***Chapter Nineteen***
Word Count: 4,301

April 1995

It had moronically been the longest three weeks of his life. He'd had some pretty shitty ones before, too, so for these last three to rank as the worst was saying something.

Forget not seeing or talking to her, both bad things in and of themselves he'd come to discover. The sleeping with her thing, though, was really what he found he missed. It wasn't even the regular sex. She'd never said no, but he knew there were some nights that she was just too exhausted so he'd held his libido in check. The sleeping with her part, though, he missed that. A lot. He was becoming very familiar with what Cinderella sang about in You Don't Know What You've Got (Until It's Gone) because he'd never imagined missing sleeping with someone until now.

Moronic because it was his own fucking fault he hadn't been able to see or sleep with her. He had no one to blame but him and his big fucking mouth. He couldn't have kept it shut. No. He had to say probably the most insulting thing he could have said to her. He'd assumed after a few days she'd be willing to talk to him, but she'd been stronger willed than he gave her credit for.

He was stuck. He had no idea what the fuck to do. She wasn't answering his calls. She wasn't returning his calls. She wasn't answering her door. He could, he supposed, camp out on her driveway until she had to leave in the morning, but something told him she'd just call in sick to work until he left. Or call the police on him.

She was making it very difficult for him to fucking apologize. Not that he could blame her exactly. He hadn't exactly been … The world's nicest guy the last night he saw her. He wanted to claim it wasn't his fault, but he knew he could've handled it better. But, fuck him, if it'd come out of nowhere.

He'd contemplated sending her flowers, but knew that wasn't going to fix anything. She'd probably refuse them anyway. This was his last resort. He was taking the chance that she wouldn't publicly, in front of everyone she worked with, tell him to fuck off. Again.

Not that he didn't deserve it. He did. He knew he did.

"Did you have a bad weekend at your grandparents' house or something?"

"No, why?" she asked, picking at her salad. She hadn't touched much of the dinner they'd made together.

"I don't know. You don't seem like you're in a very good mood today. I was just making sure they were all right and everything." They may not have cared for him overall, but he thought they were decent enough people the one time he'd met them.

He'd basically invited himself over. She'd agreed, but she hadn't been as thrilled about it as he'd expected considering they hadn't seen each other since Wednesday.

"I'm fine. Just tired," she said, but she didn't look at him so he wasn't sure she was being honest.

"You saw your doctor, right?"

"Yes, last week," she said.

He thought he remembered her saying she was going on Thursday during her lunch hour. He hadn't seen her, or even spoken with her since then really because she went away for the weekend. So he wasn't sure she'd actually kept the appointment. He hadn't even realized she still visited her grandparents, but he supposed that shouldn't be a shock. Most people probably did things like that. She just hadn't mentioned it to him before Thursday night or anything. She hadn't asked him about looking after Tux either. Then he supposed leaving on Friday and coming back Sunday she didn't need anyone to look after him. He still would've checked on him if she'd asked.

"Everything's fine, right? I mean, you would've told me if everything wasn't fine."

"Yeah," she said.

"Okay," he said. She didn't sound overly convincing with that answer.

"It's just…"

"So there is something wrong?"

"No, I mean, yes, but not," she shrugged, setting her fork down.

"What is it Claire?"

She sighed softly. "I was really hoping she'd call back by now and tell me she was wrong."

"Wrong? About? Fuck, Claire, you're scaring me. It can't be that bad. You had the flu!"

"I know."

They'd been out, quite literally, all night the night of the movie premiere and its after-party. John had been thoroughly surprised not only by how well he liked the movie but the party afterwards. He hadn't expected to. He hadn't expected people from the movie to be … likeable or give a shit who he even was. Being out until the sun came out had taken its toll on her, resulting in her staying in bed until she absolutely had to get up so they could get to the airport on time. Allen had made some snide comment until Rene (thankfully) had informed him Claire had been in the hospital last month. He wasn't so snide after hearing that. John had insisted after that she go to the doctor even if he had to physically take her. Being out all night should not have exhausted her to that degree.

