Warnings: major spoilers for the movie
Notes: This is for Gail, because she thought it would be a great idea. And because she loves what I write, even when I go off the deep end.
I glared at Eric Matthews, a fellow agent in the FBI. "I don't do girly things!" Actually, I didn't know how!
"C'mon, Gracie. It's just girl talk. Find out if she ever committed a crime."
"Other than the PETA thing?" I snarled at him. Miss Rhode Island had once protested for the animal rights group and had been temporarily confined for it. Oh, all right, she went to jail!
I didn't like playing the mole to my friends.
I didn't have that many. Well. Okay. I didn't have any friends.
That's why my job was everything to me, my whole life! 24/7, I lived that job.
All the other contestants had been stand-offish. They tended to keep to themselves, sniping at each other, and at me. Trying to tear me down.
I was used to that.
But Cheryl had been nice to me since I got on that stupid bus, pretending to be Miss New Jersey.
And I wasn't used to that.
"Earth to Gracie! You have to do this! If we don't find The Citizen, these girls could all be killed!" He was referring to the mad bomber who periodically sent us undecipherable letters and then blew up a building or an institution.
It looked like he was graduating to people now. The last billet doux we received threatened the contestants of the Miss United States Pageant.
"Like you care a flying fuck, you macho schmuck!" I growled under my breath. I pulled the earpiece out of my ear and tossed it to him. I had already removed the tiny camera concealed in the jeweled American flag pin he had given me.
"I can't do girl talk with a guy in my head!"
"Victor," I turned to the man who was trying to teach me to be a beauty pageant, oh excuse me, a scholarship program participant, "keep Eric busy, why don't you? God knows you've been dying to get in his pants since you met!"
I stalked off, grumbling under my breath. I was going to do the girlfriend thing if it killed me.
I walked into the minuscule gym, carrying a pizza and a six-pack. The other girls were working out on the different equipment, but Cheryl was sitting by the jacuzzi, tears sliding down her face. I sat next to her.
Tears made me uncomfortable, which is why I never cry. Never. Honest.
The time that jerk I was dating, well it was just that one date, actually. After I caught him palming the waitress' ass, I tipped my coffee into his lap and slid out of the booth, leaving him howling like a banshee.
And that other time...well, you're not interested in that. But I didn't cry over him either.
I felt really bad for Cheryl. When Stan, the master of ceremonies for the pageant, excuse me, program, asked what her ideal date was, she replied, "April 25, because it's cool enough to just need a light jacket!"
You had to love the girl. Well, I did. That was so something I would do.
"Hey, Cheryl, it wasn't so bad!"
"No?" She wanted to believe me so desperately. Her face crumpled and she reached for a shredded tissue, daintily dabbing at her eyes. "Yes, it was awful! And I had a wonderful response!" Cheryl sat up straight and looked at an audience she alone could see. She began speaking in what I can only describe as a pageant voice.
If you tell me program, one more time, I will rip off your face and arrest you for obstructing a Federal officer in the line of duty!
"My idea of a perfect date," Cheryl gushed, "is going out to dinner with a nice man, and then going for a walk on the beach, where we would talk about movies, and music and books, under a beautiful sky filled with stars, and a full moon..."
Gag me with a spoon. My idea of a perfect date was...
Well, since I had only had those two dates, and since my passion for Agent Matthews was unrequited, I had never had a perfect date. Shit.
I waved the box of pizza. "Care for a slice, Cheryl? Pizza always cheers me when I fuck up." I heard gasps and looked around. "What?"
One of the girls was looking at me as if I were some disgusting specimen. And I realized what I had said. "Shit! I'm sorry, I meant to say fudge!"
She looked at me as if I were nuts. "You've brought fudge here, too? Do you have any idea how many calories there are in a slice of pizza?" She pointed accusingly. "*And* a beer?"
"Umm, a kazillion? Listen, sweetheart, I don't fuck...freaking care! Here, Cheryl, have a slice. It's cheeeese," I said in a singsong voice. "Hot, and spicy, and stringy..."
Miss Rhode Island snatched the slice from my hand and greedily stuffed it into her mouth.
"All right!" I pumped my arm into the air and reached for a slice for myself. But it was as if a dam had burst. Miss Texas, Miss Hawaii, Miss New York, Miss California, they all grabbed for my pizza, and I sat there, holding an empty box. I sighed. "Guess I'll have to order another pizza."
We wound up at Zeebeau's, an after hours joint with pretensions to the French. Considering we were in San Antonio, home of the Alamo (which one of the agents snidely commented he had forgotten), aspiring to be Mexican would have been more appropriate.
