Word Count: 2,453
Ten days it took him to where his chest and torso didn’t feel like they were going to explode anytime he moved. The club had been oddly accommodating when he said he’d need time off. He hadn’t gone to a hospital, so he had no doctor’s note citing treatment. Not that his being hurt wasn’t blatantly obvious. They were probably worried about getting sued because the attack had occurred on their property while he was on break. Security lights that were supposed to be working hadn’t been that night. He imagined they were now, though.
Not that security lights would have stopped Justin’s friends that night. Claire knew that.
She saw him every day. She was in the play on campus so had rehearsal most evenings, so sometimes she didn’t get to his place until late but he never seemed to mind what time it was.
She should have been wary about things happening too fast, except other than touching her he hadn’t tried a thing. She spent the night with him every night under the pretense of wrapping his ribs, but by about day three they both knew he no longer required his ribs being wrapped. He went along with it, though, and so did she.
Hurt as he was, she was always surprised when she woke up in the morning to find him holding her somehow. She felt incredibly cherished, and that frightened her a little.
Shouldn’t she stay mad at him longer? And what exactly was Angela’s deal sending him here? She suspected he knew more than he was letting on about that, but she figured he’d tell her once they got comfortable with one another again.
She knew on day eleven when she let herself into his room and he was sitting at the desk with his laptop that he was definitely on the mend. She was a little scared the first few days. She’d never seen him this bad off before now, but he’d assured her he’d be okay with time.
Doubting him, or just wanting to be certain he wasn’t dismissing things she’d called Adam who’d agreed with Taylor’s assessment of a few weeks recuperation time. Adam had experience so she had to believe that both men wouldn’t set out to lie to her.
Adam didn’t seem too surprised to hear Taylor was in Iowa, and that made her wonder what he knew about whatever Angela was doing. She didn’t ask, because she’d rather hear it from Taylor than Adam.
“Feeling better, I see?”
“Yeah,” he said without really looking at her. It took her a minute to realize why, what had his attention. He was video chatting with Matty.
“That is so cool that you can do that,” she said once he was done and the laptop closed.
“Yeah. I can keep up with little Matty, too.”
“You didn’t tell me. I mean, has he been worried.”
“Nah, I called him a couple of weeks ago and told him I’d be out of commission for a while.”
“Good. I’m glad. I didn’t even think.”
“It’s all right. Why would you have?”
“Well, you would have called my dad if something happened to me.”
“That’s a little different, your dad cares for you.”
“So does your mother and I didn’t even think to call her.”
He chuckled a little, standing from the chair to walk toward the couch where she was sitting. “Claire, if you’d called her she would have chalked it up to another bar fight. Now if I’d been in the hospital, hooked up to life support or something,” he shrugged. “Probably she deserves a call for that.”
“Oh, God, don’t joke about that.”
“I’m sorry,” he said, sitting next to her. He did it a lot easier than even just the night before she noticed.
“What did you do today then?”
“Not a lot. I finally told housekeeping they could come tomorrow and clean up.”
“You saying I haven’t done it well enough.”
“You’ve done great, but they’re paid to do it. That’s part of the perk of staying at a place like this. Besides, I’m thinking it’s about time I got my own place.”
“Yeah. You know, you haven’t told me to go to hell or anything.”
“And if I had?”
“Oh, I wouldn’t have given up right away, but I wouldn’t have gone signing any leases either.”
“Yeah, figure it’s better than buying something for only a couple of years. Unless you’re planning on staying here longer than that, but still it’s just not worth the headache of worrying about the housing market in a few years.”
“You want to help me?”
“Help you with what?”
“Find a place.”
“Oh. Sure. I can. I mean, not that I’m an expert or anything. I just answered an ad in the paper.”
“I was thinking maybe you’d have a reason to help me pick it out.”
“Well, you could stay there once in a while.”
“I could, huh?”
“Yeah, or just get out of your place entirely.”
