Morning light streamed in through Trevor's window. He blinked drowsily, waking slowly up in the sun's glare as he yawned, coming awake. Looking around his bedroom, he tried to shake off the last remnants of sleep. Finally he crawled out of bed and walked across his bedroom, padding across the floor in his bare feet.
He stopped in place when he noticed his string of beads, hanging there at the edge of his vision. Taking a breath, he didn't want to look. Then his face hardened, finally getting the resolve to turn his head. His eyes moved over the sting, bead after bead sliding slowly by as he counted them to himself, whispering.
Trevor exhaled in release. The same count as last night. No change. Well at least that was something. He nodded contentedly, heading for the kitchen.
As he walked towards the fridge, he suddenly became distracted as he thought about his recent dry spell. He thought about him and Claire, still wondering if that could be the cause. Could his unspoken feelings for her be the root of all his troubles?
Trevor opened the fridge and absently took a thirsty gulp out of the milk carton he pulled out, leaning it back. Milk trickled onto his cheek. Pausing, he looked off into space as he held the carton in his hand. Him and Claire. Together. How much was true love worth? Was it worth giving up trying to help other people find their true loves? Would the world survive without the god of love? Would he?
Trevor frowned, not knowing what to do. He needed guidance. He needed a little of that sorely absent, godly insight right about now. Exhaling, he looked around, realizing he didn't have all the answers any more. Maybe he never had.
"Being mortal sucks..." he muttered softly.
Trevor stood there, thinking. What did mortals do when they needed answers? Suddenly, his head lifted as he realized what he needed. The solution flipped on in his mind like a light bulb that had just fluttered dimly to fragile light.
"I need an oracle... That's it!"
He smiled, feeling happy. Downing the rest of the carton of milk in triumph, he finished it with a pleased sigh, tossing the carton into the air over his shoulder without turning around. It clattered across the counter before falling to the floor, ignored. Trevor nodded. Find an oracle, and ask it for advice. A back door into the minds of the gods. That would be easy enough.
It wouldn't be. He stopped, and his smile suddenly faded when he thought about it. "Wait... Where the Hades am I going to find an oracle in modern day Chicago?"
He mentally went through the list. Self help guru? No. Even though nowadays they appeared in book stores instead of mountain tops, he still didn't trust them. Forget it. Besides, that would really seem much too much like typical Claire-speak he heard a million times before. Fortune cookies? While acquiring them had certain culinary benefits, he didn't really need to be told he would have a pleasant happy-fine harvest or which lottery numbers to choose, or whatever. A psychic? NOOOO! No way, not after that little tent experience with Claire.
"I'm not going through that again," he whispered to himself. Trevor looked around the apartment, thinking. He suddenly remembered something, and with a smile he darted eagerly across the living room, bounding quickly up the circular staircase and towards Champ's bedroom.
Trevor burst hopefully into the bedroom without knocking, eager to interrupt. Unfortunately the room was empty. He looked over. Champ's bed was still made. He hadn't made it home last night. No one had disturbed it. Trevor smiled, realizing Jaclyn would be smiling extra big today. "Nice. Very nice..."
He shook the pleasant image off, looking around the bedroom for what he had come up here for. There it was. Sitting on the end table beside the bed. He rushed over and grabbed it.
"Finally.... something that'll give me some answers."
Taking a breath, Trevor carefully held it in his hands, slowly sitting down on the edge of Champ's empty bed. And finally... he shook it.
Trevor held the black, plastic, liquid filled, sphere of a magic 8-ball in his hands. He needed an oracle, and this would have to do. He had seen a few oracles in his time, and from experience he knew this was as good as any.
Trevor was nervous, not really sure what to ask. Taking a deep breath to clear his thoughts, he finally built up the courage to ask a question. He asked the most important question to him. The first question that instantly popped into his head as he eagerly shook the dark sphere of the magic 8-ball.
"Does Claire love me?" he whispered hopefully.
Trevor finished shaking but he paused, reluctant to turn it over. Exhaling, he finally he did, looking at the tiny window underneath. It was black, dark, mysterious. He could see the tiny bubbles of the cheap dyed liquid inside, pressed up against the clear plastic. Then a small white shape rose from the murky depths, tinged blue along its edges from the liquid it was floating in. Agonizingly slow, it's edge hit the plastic window, pausing,before slowly turning to one side, raising it flush against the plastic so he could read it.
