***Chapter Thirteen***
Word Count: 4,546

He groaned when he heard the sound of the door opening. He wasn't anywhere near being ready thanks to Holly. She'd managed to get the top off of her cup of milk somehow. He hadn't been watching close enough to know how she'd managed it exactly. Both of them and the floor had been covered in milk. She'd borne the brunt of it so he'd had to get her a last minute bath. He'd had to change his clothes, too, and then clean up the mess in the kitchen. The door opening meant it was later than he realized.

Claire was doing him a favor by picking the babysitter up since she lived in Claire's neighborhood. Her idea since she had to come here anyway. Fuck if he could pick her up at her house like a normal guy going on a date with her would. That was an issue for another time, though. He knew he had to carefully pick his battles. Her dad knew, that was a start. He knew that he was supposed to pick up the babysitter. She'd offered and he couldn't argue with her logic, but now that they were here it felt a little wrong that he'd let her. On the other hand, he might have paid good money to hear what her friend Linda's reaction was to finding out that Claire was bringing her sister here because she was the reason he needed a babysitter.

"Hi Holly," he heard Claire say.

"You look like you just got out of the bath," she said.

Yes, she sure did. The milk had missed getting in his hair, but not hers. There was no way he could get away with not giving her a bath. Well, he could've but by morning she would have smelled pretty rank of sour milk.

He'd been more than surprised they did all right Monday for the little while they were alone together. He'd expected. Well, he wasn't sure what he'd expected exactly. He knew Claire didn't know anything about kids. His knowledge was limited at best himself. He certainly wouldn't claim to know everything or anything. They were watching a movie of Holly's, eating some crackers when he'd gotten home from work that day. Claire had put Holly's hair up in pigtails, which John had to admit was pretty cute. He didn't do things like that to her hair. He supposed he would need to learn because Holly sure seemed to like it.

"Does her dad get a hi, too?" he asked when he came into the living room finally. She looked very nice. Really nice. He thought he'd dressed nicely and everything since it was an actual date with other people around, but wow. He was going to have to check his doubts at the door. He knew this. She could afford things, like nice clothes, that he couldn't. He didn't look like a slob, but nice for him was a way different scale than it was for her. She knew that, though.

"I was wondering where he was."

"He was running late because someone spilled her milk all over the floor."

"Oh," Claire said. "On purpose?"

"No, she got the top off somehow. Hopefully it was just a fluke because if I don't have to clean up an entire cup of milk again I'd be a happy guy."

"I was wondering why the mop was out."

"That would be why, yes."

He regarded Linda's sister, Lori. She didn't look anything like Linda. John didn't know Linda well or anything. Then he didn't know anyone in Claire's crowd well. He was pretty sure Linda had answered the phone when he'd called Tuesday after work, but he didn't know for sure. He hadn't identified himself and neither had she, but Lori hadn't answered and the voice sounded too young to be their mother.

John couldn't deny she'd picked a great person to refer him to. She babysat for a neighbor during the summer. He'd made sure, triple checking that she didn't mind babysitting on her day off, but she'd insisted she didn't. He didn't get it, he couldn't imagine wanting to work on cars on his day off. Then he supposed cars and kids weren't the same thing.

He showed her around, which took all of about ten minutes. Holly was ready for bed since he'd had to clean her up after the milk anyway. So, basically she'd only have to help her brush her teeth and put her to bed.

God, he was nervous as he shut the door to his apartment behind them. He could count on one hand how many times he'd had an actual date in his life and still have most of his fingers left over. She accounted for each of them, too. If the day they took Holly to the aquarium could be counted as a date. He wasn't sure exactly it did, but he considered it one. This was different than their two dates in January, though. They did things together when he'd gone to see her in Iowa but he wouldn't exactly consider them dates. They'd hardly left his apartment the weekend she'd come here for Holly's birthday in April. So tonight was the first one in a while for both of them. They were seeing the James Bond movie with another couple. So other people would see them together, know they were on a date. That was what made him nervous more than anything.

