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This is How You Mindfuck

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The first distortion is a soundwave. It looks like air and feels like taste, and when Villanelle reaches her hand out to touch it, there’s nothing there. She leans sideways to avoid a bullet and she’s inside a video game. She rubs her eyes and blinks, and she’s back in her flat, even if the ceiling is gone.

None of the things in the flat are hers. It looks newer. She squints when she sees a flash of movement. Someone else is here.

***

Kate Parks is sitting down to breakfast. Amelie is with her parents and Simon is at work. She’s considering a divorce. She knows he cheated. Gemma is many things, but that woman has never been a liar.

She sighs and takes a bite of cereal, and as she chews, she starts to feel uneasy. Very uneasy. Not just in her stomach, but in her entire body. The lights flash and she’s suddenly so sick she turns away from the table and heaves, ending up on her hands and knees on the floor.

She’s not aware of having passed out, but when she opens her eyes, she’s somewhere else. She’s in a flat with no ceiling, and she’s staring right at... herself. An older version of herself, but there’s no mistaking it. What in the fuck is going on? She doesn’t believe in dimensional bullshit. She had just been trying to eat her fucking breakfast!

Villanelle looks up again when the movement stops, and there’s a woman on all fours in her kitchen area. A very beautiful woman. A beautiful, sexy, amazing woman that looks just like a younger version of herself. Hmm. This is strange, isn’t it? Probably another distortion.

She gets up and stumbles; falls; goes down hard on her knees, and then crawls across the living area and flops onto her back beside the really gorgeous woman. When she reaches out to touch, they’re in a forest.

Kate groans and lies down on her side, trying not to vomit again, but if this keeps up she’ll have to visit accident and emergency. What is wrong with her? And why is she seeing herself?

Villanelle touches the woman again, just to test things out, and they’re still in the forest. Perhaps this is their final destination? The last forest she had been in had green trees, so this one is a bit different, what with the colors of piano notes and the taste of citrus.

Kate still isn’t oriented enough to speak, but she knows she doesn’t want this stranger – this embodiment of her future self – touching her. She whines and shrugs off the woman’s hand.

“Rude,” Villanelle says, the first to speak, and her voice echoes off the walls of air that are tight around her head. “So, Mini Me, who are you really? You cannot actually be me because I would never wear that.”

Kate groans again. “What are you on about?” Her temples are pounding.

“Oh, British. Definitely not me. What is your name?”

“What’s yours?” She’s not giving anything up until she knows what’s going on.

“That will depend on who you ask. To some I am Oksana, to others I am Villanelle, and to yet others, I am the reaper, coming to collect. I wonder which group you will be in...”

“Is that a fancy way of asking what I’d rather call you?”

Villanelle laughs and watches particles race by. “Do not be ridiculous. You will not have a choice. I will decide what you are to call me when I am done conducting my assessment. Now... Dr. Astankova is asking, what is your name?”

“Who is Dr. Astankova?” Her temples are still pounding and her head is swimming. Please let this be a nightmare.

“You do not know how to answer questions, younger, stupider me. You are going to fall into the third group if you do not shape up.”

“Ugh!” Kate says in frustration, rolling onto her back. “My name is Kate! All right? And I am getting really fucked off with whatever is going on here.”

“It is not my fault. Why are you so rude?” Villanelle asks with a scoff. She notices something and frowns, leaning closer to investigate, and picks up the woman’s left hand. “A wedding ring?” She drops Kate’s hand with a hiss. “Oh, it is melting.”

Kate stares at her hand. Her ring is fine. “Are you mental?”

Villanelle ignores the question. “Who are you married to?”

“My husband’s name is Simon.”

Villanelle blinks, watching the trees sway like accordion bellows. “Oops.”

Kate’s head is still wrecked but the nausea has faded. She doesn’t dare move, however, in case it causes a flare. “What’s that mean, ‘oops’?” she asks, eyeing the other woman.

“I have just killed someone called Simon,” Villanelle explains. “Nearly decapitated him. It was beautiful if I do say so myself.”

“What?!” Kate shrieks, and to hell with it, she sits up and stares. Strangely, her head is now fine as well. “What the fuck do you mean you’ve just killed someone called Simon?” The decapitation part is gross but irrelevant.

“How many ways are there to mean this?” Villanelle asks, waving her hand slowly in front of her own face, grinning at how many fingers she has. “I could do a lot of things with this many fingers.”

“What?” Kate asks. “Are you on drugs?” How do these things happen to her? All she wants is a peaceful marriage and to raise her daughter. The world seems to be wholly against that.

“LSD and thank you for asking,” Villanelle says politely. “Why are you married to a man? Do you not have sex with women?”

“Not really, no. But can we get back to the part where you’ve murdered—”

“Not really? What does that mean?”

“Hello? Have you murdered my husband or not?!”

“How should I know? His name is Simon—no, his name was Simon,” Villanelle says, laughing at her own wit. “And that is all of the information I can give you.”

Kate puts her face in her hands and tries to breathe.

“Um, also? You do not seem very panicked at the thought I may have killed your husband. I feel we should revisit the topic of sex with women.”

“He cheated, that’s why I’m not panicked like an arse. It has nothing to do with our sex life.”

“So you’re saying your sex life is amazing.”

“What?” Kate takes her hands from her face, brow furrowed. “Well, no. No one’s sex life is amazing.”

Villanelle laughs, and it’s very predatory, and she tastes colors when she opens her mouth. “Mine is. My sex life is amazing.”

