Champ was still a little groggy with sleep as he came down the circular stairs of his apartment from the upper floor. He wore sweatpants and no shirt as he stepped into the living room, already brightly lit with the morning sun. He was just about to head for the kitchen for a coffee fix when he heard a soft knock on the front door. With a yawn he walked over, opening the door to find-
"Jaclyn!... Hi." Champ's face came awake as Jaclyn turned towards him when he opened the door, his face lifting in an enthusiastic smile when he saw the unexpected sight of her at his doorstep.
Jaclyn's face glowed too, but she usually seemed that way. As she turned towards Champ, her eyes travelled over his muscular body as he stood there shirtless. She paused, watching his chest before she looked up and continued with an awkward but appreciative smile."Umm... hi. Is this a bad time?" She really hoped it wasn't.
Champ looked down at himself and remembered he didn't have a shirt on. Embarrassed, he turned quickly and grabbed a nearby shirt he had tossed to the floor days ago. He pulled it over his head in a rush before he turned back to Jaclyn, excited to see her. "No. It's not a bad time at all. Come on in. What made you come over?"
As she stepped in, Jaclyn looked hopefully around the apartment. "Actually... Trevor invited me."
Champ nodded, suddenly understanding Jaclyn's enthusiasm. He tried to sound encouraging. "That's... great. It's a good sign."
She looked at him with a glint in her eye. "I hope so."
Suddenly Trevor's face was peering over Champ's shoulder, making both Champ and Jaclyn jump. How did he just seem to appear out of thin air like that?
Champ looked over at him. "Trevor... I really wish you wouldn't do that."
Trevor was all smiles. "Hello mortals! Jackie... Baby, you look great. Glad you came over. This is important, believe me. So. We're all here. Perfect. I haven't' been so pleased since I convinced the good people of the town of Olympia to hold their little contest in the nude. Until I found out it wasn't co-ed. Oh well.Gives new meaning to Bi-athlete" He smiled, but got no response, Jaclyn and Champ blinking because they didn't know what the hell he was talking about.
Trevor looked at them. "Town of Olympia? Every four years in the nude? Don't you...? Never mind. Before you're time. You're SO young. Anyway, follow me."
Trevor placed an arm on either of their shoulders, guiding them to the couch, sitting them there at a polite distance from each other. He grabbed a chair from the kitchen table, turning it around to straddle it and lean his arms on the chair back.
Champ looked over at Trevor, confused. "Trevor, what's going on?"
"No talking," Trevor clapped his hands together. "And no more games."
Champ and Jaclyn shared a worried look, before turning back to Trevor.
"What games?" They spoke simultaneously and both groaned inwardly at how false it sounded.
"You both know exactly what I'm talking about. The two of you are pretending." Trevor nodded. "Pretending to not be attracted to each other."
Jaclyn took a relieved breath. "Oh. That game."
"Right," Trevor continued. "And that's why I brought you here. To get this all out in the open and resolved. I want you to look each other in the eyes and admit how you really feel."
Champ paused, uncertain before turning his head to see Jaclyn looking at him. And then he saw it in her eyes. A silent, almost imperceptible pleading for him not to admit anything that would stop the ruse from going on for as long as possible. Champ watched her carefully for a few seconds, the room silent around him. Then he realized what he needed to do. "I... don't think there's any real feelings between us, Trevor." He paused, trying to walk a fine line. It was harder than it seemed to deny an attraction while at the same time implying one. He tried to think carefully. Suddenly Champ laughed, realizing he just had to be... honest. "I mean, I'm attracted to Jaclyn. Who wouldn't be. But it's just that, unfortunately. A simple attraction. That's all."
Jaclyn nodded a little too eagerly in agreement. "Exactly, Trevor. I'm still hoping this can work out, but I'm not really sure it will. I mean, Champ's tall, he's dark and handsome. He has wonderful... muscles," Jaclyn paused as her mind wandered. "Sorry. What I meant to say is that I feel attracted to him too. But maybe it'll never be more than an unrequited attraction. Maybe," she looked at Champ, sure he understood who her next words referred to, "maybe I just need more time."
Trevor nodded. "You're lying."
A chill passed through her. "What?"
"There are some real feelings between you and Champ. I saw them. During that kiss in the park. THAT was real."
Champ shook his head in relief while also denying Trevor's assertion. "No, I just overreacted Trevor. Got caught up in the moment. It was just.... bad judgement."
Jaclyn looked at Champ nervously before facing Trevor again, straining to sound casual. "Right. It, it... didn't mean anything."
Trevor's face was calm, considering their words. "You know, maybe you're right. I suppose I could be wrong. I mean, I'm just the god of love, right?" He laughed. "What do I know?"
Champ and Jaclyn laughed too, grateful for the release. "Exactly," Jaclyn said. "It was just a kiss. That's all."
