She’s had a lot of opportunities to think about death.
Guns in her face, knives pressed into her chest, pills sliding down her throat—all were uniquely terrifying, came with their own brand of visceral dread, and had her staring down Villanelle as she wondered if any of these morbid curiosities of hers were really and truly worth dying for.
How ironic, then, that Villanelle waits until they’ve maybe never been further apart to pull the trigger. She can’t feel assassin-breath on her cheek, can’t see the burning intensity in what otherwise might be silky-soft hazel eyes, can’t feel the weight of a thousand impossible possibilities physically leaning into her, smothering her, daring her.
And Jesus fucking Christ, it fucking hurts . More than Carolyn’s manipulative lies, more than Niko refusing to love her on any terms beyond his own, and hell, even more than that first glimpse of the gun she didn’t know Villanelle had until about thirty seconds ago.
(Eve hears the shot behind her and thinks of the woods, when she got out of the car, when she faced Villanelle directly for the first time, when the bullet buried itself in the dirt mere inches from the tips of her shoes, because Villanelle knew that would scare her, that the mere idea of danger was enough.)
“You want me to be scared. But I’m like you now. I’m not afraid of anything.”
She’s so busy thinking about bullets not hitting her that it almost doesn’t occur to her that the sudden burst of agony above her left hip has anything to do with a bullet actually hitting her, but then the same wet crimson she now associates with axes in hotel hallways is spreading across her sweater, and—
(Hit the ground, Eve. Hit the ground. She’ll let you bleed out. She won’t bother with a second shot. She’ll leave. Hit the ground.)
Face-down, so she can breathe and panic and look around and panic and breathe without Villanelle seeing, listens for footsteps even though she knows Villanelle wouldn’t make a sound if she approached, thinks about the desperate fingertips that ghosted along her cheek moments ago and the cold cobblestones pressed against it now, tries to do the math for how quickly she’s losing blood and how long she’ll have before—
(Before what? Before she calls for help from people she doesn’t trust with a phone she doesn’t have? Before she stumbles through the streets in hopes she can find a hospital or safehouse before she crosses paths with someone from The Twelve?)
“This fucking sucks,” she whispers to the clumps of dying grass she can feel brushing against her lips.
Squeak, squeak, squeak , Eve hears in response.
Her chest is pounding.
Squeak, squeak, squeak.
She has no idea what it is or where it’s coming from, but it’s getting louder, and in her experience that’s literally never a good sign. Eve clenches her fists, takes a steadying and incredibly painful breath, and waits.
Squeak, squeak, squeak.
A single rusty wheel rolls into view, right in front of her face, followed by a pair of bright red pant legs, and she wonders if it would be overkill to vomit.
Pressure on her shoulder, a hand flipping her gently onto her back, and Eve clutching at the hole in her abdomen, because what’s the point of defending herself if she’s already bleeding out?
“Don’t worry, Eve,” a soft Russian accent says from somewhere above her. “I’ve got you.” Villanelle’s hands cover hers and push them firmly against the wound. “Just a bit more pressure here.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Eve finds herself asking in spite of every risk in doing so.
Villanelle just smiles. “Shhh,” she instructs, placing her index finger over Eve’s lips. “Save your strength.You’ll be okay. I’m here.” She tucks one arm around Eve’s upper back and the other under her knees. “This is going to hurt.”
“It already hurts, you fucking—”
The rest of her sentence is swallowed by a scream she absolutely doesn’t mean to let out, but her entire midsection is on fire as Villanelle lifts her off the ground and sets her into a wheelbarrow that looks and feels just as old as the ruins around them. Eve tries to push herself back up but Villanelle arranges her hands to cover the wound again. “Pressure, Eve.”
“Fuck you,” Eve hisses through gritted teeth but still obeys. “What,” she manages between gasps of pain, “is happening?”
“I’m saving your life.”
Eve lets out a shaky laugh. “God, you really are a psychopath,” she mutters.
“Don’t you remember what I said about telling a psychopath they’re a psychopath?”
She can feel every single individual cobblestone the wheelbarrow rolls over. “I’m sorry,” Eve deadpans, “did I upset you?”
“You’re in shock. It’s okay.” The wheelbarrow suddenly drops a few inches and her abdomen once again explodes with white-hot pain. “Sorry,” Villanelle says, “there was a step.”
Eve’s hands are starting to shake, and she’s not sure how much is adrenaline and how much is pure annoyance. “Well, you know what else is upsetting? Getting shot.”
Villanelle sets the wheelbarrow down and a car door opens.
“What happened? Is she—?”
“It looks much worse than it is,” Villanelle interrupts, gripping Eve’s ankles as someone else grips her by her under-arms.
Eve is starting to feel fuzzy and it takes her longer than it should to place the voice. “Kenny?” She lands in the backseat and stares with a mixture of confusion and horror at the image of Carolyn’s son standing beside the professional assassin he’s never trusted.
