Maybe there’s a universe out there — happening now — where we end up together. Maybe there’s a universe where I’m the right person for you. Where I adore every nice thing you did for me without starting to resent you. A universe where you actually end up with someone who appreciates you. Where both of us can shed our baggage and curiosity and issues. If you think of it all this way, then it’s like neither of us did anything wrong. You just found me in the wrong universe. That’s all. Because you could have loved me forever. And maybe in another universe, I let you. ― Gaby Dunn
'Hi, get inside. It's a nightmare out there,' said the owner of the bookshop as he opened the door for her to get out of the pouring rain.
Vanya offered him a weak smile as she got in fixing her umbrella before he offered to take it out of her hands.
'Your agent called and said something about you canceling,' started the owner of the shop. She briefly remembered his name was Ben.
'Yes, but you got my text, right?' she asked hurriedly praying that he did almost letting out a relieved sigh when he nodded, 'Of course. All is ready, and thank you again for coming. It's a huge honor. I'm a big fan of your book.'
She smiled at him hoping it looked sincere, 'Thank you for having me.'
He pointed her to the bathroom where she locked herself and sat down on the closed toilet for ten minutes with both of her hands covering her face. She felt like screaming. Right now at that moment, out of the rain, she finally allowed herself to think about everything which happened.
He grabbed her by her scarf and started to choke her.
He actually started to choke her.
Her hands touched her neck. If she hadn't knocked over the chair would he have finished her? Would he have murdered her? The thought made her sick. She needed to do something. He got so mad. He got upset because of something and canceled her signing today even though he knew she promised Ben she would come. It was scheduled for months now.
Carefully she put her hands against her knees. She wasn't even sure she wanted to stay, but she couldn't go back, could she?
She got a text. It was the twentieth one in the road.
Sweetie, are you alright? You had another one of your episodes. Did you go to the signing?
She wanted to crush the phone in her hand as she felt tears forming inside her eyes again.
It wasn't an episode.
She wasn't crazy or overacting or delusional as he was trying to make her feel and look like. Something happened. He tried to kill her.
'Ms. Babkin?' she heard from the outside door to the restroom.
'In a minute!' she called and wiped away her tears before she stepped out and went to the mirror. She did a quick check-up of herself and let her hair down before she finally came outside.
She could do this. She had to. It was her signing. Her work. Her books and she promised she would come. She was already here. She might as well do it.
The signing was going as usual. There were a lot of people, and it extended for almost half an hour now. It still looked like a good forty minutes before she would finish.
By now Vanya had a formula on how to process with every new fan, 'Hi, how are you? And what's your name? Thank you for coming.'
She managed to do it all while smiling and even occasionally answering one or two of their questions or thanking them for the extra praise. It always went like this. Betty, her first agent, would have been proud. Her second agent...not so much.
She was only grateful that he hadn't shown up yet, probably waiting for her at the apartment. He must have been angry and didn't want to cause a scene. He never wanted to cause a scene always looking so nice and polite as all he had was her best interest in mind which was the reason, why it took her so long to realize what he was doing to her.
Vanya gripped the pen at one point trying hard to push those thoughts away. She couldn't deal with this now.
'Hi, how are you?' she asked and looked up at this point she didn't really notice who was in front of her signing table unless it was a child.
She instantly lowered her head down as the book appeared on the table in front of her. She didn't even realize she never got an answer to her first question, but by now she was tuning them a bit out.
She looked at the cover. It caused her to pause a bit. Growing up she was always careful with her books. Her parents didn't have enough money and her father was never really interested in what she wanted so she had to make sure her books were taken care of, and wouldn't get damaged. Still no matter how much she tried, her favorite books, the ones she often used and re-read always ended up a bit ruined, the cover didn't look as new, there was an occasional dog-ear on this or that page. It happened to all her favorite books.
This particular copy of her book in front of her looked just like that. Taken care of but also very used. Oddly, it was the first time since the signing started that she felt a bit proud of the book again. Someone loved it so much they read it over and over again.
She opened it to the first page and asked, 'And your name is?'
Her pen was left a centimeter above the page as she was waiting for the answer, but it didn't come. Finally, she raised her head to look at the person in front of her.
The moment her eyes landed on his, she was momentarily frozen in place shocked by the intensity of the man's stare. His eyes were green like leaves of her favorite tree in her grandparents' garden where she used to take her books and read.
She opened and closed her mouth before she forced herself to look away, 'Sorry, uh, your name?'
Her eyes looked back at his, but this time he wasn't looking at her eyes or face, his gaze was lower, and if she wasn't wearing a sweater which made her look as flat as a desk, she would have assumed he was looking at her chest.
She went to ask him again feeling a bit uncomfortable now when the man all of the sudden reached out and pulled at her white scarf. She froze, the panic kicking in as she understood that he must have been looking at her neck where she must have started to bruise from Leonard trying to strange her earlier.
She should have leaned away from him or called for Ben or security or someone. Instead, she found herself saying, 'I'm so clumsy sometimes. I tripped.' The lie didn't feel right in her own ears, but it worked before. People believed it before, brushing the bruises and cuts to small accidents at home. No one seemed to doubt her word for it. It was easy to lie when people didn't want to hear the truth, and they really didn't want to know the truth.
The man kept on looking at her neck the scarf still between his fingers before he put it back in place covering her neck and the bruise from anyone to see.
'You should take better care of yourself, Ms. Babkin. It would be a tragedy if something happened to someone as talented as you,' he said, and Vanya couldn't help, but shiver at the sound of his voice and the context of his words.
She cleared her throat, 'Uh, your name?'
'You can make it out to your biggest fan,' he said and Vanya opened her mouth, but she wasn't really sure what to tell him.
Instead, she offered him an awkward smile hoping she would kind of get rid of him soon, and quickly wrote down what he asked her to before she closed and handed him the book back.
'Thank you for coming,' she said right before he took the book purposely putting his hands over hers. The moment their skin touched, there was a spark that ran all the way through her entire body leaving her startled.
He didn't say anything, but Vanya still felt her stomach twist in an uncomfortably wondering what was it all about with the man. He saw her bruises but still continued to walk away.
She felt almost like smiling like a maniac.
Leonard was right. No one would care if something happened to her. Not even her biggest fan apparently.
The book signing extended for over one hour and a half. It was a success, but she took little joy in it knowing now she had to return home. Ben was generous enough to offer her a ride, but she refused knowing it would only lead to another fight with Leonard. She was just too tired for that. She hoped she would get home, and he would be done with her quick so she could finally rest.
Those last steps from her elevator to her door were the hardest every step she was closer to running back and out of the building, but every time such a bold thought crossed her mind she realized she had nowhere to run, with Leonard being completely tangled in every aspect of her life. He was her agent, and boyfriend, he lived with her. Now that she realized it she had no one left but him. This was what he did to her. He made her all alone.
On the last step away she realized the door was opened, which was odd. Did he want to somehow surprise her by the door? That didn't seem right. He didn't like their neighbors to get in the way. Especially one of them who he claimed was purposely pissing him off. Vanya assumed he just didn't like gay people.
She walked inside instantly noticing the furniture and items were all over the place. Did Leonard throw a tantrum after she ran away? Or was this a part of her episode?
The episodes weren't real. He was making her think they were to cover for himself!
She walked further into the apartment until she heard noises she didn't recognize.
The lights were off except for a bit of light coming from the knocked over on the ground lamp. The noises were becoming louder as she walked to the living room not sure what she would have found there until she didn't spot him.
Someone suddenly grabbed her from behind and covered her mouth before she would scream as she spotted Leonard on the ground choking from his own blood by the looks of it. He looked in pain as his eyes shifted a bit toward like her. He was begging her to help him.
'It's okay. It won't take long now,' whispered a voice into her ear.
She froze as she recognized it even with only the brief sample she had to compare it, she knew it belonged to the man from the signing.
She put one of her hands over the one he had around her stomach and the other on his wrist like she was trying to break free before he spoke again, 'Easy. It will be quick now. He was already dying like this for almost an hour. Being stabbed like that and choking on your blood as it fills your lungs with blood. It's a very painful death. Then again, I can't help but think he deserves worse for what he did to you.'
Vanya stopped struggling. She couldn't look at the man so she kept her eyes on Leonard as he was fighting his battle with death.
'It's okay,' he said almost sweetly into her ear, 'I won't hurt you. I really think it would be a shame if something happened to someone as talented as you. I just can't allow him to hurt you ever again. Do you understand?'
Her heart felt like it was about to break free from her chest with how fast it was beating.
'I know this wasn't the first time he hurt you, and I think you know this wouldn't be the last,' said the man and to her shock she found herself nodding while her eyes were still at Leonard.
'If I let you go now will you rush toward him? Try to save him?' he asked slowly, 'Will you scream?'
There was a moment where they stood like that all quiet with the only sounds coming from Leonard who was dying in front of them.
Vanya shook her head watching the blood slowly created a pool under his body. She was never good with blood.
The hand left her mouth and along with her hand on his wrist slide to the side of her body, 'Don't run to him.'
She blinked listening to his explanation, 'Right now. I made it look like a robbery gone wrong. I took a few things, but I will bring them back later when the investigation is over. Nothing too expensive though. Don't worry. Your fingerprints aren't everywhere near him so just say that you came home and found him like this. Given how much of a pro you are lying about injuries it won't be a problem. Make sure you will have the scarf on tight so they don't notice the bruise.'
Vanya carefully listened to the man explain to her what she should do as Leonard let out his last attempt to breathe before he stopped moving. Just like that her biggest regret and fear was dead. She survived him, and she was free.
She turned around and looked at the man.
He smirked down at her, 'Don't worry. You'll do great. Just make it as believable as all your other stories.'
He leaned down and pressed his lips softly against her own.
When he leaned away he looked almost shy which was in contrast to everything which happened so far, 'Sorry, couldn't help myself. I promise I won't do it again unless you ask me to.'
He stroked her cheek with his thumb before he reached into her pocket and shamelessly pulled out her phone pressing it into her open palm, 'Call the cops now. Remember what I told you.'
Vanya was left utterly confused and shocked standing in her living room with her phone in her hand now not so certain if she wasn't having an episode of some sort.
On the first night in the motel close to her apartment, she collapsed on her bed the sleep immediately taking her away to a place of dreams where even the wildest ones seem to make sense. Luckily, she didn't dream about Leonard or the man who killed him, but just pointless things like her old nana making her ramen and a bird talking to her. Stupid things really.
