***Chapter Fourteen***
Word Count: 6,337

She couldn't believe she was doing this. She was absolutely, totally insane. John was going to be here at any time, though, and their bags were packed so that meant she was doing it.

She and her mother had argued again. This one was a little lengthier than the argument on New Year's Eve had been. Oddly, her mother had not said much to her New Year's Day. She'd just told Claire to be certain she knew what she was doing for her sake and the sake of her kids.

Claire wasn't at all sure she knew what she was doing, but somehow during their phone call before bed the night of New Year's Day she'd agreed to go away with him one weekend. That was where they were going today as soon as he got here. He'd called her saying he was leaving his house about an hour ago, so he should be here any minute. He'd gotten done early as had been typically the case the past few months because of the weather. He still had elevators to service and repair, but there was no new construction going on requiring his services for installing new elevators.

Justin's car seat was with their things because they were taking John's SUV, which would handle the snow much better than Claire's car would.

Bill was beyond excited. John had told him the cabin they were going to had a snowmobile they could ride. He'd mentioned other things, too, but Bill had brightened up at the word snowmobile. Claire couldn't do any of the stuff. Oh, she imagined she could ice skate if she really wanted to, but she only would if Justin wanted to while Bill and John were doing whatever they were doing.

Both boys had already eaten so had Claire, though she was at the point where she couldn't eat much of anything anymore at one time. That was probably why her mother had stopped arguing with Claire after a while. She was six weeks from her due date her mom probably didn't think Claire was remotely interested in anything happening with John. She'd never talked to her mom about that aspect of pregnancy because she had absolutely no desire to know about her parents' sex life in any way shape or form.

Her mom answered the door. John had only seen her mom briefly since New Year's Eve when he'd come over on Wednesday nights between then and now.

"Hello, Mrs. Standish," he said and Claire could see the look of uncertainty in his eyes when she stepped into the hallway with Bill and Justin. They hadn't said more than a handful of words to one another since New Year's Eve either not that they'd ever had deep conversations before that night or anything. She could still tell that he was never sure if there was going to be a delayed tongue lashing aimed at him for that night one of these days.

"Have fun," she said, giving Bill and Justin hugs while John took their things out to his SUV. He came back, grabbing Justin's car seat.

"Come on, guys," John said. "Bill you can help me be sure I get Justin's seat put in right while your mom and grandma say good bye."

"You're sure you want to do this, Claire?" her mom asked.

"Yes, Mom. It's just a weekend away for some fun. The boys are going to love it, and so am I. I haven't had a weekend of doing nothing in so long."

"Just take it easy you don't want the baby to come early."

She'd almost be grateful if the baby came early at this point. She was so over being pregnant. He or she was making it more and more difficult for her to breathe every day, which she knew was supposed to happen but God it was just so much worse this go around.

"I'm not going to do anything, Mom. I'm going to sit with Justin while Bill and John do things. Maybe we'll go for a walk to the lake or something, but that's all I'm going to do. I figured it'd be good for Bill, you know," Claire shrugged.

"He's not Dan you know."

"Mother. I'm fully aware who he is and isn't. I'm not trying to make him into anything else. He offered to spend the time with Bill. Who am I to say no? Scott can't be the only man in his life."

"Well, that's true, but I really wish…"

"Yeah, I know what you wish, Mom. I'm sorry, okay. No one from here is going to see me with John at his friend's cabin in the middle of nowhere in Wisconsin. So unless you tell people I went off for a weekend with him no one will know."

"Bill will tell people."

"Sure, Bill will tell his friends that his mom's friend took him to a cabin where he got to snowmobile, ice skate, build a fire in a real fireplace, and toast marshmallows over that fire. How is that bad?" She sighed softly, shaking her head. "I'm sorry, Mom, I know this bothers you. I'm not doing anything wrong! I'm not running off and marrying him. It's a weekend."

"I know," her mother said.

"We'll be back Sunday night."

"Be safe."

"We will."

Her mom stepped outside onto the porch with Claire and watched them as John pulled out of the driveway.

"So, am I in trouble?" John asked.

Bill giggled in the backseat.

"What's so funny?" John asked.

