Claire was alone in her hotel room, sitting on the edge of the bed with the phone nestled against her ear. She was talking with Jaclyn back in Chicago as she waited for Frank and Trevor to get back.
"Yeah, Trevor's here with me, Jaclyn. Mara's brilliant idea to bring him along. So tell Champ not to worry. Trevor hasn't disappeared, or become more insane, or magically transported back to Olympus on the backs of satyrs, or anything. Unfortunately..."
Jaclyn smiled as she walked across the living room of her small apartment back in Chicago. "That's good to know. Champ's been looking for him all day. I'll tell him the next time I see him." Jaclyn's face seemed happier for a second as she thought about Champ.
Claire heard it in her voice. "Hey. How are things going between you and Champ?"
"Fine. I got his retaliation to the dozen roses I sent him."
Claire smiled excitedly. "Really? What was it?"
"Two dozen roses, two boxes of chocolates, and a bouquet of balloons..." Jaclyn said.
"Oh." Claire could hear the disappointment in Jaclyn's voice. "But that's good, isn't it? He's definitely still interested."
Jaclyn nodded. "Yeah it's sweet, but I was hoping for something a little more... personal. To up the ante, you know? Typical guy thinking. You send him a dozen roses, he sends you two. I wanted this to be more than just finding out how much he can spend. Besides, if all this candy keeps getting delivered, I'm going to turn into a blimp." Jaclyn grabbed a chocolate out of one of the boxes and popped it into her mouth.
"Just understand that he's trying, Jaclyn. He's doing his best to get closer to you. I mean, let's face it. Champ's a great guy, but we both know he's not the most romantically skilled person in the world. Still, he's persistent. Be patient with him."
Jaclyn smiled. "If he's trying to get closer to me, I wish he'd take the express lane. I don't know exactly how patient I can be..."
"What do you mean?"
Jaclyn put another chocolate slowly into her mouth. "How can I put this, Claire. Have you ever felt like you've... gone so long without it that you're just going to explode?"
Claire smiled. "Oh. That." She nodded, knowing what Jaclyn was talking about. "Just be patient and don't rush him. It could backfire if you push Champ too fast."
"Claire, all I know is that if this keeps up I'm going to be putting some battery exec's kids through college."
Claire laughed again. "You sound like you've been around Trevor too much."
Now it was Jaclyn who smiled. "Or maybe you haven't been around him enough."
"Yeah, the day the pope turns Jewish..." Claire replied.
Jaclyn looked at the many flowers Champ had sent her. "I hear he might convert. Still, next time I think I'll send Champ something a little... different. Sort of shake things up."
"Uhh-ohh. I recognize that voice." Claire teased."Champ had better watch himself. Don't go overboard, Jaclyn. But try to have fun."
Jaclyn smiled, considering what she had in mind. "Definitely. The same goes for you."
Claire sighed. "That's not very likely. What with Trevor and Mara sharing a hotel room."
In her apartment, Jaclyn stopped in mid stride. "Trevor and Mara are doing what?"
Claire looked up as the door to her room opened and Frank walked in. "Never mind," she said. "Look, Frank just got back. I've got to go. I'll tell you all about it later."
"But what do you mean that Trevor and Mara-"
"But-" Jaclyn grunted when Claire hung up, annoyed and wanting more information. She stood in her apartment for several seconds, before feeling the sudden frustarting need to pop two chocolates into her mouth. She realized what she was doing and stopped.
"God I need a boyfriend..." she said.
Claire rose from the bed and walked over to Frank, kissing him lightly on the lips. "Frank. Hi. So... did you and Trevor get what you wanted?"
Still thinking about his talk with Trevor, Frank nodded, softly touching her face."Yeah. I think so."
"Great." Claire's voice was awkward somehow as she inhaled quietly. "That's-that's... great. Where... umm, where is Trevor?"
"He's in Mara's room."
"Oh." Claire nodded, embarrassed. "In Mara's room. Right."
Frank kissed her again. "Look, it's getting late. I'm going to try to shower some of this jet lag off of me."
Claire smiled at him. "Ok. I'll be waiting."
When Frank had disappeared into the shower, Claire took a deep breath and sat back down on the bed. After a few moments, she couldn't keep her eyes from travelling to the wall behind her bed, the wall where Mara's room was. Trevor and Mara's room, she corrected herself. Looking away, she sat there silently and tried not to think about it.
