"Hey, Claire," John called from her bathroom.
"Is there something you're not telling me," he asked.
Liz was spending the whole weekend with Mary and Abby at Mary's house. That meant John was here the whole weekend. She offered to stay a night at his house, but he'd insisted that wasn't necessary.
He came out to the kitchen dressed in just a towel and she couldn't help but stare for a minute. She knew he thought she saw only the scars, but honestly while she knew they were there the scars weren't what made her stop and stare at him, getting breathless. Actually, they kind of were because they were a part of him. They made him who he was today, inside and out. The guy who would protect his sister no matter what. He'd do the same for anyone he loved who treated him well. She was trying very hard to treat him right.
"What?" she asked.
He smirked a little because he knew by now that she liked looking at him. He held up the long wrapper that had evidently caught his attention in her bathroom's trash. Shit.
"What's your question?"
"No, no. Don't do that. I know that look in your eye, you can't distract me. You know what my question is. Is there something you're not telling me? Or trying to tell me by leaving this for me to find it?"
"But you thought there might be?"
"Uh, yes," she admitted.
"Enough to buy a test?"
"And you weren't going to mention it?"
"There wasn't anything to mention."
"Claire. You thought you might be pregnant. You didn't think I should know that?"
"But I'm not."
"That's not my point. That means you were late, late enough you went out and bought one of these."
"It was negative!"
"Still not my point. Would you have even told me if I hadn't seen the wrapper?"
"No," she said. "It was negative."
He sighed. "Why wouldn't you tell me?"
"Why worry you over something that wasn't even true?"
"Because the fact you thought it was a possibility means I forgot…"
"Yeah," she said.
"That first weekend here."
"No, that was very bad of me."
"It was an accident. You didn't mean to."
"And you're absolutely positive that it's negative?"
She laughed softly at that. "Yes, I'm positive. Had I waited about six hours I would've had my answer without spending money on the test."
"Oh," he said, regarding the wrapper for a minute.
"Are you mad?"
"Yeah, well, that would certainly put a crimp in your work goals, don't you think?" he asked.
"Yes, I'd thought of that."
"And yet you didn't call me panicked and freaking out about possibly being pregnant."
"Nope," she said.
"You didn't blame me?"
"No. Why would I blame you? I certainly didn't think you came here that weekend with that as your intention."
"Why would you do that?"
He shrugged. "I don't know. I wouldn't. Some guys might, you know, feel threatened or something that you have this…success in your grasp."
"You're not some guys. You're my guy and I know you wouldn't do that. It has gotten me thinking, though."
She laughed again at the outright panicky look on his face.
"No, I don't want one," she said quickly.
"Oh, that's good. Very good. I mean, you know, one day maybe."
"Well, that sort of depends on you, too. I don't know. Do you want them?"
"Why wouldn't I?"
"I've proven I could run it from your house if I had to. Besides, it's a baby not a life threatening disease. I'd be off for a couple of months not forever. Since I'd know I was going to be off I could do things in advance and could still do some things while on leave."
"So that's a yes?"
"Right this second, no, which is what I was thinking about. Maybe we shouldn't rely on those anyway. There are better things we could use until we both decide that that moment is the right one."
"Yeah, all right," he said.
"Yeah, all right? You have no opinion?"
"Well, you do what you think is best. I don't know anything about the options. I've never had one fail."
"Have you used them as regularly as we are?"
"No," he admitted. "I'm pretty sure I've never had regular sex to use them regularly."
"Pretty sure, huh?"
He shrugged a bit.
"Well, I'm no expert either, but I made an appointment with my doctor. I don't smoke or anything so that seems to mean I'm a candidate for the pill which would be easiest."
She sighed softly, not sure what to say now. She'd made the appointment as soon as she'd actually gotten her period hours after taking the stupid test. She'd admittedly been a little more panicky about it than she'd just let on to him. She hadn't been mad, just she wanted to know right then what the answer was.
"Are you feeding him people food?" he asked. Evidently he'd finally spotted Lofton laying on the kitchen floor where Claire had been putting their breakfast together. She hated to admit it, but she kind of liked having him around.
"I'm not! You said not to. He seems to think maybe I'll give him some, though."
"Yeah, he's not stupid."
"You really expected I'd tell you?"
"Well, yeah, why not? A 'hey I might be pregnant' might have been nice."
"Because that way if you'd said, 'hey I'm pregnant' I wouldn't have been shocked."
She laughed softly. "I'll try and remember that."
"I hope you don't need to."
"And besides it seems to me you shouldn't have to deal with that on your own."
"Well, I didn't wait weeks or anything. As soon as I was late I bought it and took it. It's not like I've spent the last two weeks thinking I was or anything and said nothing to you."
She slid the wrapper out of his hand, crumpling it. "I honestly thought I'd thrown it out with the trash." She walked to her trash can in the kitchen, throwing it in there.
"It was on the floor, so must have fallen out of the basket or something."
"Oh. I'm sorry if I panicked you."