Signs point to yes.
Trevor exhaled, a warmth passing through him. His face lit up, happy at the response. He shook the ball again, turning the window back down as he asked it another question.
"Will Claire and I ever be together?"
He turned the ball over and waited. The room was quiet, almost as if in anticipation.
The answer settled into the window.
Trevor was ecstatic. He felt light headed, thinking about Claire and him together. He sat there smiling, when he realized... that wasn't really what he had wanted to ask the 'oracle' in the first place. He shook it again, forcing himself to concentrate, asking another question.
"Are the gods mad at me?"
Turning the ball, the answer settled into view out of the inky blackness of the interior.
Better not tell you now.
Blinking, Trevor wondered what to make of that. He asked another question.
"Are they offended by how I feel for Claire?" He shook the ball nervously, a little concerned.
Holding it in his hands, the answer rose into view.
Reply hazy. Try again.
Trevor shook his head in annoyance, tired of not getting a definitive answer. He rattled the 8-ball a little more forcefully than he had to.
"Come on! This is starting to feel like a run around. Even the oracle at the Acropolis did better than this. And he was drunk all the time. Just answer the question! Are the gods offended by me and Claire?"
Flip and wait . The answer was all too familiar.
Cannot predict now.
Trevor shook it again, impatient with the results. He began to mutter to himself angrily, the words soft and indistinguishable. He wanted to know. He needed to know. No matter what the answer was.
"Are the gods punishing me because of how I feel about Claire?"
Finally he turned the small black sphere over, reading the reply.
Cannot predict now.
Trevor groaned, frustrated. He sat there in Champ's bedroom, fuming. "Leave it to an 'oracle' to never give you a straight answer."
He looked at the small plastic ball in his hands. It looked so insignificant, so inconsequential. The image suddenly stuck in his mind. A worthless bauble. That's all it was. Finally, he got suspicious. So he asked it another question.
"Wait. Are you just a children's toy, giving random answers, and otherwise full of crap?"
He shook the ball and turned it over.
Trevor smiled. He casually put the ball back on Champ's end table, barely resting it on the table's edge. He thought about the oracles 'answers', realizing that in the finally analysis, it was up to him to choose which of the answers to believe or not to believe. If he thought about it, in the end he was only giving answers to himself. He would need some other way to find those answers.
Trevor exhaled. "Guess I'll figure it out by myself..."
He rose and left the room. The 8-ball was still perched precariously on the edge of Champ's end table, before it finally fell to the floor. The small window turned upward, revealing words almost in answer to what Trevor had said.
Don't count on it.
The ball was left undisturbed on the floor beside Champ's still made bed, as the morning sky glowed a bright blue through his window.
Faith took a breath. She stood there alone, uncertain, waiting. After coming all this way, she still wasn't sure she could go in. She was standing in a hallway. A hallway outside of an office. Looking up, she read the writing on the door she was facing, clearly printed on the white glass before her.
Dr. Dehnt. Psychologist
Faith was scheduled for an appointment with him at that exact moment, a resumption of her scheduled sessions with Dr. Dehnt. Sessions she hadn't been taking part of much lately. There had been a few in the beginning, when she had first moved here from New York. But since then, she had become a little lax on keeping up with her scheduled appointments. She just had so much to do now. What with the local chapter of the Eros society up and running. And now, with trying to help Trevor get back home. It was all almost a full time job. She was very busy.
Faith's brow wrinkled. She didn't really want to do this. Why had she even come at all? Is this what she really wanted? Dr. Dehnt always made her feel that she was crazy. She wasn't crazy. She just preferred to believe in something. Something wonderful. No one was going to change that. No therapy, and no therapist. So what was the point of these sessions at all?
With that thought, Faith finally made up her mind, looking once at the door in front of her, before turning and walking away. She seemed completely prepared not to look back. But after a few feet she stopped, frowning to herself. Faith swallowed, feeling uncertain, and maybe a little scared as she glanced back at his door. Finally she turned and came back, grabbing the doorknob and forcing herself into Dr. Dehnt's office like she knew she needed to. The door closed behind her, leaving the hallway empty.
The two of them had both been silent for several minutes.
