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don't blame me, love made me crazy

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Rationality filters in bit by bit, blind shock ceding the floor to pain, followed immediately by panic. Eve tastes metal, sharp and hot on her tongue. Sweat beads up and pools at the bend of her limbs, everywhere she starts to shiver, the pathetic tremble of an animal in a trap. Tears rise and spill over as the shakes intensify. Shock. That’s shock, Eve reminds herself, and she can’t give into it if she doesn’t want to do something so stupid she won’t even live to regret it. Keeping that in mind she tries to breathe in long, purposeful swallows of air even as her heart drums a frantic tattoo against her breastbone.

It’s not all shock, the agonizing pain in her side reminds her. The knife is a series of colors, stripped of context like the photographs of Villanelle’s victims had been; a garish blur of silver in her peripheral vision, the dark hilt, a growing red stain and her own whitened knuckles. Don’t take it out, Villanelle had said.

“Don’t take it out.” The words are a low croak from her own throat. Don’t take it out, don’t take it out, don’t take it out.

The painful stagger from entryway to kitchen takes all of the iron she can find to stiffen her spine. Instinct screams at her to break down into a useless, gibbering mess, like she had that first night. It presses down on her chest, a tangible weight, trying to strangle each breath before it can escape and making her hyperconscious of every sensation. Even the soft circulation of air rasps like sandpaper on her skin.

Pain flares hot and cold all at once with each reluctant step forward, clawing her to ribbons from the inside out. But Villanelle had said to keep it in and if she wanted Eve dead she would be, she can at least hold to that. The nearly overwhelming urge to pull it free batters at her resolve, but each time it surges Eve keeps a firm hold on the hilt and resists.

Don’t take it out, don’t take it out, don’t take it out. She forces the words down into her very marrow and steadies her grip, mindful of the slow numbing in her fingers. Every movement jars the knife and ler lumbering, stop and go progress forces her to readjust her hold every so often. It would be easier if Villanelle had used something shorter, but at least half the blade of the knife remains visible, forcing her to put real effort into keeping it from following gravity and falling to the floor with or without her consent. Insult and further injury, all in one.

Eve mounts the last stair after what feels like an eternity spent forcing her feet to continue to move forward in spite of the pain.

Villanelle looks up from the open fridge with a theatrical pout. “Took you long enough. You make a terrible host, you know. You don’t have anything to eat in here,” she whines, returning to rummaging through its sparse contents as if to prove her words, humming a tuneless see-saw of disapproval and periodic consideration. “Now I will have to order something.”

“You stabbed me. We’re not getting food, I’m going to do what I should have done and shoot you.” Villanelle makes a condescending encouragement without looking away from the apparent pressing inconvenience Eve’s empty fridge presents. The room swims, her side burns, and Eve is so immediately furious she can feel the ghost of a hilt slightly thicker than the one in her hand when she leans against the bannister, trying not to tumble ass over teakettle right down the stairs and break her neck. “Hey! I’m talking to you, you asshole. You stabbed me, so get the fuck out of my fucking fridge and answer me!”

Villanelle’s brow wrinkles in an insultingly unconvincing apology when she finally looks away from the fridge. “You have condiments and alcohol,” she tsk’s. “I thought I might make breakfast, but you don’t even have any sausages.”

“Why the hell would I have sausages?”

“Doesn’t everyone?” she asks, with what Eve could swear is genuine confusion.

“This isn’t about... look, would you just shut up about the goddamn sausages!”

“Then what is it about?”

“You fucking stabbed me, Villanelle.” The sheer surreal insanity of having to debate this with a knife still in her side is almost enough to make Eve laugh. Moments from bleeding out on the tacky linoleum, and here she is. Debating sausages with a psychopath.

“You stabbed me first,” Villanelle says, waving her hand in a dismissive arc.

“That was different.”

“I don’t see how.” She mimes thrusting a knife into someone, a violent surge of movement that makes Eve’s breath catch in her throat. “A stabbing is a stabbing. You have a knife, you put that knife in someone else and then you have stabbed them. Not very complicated.”

“Jesus fucking Christ, how is this happening right now.” Eve sways and with distant, removed horror she knows her knees are about to buckle. “Villanelle…” Her grip slackens, bit by inevitable bit. “Please,” she breathes, over the faint metallic clink of the knife hitting the floor.

“I told you not to pull it out,” Villanelle chides, and then everything is darkness and silence.

