***Chapter Six***
Word Count: 4,335

He buzzed her in, expecting her since she'd surprised him by calling about an hour ago. He almost hadn't answered the phone, assuming it was Betty. She was about the only one who ever called him with any regularity. If he didn't have Holly he'd get rid of the phone altogether, but he knew her mom had to have a way to get a hold of him.

"Hey," he said when she got to the door.

He'd been more than surprised when she suggested they go downtown with Holly. She'd left it up to him what they'd do since he knew Holly's limits and attention span, but he had to admit none of the ideas she'd thrown out were bad ones. To top it off, he'd never been to any of the places she'd suggested either. Field trips weren't something John had been able to participate in growing up. His mom must have felt a twinge of guilt, though, because she always called him in sick on those days. He'd never put two and two together until he was in junior high and there'd been a play he was supposed to go to at Shermer High. That one didn't even cost anything, but he still hadn't gone.

"Hey yourself," she said.

"You're sure this is what you want to do with your last Saturday here?"

"I'm sure, John. Come on, it'll be fun. I haven't been downtown for this type of thing in a long time."

"All right. Well, we're set."

"Did you decide where we're going?"

"Uh, yeah, I figured the aquarium would be the best bet. An art museum is probably a little too much for her. I'd be afraid she'd tear an original Monet off the wall or something."

"Well, they have them sectioned off and pretty high on the walls so she probably wouldn't be able to, but that's fine. I'm totally fine with whatever you want to do."

"Holly, come on, let's get your shoes on," he said.

He leaned over while she sat on the floor in front of the door where both of their shoes were.

"You remember Daddy's friend, Claire? We saw her the day we picked out our pumpkin. Remember that?"

She didn't say anything, which wasn't surprising but she did glance from John to Claire and back to him again.

"We're going to the aquarium today. You'll get to see fish, whales, and sharks, turtles, reefs, and all sorts of cool stuff." He glanced at Claire with a frown. "They have sharks, right?"

"Yes," she said.

"All right," he said and she frowned a bit at that.

He stood, grabbing the bag she'd seen him have with them in October. It had diapers and whatever else he'd need in it like an extra change of clothes. Her mom had a real elaborate thing, but John found this one that looked more like a carry-on bag someone might bring on an airplane with them. He liked it much better than the one with ducks or whatever it was. He picked Holly up, flipping the light switch off.

"All right. Oh, hey, can you grab my keys for me? They're on the kitchen table."

"Sure," she said.

His kitchen was a little more lived-in looking today, and she apparently noticed. There were a couple of cups, a small bowl, a spoon, and a few other things in the sink from their dinner last night and breakfast this morning, draining. She had to know most of it was Holly's stuff. Certainly the cups, bowl, and spoon were too small to be his. The tray to her high chair was also on the counter next to the sink because he'd washed that, too. He'd made her pancakes this morning and while she'd eaten them without becoming a sticky mess from head to toe her tray was not in the same condition by the time she was done eating.

"Everything all right?" he asked.

"Yes," she said, handing him his keys. He took them, leaning toward her and gave her a quick kiss.

"Hi," he said.

"Hi," she said.

He chuckled softly at the sight of her blushing. It wasn't even a real good kiss as far as their kisses went. He was just being careful in front of Holly and she seemed to understand that. He'd only kissed her because Holly was facing the door over his shoulder otherwise he probably wouldn't have done it.

"So, what time did you wake up this morning anyway? I was more than surprised you called me so early." He slid his hand over hers lightly, settling his over her thigh. He was glad when she placed hers over his, lacing her fingers through his.

"I couldn't sleep anymore," she said with a shrug. "I woke up about nine I guess."

"Really?"

"Yes."

"I guess that means I didn't talk to you too long on the phone then."

"No, you didn't," she said.

He had no idea where her room was in relation to her parents' bedroom or whether her phone ringing would wake them up. So, he'd called a few times after ten o'clock, only letting it ring a couple of times before hanging up. She'd answered around eleven, which was about the time he'd planned on giving up trying to get a hold of her.

