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don't call me lover (it's not enough)

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She shouldn’t be surprised by the sound of heaving breaths that appear next to her as the train begins to move. She should be even less surprised when the other woman sits down next to her, heavy limbs collapsing into the seat followed by a long, drawn out sigh. And yet, despite everything, Villanelle can’t help but feel a certain shock to her system when Eve’s scent finally reaches her senses.

They have to stop meeting like this.

For now, Villanelle isn’t able to devote a second of time to thinking about Dasha or Konstantin or Hélène. She can’t afford to do anything other than get as far away as possible from the multiple messes of her own making. So she takes a breath, looking out at the myriad of people rushing for their own trains, their own lives, as they cast wary glances to the fallen man on the platform. He’s too stubborn to die, she tells herself, and she says it on repeat until the train is out of the station entirely.

It’s silent for a moment until the words Villanelle’s been avoiding spill out of her mouth.

“I killed my mother,” she says.

For her part, Eve’s sharp intake of breath is covered by the sound of the railway, and although Villanelle feels lighter for saying it, she also feels naked; vulnerable in a way she hasn’t been with Eve before. Because what’s there to hide behind when you kill out of emotion instead of necessity?

She’s not sure if she wants Eve to be proud or appalled by this confession; if she wants to be scolded or praised or pushed away. The odd combination of guilt and relief that has followed her since that night sits low in her belly, and for once she wants someone to look her in the eye and tell her what she wants to hear. You had no choice. She deserved it. She wasn’t a good person. None of them are good people. But as time goes on, she is becoming less and less convinced of that fact, convinced only that she doesn’t want to have to kill again.

“How?” Eve asks, because of course Eve would want to know the how and not the why. “How did you do it?”

It occurs to Villanelle that if she and Eve were normal people, this conversation would go a lot differently. For one, it probably wouldn’t be about murder. It would be about whatever movie they saw at the cinema last night, or whose boss was being a complete tool, or what they should have for dinner (although that line of questioning didn’t go so well last time). There’s that familiar pang in her chest when she thinks of the normalcy she craves but can never have. How laughable it is to even wish for it.

“I put my hands around her throat,” she replies flatly. “And then I lit the whole fucking house on fire.”

At this, Eve’s hand reaches out to connect softly with her cheek, and it only takes the sensation of Eve’s fingertips on her skin to make Villanelle’s entire face heat up. In many ways, she feels like a child who’s just fallen and skinned their knee. A dull ache that registers in her subconscious followed by the shame of allowing herself to feel anything at all. But when Eve looks at her, she isn’t made to feel like the beautiful monster Hélène seems to believe she is. Isn’t reduced to the remorseless killer Dasha claims her to be.

Something about Eve opens her up, makes her insides buzz underneath her skin. Like her body longs to finally break open; a guttural, mind numbing scream existing only seconds from her lips. Because when Eve looks at her, it’s clear she doesn’t see a monster or a machine. Eve recognizes Villanelle’s rare combination of grief, regret and relief and she reflects it with her own eyes, feeling it so strongly that her eyes begin welling with tears. And soon, Villanelle can’t help but surrender to the same emotions herself.

“I’m so tired,” Villanelle says, and with the words she begins to blubber like a dumb baby. Eyes hazy with tears and cheeks pink, her eyes rise to meet Eve’s. “Oh,” her voice shakes, cracks in the middle as she sees Eve’s eyes looking into her, and she gasps for breath through her stuffy nose. A man a few seats ahead of them regards her pityingly, and she closes her eyes against his gaze; squeezes Eve’s forearm where it rests flush against her side. “Eve, I don’t want to do this anymore,” she finally breathes.

“I know.” Eve nods, hand tight on her thigh, and Villanelle believes her more than anyone. “I know.”

She wonders how it is that Eve knows. Wonders how, despite the death and the deception and the games, that Eve is the only one who cares enough to try to understand. Briefly, Villanelle wonders if she’s being set up. If there’s going to be something or someone waiting for her at the next stop. But then:

“So,” Eve says. “What now?”

Villanelle leans back and lets out a sigh, watches the lights of the city recede into the distance. She savors Eve’s warmth, wishes it would stay even though she knows there’s no way it will. The two of them don’t seem built for a happy ending. Still, doesn’t mean it’s not worth a try.

“Let me take you away from here.”

 


 

“So, tell me, Eve Polastri. Why did you come after me?”

They’re at a small Italian restaurant Villanelle isn’t sure is up to code. Even so, she’s still polished off two servings of ravioli and a glass of wine. The whole thing isn’t exactly what she’d pictured for their first date (it’s missing both the bear skin rug and the fireplace), but for now this will have to do.

“Honestly?” Eve asks, stuffing another piece of bread into her mouth. “I was worried about you.”

“Worried about me?” she scoffs. “Eve, please. I shot you.”

“And I stabbed you,” Eve can’t help herself from reaching over to sop up the rest of Villanelle’s marinara. “Touché. Literally.

Villanelle pushes her plate towards Eve so she can have the rest, which Eve greedily accepts. She sips her wine as she observes the delicate balance of the sauce to bread ratio. “Why worry? About me, I mean. I take care of myself.”

“Because I know you––or, know your MO––and something’s been off.” Eve’s forehead scrunches adorably, a wrinkle Villanelle finds herself wishing she could smooth, run between her palms until it was warm enough to melt. “Hasn’t it? Been off? Ever since you copied the chalk kill, I could tell. And what you said on the train...”

The grip of embarrassment from her breakdown still holds part of Villanelle’s stomach in a death grip. Because of course Eve knows about Dasha, and of course she knows about every other mistake she’s made since Rome. And now that she knows about Tatiana, her case file must be overflowing, the perfect thing to take back to MI6 like a dog with a bone.

“And anyway, after everything with Niko...” Eve trails off with a shrug, wiping her mouth with a napkin.

Villanelle’s face contorts with disgust, and she barely refrains from miming a finger down her throat.  “Ugh, what did rat boy do now?”

“Nothing, he, um...in Poland?” Eve gives her a leading look that she doesn’t follow. “Pitchfork to the, uh,” she draws her finger across her throat in a way that makes Villanelle’s eyes widen comically.

She has questions, of course, but interestingly her first response is only a soft, “Eve, you know I didn’t––”

Eve waves a hand in front of herself. “I know. I know you wouldn’t. Doesn’t mean Dasha didn’t try.” She clears her throat and motions to the waiter for the check. It’ll have to be paid in cash. “He’s still alive, by the way. Can’t speak, but can say enough to tell me to fuck off, so at least it was a clean break.”

Villanelle can’t help but chuckle over her glass of wine, and surprisingly Eve joins in. It’s odd, she thinks, that all of this has the potential to feel so normal, so close to what she’s always wanted but hasn’t been allowed. Dinner, conversation, mutual understanding, the sexy undercurrent of violence and possible betrayal. Not to mention the way that Eve’s tongue darts out to wet her lips as she calculates the tip.

It’s in this moment that she wants to tell Eve that she meant it when she said she was done. That she really does want to disappear. That she has no interest in taking down The Twelve, no desire to take on any other hits, no matter how much of a vendetta the other woman may have. Most of all, no matter what, she wants Eve to know that she’s not her captive.

But now’s not the time, so instead she says the only thing she can think of that’s true.

“God, I’m tired.”

 


 

The desk clerk at the hotel watches them talk to each other like it’s a tennis match, eyes flitting back and forth so he doesn’t miss anything. All he wanted to know was whether they wanted one room or two, but instead they’ve been verbally sparring for the better half of five minutes. 

He really doesn’t get paid enough for this.

