A/N: So I've really been digging the way the Bugs/Lola relationship has been evolving on the show, namely the fact that it actually does, and wanted to see if I could flesh it out a little bit. I won't be writing a chapter on every episode, just whatever idea strikes me, though I probably will be spanning to the end of the series by the time this is done. I don't know if this will interest anybody besides me, or even turn out that good, but 'ere it goes anyway!
This chapter takes place during Eligible Bachelors. The title is from the movie Casablanca.
We'll Always Have Paris
They had nine and half hours till Paris. There was a baby three rows back that would not stop crying. Lola had somehow gummed up their TV trying to turn on French subtitles for the movie they were watching and the screen was nothing but blue. She had apparently exhausted every airplane, travel, and Paris related topic she knew enough to talk about, including all the different cities in France that were named after a food. Bugs tried to tell her Hamburg was not in France and that Croissant was in no way a city before realizing she hadn't heard him and checking out of the conversation entirely. He currently had one of her magazines folded over his eyes and was trying desperately to will himself anywhere but this particular seat in this particular plane.
Lola was breathing suspiciously close to his ear. Even through the pages of the magazine he could feel her eyes on him. "Bugs…" she poked him in the ribs, "Are you sleeping?" she whispered. Bugs remained perfectly still. She lifted the corner of the book until she could see his closed eyes.
"Bugs!" she shouted into his ear. He jumped high enough to hit the ceiling.
"What was dat for?" Bugs snapped. His ears flattened down protectively.
Lola backed into her seat as far as she could go, looking guilty. "I didn't know if you were awake or not."
"Well, I am now," he grumbled. "What is it?"
"I saw a whale."
"What?" Bugs tried to lean over her to make out the view through the tiny window. "We aren't even over water."
"No, in the clouds. See that big one," she pointed. "Well, it's kinda morphed into a marshmallow now, but I swear it looked just like a whale earlier. Oooh, and that one looks like a unicorn…"
"This game is usually easier to play on the ground," Bugs pointed out.
"It's a game? Oh, we could go cloud-watching in Paris…" she squealed.
Bugs shrugged noncommittally. "If that's how you want to spend your four hours…"
"Hmm, you're right," Lola took on an oddly serious expression. "We can go cloud-watching anywhere. Except for the desert. Or Mars. We should stick to Paris-specific things, like the Louvre or… what was the name of that river again?"
"No, I think that's in the Amazon…" she tapped her finger against her chin. "Anyway, I think we should start at the Louvre first and work our way around. We'll probably have to ask directions, I've never been to Paris so I'm not sure where everything is. Have you ever been to Paris?"
"Nope." Something in Bugs's brain twitched at the thought that his first trip to Paris would be four wandering hours with a certifiably crazy person on a somewhat extorted date.
Lola leaned back in her seat with her arms cradling her head. "Well, lucky for us I speak French. So getting directions won't be a problem."
"You speak French?" Bugs asked, surprised.
"Why yes," Lola began in a nasally voice that approximated a French accent. "I am full of surprises, no?"
Bugs hoped that wasn't what she meant by 'speaking French'. "Did the wedding planner guy teach you that? What was his name?"
A strange look crept across her face at the mention of the skunk. She crossed her arms in a tight huff and slumped in her seat. "I don't recall," she said coldly.
"Whatever happened to that guy?" Bugs asked. He knew he was prying, but it was a fair question, right? Lola's flighty attraction for the skunk was the only reason their whirlwind wedding that July had broken off at the last minute. In a way Bugs owed him for bringing that whole mess to an end since he apparently hadn't had the guts to.
"I haven't the faintest idea what happened to him. Nor do I care," Lola said in an obviously overcompensated smug voice.
"Seriously? You left me at the altar for that guy and you're not gonna tell me what happened?"
Lola glowered out the window. "We broke up. He wasn't my type."
"That's it, huh?" That clearly wasn't it. And Bugs had a feeling that if that relationship had ended on Lola's terms she wouldn't be so reluctant to talk about it.
"It was for the best," she said calmly, "And it made me realize a very important thing," she turned to him, leaning in close, "It made me realize what a huge mistake it was letting you go!" She suddenly threw her arms around his middle in an awkward embrace. Bugs stiffened. "Oh, Bun-bun, can you ever forgive me," Lola half-sobbed into his neck. Her shoulder dug into his collarbone.
"Lola, stop it, its okay," Bugs leaned so far back he was practically falling out of his chair trying to maneuver out of her hug. He instantly regretted bringing up anything to do with that disastrous almost-wedding. "I forgive you, alright? Please, pleeeaaase stop crying," he begged.
