Chapter Twelve
Word Count: 3,286

November 2002

"Where are you going, John?" Billy asked when he dropped his group off at the airport so they could fly to their respective homes.


"Oh," he said with a frown.

Oddly, Sean hadn't blabbed to anyone that Melissa was his daughter. John wasn't sure if that was because he didn't believe it was true or if he was scared John would beat the shit out of him if he did anything else wrong for the next little while. Regardless of the reason, no one else seemed to know who Melissa was to him. He was, for the most part, all right with that. He wouldn't have cared if they did find out, which was a new frame of mind for him. He'd spent a long while after they'd had their first hit record wondering who was going to dig up that morsel of dirt on him. No one had and he'd been glad about that. That wasn't so much the case anymore. He wasn't rushing out to tell everyone or anything, but if people asked he wasn't going to deny it any longer. (Not that anyone would ask at this point, honestly, since until now he had no family to speak of. He never acknowledged his parents. Ever. He didn't pull a Jim Morrison and claim they were dead or anything, but it was John Bender alone against the world in interviews over the years.)

He was keeping the one car through the end of the day. He'd drive to Shermer and Claire had insisted she could give him a ride to O'Hare when he flew back to New York in a few days' time. There were other people he could have hit up for rides, but he didn't bother looking any further when she'd made the offer.

"Well, have a good time, I guess," Billy said.

"Thanks, I plan on it. You don't have to look so confused. I'll be back in New York soon enough."

"Oh, I know, I just didn't think you actually liked going there."

John shrugged. "It is what it is."

He waited until everyone had their bags and everything before pulling away from the outbound unloading area. Even airports like this small town ones were different these days. Sean was not thrilled that he wasn't included in this leg of John's trip. No way in hell was he doing that.

He made pretty good time. It wasn't the most scenic drive, but at least it wasn't snowing. He pulled up at her house, pulling onto the driveway. He wasn't exactly sure what she had in mind as far as where he'd be staying while he was in town. The implication was that he'd be able to stay there, with them, but he'd made arrangements with a friend from another band who was leaving for tour in a couple of days. John would have unlimited access to his place if need be.

He had no idea why she went from not thinking seeing him after they were done in the Quad Cities changed to him being able to stay here. A change of heart? Melissa convinced her? Something else? Inability to say no even if she'd wanted to?

"You're early," she said when she opened her door.

"Uh, I am?"

"I guess I thought it would take you longer to get here."

"Oh, no," he said with a shrug. He lowered his hand to her dog, letting him sniff. He couldn't remember his name. He remembered it was male and the old dog's name was Princess. "What's his name?"


"Ah," he said. "Hey, Scotty, nice to meet you."

"He was really supposed to be Stu's dog. Princess died about a year and a half ago, and I was just fine not getting another one."


"Oh, Melissa was going to be graduating and I didn't want the responsibility and demands of something that would force us to be home."

"I suppose," he said with a nod. It was certainly the main reason he didn't have pets or anything. No time.

"He was good company while Melissa stayed at Mom and Dad's though."

He patted the top of the Airedale's head before dropping his hand back to his side.

"I was actually just getting your room ready for you."

"Listen," he said. "I'm not sure how or why I've been invited to stay here."

"Because you have been. You need a reason?"

"Well, no, I just. That's not what I was expecting."

"You want to spend time with Melissa, right?"

"Yes," he said.

"What good would you being in town staying somewhere else be for that?"

"Well, none, I guess. I just wasn't expecting. I mean, that's not what I was asking."

"Noted. You didn't ask. I offered. Would you like to see your room now?"

"See it? Like you think I'm going to wager a complaint or something?"

She shook her head. "Well, I don't know what you had planned for today."

"This," he said. "I have nothing else to be here for."

"Melissa will like that. I'm sure she'll want to show you where she records."

"Here? She does that here?"

"She does," she said.

"Nice Mom."

"Paranoid Mom who doesn't want her having to go anywhere else with creepy people."

John chuckled. "Valid concern I imagine."

"Are you hungry or anything?" she asked once they got to his room. His room was on the other side of the house than the stairs leading to what he presumed were their bedrooms. It was a pretty nice setup.

"Nah," he said, glancing at his watch.

"I thought you didn't have anything else to do."

"I don't," he said.

"Then why do you care what time it is?"

He chuckled, stepping closer to her. "Because I'm going to kiss you and I wondered how long I had to do that until she gets home from school."

"Oh," she said.

She didn't say no so he did just as he'd said he was going to and kissed her, sliding his arms around her as he did exactly that. He groaned softly, timed almost exactly with a soft sigh on her part as she slid her arms around his neck.

He'd never been kissed like she kissed him before that day at school, or after that day if he wanted to be honest with himself. He'd sort of forgotten what kissing her felt like and did to him. He'd chalked it up to being his fault, but he realized maybe actually having feelings for the person he was kissing was the key. Her lips parted a beat behind his, allowing him entry into her mouth as he slid his hand up along her hip and side.

