Pairings/Characters: Genevieve St. Clair (OC Narrator), Annette LeMay, Mel/Johnny/Billie, Jack Kennedy, Kathleen Kennedy, Joe Kennedy, Jr.
Fandom: Public Enemies
Genres: AU, Slice-Of-Life
Spoilers: Not really, since things ended up quite differently in this particular AU. ;)
Summary: The Excelsior Hotel Regina helps their American guests celebrate the Fourth of July.
Date Of Completion: September 19, 2009
Date Of Posting: November 9, 2009
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, Universal does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 3318
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Notes: I often use canon as a jumping-off point into other possibilities, though there are plenty of canon stories from this fandom coming up on my ‘To Write’ List. ;) Isn’t it great to be in on the start of a new fandom? :) This story, however, is one of those where events branched off from the movie timeline at some point, and there was a happier ending than that of the events at the Biograph Theater in Chicago on the night of July 22, 1934. If John Dillinger had survived that night, or it hadn’t happened at all, it would make sense that he and the ones who loved him couldn’t stay in America. I haven’t gone into details on the hows and whys, and may only hint at them in the next two installments of this trilogy, but I hope you enjoy this little tale of love ‘undercover’. I’d recommend reading the first story in this trilogy, but in case you don’t, Johnny is Jack, Billie is Willa, and Mel is A.J. :)
The entire series can be found here.
The Excelsior Hotel Regina had gone all-out, as the Americans say. Fitting, because the ballroom was decorated in red-white-and-blue, with an ice carving of the Statue of Liberty on the buffet table and dozens of flags artfully arranged on the walls. There were photographs of cities like New York and New Orleans and Chicago, and scenes from the American countryside, including a small-town Fourth of July parade. There were homemade floats, sparklers, an Uncle Sam on stilts, and flags everywhere. A little dark-haired boy with big, blue eyes waved a small American flag as his parents looked on affectionately. A closer look bore the legend, ‘Smallville, Kansas’.
The buffet featured hot dogs, hamburgers, Velveeta cheese, Wonder bread, apples, oranges, and several kinds of berries: strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries. There were salads with fresh lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers, with homemade Italian dressing in large crystal-cut bottles, and some Cajun dishes, spicy and hot. At the carving station, there was roast turkey and roast beef and the side dishes included cranberry sauce, squash, and green beans. Lobster and oysters were lavishly displayed on beds of leafy parsley. Desserts included Indian pudding, apple pie, and cranberry bread.
Someone at the hotel had obviously put a lot of effort into what they thought were traditional American dishes, and as a Frenchwoman, I could not argue with the choices. They did seem very American in many ways. I was curious to see if the actual Americans would agree.
The ballroom was filled with quite a few people. The party was for Americans to celebrate the Fourth of July, but they had also invited non-Yankee guests. I had been invited by Madame LeMay, an old family friend. Annette LeMay was of the old aristocracy, the kind that got their heads guillotined during that little unpleasantness known as the Reign of Terror (or French Revolution). She was French down to her toes, but she was fascinated as much as I was about Americans.
I saw her holding court with a gaggle of young Yanks. She was dignified, her white hair swept up stylishly, and her lavender dress was also up-to-the-minute, an antique brooch setting it off nicely. A silver bracelet glittered at her wrist as she held a champagne glass filled with a dark liquid.
I almost laughed out loud. It had to be Coke! There were only non-alcoholic beverages served, because the Frenchmen at the hotel had drawn the line at serving American bourbon or other drinks. No, Coke it was, and lemonade, and Moxie, for goodness’ sakes!
Well, this was the country that had banned alcohol for over a decade! My mind is still boggled at that.
Everyone was dressed casually, because that fit the spirit of the party, too. The Yankees liked to dress up properly but they were very informal when they wanted to be.