"You can't get in trouble."

"Why not?"

"Because you're an adult."

"I guess you have a point," John said.

"No, she'll be fine."

"And you?"

"I'll be fine, too."

"Okay then," he said, driving out of her neighborhood.

It was a little over a three hour drive to where they were going. She hadn't been north of the Dells in ages. There was seldom any reason to go further. When she and Scott were little her mom would bring them up to Baraboo and a store that sold all sorts of cheeses and stuff, but that was the last time she could remember going beyond the Dells.

They'd stopped in the Dells for some groceries. Claire was kind of excited to cook it'd been so long since she had because her mom did all the cooking at the house. Claire tried to help, but her mom's kitchen was her mom's kitchen and Claire's help wasn't needed. She'd been much the same way in her house so she understood the feeling of not wanting someone else messing with her things.

"Wow," she said when he pulled up in front of the cabin.

"I told you it was nice," he said.

"Yeah, I know, but this is way nicer than I was thinking."

"Well, I told you he had seven brothers and sisters growing up."

"I know, but I just figured the rooms were real tiny."

He chuckled. Evidently his friend's parents didn't want the responsibility of the upkeep on the cabin any longer. His friend Greg was the only one of the seven kids (sadly, one of Greg's brother's passed away when he was a child) who wanted the responsibility. All of the kids were able to use it if they wanted to, but the property was Greg's to do with as he wanted.

"You've been here before?"

"Yeah. He invited a few of us up here a couple of falls ago to go deer hunting."

"You went hunting?"

"I sat around and drank mostly. I have no real interest in killing something I'm not going to eat."

"Do you fish?"

"Sure. I can clean a fish with the best of them."


"Yes, really. Too down and dirty for you?"

"No, just wondering."

"You've never been?"

"Fishing? Uh, no."

"Hunting either, I imagine."

"No," she said, shaking her head.

"Well, just think if we get stranded up here I'll at least be able to feed us."

"Ha ha. That's not even remotely funny."

"Oh come on, it's pretty funny."

"You going to deliver a baby, too?"

"Uh no, that probably exceeds my area of comfort. There something you need to share with me that you're asking me that question?"

She laughed softly. "No, I'm fine. We're fine."

"That's good because yeah, that would probably freak me out."

"Delivering a baby."

"No, I mean, well, yeah, but no you needing to do that now."

"Well, it could happen pretty much anytime. Another couple of weeks and we're considered term and wouldn't be premature if born."

"Well, a couple of weeks isn't this weekend."

"No," she said.

He came around to her side, helping her out of the SUV. He did that pretty much anytime he drove anymore. She'd lost her footing the weekend after New Year's and almost fell. Since then he hadn't let her get in or out without him there. Her shoe had been wet!

"Do you need me to get Justin?"

"No, I can get him."

"Oh, I know you can."

"I'm fine, thank you, really."

He helped Bill out of the SUV then while she got Justin and followed him to the door.

"So, just how good of a friend is this person to you?"

"Pretty good. I don't know. I went to his house on New Year's Day to watch the Bears game. They have a party every New Year's Day. His wife makes the best bloody Mary's I think I've ever had in my life."

"Ah. It's nice of him to let you use the cabin."

"He's a nice guy. He said they had no plans to use it."

"Does he know there are going to be kids here?"

"He has kids so it's okay."

"Oh," she said. "I thought you said you weren't around kids."

"I'm not, not really. I mean, I go to their house, sure but the kids are down in the basement or something not hanging around the grownups so I don't pay them any attention."


He unlocked the door and took a minute to find the light switch.

"Bill, boots off," she said.

"Yes, Mommy," he said, sitting on the bench there to take them off.

Justin hadn't walked anywhere so his weren't wet but she set him on the same bench and removed his boots, hat, and coat setting them and his mittens there, too.

"There's a bedroom downstairs with bunk beds, maybe they'd like that room?"

"Is it too cold down there?"

"Greg had a neighbor come by Thursday and kick the heat up to a livable temperature so it should be fine down there."

"Okay, do you want to go check it out, Bill?"

