Operation: Final Fantasy Ch. 06bySpartan22©
Here is my final submission of Operation: Final Fantasy.
Edited by Wolf Vixen, with much thanks. And again, thanks to HLD for inspiration through his masterpiece "Impersonating Brianne". Also thanks to Sidney43; because of his insightful comments left in earlier chapters, I actually changed quite a bit of this chapter in an attempt to capture the characters more clearly. Hopefully I succeeded.
No luck, Ryan thought to himself as he opened his cell phone, immediately snapping it closed out of frustration. Only yesterday Ryan left her a message asking her to call him back in the hopes that they could get together that weekend -- just as friends of course, nothing more. The return phone call he was expecting -- or at least hoping for -- wasn't there. Not even a single text, either. He'd been getting a lot of that lately.
Since his phone was on vibrate, he already knew she hadn't called him, but he still held a small amount of hope that she may have called, and that maybe he simply didn't feel it ring.
He walked away from the restroom trying to hide the irritation on his face from the rest of the public as he walked back to the table. He slid into the booth, joining the other guys while trying to tune out the blaring noise of countless college football games playing on the surrounding televisions.
"Took long enough," Charlie said, taking a swig of beer. "We were wondering if you fell in." Ryan gave a fake chuckle at his skinny brown-haired firefighting buddy.
"Nope," Ryan said with a straight face. "The only falling today was you. Off the ladder."
Jeff laughed wildly, slapping his rookie teammate on the back. Ryan snickered and winced at the same time as the slap on Charlie's back was hard enough to echo; Jeff was a big man and sometimes seemed to forget his own strength.
"Hey, I slipped a couple rungs, but I didn't fall," Charlie said in protest, pushing Jeff off of him.
Jeff continued to poke fun at him.
"Too much weight from the gear. Just because you aren't getting paid doesn't mean they won't fire a volunteer fireman. You need to replace those bb guns with howitzers like mine," Jeff said, pointing to his bicep and flexing his arm.
"Genetics didn't make me a freaking six-foot-seven grizzly bear like you, Jeff," Charlie said, defending himself.
Ryan told Charlie, "It's not all genetics; a lot of it is because he hits the gym like I do. You should join us sometime."
"It's true. Sure, I look like a Greek god now, but until I hit the gym a few years back, I used to be scrawny like you. Soft and gooey and stuff..." Jeff and Ryan both started cracking up.
Charlie shoved the large hulk of a man. "Alright bastards, you both can eat me."
The waitress came by, dropping off the check. Jeff had been flirting with her all night, trying to get a phone number out of her, but he had come up empty every time.
After she walked away, Ryan said, "I'll get this one, guys. Mostly because you keep getting rejected and I feel bad for you, Jeff. Next time, though, you're still paying. Even if the next waitress turns you down. I won't feel sorry for you, either. You've had enough chances."
"Yea, right. Like you're doing much better than me in the chick department?"
Ryan gave a slight smile and an indiscriminant shrug.
Well, not anymore, he thought to himself. If only you saw me when Jessica was on my arm.
"Touché. I'm off to class, fellas. Jeff, make sure you're driving Charlie. He's a lightweight."
Charlie gave him the finger. "I'll beat you both up the ladder next time, Patton. You wait and see."
"You're on. See you guys tomorrow."
Ryan pulled out the keys to his car while walking across the parking lot. Since he had to park out in the sticks, he had a little bit of a hike ahead of him. It wasn't a surprise; he expected it even before he pulled into the parking lot because this area of town was always busy this time of night.
As he walked by the new French restaurant Chez Fleur, twirling his keys in hand, he wondered if Jessica had been there yet. He wanted to take her to the grand opening back when she was with him, but the timing didn't work out; Chez Fleur didn't open until just a few days after his time with her was up.
Out of the corner of his eye, Ryan noticed a Mustang pull into one of the valet parking spots at Chez Fleur. It was a familiar looking red Mustang -- a Race Red color, to be exact.
The first thing he noticed that stepped out of the car was the long legs all the way down to her firm calf muscles, ending in a pair of four inch black stilettos. His vision shifted to the rest of her; she looked gorgeous in her little black evening dress. Her blonde hair had been styled with her trademark beautiful ringlets and her makeup was perfect. Jessica had never looked so good.