Dr. Dehnt looked over at Faith where she was seated in front of his desk, considering her. He smiled pleasantly, trying to keep the mood light with his voice.
"I'm glad you agreed to start your sessions up again, Mary."
Faith didn't look at him, her eyes lowered. Her body seemed uncomfortable in her chair, arms by her side as she sat there in the quiet office. She didn't move. It took several more long moments of silence before she spoke.
"Why am I here?" She asked quietly.
"Well... you're here so I can help you."
She finally did look up then, looking straight into his eyes, but her face didn't change. Her voice was soft.
"I don't need any help."
Richard shifted in his chair under her penetrating gaze. The look in her eyes made him uncomfortable sometimes. "Well, we both know that's not true, Mary." He lowered his eyes. "I know you realize that too. Otherwise you wouldn't be here. Otherwise... I don't think you would have walked in through that door just now."
Faith said nothing, looking down at her lap. Richard watched her for several seconds, considering her. She seemed so different when she was in here. Like she was encased in some sort of a cocoon. Not at all like she was out there, outside his office. "Mary... I think it's a good thing that you came. It's a good thing that you're here. That's why we have these sessions. Don't you want to get better? Don't you-"
"That's not what I meant." Faith interrupted him softly. She looked at him. "When I said, 'Why am I here', I meant on a deeper level. Why do I exist. Why do you exist. Why are any of us here on Earth?"
"That's an interesting question, Mary. Why do you think you're here?"
She thought about it, but she didn't seem to move. Her expression didn't change. "To be happy... I guess."
Richard tapped his pen against her open file, looking down. "And are you happy, Mary?"
There was a soft reply. "It's not Mary. My name's Faith."
Richard looked at her calmly. "But, Mary's your name. Don't you like your name any more?"
"My name's Faith. It's what I believe. It's what I am."
"And... that's what you need to make you happy?"
She didn't blink. "I'm happy doing the work of the gods." Faith sniffed, almost sad for some reason. "I'm happy with what I believe. Why do you want to take that away from me if it makes me happy?"
"Because I'm not sure it does..." Richard looked down at her file, laying there before him. "For example, there was that incident in New York that-"
"There was no incident in New York."
"Yes, Mary. There was. Right after the university shut down your Eros Society chapter. They said you were being 'too obsessive'. That you were keeping tabs on all the members. Following them around. And... after they took the group away from you, you couldn't handle it. You shut yourself down. You shut yourself away. You wouldn't talk. You wouldn't eat. You wouldn't even acknowledge anyone else. Not your family, not your friends. They were all worried about you. They love you, Mary. You didn't seem very happy."
"They don't believe what I believe."
Richard blinked. "But was that really the reason? Was that really the reason why you shut them all out? Why you hid yourself away from the real world? Or maybe... it was something else. Was there something else? Something deeper, Mary?"
Faith didn't say anything. She sat perfectly still, looking at the floor. Richard sighed patiently, looking carefully into her eyes, wondering what went on inside her head. He could see a sadness there, a fear, hidden deep. Unmistakable. Faith was silent for several seconds, before she finally spoke again, her voice soft.
"Why am I here?"
Claire sipped her drink, sitting at the bar, waiting for Trevor. She wondered where he was. He was supposed to be working right now, but she didn't see him. She looked around the bar, searching for him impatiently. Suddenly she caught herself doing that, and she wondered. Was she finally doing what she said she would never do, and actually missing Trevor Hale?
Claire's face brightened as she thought of him, and she shook her head. "No," she said happily. "God no. Not a chance." She took another drink, thinking about her feelings, speaking to herself. "Yeah, sure Claire. Maybe it's only because you need him here to serve you drinks..."
Claire smiled at the lie.
Suddenly she felt a coldness on her shoulders. She felt uncomfortable, as if she were being scrutinized, being watched. Finally she looked over, slowly turning her head to see that Faith was sitting there, a few bar stools over. Her face was turned towards Claire, watching her silently.
Claire quickly gazed straight ahead, staying in her seat. They sat like that for some time. Claire kept her attention on her drink, and Faith watched her. The rest of the activity in the bar seemed remote, not coming near. Both women were alone at the bar, the space around them momentarily quiet.
Faith hadn't stopped staring, still studying Claire carefully. Claire tried to keep her eyes in front of her, facing the bar as she waited for Trevor. But she kept glancing over at Faith out of the corner of her eye, realizing Faith was still watching her. Finally Claire broke the awkward silence and turning to speak.