 


 

The knife is gone when she regains consciousness, the wound in her side sewn neatly shut. Eve prods gingerly at the stitches marching like a small army of ants across her midsection, admiring their brutal precision in the dim light filtering through the blinds. Late afternoon, maybe? Or early evening.

Following the same insane urge that led her to being the sort of person who gets stabbed in the first place, Eve picks at one end with a broken fingernail, tugging the black thread taut until the skin beneath it puckers, and then a little more until it feels like Villanelle’s tidy stitches might rip and spill out everything hiding behind them.

“If you pull the stitches loose, I won’t sew them back up again.” Villanelle lays a stinging slap on the back of her hand with a ruler. “Leave them be.”

Eve yanks her hand back, yelping when the swift movement pulls at the stitches just as much as she had with her fingernails. “You did a good job, I was just—what the hell are you wearing?”

“You don’t like it?” Villanelle does an excited little twirl, showing off her sober, shapeless nun’s habit to good advantage. “I thought it might remind you of going to school.”

“I told you, I didn’t go to Catholic school.” Pushing herself up on her elbows, Eve tries to make sense of what she’s seeing. “Why are you wearing that?”

“I needed to get into an office building.”

“...So you dressed as a nun?” Try as she might, Eve can’t sort out Villanelle’s latest insane non-sequitur.

Villanelle shrugs. “Nobody questions a nun. Not enough to bother me, at least.”

“You’re…” Insane. Absolutely fucking ridiculous, Eve wants to say, but it’s an irritatingly good observation. “Thank you,” she sighs, giving in. “For the stitches.”

“I was going to make you do it,” Villanelle says petulantly. “I had to. But I would rather you not die.”

“Thank you?” Eve sinks back into the pillows, head spinning. Maybe if she shuts her eyes, it will help block out the vertigo. “You keep doing these terrible things to me, and I keep thanking you for it. Why do I keep thanking you for it?”

“I will let you be rude, but only because of the blood loss,” Villanelle sniffs. “You are still terrible at thank yous.”

“Do you still forgive me?” Why she asks it—who could hazard a guess, because Eve certainly has no idea what could possibly have possessed her to ask. She should quit while she’s ahead. She is alone, injured, and dependent on Villanelle’s whims until she can walk out under her own steam. Better to leave that particular stone unturned until miles lie between them, and a few locked doors.

More—most—importantly, she shouldn’t care. Villanelle is every dangerous, terrifying creature stalking her nightmares. Villanelle ruined her life. Eve shouldn’t crave her forgiveness any more than she should be anywhere in her proximity.

“Hmm.” Villanelle comes to stand by the bed. “I did not let you die, did I?” she says, finally, stroking a hand over Eve’s cheek. “I could have let you die. Or I could have killed you while you were sleeping, and I did not do that either.”

“That’s disturbing—and somehow comforting, but it’s not a yes,” Eve can’t help but point out. Eyes still clenched shut, she listens Villanelle breathe evenly above her.

“Go to sleep, Eve Polastri.” FIngertips trace shapes on her cheeks, looping whorls that remind Eve of something she can’t quite place. “You need to rest if you’re going to heal fast enough to keep up with me, and we will have so many things to talk about once you are awake.”

“Says the woman who stabbed me.” Petulance and excitement jostle for position, but Eve is exhausted. That much is unavoidably true. “You’ll be here when I wake up?”

“Go to sleep, Eve,” Villanelle says, giving her cheek a little affectionate slap and heading for the bedroom door. “I am going out to buy kielbasa.”

 


 

It apparently takes two and a half days to buy kielbasa. Eve sleeps through most of it, but she wakes up alone often enough to drag herself slowly and painfully to the kitchen or the bathroom. She can only tell Villanelle hasn’t been back and left again by the still, stale air she is too tired to do anything about because somehow while she was unconscious Villanelle installed locks on all the windows.

She might have been back for hours or minutes for all Eve knows, but when she finally opens her eyes on the third afternoon Villanelle's face is inches from her own.

“Are you truly awake? Finally?” Eve gasps like a landed fish, curling in on herself when Villanelle places a hand over her stitches and presses down, just enough to start to pull at the edges. “Ah, good. You are. I have been so bored waiting for you to do something but lay there. We have a lot to talk about.”

