Bridget, Connie, Ruth, Moira and the other characters and situations of Malory Towers are the creations of Enid Blyton, legendary children's writer. This is simply a fanfic.

This fic is rated for slightly disturbing themes, especially hinting more storngly at the darker aspects of the twins' relationship.

Dedicated to the malorytowers rpg group and players. I love you all.

Duality

On the first day of the new term, Connie had turned confidently to assist her twin with her bags, as she had every single first day since they had toddled off to prep school together.

"I'll take that, thanks," Ruth said briefly, and pulled her bags out of Connie's hands. She strode off down the platform in the most un-Ruthlike way, and Connie stood in the middle of the platform, her legs quivering in the most alarming manner, as her twin was swallowed up in a cheerful bunch of fifth formers. She knew she should follow Ruth and join the group of her friends – but were they really friends, now? Sudden doubts assailed her. Being left down in the Upper Fourth should not mean so much, and she'd liked Darrell, Sally and Bill so much, but…

She was pulled out of her dream by a sharp laugh at her elbow, and turned to look into the palest grey eyes she'd ever seen, the irises almost as colourless as the whites, except for their sooty rim. Put in with a smutty finger, Connie's memories of her nurse filled in.

"Left you for dry, has she?" The girl stuck out a hand. "Bridget Linton. And you're Connie Batten - I've noticed you around, although I don't suppose you would have noticed a mere Lower Fourth member. We're in the same boat now, so we may as well pal up." She turned her back with the same abrupt movement, and headed for the train, tossing back over her shoulder, "After all, we have something in common."

Connie trailed after her, with an odd sense of unreality at the situation. She wasn't the kind to follow others, feeling helpless. She always had her little shadow of a twin to fuss over. But Ruth didn't require her help now, that was clear. Connie blinked hard and followed her new friend. She suspected Bridget was not the type to have patience with tears.

"What do we have in common?" she asked eventually, as they claimed corner seats and arranged their luggage.

Bridget flung herself down on her seat and put up her feet in flagrant disregard of the rules. "Sisters lording it over us in the Fifth." She tilted her head on one side, smirking, and Connie had a sudden image of little Ruth waving a hand and issuing decrees. She dissolved into sudden giggles, and a little of her loneliness lifted with it.

She was still not quite sure how or why, but she seemed to have acquired a friend.

By the time they'd settled in at school, Connie was quite sure she shouldn't like Bridget at all, let alone as much as she found herself doing. Everything about the girl was sharp, from the bones of her face to her tongue, and she was not in any way an acceptable substitute for Connie's sweet, gentle twin. But there was something fascinating about her, about the focussed anger she carried with her as shield. Bridget was furious about something she didn't deign to mention, and that anger gave her the courage to ignore rules as if they didn't apply to her, running down the corridors and cheeking the mistresses.

Whispering at evening prayers.

Connie had been lost, not in spiritual contemplation but in the sight of her twin. Ruth looked pale, surely her strained smile was false, and she fumbled with the pages of her prayerbook, trying to find the correct reading. Why didn't anyone help her? Connie ached to go over and turn to the page for her. She always found Ruth's place before looking for her own.

A painful nudge in the ribs recalled her to Bridget's presence beside her.

"That's her." One of those narrow little hands gestured at the Fifth form, at a handsome girl with a sullen mouth, someone who had not been in the Upper Fourth with the twins.

Connie was so shocked that Bridget was whispering in front of Miss Grayling, and in prayers at that, her tongue froze to the top of her mouth. Finally, she shot out of the corner of her mouth, "Who?"

"Moira. My bitch of a sister."

Connie had never heard that particular word used without reference to dogs, but some instinct, or the concentrated venom with which it was spoken, told her that it was inappropriate to use it at prayers. She coloured and stared hard at her prayer book, and felt Bridget shake with repressed laughter at her side. She was so confused and embarrassed that she almost forgot to eat up her twin with her eyes, checking her for signs of tension, of worry, of missing her.

Bridget slipped her arm into hers as they left the hall, ignoring Miss Grayling's disapproving eye. "You're all right, Batten. A bit of a goody two shoes still, but you've spirit hidden there somewhere. We'll get along just fine."

