“And don’t think I don’t know what you’re up to,” Joan snaps.
Bette quirks a brow and puffs away on her cigarette.
“What the hell are you talking about, Lucille?”
“You and Bob aren’t nearly as discrete as you think you are.”
Bette laughs, and Joan is taken aback. That hadn’t nearly been the reaction she had been expecting. An angry remark, a cutting jab, a disgusted look, certainly, but laughter?
“I don’t know why that’s so funny to you,” Joan says. “That’s no way for a woman of our age to be acting. That sort of behavior is for the young floozies who can’t act.”
Bette recomposes herself, but a sly smile remains on her face.
“You think Bob and I are fucking behind your back and what? Plotting your demise? You’re delusional.”
“I’m delusional, am I? Well, why else he have made you associate producer?”
Bette takes a drag before responding.
“I’m through with men, Joanie. There hasn’t been a real man in my life since Gary. So get off your high horse and mingle with us common folk.”
Joan looks chastened, and Bette almost feels sorry for hers. Joan and her judgments. She always did think she was superior to everyone. She certainly acted like it.
“No one?” Joan asks, almost shyly. “I mean, you’re not old, you have fame and money and status. There’s been no suitors?”
Ah, there is was. She wanted to hear the juicy bits. The behind-the-scenes smut. Well, who didn’t like to hear a good dirty story?
“Well, it’s good to know you’re not made of stone. Most women let their husbands steal their drive. That’s very modern of you, Lucille.”
“Oh, I didn’t mean—I’m not implying that I. I didn’t mean to be uncouth, is all.”
“Relax, Joanie. It’s normal. It’s human, for god’s sake.” Bette pauses. “Of course there have been ‘suitors.’ No one’s stuck. It turns out that Bob and I aren’t compatible. We fooled around a few times, but, you know, there wasn’t any spark, for Christ’s sake. I want someone who won’t just roll over. Someone who has some fight left in them. You know what I mean?”
For the first time since their conversation began, Joan notices how closely they were sitting and how intensely Bette was looking at her. They had moved their heads closer together, almost conspiratorially, as talk had shifted from accusations to private bedroom activities. Bette scans the hotel room, momentarily lost in thought. (God, she needed a drink.) When she turns back to her costar, she catches Joan staring at her lips and watches her eyes travel up her face until they were eye to eye.
“I do,” Joan says.
“Damnit, Lucille,” Bette breathes.
Before Joan knows what’s happening, Bette is grabbing her face between her hands and pressing their lips together.
“Bette, what—?” Joan manages.
“Shut up. Just shut up. Christ, I need this,” Bette says against her skin.
Bette’s breath is hot and her hands drift from her face to her neck and down to those ridiculous shoulders that give her something to hold on to because she feels like the whole room is spinning as they kiss.
“Tell me that that was awful, and I’ll go,” Bette says, hanging halfway out of her chair and halfway into Joan’s.
Joan stares back at Bette with her big brown eyes full of questions and probably a hundred rebukes, but Bette finds she couldn’t care less. Bette smiles.
“C’mon. It’ll be fun. Like the old days. Why should Garbo and Dietrich get to have all the fun, huh?”
She licks her lips and waits to hear what Joan has to say about the matter. Bette is ready to holler at her to do or say something already as the tension in the room built and built up inside her when Joan surprises her, not with a curse or a slap, but with a gentle hand raised to caress her cheek.
“Is this really what you want, Bette?” she asks.
Joan smooths a lock of Bette’s hair back into place, and Bette shivers when her fingertips ghost over the shell of her ear.
“Don’t you?” Bette counters.
Bette was still holding on to her shoulders, afraid to move for fear of breaking the spell that had Joan looking at her with eyes that had bewitched the likes of everyone from Douglas Fairbanks Jr. to herself.
Joan laughs to herself.
“I’m not nearly drunk enough for this.”
Bette grins crookedly and squeezes Joan’s shoulders.
“I can fix that. I’ve got just the thing.”
