***Chapter Twelve***
Word Count: 6,811

"Fuck!" she shouted.

"Yeah," John said.


"Yeah?" he said. "Gimme a minute, all right?"

"John, oh my God. Do you see the sun peeking through your blinds?"

He turned his head then, opening his eyes enough so he could regard the blinds in question. He never opened the damned things, but light always got in a little. And, shit, light was sure coming through.


"I'm still here! The sun is up! I didn't call my mother!"

"Oh," he said. "Fuck."

"That's what I just said!"

"I thought you were telling me what you wanted me to do!"

"I think we did enough of that last night."

"It's never enough, Princess," he said, taking her hand and setting it between his legs. "See?"

"Oh my God. I can't believe you're thinking of sex at a time like this."

"I'm a guy, Claire. I think about sex pretty much all of the time. It's the way we're built. You are currently lying next to me naked. Okay, sitting up but, you know, in the bed. That's pretty much a given on the excitement scale for me."

"I fell asleep here, John! This is not a time to be making jokes about your sex drive." She stood from his bed, grabbing her clothes. "I'm in so much trouble. Do you know that? She's going to fucking ground me for the entire summer!"

"She's not going to do that because you stayed out all night."

"You don't know my mother! Oh my God. What am I going to tell her?"

"I don't know. The truth?"

"Impossible. Do you know what she'd do if she found out I was spending the night with a guy? She'd send me to a convent or something."

Did they even still have convents? John wasn't sure or if that was just the ultimate in paranoia on Claire's part.

"A guy or me?"

"A guy. Any guy. You joked about my wedding dress being able to be white. My mother made it very clear that was an expectation for me. You know. I mean, it was just a given."

"Really? I was joking. Who the fuck believes in that anymore?"

"I'm not! Joking I mean. That's how she believes. Today. She cannot find out I'm having sex."

"Claire. Settle down. Just tell them you fell asleep at someone's house watching a movie or something."

"She's not going to believe me!"

"Why not?"

"I don't know. She's going to know."

"She is not. You're being paranoid. You don't have a beacon over your head that goes off because you lost your virginity. She would already know and have talked to you if that's the case. So, what reason does your mother have to think you're lying to her?"

"Other than the fact I am, you mean?"

"Well, yeah. Okay. Other than that. You've never given her a reason to think you're out sleeping with guys."

"But I am! Hello? More than once now."

"Yeah, me. One guy. You're not out acting like a whore by screwing the entire football team or anything."

"You're not helping!"

"I was paying you a compliment. One guy does not a bad girl make."

He laughed when she almost fell over trying to put her panties on.

"Really? Just sit down, take a breath, and get dressed. God. She's going to be mad whether you get home in ten minutes or thirty."

"Well, I'm hoping…"

"If you get there quick enough no one will be awake yet? Maybe." He glanced at his alarm clock. It was early enough that could be possible.

"Yes. It's possible."

"Okay. Well, falling over and smacking your head on the corner of my bed so I need to take you to the hospital for stitches will not help that."

"I know," she said, sitting on the edge of his bed.

"I'm sorry," he said.

"I know," she said. She didn't sound as if she believed him, though. She was probably lumping it into his sorry from last night for not being able to go out with her friends. He'd have to remind her to find out about one of her friends younger sisters later. He doubted it'd register now, but he knew there was no way he could get away with two Saturdays with no sitter.

"You want help?"

"Help? With what exactly? Putting my bra on?"

"Well, I don't know. I'm just asking."

"You've done enough! You're not supposed to let me fall asleep here!"

"Let you! You're a big girl last I checked, capable of waking up on your own. You need me to do it for you?"

"No, but in the winter you set your alarm for me so I wouldn't do exactly this." She glanced at him over her shoulder. She didn't look happy at all. He couldn't blame her he supposed, but Christ it wasn't the end of the world. "Do you even know how to put a bra on?"

"Well, no, but…"

"Just leave me alone then and let me get dressed."

