Vanessa and Daniel: Not Pretty
[Players, not pups. daniel_johns comes over to v_hazardous's and they talk, after their email exchange here. Backdated: January 20, 2012.]
There is a certain art to dressing carefully without looking like you're trying too hard. It's the kind of thing that Vanessa's done for first dates, meeting the parents, going for lunch with her grandmother. It's strange to do it for Daniel's imminent arrival, especially when she's gotten so out of the habit of even thinking about what he might like to see her in. But Vanessa feels the need to have made the effort and so she's careful – just enough make-up to look fresh; white skinny jeans that hug all the right places; leafy green tank top, hem just skimming the waistband of her jeans; the peridot tree pendant Daniel gave her for her birthday nestled at the top of her cleavage and her rebellion bangle on her wrist. She leaves her hair loose, letting it wave as it will, and putters around the house as she waits.
The first time Daniel came out to Melbourne, he was nervous as fuck. Enough uncertainty that he turned up with a list of local hotels in his pocket, just in case. After that was pretty straightforward, and now it's back to complicated. But he doesn't have the list this time, he hasn't fucked up that badly – hopefully – and he has a quiet kind of hope keeping the nervousness company.
He doesn't need to be buzzed through the gates now but once he's out of the car, bag over his shoulder, he presses the doorbell. Having a key doesn't mean he's going to just walk straight in – not when she doesn't know he's here yet.
The loud chimes alert Vanessa to Daniel's arrival. He comes and goes freely once he's here, but he insists on knocking when he first arrives and Vanessa's charmed by the habit. Today is no different and she's smiling as she pulls open the front door and steps close to give Daniel a hug. "Hi."
"It's good to see you," Daniel says as he's pulled into the hug, dropping his bag to wrap both arms around Vanessa. He holds on tight, eyes closed for a moment, smiling. He is here now, she's here, the talk is probably going to be awkward and maybe worse but she's met him the same way she always does. He pulls back a little and leans down to kiss her, hopeful.
Winding her arms around his neck, Vanessa takes over the kiss, the contact settling, centring her. Yes, they need to talk, but she's still happy to see him, and somewhere along the way she's developed faith that Daniel will be honest with her and willing to make an effort where that's needed. So it isn't that Vanessa's worried, exactly; she's confused, and definitely feeling fragile in certain areas, but she trusts Daniel and she tries to put that in her kiss.
Feeling Vanessa take over makes Daniel smile into the kiss and he hands over control willingly, still eager but letting her lead. He strokes her hair back, pets it, enjoying the feel under his hand and the way Vanessa lets him.
Her hands slip down to cradle Daniel's face as she brings the kiss to an end finally, tugging lightly at his bottom lip with her teeth and letting go as she moves back. "It's good to see you. I'm glad you're here." Vanessa wants him to be clear about that.
The familiar little nip settles Daniel most of all and he smiles, letting go reluctantly. "I'm glad too. I missed you." He reaches for his bag with one hand and for Vanessa's hand with the other, not wanting to move far away just yet.
She takes his hand and leads him into the house, pausing long enough to close the door and to let Daniel drop his bag in the hallway – it can go upstairs later, when they do. "You hungry or anything? There's food; I made potato salad and there's stuff for sandwiches."
"I'm good for while – I stopped on the way, wanted to see you as soon as I got here." He could still see her while they ate, but it isn't the same thing at all, and Daniel hopes she knows what he means. He looks for words, trying to work out how to start things off, then gives up and hugs her again, holding on tight. "So. I fucked up."
Vanessa laughs. Really, what else can she do? Squeezing him back just as hard, she allows, "A little bit, yeah. I'm more interested in moving forward than in casting blame, though."
"Can we sit down?" Better that way, though this is a promising start. Daniel keeps his arm around her waist and waits for her.
"Yeah, of course. You go on into the living room – I'm just going to grab some water." Vanessa rises to press a quick kiss to his mouth before she heads down the hall to the kitchen.
Daniel tries to think of what he's going to say as he settles down on the sofa, what he should say. There isn't any one answer, but he has some ideas how to start, and he turns them over in his head as he takes off his shoes.