“You alright, Eve?”
“She shot me,” Eve blurts before she’s properly decided whether the volume is worth the pain.
Kenny gapes incredulously at Villanelle. “Are you mad ?”
“We need to go,” is all Villanelle says in reply, and climbs into the backseat. “You drive. I’ll stay back here with Eve.”
“Is that really a good idea?” Kenny has the sense to ask, but Villanelle closes the door before he finishes the question.
All is quiet for a beat as Kenny gets in the front seat and starts the car. He peels away from the curb and Eve groans at the motion, studying his white-knuckle grip on the steering wheel.
“Since when do you two work together?”
“She didn’t tell me that shooting you was part of the plan,” Kenny clarifies, his voice tight, “if that’s what you’re getting at.”
Her vision is swimming. “You didn’t answer my question,” Eve mutters, then sags to the side as Kenny makes a sharp turn, and she hates that she can’t shrug away from Villanelle’s hands when they help her sit up again.
“Put on your seatbelt.”
“Are you into that?”
She rolls her eyes, but then she can’t refocus, and then she feels her head lolling back against the seat. A pair of hands cups her cheeks, holds her in place, keeps everything still for just a moment.
“Eve? Eve, wake up. Open your eyes.” Gentle slaps that startle her but aren’t enough to stop the spinning. “If you don’t open your eyes, I’m going to kiss you.”
A big gulp of oxygen as Eve claws her way back to consciousness, forces her eyes open, finds Villanelle watching her adoringly.
“I’m joking. I would never do that without your consent.”
Eve bats Villanelle’s hands away from her face. “I should’ve just passed out.”
“But you didn’t,” Villanelle says, tucking a few stray hairs behind Eve’s ear, “because you love me and don’t want me to worry about you.”
She hates every word of that sentence but her skin is too hot and her fingers are too sticky and Kenny slams on the brakes when a taxi cuts him off, and the only thing that stops Eve from colliding with the seat in front of her is Villanelle’s arm—well, hand—
“Was all of this an elaborate plan to touch my boobs?” she slurs, but the swirling darkness in her peripheral vision swallows her up before she hears Villanelle’s answer.
Thank fucking god.
She floats for what feels like a very, very, very long time.
Through forests full of trees and gunshots, over bed sheets with a thread count that would make the Queen of England shit her pants, and under pools of blood that are a lot deeper than they look. Who knows if she’s breathing in here, whether she even wants to, because every inhale just reminds her of the moan-y exhales inside her ear while Hugo was inside of her while Eve was hiding inside her own head.
(She left him bleeding on the floor to go save an assassin who then shot her and left her bleeding on the—)
The images around her falter then stall out; she can feel her body, feel that she’s not lying on cobblestones or in a wheelbarrow or in a car.
“What’s the password?”
(She hates that voice.)
“I—I was just here. We both carried Eve to the—”
“What. Is. The Password.”
Eve twitches her right index finger and feels a rough blanket.
“Um. Sorry… baby.”
A lock chain slides out of place and a door creaks open.
“I take security very seriously, Kenny. Did you get everything on the list?”
A plastic bag rustles and Eve cracks an eye open, but the lighting is dim and her vision blurry and all she sees are two vague blobs a few yards away.
“I think so. The last few things were a bit—”
“I knew you could do it,” Villanelle interrupts sweetly, then tosses the bag onto the bed. “Now I just need one more thing.”
The Villanelle blob hands something to the Kenny blob. “Champagne?” he questions.
“To celebrate Eve’s speedy recovery, of course! I wrote down the brand and the address of the only place in town that sells it.”
“Are you serious? It’s half past midnight and you want me to—?”
She reaches toward his chest and nudges him back a step. “Run along now! Fetch!”
“Good boy,” she coos, then closes the door and locks it.
Eve’s brain is so foggy that she forgets to act like she wasn’t watching, and Villanelle perches on the far edge of the mattress. “I don’t want to alarm you,” she begins, taking items out of the bag one by one, “but you’ve been unconscious for over a year.”
The room is silent as Eve does the most aggressive spiritual eye-roll of her entire life. “No I haven’t.”
Villanelle is instantly all smiles. “I’ve always wanted to play that trick on someone. What gave it away? Should I have put in extensions?” she asks, then gestures over her shoulder to the door. “Pretended to be scared of the rugrat?” Villanelle rearranges her face into a look of horror and reaches out to clutch Eve’s hand. “He betrayed us, Eve,” she gasps, voice heavy with emotion. “He betrayed us all.”
Eve doesn’t react.
Her expression immediately smooths over and she shrugs. “It was worth a try.”
“Of course you are,” Villanelle agrees as she reaches into the bag. “I would be too if I’d been sleeping for… six months.” Her eyes flit to Eve, who remains stone-faced, and Villanelle shrugs again. “Just practicing.”
