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part I:…
part II:…
part III:…

"You're not serious."  Eric was frowning in disbelief at the two of them.   Their expressions looked remarkably similar at the moment, each looking back at him with an infuriating, almost feline calm.  Even the tilt of their heads was almost identical.  Finch was undeterred.  "You said yourself, that bullet is practically on top of your femoral artery.  You could bleed to death - we're too far away from anywhere that can help you in time."

"What better candidate than I to remove it, then?" V reasoned.  "I daresay I've the most experience among all of us... and it's not as though I haven't had to do this before."

"Yes, but..." Finch paused slightly as that thought sank in, then shook clear of it.  "You're talking about doing a delicate operation - on yourself - with no anaesthetic, while you're still recovering from all the other holes you've got in you..." he waved an exasperated hand at the impossibility of the situation.

"Eric."  Evey rose from her seat on the bed and stepped over to him.  "There's no other choice.  He's bedridden until we get that bullet out, or it could shift and definitely kill him.  It's a wonder it didn't already when we went up to the roof," she looked guiltily back at V,  "and I won't risk it now.  You know there's nowhere we can go for help with this - even if we could manage to get safely aboveground while carrying V between us, you and I are both easily recognizable.  There's no way we could gain admittance into a hospital.  Even without the mask, it wouldn't take much for someone to recognize V too, and then what?"  She placed her hand gently on his arm.  "I don't like it either, Eric, but  you heard him - he's done this before.  I can't do it, and even if I trusted someone else to try, he wouldn't.   It's really the only way."

Finch looked past Evey to address the man watching them calmly from the bed.  "And what if it doesn't work?  What if you miss, and we can't stop the bleeding?"

V met his eyes squarely.  "Then I will at least have chosen the manner of my death." A half-smile appeared, both whimsical and ironic.  "Not everyone has such a luxury."

Evey's head bowed at those words, and it took Finch a moment to realize she was actually smiling at them.  

He looked from her face to V's.  "You're mad, both of you."

"'A person needs a little madness,'" came the reply,  "'or else they never dare cut the rope and be free.'"*

Finch's hand pulled downward over his features at that.  He closed his eyes, mustering a final argument.   

"You're sure you can do this?  You can tell exactly where the bullet is?"

"Yes."  V's gaze went unfocused as he concentrated for a moment.  Unerringly, he pointed to a spot a hand's length up from his right knee on his inner thigh, off to one side of the bullet's entry wound.  "Here, about two centimetres in."

Finch stared, surprised and a little unsettled.  "I'm not sure I want to know how you can do that."

Evey looked up at him.  "Will you help, Eric?"  She was serious once more, honest worry in her voice.  "Our chances are best if we're all here."

"...Fine," came the resigned sigh.  "Just at least let me fetch a tourniquet before you start."


It was only a matter of minutes to actually extract the bullet, but every second stretched out in Evey's mind like hours.  She forced herself to watch the blade slicing into V's flesh, tried not to panic as the blood welled.  It was no easier to watch now than the last time they'd had to do this, especially knowing that V was now lucid and doing it to himself.  Despite the efficiency of his movements, he hadn't been able to prevent a brief grunt of pain as he widened the wound, and she'd flinched in sympathy.  She didn't want to think about how many times he'd had to do this before, to give him such a practiced ease with it.  Only the worry that she had to be ready in case something went wrong kept her from clenching her eyes shut from the sight of this deliberate but necessary self-mutilation.

At last the offending blob of metal tunked into a tray, and she could breathe again.  A brief surge of dizziness rolled through her at the release, bringing with it a sudden shiver.  V looked over to her in the midst of dressing the wound, sparing her a reassuring nod.  "Nearly there now."

She handed him another gauze pad.  "Isn't that what I'm supposed to be saying to you?"

He gave her a somewhat stiff half-shrug and a brief sideward smile.  "You've been busy."


One other bullet and two fragments remained, but Evey insisted they wait.  Fatigue and pain had dulled V's usual grace, and despite his impressive performance removing the most dangerous of the metal pieces still within him, he was starting to chafe under Finch's and her well-intentioned hovering.  Now that she knew what to look for, she could easily see his discomfort at having to sit in the light, under such scrutiny.  It went deeper than mere modesty, she knew - deeper even than being revealed as a mortal man rather than an invincible idea.  This was something that had been born in the hell that was Larkhill, and no amount of reassurance or logic was going to defuse it right now.  The only thing to do was step back and let him collect himself again.