"Sure," he said, sliding his coat and hat off, too. He followed John in what she presumed was the direction of the basement. Once Justin woke up a bit and had his wits about him they followed Bill and John.

"Mommy, there's a pool table."

"I see that."

"John said if I'm very careful I could play."

"Sure, but he's right you have to be careful not to scratch the material or it ruins the whole table and it's very expensive to replace."

"Did Mommy have a pool table growing up?" John asked.

"Yes, we did, and Scott had a party once and someone did exactly what I'm warning Bill about and my dad was furious. Scott had no idea who it was who'd done it so we couldn't really accuse anyone or make them pay for it."

"Right. Nice friends."

"They were sixteen."

"Drinking I suppose?"

"Yes," Claire said.

"All right, Bill and Justin, the room is this way. If you don't like it we can find another one, I'm sure, but Greg says the bunk beds are pretty comfortable."

"I've always wanted bunk beds," Bill admitted.

"You have?"

"Yes, Mommy said we could have them at the old house, but now I don't think we'll get them."

"Why not?"

Bill glanced from Claire to John as if looking to her for the answer.

"Because the baby will already have its own bedroom so they don't need bunk beds," Claire said.

"Oh," John said. "Well, see here, you can sleep in bunk beds tonight and tomorrow."

John and Bill made the bunk beds up with sheets John found in the dresser in the bedroom. Claire took the opportunity to look around the basement with Justin. It was too early to put him to bed yet. Even with traffic leaving the city they'd still gotten here before nine o'clock. Justin had dozed off so she knew he wouldn't go right back down anyway.

"Now," John said. "There are nightlights in the hall. Your bathroom is right here. You don't need to go over there," he said gesturing to the other direction of the hallway. "It's just more bedrooms. All the cool stuff is in the main room just like in your grandma's basement."

"Do you sleep down here when you come here?" Bill asked.

"I have. I've slept upstairs, too, a couple of times when I was the first one here besides my friend Greg anyway."

"Cool," Bill said.

"Do you want something to eat before you settle down for bed?" Claire asked.

"Sure," Bill said.

"Okay, let's go then. You're sure you're going to be all right down here?"

"Yeah," he said.

Justin didn't seem to care, but that was normal at his age. The nightlights seemed pretty bright, so she imagined they'd be able to find their way upstairs if they needed to easily enough.

She made them a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, splitting it in half because she knew neither of them were that hungry. They'd eaten before they'd left her mom's house. A glass of milk each and she told them to go downstairs.

"I'll get it," John said when she went to grab their small suitcase.

"I'm perfectly capable."

"I know you are. I'm still doing it. The purpose of this weekend is you relaxing."

"Lifting a suitcase…"

"Is not relaxing. Come on," he said, leading her downstairs. He set the suitcase in the bedroom the boys were sleeping in. He watched from the doorway as she handed each of them their toothbrush and some toothpaste. They darted past him to the bathroom.

"Sorry," she said.

"For what?"

"They should've excused themselves."

"They're kids, they're excited. It's all right."

They came back a few minutes later and Claire helped Justin into his Batman pajamas while Bill got into his own Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pajamas by himself. She grabbed a book from the suitcase and sat on the bottom bunk with Justin and read to them for a little while.

She closed the book once she'd finished it, setting it in the suitcase. She gave Justin a good night kiss, squeezing Bill's hand as an alternative since she couldn't reach him on the top bunk right now.

"That went pretty well," John said.

"I was kind of surprised myself."

"How many times have you read that story?"

"I've lost count it's been so many."

"Justin likes it."

"Bill did, too. I think he still does, but he's too old for it now."

"Of course. What seven year old wants his mommy to read to him?"


"So is Mommy ready for bed, too?"

"I don't think quite yet. Why?"

"Well, I could build a fire if you wanted."

"You're just full of surprises. Fishing and building fires."

"Okay, smart ass. It's a fireplace. I'm not doing it with like a piece of flint and a magnifying glass or anything."

She smiled at that. "Better be glad Bill didn't hear you say that or he'd inform you that you called me a bad word."

"I did. I'm sorry."

"You don't look very sorry."

"What can I say? I just have one of those faces."

She followed him upstairs.

"You've never built a fire before?"