The movie wasn't so bad, not much he could say wrong there. Dinner afterward hadn't been awful. She'd chosen decent friends to go out with tonight apparently. He was sure her friend was wondering what the fuck she was doing with him, but she wasn't rude or anything. It probably helped that he wasn't either. He knew it worked both ways, people were rude to him because he was first in some cases. Defense mechanism. He could acknowledge that was why he was the way he was. Better to have no friends than to have them and bail on him because of his parents.

They seemed decent, though. If they thought John's job was as common as they came they didn't let on to that fact, so that was a bonus in his mind.

"That wasn't bad at all," he said near her car. He wasn't sure she was going to let him drive back to his apartment or not. He had no problems driving her car, but he didn't want her to think that was all he wanted from her or anything.

"I'm glad you thought so."

He slid his arms around her, drawing her toward him so he could kiss her. He hadn't kissed her since leaving his apartment. She drew away far too quickly. He groaned softly at that. She was proving to be a bit standoffish tonight. He wasn't sure if it was him or just the way she was.

"You mean I can't even kiss you?" he asked.

"I did kiss you."

He scowled a bit. "Come on. You call that a kiss? That was barely a kiss I'd give Holly."

"John," she said, drawing a way a bit.

"I gotcha, someone might see. Wouldn't want anyone to think you do something as common as make out with your boyfriend."

"That's not it. It's just," she shrugged. "This is new to me."

"And it's not to me? People kiss in public."

"I know."

It was so strange to have to behave differently in public. Why was it okay to kiss him at his apartment but not here? He didn't get it, but he supposed he wasn't supposed to. He sighed softly. Maybe some other time when it wasn't new to her. Whatever that meant.

He glanced at his watch, noticing the time. Dinner hadn't taken that long and her friend evidently had an earlier curfew than she did so they still had time to kill before he'd told Lori they'd be back.

"We have time yet before I told her we'd be back. What do you want to do with the rest of it?"

"We don't have to do anything. Really."

"You sure? We could stop for ice cream or something. I hear that's a thing to do."

"I'm fine."

"Okay," he said. "If you're sure. I don't know what you had in mind or anything."

"It's fine."

"That means our night is going to end earlier than I thought it was going to."

"It doesn't have to."


"Well, you could bring Lori home and I could wait for you. That way you don't have to wake Holly up."

He tugged her closer to him again, lowering his mouth to her ear. "I like the sound of that. What time do you have to be home exactly?"

"Well, I told my dad we had plans," she said.

"Oh," he said.

"I could stay for a couple of hours I guess. Two probably would be the latest."

"Okay. Let's do that then."

She kissed him. Still not a great kiss, but it was one she initiated in public.

"Thank you," he whispered, finding her neck for a second. He nipped at the skin there, grazing it with his tongue before he heard his name being called. And not from her.


"Are you kidding me?" he whispered.

"What?" Claire asked.

"It's Betty," he whispered.

"Here?" she asked.


"What are you doing here?" Betty asked. She was with a group of people. John recognized a couple of them. None of them were good or anyone he'd want Holly around. (Ironic him thinking that, he realized.)

"Uh, eating?"

"Where's Holly?"

"With a sitter," he said.


"So I could go out. I don't have a mom and a dad I can leave her with whenever I want to."

"Who's this?"

"My girlfriend."

She scoffed at that. "No, really. Who is she?"

"That's really who she is," he said.

She was eyeing Claire with interest now and he knew Claire noticed it, too. He wouldn't deny he was pretty sure Betty expected him to get with her when he found out she was pregnant. He still to this day didn't get it, and she'd picked the wrong guy thinking her getting pregnant would get him to want to settle down. Shit, he was sixteen. He had no thoughts of settling down. The group she was with had gone on into the restaurant ahead of her. They'd get a table no doubt.

"So she has to be rich and spread her legs for you in order to get to be your girlfriend? Is that it?"

"Hey," Claire said. John squeezed her wrist. He knew she didn't like him doing that, but she'd never seen Betty get full-blown pissed before. John had and didn't want that here in the parking lot of a very public restaurant on their first date in town where people would know and recognize all of them.

"Come on, Betty. Really? That's what you come up with. It's been three years. We had sex. We never dated or did anything resembling it. You knew that, too, so don't pull that shit on her tonight."

