Fem Slash Saturday
...I know, it's been...a while.
Here’s the the thing. The Morning Show, the AppleTV centerpiece that allegedly costs fifteen million dollars an episode (in fairness, this has been disputed by executive director Mimi Leder) is not a very good show? Or rather it has the hallmarks of a good show, without actually ever managing become one? The dialogue is truly painful at points, the music choices rival The Handmaid’s Tale for subtlety and yet it has burrowed directly into the reptilian pleasure center that lives inside of my brain.
So you see, I had no choice! What was I supposed to do? Anyway, I know no one is watching this TV show besides me and like six critics so here is what you need to know: “Chip” Charlie Black is a producer, Bradley (I know) is Reese, Alex is Jen, that is all.
Chip Charlie Black has been in Bradley’s dressing room for almost twenty minutes, giving her notes on her performance this morning, which he has generously deemed “better than dog shit.”
Bradley has been playing the role of active listener, not jumping down his throat every time he says something stupid (why the fuck does America care what her “hair story” is?) saying “that makes sense” whenever he pauses for breath. They both know its bullshit—she’s barely paying attention—but it makes him feel better to rant and she’s still so goddamn preoccupied by Alex Levy that it’s almost a relief that she isn’t expected to talk.
The memory keeps resurfacing—the phantom feeling of Alex’s cool hand in hers, the combination of her shampoo and perfume, Alex’s breath on her neck, voice low in Bradley’s ear: “Don’t fuck it up.”
Bradley thinks about it so often she’s worried she’s on the verge of a breakdown. She thinks about it when she’s on the treadmill (a “gift” from Cory), when she’s getting into the car that drops her off at UBA every morning, when she’s drinking the smoothie they bring her for sustenance that ensures she doesn’t fuck up her makeup. Bradley tries to not think about it before she goes to sleep because it makes her skin feel like it’s on fire and she has to get up at three thirty in the morning every day but it rattles around in her head until she swears she can hear Alex next to her, breath on her neck the voice in her ear the smell of her and is it any wonder Bradley can’t sleep until she buries two fingers inside herself and comes with Alex’s name lodged in her throat?
It’s not that Bradley doesn’t understand that there is a (large, compelling) case to be made that she has a crush on Alex Levy. It’s just that on balance, her life is so fucked right now that it doesn’t really register on her list.
“Bradley? Can you do that for me?” Chip Charlie Black (what a stupid fucking name) says, and it’s when she sees that he is actually looking at her, not at his phone, that she realizes he has been waiting for her response.
She smiles, aiming for winning, feeling it veer into manic. “Sure!” When she doesn’t move, Charlie sighs.
“Can you please go to Alex’s dressing room and keep her occupied for ten minutes because she is unscheduled for the next ten minutes and the network is trying to keep her very busy right now because she has a tendency to make impulsive decisions when she isn’t busy,” he finishes nastily, and Bradley knows that he means her.
Bradley can feel the edges of her (absolutely manic) smile beginning to harden into what might be called a grimace.
“Occupy her? For ten minutes?” She sounds like an idiot, but can’t think of an excuse not to go and she’s trying to stall for time.
It doesn’t work. Charlie rolls his eyes, then stands up and grabs Bradley’s arm in a surprisingly tight grip, propelling her up and out of her dressing room and depositing her on the threshold of Alex’s. He raps hard twice—which must be a signal because he opens the door without waiting for a response, and Alex is there on the love-seat, feet tucked under her, wrapped in grey cashmere and looking at them expectantly.
“Bradley’s going to run through the soldiers returning home to their dogs A-block story with you,” Charlie says while backing out of the room, closing the door behind him with a soft click.
Alex looks at her, one eyebrow elegantly arched, irritation or amusement hovering at the corners of her mouth. “Well? Are you?”
Bradley surprises the both of them when she says, “Fuck no,” and slumps onto the love-seat next to Alex.
They don’t speak. Bradley is staring into the middle distance, Alex is texting; it is the first moment of quiet Bradley has been able to steal in hours.
“The quiet’s nice, isn’t it,” Alex says.
“Doesn’t anyone shut the fuck up around here,” Bradley mutters.
