They'd danced more than a few times. They hadn't said much. He wasn't sure what to say. He always thought he cleaned up pretty decent, but man, compared to some of the other men here he felt downright scruffy. And that was with ensuring he'd shaved good and close that morning. There were famous people here. Like people that John knew people would pay money for locks of their hair and other insane stuff like that.
And yet despite that, famous people who were worthy of being watched, Allen watched them more than once. John wasn't entirely sure what to make of it. He wasn't jealous exactly, but if he didn't know better he'd swear Claire wasn't being entirely truthful about what happened. He knew better, though, because it just wasn't like her to lie about something like that. So what was the deal? Was the guy hoping she wouldn't remember he was who she'd been with and want to get together with him? John couldn't fathom being that ballsy, but he supposed anything was possible. Was it any more bizarre than flying off to Paris with her because he was her fake boyfriend?
She could have said all sorts of crazy shit about him after that day of detention. He was over eighteen and he had no doubt she would've been believed over him. Not that they'd done anything worthy of her regretting and calling the police over later. It could've happened, though. Andy certainly knew she disappeared somewhere for a while. What was to stop him from saying shit about Claire to take the attention away from him having a girlfriend people were questioning his sanity for being seen with let alone dating? He hadn't, though, at least not that John had heard. He'd heard the stuff Andy had said about Allison, though. More than once. Oddly, she garnered a bit of attention after that day because so many people didn't even know who she was.
"Dancing with you isn't so bad," he said against her ear.
"Not so bad?" she asked.
"Well, I've only danced with one other person truthfully and she was like half a foot shorter than me. That was in heels."
"Ah," Claire said.
"You with those heels on are taller than me. It's kind of nice."
"Well, I'm glad it's not so bad," she said.
He chuckled softly. "That probably sounded bad. I didn't mean it that way. It's just, it was pretty awkward."
"I know. Freshman and sophomore years it wasn't always easy getting a date to Homecoming or Turnabout with someone as tall as me let alone taller."
"I guess so," he said. He hadn't paid attention to how tall she was before that day really. He knew she wasn't short, but whether she'd always been that way he couldn't say really.
"Where were you that you were dancing anyway?"
"Oh, some convention. Baltimore. Philadelphia maybe. Somewhere out east. They auctioned off dinner and dances with the guests as a fundraiser for literacy or something. A couple guests were married so it was, you know, just innocent. Just a way to raise money."
"Oh," she said. She shivered a bit against him as he grazed her ear with his mouth. He couldn't help it. Maybe it went above and beyond what he should've done, but it was right there. He brought her against him a little closer. She came willingly. It was probably pretty obvious they weren't the most comfortable dancing together, but he'd made it pretty clear in the limo on the way to the airport that dancing wasn't something he was good at.
"She probably regretted bidding on me."
"You dance just fine," she said.
"Yeah?" he asked.
She leaned in and kissed him then. A nice kiss actually. She hadn't initiated nice ones before. Ones that lasted more than a few seconds that were clearly just for show in front of people. Or when she decided on a whim to sleep in his bed with him.
"I guess so. Thank you," he said.
"Hmm. Does that mean I could do that?"
"You know, kiss you."
"You have before."
"Not like I've wanted to," he said.
"You know I haven't."
He didn't give her the chance to answer. He was almost afraid her answer would be no. He'd been itching to kiss her since the night he first saw her back at Chi Chi's. Hell, he'd wanted to at the reunion, too. If she'd seemed remotely interested in him he would've done more than want to. She seemed rather interested now, though, and he took advantage of that fact. Also the fact that while she'd had a couple of glasses of champagne or wine he knew she wasn't drunk in the least. (She'd been very possessive of her drinks as was he. If she had to go to the bathroom or something he held it for her. He couldn't blame her for that.)
He wasn't sure how many chances he'd get to do this again. Kiss her as he wanted to, like he really meant it and wasn't just kissing her because it was the thing to do in a particular circumstance. After tomorrow morning when they were having breakfast with some people they'd be on their own until going back home and he didn't see a legitimate excuse for kissing her presenting itself after that.
And if she didn't kiss him back?
Well, he didn't have to worry about that because while it took her a second, maybe two, she did. Whether she wanted to or realized she'd look foolish not kissing him back in a roomful of people this far into their act he couldn't be sure.
Until she slid her hands further around his neck, drawing herself closer against him. Then he was fairly sure it was because she wanted to.
Would he have stopped if she hadn't done that?
He wasn't sure. He'd like to think he would've, but fuck had he wanted to kiss her for months now. So he couldn't say for sure he would've. Probably he would've.
