The whole house was abuzz as the adults and older children prepared for their evening out. Sharon had heard Alexandra and the kids arrive, but she had already stripped in order to hop in the shower, so she didn’t go to greet them. She and Brenda showered together - the stall was more than big enough, so they took turns under the shower head to wash and on the stone bench to shave, and a moment to enjoy the press of slick bare skin against skin and the fragile beauty of wet hair and water droplets caught in the eyelashes of the one you love most.
Just like most mornings when they got ready for work, the racket of the hair dryer made conversation impossible, but neither of them minded. Brenda dried her hair haphazardly, watching Sharon, towel turbaned on her head, rub lotion onto her limbs. It was a tantalizing sight, but Brenda was (mostly) distracted by her Captain’s long-fingered hands. She needed a ring, and she had an idea of what she wanted to get Sharon, generally, but had no earthly idea of where to begin shopping. Brenda supposed a trip to browse through the jewelry retailers in Beverly Hills was in order.
Leaving her hair just a tad damp for the straightening iron, Brenda clicked off the dryer and left the bathroom to retrieve her underwear. Sharon was bent over, massaging a palm full of oil into the wet mass of waves that, in her position, just brushed the floor. Brenda couldn’t resist giving a teasing pinch to the soft, pale flesh of Sharon’s ass.
“Hey,” Sharon squawked.
“Gorgeous,” purred Brenda as she sashayed past, acutely aware that the Sharon’s eye-line was conveniently at her waist level. She wanted to say ‘fuck it’ to the whole going out to dinner thing and mold herself to Sharon’s naked back and drag the other woman to bed.
Sharon watched her move into the bedroom, craning her neck a bit awkwardly, carefully working the oil into her hair from root to tip. She watched Brenda rummage in their suitcase to find a shimmering, midnight blue panties and matching strapless bra; watched her shimmy into the underwear and settle herself into the cups of the bra. Sharon’s fingers twitched - they’d done a lot of very intimate things with one another, and Sharon had certainly undressed Brenda, but she had never dressed her before. Maybe Friday, before they went out again, Sharon would think to ask, and Brenda would give her permission.
Brenda was ready but for her shoes when there was a knock at the bedroom door. “Come on in; it’s open,” she called hesitantly. The teenager who opened it could only be Sharon’s teenage ‘niece’, Colleen. She was also, incidentally, Constance’s granddaughter, though Sharon assured her that Colleen and her mother Alexandra were nothing like the family matriarch, so Brenda would do her best not to hold their relative against them.
“Uh, hi,” Colleen offered. She peered around the room. “I was looking for my aunt. Is she in here?”
“She’s still in the bathroom - havin’ an eye makeup malfunction I think.”
“Oh, well, I guess that means she can’t help with my hair malfunction. I can’t seem to get it to do anything tonight, and I like to wear it up, otherwise I end up with it in my mouth.” Colleen grimaced and Brenda copied the expression in empathy.
“I know what that’s like. I can do buns and braids - would either of those options strike your fancy?”
Brenda offered, and Colleen looked shyly pleased, and so very unlike a teenager, who could be rather haughty, in Brenda’s experience.
“I would like that,” the girl answered, and Brenda smiled in response. “A braid, maybe? Sort of messy?”
“I think I can handle that. Lemme just find a hair tie and some bobby pins.” Brenda knocked softly on the bathroom door and then opened it a crack. Sharon was bent over the vanity, still fussing with her eye-liner, naked but for a pair of black moirè boyshorts. The familiar burn of arousal and want, heady and heavy, began to bubble in the pit of Brenda’s stomach at the sight. Sometimes Brenda would catch herself wondering, in what she thought of as weak moments, if she would ever cease to react to Sharon with so viscerally. Every time her thoughts meandered in such a way, Brenda would give herself a little mental shake - she did so now; today wasn’t that day. She stepped into the room and closed the door behind her.
“Are you doin’ alright in here, baby?”
Sharon, growled faintly, catching Brenda’s gaze in the mirror. “I think this eyeliner is expired or something, because it wouldn’t sharpen properly.”
