***Part Eight***
Word Count: 4,258

She wasn't quite sure how she ended up here. Where was she? About to get off an airplane in the middle of nowhere. It had all happened so fast and she was shocked her parents had let her go. Still as she was taxiing on the runway after having landed in North Carolina she was surprised they'd allowed it. Perhaps realizing she didn't really need their permission to do something questionable with John when he came to visit. Maybe they just trusted her. She wasn't sure. All she knew was she was, according to the travel agent her parents used, about 15 miles from him for the first time in weeks.

'Hello.'

"Merry Christmas."

'John, hi. I was a little worried. I tried not to be because I know you can't always call but no letters either.'

"Yeah, I know, I'm sorry. Things got a little busy the past couple of weeks. I graduated about thirty minutes ago and am waiting on a bus to take me away from here."

'So you're not staying there?'

"No," he said. He'd kind of hoped he would be and had told her that more than once. Sadly, it didn't look like anyone he knew, or at least knew well, was going with him.

'So where to then?'

"North Carolina."

'Well, that's better than that other place, right?'

"So I've heard, yeah," he said with a chuckle. The other place was a base he'd heard nothing but bad things about. Why it was so bad he wasn't sure, but he was glad he'd never have to find out firsthand. A couple of guys he'd gotten to know fairly well were going there so he imagined he'd hear about it at some point.

"Listen, I only have a couple of minutes, but I wanted to throw this out there because if I didn't and you could do it I'd be real mad at myself later."

'Okay.'

"I've been told I'm going to be in temporary housing for a week or so. I'm waiting for space in the barracks on-base so that means a hotel on the Marines dime. I was thinking if your parents could swing it you could come see me for a few days. I'd be busy, but I'd see you nights which is better than not seeing you at all. I could pay them back for the ticket."

'I don't know if they would let me.'

"Well, I'll call you when I get the chance. Tonight when I get in, maybe tomorrow morning. If you can't, you can't. I just know I'd kick myself if I said nothing and you told me later you could've."

'I can ask.'

"Okay, Princess. I've got to go."

'Hey, where would I be flying to?'

"Oh, sorry, Richlands, North Carolina. I've been told it'd be less than thirty bucks for cab fare from that airport."

'And you wouldn't get in trouble?'

"I was told my down time is my down time. I mean I'm not going to flaunt you're there as much as I might like to. So, as long as you don't interfere with my performance we should be fine. I'll get a per diem for the room and food, but I can buy your food, too."

'I have money to buy my own food with.' She laughed softly at that. 'I'm just glad that you're all right.'

"I was going to write you, but things got kind of crazy so I couldn't."

'I understand.'

"It will get better, I promise."

She sighed softly. 'I know. I just wasn't expecting weeks to go by without hearing from you.'

"Yeah, well, I wasn't expecting someone in my unit screwing up making all of us put in extra field time."

'Oh. That's what happened?'

"Yes," he said. "How was your Christmas?"

'It was nice. Pretty quiet.'

"Well, if you can convince your parents, maybe I'll get to give a New Year's kiss."

'Is that all I'll get?'

He gave a low laugh. "I maybe could be talked into more than one."

'Yeah?'

"Yes."

'I hope I can convince them then.'

"Me, too. I'll call you when I can. And tell them I'll pay them back for the ticket."

'I will. Travel safe.'

"I will, Princess."

So that was how she ended up here waiting on a cab to take her to his hotel. Her parents knew she was staying with him. She wasn't going to lie to them, especially since they knew he'd visited her at school. She had no idea what she was going to do with her free time. She'd brought a couple of books just in case, though she imagined there were places she could walk to and stuff.

The cab driver knew where the hotel was and she stopped at the front desk to the get the envelope he said he'd leave for her. A key and a note telling her which room number was his were inside. It was over seventy degrees, which compared to Chicago's thirty degrees when she left made her want to go outside and enjoy the rest of the day.

She wasn't expecting him to be in the room. She assumed he'd be on base somewhere doing whatever he did with his day.

"Why'd you leave a key if you were going to be here?"

"I wasn't sure I was going to be here. Turns out I have today and tomorrow duty-free since I'm in limbo. I had to report this morning and will tomorrow morning, but was cut loose essentially until the second."

"Everyone?" She set her bag down near the dresser.

"No. Someone's got to work. You know guard the weapons and stuff, but since I and a few others just got here I guess they were feeling generous. I don't know. I'm not going to question it. Waking up at five o'clock in the morning just to be sent back here kind of sucks, but it means I get more time with you than I thought so I'm not complaining."

"Neither am I. Now I'm really glad my parents said yes."

"Yeah?"

"Yes," she said. "You didn't tell me it was going to be so nice," she said, gesturing to her coat which she'd hung over her arm because she hadn't needed it. She set it on top of her bag.