"But I left and now you're not in love with me anymore," Lola choked.
"I wasn't in love with you in the first place, now would you please stop hugging me," Bugs finally wriggled his arms free and firmly pushed her away.
Lola's head snapped up, her eyes huge and red and faintly glistening. "You weren't in love with me?" she said slowly.
Bugs braced himself for the outburst, the inevitable sobbing or violent anger or hopelessly endless rant. He knew it was a cruel thing to say to her, especially when she was already upset and obviously just got out of a bad relationship, but he wasn't about to be roped into another a wedding ceremony simply because he couldn't handle being painfully honest with her this time. It wasn't his fault if she was lonely. And besides, she went through emotional extremes like a roller coaster; she'd get over it.
Lola stared at him blankly. He knew he should explain to her how he felt; try to lighten the blow by placing the blame something other than her and her insane personality. Before he had the chance to put his words together she broke into a huge grin.
"That's great!" she exclaimed. The passengers surrounding them all collectively hissed at her to be quiet. She ignored them.
"It's what now?" Bugs blanched, still holding her at arm's length.
Lola looked enraptured. You wouldn't have been able to guess she'd just been sobbing a few seconds ago. She was overjoyed. She started talking a mile a minute, "I was afraid it'd be impossible to get our relationship back to where it was with all the baggage from my leaving you, but if you weren't in love with me then we won't have to recapture that love over again. There's nothing to recapture! We haven't gotten to the strongest point of love yet, there's no place to go but up."
Bugs's mind spun trying to follow her logic, or lack thereof. Panic began to creep in. "Ehhh, what? Lola, that's not how that works…"
"Wow, I feel better," she gasped in relief, "And how lucky is it that we're going to Paris! The ultimate romantic destination in the entire world. This was the best idea ever! We'll fall in love there, no problem."
"Is that why you're dragging me on this trip? I'm not gonna fall in love just because we happen to be in Paris."
She shook her head, clicking her tongue like she was trying to scold him. "Not a romantic, are you? Paris will fix that."
"Lola, that's insane," Bugs protested.
She smiled, slyly tapping a finger against his nose. "Exactly."
There were twenty minutes till California. They both slept most of the flight back, but Lola had woken up first. She stretched until her back gave a satisfying crack. Two ten hour flights back to back were too many. At least they didn't have to get re-accustomed to the time change and she didn't have to bring her usual six travel suitcases.
She thought about waking Bugs but decided against it. He probably needed the sleep and he looked kinda cute with his head sagging lazily onto his chest and his ears drooping. She fished out her camera and snapped a picture. He twitched at the noise but didn't wake up. Luckily for her the flash was off.
Lola sat back and started cycling through the rest of her pictures. The first several were of Bugs sitting with his arms crossed on the earlier flight to Paris before the stewardess confiscated her camera. Apparently plane flights made him kind of grumpy. And you weren't allowed to use flash inside a commercial aircraft. The next two photos were of them arriving in Paris. One shot of Bugs passing through customs and another close up of the two of them crammed in a Taxi. She wasn't a particularly good photographer and most of the candid photos she'd taken of him were cut off at the ears or cropped too far to one side or was 80% sky. The ones she hadn't taken were all photos of them at various Paris icons. Them standing under the Brooklyn bridge, in front of Stonehenge, at the gates of the White House. And then there were the pictures of the things they did after he'd gotten her to stop talking. Her riding behind him on the moped, the can-can show that they crashed, the mime that they mimicked until he got annoyed enough to hail an invisible cab and left. She wished she had taken more pictures, but they had been a little distracted.
As Lola shifted through photo after photo of her and Bugs smiling broadly in the most beautiful city in the world something occurred to her. If Bugs liked her when she was being quiet, he could like her when she was talking, too. He just needed a bit more work, that was all. She just had to try harder.
The intercom switched on, announcing the airplane preparing to land. Bugs jolted awake at the noise.
"Mornin' Sleepyhead!" she chirped. "We're almost home."
"So they say," Bugs said, referring to the announcement. He yawned, "Thanks for letting me sleep."
"No problem," she smiled.
He noticed the camera and leaned over her shoulder to see the picture. "Is that the bridge?" he asked, pointing.
"Yeah, wanna see the rest?" She handed him the camera.
"What's dat streak?" he asked, pointing to a grey blur in the corner of one of her Eiffel Tower shots.
"I think that's your ear," she replied.
