“It’s not a big deal,” Villanelle says, “Most people know this stuff.”
Hugo raises his hand lazily, “I didn’t.”
“Okay, most non-weasel-faced people know this stuff.”
Hugo’s temple twitches and Jess stifles a grin with her palm. It’s nice. It feels like an uncomplicated casual work meeting. Unfortunately, you are slowly going insane.
Honestly, it feels like you’ve been going incrementally insane since that fucking bridge. You had turned, it was an embarrassing amount of vulnerability from you but you’d assumed it would be worth it to put a full-stop on the cat-mouse limbo you two have been trapped in for so long.
You had gotten cheap, spicy biriyani and the entire night had slipped on a prom-night giddy, over-the-top feeling. But then, frustratingly, she had smiled, waved goodbye and gone her own way. And you had enough dignity to realise that she was simply unwilling to hang around your volatility anymore. She just didn’t want to include you in her glamorous, exhilarating, fucked-up life.
Was it painful? Sure. Were you mature enough to just peacefully let her go? Surprisingly, yes.
Did you pick up a six-pack of beer at a corner store and drink till you fell asleep? Absolutely, you did.
And it had only gotten worse when a week ago, Carolyn had walked into your new unofficial headquarters, trailed by Villanelle. It had made you yelp out loud which was almost as humiliating as the fact that you now had to work with your ex-whatever after getting dramatically dumped.
Putting aside the soft clumsy way Villanelle says good morning nowadays and the increasingly dangerous murders Carolyn has been assigning the team, you had been able to approach things quite calmly. Until today, apparently.
Because last night, just when you were about to leave the office, you’d had a stroke of genius. It’s been known to happen now and then, no big deal.
Blood-soaked photographs of the crime scene had been loosely tacked onto the whiteboard. Charred torso. Ketchup-red stained carpet. Fleshy limb sockets. It was pretty gross. You were elated.
With a red marker, you’d scribbled Dick Inspiration? No context because really, when have you ever given your coworkers context.
This morning, when you had arrived, someone had neatly added not dick, maybe times square torso ripper.
It’s unheard of. It really is. The audacity that one of these office-rats would have required to correct you! What the fuck! Was nothing sacred anymore!
You can’t bear the fact that one of these fuckwits thinks they’re more intelligent than you are, but you’re curious. They clearly aren’t right, but you can humour them. So, when Villanelle owned up to it, it threw you off. You’d like to think that nobody really knows Villanelle like you do and you’re fairly certain that she’s has never been someone who studies this stuff, who’s knowledgeable about it.
Which is why, you’re all are here now. Villanelle leaning against the desk, forearms taut. Hugo, Jess and Bear sitting around like this is storytime at preschool.
You standing back, trying desperately to pretend like Villanelle explaining the minute differences between the Evelyn Dick and Times Square Torso Ripper murders isn’t the most attractive thing you’ve ever witnessed.
You had a boyfriend in high school. He wore cardigans and would sometimes smudge liner around his eyes before entering the Chemistry Lab. It had also felt like a tipping point in attraction. Like something specific. Niko had twisted an uncooked duck leg so deftly that it had popped out of its joint in one move. His enormous-knuckled hands in that motion had almost singlehandedly convinced you that you should probably put him out of his misery and agree to marry him.
Villanelle had looked you in the eye, kissed the cold-gun-metal, given you a lipstick-coated knife for you to trip over, like flirting disguised as a razor wire laid across the floor. It had all been awakening in a way that most things in your recent history have been awakenings.
But this – it’s insane. An insanity-boiling-point. This is flirting and Villanelle doesn’t even recognise it. This is you pretending like you aren’t boiling over with how much you want to press into Villanelle and kiss her, colleagues be damned.
“Anyway, Eve, don’t feel too bad about this. It’s an easy mistake for any amateur to make.”
And just like that, the attraction has been entirely extinguished. (Okay, not entirely.)