“I’ll call bullshit on that one.” Wait. Why is she engaging? Why is she starting to relax? She needs to be figuring out how the fuck to get home.

“Kate.” Villanelle shakes her head and tsks. “Kate, Kate, Kate. I cannot believe you would question me. I am obviously an older and more successful version of you. You should be begging me to share my secrets.”

“Hard pass. I need to figure out how to get home.”

“Did you stop to think this may be kind of a Quantum Leap situation and I was sent to rescue you from your boring, non-amazing-sex-life life?”

“Well, no, Oksana, I haven’t,” Kate says sarcastically. “What an insightful suggestion, I’m sure that’s it. That’s exactly what’s happened. Yes, my God, thank you for clearing things up.”

Villanelle grabs her by the throat, and she can feel it around her own throat as well. “No. You do not get to call me Oksana. You will call me Villanelle.”

Kate can still breathe, a little. She forcibly calms herself to avoid overreacting. She stares at Villanelle and after a few moments of slow, soft breaths, she dips her chin in acquiescence. “Villanelle.”

Villanelle is delighted. She releases Kate’s throat and lightly taps her cheek. “It seems that you can learn.” She intends for this to sound condescending, but when her hand makes contact with Kate’s face, something else happens and it doesn’t sound condescending at all. It sounds breathless because a shudder of arousal ripples through her and leaves her wet.

Kate frowns at the tap, but at least she’s no longer being choked and can breathe normally. She is prepared to move on from the entire subject when Villanelle’s hand returns to her face, cupping her cheek instead of tapping it. “What are you doing?” she asks, though she half expects to be ignored.

“When I touched your face,” Villanelle says, bright colors flashing out of her mouth as she speaks, “it was...” She stops talking, mesmerized by the softness of Kate’s cheek, and leans in closer, reaching up with her other hand, stroking Kate’s jaw on both sides with her thumbs. She gasps, pleasure twisting in her belly and prickling her skin, and she traces Kate’s lips with a fingertip, and she almost comes.

Kate shivers, because it’s doing something to her too, even if she can’t pin down exactly what it is. This version of her, this older, supposedly wiser version, this Villanelle, is confident and alluring and mysterious. Now that she’s so close, Kate can smell her, and she smells, simply put, like power. Kate is vaguely aware that she’s never associated power with a scent before, but Villanelle smells like raw, unbridled power. Before she can even think about what she’s doing, she parts her lips and takes Villanelle’s finger into her mouth.

Villanelle shudders hard now and her hips stutter, and she presses her finger down on Kate’s bottom front teeth, forcing her mouth open wider. “Keep it open,” she demands, and takes her hands away.

Kate keeps her mouth open. She has the inexplicable urge to make this woman proud; to wipe away the clear and present disdain.

Villanelle kisses her... because she has to know if they taste the same.

They don’t.

Kate tastes like domesticity. Villanelle will never taste like that. Kate tastes bored. Unfulfilled. Like she’s settling for a life she thinks she should have. Villanelle will never settle. Never allow herself to be unfulfilled. But the bored? That she can understand. She is so often bored. She will erase the boredom from Kate’s mouth today.

Kate gasps when Villanelle’s tongue slides into her mouth, somehow not having expected the kiss to escalate. It had felt exploratory a moment ago, and now it feels full of intent. Specific intent. Intent to ruin her. She feels teeth close around her bottom lip and bite down, and she gasps again. She doesn’t know what to think, really. It feels good, but... odd. Like she’s cheating on Simon, with... not herself, exactly, but also yes, with herself. Like a mirror image but displaced in time. It’s as exhilarating as it is dirty.

Villanelle likes this very much. “You are going to let me fuck you, Kate.”

Kate whimpers, shaking her head. “That’s going a bit far, don’t you think?” She tries to come up with a good excuse not to let this happen despite the little throb between her thighs. “Besides all that, you’ve admitted you’re on LSD. Your consent is impaired.”

Villanelle grabs her throat again, and again she feels it around her own as well. “I am not the one who needs to give consent,” she whispers, licking up one side of Kate’s face with the flat of her tongue. “I am the predator and you are the prey. You give the consent... and I take it.”

If Kate could breathe well, she’d be breathing hard. Her clit flutters and she has to admit to a slight twinge of curiosity. What would it be like with a woman? With this woman? With... essentially with herself? Would Villanelle’s fingers feel like her own? Would it be like masturbating every morning after Simon goes to work? It’s not that he is horrible in bed, he just... she likes to have a handful of orgasms, and he is satisfied with one. “What would you do... if I let you?” she manages to croak out past the hold on her windpipe.

Villanelle laughs and lets go. “You want me to fuck you with my words before I fuck you with my body?”

Kate rubs her throat and clears it. “I like to know what I’m getting into before I sign the papers,” she says, and maybe it’s a bit coy.

Villanelle moves onto her knees and sways a bit as her lungs fill with tiny fairies. “Kate,” she says, shaking her head. “There are no papers here. This is not a prenup. This is not a marriage with a melted wedding ring. This is a chance to change the course of your life by having the best sex you could ever ask for.”

“You’re very arrogant, aren’t you?”

“And you are not arrogant enough.” She moves closer and slides a hand into Kate’s long, loose hair, squeezing a fist at the nape of her neck. Her hand goes right through Kate’s skull, so she tries again, and gets it right.