"I was surprised you were home so early."

"I told you last night, the party was kind of boring," she said with a shrug. "Some people are heading back today so they couldn't be out as late."

"I suppose."

"Yeah. And, I guess, I don't know, how many parties with the same people can I go to in a week?"

"Do you really want me to answer that?"

She laughed softly.

"No, I know what you'd say. One is too many."

"That's exactly what I'd say. So, is that where your parents think you are tonight again?"

"Well, eventually, yes."

He sighed softly.

"It's not worth pissing my mom off when I'm only here for another week."

"I know. It's just so stupid. It'd be one thing if I was trying to do the things she thinks I'm doing that would lead to you getting pregnant."

"I know. She'll get over it eventually."

"Maybe. Maybe not."

"You're right, I don't know not really. As my dad pointed out to me the other night, Christopher has gone off to Colorado to be a ski bum for the winter so Mom is kind of stressing about our image."

"He did what?" John said with a chuckle.

"I didn't tell you that?"

"No, you left that bit of gossip out."

"Yeah. He didn't like his job, quit, and went off with some friends to Vail to ski for the winter."

"Oh, I bet your mom just loved that."

"Not so much, no. He left in October sometime. He was gone already when I ran into you two I think," she said, trying to remember. "Maybe the next week he left. It was pretty close, though."

"Huh. Is he liking it?"

"I don't know. I haven't talked to him much. He doesn't have long distance so he can't call me except to call collect and I'm not paying for his collect calls."

"Really? Christopher Standish has to resort to collect calls?"

"Yeah. He was busing tables I think."

He chuckled again. "Thank you for the laugh, Princess."

"You're welcome, but you can see why Mom might be a little ů anxious."

"Yeah, I guess I can understand. Hopefully, she'll mellow out when you don't come back from school in May five or six months pregnant."

"Yes."

They spent about two hours at the aquarium. Much more than that and John was pretty sure they'd exceed Holly's patience. She did very well, but she just wasn't as into the fish and stuff as he thought she'd be. Maybe in another year or two. Claire had been very tolerant and patient. He was surprised. More than once he expected her to say she'd had enough and either ask him to take her home or walk out on them of her own accord and take the train home or something. Holly hadn't been bad, but being a Saturday during Christmas break it was crowded and she couldn't always see so she got cranky a time or two. She also wasn't really used to walking for that long so she repeatedly asked John to pick her up. Well, as much as tugging on his pant leg was asking him to pick her up. She'd cried once, but it was short-lived.

Regardless, he was surprised Claire stayed. He wasn't sure he would've if the situation was reversed. She'd admitted she'd never been around kids before in her life. He hadn't either for that matter, but he was used to Holly by now obviously.

"You still want to get lunch?"

"Sure," she said.

"That doesn't sound too enthusiastic."

"John. I'm fine. Pick wherever you want to go eat."

"All right," he said.

"Really? You want to go to McDonald's?" she asked.

"It's the Rock 'N Roll McDonald's." He glanced at her. "You've been already, I suppose."

"Well, yeah," she said.

"Well, we haven't been. I don't know when I'll ever get down here again so indulge me."

"It's fine, just surprising. It's pretty expensive."

"I've heard that. I'd just like to say I've seen it."

"Sure," she said.

It was crazy busy as could be expected on a Saturday afternoon.

"Tell me what you want and where you're going to try to get seats for us. I'll order and bring the food over."

"Are you sure?" John asked.

"She's not going to stand patiently in line for all of these people no matter how fast they are it's going to be ten or fifteen minutes at least."

"All right," he said, pulling money out of his wallet as he told her what to order for them. He took Holly around then, looking at the various pictures and stuff on display there. It was, even he had to admit, pretty cool. It'd opened a couple of years ago and he'd heard people their senior year talk about coming down here to see it but he'd never been. It certainly wasn't some place he'd choose to come by himself.