Ryan was stunned. He quickly changed his path and started walking towards her when it became apparent that two men were waiting for her. One of men was the valet; she dropped the keys in his hand, allowing him to drive her car despite an obvious reservation. He didn't blame her; it was a nice car.
The other man was a little older. He stood there waiting for Jessica, adjusting his fancy suit and tie. Ryan didn't recognize the man, but the man clearly recognized Jessica; with a large pearly-white smile, he opened his arms and gave her a hug. Leaning in, the man gave Jessica a kiss on each cheek. She turned her head each time, accepting the man's kiss.
Ryan felt his face turn flush. Instinctively he gritted his teeth and clenched his jaw. He wanted to run over and deck the guy, and just might have, until he remembered Jessica wasn't really his girl.
He sighed. That was the problem with the fantasy he set up; eventually it had to end and now he was stuck in the world of reality. To make matters worse, Jessica as of late made it clear she wasn't even interested in friendship. Anything more than that was out of the question, obviously, but losing her friendship hurt.
Ryan put on his sunglasses despite the sunset, ducked his head, and kept walking towards his Challenger. He made it all the way to his car, even had his hand on the door handle, when he heard someone behind him.
"You're looking good."
He quietly sighed out of frustration; he didn't need this. Turning around, trying to keep his eyes above her neckline, Ryan took off his sunglasses and told Jessica, "You're looking good, too."
She gave him a playful smile. "I was talking to Charlene. You, on the other hand, are looking absolutely astonishing."
He couldn't avoid a small smile creeping up on his face.
"Oh, Ryan, I've missed you. How are you, really?"
She had a genuine look of concern on her face as she stepped forward to reach out and touch his arm.
Even though the smile looked genuine, he knew better. She was amazing at her job and specialized in making men melt; with her beauty and acting skills, it was a wonder she wasn't on television. Still, the touch on his arm felt electric. He was far from being immune to her.
"I've been fine, same old stuff like the last time when we talked." His eyes darted from Jessica to the guy she was just with, who seemed to be patiently waiting at the entrance to Chez Fleur, and back to Jessica within a split second. But it was long enough for Jessica to realize what he was thinking.
"I should probably go Jessi..."
Before he could finish, she interrupted him. "No, wait. Oh, Ryan, I am so sorry." Nodding her head in the direction of the older guy in the suit and tie, she meekly told Ryan, "It's not what it looks like. It's not what you're thinking."
Ryan opened his car door and said, "I don't think you have any idea what I'm thinking right now. Besides, you're a big girl and can do whatever you want. It was good seeing you again; I'll see you around."
Angrily, Jessica moved forward and slammed the car door shut before he could get in. Ryan had moved his fingers out of the way just in time before getting them smashed in the car door. "Jessica! Are you crazy?"
She looked frustrated, "Ryan, will you listen to me for a moment?"
Jessica completely lost her train of thought -- she was distracted by the picture she saw through the driver side window of Ryan's Challenger attached to the visor. At first she thought it was a picture of Amanda, but it wasn't. It was Jessica's profile picture from the agency. How did Ryan get that? Did Madeline have something to do with it? She quickly went from frustrated to flustered. Why did he have her up on the visor, and not Amanda?
"Just... just, don't go. I..."
It was clear she wasn't going to say anything, so Ryan took the initiative to speak. "Look, Jessica, I promised you I wasn't going to lie to you anymore, and since I'm already pouring my guts out to a counselor I might as well tell you how I'm feeling. I owe you that, at least. Then I'm out of here."
Jessica flinched at the way he announced his inevitable dismissal, but remained quiet.
Ryan took a deep breath, "When you promised me you'd be by my side, I guess I took it a little too literal. I thought I'd be seeing you more. Obviously that didn't happen, not even through phone calls and texts."
Jessica looked guilty when he said that.
Ryan continued, "I'm sure you were busy with important things, so I don't blame you for that. And," he sighed, trying as hard as he could to admit the next part, "I guess I forgot that you weren't mine." He nodded over to the old guy, still patiently waiting for Jessica. "That was my fault."
She quietly said, "You mean you forgot that Amanda wasn't yours -- at least, that she's not anymore?"
Ryan shook his head, "No, Jessi. I meant you."
Jessica blinked. His honesty didn't surprise her nearly as much as the fact that she melted so easily.