Trevor smiled at them. "Alright. Prove it."
Champ coughed. "What?"
Trevor looked at both of them, waving an unconcerned hand in the air. "I mean if it was just a simple kiss..."
Jaclyn looked away nervously. "It was."
Trevor looked at her. "Exactly. So kiss each other again. You and Champ. Right here, right now. If there's nothing there, I'll believe you. Come on. Let loose on a lip lock."
Champ spoke with a disappointed voice. "Believe me, Trevor. There's nothing there."
Jaclyn shook her head. "I'm not going to kiss Champ just to make a point." Jaclyn tried to catch her breath, trying to get back in front of the situation and in control again. This was not what she had expected to happen.
Trevor spoke simply. "If you don't kiss, I'm not helping either of you any more. I mean, what would be the point, right?"
"Trevor, there's got to be-"
"Look," Trevor smiled. "That's the deal. Take it or leave it."
Jaclyn paused, blinking at the ultimatum, mind racing as her lips hung open, not knowing what to say. She looked over at Champ.
Champ was just as unsure, glancing at Jaclyn as she turned towards him. He could see the unspoken change in Jaclyn's expression, asking him to go along with this and kiss her, if that's what it took. As long as it meant she could spend more time with Trevor. With a nervous sigh, he finally resolved himself and shifted to face her.
Champ looked at Jaclyn and tried to make her feel more comfortable through his expression. It didn't seem to work. He took her hands in his as they rested on her lap. Jaclyn felt her pulse quicken, felt anticipation pass through her. She looked into his eyes. Champ leaned forward slightly, raising a hand but stopping it, not certain it would be appropriate for him to place it on her shoulder. It all seemed so awkward, so different than before. The kiss in the park had been easy. It had happened so fast. He pulled back finally, still reluctant as both he and Jaclyn took a deep breath.
Still seated in the chair in front of them, Trevor watched carefully, observing every little inflection and movement for any information it might hold. He nodded almost imperceptibly, waiting as a smile grew across his face. He could sense it. Champ and Jaclyn were on the cusp of brighter and better... well, everything.
This time it was Jaclyn who leaned awkwardly forward. She reached out slowly, sliding her hand onto the back of Champ's neck, softly guiding him towards her. Champ leaned closer, looking into Jaclyn's face as both of them shifted and angled their heads back and forth, trying to figure out who should lean which way for the kiss. Finally Jaclyn giggled, looking up at Champ. It was ridiculous. It wasn't like they had never kissed someone before. She smiled as she looked into his eyes, whispering softly as she tried to calm both of them down.
"Champ... it's OK. Just kiss me."
"Yeah. It's fine. It'll be fine." She tilted her head and brought it forward, her lips parting slightly, still holding a small smile. Champ took a breath and did the same, leaning towards her. Their lips hovered closer, cautious as they paused over the last gap, almost touching. Champ closed his eyes and then....
"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!"
Debbie stood in the front doorway, a shocked expression on her face as she held the doorknob in her hand after having pushed open the front door when she entered. It had been left slightly ajar.
Trevor moaned and hung his head at the interruption, seeing how close Jaclyn and and Champ had been.
Jaclyn's eyes went wide at the sight of the infuriated Debbie. Champ pulled away from her, his words sputtering as he rose from the couch and stepped towards her. "Debbie, I can explain..."
Debbie couldn't believe what she had just seen almost happen. "I knew there was something going on last night! I knew you weren't there with Claire. I felt it when I saw you and her together. And I believed you, Champ! You lied to me! How could you do this!"
Champ rushed over to Debbie, trying to keep her calm. "Debbie, it's not what it looks like. Can I talk to you for a second? Out in the hallway?"
"I trusted you! I thought we had something and-"
"Debbie please! I can explain everything if-"
"Oh you can explain everything!" She slapped a hand against Champ's chest, upset. "This should be good. Let me hear you explain why you were kissing her!"
"We weren't kissing. Look, just come out here with me. Please." Quickly, Champ led Debbie, still furious, out into the hallway.
Jaclyn sat on the couch as the noise died down, one hand gripping the seat cushion. She looked around quickly, worried her plan was falling apart. Glancing at Trevor, she realized they were alone, making her nervous. How was Champ going to explain this in a way that Debbie would believe? Or Trevor for that matter? Jaclyn realized he would probably need some help out in the hallway with him.
"Umm... Trevor. Maybe I should see, you know. See if Champ needs a little help. With Debbie." Jaclyn nodded totally still for a moment, before darting across the room and into the hallway.
Trevor was left in the apartment, smiling to himself and not getting up. "Perfect."
Champ and Debbie were still arguing in the hallway outside. Debbie was still furious. "Champ, if you want to break up with me and see other people, that's fine! Just tell me to my face instead of-"
Champ shook his head. "It's not what you think."
