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[sequel to "Awaken".  See comments for link.]


She rounded the corner into the main room and saw him sitting in a chair, in profile to her.  He looked the same as she'd seen him countless times before.

"Before"… Never in her life had one word been so charged.  

He stirred slightly at her approach.  Rising, he turned to face her, tilting his head in solemn greeting.  

She was unprepared for the intensity of emotion that hit when his familiar smiling visage faced her directly.  Waves of loathing, even rage, warred with simple hurt at what he'd done to her.  She felt her lips pull back from her teeth as she looked at him and conjured an image of simply tearing him to pieces with her bare hands.  

The feel of paper crinkling in her hand made her look down.  She didn't remember having picked up Valerie's letter when leaving her room.  The thought of nearly having damaged it dissipated the violent haze blurring her mind, and she gingerly smoothed out the curl of it once more.

V hadn't moved, or made a sound.  

Having regained her focus, Evey made herself look at him again.  Made herself approach him, and willed herself to set aside her rage; there were more important things.

She stood before him and held the rolled-up letter in her open palm.  "Who was she?  Why do you have this?"

V leaned back slightly.  His mask did not quite meet her eyes.  "She was the woman in Room Four…  I delivered that letter to you as it had been delivered to me."

To him?  

"You were…imprisoned?"

"Yes."

"That - all of that - was done to you?"

"To begin with."

His hands were flexing slightly.

Her mind whirred with this new information.   Room Four...  the woman in Room Four... Evey's cell had been at the end of the hall... she remembered being dragged, semiconscious, past the cells with their Roman numerals...  seeing Room Three, Room Four...

Room Five.   

Room V.

Her heart thudded to a stop.  "Who are you?"

The mask tilted down toward her.  "I am as you see me."

Her eyes narrowed.  One had to remember to ask the right questions with V.  "Who were you?"

"I don't know."

"You don't--" She actually advanced on him, her anger rising once more.

His hand raised slightly in conciliation. "I will tell you what I can, Evey... and you will have the truth, I promise you.  There will be no more lies."  He paused, studying her for a moment.   

Evey suspected him of delaying when she was suddenly overcome by a leaden weakness.  Of course... she still didn't know how long it had been since the rooftop, and she hadn't eaten for a long time before that in her cell.  Aside from the sip of water she'd taken minutes ago, she had only anger and curiosity fueling her - and now the anger was faltering.

V stopped himself from reaching out to help her; it would not be welcomed.  Quickly he searched for words, knowing what was needed but unsure if she would accept it from him.   "There is... food in the kitchen," he said quietly, "...if you would like to continue in there."   A statement, nothing more.  She could accept or refuse as she liked.

He had stepped slightly to the side, she noticed.  She could now reach the chair he'd been occupying or go into the kitchen without moving too near to him.  Her knees threatened to buckle at the promise the chair offered, but her skin crawled at the thought of sitting there.  He had been there, it was something of his... everything here was his, it was all around her, pressing in...   She panted softly, losing hold of what little strength she had left.  If he touched her right now she'd scream, or die, or kill, she didn't know what - but he was still, as still as one of his statues.  Her stomach gave a sudden clench, and she remembered he'd mentioned food.  She looked at him, looked sullen challenge into the mask's eyes, and shaped her fury at her weakness into the staggering steps that brought her past him to the kitchen table.


* * * * * * * * * *


She sat hunched slightly forward with her hands on the formica tabletop.  Valerie's letter was still gripped in one hand.  Her eyes stared into nothingness, and her whole upper body swayed with the effort of breathing.

Without emotion, she watched V prepare a liquid supplement in a tumbler for her at the table.  The small part of her mind that wasn't focused on remaining upright wondered just how far he'd planned everything, and debated refusing his care to fend for herself.  The rest of her simply wondered how fast she could drink whatever that was without making herself ill.

He set the glass down before her, precisely dividing the space between them with it.  She tilted a scowl up at him for this obvious gesture of neutrality, and then drew it toward her.  She had to let go of the letter to keep from spilling the glass as she lifted it with both hands.  Then the vague sweetness of the mixture jolted through her, and it was all she could do not to lean back and try to spill it all down her throat at once.

