Chapter Nine
Word Count: 2,637

He woke to knocking at his front door. The door to the bedroom was open or he probably wouldn't have heard it. Whoever it was they weren't pounding on the door with any sense of urgency. Shelly didn't stir. If she hadn't gotten in until four or five and it was, shit after one o'clock in the afternoon now. Well, that was eight hours but she didn't usually sleep so soundly John knew. He never commented or asked, it wasn't any of his business why. He just knew her eight hours weren't sound ones.

He got out of bed, careful not to disturb her knowing how much she probably needed good sleep and padded to the door.

He was figuring it was one of his friends looking to hang out on Sunday but given his mood last night they were hesitant. He wasn't expecting Claire.

"Hey," he said, not hiding the fact he took the chance to check her out. He'd liked looking at her before, always did. Now, though. Well, he liked looking at her knowing what she looked like underneath the clothes she wore.

"Hi," she said. "I woke you." She must have been checking him out, too. He was too busy looking at parts that weren't her face to notice he guessed.

"Yeah. Sort of."

She glanced past him into the apartment and frowned a bit. She knew he spent the night on the couch. The couch blanket was currently in his bedroom covering Shelly.

"With Shelly?"

"Uh yeah," he said with a shrug. "It's a one-bedroom apartment. She was out with your brother until like four in the morning and told me I didn't have to move to the couch. I wasn't going to argue with her."

Her face scrunched a bit as if she was processing, thinking over what he was saying.

"I swear to you, Claire, we were sleeping. I sleep on the couch just about every night, I wasn't going to argue with her when she told me not to move to it. I suppose there are some people that wouldn't stop given she's nice to look at and all, but I wouldn't fuck my cousin."

"I was just thinking she's lucky."

"Yeah?" That wasn't what he was expecting. "Really?"

"Yes," she said.

"Lucky how?" he asked, not sure he knew what she was getting at.

"You wouldn't sleep with me…"

"I never said that! We both had to be at work the next morning and I hadn't gone to your place expecting to stay the night."

"Yes, but you wouldn't visit me in college."

"Because you were living in a dorm room! I was eighteen, you weren't willing to do much of anything with me. I wasn't going to haul my ass to New York, spend the night in your dorm room with your roommate, and risk embarrassing myself."

"Embarrass yourself?"

He shrugged. "Do something when I was sleeping or not fully awake."

"Oh," she said.

"Come on, it was like three months in when you stopped talking to me. I was trying to get money together to get out of my parents' house. Flights to New York weren't in my budget. I know you offered to pay, but I would've felt like shit doing that."

"That's all?"

"Yes! That's all! If you'd talked to me about what Tricia had told you and I'd gotten my shit together financially I probably would have."

"I would have liked that."

"Yeah? I think I would've too. I hadn't ever slept with anyone so I wasn't sure what inviting me to visit you meant exactly."

"I bet you didn't," she said wryly.

"I still never really have," he admitted, running his fingers through his hair.

"Why not?"

He shrugged. "No one I wanted to sleep with?"

"Other than your cousin."

"Yeah, I guess so." He chuckled at that. "She I know won't get the wrong idea."

She frowned a bit then.

"I'm sorry I woke you. I assumed you'd be up."

"It's all right. I got called out to Robbie's restaurant to fix their water heater so some manual labor when I wasn't expecting it. Not sleeping real well before she got in expecting her to kick me out of bed when she did get in."

"She does that?"

"Well, I don't make her sleep on the couch."

"That's very nice of you."

He shrugged. "Just doesn't seem right. She's a woman and a guest."

"Anyway," she said and turned to leave.

"Wait," he said, sounding too anxious for his own good. She'd come here, though, without an invitation or plans. And judging by the time she must have come right from the airport or something.


"What did you want?"

"Nothing," she said.

"Come on, Claire. You had to have just gotten in."

"I know."

"Okay," he said.

"You're still sleeping."

"I don't have to be. I just had nothing to wake up for. If you'd told me…"

"That wouldn't have been a surprise then."

"I guess not. You were trying to surprise me?"

It was her turn to shrug.

Shelly chose then to come out of his room and Claire watched her for a second.