“You look beautiful, Sharon,” Brenda observed honestly. Sharon’s reflection smirked at her and then the other woman turned to lean languidly against the counter, putting herself on display for Brenda.
“You’re just saying that because I’m practically naked, Brenda Leigh.”
“I’m sayin’ that ‘cuz you take my breath away, clothed or otherwise, but right now you look particularly temptin’… but that’s not why I came in here. I need some hair doo-dads.” Brenda collected the items she needed. “Now put your dress on and come say hello to Colleen.”
“I…” Sharon looked puzzled. “Colleen?”
“She came to find you. Hair crisis.” Brenda waved the brush for emphasis. “I’ll take care of it. Finish gettin’ ready.”
By the time the bathroom door opened to reveal Sharon in her tantalizing little black dress, Brenda had done up Colleen’s shiny, nearly black hair into a fishtail braid that curved over one shoulder and whimsically enhanced her youthful appeal. They had bonded a bit, too - girls with brothers tended to find they had much to discuss, and Colleen’s brothers were a handful. She had come seeking Sharon’s help because her mother had been busy wrestling the 10 and 13 year old boys into sport coats and ties.
It was all Brenda could manage to not stare like a slack-jawed idiot. On the hanger, Sharon’s dress hadn’t really looked like anything special; a cap-shouldered, shiny black jersey sheathe with some rouching, but on the woman, it was transformed. The fabric clung to Sharon’s curves, enhancing and smoothing them. Her chest, propped up by the bodice to delicious effect, and shoulders were bare, framed by the black of the sleeves and the fall of her hair.
“Wow,” Brenda croaked, dry mouthed, cheeks flaming. Colleen echoed Brenda’s sentiment, and Sharon favored the girl with a welcoming smile, then gathered the girl up in her arms for a hug.
“Hey, girlie. I’ve missed you,” Sharon murmured, with a squeeze.
“I missed you, too.” Colleen returned Sharon’s affection without any teenage reluctance.
“We’ll talk this weekend about you coming to visit this summer - just you, if you want, no brothers.” In reaction to Sharon’s offer, Colleen squealed excitedly, and Brenda smiled and shot a look a Sharon who gave her a bemused little grin. She would, as soon as they were alone, apologize to Brenda for not asking before inviting Colleen. Brenda would reassure her, it would be her pleasure because her Captain was so thoughtful, and Brenda loved that Sharon was so adored by her family. And Brenda had her own favorite aunt, her mother’s older sister, who had rescued Brenda from her brothers for shopping or a movie or a lunch out quite often while she was growing up; Brenda had nothing but fond memories of those low-key adventures where she was the center of attention for being well-behaved, instead of competing with her brothers for her mother’s time.
“I’m going to go tell mom!” Colleen exclaimed excitedly. “Thanks for helping with my hair, Brenda.”
“That was sweet of you,” Sharon husked after Colleen had fairly skipped out of the room.
“She seems like a nice girl,” Brenda demurred. “You look…” Brenda let out a shaky breath, unable to conjure an adjective that adequately described how Brenda felt about Sharon in her outfit. That dress is really somethin’ - or I should say: you in that dress is really somethin’.”
“I’m glad you think so. I really like that smooth bun with your dress - you look very polished. And very lovely.” Sharon complimented, running her fingers through her hair, pushing it back from the crown of her head. Brenda had to clench her hands into fists to keep from following suit and tangling her own fingers in that silky mass. A bit embarrassed by the talk of her attractiveness, Sharon turned to retrieve her shoes - black suede Valentino platform pumps with gold spike detail on the toes - and then Brenda was unable to resist; she rested her hands on the curves of Sharon’s hips and nosed through her hair to place delicate kisses along a bare shoulder. The brunette chuckled breathily, exhaling in a tremulous rush when she felt Brenda’s tongue dart out briefly to taste her skin.
“What toy’d you pack in the suitcase, baby?” Brenda asked, rough voiced, the movement of her lips sending shivers across Sharon’s back.