"Who taught you to use a camera? A chimpanzee?"
"No," she bristled. "Your pictures aren't that much better, mister."
"That's because I didn't take any," he countered. "This one 'ere's pretty good." He pointed at the shot of the two of them in front of the Eiffel Tower. That wasn't one of hers either. She'd gotten another tourist to take it so they both could be in the picture. Her arm was raised energetically into the air and his was wrapped comfortably around her waist. It was well framed, bright, perfectly in focus, it was a great picture.
"I like that one, too. We should get copies made!"
Bugs nodded. "Sure."
She perked up instantly. "Really? We can go right now! Well, not now, we're still thousands of feet in the air but when we land…"
He touched a finger to her nose, silencing her for a moment. "Lola, I get it."
For the second time that day, Lola tried not to talk. She really tried. She held her breath and focused on his face, on the odd look he was giving her that wasn't quite a smile and wasn't quite a frown either. No one had ever really insisted she'd be quiet before, at least no one that mattered. She wondered what he saw in it. It was kind of boring.
Mercifully, the stewardess came by to check seat belts before she could blurt out anything too embarrassing and the plane was soon descending. Lola loved riding takeoffs and landings in planes, they reminded her a little of roller coasters or sky diving or hayrides. She explained it to Bugs and he reacted with the same curious expression he used a lot when she was explaining something.
They hadn't really brought much with them to Paris since it was only a four hour trip. Bugs had a small suitcase with a painting and a few other things they let him bring as a carry-on so they didn't have to wait for luggage. The attendant checking her passport had quite a few pressing questions about that, but eventually let them through after they'd both been searched.
"I always get stopped by those guys," Lola complained after they were safe in her car, down the freeway, and well away from the airport.
"I can imagine…" Bugs replied.
Lola accelerated into the carpool lane. She was technically slightly over her twenty-four hour time limit with Bugs and she wanted a way to stretch it for as long as possible. She could miss the freeway exit to his house… or maybe the car would break down… why didn't she think to skip filling her gas tank before they left?
Bugs still had her camera in both hands, quietly focused on the pictures he was scrolling through. "Y'know," he said, "I actually had a really good time today… Yesterday," he amended. "Not that I want to be kidnapped and dragged to Rome or Bosnia or something."
"Now would I do a thing like that?" she said in a high, coquettish voice. She grinned at him innocently.
"I dunno, but the way you said that isn't exactly convincing," Bugs remarked.
Lola laughed, waving him off. "Please, I didn't kidnap you. I bought you. For charity. There's a huge difference."
"Yeah, well, let's not make either thing a habit, okay?" he asked. "I don't think I'll be up for sale again any time soon."
Lola bit down on a frown. She was going to have to come up with other ways to get them together. Dolling out thousands of dollars every time she wanted to go out with him was never going to work in the long term, but she'd hoped he'd be an easier heart to crack than this. She'd never been with anyone this difficult. Strangely, it wasn't as frustrating as she might've feared. It made him a little challenging, a little harder to figure out than most people. It was actually kind of attractive.
"You hadn't said anything in two minutes. I just wanted to make sure you were okay."
"I thought you liked it when I didn't talk?" she said, half innocence and half baiting.
His nose twitched. "It's not that…" he said slowly. "I just thought you liked it when you did."
"When I did what?"
"I don't know, whatever it is you talk about."
"I think you'll have to be more specific."
"What kinds of things are you talking about?"
"Not me, I was talking about you."
"Okay, now I'm completely lost. Can we start this conversation over?"
"Ehh, I honestly don't remember how it started."
They sat in baffled silence for a few seconds. Then she started giggling. He cracked a smile.
"What's so funny?" he asked.
She broke into a cackle. "I… don't… even… know…" she breathed between chuckles. The giggle fit was almost completely involuntary. She wasn't sure why it started, if she was simply overtired or if the way he'd said 'what's so funny' was actually that hilarious, and she wasn't sure how she was going to get it to stop. She was laughing so hard the corners of her eyes were starting to tear up.
"You really are crazy." Bugs shook his head lightly.
She took a few deep, gasping breaths and calmed down long enough to make the exit off the freeway. Then something caught her eye. "Oooh, there's a photo store! We can get our pictures printed!" she made a hard, tire squealing u-turn that had Bugs gripping the inside door handle and pulled into the parking lot.
Bugs looked down at the almost forgotten camera, continuing his scroll through to the last photo. He frowned. "Is that one of me sleeping?"
Lola snatched the camera back and ran into the store, trying to muffle another ill-timed giggle fit.