Disclaimer: I do not own Human Target or Monica or her music and intend no copyright infringement intended.
Author's notes: Apparently I have been in the festive holiday mood, because I am writing about holiday related things. Either that or I have just lost my mind. I think it's because I miss hockey. I was on the ice a couple times over the last month, but it just isn't the same. Our pro team is taking up all the ice time, I had to watch Russian Hockey at the Chinese restaurant, and my equipment is starting to collect dust because I'm not using it! But apparently it gives me time to write, when I should be doing something like…maybe sleeping.
Anyway, this story came about after I realized I haven't really developed Chance's softer side. Sure, he's a rough and tough hustler, but deep down, most men like that are just big puppy dogs. Well, he is a really good looking puppy dog. I feel like if given the opportunity….he would bake cupcakes…because you know what…real men wear pink...and bake cupcakes. So there you have it….you have now been informed.
A Hopping of the Heart
"Ilsa….no." She shrugged. "Oh come on. It's for a great cause and I assure you that it will go by faster than you think." Chance crossed his arms and stood his ground. "I understand all of that, it's just that…it really isn't me." She gave a small frown of discontent. She knew that it was a big favor to ask, but she felt like she could rely on him as backup. "Please Mr. Chance. Mr. Winston said he would have done it, but he is attending another function that day. Of course there's Guerrero..but…well I just think that is a bad idea all around." She put on her best puppy dog face and pleaded. But she didn't have much luck. "Ilsa, is that all?" She had accepted her defeat and raised her head back up. "Yes. I will see you next week." She gathered her purse and coat then walked to the elevator.
It was Easter weekend, and Ilsa was hosting a children's charity party. Every year, she and Marshall attended the function. While Ilsa made the usual rounds, Marshall assisted her. Only he was dressed up as the Easter bunny. She had failed at finding a volunteer to dress up so she was at the warehouse pleading to her new business partner. Winston was game, but he had started making amends with his wife, and was spending Easter with her. She knew there was a slim possibility that Chance would even entertain the thought, but she had to try. She sighed as the elevator hit the bottom floor then pulled out her cell phone to dial Winston. "Yes Mr. Winston…no…he said no…..no I know….it's fine…I just won't have a bunny….no, you go on and have a good time."
Chance walked back up to his loft and sat on the couch. He wanted to help Ilsa, but he was in no mood to dress up as the Easter bunny. He wasn't a fan of holidays to begin with. Christmas, Easter even birthdays were mostly bad memories. He didn't get to spend it like most kids should have, and it left an open wound…especially on his heart. He would normally attend functions with Ilsa, but dressing up as a big bunny was pushing his limits. He slouched back into his couch when his phone rang. "Hey Winston…no….no man, it just isn't me. I know, I know she is doing this all on her own. I mean…yeah..I know. Well maybe…but probably not. Just a lot of memories I don't want to relive…ok you too...later."
Ilsa opened the photo album and relaxed on her couch. She flipped through the pictures of her and her husband. They were good times. Times she had wanted to always remember as good, only now, there was a dark cloud. Ever since she found out about Marshall's mistress, she lost a little part of her soul. At first, she didn't want to believe it, until she connected the pieces of the puzzle and realized she had been a pawn in the relationship for so long. The tears started to fall as she continued looking at the photos. She knew she was only tormenting herself. With each photo, a small part of her heart broke away. She was a woman of character and high moral standards. The least her husband could have done was respect that.
She got to the end of the album and her tears had all but soaked the pages of her past. She knew deep down, she felt a little hurt that Chance had turned her down. She understood his reasoning, but it cut deeper because she didn't want to go alone. She could imagine how the women would gossip about her and how the men would gawk at her…especially now that she was a widow. She caught her breath and prevented herself from getting too choked up over the matter. She grabbed the remote to her stereo and switched it on. As she lay on her couch, the soft voice of Monica filled the room…..