"So what then?"

"It's nothing."

"No, don't tell me that. I can tell you're lying."

She picked up her fork again, but she wasn't eating the salad any better than she had been the past ten minutes or so.

"It turns out I'm pregnant," she whispered after a pretty lengthy silence. He couldn't force her to tell him anything. He realized that, but he'd hoped with as concerned as he'd clearly been about her she'd tell him what was going on.

"I'm sorry. You're what?"

"Pregnant."

"You can't be…"

"I know, I told her that! That's why I keep waiting for her to call back and tell me it's wrong. She looked at someone else's test results instead of mine."

"How?"

"I don't know."

"Claire, you told me you were on the pill. You promised me we were safe."

"I am!"

"Obviously you did something wrong."

"I did not! I take it every day. Even in the hospital I did. You brought my purse with me, that's where I keep them."

"Well then?"

"I don't know! She said something about the antibiotics I was on that weekend possibly weakening the effect."

"And they wouldn't tell you that? Warn you to double up on something just in case?"

"I didn't admit myself, John! Remember? I was unconscious so my being on the pill wasn't a known factor."

"So it's my fault?"

"I didn't say that!"

"It sure sounds that way. How the fuck would I have known someone who'd never had sex before would be on the pill?"

"You wouldn't," she admitted.

He hadn't believed her at first either. It hadn't even dawned on him that first time until afterward that they hadn't used anything. Totally out of character for him. He was usually over-militant about using them.

"Unless you lied to me."

"What?"

"Maybe you never were on the pill. You just told me that so I wouldn't use anything myself."

"No," she said. "I wouldn't do that."

"I'm sure every guy who's had that done to them gets told the same thing."

"I didn't lie to you!"

"All right. So, you've been pregnant, presumably since then. You were pregnant. How could you not know you didn't miss it?"

"I didn't think I did! It was super, super light. I told her that, too. I did, I swear. She said that was probably spotting when the egg was implanting itself. She said that happens sometimes and makes a lot of people think they're not pregnant."

"And you didn't know something was wrong?"

"No! I didn't even think about it."

"That was like eight weeks ago. Something tells me going back to my high school health class there should've been two of them in there somewhere."

"I've been tired, sick, stressed I thought it was something like that."

"It never occurred to you?"

"No."

"No?"

"No!"

"I don't know. It's awful convenient you getting pregnant right around the same time April is."

"I didn't know she was pregnant for weeks after I… After we first did that."

"So you say. I have no way of knowing that."

"What?"

"Come on. She's your best friend."

"Yeah."

"That's what best friends do, do everything together."

"John."

"I don't want kids, Claire."

"I didn't mean to!"

"Still doesn't make me want them."

"But you said you wanted, implied wanting a future with me. Was that all bullshit?"

"I can want to marry you and not want kids."

"You don't think I might want to know that?"

"When I got to the point of actually asking you to marry me, sure. I didn't think, with you saying you were on the pill, that it would be an issue."

"You knew I wanted one, that I said I thought that was the only chance I'd get to have one."

"Yeah, why do you think I haven't told you I don't want them?"

"Get out."

"What?"

"Get the fuck out of my house."

Jessica, the only person he even knew to talk to something like this about, told him he'd fucked up. As if he didn't know that. She'd asked him what he was prepared to do about it. He didn't know. He didn't think she would stop talking to him entirely. He absolutely didn't want kids. He'd been so, so very careful to ensure that he didn't fuck that up.

So, here he was not at all sure she wasn't going to tell the receptionist to tell him to get the fuck out and have a security guard escort him out.

He wouldn't blame her. Didn't she get that the idea of having a kid to him was absolutely the most terrifying thing there was? He supposed not, because he'd never told her so.

It was late enough when he got there that he rethought the going up to the offices aspect of things. He'd been hoping to catch her at the end of her day so that they could actually talk. While searching for a place to park, though, the idea occurred to him that if he waited near her car she wouldn't have a choice but to at least hear him out.