They made sure V's bleeding was indeed under control, helped him re-position himself to rest, and put the security controls and the laptop within his reach before retreating back out to the Shadow Gallery.  Evey suspected the bulk of V's "rest" would consist of investigating the goings-on in London above them.  Regardless of the feeling of limbo the Shadow Gallery sometimes inspired, the world still moved around them - now more than ever.

Wearily the two of them passed near the kitchen.  Evey ran a hand over her short-cropped hair and looked over at Eric.  "I think I could use some tea.  Shall I get a cup for you?"

"Sure."  His tone was distracted as he looked around the large room with the piano commanding the center.  "You know… I just figured something out."  


"We'd always thought that you'd been working with V from early on.  But V… he's always been alone, hasn't he?"

"…until he brought me here, yes."

Finch nodded to himself.  "Ever since I got here, I noticed how awkward it is to just sit somewhere and talk - it's because the furniture is only set up for one person to use it.  There's nowhere designed for conversation."

Evey laughed in surprise at the odd thought, glad for the release it offered.  "You're right… I'd never made that connection."  She looked anew at their surroundings.  "If we sat and talked we were almost always in the kitchen or on the sofa with the telly.  I just took it for granted."  Her mirth faded into a thoughtful silence, and she continued into the kitchen.


Their cups of tea  consumed, Evey and Finch sat absorbed in their own thoughts.

"You okay?"  Finch was studying Evey's distracted posture.

"What?  Oh...  yeah.  Just... thinking."

"What about?"

She scoffed to herself.  "Only everything."

Finch grunted assent.  "I know what you mean."  He paused for a moment, puzzling over this woman having tea with him in a subterranean treasure trove of  outlawed human culture as though it were  perfectly natural.  Before all of this, he'd have jumped at the chance to ask all the questions that had kept him awake through his investigations, to say nothing of the new ones this place had inspired.  He'd have latched on relentlessly in order to finally have answers, test his theories.  Now, though, having seen and done the things he had, it just seemed... wrong to ask.  He wasn't the Chief Inspector anymore - not here, at least - and she wasn't the terrorist's accomplice.  An odd sort of truce was in place between them, although it couldn't exactly be called "friendship" just yet.  But his earlier insight about V's solitude was prodding his curiosity back to the fore.  It was only natural, really, but he needed to choose his words with care.  "How--"  Finch stopped himself, tried again.  "How did you and V--?"

Evey glanced at him and her lips curved upward.  "How did we meet?"  She looked into her empty cup and her focus went far away.  "It sounds so... ordinary, doesn't it?"  She sat back in her chair.  "The night of November the fourth I was out after curfew.  I'd been invited to a dinner I couldn't refuse, and lost track of time getting ready.   I ran into some Fingermen when I tried to sneak into an alley."

Finch's eyebrows rose at her reason for being out, but he didn't push the issue.  So that night when the Old Bailey went up was the beginning for her, too?  God, he'd been so wrong, assuming what he had.  He remembered seeing the surveillance photos of V and her, and reading the reports - he'd felt none too sympathetic toward the men involved, regardless of the crimes V had committed.  He knew full well how they exercised their "jurisdiction" with curfew violators, and how Creedy had encouraged it.  "V... found you?"

"He rescued me."  Her expression darkened.  "They had my arms pinned behind my back and a riot baton in my face.  One of them had got his fly undone when V turned the corner to where we were, quoting Shakespeare the whole time."  She looked down, smiling faintly in reflection.  "He scared me silly."

It was Finch's turn to sit back.  "So he just met you by chance, then?"

"Mm."  She nodded.  "Though he's fond of saying he doesn't believe in coincidence."

She missed the startled glance Finch gave her.


The next morning Evey found V sitting on the far edge of the bed, half-dressed.   He heard her surprised intake of breath and approaching footsteps, and ignored them.  He couldn't wait any longer - he had to get up and move around, regardless of what it might do to his wounds; nearly two weeks of inactivity were quite enough.  He had managed to dress from the waist down minus his boots, and had just finished a slow struggle into the form-fitting undershirt by the time Evey reached his side.   Carefully, he reached down and finished attaching the hem of it to the inside of the trousers' waistband, fastening the garment securely in place.

He looked up and they regarded one another for a long, silent moment.  As he watched her, waiting for her to speak, something flickered briefly in Evey's eyes.  Then she smiled all of a sudden, surprising him.  

"I wondered when you would get up.  To be honest, I was starting to get worried."