Angry questions shuffle through Eve’s mind too fast to process them until she’s had at least half a fucking pot of coffee. Finally, she settles on, “What the hell is wrong with you?”

“Good morning to you too, sleepyhead,” Villanelle kisses the top of her head with a loud smack, ignoring Eve’s outraged sputters. “I think we should open up a little, get some fresh air. It is a little bit stale in here, don’t you think?” She takes in Eve’s rumpled, sweat stained pajamas and takes an ostentatious sniff. “And maybe you should take a shower ...and put on some new clothes. Clean ones.”

“You’re the one who put locks on the goddamned—no. No, I’m not doing this now. Unlock the windows, help me cover the wound so I can shower, fine. But first you’re going to answer a couple questions.” Fuck you, Eve wants to add, you can’t stab me, lock me up for days, and then bitch that I smell bad but allowing Villanelle to bait her into a fight won’t get her any answers.

“Of course. Geez, somebody is certainly cranky today.”

“What’s your play, here? What do you want from me?” Eve narrows her eyes, trying to read each and every movement of Villanelle’s face, searching for what will probably turn out to be her own fucking windmills and nothing else, no matter how much she wants to believe otherwise. “The truth. The least you can do now is be straight with me for once.”

“It is like you want me to make jokes,” Villanelle complains.

“How is that—oh. Oh.” Eve coughs, heat flaring high in her cheeks. “Fine. Be honest with me, then. Happy?”

Ecstatic,” Villanelle flops on her back and rests her head on her hands, lounging casually like they’re at a slumber party and not what could be not inaccurately called a hostage situation. “Now that we are even… I want you to come with me. We can find the bad guys together. That is what you do at work, right? Only we can do it better. Just us, without anyone to give us orders.”

“Oh, shit, work.” A weekend off the grid and a late start on Mondays has become her norm, but when Eve doesn’t show up at all that will set off alarms. “Shit. Shit, they’re going to send someone looking for me. Shit. Where’s my phone—goddamnit, Villanelle, they’ve probably been calling. They’re going to send someone over and they will find you.”

“You are worried about me!” Villanelle says, looking delighted. “That is so sweet.”

Panic tastes like the morning after too much red wine, sour and rushing upwards to sting the back of her throat. “Why aren’t you more concerned about this? Fuck, where’s my fucking phone.”

“I stole it and took it with me so you couldn’t call them,” Villanelle says, as if that much should have gone without saying. “But they have not called either, and so no one will come to take me away. Not until Wednesday, at least.”

“What happens on Wednesday?” Fury eats like acid into the fear of discovery, but Eve forces the question out past the lump in her throat.

“You know,” Villanelle stalls, fluttering her lashes winningly, “you should be thanking me again. Not sounding like I killed somebody.”

“What did you do?” Eve’s pulse races, smacking against the column of her throat like a bird into a glass door.

“I sent an email from your computer.” Villanelle rolls on her side and grabs Eve’s left hand, playing with the pale strip of skin on her fourth finger idly. “You have a head cold. You should be back by Wednesday. Everyone was very sympathetic. Now, I will take my thank you.”

“...if you had my phone, why use my laptop?” Eve can’t help but ask, too numb to really process this latest invasion and enjoying a little bit of gentle handling for the first time in too long to snatch her hand away.

“Not laptop, desktop,” Villanelle corrects patiently, clearly considering them teacher to student. “Easy enough to steal a phone. Harder to steal your desktop, so they will question it less if anyone is suspicious.”

Just like with the nun’s habit, her insane answer makes a frustrating amount of sense. Rather than acknowledge that, Eve yanks her hand back to tick off Villanelle’s sins on her fingers. “I cannot believe you stole my phone, hacked my computer, emailed my workplace and impersonated me, and now you want me to thank you for it. Again.”

“It was just a thought,” Villanelle pouts. “But I will give you the phone back and then you can call them yourself.” She runs a hand along Eve’s inner thigh. “Tell them you and your sexy new girlfriend are going to find the bad guys together.”

“You do know I’m still married, right? Stop that,” she slaps Villanelle’s hand away, ignoring her playful growl in response. “Separated isn’t divorced. You have to sign a lot more papers for that, and he’s not returning any of my calls. Or texts. He’s the one who initiated the process in the first place, but I guess he can’t be bothered to finish it. God, what an asshole,” she spits out, furious all over again.

