The keys rattled softly as Claire unlocked her office. After pushing the door open, Claire paused, bringing the cell phone against her ear down, gripped in her hand, disappointed. After she had left Jaclyn that afternoon, Claire had promised that she would talk with her later about what had happened. That Claire would be there for her through all this, no matter what. But she had been calling Jaclyn all night and hadn't been able to get a hold of her. She had even gone to Jaclyn's apartment but, strangely enough, Jaclyn wasn't there either.
            Claire sighed as she put away the cell phone, closing the door behind her. Tired, she stood in the darkness of her office. It had turned into a long day. She had hoped to do a little writing on her book to get her mind off of what had happened, so she had come to her office.
            Glowing in the darkness, her notebook computer was there, open and running the program file about her book on Trevor that she had used last. It suddenly occurred to Claire that she had left it that way since yesterday, when she had overheard Jaclyn on the phone. When Claire had left her office rather quickly.
            With a yawn, she started to walk towards her desk. Then she realized something was wrong. There was a man sitting in the shadows, sitting on her couch. Flustered, she reached frantically over and flipped on the lights to her office.
            "Trevor..." She said with a start, suddenly relieved. He had been sitting there in the dark the whole time Claire had been standing there.
            Trevor didn't get up. Voice subdued, he began to speak, lost in his own thoughts as he gazed straight ahead at nothing, not looking at her.
            "You know... I think Jaclyn and Champ taught me something today, Claire."
            Glancing back at the locked door she had just opened, Claire turned back to him with a confused expression.
            "Trevor, how... did you get in here?"
            Trevor didn't seem to hear as he continued softly. "It never would have occurred to me. I mean, when you're the god of love for thousands and thousands of years, you start to think you know everything. Until today. I didn't know what I still had to learn."
            Claire watched him, confused at what he meant. But then a sudden chill passed through her. She looked nervously over at her desk where her computer screen still glowed brightly. How long had Trevor been in her office? Had he seen what she had been writing? All the time she had been working on her book about Trevor, she had tried to keep it a secret from him. Maybe because if he knew about it, it could influence his behavior and recovery. Maybe because she was afraid he would be hurt or... Well, she had kept it secret regardless.
            Slowly Claire edged closer to her desk, trying not to draw attention to herself. She needed to get close enough to shut it off. Watching Trevor carefully for any sign, she took another cautious step. Trevor seemed so caught up in what he had come to tell her that he didn't notice.
            Claire's shoulders tensed when Trevor stood up, rising off her couch. He turned and walked slowly past her computer, still introspective as he stepped behind her desk and looked out the window.
            "Claire, sometimes love is about taking a pointless chance, even if it's just to be shot down. About finding the courage to admit you're feelings to someone you're close to. Someone you've been close to for awhile. Without worrying about the rules or the consequences. Because what you feel... is too important. I found Jaclyn tonight. I guess she found me. I... found myself. That's what she showed me. I don't know. Maybe for once I realized... that taking a chance applies to the god of love as much as to anyone else..."
            Trevor hadn't turned, still looking out the window and into the night. He swallowed, trying to find some courage of his own, as he let out a nervous laugh. "I'm still not sure if I can do this, but..."
            The brightly lit screen was in full view riight behind his back. Carefully Claire inched closer to her computer.
            "Claire there's something I need to tell you. Something... I've needed to tell you for a long time. Claire, I'm in lov-"
            Trevor turned and stopped in mid-sentence. He looked down in surprise at what was displayed on her computer screen. Claire closed her eyes as her expression deflated. She knew it was too late.
            Quickly she stepped forward and tried to explain. "Trevor..."
            Trevor looked over what was displayed on her computer, reading the title at the top.

            CHAPTER 11: The Romantic Bankruptcy
                    of Cupid's Misdirected Arrows.

