DISCLAIMER: The Facts of Life and its characters are the property of Columbia Pictures Television and Sony Pictures Television, no infringement intended.
SERIES: Part of the Post Peekskill Series; sequel to Commitments.
CHALLENGE: Written for the first International Day of Femslash.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
"I know it's somewhat out of the norm, Lieutenant Polniaczek, but this is a high profile assignment. Just between us, it's a good opportunity for you. The FBI has shown some interest in your work."
"I don't know Inspector. It just seems squirrely," the brunette officer replied.
"Jo," Inspector Samuels said, pointing to the covers of the various magazines strewn on his desk. "This woman is probably the most famous person on the planet. She is coming to New York to accept a UN humanitarian award. There have been threats, as there always are. We just want to make sure nothing bothers her on our watch."
"But I've never been a bodyguard. I'm sure that she could have her pick of muscle. There must have been plenty of volunteers," Jo pointed out. The woman or as Samuels had code-named her, the Celebrity, had been named People Magazine's Sexiest Woman Alive two years running. Rumored to be the cause of the break-up of one of Hollywood's most prominent marriages, she was currently the tabloid's favorite target both for her high-profile relief work and her photo spread in Playboy.
"She specifically asked for a woman. And we want someone who can blend."
Jo looked doubtful. "People don't usually tell me I blend."
Inspector Samuels laughed. "You're right, Jo, you cut a striking figure. But in this case, she requested someone who can fit in with the City and some of its more, how shall I put it, bohemian aspects."
"What are you talking about, Inspector?" Jo asked suspiciously.
Samuels sighed. "All right, Jo, I'll be frank. It's a well-kept secret and her management would like to keep it that way, but she's gay. She wants someone who she can trust, who will be sympathetic and who can accompany her if she wants to go out."
"I'm supposed to be her date?" Jo asked incredulously.
"No, no. Just a companion. A discreet companion. And Jo, the New York City Police Department is not in the habit of feeding celebrity gossip. Her romantic preferences are her own business. This is to be kept in the strictest, and I mean strictest, confidence."
"Inspector, that goes without saying. I know how to keep my mouth shut," Jo declared, slightly offended at the implication.
"I know you do, Lieutenant. That's one of the reasons you're a good choice for the job. Now we have to treat these threats seriously. On the other hand, everyone wants to keep the fact she is getting police protection under wraps. It would just add to the mania if it became public. This means that regular undercover procedures apply. You're going to be with her 24/7 as her personal assistant. You can't let anyone know you're a cop."
Jo sighed. "All right Inspector, I got it. I going to be living for three days with possibly the hottest woman on earth, who happens to be a closeted lesbian and who wants someone who will, how should I put it, show her the ropes. Is that about right?"
"That's about right," Samuels replied.
"I just have one question."
"What the hell am I supposed to tell Blair?"
"You're a surprisingly understanding police spouse," Natalie Greene remarked to Blair Warner over lunch. "You really didn't press Jo for details?"
"No. She simply told me that she had to go undercover for a few days in connection with a high profile and highly confidential assignment and that I shouldn't worry; it wasn't really dangerous. I don't believe her, though. Jo's covering up for something horrible. She was acting too strangely before she left," Blair reported.
"What do you mean?" Natalie asked.
"Let me put it this way. On Friday night, Jo sat through a three hour, no-intermission performance of the Rheingold at the Met and then escorted me to the Opera Guild reception afterwards without complaint. On Saturday, she agreed to go to dinner at Boots' house because the guest of honor, one of the Foundation's major donors, wanted to meet her to discuss cop shows on TV. And on Sunday she went to tea with my mother when I had a last minute conflict. With my mother, Natalie. Do you see why I'm worried?"
Natalie paled. "Oh Blair, you're right. It must be something really nasty. The Rheingold, are you serious? The only Rheingold Jo can ordinarily stomach comes in a keg."
"Well, I have to put it out of my mind or I'll go crazy," Blair declared firmly. "Anyway, are you still on for Mother's party tomorrow?"