"No. What possible reason would I have to build one?"

"You had a fireplace at your place in New York."

"Yeah, we never used it. We tried I think the winter we first moved in there and it hadn't been used in years so we couldn't get the flue open and it made a huge mess when we tried."

"Your landlord probably could've paid to get it unplugged."

"It wasn't a big deal."

"Huh," he said. "You want me to show you?"

"Sure," she said.

It took him a little while to get it going, but it was because he showed her step-by-step what she needed to do.

"It's not the greatest. Tomorrow I'll do better for Bill and Justin," he said.

"I don't deserve the greatest?"

"I bet they've never seen a real fire before. That gas fireplace your parents have doesn't count. No offense."

"None taken and no, they haven't."

"Their first fire should be the greatest."

They settled on the floor against the couch nearest the fireplace. John had gotten himself a beer where Claire had a bottle full of water. She drank more water than she probably should've been, but she was constantly thirsty anymore.

They were quiet, just sitting together watching the fire. It was nice. The house was quiet aside from the furnace, which had to be in the basement from where the sound was coming from. There was no traffic outside, the lake was frozen over so there was no waves, and it was too late at night for the snowmobilers to be out. His hand was resting against her stomach. She thought it was kind of cute he did that, even if he didn't realize he was doing it any longer. He liked feeling the baby's movements.

"So, I applied at Northwestern."

"What?" he asked.

"I applied at Northwestern," she repeated.


"Yes," she said. "I talked to Mom about babysitting and how she'd feel about the four of us being with her for the next couple of years so that I could do it."

"I take it she agreed."

"She did." Her mom had actually happily agreed. She had to say she hadn't seen her mom that happy about something Claire had told her in a while. John wasn't the reason for that. Claire wondered if the conversation she'd had with her dad about Dan and a possible divorce had been shared with her mother. She didn't ask, her mother would never say, but Claire knew that there tended to not be secrets like that between husbands and wives. Claire knew about all of Dan's friends, more than she probably needed to know.

"I knew she would. When do you find out?"

"Well, it certainly should be just a formality. I had a 3.7 GPA at Michigan, but I should know in a couple of months. I asked Nancy, Nancy O'Mara, if she'd write a letter of reference for me to go with the application just in case since it's been a few years since I've been out of school."

"For the fall, I presume?"


"The job?"

"Assuming I get accepted I'll talk to the principal. I won't need to work. Mom has said she'll pay for whatever we need until I graduate."

"You knew she would."

"It doesn't mean I feel right about it."

"No, I'd worry if you did, but your mom wants you to be in a good position, better than a teacher's salary. So do I. You and your kids deserve so much better. Dan and your dad left you some money, they'd want you to use it to establish good roots not just get by."

"I know. I was thinking of seeing if the hospital there has a daycare, you know for their staff. Maybe I could work there part-time around my school schedule. I mean it'd be something. The campus may even have one, I don't know."


He kissed the top of her head, sliding his hand away from her belly to drape his other arm around her to gather her closer.

"I'm glad, sweetheart. If nothing else your kids need to see you do what you want to do not what you had to do to make do."

"Thank you for planting the idea."

"You're welcome. You know," he said.


"My house is only like thirty minutes from Northwestern."

"Yeah, I know that."

"You do?"


"That means maybe you could stay late after class and visit me?"

"You'll be working!"

"I suppose I will," he said with a soft sigh.

"I doubt they're going to have any night classes available for what I'd need to take, but maybe they will and I could keep teaching for a while."

"Claire, if you don't need the money, why do that to yourself? You're going to be going to school with three kids one of which is going to be a newborn baby. Take a couple of years off to be a mom and a student. Get your work done so you can do better than 3.7."

"3.7 is about as close to perfect as I could get!"

"Yeah, I still say you could have gotten perfect. You're smart enough."

"Thank you."

"Since we're confessing things."

"Yes," she said.

"Amanda thinks you're after my house."


He chuckled.

"Yeah, one of the guys in her office who I got to be sort of friends with overheard her talking after the party."

"Why on earth would I be after your house?"

"I'm not sure. Because it's a nice house?"