"Let me explain," Ryan said while crossing his legs and leaning back against his Challenger.
"Operation Final Fantasy."
"You said you wanted to know what 'Off -- Complete' meant, right?"
She suddenly remembered that stupid napkin. What he wrote on it, 'Off -- Complete', had caused so much turmoil between them back in Hawaii and almost ruined their entire trip. As is, it cost them a few days together.
Ryan continued, "It meant Operation Final Fantasy would be complete once I... pulled the trigger. You were my final fantasy -- the most amazing, and the very last fantasy I would ever have. I mean, it was like you were an actress playing a character. You played Amanda."
Jessica nodded for him to continue.
"It was my last fantasy, and then...," his voice trailed off. Calmly, she put her hand back on his arm.
He gave her a weak smile, as if to let her know he was ok.
With a soft chuckle, he shook his head and told her, "I can't believe I'm telling you all of this."
Her smile in response looked innocent, like that of a young girl. It encouraged him to continue.
Taking a deep breath, he said, "You were supposed to play Amanda. But somewhere along the way, you became completely separate from her. That scared me. I won't lie; it still scares me. So you can see the fantasy that was supposed to be about Amanda turned into a reality... no, what I mean to say, is it turned into a fantasy with you." He shrugged, giving a bittersweet smile at the same time.
He bit his lip, but told her, "I do say fantasy of you because; well..." he nodded over to the suit. "Let's face it; I'm just another guy to you, no different than any of the others."
Jessica started to speak, "That's not..."
Ryan cut her off. "I'm not saying it like it's a bad thing, it's just the way it is. In fact, it's my own fault. I set up the fantasy. I wasn't counting on this awkward post-fantasy life between me and you. I wasn't supposed to have a post-fantasy life. I built up something with you that I shouldn't have, and now," he nodded over towards the suit again, "I'm paying for it. Like I said, my own fault." Ryan shifted awkwardly.
"Ryan, please let me explain a few things."
Her heart was heavy, she felt like she was going to explode if she didn't tell Ryan everything.
Ryan dispassionately said, "He's probably getting tired of waiting for you."
"Tough shit," she snapped at him. Realizing she was being too snippy, she took a deep breath and looked down, embarrassed. "Ryan, first of all, you're not just any guy." Jessica was hurt that she even had to explain it. "You are different than anyone else that I've ever been with. You are amazing, in so many ways."
"Second," she said with great hesitation, "Madeline suggested I shouldn't see you."
He looked at her blankly. His neutral face was quickly turning into anger, "She what?"
She could tell that anger was starting to surface on his face, so she talked quickly, "She meant well; in fact, I agreed with her. Reluctantly, anyway. I'm so sorry I dropped you from my life. I didn't want to, please believe me."
He crossed his arms, "Go on."
She sighed, "We both know I look like Amanda. We were both worried you would still be hung up on her, and I didn't want to push you back down to rock bottom. You didn't need to see someone during your time of healing that reminded you of your beautiful wife."
He let her words sink in slowly, nodding his head, "Ok, I suppose I can see that."
Jessica giggled, "Third, and most importantly, I quit my job."
Jessica took his hand, "Well, sort of." She sighed, "Of all nights to run into you, I can't believe it was tonight. Madeline asked me if I would take one last job. I told her no, but she assured me there would be no sex involved. I agreed only as a favor to her. It's all about impressing his clients tonight -- at the restaurant only. I'm simply to be arm candy for Phil over there. No touching other than hand-holding to sell an image and a simple European kiss on the cheek."
It was obvious to Ryan that she was feeling guilty by the way she hung her head and avoided looking into his eyes. "Even before I met you, I was seriously thinking of getting out of... this business. It never set right with me, to be honest. Taking money for sex. Every time I thought about getting out, it would scare me, knowing I couldn't find an honest job that I was as good at or made anywhere near as much as I made working for Madeline."
His eyebrow rose, "Phil, huh?"
She giggled again, "He's gay. I'm pretty sure you don't have anything to worry about."
An unknowing smile surfaced on his face, "Wait... why are you telling me this?"
Jessica leaned in and kissed his lips, "I do have to go, but I want to see you tonight. If you'll let me." She lowered her head and raised her big blue eyes, trying her hardest to reel him in, "If you can forgive me."