“Oh, fuck off. It was just a rough theory,” you grumble and Villanelle grins.
“Yes, Eve doesn’t make mistakes. She only makes rough theories.”
“I’m going to murder you.”
“I would like to see you try.”
“Oh my god, just make out already,” Hugo mumbles and you hit him across the head with a file. It makes Villanelle smile.
(It makes you smile too.)
“Carolyn wants us for – Oh God! What are you doing!”
You look down at herself. “Oh, come on. It isn’t that bad.”
“Eve! You have sauce in your beautiful, beautiful hair. And your apron is smoking.”
You narrow your eyes. “Alright, it looks worse than it is, then.”
Villanelle shakes her head vigorously. “No, this is unacceptable. I am coming inside to help you.”
“Except for the part where you aren’t. What did you come here for?”
She pouts and furrows her brow. “You are so much meaner to me than I have ever been to you.”
You smile, “That’s true enough, I suppose.”
“Okay, Carolyn needs us at the office. There was a murder in Malmö. But I am not interested in that anymore, will you please let me come in and help you?”
“I have it under control, you dickswab,” you mumble but shift to let her in anyway.
“You have become even sassier since the bridge,” she says and must see you freeze at the mention of the bridge because she follows it up immediately with a soft, “It suits you.”
“I guess I’m just not afraid of you killing me anymore.”
She ignores you and cleanly lines her shoes up by the door. It makes something inside you go irrationally soft.
You clear your throat, “Why didn’t you call?”
She looks shocked, God knows why, it’s not a particularly shocking question.
“I thought … I would figure out a backup plan. You might have not wanted me when I’m killing for the Twelve. But I didn’t want you to feel like I was giving it all up for you so you had no choice but to be with me.”
She panics, “Wait, what were you asking?”
“I was asking you why you didn’t call instead of coming over when Carolyn asked us to come to the office?”
“Oh, of course! Yes, that is what I was also speaking about.”
“No, you weren’t!”
“Okay fine, sorry, my actual answer to this question is that I was curious to see your new flat and I wanted to be nosy and drop in unannounced.”
You rub the back of your neck, “For what it’s worth,” you see her stiffen so you look out the window to get the mortifying bit out, “I wish you had explained that to me before running away on the bridge.”
The two of you pointedly don’t look at each other until she faux-coughs, “Okay.”
After a few seconds of this excruciating silence, she laughs softly, “Do you smell burning?”
Oh. “Shit.” You run to the kitchen and pull a tray out of the oven. “Well, this is still salvageable, right?”
She hoists herself up onto the kitchen slab.
“Why are you cooking? I didn’t think you liked it.”
You sigh and quiet the part of your brain that still goes psychopath! don’t reveal anything! “My mother is coming for dinner today. So – ” You gesture towards the burnt lasagna.
She grins and rolls her sleeves up and you ignore the part of your brain that has increasingly started going that’s hot! when she does something.
“I am sure it still tastes very good. Don’t worry your beautiful hair over it.”
She dramatically shovels a big chunk of it into her mouth and smiles around the mouthful.
“So delicious! Yummy! I wish I could have more.”
You smirk and narrow your eyes, “You can have more.”
She takes a significantly smaller amount, grimacing slightly and you fold your arms across your chest in victory.
“Go ahead, Villanelle.”
“Eve, I like you so much but maybe this is the limit. Don’t worry though. We will just make this lasagna again. From scratch.”
“A) We have Carolyn’s meeting. And B) You don’t have to help me. I can do it properly this time. You just distracted me earlier.”
“Oh, I distracted you.”
“Don’t even start.”
She laughs, “Am I allowed to meet your mother?”
“I haven’t spoken to her since I told her I’m divorcing Niko. I don’t think I want to add another element to an already tense mix.”
Villanelle shrugs, “We can tell her I am your girlfriend? She might be happy for you.”
You chuckle lowly, “I can’t even explain how bad an idea that is.”
