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a ripening of sorts

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In the garden, time moves like molten lava.

The two of them lay together in near silence, sharing nothing but the quiet occasional look, furtive and almost shy. Eve's mind is light, squeezed of weight and hung out to dry. She goes back and forth between drifting and observing, feeling aware of her body and the nearness of Villanelle's.

The earth is cool beneath her. There is a freckle by Villanelle's cheekbone that she is only noticing today. When she exhales, Eve catches the warm breath of it. Strands of hair stick to the back of her neck and there is a clump of dirt beside her elbow.

From up close, Villanelle’s eyes seem to drift between two different colors. In the encroaching darkness, she watches them trace over her face, two huge orbs dipped in brown with flecks of green. She feels self-conscious but also strangely emboldened under that gaze, and her fingers twitch with an unknown current. Villanelle remains still for the most part, like a creature half-hidden in the bushes: waiting, watching and at rest. Something has shifted, the air is different—and Eve dares to let herself float in it. She cannot remember the last time she felt like this, or if she ever even has. She wonders, not for the first time, what it is that really lives between them. In the end, Eve simply lets the moment carry itself and feels a rare calm from the act of doing nothing at all.  

When they eventually head back inside, it is with the slow sinking of the sun.

The orange hues follow them into the kitchen and when Villanelle washes her hands at the sink, her hair glows by the window.

“What should we do for dinner?”

Eve leans against a nearby table to consider her answer, still wrapped in a lingering peace.  

“How about spaghetti?”

Villanelle turns, eyes wide. Her hands drip with water and form tiny puddles onto the floor. Eve doesn't know what to make of the reaction and finds herself slipping into a shrug.

“Or maybe not?”

She blinks in response and Eve watches a flurry of emotions flicker over her face.

“…no, that’s perfect. Spaghetti is perfect.”

Eve nods slowly and moves towards the sink, bumping into her as she puts her hands under the stream to wash the dirt off her fingers.

“Great. I can help?”

Villanelle nods dumbly and turns to open the fridge. Eve watches her pull out the vegetables and ground beef, and wonders to herself about all the absurd little things that have happened to bring them to this one moment, this one day.

She rinses the vegetables and hears Villanelle setting out the necessary pots and pans. They move through the kitchen around and beside each other to cut and to cook, and oddly, it fits. They fit.

She holds this thought as she peels carrots for the sauce and chops onions, she holds it as she leans against Villanelle to slide crushed garlic in with the beef, she holds it until it grows too hot to the touch.

As Eve watches Villanelle slice bread and strain pasta, she tries to imagine if this new feeling might grow to be as tiring and frail as it did with Niko. She stares at her as she assembles a quick salad, and follows Villanelle's thin, nimble hands as they make work of the lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers. While Eve listens to the rhythmic slicing, her mind travels to the past.

Dimly, she remembers how she and Niko had agreed to leave the cooking strictly to him as he became bossy in the kitchen in a way that led to arguments and passive-aggressive meals around the table. She can still recall the rattle of his tired sighs and the carved contours of his sunken frown, etched tightly onto the canvas of his face. The memory of his voice returns, low and tinged with an exasperation and resentment that she was slipping away, evading him, and doing everything she could to run deeper into the forest of her mind. She doesn’t know when exactly his stable predictability became so wrong for her and almost accusatory in its steadfastness. All she knows is that one day, she woke up knowing that she could never be still enough for him to be happy.
 
The knife rocks back and forth on the board, and Eve knows that whatever exists between her and Villanelle is like nothing she’s encountered before. Villanelle is not Niko, and could never be, in any way shape or form.

She is a killer. She is a woman. She is similar and dissimilar to Eve herself, she is both the shadow and the shape. She is the form that fits in the cut-out spaces of her mind, she is the darkness at the very center of the forest where she runs wild.

In those passing moments in the garden, held only by the cool earth and Villanelle’s unwavering gaze, Eve felt present and full in a way she never had—free and absolved, clear and unburdened. There was no restless thrumming in her veins, no impulse to fight or pretend.

Alone and with Niko she was made fake and exhausted by the effort of staying in place, of keeping her impulses under control, but across Villanelle she sees the possibility of a life uninhibited. How might it feel to be unbound? What would it be like to breathe freely and give space to the unruly and ugly, knowing the person beside her reveled in it too? Would she lose herself? Would she become more herself, more whole? Would her desire to take, chase and hide ever abate?

When they carry their plates of food to the table, she is still dizzy from the possibilities.

Villanelle slides into her seat and fills Eve’s cup with water.

“What are you thinking about? You are so quiet.”

There is a cautious look in her eye as Eve settles into her chair, not quite sure how to respond. Villanelle twirls her fork into the pasta and takes a hearty bite, leaving a small red stain by her lips.

“You are still thinking about leaving, hm?”