It was very difficult for him to keep himself in check and not make like kissing her like this was as big of a deal as it was. Her lips parted shortly after his, surprising him. He'd assumed, figured, she'd draw away when he did that.
"That was better," he said when he finally broke the kiss. He did, too, sensing maybe Frenching him for any length of time today exceeded her comfort level.
"Was it?" she asked.
"Uh yeah," he said. "Still not altogether what I wanted, though," he said. He didn't miss the look on a couple of her friends' faces.
"I think we've managed to shock your friends, Princess," he whispered, kissing her ear again.
"I would guess so," she said.
"Was it worth it?"
"You know the answer to that."
"I'm asking the question, aren't I?"
"What would I need a chair for?"
"What?" What the hell was she talking about?
"You said we'd need a bed or a …"
He chuckled. "Well, ideally I guess it'd be for me, but if I needed to get creative with you sitting in a chair I'm sure I could come up with a few things to do to you while you were sitting in a chair. All would be pretty fun actually."
"Oh," she said and he chuckled softly at her blushing.
"And probably make you blush worse than you are now."
"You shouldn't say that!"
"You asked the question!"
"I know. I just couldn't…"
"I wish I could deny that I really like that you had no idea what I meant."
"Fuck, yes, Princess."
"I'd think it'd," she shrugged.
"I don't know. Bother you."
"Bother me? Because your imagination hasn't taken you to that point? No. Now if in the next couple of days your imagination takes you to a chair without me along with you that may bother me."
"Only in the next couple of days?"
"Well, you know, in Paris."
"I see," she said.
He slid a finger under her chin and tilted her face up a bit so she had to look at him. She didn't like that answer.
"See, I told you if you weren't careful you weren't going to want to break us up in a couple of months."
She started to pull away then.
"Relax, I'm teasing you."
"You shouldn't say that!"
"Tease you? Shit, Princess. It's a funny situation."
He shrugged. "I can see how maybe from your point of view it's not."
"You don't have to laugh at me."
"I'm not! It was a joke. Teasing. Why are you so serious all of the sudden?"
"I don't know," she said, but he suspected she wasn't being honest with him.
"I don't know. I just need some air, I guess," she said.
"Do you want me to go with you?"
"No, I'll just be a minute."
"Hey, if my teasing bothered you…"
"Your teasing didn't bother me. I'm perfectly aware we're only here for a couple more days and what that means."
"Yeah," he said. He wasn't sure what it meant. He knew what he didn't want it to mean. He wasn't sure how she could spend a week with him like they had and then fly back home and. What? Never see him again? See him at their twentieth reunion?
"I'll be right back."
"Okay," he said. He watched her go, heading in the direction of a bathroom. He debated for about a minute too long whether he should go after her or not. He hadn't meant to hurt her feelings. He really hadn't. He'd assumed she would get the joke. Evidently not. Or she had just not appreciating it.
Too long because Allen chose that moment to approach him.
"Problems in paradise?" he asked.
"No," John said quickly. "Women go to the bathroom."
"She didn't look too happy."
"You know maybe you should pay less attention to my girlfriend and what she looks like. It's really none of your business whether she looks happy or not, is it?"
"I don't trust you."
That was rich.
"Me?" John asked incredulously.
"Well, that makes two of us. If I was a different kind of guy I'd probably wonder why you care so much about my girlfriend. Why can't you get your own? Why are you here with your sister as your date? Or were you assuming she'd be by herself?"
He'd struck a chord with that comment. He'd almost said something more scathing (and more telling), but caught himself at the last minute.
"No one believed you existed."
"Well, obviously I do. Comic drawer and everything. I don't suppose you caught the part where they made a movie out of my comics, did you? I bet you realize I can afford a much better and bigger cardboard box now."
"Where was your first date?"
"I'm sorry," he asked.
"Your first date."
"We went out for coffee after the reunion."
"That's not a date."
"It got me here with her tonight, didn't it? I'd say that counts as a date."
He had no idea if he'd given the right answer or contradicted an answer of hers, but he doubted it. He doubted she'd think of their reunion as a date.
"What's her favorite color?"
"Jesus, really? You tell me since you seem to think you know her better than I do."
"A boyfriend would know that."
"I could tell you something I assure you no one else knows about her to prove I am what I am, however, she'd get mad at me for saying something like that."
"Like I'd tell her you told me."
"I'd know I told you. She trusts me I'd prefer to keep it that way. Or is that a foreign concept to you? Now, why don't you go have yourself another drink? You obviously haven't had enough to stop you from being an asshole."
"I'm an asshole?"
"Yeah. I don't know what your deal was with her, but whatever it is get over it. She's not here with you. She's here with me. The guy she's been sleeping with every night while you get to bunk with your little sister. You do realize that, right? You're going to go home tomorrow to wherever the fuck you come from and, guess what? I'm going back to Chicago, with her."
