***Chapter Sixteen***
Word Count: 3,311

"So," John said, tracing his fingertip along her thigh. They'd come up to bed about two hours ago, but hadn't gotten around to talking until the last fifteen minutes or so. It was after three so she almost didn't start talking to him, but he'd initiated the conversation asking her how her day with April (and therefore away from the convention) had gone. "There is going to be a little Wren Savage pretty soon, huh?"

"I guess so."

"I think I can hear the hearts of thousands of women out in LA breaking from here when that news gets out."


"That didn't take long at all, did it?"

"That's what I told her!"

He chuckled softly, kissing her shoulder.

"You're happy for her?"

"Of course," she said.

"She seems nice."

"He doesn't? Is that what you're saying?"

"No, he does, surprisingly. I like him even. I didn't want to. I wanted to lump him in with all the stories I hear about douchebags out there. I don't know how nice he'd be to me if I wasn't your other half, but I watched him earlier today. The way he interacted with people and even our waitress. He seems pretty genuine. I thought for sure when the waitress brought him the wrong drink he'd freak out, but he didn't. He was very calm about it."

"He does seem very genuinely nice."

"Rich wasn't happy at all that he wasn't invited to dinner."

"I know, but…"

"Oh, I'm not complaining. We were having dinner with April and Rene, your best friend and her husband not Wren Savage and his wife. There's a difference. I get that, I'm just not sure Rich does yet. You know?"

"I do," she said.

"I was kind of wondering when he was going to ask me why I was taking you to the parties and stuff instead of him."


"Well, he's the guy who created Simon and everybody."

"I suppose, but the invitation was for you because of me."

"I know that. He'll figure it out eventually."

"So, why does he like men?"

"Uh, I'm not sure I can explain that."

She laughed softly, slapping his shoulder lightly. "That's not what I meant."

"Good, because I thought you were asking me to explain genetics or biology or something and I'm afraid that's a little steep for this guy."


"That's very good to know."

"You're avoiding my question."

"He, uh, kind of hit on me once."

"He what?"

"I know, freaked the hell out of me. I mean, not that he did necessarily, but he thought I," he shrugged. "You know, he made me wonder if I was putting off some sort of vibe."

Claire chuckled softly. "I don't think so."

"Well, I didn't either. He was a bit drunk and we've never, like, talked about it or anything. He told me at the time he assumed my not having a girlfriend and so rarely taking women up on their offers…"

"Meant you were gay?"

"Into both actually was what he basically implied. I'm not sure. Like I said, we've never talked about it. I'm not even sure he remembers doing it. He was that drunk and it was. Well, it was right after I broke up with Tina."

"Tina? She was the stripper?"

"Yes. He didn't know about her because she wasn't exactly a bring to conventions type of girlfriend, you know?"

Claire snorted softly at that.

"We were still kind of working out the nuances of our work relationship. The distance can be hard and there wasn't email at first so lots of Federal Express and phone calls. So it's not like I told him intimate details. Look at how long it took me to tell him about you and I knew you weren't going to get an STD from someone else while I was with you."

"Well, there's a ringing endorsement."

"Hey, trust me, after being pretty scared for a couple of months there that's a pretty good endorsement. It's one of the reasons I sort of tapered off my behavior here, too. Condoms are good, you know, I mean, they work and everything but they do break. I really don't want one to break with someone who's been with twenty other comic pencilers this year."

"I know."

"Plus I sort of saw him with someone once."


"Yeah. I think he knows that, but, again, we've never talked about it so I'm not sure."

"You two need to talk."

"About his sex life? I don't think so. I walked into his office when I should've knocked first, saw something I shouldn't have seen, shut the door behind me, and never said a word. It was late, his admin was gone, and I'd been in another office working on something. I was going to show it to him. I just went right back to the other office and continued working. I'm not positive he saw me."

"Why not?"

"Because, Princess, when I'm getting a good blow job the earth could probably explode around me and I wouldn't open my eyes until I was done."

"Hmm. Do I do that to you?"

"Make me not want to open my eyes?"

"Uh huh."

"Only every time. Sometimes I keep them open because I'm still kind of astounded it's you giving it to me so I like to watch."


"Yes," he said.


He shrugged. "Because it's you and there's a part of me that thinks I shouldn't make you do that."

"You're not making me do anything."

"I realize this, I do, but in the back of my mind…"

"Ignore the back of your mind."

"I try! I've heard women talk, though, most of them I've heard talk about doing that seem to indicate they don't really feel they have a choice. I don't ever want you to think you don't have a choice."

"Women tell you this?"

"You'd be surprised at the conversations I overhear. Sometimes women are standing in line waiting to get me to sign something. Sometimes they're just standing around and I walk by so hear bits and pieces."

"I haven't done anything with you I haven't wanted to do, John."

"Including taking a shower with me?"

"I like taking showers with you."

"Just think how much water we'll conserve this summer."

"I can't wait."

"I have to admit I didn't mind the bath."

"That's only because my tub is really a Jacuzzi."

"There is that. It was pretty nice."