Debbie glared at him, eyes wide. "Not what I think?! YOU WERE KISSING HER!"
Champ looked down, embarrassed. "Technically we didn't actually kiss."
"I don't believe this! It was close enough! You can't deny it anymore Champ! I'm not a fool. I saw it! I saw you about to-... Wait! What's she doing out here?" Debbie looked away and rolled her eyes as Jaclyn joined them out in the hallway.
"Debbie," Jaclyn whispered softly, trying to keep her voice down so Trevor couldn't hear them through the open door. "Champ's right. He's telling you the truth. This is all a lie. A plan he's helping me with. I'm not attracted to Champ. I'm attracted to Trevor."
Debbie laughed derisively. "I'm supposed to believe that?!"
Champ looked closely into Debbie's eyes, nodding. "Yes. That's what I'm trying to tell you. There's more going on. It's not what it looks like. Let me... let US try to explain it to you. Please. See, it all started when-"
The three of them kept their voices low as they talked out in the hallway. They need not have bothered. Trevor sat alone in the apartment, vaguely able to hear the three of them whispering but not even bothering to listen. He didn't seem very concerned at all. As he sat there patiently, he began to whistle the tune of "If I only had a brain."
Unseen in the hallway outside, the intense whispering back and forth stopped. Then Debbie, a confused expression on her face, poked her head in through the open doorway to look at Trevor. Smiling, Trevor waved at her. Debbie pulled her head back out of sight, whispering with Champ and Jaclyn again. Trevor continued to whistle, as if nothing out of the ordinary were happening.
"Him?" Debbie was saying with disbelief. "You're attracted to him? All this to get close to Trevor? Isn't he... nuts?"
Jaclyn smiled. "Absolutely."
Champ pleaded with Debbie. "See? It's all perfectly innocent. You've seen me kiss people in plays before. This is sort of the same thing. Now do you understand?"
She looked at Champ angrily. "This is all..." Debbie scowled, considering it. "....sort of cool."
Champ blinked. "Really?"
"Yeah. All this, doing all this to get Trevor and Jaclyn together. It's sort of... sweet. In a manipulative, deceitful, underhanded sort of way." Debbie looked over at Jaclyn. "You must care about Trevor a lot."
Jaclyn nodded. "I do. More than you know. So. You're not going to blow our cover? You won't tell Trevor?"
"Tell him? No, I won't tell him. In fact," Debbie looked at Champ, excitement in her eyes. "I want to help. Give me a part."
Champ instantly shook his head when he realized what she was implying. "Oh no!"
"Please Champ? Come on, you've seen my work. You know I'm a good actress. Write me in."
Champ stared at her, saying nothing. Jaclyn broke in, hopefully before Debbie could notice."Umm... Debbie. I think Champ and I can handle it."
Debbie looked back at Champ. " But I want to help!"
Champ strained to sound grateful. "Thanks, but me and Jaclyn are doing fine..."
Debbie spoke more forcefully. "You were almost kissing her! I think you owe me a little here."
Champ still said nothing as Jaclyn answered. "It's not that we don't appreciate the offer..."
Debbie could tell Champ wasn't going to go along with it by his silence, angering her a little. Her face hardened. "Give me a part or I'm telling Trevor."
Jaclyn's eyes panicked. "Champ, give her a part!"
As Debbie stepped closer, Champ was backed against the wall both figuratively and literally. He finally sighed and gave in. "OK..."
Debbie clapped happily. "Great!"
Champ whispered instructions to her. "But this is what you're going to do. Exactly this, no improv. Go in and say I'm breaking up with you. Because I'm not sure of my feelings for Jaclyn. But remember. Don't get carried away. Keep it simple!"
Debbie stormed back into the apartment with as much subtlety as a hurricane. "I can't believe the two of you! Fine! if that's what you want," she grabbed for her coat with a flourish, before realizing she hadn't brought one. "Then I'll leave!"
Trevor watched as all three of them came back into the room. "Wait. What happened?"
Debbie waved an angry hand at Champ, voice dripping with scorn. "He says he needs space! Say's he needs to explore his feelings. Feelings for... for her! They both were out there just now trying to convince me to step aside. Well fine! I've never been so humiliated! I know when I'm not wanted! I know when I'm not loved!"
Champ moaned silently, cringing at how much she was overdoing this. He looked cautiously over at Trevor to see if he was believing it. He seemed to be. Champ's eyes widened in amazement at what Debbie was doing. They would be lucky if she didn't start biting the door frame. He caught Trevor's eye and tried to cover for it by circling his finger around his ear and mouthing the word 'crazy' for only Trevor to see.
Debbie suddenly turned from Trevor to face Champ, making him drop his gesture quickly. "But Champ... please. Before I leave and walk out of you're life. Let me say... this one thing." Debbie strained for tears that wouldn't come.