She closed her eyes against the feeling, forcing herself to take a slow, measured swallow.  Then one more.  With shaking hands she placed the tumbler back on the table with all the difficulty of an addict walking away from a drug.  The sugar she could taste in those mouthfuls was already doing its job, lending her a short new burst of energy while the rest of the nutrients moved more slowly into her system.  

Now she could think.  Now she could talk.

V seemed to sense the shift and eased into the chair opposite her.  He placed his hands on the table, palms down, and waited.

A flash of déjà vu hit her - they'd sat like this before, she now realized.  He'd had a blinding light behind him shining into her eyes, then, and his gloved hands had been folded with a careless authority as that patronizing, unforgiving voice had made its promises and wielded its threats in the interrogation room.  

But not now.  Now she was the one with questions...and she was the one who could inflict pain, if his body language was to be believed.  He was the image of perfect, balanced symmetry before her - braced for whatever was to come.

She took another few sips as she considered her words.  He had promised an end to the lies, but he had not promised absolute truth.  V was never careless with words - she would still have to work for her answers.  

Her eyes drifted to the letter once more.  She touched it, gently, as though it were alive.  Valerie came into her thoughts again, and the few tantalizing snippets of information her file had offered.

"Larkhill... the file said she died at Larkhill Detainment Facility.  Was that where you were?"

V nodded, making a small sound of assent.

She thought of her time in Juvenile Reclamation... remembered comparing prison names where family members had been sent in the way other children might have exchanged collector's cards.  "I've never heard of it."

He shook his head.  "You wouldn't have.  It was too much of a failure - and a success - for Norsefire to have included it in your education."

She frowned at that riddle, but let it pass for the moment.  

"You said she gave this to you." Her fingers stroked the paper as she sought calm.  
"Why you?"

V took a breath.  "It was by chance; my cell was next to hers."  His head lowered..  "We never saw each other."

"You didn't know her?"

"No."   His gaze moved to the small roll of paper.  "She died shortly after I received the letter.  I didn't learn who she was at all until years later."

Tears blurred Evey's vision briefly as she envisioned the woman who wrote the words that transformed her.  Valerie had been dying, even as she worked to spark life in another.  She had died alone, so long ago, never even knowing if her words would ever be seen or remembered by anyone.

Abruptly she remembered where she was, and with whom… and why she was there to begin with.  She didn't want to feel these softer emotions, not now.  She wanted answers, yes, but she also wanted to return some measure of what she'd endured.  She wanted to cherish her anger.

An echo of the helplessness she'd felt before crept upon her as she considered her situation.  There truly was so little she could do.  Her body was nearly useless; she could already feel the strain being put upon it just by remaining seated at the table.  And yet – he'd given her a means by which to strike at him, all the same.  He'd acknowledged his humanity in these past few minutes as never before, allowing a fraction of the Guy Fawkes persona to slip.  And if he was human, then he could be hurt.

Before now, she never would have thought such a thing possible.  He'd always seemed so composed to her, so absolutely sure of himself.  He knew so much, had accomplished so much – she had admired him, even as she'd felt overwhelmed by his presence at times.  Even, if she were honest, after she knew he'd committed murder.  

Now, thanks to his obscene charade, she also knew his physical strength.  All too well, she could remember the ease with which he'd picked her up, held her down, shoved her, dragged her ever-dwindling weight, beat her.  She'd had no chance against him – none whatsoever.  This small crack in his otherwise invincible veneer was all she had, and every last ache in her body was screaming at her to use it.

She studied him, her lips set in a hard line.  "Why were you imprisoned?"

V shifted slightly.  "I can only surmise that I was an 'undesirable' of some sort - but whether I was a dissident, a so-called deviant, or merely possessed of the wrong religion or pigmentation, I couldn't tell you."

"Because you don't know."

Infinitesimally, his head ducked to one side.  "That is correct."

"Why?"  She leaned forward in spite of herself.  "Why don't you know?"

"Because of what was done to me."  His voice had sharpened, and he wasn't looking at her.  "Either from what they did, or what my mind did to escape it - the result was the same."