He chuckled a bit self-consciously.  The truth was, he still harbored doubts as to his place in this new world and his forced inaction had only served to amplify them.   He was accustomed to being driven toward a goal - needed it.  Now, with his vendetta fulfilled, he had to find a new means of driving himself... even if it began with something as basic as regaining his feet.  And he had to admit, even the simple act of donning his own clothing again was having a marked effect on his sense of well-being.  On the one hand, it was purely superficial; years of routine and habit worn smooth by repetition and only remarkable in their absence.  On the other, it marked the beginning of whatever his life was to be now.    

Beside him Evey knelt, reaching for his boots.  Though she still worried for him, she knew better than to treat him as an invalid.  V's mere survival was reinforcement enough of the fact that he was no ordinary man, regardless of his currently weakened state.  He knew his limits, and she trusted him to take heed of them - which left her the simple choice between letting him do everything himself, or offering to assist.  If he was going to do this, she decided, then she may as well help him - at least some of his stitches might remain intact that way, she reasoned with wry amusement.  Between the two of them the left boot went on and then, much more slowly, the right.  That task completed, she stood once more, waiting to see if he needed help standing.

Slowly, V leaned forward to rise from the bed.  As he shifted his weight to rise, he did indeed reach out a hand to Evey's shoulder in order to steady himself.  She in turn stepped closer, her hands automatically going to his waist.  He wavered slightly, not from the pain that shot up his leg, but at the sensation of Evey's hands sliding over the smooth fabric of his undershirt.  They were suddenly standing very close, V realized,  and he found himself falling victim to an unaccustomed awkwardness.  The normal chill of the stone chambers around them was being replaced by a warmth that had very little to do with the insulated clothing he was wearing.  She was looking up at him with an unreadable expression, and he became extremely aware of the continued lack of a mask between himself and her.

Evey watched his expression shift at the contact between them.  His eyes had widened, as had their pupils, and he looked as though he'd been about to say something but had had the words wiped away before he could utter them.  He looked caught... and uncertain.  Much the same way she was feeling.  The last time they had stood so closely, he was leaving for what he thought was his death and she knew that she might never see him again.  That was a lifetime ago - now, all the rules had changed.

She broke eye contact with him in order to gather her thoughts once again, and was reminded that his ensemble was still only partially completed.  She used the need to fetch his doublet on the dresser as a way to let him regain his equilibrium - and an excuse to step away and steady her own breathing a bit.

The doublet was heavy in her hands, looking so very empty as it sagged over her fingers.  She remembered wearing a similar one, feeling its weight on her shoulders as she stood alone in the cold November wind.  But this one... this one would go where it was meant to be.  That thought thrilled her more than she would have thought possible, and she turned back to him with that feeling shining clearly in her eyes.  

V watched as she approached, holding the doublet open for him rather than handing it to him entirely.  With a strange sort of thrill he put his arm through the sleeve while Evey drew it up to his shoulder.  Her hands ghosted lightly across his back and briefly brushed his elbow to bring the other sleeve into reach.  The contact was incidental, but it was setting his heart to racing.  He’d never before given much thought to the task of dressing, beyond the technical niceties and the need to uphold his own standards of appearance.  Now, with Evey witnessing and aiding in the process, he was learning the startling intimacy of it that was possible.

She had moved around to his front once more and was glancing over the lay of the shoulder seams to ensure they were straight.  Small fingers gave a gentle tug to the left side of the front to pull it into place, sending a shiver through him.  She said nothing, not even looking up, but he could see a slow blush coloring her cheeks.  It drew an answering one from him as well, though she couldn't see it. An offending bit of lint was brushed away and she was done, her hands stroking once down his arms in farewell.

It was more due to muscle memory than any coherent awareness in that moment that his fingers moved to fasten the doublet closed.  His eyes never left hers.  He was dimly aware of his injuries' protest against the layers of fitted clothing, but the memory of her touch upon him far outweighed any discomfort.  

With difficulty, he tore his gaze from her long enough to retrieve the wig waiting patiently upon its stand.  Somewhat hesitantly he lifted it into place, distinctly aware of her eyes upon him.  His hands were beginning to straighten the strands – an effort made slightly more difficult for lack of being in front of the mirror – when he caught sight of Evey's movement next to him.  Her own hands half-raised toward his head, silently asking his permission to continue.  After a stunned moment of meeting her shyly earnest expression, V caught his breath and let his arms fall to his sides, leaning down a bit toward her.

