***Part Six***
Word Count: 3,142


"Hi. Claire?"

'Yes,' she said.

"I didn't think it was your mom, but I've never heard her on the phone so figured I'd be sure. It's John."

'Is everything all right?'

"Yeah. Why?"

'You're supposed to be working today I thought.'

"Oh yeah. I guess I didn't tell you last night. We got everything done yesterday after all so we're off the hook for one Saturday anyway."

'Oh, that's good.'

"Yeah. If I don't have to drive to McHenry again in the same pickup as those guys anytime soon I'll be happy."

'It was better than all of you spending your own money on gas.'

"Oh, definitely. We just don't know why our boss took the job to begin with. Usually we just stick with the Northwest suburbs."

Locally they usually drove their own vehicle as they did for the job at Claire's house last week. Occasionally, though their boss would take a job that was further away like the one this week had been. For those jobs they were able to use company vehicles to come and go with. They could in town, too, but none of them wanted to wake up the thirty or forty minutes early it would require to get to the shop and then to the worksite on time. Occasionally, in the really, really nice areas like Inverness or Barrington, the client would specify no more vehicles present than necessary and they'd have no choice. Typical suburban families didn't seem to care as much, though.

"So, I was thinking," he said. "Are you busy today?"

'Not particularly.'

"Is that a no or you actually have something planned but just don't want to say so."

'I was going to let Jack sit in his pool in the backyard for a while again. Mom said it was only supposed to get up to the high seventies today so I was going to do that after lunch maybe. I didn't really have anything planned. Mom and Dad went to a flea market or something this morning so they'll be gone until dinnertime at least.'

"Your dad went, too?"

'Yeah. I don't understand it either, but they do things like that together sometimes. He says sometimes he sees things he's interested in Mom wouldn't know about or their worth.'

"Well, sure, I suppose that makes sense since they're married and at the point their kids are going to be gone soon."

'Don't remind me,' she said with a laugh.

"So, would you and Jack like to go to the zoo?"


"It was a pretty sincere question. It's a nice day."

'You realize he won't get much out of it?'

"Sure, but I only have a few weeks before you guys are gone. When's the last time you were at the zoo?"

'I'm not sure,' she said.

"Well, see."

'Sure, I'll pick you up, though.'

"I sort of figured we'd have to take your car, yeah."

'I have to shower and stuff.'

"Laziness becomes you, Princess."

'He let me sleep in a little later than usual today.'

"We must have worn him out."

'I guess so,' she said.

He'd come over for a while after work as he had a couple of times during the week. Jack was in his baby pool when he'd gotten there. He couldn't do much more than sit and splash, but he had fun with the few toys and balls he had in there. Once he was done and she'd gotten him dressed they stayed out in her back yard until John had to go. Obviously, Jack didn't do anything physically to exhaust himself, but she mentioned that fresh air could really knock kids out.

"What's a little later than usual?"

'It was after seven.'

"Princess," he said.

Seven o'clock was not sleeping in for a college student on summer break. It still bothered him that she'd elected to do this by herself to this point. Soon, in a few weeks, she'd be one hundred twenty miles away and by herself again.

'It was nice!'

"If you say so."

'Well, you called me and it's before nine o'clock so you obviously knew I'd be awake.'

"Well, sure, but it bothers me you think seven o'clock is sleeping late."

'It is!'

He sighed softly. "How long will it take you to get here?"

'Um,' she said and he could almost see her mentally going over what she'd have to do get ready. She hadn't given Jack his bath last night, but he'd been in the water in the pool so he doubted he really needed a full-on bath this morning. 'I can be ready in thirty minutes.'

"Really, Princess?"

'Yes, really. I've perfected the art of getting ready fast.'

"I meant, he's eaten and everything?"

'Oh, yes, of course. I just didn't take my shower not realizing I'd be going out.'

"Okay then, Princess, see you when you get here. You remember how to get here?"

'Yes,' she replied. She'd driven there once because he'd wanted her to know where he lived. She hadn't come in or anything, but she knew which apartment was his.

"I guess I need to make sure all my socks are picked up from the floor then this time, huh?"

'If you plan on letting me in, I guess so,' she said with a laugh.

"All right, I'll see you when you get here then. Take your time. We have all day."

'Okay,' she said, hanging up.

The zoo was nice. She was right, though; Jack got absolutely nothing out of it. She brought a camera and took some pictures of the animals they saw and stuff, but Jack would never remember being there beyond being told he was here. John didn't really care, though; they spent most of the morning and afternoon together. John hadn't been to a zoo in years; Claire said she hadn't been to one in a while either so it was a nice thing to do together. A memory they made that was more than watching movies on her couch.

"Want to come in? I don't have any movies, but I'm sure there's something on TV and we could order Chinese or something."

