***Part One***
Word Count: 3,343

Claire lurked in the hall, clutching the books for her last class to her chest. She'd passed by his locker a few times in the past eight weeks. He was there a couple of those times. She'd give a barely-there wave, he'd nod slightly, and they'd continue going wherever they were off to. Usually class for her because she had Calculus this way. There was no telling for him.

This was the first time she intentionally waited for him. She didn't want to, but really had no choice. She'd put it off for over two weeks now. Once school was over, she'd never see him. She needed to tell him before prom and graduation.

Why? Well, she wasn't sure. She just needed to tell him by then.

She saw him walking down the hall toward his locker. It was warmer now so he didn't have the coat on from that day, but he wore a long sleeved shirt. The boots were there, too, looking ridiculous given how nice it was outside. She wondered if he ever wore short sleeves. In gym class he'd have to, she supposed. She doubted Mr. Emry would cut John slack, which would just fuel John's bitterness.

She took a deep breath, gathering up the courage to do this, and walked toward him just as he stopped in front of his locker. He started spinning the dial on the lock that kept whatever he valued in there safe. She knew it wasn't his text books. If she didn't act fast, he'd be gone in record time.

His back was to her as she rested hers against the neighboring locker, waiting for him to notice her. She wasn't dressed exactly how she wanted to be to talk to him again, but she looked nice enough she supposed.

It didn't take him long to notice her. He stopped what he was doing, just having finished opening the lock. He left it sitting there without taking it off, eyeing her. She could tell pretty easily what he was thinking, and it didn't involve the calculus book she held in her arms.

"You lost, Princess?"

"No," she said softly, avoiding his gaze.

"You sure? Seems to me your locker's on the other side of the school."

He knew where her locker was?

"I know where my locker is," she said.

"That's good. So, taking a walk on the wild side today or what? I'm sure there's a closet around here we could find if you want."

"I need to talk to you."

He moved then, side stepping enough so that he stood in front of her. He smelled like soap and cigarettes. He set his hands on either side of her head, boxing her in. She closed her eyes, remembering how he felt and the excitement that had coursed through her when she placed that first kiss against his neck. Why she'd kissed him there she'd never know. Something to let him know she wasn't there just to be a tease she imagined. She wondered what he'd do if she did it again now.

"Isn't that what we're doing?"

"Not really."

"So talk then."

"Not here."

His lip curled up into a half-smile. Oh God, he thought she wanted to have sex with him again.

"Yeah, we wouldn't want the Shermer High student body to see their princess talking to a thug like me."

"That's not it at all. I just can't talk to you here."

"Then where?"

That was the one thing she hadn't totally come up with yet.

"Will you meet me by my car after school?"

He gave her a smug grin, arching an eyebrow. "Princess, you surprise me."

"Not for that."

He clearly didn't believe her. How embarrassing.

"All right, sure, it's not like I have anything else to do," he said, drawing away from her then.

"Thank you," she said, relieved.

"You going to give me a hint?"

"No," she said wryly. "I'll see you at my car."

"I'll be there. I always wanted to take a ride in one of those new Mustangs."

She rolled her eyes and stepped out from in front of him.

CENTER

/CENTER

He should've made her wait, shown up fashionably late as the saying went. He was somewhat curious what she'd want to talk to him about. To say nothing about their mutually exclusive worlds collided was an understatement. Maybe she was too embarrassed to admit she wanted another go around. He smiled at that as he lit a cigarette and leaned up against her car. How did he know it was her car? Well, it was hard to miss her pulling up onto the school's student parking area. It was a sweet ride, and the chick driving it was equally as desirable.

He'd been shocked she'd joined him in the supply closet that afternoon. Well, not entirely shocked she'd come to him, but that she'd closed the deal. And had she. The closet was pretty small, but they'd made do. Up against a wall wasn't typical he imaged for how chicks like her lost their virginity. She hadn't complained, though.

She'd given him an earring at the end of the day. He wasn't sure how to feel about that. If it were any of the usual girls he slept with he'd be insulted, think they were in some roundabout way trying to pay him. That wasn't her intent, though, even he knew that. He wore the earring, not today as it happened, and whenever he slid it into the small hole in his earlobe he remembered her. The way she kissed him, the sounds she made as she'd let him take her over the edge, and the tenderness she'd exposed him to. No one had ever touched him like she had. No one had ever dared to because he just wasn't a touchy feely guy. Fingertips brushing along his scars as if they weren't even there, just the raw need to touch him sending her on an exploratory mission. He hadn't flinched from her kissing them either, which obviously had been intentional on her part. And unusual for him. He didn't like anyone focusing on the physical evidence of how much his father loved him.

"Get lost?"

"I had to stop in the bathroom," she said softly, unlocking his door.

"You sure you want to be seen leaving with me, Princess? You must be pretty confident you've got that queen nomination wrapped up."

"I'm sure," she said with a huff. "Just get in, John."

