The polished tile flooring of the hallway was smooth and clean as it slid past, dim in the building's comfortable light. A woman's feet walked forward, clad in soft fabric shoes, with pale blue scrubs just visible above on her legs as she walked past the closed doors of doctors offices. The hallway was quiet as the woman walked, and no one else was nearby. Except for the two sets of much heavier footsteps trailing right behind her. Their shoes were black and hard, utilitarian, belonging to two men, their white scrubs made of thicker fabric. Following her carefully, they remained flanked behind her to either side. All three pairs of legs quietly continued their walk, their dress strangely out of place, conspicuous against the elegant, well furnished and polished hallway sliding past as their steps echoed in the still air.
The woman walking in front of the two burly hospital orderlies kept her eyes on the floor, her shoulders drooping. She was young and attractive, blond hair and blue eyes. But her body was plainly draped with pale blue hospital scrubs, and her eyes seemed empty and distant, like she wasn't even there. Behind her, her two chaperones bristled with subtle muscles, dressed in the simple white of hospital employees. Their gazes were intent, fully aware as they kept an eye on the woman. No one said anything as they continued down the plush hallway, door after door sliding by.
Still not lifting her gaze, the woman's right arm reached across her body, taking hold of her left arm hanging down by her side. As she walked down the hallway, her right hand started rubbing along the pale skin of her arm, almost out of reflex, almost for a sense of comfort. Beneath her fingers, she rubbed on some scribbles on her skin written in felt tip marker, black ink marks which she had put there with great care and precision. The woman had drawn an impromptu picture there, almost like a crude tattoo, but done in marker and far from permanent. As her hand continued its soothing rubs, the design began to smear and smudge slightly, streaking vaguely under her fingers. It was a picture of a heart, and in its center, she had written one simple word. CUPID. She didn't notice the smudges, merely comforted that it was there. When she pulled her hand away, her fingertips were tinged with ink. The design remained on her pale arm, smudged but readable.
The trio finally stopped their walk down the hallway, coming to a halt in front of a particular door. When they stopped, the pretty blond woman slowly looked up for the first time. She wasn't wearing any make up, and there was the slightest bags under her eyes. She wasn't sleeping well. As she looked over and read the letters on the door displayed beside her, for the first time the tiniest bit of fear seemed to pass over her features. But the emotion passed and then her face seemed empty again, looking away from the shiny gold letters on the polished wood of the door after reading what they spelled.
Dr. Ian Frechette
Moving past her, one of the burly orderlies stepped up towards the door. He exhaled reluctantly, a little annoyed that they were forced to be there. Lifting his hand, he gently knocked on the door, waiting. After a few moments the door opened and Ian Frechette stepped out. The balding man had glasses, a thin beard, and nearly constant arrogance in his eyes. As he stepped past, he didn't spare a glance towards the orderly who had knocked, ignoring him as if he wasn't even there. Instead his hard gaze locked on the woman, examining her as he paused, aloof before his open office door. She remained bracketed between the two orderlies, quiet, looking small in comparison to them.
"Hello Faith. I'm Dr. Frechette. It's good to see you..." He spoke simply, without warmth, his voice firm and assured.
Faith said nothing, her eyes staring blankly at the floor.
Frechette's head tilted almost imperceptibly, marginally annoyed that she refused to acknowledge him. The body of the woman before him seemed to have almost gone empty, like no one was home, simply standing there. Frechette's gaze lowered to her side, and he saw the slightly smudged heart and the word Cupid written on her arm in black marker. His brow furrowed slightly, disturbed. As he spoke to the orderly, his eyes didn't leave the scribbled image.
"You allowed her to write on herself?"
"We've tried to take the markers away, Doctor. She keeps hiding them in places we can't find."
Frechette exhaled, looking up into Faith's eyes again. She didn't look back at him. Finally he spoke. "Wash her before you bring her to me next time. I don't want her with those marks in my office."
Frechette smiled at the quiet woman, but the effect was far from comforting. "Why don't you come inside, Faith."
She did as she was told, walking blankly past him and into the elegant furnishings of his office, leaving the orderlies in the hallway. Frechette turned to follow her, when suddenly one of the orderlies reached out and touched his shoulder, stopping him. Frechette slowly looked down at the man's hand on him before looking up, a hardness in his eyes.
The orderly's mouth tightened. "Dr. Frechette... I think you really should consider holding these sessions in lock down on the ward. It would be a lot safer for everyone involved."
Pushing the orderly's hand off his shoulder like he was sweeping dust off his suit, Frechette stared at the man, his voice dry and unchallengeable. "I want to do this here. In more comfortable surroundings for both her, and me. And because I've risen to a point of prominence in this hospital... I can. Anything beyond that, isn't your call. Do we understand each other?"
Ignoring Frechette's contempt, the orderly had concern in his eyes as he continued. "At least let us wait out here in the hall until you're done. It's a mistake to not have a guard here. Miss Simmons is dangerous..."
The corner of Frechette's lip curled up slightly, smugness in his eyes. "I"m aware of who the patient is. You don't have to remind me. But I won't have you two hovering outside my door. Now... When I'm done with this patient, I'll call for you. Are we clear?"
The tone in Frechette's voice made it obvious that he would hear no argument on the matter. The orderly sighed. "Yes, sir..."
With nothing further, Frechette turned and walked into his office, closing the door behind him. The two orderlies stood there for a moment, amazed at Dr. Frechette's arrogance. Suddenly one of them turned and flipped his middle finger at the closed door.
Still reluctant to leave, feeling like it was the wrong thing to do, they finally turned away from the door.
"Come on..." one said to the other, and they walked away, heading back to the ward. As they disappeared down the hallway, they left the closed door of Dr. Frechette's office behind them. The hallway became quiet again, Frechette now alone with Faith inside.
Faith was seated in the single chair in front of Frechette's desk, not moving. Instead she was looking around, her eyes slowly scanning the grey, expensively furnished office. It was decorated in dark, almost Wagnerian colors and motifs, slate and steel. She wasn't used to being surrounded with such elegant decor, a stark contrast to the pale sterility of the ward.
Frechette was sitting behind a rather imposing black desk, morning light filling the arched window behind him as he bent forward and wrote some preliminary notes down before the session began, ignoring her. He had some music playing softly on a stereo deck in the background, a simple, mournful piece of delicate piano music.
Going still, Faith listened to the music for a few moments, feeling its melody, taking it in. It moved her, delving deeply in for some unexpected reason. She continued to listen, almost lost in it. Finally she spoke, her voice soft.
"What are you listening to..."
Frechette looked up for only a brief glance, still distracted by what he was writing. "What? Oh... It's Chopin."
As he continued to write, he didn't notice Faith listening to the music, her head tilting to one side. For awhile her face remained expressionless. But then, barely visible, her eyes began to crumble, tears starting to glisten in them. Her voice sounded wounded, like a crushed whisper. "It's sad..." she breathed.
That did make Frechette look up and take notice, pausing in his writing when he heard that. He was surprised by the tears that were almost in her eyes. Considering her for a moment, he tried to judge whether her reaction was genuine, before offering her an empty smile.
"Faith... I hope you're not simply trying to manipulate me into letting my guard down. That's not going to happen. I want these sessions to be profitable for both of us. But I won't play games. Now I had to exert considerable influence to hold these sessions here in my office. But I still know what you're capable of. Don't try to escape. The orderlies are waiting just outside the door."
Without a further bit of concern, he looked down, fully comfortable. Faith looked a little stung by his admonition, wiping her eyes, the tears still there.
Not aware of what she was doing, Faith's hand reached over again, nervously caressing the Cupid heart she had drawn on her arm. Frechette looked up, curious about that mannerism, before asking her a question.
"Why did you write that on your arm, Mary. Some form of defiance? Maybe to prove something? Or maybe because you have to remind yourself of what you're supposed to believe in."
She stared at him blankly. "To remind myself of what I love."
He blinked. "In marker that washes off? Is it because that way... you know it won't be permanent?"
Faith's eyes seemed sad, but there was a spark of certainty in them. "Nothing that exists is permanent, Doctor."
