Breathlessly, Scooter ran up to Kermit. “Wow,” Scooter aid, “Piggy looks great for her date.” Kermit did not look up, continuing to make short notes in the margin of his schedule. “I don’t know what she told you, Scooter, but Piggy does not have a date.” “Are you sure, boss?” “Scooter—I’ve got at least two hours worth of paperwork here before I can go out. Miss Piggy and I do not have a date.” “Oh,” Scooter said, suddenly understanding. “Then maybe Miss Piggy has a date with someone else.” “Yeah, right,” Kermit snorted. “Nice try, Scooter. Piggy’s already tried that one.” “Yeah, but—“ “Hey Kermit!” Fozzie came running up to the desk, hat in hand. “You are one lucky frog tonight.” “Okay,” Kermit said, still not looking up. “I’ll bite. Why am I a lucky frog tonight?” “You don’t know?” “No, Fozzie,” Kermit said, looking up at last. “Why am I a lucky frog tonight?” His phrasing made it obvious that he was expected a punch line, and Fozzie stared at him in confusion. “Um, because you have a date with Miss Piggy tonight?” “Fozzie, that’s a bad joke even by your standards.” Complacently, he went back to his papers, now carrying numbers from the ticket office ledger to the bank ledger. “But I am not joking.” Fozzie looked to Scooter, who shrugged. “You’d think she could be a little more original,” Kermit chuckled. “If Piggy’s going on a date tonight, I’ll eat my hat.” “Hot date tonight, Kermit?” Gonzo said, heading for the parking lot with a suit of armor over his shoulder. Kermit looked up, this time a little annoyed. “Look, I don’t know what she promised you, but give it up, guys. I am not taking Piggy out tonight, and that’s final.” “Suit yourself,” said Gonzo, muttering under his breath. Kermit heard the word “denial” and was on the verge of making a smart retort when the door to Piggy’s dressing room opened and she paused dramatically in the doorway. She looked good, Kermit had to admit. She looked stunning in fact but he was tired of her less-than-subtle attempts to rope him into a relationship. He opened his mouth to make some sort of derisive comment, intent on deflating her smugness, when a new voice boomed from the bottom of the stairs. “Wow, Miss Piggy,” Link Hogthrob’s baritone voice called up the stairs. “You look fantastic.” Piggy let out a demure little giggle. “You are sweet to notice, Link.” “The driver’s waiting. Ready for our date?” Kermit swallowed what he’d been about to say, but his jaw remained open. Link Hogthrob? She was going out with Link Hogthrob, that brainless, spineless--Kermit paused a second, reassessing—suave, good-looking pig with the well-cut tux and the impeccable manners…. He shut his mouth with effort, and went back to his books while Piggy fairly floated down the stairs, a vision in periwinkle chiffon. He waited with a snide comment on the tip of his tongue for several moments, but to his surprise, the only sound he heard from Piggy was the sound of her low laughter as she went out through the backstage door and stepped into the waiting limousine. Scooter suddenly realized that he’d lost the opportunity to make a graceful exit. He watched longingly as Gonzo peered out the door, said, “Nice wheels,” and scuttled out with alacrity. There was an awkward pause, with Scooter and Fozzie staring helplessly at each other over Kermit’s head. “Well-so-long-Boss-let-me-know-if-you-need-anything-Bye!” Scooter disappeared the way he had come. After Kermit had attempted to copy the same figures not twice but three times, he gave it up and sat back. Only then did he see Fozzie standing there, hat in hand, gazing at him with a distressed look on his face. “Are you okay?” Fozzie asked tentatively. “Sure,” Kermit lied. “Why wouldn’t I be?” Fozzie was not known for great sophistication, but he was a bear of great heart. He continued to gaze at Kermit without saying anything more and, to his surprise, Kermit found himself looking away first. “Don’t worry, Fozzie. It’s for the best,” he said softly, not convincing even himself. Fozzie stretched out a hand, but instead of patting Kermit comfortingly on the back, laid his much-loved and battered hat on the table in front of his friend. “Here Kermit,” Fozzie said simply. “I think you’ll be needing this.” Kermit didn’t realize he was waiting for Piggy until she failed to show up. Before, when he had been sure of her motives and thought himself supremely indifferent to her, she’d seemed ever-present backstage. Now, despite a few well-maneuvered