“Sure, okay. Forget about Carolyn. I have something to ask you,” She holds your palm and kneels on the kitchen floor. “Will you, Eve Polastri – ”
Your heart is literally in your fucking mouth. It tastes like nerves and a pounding head.
“– Do me the privilege of letting me remake your shitty, burnt lasagna for your mother who I’m not allowed to meet.”
“Fuck you! Why was that so dramatic?”
She laughs and undoes your apron before looping it around herself.
“So, can I help you cook?” She says expectantly.
You soak in her soft laugh and sigh, “Sure, let’s cook.”
“Can you two please give me some more space? This is inhumane.”
Villanelle turns away from the window to take in Hugo’s seating arrangement. “No, I think you look comfortable. What do you think, Eve?”
You bite down a grin and pat Hugo’s cheek carelessly, “I think he looks too comfortable, if anything.”
Hugo grumbles from where he’s squished between them in the back of the car. “Jess, can you help, please?”
“Oh, I’m sorry Hugo, I don’t interfere in any matters that are a nuisance to you,” she says serenely and Villanelle laughs.
You never really considered how tightly wound you were at Mi6 before Villanelle’s inclusion. But it’s the only explanation for how work has started to feel like work and not like air or water or relaxation. It makes you more agreeable, you think. You aren’t really sure though, it’s not like you have a husband to point it out anymore.
Bear, in the passenger seat, takes a call and you can hear Carolyn’s clipped voice, tinny over the line. He partially turns, seatbelt straining, and dusts candy-crystallized-sugar off his hands. “Alright folks, Carolyn says that the Swedish murderer will be leaving Norwich tonight so we’ve got to make a game plan.”
Villanelle smiles, “From that Murder in Malmö, yes? It sounds like an Agatha Christie novel.”
You secretly agree but old habits die hard, “Let’s not be flippant about it, he stabbed five people.”
“It is not that hard to stab someone, Eve. If anyone knows that, it is you.”
Hugo smirks and whispers, “Foreplay.”
The two of you ignore him.
Jess grimaces before speaking. You don’t blame her.
“Okay, the game plan! Villanelle enters the hotel with an earpiece. Eve waits outside in the car and tells Villanelle what to do. Hugo and I are outside, waiting to bring him in for custody. Bear is in charge of buying us dinner. Understood?”
“Why am I always the dinner guy?”
“You’re also the IT guy but arguably the dinner guy is the most important in the plan.”
“How is the dinner guy most important? I am the lynchpin to your stupid plan.”
Hugo snorts, “Knowing you two, you’d just end up having phone sex again. And Eve wouldn’t even be able to use me for it this time.”
Fuck. Is this hell? Are you finally meeting karma? Could life get any worse at this moment?
Villanelle speaks slowly, “Sorry, Ratboy, what did you just say?”
You laugh awkwardly and your voice is squeaky, somehow, “It’s nothing! Good joke, Hugo!”
“It doesn’t sound like nothing. What is he talking about?”
“Do we have to do this right now?”
“When would you have preferred to do it? I can’t believe you cheated on me with Ratboy!”
“I did not cheat! Okay, yes, I did, but not on you, if anything, I cheated on Niko.”
Jess takes her eyes off the road and you cringe at the weight of her judgement, “Eve, did you actually fuck Hugo while having earpiece sex with Villanelle.”
“She was – yes, technically, I did have the earpiece on while she – but, it was a very stressful period. We’re forgetting the part where I got shot.”
Villanelle laughs, “You will use Ratboy as a human dildo but you can’t say masturbate. Don’t worry though, now that I think about it, I don’t really mind. I’m not with them, when I’m with them, right?”
Blushing, you half-nod at her over Hugo’s head.
Hugo gasps, “I mind! It was very out of the blue.”
“Oh, you liked it. And it was not out of the blue, you’d been flirting with me for months.”
Bear gulps ahead, “Guys, can we focus on the mission now.”
