Word Count: 2,541
Claire woke with a groan. Her mouth felt like she swallowed a cotton ball and her head hurt. She turned onto her side, realizing she was still wearing her clothes. Were they still at the sorority house? Vague images of taking The Haitian upstairs floated through her mind and she cursed under her breath. She was almost afraid to open her eyes, unsure what she'd see.
She let out a breath when she saw the familiar four walls of her bedroom. She should have known better than to think he'd let something happen between them. She glanced at the window, saw it was still dark. She reached for her cell phone, flipping it open. It was an ungodly hour to be calling anyone but she had to. She closed her eyes, counting the rings. If he didn't answer by the fourth ring she'd hang up.
"Damn," she murmured when he answered.
'Hello,' he said in that sleepy voice of his again.
"Um, hi, it's Claire."
'Please tell me you did not sneak out of your bedroom and need me to rescue you in the three hour span since I left you in your mother's care.'
"No," she said, lips lifting into a smile. She rolled onto her back, staring at the ceiling. "I'm snuggled comfortably in my bed."
'That is good to know, I'm afraid I am not up to chasing you around Southern California tonight.'
"I'm sorry I fell asleep on you."
"It shouldn't have happened. I swear I didn't know it was spiked."
'I cannot deny there were enjoyable moments to the night. You do remember them?'
"Yes, I wasn't that drunk. I wasn't even really drunk. Just alcohol and lack of sleep."
'I am glad you remember.'
"Me, too. I also remember taking you upstairs."
'You do not need to apologize. Nothing happened.'
"But I gave you the idea…"
'You did no such thing, Claire.'
"But I did. Why else would I take you up there?"
'To kiss me more privately?'
"Like anyone cared."
'Perhaps you are right, but I did not get the wrong idea.'
"I know I probably woke you. I just wanted to call and say I had a nice time and thank you. Again."
'What are you thanking me for this time? I have a hard time keeping track.'
"Funny man. Let's see," she said holding her hand up above her face. "There's getting me home, stopping me from doing something stupid, and not being mad at me," she said, keeping track with her fingers as she listed off each one. "Take your pick."
'I will accept your thanks and consider it a blanket one. Though I was just relieved your father was not home.'
"That could have been a problem."
'Should we try again?'
'Venturing away from the safety of your home together?'
"You mean, you'd want to?"
'Do you think I'd be talking to you at nearly four in the morning if I did not?'
"I suppose not."
'Is that a yes?'
'No sororities. No punch.'
"What did you have in mind?"
'I'm not sure.'
"Well, a girl needs to know what to wear."
'I will be sure to get back to you then.'
"You do that."
'Will you be able to go back to sleep now?'
"Yeah, actually, I think I will."
"Why didn't you stop me from going upstairs?"
'I, honestly, wasn't sure where you were taking me. My mind did not instantly lead me to a bedroom.'
"Oh," she said softly.
'I have disappointed you somehow?'
"No, I was just curious."
'I wouldn't have taken much advantage of the situation anyway.'
"Why not?" she asked, her eyes drifting closed.
He chuckled. 'Kissing you with others watching or nearby is one thing…'
"The doors lock."
'They would still know.'
"My reputation again?"
'No, because you deserve things to be done the right way.'
"There's a wrong way?"
'Yes! In a room, on a bed, where the next drunk couple would be once we left would be one wrong way.'
"You're going to get bored kissing me."
He laughed then and despite it being over the phone she felt like he hugged her just then. It was soothing and warm.
'Claire, when you are ready for more than kissing I want to ensure that there will be no interruptions.'
Her eyes opened wide at that. What was she supposed to say? Thank you seemed stupid as did okay. Yell at him for being presumptuous that he was going to do more than kiss her?
'My words have left you unsettled.'
'Leave it up to me to discern whether or not I'll grow bored.'
'Do not compare me to those you've had experiences with whether here or there. And do not assume that those willing to take advantage of your apparent receptiveness were the norm.'
"When are we going to go out?"
'We could try for today if you were willing.'
"Today as in a few hours from now?"