It doesn't take long to take two bottles of water out of the fridge and then Vanessa joins Daniel, putting the bottles onto coasters on the coffee table before she sits down, the plastic already beading with moisture despite the ceiling fan and the nearby stand-up fan, attempting to keep the room's temperature to a reasonable level of warm.
"So..." it's really too warm to have this conversation cuddled up, but Daniel reaches out to touch Vanessa anyway. "Yeah. I screwed up and I'm sorry. I think I know where I went wrong with the E-Mails – you already got what I meant, I tried to explain and made it more confusing."
"You did make it more confusing," Vanessa nods, bringing his hand to rest palm-down on her thigh and squeezing, letting him know it's okay to stay there. "I think maybe it was for the best, though, because it brought some stuff up that we hadn't been aware of about each other, and that's kind of the important part." And this is when her stomach starts to churn a little, because talking about her body issues is hard at the best of times, but Vanessa is especially vulnerable to Daniel and she's nervous. Determined, but nervous.
"Yeah," Daniel squeezes lightly then just keeps his hand there, appreciating the contact. "It did, yeah. I've been trying to think how to explain what I do mean without tangling things even more. And... I think some I need to shut up and listen to you."
"Well, it's not like I don't talk," laughing a little and rolling her eyes; Vanessa knows she can be a chatterbox at times. "About this, though, I guess I don't, really. I mean," she pauses, working out phrasing in her head. "To me, what comes across as being important to you – about me – is that you're able to do things for me, service-wise; that you get lots of touch and cuddle time when we're together; and that I'm honest with you, both in being myself and in communication terms. We have talked a lot about sex, and how we're different there, and part of what's come out of those discussions for me is an understanding that even sex is not so much about the physical for you." She waves a hand. "I don't mean that you don't experience it physically, or that you don't like physical pleasure or anything, but my understanding is, that isn't the point for you. Sex is about connection, intimacy, emotional resonance," her hands are still going, explaining right alongside her words. "When I put that together with how you've not seemed to be aware of me as—as something to be looked at, or visually appreciated, because you always go straight for touch, then it just seemed to be how you were, you know? There really didn't seem to be anything to say, and it was just one more facet to get used to."
Daniel does shut up and listen now, though he smiles when Vanessa laughs, and nods as she talks about sex. She's closer to right than he thought from the E-Mails, but then at the end... he shakes his head, slowly. "I do look at you – not just keeping an eye on you in case you need something, I mean looking, like when we're in bed. I guess I do go for touch more," he doesn't intend to argue with that. "But... I think it's the not-talking, I think a lot of things then don't say them. So what I'm thinking isn't always what you see."
"I don't see what you're thinking at all." Vanessa flashes a brief smile. "I'm pretty good at reading your non-verbal cues by now, but those are about you – how you are feeling; what you need. They don't tell me what's going on in your head. It's like, for a while, at the beginning, I put up with the way you trailed off mid-sentence, thinking that was just how you communicated, until I bitched about it one time when I was drinking with Paul and he said I should call you on it because it was an old habit you probably didn't realise you were even doing with me. So I did, and you got better about that, but I still only get a message when you actually verbalise it."
Vanessa is still smiling at least. And she is right, but Daniel thinks it over, nodding this time. "I think Catch-22. I didn't say anything about how you looked because... it just didn't cross my mind to say. You didn't say anything about that – and I know, it isn't that simple, I'm just explaining – so it didn't come up, so you didn't say anything because I hadn't said anything, and," Daniel waves his hand, fingers sketching out a circle. "Not thinking enough – me not thinking enough, I mean."
It makes sense – at least, how it got all tangled up makes sense, and that's somewhere to start. Vanessa agrees, "Catch-22, yeah. It's hard to say something when there doesn't seem to be any point in saying it."
"Yeah – and I get why you didn't, I wasn't exactly giving you encouragement to," Daniel admits. "I think that's another lack of experience thing, for me, so it just didn't cross my mind that you would want to hear that, even if I was thinking it."
