***Chapter Fifteen***
Word Count: 3,747

September 1988

John sat on the plane, having a drink. He was totally dreading the next few days. Four nights with Claire with no job to wake up for was great. Four full days with her friends was an entirely different story. None of them knew what to make of him and he was equally as befuddled by them. He didn't speak rich woman, glamorous woman language very well. Give him a camera and he could talk them into posing like there was no tomorrow. It was the everyday conversations he sucked royally at.

Thus the drink. He planned on drinking a lot over the next five days. He had nothing on his calendar until Friday and was scheduled to fly back Thursday evening. Ronda would have to be there to make appointments and let people pick up pictures and stuff that were ready. He, however, was free and clear until Friday.

He hadn't been entirely sure about taking this trip with her. She'd invited him, seemed to think it was an excellent idea him coming along. He wasn't so sure about it.

He'd even said no at first. Going away with her. Well, he wasn't sure she was ready for what that would imply to her friends about their relationship. He had no problem with it because he wasn't walking away from her until she told him she didn't want to see him again. He hoped that wouldn't happen. He didn't plan on giving her any reason to want to stop seeing him. She hadn't slept at her parents' house in weeks and he had absolutely no issue with her not doing it ever again as far as he was concerned. He liked her at his house and in his bed.

Things were winding down for the most part as far as weddings went, though. She knew that, too. So when she'd mentioned it again he'd found it difficult to come up with a legitimate reason to say no. Did he really care if her friends thought they were serious? No, because he was as serious as he thought he could ever get about someone.

He hadn't uttered the love word to her, but that was his problem not a lack of the emotion being there. He didn't have very positive experiences with people he loved treating him well so he wasn't planning on rushing out to say it.

He'd worked more than one late night last week to be sure everything that should've been done this week was done. Soon, though, there'd be the Christmas push. Family portraits. Christmas cards. He even hired out a Santa on select days for people who wanted their kids' pictures taken with the jolly man.

She'd had this trip booked for a while so her changing it wasn't really an option. His going along was entirely voluntary on his part. She'd left yesterday morning so she'd have almost two full days with her friends without him along to do as she pleased. Not that she couldn't once he got there, but he'd never been to Vegas before so he was sure hoping to do some things with her while there that didn't involve her friends.

This upcoming week was her last bit of freedom. Next week she was going to start working. Evidently the pictures he'd been taking and selling combined with her not being seen carousing until all hours of the night every night with a different guy each time had helped convince her dad she was ready.

The stewardess was pretty attentive, offering him a replacement drink almost before his first one was empty. He took her up on her offer. They were tiny little things, and it was absolutely ridiculous to spend as much money on them as they cost. He figured he only lived once, though. She'd offered him 7Up or Coke to mix the whiskey with but he hadn't bothered watering it down with something else. If he was going to pay an obscene amount of money for liquor he wanted to get a buzz out of it at the very least.

He'd never flown before either. He'd never had a reason to. He was admittedly a little nervous about being thousands of miles off the ground and at someone else's mercy. Claire had flown to Europe and back countless times, so he had to believe it was safe. The buzz from the whiskey would certainly help to stop him from thinking about the plane crashing into the Rockies.

The older woman next to him seemed to understand his nervousness and engaged him in conversation throughout the flight. She was a nice woman on the way to see her daughter who'd moved out there recently to work at one of the casinos. She didn't sound too thrilled with her career path, which made John wonder what she did at the casino but he didn't ask. It seemed a bit too personal of a topic to engage her in on a flight. She didn't talk his ear off or anything the entire flight, so she was all right. He appreciated her efforts, but he thought the whiskey did a better job than she did at calming his nerves.

"It was nice meeting you, John," the woman said.

"You, too, ma'am. I hope you have a good time here with your daughter."

"Thank you, you, too. Is that her?" she asked.

"Yeah," John said. He was going to ask how she'd known, but he supposed it was fairly obvious since he couldn't take his eyes off of her once he spotted her. "Yeah, that's her."

"Making friends with women on airplanes even, I see," she said.

"Are you a sight for sore eyes," he said, taking her into his arms when he finally got to where she was waiting for him at the gate.

"Aww, did you have a tough flight?"

"Let's just say I'm not going to be rushing out to do it again anytime soon."