"Hello, Mary. How are you doing?"
The woman looked at her quizzically. "My name's Faith."
Claire tensed, realizing she had just inadvertently let it slip that she had seen Faith's file. "Oh. Faith. Right. I forgot."
Faith still coldly studying her. "Aphrodite always hated you," she said simply.
Claire blinked. "Excuse me?"
"Guess she was a little protective of her son. She wasn't very fond of you for what you did to him."
Claire pulled back, finally understanding what Faith was implying. Her jaw hardened, as she realized what she thought her and Trevor's relationship was, and had been way back in history. Scoffing a little, she couldn't help but be a little offended at Faith's presumption. "I'm not Psyche." she said scornfully.
"Maybe not literally," Faith was looking her over. "I really haven't figured that part out yet. Neither has Trevor, probably. But functionally at least, you are. Trevor's making all the same mistakes with you as he did with her. Ironic, isn't it? That you're his PSYCHologist? Maybe it's a clue..."
Claire ground her teeth, her face less friendly, offended, but turning towards her anyway and offering Faith a quick, empty grin, her lips a tight line. "And maybe it's just the entomology of the word. Look, I'm Claire. You're Mary. That's all." Claire went back to her drink, not wanting to look at her.
Faith didn't seemed put off by her cold shoulder. "Why are you always trying to fix him?"
"Why do you think Trevor needs fixing in the first place?"
Claire took a moment to respond. "Well, I... I think that he needs to...." Claire stuttered, uncomfortable. "Well, I think that Trevor needs to get well. To find who he really is, instead of the facade he wants to be."
"Yeah," Faith nodded. "But what if he already is, who he really is. He's the god of love. What's so wrong with wanting to be that? What's so wrong with being that? Why can't you let him be happy?"
Claire blinked, annoyed at her accusations. "I don't know, Faith. Maybe because none of it's true?"
Faith didn't falter in the slightest. "Not to you. But it's true to him. True to what he wants to be. But that's not good enough for you," she looked at Claire accusingly, "is it?"
Claire stared at her, lips tight. "We can't live out our lives in some fantasy world we make up for ourselves."
Faith smiled. "That's the only world any of us have ever lived in. We are all creatures of perceptions and beliefs that have little to do with reality. What are you afraid of? That in the end, maybe his way is the one that's right and yours is wrong?"
Still angry, Claire faced her, tried to make her see. "No one can successfully function outside the real world, Mary. No matter how much someone wants them too. No matter what they'd prefer to believe. Because eventually the real world bites back. That's why I want nothing else for Trevor but to get well. Because he needs to get well." Claire lowered her eyes, her voice growing soft. "And so do you..."
Faith was non-plussed by that assessment, chuckling in disbelief. "You therapy guys all sound alike. But I wonder. That statement about needing to get better. Is that a reality? Or a belief?"
Claire looked away angrily, but she did consider what Faith had said, wondering if there was any small, hidden part of her, that agreed with her. Finally she pushed the thought away. "Reality or belief. It's the way it is..."
"You're standing in Trevor's way."
"Because of how you feel about him. Your relationship with him isn't helping him."
Claire shook her head, offended. "Now listen to me! When it comes to curing Trevor of his delusion, my objectivity has never-"
Faith interrupted her. "That's not what I meant. I don't mean curing him. Not everything is about curing him. I mean letting him live his life. Live as he chooses. Letting him be happy with who he is. Wouldn't he be happier if everyone accepted him and his beliefs?"
Claire thought about it, her voice softening after a few moments. "Maybe..."
Faith was still looking at her quietly for several seconds, as if she were searching into Claire's soul. "I can't believe he's fallen in love with a mortal again."
Claire was shocked, her breath catching in her throat. And some of what she was drinking caught there too, making her cough. She couldn't believe it. Couldn't believe what she had just heard, as the words hit her out of the blue. "What did you-... Wait, Trevor's not..." Dizzy, she tried to think. "He's not in love with me."
Faith didn't seem to hear, thinking. "The last time he fell in love with you it almost killed him. Assuming of course, that was you..."