"Just wait until she gets tired of supporting you."
"Whatever," he said. "I'm not going to waste anymore of my time here with you. Now if you'll excuse me she's going to start to wonder what happened to me because I was supposed to meet her about five minutes ago. Unless you want to explain to her why I'm standing here talking to you instead of in there with her?"
He brushed past him then, hoping he knew which bathroom she went to. The place the reception was at was like a fucking museum it was so huge. She, the other bridesmaids, and the bride had access to their own bathroom, though. He assumed she headed there.
"I'll be just a minute," she said, stopping from refreshing her lipstick to look behind her in the mirror.
"Hey," he said, watching her. She blushed again and shook her head that he could do that to her. Do that to her simply from watching her put her lipstick on. It wasn't the lipstick that he was focusing on, though.
"Hi," she said.
"We alone in here?" he asked.
"Yes," she said cautiously.
"Relax," he said. "Just making sure anything I say isn't going to get overheard."
"Oh, no," she said.
"I just came about two seconds away from throwing my first punch in like nine years."
"Why?" she asked, looking at him for real then not just from the mirror. "Are you okay?"
"That concern seemed almost genuine, Princess, thank you. I'm fine. He's just an asshole."
"We know that already."
"What's your favorite color?"
"What?" she asked with a frown.
"Don't look at me like I just sprouted a second head. What's your favorite color?"
"Um, well, blue I guess. I don't know. It depends. Clothes I like green," she said.
He stepped up to her then and her breath caught as he backed her against the counter she was standing by.
"I told him our first date was coffee after the reunion."
"Okay," she said. Was that supposed to mean something to her?
"Turn around," he whispered.
She did, thoroughly confused now. She thought for a second he was going to kiss her again.
He ran a fingertip along her shoulder blade, over to the nape of her neck and down a bit.
"I was very tempted to tell him about that birthmark you have," he whispered, kissing her shoulder as he traced over the spot he obviously remembered her birthmark being from that day.
"Why didn't you?" she asked, sounding incredibly short of breath just then. Absolutely ridiculous he could have that effect on her from a simple kiss. Then there was nothing simple about John. There never had been.
"Well, I wouldn't do that to you, for one. I didn't think you'd want him to know something like that."
"No," she agreed.
"And, well, I guess I wasn't entirely clear if he would've had that information."
"You know, uh, what happened. Would he have seen it?"
"I don't think so. I mean I woke up with my clothes on. My blouse was untucked and unbuttoned but it was on."
"I didn't feel like giving him the satisfaction of telling him something he already knew about you."
"Thank you," she said.
"Welcome," he whispered, kissing her shoulder again. He slid his mouth up a bit, grazing the side of her neck. "You're done getting pictures taken for the night?"
"Yes," she said softly.
"Good," he said, sliding his mouth higher along her neck.
"John," she said.
"I basically implied that I was meeting you here for a specific, you know, reason," he said.
"Cut a guy some slack, all right. Let me go back in there and be able to let him think we both just had fun."
He nipped at the skin there and she groaned softly at the feel of his mouth and teeth against her. Her eyes fell closed and she settled against him a bit. She didn't stop him, though. She didn't make any effort to. She even tilted her head a bit so he could do what he was doing easier.
He didn't try to do anything else. That surprised her immensely. She assumed he'd see it as an invitation to do more than what he was doing. His hands were at her hips, caressing her there and along her abdomen but he wasn't reaching to feel her up or anything.
And why did that kind of bother her?
It had kind of bothered her last night that he hadn't tried … something after she'd kissed him. A part of her was very grateful, but a part of her. Well, a part of her wasn't as grateful. She wasn't sure which part was the right part and if it was the one that wanted him to try something. Why didn't that scare her as badly as it should have?
She pressed herself against the front of his pants. Instinctive because she'd certainly never done anything like that before this moment in her life. She'd never even thought about it.
He stopped what he was doing then, only for a second, though, as if waiting for her to decide she'd had too much. She liked what he was doing too much, though.
"I told him he was an asshole," he whispered, sliding his tongue along the spot on her neck he'd been focusing on until a second ago.
"He is," she whispered.
"Yeah, but I didn't think I was supposed to say that."
She laughed softly.
"I'm glad someone told him the truth."
"You going to sleep in my bed again tonight?" he asked, kissing her ear.
"I," she said softly. "I'm not sure."
"Not sure you can trust yourself to keep your hands off me?"
"Something like that," she said.
"The company would be welcome."
"It's not the company that I'm afraid of."
"You're afraid of me?"
