Chapter 5 :: Valentine's Day

Sue spent the day resting, feeling much better by the afternoon than she had in the past two days. She was glad, because she wanted to be at her best when Jack came over that evening. She still couldn't believe it – she and Jack had a date. A real date, just the two of them, no pretenses. Around four she started to get ready, standing in front of her closet for fifteen minutes trying to figure out what to wear. Just as she had come to the conclusion that she had absolutely no clothes, the phone rang. Levi pulled on the sleeve of her pajamas to let her know and she dashed out into the living room to pick it up just in time. It was Lucy.

"Hey! How are you feeling?" Lucy asked.

"Much better. Thanks. How's your trip?"

"Good. Really good. It's nice to be out of the office, even if it is only for a few days."

"And your mom?"

"She's doing fine. We just got done shopping and we're both ready to drop." Sue laughed. "So do you have any big plans for tonight?"

"Well, actually I do. I have a date."

"Look at you! You managed to get a date for Valentine's Day. When did this happen?"

"Just yesterday." She paused. "Did you say Valentine's Day?" She glanced at the calendar hanging on the wall and her jaw dropped open. "Today is Valentine's Day."

"Yeah… Didn't you know that?"

"No, I mean with this cold I haven't really been paying any attention to time at all so when Jack asked I just thought…"

"Wait a minute!" the words flashed across the phone display. "You have a date with Jack? Jack Hudson??" The operator accentuated Lucy's surprise with extra punctuation marks.

"Yeah, with Jack. That's probably why he was so confused. I honestly didn't make the connection until right now." She sat down on the couch.

"So this is a big deal then."

"I guess it is." Sue stared ahead for a moment replaying the events of last night over in her head. "He said he had a surprise for me. But I had to wait until today."

"Who did? Jack?"

"Yes, last night. He said he had something planned and then he asked me to dinner."

"He was there last night, too?" Lucy was thrilled. Ever since the bachelor auction she and Tara and Bobby had been waiting for the day when Sue and Jack would finally admit to each other that they were in love. She hoped tonight would be the night.

"He came over early yesterday afternoon when he heard I was sick and stayed… late, actually. It was nice. He's good company."

"He's more than that, Sue, and we both know it."

"Lucy!"

"What? I'm just being honest." She paused, smiling broadly, wishing Sue could see her. "What are you going to wear?"

Sue sighed. "I have no idea. We're not going anywhere. Since I've been sick and everything… Whatever he has planned it's going on here."

"You should wear a dress. Something pretty. And keep your hair down. We know that's how Jack likes it."

"Oh, Lucy, what have I gotten myself into?" Sue buried her face in her hands, looking up as Lucy spoke.

"You've gotten yourself a great guy. Someone who's obviously crazy about you. I say run with it."

"I'm afraid."

"Afraid of what?"

"I've never felt like this for anyone before. What if he doesn't feel the same way?"

"Sue. Listen to me. No guy would come over and keep you company all day long when you're sick, risking infection, and then set up a surprise date with you on Valentine's Day if he's not interested in you. You're the one who's great at picking up body language. Don't you notice the way he looks at you? I can't tell you how many times I've caught him sneaking glances at you at work when you're not paying attention. Just relax, pick out a cute dress, and have fun."

"Okay," Sue said, sighing again. "I will. And Lucy, thanks. You're the best friend I could ask for."

"Likewise. I expect full details tomorrow."

"Of course!" They both hung up, Lucy off to call Tara and fill her in and Sue off to stare again at her closet.

By 5:45 Sue was sitting on the couch channel surfing so fast that there was no way she could have comprehended what she saw. At 5:49 she began pacing, ending up in her bedroom where she checked her reflection in the mirror for the thirtieth time. She smoothed down hair that was already perfectly in place and squinted at her reflection wondering if she was underdressed, or overdressed, or losing her mind. She hadn't been so nervous before a date since her very first date back in high school. Suddenly, Levi came bounding into the room, and started to drag Sue out of the room. She glanced at the clock: 5:51. He was early. Sue couldn't help but grin as she made her way to the door.