"Wow. All right. Remind me not to wake you up on the wrong side of the bed again. Fuck."

"You're flirting with me and that's not helping. You don't want to help me into my clothes. You'd just take them off again."

"I asked if I could help!"

"Yeah, like I don't get dressed every day."

"Not mad."

"I just. She's going to kill me."

"She won't kill you."

She stood then, sliding into her skirt and stopping at his dresser. She ran her fingers through her hair and fixed her blouse. She picked up the brush he had there for her. Weird he had things here for her like a brush and even a couple extra hangers in his closet so she could hang stuff in there when she needed to. He hadn't bought an extra toothbrush for her, but he'd thought about it the last time he'd been at Osco. He wasn't sure how she'd react to that, so hadn't done it.

"You gave me a hickey!"

Man, did she sound pissed about that.

"Yeah," he said with a shake of his head. "Did you forget? I told you that last night."

"No! Not that one! This one is on my neck."

"I did not."

"What do you call this?" She turned to face him then and sure enough there was a hickey there. He didn't remember doing it. He was pretty careful since she'd been home for the summer not to do that. He sure had liked giving her them the couple times he'd seen her since January and he could do that.

"Sorry," he said, but he had to admit he wasn't that sorry. Not really. It was just a hickey. Claire needed to quit letting her mom control her so much.

"She's going to see it, John! I can't hide this! My collar doesn't go up that high."

"Chill out. It's not the end of the world."

"It's a hickey. She's going to know! She's going to ask questions."

"Claire. It's not even six o'clock. If you leave now you'll be home before six thirty easily. Do they wake up that early on Sunday?"


"I'll give you one of my shirts to wear that should cover it just in case. If she asks tell her a friend of yours called you needing a ride or something."

"And your shirt?"

"I don't know. It was your friends? You borrowed it because you got cold? It belonged to some guy your roommate dated and left behind and you kept it because it was comfortable? And looked incredibly sexy on you."

"I can't tell her that."

"I wasn't suggesting you tell her that part. I was passing on my thoughts on the subject. I find you incredibly sexy in no shirt, but you know, my shirts work, too."

"You've only seen me wear your shirt once."

"I liked it a lot. You should do it again."

"You never said that."

"I thought the fact I couldn't get it unbuttoned fast enough was a pretty good clue."

"I suppose so."

He chuckled at that.

"Why are you laughing at me?"

"You blush when I say things like that."

"Of course I do!"

"Yet I can tell you how fucking good you feel around me and you don't at all."

"That's completely different."

"How so?"

"I can not talk about this now," she said, finding her shoes and sliding them on. "I have to go."

"Call me later?"

"If I'm not grounded for the rest of my life."

"Well, I guess if I don't hear from you I'll know that's the case then."

"This is funny to you, isn't it?"

"Kind of. I mean, I never had to worry about getting grounded."

"No, you just had to worry about…"

"Yeah, I know. At least I could still do whatever the fuck I wanted to do."

"You got punished!"

"I still had fun!"

"Yes, and you have a daughter out of that fun."

"Wow. All right, kick me where it counts. I made a mistake. You've never made one?"

"I'm sorry. I just, I'm not like you, John. I don't want to disappoint my parents. I really don't."

She leaned down then, kissing him.

"You want my shirt or not?"

"I suppose," she said.

He stood then and he couldn't deny the thrilling feeling that washed through him when her eyes followed him to his closet.

"Really?" she asked.


"My looking at you excites you?"

"I think you making a peanut butter sandwich would excite me."

He found a shirt he thought would cover the hickey in question and brought it to her.

"You know you could just stay here and take care of my excitement problem."

"You'd just have another one."

"Well, yeah, probably." That was pretty much a given whenever she was around. Sometimes at work, too, when she wasn't around if he thought about her in a way he had no business thinking about her while he was at work. It was unavoidable some days, though.

"John. I have to go home! My mom will absolutely freak out."

