***Chapter Twelve***
Word Count: 4,689

It'd been a long time since he was out until four o'clock in the morning. The last time he was he was fairly sure it wasn't at a bar, but just out with people at a party or something. Maybe he'd been to a concert, he wasn't sure. He didn't get to indulge in things like late nights out often. The only night he usually always had off was Sunday and very rarely was there anything good going on those nights. (There was the occasional Sunday wedding, but Ronda was very good about only scheduling him those if he had nothing on Monday to follow it.) It was a good thing he didn't have to be up at the ass crack of dawn tomorrow. Today. Whatever it was.

"You sure you want to do that?" she asked him as he offered her his hand when they were about to leave.

"No," he said, answering truthfully. "If I don't, though, you'll use it against me later."

"I wouldn't do that."

"You would, too. Maybe not tomorrow, but some day you'd remind me about how I wouldn't even hold your hand in public."

"You might be right," she said.

"I know I'm right, Princess. Now, if you don't want to take it, that's fine."

"I do," she said, sliding her hand into his.

He drew her to him then and kissed her. He'd been hesitant to do that earlier in the night, but at one point she'd settled herself on his lap and kissed him. He hadn't been hesitant from that point forward. Kissing her was no hardship even in public.

"Thank you for inviting me."

"I'm not sure why you're thanking me, you didn't have that good of a time."

"I had a good enough time. I don't know your friends well enough to just talk with them. I'm sure they're wondering what street corner you found me on. And I don't dance."

"I noticed."

"Hey, you're welcome to it with your friends."

"Just my friends?"

"When I'm along, yeah."


"That answer surprises you?"

"A little."

"Why?" he asked cautiously.

"I don't know."

"I guess I'm just not a sharer."

"Dancing is sharing?"

"To the other guys here who don't know you're here with me? Yeah."

It had surprised him how bothered he'd gotten by that. She only did it once, but it was one too many times as far as John was concerned. Of course, he had only himself to blame but he just wasn't a dancer and he wasn't going to make an ass of himself like that even for her.

"And when you're not along?"

"Well, I guess that's up to you. I certainly can't stop you."

"It would still bother you though?"

"Well, yeah, probably more," he said, thinking on that. He'd probably hate it. "On the plus side you're not inebriated."

"You noticed that?"

"I did, and while it may have been a little fun later to toy with you in that state I'm glad you're leaving here more sober than not."

"Me, too," she said.

They left with a group. Thankfully, it seemed as if since they were not somewhere new there weren't many out there waiting for her group to come out. She'd mentioned it worked like that sometimes. And evidently the first weekend in July right after the Fourth of July holiday was not a good time to open a new club. Who knew? He never had a reason to pay attention to such things.

"You might want to go out that way," she said once they were in his car and leaving the garage. "And wait to put the top down until we've gotten out of the neighborhood."

"Why?" he asked.

"It's less direct, but chances are they won't get a glimpse of your car going this way. They won't look for me in it, you'll stay anonymous for a little while longer."

"There weren't many out there."

"No, there weren't, but someone will see I was holding your hand and it'll spiral from there."

"I've seen you holding people's hands. Why is it such a big deal? It's not like it means you're doing anything with the guy."

"Well, sure, that's true. Obviously I haven't done anything with any of the guys I've held hands with. For some reason my love life is a selling point."

He knew the neighborhood they were in, so he didn't need her to tell him how to get out of here going another way. He did follow her advice, though, stopping once they were a few blocks away to put the top down. He was glad she liked riding with it down. He'd been a little concerned she wouldn't or she'd enjoy it until they got here and then get mad her hair was mussed up or something. She hadn't.

"Nothing?" He thought on what she'd said when they were about to leave the garage. Surely he'd misheard or she'd misspoken.

"What?" she asked.

"You said obviously you hadn't done anything with any of the guys you've held hands with."

"You were in your house last weekend, right?"

"I was, yes. There are things you could have done that didn't involve actual penetration."

"Oh, no," she frowned.


"No! You don't believe me?"

"I am just surprised. You were quite good with your mouth."

"Is there a bad way to do that?"

He chuckled at that. "Well, no, I guess putting it like that, but trust me there are women who don't like to do that and it's evident when they do it that they'd rather be doing anything else."

"I probably wouldn't like doing it to just anybody."