Trevor was in Mara's room, putting away his newly purchased clothing into the rooms empty dresser drawers. Mara was out of sight and the quiet room whispered with the sounds of her shower running. The one window in the room was curtained, night concealed behind it as it became later in the evening. Trevor tried to concentrate only on taking his clothes out of their bags, but no matter how hard he tried he couldn't keep his eyes off of the bed the bags rested on. The only bed in the room. He did his best to keep busy and not to think about it, but his eyes kept going back to the bed, none the less.
"So tell me, Trevor," Mara called out from the shower. "Did you find everything you needed for the weekend?"
"Yeah," he answered, still glancing nervously at the bed as he put his clothes away. "Yeah. Thank's again for all this. I'll pay you back for everything. I promise."
"Don't worry about it. I meant it when I told you that it's all on me." Mara said, out of view. Suddenly Trevor heard the shower turn off and he stopped in mid-step. As he heard her getting out of the shower, his mind began to wander. He tried not to picture what she must look like at that exact moment. Mara called out again.
"Did you and Frank get along?" she asked.
"Sure. We got along fine. No problem. Why wouldn't we?"
Mara seemed cautiously amused. "Oh. It's nothing really. I just thought he'd be a little jealous." Her voice shook occasionally, and Trevor knew it was because she was busy drying her body.
He swallowed at the thought. "No, I really don't think I'm Frank's type." His eyes travelled again to the bed in the room, as he called out to her, his voice sounding nervous. "Umm... Mara?"
Mara walked out of the restroom, a towel wrapped around her body. Her hair was still wet against her forehead, and she was drying it with another towel. Trevor averted his eyes when he saw how little she was wearing. Mara didn't seem to notice, still looking at him.
"What is it, Trevor?"
"Well..." Trevor decided he really needed to keep putting away his clothes, thankful for the diversion. Otherwise he knew he'd be sorely tempted to stare. "It's nothing. Just that... Well, I've been wondering about the... you know, sleeping arrangements."
Mara smiled when she saw how nervous he was, and how hard he was trying not to look at her. She dropped the towel she held in her hand onto the bed. The other one was still wrapped around her as she stepped closer. "Really? What about them."
"It's no big deal... I mean I-I didn't want you to feel uncomfortable about it. I'm perfectly willing to sleep on the floor."
"Umm-hmm." Mara enjoyed how flustered Trevor seemed at her being so close, wrapped in nothing but a towel. She pushed some still wet hair from her forehead with a smile.
"Or... we could-" Trevor inhaled, feeling her near, "-we could flip to see who gets the floor."
"The floor could be good. Nice and wide..."
"But not as comfortable as the bed," Trevor pointed out.
"Hmm, You're a traditionalist. Do you prefer the bed?"
Trevor blinked, not understanding. "What?"
Mara smiled. "Nothing."
Trevor nodded, before turning to put away the last of his clothes, very, very slowly. He continued to speak, taking his time, not facing her. "Or we could sleep head to toe. Claire seems to think that's 'safe' for some reason."
"Trevor, don't worry about the sleeping arrangements." Mara said softly as she stepped closer. He was still turned away from her and she watched him intently as her hand slid up to the knot holding the towel around her. Silently she pulled it loose, letting it slip down her body.
Trevor finally turned around just as the towel dropped to the floor, stopping him instantly in his tracks. He stood there frozen when he saw Mara naked before him.
Mara looked tenderly into his eyes, confident. But unable to hide the yearning in her gaze, a yearning which was clear to see. She knew she was exposing herself in more ways than one. Her voice was soft. "Trevor, I think we'll come up with something..."
Stunned, Trevor's eyes rose slowly up her body. Mara was beautiful. Completely beautiful from head to toe. His mouth hung partially open in shock. She was a vision, alluring beyond belief. Her soft skin seemed so... close. Suddenly he looked up, blushing. "Umm..." Trevor took a step backwards, scrambling, arms reaching blindly out to grab a spare pillow and bedsheet off the bed, looking at her.
"What's wrong, Trevor?" Mara asked, amused.
"Nothing. It's nothing-" Trevor forced himself to look into Mara's eyes, and only her eyes, as he backed up. He inadvertently bumped a table, and was forced to grab a tettering lamp before it fell, causing him to drop his pillow. At that moment, he understood exactly how the lamp felt. Trevor bent down to pick the pillow off of the floor, eyes drawn to her again before he looked away. He really hoped he wasn't staring, because he wouldn't have known if he was. "I just... I just think that it would be better if I... slept in the hallway."