"So you take her from me so you can date?"

"Uh, I took her from you because I had her the majority of the time anyway. Your parents did more of the work than you did. You haven't seen her in over two months. Why am I justifying myself to you?"

"If she's hanging around my daughter I want to know about it. I deserve to know what you're doing with her. And what you're doing in front of her."

"Oh, you mean as opposed to the stellar crowd you're here with tonight. Allen and Joey they're a couple of winners there. They supplying you your eight-balls now? The only reason you didn't do that shit in front of Holly was because you could leave her with me or your parents so you didn't have to."

"Shut up."

"You're lucky I didn't bring up half the shit I know. I could've you know. If I was trying to be a complete dick. I just want her where she's wanted."

She laughed at that.

"Wanted her? That's hilarious. Is that what you told her to get into her pants? You wanted her all along? Don't lie in front of her. You never wanted her. Don't get all high and mighty now."

"You're right, I didn't. Of course not. What sixteen year old guy would? I'm not that guy anymore. I grew up because you didn't really give me a choice, something you should do, too. If you had I wouldn't have custody of her."

"You can keep her."

"Are you going to come see her sometime?"

"I don't know. Maybe tomorrow."

"Right," he said. He doubted that'd happen. He didn't really care other than for Holly's sake. If he never saw her again it wouldn't bother him any generally speaking. "Well, you know my number. Call first."

"Is she going to be there?"

"Uh, I don't know. Probably."

"You living with him?"

"What?" Claire asked, looking a little surprised at actually being dragged into the conversation. Betty's comments until now had been about her but not said to her directly. "No!"

He chuckled softly at that.

"Come by, don't come by, but if you could call first to be sure I'm home that'd be great. I only have two days off a week, you know, so I try and do things with her."

"Like hire babysitters."

"The first time in over two months I've been away from her other than my job. We left at six o'clock, so I was with her most of the time she was awake today. Again. Why am I justifying myself to you? Maybe if you took her for a weekend once in a while I wouldn't have to pay a sitter and she'd spend time with both of her parents."

"I'm surprised you even told her about her. You don't tell anyone else."

"I don't hide her from anyone. Of course she knows about her."

She regarded Claire with far more interest than John wanted her to. Did she recognize her? It was possible. John never stopped to think she could've known Claire's brother. He doubted it. Her brother didn't hang around with the type of people John hung out with four years ago. It was possible, though.

"Whatever. Later," she said, walking toward the restaurant and her friends there.

"What is she on?" Claire asked?

"I have no idea," he said. She hadn't been able to sit still or stop fidgeting the entire time they talked. He glanced at Claire. "You still think she's pretty?"

"She was!"

"Yeah," he said. "Let's go then."

"You're not driving?" she asked.

"Yeah, sure," he said, opening her door for her.

"You all right?" she asked in the car.

"I'm fine. I just wasn't planning on running into her tonight."

"I know," she said.

"I don't really care. I just feel bad for you. And for Holly."

"Did she mean it? Do you think?"

"That I could keep her?" he shrugged as he pulled out of the parking lot. "She probably means it for now, sure. I used, but I wasn't as far gone as she and those she's with tonight are. I just used to get out of my head for a while. Escape from the shit that was around me. You know?"

"I do," she said.

"I haven't touched anything stronger than a joint since I started having her weekends."

"I believe you," she said.

"I wouldn't have that shit around her. Never mind working where I do being on something could be dangerous not just to me but to Dawson, too."

"John, I believe you."

"I'm glad. I know what people think…"

"I'm not those people!"

"You sure you don't want to stop somewhere?"


"All right. I feel like you're cutting our night short or something. We told her midnight."

"I'm not. We're fine."

"All right. Did you have fun at least?"


"You liked the movie?"

"Yes," she said.


"Did you?"

"It's James Bond. What's not to like?"

She laughed softly. "I guess so."

"And your friends didn't hate me, so there is that."

"No one's going to hate you, John, unless you do something to make them."

"If you say so."

"I do."

