In the old London, graffiti was rare—not many were willing to risk the severe punishment the Finger would dole out. But by the time Evey returned to the real world, that was beginning to change.
The first week, she didn't pay any attention to it. To be truthful, the first week she didn't pay attention to much of anything. She was busy trying to readjust to the crowds, the noise—all the city things she had once taken for granted. She found that she disliked being alone and hated feeling confined. As a result, she spent a great deal of time just walking around the city.
It was on one of those walks that she came across the girl… in the mask. It was the shock of seeing that face again that made Evey freeze. She didn't even notice the spray can until the child dropped it and ran. Then Evey saw the half-finished symbol on the wall.
She hesitated for a moment, then picked up the abandoned paint. She tossed it from hand to hand a few times, staring at the bricks. Then she reached out and finished the letter. She felt an echo of the peace she had found on that stormy rooftop.
That was the gift V had forced on her. For the first time, she admitted to herself that she had wanted it.
That night, she snuck out after curfew with the paint in her bag. She had to duck into the shadows once to avoid Fingermen. You'd think I'd learn… she thought, and had to suppress a completely inappropriate fit of giggles.
Then they were gone, and she was facing the wall, clean as a canvas waiting for the brush. She pulled out the spray can. Crude, perhaps, in comparison with the tools that had formed the masterpieces she had seen… but to each their own. Her life, her aims, and her art were far different from those of the artists whose work graced V's tunnels.
Experimentally, she made two quick slashes. V.
No, that wasn't enough. But what would be?
V would know.
What would declare to the world that she was free, because or in spite of this man who was nothing more than a letter, for god's sake?
But of course, he would know. He, who inspired in her depths of passion she hadn't known possible, though she still wasn't sure if it was love or hate. He, who had taken her father's thoughts on truth and lies and made them both shatteringly real…
The thought triggered memories, which prompted others, and she had the words. For the first time, she thought she understood why V loved quotes so.
I've been having quite a lot of firsts lately, she thought ruefully.
Then she shook her head, shook the can, and got down to work.
Five words. It didn't take long at all.
She found a group of criminals who were able and willing to provide her with a new identity, provided she helped them with their endeavors. She was hesitant, until she discovered the exact nature of their crimes.
They were smugglers, and while they would turn a profit wherever they could, they dealt mainly in cultural things. Banned books, movies, music. They gave her discounts on the books, and she copied all discs that came her way before passing them on. She formed quite the collection—though nothing, of course, compared to the Shadow Gallery.
She dealt mainly with three guys. Joseph, Evan, Rob. She liked them—they were rough around the edges, but they were good men. Soon she was spending time with them outside the confines of business.
All three were half in love with her, and head over heels for the idea of V.
She wondered sometimes if that would be her fate—to spend her entire life with men who cared more for ideas than her. It didn't worry her as much as it once would have.
They lived to cause trouble, her less-than-Holy Trinity. Somehow, she often found herself being dragged along. Somehow, she didn't mind as much as she should have.
That was how she came to be acting as lookout for three Guy Fawkes's in the dark hours near dawn. They had defaced a great deal of government property that night, and thoroughly enjoyed doing so. Once, the things they were doing would have terrified her, but V had broken her of that. Valerie had saved her from it. Or was that the other way around?
"Wrap it up, boys," she told them, smiling in spite of herself. "It's beyond late."
Evan sighed mockingly. She knew it was him—he was far taller than the other two.
"If we must…"
"C'mon, Ruth," said Rob, using the name they had given her. "You haven't done anything yet."
"I've made sure no Fingermen sneak up on you artists," she shot back. "That's not enough?"
"You don't want to leave your mark?" Rob asked.
"My mark?" she asked, and laughed, because in lieu of a signature they had left V's mark, not theirs.
She remembered the first time she had seen that mark. That crazy night, almost a year ago now. She had been a different person then, and not just in name. Her memory of the fear she had felt seemed almost surreal, now. She had far less fear than was healthy, these days.
Evey recalled his introduction—dramatic, of course—and giving him her own name in return. Strange… she thought as she realized she missed him.
She looked at the letter her friends had drawn.
"My mark?" she repeated softly. They just watched her. There were times when she thought she puzzled them as much as he had puzzled her. That was strange, too.
I, like God, do not play dice and do not believe in coincidences… he said again in her head.
"Give me the paint," she commanded, and Joseph tossed her his can.
Quickly, carelessly, she made four lines in front of the V. One vertical, three horizontal.