“Well? Are you going to arrest me?” Villanelle asks Eve. “Because if not, I do not see why one room is a problem.”

“I don’t know, are you going to kill me?” Eve fires back with a raised eyebrow. “Because if so, two rooms might give me a running start.”

“HA!” Villanelle laughs so loudly that the sound bounces off the walls of the empty lobby. She clears her throat, looking to the clerk like they’re old college buddies. “Somebody’s in the dog house, am I right?” She says in her best baritone as she slides some cash across the counter. “Just the one.”

Eve’s already on her way upstairs by the time Villanelle gets the key.

“Just to be clear,” Villanelle says, catching up to her two steps at a time. “I am still pissed about Rome.”

Eve scoffs. “ You’re pissed? Please, let’s not forget who left who for dead.”

“Hmm, acting as if you didn’t write the book on how to surprise your lover with a deadly injury, I see,” Villanelle jokes. “Tell me, Eve, what was I supposed to do?”

“Not shoot me, for one.”

“NoT sHoOt me, fOr oNe,” Villanelle mimics, following close behind as Eve looks for Room 27. She leans forward to speak, lips grazing the shell of Eve’s ear. “And d not even get me started on the bus.”

“Jesus, here it goes with the bus,” Eve covers her shiver with a groan. “ You’re the one who got onto my bus in the first place!”

They reach their room, but Villanelle steps in front of Eve before she can unlock the door. She tries not to get distracted as they stand nose to nose. “And you’re the one who kissed me.”

Eve can only bring herself to hold eye contact for a moment before sidestepping her and somehow getting the door unlocked. “You broke into my apartment.” 

A passable change of subject, but Villanelle would give it a 4/10 for lack of style. She puts her hands in her pockets and exhales a curt laugh. “Please, you loved it. And who cares? That place was a shithole. You can do so much better.”

Eve motions around the room once they step into it. “Clearly,” she says. Looking around, Villanelle doesn’t feel like she’ll contract a disease, necessarily, but she also wouldn’t put it past the linens to contain fluids that would show up under a black light.

As the door closes behind them, they fall into a comfortable silence. Eve lets out a sigh that makes her shoulders visibly lower as she peels off her coat. The tension seems to leave her body as she turns on the light in the adjoining bathroom, and Villanelle can’t help but like that Eve feels safe enough to relax with her.

“I’m sorry,” Villanelle admits into the quiet, and the for everything is silent. She’s not even sure if Eve can hear it from the next room, and she wants to say more, but nothing feels right; nothing quite covers it. She hopes it’s enough and yet knows it isn’t, but at least it’s out there. 

God, how she wishes she could go back to not caring about apologies or body counts or little brothers.

Eve, fussing with her hair in the bathroom mirror, turns her head just enough to see Villanelle out of the corner of her eye. “Me, too,” she replies.

And somehow, that’s that.

 


 

“I killed Dasha,” Villanelle says into the dark. “Did you see?”

They’re both lying on their backs on top of the covers, looking at the ceiling, and it makes Eve think about Paris. The split second before everything went to shit, when the feeling in her gut hadn’t yet turned to hate or panic or revenge. Just a hopeful curiosity. 

I’ve never done anything like this before.

“I saw,” Eve replies, hands behind her head. She remembers the bruise that had spread across Dasha’s skull, the delicious sound of ribs giving way under her boot. “She was still alive when I got there.”

She can hear Villanelle’s breath catch. “What do you mean?”

“She was on the ground, conscious, just...laughing,” Eve feels herself smiling and she can’t bring herself to stop. “Jesus, it felt good.”

“What did?”

Eve’s voice turns to poison, suddenly deep and reverberating. “After everything she did to Niko, the way she talked about you, treated you…   I get it now, Villanelle, I do.” The giddiness rolls off of her in waves. “I mean, god,” she continues. “The way the life just oozed out of her. Her eyes turned to glass. It was almost like––”

“Stop.” Villanelle says, closing her eyes as tight as she can. Her hands ball up into fists at her sides. “Stop it.”

The air around them shifts, suddenly suffocating, and Eve falls back into her pillow. It’s like coming down from a high to see what you had done, the feeling of shame seeping in at the edges. “Sorry, I guess I thought you wanted...” she pauses, turning over the words in her brain. “I mean, in Rome, you were so excited when I–”

“There were a lot of things I wanted then,” Villanelle says, voice small as her heart beats in her ears.

The unsaid lays between them in the empty space until Villanelle shines a light on it.

“I don’t want you to be like me,” she says, and her voice is all but pleading, a tone Eve has never heard from her before. “ I don’t even want to be like me. Not anymore.”

A car alarm sounds somewhere on the street below. “Who do you want to be?” Eve asks quietly, angling her body ever so slightly toward her.

That’s the problem , Villanelle thinks. 

She doesn’t know.

 


 

She wakes up in the middle of the night to her bicep screaming in pain, the stab wound she got in Romania practically pulsating. It’s not the worst pain she’s ever been in, but it sets her teeth on edge as she tiptoes to the bathroom trying not to wake Eve, who’s perched perfectly on her side of the bed, both hands underneath her head as she sleeps.

Villanelle quietly shuts the door and grabs a towel, holding it under the faucet. She hopes the cold water will numb it just enough to substitute for the pain pills Dasha had taken from her luggage in Scotland.

Cutting you off, my little cupcake. Pain does body good.

Her mind wanders to earlier, a version of Eve she had thought she wanted so badly. The way her voice had lowered callously, dangerously, as she talked about what she had done. A pride in something not worth being proud of, a feeling Villanelle was much too familiar with. 

What she wasn’t expecting was to miss Eve’s goodness, her moral compass, her annoying, goody two-shoes sense of right and wrong. As the water runs, she wonders if it’s her own fault it disappeared, if what happened in Rome changed Eve on a basal level. If the old version will ever exist again––if it ever existed in the first place or just existed to cover this version up.

A knock sounds at the door, and it startles her so badly she jumps, drops the towel.

“Hey,” Eve says gently through the wood. “You okay?” 

The voice she uses now is so different from the one she had spoken about Dasha with earlier. Now, there’s no cutting tongue or giddy darkness. Just a caring question in the middle of the night. 

Villanelle clears her throat. “Hunky dory!” A lie.

“Can I get you anything?”

“Nope.” She pops the ‘p’ loudly. Another lie.

“Villanelle, let me in,” Eve insists, turning the door knob to no avail.

“Uh, hello? I’m taking a shit!” Villanelle yells back, gripping the edge of the sink so hard her knuckles begin to pale. “A big one!”

“Oksana, please.” Eve tries again, and the softness of her voice is like a blanket Villanelle never wants to be without. She closes her eyes to it before the yearning for warmth is too much to bear, and she unlocks the door.

“You can’t just call me Oksana whenever you want something from me,” she tells Eve as the other woman makes her way in. “It’s manipulative.”

“It worked, didn’t it?” Eve stands with her hands on her hips, beautiful hair mussed and a strap from her camisole hung deliciously off one shoulder. Villanelle is so distracted that she misses the next thing Eve says entirely.

“I said I’m sorry,” Eve repeats. “For earlier. I…” she trails off, sitting down on the closed toilet seat. She puts her head in her hands and sighs. “God, I don’t know what’s happening to me.”

Eve seems smaller than Villanelle can remember her ever being, and it suddenly occurs to her that just as she feels the pull towards light, Eve must be feeling a push in the opposite direction. Good to know their flair for the poetic is still intact after everything that’s happened.

She finds herself moving to kneel in front of Eve, putting her hands flat on top of the other woman’s thighs, warm and present. “You are still good, Eve. One of the best I know.”