She didn't want to believe him.  Didn't want to think that what happened to him could be so much more horrible than what he did to her.  To do so would lead the way to pity, to commiseration, to empathy... to a fellowship with this man she did not want at all.

She relentlessly pressed ahead with her questions, her eyes glinting.  "Had you already lost your memory when Valerie's letter reached you?"

A slow, stiff nod.  Cruelty goaded her onward.

"What's the first thing you do remember?"

He went absolutely still, and the air seemed to grow cold around them.

"Screaming."

The tiniest shameful thread of satisfaction rippled through her shock, and she persisted.  "From what?"

She watched his fingers jump into brief claws before he regained control of them.    

V's mask lowered for a moment as he inhaled.  His hands flexed once - slowly, carefully - before his head lifted to face her again.  "For all that it was a prison - one of the most hellish imaginable - Larkhill was also a laboratory."

"A--?"  Evey recoiled, grimacing with sudden revulsion.

"Unlike other detention facilities, Larkhill made… use… of its inmates."

Evey felt sick, the meager nourishment she'd consumed now threatening to rebel.  The desire for revenge that had risen so quickly now dissolved, leaving behind a film of self-disgust.

This wasn't a game, some childish tit-for-tat.  Her own experience, though traumatic, had been fabricated... controlled.  This was real - and much worse than she could have imagined.

"What did they do to you?" the words were a whisper.

"So many things," she thought she heard.  But then he continued, making her doubt she'd heard anything.  

"Officially speaking, they were looking for biological weapons.  In actuality... they were developing them.  All in the name of 'national security', of course.  We were their test subjects."

Testing... and torture.  She suddenly remembered their first morning together, when she apologized to him for her outburst and she'd seen...  "Your hands?"

He actually laughed - a short, humorless huff of breath.  He lifted his left hand palm-up and looked at is as though seeing the flesh beneath the gauntlet.  "No... that, at least, was my own doing."

"What?"

"...It was the only way to escape such a place, other than dying."  V's hand curled and the mask faced her again, his demeanor matter-of-fact.  "I destroyed it."

Her mind spun.  In the midst of it, V's riddle came back to her.  'Too  much of a failure', he'd said.  Too much, indeed, if all this was true.  She looked up at him. "'There was a fire'..."

"You remember."  He sounded faintly pleased.

"What about the other prisoners - what happened to them?"

His voice fell.  "By that time all the others were dead."

It was all becoming too much to assimilate.  She had as many questions now as when she began, if not more, but she was growing too weary to continue.  Despairingly she leaned her forehead into her hand. She glanced up at him, inutterably tired. "And so now... what?"    This had gained her nothing.  Nothing but perhaps a reinforcement of her belief that the world was beyond help.

The mask tilted for a long moment until at last V appeared to reach a decision.  Moving back from the table, he stood.  "If you would come with me... there is something you should see."


* * * * * * * * * * *


She had never seen this section of the Shadow Gallery before.  It, like the prison, told her just how little she really knew about this man.

This was madness, all of it.  And yet, if there was one thing she did know about V, it was that he did nothing without purpose.  Everything he did, no matter how erratic, or puzzling, or horrifying, he did deliberately.  And so she walked with him toward whatever revelation he had in store.

They moved in silence down the stone corridor and motion-activated lights clicked on ahead of them.  This was not an area that was often used, Evey decided.  They passed any number of closed doors and her patience dwindled farther with each one.  She was reaching the end of her endurance - only the awareness of V at her side and her unwillingness to falter in front of him were keeping her moving.  As they continued she became aware of a scent, sweet and rich, with a hint of earth and moisture.  V finally paused and opened a door, and together they walked into what could only be described as a shrine.

The room was similar in shape to other rooms in the Gallery.  Golden-brown stone curved all around, and the floor was made of the same flagstones.   Luxuriant red silk and brocade tapestries adorned the walls on either side, creating an artificial alcove.   The far end was commanded by a large framed poster of Valerie Page from her film, "The Salt Flats".  Surrounding it were countless other images of her - publicity photos, lobby cards, newspaper clippings.  All had been framed with care and painstakingly arrayed about the central piece.  At the center of the room stood several lit candles, highlighting a huge arrangement of roses.