It’s very disconcerting, having someone who looks like you trying to seduce you. And what’s more is that Kate knows she’s on the verge of being successfully seduced. So she latches onto the piece of information that she can logically argue. “My wedding ring’s fine, Villanelle. What are you on about?” She holds up her hand.

Villanelle squeezes Kate’s hair until her Mini Me gasps. “It’s melted right off your finger,” Villanelle insists.

“It hasn’t,” Kate insists right back. “It’s still there, perfectly formed.”

“Do not argue with me. I know what I see,” Villanelle says, rolling her eyes.

“And you’re off your face on acid,” Kate reminds her. And she thinks that perhaps she should not have reminded Villanelle of this fact, because Villanelle looks quite put out, and the next thing she knows she’s on her hands and knees again with a blooming pain in one arse cheek. “What’ve you—” The other arse cheek. She drops her head down between her shoulders and breathes. Why isn’t this more unpleasant?

As Villanelle hits her, she gets flashes of Kate’s memories played out in technicolor inside her brain. Her jaw drops. “He was married when you started sleeping with him?” she asks very judgily. “How could you break up a marriage, Kate?” Another smack.

“Ow,” Kate complains, gritting her teeth, but she does absolutely nothing to put a stop to it. “Did Gemma put you up to this?”

“Gemma? That ineffectual little mouse? I killed her a long time ago.”

“What?” Kate shrieks, but again, she doesn’t move. “You’ve killed Gemma?” Ineffectual little mouse, though? That is far from a description befitting Gemma Foster.

“Let’s get back to breaking up a marriage. That is terrible, Kate.” She smirks.

“Well it wasn’t purposeful, was it?” Kate snaps, looking over her shoulder at Villanelle just in time to see another smack coming. She braces herself and lets out a quiet grunt at the force of it.

Villanelle deliberately leaves out mentioning her role in the utter destruction and unraveling of Eve’s marriage. “Does your husband do this?” she asks instead, rubbing Kate’s ass through her trousers and swatting her again.

“Of course not. He respects me,” Kate lies about the last part.

“Oh,” Villanelle says, watching blades of grass sing for a few moments before focusing back on the woman puesta en cuatro before her. “He respects you. Yes. Yes. Cheating is sooooo respectful.”

Kate cringes. She’d forgotten she revealed that piece of sensitive information. Why had she done, again? Ah, yes. Because she’s gone mad. “Yes, well, is your relationship perfect then?”

“It is, thank you.” Eve loves her; she knows this. It is all that matters. Even if Eve is currently taking a break from her, it will work out.

“You haven’t got one, have you?” Kate asks, turning her head again to watch Villanelle’s reaction.

Villanelle’s façade falters for a split second before she plasters on a patronizing smile. “We are talking about you, Kate, and your terrible marriage. Do you think if you had asked him to give you a spanking, he still would have cheated?”

“You know what?” Kate says, having enough, and she gets to her feet. “You don’t know anything about me, not really. I have worked so hard to get where I am and have what I have, and you come along and dismiss it so cavalierly when you’ve no idea what you’re talking about! If you want me to say another word, you’d better come clean yourself!” She’s shouting. She hates shouting.

Villanelle tries very hard to catch the words that are dancing past her eyes, but she gives up and touches Kate’s face again instead. She traces it reverently, memorizing the contours and comparing them to her own that she has memorized many times over. They are only a fraction different. “Kate,” she says softly. “I really want to send you home with bruises. Everywhere. Starting with your perfect arse.”

“Then tell me something. Share. Be real!” Kate challenges.

“I destroyed a marriage as well,” Villanelle says, unable to account for her sudden desire to connect. She tells herself it is only because she wants to be allowed to hurt Kate. “I love her, but I ruined her life,” she continues to spout the awful truth. The words taste bitter and smell like betrayal. Betrayal of herself and her secrets to this youthful mirror. “I am alone. She walked away, and that is why I dropped acid. Because I am alone and pathetic and in love with a memory that will never return and I wanted to feel something other than despair. Is that good enough, Kate?”

Kate listens, trying to decide whether she had expected Villanelle to capitulate or not. Trying to decide whether she’s relieved or not. Trying to figure out why in the fuck she’s here and where exactly here is. “Good enough?” she finds herself asking. “None of that is good, is it? But we’ve a lot in common, haven’t we?” She runs a hand through her hair. “Well done on the hypocrisy, by the way. Well done.”

“It wasn’t hypocrisy,” Villanelle snorts. “I wasn’t really judging you. I am just an asshole. What can I say?” Her eyes narrow as Kate starts to wander away. “Where do you think you are going?”

Kate snorts back at her. “To find a way out of this forest. You coming?”

“Don’t you know how these things work?” Villanelle asks, grabbing Kate by the elbow to prevent her from leaving. “There is no physical exit. We work out our issues. That is how we get out.”

“How could you and I possibly have any issues to work out when we’ve never fucking met?” Kate asks, annoyed.

“You are overlooking a more important question,” Villanelle says. “Why are you still wearing your clothes?”

She knows it’s stupid. It’s asinine, really, to consider it. But that kiss... That kiss had been... mind blowing.

Before she realizes, she’s out of her top, and she kicks off her shoes and toes off her socks. She’s getting out of her trousers when Villanelle walks to a nearby tree and snaps off a twig. “What are you doing?” she asks as she steps away from her trousers.

Villanelle takes a seat on the ground and starts stripping the switch, ignoring Kate until she has a smooth piece of wood to work with. “When I said bruises, I meant bruises and welts.” She swishes the stick through the air and enjoys the noise. The tracers are a bit less now, which is disappointing, but, she supposes, better for switching someone.