            Trevor looked up at her, eyes confused. "What's this?"
            "Trevor, please. I can explain-"
            "You're writing a book about me?"
            "Trevor..." Claire's plea sounded futile even to her.
            Trevor looked away from her, thinking silently. It all came together. He started to see everything in a new light. All those nights with Claire. All those days when they had talked together, laughed together. When he thought he had felt something between them, something real. Now he understood. It all seemed so clear now. It was nothing but research for a delusional case study and test subject. His world crashed into a million pieces.
            Claire saw it in his eyes. "Trevor, it's not like that..."
            Trevor couldn't believe it."I can't... I-... That's all I was just, a lab rat for your next book. No different than your singles group. How could I have been so stupid. All this time I thought you spent time with me because you wanted to. That... I thought we were something more. that you were more than my doctor, that you were my friend..."
            "Trevor, I am your friend, I-"
            "All this time I deluded myself into thinking you cared about me, Claire." He didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
            "Trevor, I do care, I-"
            Trevor's face turned harder the more he thought about it, even as his eyes glitterred sadly and his insides collapsed into a void. "How long?"
            "Trevor it doesn't-"
            "HOW LONG!?"
            Claire paused, not wanting to answer that question. But she knew she had to. He deserved that.
            "Since I've known you, Trevor." She said it softly. "I've been writing it since I've known you."
            As she watched his face, a single unexpected tear came out of nowhere and rolled down his cheek. Maybe for the first time in his life, Trevor realized exactly how Jaclyn and Champ had felt. Without another word, he started to leave.
            Claire could see the hurt hidden behind his features. As he tried to move past her, she decided she wasn't about to let him leave like that. Claire rushed around him and blocked his exit, for once faster than him. Trevor stopped but turned away, not wanting to look at her. Claire's brow wrinkled with concern at his reaction. She spoke urgently, trying to make him understand.
            "Trevor, I should have told you, Ok? It was a mistake. I realize that now. Trevor, this isn't all that you mean to me. You mean so much more, more than I can possibly tell you. You're not just a case study, ok? You're very important to me. You mean more to, to my heart, and to my soul, than any book. Trevor...?" She placed a hand tenderly on his shoulder to get him to face her.
            When Trevor did his eyes were moist with tears, just beginning to form. Claire blinked sadly. She had never seen him look at her that way. Trevor nodded dejectedly.
            "There was a time, Claire... " He took a breath, before looking at her again. "There was a time when I would have believed that."
            They held each others eyes for a few more seconds, seeing it all between them. Claire wanted to touch him, to make it better but knowingg she couldn't. She lifted a hand and tried to speak, but the words wouldn't sound on her lips as they paused. No words would make a difference. Watching his face, she could feel Trevor's hurt washing through her too.
            Trevor turned and left, for all the world as if it were for the last time. In a way it was. What he thought they had had together would never be the same.
            Helpless, Claire watched him step around her and walk out of sight. Stricken, she moved to follow him. But she stopped on her doorstep, not knowing what she could do to get things back the way they were. Frustrated, she bobbed a clenched fist slightly as she turned away, upset at everything.
            "Damn it..."
            Her angry whisper was small in her empty office.

            Trevor stopped in the hallway once he was out of sight of Claire's office. Hanging his head down, he reached out to the wall next to him to support himself, taking a deep breath that sounded loud in the stillness. He used his other hand to wipe away several tears that were sliding down his cheek, some already cooling on his neck. Taking another breath, he looked back up trying to compose himself.
            "That's it. That's... there's nothing there. That's...all I am to her." Trevor spoke softly to himself. "All she's ever seen is a psychotic. Jaclyn was right. Some minds don't change."
            Closing his eyes, Trevor walked away. He didn't look back.