“Just throwing the idea out there.”
“I’ll keep it in mind.”
“When does your play open?”
“The play. What? You think I was delirious or something when you told me all that stuff?”
“Well, no, but why?”
“So I can go,” he said.
He frowned. “Really. Is that so surprising?”
“You don’t seem like the play type.”
“Well, you’re not the boxing type.”
“Yeah, but that’s like your job. What you want to do, so of course I’m going to watch you do it.”
“Well, you like acting.”
“Yes, but I don’t plan on going to Hollywood and trying to be the next Meryl Streep.”
“Not a bad goal, but regardless of your intentions I’d like to go. Isn’t that what a guy is supposed to do for his girl?”
“Well, yeah, I guess, I just,” she frowned. “I’m sorry, I reacted all wrong. We’ve a couple of weeks yet, I’ll let you know, and I’d love to have you come. Let me know what night you want to be there and I’ll make sure a ticket is held for you.”
“I can arrange for my own ticket, Claire.”
“I know. I just.”
“I’m coming. End of discussion.”
“Okay,” she said, unable to hide the giddy tone in her voice. Justin wouldn’t have gone. He thought her auditioning to begin with was dumb.
“Now about that apartment.”
“I’m not moving in with you.”
They grew quiet as she let her head rest against his chest. Another sign he was better, he didn’t flinch or shift when she did this.
“Your grandmother is going to let your identity be revealed.”
“That’s why she sent me here to protect you. She didn’t want someone taking advantage of you being a Petrelli without your grasping what all it means.”
“I don’t get it.”
“Nathan’s running for president.”
“She seems to think it’ll help his chances of getting elected.”
“Oh God. So I’m a pawn.”
“I think you’re a tool she has at her disposal and she’s going to use whatever she can to get her son elected president of the United States.”
“And what she thought I’d instantly be a gold digger magnet?”
“Something like that.”
“And since you come with your own stuff.”
“You got it, sweetheart.”
“Would serve her right if we made her think we’re not together,” she said after a few minutes of silence.
“It would, but I’m not sure it’d stop her.”
“No, she’s on a mission and won’t stop at anything to see it’s done.”
“She is worried about you. She didn’t like him.”
“She likes you?”
“I don’t get the why of that either. Believe me. I pointed that out to her, but I must be bringing something to the table that appeals to her because she wasn’t concerned that the Petrelli name would get sullied by ties to a mobster.”
“But my old man is, my best friend’s old man is.”
“Yeah, I get it.”
“I don’t know. She said Thanksgiving or Christmas.”
“I’m supposed to go there for Christmas break.”
“I’d imagine that’s when she’ll do it then.”
“You’ll come with, right?”
“God, yes! I don’t want to be used, but I’ll help Nathan whatever he needs. I’m just afraid of getting thrown to the wolves with no one to watch my back.”
He tugged her to him. Another sure fire way to tell he was better; he brought her onto his lap as if it was nothing.
“I’ll watch whatever part of you that needs watching.”
“Is that so?”
“I’ll remember that, Mr. Reese.”
“You’d better,” he said.
She leaned in and kissed him then. They’d kissed a couple of times, but she was always hesitant to kiss him too deeply. More afraid of being a tease when he couldn’t see things to an end yet. Tonight, though while she wasn’t concerned about whether there was an end beyond a kiss, she didn’t stop herself from letting go with him either.
He drew away, nipping at her neck before finding her ear. She gave a soft whimper as he closed his lips around it.
“I want to; you have to know I do.”
“I, yes,” she whispered.
“I want to be completely healthy when we do.”
“There’s an and?”
He chuckled. “Yes. I want to keep getting to know you. I want you to keep bringing your homework here, or my apartment when I find one. I want you to keep talking to me about your day.”
“I will,” she said with a frown.
“The last time we started out having sex right away. Nothing wrong with that, but that’s not all I want from you.”
