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"Don't make a sound."

She whispers the words to you, breath feathering the delicate shell of your ear. Her fingers tiptoe down your shoulder, warm, so warm, and you can feel her chest pressing up against you, rising and falling against your spine as she breathes.

She doesn't need to tell you now. It's not the first time she's been pressed up against you in the dark. You'd like to think this is the last time. But you're always proven wrong. But all this happened without words. It seems almost right it should continue in silence.

The first time Vanessa kissed you -- or the first time you kissed her -- it was dark, and it wasn't her and it wasn't you, it was just two shapes in a sleeping bag with hot hands and soft mouths and sighs. You were made of touches, and she was made of shadows and curves. And when you woke up she was Vanessa again, and you were Nina, and you were both separate people again. You're always separate people until the lights are off. Then you're liquid, mixing with her, puffs of smoke that curl into each other and form a dark cloud. Inhaled and exhaled.

At first it was only on those rare sleepovers, even rarer after it happened. After the first time, the second time was too real. The first was like a dream, all sweating hands and shattered breath. Easily dismissed as a fantasy, if it wasn't for the taste she left on your lips, the throb she left in your belly. But the second time was fumbling, the darkness cut with a strip of light from under the door, and it made everything edges, everything rimmed with light. Maybe you should've stopped then, but her hand was already under your skirt, and your mouth was already dampening her throat with its gasps. It was awkward, and clumsy, and real. At least until the lights came on again. Then it was a finger held to flushed lips. A secret you don't tell.

Never make a sound.

It progressed from sleepovers to anywhere dark, really. A pool of darkness in an alley, sounds of traffic rumbling by, footsteps in the distance, muffled by a quiet moan. A flicker in the cinema, a hand on your thigh. It became so it was almost as if the shadows themselves were touching you. Like they crept inside the both of you to gain a semblance of life. Or maybe the two of you just melted away, became shadows yourselves. You don't know how it works, how the two of you change in the dark. You're better at feeling things than expressing them. It's easier to not make a sound. It'd only raise questions neither of you could answer.

Wrong or right never comes into it. You're sure if you thought about it, if you closed your eyes and had the light bleed red into your eyelids, you'd see what this was. Or rather, what it wasn't. It's not normal. Normal's never meant much to you, really. It's not what bothers you. No, it's not a question of morality or normality that irks you. You just don't think about that when you're with her. It's something else, something that niggles at your spine, that catches in your throat and tears at your lungs. Something that infects the darkness, a little voice in your head that whispers wait. But she doesn't wait. You never say it. It's a flicker, a flash, and it's too quick for you to pin down. You get lost in her lips, in the curve of her shoulders, the swell of her breasts. You get lost in the tangible dark.

You do make sounds though.

Little ones. So does she. Not words, no. Never words. Words belong to Nina and Vanessa, and you're just shapes. You're just secrets. You're just lies.

She pants, you whimper, she sighs, you gasp. You can feel the vibrations in her throat where your lips trace. You can feel her breath feather you unevenly. You can feel the darkness shake and hum with her tiny sounds. They're little bees that buzz around you, stinging your ears before they die in the cage of your chest, swallowed up by the insatiable silence. You wonder sometimes if darkness and silence are the same thing. Sounds are so much louder in the dark. They shatter it, prickle your arms and widen your eyes. It feels right to be quiet when there's no light. It feels like hiding, like huddling. Like safety.

You've heard television therapists talk about the darkness. They'd used big words and long sentences, and all you knew was it had something to do with once being a baby, curled up inside your mother. You don't think that's it though. People on TV are never right. Darkness holds you. Vanessa holds you, and it's hard to be in that darkness now without expecting to feel her. You close your eyes at night and wait for her lips, for the warmth of her body. Sometimes it almost feels like it's there, like she's left an echo in the shadows. Like her shadow stole away to visit you, to say hello again. Your hand feels like hers, then.

Once you started looking for it, you found darkness everywhere. It hides from the light, cowers in cupboards and backalleys and bedrooms. You could mark out on a set of blueprints where it hid, where it waited for you and Vanessa to occupy it. If you're the seeker, then Vanessa is the creator. She douses the light with a heavy hand, creates her own darkness and disappears, and you're left with your pupils widening, waiting for the shape of her hand to grab you. She's much more a part of the dark than you are.

It's today, and it's after lunch, and she's leading you into the women's locker-room and killing the light with a violent flick. You follow a half-step behind, the taste of your lunch scouring your tongue. Grapes. It's today, but that word means nothing to you. Your sense of time isn't linear. You measure days in events, not hours. You never really got the hang of analogue time. They called arrows hands, and they'd point at different numbers, different inclinations, and everything would mean another thing when really it all meant nothing. 'Today' for you means a day that you're with Vanessa. And when you're with her again it marks another one. You suppose measuring that way makes your life awfully short, when it's only those days that you've lived. But it's getting increasingly longer.

You can feel her in the dark, hear a nervous breath. She's everywhere and nowhere, and you can't help but jump when her arms slide around you, chin sharp against your shoulderblades.

"Don't make a sound."

And you don't.

You're silent as her lips ghost your neck, as her teeth graze the thin flesh, as her hands run over your body like your clothes melted away with the light. She makes you feel invisible, and yet the only one in the room. She makes you feel both real and unreal. Like you're just a wispy cloud, until she makes you swell and rumble and rain.