Frechette put down his pen, leaning forward with his elbows on the desk, interlocking his fingers as he gave her a long serious look, thinking hard about her. He finally started the session in a more specific fashion. "Ok... Now listen to me. We're here to work. This isn't meant to be fun, and it won't be. We're not here for laughs. I plan to get to the root of your condition. You're masking something which must have been very painful, Mary. Something none of your other doctors have found. Something you want secret. Something I intend to expose. I think we should start with the center of your construct. So in your own words, I want you to tell me about this religion of yours. This 'faith'. What do you believe in. I want you to tell me how things really are in the world."
She glared at him, defiant. "Why? I know you don't believe me..."
"Then show me I'm wrong..." Frechette leaned back against his chair with a glint in his eye as he issued the challenge. "Go on. You know you want to. To tell me how I'm wrong and you're right. Wipe this smugness off my face. Why don't we start with what you've built everything around. The person you followed around. Who's every move you watched and obsessed over. The man who finally pushed you over the edge. The man you shot. No lies, Mary. No telling me what you assume I want to hear. Tell me what you really believe. And why it's so important that you hold on to those beliefs. Who knows? Maybe you'll even convince me..."
Frechette suddenly grinned smugly. Faith said nothing, her gaze simmering on his and not believing him for a second.
He leaned forward again, his expression hard in the quiet of his office, watching her without warmth.
"So... Tell me why you call yourself Faith. And tell me about... you and Cupid."
"So tell me about you and Cupid." Jaclyn asked with a playful expression..
Claire smiled slightly in response, a definite shine in her eye. "I don't know Cupid. I know Trevor. But I don't know Cupid."
The two women were Taggerty's, talking at a booth in the back. Behind them, an ample late night crowd filled the bar, having a good time. The large room was dim and lively, neon signs glowing over the heads of the crowd as liquor flowed and music thumped. People were dancing as a rock band performed on stage with lights shining brightly down as they played an energetic song.
Jaclyn and Claire were isolated from the throng, seated in their booth by the wall where they had slipped away to talk privately. They had already been there talking for a few minutes, drinks on the table before them as Claire sat across from Jaclyn. But Claire wasn't able to hide the smile on her face, peaking Jaclyn's curiosity. She was smiling even now as Jaclyn waited for an answer to the question she had asked. Claire seemed to have been smiling a lot lately.
"So?" Jaclyn prompted again, now even more eager to know the details behind Claire's smile.
Claire seemed to almost brush away the question,. But as she looked out at the crowd, her face remained unmistakably happy. "I don't know what you are talking about."
"Must be going pretty good between you two, Claire" Considering her, Jaclyn leaned in a little closer, offering a compliment at what she saw. "You look different."
"I do not." Claire protested lightly.
"Oh come on, Claire... You're glowing."
"That's not--" Claire paused, unable to hide the joy in her eyes, the band still playing on stage behind her. "That's--... It's just that the lighting is good in here. That's all..."
"Yeah. And Trevor's your own personal cinematographer. He's got you shining like twelve spotlights are following only you." she teased.
"You're imagining things, Jaclyn." Claire chuckled slightly as she looked down, but even she didn't seem to believe what she had said.
Amused by Claire's obvious denial, Jaclyn shook her head. As she faced Claire, her gaze dropped slightly, and she suddenly noticed something. Jaclyn's lips parted a little, her brow furrowing. "Claire... is that a more low cut top than usual?"
Blinking, Claire glanced down at the generous amount of skin showing down her front. Her fingers made a absent attempt to cover up a little. "Not that I'm aware of..."
"Right..." Jaclyn said softly, obviously not believing her.
Claire sighed, still unconcerned as she exuded contentment and happiness.
"You are different..." Jaclyn noticed quietly, smiling with approval at the change in her. "Trevor looks good on you..."
"Ok... Ok I'm just going to have to tell Jaclyn about it. Tell her upfront. I'll just say I found the bridal magazine, and, and..."
Whispering softly to himself, Champ was pacing nervously back and forth, alone behind the crowded bar. He was surrounded on all sides by people crowded along the railing, none of them paying attention to him. As Champ continued his turn at bartender, he seemed to be doing more pacing than bartending. His steps seemed jittery, restless as he paced anxiously. Champ's shift was almost over and soon he would be walking home with Jaclyn. And he was nervous because deep down, he knew he couldn't put off what he had found in her drawer any longer. He had to get it out in the open. So as he waited to get off work, he was softly talking to himself, trying to build up his courage before his shift ended.
"I've just got to tell her..." He told himself again, not sure he could and speaking softly, pacing as he ignored the festive chaos in the crowd beyond the railing. "There's no other way. We've got to get this out in the open between us."
Champ still felt nervous. As he looked up at the clock again, he felt the minutes slip away. Inside he knew he had to ask Jaclyn about the bridal magazine, ask where she expected their relationship to go. But he didn't know how to do it. Since he had seen the magazine he didn't even know how to act around Jaclyn anymore, wondering if he was giving out too much, or giving out too little. Even now he felt anxious, knowing she was somewhere out there in the crowd, waiting,. Waiting for him to get off work.
Before he realized it, he was pacing again as if trying to somehow buy himself time to think. But his mind remained a jumble, tumbling over his own feelings on the subject. How would Jaclyn know what she felt even he didn't himself? There was a bowl of pecans encased in their shells nearby on the bar. Once again Trevor had ordered the wrong kind of nut. Reaching over, Champ took a pair, a little anxious as he tried to crack two of them together between both of his palms, straining for several attempts. No matter how hard he tried, he just couldn't crack them open. Just like he couldn't crack open what he himself wanted with Jaclyn, or what he was afraid of losing if they didn't want the same things. Champ finally gave up on the nuts. He looked up as the minutes passed on the clock above him, knowing what he had to do.
A hand touched his shoulder. "Hey, Champoo..."
His entire body nearly jumped out of his skin in surprise, sending the unopened nuts flying from his hands. He turned around.
Trevor gave Champ a look as he pulled his hand back, confused by that reaction. He was working behind the bar tonight too. "Hey, what's with you?"
Champ took a breath to settle himself. "Umm, what do you mean?"
Trevor walked past him, still giving Champ a curious look as he started pouring and combining bottles of liquor, filling drink orders for the noisy crowd. "You seem a little jumpy tonight."
"Oh. Well... it's been a long day."
Nodding, Trevor handed out the finished drinks to some guys waiting on the other side of the bar, taking the money they gave him. "Aren't you almost off shift yet?"
Champ looked over at him nervously, before picking up two more nuts in their shells, trying anew to crack them open."Yeah. Few more minutes till I'm free..."
Trevor was looking down as he made another set of drinks. But as he answered the corner of his lip curled up. "Hey. Wish you had closing shift instead of me. Just be grateful that your time's running out..."
Taking the drinks, Trevor passed him again, patting him on the shoulder as he walked away to deliver the drinks to the other side of the bar. Behind him, dread seemed to pass over Champ's face at those words, speaking softly to himself as he stood there. "Yeah. I know..."
Exhaling, he continued trying to crack open the hard pecans.
At their table, Jaclyn exhaled eagerly, pressing her question on Claire again. "So are you going to tell me about you and Trevor or not? How have things been going between you two? Have they been great?"
Claire paused, looking like the elation she hid on her face was almost ready to burst. Then she couldn't hold it in any longer, collapsing slightly as a smile burst across her face, her words a joyous exhalation. "Things are wonderful, Jaclyn."
Jaclyn laughed, pleased. "Ok. Come on. Time to share. Woman to woman. I want a stack of lurid details sitting right here on the table between us. About time for some girl time. Let's talk... 'the relationship'."
Claire blushed, still smiling as she gave in and thought about Trevor. But for a moment she held back, looking over at the noisy crowd dancing in front of the rock band playing on stage. "Maybe we shouldn't Jackie. It's supposed to be a big secret, remember?"
Jaclyn tilted her head, eyes twinkling with amusement. "What, you don't think Champ and Trevor aren't discussing every little thing you've done in pornographic detail over at the bar?"
Amused, Claire pressed her lips together. "Oh somehow I doubt it..."
Jaclyn huffed to the contrary. "You don't think Champ and Trevor talk about you? Men talk. That they're closed up with each other when it comes to relationships is just an old wives's tale. The truth is men talk as deeply about their feelings as women do..."
Champ finally gave up on the nuts, deciding to change the subject. Trevor was passing with more drinks and he calmly stopped him.
"Trevor, been meaning to ask. How's it going between you and Claire. Thing's cool?"