When you're feeling lost in the night
When you feel your world just ain't right
Call on me, I will be waiting
Count on me, I will be here
Anytime the times get too tough
Anytime your best ain't enough
I'll be the one to make it better
I'll be there to protect you
See you through
I'll be there and there is nothing
I won't doI will cross the ocean for you
I will go and bring you the moon
I will be your hero your strength
Anything you need
I will be the sun in your sky
I will light your way for all time
For you I will
Chance looked up at his ceiling and pondered the last few hours. Ilsa had asked him to dress up as the Easter bunny and romp around a party full of kids. Not that he wasn't open to the idea, it was the fact that he had to celebrate a holiday that held little meaning to him. He lay down on his sofa in a huff. Carmine walked under his hand begging for some attention. Chance eyed him up. "You're an attention hog you know." The big Rottweiler cocked his head sideways. "What is it with her? She always wants me to be with her and do stuff. I mean, I don't mind being with her…but…" Then it hit him like a ton of bricks. He was only justifying to himself why he wouldn't play a fluffy bunny for her. It was his own fear of enjoyment. He felt deep down like he didn't deserve to live a normal life and hang around normal people. The truth was...that he was still practicing self-punishment for the lifestyle in the past. He scratched Carmine once more before he got up to turn on his stereo. Monica finished her serenade….
I will shield your heart from the rain
I will let no harm come your way
Oh these arms will be your shelter
You know these arms won't let you down
If there is a mountain to move
I will move that mountain for you
I'm here for you, I'm here forever
I will be your fortress, tall and strong
I'll keep you safe
I'll stand beside you, right or wrong
As the chorus played, he curled his lips. He felt a little bad that Ilsa would be alone, but he wasn't ready for that step to take with her. Sure, he had gone places with her in the past, but this was different. He actually had to leave his gun at home and participate without killing anyone. He sat back down then closed his eyes. The music soothed him as he drifted to sleep.
For you I will, lay my life on the line
For you I will fight, oooohhhh
For you I will die
With every breath, with all my soul
I'll give my world, I'll give it all
Put your faith in me
And I'll do anythingI will cross the ocean for you
I will go and bring you the moon
I will be your hero your strength
Anything you need
I will be the sun in your sky
I will light your way for all times
For you I will
I promise you
For you I, I will
He licked his lips and hoped he hadn't offended Ilsa. He thought about calling Ames, but she would have a hard time filling out a bunny costume. He didn't want to bother Winston and as she said, Guerrero would just scare everyone….even under a costume. He could only hope she made it through in one piece.
She ran a hand over her cream colored pants as she walked into the courtyard. It was decorated in gorgeous pastels to compliment the Easter holiday. There were a multitude of children running about. Some were looking for hidden Easter eggs, some getting their faces painted while others were enjoying the huge spread of food. She walked past a small group of woman who covertly waved their fingers at her. She was thankful her dark sunglasses covered the unhappiness in her eyes because she knew they were talking about her and her recent widowed state. But what bothered her more was knowing they were talking about her husbands infidelity.
As she stopped to grab a drink from the bar, a woman tapped her on the shoulder. "Hey, Mrs. Pucci…errr..Ilsa I mean..I'm sorry." Ilsa shook her head. "It's ok Tara. Your heart is in the right place." She looked over to the women who were still quietly stabbing her in the back. "Unlike some women." Tara shook her head. "Oh…don't worry about them. They have nothing better to do than spread gossip and waste time." In a bold move she yelled to them. "Mrs. Smith, why don't you worry about your husbands drinking problem…and Grace…you should probably find out if your husband is the father of your next baby." The women gave her a nasty look as Ilsa laughed out loud at Tara's boldness.
Tara was happy to see her smile. "Don't worry about them. They have nothing better to do. Um…any chance you snagged a bunny for the read along?" Ilsa shook her head. ""No Tara I didn't. It will be fine without it. I imagine most of the folks here are a bit too snobby to take the role." She smiled. "I would rather have a torturer play the bunny." Ilsa smiled as she thought about Guerrero playing the role. "Oh dang, here is the story you're reading. 30 minutes, and you're on." Tara handed her the book that she had personally chosen from her childhood.