"I'm very glad I'm not just anybody then," he said, running a finger along her neck since he was stopped. She shifted a little so he could slide his finger a little lower inside her shirt a bit.

"Did you mean what you said earlier?"


"At my house."

"What did I say that has you curious, Princess?"

"You said you didn't want a girlfriend."

"Yeah," he said cautiously. He was surprised she hadn't mentioned it before now truthfully. He'd thought maybe she hadn't heard him.

"Is that what you want now?"

"I'm here with you, aren't I? I gave you flowers. I went to a club with you that believe me I have no desire to do ordinarily. I'm going to take you home with me again tonight."

"You are?"

"I thought I was? Aren't I?" He'd assumed, apparently incorrectly she was coming home with him again.

"You are," she said, laughing softly.

"I don't do that usually."



"Those two…"

"Were an exception and I've already told you it's not like they were there every weekend or anything."

"Have you since that day?"

"With them? Uh, well," he frowned. "I can't lie to you, Princess, so yes, but not since last weekend or anything. And unless you're way more curious about other women than that kiss you told me about I imagine they won't be again."

"Hmm, more curious? You'd do that?"

"What? Watch you with another woman?" He shrugged a bit. "It would depend on the woman and how much participation I got. I wouldn't want to just watch, no."

"You just watch them?"

"For the most part. I told you, they're together."

"So what will they do if they call and you say no?"

"Find someone else? It's not like there's a shortage of men who'd willingly participate in that."

"Why you then?"

"Because emotionally I was able to give them exactly what they wanted. My dick without expectation of more or the assumption it meant something it didn't. I knew they weren't going to suddenly develop an everyday need for sex with me."

"I don't get that."

"What?" he asked.

"Not having the everyday need for sex with you."

He chuckled at that. "That would be why you're not a lesbian and they are, Claire."

"I guess so."

"I didn't realize you have the everyday need for sex with me."

"Well, I didn't see you every day for you to know that."

"You do realize you'd be welcome at my house anytime, right?"

"I wasn't going to just show up there this week."

"Why not?"

"Because! I wasn't going to be that woman who read more into what happened than what it was. Sex. I certainly didn't want to show up and find someone else there!"

"I wouldn't have done that."

"You say that, and I wanted to think that, but I'm sure I wouldn't have been the only one to think so."

"I haven't asked you if you actually want to be my girlfriend."


"Before you answer that, or voice an opinion on the subject there is something I should tell you."

He pulled off the expressway then ahead of the exit leading to his house, one that'd be closer to her parents' house and stopped in a gas station parking lot.

"What are we doing?"

"Well, you may not want to come home with me anymore."

"What?" She laughed then. "It's worse than my knowing you've been with two women?"

"A little more personal, yeah."


"Well, the situation with you and your brother. Your reasons for doing things."


He tilted his head back against his headrest, glancing up at the sky. It wasn't nearly as difficult telling Ronda as it was telling her. Ronda wasn't going to potentially expect kids from him, though.

"Forget it," he said, putting his hand on the gear shift so he could put the car back in gear.


"Just forget it. I'm an idiot for thinking I should be telling you this now."


"Because I'm asking you to be my girlfriend, nothing else quite yet."

"But you think you might want to?"

"Things other than my girlfriend? Sure, I thought about it four years ago."

She scoffed at that.

"I didn't lose any sleep over it, I won't deny that, but I thought about it just the same. It certainly would have solved my problems."

"I guess," she said.

"Anyway. It's not that important."

"I don't believe you. You think it's something I may not want to go home with you over so it must be somewhat important."

"It's just kind of personal, you know? You decide you don't want to be my girlfriend or we break up and you go around telling people…"

"Geez. You think I'd do that? Have I ever done that to anyone I've dated?"

"I don't know!"

"Do you read about me revealing gossipy secrets about them in the papers?"

"Well, no," he admitted.

"I don't want people saying things about me either."

"I guess," he said.

He sighed softly.

"John. I'm not going to tell anyone else."

"I believe you. I just, fuck, it's a really difficult thing to say to the woman I am pretty sure I'm in love with."

She slid her hand over his on the gear shift, squeezing a bit.

"John, talk to me."

"I swear to God, you demand I take you home after this I'm going to drink myself into a stupor for days."

"I'm not! Come on, it can't be that bad."