"You'd still need the coat to go back home with."

"I know. I could have packed something cooler, though," she said. "Like shorts."

"If I have my say you won't need the shorts." He smirked a little at her expression. "Come here before you get mad at me and turn around and leave."

"I am here."

"Not close enough."

"You could come to me."

"I was taking a nap. I'm here. The bed's here. Trust me, you will never know how nice it is to get a nap - in a real bed - on their dime."

"I suppose I won't," she said, walking to the bed. He drew back the covers as she sat on the edge of the bed to kick her shoes off.

"Do you need to call your parents and let them know you got here all right?"

"I called them from the airport while I was waiting for the cab."

"Smart thinking. I'm really glad they let you do this."

"Yeah?" she asked, sliding into bed next to him.

"Glad enough I would let you keep your shorts on."

"I didn't bring any shorts."

"I know, you already said that." He tugged on the waist of her pants. "No jeans?"

"No! My parents would never let me wear jeans on an airplane."

"I suppose too casual?"

"Yes," she said, breath catching a little as he leaned in to kiss her. She groaned softly, eyes closing as he deepened it almost immediately. She wasn't going to object. She never dreamt that going two months without kissing someone would be a hardship for her.

Her fingers slid along his chest as his hand slid along her hip, caressing her there before drifting behind her to cup her ass. He drew her closer and she gasped softly.

"Hi," he whispered when they both needed to take a breath.

"Hi," she said back.

"I missed you."

"Me, too."

"Enough to trust me to get rid of these," he asked, tugging on the waist of her pants.

"Now?"

"Do you have somewhere else to be?"

"No," she said with a soft laugh.

"Well then?"

She reached down then and started working the button.

"Nuh uh. I get to."

"You just want to say you were able to get me out of my pants and be literal about it."

"Damn straight," he said, sitting up enough to slide down a bit so he could unfasten her pants and work them off. He slid his hands along her legs as he peeled them off, her socks, too. She groaned softly as he ran his hands along her legs, rubbing them.

"Too rough?"

"No," she said with a frown, watching him. "Why?"

"Just making sure. I think I have callouses on top of callouses anymore. I think I can take apart and reassemble my weapon in my sleep. That's the point, of course."

"They feel fine."

"Yeah?" She didn't think he was really looking for an answer. He was watching his hands as they touched her legs, grazing her kneecap with a thumb and then the other one.

"God you're soft."

"I'm a girl; I think I'm supposed to be."

"I like it," he said.

"Yeah?" She laughed softly that she said the same thing he did just a second ago.

"Yes," he said, sliding his hands up further along her thighs. "Open your eyes," he said.

She hadn't even really realized she'd closed them. She opened them, though, watching as he slid a hand to her panties. He grazed her nub with his thumb, doing it again when she reacted. And again. She watched almost entranced as he moved his hand to slide his fingertips into the waistband of her panties.

"Pink," he said.

"You just noticed?"

"Yes," he said. "Well, it just registered."

"I wore them for you."

"You did," he asked.

"Mm hmm. You said you liked me in pink."

"I do, very much," he said, sliding a fingertip over her nub causing her to gasp. "Too much?"

"No," she said.

"Not enough?" he asked with a chuckle.

"I don't know."

"It's all right. I could do this for the next two days and be satisfied."

"Shut up," she whispered.

"I could, sweetheart, just to have the sounds you're making to carry with me while we're apart."

"Oh God," she said. How embarrassing.

"I like it, don't go coy on me, and keep your eyes open," he said.

"But," she whispered.

"Open," he insisted.

"I can't help that I want to close them."

"I know, and I want you to fight it so you can see what doing this to you does to me."

"Doesn't talking to me do that to you?"

He chuckled. "Not quite as extreme, but it sure can. What can I say? You turn me on, Princess."

He slid his hand lower, fingertips grazing her labia. She bit her lower lip to keep from crying out, but kept her eyes open as he parted her lips and slid a fingertip inside of her. His other hand was at her hip, peeling the panties down. She had absolutely no desire to stop him from doing it either.

He positioned himself between her legs. She didn't have to look in a mirror to know she was blushing profusely as he watched his finger slide in and out of her. Then his mouth was at her nub, tongue sliding around it and pretty much all conscious thought left her at that moment. He made her finish so fast she might have been embarrassed ordinarily, but he didn't seem to care. He kept doing what he was doing, seeming not having any intention of stopping.

And then she started feeling guilty that she was doing absolutely nothing to him.

"John," she whispered when he was taking a break from using his mouth on her to give her a hickey on her inner thigh. Judging by how long he'd been sucking on the spot it was going to be much, much darker than the one he'd given her in October.

"Hmm," he murmured, seemingly unwilling to stop what he was doing just yet.

"Can we? I mean, can you switch with me?"