As long as it took her to get in her car and slam the door in his face, he supposed. It'd be better than the no chance he'd gotten to this point.

Rich had asked John more than once if everything was all right. He'd thought, incorrectly, John hadn't liked the movie. John had in actuality been very impressed with the movie. It turned out the actor playing Simon Forge had been a fan of the comics since before puberty so he had a pretty good handle on not just the character but the world. John hadn't told Rich what was going on, it wasn't his business. He sort of had an idea what Rich would tell him anyway.

The same thing Jessica had.

Jessica knew him well enough to know that even though he didn't want kids, wanting something more serious from Claire was new for him. He'd never wanted a serious relationship before either. So, her point had been maybe the kid thing wouldn't be as bad as he thought it was going to be either.

Totally different thing there. Marrying someone was not reliving his childhood. He'd come awful close to hitting a woman for the first, and only, time in his life when he'd found that doctor bill. If she hadn't been taking a shower, if she'd been standing there next to him he couldn't say for certain he wouldn't have. That was how mad he'd been. Not just at her for getting whatever STD she'd gotten, but at himself for being so stupid.

He remembered that moment, though, the anger inside of him he'd never experienced before or since then. It had scared the shit out of him enough to swear off kids. No way was he going to become his old man. Nuh uh. It was the reason he'd walked out of her apartment instead of waiting for her to confront her about it. He'd been scared shitless of what he'd do.

He got out of his car when he saw her walking towards hers. It was late enough in the day he'd been able to find a vacated spot near hers to keep an eye out. He knew when she saw him. She didn't look pleased. He couldn't blame her he supposed.

"What do you want?"

"To talk?"

"Have you not figured out I don't want to talk to you?"

"I have, yes, however, I do want to talk to you."

"You were pretty clear the last time we talked."

"Claire, come on, you can't hold that against me."

"I can and I will."

"That's totally not fair! You'd had days to adjust to the fact you were pregnant before telling me. You're going to hold my reaction to something I didn't think was possible against me?"

"You accused me of lying. You basically were saying that I was a lying, scheming bitch out to trick you. That I can't forgive."

"What about the baby?"

"What about it?"

"What are you going to do? Not let me see it?"

"I work for a law firm. Have you forgotten that?"

He hadn't forgotten that, no, but Jesus fucking Christ. Could she really do that? Do something legal-wise to prevent him from seeing it? Her? He didn't know. He didn't think so, though, because dad's had rights. He knew that much. Then her lawyer would be her dad and brother who would probably scour every old law on the books to find one that suited their needs.

"You don't want kids anyway, so why do you care about seeing it?"

"I don't! I wasn't ever planning on it."

"Well, then, don't worry about it. We'll be fine."

"That's your plan?"

"You were hoping I wouldn't have it? I've done that once. I still have nightmares. I'm not doing that again."

"No, of course not."

"I don't believe you. That would surely be nice and convenient for you."

"None of this is convenient, but I wouldn't want you to do that, no."

"Don't worry about it. Okay? I'll be fine."

"Claire, come on."

"No, John. You don't get to say those things and then think showing up here will make it all better."

"I know it won't make it all better. I realize what I said wasn't nice."

"That's an understatement."

"Again, though, you had days to process it. That's why you went to your grandparents' house, I bet. I wondered why you hadn't mentioned it to me beforehand. So you get four days to process and digest the news but I don't? That doesn't seem fair."

"My first thought wasn't that you'd done it on purpose. Or tricked me somehow into getting me pregnant all so I could be pregnant at the same time as my best friend."

"I know. I'm not saying I reacted well."

She scoffed at that.

"I have to go, John."

"Claire, come on, I drove down here."

"I'm sorry you wasted your time. I'll save you the effort for any other time. Don't bother."

"Fuck, Claire, I love you."

"Sure."

"You don't believe me?"

"No. I don't think you ever did."

"Oh, come on."

"Someone who loved me wouldn't have accused me of lying to them."