"Did Natalie not like compliments?" It's the first thing Vanessa thinks, and it's out there before she can censor it. "For that matter, does it make you uncomfortable when I tell you that I think you're beautiful?" God, she hopes not!
"We didn't really talk about it. Which is kind of what I mean, it never crossed my mind to ask." He shakes his head quickly at the rest. "No, it's nice from you – it's..." he catches himself there and smiles a little. "I was going to say 'it's you' but that phrase keeps tripping us up, I need to work out how to explain properly. But no. I like it from you."
They didn't talk about it; it never came up. That's... weirdly reassuring, actually. It helps Vanessa to know that she isn't the only one who's struggled with Daniel's communication styles. She rather suspects that Natalie had given up, exactly as Vanessa had, and there had just never been some specific incident to bring it to light like this. But his qualifier catches her attention, too, and Vanessa enquires, "Does it make you uncomfortable coming from people other than me?"
"Sometimes. I don't mind if it's someone I know – you, obviously, friends from the club, people like that – but a lot of the times I've heard it seen it said it's been someone talking about me instead of to me, and they don't know me." Daniel pauses and laughs, though it's not really funny. "OK, that sounds wanky as fuck, poor me, people think I'm pretty, but you know what I mean – I don't always handle that kind of attention well." There are a lot of reasons he doesn't Google himself.
Vanessa nods, thoughtful. She's noticed that a lot of the comments online about Daniel are heavily focussed on his appearance – particularly his weight – and she knows that this has followed him for his entire career. For herself, she still gets the occasional jab flung her way online, but the only times people really have a go at her weight nowadays have been in conjunction with comments about Daniel – stuff like, 'He's so thin because of her need to diet' and similar bullshit. The majority of comments about Vanessa are about her voice, and her vocal range; the arguments tend to be about what female singer can hit the highest note, not what her arse looks like. It's an entirely different perspective.
It isn't a perspective that Vanessa's always had, though, and she looks at Daniel. "You were bullied as a teenager because you were pretty. I know that factored into how ill you got, and I think it probably still colours some of your thoughts or your mind-set about looks and compliments and all that. Maybe that's where the disconnect is coming from."
"Yeah, the – and it's kind of stupid because I know I like it when you say it about me so it makes sense the reverse would be true, but I guess I have this thing in my head about it being unwelcome." Which is a new thought but not a new idea, just not something he's put in words before and he frowns a little at the thought – the lack of logic.
"Okay," she nods, processing. Her hands fold together in her lap, rather primly. "One of the reasons I've been working so long with Kids Helpline is because I was bullied as a teenager, too. A lot of it centred on my weight, calling me fat, especially when I was a younger teen because I was an early bloomer so I had more than enough up top to comment on. That slid into slut-shaming as well, most of which had nothing to do with my actual sexual behaviour, since none of that was going on with schoolmates." Vanessa's snort is derisive. "By then, I was gigging most nights of the week, anything I could get my hands on for performances, and just kind of submerging myself in music as much as humanly possible, in part to get away from all the crap at school."
Daniel has been paying attention to the articles about Vanessa and Kids Helpline, the snippets of information, so this fills in the details. He doesn't try to take her hand but he keeps his where it is on her thigh and nods. "Kids can be fucking vicious." He has some ideas where she's going with this, why it matters to be looked at properly, but now isn't the time to jump to conclusions.
"They can," she agrees, her tone flat. "And I hated myself for such a long time because of all of that." The volume of Vanessa's voice dwindles. "I hated the way I looked in the video for Absolutely Everybody so much that I offered to finance a re-make. No one would do it, though, and the video still makes me cringe even now, even when I don't have the same distorted perceptions anymore." Her hands shift to re-clasp each other in a mirror position then shift back to the original, not quite a wringing motion but not far off. "Everything took off after that and I was so busy, I hardly noticed that my face changed, the baby chipmunk cheeks smoothing out, getting more angular. I was touring all over Europe and Australia, and I didn't think about it much – didn't have time – but the hate was still very much present."
