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wolf and sheep clothing

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There’s a language to flowers, evidently.

 

Eve doesn’t find it pretty or interesting and it passes like sand through her fingers. Shit down a toilet. Something more poetic befitting flower languages, but for all the languages Eve speaks, she speaks none of them well and none of them when she should.

 

She dislikes conveying, in any capacity.

 

Eve ignores all advice - it’s a bit of a hobby - and buys a dozen white roses because she likes the way they look tied with a pink ribbon and that’s all. Sometimes flowers are just flowers and we don’t need to know any more than that, she’d prefer if we didn’t.

 

She’s offered a charming little square of rustic, rough-edge cardstock with hearts of all things, hearts . She’s meant to write a note and she stares at it for so long the teller starts babbling effusive nonsense, desperate to fill the void Eve’s awkward silence leaves behind. Whatever helps, Eve figures, even if she doesn’t relate.

 

She has no idea what to say. And she’d rather not.

 

Eve eventually tucks the blank card into her jacket pocket and slides the pen slowly across the counter like she’s daring the woman to say something about it.

 

The teller just seems relieved the interaction is almost over, which is at least one thing they can agree on. Another tick, Eve watches her shove her glasses up her nose for the umpteenth time. They’re by far the pinkest glasses Eve has ever seen on a face, kept tethered to her head by a delicate chain around the back of her neck and Eve thinks where the hell does she think those are going? Imagine losing glasses like those. But then, wild things do have a habit of slipping our fingers, escaping. Here today, gone tomorrow.

 

She’s staring and that’s part of the reason she doesn’t hear something about passion and something about innocence and something about love . You know, flower stuff. The other part is that she doesn’t care. Eve’s deaf to things she doesn’t care about, she’d rather expertly torched a marriage over it. It’s the bright side of focused and the dark side of calloused.

 

So he said. So she agrees. It is what it is.

 

They’re expensive. The roses that she doesn’t even really need to say much of anything - wait -  god she hopes that’s not part of the price tag. The bells and whistles, unwarranted. Eve sighs and pays the woman, stares at her glasses some more, wonders why she can’t just buy flowers that say nothing. Dead-language-flowers we forgot to hear or speak, now they’re just plain old stem-in-dirt botany, minding their own damn business. She can do her own talking, thanks.

 

Sort of.

 

Eve does her best with the countersurveillance, the sneaking, the double-back, double-look, double-life pacing and circling she’s picked up, dusted off in the ruins of her many and varied failures. She begs pardon, she’d be better at espionage if she’d ever thought her life was going to end up like this. She had a desk, you know. A husband. A shackle for each ankle - okay, that’s rude.

 

She’d dropped anchor, she can hardly be mad at the sea. She wasn’t shipwrecked, she was bored with the charter.

 

Eve ducks into a restaurant and pretends to peruse a menu, then slips out the back patio and through the potted hedges into a parallel street with an eye over her shoulder. Again, she thinks she’s shaken the stickiest of Carolyn’s seekers, imagines she’d be dead if it was the Twelve, but she’s realistic enough to admit that she’s only kind of sure.

 

She had a desk. A chicken! Unrelated articles.

 

Now she has flash drives and knowledge and purpose and these are just about the worst things a person can have, in their pockets or otherwise. She’s going to die, possibly. Probably.

 

And she doesn’t miss it, not in a single molecule of her tired body. That’s the punchline - she just likes to pretend. Because most days all she has left is the sheet over her head, the sloppy cutout eyes, the halloween costume of regret, I’m so sorry , god it’s so insincere. Happiness has never been a thing natural to Eve, but she thinks it’s funny just what you can dress it up as.

 

Maybe happiness is the costume. And if she’s learned anything from Villanelle it’s that there’s hardly a point to a costume if it’s not provocative.

 

St. Thomas’s Hospital is a bleak monopoly brick of a structure with a green little courtyard stuck in the middle like an afterthought. It doesn’t help, the place needs to try harder to look less like a place you go to die. That’s not why she’s here , god it better not be, she has enough to worry about without worrying about the distressing halflife of her own will to live. The fountain burbles merrily and it does nothing for the ambience either.

 

Eve’s steps slow to a barely ambulatory wander as she second, third, fourth, fifth guesses herself. Her being here is bold. It’s bold , she repeats to drown out the other voice reminding her, it’s stupid.

 

But she can dress it up as bravery, cunning even - Villanelle takes no offense to it, she makes things what she wants them to be. And that’s where she’s taking her cues, christ. Eve doesn’t need to know six languages to translate. This is very stupid.

 

The police barricades are still up, patrols circle, detectives walk around like plainclothes is any kind of undercover, like they don’t exude cop . The Twelve snoop much more effectively, more sinisterly in the faces they can wear. Who knows how many crosshairs she’s in and it’s a flimsy argument to say maybe the irony could be in finding safe haven right at the heart of the disaster. They think she’s fled.

 

She hasn’t. She’s right here and she has no idea why.

 

Her brain feeds her ‘ do svidaniya’ on a loop, the useless piece of shit.

 

It’s absurd, she could almost hit Leicester Square with a hard-thrown rock from the hospital rooftop. If Villanelle isn’t lying in the shallow well of a black tarp bag, zipper over her nose and tag on her toe, she might find some levity in the gambit. She does love her games.

 

Eve hates that about her.

 

(Gently.)

 

She won’t stay, though.

 

Can’t, not without a blind MI6 eye, protective detail my ass , a bullet in her forehead or a shiv in her kidney or some equally inevitable, unglamorous end in a prison or an office or what’s the difference . So she’s here for now, but won’t be long. Shouldn’t be at all. But she has to know.