He didn't respond to that and she didn't say anything else, even after she'd started the car. She'd thought of where to take him at this time of day where they would be left pretty much alone. She couldn't take him home, her mom would freak. Not to mention she didn't want to have this conversation in front of anyone.

"You're taking me to the library, Princess?"

"No, I mean, yes. We're not getting out of the car, though. I just needed to see you somewhere that wasn't school."

"I didn't realize you wanted to be alone with me that badly. I could have come up with a place or two for us to park certainly more private than the library. You know there's an abandoned warehouse down…"

"Oh my God, I did not come here to park with you."

She threw the car into Park and got out, slamming the door shut behind her. He apparently got the hint, because he joined her a minute or two later.

"So, what's the deal then, sweets?"

"Just give me a minute, okay?"

He held up his hands as if warding her off. "Hey, you're clearly in charge here. I like that in a woman, did I mention that?"

She rolled her eyes, shoving her hands into the pockets of her jacket. "I have a feeling you like anything in a woman as long as she's willing to put out."

He nodded as if agreeing, but wisely said nothing as she turned and walked toward the front of her car.

She couldn't hide the smile when he joined her. They made quite the contrasting couple. She was somewhat tall for a girl and he was probably on the lesser side of average for a guy so there wasn't much difference between them. Height was where the similarities ended, though. Her clothes were stylish and expensive where his were not. Her hair style was on the cutting edge and had cost a fortune, his he likely did on his own with nail clippers or something like it. If he cut it at all.

"I haven't been here since I was a kid," he said when she remained quiet.

"Really?"

"I had to steal the bag lunch I needed for the fieldtrip to come here. Some children's author reading one of his new books or something."

She vaguely remembered a field trip like that. Funny what was just a vague memory for her was a very distinct and vivid one for him. How different their lives had been. Field trips were a given for her, she'd never even considered the fact that some students couldn't go. They had the parking lot pretty much to themselves, as she expected when the idea came to her to bring him here. She looked away, knowing he wouldn't want her pity. He talked about that sort of thing like it was no big deal, but it just ate her up inside to think of anyone being treated as he was. She wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her jacket.

"So, what did you want to talk to me about, Princess? You've gone to an awful lot of trouble to get me alone if you don't have a repeat performance in mind."

"Once was enough!"

He coughed then. "That wasn't what you said that day."

"Why do you do that?"

"You telling me now that you didn't think it was good?"

It was good. She had nothing to compare it to, of course, but cramped space aside she hadn't left that storage closet disappointed.

"I didn't say that!"

"Then what was the once was enough comment for?"

"Oh my God, I can't believe I'm concerned about hurting your feelings here."

"Just out with it then."

"I'm pregnant."

No snappy comeback, none at all actually. She expected him to say something cruel, like ask if it was his, even though he knew better.

"You?"

"No, the other girl standing here that you had sex with in a storage closet."

For all she knew, there were others. She certainly wouldn't put it past him.

He took hold of her arm and spun her around to face him. His eyes traveled the span of her face intently. She didn't look away or try to pull away.

"You're serious. This isn't a joke?"

"Why would I joke about something like that? And why would I wait this long to do it?"

"I don't know," he said simply, releasing her arm and stepping away. He walked a few feet away from her car, settling his hands on a cement post that helped keep the library from falling into the parking garage below it.

"What are you going to do?" he asked.

"I don't know!"

"When'd you find out?"

"A couple of weeks ago. I thought it was just a fluke at first. You know, stress due to the end of the year, finals and graduation. Maybe I miscounted and I wasn't really late. It's not something I ever had to worry about before."

"That's why you've been showing up near my locker."

"Yeah," she said, not really surprised he'd noticed.

He laughed then, pressing his forehead against the cement.

"I'm sorry. Is there something funny about this to you?"

He continued to laugh for a minute, spun around to face her. "I was joking about impregnating you."

"Well, I didn't think you were serious. How could you have planned my coming to you?"

"Oh, I could have if I'd really tried."

She rolled her eyes. "Get over yourself."

"You came, didn't you?"

"Yeah, I did," she said softly.

"What do you want me to do?"

"I don't know since I haven't decided what I'm going to do."

"Your parents going to freak?"

"Uh, yeah," she said. That was an understatement. Her father would probably just not talk to her for a while. Her mother would rant and rave about how much of an embarrassment she was going to be.

"Will they kick you out?"

"What?" she asked with a frown. That thought had never entered her mind. "Well, no, I mean, they wouldn't do that I don't think. My brother would let me stay with him probably."

"That's assuming you're going to have it."

"Yeah."

"That what you want to do?"

"I'm not sure," she said, resting a palm over her stomach. She wasn't showing or anything, but she couldn't help but think there was a life in there. "It could be the next da Vinci."

"Could be the next Mussolini, too."

She shook her head with a laugh. "I think the odds of a child growing up to be a dictator are pretty slim."

"You never know with my sperm making up half of the genetic equation."

"This ever happened to you before?"

"Uh, no," he said quickly.

"Why not?"

"I use…" he paused and turned away.

