August 30th, 2012

Fic: The Most Beautiful Dress in the World, Part I

Title:                 The Most Beautiful Dress in the World
Author:             blacktop
Characters:      John Reese, Joss Carter, OC
Rating:              NC - 17
Warning:          These are adults, they do have sex
Word count:    4,000
Summary:        There is a first time for everything



Author’s Note:  This story of the first time Reese and Carter come together has been hinted at in many stories I’ve written, but it lay unexplored until now.  Close readers will recognize Reese’s lighthearted chase with Fusco as a scene played out several times, first in “Surveillance/Overlook,” and then in “Everybody Comes to Pooja’s,” which also contains an account of Mrs. Soni’s negotiations with her bashful tenant. The story of their first dinner at Pooja's is in "An Early Spring."  There is even a fleeting reference to the yellow dress in “A Fine Death.”   You do not need to have read those previous stories to understand this one, but I think doing so enriches the experience.


An Early Spring

Everybody Comes to Pooja's

A Fine Death



Marching down was easier than climbing up, of course, but Mrs. Soni was still out of breath and puffing through her words when she returned to the main dining room to confront her tenant and his guest.

“I have set out the dessert and coffee upstairs for you.” 

She tried to smile but she could feel her annoyance curdling the sweetness of the phrases. 

“I hope you find all arrangements are to your liking, John.”

Reese nodded to acknowledge his landlady’s comments, but continued staring silently at his dinner companion.

It was left to Detective Carter to offer a more expansive response.

“Thank you for everything, Mrs. Soni.  This dinner was as lovely as the last one.  I really appreciate the way you explained each dish to me.”

She cast her eyes over the empty plates on the table before them and smiled broadly.  The yellow gold of the hoops in her ears captured and reflected the sunny yellow fabric of her dress.

“And yes, one weekend I will definitely bring my son for dinner or lunch.  Taylor absolutely loves Indian food and he is something of a budding cook himself.  So I’m sure he would enjoy learning how to make some of these delicious dishes.”

Mrs. Soni shook her head solemnly.  She wondered again, as she had several times over the past few months, how a man and a woman both nearing their mid-forties could act with such dull-witted ineptitude in matters as basic and obvious as this.

Maddeningly, they behaved as if they were unplucked flowers in a chaste forest in one of her grandchildren’s picture books.

Despite those colorless ghost eyes, John was a handsome man and Mrs. Soni thought there was nothing more alluring in an attractive gentleman than a touch of shyness.

And certainly modesty was a woman’s most prized trait so Mrs. Soni was relieved to find that Detective Carter had that becoming reticence in abundance.

But what awful calamities had squeezed all the natural boldness out of them?

Mrs. Soni understood that John’s mysterious work was dangerous and exhausting, leaving scant room for personal attachments to flourish. 

And through her vast network of relatives and contacts, Mrs. Soni knew about the succession of blows that had hit the detective: Were the early losses of a father, a sister, and a young husband what caused the reluctance that slowed her now?

John was strong, vigorous, and passionate.  Detective Carter was young enough, and more importantly she had already borne a healthy son.  Mrs. Soni couldn’t conceive of what would stand in their way.

She knew that John liked this woman.  She saw the way his fingers brushed hers when he passed a glass of water or the way his hand lingered at her waist as he showed her around the kitchen, making introductions to the waiters. 

After intense palaver, he had secured Mrs. Soni’s formal permission to invite the woman to his room several weeks ago.  Mrs. Soni was not foolish enough to imagine that he planned to play backgammon once they got up there.

She also knew that this woman liked John.  The way she looked at him during their previous dinner at Pooja’s, the glittering eyes throwing admiring glances, the fluttering pulse and moist lips were hardly secrets hidden from a seasoned observer.   Mrs. Soni was sure the woman had already made up her heart to accept John and was simply waiting for his inquiry.

The only question was what was keeping them from achieving their shared desire.  Arrangements by a concerned third party were clearly required here, as in most successful relationships.

She shook her head again and let her exasperation creep into her next words.

“Well, then get along upstairs before the coffee grows cold and the ice cream melts into a soup.”




The evening had gone well, in Reese’s estimation. 

The fun of leading Fusco on a merry chase around the neighborhood had lifted his spirits and kept him from brooding over the dinner ahead.  He wondered briefly if he should tell Joss that her partner was stationed across the street on look-out, but he decided against it.  The news would just make her fret and scold him, activities she did with regularity anyway.  No need to bring additional reasons to her attention at this delicate juncture.

Leaving Fusco to his sub and cookies in the sandwich shop across the street, Reese had rushed through a shower and taken up his station at his usual booth near the back of Pooja’s long main dining room.

At some point in his circuit of the wind-blown blocks, he had decided on a dark blue shirt and black trousers and that is what he stuck with, although the crispness of Mr. Lee’s white shirts was enticing. 

