Trevor rushed across the restaurant to Frank and Claire's table. Claire watched his approach with a sigh of inevitability. She spoke wearily when he came near, trying to ignore the stares of the other patrons who had looked up at Trevor's shout.
"What is it Trevor?"
Trevor seemed excited to have found her, and his voice was tinged with anxiety. With no chair for him, he knelt beside the small table. "We have to talk, Claire! We have to find a way to overcome that slap fiasco in the park. Jaclyn's ready to bail, Champ's ego has taken a blow, no pun intended. It's all falling apart. Why are you sitting here?"
"Trevor, how did you find us?" Claire turned an amused eye to Frank. "Didn't I tell you to stop leaving that trail of bread crumbs for Trevor to follow?"
Frank smiled. "It wasn't for him, it was for me. I needed an escape route. I know how... 'voracious' you can get at these sort of dinners."
Claire smiled seductively at Frank, sharing a gaze between them as she enjoyed the implications. Trevor looked back and forth between their faces, feeling very much ignored and out of place as they stared hungrily at each other. He waved an unseen hand to break their line of sight before muttering to himself. "Why do I feel like a dropped towel wanting attention at a nude beach."
Claire looked at him. "Trevor, I talked with Champ. He's sorry about what he did, and he said he won't do it again. It was unexpected. It was inappropriate. But it's not something Champ and Jaclyn can't get past."
"But they need our help to do it, Claire! Jaclyn was pissed! Gods was she pissed. She could have made a griffin molt all it's feathers and go bald. This is a code red emergency! Code red head! We've got to fix this Claire! Didn't you eat yesterday? Can't this wait till tomorrow?"
Smiling, Claire inhaled slowly, thoughts distracted as she looked at Frank. "I don't think I can... wait till tomorrow." She was enjoying Frank's reaction to her words. Remembering Jaclyn and Champ in the bar, she grazed her foot upward beneath the table, making him jump.
Trevor noticed Claire flirting instead of paying attention, and it was annoying him. "Are you trying to get Champ and Jaclyn together or not? I thought you were helping me here."
Claire looked at him again, annoyed herself at his interruptions. "I am trying to help, Trevor. But I-"
Trevor shook his head, not listening. "I knew it. Amateurs. Never work with amateurs. I knew you wouldn't take this seriously. I knew you really didn't care if they-"
Claire glared at him. "Trevor, what do you really expect us to be able to do tonight? Turn back time? Mix up a love potion? That's crazy. But then again, considering..." She waved angrily at Trevor.
Trevor pleaded with her. "I think we can talk about it! Spend some time together, you and me, trying to fix this! This is an important time. Sometimes if things go wrong early, they never get around to going right! Who knows when it will turn into just another could have been, another lost chance! Help me, Claire! I... I need you."
Frank looked over, thinking about Trevor's words.
Claire seemed reluctant to answer. For a second Trevor could see in her eyes an underlying desire to go with him, to tackle this problem, to work with Trevor and show him her ability to match up couples just as well as he could. His admission of wanting her help had done a lot. But the moment of indecision passed. "Trevor... it can wait. You'll just have to go one night without me."
"Why should it wait? What's the hold up, Claire? You can't spare one night?"
Claire leaned towards him, trying to lower her voice and keep the anger from her words so as not to make a scene. "Can't you? Are you honestly telling me that the god of love can't handle one night alone? Have I become that indispensable to you? I'm disappointed, Trevor. Guess I was expecting more from a deity."
Trevor heard the scorn in her voice. "Hey, I could match up two blind satyrs on a deserted island in the middle of a hurricane with my bow tied behind my back. Looks like I was under the false impression you cared about this. About Jaclyn and Champ. That the two of us were in this together, Claire." His voice became hard and soft as he looked away. "Guess I was wrong." Trevor got up from where he knelt, turning to leave.
"Trevor..." her soft voice stopped him.
Claire looked up when he turned, and she felt herself wanting to go with him. But as she glanced at Frank, as she saw him dressed up, a rarity for him, in a sincere effort on his part to spend time with her, Claire was forced to remember how much she had been neglecting him recently. She turned back to Trevor. "It's just that... I can't spend all my free time with you, Trevor. You're a big boy. You can handle one night alone. You'll just have to make due, because tonight... I'm spending some long overdue time with my Boyfriend, not you, Trevor. So, good night."
"But I-" he began to protest.
"Good night... Trevor." She said more forcefully.
Trevor blinked and knew he was fighting a lost cause. Sighing, he began to turn and pull away, a sad look on his face. Suddenly he turned back. "It's just that-"
Claire cut him off with a sharp, silencing hiss of air, raising a finger in warning. "Trevor. Good night."