Villanelle grins, “Sure, but we have to add in a step where Eve and I have earpiece sex.”
You drop your face into your hands and muffle out a please kill me. It’s left unanswered but you can’t help but smile when you feel Villanelle’s hand stretching over Hugo to rest on your shoulder.
Hugo lets out a choked sigh, “I cannot believe that I have literally less sitting space than when we started this hellish trip.”
“Shut up, Ratboy.”
There’s something about the big hallway in her hotel living room that feels church-like, all-important, hollow. It makes you want to fidget and focus on how you would already be pushed up against the door in a different context.
But no. You two are supposed to be working out of here and while you’ve finally convinced yourself that you want her, you definitely aren’t going to be making the first step.
“Would you say you’re religious?”
You scoff, “I can’t think of a single reason why you would think I’m religious.”
She stretches, all feline grace and coiled tension, “Lots of people seem blasphemous but are actually religious. It’s quite common, I think.”
“Okay well, I’m not.”
She nods and slips out of the couch onto the floor, “I hate this work. I’m not going to learn anything from files.” It’s said with such disdain that it almost makes you wince when you think about how enjoyable you’re finding it. Although, you suppose that has more to do with the fact that you rarely get to be in her orbit without thinking of an excuse for it.
“Yeah, well, apparently Carolyn needs a solid theory by tomorrow. So, you need to get back up here and help me finish this.”
Villanelle groans, “This is so boring, Eve. And you can’t make me help, you’re not the boss of me.”
“Technically, I am your boss,” You grin at her, not bothering to bite down your smugness.
“Yes, okay, that is very sexy but I really need a break or I’ll snap and murder someone.”
“The concierge downstairs was very rude. You can get him as a present if you finish.”
She laughs, surprised. She’s wearing bright red lipstick and a suit even though your text specified that only you’d be coming. The possibility that she dressed up for a casual-work-hang-out with you makes you feel less awkward about the dress you chose to wear.
You pick up the gourmet coffee she’d ordered from the coffee table in front of you and watch her reclining further against the couch.
“Do you believe in God?” You ask after a sip of the incredible coffee.
She waits a beat before answering. “I don’t know. I believe in – I guess I believe in beautiful women, in good food, great sex. That’s like religion, right?”
“I think that’s like, spirituality? Fuck if I know, though.”
“What would your religion be, if you could make on up like me?” She asks and it’s so painfully sincere. It was always easier to pretend like she was missing this sincerity, this honesty. You used to believe that all she knew how to do was lie and manipulate and pretend. You’ve only just realised how much more human she is to you than anyone else you’ve ever met.
“Mine would be finishing this paperwork actually.”
“Ugh, you are the worst boss.”
You smirk, “Worse than Konstantin? He was kind of the worst.”
“No, Konstantin wasn’t all bad. He used to give me incentive to finish the work. Bonus salary and fancy hotel rooms and things. All you have done boss-wise is not say thanks and get jealous over threesomes.”
“Yeah, but come on, that was before – I can give you incentive.”
She arches an eyebrow, “Yes, alright. How will Agent Polastri compete with an international crime organization. Pray tell, what on earth can you – ”
You kiss her. It’s a bit awkward, making out with someone kneeling below you, but your mother once told you that Quitting is the Language of the Losers. (She would not be thrilled to know how you’re implementing her advice.)
But the thing about Villanelle, when you really give her a chance and don’t ambush her on a bus, she kisses with everything she has. The moment she gets over the shock of you shutting her up via kiss, her hand is on the nape of your neck, tugging you down, her mouth is half-open, like she’s praying. It makes you pant when she pulls away, makes you instinctively reach down for more.
You sit back on the couch after too long and take a long sip of coffee.
“What was that?” She asks, voice rough and amused, and you feel it between your legs.
“Incentive,” you answer and it makes her snort inelegantly.
“So, I just need to finish this paperwork and for the sake of being a good boss, you will do that again.”