"Doubting if it was really Shelly I was still in bed with?"

"I," she shook her head then. "It's none of my business really."

"Why not?"

She shrugged, blushing deeply and he frowned a bit.

"We had sex. I know that…"

"Jesus. You think I've been going over to your place despite thinking you and Robbie were a thing for the past few weeks because I just wanted sex from you?"

"I don't know. You just said you don't sleep with people because they'd get the wrong idea."

"That's not why I didn't sleep with you. I just don't sleep real well when I'm in that situation. Whether it's someone I'm not used to in my bed or I'm in a bed I'm not familiar with. I guess I worry, you know, if I'm there the next day they'll think …"

"I get it."

"Hey, let me finish. You're the only person I've entertained wanting you to think that. You're the only person I'd care to try to sleep with. I just wasn't expecting it to be that night."

"I am?"

"Yes. Jesus. I like to think if it wasn't for Tricia we'd already be doing that together every night by now. I wasn't going to move out east, but when you came back. Yeah." He shrugged.

"You're such a romantic, John," Shelly said from the kitchen.

Claire giggled softly.

"Shut up, both of you. You think this is easy for me? Fuck. So, I'm going to ask again. What did you come here for?"

She shrugged. "To see if you wanted to do something."



"What kind of something?"

"John," Shelly said.

"Well, if a change of clothes for tomorrow morning is in order I'd like to know that ahead of time."

"I think that would be a safe assumption."

"Okay then. Give me ten minutes to shower and we can do whatever somethings you had in mind."

"I was actually thinking Shelly might be at work."

"Shelly works at four, sorry," Shelly said as she walked to the couch.

"You came right from the airport for that?" he asked, regarding her.

"Well, not just for that. And, hey, why did you come to my place the past few weeks?"

"Kevin told me all was fair in love and war until you had a ring on your finger. So, I was going to pursue the fuck out of you until you realized I was the better choice and kicked him out."

Claire laughed then.

"My parents would never let me live with a boyfriend, John. They'd disown me."

"I wondered about that, but maybe they got less uptight after me or something."

"No," she said.

"That's too bad."


He shrugged. "Well, I can't very well spend the night with you if your parents…"

"You're spending the night not moving in."

"That's where it starts. One night turns into forever."

She glanced at him as a knock came to his door. He supposed it would probably be perceived as rude that he and Claire hadn't gotten away from the door yet.

"That's a pretty tall order."

He took hold of her left hand, sliding his thumb along her ring finger there devoid of a ring. She had one on her right hand he noticed. "I don't plan on giving anyone else the idea they can pursue you, Princess. I'd like to one day put something very shiny and permanent here."


"Well, not like a tattoo or anything, no. But, you know, something you never take off again."


"That's the idea, yeah."

"Oh," she said.

"I mean, that's where I was heading then and I had nothing to offer you."

"I know," she said.

A knock at the door came again. He reached then to open it to see a man standing there he'd never seen before in his life. He was wearing jeans and a leather jacket. He looked a little scruffy in a way John could identify with. His dark hair was worn just a little longer than what was usually expected. John was reminded of the call he'd gotten about his parents last night. He groaned inwardly at the idea of Shermer PD sending a narc or plainclothes officer to his apartment to get him to bail them out. He was John's height, a bit younger maybe.

"Can I help you?"

The man frowned a bit. "I'm looking for Shelly Johnson. Is she here?"

John glanced back at Shelly who was standing from the couch and walking to the door. She hadn't mentioned meeting any guys recently.

"Bobby," she said.

"You know him?" John asked with a frown.

The man assessed John with close scrutiny. John wasn't sure what he saw or what he was even looking for.

"You are here," he said to Shelly.

"I am. How did you find me?"

"Who's this guy?" he asked, pointing at John. John was wondering the same thing about the man.

"My cousin."

He turned those assessing eyes back to John, taking him in a little differently this time. No suspicion or anything just curiosity.

"I'd heard you'd moved to Chicago and wondered why you'd move so far away. No one mentioned family."

"No one really knows," she said with a shrug.

"Who is this guy, Shelly," John asked.