Frustrated, Claire sighed and turned to her. "For the last time. I'm not Psyche. Trevor's not Cupid. And that doesn't mean he has feelings for me. Your name is not Faith. You aren't some sort of... of embodiment of Faith, alright? You're simply Mary Simmons. The rest is all in your head."
Faith shook her head. "No it's not. It's in my heart. Trevor's making all the same mistakes by falling in love. The same mistakes, over and over again. Because of you."
Claire was defensive, angry. "Now wait a second. I'm not the one who's caused any of-"
"By falling in love with you. By doubting himself. He should be above all that. A god should be above all that. Trevor's lost his way as the god of love. He needs to get better. So he can go home."
Angrily, Claire had to agree, but not for the same reasons. "Yes he has, Mary. He has lost his way. And he will get better. I know he will. I'm going to make sure it happens." She turned away, really hoping that was a reality and not a belief.
Faith nodded. "That's why I'm here. He needs me to help him break free of you."
Claire looked over. "You're here to help him?"
"Yes. I didn't know why before. Why I believed for years in the god of love, when no one else did." Faith looked at Claire pointedly. "When no one else that he cares about... does. Why should I still keep my faith, if no one else believes anymore? But now I know. It was so that by the grace of the gods, I could find Trevor. They led me to him. They kept my Faith alive. For this. So I could redeem him. When he needs me the most. He's lost his way. And I need to guide both of us home."
Claire blinked at the wording of that last sentence. She realized that Richard was right. Faith's psyche was fragile. More fragile than Claire had realized. It would take some time for someone to change her beliefs, at least without her shutting herself away again. It would have to be a slow, gradual process. She had been too harsh before. Now, she tried to be delicate. "Mary... are you trying to get home too? Where's home for you Mary?"
Faith suddenly glared at her, and for the first time there was a quiet anger simmering in her eyes. "Don't... Don't you start. Don't start talking like that. You sound just like him."
"Who, Richard?" Claire lowered her eyes, realizing how delicate Faith really was. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you."
Faith smirked, still angry. "Oh, Richard is it? So you're familiar with the handsome Doctor? How familiar? Are you two... intimate? I'm not sure Trevor would approve..."
"Actually, Trevor was the one who set me and Dr. Dehnt up on our first date several months ago."
Faith nodded. "Form of self preservation on his part."
"Mary, I..." Claire paused. "I'm not the poison in Trevor's life that you think I am. Just because I want him to get better, to stop being Cupid, doesn't mean I don't hold his best interests at heart. You don't have to hate me because of that. I'm just trying to help him."
Faith nodded, obviously not believing her. "Then why don't you think about this, Doctor Allen. Trevor has real feelings for you. Whether you acknowledge them or not. And maybe... you should consider... whether your relationship with him is actually helping him to get better... or worse."
Faith got up, obviously still angry as she turned to leave. Although it was probably pointless, Claire decided to try again. "You never answered my question, Mary. Where is home to you?"
She turned slowly, looking at Claire coldly, her voice soft. "My name's Faith. And for the first time, I am home."
With that she turned and was gone. Claire inhaled, turning back to the bar. She sighed at the little confrontation she had just let herself get into with Faith, when she should have known better. She knew Faith's condition. So why had she done that? Maybe because a little of what Faith had said had struck a little too close to home. Maybe it was because a part of her agreed that... that it was better to believe in something, than to believe in nothing. Otherwise, what was the point of it all? She missed Trevor. She was willing to admit that to herself, if to no one else. It was almost as if he were avoiding her lately, staying away, keeping his distance from her. She looked around the bar for him, waiting. But he never showed up.
Champ was walking down the sidewalk towards Jaclyn’s apartment, with a big smile on his face. He had only been away from her for a few hours, but he was already anxious to see her again. He strode forward eagerly, as patches of sunlight flowed over his shoulders, shining through the line of trees overhanging the sidewalk. His eyes looked straight ahead, bright, glowing, thinking of Jaclyn, when he heard someone call out to him.
"Hey Champ! Wait up, man!"
Champ looked over, and blinked when he saw Trevor fall into step beside him. He wasn't’t wearing his disguise today. Instead, he was simply dressed, wearing his usual black leather coat.
"Trevor...? What are you doing here? Aren't you supposed to be at work? This is a little out of your way. Are you going to Jaclyn’s apartment too?"
