Poster Boy

by Peanut
9/22/01

You guys didn't think I would let Mara's calendar idea get away without some exploration, did you? This is not really a direct sequel to "Ladies' Night Out," more like a continuation in the series. Comments always welcome!

"Hey. Sorry I'm late."

Erika looked up to see Jo slide into the booth across from her. Her Pit Crew uniform was more crumpled than usual and she had a large black smudge on her cheek.

"It's all right. Ed told me you would be a bit behind."

Jo ran her hand through her hair in a feeble attempt to smoothe it. "Work's been rough lately," she groaned. "I can't stay long, but I absolutely had to break away to show you this." She pulled a large, nondescript envelope out of her bag and handed it to Erika. It was addressed to Lieutenant Dwayne Hunter and had already been opened.

Erika looked up sharply. "Jo, this is for the Dwayne. What are you doing with it?"

Jo shrugged. "I go through his stuff all the time," she said. "I'm just naturally inquisitive."

"Or nosy," Erika countered.

"Let's just say that if Thorton hadn't let me on the Big Guy Project I would have figured out the coverup eventually. Besides, what's in the envelope is definitely not a security clearance issue," she said, smirking.

Erika's curiosity was piqued. "What is it?"

"Open it. You'll never guess in a million years otherwise. It will definitely make your day."

With a silent apology to Dwayne, she gingerly opened the envelope and pulled out a thin square packet and a letter. "It's a calendar," she said, still confused. Her eyes suddenly narrowed. "This isn't one filled with girls in bikinis is it?"

"Nope, this is much better. Check out the front."

Erika flipped the calendar over and gasped. Dwayne was on the front wearing a tight black shirt that accentuated his chiseled upper body and a pair of faded jeans ripped in all the right places. He was leaning against a large piece of machinery and smiling at the camera with a playful glint in his green eyes. Any other thoughts that had been in her head instantly vanished.

"Say hello to the poster boy for this year's Mechanic Hotties!" Jo said, laughing heartily. Noting the lack of response, she glanced at her companion. "Hello?" Jo leaned forward and waved her hand between Erika and the calendar.

Erika didn't move. "I've never seen him like this," she said. *Except in my dreams.* "What would possess him to pose in one of these calendars? He's usually so reserved." Suddenly realizing that she was staring, she made a heroic effort to focus on anything but his picture. She failed miserably.

Jo grabbed the accompanying piece of paper and held it up. "I was as shocked as you until I read this letter. It states that all profits go to the New Tronic City orphanage. Seems like our boy has a heart of gold."

"Really," Erika said, still scrutinizing the front as if it were one of her schematics. She looked up with an innocent expression. "Do you think he would be interested in donating to the Slate Foundation?"

Jo chuckled. "In a second."

Erika snapped out of her daydream and sighed. "As soon as this comes out every woman in the city is going to be beating down his door. I'll never have a chance."

"You will if no one ever sees the calendar."

Erika raised an eyebrow.

"Before I came here I showed it to Mack and Garth," Jo said. "It took them a good ten minutes to stop laughing. Right now they're going through all the bookstores and buying out every copy."

Erika had an abrupt vision of Garth and Mack in the checkout lane, arms filled with sexy male calendars. Apparently a good practical joke on their superior was more important than any possible threat to their masculinity.

Jo continued. "Later tonight when Dwayne's gone we're going to paste the pictures all over the hangar. I bet he'll drop dead tomorrow."

"Either that or glory stomp the three of you."

"It's his own fault. He of all people should be able to hide his secrets better." Jo suddenly looked over Erika's shoulder and her eyes widened. "Don't look now, but he's here!" she gasped. "Quick, hide it!"

Panicked, Erika did the first thing that came to her mind and sat on the calendar. She lifted her glass and concentrated on appearing as calm as possible, her heart racing. *Great. Of all the times he could have shown up, he had to choose tonight.*

Dwayne walked up and stopped in front of their booth. "Evening, ladies," he said.

Erika was still too shaken to say anything and could only manage a smile. Recovering faster from the shock, Jo waved. "Hi, Dwayne. Care to join us?" She darted a mischievous look at Erika, who returned it with a glare.

Missing the exchange, Dwayne smiled gratefully and sat next to Erika. She couldn't tell if her sudden rise in body temperature was due to his proximity or the evidence she was sitting on.

Jo got right to the point. "So, what brings you over here?"

"I was actually looking for you, Jo. Did you see a package for me in the mail today?"

Jo put on an amazingly good poker face. "No, I don't think anything came today."

Dwayne looked concerned. "Are you sure? I was supposed to get a package."

"I didn't see anything. What sort of package was it?"

"Just some pictures," he replied with a poker face to rival Jo's. "Have either of you seen Mack or Garth? I was just in the hangar and no one was there."

Erika, worried that she would give away the plan, kept her mouth closed. Thankfully, Jo again took control of the conversation. "Nope, I haven't seen them since this evening. I think they went shopping for some wallpaper for the hanger."

Erika didn't know which image was more amusing; Mack and Garth shopping for a calendar filled with men or shopping for wallpaper. She bit on her lip to keep from laughing. Jo was going to have a lot of explaining to do.

He was skeptical. "Those two? You're not serious."

"Well, they thought the place could use some sprucing up."

Finally noticing Erika's silence, Dwayne turned to look at her. "Doc, you're awfully quiet tonight. Everything all right?"

"I'm fine, Lieutenant," she said. In the past his gaze had often caused her to shyly turn away. Now she didn't dare move in fear of crumpling the calendar and instead found herself studying his face. *That picture really doesn't do him justice,* she thought. His green eyes twinkled at her and something inside of her melted.

Jo looked at the way they were staring at each other and smiled. "Hey, Dwayne, want to stick around and have a beer or two?" She ignored a swift kick at her shin.

He paused, obviously in turmoil. "I'd love to, but I really need to find this package." He glanced at Erika. "Can I have a raincheck?"

"Of course," she said, relieved. Under any other circumstances she would have been disappointed, but right now she could only count the seconds until he was gone.

Dwayne said a quick goodbye and left to continue the search. Neither woman moved until he had walked out of the bar. Once the door had closed Erika turned to Jo, eyes blazing.

"Stick around and have a beer or two? Are you trying to frame me for your crime?"

"Sorry," Jo said, rubbing her shin. "I wanted to make him feel welcome so he would be more inclined to come back another time. You'll thank me later. Besides," she said, laughing, "can you imagine the look on his face if he caught you?"

"Yeah, he'd be so embarrassed that he would never talk to me again. Not exactly what I'm trying to accomplish." She removed her glasses and rubbed the bridge of her nose. "You're such a bad influence."

Jo raised her hands in self defense. "Hey, if it wasn't for me you may have never seen the calendar. The one you're sitting on is your own personal copy, by the way."

Erika pulled the calendar out from under her and took another lingering look at the cover. "You're forgiven. Does he only have one picture in the whole thing?"

"Afraid so. However, at the rate these are being snatched up there's bound to be a Dwayne Hunter exclusive calendar next year."

"I doubt it. I have a feeling that his modeling career will be over after tomorrow morning."

Jo's watch beeped and she glanced down at it. "Speaking of which, Mack and Garth should be back by now." She grabbed her bag and stood up. "So, I guess you wouldn't be interested in tagging along and decorating?"

Erika grinned. "Are you kidding? I wouldn't miss it for the world."

THE END

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