"I sure am. Thanks again for inviting me. Do you really think she'll show up?"
"It's a definite possibility. Mother does know a lot of Hollywood people. And the Foundation is involved in some of her African relief work."
"Man. I would love to ask her if whether she was really the other woman who broke up the world's most perfect celebrity marriage."
"Try to restrain yourself, Nat," Blair admonished.
"Oh don't worry, I'll behave."
"Sure you will," Blair said disbelievingly.
Like every human, Jo had sometimes fantasized about what it would be like to be incredibly famous. Having spent the last 36 hours in the orbit of one of the world's most famous women, Jo decided that it would be incredibly tedious. It wasn't just the paparazzi and autograph seekers, although they were bad enough, it was how immense fame, coupled in this case with knee-buckling beauty, seemed to reduce everyone the Celebrity came into contact with to blithering idiocy. Every person she talked to turned stilted, fawning, lascivious or just plain incomprehensible. Normal conversation was impossible. It would have driven Jo nuts to live that way.
Jo looked over at her charge as they sat opposite each other in the back of the stretch limo. It was kinda too bad, because the Celebrity was actually pretty nice, with a wry sense of humor and a quick intelligence. She was now regarding Jo thoughtfully with those amazing leonine eyes.
"I had a good time last night, Jo."
"Marie, my undercover name is Marie."
The Celebrity laughed. "You don't look like a Marie. Anyway, the pool hall was fun. It wasn't all that lesbian though."
"It was a mixed crowd," Jo acknowledged. She hadn't wanted to take the Celebrity to the more famous New York City lesbian bars because that would have made the gossip columns for sure. It also would have caused massive heart failure among the patrons.
"Well, it was great. Thanks."
The Celebrity cocked her head. "You know what I like about you Jo, sorry, Marie? You don't seem to find me attractive."
Jo snorted. "I have a pulse. Of course I find you attractive. This arm rest finds you attractive."
"But you don't want to act on it," the Celebrity mused reflectively.
"No, no I don't," Jo concurred. "Not only would it be unprofessional but I'm guessing it would piss off my partner quite a bit."
"Ah yes, your partner. It must be nice to live openly with a partner."
"It has its moments," Jo conceded. "But you could do that too, if you wanted."
"This business. It isn't so accepting. After all, my entire career is based on feeding male fantasies."
"Female ones, too," Jo pointed out. "Anyway, if you don't like the business, change it. You have the power."
"You make it sound so easy."
"Probably a whole lot easier than what you're doing now. Living a lie. Trust me, I know how much energy that takes. It isn't worth it in the long run," Jo said. She caught herself. "Sorry. This isn't actually any of my business."
"That's all right. Leo," the Celebrity spoke into the intercom to the chauffeur. "You know the address on Park Avenue? Right?" The driver nodded in response.
Jo checked her notes. "I thought we were going to the French Consulate for the Ambassador's reception. That's on Fifth."
"Well, I promised my publicist I would drop in on this party thrown by an old friend of his."
"Oh yeah. Who's that?"
"I don't know what her name is now. She apparently marries a lot. He knew her as Monica Warner."
Shit, shit, shit, Jo thought to herself.
"Natalie, will you stop lurking by the door. It makes you look like a stalker," Tootie said reproachfully.
"Right Tootie. You're here too, I'm noticing. Don't tell me you aren't just dying to meet her."
"For purely professional reasons." Tootie sniffed. "I wouldn't mind hearing her views on the Method."
"The Method, sure. Her love scenes with Mr. Heartthrob in her last film never crossed your mind."
"Oh all right. I'll admit it. They had such chemistry. I would like to know how she did it."
"Screwing him off-screen probably helped," Natalie opined.
"We don't know that's true," Tootie objected.
The doorbell rang and everyone in Monica Hochwood's elegant living room tensed in anticipation. The tuxedoed server opened the door, and in walked the Celebrity in all her glory. Her smile seemed to give off an electric current. Monica rushed to greet her. "How wonderful you could join us. We're honored."
