The sound of muffled music floated on the night air. Taggerty's was running full bore, and a line of people stretched from the front door as they waited along the sidewalk to get in. Jaclyn pushed through them to the entrance where Champ stood checking ID's. He looked up as she rushed forward.
"Jaclyn. What are you doing here? Is something wrong?"
"Champ, you've got to help me." Her voice was concerned, quiet as she glanced around quickly. "Can I talk to you in private for a second?" Jaclyn walked off a little way from the door.
Champ stood there, uncertain. Handing the ID he held back to its owner, he waved that person in. "Uhh... sure, Jaclyn." Lifting a warning finger to the next person in line to stay where he was, Champ moved over to Jaclyn. He leaned in when she motioned him closer to talk discreetly. "So what is it?" he asked.
"Something's happened. Trevor's leaving, running away. I had to warn him that his new therapist is a complete wacko. A Dr. Frechette..."
"Yeah, Trevor's told me about him..."
Jaclyn couldn't hide the urgency in her voice, no matter how softly she spoke. "He's going to put Trevor on some experimental drug, I heard the director of the hospital say so myself. Apparently the man has some sort of pharmaceutical fetish. Trevor's got to get out of Chicago! He's got to leave. And you've got to help him do it."
"Wait. There has to be something else we can-"
"If Trevor told you about this man, then you know that there is no other way," she said firmly.
Champ was at a loss for words as he thought about the situation. Trevor was a friend. More of a friend than he would have imagined possible after first meeting him. What Jaclyn was proposing was risky for everyone involved. It was a drastic step, but as he searched for a solution, he couldn't think of anything better.
Jaclyn continued. "They will sedate him, drug him, and lock him up. Do you want to see Trevor like that?"
"No, I..." Champ paused. There just had to be another way.
Jaclyn saw his thoughts on his face. "Running away is the only way. He needs your help. He needs our help. He's done a lot for both of us. It's our turn now." Jaclyn waited, hoping he would see.
Champ decided. "Fine. Let's do it."
Jaclyn sighed with relief as a hopeful thrill coursed through her. This could work. "Thank you, Champ. The second you get home you'll start getting him ready, right? Promise me. Please."
"I promise. I have a little money saved up. We'll get him out of Chicago. Tonight. I care about the little psycho too, you know."
"We've got to make this work, Champ. Claire's still at the office working late and I've got to get back to keep this thing a secret. If she finds out about it, it will put her in a bad position. Call me the second you get home, OK?" Jaclyn was feeling better. She was almost getting into this subversive cloak and dagger stuff. "As soon as she leaves, I'll go to your apartment. We can do this." Champ couldn't tell who she was trying to convince, him or herself.
"He'll make it, Jaclyn. We won't let Frechette lay a finger on him."
"Thank you again, Champ. You really are you're name-sake!" She jumped up, high up, and pecked his lips quickly with her own. Champ smiled as she darted off, watching her leave. As he slowly moved back towards the entrance he rubbed his lips. Jaclyn's kiss had felt better than he would have imagined if he had bothered. He should have bothered, he realized. As he resumed his position, the next man in line gave Champ a knowing smile.
"She's cute," he said.
"Yeah, well. Flattery isn't going to get you in any faster." Champ looked back the way Jaclyn had gone, already planning what they could do to help Trevor on such short notice. Checking his watch, he willed it to move faster so his shift could end. It was going to be a long night. Something far overhead caught his eye and he looked up.
Moving among the stars was a comet, its long tail bright in the night sky, fighting the gray haze from the city lights. Champ smiled as he watched it. A line of Shakespeare came to mind, though he didn't know why.
"When beggars die, there are no comets seen. Yet the heavens themselves proclaim the..." Champ trailed off. There was something disturbing to him about that phrase.
"Hey, that was pretty good,' the man in line said, handing Champ his ID. "Do you know anything from Romeo and Juliet?"
"Romeo and..." Champ suddenly realized what was bothering him. He was running for home before he remembered to hand the man's ID back to him.
Claire had lost track of the time. Earlier she had tried to pack, but had given up. Now she tried to work on her book, but the computer screen seemed to mock her, remaining empty except for a chapter heading. Typical. Nothing had seemed to go right for her over the past few days. Nothing seemed to make sense. Suddenly she began to sob, silent and alone in her office, dropping her head into her hands. She could find no reason for it. Not one she was willing to face.
"Come on, snap out of it, Claire," she said to herself. But she found no comfort. She couldn't tell how long she had been crying when she heard her doorknob click and turn.
