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Me Tangere

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Evey doesn't remember the first time V touched her.

She knows when it happened, but like the smell of the alley, the cold of the November wind, the sense memory of V pulling her to her feet is lost. When she thinks back on that night, there is only fear. The only touch sensation is the pepper spray clenched in her hand.

She remembers his words instead, the way they wrapped around her, twisting like the branches of a willow. They were better than a touch, because she needed her full attention to untangle his corkscrew way of speech, and each moment spent on interpreting his convoluted sentences was a moment away from the fear that threatened to eat her mind whole.

That night, she went home with music in her head.

She doesn't remember the second time V touched her, because she was unconscious. It bothers her for a while, the thought of him carrying her out of the TV station, into whatever passageways he used to avoid the Eye and Ear and Nose.

The second time she was aware of his touch was the next morning, after his pronouncement of her fate. She'd been wearing clothes he found for her, eating food he made for her. Sleeping in a bedroom that wasn't his (a second bedroom ready in a lair he'd never shared?) but was full of books waiting for her to read them. That was when he started recreating her.

Or had that been before, on the rooftop, when he showed her his symphony?

She helped him with stacking the breakfast dishes and their hands brushed. The shiver that ran through her - she couldn't say if it was the energy of his words, the reality of his presence (her imprisonment), or the memory of the terrible burns under his gloves. Either way, he pretended it did not happen. After a moment she closed her mouth and followed suit.

The third time, Evey invited his touch.

V laid out her clothes for her and instructed her in the makeup, but she was not an actress, not without his careful instruction and aid. It had been over fifteen years since Viola, and then her mother had helped with costume and paint.

This time V knelt in front of her, adjusting her clothes with the lightest touches. Tugging up her waistline first, and she passed the shiver off as tickling. He was looking down when he moved the edge of her socks just past the knees, first the left leg, then the right. His thumbs smoothed the fabric, making sure it would hold.

The splotches of rouge hid Evey's blush.

He used brushes to blend out her makeup, but he kept her head tilted with the tip of his index finger on her chin. She closed her eyes, until he asked her to open them and applied a shadow to her lower lash line.

He whispered that command, and for once the room was silent. She hadn't noticed when the music ran out.

He touched her on the shoulders when he nudged her to turn the chair she sat on. When she faced the mirror, when she had to look at the (real, fake) blush on her face, he took the curling iron and started working on her hair.

By the time she was finished to his satisfaction, her breathing was calm. Even when his fingers brushed her shoulders, rearranging her hair.

For a moment, she wanted to stay in this room, in this chair, with his touch. She wanted to be who he wished her to be.

(There were other touches then, in the interlude - intermission - time between her betrayal and her capture. The bishop, loathsome, doomed. Gordon, sweet and just as damned. She still dreamed of V's fingers, burned, the ridges just palpable under that soft black leather. Strong as steel and delicate as rose petals.)

(She doesn't count the hands that grabbed her that night, the night the axe fell for Gordon. She can't remember how they felt. There was only the fear.)

The next touch she does remember is the hands on her head as she was shaved. The gloves were latex, this time. She didn't feel the ridges of the burns. Maybe he disguised them. Maybe she'd been too full of despair to notice them.

She thinks it was the former. She remembers it too clearly. The touch was impersonal, efficient. The hands were warm. It was the only time she's ever felt his warmth.

The next memory - she's surprised at how clear it is. It doesn't hurt to think of the moment she fell apart, not once it's passed. She remembers the pain, but also the clarity. And at the edges of it, his arms around her. Without his embrace, she's sure she would have fallen to pieces, and that would have been far harder to put together again.

For a long time, it's the only thing she's grateful to V for.

For a long time, she walks through London alone. The Underground is V's, but she takes to the rooftops, above the cameras of the Eye. When she climbs down, she finds a half-world at the edges, in doorways and under bridges. There's food enough, money enough, if you're determined to get it.

Evey doesn't hesitate much, anymore.

She needs a weapon. She settles on the Finger truncheon, quiet and efficient. When she walks away from the Fingerman - unconscious, away from cameras, left with just the memory of a flash of thigh in the shadows - she wonders, idly, how she could have been so afraid of so little.

She doesn't touch people, not more than she needs to. She shaves her own head once the stubble grows too long. It fits now, it fits this pared down version of her.

She catalogues the memories of V's words first. Then the songs, until she's sure she could sing them by heart (badly). But so many memories of his touch elude her that she ends up walking all night long, counting them off one by one.

It's not the last night she does that. And they're growing longer.

By November, she comes to a decision.

She didn't come back to touch him, she didn't. This is the first time he asks in words.

V takes his time choosing the song, for all that he knows all of them by heart. Evey remembers this one, the title that confused her.

They touch, but more than that, they dance. His hands are only on her back and hand, but she feels his purpose guide all of her movements. It's this connection, this warmth (from her hand through his back and arm, back into her) that gives her the courage to ask about his history. She knows better than to ask his name.

She doesn't remember the lyrics until later, until she reaches for the mask and V stops her.

I've got my heart in my hands.

Later, she wonders who is the bird girl. Is she? Is V? Which one of them is learning to fly?

As they walk to the train tracks, his hand remains on her back. He guides her, but he'd never needed more than words for it before. It feels - hungry, in a good way. She wants to pull him close again, dance with him again, feel that connection as they stand together.

Then she understands what he's planning. That, too, is a kind of touch.

They do touch then, holding each other, her lips to his mask. It's an indulgence she allows them both. A memory in the making.

She knows his decision before he speaks. It's in the way his hands slip from her waist.

Regret, longing, guilt.

She never knew you could say this much with a touch.

Evey touches him again, before the end, but these are wiped from her memory. Too much pain, too much understanding. Too much grief.

The touch she does remember is the last. Her hand on the lever.

It's always been about ideas, the two of them. She'll always have the imprints of V's fingers in her mind.