“You hang out with murderers and thieves, I don’t know if that’s the biggest compliment,” Eve mumbles into her hands.

“Hey, fuck you!” Villanelle says, cracking a smile. “I’m trying to do the whole comforting thing here. Forgive me if they didn’t teach it in juvie.”

This makes Eve laugh. A small thing, at first, that soon makes her shoulders shake with a full belly laugh, eyes crinkling at the corners. Villanelle finds herself enamored by the sound of it, the way it makes her forget about the pain; not just the one in her arm, either, but all of it.

As the laughter peters off, Eve finally notices Villanelle’s wound, red and angry and haphazardly stitched together. She reaches out to touch––just a light graze that makes Villanelle suck in a sharp breath despite her best efforts. It really does hurt like a bitch.

“What happened?” Eve asks.

“Some dumb asshole,” is all Villanelle can think to give as explanation. The embarrassment of failing on a mission is still fresh.

“Does it hurt?” Eve presses down on it again impulsively, hard enough to make Villanelle slap at her hand.

“It does when you fucking poke at it!”

Eve ignores her and stands, rummaging through the cabinets under the sink to no luck. “One second,” she says on her way out of the room. “I think there’s a kit by the phone.” 

She comes back with what Villanelle believes is the tiniest first aid kit she’s ever seen. It could be a world record, even, but Eve acts like it’s her answer to professional medical care. At this point, maybe it is.

“It’s not much, but it’ll help,” Eve tells her, gently smoothing on an antibiotic gel. She blows on it after it’s applied, and the coolness of it is shocking, sending a shiver down Villanelle’s spine and, pleasantly, straight into her lower belly.

Eve lays a bandage on, being careful not to jostle Villanelle’s arm, and follows it with a quick press of the lips that’s gone almost as soon as it appears. Villanelle wonders if Eve even notices she’s done it.

“Better?” Eve asks.

Villanelle’s eyes are wide, dumbfounded, and she nods. “Yeah, better.”

Eve turns to walk back to the bedroom, but doesn’t get far before Villanelle spins her around with two hands to Eve’s hips. Bodies flush against each other, there’s a pause before she presses their lips together, a moment of clarity so strong that Villanelle unintentionally squeezes where her hands lie on Eve’s flesh hard enough that Eve lets out a quiet moan. It’ll probably leave a bruise, but Villanelle isn’t paying much attention to the pressure. Rather, she’s watching the way Eve’s pupils grow, how her mouth parts, the way her breath is stilted as it flows in and out.

As she finally leans in, Eve’s lips meeting her own greedily, Villanelle already knows there’s no going back.

 


 

They fuck, and it’s an odd combination of rough and tender. A hard bite soothed with a swipe of the tongue, a sharp pull of the hair following a kiss to the cheek. Villanelle overly enjoys giving and taking away, denying until Eve can’t stand it anymore, because it’s only then that she unravels in front of her.

Each time it happens, Villanelle breathes it in. She lets it settle in her lungs and decides that this feeling is more dangerous than The Twelve could ever be. What’s worse, she can’t help but want even more. So much for getting it out of her system.

Afterward, she lays on Eve’s chest, runs her fingers over the scar the bullet left behind, thinks about the one Eve gave her to match. Funny how her own wedding ring, for as short of a time as she wore it, didn’t feel nearly as binding as a pair of matching scars.

Eve’s hand moves to cover Villanelle’s own scar from Paris. “Never again,” says drowsily from underneath her, a subtle promise to do no more harm. To be honest, it’s as much of a vow as Villanelle could ever hope for.

Villanelle kisses the soft skin of Eve’s stomach, glances at the sun peeking through the curtains. “No,” she says. “Never.”

They watch movies, drink wine, throw popcorn at each other during nonsense fights about whether or not La La Land is actually a decent film. Teenagers , Eve calls them one night when they’re up late riding high on afterglow and junk food. Villanelle just sprays Redi Whip directly into her mouth and laughs so hard it almost comes out of her nose. She doesn’t know about Eve, but she’s certainly never felt like this. Especially when she was a teenager.

They keep moving around, but they take their time, making their way to a question mark of a destination that they hardly know if they’ll actually reach. Even so, they still hold hands when they go for morning walks; share winks over the top of their overpriced cappuccinos; laugh at the way their naked bodies fit together at night and sigh contentedly every morning in the warmth of shared showers.

They begin to talk about everything. About Eve’s childhood and the emotional struggle of looking different from everyone else in her neighborhood. About Villanelle’s abusers, the men who took advantage of her, tortured her, and were rightfully punished for doing so. They talk about Eve’s marriage, about Villanelle’s, about the mutual want for normalcy in a world that doesn’t feel built for them.

They talk about Bill and Anna. Tatiana and Niko. Kenny and Konstantin. About everyone it hurts to talk about. And, soon, there’s nothing else to tell.

Nothing except how this can’t last forever. But neither one of them brings it up.

 


 

As weeks turn to months, Villanelle can’t help but notice Eve’s restlessness. The tension in her shoulders begins to creep back in, and no matter how many sexy massages Villanelle offers, it doesn’t seem to go away. Eve’s eyes dart around uneasily whenever they go out and become empty and unfocused when they stay in. She’s hard to reach, easy to annoy, and less likely to laugh when Villanelle does her spot-on Marianne Williamson impression.

They’ve been in Brazil for a couple weeks when The Fight happens. They’re in their beachside rental when some inconsequential thing Eve says finally sets Villanelle off. Dumb as it is, it makes her begin packing Eve’s bag like a scorned wife who just found out her husband was cheating on her.

“If you want to leave so bad then pack your bags, Polastri.” She crumples Eve’s swimsuit into a ball and throws it into a pile with the rest of her clothes.

“What the hell are you even doing?” Eve asks, having the gall to be surprised. Villanelle wants to smack her across her dumb beautiful face.

Villanelle turns to her and pokes her once, hard, in the chest. “You’re clearly not content to keep running, Eve. If I know that, then why don’t you?”

“Oh, please,” Eve says, picking up each piece of clothing as Villanelle tosses them. “Just because I haven’t been acting exactly how you want you’re suddenly acting out an episode of Friends ?”

“That’s not fair, Eve. If I’m acting out anything it would be Living Single because it is superior and you know that.” Despite the rapport, Villanelle can feel her face heating up like she’s about to cry, and nothing has annoyed her over the past few months more than an entire range of emotions popping up seemingly out of nowhere. “You’ve been distant for weeks, don’t make me feel like I’m being crazy. I am not crazy.”

Villanelle doesn’t want to cry about this, but her eyes sting like it’s about to happen any minute. It makes her feel like a baby, draws attention to her youngness in a way that makes her want to scream. Stupid Eve and her stupid face and voice and body and brain.

“Admit it, you don’t want this like I do.” She tries to say it with an edge and fails, and she hates herself for losing what used to make Eve fear her. “It’s just like in Rome. I’m not enough for you.”

“What? You are enough!” Eve defends. “But listen, people have died for this, Oksana. People I’ve loved are dead or hurt and I cannot, in good conscience, let them rot in the ground while I watch another movie and lay on the beach.”

Villanelle stops what she’s doing, crosses her arms. “I thought you liked watching movies.

“Wh--I do like watching movies,” Eve pinches the bridge of her nose. “That’s not the point. The point is, things have to be finished. Justice has to be served. And once things are resolved, we can––”

“You are such a joke.” Villanelle giggles, bending at the waist with her hands on her knees. “Are you Tom Cruise now? You’re going to fly helicopters and shoot down the bad guys?” She crosses the room to open the window, yelling at the ocean. “Watch out world, Polastri’s on the loose!”