schedule shifts designed to make their paths cross, all he caught were glimpses of her retreating form, usually walking in tandem with some other crew member. When she was on-stage, she hit every cue and delivered every line with maddening perfection, so there was no reason to interact with her. Now that she was no longer declaring undying love for him or flirting outrageously while he tried to direct, her witty banter was reserved for those who shared the stage with her. She lobbied for nothing, demanded none of his time, and seemed oblivious and indifferent to his presence. In fact, her lack of interest seemed almost too perfect, and for several days Kermit comforted himself with the thought that she must be working awfully hard to avoid him so thoroughly. Only when her lack of interest stretched into a fortnight did Kermit come to the uncomfortable conclusion that Piggy had turned her all-consuming focus onto someone else. Late one Thursday after Kermit was positive that everyone but him had left, he heard the rasp of a key in the lock, the back-stage door open and shut and the unmistakable tink-tink of high heels on the hardwood floors. He turned to find Piggy hurrying in from the rain, untying a flowered scarf from around her hair that she had used to ward off the rain. She started a little when she saw him, but if his presence did more than startle her, she gave no sign. “Hello, Kermit,” she said absently, smiling and humming to herself as she scurried up the stairs to her dressing room. She had not called him Kermie, not even once, since that fateful day when he’d brushed off her affectionate overtures in such a rude manner. If he’d know, then…. Kermit had only put one foot on the bottom stair when she reappeared, purse in hand this time, retying the scarf about her bountiful curls. She swung around the bottom step, coming face-to-face with him, and this time she started so much she let out a little squeal and dropped her purse. They bent for it at the same moment, almost bumping heads, but when their hands closed over the handle at the same moment, Piggy withdrew as though stung. She stood up, flustered, and let Kermit pick up the little handbag, careful to avoid his touch. “Hey, Piggy,” Kermit said softly. “You…you look nice.” “Oh, thank you,” Piggy said uncomfortably, one gloved hand going automatically to her hair, but she did not say more and would not—quite—meet his eyes. “Silly me-forgot my purse.” Kermit held it out to her and she reached out and took it as though it might bite her. “Need anything else?” he asked, and felt hope stir to life briefly when she darted him a quick, alarmed look from under hastily veiled lashes. He stepped forward before the moment passed. “Good show tonight,” he began lamely. “I thought your number went very well.” “You’re very kind.” She looked desperately toward the door but made no move to go past him. Kermit tried again. “Piggy, would you like to go get some dinner?” “Oh, I, uh….no, I can’t—“ “How ‘bout some dessert, then—or coffee.” “No,” Piggy said softly, her voice barely more than a whisper. “Please, Kermit—I have to go.” “But—“ “Please!” she said frantically. “I have a—someone’s waiting for me.” After a moment, Kermit stood aside. Piggy rushed past him and disappeared into the rain, banging the door behind her. Outside, Link held the limo door open for Piggy to climb in. Once she was firmly ensconced in the back seat next to him, he draped his coat around her shoulders. “You look cold, honey,” he said, smiling at her. Piggy’s laugh was a little forced, but Link seemed not to notice. “Just a little,” she began, then her face changed thoughtfully. “Actually, Moi is a little under the weather, Link. Would you—could I skip our dinner tonight. I just want to go home.” Link nodded quickly, shifting gears immediately from ‘gallant’ into ‘understanding.” “Of course,” he said firmly. He rapped on the window, spoke briefly to the driver. Piggy settled back uneasily into the seat, trying to smile and hoping Link wouldn’t notice her shaking hands. “Nice work on ‘Pigs in Space’ Piggy,” Kermit called casually as she walked behind his desk. Piggy looked up and stopped, half-expecting some jibe. “Thank you, Kermit,” she said grudgingly. Janice and Rizzo, who’d been walking with Piggy, paused and looked at her expectantly. After the slightest of hesitation, she waved them on ahead. “Too bad you had to run it so many times.” Piggy’s blue eyes sharpened. “Moi