Trevor thought about it, then nodded. "Cool."
"Cool." Champ acknowledged as both men moved off, the conversation over.
Claire continued her detailed description.
"It's like this feeling, feelings I've never felt, Jaclyn. Feelings I've had words for, but never understood until now. These deep emotional, spiritual resonances. That validate everything. Everything we've waited for. Everything we've dreamed of. Trevor's been so perfect. He fulfills me in every way..."
Jaclyn simply sighed at the contentment in Claire's words, cheek resting on her palm as she gazed at her softly, caught up in Claire's narrative, happy for her. "Claire, I'm so ecstatic that it finally happened between you..."
Suddenly Jaclyn's eyebrow lifted a little more suggestively at what Claire had said. "Fulfilled? In every way?"
Jaclyn leaned in closer. "So when fulfillment finally... you know. Fufill. How was he?"
Claire paused, looking almost nervous as she blinked. "What do you mean?"
"You know..." Jaclyn's voice grew playful, twisting a shoulder forward to rest her chin coyly on it, a seductive light in her eyes, teasing. "It's been a few weeks now of hot and heavy. So how was it when you two finally moved on to... the next level?"
Claire's lips parted, her face going still. She glanced over, giving Jaclyn a long, uncertain look as she searched for words.
Finally Trevor forced his response out, reluctantly answering Champ's question, but looking a little embarrassed by it. "Well... Claire and I... We haven't actually... got there yet."
Champ's mouth dropped open like a stone without being aware of it. He was frozen in shock, totally not expecting what Trevor had just said. "You haven't?"
"We haven't." Claire answered, softly touching her neck uncomfortably, looking across the table into Jaclyn's bewildered eyes.
Not knowing what to say, Jaclyn could only blink as she leaned back across from Claire, totally flummoxed. If she had been an alley pin, she would have been bowled over.
"At all?" Champ tried to keep the staggering disbelief out of his voice. He was still attempting to process that information, staring blankly at Trevor as he tried to force the thought into a once certain worldview. Facing away as he poured more drinks, Trevor nodded, trying to smile in good humor at Champ's reaction, but embarrassed though he had expected to see it.
"All right. Laugh it up, fuzz ball..." Trevor said.
Champ stepped closer, still struggling for words, teasing him now. "W-wait. But... I-I don't understand. Let me get this straight. She's a relationship expert. You're Mr. Love Omniscient. Yet you and Claire haven't--"
Champ gestured his hands helplessly through mid-air.
"Nope." Trevor finally admitted, still making drinks. "Not even a drive by."
"Existence as I knew it no longer has meaning..." Champ leaned back on a wooden support pillar nearby, honestly stunned again, still searching for words. "But... I mean you're physically able to, right?"
Without turning from his drinks, Trevor reached up without looking to immediately slap him hard across the cheek at the mere suggestion, before going smoothly back to making drinks and not losing a beat.
Champ blinked at the unexpected rebuke, caught off guard. "Guess I'll take that as a whopping yes..."
Jaclyn still couldn't believe what she knew she had heard. "Wow, Claire. I thought you--... I mean, I assumed by now that--... Wow, Claire."
Claire took a sip of her drink, definitely sharing the sentiment. "Yeah... Welcome to where I already am, Jaclyn."
Leaning forward, Jaclyn lowered her voice. "But why haven't you?"
Claire looked uncomfortable again. "Well... It's been tough. Hard giving in."
"You two have never been easy." Jaclyn pressed her question. "I know you both want to, Claire. Herds during mating season have given off less pheromones for each other. Why have you held back? I mean, don't you feel it?"
Thinking about Trevor, Claire's face seemed to heat with sudden desire. Her skin flushed, her eyes dilated as if she were looking into a flame. She laughed, almost growling at what simmered inside her. "Jackie, I see Trevor... And my heart races. My blood burns. And all I want to think about, all I want to do is to rip off all our clothes and just tackle him right there... I want him so badly that I think I'm--"
"--going crazy, Champoo. I could go crazy from this!"
Champ smiled. "Now there's a contradiction in terms."
Trevor ignored him, pacing behind the bar as he tried to explain the raging desires Claire churned inside him. "Champ, there's this fire she puts inside my--" He looked down "... ok, chest. I've never felt this way before. I want to touch her all the time. You have no idea. I want to taste her lips again, taste her kiss on mine, and--" Trevor's steps quickened, pacing even faster second by second and groaning in frustration. Noticing, Champ slowly lifted his eyes. He watched as Trevor grew more and more frantic, motioning with his arms as he explained it desperately to Champ.
"But-But we keep getting stopped! Or interrupted! Or--.. Or the time isn't right! Or the moon isn't aligned--"
Trevor was pacing back and forth even faster. "And then! THEN there are fathers showing up. Or some-some guy URINATING beside us! Then sprinklers! And alarms! And and whoosh! Lights blinking! Noise blaring! Water, water everywhere!!"
Champ finally reached out, stopping him as Trevor started to lose it. "Ok. Ok, I get it Caffeine boy."
Across the table, Jaclyn's brow furrowed, trying to take in what Claire was saying. "But I still don't understand. What's been so hard about making the situation right?"
"I don't know." Moaning, Claire rubbed her forehead wearily. "I wish I did. But what I do know is that all this pent up, burning hot frustration is just making me--"
"--horny enough to make a minotaur blush from a size complex!" Trevor was still pacing as he explained to Champ, somewhat calmer now. Listening, they were both still behind the bar. Champ had returned to trying to crush two pecans open between his palms again.
"God, these things are hard as steel, Trevor! That's the last time I let you order for the bar. They're supposed to be peanuts, Trevor. PEA-nuts. Not pecans. No one can eat these. Little ironic, since I figured you'd be the expert on nuts." Champ was still struggling to crack one open.
Reaching out, Trevor snatched one of them out of Champ's grasp. With almost no effort, he cracked it open in the closed palm of one hand before giving it back, going back to his pacing again. "Ok. Like I was saying, I've been horny enough to--"
Holding the open pecan, Champ looked over at him still babbling away, amazed at how easily Trevor had done that, thinking about it.
"Trevor, how did you get your hands strong enough to--"After a moment, Champ shook his head. "Ok. I don't want to know..."
Trevor grabbed another walnut for himself, cracking it effortlessly open in one hand again before popping the meaty parts into his mouth, chewing, looking just as nervous as Champ had earlier. "Champoo, if this keeps up much longer, my arm muscles are finally going to-- And grow up! I know what your dirty mind is thinking, and I'm not even going to acknowledge something so childish and--"
Suddenly Trevor stopped, blinking, looking into thin air. Turning his head from side to side, he reached out, clawing at nothing, hamming it up as he fumbled around. "Wait... Oh no. I'm blind! I'm blind, I can't see! Oh crap, the nuns were right!"
"Claire..." Still sitting across the table from her in the booth, Jaclyn suddenly seemed reluctant to bring up her own suspicions. "Claire, maybe the right situation isn't the problem. Maybe the problem's not a place at all. Maybe it's you and Trevor."
Claire blinked at the suggestion. "Meaning?"
Standing with Trevor behind the bar, Champ shrugged. "Meaning how hard is it to find a decent hotel room."
Disagreeing, Trevor shook his head, already handing out more drinks to customers as he tried to calm himself.
"No, it's not like that. Claire and I just--"
"--want it to be special." Claire finished, still seeing the doubt in Jaclyn's eyes.
Jaclyn didn't seem to buy it as she answered back. "And it wouldn't be 'special' regardless? It's not about finding some elusive, perfect place, Claire. There are tons of romantic hotel rooms in Chicago. Places that are beautiful, discreet... Maybe it's not a place. Maybe it's that neither of you are ready."
Trevor laughed at that.
"Totally ridiculous, man."
Champ didn't budge, crossing his arms. "Is it?"
"Hey, I was born ready. Says so on the job scroll." Trevor nodded confidently, standing behind the bar, in his element, totally certain. Then he paused, not as certain. "What do you mean by ready?"
"Well..." Champ looked away, his eyes seeming to grow distant. Suddenly he was thinking about Jaclyn, his mind flashing with images of her in a bridal dress. "Now that you two have reached this point. Now that you're finally there, maybe you're just afraid..."
Trevor huffed the thought away, shaking his head. "Afraid? Afraid of what. We love each other. Amarie omnia vincent. Happy ending and all that. What could we be afraid of?"