Now Daniel does move his hand, resting lightly over Vanessa's. He's not trying to hold it down, not trying to stop her moving, just offering the touch. Of course he's watched the video and there's nothing wrong with the way she looks – nothing wrong with her – but that isn't the point and he keeps his mouth shut there. "I think it's hard to see yourself changing, when you have this idea in your head of how you look." Speaking from experience there, not just guessing.
"Very, yeah. And, well, just because I did change, doesn't mean that I changed into anything more socially appropriate, for lack of a better term. I mean, I am not pretty." Vanessa shoots Daniel a look that states clearly that this is exactly when he should be shutting up and listening. "I was cute as a teenager. When I grew up, I became an attractive enough woman. But I'm not, and never have been, pretty. I don't have a body that fits into the celebrity female mould – I have way too much T&A, my hips are too wide, and my thighs are big and muscular. My stomach is not flat, and nothing short of surgery would make it be flat. And until a few years ago, I was uncomfortable any time I was confronted by a mirror." She's talking too much, but she can't seem to stop now that she's started – words just keep gushing out.
Daniel catches the look and gives her hand a squeeze just to let her know he saw it. Because she's right in the same way he was when he told her he wasn't pretty any more. Pretty is a much more fragile thing, a certain look and no, that isn't Vanessa. That's half the appeal but now isn't the time for that and he just nods for her to go on, holding on to her hand.
"It's part of why I had so much trouble with kink when I first joined the club – hard to be confident enough to dominate someone when you hate your body, or to feel attractive enough to be interesting to a dominant," Vanessa's shoulders hunch slightly, remembering. "And if I'm honest with myself, all that self-hate was a contributing factor in my shitty relationships, too. Not in the sense that it excuses anyone's behaviour, but in the sense that I ended up with the guys I did in the first place, partly because I thought that was all I deserved." That one's a bit of a revelation even to herself and Vanessa exhales long. "Huh."
Now Daniel wraps his arm around Vanessa's shoulders, resting it there lightly. He wants to pull her close and hug her tight but he's not sure she's finished speaking, not totally. Or if she would want that right now. "That makes sense, yeah," he agrees quietly. It doesn't change how much her exes sound like bastards, she's right – it doesn't excuse them. But it does explain a little, like how someone he's thought of as so confident could end up with wankers like them.
She leans away subtly, unconsciously, not really wanting the physical closeness right now but not bothered enough by it to truly pull away, not from Daniel – anyone else wouldn't be allowed it at all. Vanessa speaks quietly now, a faraway look on her face. "I did a lot of work to get to a place of comfort with my body. A good chunk of it was, well, you could say beaten into me, and it wouldn't even be metaphorical," she chuckles. "My sub training helped a lot, especially when it came to feeling desirable and wanted. Steve was always very clear that he thought I was hot. His wife got me into make-up and shoes, and helped me learn to dress with my body instead of hiding or wearing the entirely wrong styles. Those three years were such a time of self-discovery. I came away from the experience at peace with myself and my personal weird for the first time in my life."
The shift isn't a big one but it's there and Daniel casually moves his arm to the back of the sofa instead – it's there if Vanessa leans back but not on her. "It sounds like the training changed a lot for you." She's talked about that before and it always sounds like something essential, affecting so much more than just kink for Vanessa.
"It did. I mean the training itself was great, but it's not a panacea or anything – it just happened to be exactly what I needed to do at exactly the time I needed to be doing it, in personal growth terms." Her frame relaxes some with Daniel moving his arm. The nearness of him is a comfort, but full-on touch is too much right now, especially with what she's moving on to next. "And then I got involved with you, and everything changed again. Suddenly I was in a relationship where I was the dominant partner, with a man who's wired more for intimacy than sex, where ninety-nine percent of the time, I'm the one initiating sex. The fact that we are in a D/s relationship means that I'm more comfortable with that than I would be otherwise, because my expectation is that the dominant does initiate the majority of stuff." She glances at Daniel, then looks away again quickly, not ready to meet his gaze. "I'm fine if I'm flying by the seat of my pants, acting on impulse, but it can be hard at other times, especially when I'm not getting any feedback from you. I... you make me feel cherished, and respected. Once we're in the middle of things, I do feel sexy." Vanessa drops to a soft murmur, just loud enough for him to hear. "But you rarely make me feel beautiful. I had stopped looking for that from you."
