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"C'mon," Roxie whines, and Velma shoves her down--easy enough, small and scrappy as she is--and claws a run in her stocking.

That gets her a glare, but it's halfhearted and there was already a hole there anyway. Even being annoyed with each other isn't the same as it used to be, but it still makes her smirk to see Roxie's chin and neck made garish with smeared lipstick. The bed isn't bad either; they've been a little better off since they wised up and started cutting corners by no longer staying in separate rooms.

They have to try harder now that the spotlight's dimming and their act isn't the hottest hit around. Make it more outrageous, tiptoe a little closer to the edge, keep attention on them at any cost. And of course, Roxie gets disillusioned early on, but Velma knows the stage and the fickle nature of the audience and she won't deny it's gratifying when Roxie eventually surrenders to the fact and just does whatever she says. Dreaming of stardom isn't measuring up; there's more work than prancing around and looking pretty. Sequins and sparkles glittering like Billy Flynn's eyes, at first, and she'd seen Roxie glow like a tap-dancing firefly whenever they stepped onstage. Everything bright and new after months in prison, grubbed up in gray for so long with nothing but publicity and packages for color, and even those had waned in the end.

Everyone knows their names for a while, but then they had to start explaining it to people--"we're the murderesses, remember, Roxie and Velma? Stretching their smiles wide and mugging a little to jog the memory. And they knew they were losing their audience.

Roxie has no tits to speak of; her ribs jut under her skin and her collarbones look like knitting needles. Dancing topless works for a while anyway.

Backstage is getting gloomier and gloomier with every booking, the curtains a little more tattered each time. Neither of them says anything, but their reign is coming to an end and something has to be done.

"Art is just prostitution," Velma declares, spouting some crap she'd heard from a has-been. Roxie sulks and puts her blouse back on.

There has to be a way to catch the public's attention again. The trick is finding it before they can't fall any farther.

"I'd have to kill you," Velma says, blowing a smoke ring and sipping more gin. "That'd be a great way to reel 'em in."

Roxie's rosebud pout protrudes a little more. Velma pretends not to notice.

"I've got a history. Everyone knows it; they just need a reminder. I lost Veronica, which was a tragic ordeal," she pretends not to notice again when Roxie rolls her eyes, "but it kept me in the headlines for a while. If you think about it," Velma lazily lets herself arch an eyebrow, "I could let murder really do me proud, you know? The cursed Kelly girl whose partners always die and leave her high and dry, but she takes her talent to the top anyway. Inspirational, right?"

"Sick, you mean," Roxie harrumphs, tossing her tangled curls. Her roots are showing. The V of her dressing gown dips deeply between her breasts, such as they are; when she moves too abruptly, Velma can see her navel.

"Just joking, love," she says, smiling her best wide front-page smile. It's still as good an idea as any they've had so far.

She pushes the nubby silk off Roxie's small shoulders, pours a glass of gin into her mouth and catches the droplets that escape down her chin, her chest, her stomach with her tongue. Roxie, she's found, is so much prettier when she's too preoccupied to complain.

Nothing but stockings and garters underneath. She's careful this time; these are still intact and it's not as if they have money to burn on extras. Roxie squirms as Velma settles an ice cube against one small pink nipple and laps eagerly at the other, pushes her fingers deep inside her and makes her whimper and squeal.

It doesn't much matter whether her point's been made or not. Roxie mewls into her shoulder and Velma thinks of killing.