"I came to see if I could talk you into coming back," the guy said. "I don't know what I did, what happened that made you leave like you did. I've been worried about you, Shelly."

"You came all the way to Chicago on the chance I was here?"

"Well, yeah. I've been worried. Norma wouldn't tell me anything."

"That was very sweet of you."

"Well, now, Shelly, I don't know about that. I just want you to come back."

Shelly looked as though she wasn't sure how to answer that, and John was piecing things together in his mind. Bobby. The boyfriend.

John glanced at Claire.

"What did you have in mind for today exactly?"

"Um, I don't know."

"Can I grab some clothes for today and tomorrow, meet you at your place, and shower there before we go out?"


"John," Shelly said.

"It's all right," he said. He gestured to Shelly. "Come with me a minute."

"Okay. I'll be right back."

"Okay," Bobby said, stepping forward and kissing her on the cheek.

John closed the bedroom door, pressing his back against it and staring at her for a minute. "You going to leave with him?"

"I didn't know he was going to show up here."


"He's not here for any reason but to see me. See if I'm failing."

"All right. You sure he doesn't really like you?"

Shelly shrugged a bit.

"He's nice when he wants to be."

"Uh huh," John said. "Maybe it's not Christopher I need to tell you to be careful with."

"He'll be leaving soon anyway."

"I guess he will."

John wondered if Shelly would be leaving soon, too, as a result of this visit as he collected some clothes. He went to the bathroom to get his razor and a few other odds and ends he'd need.

"I'll see you tomorrow then."

"Have fun."

"You, too." He shook his head a bit. "I'm not sure I want you to have the same kind of fun I expect to be having today."

Shelly smiled a little at that, blushing though she didn't answer him. John was reminded that neither one of them had a stellar past when it came to being faithful. Not that she had any reason to be faithful to Christopher. John hadn't ever slept with anyone else but Claire spent four years thinking he had.

"Uh huh. Not in my bed!"

Shelly blushed more deeply at that. "You have Claire's number if you need anything, right?"

"I do. I'll be fine. Have fun. I'm glad she came here."

"Me, too," John said.

He grabbed his keys and wallet from his dresser before heading back to the living room.

"Ready?" he asked Claire.


"It was nice to meet you," John said, offering Bobby his hand. He wasn't sure how long the guy was going to stay or if he was even going to be staying here. He figured the least he could do was be nice, though, so he didn't think Shelly's cousin was an asshole or something.

"You, too," Bobby said with a smirk that John had the urge to wipe off his face. He was far too sure of himself. "I'll take good care of her today."

"Be sure to do that," John said. "Let's go," he said to Claire.

"Who's that?" Claire asked on their way out of the building.

"I think it's her boyfriend from back home."

"Oh," she said, scrunching her nose a bit with a slight frown.

"I don't know," he said with a shrug. "I think she said his name was Bobby. She told me so much when she first got here, naming people I'd never met and likely never will. I couldn't keep track."

Claire laughed a bit at that.

He walked her to her car.

"Hey," he said, setting his hands on the door along either side of her head.

"Yeah," she said. God he loved her lips. Always had, today was no different.

"Thanks for coming by. I'm sorry we couldn't do what you had in mind."

She shrugged, blushing and he leaned in to kiss her.

"And thank you for not getting mad that I was in bed with Shelly."

"It was tempting."

"I bet it was," he said.

He gave her a kiss before he stepped back from her car, letting her open the door and get in. He was glad to see she remembered to lock her doors.

"And, John," she said, licking her lower lip.

"What?" Did she think she didn't have his undivided attention at this moment?

"I would have much rather have been with you last night."

"Yeah?" He found that incredibly hard to believe, but it was very flattering to hear her say so.


"Well, I wouldn't have had to share my pillows with Shelly that's for sure."

"No, you wouldn't have."

"Next Saturday," he said, though it was really more of a question.

"I'd like that."

Him, too. Immensely. "It's a date."

She smiled a little at that and he shut her door for her.

He was going over there today with the intent to spend the night, but it was different knowing they'd both have to go to work in the morning versus next Saturday when they could wake up Sunday morning and do whatever they wanted for the day.

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