Ilsa passed the time by helping the children hunt for eggs and color Easter pictures. Tara called to her when it was time to read the story, as the children began gathering in front of the stage. She took a deep breath and made her way up the stairs to take her seat. Even though she had commanded presence wherever she went, today felt different. It was the first event after the months dealing with Marshall. She took a deep breath and opened the book. Slowly, she began to read the story.
As she came to the end of the story she looked out into the eyes of the interested children. "…and the Easter bunny went hop, hop, hop...all they way home. The end." Both the children and adults clapped as she nodded her thanks. To her misfortune however, an all too curious little boy yelled out. "Mrs. Pucci…is the Easter bunny coming to see us?!" Ilsa went still. She was placed in the hot seat by a little boy no older than five and had next to no escape. Even as witty as she was, she couldn't come up with a lie good enough to pass off to the questioning boy or anyone else for that matter.
As she wished the world would swallow her whole, the voice of an angel rescued her. It was Tara. "Look kids! It's the Easter bunny!" The entire group of children practically mobbed the fluffy white creature that entered the group. They were graciously taking the chocolate eggs being handed out from the basket. Ilsa breathed a sigh of relief. Apparently Tara has suckered some poor soul into playing the role. The day was saved and she had her assistant to thank.
The kids continued following the bunny to hunt for eggs while Ilsa sought out Tara. When she met up with her, she enveloped her into a hug. "Oh God Tara, you are a lifesaver!" She looked sideways at her. "What do you mean?" Ilsa leaned back. "For getting the Easter bunny. I imagine you dug deep into my poor wallet to pay some poor sucker off." Tara shook her head. "No mam, I didn't contract that bunny." Ilsa got a serious look on her face. "Well maybe we should make sure it isn't a serial killer under that innocent suit." Tara laughed. "It was probably another assistant. Don't worry, everyone gets the full monty before they attend your gatherings. Now let's go have some fun."
The two women enjoyed the festivities and watched as the partygoers enjoyed themselves. Ilsa was beginning to relax and no longer worried about the people staring at her. She walked over to the bar to get a drink and out of the corner of her eye she spotted the bunny and smiled candidly, about to express her thanks when she was briskly passed. She was about to object the ignorant bunny when she felt a firm smack on her backside. She reeled around immediately, but before she could voice her opinion, it disappeared into the crowd. She mumbled under her breath. "What an arrogant bastard." The backside swat reassured her that the character under the innocent bunny suit was one of the rich bachelors her late husband rubbed shoulders with. Or one of the cheating husbands that came with a wife in denial. Before she could make another move three women gathered beside her. To her relief, they were a few of her non-judgmental friends.
One of the women nudged her. "Uh Ilsa, nice party as always….but we would LOVE to know who the Easter bunny is." Ilsa got a dirty look on her face. "HE?! It's a HE! I have NO idea who HE is! But I can tell you he will be getting a piece of my mind!" Another one of the women looked shocked. "Wait, what? Maybe you need to get under that suit. He is handsome. He can dress up for me anytime." She was still upset that the mystery man had the nerve to smack her backside. "Your mystery man took the liberty to smack my very much OFF LIMITS ass!" The third woman shook her head. "Well geez girlfriend, maybe you need to take that bunny mask off and check him out…damn..he can smack my butt any day!" She shook her head again. "If you say so. I am going to enjoy the rest of this party."
Ilsa mingled around with the rest of her guests. As a whole, the Easter day was a success. She was still a little heavy hearted over Chance not joining her but she made it a point to keep a smile on her face. She also made it a point to keep an eye on the bunny and wanted badly to take a swing at him for his little stunt. As the day came to a close, she began to say her farewells to the guests. She waved goodbye to a group of cars and walked back to the bar.