"That you love each other..." Champ answered simply. He tried to keep his voice from wavering with his own concerns. "That now there's somebody in your life who you can hurt. And who can hurt you back. Might make someone scared of the future. Of all you have to lose now..."
Claire looked down at that suggestion.
"I don't know, Jaclyn..." She considered what Jaclyn had said, not necessarily agreeing but allowing herself to consider it. "I don't know. Maybe we are afraid... I mean this could change everything. And once it's done, it's done. You can't take it back. It could alter our relationship, change everything we have together."
"Love changes, Claire. It's never the same from day to day." Jaclyn leaned slowly forward over the table, her voice comforting, but with absolute certainty in her eyes. "Love changes all the time. It's when it still stays anyway, that you know it's love..."
Claire thought about that for a moment.
Trevor exhaled, tossing the thought away. "Champ, it's not change we're afraid of. That's just not it."
Champ raised his eyebrow. "Really? How are things right now. You're both supposed to keep this deep dark secret. Only Jaclyn and I know about it. Look at Claire sitting over there talking with her. In a minute or two, Jaclyn and I will leave, and Claire will be sitting there alone with only her secret for company. How long do you think that'll last? Is she going to sit alone every Friday night out in public for the rest of her life to keep that secret? Maybe that's what you're really afraid of..."
Trevor shook his head, curious at Champ's suddenly negative outlook. "She won't be alone..."
Champ sighed. "If you really believed that, then why haven't you two notched up several continental forests worth of headboards by now?"
Trevor's lips parted, searching for an answer, but finding none. Trying to cover up, he sputtered. "Well I... I'm still hung up on that whole no sex with mortals clause. Remember?"
Champ smiled, seeing through it. "I know you, Trevor. That's crap and you know it. It's been awhile since you gave a damn about what the gods think where Claire's involved."
Trevor sighed, his voice a little uncertain."Don't be so sure..."
Looking at him, Champ stepped closer. "Trevor, it's not the gods you're afraid of."
Trevor didn't deny it. "Then what?"
"You're afraid of the same thing everyone's afraid of. Claire's afraid of it too. Crossing some inerasable line of no return that you can't fix if it goes bad. That scares you to death. Because things could be so different after... and would be." Champ looked away, picturing Jaclyn again. "A commitment like that, to a relationship you've invested yourself in. Something you've held on to for so long that you're petrified of losing it. Or doing the wrong things. So you end up not knowing what to do. You don't know where to go, or if you should just see it through, or if you should just specifically ask her about it. Sometimes you just feel like giving up... Face it. We're talking really big step her..." Champ realized what he had just said, correcting himself. "Wait... I meant 'here'. Not 'her'. Here. "
Trevor's brow furrowed as he listened, wondering where Champ's words were coming from. Champ wasn't looking at him, staring down as if he had been talking to himself.
Trevor blinked. "Stretching sort of far to make a point there, Mr. Terrace..."
"Maybe. Maybe I am stretching, Jaclyn." Claire couldn't hide the worry in her eyes now. She finally said what was bothering her as she lowered her gaze and spoke softly, the bar noisy in the distance as the rock band played. "Maybe I'm afraid Trevor will end up... resenting me."
Jaclyn leaned back. "What?"
"Think about it, Jaclyn. What would Trevor be giving up for me? His immortality?" She looked over at Jaclyn as they sat in the booth, unable to keep the concern from her eyes.
Jaclyn seemed surprised at that. "I thought you didn't believe in that."
Claire sighed. "I don't. But I don't have to. Because Trevor does. Even if he doesn't talk about it. How's it supposed to work between two people with such radically different views? Being with me, challenges everything Trevor believes in. Someday, when Trevor has to confront his mortality, or even my mortality, he's going to have to face the real possibility that he never was a god. That he was always a simple human being after all. But what if he doesn't? What if he can't? What if, years down the road, he ends up thinking I'm the reason he lost his immortality? What if he holds it against me?"
"Trevor loves you, Claire. He'd never--"
"No. He wouldn't. Not in any way that he's aware of. But he believes it, Jaclyn. Down to the bone. You know that. He'll always believe he's Cupid, or WAS Cupid. And there are plenty of hidden places inside a person for resentment to fester. What if someday he realizes that for one brief moment, he felt abandoned. Pissed off at the gods. So he gave in to us being together and threw it all away in some stupid act of defiance."
"Claire..." Jaclyn grabbed Claire's hand across the table top, her voice more forceful. "I hate to say this, but you're being incredibly stupid right now. You've found something precious. Something precious with Trevor. Something people search and hope for all their lives and never find. Don't get all icy toed on me just because you're suddenly aware it means something. Claire, you lost Trevor once. But now you have a second chance. Don't... dare... give it up."
Claire looked up from the table, thinking about it.
Jaclyn sighed. "Look, I gotta go. Goodnight, Claire... Don't worry so much, that's all. Trust yourself. Trust each other..."
Claire remained seated there, staring blankly over the crowd as the band on stage continued to play.
Champ was staring blankly ahead too, his mind working.
Standing beside him behind the bar, Trevor waved his hands across Champ's gaze, trying to bring him down to earth. "Ground control to Major Tom! Oh Champoo! Hello! Is there anybody in there?"
Champ blinked, pushing his thoughts away. "Sorry, Trevor. My mind wandered..."
"Where did it go, I wonder?" Ignoring more people calling for drinks, Trevor continued to look at him.
"Nowhere..." Champ lowered his eyes. "Trevor, it's not such a stupid idea. What if you offer yourself to her, and you don't rock her world. What if you're less than.. God-like together."
Trevor smiled, bragging. "Oh I'm always godlike. Sort of the way I was built. Have you seen this butt?"
Champ smiled, but his eyes were serious. "Can gods make mistakes, Trevor? What if in the end, you're only hurting her. Not thinking about what she wants. All the expectations she had for her life, that you can't live up to. Who knows, maybe things are just going too fast. Both of you jumping in before you have a chance to breathe, or to think about it. Sometime's it's better to go slow, think things through. To make sure. Especially if it prevents you from hurting someone you love. Or avoid getting into something that will never work out. Trevor I-- ... I don't know. I guess the only advice I can give you is to talk with her about it..."
There was a certainty in Champ's eyes now, as if finally realizing something himself. "Talk with Claire, Trevor. I know you've both waited so long, but you got to know for sure it's right. A person's heart isn't something you just play around with. Either accept something that's real, or let her go and move on...
Trevor looked away, thinking.
Suddenly Jaclyn was there by the railing, leaning forward from the crowd. With a big smile, she angled towards them over the bar, happy to see Champ.
"Hey you.." Her eyes sparkled at him, her words soft and tender.
"Hey..." Champ smiled back. He still felt nervous about what he had to ask her about, but somehow it all seemed to fade a little at the mere sight of her. He was ready to confront this. "Hey, beautiful..."
Jaclyn's skin tingled at the compliment. She lifted an eyebrow at him seductively, eager to leave with him. "You're shift's up..."
Turning, Champ looked up at the clock behind him. He felt more confident, looking back at her. "So it is..."
Resolve settled onto his face as he began to undo his apron. Jaclyn slipped around the edge of the bar while he wasn't watching, falling into his arms with a giggle, catching him by surprise. Champ laughed with her, not minding at all as he held her body close, looking down at her gratefully. Then, before he knew it, Jaclyn was warmly kissing him, not wanting to wait, instantly taking his breath away like she always did.
Standing beside them, Trevor didn't seem to notice their long simmering kiss, his mind still working over what Champ had suggested. He absently reached out and took a pecan from the bowl, cracking it open with one hand and slowly eating the inside, thinking. Questions and concerns about him and Claire tumbled through his mind.
"Sometime's love's a tough nut to crack..." he said absently to himself.
Beside him, Champ pulled out of Jaclyn's kiss with a contented sigh, swimming in the afterglow of the heated touch of her lips, overriding his lingering doubts. Jaclyn kept her arms around the back of his neck, looking up at him lovingly. All Champ knew was that he felt better in her arms, despite knowing what he had to talk to her about.
"Wanna get out of here?" Jaclyn asked him hopefully.
"Yeah. Yeah I do. Let's get out of here. And Jaclyn..." Champ exhaled, a new certainty in his gaze. "There's something that I've been meaning to ask you about."
