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The Binary Nature of Death

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None of this is to plan.

In Villanelle’s head, all of this had gone very differently.

Of course, it is hard to plan exactly how a conversation goes, Villanelle is aware that in conversations people don’t stick to their lines and cues in the way that Villanelle expects them to, in the way Villanelle has rehearsed in her head. But usually, if Villanelle is quick enough on her verbal feet, the direction of the conversation can stick to the general spirit of the outcome she was aiming for.

The problem is, and Villanelle knows it is a problem, she’s not completely insane…. the problem is timing.

It always comes back to timings.

Villanelle should have told Eve sooner, but it just never came up, and then it was too far in the past, and then Villanelle had allowed herself to forget about the situation because clearly Eve would just never find out.

‘Never’ is such a foolish hope.

And then Villanelle had seen Bill, in that photo. ‘Bill’, or ‘Charles’, or probably neither, nobody uses their real name these days.

And then obviously the wheels were going to fall off, because she hadn’t even considered that Bill/Charles would still be active within the Twelve. She had thought the whole pantomime in the Berlin night club had been to allow ‘Bill’ to disappear into the ether, not to simply allow him to relocate to Paris and carry on doing whatever it is he actually does.

Villanelle becomes aware that Eve is staring at her.

It’s not a turned on stare. It’s the stare of someone who has just heard a joke in extremely poor taste.

Making out with Eve had been a bad idea, but we are where we are Villanelle decides robustly, before opening her mouth to launch into an explanation that will definitely clear everything up.

Eve holds up a finger the moment she sees Villanelle start to speak.

“No.”

Villanelle shuts her mouth, and like, she does what she wants, obviously, and she takes orders from no one, but it just so happens that she decided to close her mouth at the exact moment Eve raised her finger.

Eve looks at a point beyond Villanelle’s shoulder for a long, fixed silence, and then waves her hand to dismiss the situation.

“Yes he is. Bill is dead. I called the ambulance. I had his blood on my hands. I went to his funeral. You stabbed him repeatedly. For fun. Do not fuck with me.”

Villanelle looks around the walls in exasperation, her walls, with all their faded patterns.

“When have you ever known me to kill someone for fun?”

Eve scoffs, and Villanelle presses the point, sharp as a knife, waiting for it to draw blood.

“No, seriously. I don’t kill for fun. Sometimes it is fun, or someone is annoying, but… I don’t kill for fun. Never did.” Villanelle finds herself blowing out her cheeks, and then putting her hands on her hips. “And now all the fun that was there before seems to have disappeared so…”

Eve gapes at her, and now she’s standing up from her perch on the bed. She takes a step forward, but she doesn’t need to, Villanelle can hear her perfectly clearly.

“You know that that is a really fucked up place to draw a line? You only kill people if they are annoying, but not just for sport, oh great, you want a fucking medal-”

Villanelle has to fight hard to stop herself from rolling her eyes, but Eve isn’t listening? She needs her to listen.

“Bill was a job. I was paid. It was arranged. His death needed to be faked. The blood wasn’t real, it was one of those chest things, I don’t know, I never understood the props, and I never asked why before, but now-”

Eve isn’t even looking at Villanelle, she’s engaged on her own soliloquy on the rules of comedy in reference to recent deaths. She gestures to the audience that isn’t there.

“-if this is some kind of fucking joke then it is really over the line, there’s too soon and there’s too fucking soon, I still miss Bill every day and here you are claiming some kind of fucking miracle even though I was the one who was trying to stop him from bleeding on the dance floor-”

Villanelle scowls at that, because rewriting history to that extent cannot be allowed to slide.

“You were not. Sorry to interrupt, but you were not. And if you are going to understand this at all you need to fucking listen with your ears and not with your misplaced sense of injustice.”

“Misplaced??”

Villanelle raises her voice, and she’s not yelling, it’s just that Eve is not listening.

“You were not trying to stop him bleeding. You were holding one of Bill’s hands and screaming his name, a first aider was actually trying to stop him from bleeding out, except Bill wasn’t bleeding out, because the whole thing was a fake! The first aider was a plant, the ambulance was a plant, the whole thing was faked. I was watching you, and I wasn’t screaming the entire time, so my recollection is a bit clearer than yours.”

Eve stares blindly at her, and then puts her hand to her eyes.

“I’m dreaming, this is a bad fucking dream-”

“Okay I’m really going to need you to concentrate…I saw a picture of Bill in with the belongings of someone who works for the Twelve. Are you listening to me? Your friend Bill was in the Twelve.”

