Written for Devilish Me on Gateworld.
Fluff, and a little bit of gutter.
Glinda Baldrich was none of the three.
She was neither bald nor rich. She did possess a healthy head of silver curls, and a modest retirement savings which she planned on starting to dip into in precisely three months and six days—just as soon as she turned sixty-seven.
She didn't resemble the other famous Glinda, either—her kinship with that particular literary character ended with them both being sentient beings of the female persuasion, along with employment within the service industry. Glinda Baldrich often reflected on her namesake with a mixture of pity and scorn—the Good Witch of Oz hadn't been all that helpful, after all was said and done. And she'd needed a magic wand to do anything at all .
Glinda Baldrich's desk was remarkably wand-free, and still, the work got done: the coffee fetched, the letters written, the forms signed, the messages taken. A wand would merely have taken up room in the pencil holder, and most likely would have upset the balance in the wire mesh contraption and sent everything else tumbling to scatter all over her blotter.
Someone—she hesitated in placing blame before knowing exactly to whom it should be attributed—had thought that it would be funny to assign her to the one person in the Pentagon who could—and would, for that matter—pick up on and utilize each and every part of her name for his own amusement. She suspected General Hammond, although that kind of behavior would be decidedly out of character for the man she'd come to know in the past few years. But he did have a puckish side, she acknowledged, especially when it came to people he liked. She wasn't sure whether to feel annoyed or flattered.
She glanced at the clock and grimaced. Her boss would arrive any minute. If he was anything else, he was punctual. Glinda sighed, straightening things that really didn't need to be straightened. His coffee cup sat ready on the corner of her desk, where he could grab it absently as he passed. She'd grown accustomed to his grumpy sense of humor—had even laughed a time or two at his dry, smile-less delivery. But to say she happily anticipated his presence would be applying too shiny a coat on their relationship.
Three months and six days.
She'd worked with a General Bodine for seventeen years until his retirement a month and a half ago. Glinda had planned on retiring at the same time—feeling too crotchety to break in a new boss so close to the end of her own career—but upon a review of her benefits, she had discovered that if she held out until her sixty-seventh birthday, she'd receive just enough more in her monthly pension payment that it had tempted her to stay.
She'd rethought the decision a dozen times. Especially after entering the secretarial pool and having someone make the executive decision to assign her to Major General Jack O'Neill. She still couldn't quite peg him—he was at once aggressive and slap happy. Gruff yet thoughtful. A contradiction within a dichotomy.
Although lately, he'd been—different.
More gruff, less thoughtful. Angry. Sour. General Bodine would have said that someone had put salt in his oatmeal.
Glinda had said as much one morning, more under her breath than anything else, and a strange look had come over General O'Neill's face—wistful, she'd thought—although she'd never say it out loud. "Yes, well," he'd said, half grimacing, "We don't always want Fruit Loops, now do we?" And he'd continued on into his office, where he'd stayed until lunch. Door Closed.
She hadn't yet gumptioned up the courage to ask him what he'd meant. Or why he'd grown more morose over the next several days.
If Glinda Baldrich didn't know better, she'd think he'd been spurned by a lover.
But if the wedding picture on his desk was any indication, General O'Neill was quite happily married—although Glinda understood that his wife was also an Air Force officer, and presently occupied on some sort of secret mission that took her out of DC for months on end. He didn't talk about her much, but once she'd forgotten to knock on his door before entering, and caught him leaning back in his chair, gazing at the photo with such naked yearning that Glinda, the confirmed bachelorette that she was, had felt a little tingle work its way up her spine.
Not spurned in love. Exactly why then, the General had gotten so peevish lately was still a mystery.
The door slammed open, and Glinda looked up just in time to see him enter, pulling off his over coat. Water splattered everywhere as he tugged at the wet garment, simultaneously yanking off his hat and chucking it onto the credenza in the corner. A steady string of curse words splintered the air around him, and he let the coat fall in the entry way, then ran a hand through his already tousled gray hair. Glinda had tried to get him to go to the barber that General Bodine had frequented, but General O'Neill had refused, saying that he liked his own barber. Glinda had the sinking suspicion that he cut it himself.