"Not here..." Champ looked into her beautiful brown eyes, touching the side of her face. "We can talk about it on the way home."
Angling her head slightly , Jaclyn wondered what he meant. But it didn't seem to worry her, the light still in her eyes, giving him a small smile. "Ok..."
They both walked out from behind the bar, Champ still in Jaclyn's arms. "See you, Trevor," he said over to him.
"Yeah." Not really listening, Trevor stared blankly ahead, chewing slowly. He kept thinking about what Champ had brought up, about whether there was any real future between him and Claire. Would their relationship just end up causing her pain in the end? Inside, he knew that was his biggest fear. Was inevitable heartbreak all that he had to offer her? Suddenly Jaclyn was beside him again, having slipped out of Champ's arms just long enough to whisper something into Trevor's ear.
"Claire look's kind of lonely over there..." she prodded him happily, trying to encourage him over to her with a happy look. Without another word she went back to Champ, both of them finally leaving.
Trevor looked up, spotting Claire sitting alone across the bar, isolated. Suddenly he saw Jaclyn's words in a different light.
"Yes she does..." he admitted sadly.
Outside of Taggerty's, the night air held a slight chill, crisp as it hovered under a deep, vibrant, star speckled velvet sky that was just visible above the shadows of the buildings all around. At set intervals, streetlamps gleamed brightly overhead like some sort of nearer stars, their shining row of lights spilling down onto the darkened sidewalk below where Champ and Jaclyn were walking home, still in each other's arms.
The two of them were alone in the tranquil surroundings, quiet and introspective as they passed beneath each streetlamp, moving slowly along the sidewalk. In the distance far behind them, the noise and colored lights of Taggerty's began to grow fainter, receding. Jaclyn's smaller shape was walking in front of Champ, smiling as she held onto his arms as he walked behind her, draped over her shoulders to warm her from the chill. Their steps were slow. Around them the still air whispered gently with the faint sounds of distant traffic.
Neither seemed in any hurry to get home, enjoying their private time together. Jaclyn sighed contently, enjoying Champ near, enjoying how tenderly he was holding her. Behind her, Champ was relishing the quiet moment too. But walking where she couldn't see, his face was slowly growing more and more nervous again, knowing that now there were no more excuses stopping him from asking Jaclyn what he knew he had to ask her about.
"Love's a hard thing to figure out sometimes..." Jaclyn finally said softly, looking down.
Champ tensed a little in surprise, wondering for a moment is she had somehow guessed what he was thinking. "What?"
She slipped out of his arms, stopping them under the glow of a streetlight. Turning, she held his hands between hers, looking up into his eyes. "Love," she explained. "It gets complicated sometimes. Giving in to that next step. Looking for what you want. Even when it's already right there in front of you. Both waiting, trying to find what they both already know they have..."
Champ pulled back, even more nervous now. "Who?"
Jaclyn smiled. "Trevor and Claire..."
He flashed her a relieved smile. "Oh... Trevor and Claire. Right..."
Looking down, Jaclyn began to rub her thumbs across the back of his hands, still holding them. "I can't believe how far they've come and they still can't finally give themselves to each other. They're still so cautious about it."
"Yeah..." Champ chuckled self consciously, looking away. "Nothing's worse than cold feet..."
"Not like you and me." Jaclyn smiled, agreeing with him. Looking up at him, there was a happiness in her eyes. "So what did you want to talk to me about?"
Champ went still. "Huh..."
"Back at the bar. Before we left..." Jaclyn stepped in closer, her body pressed flirtatiously up against his, making his entire body feel electrified in response. As Champ looked down at her, he had never seen her look more beautiful, more happy.
She asked again, reminding him. "You mentioned that you needed to talk to me about something."
"Oh. That. I... I don't remember." He lied.
"Really? You made it sound important."
"Hmm... Well, whatever it was, it can wait." Champ slid her around in front of him again as he draped himself over her shoulders, both starting to walk once more down the dim sidewalk while he held her. He loved the feel of her body pressed up against his. They passed out of the glow of a streetlight and into softer shadows. Champ suddenly realized how much he didn't want to lose that. He didn't want to lose her. It made him afraid of bringing the bridal magazine up at all, answering her. "I'm sure it wasn't important anyway..."
Both of them were looking forward, and they suddenly noticed a pale glow rising above the dark outlines of the buildings around them. As they moved, more of the glow slid into view, brighter and brighter. Finally what was causing it appeared, a beautiful, nearly full moon slipped into the open, large and breathtaking as it rose higher.
Jaclyn smiled at the romantic sight hovering in the sky, shining down on them, lighting their faces with a pale glow. "Look at that. A full moon..."
Champ held her tighter. "Yeah..."
"It's beautiful. Looks almost close enough to touch."
"Sometimes.." He turned Jaclyn towards him, looking at her. "And sometimes it doesn't..."
She smiled. "You realize that in a few days it will be lunar perigee?"
"The closest the moon comes in years. The closest," she pressed her body against his, "two objects come together..."
Reaching up to pull his chin down to hers, Jaclyn kissed him tenderly. Not questioning it, he kissed her back. Champ squeezed his eyes shut, trying to relish that one place in time as he held her tight. And the longer he spent in her kiss, the more his worries fell away from him, temporarily forgotten, concentrating only on her lips on him. Her kiss meant everything. She meant everything. Nothing else mattered. Even if he couldn't answer that unasked question yet. For now... everything else could wait.
They stood together on the sidewalk as they kissed, a couple in love under the light of a streetlamp. Illuminated against the shadows behind them, they held each other tenderly. Jaclyn and Champ gently caressed each other's faces as they continued to kiss, not stopping. The world seemed tranquil around them, and for a moment they seemed to all appearances to be just another couple desperately in love.
She's... so fine.
She grows in their minds...
An acoustic guitar played, strumming softly, and the crowd inside of Taggerty's quieted.
She's... so fine.
She grows in their minds...
Suddenly the band up on stage played louder, going into a quicker cadence. The lead vocalist was standing in front of the microphone as they moved into the mid tempo song, singing to the crowd as colored stage lights flashed down on the band while they played, the drummer beating out a steady rhythm in the back.
They look into her eyes
and feel so surprised as
she crawls under their skin
they're ready to die for
the miracle in July...
Behind the bar, Trevor wasn't listening to the music, thinking only of Claire as he ignored the revelry of the crowd encircling him. He had a concerned look on his face, just one sole solitary figure in the empty space behind the bar as he whispered to himself, deep in thought.
"That's ridiculous. I love Claire.I could never hurt her..." Then he suddenly seemed less certain. "But what if being with me is asking her for more than she should give? Shouldn't Claire be with someone... who the world doesn't see as some crazy mental case?"
Lifting his gaze, Trevor spotted her again, sitting alone at her booth in the crowd as they all danced and laughed. He couldn't keep his eyes from her, seeing her there alone. And as he watched her, the rest of the people in the room seemed to fall away, seeing only her. She didn't realize he was looking at her. Claire seemed so separated in that moment, not joining the crowd, not moving from her spot. Merely watching everyone else have a good time in her solitude.
"She shouldn't have to sit alone." Trevor whispered. "Is she going to sit alone all her life, keeping the love we feel a secret? No one with her, out in the open, always alone in a crowd."
Face growing sadder, Trevor looked away. "Claire deserves better... Better than I can give her. Better than some crazy outpatient or fallen god. Better than me..."
His face fell at the realization, considering something. "Maybe I am just hurting her in the end..."
Suddenly Allison appeared out of the boisterous crowd. It showed no signs of letting up as the band continued to play loudly from the stage. She joined Trevor behind the bar, putting on a drink apron as she started her late bartending shift with him. The young, alluring blond was wearing a simple t-shirt that emphasized several eye catching curves on her body as she wrapped the drink apron around her waist. Her top was cut low in all the right places, her jeans emphasized the enticing curve of her hips. But Allison always looked like that. Sensuality just naturally oozed from her. She looked up at Trevor standing there distracted.
"Hey, Trevor." Allison offered with a smile, tying off her apron. "Champ leave already?"
"Yeah..." Trevor wasn't looking at her, barely seemed to notice she had spoken at all.