She stood behind the closed door for a moment, smoothing her dress and hair one more time. She took a deep breath, let it out slowly, and opened the door, smiling.

"Charlie!" she exclaimed. "What are you doing here?"

"I'm sorry, am I interrupting something? Oh, look at you, all dressed up. I am interrupting something, aren't I?" Charlie stammered, embarrassed.

"No, it's okay. I was just expecting someone else. Do you want to come in?"

"I don't want to bother you. I had heard you were sick and wanted to check in on you. And to fix that leak in the bathroom Lucy had mentioned before she left. But I can come back another time if you have plans."

Sue smiled at his thoughtfulness. "Well, you're already here, if you want to fix it, go ahead. I'm just waiting for someone."

"Oh! You have a date for Valentine's Day. I should have expected as much, a beautiful girl like you."

"Thank you, Charlie." Sue walked with him into the bathroom and showed him where the problem was.

"I'll get right on this and be done in no time." He went to work, and Sue watched from a distance, perched halfway between the bathroom and the front door. Levi heard something and came over to her, but instead of directing her to the door, he led her to the bathroom.

"Sue, I'm sorry to bother you, but I'm in the middle of this and can't really move and realized I left a part in my truck. My keys are right there," he said pointing to the floor. "Do you think you could run out and grab it for me quickly? It's in the toolbox on the left, a box of washers."

She hesitated for a moment, not wanting to leave in case Jack came, but Charlie looked so earnest and he always did so much for them, her kindness got the better of her and she nodded, grabbing the keys. "I'll be right back."

As Sue turned quickly and left Charlie sat up, chuckling. "Take your time."

Sue could not find what Charlie was talking about. She'd looked in the toolbox on the left, than the one on the right, then checked the back seat, glancing at her watch. 6:16. Jack must be there by now. She happened to glance into the front seat where she saw the box Charlie was talking about. She quickly grabbed it and headed upstairs.

She was surprised to find her door closed when she got there, but rationalized that Charlie must have shut it so Levi wouldn't get out. When she opened the door she noticed the apartment seemed darker than when she left and she felt the hair rise on the back of her neck. "Where was Levi?" she wondered. "Charlie?" she called tentatively as she made her way inside. When she reached the end of the hallway she gasped in surprise. She couldn't believe he had done this.

Her entire apartment was lit by candles, the table set beautifully with a dozen gorgeous red roses in the middle – just like she had seen on the soap opera the day before. A smile slowly spread across her face as she took it all in. She noticed Jack last, standing near her couch and looking proud at his handiwork and just a little bit nervous as Sue looked to him in utter amazement.

He signed, "Happy Valentine's Day."

"You did this all yourself?"

He nodded. "Well, I had a little help." As he said that Charlie and Troy snuck out of the bathroom, carrying all of Charlie's equipment. "I had to find a way to get you out of here for a few minutes, and Charlie was more than willing to help."

"What can I say, I'm a hopeless romantic," Charlie grinned.

"We really should go," Troy signed. Charlie nodded.

"Right." As they passed by Sue they each wished her a happy Valentine's Day. Sue hugged them both briefly, thanking them. After they had left, Sue turned back to Jack, still looking at him in wonder.

"This was the surprise you were talking about?" she said, gesturing to the room around her.

"It's just the beginning," Jack grinned and Sue wondered what on earth he could still have up his sleeve.

She walked over to the roses, and took a deep breath, reveling in their scent, in the mood Jack had set. She never would have guessed that he was this romantic. Jack came to stand beside her and smiled.

"You look beautiful," he said, signing the last word for emphasis. He led her to a chair and pulled it out for her. "I hope you're hungry." He ran into the kitchen and returned with their food, chicken marsala, and then uncorked a bottle of wine, pouring them each a glass. "Enjoy," he said with a satisfied smile. Sue continued to stare at him. Jack began to get uneasy.

"Is everything okay, Sue?"

"I'm just…" Sue began speaking, then stopped to sign, "This is amazing. I'm speechless."

Jack beamed. "I'm glad you like it." He raised his glass of wine and Sue did the same. He thought for a moment, trying to come up with a suitable toast, then finally settled on what was in his heart. "To us."