A soft groan as his fingertips met the underside of her breast. Hers or his he wasn't sure.

"John," she murmured.

"Relax," he whispered.


"We have lots of time." He may not have been in school for close to twenty years, but he remembered very well what time he got out every day.


He slid his hand a bit so it was his thumb sliding along the underside of her breast, and up a bit to a peak.

"Not fair," she whispered and he chuckled softly.

"Is, too," he murmured, returning to kissing her.

He moved his hand only long enough to use it to reach under her shirt, returning to its place against her breast. She hissed softly at that, but pressed herself into his hand so he took that to mean she was okay with this. He pushed the cup away so he could touch her without it in the way.

"God, I'd forgotten what real breasts were like," he murmured. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been in a position to touch real ones.

She sighed and pulled away a bit at that.

"Relax. It's a compliment."

"I'm sure to someone it is," she said.

"I didn't say it to someone. I said it to you."

She pushed on his chest and he stepped back.

"I can't do this."


"Do what? We were kissing. Last I checked it wasn't illegal."

"It should be illegal for me to do that with you."

He smirked a bit at that.

"I can't do it, knowing the life you live in is so different."

"I'm sorry. How did we get there from here?"

"Men I know don't think about real breasts being an anomaly."

"Well, maybe not, but…"

"I just can't. I shouldn't have kissed you back."

"You did, though!"

"I know," she said. "It's just you do that so well."

"Well, let me do it well a little longer. Trust me I've been thinking about doing little else since I saw you in Kankakee and what we just did here wasn't nearly long enough."

She drew completely away then and walked to his door.

"What?" he asked with a frown. What had he said wrong? It'd been a compliment. He thought it was anyway. Didn't women want to hear they were thought about? He hadn't said he'd thought about having sex with her again. Not to say that thought hadn't crossed his mind, but he didn't care so much about that happening as he had what they'd just done. That was unusual for him. He wasn't interested in kissing most of the time.

"You can bring your things in here. If you have laundry or anything I can show you where the washer and dryer are. Missy and I can take you to return the rental if you still wanted to do that today."

"Okay," he said, knowing he sounded as confused as he felt. That was it? She wasn't even going to tell him why she was just leaving? Why? What the fuck just happened?

He got his things from the rental car, pausing at the kitchen on his way back in to watch her. She didn't look at him, busy doing something. Or pretending to be busy doing something. Missy got home about the time he'd found the washer and dryer. They weren't hard to find from the kitchen.

She wasn't alone either. There were three other girls with her, which he had no idea what to do with. Had she brought them home with her to avoid talking to him? She'd introduced him to them as John. He saw a flicker of recognition by one of the girls, but she didn't say anything. And then they were gone, down to the basement she'd said to work on a project that was due on Monday.

"Is she mad at me, too?" he asked her. He was watching her do something in the kitchen. He'd offer to help, but all these years later he still couldn't do much more than boil noodles.

"I wouldn't know."

"So, her bringing them here wasn't to avoid having to talk to or see me?"

"No, I don't think she knew you were coming here."

"I'm sorry. What?"

Claire turned then, wiping her hands off on a towel.

"I wasn't going to tell her you were going to be here and then have you change your mind for whatever reason and not show up."

"So you just didn't tell her."

"Yes," she said simply.

He nodded a bit, letting that sink in. He could get good and pissed at her, except he couldn't really blame her he supposed. He had absolutely no track record for her to base decisions like that on, except for the fact he hadn't looked her up after that day at school.

"Fair enough. Is that why you wouldn't…"

"No," she said simply and walked away again. "I didn't realize she was bringing friends home with her, so I can take you to return the rental if you want."

"Sure," he said. "There's one nearby?"

"Yes," she said.

"Great. I'm ready whenever you are."

He got into her car once he'd returned his rental and gotten things all squared away. He reached over then, turning the keys in the ignition to shut the car off and taking them out.


"Now that I have your attention. I'd really like to talk about what happened in my room earlier."

"Nothing happened. Or at least not as much as you were expecting to happen."

"I wasn't expecting anything to happen! I wanted to kiss you because I'd really enjoyed doing it last month. Is that a crime?"

"I can't believe I fell for your lines!"

"What lines, Claire?"

"That. What you just said wanting to kiss me."

"I did! It wasn't a line! What the fuck makes you think it was a line."

"You and your trail of women without real breasts."

"Jesus. It was a comment, intended to be a compliment about the fact yours are very real and very nice."

"Right. Well, I offered you to stay at the house. There was no payment due with that offer."

"Payment? You think I kissed you out of…" Fuck. He reached for the handle to open his door.

"Hey, you have my keys! You can't just leave," she said just as he shut the door. He walked around the car to her side, opening the door.

"Get out."

"I will not."

"Just get the fuck out of the car, Claire."