“I do not care what the papers you still have to sign say,” she waves that off. “And I do not care about your husband. He has a terrible moustache.” Villanelle brightens suddenly, and the look she gives Eve is the kind you usually give someone after everybody’s clothes come off. “I could kill him,” she purrs. “If that would make it easier for you.”

“No thank you,” Eve says faintly.

“Are you sure? It could be fun. We could do it together,” Villanelle offers, and Eve really, truly, entirely hates herself for even the slightest sliver of hesitation she feels, deep down in her soul. Niko filed for divorce and then up and screwed around over text like a teenager before he fucking disappeared without any explanation—he didn’t even let her explain. And below that, ugly and threaded through with the detached curiosity Eve is pretty sure she will associate with knives until the day she dies she remembers the conversation they had about how she would kill him, before Villanelle was more than an idea. He thought it was a joke—it was a joke. It had been. But she had planned it all, down to the last detail, and it had been such a good plan…

“We are not killing Niko.” Eve fixes Villanelle with what she hopes is an uncompromising stare, pushing back nausea. “Hard line. Absolutely not, ever, no go.”

“You are no fun.”

“Murdering my spouse isn’t fun.”

“You have never murdered a husband before. Don’t knock it until you have tried it, isn’t that what people say?”

No, Villanelle.” That they even have to debate this is insane, Eve knows that. It should be a hard line all its own, but she’s crossed so many of those already. If she turns her head and squints, she might even be able to convince herself it’s a noble trade; Villanelle would absolutely hurt him to hurt Eve if she does anything but. She would be doing this to save him in that incredibly comforting lie, and it’s enough to propel her forward. “But I can call Elena and tell her I’m taking a vacation. She’s been on me to do it, so she’ll make any excuses we need for me.” A smile tugs at her mouth, bitter and involuntary. “It’s not like it’s going to be hard to sell that I had some sort of mental breakdown and needed time away, anyway.”

“So… is that a yes?” Villanelle seizes her hand back and holds it tight. “Say yes.”

“I am an insane person. This?” Eve gestures at the scant space between them with her free hand. “This is insane.”

Villanelle captures that hand too, holding them both to her lips for a kiss. “But is it a yes?”

“I mean… yes.” Eve’s head spins dizzily. These must be someone else’s words, and someone else’s life. How could this be her? How could boring, capable Eve Polastri find herself in this bed, with this woman, agreeing to who knows how many more beds together, for who knows how long, and while they do who knows what. Eve laughs, high in the back of her throat and a little hysterical. “What the hell. It’s not like I’m going to be able to just explain away a stab wound at work.”

“So?”

Eve nods. “It’s a yes.”

“Promise me. Promise me you will come with me.”

“I… promise? Villanelle, I already said yes.”

“Yes is not a promise,” Villanelle insists. “So you have to say ‘I promise’ to make it real.”

“Okay, then. I promise.” When Villanelle kisses her, her side burns and Eve tastes blood. “You know neither one of those answers is actually more binding, right?” she points out, biting back a disappointed sound when Villanelle pulls away with a satisfied hum.

“But now you have promised. I promised, and I kept it. Now it is your turn. You will not regret it,” she purrs, and Eve laughs.

“Bullshit. I already regret it, and we haven’t even done anything yet.”

“Maybe so,” Villanelle says, sanguine about the possibility. “But you already promised to come with me and do those things you think you’ll regret, so it doesn’t really matter.”

This time, Eve reaches for Villanelle. The kiss is too hard, and her neck aches from the awkward angle and the loss of her still-trapped hands for an anchor. Her lip aches in a hot, bruising rush when Villanelle traps it between her teeth and clamps down, tossing her head and growling playfully like a dog with a bone.

“Where are we going?” Before she asks, Eve knows she won’t get the answer. Trust is a fickle thing between them, and Villanelle shares only what she wants to at the best of times.

“I’ll tell you in the morning, so you know what to pack.” Villanelle confirms her fears and gives her a loud, smacking kiss, releasing her hands with one last squeeze so tight Eve feels the fine bones in her hands grind against each other in protest. “But you are not allowed to bring that terrible coat.”

Eve laughs until tears prick at her eyes, rubbing them away with the heels of her aching hands. “Fuck. Jesus.” She laughs again, unable to stop until her sides heave. Each uncontrolled gasp for breath tugs at those ugly lines of black Villanelle carved into her body until they burn and strain to their limits. “Fine. Fine, I won’t bring the fucking coat.”