Her hand creeps into your jeans, tugging the button open and ripping the silence as the zip snicks down. She doesn't need light to see what's she doing. She's memorised your shadow, down to every last shivering nerve. Your breath trembles when her fingers delve into you, rubbing gently. A spark in the dark, a flash in your head. Wait.

You let out a soft gasp, hips bucking into her hand. She's everywhere. You can feel her pressed behind you, arms burning across your waist, but she spreads out into the darkness until she's in every breath. Until she's every slight breeze stirring the slight hairs on your arms, every molecule of shadow that brushes against you. Maybe that's why you like the dark. You can spread out, pour out of your taut skin and spill into the air. You don't have the light to cut you into the carton of your body and close you in.

Your eyes are closed. You think. It's hard to tell, and it doesn't matter anyway. You're seeing with your body now, Vanessa's fingers tracing the braille of your skin. And all you're saying is more.

Wait.

You whimper as her fingers slip inside you, twisting. Your spine aches to snap forward, to make you cower and curl into her hand, but her other hand splayed on your waist keeps you straight, keeps your spine wavering between arching and curving. She's turned you to jelly, and now she's melting you down, until you're just sugar and water, your colours mixing with hers and you're just black. Until you're just ash, smeared over her skin.

Her hips rock forward, melded to you, her hand tightening where it presses, and you can almost feel the racing of her heart beat into you, crawl past the spokes of your ribs to murmur to your own heart. She's everywhere, and nowhere, and she's switching the lights on inside you, one by one, with every thrust, every push against you, every unsteady kiss on your shoulder, your neck, until you're all lit up, and she reaches the final room, finger flicking the switch.

A flash, a flood. "Wait."

"Nina?" Her voice is harsh in the silence you've broken, buzzing and humming, soft sounds of the centre muffled in the background.

You touch your throat with a tentative hand and say it again. "Wait." It's like liquid on your tongue, thick and syrupy, with a taste like medicine. You want to spit it out, spit out this light that's clicked on in the corner of your brain. The corner that's never entirely extinguished. You've never been as at home in the dark as Vanessa.

"What is it?" Her voice is a whisper, her usual tones muted, reduced down to this deceptively loud noise. Whispers aren't supposed to be loud, but you suppose when compared to silence, they're thundering.

"Are we real?" Her arms slide away from you, wet fingertips brushing your hip. You hear a footfall. She's taken a step back. You've lost her.

"What do you mean?"

You wish you could explain it. How you both bleed into the dark until you're not even people anymore. How you're just sensations and stimuli until someone shudders back into a person, and you're separate again. But it doesn't even make sense to you. "What are we?"

"We're us." You can hear the words she doesn't say. They ripple out like a dropped stone into the ink of this darkness. They're words that belong to Vanessa, short, clipped, sarcastic. But they don't belong here. They crawl under her skin, sharp as daggers, but they can't find her mouth. They can't escape to pierce you.

"No, we're not. We're just..." You stare down at where you sense your hands are. How do you know you're real? How do you know you're even you? But you're not even sure what you are, even when you're in the light. "Nina and Vanessa don't do this. We never... we never speak of it. We never make a sound."

"You're making plenty of sounds now." Vanessa's voice snarls through the room, louder, more like her and not this shape she becomes. It's a swipe through the air, cutting it to slivers.

"Why are we always in the dark?" It feels like a question you should've asked already, and too much time has passed to answer it. Whatever excuses you and Vanessa could offer yourselves have dissipated, flimsy frames easily blown away.

An exhaled breath. "Nina..."

But you're already moving through this cloaking darkness, fumbling for the lightswitch. It's like a zap when you flick the switch, blinding you for a moment, cutting the shadows away with a razor edge. She's standing, arms by her sides, hands slack, and she's wrapped up and real and Vanessa. She's nothing else but Vanessa. There's no whisper of the dark, no caress of shadow. Just her, through and through, and she's finite and small and there, standing in front of you. And she's scared. She's scared of you, of being her. She's scared of the light.

You hold a finger to your lips. "Don't make a sound."

You lean forward to kiss her, your body pressing against hers. And it feels different in the light. It feels so much more real, so much more definable. So much more undeniable. But you close your eyes to kiss her, and maybe it's not so different after all. And when she starts to kiss you back, hands creeping around your waist, hesitant and fumbling, like the topography of your body has shifted on her, you think she starts to realise it too.

You pull back, and you've never seen her this close before. The thickness of her eyelashes, the curve of her cheeks, the fullness of her lips. You've kissed her a million times, and never once seen her. "What's so bad about the light?"

In the light your voice is quieter, your own tones unmasked with a whisper, and when she answers her voice is hers, and it doesn't spread out, it doesn't seep into you. It just is. "It makes it real."

She's right, it does. It's easy to imagine monsters in the dark, but you never turn on the light for the fear that they're real. You can hide in the dark, join the shadows, and never be you, never be anyone. It's easy. You can slip into a dream and never wake from it. But you've snapped her out of her sleepwalk, and given her no choice.

Maybe it was different for you. You never saw it as a dream. "Is that a bad thing?"

She lets out a long breath, closing her eyes for a moment. Trying to regain the safety of that darkness. She licks her lips, a hand moving from your waist and trailing over your breasts. Her eyes pore over you, and you wonder if she's seeing the same thing she imagined in the dark. If maybe you disappoint. If your eyes are too wide, or your smile is too crooked. No one can live up to imagination. Eventually, a finger comes to rest on your lips, the beginnings of a conflicted smile on her lips.

"Don't make a sound."

You keep your eyes open when she kisses you this time.

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