Connie, whose arm had been aching for her sister to slip a hand into it, found herself smiling and comforted despite herself. It felt frightfully nice to be given approval.

Her loneliness hit her full force again on the return to the dormitory. She stood helplessly for a moment, facing the fact that no one needed her. Bridget was sitting on the bed, working on a tangle in her long fine hair, and on impulse Connie took the comb from her.

"Let me. I always do Ruth's hair."

She expected a protest, not a lazy, amused smile. Bridget sat back, and Connie began to work her comb carefully through the hair, pale golden instead of the almost buttercup shade of the twins' hair. She untangled the knots, picked up a brush and drew it through Bridget's hair until it shone like watered silk, then divided it in two and plaited it, finishing with perfect bows.

"I could get used to being fussed over like this," Bridget remarked, when Connie finally put up the brush, ignoring the giggling of some of the others in the dorm.

Connie's restlessness came flooding back as soon as the satisfaction at Bridget's pretty hair had dwindled. She jumped to her fee. "I want to check on Ruth. She's never unpacked for herself before."

Bridget sighed, if that was the correct word for an angry puff of air. "Oh, for goodness' sake. She doesn't need your coddling anymore. She's too grown up for you, remember? Look, if you really want to do some more unpacking, I haven't nearly finished myself."

"I'm going," Connie said stubbornly. "She might need me."

Bridget grumbled, but she pulled on her dressing-gown and followed, waiting at Ruth's dormitory door. To her credit, when Connie came out in tears, there was no hint of I-told-you-sos. She washed Connie's face, and took her back to their own dormy, flipping an impudent chin at the remonstrances of the dormitory monitor.

"You're all right, Connie," she whispered again. "I'd drop dead of shock if Moira ever wanted to do anything for me like that. Your little cow of a Ruth doesn't know how lucky she is. If you ever want to get your own back on her, or any of those stuck-up fifth formers, just let me know."

For the first time in her life, Connie failed to leap to her twin's defence. That night, she lay awake and felt guilty over her lack of loyalty, but… Bridget was the only friend she had in the new Upper Fourth. Everyone else was paired off in their own friendships.

Bridget, despite her sharpness, was the only one who showed signs of needing Connie. That was enough for a start, at least.

The two girls were fast friends before the week was out. At least having a friend eased the aching, bewildered sense of loss she felt without her twin, and Bridget never complained with Connie made her bed for her or brushed her hair. She never complained, either, when Connie put a supporting arm around her on walks or pulled her along by a linked hand. In fact, she was affectionate in return in a way that slightly unsettled Connie, given that it was directly at odds with her new friend's prickly attitude towards everyone but Connie herself. When she thought about it, Connie was proud that the girl who detested everybody else liked her enough to link hands or sit so close she was almost on her lap. Mostly she simply took it for granted that Bridget would fill the empty space by her side.

She was dimly aware that the others laughed or whispered at their demonstrations, but she didn't care a jot more than she cared about the realisation that her companion was distinctly unpopular in the form. She'd always longed to cling to Ruth like that, but Ruth had been so queer about things lately, pulling away from her and looking at her with the corners of her mouth pulled in tight. Bridget was so much more satisfactory in that way…

No, of course she wasn't more satisfactory in any way. Ruth was sweet and wholesome. Bridget was too acid to be either.

Connie didn't stop trying to see her sister whenever possible, enduring snubs with repressed tears and reddened cheeks, but after each rejection there was Bridget to hand out bitter comfort in the form of gossip and bile, laden with spite and with an unholy glee at the failings and sufferings of others. Especially her sister. Bridget hated Moira in a black, passionate way that appalled and fascinated the older girl.

"Don't you – don't you love her at all?" she ventured at last.

Bridget looked at her with scorn. "Love Queen Moira? You have to be joking."

"But – she's your sister. You should love your sister more than anyone else in the world."

Bridget leaned back on her bed, her queer eyes fixed speculatively on Connie. It was strictly forbidden to be in the dormitories during the daytime, especially to sit snuggled together on the same bed, but Bridget always claimed the common room lacked privacy.

