Chapter One
Word Count: 5,587

March 24, 1984

John took a sip of his beer, glancing at the piece of paper he'd been telling himself for at least two hours now to throw in the trash. Not calling her would certainly play right into the image he'd been carefully building for over two years now.

Christ when his captain had come to him before he was even out of the Academy with this assignment he'd salivated at it. It was every green guy's wet dream to be hand-picked as John had been. Two years into it, though, he was getting fairly tired of it. His captain was talking about keeping John in for another year if their efforts didn't bear fruit this year. He was getting close, but close didn't get the cuffs put on someone's wrist.

What was the saying? Truth in fiction? People believed what they wanted to believe? No one questioned his cover story or why his parents seemed strangely absent from anything and everything involving school. Certainly they didn't give two shits about someone like him beyond what he had the ability to do for them. No one would think twice at hearing he'd failed his senior year. That was why he was here.

He certainly wasn't here to get a not-even-legal-yet girlfriend. He already had the beginnings of a legal girlfriend, but fuck if he hadn't discovered earlier in the afternoon he might like to have one. Not just any one either. No.

Her.

He'd known from the moment he walked into the library that she'd been into him. To say he'd been shocked to see the likes of her at detention was an understatement. He'd been a particular kind of ass to her, knowing he had no business looking at her. No business liking her.

And yet she'd come to him. He'd never had a girl like her kiss him before. The past two and a half years hadn't been spent at pool parties and shopping excursions. He'd been busy getting as in with the drug-using crowd as he could get. His life before joining the academy hadn't been too far from the image he projected here at Shermer, which was why his captain had picked him.

He'd done pretty well for himself, too, to this point. Being stuck in high school endlessly sucked because he hadn't enjoyed it his first go-around. At least this time he was paid to act like an ass and smoke weed. He had a decent apartment, though, with fairly nice things in it. He had the guest bedroom furnished and decorated as if it was his room in case he ever had reason to bring anyone back here. That hadn't happened to this point, but a handful of people he'd dealt with had dropped him off or picked him up.

"Hello," he said, answering his phone just as his cat Chester came out from wherever he'd been hiding.

He didn't like when John was gone all day on a day that he was usually home. It was the reason he'd gotten a cat versus a dog when he'd decided on a pet about two years ago. Well, he hadn't really decided on the cat, but John had seen him hanging around the apartment building for a day or two. It was winter and he was just a kitten. The second day he decided to take him in when he got home from school and post a note down by the mailboxes just in case he'd been someone in the building's cat. He'd bought a litter box and other essentials with the thinking he'd give anyone in the building who might have been gone or something time to see the note he'd put up.

Weeks went by and he'd found the two of them had come to some sort of agreement. John had never had pets growing up and until Chester had never had to be responsible for anyone else but himself in his life. The kitten seemed to be a fighter, though. He was even missing a small part of his ear, which the vet said could have been from a fight with something. He'd had some frost bite damage, too, but he hadn't lost anything because of it. It hadn't been as cold as it could have been when John had found him, but it'd still been cold enough the kitten probably should have died. So escaping however long he'd been out there with just a bit of his ear gone and some frost bite was pretty lucky.

He was pretty cute when all was said and done John had to admit, as he stroked Chester under his black and white chin. So, that was how he'd become a pet owner.

'Hi,' Amy said. 'You are home.' It was as if she knew he'd just gotten home, too. She had the ability to call him at the perfect moment, considering she had no idea he was in school all day Monday-Friday it was sort of uncanny.

"Yeah, just got home a little while ago."

'I don't understand why you had to work on a Saturday,' she said. If he knew anything about her, she was pouting. She was good at that. Very good at it.

"I have to pay the bills, you know?" She knew he was a cop, which was all she knew about his job. That was all anyone knew about his job except a select few. If anyone ever called Shermer PD they were told there was no one there by that name. His captain and a select few knew about him, but that was about it. It had to be that way considering they weren't sure who was in charge.

'I know, I do. Are you too tired to go out tonight?'