Trevor shook his head, momentarily aware of his surrondings and where he was. "No, I’m just trying to lay low. Walking around. So..." He looked up at Champ as they walked, smiling. "I noticed that you never made it in last night. Or maybe you did, figuratively speaking. Can I assume by the bounce in your bounce, that you’re on your way to Jaclyn’s place again to re-storm the battlements? Re-conquer the castle? Once more unto the breach? And what a lovely breach I’m sure it-"
"Trevor!" Champ’s eyes widened. "First of all, that is totally none of your business. And second of all, what’s with all the medieval metaphors?"
Trevor shrugged. "Medieval history marathon was showing at the tv store in the mall. You pick stuff up after five hours."
Champ’s brow wrinkled. "Five hours? What were you doing in a tv store for five hours?"
"Not being seen. So tell me. Give it up, man. Are we on the way to expecting another late afternoon of Knight in white satin?"
"Trevor, either your metaphors are getting raunchier-"
"What? Didn't Jaclyn get the white satin sheets I had delivered to her in honor of you two getting together? I thought you both would put them to good use."
"Oh... Yeah. She did." Champ seemed embarrassed by what he had thought.
Trevor looked away, almost serious. "So things are going well between the two of you?"
"You haven’t started fighting for no reason? Arguing out of the blue?"
As they walked Champ looked over, not understanding. "Noooo...." He said slowly, confused.
Trevor sighed, relieved. "Great. That’s... that’s great. Hopefully I’ll get at least one bead to stay put."
"What are you talking about, Trevor?"
"My string of beads. My tally to go home. They’re all sliding back."
"Maybe one of the string nails is drooping a little."
"Ha. Funny. But, no. My matches are all falling apart. I’m just glad you and Jaclyn haven’t gone the same route."
"Yeah," Champ agreed, his voice soft. "Me too. But why are you losing beads?"
Trevor nodded, a patch of sunlight sliding over his face. "The way I see it, it could be one of two things."
Champ smiled as he walked. "So which is it? Paranoia or dementia?"
Trevor grinned. "Those satin sheets are really soft, aren’t they? I mean... the way they slide over naked skin-"
“Ok, Trevor. I get it. I’ll stop ragging you. And for the millionth time, thank you for getting me and Jaclyn together. Knowing you, any thank you I provide will never be enough.”
Trevor exhaled. “Hey. A true artist is never fully appreciated in his own time.”
“Or his own delusion.”
Trevor blinked, looking down at something on the sidewalk. “Was that a rag I just stepped over?”
Champ smiled. “Last one. Promise. Ok, Trevor. What’s the first thing you think it could be? I’ll do my best to keep the snide comments to a minimum."
“Well... I’m sort of wondering if it’s because the gods are angry that... that I’m in love with Claire. “
Champ laughed instantly.
Trevor blinked, “Hey, this is serious. What’s so funny?”
"Nothing." Champ smiled, looking at him, surprised he had to explain. "Oh come on, Trevor. Admit it. You've been in love with Claire since the first day you got here. That's nothing new."
"Hey, that's not-... There's no way I've-..." Trevor sputterred, but in the end, couldn't deny it. “Well... maybe it’s because for the first time..." Trevor's voice went soft. "Claire’s in love with me."
Champ scoffed, looking over. “Well for someone in such an obviously mortal body, you sure do have the ego of a god.”
“Hey, you would too if you could peek in on the playmate of your choice in the shower-”
“Trevor...” Champ stopped, facing him. “Let me... be the one to let you in on a little secret for once. This thing with you and Claire. Whether either of you is willing to admit it or not, it’s been there since day one. From the very beginning. Why do you think she always puts up with you? Or why you put up with her? It doesn’t matter whether you fight it, or she fights it, its always there."
Trevor smiled. "You old softie! I knew you were just a big mushy romantic inside-"
"Trevor, my point is that it’s nothing new. Now, I think you’d both be happier if you two would just admit it to each other, but I’m not the one in charge of that. So... unless the all seeing, all knowing, immortal gods have a punishment time delay the size of the Grand Canyon before they finally get off their asses and decide to do something about it, I doubt that’s it. So what’s the second possibility.”
Trevor looked at him, blinking. “Since when are you so direct?”
Champ moaned, apparently in a hurry. “Since waiting white satin sheets? Remember?”