Kate’s stomach tries to drop out of her body. “What?” she asks, staring at Villanelle with her lips slightly parted.

Villanelle walks to her and shows her the switch. “This will leave welts, not bruises.”

“That’s not...” Kate falters. She’s no idea what to say. Her mouth is dry and her eyes are wide. Villanelle seriously means to whip her with that. She’d thought it was a joke... until now. Now she can see the intent and the intensity in that predator’s gaze. “But...” She’s still no idea what to say.

Villanelle puts the switch to Kate’s lips. “Kiss it.”

Kate’s lips purse and she presses a kiss before she can tell herself to protest. “Wait,” she says, but it’s far too late. She’s already done it.

Villanelle smiles, and it’s dark and swirly, and she runs the tip of the switch down Kate’s front, dipping it just inside her underwear. “These have to go.”

Kate makes a very unattractive squeaking sound when the stick slips under her waistband, and Villanelle’s quiet words have her practically coming undone. She nods, hooking her thumbs in and pushing the underwear off her hips, letting them pool at her feet.

Villanelle swishes the tip lightly over Kate’s belly, barely enough to feel, and then taps her bra. “This too.”

Kate’s stomach quivers at the fleeting touch, and she’s shy about removing her bra for some reason... maybe because she can already tell that Villanelle has fabulous tits. Not that her own aren’t nice, because they are, but most women are insecure about their breasts, aren’t they?

And despite this, she still takes it off. She’s naked except for her jewelry. Earrings and her wedding ring. She flexes her fingers and then lets her hands hang loosely at her sides.

Villanelle taps the wedding ring with the branch. “Put this in your trouser pocket.”

“How am I meant to take off my ring if it’s melted?” Kate finds a bit of sass, but she slides off the ring and bends to put it in her trousers.

Villanelle watches her comply, watches as there are suddenly an unending number of Kates and then just as suddenly there’s again only one. She blinks; shakes her head. “Now... go hug a tree.”

It is a bit hard to breathe. Kate turns and glances around, and when she spots a suitable tree to be leaned against, she walks toward it. Slowly. It’s not that she wants to draw things out, it’s just that she’s unsure what to expect. She’s hesitant. But she’s deadly curious.

She stops in front of a white sycamore and carefully presses herself into the smooth bark, wrapping her arms around the trunk. She hears Villanelle’s boots crushing leaves behind her and knows the other woman has nearly reached her.

Villanelle stands still and silent, watching Kate stand still and silent. She wants Kate to get impatient; to want her to begin.

Kate’s fingers curl into the bark. What is Villanelle waiting for?

Villanelle can be very patient when she wants to be, and the reward of victory outweighs the annoyance of waiting. So she is a statue; she will not even let Kate hear her breathe.

Kate tries to wait nicely, because really, who wants to rush into a switching? But the anticipation is killing her and making her squirm. “Are you not getting on with it?” she finally blurts out.

Villanelle grins. Her patience has indeed provided a sweet reward. She can taste Kate’s desperation. She can see the glowing halo around golden hair, though this woman is no angel. She still does not give in.

Kate grunts in frustration and wills herself to magically pop back home, which, of course, is fruitless. “Come on, then,” she goads. “Whip me, won’t you?”

Villanelle doesn’t move or speak.

The longer she stands there, the clearer it becomes: the bitch wants her to beg. Well, she won’t. She’s pretty sure of that. Pretty sure.

Villanelle can wait all day. All night. For eternity.

Shit. Kate can’t stand here like this much longer, she can’t. It’s not in her; she’s not built for it. “Fuck,” she mutters. “All right. All right. Would you whip me now, Villanelle?”

It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not yet what she’s going for. She doesn’t react.

Oh, God. Kate screws up her nerve and exhales softly, and on the edge of the exhale, one word is carried. “Please.” She shivers as she says it. She’s wet.

Villanelle hums delightedly and snaps the switch forward, catching Kate across the middle of her arse.

Kate jumps and yells into the stillness of the air, the sound echoing in her ears. She hugs the tree tighter, nails digging into bark. “Oh, God,” she groans, because it hurts so badly, the sting cutting into her arse and radiating out from there. It’s only made worse by the knowledge that this will be one of many.

Villanelle’s eyes are immediately drawn to the sharp but swaying red line across Kate’s backside. It makes her teeth grit and her mouth water. She swishes again, a backhand, catching the unmarked skin right below the first welt.

Kate jumps again, her fingernails digging even harder into the bark. She feels the strangest urge to apologize to the tree. She doesn’t want to hurt it. She knows that trees are living beings, but... this tree seems like more. Seems like the bark is recoiling from her aggressive touch. And why shouldn’t this tree be more? She’s trapped in some sort of half fantasy, half nightmare. Instead of apologizing with words, she loosens her grip.

Villanelle stumbles a little but catches herself, letting the wave of nausea ride through and out. She blinks a few times and shakes her head, and she’s right now. Everything is still bright and dull at the same time, mobile and immobile, but she’s good. She’s back in control – she’s not shaky, sick, or unsteady on her feet.

There is a pause, so Kate breathes. She can’t believe she’s letting this happen, because it is so far outside the realm of her existence... but that is also the reason it’s so exhilarating. Her ass is on fire already after two strokes, and the flutter in the pit of her stomach is telling her she’ll be taking a lot more than two.