But he figured that she saw him almost every day and every day he wore a white shirt, so a bit of variety was called for now.

Shaving was a problem, given the bruise blooming on his chin.   That kid had clocked him pretty good for a lightweight.  He thought about skipping the second shave of the day, but he knew if he did he would regret it later; a faint shadow along his jaw was already peeking through.  And more importantly, he didn’t want her to regret it.

Sitting in his booth surrounded by the squeaky red leather and the high shine yellow enamel on the walls, he fidgeted with the hem of the table cloth.

Although he was extremely good at it, he hated waiting.

Once the course was set, he wanted to get on with the show, see the action through to its conclusion, wrap things up one way or another and move on to the next assignment.  That approach worked well in his work, it made him efficient and reliable as a soldier and as the private operative he was now. 

But he realized that his impatience was at odds with the realities of the current situation: Joss would arrive when and how she chose.  Though the dinner invitation had come from him, the show was hers to run as she saw fit.

So he let his thoughts drift back over recent cases as a distraction from the anxiety of waiting.

He was amused that Finch had proven so adept at money laundering in the Bartlett case last week.  There must be a lot of larceny hidden in his boss’s mysterious past and he was determined to find out more when he had the chance.

And Fusco's bust up of that Shanghai human trafficking ring earned him lots of surprised praise and another truck-load of departmental commendations.  At this rate he would have enough certificates to paper an entire wall if he ever got an office. The fact that it was information from Reese’s old friend Mr. Han which led to the successful conclusion of the case was still a secret.  Perhaps it was time for Reese to arrange a meeting between Fusco and Han.

He remembered the sweet sight of Carter’s arsenal of weapons as they wrapped up the heroin smuggling case five weeks ago.  Saving that undercover cop was good, but the bonus of thwarting a CIA drug importation scheme was even better.

He knew how psychology worked:  if it was true that you never felt more alive than when you were facing your own destruction, then nothing could match the pure joy of escaping a fiery death only to find a beautiful woman smiling down at you.  And if she had an impressive cache of guns and was willing to stand by your side to mow down the bad guys, sweeter still.  

A girl after my own heart.

It wasn’t until he saw the sly quirk on her lips that he realized he’d said it out loud.  He couldn’t take it back.  He decided that he was glad that she knew.  But he still felt the burn of embarrassment at having been exposed to her like that.

Then there was Leila’s case.

The baby still haunted his dreams almost every night.  He often pictured her shivering or wailing, her lips and tiny fingers turning blue in that damned refrigerator truck.

Sometimes he saw her gurgling happily in Finch’s makeshift playpen of dusty books or gnawing on the tear gas grenade to soothe her sore gums. 

Many times he dreamed she was bundled snug against his chest as he spoke to Carter. 

Sometimes they were standing in the bitter cold in their long wool overcoats, talking over the baby’s head.  He was teasing Joss, waving Leila’s little hand or blowing across her face to ruffle her wispy bangs. 

Other times they were lying down face to face, the baby pressed between their bodies, warm and safe.  Maybe Joss was awake, smiling at him as he flirted with her through the baby.  But mostly Joss was asleep and it was Leila looking up at him with a penetrating gaze.

Once he dreamed that Leila lay sprawled on her back on the floor between them, their hands covered in her blood as they checked for vital signs, their open mouths shouting for help but making no sounds. 

Worrying the hem of the white table cloth and rearranging the tented napkins, he was so far into his own head that Joss appeared beside the booth before he registered her presence in the restaurant.

When he looked up, Anil the maître d’ had waved her through the room with a sweeping gesture that included lots of bowing.  He hoped the man’s exuberant greeting had not included a kiss on her hand or worse, on both cheeks.

Reese slid from the booth and stood to greet her.  He took her black coat, lighter in weight than it looked, and handed it off to a waiter who came and went like a ghost.

Joss was wearing a dress.  He had never seen her in a dress or skirt of any kind and he hoped his face did not reveal the stupid amazement he felt.

The dress was rich yellow, with no patterns or fancy embellishments.  Just a simple yellow dress that clung close to the lines of her body.   The neckline was plain and round, cut to reveal the soft rises of her collarbones and the smooth brown column of her throat.  The sleeves came down almost to her elbows and highlighted the power of her shoulders and biceps.

No necklace, no bracelet, no rings.   Her only jewelry was small hoop earrings, but this time they were in soft yellow gold rather than the usual silver.  As she stood before him he could see the curves of her thighs, the outline of her sex, the gentle swell of her belly, and the pillows of her breasts pressing against the yellow fabric.

The dress seemed to flutter around her knees as if dancing to a breeze that was undetectable to everyone else in the room.  In counterpoint to the restless movement of the hem, her brown calves looked strong and graceful.