"Dr. Allen?" Jaclyn looked into the office as she opened the door, her face empty. She saw Claire seated at her desk with her head bowed down between her hands, her fingers entwined in her hair. Claire looked up at the sound of her entering, wiping a tear from her cheek.
"You know," Claire began, her voice still on the edge of tears, her eyes glittering, "Maybe I made a mistake. I mean, I think I have feelings for Trevor and I just... threw them away." She sniffed as she wiped away another tear, letting out a small despairing laugh. "And for what? To do what Alex expects? To keep my nice office and cushy job even when inside I'm miserable? As much as I hate to admit it, maybe Trevor's right. Protocols, rules... professional ethics, they can't be all that matters. Thay just can't. A job can't mean more than how I feel. I follow all the things I should do... never questioning if its what I really want. Marrying Alex when I'm not completely certain how I feel for Trevor. Just another coward who didn't have the courage to follow my heart." Claire didn't look up, talking as much to herself as to anyone else. "I can't live this way. Being true to everyone and everything but myself. Not and still call myself alive, Jaclyn. I..." she paused searching her heart for the right words as she aimlessly stared at the top of her desk. Her notebook computer sat open before her. Its screen displayed a title.
EPILOGUE: LETTING GO OF CUPID.
"Dr. Allen..." Jaclyn seemed reluctant to say what she knew she must, her own voice quiet and subdued.
"Maybe it's not too late," Claire continued, not really hearing her. "I'll go find... go find Trevor and tell him that I-" She blinked, as if finally admitting something to herself, causing another stray tear to course down her cheek. "That I love him." Her voice seemed stronger as she softly laughed again. "That the wedding's off and that I'm not in love with Alex, I'm in love with him." Claire wiped her eyes, more certain of what she had to do. "It's not to late..."
Jaclyn tried again. "Dr. Allen..."
"No, this can't wait." She didn't look at Jaclyn as she spoke, caught up in what she was saying. "I'm going right now, I don't care what time it is. I'll wake his little cupid ass up if I have to." Claire grabbed her things, preparing to leave. She closed the lid on her notebook computer. Quickly, she came around the desk.
"Please, Dr. Allen..." Jaclyn seemed on the verge of tears herself.
Claire didn't notice as she moved to get her coat. "No, don't try to talk me out of it. I know I'm probably kissing this job goodbye, but I don't care. I'll still have to smooth things over with Alex, but I can do that. It's never too late to change things."
Jaclyn looked at her, realizing Claire didn't understand what was happening. "Dr. Allen," she spoke more forcefully, making Claire look up, "I've just been on the phone with..." She paused as her voice broke, uncertain of how to tell her.
Claire was still sniffing back tears. "What is it, Jaclyn?" She wiped her face again as she tried to compose herself.
"I think," Jaclyn said softly, "that you should get over to Champ's apartment right away."
Claire started to smile. Jaclyn agreed with her. Perhaps she could still get Trevor to understand... But that image vanished as she saw the grim look on Jaclyn's face, and a chill sensation filled her.
Without another word she ran out of the office.
Spend all your time waiting, for that second chance...
The radio filled the interior of her car with a mournful ballad as she sped quickly down the Chicago streets, virtually empty at that time of night. She didn't even hear what was playing as she drove, her mind filled with worry about Trevor. Various images passed through her thoughts, none of them good. So she drove even faster, ignoring the whine of the engine or the squeal of her tires. Somehow she knew that she had to hurry. Trevor had to know how she felt.
You are pulled from the wreckage of your silent reverie...
A cascade of red and blue lights swept across the building facades surrounding Champ's apartment. The pulsing colors reflected across the glass of her car windshield, strobing across Claire's concerned face beneath it. Several police cars and an ambulance were haphazardly parked on the street out front. Claire's car squealed to a stop between them.
In the arms of the angel, may you find some comfort here...
Claire angrily pushed open her car door as she hurried to get out. A policeman who had watched her pull up rushed up to her, stopping her almost instantly.
"I'm sorry, ma'am. You'll have to stay back-"
Claire struggled to pass him. "No, you don't understand, I've got to get inside!"
"Ma'am, I can't let you do that." the policeman tried his best to hold her, drawing the attention of a second policeman nearby. Claire darted around the first officer but the second blocked her path before she went ten feet.
"You've got to let me through!" She cried. "I've got to see Trevor!"
"Trevor Hale?" The man blocking her asked. "How do you know Mr. Hale?"