 

They’re not finished yet.

 

She walks with purpose through the main entrance. If nothing else, she’s learned that the only difference between good cover and bad cover is purpose. Confidence.

 

If she could borrow only an ounce of Villanelle’s, she’d be set. Forever.

 

If Villanelle could surrender hers she’d be set too.

 

A deplorable lack and a deplorable excess, the two of them. Probably why nobody likes either of them all that much, they do so much to earn it. Really very committed.

 

Villanelle is very wrong on many levels, but she was right about one thing. Tragically, the sex would’ve been great.

 

Eve bypasses the front desk - the power of purpose - and heads down a hallway to a public restroom where she hides herself away in the first stall of many. The first stall of a public bathroom is always the least used, nobody will bother her. She puts the vase of flowers between her legs and stares down at them. Expensive white roses on a restroom floor.

 

Her brain spins between her ears for hours while she waits, back stiff and foot bouncing so hard it begins to annoy. She slaps her hand down over her knee and glares at it. It trembles.

 

Night settles in and a custodian comes in to clean the toilets. Eve makes her grand escape with the barest of weird looks in her direction and trails along behind some giggling nurses, gossip pouring from their mouths, jackpot.

 

When they reach their station, Eve makes her move. “Got a bit turned around,” she says with a friendly little smile that the nurses return, it’s their job more or less. “I’m with the MI6 detail.”

 

All three of the nurses exchange heavy looks and Eve wonders just how much they know and just how forbidden they are from knowing it. She’s been the pleb of a hierarchical workplace, she knows just how fastidiously the rank and file collect secrets like currency.

 

“Oh, come on,” Eve baits. “I know they’re on lockdown, but they’re not discreet.”

 

And they aren’t, Eve spent most of the last year being badly discreet, she knows the look.

 

“Eighth floor I heard,” one of them surrenders. The other two give her a look and she tips her chin defensively. “What? Diego won’t stop bragging about it, though he’s mostly just on the third floor. Like it’s even interesting on the night shift,” she mutters.

 

“The night nurse,” Eve says slowly to herself and they all watch her talk to herself like a jackass. Eve doesn’t care, she is a jackass. “ The night nurse ,” she murmurs, psychotically.

 

Insanely.

 

She wears it so well.




____________________




It goes very poorly.

 

Diego’s collecting bits and ends from a supply closet and television had done a very bad thing in leading Eve to believe that knocking someone over the head, out cold, was a much easier feat than it proved to be.

 

She swings hard , like really hard, but the mop handle cracks over his head and he yelps, grabs his skull, “Ow!”

 

Absurdly, Eve finds herself yelling, “I’m sorry!”

 

And then she has to bludgeon him several additional, gruesome times, it’s like slaughtering a cow with a cheese knife. There are long, breathless moments when he finally goes limp that Eve stands there thinking she’s just killed a man with a mop. Villanelle had laughed at the toilet brush, but here they are, a breath of healthy fear and appreciation for the dangers of household cleaning supplies between them.

 

If she’s not dead, of course.

 

Eve will be so pissed if she’s dead.

 

Like an afterthought, Eve prods at Diego’s carotid and determines that, at least for the moment, he’s alive and that’ll just have to do. Her hands shake horribly, so it’s possible it’s not a pulse  - just her own bones knocking together high on adrenaline, but there’s nothing she can do about that. Near the end of a felony is a bad time to get cold feet or second thoughts.

 

A vestigial twinge of guilt and empathy twists up under her diaphragm and Eve sighs, twiddling her fingers until she settles on stuffing a wad of sterile bed pads under his head for comfort and gently, awkwardly patting his cheek in something like a conciliatory gesture. But this all happens after she’d wrangled the dead weight of his limbs out of his scrubs and left him there in a supply closet in his underpants, so...

 

Well. She tried.

 

Eve redresses in the ill-fitting uniform, wrinkles her nose at the scent of some commercial cologne that engulfs her like a handsy lumberjack. Beggars and choosers and all that.

 

Eve grabs a surgical mask from the closet and ties it behind her head along with the bulk of her hair as she makes her way to the elevator, vase in tow. She ties his sagging pants higher, as tight as she can above her hip bone, but it doesn’t do much for her.

 

Confidence, she begs of herself.

 

The elevator lets her off on the eighth floor and immediately she’s greeted by a fully armored IRT grunt, assault rifle in parade rest as he stares vacantly into the elevator cab. They blink at each other and Eve squashes the urge to explain herself.

 

Instead she walks right past him in the direction of more guns, more danger. It’s a far cry from desks and husbands, just tickling humor, really.

 

There’s an open box of crusty donuts on the vacant nurse’s station that two combat-ready men pick over with choosy, armor-gloved fingers and that almost does make her laugh. They glance in her direction and Eve stares back. It doesn’t do to appear too unruffled, she figures, nobody likes guns in their face.

 

“Didn’t they just do rounds?” One of them asks, hooking his thumbs into the chest of his kevlar, that lazy, arrogant stance they all mirror eventually.

 

Eve shrugs. Whatever she does, she can’t be put in a position where she’s asked to explain herself. Her days of having any rational explanation for her choices have long since exceeded their expiration date. Eve is out of explanations. She’s bad at it and it bores her.

 

In a bold move, Eve circles the nurses station, delicately places the roses on the workspace, and pretends to check over some charts like she can’t really be bothered with them. They must decide the same about her, because they go back to the donut box and leave her alone.