"Someone who's scared to death of turning into his own father might."

"You're not your dad."

"I didn't ever want to find out if I was."

"John…"

"No, that's half my kid. I get a say in this shit, too. I'm here, aren't I? You think I'd come down here if I didn't realize what I'd said, how I'd reacted wasn't the worst thing I could've done to you."

"You're right, it was."

"I know that. I'm trying to apologize."

"You still don't want a baby."

"But I'm going to have one! So, that sort of negates the not wanting one thing. Don't you think?"

"No."

"So you're going to raise it by yourself?"

"People do it all of the time."

"Not you! Not my kid."

"Just pretend you don't have one. Easy solution."

"I can't do that! I mean, come on, you thought I'd be happy?"

"Well, no, but I didn't think you'd accuse me of doing it intentionally. I thought you'd understand about the antibiotics thing."

"I don't understand because I don't get it, I guess. That happens? I mean, it must, but people are on the pill and take antibiotics."

"I think it was the potency of them. I'm not sure. I'm sure there might have been other, different options if they'd known I was taking it."

"That maybe should've been something I knew. Don't you think?"

"I didn't want you to think I was planning on having sex with you! Or use it as an excuse to try and get me to have sex with you."

"Well, I understood why you'd been on it when you explained it to me, so no I wouldn't have thought that."

"Really? How many women talk to you about their periods, John?"

"Well, none," he said. "I mean, I knew my mom had it and stuff. I'm not a complete fucking moron."

"It wasn't something I felt I needed to share with you. I wasn't on it for the purposes of sex so I didn't think it mattered."

"As it turns out, it mattered a lot, wouldn't you say?"

"I didn't know!"

"I never told you the day I found that doctor bill I got mad."

"You did, too."

"No, I mean, mad enough that if she'd been standing there I am pretty sure I would have hurt her."

"You wouldn't have seen the bill if she'd been standing there."

"Valid point, however, the anger was still there."

"You left, though," she said.

"Yes."

"So it hasn't occurred to you over the past six or seven years that you could've waited for her to get out of the shower? You could've gone into her bathroom? You could've done all sorts of things to confront her and let that anger out? You didn't. You left."

"Well," he said. He hadn't thought about it like that, sure. She was right. He hadn't. He'd left. "No, I guess I never thought of that."

"Trust me. My dad and Christopher defend men all the time who didn't turn around and leave the room like you did. So please don't talk to me about anger issues you may have."

"Those men probably didn't grow up the way I did, though."

"Maybe, maybe not."

"Claire, come on, can we talk about this?"

"Talk about what?"

"What we're going to do."

"I don't want to do anything. I told you, I'm fine. We'll be fine."

"I have the right to see it."

"Fine, after it's born I'll let you know."

"That's months from now."

"That's usually how long it takes, yes."

"You're not going to see me between now and then?"

"Why should I?"

"I want to?"

She sighed softly, shaking her head. "I have to go, John."

"Claire. You don't have to do this by yourself."

"You going to come to doctor appointments with me? Breathing classes?"

"If you wanted me to I could, sure. It's not like my schedule is cast in stone, you know that. I just want to see you."

"Why?"

"The past three weeks have been hell?"

"Maybe you should've thought about that…"

"And again, you had some time to adjust to the situation. I didn't get that! I thought we were being careful."

"I thought so, too."

"You had to have suspected?"

"Not really. A little, I guess. The spotting threw me, so I just assumed I was late. I don't know."

"Are you late often?"

"No," she admitted.

"So, you knew."

"No, I didn't know because the pill is supposed to prevent that from happening!"

"I'm not accusing you."

"I mean, I guess, some of the symptoms should have been obvious, but I haven't been feeling sick or anything."

"Well, that's good."

"I can't talk to you about this."

"Why not? Who else are you going to talk to about it to?"

"I don't know."

"Please tell me no one else knows yet?"

"Why?"

"I don't know. I can just imagine what you told them about me if they do."

"Sonia asked me why you haven't called or been there lately, but I haven't said anything, no."

