The couple stood on a wooden pathway, surrounded by lush vegetation. A profusion of pink and white flowers bloomed on one side of the path; on the other, English ivy wound up an old oak tree. But the couple ignored the spectacular scenery. Wearing a number 2 T-shirt, the young man stood with both hands wide in a placating gesture; the teenaged woman had her arms folded tight across her black leather jacket and white tank top.
"Please, Camille, I need to talk to you." Even as he reached out to take her hand, Jason could see her flinch back as if he'd slapped her. He hurriedly grabbed for her other hand. "Camille, it's not like that. It's not what you think." He watched as she bit her lip; he hoped that was a positive sign. At least she was still listening. He reached up to brush a few rogue curls from her eyes and startled as his fingers found a stray tear.
"I knew it," she whispered, the tears falling freely now. "I knew it was too good to last." She turned away from him.
He grabbed her quickly by the arm and pulled her back to him. "What're you talking about?"
She sniffed. "The other girl. I know you started seeing someone else. My friends saw you last week with her, that motocross racer ... and then you broke off our date ..." She threw a punch in his direction; he ducked it easily and laughed.
"Your friends are idiots," he said bluntly, earning a slight frown. He stroked Camille's cheek and added, "It's not like that at all. Princess is my sister. We work together." He paused and drew in a deep breath. His voice grew more serious. "That's what I wanted to talk to you about. But not here."
He reached for her hand again. This time, she let him guide her down the garden path. When they reached the artificial waterfall, both stopped. Camille turned toward the bubbling water and stood as close as possible to the guard rail. As she raised her hands expectantly toward the spray, her face suffused with delight.
He leaned against the railing and studied her expression. "What does it look like to you?" he asked softly.
She shook her head and laughed. "Come on, Jason, that's a stupid question."
He shrugged. "Okay, so it's a stupid question. But I still want to know."
She turned to face him, her expression earnest. "Tell me your secret first."
He drew her damp hand to his face and planted a kiss there. "I want to ... but ... I ... uh ..."
She pulled her hand away playfully and gave him a mock pout. "Then I'm not telling either."
He half-turned away from her then, looking out across the miles of beautifully landscaped gardens. "I never came here before I met you," he said, softly. "It's such a cliche, that you should stop and smell the roses, but it's true. You taught me that." His voice cracked. "I've never known anyone like you, Camille, it's like you see right through me."
She walked over to him and placed both palms on his chest. "You're beautiful, Jason." She turned, lips grazing his bicep.
"I'm not, Camille." He shook his head as a dark expression crossed his face. "I'm not the man you think I am."
She smiled. "I don't believe everything I read in the tabloids, Jason. Even race car drivers don't sleep around that much."
He blew out a deep breath, then leaned in close. "I could get in a lot of trouble for telling you this, Camille. I work undercover for the Federation. I've had to kill a lot of people."
She whispered back, sotto voce, "I know."
His brow crinkled. "You know what?"
Inquisitive fingers travelled down his left arm and came to rest on his wrist communicator. "This."
"What about it?" he growled.
Her voice dropped even lower, softer. "You're G-Force, Jason."
His mouth opened, shut, no words. Dumbfounded, he asked, "How can you possibly think that, Camille?"
She gave him a sad, wistful smile. "I wasn't always blind, Jason." Her fingers moved down from the communicator to entwine with his. "And the waterfall looks like poetry that hasn't been written yet."