***Chapter Thirteen***
Word Count: 5,167

"Why are you leaving your coat on?" he asked.

"To take Shelly home."

"You said she lives in walking distance, right?" he asked.

"Yes," she said, sounding cautious.

"Don't worry, I'm not going to make her walk home by herself. I'm not going to drive her either. I will walk her home, though, you go check on your sons."

"But I have to pay her."

"I'll pay her."


"You wouldn't have had to get a sitter if it wasn't for me asking you out tonight, so I'm paying for the sitter. It seems a pretty fair trade off to get to see you in another very nice dress. If you hadn't admitted to buying it I may not be so inclined to pay for the sitter."

"Really, I can pay for the sitter."

"I know you can, obviously. You were planning to. You said five dollars an hour right?"

"Yes," she sighed.

"We left around four o'clock."


"So, forty dollars should cover it, right? We're home before midnight."

"Yes," she said.

"Okay then. You go check on Bill and Justin, I know you want to and I'll go get her."

"Thank you."

"You're welcome. Thank you for coming out with me."

They'd ended up leaving the party earlier than eleven. He'd shown up, he'd stayed for hours, and didn't mind having to use the excuse of Claire having a sitter to get home to leave early. If they'd wanted to stay longer they could've, but she didn't seem to want to any more than he did. She'd told him the sitter didn't have any particular set time to be home by.

"Thank you for inviting me."

"You had fun?"

"I did," she said and he knew that wasn't easy for her to admit. She felt guilty about going not just because Dan had only been gone since June but because she'd gotten into an argument with her mother because of it. They'd been getting along fairly well to this point and he knew it bothered her that they'd fight over something like this now.

"Good. I'll see you in the basement then?"

"Actually, you can come up to my room I think tonight."


"Mom won't be home for a while yet."

"You're sure? I don't want to be responsible for you two getting into an argument twice in one day."

"I'm positive," she said, leaning up to kiss him. "And thank you for walking the sitter home."

"You're welcome. I'll be back in a bit."

"Oh," she said, stopping at the stairs and turning around again.


"You'll need keys," she said, reaching into the little purse she brought her with her for the night to fish her keys out of it.


He went to the basement to find Shelly who seemed surprised to see him rather than Claire.

"Hi. Everything went all right?" he asked.

"Yeah, Justin was asleep before eight o'clock and Bill went to sleep about ten o'clock."

"They didn't give you any problems?"

"No, none at all. They were good."

"Good. Thank you for doing this. I'm sure there were other places you would have rather been."

"My parents wouldn't let me go anyway. The only reason they let me sit for Mrs. Abbott was because it was in walking distance."

"Yeah, I'll walk you home. If that's all right."

"Sure," she said, standing then to grab her coat and stuff from the chair she'd set them on.

"I'm John, by the way, John Bender."

"I'm Shelly Bauer."

"Any relation to, uh," what the hell was the guy's name? John hadn't known him real well, hadn't known he'd lived in Claire's neighborhood. He certainly hadn't dressed or acted as if he came from Claire's neighborhood. "Kenny?"


"Yeah, I knew him as Kenny I guess. Years ago now."

"He's my older brother."

"Ah, okay. Claire, Mrs. Abbott and I went to school with him."

"Yeah, I know," she said, sliding her hat on now that her coat was fastened. "Mrs. Abbott told me that. She said she thought I was older than I am."

"I honestly didn't know he had a younger sister."

"I'm the baby."

If memory served him correctly, Ken Bauer was a year behind them, making him twenty-seven now. He was pretty sure Claire mentioned Shelly being fourteen. Thirteen years wasn't a huge difference, he supposed.

"How many in between," he asked.


Ah, that made a lot more sense.

"Both boys?" he asked. He seemed to recall vaguely Kenny bitching about his younger brother.


He let her go up the stairs first, checking to be sure everything was off down here before heading up the stairs himself. He imagined Claire would come down here herself to check, but just in case.

