DISCLAIMER: The characters of Sloane, Gracie, Keagan, Rudy etc. belong to Jules Kurre. They are used with her permission. (Rather, they were brutally forced upon me, but who am I to complain <eg>.) Should any character come up who wasn't mentioned by Jules, they probably suck and are therefore mine.
This story was written as a companion piece to her fabulous story The Guardian. I think you'd enjoy this story and its characters more if you read that one first. Actually, I insist on you reading that one first. Otherwise you could miss out on all my clever little references. Also, go and buy the book Bar Girls that started the whole thing off in the first place.
WORK IN PROGRESS WARNING: This is a work in progress and will be posted in parts. Firstly because it isn't finished yet. But, mainly because as a companion to The Guardian, I need the input from the original. Don't want to interfere with that story, do I?
DEDICATION: This story is dedicated to JC. Thank you for the last three years. I love you, baby. You're evil. <g>
TO THE AUTHOR: I love you, too and your story. From your beast, JC. (And yes, I know I'm evil. <eg>)
A dinner and a movie. How complicated could it be? Not that Sloane Denton, editorial head bitch of Tandem Publishing, hadn't dated in the past few years. Of course she had. If luncheons with overrated but highly attractive writers counted. Then there had been that woman who owned the art gallery round the corner. Really cute if somewhat irritating in a wholesome, naive, disturbingly optimistic and positive kind of way. The sex had been good too but normal people without an agenda just weren't real, were they? Well, Charlotte had been straight, so that probably counted as an agenda.
Sloane sighed, changing her outfit once again. Now the big question was: What kind of agenda did Grace have? The fourty-something publisher tried to recall what she knew about the young blonde. Young. Now there was an operative word. She's too young. She's what? Twenty years my junior? Sloane hadn't celebrated her birthday in a long time and didn't really care about her age. That was until now. Twenty years, huh? She‘s practically jail bait. Then why am I going on a date with her? Now there was a toughie. Sloane wasn't even sure how it had happened. The first time she had seen the young law student was in her office looking for Keagan Donovan, former writer and present full-time editor at Tandem. The latest addition to her staff had been in a meeting, being delayed for what obviously looked like an enjoyable lunch break. For a split second, Sloane had entertained the idea of taking the young blonde out to lunch herself, but quickly dismissed it. There was work to do and messing around with her employees' friends was against Sloane's work ethic. But when they met again at Keagan's apartment after the brooding writer had played the shining white knight to a rather dismayed damsel in distress, namely Rudy Whitman, the subject had come up again. And before she could say or do anything, Sloane found herself not only agreeing but looking forward to Gracie joining the staff of Tandem for an impromptu lunch. Too bad the others had to excuse themselves once they were out of Keagan's apartment. Okay, not too bad really, but... irritating if not unwanted. One turkey sandwich and three cappuccinos later, Sloane's "don't call me, I'll call you" policy flew out the window, parting not only with the perky blonde but her mobile, office, and home phone number as well. God, could I have been more desperate? Why don't I buy a karaoke machine and do a Billy Crystal impersonation singing "Call me." Has she even seen the film? Humming a few bars Sloane went over to the mirror to check her appearance again. The blue jeans were tight and formfitting. Another diet on the way. The button down shirt looked fashionable. On a 30-year-old. The boots looked worn and comfortable. Ten years ago... maybe. Who am I kidding? Sloane stopped humming and hastily opened the buttons of her jeans, deciding to change one last time. And I can't sing to save my life.
Meeting in front of the movie theatre had been the easy part. Realizing that the film lasted almost three hours, having to cancel the dinner reservation at her favorite Italian restaurant and finding herself in the unpretentious, overcrowded little diner round the corner while wearing overly stylish slacks and an almost unaffordable blazer made Sloane extremely uncomfortable. Can I be any more out of place? she thought while ignoring the various orks, elves, hobbits and whatsnot around her, trying to peruse the menue which mainly consisted of fat, grease and cholesterol.
