It was an absolutely beautiful day at the park. The sun was shining brightly down from the middle of a flawless, crystal blue sky. The park was lush and green, bathed in a gentle breeze, filled with people who were scattered across its expanse. Many had decided to take advantage of the nice weather to eat, to rest, to play and relax. Their distant voices buzzed happily through the warm air. Two solitary figures, small in that large stretch of green, were approaching each other from opposite sides of the park. They closed on each other slowly, not deviating until they finally met in the middle, standing a few feet apart.
Champ and Jaclyn stood across from each other on the sidewalk as the rest of the park continued oblivious all around them. They both shared a small smile as they looked into the other's sunlit faces. But they were certain not to stand too close together, instead enjoying the presence of the other from a polite distance. Jaclyn glanced around nervously, not expecting the park to be so full. The air felt electric between the two of them, even though there was no reason why it should have. They both knew exactly what they planned to do. But still, they stood there for several seconds, neither knowing how to break that silence.
Champ looked at Jaclyn and finally spoke. "You look very pretty today."
Jaclyn tilted her head up and smiled at him. "Thank you, Champ."
"So." Champ took a breath. "You ready to do this?"
Jaclyn nodded lightly, her expression pleased. Still, she couldn't hide the fact that she was nervous, not sure why she felt that way. Why should she be nervous? "Yeah, I think so. Try to... umm, you know, look awkward or something. We need to make this seem convincing." She sighed, trying to relax.
Champ chuckled to himself and looked down. "Hmm. Look awkward. That'll be easy enough," he said....awkwardly. "Are you sure that Trevor's watching us?"
"Mmm-hmm. Third window of the building behind me on the left. He insisted. Wanted to see how it went. Claire?"
"Just like you thought. Same thing. Coffee shop, across the street..."
Jaclyn's face beamed at Champ, happy it was going to plan. She made a subtle glance around Champ's shoulder. "I think I see her... in the window."
Champ watched as the sun fell on Jaclyn's face. A soft breeze pushed through her hair. He was suddenly struck by how pretty she was, not really understanding why he hadn't noticed it before. She must have dressed up since she came here with Trevor. He spoke with an admiration that surprised him, his voice sincere. "You really... do look very nice today."
Jaclyn actually blushed, looking at him with bright eyes in a shy, simple way that almost made Champ blink. "Thank you, Champ. And thank you for the roses by the way. I got them this morning."
Champ felt an excited rush flow across his shoulders. "You're welcome."
"They were a nice touch..." she added.
Suddenly the flush was gone, as Champ realized what Jaclyn thought they had been sent for. "Oh. Right. I... I thought they would be."
Jaclyn smiled, her face warm as she looked at him. Out of nowhere she giggled as Champ continued to look into her eyes. She stepped back and turned slightly, appearing to flirt with Champ as she looked at him with affection.
She paused, a little uncertain. "That wasn't too much was it?"
Champ laughed, remembering what they were supposed to be doing. For a second he had almost believed her reaction. He was having a little trouble keeping up with what was real or not. "No, it wasn't too much. You're better at this than you think. I should take you on some auditions."
This time, her smile was for his benefit alone. "There's only one audition I'm hoping for."
"Yeah, but he's been having call backs for 5000 years."
They both paused again, their faces content as they looked at each other in silence.
Champ leaned slightly closer to her. "Shouldn't we be arguing by this point?"
She shrugged easily. "There's no rush."
He nodded, seeming happy because he agreed. "So we argue about me seeing Jaclyn... Wait. I mean we argue about me seeing Debbie. Then what? Sturm and Drang, we yell, we scream, we leave?"
Jaclyn gazed blankly at him for a moment, lost in her own thoughts. "Maybe not..."
"What do you mean?"
She came out of her reverie, eyes bright with enthusiasm. "I think I have a better idea..."
"Oh I see," Champ teased. "Now your trying your hand at improv too-"
Jaclyn stared meaningfully into his eyes, stepping slowly closer. Her voice was low, alluring. "Champ... kiss me."
His lip hung down slightly in shock. "What?"
She nodded calmly, as if they were still having a normal conversation. "I want you to kiss me. And I want it right now. You kiss me, and I'll slap you." Jaclyn smiled sweetly, without a hint of anger.
Champ was really confused now. "You want to slap me?"
"No, I want to kiss you. Then I want to slap you. There's a difference."
"Trevor is watching us, remember? Maybe it will spark a little bit of jealousy in him. And it would make a better arguing point. Still... if you don't really want-"
Without a second thought, Champ rushed forward and took her face into his hands as he kissed her, cutting her off in mid sentence.