He glanced at the piece of paper, knowing he had no business calling her. He did, however, have business showing up at Stubby's party. He'd heard rumblings of a pretty big offering coming to town right before prom. He had as of yet not been able to figure out who was in charge of getting the shipments into Shermer and to those who distributed the product, which was why his captain was flirting with John flunking the year. He'd hovered around a D average intentionally. He had two months left to graduation, so his captain would need to make up his mind pretty quickly if he wanted John to tank the rest of the semester.

So, going to Stubby's party wouldn't be out of the realm of falling under his job description. Guys like Stubby were connected financially.

And if Claire was there as a result?

Well, he supposed that wouldn't be a bad thing.

"I actually have plans tonight," he said before he could stop himself. Would she be there? Would she be surprised to see John there? Probably a yes to both counts.

'Oh,' she said.

"Sorry, more work stuff really."

'Tonight? It's Saturday night. You worked all day!'

"I know. It's something that came up last minute."

'John, you work too much.'

"Yeah, I know," he said, taking another pull off his beer. Chester let out a soft meow, reminding John he hadn't been fed since this morning. He was a pig for a cat he'd come to learn. Whether it was because he was on his own for however long or what. John couldn't just leave food out for him like most cat owners could. He had to portion it out. It worked fine for them, but he'd always thought that was the point of a cat versus a dog, lower maintenance to some degree.

"Maybe tomorrow we can see a movie or something?"

'Sure,' she said, sounding entirely too hopeful. He supposed it was sort of a given that she'd see him one of the two nights this weekend. He hadn't been able to tell her why he had to stay put last night and was in the same position tonight. He imagined one day "work stuff" wasn't going to be a suitable explanation. 'That'd be fun.'

He wasn't sure how much fun it would be. He wasn't a huge fan of movies, but it's what people did on dates so he went to them with her.

He'd met her a couple months ago at a restaurant. She was his server. It'd been a slow night, for both of them, and they'd hit it off. She was finishing up her third year at Northwestern and from what he could tell to this point seemed pretty cool. She certainly put up with his weird hours. What was more she was pretty cute, which was why he'd flirted with her to begin with the night they'd met.

"You don't have homework?"

'I can take time away to see a movie.'

"All right. Well, pick something and we'll go to it."

'Really?'

"You bet. I hope that makes up for my being so busy this weekend." He had no idea what he'd just committed himself to, but it was a couple of hours. How bad could it be?

'Well, sort of,' she said.

"I'll try real hard, I promise."

He wasn't even going to tell her that next weekend would be shot, too. The opportunity to spend all day next Saturday, and the next several after that, at the school pretty much unbothered was something he couldn't just walk away from. Today had been a bust for the most part. He hadn't anticipated anyone else serving detention with him. He'd been looking forward to a day of looking through lockers, teacher's desks, and empty offices.

The classrooms and offices were his goal, because a kid likely didn't have the connections. He could only hope that Vernon would mind his own business and keep off Bender's ass. He wasn't sure that'd happen, but thankfully anything he was caught doing Vernon would chalk up to a troublemaker.

He hadn't been too sure why this was such a hot assignment when he'd been approached about it until he'd found out not just the mayor's daughter but a county judge who lived in Shermer lost a daughter to the stuff, too. Both had been students at Shermer, which led to John going back to high school. He'd gotten close, getting names of who the girls had bought from. It was a process, though, especially for someone the age he was representing himself as being. Evidently, the mayor and the judge wanted a good bust, resulting in a conviction that would stick versus a quick arrest on charges that would get dropped for whatever reason.

He certainly hadn't counted on anyone serving detention with him being as attractive as Claire Standish. John had noticed her more than once over the years and, no offense to Amy, found her more than pretty cute. The idea of someone like her even giving John the time of day had never entered his mind. Even if she'd found out what he was really doing there he would have placed bets that it wouldn't have mattered.

He was trying real hard to keep things as casual as he could with Amy. He was mindful that she was going back home for the summer and wouldn't see him for months. He liked her, though. Evidently he didn't like her well enough to choose her over Stubby's party, but that was something else to think about another time.

"I have to go get ready. Okay? I'll call you tomorrow. I'm not sure how late tonight's going to run, so try not to pick something much before one. If I have to pick you up before noon leave me a message on my machine tonight. Otherwise I'll get there around twelve."