He wanted her.  He didn’t want to talk cases with her, or gossip with her, or flirt with her, or joke with her, or eat dinner with her. 

He wanted to be inside her. 

Desire made him sway slightly on his feet, an effect heightened by her next gesture.  She reached up to touch his chin and made a quiet clucking sound as she examined the bruise there.  He felt dizzy. 

But then she laughed and he laughed and the moment passed.

Fic: The Most Beautiful Dress in the World, Part II

He expected Mrs. Soni to deliver a spectacular dinner and she did not disappoint.

The dishes she served were numerous, but somehow the platters seemed smaller than at previous meals.  The plates too were smaller, the size usually brought out for lunchtime service only.   Reese wondered briefly at this anomaly: Mrs. Soni was feeding them less than she usually would.  But he let it pass as a momentary puzzle not worth fussing over.

Despite his initial wish, he and Joss did talk about many things.  Later, he could not remember a single topic they touched.  But he remembered that they had laughed many times.  And the laughing made her throat curve and her dimples flash and her nipples pop under the yellow dress.  

He wanted more of all that.  

The noise in the restaurant grew more raucous as the evening progressed, so they had leaned toward each other across the table and lowered their voices to speak in a whisper below the din of the other customers.

When they finished eating, he saw Mrs. Soni disappear up the stairs carrying a heavy silver tray crowded with several bowls, cups, and a tall coffee pot.

As was his habit now, when his landlady issued a direct order, he obeyed without question. 

So as soon as Mrs. Soni told them the dessert was served upstairs, he signaled to Joss and they both slid to the edge of the booth and crossed the floor to the staircase. 

With one foot on the bottom step, he heard Mrs. Soni chirp at him from the kitchen door.

“I have not put the dessert tray in my parlor, John.  It’s in your room this time.  I hope you don’t mind.”

His ears began burning at that frank intervention and didn’t stop the entire way up to the third floor.  He felt grateful that he was in the lead and glad that Joss couldn’t see his face or his ears. 

At the landing he wanted to turn around to make sure she was still following him, but the Old Testament warning persuaded him to keep his eyes straight ahead.  He could hear her footsteps rising with his and that was good enough.

When he pushed open his door, he was relieved he had walked into the room first.  From behind she couldn’t see the astonishment on his face at the changed state of his bed. 

After his shower earlier in the evening, he had made up the bed, tucking in the sheets and smoothing over the faded orange cotton spread in a way that he hoped would be satisfactory. 

But now everything was completely altered.

The bed was pulled away from the wall to occupy the precise center of the room.  The sheets had been changed from the usual white to crisply ironed ones in a pale pink shade.  On top of the sheets was a thick coverlet with a deep rose and green pattern, its fantastical flowers finely picked out in embroidery with threads of red and mint green and turquoise.

After noting four large pink and yellow pillows propped against the brass headboard and three more on the floor, he didn’t even try to count the smaller cushions wedged in between the big ones.

Reese sputtered at first and felt the heat rising along the back of his neck.  But when Joss coughed in the doorway, he composed his face and ushered her into the room as if everything was normal.

She took in the large square room in a single glance.  “Well, this is not at all what I expected.  It’s really beautiful here, John.”

He laughed in relief.  “You were expecting what, exactly?”

“Oh, I thought it would be all in black and white, with a little burst of gray to liven things up!” 

She was laughing with him, which made his heart leap and his cock twitch.

She moved against his chest then and kissed him lightly, placing her hand behind his head and guiding him to her mouth.  He pressed his lips over hers, keeping them sealed and gentle. 

When she broke the kiss she repeated her observation.

“It’s really beautiful here, John.  I want to stay.” 

“And I want you to stay, Joss.  I want it very much.”

He kissed her again, harder this time, and she parted her lips to accept his tongue.  They had kissed like this before, standing on the curb in front of the restaurant one evening several weeks ago. 

This second time the awkwardness was still there, along with the unpracticed dodging for position.  Her unfamiliar tongue ran against his teeth, his lips collided with her nose. 

But now the skirmish of fierce wills was tempered by a shared excitement, a certainty that this embrace was leading somewhere wonderful.

He smoothed his hands along the curve of her back, finding her lush ass and pulling her against him so that their bodies were touching from shoulders to knees. He swept kisses across her jaw and ears and down the cords of her neck.  Her sex felt warm against his thigh where he pressed between her legs and he angled his hips so that his erection jutted against her belly.

When he pulled back to hold her at arm’s length for a moment, she seemed puzzled, even disappointed.

But then he bent to lift the hem of her beautiful yellow dress and she smiled and helped him pull it over her head.  Together they laid it carefully over the high back of the upholstered chair near the window.

He wanted to remove this black bra quickly and yet he wanted to take all the time in the world.