To her bad luck, she was met with the same group of arrogant women Tara yelled at earlier. The server gave her a sparkling water as one of the women rolled her eyes and spoke. "Hmm, once again, the elusive Ilsa PUCCI throws a stellar party." The woman's nasty side was in full swing. The emphasis on her last name made Ilsa turn around. "I can only assume you are jealous." The catty woman huffed. "Hardly. You only put these on so people think you are doing something special in your dead husband's honor. You aren't fooling anyone. It's been forever, don't you think you should stop riding on his coattails?"
Apparently some people had no clue that she was a large portion of Marshall's life. He did his job, but she certainly did her part as well. She wasn't a simple woman nor was she stupid and was completely capable of holding her own. She took as sip of her water and attempted to bite her tongue but with little luck. "Listen, I understand you are apparently jealous of my ability to...get things done…but I'm afraid it's something you need to deal with." The woman couldn't hold a candle to Ilsa and she was fully aware. "Well, regardless I'm sure you aren't past the infidelity. I suppose that's why you had to order the eye candy to play the Easter bunny."
Ilsa immediately went into her own world. Who was this man she thought? People keep talking about him and Tara didn't know who he was. Apparently the kids loved him and yet he had the arrogant audacity to smack her backside. Not to mention the women who had gotten a look under the suit. The catty woman snapped her back to reality. "Earth to Ilsa. In your own world as always. Geez, you have to make everything so perfect and hire some hot guy to take YOU out of the spotlight. Maybe you should take your head out of your….". Before she finished her sentence, as if on cue the Easter bunny stepped into the group. Ilsa's hand balled into a fist ready to swing when he removed his overly fluffy head.
She wanted to melt. Standing before her, in a fluffy white Easter bunny suit….was Christopher Chance. She tried to play it off as if she knew it was him the entire time. Without a second thought he reached an arm around her waist, pulled her close and looked deep into her eyes. He had completely ignored the other meddling women. "Hey beautiful. Had to wait all day for this…." He leaned down and met her lips. Ilsa placed her hands on his chest and relaxed her fingers into the white fluff. She felt like the world had stopped and no one was around. Her relationship with Chance had never been at this level. Yet here she stood in a sensual lip locking session with him. When he finally released her, he smiled then stared back at the women.
Their mouths were hanging open in shock. Here was Ilsa, a woman they thought couldn't move on from her husband, a woman leading a dull and meaningless life, standing with a man who all of them immediately fell stupid for. One of the woman looked Chance up and down. "And who might you be?" He extended his hand. "Christopher Chance…the new guy." The woman shook his hand then looked to Ilsa. "Well….whatever." Chance knew well that the group of women were jealous. Maybe of him, but surely of Ilsa. They were no competition to her, and it was clear who the victor of the day was.
He held her close again and smiled. "Well ladies, hope you all had a nice day. But I'm takin' this gorgeous woman out for a romantic dinner tonight." The arrogant women had gotten fed up. In a huff, they turned and left. Both Ilsa and Chance smiled wide as they disappeared. Just as soon as the happiness came…it disappeared. She hung her head down low. "Chance, you didn't have to do this. I very much appreciate it. The kids…they were…they were very happy to see the Easter bunny." He nodded. "But that isn't what you're questioning is it?" She finally met his gaze. "Well, I am sure you are fully aware of what I am up against…and..and…I just don't want you to think I need rescued. I don't want you to fake something just to make people think…." He interrupted her and gave her a serious gaze. "Who said I was faking it?"
She wasn't sure what to say. He had just admitted that the kiss was real and that he fully intended for it to happen. It wasn't something she was ready for, but apparently he was tired of the emotionally charged relationship they had shared for so long. "How about that dinner?" He gave a small smile and walked her to her car.