He dropped Lori off. He didn't walk her to the door, but he did wait to pull out of the driveway until he saw she was inside. As it turned out, Claire had a couple of friends who had younger sisters Lori's age or younger so he had a few numbers to call for the next time they wanted to go out.

God, running into Betty had really bothered him. He didn't want her to know anything about his life. It was bad enough she knew where he worked. She had to, he realized, but it still bothered him she had that kind of access to him.

He got back to the apartment and found Claire in his room. He'd invested in a second alarm clock so she'd never oversleep again. She'd insisted he didn't need to walk her to her car every night so a couple of times this week he barely heard the alarm go off. It was a shitty way to wake up in the morning, though, that half of the bed empty and cold when she'd been in it when he fell asleep.

"Lori got home okay?"

"She did," he said, sitting on the edge of the bed.


"She seems nice."

"She is. I always thought so anyway."

"Thank you."

"Sure," she said.

"No, really, thank you. I don't know anyone who could babysit. Believe it or not it bothered me last weekend we couldn't go."

"I know, John, it's fine. We worked it out."

"It occurs to me I should apologize for what Betty said."

"You didn't say it."

"I know, but it wasn't nice. I'm sure she's not the only one who that will occur to, though."

"Hopefully they will know me well enough to know I'm not like that."

"You certainly aren't a tease anyway."

"Only with you," she said.

"I wish you didn't have to go home," he said, sliding a fingertip along her arm.

"Me, too. I'm here now, though," she said.

"You are," he said, drawing back the covers so he could join her. "And practically naked, too."

"You're just now noticing that?"

"I'm a little slow."

"I like when you're slow."

He chuckled softly at that, standing so he could slide his jeans and shirt off to catch up to her before joining her on the bed.

"This I could get used to."


"You like this in my bed."

"You like it?"

"I do," he said, sliding her panties off so she was no longer practically naked. "You don't need to leave those on, you know?"

"I know," she said.

"Leaving me something to do?"

She shrugged.

"All right, be mysterious. I like undressing you so it's okay. I'm just saying, don't leave them on because you think you have to."

He slid his hands along her legs to her hips as he shifted on the bed between her legs. She murmured softly as he found her nub with his tongue. He loved doing this. He loved when she shifted underneath him, granting him better access so he could get her off this way. He moved on top of her, finding a breast as he slid inside of her. She ran her fingers along his back, lower to his hips as she arched into his thrusts. She touched him so well, as if she really wanted to and that blew him away a lot of the time because he wasn't used to it.

He groaned softly as she clenched around him. She did that at the perfect time. Or the worst depending on how he looked at it, because he always seemed to finish when she did that. She felt too good around him like that. Tonight was no different. She didn't move under him, letting him continue licking and sucking her. He was mindful of her bathing suit and where he could and couldn't leave these anymore. There was always the chance her mother would see. (A part of him wanted her mom to see.)

"It occurred to me while we were sitting at dinner."

"What did?" she asked.

"Your friends. Do you know anyone but me who doesn't live with their parents still?"

"Um, no," she said, shaking her head.

"So, people like Abby and Mark. What do they do?"


"Yeah," he said with a shrug as he kissed her stomach before moving beside her. "You know, to do this."

"Oh," she said. "I have no idea. Their car? Their houses when their parents aren't there?"

"I just hadn't thought about it before tonight."

"I hadn't either."

"That would really suck," he said.

She laughed softly. "You managed."

"Well, sure, when I was like fifteen it didn't matter to me. Now I sure would hate to sneak around as if I was doing something wrong."

"I know."

He sighed softly, running a fingertip along her hip. "At least I can visit you next year easier than this year."

"I know," she said. "I understood why you couldn't after that one time. Holly in a dorm room wouldn't have worked."

"I'm glad you realize that."

"I do."

She was living in an apartment off-campus next year. It was a smaller apartment she said, but she wouldn't have a roommate. He wasn't sure she'd thought on what they'd be able to do with Holly when he went to visit her, but he imagined they'd figure it out. She'd be out of her crib by then most likely. Mrs. Kuzinski had told John more than once he was lucky she was still sleeping in one now. He'd watched her since she'd said that and saw more than once she was to the point of trying to climb out. That meant, though, that she'd be used to sleeping in a regular bed by then. He hoped so anyway.