'Yes, around eleven? An idea has come to me.'
"Are you going to tell me what it is?"
'No, as far as your attire you can dress casually with proper shoes.'
'Ones suitable for walking around in.'
"Okay then," she said with a smile.
'I will see you in a few hours.'
"You know I've never had a real date before either."
'Your father warned me away from dating you.'
"You obviously didn't heed his warning."
'Do you want me to?'
"No, I know last night was weird. It was nice, though."
'I'll see you in a few hours, Claire. Get some sleep.'
"I will I think. Good night again."
'Good night,' he said, letting her disconnect first.
She hadn't even managed to put her phone back on her nightstand. She'd hung up with him, flipped the phone closed, and that was as far as she'd gotten. She recalled thinking she wanted to go brush her teeth, but evidently not even the cottony feeling in her mouth could prevent her from sleeping.
That was good. She knew she didn't sleep well and when she did sleep it wasn't long enough. The bottle of sleeping pills sat on her desk unopened. She refused to take one. She would get through this on her own and when she was ready, she would sleep again. She believed that. And it wasn't interfering with her schoolwork.
She showered and dressed, expecting a confrontation with her mother in the kitchen over breakfast. It didn't come. Well, not as bad as she'd expected. It was more of a mother's concern than a lecture. Claire could live with that.
"You know you shouldn't be drinking."
"I didn't know it was spiked, Mom, I swear."
"I believe you, but you need to be careful. Your dad trusts his friend, but that doesn't mean others wouldn't drug your drink as some sort of practical joke. Or worse."
"I know," she said. "I do, I'll be more careful next time."
"I know you will. Where are you going today?"
"I don't know. He's picking me up in a few minutes but wouldn't tell me where he's taking me other than to wear shoes made for walking."
"Well, have fun, but be careful."
"Are you going to tell Dad?"
"About what?" her mother asked with a smile.
"Thank you," Claire said.
She was relieved that her father wasn't going to know that on top of going out with The Haitian she'd gotten tipsy.
He'd taken her to the zoo. She hadn't been to one since she was a little girl. And it was fun. They walked casually throughout the zoo, stopping to see whatever animals interested them.
After the zoo, they'd stopped for some take-out and ate at a nearby park. It was too nice of a day to sit inside and The Haitian didn't seem to like crowds of people very well. And being the place was near the zoo, it was full of families with tired children after a long day.
"I had a nice time," she said from the passenger side of his car.
"I am glad, and I did as well."
"Better than a sorority party you mean?"
He chuckled, turning the car off. "I would go again if you asked me to, but it wouldn't be my first choice."
"I'll remember that."
"Perhaps you will sleep well tonight."
"I hope so."
"Me, too. If you do not and need to talk, you can call me."
"One of us needs to get enough sleep."
"It is pleasurable for me to hear your voice."
"Really?" she asked, liking that a lot.
"Then maybe I will."
"For the sake of your sleep I hope you do not."
"It doesn't look like my mom's home," she said.
She'd noticed the car was gone when they'd pulled up. She rolled her eyes when she opened the door and saw four pairs of gym shoes by the front door. That meant Lyle had company. At least it appeared they were in his room.
"I'll be right back, let me tell Lyle I'm home."
She went upstairs, stopping in her room to put her purse down before going to Lyle's room.
"Lyle," she said, pushing open the door. "Where'd Mom go?"
"To the grocery store."
"I don't know," he said with a shrug, more focused on the TV and the video game on. "She just left."
"You got some sun."
"We went to the zoo."
"Yeah, it was nice. Do you guys want something to eat? Want me to heat up a pizza or something?"
"No, we're good. Mom made us some pizza rolls," he said, holding out a couple of now empty plates.
"I'm not your maid."
"No, but you're going downstairs anyway."
"How do you know?" she asked, taking the plates.
"Because he's downstairs," he said with a roll of his eyes.
"I'll see you later," she said, closing the door behind her.
It was Lyle's older friend, Jared. He was a year younger than she was.
"You didn't tell us she has a boyfriend."