 

She doesn’t find a chart with Villanelle’s name, redacted and government-redlined or otherwise, and she begins to panic because there’s assault rifles two feet from her face and MI6-trained doorbusters breathing down her neck with only the vague protection of donuts between them, shit where is it.

 

No chart means no patient.

 

No chart means no patient .

 

No chart means no care .

 

Eve breathes in and squeezes the sharp metal edges of the aluminum clipboard she’s staring holes through until it feels like she could bleed. They wouldn’t protect a body like this. MI6 can be a formidable force, but they fall to the same weakness any bureaucratic frankenstein’s monster falls to:

 

Budget.

 

The goon squad isn’t sitting around eating donuts on the government’s dollar for a corpse in a bag. Not this many of them, anyhow. Not days later. Eve breathes deeply, closes her eyes and soothes a hand down the bristled back of the beast in her stomach.

 

“Has she woken up yet?”

 

What Eve wants to do is throw up when she hears Carolyn’s voice, but whatever is left of her survival instinct ducks her head as low as possible, buries her nose in charts behind the nurses station and stays quiet.

 

Eve hears the man sigh. “No. I doubt she will.”

 

“You don’t know her,” Carolyn says doubtfully. “She’s not human, I’d swear it.”

 

Eve lets out a shaky, measured breath, too quiet for them to hear. She’d spent a great deal of her life being invisible and she hopes it works for her then, just the once.

 

Carolyn cartwheels her nails in rounds against the counter near Eve’s head for long, tense moments, then stops. “Well, I’m needed elsewhere. Do not let her out of your sight. She has...friends. Unaccounted for.”

 

Well. Sort of accounted for, Eve thinks wryly.

 

Moments later, Carolyn’s clacking heels depart down the hallway, distant until they can’t be heard any more. Eve allows herself a silent thank you prayer, then gathers herself. She looks up peacefully at the officers and blinks slowly, calmly. “What room is she in?”

 

“They just did rounds,” he repeats, giving her that look. The man look. The one she hates.

 

Eve’s eyebrows raise slowly and she blinks even slower at him. “Would you like to change her catheter?” She asks sweetly.

 

His chin jerks back into his neck and he pulls a face. “What are the flowers for?”

 

“I don’t know. Ms. Martens’ instructions.”

 

“812,” he relents, then turns his back on her and leans his full regalia weight into the nurse’s station counter like he’s done looking at her.

 

The feeling’s mutual.

 

Eve forces her steps to remain measured, unbothered as she leaves them there and marches past the watchful stare of another half-dozen armed agents circling like wraiths.

 

Two buttoned-up agents stand at the door to 812, but their radios crackle with orders from the donut vultures to stand down and they don’t bother her either. The door opens and Eve wonders exactly who she’s just gotten fired. Half the agents in Carolyn’s command are combing the streets for her and the other half are here, letting her very wanted self in to see MI6’s most volatile prisoner.

 

She smiles behind her mask. It’s nice to not be on the losing team for once. Irony tastes better when you make it yourself.

 

An agent is zoned out in a visitor’s chair under the window and Eve has to remind herself of his presence quite sternly so she doesn’t do anything weird. She stuffs down her inclinations and observes Villanelle clinically, nurse-to-patient only as he stands and looms behind her.

 

Not dead, the gentle monitor pulses, reminds her.

 

That’s a good start.

 

It’s kind of funny to think anyone like Villanelle could ever die, but she really did give it her best, the poor thing. Eve stifles her inappropriate laugh into a cough behind her mask and ignores the way the agent’s eyes track her movements.

 

She can’t do this.

 

She can’t pretend it’s nothing to set the flowers on the table, drop a blank note next to them, maybe pull the drooping sheets up a little higher, peruse the chart with polite detachment, then leave. She can’t do it like that, she’s made of softer stuff, no matter what anyone says of her. Not soft, but softer.

 

Eve purses her lips, then steels herself.

 

All business, she drops the vase on the bedside table and pulls on latex gloves like she does it every day. Then she turns to the agent and meets his eyes evenly. “I’m changing her catheter, there’s been a blockage.”

 

He stares back dumbly.

 

“She’s going to be naked.”

 

He still stares and fine, they can play like that.

 

Eve’s brow furrows and she tips her chin up at him even though he’s nearly a foot taller than her. “I don’t think it’s very appropriate for you to be in here for this. You can wait in the hallway with the others.”

 

The agent’s shoulders roll back like he’s being challenged and - yeah, okay. Fine, challenge issued. Get out, fucker.

 

“She’s not to be let out of our sight.”

 

Eve glares. “What are you, some kind of creep?”

 

He blanches and it brings a smile to Eve’s face, hidden though it may be. Nobody ever thinks she’s going to play dirty until they’re rolling in the mud. She doesn’t care.

 

“I’m not -” he frowns and crosses his arms across the unnatural bulge of his under-the-shirt vest. “Do you know what she’s done?”

 

“I know enough,” Eve says truthfully. “It doesn’t change why I’m here.”

 

She can’t say she doesn’t care or it doesn’t affect her, but she can say it doesn’t change her. She’s had a thousand bloody opportunities to let these things change her - and she’s hoped desperately it would - but it just hasn’t. They’re stubborn, the worst parts of who we are.  Whatever people may think of her, she’s never been a good liar.

 

Final gambit, Eve reaches out and begins to roll the hospital blanket up Villanelle’s feet, ankles, bare legs.