Bette releases her costar and jumps up from her seat. With her back to Joan, she doesn’t see Joan take a deep, steadying breath as Bette rummaged through her suitcases for some bottles of her favorite gin and a Sinatra record to play in the background. Joan is relieved when Bette hands her a glass; it gave her something concrete to keep hold on to. The two women slug their drinks back quickly.
“This feels like a slumber party,” Joan says.
Bette grabs a pillow and sits at Joan’s feet, head resting against her knee as she looked up at Joan.
“Were you a naughty guest, Lucille?”
Joan laughs again, and Bette thinks she’s getting more drunk off that sound than she was off her beverage. God, it could’ve and should’ve always been like this.
“Oh, I was the worst.”
As she talks, Bette pulls off Joan’s heels and tosses them over her shoulder to fall where they may.
“Tell me,” Bette says, looking up at Joan from between her knees.
Bette’s hands run up her legs from ankle to knee to get ahold of her hose. Joan takes another long drink.
“Tell me about those wild flapper days, baby. Close your eyes and think real hard.”
Joan lets her eyes fall closed, and as her eyelids shut, she catches Bette’s grin. She’s thankful Bette isn’t making her look or else she’s sure she’d have lost her nerve.
“Her name was Ida. And her hair was so soft, and she swore she never used a cream or anything for it. And I didn’t believe her until we shared a one bedroom together.”
Bette rolls each stocking down Joan’s legs, letting her talk and remember the good old days. To tell the truth, Bette wanted to know the story herself.
“How did you find her out?”
“She—she came out of the bathroom. She didn’t use a single product. All she did was towel off and she was done.”
“She toweled off in front of you?”
Joan nods as Bette’s hands reach back up Joan’s emerald green skirt, slowly, so as not to ruin the recreated fantasy. Joan shivers as Bette’s fingers trail over her now-exposed skin. Higher and higher up Bette went until her hands reached silk.
Joan’s breath catches, and Bette gives a little tug to her panties.
“Lift your hips, dear.”
Joan flushes, but she obliges.
“I—I think Ida knew right away that I was interested.”
“I’ll bet. You’ll have to throw these out,” Bette says, tossing her ruined panties into the pile of stockings.
“Tell me more about Ida,” Bette says. “And scoot forward.”
Bette gets up on her knees and grasps the hem of Joan’s skirt. Christ, they were really going to do this, weren’t they? Joan swallows in anticipation.
“Somehow we—we made it to Ida’s little bed. We hardly both fit. And—”
Unable to wait another second, Bette moved Joan’s skirt out of the way and grabbed her thighs. God, she wanted this. Wanted Joan. Bette wanted to make her scream.
“And we, oh!”
Joan throws her head back against the overstuffed chair and fists her hands in Bette’s red hair. She licks and kisses and nips, spurred on by the sharp, perfectly manicured nails on her scalp and the gentle moans that get louder and louder as she works her up. She tastes like musk and soap and sweat, and she wants more and more and more. Bette is sure she’s never been this aroused before.
She pauses for just a moment to breathe, and she opens her eyes. She looks up at Joan and wonders what she’ll see. Joan’s eyes are glassy and slightly unfocused, pupils wide.
“You can’t think of stopping there!” she laments.
Bette laughs in blissful relief and delight.
Bette takes that as her cue to resume with vigor, mimicking all those lovely things she’s experienced in the past and learned to do herself while carrying on an on-set affair with other actresses who weren’t inclined to go running to Hedda or Louella.
In the end, Joan does scream, once, before remembering that the hotel’s walls were thin and reining herself in by biting her fist.
Bette pulls away, panting and satisfied with her work. She watches Joan take huge, gulping breaths that made her clit throb with want. She doesn’t let go of Joan’s thighs until she subtly pulls away, suddenly shy and painfully self-aware of what they had just done. Joan quickly pushes her skirt back down.
“Bette, I—if you want, I—”
“Fuck yes,” Bette says. She’s in no mood to be delicate or beat around the bush. “I’m all yours, baby.”
When they’ve finally made it to Bette’s bed, and they’re lying naked under the sheets, Joan snoring quietly beside her, Bette lights a cigarette and send up a silent prayer of thanks to little Ida Nobody who taught Joan Crawford how to properly please a woman.