For a long moment, Jaclyn forgot where she was, body motionless once Champ's lips found her. Then, slowly, without really being aware of it, she slid her arms over his shoulders and behind his neck. Closing her eyes, Jaclyn held him closer and kissed him deeply. Champ's arms crossed across her back as she leaned into him, holding Jaclyn tight and almost lifting her off her feet. For several moments, they forgot everything else, lost in the kiss. Neither wanted to stop, but eventually they did.
Champ felt elated as he pulled back and tried to catch his breath, flushed with the warmth of the kiss as he smiled wildly. The world seemed flush with possibilities for-. His face jerked suddenly as Jaclyn's hand slapped across his cheek, totally catching him off guard. Champ was stunned, until he remembered that was exactly what was supposed to happen.
"Ow!" he said, hand reaching up, still feeling the sting.
"Sorry." Jaclyn stepped back, a little uncertain. She almost reached a cautious hand towards him before remembering they were being watched. She winced, knowing that maybe the slap had been a touch too enthusiastic. "Sorry... I'm sorry. Champ are you OK?"
Champ rubbed his cheek, skin still tingling. "Haven't you ever heard of a stage slap?" Even then he couldn't help himself. He was still smiling and flushed after his kiss with Jaclyn.
Jaclyn almost laughed, words tinged with mirth. But she threw her arms into the air as is she were upset, trying to at least hold onto her angry face as she continued with amusement. "Sorry!" She said with a seemingly angry flourish. "I got carried away! That was kinda fun!" Champ wasn't the only one who still seemed flustered by the kiss, as she blinked at the memory.
Champ smiled at her, but tried to appear contrite. "What was fun? the slap or the kiss?"
Jaclyn looked at Champ's happy face. She waved angrily at him and tried not to giggle. "Champ! Stop that! You're smiling too much!"
Champ nodded, his face going back into character even if his voice wasn't. "I can't help it! This is kind of silly!"
Jaclyn leaned forward, breaking her angry expression with a thin smile she hoped only Champ could see. "Great kiss though..."
Champ turned suddenly away as if he were angry too. "Thank you, Jaclyn! You're a great kisser too!"
She tossed her head back and rolled her eyes as if she were totally offended by the remark. "What a nice thing to say!" She put an anguished hand to her mouth, trying quickly to cover the smile slipping past her face.
Champ turned and came closer to her, his movements apologetic and pleading as he touched her shoulder to get her to turn around. Where was the swell of melodramatic music he could almost hear in his head? Still speaking in a normal voice, he tried not to laugh at the absurdity of it. "Well, it's true. You really know how to kiss..."
Jaclyn looked at him and couldn't help but blink, momentarily breaking out of character. "Thank you," she said softly. It amazed her how different Champ's demeanor and body movements were from his actual tone of voice. He was definitely better at this than she was. She remembered to toss her hands as is she were chastising him. "How do you do that?" Jaclyn asked, curious. "You're words are saying one thing, but you're body's saying another."
Champ nodded. "For us guys that happens all the time..." He hung his head, as if accepting her condemnation.
Jaclyn kept her movements forceful, her tone light. "Umm, Champ. You know what? You're starting to freak me out here!" She poked a finger at him for emphasis, trying desperately to keep a straight face and look angry. "I'd better go. Before I crack up." She said it softly, forcing back her smile."
Champ nodded contritely. "OK... I'll call you tonight. Nice performance."
"That's a wrap then." Jaclyn waved an angry hand at him as she turned and stormed off with a flourish. "Thanks! Talk to you tonight!"
With that she was gone, leaving Champ standing there alone. He paused, trying to catch his breath when he looked up and over to where he saw an older man sitting on a park bench nearby, not three feet away. The man's eyes were wide, trying desperately to figure out what he had just seen and heard.
"Hi." Champ said simply, before turning to watch Jaclyn's retreating form as it got smaller. His face changed as he considered her and wondered what he felt. Suddenly there was a ringing in his pocket. He reached in and pulled out Claire's cell phone, turning it on. Sighing reluctantly, he put the receiver to his ear, knowing what was coming. He could hear the sounds of the coffee shop where Claire had rushed to a pay phone.
"Umm... Champ." Claire said after a pause. "Didn't we go over respecting her boundaries?"
Champ didn't answer, hanging up the phone and dropping it into his pocket again. His eyes were still locked on Jaclyn's distant form as she walked away, a small speck in the crowd. Suddenly he was filled with a longing he didn't expect. It blossomed across his face, but there was no one there to see it. With a sigh and a last glance, Champ turned towards the coffee shop and walked away.
"Champ, what were you thinking?"
Champ looked over at Claire as they walked slowly down the sidewalk, sunshine and shadow sliding across their forms as it fell through the trees they were walking beneath. Claire waited for a response as they continued forward.