That hurts, but more because he's just seeing now how much that's hurt Vanessa. Daniel stays as he is – arm on the sofa, beside Vanessa but not holding on to her – and looks for words. "I'm sorry. And I can say that I didn't know, or that I didn't mean to be like that, but you know that and that doesn't change how things were. But I am sorry." It's clear from what she's saying what he does need to give – more feedback, more being the one to make the first move even if it's only asking for her to start something – he just doesn't know how to put that into words.
"I do think you're beautiful – you're fucking gorgeous. I just don't know how to show that, or when, or anything like that," he admits.
They're words, and Vanessa feels like they shouldn't matter so much, but it feels good to actually hear them from Daniel. She swallows down the sharp ache in her throat, refusing the tears that it signals. "I do know you didn't mean anything by it. I never thought it was malicious, just that you didn't really see or care about that, so I just had to adapt to it." She sighs. "And I still feel stupid complaining that my boyfriend doesn't compliment me when all the really important stuff is so good."
"But this obviously is important," Daniel points out gently. "It's not stupid." He still really wants to hug her but she hasn't moved closer yet. "So it's like learning to finish what I'm saying to you, it's going to take practice, but you're worth the effort." It's a simple statement, he's not trying to prove a point, it just... is.
"Because I'm me?" she huffs a little laugh. Vanessa sort of knows what he means when he says, 'You're you', but mostly it's so vague that all she really knows is that it's important to Daniel.
"I'm trying to avoid that phrase until I've explained it," Daniel laughs. "But yeah."
"Yeah, it's not very specific." Understatement, but Vanessa lets it stand. Tentatively, she ventures, "What kicked all this off was you having a pretty blokey reaction to seeing a video of me doing a pole-dance. Some of the impetus in doing that onstage for me came from a kind of defiant need to assert that this is my body and this is what I can do with it. And some of it was my typical craving for attention and for pushing everyone's comfort zones." She hesitates a moment before continuing, "I don't really know what it was that really clicked with you. I would like to, if you do know, because I'd like to be able to elicit that sort of reaction from you, and not just from a distance."
"You hit some of it there – you said 'this is what I can do with it'. Some of that is... I don't know how much is visual, but part of what I like about how you look is that you are sporty – like you said earlier, you have muscle. And this was you showing off that, showing off your legs and your stomach and what you could do, and you looked fantastic. And you looked like you were having a great time." Hard to say how much of that is purely visual in the sense she's thinking, but it is what Daniel saw there.
"I was having a great time, definitely." The rest of his response is interesting; Vanessa's noticed the type of women that tend to catch Daniel's attention, however momentarily, and they've been the slender, athletically-built tomboy ones. She'd actually figured that he was attracted to her despite her not fitting that type – too curvy, too girly, not slim enough – but it seems he does see her that way, or parts of her at least. "So, since you've definitely seen all of those body parts before, and seen them whilst I was having a good time, too, I guess it's the showing off part that tipped the scales."
"Showing off tipped the scales enough to comment – but I have been looking at you like that in person. And thinking. Just... it didn't cross over into saying anything. The dancing, you were putting yourself on show enough that it seemed obvious you would want to hear what I was thinking, you know? I know now you wanted to hear it the rest of the time too, but," he waves his hand vaguely. "We've covered me not getting that."
"Oh." It's not quite what Vanessa was after with this line of questioning, and she tries again. "But the part where you were wishing you'd been there so we could find somewhere to be alone together, that was because I was showing off what I could do?" Maybe there isn't anything she can do in private that will make him want her like that. Maybe it's as simple as it being the unique situation of her doing a defiant, athletic act onstage, and any other situation will default to the same warm reception she usually receives when she initiates something. It's a little disheartening to think about now that she knows Daniel is capable of that kind of strong, immediate reaction, and unconsciously, Vanessa hunches in on herself a bit more.