The next night wasn't so generous, and she ended up buying off dozen of candy bars from the vending machine throwing them at her bed and eating them all while watching Jane the Virgin getting lost in the sometimes ridiculously complicated and dramatic plot rather than her thoughts. It almost felt like she was nineteen again on her first night in the States. She got to her dorm late before the semester started so it was just her there. She opened the curtain and stared out of the window. Everything felt so new and exciting. She could have been anyone she wanted to. So she became an author. How long ago was it? She was twenty one when she published her first book, her debut, a best-seller that skyrocket her career. Her father didn't approve. He wanted her back home. He never wanted her to leave in the first place, but she felt it in her bones that if she stayed in their little village she would have died. She would marry some boy she grew up with also from the village and die. She just knew it.
On the third night well evening really one of the cops which did her questioning stopped by.
'Do you really have no one you would like to stay with?' asked the tall police officer, and Vanya felt a bit embarrassed about the empty candy bar wraps on the bed she hadn't had the energy to clean up yet.
'No one lives in the States, and we haven't really been in touch since I left Russia,' she explained and brushed her clothes a bit out of nervousness and a bit to make herself more presentable.
The man nodded before he said, 'One of your neighbors seemed to be concerned about you though.'
This surprised her a bit, 'Oh?'
'He talks a lot.'
She almost smiled, 'Klaus. He means well. He can be a handful though.'
The officer nodded, 'Very much so. You can return to your apartment on Friday. I would suggest new locks of course.'
Vanya nodded. She would definitely be putting those although she doubted it would stop the man from coming to her apartment again if he wanted to. He didn't have the key the first time. What did it say about her that she was actually planning to continue to live there? What did it say about her that she watched her boyfriend die in his own blood? What did it say that she left his murderer run free?
'Between you and me, it looks like a textbook robbery gone wrong,' he said suddenly, 'Stolen items -everything wrecked.'
She blinked as if she was expecting something bad to happen next. She was expecting him to say he knew what the man did for her because that was why he did it. For her. Her biggest fan killed her boyfriend.
'It's a good thing you didn't touch the body,' said the officer then and Vanya felt like she wanted to end the conversation now more than anything.
'I hate blood,' she said and shook her head, 'I just...I didn't know what to do.'
The officer watched her for a moment before he smiled a bit and nodded, 'Have a nice evening, Ms. Babkin.'
When he left she locked the motel door and pressed her forehead against it. Maybe she just doomed herself. Maybe this was her last chance to come clean, and she blew it. Either way, she went to bed again. That third night she found it impossible to fall asleep.
The police declared her apartment not a crime scene anymore on Friday, but she waited a bit before going in. She bought cleaning supplies not really knowing if she shouldn't rather hire an actual cleaning company to take care of the mess.
Once she got to the living room however she jumped startled seeing the same man from before kneeling on the floor right on the spot Leonard died looking at the wooden floor.
'Hello,' he said without looking up.
'What are you doing here?' she asked not sure if she should call the cops, make a run for it or pick up a knife from the kitchen to defend herself.
'I came to clean up. I didn't want to leave you to have to deal with all of it.' he explained calmly as before and stood up brushing his suit a bit before he put his hands behind his back and looked at her, 'I apologize for leaving you the other day, but I couldn't stay when the police were coming. I hope it wasn't too much of a bother.'
Vanya opened her mouth in disbelief. This man was insane. He stabbed someone and watched him bleed out on the floor, and he apologized for leaving her to deal with the cops?
She shook her head and walked backward until her back hit the wall, 'Please, just leave...me alone.'
The man blinked at her. She was worried she might cause him to snap when she rejected him the way she was used to from Leonard. Instead, the man tilted his head to the side and examined her with his clever eyes.
'You haven't been sleeping well,' he stated.
Vanya shot him an upset look feeling her emotions slowly boiling inside her from the absurdity of the situation, 'You stabbed my boyfriend.'
He blinked before he frowned and started to walk to her. This was it. She pushed him and now he would stab her too and she was an idiot for not telling the police and not trying to save Leonard and just-
He stopped in front of her, but within a reasonable distance as if to make sure she wasn't uncomfortable.
They continued to watch one another before he handed her a little business card, 'Here. I think you would benefit from seining an acquaintance of mine.'
She looked at the card and then back at him shaking her head. The whole situation was so surreal. She wanted to close her eyes and wake up in the motel again. Not in her bedroom.
Just in the motel where it all felt like it was just a dream, like all of it never happened. Where it felt like she just moved to the US for the first time again.
The man took her hand and just like before with the phone he put the card into her palm, 'Call her. She's really good.'
He then opened the door and walked away without a goodbye. This time he didn't kiss her. He did say he wouldn't until she wanted him to.
Vanya looked down at the card for a second before she rushed out of the door not even sure what she wanted to say when she called out.
He stopped and turned around his eyes a bit curious while she held the card between her fingers, 'Wh-why? Why are you doing all this? I-I don't understand.'
He smirked a bit as if he was amused by a private joke, 'Because I like your work. I want you to write more books in the future, and if he killed you that wouldn't have been very likely to happen, would it now? I'm your biggest fan.'
She looked at the card and then back at him whispering, 'You're insane.'
'Within reason,' he didn't argue about it.
She didn't know what to do. This man stabbed her boyfriend, and she was standing here talking to him. Her heartbeat was so fast and loud, it was a miracle he didn't hear it.
'You don't know what,' said Vanya suddenly.
'What?' he asked now looking a bit confused narrowing his eyes at her.
'If I would let him...if I would let him-'
But she would!
She knew she would. He had been hurting her for so long, and she did nothing until this man showed up.
'You would. You could have taken care of him yourself, but not like this. Not the way you are right now. You needed my help-'
'You don't know that-'
'I know you,' he said his eyes going softer for a moment.
'I know you better than anyone.'
Something about that sentence made Vanya feel sick as in an instant her mind went back to her first date with Leonard. Remembering how nice and sweet he appeared how he said all the right things and then he said.
I feel like I know you forever.
It made her sick thinking about it now.
'I have to-,' she felt tears running down her face all of the sudden. Tears she couldn't stop.
He nodded and turned his back to him which she was somewhat grateful for. She hated crying in front of people.
'My number is on the back,' he told her.
But she shook her head again, not sure if it was a decline of the idea of calling him or something else.
As opposed to her, he nodded and started to walk back to her. She let him as he carefully put his hand on her arm and easily guided her back to her apartment.
'Do you want me to stay?' he asked, and she shook her head.
He watched her for a moment longer before he asked again, 'Do you really want me to leave?'
She nodded quickly because she really did want him to go. She needed to calm down, and she couldn't do that with him there saying those things to her. She needed to be alone for now and deal with herself not this guy, who killed her boyfriend to be around talking to her puzzling her even more.
'Alright,' he said even though his voice was unsure, 'Take all the time you need. I will be waiting.'
He squeezed her arm not to hurt her, but to make her finally look at him. Why were his eyes so intense? Why did they look at her like that? What did that look mean?
'If you need me call me, okay? Promise me,' he looked at his hand on her arm and let go of it, but waited looking at her until she found herself nodding. She would have agreed to anything, just to get this man to leave.
Once he did finally leave. She didn't want to watch him go, instead, she rushed inside and locked her door completely breathing hard as everything went through her head. It was insane. It was all insane. Maybe it wasn't even real.
Maybe she really was having an episode and all of this was just a fabrication of her imagination. Her mother always said she had a vivid imagination; it was what got her to write in the first place.
She turned around and looked at the spot where Leonard bled out.
It was spotless. It would have been easy to think it was a dream as it was clean. In fact, her whole apartment was clean now. All the broken and turned around the furniture was back in place.
The same place as before.
How did he know where to put it all? Did he stalk her? Even if Leonard let him in, he couldn't have been there more than that hour after she signed his book, he had no time to memorize her apartment like that or did he?
She went to her couch and sat down. She had no idea who the man was. He could be anyone. He knew how to make it look like a robbery gone wrong. He knew where to put her furniture.
Feeling paranoid she closed her curtains, but somehow she didn't have a feeling the man actually stalked her. She also didn't have a feeling Leonard stalked her at least not at first. Maybe this guy was just better at covering his tracks.
Vanya decided she couldn't deal with it right now anyway. She threw the card to the trash and went to take a shower and sleeping pills to get her to rest trying as much as she could not to think about Leonard dying in front of her eyes, or the man who killed him.
Somehow it didn't work, and it felt like every time she passed the spot where Leonard bleed out she felt like he was still there judging her.
It took her about a week, but Vanya did find herself sitting in a waiting room with nice calming green walls. She was in a waiting room of a therapist from the man's card. She took it out of the trash the next day. Maybe she felt like if this man was a psychopath who would most likely kill her one day too, she deserved it.
It was on that day right after she was back in her apartment, that she started to feel guilty.
I let him die. I didn't even try to help.
She just let him bleed out on her floor while she stood there and watched. What the fuck was her damage?
Was she a psychopath too? Maybe she was. Who would let their boyfriend just die like that on the floor? Only a psychopath or a sociopath. It was those thoughts that finally got her to call the number and schedule an appointment.
Vanya almost walked away three times, but every time, she convinced herself to try. What harm could it do? She still blamed most of her decisions on shock. It was hard not when she knew she was acting recklessly and full-on insane. She watched her boyfriend die, covered for the man who murdered him, a man she had no idea what was his name just that he was her biggest fan, not to mention listened to the mentioned man's advice in seeing a therapist.
She felt like screaming again, but just then the door opened and a stunning and tall woman smiled at her, 'Hello, you must be my new 8 o'clock.'
Vanya nodded and walked inside gripping her bag as tight as possible. She should have just stayed home.
Once they both sat down the doctor asked, 'Well, what brings you here today?'
A part of wanted to confess right to all of it, to what the man did, to what she did. Just confess what happened altogether, and how she just stood there and didn't do anything.
But the moment she opened her mouth something completely different fell out, 'I think my boyfriend was abusing me.'
If the doctor was surprised, she didn't show it. She just offered her a look which Vanya assumed was supposed to be supporting and encouraging her to talk, and so she did.
It took her about two whole months before she allowed herself to look at his book. Vanya found it the same day she went to the therapist in a brown wrapping paper sitting against her door.