"Yeah." He said softly, looking hurt as he nodded and accepted it. "Okay. Good night, Claire." In an exaggerated motion, overly exaggerated, he hung his head down, shambling away like a berated puppy with its tail between its legs.
Claire sighed, giving in. "Trevor..."
He turned instantly. "Yeah?"
Reluctantly, Claire closed her eyes, knowing she had to give him something. She raised a cautious hand in concession as she spoke. "Call me in the morning, Trevor."
Trevor pushed his tongue into his cheek, a little angry that that was all he was going to get. "In the morning."
"Yes. Goodnight, Trevor."
Trevor's voice was stern, shaking his head. "Fine. Whatever. I'll see you in the morning." Features hard, he turned and moved away, not looking back at her. He couldn't have explained it to himself, but somehow Claire's rejection upset him. He didn't even see the other tables as he walked past them, still able to feel Claire and Frank together behind him, feel it on the skin of his back.
Once Trevor was gone, Claire turned back to Frank. "Sorry about the interruption. So. Where were we."
Frank seemed distracted by what he had seen, lost in thought. "I don't remember."
"Well I do." She looked at him, biting her lower lip, soft brown eyes gazing into his face. "You know, I'm not really that hungry. Do you... want to go back to my place?" She smiled slowly.
Frank looked at her, any distractions he had melted away in the heat of her gaze. He smiled, leaning forward across the table to her. "I thought you wanted to spend some quality time together."
Claire spared one last glance at the direction Trevor had left, but she blinked it off before she turned back to Frank. She hummed seductively. "Well, I know I'll do my best to make it quality time. As for you, don't even think of escaping. It's too late for bread crumbs." Claire leaned forward and kissed Frank, holding the side of his chin as her eyes looked into his the entire time. Then they both closed their eyes, kissing in the restaurant and not caring who saw it.
Trevor came out of the front door of the restaurant, passing the valet. He began to walk down the sidewalk, angrily kicking a discarded soda can in his path. He didn't know what he was angry about. Was it that Claire refused to help or that she didn't come with him in the end?
Trevor happened to turn his head to glance through the restaurant window and he stopped. Alone on the sidewalk, he stepped closer to the glass and looked in, gazing across the tables. His lower lip hung down slightly as he watched Frank and Claire in the middle of the room, kissing passionately. Trevor blinked, surprised at his reaction. Surprised at how jealous he felt. She had pushed him away. Pushed him away for Frank.
Trevor knew he should be happy for Claire. It was what he wanted for her right? Even if there was no bead to his credit. He wanted Claire to be happy. And maybe he was happy for her. But somehow he couldn't manage to feel happy for... himself. He lowered his eyes, unable to watch any further. The street noises were quiet behind him and a subtle night breeze blew slowly across the empty sidewalk, as Trevor bathed sadly in the lights from the restaurant. More subdued, he began to walk away, unable to stop the feeling of being rejected. This time as he left, head hanging down, it wasn't an act.
Taggerty's was full of customers as Champ stood behind the bar listening to Jaclyn talk. It was a busy night, and he had been drafted into bartender service again. She sat squeezed onto a barstool in front of him, the bar packed shoulder to shoulder, as the crowd passed back and forth behind her. The music was loud, forcing Jaclyn to lean forward and speak up to be heard over all the noise. And even though Champ was swamped with orders, he didn't mind it at all, leaning forward to listen.
"I think the slap worked well," she was saying, "It leaves us with a lot to build on. Enough of a pretense to keep going, anyway."
Champ nodded. "Yeah. Either that or you just secretly hope to rough me up some more. So what's the next move for Muhammad Jackie? Do I need to invest in an icepack?"
Jaclyn laughed, face bright. "Hell if I know. I'm making this up as I go along."
Champ smiled, understanding the enthusiasm in her voice. "It's kinda cool, isn't it? Not knowing what comes next."
She nodded slowly, enjoying the thought. "Yeah. It is."
Champ turned away and walked to the far end of the bar carrying some dishes as Jaclyn spoke even louder, trying to be heard over the bustle of people and music as she called out to him.
"I mean, I don't know what comes next!" She said. "It's exhilarating! Anything's possible! Maybe he could love me given enough time. That's what's so great about this. I don't know what's around the next corner! For all I know I could turn around right now and find-" She turned around and saw Trevor approaching through the crowd. "Trevor," she said softly in surprise, before realizing Champ would be coming back down the bar any second. "Trevor!" she called out to him in greeting, hoping it was loud enough for Champ to hear.
Champ did, stopping his approach when he saw Trevor walk up to Jaclyn. He quickly moved the other direction as if he and Jaclyn hadn't been talking at all.