"You could just tell her you'd told her you were spending the night at someone's house. Make her think she forgot."

"I can't do that. She'd want to talk to their mother."


"If she didn't believe me? Yes."

"You are nineteen, you know."

"Yes, but I'm still living under their roof. I have to follow their rules."

"She's not going to kick you out."

"You don't know that!"

"Claire. What good would kicking you out do? Other than assure your mother the life she hopes you'll have will not exist?"

"You don't know my mother. She's not rational. Remember my brother dropping everything to be a ski bum for the winter? She hasn't recovered from that yet!"

He sighed.

"One of your friends would let you camp out in their room until she woke up and realized she was being ridiculous."

"I'm not going to ask one of my friends to do that."

"Your brother then?"

"That's maybe a possibility. If my mother didn't tell him not to. I'm not sure he wouldn't listen to her after his skiing thing. She was pretty mad at him. He just got back like a month before school ended for me so he's sort of sucking up to her now."

"You could ask me to do that."

"John," she said, sliding his shirt on and buttoning it. It was cool enough outside that it might actually work, wearing the heavier flannel shirt over her blouse. She looked pretty ridiculous, but he didn't think she was worried about the fashion statement she was making this morning. For a change.

"If your friends could see you now," he said with a chuckle as he reached for his sweatpants. For a second he almost thought she might change her mind and come back to bed for him. Only a second, though. It was nice to know looking at him was a temptation to her, even if it wasn't enough for her to give in. He wasn't sure sometimes. His own insecurities, it wasn't anything she'd done to this point. Not really anyway. Sometimes he felt as if he wanted to way more than she did. Maybe that was normal. He didn't know, not having a steady sexual relationship with anyone before now to compare it to.

He walked her to the door, working the chain and deadbolt.

"You have your purse and everything this time?"

"Yes," she said.

"Drive safe, Princess, all right. You won't do your mother, or me, any good in a hospital or a grave because you were driving recklessly in an effort to get home quickly."

"I know."

"Call me later?"

"If I'm …"

"I know. I imagine you could figure out a way after your parents are sleeping or something later to call me."

"But you have to work tomorrow morning."

"Well, unless you're going to come tuck me into bed I'll take a good night call instead."

"I'll try."

"Thank you."

"Bye," she said.

"Hey," he said, tugging on the front of his shirt a bit. He leaned in and kissed her. She drew away and he groaned softly. He really, really didn't want her to go.

"I have to go."

"I know," he said with a sigh. "If they're sleeping and you're not getting yelled at, let me know you got home okay. Okay?"

"I'll try."

"Yeah, I got it."

He didn't think she realized he was asking because he was actually concerned. It was an odd feeling for him, to give two shits about anyone else. Holly, obviously, was an exception. Claire was quickly becoming one, too. It would piss him off royally if she got into an accident or something on the way home.

He went back to bed, not sure he'd actually be able to fall back asleep or not. If he didn't have Holly he could follow her to her house to be sure she got home all right. She probably would have hated him doing that, but she was upset and worried. He didn't like her driving around like that.

He had to admit, glancing at the side of the bed she'd slept on the few times she'd spent the night here, the idea of her living here all summer wasn't a bad one, except she'd go back to school and he imagined that would suck like hell.


She almost screamed when the light came on in the living room. She had no idea what stopped her. The expectation of coming home and finding her mother and ten police officers in their living room waiting for her? She sure wouldn't put it past her mother to go to that extreme because she didn't come home one night of her life without a phone call.

It wasn't her mother, though.

"Do you know what your mother would do right now if she was the one sitting here?"

"Kill me?" Claire said. It was a rhetorical question. She knew that, but she had to say something.

"That may not be too far from the truth. Claire…"

"I know. I'm sorry! I fell asleep. I swear it was an accident. I didn't mean to!"

"I'm not going to be the first one awake every morning. You know this, right?"

"I do! It won't happen again. I swear. It won't, Dad."

