"Love Is A Leap"
"Hey, Sammy, what're you doing tonight?"
Sam blinked at the people suddenly obstructing the view of his laptop and addressed one of them. "Not much, C.J.; why?"
"Well, I wondered if you wanted to come to a movie with me and a few other people." C.J. avoided his eyes as she spoke; a sure sign she was hiding something. She'd hidden a lot lately. Donna and Josh hung back in the doorway.
Sam sighed. "What's the catch, C.J.?"
"Nothing; nothing at all." Donna looked as guilty as C.J.
"Then what's the movie?"
" 'Kate and Leopold,' " Donna blurted.
Sam took off his glasses and stared at C.J. in mild disbelief. "Kate and Leopold?"
"Yeah... it's about a man who gets pulled forward in time from 1876 to the present, and the usual romantic shenanigans ensue." Josh spoke for the first time.
"Then why are you going?" Sam had to ask.
Josh grinned. "It's got Meg Ryan in it. Come on."
"Don't be so hasty, Joshua." Donna's eyes danced. "Hugh Jackman is *gorgeous*, and there's that whatsisname Bradley Whitford?"
"Donnatella..." Josh whined.
C.J. cut them both off with an abruptness that shocked Sam. "So, do you want to come along or leave me with the Hormone Twins for the entire night?"
Sam debated. C.J. had been so distant lately; not that he blamed her. First Manchester, then getting so upset over Qumar... she hadn't been herself in quite some time. He couldn't put his finger on it, and he couldn't ask her to tell him they weren't like that. She just seemed lonely distant. She didn't laugh much anymore. But hell, what were his options? Finish boring speech... go to movie thing involving attractive woman.
Meg Ryan, of course.
"I'll come along."
C.J. brightened visibly. "Cool." She smiled as he folded up his laptop. "I'm glad."
Sam smiled, a quixotic effort that made C.J. wonder what was going on. "Just glad to not leave you alone with the Hormone Twins."
Through the entire night, C.J. only confused Sam further. The movie was enjoyable; even funny. Josh and Donna sat next to each other, trading whispered comments about Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman. But C.J., normally an enthusiastic supporter of male attractiveness, said little.
Sam wanted to say something. But what could he say? He had nowhere to start. So instead he fixed his eyes on the screen and let his thoughts wander. On screen, Kate was walking up to the roof to have dinner with Leopold. "Please," he heard Josh mutter to Donna. "The guy's too perfect. Who could be that way?"
"You just *wish* you were like him," Donna shot back, whispering. She sighed. "He's gorgeous *and* romantic."
Sam went back to C.J., wanting to repeat this conversation, but as he turned towards her he was startled to see tears in her eyes, reflected by the glow of the screen.
He had to say something. "Are you okay, C.J.?"
She jumped; actually jumped. "What... yeah, fine." She blinked guiltily once or twice, then turned her attention back to the screen. But in a few moments, Sam saw the tears again, from the corner of her eye to the corner of his. Kate was in bed, and right before she'd fallen asleep she'd asked Leopold to stay. He did so, and Sam half-watched as Leopold's arms went gently around Kate. He just lay there, eyes closed calmly. It was a calming, relaxing sight.
Then, the converse: Sam's other eye stayed on his friend as she fought to keep the tears from making what looked to be a horribly inopportune entrance. But no matter how many times C.J. tried to regain her composure, the tears were still there.
After the movie, they walked out. Josh and Donna were oblivious, as normal, and were arguing rather heatedly about a point of dialogue. Sam kept silent, and C.J.'s thoughts obviously wandered.
Finally, seeing the pain and the quiet, Sam had to speak. "C.J., I don't want to pry," he began, "but it seemed like something was wrong. Is everything really okay?"
She looked at him angrily for a moment, then she was about to reassure him again. Then a third change: resignation. "No," C.J. said, pushing her glasses up the bridge of her nose as they crossed the street. "Everything's really not."
Sam held close and silent, waiting for her to elaborate. And finally she spoke. "Seeing that scene, up there," C.J. said, sad smile in her eyes, "with Kate fast asleep and Leopold just lying there putting his arms around her, gives me hope. It makes me sad, because I don't have a Leopold, but it gives me hope, too. It helps remind me that all guys aren't airbrained fuckwits." She cleared the bitterness out of her throat for a moment. "Leopold doesn't try anything, he keeps his clothes on. Being near her is enough. And that moment was just so simple and sweet it has to be real, doesn't it?"
Sam's voice was husky and offhand. "It can be."
"How?" C.J. sighed. "Married to my job, demanding, working my ass off for little or nothing in return."
"Well, you're still beautiful." Sam's tone held real affection. "I've always thought so, C.J. Really."
"Beautiful." She was sardonic as she watched Donna laugh at something Josh had said. "I appreciate it, Sam," she said, turning away, "but please. Don't."
Instead of continuing on this maddening line of questioning, Sam posed a question. He said, "Why is it that no matter how many times someone says you're beautiful and however good the source of the compliment, the insecure person never believes it?"
C.J. stared at him like he'd put too many cliches into a speech. Her eyes did a graceful arc from stunned into furious, then reared back into a bit of desperation. "Shut up, Sam," she said angrily, more angry at her reaction than at him. "How could you, of all people, possibly understand?" You, mister golden deal, golden boy, golden eyes, how could you know what I go through?
"Understand insecurity?" Sam repeated. "How could I, of all people, understand insecurity?" His voice had that silken, sarcastic tone that only he had mastered. "C.J., how could I understand watching the person you love dancing the night away with someone else?" He stopped, feeling C.J.'s poisonous resentment seep under his skin like a heroin injection. The memories were still too raw. "How could I possibly comprehend sitting at home on a Friday night?"
C.J. hadn't blinked. She looked down at the ground, face calm yet imbued with a world-weariness that made Sam want to cry. "Have you ever been in love, Sam?" she asked.
"In love?" Sam echoed. "No."
"Really." Her eyes were bright for the first time. "How can you take that so calmly?" she asked. He read the unspoken question: how can he be so much stronger than me?
The response was out loud. "C.J., love is a leap," Sam said, quoting Leopold as he remembered the lovers dancing. "I just haven't found anyone I could jump for yet."
That was all it took a bit of understanding from an unlikely place. Letting Josh and Donna go off into the night, C.J. buried her face in Sam's shoulder. He stood there and stroked her hair, letting her cry.