V opened his eyes when he heard a voice. Somewhere along the line the sound of Evey's voice had become one which he could have picked from a crowd in a heartbeat. In this instance hers was the only human voice, with a background melody of chirpping and squeaking. Shaking his head and sighing, V sat up in bed and took stock of his wounds. The bullet wound in his lower chest that had been bleeding last night - last night? Two nights ago? What an odd sensation for the vigilante, being unaware of the passing time - had closed over, already well ont he road to recovery thanks to the virus-enchanced healing abilities that had strengthened his immune system, his muscle structure, and his reflexes. He probed carefully at the round wound, which was centred in a knot of particularly obvious scar tissue, until he was satisfied it would stand up to him getting back on his feet today. He lifted the mask from the bedside table and had it halfway tied before it struck him he perhaps ought to not wear it. A moment of indecision passed before he completed the visage as usual. Evey wouldn't expect an overnight transformation. He compensated by leaving his gloves off.

He found Evey in the main Gallery with a packet of bird seed - of all things - in her hands, with Shade lying by the entrance passage. His got up for a greeting when V entered and the motion caught Evey's eye. She turned towards with a warm smile. If there was any dissapointment in regards to seeing him masked as usual, it didn't show on her face. "Good morning." She set the seed down in order to reach for his hand, still pleasantly surprised by the rough, warm texture against her softer fingers. "So it is morning, then?" Confirmed V, squeezing her hand gently in return. She chuckled. "It is very early, but we missed most of a day yesterday. No more rooftop roaming, yeah?" He inclined his head meekly. "As Midlady wishes." She laughed and let go of his hand to swat him teasingly. "Right. I made some pancakes, though I doubt they're as good as yours always are. You're feeling allright?" V noticed her gaze dip to his vest and felt a moment of uncomfortableness that she had seen what lay beneath. "Much better, thank you. I admit to being a pinch peckish, perhaps we ought to partake in a plate of said pancakes." She hid her laugh as she followed him to the kitchen, Shade's claws clicking lightly behind them. She suspected he was being so alliterate to cover his nerves, and after setting a plate in front of him she turned back discretely to take care of the dishes. She made no motion to turn until she heard the quiet clunk of ceramic, when she risked a very quick glance over one shoulder. His back was to her, so she could only see the back of his head, the wig still in place. But now she knew the colour of his hair, what remained of it, wasn't all that much lighter than the wig itself. Smiling, she turned back to her dishes. It was progress.

It surprised her when she felt the slightly tentative touch against her back. She was almost finished scrubbing the pan and she hadn't heard him rise, replace the mask or move to her side with his plate. Clearly, his injuries hadn't affected his typical stealth, she thought as she began to clean. "Thank you, my dear, that was a welcome meal indeed." Placing his now-clean plate to dry on the rack beside the rest, she turned around, pleased when he didn't pull back, and wrapped her arms around his waist. Lifting her chin to study the eternally familiar contours of the black and white mask, she relaxed at the slightly muffled sound of his breathing and the warmth of his arm curved around her side. "Let's watch a movie." She suggested, watching the mask dip in agreement. "No swords - I mean it about taking it easy. " She teased, warmed further by his responding laugh. She had an ulterior motive for suggesting the activity in any case. A few hours snuggled up on the couch beside V sounded just about like her idea of perfection.

"Can I ask about your... new friends?" As she rummaged for a video she glanced over her shoulder to see V's gaze inclined towards the old bird cage. She shrugged a little self-consciously. "It was too quiet down here. I felt... like I couldn't leave, and so instead of letting the shadows creep any closer, I filled it with life." He nodded, understanding, but from the set of his shoulders she could see disapproval. She laughed, something ridiculous striking her about the thought of V and his Shadow Gallery, taken over by her and her pets. It was equal parts comfort and amusement.

Over the next few days a pattern emerged. V tended to sleep late, the only indication that he was still in recovery. Evey cooked breakfast, though not everything turned out as well as the pancakes. During the morning they cleaned and organised the Gallery, Evey refusing to let V do anything even slightly strenous. Lunch was prepared together, and after a few days eaten together as well. Afternoons were spent in front of the television, and in the evening before a V-prepared dinner, Evey took Shade for a walk. She kept an eye on the world above, watching the emergence of the new government with a feeling of unreality. After the intensity building up to the Fifth and everything Evey had gone through, to have it not only over, but progressing without her, was a change of pace. Not unwelcome, it was just getting used to the new ptterns that she had yet to do.

Still, Evey wouldn't had traded her quiet days with V for anything. A foundation of trust was laid down and built upon each day, and with each step, feeling each touch, and yes, seeing each flash of ravaged skin so marked by the past, meant more to Evey than she could say. V's strength grew until the day came she found him swordfighting with his suit of armour, and watching him duck and wave around the frozen metal arms she knew he was healthy again. It was amazing how quickly he healed, Evey mused, if not surprising. She had seen, over the past year, just what V was capable of. He wouldn't ever have gotten this far without the physical and mental capabilities she now knew so well.

Nights were the hardest for Evey. She was torn between giving him his space, sensing that this was the biggest of steps for him to take, and well... begging him to remove every layer of clothing that stood between them. Though he went without gloves quite frequently now, and laid aside his mask for meals, she found his hesitation only fuelled her hunger. Though it made him nervous to have her direct gaze on him when he was unmasked, she grew adept at taking in much with a single glance. She memorized his face and the expressions that flickered across them. It took some practice, since the motion of his lips and cheeks was greatly reduced and he had no eyebrows to speak of. She caught glimpses of each expression in the short times she has access to them and pieced them together frame by frame.