He blinked at what she asked, still thinking about what had happened in the park. They way it must have seemed to Trevor and Claire. He should have known he would get blamed for the incident, even though technically it was Jaclyn's idea. Still, thinking about the kiss, that didn't seem like such a bad trade off.
"I," Champ smiled, remembering. "I don't know what I was thinking. I guess I wasn't."
Claire looked at him and noticed his pleased expression. "Look, it's not like I don't understand. I mean, when you're attracted to someone, I know how easy it is to get carried away and go further than you planned."
Champ stiffened slightly, wondering what she referred to, if she had figured it out. "What do you mean? Carried away with what?"
Claire gave him a confused look. "Carried away by your feelings. You know. Swept up in the moment. Doing what you wished you could do, like kissing Jaclyn, instead of what you should do which is take it slower. You can't just mouth maul her out of nowhere like that."
Champ chuckled. "Well I was definitely in the moment."
Claire smiled. "Really..."
"Yeah. I guess I sorta messed things up. I wasn't expecting her to slap me like that."
Claire tried to sound encouraging. "Don't be so sure. I saw that kiss. She was definitely an active participant."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean she was kissing you just as much as you were kissing her."
Champ looked over. "You think so?"
"Sure. She was probably just feeling a little self-conscious afterwards, having second thoughts. But regardless... don't do it again."
"It really surprises me how I'm feeling." Champ watched the sidewalk passing beneath their feet, introspective. "I can't help it. I find myself.... thinking about her all the time."
Claire nodded, as another patch of sunlight slid across her face. "I understand that. It's natural to be infatuated in the early parts of an attraction to someone. But just because you've built up this wonderful little romantic fantasy in your mind, doesn't mean that it exists in the real world for you to act upon."
Champ appeared to deflate, nodding slowly. "I know. I know. I shouldn't have done it and... I shouldn't get my hopes up. But she's all I think about. I'm happy when I'm near her, uncomfortable when I'm not. I try to find any excuse I can to be with her, no matter what lie I have to tell to do it."
Claire looked at him as they continued to walk slowly. "Well, lying's never a good way to start a relationship. It's better to be honest. Well... a little honest. Besides, I think Jaclyn knows how you feel."
Champ nodded. "Maybe. But maybe she doesn't."
Claire laughed, a soft breeze moving through her hair. "Well, I'm just guessing that the kiss might have been a clue..."
Champ replied quietly, his face brightening. "Yeah, I'm sorry I did that."
Claire smiled at him. "No you're not. But if something's going to happen between you, don't rush it. Be patient. Give it a little time. It'll happen."
Champ looked over at her. "Thank you, Claire." He looked away as they walked, wondering why none of what he said sounded like a performance.
Trevor finally caught up to Jaclyn as she walked down the street. "Jaclyn, what happened? Things seemed to be going so well..."
Jaclyn kept her eyes forward, stepping forcefully. "I don't want to talk about it Trevor."
"Ok, he shouldn't have done it. But it was a little harmless peck..."
Jaclyn grunted in annoyance. "I'm so angry at him right now."
"Jaclyn stop." He touched her arm and she turned towards him. "Let's be honest here. Admit it. I saw that kiss. You felt something too."
Jaclyn looked away. "Maybe. But he shouldn't have just jumped into it without asking like that. Gods, then I slapped him. How are we going to get past that?"
Trevor nodded. "You slapped him. Right. You had every right to. Remind me never to get you angry at me. But the slap isn't insurmountable. Some people consider it foreplay. In fact, I saw the smile on his face when you did. I need to ask Champ if he's got some S&M thing he isn't admitting..."
"Trevor..." Jaclyn shook her head and turned away from him, starting to walk again. "I don't really feel like talking about this. How can I trust he'll be able to control himself without trying it again before I'm ready for that..."
Trevor hurried to catch up. "Would that be so bad?"
"No... just too fast. I need to go at my own speed. Thank you Trevor, but I'm really going to have to think about this." Jaclyn walked away, one corner of her lip curling up as she left Trevor behind her.
Trevor stood there and thought, before calling out to her. "We can fix this! I promise. The god of love never surrenders! OK, there was that dominatrix once, but she made me do it! This is going to work! Just you wait and ... Jaclyn?" He stopped, realizing she was no longer there to hear him. He looked around quickly, tying to decide what to do. He could fix this. He knew he could, he just had to find Claire. Together they would come up with something.
Soft music was playing as Frank and Claire sat across from each other in a fancy restaurant. Both were dressed well, obviously having put some effort into going out tonight. Perhaps too much effort, as if they were trying to make up for something they didn't want to admit. They ate in silence, the only other sounds were the soft music and the quiet hum of the other patrons all around them. Frank felt a little out of place, uncomfortable in all the elegance and finery. It wasn't really his style. But he hadn't spent much time with Claire recently. In fact that was one of the things that had precipitated the evening. So he was willing to tolerate just about any circumstances or surroundings.