 

The man caves, holds his hands up and casts his eyes upward. “Alright, alright. She hasn’t woken up yet anyways. If she ever does,” he adds under his breath as he excuses himself from the room. Eve glares at his back. He doesn’t know anything.

 

Shakily, Eve covers Villanelle’s toes again when the man’s out of sight and scrubs an anxious hand across her hairline. What was she going to do, fake her way through changing a catheter? Imagine.

 

Eve stares at the closed door for a long minute while her adrenalyn bleeds her dry, then she turns slowly to Villanelle’s slack face and laughs a high-pitched, weird thing that crawls out of her throat. “Imagine,” she echoes aloud.

 

They’ve slogged through a lot, the two of them, but a catheter change might’ve been it for them. “Fuck me,” Eve mutters.

 

She doesn’t know what she’s looking at when she takes the chart from the end of Villanelle’s bed and tries to pick through the doctor’s hieroglyphic scribbling. She gets the important parts, more or less. Villanelle’s alive, the freak. Two gunshots and down a foot of intestine. Critical.

 

She certainly doesn’t do anything in half measures.

 

Eve puts the chart back, because it only serves to make her kind of queasy. She’s never been the type to seek a the-less-you-know kind of comfort, but - 

 

Well. The less she knows.

 

Eve stands awkwardly at the foot of the bed and watches Villanelle breathe. She doesn't really know what else to do, she’s never been much of a caretaker. And Villanelle is gone gone, beautiful shell that she is. She’s in a stupor of the choicest of drugs, blissfully sunken into the void - Eve wishes that were her lot.

 

It could’ve been, it should’ve been.

 

Even in this, she’s a selfish brat about it. Villanelle’s gifts never come without strings and this one’s going to choke her for years to come.

 

But fine, the intestine thing is kind of Eve's fault, maybe a little, so she swallows her discomfort and drags one of the sterile little plastic chairs over to Villanelle’s bedside and sits down. That’s what you’re supposed to do, she thinks.

 

Everyone else makes this whole caring thing look a lot easier. A lot softer.

 

Eve props her elbow on the mattress and leans into it, drops her weary head and slouches her cheek against her palm. Watching someone sleep isn’t romantic, it’s weird. Villanelle’s basest understanding of romance is, at its core, dedicated to the weird and unsettling, so she’d probably like it. Eve can be weird for her.

 

Eve sighs. “You look awful,” she says honestly.

 

Villanelle’s pale face remains unbothered, her eyes still in sunken, bruised pits. She would likely disagree. It’s called fashion , Eve.

 

And she’d be wrong, of course, because…

 

Damnit, yeah she still looks pretty, the little schmuck.

 

Eve scoffs, right in the face of a girl who’d tried to die for her, but like - nobody asked, Villanelle. Nobody asked!

 

Okay, she feels guilty, whatever.

 

Eve reaches out with her free hand and peels the blankets down to Villanelle’s waist. It’s maybe a little invasive, but she’s curious by nature, by fatal flaw, she just wants to see. Carefully, she pushes the partially-open snaps of Villanelle’s hospital gown aside and finds there’s not much to see anyways. She’s bandaged up, stacked with gauze and tricky little wires and all manner of medical horror.

 

She’s split open and stuffed back in, but it’ll never fit right again. It makes her angry for a moment, because they weren’t careful like she was. Eve was always careful to put it back when she was done rooting around and they’ve gone and mucked it all up. Careless and cruel.

 

Eve briefly considers peeling away a bandage, but that’d probably be pretty rude if it ended up killing her. She wants to see again, though. She wants to fix it.

 

“Are you robbing me?”

 

Eve nearly flies through the roof, cardiac hiccup.

 

Her head snaps to the side and she looks into Villanelle’s careful, piercing gaze. “I’m armed an’ dangerous,” Villanelle slurs.

 

Eve opens her mouth, but can’t really figure out what to say so they just stare at each other for a few long moments. Then she remembers the mask, and practically tears it down off her face.

 

Villanelle squints, bounces her eyebrows a bit, then smacks her lips and nods like this is all in the ordinary course of business. “Oh, hi Eve. Welcome to the house.”

 

Oh.

 

Oh, she’s stoned.

 

Eve laughs in spite of it all and Villanelle nods sagely like that was her plan all along.

 

“Hm, my brain is very Russian right now,” Villanelle diagnoses. “I don’t like it.”

 

Eve’s laugh doesn’t end so much as it quiets into the back of her throat. It’s so bizarre, she can’t quite quash it, even as her hands fuss and pull the blankets back up to hide the bandages. “I don’t mind it,” she says.

 

“No, no,” Villanelle waves a few sloppy fingers an inch or two off the bed. “I cannot. There’s, ah - hm, no translator. We won’t.”

 

Eve shakes her head. She has no idea what she’s talking about and she’d be willing to bet neither does Villanelle.

 

“How are you feeling?” Eve tries.

 

“Oh, very bad,” Villanelle says cheerfully. “I feel like, mm, the cable channels. The rainbow screen. No input, channel twelve. The fuzzy grey one too with the spzzzzz.

 

“I - what? How?”

 

“I don’t know how,” Villanelle says sadly. “Okay, I’m standing up, Eve.”

 

Eve’s skeptical, but when Villanelle actually manages to wedge an elbow underneath herself and push upward off the bed, she becomes worried. “Woah, woah, okay, no. You got very shot. Don’t you remember?”

 

“What?” One of her eyes closes like she’s thinking too hard about it and giving herself a headache. “That doesn’t sound like me. I wouldn’t, no.”