"Do I need to ask where you were?"

"No! I promise you, Dad, it won't happen again."

"Does this not happening again have a name?" he asked.

She blushed profusely. He only had a smaller table lamp on so maybe he missed it. She'd learned over the years, though, her dad didn't miss much. He liked to pretend he did sometimes, but very little got past him. It was one of the reasons she always found him easy to talk to. He always knew what she was talking about without her having to rehash every detail she'd already argued with her mother over.

"Yes," she said cautiously.

"Do we need to have a talk?"

"What? No! Oh my God! I swear to you it won't happen again, Dad. I fell asleep. That is all!"

"Not him. You. You know, the type of talk I assume your mother had with you."

"Oh, no, not that either."

"You're sure? Because if we do…"

"Yes. I mean, yes, I'm sure we don't need to have that conversation."

"I realize that you've had a year at school. Things are different than when your mother and I went to school. You're used to being able to do your own thing…"

"Dad, I've already said it won't happen again."

"What I was going to say, Claire, if you'd let me finish is that it might be nice if one of us had an idea where you were spending your time so that if this does happen again that one of us with the knowledge can assure the other one that you're safe and haven't been in a car wreck."

She sighed softly, setting her shoes on the floor beside the couch near where she was standing. He had a point, she supposed. Her dad was good at calming her mother down or at least getting her to freak out a little less about things.

"You, uh, know him," she said. His simple nod, as if he already knew that, surprised her.

"Was this not going to happen again happening when you asked me to help him?"

"No! I swear to you. I saw him in October when I was picking out my pumpkin. He mentioned wanting to get custody of his daughter and I thought you might be able to help him. It wasn't until later…"

"I don't need to know the details. I was just curious."

"I didn't lie to you."

"You do understand what having a child means, don't you?"


"What would happen to that little girl if your mother…"

"I'm over eighteen, Dad. What can she do?"

"Claire. Really? She's your mother. You and I both know if she wanted to cause a problem with someone she could. She already didn't like him coming around the house looking for you. I tried to assure her that he seemed like a decent fellow without violating anything, but you know your mother."

"I know."

"Then I will presume your assurances that this won't happen again are not just empty ones and that you will, indeed, see to it that it doesn't happen again. I didn't work endlessly on his situation, but I'd sure hate to have the work I did put into his case – for free mind you as a favor to you – be undone because you were careless."

"No, they're not, empty assurances I mean. I swear it was just an accident."

"Go on upstairs before she wakes up, put that shirt somewhere she won't see it until it gets returned to its owner."

"I will."

"And what's under it I presume."


"We'll talk more later. He doesn't have a string of children so I presume he learned his lesson. He's not my concern, though, you are, so we will talk about it so I'm certain you know what you're doing."

Great. Just what she wanted to talk to her dad about. Not. He was better than her mom, but still not at all a conversation she wanted to have with him in this lifetime.

"I'm not going…"

"Later. Upstairs. Now before it gets any later."

"Okay, thanks," she said, walking toward the stairs. She paused then, regarding him. He'd been waiting for her. No newspaper or anything. He'd been worried. Had he been up all night? He'd worried about Christopher a lot. Christopher partied a lot. Like drank and got in a car and drove home. A lot. Every weekend a lot. She remembered how worried both of her parents had been many nights. She was too young to understand the big deal, but she remembered. She remembered hearing their arguments, hushed as they tried to keep them. The tension was always so obvious. She hated causing that look to be there on his face tonight.

"Oh, and Dad, I'm sorry to have worried you."

"I know, Claire. I guess I can't complain about one night compared to some other dads I know with daughters your age."

She was glad he saw it that way!

"Your mother on the other hand," he said quickly.

"Yeah, I know." Her mother would not see it as a one-time offense after years of doing little to nothing wrong.

"Oh, and I will expect you to be at dinner tonight with your mother and me. No rushing out the door or acting as if eating with us is an inconvenience. And no mentioning what time you got in last night."