"To us," Sue repeated as they toasted to their future.

They thoroughly enjoyed their meal, taking their time, talking, laughing, sipping their wine, both feeling happier than they had ever been. When they were finished, Jack cleaned the table and spent some time in the kitchen before returning with desert, which he placed on the table with a flourish.

"Is this?" Sue began.

"Crème Brule. Freshly prepared."

Sue broke through the glazed sugar and took a bite. She closed her eyes for a moment in pure pleasure and then opened them to a bemused smile on Jack's face.

"Guess it's good," he laughed.

"Perfect."

Once they'd finished desert and the rest of the wine, Jack grew nervous. The next part of the evening was what he had been most worried about, making him glad he'd remembered to take his heart medication that morning. Sue began to rise, collecting dishes to take into the kitchen, but he stopped her, telling her to rest as he cleaned up. At least it gave him something to do with his hands as he fretted over what he had planned.

Sue sat at the table, well sated and happy. She couldn't seem to stop smiling as she thought over her conversation with Lucy. She had been right: there was nothing to worry about.

Jack returned from the kitchen and Sue noticed that he looked different, almost like something was bothering him. "Is everything okay, Jack?" she asked as she stood and walked over to him.

Her question seemed to catch him by surprise. "Oh, yeah, everything is great." He smiled, his nervousness still shining through. "I got you something. Well, it's not a gift exactly, it's more of a… It's just that I want you to know…" He paused and ran his hand through his hair. "Wait here a minute." He grabbed a CD out of a bag near the table and walked over to Lucy's stereo. He put in the CD, selected the track he wanted, and turned up the volume, looking to Sue, non-verbally asking for her to signal when she could feel the vibrations through the floor. She nodded.

Jack walked slowly back over to her and Sue expected they were going to dance, but Jack stopped a couple feet from her and gazed into her eyes.

"I want you to hear something."

She looked at him, puzzled, then watched, surprised, as Jack began to sign what she figured were the lyrics to the song.

If there were no words
No way to speak
I would still hear you
If there were no tears
No way to feel inside
I'd still feel for you

And even if the sun refused to shine
Even if romance ran out of rhyme
You would still have my heart until the end of time
You're all I need, my love, my Valentine

All of my life
I have been waiting for
All you give to me
You've opened my eyes
And showed me how to love unselfishly

I've dreamed of this a thousand times before
But in my dreams I couldn't love you more
I will give you my heart
Until the end of time...
You're all I need, my love, my Valentine

And even if the sun refused to shine
Even if romance ran out of rhyme
You would still have my heart until the end of time
'Cause all I need is you, my Valentine
You're all I need, my love, my Valentine

Jack's signing was heartfelt, emotive, and perfect. She looked at him, mouth open, stunned.

He stood there, sheepish, waiting for her to say something, anything.

Suddenly it clicked with Sue that that was what he was doing when she had woken up from her nap. "That's why you wouldn't tell me yesterday. This is the surprise."

"Do you like it?"

"I love you… It! I love it, the song, I mean." Sue stammered, the first words barely above a whisper and she wondered if Jack had heard her.

Jack smiled broadly. He had. "Me, too."

"You, too, what?" she asked, cautiously.

"It's why I wanted you to hear this song. Every word reflects exactly how I feel about you. And it took being married to you for me to find that out," he laughed. "And it took me another couple of months to get up the courage to tell you." He walked over to Sue and took her face into his hands. Tears filled her eyes, threatening to fall over as all of her dreams appeared to come true. "Sue…" Jack said, releasing her face. "I love you," he signed.

The tears began to fall, she couldn't control herself, and she laughed as she wiped them absently away. "I love you, too, Jack."

And he pulled her close and kissed her and everything felt as it should be, like the world stood still and they were at home, in their love.

Jack began to sway to the music and Sue rested her head on his shoulder as they danced, feeling the warmth of him, never wanting him to let go.

Around them, the city of Washington, DC, the nation's capital, center of the United States, bustled about, cars honking, people shouting, life living. But in one apartment, in a small corner of the city, there was only silence and a sweet melody, intertwined, connected through the beating of two hearts that were now as one.