 

Eve tries to find an unbandaged patch of skin to hold her down, and settles on the curve of her shoulders. It’s not much of a fight, Villanelle bends like willow reeds, which settles badly in Eve’s stomach. She’s not supposed to bend, not at all. Eve supposes that’s her fault too.

 

“You’re hurting me,” Villanelle pouts as she falls into her pillows and gives up. Eve’s hands fly back as though she’s been burned and that makes Villanelle pout harder. “No, I like it. Do it again.”

 

Shush! Just-” Eve’s hands slap down on her own knees hard and she lets out a long, shaky breath. “Jesus, you’re so stupid. You’re - you almost died! You - and I…”

 

Villanelle’s eyes are glassy, she’s not there at all. Her brain’s flushed down the toilet and her consciousness is swimming in the plumbing somewhere.

 

She doesn’t understand.

 

“Villanelle,” Eve says and her voice sounds so fucking fragile, she hates it. “You almost died. You did something incredibly stupid. You saved my life and I didn’t ask. I didn’t want that from you!”

 

Bless her, Villanelle looks like she’s trying so hard to pay attention, carefully slotting the words together into sentences she can understand. Weirdly, she looks sorry. Of all things. It’s an ill-fitting look on her. “Okay,” she nods glumly. “Give it back then.”

 

Eve lets out a frustrated laugh. “What?”

 

“The, uh. The thing I gave you that you didn’t want. Give it back, I’ll get you something else.”

 

“I can’t! I can’t give it back, you - you-”

 

And she can’t . She’d love to! She’d love to push it down Villanelle’s throat and watch her choke on it, this thing she’s done to her. But she can’t.

 

Villanelle’s giving her a weird look, face twisted up as tight her hands in the blanket. Her eyes are wild as they move over Eve’s face, trip a bit, she’s slipping on ground she never really had steady feet on. “Are you crying? I did that? I can do better.”

 

“I’m not-”

 

She’s not . She won’t, not over this, not over them, not over-

 

Eve shakes her head angrily and slumps back in the chair. The thing that’s not happening tickles her cheeks too much so she allows herself a cursory swipe. But it’s not happening, it isn’t . What the hell is wrong with her?

 

She knows, she knows, she knows. It’s lying in the bed in front of her.

 

It won’t stop looking at her like she’s this lovely, terrible thing worth dying for or whatever the fuck she thought she was doing. If she ever even got that far. If this isn’t some form of elaborate torture, Eve doesn’t care to know. The alternative - the idea that it could be without intention is so, so much worse.

 

It’s a wicked design, that. She’s essentially ensured Eve will never know the difference.

 

“I wanted to be better for you,” Villanelle says and honestly, Eve would literally beg for her to stop talking if she thought it would help. When Eve meets her eyes warily, Villanelle grins, a dull edge to the pointed curve of her smile. “But I can’t. I’m bad, it won’t get better. Ha! You know what I want? Cake. I would like cake.”

 

This is idiotic. She’s high.

 

Though it pains her, scrapes against the very grain of her person, Eve is determined not to find meaning in anything they say to each other just then - maybe ever. Eve sighs and leans back in with her elbow on the mattress. “What kind?” She humors her.

 

“The good kind, of course. Eve, please.” Villanelle’s eyelids flutter and she holds an open palm in front of her face and squints at it, perhaps unsure if it’s hers or not. “I think I died. I did, didn't I? It was nice.”

 

Eve hums. “Oh really.”

 

“I don’t think I minded it,” Villanelle muses. Eve watches her turn to look out the window, though the blinds are partially drawn and it’s too dark to see hardly anything. That doesn’t seem to bother her much as she watches the night intently. Watches nothing with great care.

 

Eve watches her instead. Her hair is limp, stringy, flat and sad. In the grating hospital light, she’s less Villanelle and more close call . She looks ordinary, there. A thing you could figure out if you had an afternoon and that really does make Eve sad.

 

Villanelle’s hand comes up weakly, a loosely formed finger gun that she aims at the wall with one eye pinched closed and a little smile in the corner of her mouth. “It was…”

 

She pulls the trigger gently, then lets her hand fall back into her lap. “Something.”

 

And that’s all Eve gets about it. It’s funny, because she thinks they both agree: anything’s better than nothing.

 

When Villanelle’s head swivels back toward her, she seems just a little surprised to find her still there. She studies Eve’s face in earnest, baleful eyes and open expression. “Eve,” she leans forward, looks even closer. “How come you don’t text with emojis?” Villanelle asks with something close to genuine concern. About emojis.

 

Eve sighs. “Because I’m in my forties, love.”

 

“That’s me? I’m love?”

 

“I have no idea what you are,” Eve chuckles. Villanelle gives her just...honestly, the stupidest look she’s ever received and Eve’s chuckles dissolve into full-bellied laughter. What the fuck is she doing here, she’s going to get them both killed.

 

More killed.

 

“I’ve never been love.” Villanelle spreads her hands grandly across her lap with a slow, deliberate drunkenness. “I am like, eh, monster under bed.”

 

“No, you’re high and in the hospital,” Eve corrects her gently. When Villanelle tosses her blankets toward her knees defiantly, Eve reaches down and pulls them right back up. “Well, since you’re not going to remember any of this, I guess I can say whatever I want, hm?”

 

“Okay,” Villanelle agrees. “Tell me things.” She rubs her nose sloppily with the heel of an unsteady hand and waits.

 

There’s a moment of how dare you , a moment of defiance at the very notion that she could ever be capable of it. She’s used to that compulsion, it’s just a permanent stopper between brain and mouth that she’s lived with, made peace with. It’s so dangerous and she doesn’t understand why nobody else sees that.