He chuckled softly.

"How did she rope you into doing theater stuff anyway?"

"I don't know exactly," she said. "I thought she was nuts for asking me at first."

"I would have thought she was, too."

"I liked her, though. I don't know how to explain it. I wanted to hate her. I'd never had to share my living space with anyone before and I wanted to loathe her, but she was just so nice. I couldn't. She heard me reading something out loud for English class. We each had to read some lines from some play. She said I should go out for a part in the show. I laughed."

"But you did?"

"Yeah, she kind of dragged me along. We both auditioned. I wasn't going to. I was just going to go with her for moral support, but she talked me into it."

"What play?"

"Noises Off."

"Never heard of it."

"I wouldn't expect you to. They made a movie out of it a couple of years ago I think, but it wasn't that good despite having Carol Burnett in it."

"Huh," he said.

"I had to run around stage in a slip for two hours."

"You did?"

"Yes! I almost didn't take the part. I mean, me! Can you imagine?"

"I can imagine it very clearly. It's a good thing I didn't know about it eleven years ago or I probably would've slugged the guys who got to see you like that."

She laughed softly. "It was fun, though."

"Well, if you ever get nostalgic and want to run around my house that way…"

"Very funny."

"She wasn't mad you got a part and she didn't?"

"No," she said. "I mean, I apologized, but she worked on the set and sort of found her calling in makeup and costumes anyway."

"She moved to LA five years ago?"

"Mm. Four. She moved here for a year to wait for another friend of ours, Tasha, to graduate. She was a year behind us. They both knew they were going to go out to LA."

"Do you still talk to Tasha?"

"Some. She was the actress. Last I talked to her she was working two waitressing jobs in between auditions," she said with a soft sigh.

"It's kind of funny they didn't even meet through the movie industry," John said.

"I know, right?" Claire said. "I'm glad you asked that tonight. I was kind of curious but I felt as if I couldn't really ask."

"You and Rene were talking away in French, leaving April and me very left out so I had to talk to her about something. It seemed a logical question to ask her."

"It was funny."

"Right? I wonder how many times people have had the guts to tell him to his face they didn't like a movie of his."

"I'm betting not many."

"She's lucky she wasn't fired," John said with a soft chuckle.

"Well, clearly he wasn't offended. He asked her out. What was he going to do though? Tell the owner of the restaurant she was working at that she'd insulted him?"

"See. Some of us guys like women who think for themselves."

"I'm not sure I'd live in LA and tell anyone I didn't like a movie, though. I'd be too afraid they were someone or knew someone who worked on it."

"You would, too, if you didn't like it. It sounded like she did. Like it I mean, but had some criticisms that he found to be sound ones."

"I'm sorry if you felt left out. I don't get to practice my French with a native speaker very often. It's exciting!"

"I was almost jealous for a few minutes there."


"Yeah. He's not your type."

She chuckled softly, kissing his jaw. "You're right. I seem to have only one type."


"Uh huh."

"That would be?"


"That is very good to know because if it was someone else…"

"I don't think there ever was a chance for anyone else."

"Would you have said yes if I'd asked you out at the reunion?"

"I don't know. I really don't. I would've been tempted. I was happy to see you, surprised to see you."


"I just… had it in my head that I didn't deserve it, you know? I certainly didn't think you'd come there to talk to me."

"I know what you're saying, I don't understand why you'd think that. It'd be one thing if you made the decision you did out of a normal sexual encounter. You didn't. I'm surprised you didn't get counseling or something."

"Rachel said that when I talked to her last month."


"She did. She said it wasn't too late."

"She's not wrong. I mean, I'm not saying you need it. I'm not you and I'm not in your head, but if you think it'd help you. I don't think there's such a thing as counseling too late for something like that."

"I don't know."

"Then maybe sitting back and watching as his club gets closed will be some sort of help to you."

"God, I can't believe that!"

"I can. I mean, who better to prey upon for a guy like him than under aged girls. You think they're going to say something to the cops about getting drinks from him? They'd get in trouble, too."

"They've obviously gotten caught."


"I wonder," she said, glancing away from him.

"You wonder?"

"Nothing," she said, turning away from him.

"Okay, you don't have to tell me whatever it is you're thinking, but don't lie to me and tell me it's nothing. I can see it's not."

"I just wonder how many others there've been. Did my not saying something…"

"Don't, Claire," he said, kissing her shoulder as he pressed himself against her. "Don't even do that to yourself. You can't control what he does. He's the bad guy, not you. By the time you would've gone to the police the drugs would've been out of your system probably. You showered and stuff you said so the evidence was gone. That was if he even used something they could trace. That was a decade ago. Who knows what he used?"

"I know. I just, God, what if my not saying something…"

"Claire, I don't know the statistics, but women get raped every day and don't say anything. They're scared, they think they did something wrong, they're married and think their husband will leave them if he finds out, or whatever reason drives them not to say a word. You were fucking nineteen years old. It's not on your shoulders to cure all the evils in the world. You were worrying about finishing your semester and surviving. Tack on an abortion. I'd say you had your hands full."

