Villanelle is smitten.
They’re back to sitting on the bench, as Eve’s poor, tiny feet were beginning to ache from her heeled shoes, and are pooling through the drawings that had been clasped firmly in her leather-bound folder. Eve analyses each one, asking an endless stream of questions over every sketch. Her appetite for knowledge, answers, is relentless. Not one drawing escapes her hungry eyes, and Villanelle tries very, very hard not to blush like a teenager as Eve compliments her work.
She likes Eve. She likes her so much, and it scares her.
Because Villanelle doesn’t do soft. She’s had lovers, daliences, but they were never anything emotional. Their faces blurred together, and she never bothered to remember their names. It was always affairs based on the physical, and for Villanelle, it was easier that way. Feelings got in the way of things, and with her dangerous side-hustles, she always assumed she wouldn’t last long enough to actually share them with someone.
But this woman is different. Villanelle wants to feel things, she wants Eve to remember her, and she relishes the hard thumping of her heart when Eve looks at her, smiling shyly. Eve makes her feel like she’s important, like she’s more than her social class, like she actually wants to understand her in the ways that no one else bothered to.
All of this, within the span of two days.
She’s snapped out of her thoughts when Eve innocently flips closer to a certain section of her sketches.
“Eve, uhm, I wouldn’t-”
But it’s too late.
Eve flips the page.
And is met with a large pair of breasts.
“Oh god, Villanelle, I’m sorry, uh-”
“It’s fine, it’s fine-”
“No, no really I-”
They both break off, Villanelle scrambling to hide the very, very naked woman that’s plastered across the entirety of the page, as Eve clears her throat and rests her hand over the bottom half of the subject. Villanelle’s hand rests over the top, her fingers lightly brushing against Eve’s, trying to calm the rapid thumping that her heart insists on perpetuating. She tells herself it’s from her mad dash to cover the sketch from prying eyes, and not because the warmth of Eve’s fingers is drawing her in, like a moth to a flame.
They both look out into the expanse of ocean, before Eve breaks the thick silence.
“Did you draw these from life?” Eve asks her hesitantly.
Villanelle looks up, meets Eve’s eyes. They are dark, her cheeks flushed. She looks down, and gently moves Villanelle’s hand from where it rests over the sketch.
“Yes.” Villanelle whispers.
Eve says nothing, and flips through the pages that only Villanelle’s eyes have seen. She is slow in her movements, trance-like in the way she brushes her fingers over the curves of the women she’s committed to paper. They’re all nude, in various states of disarray, and in positions that could in no way be considered decent. But Eve doesn’t look away, her gaze never wavering, and her lips slightly parted as she examines every line of graphite created by Villanelle’s hand.
Villanelle doesn’t look at her work, however. She knows what these women look like, and has seen her art enough to know that it’s impressive. It’s Eve that she’s mesmerized by, living art in front of her, and wonders if Eve would ever let her seal her beauty in the pages of her folder.
Villanelle knows it would be her finest piece.
“They’re beautiful,” Eve tells her, her voice soft and sincere. “How did you manage to… obtain so many to model for you?”
Villanelle clears her throat, wondering how exactly she should describe her… escapades.
“In Paris… It is not hard to find girls who enjoy pleasure,” she replies. “They know they are beautiful, and they want to be watched.”
“Did you, um, elope with them? Before you sketched them like this?” Eve inquires timidly.
She doesn’t fail to notice the way Eve’s legs shift together underneath the fabric of her dress.
Villanelle is an artist, but never let it be said that she doesn’t have an appreciation for the scientific method. She has a hypothesis, one that concerns Eve, and all she needs to do is test it.
She knows Eve likes her, but she would be lying to herself if she said that she wasn’t curious to see if there was something more.
So this, she reasons, is a perfect time to experiment.
“Sometimes,” she murmurs. “I would take them, fuck them, and afterwards they would ask me to draw them. When they were finally spent.”
Eve’s breath hitches, her eyes lifting to meet Villanelle’s. Her pupils are blown, and she shifts closer, as if Villanelle’s words are strings, and Eve is being pulled further in. The lovely pearl necklace that sits on her breasts rises with every labored breath she takes, and it’s clear that Villanelle’s words have ruined what remains of her composure.
