Warning and disclaimer in Chapter 1


        The next day, Sunday, was Claire's official sleeping-in day and they took full advantage of it. They had stayed up late to watch Saturday Night Live (which they had quickly bored of) and then moved on to... other things.

        When they woke around noon, Claire sleepily decided to christen her new DVD player that night. Alex murmured in her sleep and cradled the pillow. Claire sighed and went to the hallway. She dialed Darien's number on the hall phone and waited for an answer.

        "Mm.. yello?"

        "Darien! Alex and I were wondering if you'd like to come over here tonight. I just got this wonderful DVD player and thought we could have a little movie marathon. What do you say?"

        "I'd say, uh... sounds great. Around seven?"

        "Actually, I was thinking six?"

        "Okay... we'll see you there."

        Claire smiled and hung up, going back to the bedroom to rejoin Alex in bed. Six hours until Darien and Bobby were going to show up. What WOULD they do with all that free time?


        Darien drove in the car, deciding to give the van a rest.

        Bobby tugged at his jacket and said, "Why did I have to wear a nice shirt? Look at you," he complained.

        Compared to Hobbes' nicely buttoned shirt and jacket, Darien was wearing a pair of khakis and his Barfly T-shirt.

        "You'll be fine. I wouldn't be surprised if they dressed up, you know."

        They arrived at six on the dot, finding the front door already standing open. Darien poked his head in. "Hello? Claire?"

        "In the kitchen," came the muffled reply. They entered and headed for the kitchen. Bobby stooped to pick up Pavlov and ruffle the small dog's hair. They turned into the kitchen to find Alex and Claire cooking dinner.

        Claire was dressed as informally as Darien had ever seen her. She was wearing a pair of faded blue jeans with holes in the knees and an ancient T-shirt that read "Don't Play Stupid With Me; I'm Better At It."

        Alex was dressed, if possible, even more casual. She was wearing a pair of plaid boxer shorts and her bra.

        Hobbes muttered, "Dressed up, huh?"

        Alex smiled. "Hi, guys. We're almost done with dinner. Why don't you go look over the movies and see what you wanna start with?"

        Darien went back to the living room, looking at the brand-new DVDs Claire had apparently purchased within the last few days. "Gladiator", "The Matrix", both Jurassic Park movies, and both "Mission: Impossible" movies. Darien picked up Gladiator and said, "I haven't seen this one yet."

        Hobbes called back into the kitchen, "We found one!"

        "Good," Claire said. "Put it in."

        When they finished cooking dinner, Bobby set the table while Darien poured the wine.

        Alex went upstairs to find something suitable to wear while Claire served the food out.

        Alex came back downstairs, turning on the CD player as she passed it. They sat and began eating at around six-thirty.

        Claire tapped her glass, interrupting the chit-chat and conversations that had already started. "I'd like to propose a toast," she said, lifting her wine glass. "To love... wherever it may sneak up on you."

        Alex leaned over, kissing Claire softly.

        Darien copied the move, kissing Bobby.

        The two couples kissed for several minutes, then broke apart, perhaps remembering there were other people at the table.

        Alex said, "Now... we don't have anything to hide from everyone. I feel so... liberated," she laughed.


        Eberts entered the Official's office, a file cradled under his arm. "Sir," he stated, "We have a problem."



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