'The tall and mysterious vagabond brought it,' said Klaus, her neighbor as he was on his way from the apartment to his yoga class.
'Vagabond?' she asked honestly confused by this.
Klaus nodded, 'He was kind of an ass, if I may say so myself. Total not a person's guy.'
She grimaced not sure who was the package from, 'Maybe he just wasn't a you person?'
Klaus grinned at her teasingly, 'Well, straight guys never know what to do with me?'
'Like the cop?'
'Officer D? Nah, he wants some Klaus for sure,' he winked at her before he stopped by her his face sobering a bit, 'How are you doing?'
She nodded and tried to look calm and composed, 'I'm good. As expected.'
Klaus watched her before he clapped his hand against his yoga mat, 'How about you come with me sometimes to class? It's very relaxing, and it might do you some good. Something else to think about apart from work and what happened?'
She wondered if now she was somehow marked for everyone and all time as someone who it happened to. Someone whose boyfriend was killed. She felt like crying all over again, but she forced herself to nod. She knew she wouldn't be crying because of Leonard, but because of herself, 'Maybe.'
After that Klaus told her to take her time and went to his class while she took the book and bought it inside. Once she uncovered the brown paper, she found a copy of her book. She immediately recognized the cut on the cover as the same one the man's book had.
She found a note saying:
To help you understand. – F
F? F as in Frank or Fitzgerald or Fergus?
And understand what?
Nope. No. She told herself not to think about it. Not to think about him. She told herself, she didn't want to ever think or deal with him again.
She would have rather thrown the book out completely, but she couldn't really do that now, could she? It was her book, and she just didn't have the heart to do that to it. Instead, she picked it up and sat it on her bookshelf next to her original copy hoping she could somehow forget about it.
Of course, she didn't. The man who killed her abuser gave her his copy of her book. It was a link to him, and even if she wanted to forget the events and move on she couldn't. Not yet at least according to Doctor Allison. She needed to heal. She needed to understand all which happened to accept it and heal before she could move away from it.
However, after today's session with her therapist, she couldn't help, but find her hands pulling the book from the bookshelf curious and hesitated about what F meant.
'Have you done some writing since the event?' asked her Doctor Allison that day.
'Yes, it calms me down. Makes me think about other things,' admitted Vanya. She was eternally grateful that her writing did not suffer from all which happened, but then again it didn't suffer after being tortured by Leonard for years either. Her writing was her only escape, and the only joy Leonard allowed her since he knew it made money. He also must have liked her books enough to look pleased with what she wrote. She took little comfort in it now thinking how many more psychopaths were her fans. Apparently at least two, well, one since he killed Leonard.
Allison smiled at her. She had one of those smiles which Vanya would compare to a kindergarten teacher. It always made you feel proud like you did something good when she praised you with that smile. 'That's good.'
'Does anything else help? Maybe something outside of your apartment?' she asked afterward, and it caused Vanya to pause. She didn't really do much apart from writing to be honest.
'Do you have or had any hobby apart from writing. Something maybe you used to do in college or high school?' she suggested, and Vanya tried to think about it before she said, 'Violin. Well, I haven't played in almost seven years, but I played in high school. I had a tutor and then tutored others to make some money.'
'Any particular reason why you stopped?' asked her therapist, and even if she felt a bit humiliated and had half a mind to lie to her, she confessed, 'Leonard didn't like me playing when he was around. After he moved in he was always around, so I didn't play at all.'
As always Allison showed no judgment or pity just compassion and encouragement. Vanya couldn't decide if she was a professional like that or a really great person.
'I see. Maybe it wouldn't be the worst idea to start again? Even if you're rusty at the beginning I'm sure you were very good. How long were you playing before you stopped?'
'Since I was twelve,' admitted Vanya and smiled fondly at the memory of her grandmother giving her, her old violin. She took care of it as much as of her books practicing every day until she could have little performances for her grandma.
'Anything else? Things you used to do but stopped because of Leonard?' asked Allison with a certain ease as if she was worried Vanya would feel overwhelmed.
As she thought about it, she found a lot of things and activities she gave up after she started dating Leonard. Some were her own fault because she wanted him to like her more like she stopped drinking coffee because he didn't like it. Others were hints from him like when he told her, she didn't need to go to the gym because she would look more ripped than him. He laughed afterward, but she felt like it seriously bothered him so she stopped going to the gym and her daily morning runs. Afterward, when the bruises came she didn't even feel comfortable enough to change in the clothing stores let alone a shared locker room anyway. And then there were things he full-on had forbidden like going anywhere alone, driving or he got rid of her cat.
'He really did systematically manipulate me, didn't he?' she asked once she was done listing all the things, he took from her.
Allison gave her a tight smile before she nodded her eyes showing nothing but support, 'You have to understand, Vanya. Men like him are toxic. They prey on women using their affection and care against them making them feel like they can only be happy if they are with them even despite the abuse. For that Leonard needed to take all of it away from you. He needed to cut you out from anyone who would somehow be a support for you so that he would be the only one left and could control you to his will. But the things he took from you aren't lost. The violin, gym, having a pet, even trusting someone again.'
Vanya looked at her startled a bit.
'I know it's hard to accept it, and it is a long road to actually trust someone enough like that again, but I know you will,' said her Doctor, but as much as Vanya wished she couldn't, honestly she was skeptical so she tried to change the topic.
'How would it end?' asked Vanya, 'Would he just kill me one day? Just-his rage getting the best of him?' she asked, even if she already knew the answer, Allison was the only one she spoke with this about.
Allison looked a bit serious now as she nodded, 'I don't want to scare you more than you are, but given how much the abuse was increasing with every week, I would very much fear for your safety if he was still alive. I know it's hard for you to accept, but his death was actually like a key to your freedom.'
Vanya watched her Doctor before she looked away to look at the window and smiled. There was no denying it now. Even if she tried to argue with F, she couldn't. Even Allison knew the truth and in reality, so did Vanya.
'I wouldn't have left him. I would have let him beat me, and choke me if he was into it, and say that he was sorry and that it was an episode until...until he would kill me one day,' Vanya admitted out loud feeling surprised by the rush of relief which came over her.
'I wouldn't stop him, I would have left him to kill me,' she nodded, 'Because I thought...he was all I had, and I didn't deserve better. Because he made me feel that way...like I was nothing without him, like it all meant nothing,' she felt something wet on her cheek before she realized she was crying, 'Because he made me feel like I had no one, and I don't because he made me cut all ties and give up everything but my writing because it served him and-and...'
She couldn't finish because of the pain from the confession no matter how liberating it was made her cry so hard she couldn't talk.
When Allison reached out and touched her hand, Vanya was impossibly grateful for it holding into it, until what felt like forever, that she calmed down enough to stop crying.
At the end of the session, Allison said, she was very proud at her and told her once again to call her if she ever felt like she needed even if it was not during her working hours.
With all of the realization and confessions, Vanya felt a bit high once she got home. She was aching to do something, but it wasn't writing. She wanted to pull out her violin, but somehow she was worried she would break a string given how jittery she was. She thought about going running to kill some energy, but the moment she passed her bookshelf her eyes landed on the second copy of her first book.
Before she knew it Vanya picked up his book, well her book she wrote it, but it was the copy he had and brought to her signing.
Her fingers moved against the cover, and she couldn't help but wondered if all of it was because of it. If she hadn't written it she would never have met Leonard and the man would never come and kill him. If she didn't meet Leonard would he have turned out to be the person he was in the past couple of years of their relationship?
She went to her bed popped up one of her pillows allowing herself to lie down in the middle and opened it.
For some reason, she paused at her autograph on the first page thinking about the first time she met the man.
No one would care if something happened to her.
That was what she thought when the man fixed her scarf again and walked away. Little did she know then, he did care and took care of the problem.
Was that what Leonard was in all this? Her problem which the man, her biggest fan, took care about.
I know you
Leonard told her those exact words when he first started asking her out. He said he read her book, and he felt like he knew her forever. Of course, he didn't. He just wanted to get into her life. All he did was an act. It was abuse not love. She could admit that to herself now. Nothing Leonard did was love, just abuse, just violence against her. It was all an act. He played the nice guy, Mr. Right, or her soulmate saying and doing everything he could so she would fall in love with him, and once she did he took advantage of her in the most brutal way. He infiltrated her work, her apartment, her life making it impossible for her to get out with collateral damage.
Even if it was just her mind playing tricks, Vanya felt her cheek her hurt remembering the first time he hit her in anger because she refused to make him her agent. She remembered how shocked she was the burning pain of her cheek the only indicator which told her it actually happened because it was like a switch went off. Like all of a sudden that man, the man, who kissed her, and told her how special and wonderful she has left the scene and another man replaced him, he looked like him and had the same voice, but he was not like him. At first when she started to realize it was actually happening, the whole abuse, she thought of the two personalities as two different people, as Mr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Every time, he lost it and Mr. Hyde appeared and punish her, afterward Mr. Jekyll would return and be all loving and caring. Manipulating her into thinking it either didn't happen, or he didn't mean to. Always so insincerely repentant before it would start all over again.
But now Vanya understood she was wrong. There was no Mr. Jekyll, only Hyde, only the abuser, only the monster, only Leonard. Her charming, jealous, manipulative, controlling, narcissistic, inconsistent, critical, vicious and cruel abuser.
And she was his victim.
Vanya turned over a few pages and blinked confused when she spotted the handwriting next to her paragraph.
This is a reference to A hero of our time. It's clever because you make it sound like you're not doing it on purpose and are actually opposite to the whole idea.
It caused her to grab a few pages and turned them around realizing there were little notes and comments by most of them. Some of the notes were hard to read because the pages were in bad shape which meant he read it a while ago.
She turned the book back to look at the cover. It was published in 2012 which was when this copy was printed based on the back cover.
It was strange really.
Why would someone make notes and comment on a book like this? Most of her readers read her books for the plot itself. As depressing as it appeared. The new generation of readers rarely noticed any of the references especially if she was referring to foreign books then again most of her readers didn't if it wasn't worldwide known literature.
She opened the page again and let her finger slide over the note. She wondered if he actually read Lermontov. He had to if he recognized the reference but still.
Before she knew it, it was close to 3 A.M and Vanya was still up finishing the last of the man's note. Some were very long, and she had to spend a good amount of time to decode the words which were hard to read because of how ruined the page was while others were just short sentences which left her stuck thinking about them for good ten minutes.