She shifts nervously as she waits, and she hears the swoosh before she feels it again, this time a concentrated line of searing heat across the back of one thigh. The tip of the switch digs in to the sensitive flesh of her inner thigh and she lets out a yell. Before she can even take another breath, the switch connects in the opposite direction with her other thigh, and her eyes fill with tears. She curls her fingernails into her palms so she doesn’t hurt the tree, and she tries to hold still. Oh, it hurts.

Villanelle is pleased with the results so far and takes a moment to admire her handiwork, stepping forward to run a fingertip over every single inch of all four welts, thrilling at Kate’s shiver. “What will your husband say, when he sees these marks?” she whispers against the shell of Kate’s left ear.

Kate breathes through the pain of having her fresh welts touched and breathes through the effect of that whisper in her ear. She is so wet. She hurts so much, but she is wetter than she has been in a very long time. “I don’t know,” she says honestly, her voice scratchy and her mouth dry.

“You do not know what your husband will say to switch marks on his wife’s body?” Villanelle taunts. Her tone is disguised as curious but they both know she’s mocking. She can taste the bitterness of this woman’s marriage. Nothing sweet is left. Villanelle is not sure if there was anything sweet to begin with. The parallel to her relationship with Eve is not lost on her. But her relationship with Eve... there had been something sweet.

She pulls herself out of her head and steps back, balancing on quicksand, and when she is steady, she snaps the switch back and forth across Kate’s bottom until she draws blood and the woman screams.

It’s too much. It’s too much all at once. It’s too much all at once, and Kate screams. She can feel the spot where her skin is split open and blood is dripping down the side of her right arse cheek, down the back of her thi—no. It never reaches her thigh because a warm, wet tongue laps it up before it descends.

Villanelle knows the conflicting sensations will feel like torture, but when there is blood on a beautiful woman’s body, and Villanelle sees it; smells it; causes it, then Villanelle will also taste it. She licks, sucks, and swallows.

The noise Kate lets out is unrecognizable to her. Somewhere between a moan and a whine and a grunt. She’s never made it before and doubts she will again. But it’s hot. It’s definitely a hot noise, and Villanelle must think so too because she hears purring from behind her.

“Does it hurt?” Villanelle asks, her voice liquid scarlet.

“So much,” Kate says with a whimper. “So very much.”

“And what else?”

“What else do I feel?”

“Mm.”

“Sweaty. Hot. Vulnerable. Exposed.”

Villanelle spanks with her palm.

Kate hisses and bites her lip, tears finally spilling over. “Aroused,” she confesses. “So bloody aroused.” And she should feel ashamed about that, probably, but somehow, she doesn’t. Simon could never make her feel like this.

“Yes,” Villanelle says. “And I will take care of that for you. It will be wonderful. But first... how much more can you take? Where else can I hit you?”

“How much m—” Kate chokes on a sob. “I don’t know that I can take any more at all.”

“You must be able to, since we are still here,” Villanelle says logically.

Kate speaks through her tears, barely understandable, but there is a spark of anger. “How do you know it’s me? Maybe you’re the reason we’re still here. Maybe you’ve not fulfilled the terms of whatever bloody agreement dragged us down this rabbit hole!”

“Kate,” Villanelle says placatingly, brushing lustrous, not-at-all-dulled-by-this-experience hair out of the way so she can leave gentle kisses along a very sculpted and attractive neck. Her hands skate up and down the trembling woman’s bare sides in a soothing manner. “Shhhh... I will take care of you.”

Kate wants to believe her, but she knows Villanelle wants to whip her some more and it puts her on edge. She tries to enjoy the kisses and soft touches for what they are; to take them at face value, but she can’t. She squirms away and lets go of the tree, but without that anchor she falls to her knees, and a roll of thunder shakes the ground.

“Did you feel that or is it just my very good dose of LSD?” Villanelle asks, looking around for an explanation, but all she sees is wind.

“I felt it,” Kate says.

There’s another.

Villanelle almost falls. “You’d better come closer to me.”

Kate shuffles over, but another thunderclap sounds, angrier, and she grabs Villanelle around the waist, burying her face in a ridiculously soft blouse. “It wants me back on the tree,” she whimpers.

“Yes,” Villanelle says matter-of-factly, but she does stroke a hand through Kate’s hair pretty gently. “I told you you were not done.”

Another rumble of thunder, and then a strike of lightning lights up the ground in the distance. The dried leaves covering the forest floor catch fire and it races toward them.

“You’d better hurry,” Villanelle says, helping her up.

Kate presses herself to the tree again and every single flame vanishes into thin air. “How did you know I wasn’t done?” she asks, suddenly curious.

“It was not really a thought, it was a very abstract feeling,” Villanelle tries to explain. “I did not know in the way we are used to knowing things.”

Kate wants to protest, but she also wants to fucking go home, and this really isn’t Villanelle’s fault as far as she knows, so she reins it in. “I’m ready.”

Villanelle slides a hand across Kate’s upper back, taking her hair with it and draping it forward over Kate’s right shoulder.

Kate steels herself and closes her eyes, taking a slow breath, and something breaks inside her. “I’m sorry, Gemma,” she whispers, and the moment she does, the tree disappears and sends her back to her knees.