"Oh..."  The softly-lit pictures pulled Evey toward them.  "She was so beautiful."

"...Yes."

Evey looked around to the roses,  reaching out to touch the velvet perfection of the blooms  Their delicate beauty brought the beginnings of tears to her eyes.  "She said she hoped there would be roses again.  Did you grow these for her?"

"I grew them in her memory...but I give them to others, upon occasion."

Something in his voice made her turn toward him again.  "Others... like whom?"

He moved forward to brush the petals on a rose with his fingertips.  "Prothero, for one.  The Bishop..."  He looked up at her.  

Evey drew her hand back from the arrangement before her.  These weren't just a memorial; they were a death signature.  

V's voice was quiet.  "They remembered me, when I came to them."  He caressed one flower with the gentleness of a lover.  "They all did."

It hit her, then, with a chill that crept up her spine.  "They were at Larkhill..."

She looked around them.   "Is that what this is all about, then?  You're getting revenge for what they did?"  Hysteria threatened to bubble up within her, and a strange sort of awe.  

The only verdict is vengeance...  How little she'd understood.

V turned to face her, all but emotionless.  "What was done to me, created me."  His dark, maniacally grinning figure loomed in harsh contrast to the beauty around him.  "It is a basic principle of the universe that every action will create an equal and opposing reaction."

Like an equation.  No emotion - and no mercy.  

Was that really all there was to him?  Before the prison she would easily have doubted it, but now...  had everything before then been as much a lie as that?  Had she become just another cog in his immense machine of retribution?  The leaden weight of that thought bore down on her, making her suddenly feel decades older.  

She wondered, for the very first time, if he truly appreciated what he had just said.

Standing in a sea of roses with the image of Valerie floating behind her she stared at him with an ineffable sadness, and shook her head.


"So what am I supposed to do with you, then?"


~ Finis ~
The sequel to Awaken. Evey wants answers.




-Multiple quotes taken from the film script by the Wachowski brothers and from the graphic novel by Alan Moore.
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:iconewigestudentin:
ewigestudentin Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Nice to see Evey seeing her experience in relation to V's imprisonment - the ugly part, but also the spiritual freedom that both gained from it.
And the final line - *flails* - it's so powerful that I simply can't reduce it to calling it a cliffhanger.
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:iconfuguestate:
FugueState Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you! I don't remember when exactly that thought occurred for the last line, but it was pretty much the result of my brain thinking "Hey, wait a minute-!" when I compared V's experience with hers.
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:iconsnurtz:
snurtz Featured By Owner Dec 23, 2008  Student Writer
Very nice. I like how you made your own version, but you still used what was already given... with your own twist on it. ;) Excellent job.
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:iconfuguestate:
FugueState Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2008  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you! :)

Obviously I love both the film and GN versions of the story - I just wish there were more GN aspects in the film (hence my writing! xD)
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:iconsnurtz:
snurtz Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2009  Student Writer
Hehe. I read the GN and I didn't really like it very much. Of course, I'm not much into all the sex stuff in the GN, so that might've been it...
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:iconfuguestate:
FugueState Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
Possibly. The GN is very much darker than the film, and a lot less "pleasant" all around. There are aspects of it, though, that I really wish had made it into the film. I think it could have been a lot better for it!
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:iconsnurtz:
snurtz Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2009  Student Writer
Yeah, but I like movie Finch better. He doesn't kill V. XD And he's like my favorite character.
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:iconprincess88alasse:
princess88alasse Featured By Owner Dec 23, 2008  Hobbyist General Artist
have lots of babies with of course! ... :paranoid: ... *flees*
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:iconfuguestate:
FugueState Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2008  Hobbyist General Artist
erm... not juuuuuuust yet, I'm thinking! :fear:

;)
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:iconprincess88alasse:
princess88alasse Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2008  Hobbyist General Artist
darn it D:

XD
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:iconfoxybcosplay:
foxybcosplay Featured By Owner Dec 23, 2008  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
You know, I don't generally read fanfiction, but I think I would like to read yours. :) Very well-done.
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:iconfuguestate:
FugueState Featured By Owner Dec 24, 2008  Hobbyist General Artist
Wow - thank you very much; that means a lot to me! :thanks:
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