Shakespeare."
V laughed, "Gordon, perhaps it would do you well to actually read the entire play before you accuse me of being insufferable, not just half of it. It's hard to argue something you know nothing about."
Gordon scowled, but before he could retort, Philip gave him a quick pinch and a stern look. They didn't need yet another argument.
"So you'll both be at the opening for the museum next week, yes?" Evey asked as they began to make their way to the front door.
"We wouldn't miss it. I'm so very excited for you, Evey! You've worked very hard on this, and we can't wait to see it," Philip said with a smile.
Gordon nodded in agreement, "Is it safe to assume that we'll get insider access for knowing the Princess of the Revolution herself?"
Evey rolled her eyes and let out a laugh, "I suppose I could do that for you both, considering everything."
"Wonderful. And you'll be giving a speech?" Gordon asked from inside the coat closet, retrieving Evey's jacket.
"Yes, I'll be speaking after Eric goes on. And then I'll get to do the ribbon cutting!" Evey couldn't help but beam proudly. The creation of the museum at the former site of Parliament had been an enormous undertaking. She was thrilled to finally have it come to life, and even more so to have those closest to her there to celebrate it. "And even V will be there, since everyone will be wearing a Guy Fawkes mask."
"Evey, that trick is going to start getting old if you're not careful!" Philip teased. "Some of us have trouble breathing in masks for long periods of time."
"And yet, I somehow am able to manage," V retorted.
V then helped Evey into her coat, while they all shared their final goodbyes and plans for the upcoming week. Finally, Evey and V made it out the door and walked down the long path to where Evey had parked her car. Since V couldn't drive, he opened the driver's side door for Evey before seating himself on the passenger side.
When they were both settled and the car started, Evey let out a small laugh as she put the car in gear.
"What is so funny, Evey?" V asked, looking over at her.
Evey shook her head, "When you helped me into the car, it made me realize something."
"What is that, love?"
Laughing again, Evey glanced over at V: "I've finally found something I can do that you can't, and that's driving. After watching you leap across buildings and take out rebels, and knowing just about everything, here is something you know absolutely nothing about."
V had to chuckle as well at her observation. He had never realized that it could be quite frustrating to Evey to see him demonstrate his considerable amount of skills, although he had had 20 years with nothing else to do.
"I'm sure with time, I could master it," V began. "But I'll leave the driving to you, my dear."
Evey laughed once more before turning her eyes to the road. The fact that she was able to prove that she was better at something, the fact that they were able to have this conversation, was all that really mattered to her now.
A/N Hello everyone! I don't have words to say how much it means to me that so many of you are still reading this story and still holding out hope for the updates. I have an insanely hard course load in college, not to mention I work 2 jobs and try to attempt a social life. So please bear with me. I never intended to have such a long hiatus.
All of your reviews have meant the world to me and I really appreciate all of you for not giving up on me. Please enjoy. I am trying to finish this story in 2016, there isn't much left to go.