"Okay," she said.

She went upstairs, careful to be as quiet as she could. That was all she needed, getting to her bedroom door only to have her mother catch her.

She used her bathroom, sliding out of John's shirt and putting it at the bottom of one of her dresser drawers. Her mom still folded her laundry after washing and drying it, but she left it on Claire's bed these days for her to put away herself.

She glanced at the phone next to her bed and then at her door. He said he wanted her to call him if she hadn't gotten in trouble. She wouldn't say she was trouble-free exactly, but her father was much more rational and sane to deal with than her mother.

'Hello,' he said, sounding as if he'd fallen back asleep.

"I, uh, am home and fine."

She found it hard to believe he really cared if she got home all right. She was sure he cared, but she doubted he was really concerned she wouldn't make it home this morning.

'Okay, thank you. I appreciate it.'


'All clear?'

"Not really."

'Oh? You're calling, though.'

"Dad was waiting up for me."

'Your dad was?'


'Oh,' John said.

"He, uh, knows where I was."


"He asked. I told him."

'I see,' he said.

"Is that okay?"

He sighed softly. 'He's going to tell your mom.'

"I think he might not, actually. As long as it doesn't happen again. And since at least one of them now will know where it is I'm spending my time…"

'I see,' John said.

He was quiet then and she wasn't sure if that was good or bad.

"Is that okay?"

'It's fine. You know. Sure.'

"I just have to be extra careful, you know."

'Your dad's probably hoping you're extra careful in a few ways now that he knows who I am.'

"Yeah, he said we'd talk about 'things' later. I'm very excited to have that conversation with my father, let me tell you."

'Well, at least you can tell him we're, you are I guess, are being responsible. I'm sure he'd rather it not be me you're being responsible about that with.'

"John," she said.

'It's all right. I get it. I would expect no different. I'm glad you made it home and everything and you remembered to call.'

"John. What was I supposed to do? He asked!"

'Nothing. You did the right thing. It's fine. I'll see you later?'

"Mm, I'm not sure. He told me to be sure I was home for dinner."

'I see. Well, then, call me and let me know when you're allowed to see me again.'

"John. That's not fair. He's being very reasonable about this. He could've freaked out or let my mom find me and freak out. He brought up a very good point. I'm an adult, but that doesn't mean she still couldn't make things difficult for you. And Holly. You don't want that any more than I would."

He sighed.

'Yeah, you're right. I'll talk to you later, Claire. Okay.'

"Are you mad at me?"


"Why don't I believe you?"

'Not sure. If you can come over after dinner later, great.'

"Okay. I'll try."

'Okay. If not, have a good night, I guess.'


"Oh hey," Dawson said to Claire when she stepped into the garage. She no longer reacted to the loud squeak on the door.

"What?" she asked.

"Uh, hey, hello. Hi. You know, I was just greeting you."

"Greeting me?" she asked with a frown.

"Yeah, whenever you come here at this time of day you bring me food, too. Seems a greeting is called for in such cases."

"Oh, yeah, subs today."

"Subs are good. Everything all right?"


"I don't know. You look like you aren't sure you should be here."

"I'm fine."

"All right. He's in back. Should be up in a few minutes. He was just getting a part before lunch."


"You mad about James Bond?"


"You know, you didn't get to go."

"He told you that?"

"He may have mentioned it. I told him I saw it already, if I'd known you were a fan I could have saved him the headache."

"You didn't say that!"

"I did."

"Erik," she said. "He's going to get mad!"

"What's he going to do? Quit? He could, I suppose, but he would've after seeing me try to kiss you back in January if he was going to do that."

"Quit teasing him."

"I wasn't teasing. I would've taken you."

"You can't take me to a movie."

"Doesn't mean I wouldn't have done it."

"You are crazy."

"So they tell me." He glanced behind him. "Look who brought us subs, John."