You hate blood.
It surprised her how from her description of the red bedroom chair by the window did he figured that out. It was true. Ever since she was a child, and she witnessed her father and grandpa cutting meat in the back of their kitchen she was had this absurd fear of it.
I was surprised but it made sense why you killed her. In life people rarely get what they wanted. It wasn't for the sake of karma but more for the sake of life itself and how you can never be certain what would happen.
He was actually the first one who didn't think it was karma.
It went on and on like this until one of the last chapters where he wrote.
Were you abused as a child?
The previous comment was in a light almost joking manner, so this hit her out of nowhere.
Vanya couldn't believe he would write that. She just...
Her eyes landed on her own words in the book. It was a flashback from her own childhood, but she didn't realize she actually wrote it until the publisher didn't comment that he was a bit confused about what it meant. Vanya immediately suggested crossing it out, but he decided to keep it since it furthered the atmosphere that the main character was losing his mind.
She brushed away some tears with the back of her hand just staring at the note for a while. He knew. He read her words and he knew. He knew her, he read her book just as well as he read her.
'You would have never left him, and he would have killed you one day.'
He was right, and she knew it as well. Yet she did nothing. She let it happened to her all over again. Just like that. Because she was too weak to do anything about it.
By the last chapter she found a note which shocked her even more than the last one.
Statistically people who were abused in the past often continue to attract abusers. I hope you are alright.
He hoped she was alright, and when he found out she wasn't he saved her.
Her fingers turned over the very last page where she wrote expressions of gratitude to her publisher and previous agent Betty.
Thank you for keeping me sane.
He wrote it in her book right under her thanks to Betty. She should probably call her, and ask if she would be her agent again. But in that moment she couldn't help, but watch the last note. Thank you for keeping me sane.
He was thanking her.
When he was the one to free her from Leonard. With Allison confirmation and her own, Vanya couldn't deny it.
F saved her life. He killed Leonard, and saved her, free her, gave her a second chance.
She covered her eyes feeling like she wanted to cry again, but it was 3 A.M and she was freaking tired. She didn't understand this. She didn't understand anything.
How could he figure it all out? How could he know her book so fucking well? How?! People never got her book like this. They never read between the lined like this guy it made her hard to breathe.
Vanya pulled the closed book to her chest and hug it silently thanking F even if she was beyond confused.
She rushed out of the bed the book still pressed against her chest before she stopped in front of her fridge looking at Doctor Allison's card. She took it and turned it around. There was a phone number in elegant handwriting and Vanya felt like she was possessed by someone else as she almost memorized it on the stop.
She must have gone insane, but she actually went to dial it. The moment she heard the sound of ringing it was like a brutal wake-up call, and she ended the call both the book and the phone falling from her hands.
Vanya watched them in silence one hand covering her mouth, she was absolutely confused about what the hell she was doing. The man, her biggest fan, was a murderer, he broke into her apartment twice, killed someone and watched him die. For all, she knew it might have all been a trick. He might have left the book knowing she would read it and let him in just like she let in Leonard. And he seemed nice and good and turned out to be an abuser. This man killed someone because of her. He might have been even worse of an abuser than Leonard. He kissed her after he stabbed him. But he also said he wouldn't kiss her again until she wanted to. He didn't touch her until he felt like he needed to get her into her apartment. He left his phone number for her to call him, as far as she could tell he didn't stalk her outside or anything.
Was she seriously considering to call him? And what? Thank him? Meet up with him? He killedsomeone in cold blood and watched him bleed.
So did you-
She couldn't possibly think he-
Just then her phone beeped on the ground, and she blinked.
She had a message from his number with.
Hi , are you alright?
It was him, and that was all he said.
She briefly wondered about ignoring the text, but what if he thought she was in danger or in need of his assistance and decided to call her? Or come over?
She was not ready for that, so instead, she quickly wrote.
It was what she wanted to say after all. Well, not entirely. She wanted to ask something, a lot of somethings actually. She wanted to know how he knew she was abused as a child. She wanted to know if he read Lermontov and Pushkin and other Russian writers. She wanted to know, more about what he thought about her other books. Gosh, she was dying to know if he wrote notes like that to all her books to see if he got those right as well. She wanted to know his name. Was it Felix? Or Finn? She wanted to know why he said she kept him sane. She wanted to know why he gave her his copy of the book, and the doctor's card, and killed Leonard. Did he really just want to save her because of her books? Was he really a bad person? He was a killer, yes, but a bad person? She justified everything on factors and backgrounds, not just the acts. If a man killed the rapist of her daughter was he a bad man? If a woman had an abortion was she a bad woman? The world wasn't black and white, and there was more to it than the morals her parents try to force into her head.
You never have to thank me for anything. I am forever in your debt.
She gasped and sat down by her kitchen table looking at the text. It was close to 3:30 this was no time for her to deal with this amount of feelings, but there she was sitting by her kitchen table staring speechless at the text.
Keeping me sane .
There it was again. What did it mean? She was dying to know! How could she keep him sane? If he said it saved his life or changed their life, it would be cliché, fan's told her that all the time, but keep him sane? She couldn't even comprehend what it could mean. The weight of his words, though was almost impossible to carry.
She bit her lip a before she wrote.
But deleted it right afterward. She was terrified of the answer. She already felt obsessed by whatever it could mean, what if it was too much for her, and she would want to meet him or talk to him, or- Gosh!
She wasn't sure she was ready for that.
She closed her eyes. She wasn't ready for that. Not yet. She was still accepting all which happened, she needed to focus on healing from Leonard, from her wounds, her trauma before she could dive into the mystery of these men. She was tempted, but she wasn't ready. She was still confused about it all.
Vanya bit her lip before she wrote.
I need more time.
Of course, whatever you need. You can call or write me if you feel like it, when you're ready.
She let out a shaky breath feeling. She knew she wouldn't sleep after that, but she felt that if she continued to even write with him, it would be too much for her. So she quickly wrote to him.
Thank you and good night
You never have to thank me for anything, and good night
She saved the number to Flynn because writing just F seemed too absurd. The book was back on the bookshelf, and Vanya once again in the bed, but sleep did not come easy to her that night.
She finally fell asleep maybe at 11 A.M, thinking that he was telling the truth when he said he was her biggest fan. She didn't even look at the spot Leonard had died on her thoughts elsewhere.
'How can I be sure if another person isn't an abuser?' she dared herself to ask in about two months and a half later. At first, she felt too overwhelmed to do so. She was dealing with a lot, and simply adding Flynn felt too much for her. However, when more time went by, and he stayed true to his words, not seeking her out, she started to become even more interested in him and curious about all of it. It took her so long to ask Allison because, after the initial hesitation, she felt embarrassed to ask such a thing.
Doctor Allison frowned a bit, 'Do you feel threatened?'
'No!' she said immediately, and it surprised her that she did. She met someone who had no trouble to kill another person, but she did not feel threatened by him? Maybe because he wasn't here with her? Because he was keeping his distance? Maybe because being his favorite author gave her some leverage and protection from harms ways?
'It's,' she looked a bit away wondering if her cheeks looked as hot as her face felt at that moment. She was never good with that.
'I met this,' she suddenly wondered if she didn't unlearn the English language, as forming words became an almost impossible task, 'man, who well, I'm not sure how to feel about him.'
Allison looked interested, 'Can you elaborate? Maybe explain how you met?'
Vanya bit her lip. She couldn't tell her the whole truth. Just bits and pieces.
'He came to one of the signings, and he saw my bruises from the time Leonard choked me. He reached out and pulled my scarf to look at it. Then he fixed it and well...expressed concern about my well being. He helped me,' she said not sure how to explain it without leaving the killed her abuser part out, 'It was too late by then Leonard was dead,' she lied quickly.
'I see, did he do something similar to what Leonard did?' asked Allison and Vanya didn't know how to answer.
'How about this? Tell me again from the beginning how it went down the first time you met Leonard.
'We met at the coffee shop. It was just a random meeting. He immediately recognized me and said that the book changed his life. People said that to me a lot. He said he had to buy me coffee because my book gave him so much, I gave him so much. We exchanged numbers, he called me. I was flattered because he was very initiative and nice. He showed interested, but beyond the book, he wanted to get to know me. He listened and talked. It all seemed too good to be true. It turned out that it was. No one was ever like that with me. Like he just called me the same day and demanded a second date. Now that I think about it. That was how he said it like I had to go out with him again because we had such a great time.'
'Okay, what about this new guy?'
'He's not a new guy! He's just... I don't know,' she confessed. She didn't like the way Allison said new guy like it meant Vanya would get involved with him intimately. Like they could be dating. She couldn't date him, or anyone. She couldn't imagine it in the nearest future. It freaked her out to imagine someone inside her room, her bedroom. It made her want to lie in her bed and hide.
'Okay, just tell me, did he ask you for a new meeting?' asked Allison not commenting on her outburst.
'No, but he showed up at my place twice. I...I guess he wanted to make sure I was alright,' she said thinking about it. He came to her home but only to deal with Leonard, and then to clean up her apartment because he was the one who made the mess, and cleaned the blood because he knew she hated it.
'He actually made a mess in the hallway and came to clean and repair the damage. Not to see me pair say,' she explained before she spoke, 'Uh. He was actually the one who gave me your card.'
Allison seemed to frown a bit at that, 'Oh, is he one of my patients because if so, I can't speak about him with you.'
Vanya hesitated. If he was a patient, Allison would know his name and maybe even what type of person he was.
She licked her lips. She was a bit nervous now. She hadn't even thought about the fact he could be a patient as well. She just assumed he knew Doctor Allison was good.
'I don't think so. He said you're his acquaintance though. Maybe I won't tell you his name and how he looks? That way he's just some stranger?'
She could tell Allison wasn't completely thrilled with the idea, but she nodded anyway, 'Okay, let's try that. So he offered you to seek out a therapist. You listened to that.'
She nodded, 'He gave me his number, and said that it was up to me to call him. He didn't contact me since even though he knows where I live. But he left me a copy of my book by my door. It's hard-to-explain, but he left these little notes on the side like comments. During our third meeting he said, he knew me. Like actually knew me, and I can't help, but feel like based on his comments that he does. But during my first meeting with Leonard, he said those exact things. That he knew me. Like I really believed him and he turned out to hurt me so much. So I don't know. I texted him after I read the notes, but again he said I could take my time. He didn't initiate a meeting or started to talk to me, but given on his behavior like coming to my place and I don't know-leaving me the book, I can't help, but fear I'm just getting manipulated by another abuser.'