Eve grabs her by the arm, turning her around and grabbing her face in a single hand, almost like her mother did the night she killed her. Eve’s fingertips dig in just enough to make it uncomfortable, and the intensity of her eyes makes Villanelle nauseous and aroused at the same time. “Just because you don’t want to clean up this mess doesn’t mean it can stay dirty.”

She lets go, leaving pink dots as evidence along Villanelle’s jawline, and at least she has the decency to look a bit guilty about it before she takes a step back. Evil Eve, as Villanelle has taken to calling her alter ego, can appear suddenly and out of nowhere, whether through action or just a look in her eye. She’d be lying if she said she wasn’t intrigued by it. Worried, of course. A little turned on, obviously. But up until now, she hasn’t been on the receiving end of her sudden rage.

“So, what?” Villanelle shrugs, trying to appear unaffected. “You leave me here, hope not to get killed in the process, and if you come back we have to see each other in secret while you’re MI6’s new golden boy?” The shake Villanelle hears in her own voice is nauseating. “I’m happy, Eve. For the first time in my life, I am happy.”

“And I’m happy you’re happy,” Eve tells her, and it’s covered in well meaning condescension. “But I can’t be happy until the people responsible are held accountable.”

“Is that what you call this? Fucking me?” Villanelle feels a new, sudden strength, and it makes her stand up straighter as she moves to stand toe to toe with Eve. “Is this you holding me accountable, Eve?” She can’t stop herself from reaching out to grab Eve by the belt loos, pulling her closer as she puts both hands on Eve’s hips, lips to her neck.

“Don’t,” Eve says firmly, angrily, and she pushes her away.

Villanelle’s arms drop to her sides, and it only takes a second for the realization to hit her. “You want me to be angry at you.”

Eve shakes her head, moving to fold the clothes on the floor just to keep her hands busy. “Don’t be stupid.”

“You are too much of a coward to leave on your own, you want me to do it for you?” The anger is back and it’s familiar, the only thing that’s keeping her voice firm and unforgiving. “No, Eve. I won’t. If you want to leave, you’re going to have to do it yourself like a fucking grown up.”

Eve calls after her, but by then it’s too late. Villanelle’s already grabbed her bag and is walking out into the afternoon sun.

 


 

Villanelle can feel eyes on the back of her head as she walks down the private beach by their house, and she almost instantly knows it’s Rhian. 

It’s dusk, and she’s on her way back inside after spending a few hours avoiding Eve. She had just meant to cool off and worry Eve in the process, but she hadn’t considered the possibility of an ambush. Not that she’s scared. After all, it’s not like this tiny little munchkin girl could actually fight her and win. In fact, Villanelle would like to see her try. She reaches into her beach bag to find the knife she carries with her––a single throw is all she needs––but the more she searches the more frantic she becomes. Had she forgotten it at the house?

The rustling of a windbreaker sounds behind her, and Villanelle turns just as Rhian closes the distance. Before she’s able to ready herself, Rhian’s fist connects with her stomach, knocking the wind out of her with a heavy whoosh . Doubled over, she relies on muscle memory just enough to grab for the girl’s arm, bringing it around and twisting it effectively. The crunch sends a familiar shiver down Villanelle’s spine.

She’s able to deliver a solid blow to Rhian’s jaw, knocking her backwards as she grabs her by the lapels and pushes her to the ground. They tossel in the sand, inching closer and closer to the tide, and Villanelle realizes her left eye must have gotten sand in it; she can barely see through the sting. Distracted, she greatly miscalculates how fast the dark haired weasel is, because before she knows it, Rhian’s behind her with a piano wire pulled tight around her neck. 

Shit.

The wire tightens, incapacitating her as her air supply is cut off completely, and she can feel the moment when the skin of her neck breaks where the wire pulls. The edges of her vision darken as Rhian gives her a hard kick to the back of the knees, making her fall to a kneel in the wet sand. Water soaks through her pants, the ocean all she can see as she tries and fails to loosen the wire around her neck with her fingers. Her throat is on fire, windpipe being crushed by the pressure, skin being sliced by the sharpness of it, and she’s not sure she would scream even if she could. 

Because it’s here, facing the endless ocean, that it seems to be the perfect end. Kneeling on the edge of chaos, nothing left, with the tide ready to take her away. Body beginning to convulse, Villanelle peacefully drops her arms to her sides.

Suddenly, Rhian goes lax behind her and the wire clumsily catches against the indentation in Villanelle’s neck before falling to the ground. Villanelle can’t help but follow it, falling face forward into the wet sand. Almost immediately, the tide comes in, covering her nose and mouth, and she starts swallowing cold salt water into her already burning lungs. She’s stuck, unable to summon the strength to pull herself out of the water, and so it coats her raw throat as she struggles not to get caught in the next wave.

Behind her, a metal clang sounds one, two, three, then too many times for her to count. She keeps focusing on the tide as she gets her bearings back and the darkness recedes. It takes everything she has, but she flips onto her back, looking up at the sky.

“Villanelle! Villanelle, honey, can you hear me?” Eve’s voice is hoarse from above her, almost raw, as if she’s been yelling. She quickly drops to her knees, bending to gather Villanelle safely into her lap. Through squinted eyes, Villanelle can see that Eve’s face is covered in a deep, dripping red. It’s in the ends of her hair, splattered across her eyelids, some even in her teeth. She keeps saying something, over and over again, but Villanelle can’t hear it over the sound of the waves.

Eve touches Villanelle’s forehead, her cheeks, her lips, the deep wound around her throat, leaving a path of what must be Rhian’s blood wherever she lays her fingers. Villanelle can barely make out Rhian’s body a few feet away, now bloodied, unrecognizable and nightmarish. She’s practically nothing but brain matter on dry sand, and next to her lies a tire iron from the used truck they’d bought on their first day here.

“You’re okay,” Eve says into her ear, rocking them both with a kiss to her temple as punctuation. “You’re okay.”

They’re both soaked in blood and sweat and salt water, and only as Villanelle weakly reaches up to wipe the blood from Eve’s cheek do they both begin to cry silently.

Because this is it. The beginning of the end.

 


 

Eve helps Villanelle to a patch of tall grass to lay down, hidden from view and safe from the water. The sun sets and the beach settles into darkness as she begins to clean up, kicking at the sand to distribute the mess she created, and she chucks the tire iron as far as she can into the ocean. She comes back to check on Villanelle, brushing the hair out of her face tenderly before making a beeline to the house. She grabs bed sheets, rope, and the heaviest things she can find, stuffing them into a bag before getting a blanket and bottle of water for Villanelle. Looking out the window toward the beach, Eve gets a flash to an hour ago, the image of it taking up her senses.

Watching Villanelle be all but beheaded right in front of her won’t be something Eve soon forgets.

“You’re going to sink her?” Villanelle asks when she gets back to the beach, although no sound comes out of her mouth, not even a whisper. Her vocal cords are absolutely fucked. “Gutsy,” she tries to tease, but the edge of it is lost as she begins to tremble. The shock has set in.

Eve lifts Villanelle’s head to help her drink, but most of the water overflows and drips down her cheeks. She can’t even swallow, and Eve tries not to panic at the realization. “It’s our only choice. Someone else will be coming soon, and they can’t know Rhian’s dead until we’re gone,” Eve tells her gently, trying to keep calm. She covers Villanelle in the blanket she brought from the house. “The tides will carry her back here in no time, but it’ll at least buy us a head start. Okay?”

