Later that evening, Trevor and Claire sat across from each other in her dining room as they had dinner. The lights were low and a soft music was playing. Claire was dressed in a very flattering dress that made her look fabulous. Trevor looked like he had just come in off the street. The fancy meal they dined on was Italian, and for once it seemed to live up to Trevor's very discerning tastes when it came to Italian food. They were alone in the apartment. And the other rooms were dark.
"So," Claire was saying proudly, "I gave Champ a generalized overview and then tried to emphasize the relevant concepts to his own situation."
"Umm-hmm." Trevor said absently around a mouth full of pasta.
Claire poked at her plate. "I just think a little insight into Jaclyn's character may give him a leg up." She took a sip of wine. "It may help him to... help him to-" Claire looked up at Trevor.
"Insight," Trevor said distantly. "Love when that happens." He was devouring his meal, and Claire realized he wasn't listening to her at all. She sighed in annoyance.
"Why is it that no one seems to hear a word I've said today?"
"Absolutely. You've got a point..."
Trevor finally looked up, realizing she had caught him. "Ok, I'll listen. But first I have a bone to pick with you."
"I knew I poured this wine for a reason..."
Trevor began. "What's the deal with that leaning tower of 'homework' that you assigned Champ? I know you're trying to beat me in this little contest you dreamed up, but that's a little obsessive even for an uber-obsessive like yourself, don't you think?"
Claire blinked. "What?"
Trevor looked at her. "Beat me. You're trying to beat me."
Claire paused before forcing out a light, unconvincing laugh. "Beat you? I'm... I'm not trying to beat you at anything, Trevor . And... and this is not a contest. I don't know what you're talking about." She seemed flustered.
Trevor waited in silence before continuing. "And just because you're trying to beat me is no excuse for the book hernia you gave to Champ."
"Oh come on, Trevor. You exaggerate. Those books couldn't have weighed more than ten... twenty pounds."
"You know what I mean, Claire. By the time he reads all that...stuff, the only function he'll be asking Jaclyn to is the party in twenty years for his lumbar replacement."
Claire nodded slowly, offended. "That stuff is not 'stuff', Trevor. It's a valid psychological analysis of the dynamics of interpersonal relationships-"
Trevor interrupted her. "I'm sorry. I know you just spouted a whole bunch of very fancy therapist speak, but I still heard 'stuff'."
"Oh right. I forgot who I was talking to, Trevor. I'll try to use more small words. Maybe some simple innuendoes, that seems more you're style. You ever consider self-proctology? You're head's up there often enough..."
Trevor waved his fork in the air, mouth full. "Hey! I'm eating here!"
Claire sighed. "Look Trevor. We're supposed to be on the same side here, remember?"
"I'm sorry Claire. I forgot. Not used to us working together for once. Same side. Hmm. That'll work fine I guess. But I usually prefer the classic missionary-"
"The point, Trevor, is that we're both interested in the same thing."
Trevor smiled. "If we were both interested in the same thing, you'd never be able to tear yourself away from yourself in the shower each morning. Or go on another date. Or leave the house." He thought about it, looking into the distance. "Or wear clothing..."
"Trevor, could you stop before I re-evaluate why letting you stay seemed like a good idea? I mean our interest in trying to help Jaclyn and Champ."
Trevor nodded. "Right. So... so did I."
Claire looked away as her mind began to work. "So how do we get them together, Trevor?"
"How do we keep us apart?" Jaclyn was asking.
Champ was chewing on a hamburger as he looked up at her. "What do you mean?"
They were both in Jaclyn's small apartment, eating dinner. Jaclyn and Champ were seated on the floor in front of her coffee table with greasy take out spread across it as they discussed their next course of action. They sat in leisurely positions as they faced each other, enjoying each other's company.
"We can't let our 'relationship' develop to fast," Jaclyn said. "The entire point is that I spend time with Trevor. If we cut to a happy ending I don't get a happy ending. I won't get to spend more time with him."
Champ swallowed a mouthful from his bottle of beer. "So me spending time with Claire is... what? Busy work?"
"No, not at all." Jaclyn bit her own hamburger. "It's very important. It keeps Claire away from Trevor while I'm with him. I kinda," Jaclyn smiled at Champ, "want him to myself."
Champ laughed, teasing her. "If you only knew the sacrifices I was making for your 'quality time'."
Nodding, Jaclyn took another bite. "I know. That's why were having sex later."
Champ sputtered. "What?"
She smiled at him wickedly. "Kidding. I'm kidding. You really need to work on your poker face."
"I really hope that's not a pun..." He smiled back at her, seeing her point. "I suppose I should expect the unexpected if we're going to do this. And I understand your point. Nothing builds a relationship like spending time with someone. So. How are we going to keep us apart and stretch this thing out without getting caught?"
Jaclyn thought about it. "We'll plot it out. Keep it simple so it stays in control. Write it like a story."