Allison was quiet for a moment before she spoke her face unreadable, 'Vanya, why do you really think that?'
She brushed her hair behind her ear nervously, 'Because when I was a kid my dad would beat me. He didn't like that I was always reading books or playing the violin. He wanted me to help around the house more, and be more like my classmates and just settle down and have a normal life as he did and his dad did, and everyone in our village did. But I...I wasn't like that, so he...he would take me to his workshop behind the barn and...yeah.'
Maybe it was because it was so long ago she found a way to disconnect herself from those events of her childhood. Like it happened to another little girl name Vanya who left her home afterward and never came back.
'F-the man,' she quickly corrected herself, 'he asked in one of the notes if I was abused as a child, and that people who were once abused before tend to attract abuser so he hoped I was alright. Like we have some sort of magnet and we will most likely find more abusers orbiting toward us. So I'm worried, he might be one as well.'
Allison opened and closed her mouth and for a moment Vanya saw her hesitate like she was about to tell her something when she decided last minute to say something else, 'Can you maybe make the comparison now? Between Leonard and the man?'
Vanya looked down at her hands so she didn't have to look at the other woman, 'Leonard claimed he knew me, but didn't or didn't really care about what he knew about me. The man, let's call him Flynn. He...might actually know me based on what he deduced from the book, he wasn't wrong about anything. Leonard kept on pressuring me for meetings even if he was sweet and I was flattered. Flynn told me I could call him or text him if I felt like it, and really left me alone.'
She chuckled a bit hysterically, 'He never even asked me to sign his copies. I think he didn't even buy the other ones. Just the first.'
'What else?' asked Allison a bit softly.
'I don't know, I...it's not the same, but the way he came to my place and then clean up-I'm just scared.'
'Vanya, what you have been through leaves a mark on you. Even if you want to move on with your life, it takes time. You need time to fully trust people and that is completely fine. This Flynn is obviously not pressuring you, but you shouldn't do that yourself either-'
'But I want to,' she cut her off with a voice as small as she felt before she could stop herself feeling the heat going to her cheeks as she realized it was true, 'I'm intrigued by him-by his words. His thoughts about my book, I want to meet him.'
She felt her heart beating fast as she realized how very honest she was being about F and how she wanted to meet him again.
Allison was silent for a moment before she smiled a bit to herself and said, 'Well, as far as I see it. Flynn came to your book signing and noticed the bruise. He expressed concerned and it was enough for him to come to your place and well see if you were alright. Maybe in his mind it seemed like a better option than call the police, I can't speak about that, but he wasn't intrusive, he cleaned up his mess and offered you help to find a therapist. As far as I can tell he seems to be just a person who cares for you-'
'Yes, but why? I mean he doesn't know me-'
The moment she let those words out, she realized what she was saying.
Yes, he does. Possibly more than anyone .
She closed her eyes accepting her own invalid argument, 'He knows me.'
'You would be surprised how many people would look anyway when someone is abused. People like to seem that they care. They express rage, pity, sorrow, but when it actually comes to doing something about it, they just don't want to get involve. It's not their business. I'm sure someone else would have done something if it was really bad. This man actually cared enough to do something. Based on what you told me, these aren't the signs of an abuser, but as you said with Leonard you didn't know until later, maybe this man can turn out to be just like that or worse. But Vanya, that's life. You can never be 100 percent sure about anyone when you first meet them. You just have to take a leap of faith and see where it takes you. All I can say is, now even if it does sound terrible you have the experience to compare it, and you know you don't have to take anything you don't want. If you don't feel comfortable you just walk away.'
Vanya continued to look at her hands while listening to her therapist before she said, 'What if I really am just a magnet for abusers? What if I'm somehow also drawn to people like that because I'm too messed up for normal people? What if he turns out to be just like that too?'
Allison sighed, 'Then you leave, and you're not drawn to abusers because of your past. You had a traumatizing experience, but you're pulling it through nicely. I can see that.'
Vanya looked up at her, 'I don't even know what to wear. I-it was almost seven years since I went on a first date. Not that it is a date!'
Alison smiled, 'What is the most comfortable thing you like to wear?'
'My Pjs,' chuckled Vanya.
'Alright second comfortable?'
'This might take a while.'
As she walked out of Allison's office she immediately pulled out her phone and texted.
She was surprised how fast he could text he back no matter the time she texted him.
Always so on point, giving her the space.
She took a deep breath before she wrote.
I would like to give you back your book.
Of course, you can leave it anywhere you're comfortable, and I will come pick it up.
Suddenly she felt a bit awkward. He didn't understand, but maybe that was her own doing she left him waiting too long, and he lost interest. Fear crept into her heart as she realized she might have read him all wrong, and he wasn't interested. She was surprised by how worried it made her. Did she really want to meet him that much?
But then her mind replayed the kiss again. He kissed her. He had to be interested, but he said he would wait until she would want him to just like he told her she would have to let him know it was okay to talk.
I would like to do it in person.
She wrote her heart beating like a drum. It took him suspiciously long to text back, but when he did she felt relieved.
Where would you want to meet? And when?
She texted him the address of a donut shop near her place. She didn't feel right to ask him for coffee as their first date-meeting.
She got home and took the book. She changed into her sweatpants and told herself it was just a meeting so she could thank him properly, return the book and maybe talk to him a bit.
Her favorite booth was free so she easily slid inside keeping her eyes on the door. The booth was all the way in the back so she had the perfect view.
He came six minutes early. It took him maybe two seconds to find her, but once he did his eyes didn't leave her as he walked toward the booth. Once again, she couldn't help, but feel a sudden nervousness inside her. No one ever looked at her so intensely. Like there was actual static in his gaze making her skin crack with electricity.
'Hi,' he greeted her back before he sat down opposite from her.
She opened her mouth to tell him about the book when the waitress came and asked for their order. Vanya quickly blurred out something out of the top of her head while he asked only for coffee.
She tapped her fingers against the book a bit nervously before she passed it on to him, 'I read your notes, they're spot on. You really...you really understood what I was writing about.'
She felt like it was hard to speak when his green eyes were burning into hers, like that.
He took back the book, 'I told you I know you. You wrote it very well. It was...I can't express what I felt when I first read it. I was stunned. Still, am,' he said and the way he looked at her made her knees weak because it was like he wasn't just stunned by her book, but by her herself. No one, not even Leonard ever looked at her like that.
'I-thank you,' she looked at her hands again feeling it was too much, 'and thank you as well for...for you know. I don't support it, and I wish there was another way, but-thank you.'
'You don't have to thank me. I did what had to be done to protect you. You didn't deserve that. No one does. Only a coward hurts a woman,' he said lowering his voice and getting silent completely the moment the waitress brought their order.
'Will that be all?' she asked trying to catch F's gaze, but he was focused solely on Vanya, rudely ignoring the waitress's attempts which made her feel a bit self-aware especially when she had to tell the waitress that it would be all.
'You could have at least looked at her,' said Vanya as she took a small piece of her donut with pink frosting, and put it into her mouth. She knew it was drift from their conversation, but she felt like she should point it out.
'I didn't see a reason to. I wanted to look at you,' he said so calmly and with such confidence it always made Vanya choke on her little bite.
Then he did the absolute worst thing imaginable.
He smirked at her.
Now, it wasn't that he was mocking her in some way. No, the smirk was so far from a simple making fun of it wasn't even on the same level anymore. It was the type of smirk that made Vanya get goosebumps all over her body. It was predatory and teasing and incredibly sexy, and Vanya was absolutely not ready for it. She was not ready to feel this way about him, or anyone at that moment, or any time soon. It was too soon.
She started to stand up, 'I should go.'
The smirk disappeared in a flash, and all of the sudden the confidence and cockiness with him. It was like she was looking at a little boy instead of a man. A boy who was worried he did something wrong, and would no longer receive the praise of his mother.
'I'm sorry,' he said suddenly looking at her. With how worried he looked, Vanya almost had an urge to comfort him.
'I didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable. Please, st-' he said, and it looked like he wanted to say more before he looked down at the table looking just as confused and embarrassed about it all as Vanya felt not so long ago, 'It seems I'm only making things hard for you. I'm sorry, if you wish to leave I won't follow you or anything. Thank you for returning the book.'
He was so soft with her now. The way he spoke, saying I'm sorry, please and thank you. She had a feeling he wasn't the type to use them carelessly. She had a feeling he was a bit of a cocky bastard, so saying those words must have been something he rarely did.
With those new thoughts she found herself sitting back down.
He looked at her genuinely surprised.
'What were you going to say?' she asked nodding a bit at him, 'After you said you were sorry. You wanted to say something else.'
He watched her, his gaze still intense, but she was somehow finding comfort in the fact that the rest of him seemed nervous just as much as she felt.
'I wanted to ask you to stay, but I realized it would be a mistake and barbaric of me to do so,' he said hinting her abuse.
Vanya nodded, 'It's still all overwhelming. I...I still feel like it's too much sometimes. I want to overcome it, but...it takes time.'
He nodded, 'Of course. I won't pressure you. I promise.'
Vanya went through everything she knew about the man, and all of which she didn't know.
'Can I ask you what's your name?' she started from the basics.
He looked a bit away before he spoke, 'Number Five.'
It caused her a moment to realize he actually said what she thought she heard, 'Number Five?'
'Yes, where I was raise, they don't dwell on sentimentalities such as names,' he explained, 'I could have given you a fake name, but I want to be honest with you.'
She watched him not sure if she truly believed him yet before she said, 'Thank you.'
He nodded and took a sip of his coffee.
'So Number Five-'
'Five is good-'
'Five,' corrected herself, Vanya, 'I started to see your acquaintance?'
'She's good. She helped me as well.'
'So she's your therapist too?' asked Vanya. Since her session with Allison today, she suspected as much.
'Why did you stop seeing her?' she asked confused. If she was good, why not stay-
'It would have caused complications if both of us stayed as her patients for both of us and her,' he explained stoically while Vanya gasped, 'You quit because of me?'