She only lived down the block a ways so it didn't take him long to walk her home, pay her, and get back to Claire's house. He let himself in, feeling a little weird doing it but she'd given him her keys for a reason. He'd only been in her room a couple of times before tonight when he was putting her to bed because their sex had exhausted her. Her admission not his getting a big head about his ability to satisfy her. He wasn't sure there was such a thing as satisfying her, not completely anyway. He'd felt guilty those couple of times, but she'd assured him she was fine just things made her tired that even a couple of weeks ago didn't.

He knocked lightly, opening the door when she told him to come in.

"Shelly got home all right?"

"She did."

"Good. Thank you."

"Sure. The boys are all tucked in?"


"Good. She said Justin went to bed before eight and Bill by ten."

"That's reasonable. I told her if Bill wanted to watch some of the New Year's celebration stuff on TV with her or an extra movie or something he could."

"I didn't know her brother was Kenny."

"You knew Ken?"

"Yeah, we partied together a few times."

"Oh," she said with a nod. "Yeah, he was that type."

"Listen to you. You were the first to join me in smoking up on school property."

"I was at school on a Saturday! Who could blame me for wanting to erase that thought from my mind for a little while at least?"

He chuckled. "Good point."

"You're all the way over there."

"Yeah, still wondering if you've thought this through. Your mom."

"She's not going to be home for a while. Her friends don't leave those parties until at least one o'clock. She hasn't been to the club in months. She'll be glad she went and talk to people she hasn't seen since Dad's funeral."

"I suppose," he said cautiously, walking to her and her bed.

He spotted the dress she'd been wearing draped over a nice armchair she had near her closet (it was a walk-in, of course). Next to the closet was her bathroom.

"It seems you're ahead of me."

"I didn't want to waste time."

"Undressing you is not a time waster as far as I'm concerned."

"I didn't take everything off."


She drew the covers back so he could see that she still had the stockings on.

"You left them on for me?"

"You seemed to like them, or at least the idea of them."

"I do," he admitted, sliding a hand to her calf. He grazed her skin there with his thumb. "Do I have to take them off?"

She laughed softly, shaking her head. "No."

"Good," he said. "I should've brought a change of clothes with me."

"Why?" she asked.

"Because it's going to be a pain in the ass taking all this shit off only to put it back on again."

"You don't have to put it all back on. You're just going home."

"True," he said, undoing his bowtie and sliding it out from around the collar of his shirt. She propped herself up on the bed a bit to unfasten his cummerbund and dropped it to the floor before working the fastenings of his tuxedo pants. He unbuttoned his shirt, watching as she reached for his shaft through the slit in his boxers.

She worked the waistband of them down a bit over his hips, he did the rest letting them fall to the floor before stepping in between her legs.

"You're okay on your back like this?" he asked.

She'd told him their first night together that his being on top wasn't good because laying on her back for long periods of time cut off oxygen to the baby. That didn't sound like a good thing to him so he'd never even tried to initiate anything remotely resembling missionary position with her.

"That's why I put the pillow here," she said. He hadn't noticed the pillow under her until now. He'd been too busy focusing on the stockings and the sexy as hell garter belt she wore with them.

He slid inside of her then, getting all kinds of turned on at the sounds she was making with him inside of her like this. She wrapped her legs around his waist then, gripping him tightly preventing him from moving at first. He was deep inside of her, the pressure of being in her like that and her clenching her muscles around him almost had the same effect as thrusting in and out of her did. Almost. Not quite because nothing beat the feeling of moving in and out of her.

She loosened her grip at his waist with her legs a bit, letting him move as he touched her breasts. He loved how dark they got when she got turned on like this. It drove him crazy, knowing he was causing that reaction in her. He was careful not to lean too much of his weight onto her as she ran her heel along his hip.

She slid a fingertip around one of her nipples, gathering the bit of fluid that came out there before bringing her hand between her legs.

"Fuck," he cried out, finishing not too long after that. The idea of her using that as a bit of lubricant while touching herself was his complete undoing. She finished right after he did, so she evidently liked it, too.