"It's my pleasure Mrs. Hochwood," the Celebrity responded, having phoned her publicist for the correct name. "Thank you so much for having me. May I present my assistant Marie."
Monica stared at Jo. Her jaw dropped.
"Yes, Marie," Jo said, quickly grabbing and tightly squeezing her mother-in-law's hand. "Marie, the personal assistant. That's me. The personal assistant, Marie."
Monica, while flighty, was not stupid. "Oh. Nice to meet you. Um let me introduce some friends. This is Natalie Greene and Toot , I mean Dorothy, Ramsey."
Natalie and Tootie stared, wide-eyed and open-mouthed.
"Dorothy Ramsey," the Celebrity exclaimed, breaking the spell. "What a treat. I'm a huge fan."
"You are?" queried Tootie.
"You are?" repeated Natalie.
"Yes. I saw you in 'Anna Christie'. You were wonderful. And that TV movie you just did. Somewhat silly subject matter but your performance was riveting."
"The Soccer Mom Murderer," Tootie said, blushing. "Well thank you. I did my best with the material I was given."
"She was nominated for a Cable Ace award," Natalie interjected proudly.
"Well deserved. You know, I would love to work with you someday. Perhaps our people can set up a meeting. Let's go get a drink and talk about it. Will you excuse us, Mrs. Hochwood, Natalie, Marie." She led Tootie, who was floating two feet off the ground, towards the bar.
Natalie looked at Jo. "Marie, Marie, Marie. What have you been up to," she said, shaking her head.
Jo grabbed Natalie and pulled her into the entryway. "All right Nat. I'll make this quick," she whispered. "I'm undercover because there have been threats. You can't let on you know me or that I'm a cop. OK?"
"OK Marie. Looks like a real tough assignment," Natalie smirked.
"Um, Nat. Is there any chance that there is a god and Blair isn't here?" Jo asked.
"No such luck, Mare, if I may call you Mare. She went into the study to take a phone call right before you came in."
Jo sighed. Undercover work was always tough.
The awkwardness of the situation hadn't stopped Jo from doing her job. As the Celebrity worked the room, Jo had made a quick survey of the help and the guests, sizing up any potential threats. She had just come back into the living room after checking for paparazzi in the service hallway, when she spied a Potential Threat. Blair was approaching Natalie and the Celebrity for an introduction.
Jo froze. Blair and the Celebrity shook hands and traded hair flips. Jo almost laughed out loud. It was the Clash of the Flirting Titans. The Celebrity turned around, caught Jo's eye and beckoned her to join them.
Jo steeled herself. "Hello," she said warily.
"Oh Marie, we were just talking about you," the Celebrity said alluringly. "I was extolling your virtues to our hostess' daughter here, Blair Warner. Marie is so versatile," she informed Blair. "She just anticipates all of my needs, if you know what I mean." The Celebrity's voice dropped to that timbre that drove men wild and made her box-office gold.
Jo looked at her charge with alarm. What was she playing at?
The Celebrity, while fundamentally a good person, was not above a little petty revenge. Truth be told, she was slightly annoyed by Jo's cavalier rejection of any romantic encounter. After all, one didn't become a Celebrity without a healthy ego. The Celebrity had decided to have some fun with her bodyguard, on whom, if truth also be told, she had developed a little crush.
"So Marie," Blair, who had been brought up-to-date by Natalie, said icily. "How long have you been a personal assistant?"
"Not that long," Jo muttered.
"But she was born for the job," the Celebrity gushed, putting her arm around Jo's shoulders and squeezing. "I just can't imagine life without her."
"You'll have to if she's dead," Blair murmured under her breath.
Jo shot Blair a look.
"Now Blair" the Celebrity said. "I don't mean to pry but I notice you're wearing a ring. Is your husband here? He must be a wonderful man to support you in all of your work at the Foundation."
"I don't have a husband," Blair declared.
Blair didn't care for the Celebrity's undertone of pity. "No, you don't understand. I have a partner, not a husband. I'm a lesbian. I'm gay. I am an out and proud gay American," Blair announced defiantly.