'Okay. Have a good night.'

"I will. You, too."

'Be safe,' she said.

"Always," he said. He had to admit he liked that she cared whether he stayed safe. Even if she didn't know what exactly he did for a living he knew she meant the words when she said them.

He hung up then, finishing his beer and pushing Claire's number out of the way and under the phone a bit. If she wasn't at Stubby's party? Well, that'd serve him right.

He supposed he should feel guilty for kissing her, but he didn't. Not really. A little maybe, but he didn't think of him and Amy as being real serious or anything. He assumed her going home for the summer would put a hold on anything developing between them anyway and had been mindful of that. And the John he'd developed would never walk away from the situation that was presented to him in that closet.

He put some tuna out for Chester, running his hand over the cat's back and tail. John knew nothing about cats, but he'd found Chester to be a pretty odd one. He had patches of fur that were longer than the rest of it, making John wonder more than once who his parents had been. Was he the product of a long and a short haired cat and the longer patches were where the long-hair took dominance? He wasn't sure, but it made him look kind of scraggily at times no matter how much John brushed and combed him.

"All right, Buddy, enjoy your dinner while I go get ready."

Getting ready consisted of changing into clothes more befitting a party than school. He glanced at the diamond earring in the mirror debating about whether he should take it out or not. Not won out, which was probably the reason he hadn't thrown her number away yet. He wondered how much his captain would ride him if he found out he'd accepted the earring. He weighed the possibilities, though, in the two seconds he had to decide on what to do.

He'd never had anyone, ever, give him anything. For any reason. So it had floored him she'd given it to him. When all was said and done, he didn't see how accepting it would hurt anything. He wasn't going to keep it. Once school was over and his job was finished he'd return it to her somehow, and maybe tell her the truth. Maybe.

He drove to the party, parking a couple of blocks away. No one knew he had a car, and he preferred keeping it that way. Nights like this, no one was going to notice how he got there because as long as he had the good dope on him they wouldn't care if he flew in on the one-eyed-one-horned-flying-purple-people-eater.

There was a good reason for him to be here tonight. From what he could tell from his research and piecing things together about various people close to Samantha and Desirae. Well, Stubby's parents seemed to live quite a bit above their means. Not unusual, except they didn't have a lot of debt racked up. Things like that didn't add up. Sometimes it was nothing. People like Stubby's parents could have an inheritance they were blowing through, or a Mommy and Daddy who were helping foot their bill. It was things like this, though, that he had to check out and he'd never before had an in to Stubby's house. His parties were pretty legendary around school, too.

So, John suspected no matter what the results of the night were case-wise, it'd be fun. His captain never questioned John's methods. There was always pot to be had from busts. A few times, John had to ask for harder stuff, which had taken a little more to get but he'd had to be able to come by it or he would've looked ineffective and that would've defeated the purpose of this assignment.

He pushed open the door, eyes scanning the entryway and the living room off to the right of it where quite a few people seemed to be gathering. He was hoping someone he'd had transactions with before tonight was here so he wouldn't seem like a complete interloper, but he was prepared to say Andy and Claire had mentioned the party to him if he had to.

He went down to the basement with a few others where the keg was to get himself a beer. He'd asked his captain a few times what he was supposed to do in situations like this and other than encourage them not to drive home he was supposed to stick to his cover. They really weren't after the people who had keg parties.

He spotted her across the room, talking to a few of her friends. She saw him, too, and seemed genuinely surprised – but not unhappy about seeing him there. She noticed he was wearing her earring, too. At least that was what he was assuming happened when she started blushing after she'd looked at his ear.

He knew better than to go up to her so he took his beer and found a couple of guys he got along with. What was more he had no good reason to approach her. She wasn't part of his job, but as she made his way toward him a little bit after he'd gotten there he couldn't say he was disappointed she seemed as though she wanted to see him again.

"Hi," she said.

"Hey," he said, smirking a bit at the shocked look on the guys' faces he'd been talking to.

"I didn't think you'd come here."

He shrugged, taking a sip of his beer. "Nothing better to do?"