Eve laughs, a little desperately.

“He was not. I knew Bill. He was my friend.”

“Yeah, well, it turns out that a person can be likeable whilst also still being not that great. Bill worked for the Twelve. And he’s still with them. I understand it now.”

“Villanelle, I literally went to his funeral, you understand you actually sound like a crazy person right now.”

“Eve… look he must have been planted in Mi5, had been working undercover, and he needed extracting. But maybe Bill was so embedded, that he couldn’t just disappear. So they put together the whole thing.”

“You killed him-”

“I was hired, specifically to not kill him! I was told to what to expect, ha, an older man in a hat would compliment my scarf, and then he would follow me to that night club, and there I would pretend to kill him. They told me we had to act has though we were being watched the whole time, because there was a potential witness who would need to be convinced if they happened to have eyes on the deception…and that was you. You were the witness. I didn’t know, that it was going to be you. But you needed to be deceived. Although it seems I could have shot him with a water pistol and you’d still blame the death on me.”

Eve suddenly goes pale with fury. She fixes on Villanelle like a sniper rifle, and approaches her, jabbing a finger at her accusatorially.

“This isn’t okay, you dickhead. You hear me? Don’t fucking bring Bill up, you have no right, I had his blood all over my hands-”

“It wasn’t real blood, will you just listen to me, and I will explain, maybe I can throw together some kind of power point, are you a visual learner because-”

“No! No I am not going to listen to whatever kind of fucked up practical joke this is, whatever parade of bullshit, I am not, listening!

Villanelle stands her ground.

But.

Her throat tightens. And fine, you know? She fucking gives up.

And then she steps closer.

“Are you going to head butt me again?”

Eve’s nostrils flare. Villanelle waits for half a second longer than she should, and then steps away, shrugging.

“Okay Eve. You don’t want to hear? I’ll let you figure it all out. Carolyn has probably half pieced it together by now, or maybe she knew all along. Either way, the powerful combination of you and Geraldine will no doubt burn through this mystery like lighter fluid - goodbye Eve. I am sorry, I didn’t mean for the evening to go like this.”

Eve opens her mouth to speak, or to swear, or to yell, Villanelle isn’t sure.

But then there is the unmistakable sound of the front door being opened, and some keys being tossed on the side table.

And then nothing.

Villanelle takes a slow deep breath, just as she can see that Eve has stopped breathing altogether. She shifts her weight slowly, willing the part of floorboards that she is currently standing upon to be as silent as she remembers them.

There is no other way out. There isn’t a fire escape, there isn’t an escape hatch, there’s the front door or there is a scramble down crumbling brick work to street level, and although Villanelle backs herself, she doesn’t back Eve.

She doesn’t have a weapon, Villanelle has only ever carried weapons when she was on a mission. But she can improvise, if the worst comes to the worst.

Besides, the easiest thing is to probably just talk their way out of whatever is about to happen next.

Eve is gesturing minutely at her, frantically indicating that’s she’s going to let Villanelle take the lead on this one. “Yeah okay” Villanelle mouths sarcastically at her, before stepping into the corridor, ready to cheerily English tourist her way out of trouble.

Oh.

“Oh.”

She stares at the arrival for a long time, and is stared at in return.

Villanelle puts her hand to her head, and grimaces.

“Okay, I literally cannot figure out the implication algebra here in real time, so I’m just going to go with my gut… look Eve, Bill’s so fucking alive he is actually here! Here is Bill! Alive! And with immaculate timing, could you hear us talking about you or something?”

Eve rounds the corner, and-

And.

And?

Villanelle is good with people’s emotions. She can catch flickers of fear, half seconds of hesitation, the facial flinches that indicate when a person is psyching themselves up for something.

Eve just stares at Bill. And there is not a trace of emotion on her face, not a whisper.

No one says anything for what feels like about half a year.

Villanelle turns to Bill, because it sure as fuck isn’t her moment to break the silence.

He’s just a man. Villanelle has ceased to be surprised by the people that work for the Twelve, really, the Venn diagram is just a series of circles standing around glaring at each other from separate corners of the room. But they all have had something about there. Something indefinably impressive. Even Konstantin has gravitas, for all his wildly annoying personality traits.

Bill is just a man. Bad hair, bad clothes, general aura of nothingness.

Villanelle didn’t have much time to weigh him up in their first and only encounters, but she’s built him up in her head because of how important she knew Bill was to Eve, because of the betrayal Bill’s ‘death’ represented.