"No," and there's that movement again, and Daniel still doesn't know what to do about it but he holds still, doesn't try to hold her. "I mean yeah, that was part of what I liked, but you looked good and yeah, I guess it was the typical blokey reaction." It's hard to work out how to put this in words – he knows what he means but nothing seems to explain it right, and he fidgets, drumming his fingers on his thigh. "It's, the closest I can think of – and I don't know if this is going to make any sense," he hedges, uncertain. "Is like when I'm going down on you and you're really into it, and you look amazing, but usually by then we both know I'm going to fuck you after so it's not a surprise, you know? This was like the difference between waking up on a morning with you and ending up fucking, and you grabbing me as soon as I walk in the door – they're both great, I love both, but one is a lot more unexpected so the reaction's a lot more obvious."
Vanessa's brow furrows as she puzzles through what he's said. They're obviously coming at this from very different angles, but they do that for almost everything, so that's hardly new. Slowly, feeling her way through the thought aloud, she says, "Okay, I think what I'm hearing is that you often have a specific reaction to seeing me at times when you think I look good, and that it can be sexual in some circumstances – mostly once some kind of sexual interaction is starting or already underway – but this is a subtle reaction and doesn't get expressed. And that in cases where you are effectively startled into a reaction, it's more likely to be less subtle. So finding a video of me pole-dancing when you didn't know I was doing anything like that, surprised you into an obvious reaction, and the public, performative nature of the dancing meant that you felt it was okay to actually tell me about your reaction." A faint smile touches her mouth. "Is that anywhere close?"
"Yes!" Daniel smiles, surprised by how close all this is. "Usually I'm thinking, it just never makes it into words, you know? And... I didn't know that mattered to you – I know now, obviously – so I never tried to find any words for it."
It's a relief that her Daniel-interpretation skills haven't totally failed. Vanessa bites back the instant retort of 'How could you not know?' because it's obvious that he genuinely didn't – and probably still doesn't, really – understand why it would matter to her. It must not have mattered enough to Natalie for her to push Daniel on it; Vanessa can imagine the fond exasperation it must have engendered, a response she herself has to a lot of things about Daniel that are just different to what she's used to. But with Vanessa's long history of severe body issues, plus the discrepancy in their sex drives, and her especial vulnerability to Daniel because of how much he means to her... the lack of visible reaction from him has been a slow poison to her self-esteem, something she's only realising now and understanding what kind of damage potential it would have if it continues. Vanessa still feels like it shouldn't matter so much, that all the ways in which Daniel shows that he cares about her as a person should be more than enough for her, but in the end she's a sexual creature, and a woman who very much needs that kind of affirmation from her partner.
She rubs her palms along her thighs, feeling fragile and raw. "So, um... do you have a lot of thoughts about me, then?" Immediately Vanessa shakes her head with an impatient sound. "Stupid question, never mind. I mean..." she trails off and shakes her head again, sighing. "I don't even know what I mean."
The way Vanessa catches herself quickly makes Daniel hold back – instead of just answering he touches her hand lightly then lets go – she can lean on him if she wants to. "I do have a lot of thoughts, yeah. Do you want to know more about them, or is now the wrong time?" He wouldn't be surprised if that's the answer – too raw, too awkward right now. But he's been wrong about so much so far. Better to ask.
"I don't know," Vanessa admits. "Part of me is craving that from you, and part of me just really doesn't want to hear it." The unobtrusive touch is good; she appreciates the offer but she's not ready to take him up on it. "I think... right now, I think that whatever you said, it would feel like you were pissing in my pocket and telling me it's raining, you know? It would feel fake, no matter how sincere you were."
"Yeah, that's why I asked – just because I know it's honest doesn't mean it's going to come across as anything other than awkward, and... I really don't need help being awkward with words," he offers a half-smile there, hand resting on his own lap.
That garners a small laugh and Vanessa glances sidelong at Daniel. "Bless you, you really don't, Froggie."
Daniel hangs his head, but he's smiling when Vanessa laughs. "So... yeah. I'm going to be awkward, and I'm probably going to say something about your legs that sounds really stupid, but... I'll try to talk more. And just... forward more." He thinks back to L.A., to Vanessa face down on the bed and her surprise at being rimmed. Better to beg forgiveness.