"Your parents," she said, stopping as she seemed to think on the fact that they were alone.

"Not here. What they don't know can't kill them."

"Yeah, but you got like two more months of detention."

"Yeah, I'll pay for that later more than likely, but for tonight I'm good."

She glanced at his arm where the scar he showed them was. The scar was real, the history he'd painted for them of his home life hadn't been exaggerated or embellished. He, however, hadn't been the druggie, criminal in high school he was at Shermer. He'd instead gone the other route to deal with his issues and internalized everything. He'd studied everything he could, reading every damned book his school's library would let him read. He'd managed to graduate in the National Honor Society despite the odds, which was one of the things that had led to him getting picked for this assignment. His captain knew he could do it.

"I see," she said. She reached up then, touching his ear and the earring there with her thumb. "You're wearing it."

"If I left it at home and my mom saw it she'd probably pawn it, so yeah."

"Oh," she said.

"You didn't want me to wear it?"

"No, I did," she said with a shrug.

"Okay then. What's the problem?"

"No problem. I just wasn't sure you would."

"Well, you gave it to me. Why wouldn't I?" He eyed her a bit suspiciously. "You didn't want me to wear it in front of people who'd know you gave it to me, is that it, Princess?"

"No," she said.

"Well, what then?"

"I just didn't think you'd want anyone to see you wearing it."

Was there something he wasn't getting here? He wasn't sure.

"It's an earring. It's not like it's blatantly obvious it's a woman's or anything."

"Would that bother you?"

"If it was blatantly obvious?"

"Yeah."

"I suppose it would depend on the earring. And the woman."

"That earring and me."

He wasn't exactly sure what they were talking about here. Was she flirting? Was she teasing? Was she implying his wearing the earring meant something that he wasn't understanding? Contrary to his ability to pick Amy up at the restaurant he wasn't a ladies' man or anything. He'd had zero experience with women in high school, this go around or the first one. If Amy hadn't flirted first he doubted very highly they'd be going out tomorrow.

"No, it wouldn't bother me. Clearly. I'm wearing it."

She reached up then, touching it again. "I like it on you."

"I think it'd look good on anyone."

"I don't," she said.

"I see," he said.

He glanced at the others around them, a few were paying them more attention than they likely would have if she was talking to anyone but him. Claire didn't touch guys as a general rule, though. He didn't have to know her well or have hung out with her before tonight to know that about her. It was why it had shocked him when she came to the closet.

She placed a kiss against his ear just beside the earring.

"How long are you here for?" she whispered?

"I, uh, don't know. I had some business…"

She drew away then, looking more than a little upset.

"What?" he asked. What had he said wrong? And why did he care incredibly so that he could try to fix it?

She's not even eighteen yet, John.

Yeah, okay she was going to be eighteen in a few months, but he had to remind himself while he had free reign to smoke some weed without his boss batting an eyelash as part of his job. He didn't think getting sexually physical with a minor was something his captain would excuse and not kick John's ass out the door for.

"You came here for drugs?"

"Well, not for them, no," he said, patting his coat pocket.

"So not because you heard that I might be here."

"Well, I am here risking pissing off my parents quite very possibly resulting in a pretty bad day tomorrow. I didn't do that for drugs, no," he said.

"But…"

"I have product to sell, Princess, and there are people here willing to pay more than a fair amount for that product."

"Oh."

He slid a hand to her cheek then, leaning down a bit to kiss her. He didn't have to lean down far. He'd noticed that earlier today. She wasn't short by any means.

"What was that for?"

"I have to go do something, but that was to remind both of us that I don't have to leave when I'm done."

"I don't want you to get in trouble."

"I can handle my parents, Claire."

"All right," she said.

"Are you going to be down here or are you going upstairs?"

"You're going to be that long?"

"Depends on who's upstairs and what they want and need."

He was hoping to have a chance to snoop in Stubby's dad's office and whatever else might be upstairs. Parties like this people wandered all over the place so if he got caught he could blow it off easily enough. Unless it was Stubby who found them.

He glanced at his watch then, realizing he could actually use Claire.