This was not the first bra he had tackled, but it certainly was the most stubborn.  Joss made no effort to help him but simply smiled and kissed his neck and shoulders when his curses didn’t speed the process.  Finally the thing surrendered, falling to the floor without ceremony.

Again he held her at arm’s length; he wanted to see her before he touched her.

He felt stupid for even thinking this way, but it was thrilling to him that her rich color covered her entire body.

Rationally he knew how skin tone worked of course; he had slept with women of various ethnicities in many parts of the world.  But the sheer irrational delight of seeing how the shades of Joss's brown skin played like a kaleidoscope across all her curves completely overwhelmed him now.

He would never say it to her, but he could still submerge himself in this secret happy feeling.

He extended his left hand slowly to her right breast, cupping its trembling weight in his palm.  She felt so warm, so full. 

He was afraid to go on, afraid to show her how much he wanted this.  Her body, her acceptance, her understanding, her approval; he wanted all of this.

But if he took her now, the way he wanted to, he was afraid she would think he only wanted the simplest of these.

He squeezed her breast slowly, testing its ripeness and density.  She leaned into his touch, urging him on.  Her eyes were keen, lit by a hot desire that consumed his doubts.

The next moments flew away in awkward confusion: she pushed his shirt off and tugged his t-shirt over his head in a rough gesture; she slid her tongue over his nipple, sending delicious shocks to his groin; she was better with his belt buckle and zipper than he had been with her bra clasp.

They sank into the nest of pillows, striking cheekbones as they fell; he fumbled in his pants pocket for the condom; she tore the foil with her teeth and eased the latex over his bobbing erection while he groaned in appreciation of her cool, deft fingers.

If they didn’t do this right now, he pleaded with his eyes, he would explode. 

If they didn’t do this right now, she replied with her eyes, she would dissolve.

Knees banged, hip bones collided, foreheads bumped, sharp elbows drove into soft flesh; all this would be material for future laughter, if they remembered it.

Now -- right now – grace and even comfort were pushed aside by rude urgency.

Entering her took away the occasion for words. 

Before, he had felt immersed in her, engulfed in her, consumed by her. 

But now -- right now -- there was no imagery, no poetry, no flights of fancy at all.  There would be time later for metaphors and explanations, maybe even promises. 

Now -- right now -- there were no words at all.  Just his cock, her cunt.

 Just good.  Just yes.

In the fury of his own climax, he was unsure of hers.  There would be enough time later for smooth choreography and practiced coordination.

Afterwards, Joss curled behind him, pressing her moist, sighing mouth against his shoulder.  He felt her tongue soothe a row of fresh scratches there.  

He took her hand and pulled her arm across his waist.  He placed her palm against the newest scar on his lower stomach. Slowly she traced the tender ridge with her index finger, back and forth and back again along its jagged length, until he fell asleep at last.




Deep into the night, Mrs. Soni crouched over the desk in her cramped kitchen office, tapping away at her ancient adding machine.  Pausing in her computations, she rubbed her strained eyes.  She scribbled a note to buy a higher watt light bulb for Mr. Soni’s old brass school lamp. 

As she worked, she reflected on her own wedding night more than fifty years ago.  She had been a girl barely out of high school, her groom a handsome university student entering his final year of studies.  At the end of a three-day celebration of the union of their two families, the newlywed couple had fled the festivities to a darkened room above his parents’ salon, relieved to have an unobserved moment to themselves at last.

The chamber had a bed in its center, festooned with heavy drapes hanging from a richly carved wood frame.  But the room’s best feature, in the view of the tired couple, was the thickness of its plaster walls which muffled the songs and laughter of the scores of jubilant relatives still celebrating below stairs. 

She knew from the veiled hints of her mother and the more explicit advice of her older sisters approximately what was supposed to happen next; she thought Mr. Soni must know also. 

But he made no move to embrace her and out of modesty she would not take the initiative.

Instead they spoke about the highlights of the past three days of revelry: the music, the endless banquet that had fed everyone in their village, the garlands of flowers, the elegant fabrics and the enchanting smells.   They laughed at the outrageous gossip and boasting, the pranks and the promises.

She told him that he was indeed the handsomest man she had ever met, even better looking than her mother had claimed.

He told her that every word of his parents’ pronouncements about her had been proven true the moment he set eyes upon her.  He admired the long gold earrings and the gold headdress and necklace and rings she had borrowed for the wedding.  He praised her yellow sari with its complicated hand finished embroidery, calling it the most beautiful dress in the world.

He said she was his ideal wife, made perfect in the flesh. 

Then they fell asleep, stretched out on the great divan among the mirrored pillows and the piles of quilted covers, arms around each other, foreheads pressed together. 

When the rosy light of dawn came through the wooden slats of the window shutters, they awoke.

She unwound her heavy sari then and they accomplished their marital responsibilities with great joy and truly became husband and wife.