           As she collapsed into her chair, Claire switched her computer screen off. She brought a fist to her lips as her face crumbled in sadness, on the verge of tears. She gasped softly, keeping it all in as she looked off to onee side. She had been angry at Trevor, angry at how he had hurt both Jaclyn and Champ. But in the end she had done no better.
            Still upset, she wiped away a tear as she came to a decision. A personal resolution. Realizing how very alone she felt at that moment, she reached over and picked up her phone, ready to expose her heart. Dialing a number, she let it ring several times before she quickly hung up, reluctant. Trevor was right. It was time for a little validation of her own. Time to accept her feelings. She was not going to run from that sort of intimacy any more. She wouldn't pre-emptively push someone away that she cared about out of fear. She picked up and dialed a different number.
            Someone answered the phone. "Hello?"
            "Fr... Frank?" She wiped away another tear.
            It was as if he heard it all in her voice. "Claire? What's wrong?"
            "Frank, I... I know you think I have feelings for Trevor. That we're closer than a doctor and patient should be, that I secretly want Trevor and me to be more than friends... I know you think that I lov-... that I-...You know. But honestly, I..." Her lips quivered slightly as she paused, unsure what to answer. I can't she thought to herself. "I don't."
            Frank's voice still sounded cautious."Ok..."
            "Frank, I know you think I'm pushing you away because of Trevor. I want you to see that I'm not. So that's... that's why I think, I've decided that we," Claire took a breath. "We should move in together."
            She could hear the sudden joy in his voice.
            "Yeah. Really."
            "That's great, Claire. I love you so much."
            Softly, Claire laughed through her sadness, like a breath of fresh air. "I love you too. Look, I really want to see you. Is it Ok if I come over?"
            "That'd be great," Frank said happily. "Can't wait. Bye."
            "Ok. Be there in a sec. Bye."
            Claire hung up the phone and took another breath, looking up the the ceiling and closing her eyes. She suddenly looked over to where Trevor had left, not knowing why another tear was falling down her cheek again. She wiped it away as she got up and left her office.

            Somewhere a song began to play, starting with a single note on a piano. One solitary note, playing sadly over and over again in repetition. A lonely tone that only shifted pitch as a soft voice began to sing.

            Some say love, it is a river,
            that drowns the tender reed...

            Trevor walked down the sidewalk moving away from Claire's office building, alone in the darkness. The moisture of tears drying on his face was cool in the night air. He paused and turned to look above him, above to where the window of Claire's office was.
            The window glowed softly above Trevor with a warm light. But as he watched, the light went out and the window went dark. Trevor turned away, feeling it somehow appropriate. Slowly he continued down the sidewalk, walking away from her building. One solitary figure, alone.

            Some say love, it is a razor,
            that leaves your soul to bleed...

            Claire walked alone through the echoing hallways of her building. It was late and there was no one else in sight. She tried to keep her mind on her decision to move in with Frank, but her thoughts always came back to Trevor. To what had just happened between them. Claire suddenly noticed the empty building all around her with no one in it except her. She began to wonder. Why wasn't she happier about her decision?

            Some say love, it is a hunger,
            an endless aching need...

            Trevor walked slowly past the lit lanterns on the bridge near Claire's office, remembering when he had been there with Claire a few nights ago on their double date. It all seemed so different now. The crisp air tonight felt colder. Like that night and those moments had been a different life. Trevor felt the ache in his chest of wanting those moments back. Not noticing anything else around him, Trevor continued to walk, lost in memory.
            A car pulled to the curb some distance behind him, it's engine idling as it came gently to a stop on a cross street. Claire watched Trevor crossing the bridge, seated behind the steering wheel. Her mind went to that same night as she remembered. A new tear fell down her cheek and she wiped it carefully away as she watched him in silence. Having seen enough, she turned her head and resolved herself. Gripping the steering wheel firmly, she accelerated and drove away.
            Trevor and Claire left the bridge going in different directions.

            I say love, it is a flower,
            and you, it's only seed...

            Jaclyn sat on her couch in her apartment, arms wrapped around her knees as she cried softly. She looked over at the small open space where Trevor had whirled her in his arms, when he had been there to help her find ways to win Champ. She remembered Trevor had promised her some slow dance lessons for her and Champ's second date. Dance lessons that would never happen.
            Slowly Jaclyn got up, wiping her eyes. She walked into the middle of that space, looking sadly at the shadows around her. A streetlight glowed through her window , it's light fell across her as she stood there. She sighed, trying to accept the painful realities. Then, carefully, she lifted her arms to either side, keeping them in mid-air as if they were placed on Trevor's shoulders, waiting to start.

            It's the heart, afraid of breaking,
            that never, learns to dance...

            Champ looked out of his bedroom window as he took another drink of the bottle he held. Behind him the room was dark, and he was lit only by the lights from outside. The soft glow reflected off the sides of the bottle, glinting too off the moisture on his cheek.
            He thought about all that had happened because of him. Because he had admitted his feelings. Looking back on it, he almost wished he could turn back time. Maybe it would have been better if he had never done any of it in the first place.
            It was a pointless thought, and he took another drink. The alcohol felt warm going down his throat.