"Sir, let me help you with that." She stood, crossing the floor and stopping several feet away from him. She bent down and reached for his over coat, but he got there first, grabbing the sodden garment with two fingers and then ratcheting himself back upright. "Let me take that." She repeated, holding out her hand. She'd used her Third Grade Teacher voice—and O'Neill had instantly grimaced and handed her the coat.
"I take it it's raining?"
"What gave you the first clue, Pinky?"
Pinky had been his first nickname for her. Pinky, as in the pink dress that Glinda had worn in the Wizard of Oz. Glinda Baldrich had never once, in her sixty-six years of life, worn pink. It wasn't dignified as a color in general. In particular to Glinda herself, it always made her look sallow. His other names were Baldy, in reference to her being notably not so, and Richie--as in Rich.
"No need to snap, General O'Neill."
"No snapping, Glin, I'm just asking." But his tone clearly said otherwise.
She shook out the coat, making a mental note to call maintenance and have them mop the entry way. Brushing off the rest of the loose droplets, she then folded the coat and gingerly placed it over the back of the sofa. The couch was made of industrial strength olive drab vinyl—a little water wouldn't hurt it. Neither would nuclear fallout.
"Do you need me to locate a new suit for you, sir? I can get one from the Pentagon cleaners."
The General had paused and considered briefly, then shaken the rest of the water out of his hair and worked at an ear with the tip of his index finger. "No. I'll dry. I've been wetter."
"Well." Glinda nodded. "Then go have your coffee, and I'll bring in a space heater."
To which the General had instantly frowned. "I'm not an invalid, Glinda. I don't need a damned space heater."
"Well, then, General O'Neill, what do you need?"
And his face had turned dark, his eyes cold. He exuded a chill that had nothing at all to do with the droplets of water still seeping into his skin.
With an odd sound deep in his throat, he'd stalked into his office, grabbing his coffee so carelessly that he'd sloshed some onto her desk. Luckily, she kept a handy supply of paper towels for just such an event.
She wiped up the spilled coffee and then threw away the paper towel. With an efficiency that she'd always prided herself on, she sat and made several phone calls. Maintenance first, to mop down the hall. Then she phoned the cleaners, to see where General O'Neill's suits were in the queue. Finally, she spoke to her friend Jo Louise Turnbow, who worked just down the hall with General Willis—they were still on for a late lunch.
She set down the phone on its cradle and stood, crossing to the table where the coffee pot sat sputtering away. She made a fresh pot with water from the dispenser, then crossed back to her desk and sat at The Infernal Machine for a morning of transcribing briefing meeting notes. She hated that contraption, although she'd been using computers for a dozen years or more. There was just something far more satisfying about a typewriter. The noise, she thought, that metallic 'snick' as the letters struck the paper. Computers didn't make that noise. Click-clicks on a keyboard weren't the same.
As she printed the final set of notes, Glinda peeked at her watch. Ten thirty already! She double checked the order of the notes, and then stacked the papers neatly and fastened them together with the big binder clips. Filing them each in their own manila folders, she prepared hanging folders for them, and then wound large rubber bands around the whole stack.
And another check went on her to-do list.
The door behind her desk sat silent, which surprised Glinda. Usually, she could count on General O'Neill appearing behind her several times before noon. She'd started stocking weird things in her desk drawers since her transfer here from the secretarial pool. She wondered if anyone else in the service was forced to have odd things handy—like yo-yo strings, and AA batteries. And maybe it was a sign that the man was growing on her that she'd found herself buying something called a Super Ball the other day in the grocery store check-out line.
Just because she thought it would give the General something new to play with.
She mused, not for the first time, that being support staff to General Jack O'Neill wasn't unlike adopting a child fully grown.
Glinda rose and turned to the door behind her desk. Tapping on the door, she waited for the growled, "What?" before turning the handle and entering.
The General sat at his desk, doing precisely nothing. His hair had dried, and he'd taken off his uniform coat, and spread it to dry on the back of a chair. His shirt had escaped most of the rain—but his tie had a few spots on it. He'd loosened it and it hung casually a few inches below the top button of his shirt.
"Can I get anything for you?"
He regarded her for a long beat—she had the eerie feeling that he was looking right through her. But he answered her without emotion. "There's nothing you can get me, Pinky."