 

If you say what you mean and mean what you say, you’ve given it all away. That’s all she has - when it’s gone she’s back to nothing.

 

But this isn’t quite that. 

 

Villanelle’s expression is hazy, if not sincere, and whatever Eve tells her in this moment might as well be a letter in an unstoppered bottle. It’s not going anywhere, it’s mouth to grave, it barely qualifies as truth.

 

That’s where Eve finds bravery, in the farce of it.

 

“I don’t know why I can’t let you go,” Eve admits and it feels weird forming her mouth around something like the truth. She thinks it’s ironic how nefarious they paint Villanelle’s lies, when there’s nothing more sinister than Eve’s brand of half-truth, never-there, never-near glancing blows at honesty. When Villanelle opens her mouth it’s a flipped coin between violent, cruel honesty and flat, scorching lie . When Eve opens her mouth it’s some heinous combination, some dressed up freak of nature cloaked in eighty layers of technicality and they call her evil. Eve lives and speaks in grey and how is that virtue?

 

Villanelle nods slowly, a pulsing rhythm like she’s conducting an orchestra with her chin. She is hearing and dressing it up as listening. This is cruel of Eve, but cruelty is part of whatever demented love language they speak between them.

 

“I can’t tell when you’re lying, either,” Eve says. “But I also can’t tell when I’m lying and I think you’re the same. I think it hurts you.”

 

Villanelle’s nod speeds up and a small smile tilts her lips up, but she stays quiet, enjoys the music.

 

“I’m going to miss you like a fucking limb when I leave,” Eve breathes out in a hard exhale, she has to force it past her teeth or it’ll never come out. “I don’t know why,” she insists, fisting her fingers into the sheet at Villanelle’s side. “God, I have no idea. I think you broke me. I think it was Rome - I hope it was, because I need that to be what did it. Not the way you - the way you love a person.”

 

Villanelle gives her a strange little look, still peaceful, but full of a subtle, teasing doubt. Eve wonders what it is that’s tickled her, but she’s not done, she can’t stop just yet.

 

“I think I hate you,” Eve decides - she’ll swallow it back later, surely. But that’s fine. Right now it’s true. “For this, for breaking me, whatever it was, I hate you because I let you do it, I wanted it. I couldn’t stand being whole. I hate how you don’t know enough to hate me for it too. I really don’t think you know better and I have to wonder who did that to you.”

 

Villanelle’s still nodding, the idiot. Eve wants to shake her, but there’s no point. There’s no point, and when Villanelle’s wandering hands trip over her own in their roving quest for tactile feedback, elevated by her drug cocktail, they pause. Her fingers burrow into Eve’s for comfort and she’s still nodding.

 

“I just said I hate you,” Eve exasperates.

 

Villanelle’s smile is honest to god sweet, unencumbered. “Okay,” she agrees.

 

“No, not okay! That should upset you,” Eve grinds out while Villanelle’s hand pets her own.

 

Villanelle seems surprised by the notion that anything should upset her and christ - what Eve wouldn’t give for even half of whatever she’s on. It has been a week. “Okay.”

 

“Ugh!” Eve snatches her hand back out from under Villanelle’s cold, clammy one and it seems to hit her like a slap across the face.

 

Villanelle looks down at her empty hand, then over to where Eve’s hand is tucked and hidden away under her elbow, then up at whatever tragic look is on Eve’s face. “Are you mad at me?”

 

“Yes! I’m mad at you!” Eve chokes out, but immediately drops her voice when she remembers the thin ice she’s walked out on. Her eyes flick to the closed door.

 

Villanelle turns her palm upward on the bed and stares sadly at it as it sits empty. “I’m so tired,” she sighs, eyes blinking slowly against gravity. “Can you be mad at me tomorrow? I’m so tired.”

 

The monitor pulses gently and Villanelle blinks her sleepy, sunken eyes. She takes labored breaths under the taped up, stitched together trauma bracing her chest and Eve feels righteousness douse to red ember as it collapses in on itself.

 

“Me too,” Eve murmurs and she can hardly stand the sad sight of Villanelle’s cold, empty hand, so she puts hers back on top of it.

 

That seems to please her well enough. “Tomorrow,” Villanelle insists. “You can hate me tomorrow, I promise.”

 

“Okay,” Eve finds herself saying. They don’t have tomorrow, but they don’t really have today either. They’ve never had much of anything just for the two of them, can’t quite hold onto it long enough. But she thinks it’d be nice to lie to each other - for real this time. Complete dishonesty, it really warms her.

 

So Eve puts it away and wipes her face clean of the condemnation she lets steer her better judgment. She puts it away and lets Villanelle play with her fingers and stare with that dopey adoration at some vague point on Eve’s face.

 

“I think we were put together to punish us,” Eve decides. “Elaborate torture.”

 

“It’s nice,” Villanelle agrees. She should do more drugs, she’s so agreeable like this.

 

It is, though. It’s kind of nice.

 

Eve feels the last week like a weighted yoke on her neck and slowly, slowly lets it bow her tired head, lets herself slump forward until her temple rests on Villanelle’s bare shoulder, curled in over just a small piece of her. One of Villanelle’s hands lifts awkwardly from the bed and bends inward like she wants to touch, but realizes she can’t, not like this. It drops shortly afterward, she’d rather have Eve like this than be able to touch her. 

 

“Would you change if I asked you to?” Eve breathes. “I wonder sometimes.”

 

Villanelle’s shoulder rattles with weak laughter. “You won’t ask.”