Once she’s realized what happened, she sobs with relief. It wasn’t the amount of strokes from the whip, it was the quality of her regret that mattered. Until now, she had been justifying her actions, even inside her head. There was always an excuse; always a mitigating factor that made her okay with what she had done. But now, here, stripped bare, literally, and faced with judgment by her older self, she could finally admit that it had never been okay. What she’d done had never been okay. She had known Simon was married when she met him. Being unhappily married was no excuse to cheat, and being attracted to someone who was unhappily married was no excuse to be the woman he cheated with.

Villanelle still wants to whip her some more, but she drops the switch with a sigh, because it’s clearly time to move on. She can’t resist one more spank with her hand, right over the mess of welts on one cheek, and then she slides her hand up Kate’s back, trailing a fingertip along her spine.

Kate doesn’t expect that and she yelps, the pain intensifying her tears. She’s a mess. An utter and complete mess. She folds in on herself and lies on her side in the leaves, hugging her arms to her chest. She’s surprised when Villanelle’s fingers start combing gently through her hair.

Villanelle sits cross legged and strokes Kate’s hair for a moment, then tugs on it. “Sit in my lap. I want to make you feel good now.”

Kate is hesitant, but Villanelle’s desire to make her feel good seems genuine... even though her stinging, welted ass says otherwise. “You enjoyed hurting me,” she whispers.

“Yes.” Villanelle doesn’t lie. “A lot. But I will also enjoy pleasing you. Come, sit.” She releases Kate’s hair and pats her lap.

Kate whimpers as she sits up and slides onto Villanelle’s lap, but as arms encircle her protectively, she sighs, trying to relax, and leans back against Villanelle’s chest.

“There you go,” Villanelle croons, brushing some dirt off of Kate’s knees as she pushes them apart. “You are so beautiful, Kate.”

“Is that narcissism or a compliment?” Kate manages to tease, sniffling, turning her head to hide her face in Villanelle’s neck.

“I do not think there is a way to tell the difference,” Villanelle replies, stroking both hands up the insides of Kate’s thighs. “So I suppose you can think whatever you like.” She skirts up over a trembling belly and circles one fingertip around each breast, watching hard nipples harden further.

Kate arches her back, feeling needy. She’s never felt this needy. She’s still wet from the whipping and Villanelle’s hands on her bare skin is almost too much. Like she can feel the touch twice. She can’t even imagine what it will feel like to have Villanelle’s fingers inside of her. She can’t help squirming in anticipation.

Villanelle grins and tugs on Kate’s nipples and whispers into Kate’s ear. “Hold still.”

“You’ve got to be joking,” Kate exhales in a rush. “When I’m this keyed up?”

Villanelle takes her hands away and leans back, using them to prop herself up instead.

“Why do you want to make it so hard for me?” Kate asks, on the verge of tears again. “Do you want me to beg? Is that it?”

Villanelle shrugs one shoulder. “For a start,” she says.

Kate doesn’t have a problem begging as long as she knows it will get her what she wants. “And the rest?”

Villanelle nips her earlobe. “Beg and find out.”

“I don’t want to be humiliated, Villanelle,” Kate protests weakly. She knows she doesn’t have any cards to play.

“There is just the two of us here. How would I humiliate you?”

Kate presses her lips to Villanelle’s throat. “If I beg you... will you still deny me?”

Villanelle isn’t sure what happens, but her throat burns so badly at Kate’s kiss that she cries out and slaps a hand over the spot to protect the sizzling skin. “What the fuck?”

And suddenly Kate has cards to play.

But she thinks it’s a test. And a twisted metaphor. Her lips can literally burn Villanelle, but she’s meant to be using her mouth to say hot, filthy things.

She wants to pass the test. She wants to go home. So she keeps her mouth away from Villanelle’s skin. “Please touch me,” she breathes.

Villanelle waits to see if Kate will use this new development to her advantage, but when the other woman starts mildly begging instead, she relaxes and drops her hand. “Where do you want me to touch you? How do you want me to touch you? When? Why?”

Kate groans and leans her head back on Villanelle’s shoulder, staring at the sky. “Everywhere. Please. Soft. Hard. Now. Because I’ve never been so wet.” She answers all the questions.

Villanelle traces a diamond pattern up and down Kate’s right arm with one fingernail. Soft, and then hard, leaving a raised red line. “Like this?” she taunts.

Kate wants to surprise her. “Yes,” she says. And it’s not a lie, because every touch of Villanelle’s feels good.

Villanelle laughs and repeats the motion on Kate’s other arm. “Soon you will not be cheeky.”

“I wasn’t,” Kate says quietly. “It feels good.”

“Hm.” Villanelle is not sure she believes it, but she moves on. Teasing Kate is not fun if she does not get a reaction. And she should hurry on with it anyway, because as soon as they finish this, they’ll probably both be home. “Never been so wet?” she asks instead, dipping a hand between Kate’s wantonly spread thighs, and oh, because she is very wet. “Well fuck.”

Kate forgets about holding still and bucks her hips, and she regrets it instantly because Villanelle pushes her forward onto her hands and knees (yet again) and smacks her arse (yet again) which makes her cry (yet again). “Please don’t do that anymore, please!” she begs. She’s shaking with how badly it stings, and she attributes her lack of foresight to this, because suddenly Villanelle’s finger is pressing inside her there, and she shrieks, because she’s never—Simon’s never—no one’s ever touched her there. And she should have been more aware and known it was coming, or at least considered the possibility given the positions they were now in, but she hadn’t. She hadn’t.

And she doesn’t know if she hates it. What is she supposed to say?