He joined her on her bed then, not waiting very long. He didn't care how much she assured him she was okay he wasn't going to let her lay on her back like that any longer than she had to. She turned onto her left side as she always did when they were done, better for the baby for whatever reason. She had difficulty sleeping anymore. He knew that only because she admitted it to him one night when they were talking on the phone and he commented on how tired she sounded.

"I like your bed better," he whispered, kissing her shoulder. She laughed softly.

"Better than yours?"

"No, I mean, well, yes, your bed is much better than my bed. I won't lie and try to claim it isn't, but I meant over your floor or couch downstairs."

"You didn't mind my couch on Wednesday," she quipped, glancing at him over her shoulder.

"Well, no, put like that, of course not. I don't mind any of it."

She'd knelt on the couch on Wednesday, facing the back of it so he could enter her from behind that way. It had felt incredible to be in her like that. He wasn't sure why it was different than just being behind her normally, but it had been. Maybe it was the fact it was on a couch versus a bed. He would probably never know. He always felt as though he came too fast when he was behind her. Then he hadn't lasted too long tonight either.

"You were worried about the baby just now, weren't you?"

"Well, yeah, a little. I mean, I trust you know what you're doing and everything, but it is a bit of added pressure."

"At least you were still able to."

"Still able to?"

"Have sex with me."

"Well, of course, I can have sex with you. Have I ever given you any indication I can't?"

"No," she said softly. "I just meant, you know, you stay wanting to."

"Stay wanting to? What does that even mean?" he asked.

"Sometimes when I was this far along with Bill and Justin, Dan couldn't."


"No, he," she shrugged. "You know."

"I know?" No, he didn't know. Then he stopped. "Really? He couldn't even, uh, stay physically interested?"

"Not always, no."

He sighed softly, kissing her shoulder again. He grazed the spot there with his cheek. He really hated that anything they did together made her think of Dan. He hated it more than he could explain to anyone without sounding like a complete and utter jealous idiot. "Well, I don't know what to say. It sounds like that was his issue not yours, Claire. Clearly, I have no problem getting and staying hard for you."

"You say that now."

"Yeah? I'm not him, you know? I know that's your only base of comparison, but you feel good to me. What's not to get turned on about that?"

"I'm already bigger than I was with either Bill or Justin, I have over two months to go."

"Yeah, I know. You told me you being on top may not work so well anymore. I'm okay with that. I told you the first night this happened between us I could lay here and go down on you for hours and be happy with that."

"That wouldn't be very fun for you."

"Speak for yourself. It'd be very fun for me, and well, if you wanted to use your hand to help finish me off I wouldn't complain about that."

"You wouldn't, huh?"

"No. Whatever works is fine. If tomorrow you said we can't anymore, well that'd be fine, too."

"You wouldn't be mad?"

"Mad? What's to get mad at?"

"You've been getting fairly regular sex for the past five weeks or so."

"Yeah, so have you. You're the one who needs it every waking moment."

"John," she whispered.

"Relax, sweetheart. I'm only teasing. I wouldn't get mad. I told you when this is done and if you decided we couldn't again I wouldn't get mad."

"Thank you," she whispered.

"I am sorry, though, that he ever made you feel undesirable. On that I'm not teasing."

"I know."

"Thank you for the dress, by the way. It must have cost a lot. I know maternity clothes aren't cheap to begin with let alone formal ones. You didn't have to do that."

"I did. I couldn't wear the same dress three times in a row."

"Why not?"

She sighed. "It just isn't done."

"Claire, I wouldn't have cared and no one but me would have known it was three times in a row."

"I would have known. My mother would've."

"Claire," he sighed with a soft chuckle. "It's a whole different world you were raised in and seem to still cling to than anything I'm used to. I just feel bad you thought you had to spend money for me."

"I didn't have to."

"I'll pretend I understand and just say thank you."

"Glad you liked it. I thought you'd like how soft it was."