Villanelle nods, though Eve would be surprised if anything she’s saying is truly connecting. The girl is brutally injured, tired and dehydrated, and Eve worries about her breathing if she were to fall asleep. Her left eye is red and weepy, the laceration around her neck swollen and bleeding (not to mention what her larynx must look like), and Eve tries to think of a plan to get her medical attention. A tiny first aid kid wouldn’t be able to solve this no matter how hard she tried.

One thing at a time, she tells herself, and she allows herself a single deep breath before reaching out to run her fingers over Villanelle’s cheek. “Baby,” she says forcefully, trying to catch her attention. “You need to stay awake. Can you find the Big Dipper for me?” She points to the night sky above, full of stars.

This makes Villanelle crack as much of a grin as she can muster. Weeks ago they’d been on this very beach, fighting about the location of different constellations, before realizing everything was different in the Southern Hemisphere. “Duh, Eve. I mean, really? Get it right, doofus,” Villanelle had teased her, as if she had known the whole time. Eve had rolled her eyes and kissed her palm, told her to shut up. Now, Eve wonders if she’ll ever hear Villanelle’s voice again.

Eve stands to take care of the body, and while she struggles doing the heavy lifting herself, she manages. The clothes she’s wearing, once a pair of blue jeans and a grey tank top, are now utterly soiled from head to toe. They would need to be burned. Her curls are plastered to her forehead, face still sticky from residual blood splatter, and her eyes have calmed into a neutral expression she used to wear when she was focusing on cooking or crafting or reading. Her hands are steady as she ties the ropes to the body, the weights to the ropes, mind blank save for making sure she turns to check on Villanelle every few minutes. Sure enough, she’s there, quietly staring at the sky.

The whole thing had all happened so fast. She’d noticed Rhian on the beach almost as soon as Villanelle had, but by the time she grabbed a weapon and gotten to them, Villanelle was already on her knees, pale and lifeless. Eve had been so overcome with anger, blinded with rage, that Rhian hadn’t stood a chance. The first blow killed her instantly, but Eve couldn’t bring herself to stop until the twelfth.

Soon, the space around them looks undisturbed, save for Rhian’s body, neatly wrapped and weighted. By the time it comes to move it, Villanelle has rested enough that she can help Eve carry it to the car (with a few breaks, admittedly). They do it in silence, save for a single, “Are you sure you can––” from Eve, which Villanelle answers with a quick, harsh glare. Good to know her pride is still intact. 

As they drive up the coast, Villanelle grows more and more nauseous, the motion of the car making her panic at the idea of puking. She doesn’t even want to imagine how painful vomiting would be.

Twenty minutes later, they’re on top of a nearby cliff they had hiked to last Saturday. Luckily, the path is big enough that they can manage it in their ancient Ford, and soon they’re on the top carrying Rhian to the edge. With a single shove she’s gone over the side, an inaudible splash following meters below.

The wind kicks up, and Eve shivers, finally able to feel the temperature now that the adrenaline is on its last legs. Her limbs ache from swinging the tire iron, and her throat is raw from the way she had screamed. Remembering it now, she can see Rhian’s face as she turned around just before the first blow. Such a little girl, brainwashed just like Villanelle had been, and Eve’s heart aches because she knows she would do it again in a hundred different ways.

Villanelle stumbles on the way back to the car, and Eve moves to help carry her weight. Their cheeks touch, briefly, and Eve can feel the heat radiating off of her. Somewhere along the line, she’s developed a pretty nasty fever.

Once she’s lowered Villanelle into the passenger seat, Eve reaches out to her, cupping her cheek tenderly, as if she might break. She knows what has to happen next, has had it mapped out since she was cleaning up the murder scene. 

She’ll go back to the house, leave Villanelle in the car while she packs away their essentials, rinses off, finds a doctor, and then...

She doesn’t want to think about it.

 


 

Villanelle’s larynx isn’t fractured, but it’s close. There’s an American doctor on holiday with his twentysomething wife just down the road from their place, and luckily Eve had befriended them when they’d first arrived. She’d quickly bonded with Eric over what he’d dubbed ‘The Young Wives Club’, and while they hadn’t spent any long period of time together, they always seemed friendly when they’d crossed paths (although Villanelle had always imitated Chrissy, his wife, particularly harshly whenever they were in private, but she insisted it was just to practice her accents). 

Eric is shocked to see the state of them when he opens the door. Eve’s hair sopping wet from her seconds-long shower and Villanelle placid and pale, a stark red line circling her neck as Eve practically carries her inside. Upon explanation and examination, Eric tells Eve that Villanelle has what looks to be a paralytic vocal cord caused by the attack that, although treatable, is pretty well catastrophic.

“She’ll need tests, Eve. Real ones, in a hospital,” he tells her, handing her a glass of water as they talk quietly in the kitchen. Villanelle rests by the fireplace, no doubt enjoying the pain meds Eric was able to give her. “Possibly surgery, definitely speech therapy. She’s lucky to be alive, but it’s a long road from here.”

“Thank you,” Eve tells him, and she’s reminded briefly of that night she got on the train, of Villanelle telling her she was done with everything. That she was tired. The girl’s entire life had been stolen by people using her to their own advantage, and now they’d stolen her fucking voice as a parting gift. Eve grits her teeth against the wave of anger and packs it away, saving it for later.

Eric tries to ask more questions, but Eve quickly brushes him off, gathering Villanelle into her arms so she can help her to the car. Before they leave, Eve tells Eric it’s probably wise if he and Chrissy leave tonight, too. He looks confused, but Eve reiterates, probably too forcefully, that he needs to get the hell out of dodge. She prays he does.

Soon enough, her and Villanelle are back in the car, sitting in the parking lot of a gas station in the middle of nowhere. Eve rolls her new burner phone around in her hand, debating on whether or not she should make the call. Looking at Villanelle, though, lungs wheezing and breath catching in her throat as she sleeps fitfully in the passenger seat, she knows she really doesn’t have a choice.

 


 

You sold me out. The black marker squeaks across the mini whiteboard, and Villanelle presses down as hard as she can to draw out the noise, ruining the tip in the process. This isn’t the first marker she’s broken, and the nursing staff is beginning to get annoyed.

“I didn’t have a choice,” Eve persists. “Just because you don’t remember that night doesn’t mean I don't. I did what I had to do.”

By subjecting me to torture? Villanelle writes.

Eve scoffs, leaning back in the chair next to Villanelle’s hospital bed. They’re in a private room with a decent view, something Eve had made sure of. “This is hardly torture, Villanelle. They’ve been very understanding.”

They’ve been two-faced rats :)

“Look,” Eve replies, putting a hand on Villanelle’s forearm. “Whether or not you think I sold you out is beside the point. You can think what you want. But the fact of the matter is that they’ve given you the care and protection you need in return for information.”

Truth is, Eve is worried about the terms she had struck with Carolyn too. As far as she knows, Carolyn is the only one who knows anything about this, and when Eve had called she was nothing but accommodating, making sure they had the resources they needed to get Villanelle immediate medical attention. 

For a price, of course, Carolyn had said matter of factly, and it was clear that her mind was already running through the various calculations of what Villanelle would be able to offer her. Once the details had been ironed out, Carolyn paused before hanging up. Uh, Eve, she started. Does Villanelle happen to know anything about Kenny?

The way Carolyn said it made it sound like she was pulling her own teeth, but there was also untapped emotion directly under the surface that Eve couldn’t help but notice every time Carolyn spoke about her son. Eve’s chest succumbed to what felt like a permanent ache.

No, she doesn’t. Eve said. She had asked the same of Villanelle months ago.