Well, roll out the Rainbow Flag, honey, Jo thought.
"That's great," the Celebrity replied graciously. "Is your partner here? I would love to meet her."
Blair narrowed her eyes. Please don't, Jo pleaded silently. This is my job.
Blair smiled. "She's right here," Blair said, grabbing Natalie and giving her a peck on the cheek. "Natalie Greene, the love of my life."
Natalie, who was in the middle of eating a shrimp puff, erupted in a fit of coughing.
The Celebrity smiled. "Oh that's nice. How long have you two been together?"
"Yes, Miss Warner; how long?" Jo asked coldly.
"Oh forever," Blair replied, patting Natalie's back to stop the hacking. "Are you all right sweetie?"
"I guess," Natalie choked out
"And how did you meet?" The Celebrity asked.
"We were schoolmates," Blair explained, warming to the topic. "Just friends at first. But in my senior year we acknowledged our true feelings. After that we couldn't keep our hands off of each other. We did it everywhere. The science lab, the laundry room, the back of our housemother's Volkswagen."
"The back of Mrs. Garrett's Volkswagen? Oh come on," Natalie objected.
"Don't tell me you've forgotten, angel?" Blair said, sharply elbowing her friend.
"No, no. I remember," Natalie responded, recoiling at Blair's glare.
"And you kept it a secret?" the Celebrity inquired, intrigued.
"Yes." Blair sighed dramatically. "It was a different time. But our desire was no less strong for being taboo. It actually wasn't that hard to keep our trysts clandestine. Our roommates were fairly dense."
"Who are you calling dense, girlfriend?" interrupted Tootie, who had just joined the group.
"Miss Warner was just explaining how her oblivious roommates never knew about her torrid lesbian love affair with Miss Greene," Jo informed Tootie.
"Oh." Tootie replied.
"Anyway," Blair continued. "Our schoolgirl passion evolved into a deep and abiding love. As you said, I can't imagine life without her." She pulled Natalie close and kissed her ear.
Blair's fellow Eastland Alumnae stood in stunned silence.
"That's a very moving story, Blair. I have to say; I admire you both. Frankly, I'm a little envious," the Celebrity declared.
"That's perfectly understandable," Blair replied magnanimously, with another flip of her hair.
The Celebrity sighed. "I would love to stay but we have to get to the French Consulate. Thank your mother for me. Shall we, Marie?"
"Right," Jo replied. "Let's go." She gave the group one of her high-intensity dirty looks and turned away.
"Give my best to the Ambassador," Blair called after them. "Tell him I look forward to our dinner avec plaisir."
Blair dropped her arm from Natalie's shoulder and said with satisfaction. "Well I guess I showed her."
"Which her are you talking about?" Natalie sputtered. "And what the hell was that? You kissed my ear, Blair."
"Oh, get over it. I'm talking about that Hollywood riff-raff of course. Coming in here thinking that everyone is going to fall all over her. That she simply has to snap her fingers and people will start drooling. That everyone, including her personal assistant, is available as some sort of sex toy. I simply wanted to demonstrate that great physical beauty doesn't necessarily mean that you have to act irresponsibly. Some of us, similarly blessed, are mature enough to have lasting, committed, healthy relationships."
Blair's little speech left Natalie agog. "You're insane, Blair; you do know that, don't you?"
"Ahem," Tootie coughed. "Excuse me, Miss Similarly-Blessed-with-Great-Physical- Beauty, I have a question."
"Yes?" Blair offered.
"How come you chose Natalie?"
"How come you chose Natalie as your fake girlfriend? What about me? What's wrong with me?" Tootie whined.
"Well Tootie, first of all Nat just happened to be standing here."
"So much for the deep and abiding love," Natalie muttered.
"Secondly," Blair went on. "You have a modicum of fame. People, including your new 'fan', are likely to know that you're married."