Mara nodded and bit her lower lip, smiling at his reaction. She made no attempt to cover herself. Trevor stumbled his way backwards towards the door, having trouble walking for some reason. Mara liked how flustered she had made him. She picked up the smaller towel she had dropped onto the bed and continued to dry her hair. Her eyes sparkled as she watched Trevor.
"That's a sweet offer, Trevor" she said. "But I really don't mind at all if you sleep in here. If it makes you feel better, we could go head to toe. Which... could be fun in itself."
"No, that's ok." Trevor backed into the door loudly, still facing her. He struggled to open it until her remembered that doors used something or other called a doorknob. "Whoa. Look at that. I forgot how to use a door for a second. See you have to turn this little round thing for it to open..."
Mara smiled. "I did not know that, Trevor."
"Absolutely true. Swear to me. Yeah. Thank's for the offer, Mara. It's really..." he looked down at her body, "Really, nice. But-but I'll be fine out in the hallway."
Mara nodded, still amused. "I understand, Trevor. I'll leave the door unlocked. You know, in case you change your mind."
Sliding to the wall, Trevor pushed the door open slightly with his hand, trying not to drop his pillow and blanket again. He nodded nervously. "Umm, sure. I'll... I'll give it some thought. With my luck, probably all night..."
Not turning his back on her, Trevor finally managed to squeeze his way out, eyes still on her. Mara nodded happily and began to turn away, until Trevor suddenly popped his head back into the room.
"Could you... not mention this to Claire? I really don't want her to know that I slept out in the hallway. Since I am the god of love, it would ruin my reputation."
Mara laughed softly, still not covering herself as she smiled at him. "Sure, Trevor. She won't hear a word of it from me."
"Umm... thanks. Good night, Mara."
"Good night, Trevor. And almost a very good night."
Trevor closed the door quickly before he could change his mind. A trailing section of the bedsheet he carried became wedged between the closed door and the wall, until it was tugged several times, slipping past the doorframe and out of sight.
With Trevor gone, Mara picked up the towel at her feet and wrapped it around her. She smiled and exhaled contentedly. Finally she turned and moved off to see what she was going to wear to bed.
Trying to catch his breath, Trevor tossed himself down onto the floor at the foot of Mara's doorway. The carpeted hallway stretched in either direction around him as he lay there, the hall empty and brightly lit. Trevor punched his pillow a little harder than he had to, trying to fluff it up before laying down again. Grabbing the bedsheet, he covered himself for a moment before he bit the edge between his teeth softly, picturing Mara in his mind. Trevor pulled the sheet tighter around him, sprawled on the floor. But somehow, he couldn't get settled, tossing and turning uncomfortably.
Inside the now darkened bedroom, Mara slipped between the bedsheets with a smile, dressed in some plain, baggy pajamas that she had brought. She exhaled as if she didn't have a care in the world. Her eyes travelled to the thin bar of light at the bottom of her hotel room door. It shifted and moved with Trevor laying restlessly just beyond it. Mara shrugged happily, putting her head down on the pillow. She went to sleep almost instantly, wondering if she would have any good dreams tonight.
Outside, Trevor still tossed and turned on the carpet in the bright hallway, not able to get comfortable. He punched his pillow to no avail, dropping his head onto it with a moan. He kept picturing Mara. It was going to be a long night.
As Trevor fidgeted in the hallway, the lights were off in Claire's bedroom. The luggage and clothing was packed away and everything was quiet. Claire was dressed simply for bed as she lay beside Frank, who was already asleep. The red lingerie was no where in sight. She couldn't get to sleep, occasionally straining to hear through the wall to Mara's room. Sighing, she told herself not to sit up, not to put her ear to the wall. But then she did all that anyway. Listening carefully for several moments, she thought she heard something. She could just make out the sound of... bedsheets rustling. With a frustrated sigh, she dropped her head back onto her pillow, trying to go to sleep. But listening again, she couldn't help but hear moving bedsheets that weren't her own.
Outside, Trevor still tossed and turned, unable to get to sleep himself as he lay on the floor, his sheet shifting over him. He moaned restlessly, squinting up at the bright ceiling lights above him, before turning his head to the wall and covering it with his pillow.
Claire shifted to her other side, but sleep wouldn't come. She couldn't stop thinking about Trevor and Mara in the next room. Was that a moan she had just heard? Claire tossed uncomfortably, and the sound of it was almost loud in the quiet room. She sighed. It was going to be a long night.
