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The worst thing about Viola is that she is not always cruel.

If she were - if she were nothing but a malignant shadow on the back of Dani's mind, seething with rage and vicious intentions - then she would be so much easier to ignore. Dani knows how to deal with bullies. She knows how to weaponise kindness and use it to her advantage, and she knows Viola, intimately, knows her like she knows her own nerves. She knows her fears, her desires, her needs and her weaknesses.

The problem is that Viola knows Dani just as well.

It starts so small that Dani barely notices it.

They go to Woolworths. They pick up a video for date night - a comedy, since most romances fall flat for them and they’ve both had their fill of horror - and some little domestic things which Dani finds equally exciting. They buy washing up liquid (which means Jamie standing at the sink with her bright yellow marigold gloves on) and plant pots (which mean Jamie with her sleeves rolled up and a smudge of potting soil across her cheek) and elastic hair ties (which mean Jamie at bedtime, wrestling her curls into a bun, wearing a baggy old Black Sabbath tee shirt and absolutely nothing else).

Dani makes a beeline for the pick and mix, because of course she does. Jamie rolls her eyes fondly but helps her choose a few of everything, because of course she does. Once they've stuffed a paper bag almost fit to burst, they make for the till, but not before Dani reaches into one of the bulk containers and pops a gummy peach straight into her mouth.

A single beat of silence passes. Then;


Jamie's voice is dripping with theatrical disapproval. Her face, on the other hand, is lit up like a school kid who's just heard their teacher swearing for the first time.

Dani's eyes widen. She swallows her stolen candy so hastily that it sticks in her throat and sets off a coughing fit. Jamie watches, not even bothering to hide her laughter, and gives Dani a firm pat on the back that turns into a very pleasant cuddle. Dani hides her face in Jamie's shoulder as she gets her breathing back under control.

"I can't believe I just did that," she admits, wheezing a little. Her face feels unbearably hot. She glances around for any stern-faced employees that might have witnessed her tiny act of theft, only for Jamie to cup her cheek and draw her into a kiss that tastes like sugar and peaches.

(Jamie shoves a handful of Black Jacks into her jeans pocket afterwards. She probably would have done it anyway, but it makes Dani feel much better.)

It's always taken a lot to get a rise out of Dani. She prides herself on it, really; on her thick skin and her non-stick heart. All those little irritations that get on the nerves of lesser people - not that Dani thinks of them that way, of course - roll off her, as Jamie says, like water off a duck’s back.

It does, however, feel like that may be changing, these days.

She’s losing her patience. Not losing her patience like she used to lose her patience with the Wingrave children when they wouldn’t stop running or shouting for long enough to listen to her speak; she’s losing her patience like she was only born with so much of it, and she’s been giving it away in dribs and drabs for all these years, and now there’s not very much left of it to last the rest of her life.

Why should she always be the bigger person? Why should she accept second best, trading off her own happiness piece by piece? Doesn’t she deserve to get what she wants, sometimes?

She finds herself glaring at strangers on the bus when they talk too loudly. She gets snippy with passers by on the street when they bump into her at rush hour. Once, when a waitress at a café trips up and spills a little bit of water on Dani's shirt, she actually yells at the poor girl and storms out, leaving her half-finished hot chocolate behind her like a sulky child.

(She feels guilty about it all night. The next day, she goes back to apologise, dropping a fistful of change into the jar on the counter while she does.)

Jamie's hair is plastered to her forehead with sweat. Her eyes are closed tight, and her mouth is wide open, panting hot heavy breaths like a death rattle. She has the bedsheets twisted between her fingers, pulling them loose from one corner of the mattress, her back curving into a shallow arch that quivers unsteadily, a bridge on the verge of collapse.

Dani can't believe she used to be afraid of doing this.

She used to be afraid of a lot of things; disappointing Jamie chief amongst them. She worried that she'd be awkward, fumbling, never finding the right spots, never knowing how fast or how hard or how deep she should go. Some small, stupid part of her had even entertained the thought that she might not enjoy herself, either.

No chance of that. Her clit is throbbing like a broken bone.

She ignores it, as best she can, because her hands are busy with more important things - those more important things being Jamie, warm and wet and whimpering, Jamie's skin and Jamie's flesh and Jamie's hidden muscles squeezing tight. She's strong, inside, so strong she forces Dani's middle and index fingers together uncomfortably, crushing the knuckles in a vice grip that pulses in time with Jamie's heart. Dani's other hand is on her belly, and she can feel the heartbeat there too, and the muscles in Jamie's abdomen that knot with resistance every time Dani touches that soft squishy place inside.

It's all quite gruesome, if she thinks about it.

She can see the tendons cording in Jamie's thighs, hinting at the delicate arrangement of meat and bone under the skin, like the curve of a breast or the silhouette of a hard nipple through Jamie's nightshirt when she stands haloed by morning light at the kitchen sink. She leans in for a bite and hears herself moaning with satisfaction at the way the soft flesh gives in her clenched jaws, a noise so deep that it blots out Jamie's pained gasp, which cracks at the edges as Dani keeps pushing her higher with firm strokes of her hand. She sinks her ring finger into Jamie's cunt alongside the first two, pulling her open wider, forcing her to accommodate it, burying it as snugly and surely as a hunting knife.

Jamie is gasping, choking, making fractured noises like her throat's been cut, her body arching higher and curving deeper and shaking with the strain. A part of Dani wants to see her bent double. She wants to fuck Jamie until she snaps in half, until she splits in two, until she's spread open and soaking red into the bedsheets, flesh and bone and beating heart all exposed for her to touch. She loves it all, she wants it all, wants Jamie inside and out and ruined and adored and hers, all hers. She wants, she wants, she wants-

Jamie pulls her into a kiss. It's awkward and difficult and Dani's fingers wrench inside her, and Jamie sobs into her mouth, and somehow Dani's other hand is on her throat and she's squeezing, squeezing just to feel Jamie's neck throbbing under her hand. Jamie spasms, splutters, covers Dani's hand with her own and impossibly - deliciously - squeezes her fingers tighter and holds them there. Dani can barely breathe herself. Her heart is pounding in her ears, her eyes are blurred with sweat and tears, she's biting her lip - or is it Jamie's lip? - so hard that it hurts, and all the while Jamie just squeezes, her cunt squeezes and her hand squeezes and she's going to break-

and she breaks. She breaks like a wave, like a glass on a hotplate, like a thing that wants to be destroyed.

(Dani kisses Jamie's forehead while she sleeps. They've cleaned up, but Dani's fingers are still pruned up, and Jamie's neck is bruised. She slips out of bed and boils the kettle. She sits by the window, not looking at her own rippling reflection in the surface of her tea. She doesn't want to know what she would see.)