"What?"

"Rubbers. I didn't even think of it that day. Not that I had one in my wallet, I don't usually carry them with me to school."

"Well, that's good to know."

He laughed. "Believe it or not, that was a first for me."

"What was?"

He glanced at her over his shoulder. He wasn't looking so smug just then, but there was something in his eyes that told her he wasn't thinking about their current predicament at the moment.

"Doing it on school property."

"Oh, well, glad I could give you something to add to your book of experiences."

"I was beginning to think there wasn't anything left for me to do."

"You're not helping."

"I don't know what you want me to say. You want me to freak out? Say you did it on purpose? I know you didn't. You would have gone to Andrew or Brian if that was your intent."

"I wouldn't…"

"I'm not saying you would have, but odds would tell you that Brian would produce smart kids and Andrew would have nice looking ones who are athletic. I would not have been a choice."

"I still can't believe this is happening to me."

"Why'd you bring me here?"

She shrugged. "To talk."

"What's to say? You're pregnant. You're either going to have it or you're not."

"I don't know! I certainly didn't want to do it in the hall or parking lot at school."

"Well, until you make a decision there's not a whole lot for me to say. Or were you hoping I'd tell you to get an abortion?"

"What?"

He shrugged. "Be awfully convenient, take the decision off of you, and make me out to be an even badder guy than you already have me pegged as being."

"No, I just. God, I'm going to school in the fall."

"Yeah. Where?"

"Northwestern."

"That's not far. You could stay at home. Your mom doesn't work, does she?"

"No."

"Well, there you go. Built in babysitter."

"What? I can't expect my mom…"

"Sure you can. Grandmothers thrive on that sort of thing, or so I've heard anyway. You think she'd turn down the chance to help you so that you get your degree and can support the next Princess?"

"What about you?"

"What about me? I'm not going to college, not even an option for someone like me."

"Why can't you babysit?"

He scoffed. "I'm sorry. What?"

"It's your baby. Why can't you babysit?"

"Well, I don't want a baby so no I'm not going to do that," he shrugged. "I have to work. I kept my promise to my mom once I've graduated. I'm eighteen, as soon as I get enough saved I'm gone."

"Gone?"

"Yeah. What you thought I was going to stay put?"

She rubbed her temples with her fingertips. This conversation was giving her a headache.

"I tell you I'm pregnant with your baby and you tell me you're leaving town?"

"I never said I was leaving town."

"Then what are you talking about?"

"Getting out of my house, away from my old man and mom, and the fun that is life with the Bender's."

"Oh," she said.

"Listen, make your decision. Until then I don't really know what you want me to say. You could decide to have it and give it up. If that's what you decide and I need to sign something I'd do it."

"You'd just let me give it up?"

"As opposed to what? Trying to force you to keep a baby you don't want. Yeah, that'd be a good move; even I'm not that dumb. I've lived the past eighteen years with parents who didn't really want me."

"I don't know."

"Claire. I really don't know what you want me to say. You want me to ask you to marry me? Not going to happen. Sorry, Princess, I'm not the marrying kind. I'm not the father-type either. If you want money, well, I'll do what I can I guess, but I'm not going to have the income of a doctor. You came to me that day. How do I know you didn't do it on purpose as some fuck you to your parents?"

He paused regarding her.

"Eight weeks, huh?"

"Yes, can't get much more exact on a date of conception since there was no other possible date."

"You should do what all you rich kids do on prom tomorrow, rent a hotel room with your date, have sex, and then tell your king it's his. I'll bet he's going to be a doctor. Or at least something you'll get money out of him. He'll pay up, I'm sure of it. I can't say he looks much like me, but maybe you'll luck out and the baby will resemble you so he won't suspect anything. You'll have to pray the baby takes his or her sweet time being born, because eight weeks is a lot of time in the baby-growing process. At least that's what they taught us in Health class."

She slapped him so hard across the face she was certain he'd have a bruise there. She spun around on her heels and got in her car. Once in and she'd started it, she peeled out of the parking lot so fast he didn't have time to react. Good thing the library was close to pretty much everything for him to walk to wherever he needed to go.

She got home and went straight to her room, telling her mom she was tired. Not a lie, she was exhausted all of the time. She did her homework after a nap. Her mother brought her a grilled cheese and some tomato soup, which Claire ate as if she hadn't eaten in a week.

God she hated him! She shouldn't have told him, let him guess who's baby it was the next time she ever saw him and she had a baby. As if their paths would ever cross. Initially that was what she was going to do, raise the baby by herself without involving him.

She'd felt guilty about doing that, though. She wasn't sure why. They weren't involved, didn't even really like each other. Except she saw something when he looked at her, not just the day of detention but when they saw one another in the halls at school.

She went to her closet after bringing her dishes downstairs, eyeing her prom dress. It was beautiful, one-of-a-kind. Her mom had made sure of it. She was going to have a good time with Adam tomorrow night if it killed her. She'd just have to push thoughts of John and the baby out of her mind for a little while.