“Oh right. Storming the-.. Got it. Make it quick.” Trevor blinked. “Wait.. no, I meant me, not you. Definitely not you. Not unless you want to start flying those satin sheets solo again-”
Exasperated, Champ interrupted him. “Trevor!”
“Battlements a'waiting. Right. Anyway, the only other thing I think it could be is... well, Faith.”
“Faith? Why her?”
“She’s been ruining every couple I’ve tried to set up. She's like a plague on molting day.”
Champ blinked, confused. “But... why would she do that?”
Trevor looked at him for a disbelieving second. “Because she’s a nut! Because she’s a nut and she thinks she knows more than she really does!”
Champ smiled, teasing. "Why does that sound so familar?”
Trevor put his hands on his hips and blinked silently at the rebuke, his lips a thin line, making his meaning clear.
“Sorry.” Champ continued. “What I mean is, if she really believes you're the god of love, why would she try to ruin your matches? She must have seen the damage she’s causing. So why does she continue to do it?”
Trevor blinked, realizing he didn't have an answer. “You know, I really hadn’t thought about that...”
"Unless..." Champ worked through it in his head, becoming clear. "Unless it's because she doesn't want you to get home."
Champ nodded. “Think about it. She’s a true believer who’s found what she believes is the god of love. You, Trevor. Here on Earth. If you get a hundred beads and a hundred matches, you’re gone. You’re out of her life. Maybe she’d rather not lose you. Maybe, she’d rather keep you here with her.”
Trevor stood there, thinking about it. "I never looked at it that way..."
"Well, consider it, Trevor." Champ started to walk again. Trevor absently kept pace beside him, distracted with his thoughts.
Champ noticed Trevor was still walking with him towards Jaclyn's apartment, and he instantly turned and put his hand on Trevor's chest, stopping him. "Hate to disappoint you, Trevor. But I think I'll storm the castle alone this time."
Trevor smiled. "Prude. But before you go, help me out man. What should I do about Faith?"
Champ thought about it. "How should I know. Maybe there are no easy answers here. As long as she thinks you're the god of love, she won't let you go. You're clinging to your delusion, she's clinging to hers. I don't know what to tell you." Champ lifted his hands.
Trevor stood there as Champ started walking away again, leaving him behind. When he looked up, Champ was already several meters away, so he called out to him. "Quite a conundrum of the crazies! I'll have to think about it! Hey Champoo! Good luck, man! Plant a few dozen flags for me. Storm that summit, my man. Raise the roof! Break a leg! Or a spring! Any part of the frame will do! So all shall be remember-ed!" Trevor continued to watch Champ grow more distant, and he lifted his arms in triumph as he called out. "So all shall be remember-ed! On Saint Crispin's Day!"
Champ was gone. Trevor looked around, dropping his arms when he realized he was alone. He sheepishly stepped to the side and out of view.
David tapped his pencil against his thigh impatiently as he sat at the usual meeting room on campus, waiting for Faith. Several other members of Faith's Eros Society were already there, and the sun was flowing in with golden rays through the window. It was already much later than when the group usually met.
David looked up at the empty podium, at the empty wall behind it where the banner usually hung. He checked his watch. She was late. Where was she? He looked around the room. There were more students here than there ever had been before. The room was practically filled almost to capacity. Faith's little society was definitely gaining in popularity it seemed. Everyone there was talking to each other softly all across the room, occasionally looking at the empty podium like David had. Everyone knew that if there was one person who was never, NEVER, late it was Faith. David checked his watch again and sighed, waiting.
It gave him time to think. To think about Faith. He hadn't been seeing her all that much lately. She was always so busy. But the more he thought about him and her, the more certain he was. He would make this work with Faith. No matter what. He had come to realize that no matter the circumstances or the sacrifices, Faith was worth sticking it out for.
Suddenly he saw her. Faith was standing at the doorway to the room behind him, a smile on her face. David's eyebrows lifted as he looked at her. There was something different about her. Something missing. As Faith finally entered and started walking to the podium, David realized what it was. She had no pile of notebooks in her arms. No banner. Instead all she carried was the small Cupid statue with the little bell hanging from the arrow. Nothing else. She didn't seem at all upset as she stepped up to the podium. In fact she seemed happier than she ever had been, a big smile on her face as she looked over the crowd. She never once glanced David's direction. Her eyes were almost beatific, glowing, as she held the small figurine reverently, placing it slowly on the podium. David had never seen that light in her eyes before.