"I'm in love-... I'm his therapist."
The policeman looked at her. A look of sadness and sympathy that she would never forget crossed his face. He lowered his eyes. "You had better see for yourself, ma'am."
"Thank you," Claire said, breathless from concern as she rushed up the steps and into the building.
Behind her, the two officers moved to stand next to each other. Their breath fogged in the crisp night air as they spoke, backlit by the swirling red and blue lights. One turned to the other.
"She should have come sooner."
Claire darted up the stairs as fast as she could. The walls and doors around her bounced and passed by in a blur. She could hear her footsteps and quick breaths in the empty hallway as fear after fear crashed through her mind. The hallway seemed endless. And she couldn't get that song she had heard in the car out of her head. Finally she saw Trevor's door standing open before her. As she rushed towards it she could sense movement inside.
Claire came to a stop in the doorway, her hand gripping the frame of the door as she rushed in. The red and blue lights from the street below swept across the ceiling, looming over several people moving around the room. Her face froze, locked into an expression of shock and horror. A thickening line of moisture glittered along the bottom of her eyes, tears quickly forming there. Slowly now, she walked forward.
Champ was there, grim faced as he stood by several others in the room. He saw her enter and moved over to her, but he could find nothing to say. Claire barely even saw him as she continued to move forward. Another police officer came up to her and his lips moved as if he were speaking, but no sounds came from his mouth. His brow furrowed when she didn't answer. Champ turned to the officer and his lips moved as if he spoke as well, telling the officer who she was. Again, Claire heard nothing. An entire room full of people moving around seemed completely silent to her. Only a song echoed in the back of her mind.
Arms of the angel, far away from here...
Claire seemed to be moving in amber as she pushed forward, the red and blue lights now flashing across her pale skin as she came closer to the apartment windows. A new tear began its slow descent down her cheek, as a flash of bright white light filled the room. It seemed to last several moments, but was actually only a split second long. Somewhere in the back of Claire's mind her thoughts registered that a flashbulb had just gone off. Someone was taking pictures. A paramedic bumped into Claire as he moved to leave, but she barely noticed. An opening through the people in the room formed before her. Then she saw. Her heart wilted and fell away from the shell of her body. After what seemed like an eternity, she could still feel it falling. Suddenly all the movement and activity in the room seemed as irrelevant as the sounds she had stopped hearing. She wasn't aware of her own movements even as she took the last step forward.
Claire looked down on Trevor, unwilling to believe. Above her the red and blue lights continued to flash on the ceiling and across her desolate expression, glittering in her eyes. Her vision locked onto Trevor, and she saw nothing else as several tears fell down her face all at once. She knelt down and took his hands into hers. Grief washed through her, filling the empty space that had been left inside. For that endless moment it seemed that she had never felt anything else. Forgetting the sensations around her, she felt only the touch of Trevor's still hands as she held them.
Someone else's hand held something before her. She realized it was a piece of paper being given to her by Champ. She looked up at him, his eyes misty, and then at the paper that he held, which seemed to have Trevor's hand-writing on it. Slowly she reached out and took it, unfolding it between her fingers so she could read what was written there.
Claire tried to pull her mind around the fact that Trevor was gone, but couldn't. As another flashbulb went off, she seemed to feel her body from a distance and she tried to imagine her life without him. This couldn't be it, she thought to herself. There had to be more. It couldn't end like this.
You were right. It's time to face reality, such as it is. I didn't want to admit to myself that you didn't love me. And that you never would. To you, I'm just some delusional patient of questionable charm. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get you to see who I really am. We're all dreamers at heart. Gods and men alike. I just wish we could have shared the same dream, Claire. Go marry Alex. Find that lightning bolt love and scream it to the heavens so that even Olympus takes notice. I'll smile when I hear it there. That's not a dream. It's real, waiting for you. Find it. As for me, either the gods have decided I've learned my lesson and I'm on an express ticket to Olympus, or I died a simple mortal who learned he could love a mortal. You know which one I believe. Which one you believe is up to you. One dream's as good as the other. Be happy, Sparky. You deserve it. Who loves you, baby?
Trevor Hale, the once and future
God of Love
"Trevor, don't walk away from me... I need you." She spoke even though she knew there would be no response. "Wake up, Trevor. Please." Softly she shook him, knowing it was pointless. Suddenly she noticed something in his hand, the heart necklace he had given her for Cupid's day. Quickly she reached for Alex's engagement ring on her finger and yanked it off, letting it drop to the floor. She took the necklace, latching it around her neck, crying as she did so. Her voice quivered as she leaned over him.