"I know, but I'm a lawyer."

"Well, here's a thought. You know where he lives. Have you thought of calling the police to find out? You work for a law firm that does specialize in criminal cases, maybe you could ask if they have cases like it or something? I'm not sure how you'd do that being from Chicago, knowing to call that police station."

"No, I haven't" she said.

"You could. Maybe it'd ease your mind. Maybe the underage drinking is just a coincidence. Maybe he graduated and decided he didn't like unconscious women anymore."

"Or make me feel guilty if there are hundreds of unsolved rapes."

"That could happen, too, I suppose, though I still can't see it as being your fault. You wouldn't have raped them, he did. And if he's still doing it ten years later you clearly wouldn't be the only one who's said nothing."

"I'm not sure that'd make me feel any better."

"Why are we talking about this tonight?"

"I don't know. I guess April being pregnant makes me think…"

"Ah, I can get that. I'm sorry."

She turned to face him then, sliding a hand along his jaw and kissing him there. "I'm glad I can talk to you about it."

"Me, too. I mean, I hate him, you know that, right? You don't think I feel some guilt? Had I been brave enough to ask you out…"

"Yeah, but you said…"

"I know, I know it doesn't mean it wouldn't have happened. I know you having a boyfriend in Chicago wouldn't have stopped him, but maybe I would have been there that weekend. You know? I've thought that."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't," he chuckled softly, leaning in to kiss her. "We're here for a reason. Your parents seem to be okay with me. They wouldn't have been ten years ago. I know that."

She laughed softly at that.

"I love you, you know," she whispered.

"I love you, too."

"I'm sorry I haven't said it before now."

"It's all right. You did in a roundabout way. I figured you would say the actual words when you were ready. My saying it wasn't exactly an earth shattering moment."

"It was to me. I've never been told that before."

"Me neither. Said it or heard it."

"Did you know the guy?"

"What guy?"

"With Rich?"

He chuckled softly. "Really? That piqued your interest?"

"No, just curious if it's someone you ever see? You know, and have to see them both, knowing."

"Oh, yeah," he shrugged. "When I go there. I don't get the impression they're like together or anything, but I don't know what Rich does with his free time. I'm not in a position to make him tell me who his significant other may be. It makes me no difference, though. Hopefully he knows that's not happening with me for sure now."

She laughed softly. "I can't even imagine what made him think it would happen with you. Anyone knowing you would have to know."

"I'm not sure either, but maybe he thought I was compensating for something. I have no idea. Maybe he was drunk enough to think he could make me be interested. I'm sure it happens. Even I can acknowledge he's a pretty handsome guy. If he remembers. He's never mentioned it so I can't ask him to know."

"You haven't either I assume?"

"Nope. He doesn't act any different, I don't think I do. I didn't treat it as being any different than if it'd been a woman I wasn't interested in hitting on me."

"That was pretty nice of you, some would've freaked out. Maybe not worked for him."

"If it happened more than once or something, maybe. It hasn't. He either remembers so therefore knows what my reaction was or was so drunk and horny and I was the nearest available person but has no recollection. If he remembers and knows I haven't made a big deal out of it, he knows we're fine. There are worse things in life to get bent out of shape over than someone hitting on me. Who knows?"

She tugged him on top of her.

"You know what you said about Simon?" She slid her hand along his shoulders, chest and lower. She loved touching him, the feel of him. The look on his face when she did it. She didn't think it'd ever get old for her. She'd been worried about him being on top of her, which was why she'd been on top their first time. Worried she'd panic, feel smothered, or some other irrational thing happening. It hadn't, and she was pretty sure that was his doing more than her mental preparation for having him on top of her.

"Simon?" He was genuinely confused, she could tell. They hadn't talked much about Simon tonight at dinner. It couldn't be helped, some conversation about him, with Rene and John sitting together. Certainly they hadn't talked about him at all since getting back to their room. "Uh, no?"

"You told me about the picture you drew me. The woman," she said, brushing her thigh between his legs. He liked that so she did it again.

"Yeah?" He was looking at her as if she might have gone a little crazy. Perhaps she had. She wasn't sure. She just knew she'd been out of sorts since April told her she was pregnant and didn't feel that way so much anymore because she'd been able to talk to him about what was bothering her. She'd never had that before. Ever.

"What she is to him?"


She used her hand to guide him into her. He would've gotten there eventually, but she wanted him there now for some reason. She gasped softly. She couldn't help it. She always had a hard time believing they were really doing this together. That it wasn't a dream, but the feel of his length inside of her always let her know it was real.

"I feel that about you."

"Hmm, which part exactly?"

"The good to my bad."

"There's nothing bad about you, Claire."

"No, but you make me feel better when I feel as though there is. Doubts. Fears. My past."

"That's good."

"You make me feel good."

"All of the time? Or just these times?"

"All of the time."

"How hard was that for you to admit, Princess?" He chuckled softly, lowering his mouth to hers so she didn't have to answer him, which relieved her to no end. It was incredibly hard for her to admit. He knew that, obviously.

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