Claire eventually found them and they sat and ate. She'd been right, Holly would've probably had a meltdown standing in a line like there'd been to order.

"So you hadn't been to the aquarium before today either, had you?"

"Uh, no," he said with a shrug.

"Really?"

"No reason to go really. Obviously she's still too little really."

"Yeah, butů"

"I didn't do field trips, Princess. Don't you remember that?"

"Not really," she said with a frown. He could see her trying to think back. It'd been junior high the last time they did whole-grade field trips so it was going back a few years. Eighth grade the class went to Washington D.C. as a group. John hadn't gone on that either. He'd known when the permission slip and informational packet had been given to him that he wouldn't be going so he hadn't even bothered to give it to his mom. What was the point?

They headed back to his apartment after lunch. He had to admit, they'd timed it pretty well because Holly was about crashed when they got to his place. Claire unlocked the door for him so he wouldn't have to jostle her too much. He'd already slid her shoes off so all he had to do was set her in her crib and take her coat and hat off. He closed her door, leaving it open a little bit and went to the living room.

"You sticking around?" he asked.

"I'd planned on it. Unless you wanted me to leave?"

"No, I just wasn't sure. Four hours may be more than you can take."

"She's fine, John. You're fine."

"Well, I think she's fine, but she's mine and I don't really have a choice. You do."

"I'm not leaving."

"All right," he said, offering her his hand. "I have an idea."

"Yeah?"

"Uh huh. She's taking a nap. She'll be down for a couple of hours at least."

"Okay."

"We could take one, too."

"You want to take a nap with me?"

"Well, if we don't fall asleep right away I wouldn't complain about that."

She smiled a bit at that, taking his offered hand. He leaned in and kissed her. God, he'd wanted to kiss her all day, but he'd been hesitant to do it. For Holly's sake as well as for hers. He didn't want to make her uncomfortable or to make people think the three of them were together. More together than they already obviously were doing the stuff they did today. He'd thought of that about twenty minutes into their time at the aquarium. People would see them together and assume. He wasn't sure Claire thought of that or cared if she did. He couldn't imagine she'd be thrilled to be mistaken for Holly's mom.

She slid her arms around his neck, pressing into him and he groaned softly at the feel of her against him. It had really been too long, but she'd affected him the same way back in March, too. Had he known the day of detention that he'd never be alone with her again he might not have put a stop to things as he had done. He really thought he'd get more than a couple of hours with her.

Then, they probably wouldn't be here now because she would've found out about Holly eventually and likely would not have reacted well.

He slid a hand to the front of her blouse, expecting her to slap him or at the very least pull away. He had to do it, though. He'd been too curious for too long what she'd feel like, how he'd fit around the swell of her breast. She pressed into his hand, moaning softly into his mouth. Not at all the response he'd been anticipating.

He hadn't tried the other night. He wasn't sure why other than he'd promised her she could trust him. He didn't want to do anything to violate that trust. Today wasn't the other day anymore and they weren't laying down in his bed. Yet. He really wanted to get her there.

He shifted a bit, using his other hand to undo a couple of the buttons on her blouse. His groan wasn't at all soft or controlled as he slid his hand inside her blouse to touch her like that. She gasped, breaking the kiss, and he assumed that was it.

She kissed his jaw, working her way to his ear and the spot on his neck she'd left him a hickey on the other night. It was just about gone, too, and if he wasn't mistaken she was kissing him in about the same spot.

He took that as a sign that she was alright with what he was doing and worked the buttons on her blouse, letting it fall open when he'd reached the waist of her skirt. He slid it out, working the last of the buttons. She hadn't moved her mouth from his neck and didn't even when he worked the clasp on her bra. He was glad it was one of the front closing ones. That undone, too, he slid his hand over a breast groaning softly at the feel of her against the palm of his hand.