"Meet me upstairs in about thirty minutes? Outside of a closet and away from Vernon's watchful ear and eye might be kind of fun to repeat that last couple of hours."

She blushed again and he chuckled. "Is that a yes?"

"It is."

He knew she probably thought he'd kissed lots of girls before, and he wasn't in a position to be overly honest with her about that now anyway.

"All right. I'll see you then." He paused then, reaching into his coat pocket and the baggie there. "You want more?"

"No," she said, shaking her head. "I don't really do that very often. I just," she shrugged. "I was at school on a Saturday stuck with four other people, three of whom I didn't really like."

"And now?"

"Now what?"

"The three you don't really like?"

"Allison is still bizarre."

"I noticed Andy was here with her tonight."

"I saw that, too."

"Is that why you let me kiss you?"

"What?"

"He's throwing caution to the wind so you can too?"

"I wanted you to kiss me. I don't care what Andy does or who he dates."

"I find that hard to believe, but okay just wondering if I should save you some."

"No," she said.

He walked upstairs then, setting the baggie down on the desk. He spilled a little bit on the desk. If he was caught he'd use spilling it as an excuse for fiddling around in any drawers or anything. Two of the bedrooms were occupied, but the parents' bedroom was not. Not untypical of a party like this. Girls would use the bathroom and stuff but people weren't rude enough to fuck around on Mom and Dad's bed.

The room was nice, John noticed. Very nice. He couldn't see the other bedrooms up here, but he had no doubt the rooms belonging to Stubby and the other kids were equally as nice. He recognized the bedding as being something pretty costly. Ralph Lauren or something like that. Not out of the realm of affordability for most people in Shermer. Still there was something off about Stubby's family. He'd never had a wide-open in to the house before tonight.

He took a couple of pictures of some papers that looked kind of interesting. They appeared to be bills of lading or something, but John didn't think anyone in the family dealt in that kind of business. He'd turn them in and let his captain make heads or tails of them. He glanced at his watch, realizing he had about five minutes before Claire was going to come up here looking for him. Assuming she actually did.

He closed the drawers, making sure everything was as he left it beforehand. He glanced at the phone on the desk there and wondered for a second if Amy was sleeping and what movie she'd picked out for them to see.

"You're alone in here," Claire said, tearing him away from his thoughts.

"Not anymore," he quipped. "I thought you told Andy you weren't sure you were going to be here tonight."

"My parents were both being obnoxious, so I had to get out."

"I hear ya," he said.

"Sorry, I bet you do."

"It's all right," he said with a shrug. He'd gotten out so he didn't need or expect apologies for his childhood.

He stood then, ensuring he slid his stuff back in his pocket. He had to account for it so leaving this much behind wouldn't go over well. He wasn't responsible down to the last ounce or anything, but that baggie held about a week's worth of product so that would raise eyebrows.

"So you found me," he said.

"You weren't hard to find since all of the other rooms seem to be occupied."

"I noticed that, too." One of the rooms hadn't been until a little while ago when they saw John come upstairs. They followed him and got some stuff out of the deal. They were probably on their way to having a good time now.

"What would you like to do with me now that you did?"

"I don't know," she said. She didn't look so confident or in control right now.

"Well, we don't have to do anything."

"A lot of fun that would be."

He shrugged. He sat on the floor by the foot of the bed, patting the spot next to him on the floor. She closed the door then and made her way to him.

"Did you get in trouble when you got home?" he asked, taking her hand in his.

"No. Not really," she said, lacing her fingers through his. "My mother lectured me, again, about my being so careless. Dad told me to ignore her, she was in one of her moods."

"Sorry," he said, squeezing her hand a bit.

"It's okay. I can't wait to get out."

"Where are you going?"

"DePaul."

"Really?" he asked.

"Yeah."

"That's not that far."

"I know, but I don't have to live with them anymore. Next summer I hope to get an apartment or a job or something so that I'm not home all day."

"You don't have a job?"

She scoffed softly and he supposed it was a ridiculous question. She turned then, looking at him.

"What?" he asked.

"Just wondering why I kissed you."

"I've been wondering the same thing, so if you expect me to have the answer to your question I don't."

"Why you?"

