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to claim truth (at a dead party)

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She’s forgotten the first lie she ever told. Sometimes when she’s feeling particularly self-pitying, she likes to think that her entire life has been a lie. Maggie Shaw never really existed, and brave Maeve is a joke. Even Maeve, the original, is a lie. 

She’s lied everyday on camera. In the beginning, she was scared. It’s enough to make her laugh now. She was terrified of not keeping her story straight, of someone seeing through the facade. It took her a while to realize that no one ever would, because no one really wanted to. She got careless. She got ruthless. She gave up. It didn’t make a difference. She was who they said she was, which was who she once said she was, and now it didn’t matter. 

She’s lied to everyone she knows, and these days she lies all the time.

Except when she was sitting with Butcher, drowning four months of agonizing sobriety in the worst vodka she’s tasted in years. She remembers the cheap burn, the acrid aftertaste, the smell of his sweat and his cologne and her perfume mingling in the air like some kind of miasma. For a second, she could feel the taste of the metal when it had first been laid down for the building. Butcher looked like she felt. He looked like a man who had scraped the nails off his fingers and his fingers to the bone in trying to move an immovable wall. She felt the splintering pain of raw exposed nerves when he touched his shoulder against hers.

And when he said that she was the same as the rest of them, that she had to die just like the rest of them, Maeve told him the truth. 

“Yeah,” she said, because she believed him, and she deserved to say it out loud at least once. 

She lies to Homelander when he comes to find her, lies to his face the way she used to, with some measure of attempted sincerity. Calls him John, the way she used to, when she thought that was his real name. Soft, and slow, the way she only did when they were fully clothed and too far to touch. He sounds hurt, almost betrayed. Maybe it would hurt her, if she didn’t know that it’s more out of some fucked up sense of possession than anything else. 

For a second there though, he reminds her of the man she thought he was. The man she lied to herself about, and the man she lied to constantly. The only person who really got it, who got the violence and the self-destruction and the echoing loneliness. He’s telling the truth when he says that at least they had each other. Once upon a time, Maeve had him and he had her, even though they were both lying to each other, one more than the other.

“I loved you”, he says, looking like an angry child. “In my own way.”

It hurts her, because she knows it’s true. It’s true and it’s worthless, and the way Homelander has always been truthful to her is why she doesn’t care for the truth. She’d rather take lies any day. After all, the truth is, she’s far too ready to go out. If it’s not Homelander, it’s Butcher. She considers lying, considers telling him that she loved him in her own way too, considers kissing him one last time, considers telling him that she was never stupid enough to think she could change him, but she was stupid enough to think he wasn’t that bad.

In the end, when he asks her if she ever loved him, ever at all, Maeve tells him the truth, but not the whole truth. She can smell his aftershave as she leans in to him, strong and biting, a different brand from what he used when they were still together. She looks at the sharp cut of his jaw and the smooth curve of his ear and for a moment imagines biting at them the way she used to, but harder, hard enough to draw blood. 

“From the start,” she says, smiling. “I fucking hated you.”