"The incredible edible Jackie ohhhh! Glad I found you!" Trevor squeezed in next to her, wedging himself between her and the next person along the bar. He leaned his back against the railing as he rested his elbows behind him. Jaclyn sat down again once he was set, forced to her delight to squeeze in closer to him because of the crowd. Her legs accidentally bumped his and she looked up. "Sorry." Her eyes were practically glowing with adoration as she looked at him. "So, what did you want to see me about Trevor?" She attempted to cross her legs seductively but didn't quite pull it off, trying out some of the body language Trevor had taught her.
Trevor became introspective. After being all alone on the sidewalk, he had felt the need to be around people, people who wouldn't push him away. Trevor thought about Jaclyn as he looked at her. "You know, I've been thinking. Thinking about what's going on, and I realized something. I think we should move to the next step. Jaclyn would you like to go out sometime?"
Champ desperately gripped the glass he held tighter as it slipped out of his grasp in shock, clattering on other glasses at the other side of the bar. He tried to not look over at the two of them.
Jaclyn was stunned, her eyes staring into his. A thrill coursed through her body. She was happy beyond belief, finally able to speak after a few seconds. "Trevor... I..."
Trevor nodded at her apparent acceptance. "Nothing fancy. Just an elegant romantic meal. For two. Perfect setting for love, don't you think?"
Jaclyn blinked. "Uh, sure... I'd love to."
"Great. I'll talk to Champ."
Jaclyn suddenly felt her elation waver, as she reached out and touched his shoulder, stopping Trevor from leaving. "Wait, Champ?"
Trevor looked at her. "Yeah. Give him an opportunity to apologize to you for being so grabby today. I'm sure I can convince him to do it. Like convincing a fish it likes water. Sometimes a pretense to spend and evening together is all it takes..." Trevor's voice trailed off, as his thoughts went to Claire. "Anyway, have you seen Champ around here?"
Jaclyn tried to hide her disappointment. "Umm... no. No I haven't. But Trevor, I'm not so sure this is a good idea."
"What do you mean?" Trevor said hello to someone he knew who bumped into him, before turning back to her.
Jaclyn tried to think on her feet. "I'm not sure I'm comfortable enough with Champ to be able to go that far yet..."
"If this is still about that kiss..."
"No," Jaclyn shook her head, "It's not that. It's just that... a dinner with Champ and me alone would be so... personal. So intimate."
Trevor smiled, leaning in. "That's the idea."
"But I'd be nervous. I'd be..." she fumbled for words, "I wouldn't know what to say, what to do. I need some more help. Maybe if you and I had sort of... I don't know, our own date. A dry run, just the two of us-"
Trevor shook his head. "You learn by jumping in. You'll never swim in the big pool without getting a wet t-shirt. You'll be fine. Where IS Champ? I don't see him. Is he working tonight?"
Trevor started to walk away but Jaclyn grabbed his arm.
"Trevor, please" Her mind worked quickly, voice uncertain. "Maybe.. maybe you could... maybe you could come with us so it wouldn't be so awkward." In her head she was already trying to work out a way to get Champ to cancel and leave her alone with Trevor.
Trevor looked at her. "You're that worried about this?" Jaclyn nodded and Trevor thought about what she was asking. "You mean like a chaperone? Sure. I guess. But I'd just be in the way. A third wheel on the two seater of love. Maybe if I convince Claire to come too-"
"Claire?" Jaclyn said disappointed, seeing him thinking of her. She had no idea now how she was going to get both Claire and Champ out of the way.
"Yeah. Sort of a double date chaperoney thing. Like one big group hug. On second thought, I'd better wear mittens if I'm going to touch Claire. Still, I need to run it by the Champ-meister. But if he says yes, do you think that'll work for you?"
"Sure," Jaclyn said slowly, realizing she could get no better. Her smile was weak. "A double date with you and Claire. That would be great. Just great. Maybe you can give me some pointers before hand anyway?"
"Sure. Anything you need. Hey, there's Champoo right now. Let me go talk to him."
Jaclyn touched Trevor's arm again not wanting him to leave so soon. "Wait. I thought that... Claire was handling the Champ end of things. Shouldn't she be the one to-"
Trevor shook his head, some residual anger in his voice. "Not tonight she can't. She's busy." Trevor worked his way through the crowd to where Champ stood.
Jaclyn tried to catch her breath, pausing to think what is was she had just agreed to. A double date with Trevor? Seeing him with Claire? Well, maybe it was a start. She looked over at Trevor explaining the proposal to Champ. She could see Champ's face over Trevor's shoulder, see him glancing at her with a question in his eyes, not knowing if he was supposed to be accepting this offer or not. She nodded yes, hoping he understood. Champ looked back to Trevor, smiling and accepting the invitation with a look of wonder before he went back to work, carrying the dishes away. Trevor turned to face Jaclyn and flashed her a thumbs up.
