Recipient-icon ficlet for Sandy Keene:

her business
by Lesa Soja

Britney wasn't supposed to smoke, ever, because of her voice and stuff. But Fe passed her a cigarette once, after a party, and one time wasn't going to ruin anything. Some months later she had a really terrible, awful day, and she just needed something. She didn't care, right then. So she bummed one off a grip and drew careful smoky breaths into her chest till she was about halfway to the filter, and then she stubbed the rest out beneath her toe and went back in for the last three hours of the shoot.

There were other bad days and she let herself finish the cigarettes, because once she'd started one, it didn't really make much difference if she just went ahead and had the rest of it. Sometimes she started a second. The people who gave them to her always just smiled and winked, and she never did it where there could be cameras, never bought her own pack. Fe always had plenty anyway. Later Fe started carrying a separate pack for Britney so they could each have the kind they liked.

A camera did catch her with one in her hand, though they managed to buy off the photographer before anything got out. Another time a tabloid printed some grainy shots, though they were only in profile. And then on a clear, sunny day Britney went out on a balcony and saw the lenses already focusing in the courtyard below. Fuck it, she thought; it was her business and nobody else's. She had nothing to be ashamed of. She snapped her lighter with her thumb, tucked it back into her pocket, and leaned her elbows on the railing to enjoy her smoke.

Justin came to church with her and her mama when he visited her at home, and he totally understood about how important it was to wait. She liked kissing him, though, and she liked when he held her close. He ran his hands over her back, and up and down her sides, and it was really nice like that.

Sometimes his thumbs swept in half-circles that ended partway up the sides of her breasts. She drew in some quick, slightly shaky breaths and found she was feeling more where his hands weren't than where they were. When he finally moved the rest of the way onto her nipple, she jerked her opposite shoulder over so he'd touch the other one too.

After Justin had circled and stroked and squeezed till Britney was quivering, there was no reason not to let him lower his mouth where his fingers had just been. And when the thin material of her T-shirt was molded so wetly to her chest that the shape of her nipples was completely plain to see, it would have been stupid to object when he pushed the cloth out of the way.

They went on vacation for the first time in a while and decided to go to the beach. Britney waded in, splashing loudly, and Justin followed. When they were deep enough, she slid down to get her shoulders wet. Justin wrapped his arms around her to hold her up. Beneath the water, his palm slid down along her stomach to rest at the edge of her bikini. Britney shook her hair back and laughed out loud.