Claire smiled at him, realizing she hadn't been giving him much attention lately. She looked gorgeous, bathed in soft light, her hair swirling down in soft curls down the side of her face. Frank looked at her and almost had to catch his breath, amazed at how beautiful she was. He looked away, having the disturbing thought that perhaps that was truly all he was able to see of her. That she had never shown him more, more of the person inside. Claire noticed his mood and reached over, touching his arm.
"Frank, what are you thinking?" she asked softly.
Frank smiled, trying to cover his worries. "Nothing. It's nothing. I'm just happy to have at least one evening that's 'Trevorless' for once. Or any evening at all for that matter."
Claire sighed. "I'm sorry. I've been busy. I know I've been neglecting us. Neglecting our relationship."
Frank poked at his food. "You've been busy with Trevor."
"Is that what you're worried about?"
"No..." Frank looked at her, not angry at all. "Not really. It's just that... lately, you seem to have been pushing me away, Claire."
"Frank, I'm sorry. I'll try to make more time for us to spend together. If I'm pushing you away it's totally inadvertent-"
Frank interrupted her softly. "Spending time with me is something you have to make?"
Claire looked at him, curious at his reaction. "Wait. There's something else going on here..."
Frank nodded. "Yes. There is."
"So," Claire tried to keep calm. "Tell me. What are you getting at?"
"I think you're scared of us."
Claire blinked, not expecting that. "What could possibly... I mean why would you even think that?"
Frank looked at her, compassion in his eyes as he gazed at the woman he loved. "You're scared of me. You've been pushing me away. You're scared that in the end I'll leave you. Just like Alex did. Just like your pilot boyfriend Jack did. Like your Father did..."
Claire shook her head, taking a drink of wine to calm herself. "Nothing like armchair psychologists..."
"Maybe you're right, Claire. And that's all it is. But the truth is we haven't been spending time-"
"Frank, I've been busy. What with work, and me and Trevor having this little 'project' that we're working on, it's just been-"
"How do you really feel about Trevor?"
Claire paused, looking at Frank for several seconds. "I thought you said you didn't get jealous." she said in a soft accusing voice.
Claire sighed. "Give me a little more credit than that, will you?"
Frank looked into her eyes. "Claire, I'm not trying to start an argument here. And I don't get jealous," Frank paused off her expression, "OK, maybe a little. But I'm not angry about it. I just... want to know what you're feelings are for Trevor Hale."
"We've been spending some time together, that's all. We're trying to get Champ and Jaclyn together because we think they'd be good for each other. And, in case you've forgotten, I am still in the process of writing a book about Trevor."
"I see. The book."
Claire blinked. "Frank... I don't know what you want to hear."
"I want to hear the truth."
She seemed to pause, reluctant. "OK. What do you want to know."
Frank looked at her. "Have you ever been attracted to Trevor? I mean, have you ever considered going on out to dinner, or having some romantic relationship?"
Claire's mouth hung open. "That's ridiculous..."
"Do you think he's handsome?"
"I'm not having this conversation."
"What are you scared of? It's just a conversation, Claire. Have you ever stopped to imagine what it would be like. Even if only for a second. You and Trevor. On a date. Just like this. Like us now."
"Of course not!"
Claire stuttered, unsure of what to say. "I can't believe-... It's just that. Well, for starters, he IS delusional. Plus he's my patient, and the main subject of my book. It would be completely unethical for me to have any sort of... romantic attraction to Trevor. So even if I ever wanted to, I could never let that happen."
Frank nodded quietly, looking away. His next words were soft. "Then I guess the real question is... have you ever wanted to."
Claire grunted softly in exasperation. She reached over to take Frank's hands in her own. "Frank, you don't have to worry about Trevor. I'm in love with you, not him. Maybe, after we," Claire gave him a seductive little smile, "after we... get out of here, I can show you how much." She leaned in and kissed him softly. "Over," another soft kiss, light on Frank's lips, "and over again."
Frank touched her cheek, enjoying her kisses. His mood lightened. "Well, maybe you should go on a date with Trevor sometime regardless. You know, get it out of the way. Find out for sure." Frank was lost in her kisses, whispering softly.
Claire laughed softly against his mouth, pressing her smile against his lips. "No. I don't think that'll be necessary..."
They both feel into a deep kiss, just as they heard a loud shout from across the restaurant, forced to finally break it.
"Claire! Yo, Claire-Bear! There you are, Sparky! Been looking all over for you!"
Claire sighed and lowered her head. Frank closed his eyes, resting his chin on her forehead. "How does he always know the perfect bad time to interrupt our dinners..."