She should have expected the day she woke up and found that both V and Shade were gone. V's late sleep-ins had become less and less late until he was getting up at the same time as she did. Today he had beaten her to the punch and though she wanted to feel worried, it was hard to imagine V and Shade getting into trouble.

They returned in exceedingly high spirits, one carrying with fresh bread in a brown paper bag and the other a rawhide chew. V wore his usual mask and cape, but Evey wasn't surprised. Around ten percent or so of the people she saw on the streets wore V's typical getup in celebration and memory. Her practiced eye could easily tell the difference between a vinyl cape and plastic mask and the real thing, but she figured she was one of the few who could, and that made V safe enough outside.

"I have a surprise for you." Was V's greeting as he set the bread on the crowded but tidy kitchen counter and Shade trotted to Evey for a pat. V followed him and wound Evey into a secure hold in his arms. "Really? What is it?" There was still something childlike that Evey retained that V adored, a kid-on-Christmas excited light in her eyes. "Come with me and I'll show you."

With the vast resources he still had available, it shouldn't have come as a surprise that he had a car waiting. Somehow she had expected something a little more local. Still, as V let Shade jump into the backseat and held open the passenger side for her, she felt the same stirring of excitement. "Where are we going?" She somehow knew what he was going to say before he spoke. "If I told you, it wouldn't be a surprise now, would it?" She had to laugh. V seemed to be a competent driver, and Shade enjoyed the trip, hanging his head out the half open window that washed a cool breeze over their small party. She tried a few more times to wheedle their location from him without success, then fell to studying the landscape. Huge areas had been ravaged, rioted, cordoned off, blackmarked as being outside quarentine zones. And yet, between them, there was life. Children kicked balls to one another in the street, neighbours leaned on fences to converse, and shop fronts were being repainted. When Evey caught sight of a name on a signpost, she frowned. "Tottenham?" She questioned, the sound of it stirring at a memory she couldn't quite grasp. "Yes - we're nearly there." Confirmed V, lifting a hand to check his mask and wig were in place. There were still other 'V's' in the streets they were driving through, though they weren't as frequent as in the heart of London. The houses were becoming larger and more widely spaced, with expansive grounds. Evey saw some people working in gardens. Shade opened a lazy eye to watch a man and a black and white dog move a dozen or so sheep into a small grassy paddock.

"V?" She was beginning to itch with impatience, and he smiled behind the mask. "Here we are." He gestured to the winding dirt driveway he turned the car down. "A few more moments of patience, my dear Evey. All will become clear presently." Evey's sharp eyes caught a faded wooden sign by the gate as they passed. "Hazel Hill Lodge. " she murmured softly. It wasn't hard to see why it had been named so. Behind the brick farmhouse was a low hill with a large shady tree - a Hazel, Evey assumed - growing upon it. The house was on the small side, with several dilapidated builingds surrounding it. Though Evey could tell it was uninhabited, it didn't resound with the loneliness that some old buildings did. There were wild patches of lavender dotted around and ivy crawling up the low walls bordering the overgrown gardens. It looked forgotten, it was true, but as if many happy days had passed within the grounds.

"Come inside, please." Invited V, extending a hand to help Evey from the viechile. Shade hopped out of his own volition and set off at an amble, nose to the ground to catch every scent. Bemused but willing, Evey accepted the hand and followed V to the paint-chipped front door. He had a key, of course, old fashioned wroght iron with a decorative curled design on the end. Curious but unable to form any of her questions into sentences, Evey followed V along the hallway into a wide, spacey kitchen and sitting room combined. Old pots with a light coating of dust hung from the cieling. Evey felt as if she'd stepped into an old film, as she took in the view from the wide windows all along the wall. She ran a hand over the mantel above the fireplace and froze halfway along. There was an old sepia-toned photo sitting there, long since forgotten. The face of the older woman wasn't familiar, but the much younger face was. "Valerie." Evey breathed, in a rush of understanding. "Valerie!" She quoted from memory, closing her eyes as the days in her cell flashed through her mind. 'My Grandmother owned a farm in Tottenham.' That's where we are? This is Valerie's farm?"

He was smiling. "It was." He confirmed. "I have one last thing to leave you, Evey. I'm giving this to you. You are not suited to the life of shadows, and you deserve a chance to live as things should have been."

Evey stared at him in shock, warmth at the gesture filling her heart. It took several attempts before she could properly voice what she was feeling. "V - of all the things you've given me, this one... it means so much to me. But I'll accept it with one condition." She stepped towards him, and seized both his hands in hers. "I'll live here only if you live with me. I meant everything I've said to you, V. If you feel like you have to stay in the shadows, that's where I'll stay with you. But I think you were wrong V, when you told me you had no tree waiting for you." She smiled at the hillside with its Hazel, standing watching over the house. "This is meant for both of us. I want to be here only if you want to be here with me, V."

V's hands shook for only a second before they stablized within hers. He released her with reluctance and moved with more haste to undo the ties on his mask. Evey watched it fall away, revealing the blue eyes that weren't yet as familiar as the black ones that usually covered them. She lifted her hands to his shoulders as his lips quirked, his version of a smile. "I do, Evey. That's what I want." He swept her up so he could reach her more easily, and kissed her. "I love you, Evey Hammond. Never forget it."

A/N - And there you have it :)This was written during my annual watching of V for Vendetta, naturally - I thought it high time! I'll probably be taking a rest from V and Evey for a while now I have finished this fic, though one day I do want to write more about them. Til then - Happy Fifth, fellow Vendetta fans :D