"I may not be able to have kids," he said softly. Like a Band-Aid, he just said it, figuring it was better to just say it instead of thinking on it too hard anymore.

"I'm sorry. What?"

"You heard me."

"Why on earth would you think that?"

"Uh, well, you know just something a doctor told me once after I'd been admitted to the hospital thanks to my dad."

"And he thought you may not be able to have kids?"

"Yeah, well, I guess repeated trauma to parts that are required to produce the stuff that makes the kids can be detrimental to them producing the stuff."

"Your dad did that?"

"I'd really rather not talk about that part of it."

"Shit, John, you just told me that your dad what? Sterilized you and you don't think I'm going to ask about it?"

"Not if I don't want to talk about it, no."

"Fine," she said. He glanced at her, seeing tears in her eyes. "So, what does that mean?"

"It means I may not be able to have kids. I've never tried so I don't know. There are tests I guess to find out if I have the little guys active or whatever, but even if I do there may not be enough or something. I don't know. I've never cared."

"You care now?"

"Well, having a kid is going to be important to you it would seem since your brother can't. If I can't give that to you whether or not I want you to be my girlfriend seems sort of pointless."

"You think I wouldn't see you because of that?"

"I think you'd be served better by someone who knows they can give you that."

"I don't want to be served better by anyone else."

"Princess. Be reasonable."

"I am! So we adopt or Christopher adopts. Maybe he could use that excuse as a reason he can't have kids normally."

"And you'd be okay with that?"

"I don't care!"

"You say that, and I want to believe you, but you have generations of Northwestern alumni and whatever else that could end."

"I have cousins."

"Not the same for your dad and you know that."

"There's artificial insemination."

"Which would be great if we knew I had any."

"Even if it's not yours. If I got pregnant who on earth would question whether you were the father?"

"That could possibly make me feel worse, Princess. I don't know."

"I guess I could see that. I'm just thinking out loud really."

"I know. You're fine."

"He really hurt you that badly?"

"He did," he whispered.

"John. My father would want me happy. Ultimately."

"Yes, that's why your life has already been mapped out for you."

"My school and my job, but not who I marry or anything. I think that's why he hasn't actually asked Christopher. If he knew for sure he'd feel he had to do something more permanent."

"Because he's gay?"

"Yes," she said. "My dad isn't a bad guy, but he's a very conservative guy and that's just not something he'd tolerate."

"If your dad ever found out."

"How would he find out? I wouldn't tell him, and I don't see you walking around telling people."

"Well, no, but I don't know that I'd be able to do that, really. Talk about emasculating, another man giving you a kid I can't give you. I guess I'm a pretty typical guy when it gets down to it."

"Through no fault of your own!"

He sighed.

"Do you still want to go home with me?"

"I should be mad at you for thinking I'd leave you because of that."

"I know how it works for people like you and your family. Carrying on the family name is of the utmost importance. I have no desire to make a Third."

"I forget sometimes you're named after your dad."

"I try to forget every day," he said with a forced laugh.

"Take me home, John. It's not something we need to worry about tonight anyway."

"But it's a possibility. A very distinct one. I doubt the doctor told me that offhandedly."

"On the other hand, you use condoms."

"Well, of course I do."

"Why? If you think that's true."

"Because there's things out there besides knocking someone up. I don't want any of those things."

"You've always used one?"

"Yes, even my first time."

"How old were you?"

"God, we are so not going there tonight."

"We'll worry about it if the time comes. The doctor probably told you that because he had to tell you the possibility existed. I mean, it would take a lot I think to cause that."

"You don't think I know that? You don't think I know how much repeated damage I had done to me over the years? Jesus, Princess, I'm not a complete moron. Maybe I can, I don't know, but the possibility exists and I couldn't feel good about myself asking you to be my girlfriend knowing you didn't know about it."

"Are you still asking?"

"That is how this conversation got started, so yes."

She leaned over and kissed him. A very nice kiss he had to admit. She evidently didn't care that the gas station had customers as she parted her lips and found his tongue with hers.

"Take me home, John."

"Is that your answer?"

"It is. I wanted to be your girlfriend four years ago."

"I couldn't have handled you, Princess. I'm not sure I can now!"

"Why not?"

"I don't know. Nerves. Feelings of ultimately not being what you need."