is always happy to accommodate,” she said lightly, beginning to mount the stairs to her dressing room. “Yeah, ol’ Link kept flubbing his lines. Didn’t think he’d ever get them right,” Kermit said, chuckling heartily. “Twenty-seven takes, hoo boy.” Piggy had paused, but she started up the stairs briskly. “Link can be such a perfectionist,” she murmured. Kermit swung around to look at her and crossed his arms across his chest. “Perfectionist? Good thing he doesn’t have to spell that.” Piggy’s face tightened but she kept moving, away from Kermit and his hateful laughter. Desperately, Kermit changed tactics. “C’mon, Piggy—I know he’s your boyfriend, but even you’ve got to admit Link isn’t the brightest bulb in the pack.” “Handsome, debonair, cultured, yes. A Rhodes scholar he may not be, but smarts are sometimes highly over-rated.” She turned around and fixed him with a hard look. ‘I’ve found that some people who are supposed to be smart can actually make some very stupid decisions.” As though pre-ordained, the opening act for the week—a group of singing mushrooms—came bustling through. Piggy rolled her eyes significantly in their direction. Kermit bristled. “Okay, then, so I may have an occasional lapse in judgment, but it’s occasional. Admit it, Piggy. Link Hogthrob hasn’t got a thought in his head.” “He thinks Moi is beautiful!” she cried angrily. “Is that why you think he’s so dumb?” “Yes—I mean, no, I didn’t mean--“ Kermit stammered, realizing too late where this trap was leading. “And he thinks Moi is talented!” “You are, Piggy, but I meant—“ “And he wants to be with me,” Piggy shot at last. To her horror, she felt the sting of tears in her eyes. “Link wants to be with Moi, Mr. Kermit the Frog, so maybe he’s not so dumb after all.” She turned and fled up the stair before he could say anything more. After her door had slammed, Kermit covered his face with his hands, thinking miserably that that couldn’t have gone worse if he’d scripted it. He punished himself be giving Piggy a wide berth for the next few days, but he hardly need have bothered. Piggy avoided him like the plague. “Entre vous,” Piggy called airily when someone knocked on her dressing room door. Scooter was probably just updating the rehearsal schedule—again—and she didn’t look up until Kermit appeared in the mirror behind her. She shot to her feet so quickly that she upset a jar of cold cream, which rolled loudly across the floor, and clutched at the front of her dressing gown reflexively. In truth, she was completely dressed beneath the silk gown, but Kermit’s sudden appearance made her feel vulnerable and exposed. “Yes,” she said breathlessly. “What—what is it?” “Hello Piggy,” Kermit said, cursing inwardly at the nervous quaver in his voice. Bad enough that Scooter had given him a shocked double-take when he’d asked to deliver rehearsal updates to Piggy himself. He looked down at the papers in his hand as though the words he wanted were written there. “Can I…help you?” she said faintly. “Well, I just wanted to talk to you about your song for next week.” “My song with Rowlf?” “Yes, well, um, I was thinking that maybe you and I could do the song instead—you know, together--with Rowlf accompanying us on the piano.” “Oh.” “Yeah—you know I had originally thought the song would be a good one for us. So I was wondering if you’d like to run through it with me—I mean us—now so we could see how that goes.” “Oh Kermit,” Piggy said sweetly. “I am so glad you asked me. Since you brought it up, I wanted to tell you that I don’t think the song is right for Moi.” “Not right for you? But Piggy—we ordered the music just for you. I mean, torch songs are one of the things that—“ “I don’t think Moi is right for that particular song.” “But Rowlf said—“ “Maybe Annie Sue would like to sing this song with you. And Rowlf.” She gave him a long, disdainful look. Kermit got the message loud and clear. I would rather give this song to my hated rival, Annie Sue, than sing this song with you. “Alright Piggy,” Kermit began, his temper beginning to fray. “Look, I said I was sorry about the other day. What’s going on?” “Nothing is going on.” “You’re turning down a feature spot in the show--with a torch song picked especially for you--and you want me to believe—“ “Moi is uninterested in what you believe,” she said coldly, and turned away from him toward the mirror. “In a pig’s eye!” Piggy shot out of her chair indignantly. “And what is that supposed to