"Why Iowa anyway?"

"What?" she asked.

"Why'd you choose Iowa?"

"As opposed to where?"

"I don't know. Somewhere around here?"

"It's a good school."

"Northwestern is a good school. U of Chicago is a good school."

"I know. I don't know. Why?"

He shrugged.

"I'm going to get used to having you here every night at least for a while for months and then you're going to go away."

"I know," she said. "I've thought of that, too."

"You have?"

"Yes," she said.

"If you were here then I could go to school in the fall, too."

"You could?"

"I got accepted at a community college. I was thinking I could take some night classes. I figured I could take them around the one night I had Holly."

"Oh," she said.

"Yeah," he said. "I applied before so wasn't thinking it'd be an issue. So, now I can't really go. I'd be working essentially to pay a sitter to babysit her nights."

"What about Betty's parents?"

"I'm not so sure they'd be willing to help me out every week, you know? I'm not their son."

"No, I know."

He shrugged. "I know you're not a babysitter either, I was just thinking about that this week."

"Me babysitting?"

"No. I mean, yes, but no. The day you picked Holly up for me I thought that."

"What would you go to school for?"

He shrugged. "I don't know. I didn't really get past the application and acceptance stage. Something with my hands, I suppose. That's what I'm good at."

"You have a brain."

"I know. I don't know what to do other than things with my hands, though." He slid his hand along her stomach. "You certainly like what I can do with them."

"I do," she said.


She laughed softly. "You'd actually go?"

"Go where?"

"To school?"

"Yeah, I realize I have to do something to support Holly for the next sixteen plus years. And I figure if I get some college and a better job then it's less likely Betty could just take her from me because she cleans up her act and decides she wants to be a mom again. Never mind it'd be nice not to come home from work filthy every day."

"Right," she said.

"I mean, I realize today I say that if she does clean up her act and wants her back I'd be willing to give her back, but I'm not sure how I'll feel if that happens if it's a couple years from now. You know?"

"I get it, that'd be hard to just give her up again."

"Right. I don't know how I'd feel. I mean I like to think I'd think she deserves to be with her mom, but if she's used to me and we're doing all right."

"That's not a bad way of thinking. Not all moms are meant to be moms."

"Anyway, it's just going to suck, having you here every night and then not."

"I know," she said. "What about school in Iowa?"

"I'm not sure I could take Holly away like that. I'd have to talk to your dad, I guess."

"Oh," she said.

"Yeah, something tells me that's not a conversation I want to be having with him right now. I think Betty could stop me if she wanted to, though. Iowa isn't that far, but it's still out of state and would make it more difficult to visit her."

"That's stupid."

"It wouldn't be so stupid if it was the other way around and I could stop her."

"Well, no," Claire agreed. "I get it."

"Two o'clock?" he asked.

"Yeah, at the latest," she whispered.

"Not long enough."

"I know."

"I liked waking up to you last weekend even if you were bitchy."

"I was only bitchy because I wasn't supposed to sleep the whole night here!"

"I know. We need to fix that."

"I don't know how."

"Tell them you're spending the night…"

"Dad would know."

He sighed. "I suppose. During the week he may not. He knows I have a job."

"Let me think about it."

"Think fast, Princess. It's not that long of a time until September."

"Tell me about it. Do you want me to come over tomorrow?"

"Why wouldn't I?"

"Well, if Betty comes here…"

"That's a huge if. I'm not counting on it happening and I'm not adjusting my plans to suit her needs. That means you here with us and us doing something."

"I was just making sure."

"I'm sure I want you here."

"Okay," she said.

"You sound as if you're getting sleepy."

"A little."

"We can't have that."

She laughed softly. "I set the alarm while you were taking Lori home!"

"I'm not sure I was worried about you needing the alarm."

She moved on top of him.

"I see what you were worried about," she whispered as she slid her hand along his length.

"I told you he likes you."

"I'd be worried if he didn't."

"Me, too," he said as she guided him into her.

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