            It's the dream, afraid of waking,
            that never, takes a chance...

            Jaclyn was still alone in her apartment, but she started dancing slowly. She danced with someone who wasn't there. Softly, Jaclyn leaned against him, swaying slowly in time with unheard music.
            The bottle clinked softly as Champ put it down, having had enough. He began to walk away, feeling alone in the dim light. Then he paused where he stood, looking around. An unexpected sensation came over him. Out of nowhere he raised his arms, lifting them in mid-air, for some reason imagining Jaclyn in them. Closing his eyes, he leaned closer. His motionless foot shifted to one side, beginning to dance.
            Jaclyn stepped slowly to the same side in her apartment, arms in mid-air too.
            Champ almost felt as if he were really holding her, dancing slowly in time with music only he could hear.
            Both of them matched the same steps, the same rhythm as they stood in two different apartments. Jaclyn turned gracefully out of her unseen partner's arms as he held her hand. But for some reason, she was no longer imagining Trevor there. Champ could almost feel Jaclyn's hand, a phantom touch in mid-air as he turned her gracefully back into his empty arms, holding her tenderly. Both of them continued to dance close to each other, separated by miles... and by nothing.

            It's the one who won't be taken,
            who can not seem to give...

            Trevor smiled, for some reason feeling something had changed somewhere in the world, but he didn't know why. His mood grew somber again as he thought about him and Claire. Pausing, he looked up at the distant stars far above him as they twinkled softly. It occurred to him that after all that had happened, after all he had intended to tell Claire, he had never actually said it.
            "I love you, Claire."
            Trevor whispered softly, head still tilted upward as he closed his eyes and made a wish on those distant stars.
            The same stars twinkled far above Claire as she looked back down from them, turning her attention to the door she stood in front of. She waited patiently on the step.
            The door opened and Frank was there, having heard her knock. Silently he smiled at her with affection, his love for her in his eyes. Claire smiled back as he took her into his arms. They hugged each other warmly. Face over his shoulder, Claire reached up to wipe away a new tear, not wanting Frank to see. She looked sadly up at the stars above again. Somehow they reminded her of Trevor. As Frank held her, she looked for answers in those distant lights. Moving in with Frank was what she wanted wasn't it? Didn't what she was doing feel right? Claire looked away from the distant stars. It was time to stop running.

            and the soul, afraid of dying,
            that never learns to live...

            PRESENT DAY (like at the beginning of the story)

            The song continued to play, but now it swelled and grew louder, rich and lush with a full orchestra joining in accompaniment. It sounded suddenly brighter, but still tinged with an unalterable sadness as the key changed.

            The sky was full of light, painting the air a deep rich blue that glowed through a window. Golden bars of sunlight fell onto Jaclyn's desk as she continued to write. Her pen moved over the notebook paper in a rush, filling it with her playful cursive. Jaclyn continued her impromptu essay, writing about all that had happened.

            The god of love, immortal deity banished to earth as a lonely, delusional bartender,in the end, Cupid stumbled. So what. Love stumbles. It takes misguided steps that can only end up unrequited. That's just love. Exposing yourself no matter the pain or risk will always be a part of it. Just not the most important part.
            Claire told me Trevor found out about her book. I know he's afraid. Afraid no one see's anything but the delusion. Above all, he's afraid that that's all Claire sees. Her opinion hurts him the most. So I'm offering him a different one. A separate, less clinical, perspective on one Trevor Hale. The all too fallible god of love who realized his heart breaks just as easily as ours. Who should know that unrequited love doesn't change what he is, or make him any less... wonderful.
            Things didn't turn out the way Trevor wanted. Or the way any of us did. Not even Cupid can really change true love. But I wanted Trevor to know. I'll be Ok. So will Trevor. In spite of all that happened, eventually we all will be, even if right now everything still feels a little raw. Because love does heal. Not like a wound heals, but as something that heals wounds. Trevor will heal too, even though right now it's hard with Frank moving in with Claire today. Even though he's feeling the way I'm feeling. Even though... he should have told her.
            Above all I know Trevor's heart was always in the right place. That's why after all this I still love him. I still think he's Cupid, the god of love. And I think he should know...