She slid her mouth a little lower along his neck and started sucking again in the new spot, so he guessed she was okay with him doing this. He tilted his head a little, giving her easier access to the spot she was focused on at the moment. His fingertips slid along her peak, stroking and brushing over it, causing her to whimper against his neck.

He chuckled softly at that.

"Not funny," she whispered, kissing his ear.

"No, it's not," he said softly. "My couch might be better."

"Better?"

"Yeah, you know, safer."

"I don't think I want safer."

"You sure?"

"Mostly."

He drew his hand away, regretting it almost immediately because he didn't want to stop touching her yet. He hoped he wouldn't have to for a while once they got into his room. She took his offered hand as he led her in there, closing the blinds. She sat on the bed, watching him as she slid her arms out of her blouse.

"I could help you do that," he said.

"You're all the way over there."

"Not for long," he said.

"You have your own stuff to take off."

"That's easily fixed," he said, drawing the shirt he wore up over his head and off. He dropped it at his feet, getting a surprisingly nice feeling at the way she was staring at him. Like she liked what she saw. Of course, the feeling was mutual. He really liked what he saw when she set her blouse and bra over the stand next to his bed.

She stood then, reaching behind her.

"No," he said quickly.

"What?" she asked. He'd laugh if he wasn't so nervous right now at the fact she sounded confused and a little insulted.

"I want to do that," he said.

"Oh," she said, blushing. She drew her hands away from behind her, though. He'd noticed at the aquarium that the skirt she wore zipped in the back. He'd never thought of unzipping a skirt as being potentially erotic before, but the idea of being behind her while he unzipped it and then slid it off of her was pretty damned appealing right now.

Then, it might have something to do with the fact he hadn't done even this much since Betty had told him she was pregnant with Holly.

"God, you're beautiful," he said as he slid a hand along her breast, lower along her stomach to her hips. His other hand joined that one then at the small of her back as he kissed her. She kissed him back, seeming to be as needy as he was as he worked the zipper down and then the skirt off. He'd never paid attention to the benefits of skirts before. If they'd done this before he wasn't altogether sure he wouldn't have just taken her like that, half dressed. Then that might be the two years abstinence talking. He couldn't be sure.

She touched him, but she wasn't nearly as full-on in her exploration of him as he was of her. He swore he wanted to touch every inch of her as he slid his hands along her calves, up to her thighs once she'd stepped out of the skirt. He peeled her panties off and she cried out when he slid his mouth over her nub there. Her fingers at his shoulders dug in a bit as he worked his tongue over the sensitive spot. He drew away long enough to encourage her to sit at the edge of the bed and went right back to what he was doing.

God, she was everything he knew she'd be. Responsive and wet for him as he worked his tongue lower along her lips, sliding in between them enough to feel and taste her wetness there. He encouraged her to spread her legs a bit more and she came almost immediately afterward.

He used his free hand to work his jeans open before reaching to the stand she'd set her blouse and bra on. He opened the drawer, grabbing a rubber packet. He'd bought them yesterday on his way home from work not knowing if he'd need them but he sure as hell didn't want to need them and not have one. That was the main reason he'd stopped her from doing what she seemed to have in mind the other night. He didn't want her to question whether he wanted to or not if they got beyond kissing and he stopped things from getting to this point.

Wanting to hadn't been part of the equation back in March. Not being prepared for having sex on school grounds by carrying a rubber in his wallet that day was. He hadn't been willing to admit that to her then either, which probably led to her thinking he didn't want to or didn't find her attractive.

He tore the packet open, sliding it over his hard on before standing to slide his jeans and boxers off the rest of the way. She shifted more onto the bed and he joined her after that.

He kissed her hip, sliding his tongue along her abdomen and up, finding a breast.

"You're sure, Princess?"

"God, yes," she said.

He slid his mouth to the top of her breast, sucking on the skin there as he slid inside of her. He stopped momentarily, biting her lightly as he thrust slowly in and out of her. He was fine until she brought her legs up to his waist, wrapping them around him there. She moved against him, drawing him in deeper.