There was a pause, a slight hitch in Carolyn’s breath like she was embarrassed she’d asked. Right, then. Be at the meeting point by 2.

When they’d gotten to the hospital, the staff was already expecting them, and Villanelle had been taken for an emergency laryngoscopy while Eve was sent to the waiting room. She sipped on terrible coffee and waited for the agent Carolyn said would be arriving soon for questioning. 

This was the deal they’d made. Carolyn would provide medical care under a new identity, off the books, and Villanelle would offer whatever intel she had about The Twelve. At least, that’s what Eve told Villanelle. Because there was something more, something unsaid beneath the deal they’d reached, that she was sure would pop up eventually. But Eve could only solve one problem at a time.

It’s been two weeks, and Villanelle is going through extensive therapy to try and retrain her voice. She gets weekly injections to try and bulk up the cord that was paralyzed during the attack, and the wound around her neck, although still red and angry, has begun to heal. She’s frustrated, angry all the time, and all she wants to do is scream with a voice she no longer has. 

Fresh out of a session with the agent Carolyn had sent, Villanelle is tired and irritable. The whiteboard she’s been using to communicate is worn from use.

Tell me about the Fall of 2016. Where were you when the following diplomats were killed? How were you compensated for your work? How many handlers were you assigned?  God, she wants to punch this guy in the throat.

I don’t belong to myself. She writes to Eve once the agent leaves. I am theirs.

Eve reaches out to caress Villanelle’s cheek, and Villanelle hates that she leans into the touch. “Please, honey, you have to trust me,” she pleads, and it’s in this moment that she misses the timbre of Villanelle’s voice, the familiarness of her tone. The way it would tease her, comfort her, whisper in her ear before she lost herself to the pleasure.

Villanelle shakes her head. They will ask for more. Watch. 

Eve doesn’t respond, just looks to the TV in the corner of the room. After all, what can she say when she knows Villanelle is right?

 


 

A week later, Eve disappears. One night, she’s next to Villanelle like always, two pudding cups into an episode of Gossip Girl. The next, she’s gone. Villanelle wakes up in the morning to see that the cot beside her bedside is no longer there, and it’s then that she knows. Eve won’t be walking into the room with coffee and a newspaper, a new movie tucked under her arm. She won’t be there when Villanelle can’t hold in the tears after another injection, won’t crawl into bed with her in the middle of the night when she begins to choke on air.

The agent assigned to her is apparently gone as well, because he misses their morning meeting. When she asks about it, the nurse on duty gives her a kind smile and tells her to relax and focus on her recovery.

Truth is, Villanelle is scared. She’s scared and she wishes for Eve. Craves her warmth when she’s alone at night, wishes for her comfort when she wakes up unable to breathe. She misses the movies, the companionship, the constellations, all of it. 

At the same time, she’s fucking pissed, because she’s seen this coming since Brazil. Hell, she’s seen this coming since the moment she first saw Eve in that hospital bathroom.

The nurses ask her what the hardest thing about recovery is. They ask, “How bad is the pain today?”

What she doesn’t tell them is that difficulty breathing and swallowing, even the inability to speak, is little to endure next to the dull ache of things she wishes she had said. That shit will haunt her to her grave.

 


 

When she’s discharged from the hospital two months later, her voice existent but still weak, she’s handed a bag of her “belongings”, all of which she’s never seen before. Inside, a wallet with a current ID, ten thousand dollars in cash, a burner phone, a change of clothes, and a paper with an address written on it. Immediately, she zeroes in on the area code. Her heart begins to race.

Soldotna, Alaska. 

She books a flight an hour later.

 


 

It’s a cabin in the fucking woods, because of course it is, and it’s surrounded by fresh snow like it’s straight out of a snow globe. 

There’s an old Xterra in the driveway that, according to the title in the glovebox, belongs to her new identity. Fresh firewood has been cut and stacked against the side of the cabin, and the mailbox already has a book of coupons for the local pizza place that’s addressed to her.

She expects the interior of the place to be stale and dusty, but it’s anything but. It feels empty and clean, yet lived in and cared for. The pantry is stocked with canned goods and freshly jarred fruit. Dry cereal and a few rogue boxes of pop tarts sit unopened on the wood counter. A small dining table with two chairs is surrounded by windows with a clear view of the spruce trees towering outside. 

A wood stove sits cleaned and ready to use with a floor to ceiling bookshelf nearby, where books ranging in subject from bird watching to foreign languages live. There’s a reading nook with a flannel upholstered chair and matching ottoman. The rug beneath it is an orange shag that she’s surprised she doesn’t find offensive. 

Through the only doorway is a bedroom and adjoining bathroom that’s completely different in style. It’s more contemporary, with clean lines and furniture she would be more likely to pick for herself. The bed is covered with a duvet she can already tell is expensive, and there’s a vanity and mirror in the corner with bottles of perfume that she immediately sprays onto her wrist to test.

A small closet is across the room, practically the size of a thimble, but the contents of it make her gasp as she opens the door. It’s full of clothes, all her size, most of them more cozy and practical for Alaskan weather. But there are a few that are more upscale couture pieces that she can’t help but hold up to her frame in the mirror.

There’s a chest at the end of the bed that catches her eye when she sees it in the reflection, and she gingerly sets the outfit down on the bed so she can look inside. Beneath a few folded blankets she finds a small flat screen, DVD player, and all five seasons of Living Single .

Villanelle covers her mouth with the back of her hand, barks a laugh into it. 

Idiot.

 


 

It’s a regular morning when she hears the staircase on the front porch creak. In the six months that she’s been here, no one has ever stepped foot even close to her front door, which immediately puts her on red alert. Problem is, Villanelle hasn’t been faced with this kind of confrontation since her run-in with Rhian, and the thought of it makes her hands start to shake.

The knock is what nearly makes her jump out of her skin, and she wants to slap herself across the face for being such a pissbaby. With a deep breath, she quietly approaches the front door, putting her eye up to the peephole.

It’s Eve, standing there dressed in what looks like some kind of tactical outfit. Her hair is up in a tight bun, and she wears a simple jacket and cargo pants. A large knife is strapped to her upper thigh, a handgun is holstered to her hip, and Villanelle can hear herself gulp at the site. Eve is even thinner in the face, somehow, but her frame is broader, like she has muscle now that she didn’t before.

Villanelle opens the door, and she can’t help but look Eve up and down greedily.

“Did they let you through the TSA like that?” she asks, working to make her voice sound as normal as possible. She can tell that Eve notices the tremor in it, though. The distinct, ever-present hoarseness that no amount of throat clearing will fix.

“It’s amazing what you can do with the right connections,” Eve replies. “Are you busy?”

“Funny joke,” Villanelle scoffs, and she steps aside so that Eve can come in.

Eve looks around, trying to take in the differences in the cabin since she was last here. Villanelle, meanwhile, zeroes in on her posterior, and Eve turns just in time to catch her staring. If she notices, she doesn’t say anything about it.

“Okay, fine, I’ll ask,” Villanelle says, putting her hands up in mock surrender. “Have you been working out?”

Eve rolls her eyes, walking to the kitchen counter to grab a mug from the cabinet. She pours herself a cup of lukewarm coffee from the coffee maker. “Training, yes. I’ve been––” She cuts herself off, taking a sip. “A lot has happened.”

Villanelle crosses her arms. “Are you going to make me ask?”

Eve shakes her head and sits at the table, motioning for Villanelle to join her. She takes a deep, preparatory breath before launching into the details. “They called me when you were in recovery,” she starts. “They wanted––or, I guess, Carolyn did––to hire you off the books. She wanted you to go back to Hélène.”