mean?” “Nothing’s going on—hah!” Kermit said angrily. “What’s going on with you and that Link Hogthrob anyway. You’ve been out every night this week.” “And last week,” Piggy said stonily. Kermit felt his face flush. “I can’t imagine what you talk about,” he said sarcastically. “Brilliant guy like that.” “Maybe we don’t just talk,” Piggy cried. She flushed, realizing how her words could be interpreted, but at the furious look on Kermit’s face she plunged on. “We go dancing. We go to the movies. We go out—“ “Fascinating!” “Sometimes we stay in.” This last was delivered with the cold finality of all-out war. “That’s beneath you, Piggy,” Kermit said silkily. “Do you expect me to believe--“ “Believe what you like,” Piggy shouted. “My social life is none of your business.” “The heck it isn’t!” Piggy stared at him, transfixed, and her eyes grew soft. Kermit felt his knees go wobbly. “What are you saying, Kermit?” He gulped, then plunged on. “When your social life interferes with my show, then it is my business.” Piggy pulled back as though he’d slapped her. “What?!” “I know what’s going on. You don’t want to sing the song with me because of him, but I’m telling you the song was made for you and—“ “GET OUT!” Kermit had more to say—a lot more—but his fight or flight instinct kicked in just in time. He made the door before she could land one of her infamous karate chops, but something made him pause. “You’re going to do the song,” Kermit bellowed. “Not Annie Sue—you! I want you downstairs in fifteen minutes or—“ One of her high-heeled boots high him squarely in the eye, knocking him into the hall. Kermit sat down heavily, both hands over his rapidly swelling eye. “—else.” Behind him, Piggy pulled the door shut with a humph and locked it for good measure. “Oh yeah!?” she said. “Don’t hold your breath.” “Let me get this straight,” Gonzo said thoughtfully. “You told Piggy you weren’t interested in a relationship with her and to leave you alone, so now you’re angry with Piggy because she’s found a new relationship and she’s leaving you alone?” “Sort of,” Kermit mumbled around the enormous icepack he held to his eye. “Am I missing something?” Rizzo said, looking at Gonzo. “You aren’t,” Gonzo said, with a significant look and head-jerk toward Kermit. “But you did tell her you didn’t like her going out with Link, right?” Fozzie said hopefully. “Yes.” “Gooood.” Lots of head nodding. “But— They waited patiently while Kermit squirmed. “But I told her it was because it was undermining her professionalism in the show.” A great deal of head shaking. Rizzo walked off, muttering disgustedly. Kermit heard “hopeless” and “stupid” but couldn’t dredge up any real resentment. “Well you certainly blew that,” Gonzo said “Thank you for your kind words of encouragement, Gonzo,” Kermit said, making a face and wincing at the pressure it put on his eye. “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” “Okay, okay, I’m going,” Gonzo said, exiting Kermit’s office. “What a grump.” Once again, only Fozzie remained. Kermit looked up at him bleakly. “Kermit—I am not a very smart bear when it comes to women, but even I think that was a very dumb thing to do.” “I know. I shouldn’t have said anything about her relationship with Link.” “No-I think you shouldn’t have lied to her about why you don’t like her relationship with Link.” “What?! I don’t understand.” “Listen, frog of my heart,” Fozzie said gently. He sat down next to Kermit and took off his hat (which Kermit had not eaten, but returned sullenly the following day). “I don’t even pretend to understand what it is between you and Piggy, but it’s real. I know it’s real and you know it’s real and she knows it’s real.” “Yeah, but what am I supposed to tell her? Don’t go out with your hunky new boyfriend because it bothers me?” “No,” Fozzie said, feeling his way along tentatively. “I think you should tell her the truth.” “The truth? What do you mean?” “I think you should tell her that you’re jealous.” “Are you kidding? Then she’ll…I mean she’ll just…um….” “Know,” Fozzie said simply. “Know?” Kermit repeated. “Know how you feel about her.” “But I don’t know, I mean, not exactly.” “Kermit,” Fozzie said firmly. “Exactly isn’t the point.” Kermit sighed a long sigh, then smiled up at Fozzie. “Thanks for the advice, Fozzie. Maybe I’ll borrow Gonzo’s armor and follow it.” Half an hour later than scheduled, Rowlf and Kermit met up at Rowlf’s battered old piano to look over the music. To hide his