She grins, “I can work with that.”
She’s lying back in the starched-white bed, breathing through a tube, hand wrapped in a neon pink fucking cast.
It makes your chest compress, makes you want to eat your fist whole in rage. You turn away from her, ignore the heat behind your eyes.
“Carolyn.” You say and it comes out a hundred times calmer than you feel. “I gave you my professional recommendation not to send her on the mission.”
Carolyn blinks and steps forward from the back of the makeshift hospital room, “Eve, I hope I won’t have to remind you that your professional recommendation doesn’t have any weight in front of mine.”
Hugo and Jess seem to be holding their breath and it somehow pushes you into angrier territory.
“She could have died.”
“Yes, she’s an assassin. That’s what they do.”
Hugo mumbles, “For what it’s worth, we told Carolyn that you didn’t want to send her.”
Carolyn chuckles, “And I took that with a pinch of salt, because unfortunately Eve, I know of your lack of judgement when it comes to Villanelle. Especially compounded with your … significant feelings for her recently.”
You clench your jaw, “What are you trying to insinuate?”
She has the nerve to look shocked, “I assumed that the two of you had struck up a relationship. Intel tells me that she spends more nights outside her hotel than inside.”
“Fuck intel. That has nothing to do with this.”
“On the contrary, how am I supposed to trust your judgement when you’re sleeping with your employee. This is becoming a bit of a habit for you, Eve.”
Hugo smirks and points at himself, “Talking about this guy.”
You turn back towards the bed and focus on Villanelle’s cast while Carolyn leaves the room to call someone to take Villanelle’s breathing tube off.
Because the worst thing is that you can’t contest this.
The night after you’d kissed her in her plush hotel room, she had turned up at your doorstep and you’d had your top off within ten minutes. You’re both aware that you should discuss what this means and how serious it is outside of intense sex every other night but it feels like it would immediately burst any bubble you two have carefully constructed.
But even then. It had been nice to pretend like this was a secret, subtle, hookup but maybe you two are more obvious than you’d thought. Come to think of it, Villanelle has started bringing you coffee every morning. And maybe sometimes, your hand lingers on her knee when you have lunch together. And maybe you looked too smug during a morning meeting when Villanelle stretched her neck to reveal a purpling bruise under her jaw.
All things considered though, where does Carolyn get off, ignoring your completely objective and intelligent recommendation to send in a task force for this mission instead of one talented yet overconfident assassin. Are you the only one who thinks seven vs. one isn’t actually a fair fight?
You see Villanelle’s hand shift, from where it’s hanging over the side of the bed. She turns it over, palm up and it almost seems like she wants you to hold it? Should you?
Attempting to disregard the others in the room, you awkwardly link your fingers with hers. Should you be saying something comforting? Saying something painfully vulnerable? The thought makes you cringe so you stay silent, watch her rearrange herself on the bed.
“Eve?” She mumbles and it makes your heart jump in your throat.
“Yeah, Vil, are you feeling okay?”
“Feeling great. Like somebody punched me in the trachea.”
You laugh, and it comes out the slightest bit wet. “You’re completely hopped up on painkillers. I doubt you can feel anything right now.”
She sighs, eyes still closed. “Eve?”
“When do you think I will be able to have sex again?”
Hugo crows delightedly and Jess shushes him before pulling him out of the room.
“I don’t know if that’s the first thing to be worried about right now.”
“It is. I want to spend time with you.”
“Vil, that’s independent of sex.”
She sits up, cracks a single eye open and looks at you critically, “Don’t lie, Eve.”
You squeeze her fingers, “Look, it is independent. We just didn’t really speak about it, but I turned on that fucking bridge, didn’t I?”
She nods sagely and closes her eye again, “You did turn, it was nice.”
“Yeah, see, I’m real nice.”
She laughs and it comes out throaty, “No, you’re not.”
Pulling a chair up to her bed is harder than it should be when she has your hand clammily wrapped up in her own but you can’t bring yourself to mind, really.