Villanelle has more than enough of her evidence, but even she can’t resist the way the air between them seems charged, hot, and urges her to go further, push harder .
“Or, sometimes, I’d draw them first. I’d make them wait, before I’d ever touch them. I’d make them squirm, beg.” she breathes.
Villanelle drops her gaze to Eve’s lips.
“Do you like it?” Eve whispers. “Watching them, or being watched?”
Villanelle feels like she’s on fire.
Eve’s eyes flutter closed, and it looks like she’s expecting Villanelle to kiss her, like she wants her to kiss her, and Villanelle is leaning in, and she can feel Eve’s breath on her mouth-
“Miss Astankova, there you are. I’ve been looking everywhere for you.”
Villanelle deserves a medal for how quickly she moves.
It’s the woman from the night before - Carolyn Martens, Eve had told her earlier - the stern looking one who is much more intimidating than Mustache Man, and also the one who invited Villanelle to dinner. Villanelle was never one to turn down food, but with the way Carolyn’s cold eyes had bore into hers, she had a feeling that the offer was more of an order than an invitation.
“Ma’am, yes, how do you do?” she answers, standing and kissing the hand being offered to her. Class differences be damned, Villanelle Astankova was a gentlewoman through and through.
“Excellent, seeing that you are no longer in handcuffs. I don’t usually apologize for my colleagues’ actions, Miss Astankova, but I am sorry that your chivalry was met with such brutish behavior.” Carolyn states promptly.
“But, that’s not the reason why I’m here. Do you have anything to wear to dinner tonight?”
Villanelle doesn’t. In fact, she hadn’t exactly thought about that crucial piece of information, subconsciously assuming she’d have to cope with the embarrassment of showing up to a first class meal clothed in worn trousers and a loose shirt.
“Um, no ma’am, I just thought I would wear these. I do not have much else,” she tells the woman, shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot.
She is not used to this, feeling out of place. It is one of many new feelings she has experienced over the past few days, and she already knows she does not like this one.
“Right, just as I thought. Well, Miss Astankova, if you would come with me to my quarters, I’m sure we can find something that will do nicely for you.”
Carolyn turns to Eve on the bench, the drawings clasped and hidden to her chest.
God bless her, Villanelle thinks.
“As for you, Miss Park, I believe your fiancé is looking for you in the parlor. Something about taking a tour of the ship.”
“Thank you Ma’am,” Eve replies softly, and the woman Villanelle has spent all day talking to fades away before her eyes, replaced with a girl who is unsure, and so incredibly sad.
Villanelle wants to save her.
Eve rises, and places the folder of drawings into Villanelle’s hands. She offers a small smile - a comforting sign that her Eve is still there - and discreetly brushes her hands over hers before she turns and walks away.
As she watches Eve’s retreating form, Carolyn drawls exasperatedly,
“Goodness, Miss Astankova, you’ll see the girl in a few hours, no need to look so melancholy. Now come.”
As Eve walks the deck, uncomfortably wedged between Niko and his valet, Frank, she tries to concentrate on what Mr. Pargrave is saying, rather than the pressure that’s sitting between her legs.
What happened with Villanelle on the bench was unlike anything she’d ever experienced. She knew Villanelle had an impressive body of work, that she was incredibly talented at what she did, but she had never expected to see that.
Normally, she would have averted her eyes, apologized profusely, drowned in shame, but instead she felt as though she could not have looked away even if she tried. Because those were Villanelle’s drawings. It had been her, who had sat in front of those women and immortalized their bodies in graphite. It had been her, who had posed them, touched them, taken them.
But what worries Eve the most, is that she wants to be one of those women.
She wants to be the subject, the object of Villanelle’s concentrated attention. She wants Villanelle to roam her eyes over her body, and to turn her into art. She wants to be stripped down to her barest form, all for Villanelle to see.
She wants Villanelle to take all of her.
Eve has never felt this way before, not for any man, much less a woman. She knows she should be appalled, to shut herself away in her quarters, to never speak to Villanelle again in hopes that these emotions would fade away. But for the first time in her life, Eve wants someone. Someone that makes Eve feel safe, but also liberated. Someone that Eve desires, both with her body, but also her heart. Someone that makes Eve feel more like herself than she’s ever been.
