Vincent lowered his head. "It is for the best that she does not, Trevor."
"How is that best? You said that she loved you."
"Now," he sighed. "I would be nothing but a stranger to her. A fearful stranger."
Trevor shook his head. "You don't look so fearful to me."
Vincent paused, his sad voice almost angry. "Why do you encourage me so, when I know that I'm right? You have not seen. I am different than others. I would... frighten her."
"She saw you before right? Before she lost her memory?"
"Yes," Vincent whispered plaintively, as if the image never left his thoughts.
Trevor leaned his head forward, curious. "And how did she react?"
Vincent chuckled, surprised how he now treasured a memory that once gave him pain. "She threw a metal tray at me."
"Ouch," Trevor said with sympathy. "Must have hurt. Having all those objects thrown at you constantly whenever you saw her. That's rough, man."
"No, she only did so the first time she saw me"
"I see." Trevor nodded. "So she got used to you. Used to what makes you different. Accustomed to what makes you who you are. To your... let's call it 'uniqueness'. Why couldn't she again?"
"Because those memories are gone, Trevor." There was pain in his voice.
Not reason enough for Trevor."That just mean's there's more room for new ones. She's still the same at heart. Believe me, I know. Kinda the expert in this area."
Vincent looked over, amused at his enthusiasm, but wondering about him. Who is this man? "What about you, Trevor? Why are you here alone? Having a polite converasation with a complete stranger. Standing on a cold rooftop in the middle of New York city, instead of being with Claire? Why have you not gone to her?"
Trevor sighed. "It's complicated."
"I see." Vincent sounded liked Trevor wasn't willing to take his own advice.
Recognizing the tone in Vincent's voice, Trevor tried to explain. "She... used to be a therapist, before she became a full time book author." Trevor paused, uncertain how Vincent would respond. "My therapist, actually. See, some people think,well... that I'm a few pillars short of a Parthenon. But we became friends while she treated me. And then I realized that... I loved her. But to her I'm just some crackpot. A failed case file that she was unable to cure. I tried to convince her I don't need curing, but... Anyway, that's not important. She's got a new life now. And she's here to be with Alex."
"Hmm. Strange of her to forget so often, Trevor."
Trevor didn't understand what Vincent meant. "Forget what?"
"Your condition. The delusional veil that you use to see the world. She must have forgotten it quite repeatedly, if you became close enough to become friends."
Trevor smiled, realizing the tables Vincent was turning. "She didn't forget, she-"
"So she was aware of your condition," Vincent finished for him. "How did she react to it?"
Trevor nodded, seeing the long visible point finally arrive. "Well, she didn't throw any dinner-ware at me," he said lightly. "Although I'm sure she wished she had sometimes. But she doesn't believe me either."
Vincent nodded. "She became used to what makes you different, Trevor. Became important to you, close to you. Perhaps you should consider whether she felt the same way."
Trevor wasn't so sure. "No, I know Claire. She'll never see me as anything but a psychiatric outpatient with a surplus of charm." He smiled. "And remarkable good looks..."
"Perhaps." Vincent smiled. His voice was deep, encouraging. "But we must all be true to our natures, Trevor. You must find the courage, and the strength, to be true to yours. I belive that deep inside of yourself, you already know the answer. Or you wouldn't be here."
They stood silently, surprised at how much they had said to each other, how much they had revealed after having know each other for only a few minutes. Snowflakes still fell all around. As Trevor looked down, he suddenly noticed Vincent's hands, uncovered. They were clawed. He wasn't wearing gloves after all.
"Vincent," Trevor looked at the man. "Let me see what you're afraid Catherine will see. Just a little test run. Not that I'll run, sorry, bad choice of words... Let me see your face."
Vincent seemed reluctant, glancing at the rooftop where her balcony was. "She would only see me as a monster."
"Show me, Vinnie boy."
Vincent stood silently, only a shadowy outline before Trevor. But then slowly, reluctantly he reached up and pulled back the hood, revealing his features, outlined dimly in the glow from all the building lights glittering through the falling snow.
"Wow," Trevor whispered, and he smiled. "I haven't seen someone like you since I was back home. You remind me a little of a centaur, only different. It's a good look for you, though. Very cool man."
Vincent was surprised. Trevor hadn't recoiled or pulled back in fear. Most people he met did upon seeing him for the first time. He would see the shock in their faces when they were confronted with something beyond their concept of what the world contained. But Trevor didn't seem to have that problem. Trevor had said he had seen others similar to him back home, and Vincent wondered just what Trevor was being treated for.
"It is your turn, Mr. Hale. This therapist of yours. What does she see when you pull back your cloak?"