"Can I get you anything?" A slim redheaded waitress with an Irocese hairdo, whose name tag identified her as "Raven – your friendly host" asked, giving the young blonde in the opposing chair a bored smile.
"Yes, thank you." Gracie smiled back. "I‘d like a double cheeseburger with everything, French fries, and a large coke."
"And your mother?" The waitress turned to address Sloane, scribbling down Gracie's order.
"The mother would like a sharp butcher's knife since she likes her redheaded bird fresh from the waitress," Sloane growled.
"Huh?" The waitress looked momentarily perplexed.
"My friend would like a chicken salad, no dressing, and a diet coke." Gracie intervened, remembering their talk over lunch.
"Uh, huh. Anything else?"
"No thank you. We'll just shoot something if we need anything else." Sloane smiled thinly.
Gracie watched the pesky waitress leave and turned back towards Sloane, a huge grin on her face. "You're mean. Is that what you did to the plant lady?"
"No. I was tame just now."
"If that was tame... remind me to never get on your bad side."
"No?" Sloane watched the blonde nod vigorously and smiled despite herself. "Maybe my bad side has its moments too."
"I'm sure it does." Gracie smiled. "But I like my life peaceful and preferably long."
"How boring. I never pictured you to be that conventional."
"How did you picture me then?"
Sloane just winked once and smiled. "So, how did you like the film?"
"It was long." Gracie said, letting the flirtation slide. "But quite entertaining. A lot of action. I would love to see the other two parts soon though. The ending sucked."
"I was bored."
"I was bored."
"How can you say that?"
"Easy. I just did. I
admit it is a great adaptation of previously released material, namely‚ the book." Sloane
mimed quotation marks while their drinks were being served. "But it had length,
the descriptive parts have been adequately transformed onto the screen, but the
camera needn‘t have panned over the scenery as if we had never seen
"I did? See, that's how much I was reminded of Xena: Warrior Princess. A show I actually haven't watched after the dreadful season four, which is beside the point. Not a lot of original material, was there? The special effects were overrated, though I loved how they managed to pull off the differences in size, Christopher Lee was... well, Christopher Lee I guess, the elves all looked gay, and Frodo was so not a hobbit and if I ever have to see Elijah Wood's doe eyed look again it will be way too soon."
Gracie confusedly tried to follow Sloane's ramblings. "I thought he was cute."
"About as cute as animated Japanese cartoon characters. Trying to put on screen the stylized characterization of western stereotypes as conceived by the average mentally pubescent Asian male. Peter Jackson has sold his integrity to Hollywood and the Hong Kong cinema. In bad taste. No pun intended."
"You're a dork." There was abject horror present in Gracie's voice. Sloane couldn't be sure if she was being teased or not.
"Everybody's got to have a hobby." She shrugged.
"It's not a hobby, it's a lifestyle." The blonde insisted.
"Whatever." Sloane sipped her coke trying to hide the fact that she had somewhat exposed herself.
"I think it's cute."
"Cute??" The accompanying cough as the coke went down the wrong way told more about Sloane's surprise than she would have liked. "Not quite an adjective I would associate with myself."
Gracie smiled. "Got you."
"Not quite." Sloane was quickly regaining her wit. "Anyway, being educated in cultural phenomena like fantasy shows, books, films, and manga is a trademark of good editorial consultants. We strive on our knowledge, needing it to tear mediocre fiction and clichés apart."
"Sure." Grace mumbled sucking at her straw. "I still think it's cute."
"Mmh." Their food arrived and Sloane was almost thankful for Raven's comeback appearance. For a while they silently dug into their food, Gracie taking healthy bites of her double cheeseburger, Sloane tucking sceptically at her salad. It was green.
"So. What else do you do besides watching trash and scaring the shit out of people?"
Sloane carefully speared a piece of chicken with her fork, considering her answer. "I work, I guess... a lot. Which you already know. Besides that... nothing really."