"Are you sure?"

"I asked, so of course I'm sure."

"I just wasn't sure if you had something else to do."


"You're not using your fake ID tonight?"


"Why not? It's Saturday night."

"I don't have anything to go out for, not really. Overpriced watered down Cokes aren't that great."

"I'm glad you're not drinking."

"Yeah, that makes two of us," he said.

"Have you thought about whether you're going to tell them?"

"About Jack? My parents you mean?"

"Yes," she said.

"There wasn't anything to think about, no."

"You don't think they should know?"

"Should they know? Maybe. Do they deserve to know? No."

"I was just curious. I mean, they're his grandparents."

"And, trust me; he's not missing out on anything not knowing them. I mean, what, were you planning on dropping him off there for a weekend or something?"


"Well, see, why should I bother telling them if they can't do anything with him anyway. He'd get taken from you if you knowingly put him in a harmful situation."

"I know."

"I haven't seen them since I moved out. They don't know where I live and I have no desire to change that anytime ever."

"And you're sure your mom wouldn't…"

"Wouldn't what? Turn over a new leaf? Get all misty-eyed and maternal over a grandchild when she couldn't do it with me? No, I don't see that happening. And even if I did, even if there was a chance she would be different to Jack than she was with me. She'd still tell my father. He'd get drunk and say something cruel to her and she'd use that as a way to win their argument."

"You think she'd do that?"

"Princess, I lived with them for eighteen years. I know how their fights work."

"I guess. I just feel kind of bad."

"Don't. There are far more important things to be worrying about than my parents and whether they'll ever know Jack. Besides, she probably wouldn't have too many nice things to say about you given the way I found out I was a dad."

"I suppose not," she said.

"Hey, don't worry about it. I'm just saying. So, Chinese? There's a pretty good place I could order from and run and pick it up. They deliver, but they charge a pretty hefty fee considering they're only a mile or two away."

"Sure," she said.

She settled Jack on a blanket she carried in her car all of the time for just these occasions. It wasn't a full-sized blanket, but was bigger than his regular baby blankets so she could put him on it with some toys and she didn't have to worry about anyone's carpet or floor getting dirty from him spitting up or drooling on it. She wasn't sure what she'd do when he started crawling. She could tell he was tempted to try it more and more these days. He'd see something just out of his reach. One of these days he'd be mobile. She was not looking forward to that, especially as chances were it would happen when she got back to school and was on her own again.

She called her parents to tell them she'd be home late after he'd ordered the food and left to pick it up. She took the time while he was gone to look around his apartment some. She wasn't spying, she didn't look in drawers or cupboards or anything. She just wanted confirmation she supposed that her decision not to tell him had resulted in him doing okay.

The apartment wasn't fantastic. It was bordering on a not-so-great part of town, but as it was just him it didn't matter so much. He didn't have a lot of things, but the couch he had was pretty nice. He'd told her that he'd recently bought it after the one he'd bought at a rummage sale fell apart. He had an easy chair that reclined, too. There was a small two-seater table in the living room off the kitchen. From the mail and stuff on one end of the table she didn't guess he had too many people eating with him. His room didn't have a lot of odds and ends; a bed, dresser, and a desk. She wasn't sure what he needed the desk for and she couldn't bring herself to be nosey enough to look. She did look at his bookcase, though, which didn't have just books in it. He had some cassettes, albums, videotapes, and even a few CDs on the shelves, too.

It was clean, neat enough considering he had less than an hour to straighten up that morning and he probably wasn't planning on asking her to come in at the end of their day.

Overall, she was happy for him. He'd mentioned wanting to move into a better place once his lease was up next spring.

They found a movie to watch before Saturday Night Live came on.

"You could stay you know," he offered when she was getting Jack's things together to put back in the bag she carried.

"I can't. My parents wouldn't approve."

"What are they going to say? We have a kid together."

"If we were together maybe, but they're helping me too much to risk upsetting them."

He sighed softly. "About that together thing."

"John, neither one of us should make a decision like that right now. You just found out about Jack. It's probably natural for you, for me too, to be tempted to make something out of nothing."

"Nothing? You think I tell just anyone I love them?"

"No. I was sort of hoping you were really tired that night and were saying things you didn't really mean to say."

"I meant everything I said, Princess."

"I'm going to be over one hundred miles away from here in about a month."

"Yeah? I said I could come see you on weekends. I mean, I might have to work some Saturdays so I wouldn't be able to get there until Saturday night but I'd have all day Sunday."

"Can't we just wait and see? Once I leave you may not want to do that."

"Well, I'd want to if for no other reason than to see Jack."