Faith sighed contentedly, looking out over the group. She reached forward and rang the little bell, getting everyone's attention. There was no banner behind her, just empty wall.
The room went silent, all the attention shifting to her diminutive form. Sunlight flowed past her as Faith looked down, grinning to herself. David tensed, sensing something was going on. As she spoke, everything else seemed to slide away to the edges of his sight, his vision slowly zeroing in almost imperceptibly, moving inward towards her.
"Everyone, I have some news. I have enjoyed our collaboration beyond all my ability to thank you for. You've all given so much to me. And to each other. The pursuit of true love, is a noble one. Cupid would be proud of all that we've done here. Of all that we've accomplished. If he bothered to see. But I've come to realize some things. There are all sorts of true love. True love comes in many forms, and not all of them are romantic ones. In the end, true love... is purpose. It's meaning in your life. I have found that meaning. That's why I have to devote all my time to that purpose. And that's why..." Faith paused. "I'm shutting down the Eros Society."
There was a small murmur. David pulled back, blinking in surprise. What was going on?
"No, you don't understand." Faith smiled at the sound. "It's okay. Really. It's not that I've stopped believing. I haven't lost my Faith. In fact, you could say I found it again. You'll do fine without me. All I can tell you is... Love each other. Don't betray each other. Don't abuse each other. And never call something 'love' when it's-... never call something love when it's not love, but-... Anyway," The darkness that passed across her eyes at the distant memory was gone. She looked happy as she reached towards to the little bell for the last time. "Thank you all. For everything. And this, the final meeting of the Eros Society.... is closed."
The little bell rang.
That was it. It was over. Everyone slowly got to their feet, confused by Faith's little speech, by what had happened. There were some more murmurs as they all began to file out, chairs screeching as the reluctant crowd squeezed out of the one door in the room. David made his way through them, heading for the podium. The room quickly emptied as he made his way to where Faith was walking away from the podium.
Still a little concerned, David smiled at her, a little confused. "Faith, hi. It's good to see you. I haven't been able to catch up with you lately."
Faith smiled politely at him, but it fell away quickly. Her expression became neutral. "David, we have to talk."
"Yeah, sure. But what happened here? I thought you loved this Society. You created it, it seemed all that you lived for."
"Yes... It was. But I've been so busy with other things."
David looked at her. "Then why did you shut it down? Why did-"
"David I think we should break up."
There was silence in the room. He stared at her blankly, his jaw dropping slightly. His voice seemed hurt. "What? Why?"
"I can't see you anymore."
David felt himself hovering over nothing, like the ground had fallen away beneath him. He looked at her in a daze. "But... Was it... I mean was it something I said, or did... because, I can fix it, Faith. I can. Please, just tell me what it is, and I'll-"
"I don't have time for a relationship, David. There are other... more important things in my life. I've found my calling. My mission. I have to give myself completely to it."
David finally got it. "Trevor? You have to devote more time to Trevor? You can't be serious."
Faith nodded, undisturbed, like it was all so obvious. "It's what I'm meant to do."
"But, but he's just some nut! Faith, don't do this. Please don't. You don't have to give up so much-"
"I'm not giving up anything. Maybe someday you'll understand that. It's just.." Faith suddenly remembered Claire's phrasing. "It's the way it is. Goodbye, David."
She began to leave, walking past him. The rest of the room was empty, chairs scattered haphazardly around them. David turned and watched her go, still in shock. He called out to her, his voice soft.
"But I think I'm in love with you..."
Faith stopped and turned to look at him, but she didn't come back. "I'm sorry for that..." There was the tiniest bit of sympathy in her eyes, almost hidden. But she turned, and without another word left him there in the room alone.
David exhaled, trying to take in all that had happened. Trying to grasp it all. He looked around, at the rich sunlight flowing in through the windows, bathing the empty podium in color. Suddenly he noticed it, outlined in the golden rays. It was the small Cupid statue. Faith had left it behind. She no longer needed it. The cherub's small metal face smiled at him, the notched arrow with the bell hanging from the tip pointed right at his chest. Rays of sunlight shot past it into the dusty room.
David plopped down into one of the empty seats, sadly dropping his head into his hands as the room remained silent around him.