“A new one. A strapless dildo.”
“You went sex-toy shoppin’ without me?” Crowed Brenda, incredulous.
“I may have picked out a few things on the internet, but it was before we started spending most nights together, or I would have solicited your opinion.”
“What sorts of things did you pick out?”
“I bought the strap on and harness. And the one I packed to bring with us. And some other things, that I think can remain as surprises.”
“Well, then. Maybe I’ll have to purchase a few surprises of my own,” Brenda retorted, playful, punctuating her statement with kisses across the fading freckles on Sharon’s shoulders.
“I think that is the very definition of a win-win situation, Brenda Leigh,” said Sharon, a laugh burbling up from her chest.
The party was not quite what Brenda expected. The organizers had rented out the entire restaurant (a rather romantic, in Brenda’s mind, wine bar called Soif) and while the menu was available, an enormous selection of finger foods were displayed on a buffet table, along with champagne, wine and a full bar. Brenda couldn’t bring herself to mind - much less of a chance of getting stuck at a dinner table with someone stultifying or terrible - you could always take your plate and find another knot of people with whom to converse.
As it was, Constance lingered in the vicinity of Brenda and Sharon, casting nasty looks their way whenever they were affectionate or when they laughed. She didn’t appear to be having a good time, not by any stretch of the imagination. Brenda was not in the least surprised that her grandchildren preferred to hang out with Aunt Sharon, because the single interaction Brenda observed between Constance and Colleen involved the older woman sniping at her only granddaughter. The boys didn’t even approach her; Steven Jr., the older of the two sat quietly, nibbling at a plateful of food and playing something on an iPod or iPhone. Matt, who was 9 and still very much the curious boy, shadowed them, watching.
“What’s up with him? He’s not scared is he? I don’t wanna be scary.” There was a lull in the conversation with one of Sharon’s first cousins, and Brenda leaned in, not wanting to embarrass Matt, who was in ear-shot.
“Brenda, you and I both know that is an utter falsehood, and that you love scaring the you-know-what out of all sorts of people,” Sharon teased. Brenda pinched her, gently, on the arm in retaliation, then left a lingering caress on the same spot. “I think he’s just assessing the situation, honey. I’ve been single their whole lives, so Matt is trying to figure out how this is going to work for him. I wouldn’t worry about it; just be yourself.”
Brenda heaved a sigh at this advice. “You know you are the only person that likes ‘myself’, right, and that everyone else has some sort of bone to pick with her?”
Sharon chuckled, but looked at Brenda soberly and said: “I guarantee that the family members that like me will like you, but please keep in mind that teenagers like Steven oftentimes don’t like anyone, not even themselves, ok?”
“That is true,” Brenda groused. “I’m sorry I’m bein’ silly. I think I’m a little nervous, still.”
“No need to apologize, Brenda Leigh.” Sharon squeezed the blonde’s hand comfortingly and smiled. Brenda’s nervousness about Sharon’s family was adorable - that this confident, brash and frequently confrontational woman was tying herself up in knots about whether a child liked her was utterly charming, not that Sharon would ever tell her so. “Would you like another glass of wine?”
“I would, thank you.” Brenda relinquished her empty glass to Sharon and her lover - no, her fiancé - strode purposefully towards the bar at the front of the room, a hypnotic rhythm to her steps. Watching, Brenda felt her eyelids drop to half-mast; dear lord she was worse than Andy Flynn. Her X-rated, totally inappropriate for being comfortable in public, musings were interrupted when someone sidled up next to her. A short, gangly someone.
Matt cocked his head at Brenda inquiringly, looking uncannily like his aunt when she was on the trail of an untruth or misdeed. Brenda cocked her head right back.
“Mom said you were a spy,” he stated, face blank, daring her to disagree and by default, prove his mother a liar. Brenda didn’t know what the right answer was.
“Of a sort. I worked for the CIA.”
“Isn’t that what the CIA does? Spies?”