That made him stop what he was doing.

"Switch with you?"

"Uh, yeah. I want to be on top of you for a little while."

It was his turn to blush. She couldn't say she'd ever seen him blush in her entire life.

"You sure about that, Princess?"

"I'm sure."

"You saw all I had on was my shorts."

"Yes."

"Doing that was pretty damned exciting."

"I know," she said. "It was to me, too."

"All right," he said, sliding off of her only after he grazed the spot he'd been marking with his fingertip.

"Why'd you leave one there?"

"I figured your parents will be looking for any indication we did anything. If they check there we have bigger issues than them worrying about us having sex."

"They're not going to."

"That is very good to know."

He lay on the side of the bed he'd started out on and it was her turn to touch. He didn't like her to so much. She knew that. She tried not to focus or dwell on any scars more than any other spot. It was hard not to in some cases.

Her hand shook a little when she reached his shorts, sliding it inside of them. She grazed the tip of his shaft with her thumb before running her fingertips along his length. She was pretty sure he'd stopped breathing for a second or two there, afraid she'd change her mind or something no doubt. He was breathing now, though, and pretty rapidly, too. She slid his shorts down and off, shaking her head a little as she skimmed his legs with her hands.

His hands went to her hair as she took him into her mouth. God, he was big and hard, filling her mouth so completely. She worked him in and out of her mouth, adjusting to the feel and size of him. He seemed to really like it when she ran her tongue along the tip of him. She stopped for a minute, returning the favor of a hickey in the same spot he'd given her one. She figured anywhere else on him was probably off limits for a while, or until they had more than a couple of days together.

She slid up along his body, kissing and touching as she went until she found his mouth. She kissed him, surprised at the neediness behind it. She reached for him between their bodies, touching his length and stroking him before guiding him to her.

He groaned softly, breaking the kiss.

"God, you know I want to, Claire, but I don't have anything. I wasn't figuring you'd want to."

She kissed his lower lip, licking it before finding his jaw. She slid her lips along him there to his ear. She slid her tongue around his earlobe, nipping at it for a second.

"You don't need one."

"Claire, Princess, I'm not willing to risk it."

She laughed softly. It was her turn to give a soft groan as she slid the head of him to her nub.

"What's so funny?"

"You. I wouldn't do that to you. I went on the pill."

"When?"

"Oh, about the time you left me in October."

"And you're sure you're safe? I've heard it can take a while."

"Positive. The health center told me a month. It's been two. I have the pills here, too, obviously. You can watch me take them if you think I'm lying."

"I don't think you'd lie to me about it, Claire. I'm sure there are guys closer to you that you could trap versus someone you won't see every day if that was your plan."

"Don't want anyone else."

"That is very good to hear."

She slid his length back to her opening, pushing herself over him.

"Any other questions?"

"I have a million of them, but you're in control so clearly you have all the answers to them already."

"Yes, I know what I'm doing," she whispered. "You could help, though," she added.

"Oh, yeah, sure," he said, reaching between them to help guide him into her.

She gasped, no intention of closing her eyes now as she slid him completely into her. She stayed like that for a minute or two, adjusting to him inside of her. She hadn't thought much beyond taking him inside of her, like moving afterward. She sat up a little, causing him to go even deeper inside of her. Maybe a little too deep, but she sat still for a minute or two again as his hands were busy touching her everywhere he could reach. She particularly liked when he timed his thumb stroking her nipple with another deep push of him inside of her. His hand slid between her legs, bringing her release almost right away. He wasn't too far behind her, hands at her hips to hold her still a bit as he thrust up and into her.

She hadn't moved from on top of him yet. Neither seemed in any particular hurry for her to either so she stayed put because she liked being there, listening to his heartbeat.

"I put in for leave the weekend of that formal dinner and dance thing you mentioned in one of your letters," he said, running his fingers through her hair.

"You did?"

"I did. I figured it'd give me a good excuse to wear my formal uniform."

"When will you know?"

"It may not be until the day I get to leave. I've heard that's the way it works sometimes."

"Okay. Well, I'll plan for the possibility then."

"Unless you don't want me to come. I could take it back and do something later like when you're done with school altogether for the year."

"No, I do, I mean, you don't have to. I wasn't expecting you to come for that, though, that's not why I mentioned it. I realize it's probably not your thing, but it would be nice not to go alone."

"And miss seeing you in a nice dress? I missed out on that once already, I'm not doing it again if I can avoid it."

"I got your picture, by the way. Thank you."

"Are you thanking me for both of them?"

"Yes. I made a copy of the one of you."

"Why?"

"So I can have one at home and one in my dorm."

"Oh," he said, not having thought of that. "So, now your mom has a face to go with the name?"

"Yes."

"And?"

"And what? What can she say? You're a good looking guy and serving our country. What's to complain about? I'm here with you, aren't I? So she must not object."