nervousness and delay telling Rowlf that Piggy wasn’t going to do the song, Kermit shuffled the papers and listened to Rowlf take a couple of running go’s at an appropriate tempo. Kermit opened his mouth to deliver the bad news. The door swung open with a creak and he looked up to see Piggy walking across the room toward them, her eyes demurely down and her expression unreadable. Frozen in place, Kermit couldn’t think of anything to say, but Piggy picked up the first line without any warm-up. Rowlf looked up in surprise and pleasure and followed her effortlessly as she sang the familiar lines. “Fish gotta swim, birds got to fly, I got to love one man ‘til I die. Can’t help loving that man of mine.” She was standing right next to him at the piano, her gaze carefully averted, but he could feel the tide of her emotion, rushing fast and high and close to the surface. “Maybe he’s lazy, maybe he’s slow, Maybe I’m crazy, maybe I know, Can’t help loving that man of him.” Kermit picked up the chorus—cutting in a little too early out of nervousness—and Piggy turned toward him, eyes still on the piano. “And when she’s away, that’s a rainy day. But when she’s back the day is fine, the sun will shine.” Her eyes lifted to his slowly, and Kermit was moved to see that they were full of tears. He reached out and took her hands, holding them tenderly between his own. “She can stay out as long as can be, for without her ain’t no home for me, Can’t help loving that gal of mine.” When it came time for her entrance, Piggy couldn’t sing. Rowlf looked up in surprise and saw Piggy standing in the half-circle of Kermit’s arms, her hands over her eyes as tears streamed down her face. He and Kermit exchanged a silent look of comprehension, and Rowlf trailed off quietly and slipped out of the room, closing the door firmly behind him. “Piggy,” Kermit said gently, pulling her rigid form into his arms.. “Honey, I’m sorry.” Piggy cried harder, her face in her hands, and though she didn’t melt into his embrace, she didn’t try to pull away either. He tucked her head into his shoulder and let her cry until the worst of the storm was spent. He fished a hanky out of a pocket and handed it to her. She turned away self-consciously and dabbed at her eyes. Their connection felt so tenuous and fragile at that moment that Kermit felt like she might still slip away. He stepped up and took her arm, swinging her gently around to face him. “What?” Piggy said miserably, sniffing and trying to brush her damp hair out of her eyes. Kermit reached out and brushed the hair back from her flushed face. For a split second, Kermit felt like he was being drawn rapidly through time and space, saw the two of them intertwined, hearts beating rapidly, mouths working furiously. Saw Piggy raise her face to his as they-- The fantasy dumped him back into real time abruptly, but irrevocably changed. Piggy saw the change, wondered at the look on his face. “Look,” Kermit said awkwardly. “I told you that my schedule just doesn’t have room for a relationship.” Piggy’s expression did not change, but he felt the tension in her frame, felt her resistance begin to build, and Kermit hurried on, the words tumbling out in no particular order. “And I know I’m supposed to say that it’s none of my business who you go out with, but I can’t, Piggy. I just can’t. It is my business.” Piggy looked up at him resentfully, and he leaned toward her, slipping his arms around her. “At least, I want it to be.” ‘Wha….” Piggy’s mouth fell open in surprise. The temptation proved too great. Kermit tightened his arms around her suddenly and kissed her, his mouth working gently over hers until her senses stirred to life. Her body went pliant in his arms and her mouth opened under his. Again, that flash of time forward, their arms around each other— As though feeling it too, Piggy pulled back abruptly, stepping away from him, her hand over her mouth. “I can’t do this,” she said miserably. “This is too hard, Kermit.” She turned to go. “Piggy, wait.” He reached out and took her hand in his, asking her, pleading with her to hear him out. “I don’t think I’m ready for the kind of relationship you want--” “Great,” Piggy muttered. “--but I don’t think I have a choice. I can’t stand to see you with anyone else.” Piggy looked up in surprise, searching his face for meaning. “I’m miserable when you’re out with…with Link. I don’t like the thought of someone else kissing you.” “Oh, Kermie,” Piggy said