"Does that mean you don't want slow?"

"I'm fine," she said softly.

"Fine?"

She laughed softly at that, brushing her cheek against his shoulder before kissing him there. She brought her mouth to his then.

"I don't think I want slow," she whispered before kissing him.

Slow would have been the wisest course of action. Her inexperience aside, over two years left him kind of wanting to be in her as deep as he could get. She didn't stop him and in fact made some of the most arousing gasps he'd ever heard as he moved inside of her.

If he'd been smart he would have thought of something, anything but how good she felt around him. And how good she felt responding to him, moving against him, brushing her breasts against his chest, and clinging to him. He didn't want to think of anything else though because fuck if she didn't feel as good as he thought she would back in March.

"Where are you going?" he asked when he came back from the bathroom.

"I should get dressed."

He frowned. "Why?"

"Because."

"Because?"

"Holly."

"Isn't going to wake up and get herself out of her crib. Not yet anyway."

"I know, butů" she was having a problem with the clasp on her bra, which told him something was wrong because how difficult could doing that be to someone who'd done it every day for years now.

"Wait. You're leaving?"

"John."

"I'm sorry. Did I do something wrong here?"

"No."

"Okay. Then why are you leaving?"

"I don't know."

"We had plans, didn't we? I mean, you suggested the aquarium, but I assumed our plans for tonight were still on."

"I know. Yes."

"Then what's the problem."

"I wasn't planning onů"

"I wasn't either! That still doesn't tell me why you're leaving."

"I don't want you to think ů"

"Think what?"

"I don't know. It's just you kiss so well and God I wanted to do that so badly that day in March. You said no the other night again, I was positive you weren't going to today either."

"So I did do something wrong? I shouldn't have? You didn't want to?"

"I did."

"Then what's the problem?"

"Nothing."

"Okay, Princess. Slow down. Holly's not going to be awake for another hour yet at least. I still want to have dinner with you and rent a movie or something."

"Please don't just to be nice to me."

"Just to be nice to you? I'm not sure what that even means."

"I don't know."

"You think I'd want you to leave?"

"I don't know!"

"Okay, let's pretend in some universe where I wouldn't want to do that again maybe later I would want you to leave without doing what we'd had planned. You think I'd want you to leave now?"

"I just don't want you to be uncomfortable."

"Uncomfortable? You getting dressed like we did something wrong makes me uncomfortable."

"I'm sorry," she said. She was crying now and he had no idea what the hell to do with that. She'd cried the other night, but it hadn't been because of him or anything he'd done.

"Hey," he said, going to her. He stopped her from continuing to try to fasten the stupid bra. "You're fine. I don't want you to go. Honest. I have no intentions of you leaving here before you absolutely have to. You gave up a party for me, I need to make sure you don't regret that."

She laughed at that, but it didn't quite come out a full-on laugh.

Fuck. Did she really think he'd want her to just leave? What had he done to make her think that?

"I've just neverů"

"Yeah, I know. Trust me, I'd let you know if I wanted you to go, Claire. I don't."

She sniffled and he grabbed the shirt he'd taken off, wiping her eyes and nose with it.

"You said my name, you must mean it."

"Of course I mean it. Geez. I'm not an asshole."

"Yeah, butů"

"But nothing. I'd love it if you could stay the night, call your parents and tell them you're staying at a friend's or something."

"Really?"

"Yeah."

"I could."

"Really?"

"If you really want me to."

He sighed a bit at that. Did he want her to? Yes. He had no doubt in his mind he wanted her to stay the night, but he was a little afraid letting her stay here tonight and then her going back to school next week would be bad.

"I do," he said. Fuck it. He only lived once.

"And Holly?"

He laughed softly at that. "Holly won't understand that you're wearing the same thing in the morning you were today."

"Thank you," she said.

"For what?" he asked with a frown.

"Your shirt," she said.

"The princess needs a handkerchief I find her one."

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