"No," she said quickly. "I'm not. I am afraid of me!"
"You joke about my not wanting to break us up in two months. Do you have any idea how nice this has been? You here. I've never had that in my life. I'm afraid I'm not going to want to break us up."
"So, don't break us up," he said.
"John," she said.
"I was going to ask you out."
"So that means I should continue leading people to believe you're my boyfriend?"
"Well, no, but what if we did that. Had a date? You know, when we got back? Or how about tomorrow? Pick something and we'll do it. A date thing. A movie. Whatever. I'll even go to a play with you if we can swing tickets. Something tells me Wren Savage has no problem getting theater tickets."
She laughed softly at that.
"I don't know, John. I just wasn't expecting to have a good time with you. I figured you'd be kind of a jerk about it when we were alone. You know?"
"I could've been, but it's spending time with you which – again – I wanted to do."
"Yes, in Paris."
"Well, it's an odd first date perhaps, but certainly others could come up with more unusual stories to tell their friends and stuff."
"What's your favorite color?" she asked.
"I'm serious. I never grew out of it, I guess. Give me a black T-shirt and I'm happy."
"But you draw…"
"I deal in black and white primarily."
"I suppose," she said.
God it was tempting to say yes.
"I'll make a deal with you," she said.
"All right," he said, sounding cautious. She turned around then and he groaned softly.
"Sorry," she whispered.
"It's all right. Worth it. What's your deal? I can't wait. Your last one got me here."
"Once we're home and we've both had time to think about whether we really want to go on a date we can do that."
"What kind of deal is that?"
"I don't know. You may get home and decide it's too much. I mean, I appeal to you now. Today, but you may change your mind once you've realized I may never be," she shrugged. "Normal."
"Yeah, you know, with a man. I just don't know."
"I don't know!"
"You just let me give you a hickey, Princess."
"Because it felt good!"
"I assure you I would make the rest of it feel just as good if not better."
"You say that…"
She ran a hand along his cheek and sighed softly. She reached up and kissed him. He kissed her back. He didn't wait to part his lips this time, finding her tongue with his almost immediately. God, she loved the taste of him, the feel of his tongue against hers.
"I just want to be sure neither of us is making a decision like that because we've been basically living together for a week."
"You know what bothers me, Princess?"
"That you, of all people, you, Claire Standish, let an asshole change you, deny yourself doing normal things like date."
"I just. I trusted him!"
"I know. I get that. You trust me. I haven't done anything to violate that trust. I won't deny I thought about it a time or two last night."
"Yes! I woke up more than once and it would've been so easy."
"I thought about it, too."
"Trying to figure out the chair thing?"
She laughed, settling her head against his chest. "Shut up."
He slid his hands along her back. It was nice. Nothing suggestive or anything, but it sure felt different than, say, her dad or brother hugging her.
"I accept your deal, Claire. I'm not going anywhere, though. I mean, if you don't want to go on a date with me then fine, but I'm not going to change my mind about wanting one."
He stepped away a bit, sliding his hands to her cheeks and kissed her lightly. "Nothing that happened to you is your fault. You know that, right?"
"Do you? Do you really? You're not to blame for any of it."
"But nothing. Being drunk does not give a guy free reign to do as he pleases. Not to mention he drugged you. You could have died from what you described. That's not your fault."
"I know that, logically…"
"All right. Well, I'm not going to lecture you, but I want you to understand I don't blame you and I'm the one standing here asking you out on a date. So as far as I'm concerned my opinion is the only one that really matters here."
"Yes, but my first time…"
"Jesus. You consider that your first time?"
"Fuck no. I'd still tell people I was a virgin if I was you."
"Just what every guy wants to hear."
"Name me one guy that would be turned off by hearing that."
"I don't know."
He leaned in and kissed her again. It wasn't quite as good as the kiss a few minutes ago, but she knew the message behind it was different than that one.
"So, have we been in here long enough?"
He chuckled softly. "Well, at least we had access to a counter in here."
"Oh God," she said.
"Relax. He's the only one who's going to think that if he even believes me. He doesn't seem to believe I'm with you. Thus the favorite color question."
"Oh," she said. "Thank you."
"Thank you for implying I just came in here and had sex with you up against a wall or something? Anytime, Princess."
"Can we go home now?"
"I'm good, sweetheart, but I don't have a magic carpet in my suitcase."
"Back to our room?"
"Oh," he said.
"Not for that!"
"You really know how to let a guy down easy."
"I'm just so tired of being nice and …"
"We can leave whenever you want. If you want to stay for a while longer and let your friends see us kissing we can do that, too."
"I think you like kissing me."
"See, proof I haven't changed that much at all."
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com