Eve scoffs and the pressure on her diaphragm lights up her wound; she grimaces, takes a deep breath. “For a pathological liar, you really suck at this.”
Villanelle uncaps a water bottle and adds a plastic straw. “When have I ever lied to you, Eve?”
“Three times in the last thirty seconds.”
“I told you that was a trick. Doesn’t count.” She scoots a few inches closer but keeps the water out of reach.
Eve wets her lips. “The cyanide pills.”
“You hired me to kill you and willingly swallowed what you assumed to be poison. I was just following your lead.”
“You used the safe word when you weren’t in danger.”
“I was in danger,” Villanelle clarifies, “of my cover being blown.”
Everything around, above, below her waist is aching. “Give me the water.”
Villanelle stays exactly where she is. “Come on, MI6 Special Agent Polastri,” she says slowly to emphasize each word, moving another few inches but still not close enough. “Resident assassin expert. Villanelle scholar.”
(Her insides are burning; maybe from the hole in her abdomen, maybe not.)
“Am I a liar?” Villanelle asks thoughtfully, waving the bottle side to side so the straw spins in circles inside the rim. “Or is that just easier for you to believe?”
Eve grits her teeth, clamps her palm over the crude bandage peeking out from under her shirt, and pushes herself up like she’s doing an Olympic-caliber dead-lift. (She’s panting by the time she gets vertical. Whatever.) “You’re right,” Eve manages, locking eyes with Villanelle, “you’re not a liar.” The elbow supporting her torso is trembling behind her. “You’re a manipulative… piece… of shit.”
She lets go of her stomach to take the water from Villanelle, only for the bottle to suddenly be a full arm’s length away. “Oh come on,” she breathes, hating the way her voice cracks halfway through the sentence, and also how reaching any further makes her sag closer to Villanelle, and also how much it hurts to get shot.
Villanelle holds out her other hand, showing two tablets in her palm. “Take these.” Eve just stares at her. “For the pain.”
“You think I’m—a moron?” Eve barely gets out, and she’d maybe laugh if she had the energy.
“I think you’ll want these to kick in before I stitch you up.”
Eve opens her mouth to say something useless and Villanelle takes the opportunity to pop the tablets right in, then closes Eve’s mouth for her and keeps her hand in place.
Villanelle gives her a look. “If you let those dissolve in your mouth, it’s going to taste gross.”
She only complies because she can already taste the bitterness, and Villanelle offers the water a beat later; Eve drinks and drinks and drinks and doesn’t care that her fingertips are touching Villanelle’s as she grips this stupid water bottle for dear life, doesn’t care that her entire body is shaking with the effort of sitting in this position, doesn’t let the straw out of her mouth until she’s drained the entire bottle dry.
Neither of them moves.
“Let me see,” Villanelle instructs, then sticks her tongue out like she’s at the dentist.
Eve can feel beads of sweat crawling down her temple, down her chest, down her back. “You forced me to murder someone,” she says, staring down the woman in front of her through each word, but Villanelle’s expression gives nothing away.
“You saved my life.”
The corner of her mouth twitches incredulously. “You had a gun. You could’ve saved your own life.”
“What if someone from The Twelve heard the shot? You would’ve had to kill again, and again, and again…” Villanelle looks almost sympathetic as she uses one finger to move some hair away from Eve’s face. “I thought killing Raymond would be more manageable.”
Eve leans away from the contact, grimacing as her entire body protests. “Killing a person isn’t supposed to be manageable!”
She retrieves another water bottle from the bag, which Eve snatches and opens herself; Villanelle shifts so she’s sitting cross-legged, rests her elbows on her knees, and sets her chin against her knuckles like she’s about to have a heart-to-heart with a small child. “If I had shot Raymond,” she whispers as Eve drinks, “and more bad guys had shown up, you still would’ve used that ax.”
Eve swallows a few more gulps, pauses, catches her breath. “You don’t know that.”
“What did it feel like?” Villanelle asks without missing a beat.
“I already told you,” Eve mutters, wiping her mouth but not continuing to drink.
Villanelle searches her face for something. “You said it felt wet.”
She rolls her eyes. “Lots of things feel wet,” she retorts, grabbing Eve’s bottle and overturning what’s left of it on Eve’s head. “How did it feel, Eve?”
Eve smacks Villanelle’s hand away and the bottle falls to the floor. “Why did you shoot me?”
Villanelle couldn’t be less bothered. “I saved your life.”
“After you shot me.”
“You saved my life after you stabbed me.” She straightens a bit and lifts up the hem of her shirt. “We’ll have matching scars, Eve. Like matching tattoos, but better. More romantic.”
Eve’s hand surges forward of its own volition and grips Villanelle by her shirt collar. “There is nothing romantic about this,” she says, keeping her voice low. “About us.”
Villanelle’s eyes dance unabashedly to Eve’s mouth before meeting her own again. “Who’s the liar now, Eve Polastri?”