Champ took another bite ,nodding in agreement. He was really enjoying the hamburger, one of the best he's tasted in Chicago. "Jaclyn, where did you find this hamburger joint? This is actually very-"
"-good, Claire. It's quite the tasty tasties you've prepared." Trevor looked at all the food she had made, and he had to reluctantly admit to himself that Claire was a hell of a cook. He looked at her. "I'm really impressed. You put out a fabulous spread."
"Thanks Trevor. It wasn't that hard to prepare."
He forced back a laugh. "Didn't mean the food."
Claire gave him a look. "You must really go over big at comic book conventions and under the bleachers at high school football games. Well, maybe junior high games."
"Whatever you're implying Claire, its geek to me."
"What I've been trying to get across is that I think Champ may have some intimacy issues."
Trevor shook his head and moaned, not agreeing. "Why would you think that? Oh wait. I forgot. You're a psychologist." Trevor tore into a breadstick. "Right. You would probably say Ebola has intimacy issues."
"Well," Claire thought about it. "Champ's found a way to ruin nearly every relationship he's been in."
Trevor lifted his hands. "That's called being a guy-"
"He pushes the self-destruct button every time he starts feeling too close to someone, Trevor. You mean the god of love hasn't noticed this? Hmm. Omniscience takes a holiday. What if he does it again with Jaclyn? What if he starts feeling close to her and he bails out and pushed the eject button?"
"My usual advice for pre mature ejection seats is pacing and thinking of something else. Like baseball. But I see your point."
"Exactly. Jaclyn's smart, attractive. Sometimes that scares men off..." Claire took a bite of pasta.
"Very flattering, Claire. You seem quite taken with her too. If you two ever get together, I'd love to see the video..."
"Trevor," Claire was quickly becoming annoyed. "TRY.... for once....not to think with your lowest common denominator, OK? And before you even get the chance to ask, No. I don't want to 'do the math', or 'check the figures', or whatever."
He smiled, touching his chest with false sentimentality. "Claire! You know me so well. I'll have to go with the whatever part."
She shrugged. "I'm just not in the mood for small fractions Trevor. But back to what I was saying. It's not like I think Jaclyn's perfect either. She's had a few unlucky experiences in her love life here and there. So now she tends to gravitate to the wild, the exotic, the crazy even. Because it's unattainable. And therefore safer. Because it can't work. That's why she's wary of ordinary guys that might last or might hurt her. We have to get her past that."
"But past what? That's the problem." Jaclyn was saying.
Jaclyn and Champ had stopped eating, sitting in silence as they racked their brains trying to think of something. For all the world like they had been hit with a sudden case of 'writers block' when it came to why they shouldn't be together.
"We need a bump in the road." Champ said.
Jaclyn laughed and Champ looked over at her. She waved it off. "Never mind," she said, smiling.
Champ continued. "Basic dramatic principle. There always has to be some sort of conflict to gum up the process. Otherwise it gets boring fast."
Jaclyn nodded. "Well, we've seen Trevor do this sort of thing dozens of times. When he sets two people up, how does it usually go?"
Champ considered her question as he sipped his beer. Suddenly he snapped his finger. "He recognizes an attraction that's already there."
Both of them paused as they looked at each other carefully.
Finally they broke the moment. "Yeah," Jaclyn said with a sigh, smiling to herself. "I think we've got that covered." Blushing slightly, she looked away.
Champ felt the same, nodding happily. "Couldn't agree more..."
"I couldn't disagree more, Claire. There's absolutely nothing useful in burying Champ under a Mount Vesuvious of research that he can't use! You shrinks are all alike-"
"Well, you would be the expert on that, Trevor."
"-because you're always so impressed with trying to impress. Instead of just giving some good advice."
Claire moaned, feeling like she was banging her head against... well, against her desk like she had finally stopped Champ from doing earlier. "Trevor, I'm trying to improve Champ's insides. And I'm showing him a lot of what Jaclyn might fear in this relationship. And some of his own fears too. Hopefully I'll leave him with some tools to deal with those. I want him to see her soul. And maybe his own in the process. Why. What did you work on with Jaclyn?"
Trevor didn't hesitate. "I taught her to walk..."
Trevor nodded. "I taught her to walk. To get Champ's attention. Peel back a little sex appeal. Because the real way to a man's heart is through his... lowest common denominator."
Claire stared at him in shock, mouth hanging open. She didn't know what offended her more. "Why do I suddenly feel like Jane Goodall? Sex appeal. That's all you worked on. Isn't that a little shallow, Trevor?"
Trevor smiled brightly at her as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "It's not a little shallow, it's deeply shallow. Of course it's shallow! That's what the first tentative steps always are. But sex appeal works both ways. It makes others feel better about you, but it also makes you feel better about yourself. Jaclyn needs to feel good about herself if this is going to work. It's just the first small step in the bigger dance. The all encompassing dance called LOVE. Sex appeal just opens the door to others and yourself. The invitation to join in."
Claire shook her head, amazed. "And you really believe it's that easy."
Trevor nodded. "It's that easy."
Jaclyn didn't agree. "But it's never that easy. Being attracted to someone is a start. But what barrier are we going to overcome to make this last longer? Any ideas?"