I smiled and nodded to people as I mingled, enjoying hearing the mix of accents. And that’s when I heard a New England accent, so I turned and saw a very handsome young man in his early twenties, thick hair dark blond and with a million-dollar smile.
“Enjoying the party?” I asked in my accented English. His grin grew brighter.
“Sure thing. It was nice of the hotel to do this for us.”
I smiled. “Are all the foods authentic?”
He laughed. “Pretty much.” He was holding a glass of Coke. “Would you like something?”
“What do you recommend?”
“Oh, any of it, really, probably except for the cheese. I’m sure that Velveeta doesn’t measure up to French cheese.”
“I want to try it.”
He laughed again, a nice sound. “Okay.” He handed me a plate. “Beautiful weather here.”
“Oh, yes.” I smiled. “You are from New England.”
He grinned. “My accent gave me away.”
“Of course. Are you on business or holiday?” I asked, my eyes sparkling.
“Both.” He ran a hand through his thatch of sun-blond hair. “My sister and brother and I are here to deliver some documents for our father. We’re going to soak up some sun on the Riviera.”
He nodded. “My name’s Jack Kennedy. That’s my sister Kathleen and brother Joe.” He pointed to a couple in the corner, talking to a small group. They definitely were blood relatives “Our father’s Joseph Kennedy, Ambassador to England.”
“Oh, yes! I recognize you now. I have seen you on the newsreels.”
“You have quite a large family.”
“Yes, there’s my sisters Eunice, Pat, and Jean, and my brothers Bobby and Teddy. They’re with Mother and Dad back in England.”
Well, not surprising. Irish Catholic families tended to be big because the Vatican forbade birth control. I always pitied Catholic women, many of whom were constantly pregnant within their child-bearing years.
“I am Genevieve St. Clair.”
“Nice to meet you, Genevieve,” Jack said with a flash of white teeth, immediately using her first name as most Americans did. Oh, this one was a charmer.
“I hope the food is to your liking. Someone on the hotel staff really researched this.”
“I can see that. Good choices, too.”
“I would say that they need some Southern fried chicken,” drawled a familiar voice.
I turned to see A.J., one of the ménage a trois that I’d observed on the balcony yesterday. Not that they’d given a demonstration, mais non, but the signs were there.
The Southerner was dark-haired and dressed in white seersucker, minus a jacket, his eyes dark hazel as slender fingers held a glass of Coke. His suspenders were dark-blue and he wore a tiny American flag lapel pin.
“And some Yankee pot roast,” Jack quipped. He introduced himself as “Jack Kennedy from Boston” and shook hands with A.J.
“A.J. Lincoln at your service, suh.”
“Lincoln?” Jack raised an eyebrow.
“Andrew Jackson Lincoln. Fitting, as my ancestors fought on both sides of the War Between The States.”
“That’s the Civil War?” I asked.
“Yes,” they chorused, laughing as Willa, the woman in the threesome, walked over and put an arm around A.J.’s waist. She was lovely in a yellow sundress and matching rose in her hair. A sapphire bracelet sparkled at her wrist, a tiny American flag pin on her collar, a match to A.J.’s.
“I’m Willa Freneau.”
“You look familiar, suh,” A.J. said, and Jack explained who he was.
“Do you feel that the economy at home is improving?” Jack asked as he put together a turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce and squash on the side.
“Well, I couldn’t say,” Willa answered. “We’ve been abroad for awhile, though from what I read in the newspapers, the New Deal is marching along.”
“Prosperity is coming back,” Jack said.
“That is good to hear.” A.J. sipped his Coke, asking Willa softly if she would like one.
“Ah, but some say we’re still mired in Depression.” Joe and Kathleen Kennedy joined their brother, Joe the speaker. Joe had a broader face but was just as handsome as his younger brother, and Kathleen was a sparkling Irish-American beauty.
“Maybe,” Jack argued, “But things are better than during FDR’s first term.”
“It’s not like the grim early days of the Depression,” Willa agreed, accepting the glass of Coke that A.J. handed her.