 

“I wish I would,” Eve admits. It’s probably normal to project love on things we believe we can sculpt, mould to please, but Eve’s not quite right. Villanelle is perfect to her and it keeps her up at night. It used to anyways. Neither of them will ask anything at all and they deserve whatever happens next.

 

They deserve this.

 

“Does it hurt?” Eve mumbles against her skin. She smells like iodine and cheap hospital detergent. She smells cheap , which is funny in its own right.

 

“I think so, but you can’t tell, okay? Tell them nothing hurts me,” Villanelle instructs her slowly, deliberate syllables wading in a thick sea. “Tell them it wasn’t for you. It was, though. It was for you. You lie for me. I think you could be good at it.”

 

Eve wants to walk it backwards, pull that chivalrous rug out from under her, but instead her mouth says, “Thanks. I owe you.”

 

“Will you stay? That’s all I want in return. They’re giving me nightmares.” Her shoulder joint creaks and swivels under Eve’s weight as her arms lift and rummage around the open center of her hospital gown, clumsily patting over stitched skin and cracked bone. Exploring. “I want you to stay,” she repeats, pulling off an electrode like it's annoying her.

 

“I can’t do that.”

 

Villanelle’s hands pause, flat on her cracked open chest and Eve can feel her turn to try to look at the side of her head. “You’re leaving me here? Alone?”

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

Villanelle’s breathing becomes labored, but Eve is bad at saying things of comfort or kindness, so she doesn’t. She never does, she never grows. You can’t graft a heart, Niko tried, it didn’t take. They deserve each other.

 

Villanelle reaches out and sticks the electrode to Eve’s forehead. “Fine. There you go,” she says graciously. Drunkenly.

 

Eve thinks she’s crying again, which is embarrassing. Thank god nobody’s going to remember this. “I’m leaving,” Eve reminds her, she wants to be yelled at. She wants to be hurt, but she’s tired of having to do it herself all the time.

 

“You said that,” Villanelle confirms as she pulls her gown open wider. “Will you come back?”

 

“I don’t know,” Eve says, voice hoarse. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. To either of us. I just know we won’t be together when it does.”

 

“I don’t like that.”

 

“I don’t either.”

 

“You have something on your forehead,” Villanelle points out.

 

Eve sighs and lifts her head to pull the electrode off and pat it back gently onto Villanelle’s chest, who watches the process with wide, innocent eyes, volk v ovech’ei shkure , she’d said once upon a time. And maybe not, Eve’s never sure exactly which one’s the costume, heartless or hurt. Maybe the wolf is the skin she wears, Eve would almost swear it if it weren’t for the scar she carries and nearly died for.

 

Whatever the case, Eve can’t reduce her to one thing, she can’t peel back the bandages and dig her fingers between Villanelle’s ribs and expect to come out with one answer. There’s no diagnosis, no word, no scientifically backed condemnation that covers any one person, least of all one that amounts to be careful without bothering to answer of what.

 

We’re all just different kinds of hurt and different kinds of volatility and some of it’s conscionable and some of it’s not. Eve sleeps just fine.

 

Knuckles rap against the door and Eve resists the urge to yell for the agent to piss off forever. She’s not sure what she accomplished here, but she feels worse. Like cutting out the infection to realize there’s nothing left. Realizing you are the infection and there’s nothing left to salvage.

 

“One minute,” she calls out through the door, trying to keep the frustration from her voice.

 

Villanelle furrows her brow. “Who is there?”

 

“MI6. You’re in custody.”

 

“Ooooh, custody,” Villanelle nods, a spark of combative narcissism that makes Eve feel a little better. “I’m custody.

 

In custody.”

 

“How exciting for me.” Villanelle says pleasantly. “The slammer. The english large house.”

 

“Big house.”

 

“Huge,” Villanelle agrees. “Will you be there?”

 

“No, Villanelle. I told you, I’m leaving. I have to run. I - I did something. A lot of things, but...if I stay, I’ll be killed. And if you’re with me, you will be too. I have to go, for both of us.”

 

“I will protect you. Stay with me, please?”

 

Eve takes a nervous look toward the door and Villanelle grabs her hand and she probably thinks it’s hard, but it’s weak, slack and pathetic. Eve stays like it isn’t, she can give her that.

 

There’s a path, here. She should lie, put her back to sleep, let her dream about pleasant things and handle the capture and the end of things when she wakes. But Villanelle, for all she’s set fire too, for all the ways she’s hurt Eve, she’s never asked for much.

 

She has asked for truth. She’s asked for it, traded for it, and Eve hasn’t been fair.

 

If she doesn’t give now, she walks away with too much of them and no guarantee she’ll ever be able to give it back.

 

“I can’t,” Eve tells her, that’s all she has. “We made it that way. We did this.”

 

“We’re so clever,” Villanelle says with a mischievous smile. A little huff of exertion puffs past her lips as she digs her elbows under herself and makes some groaning attempt to flip her body over, straining against the short reach of wires and pulse monitors and the two fucking bullet holes in her important organs.

 

“Stop, stop, what are you doing?” Eve grabs her by the shoulders again.

 

Villanelle glares at her, but it’s weak and it only makes Eve laugh, just shy of hysterical. They don’t have any time. “If you are leaving, I won’t sleep well. I hate sleeping on my back. Turn me over, I don’t want nightmares. Please?”

 

Even this, Eve can’t give her. “You’ll hurt yourself,” she tries to explain. It’s lacking a pointed it’s not your turn to hurt, it’s mine. They take turns at least, that’s courtesy. “I”m sorry, please don’t turn over.”