"Doesn't she know that my husband just died?"

"She does."

"Anything else I should know?"

"No, that's about it, I guess. You're using me for my house."

"If only she knew!"

"Other men should be so lucky to not have to worry about getting taken to the cleaners for the kind of sex we have."

"I think you have to be married for the sex to do any harm."

"Oh, you'd be surprised if longevity and living together starts being factored in."

"I'm not living with you."

"I know that. My friend knows that and told her that. I think she might have been jealous."

Claire scoffed. "Of what?"

"You, sweetheart. I'm not sure she'd be functioning the way you are right now if she was in your position. She's an absolute perfectionist. Everything has to be done this way. She washed her car twice a week because she couldn't risk a potential buyer thinking she didn't know how to take care of her car. I picked up her dry cleaning for her once because she was on the other side of town and I could do it. The instructions they had to follow for one blouse. Soft press, roll the cuffs, and on and on. It was crazy."

"You went out with her!"

"Well, yeah, I didn't know these things at first. We started out meeting for drinks. She's nice, personable, and obviously attractive."


"So are you, sweetheart, and that's why I think she's jealous. That you can have kids and still be attractive. They'd throw her life too off-kilter I think, you know?"

"I do."

"I was told by someone that we looked nice together."

"At the party?"


"Hmm. Why?"

"I don't know. I didn't ask. I could still ask them if you want to know."

"No, I was just curious."

"I imagine it's because we actually like one another and I think the fact we've gotten to know one another as well as we have the past couple of months. Well, I think it shows that we like one another. And I don't mean that in a romantic way, don't worry, I don't think anyone thinks I'm idiotic enough to hit on a pregnant widow."

"Ha!" she said.

"Right? If only they know, but don't worry you're secret is safe with me. I haven't told a soul."

"I do like you."

"I know, sweetheart."

"I'm sorry I can't give you more."

"When you're ready, I'm in no hurry."

"Thank you."

"You're welcome."

It was close to midnight by the time the fire started going out. He hadn't put more than a couple of logs on, knowing neither of them were going to be up all night. They'd spent an hour or so talking about things. Nothing in particular. It was nice. He talked about some work things and so did she. He was more interested in hearing about her work than he was talking about his work. He liked hearing her stories for some reason. She suspected he liked hearing her reaction, how she handled the so-called trouble students because he'd been one of those himself.

He helped her up and she saw concern in his eyes when she struggled to do that. She was just so off balance anymore, but he'd just never understand what she meant so she didn't bother explaining too deeply.

"I'll finish putting this out and be in in a second."

"Okay," she said.

She got ready for bed and pulled the covers back. She wondered if his friend's friend who came in to turn the heat up had made the bed, too, or if they left it this way. They must just leave this one this way because John and Bill had had to make the bunk beds downstairs.

"Whatcha thinking about?" he asked.

"Nothing," she said, sliding into bed. She groaned softly because it felt wonderful to be laying down, completely off her feet and everything.

"You okay?"

"Yes, it just feels nice."

"I'll be right there."

"Okay," she said.

She rolled onto her side, regarding the room. It was a nice room. A woman had obviously decorated it because the bedspread and the curtains had a floral print on them. The lamps on either side of the bed were antique and also had a floral print on them. The paintings on the wall were nice, but very obviously feminine as well. Greg's wife seemed to like flowers. Claire couldn't blame her. There was something about flowers even in something like a painting or on a lamp that just brightened a room.

"Greg must really love his wife," she said.

"Why?" he asked when he came out of the bathroom.

"There isn't a manly thing about this room."

He chuckled. "I guess. Notice there's not a flower or pastel downstairs, though."

"I guess you're right. The guys hang out down there while she's stuck in here reading or watching TV?"

"Something like that."

"At least he brings her with."

"Yeah, he does. They're kind of a set, where one goes the other does, too."

"That's nice."

"It used to drive some of us crazy, but we've gotten used to it."

She laughed softly. "I bet it did."

"It wouldn't anymore, though, to me at least."


"I don't know, you've made me see things a little differently than I used to. You know you actually had me wondering for a while there if I was somehow enabling my married friends to cheat. Go out for beers with me and use that as an excuse or a way to see someone else."