"Can you see, Trevor? I love you. Please come back... please." her voice finally broke as she looked at him, his face motionless and still. She didn't know what else to do.
"We all choose our dreams,Trevor," she whispered. "I choose yours."
Gently touching his cheek, she lowered her face towards his as she realized there were no miracles left. As their lips touched another flash filled the room with a piercing white light, and time stopped. She lost thought of anything else but the feel of his kiss and the echo of a distant song.
In the arms of the Angel, may you find some comfort here.
Suddenly, Claire jerked her head up from her desk as morning sunlight streamed in through the window behind her. As she looked around she brought her hand up to find her face wet with tears. She was alone in the office. Blinking several times, she tried to come to her senses. Her computer still lay open before her, the patient cursor waiting as it blinked beneath the title she had typed in the night before.
EPILOGUE: LETTING GO OF CUPID.
Claire deleted it in a haze, unsure of what had happened. She grabbed her purse and darted out of the office. As she passed the reception desk outside her front door, she didn't notice the yellow envelope still sitting there, undelivered. Quickly she sped down the hallways, dodging the various people before her who were beginning their work day. In her jumbled vision she saw Director Greely standing in the hallway, reading a report of some kind. Claire barely avoided plowing into him, but she didn't stop as she ran past.
"Dr. Allen, I needed to see you about one of your case files, about Trevor Hale," he said quickly, when he realized she wasn't stopping.
"No need!" she called back to him over her shoulder. "I'm not going anywhere. I'm staying in Chicago!" She continued her sprint down the hallway, apologizing to a man she nearly floored in her haste. "Excuse me! I'm so sorry." Her voice echoed up the hallway to Dr. Greely, as she moved out of sight.
Once she was gone, he shook his head. What's gotten into her, he wondered. Sometimes it was hard to tell who was running the asylum, so to speak. Especially in that office. Looking down, he began to reread the report he had just recieved that morning. An independent research firm had finally released the results of a controversial study. Thorax-B had been proven to be ineffective and harmful in clinical trials. All testing and use of the drug was to be discontinued. He smiled secretly to himself. Good. He had never liked Dr. Frechette anyway.
"I guess he's still yours, Dr. Allen." Greely turned and walked back into his office.
Claire didn't bother knocking. Instead she scrambled at Champ's door with the spare key Trevor had given her. His one drunken experience had convinced him that Claire might have to pour him into his bed one day, if he was ever foolish enough to go that far again. She finally felt the lock click and she flung the door open, running inside.
"Trevor! Trevor, where are you?" The apartment was empty. Thick bars of sunlight flowed in through the windows, Claire's outline shadowed in them, searching. She checked his bedroom. The bed was made. Even Champ was gone. No one was home.
"Why is it when I actually want to see you, you're suddenly nowhere when usually you're everywhere!" Claire threw her arms up in disgust and ran out the door, slaming it shut.
It was still mid-morning, warm and bright, as Trevor and Jaclyn walked the streets of Chicago. Skyscrapers towered overhead to either side, rising out of view, but they didn't look up. The two of them walked slowly, as if they had been talking for some time.
"And so the report was faxed in last night," Jaclyn was saying. "Claire was asleep in her office and I didn't want to wake her. When I read Thorax-B was outlawed, I just had to tell you, Trevor. I mean, that report showing up when it did... it just came out of the blue."
Trevor chuckled. "Deus ex fax-machina? The modern age... You could call it 'miraculous' even."
"Trevor... did you have anything to do with-?"
"Me? No. But I do have a few friends in high places."
"Well, I'm glad I caught you before Champ smuggled you out. Maybe you can find a therapist that will be a little more open to your cond-... 'special charm', now."
"I hope so. You've never considered becoming a therapist yourself, have you? Anyway, I just wish Claire wasn't leaving."
Jaclyn nodded. She glanced at the bundle of red roses he carried. "Are those for Claire?"
"Yeah. We had a sort of messy goodbye. I didn't want to leave it like that." He waved the roses as he held them. "Improptu wedding gift. Congratulations and all that for her and Alex. I mean, a dozen roses from the god of love, that's got to be worth something, right?"
"More than you think, Trevor."
Jaclyn looked over at him, seeing it in his expression. Knowing who was on his thoughts. "Are you going to tell her before she leaves?" she asked.
"Tell her what?"
"How you feel about her..."