Gratefully she reached up, starting at the back of the wig to comb it into place with her fingers.  The motion brought her face close to his and it took a supreme effort on her part to remain focused on her task.  As she continued his posture began to relax, his eyes drifting closed.  Her hands smoothing over his head made short work of straightening the wig but she continued, marveling at being able to touch him.  Up until now through his recovery he'd discouraged it, tensing at nearly any approach.  This was different, now that he was returning to himself; he had regained control, and could therefore relinquish it as he chose rather than as circumstances dictated.  The fact that he was doing so, even leaning into the contact, was closing a velvet fist around her heart and making it difficult to breathe evenly.  Stroking gently over his head, abandoning the illusion that she was merely tending to his appearance, her hands endeavored to express what her voice could not.  In response he sighed, his breath fluttering over the slope of her neck and nearly sending her to her knees.

V suddenly felt her hands slide beneath the wig to wrap around his head.   The sensation was as exquisite as it was unexpected, and his eyes flew open.  He had allowed himself to be lulled by the gentle rhythmic paths her hands made, even welcoming her proximity to him.  This new touch, though, heralded something different.  There was intent behind the gentleness, and an expectation in the air between them that sent his thoughts flying into an impossible tangle as their eyes met.  So mesmerized was he by her heated gaze on him that it took a fraction of a second to register the sensation of her lips closing softly over his.  

She hadn’t been able to resist.  When his eyes met hers, clouded by desire and yet so uncertain all at once, she’d had to kiss him.  Even if it was the last time she ever touched him – she had to do this now.  He'd made a brief "Mh!" of surprise but didn't move away, much to her relieved delight.  With the ebony fall of the wig spilling through her fingers she gently cradled his face and lost herself to the indulgence of kissing him at last.

soft…  That was the only word his mind would supply.  Her hands slipping behind his head once more… her breath on his cheek… her lips caressing his… it was drowning him, and a part of him was more than happy to let it.  His entire existence had been spent isolating himself from physical contact, first to recover from Larkhill's horrors and later as a means of focus when his vendetta came into being.  He was no stranger to the desire for it, certainly - but he'd relegated it to the abstract, housed safely in the works of artists and poets long-dead.  This was immediate, and visceral, and all too real... marvelously real.  He would never have imagined that the sensation of her mouth closing gently over his lower lip could twist through him with such heat, or that the tiny sound she made at the back of her throat could draw him irresistibly forward to envelop her waist in his hands, but it did.  She was kissing him, and he was letting her, and it was... wonderful.

Her fingers caressed along his temple and down the side of his face, her lips capturing his again and again to coax his mouth into dancing with hers.  Far beyond words, she was telling him everything she was feeling in this moment, every touch of her mouth on his a homecoming and a benediction. With infinite gentleness her lips feathered over his, concentrating every nerve ending in his body on that one point between them.

Without warning it began overwhelming him, even as he wanted it to continue.  Completely unprepared for the reactions such a delicate assault was calling forth in him, he was in sensory overload.  He had no frame of reference for this - no defense against the myriad of impulses bombarding his awareness.  His hands stiffened trying not to clamp down at her waist, and his breathing had shortened into small, shaking gasps.  Too much...

She sensed his distress and slowed, gradually ending the kiss.  With one final brush of her lips to his she reluctantly drew back, looking up into eyes that reflected want and hesitancy in equal parts.  It was nothing short of a miracle, she considered, that he'd allowed things to go as far as they had.  Seeking to reassure, she offered a small smile and reached up to run her hands once more over his head once, twice.  

He closed his eyes and the tension that had been coiling ever tighter left him in one long, shuddering breath.  His forehead dipped to hers and for a long moment they simply stood, breathing together.  He had effectively entrusted himself into her keeping since that night of the Fourth.  She had upheld that trust - stepped forward to claim his legacy to her, fought for his life every bit as much as he had - and now she had shown him she accepted the idea of  V as well as the man with her efforts.  It touched and humbled him as nothing else could have done.

His equilibrium recovered, V leaned back enough to search her expression.  It was calm, and open - accepting him and this moment for what they were.  His still-ungloved hand reached up to her cheek as the emotions welled up within him.  Before he could second-guess himself, he gently took her face in his hands and leaned forward, bestowing a single kiss of his own.

"Thank you."  The words drifted across her cheek... the only words that could encompass all that had passed between them.  

With one last, lingering caress to her face, he turned to retrieve his gauntlets from where they awaited him on the dresser.  They slid into place as they always had, leaving only one last step in the process.