“Partly, yes. They do other things, too.” Brenda questioned whether a nine year old needed to know about analysts and interrogation specialists. Especially not interrogation specialists, not when interrogation, in the world of television, meant torture. Like she had said, Brenda didn’t want anyone to be scared of her.
“They talk to people, and a lot of people analyze the information that the spies gather - that’s pretty important.” Matt narrowed his eyes skeptically, unconvinced. “It’s not always very exciting, I’m afraid,” Brenda apologized, pursing her lips in a conciliatory moue. “And it’s all classified, anyway.”
Matt scowled at her, but looked impressed, regardless. Just then, Constance inserted herself into their conversation, almost violently.
“Matt, why don’t you go play your game with your brother,” she ordered harshly. The scowl Matt gave his grandmother was much more severe and serious than the contemplative looks he’d given Brenda. He obeyed, but grudgingly.
“I’d appreciate,” Constance hissed contemptuously, “if you would leave my grandchildren alone.”
“Pardon me?” Brenda couldn’t help but be effected by Constance’s venom, but she was practiced enough to not let it show.
“You strut around here with that ring on your finger like it actually means something, telling outright lies to impressionable children? I will not stand for it! And I will not pretend to be overjoyed that you’re preying on my desperate, confused relation.”
Brenda didn’t really know how to respond. She fought to keep the hard look on her face, versus staring at Constance, mouth agape, while she considered what to say.
“I’m sorry you feel that way about Sharon,” Brenda said in a quiet, level tone, “and frankly I couldn’t care less what you think about me wearin’ Sharon’s ring, but I haven’t lied. And certainly not to any children.”
“As if the CIA would call upon your services? Please. I don’t know who you think you’re fooling with that story, but I can see right through it.”
Brenda couldn’t help it; she laughed. More like a bray or a bark than any sound indicating humor, though. “It’s rich that you think I would lie to someone who has access to my professional history. And you have absolutely no idea of my qualifications, so why don’t you just write this one up as a loss and manufacture some other reason to hate my guts.”
“I’ll have you know I’m on good terms with a former director of the CIA, and someone like you would never have…” Brenda interrupted her.
“The director is a political appointee, and if this former director is talking about his service as director, than perhaps I should make a phone call for some inquiries to be made,” Brenda said gravely, completely serious. Constance blanched, but quickly recovered.
“What I mean to say, is a man like him, in service to this country, would never…” Brenda interrupted again.
“You’re naive. And I’m done with this conversation.” Constance clearly was only marginally aligned with reality. Brenda stalked away, over to where Sharon was leaning against the bar, and slid in next to her, slipping a hand onto the small of the other woman’s back, fingers toying with the rouching of her dress.
“Hey, baby. Think you could get me a shot of something stronger to chase with that wine?”
“Sure.” Sharon signaled the bartender, who was uncorking a bottle of wine. “Is everything alright?”
“Just a little conversation with Constance.”
“Is that so?” Sharon turned to take in the room, her gaze finding the older woman in a heated conversation with her daughter. Alex appeared to have dragged her mother into a corner and was talking intently to her, body language tense.
“She told me to stay away from the kids, and took some pot shots at my ‘qualifications’ and my work history - which doesn’t bother me that much, but she seems to be laborin’ under the misconception that, I dunno, homosexuality is catchin’ or some such thing.” Sharon ordered two shots of good whiskey from the bartender and then stared off at the bottles lining the wall for a moment, expression sort of blank. She was not in the mood for conflict about this, not in a public venue with the children around.
“Alex will deal with her,” she murmured, after coming back to herself with a tiny, almost imperceptible start. “Constance won’t think to obscure what she said or did because she thinks she’s in the right, and Alex will handle it.”
“That’s fine with me,” the blonde assented. They each took a shot glass from the bar and shared a glance. Brenda couldn’t tell if the sparkle in Sharon’s eyes was anger at her aunt, or something else, so she decided to attempt to lighten the mood.
“To family,” Brenda toasted quietly, for Sharon’s ears only, clinking her glass to the brunette’s gently. Sharon laughed, her eyes crinkling up in genuine good humor.
“To family,” she agreed, and they drank.