“No, not the days when breadlines stretched out for miles and guys like John Dillinger became folk heroes by robbing the fat cats,” Joe said with a smirk.
The third member of the trio, Jack, walked up to our little group. “What’s this about John Dillinger?” He held out his hand while Willa and A.J. coughed, both nearly choking on their drinks. He thumped them on their backs and introduced himself. “Jack O’Reilly.”
“I was saying that John Dillinger was a folk hero because of the Depression,” Joe said.
“Hmm.” Jack rested a friendly arm around A.J.’s shoulders. “You may be right.”
“Are you sure?” I asked. “Do you think it was only the Depression that fueled all the adulation for him? I would think even in prosperous times people would be attracted to him. I’ve seen his picture, and he’s quite charming.”
Jack smiled as he rested his elbow on A.J.’s shoulder, crossing one leg in front of the other in a devil-may-care pose. “Well, I guess you’re right.” He snickered as A.J. elbowed him in the ribs.
Jack was very relaxed, wearing fawn-colored chinos, a white shirt with rolled-up sleeves and red suspenders. He was wearing the same kind of lapel pin as his companions. Always the dandies, these two Yankee men, though I suppose that A.J. would object to the term 'Yankee'. I smiled.
“Well, Hoover and the FBI takes great credit in winning the War on Crime,” Kathleen said. “Though personally, I think he’s overstated the case.”
“Really?” A.J. asked.
“He likes the limelight a little too much, and is a little too full of himself, if you ask me.”
“Not to mention all the rumors.” Joe cut a slice of apple pie, putting it on a plate.
“Rumors?” I asked.
“Dad says there’s a rumor going around that he’s light in the loafers.”
“Oh, Joe.” Kathleen slapped her brother’s arm. “What’s that got to do with anything? I mean, Hoover’s creepy, but not because he might be enjoying the, uh, company of men. I mean, c’mon, ladies, a couple of good-looking guys together? Pretty spicy, eh?”
Willa and I laughed, sharing a wink with me. I was surprised at Kathleen. Irish-Americans were not known for being overly liberal about sexual matters.
Joe rolled his eyes while his brother laughed, and A.J. and Jack were smiling, Jack whispering in A.J.’s ear.
Kathleen was right. Spicy!
“What does your father think of the situation in Czechoslovakia?” A.J. asked curiously.
“Not good,” Joe said grimly. “The Germans’ insistence on annexing the Sudetenland is going to cause trouble.”
“Seems like the Germans like stirring things up,” Jack drawled, smiling as Willa handed him a Coke.
“You’ve got that right,” said the other Jack. “The Nazis gained power by pumping up their people’s desire to return to glory after the disaster of the World War.”
“But the Depression was a factor, too,” I said. “The inflation wiped out savings. When you needed a wheelbarrow full of money to buy a loaf of bread, people were terrified.”
“That’s a very humane attitude for a Frenchwoman toward Germans,” Willa observed.
“Oh, believe me, I have not forgotten Chateau-Thierry or Belleau Wood or the Argonne. I am simply trying to understand.”
“Is it true that Germany’s building up their armed forces?” asked Jack O’Reilly.
Jack Kennedy nodded. “And there’s the Japanese aggression in the South Pacific and Asia, with the Empire invading China, and the Italians invading Ethiopia a few years ago.”
“So war is brewing on the horizon,” A.J. said, his Southern accent a little thicker.
“Probably.” Jack grabbed half of Joe’s turkey sandwich off his plate and took a bite. “I’d guess we’ve had a reprieve for the last twenty years, but time is running out.”
I felt a chill go down my spine at the blond Irish-American’s words. I’d been born in 1904 so remembered the Great War well. I remembered the pageantry of flags waving and young men marching off to war and Mama and Papa worrying over my older brothers Jacques and Henri, eagerly awaiting their letters from the front until the letters stopped coming. The war that had chewed up a generation had chewed up my family.
