Holly was cleaning the counter when she noticed a familiar face enter the donut shop. Unfortunately, it was not the face she had been longing to see. Gail Peck had gone missing after their early morning raid on the bakery nearly a week ago.
It had been five days since the last time the beautiful cadet even peeked into the business. For a girl who was at one time considered an honorary staffer, her disappearance marked a big change. But if the workers noticed it, none of them pointed it out to Holly.
Holly knew why Gail was MIA. She regretted the actions that caused her friend to bolt without a second look. She wanted to blame the alcohol the two women had consumed for her loose lips and looser tongue. But she knew it was not the wine that caused Holly to lose her head. She had been on edge that entire night. And it was all due to Gail. Smoking hot, unapologetically sarcastic, unexpectedly sincere Gail Peck kept imprinting herself where it mattered. Holly did not know what to do with the woman. She only knew she did not want to lose her.
Speaking of the night of the symposium, the familiar face from that night now made his way to the counter with a smile. His eyes lit up with recognition as he stood before Holly.
“Gail did not tell me you worked here.” The classically handsome man smiled as he eyed Holly. He was not leering thankfully. It was more like a casual perusal. Once his eyes settled back onto her face, he spoke again.
“You are the girl from the symposium. You were with Gail.” He was not asking. His tone was as confident as his stare. “This should make it easier.”
“You are Nick, right?” Holly asked, already knowing the answer. Nick nodded cheerfully in response.
"Gail told you about me? That’s a good thing I hope.” His smile became a full grown grin. Holly frowned in return. She did not understand the sparkle in his eyes. She seriously hoped he was not about to come on to her.
"What would you like off the menu?” She pointed over her shoulder. She hoped she was making herself clear. The menu was the only thing open to him.
"Oh, I don’t want anything off of the menu.” Holly’s frown deepened. Apparently, she failed. Would Gail totally blow her off if she blew off her friend? Holly deflated as she realized she may have to find out.
"Gail’s birthday is today, and the guys want to celebrate.” He leaned in as if he and Holly was a part of some secret plan. Still, Holly relaxed after hearing the real reason Nick was there.
“Gail hates her birthday. She especially hates celebrating it. But we have decided not to give the Ice Queen a vote."
Nick chuckled at the easy insult he tossed out about Holly. Gail felt her pressure start to build. She did not think it was polite to insult a friend to a stranger. Plus, Gail was far from an ice queen. Not only was she hot in a superficial sense, Holly rationalized to herself, Gail’s attitude was full of fire. And looking at the blonde tended to make Holly’s inside burn. There was nothing icy about Gail, Holly surmised. She kept her thoughts to herself though, instead focusing on Nick’s request.
"You want a cake?” She asked cautiously. A cake order usually required a couple of days notice, not hours notice.
“It does not have to be a cake.” Nick said with an air of indifference. "Whatever you can come up with by noon. Dov’s paying.”
Holly shook her head as Nick walked away. He seemed to expect Holly to go along with his plan. If had been anyone other than Gail she would have told him his plan was a big bust. But it was Gail, her Gail, who apparently hated celebrating her birthday. Holly could not let that stand. If this was the only birthday of Gail Peck’s life that she would be involved with, Holly Stewart was going to make sure that it was a memorable celebration in the best way.
That was the promise she reminded herself of while begging her family to allow her to keep the shop open for his best customer. It was the promise ringing in her head while they were trying to concoct the perfect confection for the party. And it was the promise she held closely to as she stood behind the counter and watched Gail uncomfortably sit silent in the middle of a rousing group of a dozen cadets. They did not seem to mind her quietness. They just joked around her.
“Hey Holly!” Nick yelled as he took in the balloons and other decorations hanging up in the shop. “Amazing."
"Thanks.” Holly replied, stealing a quick glance at Gail before she shyly looked away. Gail surveyed the room with a stiff expression. Holly wondered if her hard work had been for nothing.
“I’ll grab the cake,” She muttered as she made her way to the back room.
“I can help.” Gail shot out of her seat and marched quickly to Holly.
“Gail, this is your party,” Holly sighed.
“Yeah, Gail.” Nick agreed as he slowly stood. “I can help Holly.”
“No,” Gail said sharply. “We don’t need the white knight routine tonight, Nicholas. Besides we all know how rusty your armor is.” A few of the cadets chuckled at the comment. Nick scowled. He returned to his seat.
“If there is no white knight, who is going to save us from the Evil Queen?”
The conversations died in the room. Nearly everyone there knew of Gail and Nick’s past relationship. They also knew Gail’s frozen nickname, the one usually spoken behind her back. Gail also knew of the name. The hard daggers of her eyes focused on Nick.
"I think we all know by now your sword was never sharp enough to tame the queen.”
Nick smirked nastily. “Who could honestly go up against the Ice Queen and survive? Even the white knight isn’t willing to die trying.”
“Maybe the cake princess can save the day?” Holly interjected with cheerful sarcasm. Both parties turned to look at her with surprise. She simply shrugged.
“Can we stop the medieval talk? I’m getting the cake. With Gail.” She smiled at her friend, who slowly returned the gesture. The two women headed for the back room. At the same time, the conversation picked back up in the main area.
The awkwardness between Holly and Gail disappeared while they walked. It reappeared when they made it to the small room. Holly went straight for the fridge while Gail stood at the door. The silence loomed around them as Holly grabbed the cake out of the small fridge. Gail rushed over to help her, and the two managed to set it solidly on the table in the middle of the room.
Holly tried everything to not look at Gail, but her eyes still fell on the blonde that had gone missing in her life. Right now, Gail looked like she wanted to make another run for it.