Alex laughs a little and shakes her head. “No, not really. At least not around me they don’t. God forbid I had a second to think about the bullshit I put up with, or a fucking moment to think for myself, especially after that stunt I pulled with you, they’re walking on goddamn eggshells around me. Charlie sent you here because he noticed I have fifteen minutes, didn’t he?”
Bradley responds without thinking, “Ten minutes actually.” She laughs softly, turning to look at Alex. “Fuck, I don’t think I was supposed to say that.”
Alex just looks at her with her head cocked a little, and Bradley is pretty sure it is amusement hovering around the corners of her mouth. “Two-Fucks Jackson, huh?”
It’s not really a question and Bradley doesn’t have an answer, she’s staring at Alex like she’s never seen anyone like her, like she is exactly the hick from West Virginia she’s pretending to be on air. Alex surprises her, she leans in, rests her glorious head of hair on Bradley’s shoulder.
“Let’s just not talk, okay? You can tell Charlie whatever he wants to hear, I need a fucking second of peace.”
Bradley’s throat is too dry; she coughs a little before mumbling, “Yeah, okay.”
Alex doesn’t say anything; her eyes are closed. Bradley is a little uncomfortable, her arm is pinned under Alex, but she doesn’t want to ruin the moment. She shifts gently, Alex moving with her, even as her breathing slows—is she asleep? Bradley waits a minute then eases her arm out, holding her breath as Alex burrows closer.
Seconds ago, Bradley was exhausted; now her whole body feels lit up from the inside. She couldn’t sleep even if she wanted to, not with Alex pressed so close to her, her scent filling Bradley’s head with thoughts she cannot be having at The Morning Show.
Minutes pass, and before she knows it, Bradley is lulled into the same state, resting her head against Alex’s, her arm finding its way around the older woman’s waist. She is so goddamn tired, and Alex feels so comfortable next to her; they sleep like the dead. When she wakes up, jolted by the sound of a phone ringing, Alex is still pressed against her, talking quietly into her phone in a tone Bradley never hears from her—must be her daughter. Alex whispers goodbye and I love you into the phone and looks up at Bradley.
“Sorry, I didn’t want to wake you,” she says. “I just never get the chance to talk to Lizzy, I try to pick up whenever I can.”
“No, of course, it’s fine,” Bradley says quickly. “I can’t believe I fell asleep.”
“You’ll get used to it, but you’ll be able to fall asleep anywhere from now on,” Alex says, offhandedly, skimming through her email before standing up and cracking her neck once, twice, a violent sound that echoes in the dressing room and makes Bradley flinch. Alex holds a hand out to Bradley and pulls the younger woman to her feet.
With Bradley in heels and Alex without, they are exactly the same height, and Bradley suddenly realizes how close they are. Alex seems to notice it too, that expression around the corners of her mouth again and Jesus Christ Bradley wants to kiss her, right there and then she does, without thinking.
Alex’s mouth is soft and warm, but Bradley is already trying to lean away from the magnetic pull of her, fumbling and stammering for an excuse. Alex makes a sound of exasperation and grabs Bradley’s blazer, forcing her back to her mouth. Bradley is certain she is hallucinating, that the lack of sleep has fucked with her brain for good, that there is no way she kissing Alex Levy in her dressing room, but when she gasps Alex’s tongue is in her mouth, sliding against hers; she tastes like salt and honey. It drives her crazy, Bradley buries her hands in Alex’s hair and pulls her cohost’s bottom lip between her teeth. Alex hums from the back of her throat, pleased, and slides her hand underneath Bradley’s blouse, her fingertips skimming the soft skin at her hips.
There is a sound in the hall, and they leap apart moments before Charlie’s two knocks sound at the door. Alex is somehow already sitting, slipping her feet back into her heels when the door opens.
“Ready?” he asks, deferential now that he’s talking to Alex, looking her in the eye, his phone at his side.
“Of course,” Alex says, her gaze sliding over to Bradley for a moment, before floating out of the room. The door closes, leaving Bradley alone, Alex’s perfume still wrapped around her. She looks at herself in the mirror, half expecting to see stars in her eyes.