Nodding, Jaclyn turned away, knowing it would be hard to back out now. She tried to think about what was going to happen tomorrow night. Dinner with Trevor. Sort of. Maybe if Champ could run interference with Claire then she could... The thoughts seemed to clutter in her head, confused and intimidating. Jaclyn upended her glass to get some courage, swallowing her drink in one quick motion. Until she realized she had never done that before, gasping for air as it burned her throat.
Champ took some empty glasses into the back room, thinking about what Trevor had asked. He had agreed so quickly, he had forgotten he already had plans. It occurred to him that he would have to cancel his date with Debbie. Strange that he didn't think about that until then. But deep down he didn't care. He had to go through with it. Anything to help Jaclyn. And the thought of an evening with her wasn't a bad incentive either. Still, he tried to consider what he was getting into. After thinking about it, he grabbed a liquor bottle from a storage rack and took a quick swig, trying to compose himself.
Trevor looked around at the crowd pressed in close. Somehow he realized he still felt alone. His thoughts were still a couple of blocks away with Frank and Claire, kissing in that restaurant. Now that he thought about it, he wasn't sure Claire would even go along with his little scheme to get Champ and Jaclyn on a date together. She might not want to come. Still, it was worth a shot. He knew he'd be able to steer Champ and Jaclyn in the right direction tomorrow night. But having Claire there would be good too, in its own way, and for its own reasons. Trevor didn't realize he was thinking more about her than about them. The music and the crowd still buzzed all around as Trevor stepped away from the bar.
It was early morning as Claire walked to her office, her steps light as she hummed happily. Last night with Frank had turned out better than she had thought. They had spent the entire evening together, and it had been wonderful. The hallways around her were empty since she was coming in early to get some work done. Still thinking about her night, she didn't notice until she walked closer that Trevor was seated in the waiting chair beside the empty reception desk. Seated as if he had been waiting for some time.
"Trevor," she said in surprise. Looking around she realized the two of them were probably two of the first ones in the building. "What are you doing here?"
Trevor got up and walked over to her as she unlocked her office door. His voice was curt as he spoke. "You did say morning," he explained, still upset about last night.
Claire sighed. "Yes I did. Before I realized who I was talking to. But why did you come here and not my house?"
"I figured you would have been busy there. Didn't want to interrupt or anything."
With an annoyed glance at him, Claire pushed the door open once she unlocked it. Trevor followed her in.
Claire moved behind her desk, dropping her things to the side and laying her notebook computer on her desktop. She flipped it open and switched it on, preferring not to look at Trevor. The computer went to the last file she had been working on, a continuation of her book about Trevor. A book he wasn't suppose to know about. Discreetly, she closed the file before Trevor could see it. With a nervous glance she looked up to see if he had noticed.
Trevor was standing in front of her desk, hands on his hips and looking down slightly. His jaw seemed hard as he stared at nothing. Claire suddenly realized he was still upset about last night. That angered her a little. What business was it of his who she spent her free time with? She roughly pulled off her coat, dropping it onto the back of her chair and crossing her arms to face him. She kept her voice as calm as she could, matching his demeanor.
"So Trevor. What was so vital and important that it couldn't wait. Or at least what passes for vital and important in that magical land of Dementia called Trevor Hale."
Trevor looked up. "So how did last night go?"
"Last night. You and Frank. Everything go OK?"
Claire grunted softly in annoyance. "Last night? What business... " She stopped when she saw Trevor's eyebrow rise as if he were saying the answer to that question was obvious, since he thought he was the god of love. Claire pursed her lips, realizing it would be easier just to tell him.
"Well despite being interrupted by some inconsiderate person, I had a great time. Me and Frank had drifted apart... slightly. But last night almost seemed to be a rekindling of our romance. It did wonders. It was a marvelous evening, Trevor."
Trevor looked away, wondering why he almost wished that wasn't true. "Well, that's... that's good. I'm happy for you Claire." He didn't sound very sincere even to himself.
Claire's brow wrinkled, not understanding his reaction. "You should be." she said pointedly.
Trevor nodded, a little deflated somehow. "The Jaclyn and Champ thing. It needs some fixing."
Claire waited for him to continue, but noticed that Trevor was not his usual talkative self. Finally she broke the silence. "So. You think you're the all knowing expert. What do we do?"
Trevor looked at Claire. "I managed to get Jaclyn to agree to a date with Champ. She says she's still a little nervous, gun-shy, and she wanted someone to come along, so she invited me. And now I'm inviting you. Me and you together as chaperones. That way they'll be free to talk without having to worry about how to dump the psychotic hanger-on in their midst. A double date. You and me. Jaclyn and Champ."