We ordered drinks that came in these tube thingy's, and chased them with warm, Mexican beer.
The Scots had the right idea: you want to get a cheap buzz, just drink warm beer. We were all flying.
And Cheryl was comfortable enough with me to confess that yes, she had committed a crime!
I sat forward avidly, almost falling off my seat. I settled my ass back on it and encouraged her to spill her deepest, darkest secrets to me, her new best friend.
If I felt a little guilty, I squashed it. I had a job to do, and I'd do it even if it killed me.
Only, I liked Cheryl, and I didn't want her to be The Citizen.
She looked at me, so shamefaced I felt my gut twist. What had she done?
"You see, K-Mart had this really hot line of Kathy Ireland panties, and I wanted them so badly! But my parents don't believe in having a name in your underwear, unless it's your own."
I looked at her blankly. "Why would you put your name in your own undies?"
"You know, like when you were a kid, and went away to camp, and your mother sewed your name into all your panties?"
"Oh. If you say so." My mother never did that. According to my old man, she had taken one look at me at birth, and split.
"Well, anyway, I wanted them. So I took them." She finished in a rush.
"I shoplifted them!" She finally managed to meet my eyes, and I could see she expected me to jump up and denounce her to the entire bar.
"Well, fuck! Is that all?"
She nodded, her eyes huge.
"Cheryl, sweetie, I've got a news flash for you! You are not on the FBI's top ten list because you swiped some underwear! Trust me on this!"
She actually looked relieved. And then she took a deep breath. "I'm not a virgin, you know," she announced, apropos of nothing.
"Gee, Cheryl, thanks for sharing that!" I was disgruntled. Even Miss Rhode Island, Miss Butter-Wouldn't-Melt-in-her-Mouth, had more experience with men than me! I scowled at her.
"See, my professor in college told me he wanted to see me. I thought it was to talk about my thesis, but when I got to his office, he locked the door and..."
I suddenly occurred to me that this hadn't been the experience all young girls dreamed of. "He forced you?"
She avoided my eyes.
"*Fuck*! Well, did you at least report the miserable scumbag?"
"Oh, no. I'm sure that happens all the time. And he told me no one would believe I hadn't been coming on to him. He's so gorgeous. All the girls want him."
"Listen, you didn't have to put up with that bullshit! I can teach you some moves! A sonuvabitch like that will never take advantage of you again!"
She brightened. "Can you really teach me how to protect myself?"
"You bet, cupcake!" Cupcake? What was I thinking? "Um, it's called SING-solar plexus," I jabbed backwards with my elbow, "instep," I stomped down. Hard. "Nose," I thrust upward with the heel of my hand. "That'll break the old hooter every time! And groin." That was my favorite move. I swung my hand down and back and closed my fingers as if I had a fistful of balls.
"Wow!" Cheryl breathed. "You're so..."
Yeah, I knew. I was so...That's why I had no friends. And no lovers.
"Can we have another one of these?"
I peered at the tube she was holding. "Sure! Why the fuck not? Hey waiter! Another round of these tube thingy's!" I turned back to smile at Cheryl.
She stood to straighten her neat skirt, and then the drinks and the relief of confessing caught up with her, and she toppled over backwards.
I sighed and cancelled the order. Getting a shoulder under her diaphragm and a firm grip on her arm, I hoisted her up in a fireman's lift and staggered a bit before I made it out the door.
The bouncer was a sweetheart. He whistled up a cab for us and helped me bundle Miss Rhode Island into the back seat. He even tried to cop a feel, which was surprising. Guys never tried to grope me. Maybe he was reaching for Miss Rhode Island.
I climbed in and Cheryl revived enough to nestle her chin against my chests. The movement brushed across a nipple, and I jolted at the unexpected heat that pooled between my thighs.
And then she turned her head and her lips latched onto me through the thin material of my shirt. Excuse me: my blouse. She hummed with pleasure as she suckled.
I slid lower into the seat and spread my legs, but before I could run a finger over the inseam of my jeans, her hand started rubbing the ridged material. I rocked into her touch.
"Do you like that, baby?" she murmured, and I wondered who she thought she was fondling.
She threw a leg over mine. Her shirt rode all the way up, and I couldn't resist caressing her there. She was hot, and wet, and soft whimpers of need spilled from her lips.
Ah, hell! Any second she was going to realize that there was no cock to fill those depths, which must be aching as much as mine.
And then she sagged against me as the alcohol took effect once more.
I couldn't catch my breath. It was me she wanted, not some macho schmuck who was hung like a stallion!
I tightened my arm around her and began to grin.