 

Villanelle flops back, despondent and folds her hands over her stitched belly. “Fine. I will sleep terribly. I’m going to miss you, Eve. Do you believe me?”

 

“I believe you. I’m sorry I made you think I wouldn’t.”

 

“It’s okay. I’m bad at that. Meaning it.”

 

“I’m worse,” Eve begs her to understand, but her eyes are already half-lidded and her expression shuttering into blankness. She’s leaving faster than Eve can put her back together and she knew it would be like this. But knowing a thing is such an impermanent state of logic.

 

This is good , Eve tells herself - they’re out of time anyways, it’s fine. It’s fine.

 

It’s not. It feels like she’s done this for nothing. It was selfish coming here, pulling these unguarded truths from a girl she almost killed and offering confessionals to an empty church. This moment may as well not even exist. But it does, in at least some ways, and Eve doesn’t know if it’s a blanket she’ll wrap around her shoulders in the coming months or the cold itself.

 

Whatever grace she takes with her, she leaves none behind and she’s not heartless, she’s not . With empty hands, nothing to offer, Eve reaches out and asks anyways. “Can I do anything - can I get you anything before I go?”

 

“I don’t know,” Villanelle whispers. She doesn’t flinch when Eve reaches out and brushes her fingers through her limp hair, the pad of her thumb tracking over sallow skin along the too-sharp line of her cheek. Also selfish. She can’t take these things when she thinks there’s a chance Villanelle could know this about her. This want.

 

Villanelle’s face scrunches into a pale ghost of distress as she stares out at the blank wall across from her. Something drops from her face, something intangible, but Eve would swear she can almost hear it clatter to the floor. 

 

“Don’t let them see me,” she requests quietly, almost with shame. “Please? I don’t want to be seen. Not by them.”

 

Eve’s brow furrows and she reaches out to pull the blanket higher, shuffle the open ends of Villanelle’s gown to cover as much of her exposed skin as possible around the medical equipment growing from her chest like spring weeds. Villanelle’s hand weakly stops her, trapping her fingers against her skin, her stitches, her heart. Her eyes are cloudy, but she finds Eve in them.

 

Eve’s never seen her look serious like that. Not even the way her smiles can turn cold, pointed, honest and terrifying. Her face is strangely slack, blank without intent. Her fingers press harder against Eve’s, against her broken ribs too hard, it must hurt. “Don’t let them see,” she begs. “I want to be what they think I am. I need to be. You have to leave that here for me.”

 

Begs , you’d just have to see it to believe it.

 

Flattening her fingers against Villanelle’s sternum, whatever’s left of it, Eve thinks of all the ways she could promise not to say a thing. She thinks of evil and the way a person can dress in it, tailor it, but never quite wear it like a skin. She thinks of how hard things are about to get for Villanelle and how little else she’ll have to wear.

 

Eve’s so bad at telling the truth too, she does both badly. What she should say is it’s too late, sweetheart. They’ve seen, haven’t they? Killing is easy, but what Villanelle did for Eve is so much worse, so much more transparent. What she says in the end is, “I’ll miss you.”

 

“Don’t. You take me with you,” Villanelle scoffs, defiant. “All that stays are the parts they want. There’s nothing to miss. Don’t think about me at all.”

 

“I’m afraid I’m not good at that,” Eve says delicately, reminding herself by the second not to press too hard into Villanelle’s chest, she’s so fragile in the moment. “Professionally or otherwise.”

 

Villanelle’s chin slouches toward her chest as she deflates with relief. Her hand slackens on top of Eve’s, but she doesn’t let go entirely. “Don’t go yet. Wait until I sleep. Okay?”

 

“Alright.”

 

Villanelle gives her a sneaky little look, close-mouthed smirk as she taps her free hand’s forefinger against her lips, swearing Eve to secrecy. “Tell them I’m no good.”

 

She won't let up until Eve mirrors her, taps her own lips. “I don't think I'll have to.”

 

“You won’t,” Villanelle yawns, sinks backwards. “I wish I could see you free, Eve. You are, hm , much. Much something . I will miss that.”

 

They both will, terribly. Staying is an easy ask, Villanelle’s gone hardly a minute later, rolling eyes and distressed, clouded nightmares.

 

It’s all forgotten.




____________________





The card’s still blank, Eve realizes as Villanelle slips away from her. The card’s blank and she hasn’t said anything anyone will remember. It doesn’t exist, this moment between them. It’s a chapter removed, a scene cut. All she’s leaving behind are flowers that don’t say anything and a blank card.

 

She could say it. On the card. Out loud. She could scream it.

 

I could. I did. I do.

 

That is what she owes her, in that order.

 

But Villanelle asked for just that one thing, just the one . So she writes something stupid on the card, something true but not too true, something that nobody will see even if they do. She bends down and brushes just a light press of lips and nose to Villanelle’s temple, then turns away.

 

She takes it all with her, the things Villanelle can’t keep in her care. Master thievery, Eve’s becoming has been full of surprises.

 

The agent comes back into the room as Eve ties her mask back across her mouth and nose, sinks back into disguise and leaves Villanelle in hers, undisturbed and whole, as far as anyone else knows. Nobody sees what Eve takes with her or tries to stop her - they never really do, do they? Whatever she needs to survive the coming months, years, Eve will give her. She owes her that.

 

Hollow and plastic, purpose rattles in her pockets as she leaves.

 

Eve thinks of her often anyways, no matter her promises. More almost-lies she’s told. More grey.




____________________