Trevor nodded, realizing it was only fair. He shoved his hand forward. "Hi. I'm Trevor Hale. Cupid, immortal god of love at your service."
Vincent smiled. "It suits you." reaching forward he shook Trevor's hand.
"See? Look at that-" Trevor laughed once for emphasis. "Meeting people is fun! Go talk to Catherine. Remind her of what you had together."
Vincent looked uncertain, so Trevor pressed on.
"Think back to that feeling when she was gone, man. When you lost her. Remember how it felt. How you would have given anything for the chance to see her again. Then look around. That's exactly where you are right now."
Trevor thought about himself and Claire, about his own reluctance. He suddenly smiled at how simple it seemed. At how foolish he had been. "If I can come all the way to New York on some foolish hope or pointless dream, you can at least cross a rooftop. Take the chance! Don't throw it away."
Vincent looked towards Catherine's balcony. "I'd be a stranger to her..."
"Then be a stranger!" Trevor encouraged. "But don't let this opportunity pass. You may never get it again."
Vincent said nothing. Trevor rubbed his arms to bring some warmth back into them. "Look Vincent, I've got to go. You've been a big help to me. I need to go see a very... very cute shrink."
Vincent turned. "It was a pleasure meeting you, Sir Cupid." He bowed in thanks.
Trevor smiled. "Like wise, Sir Centaur. But I don't think I'll mention you to Claire. She definitely wouldn't believe me. And besides she thinks I'm crazy enough as it is. Goodbye, Vincent. And good luck."
Trevor moved off, disappearing down the stairs into the building beneath them, leaving Vincent alone on the rooftop. Vincent stood there as the snow fell on his head, before he pulled his hood back up again, covering his face in shadow.
He sighed and turned away, heading back for the underground tunnels where he lived. After so long, he could sense Catherine's feelings again. Sense her trying to adjust to her new surroundings. Sensed her unease. The last thing she needed was more turmoil in her life. If she had remembered him, she would have sought him out. But she hadn't. So it was for the best that he let Catherine go.
Turning one last time, he looked towards her balcony again, noticing that his footsteps in the snow were almost gone, covered by the new snow still falling form the gray night sky. Slowly the footsteps continued to fade, covered in white and forgotten, just like he would be.
The image stayed in Vincent's mind. All he and Catherine had had together, gone. He wouldn't even be a memory. The snow continued to fall silently onto the now empty rooftop.
Out of nowhere, Vincent's boot filled the first step again, creating new footsteps as walked back up the disappearing path, headed for Catherine's balcony.
He dropped softly onto it again, not making a sound. He moved over to the windows and looked in. The people Catherine had been with earlier were gone. She sat alone on her couch, reading a book as a candle flickered behind her. A glass of wine was on the end table, untouched. Catherine put down the book, not finding any interest in what she read. Carefully she rose, leaving the book behind.
As Vincent watched, Catherine grabbed her overcoat, drapping it over her shoulders, preparing to leave. Vincent felt a pull, a pull to reach up and knock on her window before she was gone again. But he couldn't bring himself to do it, hand in mid-air. Catherine tied the coat around her waist. But instead of walking out of the apartment, she stepped toward her balcony doors, and unknowingly, towards Vincent.
Quickly Vincent retreated to a corner of the balcony, hiding in the shadows as the doors opened smoothly outward under Catherine's hands. Classical music, Grieg's piano concerto, flowed out onto her balcony, coming softly from within. Not seeing Vincent, she walked over to the waist high brick wall at her balcony's edge. She looked out over the city, her expression melancholy. Catherine tilted her face upward, letting the snowflakes land on her face.
Vincent watched her, astounded she was so close. He felt the pull, the urge to step forward. And the fear. Until he remembered the image of his fading footsteps. And finally... he did, stepping into the light pouring out of her apartment, hood still concealing his face. His senses were alive. He couldn't believe he was doing this, risking everything. But then again, he had done the same countless times before, to be with her. Catherine didn't notice, her eyes closed as she tried to catch a snowflake on her tongue.
Suddenly she tensed, turning awkwardly as she saw his shadow outlined there against the light. She pulled back quickly, drawing in a surprised breath.
Vincent couldn't stop now. His clawed hands reached up... and pulled back his hood, revealing his face, bared between them. Her eyes went wide.
"Vincent..." she whispered, voice wavering on the edge of tears as her eyes began to moisten. She gasped. "My god, I thought... I thought you were only a dream!"
Catherine didn't recoil. Vincent saw recognition in her eyes. She laughed out of sheer joy, a quiet sound as she looked at him, one tear falling down her cheek.