"I'm sorry if I made you think like that."

"No, that's probably good for me, because honestly I wouldn't want to be friends with someone who did that."

"Says the man who doesn't want to get married."

"Sure, but that doesn't mean I think people who do get married should cheat. You make that commitment, that promise, you should keep it."

"I agree."

"I know you do, and I'm sorry you didn't get that back, and I completely understand that there's a part of you somewhere deep down in your heart that still feels married."

"I do."

"I hate that part because I feel guilty, like I'm doing something wrong, too, you know? Violating his memory somehow."

"Thank you."

"You're not."

"I don't feel married. It's just I guess I haven't gotten used to the fact that I'm not. I've been married since before I could drink. I'm not really sure I know how to be anything else."

"You'll do fine."

He trailed a hand along her hip. She always loved the way he touched her. His hands weren't soft and smooth like Dan's had been. Dan hadn't done a hard day's work in his life. Even acting he'd never had to do anything manual behind the scenes like hammer a nail or anything. John used his every day and had been since she had no idea when because she knew he'd helped his dad around the house and on their car.

"Is this what you wear to bed every night?"

"No, usually I just wear shorts and a t-shirt that still fits."

"You didn't buy this for me, did you?"

"No," she admitted, though maybe she wasn't supposed to. "It's old, but I haven't worn it in," she sighed. "I wore it once when I was pregnant with Bill."

"And never again?"

"No," she said.

He slid the covers off of her then so he could look at her.

"God he was an asshole. I'm sorry. I think that every fucking time I'm with you. You look at me as if you expect me to reject you or to suddenly find you unattractive. I really hate that look in your eye because I wonder if I've done something to put it there, add to your doubt about how you look."

"You haven't."

"Who gave it to you?"

She sighed softly as he slid a hand up along her hip to cup one of her breasts. He slid lower on the bed, taking the other one in his mouth without even bothering to move the fabric aside. She cried out in response.

"My friend, um, Monica," she said.

"Monica obviously knew what she was shopping for."

"I think you just like seeing me in things that show off my chest."

"I won't argue with that because it's a very, very nice chest."

"It is not."

"It is, too."

"Just wait."

"Yeah, I know, the kid gets all the fun then."

"He does."

"And honestly, I like things you wear showing me that you're a woman."

"Well, what else would they show?"

"I don't know, you don't hide what you are. I like that a lot."

"I don't think I could hide what I am this time around anyway."

He chuckled softly, sliding lower along the bed to her stomach. He grazed his thumbs along her there, brushing his cheek against her belly before helping her prop some pillows under her. He had no idea how good him going down on her felt right now. She slid her calves along his hips, wrapping her feet around him as he settled between her legs to do just that. He had to be as tired as she was so he was not as thorough as he usually was when he used his mouth on her, but she finished just the same so she didn't mind he stopped a little sooner than he usually liked to.

She moved onto her hands and knees, propping the pillow under her before he slid inside of her. He always knew what she was in the mood for. Sometimes she didn't want him as deep as others. He said she gave off signals. She had no idea what that meant, but tonight she wanted deep and he knew that from his first thrust inside of her. He slid his hand under the nightgown she was wearing, pushing it up as he worked his way toward her breast. She stopped being embarrassed at how easily they reacted to him anymore. It seemed all she had to do was think about sex with him and they started leaking. She hadn't told him that because there were times she thought of him places she had no business thinking about him, like in the cafeteria at school with kids around.

Ever since the night she'd put some on her own finger and used it on herself he'd done that regularly. It turned him on for some reason. She wasn't sure why and she certainly didn't mind it because it wasn't getting used for anything else right now anyway.

"Why are you so horny today, sweetheart?"

"I don't know."

"It's really coming out."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't apologize. Don't you dare I've just never felt this much."

She shrugged, gasping as he drew his hand away and brought it to his mouth. She couldn't see what he was doing, but she knew he was tasting it and she clenched around him in response.

"Hmm, you like that?"

"Uh huh."

He did it again and she pressed against him as he thrust into her. She let out a loud gasp at how deep he went with that one.

"You okay?"