She shifts her attention back to Pargrave, the designer and architect of the ship. He’s an intellect, through and through, no area of the Titanic left untouched or unexplained. He is thorough in his knowledge, and speaks in tones that make it apparent that he is incredibly proud of his creation.
Eve listens as he gestures to the lifeboats hung along the sides of the ship.
“These are our lifeboats, about 20 in total, and can hold about 1,178 passengers,” Pargrave explains.
Eve thinks back to the beginning of their tour, when Mr. Pargrave briefly mentioned that the Titanic was carrying about 2,208 passengers. The math is eerily simple in her head.
That’s not enough.
Eve normally wouldn’t have spoken at all, especially to voice her own concerns, but her morning in Villanelle’s company had apparently made her sloppy when it came to her social obligations.
“Mr. Pargrave?” she pipes up. “I’ve done the sum in my head. If you take the number of lifeboats, times the capacity you mentioned… forgive me, but it seems like there is not enough for everyone aboard?”
“About half capacity, actually. Eve, you miss nothing, do you?”
Pargrave grins good-naturedly, his eyes kind. He seems impressed, perhaps even proud that Eve had bothered to retain the information as Niko huffs beside her, clearly irritated that Eve was dragging out the affair longer than the bare minimum.
“I actually did try to get more for the ship,” Pargrave tells her, sun reflecting off his balding head. “But, ahem , investors thought it would make the deck look too cluttered.”
“Waste of deck space as it is for an unsinkable ship,” Niko snarks, punctuating his point with a sharp tap of his walking stick on the side of a lifeboat.
As they continue walking along, Pargrave turns to Eve.
“Rest easy, Eve. I’ve built you a good ship, strong and true. She’s the only lifeboat you need.”
Carolyn is a blessing in disguise.
She’s laid out countless outfits for Villanelle to choose from. Dresses, gowns, everything imaginable, all made from the finest cloth that Villanelle has ever seen. She had always wanted to have clothes like these, ones from all over the world, but she had never had enough in her pocket to indulge in that particular area. Now, however, it feels like the world is her oyster.
If only she could just pick one.
She searches through the fabrics, through the blues, burgundys, and emeralds, until she finds exactly what had caught her eye in the first place.
It’s a suit, one belonging to Carolyn’s son, but one that Villanelle thinks will fit. She’s always had a strong stature, good shoulders built by years of surviving in less hospitable places, and she hopes she won’t be swimming in it as she slides her arms through the sleeves of the suit coat.
Quickly, she strips down, pulling her legs through well-fit, crisp trousers, and buttoning up a white-starched dress shirt. She clips the suspenders, shrugs on the matching black vest, and once more pulls the coat over her shoulders.
She looks in the mirror, and feels powerful .
Villanelle knows that she will get looks, if she wears this suit. She knows that Mustache Man will look at her in disgust, will sneer at the sight of her, and that his compatriots will most certainly do the same. But in the end, the only person that she wants to impress, is Eve.
She’s contemplating what to do with her hair when Carolyn enters.
“Miss Astankova, I certainly hope you’re clothed right now- oh! Well look at you.”
Villanelle turns sharply on her heel, immediately worried that Carolyn will tell her no, will tell her she shouldn’t wear such a bold piece to a first-class dinner, will tell her she’s changed her mind and that she’s resending her invitation, and that she looks ridiculous-
“Miss Park is going to drool over those arms.”
Villanelle gapes like a fish.
“I had a feeling you had an affinity for menswear, Miss Astankova, but I could’ve never predicted that you would pull it off this nicely,” Carolyn says, moving closer to fiddle with the collar of Villanelle’s shirt.
“You’re going to have to wear a tie, I’m afraid. I hate to be so strict, but I’m sure you know how draconian these affairs are,” she continues, reaching for the pile of clothes to extract a simple black bow tie.
As Carolyn’s tying it firmly around her neck, Villanelle musters up the courage to ask,
“Will Miss Park really drool over my arms?”
Carolyn looks up and gives her a knowing smile.
“Oh, Miss Astankova. Judging from the way she looks at you, I know she will.”