"Well, no, rightfully so. I forgot and I'm sorry. That's the last thing you need right now."
"Um, what we've just been talking about. A kid."
"Well, I would've dealt with it if it had come out positive."
She walked back to him, sliding a hand along his chest. "You obviously were concerned."
"Why do you say that?"
"You don't ever come out of our bedrooms not dressed."
"Well, when Lizzie's around, no. I don't ever want her to know what our parents' did."
"One day she's going to want to know."
She shrugged. "She's going to be curious. Can you blame her? One day she's going to fully realize that how you two have lived and existed is very different than just about everyone else in the world and she's going to want to know how bad it was that you were allowed at eighteen to get custody of a pre-school aged child."
"You don't know that."
"You're right, I don't. I don't know her as well as you do, but she loves you and I think she'll want to know."
"I'm still not showing her."
"I don't blame you for feeling that way now. One day, though, I think maybe you should consider it."
"You teach her things like how to set tables, you open car doors in front of her, you make her eat dinner with you, and all sorts of things that are very good. The car doors and things you do for me like pull my chair out and stuff you say is so she knows how to expect to be treated."
"You might want her to understand that there are things she shouldn't stand for either."
"Yeah, well, I'm not sure how example setting that would be. I did stay."
"Because of her! I think one day, John, she'll want to know that. Maybe it'll be ten or twenty years from now. Maybe it'll be because some guy breaks her heart so completely that she doesn't believe love really exists. What you did for her, everything you've done for her for the past eight years is the most selfless and loving thing anyone could ever do for someone. People choose to become parents, even if it's an accident they still make the choice to have the baby and raise it. You made a choice to be something even more valuable to her. You put her ahead of yourself from the time you were fourteen. She's eventually going to want to know why."
"Claire," he said.
She tugged on the part of the towel he had tucked in so it would stay wrapped around his waist.
"I'm not saying you have to show her. That's completely up to you, and I understand why you don't want to. I really do, but I do think you're not being completely honest with her if when she's older and would be able to handle it you keep hiding what life was like for you. And if you're trying to teach her things, isn't honesty the most important lesson."
"One of them," he whispered.
"And do I look at you like they matter?"
"No," he admitted.
"And you know it's because I love you, right?"
His eyes widened at that. "Yeah?"
"Mm hmm," she said.
"Say that again."
"That I love you?"
She blushed a bit at that. "Why?"
"Because I want to hear it again."
She leaned up and kissed his chin before making her way to his ear. "I love you, John."
"I love you, too, Princess."
"It took me long enough, huh?"
"You could say that again."
"So about babies."
"Shit, Claire, it wasn't really positive, was it?"
She laughed. "No, it wasn't. It did get me thinking, though."
"Well, you know, there is office space in the suburbs."
"And my lease on this place is up in February."
"Maybe you'd like to share your bedroom with me?"
"What does that have to do with babies exactly?"
"Well, we said one day, maybe."
"One day maybe implies in the future."
"It sure would be nice to be living together first, don't you think?"
"I think it'd be nice to be more than living together."
"It'd be a start."
"Is that a good yeah or a bad yeah? Am I moving too fast?"
"No. We should talk to your parents' first, don't you think? Make sure they're okay with that kind of an arrangement for a while."
"Because they're your parents and I imagine when we decide to go from that kind of an arrangement to the legally binding one you're going to want your parents' involved."
"Yes, of course."
"They may not want to be involved if we've been living together."
"You mean pay for it, right? They wouldn't do that."
"I'm positive. My mom wouldn't want to miss the chance to invite every one of her friends to show off the fact that not only did I make my own wedding dress but I designed it, too."
"I don't like the idea of you putting that much work into it."
"Because I have a feeling I wouldn't have being overly careful getting you out of it on my mind. It'd be a waste to ruin one of your originals."
"You'd manage, I'm sure."
"Hmm," he said. "I don't know."
"I like the idea of you wearing just what you are right now."
"I'm wearing your shirt."
"I can't do that."
"It's a nice shirt and it looks much, much nicer on you."
"You told me earlier you liked me better without it on."
"Oh, I do, but since you have to at least have two witnesses to get married that implies public, so that means you'd have to wear something."
"You wouldn't like that."
"I would too!"
She laughed. "No, not me wearing it, other people seeing me like this."
"You have a point. We'll just have no male guests except your dad and your brother."
"You're a very funny man."
"See, and I don't find anything funny about envisioning you wearing that and nothing else for a week," he said, working the buttons on the shirt. Slowly, almost too slowly.
"Where's Liz during this week?"
"Oh, I don't know yet. I haven't thought that part through. Your brother's? Your parents'? A friend's? We have time to figure that nuance out."
"Just not Abby's house I bet."
He chuckled. "Probably not. Then, maybe she'll finally set her sights on someone who might actually be interested in her."
"You are quite a catch."
Finally, he had the shirt unbuttoned completely. It excited her to no end when he did this, parting the shirt front just enough to catch a glimpse of her breasts. He got this look in his eyes that told her he really liked what he saw and that turned her on so completely it almost scared her.