She considered that answer, then narrowed her eyes and tried again. "Is there anything you need?"
He finally caught her eye. "Yes."
"But nothing that I can get for you."
"Nope." But his eyes flickered towards the picture on his desk—the only picture on his desk.
Glinda felt a distinct sense of sadness for the man sitting there. She'd never considered him to be old before—but his posture, his pose, his entire being looked—worn. Used. Battered.
"Well, I was going to run down to the mailroom to send off those copies of the briefing meeting notes. Is there anything else that you can think of that I need to do?" She knew full well that there was nothing else—she planned far too well in advance for nasty little surprises to rear their heads unexpectedly.
"No. Thanks." He waved his hand at her in dismissal. Glinda turned back towards the door, but stopped at his voice. "Pinky."
She pivoted. "Yes, sir?"
"How do you stand it here?"
"D.C. The Pentagon. Here."
"Well." She folded her hands in front of her, collecting her thoughts. "I find great satisfaction in my work."
He scowled at her, picked up a pencil and started bouncing it on the desk on its eraser. "No—I mean really. How do you stand this city? This place?"
She made her way back to the desk, and stood between the two chairs that faced it. He watched her intently, still bouncing the pencil. "I've been here at the Pentagon for thirty-eight years. I started out as a typist for the personnel division, and worked my way up to support staff for Generals and other high ranking officers. So I guess you could say that the Pentagon feels like home to me. I've been here for a life time. And I don't live in the District of Columbia. I live in Virginia in a very nice condominium."
"Oh." He stopped bouncing the pencil long enough to lean forward and brace his elbows on the desk. "And how have you kept from tearing your hair out?"
She shrugged slightly. "I have lots of friends. I don't have any family, so my friends are who I rely on for support and amusement. We have many hobbies and activities in which we engage."
He smiled, part way, only half his mouth lifting. For a moment, he looked quite lost.
"What, what?" He roused himself out of the memory, and refocused on Glinda.
"You were laughing at something I said?"
He shook his head. "No—just thinking about prepositions."
She stared at him in confusion. "I'm sorry—I don't understand."
"I was just thinking about a guy I met once. He ended his sentences with prepositions." A ghost of the smile passed across the General's face. "That's all."
Glinda frowned. "Is there anything else that you need, sir?"
He sighed, looking down at the pencil. His fingers, never idle, were twisting it over and over and over. "I guess not."
But he just looked so dejected. The haphazard tie, wrinkled shirt, tousled hair, and that pencil—spinning over and over. She found herself sidling into a chair, pulling it closer to the desk.
She found herself caring. And suddenly, the spinster knew exactly what the problem was. "You miss her?"
"Who?" His voice carried too much indifference.
Glinda angled her head towards the picture. "Your wife, right?"
The General glanced over, and his jaw started working, but his mouth stayed stubbornly shut.
"You miss her." She watched as his attention returned to the pencil. "I'm sorry I can't help you with that. From what I understand, she's on a long term assignment somewhere."
He nodded, his frown deepening.
"Is she due for some leave soon?"
"She's late, actually." His hands paused on the writing implement. "Should have been back a few weeks ago."
Ah. That explained a few things.
"Well, until she returns, maybe you should find a group of people with which to socialize. There are other officers in the Pentagon who are single. You may find a group with which to go golfing. And I know that General Willis down the hall enjoys bowling. You may find him enjoyable company. I could ask around, if you like."
"So I'm that pathetic now—that I have to have someone set me up on a man-date?"
"No—it's just that you're rather new here—and good friends are hard to come by."
The General started spinning the pencil again.
"Sir, I don't mean to pry. I have noticed that you're unhappy. I'm just trying to help."
O'Neill raised his eyes and looked at her from under brooding brows. After a few more spins of the pencil, he nodded. "I know, Pinky. And thanks."
And she knew that the conversation was over. With her customary efficiency, she stood and exited. As she closed the door behind her, she heard the distinct snap of a pencil being broken.