"I've been looking for four years, no one else has come close to having what I need."

"You just can't find anyone else who will argue with you."


"Or leave you at a restaurant because you're acting like a spoiled brat."

"I was not!"

"You weren't being nice."

"That I'll admit. Why are you asking me then?"

"To be my girlfriend?"

"Yes. If you're nervous or feel that way."

"Because I wasn't ready for you the first time you walked into my life. I'm not going to let you leave my life a second time. I'm certainly more ready now than I was then."

"One thing."


"If I can't dance with other guys."

"I didn't say you can't. Don't go putting words into my mouth or make me out to be some controlling asshole."

"You wouldn't like it, though."

"Well, no, but I believe you're not going to do anything but dancing so I'd deal with it." He glanced at her then, running a fingertip along her thigh. He wondered what her mom thought of her dress tonight, if she'd ever actually met anyone she went out with before to put a face with the name of who she was dressing pretty scantily for. "What was your one thing?"

"Well, I wouldn't like you being with other women."

"I wouldn't do that. I know the rules even if I've never had to follow them. I admit I'm clueless or fuzzy on some things, but monogamy isn't one of them. And believe me, Ronda would be quick to tell me I'm doing something wrong if she thought I was."

"And you're okay with that?"

"If I thought it'd be a problem I wouldn't have brought you flowers and I certainly wouldn't be here right now."

She grew quiet then, shifting a bit in the seat so he could touch her leg a little easier.

"So, we know no one followed us."

"Yeah," he said. She set her hand over his then, sliding it up a little further along her thigh.

"So, we could be on your porch for a while?"

"Sweets, if I didn't have to be awake in a few hours I'd sit on my porch with you for as long as you wanted tonight."

"I forgot."

"Yeah, sorry. We can sit out there for a while, I suppose."

"I was kind of hoping…"

"I think the porch at your house would be better for that next time your parents are gone."


"Theirs is at the back of the house, neighbors aren't going to walk by. I'd really rather not get arrested or be that neighbor that no one's kid can go trick or treating at my house because I had sex on my porch for anyone to walk by and see."

She laughed softly at that.

"I suppose."

"It's tough being a respectable homeowner."

"I can imagine."

"I'll make a deal with you, though. Not tonight."


"One night during the week maybe when most people are sleeping like normal people we'll figure out where we can and can't be seen out there."

"I'd like that."

"I'd like it, too, believe me."

"That means I'm going to be there sometime during the week."

"That means you're going to be there whenever you want to be. I gave you a key."

"For last Saturday night."

"Did I take it back?"

"Well, no," she said, sounding as if she hadn't thought about that.

"Use it whenever you want."

"You wouldn't care if I came here late during the week?"

"No, just understand one of us has to be up in the morning."

"I think quick with you might be kind of fun."

"I'm not sure I want the word quick ever used in conjunction with our sex life, Princess."

"If I came there knowing that, though."

"I imagine you could convince me, yes."

"I know it'd be fun to convince you of that."

"For both of us I'm sure. When do you start working anyway?"

She shrugged. "I don't know."

"You haven't asked?"

"I figure my dad will let me know."

"Has he commented on that picture this week?"

"Mom did. I haven't seen him much."

"What did she say?"

"She liked it. She didn't say much. She's Mom. She was surprised to see it, though."

"Well, that's good. We want people surprised."


"You know, you don't have to come here late during the week."


He turned onto his driveway, getting out and opening his garage door before pulling into it. He left the top down since he was parking it inside and opened the door for her.

"Well, it only seems fair if I have to change some of my habits maybe you could, too."


"You don't have to go downtown every night."

"But what would I do?"

"Oh, I could think of some things. Dates with this guy who just asked you to be his girlfriend. Or forget dates," he said, sliding a hand along her hip. He settled it against the small of her back, down to cup her ass and draw her against him. "What about eating in, crawling into bed hours before absolutely necessary and doing the opposite of quick."

"My going out is not the same as you needing a drawer full of condoms by your bed."

He scowled a little at that.

"Is that why you didn't want to get one?"

"You think I wanted to see proof that you've had more sex then I'll probably ever have?"

"I think you overestimate my experience just a bit much if you think at the age of twenty-two I've had more sex than you'll have over the next sixty or seventy years." He lowered his mouth to hers, kissing her. "If I have anything to say about it I'll be the one you're doing it with."