"Says me," she said, sliding her arms around his neck so she could kiss him. With the towel gone and his shirt unbuttoned she could tell very plainly he liked touching her this way. He slid his hands to her hips, drawing her closer against him before lifting her up. She gasped as he slid inside of her. He'd only been inside of her the one night without protection before it was weird that she could tell the difference. She was fully aware he could because he'd told her.
"Hmm. You know you caught me a long time ago, right?"
"I did not."
"Did, too, it just took me a while to realize it. Or to want to realize it."
"John," she said cautiously.
"Yeah, I know. It's just you feel real good like this."
"When's that doctor's appointment?" He led them to her room, pulling out of her once there only long enough to put one on.
"Next week, but they said it'll be a while before it'll be effective."
"How long's a while?"
"Like a month after I start again."
"And you just finished I'm guessing by you taking that test the last week or so?"
"So, not forever."
"No, just a few weeks."
"I can handle a few weeks."
"I'm glad you can, because I'm not sure I can."
"God, yes, I like the look on your face when you're inside me that way."
"Hmm, we could elope and start working on them right away."
She laughed softly. "Not happening. I have way too much to do. I'd at least like to have a couple of months' notice to know we're going to start trying before we start. And besides, you want to take my wedding dress off."
"Because I plan on wearing absolutely nothing underneath it."
"Really? Under your wedding dress?"
"That's a very nice image, but I'm not entirely sure an appropriate one for me to have while in church."
She laughed softly, groaning when his beeper went off on her nightstand.
"No way," she said.
He chuckled, nuzzling against her neck before he reached for the offending device.
"It's Mary's number," he said, reaching for her phone.
"I thought they had my number?"
"They do, maybe just in case we're not here or not sure I was here or at home."
She ran her hand along his hip as he dialed the number waiting for them to answer.
"Hi Tony, this is John."
She couldn't hear what Tony was saying only his voice. She'd met Tony once when she'd picked Liz up at Mary's house, but it was the only time she'd seen him versus the moms of Liz's friends.
"Oh, okay, yeah, I'll be there as soon as I can get there. Thanks for calling."
"No, I understand why you didn't take her last night."
He disconnected, eyeing her appreciatively but she already knew that was as far as they were going to get anymore today.
"What happened?" she asked.
"They went roller skating last night I guess and Liz fell. She said it was nothing, but today I guess her wrist and hand are all purple and swollen. It's bent funny and she can't use it."
"Tony says she swore she was fine last night or they would've called me when it happened."
"Well, sure, kids fall roller skating all of the time."
"I know. I'm not mad, but…"
"I know. I'll put a sandwich together for you so you at least have something to eat on the drive."
"You could come with."
"If you want me to I can, I wasn't sure."
"Well, we're just a few minutes ago talking about getting married and making babies I think you coming with me while I go to the hospital to see her is acceptable."
"I know, but she's your sister."
"Yeah," he said, drawing away from her. He kissed her lightly before pulling away and out of her completely. He grabbed her ankle, tugging her toward the edge of the bed. "Come on, sleepy head. Get dressed."
"Me! I was making breakfast."
"You left that wrapper on the floor."
"I did not do it on purpose."
"About gave me a heart attack when I saw it."
"You knew what it was?"
"I knew there are only a few things that come in wrappers like that you'd have need for in your bathroom. It was too long to be those other things, and I saw enough of those wrappers to know what they look like."
"Shut up. I'm a guy, okay? I'm not supposed to be comfortable talking about those things."
"You're a guy with an eleven-year-old living with him. You're going to have to get comfortable."
"See," he said, walking to her bathroom. "And that's my plan. Get you to move in with me before that happens so I don't have to deal with it at all."
"No way is that fair."
"Life's not fair, Princess, haven't you learned that yet?" He walked into her bedroom again and proceeded to slide a pair of boxers and jeans on. "You'd really make me go through that if you were living with us when she started all of that?"
"I should the first time, just for expecting I'd deal with it!"
"Very nice. I see how it is. You're a girl. Would you have wanted your dad explaining that shit to you?"
"Well, no, of course not, but…"
"No, there is absolutely nothing you can say after admitting what you just did that will make me think I'm a better candidate for that task versus you."
"Fine," she said. He smirked as he slid a shirt on, not the one she was wearing earlier. "You're entirely too proud of yourself."
He chuckled. "Let's go, Princess."
"Give me a minute to get a change of clothes for tonight."
"Okay, I'll get Lofton leashed up and down by my car."
"Why don't you just take your car, I'll be right behind you in mine. I'll walk Lofton before we go. That way you're there first. And that way you don't have to drive me back out here tomorrow."
"All right," he said, brushing a kiss over her cheek. "Thanks."
"She's going to be fine."
"I know she is because there is no other option."
She smiled a little at that. She heard him tell Lofton to stay. The dog whimpered softly, not at all accustomed to being left here with just Claire as company. She got a bag together and found Lofton's leash before setting her alarm and heading out.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com