"I will try to be patient with whatever you say." Can't guarantee being patient, but Vanessa can definitely try, particularly since this is for her benefit. She purses her lips at that thought. "I feel like I'm asking for a lot here. And I still have a little trouble with asking at all. It feels like such a stupid thing to get my knickers in a twist about." Vanessa shrugs, the gesture deceptively light. "But I, um... I do need this from you. It's doing a number on my head, not getting any sort of – well, anything, really." Her hands fold in her lap again. "I kind of need a lot of attention."
"It's not stupid – and you're not asking a lot. I mean yeah I need to learn and that's going to take effort but all you're asking is me to tell you what I'm thinking sometimes. But," Daniel gestures again, mind too busy to sit completely still. "I get why it's hard to ask."
It's a good way to look at it – that all Vanessa's asking is that Daniel share his thoughts sometimes. It doesn't feel like such a big deal when it's put that way and she nods. "Yeah. I guess where the big difference is between us, is that I'm a born performer." She smiles. "You developed Kat to deal with performative stuff, and since I wasn't getting any noticeable reaction from you but I do from her, it seemed like everything related had transferred to her, so there didn't seem any point in asking you about any of this when you seemed totally unaware of me that way."
"I was just thinking of that," Daniel smiles again, searching for the words. "With the rimming and you being surprised, and... I'm used to waiting until I'm asked for something, or at least told I can, instead of just... going for it. But obviously sometimes just going for it works, a lot, and I should try that more."
"Yes, you should," Vanessa states bluntly. "I think I'm usually very clear about whether I do or don't like or want something. But I can't ask for something that I don't know is on the table." She thinks a moment, adding, "We talked a long time ago about you offering stuff and me accepting or not as I wanted at the time. We've kind of moved away from that, because it was at the beginning of our relationship and we didn't know each other that well, and I was very much still learning about how to be your domme. Which is all different now, of course, but maybe we've both gotten a little complacent about it?"
"Yeah, it's easy to... god, this is going to sound really selfish, but it's easy to forget because you're giving me everything I need. Because now you are that good as my domme – so it is like the finishing sentences thing, I forget you don't know what I'm thinking or that it is hard for you to ask if you're not getting what you need," Daniel holds up a hand a little and shakes his head. "And yeah, I know how stupid that sounds. So. Talk more, start more, right?"
That does make Vanessa smile, hearing that Daniel's getting everything he needs. It also underscores what they've been talking about today, because while she's been pretty sure that's true, she hasn't gotten much verbal confirmation of it. Gently, but still in a firm tone, "Yes. Talk more, start more. Be aware that subtle doesn't cut it for me. I need clarity as much as you do, and I need you to flat out state things or take definitive action in order for you to be clear to me." She reaches over to touch his thigh, looking directly at him. It's hard to say like this, but Vanessa murmurs, "Remember that I love you, and that makes me vulnerable to you. I need those reassurances from you, in a form that is clear to me. I need to hear what you're thinking, what you're feeling, even if my behaviour suggests that I already know. I need words, Daniel."
"Yes Ma'am." The words are firm enough that they might as well be an order, but it is something Daniel needs to do – and wants to. He puts his hand over hers and nods. "I love you too. And I can learn." Blunt is probably going to translate to awkward, but better clumsy than silent, especially since Vanessa knows just how bad he is at talking like that.
"Good." God, she feels shaky, absolutely wrung out by all of this. Vanessa sits a moment longer then mutters, "Fuck the heat," and squirms round on the sofa, dropping a knee over the other side of Daniel's lap to straddle him and pressing her body up tight against his chest, nose buried in the crook of his neck as she takes deep breaths and tries not to cry.
Daniel doesn't give a fuck if it's warm, he wraps his arms tight around Vanessa the minute she moves to him, just holding on. "It's OK," he whispers, nuzzling against her hair. "Whatever you need, it's OK." It feels good to hold her, even like this, and he rubs her back slowly.
Vanessa simply nods, her throat too tight to speak, and hangs on.
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