He shrugged his shoulders, 'Doctor Allison helped me as much as I needed, now you needed someone to talk to professionally, and she's the best. It was a small sacrifice.'
Vanya shook her head before she looked at her hands, 'Nothing you did for me was a small sacrifice. You...you saved me, and gave me your therapist, and cleaned up my apartment and I...I don't understand why-'
'I told you,' he said causing her to look back up, 'I owe you more than you can imagine.'
'Because I kept you sane?' she asked, and he nodded the confidence still there, 'You're the reason I'm here. You're the reason, I'm still me.'
She watched him feeling the weight of his words. Whatever her book did for him, it must have been big.
She licked her lips. She needed to know, 'Can you tell me?'
Five, who now she could put a name to the face, looked a bit away, 'Yes, but not here. Somewhere else. There are too many people for that.'
She nodded all too quickly. The guy was giving her all the space in the world, she could give him this.
'Alright, so...what do you do? Where do you work?' she asked trying to change the topic.
She found him chuckling. It didn't cause her to panic as much as the smirk, 'I found your address, got into your apartment, I killed that piece of shit making it look like a robbery, all in less than hour and a half, and clean up afterward,' he smirked a bit, now, but it was mostly amusing so she could handle it. It was still a damn sexy smirk though.
'I think you know very well what I do,' he said. As much as it should this did not surprise her one bit. She wasn't naive, or a child. She didn't really think about what could possibly be Five's profession as she pretty much already guessed it. He walked everywhere in a suit as far as she could tell, and stabbed Leonard without getting a single drop of blood on himself.
If that didn't scream a professional killer, Vanya didn't know what. Somehow the thought didn't scare her, but over the last few months, she started to wonder if maybe she wasn't just fucked up that way now. Maybe she just didn't care about that now. It seemed horrible, but not to her. She didn't really feel anything about Five potentially murdering dozens of people she didn't know like it wasn't her concern.
Her eyes landed on the book again, 'Did you really just figured all those things out from my book?'
He nodded, 'Yes. There was a time when your book was the only one I had at my disposal. I must have read it a thousand times or more. The first time like anyone else, I read it for the plot. I tried to savor it, but I have it done in one day. Afterward, I tried to read it over again and started to make notes wondering if I got it right or not. There are still a few things I'm not sure if I did. Your mind is astonishingly complex. I enjoyed all of your books, but the first one has a special meaning to me.'
Vanya really didn't know what to say to all that, but she felt her heated face was doing all the talking as he was once again smirking at her but a bit softly making it look almost like a smile.
He pulled out something from his suit, and she gasped when she realized it was her second book, 'In case you're up for some-'
'Give me,' she said greedily before she could stop herself and took the book from his hands only to froze as another spark of electricity rush through her body.
Given how he looked at her, he must have felt it as well.
It took them a moment to finally let go of each other and for Vanya to pull the book toward her. It was in a paper cover. It was obviously less used than the first one, but when Vanya flipped through the pages she found his distinguishing handwriting all over again.
'I was surprised you made the villain the main character in that one. Many would have been afraid to do so, worried they would lose the favor of their fans. But I enjoyed it even more because of that.'
Vanya smiled feeling proud of remembering her choice, 'I never wrote anything because of the mass. I just wrote it because I felt I needed to let it out. It might not be what the people want, but it's why I needed to tell. It's the story inside my head which needed to be told, even if it wouldn't have been accepted.'
'But it was,' he said and she chuckled a bit, 'But it was.'
'Because you write from the heart. You love writing and what you write. People can feel that. It draws a person to the words, your words,' he explained.
She looked down at the first note remembering the ones in his book, 'Oh, I had trouble before to read some words because the page was too ruined.'
Five opened her first book, 'Yes. I used it a lot and the circumstances were not ideal to have such a fragile item with me.'
'Would you mind clearing those words?' she asked curiously, and Five nodded giving her the book back.
After that, they discussed her first book, literature and the whole meaning of it all for several hours. The waitress came to ask them if they wanted anything else three times before they left, so Vanya decided to order coffee as well. Baby steps.
It was refreshing really. Even if Vanya got to talk about her book with her friends, her agent, the editor, Leonard, magazines, and fans from time to time. It was only now that she truly felt like she was talking about her book. She enjoyed Five's remarks and comments and his take on certain things. She was right to assume he was very intelligent and there was a certain to the point attitude inside him. How he spoke about other books he enjoyed, Vanya was slowly peeking under his facade and pealing of his mystery a bit. Just like he managed with her book, she managed to slowly deduce things about him. Like he had to be an only child, who grew up surrounded by strangers and other kids not family though. Maybe in a boarding school? He acted very civil and courteous, but Vanya had no doubt he could be very tempered and annoyed if he was dealing with people whose decisions he found stupid and wrong. Still, he was a bit of an enigma. She hadn't even gone under his first layer, and she felt like she wanted to know more about him. So much more, and maybe she was a bit high from her second coffee, but she craved to know more, all of it.
By the end of it, he offered to walk her home, but only to the front door of her building, 'I will text you again.'
He nodded keeping a reasonable distance between them, 'When you feel like it, Ms. Babkin.'
'Vanya,' she corrected him automatically, 'Just Vanya.'
She offered him a smile and said her goodbye. Once home realized it was a first date, and it was her best one yet.
Since Leonard's death, and Allison's suggestion to start doing things she gave up because of him, Vanya became a very busy person.
Apart from writing, she took up Klaus on his offer and started to join his yoga class. She was a bit surprised how it helped her to sort her thoughts and find some balance, not to mention crack up whenever he made a grimace or whispered about his latest conquest to her ear. Their yoga instructor did not approve when she giggled during the class though.
She started to play again learning she really got rusty and needed definitely a few weeks to get back at least to the level she used to be. It surprised her how emotional she got after the first time. She really missed playing and her violin.
I hope to hear you play one day.
A private concert?
That would be lovely.
She texted Five after that first time just feeling like she wanted to talk to him a bit to calm down. She did.
She started to drink coffee again, but that had more to do with going for coffee with Five. They always went to Griddy's and spent several hours talking about anything and everything, and Vanya always felt very happy and at ease when she returned home, even if her knees still felt weak whenever he said something she couldn't ignore, something so honest and so real, it made it hard for her to breath. He still looked at her like she was some sort of miracle or like he wanted to grab her and kiss her again or something else, something more. It seemed too intense at times, but also the more she got use to it, the more she started to wonder if he would still look at her like that the next time.
He always looked at her like that.
Apart from all the activities she used to do and stopped doing, she started to do another, a new one.
'You need to kick higher,' instructed her Luther, her personal self-defence coach as she was practicing her kicks on a dummy.
'I don't think I can even raise my leg that high,' she told him, and he gave her a look, 'Just try it. You will do it.'
He was a bit annoying with his you can do anything if you really put yourself into it, but she had to admit, it actually worked to be pushed so hard by someone else than you to get you to do things.
After her class, she went out of the gym only to be stopped by the Officer who handled Leonard's case, 'Ms. Babkin.'
Not to seem too self-absorbed, but now that she was meeting Five on a frequent level, she couldn't help but feel anxious about law enforcement.
'Hello, officer,' she said offering the man a tight smile hoping it was polite enough.
'How are you doing?' he asked, and Vanya tried to act and answer as casual as possible, but she still felt like she was too nervous.
'I'm good. All things considered,' she said hoping to sound like someone who was grieving her boyfriend, not someone who was finally free her from her abuser.
'You've taken a new hobby,' he nodded to the direction of her self-defense class, and she nodded, 'I didn't really feel safe after what happened.'
He nodded again, but Vanya could tell there was something on his mind. He was looking in her in a way as if he was trying to figure her out.
'You know from all the relatives and friends and close ones of victims we had you're the only one who never called to check on our progress,' he said sounding almost casually but his words sure as hell weren't like that. They held meaning, a treat.
Vanya pulled her gym bag higher over her shoulder, 'I think if there was any progress you would have called me.'
The officer smirked at her, 'Of course, Ms. Babkin.'
She seriously did not like his guy, so out of spike she decided to mess with him, 'You should stop by sometimes.'
He blinked surprised, 'Excuse me?'
She smiled, 'My neighbor, Klaus, he talks about you lot. Maybe you could come to dinner sometimes.'
Now he looked like a fish out of the water, 'Uh, thank you, but I-I not-'
'Some other time then,' she said and nodded at him as if she was giving him a way out, 'You can call me and I will arrange it. Have a nice day.'
She rushed out of her as fast as she could giving herself and the officer a break.
During her run to the bus stop, it was just the two of them on a rainy day in the donut shop, and she managed to get out some details about his work.
'The police don't know anything,' he assured her over the cup of coffee as she mentioned no one called her since they took her statement.
'How do you know that?'
'I have ways to learn information such as that,' he said calmly, and Vanya blinked, 'Illegal ways?'
'Sometimes,' he confessed, and she looked at him wondering what he meant when he added, 'I don't do that kind of work. Peabody was a favor for you.'
Vanya watched him in silence before she spoke, 'Why not?'
'During my last job something happened and I had time to look at it from a new perspective. I realized I didn't owe it to my previous employers to continue to work for them. There was a time they believed I was dead, so at the moment I am using it to my advantage and staying low.'
'Do you think you will ever start working for them again?'
'No, I'm passed them and their mind games,' he said, and she believed him. He looked like he meant it. Whatever his employees had him do, he was done with them.
After that, he took her to see his apartment for the first time, and she wondered what would a future with someone like him, a retired killer, would be like.
'I'm sorry I'm late,' she said trying to tug her hair behind her ear as she was shivering. Because of the officer, she missed the bus, and had to take another one and run all the way over. She felt embarrassed with how sweaty she felt. She still wasn't ready to shower or change in the gym, and now she was standing there even more sweaty because of the run holding onto her bag. She was tempted to text him, she couldn't come, but she didn't want to. She wanted to see him all day.
He stood up when she walked in. Another thing he did if he came first, 'It's no problem. We can reschedule if you rather go home and take a shower or rest.'
Vanya sighed. It sounded nice, but she also wished to talk with him.
'Would you mind coming to my place?' she asked.
She saw something flash behind his eyes before he spoke, 'I wouldn't, but I can wait for you here. It wouldn't be a problem.'
She never met anyone who would go so much out of his way, to make her feel comfortable about things, anyone who treated her so nicely and with understanding.