"Why would I do that?"

"Because I asked you to and since it's that or drag you out and I'd rather not have the police called on me in this town anytime soon I'm hoping you'll get out as I'm asking you to do."

He stood there, waiting. She took her sweet time about it but eventually she slid out of her seat. He settled his hands against her cheeks and kissed her. He didn't wait for her to respond before deepening it. He wasn't sure there was a way to kiss that absolutely crazy idea out of her head, but he was sure giving it a try.

"I don't know what the fuck you think, Claire, or how good of an actor you think I am. You think that's fake? That it's out of some obligation? You think I'm kissing you out of anything but a real need to do that with you?"

She nibbled on her lower lip a bit and he groaned softly, reaching down to kiss the spot.

"Now you're teasing me," he whispered.

"No," she said.

He chuckled a bit.

"I just. God, John. I can't compete…"

"Who the fuck is asking you to compete against anyone?"

"Your world is just too different than mine."

"It can't be that different."

"What do you mean?" she asked, glancing at him then. Finally, she looked at him and for the first time her eyes showed maybe she liked him. He was betting she wasn't sure she could or wanted to trust him.

"You designed clothes. You had to have worked with models and all sorts of people over the years."


"So, don't lay that shit on me."

"I don't compare my models' breasts."

He snorted softly at that. "I wasn't comparing. It was an observation. And if I was comparing. You'd win."

She scoffed then. "Right."

"No one else has ever distracted me enough not to wear a condom."

"Shut up," she whispered, blushing and he chuckled.

"Ever," he said simply. He kissed her again because somehow he didn't want her focusing on that too much. That could lead to questions he didn't want to answer. Not that he was ashamed of who he was or what he'd done. He wasn't.

"Melissa," she whispered.

"Is not going to miss us for an extra few minutes."

She sighed softly then and kissed him back. He groaned a bit as she parted her lips first, inviting him in. He took the invitation, lowering a hand from her cheek to her waist and drawing them closer together.


"I don't care," he murmured.

"I live here!"

He groaned a bit, but drew away.

"Sorry," he said softly, kissing her jaw.

"I don't think there's anyone with a camera sitting here on the off chance you return your rental car here or anything, but I still shop here. Our daughter goes to school here."

"I know."

"Can we go home now?"

"Are you done being mad at me?"

"I wasn't mad at you, John. I just don't understand."

"Me neither. I didn't realize I had to understand kissing, though. Certainly not where you're concerned at any rate. And before you go and get mad at me again for saying something inappropriate, I just meant whatever it was I liked about you that day is still there. I wanted to kiss you that day, I want to today. I didn't think that was a bad thing. I don't understand it either."

"My husband only died months ago."

"That didn't stop you from going on a blind date," he said.

"How could you possibly know that?"

"Your daughter told me about it when we talked on the phone before my trip to Canada."

"Oh," she said.

"You seeing that guy? Is that what has you upset?"

"I've gone out with him," she admitted.

"So you can go out with someone months after he died, but can't kiss someone? Forget someone. Me."

"I haven't kissed him like that!"

"That's immensely good to hear."

She narrowed her eyes a bit, regarding him. She hadn't drawn away from him yet and he wasn't of the mind to let her go until she did. "Why?"

"Well, it sounded like that night I talked to Melissa was your first date."

"It was."

"If you were already to the point of kissing him like that that would mean I couldn't look forward to more of that."

"And you want to?"

He leaned in again to kiss her. "Yes," he whispered before slanting his lips over hers again.

She didn't believe him. He could see it in her eyes. There was nothing he could do to make her believe it. He supposed he could sort of understand where her doubt was coming from, but he had absolutely nothing to gain by coming here and making out with her.

"We need to get back or she's going to wonder what happened to us."

"We happened to us," he whispered, kissing her jaw. "Is she going out tonight?"

"I'm sure she is, there's a football game. Why?"

"Of course," he said. "Just wondering."

"I don't believe you."

He reached, touching her lower lip with his thumb. She kissed it, eyes fluttering closed as she ran her tongue over the tip of it.

"I was thinking it might be fun to do that with my night."


"Yes. It's been a very long time since I've sat at someone's house and made out with them."

"Me, too," she said.

He arched a brow at that, but didn't ask because he absolutely didn't want to know the answer. He didn't want to picture her sitting at home making out with her husband or anyone else. There was no justifiable reason for him not wanting to hear it, he just didn't.

"I look forward to it then."

"She'll be coming back home."

"We better be sure to make good use of the time we get then."

"I thought you wanted to see her…"

"I do. I told you it was a collective you. She has her friends there and is going to the football game. I hope she'll show me her recording area tomorrow and everything."

"Okay," she whispered.

He slid her keys into her hand. "Sorry I stole your keys."

She laughed softly, clutching them. "I'm not."


"No," she said. He opened her door for her then before going over to his side to get in.

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