Frank lay motionless beside Claire, turned away from her and still apparently asleep. But if she had looked more closely, Claire would have noticed that he was fully awake, eyes wide open. He listened to Claire's unease beside him, knowing full well the cause.
The next morning, Trevor was awakened by the sound of a hotel room door being unlocked. Lying on the floor, he slowly looked up in a daze until he realized the sound was coming from Claire's room. Someone was coming out.
Frantically, Trevor rose to his feet, not wanting to be seen sleeping in the hallway. He scrambled to pick up the sheet and pillow he had slept on, his shirt long since discarded on the floor beside them after he had taken it off in the middle of the night. Just as he grabbed the door to Mara's room, the door to Claire's room began to open. Seeing he was out of time, Trevor shoved his shirt, bedsheet, and pillow through Mara's partially open door in a frenzy of arms and fabric, breathing heavily. He pulled his arms quickly back as Claire stepped out into the hallway. Trevor yawned in what he hoped was a casual manner, still panting slightly from his exertion.
Claire stopped in mid-step when she saw Trevor there, shirtless and breathing heavily in front of Mara's partially open door. He was obviously faking a yawn. Her smile dissappeared at the sight, not wanting to believe what she was seeing, wondering if her suspicions about last night were true. But those feelings quickly turned to anger and her jaw hardened as she walked over to him, trying to stay calm.
"Good morning, Trevor." she said cooly.
Trevor looked over, acting as if he had just stepped out himself. "Oh. I didn't see you there, Claire. Good morning, Sparky."
Standing next to him, Claire leaned slightly and peeked through Mara's partially open door. The sheets on the bed were rumpled. A pillow was discarded on the floor. Another bedsheet was draped wildly over a table and across a lamp from where Trevor had thrown it. His shirt lay crumpled over the back of a chair beside the bed. It looked like a hurricane had blown through. Mara was nowhere to be seen.
As her eyes travelled over the scene, an empty space seemed to open inside her, and her expression fell even more. She felt helpless to stop an unexpected aching feeling from appearing suddenly, deep in her chest. And she didn't know why. A quiet anger settled over her again at the scene in front of her as she shoved her tongue against her cheek. Nodding dangerously, she fixed Trevor with a cold stare.
"So I take it you had a good night, Trevor?"
He smiled. "Yeah. Yeah, a good night. A busy night. Funny thing is, I'm probably more tired now then when I went to bed." Trevor chuckled once, trying unsuccessfully to laugh it off. He wasn't going to give Claire the satisfaction of knowing what had really happened. Claire just glared at him, feeling that he had betrayed her somehow.
They both looked into each other's eyes for several seconds, neither thinking of what to say. As she looked sadly at him, Claire didn't know what to feel. And she couldn't have explained it even if she had. She was angry of course, but she was suddenly... crushed.
Trevor watched her silently, almost as if he could feel the emotions dancing across her face. Suddenly he felt bad about lying to her. All the teasing he and Mara had done at her expense didn't seem like such a good idea any more. He could see in her eyes how much he had upset her, something he had never wanted to do. So he decided to tell her the truth.
"Claire, I-" he began.
Suddenly Mara came out of her hotel room, and threw her arms around Trevor's bare shoulders as she stood behind him, kissing him lightly on the cheek.
"Thank you for last night, Trevor," she said happily into his ear, before looking up and pretending to notice Claire there for the first time. "Oh. Hello, Claire."
Claire glared at Mara but said nothing. She looked back at Trevor, giving him a wounded look, as if wondering how he could have done this.
Trevor kept his eyes on her, wanting to explain, but not knowing why there was any real reason why it should even matter to her. Why did Claire have that look on her face?
Before Trevor could speak, Mara kissed him warmly on the neck. "I had a great time, Trevor. But I'm not finished with you yet."
Mara pulled Trevor back into her hotel room with a giggle, closing the door behind them. Claire was left alone in the hallway, fuming silently to herself and wondering how it had come to this. Wondering why she even cared if it had. Trevor, involved with her sister. Trevor and Mara. Together. She would never have imagined it even in her worst... Claire shook her head. She knew it made her angry to think about them together, but it also made her something else. It made her... hurt. Hurt somewhere deep inside. Because now everything was different. Like she had lost something. Something she hadn't know she had to lose.
Sadly, Claire exhaled and closed her eyes, lowering her head as she stood in the empty hallway... alone.