"I could ask you the same question." Certainly why now was there in his mind?

She closed the distance between them then, eyes fluttering closed as their lips met. He groaned a bit as he released her hand and slid it to her cheek to draw her closer. She slid hers inside of his coat. He shifted a bit so she wouldn't come into contact with the camera. That'd be an interesting thing to explain since it wasn't your normal run of the mill Canon, but very obviously something meant to be discreet.

She gasped as their mouths opened, his tongue found hers, and she shifted a bit against him. She smelled exquisite. She hadn't smelled quite so good at school so must have put whatever perfume on she wore to come to the party. Hoping she'd run into him? Or did she just do that going out? He had no idea. Her hair seemed freshly styled, too, so maybe she'd taken a shower all over again after getting home before coming here. Who knew with women?

He slid his hand down from her cheek over her shoulder to the front of her blouse, groaning softly at the feel of her against his hand. She pressed into him, helping him move them so he was on top of her on the floor.

She's not eighteen.

He wasn't sure how many times over the next little while he repeated that to himself as he touched her, wanting so badly to take it further.

You have a girlfriend. One who's legal and at least knows you're a cop.

Clearly that didn't matter because he never wanted to stop doing this ever. He stopped kissing her when the door opened for a second. He glanced at the intruder, Claire did, too, and didn't seem any happier than he was by the intrusion.

"Hey," Stubby said, seemingly okay with the fact that they were in here just not using his parents' bed. He shut the door almost immediately. Maybe he knew that he and Claire weren't going to move to the bed? Who knew?

"Sorry," he whispered, kissing her neck.

"Why are you apologizing?"

"He saw you in here with me. He knows it was us."

She shifted her head a bit, allowing him better access to her neck. He took the hint and kissed her there.

"I don't care," she whispered.

He scoffed as he kissed her there, his thumb stroking along her peak as it hardened under his touch.

"John," she whispered as he drew his mouth away from her neck.

"Yeah?"

"Why'd you stop?"

"It's going to show."

"I don't care."

He chuckled softly at that. "Yeah, well, it's dark enough without my doing that any longer."

"Oh," she said, running a fingertip over the spot he'd been kissing and sucking on.

"Never had one before?"

She scoffed at that. "No," she said, nipping at her lower lip as she watched him.

"I haven't given many myself," he admitted with a shrug as he drew his hand away.

"You're stopping?"

"Uh, yeah, I think my carriage is about to turn into a pumpkin, or whatever that saying is. I've got to get home."

"Oh," she said.

"Sorry."

"Can I see you tomorrow?"

He almost said yes, remembering he couldn't.

"I don't think I can tomorrow. I can call you and let you know."

"Sure, you have my number."

"I do," he said since he hadn't thrown it out after school today as he should have.

"Do you need a ride home?"

"Nah, I'm good walking. Gives me time to think."

"What do you need to think about?"

"Gives me a chance to, uh, stand down?"

She blushed again and he leaned down to kiss her.

"I had fun."

"Did you?" she asked.

"Yup."

"Enough to do it again?"

"The party or here in this room?"

"This room."

"Yeah. You know, I'm game."

"Maybe you could come home with me Monday after school?"

"Sure, I could do that," he said. He had nothing going on. He rarely did.

"Okay."

"I'll call you tomorrow." He kissed her again, standing then before offering a hand in standing up.

He walked to the door then, opening it. She followed him and walked out before him, ladies first and all that.

"Your top looks like we've been doing exactly what we've been doing for the last little while."

She shrugged. She seemed more concerned about her hair then the blouse.

"Trying to cover it up?"

"No. I told you I don't care."

"And when your parents see that?"

She shrugged.

Fuck. Was she going to get in trouble for him giving her a hickey? He hadn't thought about it, just done it.

"I'll be fine."

"All right. Be careful driving home," he said, biting his tongue after he'd said it. He hadn't finished his one cup of beer, getting it to blend in more than anything. He had no idea how many she'd had though.

"Thanks," she said, following him downstairs. He kissed her again at the door before leaving and walking toward his car. He glanced around him a few times as he made his way over to the other block, ensuring no one followed him.

Fuck was he in trouble.

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