He regarded her curiously, setting the part he'd gone to the back to get in the car he was evidently working on. Beyond mufflers she was pretty clueless when it came to identifying car parts. He'd tried to teach her some things when he looked under her car's hood at school in March when he'd noticed she didn't have any washer fluid. It had gone in one ear and right out the other.

"You look nice," John said once he'd walked up to her.

"Thank you," she said. She didn't think she was dressed that differently than usual.

"Sure. You didn't have to bring me lunch."

"I know," she said. "I thought I'd surprise you."

"All right," he said.

"I'll take mine to my office. You two kids enjoy your subs now."

"Thanks," John said with a shake of his head. "Why'd you buy him lunch exactly?"

"I don't know. I told you, it's rude."

"I'm your boyfriend. He's not. He's your boyfriend's boss, there is no being rude."

"Well, of course there is. He has to eat lunch, too."

"Claire," he said. She followed him to the break room. She'd eat with him and then leave. She'd done it a couple of times since being home. He wasn't crazy about her coming down here she knew, but he hadn't told her to stop doing it.

He glanced behind her and approached her then. He slid his arms around her, drawing her to him for a kiss. She gasped as he parted his lips almost immediately. She groaned softly as their tongues met and his hands slid around to cup her ass, drawing her closer against him.

"I missed you yesterday," he murmured, finding her jaw.

"You saw me yesterday morning."

"You were kind of bitchy when I saw you last. I didn't have much fun with that. I missed this Claire."

She meant to respond, really she did but he found the spot on her neck she knew there was already a hickey and kissed it, nipping the skin there and she groaned again. He chuckled softly against her neck.

"I don't remember giving that to you, but I can believe I did it. You always react so enthusiastically when I do that there."

"I do not!"

"If you say so," he quipped, lowering his mouth a bit closer to her shoulder.

"John," she sighed.

"Uh huh," he said, grazing the skin there with his tongue.

"I brought you lunch."

"I know. I like it so far."

"We can't…"

"We can. He won't bother us."

"Are you serious?"

He slid one of his hands into hers and brought them to the front of his pants.

"Do I seem like I'm kidding?"

"John," she whispered, but she didn't move her hand away. She absolutely should have. She should have taken it away, stepped away from him, and sat at the table that was just over there behind her. It wasn't even five feet away.

She didn't, though.

"Fuck, yes, Claire," he hissed when she slid the zipper down on his pants. She reached for him then and he bit her neck just below her ear.

"You didn't do this yesterday morning after I left?"

He snorted at that.

"No," he said. "I was hoping I'd see you last night to rectify the problem the better way."

"The problem! We had sex three times Saturday night."

"What can I say? He likes getting used. I think he really likes you."

She laughed softly at that.

"Clearly," she said.

"I was wondering if you could tell."

"I kind of can."

"God, Claire, you should probably stop," he said.

She reached lower along his shaft so she could cup him. He liked when she did that, running her fingertips along his shaft along the way.

"You started this!"

"I didn't think you'd want to jerk me off in my lunch room."

"Would you?"

"Would I what?" he asked, kissing her ear.

"Finish if I kept going?"

"Uh, probably. It's you, touching me in a way I very much like. What kind of question is that?"

"Even though we're here."

"Even though," he said. "But that'd be kind of an odd mess to explain, you know?"

He slid his hands along her hips, tugging on her skirt a bit.

"Now if you were offering an alternative solution to making a mess on your hand I'm willing to listen."

"Listen, huh?" she asked with a soft laugh. "I can see what you want to listen to."

"You, asking me to make a mess inside of you."

"You know I want you to."

"I do?"

"I always seem to want you to."

"That is incredibly good to know," he said, picking her up.


"Quit," he said, sliding his mouth over hers. She gasped as he entered her, biting his lower lip a little. He moved them a bit, settling her back against the wall. She let her head fall back then.

"See, this is where you get hickeys on your neck. You ask me to do it!"

"I do not," she whispered.

"It's there, begging me…"

"Trust me, other places beg just as much."