"You do realize we have to go back Thursday?"

"Uh, yeah, I think I can survive one more."

"Good. I'd drive back with you, you know."

"Not necessary. Maybe the second one won't be as bad since you'll be sitting next to me."

"I love flying."

She would. She'd been doing it, though since before she could walk. Her parents had taken her and her brother all over the world. Some places she didn't remember because she'd been too young, but she had the pictures to show for being there.

"Can I kiss you now?"

"I think you can," she said.

"No reporters lurking about?"

"I don't care," she whispered.

He didn't care either. Again that was probably the whiskey talking because while he'd had his picture taken with her more than once over the past few months he'd never kissed her unless he knew they were fairly safe from being photographed. There was never completely safe when they were out, he knew that, but the areas she got entrance into at the clubs she went to reporters weren't given access to. So he usually felt pretty safe kissing her in places like that.

"I missed you last night," he said. Words he never thought he'd say ever in his lifetime. He hadn't wanted to admit to her that he had missed her either, but the words came out before he could screen them.

He'd blame the whiskey again.

"Did you?" she whispered.

"Yes, I slept like shit."

"I've been gone before," she said.

"I know. Must have been in my head, knowing you weren't just across town at your parents' house."

"Knowing I wasn't just a phone call away, you mean?"

"I've never called you to come over for that."

"I know. Why not?"

"Because I've never had to?"

She laughed softly. "How much did you have to drink on your flight anyway?"

"I don't know. I lost count after three bottles."

"John," she said.

"What can I say? They're tiny bottles anyway. It's not like I drank two pints of Jack on the way here or something."

"That is good to know."

"Yeah, even I know not to get completely sloshed. It probably helped I had someone to talk to who was nice."

"I'm glad. Why is she here?"

"Visiting her daughter who just moved out here for a job at a casino or something," he said. "I didn't pry because she didn't seem too thrilled about it."

"I see. Well, let's get you back to our room and unpacked," she said. He loved that idea a lot.

"Do we have to go out right away?"

"We have tickets for a show."

"All right," he said. That was not the answer he was looking for at all, but he understood this was her vacation, too. Her last bit of freedom before joining the real world. As real of a world where working for her father was anyway.

"I'd feel sorrier for you if you hadn't just gotten laid yesterday morning."

"But that was hours ago. Like thirty-six of them."

"You poor thing."

"I know. It's terrible."

"Let's go get your bag so we're not late."

"Lead the way, Princess."


He couldn't remember drinking so much in his life. He wasn't falling down drunk or anything, but man he'd spent the last three days basically good and buzzed. It was very nice. Except this morning he woke up with a blinding headache that made him realize he'd done more than maintain being tipsy last night. Talk about weird dreams while sleeping. He'd had them last night.

"Fuck. Why are the curtains open?"

"Because it's like eleven o'clock in the morning," she said, sounding amused.

"Why are you still in bed then?"

"Am I supposed to be somewhere else?"

"Well, if it's eleven o'clock I would've expected you to be having breakfast with your friends or something. Or I suppose shopping by now."

"I wouldn't do that this morning, no," she said.

"Okay," he said. He glanced at her then, regretting opening his eyes almost immediately. "Where did you get that?" he asked.

"I bought it."

"I gathered that. Since when do you ever wear white?" he asked.

He'd never in school or while they'd been seeing each other ever seen her wear white beyond maybe socks around his house or with gym shoes.

"You liked it last night," she said with a frown.

"I'm sure I did," he said. He couldn't remember a damned thing about last night. That was a scary thought in Vegas. How much money he could have lost! "I mean, it looks great on you, don't get me wrong."

"Well, it just seemed like I should wear something white."

He frowned, mulling that over in his head. He obviously wasn't thinking clearly because she wasn't making any sense to him at all. He was still trying to piece together the night before. He couldn't even remember coming back to the room with her. Obviously he must have, they were here. Her friends had the rooms on either side of their room. Eight of them, including Claire, had come.

"Why are your friends leaving us alone so late?"

"Because they figure they'll see us when we're ready to go down and find them. I know what they have planned today."

"That didn't seem to prevent them from knocking on our door at crazy hours the other mornings."

"Well, no," she said.