Villanelle scrunches her forehead, listening intently as she tries to mask the fact that a sharp pain spreads through her stomach at the thought.

“I should have seen it coming, really, but the night Rhian attacked you...I had no choice. So I made the deal.” She takes another sip. “When they came to me and said they planned to take you with them, I panicked. They were acting like I’d sold you, like I had to hold up my end of the bargain by auctioning you off to do their dirty work. I couldn’t do it. So I gave them a counter offer.”

“Counter offer?” Villanelle asks.

“We intercepted Dasha and Konstantin in a hospital in Scotland. Somehow they’d both survived. I thought if we had them working with us, we’d be able to find someone else to carry out the kills in your place. Just until we learned enough to make a move.”

Villanelle raises a brow, impressed by Eve’s moxie. “Oh, so you recasted? At least tell me she’s pretty.” Briefly, she worries about the implications if her successor really is pretty. Eve better be keeping her hands to herself.

Eve shoots her loaded look in reply, looking down at her coffee, and as the light shifts across her face, Villanelle notices how tired she looks. She takes in Eve’s dry lips and heavy eyes, the roughness of her hands. The faint scratches on her forearms. The brownish red beneath her nails.

“No,” she breathes. “No, Eve.”

Eve isn’t looking at her anymore, eyes locked onto something on the other side of the room. “In order to gather the intelligence we needed, we had to send in one of our own. Someone who was willing to carry out the orders that The Twelve supplied. Someone who knew the history of the organization and understood the background of the people at play.” Here, she stops, tongue darting out to wet her lips. Then, she says what Villanelle has been dreading.

“I was the obvious choice.”

At the admission, Villanelle slams her fist onto the table so hard that one of the legs nearly gives way. Eve’s coffee, previously sitting undisturbed, splashes over the top of the rim. The pain of the impact shoots up Villanelle’s hand and into her forearm, but Eve, for her part, looks relatively unfazed. The outburst doesn’t stop her from assaulting Villanelle with more information.

“Dasha and Konstantin were able to run interference with The Twelve rather successfully. There were a few road bumps, but it turns out that they cared less about making sure it was you and more about having missions completed successfully. Not to mention the peace of mind they got knowing you were back at work and out of their hair.”

Eve tries to catch Villanelle’s eye. “We’ve gathered more intelligence on The Twelve in the last eight months than the last eight years. They have no leg to stand on, Villanelle. It’s nearly over.”

“Congratulations,” Villanelle says, biting the inside of her cheek. She sits up straight. “I hope it was worth it.”

Eve’s voice shakes as her eyes begin to shine. “You told me you were done. I wasn’t going to force you back into something you didn’t want.”

Villanelle seethes, eyes on fire. “What, so you sold yourself? Like that’s better?”

“Honey, you don’t understand. I have a plan––”

The term of endearment does little to placate her. “Oh, don’t.” Villanelle cuts her off with a hand in the air.

“It’s over,” Eve repeats, resolute. “Practically, anyway. That’s why I’m here. Something’s about to happen that I can’t do. It’s face-to-face, a meeting with the person we believe to be in charge of new hires for The Twelve. We don’t know much yet, but the information we could gather from it could be just what we need to bring the whole thing down.”

Villanelle laughs humorlessly, shaking her head. “Of course.”

“We would just need you to plant a bug, Villanelle,” Eve’s voice is desperate, halfway to begging. “That’s it, and then you’d come home.”

They stare at each other, Villanelle seething and Eve shamed. Home, Eve lets the word roll off her tongue so easily. Like this place is anything like a home without her here. “Get out,” Villanelle tells her, pointing to the door.

“Villanelle, please––”

Villanelle stands, kicking at the chair Eve sits on until she has no option but to stand. “Leave, Polastri,” she growls.

“Oksana––”

“Get. Out.” Villanelle pushes her hard in the chest, the force backing her up until her back hits the door.

Eve’s eyes are full of remorse as she opens and closes her mouth, searching for something to say. They both stand there, looking at each other dumbly, until Eve turns and walks out without a word.

When she’s finally out of sight, Villanelle yells until she tastes blood.

 


 

Her burner phone lights up at 1AM, which is surprising considering she’s only used it a handful of times since she first arrived in Alaska, and mostly to order takeout.

“This is Margaret,” she answers in her best American accent. 

“It’s me,” Eve’s voice sounds on the other line.

Villanelle drops the accent unceremoniously. “You’re telling me you’ve had my number this entire time and never called?”

Eve ignores the dig. “Look, I shouldn’t have come earlier. Shouldn’t have asked you to do that for me. I have a backup I should have gone with in the first place. I guess I just...” she trails off. “I guess I just wanted to see you.”

“I’d do it if I could, Eve,” she says as gently as she can. “But I’m not ready. And you are going to have to be okay with that.”

“I am,” Eve tells her. “Just like you have to be okay with the decision I had to make to keep you out of all this.”

Clever girl, Villanelle thinks, though she’d never give Eve the satisfaction of saying it aloud.

There’s a beat before either one of them speaks, but when they do they talk over each other clumsily.

“So what are you wearing?––”

“Is the cabin holding up okay?––”

“Oh no, please, you first,” Villanelle says cheekily. Eve’s lucky she’s not here to see the shit eating grin she has plastered on her face. 

“Right, um,” Eve pauses, clearing her throat. “I didn’t ask when I was there, but I just wanted to make sure you don’t need anything. I know it can be quiet. Isolated.”

“I like it,” Villanelle only half lies. “Gives me a lot of time to think. And sometimes there are dead animals on the road. Big, stinky ones.”

She can almost hear Eve’s smile through the phone. “I’m glad you’re keeping yourself entertained.” 

It’s here that Villanelle wants to say, I miss you, come back, Alaska isn’t any fun without you here to play Parcheesi with. Instead, she lets the quiet stretch out between them once more.

“I’m wearing the t-shirt you bought me in Argentina and a pair of underwear I stole from your bag in Brazil,” Eve says all of a sudden. “To answer your question.”

Villanelle sticks her lip out in a pout. “It’s supposed to be something sexy, Eve, not something depressing.”

“Me wearing a t-shirt and underwear makes you depressed?”

“Only when I can’t see you in them.” She raises her fist and shakes it in the air as if angry with God, then throws her head back so dramatically that it almost hits the headboard. “Fuck, there’s nothing better than your tiny little body in a fresh t-shirt.”

“Are you... crying ?”

“No, Eve, of course not. Don’t be stupid.“

 


 

Phone calls become a somewhat daily occurrence after that.

Surprisingly, from what Villanelle pieces together from their time talking, Eve’s life seems to be much the same as it was back when she was a desk jockey. Besides the killing, obviously, but Eve steers the conversation away from it whenever it comes close. Villanelle has a sneaking suspicion that there is much more happening than what Eve is letting on, but she decides she’s content not to know.

In fact, she’d rather Eve not tell her a thing. Because sitting in a cabin in Alaska while everyone from her past life bands together to defeat a common enemy is a little too much for even her to handle at this point.

And anyway, a little bit of mystery is good for any relationship.

Villanelle lays in bed, twirling her hair around her finger and staring at the ceiling while she waits for Eve’s nightly phone call. She waits an hour, then two, falling asleep briefly during the third, and by the fourth it’s obvious she’s been stood up. She should be angry, but there’s a feeling in her gut that has her calling Eve’s number over and over again to make sure she’s okay. After the sixth time reaching voicemail, she gives up, stomach in knots. She tries not to let it keep her up.

It does anyway.