“You really hate your birthday?” Holly asked, hoping to relieve some of the tension in the room.
Gail sighed. She looked down to the floor and pushed her feet against the floor.
“It’s nothing. Really. It’s not even important.” Gail leaned back agains the door and played with her fingernails. It all felt a little too rehearsed for Holly.
“I don’t like crowds anyway, Holly.”
“But you came to the symposium for me?” Holly questioned, trying to wrap her head around this new information about Gail.
“You asked.” she said as if it was a simple as that, as if that was all Holly ever had to do. Holly felt her heart beat quicken as she watched the uncomfortable cadet look anywhere but at her.
“I’m so sorry, Gail.” She blurted out, taking Gail by surprise.
“For kissing you. Or licking you…” Holly groaned as she watched Gail’s cheeks redden. “Whatever that was five nights ago.”
“Its nothing, Holly.” Gail grumbled. “Just forget about it.”
“No, I won’t. You disappeared because of it. and I haven’t explained myself.”
Gail peered at Holly, her confusion showing on her face. “Okay.”
“Okay what?” Holly insisted.
Holly froze as she thought back to all of the words she wanted to share with Gail, the words she had been coming up with since Gail walked out of the bakery the last time. She wanted Gail to know how she made her feel, how they seem to work so well together. She wanted Gail to know how in such a short time, the blonde cadet had become an important figure in her life. What she did not expect is what she said.
“Do you like An Officer and a Gentleman?”
Gail’s face fell as she took in the question. Holly wanted to hide in the small refrigerator in front of her. What was she thinking?
“The film with Richard Gere?”
Holly nodded. Gail shrugged. “It’s okay. Why?”
“Well, I love the movie. I love everything about it. But I especially love the uniforms. That night, you were standing there, all dressed up in your uniform, looking so nice,” she breathed as her thoughts took her back to when she had first seen Gail walk into the conference room. “Every time I saw you I just thought… “
“Richard Gere?” Gail finished with a highly amused expression. Holly rolled her eyes and tried to hide her growing smile.
“Shut up, Gail.”
“So you’re hot for the uniform?” Gail chuckled. “Don’t let Nicholas know. He’ll show up everyday in it.”
“No. I’m not hot for the uniform.” Holly rushed, exasperated. “The uniform is just the icing. I’m hot for ya—“ Holly froze, letting her confession hang in the air. Holly turned away before she could see Gail’s expression change. She let time pass while she unwrapped the cellophane off of the confection in front of her. She tossed it in the trashed, then steeled herself to speak again.
“Can you ignore that?”
“Ignore it?” Holly heard Gail but did not feel comfortable enough to look at her. She knew her feelings were not in her voice, but she was pretty sure they were hosting a live streaming event in her eyes. She would rather not let Gail see them.
“Can you ignore it? Because I want you to ignore it. But if you can’t then that’s fine. I will deal with it. But I really, really want you to ignore it.”
She heard Gail exhale harshly and her feet shuffle again. Holly held her breath. She did not want to lose her friend today. She believed she could control whatever emotions that were threatening to ruin them, as long as she got to keep Gail. So consumed with her thoughts, she was surprised that Gail was now directly behind her. She did not even notice her moving until she felt the blonde’s breath on the back of her neck.
“What is wrong with that cake?” Gail eyed the confection that appeared more similar to a gigantic caramel popcorn ball than a cake. Holly tried to ignore the shock of pleasure that went through her and focused on the item in her hand.
“We did not have time to make a substantial cake. So I came up with this.” Holly stepped to the side so Gail could get a better view of it. “Its about three dozen donuts, cut in small chunks, being held together with a simple sugar mixture.”
Gail’s eyes roamed the masterpiece as if she was Doctor Frankenstein examining her monster.
“Are you kidding me, Holly?”
“It was the best we could do.” Holly apologized. “It filled about three pans so its more than enough for everyone.”
“Holly Stewart,” Gail utter reverently. “That is the most beautiful… thing… I have ever seen. It not only sounds like an amazing piece of greatness. It is an amazing piece of greatness.”
Holly smiled; her entire being felt lifted by Gail’s praise. She came back to earth just in time to stop Gail from sticking her hand into the treat.
“You will share with your guests.” She heard Gail groan but held firm. She grabbed one side of the tray and waited as Gail picked up the other side. They both smiled at each other as they moved slowly through the door. It was going to be all right, Holly told herself. She was relieved that she had not messed it up. She would not let anything mess them up.
That was the promise she reminded herself of when she watched with keen interest as Gail leaned over the table to put down her side of the cake. It was the promise ringing in her head when she heard Gail’s laughter finally fill the room. And it was the promise she held closely to when she looked up and saw Gail watching her with hunger in her eyes.
I liked it. It has nothing to do with anything Steve Rogers, but in that way it kind of reminds me of the concept behind “Justice League Gods and Monsters” a cartoon from a while back, like different people behind the names with different origins and different powers. Not sure how to explain this better than that. So if you take it as an AU, it’s pretty neat. And Grant Gardner is a better Cap than Steve is in the comics these days.
Side note now I want a “Justice League Gods and Monsters” version for Marvel. Just because I think it’s neat.
Also, Gail was a lovely lead, and honestly progressive, especially for the time. Like compare her to how Vicky Vale was treated in the 1949 Batman and Robin serial. Gail solves mysteries, tricks crooks, exposes the villain to Captain America, and guns crooks down. Cap even says that the city owes her more than it does him. And she worked with him from the start. She is hardcore.
So yeah, it was a fun little golden age serial. Tagging @lucrezianoin since it was your post told me it existed.