Villanelle thinks, from Kate’s reaction, that this is a first. She likes being the first to do anything to anyone, so this knowledge delights her. She’s grinning as she moves her finger and watches with satisfaction as Kate’s arms give out and the younger woman lands on her elbows. She gets impatient after a few minutes of gentle probing and asks with obvious exasperation, “well?!”

Is Kate supposed to be capable of coherent thought with Villanelle’s finger in her arse?! “W—I—well what?” she stutters.

Villanelle scoffs and curls her finger, grinning at the unladylike noise Kate makes. “You’re welcome,” she says deliberately.

Kate blinks. “You want me to say thank you?”

“I think it would be appropriate, yeah.”

“What exactly am I supposed to thank you for? Whipping me, spanking me when you’d already whipped me, teasing and taunting me, or unceremoniously devirginizing my arsehole?!”

“All of the above, probably,” Villanelle says like it should be obvious... which, obviously, it should.

“You’re bloody mental!” Kate yells, incredulous. “Absolutely off your face—”

“On acid, yes, I know.” Villanelle sighs. “Though I feel more sober than I should right now.”

Kate would keep complaining, but she’s decided she actually likes the feeling. “Right. Well, thank you, I suppose,” she says so Villanelle won’t stop.

“Mmm, I like this change of tune,” Villanelle says with a rumbling purr, and she leans over to gently kiss Kate’s lower back.

The gentle press of lips sends shockwaves through her that most definitely outweigh her normal reaction to a kiss like that. She shudders and presses herself into Villanelle’s hand. “Please. Please just—please.”

“Yes,” Villanelle says, and she drops her left hand beneath their bodies, gathering wetness on her middle finger and dragging it up to circle Kate’s pulsing clit. “So eager,” she comments with a smirk, pressing in just the right way with both hands to have Kate coming apart in her grasp.

It’s a quiet orgasm, but it’s powerful, and Villanelle helps Kate lie down on her side afterward so she can breathe and recover.

When she’s properly come down from the heights, they look at each other awkwardly, because fuck, they’re still here. “I told you it was you,” Kate says. “Stop fucking about and sort your issues. I want to go home.”

Villanelle is sulking now. She’d been afraid of this. She’d hoped that selflessly bringing Kate pleasure would be enough to send them home, but she’d been afraid it wouldn’t be. And it isn’t. Fuck! She hates sharing.

She’d better get straight to the issue. “I am in love with someone who will never love me back.” She won’t look at Kate anymore no matter how beautiful her Mini Me is.

Kate thinks about what to say before she says it. “How do you know they’ll never love you back?”

“I told you before. I ruined her life.”

“What did you do to ruin her life?”

“What didn’t I do?” Villanelle mutters, picking up a leaf and starting to tear it into tiny pieces.

“You know how this works. Be honest,” Kate says, though she’s too wrecked to put any real force behind the words.

It’s hard for Villanelle. It always has been. To talk about things. She wishes her problem was being sexually repressed or needing to offer penance for adultery. The remedies for those were pleasant. This... this was like ripping out teeth with no anesthesia. She goes for another leaf; rips that one as well. “I killed a good friend of hers.”

“Christ!”

Another leaf. “I terrorized her and her husband. I taunted her. I flaunted my work, hoping she’d notice me, but then when she did... I just kept running. Like a coward. Then when we finally got the chance to work together, I—” She swipes angrily at her eyes and grabs another leaf. “I told her I loved her, but she—she said I didn’t know what love was. She was walking away from me, so I shot her. And then I ran again.”

“Bloody hell...”

“I thought she was dead and I tried to move on, but she’s alive. I tracked her down and we had a fight on one of those hideous public transport buses, and she kissed me. But then she headbutted me and got off the bus, and has refused to see or speak to me since.”

“Have you said you’re sorry?” Kate thinks probably not.

“Of course not. I told you, I am a coward,” Villanelle snaps, swiping at her eyes again and hugging her knees to her chest.

“Will you say sorry now?”

“What?” Villanelle finally looks at her. “Why would I do this? Humiliate myself for what reason?”

Kate kneels up and shuffles forward, putting a hand to Villanelle’s face. “I think that’s why you’re here. To realize you need to open up to this woman. Tell her you’re sorry, Villanelle. If you are sorry.”

“Maybe I am not.”

“You seem like you are.”

“Yes, I am. I did not mean to ruin her life, Kate. And I know what love is. If I could go back and do things differently, I would make sure she never met me.” She doesn’t know how she’s sober now, but she is. She’s stone-cold sober and experiencing a clarity like nothing she has ever known. She cannot go back and remove herself from Eve’s life, but she can be honest.

“I don’t think she’ll want to have never met you,” Kate offers. She can’t know for sure, of course, but she has a feeling. “And you obviously do love her. You know what love is or you wouldn’t be here. I think you need to be vulnerable to her.”

“She’ll reject me.”

“Then she rejects you. But you’ll know you’ve given it everything.”

Villanelle shakes her head. “I do not like rejection.”

“Nobody likes rejection,” Kate says, and how has this hard, hard woman suddenly become so lost; so precious? “But if you love her, isn’t it worth the risk of rejection to let her know who you really are? If she’s already rejected the façade you’ve been putting up, what more have you to lose?”

Villanelle stares at the ground again. “If I don’t know for sure, then she’s not gone forever.”

It’s heartbreaking, actually, and Kate genuinely wants to help. “But she might be... at any minute,” she says gently.

Villanelle chokes on emotion at that and makes fists at her sides. “I cannot live without Eve.”