 


 

The radio silence lasts two months. Two months of baking cakes that don’t taste right. Two months of rewatching sitcoms she’s already seen. Two months of spending so much time in the forest that she gets lost, eats berries that make her puke. 

She starts to make friends––or just the one, really. An old woman who lives about five miles down the road. Villanelle takes an immediate liking toward her because she yells at the children who ride past her house on bikes. If there’s a kid on a bike, Esther is up in fucking arms, and for some reason Villanelle finds it hilarious.

Despite the distractions, the worry sits in the back of her mind constantly. It manifests quietly, coming out of nowhere in the instances when she thinks everything is fine. Others, it appears hard and fast, and the noise from it is so loud that she has to sit on the ground, rock back and forth while doing the breathing exercises she had learned in the hospital.

It’s possible, she knows, that Eve had to toss her phone for whatever reason, or that she lost Villanelle’s number somehow. Hell, she could even just be busy taking down an international crime syndicate and reverted back to her old ways of not keeping her updated.

But after everything, Villanelle can’t accept any of the explanations she comes up with. So, instead, she becomes content to spend her time preparing. Making sure to create a space that’s fit and ready for two, just in case Eve were to reappear, ready to start again.

Because she’ll be back, Villanelle is sure. Of course she will.

 


 

When Eve finally does come home, it’s raining in sheets and the roof is leaking. Villanelle has just switched out an overflowing bucket for an empty one, and she’s dumping the water into the bathtub when someone bangs on the front door hard enough to make the windows rattle in their frames.

Villanelle approaches the front of the house cautiously, a baseball bat she’d gotten from the sporting goods store firm in her grasp. She senses Eve before she sees her, and she swings the door open in a sudden flash.

“It’s done,” Eve says over the sound of the rain, not moving from her spot on the porch. Her arms are at her sides awkwardly and she’s soaking wet, like she walked all the way here in the storm, and Villanelle has to go get a towel from the closet before Eve will even step inside.

“Are you okay?” Villanelle asks as she drapes it over Eve’s shoulders. She locks the front door the minute Eve is inside, cautioning a look into the surrounding trees, and she guides Eve closer to the wood stove. Hopefully the heat will be able to get through her soaked clothing.

Eve’s holding her left forearm arm gingerly in her right hand, and there’s a series of marks around her neck that look far too much like fingerprints. This realization is enough to awaken a feeling of violence in Villanelle that she hasn’t felt in what feels like ages.

“Eve,” she says, a hand on the other woman’s shoulder. “Let’s get you warm.”

Eve follows her to the bathroom, where Villanelle helps her strip off her wet clothes. Villanelle turns to shower onto the perfect temperature, and Eve steps into the steady stream with a grateful groan. 

Pushing herself up to sit on the counter by the sink, Villanelle watches Eve through the foggy glass. She tries to focus on the way Eve’s new muscles move as she washes her hair, how the water makes her skin glisten under the dim light. Instead, she’s drawn to the bruises that take residence up and down Eve’s back. The clusters of fresh scars on her forearms. The toe on her left foot that’s just a little too crooked. 

All of it is new, mysterious, and she can’t help but feel a little disappointed that she’s missed the evolution. A little angry that so many of the changes seem to be more devastating than uplifting. Even so, she shudders with excitement when she thinks about being able to once again study Eve from head to toe.

Eve shuts off the water and Villanelle takes it as her cue to hop down and hand her a towel. As she does, her hand grazes Eve’s rib cage, and it makes the other woman gasp, reaching for the wall to keep her balance. Villanelle wonders how this woman had the strength to get to the cabin, how she got back to Alaska in the first place. Maybe, Villanelle theorizes, she never left.

Wordlessly, Villanelle opens the cabinet under the sink to grab the biggest first aid kit she’s ever seen in her life. The one she knows Eve put there when she was outfitting the cabin, maybe as a joke or perhaps as a precaution, considering how many times they’ve needed something like it in the past.

As she helps wrap Eve’s ribs, Villanelle becomes dizzy from the proximity. Eve’s scent, the one she remembers from the train, from the beach, from the late nights laughing and fucking, is still strong even after using Villanelle’s soap and shampoo. She wants to do nothing but inhale, get high off of it, and by the time she steps away she already yearns for it again.

Villanelle pulls back the covers for Eve once she’s dressed, all but tucking her in. The clock in the bedroom ticks quietly as they lay together in the dim light, staring up at the ceiling. Villanelle wonders how it’s possible that they always end up here. It’s oddly comforting, she decides, to know that no matter what happens, they will return to this state: side by side, the unknown spread out before them.

She turns onto her side, head propped up by her hand, and she can’t help but reach out to touch the newly formed scars that marr Eve’s skin. Arms, chest, neck, she presses her fingers to them all. 

“Jealous they’re not from you?” Eve asks, turning her head to look at her, and they’re the first words she’s uttered since she stood on the porch.

“No,” Villanelle replies easily. “Do they hurt?”

Eve’s face softens, hand reaching out to run her fingers over Villanelle’s lips. “I’ll live.”

“And your ribs? Your arm?” She takes a lock of Eve’s hair between her fingers, admiring how it curls even when it’s damp.

A chuckle. “It could have been a lot worse, considering.”

Villanelle’s fingers still. “Considering what?”

“What if I tell you tomorrow?” Eve suggests. “For now, let’s just…” her voice trails off drowsily. “Ignore the bodies.”

Villanelle nods, stretching to kiss each of Eve’s eyelids as they close. She puts a hand on Eve’s stomach, next to the scar she gave her, so she’ll be able to feel the way her breathing changes as she falls asleep.

“Eve?”

“Yes?”

“Is it really over?”

Eve grabs Villanelle’s hand so she can press a kiss to it, letting out a breath. With it the tension of the past four years disappears, melting into the ground far, far beneath them both. Tomorrow, she will tell Villanelle about the last two months. About the violence and the loss, the disappointments and the successes, the guilt and the excitement. 

The way she never stopped thinking about her, dreaming about her, wishing for her when the path she had chosen began to pull her under by the ankles. 

For now, though, she’ll turn into Villanelle’s arms, breathe in her scent, ignore the sharpness in her ribs.

“Yeah,” Eve says, and she almost can’t believe it herself. “It’s really over.”

 


 

In the morning, they’ll leave for the airport. Alaska is filled with too many memories of loneliness to stay. And anyway, as Villanelle reassures Eve, the cabin will always be here when they need it. 

We may need a vacation from our vacation, Villanelle had said as they showered that morning. Ha! I’ve always wanted to say that.

Before they leave, Eve uses a screwdriver to pry up one of the floorboards in the living room. Inside lives an insane amount of cash, a few important documents, and some sentimental items she had tucked away for safekeeping.

“You were always going to come back,” Villanelle says from across the room.

Eve puts the floorboard back in place silently, putting everything into her bag for later. She stands, turning to Villanelle, and she takes the girl’s face in her hands. “ I told you, ” she says, punctuating it with a peck to her lips, “I had a plan.” 

Villanelle can’t help but let a smile spread across her face, pressing another kiss to Eve’s lips, a promise of what’s to come. “Show off.”

Eve winks at her before squeezing her hands once, twice, then picking up their bags. “Ready?” She walks toward the front door, and when she opens it the smell of fresh earth wafts in. Villanelle will miss the trees most, the way they stand so tall, the feeling of protection and peace they offer.

In the car, holding Eve’s hand over the center console, Villanelle smiles. She had been happy in Brazil, but now she feels something else entirely. Something she's not sure she can name.

“So,” Villanelle says, watching the endless stretch of road ahead of them. “What now?”

Eve turns to her, a peaceful expression playing across her features.

“Let me take you away from here.”