She turned her lips downward making a pouting face, running her fingers up and down his chest. Ryan held her waist and brought her closer to him. He scolded her, "Why do you make it impossible for me to resist you?"
Jessica snickered deviously.
He gulped, "You said you loved me once. Did you mean it, or did you just say it in the heat of the moment?"
Remembering that fateful night, she suddenly recalled those words she spoke, as she tried to scream through the door, afraid she would never see him again. Her eyes started to water. Noticing her emotions, Ryan pulled her into his chest tightly.
"Yes. I meant it then, and I meant it now.
"I love you, Ryan."
His heart skipped a beat. Leaning down, he kissed her. "You shouldn't. I'm so sorry, Jessi. So, so sorry. Everything I've done to drag you into my messed up dysfunctional life, you deserve better than a guy like me."
A bashful look of a little girl crossed her face, "Is that really what you think? Is that why you never chased me?"
He looked guilty, trying to form his words carefully, "Well, part of it was the nature of our relationship in the first place, even once I saw you for who you were. I didn't think we could cross that line, or at least I didn't think you'd want to. But, yes. I also didn't pursue you because you shouldn't be with someone like me. I have more baggage than Paris Hilton's bellboy."
He bit his lip and tightened his jaw, admitting, "You saw me with a gun in my hand when I was at a place lower than rock bottom. Who could want someone like that?" As hard as it was for him to admit it, Ryan said, "I was embarrassed."
Her face gave off the biggest smile, "You have it backwards; it's me who doesn't deserve you. So please, don't apologize to me again. It should be the other way around, after the way I've treated you. After the times I ran from you. I didn't think men like you existed. You're better than any prince in any fairytale."
Her lip trembled as she sniffed, trying desperately to hold back her tears, "You've had it backwards. You really are Prince Charming. Me? I-I'm, just... just a common call girl. Not even that; let's call it what it is. I'm a hooker." Still wrapped up in his arms, Jessica crossed her arms together tightly against her chest, feeling insecure with her very own words.
She continued, "Or at least, I have been up until I met you and quit my job. I'm not even a good hooker, especially since I've met you. My head's not on straight; I can't think right, I can't sleep at night."
She shook her head, and put one hand gently on the side of his face, "But tell me, Ryan, how does a girl recover from that? How does she expect to find love when she doesn't even know what love looks like or feels like? Our view of love is distorted. At least it was for me, until I met you. And I know that whatever I feel, even if you reject me, there's no way I can work for Madeline again. Ever. Trixie is gone."
Snickering through her tears, she added, "You ruined that for me. But I'm glad you did."
Ryan chuckled. Jessica continued, "Maybe I don't even know what love is, but what I do know is this: What I feel when I'm around you... It's absolutely amazing. I want that. Whatever you call it, I want that for the rest of my life."
Her big baby blue eyes sparkled through her tears. She looked up at him softly, like a puppy that only wanted to be loved yet was afraid of rejection.
Passionately, his eyes searched her gorgeous blue eyes, as if he couldn't believe her words and instead was searching for the truth. He was skeptical for a brief moment, but whatever he found in her eyes, it made him believe her.
Ryan kissed her again; his tongue wrestled with her tongue, his hands caressed her face. Jessica tried not to cry, holding him tightly and kissing him back, but her tears poured, causing her black mascara to run down her cheeks.
The only time Ryan came up for air was to tell her, "I love you too, baby. More than you know."
It had been years since anyone had seen snowfall in their part of Northern California, but the thick white snow permeated the ground outside on Christmas morning. Jessica was in the kitchen making hot chocolate and Bing Crosby was playing in the background. Ryan couldn't help but smile watching through the window as the cold flakes fell slowly while he remained warm inside. Soft footsteps snuck up from behind bringing him back to reality. Jessica held out a steaming cup of hot chocolate for him. "I hope you like the smaller marshmallows; I couldn't find any of the big ones at the grocery store. I could hardly find anything; everyone was probably preparing for the winter storm."
Ryan took the cup and gave her a kiss and a thank-you. She cinched up her teal and silver robe and sat down on the couch next to him.
"Merry Christmas, Jessica," he whispered, rubbing her feet as she propped herself back and rested her legs on top of his.
"Merry Christmas, baby," she told him as she snuggled in.
Ryan snickered quietly out of the blue.