"Being my sister never made Moira care tuppence for me. Your Ruth is just the same – yes, she is," she reinforced, as Connie shook her head. The hand on Connie's shoulder tightened almost painfully. "Being in a different form doesn't mean she can't spend breaks with you, instead of with those bitches in the Fifth form."

"You're wrong." Connie stared at her hands, wanting to defend Ruth as well as her old friends… Friends. What a joke. Darrell and Bill and the others hadn't exactly been breaking their backs seeking her out this term. Bridget was Connie's only friend now.

Bridget shrugged. "Maybe. Oh – don't pull away. I don't want to quarrel about your precious sister. You can't blame me for wanting you to love me best now, can you?" She leaned closer, draping herself over Connie's shoulder.

Connie bit her lip. Bridget wasn't Ruth, and that was all there was to it. But Bridget's warm weight on her back felt nice, and so did the soft kiss planted on the side of her cheek. Her new friend had her points.

Her new friend also quarrelled with everybody in the form except Connie, who would stand back, awed and rather impressed as Bridget spat insults and threats at the other girls. Bridget behaved entirely differently towards Connie herself, at least until the second week of term, when she came up to the dorm to discover her friend in riding gear, pulling her boots on.

"Where are you going?" Hands on hips, suddenly narrow light eyes.

"Riding," Connie said, vaguely surprised at her friend's tone. "With Ruth. We generally go riding Thursday afternoons, with Bill and Darrell, and Clarissa, lately." She stood and picked up her bowler.

Bridget's mouth was a pale pink line in her face. "Let Ruth go with the other fifth formers. You're myfriend now. We'll go together."

"You don't even ride."

"I can learn."

"Don't be silly," Connie said impatiently. She was a good rider, and her bedroom at home was lined with ribbons. She had no intention of trotting meekly beside a beginner. Besides… Ruth had taken her sleeve at breakfast, asking her if she would come. Perhaps she was sorry. Perhaps she missed Connie as desperately as Connie missed her…

Bridget slapped her hard across the face, so hard the bowler slipped from Connie's nerveless hand.

They stared at each other for a shocked moment, as Bridget began to tremble so violently Connie's anger dissolved into alarm. She caught her just before she fell.

"My temper… I can't control it. I'm so sorry. Don't hate me, don't, don't…" She burst into violent tears.

"It's all right." Connie pulled her close, rubbing Bridget's arms just as she rubbed Ruth's when she woke from nightmares. "It's all right, dear."

She sat down on the bed, hugging the hysterical girl close, and almost forgot to worry about what Ruth would think, or about if she was supposed to give up all her riding now. But this was different. Bridget was distraught, she'd be more reasonable another time. She kissed Bridget's sleek hair, and quieted her as if she was a fractious horse. By the time the storms of sobbing had died down, it was too late to think of riding.

The next morning at breakfast, Bridget clung to Connie's arm so hard it hurt as they went to take their places. When Connie turned at Ruth's hand on her shoulder, Bridget swung with her without releasing her grasp.

"Where were you, yesterday? I missed my ride." Ruth didn't look accusing, only puzzled and faintly reproachful. Connie supposed she had been so grateful for the offered ride,for a few crumbs of attention from her twin… Anger burned in her, fuelled by Bridget's watching grey eyes.

"Bridget wanted me. Why didn't you go with Darrell and Bill as usual?"

"Darrell had to take the lower forms in lacrosse."

"Bill, then?"

"She'd already gone off alone with Clarissa. She always does now, for some reason."

For some reason, Bridget seemed to find that innocuous statement intensely funny. Her shout of laughter echoed down the hall, gathering reproachful looks from mistresses. Connie turned to ask her what the joke was, but she caught the laughter herself, and she didn't resist when Bridget pulled her away towards the Upper Fourth table, still shaking with mirth. She caught a glimpse of Ruth's confused, hurt expression, but for the moment it meant nothing more than Moira, glaring across the room at her own sister.

"You're a queer kind of girl," she told Bridget eventually, when she caught her breath.

"Don't I know it." Bridget sparkled triumphantly at her. "And you're showing backbone. That's my girl."

Connie reddened with pleasure, and went back to her breakfast. She didn't look across at the Fifth table once.

~tbc~~