softly. Her eyes were shining now, fixed on his face, and Kermit felt himself warming to the topic. “And I hate the thought of you kissing someone else. I didn’t realize what a fool I’d been to push you and push you away until you left. Then I was sorry, and instead of apologizing I acted like a real jerk. I even pretended—“ “Don’t,” Piggy said gently, putting her head on his shoulder. “Don’t let’s talk about it.” Kermit’s arms tightened around her, and he would have kissed her again—at length—but she pulled away, her arms dropping to her sides. “No,” she said softly. “This isn’t right. I need…I should…tell Link. Tonight, after the show. I don’t want to do this behind his back. It’s not fair to him.” Kermit scowled. Although a part of him admired her for her integrity, he was surprised at how unhappy he was at the thought of going out with Link again. One look at her face, however, told him that protestations and complaints would not be entertained. He would have to wait. “Tomorrow, then,” Kermit said, wanting to hear her confirm it. “We have a date for tomorrow night.” “Yes,” Piggy said softly. “After the show.” She ran out before he could say anything else. Alone with the piano, with the taste of her lips still on his, Kermit took a deep, unsteady breath and marveled at the way things had worked out. Ready or not, he was past the point of denying he could live without her, or let her live with anyone else. Whatever the future held, they’d just have to face it together. Piggy reached across the table and took Link’s hand. “Link, you are very sweet, but I just can’t see you anymore. Do you understand?” she asked gently. Link hung his head a little. “It’s that Frog, isn’t it?” Piggy hesitated, then nodded solemnly. He deserved to know the truth. “Yes—I’m sorry, Link. I didn’t mean to be insincere.” Link nodded, still staring at the table. “You’re really fun to be out with,” he said quietly. “People like to watch us when we’re out together. And you’re funny.” He looked up at last, and was rewarded by a very sweet smile from Piggy. “I’ve liked being out with you, too, Link. You’re a wonderful date.” “Really?” He looked up and Piggy saw the shadow of insecurity in his eyes. “Yes, really.” She caught his eyes. “You are a wonderful dancer, and you always make me feel…special when I’m out with you. I’m sorry that I just can’t….” She trailed off uncomfortably. “Actually,” Link said, “I was sort of nervous when you told me you wanted to talk. I was afraid you were going to say something like, ‘I think it’s time we moved our relationship to a new level.’” He gazed at her earnestly. “Women say that to me all the time—I never know what they mean.” Piggy bit her lip to hide her smile, but she squeezed his hands warmly. “One day, Link, you’ll go out with someone and you’ll know what that means. Until you do, you just keep being your own handsome, sweet self.” Link smiled, the dark mood beginning to dispel. “Thanks, Piggy.” Very softly, in the background, the orchestra began to play. “Oh, listen,” Link said, perking up his ears. “I like that song. Rogers and Hammerstein, isn’t it?” “Joel Hern, actually—from Show Boat,” Piggy said demurely. The music swelled, washing over them. She stood suddenly, holding her hands out to him. “C’mon, Link. It’s a shame to waste the orchestra.” Link smiled and allowed Piggy to pull him to his feet, following her obediently onto the dance floor. “Yes,” he said firmly. “That would be a shame.” Can't Help Lovin’ That Man Fish got to swim, birds got to fly I got to love one man 'til I die Can't help loving that man of mine Maybe he's lazy, maybe he's slow Maybe I'm crazy, maybe I know Can't help loving that man of mine And when he's away That's a rainy day But when he's back The day is fine, the sun will shine He can stay out as long as can be For without him ain't no home for me Can't help loving that man of mine Show me.... Oh, fish got to swim, birds got to fly I got to love one man 'til I die Can't help loving that man of mine Maybe he's crazy, maybe he's slow Maybe I'm crazy, maybe I know Can't help loving that man of mine And when he's away That's a rainy day But when he's back The day is fine, the sun will shine He can stay out as long as can be For without him ain't no home for me Can't help loving that man of mine Can't help loving, loving that man of mine Can't help....help....help Loving that man....man....man Man of mine....mine....mine I just can't help Loving that man….