"For the next sixty years?"

"At least," he said.

"That's a lot of condoms."

He chuckled softly. "You can count them if you want to. Anytime. Just be sure you're keeping an accurate count of how many we use because I swear to God if you accuse me of one being missing that shouldn't be I'll shoot myself."

"I don't have to count them."

"Does that mean you'd get one when you're in the mood and I'm sleeping?"


"You could put one on me."


"Well, I sort of meant in general, but certainly there's no time like the present."

"I'm not sure how, I only saw you twice."

"I'll show you."


He chuckled, kissing her neck. He slid his hand at her ass down a bit to her thigh, tugging the hem of her skirt up. It was a very short skirt as it was so he didn't need to tug too much. "My car isn't big enough for that. Unless you wanted to be on top of me we could probably work that out here."

"Not in your garage," she whispered. He groaned softly. He very much wanted to in his garage right now. No one could see it from the street because his driveway curved a bit going behind his house. He had this image of her on the hood of his car and she would look absolutely fantastic there, the contrast of her red hair to the red of his paint job.

"Yeah? Where then?"

"I don't know. Let me think on it. We could go up to my parents' lake house one night."

"Just for a night?"

"Well, you work."

"You pick a weekend and I'll be sure I have nothing scheduled."



"All to have sex in your car?"

He chuckled. "If that's what you want to think, Princess, sure."

"I wouldn't think you got vacation."

"Well, I don't take any, no. If I have an appointment or something I tell Ronda about it so she schedules things around it. I've never had a vacation. I've never been anywhere further than the Dells I guess. Solo vacations aren't very fun."

"What would you do if you wanted to take a vacation?"

"Not have business for a week? People can find other photographers."

"But you'd lose money."

"Well, it'd be one wedding, maybe two if one happens to be on a Friday or Sunday. Anything else during the week could be scheduled for the week before or after. There isn't usually much that's time-sensitive."

"I guess."

"You want me to go away with you for a week, Princess?"

"Well, I was thinking we could start with a weekend."

"I told you, tell me when and I'll arrange it. I think I'm booked into August, but we could do a Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday thing since you don't have a job."

"You're going to tease me with that endlessly aren't you?"

"To be a man of leisure. I kind of envy you."

"But you wouldn't have all this stuff if you were like that."

"You're right. You can thank my old man for that, I guess, the overall desire to be absolutely nothing like him as quickly as I could be."

"I think you've succeeded."

"Well, I'm not married with a kid before I was twenty so it's definitely a step in the right direction."

"I didn't realize they were that young."

"Oh yeah. Mom was seventeen, Dad was nineteen. They could've done the logical thing and put me up for adoption, but no they had to give it the ol' college try."

"They are still married."

"If you want to call their existence a marriage, sure. I strive for better."

"Do you?"

"I'm aiming for you, that's better, isn't it?"

"I think that's a compliment aimed toward me."

"It is."

"But not to your mother."

"She made her bed."

"I guess she did."

"Speaking of mothers, yours doesn't like me so well."

"How do you know?"

"She looked at me in a way that told me very plainly. I suppose I should've gone home to change first."

"Don't be ridiculous. Your scars don't define you, John. They don't mean you're a bad guy."

"Yeah, well, people see them and think…"

"My mom will figure it out."

"Has she ever actually met anyone you've gone out with?"

"Hmm, no, I suppose she hasn't."

"No dates over for dinner to meet the parents?"

"No. I know I don't have to ask you that question."

"I avoided bringing anyone home at all costs."

"I remember."

He knew she did. It was one of the reasons things never got beyond hanging out with her. She'd wanted free access, full access to his life and he wasn't prepared to grant that to her.

"Let's go inside, sweetheart, and stop talking about this crap for a while."

"You want me to take your mind off of it?"

"I'd love for you to do that."

"Any ideas how?"

"I can maybe think of a few."

"So long as I let you get to sleep soon?"

"I think I could handle an hour or so."

"I could make you lunch before you go later."

He chuckled at that. "You plan on us fighting then or something because that's just mean."

"I figured you'd object to that."

"Something tells me I'll be the one cooking when you're around."

"That's part of my plan."

He chuckled. "I fell for it, too, didn't I?"

"You did."

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