"Oh..." Allison glanced down, disappointed. But then there was an appreciative glint in her eyes, growing confident, stepping closer to him. "Well, that's good anyway. I've really been wanting to get you alone. You're not over at our apartment much anymore, Roomie. I need your help with something."
"Uh huh," Trevor spoke in a by rote way, as he watched Claire sitting there alone.
Allison continued, looking like she was a little embarrassed, but still assertive. "Help of a Cupid variety. I want something. Something I think you can give me."
"Great.." His tone hadn't changed, staring across the bar.
Allison took a slow, seductive step closer, looking at him. "I didn't want to mention it, but... See, there's this guy I'm interested in. And I know I shouldn't be, because he's hung up on someone else. But me and this guy.. we used to spend a lot of time together. We used to have a lot of fun. But he's never around much anymore. I've tried to get over... this guy. You know, move on. But I can't. And it seems no matter how hard I flirt with him, I can't get him to notice me."
Her brown eyes watched him, waiting for a response, before continuing when there wasn't one. "That's when I realized that I should come straight to the solution to my problem. To you."
Trevor's mind was still on someone else across the bar, answering half heartedly. "Yeah... What for..."
"Well, you're Cupid, right? This guy I like, but shouldn't like. You help with things like that. Legend even has it, you can fix up anyone with anyone. No matter who-" she stepped slightly closer, lowering her voice for him. "--that anyone might be..."
Coming out of his fog for a brief moment, Trevor looked over at her. "Allison... You're beautiful. You're hot. What's the problem?"
"Well this loveable guy... I work with him. Could say I'm crazy about him. But like I said, he's sorta with someone else. Something I know will never work out. They're all wrong for each other. But I'm not. I know it, if he would just notice me. Look, I've kept my distance until now. Well, sorta... I've never acted on it..." Allison raised her eyes to him. "So he doesn't know how I feel. Lately I've been trying to send him all the signals, but usually he just ignores them. Like I'm not even there."
"How nice for you..." Trevor was still thinking to himself.
"Trevor..." Reaching out, Allison gently touched his arm to get his attention. "Have you heard a word I've said?"
"What?" He finally seemed to come out of it, catching up with their conversation, focusing briefly on her. "Oh. Right. Craziness. Signals. What's the problem. Jump him already."
Allison looked at him softly. "Trevor, the situation isn't quiet that simple."
He didn't buy it. "Except if you look right at it."
"It's complicated." Allison looked away. "He's a friend, he doesn't seem to know how I feel. I'm scared about risking what we have together."
He blinked at her words, echoing his own. "Doesn't seem to make as much sense when you say it.."
She kept on, almost to herself now. "Not to mention this someone he's with. Or wants to be with. Everything's telling me I should back off and not tell--" She stopped herself. "... this guy, anything about it."
Only half listening, Trevor suddenly blinked at how foolish she sounded. Surprised, he looked back at her. "Allison, you have two options. Go with the risk or move on. Simple as that..."
She stepped closer. "Exactly. Take the risk. I mean, what if this guy's the one? I shouldn't let it slide, right? Going through the rest of my life not knowing. Regretting that I didn't speak up. What if this someone is the someone I'm meant to be with?"
"Meant to be with..." Trevor's voice was a whisper, her words striking a chord in him, making him look across to Claire. "Then... let him know."
Allison blinked. "Even if his eyes are already somewhere else?
"Even if. You can't be afraid of how your heart feels. And telling him is the only way to know for sure..." His face changed, no longer as uncertain of him and Claire. "How could I have doubted that..."
She sighed, grateful he seemed to agree. "But tell him how?"
Trevor grinned. "Nudity usually works."
She smiled back. "Actually I was hoping for something a little more subtle this time. Seems he's kind of stubborn," she teased.
He laughed at that. "Subtle is only a another way to spell surrender."
"Ok, Trevor. How should I approach this? Speaking from a man's point of view ,I mean."
"Speaking from a man's point of view, men are easy, Allison. Doesn't have to be brilliant. Even POST-ITS would work. Depending on what parts of your body you post them on."
Nodding, Allison blushed. "I'll gladly partake of your expert wisdom, Trevor. I could really use your opinion on this. For example... If I were to, oh I don't know, touch his arm--" Slowly she ran her fingers gently across his skin. "Would he finally get the hint?"
"Touching's good..." Trevor didn't even react to her, gazing over at Claire instead. "Beats sitting alone. Especially when there's something you can do about it."
Pulling her hand back, Allison had to turn from him reluctantly, called away as more people yelled out drink orders.
Trevor was still watching Claire. He was suddenly struck by how beautiful she was to him, and how much he loved her, watching her as his fears continued to thaw.
Suddenly it was as if she knew. As he watched her, Claire looked over at him at the bar, her eyes catching his and hanging on to them. She smiled at him as they looked at each other across that space, a warmth filling them. Trevor's eyes didn't leave her, smiling back.
The band on stage continued to play loudly, and the lead singer's voice rang out over the bar. As Trevor watched Claire watching him, that warmth continue to fill him, and he listened to the music.
She speaks no words, but know what she says
just by looking into her eyes
It's just a god given gift, that they instantly get
just by looking into her eyes
Trevor looked down at a pecan he was holding, uncracked in his hand. He closed his fist and cracked it open with little effort, looking at it with a pleased expression.
"Maybe love isn't so hard to crack after all. People just let it get that way when they listen to their fears instead of their hearts."
On stage the band continued to play loudly.
You don't have to wait for her no longer
You don't have to wait for her no more
Out of nowhere Trevor smiled, happiness in his eyes, talking to himself. "I can't believe how stupid I've been..."
Not paying attention, Allison couldn't hear what he said behind her as she handed out more drinks."Huh?"
"Nothing." Trevor's eyes glittered with certainty. He looked at Claire as the band finished the song and the crowd filling the room applauded. Grabbing the bowl of pecans from on top of the bar, he stepped away.
Allison still hadn't noticed, facing away from him. "I could really use your help with my problem, Trevor You're exactly what I want. A god of love. Even if it seems you're a god of love who's been distracted lately. No offense, but you used to breathe Cupid every second of every day. But recently, it seems I turn around and you're never--"
Finished her with her orders, Allison turned hopefully around to face him, but she pulled up short when she realized Trevor was gone.
"--there." she finished, her voice disappointed. Around her, more drink orders continued to pour in, and since she was now the only one behind the bar, she set about making them. Smiling brightly, she listened to an attractive man tell her what he needed her to make. But her smile was only on the surface, thinking of Trevor, deciding to clear it all up with him later.
The room was a little quieter, except for the hum of the crowd. On stage, the lead singer of the band stepped up to the microphone again. Suddenly the music started up, and a slow rock ballad began to play, guitars strumming, drums beating slow, a song filled with longing as the lead singer began to sing.
Last night I woke, lost scared and soaked in sweat
I lay in bed, still falling from a rooftop
Claire watched the band from her seat in the booth. Slowly her eyes slid to the quieting crowd as two by two they joined on the dance floor. People began to pair off under the dim lighting, as the music softened. Everyone slipped into someone else's arms, and they started gently swaying to the soft, romantic music.
As the lush song grew louder, filling the room, Claire's eyes suddenly became sad, watching everyone else, feeling left out. She wrapped her arms around her body as she became highly aware that she was sitting by herself. Slowly, more of the lights continued to change overhead, shifting to softer hues, the air growing more romantic. Out of nowhere, a nearby light flared bright above, shining down on her sitting there alone, surprising her. She looked around, self conscious under it's revealing beam. Then suddenly a shadow stepped into the glow, outlined against it's light. Trevor was standing there beside her table, smiling gently down at her. Claire's face lit up when she saw him, a softness in their shared gazes, both happy he was there.
Trevor playfully extended his arm to her, offering her a bowl.
Claire's smile widened, taking the bowl of pecans and setting them on her table. "Sometimes I wonder..." she answered.
Trevor looked her over, noticing the same thing Jaclyn had noticed earlier about how she was dressed, clearly impressed. "Wow, Claire... Looks like someone just got booted from Club Skanky..."
She gave him a wry look. "Gee, thanks Trevor."
"No, that was actually a compliment. That outfit suddenly gives new meaning to America's Most Wanted. So tell me, Claire Allen. How is it that a hot, beautiful, accomplished semi famous couples therapist like yourself is sitting alone on a Friday night?"
She smiled. "The gods can be cruel, I guess..."