Glinda had been needing to reorganize the files for weeks. She figured that she had at least a good hour of time before she'd need to meet Jo Louise by the elevator for lunch, so she pulled her chair over to the cabinet and began methodically pulling files and re-situating them. She jotted notes about each one—later she would color code them according to topic—budget, personnel, or supplies.
So deep was she in her task that she didn't notice when the door opened. She turned at a flash of dark blue in her peripheral vision, prepared to ask the General if he would need her to phone the motor pool.
But the General wasn't standing there. It was a woman. Tall, with wheat colored hair caught into a chignon at her nape. She had a coat over her arm, and the jewelry on her dress blues told Glinda that this woman was a full bird Colonel.
And that face—Glinda had seen that face quite recently. On a desktop. In the office behind her, to be exact.
"Excuse me—Miss Baldrich?" Colonel Carter smiled. "I'm right, aren't I?"
"Yes." Glinda smiled back—she couldn't help herself. "Yes. General O'Neill is in his office—should I—"
"No—please. Don't bother. I'd kind of like to surprise him." Colonel Carter bit her lip and her eyes flickered towards his door. "Has he been awful for you?"
"Of course not, Colonel. He's just a General. Nothing I can't handle."
"Well, I know how he can be." She smiled again, nervously adjusting the coat on her arm. "Believe me. I've seen it all."
"Was this before or after you married him?"
Bright blue eyes lit up—memories, Glinda assumed. "Oh, far before."
The voice came from behind the closed door, and Glinda watched as the Colonel held a finger up to her lips. She rose and crossed the room, cracking open the door. "Yes, sir?"
"Do any of the people around here do any fishing?"
Glinda's eyes strayed to the Colonel, who was nodding hugely, her eyes wide, excited.
"Yes—in fact there's an officer here right now who's extremely interested in fishing."
The chair squeaked as General O'Neill pushed it back, and his shoes made soft thuds on the linoleum as he made his way to the door.
"Really? Who is he?" Dark brown eyes scanned the room until they arrived at the Colonel.
Glinda Baldrich had often heard of passion. She wasn't above sinking into her easy chair on a lazy Sunday afternoon with a smutty bodice-ripping novel from time to time. Nor was she oblivious to the ways between a woman and a man—she herself had been involved for a time in a heated affair a decade or so ago with a neighbor in her condominium complex—after Bruce Gillinsby's wife had died and before he'd been whisked away to Arizona by his children. She wasn't immune to the allure of Rhett Butler, or Prince Charming, or Don Juan—knew how women could be swept off their feet and overcome by romance.
But this—this was real. And palpable. And the air began to shift in heated waves from the force of the want.
The General took a breath, and then passed through the doorway. He paused, his eyes never leaving his wife. "So, fishing?"
"I hear it's a fun past time."
"Well, you'd know."
She canted her head sideways, her smile soft, private. "In fact, I hear fishing can be quite addictive."
"But only with the right equipment."
"Exactly." The Colonel nodded, then ran her tongue over her lips. "So, are you up for some?"
And it was as if Glinda had ceased to exist.
The General moved forward, and somehow the Colonel's coat ended up in a puddle at their feet, and their hands were reaching, and groping, and the kiss—
Glinda might have taken the first plane to Arizona if Bruce had done that—
And exactly what he'd done to elicit that kind of a moan from his wife was something Glinda had never even read about—hadn't known a man enjoyed fingers there—until the Colonel's hand wandered and the man actually smiled between long, slow movements of his—good heavens.
Glinda's eyes widened with shock. Surely that wasn't normal—
But the Colonel didn't seem fazed by it until the General's hand had fit itself there, and Glinda decided to make a run for it before she saw more of General O'Neill than she'd bargained for when she'd accepted a rotation in the secretarial pool.
She quietly skirted the activity and retrieved her purse from the drawer in her desk. Averting her eyes, she sidled past them, opening the outer door and letting herself out into the blessedly much cooler air of the hallway. She leaned briefly against the wall, fanning herself with an open hand. Clutching her purse to her chest, she dug around in the side pocket until she came up with her office keys.
Through the glass in the door, she could see the General easing the jacket off his wife's shoulders. Glinda's key turned as the garment joined the overcoat on the floor.
And for the first time in her career, Glinda Baldrich left for lunch without any intention at all of returning for the rest of the day.