"Hmm," he said, rubbing his check against her blouse a bit to move it lower.

"We are so getting in trouble," she whispered as he hit a particularly enjoyable spot inside of her.

He chuckled. "Only if we get caught."

"He could walk in here any minute."

"He's not going to. He'd be doing the same thing if he was me."

"You're not hurrying."

"I'm enjoying having you around me like this," he said, shifting his hands under her a bit. He found her mouth again as his thrusts increased in tempo. She slid her hands to his face, fingers finding his hair as she did her best to move with him. Now he was hurrying. She had no idea what it said about her that while him touching her certainly helped it was the idea that he wanted to do this here, now, like this that almost made her finish more than his fingers did. She came pretty intensely, too, with him following right after her. He didn't stop kissing her for a few minutes after, sliding a hand along her thigh before he pulled out of her. She hated that part.

"I take it back, you can bring him subs all you want."

"Why?" she asked suspiciously.

"He eats and therefore leaves us alone. We get to do that. So bring him one every day if you want."

"I'm not doing that every day!"

"Hmm," he said, regarding her. "Every other day?"


He chuckled. "Relax, Princess, I'm teasing. Well, you know, if the mood struck you every other day feel free to tell me."

"I'm not sure about the being bad thing, John. I mean, not that I didn't, um, you know. I mean, I did. Obviously, you know that. You always make me."

He chuckled a bit at that.

"That is good to know. That I always make you, I mean. You hear about girls lying about that type of stuff. Once was good enough for me."

"I thought you were mad at me yesterday."

"What?" he asked with a frown.

"I don't know. You seemed… Mad on the phone."

"Not mad, no. I just," he shrugged. "We'll talk about it later. I was just hoping we'd have a little more time before your parents found out."

"Okay. Well, my dad seemed okay with it and everything."

"Well, that's good at least."

She ran a fingertip along his jaw, kissing him there.

"You forgot to shave this morning."

"I didn't forget. I accidentally dropped my razor in the toilet this morning. Don't ask because I'm not even sure I could explain how it happened. The razor itself is fine, the blade not so much. I refuse to shave with a blade dropped in toilet water, even if it was clean. Rusty metal against my face isn't my idea of fun. I know it can't rust that fast and obviously I get it wet when I shave. So, it's probably based on the toilet water more than anything. I have to stop and get some new ones on the way home because of course it was my last one. I thought I had another one, but I guess that was another one ago."


"Since you're here…"


"You want to pick up Holly and be at my place?"

"I could."

"Yeah? I'll let Mrs. Kuzinski know. I told her a couple weeks ago you may once in a while this summer anyway."

"You did, huh?"

"Yes, I told you, you guys waiting for me at my place would not be a bad thing."

"Well, I can, sure. Do I need to do anything with her when I get to your place?"

"Do anything? What do you mean?"

"Well, will I have to feed her? Change her? I don't know. That's what I'm asking."

"She can have a sandwich if you want to make her one, otherwise she can wait until I get home. Milk is in the fridge. You know where her cups and stuff are."


"Changing her shouldn't be an issue. I'll ask Mrs. Kuzinski to do that before you get there. Do you even know how to do that?"


"Change a baby?"

"Well, how hard can it be?"

"Yeah, that's kind of what I thought."

"Hey! Why on earth would I need to know how to do such a thing? Holly's the first baby I've even ever been around in my life."

"You wouldn't. That's a good thing. I'm sure your mother is thrilled that's the case."

"Be nice."

"I'm trying. I'll be home my usual time since you're saving me having to drive and get her. I just have to stop at Osco so I don't look like this tomorrow morning again."


"You sure? If it's too much to ask. I realize hanging out with me when she's with us and doing it by yourself are not the same thing."

"No, it's fine. Except I don't have a seat."

"Yeah, we could switch vehicles."

"You just want to drive my car!"

"Kind of," he said. "It's a convertible-worthy day, Princess."