Eve reaches for a slice of bread and dips it into her tomato sauce. She does not know how to tell her that she is beyond thoughts of leaving, and that rather, she is thinking more about staying and the implications of what that would mean for her future. She does not know how to explain that she is thinking about changing the course of her entire life.

“Maybe.”

Villanelle hums, and Eve manages a few bites of her food before putting her fork down. She fixes Villanelle with a serious expression.

“…okay, listen.”

Villanelle slurps up a stray noodle.

"Realistically...what are the options here? Say I leave here with you. Is the grand plan to just keep running away from MI6 and The Twelve forever?"

"Hm, it depends."

"On?"

"Whether or not they get tired and bored of looking for us."

"What if they don't?"

"Then I will take care of them."

"What are you, 007?"

Villanelle sighs, tearing into her bread with a bored frown.

"Eve, you asked me what our options were. It is either that they get tired of us and stop looking or they don't, and then we will have to deal with them ourselves."

"That's...crazy."

"It's not really any crazier than what we've been doing already."

Eve pauses and Villanelle grins though a mouth full of bread.

"...god, I guess you're right."

"Yes, I know. I always am."

"I don't think there's enough space in that car outside for you, me, and that huge ego."

"That's okay, you can sit on my lap."

Eve snorts and rolls her eyes, but Villanelle's broad smile takes the edge off of it. They continue to eat, and the spaghetti is as delicious as all their other shared meals. Eve takes a long sip and considers her next words carefully, tone colored with skepticism.

"...if I left here with you, where would we go?"

Villanelle licks her lips, cleaning away the stain by her mouth before leaning forward with a hand under her chin. Her voice is light and easy.

"Is there a place you want to see? Something you want to do?"

Eve is surprised by the question, having expected a more dramatic reaction or some outlandish and elaborate proposal. Her response is knee-jerk, and the moment she says it aloud, she hears how wrong it is.

“Does it matter what I want?”

Villanelle’s answer is swift. Immediate.

“Of course it does.”

Her gaze softens, and Eve catches the tiny crinkle of skin by her eyelids.

“Eve. I am not going to force you anymore.”

The delivery is firm and clear. It is sincere and somehow sad.

Eve chews at the bottom of her lip and stares at the table, suddenly unable to look at her. The emotion is unnervingly real, and so much more authentic than Villanelle's last attempt at sincerity before a plate of microwaved shepherds pie.

Villanelle clears her throat and picks at her salad.

"I am glad you are thinking about it though. I was not joking when I said it was unsafe here. Whether you choose to come with me or not, we should not risk staying here tomorrow. I am not going to die in a house this ugly."

Eve's eyes trail over Villanelles face, searching for any signs of manipulation. When she finds none, she concedes with a slow nod, feeling the weight of the future move ever so nearer.

"...okay."

Ultimately, she understands that Villanelle knows what needs to be done to stay alive. She too, had little interest in dying in this house. She would have to make a decision by the end of the evening.

The rest of the meal passes without conversation, though the silence isn't awkward.

When Eve stands to help Villanelle clear the plates, she cant hide the tired yawn that escapes. Villanelle raises an eyebrow, giving Eve an odd look as she passes her to start washing the dishes.

"How are you still sleepy? You are not still taking the antibiotics, are you?"

"What? No, of course not."

"You slept all day."

"Are you shaming me?"

"I am only stating the facts."

Eve sighs, pausing to tie her hair up with a band from her pocket before reluctantly responding.

"...I didn't really sleep much. Still having those dreams."

Villanelle scrubs at a pot with her brows furrowed. Eve reaches over to dry off the rinsed plates by her side.

 "What usually helps when you are having shitty dreams?"  

Eve laughs at the innocuous question before realizing that she's waiting for an answer.

"Um, I don't...really think there's anything in particular. I don't normally dream much, or at least, I don't usually remember them afterwards."

Villanelle passes her the cleaned pot and starts to soap up the fry pan. She gives Eve a side glance, eyes darting over quickly.

"...I can keep you company until you fall asleep?"

"What?"

"Eve, you are standing right next to me. Or is your hearing also affected by these bad dreams?"

"Haha, very funny."

Villanelle shrugs and rinses off the fry pan before passing it to her.

"I am serious. Maybe it will help."

Eve runs a towel over the handle and cleans off the bottom of the pan with great care to buy herself some time. She returns it to the empty stove top and looks back at Villanelle.

 "...seriously? It sounds like it'd be really boring to just wait around for someone to pass out."

"But you are not just someone. Also, it is never boring with you. You are rude sometimes, but never boring."

"That's pretty cheesy. You know, I've been surprised to learn how cheesy you actually are. It's kind of tacky."

"See? So rude. But still not boring." Villanelle pauses to scrunch up her nose. "And you have not seen anything yet, I have been holding back this whole time."  