He stood from the bed then to go to the bathroom. He grabbed his pants from the chair at the desk, reaching for his pack of cigarettes and lighter on the way. He frowned a little at the rose that was there. It wasn't until he came out of the bathroom and saw the bigger arrangement of flowers on the dresser that he started panicking. He'd done enough weddings in his time to know what kind of bouquet that was.

"Uh, Claire?" he said.


"We didn't get married last night did we?"

She looked panicked, probably not as panicked as he currently felt. Panicked just the same. He took her in then, processing it better this time. The white negligee thing, which was stunning on her but it was white. Her friends leaving them alone. The fact he couldn't remember doing much beyond winning a good chunk of change at the slots. She'd forced him to step away then. She could be very convincing about getting him to do what she wanted him to do when she wanted to be he'd come to realize this week.

"Oh God, you don't remember."

"I was drunk!"

"You weren't that drunk!"

"Says you."

"You've been drunk all week."

"So you thought that'd be a good time to marry me?"

"You asked!"

"I did not."

"John, it was right after you'd won the money. You said we should get married here to avoid anyone finding out we didn't want to know."

"I said that?"


He had to admit it sounded very much like something he'd say. Shit.

"And you agreed?"

"I love you. So what's the problem?"

"Because you deserve better than this," he said, picking up the bouquet. It was decent as far as bouquets went, but he knew for certain hers would've been ten times more elaborate if they had a wedding.

"It didn't matter to me."

"Why not?"

She shrugged. "It's a piece of paper. What does it matter if it's here in Vegas or at home in front of five hundred people I'll never see again in my life? At least here my friends that mattered were here."

"Are you serious?"

"I am," she said.

"We're married? This isn't some kind of joke you're playing on me because I've been spending more money on booze than on you?"

"You made up for that last night."

"I did?"

"Uh yeah," she said. He noticed then she had a ring on her finger. Shit.

"At least I did something right I guess," he said, stepping toward her to look at it. Now unlike the flowers the ring was very nice. He hadn't been too cheap on that anyway.

"You really want to be married to me?" he asked. "I mean, what if I can't give you kids, Claire?"

Then he had another moment of panic as he realized there wasn't a condom wrapper in the room anywhere. Nowhere. Not the floor. Not the little trash cans. Not the nightstand. Not in the bathroom.

"Fuck, please don't tell me we did that, too?"

"You said you wanted to be in me without one," she said.

"And you let me?"

"You said you never had been before. Why wouldn't I?"

"I could've lied!"

"You wouldn't lie to me about that."

"Says you."


"Why would you do that?"

"Which part? It doesn't matter. My answer is the same, I love you. I've loved you for four years. You asked, I said yes. We went and did it. I honestly didn't think you were that drunk."

"But you were sober?"

"Yes!" She shrugged. "Maybe I should lie and say I wasn't, I don't know."


"Because evidently this morning you don't want to be married to me. So, now I feel like a complete idiot for thinking you actually seriously wanted to marry me. Don't worry, we can get it annulled before we leave, I'm sure."

"Wait, what? You go from loving me to wanting to get an annulment? Breaking up would go with that, I suppose. I mean, I wouldn't blame you I guess, hard to stay dating someone you think doesn't want to be married to you."

"I don't want you married to me because you did it while drunk."

"Well, I did. There's no going back from that. I asked, though, I can't say the thought hadn't crossed my mind. I just assumed you'd tell me it was too soon and the kid thing," he shrugged.

"I told you that doesn't matter to me."

"You say that, and I want to believe you, but it bothers me I may not be able to do that for you. Your parents."

"I wouldn't have kids for my parents anyway."

"You know what I mean."

"I think I do."

"Just how many times did we?"

She blushed profusely then.

"That many?"

"You seemed to like it."

"I'm sure I did," he said.

"You really don't remember?"

"I'm sorry, Princess, I don't. I remember sitting at the slots and that's about where it ends."

"You were there for a while."

"I was determined to win something."

"And you did."

"Yeah, I have vague recollections of that part. Is that what I bought your ring with?"


He tapped another cigarette out and lit it, sitting on the bed.

"Your parents are going to kill us, you know?"

"My brother's gay, John. Do you think they're really going to snub their nose at any chance to have grandkids, whatever means they get that chance?"

"Put like that, no, but they're still going to kill us."

"We could always not tell them."

"What do you mean?" he asked.