"Oh, come on." Gracie was already through her burger and was now devouring her fries. "You can't be that boring. Nobody becomes such a mean bitch by being boring." She winked to take the sting out of the bitch comment.
"Trust me, everybody can become one, even you. It‘s no big deal." Sloane smirked, winking back, surprising herself.
"That's not what I heard."
"And what did you hear?" Sloane looked up, this time actually grinning. She loved to hear gossip about herself.
Gracie pretended to be deep in thought. "Where to start? You want the edited version or the real stuff?"
"Don't hold back on my account. I don't think you'll come up with something I haven't heard yet."
"Okay, but don't say I haven't warned you." Gracie smirked. "Let's see... the romantics believe there was a huge tragic love affair that left you devastated, leaving no place for love and warmth in your life; the cynics opt for artificially constructed by Gene Roddenberry who used you as a role model for the Borg Queen..."
"What's with education today? Roddenberry did not create the Borg. He was already dead then." The older woman managed a playful pout.
Gracie merely rolled her eyes. "Then there are the usual ones of course... you're an alien sent to abduct us; blackmailing the boss; blackmailed by the boss; tragic childhood; blah, blah, yadda, yadda. Oh, except this one: You're a rogue FBI agent who after having to watch her partner and lover get killed by a treacherous CIA assassin, got into a blood frenzy and massacred everyone who ever stood in her way and is now on a path of redemption..."
"Some kind of redemption. Being stuck with illiterate wannabes. That one must be Keagan's..."
"Maybe," Gracie grinned. "The point is, nobody knows anything about you."
"That's comforting." Sloane smirked. "Though I must admit with all the creative ideas my staff comes up with, I'm wondering why they don't all turn into writers."
"Will you tell me?"
"What's to tell? I was born, I was raised, went to college, got my degree, started to work, and got promoted. End of story."
"When? By whom? Where? How? In what?" Gracie shot back.
"If those are your interrogation techniques it's no wonder you haven't finished your studies yet. What made you take up law anyway?" Sloane answered, trying to steer Gracie in another direction.
"No reason really. It seemed like a good idea at the time." Waiting for the inevitable raised eyebrow, Gracie plopped another French fry into her mouth. But Sloane wasn't baited that easily. "What do you want to hear? That I wanted to fight injustice and help people?"
Sloane shrugged noncommittally. "It's usually the answer."
"Maybe." Gracie answered fiddling with her glass. "Guess that's partly true even. I like to help people. When I grew up, I was always in the middle of some fight or other. Other kids usually turned to me for advice, to straighten out their messes. When I got older I thought if it happened to me anyway, I could make a living out of it. Either becoming a teacher, a psychiatrist or a lawyer. Law seemed to be the least painful one."
Sloane watched the young woman carefully. "And now?"
"Now?" Gracie sighed. "If I had known it was such a dry subject, mainly studying paragraphs, reading books and digging for precedence cases, I might have changed my mind. I still think I'd be a great teacher."
"Why don't you?"
"Change my mind?" Gracie gave Sloane a half smile that slowly turned into a smirk when meeting curious eyes. "Because I like to finish what I start."
Sloane couldn't help but smirk back. "That easy?"
"That complicated." There was a full fledged grin now. "I like complicated. I like the challenge. Especially in people... like you."
Sloane laughed. "You're wasting your time then. I'm as boring as it gets."
"Boring? Never. I could think of many adjectives for you but boring isn't one of them."
"And what is?"
"Mysterious, enticing, dangerous, seductive..." Gracie suddenly blushed, surprised by her straightforwardness.
"And I thought my staff was creative." Sloane chuckled, finishing up the last of her coke. "Trust me," she said, waving Raven over for the cheque, "if you keep thinking that, you'll be terribly disappointed."
"I somehow doubt that." Gracie mumbled, watching their erstwhile perky waitress almost cowering before the older woman which Sloane seemed to appreciate. "I somehow absolutely doubt that."
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