But nope. Just a man.

Bill is saying nothing. He just stands there, coat still on, and gapes at Eve.

Villanelle looks at Eve. She’s still just staring back.

Just as Villanelle is wondering what would happen if she waved her hand in their direct line of sight, Bill makes a small noise, something that almost sounds like a snort, shakes his head, and starts taking off his coat.

It seems to unfreeze Eve. She points at him.

“What, the fuck, are you doing here?”

Bill makes small awkward face, and hangs his coat up on the coat stand.

“Well, I live here, at the moment, so… why are you in my apartment?”

“This is my apartment” Villanelle says reflexively, but Eve is abruptly yelling over her. Villanelle’s eyebrows bounce up into the air, and she can tell that a lot of things are going to happen quite quickly, in the immediate future.

“I didn’t mean why are you in this particular postcode, I mean why the fuck are you not in the fucking afterlife!” Eve, for some reason, has picked up a book from somewhere, and she brandishes it at Bill, almost blindly.

Bill tugs at his chin slightly and then takes a step towards Eve, both hands low down by his side, palms open towards Eve.

“Would you believe me when I say I can explain?”

Eve laughs at the ceiling, a strange, desperate sound, like the words are not coming.

“Would you believe me when I ram this book down your throat? Why the fuck are you alive, what the-” Eve trails off, and then just screams incoherently. She points at him, and refills her lungs.

“I had your blood on my hands?

Bill, in an act of near suicidal tendencies, shrugs slightly.

“Just a flesh wound?” he speculates with half a cautious grin, and wow, for someone who claims to have been Eve’s best friend for however many years, he truly seems to have no idea the amount of fury that is about to avalanche over him.

“You bastard!” Eve yells, and then does actually throw the book at his head. Bill ducks, but it still glances off his back. “You bastard, you bastard-”

Eve is advancing on him now, and Bill is backing away, ducking sideways into the bathroom, holding his hands up in the air partly in protest, partly to protect himself from any other missiles.

“Look, there really is no need-”

“Oh, you THINK?” Eve yells, but Villanelle decides that this is the time to catch her around the waist, because there is a strong possibility that Eve is so angry with Bill for not being a murder victim that she finishes the job herself.

“Get off me!”

“No, we are going Eve”

“We are not, I’m going to kill him, you bastard-”

“You can’t kill him now, you’ve alerted the entire building to your fury, there’s no way you’d get away with it, ow!”

Eve is now flailing at her, and it’s only her fists on Villanelle’s shoulders, but ow?

“Get off me!”

Villanelle manhandles her out of the door, but not before Eve grabs a yellow dish by the front door, and manages to fling it at Bill’s head. He ducks, again, but Eve’s aim is off, so it bounces ineffectually off the door frame and shatters on the floor.

“Hey!”

“Eve, for fuck’s sake…” Villanelle gets them out into the hall, and then hauls the door closed behind them, closing Bill in her apartment.

Eve stares at her, wild eyed and wild breaths.

“Let me back in.”

Villanelle dismisses this flatly.

“No.”

“Let me back in.”

‘Still no. What are you going to do? Other than be arrested for screaming?”

“I’m going to kill him.”

“For not being dead? Sure, that adds up.”

Eve stares at her for a fury filled second, and then abrupt turns away, marching down the stairs. Villanelle follows, curious.

“So what are you doing now?”

Eve hauls the front door open like she hopes to tear it from the hinges.

“I am going, to set, the building on fire.”

Villanelle has to work hard not to laugh, lest she be used as kindling.

“No you are not.”

“Yes I am. Bring me some dried leaves.”

Villanelle spreads her hands.

“Oh I’ll just find a forest shall I?”

“Yes” Eve snaps, and then snaps “Yes!” again, before advancing on Villanelle, who takes a hurried step backwards, colliding with a bin.

“Bring me some fucking leaves or I will set your coat on fire!”

Villanelle takes a deep breath.

“Eve, as much as I admire your decision to switch to arson to process your feelings, and believe me, I’ve been there, maybe we could this plan on hold for a few days?”

“On hold?” Eve struggles with that, Villanelle can see the workings of her mouth, the furious twist to her eyebrows. Villanelle smooths a hand over her jacket, because she likes this jacket and she doesn’t want it to be used as fire lighter.

“Eve” she says soothingly, “You know who’s turn it is to be yelled at? Carolyn’s. She probably knew all about this, because when doesn’t she? You should go and yell at Carolyn, and then, if you still need dried leaves, I will find you some.”