Kate can be stubborn too. “You already are.”

Villanelle starts to cry.

“Eve is worth a chance,” Kate continues, running her hands up and down Villanelle’s sides. “You’re worth a chance.”

“I am the worst,” Villanelle says, shaking her head.

Kate unbuckles the belt at Villanelle’s waist. “You are the worst,” she agrees with a grin. “But you’re also worth a chance.”

Villanelle’s gaze snaps to Kate’s hands now. “What are you...?”

Kate keeps going; undoes the catch of the trousers and lowers the zipper. She puts her hand inside and rubs her fingers along the seam of Villanelle’s panties where it stretches across her left thigh.

Villanelle shudders. The touch is electric. There are literal sparks when Kate’s fingers brush against her bare thigh on their way across the seam of her panties. She’s afraid to let this continue, but afraid not to. She doesn’t know what to do and she dislikes feeling uncertain. “I do not deserve this,” she says, and her voice reflects her tears.

“I think part of your problem is that you think you don’t deserve this woman you love. You think you don’t deserve tenderness, or pleasure, or anything else that other people have. And maybe it’s true, maybe you don’t, but I think you do. I think you’re wrong and that you do deserve this. I think you’re not that person anymore, Villanelle, the person who killed Eve’s friend... the person who shot her and left her... I think you’ve changed, but you’re too afraid to let her see that.” She rubs with two fingers between Villanelle’s legs. “Admit you’re scared.” She presses against Villanelle’s clit.

Villanelle gasps and the words tumble from her lips unchecked. “I am scared,” she admits. “What if she does not believe that I have changed?”

Kate starts making little circles with one fingertip, massaging and manipulating Villanelle’s clit as she talks. “If she doesn’t believe your words, show her with actions. Tell her everything, and if she doesn’t believe you, show her you’ll let her walk away.”

Villanelle chokes on a whimper and puts a hand over her mouth. She has never been more afraid of anything in her life than she is of losing Eve. Permanently; for good; forever. Her fear has been forcing her to exist in limbo, her life essentially on hold, and it is devastating. She knows Kate is right, that she must confront the fear, but the thought of it paralyzes her. And it is all confused by the feelings of gentle pleasure that Kate’s fingers are working through her body.

“And when you do that... she’ll know. She’ll know she was wrong; she’ll know you’ve changed; she’ll know that you are capable of love.” She firms her touch now, using both fingers to press and stretch and coax Villanelle’s clit out of hiding, and when hips jerk into her hand she knows she’s found the spot. She stays there, rubbing fast with a little more pressure, switching between circles and a rapid up and down until Villanelle comes.

It’s shaky, but she comes. The sensation spreads through her like a slow burn and she shudders on Kate’s hand, trapping it between clamped thighs, but just for a moment because those sparks zap her again and she quickly forces her legs apart. The aftershock rails through and she shudders again, and Kate’s hand withdraws from her trousers. “Thank you,” she says. It’s not for the orgasm, it’s for the talk; the attempt to give courage.

“Are you going to tell her?” Kate asks as she finds her clothes and gets (very carefully) dressed. Fuck, her arse and thighs still sting like fire. She wonders about herself when her first thought is I hope these welts come home with me. She stands in front of Villanelle again and waits for an answer.

Villanelle does up her trousers and buckles her belt and runs her hands over her face and takes a deep breath and— “Yes,” she says.

The moment Villanelle says yes, Kate doubles over with nausea. She would complain, except for the fact that it’s the same feeling she’d gotten before she ended up here so she thinks she’s going home. She’ll take the nausea, thank you, if it means getting back to her daughter. “Bye,” she manages to say to Villanelle before she is mercifully vomiting on her own kitchen floor.

“Bye,” Villanelle echoes, and her mind goes fuzzy as the forest disappears and her flat comes to bear around her.

This time it has a ceiling. She’s still sober.

***

Kate leaves her husband. She takes her daughter; takes everything. His job, his money, his car, his home. He has nothing. And this is how it should be. He is a horrible person with no redeeming qualities and she doesn’t understand how she fell for him in the first place.

The only reason she doesn’t regret that is Amelie. She hugs her daughter tight and gets in the car and drives away from him, forever.

When she’s settled in a new place she invites Gemma round and gives a proper apology. Surprisingly, Gemma accepts it. They even begin an uneasy friendship.

She doesn’t share her otherworldly experience with anyone, but she does have a small scar on her arse cheek where Villanelle had broken the skin, and she treasures it.

She looks at women differently now as well. She wants them. All the time.

***

Villanelle apologizes to Eve. She actually writes a letter, but instead of sending it, she shows up at Eve’s shitty apartment one night and knocks on the door, and when Eve opens it, she’s ready. She starts reading. She’s not sure if Eve will slam the door in her face, but Eve listens.

She’s crying by the time she finishes reading to Eve, and she is afraid to look up. Or breathe. Or exist. She has laid herself bare now and the ball is in Eve’s court.

Eve lets her in and they talk. They talk the entire night, about anything and everything, and Villanelle has never been so happy... until Eve kisses her. She’s happier then.

Eve doesn’t stop at a kiss, though. She looks at Villanelle and holds her face, and Villanelle watches Eve’s eyes fill with tears, and she hears Eve’s voice saying words she struggles to process.

“I love you, Villanelle.”

And now she is the happiest. She will find a way to thank Kate someday.

But then she thinks about how she’d probably left a scar on Kate’s virgin arse, and maybe that was already thanks enough.