“Are you all right, Genevieve?” Willa asked softly as the others talked.
“What? Oh, yes. Just…memories.”
Sympathy shone in her big eyes and she patted my arm.
The band started up, playing Tommy Dorsey’s Boogie Woogie, and I felt a little better at the bouncy beat.
“Let’s get some food,” Willa said.
I liked that idea. Food would help, especially if it was good.
“The chicken looks really good.” Willa picked up a plate.
“Even if it’s not Southern fried?”
She burst into laughter. “I see that A.J. has gotten here first.” Grinning, she handed me the plate.
“The lobster looks scrumptious.”
“I would agree.”
The soft Southern tones tickled my ear. I turned to see a smiling A.J.
“Is it not odd to have a Southern first and middle name and a Northern last name?”
“Well, Miss Genevieve, Lincoln is a fine old name, but I like the blending of it with Andrew Jackson. It seems fittin’ somehow as my family fought on both sides of the War Between The States.”
The three of us loaded up our plates and found a table by the window. Willa had made a turkey sandwich and green beans and lobster meat as side dishes, while A.J. had chosen steak, a Cajun dish that I couldn’t identify, squash, and lobster. They shared a bowl of garden salad.
“This lobster is delicious.”
My companions agreed with my seafood assessment, savoring the lobster, and we were joined by Jack, who had a lobster sandwich with salad. He sat next to A.J.
“We should see if we can bring any leftovers back with us.” He leaned forward with a wink. “Though a hot dog tastes best at a ballgame.”
“You mean baseball?” I asked.
“That’s right.” He leaned back and his sly grin made me wonder what was going on under the table.
“Do you miss America?” The lobster was really good.
The three of them exchanged looks, and Willa answered, “Sometimes, but France really suits us.”
“I am glad. My country has a lot of offer.”
“It’s beautiful here.” Willa sipped her Coke. “The museums, the fashion, the food…”
“The countryside is quite lovely,” A.J. said.
“Paris fires my blood.” Jack smiled a lazy grin and A.J. shifted a little, pink flooding his cheeks.
Definitely footsie under the table.
When Jack finished his lobster sandwich, he stood. “I need a juicy ol’ hamburger. Anybody want anything?”
“I would like to try a hamburger.”
“Hey, there you go, darlin’. Mustard, onions, relish?”
The Americans laughed. “Sounds like a deli sandwich down on Halstead,” Willa said.
“Is that good?”
“It’s outstanding,” Jack said.
A slow, jazzy tune was being played by the Negro musicians hired for the summer by the hotel. I wondered if they were American, too, though they most likely were Algerian.
“Jack is enthusiastic about food, non?”
“Jack has an appetite for life,” A.J. said fondly, his eyes soft with affection.
Jack returned with “The All-American Burger. Nice and juicy and tastes like heaven.”
I could not help but laugh. “Thank you, Jacques.”
Jack looked pleased at the French pronunciation of his name and sat down with his own hamburger. “Oh, man, they did a good job with this,” he said after taking a bite.
I tried my hamburger. “Oh, you are right! Very tasty.”
“Reminds me of the diner back home. They had the best burgers.”
“Aunt Velma was the best burger-maker in the family,” A.J. said, breaking off a piece of Jack’s to sample.
“There was a family restaurant we went to quite a bit with the best hamburgers when I was growing up,” Willa said.
“Tastes like home,” A.J. sighed.
The band switched to dance music, and couples began going out on the dance floor. After we finished eating, Jack winked. “Want to trip the light fantastic?”
Flattered, I accepted.
Jack was a graceful dancer, slightly awkward at first but then easing into a smooth rhythm.
Jack was surely a charmer. He was the perfect gentleman.
A.J. and Willa came out onto the floor, Willa’s skirt swirling out.
As the next dance started, Jack and A.J. switched partners.