"Uh huh."

"You need me to stop?"

"God, no."

He chuckled then, settling his hand against her hip so he could concentrate on moving in and out of her the way she wanted him to. Or at least that was what he seemed to be doing, because he was there, pressing into her she grabbed one of the spare pillows on the bed to muffle her groans a bit. He pulled out then, almost all the way out of her and she murmured softly in protest.

"Fuck," he whispered. "You are so incredibly wet right now."

"You don't think I know that! You're supposed to be fixing that."

"Fixing it?"

"Yes! Make it stop!"

"I don't ever want it to stop, sweetheart, but for now maybe for a little while."

"John, please."

He didn't talk again until long after he'd finished inside of her.

"Uh Claire," he said from the bathroom after he'd finally gotten up from the bed.

"Yeah?" she murmured.

"You're sure you're okay?"

"Yes, why?"

"I, uh, I think you maybe should come in here so I can see you're really okay."


"Just come here, please."

"Okay," she said, getting out of bed and walking to the bathroom. "Why wouldn't I be okay?"

"I'm pretty sure that's blood."

"It happens sometimes."

"It hasn't ever before."

"Yes, it has."

"Claire, I'd remember seeing blood on me."

"Maybe not on you, but the past couple of weeks it happens when you are that deep in me."

"Jesus, and you let me do that!?"

"It feels good."


"I asked my doctor after the first time! She said it was fine as long as there's no cramps or anything and there haven't been. She said something about the blood vessels thinning so they burst easier or something."

She leaned into the shower then, turning it on and sliding her nightgown up and over her head, dropping it on the floor by the tub.

"What are you doing?"

"Going to clean you off," she said, grabbing his hand and bringing him into the shower with her. He came willingly, of course, because she wasn't in a position to force him. She took the soap that was there and slid it along his body, before lathering it up in her hands and cleaning him off there. The shower had washed the blood away by now anyway. There hadn't been a lot. If he'd gone to the bathroom without a light on he probably wouldn't have noticed it.

He slid his arms around her then, holding her tight against him and she sighed softly.

"That scared the shit out of me."

"I'm sorry."

"I love you, you know that, right? Do you know how absolutely awful I'd feel if I did something to hurt you or him or her."

"I know. You're not. He's just lower now, you know, so I think there's more pressure there when you slide in as deep as you do. I like you that way."

"I like me that way, too, but a little warning might have been nice."

"It had just been some spotting before like during the night afterward I didn't know it'd do that!"

"Hmm. Maybe I was a little rougher than I usually am. I probably got a little carried away knowing I didn't have to leave right away when we were finished. That I'll wake up with you in the morning and be able to do it again. I'll be more careful. I like the idea of being in a bed with you and being able to actually sleep with you afterward I guess."

"I like it, too."

"I'm good now, thank you for the shower."

She giggled softly.

"You're welcome."

"Now let's get you to bed. I'll get Bill and Justin their breakfast in the morning. You sleep until you can't anymore."

"Well, that's no fun."

"You're here to get some much needed rest," he said, shutting the shower off. She found them both towels and handed him one.

"What?" he asked.

"Nothing. I guess I've just never really taken the time to look at you before."


"No. It's always been dark or the lights have been really low."


"I like what I see, John."

"That makes me very happy, sweetheart."

"I can see that."

"Yeah, well, he obviously likes you looking."

"I guess he does."

"You're okay? No cramps?"

"I'm fine. I'd tell you, I promise."

"Yeah, well, there's feeling good, Claire, and there's maybe a line we shouldn't be crossing right now."

"I can't help it!"

"No, I guess you can't. I can, though. I'll be more careful."

She picked her nightgown up from the floor and he stilled her hand.

"Don't put that back on."


"When I get up I'll put it back on you. Until then, one night I want you next to me just like that."

"Okay," she said, blushing deeply.

"Yeah, he never wanted you sleeping naked either I guess."


"I do. If you were sleeping with me every night I guarantee you as nice as that is you'd never need it."

She followed him to the bed and got in again, drawing the covers around them. He kissed her shoulder as she settled against him.

"Good night, sweetheart."

"Good night."

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