Jaclyn closed her eyes and rubbed the bridge of her nose, not wanting to see anymore. Just wanting it to finish.
Debbie touched Champ's cheek. "I know you'll come back to me, Champ. I know it. We're destined... to be together." Trying to appear angry, she reached back and slapped him hard across the face. "Because you'll realize someday what you've lost, baby!"
Champ said nothing, rubbing his cheek and wondering why it was everyone seemed to want to slap him these days.
After one final, anguished gasp, Debbie turned with a flourish and left through the doorway in a showy huff. The silence after seemed more pronounced in the absence of Debbie's voice. After a few seconds, both Champ and Jaclyn let out a simultaneous sigh of relief.
Trevor sat there, still as a statue, before he smiled and turned to Champ and Jaclyn as if nothing had happened. "So. Where were we? Right. You two love birds were about to kiss each other."
Champ and Jaclyn shared a tired look. Both shook their heads as Champ finally spoke. "I don't think so, Trevor. the mood is definitely gone."
Jaclyn agreed. "Right. I think I'd better go." She turned to Trevor, a glint in her eye. "Umm, can we talk later Trevor? Try to figure all this out?"
Trevor nodded. "Sure. Whatever you need."
She smiled. "Thanks. Great. I'll... call you then." With that she turned for the door, but not before stopping one more time. "Goodbye, Trevor. And... goodbye Champ." She shared a smile of sympathy with him, happy they had survived the situation.
Champ felt himself flush as Jaclyn smiled at him. He spoke fondly. "Goodbye, Jaclyn."
Then she was gone, leaving Champ standing there with his hands on his hips, trying to make sense of all that had happened. Without a single look towards Trevor, he started towards the stairs that led up to his bedroom. Quickly Trevor darted out of his chair and across the room, stepping in front of Champ before he could go up. Trevor had a pleased look on his face as he looked up at Champ.
"Champ, my man. Admit it. You wanted to kiss her."
Champ looked at Trevor and felt the honesty in his words. "Yeah. Yeah I did."
Trevor nodded. "I knew I was right. She felt the same thing, even if Debbie interrupted you. I'm going to make this happen. I promise."
Champ paused, wondering if Trevor could really deliver on that promise. Even knowing what he knew, for half a moment Champ believed him. Without saying anything more he pushed past Trevor and headed upstairs. Trevor stayed where he was and watched him go up, drawing back an imaginary bow and shooting it into his back. With a satisfied laugh, he turned away and headed for the kitchen.
Somewhere a phone rang several times, before there was a click of someone picking it up.
"Champ? Are you there?"
There was a pause. "Yeah. It's me."
"Are you alone?"
"Yeah. I just checked when I picked up the phone. Trevor's not here."
"Good. We need to talk."
Claire paused as she typed into her computer quietly, sitting in her office. She was alone, having come in on the spur of the moment to work on her book. Then she had heard someone talking. Claire listened carefully and realized the voice she was hearing was Jaclyn in the hallway outside. She was talking on the phone at the reception desk. Claire tried to stay quiet, listening for a few seconds as she glanced towards the door of her office where it remained open slightly.
Jaclyn took a breath, still a little flustered by the close call in Champ's apartment. She sat down at the chair behind her desk, eyes glancing down the hallway before her, keeping an eye out for Claire.
"Wow. That was a close one," she said. "I thought we were finished. I can't believe we pulled it off."
Champ chuckled. "I know. I'm still trying to catch my breath. I told you she was a bad actress."
"Yeah. I didn't realize how bad an actress Debbie was until she tried to help us. Do you think Trevor noticed?"
Claire couldn't help herself, listening even more closely when she realized it was Jaclyn talking with Champ on the phone. With a smile she got up and edged closer to the door, trying to be as quiet as possible. Suddenly she paused, feeling a little bit guilty at what she was doing. I shouldn't, she thought to herself, starting to turn. Then she turned quickly back. But I'm going to anyway. She thought it would be invaluable to listen to the conversation, hoping to gain some insight to help her get Champ and Jaclyn together, even if she was only hearing half of the conversation. Claire listened carefully.
"I was so nervous, Champ. Thank you for almost kissing me by the way. I know it was... it was probably asking a lot."
"No. Not at all, Jaclyn. Believe me. Not a problem."
"Well, hopefully it was enough to convince Trevor to keep helping me try to win you. I'm really enjoying the time I've spent with him. I think were getting closer. Who knows where that could lead. Still, that was too close a call when Debbie showed up unexpected like that. She almost ruined the whole thing. If Trevor ever found out what we're doing-"
"No. I don't think he figured it out. He's too fixated on getting you and me together. You know how persistent he can be."
Jaclyn smiled. "One of his most endearing qualities." She swallowed. "Still... I've been thinking."
Champ felt a dread pass through him. Somehow he knew he wouldn't like what was coming. "What is it, Jaclyn?"