He nodded, his eyes sparkling. "Yes. Yes they can be... Absolutely. Especially when there's something that they don't like people doing. Then on the other hand... what do they know."
Claire laughed to herself, her eyes lingering on his. The lush song still played behind them. Trevor turned and looked over at all the dancing couples. Then he turned back to her and offered her his empty hand, waiting.
"So Claire Allen. Are we sitting this one out?"
Surprised at the offer, Claire looked up at him, feeling a little uncertain. She looked over at all the people in the bar, all the people who would be watching them. But the more she thought about it, the more she didn't care. Her fears fell away, resolve settling onto her face, smiling up at him as she answered.
"No, Trevor. We're not..."
Carefully, she reached out, clutching his offered hand, wrapping it warmly in hers, holding tight and not letting go.
The song grew louder. The lead singer belted out lyrics as the music swelled.
Although there's light, redemption seems so distant.
Claire rose up from her seat, standing. Her hand was still in Trevor's as she looked into his eyes. Trevor led her silently, past the tables, out of the forgotten periphery, past the seated spectators who weren't dancing, and out under the soft lights of the dance floor, the center of attention. Their steps were slow, subtle and unrushed as she followed, moving towards a spot in the center, all the while gently watching each other under the soft light. A thrill passed through Claire, holding Trevor's hand, surrounded by so many people. But for once, she didn't care, giving in to the feel of his hand touching hers, following him without question.
They stopped together in the softly lit center of the floor, surrounded by the lush sounds flowing from the stage, and by the many couples swaying to the slow rock song, filling up the space. Except where Trevor and Claire were. They were in a space all their own.
Trevor quickly took off his apron and tossed it away, not watching as it landed on the head of some unsuspecting patron. Turning back towards her, he offered her his arms.
Claire paused, tilting her head. Exhaling softly, she gathered her courage and stepped. Quietly she moved forward, slipping into Trevor's tender embrace. They both joined easily, like it was the most natural thing in the world, pressing their bodies close, her arms sliding up onto his shoulders, his hand moving down to her hip, contacting, tender and pure. And before they knew what was happening, they had closed their eyes and they were moving, swaying to the lush music from the stage.
Enchant me with the courage to believe
won't you grant me, all the wisdom that I need...
The room itself seemed to turn, filled with the song. Lights glowed down above them, shining softly as the music rose and swelled. Her cheek slowly nestled in next to Trevor's, her face over his shoulder. With a small contented smile, nothing else seemed to matter to her, everything else seeming to slide by on the periphery of the two of them together, lost to what they felt. Claire closed her eyes, relishing the feel of Trevor near. The air seemed alive, her skin almost tingling against it as his body touched hers, and the music flowed through her.
Trevor whispered softly into her ear. "We haven't done this in awhile, Claire. Aren't you worried we'll be seen?"
Still swaying in his careful embrace, Claire smiled again over his shoulder. "It's just a dance, Trevor. Totally innocent."
His hand shifted slightly, pausingagain, resting softly on her hip. "Oh, of course... Did you know I honey glaze my tongue?"
Claire pressed her body closer, ignoring the joke, unable to help it as she fell even deeper in to him. Her cheek gently grazed along his as they pressed softly together, touching. Electricity tingled through her, watching the room slowly orbit around them, before Claire closed her eyes, feeling Trevor near.
Trevor sighed contently. "It's been sugested to me that maybe it would be better for us to go slow..."
She smiled. "I just want to go fast..."
The music paused for a moment, going quiet, before a single falling drum beat brought it back in even louder.
I'm still trying to get
Closer to who I am, who am I?
Trevor sighed, not wanting to stop. "You're right, Claire. What could anyone say? Nothing wrong with a simple dance. And you're... definitely dancing with me again."
Claire paused, pulling her face back to look tenderly into his eyes. Her voice was soft, absolutely certain, remembering the last time. "Trevor, I never stopped..."
They shared a quiet gaze, the music flowing over them, drinking each other in, just the two of them as they held each other close. Realizing they were motionless in the middle of all the dancing couples, they started swaying again, her face nestling once more beside his.
The crowded room seemed to circle vibrantly around them. They were alone in their own space, as everything else seemed to recede and fall away to spin slowly past behind them, the lights bright above, the background moving gently sideways in the distance, a blur of color and motion.
Her face was touching his. His mouth hovered by her ear. And then in a soft voice, he began to sing to her under the music, where only she could hear him, a song just for her.
"My Claire-ee amore, lovely as a summer day,
my Claire-ee amore, distant as the Milky Way..."
Claire stifled a laugh, her eyes sparkling, smiling as Trevor sung into her ear. He felt her shoulders laugh. But with a smile he continued to softly sing for her, whispering into her ear.
"My Claire-ee amore', pretty little girl that I adore,
you're the only girl my heart beats for,
how I wish that you were mine..."
Separated, isolated in their own private space, Trevor and Claire continued to sway in the middle of the crowded dance floor at Taggerty's, as above the lights slowly changed colors. The music continued to play from the band on stage, lush and full, coming to a final crescendo.
And grant me,all the wisdom that I need
and enchant me, with the courage to be free
to be free...
The entire scene seemed to exude contentment, all the dancing couples swaying with Trevor and Claire in the center, Then the room began to slowly to fall back and grow more distant. Gently the music and the lights softly faded away to nothing, as outside a soft, beautiful moon glowed down on everything from a serene sky.
Dr Frechette and Faith were in session again, closed off from the outside world, shut away inside his office.
The balding man looked down, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose as he tried to hide the frustration he was feeling. Outwardly, he made an effort to keep his face as unconcerned as possible. But the truth was he felt exhausted. Exhausted from this session, and all his fruitless questioning of Faith. It had been a long day, and he had gotten nowhere.
For her part, Faith merely remained silent. She was sitting in a chair before his desk, looking small and uncompromising. She glared at Dr. Frechette with the same cold stare she had offered him since the first day they had started these sessions. But she maintained one seemingly nervous mannerism. Faith would occasionally rub the freshly scrubbed and washed patch of pale skin where she had consistently written Trevor's name inside a heart on her arm, like she always did. But now, the orderlies made certain to wash it off before bringing her every time, per Dr. Frechette's orders. But to her, it was always there, regardless of what anyone else did.
Beyond that, Faith remained simply defiant to the older man's questions. Hour after hour, session after session, she had seemed like a stone under a barrage of cold rain, unchanged and resolute, as if no time had passed at all.
Frechette exhaled, looking up into her implacable expression. Considering how little progress he had made, he could almost believe that time had stopped. He dropped his gaze down to the paltry accumulation of notes he had written so far. He had learned a little, had suspicions about more, but not nearly enough for anything approaching a breakthrough. In some ways, it was because Faith was too aware of what he was trying as he and his questions searched for various avenues through her defenses. He knew that Faith saw them too, judging his intent, closing each angle he attempted. It had resulted in an endless deadlock. But that still hadn't stopped Dr. Frechette from having his suspicions about where the root cause of her condition lay. Trevor represented something to her beyond the god of love. He knew it. So he constantly used those suspicions, chipping away at her stony exterior, trying to break down her armor by pushing various ever changing theories forward as they switched and rotated through his mind.
Frechette's face was just as hard as hers when he watched her. She was glaring at him again. He started into yet another new approach. "Mary..."
"Don't call me that."
Frechette blinked. Her voice had almost sounded bitter for a moment. "So. It seems you do still have the ability to speak. And I was beginning to wonder... Why shouldn't I call you Mary? It is your name, isn't it?"
"My name's Faith."
"Don't you like the name Mary anymore?"
"You think that by calling me that all the time, I'll slip and forget my real name."
"Mary is your real name..."
There was another silence in the room. Frechette's cold eyes searched her expression, looking for some weakness. "Did someone who called you Mary hurt you? Is that why you're afraid to hear it?"
"My name's Faith..." She answered, seeming to lock onto what she was saying, continuing almost by rote, as if it were ingrained into her, like some sort of mantra. "It's what I believe. It's who I am."
His eyes continued to drill into hers, neither of them flinching. "Interesting, Mary. I've been meaning to get back to the subject of your father again. You've refused to discuss him.... He called you Mary, didn't he?"
Faith said nothing, her face simply going blank, looking away.