"Yeah, Tootie, Jeff. Remember him?" Natalie interjected
"That's doesn't necessarily mean anything," Tootie declared. "I could be trapped by convention into entering a loveless marriage. Suburban housewife on the outside; lovelorn Sapphite on the inside. Closeted. Hiding her secret desires. Forced to live a heterosexual life, when her heart has always belonged to her old schoolmate. Her first and truest love."
Blair blanched. "Oh Tootie, is that true?"
"Nah," Tootie laughed. "But I had you going, didn't I? Am I a good actress, or what? Jeff and I aren't in a loveless marriage. In fact we're trying to get pregnant."
"Really? That's wonderful," Blair exclaimed, with enthusiasm and relief.
"Yeah, just great," Natalie chimed in. "That's exactly what the world needs this crowd to do. Procreate. Add more lunacy to the gene pool."
"Jo, I really appreciate all you did. I had a wonderful time and I felt very safe," the Celebrity declared, standing at the base of the stairs leading to the doorway of her private jet.
"I'm glad. Your speech at the UN was great, by the way," Jo replied.
"That's nice of you to say. Maybe it will shift the tabloid headlines for a few days from 'underhanded home-wrecker' to 'self-righteous do-gooder.' I guess that's an improvement." There was a trace of bitterness in the Celebrity's tone.
"It's just terrible those rags can get away with saying you broke up that marriage," Jo stated angrily. "I mean given that it couldn't possibly be true."
"It couldn't?" the Celebrity asked slyly.
"Well no. Not if you don't sleep with men."
"There's a woman in that marriage too, Jo."
Jo's eyes widened. America's Sweetheart? The Sit-Com Queen? Noo
The Celebrity handed Jo a slip of paper. "This is my private cell number. If you're ever in LA, look me up."
"I'll do that. I wouldn't mind a studio tour."
"I could give you a lot more than a tour," the Celebrity declared, throwing her arms around Jo's neck and pressing her million-dollar lips onto Jo's mouth.
Jo was only human. For one brief instant she responded, but then reached up and pulled the star's arms off her neck and drew away.
"I'm sorry, I can't do that," Jo said gently.
The Celebrity smiled. "I know. But kissing me is apparently on someone's list of the thousand things you're supposed to do before you die, so I thought I would check it off for you."
Jo laughed. "Thanks. Listen, good luck with everything. I mean, I hope things work out."
"You know," the Celebrity said as she climbed the stairs. "I think that they will."
Jo waved as the plane taxied away. She turned back towards the tarmac when she heard a horn honk. She spied a limousine parked by the entrance gate and sighed. The PRINCESS vanity plate was a give-away. Jo walked up, opened the door to the backseat and sat down beside Blair.
"How did you know I was here?" Jo asked dully.
"Now, Jo, don't be miffed. I simply called Inspector Samuels to find out when your assignment ended. He volunteered the details. I think he felt sorry for me."
"Blair," Jo began.
Blair put her hand up to Jo's mouth. "Jo, you don't have to say a word. I know nothing happened between you two. I know you were only doing your job. I know there's not a thing for me to worry about. I know all that because I trust you. I always have and I always will."
"Even though she kissed me?"
"Even though she kissed you."
Jo shook her head. "After all these years, you just keep on surprising me."
"And that's a good thing?" Blair asked.
"It's a great thing," Jo said, leaning over and kissing Blair passionately. She hit the button of the passenger privacy screen with one hand and started unbuttoning Blair's shirt with the other.
"Did I tell you yet how much I missed you? No? Let me show you then," Jo murmured.
"Jo," Blair laughed. "Hold on."
"Yes, we have to decide how I'm going to break this to Natalie."
"Very funny, Warner. Now let's get busy."
"Last night, in an exclusive interview with CNN's Natalie Greene, the World's Sexiest Woman made a stunning announcement. The bombshell dropped a bombshell and told the world that she's gay. She said she was inspired to tell the truth by other out, proud, powerful women. She went on to announce a multi-million dollar three picture deal based on the popular video game ..,'' Jo turned off the portable radio she used while gardening and, smiling to herself, went inside for dinner.
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