"You know, somehow I don't doubt that."

Villanelle hands her the last of the dishes and Eve dries them off before placing them where they belong.

"So? You will let me keep you company?"

"I mean, sure? But I will absolutely kick you out the moment you start complaining like a child about how dull it is to wait for me to fall asleep."

"I am not the baby who cannot sleep at night."

Eve sends her a withering glare to which Villanelle responds by cheerily flicking her with the remaining water from her still wet hands.

"Okay, smartass. I'm going upstairs to get ready for bed." Eve pauses, drying her hands and feeling awkward in a way she hadn't before. "...and thanks for dinner."

Villanelle seems surprised for a moment but shakes it off with a small and happy smile. Eve leaves quickly after that, willing herself to not feel self-conscious.

 




It is strange to wash up at the sink in the bathroom while knowing that this will be her last night here.

Eve is not sure if it's an unexpected fondness for this place or the anxiety of trading something familiar for something foreign, but she takes her time in washing her face and brushing her teeth.

The tumultuous cycle of emotions she's experienced since waking up here have been nothing short of exhausting, but tonight she feels a strange willingness and desire to find a way forward. She is tired of being resistant and confused, she is done with carrying anger and blame.

She dries off her face and takes a hard look at herself in the mirror. Dark eyes and mussed hair gaze back, and in this moment, in this countryside house in Italy, she realizes that she is wiped clear of her identity as a wife and as a British government employee. She can be someone else now if she so chooses. She can be Eve—full-stop, end of sentence. It is both a terrifying and exciting thought to have.

When she walks into her room, Villanelle is already perched on a chair beside the bed. She is flipping through a large atlas balanced on her crossed legs. Eve shuts the door behind her and hovers over the light switch.

"Is there going to be enough light for you to read that?"

Villanelle waves nonchalantly, eyes never leaving the page.

"What kind of assassin would I be if I couldn't see in the dark?"

Eve scoffs and turns off the light before heading towards the bed. She slips under the covers and lets her eyes adjust before turning to study Villanelle. She's changed into her own sleepwear: a soft, silk shirt and loose black pants. Her hair is down and Eve watches as Villanelle distractedly plays with the ends of it.

"...what's the atlas for?"

"Mm, I am thinking about where to go next."

Eve curls into herself and stares at the cover. It is an old and tattered copy, dog-eared and faded around the edges. Despite the comfort of the bed and the warmth of her blanket, she feels oddly alert.  
 
"...do you have a favorite city?"

Villanelle perks up, tearing her eyes away from the current double-spreaded map to stare at Eve.

"Paris, of course. But we—I—can't go back. Not yet, anyways. I bet there are still idiots swarming my apartment and ruining my outfits like animals."

"Yeah, that probably wouldn't be the best idea. Do you have a second favorite city?"

"Barcelona is fun. Good paella and amazing cava."

"God, you really love food, don't you?"

Villanelle smiles widely and cocks her head to the side.

"Have you traveled much, Eve?"

"Not really. I haven't had the time, and even my honeymoon was more about visiting and taking care of Niko's parents in Poland than it was about seeing the actual country."

"Oh."

Eve stretches and burrows deeper into the blankets, feeling the slow tug of sleep.

"Okay, well you have time now. So what is the city or country you want to see most?"

She considers the question, running her tongue over the back of her teeth in thought as Villanelle watches curiously.

"...I've never been to Korea before."

"What? Aren't you Korean?"

"Sure, but I wasn't born there."

"Then we should go." Villanelle frowns and hastily corrects herself. "I mean, you should go. You can have all of the bulgogi jeongol in the world."

Eve laughs, and Villanelle brightens visibly at the sound.

"They have amazing barbecue. And very impressive saunas."

"So you've been before?"

"No, but I just know."

She's still smiling when she rolls her eyes and tucks a hand under her cheek to settle against the pillow behind her.

"Well, my Korean is wonky as hell so that might be more than I can handle."

Villanelle shrugs and uncrosses her legs, leaning back into the chair for a more relaxed position. Her eyes betray a nervousness and caution that her body language hides, and Eve watches the contrast with fascination.

"Yes but it could be a fun and new experience..." She trails off and fiddles with the brittle edges of the atlas. "For the both of us, maybe."

Eve watches her restless movement as Villanelle crosses her legs again.

"Besides, my Korean pronunciation is excellent. You can leave it to me."

"That's true. Though there's something pretty shameful about letting a white woman handle all my communications in the motherland. Don't think I could live that down and I'm pretty sure my ancestors would kick my ass."

They both laugh at that until Eve finds herself slipping into another yawn.

"I think your body is telling you it is time for sleep."

"You might be right."

Eve adjusts the blankets to settle in more comfortably into the bed. Once she's tucked in, she finds herself staring at the stiff angles of Villanelle's chair.