It’s half past 8 when Villanelle waits at the bottom of the grand staircase, her eyes taking in the sheer luxury of first-class living. The staircase in itself is magnificent, adorned with the most intricate of carvings, the scrollwork design swirling across the pillars and steps. Not to mention the sparkling chandelier that gleams down from above, like a galaxy of diamonds, or a man-made star. She wonders what it must be like, being able to experience such wealth and prestige on a daily basis.
It’s when Villanelle turns back to the front of the staircase, in an attempt to glance once more at the time, that she sees her.
She’s a vision in a burgundy dress, small crystals embellishing the front and sides, with that beautiful, perfect hair down - dark, wild and free. Villanelle wants nothing more than to bury her hands in it, feel bonafide silk between her fingers, and pull . Her hands and forearms are covered by elbow-length white gloves, and her shoulders are made bare by the cut of her dress. As she makes her way down the staircase, her eyes lock with Villanelle’s entranced ones.
Her red-painted lips part briefly, a blush coloring her cheeks, and Villanelle swears she sees Eve’s hand tighten momentarily on the wood railing. She remains steady, after, gliding down until she’s two steps away from the ground, temporarily towering over Villanelle’s head.
“You wore it down,” Eve tells her, making a point to repeat Villanelle’s words from the night before, as she smiles the prettiest grin Villanelle has ever seen.
Villanelle absently touches the soft waves that flow over her shoulders, a smile of her own crossing her face as Eve extends her hand.
“A woman has to take her own advice at times,” she replies, pressing a soft kiss to Eve’s gloved knuckles.
“Indeed she does,” Eve muses, stepping down to meet Villanelle on the base level.
Even in men’s shoes, Villanelle towers above Eve, their height difference still apparent despite the difference in apparel. Eve reaches up with both hands, brushing them over the shoulders of Villanelle’s coat.
“This,” she whispers softly, “was a very, very good choice.”
Villanelle throws any remaining caution to the wind, and drops her gaze to Eve's lips.
“Do you think I’m pretty, Eve?” Villanelle purrs.
Eve brushes her hands down the sides of her arms, and squeezes.
“I think you shouldn’t ask questions you know the answer to, Villanelle.” she teases.
Before Villanelle can respond, Carolyn calls to them from across the hall. She quirks her eyebrow, smirks, and offers her arm.
“May I escort you to dinner, Miss Park?”
“Oh, of course you may, Miss Astankova,” Eve chuckles.
If there is anything that Villanelle knows she can do, it’s blending in while standing out.
Despite the looks she gets initially from the other guests based on her appearance, she is able to adapt to their style of dialogue without making a fool of herself. She laughs when she is supposed to laugh, even when the joke falls flat and really doesn’t make any sense to her. She offers helpful commentary concerning the recent economic boom, secretly grateful she’d read the newspaper in Carolyn’s quarters beforehand. And, most importantly, she even makes Eve smile into her salmon when she bests Niko in a debate over social affairs.
“You said you were an artist, Miss Astankova?” Niko inquires, his eyes narrowed at Villanelle.
“Yes sir,” she chirps happily.
“Ah, yes. I’m just a little confused, you said you lived in Paris, yet were living on an artist’s salary? How ever did you manage?” he smirks, falling back on his immense wealth in an attempt to force Villanelle into a corner.
“Believe it or not, Mr. Polastri, I did manage,” she remarks thoughtfully.
“I may not have a big house like you, or fancy clothes, or even a full course meal like we’ve enjoyed tonight,” she pauses, sips the bubbly champagne from her flute.
“But what I do have, Mr. Polastri, is luck .”
Mustache Man scoffs, and lights a cigar.
“Life is not a game of poker, Miss Astankova,” he sneers, “Some of us have real jobs, and things to lose.”
Villanelle leans back in her seat, legs crossed comfortably. Niko is the opposite, his jaw clenched around his cigar as his fingers flex into a fist. That alone puts Villanelle in an advantageous position, in this verbal game of chess.
Maybe he will pop a blood vessel , she muses.
“Isn’t it? Isn’t life just a game of chance? It was luck that you were born into a well to do family, Mr. Polastri.”
“Now wait a damn moment-”
“It was luck that helped me survive on nothing but stale bread when I was a child,” Villanelle interrupts, her eyes never wavering as she stares the Mustache down. “It was luck that has taken me to seven countries, to cathedrals in Rome, and of course, to beautiful women.”