She shrugged. "We could get married at home. Let them give me a wedding and they'd never know."

"I'm not going to lie to them. We'd get tons of gifts from people and that'd be wrong."

"Why? We'll get them anyway when they find out we got married."



"Huh. I thought that was the point of eloping. Or at least the downfall. You got out of the formalities but you also lost out on the gifts."

"You don't know my parents' friends. Trust me."

"So why are you still wearing that anyway?"

"What do you mean?"

"If we, if I, uh." It was his turn to blush he was pretty sure. "If we were that active why'd I leave it on you?"

"You'd have to tell me your reasoning behind that. I don't know. You seemed to like it on and so did I," she said blushing again.

"You did?"

"Yes," she said. "You, uh, left it down once when you rubbed me so I felt not just you touching me but the satin…"

"I see," he said. "I'm very sorry I don't remember that."

He stood to find the ashtray, stubbing out his cigarette in it.

"God I'm an asshole. I'm sorry."


"I don't know. I just am. You deserve so much better than me not even remembering the night we got married."

"Maybe it'll come back to you if you don't drink for a while."

"Maybe," he said. He sat on the bed again, finding her ankle and touching her there.

"You're surprisingly calm about this."

"Well, I admitted I'd thought about it, but I'd sort of planned on finding out if the kid thing was an issue or not first."

"It's only been two months."

"I'm not sure that matters for us," he said. "It's not like we just met two months ago."

"No," she said.

"So you agreed to this last night. Sober. What was your plan?"

"My plan?"

"Yes. You start work on Monday. Obviously you're going to be in a position where you're going to earn way more than I could dream of making. You planning on moving?"

"Moving? I like your house."

"Yeah, but it's pretty small…"

"Well, if we're going to have ten kids maybe, but I'm not that ambitious I don't think."

"Me neither."

"For one or two, I think we'd be fine."

"So you want to live there?"


"Like when we get home tomorrow?"

"That would be the point of getting married, yes." She laughed.

"What?" he asked.

"Are you going over in your head what I may find incriminating at your house while I'm putting my stuff away?"

"Something like that."

"I'm not worried about it."

"Yeah, but not even a month ago you were all bent out of shape I came home…"

"I won't deny it bothers me. It may always, I don't know, but either I trust you or I don't."

"And you do?"

"I do."


"Because I don't think you would've wanted to marry me, drunk or not, if you couldn't be honest and faithful."

"Guys get married all of the time…"

"They're not you."

"You decide between now and when we leave this isn't what you want we'll see about getting it annulled."

"I could say the same to you."

"I'm not an idiot, Claire. You think I'm going to let you walk away?"

"I wouldn't blame you. You only have my word for it that you asked me."

"No, no, I can buy me asking. It's Vegas. I'd just won some money. Your friends totally can't stand me."

"So that means you'd ask me to marry you?"

"Well, it's shut them up anyway. They're not here bothering us."

"They don't hate you. They don't know you."

"Yeah, well, I'm just a blue collar guy in their eyes and I'm sure not good enough for you."

"They could've stopped me last night."

"None of them tried?"


"Huh," he said. "So, they're going to leave us alone?"

"Yes," she said.

"So, was there a time limit to my being able to be inside of you without one?"

"Time limit?"

"Yeah, you know, did we agree just for last night or what?"

"Why?" she asked.

"Well, I'd like to remember once at least."

"Are you asking?"

"I am," he said.

"There was no time table, but I think until we know for sure if you can or not we should maybe not so much."

"Yeah, your dad would kill me for sure if you started working already pregnant."

"Kind of," she said.

"I can pull out," he offered.

"Kind of too late for that now."

"I suppose," he said. He sighed softly, moving next to her on the bed.

"Where are you going?"

"To lay down."

"Why?" she asked.

"Why what?"

"I thought you wanted to have sex."

"I thought you were saying no."

"No, I was just saying we should probably not get into the habit of not using them, but one more time probably won't hurt anything."

"After this," he said.


"You're going to take me to where we went last night."

"Why?" she asked.

"I'm hoping seeing it will help me remember."

"I think just being completely sober will help."

"I hope so, Princess."

"You have been drinking a lot."

"No work for days is rather freeing."

"I can't say I know the feeling."

"Just wait," he said.

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