“You are a smooth dancer, Mr. Lincoln.”
“Why, thank you, Miss St. Clair.”
We switched off a few more times, Jack keeping up a patter that had me laughing.
When I danced with A.J. again, he smiled shyly and said, “Are you enjoying this little shindig?”
I laughed. “Does that word mean ‘party’?”
“I love the English language.”
“It’s a pleasure to converse in it.”
“Do you not speak it amongst the three of you?”
“Oh, surely, we do. But often outside of our home we have to speak in French. It was pleasant to hear all the American voices here.”
“How long have the three of you lived here?”
“We live in Paris, but came down here for vacation.”
I noticed his sidestepping of the question. I suppose it was not that unusual. Ex-patriates had a lot of reasons for leaving home, some that they did not wish to talk about.
As we whirled around the dance floor, I wondered if their sexual arrangement had driven them out of America. Paris would be much more welcoming.
The music stopped. A pity A.J. and Jack could not take a turn together, and I would have loved to dance with Willa. She had the biggest, beautiful eyes.
I was drawn into conversation with Kathleen Kennedy after dancing, and I lost track of my American Trio.
After discussing Paris fashions and comparing notes on college, Kathleen said, “Pretty nice deal Willa’s got going, eh?”
Kathleen’s expression was sly. “I believe you French have the saying, ‘menage a trois’?”
“Oh, well, I…” I was hesitant to confirm anything. Paris might be liberal about such things, but who knew about this group?
“It’s okay, Genevieve. I’m not about to blab it all over the place. Jack would be intrigued but I think Joe might be unsettled.”
Kathleen sipped her lemonade. “I’d say intrigued. You’ve got Jack the charmer with that easy smile and equally-easy sexuality, and then A.J. with those gentle manners and Southern accent, and sexuality under control, though I suspect he’s loosened up. Willa must be a very happy woman with Jack’s blond beauty and A.J.’s dark and beautiful self.”
I grinned. “I think you have gotten it completely right.”
I did more mingling and headed out to the gardens for a breath of fresh air. Taking a short walk, I paused to breath in the scent of a bright red hibiscus flower.
“Oh, darlin’, I know you’re homesick.”
Jack’s voice. A small opening in the hedge afforded me the view of Jack cupping A.J.’s face in his hands, rubbing his thumb along his lover’s jaw.
“I’m sorry. I guess it’s just all this red-white-and-blue and the food…”
“Oh, Beautiful, I know. When I ate that hamburger, I got a little misty-eyed myself.” He chuckled as A.J. smiled. “You and Billie have given up so much for me.”
Billie? Must be a derivative of ‘Willa’.
“We’d do it again, Johnny. You know that.” A.J. took his hand and kissed the fingers.
“I promise I’ll get you both home someday.”
A.J. nuzzled his fingers. “It’s all right, love. They wouldn’t understand what the three of us have together. We’re safer here.”
“My promise still stands, Sunshine. Someday.”
Jack drew A.J. into a kiss.
When they broke apart, Jack sighed. “I miss baseball.”
“I miss football!”
They laughed, foreheads touching.
I felt a little guilty watching, but not enough to leave, because two gorgeous men expressing their love? Gave me a tingle all the way down to my…
Voices started to drift down the path and I stepped back.
I went back to the ballroom. The concierge was on the dais and had a microphone in his hand.
“Thank you all for coming. I hope you enjoyed our little soiree.” He waved and a cart was wheeled in with a giant cake in the form of the Statue of Liberty, candles like sparklers delighting everyone. There were even tiny sparklers in her crown in place of the spikes.
“To our good friends across the sea! Fifty years ago we sent you the Statue of Liberty to profess our friendship, and now we hope you enjoy this cake. Happy Fourth of July, mes amis!”
The guests laughed and applauded, and I could see Jack and A.J. come back into the ballroom, joining Willa.
Three Americans in the middle of France.
Somehow, it seemed fitting.