"Hmm." Champ held his beer in mid air as his arm rested against his raised knee. Music played in the background as they sat next to each other, the meal long over. Champ considered her question. "There's the friendship thing we've got. It's important to us. We could be afraid of ruining it. Maybe that would work."
Jaclyn's knees were curled up beneath her as she looked at him. "Yeah. But it's too subtle. How do we really play that? How long could we keep that going?"
He looked at her, amused. "I don't know. How long does it take to fall in love with you?"
"You tell me," she said with a flirty look. "You're the one playing the interested guy..."
He looked at her closely, able to see the smile she was desperately trying to keep from her face as she elevated her chin a little, trying to pose. Champ nodded as he smiled at her. "About that long..."
She laughed and lightly hit his arm. "I think Trevor will need a little more than that."
"Maybe... if he's stupid."
Jaclyn considered it further. "We need something overt. Something obvious that will be easy to play out so we don't get lost. Something straight forward." Suddenly an idea came to her. "Wait. I've got it. An argument. We can have an argument in public." Jaclyn sounded pleased.
"You mean a fight?"
"Not a fight. A tiff. A verbal disagreement."
Champ laughed. "I've always wanted to be a soap diva."
Jaclyn teased him. "That's actually more than I needed to know."
"They need to see us having the argument. Where could we have it?"
"Tomorrow," Jaclyn said. "They set up that noon meeting for us in the park to go to lunch together, remember? What's more public than that? Perfect plot complication."
Champ smiled. "I never knew you were so sneaky. I like it. What's the argument about?"
Jaclyn knew immediately. "I could be jealous of Debbie. You said you have a date with her Wednesday night."
"I don't know if we should get her involved with this. I know I mentioned that she's in the play I'm in, but she's a terrible actress."
"She doesn't have to know she's the reason, as long as we know. She'll never have to do anything. As long as we use her as an excuse to keep us apart."
Champ nodded. "This could work..."
Claire shook her head. "It'll never work. Trevor they need more than the attraction you're giving them for each other. That's already there. There's always more going on beneath the surface of situations like this than you realize. Subconscious hopes and barriers to overcome. The point is to keep them together long enough to see past those so they realize how they feel about each other."
"For once, I agree with you Claire." Trevor looked carefully at her face in the soft candlelight. "I'm all for-" he paused, enjoying the view, "the power of proximity."
Claire felt herself blush, softly rubbing her neck as she smiled and looked away. "Thank you, Trevor."
Across the room, Claire's front door opened and Frank walked in unexpectedly. Noticing the dim lighting, he looked over at the two of them at the table having dinner together and blinked, surprised at the image. Surprised at how natural it seemed. That thought made him pause for a moment as he stood there on her doorstep, feeling uncertain, strangely enough, that he should be intruding.
"Trevor," Frank said smoothly, not letting his voice convey any of his thoughts. "I didn't expect to see you here. How are you?"
Trevor called across the room to him. "Frank! My man. I'm doing fine actually. I was just about to-" He looked over at Claire. She was giving him a fairly obvious look that told him she wanted some time alone with Frank. "-get out of your way, it seems."
Trevor pushed back his chair and rose to leave, but not before taking a final bite. "So I'll leave you two alone." He grabbed a breadstick to take with him as he looked over at Frank, waving it before him at an elevated angle. "I know you have more nailing to do."
Claire moaned, dropping her head into her hands. Frank didn't catch it, not knowing Trevor as well. At a loss, he looked over at Claire once before addressing Trevor again. "Actually, I finished working in Claire's bedroom weeks ago."
Trevor laughed. "Not the way Claire tells it, man. Hey, keep up the good work." He looked over at Claire. "I'll see you tomorrow, Claire."
Embarrassed, Claire quickly waved him off. "Goodbye, Trevor."
Trevor walked across the room to where Frank still stood, pausing only to pat him on the shoulder and whisper into his ear. "Pacing, Frank. It's all about pacing." With that he disappeared into the night through the open door behind Frank.
Uncertain what had just happened, Frank closed the door and walked over to Claire, not sure what to make of Trevor's presence.
Claire smiled at him, honestly happy to see him. "You're late..."
"I see you found a replacement."
Claire nodded. "Whether I wanted one or not. One thing you'll learn about Trevor is to never leave an open plate of food in front of him if you don't expect him to eat it. He came over while I was waiting for you and decided to help himself."
"So it seems." An image came to Frank of the first dinner he had had with Claire. How when Alex hadn't shown up, he had stepped in to enjoy the evening with her, only to have Trevor interrupt them. It disturbed him a little to find their positions now reversed.
"Frank?" Still seated at the table, Claire picked up on his mood. "Are you alright? You seem a little distracted."
"No, I'm... I'm fine. My mind was just somewhere else for a moment."
"Hmm. Well, I managed to hide some food away that Trevor didn't find. I'll go heat it up. I'm glad you came." She kissed him on the cheek as she passed.
Left alone, Frank watched her leave as thoughts churned through his head. Then, wanting to concentrate only on Claire and their time together, he did his best to forget completely about Trevor Hale.