"I don't have to tell you everything about my sister. Besides, she's way out of your league anyway."
"Doesn't make her any less hot."
"Hey, that's my sister you're talking about."
She walked away with a shake of her head.
"Lyle's upstairs with his friends playing video games. Mom's at the store I guess. So, if you want to stay for a while you can," she said, walking to the kitchen.
"Did you enjoy the zoo?"
"Yes! Thank you."
"I was trying to think of somewhere we could go that wouldn't seem like I was trying to get you alone."
"You don't want to be alone with me?"
He smiled, stepping closer to her. "Now, I did not say that. I just wanted to choose somewhere public."
"Well, it was fun."
He slid his arms around her and gathered her to him, not that he had to force her.
"I enjoyed watching you as the seals got fed."
"I used to love that as a girl. It's not as exciting now."
"It seemed like they did more tricks and stuff then. Now it went by too fast."
"But it was still cool."
"I'm glad," he said, leaning in to kiss her. She clutched his arms as he did. She was always so nervous when he kissed her, afraid she was going to do it wrong. She wasn't even sure if there was a right or wrong way. She wondered, too, if it was normal to feel both giddy and panicked. Slowly, she loosened her grip as she had last night, sliding her arms up and around his neck.
She'd been all about kissing him last night endlessly. Most of it had been under the influence. Tonight, though there was nothing to pin the blame on. Only herself. She gave a soft groan when he kissed her chin and lower to her jaw.
She stopped breathing for a second when he nipped at her neck. It took her a minute to realize the nip was all he was going to do. There would be no painful bite.
"Did I mention," he whispered at her ear. "That I have a second ability in addition to being able to take memories?"
"No," she murmured.
"I am able to stop others from being able to use theirs."
"So, if I concentrate and do this," he whispered, grazing her neck again with his lips. Her breath caught, but it wasn't from panic or fear this time. He kissed and sucked the same spot for a while. "You will have a mark," he said, drawing away, grazing his finger over the same spot.
"I'd forgotten what that's like."
"Thank you for trusting me."
"I just have never had anyone be nice to me that way."
"I would never hurt you."
"And if I ever I cross a line you feel uncomfortable with I count on you speaking up."
"I have every confidence you will." He trailed his finger along the spot again. "Know this, too, one of these times an invitation like last night's might not be rejected by me."
She swallowed but gave a slight nod. "I know. I already apologized."
"You needn't apologize," he whispered, kissing her again. "I just want you to understand the temptation is very much there. I keep in mind where you've been, what you've been through."
"I wish you didn't have to."
"As do I, Claire, but it is a part of who you are. And I will restrain myself until you are ready."
"Did you want to see it before I stop blocking your ability?"
She walked toward the bathroom, knowing he'd follow. "Do you do that often?"
"When it is required of me."
"That's not a real answer."
"Because it is a difficult question to provide one for. There have been times it's been required a great deal and others not so much."
She glanced in the mirror, running her fingertips along it.
"And it will just disappear?"
"As all your other marks have disappeared."
"Huh," she said. "Do it."
And just like that, the hickey was gone. Her skin was again unblemished, only a white spot from the pressure of her fingertips.
"That is so cool," she said softly.
He chuckled. "I will be glad to experiment with you."
"Hmm," she said. "What other marks did you have in mind erasing?"
"The same type just in other places. Places I would not have to worry about your mother walking through the door and seeing them."
She watched herself blush in the mirror, not realizing it was even possible. She'd seen, heard, done and had done to so much she didn't think anything could embarrass her. Her eyes met his in the mirror.
"But you could just make it disappear."
"Where is the fun in that?"
She glanced away.
"I will let you get to sleep now. You need it, and I hope the day spent in the fresh air will allow you to get rest."
Info. on icons used for background:
The non-illustrated icon is courtesy of lay-of-luthien @ LJ. She's got some nice work, and did this and 4 others very quickly! The illustrated icon is courtesy of: julietbunny who gave me this in addition to some other great goodies for the Heroes_Holidays Spring Hiatus project.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com