"...you're not uncomfortable? Or tired?"

Villanelle shrugs, still holding the atlas in her arms.

Eve eyes her warily before pulling back the sheets beside her.

"Well, if you change your mind, you can take this half. That chair looks brutal."

Villanelle raises her eyebrows and stares at Eve for a long moment before dropping the atlas to the floor to move swiftly towards the offered space on the bed.

Eve holds her breath as she lays down beside her, and the two of them turn towards each other like flowers to the sun. Neither of them say anything for a while. Their bodies are a night-time mimic of their shared moment in the garden, they are two curved petals facing one another in the dark. A stretch of quiet passes with each of them in their own thoughts before Eve places a tentative hand on the soft skin of Villanelle's cheek.

"What would you do if I left without you tomorrow?"

Villanelle bites her lip, eyes bright.

"That would be too bad."

"Would you leave me alone?"

Eve stares at the glassy surface of her eyes and sees uncertainty flit over her features.

"...I don't know. I would try."

She expels a tight breath and Eve feels the brunt honesty of her next words.

"But I don't think I could."

The admission lingers in the air and Eve finds herself idly stroking Villanelle's face with the pad of her thumb.

"...be honest. What do you want from this? What are you hoping for?"

"I am drawn to you, Eve. I know that you are what I want."

"What does that even mean?"

"I want to be with you."

"And then?"

Villanelle lifts her hand and stills the motion of her caress with a loose, warm hold around her wrist. Her gaze is searching, soft and plaintive.

"Why isn’t that enough?"

The question strikes her like a punch to the chest, and Eve swallows around the thick mess of emotions that bubble up inside of her. Because you murdered Bill, she wants to say. Because you manipulated me and shot me in the back, she wants to say. Because you are capable of evil and dangerous things and I am afraid to be okay with that, she wants to say. Because I am afraid of admitting what I want, she wants to say, and because I am afraid of not wanting to return to who I was before I met you.

She says none of this and all of this when she closes the distance between them to press her lips soundly against Villanelle's.

At first, Villanelle is too shocked to do anything, but it only takes a moment before she catches up and reciprocates. She makes a small noise of surprise and her lips are soft, her hands even softer. The kiss deepens and she moves to cradle Eve's face, to smooth her hair, to brush her fingers over the growing heat on her neck and shoulders. Villanelle's mouth is warm and her touch is somehow both eager and hesitant, filled with a halting adoration that digs into the marrow of Eve's bones. She finds herself being pulled closer and when Villanelle wraps an arm around her, their bodies fit like pieces built to carry one another.

When they finally break for air, Eve's cheeks are flushed and Villanelle's pupils are blown and almost black. Villanelle brushes away a curl of Eve's hair from her eyes and stares at her in wonder. Eve shuts her eyes and leans into the touch, gripped with a sudden nervousness.

"...I think I want to be with you too, as crazy as that sounds." She sighs shakily. "And maybe that's enough. For now, at least."

Villanelle nods and tenderly brushes over Eve's jaw.

"Okay. I can work with that."

Eve gives her a wry smile before returning to the warmth of her body. Close to Villanelle, she finds that sleep comes easily and that the dreams pass her by, silent and painless.

 




When Eve wakes, the bed is empty and the sun is still low in the sky.

She can hear the sound of someone moving quickly towards her room and she sits up groggily, wondering if she’s about to be greeted by an angry MI6 agent or an assassin from The Twelve. Villanelle pokes her head through the door, fully dressed and carrying a duffel bag.

“Good morning, Eve. No nightmares?”

She slumps in relief at the familiar face and rubs at her eyes.

“No nightmares. God, how are you so awake and chipper?”

Villanelle grins and throws her an apple that Eve just barely catches.

“We are having breakfast on the go. I have packed everything in the car, so take what you need from this room and then we are out of here.”

Eve cant help but notice the new vitality that colors Villanelle’s cheeks or the radiant energy she seems to exude. She manages a smile in return, still feeling tired but filled with her own quiet warmth and calm.

Packing is swift and orderly as she only needs to bring the clothes that Villanelle bought her. She washes up and brushes her teeth quickly before heading outside and Villanelle greets her with a thermos of tea. She takes a long sip and finds it to be perfectly to her liking. Eve stands by the house and stares at the road up ahead while Villanelle starts up the car. The sky isn’t light yet and is covered mostly in a tinted blue with swirls of pink. Villanelle comes to stand beside her and watches her carefully.

“Are you ready?”

Eve turns towards her and takes in the wide, clear, and open expression on her face. Her lips curve into a small smile as she takes a big bite of her apple. It is crisp and sweet, perfectly ripe. She swallows, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.

“Yes. I’m ready.”

When they climb into the car, they drive to chase the sun. They follow its path across the country and as it settles higher and higher into the sky, Eve lets herself soar.