Chance took Ilsa to her favorite restaurant and indulged her palate. They talked about meaningless subject matter and practically avoided the kiss, and his surprise appearance as the bunny. When they returned to the warehouse, he invited her in for a drink. They sat on his couch and shared a bottle of Scotch. After a few awkward minutes, he took a deep breath and looked at her. "Look Ilsa, I have a confession to make. The main reason why I didn't want to come today, was because I was scared. Just like Christmas, I never had a good time during the holidays. There was no family, no friends and it seemed like time went on forever." She noticed his eyes, where small tears were beginning to form. He hung his head down low and continued his story. "I can remember once as a small boy...during Easter, the neighbor invited me over to an egg hunt. The family was nice and always welcomed me with open arms. But, when I got there that day, I felt so out of place. All the boys were wearing dress shirts and ties, and the girls were in their dresses…and there I was, in a pair of dirty jeans and a torn shirt. It was the best my mom could do but I felt like everyone was staring at me the whole time."
He was sniffling, attempting to compose himself. She gently rubbed his back as he continued. "I found a corner and cried. I felt like the day wouldn't end...until Sally….Sally Jones came up to me in her gorgeous white dress and offered me some of her Easter eggs. She had gotten mud on her matching white shoes and I imagined it was from shoving the boys around trying to get the eggs. She reminded me a lot of you." Ilsa chuckled. Her heart had sunk seeing this tough exterior, hulk of a man breaking down before her. He kept on. "I just didn't want to relive any of my past because even as I was growing up….it didn't get better. It's the same reason I don't like Christmas. But then, I realized that it wasn't about me…but about making others happy." He finally looked up at her with a red, tear streaked face. "In the end, I think I found my own happiness."
Ilsa wanted to cry. Her heart all but shattered when she saw him break down. She knew her own unhappiness radiated last Christmas, but admitted it when she turned her plane around from Uganda. She smiled and looked into his eyes. "Christopher Chance, you are by far one of the most versatile, kid hearted people I have ever met. You are always willing to risk your life to save another, and you're not afraid to admit when you are vulnerable. I was beyond thrilled that you showed up, but I don't want you to ever feel like you have to save my emotions."
That made his radar go back up and the timid emotions went away. He put a hand on her cheek. "Ilsa, no matter what, emotions or not…I'll be there." She closed her eyes and composed herself again. She was afraid to tackle the next subject, but knew it was necessary. She opened her eyes and stared at him. "And the kiss…was it…" He shook his head in confirmed reassurance. "Oh yes mam, that was for real. These sexy lips don't lie." She laughed in relief. He reassured her that their relationship had gone to the next level.
He kissed here again. This time, it was much deeper and more sensual. He had opened the floodgates of his emotions and she was right there to brave the rising waters. It was the same for him. He was right there to save her. Once they came up for air, he leaned back into the couch. He pulled her down into his warm embrace and she relaxed into his arms. He kissed the top of her head and gently ran his finger through her curly locks. As they both closed their eyes, he softly whispered. "You never have to worry Ilsa…for you…I will."
*A quick side note- I want to express my deepest thanks for those of you who read or comment on my stories. I am not going to sit here and lie to you about where I get my content from. In truth, it pops into my head…and I write it down. 95% of it is based on life in general. I have read maybe 5 stories from the forum and commented on 2 or 3, but the truth is, I do not want to run the risk of being influenced by other's work. It's just the way my brain works.
I get a lot f inspiration from music and when I flow…I flow. Please don't think I am ignoring your comments, because they drive me to turn out more! If for some reason you think my work has overlapped another's, or I have stolen an idea…then tell me because I am not above giving credit where it is due.
It was necessary for me to get this on the table, because I realize I am pretty non-existent when it comes to feedback. Also, as I was writing, I got a distinct feeling that there was probably an Easter story out there. Either that or I am crazy. Most likely crazy Anyhoo, there you go. I hope as a reader you find my stories enjoyable and at times tantalizing and of course if you ask, I am always willing to share my thoughts. Thanks.