"You're going to be able to sleep now?"

"Yes, for a while at least. Sex with you always does that."

"You and the boys could come stay with me for the next couple of months so you could sleep well every night."

"That is tempting."


"A good night's sleep every night. You have no idea."

He sighed. "More rules?"

"Yes, and it would just be wrong to do not just to the boys but you."

"What about you?"

"I'd survive."

"But you'd get hurt, too. Right? That's what you're saying?"

"Well, sure, living with you that'd be weird. I'm not sure I could go from seeing you every day, sleeping with you every day to not."

"It'd smack of commitment."

"That, too."

"Get some rest. I'll leave in a little while."

"Okay," she said.

There was a knock at her door a while later. John hadn't fallen asleep but he wasn't completely awake either. Claire moved beside him so obviously the knock woke her. He wasn't sure he'd locked her door when he came in here or not. He couldn't remember. He panicked momentarily, wondering if he should make a dash for her closet.

"Yeah?" she murmured, sounding as sleepy as he imagined she was.

"Claire?" her mom said.


"Just making sure you got home safely and that Shelly did, too."

"I did. She did. John walked her home for me. I'm glad you did, too."

"Happy New Year," she said.

"You, too," Claire said.

Silence, but he hadn't heard her walk away from the other side of the door. He hadn't noticed her approach the door either, but he hadn't been listening for it either.

"And Claire?"

"Yeah, mom?"

"Please make sure John is gone before the boys are awake in the morning."

"I know, Mom, I will," Claire said.

No good night, no opening the door to see what they were doing, no arguments. He heard her walk away from the door, though.

"Oh God," she said, raising her head to look at the alarm clock beside her bed. "How did she know you were in here?"

"Uh, Claire, you realize my vehicle is sitting right on your driveway, right?"

"No," she said and he chuckled.

"It's not funny. She knows you're in here."

"Yeah, and I imagine you'll hear about it tomorrow. Relax for now, it's not good for you to worry about it. She's going to get mad or she's not. Maybe she had a good time and realizes you're allowed to do the same thing."

"This is totally different! This is not a good time!"

"Claire," he whispered.

He slid a hand along her lower back to her hip. He knew she didn't mean what she'd just said to be insulting, but it took him a second to convince himself she hadn't meant it that way. He considered the things they did a very good time. Their conversation at the party earlier was still floating around in his mind, though. The fact she had entered into this type of relationship with him, even if it only ever amounted to what it was currently, thinking it may not be good bothered him. He didn't care that she didn't think he'd be good when it got down to it. Her experience with Dan he could understand why she'd believe pregnant he wouldn't want to have sex with her.

"Do you want me to leave?"

"No," she whispered.

"No? Are you sure?"

"I'm positive. She already knows you're here in my room. I can't undo that."

"No," he said with a soft sigh. "You can't. I asked you if you were sure about being in here."

"I just wanted to be with you in a bed again for a change."

"I'm completely down with that thought process. Set your alarm, sweetheart. I'll get dressed and leave when it goes off."

"You're sure?"

"I'm positive."

"I'm so sorry."

"What do you have to apologize to me for?"

"My mom knows."

"Yeah. You're an adult. She'll get over it. Or she won't. I guess if I can't come around here then I can't."

"She likes you."

"Well, hopefully that will influence her decision and make her realize I'm not out to cause some scandal or anything."

"I know."

"What is the normal period of mourning for people like you anyway?"

"My mother would probably tell me a year."

"Oh," he said.

"The counselor at school has told me that everyone mourns and grieves differently and when I'm ready to not be in mourning anymore I'll know."

"You've talked to her? It's not still Ms. French, is it?"

"It is," she said with a soft laugh. "I haven't really talked to her, no, but she asked how I was doing. She remembers me, I guess, and is just trying to be nice I'm sure. She sits with me when I have lunch once in a while. She just offered some advice."

"Oh," he said. "She wasn't bad. She was pretty young when we were there I guess thinking back. Cute. I remember that so young enough for me to think that about her."