She smiled a bit when she looked at him, 'Let's go.'
Even when he walked close by her, he kept his distance like he wanted to make sure she had enough space, all the space she needed all the time she needed. Always. It warmed her heart a bit to know that.
She unlocked the door and as they went inside, Five spoke, 'You change your locks.'
'Yes, stranger and burglars kept on coming in,' she joked.
'I only came twice,' he said, and Vanya looked at him. She couldn't possibly know if he was telling the truth or not, but she found herself believing him all the same.
She told him, she was going to take a shower, and that he could sit anywhere he liked. She went to her bedroom, but didn't look her door only the ones to her bathroom. She was quick and when she returned she found him standing in front of her bookshelf.
'None of these books are your original ones are they?' he asked as his finger ran over Dostoyevsky.
Vanya pushed her still semi-wet hair behind her ears, 'No. When I came from Russia, I only had one bag with me. Most of my books didn't make the cut.'
She walked toward the bookshelf and pulled out the only book she did manage to bring with her. Gogol's Dead Souls.
She handed it to him. When she came to the States and earned her first paycheck she went to Little Odessa and bought other books as well. She didn't have the heart to buy her favourite books in English language. She felt as if neither of them would be translated properly, and it would only give her a headache.
Five looked over the book, 'Мёртвые души.'
She smiled, 'Сколько языков ты знаешь – столько раз ты челове.'
'Something like that,' he said, 'Although I don't feel confident enough to try and impress you with my Russian language.'
Vanya chuckle, 'You don't feel confident about something? Sounds like a first.'
'Not when it comes to you,' he said his eyes still fixed on the book as he turned it around in his hands examining it.
There he went again. She would be all comfortable and open, and even a bit confident in his present and he would say something so strong, so fucking amazing or breathtaking, she couldn't help but look away. How could he just do that to her?
His hands held the book so gently, and she couldn't help, but think that was how he dealt with her as well. Gently, with care, and adoration.
He returned the book to her, and she took it and placed it on the bookshelf, 'I could lend it to you if you like, or you could find an English version.'
'I think I would try it with both. Just to work on my Russian.'
She smiled again and they went to sit by her kitchen table. It was always like this. The two of them sitting opposite to one another talking about things sometimes not important, sometimes more important always talking never running out of things to say.
He never made her feel like her thoughts or what she said was unimportant or misunderstood. She never met a person who made her feel like that. How could a person like that exist?
'Are you like this only because I'm your favourite author?' she asked suddenly as she poured him a cup of coffee.
He took the mug, 'Am I like what?'
'You have to know you're acting like this toward me,' she said feeling embarrassed about bringing it up, but standing her ground. She had to know what he was thinking about.
'You seem to be quite strict with anyone else. With the waitresses or other people talking to you, with Klaus-'
'No offense, but your neighbour has a mouth which should be considered a weapon against sane mind,' he said and Vanya couldn't help, but chuckle.
'Yes, but you're not like that toward me. You're very nice and good to me,' she tried to explain his behaviour.
Five watched her for a moment, his eyes a bit darker now, 'Well, for starters you don't annoy me the way all those people you mentioned did, and I'm...very fond of you. I think that one is very clear.'
If it was possible he looked very shy about the last part, hesitating, not because it wasn't sincere, but because he wasn't sure she wanted to hear it.
It was clear for her, he wasn't wrong, but for him to actually say it out loud made her shiver not sure how to deal with it.
'I'm flattered-,' she didn't know how to continue.
He raised his hand, 'You don't need to acknowledge it in any way. I know you're dealing with a lot of things still, and I have no intention to force it on you. I don't mind staying like this. Just coffee and chat. You owe me nothing,' he said quickly again the perfect gentleman and man, and it made her want to just wrap her arms around him, or leave the room. Always tearing her between the two. His words were heavy. They carried weight she wasn't sure her heart was ready to handle. She still felt damaged by Leonard. She still felt like her trust was shattered, and even if she trusted Five, a killer for hire, into her home willingly, she wasn't sure she trusted him with her heart. Not yet at least.
Vanya looked down at her hands.
'We can talk about something else,' he suggested as he saw her discomfort.
The thing was Vanya wasn't sure she wanted to talk about something else. Maybe she wanted to continue to talk about this. Be strong, and see what would happen.
She looked back at him, 'You keep on saying I don't owe you anything, but you owe me? You never told me that story. You said there were too many people around. No one's here but us.'
Five watched her for a moment before he looked away, 'Are you sure you want to hear it? It might be a bit too much.'
'I will tell you to stop if it does get too much for me,' she said.
Five nodded before he looked back up at her, 'Very well. You know my occupation. About seven years ago I was hired to take care of this man. He was very hard to find, and even harder to get to so I was forced to get on a plane and pretend to be his co-pilot for the flight. We took off, but things went south. The cockpit got damaged during the fight, and the plane crashed into the ocean. I found myself on an island very Robinson Crusoe with items from the plane swimming around me. I was there for almost 20 months. It wasn't lot, but it was enough for me. I was alone. Imagine, that one day you wake up and there is no one and nothing. Just no one to talk to, nothing to see or touch. I...I almost lost my mind. The things from the plane were mostly useless to me, guns, some not functioning electronics, and then a book. Your book,' he looked at her his voice growing a bit softer, 'I think it belonged to one of the stewardess. It took me a while to start reading to be completely honest with you. I thought I had more pressing matters like make shelter, get food, survive. But once I did all that, there was nothing. I had literally nothing else to do with my life, so I took your book and read it. I was amazed,' his eyes were so intense Vanya felt like she couldn't breath. It was like he was showing all he felt through his eyes, like he was showing it to her like she could feel his emotions too.
'It was phenomenal,' he nodded, 'I read it in one day and I felt...I couldn't even describe it. I never felt anything I felt when I read your book for the first time. I read it again, this time writing notes and commenting on things. Before I knew it, I was talking to you. Well the version of you I had in my head.'
He smirked at the last part, 'To be fair, talking to imaginary you is nothing compare to the real you.'
Vanya let out a shaky breath.
'Is it too much for you?'
She shook her head her stomach in a knot, 'Please,' she needed to know more, 'continue.'
Five nodded, 'Your picture on the back helped me picture you. I imagined you had that blue blouse when you were with me talking to me, making me get through another day. Pretty much what we do now,' he motioned at their mugs.
'I kept on reading your book over and over again every time I did it felt like I unrevealed a new fact about you or reference. I still feel like there is so much more I didn't get right or missed,' he confessed.
'Once I was saved, I bought your other books as well. I tried to read them as much as the first time, and comment on everything. I started to see Doctor Allison because I had a problem to get back to normal life with actual people around me. She helped. She's very good, professional, and I think she actually cares. If you ever feel like I'm rude to people, it might be that I'm still a bit rusty with my patience because of the time I spent away from them. It's quite funny, I used to crave having someone with me on that island even people I hated, but now that I have all these people around me I can't help but feel crowded at times.'
Vanya couldn't take his eyes of him. She took all which he had told her in, and tried to make some sense with it and what she felt in that moment. She wanted to reach out and touch him.
That much she knew. The rest was confusing, but that was the one thing she knew, so before she would change her mind and talked herself out of it.
Vanya reached her hand and put it over his on her table immediately feeling the same spark, and the electricity to run through her veins. Maybe it wasn't that, maybe it was something else.
Five watched their hands for a moment before he shifted his hand under hers and turned it around taking hold of her palm and the back of her wrist while she did the same. It was comforting for the both of them as far as Vanya could tell.
'I wanted to see you,' he said in a whisper now his eyes shining with emotions and darkness she wanted to get devour by.
'Since I came back you were all I could think about. The real you. The real Vanya Babkin. I needed to meet you, know you were alright. I wanted to know you. I needed to know if the woman I met from the book, I imagined, I deduced from your words was really you. I couldn't help myself,' he said his voice still so low in did something to her stomach.
'But then Allison told me that maybe I wasn't ready, that maybe I got you all wrong, and I was scared that if I did and you wouldn't live up to the version I created of you in my head, it could be too much for me, so I didn't. I stayed away for almost five years until I saw you were having a book signing that day. I just wanted to see you. Just...to see you and leave. Nothing more. I wouldn't even talk to you, at least I told myself not to, but then I heard your voice.'
He looked away, 'Even when you hear someone from interviews or videos it's not the same as to hear them in person. The moment you asked me how I was, I just couldn't...function. You were there in front of me. The real you all flesh and blood,' his fingers gently stroke her wrist, 'and I couldn't do anything but stare. You're glorious. But then my brain did kick in, and I realized how tired you looked, and I saw that little beginning of a bruise around your neck right under your scarf and I knew. I knew I was right at least about one thing in your book. And I couldn't help myself because if I was right about that I had to know you at least a bit, and that meant. I meant that I had to help you, because I don't think you would have been able to get rid of him on your own. You...can't imagine what it was like for me to be there. All I had was your book, and my imaginary you. If it was just me without your book, I think I would have gone mad and just...end it all together.'
She gasped at the thought. She just... It was hard to comprehend that her book did something like that for him, that she saved him like that just by writing it. Her words, her thought, all of what she put into her book, did that for him. She never would have imagined it was possible to leave such a great impact on someone's life by her words. She wished to achieve it one day, but she didn't think she could. All those great authors she adored were legends, but she was just another writer from the 21st century. And yet she did that to him. Her book.
My story .
Vanya squeezed his hand not feeling like the only broken one at that moment, and she was eternally grateful for that. She found herself hating the thought that he was through something like that, but in a way she found comfort knowing they were the same. They were both through something in their lives. Maybe that was how they could fit together. Both damaged and with dark pasts, but also both possible to heal and move on.
He stayed for a couple of hours after that. She promised to call Betty about her progress, and he said he bothered her enough no matter how much she tried to convince him otherwise.
She stopped him by the door, 'Maybe we could eat next time. Dinner?'
He smirked, 'I would be very honored to take you out to dinner, Vanya.'
She took his hand again and offered him another light squeeze. Baby steps.
Five looked at her hand and for a second she had a feeling he wanted to kiss it, instead, he nodded and walked out of the door before she closed and locked it wondering if he was being that reserve just for her benefit.
'I want him to kiss me, but I don't know how to bring it up without fully asking him for it,' she confessed to Allison at the first session she had with her. Ever since she found out Five was her former patient she was curious to mention him more openly just to see if the doctor would react, but always chicken out. She would hate if he would prey things about her sessions, so she couldn't possibly do that to him.