"She's a mother and being a guy serving our country she probably thinks I'm out to take advantage of you."

"Would yours like me?"

"Like you? What's not to like? But honestly, I'd prefer she know nothing about you with relation to me."

"I have no plans on meeting them or anything, I was just curious."

"I'm sure she'd like you. You're nice and all, but I don't want either of them thinking they could get something from you."

"From me?"

"Yeah, you know, things. Money. Whatever thoughts would go through their heads. I wouldn't put anything past them.'

"Oh, really?'"

"They can be pretty crafty when they want to be."

She sat up a little, running her fingertip along his chest lightly.

"And the other picture was gorgeous. How long did it take you to draw it?"

"Honestly? I started working on it on the airplane out to school and I finished it maybe a day before I sent it to you."

"It took you that long?"

"I had to get it right. I'm glad you gave me that picture of you from prom. It helped, though I hated drawing you in that dress."

It'd taken him weeks and more than a few times of contemplating throwing it away to finish the picture of her. She was wearing the dress in the picture of her from prom she'd given him before he left, but he'd drawn her posing with a horse almost like something from ages ago. The dress she'd worn had struck him as somewhat old-fashioned that way, Victorian he supposed. So, the idea came to him to put something in the picture other than a car. Her crown was there, too, of course. Every minute of free time he could spare he'd put into the drawing, wanting to get it just right. He could probably have taken another week, possibly two on it and still gotten it to her before Christmas but with everything that had happened he was glad he hadn't pushed it.

A photograph of him in his winter Combat Utility Uniform he didn't think really constituted a Christmas present, though he was glad she finally had a picture of him for her dorm room. He hadn't had his own camera so getting the picture for her wasn't as easy as some might think. He'd rectified getting a camera over the weekend so he had one now. He wasn't so sure he'd take pictures of himself, though. He'd gotten it in the event he was called on to do some photography for the Marines instead of just his illustration positions. It was doubtful, but if he had the tools and they needed a photographer he could be called on.

She slid beside him, but he didn't let her go far.

"Why?"

"Because someone else got to see you in it when I should've been able to."

"So, should I choose another dress for the formal then?"

"Wear whichever dress you want."

"So that is what you wear in the field?"

"The picture?"

"Yes."

"Yeah. One of the guys took it for me."

"Thank them for me."

"He's gone now. He went to a different base. We didn't get to know one another real well, not well enough to write letters so I'm not sure I'll hear from him."

"Oh, well, thank you for asking him to take it then."

"You're welcome. I figured fair was fair since you gave me a picture of you."

"I brought the other one home. It's in my bedroom."

"Oh?"

"I didn't want to risk anything happening to it. My mom got a frame for it for me."

"That was nice. I'm glad you liked it. I'll have something a little better for you the next time I see you and have had time to breathe, but I figured our first Christmas I should do something."

"You did fine. You don't have to get me anything else. I couldn't think of anything better than something you made for me, John. Honestly."

"I'm glad you say so, but I can still do better."

"Coming to my formal is more than enough."

"I'll let you take care of a room for us. I'll pay for it, but you make the reservations somewhere nicer than the place we stayed last time. Just be sure to cancel them if you don't hear from me saying I'm on my way."

"It wasn't bad."

"No, but after my sleeping arrangements since basically July I could go for something nice."

"How nice?"

"Pretty much what I spent when I was in there is all I've spent other than necessary items. Your care packages helped me avoid paying for a few things I would have had to."

"Why are you doing that?"

"Doing what?"

"Spending so little?"

"Well, I have this girl, you see, and I'd like to be able to show her a good time when I get to see her."

"You don't need money to show me a good time."

"It sure helps, Princess."

"Just one night?"

"Probably two, maybe three if I'm lucky. I figure if I ask for only one or two nights that's more that I can get during summer break. Whoever you make the reservation with make sure they know I'm in the military and see if they're flexible with checkout and not charging for nights we actually reserved if I don't get the full leave I requested."

"Okay."

"So, the pill, huh?"

She laughed softly, ducking her head against his shoulder a little.

"Yes."

"I guess you realized I was a pretty sure thing then, huh?"

"No! I just didn't want that to be a reason we couldn't if we wanted to."

"Sweetheart, about you I'm about as sure as I can be and I'm glad you thought of it."

"Me, too. I was nervous at first, I wasn't sure if you'd get mad."

"Mad?"

"Yeah, I donít know."

"Want me to show you how angry I am, Princess?" he asked, sliding on top of her. Her arms slid around his neck, drawing him down to kiss her.

"Is that a yes," he asked, drawing away just enough to ask the question.

"Please."

"Proper to the end," he said with a chuckle.

"Was that not the right response?"

"As long as it's saying yes you can say whatever you want."

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