Frechette recognized that look, realizing he would get nothing further from her on that specific subject. But he made sure to store her response away in his mind, saving it for later and leaving the subject open for now.
"Your name's Mary. Not Faith." He stated it simply, looking down as he wrote some notes.
"He said that too..."
Frechette paused, not expecting a response. "Who?"
Now she seemed to be the one speaking matter of factly. "The man who was my doctor before. And the woman before that. But now they're all gone. And I'm still Faith..."
She couldn't help but keep a tiny look of smugness from her face.
Frechette sighed, deciding it was pointless to push her further on it. "Let's get back to our discussion of Mr. Hale. You were telling me before that his life, his earthly existence, was at a crossroads. What did you mean by that?"
For a moment Faith's eyes seemed to brighten, a little more eager. Frechette had found that Trevor was the one subject she was readily willing to talk about, which was why Frechette had chosen it.
She leaned forward. "He is at a crossroads. Because he's in love. Always has been. With her..."
Frechette watched her carefully, chin resting in his hand, intrigued but deciding to say nothing, instead deciding to let her continue.
Faith was looking up at the ceiling slightly, a smile of knowing on her face as if she were picturing it right there. "See... After all this time, they finally admitted it to each other. Opened up to what they both felt. They finally gave in to it, but not completely. And it's only now that they're starting to figure out that it's not going to be that easy, when they thought it would be. They thought, just admit their feelings, share a kiss here and there, and all those fears they've always hidden would just melt away. They didn't realize that getting closer would only make those fears stronger."
Frechette's brow furrowed, trying to follow. "Who? Who is Trevor in love with?"
"Claire Allen." Faith blinked at him, as if it were obvious. "Didn't you know?"
At the mention of Claire's name, an eager look came into Frechette's eyes. He hadn't expected this, but he found himself intrigued. Leaning forward, he did his best to restrain his enthusiasm, waiting. "So you're still asserting that Trevor and Claire are romantically involved."
Her gaze didn't falter in the slightest, full of conviction. "They are. They're just keeping it a secret from everybody."
"Mary, that's--" He paused, surprised. "You've been in protective custody for nearly half a year. Isolated from Trevor, and Claire, and almost anyone else outside the hospital for that matter. Isolated for a long time. How could you possible know anything that's happening outside these walls between them?"
There was a pride in her voice. "The gods told me. It only happened a few weeks ago. During the blackout."
Frechette blinked, staring at her. It amazed him how she didn't seem to have any doubts about it at all. For a moment, he wondered if she could help him instead of the other way around. He had been looking for some slip, some mistake where Claire and Trevor were involved, so he could take over Trevor's case, and fix what Claire couldn't. But he pushed that hope aside for now. "Even if it were true, what do any of these suspicions have to do with you?"
"It's the center. Trevor and Claire's relationship is the key to the whole thing. It's why this path has been set before me."
Frechette's brow wrinkled, intrigued by her words and wondering again of it could really be true, and if there were any way he could prove it. As for her, he could see how central Trevor and Claire had become to her delusion, how fixated she seemed on them. "Mary, why are you so obsessed with Trevor and Claire?"
The tiniest smile flashed onto her face, seeing right through his eagerness. "Why are you?"
Frechette almost had to chuckle at her insight. Leaning back, he was now somewhat duly impressed. "You do realize you've made these claims against Trevor and Dr. Allen before. No one even believes them anymore."
She wasn't shaken in the slightest. "They will... In time..."
Frechette nodded, starting to write again as he continued.
"So you feel that Trevor Hale is your life long mission. The purpose that finally justifies your existence. Yet this man you worship, is the same man you shot. He's supposed to bring love into the world. So how is it you put a bullet in his chest."
"He needed to believe. Still does..."
Frechette smiled to himself. He leaned back as if it were simply a casual thought. "I just find it interesting. You claim you're name is Faith, and that your 'faith' is the undying worship of the god of love. Yet you shot the god of love. Were you lying to yourself? Or simply trying to cover something up you didn't want to confront. For instance... Did your father, love you Mary?"
Her body seemed to tense, but she said nothing.
Without a concern, Frechette pressed ruthlessly on. "I assume he loved you very much. This person, who is supposed to care for you, give you love. But who I know nothing about, because you refuse to discuss him. Has Cupid symbolically replaced your father? Did your father... hurt you, Mary?"
"My fath-" Her eyes almost seemed to moisten, but her face became completely empty, hollow, as if some part of her had fallen into herself. "My father only loved me. SO he told me."
Staring at her without feeling, Frechette didn't stop. "And yet now it seems you're trying to destroy love. Why. Condemnation? Absolution? Both?"
The room was silent for a moment.
Her voice was soft, but there was a new steel in her eyes. "I told you. I'm not trying to destroy love. I'm trying to save it."
"But you did shoot Mr. Hale--"
"Because there's still a chance for him!" She interrupted him loudly, sounding desperate as moisture glistened in her eyes. "There's still a chance for him to be saved! Don't you see it?"
Faith's voice seemed to continue, loud and clear but disembodied over a fountain spraying up into a bright blue afternoonsky, surrounded by the green of a park. Trevor and Claire were walking towards each other, like they did nearly everyday when she got off work, for all appearances as if by chance, as if not noticing each other. Faith's words seemed to speak over the noiseless scene.
"Trevor's love for her, for this finite woman, will only cause him pain..."
As they moved closer, Trevor smiled at Claire, happy merely to see her after a long day. She returned the look, not slowing in her steps as they shared a warm, lingering glance, like two strangers. They didn't speak, giving nothing away. But as they passed each other, her fingers at her side brushed across his for one fleeting moment as they continued on, neither of them stopping. They went on their separate ways invigorated by that brief touch, but not saying anything. Then Trevor stopped on the sidewalk, turning to watch her leave. Smiling, Claire didn't look back, feeling his eyes behind her on certain parts.
He watched until she was gone, smiling as the warmth of the encounter still filled him with certainty. His earlier doubts at the bar last night were forgotten, as he bathed in the bright sunshine.
Faith's disembodied voice continued.
"Throughout history, it's only been through a god's attachment to some mortal that he learned true suffering..."
Alone now, Trevor was happy beyond belief. The path seemed clear now. He loved Claire. That was all that mattered. Leaning his head back, he smiled into the sun, drinking in the light and warmth from the gorgeous blue sky above him. How could he have ever doubted love. How could he have ever doubted his heart?
Standing in one spot, Trevor stretched each arm straight out, his feet set together with his head tilted towards the sky as if hanging there, held on the air itself, enjoying the moment, accepting the sacrifices. He started to turn slowly, the greenery of the park spinning dizzyingly around him under the bright blue, like when he had danced with her last night. His smiling face drank in the clean air, swimming in the colors and light as he spun, reveling in his feelings for Claire.
There was still no sound, only Faith's voice.
"Cupid needs me to save him. The gods want me to save him..."
Back in his office, for the first time there was a tinge of sadness in Dr. Frechette's eyes as he listened to her, sensing the deep well of pain she was hiding. A well she was lost in, perhaps forever. His voice was soft for the first time.
"But... what if none that is true. What if there are no gods. Just people. Trying to make their way, however they can. Just like you and me in this office right now. People. You're still in here with me, Faith. Locked away, prevented from any contact with Trevor Hale, and certainly not in any position to save him. If he's your eternally ordained mission... how is it that the gods have allowed that?"
Faith looked at him, completely surprised at what he had just said a moment earlier. He had called her Faith. For the first time, he had called her Faith instead of Mary, letting himself slip it out, and not even knowing it.
Her expression seemed to strengthen, growing more certain. But she decided not to point it out to him, keeping that slip up as a small victory for herself. Her eyes seemed to shine reverently, filled with her conviction and her certainty that this was what she was meant for.
"I'm still in here with you, Dr. Frechette, because Trevor hasn't taken the final step. He hasn't given in fully, broken the decree of the gods... It's not my time yet, But my time is coming. I feel it..."
Concern flashed across Frechette's eyes. Out of nowhere there seemed to be a sudden coldness in the room. As he thought about her ominous words, his own words were more cautious now, speaking softly.
"Are you going to save Trevor Hale by killing him?"
A smile spread slowly across her face at the suggestion. For a moment, Frechette suddenly felt afraid of her, swallowing.
Her words were assured, a brightness in her gaze.
"I'm going to save Trevor by sending him home..."