"You saw her?"

"A few times. You know, showing up late for classes, skipping classes, cigarettes found in my locker, and showing up for school with unexplainable bruises and stuff. So, yeah, we had a few chats during junior high."

She shook her head. He knew him talking about his childhood bothered her. He didn't do it often, because he refused to dwell on it. Sometimes, though, things came up in conversations between them that made him think of things. He wasn't afraid to say them to Claire. He never would have talked about Ms. French to Amanda that was for sure.

"I wonder why she's still Ms. French."

"She's not. She's Mrs. O'Mara now."

"Oh, so someone else evidently thought she was cute, too."

"I guess so," she said softly.

"Is she someone you consider a friend?"

"Yeah, I guess she is."

"Is it weird?"


"Being friends with people who fifteen years ago were authority figures? People in charge?"

"Oh, a little, but she's nice, and you're right she's pretty young. She's only like ten years older than us."

"Yeah, I figured she was pretty close to right out of college when we were at school there."

"You had a crush on a teacher?"

"It wasn't a crush. She was cute. She was nice. I didn't have many nice people in my life at that point so she's memorable. I didn't like fantasize about her or anything."


"And you? Any teacher crushes?"

She laughed softly.

"Yeah?" he asked. "Who? I'll bet it was, hmm, Mr. Fraser."

"Ew. He was like older than my grandpa."

John chuckled kissing her ear.

"So, not Mr. Fraser. Mr. Nowicki, I bet. I could see him being considered nice looking."

"He was kind of cute, but no."

"Who then?"

"Mr. Sloan."

"Really? The art teacher?"

"Yes. He was cute and way more talented than a junior high art teacher should have been."

"Yeah, now that you mention it, he was. Makes you wonder if he did something naughty somewhere along the way to be delegated to junior high art teacher."

"I got the impression he just liked teaching that age bracket. Talent is still blossoming, presenting itself. He liked being the one to encourage it," she shrugged against him. "That's why I liked him. He was caring."

He grunted softly at that.

"Too sappy?"

"No, it sounds like something a thirteen year old you would think."

"And he was cute," she said softly. "Then we got to high school and had Mrs. Peterson who didn't have an encouraging bone in her body."

"God, I haven't thought of some of these people in years."

"Me neither, not really."

"No? You didn't get your reunion invite?"

"I did, but it was right after Dan had died so I couldn't go."

"Oh," he said. "I'm sorry, I didn't know."

"You didn't get an invitation?"

"I did. I opened it, saw what it was, and promptly threw it in the trash."

She turned to face him then. "Will you go to the twenty year?"

"I don't know. I guess it depends on whether I have a reason to go."

"You had no reason to go this time?"


"Why not?"

"You were the only person I was remotely curious about seeing. You were off somewhere happily married. I figured you wanted me to know about your life away from here you'd have let me know somewhere along the line. I have nothing to prove to anyone and there was no one else I cared to see. I mean, I've kept in touch with a couple of people, but I didn't give any more of a shit about anyone else than they did about me. Mr. Vernon can suck my left nut as far as I'm concerned before he ever finds out I'm doing all right for myself."

"Mr. Vernon can't do that."

"No?" he asked.

She brushed her thigh between his legs and he closed his eyes at the feel of her touching him there. It never seemed to matter where she was concerned that they'd just had sex a little over an hour ago, that her mother was home, or that she was tired and would never deny him sex despite that. There were times he felt guilty about coming over here during the week knowing she'd be in bed as soon as Justin went to sleep instead of down in the basement with him.

"No, because that's my job."

She slid on top of him then, brushing her lips along his chest before going lower along his body. He reacted just as she (hopefully) wanted him to.

"You're supposed to be sleeping," he whispered as she closed on in her target.

"Blame my mom. She woke me up."

"Yeah, I'll get right on having that talk with her. When I'm dead."