            The song still continued in it's new key as the voice began to sing again. But now it wasn't alone, other voices helping it through the sadness. The lyrics continued.

            When the night, has been too lonely,
            and the road, has been too long...

            Gently, a woman's hand placed the handwritten notebook on the floor in front of Trevor's apartment door. It was followed by a single rose, placed with tenderness on it's cover.
            Inside the apartment, Trevor was walking dejectedly past when he heard a soft knock on the front door. He stopped where he was, turning and wondering who it could be. He wasn't expecting anyone. Curious, he walked over to answer it.
            The words written in Jaclyn's essay went on...

            ... he should know that some of us,
            still do believe...

            The door clicked and swung open as Trevor stood on it's other side. He looked around in confusion, leaning out into the hallway when he found no one there. Whoever had knocked was gone. He frowned sadly and closed the door, leaving the small notebook left behind on the floor, unnoticed.
            Jaclyn walked away from Trevor's apartment, trying to smile into the afternoon sunshine but not really able to. It was still too soon, it still hurt too much. But somehow that didn't bother her any more. Whatever she was feeling now, eventually it would pass. Eventually she would feel better. But for now, not feeling better was alright. Besides, she had someone else she had to visit first.
            Trevor's door opened again and he looked down. He was right. Something had caught his eye. He knelt slowly to pick up the rose and notebook at his feet. He looked both ways down the hallway, but no one was there. Trevor examined what he had picked up. Holding the rose to one side, he read the title written on the cover of the notebook.

A SECOND opinion
by Jaclyn.

            Curious about his discovery, Trevor turned and walked back into his apartment. Holding the rose and notebook, he closed the door behind him as the song lyrics continued...

            and you think, that love is only,
            for the lucky, and the strong...

            Champ walked into Taggerty's carrying the dried remains of the rose Jaclyn had given him the night of their double date. The petals were wilted and dry, breaking loose into his palm. Champ kept them anyway, cherishing every crimson fragment. Smiling to himself, he knew he didn't want to take back what had happened. The memories of his time with Jaclyn were worth it.
            Another employee at Taggerty's noticed Champ walking in and called out to him. He said someone had come by and left him something on the bar. Curious, Champ walked over. He smiled when he saw it, reaching to pick it up.
            It was a new red rose, fresh and vibrant. A note was tied around it's stem. Champ unrolled the white paper and read it carefully.

            "Only ten more to go..."

            Champ laughed, recognizing her writing. He touched the rose, placing it away with the first rose that Jaclyn had given him.

            just remember, in the winter,
            far beneath, the winter snows...

            Frank knelt over as he pushed a chair into place in Claire's apartment. Standing behind him, Claire slid her arms over his shoulders when he stood up, kissing him on the neck. Perhaps this would work after all, she thought to herself. Somehow in the light of a new day it all seemed better somehow. She promised herself that she wouldn't think of Trevor today. At least, not again. Even if she had to force herself not to. With a laugh, Claire pulled Frank away from some of his unpacked boxes as she kissed him warmly. She fell backwards onto the couch, pulling Frank in her arms down with her. Sun flowed warmly through the windows.

            Trevor sat bathed in the same sunlight as he read Jaclyn's manuscript, alone in his apartment. He smiled at what she had written, it must have taken a lot of work. He smiled at her continued optimism despite it all. She was right. Sometimes you did see past the delusion to what was really important. Unrequited or not, true love completed itself.
            As he continued to read, Trevor reached out to softly touch the rose beside him. It was covered in sunshine where he had placed it in a cup of water. The red petals seemed to glow, fresh in the sunlight and filled with hope.
            Later Trevor finished reading, smiling to himself as he closed the notebook. He looked up and realized he felt better as his fingers paused and lingered on the title on the cover.

            lies the seed, that with the sun's love,
            in the spring, becomes...the rose.

            The song, now only a few notes lingering on the piano, began to slow and cadence, until it ended.


Next story in this series is