She winks at Eve, mentally patting herself on the back when Eve blushes and smiles.
“And, believe it or not, it was a poker game that led me here, dining with you fine people,” she finishes, raising her flute in a toast.
Niko puffs angrily on his cigar, and Villanelle is reminded of a cartoon she once saw of a man with smoke blowing out of his ears.
The table murmurs in agreement, everyone - except Niko, of course - raising their own glasses in tandem with Villanelle. They drink, and Villanelle glances to Eve. She’s turning her face into her flute, but it’s apparent she’s attempting to hide her grin from her fuming fiancé.
What Villanelle said, whether anyone believes her or not, was the truth. In the past, she had a hard time being honest. But as she sits here, Eve by her side, she wants to be better. She wants to prove that despite the fact that she’s only got 12 dollars in her pocket, she’s more than the poor, third-class passenger these rich aristocrats take her for.
She’s going to do what she’s always done, and prove the bastards wrong.
Eve turns to Villanelle, leaning to whisper in her ear.
“You should give yourself more credit, being able to do everything you’ve done,” she says, “but I’m glad that your luck brought you here.”
The ‘with me’ is left unsaid, but with the way it sticks in Villanelle’s mind, it might as well have been out loud.
Eve laces their hands together, kept hidden under the table. They’ve touched before, yes, but the distinct feeling of Eve’s fingers interlocked with hers feels much, much more intimate. Villanelle struggles to keep her face impassive in the company of the other passengers, but can’t help the flush that heats her up to the very tips of her ears.
If Eve notices, she doesn’t vocalize it, simply giving her hand one last squeeze and turning back to the other guests who are saying their respective goodnights. The ghost of Eve’s touch is still there, and Villanelle knows that she really, truly, doesn’t want this night to end.
So she takes a chance.
She gently grasps Eve’s arm as she rises, and muttering softly in her ear,
“Meet me at the staircase in 20 minutes.”
And so she bids her goodbyes, and hopes that Eve will want to take a chance too.
Eve is becoming bold.
She hasn’t hesitated to touch Villanelle, to laugh in her company, to hold her bloody hand underneath the very table where her fiancé sits. The dinner was a complete juxtaposition from the night before, Villanelle charming the passengers effortlessly, as though she had been going to these kinds of functions her entire life. But, somehow, she was still able to speak her mind unapologetically without an adverse response. For what seems to be the millionth time in the span of 48 hours, Villanelle Astankova has rendered Eve speechless.
And has managed to wiggle her annoying, gorgeous ass into Eve’s heart.
Eve knows that her feelings are making her reckless, are making her dangerous , but for once Eve can’t bring herself to care.
Damn it all to hell, she’s alive .
It’s this sentiment that takes her to the staircase approximately 20 minutes after Villanelle bid the other guests goodnight.
Villanelle is leaning against the pillar of the staircase, jacket and vest discarded, bow tie hanging loosely around the open collar of her shirt.
It is criminal to be that attractive.
Eve had almost tumbled down the steps when she had seen Villanelle in that suit, that hugged those arms, but somehow the ‘dressed-down, yet dressed-up’ look she’s serving Eve is making Eve revisit all of those feelings tenfold.
Villanelle looks back at her, hand reaching up to brace against the pillar, and grins.
“Hi, Eve,” she says smoothly.
“Villanelle,” Eve manages.
Villanelle saunters down the steps, a clear swagger in her walk as she moves into Eve’s space.
“Did you have a nice time at dinner?” she questions, confidence dripping from her lips.
“Yes, did you?”
“Mmm yes. But there are other things I’d like to eat,” Villanelle replies in turn, biting her bottom lip between her teeth.
Pressure builds between her thighs.
Eve half wonders if Villanelle has called her here to make her move, to give in to this insane sexual attraction that she’s not going to deny any longer, she is not going to say no. She doesn’t care about her engagement, the money, or anyone’s approval. So much of her life has been wasted at the hands of propriety, and she’s tired of hiding the parts of her that simply don’t fit.
All that matters is Villanelle, and the things Eve would beg her to do.
“Why are we here Villanelle?” she breathes.
The Russian grins.
“I am going to take you to a real party.”