"Yes, I know, but seeing me may not be part of that. I mean, once I leave you may have time to think about all of this and you might get mad at me. Really mad at me. I wouldn't blame you either, honestly. I keep waiting for it to happen. Besides, I'm not having sex with you."

"Who said anything about sex?"

"Why else would you tell me I could stay?"

"So you don't have to drive home after midnight after a long day. I know you're tired and Jack's sound asleep."

"Yeah, on the floor!"

He grimaced. "I suppose I need to look into something to put him in."

"If you want him for a night or something, yes. Soon he'll be crawling. You could probably just get away with a playpen."

"I'll look into it."

"I'm not trying to be difficult, but two weeks ago…"

"Don't two weeks ago me, Claire. I haven't dated anyone since you."

"Shut up."

"I've gone out a couple of times, you know, sure but it was meaningless and a mistake."

"Wow. What did you say about sex with me to people?"

"I haven't said anything about you to anyone until last week anyway. The only mistake where we're concerned is on me, Princess."

"I just need time, John."

"You kissed me!"

"Sure, because I like kissing you. A lot. I'm attracted to you. Clearly. I'm just not ready to jump into something because of Jack."

"It's not because of Jack. I still would have told Chris and Scott I'd dated you. I still would have knocked on your door because they wouldn't have believed me. I still would have seen you that day. Nothing would have changed except there'd be no Jack."

"No reason for you to come back to my house that night."

"Maybe, but who knows? If Jack wasn't here I may have talked to you more at your door, too. I don't know."

"I just think we need to see what happens once I leave for school. You may change your mind."

"About what?"


"Not happening. I even went out this week and bought an answering machine for you."

"For me?"

"Yes. I don't care if anyone else is able to get a hold of me or leave me a message. You I want to be able to leave a message if I'm not here."

"Thank you."

"You're welcome," he slid an arm around her, drawing her to him. He kissed her. "I'm not trying to push. It was an offer because I don't want you driving home tired. I wasn't trying to get you out of your clothes."

"You've never seen me without all of my clothes off."

"I am well aware of this fact, Princess. Believe me, and one day I will change that. For both of us."

"I didn't see you either."

"Yeah, I know," he said, sliding his hand along her hip. "Lifting up your skirt and taking you from behind has to be one of the biggest turn ons I've ever experienced in my life."

"Why?" she whispered. Not the response he'd expected. He figured she'd get mad at him or tell him to shut up again.

He slid his lips along her jaw, grazing his tongue along the skin there before reaching her ear.

"Because it's kind of naughty, Princess," he whispered. "Good girls don't have sex with guys they essentially just met in closets at school. They certainly don't lose their virginity with the guy in them from behind. It was good, though." He kissed her earlobe, nipping it with his teeth. "Don't you think?"

"Uh huh," she murmured.

"You have no idea how often I've thought of that day. That nice skirt around your hips, your panties still in place, you begging me to slide my dick inside of you."

"Because you felt good. You were sliding it between my legs and I was caught up in the feeling."

"There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Getting caught up, letting go is good, Princess. Trust me when I say I can't wait for you to let go again."

"John," she whispered.

"I know it's not going to be tonight, but when you're ready. Shit," he whispered.


He took one of her hands, sliding it to the front of his jeans. "I'm hard just thinking about being inside of you again, Claire. Thinking about the things we could do on my bed."

"We did okay that day."

"Yeah, well, I'm glad you think so but we can do better than okay."


"Yes," he hissed, finding her throat and kissing her there. "Definitely."

"I have to go," she murmured.

"I know, Princess," he said, but he noticed she hadn't moved her hand away from the crotch of his jeans. She wasn't doing anything but touching him, but that didn't really matter to him. "God, I want to watch you do that sometime."

"Do what?"

"Touch me."

"Oh," she said.

"Too much for tonight?"

"I, no, but I have to go home."

"I'll walk you to your car."

"Like that?"

He shrugged. "Sure. It'll go away."

"I'm sorry. I'm just not ready."

"I know, it's okay. I do want you, though."

"I know it's just a lot to get used to. Two weeks ago I was a single mom and now I have to get used to the fact I have help."

"Of course I am going to help. Whatever you'll let me do. I know it was just money last week, but I want to do more than that."

"I know."

"Call me when you get home?"


"So I know you got home okay."

"Yeah, okay," she said.

"Thank you," he said grabbing her bag while she took hold of Jack. He let her handle him since she was better at picking him up without rousting him from being asleep and putting him in his seat.

He walked her to her car, questioning his sanity for doing and saying the things he'd said in his apartment. If she didn't call him tonight like she said she would he'd be left to wonder if he pushed too far, but he had to remind her how good it was between them. And if it'd been good in that situation he could only imagine (and he had several times over the past year) what they'd be like normally.

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