"Yeah, yeah," she said. "Remind me to give you my keys before I leave."

"You're the best."

"You're only saying that because I just had sex with you."

"Only partially."

"What's the other part?"

"Because I like you. Even if you deserve better."

"Don't say that," she said.

"Just stating the obvious."

"Better than someone who actually likes me and treats me decently?"

"Yeah, sure, you know, a guy who can take you out on the dates you want to go on."

"It was one time."

"Once too many. A guy who your mother won't have a heart attack about you being involved with."

"It's fine, John. I don't think there's a mother out there who likes their daughter's boyfriend at first. I knew you had Holly when I agreed to go out with you."

"You did," he agreed. "And in case I forgot to say it, thank you for lunch. I liked the first part a lot more than the sub."

"I'm sure you did."

"You don't have to come all this way just to bring me lunch, you know. I mean, I like when you do."

"I don't have anything else to do."

"Thank you," he said.

"I'm sorry, that's not how I meant it! It gives me something to do, an excuse to see you and after I left yesterday morning and then I wasn't sure you were mad or not."

"Not mad. Just worried, I guess. No one else knows. Well, Dawson knows. I can't help but think people in your world start finding out you're going to start to get pressured to do the expected thing."

"Expected thing?"

"Dump the guy with the baggage."

"Holly is not baggage."

"Holly is a pretty significant handicap compared to other guys out there who don't have to worry about babysitters and switching cars with you because you don't have a car seat."

She shrugged. "I don't want other guys, John. I've never wanted other guys."

"I don't pretend to understand it."

"I don't either. Are you supposed to be able to explain what your heart feels?"

"I guess not."

"Then please stop worrying about it."

"I worry. Your dad knows. Your mom won't be too far behind."


"So, did you have that, uh, talk with him?"

"Yes," she said, knowing she was blushing profusely.


"He basically just wanted to be sure I knew what I was doing and that I was being responsible."

"Because I can't be?"

"No, he told me he realizes you obviously made a mistake. He just wanted to be sure, I guess. You know? I've never had sex before. He, I'm sure, is aware of that."


"John, don't worry about it so much."

"Says you!"

"Yes, says me, the one who knows her dad."

"So, you think maybe sometime this week you can give me the number of someone to call for a babysitter."

"This week?"

"Well, yeah, I'm going to need to find someone for Friday or Saturday."

"What's Friday or Saturday?"

"A night I take you out."

"Oh. Where are we going?"

"I haven't decided yet. No movies or anything?"

"No, not yet. It's only Monday."

"All right. Well, get me the number and I'll figure out the rest. You might maybe tell your friend or the sister I'm calling so it's not out of the blue. I can just imagine what one of your friends would do if I called their house."

"Sure, I can do that."

"Thank you," he said. "You bought me lunch so what do you want for dinner?"

"I'll be fine."

"Fine? What's that mean? You have to eat dinner. Or are you going to leave as soon as I get home? You didn't get grounded or anything, did you?"

"No, but you don't have to do anything special for me. I assume you'd cook something ordinarily."

"Yeah. For me. I can do better than that for you."

"Well, we can do whatever you normally do."

"You're sure?"

"John, yes, I'm positive."

"All right, I'll see you later then. If you want me to pick up something to make now's the time to say something."

"Whatever you want."

"Are you going to help me cook it?"

"I can," she said.

"As long as you bring my shirt back and wear it while helping me."

"I think I can abide by those terms."

"Abide by them, huh? Okay then. I'll see you later. And thank you for lunch, but really, quit bringing him lunch, too."

"But you just said…"

"I don't like you buying other guys lunch. He can buy his own."

"Fine," she said.

"Thank you," he said. He reached into the pocket of his pants and pulled out his keys. "Be nice to my car, Princess."

"I will do my best."

"I know you will. I'll walk you out there."

"Thank you."

"You don't try to stop me anymore."

"No, I understand why you do it."

"Good," he said.

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