“I want to be sure you know that. You’ve gone a while without, that means you’ve wanted to abstain.”
“They weren’t you.”
“Flattering, and thank you, but still no need to rush. Right? I mean, we know we work that way.”
“Uh yeah,” she said and he laughed.
“Well, if I’m going to go back to New York with you and watch your back I want us to be solid.”
“I get that.”
“Okay. I just don’t want you to think it’s lack of want on my part.”
“I like waking up to you.”
“Me, too, that doesn’t have to end. Ever.”
“I have a lease.”
“What about that girl that’s always there?”
“I saw a girl there a few times, didn’t appear to live there, though.”
“Mindy. Yeah, she’s a friend of one of my housemates.”
“Maybe she’d take your place on the lease.”
“If you decide you want out.”
“You’re going to get a place close to campus then?”
“If I have to.”
“I don’t have a parking permit on my car.”
He chuckled. “Well, then I guess I have to.”
“I suppose I could ask Mindy.”
“You’ll never know if you don’t ask.”
“Right. You could do that?”
“Live with me. I mean, not just have me stay the night but live there and not have sex?”
“I didn’t say I plan on abstaining for years, Claire. I’m not a monk. I just want us settled, square, and solid so your dad can’t say something when we show up in New York together.”
“My dad won’t be there, I’m sure.”
“The other dad.”
“Oh, he wouldn’t. In fact, he told me we might run into each other again one day.”
“Yeah, he’s not so bad. I think he was more upset that I didn’t tell him than the fact something happened.”
“I can understand that, but then if I had a daughter I don’t think I’d want a fucking clue who they were dating.”
“Because, honey, I know how guys think and I wouldn’t want to be able to put a face to the name of the guy trying to get into her pants.”
“You’d be one of those fathers who stood there cleaning their gun while a date picks her up, wouldn’t you?”
“Maybe,” he chuckled. “Yeah, probably. Maybe not a gun, but I certainly would let it be known I’m not afraid to get my hands bloodied.”
“You know you can’t hit minors.”
“Oh well. That’s easy enough. They just can’t leave the house until they’re eighteen.”
“Right. And that would have somehow stopped us?”
He picked her up then, hands supporting her relatively easily as he carried her to the bed.
“I don’t think anything would have stopped us, but that’s us.”
She smiled then as he set her down before joining her. She unbuttoned his shirt, letting it fall open before snuggling against him.
“I like to think I’d be a better dad than I had.”
“So you have thought of it.”
“Well, sure. With you here, turning me on every second. There’s a part of me that would love to find out if we could, but there’s another part of me that is scared shitless of that possibility. You at least had a dad and a mom who cared for you. Mom did, but she didn’t really set a great example either being my old man’s kept lady. You know? Good enough to fuck, to get pregnant, but couldn’t actually marry the Jew.”
“Do you follow it?”
“Not really. I did as a kid, but no. Mom would probably keel over if I started going to Temple as an adult. Why?”
“Just curious. I really wasn’t raised with anything. I mean, we went to church, but I didn’t get confirmed or anything my friends went through.”
“So, you wouldn’t have any problem marrying the Jew?”
She laughed softly, running her hand along his abdomen. He still flinched once in a while so she was always careful where he was most tender.
“Is he asking a serious question?”
“As serious as he can be at the moment.”
“Hmm, well, regardless, no I wouldn’t.”
“That’s good. No disowning threat looming over your head. And a kid would be raised whatever you are anyway.”
“Well, I have no intention of trying to find out if that’s possible until I’m done with school at least.”
“That’s more than fine with me. You have homework?”
“No. I did it at rehearsal.”
“Accusing me of slacking?”
“Just making sure I wasn’t taking you away from your responsibilities.”
“No, I like getting it done there if I can because then I don’t have to do it here.”
“Doing it here is a problem?”
“It is when I have to sit at your desk, watching you sleep and I can’t join you.”
“Oh. Well then, get it done at rehearsal.”
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com