"So, you had to know by my calling you and trying to talk to you that I realized I acted like an asshole."

"That doesn't mean I wanted to talk to you."

"I get that. I'm sorry. If I could do it again…"

"I'm sure."

"I'm not going to be that kind of dad."

"You don't want kids."

"Yeah, well, I'm still not going to walk away from one that is mine. You're right, ideally I'd have none."

"I still can't believe you didn't tell me that."

"Why?"

"You don't think I'd want to know?"

"Of course, and you would have broken up with me over it because I knew you wanted kids."

"And that means you're an asshole."

"No, it doesn't. It means I love you and wanted to be with you and I was hoping by the time we'd get to that point you'd have had time to hear me out on the subject."

"Never mind I wanted one?"

"Well, people go through life without kids."

"Not who want them! And can!"

He shrugged. He supposed she had a point.

"I don't know what you want me to say. I thought if you loved me we could work it out when the time came. I really did. I mean, it's not like I asked you to marry me and waited until we were married to say anything. I didn't think it was anything I had to worry about for a while yet anyway."

"I can't do this right now, John. I'm late."

"For what?"

"Dinner with some friends."

"Anyone I know?"

"Some of them."

"I could…"

"No, you can't. Not tonight. I'm leaving. When I'm ready to talk to you I'll let you know."

"Claire."

"I'm pregnant, John. There's no baby yet. There are no laws telling me I have to let you see me. I suppose the ultrasound could be an iffy thing since technically that's seeing the baby, but that's not for a while yet."

"So you're just not going to see me again for months?"

"I don't know yet."

"Did you miss me at all?"

"I have to go," she said, reaching for her car door then. He opened it for her. "I can do it!"

"I know you can. Fuck, I've opened your door for you before. Chill out."

"Don't come here again, John."

"I'm making no promises to that, Claire. I reacted badly, I won't deny that, but you of all people should understand why having a kid might possibly scare the shit out of me. I'm not just going to give you the chance to forget about me for the next seven or so months."

"Why?"

"Because I love you. Because that's my kid. I'm not going to give you the chance to find out you can do it all on your own to where you think you don't even need me. I've made it perfectly clear I want a future with you. This is a little backward way of doing it and a little faster than I'd had in mind. I was thinking a year or two maybe, you know. I know Allen's not the only one who thinks I'm an opportunist, latching onto you and your salary."

"I'm not marrying you."

"I didn't ask you to! Fuck. I wouldn't do that right now anyway. Give me some credit. I know a baby is not a reason to get married. Trust me. I know that first hand."

"I suppose you do."

"Thank you! Drive safe. You're not drinking are you?"

"No," she said with a shake of her head.

"You had to have a clue," he said.

"Why?" she asked with a frown.

"You didn't drink much at all the past couple of months."

"Because it made me sick! Every time I tried to drink something I got sick so I didn't try after a while. I just assumed it was residuals of being sick. It's not like I drank every day or anything to begin with so it wasn't a big deal for me not to do it."

"I know," he said. "I'm glad, though, you couldn't drink for whatever reason."

"I am, too," she admitted.

"Be careful then, all right?"

"Yeah," she said.

"And Claire?"

"What?" she asked and he could tell she was ready to leave.

"I really am sorry about what I said."

"I believe you want to be, but I'm not sure I believe you really are."

"Yeah," he said. He couldn't make her believe him. He let her go then, closing her door for her and letting her pull out of her spot.

He saw her brother walking to his car when John was leaving the garage, but he didn't see John which was probably fine for now.

She'd talked to him at least. That was better than the nothing he'd gotten out of her for weeks. Fuck. She really would do it by herself, too. He knew that. He also knew that she wouldn't lack for guys wanting to pick up where John left off. That part bothered him immensely. It'd been on the tip of his tongue to tell her the reason he wasn't going to just go away was that so she couldn't meet someone else. He realized that would be insulting so he'd, wisely, refrained from putting his foot in his mouth again with her on this subject.

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