“Will you sign on my cast?”
You smile, “Sure. Shall I write in stop getting beaten up by guys twice your size or come back when you can have sex again.”
She beams, “Write looking forward to a speedy recovery, love, #1 milf.”
“Jesus Christ. I’m just going to draw a dick on it like a teenage boy.”
“Eve! Don’t steal Hugo’s signature!”
You don’t look up from your book when Villanelle flicks another paper napkin at you.
She huffs, “What are you reading that is so fascinating?”
“Decapitation 101: How to Get A-Head,” You answer monotonously.
She cranes her neck to take a look at your old Psychology textbook, “You are such a liar and also, if you want decapitation tips, you only have to ask your girlfriend.”
You smile lazily but don’t look up from the book, “Okay, I’ll ask my girlfriend about decapitation tips when I see her.”
She folds up another napkin into an elaborate shape before flicking it at you. It hits you square in the glasses and you finally look up.
“Will you pay attention to me now or was your mission earlier too tiring?”
You narrow your eyes, “Wait, this is about the mission?”
She pouts and you refuse to find it adorable. “I can’t believe you’ve already forgotten about it. You seemed to be enjoying yourself very much before.”
“Are you jealous, Villanelle?” You ask and it comes out huskier than you meant it to.
“I am not jealous of some bullshit, low-rung Twelve handler.”
She looks at you and you wait, expectant, amused. “Ugh, fine. It’s just – you were paying so much attention to her when you took her out to dinner. And you haven’t even changed out of the suit that you wore. I thought – I thought you’d try to make it up to me at home.”
You laugh, “I don’t have to make it up to you. It was just work. I am sorry for the reading on the dinner table, though.”
“You can read if you want, I don’t want to turn into Moustache and make you feel guilty for work.”
She looks so young like this, petulant and considerate, all at once. You don’t feel that crabby blame you felt with Niko but a genuine interest in making her feel better.
“Well, I am sorry. How can I possibly make it up to you?”
She smirks and the speed of her fluctuation would have knocked the wind out of you a few weeks ago, “I can think of a few things.”
“Do any of them stem from the suit?”
Laughing, she pulls you by the waist onto her lap, “I would say fifty-fifty between the suit and the glasses.”
You bend down and kiss her, lose yourself in the way she nips at your neck, the way she groans when you buck your hips.
She pulls away, hands still messily tangled in your hair, “Seriously though, I don’t want you to feel … limited like you did with Moustache. Don’t feel guilty if you work too late or don’t care about my interests.”
Shit. You actually don’t even know what interests she has. You were never the perfect wife to Niko, God knows he was Perfect Spouse enough for both of you but at least you knew about the squash, the shitty alt-folk music. So much for I want to know everything.
“What are your interests?” You ask and hope it comes out casually enough.
She looks taken-aback, “Um. I like cooking,” Great. You knew that one, “And I take a Gymnastics class on Wednesdays,” This is new. How have you never noticed this? “I like horror movies. They make me laugh. And I’ve been quite interested in picking up juggling recently.”
“All of that sounds like much more fun than my hobbies, to be fair.”
Villanelle laughs, “Oh, give yourself some credit. I love a girl who knows her way around a decapitation.”
“The girl appreciates it.”
“She might have to work a bit harder to make it up to me though.”
You laugh and stroke her jaw with your thumb, “She’ll do her best.”
It’s a bad instinct. The boiling hot revulsion of giving in first, of being the one who has to sacrifice their pride. Selflessness has always been a badly-fitting jacket.
Niko used to joke about how swallowing your pride was so much worse than swallowing medicine. It was garbage then but it’s felt more honest recently.
But you revel in the way she half-jumps with excitement when she enters the office one day and sees a badly wrapped gift on her desk.
It’s a pack of juggling balls. You panicked and bought too many colours. It makes her laugh.
(It makes you laugh too.)