She chuckled softly and slid her mouth over him. She groaned softly as she slid a hand to the base of him, stroking his sac as she was so fond of doing whenever she did this. He was pretty fond of it, too, because contrary to what most people seemed to realize it was nice to get all the parts that made him a man tended to.

He closed his eyes, running his fingers through her hair a bit as she used her mouth in all kinds of good ways. He loved the feel of her tongue working along his shaft and her hand stroking the base of him the way he showed her he liked it done. There wasn't a bad way necessarily, but there were ways that worked to the desired end result better than others. Clearly that was her intent here and he groaned softly at the idea of finishing in her mouth.

He loved when she did this yet hated it at the same time. It clouded things, made it more confusing to him as far as what she felt for and wanted from him. Her going down on him and making him come that way made it clear she wasn't wanting sex from him at this moment. He couldn't stay here all night as much as he'd like to. It just confused him. Was she doing this because she really wanted to? Or out of some sense of obligation or guilt that he was having sex with her with no strings. The no strings part was suspect to him. He was pretty sure strings were developing for both of them. He was just ready for them a lot sooner than she was.

She propped herself up against him a bit. He knew kneeling for this long wasn't comfortable for her back. She hadn't said so, she wasn't a complainer beyond telling him she felt fat (which was ridiculous, even him in his inexperience with pregnant women knew that wasn't the case).

He groaned a little less softly than he'd intended when he felt the evidence on his thigh that this was exciting her. That had never happened without some sort of stimulation or full-blown excitement on her part. These days the stimulation wasn't entirely necessary but the excitement was.

It didn't take him long to finish after that. What she was doing combined with the fact that it was turning her on just as well as it was him were enough to send him over the edge. It was hard to know when a woman was going down on you how much enjoyment they got out of it. Until tonight anyway.

She settled next to him on her left side, head against his thigh as she ran her hand along the length of him lightly.

"I didn't realize you liked doing that that much."

"Is that bad?" she whispered.

He chuckled.

"No, it's very good. Notice I came just as soon as I realized that."

"I did."

"I didn't hear an 'I'm sorry' out of you either."

"Because I'm not sorry?"

"That is very good to know"

"I'm tired of being sorry."

"That is also very good to know because there's nothing to be sorry for in anything we do." He dropped a hand to her head, touching her there. "Come here," he whispered.


"Because I should go."

"You wanted to stay until morning."

"Yeah, but if I fall asleep now after that delightfully unexpected treat I'm not going to want to wake up in four hours."

"I'm sorry."

"You just said you're done being sorry, sweetheart."

"That you feel you have to leave."

"Ah," he said. "Yeah, well, one day maybe."

"That'd be nice," she murmured and he knew she was close to drifting back to sleep again.


"Mm hmm."

"We'll work on it."


"I think our secret's out," he said with a chuckle. "But what could she say if we went somewhere for a weekend?"

"I can't leave the kids with her for a weekend, John."

"Bring them with. We could go somewhere in Wisconsin. I could teach Bill how to snowmobile, ski, or ice skate while you hang with Justin and drink hot chocolate in front of a fire."

"Really? That sounds nice."

"Yeah, you know, something fun, a break, before the baby comes."

"I'll think about it."


He stood from the bed then, hating to do it but he had to go. If he didn't leave now he was pretty damned sure he never would. He helped reposition her on the bed the way she needed to be. He worked the fastenings on the garter belt and slid it and her stockings off. He would've much rather removed them from her when she was awake, but maybe another time he'd get to. He just knew falling asleep with them on for the night couldn't be comfortable. He set them on the chair with her dress before setting the covers around her. He placed his hand against her belly for a minute. He sure had been quiet tonight, John wasn't sure if he'd just had one too many glass of champagne to where he didn't notice the kicks that usually accompanied her excitement.

He kissed her lightly before dressing and leaving her room. Her mom wasn't there in the hallway, waiting for him so he figured things were at least not terrible. He made his way down the stairs, closing the door behind him and checking to make sure it was secure as he'd done a few times now when leaving her house late like this.

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