"Oh, I've missed you Vincent!" She ran forward and into his arms, holding his surprised shoulders tight.
Before he could finish, she wrapped her arms around his face and kissed him, fully and deeply. Vincent felt his hands tremble, overwhelmed. A tear fell down his cheek too as he held her close, the need for words gone. They stood there in the light from her apartment, two small figures alone in a large bustling city that glittered with lights as far as the eye could see. Two lovers reunited at last, kissing each other warmly as if no one else existed. The snow fell slowly all around, and the world seemed complete.
Trevor passed Claire's doorstep again, but he didn't stop, walking straight past for what seemed like the hundredth time. Finally he turned around and walked back, standing on the sidewalk and away from the door. The windows were lit inside. Claire was definitely home. Taking a deep breath to strengthen his resolve, he moved up the steps and knocked on the door, watched only by the falling snowflakes.
The door opened and Claire looked out. Not expecting what she saw, she pushed open the screen door as the light from her hallway fell onto his face. She was absolutely shocked to see him there.
"Trevor! What are you doing here? Why aren't you in Chicago?"
Trevor looked deep into her eyes, knowing he could swim in that shade of brown for years and never find shore. He had missed her. But he pushed on with what he had to say before he lost his nerve. "Claire, you know what the best thing is about second chances?"
Claire blinked at the question, dumbstruck, words lost in her mouth, surprised that he had apparently dropped out of nowhere to ask.
Trevor didn't stop. "They're a chance. And the only real second chances are the one's you take. So I've got to tell you something, Claire."
Claire tried to calm herself, uncertain where he was going with this. "What is it Trevor?"
"I think I'm in lo-..." Trevor shook his head. No, he thought, that's not quite right. " Well, I just wanted you to know that I've always been... Well, I..." He didn't know how to say it, everything seemed inadequate to what he felt. Sighing in frustration he suddenly leaned forward and took her face in his hands, leaning close without a second thought and kissing her.
Claire's eyes fluttered closed when his lips touched hers, surprised at the unexpected action, her hands in mid-air. Then as they both continued, her arms slowly slid behind Trevor's shoulders and around his head. They kissed each other eagerly, wrapped in each other's arms as snow fell on them. Finally they broke the kiss, trying to catch their breath, faces close together.
"Wow... Trevor. I love you too."
Before Trevor could respond, she kissed him again, grabbing him forcefully so he couldn't back away, and pushing him against the arch of her doorway. Claire kissed him deeply, surprising him this time with her enthusiasm. They broke apart again, gazing into the other's elated faces as they stood on Claire's doorstep, breath misting before them. If there was a chill in the air, they didn't feel it. Trevor smiled warmly at her.
"Actually, Claire I didn't literally say 'I love you'."
Claire seemed confused. "Didn't you? I could have sworn I heard it. Let me check again." She leaned forward and kissed him again, longer than before. Trevor actually forgot that he was standing.
He finally had to come up for air, making Claire laugh. "Oh yeah," he breathed, "definitely heard it that time."
"Well, well. You're not as insane as you look, or as our best testing indicates." She touched his face. "It took you long enough, Trevor."
"I know, my bad. I was stupid not to tell you. I love you Claire. I've always loved you."
"I missed you so much, Trevor. I'm glad you came."
He looked intently into her eyes, to make her see he was sincere. "Claire I want to be with you, whatever it takes. This is one chance I won't throw away."
Claire laughed into his shoulder as she held him tighter. "There's hope for you yet, Trevor."
"Well, I wouldn't go that far..."
As he held her in his arms, he closed his eyes, relishing the feelings that swept through him. Everything seemed perfect, and he had never been happier. He looked over Claire's shoulder into her hallway, seeing several suitcases sitting there.
"Claire what is all this? What's with the suitcases?"
"Oh," she reached into her pocket and pulled out a plane ticket. "I was about to leave. Lucky thing you caught me. Flight to Chicago."
He didn't understand. "What for?"
She gave him a small smile. "Not what, who. I was going to see you, actually. To tell you how I felt. As usual, you stole the spotlight from me."
Trevor laughed. "That's never ever happened. Theoretically impossible. But what about Alex? I thought you were going to try to work things out."
"Oh the hell with Alex. Some second chances aren't worth it." She looked at him enticingly. "Trevor..." .
"I'm still not sure I heard it. The 'I love you' part. Tell me you love me again..." Without another word she leaned foward and kissed Trevor again.
Trevor kissed her, returning her enthusiasm, holding her warm in his arms. Suddenly the world made sense again. Her arms were the only place he wanted to be. As he kissed her, Trevor realized something. Vincent had been right. He was home.