They both looked to the mask, smiling to itself where it lay alone beside the empty wig-stand.  V couldn't deny the compulsion that drew him to it, that called to him to secure it over his own features.  But that demand was tempered by the knowledge of his new standing - whatever that might yet be - in the world, and by the understanding that part of the need for this persona, at least, no longer existed.  He stood, lost in thought for a moment, and it was Evey who finally moved to take it up, looking into its eyes as she did so.  

The edges of its cool weight pressed into her palms, the lifelessness of the material countered by the finely expressive features.  This had been V's face to her for a year - the only face she'd known.  Even now, looking down on it, she could feel the familiar tug of the conflicting emotions it - he - had inspired within her in all that time.  This was as much a part of him as anything else, whether it be within him, his actions, or even the Shadow Gallery itself.  It was him, and was not, just like everything else.

Carefully she handed it to him, meeting his questioning gaze with equanimity.  As she watched, he lifted it to his face, expertly tightening the straps behind his head.  She moved clear so he could check his reflection in the mirror, watching as the bangs of the wig were set to order over the top of the mask's edge.  Then he reached for the comb that lay nearby and, to her surprise, turned and offered it to her.  She took it with a steady hand, proud that she'd managed to control the lump in her throat that his simple action had caused, and dispensed with any tangles in the wig with perfect efficiency.  All was in place; they were ready.

V straightened as she replaced the comb on the dresser, turning to take her hands in his for a moment.  "Shall we?"  He tilted his head in the way she'd so missed.

She swallowed, smiling with eyes that didn't quite overflow.  "Absolutely."

He nodded once in satisfaction, keeping one of her hands in his, then began making his way out of the room.  He was limping, and moving more slowly than his wont, but he moved under his own power, and that was enough.

~ Finis ~

*Quote by Nikos Kazantzakis
Nearly the end. There's an epilogue lurking in the back of my head that should finish dealing with Mr. Finch, but I've no idea when it will get written. >.>

Disclaimer: Neither this universe nor its occupants belong to me. They just whisper in my ear and make me chase after them.
Add a Comment:
ewigestudentin Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Damn Finch for noticing EVERYTHING! Me has a sad now. I mean, not that I didn't know about V spending decades alone... but if even the furniture testifies to that... it's just beyond sad.

On a lighter note, I love it how natural their kiss was. I can never fully picture the logistics of tying the mask *above* the wig. Sneaky how you made the difficulties of the process work for you and the characters! :)

And that subtle change about V - encouraging the touch when he was in control again and could relinquish it by choice - that's so observant and deep of you to point out! The whole "Gratefully she reached up..." paragraph did me in even before the actual kiss :blush:
brookeechan Featured By Owner Aug 20, 2010  Hobbyist Artist
i loooooooooooooooooooooooove you soooo much i love your stories and everything else!!!!! i especially love Gifts
FugueState Featured By Owner Aug 26, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
Glad you enjoy them! :aww:
brookeechan Featured By Owner Aug 26, 2010  Hobbyist Artist
yur welcome
dnt-cry-4-me Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2009
im am speechless
FugueState Featured By Owner Nov 24, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you! :thanks:
princess88alasse Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
YAY THEY KISSED!!!! *spazzes*
FugueState Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
finally, yes - it took them f-o-r-e-e-e-e-v-er! ;P

I'm glad you liked it. :aww:
princess88alasse Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
no kidding XDDD

i loved it ;p
snurtz Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2009  Student Writer
Oh. My. Good. Word.

That was so incredibly amazing that I don't even know where to start. Every spot, every situation, every moment, you got the tone perfectly down. You created every moment so expertly that I felt like I was there. You managed to capture the relationship between V and Evey in such a way as to keep their personalities and everything about them just like canon, but yet you created a scene we never saw and never will see, and it felt like it fit right in. Their kiss was perfect and just how it should be.


It was excellent. I am in awe.
FugueState Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
Aw, thank you - I'm glad to know I could make it so real! :phew:
snurtz Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2009  Student Writer
You're very welcome. You totally deserved it. =D
WhimsySmile Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2009  Professional Writer
WOW!!!!!! And squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! That was incredible, and beautifully written!
FugueState Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you so much! :thanks:
WhimsySmile Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2009  Professional Writer
honour-huston Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2009
FugueState Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks! :aww:
Zieza Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2009
Wow. Simply amazing, I must say!
FugueState Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you very much! :)
PiratePhantom Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2009  Student Writer
FugueState Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you! *bows* :aww:
Add a Comment:

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