The doctor grinned before she eased her face to a more professional look, 'I see. Is there any reason you won't just kiss him first yourself?'
She sighed, 'I want him to do it. I tried, but I can never bring myself to take the last step. And he won't do it because he doesn't want to pressure me. He stayed to 2 A.M in my place last time and still decided to take a cab home. He wouldn't even stay on the couch.'
Allison nodded, 'I see your relationship progresses nicely.'
Vanya nodded and couldn't help a small smile, 'We spent a lot of time together. He comes over, I was at his place a couple of times as well. By now he's the closest person I have. Maybe the closest person I ever had,' she confessed. It wasn't as terrifying as she used to think it would be to be that open to someone. It was nice. It made her feel happy and safe to know she could text or call him. She could talk to him, or just sit in her apartment or his and watch TV.
'Do you think he feels the same?'
'Yes,' she said in a heartbeat, 'I know I was unsure if I could trust him, but the way he speaks, and the things he tells me. I don't think people could look into someone's eyes and say things like that if it was a lie. I feel he's telling the truth.'
'You like him?' asked Allison and Vanya nodded.
'I think I might fall in love with him. I know I'm...already in love with the way he loves me, cares for me and just acts around me, but I think I'm falling for him as a person too,' she confessed. She knew she would feel attracted to him because of how wonderful he was to her and how much he loved her books and praised her, that went without a question, but it was more than that. Vanya felt attracted to him as a man as well. There was no denying he was a handsome man. She saw the way people looked at him when they were out in public. After he met Betty, her former-new agent pulled her aside and told her, he was so pretty she didn't know if she should cry or jump him. Vanya laughed.
She liked his mind. It went well with her own, and she was always pleasantly surprised by every comment he made or new conversation he started almost as if they were thinking the same. She even liked his attitude apart from him being nice to her, he could be a dick to others, and even if she sometimes had to restrain him, she couldn't help, but find some amusement at the shocked faces of people whenever he said something witty but so on point. He never seemed to lose his cool though. Even if he got annoyed, he usually just said snapped something at someone leaving them shocked or confused. He never needed to use violence in any way. All in all, Vanya couldn't help it, she really liked him.
'You know from all my patients, you're probably the most honest with yourself one,' said Allison, 'It's a good thing. I would suggest taking the lead with this just like with everything else. You had to ask him out, and show him your limits and what's okay for you, this is no different. He needs to know you're okay with something before he starts to do it since he knows you're healing, and he is giving you space to do so. Besides you might find pleasure in shocking him for a change,' she winked at her and Vanya laughed a bit not completely opposed to the idea now.
She waited until he took her to a concert in the Icarus. It was great. She went to a few before she started seeing Leonard, so she was very excited enjoying every moment of it. It was fantastic.
'So when will you play something for me?' he asked as he walked her home. They went to dinner and afterward, he walked her home. It was the first time, she put on a dress, and she couldn't help, but felt his eyes on her more than before. She knew he watched her. He always watched just her, but somehow because she was wearing a dress, she felt like his gaze was even heavier tonight.
She paused, 'How about right now?'
He nodded and followed her inside, 'Just don't have your hopes up. I fell out of practice.'
'I can't even imagine you disappointing me in any way,' he said, and she closed her eyes. He could tell her stuff like that, but not kiss her again? Seriously.
She brought out her violin from her case. Ignoring the spot on the ground where Leonard died. She played him the Phantom of the Opera. She knew it by heart. He sat on her couch carefully watching her, and she couldn't help but smile at his focused gaze. She wished to know what he was thinking.
Once she was done, she bowed a bit, 'So?'
'It was sensational,' he said his eyes once again making her knees feel weak, but instead feeling like she should run away, she smiled. She was passed running when it came to him, and how he made her feel.
She returned to the violin back to the case and set it in the corner. Now more than ever she wished he would kiss her like that first time.
She let her hands smooth her dress as she walked closer to him feeling her heart in her throat. She wasn't good with saying what she wanted. It would still take her time to learn how to demand things and know she could. That no one would deny her and hurt her for wanting them. But she wanted them, she wanted a lot of things, and she wanted them from him.
'Five,' she started softly trying to make sense of her thoughts, 'If it wasn't for me being an abused victim, and you didn't feel this need to make me be in charge of what happens, what would you do? Right now, what would you have done if I was just me and you just you and we were like this? If you could do anything you wanted?'
He watched her probably realizing what she meant before he spoke his voice sounding different and doing something to her all the same, 'I would have stood up, and walked over to you, and I would try to be slow and make it seem like I wasn't as eager as I felt, but I think I would have failed profoundly. I would put my hand on your waist and pull you closer. I would put my other hand into your hair and grab the back of your head. I would pull you even closer until our chests would touch, and I would do exactly what I wanted to do with every breath I took since I read your book. I would do what I wanted to do every time I'm with you, close to you, and having to keep myself in check almost to the point when I just want to grab you like a caveman and be done with it.'
She licked her lips feeling her mouth go dry, 'Do what?'
'Kiss you,' he said simply, his eyes never leaving hers burning into them making her whole body burst in flames just by looking into his green iris.
'Five,' she found herself saying her voice a bit strange. It was hard to form words after that, 'I think I want you to sometimes do things without waiting for me to say if they're okay, and just do them and see what happens.'
He was in front of her in record time, and did just as he described it to her minus the kiss. Instead he pressed his lips against her cheek, and just let them there as he hold her impossibly close their chest moving against one another, their breathing and heartbeats in synch.
She found herself gripping his shoulders tight. She wanted more. It was not enough to have him this close, she wanted him closer, 'Five.'
'You can't imagine how long I wanted to hold you like this,' he said the hand in her hair lightly stroking her, 'You have to give me a moment to savor this.'
She smiled a bit.
When he finally did kiss her it was impossibly slow and yet illuminating every place and room inside her mind, body and soul all at once like a lightning during a storm. He made her come alive.
She didn't know if they were kissing for five minutes or five hours, but her mouth felt bruised and her inside warm, and her heart probably died and came back to life at one point because it all felt too much, and it made her feel like she wanted to cry out of joy.
'You okay?' he asked as he kissed her neck while she hid her face in his. It was impossible not to smile.
'I'm perfect,' she whispered feeling like everything she said was too loud echoing in her apartment.
He kissed her again this time not so slow, not so delicate. She liked it all the same.
'If it's too much,' he said their foreheads pressed against each other.
'I will tell you to stop if it's to much, right now? Just kiss me, please,' she said before she kissed him again leaving the words behind.
She was quick and tried to pour all she felt for him into the kiss, so he would know what she wanted. He did.
He was like a doll, she sat him down on her couch and crawled into his lap moving her hair from her eyes to look at him.
He looked so pleased and excited as she kissed him leaning a bit closer she could feel just how excited he was.
She was the one to smirk now.
'Don't be cocky,' he mumbled kissing her neck making her giggle as she took his hands and placed them on her waists.
She kissed him again as they started to move finding the right pressure and rhythm and just glide. His hands moved to her back. He followed the pace she choice for him like an obeying pet. She arched her back and pressed her breast into his face throwing her head back. It felt good, it wasn't enough but it felt good. She needed him for so long. Even though they're both still dressed, the contact felt like it was too much with how he thrust against her.
His hand went to the back of her neck, and he brought her face to his kissing her again. It had been too long for her and even before that she could admit now that she was rarely satisfied with her partners, but before she knew it, she let out a shaky moan surprised and a bit embarrassed at how little it took her to come. She never came just be the friction itself.
She leaned away to look at him feeling soaked now. She wanted more.
He had his eyes closed, and since she could still feel him pressed hard against her, she decided to make good use of it kissing him again before she reached for his tie slowly undoing it very teasingly slow seeing the impatience in his eyes and taking more pleasure it in than she thought she would.
He watched her letting her work on his clothes giving her the free hand to be in control. She couldn't remember the last time if ever someone did that for her.
'How do you want it?' he asked stopping her hands. She was grateful he didn't ask her again if it was okay, she felt she would get irritated if he did.
She watched him for a moment before she kissed him biting into his lower lip and making him moan surprised before she leaned away and looked at him, 'I want you to do me like how you always imagined you would.'
Vanya leaned away. The way he was looking at her made her feel more thrilled than ever. It wasn't just intense, it was pure desire. It made her let her hands run through his shirt while keeping her eyes on his never breaking the contact which could probably melt icebergs with how hot it made her feel.
He reached out for her and kissed her making her forget everything she ever knew but his lips on hers.
Things changed a little bit after that. There were touches and kisses now. He still made sure she was alright with it, but he started to take her hand or kiss her without waiting for permission. She enjoyed all the affection feeling like she was a teenager again. She never got to experience a love like that growing up.
He was still so delicate with her, and she appreciated it, but sometimes she liked to tell him to be rougher, and he was that as well. Always respectful thought. Always making sure she was fine, but just like with her book, he knew her in bed as well. He knew what she liked and gave it to her making her shake in his arms afterward whether he was on top of her or under.
They were together for three months now. It was ten months after she met him. She was in a good place. She visited her therapist only once a week now, she went to yoga with Klaus, she was half-way to finish her newest book. She played the violin, and had self-defense classes, sometimes even sparing with Five in his apartment because it was bigger, but it usually ended in him getting her on the ground and kissing her until sparing was the last thing on her mind. He was a very good kisser, a very creative one with the places he kissed her too. He told her he loved her after that first night.
'Vanya, you don't have to say it back. I'm not telling for you to feel like you need-'
She kissed him shutting him up before she whispered against his lips, 'I love you too.'
There wasn't much talking afterward.
Vanya was in a good place, and she couldn't help, but feel that maybe it would all work out in the end, what happened with Leonard those seven years could be just a bad memory. Not all of them, but the moments with him.
She bought a carpet over the spot on the floor Leonard bled out not feeling haunted by it or what happened anymore.
Instead, Five took her hand and kissed it as he helped her prepare dinner.
'Hey, do you want to read a few chapters after we eat?' she asked while her hand brushed his hair, 'A quick revision?'
He closed his eyes smirking that way which even after so many months made her heart speed up, 'Tempting, but I want to read the whole thing. I will leave you side notes, don't worry.'
She didn't. She didn't mind to wait for some things.